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Broken Promises

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“Quiet down class! Today we’ve got a new student joining us. His name is Levi Ackerman – please make him feel welcomed as we usually do at Sina Elementary.”

Levi looked out into the full classroom at all the different eyes glaring back at him. He scanned the room for an empty seat and was met by loads of different grins back at him. When you’re only a kid, there’s nothing more exciting than the prospect of a new friend – everyone wanted Levi to sit with them. Although, the tables were all taken or full, apart from one towards the back of the room where sat a blonde, a brunette, and a mousy brown-haired group of boys.

Noticing the spare seat, Levi wandered over and took the chair out from under the table, next to the tallest, mousy haired member of the group, who immediately leant over and started sniffing him. Levi glared up and pulled his body away, confused and disgusted at the action. He frowned, before pulling himself under the small table more.

“Don’t mind him, Levi. He likes to sniff people out. That’s all.” The blonde-haired boy spoke, with a proper accent considering his age, and a kind smile. “His name is Mike. I’m Erwin, and this is Nile.” He gestured at the other boy on the table with the dark hair who was scowling slightly.

“Where are you from, Levi?” Nile asked.

“Underground Park.” He answered, stiffly. Underground Park was notorious for violent crime, drugs, and fighting. Even though they were only children, it was often in the news on TV about crimes that had gone on there, and the criminals were usually missing, stating on the news they were from Underground Park.

Nile snorted. “My daddy says it’s dangerous there. My daddy is a police man and he deals with crime that’s mostly in that area and all the bad people.”

“Nile! Don’t be so rude to him.” Erwin said. “We’re colouring in things we like today. Miss said that we can draw whatever we want. As long as it makes us happy.” He smiled at the new boy, who was still looking pretty nervous. Frankly, Levi was struggling to note argue back at Nile at his distasteful words – but his mum told him to be nice and not fight today, so he was going to behave and just get him back another day. He’d remember.

“Look, Nile’s drawn a Gameboy and some chocolate.” Erwin announced, holding up the piece of work his friend had drawn. “Mike’s drawing dogs. They’re his favourite animal. Show him, Mike!” Erwin was practically jumping up and down in his seat with excitement over his friends art.

Mike moved his head away from sniffing the new boy and showed him his work, smiling proudly at it. “What are you going to draw Levi?”

He shrugged. It hadn’t been long since the accident, and he still was trying to find who he was again. He didn’t want to draw Isabel or Farlan, he didn’t like people knowing about his past, even though they were definitely his most favourite things. He didn’t have many toys or anything, other than a small rocket that Kenny had once stolen from a bag outside a charity shop. But Levi didn’t want to think about Kenny, so he wasn’t sure where to go from that. His eyes looked up and met shining, blue eyes – the only person who had been properly nice that day, and the only person who’d been kind to him for quite a while.

“What are you drawing, Erwin?” Levi mumbled.

Instantly the blondes face lit up with excitement, clearly wanting to talk about his work.

“I’m drawing loads of things! I’ve drawn my grandpa’s bolo tie he gave me. Mummy won’t let me wear it for school in case I lose it though. I’m drawing a bookshelf with my favourite type of books on it: history and medicine. And then I’m going to draw my favourite sweets and chocolates around it so it’s like a picture frame.” He grinned, showing literally all his teeth – minus one at the front, that had clearly fallen out and an adult tooth growing in its place.

Without answering, Levi looked down at the plain paper in front of him on the table. He frowned, confused how these kids had so many different things they liked so much. Why couldn’t he think? With a sigh, Levi reached into his bag and pulled out a shiny, new pencil case Kuchel had bought for him as a treat for his first day at a new school. Nile glared at him the entire time he was fishing in his bag for it.

As he unzipped it, he admired all his new pens and pencils, rubbers and rulers. Everything he thought he’d need for his first day at school: although, he didn’t have any colours. At his old school, they handed colours out to the kids.

Trying not to get jealous at the others’ shiny, rainbow pictures, Levi began to draw with his ordinary pencil, attempting to colour with that instead. When Nile was happy that Levi was following with the rest of the crowed, he stopped watching so eagerly and carried on with his own work. He always wanted to impress the teacher, wanting to get his work shown properly on the wall before the lunch bell was due to ring.

When Erwin looked up from his work, he glanced over to Levi’s and then looked upset.

“Do you not have any colours, Levi?” Erwin asked. Levi shook his head, cheeks reddening a bit because he hated being the one who didn’t fit in with everyone, and he was starting to feel like it. “Here, you can share mine.” The beaming grin was there again, as the blonde spun his pencil case open for the two of them.

“Thanks.” Levi muttered, as he reached out to get the green pencil. As he started to colour in again, he felt Nile staring at him with the disapproving look again, and definitely heard a small tut under his breath. Clearly, he was unhappy that Levi had gone to join their table, and even more unhappy that his supposed best friend was being so nice to the new kid.

“Oh, Erwin look! We have the same colours!” Nile shouted out, holding up a red pencil crayon. He wanted to draw the attention away from Levi, to show Erwin how alike they were. But the blonde-haired boy was unphased, and instead carried on with what he was doing.

Erwin sparked conversation again, asking Levi all about his favourite foods and animals. Who he lived with, what he liked to do in his free time. Eventually, after he felt a bit more comfortable, Levi slowly gave small answers to the questions. Mike chipped in too, adding what he thought. And Nile kept trying to have one up on him, trying to prove he was better or something.

“What’s your favourite game to play Levi?”

He thought hard about the question, thinking about the card games he’d taught Levi, Isabel and Farlan back at the old house. The card games that they’d learnt from watching Kenny with his friends, or from an old book that Isabel’s grandma had given to her to teach her how to use cards.  “Go fish.”

“WELL I can play that. And my daddy is teaching me how to play poker. We play it with biscuits.”

Erwin gave Nile a funny look, then turned to smile at Levi. “I like go fish. Maybe we can play it together one day?”

“Yeah I remember playing it with my grandma. It’s fun.” Mike answered, wanting to get involved. Nile crossed his arm across the table, looking very frustrated at the new boy. His anger was getting worse by the minute, until the teacher called them all out.

“Okay class, it’s time to stop drawing. We’ll go around a table at a time and you can tell me what you’ve all drawn.” She smiled softly and started with a table of three girls at the front. They had drawn horses, and princesses, mainly. Levi snorted quietly to himself, thinking how if Isabel was there, she’d have drawn anything but those typical girly things.

It went around a few more tables, people loudly presenting their favourite things: cars, bikes, chocolate – a lot of chocolate – animals. A few tended to have the same things on. One boy had drawn his best friend on his.

Then it got to Levi’s table.

“Nile, you go first.”

He looked smugly at the other three on the table, before standing up and holding out his work, coughing to clear his voice before presenting. But Levi was certain he didn’t actually need to cough, but only did it to sound posh.. “So, I’ve drawn my Gameboy daddy bought me because it’s the best thing ever and better than any card game. I drew my favourite chocolate bar. I’ve drawn my daddy’s car because it goes really fast.”

“That’s lovely Nile, and nicely presented. Very confident. Mike, what have you drawn?”

Nile sat down with a firm smile on his face, making sure to look right at Levi and Erwin as he did so. But they paid him no attention, and directed their gaze onto their tallest friend and what he was going to show.

He stood up. “Dogs. A lot of dogs. All different breeds – but my favourite is this one here.” He pointed at a fluffy looking dog with big teeth. “It’s a husky. They’re fluffy and can keep really warm when it’s snowy.”

“Ah. I can see that they’re your most favourite animal, Mike. That’s really lovely. Levi, do you feel confident enough?” She asked, smiling softly. He nodded, then stood up slowly. Even though everyone was small because they were only eight, Levi was still smaller than the rest of his new class, especially on his table. Nile, who clearly noticed this, snorted. Erwin gave him a mucky look.

“What have you drawn, Levi?” The teacher smiled.

“A bird. And tea. And flowers.” Levi mumbled, so quietly the rest of the class could barely hear, but they could all see. Levi was good at drawing: really good. The bird looked almost real sat in the flowers, and the little cup of tea on the side looked as though you could lift it out of the paper and drink.

Erwin was looking up at Levi as he held his picture with a big smile. He was very taken by the new boy in his class, and new he wanted to make friends with him. Erwin thought he was the best person he’d ever met and was really impressed with his drawing. He was like a proud parent, the way he was watching him.

“That’s brilliant Levi. What a lovely drawing. Would you like it to go on the wall with the others?” the teacher then asked, smiling again. But Levi shook his head in a firm no. He wanted to give the picture to Kuchel. His first piece of work at his brand-new school – he knew she’d be super proud of him. Of course, the teacher understood this and smiled at the new boy.

“Not a problem. Your turn, Erwin. Best till last?” She joked, smiling as the blonde stood up proudly and started telling the classroom about his love of books and everything, he was interested in. Levi couldn’t take his eyes of him – he liked how brave and happy he was. He wished that one day he could be just like that.

Just as Erwin sat back down, the bell sounded for lunch, and the children around the room all stood up to grab their packed lunches and head out the door to the playground. The sun was shining, so everyone was allowed to eat on the grass today. Levi’s idea of hell. Despite being so young, he was very cleanly in his ways and refused to ever eat where there would be muck. Kuchel had made this clear to the school upon visiting, letting them know his quirks and things he had to do or where he had to go. They, of course, were very understanding and let Levi sit inside.

Nile, Mike, and Erwin had all stood up and wandered over to get their bags, the former too heading for the door before Erwin walked back to the table to get Levi. He wanted to make sure Levi was included with everything.

“Have you got lunch with you?” He smiled, asking.

“Yes.” Levi answered, reaching again into his bag and pulling out a sandwich his mum had made for him that morning. He then proceeded to pull out hand sanitizer and a napkin. Nile laughed at the sight.

“Erwin, are you coming outside?” Mike shouted across the classroom, louder than necessary. But Erwin’s gaze was still on Levi, who hadn’t moved from his spot on the table.

The teacher had walked over to Levi by this point, to come and check on him to make sure his first day was going okay. Once she crouched down at the table, Levi spoke, noticing the dark-haired boy was just looking at his sandwich with a confused face.

“Do I have to eat outside?” He asked, worried.

“Not if you wouldn’t like to. The other children are only going outside because of the nice weather. But the classroom is still available, your mum told me how you like to eat inside at a nice clean table. So, do I, I’m not a fan of eating in mud either.” She smiled kindly.

“Thank you, miss.” Levi smiled, and then began to wash his hands, clearly indicating what he wanted to do. He poured enough hand sanitizer on his hands to cover his whole arms, practically, but washed his fingers thoroughly – including behind his nails, and in the gaps between his fingers, scrubbing until it had evaporated. The other three boys were just watching on, before Nile’s tummy grumbled loudly.

“Erwin?” Nile called, voice agitated.

Erwin shook his head firmly. “No, I’m going to stay inside with Levi. Is that okay, Levi?”

His grey eyes looked up and he gave a very subtle, but genuine, smile at Erwin who then placed his lunch bag down and sat opposite his new friend and began to talk again. The teacher, realising how happy Levi seemed with Erwin, stood up and walked to the front of the class to eat her own lunch. Before he properly got his food out of the packet, Erwin gestured for some hand sanitizer and copied Levi: washing his hands and laying his food out in the same way.

Mike and Nile both strutted out of the classroom, Mike happy, but Nile extremely annoyed that Levi had taken Erwin away from him. And it was definitely to stay like that, judging by how much they got on only after one day.

They spent the entire lunch getting to know each other better, and once no one else was there, Levi spoke confidently in front of Erwin, and constantly kept grinning back at him. Erwin’s smiles were so warm and happy that he couldn’t help it.

By the end of the lunch hour, Erwin had moved and taken Mike’s seat next to Levi. And he spent the entire afternoon there, talking to no one but Levi as they coloured by numbers in the afternoon, and practiced their maths and writing.

Once the end of day bell rang, everyone stood up to pack their bags, as did Levi. He put his drawing neatly away in a folder Kuchel had got him and put his pencil case neatly down the side of his bag. He felt warm inside, so much better than he had felt all day about the prospect of starting a new school. And it felt amazing, to have someone he was excited to see tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that, too.

His thoughts were put on hold with the interruption of the boys’ voice, “Are you walking home, Levi?” Erwin asked.

“No, my mummy’s coming for me in the car.” He answered, “My house is a bit out of town.” He stood up behind his chair and tucked it neatly under the table, Erwin noticing his action and copying it too.

Nile snorted, “I bet you don’t live around here because our houses are so big and you’re from Underground Park.”

“Shut up.” Levi growled, his face setting into a stoic, unimpressed expression, causing Nile to do as he was told. Levi was already fed up of ths boy. His school would be perfect if he wasn’t a part of it, Levi thought, but he had a gut feeling that Nile would be involved in his life for quite a while. Least he had Erwin and Mike to even that out.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Levi?” Erwin asked again, grinning at his new best friend.

“Yes.” Levi said, smiling back at him. “I’d like that.”

Erwin gave Levi a hug, before the three friends walked out of school, meeting with Nile’s dad who was clearly planning on walking them all home together. Erwin stopped and waved to Levi as he waited in the classroom for Kuchel to get there to collect him. The teacher had asked her to come in at the end of the day, to talk about how her son was and give feedback. They were keeping a keen eye on Levi, considering everything that had happened, they wanted to make sure he’d be okay in such a busy environment. But it seemed like he was settling in just perfectly.

Kuchel appeared a few minutes later, and after checking no other kids were around, Levi ran up to her for a hug. He clung to her leg as the teacher spoke about how well he behaved, how good his drawings were, and how he got on so well with the new boys. Kuchel’s heart lifted and felt warm with happiness and proudness for her son.

“I think that calls for some sweeties on the way home, don’t you think, Levi?” Kuchel asked, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. She felt him nod into her leg.

“Thank you again, Miss, for today. Levi will be back here tomorrow morning.” She smiled, taking her sons bag from him so he could have free hands.

“Of course. We’ll see you tomorrow, Levi. We have music tomorrow which I think you’ll love!” The teacher exclaimed, standing up to walk the family to the classroom door and wave them off, as they both waved back enthusiastically. Levi decided he liked his new teacher, she was kind and had a soft voice. He liked people who were nice to him.

When they were out of the main school building, Kuchel saw it as the perfect time to ask about his day. “So tell me about your new friends, Levi.”

Levi was giddy, practically jumping with excitement to talk about his new friends, as Kuchel unlocked the car doors and the two began to climb inside the seats. “Mike sniffed me. Apparently, he likes dogs, so he likes to sniff people. Just like a dog.”

“He sounds fun! Dogs are great, so I don’t blame him. Who was the one that shared pencils with you?”

“Erwin. He’s my best friend. He sat with me on lunch and washed his hands because I did and everything.” He smiled, blushing slightly at the thought of a new friend.

“He sounds lovely, Levi.”

“And we were sat with Nile. I don’t like Nile.” Levi frowned just thinking about him, annoyed at the fact he brought him up.

“Oh no, sweetie, why not? Maybe it was because it’s your first day and he is protective of his friends. I know someone who was like that.” She smiled at him, clearly referring to Levi around Isabel and Farlan. Levi wouldn’t let other kids talk to them when they played together. He liked to have his best friends to himself.

“He kept teasing me about where I’m from.”

Kuchel frowned. “Well, that’s not very nice, is it? Do you need me to say anything to the teacher?”

“No!” Levi cried out. He didn’t want his mum to bring something like that up when he’d just started a new school. He didn’t want to get called a snitch, or a grass, or for everyone to fall out with him because he told on one of the most popular boys.

“Okay. Well, let’s get you out of the car and get some sweets.” She said, as they approached home. Kuchel tried to push her concern to the side as they walked into the shop underneath their flat and picked out the food they wanted. She knew what children were liked, after all, and assumed they’d be playing together: practically best friends, by the end of the term. That’s what always happens.  

Levi ate the sweets quickly that night, and after brushing his teeth and washing, climbed into bed and fell asleep thinking about his new best friend Erwin, and all the fun they were going to have together at his new school. For the first time since the accident, Levi was falling asleep with a different face in his mind, and he felt so happy for it.

Chapter Text

Kuchel lightly tapped on the door of Levi’s room, telling him and Erwin to wake up for their first day of Middle School. She normally wouldn’t let a friend sleep over on a school night, but Erwin was different: he was like a brother to Levi. And recently, Levi had been suffering more than normal and having a friend there made his anxiety not seem as intense. Kuchel didn’t want to risk him having a panic attack before his first day at Middle School – that was a big enough event for them already.

“Boys, it’s time to wake up and get your uniforms on.” She quietly said, poking her head around the door. Erwin was already sat up on the floor, neatening his hair in a small mirror. Upon noticing the door open, he looked up and smiled warmly at Kuchel who smiled back. She was so glad Levi had someone like him in his life.

“Good morning, Miss Ackerman.” He said, practically a whisper. Levi was still sound asleep in bed; buried under so many blankets and covers you could barely make him out to be there. She frowned that he still wasn’t up and getting ready.

“Ah, good morning Erwin. Is Levi okay?” She asked, her eyesight drifting to the bed where he was asleep trying to look for any sign of life.

“Yeah, he’s fine. We didn’t end up falling asleep till late, so I was going to wake him in a bit, so he could catch some more sleep.” Erwin announced, before turning to look at the bed. “I’ll get him up now, I suppose.”

“Not a problem. I’ll get on with your breakfasts.” And with that, she left, gently closing the door behind her.

Erwin leant over and gently shook Levi’s sleeping body. “Time to wake up, Levi.” He said. Levi rolled and grumbled, ignoring the movement from Erwin. The blonde pushed him again, a little firmer this time, resulting in Levi stretching dramatically before slowly sitting up rubbing at his eyes. He was never good at early mornings.

“What time is it?” he mumbled.

“Just before 8. Middle School’s first assembly isn’t until 9:30 so you still have plenty of time if we’re going to walk.”

Levi groaned more, then swung his legs over the side of the bed and proceeded to make it quickly after, ensuring the cushions were in the exact right positions.   Erwin knelt back to watch, knowing that Levi was going to do this even though he was still half asleep. He’d been making his bed that way since the first time they had a sleepover in elementary and continued to do so every single time. He’d never questioned it.

“Are we walking to school?” Levi asked, as he was fluffing up a pillow.

“I think so, yes. Mike and Nile wanted to meet us on the corner near school, so we could all walk in together.”

Levi rolled his eyes, putting the cushion down. “I thought Nile would have wanted to walk with his ‘daddy’” he mimicked his voice. Erwin smiled, laughing softly. He knew Levi didn’t like Nile at all but tried not to join in his jokes against him. Whilst Nile was an idiot, he was still Erwin’s friend. And he couldn’t be mean to his friends.

“I think he wants to stay as a four. Middle School is a big jump from Elementary and there’s loads of older kids there too now. And even though he comes across super confident, he’s really not. He’ll be as nervous as we all are.”

“Yeah, I guess.” He sighed, “I’ll be the ‘New Kid’ all over again.” Levi looked down, slightly frustrated, thinking about it.

“Least you’re not the only newbie!” Erwin beamed at Levi, and then stood up and tidied up his sleeping bag, popping it back in the corner. The corner had slowly developed into Erwin’s little space, there was even a small box with his pyjamas in for when he stopped over. The plan for that evening was for Erwin to come back home with Levi and join them for tea, so they could talk about their first day together. Least it meant he didn’t have to bring a big, chunky sleeping bag to school with him.

After looking at Erwin with a smile, Levi headed from his bedroom and straight into the bathroom. A routine he stuck with everyday. Take off pyjamas, fold them neatly onto the towel basket, run shower: wash face, then body, then feet, rinse, get out, and get dressed. As he put the clothing on his body, he felt so grown up. The shirt and blazer were a little too big on him, Kuchel wanting them to last for at least the year, but the rest fit him perfectly. He straightened his hair out in the mirror before exiting the room.

Despite the fact that Erwin was only 11, almost 12, he’d already grown even more inches above Levi, who seemed to be staying quite small. Mike had towered up, and Nile was only a little bit smaller than Erwin now. He filled his uniform out a lot better than a skinny, small Levi did, causing him to sigh at the thought of how young he looked compared to his friends. Especially when he looked at Erwin sat at the breakfast bar, making him feel something weird in his stomach at the sight of his friend in uniform. Kuchel snapped him out of that thought.

“Morning Levi, are you ready for today?” Kuchel asked, smiling at her son.

“I guess.” He mumbled, plodding down and sitting next to his best friend at the breakfast table. Since that day at elementary school, Erwin and Levi had eaten together every day since, whether it was lunch at school, dinner at each other’s houses, or breakfast the day after a sleepover. They saw each other every day, and Levi was really happy to have someone that close to him again. He was like a mingled together Farlan and Isabelle: and Levi slowly missed them less and less each day.

“We’ll be fine once we’re there. As long as we stick together!” Erwin said, practically beaming at Levi. It was clear he was excited to grow up. But Levi noticed he was wearing his grandpa’s bolo tie, meaning he was nervous, as he only had it for a good luck charm in exams or on nerve-wracking days. Realising his best friend was worried too, he felt a bit more relaxed. He wasn’t alone in how he was feeling.

“True.” Levi said, taking a plate from his mum with beans, egg, and toast piled up.

“That’s Erwin’s, Levi.” Kuchel smiled at him, and Levi passed the plate over to Erwin, whose fingers then lightly brushed the side of Levi’s hand. He blushed subtly but ducked his head down to avoid embarrassment. That had been happening a lot recently, but Levi had no idea why. He found it annoying more than anything else.

“And here’s yours.” Kuchel passed Levi’s smaller plate across the table, knowing he wouldn’t want to eat a lot of if he was nervous. Two small tablets were hidden on the side of the plate, and Levi took them to his mouth and swallowed quickly before Erwin could see. He never wanted to show Erwin how messed up he was, no one knew anything about his past, and he intended to keep it that way for as long as possible.

“Eat up you two. I’ll pop some lunches in your bag, and I got you both a little present for later too.” Kuchel smiled and wandered to the other side of the kitchen picking up two brown bags and two smaller, patterned ones. She’d bought them both some sweets. Both bags were decorated with stickers of smiley men, picked out specially to brighten their days up.

“Oh, thank you so much, Miss Ackerman. You didn’t have to get me anything.”

Erwin’s manners were impeccable for a child so young, Kuchel thought, and knew that he’d clearly taken after his parents in charm and intelligence. They were a very loved family by the Ackerman’s.

“I know, as you always insist, but it’s a big day and I wanted to. Plus, you might need an energy boost later on! I definitely will, and I’m not even going to Middle School.” She chuckled lightly.

“Well, thank you.” Erwin grinned, before continuing to eat his food, enjoying every second of it. Kuchel’s home meals were his favourite, not that he’d ever tell his own family that.

The two finished their breakfast, and Erwin wandered off to the bathroom to brush his teeth and nip to the toilet before they had to walk to school. Kuchel took the free time to her advantage and wandered over to check on her son. She was worrying about him, considering how he was getting worse than normal recently. But knew not to pester him about it too much.

She sat beside him gently, stroking his back softly. “How are you feeling, sweetie?”

“Okay I guess.” He pushed the food around on his plate a little more, hardly managing to eat it all.

“Nervous?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you need us to do what the doctor taught? Do you feel a panic flush coming on?” Kuchel always avoided using the word attack; it seemed so serious when she did, and Levi was still so young and small, the thought of him suffering so much bothered her more than she let on. She just wanted her son to be okay and felt nothing but guilt for her son being the way he was. If she was only there, she could have protected him, kept him from the awful things that went on in his mind now.

Levi quietly nodded, and Kuchel sat next to him and went through a few breathing exercises with him, helping him to steady his nerves and get his breath back to normal. He turned around, glanced to check Erwin wasn’t coming, and went to cuddle his mother quickly. She returned the hug and planted a small kiss on the top of his head.

“Off you go to brush your teeth too. You’ll have to leave soon.” She motioned towards the door as it unlocked, and Erwin appeared. Levi jumped down from the chair and went to brush his teeth, feeling slightly better about it all now.

With a hug for both boys, Kuchel watched them as they put their shoes on by the door and placed their bags on their backs, ready to leave for school. They walked down the stairs to the pavement, turning, and setting off for school at a slow pace. Erwin spoke none stop about the new subjects they were going to learn, excited, but Levi knew that Erwin talked a lot when he was nervous, so instead of scowling and moaning like normal he let his best friend chat away until he was feeling more relieved about the whole situation.

Erwin spoke for so long that they practically would have walked past Mike unless he shouted for them.

“Hey!” Mike called, standing up from previously sitting on someone’s wall. “You both ready?”

“Good morning Mike!” Erwin called, happily, and picked his pace up slightly. Levi carried on walking slowly. “Good morning Nile! You both ready for the next chapter of our lives together?” Erwin asked, giddy.

“Should be good, the three of us, starting middle school together. After we even went to elementary together. I’m glad it’s us three still best friends.” Nile shot a smirk over his shoulder back at Levi, who then returned the smirk in a mocking fashion, pissing Nile right off.

“Even nicer now there’s four of us starting together.” Mike said, putting his arm around Levi and pulling him into the line. Levi ducked immediately after and neatened his hair out. He still hated being touched by Mike.

“Yeah I agree. Let’s make this the best year yet.” Erwin said, smiling happily as they walked into the front gates of the new school.

After they all sat in assembly and listened to the rules, uniform, and classes, the four departed into their home room. All of them were luckily in the same form again, which meant they’d be in the same classes apart from PE where it was the entire year. Levi felt a flush of relief knowing that he didn’t have to do the whole ‘new kid’ thing again, with a bunch of complete strangers. Least this way he had Erwin. And that’s all he felt he needed, although having a friend in Mike was a bonus too.

When they entered the classroom, there were notebooks upon the desks all with names written on them indicating where to sit. It seemed to be in alphabetical order, boy girl. Because of this, Levi was seated right at the front next to another girl. Nile was a few seats away from him, but thankfully at the other side of the classroom – far enough that they wouldn’t be getting in each other’s’ way for this class.

Towards the back sat Erwin, next to a very pretty ginger girl, and beside him was a very excitable person called Hange Zoe, who, because of surname, was right next to Mike. It looked more fun to be sat back there, and for a moment Levi detested his surname, wanting to be an S or at least a T to sit with Erwin. He frowned, fiddling with the corner of his new book.

After he felt his annoyance subside slightly, Levi looked back and the four of the back rows already seemed to be laughing and enjoying themselves. He felt a bit empty, being so far apart from his friends, and ended up spending most of first period gazing out of the window and doodling in his book.

By lunch time he practically ran to the back of the room to meet Erwin and Mike; and was introduced to their two new friends: Petra and Hange. Hange immediately ran to Levi and linked arms with him, leading him out of the classroom and down to the canteen despite his rigid struggles. They almost got him the whole way there, before he spun and trapped their arm behind their back.

“Don’t touch me. You don’t know me.”

Hange held their free hand up apologetically, “I’m very sorry. I just get a bit carried away sometimes! And Erwin was telling us how cool you were to I thought that the only way to test this theory was to kidnap you and see for myself!”

Levi let their arm go at the apology and nodded at Hange, before turning and moving to walk next to Erwin, away from anyone new who had followed them to lunch. Nile eventually caught up with the new, rather large group and they all went to sit down round a big table to eat lunch. Everyone told their backstories – where they’re from, who else in their class was from their old school. It turned out literally everyone was from the same area as Mike and Erwin (and Nile) and Levi was beginning to feel a little left out.

Erwin noticed this and moved his chair closer to Levi to make him feel more involved. He looked down at his best friend and gave a really big smile. As he did so, his knee brushed against the side of Levi’s, causing his face to flare up again. Quickly grabbing his tea, he took a sip to try and cover the redness.

“What’s that you’re drinking, Levi?” Erwin asked, pointing at the take out flask from his house.

“Tea. Mum got me new leaves from the market.”

Nile snorted at that and pulled out a ‘posh’ version of a bottle of coke: he took a sip dramatically. “My father got me this from the French bakery near my house. It’s delicious. Wasn’t cheap either.”

“No need to be like that, Nile. I think I’d rather have tea anyway – it won’t rot my teeth.” Erwin smiled back at Levi. Whenever Nile put on this front around the black-haired boy, Erwin instantly drew up defence. Levi was a much better friend than Nile anyway, so Erwin wanted to be there for him.

“Your teeth are rotting anyway.” Levi mumbled, directly it at Nile. It was quiet enough that only Erwin heard, and he let out a low laugh, before grabbing his own drink to try and cover his giggling face so Nile wouldn’t question what was going on. Levi smirked too, proud that he’d made Erwin laugh like that.

Petra chipped into the conversation then, drawing Erwin and Levi’s attention back to the group, as her voice was quite high pitched and stood out from the rest of the table.

“Who do you think is the best-looking person in our year then, Mike?”

Mike laughed, putting his sandwich down. “No one yet. I’ve not been looking.”

Petra smiled at that and turned her gaze to Erwin. “Everyone fancies you.”

Erwin’s cheeks flushed a rosy colour, and Levi heard him swallow. “No, they don’t, don’t be silly. No one really knows me yet. How can you fancy someone without properly knowing them?”

“Well my friend Lucy said she thinks you’re really cute.” Petra continued, smiling with a bit of a giggle. “She texted me earlier about it, and so did some of my other friends.”  Levi felt his insides turn in a funny way; one that he hadn’t experienced before. And he suddenly got really annoyed at the idea of this ‘Lucy’ he was talking about.

“Well, she can come and talk to me if she wants.” Erwin said, smiling. He was beginning to like the idea that other girls might fancy him, and he might even get his first girlfriend. That’s what happened in all the films he’d seen about growing up and school, and now he wanted to be just like that.

“I’ll let her know.” Petra smiled, before picking up her juice and taking a sip, smiling.

Levi felt his heart fall even deeper into his stomach. He wasn’t sure why it annoyed him so much, but it was even worse when the next class seating arrangements put Lucy next to Erwin. What were the chances?

Petra ended up sat next to Levi, and it turned out they got on quite well. Levi thought it would be best if he actually spoke a bit more than usual, rather than just moping about and grunting answers. He and Petra talked about things they liked – foods and TV shows. But Levi kept glancing around and noticing how Lucy was moving closer to Erwin all the time, twirling her hair, laughing at everything Erwin said.

Was that flirting? He asked himself. Levi had yet to experience a relationship, as had most people in the school at that point. They were all approaching 12 years old, and that’s when people started taking hugs more seriously, Levi thought. He was getting annoyed watching the scene unravel, no one should be able to speak to his best friend like that, he thought. But he tried not to show the distaste on his face because he definitely didn’t want to be questioned about it.

As the end of the day bell rang, Levi stood up and grabbed his coat from the rack against the wall, before turning back and walking towards Erwin who was still chatting away with Lucy. Mike and Nile were in the corner putting coats on, so Levi literally had to just stand there like a lemon, not wanting to approach either pair. He really hated Lucy by this point, he wanted to talk to Erwin about his day and go home to play games, just the two of them. He was growing impatient and so interrupted their conversation.

“Ready, Erwin?” Levi asked, voice disapproving.

He slightly jumped and turned around from his conversation, “oh yes, sorry Levi. I forgot I’m coming to yours.” He turned back to Lucy and passed her a piece of paper. His home phone number. “Ring me later Lucy and we can plan eating our lunch together. But don’t phone until late because I’ll be at Levi’s house for tea.”

Lucy’s cheeks burned bright red at this thought, and she went back over to Petra and some other girls and they all started looking up at Erwin and giggling.

“What’s that?” Levi asked, not looking up to make eye contact with his best friend.

“Me and Lucy are going to eat lunch together on the field tomorrow.” Erwin said, proudly. He was the second person Levi had ever known to go on a ‘date’. In elementary there was a couple, as such, who ate lunch together every day. Everyone called them boyfriend and girlfriend.

“So, are you boyfriend and girlfriend?” Levi asked, as the thought sprung to mind.

“I think so.” Erwin said again, smiling at Levi. His glare was burning into him, causing Levi to have to look up and pass him a fake smile and an “oh.”

The two walked out of the classroom after saying bye to Mike and Nile and began to walk home, talking about their first day.

“Petra and Hange are great. I think they’ll be our best friends.” Erwin announced.

“But I’m your best friend.” Levi replied, sounding spoiled and annoyed.

“Of course, Levi. You’re always first.” He replied, smiling at Levi. “Is something wrong?”

“No.” Levi huffed, refusing to divert his eyes from the floor in front of them.

“Was today okay?” Erwin asked, his concern growing. He’d known Levi for three years now – that was enough years to see him grow up a bit, and to be able to tell when he was grumpy or worried about something.

“Boring.” Levi knew he was been blunt, but he was so angry about Lucy. She’d ruined his first day, and now Erwin was already looking for ways to replace him with new people. He’d leave him alone, even if it wasn’t as extreme as his friends before, he’d still leave him. And Levi couldn’t cope with that again. Not now.

“Do you like our new classes?”

“They’re okay.”

Taking the hint, Erwin stopped talking as they rounded the corner to Levi’s flat. A home cooked scent was already floating down the stairs. It turned out Kuchel had taken the day off work to cook them something ready for when they got home from school straight away.

Levi opened the door and walked inside, taking his shoes off and walking straight to the bedroom without waiting for Erwin. He didn’t say hi to Kuchel, but slammed his door shut and threw his bag down on the floor. He wasn’t even sure why he was so angry and upset, but the thought of Lucy was pissing him off.

“Oh, Erwin, everything okay?” Kuchel asked, worried. She wiped her hands on the side of her pinafore and walked over to neaten up Levi’s unusually untidy shoes.

“I’m not sure.” Erwin answered, slipping his own shoes off and leaving them next to Levi’s. “Maybe give him a bit, he seemed like he didn’t want to talk to anyone.”

“I see.” Miss Ackerman shot a worried look towards Levi’s bedroom door, but then turned back to smile at Erwin, heading into the kitchen to dish up dinner. “So, how was your first day?”

“Really good thanks.” Erwin said, grinning. “We made some new friends. Hange and Petra. Me, Nile, Mike, and Levi all made the same class, but we’re not sat anywhere near each other. But other than that, it was really good.”

“I’m glad.” Kuchel replied, pouring gravy over the mashed potatoes, broccoli, Yorkshire puddings, and vegetarian sausages. “Would you just carry Levi’s plate to the table please, Erwin?”

“Yes of course Miss Ackerman. Thanks again for letting me stay for tea.” He stood up, grabbing the plate, and wandered back to the table where they were going to sit and eat.

“That’s okay. Thank you for looking after Levi.” She replied, before shouting, “Levi! Tea is on the table!”

Moments later Levi appeared wearing a green sweater and black jeans. He propped himself on the seat closest to Erwin, because even though he was angry, it was with Lucy. However, he took extra care to not accidentally bash his knee on his friend, or even lean towards him slightly. He sat up straight, as though a book was balanced on his head, his face expressionless and he looked down at his tea.

“Was today good, Levi?” Kuchel asked, desperate to try and get the answer out of him.

“Erwin got a girlfriend.” Levi spat, before stabbing his fork aggressively into the potatoes and eating slowly. Kuchel raised her eyebrows at the comment.

“A girlfriend? Oh, what’s she like Erwin?” She smirked at him, excited to hear about the new school romance.

“She’s got blonde hair and a big smile. We’re going to eat lunch together tomorrow. She’s called Lucy.” He said, with the same excitement as he had in form before the end of the day. Levi shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“She sounds lovely, Erwin.” Kuchel answered, remembering what it was like to have a first girlfriend when you’re in middle school. “You’ll be next, Levi.” She then said, hoping that would be the reason he seemed to upset and moody. But in reply, he just grumbled and frowned, biting more mashed potato.

“Levi you can eat lunch with us tomorrow too if you want.” Erwin said, hoping that would also be the problem and cause of his mood.

“No. I’m eating with Mike.” Levi replied, grumpily. He hated eating with Mike and Nile, because Nile hated him, and Mike sniffed almost everything before he ate it and it made him feel uncomfortable.

“Okay. But you can if you’d like.”

“No.” Levi said, before pushing his plate away. “I’ve had enough.”

“Levi sweetie, you’ve got to eat more than that. You literally only ate some potato.”

“No. I feel sick.” Levi replied, standing up and walking back to his bedroom. Kuchel let out a deep sigh, and Erwin continued eating in silence.

“I’m not sure what brought this on, Miss Ackerman. I’m so sorry I can’t help.”

“That’s okay. I have an idea, but he’ll be fine.” She said, her smile weak. “After you’ve eaten up, I’ll run you home, if that’s okay. I don’t think Levi will be much company tonight I’m afraid.”

“Of course, and thank you again, Miss Ackerman.”

After clearing up, Kuchel drove Erwin back to his house and had a quick chat to Mrs Smith about school before heading back. When she got home to check on her son, she found Levi curled up in bed seemingly fast asleep. Quietly closing the door, Levi rolled back onto his back and stared at the ceiling.

Why am I feeling this shit because of Lucy?

                                                *****

The first few weeks of middle school took Levi a long time to settle into. He found himself having panic attacks at the thought of going in, and many a night Kuchel had to sit with him and help him calm down. He just didn’t like being in such a vast place not knowing many people. And the fact Erwin kept leaving him to eat with Lucy was upsetting him even more. The further Erwin seemed to drift from Levi, the more the accident seemed to come back to life. He couldn’t help but relive it, relive all the horrid things that happened before. And now Erwin was around as much as a distraction, he was finding it so much harder than ever before.

It had even got to the point in their friendship where, for the first time in three years, they hadn’t eaten together every day of the week. Despite offers from Erwin to sit with Lucy, Levi still rejected them. And because of that, Erwin and Levi grew more and more apart, Lucy and Erwin spending more time together after school. But still, Levi didn’t hate Erwin.

In fact, the thought of Erwin was what was annoying him more. He kept blushing when he thought about him, and whenever Erwin threw his arm over his shoulder like they always did, it made his insides flutter and his cheeks flare a burning red. And he had no idea why he felt like this. He was losing control of his thoughts. Even the times he slept over, Levi could barely sleep knowing the boy was in the room beside him. But he didn’t get why.

However, one morning when he woke up to a message from Erwin saying he was outside, he quickly got up and ready with his normal routine as he thought something might have happened, since Erwin hadn’t properly called around in a morning for a while. And he was earlier than normal, as though they had something super important to talk about. And Levi’s gut instinct was right. Lucy and Erwin decided they shouldn’t be boyfriend and girlfriend, because Lucy fancied someone else, and Erwin wasn’t bothered. So, they ended their lunch time dates together and it meant Levi had Erwin back after school again.

After that, everything fell nicely into place for the first few years of middle school. Erwin and Levi resumed their friendship and were even closer than before. Hange and Petra were stuck like glue since the first day and had mingled into the original four. And Mike and Nile were still good friends and followed Erwin around wherever he went. The more it went on, the less Levi’s anxiety suffered: Erwin was calming to him, and a distraction. He thought about the accident less, and Isabelle and Farlan slowly melted from his mind again. He was beginning to feel more himself again, and a lot happier, although his feelings towards Erwin were getting more confusing by the day.

It became quite bad when someone decided to make a comment on the fact that Levi and Erwin were always together.

“Oh look, it’s the gays.” Some sniggered in the corridor as Levi walked past with Erwin.

“Prince and the pauper.” Someone else joked, and this time it turned out that Nile was stood next to them, laughing along too. Erwin just stood, his head held high as if he didn’t hear the comments. But Levi had had it all before: usually because of his height. But now, with the fact that he was so confused about his feelings towards Erwin, he got angrier and more upset as it went on.

After a while, the comments became a lot more frequent, and Levi became a lot angrier, not knowing how to deal with it. It had grown even harder to cope when Levi noticed Erwin distancing himself at school, subtly, to avoid the taunting and bullying. They would only hang out together when at home, or when they couldn’t be seen by other people, which pissed Levi off. He should be allowed to have friends at school without rumours been made, especially when he needs those friends to even cope at school.

One day it got so bad, worse than normal. It was only a small comment, even a joke – less harsh than some of the other pupils had been. But they’d caught Levi at the wrong time and ended up having a fight in the boys’ toilet, Levi punching him in his nose resulting in the end of the fight and ending up with him sitting beside Kuchel outside the principal’s office.

“What’s going on, Levi?” The principal asked. Levi shrugged, looking at his bloody knuckle.

Kuchel took a deep breath, fed up with how bad it had been getting. He was fourteen now, and it wasn’t right the teasing had been going on since he was 8. “He’s being bullied.”

“Mum it’s not bullying.” Levi shouted, not wanting it to be that. Not wanting to be called a snitch or get anyone in trouble.

“Then what is it?” She said, angry at the fact he wouldn’t just tell the situation.

Awkwardly hunched in the chair, after a while, Levi was forced to open up. Being fourteen and in a school full of posh kids, the last thing he wanted to do was rat anyone out. But with Kuchel on his side and the principal sat opposite him it appeared Levi didn’t have much choice anymore.

He told them about Nile’s snarky comments and the jokes in the corridors that had been happening since he turned twelve in the first year of middle school. He had reached his last straw and had managed to put up with the comments the whole time. Levi was so angry at himself for lashing out and hitting another kid.

At the end of the meeting, everyone concluded that Nile was to be suspended for a week and Levi was also to be suspended, but only for a few days. Even though he was bullied, he’d broken a kid’s nose and that sort of action couldn’t go unpunished. Normally he would have been written out of school for a month, but with the situation it would have only made it worse. In regard to the other students, the principal was to hold an assembly on bullying and threats with punishment for anyone caught making snide remarks or spreading lies about pupils.

Levi was just relieved it was their last year at this school, with a three-month break before High School so the chances were that everyone would be able to move on and forget about it. And more importantly to Levi, Erwin would also be able to move on and forget about it. And hopefully hang out with him at school again, so he didn’t see their faces in his mind anymore.

                                                ***

The summer leading up to High School, Erwin and Levi saw each other pretty much every day. Everyone seemed to forget about middle school’s problems with Levi, however he and Nile distanced even more than before.

Erwin apologised profusely for abandoning Levi at school because of the taunting, and Levi forgave him. Mainly because he was his best friend, but also because his feelings towards Erwin had grown even stronger over the few years at school.

He was beginning to think only of Erwin at any second of the day, and Kuchel even noticed a dramatic mood change whenever Erwin was around: Levi appeared more happy, confident and comfortable. It was as though all his mental problems floated away whenever Erwin was around. But Levi couldn’t admit that to himself, not just yet: not at the start of High School.

Chapter Text

Erwin had been with Marie for a few months now, which also meant Levi had been neglected from his best friend for a few months now as well. It wasn’t that Levi was annoyed with Erwin – he completely understood how excited Erwin was to finally have a girlfriend. And a proper one at that, considering they now actually were grown up and understood what it truly meant to be in a relationship. It also wasn’t that Erwin was ignoring Levi on purpose: he still found time with him occasionally on the weekends. It was that he was jealous of Marie taking all his time away from his best friend.

It also meant that Levi was spending a lot more time by himself, and a lot more time alone with his thoughts. More time with Kenny, Farlan, and Isabelle. More time reliving the nightmare. Not that he could, or would, talk about it to anyone. Especially not to Kuchel who would just worry and panic and make him go back to a doctor again. Levi couldn’t think of anything worse than that, especially now he was in high school.

6 months into high school and Levi had managed to stick with his original friends from middle school. Petra and Hange always sat with Levi at lunch time, however Hange had joined a few science clubs and Petra had joined the netball team, so their free time after school was often full already. There wasn’t any clubs for Levi to join, mainly because socialising wasn’t his forte, so after 3pm he’d go home and be alone until Kuchel finished work.

Mike still spoke to Levi too, and they were still really good friends, but Mike also was really good friends with Nile and spent a lot of his breaks and after school times with him which Levi certainly didn’t want to join them.

Marie was the only real new friend that had merged into their friendship group at the new school, and since she was preoccupied with Erwin, that left Levi lonely and bored after school pretty much daily. He was beginning to feel like he did when he was younger, before he became good friends with Farlan and Isabel.

And of course, Kuchel noticed this.

“Not doing anything again tonight, Levi?” She asked as her son flopped on the sofa with a packet of crisps, turning the TV on.

“No. Erwin’s with Marie again.”

She felt her heart drop thinking that her son was being left behind by his best friends. He struggled with the loss of his childhood friends, and yes that was completely different to your best friend distancing from you, but still it just highlighted how Levi couldn’t cope with abandonment. And she was especially worried his mental health would deteriorate again. Which it clearly already was, considering how clean the flat was and how organised cupboards were.

“Ah that’s a shame. What about this weekend? Would you like Erwin to stop over on Saturday night?”

Levi munched on a few crisps before he nodded, and then continued to pull his phone out of his pocket and text his best friend. A reply came through only seconds later from Erwin saying that he’d love to stop over.

“He’s coming.” Levi mumbled to his mum, trying to hide the smile that grew over his face. He was actually looking forward to just having Erwin to himself for a whole night for once, and the morning after too. That was a rare occurrence for him nowadays. Finally, a chance to be with Erwin and no one else.

Sensing this, Kuchel added “we’ll get take out pizzas for the two of you since it’s been a while since a sleepover, and also pick a new film up from the store. Sound good?”

“Great, thanks mum.” Levi said, finishing off his crisps. His mood had instantly lifted since he thought of finally seeing his best friend again, it had felt like forever and he missed the company.  Admittedly the feelings that had been growing since he was in middle school were still stronger than ever, although Levi actually understood what they meant now, but they had become slightly more uncontrollable. However, when he saw Erwin alone, they seemed to be alright, dulled down, or he just had to do a lot of awkward moving when Erwin touched him, or leaned over him, or whispered something to him. He was getting pretty good at hiding himself.

Levi would never admit it, but he was so soft and emotional at heart. He hated his friends leaving him out of things, but never wanted to annoy them and tag along or moan that they weren’t spending enough time with him. He didn’t want to appear weak to everyone, so tried to avoid the possibility of him coming across that way as much as possible. Which in the end resulted in him appearing moody, unapproachable, and just quiet? But people understood him now – at least in his friendship group, so it was usually okay.

The rest of the night was spent with Kuchel and Levi sat together on the sofa, watching TV and just talking about things in general. It was the most talkative Kuchel had found her son in weeks: she’d often catch him at moments when he’d zoned out and didn’t realise, she was there, and then when she’d approach him about it he’d snap at her and tell her to leave him alone. She’d found him crying numerous times, but it always resulted in a door slamming in her face or him yelling loudly. She assumed it was because of his age, and puberty, especially since he’d said that his mental health was doing well.

In fact, that night, he even told her that it was improving so quickly, and he felt so much happier than he had in years. Which of course, was all a lie. He even told her that the medication she paid for monthly was helping him the most, despite the fact he’d only taken it twice, but it made him feel so out of it, he took the tubes and hid them in his bedroom. But he’d lie or say anything to make his mum feel happy, and if that was saying he was fine, then that’s what he would do.

Kuchel seemed really happy about how much it was apparently helping him though, and believed him completely, so the subject dropped as she gave her son a big hug and headed to her bedroom to retire.

Levi stayed up a little bit later, then showered and headed to bed, excited that in a few days he’d have Erwin to himself again.

***

Friday approached quickly, as did lunchtime where he wandered over to Petra to head to lunch. Erwin was taking Marie out to the French bakery for their break, so Levi yet again had to follow his ginger friend around. Levi was looking forward to lunch that day, considering the date was exactly 9 years since the accident. 9 years without his best friends; a day he found hard every year. A day he would normally call in sick for and sit with Kuchel, but since he’d told her how well he was doing, he definitely wasn’t going to be doing that.

Levi felt relief flood inside when he saw Petra waiting outside their form room, just needing a friend to take him away from his brain for a little bit and distract him from the hell that was going on. None of his friends even knew of the accident, or even knew that today would be an exceptionally hard day.

“Petra, hi.” Levi said, walking up to her with a fake smile. “Ready for lunch?”

“Oh Levi, shoot, I’m so sorry. I’m going out with Oluo this lunch. He’s taking me out for some noodles. Maybe Hange is free?” She shot her friend a sympathetic smile, of course not realising what was going on in his mind.

“Yeah sure, have fun.” Levi mumbled, before turning around and scanning the room for Hange who was still packing their bag up from the lesson before, folders messy and paper sheets flying everywhere as normal. Levi tried to ignore the mess and walked over to his friend, hovering over the desk for a few moments before Hange even realised that he was there.

“Oh, Levi. You aright?” Hange asked, smiling at her friend.

“Lunch?” Levi said, holding up his bag trying to suggest that it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Levi have you forgotten? Me and Moblit are doing experiments this break for our next science class. I can’t cancel on him now, I promised!”

“But Hange, Petra’s gone for noodles.” Was all Levi could quietly muster from his heavy body: Farlan’s face was growing brighter and firmer every second, he couldn’t be alone. He could smell the flames, taste the burning. He needed one of his friends, but he just couldn’t tell them how much. “It’s all my fault” he mumbled quietly, not realising it had seeped from his mouth.

“What’s your fault? Look, I can’t I’m sorry Levi. I’m in such a rush I’m already late, aaaah. Go see what Mike’s doing?” Hange suggested, jumping up from the desk and practically running out of the door. Before Levi could even approach his tall friend, him and Nile were heading out of the door together for food somewhere else leaving Levi stood in the empty classroom all alone.

He began to question himself even more than he had been since the start of high school: he didn’t understand why all his friends had decided to make way for a new life when the group was completely happy as it was. He didn’t understand why Erwin felt the need to replace him for Marie. He didn’t know who Oluo or Moblit were and why his friends chose them over him. He didn’t know why Isabelle and Farlan had to leave, why they didn’t fight harder. He did, he got out. Why didn’t they? Why does everyone leave him? What’s wrong with him?

He felt a harsh stab in his heart. He thought about how useless he was, how wrong he was. How he felt for his best friend was wrong, how he lived off medication was weird, how he lied to Kuchel, how his friends all leave him, how the death of his best friends was his fault. He just knew it: he was useless, and wrong, and not deserving. He felt pointless, what was even the point of him?

The flames grew in his mind harsher, eyes trickling at the hot sensation that sparked in them. Before anyone could see what, he was feeling, Levi stormed from the classroom quickly – walking straight through the school reception and marching his way to the park near his house, breathing heavy and messily.

Plonking his heavy body down on the nearest bench, Levi lifted his hands and ran them through his hair, squeezing his eyes shut. His heart was beating, fast. He pulled on his hair, trying to drag the thoughts from his mind. But they were so strong now, he shouldn’t have gone to school. He shouldn’t be alone on his day, he needs someone to talk and distract him.

“Fuck!” He yelled out, as though he was in pain. His leg was bouncing nervously up and down. “I’m so sorry, I’m sorry.” He mumbled to himself, the vision of his old best friends in his mind. “I’m so sorry, I fucked it up. I always do. I want to be with you both again and say sorry, shit.” He was slowly rocking his body forwards and backwards on the bench now, trying to rid the thoughts from his mind. Trying not to think about his options. He couldn’t leave now, he definitely couldn’t leave – Erwin would be there soon, and he’d feel so much better and these thoughts would disperse again, he’d be back to normal.

But the thoughts wouldn’t felt that quickly. This isn’t the first time Levi had thought about it, he’d actually had it planned for a while now. He always thought it was him that deserved to go, not innocent, sweet Isabel or charming, smart Farlan. It was him who Kenny hated the most, so why was he left to survive? Why didn’t it take him instead of his friends?

Levi closed his eyes and rocked his body slowly backwards and forwards on the bench, until his mind was made up. He grabbed his bag and set off towards his flat, footsteps firm and determined. What’s the point in waiting?

But his mind was racing. Jumping. One minute he was ready, but then he’d see Erwin. Erwin coming around on Saturday, sharing pizzas, watching films. Sleeping in the same room. He couldn’t do it just yet: things were going to get better. Erwin was coming Around tomorrow night and had finally found time for him again. He wasn’t going to be lonely for much longer – he was going to have a good weekend, and it might just be today that Hange and Petra and Mike had new friends – perhaps on Monday it would be different. And by the end of the day the anniversary is over, and it isn’t as hard anymore, and they’ll melt away like they always do. Like normal.

When he got home, Kuchel was sat reading the newspaper on the chair. Friday was her day off this week, clearly, and she shot a look up to Levi as soon as he sat down on the sofa beside her. He tried to steady his breathing, tried to make it look like he hadn’t been thinking about something so final the entire walk home, like everything was fine. Just like he promised.

“What are you doing home, darling? Everything okay?” She asked, a concerned tone to her voice. She knew how much he struggled on this day normally.

“Wasn’t feeling well.” Levi replied, before taking his tie off from around his neck.

“Everything okay? What’s the matter?” Kuchel continued to enquire, softly. She wanted him to be comfortable enough to talk, especially since he said he’d be fine. She believed he would be too. Perhaps he just had a cold, flu, anything.

Levi rubbed at his head. He knew his mum would start asking loads of questions – she always did if there was any sign of Levi not being himself.

“Just a slight headache.” Levi mumbled, “and couldn’t be bothered dealing with double maths this afternoon.”

“Fair enough, I understand that.” She chuckled slightly, falling for her sons lies. He hadn’t lied to her this frequently before, ever, in his entire life. He definitely knew things weren’t well if he found it this easy to lie to her. “I’ll get you some paracetamol and a drink if you’d like? What else can I do for you?”

“Nothing, I’m okay thanks, though. I’m just going to have a nap and see if I feel better after.” Kuchel nodded in response, giving his arm a squeeze before Levi got up and headed towards his bedroom. Sleep was his attempt to escape from the negative thoughts he’d had all afternoon. He just needed to sleep through this, so tomorrow with Erwin would come around quickly and he could finally see his friend properly: a real friend, who was alive, and he could touch and see, and when he saw him, he wouldn’t be dying or crying. After a long time, the small boy drifted off to sleep and didn’t awake, even when Kuchel came on later to check on him.

He managed to sleep through until 11 on Saturday morning, just a few hours before Erwin was meant to be round. He’d got through the worst day of the year, though.

When he awoke from his room, Kuchel had left money on the table with a small note telling Levi to go pick a new film for them to watch later on. She also said she’d left some money to get some nibbles for that afternoon before she’d get home to order pizzas for the boys.

He smiled to himself, excited that he was spending the day with Erwin. Already his mind seemed less foggy than yesterday, as always Erwin pulled him from the negativity. As quickly as he could, Levi got dressed, tidied up, grabbed the money and his phone and wandered out of the door to the local shops to pick up a film. It was only when he was half way there the text came through.

11:59: I’m sorry Levi, I can’t stay over tonight because Marie’s taking me to meet her parents. What about next week? : - ) xx

Suddenly he stopped in his tracks and stared down at the message from Erwin, trying to blink back the tears. He couldn’t believe it. The one person, the one thing, that he was using to keep himself sane. The one thing that he needed to get through the worst time of the year, and the person he trusted more than anything had let him down again.

Instead of reacting loudly, he simply turned on one heel, face stern and angry, and walked straight back to his house without even pausing to think, without a reply. He wasn’t having it anymore. He wanted to rest with his friends.

Slowly he unlocked the door. Kuchel wasn’t in sight, thankfully, so he walked over to his room and sat at the desk. Levi’s movements were slow – his body felt heavy, and his heart felt empty. He began to write letters to all the people he could think of to explain why he’s finally made the decision after such a long time.

Firstly, a letter to his whole group of friends. He didn’t want to write them individually, because he didn’t want anyone to feel like it was just their fault alone, so he addressed it to everyone and just said that he felt lonely and was sorry. He tucked it in an envelope and put it in his diary.

Next, he wrote one to Erwin. He told him how much he’d meant to him over the years, and how grateful he was to have a friend as loyal as him. He told him how he was thankful he looked after him the first day of elementary school, and how he wished things would be different between them now. His eyes trickled a bit as he wrote to his best friend, but soon enough signed it off and added it to the pile in his diary.

Finally, he wrote to his mum. This is what he took the longest with and thought the most carefully about. He told her how much he loved her, and that he was so glad she had supported him over the years, but his little brain was too messed up to be able to help and support anymore. He told her all about his feelings about Farlan and Isabel, and how he’d just felt lonely since: how he’d always felt to blame, and how he should have gone all them years ago so they could have grown up and lived a happier life together.

He finished his mum’s letter making sure she knew it wasn’t her fault at all. He didn’t want her to feel guilty for the rest of her life, so he explained how nothing was to do with her and it was just himself and how everyone around him seemed to be able to grow up, whilst he was still clinging onto the past.

By the time he’d finished the letter, his cheeks were wet, but his eyes had completely dried out. He hid them all away, knowing that when he’s gone, someone would end up going through his room and tidying everything finding them anyway.

Checking his room was absolutely spotless, Levi pulled out a plain white shirt and pair of jeans from his wardrobe, he didn’t want to wear scruffy clothes when someone found him – he wanted to at least look smart.

The bath started filling up slowly as Levi took the bottles of his medication from the box where he had hidden them in under his bed and unscrewed the caps. Next thing he knew he was taking handfuls of them at a time, biting them, chewing them – swallowing them all down with a glass of lukewarm water he got from the bath water. He wasn’t even thinking normally, hardly could taste the powdering consistency of the tablets, not noting how his movements were becoming even slower than before or how his head was drooping with every swallow. He could barely lift his limbs up to position himself ready to drift to sleep in the water.

With his weak hands, he knew he had to text his mum finally, and with about six different attempts he finally managed to get the sentences out – forever grateful for predictive text to correct what he actually wrote.

12:48: I love you mum. So much. I’m sorry. X

Levi climbed into the water, placing his phone gently on the top of a pile of towels by the tub. Turning the taps off, he lowered his clothed body into the water before tucking his head under it to wet his hair.

His stomach had begun to swirl a little, the tablets he ate making him feel sick and dizzy. Pulling his head from the water, he sat forward and leaned into his hands. His body tried to force him to throw up what was inside, but nothing came out. He was shaking, unsure of whether this was right. Thoughts of his entire life began to run through him, flowing down his veins.

He sat up for a while, having no concept of time, before his body doubled over and a pained cry shot out of the bathroom. The medication was making his insides twist and turn, causing stabbing pains and uncomfortable movements. He screeched out, regretting it. Not knowing what to do. It was only then he heard his ringtone loudly echo through the bathroom, slowly glancing around to look at the screen.

Mum.

Panicking, he grabbed the phone as quickly and as stable as his weak limbs would allow and slid to answer it and put it on speaker.

“Levi?! Levi is everything okay?!” Kuchel shouted down the phone, sounding as though she was already in her car. Levi began crying, realising as soon as he heard his mum, he’d made a mistake. His cry was followed by another call of pain, squeezing his eyes shut tight to try and block out the churning inside.

He thought dying would take away the pain, but then he thought about Kuchel living in the flat all alone, working all day and coming home to an empty building. He thought about Petra and Hange who did make time for him all the time, often cancelling going to after school activities so he wouldn’t be by himself. He thought about Erwin who had only started to see Marie more began it was new to him. He thought about how Farlan and Isabelle would want nothing more than their big brother to be happy and enjoying everything. They’d kill him again if he was to join them now. He finally realised he wasn’t ready for that, he needed to stay for them. Live his life thoroughly just for them.

He cried even more, Kuchel talking back to him.

“Levi, where are you?! What’s going on?! I’m almost home!” She shouted down the phone.

“Mum,” a grunt in pain, his voice was drunk and his head lolled to the side, ‘I’m dying.” Levi cried back to her through speaker, his frail body shaking in the hot water as another pain shot through his stomach and his eyes began to darken. His head slightly lolled backwards as his mothers’ voice became more distant.

His body fell backwards through the warmth around him and hit the back of the tub. Seconds later, when everything to Levi was dark, he felt hands lifting him from the tub and muffled voices – only recognising his mothers. Strong arms lifted his body onto a stretcher.

Next thing Levi heard was the sounds of the ambulance sirens and nurses shouting to pump his stomach. Kuchel was clinging to his hand tightly: Levi wasn’t ready to die just yet, and it looked like he wasn’t going to.

 

Chapter Text

The harsh rain from the storm crashed on the window of the summer house where the group were sitting. The school dance had just finished, and the friends managed to steal some of their parents’ alcohol and decided to play truth or dare in Marie’s summer house at the bottom of her garden. Her parents didn’t mind the group of teens hanging around at theirs, and in fact were aware of everyone sleeping over, but expected it to be a sober affair. But they were older now, and alcohol was bound to end up getting mixed into their games.

Each of them had never really drank much before, and they were all beginning to get a bit tipsy; not entirely sure how to handle it, or how much to actually drink. Between the group they’d already managed a bottle of whisky, not that it tasted good. They just wanted the feeling. Well, that was all bar one boy, Levi, who avoided the alcoholic beverages like it was the plague. He sat there with a glass of water, legs crossed in front of his short body, tie loosened around his neck and shirt unbuttoned at the top. Despite the freezing storm, the summer house was hot: Marie’s parents had decked it out with indoor heating which she had decided to put on full.

Next to him sat Hange, also wearing a suit: deep navy, bright blue tie. They looked pretty cool, definitely the most unique person in the year. And definitely the smartest, Hange was aiming to get a scholarship in science by the end of High School. Despite that knowledge, they were the drunkest of the group by far. Alongside Hange sat Petra– a very bonnie girl with bright ginger hair, wearing a flowing green dress that hung over her legs as she sat in a mermaid position. She was trying her best to steady Hange with the vodka, but some people just can’t be tamed.

Marie took a swig of vodka straight from the bottle, and almost tripped over her long lilac dress as she reached to spin the bottle again. It spun round three times before stopping on Levi. All eyes in the room landed on Levi.

“Oooooh, truth or dare Mr Moody?!” Marie teased. She’d grown softer in the years they’d been in the same friendship group and had grown up to be the most beautiful girl in their whole year. It’s just a shame who she favoured in the group that made her appear different than what she was truly like.

Levi was less than impressed, not even wanting to join in stupid party games. Everyone was far too drunk for his liking; the smell of alcohol filled the air to which he turned his nose up at. He wasn’t enjoying this party; he only went because Erwin asked him to tag along because he wasn’t sure he fancied going by himself either. He never agreed to play games, just to come and chill and sleep over after the dance.

“I’m not playing your shitty game. I’m just watching.” He frowned, trying to stare Marie out, but she wasn’t having any of it. She was far too drunk to be intimidated by his moody stature.

“Noooo Levi, you’ve gotta play! It’s your go. Now truth or dare!” Hange’s words were slurred; with a subtle hiccup in the middle followed by giggles. He looked at Erwin longingly for support, expecting his best friend to have his back and wiggle him out of a tricky situation. But Erwin just smiled at him and shrugged his shoulders, cheeks flushed and a little tipsy himself.Remind me to never do anything for him again.

“Fine. Fucking fine.” He threw his hands in the air in surrender. “Dare.” Levi finally picked. He was not happy to tell them any secrets about himself, knowing they’d ask him about why he was in hospital, or why he moved schools, or some bullshit from his past. Something he definitely didn’t want to bring up at a party. And besides, surely a dare wouldn’t be that bad. Erwin wouldn’t let him do anything that would be horrendous anyway, like the cinnamon challenge which everyone had seemed to have a go at this evening. Or eating a spoon of ketchup. He couldn’t imagine anything more disgusting.

Nile chirped up, from being sat with Marie, his hand resting around her waist in a very possessive nature. Since they started dating, Nile was constantly glued to his girlfriend, trying to show her off. They never kept their hands off each other.

“I dare you to finish this bottle of vodka since you’ve not touched drink all night” Nile shouted out, laughing at his own dare. Before Levi could respond and refuse the suggestion, Marie interrupted him.

“No no no, he’s got to do something funny! Drinking is easy. He needs to kiss someone.”

“That’s a good idea! Who shall we pick? Spin the bottle again!” Hange shouted, excitedly. They had already kissed a few people that evening in the game and were more than happy to see someone else finally have a go.

Levi crossed his arms looking annoyed. A kiss wasn’t so bad, he guessed, although he’d never had a kiss before – the only one of the group to not have dated someone before now. All he cared about was the fact that it meant he didn’t need to go near the drink, though; he refused to do that and was actually grateful for Marie’s new suggestion, even though he’d rather do neither. That was, until, the bottle stopped spinning round after Hange’s generous spin, and it landed pointing at the one person he actually properly liked in that room. And the one person he didn’t want to kiss. Especially not in front of everyone, and not now. Not when he hadn’t spoken to him about his feelings.

Erwin.

Shit, he thought. The thought of kissing Erwin fulfilled his dreams, and the many wonders he’d always questioned through his life. He’d always felt flustered about Erwin, always felt a strong attraction to him. Only when he got older, he realised how much he liked him, and what it actually meant. He had so many dreams about his best friend, and the thought of actually kissinghim made him panic: he didn’t want to ruin their first moment together, not that it would ever lead to anything else, anyway.

“Oooooh, Levi has to kiss Erwin!” Marie shouted out, after taking another swig from the bottle and exploding in laughter. Nile tried to follow her gesture, eager to impress his date. He clearly felt uncomfortable at the idea though, as he glared at Levi straight after his fake laugh. He already thought Levi had taken Erwin away from him as just friends – what if kissing pulled the blonde away from him even more? And it also meant that Levi had done something with Erwin that Nile hadn’t yet. And Levi knew how much Nile would hate that, considering his possessive nature towards him.

Levi still hadn’t removed his glare back from Nile until he felt a body moving close towards him. Erwin had sat up and crawled over to Levi, leaning right into his body and whispering directly in his ear.

“Come on, we’ll do this and then they’ll stop bothering us for the rest of the night.”

Levi’s eyes removed from Nile, and then looked up towards Erwin, whose blue eyes were glistening in the dim light from the summer house. His breath was close to Levi’s ear, and felt warm causing Levi’s ears to start turning slightly pink. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and his eyes widened with worry. How wasn’t Erwin noticing what Levi was feeling? The whisper was enough to turn his stomach into mush, enough to send a tingling sensation right down his spine. He’d always wanted this, always. But not in front of people, and not for a dare.

Levi had always found Erwin very attractive, since they first met at the age of eight. He’d always being fascinated by him – following him around like a little duckling wherever they went. As he grew older, he started to find him attractive in a different way. Levi had yet to admit this to him: the last thing he wanted everyone at school to know was that he was gay – he’d seen too many films and heard too many stories about the abuse gay kids got in schools. It was something he promised to keep a secret until he was at University. Plus, his main worry was losing Erwin. He didn’t want to ruin their friendship for the sake of a crush, because that’s all it was. But he knew that if he didn’t kiss him then everyone would question it, and he’d be called boring for not joining in.

Since his trip to hospital, Levi promised himself that he’d try act like a normal teenager and try to join in things when he could. Spin the bottle was a rite of passage for people in High School to play, so he couldn’t exactly back out now. He had to play. It would be fine, surely, it’s just a kiss.

Erwin’s blue eyes gazed into Levi’s, sparkling subtly, before he closed them softly and their lips drew together, locking into position. It was exactly how Levi had imagined; soft, wet, warm. Erwin tasted sweet, probably from the Amaretto left on his lips. And for a moment, Levi forgot he was in a room full of his friends until he heard the girls giggling, and felt harsh eyes glaring on them. What only lasted a few seconds felt like hours, but they had to pull apart.

When they both opened their eyes and looked at each other, Erwin’s cheeks were heated pink and a large grin was on his face. Levi presumed it was from the alcohol and would be more concerned with how Erwin was feeling until he felt a familiar heat swelling in his trousers.

“Satisfied?” he asked the room, eyes looking at the bottle in the centre rather than at any one in particular. It was exactly how he’d imagined it to feel kissing Erwin, and was okay with the dare now he’d joined in. He did enjoy it, as much as expected, if not slightly more. But it became evident that he enjoyed it, considering he was still a teen and his trousers were looser than normal, being the formal ones, he has for dances. He wasn’t paying attention as he sat back cross-legged, until he felt his friends looking in that direction – everyone bar Erwin.

“You clearly did!” Hange laughed at Levi, pointing at his intimate area, followed by another loud hiccup. Levi’s entire face burned bright red, as everyone else exploded into laughter, he tried to cover himself with his hands, but it was too late now; everyone had seen. Erwin just shot Levi a concerned, supportive smile. He could sense his embarrassment. As the blonde boy looked at the smaller one, Levi was sure he could see Erwin’s cheeks flushing as well.

Over the roars of laughter, Erwin mouthed over the circle, “They’re so drunk they’ll forget it in the morning, don’t worry.” But Levi was ashamed. Too embarrassed. Why had that happened in front of the one group of friends he actually mingled into at school? He usually could control his feelings and emotions so well. And now they clearly can see that he fancies his best friend, which is weird in itself. Never mind the fact he’s a boy too.

Not knowing what to do or say, Levi quickly stood up from the circle grabbing his jacket and holding it in front of his body. He frowned at everyone still giggling at him. Nile, however, was not laughing – and was staring at him intently, looking disgusted.

“Fuck off, Erwin.” Levi spat, his eyes began prickling with water, as he walked towards the door of the summer house.

“Don’t leave, Levi!” Marie giggled, “it’s alright! We’ve all seen one before!” she laughed even louder then, before Hange announced they felt really dizzy and sick from all the drink. Levi ignored his friends, turning and slamming the door aggressively behind him. The second he was in the cold rain, he threw his jacket back on his body and stormed off in the direction of his home, which was annoyingly a very long walk, and even longer when you’re angry and it’s stormy. =

Erwin tried to follow him down the long garden, and Levi heard his shouts a few times, but he ignored the calls. He also heard Mike come out and bring Erwin back inside, who was too drunk to even stand up straight. Here’s to hoping Erwin would forget everything too, Levi thought.

Without any attention to the rain, Levi powered through the estate where most his friends lived and walked down to the park at the end of the cul-de-sac.  Finding a bench sheltered under a tree, he allowed himself a few moments to sit and catch his breath, gather his feelings, and think things through.

He’s my best friend. I shouldn’t have kissed him. He knows. My best friend knows that I fancy him. Shit. I’m so humiliated. I’ll just pretend I don’t fancy him. He’s just my best friend. He’ll never be anything more than my best friend. That’s it. Best friends. I do not fancy Erwin. I am not gay. I just have never kissed someone before, that’s all it is. I do not like Erwin like that. I don’t.

Levi’s mind was racing with a million thoughts at once, not knowing which to address first. He ran a hand through his wet hair to push it away from his face, his leg shaking slightly from shivering in the cold. His thoughts quickened, as did his concern towards his friendship with the group back at the summer house. He didn’t want to lose the closest friendship group he’d ever had a year before school was due to end, and he definitely didn’t want to lose the friend he’d had for so many years.

He noticed quickly his breathing not coming out steady and his hands began to shake. Upon feeling the panic flood his body, Levi allowed his brain to wander back to normal thoughts. He focussed on the rain falling into a puddle beside his feet, to his breathing, helping it to come out long and steady rather than the quick shaking paces it currently was. It took a while for it to leave his system, and when it did, he breathed out a sigh of relief. What a disastrous night, he thought.

Just when he managed to pull himself together, he heard a deep voice sound from the entrance to the park behind him. He tried to ignore it.

Fuck.

“Levi,” the deep voice bellowed, “oi. Levi. Answer me.”

Immediately, Levi knew whose voice it was. Nile had come running after him, god knows why. He tried not to roll his eyes in annoyance at the sound of the boy near him but didn’t want to do anything too brash that would cause a scene. He just carried on looking down, playing with his nail as though it was fascinating.

“What was that back there?”

Levi sighed, “Fuck off, Nile. I can’t be bothered right now.”

“No. Answer me, squirt. You gay? You get hard for Erwin?” Nile snickered, and let out a little snort.

“No and no. Fuck off.”

Levi stood up from the bench, getting ready to walk away from the situation. But Nile wasn’t having any of that: he came around the front of the bench and grabbed Levi’s arm firmly, stopping him from leaving. “I said answer me.” Nile spluttered.

Levi looked Nile in the eyes, firmly. “Let go before I hurt you.”

“You won’t hurt me, you’re too small.” Nile laughed again, his voice cutting right through Levi, the stale stench of alcohol floating into his face. He hated Nile so much already, but drunk Nile was worse than normal Nile. If that was even possible. The anger began to stir in Levi, as he spun around and punched Nile right in the jaw, causing Nile to step backwards to regain balance.

“What the hell, Levi? I came to ask you a basic question, and you did that?” Nile stepped forwards again, grabbing Levi’s collar.

“I told you to let go.” Levi growled, grabbing Nile’s shirt himself and pushing him back off again, almost knocking him to the ground. “I’m off home, Nile. Run back to pretty little Marie.”

Levi turned and started to walk away, before he heard footsteps running behind him. Before Levi could properly react from turning around, he felt two harsh punches to his stomach, causing him to tipple forward. Levi tried to reach an arm around the back of Nile’s leg to knock his balance, but he had the upper hand and whacked Levi’s back with his heel, forcing him to collapse fully onto the floor. Levi’s knees landed into a gravelled puddle, the water still gushing from the sky.

“You need to back the fuck away from Erwin. He was myfriend first.”

Levi laughed, trying to regain some strength now he was on the floor. “You’re so possessive, he likes me more, Nile. You need to back the fuck away and move on.” Levi stood up, slowly, whilst holding his stomach with his left arm. With his right hand, he punched Nile in his jaw, but it wasn’t strong enough. His position wasn’t stable enough.

Nile took advantage of this: punching Levi twice in his face, each time with such force his head bounced backwards. As he straightened up, blood began to trickle down Levi’s face and onto his chin. He grew dizzy, not able to see Nile as he punched his stomach again.

Levi fell straight to the floor, curling up on himself in any attempt to stop Nile from continuing beating him. But there was no way the boy was going to do that, as he forced his foot into the pit of Levi’s stomach, causing him to shout out in pain. Nile continued, kicking harshly, until familiar voices were heard in the park; coming from the direction they were just in.

Nile spat some blood onto the floor, straightening his back up and wiping water from his forehead as he looked at his victim on the floor; a bloody, muddy puddle.

“Nile! Stop! What the fuck are you doing?!” Mike shouted out, rushing to grab Nile by both his arms and pull him away from Levi. “What the actual fuck, Nile!”

“Nile! Leave him alone!” Petra backed Mike, screaming out in horror upon seeing her friend on the floor. She ran over to Levi, tentatively crouching down beside him. He looked weak, not like Levi they saw every day. Not the tough Levi they were used to, and upon seeing that, her heart broke in two. Levi knew how he must look: but he hadn’t been beat like that in years, not to that extent. A fight here and there is fine, but this could hospitalise him. And then what?

Moments later, a third voice sounded. Marie. She ran straight over to Nile, pretending to not see Levi curled up weakly on the floor. She knew her boyfriend, she knew that he wouldn’t show remorse to the situation and that he wouldn’t care, so instead thought of other ways to bring him away from Levi. Upon hearing the voice, Mike took his hands-off Nile and went to sit with Levi, trying to scan over his wounds quickly.

“Come on Nile, Hange has had too much to drink and has fallen asleep with Erwin. They’ve fallen asleep in the summer house. We should head back too now, otherwise mum and dad will notice we’ve gone.” She tugged on his sleeve, trying to pull Nile away from his zone: staring at Levi on the floor.

Nile looked at her, smiled, and then looked back down at Levi who was still curled in a ball, clearly still in pain. He had barely moved since Nile stopped attacking him, and frankly, Nile was proud of his work. If anything could scare someone away from his friends, it would be a good fight.

“Stay the hell away from us, freak.” Nile spat blood from his mouth again, right next to Levi, before turning his back on him and walking away arm wrapped around Marie, tightly. Marie turned and glanced around at the three one more time and gave them a sympathetic look, before been pulled away faster by her boyfriend.

Once the two were out of both earshot and sight, Mike helped Levi sit up slowly, a groan of pain with each movement. Once stood, Petra and Mike both helped him walk back to the bench where he was originally sat so he could rest for a bit. The storm was still in full bloom, the end of Petra’s dress covered in rain water and dirt, hair sticking to their faces.

“You alright, Levi?” Mike asked, concerned. He was trying to look to see if there were any serious injuries, but it seemed to mainly be bruising.

Unable to speak at first Levi nodded, before mumbling out “I’m fine.”

Petra looked at Mike with eyes full of unease, “You don’t look fine, Levi. Come on, let me and Petra walk you home.”

 “I said I’m fine!” Levi snapped. He wrapped one arm in front of his stomach, trying to rub it better a bit. He was more just winded than in pain, he knew he just needed to get himself home and get to bed. It was the kind of injury that would heal by morning, surely. Nile wasn’t that strong, he just caught Levi off guard at a bad time.

Despite that fact, Levi hated appearing weak. It was one of the things he couldn’t stand: one of the only things he absolutely hated and didn’t want his friends to see him like that especially. He was so fed up, he just wanted to get out of the situation as quickly as he could. But before he could head home, he wanted to know why Erwin hadn’t followed him, and if he was angry.

Levi’s wondering eyes looked up to Mikes, before he quietly asked, “Erwin?”

“Erwin thought it would make things worse if he ran after you, like it’d look suspicious or something. He didn’t want to make everything worse for you so didn’t make it into a big deal.”

Levi snickered to himself, Erwin, always trying to do something good for me. “So, Nile didn’t do this to Erwin, right?” Levi was slowly getting his voice back after having a few minutes to breathe through the pain, straightening his back slightly every once in a while.

“No, don’t worry Levi.” Petra smiled weakly, “Nile wouldn’t ever do something like this to Erwin, he’s obsessed with him.”

Levi nodded, wiping even more blood dripping from his nose with the tissue Petra had offered him. Seeing it made his stomach turn; he wanted to get washed, he wanted to be clean. Sitting around in muddy rain water was probably making the entire situation worse than it already was. So, with a sigh and a deep breath, Levi pulled himself up from the bench and slowly started walking away from his two friends without saying a word.

“Levi!” Petra shouted out, causing Levi to turn around, she was frowning at him. “You can’t walk home by yourself, you’re a mess! What if you collapse?! You need me and Mike to walk with you. We’ll look after you.”

Levi turned his head back in the direction he was heading, slowly stepping a foot forward. “I said I’m fine. See you at school.” The small body then disappeared slowly into the darkness, leaving Mike and Petra sat bewildered at what to do. It was useless to follow him or phone someone, he’d ignore the help. The only thing they could really do was return to the summer house and pray he got home safely, but they both knew Levi’s strength: they knew he’d be fine. The rain had slowly began to slow down as Petra held her umbrella over her and Mike’s heads, sitting in silence for a while longer.

Breaking the silence, Petra brought up what they were both thinking. “Mike, do you think that was about kissing Erwin? You know, about what happened after?”

Mike paused for thought, “no surely not. I’ve known Nile my whole life. He’d never be so shallow or closed minded. He’s always hated Levi, maybe he just got drunk and took that out on him.”

Petra looked saddened but nodded. She’d rather believe it was just due to a born hatred from when they were younger, rather than admitting her friend might be homophobic.

After a while just sat together on the bench, Petra suggested heading back to the summer house to dry off and warm up. Mike nodded in agreement, and the two linked arms and headed back together. Upon arrival, they discovered Hange and Moblit in one corner, squished up in an uncomfortable position, and Erwin snuggled up next to Levi’s sleeping bag and pillow. Marie and Nile were nowhere to be seen, assuming they’d gone to her bedroom for a comfortable rest instead.

Quietly, Petra and Mike slipped into their cosier pyjamas and climbed into their sleeping bags, before turning the main light off and drifting off to sleep, worrying of Levi and his journey home.

                                    ***                             

The door to Levi’s flat was finally opened just after two in the morning, as Levi struggled to walk both up the stairs to his flat due to the pain in his stomach and struggled with the entire walk home. Despite the fact the rain had died down half way home, it didn’t stop the fact he was already drenched and shivering with the cold. Blood was dripping into his mouth for most of the walk, and rain water melting into his sore eyes. The worse pain was his stomach, as he had to walk doubled over to stop the pain from stretching himself out. When he finally shut the door behind him, he allowed him limp body to collapse against the frame as he shouted loudly for Kuchel, completely ignoring the time.

“Mum!” He called. “Mum” his calls broke as his voice cracked and turned into a whimper. He only ever allowed himself to appear weak or vulnerable when Kuchel was around: there was no one he felt safer with than her, and if anyone would look after him, or he’d allow anyone to look after him, it would always be his mum.

Levi’s small body slid along onto the floor, a puddle created beneath him from the storm and the blood. Black hair was plastered to his face completely stuck. The blood had spread about because of the harsh stormy weather. He looked terrible. His body shivering violently. He tried to pull his jacket from his body, knowing he needed to strip to get warm, but the movement pulled on his stomach too harshly. He whimpered loudly again.

Then, the main light of the kitchen was turned on, Kuchel squinting against the brightness.

“Levi! Oh Levi, what the hell happened to you? Who has done this to you?!” Kuchel wrapped her arms tightly around Levi’s small body which was now weak and covered in black and blue.

“Oh, darling you’re soaking wet! We need to get you dried off and warmed up. Let me look properly at your face, we need to stop it bleeding. Oh god, Levi.” She panicked slightly, gently moving around his body to look at the blood dripping slightly from his nose. It wasn’t bleeding as badly as he thought, most of the red on his face was dried or it had been spread by the rain. Despite her calming voice, Levi finally let himself cry. And properly cry, almost in hysterics. All the emotions he’d felt for Erwin all these years, ruined by one night. All his secrets, his strength weakened in moments. He hated it.

Kuchel just allowed him to cry, even when he moved his head to rest on her lap. She threw a coat from the hook above her over his body to try and bring back some heat whilst he cried. Eventually, his tears began to dry slightly, and he managed to speak slightly.

 “Mum, I…” he paused, wiping at his eyes.

“Levi you don’t have to say anything yet. Just rest.” Kuchel paused for thought, “I thought you were meant to be with Erwin and Hange tonight, weren’t they with you?”

Levi squeezed his eyes shut again. He couldn’t help but relive the fight, then remember the fights when he was a kid with Kenny. He tried to block them out, focus on the questions she was asking him instead. So he did, he focussed on the pain and the questions and tried to remove Nile and Kenny from his mind.

“No.” Was all his small body could muster.

But the words meant nothing to Levi when he was in this state. He curled himself into a ball as much as he could, making himself as small as possible. He had to hide from everything; from Erwin. He’d ruined everything, and he knew he had, and now he was going to have to tell his mum and she was going to hate him, get rid of him again. She’d done it once, surely, it’s easy to do it again. Even easier now he was older and not that cute kid with wide eyes anymore.

Slowly, though, his body became limper in his mother’s lap and he slowly regained some of himself. With deep breaths, his tears stopped, and his voice evened out. He rarely allowed himself to show this much emotion, rarely allowed himself to cry, but sometimes he just needed to. And today was one of those days. The last time he cried like that was when he returned to his mum after living with Kenny for years. But that was relief, more than anything.

Once Kuchel thought Levi seemed well enough to stand, she helped him up and took him to the bathroom. Helping unbutton his shirt and take his blazer and tie off, Kuchel started to run the shower for him to rinse off in. There was no point trying to talk to Levi whilst he felt mucky, and the injuries were too filthy to even look at properly. Levi muttered thanks, before Kuchel left him to it and headed back into the kitchen.

She retrieved the medicine basket and took out some pain relief before making him a cup of tea using the special tea leaves Levi got for his birthday last year. They were his favourite black tea leaves – Erwin had bought them as a present from him. She placed the warm cup beside the sofa and got the thick blanket ready to warm him up in, worried he’d still be cold from the rain.

Levi’s shower wasn’t long, and within ten minutes he was beside his mum, cuppa clasped tightly in his hands, blanket wrapped around his body to shield him from the cold.

After a while of silence, Levi finally found his voice. He wanted to explain what happened, or it would eat away at him.

 “So, I’ll tell you what happened. We were playing spin the bottle at Marie’s house, after the dance. Everyone was drinking, apart from me. The bottle landed on me and I got dared to kiss Erwin. I didn’t know what to do but Erwin seemed like he wanted to, so I did.”

He paused and ran his hands through his hair, resting them on the back of his neck to cover his face from his mother.

“I like Erwin, mum.” His voice wobbled as he said it slightly, and with his spare hand he put his tea back on the side before continuously rubbing the back of his neck. “I walked away,” he cleared his throat. “I walked to the park to come home, and Nile found me. He asked if I liked Erwin and I didn’t answer, so he grabbed my arm and I hit him. He hit me back harder. Mike and Petra stopped him for me.”

He sniffed slightly, “Please don’t get rid of me again mum. I’m sorry I can’t help how I feel and if I could change it I would, please. I don’t mean to be gay, I don’t know how to stop it. Just don’t send me away again.”

Kuchel’s eyes widened in both shock and hurt. “Levi, I would never send you away again. Never. I mean that, I don’t care who you love or who you bring home, as long as that person makes you happy. Don’t you ever think that, okay? I love you with my entire heart. You’re my life, Levi. My actual life. And I couldn’t live without you.”

Levi nodded, head still hidden behind his arms resting around his neck. He didn’t know what else to say, and so just continuously nodded whilst Kuchel placed a loving hand on his back and rubbed it gently. She wanted to comfort him, not knowing how else to show she loved him. But it was a stab in her heart that he thought she’d send him away again, like she volunteered to the first time. That hurt her more than she’d ever tell him, but she needed to make sure Levi was okay. He meant everything to her.

“Oh, Levi” she said, compassionately, “Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with you liking Erwin like that. That’s just love, and it makes me so happy you’ve found someone you feel that way about. It’s the most normal feeling in the world. What isn’t normal is Nile’s reaction – that is absolutely horrid. Did you want me to contact the school? Ask them to keep an eye out on you again?”

“No!” Levi shouted out, before correcting his tone, “no mum. I don’t want it to be like last time. I don’t want to look weak again, I need to look good at this school. I’ve just made friends; a proper group of friends. I can handle Nile. Literally we’ve only got a year left. That homecoming dance has marked that. I don’t want to lose Erwin too, which I’m pretty sure I’ve done. If I grass on his friends, then they’ll all leave me.”

Kuchel breathed in, clearly not happy with his response, but she didn’t want to go against what her son wanted. Especially not after a night like this.

“Okay, but if it gets bad again, you have to tell me. I mean it. And I need to look at your injuries now, make sure they’re okay.”

The conversation died naturally there, and Levi finished his tea before his mother looked over the wounds. His facial wounds were surprisingly a lot less bad than expected, but his stomach was a mess. Cuts from harsh kicks, and clear marking of where the bruising would develop. Kuchel put some savlon over the cuts, before saying good night to her son and heading to her own bedroom.

Levi soon did the same, walked to his bed and snuggling safely under the covers. He hadn’t even bothered to look at his phone to see the texts from his friends checking he was okay, he knew that he’d lost them all now anyway and he wouldn’t be getting them back anytime soon.

Levi tossed and turned all night: the thought of Erwin kissing him and then grinning after wouldn’t leave his mind. If only no one else was around when they had their first kiss.

But why had Erwin blushed like he did when we kissed? Is there a chance he might like me too? What if he blushed because he saw my reaction? What if he doesn’t want to be friends anymore?

Thankfully, the next day was Sunday. Levi had another full day to mentally prepare himself before school. Before he had to see Erwin or Nile again.

Chapter Text

The next morning, the sun was bright and crisp and there were no signs of the storm that had happened the night before. The lightness from the outside shone through the windows of the summer house, causing the four friends who were asleep in there to stir and shuffle, gradually waking up. The first to wake was Hange, who aggressively rubbed their eyes before placing their glasses on and squinting as they glanced around the summer house.

“God, how much did we actually have to drink last night? I barely remember anything.” Hange’s voice was extremely croaky and groggy, and their eyes looked heavy and tired. Upon hearing someone else get up and start to talk, Mike also climbed up in his sleeping bag and rest his back against a chair placed behind him.

“Think you managed a whole bottle of Petra’s mums red wine by yourself.” Mike chuckled a little, “I’m not surprised you can’t remember much. So glad I stopped drinking early on. I can hardly feel it at all today, just a tiny headache. But that’s from sleeping in here, it’s not the comfiest.”

“Uhh” Hange groaned, “Lucky for some, ey?”

Mike let out a small laugh, before being interrupted by a waking Erwin. He gave a small stretch before he felt beside him and noticed the place was empty, the place where Levi was meant to be sleeping. He looked up at Mike with confused, then worried eyes. He promised Kuchel he’d look after Levi; he always promises. How is he meant to look after him if Levi was nowhere to be seen?

“Mike, where’s Levi? I thought you went to get him to bring him back?” he asked with a panic in his voice, glancing at the spare sleeping bag and pillow that laid next to his own, still folded neatly. It was unlike Levi to at least not come back to get his things before heading home, especially since he didn’t even bring his pillow.

“Is he not there, Erwin?” Hange questioned, confused and worried, finally becoming adjusted to the light coming through the windows. “That’s weird. I only remember him coming home after the dance though, not much after that.”

Mike looked down at his fingers, picking at the skin around the nails. He didn’t want to be the one to tell Erwin what had actually happened between Levi and Nile. He knew how upset and hurt Erwin would be, and how angry he’d be that he didn’t chase after him himself. But thankfully, Hange seemed drunk enough that they wouldn’t even remember the kiss that lead to such a disastrous outcome. If only everyone else would forget too, then it would make Levi’s life a little easier. Mike continued to nervously pick at his nails, until he heard Petra’s voice chip in.

“He needed to rush home. His mum phoned him. Something about his Uncle maybe?” Petra chipped in. She glanced a look at Mike, saying with her expression to go with the lie and keep what actually happened a secret. Just for now, just while everyone was here together. There was no need for everyone to hear about the fight.

“Doesn’t sound like Levi, but okay.” Erwin said, shooting a further look at Mike. Mike couldn’t keep eye contact, he couldn’t even properly look up. Erwin knew instantly it was a lie, the Ackerman’s barely kept in touch with Kenny anymore, he knew they weren’t the closest family. Plus, Mike’s flaw with lies is that he can’t face people properly, indicating instantly that he wasn’t telling any truths.

“Perhaps we should all clear up a bit and head home. Nile and Marie aren’t here anyway, so there’s no need for us to hang around.” Erwin stood up and began to fold his sleeping back up, quickly piling it in a bag beside Levi’s. He directed his gaze towards his friend, “Mike, are you walking home after?” Erwin suggested.

“Good idea, and yeah I am. Want to walk with me?” Mike too had got up by this point and was folding his own sleepwear into piles before retrieving bottles from near where he was sleeping.

“Yes, I’ll be heading your way too.” Erwin said, anger in his voice, despite the fact he lived on the streets in the opposite direction. Mike lived on the outskirts of the park near Levi’s flat, but in the more expensive area of town. Erwin was going to be heading that way anyway, he really wanted to go check on Levi. He could sense that something wasn’t right, and he had to apologise to Kuchel for not staying with him that whole night. She always asked, from a younger age, that Erwin look after or at least watch over Levi when they went to parities – especially when alcohol was involved.

Erwin felt anxious, and so cleaned up quickly. It ended up been that the friends managed to clear up the summer house in half an hour; food, bottles, plastic cups were all thrown away in bin bags. Spare quilts laid out on the floor were folded neatly and placed on the sofa, with a small note of thanks on the top for Marie. If Nile was round, they doubted she’d come down to see them off anyway. They’d be too busy snuggled up together in bed to even remember that their friends were sleeping at the end of her garden.

Once his own things were put neatly away, Erwin packed up the rest of Levi’s belongings, ready to deliver them on the way home. His mind kept racing back to the kiss that happened between the two of them, his stomach tying in knots thinking about it. Erwin wasn’t sure whether it would be a good idea to talk about what actually happened between the two of them, but at the same time he wanted to get it off his chest.

They all left the summer house together, quietly walking onto the main street before turning towards each other to bid farewell. They were all still wearing their dresses and evening clothing from the night before, just now it was scruffy. Erwin caught notice that Petra’s gown was filthy at the hem and frowned at seeing it, assuming that Mike would be telling the proper story of what happened now. They waved to one another, parting ways, before walking home – Hange leaning on Petra, completely dead to the world with a pounding hangover.

When Mike and Erwin reached the end of the street and stepped into the park, assuring everyone else was dispersed, he continued his interrogation of Mike. He needed to hear the truth about what happened to Levi, he didn’t want to be lied to by his friends. Especially when it was his closest friend, they were hiding things about. He looked towards the taller of the two with a stern frown.

“So, what actually happened to Levi then, Mike? And don’t lie to me, there’s no bother. I remember the spin the bottle, and the kiss. I just want to know why he didn’t come back. You said you were going to get him for me and check he was okay. Was he not okay?”

Mike took in a deep breath in, knowing there was no escaping telling him what actually happened now. He dropped his gaze to the gravel on the floor as he structured what he was going to say in his mind, before beginning to tell Erwin the story.

“I’m in no place to say how Levi feels, but something ticked him off and he was walking home. The kiss bothered Nile a bit, and after he snuck off a few minutes after Levi, I’m not sure if you’d have noticed – Hange was being sick at that point and you were holding their hair back for them. We know Nile hates Levi as it is: sees him as this poor boy sewer rat or something, that’s what he told me anyway.

“So instead of just heading off in any direction to try to find Levi, we followed him to the park where we saw him beating Levi up. Turned out Marie followed us as well, she was the one that actually managed to stop Nile. I did have to grab him by his arms. But Levi was fine, honestly. He was fine.” Mike believed that if he kept thinking that, then Levi would be okay. He was the strongest of their friends, and he was fine when he set off home; just a little bloody and worse for wear. But nothing that would fix itself.

But Erwin hadn’t said anything back, even though Mike had paused for a while. So, he looked towards Erwin to see if he actually heard what was said, and upon glancing he saw his face had dropped its colour and he was white as a sheet. His eyes were firmly looking in front of him, angrily. He’d known Levi for so many years now, they were best friends. He’d always tried to protect Levi, feeling that he had to follow him in whatever it was he did. But he’d also known Nile for years too and could never imagine Nile beating him up. Levi was usually a good fighter; strong, steady. Something must have caught him off guard, otherwise he’d have been able to defend himself. Erwin felt his blood boil.

Then Erwin remembered how Levi had blushed after they kissed, and what followed after that. His heart sank. Was he the one that caused Levi to suffer so much? And how come Levi had reacted like that? He never thought Levi thought of him in that way, or that one simple kiss would make him blush. Erwin’s heart jumped a tiny bit: he’d fancied Levi for years, but never wanted to admit it in case it ruined their friendship. He valued Levi too much to ruin it over a small crush.

Was I his first kiss? Have I ruined it for him this much? I’m such a dick. How could I have forced him to go to that stupid party? I know how much he hates alcohol as it is: how much he hates drunk people. And I’ve made him get beat up. He’ll never like me back.

Mike broke Erwin away from his thoughts, “We offered to walk him home after Nile and Marie left, but he wouldn’t let us.”

“Of course, he wouldn’t.” Erwin sighed, knowing Levi too well.

“So, we headed back to the party after he felt strong enough to walk again, and I assume he’s just headed home. That’s what he was doing anyway, or said he was doing.”

“Right, okay. Thanks for telling me, Mike. I’m going to run to him now and check he’s okay. See you Monday?” But Erwin didn’t bother waiting for a response, and instead started to run in the direction of Levi’s flat, tucked on the top of an old sweet shop at the far end of town. He sprinted; he couldn’t wait any longer to check his crush, his love, was okay. He needed Levi.

                                                ***

Levi got up early the next morning, his rest uncomfortable and not really there. He ended up spending half the night tossing and turning, before the pain killers wore off and he was in too much pain to actually be able to sleep. He made his bed like normal, before wandering into the kitchen. Kuchel was already cooking them breakfast, and with a kind smile Levi decided he had time to shower as normal before food would be ready.

He felt mucky. Filthy. In his state last night, he wasn’t able to complete his full night routine and didn’t manage to shower as thoroughly as usual, and now he had grime on himself from the day before and the blood of last night. He stood in the shower for a good fifteen minutes, scrubbing until his skin was red raw and he smelt of nothing but lemon body wash. He tried to avoid looking towards his stomach the whole time he was bathing; not sure he was ready to face whatever Nile had done to him. Happy he was clean, he climbed out of the shower and took a few deep breaths, before wiping away some steam from the bathroom mirror and looking at his reflection. It was what he expected.

His pale skin of his stomach was covered in black and blue. Some small, some the size of his hand. They had gashes on them from where the kick was harsh and it sliced his skin slightly, but they were small and scabbing over already. He tentatively stroked over the bruises, making sure not to press on – but even such a gentle touch felt tender on his skin. Levi frowned, fed up. Finally, he looked up towards his face. His cheek was bruised and his nose black with slight scabbing under it, a harsh scratch was down his right cheek from his impact with the gravel when he was kicked around. Thankfully, he hadn’t suffered a black eye – but his cheeks were soft, and even running his tongue against his teeth caused pain.

He sighed loudly, looking over his injuries. It had been years since he was beat like this, years since he’d got into a proper serious fight. And he felt shit because of it. He didn’t want this life again. Before his mind could wander too much, Levi averted his eyes from his body and slipped on a thick, green knitted jumper, taking care to not stretch his limbs too much. His black jeans were easier to slip on, but he didn’t even attempt to pull socks on – knowing that it would hurt to bend down that much.

Just before he could unlock the door and leave the room, he heard their main door sound a knock. Frowning, he felt confused and decided to faff with his appearance a little more in the mirror, assuming one of Kuchel’s friends may have come around before she started work.

But really, who comes this early on a Sunday?

After spending long enough trying to fix his hair into position, Levi finally left the bathroom ready to answer a mass of questions from Kuchel’s friend. But stepping out, he grew shocked when his eyes settled on Erwin who was sat at the breakfast bar with a cup of tea, Kuchel plating a slice of toast before him. Levi’s heart jumped a little, but he frowned despite that. He didn’t really want to see anyone today, especially looking the way he did.

“Morning Levi! I’ve invited Erwin in for a bite to eat. He came to drop off the things you left at Marie’s last night.” Kuchel said, trying to act like everything was normal. So Levi decided he would too.

“Thanks.” Levi muttered, coming to sit next to him in the second chair.

Erwin looked at Levi tentatively, not really knowing what to expect. He didn’t expect Levi’s face to be covered in bruises the way it was, for his nose to be so badly hurt. Erwin had assumed it was a smaller fight with a few hits and then Nile got stopped; he didn’t think Nile was cruel enough to do this to someone.

Erwin tried to keep his voice steady and maintain normal conversation, not wanting to show his shock or worry upon seeing his best friend. He coughed slightly before speaking, “I see you got home safely last night then, Levi. I’m sorry you had to leave so early.”

Levi shrugged his shoulders and wrapped his hands around the top of his cup of tea, taking a sip from it. He couldn’t be bothered with Erwin’s sympathy. Kuchel placed a small dish in front of Levi; scrambled egg, with his tablets tucked down the side as normal before she gave him a small smile.

“Well boys, I’ve got to head to work now. I’m only doing a four hour shift today, Levi, so I won’t be late home. Just a few errands to run after work too, got to pick something nice up for tea” Kuchel paused as she grabbed her bag and looked Levi in the eye, “are you going to be okay today, son?”

Levi nodded, still looking at the plate before him, rather than into anyone’s eyes. “Yeah, mum. See you tonight.”

She paused a second and scanned Levi, letting out a small sigh “Okay. Bye sweetie, and bye Erwin. Thanks for dropping his things off.”

“Sorry again, and see you later, and thanks for breakfast, Miss Ackerman.”

Kuchel smiled, before leaving the front door and letting it fall shut behind her, leaving the two sat in silence at the breakfast bar, both holding their steaming drinks. Levi picked up a fork and scooped some egg, trying to eat it on the one side of his cheek where it didn’t hurt too much. He still winced when he had to open his mouth wide to fit the food in.

“Levi… about what happened, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you play spin the bottle, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. Mike told me about what Nile did to you. I feel terrible. It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have made you go.”

Levi stared down at his food, deciding he couldn’t possibly attempt to eat it. Without even caring if Erwin saw, he quickly took his tablets and swallowed them down, thinking what to respond with the entire time.

“My fault. Shouldn’t have kissed you.” His answers were blunt, disinterested.

“Other people kissed last night though, Levi. Nile and Marie, Mike and Petra, Mike and Hange. Even Marie and Petra kissed at one point, despite her being with Nile. It was a game of spin the bottle, Nile shouldn’t have reacted like he did.”

“Yeah well, he did. Clearly, he doesn’t like me. I need to go now, I need to sit down properly.”

Levi stood up from the breakfast bar, before he crouched over. The pain shot through his body and he squeezed his eyes closed, groaning a little as he did. It wasn’t bad when the heat from the shower water was on it, but now it was sparking through his whole body. Levi placed an arm on the counter before trying to place himself back on the seat he was originally on.

“Shit.” Levi mumbled, before flopping back onto the chair behind him and squeezing his eyes shut, as if that would numb the pain he was feeling. His hands locked over his stomach, holding it tightly.

“Let me see, Levi.” Erwin commanded, worried and anxious about how bad the injury actually was. He moved his arms towards Levi, before deciding not to go any further. He didn’t want to make his friend more uncomfortable than he was already feeling.

“No. You can go now. I’m fine.” Levi said through gritted teeth. He didn’t want anyone fussing over him, especially not Erwin. He didn’t want his best friend to be panicking about him, caring for him; and considering the events of the night before, he definitely didn’t want Erwin to see him without a shirt on. He knew he’d just get himself flushed and that would only end badly. So, Levi decided to keep being moody towards him, the only way he assumed that Erwin would back off and leave him alone. But before he could follow through his strop, he felt Erwin’s arms gently moving Levi’s away from his stomach, leaving it unprotected other than the clothing upon his bare body.

Levi knew better than to refuse, knowing it would only aggravate his wounds more than they already were. Slowly, the taller man lifted the green sweater up showing the black and blue that was now Levi’s tummy. It was swelling, and little specks of scabs were spotted along it. Erwin sighed, and then pulled the jumper down to respect Levi’s privacy. He wasn’t expecting it to be that bad, that battered. And Levi knew that – he didn’t want to look at the sadness in his friends’ eyes, so kept them firmly down.

Without a further thought, Erwin wrapped his arms tightly around the smaller man. He pulled him into a hug, which at first was rejected, until slowly Levi wrapped his arms around the muscular back and pulled himself as close to him as possible. Levi allowed himself to relax, shutting his eyes softly, feeling safe in the embrace of his best friend. And Erwin felt that too: safe that he could keep Levi warm and away from the bad things in the world, so he allowed himself to relax into the hold too.

They stayed entwined in one another’s’ arms for a few minutes, allowing themselves the luxury of relaxing. That was until Levi had to pull himself away, needing to sit hunched over slightly to help with the niggling pain shooting through his body. When they pulled apart, Erwin looked at Levi with a steady expression.

 “Do you want me to say something to Nile?”

“Absolutely fucking not.” Levi snapped.

“But it might…”

“No.”

Erwin held his arms up in surrender, before allowing them to wrap around the tea which was growing cold on the breakfast bar. Levi too turned back to his own, finishing it in two gulps. They stayed sat beside one another in silence, not really knowing what to say to fill the uncomfortable air. Neither of them had mentioned the kiss from the night before, not properly anyway. And Levi definitely didn’t want to be the one to bring that up.

Instead of sitting on the firm plastic chairs, Levi suggested that they move toward the living area to sit on the sofa instead. Of course, Erwin obliged and offered help towards Levi to walk over that way, but it seemed that Levi was feeling stronger and more himself – forcing his way to the living area through the pain. Erwin sighed behind him, wishing his friend would sometimes just accept the help when he needed it and when it was offered. But there was no point in arguing over something like that.

“Do you fancy a film?” Levi asked, once he got himself positioned on the sofa.

Erwin smiled, walking to the cabinet where the DVDs were kept. “Sounds good to me. What are you wanting?”

Levi shrugged, “something easy.”

Erwin nodded and began to flick through the limited collection of DVDs in the cupboard, skipping past all Kuchel’s romantic comedies, which she seemed to love. He went straight to look for the comedy collection the family had got together, and when he found a good one, Erwin loaded up the DVD player and put the TV on, before returning to the sofa beside Levi.

The sofa was small – a loveseat, if you will. The boys always sat together on it, but after the night before, it felt smaller than it ever had before. Erwin noticed Levi scrunching his way up into the side as much as he could, as though the thought of touching Erwin would bother him. But Erwin found it sad, not wanting Levi to feel uncomfortable around him. Erwin didn’t care what had happened, or how Levi reacted. He felt the same too.

Despite that, they sat apart for most of the film.

After the film had been on for a while, Levi’s eyes began to drift shut from his lack of sleep the night before. His head lolled gently, until it fell onto Erwin’s lap and Levi let out a very light snore, causing the blonde boy to smile at himself. And although Levi pretended very hard to not be aware of how he was moving closer to Erwin, and even be asleep, Erwin definitely could see through the lies and knew Levi did that on purpose: but he wouldn’t mention it. Erwin just felt relieved his friend was still comfortable around him.

Subconsciously, Erwin’s arm fell across Levi’s body and held him closer to him. His thumb subtly stroking the other man’s arm as he slept. When the film finished, Erwin didn’t move from his position to put another on. He felt like Levi deserved to sleep after the night before, and he’d only just got settled despite the pain he was in. There was no way he could disturb that – Levi loved his sleep, when he actually got around to doing it.

The blue eyes glanced down at the sleeping form across his lap.

I’m so glad we finally kissed, Levi. Although I was hoping for something a little bit more romantic, and less forced. Maybe you’ll open up to me soon and I can take you out properly. And god, you look so good just asleep like that on my lap.

Erwin’s hand moved towards Levi’s hair, pushing the thin strands of black away from his face, giving his forehead room to breathe. He couldn’t stop his mind wandering back to the kiss, how he felt, how Levi felt. He’d wanted to do it for so long: he’d liked Levi for so long. And he always thought how Levi would never like him back, although that opinion was due to change considering how Levi had reacted the day before. Erwin felt himself grin at the prospect of been able to kiss his best friend again.

Who’d have thought after being friends for all these years, we never knew that we liked each other?

His eyes drew shut on that thought, allowing himself to drift to sleep. It was several hours later when he finally awoke to the sound of keys shifting in the door, yawning as Kuchel walked into the flat, locking the door behind her. She looked straight to the living room to the two boys, Levi still fast asleep: he looked peaceful, relaxed. His hair was spread over Erwin’s thigh like a pillow. Erwin mouthed a very whispered hello to Kuchel, who smiled at Erwin.

Quietly, Kuchel placed her shopping bags on the kitchen counter, trying not to rustle the plastic too much, before heading over to the living area and sat on the seat opposite the sofa, whispering to Erwin.

“How’s he been doing today?”

Erwin whispered in response, “He’s been okay. Was in a bit of pain this morning but settled as soon as we put a film on. That was about 10 this morning. What time is it now please?”

“Oh wow. It’s almost 4:30. I finished work, but I had chores to do, get food shopping in and things. Would you like to stay for tea, Erwin?”

“Oh yes please, Miss Ackerman. That would be lovely. I just need to let my mum know.”

“That’s okay, I’ll give her a text for you. You stay there, let Levi have some rest.”

“Thanks.”

Erwin smiled at her, then smiled back at Levi. Despite how small the flat was, Erwin always felt more at home and welcomed here than he did in his actual house. Kuchel always made him at home, and always had. She let him sleep over all the time, always cooked him food. She was like a second mum for him, which was always nice if his own family was in a grump or busy with work like they usually were. Kuchel had so much more time for him, and so much love for him. He enjoyed spending time at the Ackerman’s more than he spent at home: mainly because there were actually people around him, a rare thing.

The two had definitely spent a lot more of their time at Levi’s house than Erwin’s: whilst Erwin’s house was lovely with an indoor swimming pool and a full game room, the size and style of it always made Levi a bit uncomfortable. It was sparse and decorated like a show home, feeling as though nothing could be put out of place. Even Erwin’s room as spotless the whole time; with his private ensuite bathroom and walk in closet. In fact, Erwin’s own bedroom was the size of Levi’s entire flat. Levi wasn’t really sure how to act in that much space and found himself always on guard.

There was also the fact that Erwin’s dad was always a bit off with Levi, probably because of his background and where he lived. But Mrs Smith welcomed Levi like a second son. Despite the mother’s love, they both just felt better at hanging around at Levi’s.

Kuchel began pottering about quietly in the kitchen, cutting up vegetables and putting them on a roasting tray. She made mashed potato, and cooked Yorkshire Puddings and gravy. At about 5, Levi began to stir on Erwin’s lap slightly as the scent of food floated into his nose. Erwin put his phone down on the side and locked it, finishing playing his game.

Rubbing his eyes, he looked up at Erwin, who was already looking down smiling at him.

“What time is it?” he grumbled.

“It’s 5. Your mum is just cooking us dinner now. It smells like it’s going to be a roast, and it smells delicious.”

“Oh, god, I’ve slept for ages.” Then, pretending he didn’t know where he was laid, he sat up slowly, “sorry for falling asleep on you.”

Erwin gave him a big, cheesy grin, “I didn’t mind.”

Sitting up straight, Levi tried to pull himself up from the sofa, but the pain shot through him harshly. Once again, he found himself gritting his teeth and holding his tummy in a protective way. He didn’t think the pain would be this harsh still.  

“Shit, I thought sleep would make it stop.” He groaned.

Kuchel looked over at the living area with concerned eyes, “Levi, you okay darling? How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine, mum. Just aches.”

She looked at him with a troubled expression, as she silently plated up the food and placed it on their small dining table. Once the plates were securely in their places, Kuchel carried over the glasses of juice before telling the boys their tea was ready. Erwin stood up first, before offering Levi his hand. This time, the raven-haired boy took the help, and Erwin pulled him from the sofa before walking to the dining table. Kuchel joined them there, and all three began to tuck into their homely food.

When their meal was half eaten, Kuchel decided to ask them both questions about the dance and found out all the gossip about everyone at the dance. She was shocked to find that Nile and Marie had gone up to bed together when they were both just seventeen and they’d only got together that night and was even more shocked about the amount of alcohol consumed (but nevertheless, very thankful that Levi had stayed away from that).

She also asked Erwin about his plans for after he finished school. Even though he still had a long time to decide, it sounded very much like he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and go to college to learn medicine. It felt good to have a big catch up like they used to every Sunday, until Kuchel had to start working more again to cover the ever-increasing bills. And Levi’s ever-increasing medication.

Before she had to work more hours, Erwin had been over for dinner every Sunday. He and Levi would sit and do homework together whilst Kuchel made tea. Then they’d all sit around the small table and talk about school, their friends, and home gossip. Erwin often ate tea alone throughout the weekend, his parents’ both finishing late or working in their offices. So Kuchel decided to take him in on those days and look out for him instead.

Once tea was cleared away, pots were washed and dried, and pudding consumed, the clock approached seven.

“I better be heading off, it’s school tomorrow and I’m sure my parents will be wondering when I’ll show my face again. Thank you again for dinner, Miss Ackerman. It was delicious. I’ll see you at school tomorrow, Levi?”

“Yeah. Sure.” Levi said, before he shot a worried look to his mum, who then realised that he was already anxious about returning to school after the confrontation with Nile. Making sure Erwin didn’t see it, Kuchel turned back to Erwin who was pulling his shoes on.

“Do you want to stay over tonight, Erwin? I’ll drive you home now to collect your things, chat to your mum. Then I’ll drop you both off at school in the morning.”

“Oh, are you sure? That okay Levi?”

“Whatever. Sure.” Levi replied, his face neutral and moody as always. But he could hear a slight bit of happiness and relief in his voice. He only managed to fall asleep earlier when he felt Erwin beside him, and he’d rather not be a zombie for school the following day. Erwin would relax his nerves, and maybe he’d actually have nice dreams that night.

“Right, we’ll be back in about ten minutes Levi.” Kuchel smiled at her son.

The two left the flat, and Levi wandered back to his bedroom and packed his bag for the morning, so he didn’t have anything to do when they both would return back later. He was excited to have Erwin stay over.

Why hadn’t Erwin moved his arm earlier when we were asleep on the sofa? Had he wanted to hug me? And why did he hold me after I showed him my bruises, is it because of guilt? What will Nile do if he finds out Erwin’s stayed over? But he’d always sleep over. Will he think it’s different now? Why is he the only person that’s ever managed to beat me, am I weak again? Shit. What’s going to happen tomorrow? Does everyone know? Shit. Shit. Shit.

Levi had finally let his guard down for the first time since returning home from the party, and finally let his emotions surface more than before. The thought that everyone will have heard about what happened, about the kiss, about his reaction, about the fight. Levi didn’t know what would happen, or if anyone else would be out looking for him at school. He knew he’d get called the fag, the gay kid; he knew he’d get teased. And he wasn’t sure he could deal with that. In fact, just thinking about it caused panic to rise in Levi’s throat. His breathing quickened, and his chest felt so heavy and tight he could barely move. No matter how much he gasped for air, he couldn’t breathe through it. It was the first harsh panic attack he’d had in ages, but it wasn’t going. Even when he tried to count in his head alone, he couldn’t do it. Falling to the floor in his room and collapsing into a ball, he held the back of his neck tightly and slowly began to rock his body backwards and forwards, trying to rock the thoughts out of it.

Nothing was working. His eyes started to get wetter, and his body began to feel heavier.

Shit, shit, shit. When were they going to get home? He didn’t want Erwin to see him like this, but he didn’t want to go through this alone. All the years Erwin had known him, he’d never heard or seen Levi suffer from a panic attack. He knew he had anxiety: but never seen it take form. The panic got worse, his breathing got even worse. Somehow, through the attack he managed to grab his phone and press emergency contacts, immediately calling the first person at the top of the list.

Kuchel’s phone rang twice before she answered it.

“Levi, you okay? We’re on our way back now.”

He stuttered, words refusing to leave his body. His eyes streamed more as he squeezed them further shut, and he could barely breathe. I’m going to die.

“Levi? Levi can you hear me? What’s going on? I’m just jumping in the car.” He heard Kuchel moving around, slamming the door and the car engine starting.

“P… panic. Hurry.” All his small body could pull out of the tight chest.

“Erwin, you have to talk to Levi. I need to drive quickly, just talk to him about anything. Keep him chatting to you until he seems back to his old self.”

Kuchel threw the phone into Erwin’s hands quickly, before she pulled the car from the driveway and began speeding home as quickly as she legally could.

Erwin looked at Kuchel with shock as she passed him the phone, not really knowing what to say. But as Erwin always did, he obeyed what he was asked and just started chatting away, like normal.

 “Hey, Levi? It’s Erwin. Um. We’re on our way home. I’ve got all my stuff to sleep over. How you doing? Is everything okay?”

Nothing came out of the other end, apart from wheezing and heavy breathing. Erwin instinctively thought to help Levi’s breathing.

“Breathe in, deep. Then let it out.” Levi did as he was instructed.

First, his breaths were staggered: he could barely breathe in properly. However, once he repeated this a few times, and Levi began to feel his normal self again. He focussed his attention onto Erwin’s soft voice, who kept repeating to breathe through the phone. Eventually, his body slowly began to feel lighter, and his breathing slowed to a nice and steady pace. His eyes stopped watering, and he laid himself onto the floor. Without saying another word, feeling embarrassed, he hung up on the phone call. Leaving Erwin looking lost sat next to Kuchel in her car.

“He okay now? Everything back to normal?”

“Yes, yes I think so. He just, he just hung up on me.”

“Don’t worry, he usually does after a panic attack. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen his have one. They started when he was a small child, when his Uncle Kenny looked after him for a few years. Don’t really know what Kenny did to him, he’s never talked to me about it. But it must’ve knocked him for six, because it’s affected him so much in his older life. I know there was a fire where he lost some of his best friends, but that isn’t my place to tell.”

Erwin wasn’t sure what to say to that. He was concerned, and worried for Levi. They pulled up to the front door not long after, and Erwin rushed into the room to check on Levi, who was curled up in a ball on his bed, staring out into his room.

Erwin sat down next to him, and placed his hand over Levi’s tentatively, not saying a word. Kuchel brought him a cup of his favourite tea, which Erwin recognised as the one he brought Levi for his birthday the year before. Smiling subtly, Kuchel shut the door behind her and left the two boys in peace.

She quickly text Levi.

20:46 – Levi, can we talk when you get a chance? Just a bit worried. Mum xxx

Chapter Text

Levi woke up to the sound of his alarm clock ringing the following day, much to his disgust. With squinting eyes and a grumpy expression, he looked over at the time, which read 6:45 am. Sighing, he unlocked his phone to turn it off, before noticing his mum’s text. He contemplated what to reply, but deciding it was far too early to look think of what to reply, he pushed his quilt away from his body and locked his phone. He wasn’t in the mood for replying to messages like that first thing in a morning. Slowly, he pulled his body to an upright position: his stomach feeling a lot better that morning. With tired eyes, he directed his attention toward Erwin.

The older boy was asleep on the floor in his sleeping bag, which he was too tall for, so most of his body sat outside of the warmth. But Erwin never really seemed to mind. Levi made a mental note to ask his mum to try and find a better sleeping bag for their house.  His blonde hair was tussled and messed up from sleep, and both his hands rested under his cheek like a little pillow.

Levi kicked him softly with his foot, and when Erwin didn’t stir, he kicked him again but harder.

“Oi, gotta get up. We need to leave for school in 45 minutes.”

Erwin only groaned a little and tried to roll over to get some more sleep, completely ignoring his best friend.

“Get! Up!” Levi pushed him harder this time, forcing his body to roll over. Usually Erwin was the one who was okay at waking up on a morning, but since High School started, he slowly began to find early mornings less desirable.

After the last attempt, Levi decided to give up, simply standing on his friend to make his bed: the same morning ritual as always. Straight after, he walked into the bathroom to take his usual morning shower. He scrubbed hard at his skin for a good three minutes, ensuring he was as clean as possible, and then climbed out and put his school uniform on. Black trousers, a burgundy blazer, white shirt, and a black tie. He combed his hair through in the mirror, before heading back to the bedroom to check on Erwin and tidy up before school.

When he went in, Erwin had already folded up the sleeping back neatly and put it away, and now was getting on with neatening his hair. Levi looked toward his best friend who was grinning up at him.

“The bathroom is free now.”

“Thank you, Levi. I’ll get ready quickly.”

Erwin smiled and headed past Levi to the bathroom, locking it shut behind him. Instead of just waiting around for Erwin, Levi decided to head into the kitchen to join Kuchel for breakfast. He was still struggling to eat where his cheek was bruised, so wanted to give himself slightly longer than normal to eat properly. Kuchel was already pouring cereal in a bowl for them both when Levi came and took his seat.

Erwin appeared dressed and washed moments later, joining the other two in eating breakfast. They talked about their plans for the day, before time ticked on and they had to rush slightly. Kuchel put their lunches in their bags as always, whilst the two boys brushed their teeth, before grabbing her car keys – ready to drop them both at school. There was no way she was letting Levi walk with a stomach that was still poorly.

They arrived at 7:45, 15 minutes before the school bell would ring for them to go to registration. Enough time for them to dawdle to the classroom, but early enough that not everyone would be mulling around the school yet. Maybe the gossip from the dance hadn’t spread yet, hopefully.

Luckily, no one saw Erwin and Levi get out of the same car together, so they were safe from Nile’s keen eye for now. It was when they approached form room, and the whole group of them was sat at the table, that Levi’s heart started to beat a bit quicker. Before they walked in, Erwin gave him a supportive and comforting squeeze on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry. If they say anything, I’ll protect you.”

Levi nodded, gratefully, before returning to his normal resting face. He wanted to ignore the bruising on his face, wanted to ignore everyone else and act like it was any normal Monday morning. Because that’s all it was, nothing had happened over the weekend. Nothing.

“Morning guys!” Called Hange, who as always was too chirpy for this time in the morning.

Their announcement caused all the other friends to look up at Levi and Erwin. Levi was waiting for the jokes, for the comments about the party the weekend before, the questions about the bruises and cuts on his face. But he got none of it. All he got from everyone was a polite hello and a “how you doing?” or even more basic questions about homework. Levi looked up at Erwin, a confused expression on his face.

“You better not have said anything to fucking Nile.”

“I promise I haven’t, maybe people have just forgotten. I mean everyone did have a lot to drink.”

“Okay.” Levi replied, doubt in his voice. How any teenager could not remember something like that was baffling: it was hot gossip, clearly. The first gay kid in their year, but nothing at all was said.

Carrying on looking around the room, he noticed that Nile wasn’t there today. Part of him felt relieved, but part concerned. Had someone else said something to Nile? No one else knew properly if Levi liked Erwin, so no one should really feel the need to defend him so much. But still, the absence made him feel very uncomfortable. He tried to look for Mike, puzzled. But Mike too just shrugged his shoulders, unsure about where his friend was. Weird.

The bell rang, and Levi sat in his seat next to Petra, who shot him a very happy smile. He glared back at her, before turning around and facing the teacher. After the twenty minutes registration, everyone went their separate ways to classes.

Hange, Petra, and Levi all had social sciences together, so they headed off to the humanities block in the school. Hange and Petra kept bubbling on about something they did on Sunday and would not shut up talking about how hung over they were. It was the friendship group’s first party with real alcohol, so Levi sort of understood why it was such a big thing. But still, it was annoying. He was there, he’d already lived through it. And there definitely wasn’t anything cool about been hungover. He was also bugged that they thought it was right to keep talking about it, considering how the night ended for Levi.

Mike and Erwin started heading towards Maths Class after form; a complete opposite direction from their other friends’. They walked in silence for a while, before Mike found the best time to ask about Levi. Erwin seemed to be in a relatively good mood anyway.

“How’s Levi doing?” Mike asked, quietly so no other students would be listening in.

“He’s better now, yeah. On Sunday I think he was just extremely tired and ended up sleeping for most of the day. After tea, he seemed a bit brighter. And this morning he was completely back to normal.”

“This morning?” Mike raised his eyebrows.

He saw Erwin smile under his breath, trying to keep it subtle. But Mike knew Erwin well: they’d been friends since nursey and kept good friends throughout all the years. This gave Mike the ability to tell whenever Erwin fancied someone, and he could definitely tell about Erwin’s crush on Levi. He had been able to tell for a while, to be honest. But Erwin had always guessed Erwin knew, never finding reason to properly talk about it. The blonde found it lovely that he still had such a good friend despite holding such a deep secret.

“Miss Ackerman asked me to stay over. I think she was worried about him. I’m guessing she doesn’t know the real reason Levi got hit by Nile, otherwise I doubt I’d have been allowed there. Nothing came from the night though, Mike, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”

“I’m not suggesting anything. Just glad the kid’s okay.” Mike said.

After a few more steps in silence, Erwin turned to Mike.

“Any idea where Nile is today? I thought he’d want to show his face after a clearly successful weekend with Marie. He was already possessing her, I thought he’d well want to show her off now.”

Mike chuckled to himself which was never a good sign.

“I think I’ve scared him off a bit. Warned him to not go near Levi again or something bad would happen.”

Erwin’s hand subconsciously landed on his forehead. The one thing Levi didn’t want to happen just happened. Someone protected him from Nile – and even more annoying, they didn’t even ask Levi if that was okay to do. Mike was obviously trying to do the good thing, but they had to keep that from Levi from finding out. Erwin rubbed his fingers across his forehead slightly, before lowering his hand back by his side.

“Thanks, Mike. But whatever happens, don’t let Levi find out you did that. I offered, and he kicked off. He didn’t want anything saying to Nile.”

“Okay, okay. Fair enough. I just can’t stand to see such closed-minded people, especially to someone I actually think is a decent person. Didn’t think Nile could even be like that, to be honest.”

The two approached the classroom and entered. Their conversation drew to a quick halt, not wanting anyone else to listen in. Erwin nodded at Mike n agreement to what he said at the end, before taking his own seat and unpacking his bag. They were sat far apart from one another, so there was nothing else to be said in that class on the matter. Throughout the lesson, everyone was talking about nothing but the dance the weekend before. It seemed like a lot of people had parties afterwards involving alcohol, and there seemed to be a lot of match making and couples coming from the weekend before. Erwin was thankful for the distraction from their party.

No one in other classes asked anything about Levi’s scars or bruises on his face. He was quiet enough at school, always looked grim or moody so no one dared to approach him. He sat between Hange and Petra, who wouldn’t stop talking to each other through the whole lesson. For the second half, he swapped seats with Petra so she and Hange could continue talking without Levi been the lettuce in the middle. He didn’t mind their chattering, but it was annoying when he wasn’t even involved or had any idea what they were gobbing on about.

Lunch time came around soon enough, and Levi couldn’t wait to see Erwin again, just so he could talk normally and feel completely relaxed again. Whilst Hange was definitely his other best friend, and whilst he really got on with Petra, he never could feel totally comfortable about them. And Erwin couldn’t wait to see Levi, either. His thoughts throughout the whole of maths just constantly floated back to the boy who he’d spent that whole weekend with. He couldn’t stop thinking about their kiss, about the blush, about everything. A small smile leaked onto his face when he thought about Levi curled up in his lap on Sunday afternoon, and when he fell asleep on him.

He wanted to hold him like the day before, when he found the bruises across his pale skin. He wanted to stroke his arm, brush his hair from his face as they watched films together. He wanted to make sure Levi wasn’t going to suffer through another panic attack. He wanted to look down on Levi’s sleeping face as he drifted softly in his lap. Erwin couldn’t stop the thoughts from flowing. He was falling harder for Levi as each day passed by.

                                    ***

The first days back at school after the homecoming dance seemed to fly by. By Wednesday, Nile had decided to return to school as though he was there the entire time. Upon seeing Levi, he glared at him, shooting the dirtiest look he could muster. But Levi didn’t care, and simply kept his expression blank and as disinterested as he could. He wanted to show his strength against Nile, that he didn’t care Nile was back, that the fight didn’t affect him at all. And it clearly got under Nile’s skin, as he sat down with a loud huff before form started.

On Wednesday Lunch Time, Levi, Erwin, Hange, Petra, Mike, and Mike’s new friend, Nanaba, all sat around the table together. It was their usual table where they always sat and met for lunch, usually joined by Marie and Nile. However, they chose to go and eat outside since the sun was shining, but the rest wanted to enjoy a hot meal in the canteen. Plus, it wasn’t that hot – definitely not hot enough to spend an entire lunch on the windy back field. Levi still wouldn’t eat outside anyway, even after all these years. He kept his little routine.

“You guys all busy tonight? You want to go to the cinema?” Hange asked the group.

“Oh yeah, that sounds lovely!” Replied Petra excitedly leaning into Hange a little bit too closely. Levi looked over, sensing that something was definitely going on between the two. But he didn’t want to say anything or point it out, so kept that information to himself.

“Yes, I think that would be a good midweek break. I’m definitely up for that.” Erwin chipped in.

“Me and Nanaba are actually out tonight, going for tea at some little restaurant in the centre. But thanks for the invite, Hange. Maybe next time.” Mike apologetically replied. But Hange got the hint, and so did everyone at the table. Mike had his eye on Nanaba for a few months, but only finally managed to speak to her at the dance. This was going to be their first date, so instead of teasing and joking, everyone left the comment there. They were happy for their friend, finally finding someone. It would be Mike’s first real girlfriend too.

“Levi? You coming?” Hange asked, staring at the boy, face hopeful and excited.

Levi leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. His stomach bruises were getting a little bit better now, so pressure was okay to be put on them. He looked disinterested, and clearly was not up for doing to the cinema. Until he piped up.

“Fine. If you’re all going, I’ll come. But I’m not seeing something shitty.”

Hange laughed, “Well I’ll pick the film and surprise you all once we’re there.”

Petra joked, “it’s definitely not going to be good if you pick it Hange, let me pick.”

Hange mocked an upset face but agreed to let Petra pick it. To be honest, Hange did usually go for the odd sci-fi film that no one else would want to see. Or the foreign language film with subtitles that didn’t translate properly. Every trip to the cinema between their group, when chosen by Hange, always ended up in McDonalds with an early finish. At least Petra was likely to pick the most popular film at the minute, so everyone would enjoy it.

“Well, it’s a group date! We’ll meet at the picture house at 7 tonight. See you all there!”

The bell rang as Hange announced the time, and before anyone could argue. Slowly, trays were collected up and plates put back on the tray racks by the side of the hall. The canteen was emptied quickly, students wandering off to their afternoon lessons.

It had already been half a week, and Levi was thankful that no one brought up the past weekend. Perhaps they had actually forgotten, and that all the previous embarrassment was unnecessary. A trip out to the cinema with his friends was exactly what he needed. And for once, he didn’t feel nervous or anxious about going out with them all. He was actually excited – especially since the two people he definitely wanted to avoid wouldn’t be going. Just him and his closest friends, much to his delight. Kuchel would be relieved that he was actually going out.

                                    ***

When he got home after school, he told Kuchel that he was going to the cinema with his friends. Then she began to do the usual quiz of: which friends? Is Erwin going? How are you getting home after? What are you seeing? To which he answered, as always: the usual, yes, walking, no idea.

Straight after he’d eaten his tea alongside his mum, Levi found himsel rushing to his room to get ready. Levi took off his school uniform neatly and folded it up ready for the next day, placing it on his chair by his desk. He picked out his usual green jumper and black skinny jeans, before grabbing his wallet and phone and getting ready to leave the house. He slipped his shoes on at the door, making sure not to spread mud around the flat that was still spotless from his clean on Monday evening.

Before he left, he made sure to go to the kitchen and plant a kiss on Kuchel’s cheek. Whilst he most definitely was not an affectionate person, he always knew how much his mum worried and that made him worry, so he tried to stop that by showing small signs that he loved her every now and again. And he knew she’d been extra worried since the party the weekend before, for obvious reasons He needed to show her that he was okay, even more so because they still hadn’t talked about his panic the other night.

Levi ran down the stairs from his front door to Erwin who was stood on the corner, waiting. At the exact time he said he’d be there, much to Levi’s relief. Erwin was still concerned about Levi been alone after he heard him have a panic attack down the phone and wanted to look out for him more than normal; but of course, without telling Levi this. But he also revelled in the fact he could spend some more alone time with Levi, before meeting the other two.

“Hey, Levi. You already? Got some sweets and a drink?”

“Hey. No. I don’t bring them to the cinema, too messy and too noisy. I like to be able to hear the film.”

Erwin smiled at this. Such a Levi thing to say.

“Ah well, I’ve brought two bottles of water and a packet of fruit gums. The least noisy things I could find. We can share.”

“Thanks.” Levi appreciated the snacks.

The two walked together to the cinema, which was a twenty-minute walk from Levi’s house. Erwin had already walked from this side of town specially to meet the younger boy at his house, and the thought of that made Levi’s heart skip a few beats. Erwin had voluntarily walked back on himself, just so Levi didn’t have to be alone. And whilst Levi didn’t appreciate been mothered all the time, he didn’t mind when it was by Erwin.

Erwin still hadn’t managed to find the time to talk to Levi about the events of the past few days. The party, the kiss, or the panic attack. He didn’t want to put pressure on Levi to talk, but it was the kind of things he felt really needed discussing; considering some of them involved himself. But Erwin was scared of pushing Levi away from him and was worrying about the retaliation of something at school, so he decided to keep them thoughts trapped nicely to himself. Everything at school seemed safe for now, at least. Even if Mike did tell Nile to not go near Levi.

They were so engrossed in conversation neither of them seemed to realise when they reached the cinema until they heard their names being called by Hange and Petra.

“Hey guys, we’re here! Petra’s decided on the film she wants to see!”

“Hey, you two. You got here quick!” Erwin announced, a smile across his face.

He looks so cute and goofy when he smiles like that.

 “Yeah, my mum dropped us off on her way to meet her new boyfriend.” Petra said.

“We going inside or what then?” Levi was beginning to feel the coolness of the air. He forgot his jacket, and only had his jumper on. Late September was always chilly on an evening where they lived, and he was a little annoyed at himself for not bringing an extra layer. Least they would be tucked inside in the warmth for the film.

The four then headed through the doors and bought tickets for a new rom com film, sitting on the back row of the cinema. Levi sat on the end next to Erwin, who kept offering sweets and water throughout the entire film. Eventually, Levi gave in and accepted the offer, munching away happily at the fruit gums. The noise made him cringe at first, but when he finally got to a strawberry sweet, he felt happy and it was worth the chewing.

At one point he swore he could see Hange and Petra share a small kiss, but he wasn’t sure if the film was playing tricks on him or not, seeing as it was all romantic and what not. He also swore Erwin’s hand pressed against his numerous times, and that their thigh touching was not accidental. But he tried not to think about it, the last thing Levi needed right now was a repeat of the weekend before, and a repeat panic attack at the thought of being kicked in the stomach, or a repeat of what had happened at the party.

He tried to change his thoughts quickly and focussed on the film and nothing else. He was so distracted he didn’t notice when Erwin’s large hand reached down and intertwined his fingers with Levi’s, or when he started to rub his thumb along the back of his hand.

Coming to the realisation of what had just happened, Levi turned his head and looked up at Erwin, who was also looking at him right in the eyes. They stared at each other for a good few seconds before the end credits of the film rolled on screen and Hange stood up immediately, drawing their gazes back to them. As if trying to cover evidence, Levi pulled his hand away from Erwin’s grasp quickly. He didn’t want anything to be said, and Hange definitely wouldn’t keep quiet about something like that.

“Well, good choice Petra. A bit anyway. Not quite my usual scientific film, but good enough!” They announced loud enough for the whole cinema to hear. Levi cringed in his seat.

“Well, my dear, shall I walk you home?” Hange directed this question at the small girl who was originally sat next to them.

“My dear? You two a thing?” Levi asked.

“Something like that” Hange replied, a smirk on their face. Petra turned bright red.

“I knew you kissed” Levi grumbled.

“Congratulations, you two. That’s wonderful.” Erwin said, seemingly genuinely happy for the couple.

“Yes well, you’re not far off now, hey Erwin.” Hange winked, and then suddenly Erwin went bright red.

Are they talking about us? Did they see Erwin holding my hand? Shit. What if Nile finds out, I’m fucked. Again.

Levi focussed on reading the water bottle label in his hand, pretending to not hear Hange’s previous comment. If he didn’t hear it, then they didn’t notice, and what happened can stay a secret. Nile won’t find out. No one at school will know. It’s fine. It’s all okay.

Noting Levi staring down, Petra piped up. “Hey Levi, you okay?” causing all three to turn to look at the small boy.

Levi quickly snapped out of his trance. “Fine. We leaving?”

“Yes, okay, okay. Come on Petra.” Hange held out their hand, and Petra took it gratefully. The two trotted down the stairs before turning around and calling out that they’d see them at school tomorrow. The cinema was almost empty by then, and all that was left was Levi and Erwin sat on the back row together. Levi’s heart began to pound a little quicker. Noticing Levi’s uncomfortable demeanour, Erwin decided it might be best to say something on the matter.

“Don’t worry Levi. Hange and Petra won’t say anything.”

Levi frowned, angry, frustrated. “Why did you do that? Why did you hold my hand?”

Erwin’s shoulders drooped, and his eyes looked saddened, he thought that Levi would be okay with it, he thought he’d like it. “Because it felt right, and I wanted to. I really wanted to. Levi, I just” Erwin paused, thinking about the best way to say this. “I just really like you. Like, like like you. If you know what I mean.”

What? He likes me?

“Yeah course I know what that means, Jesus.” He rolled his eyes, trying to cover up the fact his heart was beating so quickly in his chest. Trying to stop a smile spreading over his cheeks.

“Well, that’s why I wanted to hold your hand. I hope that is okay with you.”

Shit, Levi thought, he actually likes me.

Levi looked down, not sure where to direct his gaze. He mumbled, under his breath, “Do you just like me cos of what happened at the party?”

“No! No Levi, of course not!” Erwin reached a hand over to Levi, who still didn’t look up or react to the taller of the two. He didn’t like this; he didn’t want Erwin to just be pretending to like him, so it’d make him feel better. He didn’t want to be made a fool of. Levi tensed, retrieving in on himself. A tactic he always did when feeling exposed, or unsure of how to present his feelings. And Erwin could sense him doing so, deciding to stand up and get himself ready to leave.

“Look, we can talk about this on the way home. The cinema staff are probably waiting to clean the screen now and it’s almost 11. I’ll walk you home.”

“You don’t have to. I can walk by myself.” Keeping his defence up is the only way Levi knew to avoid being vulnerable in situations like this, and Erwin knew this which is why he didn’t try argue back. He was going to walk him home whether he liked it or not.

                                    ***

The air outside was crisp and cold by the time they left the building, and after walking for a few minutes Erwin could literally hear Levi’s teeth chattering. His shoulders were hunched so much they were practically touching his ears. Levi had always been sensitive to the cold, which is why he normally had a thick coat over the top of his outfit.

Erwin couldn’t bear to watch his friend suffer, and without saying anything, the big coat flung from the shoulders of Erwin and wrapped its way around Levi, engulfing him in a thick, woollen black jacket. It was warm, and it had the subtle scent of Erwin’s cologne and natural sweet scent. Levi tucked himself further into it and breathed in the scent quietly, ensuring Erwin wouldn’t notice. Then, feeling like he’d got enough out of it he wanted, he told Erwin to have it back.

“Shit you’ll be freezing, Erwin. Take the jacket back.” He began to pull the item of clothing from his shoulders, but Erwin refused to allow him to do that.

“No, I’m fine Levi. Honestly. I’m actually quite warm – I’ve got a t-shirt on under my jumper, and a vest under that. It’s fine.”

Levi laughed a little, pulling the clothing back around him. “Why so many layers?”

“I like to be wrapped up as snuggly as I can be. And I had a feeling I’d be walking a bit tonight, so I decided to wrap up extra warm.” Erwin looked down at Levi and smiled, his big goofy smile. Levi turned his lips up slightly and looked back at Erwin.

Damn. He’s so cute.

The two didn’t decide to talk about what they were planning to in the cinema. They instead opted to walk in silence, giving one another time to process what Erwin admitted on the back row. Levi still wasn’t sure whether Erwin was telling the truth, but also knew Erwin well enough to assume he wasn’t lying about it. Erwin would never wind Levi up like that, especially not over something serious. Before either boy realised, the sweetshop under Levi’s flat came into view.

“Here you are, safely at your door.” Erwin announced.

“Do you want a lift home or something?” Levi asked, feeling concerned about the time and how dark it had gotten.

“No, it’s fine, I don’t mind walking. It’s not too far anyway.”

“I’ll ask mum.” Levi began to turn around, before Erwin grabbed the side of his arm and spun him back to face him. Within a second, Levi’s petite body was wrapped in Erwin’s arms, looking up at those glistening blue eyes.

For a second, they looked at each other like they had in the cinema earlier that evening. Then suddenly, without a seconds thought, the gap was closed and the two pressed their lips firmly together. Gently, Erwin’s mouth parted slightly, and Levi followed the lead, tongues gliding together before pulling away after a few minutes.

A deep blush had taken over Levi’s entire face, and his nose had turned bright pink. Erwin looked down at Levi and gave him a huge smile. This time, Levi properly smiled back at Erwin and then collapsed against the large body into a tight hug. Still smiling, despite his face been pressed against Erwin’s firm body.

Levi held onto the moment for as long as he felt was right; it felt so good to finally be in the arms of the boy he’d loved since he first met at the age of eight. To be held and kissed by the person who meant the world to him, embraced without judgment despite Erwin seeing him at his weakest point. Levi finally fully felt content; like he could do anything. He gave one tighter squeeze before separating their bodies and looking up at Erwin.

 “I’ll ask for you a lift home, come up for a second.”

Erwin decided to take the offer now, deciding it was turning quite chilly now his nerves had died down again. The two ran up the back stairs to Levi’s door, and opened it up. Kuchel was sat in her pyjamas watching late night TV when she heard the door open.

“Oh, Levi! You’re back.” Her voiced sounded mock-surprised.

“Uh, yeah. Can you run Erwin home please? He walked me back cos it was late.”

“Oh yes, of course. Let me grab my coat and keys. I’ll see you boys at the car.”

Kuchel winked at Levi then, who just shot her a confused look. What the hell is she going on about?

Erwin who was waiting patiently on the top step turned around as Levi walked to him and headed down the stairs.

“We’re dropping you off.”

“Thank you, Levi.”

Levi shrugged, accepting his thanks. He was still too shocked at the idea that Erwin actually fancied him back to react or talk properly. The two headed to Kuchel’s old car, and quickly stole another kiss before they heard the front door shut. Trying to act like nothing was going on, they pretended to be in a conversation about the film they’d just seen.

Once all three were in the car, Levi’s mum began to ask them about the film too.

“Who was it you went with again, Hange and Petra?”

“Yeah. Turns out they’re a thing now.” Levi replied.

“Oh really? That’s lovely. Seems like everyone at your school is slowly getting into relationships now.” Kuchel did that look again that she did in the flat, making Levi shuffle in his seat and feel slightly uncomfortable.

“What with Marie and Nile as well, and Mike and that new girl. You two will find someone soon too! You’re all growing up so quickly. I can’t believe how little you have left of school.”

Erwin glanced at Levi, who then glanced back at Erwin. They had their little secret together for now, and that felt nice. It felt really nice. Levi was sure he could see Erwin’s ears growing bright pink under the dim lights in the car.

They pulled up at Erwin’s drive, who then thanked everyone for the lift and climbed out of the back seat of the car when Levi pulled his seat forward. Once it was cleared, he climbed back in the front and sat next to his mum. Watching to make sure Erwin got into his house safely, the Ackerman’s set off back home once the door closed shut. The drive remained silent for a few moments, before Kuchel finally decided it was time to speak about what was going on.

“Be careful, Levi. I’m happy for you, but please be careful.”

“I don’t know what you’re on about, mum.” Levi glared out of the window, resting his chin in his hand. He was still reliving his moment with Erwin.

“You and Erwin. Don’t pretend, I saw you both having a little smooch outside the flat. It’s lovely; of all the people, he’s perfect for you and you’ve clearly fancied him for a while now. But just be careful, what with people like Nile-”

“Mum you don’t even have to say it.” Levi interrupted, “Jesus. You wouldn’t have to warn me if it was someone like Petra.”

“Levi! Don’t snap at me. I know, but sadly it’s not like that in this world. I said be careful, and I mean it.” Kuchel raised her voice, showing how serious she was about it all. Levi rolled his eyes; he couldn’t be bothered arguing with his mum now after what had been one of his best nights in memory.

Not wanting to spoil his good mood, Levi lightened the situation by winding Kuchel up, “and please don’t say smooch. That makes me cringe.”

She laughed to herself, before dropping her smile and looking at her son.

“Did you get my text on Sunday night? You never replied.”

“Yes mum. Not now, please.”

And then they pulled up back at home, Levi thanking her and quickly heading straight to the shower.

After scrubbing himself and following his strict night routine, he climbed into bed and snuggled up to the jacket Erwin had left him. Only when he got into the shower did he realise he was still wearing it, so it was clearly very obvious to his mum they were together, never mind the fact she saw the kiss.

Pulling it tight to his body, he breathed in the luscious scent of Erwin Smith, and fell asleep peacefully dreaming about their first proper, unforced kiss.

Chapter Text

Levi woke up to several texts from Erwin the day after.

6:32: Morning Levi, hope you slept well. X

6:45: I’m already ready for school. Couldn’t sleep very well last night, seemed my heart was beating a bit quickly and my thoughts wouldn’t drift from you. X

6:50: I’m going to head to yours. Got a surprise for you. See you soon. X

Shit, Levi thought, if he set off then he’ll be here soon, and I’ve slept in. And Jesus, how cheesy could he be?

Quickly, he jumped out of his bed and made it. Grabbing his school uniform, Levi headed to the bathroom and jumped in the shower swiftly. By 7 he was dressed, showered, and his hair was combed into position. As he was packing his bag for school, there was a knock at the door.

“I’ll get it Levi, could you pop the kettle on for our breakfast?” Kuchel asked her son. She was already mulling about in the living room near her front door, so it was easier to do that.

“Yeah.” And Levi did as he was told, walking over to their battered kettle and adding some water. Before switching it on, he heard Erwin come in through their front door.

“Good morning Kuchel, good morning Levi. I come bearing breakfast.” Erwin announced, a massive grin plastered on his face. The bag he was carrying smelt amazing – fresh baked goods, clearly, that Erwin must have picked up on his way over here. It was a rare treat for Kuchel and Levi to have such indulgent food, money been a struggle. They didn’t even know how to react to such a treat.

“Oh, Erwin sweetie, you didn’t have to do that.” Kuchel said, unsure of what else to say.

“That’s okay, I just wanted to say thank you for the lift home last night. I am aware that it was late at night, and I just felt a bit guilty about it. So, this is my thanks.”

“You made sure my son got home safely, so I’m the one who should be thanking you. Honestly, you should know after all these years we don’t expect things for anything! But we’re incredibly grateful, thank you, Erwin.”

Levi, having enough of their backwards and forwards thanks went up to Erwin and took the bag out of his hands. He peeked inside, and saw six fresh croissants, a range of different fruits – apples, strawberries, raspberries. There was a flask of freshly ground coffee, and a small box of tea right at the bottom. It was from the French bakery at the top end of town, and it most definitely wouldn’t have been cheap.

Levi put the bag on the table and smiled at Erwin, who gave him a grin back. They looked at each other for a few seconds, unsure of what to say to one another, before Kuchel broke the silence.

“I’m just going to get my make up on before breakfast. You two get started.” On her way to her room, she patted Levi’s shoulder and passed him a cheeky looking smile. Levi cringed. He hoped his mum would calm down with her excitement about his new relationship soon, he wasn’t sure he could deal with her looking at him giddily all the time.

Once Kuchel had entered her bedroom, closing the door behind her, Erwin walked over to Levi and took him into his arms. The two shared a hug, and a chaste kiss, before Levi pulled away to get some plates and set them down from the kitchen. Breakfast was warm and smelt delicious. And no matter how much he wanted to kiss Erwin, croissants came first. Always.

“I’m starving.” Levi stated, opening up the bag from the centre of the table and pulling out the box of pastries. He shared them out equally over the three plates: two to each person, and then dished the berries and other fruits alongside the croissants. Finally, the coffee and tea were lifted from the bag – still piping hot. Erwin reached over to grab them from Levi’s hands, bringing them to the kitchen area.

“I’ll just pour these into their cups, you start eating. You’re clearly ravenous.” Erwin chuckled, and Levi just responded with a firm nod, before lifting the warm croissant from his plate and biting into the crunchy pastry. It was soft and buttery on his lips, practically melting away into his mouth. Pastries were one of Levi’s favourite treats, a treat that he rarely enjoyed. So, he was trying to savour every mouthful of breakfast that day, although the food tasted far too delicious to eat slowly.

Despite Levi’s background and lack of it, he very much enjoyed luxurious food. He often indulged when at Erwin’s house, since Mrs Smith would always be sure to cook extravagant meals for all Erwin’s friends – and Levi loved it. Definitely not something he could enjoy every day, but very easy to enjoy every once in a while.

Erwin was from quite a well-off family and had breakfasts like this all the time. His father was a lecturer at a top University, and his mother a vet. They were the perfect cereal box family: dad, mum, son, and daughter. Erwin never spoke much of his older sister as she moved away a long time ago. Levi remembered Erwin being heartbroken when she moved, but apparently, she’s now a lawyer in London, so it can’t be all that bad for her. And as Erwin grew up, the attachment he felt to his sister dissipated. Levi assumed he was only so heartbroken before since she was always there at home when his parents were out, but now when they were busy working, he often found himself alone.

On birthdays and Christmas, she always sends Erwin a box filled with things like chocolate, designer clothes, new hair products. She always manages to keep up to date with Erwin’s life too, despite being so far away. It was one of the things that made him relax a bit more when she did originally move. She constantly texts him, calls him once a week, and shares social media with him. Although he’d never admit it, he needed his sister home more often than not. But he dealt, now he was older, a lot better than before.

By the time Erwin headed back to the dining table with two coffees and one tea, Levi had already finished eating his croissants. They were too good to simply nibble, and the fruit too was delicious – perfectly ripe, sweet, and yummy. Levi’s stomach felt joyous.

“So, Levi, I think we need to talk about last night. And today. And just us in general. Are you okay with that?”

Levi felt a sick feeling forming in his stomach. “What is there to talk about?”

“Just, well, are we letting people at school know about us?”

“Wait. What is us exactly? Are we putting a shitty label on it?”

Erwin smiled at Levi’s brash nature. “Well, yes. I was hoping to make you my boyfriend, Levi.”

Levi felt his heart jump a bit. In all these years he’d known his best friend, he never thought he’d hear Erwin asking him to be his boyfriend or putting a name on it like that. He didn’t even think Erwin was into boys. Levi realised he was gay years ago, but just never told anyone. He couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of ‘coming out’ to people. He was hoping to just come home with a boyfriend one day and leave it at that. And that one day would definitely have been when he was in his twenties, although that had changed dramatically over a few days. Not that Levi minded.

But Erwin had never suggested he was gay: throughout the years Levi had known him, Erwin had dated a few girls. Some when he was only about 12 so they didn’t really count, and then he dated Marie for a year in freshman year. He didn’t realise that he might like boys too. The kiss last night, the way he is being today, it just felt surreal to Levi. He wasn’t used to people being like this with him. And he definitely never mentally prepared himself for Erwin acting this way with him, of all people. Erwin. Erwin.

“Only if that’s okay, Levi. I don’t want to pressure this, it would just be nice.”

Erwin could clearly see Levi’s brain ticking, and the panic that had flushed over his face. Quickly, Levi drew his eyes up from the empty plate to Erwin’s face. Instead of answering the suggestion straight away, Levi jumped straight to the ground rules. He thought about what Kuchel said in the car the night before, and how Nile had reacted. He thought about all the school dramas he’d seen on television where the gay kids got abused. He wanted to protect Erwin from that. Not himself, just Erwin.

“We can’t tell anyone at school.”

“Yes, okay.”

“We can’t let anyone find out. Convince Hange and Petra we’re not together.”

Erwin nodded along, “That’s fine, should be easy enough.”

“Nile cannot find out.”

Erwin looked down at Levi. The scars from the fight were still very prominent on his face, although the black and blue had begun to fade slightly now. Clearly the scars ran a lot deeper than just on skin, and Erwin wanted to respect that and protect Levi from suffering from it again. There was no way he’d let Nile find out, no way at all.

“Of course, Levi.” Erwin smiled at him softly, “Does this mean you’ll be my boyfriend then?”

Erwin reached his hand out to stroke Levi’s. The smaller man shrugged, trying to hide his happiness and his excitement.

“Sure.” Was all that slipped out of his mouth, and Erwin beamed at him. Clearly, he didn’t want to hide his excitement. Levi was just completely lost as to why Erwin had suddenly decided to admit all these feelings to him, and why he’d suddenly decided to make him his boyfriend. After all this time, after all the years of Levi fancying him in silence, he could have told him so long ago and saved all the worry. All the wonder. All the secrets.

Suddenly the bedroom door opened, and Erwin pulled his hand away from Levi’s quickly, grabbing a croissant from his plate and biting it. Levi wrapped his hand around the top of his tea, bringing it to his lips and taking a sip.

Kuchel pulled her own chair out and took a seat herself, thanking Erwin once again for such a delicious spread. As she began to eat her croissant, Kuchel’s eyes wandered to Levi and smiled a hidden grin on her face. She was just so happy for her son, finally finding the happiness he’s always deserved. She knows he had a rough start in life, and a terrible childhood. But finally, things were looking up for him. And her heart was full of joy.

“It’s been so long since we’ve enjoyed a breakfast like this, hasn’t it, Levi? Probably since you lived with Kenny, Farlan and Isabel. How many years ago was that?” she smiled, remising, “I remember we used to always buy them cheap value croissants and heat them in the microwave whenever I came to visit. They weren’t quite as fancy as this, not by a long shot.” Kuchel laughed a little, thinking of her brother.

Levi squirmed in his seat. He did not want to bring up his past life in front of Erwin. Before Levi moved back in with his mother, he had to live with his Uncle Kenny from the ages of four to eight. Kuchel was suffering with a drinking problem at this time after Levi’s dad died, and he had to go live away whilst she recovered. He was barely even allowed to visit his mum, mainly because Kenny wouldn’t allow it. But she was allowed over every once in a while, and he tried to make it special when he could. He never really understood why Kuchel couldn’t live with them, or hardly visit them, but with age comes understanding. The older he grew, the more he understood.  

And as he became much older, more and more memories about his time with Kenny fluttered to the front of his mind. It made him shudder. Whilst it was fun, a lot of bad stuff happened when he lived there. Stuff that scarred him, and he was still terrified of to this point. The reasons he was still terrified of seeing Kenny again.

“Yeah.” He replied to his mum bluntly.

Erwin briefly remembered Levi’s mum mentioning something about his Uncle when he was talking him through the panic attack on the phone. He clearly could sense that Levi was feeling slightly uncomfortable about talking about it, so decided to try and change the subject from the breakfast. He didn’t want Levi feeling stressed over an old situation.

“Are you working today then, Miss Ackerman?”

“Yes, unfortunately. It’s a long shift too. 11 this morning until about 10 this evening. I had to take the extra hours.”

Levi looked down and started swirling the tea around in his mug, ignoring the chatting. He was thinking intently.  

“I see. Hopefully it’ll pass by quickly. Levi, what’s your plan after school then?”

“Home. Cook a ready meal probably.” Levi replied bluntly. His mind was drifting off to his past life before he lived back with his mum. Erwin noticed this.

“Would you like to come to my house for dinner? I’m sure my mum won’t mind. It’s curry night tonight too.”

“Oh, Levi that sounds lovely, and I can pick you up on my way home after work. I’d much rather you go and eat a proper meal tonight than one of them cheap dishes.”

Clearly Levi didn’t have much say in the decision, and looked up at Erwin, then his mum, then back at Erwin. He had to admit, the company of Erwin followed by curry sounded like a much nicer Thursday evening than coming home and moping about his flat alone.

“Sure. Thanks.” He said, before downing the rest of his tea. Levi excused himself from the table, wandering into the bathroom to brush his teeth ready to leave for school. He had to sort himself out a bit, checking over his bruised face and neatening his hair – splashing cold water on his face to try and calm the constant blush that seemed to have been present since yesterday evening.

“Thank you for taking care of my son, Erwin.” Kuchel said, quietly, when she heard the bathroom door shut.

Erwin merely smiled at Kuchel, before eating the rest of his fruit and finishing his coffee. Once Levi returned from the bathroom, the two boys set off for school together. They walked with a fair space between them to avoid suspicions from other students. Nile noticed them walking together through the park when he was been driven by his father and glared as they both entered the form room together twenty minutes later. Erwin noticed, fed up with his old friend acting this way. He wished that Nile would just leave him and Levi alone, and go spend time on his own life with Marie.

Mike walked over to the two boys.

“Hey guys, how was the film? Seemed Hange and Petra enjoyed it.” He pointed to them both, sat in the corner holding hands. Erwin smiled.

“Yes, they definitely seemed to. It was a good film. How was your date? Did Nanaba have fun?” Erwin smiled at his friend, and Levi pulled himself round to mingle into the conversation more, fully aware of eyes burning into him. But even moving between the two didn’t stop the glare.

Levi shuffled behind Erwin uncomfortably. He could feel Nile looking at them both and was getting agitated. What’s his problem with me anyway? Just cos I’m not a rich bastard from their side of town. He doesn’t even know I’m gay, I don’t get it.

“The date was great. Me and Nanaba went out for some food, then she came back to mine and watched a film. Even got a bit of a kiss too.” Mike joked, winking at his friend. Erwin laughed a little before feeling Levi shifting about around him.

“Hey Levi, you okay?” Erwin said, looking down at Levi noticing that he was a bit distant.

Levi’s fear of Nile slowly dissipated and turned to anger. Angry that he dared to look at him. Angry that he struck him when he was weak. Angry that he didn’t get to fight Nile off. Angry that he didn’t win their fight.

“Nile won’t stop fucking staring at me.” Levi spat. And with that, the smaller boy walked over to Nile who was sat next to Marie at the table.

“Oh Levi, hi! I’ve not spoken to you properly since the party.” Marie exclaimed, trying her best to be kind. Levi really didn’t understand how she’d ended up with someone like Nile, but then he couldn’t understand how she’d let someone like Erwin go (although, he was very happy about that fact).

“What’s your boyfriends fucking problem?” He snapped at her.

“What do you mean, Nile doesn’t have a problem with you?” She said, clearly trying to pretend their fight never happened. Levi’s blood boiled. She saw what he did to him, she saw how he was bleeding on the floor. Heck, she probably even saw some of the fight. How could she just blatantly act like that didn’t happen at all? He could feel Erwin and Mike watching over the conversation, unsure whether or not to approach.

Nile started laughing to himself.

“Levi, I don’t have a problem. You’re my buddy. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And with the statement, Nile mock punched Levi on his shoulder, who then retaliated and punched Nile square in the jaw knocking him backwards off his chair.

The entire room fell silent and stared at the two boys in awe.

“Shit” Hange whispered as they got up and walked over to Levi. Erwin and Mike started to walk in that direction too, shouting out Levi’s name to try and stop him reacting anymore. Hange tried to grab his arm to guide him out of the room as Nile stood up and walked up to Levi, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and pinning him against the wall.

Levi used his leg to his advantage, kicking Nile in his shin, causing the taller of the pair to drop him to the floor. By this point, Erwin and Mike had grabbed Nile’s arms and pulled him away from Levi. He stood up and straightened himself off, as though nothing happened at all.

“What the fuck Nile?” Marie called out to him.

“You fucking saw what he did! Wait till my dad hears about you, Levi. I was going to try to be nice to you, I was going to try and pretend that I was friends with a freak like you. Fuck that.” Erwin let go of Nile, leaving him to Mike. Mike practically threw him to the other side of the room, standing in-between the two boys to stop them escalating their fight further.

Levi looked up at him through his fringe and gave a menacing glare: a terrifying look that Erwin had never seen before and sent shudders down his spine. But Levi’s mind was someplace else; to him, that wasn’t Nile Dok. To him, that was someone else. Someone Kenny told him to avoid, someone Kenny would kill Levi over if he knew he’d got into a fight with him.

Shit, Levi said to himself quietly under his breath, it’s like before. Kenny’s gonna fucking kill me again. I’ve gotta hide.

“What was that Levi? Are you okay? Who’s Kenny?” Hange asked, looking him directly in the eyes, their hands on either shoulder. Erwin was stood beside Hange, confusion laced between his brows. He glanced towards Hange, then back at Levi. But Levi ignored them both, he couldn’t deal with this shit. He wanted out.

Without answering Levi left the room and ran out, barging past Nile’s shoulder on his way. He ran to the far end of the school where there was an old loft trap door. Climbing up, he threw himself through it and crawled until he found the second trap door. Climbing slowly through that, he emerged onto the roof of the school building, 6 stories high.

He went to sit on the edge, legs dangling over. Gazing out onto the playing fields around him, he took a deep breath in trying to calm himself. Thoughts of Farlan and Isabel filled his head, and his hands reached up to grab his temples, squeezing his hair and closing his eyes. The memories floated about of the three in the streets, playing. The three of them learning to defend themselves with Kenny. Kenny sending the three of them to steal and fight. Flames.

“Shit. Get out of my head. Not now. Not here.”

But they wouldn’t go. They kept there, repeating his childhood: playing with them in the streets, being chased by other children. Fire. Flames as red as Isabel’s hair.

“Shit! Go away. Fuck off!” Levi practically shouted now, squeezing his hair as tight as he could, closing his eyes as constricted as they’d go.

Immediately panic struck him. He pushed himself away from the edge of the building and gripped onto his stomach, curling up into a ball on the centre of the roof. His breathing became laboured, staggered. His eyes squeezed shut. All he could see in his mind was Isabel and fire. He let out a small groan. Flames licked at his skin. He couldn’t see through the smoke, the fog. The dark. He could hear Kenny’s voice shouting at him, feel him hitting him. Feel his skin bruise.

It hadn’t been this bad for a while, his panic attacks. They were bad right at the beginning when Levi moved home. They were terrible at the start of school: at least three or four a week, then Kuchel made him go to therapy and take medication which helped a lot. But recently, he thought he was better, so he stopped doing both, without his mother’s consent. He just hated how it made him feel. He thought he was fine. But things triggered him – things that related to his past, to his life with Kenny, to fighting and getting beat up.

The door on the roof flew open then, and both Hange and Erwin walked onto the roof to find Levi.

“Shit” Erwin shouted, as he ran over to Levi’s small body laid on the roof. He tried to put a hand on him to calm him down, but Levi whacked it away and curled back into the ball.

Hange came to kneel beside them both and began to speak to Levi.

“Take a deep breath in Levi, and then let it go. Do it three times. Erwin, keep talking to him about something.”

Levi tried to take in the breaths, but they were broken, and he kept shuddering. Erwin kept trying to talk to him about anything and everything: the film last night, the games they played when they were younger. He tried to give him something to focus on. Something nice and happy. Something that didn’t relate, or couldn’t relate, to anything from his childhood that seemed so disturbed and unpleasant.

After a while, the breathing techniques had worked, and Levi slowly became himself again, calming himself down. He wiped his eyes harshly and vigorously.

“Fuck” was all he could muster, and he quickly stood up and walked to the edge of the building again. Erwin quickly ran over to him.

“What are you doing Levi?!” He called out, panic in his voice. “We’re six stories high!” He grabbed the back of his blazer, not allowing him to step any further forward.

“I’m not gonna jump if that’s why you’re worried.” Was all Levi could reply with, sarcastically, and then he turned around to face the two who had just helped him, realising he probably wouldn’t have coped well if they weren’t there for him.

“Thanks,” he paused, “and sorry you had to see that.” He looked down at the small people dotted on the floor below, wishing he could be as small as one of those and disappear. Why something bad had to happen every time something nice happened hurt him deeply: why couldn’t this just be a lovely day for him, enjoying his new relationship? Why did he always get into fights?

“Levi I didn’t know you suffered with panic attacks! I could have helped you. My mum gets them from time to time, I know how to look after you!” Hange reported.

“I’m fine. I can look after myself.” Levi snapped.

“Clearly.” Hange gave him a very soft and gentle smile. “Look, I won’t tell anyone. But if you feel like that again, come find me. I’ll help you out, okay?” The bell rang, and suddenly Hange jumped in their spot. “I’m going to rush off, it’s double science now. You sure you’ll be okay, Levi?”

Levi nodded, looking down at the roof in his usual stoic manner.

“Okay. You coming, Erwin?”

“I’ll be there in five minutes. I’ve never been up here, and think I need a bit of air before maths. I’m sure the teacher will understand.”

Hange merely smiled at him and climbed back down the secret door Levi had discovered last year. Students weren’t meant to know about it, but Levi found it when looking for a place to escape when he was fed up with everyone at school. He then showed it to Erwin one lunch time, when he failed a test and was feeling completely down about it. Sitting up on the roof gazing out across the school grounds was actually quite therapeutic.

That’s probably how Erwin and Hange knew where to look for Levi.

Erwin sat down on the roof, and Levi followed manner, sitting down very closely next to him.

“Sorry Erwin.” Was all he could whisper, nervous voice shaking slightly. Everything had just come back to him. He was going to be in so much trouble when he decided to go back down. He didn’t even know how much he’d injured Nile, but he was so riled up and couldn’t stop himself. Sometimes he just can’t help but react.

“You don’t need to apologise. Nile can be a dick. I’m not sure why he has it in for you so much. He won’t tell anyone you hit him, he’ll be worried you’ll say about the other night and he’ll get in trouble with his dad. Don’t worry.”

Erwin smiled at Levi, trying to comfort him, and then wrapped his arm around his back to pull him into a hug. Levi would usually push away, but he fell into Erwin’s body and accepted the hug happily. It was what he needed when he felt so worn out.

“Can we go home?” Levi mumbled into Erwin’s chest as they sat cuddling.

“Yeah. We missed registration anyway, so no one knew we were even here today, teachers anyway. Give it five minutes and when everyone’s in lesson we’ll sneak off.”

“Thanks”

Levi pulled himself closer to Erwin and breathed in his vanillary sweet scent. It made him feel relaxed: at ease. Erwin meant more to him than he’d ever know. After another fifteen minutes, the two boys released from their hug and headed back downstairs, taking the quick way out of school and heading straight to Erwin’s house.

                                               ***

Half an hour later they arrived at the Smith household. It was large, white, and had a double front door situated right in the centre. The front gardens surrounding it were full and completely in bloom, despite the fact it was approaching autumn. A grey BMW sat in the driveway, and a light was on in the office room upstairs.

“Seems like mum’s home, is that okay Levi?”

He shrugged, a bit tired after the eventful morning.

“Yeah. But won’t she wonder why we’re skiving?”

He didn’t think of that – it wasn’t going to be easy to try and find a reason as to why they both took the day off school, but he was sure he’d be able to make something up. His mum was usually lenient with him anyway, considering he was normally such a hard worker. She’d definitely let him off one skive day every now and then.

“Should be okay.” Erwin said, thinking about it.

The two boys walked up the driveway to the front door and Erwin unlocked it, throwing his bag off his shoulder and hanging it on the coat stand next to the door. Levi followed suit, and the two removed their shoes and blazers, hanging them up together.

“Who’s that?” Mrs Smith shouted down the stairs, as she came around from the top of the bannister and wandered down only to see her son and Levi stood in the doorway, still in school uniform. She looked puzzled, then looked at her watch noticing it was barely even past nine.

“Oh, hi Erwin darling, hello Levi. Aren’t you both supposed to be at school?”

“Hi mum, and yeah but…” Erwin’s voice trailed off, he was struggling to think of a good enough excuse that, if it got back to his dad, his father wouldn’t mind. Levi quickly interrupted. He also didn’t want to drop Levi in it, because he was certain Mrs Smith would pass the information back to Kuchel, who would then spend days quizzing Levi about why he felt he should be missing school.

“We have a science project together, and since we have a full day of science, they sent us home to start the project.” Levi interjected.

“Ah I see. But didn’t you have maths this morning, Erwin?”

She looked at the two boys quizzically. She knew they were lying, but just wanted enough of a story that if Mr Smith asked about it, she’d be able to cover for them both.

Both Mrs Smith and Miss Ackerman were very close and good friends, so she knew a lot about Levi and his past life. Because of this, she always sympathised with him and would help him out as often as she could. Of course, the boy himself was never aware of this. If he was, he’d probably never go around out of embarrassment. He was still a very private person in regard to everything that happened to him before. He didn’t want people knowing how messed up he was.

“Maths and science swapped days, so we have more time to work on the project, that’s all. We’ll head to my room now if that’s okay mum.” Erwin confidently straightened his back, walking into the hallway in the house. Levi followed suit, sticking close to his boyfriend.

Erwin reached his hand out to Levi, but realising where he was, quickly made it look as though he was just trying to grab his folder from his school bag.

“Yes sure, boys. I’ll bring you both some lunch at twelve, then I have a meeting this afternoon for a few hours.”

Erwin stood back up, turning to face his mum. “Oh yes mum that reminds me, could Levi stay for tea tonight too?”

She smiled warmly, always happy to have Levi over. She was very fond of him. “Yes of course he can. Is Kuchel working, Levi?”

Levi nodded, “Yeah, until 10, I think. But she said she’ll pick me up on the way home, if that’s alright with you.”

She just smiled at him sadly. It was clear she really felt for the Ackerman family: times were tough for them, especially with the shifts Kuchel had to work. It was as though she hardly got to spend time with her son. “Of course, dear, whatever is easiest for you all.”

Levi politely thanked her, before the two boys headed up the stairs towards Erwin’s bedroom, passing his mother on the way. Erwin led Levi round the corridor, through another smaller corridor off the central one, and to his room at the end.

Erwin’s bedroom was bigger than Levi’s entire flat. He had a king size double bed, a desk area filled with books and folders. An entire wall was a book case, and off that he had a walk-in wardrobe and his own bathroom. Towards the left of his room was a sofa and a chair: Erwin’s own private sitting room. Levi couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealously whenever he came over, but he usually ignored it. He was grateful for the little life he’d created with his mum and wouldn’t trade that for anything else. No matter how fancy, luxurious, or big.

As soon as the door was shut, Levi decided to speak. His voice came out with a little bit of a joking undertone.

“So much for being able to come up with an excuse.”

Erwin chuckled, “yeah sorry Levi, I didn’t expect her to be waiting for us the second we’d step through the door. I thought we’d be able to come up here and plan a bit first.”

“Good job you’ve got me then, isn’t it?” Levi joked, sitting down on the sofa. He crossed his legs and pulled them into himself. Erwin came and sat down next to him, wrapping his arm around the smaller one’s body.

“How are you feeling now?” He asked, genuinely concerned about Levi’s performance that morning.

“Fine, I guess. Nile just pisses me off. I thought he was trying to punch me this morning.”

“I’m not surprised after the other day. Don’t worry though, as long as I’m around Nile won’t hurt you – or if Mike’s around, for that matter. He seems to like you more than Nile, so I doubt he’d want anything to happen to you either.”

Levi nodded, secretly grateful for support for once in his life. It was like when he was younger, and Farlan and Isabel would gang up on anyone who would ever go near him. Except Kenny, they were terrified of him too. But even then, the three of them would find a hiding space together to burrow away until Kenny’s rage would pass onto someone else.

“Hey, least you’ll have scared Nile off a bit though. After you punched him, he looked pretty scared.”

“Yeah well I am scary, if I need to be.” Levi smiled at Erwin and pushed himself further into their hug. It felt nice to just be in a room with no one else for once. He was feeling loads better already, the morning seemed days ago. “Don’t tell my mum about what happened, especially about what happened on the roof.”

Erwin sighed. He hated keeping such important secrets. “Oh, why Levi?”

“Just don’t!” Levi shouted. Realising his tone, he lowered it and calmed down a bit, “she already worries over me enough. She keeps asking me if I’m still taking that damned medication, it’s doing my head in.”

“Well, are you?” Erwin asked, frowning. He hadn’t realised that Levi had been on any type of medication before – even when he stayed over for a few days, he’d never seen him take a tablet before bed. But the way he said it made him concerned. If someone was prescribed medication it was usually for a good reason.

“No. It makes me feel shitty. Anxiety medication makes me feel sick. Depression stuff makes you feel flat. Nothing like that helps.”

Erwin’s heart sunk a bit. All the years he’d known Levi, he didn’t even notice how bad his mental health must have been. Levi didn’t really open up to people about personal problems, so there was no real way to tell. But still, he felt guilty for it. And saddened.

What has Levi actually gone through in his life that causes him to suffer this much?

It made him even sadder to think that what Levi went through must have happened when he was very young, since they’d known each other since they were eight – and Erwin knew his home life with Kuchel then. Erwin assumed it was definitely to do with Kenny, simply because he’d heard Levi mention his name quite often when in distress.

Thinking about it, and unsure what else to say, Erwin pulled Levi in as tight as he could for a big hug, “I’m here if you ever need me, Levi.”

“That’s if you don’t squeeze me to death first,” he mumbled out, “Jesus Erwin let go of me a bit I can’t breathe properly.”

Immediately Erwin loosened his grasp and went back to a gentle hold.

“Sorry, Levi.”

He just wasn’t over how good it felt to actually hold Levi. Only yesterday did they kiss – literally a day ago, and now they could sit and hug all they wanted. Almost ten years of trying to get with him, and now it had finally happened. Levi was finally his boyfriend. And he couldn’t quite believe it, still.

Suddenly their eyes locked into each other’s, and almost like a magnet was pulling them together, their lips collided into a kiss. It was soft, gentle, and fragile. The way Levi wished his first kiss would have been, rather than like the dare it was.

Levi wrapped his arms around Erwin’s neck, pulling him in closer. Their lips parted, and the kisses became rougher and deeper. More intense. Erwin hooked his hands around Levi’s back, and lowered him onto the sofa, so Erwin was laying above him, still kissing him.

Fumbling, Levi’s tie slowly slid off onto the floor and his top few buttons were undone, revealing more of his chest and neck. Erwin embraced this, and leant his head down to kiss the soft, pale skin that was usually covered up. He carried on slowly undoing the buttons as his kisses lowered onto Levi’s bare chest. A small moan leaked from Levi’s mouth.

Erwin’s head moved back up, so their lips would meet again, and Levi followed what Erwin had just done to him.

Shit, am I doing this right? I’ve never done anything like this.

His worries floated away as he unbuttoned Erwin’s shirt completely and began to kiss his neck the same way Erwin had just done, giving it a gentle nip with his teeth which left a small, purple mark on the perfectly smooth skin. They both moaned quietly under their breath as they continued to kiss, shirts wide open and chests pressed against each other. The making out was so intense that they hardly heard the soft knock at Erwin’s door, and then a second knock, a bit louder that time.

“Shit, Erwin quick get off me.” Levi hissed, and he threw his small body over the back of the sofa and ran to the bathroom, locking the door. Erwin quickly grabbed his pyjama top that was folded on top of the chair and replaced his shirt with it.

A few seconds later, Mrs Smith walked in, deciding she’d given them long enough a wait. Erwin had strategically got his folder open and was holding a pen in his hand, pretending to read. He definitely looked flushed, and his hair definitely wasn’t in place, but his mum didn’t notice.

“Oh, sorry mum I didn’t know you were there.” He smiled, bashfully.

“That’s okay, I was just coming to ask if you’d give me a hand in the kitchen. I’m making soup, but I hurt my finger and can’t cut the veg properly.”

She paused, noticing the new attire. “I see you’re sporting a pyjama top?”

“Comfier than my school shirt.” Erwin smiled, trying to make it look like he was telling the truth.

“Where’s Levi?” she asked, eyes scanning around the room before landing on top of her son, and the small purple mark forming on his neck. Noticing, he shrugged the top up a bit attempting to cover it. He brought his hand up to his neck as though he needed to scratch it.

“He’s just putting some of my pyjamas on too, comfort for working. I’ll come help you then.” He stood up, shouting to Levi that he’d be back shortly.

Shutting the door behind them, Levi came out of the bedroom and went to lay on Erwin’s bed.God that was amazing. I never thought I’d be doing that with Erwin. Jesus. Was I doing it right? Did he like it?

These thoughts replayed in his mind constantly as he gently closed his eyes and fell into a light nap, appreciating the time alone in such a squishy bed.

                                                ***

Erwin and his mother were in the kitchen, blending vegetables and chopping them up to make tomato and basil soup. Mrs Smith’s homemade soup was the nicest thing ever, and an absolute necessary pick me up if you were ever feeling down, which is why Erwin was confused she was making it.

“How is everything at school Erwin?”

“Yeah, it’s good. First week back at school. Homecoming dance was at a good time I think, a perfect break for settling back in to our senior year.”

She smiled, “so how come the lies? And how come you’ve taken today off school?”

“I haven’t”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Erwin. I won’t tell your father. You’ve just not missed a class since you were dating Marie the other year, and it was obvious why you and she used to come home or miss school for dates. But why now?” her tone was soft. She was clearly waiting for Erwin to say something, to admit something.

“Levi just wasn’t having a great day” he said, voice lowered. The last thing he wanted was for Levi to know he was telling his mum the problems at school. “He and Nile don’t exactly meet eye to eye.” The tomatoes dropped into the blender.

“Is that why he’s got that big bruise on his cheek?” Erwin looked down and sighed. He’d forgotten about the bruise – he’d just got used to it been there since he’s been with Levi practically all week.

“Yeah, I think Nile was a bit drunk after the party and went for Levi. I mean you know what Levi’s like, he tried to fight back. But Nile’s about six foot now, and Levi’s five foot three.” He continued chopping tomatoes, feeling a bit sad.

“Doesn’t sound like Nile at all. I’m sure his dad won’t be happy to know he’s been getting into fights, especially when he’s a police officer.”

“Yeah I know. Please don’t tell him, mum. I don’t want Nile to fall out with me. And I don’t want Levi to be annoyed I’ve told you about this all today. And don’t mention today to Kuchel either, she’ll just worry.”

“I won’t, you have my word.”

She pressed the button on the blender and the kitchen erupted into a violent noise for a few minutes, before falling silent again and pouring the blended vegetables into a pan, adding stock and leaving to simmer.

Mrs Smith walked over to her son and reached up to move the cloth covering his neck. Erwin was the same height as Nile now: he’d had such a growth spirt within the last year. The only one at school who didn’t seem to grow was Levi.

“And what about that little mark on your neck, what was that from Erwin? I’ve hardly seen you this week. Give me all the gossip.” She smirked, laughing slightly. She loved to wind her son up, playfully, of course.

He tried to duck away and hide it again, but it was too late. She’d already questioned him. The quickest thing he could come up with was blaming it on the party and Marie.

“We were playing spin the bottle at Marie’s. It landed on me and her, just a kiss. She got a bit carried away. Can’t say Nile was too happy, but she was drunk and I don’t really think she knew what she was doing.”

“Now that definitely sounds like Marie. She’s a lovely girl. I wish you two worked out. But I’m sure you’ll find an even lovelier girl soon, when you head off to college.”

He grimaced at the thought. His mum didn’t know he liked men as well, and certainly did not know about Levi. He wasn’t sure how she’d react – throughout his entire life, all his parents would talk about was how he’d be a wonderful husband to a perfect wife one day and they’d have their perfect children. He wasn’t sure what they’d think about Levi.

“Yeah, maybe.” Was all he could say,“I’m just going to go back up now and check on Levi, okay?”

“Yes of course darling. Would you two like to sit and have lunch with me downstairs instead of in your room? I’ve not seen Levi for a while, it would be nice to have a bit of a catch up.”

“I’ll check with Levi” Erwin said, as he left the room and headed upstairs. Opening his bedroom door, he found Levi sprawled out across his bed fast asleep. Quietly, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and texted his mum.

11:34: Levi’s fast asleep. Maybe tea together instead? X

11:36: Sure, I’ll leave the soup outside your door when it’s cooked. Love Mum X

As silently as he could, Erwin picked up his book from the side of the bed and walked over to his desk. He began to read and continued until he heard the front door open and lock behind. His mum had left for the meeting. That meant the soup would be ready to eat outside his room, and he was definitely looking forward to a warm, hearty lunch.

But first, he wanted to give Levi a small hug whilst they had peace. He quickly pulled his trousers off, so he was in nothing but boxers and his pyjama top, before climbing into bed beside Levi, pulling him tight to his body for a hug.

They slept for a little longer, before Levi found himself waking up to the comforting hold of his boyfriend. He rolled to face Erwin and smiled at the sight, before climbing from the bed and heading to the bathroom to clean his face and wake himself up a little. Erwin had climbed from the bed too, upon sensing the other body disappear. He brought the soup in from outside the door and placed it on the coffee table in his small living area, where he sat and proceeded to eat. It was cold now: but still delicious.

Levi joined him, sitting close together, and dunking bread into the soup. He’d never turn away a meal lovingly made by Mrs Smith, even if it was cold and almost four in the afternoon. It was still lovely. Levi tried to not glance at Erwin, who still was only in his underwear, and focussed on the folder open in front of him, announcing that they should at least do some work as a back-up plan in case Mr Smith asked about their science project.

After spending a few hours sat together, half doing work, half entangled in one another, they heard both parents return through the front door. Their voices echoed up the stairs, indicating for the two boys to immediately get dressed into their school uniforms, before heading down the stairs. They wanted to look as unsuspicious as they could, not wanting Mr Smith to question anything. Mrs Smith was impressed at the turn around – they both looked as though they’d just finished school.

“Oh, hello you two, good day at school? Erwin asked us if Levi could join us for dinner, I hope that is okay. Kuchel is at work until late, that’s all.” Levi was impressed by Mrs Smith’s acting skills. Maybe Erwin should take up some of her lessons.When her husband wasn’t looking in their direction, she gave the two on the stairs a little wink.

“Hello father,” Erwin’s body stiffened in the usual way it would whenever he was around his dad. He’d never admit it, but Erwin was actually a bit intimidated and scared by his father. He was six foot five, constantly wore suits, and had very dark hair and thick rimmed glasses. He always wore a scowl; not one like Levi, but one that suggested utter resentment at everyone.

“Hello Erwin” he looked up from his newspaper, looked at Levi, “Hello Levi”.

Levi shuffled his body slightly behind Erwin’s, nodding in response to the harsh hello. He followed Erwin into the kitchen where Mrs Smith was plating up curry. Mr Smith had already wandered in the direction of the dining room, taking his place at the head of the table, newspaper firmly in his grasp.

“Smells amazing, mum.”

“Thank you, sweetie” she gestured for the two boys to lean in closer to her, and dropped her voice to a whisper, “your father is in a foul mood. Ignore him if he makes any rude comments tonight. I apologise in advance, Levi.”

They all stood up straight again, and carried the plates through to the table, trying to ignore what they’d just learnt. The curry smelt amazing and was easily distracting enough – Levi hadn’t had a homemade curry in ages. Usually just the ones you can get for £3 from a cheap supermarket. He was so excited to eat – working up an appetite all afternoon. Although he was incredibly put off about eating alongside Mr Smith: especially a grumpy Mr Smith.

Naan bread was placed in the centre of the table. Everyone took their seats: Levi and Erwin next to each other, and Mrs Smith opposite her son. Mr Smith made sure to finish his paragraph in his newspaper before he even started to eat, despite everyone sitting around and waiting to start. After a good few minutes, he folder his newspaper up and threw it on the floor, before picking up cutlery and starting his meal. That announced the commencement of everyone else’s meal.

Light conversation was passed around the table: how was school? Did you get much homework? Was work okay today? A 10-minute-long story about a student in a lecture. Then the conversation was directed to Levi and his family. As always.

“How is Kuchel these days Levi? I’ve not been out for a coffee morning with her for a while!” Mrs Smith exclaimed.

“Yeah she’s good. Working more hours recently though.”

“Ah yes I remember her saying last time she was going to try and pick a few more hours up. I’m glad she’s well.”

After Levi smiled and took another bite of his curry, trying to use his best table manners he could muster together. He could feel Mr Smith watching him, and sensed his brain ticking on what to ask Levi about. Every time he ate here when Erwin’s father was around, it was very much like an interview. Or an interrogation.

“So, what’s with the cut on your cheek, Levi? Got into another fight at your end of town?” he snickered to himself. Luckily, Levi’s mouth was full of food so was unable to reply, and Erwin stepped in for him.

“A book fell off the top shelf at the library and landed right on the side of Levi’s cheek. A thick Law book too – it must have killed. Did it, Levi?” Erwin turned to face his boyfriend with an apologetic look.

Levi looked down at his plate with a scowl. “Yeah. Hurt a lot.”

Mr Smith laughed again, even though there was nothing funny about the conversation, and then took a huge piece of naan bread and scraped up a mouthful of curry with it. Despite being such a well-off man in such a highly paid job, he didn’t have very clean or good table manners. Levi couldn’t even look at him as he ate. But of course, he expected his guests to have impeccable table manners and would punish them if not. Levi firmly remembers been sent to the naughty step when he was younger for picking a piece of cucumber out of his salad: engraining in his mind how to eat properly since that day.

“Do you still see your uncle, Levi? What was his name, Kenny?” Mr Smith enquired, despite fully knowing the answer. Kuchel had been friends with Mrs Smith for a long time now, and he was sure she’d known about her brother. And where he was these days.

“No. Not for years.”

“Ha. Locked up in jail, I assume? Do you remember when he was in the newspapers for starting that fire to claim on insurance? Didn’t he end up killing two people?”

“Dad, just shut up.” Erwin stood up from the table and looked at his father. Erwin was clearly shaking a bit, but he was angry. Levi had just probably had one of the shittest weeks in his life, and his own father was just making it worse. “You’ve not seen Levi properly in ages, just leave him alone.”

“What was that, Erwin? Are you shouting at me? Your own father?” Mr Smith stopped mid-meal. He dropped his cutlery on his plate.

He paused for a second, clearly nervous about how to respond to his father. But before he could dwell on it anymore, he began to talk.

“Yes! Why are you asking Levi such personal questions? Just leave him alone. He’s come here to have tea with us for once – with you. You already know about his uncle, you know he’s not seen him in years so why bring it up now?”

Mr Smith chuckled, harshly, sarcastically. “Yeah right, course that’s why he’s here. To eat with just me. Not for the free food, or to cling off you like he always does.”

“What the hell has gotten into you, dad?”

He looked up at his son then and stared at him right in the eye trying to keep his calm. “I was talking with Nile Dok’s father today, apparently Levi decided to beat him up at school for no reason. Nile is a lovely boy and has been friends with our family for years. You can’t just drop him for Levi.”

“That’s enough, you two! You’re like bickering toddlers!” Mrs Smith called across the table, before deciding to collect everyone’s plates from them and piling them on a tray, despite the fact no one was fully finished. Whenever she spoke, everyone else would shut up and stop arguing immediately. She walked over to Levi, ready to take his now empty plate.

“Will you give me a hand please, Levi?” she asked, her voice not as soft as usual. Her husband had clearly made her very angry. But Levi was happy to be excused from the situation, without having to sit and listen to Mr Smith insult both his family, his background, and tell Erwin personal information about his past.

Levi did as he was asked and stood up from the table heading into the kitchen behind Erwin’s mum. Erwin and his dad were left in the dining room together. Levi’s eye contact didn’t reach up from his feet, even when Mrs Smith tried to talk to him in the kitchen. He was just so confused why he’d snap at him like that, or why he has any reason at all to bring up the fire. But if he’d been talking to Nile’s father, the local police officer and detective, then he could only guess he’d told Mr Smith all about it.

“I’m so sorry about that Levi. He’s been very odd and off with everyone recently – I think it’s the stress of the new term. And probably he’s just annoyed that Erwin didn’t stand up for Nile. Mr Dok and Erwin’s father both went to the same High School, they’ve been friends for years. I just think they both wanted their sons to live the same life. But that gives him no excuse to act how he is with you, I’m disgusted.”

Levi didn’t bother responding, he just slowly passed her the dishes as she loaded up the dish washer. After pressing the on button, the emptied the rest of the curry into one box, rice into another, and wrapped the spare naan bread up.

“Here, love, bring this home for you and your mother. She’ll have worked a long day, and I don’t blame her if she doesn’t want to cook once she gets home.”

Levi accepted the boxes. “Thank you, Mrs Smith. I don’t just come here for the free food, though. I come because I like it.”

“Of course, I know that, sweetie.” She rubbed his arm softly, “Now, go and pop them in your bag so you don’t forget them.” Levi nodded, walking out of the kitchen to the main hallway, dropping the boxes neatly in his over the shoulder bag. Once checking they were secure and that they could leak, he turned back and headed towards the kitchen where Erwin was now too, making a cup of tea and talking to his mum.

“It’s not on mum, he can’t just keep insulting my best friend like that. I hate Nile, he’s two faced. He knows we don’t get on, I don’t get why he wants us to be friends so much.”

“You know it’s just because of his father, Erwin. Just ignore him. I have no idea what’s got into him but be sure I’ll be having words tonight. I will not allow for him to speak to you or Levi in that tone, it is an embarrassment. The Ackerman’s are a loyal and loving family.”

Erwin sighed, loudly. “Yeah.”

Mrs Smith lowered her voice at that point, trying to whisper in a way that Erwin could hear over the boiling kettle but that no one else could. But Levi had strong hearing. “Please look after Levi too, Erwin. I worry about him so much.”

Levi decided to make his presence known then, he didn’t want to hear them both talking about how he seemed like a ‘troubled soul’ who ‘just needed a good friend’. He had enough of that already. He wasn’t even that bothered about Mr Smith’s comments. Kenny was in prison for what he did. He hated his Uncle Kenny. He was more bothered about the fact he’d raised his voice at Erwin. Kenny meant nothing to him anymore, and never would again. Kenny signed his love away the day he burnt Farlan and Isabelle, or even the days he hit Levi.

“Levi, I made you some tea. It’s black tea too.” Erwin smiled, handing him the cup.

“Thanks” he mumbled.

“You two go back upstairs and relax. You’ve got an hour and a bit before Kuchel will be here to get Levi, so you might as well go watch a film or something.”

Levi and Erwin did as instructed, understanding that they needed to be away from Erwin’s father for now, and headed back up the stairs together to sit in Erwin’s small living room. Erwin put a film on; some cheesy comedy. They both sat in silence for a long time, just drinking tea and eating sweets from the secret stash Erwin kept in his room. Neither knew what to say to one another, especially Erwin. He could still feel his blood boiling thinking about what his father said, he could still hear the questions he wanted to direct at Levi to find more about his past, and could still feel his nerves shaking from standing up to his dad.

“Sorry” Levi mumbled after some time.

“What are you sorry for? I’msorry my dad spoke to you like that. You have no reason to apologise. He’s a dick.”

Levi shrugged and took another sip of his tea. He had his reasons to apologise, he just wasn’t sure how to address them. “I’m just sorry I’ve never told you about my past. And that your dad dares to fucking speak like that you to. You’re nothing but nice, to everyone. I just don’t get it.”

“I’m never going to make you talk about something you don’t want to talk about, Levi. You don’t need to apologise from keeping a hard part of your life hidden away, that’s normal and fine. But note, I am here to talk with you whenever you feel you need to. I don’t mind. With my father? I’m used to it. He’s just stressed, that’s all. I mean you’ve seen him for dinner a few times before, he’s usually quite nice.”

Levi snorted. Erwin’s dad was definitely not nice to Levi. Perhaps Erwin had just never noticed it: the scowls, the glares, the sniggers at Levi’s comments across the table. He knew it was always to do with the class divide, and Levi’s family history. But he just ignored it, least Erwin and his mother were both lovely. He just needed to spark his timings carefully of when he was due to come around, make sure Mr Smith was working late or on trips out of the city. That was the best time.

They fell silent again, shared a few more cuddles and kisses until the film finished and a car pulled up outside for Levi. He gave Erwin a passionate kiss bye in the bedroom, before the two wandered downstairs to meet Kuchel in the doorway. Whilst Levi pulled his shoes on, Kuchel kept repeatedly thanking them all for having him for dinner, not noticing how tense the air seemed in their household. Or noticing that Mr Smith hadn’t even come to the door to say hello, which he normally did.

“Honestly, Kuchel, Levi is really no bother at all. He’s such a lovely boy. He’s welcome for dinner with us whenever you can spare him.” Mrs Smith smiled warmly at the boy pulling his shoes on, before he stood up and slipped his blazer back on, followed by his bag.

“Well, thank you again. I really appreciate it” she reached out and ruffled Levi’s hair as he was fiddling with his bag strap, forcing him to duck away slightly from the touch and neaten it out.

“Oh also! I gave Levi some left over curry and naan bread for you to enjoy after such a long shift. Just pop it in the microwave when you get home, it should be okay.”

“That’s lovely and very thoughtful, thank you. Right Levi, you got everything?” she announced as Levi looked towards his mum, before glancing towards the two Smith’s at the door.

“Yeah. Thanks for tea Mrs Smith, see you tomorrow Erwin.”

“See you tomorrow, Levi. I’ll text you.”

The two left the house and made their way to the tatty car at the end of the drive. They both climbed in before Kuchel decided to do the usual interrogation about school. He told her that he went, and that it was okay. The last thing he wanted was to explain all the Nile problem to her again. All she’d do is worry. Especially about the panic attacks. He’d never admit that to her, nor the fact that Mr Smith brought up Kenny over their meal.

After a speedy five-minute drive home, they pulled in front of the flat and walked up the stairs together. Levi handed his mum the curry and walked into his room shutting the door behind him. Pulling out his phone, he found messages from Erwin, Hange, and Petra.

Petra:

12:55: Lunch is soooo boring without you. Hope you’re okay after this morning! I’ve signed the registers for you and Erwin all day, so no one will know you’re missing. xxx

15:49: You coming back to school tomorrow? Xxx

Hange

8:34: I assume you’re not coming back today?

10:23: Erwin better be looking after you!!!

20:03: I’ll see you both tomorrow.

Erwin

22:06: Minus the horrid tea, today was lovely : - ) xxxxx

22:07: I particularly liked the kissing this afternoon ; - ) xxxxx

22:15: Hope I wasn’t too forceful with you. If there’s anything you ever don’t feel ready to do, just say the word. Xxxxx

22:15: I’ll meet you in the morning on our usual corner. Can’t wait to see you again : - ) xxxxx

Levi smiled to himself reading through them all. He had a good group of friends, he guessed. They always stood up for him. I better remember to say something to Mike tomorrow, actually. God, I didn’t realise I was this much of a problem, or this annoying though. What is happening to me this week?

Before taking the rest of his uniform off ready to get in the shower, Levi picked up his phone and texted Erwin back.

22:23: Not too forcey. Was fun. Part 2 on Saturday? Xx

He put his phone down on his bed and wandered into the bathroom, locking the door behind him and performing his usual night routine. He took his contact lenses out after wearing them for the three days at a time and grabbed his glasses from the side of the shelf after his shower. It felt good to let his eyes have a break and a bit of a rest.

Wandering back into the living room, he perched himself on the sofa next to his mum and leant over for a hug. She accepted it and returned it, holding him tightly. A rare sign of affection from Levi was always greatly appreciated by his mother, even more so now he was growing up and, in the stage, where he was ‘too cool for affection or his mother’.

“Everything okay Levi? You’re coming across as very affectionate tonight.”

“Just glad you’re my mum” was all he responded, before sitting up again, “night. See you tomorrow.”

“Good night Levi. Love you.”

“Love you too, mum.” He responded, walking to his bedroom and shutting the door softly behind him. Slowly, he climbed into bed and took his glasses off, placing them on his night stand. His bag was all packed for school tomorrow. He felt a lot happier about going since his friends had texted him all day: he doubted that he could get into any trouble with Nile when he had his group of friends.

Looking at his phone one last time to set the alarms, he got another text from Erwin.

22:54: Definitely. I’ll be distracted thinking about Saturday all day tomorrow now. See you in the morning, boyfriend ; - ) xxxxx

Levi cringed a bit, but his heart felt warm at the same time. Boyfriend. He repeated it in his head several times, still not quite believing it was real life. He drifted off in a happy daze, not thinking about all the problems he’d had that week. He was content for once, and that’s all that mattered.

Chapter Text

School crept around quickly the morning after, Levi could barely keep a note of the time as he got ready. His actions were automated, and before he fully switched himself on, he was already meeting Erwin at the corner where they agreed to meet.

“Morning, handsome” Erwin beamed at his boyfriend. Thankfully, Levi’s part of town wasn’t really occupied by students at the High School they attended, giving them the opportunity to be flirty and normal before they reached the park, at least. And Erwin intended to take fully advantage of that knowledge.

“Shut up” Levi smiled as he walked up to Erwin and nervously placed a kiss on his lips. He still hadn’t got used to kissing people – his first kiss had been last Saturday night, and since then he seems to have shared a lot of them. Each being special; each one he couldn’t stop thinking about. But he hardly had the confidence to initiate a kiss yet, normally Erwin was the one to take lead. He had more experience with relationships in the past than Levi had.

“You alright? I’ve brought you a croissant for breakfast” Erwin reached into his bag and pulled out a brown paper packet with a fresh butter croissant wrapped inside, “and also a cup of tea” and then he pulled out a small take away cup and passed it to Levi.

“I’ve just brushed my teeth” Levi moaned as he bit into the croissant. Clearly the minty taste didn’t bother him too much, as he devoured the croissant as they reached the park. They were his absolute favourite, and he was very appreciative of his delicious breakfast. Better than the coco-pops he had at home that morning, anyway. “Thanks” he muttered in between a sip of tea, smiling at Erwin.

“Anything for you.” Erwin whispered, close to Levi’s ear. It sent a shiver down his spine, and he felt his face burning red and pink. After a few more minutes they bumped into a few people from their school, and decided it was best to maintain their usual look of friendship and separate from being so close. But it still felt special, knowing there was an underlying love between the two of them that no one else could see. There was something exhilarating about knowing that, Levi thought.

Soon enough, they approached their form room where everyone was already sat. Levi walked past Nile, who didn’t even look up to face him or glare at him as he usually does every morning. Erwin noted that Nile now had a bruise on his face too, and he didn’t look that happy about it. He tried not to laugh at the pissed off expression Erwin saw as he took a seat. Marie sat next to Nile, who politely said good morning to both boys as they took their seats next to Hange and Petra. Levi ignored her, but Erwin gave a subtle nod.

“How are you today Levi?” Hange asked, concern in their voice, not even bothering to say hello before the question. He and Hange had been nothing but close since they first met in middle school, and they were one of the only people that Levi felt that he could really trust. He was quite touched that they remembered to ask him, or that they even bothered.

In middle school, the four boys met Petra and Hange and instantly became best friends. Once high school started, they met Marie as well, and became a little group. That all lasted until their senior year: the year when you properly find out who’s really going to stay a friend forever, and who isn’t.

“Better, thanks Hange” Levi said, hanging his bag on the back of the chair. He never put it on the floor in case it got mucky or dusty from all the students’ shoes. He made sure to give Hange a small smile as he looked back up, and they definitely noted and appreciated it.

“Good. I’m glad.” Hange smiled at him. “We both have a free period today don’t we – do you wanna go for lunch somewhere?”

Levi looked up at Erwin: they were meant to be eating together today. He wanted to go with Hange and have a chat, especially after the events that took place yesterday, but he also didn’t want to leave Erwin by himself.

“That’d be nice Levi, I’ve got loads of work to do today anyway. I have to catch up on yesterday.” Erwin announced, as if he was reading Levi’s mind. Levi’s gaze drifted back onto Hange, “sure.”

“Yay! I know a really nice café a few minutes out of school, we can go there straight after English. Sound good?”

“Yeah sure. I’ll meet you at the school entrance.”

The bell rang for registration, and the teacher walked in checking everyone was there. They sat there for twenty minutes whilst the teacher gave out all the news of the school: there’s a new vending machine in the maths block, non-uniform day next Wednesday to raise money for charity (you have to pay £3 to do it), sports day coming up so need teams. Once the boring list had been reeled off, the second bell rang, and everyone headed to their lessons. Erwin moved towards Levi as they exited the room, close enough that he could speak quietly so no one else really listened in.

“I’ll see you after school?” Erwin asked as Levi was heading out of the classroom.

“Yeah sure. Meet back here at 2:30 then.” Levi didn’t look back, but just headed off in the direction of English. He missed Erwin the days he was at school.

I’ve been with him for so much this week, it actually feels so weird when he’s not around. God, I’m falling too hard for him. What if he starts to think I’m too clingy?

English went quite quickly: they were asked to read the last chapters of the book for half an hour, then pick their favourite quote and write about it ready to read out. Luckily, Levi managed to escape being picked on. It’s probably because the teachers always thought he’d kick off if he was called out, and because he tucked himself in the back of the classroom, so he could stare out of the window all lesson. There was no way he’d read his work out in front of the other students, anyway, they’d definitely mock him. Or he’d stumble over his words. He hated shit like that.

Soon enough, the lesson was finished, and he headed to the entrance of school as he said he would and met Hange there, who was already waiting for him with a smile upon their face.

“Levi! You ready?” They looked utterly excited to be spending time with the smaller boy as they beamed at him.

“Yeah. Lead the way, I’ll follow you.” Levi took his footsteps up to Hange’s pace, as they both walked out of the school gates and around the corner onto the main street. After about five minutes, they reached the café that Hange was talking about that morning. And Levi had to admit, it did look lovely. It would be nice to enjoy lunch and a free period with Hange, for a change.  

“This is it; a little milkshake bar but it sells sandwiches and stuff too. Thought it would make a nice change for us!”

Levi looked up at it. It was very colourful: bright bubble gum pink lined the walls whilst a black and white check patterned was displayed on the floors. It was old school American, and Levi was quite excited to try it.

“Looks good, Hange. Good choice for once.” He joked, sneering. Hange elbowed him gently on the side.

The pair walked in and ordered the drinks they wanted – it took Levi ages to decide on a milkshake combination, but in the end, he went for a plain dark chocolate one with extra whipped cream. Hange got about 5 different bars of chocolate and sweets in theirs, and it seemed pretty sickly. Very Hange, Levi decided. He was happy with his boring, original-style one.

As Levi was taking a bite of his houmous sandwich, Hange decided that was a good point to start talking about what they brought him here for. And Levi was fully prepared for the conversation, considering he hardly listened through the whole of his first lessons. He had plenty of time to plan what he’d talk to Hange about.

“Sooo, Levi,” they began. Levi’s eyes drew away from the food and looked up at his friend, “how’s it going with Erwin?”

Levi tried to keep his expression blank as he finished his mouthful and put the rest of the sandwich down. “What do you mean? Same as ever. I’ve known him for about ten years, nothing’s changed.” He played it cool. He knew this would keep a secret, easily.

“You can’t fool me, Levi Ackerman.” Hange said, sipping on their milkshake. “I can read you like a book, I know there’s something going on between you.”

Levi sighed. There was no point keeping it a secret from them, he knew how persistent they could be. He’d already had enough of them asking, and they’d only asked twice. If he lied, they’d consistently ask every day and one day he’d snap, so what was the point in waiting? There wasn’t one.

Levi gave Hange a stern look. “Fine, but you can’t tell anyone any of this once I talk to you about it. And don’t tell Erwin I’ve told you anything. I mean it.”

“Cross my heart and hope to die!” Hange beamed at Levi in their usual goofy smile. They were the only person Levi would ever talk to about things like this, other than Kuchel. Something about their personality seemed to portray trust, and frankly Levi just liked them. He thought they were pretty cool.

“I’ll start with the party; do you remember it? Were you too drunk?” He joked, trying to make the conversation light-hearted, compared to what it could have been.

Hange racked their brain. Petra had explained everything that happened to Levi the day after when they went out for a coffee to try and get rid of their hang overs. So yes, Hange knew everything about the party, and didn’t really want to make Levi repeat it all. They knew how much Levi was bothered by it, obviously, since he left the party and didn’t return.

“Yes, I know about the party. I was there.” They joked.

“Yeah right well everyone was pissed so I don’t know who knows and who doesn’t. Anyway, so that happened. Then when we went to the cinema, Erwin walked me home.”

“I know that too! Skip to the good bits, Levi. I want to hear about my best friends falling in love!”

“Shut up” Levi blushed, took a breath, and continued, “so we stopped outside my house. He kissed me.  Then kissed me again. The next day he came for breakfast and he asked me if I’d be his boyfriend.”

“Awww Levi that’s so lovely. I knew something would happen between you both. I could tell you’ve fancied Erwin for years, but I mean, who wouldn’t? He’s definitely blossomed. Do you remember when everyone fancied him in middle school too? That was a time.” Hange laughed.

“God, I need to stop being so easy to read around you, Hange.” Levi smiled and laughed a little bit, making Hange smile. They worried about him a lot, especially since they found out about his panic attacks. So, whenever there was a sign of joy or happiness, it made them feel happy. Levi had a very likable smile, and an infectious one at that, not that anyone really got to see it often.

“Yeah and since then we kissed a bit more. Especially yesterday, we kissed quite a bit then. His mum almost saw us.” Levi explained.

“Wait, does his mum not know about you both? But what if you stay at his house, did you not used to stay all the time?”

Levi nodded. “Guess it just makes it easy for us both, doesn’t it?” He laughed at this too. God why does Erwin make me feel like this? He’s turning me into a little excited school girl.

“Levi!” Hange laughed loudly, making other people in the café turn around. After calming down, they decided to continue the interrogation.

“Does your mum know? Does Erwin’s mum even know he’s bi? I’m assuming he’s bi, since he had his little thing with Marie a bit ago.”

“My mum knows, she’d be able to tell anyway. I’m pretty obvious when I’m with her. And no, I don’t think she does. But don’t tell him I’ve told you, shitgoggles.”

“I won’t I won’t” they held their hands up as if to surrender. “And I don’t know who you’re calling shitgoggles, you need glasses too.”

“Yes, but I don’t wear literal goggles like you, do I?” Levi smiled.

“True. Okay, final question Levi I promise. Is Erwin your first kiss or first boyfriend? How far have you gone with him?”

“Hange that’s three questions, and it’s only been a week. Jesus.”

“Yes, but you’ve clearly both being head over heels with each other for a very long time, so you might have pushed the boat out and gone far.”

Levi cringed at the thought. He didn’t like to rush things, especially in his first relationship with the one person he’s ever properly loved. He had a crush on Farlan when they were still around each other, but nothing came of it, he was far too young to understand anyway. So apart from that, Erwin was his first and only ever true crush.

“Yes, to both. And not very to the last. That’s all I’m answering.”

Levi picked his sandwich up and took a few more bites before the plate was cleared. He then moved on to drink his milkshake, scooping the whipped cream from the top first, before drinking the rest through the stripy straw which was placed in the drink. Hange had also done the same, and after slurping the rest of the drink out of the straw, Levi decided to end the disgusting noise they were making and ask Hange questions.

“My turn.” Was all he said.

“Your turn for what, Levi?”

“Questions.” He was in a good mood, smiling a lot. He wanted to tease, wind Hange up. They were definitely the two friends who knew how to push each other’s buttons.

“I will happily give you any answers about me and Petra, feel free to ask away. Although I’m not sure she’ll be happy talking about what we get up to, but it’s only fair since I asked you.”

“No, I’m not bothered about that,” he waved his hand as if to brush the conversation away, “I want to ask questions for advice.”

“Oh!” Hange’s eyes opened a bit. This was the first time Levi had ever actually asked them for help with something, usually they just had to offer it and wait for Levi to accept. Which was practically never, unless it was to do with homework, in which case Levi would take all the help he could get.

“Me and Erwin are doing something tomorrow. But I don’t know what.”

“So, you’re asking for date ideas? Or after date ideas? Or both?” Hange folded their arms and leaned forward, across the table. Their eyes were practically glowing with excitement about the conversation, wanting to get involved with their friends love life. They loved love.

Levi paused and thought for a second, and his face suddenly started to become slightly pink. He frowned in an attempt to make himself look like normal, stoic Levi. Not that that worked very well, either. But respectfully, Hanged decided to ignore the blush on the dark-haired boy so as to not scare him off, “both” he mumbled.

“How about in the day you walk to his instead of him to you, and you could both go to the cinema? And then, take him out for some food somewhere nice. There’s a really good Italian restaurant in the town.”

“Hange, I can’t afford that. Not both.” Levi sighed. His friends often forgot that he wasn’t as rich as them, or had the luxuries they had in their life.

“Hmm, how about you cook for him then? Is your mum in or is she working?”

“I’m guessing work.”

“Cook for him then. What kind of food do you think he’d like? I can send you over some recipes tonight if you want. Unless you’d like to start with something a bit more fun? Why don’t you both make pizza?”

Levi thought about it. Both of them, cooking together in the kitchen, making their own toppings and waiting for them both to come out steaming out. Or they could design each other’s pizzas and see how well they actually know each other. Then it’s not too date like or formal so soon in, more like a bit of fun. The mess of it put him off slightly, but he thought he could put the toppings in small bowls so there wouldn’t be left over food all over the counter. Easier to clean.

“Or even nicer, just invite him round for the whole day. You can make your pizzas, watch a film at home. You have that sweet shop under your flat, both of you can go down and pick some sweets. Go buy a cheap DVD you both fancy. Then you can snuggle and kiss in the privacy of your own home.”

Levi thought about it for a while, deciding it sounded like a good plan. Not too expensive, but still nice. Plus, no risk of bumping into anyone from school – public places were off the cards for now. “Good idea. I think I’ll do that, thanks Hange.” Levi muttered. He was getting excited just thinking about the day, wanting it to be tomorrow already.

“Now, advice for after dinner. Hm. Well it depends, Levi, how far do you think you’re wanting to go?”

Levi paused, unsure whether he was comfortable talking about this with Hange. But Hange was definitely the best person to talk to, they’d definitely done things before. They’d be the most factual and frank about it, and they’d never breathe a word of it to anyone else. He trusted Hange, so he was open and admitted things.

“I’m not sure. What do you think? I’ve never done anything like this before.” Levi was feeling incredibly nervous about the whole situation. He didn’t really know what Erwin would want. Or what Erwin would expect. He was pretty sure he lost his virginity to Marie, so he clearly was an expert in it. Levi had done nothing, ever.

“How about just go with the flow and do what feels right. From advice though, don’t go the full way. Wait until a special occasion, especially since it’s your first.”

“Hange” he said, angrily. Embarrassed in case someone else could overhear their conversation.

Levi sipped at his milkshake again, trying to cool off his burning cheeks. There was hardly anything left in it, but that didn’t stop him.

“Any more questions?”

Levi shook his head.

“One last bit of advice for you, Levi. I’d surprise him with it today. Aren’t you meeting him at 2:30? Ask him about it then. It’ll make him feel really excited for tomorrow.”

“Yeah. I’ll do that.”

“Good! Let me know how it goes. I expect text updates, if you get a free minute. Especially since I’ve practically put this day together.”

Levi smiled at Hange and nodded, quickly texting his mum asking if she was working tomorrow. Minutes later she replied with a yes. His heart started to beat a bit quicker until he saw the time.

“Shit Hange, lesson is in five minutes. We better head back.”

“Indeed, we have, I’ll see you later Levi. Thanks for coming with me this free period. And don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.”

“Thanks for your help. And like I said, don’t breathe a word to anyone else, shitgoggles.” Levi said firmly, but with a smile on his face. Hange promised, their hand in a fist, firmly on their heart.

The two dispersed in different directions. Hange had sports in the hall now, so had to walk all the way to the gym in the opposite direction of school, and Levi had German and had to walk all the way to languages. His mind was constantly distracted for the last few hours of the day: filled with thoughts about how he was going to ask Erwin about tomorrow, and their plans for tomorrow, and what was going to happen. He hardly realised the last hour of the day was done, until the bell sounded loudly, pulling him from his daze.

His bag was packed quickly, as Levi turned from the German room and walked directly towards his form room towards the back of the school. Erwin was already waiting outside, sat on the chairs in the leisure area, keeping a keen eye out for Levi. When he saw his boyfriend approach, Erwin stood up and smiled – the closest they’d dare go to affection within school grounds.

“Feels like ages since I’ve seen you. How was lunch with Hange?”

“Nice. We had milkshakes and sandwiches.”

“Oh yeah, I’ve seen the milkshake bar before. It looks nice, we should go sometime.”

“Yeah, definitely. So tomorrow. I have a plan.” He couldn’t be bothered discussing his trip out with Hange, he wanted to talk about the important things and fast. His mind was still racing with the idea, and he wanted to make sure Erwin liked the sound of it before he went and got the whole day ready. Levi glanced around him in the corner of his eye, most of the kids had gone home now since you could leave straight after the last period.

“Oh, tell me.” Erwin smiled at him.

“In fact. I’ll keep it a surprise for you. Just be at my house for 10, you’re spending the day with me. If you want. Obviously.”

“I definitely do want. Do you need me to bring anything? I’m excited now. Can I have a clue?”

“Of course you can’t! I’m not giving anything away. I want it to be a surprise, now I’ve thought about it properly. But there is some stuff you’ll need to bring, if you don’t mind.” The two boys started walking out of the school as Levi listed off items that Erwin would need to bring for the pizzas. He also instructed the blonde to bring comfy clothing, because Erwin was prone to wearing the most ridiculous smart outfits even when out of school, and he’d be so fidgety if he wore one of those.

Levi was talking non-stop about what Erwin needed to have for tomorrow, giddy about it all. It was a rare occasion that Levi was the one that kept talking the whole way home, rather than Erwin. And Erwin enjoyed letting his boyfriend take the reins – it was different. Before they knew it, the sweet stop came into sight and Levi had made it home. Erwin leaned down and planted a soft kiss on Levi’s lips, before turning away and heading back home. The raven-haired boy watched his boyfriend turn back on himself, cutting through the park towards his direction of town.

When Erwin was out of sight, Levi walked upstairs to find the front door unlocked, his mum sat watching television with a cup of coffee on her knee. She looked relaxed, as though she’d not been out that day at all. An unusual sight, she’d usually be at work through the week.

“Oh, mum. Thought you was working?” He asked.

“Oh no, sweetie, I’ve got today off.” She replied, something sounding off with her voice. “You have a good day at school?”

“Yeah it was okay, thanks.” He hung his bag up on the back of the door and walked over to sit next to his mum.

They sat in silence, Levi sensing something was off, but not wanting to bring it up himself. So instead, he allowed himself to relax into the chair, watching the shitty show that his mum had on. She’d hadn’t even bothered to ask about his day, or school, like normal. It was a good twenty minutes before Kuchel finally shattered the silence, causing Levi to force his body upright.

 “Levi, why have you stopped taking your medication?”

“I haven’t.” He replied quickly, gulping. He didn’t need this conversation now; he was floating after thinking about tomorrow. He didn’t need to come down again.

“Then explain this.” Kuchel placed two tubes on the table, both prescriptions from two months ago still completely full.

“I’m feeling better now mum, I don’t want to take them anymore.”

“Levi I can’t just afford to spend all this money on the medication if you’re not even going to take it before it goes out of date. They’re there to help you; you said they were helping you.” Her voice cracked a bit, “Levi please explain why you’re not taking them.”

“I just said mum I’m better now. They made me feel funny. Anti-depressants made me feel numb and have no feelings, and anxiety tablets make me feel sick. I was fed up with feeling rubbish all day.”

She paused and looked right into Levi’s eyes, and he stared back. He was worrying: he hated it when his mum was like this. Suddenly, she started crying. Full blown sobbing. Levi didn’t know what to do. She never allowed herself to break down in front of her son like this, ever.

“Mum I’ll take them again if it’ll make you feel better, look please don’t cry. I’m sorry.” He moved from his chair to sit beside her properly, putting his arm around her to comfort him.

“Levi, I thought you was saving them up like last time. I thought it was going to be a repeat of last time.” She sobbed into his chest as he hugged her close.

“Shit I’m so sorry mum I didn’t even think.” Was all he could think to say. He can vividly remember what she was talking about: it had been the start of school when things were really bad. It was when he tried to take his own life but regretted it the second the pills were in his system. Flushing him out hurt, he ached for days after. He didn’t even tell anyone from school, just told them he had flu. He’d never try again, he swore he wouldn’t. But of course, Kuchel would worry, of course.

Kuchel straightened herself up and wiped her face, trying to act like none of the situation had just happened. “I’m sorry Levi, I just panicked. They were just tucked away like last time, I just assumed the worst. Especially when you asked if I was working tomorrow.”

“I’m the one that should be sorry. I only meant that because I want Erwin to come around. Sorry I scared you.”

They both sat there in silence for a bit, until Kuchel reached her hand over and gave her sons a squeeze. Trying to change the subject, she asked him about his plans for the day after. He told her about the pizza making, and the film and the sweets. She thought it sounded lovely, and before she headed off to bed £20 was posted in an envelope under Levi’s bedroom door with a note that said, “Enjoy”. Levi smiled to himself. He felt bad about the things he’s done in his life that worried his mum, but at the end of the day he was very happy to live there with her.

When she’d gone to bed, he walked into the living room and took the two tubes of medicine sitting on the table. Walking to the kitchen, he placed them in the medicine cupboard with a note that said “just in case” in his scruffy handwriting and pushed them right to the back. Hopefully that would stop Kuchel stressing so much. Least she’d be able to see where they were every day.

He showered and climbed into bed about midnight but was unable to sleep out of excitement for his first proper date with Erwin in just a mere ten hours. His mind was awake all night, dreaming up situations that could happen – and for once, all the situations were good.

                                    ***

The next morning, Kuchel came into the room to check on Levi before she left for work for the day. When she walked in at eight, Levi was still fast asleep curled up in his bed. Quietly, she walked over to the sleeping form. Usually Kuchel would just leave without popping in to see Levi, but after the awkward confrontation last night she wanted to say bye, as a way to clear the air.

“Morning sweetie pie, I’m off to work now.”

He grumbled.

“I’ll be home at 10 tonight. I’m covering someone else’s shift straight after mine. Have a nice day with Erwin.”

He grumbled again, barely moving to say bye to her. She stroked his hair off his forehead, planted a kiss, and left him alone. Levi heard the door lock behind her and dozed for a few more minutes. It felt so good to actually lay in after a proper night sleep – he wasn’t tired from lack of sleep, he was just savouring in all the sleep he could get. It was rare a night would go so smoothly for him.

When his alarm beeped 8:30, he rolled out of bed and stretched. Neatly, he made the bed behind him and lit a candle in his room. He didn’t want it to smell funny if Erwin was spending the entire day there. The thought of that kept getting him excited. But it was weird, Erwin has spent so many Saturday’s at the Ackerman’s house, it should be like normal for them. Levi couldn’t understand why he was nervous, other than the fact that it was their first full day in a relationship. A proper relationship.

Before he showered, Levi went around the flat and gave it a deep clean. He vacuumed, polished, disinfected. The entire bathroom was bleached – the entire flat smelt like cleaning product, the smell so strong the windows of the main room had to be opened, but Levi was left feeling happy at his work. He wanted it to be perfect: and perfect to Levi meant spotless. He could only truly relax when knowing his flat was cleaned deeply.

Checking the time, it had reached 9:30; he quickly dashed into the shower and cleaned off rapidly, neatening up his hair and brushing his teeth. Throwing on his favourite dark green jumper and jeans, he heard a knock at the door. His timing had been bad that morning, but at least he hadn’t needed to prepare any of the food. That was Erwin’s doing, bringing it all along for him. Much to Levi’s relief, his nerves were already jumpy. Levi’s heart was pounding. He felt so nervous. It was silly, Erwin had been over so many times before. He’s been going around on Saturday’s and Sunday’s for years now: he’s slept over practically every other weekend, so why was he so anxious?

Opening the door, the tall blonde stepped inside and took his shoes off right at the entrance.

“Good morning Levi, I brought food as requested.” He bent down to kiss Levi, and Levi reached up to kiss him back. The bag of food Erwin brought was put onto the floor.

“Wait don’t take your shoes off yet.” Levi instructed, lifting the bag of food off the floor and placing it on the side counter.

“Oh, why?” Erwin said, pausing half way through sliding a boot off. He always wore knee high black boots with his dark jeans and he always pulled them off so well. If anyone else was wearing something like that, no doubt people like Nile would pick on them. But Erwin was effortlessly cool, and handsome.

“We need to go to three shops. We can go now, or later. But we have the flat until about 10 tonight.”

Erwin slid his shoes back on, “well then, if we have all day it makes sense to go now so we can spend the rest of the day relaxing.”

Erwin placed his bag with his comfy clothes in under the coat stand, ready to get changed into it when he got home later. He bought his favourite tracksuit bottoms and a casual t-shirt, upon Levi’s request.

“Okay, good.” Levi spun on his heel and walked to his room, picking up his phone, keys, and the envelope with £20 in it. The candle was blown out and the windows at the back of the flat shut. He grabbed a small notebook left on the side of the kitchen sink, and slid is small, black ankle boots on.

“Is it cold?” Levi asked, hovering at the coat rack.

“No, not if you’re wearing your jumper. It’ll be fine.” Erwin smiled at him.

The two stepped outside and waited on the top step whilst Levi locked the door. He then triple checked the lock, pushed the window shut from the outside, and moved the plant slightly forwards to cover the door. He did it every time he had to lock up alone; just for safety measures. Erwin didn’t mind, but instead waited patiently for Levi to complete his routines. He was used to them by now.

“Ready?”

“Yep.”

They walked down the steps and Erwin took hold of the envelope in Levi’s hands.

“What’s this?” he asked, smiling at Levi.

“Mum gave me it. Just some money for today, that’s all.”

“Ah, does she know what you have planned for me?” Erwin was still smiling, a little bit of giddiness in his voice.

Levi blushed. “Yeah but it’s nothing that exciting, don’t get your hopes up too much.”

“If it’s with you, I’m sure it’ll be perfect.” Erwin announced, making Levi roll his eyes and cringe a little bit.

Levi led them to the shops at the bottom end of town where no one would know them. Kuchel worked in the café at the end of the street, so they stayed towards the top. It was a street that Erwin rarely visited, since it was a bit of a trek from his own house, but it was considered the main street for those who lived at Levi’s end of town. It had all the shops you could need.  Levi pulled out the notebook and a pen.

“First: the DVD shop.” He announced, looking at his squiggly writing on the paper, squinting slightly. Sometimes he couldn’t even read what he’d written himself, not understanding how teachers ever managed to mark his work. He might be amazing at art, but writing? Not so much.

“Any film preferences?” Erwin asked as they walked through the front door. Erwin assumed that he’d go straight for the horror section, since Levi seemed to enjoy things like that. However, he headed straight for the romance section, and picked the cheesiest looking film on the shelf.

“Oh, really? I didn’t think you’d like films like that.” Erwin said.

“Yeah well it’s our first proper date so something’s gotta be romantic.” Levi joked as he passed it to Erwin with the envelope hinting at him to go and pay for it. Levi shopped around here all the time because everything was so cheap; the last thing he wanted was to be embarrassed buying the DVD. Or recognised, even.

Erwin did as he was told and took the film to the counter, where he paid then put the change back in the envelope. He found Levi outside ticking the list, and then trying to read his writing again. He forgot to put his contacts back in the other day, and he couldn’t read great without them. His eyesight was fine until it came to reading.

“Okay, next we need the food shop.”

“More food? I already brought loads and left them at your flat. What more do you possibly need?”

“We need whatever is left on this list.” He passed the notebook to Erwin, “can you read it? I’ve forgot my glasses.” Face solemn and agitated. The last thing Levi wanted was to ask for help.

“Yeah, sure I can. But only if you put your glasses on later, they look good on you.” Erwin teased, but Levi ignored him. He was on a mission to complete all the shopping on his list, so they could get home faster. The two entered the shop and Erwin read out what was on the list as Levi filled his basket: flour, milk, cheese, tomatoes, puree, spinach, basil, microwave popcorn, non-alcoholic wine, mushrooms, and a tonne of other pizza toppings.

“What on earth are you planning to do with me, Levi?” Erwin joked as he led Levi to the till double checking everything on the list was ticked off. Levi dumped the basket down and made small talk with the cashier whilst Erwin ran off to pick something else up.

“That’ll be £15.99 please.”

“Yeah sure.”

Levi took the envelope back out of his pocket and took out all that he had in it. He was £2 short. He began to feel a bit sick and he began to panic; there was nothing more awkward than social interactions that would leave him humiliating himself for not having enough money. And he definitely didn’t want to put anything back, because then it wouldn’t be perfect. Not the way he properly wanted it, anyway. And he’d been up planning it until midnight the night before, so it had to be perfect.

He put his hand in his pocket and thankfully found the change from the cinema the other night that he had forgotten to take out and handed it to the cashier with an apology. She gave him the penny change and he took the carrier bags and walked out of the shop, waiting for Erwin to follow. He did a few minutes later.

“What did you go back for?”

“Oh, nothing important. Just needed to pick something up for my mum, she asked me to earlier and I just remembered.”

“Okay.” Levi said, struggling to carry the bags. Erwin took one from his hand for him.

“What was the last thing on your list then, Levi?” Erwin asked.

“Nothing. Can’t afford it. We’ll just make do.” Levi said, he felt guilty about spending all that money on a tonne of things they might not even use. I’ll make mum some pizza’s too, then least she has something out of her money.

“We’re not having that. Come on, tell me what it is.”

“It was only some sweets from the shop we live on top of, nothing important.” He mumbled, pretty gutted that he couldn’t complete his wish list. He wanted the sweets for a pudding, otherwise they only have a main course and nothing else.

“I have some change in my pocket, we’ll go buy something when we get back. We’re not missing out the yummiest part of the list!” Erwin said, proudly.

“Fine.” Levi said, grumpy that he was having to let Erwin pay for him when it was meant to be his day of saying thanks for everything he does for him. Levi was meant to be trying to make Erwin happy for once, not the other way round.

When they got to the flat, Levi ran upstairs with the bags to get the food put away whilst Erwin nipped into the sweet shop downstairs and picked some chewy sweets and two bars of chocolate before heading back up. He made sure to pick Levi’s favourites, as a treat, before letting himself in the door. The potent and strong scent of cleaning products hit his nose aggressively, much more than earlier since the windows weren’t open to freshen the flat. They didn’t have time to air properly.

“You cleaned, Levi?” he asked.

“Yeah, thought it might be nicer a bit cleaner.” He said, not looking as he put the vegetables into the fridge.

“It looks nice.” Said Erwin, glancing around and smiling. He knew Levi cleaned so much when he was feeling anxious but tried to ignore that fact. None of their personality traits or mental health issues would be brought up today, Erwin decided. It would be a day full of love and nothing more. Levi turned around and smiled, then walked up to Erwin and wrapped his arms around him.

“You weren’t meant to spend anything today. I wanted to treat you for once, dumbass.”

“1 bag of sweets is hardly spending much, Levi. Don’t worry.”

He huffed. Even one bag of sweets was more than he wanted Erwin to buy. But there was nothing he could do, and least they had something nice to eat whilst the film was on. Erwin then placed his fingers on Levi’s chin and titled it up, looking at him in the eyes. Slowly, lids fluttered shut and their lips met as they began kissing. Levi returned the kissing, standing onto his tip toes and wrapping his arms around Erwin’s neck.

Next thing Erwin had picked Levi up who wrapped his legs around his lovers’ hips for support, and the tall blonde carried both bodies over to the sofa where they continued kissing, becoming more passionate with each one. They continued like this for a while until Erwin attempted to pull Levi’s jumper over his head.

“No wait Erwin, you’re ruining my plan.” Levi said, trying to sound more irritated than nervous. He was having fun, but he didn’t want to rush things. Erwin continued kissing him, moving down to kiss his neck, not sensing that in his voice at all. He thought Levi was joking a little.

“No Erwin I mean it!” Levi said, half laughing. He pushed the taller man off him. “I have plans for today, we can’t just stop them.”

Erwin sat up and pulled his best doggy eyes, which luckily didn’t affect Levi in the slightest. He just stood up, ignoring a pouting Erwin and headed to the windows to shut all the curtains. He continued, making his way round the entire room before he disappeared into his mums’ bedroom.

Erwin flopped back on the sofa, defeated.I keep forgetting this is all new to Levi. How far has he actually even gone before?

Erwin slid his hand into the pocket of his jacket he still hadn’t taken off and felt the things he bought in the store. He sighed to himself, slipping his jacket off. Seconds later, Levi came plodding back into the room hidden by a tower of blankets and spare cushions. “Move” he shouted at Erwin, who immediately stood up and walked to hang his tan jacket on the coat stand.

Levi began to arrange the blankets and cushions on the floor in front of the sofa, moving the small coffee table to the left side of the cosy corner he’d just made. The raven-haired boy then went to the kitchen, put popcorn in the microwave and poured sweets into a bowl, carrying them all over to the coffee table. He set it up as neatly as he could, making it look like a Christmas snack table. He was already thinking they had too much food, but it was a special occasion and it would be fun, so he didn’t mind so much.

When the bell of the microwave sounded, the steaming popcorn was removed and emptied into a bowl too. 2 glasses were brought into the living room section alongside a bottle of Pepsi. Levi stood back and looked at his little display of nibbles, feeling proud and happy.

“Where’s the DVD, Erwin?”

“Oh erm,” he stuttered, just coming to the realisation he was stood in the doorway just watching Levi the entire time. “I think it’s still in my bag, I’ll get it out.”

“Well, go on then.” Levi said looking at his boyfriend with a puzzled expression. Erwin bent down and pulled the DVD out, handing the case to Levi who then loaded the disc into the player. Meanwhile, Erwin retrieved his comfier clothing from his bag and got changed in the bathroom, relieving himself ready for the film to begin. Levi had taken his jeans off too, by the time Erwin returned to the living area, and had swapped for some black sweat pants.

The boys took a seat at the end of their cushion den, backs leaning against the sofa, so they could sit up properly. Levi turned the small light off beside the coffee table, before pressing play on the television. Only 20 minutes into the film, it was totally ignored as was the food when the two decided they’d much rather just kiss instead.

They were both laid next to each other, snuggled up, kissing softly on the floor. It was just how Levi had planned it, just how he wanted it. The larger boys’ heavy arms wrapped over him, cuddling him as they shared intimate kisses. Levi appreciated how Erwin was being slower and more gentle than normal, rather than his eager kisses he seemed to enjoy so much. But still, they continued kissing until their lips felt sore and grew red. Upon noticing that, they just took to cuddling and nibbling away slowly at the popcorn.This is so much better than the cinema, Levi thought, pressing himself into Erwin a bit more.

“You alright Levi?” Erwin asked, just to check he was still awake, as he hadn’t grabbed any sweets in quite a while.

“Yeah, are you?” Levi asked. He was still a bit worried that Erwin wouldn’t enjoy today, despite the success it had been so far. He was worried that his previous dates with Marie might have been fancier, or that Erwin was expecting a fancy day out somewhere.

“Yeah I’m really good. But you could have picked a better film, this one is so boring. How long’s left?” Erwin laughed, his voice gentle and quiet as though they were both in bed together.

“You’ve hardly even watched it! I thought shit like this would be up your street. You always say crap like they say in the films.”

Erwin acted mock shocked, “and what is that supposed to mean exactly, Mr Ackerman?”

“You know” he wafted his arms around a bit, as if trying to grab the answer from somewhere, “cheesy shit.”

Erwin laughed and craned his neck to kiss Levi, “but you like it.”

“Mmm” Levi mumbled into the kiss, “maybe a bit.”

A little while later the popcorn was finished as was the film. The two boys sat together on the floor long after the end credits, just talking and joking around. It was like they always did on a Saturday, but just this time they were a lot closer and holding hands. Levi decided it was, so far, his most favourite Saturday he’d ever enjoyed.

The door knocked at around four causing Levi to startle.

“Who the fuck is that?” he said, groaning. “What time even is it?”

Erwin looked down at his watch, “almost four. Shall we just pretend we’re not in? The curtains are all shut anyway. And besides, I don’t want someone interrupting our fun.”

“Levi, I know you’re in there!” a muffled voice came through the door. For God’s sake, it’s Hange. Why are they here? They knew what I had planned for today.

Reluctantly Levi climbed out of Erwin’s hold and wandered over to the door, feeling cold immediately after. He opened the door a few inches to discover an excited looking Hange, and a rather fed up Petra. Levi grew irritated, knowing that Hange was aware of his plans for the day. So why the hell they thought it would be a good idea to call over, he’d never understand.

“Levi! How’s it going?! Me and Petra are on our way to that diner around the corner where your mum works, but I wanted to just see how you’re doing.” They winked at Levi. So subtle.

Seconds later Erwin appeared behind Levi at the door and pulled it open a little bit more so the two could see properly into the room.

“Oh, guys its dark in there! What are you up to?” Hange enquired, beaming at them both.

“Watching a movie. Bugger off.” Levi said rudely, turning his back on them and heading into his flat a bit more.

“Well enjoy, see you later boys!” Hange announced loud enough for Levi to hear too, before stepping down the stairs.

“Sorry Erwin, Hange was just so adamant that they had to see Levi today.” Petra apologised, before hopping off down the stairs after their partner and taking their hand. Erwin watched them both walk away before closing and locking the door.

“Bloody Hange always interrupting everything.” Levi headed back into the main room now wearing his glasses and heading to the kitchen, slowly pulling things out of the fridge and putting them onto the worktop. Levi got the bowls ready to put the ingredients into, trying to create as little mess as possible.

“They’re so nice though, probably just wanted to see how your date with me is going.” Erwin replied, then noticing the dark rimmed glasses on his lovers face, “Yay, you’ve put them on! I love you in glasses Levi, you look gorgeous.”

“Shut up.” Levi said, a slight blush forming on his cheeks. He stuck his head further into the fridge, trying to cool it off quickly before returning back to the worktop with the things he needed. By this point, Erwin had wandered around properly into the kitchen to see what Levi was up to, getting ready for the next part of their date together.

“Wash your hands, it’s time to cook.” Levi said, leading Erwin over to the sink where they both soaped up their hands, rinsed and dried them off.

“So, are you going to tell me what we’re actually cooking, chef?” Erwin smiled.

“We’re making pizzas. From scratch. I’m making yours; you make mine. And then make one for my mum too, otherwise we’ve definitely bought too many things.” He said, turning back around and digging out a piece of paper from Kuchel’s recipe book. She found him it specially last night, a simple pizza dough so they could follow the recipe and cook it easily.

“Well, what do you want on yours?” Erwin asked, a bit confused.

“No Erwin that’s the point. You’re meant to be able to guess what I’d want, and I’m meant to guess what you want. It’s more fun that way.” Levi said, a bit embarrassed now at the idea.

“Ah! I like it! Wish me luck.” Erwin smiled letting out a small chuckle as the two began making the dough together, and then kneading it together. Erwin kept trying to steal kisses from Levi in the process, but the dark-haired boy was way too occupied in cooking for any of that. He didn’t want to be distracted by his competition: he wanted to create the best pizza ever, and impress Erwin with it.

The dough was split into four bits and stretched out to make shapes. Two for Kuchel, and one for each of the boys.

“Right you need to go and write down what you’d want on a pizza, and me too. Then at the end we will see if we got each other’s right. It can only be ingredients we got!” Levi said, quickly jotting down a few things he wanted on his. Erwin did the same, and then they began to create. The whole time Erwin kept peeking up and smiling at Levi, enjoying the guessing of it all. He assumed he knew Levi well enough, he as glad of the choices he’d already made.

First Levi made Erwin’s, and the blonde watched him the entire time with a smile plastered on his face. Levi’s face was utter concentration: literally nothing could distract him when he was making something or just cooking in general. The tomato sauce lined the pizza base first, then cheese sprinkled on top. Levi then added sweetcorn, spinach, a sprinkle of basil. A handful of mushrooms landed on top, then another sprinkling of cheese – this time halloumi, that Levi instructed Erwin to bring. It looked like a professional pizza. Erwin raised his eyebrows, trying not to show how impressed he was.

“My turn then, chef” Erwin joked, grabbing a ball of dough.

He modelled it into a heart shape, before adding tomato sauce, a very thin layer of cheese so much it was barely there. Some basil coated the top, then chopped tomatoes were placed on top of that. A mushroom was cut up into several pieces and placed delicately around the top of the heart. Levi kept his face steady, not to show any hints at the ingredients Erwin was putting up.

Their pizzas were then put into the oven to cook for twenty minutes. Both kept looking up at each other and smiling – they had literally designed each other’s pizzas perfectly, apart from Levi wouldn’t usually opt for a heart shape. But he wasn’t going to complain. He found it sweet.

“Shall we finish making mums then?” Levi asked, as he started to knead the dough again and shape it into two perfect circles.

“Sounds good. What shall we put on it?” Erwin asked, watching his boyfriend.

“Make one with sauce, cheese, basil and mushroom. The other with sauce, cheese, spinach and tomatoes. But use that nice, posh cheese you got that you like.”

Erwin laughed, “It’s definitely not posh cheese.”

“It’s posh cheese when you’re used to supermarket own cheddar” Levi replied, smiling a bit and looking at Erwin. Erwin nodded in agreement, that was true.

Erwin announced he needed to slip to the bathroom, and whilst he did so, Levi cleared the spare ingredients into the fridge quickly, before laying a red table cloth over the dining table, setting it, ready for them to enjoy their meal together. A white runner was placed over the cloth, followed by two wine glasses in the centre with the non-alcoholic wine poured into both. A plate of home-made garlic bread was reheated in the microwave quickly, before been placed in the centre of their table.

Levi stood back and admired the table, before suddenly feeling like it was too much. But Erwin stepped out of the bathroom just before Levi could take anything off or do anything about it.

“Is this for us?” Erwin asked, a beaming grin on his face. He looked utterly overwhelmed at it, assuming that Levi would never pull of something as romantic as this. It was so unlike Levi, or at least, what Erwin assumed Levi’s character would be like in a relationship.

“Yeah it’s a bit too much, though.” Levi said, glancing down hiding his embarrassment.

“I love it, Levi. This is the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me.”

Levi rolled his eyes at Erwin, secretly very happy about that. They both wandered to the kitchen and peeked into the oven. Agreeing the pizzas had finished cooking, it was time for Levi’s next step.

“Okay go sit down.” Levi sent Erwin away, and quietly followed behind him wrapping a thin piece of material over his eyes. Erwin jumped at first, but then got excited and began to smile.

“Tell me what you’d want on it.” Levi said, feeling like everything was a bit too much. But Erwin seemed very happy about what was going on, so he wasn’t exactly going to stop now. Levi knew that Erwin liked playing games, anyway. And this was just a game, so surely Erwin was having fun.

“I wanted halloumi, of course, with spinach, sweetcorn, mushrooms, and basil.”

“Bullshit.” Levi replied, realising that Erwin just saw what Levi had put on it earlier, which was totally against the rules of the game anyway, “I’m serious Erwin, tell me your dream pizza.”

“No, Levi, that’s exactly it. There’s nothing else. Look, check that notepad I wrote in earlier – that what I asked for.”

He checked, and it was true: it was exactly the dish that Erwin had asked for, and Levi was feeling very proud as he placed the hot pizza on the plate in front of Erwin: he’d got it exactly right. Erwin peeled the tie from his eyes and peeked down onto his pizza, heart filling with warmth at the thought of how well his boyfriend knew him.

“That looks perfect Levi.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve known you for almost 10 years I’d have been a pretty shitty friend if I couldn’t have guessed. Especially since you’re so predictable.” Levi laughed and sat down opposite Erwin.

“My turn!” Erwin stood up, the grin still plastered on his face. He walked up to Levi and began to wrap the blindfold over his eyes. Suddenly a pang of panic shot into Levi.

“Shit no stop Erwin” he interrupted, not realising how much it would bother him, “sorry, I’ll just close my eyes!” He shouted out, ducking as far away from the thing piece of material as he could. Erwin seemed a bit taken aback and took a small step away from his boyfriend.

“That’s fine, Levi. I didn’t mean to startle you.” Erwin’s voice sounded a little broken, and sad. Levi instantly felt guilty.

“Sorry just- sorry.” Was all Levi said, looking down at his empty plate.

“It’s okay, you don’t need to apologise. Now, let me go and get your pizza from the oven.” He raised his voice in an upbeat manner, trying to calm Levi. He hadn’t realised something would bother him like that, but Erwin made a mental note to never do surprises with blindfolds in the future.

Shit. Breathe in slowly, breathe out slowly. I do not want to ruin this day with a silly panic attack.

Levi did as his brain told him to, and slowly went back to his normal self just in time to close his eyes as Erwin put the steaming food onto the plate in front of him.

“Your dream pizza has arrived, sir” Erwin joked.

“It’s only my dream if it has a very small bit of cheese on it. If it has 5 small tomatoes chopped up and put in place, and 7 pieces of mushroom.” Levi announced, eyes still shut and a smile in his voice.

Quickly Erwin reached onto the pizza and pulled 1 piece of mushroom off leaving it with 7 neatly placed mushrooms. Perfect.

“Open up then, Levi!”

He did as he was told. The pizza was perfect, again. And it smelt amazing – the heart had become a bit distorted in the oven, but it was clearly still there. And Erwin had made a shape with the vegetables on the pizza. He’d made them into an “E”.

“E for Erwin, I assume?” Levi laughed.

“Yeah! An extra special touch by me.” The blonde bent down and gave Levi a quick kiss before settling into his dinner the other.

They both ate in silence for a while, savouring the taste of a home cooked pizza.

“This has been so much fun, Levi. We definitely have to cook together more.”

“Yeah.” Levi said, taking another bite. He felt so relieved his plan worked out so well for today. It genuinely was the perfect first date, and they still had five hours until it was all over. He couldn’t have asked for it to go any better than it already was.

“So, after dinner, what do you have planned for us Levi?”

The smaller boy gulped and looked down into his drink. He had planned to eat dinner slightly later, and then just snuggle with Erwin in bed. But he felt like Erwin wanted something a bit more than that. He wasn’t sure he was ready yet – it had only been a week, and yeah, they’ve known each other for years, but Levi still wasn’t sure about what to do.

Quietly, ignoring Erwin’s question completely, Levi decided to go and try find the whole truth about Erwin’s love life, so he could feel more confident in himself. He needed to know, especially to decide what was going to happen later, he guessed. He just wanted Erwin to understand how Levi hadn’t done anything, at all. He assumed Erwin would know, but for himself, he wanted to make it extremely clear.

“How far have you gone?” He asked, startling Erwin. It left him confused.

“How far have I gone? Well, I’ve been to Greece before that was pretty far away from here-”

“No, you know what I mean.”

Then Erwin understood, “oh, how far have I gone in a relationship?”

Levi cringed at the thought, a weird pang of jealously sparking in his heart. He remembered how much he hated Lucy all them years ago and wasn’t sure how he’d deal with hearing about things that were more serious. But he needed to know. “Yeah.”

Erwin suddenly fell quiet, putting his knife and fork down neatly on his plate. He was thinking intently, trying to find the best way to word what he’s actually done.

“Me and Marie slept together, when we were together last year.” He said, not looking up to make eye contact with Levi.

“Oh.” Was all Levi could think to say – he definitely didn’t feel more confident in himself, in fact his confidence was shattered. How was he meant to live up to Erwin’s expectations? He could compare Levi to her. Plus, what if it was better with a girl? And Marie. Gorgeous, lovely Marie that everyone loves.

“It means nothing to me now. I wasn’t her first, she’d seen another guy before me.”

“But she was yours” Levi added, as if finishing his boyfriends’ sentence.

“Does it bother you, Levi? I promise it means nothing now.”

“No.” Levi said, trying to cover his actual feelings. Of course he was bothered, he just wished that he admitted his feelings to Erwin ages ago so he could have been his first, or both their firsts. Then it would be more special, and they could share the moment together. And now, when they got down to it, Erwin would be comparing it to his past lovers.

“What about you, Levi? How far have you gone?” Erwin asked, voice a tad shaky.

“I’ve kissed.” Levi said, taking another sip of his drink, this time looking up to Erwin, their eyes meeting. “I’ve only kissed you, Erwin.” Levi said, then gave him a weak smile.

Erwin grinned back at him, and the tension was suddenly lifted from the table.

“Well, that makes me feel very special, Levi. I’m glad I could be the first person you’ve kissed.”

Erwin took his last mouthful of pizza and finished his drink, before standing up and clearing the table. Levi let him as he sat there finishing his non-alcoholic wine. Whilst Erwin’s back was turned into the kitchen, Levi decided to finish the conversation whilst he felt a bit of confidence swell inside him.

“Erwin, I don’t want to go further than kissing.” Levi said. “Not today anyway.”

“That’s fine Levi, we’ll take this at whatever pace you want to. I’m just happy to be with you, I don’t need to do things like that with you to make me happy.” Erwin looked back on his boyfriend and smiled. He meant that. He only wanted Levi to be happy, and even if that was just hand-holding, he’d be happy with that. He’d waited too long for this day to happen.

Feeling relieved, Levi stood from the table and carried the dishes towards the sink, washing them thoroughly whilst Erwin dried up. The counters were wiped, Kuchel’s pizzas placed neatly in the fridge, and the table throws were both folded and cleared away neatly. Once Levi was happy with the tidy room, he took Erwin’s hand and pulled him towards the bedroom, laying down beside him on the bed and cuddling him, tightly. Erwin placed gentle kisses along Levi’s forehead, dotted on his fingers, softly on the corner of his mouth.

It developed further, both boys barely able to keep their hands from one another. They kissed passionately for a while, before becoming tired and deciding to drift off and have a nap. But both fell asleep with a small smile on their face, curled up into each other’s arms. Levi felt relieved that he wasn’t going to have to rush anything in their relationship: he wanted to take things slow and steady, unlike everyone else in his year. He was pretty sure his mum would have been happy about that too if he told her, not that he’d ever discuss his sex life with his mum. But he knew that’s the kind of conversation she’d try have soon, much to his dismay.

A few hours later the front door sounded and Kuchel walked in, carrying some left-over food from the diner. Blankets were still huddled on the floor, and a note was placed on the work top with a note about her pizzas in the fridge. She opened the fridge door and looked at both pizzas, signed lovingly by their chefs.

“For Kuchel, love Erwin.”

“Mum X”

She looked at them and smiled, putting the oven on ready to enjoy one of the pizzas. Whilst it was preheating, Kuchel shouted into the empty flat, not wanting to disturb the boys should they be in private. “Boys, are you still both here? I’ll run Erwin home now!” Kuchel called, knocking on Levi’s bedroom door.

Erwin sat up first, causing Levi to sit up immediately next to him. They started to neaten their hair out quickly, trying to make what they were doing appear innocent. And it was definitely innocent, but it wouldn’t look that way to someone’s mum, especially considering their age.

“Yeah we’ll be two minutes mum.” Levi shouted, trying to make his voice sound as normal as he could. He was fully aware he sounded groggy from the sleep, though. There was no way he could stop that.

“Okay.” Kuchel replied, walking back to the kitchen. She began to put the food from the diner into the fridge as the boys emerged from the bedroom.

“Good day, you two?”

“It was perfect thank you, Miss Ackerman.” Erwin fully composed himself; he looked like he’d never been asleep or kissing in bed all evening. The same couldn’t really be said about Erwin.

“Lovely. I’m glad you both enjoyed your day together.” She smiled, looking directly at her son checking he was okay.

“And you, Levi? Are you okay? Have fun?”

“Yeah great, thanks mum.” He said, smiling. She instantly knew that he was telling the truth, he had that subtle grin turned up on the side of his mouth. His glasses were covering his sleeping eyes.

“Are you about ready to go, Erwin?”

“Only if you don’t mind driving me home. I can walk, its fine.”

“You’re not walking at this time, honestly. Go get your stuff together.” Kuchel shook her head.

“Thank you.” He said, returning back to Levi’s room to get his clothes together to swap out of his comfy clothing. Levi followed behind him and shut the door as he walked in.

“I wish you didn’t have to go.” Levi whispered.

“We can do something tomorrow if you’d like?” He kissed his cheek.

“Yeah.” Levi said, voice still half asleep. He leant up to kiss Erwin back.

Quickly, he got changed back into his jeans and shirt, giving Levi one more passionate kiss before heading out of the room. He walked to the coat rack and put his jacket back on, followed by his boots. Reaching into the pocket, Erwin felt what he bought earlier. He felt bad about buying them in the first place now he’d spoken to Levi about it all. But he’s so glad that they were waiting for a special moment together, not rushing anything.

“Levi, are you coming in the car?” Kuchel asked.

“I’m really tired.” He moaned.

“Get yourself to bed, I’ll be home in 20 minutes. Come on Erwin, off you pop.”

“Bye Levi. Thank you so much for today, it was wonderful.” Erwin smiled at him one more time before heading out the front door. Kuchel followed.

The second he left Levi started to tidy the room up, folding up blankets neatly and putting them back into the storage cupboard. The room was almost as clean and tidy as it was that morning when Erwin first got there.

Happy with it, Levi showered and climbed into bed, drifting off straight away. He only slightly awoke later as he heard Kuchel arrive home.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks flew by. Erwin and Levi were enjoying their company most nights after school and all weekend. Nile hadn’t made any further moves towards Levi and seemed to be avoiding him around school, much to Levi’s confusion and delight. He decided that he finally managed to scare him off that day in September, which Nile deserved anyway, so Levi didn’t care. Overall, things were pretty good for once.

Despite the fact they’d been dating for a while now, Levi had only been round to Erwin’s house twice: the rest of the time they stayed at Levi’s whilst Kuchel was at work. This wasn’t only due to Mr Smith, but also because Erwin still hadn’t told his parents about his relationship with Levi, and he didn’t want them to grow suspicious if Levi was constantly at their house. He’d not even found the courage to tell them he likes boys and girls yet, either. But Levi was fine with it: he’d forced him to keep their relationship a secret from their friends, so Levi couldn’t moan that he hadn’t told his family.

Despite how amazing everything was going for Levi; his mental health was struggling. But it always did at this time of year, no matter what. He felt panicked, and his anxiety was terrible almost all days of the week. But he kept quiet about it, and honestly, no one would ever be able to tell unless they knew what he was like all the time. Everyone was too engrossed in their own lives to notice much, and Levi was thankful of that. He didn’t mind, he was dealing okay. For him, anyway.

The following Tuesday at school, they all had a long lunch break for revision before the mocks and decided to go to the Milkshake Bar that Hange had taken Levi to just a month ago. Everyone was invited apart from Marie and Nile, obviously. By this point, they’d almost been written out of their friendship group, much to Levi’s joy. It was nice to just be with friends he felt comfortable with, and now Nanaba had joined them, there wasn’t really room to allow them back in either.

Levi took a seat at the table along with Petra and Hange, waiting for Erwin to bring his food back to the table. Erwin said it was his treat, and Levi enjoyed it here so much last time he wasn’t going to refuse that offer. Catching the one rare moment Erwin wasn’t sat beside Levi, Mike took the opportunity to approach the smaller of the two.

“What’s your plan for Erwin’s birthday this year?”

Levi had plans for it, but just for him and Erwin. It was going to be his 18th, so quite a big one. He wanted to make it extra special – but in planning, he forgot about the tradition of Mike, himself, Erwin, and Nile spending the day together. His birthday was only a week away, on October 14th. He definitely wouldn’t be following traditions this year, anyway. Not if Nile was there. Now there were new people in their friendship group, he assumed they’d all do something instead.

“Um, I thought you might have planned it. The three of us, obviously not Nile, take Erwin bowling and for some food.”

Mike laughed, “Levi, it’s his 18th. I thought you’d have planned something ace. You two have been best friends for years, this is the sort of stuff you plan in advance.”

“Yeah, well, I’m shit at planning stuff.” Levi frowned.

“That’s not true, Levi!” Hange called from opposite the table, before he glared at them hinting to shut up. They had forgotten that Mike and Nanaba didn’t know about him and Levi yet. “That Saturday you planned for Erwin seemed to be go very well.”

Levi put his hand in front of his face, rubbing at his eyes. “Shut the fuck up Hange.”

“What’s going on, guys?” Erwin asked as he placed two milkshakes down and two sandwiches, flopping his large body next to Levi. Mike shuffled down a bit, as did Levi, so Erwin could squish onto the booth a little easier.

“We were just on about that Saturday Levi planned last month and that it was good, obviously because I gave him some advice to plan it.” Hange then winked at Levi, before they finally looked at Petra who was also glaring at them to shut up.

“For fucks sake Hange, can’t you keep a fucking secret?” Levi asked, fed up.

“Wait, what’s all this about? Let me in, guys.” Mike said, actually feeling a bit left out. He’d known Levi and Erwin the longest, so what were they keeping hidden from him?

Erwin looked at Levi for approval. “Well you might as well tell them, Hange hasn’t exactly kept it quiet.” He shot daggers at them.

“Levi planned a nice day together about a month ago. We made pizzas, watched films-”

“I don’t care about the Saturday, Smith. Tell me about you.” Mike rested his chin in his hand as he leant closer to Levi, examining his face. Levi tried to pull away from him slightly.

“Levi and I have been dating for just over a month now. Since the day after the cinema.”

Nanaba came and sat beside Petra on the opposite side of the booth, handing the milkshake and toastie to Mike as she did so.

“But we’re keeping it a secret so people like fucking Nile and his slag Marie don’t find out. So, don’t either of you dare breathe a word to anyone.” He looked at Mike, then Nanaba, then back to Mike, before picking up his milkshake and taking a sip.

“Well, I’m glad for you both. And we promise we won’t tell anyone, right Nanaba?”

“Yep. Pinkie promise and hope to die.”

“Thanks guys.” Levi muttered, forever thankful to have such kind, and understanding friends surrounding him. He was also relieved that Mike hardly even cared and wasn’t upset about the fact they hadn’t told him before that point. Mike meant a lot to Levi and Erwin, but they tried to keep it quiet. Plus, they hardly knew Nanaba at that point and couldn’t risk it with her.

The six of them started to tuck into their lunches, filling the room with conversation and laughter. This was the most comfortable Levi had ever felt with a group of people so large. Before, he’d only feel happy around Farlan and Isabel, but when he lost them, only Kuchel or Erwin. Now he had an additional four friends that he liked and trusted. Being with Erwin was helping him so much, in so many ways he couldn’t begin to imagine. In ways that Erwin could never truly understand. But it had been three weeks since he’d last had a nightmare about Farlan and Isabelle, or Kenny. That was the longest he’d ever gone without seeing them plaguing his sleep.

“So, Erwin, have you got any plans for your 18thnext weekend?” Petra asked.

“My mum and dad want me to have the traditional ‘another Smith has made a special birthday’ party. My sister and her husband are meant to be coming back over for it which will be nice. You’ll all be invited. It’s going to be Friday night, I think.”

“That sounds lovely, Erwin.” Petra said smiling.

“It’s usually okay. We’ll all have to dress super smart, though. It’s that kind of do. You know what my parents are all like.” Erwin stated, slightly rolling his eyes at the thought of it.

Mike coughed, loudly. “What about with your old buddies, Smith? Want to do something separate with us?”

“Possibly so, Mike. I’m busy on my actual birthday, but we could do something on the Sunday if you’d like? How about a trip to the seaside?”

He felt Levi grimace in the seat next to him. Levi hated going to the seaside – sand got everywhere, in his shoes, hair, eyes. There was always screaming children and dogs running around. It felt mucky to Levi. But if Erwin’s heart so desired, he’d go. Thankfully though, Erwin sensed his discomfort beside him and decided against it.

“Or in fact, it would be nice to stay in town. What about something nice like laser tag? Or even just a gathering at my house? I’m sure my mum and dad won’t mind.”

“Yours. That’s the best idea.” Levi said quiet enough for only Erwin to hear.

“That’s what I’d like then, guys. A small gathering at my house. Just us six, no one else. And you can all stop over after since we have the half term break that week.”

“Sounds great!” Nanaba announced as the rest finished up their food. Checking the time, the six friends got their bags together and headed back off for the last two lessons of the day at school. Everyone was talking about what they were going to do at Erwin’s party the following Sunday.

As Levi and Erwin stood up, he whispered to him, “You still want to spend your birthday with me?”

“Of course, I do, Levi. It’s the only thing I’m actually looking forward to next week.” Erwin squeezed his hand subtly and they walked out of the door, catching up with everyone.

                                    ***

“Mum, its Erwin’s birthday next Saturday.” Levi announced as he walked into the living area to sit with Kuchel. He had a cup of tea and a packet of crisps, a usual and familiar after-school snack for him.

“Oh yes of course it is, that crept round quickly didn’t it! What are your plans? Isn’t it his 18th?” Kuchel looked up from the book she was reading and smiled at her son.

Levi took a sip of his drink, then placed it on the side and opened his crisp packet. “Yeah it’s his 18th. He’s coming round on his actual birthday. He thinks I’m cooking him a meal.”

“But you want to take him out somewhere nice?” Kuchel asked, finishing his sentence. She knew her son very well, and over the years she’d gotten to know Erwin very well. He was a big fan of posh restaurants and being able to get dressed up to go. “Levi, money has been so tight this month sweetie. I can barely afford food for the two of us, never mind expensive places and posh presents too. I’m sorry.” She looked down, clearly upset she can’t provide her son what he needs.

“Mum please this is really important.” Levi begged, “I promise I won’t ask for more money after his birthday. Please.”

“Levi, you’ve been borrowing about £20 every weekend for a month – I can’t afford to keep doing that. The answer is no.”

“Please mum. What if I come work with you on a Saturday for a few weeks?”

Kuchel sighed, she didn’t really want Levi to work at the café with her. The diner always got extremely dirty and smelt terrible, and she knew it would trigger his anxiety with it being so mucky. He’d end up just scrubbing the place down so much that his skin would be red raw, and plus, she didn’t want her son having to work when all his friends didn’t have to. That’s not how she intended to bring him up.

“I’m sorry Levi, just cook him food here. I’m sure he’ll like that.”

“It’s his 18th! Not some stupid, pointless day! Mum please!” Levi’s voice was cracking. He was sounding so needy it made him cringe just thinking about it. But he was desperate, he had it all planned. He wanted to spoil Erwin properly, treat him well. Erwin was always buying presents or days out or food for Levi, he had to repay the favour.

“Levi, no. Not this time.”

“That’s a fucking joke!” Levi stood up, angrily, and walked to his bedroom slamming the door shut behind him. “For sucks sake!” he kicked at the door, hurting his foot in the process. Turning back, he knocked his chair over and broke the handle off his drawers.

Levi threw his body on the edge of the bed and wrapped his hands around the back of his neck, tilting his head forward. He knew he was being unfair on his mother, but he just wanted to give Erwin the best birthday he could have. He’d only been asking for money to spend on Erwin’s presents – he’d not spent any money on himself.

After the anger subsidised a bit, he stood up from the bed and picked his chair back up. Reaching under his bed, he pulled out an old shoe box and a few carrier bags containing all Erwin’s presents: his favourite film, his favourite chocolate bar, a game they used to play together as kids. He’d spent most of the money on a new bolo tie for Erwin. He had one when they were kids with a red stone but lost it when they were in middle school. Levi was shopping the other week and found it in an antique store. It had a deep green coloured stone in the centre which glistened. It cost Levi £60, but it was perfect. It was the exact kind of gift he wanted to give Erwin on such a special day.

He got Erwin a new shirt as well, that he was supposed to wear for when they go out for food on his birthday, but it seemed like that wasn’t going to happen. The more he thought about it, the more upset he got.

Fucking shit. Why can’t we get money easy like the rest of my friends?

It was the first time he was ever bothered about the fact they weren’t well off like everyone else in his friendship group. Pulling his phone out of his bag, he laid back down and rang Hange. He knew he sounded spoilt, he knew he sounded childlike and petty. But it was one thing, just one.

They picked up after two rings.

“Levi, everything okay?”

“No.” He said back, bluntly.

“Ah right, okay. Do you want to come around to mine? It’s just me and my parents in, they won’t mind.”

“Yeah.” He said, “Be 10 minutes.”

With that he ended the call. Usually he’d go to Erwin’s or Mike’s, but they wouldn’t understand like Hange would. As annoying and frustrating as they were, they always properly understood Levi. He stood up quickly and got his phone and coat, before heading out the door not saying bye to Kuchel. He was pissed, and he needed to get out of that flat, get some air, and breathe. He’d calm down soon, we were sure. Then he’d regret how he spoke to his mum and spend the entire week feeling guilty. But that didn’t stop him storming his way to Hange’s house.

As he said on the phone, he arrived at Hange’s front door 10 minutes later.

“Levi, come in. We’ll go to my room.” They said.

Levi did as he was told after neatly putting his boots against the wall so not to spread dirt all over the house. His breathing was staggered, and he seemed pretty upset. Once they were in the safety of Hange’s bedroom and the door was shut, they turned to Levi and asked what was wrong. Even saying it, he felt shallow and petty.

“Mum won’t let me borrow some money to take Erwin out. Or let me work to earn it. What the fuck can I do?”

“Oh Levi, I know you really want to treat Erwin, but do you have to take him out for food, why not cook again? That’s worked wonderfully the last few Saturday’s.”

“Exactly that’s the point. Next week is different, it’s his 18th. It’s gotta be something good not a shit home cooked tea.” He scowled, his breathing still not great. Hange recognised this straight away.

“Levi there’s no need to panic, we can figure something out to do for his birthday. Don’t panic, it’ll be fine.” Their voice was soothing, but not enough for Levi.

“You don’t get it, Hange. All his presents were planned around this day, everything. He’d cancelled his plans with his family, just so I can take him out. Now I’m going to ruin his 18thbirthday, and my mum can’t help and she’s going to be so pissed at me.”

He called “shit” out a few times before curling up in on himself. Shit I’ve fucked this up. My mum hates me. Erwin hates me. Kenny was right. I’m worthless, useless. It should have been me in that house, not Isabel, not Farlan. It’s all my fault. Shit. Shit. My heart’s beating so quick, I’m going to fucking die.

Hange’s voice echoed around the room strongly: “Breathe in, Levi. Yeah, perfect. Now breathe out. Keep doing it. Think about something nice, like the milkshakes today. Keep doing it, keep breathing.”

After about ten minutes the panic exited the small body and Levi returned back to his normal self, but more introverted than usual. He sat on the floor now, knees curled tightly into his chest. “So fucking embarrassing.” Was all he kept saying, and Hange kept trying to explain to him that it was the least embarrassing thing ever, but he wasn’t having any of it.

A few seconds later there was a knock at the door.

“Hange, darling, is there someone in there with you?” A very friendly male voiced echoed through the wood.

“Yeah, Levi’s here. He’s just come round for some advice about a friend’s birthday present.”

“Oh. Um, well I see.” The friendly voice replied as the door slowly opened. “Hello, Levi. I’m Hange’s father – a pleasure to meet you.”

“Oh, hi. You too.” Levi replied. Their dad was very formal for just a casual friend coming around on a school night. It’s not like it was dodgy or anything. Levi managed to straighten himself out enough to smile over at the man in the doorframe, wanting to look nice and not at all inappropriate. He’d heard about Hange’s strict parents before.

“God dad don’t worry Levi’s gay.” Hange laughed out loudly with a slight snort. “And besides I’m with Petra.”

“Oh, well I see. As you were.” And the friendly man strutted out of the door, shutting it behind them again, awkwardly.

Levi smiled at his friend, “did he think we were trying to get together?”

“Yeah probably. I don’t think he likes the fact I’m with Petra.” Hange laughed again. “Just ignore him; he does it whenever there’s a man in my room, which believe me, is not very often. Although I seem to have become somewhat a counsellor to you, Erwin, and Mike these past few weeks.”

“Erwin?” Levi asked, eyes wide.

“You’re not the only one who needs relationship advice, Levi. Anyway, back to the situation, what restaurant was it you wanted to take Erwin to?” Levi frowned, trying to think about why Erwin would need help from Hange about their relationship. He’d done this before, he was perfect, he knew exactly what he was doing. Surely Erwin of all people didn’t possibly need help.

“That nice Italian up at his end of town, near the French bakery. He points it out every time we walk past it.”

“Oh my god, Levi. Why didn’t you say sooner?! Our next-door neighbour works there, I’m sure they’d be able to discount it for you subtly, so Erwin wouldn’t know! I can just ask them!”

“No, Hange. I want to look good for once, to pay for it all myself.”

Hange nodded, thinking face showing. “Can you give me a few days to try and plan it out a bit? I will think of a solution to this. I promise Levi.”

Levi put his hands in the air in a surrendering way, “fine, fine, but please be quick about it. I need to write down my plan fully. It’s got to be perfect.”

Levi stood up, grabbing his jacket ready to head home.

“Hey, Hange. Thanks for tonight.” Levi said, turning back and smiling at his friend. He hadn’t been around someone when he had a panic attack in weeks, but Hange really helped him this evening. He felt a lot more relaxed after than he usually does.

“I’m always here for you, Levi. Don’t tell anyone, but you’re my favourite friend. After Petra. Obviously.”

Levi smiled and laughed a bit, “you too, shitgoggles.”

He headed out of the door and walked home slowly ready to give Kuchel a huge apology for his actions. He was still annoyed about the money, but definitely felt terrible about talking to his own mum like that. Especially when he had time to properly think about it on the way home. All his mind wandered to is how much his mum worked for him, and all the money she spent on his medication that he hardly took, or the money she kept lending him to go out with all his friends. He was been indecent, and he knew it.

When he walked through the door at just past ten, Kuchel was still sat on the sofa. The TV was off, and she was rubbing her forehead with two fingers, holding a cup in her other hand. The home phone was laid next to her.

Levi walked up and perched awkwardly on the corner of the sofa, looking over at his mum. She looked tired, he never noticed before, but really tired. She was working 6 days a week, sometimes for more than twelve hours at a time, and he had the cheek to have a go at her about it?

“Mum. I’m sorry.” Levi whispered quietly, looking down. He felt bad, really bad.

“No Levi, you don’t need to apologise. I’m the one who should be saying sorry. Erwin’s your first partner, it’s his big birthday. I should have remembered and saved up a bit for you.”

“I should just get a job, mum.” Levi muttered. “It’s not your job to pay for my boyfriend.”

“No. Do any of your other friends have to work for their own money? I don’t want you to be left out again. I don’t want your teenage years to be taken away because of me, the same your childhood years were.”

“Mum my childhood years weren’t that bad. Izzie and Farlan, they were great.”

She sighed. He knew the years were that bad; they were horrendous. His mum was in rehab trying to get over her husband leaving, Kenny used Levi to help him commit petty crimes like theft. He got him involved in fighting at a young age. He hit him. Levi’s first friends had both died for the sake of money. Levi’s childhood was awful. But he didn’t want that guilt to solely be placed on his mum. If anything, it was all Kenny’s fault. If Kenny had just behaved like a normal uncle, then maybe Levi would still have his best friends. Maybe he wouldn’t suffer so much. Maybe Kuchel wouldn’t have to work so much.

“Look. I’ll give you some money towards Erwin’s meal, but I can’t afford to be like this next month. Especially with your birthday and Christmas coming up, we’re going to have to make a lot of cut backs.”

“I don’t want anything.” Levi said. He hated his birthday; he didn’t like people spending stuff on him, and he definitely didn’t like the attention. Kuchel was clearly having none of that though. She’d had this battle for years, and now would just ignore Levi’s silly comments like that whenever they talked about it.

Kuchel pulled out a tin from the bookshelf and opened it up. Inside was savings she’d built up for a rainy day. Taking out £40, she handed it to Levi.

“You and Erwin deserve something happy, after all this time.” Levi grabbed the money off her.

“You sure that’s okay mum?”

“Will it make you happy?”

Levi nodded, eyes watering a bit.

“Then yes, I am definitely sure it’s okay. Now can I have a hug, Levi?”

He put the money neatly on the coffee table and went to lay his head in his mothers’ lap. She stroked the black hair off his forehead gently, the way she did when he was younger and was having a nightmare. After a bit of sitting in silence, Levi decided he should explain to her where all the money she’d given him had gone. He didn’t want her to think he’d been throwing it away on pointless things like food out or trips around the town, he’d put it to good use.

“Mum I haven’t been wasting that money you gave me.”

“Hm? Where’s it gone if you’ve not wasted it?” She looked down at her son, puzzled.

“I’ve been buying some smaller presents for Erwin too.”

“Ah, I see. Well I’m glad it hasn’t just gone on cinema tickets and sweets.” She smiled, “can I see what you’ve got him?”

Levi pulled his head from his mum’s lap and looked at her.

“Yeah, if you want.” He stood up, and she followed him into his bedroom that was clean and tidy as it always was. He sat at the bottom of his bed, pulling out all the gifts he’d bought Erwin and tucked away. She carefully sifted through the gifts, noting how neatly Levi had stored them all. Her eyes dropped onto the jewellery box then, lifting it out carefully. When Kuchel took the bolo tie her eyes shined at the beauty of it.

“Levi this is beautiful. Where did you find it?”

“That antique shop near your work. Though it’s the sort of weird shit Erwin might like.”

She laughed, “Language! But yes. You’re right, he definitely would like this. Didn’t he used to have one like this when he was younger? I swear he used it whenever he felt nervous or something. I remember him crying at me when he lost it at school.” She smiled, closing the lid on the box the bolo tie came in and handing it back to her son.

“Yeah, he did. That’s why I had to get him this, a new replacement one.” Levi explained, taking the box gently away from his mothers’ grasp.

“I can see you spent the money well, Levi. Erwin’s 18thwill definitely be special. I also bought him a few bits. When I was sorting out the spare cupboard the other day, I found an old photo of you two when you were about ten playing in a paddling pool in front of the sweet shop. You looked so grumpy in it, just staring at Erwin, who in the photo is mid jump with a huge smile on his face. I framed that for him. I also bought him some chocolates – 18 little truffles. I know it’s not much, but it’s the thought that counts.”

“He’ll like that, mum.” Levi remembers the paddling pool they were talking about. It was one that Kuchel picked up from a charity shop when it was really warm one summer. By the end of it, Erwin, Mike, Nile, and Levi had practically crushed the entire thing by sitting in it every day and night.

“Well I better head off to bed. Sleep well, Levi. Please turn the lights off in the main room when you’re going to sleep too.” He nodded.

Levi looked towards Kuchel with sorrowful eyes, feeling guilty about his actions that night. He’s not a spoilt person, and he felt even worse that she’d gone into her savings for him. But there was no way she’d take that money away from him now, not after seeing the gifts and hearing his plans. She was kind and understanding, and Levi took it for granted. “Sorry again, mum.”

She turned around, walked back to him and kissed his forehead.

“Forgiven.” She said, as she left Levi’s room her heart feeling warmth at the thought that her grumpy son had finally found someone who made him happy. It was what he deserved after all he’s been through over the years, which was a hell of a lot considering he’s only seventeen.

After the presents were all put away neatly, Levi wandered back into the living room and took the £40 he left on the table, popping it into his wallet. He locked the door, then did his triple checks before heading to the bathroom and finally bed.

Quickly remembering what had happened that night, he popped Hange a quick text.

23:10: Thanks Hange. Money all sorted now.

23:11: Good! I knew it’d be fine, night best friend Levi xxxxx

Levi smiled.

He closed his eyes. Just over a week to go, let’s make this the most perfect birthday weekend ever.

Chapter Text

Friday the 13throlled around pretty quickly, as did Erwin’s birthday party at their household. Erwin’s father was not happy that his son decided to invite all his friends to their family gathering but agreed after Mrs Smith said they’d probably be distracted with each other and wouldn’t get into any bother anyway. Traditionally it was supposed to be just the Smith family plus their partners, and Erwin knew for a fact that he wouldn’t be able to ask for just Levi to come along. Especially since that was the person Mr Smith was least pleased was coming: especially after the evening meal a while ago. But Erwin wanted him there, and it was his birthday, so he didn’t give his dad a choice, deciding the only way to get Levi there was to simply invite everyone he knew.

They were all sat in last period together, a special one off PSHE lesson, so all their form was in the same room. Levi subtly heard Erwin’s phone vibrate in his pocket, frowning in confusion about who would be texting him whilst in the middle of class. But before even thinking much more about it, Levi knew. He guessed. It was almost his birthday, and his sister would be saying she couldn’t come to see her brother on his eighteenth: her life was simply too busy in London, and home was so far away. Levi could only imagine how upset Erwin would be, considering he’d spoke non-stop about his sister since knowing of their family party. The blonde boy looked down at the table, saddened. But upon sensing Levi looking, he looked back up and smiled weakly at his boyfriend.

By the end of class, Levi tried to get up and wait for Erwin, but the latter was too fast for him; dashing off to the restrooms before Levi even had a chance to speak with him. So, Levi decided to wait for him. He said bye to his friends, and they had all arranged to meet on Erwin’s street at 8, giving his relatives time to arrive before they interrupted the party. Plus, if they got there after everyone else, they wouldn’t have to join in on the meet and greets. Which Hange weirdly seemed upset about, they really wanted to meet Erwin’s whole family. But everyone else was relieved, of course.

Deciding that Erwin was taking a while, Levi headed into the bathrooms – something he rarely did at school, often sneaking to use the disabled bathroom which was kept remarkably cleaner. As he entered, he noticed that only one cubicle was shut – clearly indicating where Erwin was. He let out a small sigh, trying to find the best way to approach the situation. the bathroom by the time Levi arrived, which was clearly where Erwin was.

“Hey Erwin.” Levi said, wandering in and avoiding touching anything in the room. He had his hand sanitizer in his pocket ready to use aggressively when he left the filthy room. The school bathrooms were utterly disgusting.

“Levi you hate it in here. You head off, I’ll see you tonight.” Levi swore he heard a little snuffle.

“Not until you tell me what’s up, mister.” He wandered over and stood right next to the cubicle. Erwin could sense his small body standing right beside the door, and decided it was best to not try and fight Levi on this. He wiped his eyes a little, before opening the door slightly and looking at his boyfriend with red eyes.

“She’s not coming. She’s cancelled last night. Said she has a big meeting on Monday to prep for. I can understand, she’s busy. It would just have been nice for my own sister to come to my birthday, you know? Guess I’ll just have to see her at Christmas.” Erwin gave Levi a sad smile.

As Levi predicted, Erwin’s sister had let him down. She’d done it to him for the last few years, but this year was his big birthday: his main birthday. He assumed she wouldn’t cancel on this one, especially last minute. He knew how much she meant to Erwin, and how much it would bother him that she wasn’t coming along now.  

“That’s shit, Erwin. I’m sorry.” Levi said. He reached his arm out and gently rubbed his partner’s shoulders, giving it a subtle squeeze before placing his hand back down his side. Erwin closed his eyes and appreciated the little gesture, before taking a deep breath in and releasing it: composing himself.

“It’s not your fault. Let me wash my hands and we can head off.” Levi nodded, before Erwin left his small cubicle and wandered over to the sinks, turning the tap on before dousing his hands in pumped soap, scrubbing thoroughly before turning the tap off and pulling a sheet of towel from the machine attached to the wall, giving his hands a dry.

“Everyone’s pretty excited for tonight. Petra was showing me a new dress she’d bought especially for it. It’s navy. Looks really cool.” Levi said, trying his best to cheer Erwin up a bit. “What are you gonna wear?”

“Dad makes us dress up for events like this. So probably smart shirt and trousers. You guys don’t need to dress up though. I think Mike’s only wearing a t shirt and jeans.”

“Sounds good.” Levi said.

They both walked out of the restroom, and within moments Levi was already drowning his hands in the anti-bacterial wash, forcefully squirting some onto Erwin’s hands too. The blonde smiled at his boyfriend, appreciating the fact he went into the bathroom in the first place. He’d rarely seen Levi enter that part of the school.

The liquid evaporated from Erwin’s hands, before he put them neatly in his pockets. “My dad’s pretty annoyed I’m not inviting Nile and Marie on Sunday night for my friend gathering. I think he’s going to have to come tonight, since Mr Dok is coming too.”

Shit, Levi thought, they better not come near me. “I thought it was only meant to your family?”

“He said he’s known them so long he considers them family, but I think he’s only doing it to spite me over what I said to him last time about them. But that’s okay, there’s enough people coming I suppose.” Erwin looked at Levi, reading his mind. “Don’t worry, they won’t come near you. They’ll follow my dad round all night like the little lap dogs they are.” Erwin laughed.

Levi forced a little snigger too. He knew Erwin was right; he knew they’d be dressed up stupidly and talking to Mr Smith constantly about schools, and university applications, and things that just weren’t fun. Levi decided he would just stick closely to his own friendship group, and Erwin, whenever he got the free moment.

Once they approached the entrance of the school, Erwin took Levi round the back of the car park and gave him a quick kiss before they had to part ways.

“I’ll see you tonight then. What time are you all planning on getting to mine?”

“I think Hange said something about 8. Is that too late?”

“That’s perfect. I’ll see you shortly then, Levi.” With one more kiss, Erwin walked away in the opposite direction and Levi slowly wandered home, watching his shoes the whole way, trying to decide what was appropriate attire for that night. He didn’t want to be overly dressed up if Mike was going in a t-shirt, but he also didn’t want to be underdressed considering what Erwin’s father thought of him already. And even though he didn’t really want to impress a man he hated, he knew that eventually they would have to attempt to get on, considering his relationship status. That was if Erwin’s father would ever find out, anyway.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket ready to plug in his headphones before noticing a text from Mike.

2:54: Hey buddy. Want me to pick you up something to drink tonight? X

Levi replied, grateful.

3:10: Yeah please. Something without alcohol. Juice?

3:11: Already on it : - ) X

Levi placed his headphones in, listening to music for the rest of his journey. He still couldn’t decide what he had to wear, mentally going through his entire wardrobe when trying to think about it. He hated things like this, and whilst he often appeared to not care much about his style or appearance, he definitely did. He just hoped that Kuchel would be around to give him a hand when the time came to get ready. Thankfully, she was.

 “Mum I need help!” he shouted from his wardrobe, brows furrowed in concentration.

She rushed in, thinking there was an actual problem. Kuchel found it hard to tell with Levi when he was in actual trouble, or when he just wanted someone to pay attention to him. Whenever he shouted her name, he usually put on a strained moan. Thankfully, he rarely was needing her for serious issues these days. Although, considering the situation, arguably this was a serious issue: his first massive social event with the entirety of the Smith family.

“What is it, Levi?” she said, entering the room. Upon entrance, she saw her son knee deep in clothes leaning into his wardrobe. Jumpers and black jeans surrounded his feet; his basic wardrobe. She’d never seen her son so stressed over clothing before, usually opting for a jumper and just some basic bottoms. He looked like he was in a nightmare, and just the sight of his small, angry face caused her to laugh. She tried to contain her giggles and maintain a straight face, asking “what’s up?”

“It’s not funny. I have nothing to wear.” He grumbled. He grabbed a jumper from the floor and threw it back down to emphasize he wasn’t happy with the clothing options he currently had. He’d began faffing with his outfit when he got home before four, and it was much later now, and he was still undecided.

“Seems like it.” She said, picking some of the fallen clothes off the floor and neatly folding them back up for him. She knew it’d annoy him if they were in a mess once he’d stopped looking. “What did Erwin tell you to wear?”

“He didn’t. Mike’s going in a t-shirt and jeans, apparently.” He moved some more clothes out of the way, “and Erwin’s going like full suit. So, there’s not really a good balance there.”

“Well, why don’t you make a balance? Wear your black skinny jeans, and a shirt. That’d look nice.”

“I don’t have another smart shirt. I need it for tomorrow.” He groaned under his breath, trying to find something that clearly didn’t exist. “Fucks sake” he muttered. Kuchel pretended she didn’t hear the swear under his breath, not wanting to cause him more stress.

“Wear the shirt you’re planning to wear tomorrow.” Kuchel instructed. Before Levi could respond, she walked from his room and into her own. Levi rolled his eyes at the lack of help from his mother, not really knowing what to do about the fact he’d have nothing for tomorrow now. As she left the room, he listened to what she said and slipped the shirt onto his thin frame, before slipping his legs into a pair of skinny jeans.

He also had opted to wear his glasses instead of his contacts, in hope of a somewhat subtle disguise from Nile and his dad that evening. It seemed to work, he looked a little less like Levi. Plus, he knew that Erwin liked him in his glasses, and he wanted Erwin to be impressed with his choices. Waiting for Kuchel to return, he began picking more clothing up from the floor and folding pieces back up, popping some on hangers as he did so. His room looked so much better, the clothes spread all over the floor originally hung and put away neatly.

A few minutes later once Levi was dressed and tidied Kuchel walked in with a carrier bag in her hands. “This was meant to be a present for your birthday, but clearly this weekend is a big thing for you. Especially if you’re meeting the whole Smith family.” She passed the bag over. “I don’t want you to be without.”

Levi wasn’t sure what to do and looked towards his mother confused. But she nodded in acceptance, happy to let him have one small present early. Eagerly, Levi opened the carrier bag and pulled out a crisp white shirt. Along the collar and cuffs there was a fine layer of dotted black silk, and black buttons laid down the front of the shirt. It was exactly the kind of shirt he’d always wanted – it was lovely.

“Now you can look lovely and smart for your meal tomorrow.” She said, beaming. Levi was taken aback. She leant a hand and neatened the collar of the shirt that was already on his body, but he didn’t react to it. He wasn’t expecting a present. His eyes just wandered over the piece of material he was holding between his hands, taken aback over the whole situation, and incredibly grateful. Especially knowing how much of a brat he’d acted about Erwin’s birthday the other night.

Finally, he found the words he was looking for. “Oh wow. Thank you so much mum, I love it!” He announced, taking it out of the bag and hanging it up quickly so the creases would have time to fall out. He smiled proudly at the shirt, before turning and facing Kuchel again. Walking over to his mum, Levi wrapped his arms around her, giving her a hug of thanks. From the corner of his eyes, he noticed the clock beside his bed and realised how late he was running.

“Shit! I’ve got ten minutes to get there.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll run you. Go get your shoes on.”

He smiled at her gratefully and did as he was told. When he got home from school earlier that day, he made sure to polish up his ankle boots, so they were clean and presentable for that evening. He knew for a fact Mr Smith judged people by their footwear and was eager to impress him. He laced them up over the bottom of his jeans, straightened his hair one last time in the mirror, and waited for his mum by the door to come back with car keys.

She smiled warmly at her son, “You look very handsome Levi.”

“Thanks” he mumbled, a little embarrassed.

They climbed into the car, each in their respective seats, before setting off to meet the rest of his friends. Kuchel managed to get him there in just a few minutes, noticing that Mike and Nanaba were already at the curb waiting for Levi. He thanked Kuchel, climbing out of the car and greeting his friends. Kuchel wound her window down and leaned her head so she could see Levi’s friends.

“Behave you three! Enjoy!” Kuchel shouted.

“Thanks Miss Ackerman. I’ll get Levi home safely if Erwin can’t leave, don’t worry.” She smiled at Mike and drove off.

It always annoyed Levi a bit that his friends were always so protective over him when it came to walking home alone or in the dark after a party, however since the Nile incident Levi had grown to appreciate it, and slowly cringed less and less the more his friends offered. And he knew it made Kuchel not worry as much, so that was another thing. And honestly, it made him more comfortable in case something like before repeated itself. He knew he couldn’t hack another fight at the moment, especially after the last one with Nile. He didn’t want to resolve everything with a punch-up; he didn’t want to be Kenny.

Mike was wearing what Erwin said he would: a dark red t-shirt and some black jeans. Nanaba was matching in a deep red shirt and a pair of black pants rolled up at the bottom. They were such a perfect looking couple; they matched perfectly.

“You look good, Levi.” Mike commented, “You suit glasses.”

“Thanks.” He said, smiling. “And thanks for getting me a drink.”

“That’s alright. I’ll keep it in the bag with ours until we get inside. Just need to wait for Hange and Petra to arrive.”

The two came around the corner just seconds after the announcement, both looking wonderful. Petra was wearing the navy dress she showed Levi earlier that day, and it hung on her perfectly. Hange opted for a full suit – they would never go underdressed to a party. It was any excuse for the couple to dress up, really. Levi knew how much Petra enjoyed glamming herself up, especially since she’d talked about what she’d wear to the two events all week.

“How do we look, guys?” They exclaimed, walking up to the three stood waiting.

“Amazing.” Nanaba said, walking behind the two boys and linking arms with Petra. The two had become really close in the past month, which Nanaba loved as she felt more involved in the friendship group that way. Levi could definitely relate to how Nanaba felt, been the odd one out at the start of elementary.

“Right, let’s head in then! I’m getting cold waiting out here.” Mike announced, and the five wandered up the steps together. Levi felt nerves in the pit of his stomach but knew that it would be fine really. He knew that he was safe with Mrs Smith and Erwin, and his friends. It was just intimidating, wandering up to such a large house with such a large number of people inside.

After knocking at the door, Mrs Smith appeared and let them all inside, pointing them in the direction of cups, nibbles, and Erwin. He was stuck with his dad talking to someone else who was very tall with bleach blonde hair: probably another relative. Mrs Smith commented on how lovely Levi looked as he walked into the house, stating how his glasses really suited him. He smiled back at her politely, before following the rest of his friends in the direction of the cups.

Mike lifted out the bottle he bought for Levi – an apple and elderflower juice that looked delicious. Levi was impressed with his choice. Once everyone had a drink poured, the five went to find seats in the corner of the room away from everyone.

Levi glanced and scanned the room as soon as he sat down looking for Nile and Marie. They clearly weren’t here yet, so he relaxed into his seat next to Petra a bit and kept chatting to her, whilst drinking a bit of juice. He felt relaxed and at ease now he sat down comfortably, hidden away by the bodies of his friends. And his heart managed to stay still and steady, that was until Erwin walked over.

“Hi guys. Thanks so much for coming.” He smiled at them all. Erwin looked incredibly handsome, dressed up as Levi expected. He had a narrow tie neatly fastened against his crisp shirt. A navy waistcoat was fastened across his body, with some deep blue trousers cut off at his ankle. Black and cream boat shoes laced upon his feet, mustard socks peeking through. Levi swore his heart skipped a beat upon seeing his boyfriend. His gaze held on Levi for a bit longer than everyone else. “Levi, you need something to eat?”

“Uh, yeah sure.” Levi said, pulling himself off the chair and following Erwin round into the dining room, everyone making quiet woo’s behind them and smirking. Erwin turned around and blew them a kiss in a teasing fashion, to which everyone giggled loudly. Clearly their alcohol had started to go to their heads already.

When Erwin checked no one else was in the room he shut the door behind him and pushed Levi against it. He leaned close to his boyfriend, breathless and excited. Levi peered up through his glasses into his boyfriend’s deep blue eyes.

“Levi you look amazing” his breath was heavy, breathing onto Levi’s neck. He planted a soft kiss there, then moved his eyes back up and locked them with Levi’s.

“You scrubbed up pretty good too, Erwin.” Levi said, wrapping his arms around his boyfriends’ neck. Their lips met, and bodies pulled into each other. They kissed for a few minutes before Levi pulled away, flushing.

“Erwin we better stop. No one’s drunk enough yet to notice the main guy is missing.”

Erwin smiled, becoming aware of the situation. He didn’t want to leave Levi yet though, in fact, he only wanted Levi there. “Fine, but we have to sneak off a bit later. Promise?”

“I promise.” Levi said, standing on his tip toes and planting a soft kiss on Erwin’s nose. The spread on the large dining table distracted Levi then, noticing the vast variety of sugary goodies in neat little bowls. And the giant cake in the centre, it looked delicious. He walked over to the table and grabbed a handful of sweets.

“Got to make it look like we came for some food, don’t we?” Levi winked.

Erwin nodded and laughed. Levi was very subtle and tactical – he knew how to avoid awkward confrontations and keep suspicions at bay. But Erwin also guessed that Levi just wanted to dig in before everyone else got a chance to, sweets been his absolute weakness. The two emerged from the room a bit later and walked back to their group of friends, Levi nibbling on the sweets.

“What, you have sweets here Erwin?!” Hange shouted, weirdly loudly, eyes sparkling.

“Yeah, there’s loads. Just in the dining room around the corner.” Erwin smiled at them, and then they stood up and wandered off, returning with the whole bowl a few minutes later, and placing it on the corner of the table they were gathered around. Everyone laughed a little bit.

“What you drinking, Erwin? You can now legally have alcohol since it’s your 18th. Well, tomorrow.”

“Oh no I’m on the juice tonight. Well, some non-alcoholic punch my mum made.” Erwin looked at Levi and smiled. “Decided it’s best to keep a somewhat clear head whilst all my family is here.”

“That is a very sensible idea, Smith. But perhaps you’re spending too much time around our sober Levi here.” Mike laughed, taking a swig of beer. Just then, Mrs Smith led four more people into the room: Nile Dok, his parents, and Marie. All dressed in formal suits and floating dresses. Levi rolled his eyes, just as suspected. They were dressed for something much more extravagant than a family gathering: much more suited to a ball, or a wedding. Anything but Erwin’s 18th.

Erwin looked at the door, then back to his group of friends, rolling his eyes. He clearly was guessing what Levi was thinking, as always.

“Excuse me. I have to say hi to these.” Erwin said, taking his hand away from Levi that seemed to be resting on his shoulder, leaving it feeling cold. Mike leaned into Levi, whispering to him as subtly as a drunk person can. “Don’t worry Levi. They come near you, I’ll be there to guard you. Especially from Nile. Marie isn’t so bad.”

“Can look after myself.” He mumbled, but Levi smiled at Mike, thankful for his friendship. He turned his body to face Petra and they continued the conversation they were having earlier; trying to turn so far away from the Dok’s that they wouldn’t be able to tell it was Levi from the back. And it was okay, kept that way for a long time of the party.

Erwin clearly was busy looking after all the guests who had come to visit, saying hi to distant aunties and uncles, playing with his smaller cousins. He barely had time to see his friends that evening, and they didn’t mind too much. Instead, they played smaller games together, munching their way through the sweets as they did so. Soon enough, the sweet bowl was practically empty. Hange announced loudly that they were going to grab some more from the dining room, which drew the attention of Marie, who ended up wandering over to them all and taking a seat on the sofa beside Mike.

“Hiya guys, feel like we’ve not spoke properly in ages! How are you all doing?” she asked, smiling at them all.

Everyone sort of fell silent and looked at each other in glances. “Yeah we’re good.” Nanaba answered, trying to blend the awkwardness. She wasn’t there for the situation before, not properly. But she’d heard from Mike what happened and had a deep-seated hatred of both Nile and Marie because of that. Nanaba was loyal to her friends.

“Good. It’s nice you came to Erwin’s birthday. He doesn’t usually invite friends to things like this. Nile and I only got invited because their dads are good friends, or something like that.”

“We’re more his friends than you are.” Levi muttered under his breath, and Petra elbowed his side trying to nudge him to be a little subtler.

Luckily enough, Marie didn’t hear him and just continued chatting away.

“I always get so bored when I come to things with Nile, he always has to go around and have serious conversations with people. Blah, blah, blah. I hate it.” She laughed to herself, taking a sip of wine. Clearly tipsy, clearly unable to handle her wine very well. When she laughed her body leaned backwards slightly, Levi hoped that she’d fall from the sofa and have to go home.

He just couldn’t stop looking at her and thinking about the fact that she’d slept with Erwin before. He couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealously, and also felt very pissed off that she stole such a precious thing from him. He wanted Erwin first, and she ruined it. I want to do something more tomorrow. Something more than just kissing. I want to be better than her.

Levi had completely zoned out of the conversation until she announced she was going back off to try find her boyfriend, probably sensing the awkwardness of everyone around her. No one really liked her anymore simply because she was with Nile, and everyone by now knew about the homecoming dance night and decided they didn’t want to be friends with a homophobe. And they didn’t want to befriend someone who would willingly hit someone they were supposed to have known for most of their life. Levi’s own friends were less over the fight after the homecoming than Levi was himself.

Hours passed by until Erwin came back from finally speaking to all the guests at the party and went to join his friends for a bit. Most of the older family members with kids had left by this point. Levi was lucky enough to have not bumped into Erwin’s dad yet. Although he’d caught him looking at him a few times: it was clear they were both avoiding each other. Levi was glad to avoid one another, anyway, rather than put up a false front in front of other people. Or even worse, listen to Erwin’s dad introducing him by “the alcoholic’s son” or “the criminals nephew”.

“Sorry guys, I had to go around and thank everyone for coming and for my presents.” He pointed to the table that was piled high with cards and presents. “The Smith family is quite big, as you can probably see.” He laughed a bit, and then settled in the space next to Levi. So, his parents wouldn’t question anything, Erwin stretched both his arms around the back of the sofa, stretching himself out. But the arm closer to Levi was gently resting on his shoulder. By this point, Mike and Nanaba had disappeared into the garden to get some fresh air and have a breather, away from all the loud chatting and beating music passing through the house.

“That’s okay, Erwin.” Petra said politely, trying to ignore how drunk Hange was beside her, loudly laughing at things that just weren’t that funny. Mike and Nanaba were very drunk before they headed out into the garden, and you could only imagine what they were getting up to now. They could barely keep their hands away from each other in front of an audience, but now least they were outside in the pitch black with no one around.

“I think we might have to get off, though Erwin. Seems Hange has had too much to drink, again.” Petra rolled her eyes, smiling.

“That’s okay. Thank you so much for coming. On Sunday I promise I’ll be able to spend more time with you.”

“Thanks for having us, and happy birthday for tomorrow. Have a lovely day with Levi.” Petra leant up and kissed Erwin’s cheek, giving him a cuddle. She hooked her arm around Hange and headed outside on the phone to her mum. Hange was practically pulled along by Petra, and even Levi had a small chuckle to himself at the sight of it. He never really understood how alcohol emphasised Hange so much more than normal. He didn’t think it was possible.

“Finally, just you.” Levi joked, looking up at his boyfriend.

“Want to go upstairs for a bit? Mum and dad are chatting to my auntie and uncle, they won’t notice.”

Levi looked longingly at Erwin for a moment, before subtly nodding towards his boyfriend. Butterflies flew in his stomach at just the anticipation of what was going to happen, still not used to this feeling yet. Quietly, the two boys sneaked upstairs and headed straight to Erwin’s room. They were kissing each other, hands fumbling around even before the door was fully shut. Levi nudged at it with his foot as Erwin knocked him backwards onto the bed, climbing on top of him.

Their mouths opened at the same time, parting widely to embrace each other. Levi wrapped his legs around Erwin’s hips as Erwin pressed himself down onto his boyfriend more. He could feel Levi’s excitement as their bodies grew closer together, enlightening Erwin’s own feelings, feeling the blood rushing quickly through his body.

Erwin ground himself against Levi, brushing heavily on his thighs. Into the kiss, a deep moan slipped from Levi’s body, so Erwin did it again, liking Levi’s reaction. He couldn’t even understand how his best friend could sound so hot.

The dark hair boys’ hands slid down the back of Erwin’s body, sliding his waistcoat off in the process. His nails dug into the muscular back through the shirt, and this time Erwin let out a little noise of pleasure. He squeezed himself closer to Levi, before pulling off slightly to undo a few of his buttons, exposing the bare chest to place kisses up and down it, then onto his neck.

“Shit” Levi moaned out, throwing his head back slightly. His body slightly arched into Erwin’s, eyes closed.

Erwin stopped and looked up at his lover, eyes glistening with hunger. “Am I going too quickly, Levi?”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll say if I want to stop.” Levi pulled Erwin’s head back up to his own and locked lips again, kissing even more passionately this time. They were nothing but a collection of moans and pleasure. Which is why neither boy heard a knock at the door, followed by a firmer knock. Followed by someone’s body shuffling in through the entrance. It was when they heard a soft female voice that they stopped, Levi rolling onto his front as quick as he could to cover his chest and his excitement.

“Oh. Well, erm. I’m sorry for interrupting you two.” Mrs Smith’s cheeks were flushed pink as she turned her back and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. Her entire actions happened so quickly that neither boy really knew what had happened, or even if it was real. After a pause for a few moments, Erwin quickly stood from the bed, attempting to button the rest of his shirt as he did so. He didn’t even say a word to Levi, dashing from his bedroom and slamming the door shut behind him.

“Mum, wait!” He called out, causing her to stop on top of the landing.

“Erwin, you could have told me. I’d have left you both to it. I’m so embarrassed.” Mrs Smith didn’t even look up to meet her sons’ face, unsure of what to do in this kind of situation. She was hurt, more than anything, that Erwin hadn’t told her about Levi before.

Erwin looked down. He felt so humiliated. He felt dirty.

“Sorry I just, I didn’t know how you’d take it. And I’m damn sure dad won’t like it.” Erwin said, eyes suddenly widening with panic. “Oh mum, please, please don’t tell dad. Please, I’m begging you.”

Mrs Smith looked up at Erwin at this point, not wanting to make him worry over this situation any more than necessary, “Honey I don’t care what your father thinks. But either way, he won’t find out, don’t worry. As long as you’re happy.” She smiled. “I had no idea you fancied boys though, Erwin. I wouldn’t have gone on about how we want you to find a girl like Marie so much last time Levi was round if I knew you were dating. How silly of me.”

Erwin shook his head aggressively, “No sorry mum, I should have told you sooner. I just, I guess I was scared.”

“Do your friends know?” She asked.

“Only Mike, Hange, Petra, and Nanaba. Don’t tell Marie or Nile whatever you do.”

“I promise I won’t tell anyone. I can clearly see that the two of you are trying to keep this a secret, and I’ll respect that. I’m glad it’s Levi. He deserves someone like you to keep him happy.” She reached her hand up to squeeze Erwin’s cheek. She paused to think then, recalling the events of the last few weeks. She remembered the bruises on Levi’s face after the homecoming dance when he came around that week skiving, and frowned.

“Is this partly why Nile and Levi got into the fight the other week? Why Levi had that nasty bruise?” Erwin nodded at her question, and she let out a deep sigh.

“Well I’m glad I know now. Thanks Erwin. Next time, tell me, and I’ll avoid going into your room when he’s round.”

“Mum,” Erwin groaned, laughing a bit. He was relieved that she’d reacted in such a positive way, and also weirdly relieved that he wasn’t going to have to do the awkward sit down and talk about how he’s got a boyfriend now. She gave him a cheeky wink and headed down the stairs, back to the party. “Don’t disappear up here for too long though, people will notice if the main party boy is missing.”

Erwin laughed, nodding. He took a deep breath in and calmed himself back down, thankful that everything turned out the way it did. Then he remembered his boyfriend, who no doubt would be laid on the bed, worrying away. He turned around and headed back into the room where he found Levi sat up on the bed, clothes back on properly, rocking backwards and forwards slightly. Panicked eyes glared right up at Erwin the second he entered the room.

“Will she tell anyone?” He asked, quickly. Erwin then came to realise that Nile and Marie were both still here at the party and understood Levi entirely.

“No, don’t worry Levi. She likes you too much to do that.” Erwin smiled and came to sit next to Levi wrapping his arm around him. The shaking stopped a bit, and after a while, it had completely gone. Levi titled his head to the side and rested it on Erwin’s chest.

“Please can we stay up here until Nile leaves? Please.” Levi asked, his voice a little shaky at the thought of him seeing them both descend the stairs together. He didn’t realise his worry had grown this much about Nile, but it was getting worse every day. Whenever Levi looked at Nile, he saw Kenny. And there was no changing that now.

“Of course we can, Levi.” Erwin said placing a soft kiss on his head. He fell into the taller boys’ body, letting heavy arms embrace him for a hug. They both sat there for a while, just taking each other in. There was no need to speak. It was nice to just spend time together.

Trying to distract himself, Levi looked at his phone for the time, almost midnight. “You’re 18 soon Erwin, you excited to finally be a legal man?”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve always been a man, Levi.” Erwin chuckled.

“No, silly. You know what I mean.” Levi frowned, a little irritated that he was going to have to explain what he meant. But he could sense Erwin was only winding him up.

“Yeah, although not much changes really. I can just drink legally, and vote. I think that’s it.” Levi nodded; it was weird that 18 was such a celebrated birthday for not much change, but oh well.

They both heard the front door go then, and Mrs Smith walked back up the stairs and politely knocked on Erwin’s door saying, “it’s me”. She waited patiently for Erwin’s response, and slowly entered the room when he heard his voice saying it was fine to come in. The two boys hadn’t moved; they were just sat on bed hugging, fully clothed.

“I’m just letting you know that everyone’s gone home now. Levi I’d run you home sweetie, but I’ve had a glass of wine. Is your mum coming for you?” It was clear that everyone just indicated that Nile and Marie were gone, but Erwin and Levi were both happy for the avoidance of their names. Erwin too was relieved he’d hardly had to spend any of his birthday near them.

“Yeah she told me to text her if I want to get picked up.” Levi frowned, confused as to where Mike and Nanaba had got to: they were the ones who were meant to be walking him home that night, but either way, he thought a lift in a warm car would be nicer anyway.

“Okay, that’s fine. Just come say bye before you go.” She smiled and left the two alone before shutting the door.

Levi watched the clock on his phone as it turned to midnight, then taking that as a sign to lean over and kiss his boyfriend.

“Happy birthday, Erwin.” He whispered into the kiss.

He climbed over the tall blonde body then and rang his mum, who answered after one ring. She was clearly expecting him to phone: Mike wasn’t known for handling his drink well, so doubted he’d be able to walk him home.

“Hey mum. Would you pick me up?”

“Yeah of course I can. I’ll set off now. Would Mike and Nanaba, Hange or Petra like a lift too?”

“Hange and Petra have gone. I’ll go look for Mike and Nan, but I’ve not seen them in ages. Thanks mum.” He replied, trying to guess where his friends could be. Then Levi had a firm memory of them leaving into the garden a little earlier on that night and not seeing them since. He assumed they must still be there.

“Guess I’m off now, Erwin. But I’ll see you tomorrow. Make sure to dress smart.”

“I will do, captain.” He motioned a mock salute and stood up, giving Levi one last cuddle and a kiss. The two walked downstairs and found Nanaba and Mike sprawled out on the sofa, practically asleep. Least they’d make it back inside the house, Levi thought.

“Come on guys. Mums dropping you off.”

Levi poked at Mike’s body, who instantly sat up to that, causing Nanaba to sit up too. He groaned.

“Bye Erwin” Mike stumbled out of his mouth as the two boys practically had to carry him to the door, Nanaba walking steadily behind them. “Happy birthday mate.”

Erwin smiled, “thank you.”

Levi left Mike leaning against the door frame as he wandered around the house looking for Mrs Smith to say bye to before he left. He didn’t want to get on her bad side, especially now she knew their secret. He wanted to be polite and do what she asked, which was to find her to say bye. Levi found her clearing the table and moving pots and bowls into the kitchen. He picked a few up, carrying them over too. He enjoyed clearing up, and enjoyed Mrs Smith, so would always offer a spare hand when and where he could.

“Ah, thank you Levi. Makes my life a bit easier.” She smiled at him, but his face remained stoic. He was feeling very anxious about the whole situation. Her voice dropped to a very quiet whisper. “Don’t worry. No one will find out as long as I’m alive. I’ll keep it a secret. But if you ever need to talk to anyone, about anything. I’m here.” She said, putting a hand on his shoulder and smiling.

Relief flushed through his body.

“Thanks.” He said in reply, before his phone started vibrating in his pocket. “Mums here, I better go. Thanks for having us all.” He said, smiling at her.

“You’re more than welcome. I’ll drop Erwin off tomorrow after he’s opened all his presents.”

He smiled one last time, before heading back to the front door seeing his mum’s car pulled up just outside. Mike was babbling on at Erwin, pointing drunkenly in his face.

“No but really, mate, you have found a good guy.”

“Yeah I know thanks Mike. Now off you plop, Kuchel is here.”

“I mean it. Don’t you hurt my little Levi!” He reached down trying to ruffle Levi’s hair, but he quickly ducked avoiding any touches that he might get.

“Don’t call me fucking little.”

The three helped Mike into the back seat of the car, then Nanaba climbed over, pulling the chair back with her for Levi to sit in.

“See you tomorrow, Erwin.” Levi smiled, sitting down into the front seat. Erwin leant down and kissed Levi on the cheek, causing him to turn bright pink and a drunk Mike to erupt with excitement. “You guys are sooo lovely aww” was all he heard from the back seat.

“Happy birthday Erwin, sweetheart. See you tomorrow.”

“Thanks Miss Ackerman, see you later.”

He watched as the car drove off down the street and walked back to his room smiling to himself. What a great way to start my 18thyear.

                                    ***

Erwin awoke early the next day, excited for the fact his actual birthday had finally crept around. As always, he did his normal traditional birthday morning routine, put together lovingly by his mother. It starts with Erwin waking up around eight in the morning, and then heading downstairs to enjoy pancakes with his favourite toppings: maple syrup, strawberries, and squirty cream. Since it was his birthday, his mum had also stuck a candle into the top of the pancake which he blew out before eating, surrounded by claps from his mother and father.

Once everyone was stuffed up on breakfast, as always, they headed towards the lounge where Erwin’s presents had all been piled up. The fire was lit to make the room cosy, and his parents eagerly watched as he opened goodies from everyone he knew. Most of his relatives he didn’t know gifted money and vouchers, his sister posted a package full of gifts in the post: new clothes, some money to treat himself, and finally a watch with “Happy 18th, brother” engraved in it. Erwin smiled and held the watch close to his heart, wishing his sister could be there to enjoy his special day with him.

Then he got to the presents from his parent’s colleagues and neighbours. Erwin was now the proud owner of a vast variety of alcohol – mainly champagne, spirits, and red wine. He was also gifted many glasses with 18thwritten on the front, so he’d have plenty of vessels to consume his now legal alcohol from. Alongside the drinks came food – lots of luxurious chocolates and sweets, much to Erwin’s delight.

Once his presents from those he didn’t know very well were opened, his parents decided it was time to gift their presents to their only son. They handed him over two boxes, indicating which to open first. A shining, 26 karat gold chain was revealed, which Erwin thought was beautiful. The second box, tied up nicely with a thick, velvet, black ribbon contained a key. Erwin’s heart jumped: he could only assume what this present was, only dream that he’d actually have one, one day.

 “What are these for?” he asked, already smiling. Or the better way to describe it would be beaming.

“Well, let us show you.” Mr Smith said, standing up smiling at his son.

They all walked outside where a brand-new BMW was parked in the driveway, a big blue bow on the front of it. It was shining under the autumnal sun, glistening. A brand-new, never driven car, all to Erwin. It was his dream present, the kind of gift he’d wanted since he was tiny – and he never expected to get a car for his 18thbirthday. He’d only just managed to pass his test, so this was the biggest surprise.

“Oh my god, thank you so much!” He exclaimed, giving them both a hug, before running up to it and looking at it. It was incredible – luxurious leather seats lined the interior, with a cotton air freshener neatly attached to the mirror. The steering wheel had an ‘E’ engraved on it; it was beyond his wildest dreams. It was flawless.

Mr Smith walked up to his son after he gave him time to look at it properly, patting a firm hand on his back. “it’s all insured too, son.” He smiled, “Happy birthday.”

Erwin thanked his parents profusely, shaking his dads’ hand firmly with a smile plastered on his face. He pressed a loving kiss into his mothers’ cheek too, thanking her for everything. He just felt so overwhelmed about the day already, not sure how he was going to continue with the excitement of the day ahead.

After allowing himself time to properly investigate his new present, his parents and Erwin headed back into the house to get warmed up again. The air was growing chilly at this time of year, and no matter the level of excitement, it was practically impossible to stand outside in pyjamas for any longer than they already had. After enjoying a small glass of champagne with his parents, Erwin noted the time and decided to head to his room. He needed to get ready for Levi, and for the rest of their day ahead.

He took a brisk shower using many of the new toiletries he received, before drying off and styling his hair. Erwin parted it along the side as always, flattening it slightly with a little bit of gel. Happy with his hair and face, Erwin proceeded to slip on the outfit he’d planned the night before, smart as Levi had requested. A subtle blue shirt was slipped over Erwin’s broad shoulders and button, before been tucked into tight black trousers. He slipped over his knee-high boots, as always, before finishing his outfit off with a black jacket.

Once his outfit was complete, Erwin fastened the new chain from his parents around his neck, before sitting at his dresser and looking at himself in the mirror, fixing parts of his outfit that didn’t look quite right. He wanted to look the best he’d ever looked today, since it was such a special day.

Mrs Smith stood at the doorway, watching him play with his hair.

“You look very handsome, Erwin.” She smiled at him through the mirror. “I can’t believe you’re so grown up now.”

He laughed, turning in his seat to face his mother. “I know, I feel so old! I’m the first one to turn 18!”

She smiled and walked into the room, shutting the door quietly. She headed over to Erwin’s bed and perched on the end of it, Erwin’s eyes following her the whole way around. It was the first chance she had to properly talk to Erwin about Levi.

“So how long have you and Levi been together?”

“Probably just over a month. First week of September.” He said, smiling to himself at the thought that it had been that long, content that he was with him.

“And how did this come about?” She asked, grinning. She was so happy to see her son so in love, so upbeat and happy. She didn’t care who Erwin was with, as long as he was happy. Although part of her was so glad that it was Levi – she wanted him to have someone who’d treat him well, and she was sure Levi would.

“We went to the cinema with Hange and Petra last month. Then I walked him home after, and we just kissed. The next day we decided to properly date, and now here we are.”

She looked at him and smiled again, warmly. “How long have you liked him for?”

“Years, mum. Literally from before I was with Marie. I never thought he’d be gay though, to be honest. Luckily for me he is.” Erwin smiled then, laughing a bit. He started to fasten his new watch on his wrist, nervously looking down thinking about seeing Levi soon. He hoped he’d dressed up enough for the day, unsure of what his boyfriend had planned for him.

Mrs Smith decided to end the interview about her son’s new boyfriend there, not wanting to press on the more serious parts of the conversation like Nile and the fight, and instead just let Erwin enjoy his special day. Noticing that his mother had stopped talking, Erwin stood up from the chair in front of his dresser, tucking it back under. He walked directly to his mum, and she stood up in response. The family members exchanged a hug. Erwin towered above her now: he’d had a growth spurt in the last month and was now over 6-foot-tall, his mum only a couple inches taller than Levi.

“Ah, I love you Erwin. I’m so proud of you. You’re an amazing young man, and I’m happy you’re with Levi.”

He wrapped his strong arms around her and squeezed her tightly.

“Thank you, mum. And thank you for the presents, they’re both amazing.” After releasing from the hug, he walked to grab his bag, “I better get going to Levi’s. I’ll be home tonight though, I won’t be late.” He walked towards the door, putting his bag on his shoulder.

Mrs Smith watched her son as he got ready to leave. He looked so grown up. “Levi can sleep over if you’d like him to. Just give me a text and let me know.”

Erwin smiled. “Thanks mum. I’ll ask him.”

As he walked out of the room, she joked, “you can sleep in the same room too. I won’t be strict like I was with Marie.” She winked at him, and turning a bit pink, Erwin headed from his room and down the stairs. He shouted thank you again to his father, who was busy in his study, before leaving the front door and unlocking his new car. When he turned the ignition, he saw his parents watching from the window so paid extra attention to how sensibly he drove. The car felt so powerful, roaring down the road to Levi’s flat.

Levi was stood at the door frame before Erwin even started walking up the stairs.

The car pulled up beside Kuchel’s old car, parked on the driveway next to the sweet shop. Erwin glanced at his watch, checking the time. Thankfully he’d still be able to see Kuchel before she too had to go to work, which he wanted to do. As Erwin took the keys from the car and climbed out, he saw his boyfriend leaning against the wall, looking at him.

“New present?” He asked, eyeing up the car.

“Yep. Courtesy of the adult Smith’s.” He smiled, feeling very proud of his new transport. Kuchel appeared at the door then, gasping at the BMW.

“Jesus Erwin that’s an amazing car! What a lovely present!” She looked utterly thrilled for him, making his heart feel warm. Levi took Erwin’s hand at this point, leading his boyfriend up the stairs – he wanted to give him his gifts, before revealing the plans for the rest of the day.

As Erwin approached the top of the stairs, Levi’s mum outstretched her arms for him. “Happy birthday, sweetie.” Kuchel said, giving Erwin a squeeze before heading back inside.

“Yeah, happy birthday Erwin.” Levi leant up to kiss his cheek whilst Kuchel wasn’t looking: he still felt embarrassed about doing ‘couple’ like things in front of his mum. He just knew she’d pull that face she always pulls, or she’d wink at him, or do something ultimately humiliating. But Erwin loved it when Levi sneaked little moments of romance, just like that. The two walked inside, locking the door behind them. On the table laid a homemade cake and presents wrapped in two different papers: a wholesome affair, compared to that at his actual home. Erwin was so thankful for the Ackerman’s.

“Oh wow, you didn’t have to.” Erwin said, genuinely a bit taken a back. He wasn’t expecting this much from either of them, maybe just a card. He felt emotional at how lovely they were being.

“Don’t be silly Erwin, you do so much for us. It’s only fair we do something back. Here, open mine first. I’ll leave Levi’s for when I’m at work.” She smiled, handing him the two gifts. “They’re not much, just a little something. And I baked the cake, so that counts.” She laughed a bit.

Erwin took the gifts from her gratefully and sat down, placing them both on his lap. “Thank you. Which shall I open first?” Levi sat down next to him then, and Kuchel sat on the arm of the sofa at the other side.

“Open the box.” Kuchel suggested. As he did, the sweet scent of cocoa-orange drifted from the inside, and when pulling back the red tissue paper, 18 perfect truffles were revealed from his favourite chocolatiers. And they clearly were orange chocolate, his absolute love in life. Erwin grinned.

“You’ve remembered my favourite chocolatiers? I’ve not been there in years. They make the nicest truffles ever. Thank you so much, Miss Ackerman.”

“That’s okay, Erwin. Had to get you a proper treat for your 18th! Now the other gift.” Kuchel pointed at it eagerly, wanting to see him open things before she’d have to dash to work. She also wanted Erwin and Levi to have their own time together, so he could see what her son had gifted. She just knew Erwin would love them.

As he unwrapped the paper slowly, the small photo was revealed of him and Levi. A huge smile lit up his face, and his eyes even watered a bit. Whilst a car, new watches, money – these were all nice presents, but nothing beat something as thoughtful as what the Ackerman’s would put together. It had always been like that, every year. Erwin loved home-made and thoughtful presents, he wasn’t materialistic as such, just incredibly sentimental.

Trying to hold back getting emotional, he started laughing. “It is literally just the same as me and Levi now. Grumpy Levi, and me just acting silly.”

Kuchel smiled, “that’s exactly what I thought. That’s why I picked it for you.” She looked at the two on the sofa. “Can I get a quick photo of you both now? It would be the perfect comparison.”

“No mum” Levi said, still sat in a jumper and jeans. He hadn’t bothered to get properly dressed up yet, not until after Erwin opened the rest of his gifts. But Erwin was already dressed so smart and looked so handsome.

“Oh, come on Levi, for the memories. You know how I love photos, please?”

He crossed his arms and rolled his eyes as Kuchel shot the photo quickly. After showing them both it, and them both laughing at it, she picked up her bag and went off to work, wishing Erwin a second happy birthday, and him getting up and kissing her cheek to say thank you for his lovely gifts. Once Kuchel had disappeared, Levi locked the door and turned to face his boyfriend. Erwin was still smiling at him; like the grin hadn’t even melted from his face since the point he woke up. “Can I open your presents now, Levi?”

Levi nodded, slightly. He was starting to feel nervous about the gifts: they were cheesy, for the most part. And considering Erwin had turned up to his flat in a new car, with a gold chain, and a silver watch, he was worried he’d not like what Levi got him. None of his presents could compare to things like what Erwin had already received. “They’re not as good as a car.”

Erwin sensed his unease, and walked over to his boyfriend, placing a small kiss on his forehead. “I’m sure they’re a hundred times better.”

Levi nodded, telling Erwin to go and take a seat at the table then. The birthday boy obliged, sitting in his normal chair where Levi position his gifts in front of him in a small pile. They were wrapped incredibly neatly; no sticky tape could even be seen on the brown paper. Levi took a seat beside his boyfriend, eyes watching as Erwin took one gift from the pile at a time. Firstly, he found his own favourite sweets, his favourite film, and their favourite console game from a few years ago that Erwin somehow lost. Before he could continue to the other gifts, Levi took it upon himself to give the gifts in the order he wanted.

“Here, open this.” Levi wanted over the next package.

Pulling it out, a shiny, fresh white shirt appeared. It had a subtle grey paisley print on it, with a sturdy collar and silver buttons lining the front. The garment felt as soft as silk, and Erwin stroked the material, admiring its softness. “Oh, wow Levi, this is so nice.”

“You need to put it on.” Levi returned, trying to hold his smile back slightly. He was relieved his boyfriend liked the shirt so much, it took him long enough to choose one anyway. Levi’s plan was to ask Erwin to wear it, so he was super dressed up when they went for their fancy meal together.

“Now?” Erwin asked, getting more curious about why Levi had requested him to dress up so much for a simple meal at home.

“No, after you’ve opened the rest of your presents.” Levi said, passing him over the small box next containing the bolo tie.

As Erwin opened the box and pulled the tie out, his eyes began to water even more. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to contain tears this time: everything was so thoughtful and overwhelming. It was like the one he’d had when he was younger that his grandad gave him: the one he loved so much. But this one was an even nicer one – the colour prettier, the style better. The size more modern. Erwin had only dreamed of owning a bolo tie again, he still was upset about the one he lost previously.

“Oh, gosh. Levi, wow. I don’t even know what to say.” Erwin said, pulling the item from the box and looking at it closely. “This is perfect. How did you manage to find this? Nowhere sells them, I’ve been looking for years.” A small tear slipped from his eye then.

“Shit don’t cry, is it that bad?” Levi asked, nervous about the gifts. He suddenly felt silly about it all, how could he ever replace something that Erwin’s grandad had gifted him? But Erwin pulled him away from that thought quickly.

“No, it’s – it’s just amazing. I wasn’t expecting this at all.”

Relief shot through the smaller boy, “oh. Phew.” Was all he could say, but he was smiling. A proper smile too, showing teeth.Erwin leant across the table and kissed Levi, before pulling back to look at all his gifts.

“I’ve never had such thoughtful presents. This is wonderful.”

“There’s still this.” Levi said, passing an envelope across the table for Erwin. It was clearly a birthday card. “I’m gonna go get properly dressed whilst you read it.” And before Erwin could refuse or ask his boyfriend to stay, Levi was dashing away to his bedroom and shutting the door behind him. He was always terrible at expressing himself properly and spent a good week or so deciding what to write in the card. There had been many drafts, and ideas: but now, handing it over., he felt silly. He felt that he’d shown too much, said too much. He didn’t want to look at Erwin’s cringing face as he read the card.

Erwin sat at the table and opened the envelope gently: an invitation fell out at the same time, but he ignored that to read what Levi had written in it. Erwin was a sucker for nice messages in cards, it was one of his favourite parts of a birthday or Christmas.

On the front of the card there was a teddy bear holding a heart with “for my boyfriend” written above the top. Erwin smiled at the thought of Levi going into a shop to buy it. He was pretty sure Petra or Hange would have gone to the till for him.

He opened it up.

To Erwin,

Happy birthday. I hope I can make today the best day ever, you deserve it more than most people I know. In fact, more than anyone I know. I just want to say thank you for being there for me all these years. I am very lucky to have an Erwin Smith in my life. Happy birthday again.

Lots of hugs
Levi X

Erwin closed the card and held it to his chest, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. Was that Levi admitting he loves me? After holding it there for a second, he placed it down and looked at the invitation. That too looked equally as adorable, and Erwin noticed instantly that it was drawn and designed by Levi. He’d drawn things around the rim to associate with the Italian restaurant Erwin loved so much – pasta, pizzas, garlic bread. Erwin grinned, reading how he was been taken to the posh dining for lunch. He smiled, now understanding why Levi wanted him to dress smart for the day.

Understanding why Levi had dashed off, Erwin called out, “I’ve read it, Levi. You’re safe to come out.”

“Wait!” Levi shouted, voice muffled. He was still in the middle of getting dressed. “Go put your new shirt on.”

“Okay, will do” Erwin replied, grabbing his present and heading to the bathroom. He reappeared minutes later with his bolo tie round his neck, and shirt buttoned up.

Knocking on the door again, “Levi can I come in now, I’m ready?” He asked.

“Yeah okay.” Levi replied. When Erwin walked in, he saw his boyfriend in the mirror buttoning his shirt to the top – it was tucked into the top of his trousers, with a thick black belt on show. He’d also opted to wear his glasses, since Erwin once commented he liked him in them. It also gave his eyes a very much needed rest from contacts, since he pretty much had them in all the time.

“Levi you look amazing.” Erwin breathed, walking up to his boyfriend and wrapping his arms around him. Levi spun round to face Erwin, kissing him softly on the lips, grabbing at his bolo tie as he did so. He smiled to himself, noting how his boyfriend had already put the piece of jewellery on despite not even owning it for ten minutes. He definitely likes it then.

“Are you ready to head off? The table’s booked for 1, it’s 10 to now.”

“Yes of course.” Erwin said, smiling. Levi grabbed his wallet and jacket, before checking the windows in the back of the flat. Erwin went to the doorway and slipped his boots back on, grabbing his keys as he did so. Levi appeared moments later, grabbing his own house keys and locking up – moving the plant as always, checking three times it was properly locked. The two wandered down the stairs to get into the new car on the drive, Levi admittedly excited to be driven around by his boyfriend.

Once there, Erwin dashed towards the opposite side quickly, and opened the passenger side for Levi to climb in. “I’m not incapable, Erwin.” Levi said, rolling his eyes.

“I’ve always wanted to open the door for my boyfriend, Levi. Surely you would have guessed that about me.”

“Yep. So predictable.” Levi laughed, fastening his seatbelt.

The two drove to the Italian restaurant speedily, parking up outside in the car park. Once out of the car, Erwin took Levi’s hand again and held it tightly as they walked into the Italian. He didn’t care if anyone saw right now, he was too content. And he knew Levi wouldn’t refuse him since it was his birthday, so he would take full advantage of that and showcase their love. (But of course, if Levi grew uncomfortable or asked, he’d not hold hands anymore).

They got seated, ordered, and started chatting away. Erwin was still feeling so overwhelmed that Levi had put all this together for him, but he also felt worried that too much money would have been spent. But he tried to push that thought to the back of his mind, assuming that Levi would never do something he couldn’t properly afford. He didn’t want to even mention it, and allowed himself to enjoy the date instead, and enjoy the delicious food which he so rarely got to indulge in. After their main course was eaten and taken away, they ordered a chocolate cake for desert.

Erwin took a sip of his drink, before looking up at his boyfriend. “Levi, would you like to sleep over at my house tonight?”.

“Well, I can’t refuse the birthday boy, can I?” Levi said, smiling.

Erwin laughed a little, “no, not today you can’t.”

They hadn’t actually had a sleepover at Erwin’s since they started dating properly, mainly because Levi had done anything, he possibly could to avoid Erwin’s dad. He didn’t want that argument to continue anymore and was constantly worried it would. Sleeping at Levi’s wasn’t really much better, as Erwin would always have to sleep on the floor because Levi’s bed was too small for the two of them. It would be nice for the two of them to actually fall asleep in a bed together, cuddling.

But before the two boys could discuss their evening anymore, the restaurants lights dimmed as Erwin’s pudding was brought out, a single candle in the centre of it. Everyone erupted to singing happy birthday, and Erwin turned bright red. Levi snuck a few photos on his phone, enjoying seeing the man who was always so together get a little bit nervous. When he managed to blow the candle out, everyone erupted into a round of applause before getting back to their normal days. Levi laughed, sticking a soon into the shared pudding and helping himself to the chocolate cake.

The plan was concluded for the day, once all the food was in their tummies: Levi and Erwin were to go to the flat, collect the presents and some belongings for Levi to use at Erwin’s, give Kuchel a quick call in at her work to let her know the evening plans, before driving back over to Erwin’s. Once they were ready to leave, the boys both got up and slipped their jackets back on; Levi paid exiting the Italian: a total of £38. He could only just afford it with what Kuchel had given him and felt terrible about it.I promise I’ll make it up to her.

Erwin took Levi’s hand as soon as they were outside walking to the car again, and quickly grabbed him in front of the car and pulled him in for a kiss.

“So far today has been the most perfect birthday ever, Levi. Thank you so much for everything.”

Levi blushed, “yeah whatever.” Secretly, he was feeling incredibly happy. And relieved. He’d planned this day properly for a while, and despite spending so much money, Levi decided it was definitely worth every penny. Erwin was worth the entire world, twice over.

Kuchel gave Levi permission to stay over at Erwin’s that evening on the grounds that he had to “behave” and be “respectful”. She then gave them both a free milkshake, and they sat down at the bar with her whilst they talked about the food they’d just eaten. Levi lifted his phone out of his pocket and scrolled through all the photos he’d taken of Erwin getting serenaded by the waiters. She laughed. Erwin looked so handsome and manly on them all.

After sitting with Levi’s mum for a good hour, the two headed to Levi’s house to pack his bag. Then unpack it to check he had everything, then repack it again.

“Toothbrush. Pyjamas. Spare socks. Spare underwear. Clothes for tomorrow. Contact lenses. Charger. Anything else I need?”

“No that sounds like everything” Erwin replied, picking up his bag of gifts from the Ackerman’s. “Ready?”

“Yeah I think so.” Levi lifted the cake off the table and they carried them down to the car, before Levi ran upstairs to check everything was locked up.

He held the cake in the car all the way home, and once they pulled up at Erwin’s home, Mrs Smith headed outside to meet her son and his boyfriend, and to give them a hand carrying things inside. She was glad that Levi was staying over, which she was sure to let him know as she took the cake out of Levi’s hands, so he could climb out.

“This cake smells amazing and looks divine too. Where did you buy it from?” Mrs Smith asked, leaning down to sniff the icing for emphasis of how lovely it smelt.

“Mum made it.” Levi said, head in the car, pulling his bag out. Erwin appeared round the other side holding all his new presents.

“New shirt Erwin?” she paused, noticing the bolo tie. “Oh, wow that’s beautiful. Did you get him that Levi? It’s just like the one he had years ago. What a thoughtful present.”

Levi smiled, and the three of them walked inside, before Levi followed Erwin upstairs to place his bag in the room unpacking his clothes and hanging them up neatly. Erwin displayed his new picture frame at the side of his bed and pulled all his other gifts out placing them on top of his dresser.

The two of them spent the rest of the evening sat with Mrs Smith watching Erwin’s favourite things on TV. At dinner time, she made her sons favourite food: lasagne. Over dinner, Mr Smith barely spoke and seemed to be on his best behaviour. Levi felt very anxious about the dinner at first, but soon felt calmer when he noticed Mr Smith was also a lot more relaxed with him.

After they cleared the table, and all enjoyed a slice of Kuchel’s birthday cake, they all went to the living room.

“What do you fancy watching, Erwin? Since it’s your birthday.”

“Levi bought me my favourite film on DVD, let me just go get it.”

He dashed upstairs quickly, leaving Levi awkwardly sat with Mr and Mrs Smith in the living room.

“Levi, the presents you bought Erwin were so wonderful and thoughtful. You’ll have to thank your mum for us too, we’re very grateful he has a friend like you.” Mrs Smith said, smiling.

“It’s okay. I will do.” Levi replied, fidgeting slightly, trying to watch for Mr Smith’s reaction. He didn’t even look up from the newspaper he was reading.

“Here it is!” Erwin called, sitting down next to Levi.

The Smith’s all sat in silence, enjoying the film, until late at night.

Chapter Text

The film screen due to a close, to which Erwin’s parents took that as the point to head upstairs. “Right, think its bedtime for us old folks.” Mrs Smith said, sitting up out of her chair. Mr Smith followed his wife, also standing up and leaving the room without saying a word to his son or his guest. Instead, he passed Erwin a small nod before they heard his footsteps creeping on the stairs outside the living area. He was slightly annoyed that his son was spending his birthday night with a friend and not his family, or a girlfriend. Mrs Smith pulled a face, obviously about her husband, causing her son to laugh a little.

“Thanks again for today.” Erwin smiled at his mum who then reached down to give him a quick cuddle.

“That’s okay dear. Night boys. Your father and I are out in the morning, we’ll probably be gone for a few hours. I’ll give you a text when we’re coming home.”

“Okay. Have fun.” Erwin replied, and she left the living room, closing the door shut behind them. Her footsteps too sounded off into the quiet distance, as the boys heard the master bedroom’s doors open and then shut. Once the coast was clear, Levi laid back and rested on his tall boyfriend, head in lap, looking up at him. He had a small yawn, today was a big one and he was feeling a little sleepy.

“Was your birthday good, Erwin?” Levi asked, eyes glistening in the lights above his head.

“The best yet.” Erwin replied, bending his back down to kiss Levi on the lips. Levi obliged, kissing back. His thin arms snaked around the blonde’s neck as the larger boys fell to rest on Levi’s cheeks. Levi took the lead and parted his mouth slightly, allowing for Erwin’s tongue to slip in. Levi pulled his head further down, closer. Their kissing got a bit more passionate; more aggressive. Levi’s grasp slowly started to feel needier.

Erwin pulled his head back, eyes filled with lust. “Shouldn’t we do this upstairs?” He whispered. Levi sat up and looked his boyfriend in the eyes before nodding. His heart skipped several beats, but Levi had never felt so amazing. So content. He wanted Erwin, so much.

Both boys stood from the sofa, Levi waiting patiently as Erwin turned the lights off and checked the front door was locked up. When secure and happy with it, their hands linked together, and they wandered slowly up the stairs, tip-toeing so as not to disturb the parents. Erwin gave Levi’s hand a subtle squeeze as he indicated he needed to let go to turn his bedroom light on and open the bedroom door. Levi obliged, taking his hand away from his boyfriend.

“I’m gonna use your bathroom.” Levi muttered quietly, grabbing his bag and pyjamas from Erwin’s walk-in wardrobe.

“Okay,” Erwin said, smiling nervously at his partner. Whilst he’d had sex before, he’d never slept with a boy. He’d read so many horror stories online about it, and he didn’t want to hurt Levi. He wanted him to enjoy it so much, he wanted this day to be special and magical.

Levi walked into the bathroom, locking the door behind him, before he stripped his clothing from the day from his body, folding it into a neat pile, and placing it back into his overnight back. Once nude, the shower was turned on, and Levi climbed inside, letting the hot water flush over his shivering body. Just the thought of what was about to happen was getting him excited already, although he was full of nerves. He washed himself thoroughly, as he’d read to do online. Making sure he smelt good and felt clean, he jumped back out and dried himself off, slipping into his pyjama bottoms.

Realising he’d eaten garlic for lunch, Levi brushed his teeth harshly before rinsing his mouth with some cool water. He brushed his teeth in the sink and washed around his lips after. Before slipping his top on, Levi glanced at himself in the mirror and cringed. He still saw himself as that weedy little child that Kenny abused, he didn’t notice his muscle mass increasing as he grew, he didn’t notice how good-looking he’d slowly become. He groaned looking at himself. I’m not exactly the most attractive person ever. Why does Erwin even like me? Levi questioned himself. After inspecting in the mirror for a while, he put his pyjama top on and packed his toiletries into his bag again.

Meanwhile, Erwin was nervously walking around the room. He wanted it to be spotless, as Levi would have liked. It was already quite clean, and his bedding was fresh, so least that would be nice for his boyfriend. Remembering about the date they recently shared at Levi’s flat, Erwin rooted around in his closet for the tan jacket he had worn, pulling the box from the pocket and sliding it into the bedside drawer: somewhere easily accessible, he thought. He switched the bedside light on, turning the main one off, just as Levi unlocked the door and walked back into the bedroom.

He’d worn his favourite pyjamas: plain navy. A long-sleeved top with buttons down the front, and a pair of baggy navy bottoms. His glasses were still perched on his nose as he went to the bed to sit down, putting his bag next to the side table opposite to the side where Erwin had wandered and sat on. Levi took a deep breath, he wanted to show Erwin he was comfortable, and he was ready. Because he was. So ready.

“This is my side.” Levi said.

“Okay, not a problem. I’m just going to use the bathroom myself. Make yourself comfy.” Erwin said, also nervously smiling back at the boy on his bed.

He was quicker than Levi in the bathroom and appeared only minutes later in a plain white top and shorts, muscles clearly on show through the thin material. Levi’s heart jumped. Erwin knew his figure looked good in that top, which is the main reason he wore it. Not that he intended keeping it on his body for that long, anyway.

Erwin climbed into his side of the bed, switching the bedside light off as he did so. Levi was already snuggled under the covers, and Erwin turned to face his boyfriend, cuddling up close beside him. A heavy arm ran up the side of Levi’s body, causing a slight shiver to pass through his body. He slowly shuffled his small body closer to Erwin, wrapping his arms tighter around his back.

After looking into each other’s eyes for a moment, or at least what they could make out in the dark, their lips met again gently. Their tongues collided as their soft lips parted slightly from each other. Small noises emerged in their throats as the kiss deepened and their bodies squeezed closer together, trying to take the others body in as much as possible.

Erwin’s hand lowered from resting on Levi’s neck. He slowly began to unbutton the top, a gentle kiss lowering with each button. Levi titled his head back on the bed and rolled his body onto his back, so Erwin could climb over him, running his hands over his now bare stomach. His skin was so soft and delicate.

The blondes head then emerged from the lower half of Levi and met at his lips again. Both their  cheeks were flushing now – shades of pink and red mixed into each other. Their bodies were equally as excited.

Levi grabbed the hem of Erwin’s white top and pulled it over his head, separating their faces for a few seconds whilst they did so. He threw the top onto the floor, then scratched down his back leaving red lines. Erwin clearly enjoyed his, letting out a small moan into his boyfriends’ mouth.

The taller man then slid down his boyfriend again, sliding the shoulders of the pyjama top off and placing it neatly at the end of the bed. He knew Levi would not appreciate it being discarded onto the floor, even in a moment like this. Erwin’s hand then slid into the top of Levi’s bottoms and grabbed him, squeezing gently.

“God,” Levi whispered, back already arching slightly and eyes becoming lidded. Erwin smiled to himself as he slowly moved his hand, thumb gently massaging the tip as he did so. “Fuck, Erwin” Levi groaned, a small sweat breaking out on his forehead. Levi swore he’d never felt this good before, and never wanted that feeling to end. Erwin then moved and used his other hand to pull the bottoms off Levi completely, leaving him bare in the bed with his boyfriend.

All the self-conscious worries Levi was having in the bathroom earlier flooded away. He felt good in front of Erwin, and with the positive response from his boyfriend, his heart felt warm and the nervousness had passed.

Erwin’s blonde head then moved down, breathing gently onto Levi. He moaned again, this time a little bit louder, before realising they were still in Erwin’s house. He bit his lip in an attempt to keep any noise hidden. As a warm mouth started to suck, and a thick hand started to tease the bottom of him, Levi squeezed his eyes closed, breathing heavily.

Erwin licked Levi, moving his hand in the same rhythm of his head. Levi’s hands at this point had moved down and were gripping into his boyfriends’ hair, feeling the head bob up and down as it pleasured him.

“Shit Erwin” Levi whispered into a moan, causing Erwin’s grip to tighten. He pulled off his lover and went down to start kissing his most sensitive area. He took one in his mouth at a time, giving it a gentle suck and lick before moving back onto Levi’s hard cock.

One of Erwin’s hands trailed up Levi’s stomach, gently massaging his nipple as he played down below. Erwin tried to remember what he’d seen online, what he’d read was good. And from the response so far, he was going it right. Levi never felt so good – he was sweating now, and his body was completely vulnerable. But he had never felt so amazing, so good. His eyes watered slightly at the thought, but he pushed them back as his body released into his boyfriends’ mouth.

Levi’s panting became heavy, eyes still lidded shut. Erwin climbed up after licking the mess his lover had just created and went to lay next to Levi, putting a hand on his cheek, pulling it to face him.

“Did you enjoy that, Levi?” Erwin asked, a huge smile across his face. He knew the answer, but he wanted to hear him say it anyway.

“Yes” came out of Levi’s harsh breaths. He leant forward to kiss Erwin.

“I should’ve done that to you, it’s your birthday.” Levi said, legs shaking.

Erwin just leant into the kiss more, ignoring the question. They still had time to do that, and it wasn’t like either of them wanted to stop. It wasn’t hard for them to both get excited again, considering this was new territory and they wanted to explore everything possible. Levi climbed over his boyfriends’ body and sat on the floor then, kneeling before Erwin’s side of the bed.

Erwin, realising what his lover had just intended, slid his body out of the covers and placed his legs either side of Levi’s kneeling body. The black-haired man moved his hands to the top of the shorts and pulled them off completely, revealing Erwin – who was larger than Levi had anticipated. And there was no hiding that in Levi’s face, or even his response.

“Fucking hell, Erwin.”

Erwin laughed softly, not really paying too much attention, too focussed on what was about to happen. Levi wrapped his hand around Erwin, just as Erwin had done to him, before taking as much of him in as he could and swallowing. He moved his head and hand in a rhythmic pattern, and it seemed to be going well. Erwin was a lot more vocal, and apparently more sensitive. He could not keep quiet at all.

“Oh, fuck Levi, yes” he moaned loudly, grabbing his lovers’ hair tightly and helping to move his head with it. Levi pulled his head away to whisper to him to shut up or the parents would hear. Erwin just smiled bashfully through lidded eyes.

He threw his head back when Levi moved back onto him, sucking harder and moving his hand quicker around Erwin. He licked the tip of the cock lightly, teasing him slightly, and then continued to take him all in. When the confidence built up slightly, Levi opened his eyes into a small slit and looked up at Erwin who was bright pink and breathing heavy. His muscular chest was moving in and out in deep breathes, shivering slightly. A gleam laid across Erwin’s body from a sweat, and his eyes were almost closed in pleasure. You look so fucking hot.

Erwin looked down after a second and met eye contact. He felt out a very loud moan, before his entire body began to tense.

“Shit I’m going to cum, Levi” Erwin said, his hips starting to thrust into Levi’s mouth. He closed his eyes tightly and prepared himself for the hot liquid that was about to flow into his mouth. Erwin suddenly stopped and looked down at Levi. “Am I okay to into your mouth?” he asked, concerned that Levi might not like it.

After a second pause, Levi nodded, pushing himself back around Erwin. He wanted to treat him, and besides, on the videos he found online that’s what all the couples seemed to do.

“Fuck” erupted from Erwin’s mouth seconds later as Levi quickly swallowed the release. Erwin looked well and truly spent, his skin flushed and his hair sweaty. Levi stood up from the floor, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, before climbing back over Erwin into the squishy bed. Erwin too laid back onto his back, hand behind his head. He tried to catch his breath again, smiling as he did so.

Levi lay on his side and looked over at his boyfriend, eyes wide. He still couldn’t believe this was his life now; sleeping naked in a bed with Erwin. The boy he’d fancied for years, who was now his.

“Was I okay?” Levi asked quietly, not wanting his self-doubt to come clear.

“It was amazing Levi, you were amazing.” Erwin rolled onto his side and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend, and Levi tucked his head into his shoulder. They both drifted off to sleep shortly after, wrapped in each other’s arms.  

                                    ***

Levi woke up early the next morning, not used to his surroundings. The light from the window was blinding, and he felt exposed laying naked next to his boyfriend. They had hardly moved from the position they both fell asleep in; cuddled up to one another. He fidgeted slightly, rolling onto his opposite side so he could look at his phone and check the time. It was only five am, much to his annoyance. So Levi replaced his phone on the table, and slowly shifted his way from the bed and Erwin’s grasp, trying to not disturb the boy beside him.

Quietly, Levi shut the bathroom door and refolded his pyjamas up which he’d retrieved from the end of the bed. He placed them neatly on the counter-top, before adding his glasses on the top of the pile. He looked at himself, shook over what had happened the night before. He honestly still couldn’t believe it, no many how times he relived it in his dream, or how he still felt this morning. With a small smile on his face, Levi turned the shower on and let it run hot.

When the glass screen began to steam, Levi climbed into the hot water and used Erwin’s shower gel to wash himself. It was the familiar, vanillary scent of the cologne he wore daily. Once he’d washed and felt refreshed, Levi slipped back into his pyjamas, grabbing his glasses, and headed back to the bed. He quickly slipped under the covers and shuffled close to Erwin once again, allowing the blonde to throw an arm over his body and hold him close.

Erwin stirred, “what you doing, Levi?” he asked, still half asleep.

“I woke up early.” He replied, turning to face his boyfriend.

“How come?” Erwin mumbled, trying to stay awake to talk to his lover but his eyes were closing, and his voice droned off. Sure enough, before Levi could answer, Erwin was fast asleep.

Levi pulled himself into Erwin’s body and closed his eyes again, trying to get some more rest. They were having a party that night, and the last thing he wanted was to be half asleep. Thankfully, he managed to embrace the warmth of Erwin and nod off, snoring gently. The pair only awoke again much later on, long after Mrs and Mr Smith had gone out.

Erwin stretched his long body in his bed, arms above his head and toes peeking out the bottom of the quilt, also releasing a very odd noise as he did so. After the very over the top stretch was done, he sat up in bed and kissed Levi, who swiftly moved his head away from him. “Not when our teeth aren’t brushed.” Was all he announced, also pulling his small body up besides Erwin, grabbing his glasses and sitting up; somehow, he had managed to forget Erwin was still stark naked until he stood up from bed.

With no embarrassment, Erwin climbed out of bed and bent down to pull his shorts and top back on, before flashing a winning smile to Levi, who was now sat blushing and staring thinking about the night before. Erwin was incredibly good-looking, and incredibly confident. Sometimes Levi wished he could be a little more like Erwin, but then remembered that Erwin probably couldn’t like him if he wasn’t like normal Levi. Even if Levi found normal Levi boring.

“Levi, what’s that on your neck?” Erwin asked, leaning forward to face his boyfriend.

“My neck?” He said, heart race picking up. He stumbled out of bed and walked to the dresser where a large mirror lay. Shit, he’s given me a fucking love bite.

Erwin also realising what it was, broke out into hysterical laughter. Levi looked angry: but he looked too squishy and cute in his pyjamas to be intimidated by him. Erwin laughed even more, deciding that Levi looked like a small angry chick.

“Erwin this is notfunny.”

But Erwin definitely seemed to think it was, laughing all the way to the door before straightening himself up, asking if Levi wanted to follow him downstairs for breakfast. It was nice to have the big, spacious house to themselves for the morning – and Erwin wanted to take that rare opportunity to treat Levi to breakfast, rather than it usually been the Ackerman’s cooking for him.

He went into the fridge and pulled out an array of fresh fruit, all chopped neatly, left over from the party on Friday evening. Once making sure there was some batter left in the door of the fridge, Erwin turned to the oven and began to heat a pan and some oil in it. Levi wandered round to try and help, looking around Erwin’s body to look towards the worktop. But Erwin was having none of it, pushing him away whenever he could.

“Go sit down Levi, I’m cooking you breakfast.”

Levi scowled, “shouldn’t I be doing that? It’s your birthday weekend.”

“Exactly. So, do as I say, and I want to cook for you.” Erwin looked up and smiled, before pouring some of the batter into the pan which was now steaming slightly. Levi obliged and wandered away aimlessly to the small kitchen table that looked out over the garden. Fresh orange juice was laid out, and Levi picked it up, taking a sip. It must have been left over from the parents’ breakfast that morning.

Levi couldn’t stop thinking about last night. He couldn’t stop thinking about how Erwin looked, and what they did. In the spur of the moment it was hot, it was exciting. Now he just blushed thinking about how humiliating the noises he made were, and how embarrassing it would have been if his parents did actually hear. But surely, they wouldn’t have, Levi definitely knew he was quiet. Maybe Erwin just sounded loud because of the moment and the fact it was the dead of night: in reality he was definitely whispering. Right?

Erwin appeared a few minutes later snapping Levi out of his daze. Without realising, he had zoned out and was just looking out the window at nothing.

“Everything okay, Levi?” Erwin asked, concerned, as he placed a tray down on the table displaying a tower of steaming pancakes, a jar of maple syrup, honey, whipped cream, and a huge pile of fruit. The food smelled amazing.

“Fine” Levi replied, lifting his glass out of the way so Erwin could place the tray fully on the table. Levi pulled two plates from the cupboard behind the table, placing one in Erwin’s place, then one in his own. Cutlery was already on the table, places partially laid – it looked as though Mrs Smith assumed the boys would be awake to enjoy breakfast with them, but they had slept in relatively late.

Erwin assumed what the problem with Levi was, so he decided to try to make him feel more at ease. “Last night was fun.”

Levi ignored the comment and moved a pancake onto his plate, drowning it in maple syrup and taking a big bite.

“Thank you for making my birthday so special Levi.” Erwin smiled at him and reached his hand across the table to hold Levi. Levi allowed him to, and stroked his fingers over the larger hand, before pulling away so he could continue to eat. The pancakes were too good to leave, and Erwin understood that. Levi’s sweet tooth was a weakness of his, clearly.

After a few moments of silence, Levi decided to go back on the conversation and talk about the night before. “Was it enough?”

Erwin looked up from his rather healthy-looking pancake, minus the whipped cream. “Hm? Was what enough?”

“Last night” Levi mumbled, looking down at his food.

“Oh Levi, it was more than enough. It was so wonderful and perfect. I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

“Bullshit. You wanted me to sleep with you.” What was on Levi’s mind came out, despite the fact he wanted to keep that fact quiet. He didn’t mean to snap at his boyfriend, but Levi couldn’t help it. He couldn’t help but compare himself to Marie, and what they did together. He was new to relationships, he was new to this weird jealous feeling. He wanted to give Erwin more than she’d given him, but he was already not keeping up properly.

Erwin felt taken aback. Yes, it had been playing on his mind yesterday, but he’d never force or expect anything of Levi – he was happy to go as slow as necessary. Even just cuddling was perfect to him. “Not at all, Levi. I want to do things when you’re ready to do things, not the other way around. If all you’re wanting to do was what we enjoyed last night, then I’m more than happy with that.” Erwin smiled.

Levi took another bite of his breakfast and chewed on it slowly, thinking. Why is he so nice to me? I thought people just wanted to have sex all the time at our age, so why isn’t he pushing it?

Realising Levi decided to end the conversation there, Erwin began to eat again, munching away happily at the fresh pancakes he made. Suddenly, Levi muttered a question that Erwin only just managed to hear – “promise?”

“I promise, Levi.” And with that he relaxed, knowing that Erwin would never lie to him. He had never lied to him in all the years he’d known him, and for a fact he could tell that he wasn’t exactly going to start now. Deciding the discussion had the answers and results he wanted, Levi decided to finally thank Erwin for the food.

“Pancakes are amazing. Thanks Erwin.” Levi said, looking up and smiling.

“Anything for you.” Erwin replied, putting the last strawberry from his plate into his mouth. “What’s the plan for today then? Have you got clothes for tonight with you?”

“No.” Levi answered, “I think mum will want to see me today anyway. Want to come around with me whilst I get changed later on?”

Erwin nodded, grabbing an additional raspberry from the tray and squirting some cream onto it before putting it in his mouth. “Yes, sure, not a problem. I’ll drive you there. Perhaps on our way back we could pick up either Hange and Petra, or Mike and Nanaba?”

Levi snorted, taking Erwin aback.

“Everyone in our group is fucking each other.” Levi laughed. Erwin realised, he was right. And even if Nile and Marie were still as close as before, they too would be in his intermingled relationship fuelled group of friends. “We should pick up Mike, Hange’s mum is dropping them off.”

“We’ll do that then.” Erwin smiled at his boyfriend, who was still giggling a little at what he’d just figured out. It made Erwin feel warm, to see Levi actually relaxed.

After another pancake each, and a small war with the cream, they decided to clean the kitchen up before his parents would come home. Levi rinsed plates before adding them to the dishwasher, whilst Erwin wiped the table and put the uneaten fruit back in the fridge. Once everything was looking shiny, the two headed back to Erwin’s room to get ready. Levi took another shower, feeling sticky from the pancakes, before Erwin took one after.

Once ready and Erwin’s room was tidied, the pair headed to Erwin’s car to drive to the other side of town. The October wind was harsh that day, and Levi ended up having to borrow one of Erwin’s jackets to keep him warm as he only brought his jumper with him.

They pulled up behind the row of shops where Levi’s mum worked, and both climbed out of the car, walking up to the diner. Erwin took Levi’s hand in his, and the smaller boy accepted it: it was rare they could walk around like this, and Erwin still wanted to take it at every opportunity he could. He wished more than anything that they could just enjoy their relationship together, but they definitely would be able to, one day.

As they walked into the diner, Kuchel looked up from the table she was waiting and shot a massive grin to the two boys. They went to take a seat waiting for Kuchel to finish taking orders before she wandered over.

“Levi! Erwin! Did you have a good time yesterday?” She asked excitedly.

“It was lovely thank you, Miss Ackerman. Once we got home, we ate your delicious cake with my parents which was nice, before watching a film and heading to bed. I had a lovely birthday.”

“That sounds so wonderful, Erwin. I’m glad you liked the cake I made! Are you two staying here for a while? I’ll grab you both a milkshake.” Before either of them could answer her question, Kuchel dashed off round the bar and began making them both vanilla milkshakes. Levi stood up and wandered away from their table to his mum, leaning over the edge of the bar to talk to her.

“Mum it’s the party tonight at Erwin’s so I probably won’t be home.”

“Ah, that’s okay, Levi. Just let me know if you need picking up or anything.” She hesitated for a second, thinking about what happened at the last party he went so. She frowned, concerntrating hard on scooping ice cream and putting it into the blender. “Who else is going to this party tonight, then?”

Levi understood why she’d asked but was a little irritated. Why the hell would he go to a party that Nile would be at too, especially after last time? He wasn’t stupid. He didn’t want to get hurt either. But to relieve her nerves and to not get stressed at her, he took a deep breath before reeling off the names of those going that night.

“I think it’s me, Erwin. Then Nanaba and Mike, Hange and Petra. They’re the only ones I know who were invited. Nile and Marie don’t even know about it.”

The tenseness of her shoulders loosened then, and her posture became more open as she handed Levi one of the milkshakes across the counter.

“Sounds like it’ll be a good night. Don’t forget to behave. I don’t need to say anything else, I don’t think.”

“Yeah mum I will.” Levi took his milkshake and walked to sit next to Erwin, subtly rubbing his thigh against his boyfriend as he sat down next to him and began slurping on his drink. Kuchel handed Erwin his, and the three talked for a while about school and what the food in the restaurant was like, and the other things Erwin received from his family.

Once finished, Levi gave Kuchel a hug as they drove to Levi’s to get his bags sorted, changed his clothes, and then headed back to pick up Mike and Nanaba from his house.

Chapter Text

“Oh wow, Mike, thank you so much!” Erwin exclaimed as he held up a new PS4 game; one that he’d wanted for a while. He was wearing his new bolo tie, some basic slim jeans and a shirt, looking handsome as always. Everyone was gathered in the basement – a converted old storage room, now Erwin’s game room: with cinema screen, squishy sofas, a popcorn machine, and a million different consoles. Mr Smith had built it for Erwin when his sister moved away, something to ease the pain.

“That’s okay mate.” Mike replied, arm wrapped tightly around Nanaba as they sat on the big, squishy sofa. His parents decided to leave the six in peace, so went out for tea leaving the party to go on full steam ahead. Erwin’s father wasn’t too happy about it, but he liked Mike and trusted him to keep an eye on things. Which is why he allowed it to happen in the first place.

“I wanna play a game!” Hange shouted, already excited from the alcohol in their system. Hange had already managed to down two glasses of wine, leaving their girlfriend behind sipping politely on their first. Erwin smiled over at them, glad they were clearly having so much fun. He’d wanted his friends to get together like this for so long, and now he and Levi were in such a good place too, it was the perfect time.

“Okay. What we going to play?” Erwin asked, leaning in closer to his boyfriend and putting a hand on his thigh. It was nice that they could be around people and not have to hide their relationship like usual. However, at the mention of the word ‘game’ Levi clearly became a bit uncomfortable, his posture stiffening. Last time there was a party and a game, he could barely walk home. He knew Nile wasn’t here this time, but still. The memory was there. And he didn’t want to think of that memory too much at the moment, not when he was in a mentally good place.

“Hmmm okay.” Hange began to think, putting a finger on their mouth to exaggerate their thinking face. Levi rolled his eyes sarcastically and took a sip of his juice. Erwin offered to drink non-alcoholic beverages that night, just to make Levi more comfortable: so he wasn’t surrounded in a room with drunks. But Levi pushed that idea away, he didn’t want Erwin to not have fun and enjoy himself just because he hated drink. So, Erwin drank, but was taking it extremely steady and was still on his first beer. The last thing he wanted was to make Levi feel uncomfortable. Even if Levi insisted he was okay.

“How about we play hide and seek?” Petra suggested, smiling around at the circle as she announced her suggestion. Mike and Nanaba both sparked up at the idea of the game, before Petra continued her rules. “Since this place is so big, we have three minutes instead of one to hide. No one can hide together –”

She was cut off almost immediately by the sound of the loud doorbell ringing throughout the house. Everyone shot each other puzzled glances, as no one else was invited and the adults agreed not to be home until much later. Erwin tried to rack his brain, in case he accidentally invited someone in one of his classes; but of course, he wouldn’t have, he didn’t really tell anyone else at school about his birthday.

Looking at Erwin, Levi shot a confused look. “Did your mum and dad not bring a key?” he asked, quietly. Erwin shrugged to Levi, a perplexed look plastered on his face. Slowly he apologised to his friends and stumbled up the door, Levi following closely behind him, wanting to know who was knocking. The pair walked to the door, through the porch entrance and saw who it was seconds later.

Nile and Marie, stood together, hands held tightly, and alcohol in their hands. Levi muttered curses under his breath, turning on his heel and marching back into the basement to warn his friends about what they’d discovered. Erwin tried to catch Levi on his walk away but couldn’t quite grab him. So instead, he sighed deeply and walked up to the front door. He put a mock smile on his face as he unlocked the keyhole, knowing that they’d be watching him through the glass pane. As the door opened, he put on his best fake-jolly voice.

“Oh, Nile, Marie. What a surprise!”

“You drinking, Smith?” Marie teased, giggling a little. She held up her own bottle of wine and shook it in an excitable way. Nile’s brows furrowed.

“Your dad told us you were having a party with your friends. Was surprised when he found out I didn’t know, and so invited us over.”

Nile pushed his way into Erwin’s house, knocking him slightly. Marie followed in closely behind him, and Erwin paused looking out onto his garden with a large sigh. He had no idea how he could politely ask them to leave without his father kicking off when he came back home. He locked the door shut behind him, turning to face the couple.

Nile kicked his shoes off messily, “where’s the party at then, Erwin?”

“It’s not really a party,” Erwin frowned, neatening up Nile’s shoes. Marie hadn’t even taken hers off, “it’s just a small gathering.”

“Sounds good to me!” Marie called out.

“I’m assuming the basement?” Nile questioned, and before Erwin even had a chance to respond, Nile let himself into the door under the stairs and wandered down. It was very clear to Erwin that Nile wasn’t going to listen to him, no matter how much he’d try and deter – it was, after all, Erwin’s first birthday without an invite to Nile in their entire life. Not that even that was a good enough excuse for Nile’s behaviour.

Levi was sat between Mike and Nanaba on the sofa, scowl on his face, trying not to think about who had just walked in. He still saw nothing but Kenny in Nile and wanted to avoid him as much as he could for that reason. The second Nile’s eyes locked his as he entered the basement, Levi felt his skin crawl. Mike straightened up beside his friend in a defensive manner, as Erwin and Marie slowly appeared in the room too.

Before Nile could bother to say a word, or Erwin try and apologise for what had happened, Hange stood up in a means to change the vibe and the whole situation. They were annoyed at the intrusion, and so assumed that starting straight away with their party games would push the other two to boredom, and hopefully leave.

“Marie! Nile! Perfect timing. We’re about to play hide and seek. I’m counting, so you better go!” They quickly turned around pretending eyes to be closed, but eyeing Levi up closely and hinting to go somewhere. “One! Two!” Hange began to count, as Petra and Nanaba stood up laughing quietly and ran up the stairs, acting like the entire situation was fine.

Marie then followed the other two giggling girls, assuming that it was fine to join in. She ran closely behind them, determined to not be left out from the new party games. Finally, Mike caught onto the situation and stood up, grabbing Nile on his way and hinting that they needed to hide quickly. Nile joined in, following his friend out the basement, discussing secret hiding places they’d known from playing games like this at Erwin’s house when they were small.

All that was left then were Levi and Erwin, and Hange’s loud counting. But Hange got the hint and stopped counting, coming around to sit beside Levi on the sofa, giving Levi a gentle squeeze on his back as they did so. Erwin wandered over to sit beside Levi on his opposite side, who was now leaning forward resting his forehead in a hand, fiddling with the rip in his jeans with the other.

“Levi I’m so sorry. I’d never have allowed them to come. My dad said-”

“It’s okay.”

“No, Levi it’s not and I’m so sorry. Do you want me to call your mum or anything? She could come and get you. I’ll come too.”

Levi scoffed, looking up to meet his eyes. “You can’t leave your own fucking party Erwin.”

“Do you want to stay counting with me, Levi? And pretend I found you first?” Hange asked, trying to be supportive.

“He’ll be with Mike somewhere. Mike will keep his eye on him.” Levi said, standing. He straightened his back, stopped his brain from thinking too much. He was just fed up of this. Fed up of Nile interrupting their lives, fed up of feeling so scared around Nile – Nile was not Kenny, and he needed to remind himself of that. Although it was pretty damn hard when whenever he saw Nile, he felt the hits. Levi wanted to stand up for himself, and have fun, and enjoy his boyfriend’s birthday. Ignoring the two people trying to comfort him, Levi walked away – heading up the stairs, straight to Erwin’s bedroom to ‘hide’.

Once he curled up under the bed, he let out a big sigh and closed his eyes. He’d be fine. All his friends were around him so there was literally nothing that Nile could do to hurt him: he was way safer than he was last time there was the party and the incident after. And at the end of the day, Kuchel was only a phone call away. And Kenny was far, far away. Locked up in prison, never to escape. Levi wouldn’t be seeing him any time soon, and Nile was a fly compared to Kenny.

                                                ***

Mike hid Nile in the laundry room, before heading off to find his own space to tuck away. But Nile didn’t stay put: he continued to wander around the round, long after Mike got himself hidden. As soon as he heard Hange loudly shout that they’d left the basement and were looking, Nile finally found the window of opportunity: he wanted revenge, and he needed it tonight. The plan was working so far, much to his delight.

Quietly, Nile crept down the stairs into the basement. He glanced around, checking that no one was about, checking that no one followed him down the stairs. He was safe. He began to look around the room for the thing he needed. Erwin’s beer bottles, the girls wine glasses, Mike’s red wine bottle – it took him a while to find it, but eventually he noticed it: stood neatly with a small glass placed beside it was Levi’s juice.

Nile took his hip flask from inside his sock, pouring the equivalent of five vodka shots into Levi’s juice, before mixing it well. He’d guess Levi wouldn’t notice a thing – the juice was lemony, a tart flavour anyway. Vodka wouldn’t add much; it was more so that when he’d find out he’d drank it, he’d be pissed. Nile smirked to himself, putting the flask back into his sock, before wandering back up the basement stairs: confronted immediately by Mike and Hange.

“Oh, you two.” He said, surprised.

“What were you doing down there?” Mike asked, arms crossed and glaring at the boy. “I hid you upstairs.”

“Looking for Erwin. Dad phoned, it turns out he needs me and Marie to go now because, uh- Marie’s mum phoned and wants her home because she’s not done her work and she’s grounded.” Lying through his teeth, he pushed past them before shouting Marie. Mike had known Nile for long enough to know he was lying, but he didn’t know what about and knew questioning would get absolutely nowhere. To be honest, he was more relieved that Nile just said he said to leave – they just wanted him out of the party so they could continue enjoying their gathering in peace.

She appeared a second later from a curtain in the living room, before he eyed her a suspicious look and she nodded. Nile slipped his shoes back on his feet quickly, as Marie practically ran across to her boyfriend.

“Ah I see. Well, say bye to Erwin for us!”

Mike and Hange eyed the pair up as they walked out of the door and shot each other questionable looks. It slammed shut behind them. They’d never seen Marie flustered before, and they’d never known the couple to want to leave a party in such a hurry. Marie’s mum was one of the most lenient parents they all knew; she didn’t care about things like school work. It was obvious they had come to do something, but no one really understood the point.

“What do you think he was doing?” Hange asked Mike. Mike shrugged, arms folded across his chest. They both walked into the basement, investigating for change or fraud, but decided everything looked as it had before. Weird. Realising they were still mid-game, the two headed back up to the ground floor to continue searching for their friends.

Erwin had heard people lulling about downstairs and needed to find a place to hide: fast. He had assumed that Levi would have gone to his bedroom, and wanted to also find Levi to check he was okay after walking from the basement without saying anything. Frowning, he scanned around his room for the best hiding spaces – the wardrobe, bathroom, under the desk: and then finally the bed, Levi’s phone light giving his hiding spot away.

“Levi?” Erwin whispered, laying down and scooting his body sideways under the large bed too, finding the raven-haired boy curled up playing on his phone. “You okay?”

“Hange is taking fucking ages to find us.” He said, staring at his phone the whole time and not looking up at Erwin. He sighed. He was playing a game and didn’t really want to be distracted, but he was also fed up of hiding like this. He wanted to go back downstairs and chill with his friends, not run around the house.

“I’m sorry about Nile and Marie, honestly Levi I didn’t know.”

Levi sounded fed up, “It’s fine, Erwin. I already said.”

Erwin shuffled up to Levi and pressed his body as close to him as he could in such a tight space. Levi could move with plenty of room, but Erwin being so much bigger than the other struggled to manoeuvre about under the bed. He was relieved when Hange walked into the room with Mike, Nanaba, and Petra. Clearly leaving himself and Levi until last; or at least almost last, Erwin thought.

“Found you!” They shouted, lifting the quilt up from the side of the bed. “Oh, and Levi!” they said in unison, mock surprised.

“I won. You found me last.” Levi exclaimed as he climbed out from under the bed, finally. Erwin smiled, and then looked up at Mike. He looked a little bit confused, and Erwin knew Mike well enough to know when something was up. He could only assume it was about the uninvited pair, so decided to ask about it in the most subtle way he could.

“Oh, wait Levi we’re not last. Where’s Nile and Marie?” Erwin asked, looking at all his friends.

“Nile said they had to go home because Marie was actually meant to be grounded. Said to let you know they’re sorry.” Mike said, arms folded. Erwin could tell there was something more to it but decided not to press his friend for now and just to enjoy the night. He nodded to Mike in a mutual understanding they’d figure it out later, before Erwin put on his happiest voice and smiled.

“Ah. Well, I’m definitely not complaining.” Erwin said, chuckling a bit.

“Me fucking neither.” Levi said, loosening his arms that were originally crossed across his chest.

Everyone slowly started heading back down to the basement, deciding to relax with drinks and food for a while instead of playing anymore games. Erwin opted to put a film on, so they could unwind, deciding on Thorafter too many arguments other film genres. It seemed the one that most people were happy with.

Everyone made themselves comfortable, including Levi and Erwin who had now cuddled up on the sofa, Levi practically in Erwin’s lap. Nanaba and Mike had taken over a whole sofa, laying down across one another, whilst Petra and Hange found comfort in the beanbags on the floor. Everyone got cosy, getting drinks and food ready – but going at a much steadier pace than earlier.

Levi opened his lemon drink, one he’d never tried before. He sipped it, deciding it tasted slightly bitter, but continued anyway – when he picked it up, it didn’t look tampered with, and it definitely didn’t look like alcohol was in it. He finished the drink quickly and relaxed back down with Erwin. Until halfway through the film, he felt his head go dizzy, and his stomach feel sick: a shooting pain up his side.

He pushed himself up from his boyfriend, head wobbling. Levi pressed a hand to it in an attempt to stop it spinning, thinking it was just sitting up quickly. But the dizziness didn’t pass, so he pulled himself fully upright, swinging his legs over the sofa. Everyone looked up from the film at their friend, confused. Erwin pulled himself up properly to sit beside his boyfriend, a hand placed on the base of his back.

“Levi? You okay?” He asked, concerned.

Levi couldn’t respond, noise just came out. He curled up slightly, knowing he was going to be sick. The feeling wasn’t going. His voice slurred, “I’m gonna throw up”, following by a gag. Immediately Petra sprang into action, rushing to the downstairs bathroom in the basement in the search of a bucket. Mike glanced at Hange with a firm frown, as he and Nanaba got up from their position on the sofa too, concerned for Levi.

“You eat anything funny, Levi?” Mike asked, trying to think back to the pizza’s and snacks they had just before they began the actual party: Levi had eaten something that everyone else had, so it was impossible to be that. But he wanted to rule things out.

He just barely shook his head.

“What are you drinking? Is it still in date?” Hange asked, picking the bottle up that laid next to where he was sat. The date was over a year away, and it said ‘bitter lemon juice’ on it, so clearly not alcohol.

Mike gestured for Hange to pass Mike the bottle, so they did so. Mike brought the glass up to his nose and sniffed it, practically forcing Nanaba off him when he noticed a very familiar scent in the drink: alcohol. Vodka. Mike looked back at Hange and mouthed it to them, to which their eyes opened widely. So that’s what Nile was doing downstairs, spiking Levi.

Petra returned quickly, passing the bucket to Erwin who held it in front of Levi. The second it was in position, Levi let himself throw up a few times. Erwin trying to pet his back as he did so, trying to soothe him. When Levi decided he wasn’t going to be sick again, he flopped backwards onto the seat slightly, before he noticed Hange’s worried glances towards Mike.

“What’s wrong?” He asked, sternly.

“Can I have a word, Erwin?” Hange asked, smiling to try and make it look like nothing was wrong. Levi was far too sick to even notice what was going on, leaning against Petra now as she pushed hair from his forehead. Erwin frowned, but agreed and follow Hange out of the main room in the basement and into the bathroom. The door was shut immediately behind them.

“There’s alcohol in Levi’s drink.”

Erwin looked confused, “What? No that’s not right. Levi doesn’t drink.”

“Smell it.” Hange thrust the bottle to Erwin’s nose, who inhaled deeply and could get the subtle whiff of vodka.

“What the hell?!” Erwin exclaimed, heart sinking slightly.

“He was spiked. By Nile.” Hange repeated, after thinking about Nile’s suspicious attitude earlier. “Well, me and Mike think so. We saw him coming out of the basement looking far too pleased with himself when the game had just started.”

Erwin snatched the bottle away and threw it harshly to the floor, thankfully not letting the glass smash. But he was angry, so angry. He knew how much Levi hated alcohol, and whilst he didn’t entirely understand the reasoning behind it, he knew that Levi would be furious if he knew he’d ever drank it; accidentally or not.

“What the actual hell! Why would Nile do that?!”

Hange shrugged. “Revenge, I guess. It’s so wrong, I’m so angry!”

Erwin was angry too; furious. He was so fed up of Nile treating Levi in such a negative way – he didn’t deserve it, not ever, and was so confused why he’d do such a thing. Irritably he turned away from Hange and walked straight into the basement to find his boyfriend laid on the sofa, head in Petra’s lap, colour drained from his face and a bowl full of sick right next to his head. He looked ruined – but of course he did, vodka was strong for most people: but especially for those who’d never had it before. And who even knows how much Nile had added to his drink?!

Levi looked sweaty, his hair sticking to his forehead. He was sat up a little more now, but his head was still resting on Petra’s shoulder. He felt so sick and so dizzy, even throwing up wasn’t stopping the spinning. He was so annoyed that he’d got sick the day of Erwin’s birthday party, he rarely got sick. But it was typical, of course. Least he didn’t feel like he would be sick again, that was a relief.

Erwin stormed from the small bathroom into the games room, picking up bottles that were both full and empty, throwing them into a black bag that he kept by the spare chair. He didn’t care if they weren’t finished, he didn’t want any more alcohol in his sight.

 “Drinks away. We’re not drinking anymore tonight.” Erwin announced, Hange hot on his heels. Immediately Mike stood up and picked up all the bottles, understandingly, and helped to put them into the big bin bag that Erwin was carrying around. Nanaba followed and gave her boyfriend a hand in picking up full, unopened bottles and returning them back to the box in the corner of the room that it was originally stored in, not wasting them all, but she did throw out any drinks that were half finished – even their own.

“What happened?” Petra asked, voice soft.

Hange sighed, “Levi was spiked, with vodka I think.”

Erwin looked to Hange and shot them an annoyed glance. Erwin didn’t want to tell Levi now, not when he still felt ill. That was stupid, a stupid and reckless decision made by Hange. Erwin knew Levi was going to act negatively, but before he could even reach his boyfriend on the sofa, Levi was sitting up, scanning everyone in the room.

“Vodka?” his voice muttered quietly, but with a harsh rawness to it, causing everyone to turn back and glare at him. “I fucking drank vodka?”

“It’ll be all out your system now, Levi, don’t worry.’ Hange said, pointing at the bowl of sick they were lifting up to rinse away, trying to help Levi relax a bit more. But he sat there, in absolute silence, staring still. Hange didn’t get Levi’s relationship with alcohol clearly, which was becoming more evident to Erwin. He was still glaring at his friend, trying to get them to shut up, but they didn’t notice and just carried the bowl of sick to the bathroom to wash away.

Tentatively, Erwin handed the black bag to Mike and walked to Levi, placing a hand on his shoulder to get his attention. But Levi didn’t look up, he didn’t even notice someone there. He was just looking ahead, thinking about everything that had happened with Kuchel before, thinking about Kenny, thinking about how he’d rather end up further away than alcohol.

“Levi…” Erwin began, before he finally moved his gaze into the azure eyes before him.

“Nile?” Levi asked, after a few more seconds. His hands were curled into fists and lightly shaking on his lap, and his face was becoming harsher and more sinister with the second. Mike came back to sit next to Levi, trying to calm him down with his best friends by each side. He had no idea what was going on with Levi, he’d never seen him this angry before. Ever.

“I swore I’d never fucking touch alcohol! Not after what happened!” He screamed, throwing himself up, standing and facing his friends. “I fucking promised!” Mike reached an arm out in an attempt to pull Levi back to the sofa, but Erwin just backed a step away, eyes wide with worry. Mike stood then, realising that Levi might run – and he was right, Levi was far too petite and agile for someone of his stature to keep up with.

Levi’s blood boiled. He needed to take it out on something. He needed to. With a scream he threw his fists into the first thing he could see: a table lamp. With a firm punch, the bulb shattered into a million pieces dotting all over the floor. Glass shards stabbed into Levi’s skin, piercing him. Blood began to spill on the floor, but he didn’t notice. He was too wrapped up in what was going on. Erwin shouted. Mike shouted. Nanaba and Petra stood in the corner, worried at what was going on. Hange watched with an open mouth.

Levi moved to the centre of the room, kicking the glass coffee table onto the floor – spilling drinks and food all over Erwin’s new gifts. He couldn’t stop, he was so angry. He turned to the giant TV screen on the wall, bracing his fists ready. By this point Erwin and Mike had grabbed him, not letting him go any further – he was already injured enough, and the TV glass would severely cut him. But Levi was pissed that he’d been stopped, and flapped his limbs around hysterically, splashing blood onto his friends, kicking them in the shins. Mike wrapped his arms fully around his friend and sandwiched him between the two men, letting him scream and cry it out.

Petra rang for Kuchel now, whilst Levi was safely in the grasp of his oldest friends. She didn’t explain what had happened, but said it was urgent. She needed to get her son urgently. Nanaba was almost in tears watching the events unfold before her eyes – she’d never seen anyone hysterical before, she’d never seen anything like it. She always thought Levi was so well put together, so strong. It was rare to see him crumble. Eventually Levi stopped wiggling in the boy’s arms and collapsed his head onto Erwin’s chest, bringing his arms around his back and clinging on, allowing the tears to fall.

As if timing couldn’t be worse, the front door sounded by that point. All the friends exchanged glances, hearing Erwin’s parents walk into the main foyer.

“Erwin honey we’re home!” Mrs Smith called out jolly, as her and her husband began to descend the stairs. There was no tiding up quickly, nor no explanation for what had happened. It looked like a war zone, there was blood and the scent of sick. What they walked in on was a mess.

Food thrown across the room, a battered chair with cushions everywhere, and a table flipped over and one of the legs was broken. A raven-haired boy in the arms of Mike and Erwin, red seeping through his dark clothes. Levi was a lot stronger than he looked, especially when he was angry. At this point he didn’t even see the point in moving, panicking, releasing his grasp. His arms dropped from Erwin’s back to his side, growing limp.

“What. The. Hell.” Mr Smith shouted as he walked down, eyes locking to his son then straight back to Levi. “Get out, Ackerman.” He said, angrily, monotone. It was obvious Levi had been the cause of destruction, since he was the one sandwiched between the two men, and everyone else looked like a deer in the headlights. No one even knew what to say, but Erwin immediately dropped Levi and walked towards his father.

“No father, wait!” Erwin said, trying to stop Mr Smith kicking Levi out of their home.

“No. Erwin, he’s scum. He’s always been scum. Trashing my house, who does he think he is? Can definitely tell he’s related to an alcoholic criminal family. Get out now, Levi.” He said, tone even and angry. Mike released Levi from his arms now, and Levi didn’t even turn back to look at him. Instead, he obeyed instructions. He didn’t even say bye to his friends, just headed towards the basement stairs and began to ascend. Erwin tried to grab him as he walked past, but Levi shrugged him off, leaving small drops of blood on the cream carpet. He felt Erwin’s dads’ eyes glare as he walked past him but couldn’t care less. What was even the point anymore?

All Levi could think about was that the chemical had impurities inside him: he was always clean of alcohol and swore to be for the rest of his life. After seeing his mum, Kenny, and Farlan and Isabel and what happened to them, he promised at his best friends’ funerals that he’d never touch it. And now he had. He’d broken his promise, the most important one he’d ever made. He wouldn’t even blame his mum if she was disgusted with him, because he was utterly disgusted. He couldn’t believe what he’d done.

By the time he got to Erwin’s dad, he pushed past him aggressively, managing to knock him harshly against the wall. He didn’t care. He knew it was the end with Erwin by this point anyway. Erwin wouldn’t want to date someone who was that messed up. Levi finally reached the front door, slipping his boots on in absolute silence. Mrs Smith watched on in horror, not sure what to do. She was angry too, but Levi was bleeding – they couldn’t leave him like that.

She approached him by the door. “Levi, darling, you don’t have to leave. Just tell us what happened.”

Levi ignored her and stared at the floor, angry.

“Please, honey-” she said as Kuchel pulled up outside out of good timing, thanks to Petra.

“Nile.” Levi said, the word spurting off his tongue like vomit. Erwin was running up the stairs shouting him, but he turned his back on everyone and walked straight to his mums’ car who was parked up outside, her anxious eyes looking down on her son. His stomps were almost sounded to those in the basement they were that aggressive.

It was clear he couldn’t be with Erwin, not anymore. His dad didn’t accept him and never would after causing such a wreck in his house. But arguably it was all Mr Smith’s fault anyway – if he never told Nile about the party, he’d never have come. Levi’s drink would never have been spiked. He would never have trashed the room in anger.

As he sat down in the front seat angrily, he tugged his seat belt on. The voices all around him completely zoned out as he slowly began to feel light headed. Blood was tricking from his long sleeves now; he hadn’t realised how bad it was before in the adrenaline, but each movement caused a shard of glass to shift in his body making him twitch.

After realising she wasn’t going to get anything out of Levi who had disassociated himself from everyone, Kuchel climbed out of the car and slammed her door shut, walking over to Mrs Smith. Mike, Nanaba, Hange, and Petra were all stood at the door mouths agape just watching the scene unravel. Mr Smith had completely disappeared from sight, probably to phone the police or some shit, Levi thought.

“What the hell happened to Levi?! Petra said something about him being spiked?!? Which one of you did that to him?!” Kuchel practically shouted, worry in her voice. Mrs Smith looked at her, completely confused as she wasn’t even sure what went on herself.

“Spiked?” She said, softly. “I don’t know what’s happened, Kuchel. We had gone for some food whilst Erwin held his party and came home to Levi smashing the entire basement. Shattered lights, a broken table, carpet stained with food and blood.”

“Miss Ackerman, it wasn’t us.” Petra chipped in, wanting to help. “It was Nile. Nile put vodka in his drink. He got upset, he shattered glass.”

Kuchel’s eyes shot back to her son in the car, then to his friend in front of her, eyes darting back to Mrs Smith. “Is that why he’s bleeding?” She asked, worried still. Mrs Smith nodded. “I’ll pay for the damage.” Kuchel said, firm.

“No don’t be silly Kuchel darling, its fine. Easily fixed!” Mrs Smith tried to be kind and understanding, she didn’t realise it was because he was spiked until that point. She knew about Levi’s past, about the alcohol. A tall blonde boy pushed past. “Erwin Smith come back here!” His mother called out. But he didn’t listen.

Erwin at this point was running to the car and was trying to get Levi to talk to him, but frankly Levi didn’t want to talk to anyone, not after the situation that was slowly unrolling. What’s the point in putting more pain in our relationship now when I’m clearly not welcome? Why drag it out?

Levi turned his head as far in the opposite direction of Erwin as he could, so Erwin walked around to the driver’s seat and sat down next to his boyfriend.

“Levi I’m sorry my dad is such an idiot. And Nile, I’m so disgusted at what he did. Look, please – oh god – let me bandage your hands up, that looks sore and there’s probably glass in the cuts.”

Levi looked down and reluctantly pulled his hands into his belly, hiding them from Erwin. The pain from the glass shards caused a small squeak to come from his body in utter agony. He needed to figure out a way to pick the glass out quickly, just in case it got infected. He couldn’t be dealing with scabbing arms for weeks.

“Levi please.” Erwin whimpered, tears forming in the corners of his eyes. That night Erwin’s dad had fallen out with him, and his oldest friend had betrayed him. Now Levi was in a mood with him: it was piling up slowly. What a terrible way to end one of the most important birthdays. “Levi you’re in pain let me do something.”

“I’m fine.” Levi said through gritted teeth. Erwin sighed in annoyance. Then, in the corner of his eye he saw Mr Smith pushing past his friends to talk to Kuchel and probably kick off about the entire situation. Erwin began to panic.

“Levi come on let’s get out to my car, quick. My dad’s coming.”

Levi looked up at Erwin then, his eyes wet and a smear of blood on his face from when he ran his hands through his hair. Erwin got a better look at his whole body then, blood stains all over his shirt and trousers from pressing his arms to them. In immediate panic, Erwin put his seat belt on and turned the gas on as Kuchel left the keys running.

He put his foot down quickly and the old car speeded away. Erwin needed to get Levi away from there: he needed to get him to a hospital to clear his wounds up.

“Erwin! Wait!”

“ERWIN SMITH GET BACK HERE NOW.”

Voices echoed into the empty road as the car speeded away, and slowly everyone left behind returned inside. Mrs Smith phoned parents to come and collect the other teens from the party, as Kuchel went to sit down with Mr Smith to discuss costs.

                                                ***

“There you go, kid. All bandaged up and the glass is out.” The nurse turned back to Erwin, “make sure he doesn’t go walking into any more lights and accidentally crushing the bulbs. Also make sure Levi changes his bandages tonight before bed, and then doesn’t get them wet for twenty-four hours. After that he’ll be fine to take them off to wash properly and put fresh ones on.”

“Understood.” Erwin nodded to the nurse, “and thank you for helping us.”

When the boys got to the hospital Erwin phoned his mum to tell them where they were and not to worry. He said he’d let them know once they were ready to head back and he’d take the car straight to Kuchel, and Levi of course. Mrs Smith said it was fine as long as Levi was okay. It seemed the real adults needed a very deep conversation anyway, and frankly Kuchel was owed apologies about the way her son was treated. Not that Mr Smith was likely to give them.

Once the nurse left the room and shut the door, Erwin tucked his boyfriend under his large arm, and Levi fell into it, resting his head under his armpit.

“How you feeling?”

“’Kay.” Levi paused, “I’m sorry Erwin. Alcohol just – I just don’t agree with it.”

“Levi you have nothing to apologise for. I’m sorry I associate with such bad people. If there was a way to escape them, I would.”

“Guess I’ll pay your dad for the damage, otherwise you’ll never be able to see me again.” Levi snorted. “Just wait till he finds out we’re together.”

Erwin let out a deep sigh and squeezed Levi into his body even tighter than before.

“Shit Erwin, ouch. What’s that for?” He grumbled, as he tried to wiggle out of the tight grasp.

“I thought you were going to leave me, Levi.”

“No don’t be fucking stupid. I was just angry and didn’t want to talk to anyone.”

Erwin just smiled and breathed in his boyfriends’ scent, before picking his phone out of his pocket to read the texts his friends had sent him. They’d all sent practically the same thing, such saying thanks for the party and that they hoped Levi would be okay.

“Sorry I ruined your party too.” Levi mumbled as Erwin scrolled through his messages.

“No, you didn’t ruin it. Nile did.”

“Hm.” Levi said. “We need to get him back somehow.”

“Let us not think about revenge just yet, Levi, we need to find a way to make our parents less annoyed with us. I stole your mums’ car.” He planted a hand over his forehead and began to rub at his temples. The reality of the last few hours was coming back to light and Erwin was dreading going home.

“She won’t care.” Levi said, trying to comfort Erwin, who just shot him a smile and stood up.

“You ready to get off?”

“Definitely. I hate hospitals.” Levi had always associated them with bad things; which does make sense. He’d ended up there before and he hated every minute of it, and didn’t want to extend his stay this time round either.

“I thought you might.” Erwin chuckled before he held a hand out for Levi, who took it in his and they wandered to the car together after signing to say they could leave.

Once back on the road, the boys sat in absolute silence, a heavy anxiety hanging in the air over their heads. They weren’t sure what was going to happen once they got home, but damn sure it wasn’t going to be pretty. Levi was already mentally prepared to clean the entire basement and fix everything the best he could, despite his entire forearms being covered in bandages. He was also dreading seeing his mums worried face as he walked into the Smith household: the last time he’d been in hospital was after his suicide attempt when he first started high school and she had this lookabout her for weeks after – he couldn’t handle that again.

Suddenly Levi was slapped in the face with reality when Erwin announced they were there, the car coming to a stop. The pair climbed out of the seats and walked to the big front door where both mums were waiting eagerly.

“Oh Levi!” Kuchel exclaimed, throwing her arms around her son. Mrs Smith walked up to Levi and also gave him a hug, her eyes wet. “Levi darling I’m so sorry.” She said.

Levi pulled away from the pair and eyed his mum, who shot him back a sorrowful smile. Great, she’s told her about Kenny.

The four walked inside and sat down at the big dining room table which was laid with pancakes and fresh orange juice, obviously for the boys return home. They all began to eat before saying anything, and it was Erwin that perked up first.

“The nurse said Levi needs to change his bandages before going to bed. Obviously now it’s six in the morning, so if you just help him with it before he goes to bed when you get home. He also can’t get them wet for twenty-four hours, but then he needs to take them off to wash properly. Also, I’m sorry I stole your car.” Erwin said. His voice not as eloquent as usual, most likely because he was practically falling asleep at the table then and there.

“You don’t need to apologise Erwin, thank you for helping my son.”

Levi didn’t look up and instead just continued to eat the food in front of him. He kept feeling Mrs Smith looking up at him with a sympathetic glare but ignored it. He couldn’t deal with his past just now.

“Where’s dad?” Erwin asked, voice a little concerned.

“He’s gone to see Nile.”

“Great.” Levi mumbled, shoving a mouthful of pancake into his mouth.

“Levi, I told Mr and Mrs Smith about the problems you had when you were younger, and the affect alcohol has on you-”

“Yeah mum I fucking guessed.” He said, still not looking up.

“Don’t interrupt or swear, Levi” Kuchel frowned, just because he was poorly did not give him the right to be rude, “Anyway, I told them, and then Mike explained to all of us what happened with Nile when he came around uninvited, so Mr Smith has gone to see them and see if it was true.”

Levi raised his eyebrows and then furrowed them again. Obviously, Mr Smith was going to believe Nile over Mike: he had always picked favourites, and they were the ones he chose. He also hated Kuchel, so it made even more sense to go against her and her son.

“Also, we’re paying back for all the damage you caused. Mrs Smith said not to, but Mr Smith was adamant that you should do to learn your lesson and I happen to agree. So, from now on you’ll be working Saturday’s with me at the diner.”

“But mum that’s the day I see Erwin!” Levi cried out.

“No. You need to learn your lesson.”

“Fucking great. So, I get spiked and then have to fix what I did when I was drunk and being sick?! Sounds fair mum!” He stood up from the table and stormed out of the room, Erwin following quickly behind him and the two went to Erwin’s room and slammed the door.

“Can I stay here.” Levi said, not questioning, but suggesting.

“Yes of course you can Levi, but my dad-”

“Don’t fucking care. I am not working in a grubby diner.”

A knock at Erwin’s bedroom door sounded a second later, and Kuchel followed in immediately after the sound walking straight up to Erwin’s bed and sitting down next to her son.

“Look, Levi. I’d work the extra hours to pay back the damage, but I can’t afford to, I’m already working thirteen or fourteen hour shifts six days a week – anymore and I just wouldn’t be able to cope. Everything is just getting more expensive by the day, I can barely afford to pay our bills our landlord keeps making them go up more and more each month. Just –” Kuchel paused herself, rubbing at her forehead before dropping her hand and offering her son a tired smile, “sorry Levi that’s not really your problem.”

He eyed his mum with worry: one thing he hated was how secretive she was when it came to financial or family troubles. He knew it was because she didn’t want to worry him but being in the dark made him stress more.

“Fine I’ll work.” Levi said, reluctantly. He stared down at the floor his eyes becoming glassy. “How mucky is it? Are the germs bad?” He asked, warily.

Kuchel sighed. “This is why I was never going to let you work there, Levi, I knew it’d set your OCD off. But I guess our hands are tied. I’ll make sure everyone does the dirtiest bits for you son, and you could just stay on till and serve customers.”

“Wait.” Erwin said, interrupting. The Ackerman’s had almost forgotten that he was in the room since they were surrounded by their own concerns. “I got about £1000 in birthday money. Take it, then Levi you won’t have to work.”

“Erwin we can’t take your money.” Kuchel said, firm.

“No, it’s my money and I want to give you it, so please, just, take it. Then I can see Levi on Saturday’s still and my dad will be a bit less moody since it was handed over so quickly.”

Erwin began to scuttle about his room, pulling notes from cards from his family members and getting a big pile together before he ran down the stairs and thrust the money at his mum. He begged her to take it, he’d rather have less money but still be able to see his boyfriend. He needed Levi so much, and he could only imagine how much Levi wouldn’t cope in somewhere like a mucky diner.

Kuchel and Levi followed downstairs straight after and tried to explain that it was okay, Levi was going to work, but Erwin wasn’t having it. Instead he demanded that his parents took the money and after a while, Mrs Smith agreed, and they all promised not to tell Erwin’s dad where the money had come from, because they all knew he’d kick off if he knew.

It was about 10 in the morning when Levi and Kuchel decided to go home. Mr Smith still wasn’t home, and they were too sleepy to hang around any longer.

“I’m sorry about all this fuss, Mrs Smith.”

“No Kuchel don’t be silly, you have nothing to apologise for. Just so you know I’ll always defend Levi, I know that Nile can be a nasty piece of work and Levi would never have purposefully trashed our house. Water under the bridge.”

“Thank you.” Kuchel said, wearily. “Come on Levi, we’re off now.”

“Sorry.” Levi said to Erwin’s mum, who announced that it was okay and wrapped him in a hug. He accepted it, grateful that she was Erwin’s mum and he didn’t have two versions of his dad. She was kind and understanding. But he also hated how she’d view him now, knowing his full past with Kenny. He didn’t want her to bring it up to him, ever.

When he departed from the hug, he turned to face his boyfriend.

“Sorry I ruined your birthday Erwin.” Levi said, eyes looking up at his.

“Levi we’ve already talked about this, it wasn’t your fault.”

Levi shrugged, and Erwin pulled him into a hug before ducking his head down and kissing him gently. Levi felt uncomfortable and turned bright red at the fact that his mum was stood there.

“Don’t forget to change your bandages as soon as you get home Levi.” Erwin said, and the smaller boy nodded and quickly reached up to kiss his boyfriend once more, in an apology-and-thankyou sort of kiss.

As he reached down and lowered his feet, he turned and walked out of the house following Kuchel closely, before heading home and going straight to bed.

Chapter Text

Mrs Smith and her son waited by the door, watching the two guests drive off. They were exhausted; Erwin even more so after spending half the evening in A&E with Levi getting stitches and glass pulled from him. His mother noticed this instantly and turned to face her son the second the small car was out of sight. “Off you go to bed, Erwin.” Mrs Smith said after Levi and Kuchel drove home.

“I’m sorry mum.” Erwin muttered, arms drooping. Despite being so much taller than his mum, he appeared so much smaller at that second: weak and vulnerable. He was worried about Levi, he was worried about all his friends who had to go home, and more importantly he was worried about who his dad would believe. He wasn’t prepared to see his father again, he rarely stood up to him. But he had last night, and he could only imagine how much trouble he’d be in.

Mrs Smith told Erwin he had nothing to apologise for, and to not feel bad on himself, before once again sending him off to bed. She knew he needed to rest; he’d feel so much better about it all come the afternoon when he’d rested.

Just as he turned away to head up the stairs, Mr Smith came charging through the door, making sure to make his presence known and slamming the door unnecessarily loud behind him. His gaze immediately drew to his son who was sheepishly walking up the stairs, away from him. Erwin did not want this to happen now, not when he was so tried.

“You’ve decided to come back home, hopefully without that little shit.” Mr Smith grumbled, smarmily. A smirk was plastered on his face.

“That is no way to talk to your son. I’ve already spoken to Erwin about the car, and he’s very sorry, right Erwin?” Erwin nodded in response, of course he was sorry. But he needed to help Levi, and he’d have been even more sorry if Levi was still in hospital now because no one took him straight away. “Now, let us skip arguments, I want to know what Nile said.” Mrs Smith sounded cross, angry. Erwin had never seen her like that, especially not to her husband.

“Nile told me the truth, as expected.” Mr Smith snorted, “He said he came over for a bit but everyone was playing hide and seek and he thought it was too childish, so left with Marie after about thirty minutes. No alcohol involved, no spiking Levi or whatever you made up.”

“Now I don’t believe that.” Mrs Smith choked up, laughing at Nile’s apparent story.

“Yeah father that’s completely not true.”

“Ha! You expect me to believe you, Erwin!? You stole a car tonight. I did not bring you up to act so recklessly. Not only did you steal it, but you had alcohol in your system when you did! You’re taking after your scum friend in so many ways. You’ll both be like Kenny the Ripper before you know it.”

“Father I drove him to hospital. He was bleeding! And you were being argumentative, so I didn’t know what else I could have done.” Erwin had never looked or sounded so helpless, his eyebrows furrowing and his lip quivering slightly. He blinked hard to fight back unshed tears. “I had to help him!”

Mr Smith got even angrier then, storming up to his son and standing right in front of him before tutting in his face. Erwin tilted his head away from his dad as Mrs Smith pushed between the pair separating them.

“You two. Stop this, now.” Erwin did, and he flopped back on the stair behind him feeling weak and heavy. He hadn’t slept since yesterday when he was with Levi, and since this night and it being almost 10:30 am the following day he was knackered. He ran his hands through his hair as his eyes slowly watered down his cheeks, now flushed red with anger and nervousness about his father.

“Look what you’re doing to our son! Since when do you believe the Dok’s over one of our own?!”

“Since he became friends with scum.” He made sure to look at Erwin as he hissed the last word, wanting to emphasise what Levi was to him.

“Stop calling him that right now! Levi is not scum. He’s not as well off as us, so what? Just because his Uncle is in jail doesn’t mean he’s bad too. Not once have I ever heard of Levi reacting to something just for the fun of it – he reacts to things that trigger him, as any normal person does. In fact, I’d say Levi is one of Erwin’s kindest and most trusting friends and probably a better example for our son than anyone.”

Mr Smith just stood staring at his wife. She never shouted or raised her voice: she was gentle and kind and would not argue unless she felt it was necessary which she clearly did now.

“You need to leave Erwin and Levi alone. They’re best friends, they have been since they were kids for crying out loud.” Erwin was so grateful that his mum was standing up for him so much and that she wasn’t mentioning that they were actually dating: that would have gone down even worse than it was now.

“Levi has had a rough life, up until now, and you’re just making it even harder for him. He lost his best friends when he was young, he didn’t have a mum in his life for ages, he’s never had a father figure, he had his uncle which turned out to be a disaster – why do you want to make him suffer even more!? Come, Erwin.” She reached her hand out and practically snatched Erwin’s, pulling him upright. “I’m taking you to Levi’s. Your father and I have things to sort out. I can’t live with a man who is this nasty.”

Strutting past her husband who was speechless, the two walked out of their family home slamming the door shut and climbed into Mrs Smith’s car. She let out a huge sigh before putting the keys in the engine and starting the car. Erwin just looked at him mum in awe for a few moments, proud of her for reacting in such a way. He’d never have expected that from her. But now they were in the comfortable silence without Mr Smith earwigging, Erwin wanted to know what actually happened to Levi.

“Mum? What actually happened to Levi?” he asked quietly after a few moments of silence.

She sighed, “That’s why I’m taking you to him. I think it’s something you both need to talk about. It’ll explain his mental stability a little more, I guess. Hopefully make you understand what happened last night, because hell. It made me sympathise and understand.”

He paused again, “Thanks mum.” He couldn’t think of anything else to say to her, not after what had just happened. He was weary and still slightly crying, terrified of his father and going home again.

She turned her head and smiled at her son who still was appearing small next to her, “Anything for my favourite couple.” She winked at him.

He was so relieved that she knew about them and accepted them so warmly. If she hadn’t, then he doubted she’d have argued Levi’s case as much as she did that night. She wanted nothing more than for her son to be happy and if that meant arguing with her stubborn husband, then so be it.

A few moments later the car pulled into the parking spaces before the sweet shop, coming to a halt.

“Okay Erwin honey I’ll come back in a few hours and drop off some food and clothes. I can’t expect Kuchel to fund your food as well since I’m throwing you on her doorstop. Just please explain to her what’s going on, I’m sure she won’t mind.” She started routing around in her pocket and pulled out the wad of Erwin’s birthday money too, “and take this. You and Levi deserve a treat and should not have to pay for the damage. Take him somewhere nice. I’ll sort out the damage.”

Erwin’s solemn face turned to his mums in a huge grin and he leant over to kiss her cheek saying thank you before crawling out of the car and up the steps to the Ackerman’s front door. It was the first time Erwin had ever felt trepidation going to Levi’s as he walked up the stairs and tentatively knocked on the door. After a couple of minutes, Kuchel answered it, poking her head round the door and extending fully when she saw who it was.

“Oh, Erwin! What are you doing round?” She opened the door, so he could come inside, revealing a bed head and pyjamas.

“I’m so sorry Miss Ackerman were you in bed?”

“No, no don’t be silly. Come on, take a seat. You want a drink?”

“No thank you. I was hoping I could just sleep.” He didn’t realise how blunt he was been, for himself, but he was so tired now.

“Yeah of course you can.” She thought. “Levi’s asleep in his bed, you can go and join him if you want. I think he’ll want you there.”

“Thank you, so much, Miss Ackerman.”

“And you can tell me why you’re round when you’ve caught up on some sleep. I’ve taken the day off work for Levi, so we can talk after.” She shot him a kind smile as he retreated to his boyfriends’ room finding the raven-haired boy curled on the bed, hair sprawled out on the pillow, arms curled up under his face white with bandages.

He smiled fondly at the sight before him on the bed, before stripping into just his boxers and climbing behind Levi, the small body pressing against his perfectly, wrapping his large arms over him. After a few moments, all that came out of the boy’s bodies were gentle breaths.

                                                ***

They awoke later that day at about 4pm. It was already getting darker outside, and the weather was even cooler floating from Levi’s window into his room. Grumbling into Erwin’s arm, he sat up and rubbed at his eyes checking the time.

“Erwin wake up, it’s four.” He moaned.

“Hmm? Five more minutes.”

“No Erwin. You won’t sleep later. Get. Up.” He pushed Erwin gently with his feet, causing him too to sit up and rub at his eyes in the same manner of his boyfriend. They were still both exhausted, but equally wanted to sleep that night too.

“Why you here, anyway?” Levi asked. “I remember you getting here a bit ago, but I was too tired to react.”

“Oh, mum dropped me off. She and father were having an argument and wanted me out of the way for it. She said, um.” He paused, trying to think of the best way to word it.

“She said I have things I should tell you too, didn’t she?” he sighed when his boyfriend didn’t respond, knowing that was the exact right answer.

“But Levi if you don’t feel comfortable, or ready, I won’t force you to tell me about your past. I never want to put you in a position you don’t feel –”

“Come on then.” Levi interrupted, choosing to ignore Erwin’s comment. He knew it was now or never and they had known each other for years. He climbed out of bed, not making eye contact and walking straight to the door, not even bothering to make his bed like usual. “Mum can help me explain it all in case, like, it’s too much.”

Quickly Erwin stood and put his clothes back on before following Levi straight to the dining table. He didn’t want to lose this moment – Levi was far too determined, something which he rarely was. Especially when talking about himself. Kuchel was already in the kitchen boiling the kettle.

“Ah, Erwin. Your mum came around a couple of hours ago to drop a bag of clothes off. It looks like you’re staying with us for the week off school, if you want.”

Erwin smiled widely, that was perfect. He wouldn’t have to see his father, and could even look after Levi all week. “I’d love that, thank you so much.”

“Let’s get this shit over with then.” Levi grumbled, playing with the edges of his bandages.

“Hm? What’s that Levi honey?”

“Erwin wants to know about Kenny and stuff.” Levi said, trying to keep his voice steady. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stay pretty in this, even just thinking about the past brought out too many memories. His anxiety was sparking already, and he’d barely even began.

“Oh. Are you sure about that?” Kuchel asked, worry in her voice. She had paused what she was doing to glance at her son, checking he was okay with it. He hadn’t even explained everything in full to her even after all these years, never mind open up in front of someone who wasn’t his mother.

“Yeah it’s fine whatever. When he knows I’ll never have to mention it again. That right, Erwin?”

“Yes of course Levi. Just whatever you feel comfortable with.”

Kuchel returned to the table with three cups of tea, then turned back to start on breakfast whilst Levi took in a deep breath, wrapping his hands around the cup to keep them warm.

“Mum was sick.”

“Pardon?”

“It’s the start of my story.” Levi rolled his eyes and took a sip of his morning tea. Erwin just nodded politely in response, leaving his boyfriend to it.

“Mum was sick, like really poorly when I was younger. She ended up going away, and I ended up in the custody of my Uncle Kenny. Who is a bad, bad guy, to say the least.” He paused and snorted, just thinking how underrated the statement is. He could feel Kuchel listening in, but he needed to say it how it was. She still loved her brother, but she knew he was bad too. Just had a harder time admitting to that fact.

“He was in a gang, got into fights, petty crime. Theft and stuff. When I got there, I found he lived with two other kids around my age, Farlan and Isabel. I have no idea why they were there still, but they were amazing. We thought of each other like siblings after a while, Isabelle even called me her big bro. They looked after me and I them, we’d hide away together and stuff.

“But we were all small, and sneaky. So, Kenny got us involved in his crimes. It started smaller, making us three pickpocket and steal from people. Sometimes food, sometimes money. When he saw how good we all worked together, he got us involved in fighting. We were all only about 6. But he made us right on the streets. And we couldn’t refuse, ‘cos he’d do stuff. Like hit us with his belt or poke a gun to our head and threaten us. Yeah, it was bad. We couldn’t not do it.”

He paused for a moment, having a bit of his drink, eye firmly on the table. Kuchel came to sit beside him as the food began to cook, before giving Levi’s hand a gentle squeeze, encouraging him to continue. She looked at Erwin, his mouth already agape at hearing what was going on. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Kenny liked alcohol and drugs. He got high and drank a lot. He forgot about us. He forgot to feed us, so we ended up living off scraps and stealing sweets for food. Hardly washed, none of our clothes fit us. I still don’t get why social services didn’t come around, but Mum didn’t know anything about it.”

Levi took a deep breath and looked at Kuchel for permission, before she nodded with a deep sadness in her eyes at hearing truthfully what her brother had put him through. “Mum was in rehab for drink.”

Erwin’s heart was slowly beginning to sink at the thought of a small and vulnerable Levi being unable to live a normal childhood. He hated the fact that Kuchel was ill because of alcohol, explaining why Levi avoided it so much. It made him even more annoyed thinking about Nile spiking his drink, not really knowing the mental repercussions it would have on Levi too. It wasn’t just a fun game.

Levi continued, “honestly it wasn’t all bad. I loved Izzie and Farlan, we had so much fun. They were my first proper family, and my first friends I trusted.” He paused, smiling to himself, thinking about how incredible they both were. “Izzie has this crazy bright red hair, and the goofiest smile. She cared so much for animals, too. She tried to make friends with the mice we’d find around the house, it was cute.

“Farlan was taller than us two, and skinny. He was blonde and had a kind smile and used to hold my hand when Kenny would shout at me. Or look out for me when Kenny came looking to take out his anger on one of us, hiding me under his bed so I didn’t have to get hit. I loved them, Erwin. I loved them so much.

“But fucking Kenny ruined it for us though. Kenny took too many drugs, drank too much, and forgot about us all the time. Then he started to run out of money, quick too. So, one night when me, Farlan and Izzie were in bed asleep he set the house on fire.”

He paused, just thinking about it. The flames licking at his hair, his body. His toes burning on the wooden floor. The screams from his best friends from the opposite side of the house. He closed his eyes and counted to ten, trying to rid the feeling. And no one said anything or interrupted him. They just sat there waiting for Levi to work through it. And he did. The panic went, no attack followed. He was okay. He could talk about it, he’d nearly finished the story and he was fine.

Levi wafted his hands in the air, “I’m fine, I’m fine. Right, anyway. Set the house on fire. I was in a different room to Izzie and Farlan because their bed was too small, and I was sleeping in the living room. The fire hit there first, melting the room away. Could hear them scream. Kenny grabbed me and threw me out of the house. I tried to go back. But he wouldn’t let me. No one would let me, I couldn’t get to them. I just couldn’t save them. Kenny got arrested for fraud. I went through social services for half a year, and then just before I started your elementary school, mum finally got me back. Got out of rehab.” His voice became a mere whisper, “I can still hear them scream. I could have fucking saved them.”

Levi finally breathed after getting it all out as quickly as he could, resting his head on the table and wrapping his arms around his neck for extra protection. Erwin sat in silence, staring at him.

How has he been through that at such a young age? How have I never known?

Kuchel gave Levi a sideways hug before walking back to the kitchen to get the food from the hob, wiping her tears away not wanting her son to see her so distraught. She left Erwin to sit with Levi for a while, who had slowly risen his hand to the back of the raven boys’ head and was stroking his hair softly, massaging it gently. He was broken, he was clueless.

“Levi I – I don’t know what to say.”

“Then don’t.” Levi’s voice took a while to sound, shaken and filled with sorrow.

“Levi are you okay?” He asked, nervously, as he now noticed Levi was shaking and tapping his feet harshly on the floor below him. His breathing was coming hindered and he began to whisper things under his breath, things Erwin was unable to make out. But Levi wasn’t responding to Erwin’s words, and he panicked.

“Kuchel?!” Erwin said, causing her to come straight back to the table and sit by her son, massaging his back softly and whispering kind words to him. Of course, his panic was bad this time round, he’d finally just admitted to everything. He’d relived the worst years of his life before his best friend, and boyfriend, and made himself completely vulnerable. The attack went on for way over twenty minutes, before he slowly steadied himself, rubbing his hands through his hair finally to compose himself. Kuchel stood up, telling Erwin to take Levi to sit in the living room – they could eat tea from their laps.

Erwin held Levi as they walked to the sofa, Levi clinging onto his boyfriend. They fell backwards, Levi holding Erwin close as he felt his shoulder grow damp. By this point Levi was blubbering – full on crying. He’d never seen an adult cry like that before, not with such sadness and passion. But he let Levi stay there, crying on his shoulder.

Right now, all Erwin wanted to do was wrap Levi in a big, protective blanket and make him forget everything that happened to him. He was even more annoyed at his dad and how he kicked off about Levi despite him being so vulnerable: even more annoyed that Nile felt the need to spike his drink when he’d had so many problems with alcohol when he was a child.

The house remained silent for a long time, other than the quiet noises of Levi’s tears, and Kuchel plating up food which was brought to the living room and put on the coffee table. She quietly switched the TV on to distract from the saddened situation, and slowly Levi allowed himself to peel away from his boyfriend, grabbing the food and nibbling his way through it. Erwin constantly kept one arm around Levi, even as he ate. He wanted Levi to understand that he was there, and he wasn’t going to be leaving anytime soon.

Kuchel kept looking towards her son, shooting him loving glances. Whenever she’d walk past him to go to the kitchen or to the bathroom, her frail hand would stroke or touch Levi in any way possible, just so he knew she was there. It was rare that Levi would appear so needy yet so distant at the same time. It was very clear that talking about the past had affected him so much more than he was letting on.

That evening, Levi suffered another panic attack that lasted even longer than the one before, and resulted in him going straight to bed after, bringing Erwin with him. That night they didn’t share any kisses, but instead just physical contact. Levi pressed his body as close to Erwin as he could, and Erwin held him as close to him too as possible.

They slept like that soundly until the next morning, late on, where Levi seemed a lot calmer and a lot more himself, despite waking numerous times throughout the night after nightmares plagued his dreams. Erwin heard him shouting names of his friends and uncle through their sleep, but left that silent: he didn’t want to bring it up, to disturb his boyfriend more than he’d already suffered.

                                    ***

Levi and Erwin didn’t speak of his past again, and instead spent the week playing video games and watching TV, eating food that Mrs Smith had cooked or Kuchel brought home from the diner. And a lot of sweets, which apparently helped Levi in more ways than one. He slowly was coming around to himself, messing about and joking with Erwin as the week progressed, settling into himself once again. But he did seem lighter, since getting things off his chest. Levi was okay when he wasn’t alone – only that week he suffered one more attack when he was in the bath, causing both Erwin and Kuchel to rush in to help him out.

He also began to take his medication again, much to Kuchel’s delight. He said it was only temporary, just to get him through the rough patch, and for her to not buy anymore. But either way, Kuchel was happy that he was back on his tablets; they’d help him with the anxiety, and he definitely needed that after such a disastrous month.

The week went far too quickly for Erwin and Levi’s liking, Sunday creeping around speedily. That meant school tomorrow, but it also meant one very problematic thing: Erwin had to go home. And that was made very clear when it approached teatime on Sunday, and Mrs Smith stood up patting her sons’ knee, telling him to get his things together.

“Come on then son, we better be getting home. Kuchel, thank you so much again for everything you have done for us this week. I cannot stress how much I appreciate it.”

“Oh, honestly it’s fine. Erwin had helped Levi so much more than we have helped him this week, anyway.” Kuchel smiled at her friend, grateful for such a loyal lady in her life.

“Thank you for letting me stay, Miss Ackerman. I’ll just go get my bags from the bedroom and then be out of your hair.”

Erwin stood up sadly, and Levi followed straight after, shutting the door when he got to his room. Before saying anything, Levi grabbed Erwin’s arm and spun him round, planting a passionate kiss on his lips before mumbling a very quiet thank you.

“You don’t need to thank me Levi.” Erwin smiled, placing a gentle and soft kiss on his boyfriend before grabbing the large bag containing a weeks’ worth of clothes. They shared a huge hug before heading back to the door.

“Text me, Levi, if you need me. I’ll see you tomorrow anyway.”

“Yeah sure.” Levi nodded, a small smile placed on his face. “I’ll miss you tonight.” Levi whispered, and Erwin agreed with another soft kiss. It would be weird not sleeping in the same room anymore, or attempting to squish onto the very small single bed anymore.

When the two boys got back into the main living area, both mums were stood by the door faces intently serious but upon seeing Levi, they both softened their faces to a smile trying to cover up what they were clearly talking about.

“Thank you again, Miss Ackerman.” Erwin said after pulling on his boots.

“That is absolutely fine Erwin, I don’t know how many times I’ll have to say this in your lifetime but you’re literally welcome here at any time.”

Erwin smiled, and after a final goodbye, the Smiths walked down the stairs silently and climbed into the car. Only now was it beginning to set into Erwin what had actually happened that week: he couldn’t stop thinking about how his dad was going to be with him, but even more so he couldn’t stop thinking about Levi and his past life. He’d never seen someone suffering so much, especially the evening Levi had told him what had happened. The thought of it made Erwin’s breath choke. He wanted to be back there with him already, protecting him. Looking out for him.

“Had a good week, darling?” Mrs Smith asked, smiling at him, but the smile dropped immediately when Erwin broke down crying covering his face with his hands.

“Oh honey, please don’t cry. Your father is a lot calmer now, don’t worry about him at all. I sorted him out-”

“Mum it’s so sad!” Erwin cried out, practically shouting, “I didn’t know what to say. Levi it’s just… He was so young. And then Nile did that, what the hell.”

“I know darling it’s awful but look now he’s so much stronger and he’s got you and Kuchel, plus friends like Mike and Nanaba. Kuchel said he’s so much better now than he was.” She reached a hand over and rubbed her fingers over her sons’ hand, and slowly his crying became mere hiccups as they pulled into the drive.

The pair climbed out of the car slowly, and upon doing so Erwin went to his mum and threw his arms around her, needing to feel protected for once. They held each other in the drive for a few minutes before Mrs Smith picked up her sons’ bag, and they walked up to the front door and inside. The environment didn’t feel anywhere near as safe or cosy as the Ackerman’s flat, but he knew realistically he couldn’t have hidden away there forever. He’d have to face his father soon, whether he liked it or not.

Erwin sighed as he pulled his shoes off, walking straight to his fathers’ office knowing that he couldn’t avoid him forever. Mr Smith was sat there, marking some work from a University student. As soon as Erwin appeared in the door, he glanced up at him with a softened expression suggesting it was time to make up.

“Hi, son.” Mr Smith finally said, as Erwin walked in and took the seat in front of his dads’ desk.

“Hi.” Erwin mumbled back.

“Did you have a nice week away at Levi’s house?” There was no anger in his voice, no distaste at saying the boy’s name. Erwin’s eyebrow slightly raised at hearing this but tried to keep his expression still.

“Yeah. Was really good, he’s such a good person.” Erwin emphasised the good, showcasing to his dad who Levi really was – nothing like his uncle.

Mr Smith nodded, “I apologise for my actions on your party.”

Erwin smiled, knowing that was the best his father was ever going to give him. He’d never admit that he was wrong, and he’d never bad mouth a Dok, so Erwin just smiled along. “Me too, father.”

“Well, now that’s past us, hadn’t you better go do your school work for tomorrow?”

“Yes father.” Erwin stood up and walked to the office door, still smiling at the fact his father hadn’t just stuck with his opinions of the week before.

“Perhaps Levi Ackerman isn’t so much like his uncle after all.” Erwin heard his father mumble as the door closed shut behind him, and Erwin walked up the stairs to his bedroom, flopping on the bed and breathing in the safe scent of home.

                                    ***

School rolled round quickly the next morning, and Erwin went to pick Levi up in his car before driving them both to school. The car ride seemed quiet, but pleasant. Levi didn’t seem too nervous or bothered about going to school and facing Nile; Erwin wondered if it was because he had got so much off his chest the week before, but he didn’t want to ask Levi about that. He was glad he seemed calmer than normal.

They pulled up in a student parking space, meeting Mike and Nanaba at the entrance of school before the four of them walked to their form room together. It was nice to finally see each other again, after the two boys’ been the only people they’d seen the whole week break.

“How’s the arms?” Mike asked, looking at Levi’s bandages.

“Fine. Can’t take them off for a while in case of infection, apparently.” Levi grunted, rolling his eyes. The bandages were itchy and restrictive, and he hated how uncomfortable they were.

“Least the injury isn’t so bad.” Nanaba smiled at Levi, “You doing okay after the party now?”

“Yeah. Fine. Just fucking hate Nile even more.”

The three around Levi smiled at that, and each nodded in unison clearly agreeing to what Levi had said. When they approached form room, Nanaba wandered in first, followed by Mike, then Levi, and Erwin just behind as though they were all trying to keep him safe in the middle. Levi clearly noticed this and rolled his eyes in an exaggerating fashion.

“I can look after myself.” He grumbled, folding his arms, but Erwin just smiled at him and took the seat next to his boyfriend. The blonde-haired boys’ eyes hadn’t drifted from Levi all morning: he didn’t want to take his eyes off him, he just wanted to be there and protect him even more so after finding out about his past.

Levi glanced around the room, noticing that Nile wasn’t there, and Marie was sat towards the back by herself. He looked at his friends all stood around his desk and lifted his eyebrow. Seemed like Nile was more nervous than Levi at seeing everyone.

The teacher walked into the room a moment later, forcing everyone to go and take their usual seats, parting Levi from Erwin for the first half of the day. Levi spent the whole morning just staring out of the window, mind drifting away. Yet again, Erwin’s eyes didn’t leave the smaller boy – worried that if he looked away for even a moment, something back would happen.

Soon enough the school day was over with no appearance from Nile and no comments made from Marie. It seemed she practically disappeared and melted away into the large school crowds that day, trying to avoid anyone from mentions of what happened at the party.

Chapter Text

Nile returned to school after a week off, looking rather sheepish and avoiding almost everyone – which was unlike him, considering he was quite popular amongst most pupils. Instead of even saying hey to Mike, like he normally would, he just brushed passed him. Nile clung to Marie: break times, lessons they shared, walking in and out of school. It was made very clear that Mike and Erwin had enough of Nile now; constantly ignoring him, even when they sat close together. Mike even asked to be moved in one of his lessons, not wanting to be anywhere near Nile. Levi smirked thinking about it, Nile finally getting what was coming to him all these years. People finally seeing him for who he really was.

Levi too, was feeling more himself after that week. Mainly down to his medication that Kuchel now asked him to take daily and watching as he did so. She just wanted her son to be well again, and that was the best way to do it. Through the week, Erwin had come over to the Ackerman’s flat almost daily – helped Levi with dinner, doing their homework together. Even though things were smoothed out with his parents, Erwin thought that it might still be a bit slippery for Levi and so they opted for the empty flat instead. Which, ultimately, was better for them anyway.

The winter exams were coming up soon as the months approached late November, and Erwin had taken up to spending his weekends mainly revising at Levi’s, whilst the latter rolled about on the sofa playing on his DS or watching TV. Unfortunately for Levi, the exams were serious: whilst the grades didn’t go towards the end of year total, they were sent off to colleges and universities as applications, confirming whether or not the student would be accepted. But Levi seriously didn’t seem bothered by this. He had more fun playing Animal Crossingand living his imagining life among the Wild World. Levi’s lack of revision worried his boyfriend though, who wanted him to do well too.

“Levi you’ve really got to revise a bit for these exams, I don’t want you to fail.”

“Hmm.” Levi replied, too engrossed in his game. Erwin sighed and put his pen down in the centre of his book, walking over to Levi and closing the DS, switching the TV off in the process.

“Hey shithead, I need to save first!” Levi growled out, angrily. But Erwin had already taken the game out of his hands and placed it on the table.

He sighed, loudly. “You need to do some work.”

“You need to chill out a bit, Erwin.” Levi glared at his boyfriend, an annoyance in his voice. Erwin hadn’t paid Levi as much attention recently, and as they slowly were becoming more experimental in what they were doing in their free time, it got on Levi’s nerves that they were no longer participating in what they were before – he was just feeling more confident with it and was worried the feeling would dwindle away the longer they spent untouched. But Erwin had always been like this before exams. He’d sometimes have gone weeks without seeing anyone in his free time before, spending the hours revising instead. Levi was pretty impressed that this year he’d actually bothered to come revise in a different location, which the smaller boy was definitely somewhat grateful for.

“You’re getting old and boring too quick Erwin, we should be having fun. We’re in high school.”

Erwin climbed onto the sofa and towered above his boyfriend knowing that Levi liked feeling smaller under him, teasing, “And how do you suppose we do that?” Erwin lowered his voice, so it sounded deeper, sexier, smoother. Levi hummed contentedly under his breath. He smirked, knowing what Erwin was planning. And it was better than a DS game, and definitely better than boring revision.

The blonde-haired man pressed his lips down gently onto Levi’s, slowly parting them before pulling away mischievously. Levi frowned. “Maybe we’ll have fun later, but first, you have to do at least one piece of the revision textbook.”

Levi let out a loud and exaggerated sigh, before climbing out from under Erwin and kneeling down at the coffee table opening the notebook and beginning to work through the revision answers. “You better promise.” He always gave in when it was Erwin who asked, much to the latter’s joy.

They ended up spending most of the afternoon revising, and only realised this when Kuchel popped home during her lunchtime to pick up her shopping list which she forgot that morning. Levi was playing with his pen between his fingers, hardly understanding any of what he was reading. He wasn’t traditionally academic, not like Erwin or Hange.

“Oh, boys. I didn’t think you’d both still be in! Although it is extremely cold outside today. And I definitely didn’t think you’d both be in doing real work.” Kuchel’s eyebrows were slightly lifted when she saw her son sat at the table in his dark rimmed glasses, working through the textbook he hadn’t even bothered to look at beforehand. Kuchel didn’t doubt for a second that Erwin would be working, especially after hearing her son’s complaints about him for weeks. She was just taken aback by her son actually revising voluntarily.

“Ah yes, Miss Ackerman. I told Levi we really did need to revise; our exams are three weeks away and then we break up for Christmas. It’s the last push now.”

“Very wise words, Erwin. Thank god you can motivate my son. I wish you could make him do his school work a lot more often.” Kuchel chuckled, picking up what she intended to get before turning back to her son, just as she reached the front door.

“Oh, Levi before I forgot, I need to book your cake today. What do you want?”

“Christmas cake.” Levi mumbled sarcastically. Whilst he liked his birthday, he hated the fact it was on Christmas Day and he couldn’t spend the stupid day with any of his friends, and most likely not even Erwin since it was such a family day and the Smiths had always celebrated the holiday as a big family occasion. He wished he could have been born even just a day later, especially when it came to special birthdays like his 18th.

“What was that?” Kuchel replied.

“None. I don’t want a fucking cake.”

“Levi! Watch your potty mouth! And fine, whatever. I’ll decide for you then.”

“No wait, vanilla then.” Levi replied in a panic, picking his favourite cake. Kuchel smiled and nodded at his reply, before leaving the door to run her errands before she finished her lunch break. It was one of the perks of living so close to the diner.

“What’s your plan for your birthday, Levi?” Erwin asked, putting his pen back down and looking up at his boyfriend. Levi didn’t bother looking back.

“Nothing. It’s Christmas.”

Erwin laughed. “Yes, I know it’s Christmas, I’ve known you for ten years now. So, what’s your plan?”

Levi shrugged.

“Well if you want, I was going to suggest my coming round here? If that’s okay with you.” Erwin smiled, leaning on one hand and looking towards his boyfriend. He had plans for Levi’s birthday – plans he’d had for ages now, just he hadn’t got around to the idea of discussing them with Levi.

Levi sulked, “What about your family?”

“Mum said it’s fine, as long as they can at least see my face on Christmas at some point. They appreciate that it’s your eighteenth this year, and that it’s a one-off. I know we normally celebrate a few days after, but this year has to be extra special. Something we don’t normally do, right?”

Levi huffed under his breath, before continuing what he was doing on the paper in front of him. He was grateful that Erwin was willing to stay with him on his birthday but was more worried about how the Smiths would take it considering recent events. Noting how Levi had enough of the conversation about his birthday, Erwin took back to his revision too. He needed to smash these exams now, giddy with thoughts of Christmas Day. Levi’s mind wandered, concerned that Erwin would end up having to stay home for hours in the morning, opening presents with his family.

That’s why Levi was even more surprised when on December 24thErwin turned up on his drive in his car, with a bouquet of flowers and dressed in a smart shirt and some even smarter trousers. Levi was barely awake when Erwin had pulled up at 9 that morning, and thankfully it was Kuchel that noticed as she was about to leave for her long Christmas Eve shift. She opened the door, looking over his attire before noticing the beautiful flowers. She smiled, he was so traditional.

“Oh, Erwin. A pleasant surprise.” Kuchel smiled warmly at him, before opening the door further for him to walk into the flat. “And what brings you here today?” She wandered over to Levi’s door, giving it a knock before walking back to get the answer from her sons’ boyfriend. She made sure to speak relatively loudly so Levi could understand why he was been forced to wake up so early, which would normally piss him off.

“It’s a surprise, for Levi’s birthday. I was hoping it would be okay if I were to take him away his evening? I promise to return him tomorrow before dinner, so you’ll still get him on his birthday.”

Kuchel’s eyebrows raised slightly, before she smiled. “Yes of course, Erwin. Do your family mind you being away on Christmas?”

“Father did at first, however mum convinced him otherwise pretty quickly, so it’s all fine. They said as long as I’m at the Boxing Day party this year they’ll let me escape Christmas. It’ll be the first year I’m spending Levi’s birthday with him, on the actual day.” Erwin beamed with excitement, the warmth and love for Levi practically radiating from his body.

“I’m glad it’s okay, Levi will definitely appreciate that. What’s the plan? Where are you whisking my son away off to this evening?” Kuchel joked.

“I’ve –” Erwin began to speak, until Levi wandered out of his room in glasses and messy, tussled hair: nothing but PJs still on his body. Erwin bent down to Kuchel and whispered that he’d have to tell her about it later, so as to keep the surprise. She nodded in agreement, before turning to her son and grinning. She was so excited for him, even more so with the bouquet of flowers.

“Morning, sleepyhead.” Erwin chuckled. Levi, clearly not finding it as funny, grunted and poured a glass of orange juice. His eyes were barely open wide enough to notice Erwin properly, or Kuchel’s glances in his direction. He needed to wake up a bit first.

“Well I’m going to be getting off now.” Kuchel said, before walking up to Levi and giving him a tight squeeze. He shrugged her off, grimacing. “Happy Birthday for tomorrow morning darling. I’ll see you on the evening.”

Levi suddenly looked up at her, confused. “Evening?”

“Yes, but I’ll let Erwin take it from here.” A gentle and soft kiss was placed on Levi’s forehead before Kuchel picked up her bag and walked through the front door, smiling at the two as she left.

Levi turned his direction back to his boyfriend, only noticing the bouquet of flowers he was holding now. Levi tried to contain his blush before repeating the same question as before, “evening?”

“Yes, Levi. I’m taking you away for your birthday. I’ve booked us a night at this really nice lodge in the countryside, with a hot tub and our own little kitchen there too.”

“That’s too much.” Levi said, frowning at just thinking of the expense it must have cost him. And it was expensive: Erwin had used half of his birthday money, plus some from his mother on the lodge itself. The remainder went on Levi’s gifts. But Mrs Smith told Erwin that the money should be spent on the pair of them, and so it was. He knew how much Levi deserved a special birthday, especially after hearing the story about his youth. Not that he’d ever admit that’s why he was spoiling his boyfriend, as that would just irritate him.

“Nothing is too much for you.” Erwin said, beaming. Erwin gently placed the large bouquet on the work top, heading round to Levi. He put his glass of juice on the worktop and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend in a way of thanks. Erwin did the same, holding Levi close, before placing a gentle kiss on his lips. They pulled apart and Levi reached over to smell the bouquet, which was gorgeous. Fresh, winter roses with baby’s breath threaded through. He wasn’t going to argue with Erwin about the lodge, he was too overjoyed and excited. Levi supposed money was different to him and Kuchel than it was for people like the Smiths.

After thanking Erwin, Levi wandered away from the kitchen to get ready quickly. He took a shower, washing his hair and drying it, before getting dressed into an older green jumper, his favourite one ruined by blood and glass. After deciding he didn’t like it, Levi swapped into a white long-sleeved t-shirt, placing a woollen cardigan over the top of it. Tight skinny jeans were placed on his legs, and socks dotted on his toes. Once happy with his outfit, he headed back to his bedroom frowning. He didn’t know where he was going and had no idea what to bring with him. Loudly, he called for Erwin to come into the room.

Seconds later his boyfriend appeared, smiling still. He was clearly very excited about the night away.

“What do I need to pack?” Levi asked, before continuing. “I’ve got my pyjamas, toothbrush and toiletries, clothes for tomorrow, underwear. Anything else?”

“How about some swimming trunks? For the hot tub?” Erwin offered. Upon the suggestion, Levi walked to his drawers and pulled out the pair he had tucked towards the back. He hadn’t worn them in years, and hoped they’d still fit properly. Neatly, they were placed at the top of his overnight bag.

“Shall I bring…” Levi began, before his eyes drifted to the nightstand. Erwin knew what he was asking: a few weeks ago, the pair had ventured into town together and bought lube which they’d experimented with a few times. Erwin also ended up bringing the condoms round to keep at Levi’s that he bought ages ago on their first date, since they were never at the Smiths household anymore. The box still remained unopened.

“Whatever you’d like, Levi. Again, I’m not going to pressure you into doing anything you’re uncomfortable with.”

Levi nodded, before deciding and he threw them all quickly into his bag, making both his and Erwin’s heart race slightly at just the thought of what might be happening in their night away together. But they had been dating for a while now, and Levi was pretty sure that’s what he wanted by now. Hell, he wanted to on Erwin’s birthday, but now he felt even warmer about the prospect of doing it – especially since Erwin had understood Levi completely, heard how messed up he was, and still hadn’t left him.

Once the bag was completely packed, Levi zipped it up and threw it over his shoulder. The boy then proceeded to check everything was off, and all the windows were locked. Content they were, they both headed towards the front door and slipped their shoes back on, grabbing hats, scarves, and coats on the way to the car. It was freezing: and if they were in a lodge, Levi could only assume they’d be snow.

Erwin took the items of clothing from Levi’s hands as he locked up, moving the plant as normal. The two made their way down the stairs towards Erwin’s car. The boot was loaded quickly, but neatly. Erwin’s own overnight bag was already in there, so Levi’s was placed neatly alongside it. Then Levi placed his flowers on the top of their coats, deciding to bring them with him – just because they were pretty, and he’d want to see them on his own birthday.

Once loaded up, Erwin headed around to the passenger side of the car and held the door open for Levi, the way he always does now. Levi had grown to accept it, over time. As the smaller climbed into his seat and turned to put his seat belt on, he noticed a very large black bag positioned in the back of the car. He chose to ignore it for now, assuming it was more birthday surprises from Erwin. He always went over the top with things like this.

Erwin took place in the driver’s seat, turning the engine on and smiling at Levi one more time, before the car set off slowly, driving through Levi’s estate in a direction opposite to where they were used to going. He was excited; he’d never been on a holiday before or taken away somewhere fancy. It would be his first time away from home properly to somewhere enjoyable.

After a while in the car, Levi turned to face his boyfriend.

“So how far is it?”

“Not too far.” Erwin looked over at the maps on his phone, “My GPS says it’s about an hour away. Is that okay?”

“Yeah, sure.” Levi replied, before drifting his eye line back to the window and looking out warmly onto the snowy fields that lay on the side. The snow never settled as beautifully in the town they lived in, purely because of all the footsteps and the cars that drove through it. But this was scattered over farmers’ fields, as the two chose the scenic route over the motorway. It was peaceful.

“Have you had breakfast?” Erwin then asked. Levi shook his head, before turning to face Erwin.

“Someone decided to show up ridiculously fucking early so I barely had time to do anything.” Levi grumbled, causing Erwin to chuckle in the seat next to him.

“Shall we pull into the next services? Grab a sandwich and a quick drink?”

“Sounds good.” Levi nodded in acceptance, and about ten minutes later down the road, the car pulled into a parking space and the two bailed out. It was surprisingly busy for the time of year, however they both assumed it was due to all the people going home for Christmas. Proudly, Erwin took the hand of his boyfriend and walked into the service station, looking for the first café they could find. Thankfully, there was a Starbucks, so the two headed there: buying a hot chocolate each, then a croissant.

Erwin suggested to eat in the car, but Levi refused – he didn’t want the flaky pastry to scatter over his seat. So, they sat down at a small table and ate their breakfast as quickly as they could. They were both eager to get back onto the road, wanting to see where they’d be staying. Their hot chocolates were take-out cups, so as soon as the food was eaten, they dashed back to the car. The journey was a lot quicker after the service stop and before they knew it, Erwin was driving up a long road that led to the lodges they were staying at.

“Looks like we’re here!” Erwin said, a smile plastered on his face and excitement in his voice. Levi looked around, admiring the view – it was truly magical.

The road itself had fairy lights between branches lighting the way, and trees too were decorated with dainty lights and star decorations. The white snow remained untouched on the ground; a blanket of purity, covering all the dirt underneath. The lodges were all separated out from one another, nothing close at all. Each lodge had a little picket fence around the outside with a blossoming garden, and again lovely lights scattered along the top of the roof. Levi didn’t say anything but smiled: a smile so wide his teeth were showing, and his eyes gently creased shut slightly. He’d never been anywhere like this: never seen anything so exquisite.

After parking, the boys both layered up due to the heavy snow and grabbed their bags from the boot. Thankfully, a path had been carved through the thick snow to the reception, and the two headed that way to go and check in. Erwin beamed at the lady behind the till, announcing their names so she could tick them off.

“Ah, Mr Smith and Mr Ackerman. Welcome to Sleepy Forest Resort. You’ll be cabin 25 as requested. Please, follow me.” The kind lady smiled, happy for them both to be in such a lovely place for Christmas, Levi assumed.

Levi grabbed a hold of Erwin’s hand on their journey behind the bonny lady, feeling assured that no one they’d know would be about and discover their secret relationship. The receptionist led them to a golf buggy, too decorated up with fairy lights. They placed their luggage in the basket at the back and climbed into the seats. She then drove the couple to their cabin which was furthest away from the resort, deep in the woods and away from every other cabin.

“So, this is the honeymoon cabin, are you two celebrating?” She asked, clearly showing on her face that she thought they were a tiny bit too young to be married. Levi’s face dropped in horror when he heard the name of the cabin but was eased by Erwin’s little chuckle.

“No nothing like that, it’s just Levi’s birthday so we decided to have a romantic getaway.”

“Oh” she laughed slightly, “I’m sorry for the confusion there. What a wonderful idea.” She smiled, although slightly confused why they’d pick the most expensive cabin simply for a birthday, “Here, take the keys. Should you need anything just dial number three on the phone located by the fireplace, and we’ll help you with whatever you need. Enjoy your stay with us.”

“Thank you.” Erwin smiled, taking the keys from her hand, before reaching to lift their bags from the bag of the buggy. Levi flung his over his shoulder, and Erwin lifted out the very large, black bag that was previously located on the bag seat. They could hardly move considering how much they were trying to carry between them.

“Shall I unlock it, or shall you?” Erwin asked Levi, who responded by taking the keys from his boyfriends’ hand and unlocking the door. Upon that he was faced with the cosiest room he’d ever seen: a roaring log fire was in the centre of the room, with a deep red velvet sofa placed in front of it. In the middle of the room laid a table loaded with presents and an even larger bouquet of flowers. A cake was position on the kitchen counter, with two candles burning at either side of it with a card next to them.

The bedroom was just off from the living area, a king size bed with deep red covers thrown on it. The bed had four posters with curtains draping between each one, and off from the bedroom led to the bathroom with a deep bath detailed with Jacuzzi filters, which would blast bubbles into the water. Outside the glass windows was the hot tub, and views of nothing but forest with fairy lights sprinkled between the trees. Both boys were breathless, and after they put their bags on the sofa neatly, they just wandered around, hands etched together.  They were speechless at the beauty of the place, and after inspecting everything possible, Levi led them in front of the fire to take a seat between the bags that were on the velvet couch.

Erwin slid the bag away from the sofa and onto the floor, emptying parcels and placing it on the table which was already piled up with presents. Levi watched on; the bag looked never-ending, so many gifts coming out of it. He didn’t know what to do or say.

“What’s all this?” Levi asked, eyes anxiously looking over the table and gifts in the bag.

“They’re all for you.” Erwin smiled.

Levi panicked, he didn’t want this much spending on him. Ever. “No Erwin why have you spent so much? It’s way too much.”

“Only the ones on the table already are from me, I sent them over and they offered to put them up in the cabin ready for our arrival. The ones in this bag are from other people: Mike and Nanaba, Petra and Hange, my parents, my sister.” He took them all out and laid them on the table.

“You’re not allowed to open them until midnight though, as it’s not your birthday yet and I believe in bad luck.” Levi rolled his eyes, before they drifted over to the gift laden table.

“It’s just – so much. I fucked your birthday up, and then you spend all this on me?” The guilt from Erwin’s birthday was still sat deeply in Levi’s stomach. He couldn’t accept such an amazing thing if he didn’t offer the same to Erwin. He’d only taken Erwin out for food, but the other has whisked him off to a private lodge for his birthday. Levi sighed, comparing the two.

“Don’t be silly Levi. You didn’t ruin my birthday at all.”

He sighed, knowing there was no point in arguing with Erwin now: they were both here, and it wasn’t like he was going to act ungrateful for all his gifts and the lodge because he was anything but. Instead, he simply smiled before placing a kiss on Erwin’s lips.

The taller, blonde man then walked to the kitchen, finding a complimentary bottle of non-alcoholic wine and poured it into two glasses. “Care to join me in the hot tub?”

“Of course.” Levi replied in a mocking voice, imitating Erwin’s accent, before standing up and taking his overnight bag to the bedroom. He unpacked his clothing, hanging up neatly, before changing from what he was wearing and slipping his trunks on. They were slightly too tight, but not uncomfortably so. Once ready, he headed through the back door to the hot tub.

The winter air was crisp and cool, and the sun was slowly sinking in and out behind clouds, making everything seem even colder. However, once both submerged into the deep water, the warmth filled their bodies and they ended up shifting closer together until their limbs were entwined. Nothing could be heard beside the bubbling of the hot water, and birds chirping joyfully in the trees. Levi had never felt so relaxed before.

“This is so nice, Erwin.” Levi said, sighing contently. “Thank you so much.”

Erwin bent down and placed a loving kiss on his forehead; in all the years he’d known Levi, he’d never seen him so relaxed or happy with his surroundings, melting Erwin’s heart. After the rough year that Levi had had with school, Nile, and after just finding out about his tragic past, all Erwin wanted to do was treat Levi in the way he deserved. After an hour or so just sitting in silence, soaking in the warmth, Erwin’s stomach began to rumble.

“Would you like to order some lunch in, Levi? Or do you want to wander to the little shop and pick some bits up that we can cook, and order in later?”

“Cook now. Can go for a bit of an explore then.”

“Sounds like a good idea to me.” Erwin poured the rest of the drink into his mouth before shuffling around awkwardly and climbing out of the warm water. Practically running inside because of the coolness, he jumped straight in the shower whilst Levi basked in the water of the hot tub for a while longer before following his boyfriends’ steps.

Twenty minutes later they were both dressed, scarfs wrapped tightly around their necks and big winter coats on. Levi’s battered dark green scarf covered the bottom half of his face so all you could see was the top of his nose and eyes, which Erwin found absolutely adorable and made sure to tell the smaller boy numerous times in which all Levi responded with was a grunt. But even when his eyebrows grew furrowed, he still looked adorable. Erwin couldn’t help but keep glancing over at him with a big, cheesy grin.

Locking up the lodge, hand in hand, Erwin and Levi walked to the corner shop placed near the reception. The snow wasn’t too deep on the paths, and a lot of gravel was placed down so they were sure not to slip. The woods around them were quiet despite all the lights being on in lodges and clearly occupied. Levi felt content: it was like their own little world, where no one could find them. There was nothing niggling at his brain, nothing that would distract him from the joy he was feeling.

In the shop the two bought some sweets and nibbles for the later afternoon, as well as two sandwiches and a bottle of apple juice. Paying swiftly at the till, the bag was packed, and they proceeded back onto the route home. This time, rather than sticking to the path, Erwin suggested walking in the deeper snow.

This was fine for the tall man, the snow going half way up his calf and still protected from his trousers by boots. However, for Levi, it reached above his knee and was struggling to keep up with Erwin, swearing every step he took.

“It’s fucking cold.”

“Shit.”

“Fucking wait, Erwin.”

“This is bullshit.”

Erwin couldn’t help but laugh under his breath at the moaning, before realising how cold Levi might actually be. He stopped in his tracks, waiting for Levi to catch up with him, before lifting the smaller boy from the snow. Erwin was strong and managed to fling Levi over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, laughing loudly as he did so. Levi, however, didn’t find it quite so funny, and began flailing his limbs about.

“Fucking put me down!”

“No. You can’t walk in his snow, it’s too deep. I’m bringing us back to the path.”

“Erwin don’t carry me! Fucking hell! Put me down! If someone sees they’ll laugh!” Levi began frantically kicking his legs in funny positions before the snow got shallower and Erwin put him down still chuckling.

“It’s not funny.”

“Isn’t it?” Erwin teased. Levi responded by throwing a ball of the icy cold snow at Erwin’s face, hitting him on the cheek plastering it red raw. Now Levi let out a large laugh, running off as quickly as he could. Erwin, too laughing, grabbed another ball of snow hitting Levi on his back; hard.

Levi tripped forward slightly, using it to his advantage and grabbing even more snow throwing it back at Erwin, hitting his shoulder this time. A roar of laughter left his small body, before he ran even further ahead and managed to hide behind some trees from Erwin, plummeting three snowballs at him as the blonde approached the hiding spot.

“Hey! No fair, Levi.” But Levi didn’t care, he just laughed.

Calling a truce on the fight, after at least an hour in the freezing snow, the boys returned to their lodge arms wrapped tightly around each other and both soaking wet.

The second they got through the front door, their wet clothes were stripped off and hung in front of the fire to dry out. Levi, still freezing, went to the bathroom and filled the tub with hot water and plenty of bubbles, whilst Erwin placed their lunches with a hot chocolate on a plate each, carrying it to place on the small table beside the bath tub. Smiling at Levi, he took his boxers off and climbed into the bath tub, sinking in the water opposite Levi.

“Ah. This is so lovely and warm.”

Levi hummed in agreement, eyes shut, before reaching over and taking a large bite of his sandwich.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” Erwin asked, eyes not leaving his boyfriends face. Levi just smiled back, beaming.

“I love it Erwin. And it’s rare I love anything.”

“You love me.”

“True.” Levi tittered, before finishing off his sandwich and shuffling up to Erwin, the hot chocolate in his wet hands. His small head rested against the chest of his boyfriend, listening to the soft heartbeats flowing round his body. Levi shut his eyes and absorbed as much as he could of the moment, feeling so happy.

The two enjoyed a very chilled and relaxed afternoon together. Erwin brought a blanket into the living room which the boys snuggled under, with a fresh hot chocolate each. The fire was still roaring as Levi’s favourite film played on the TV in the lodge, and the sweets they picked up earlier placed in a bowl next to Levi kept getting emptied and were completely gone by the time it reached seven.

“I wish we didn’t have to ever leave.” Levi said after a while, his eyes heavy as he was nodding off.

“I do too, Levi.” Erwin sighed, a gentle hand stroking down the side of Levi’s soft face.

He left the raven-haired boy to sleep whilst ordering the food for dinner. Earlier that day they had both decided on ordering the most lavish thing they could find that they’d actually enjoy, so had both decided on the extra-large vegetarian Christmas Dinner – nut roast, Yorkshire puddings, broccoli, peas, mashed potato and roast potatoes, gravy. They also ordered some custard to enjoy with Levi’s birthday cake, gifted by the lodge company, for pudding. Erwin’s tummy roared thinking about how delicious their tea would be. He laid the table, ready for its arrival – wanting to make it look as fancy as he could. Wine glasses were placed, alongside a bottle of juice.

Only half an hour later, the doorbell rang to the lodge. The chefs delivered their dinner on a lovely, old-fashioned tray: they wheeled it into the lodge and brought the plates to the table, alongside some luxury chocolates as a gift to the couple. Now Erwin could understand the price of the lodges, it was the little, romantic extras that made the entire thing. He thanked them profusely, before locked the door on their way out and lighting a candle at the table.

At the noises around the lodge, Levi had already woken back up and walked over to the table, sitting down and glancing over all the food. It looked beautiful, and the chocolates looked devishly sweet. He couldn’t wait to tuck in.

 “It smells amazing.” Erwin commented, taking his seat opposite his partner.

“It does.”

Without further ado, the two boys tucked in quickly – not even looking up to speak until their plates were both empty, and they were leaning on the back of their chairs, rubbing their full stomachs. Before pudding, Erwin remembered what he’d planned, and pulled a pack of cards from the shelf beside the dining table. Levi watched on in wonder.

“Do you remember the day we met in elementary school, Levi?”

“Yeah obviously. You leant me your colours. You were a right little choir boy.”

“Oi, what’s that supposed to mean?” Erwin laughed, before continuing. “We ended up talking about our favourite games, and you said yours was go fish.”

Levi frowned, trying to remember. It was ten years ago now. “Vaguely, how do you even remember that?”

Erwin just breathed a laugh. “Do you want to play it now?”

“God if I can remember how. I haven’t played that since I was about seven.”

“Well, we’ll see, shall we?”

Erwin dealt the cards and after a few rounds, Levi got the hang of it, eventually beating Erwin proudly, and a snicker on his face. He was always good at card games, it was one of the good things that came out of living with Kenny. They continued playing late into the night, and before they knew it, the clock struck midnight christening Levi’s birthday and also Christmas day.

Levi had not forgotten that it was too, Christmas day, and as soon as he heard the clock chime before Erwin could speak, he dashed to his bedroom and pulled out the gift bag he hid at the bottom of his bag, returning back to the table quickly.

“Merry Christmas, Erwin.” Levi smiled, handing it over the table. Erwin looked shocked, then cross at the bag before him.

“No. Christmas for me is Boxing Day, so instead happy birthday Levi.” Before Levi could interject with protest, Erwin crawled round the table and placed a kiss on his lips. “We can light the cake now and you can open presents from everyone but me. Mine are for tomorrow morning.”

“Fine, fine.” Levi said, wafting his arms in his usual way in the air before walking to the kitchen. Erwin lit the 18 candles on the cake before Levi gave them a hefty blow, and Erwin cut the cake neatly into smaller pieces before placing them in bowls with custard.

The two then walked back to the living room where the gifts lay on the table neatly and sat down beside each other. Levi ate his desert quickly, lapping up every last drip of custard and cake he could find before scanning over the table again.

“How about Mike and Nanaba’s gifts first?” Erwin asked, and Levi nodded. The former then picked five things from the table and handed them to Levi alongside the card. He was still shocked that his friends had got him so many things. But they were quite over-the-top with birthdays, anyway. It turned out that Mike had taken Erwin on a shopping trip for his birthday, letting him pick an entire outfit and a new bag. They were fancy, he guessed.

Neatly folding the wrapping paper away, it revealed what the couple had bought him: a box of cleaning things, a bottle of his favourite elderflower juice that was oddly expensive, his favourite album on both CD and vinyl, and a new notebook for him to draw in. Everything was so thoughtful, he decided not to speak whilst he opened the card.

To our best bud Levi,

Happy 18thbirthday! Finally catching up to me and Erwin. I hope you have the best time at the lodge with Erwin and the best birthday ever, I can’t think of anyone else who deserves it more than you do. And I hope you like the gifts that Nanaba and I picked out; we tried to go for things that all meant something to you. Please don’t be offended by the cleaning supplies, but I can assure they’ll definitely go into good use.

Always got your back!

Mike and Nan xxxxxx

Levi passed the card to Erwin to read, staying silent the entire time. There were definitely some tears swelling in his eyes at this point, but he refused to let them fall and instead moved onto Hange and Petra’s gifts. They had got him some different teas in different tins – orange blossom, jasmine, and of course black tea. Alongside that a framed photo of the six of them sitting in the milkshake bar Hange had taken them to for lunch, which had now become a weekly tradition. Finally, the pair had given Levi a £30 voucher for the cinema since it was his favourite date place with Erwin. He smiled at the message written alongside the voucher, before again opening the card.

The card started singing happy birthday as soon as it opened, so typical of Hange. He laughed loudly, imaging Hange’s eyes eagerly watching him whilst he read over the words.

My lovely and precious little Levi,

You are both mine and Petra’s favourite human (but don’t tell anyone else) and because of this we wish you the most wonderful and special 18thbirthday in the world. I’m sure Erwin is treating you like the king you are at the lodge, and I can’t wait to see you when you arrive back home.

I love you Levi, you’re the greatest friend someone like me or Petra could wish for. Happy birthday!

Lots and lots, and lots, of love, Hange and Petra xoxox

“When will people stop calling me little?” Levi grunted, handing the card to Erwin to read as well, smiling yet again at the mention of his name in the card.

“But it is true, you are quite small Levi.” Erwin laughed, cheekily, receiving a cushion in the face for it.

Erwin handed the gifts from his family to Levi next: the last ones he was to open that evening. Erwin’s sister had sent a lovely, paisley print shirt in Levi’s size (obviously having either asked Erwin or Mrs Smith what size it was) and a card which said to have a wonderful birthday and that she hopes she gets to see him again soon. She wasn’t one to usually send gifts, but since it was Levi’s 18thshe was adamant to send one. It was the same of Mike also. His sister had always had a soft spot for Erwin’s friends, she had since he was younger.

Mr and Mrs Smith, but all obviously from Mrs Smith, had bought Levi a hamper of a selection of things. They too had got him a smart shirt, but this one a crisp dark green very much the same colour of the jumper he wears religiously, they had got him a selection of new books to read, a new game for his DS he always plays, and also a voucher for the French bakery that Erwin buys his breakfast from occasionally, knowing how much he liked it. Alongside the larger gifts were some sweets and biscuits, a selection of different fruit juices, and a glass saying “18 today” on it. He smiled at the thoughtful selection, before reading their card.

To Levi,

Happy 18thdarling. We are both very happy that Erwin has someone like you in his life and wish you all the best for this year to come.

Lots of love, the Smiths xxx

After passing the last card to Erwin for him to read, the wrapping paper was gathered by the latter and placed into a large bin bag, and the gifts placed into a spare suitcase that Erwin conveniently brought with him. The two put their pots from dinner into the dishwasher, before turning the fire off, blowing candles out, and heading to bed hand in hand.

                                                ***

Once they managed to snuggle up in bed, Erwin went around and drew the curtains around the edges, so they felt enclosed in their own small, cosy bubble beside one another. Erwin laid back down, fingers entwined under the covers. They were both positioned on their backs, glancing up towards the head of the bed, thoughts racing. They knew what was going to happen, but neither knew how to initiate it: not yet.

Levi knew he wanted it to happen; especially now, somewhere so special and magic. The nerves were building up in him though, causing a gentle shiver through his body as he heard Erwin gulp loudly. Almost in unison, the pair rolled onto their sides and shuffled their bodies closer together, eyes locking just before they slid shut and their lips met.

It started gentle, calm and soft: but after a while the kisses became deeper; much more passionate and longing. Their bodies squeezed even closer under the covers, hands roaming over the opposite’s body, trying to feel as much as they could in that moment.

Erwin removed Levi’s pyjama top, unbuttoning it slowly and carefully, lowering his body onto his boyfriend as he pushed him gently onto his back, kissing and biting on his neck leaving subtle purple marks, before moving downwards, kissing and licking Levi’s sensitive spots, causing breathy grunts and moans to seep from his mouth; face content and blushed, flustered.

Erwin then slid Levi’s bottoms off, folding them neatly and placing them at the end of the bed, before ducking back under the covers and taking him full into his mouth, sucking hard, leading to more moans of enjoyment before Levi pulled his boyfriend from under the covers, pulling Erwin’s top off as he did so. Erwin took the hint, and slid his bottoms down his legs too, undressing himself completely.

The pair paused for a moment, just looking at each other, stroking the others face. Whilst the excitement of the moment had got to them, both knew they needed to take it slow for their first time: it wasn’t something that could be rushed; they wanted it to be as painless and romantic as possible.

Levi placed another gentle kiss on his boyfriends’ mouth before reaching round the curtain, grabbing the lube and a condom from the side table in the bedroom. He passed the former to Erwin, who helped Levi get into the best position. Levi shuddered slightly when he heard the bottle cap pop open, but then closed and breathed in when he knew to. They’d done this so many times before, but each time it felt so new to Levi. And this time was going to be even more special than the others, he assumed.

Erwin slid one finger in at a time, wanting to be steady and slow as he always was: always very careful, always soft and gentle. Slowly, he slipped another finger inside, eventually pushing past his knuckle and separating his fingers, opening Levi: ready. He added more lube, so it was smooth and painless, before pulling his fingers back out, getting the condom ready.

He slipped it over his hard cock, coating it in more lube as he did so. Levi rolled over onto his front, positioning himself ready. He knew this would be the best way to try for the first time, and Erwin agreed, placing soft kisses along his back whilst he positioned himself at Levi’s entrance. Levi felt the thick body towering over his back, one arm firmly down the side of his body, holding him up. Anticipation swelled in Levi’s stomach, excited.

“You alright, Levi?” Erwin asked. Levi nodded, he was more than alright.

“Is this position okay for you?” Again, a silent nod. “Okay if you relax as much as you can, and I’ll just slide in slightly, but if it hurts too much say and I’ll stop immediately.”

Levi took in a deep breath as he felt Erwin force his way in slightly, the tip opening him. Levi had never felt anything like it; it was so different than fingers, so full. He felt Erwin’s body shaking subtly as he leaned over Levi, as he pushed in so slowly, and only ever-so-slightly, causing a small noise to escape from Levi’s mouth.

“Everything okay?”

“Just… give it a second.” Levi breathed, trying to get used to the feeling. It was pleasurable; so pleasurable. But it still stretched, and it still hurt slightly. He wanted it to be perfect, to feel comfortable.

They held like that for a few minutes before Levi said it was okay to go in deeper, and Erwin did gently thrust a small amount of him into his boyfriend, who began to feel the pleasure from the action and kept encouraging Erwin to go in deeper when he felt it was okay. Eventually, Levi was full of Erwin. And it felt amazing, having the man he loved so close to him. Erwin began to move in and out steadily, slowly at first. Levi moaned below him, hardly able to keep himself quiet, no matter how much he held onto his lip with teeth.

Everything moved in unison, slowly, smoothly. Levi was overcome with so many feelings, and Erwin’s eyes were squeezed tightly shut, grunting with each thrust. It felt even better than Levi had imagined it would, finding himself pushing backwards onto his boyfriend to speed it up after a while. Erwin kissed his back, his neck, gently whenever he could. Biting softly when he realised, he was close. He grabbed Levi in his large palm, and began moving him at the same pace they were moving in. Levi was the first to release, followed moments later by Erwin.

They were a mass of heavy panting and sweaty bodies, as Erwin pulled away from Levi and the latter rolled over to face his boyfriend, tired eyes looking over him, placing a soft and loving kiss onto his lips.

“How are you, Levi?” Erwin asked, leaning over and kissing him, a smile on his face. Levi just nodded, trying to ignore the burning sensation the pleasure had caused him now they were settled in the bed. He blinked back a few leaking tears, hiding them from Erwin – it didn’t hurt as much during, but now he felt it. Erwin was large, and it burned slightly.

However as soon as strong arms wrapped around him and pulled him close, the pain subsided, and warmth filled him instead; contentedness. The first time was never going to be the most amazing pleasure ever; however, he was so happy he did it. And even happier that it was with the one person he’s loved since he was eight, the one person he couldn’t bear to be apart from.

Closing his eyes, Levi’s mind drifted off with Erwin’s smiling face in it, welcoming his birthday for the first time in his life with a happy, warm glow in his stomach.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Erwin and Levi found themselves waking up unusually early. They both had decided the night before to do so, making sure they could get as much of the day in as possible whilst at the lodge still. Considering how early it was, Levi awoke in a good mood, to Erwin’s delight. The blonde got up first, though, and started running a lovely, warm bubble bath for his boyfriend. A birthday morning treat, at Levi’s request.

Once checking the water was running warm, he turned and walked to the main room, giving the receptionist a phone call to have their pancakes delivered to the lodge. The lady on the receiving end of the line informed Erwin they’d be about an hour before they’d be there, which he was thankful of. They could have a bit of a soak in the bath that morning then, making use of the jacuzzi option that they still hadn’t trialled. Erwin got two hot drinks ready for their bath; a tea for Levi, of course, and a coffee for himself – he needed perking up after a late evening the day before.

Levi was still laid in bed through all this, scrolling through his phone. His friends had all sent birthday texts to him already, most coming through just after midnight. He also got a text from Erwin’s mother, which made him smile. He must remember to thank everyone later for the presents, he decided. Before getting up and walking to the bathroom, Levi gave his mum a quick phone call, knowing that she’d want to hear from her son. After all, it was the first Christmas Morning since he was eight that they hadn’t shared together.

“Hello?”

“Hi mum.”

“Levi darling, happy birthday!” He could hear her smile, “Do you feel older yet?”

He laughed, she asked this every year. “Yes mum, a million times older than less than nine hours ago.” He could hear her smile through the phone.

“And are you enjoying yourself at the lodge?”

“Yeah mum it’s lovely. A massive fire, hot tub, and even the bed is four-poster with curtains around it. We’re literally in the middle of the forest too. I’ll take some photos and show you when I get home.”

“Sounds wonderful, I can’t wait. But I’ll let you get off, enjoy your morning with Erwin. What time do you think you’ll be home?”

“I’m not sure, maybe four? We have to check out at two thirty and it’s an hour and a bit of a drive.”

“Okay that’s fine! Let me know when you’re about twenty minutes away.”

“Will do. Merry Christmas too, mum.”

“Thank you love, but none of that today. I’ll see you tonight.”

“Yeah. Bye mum, love you.”

“Love you too. Drive safely!”

The phone line rang dead, indicating to Levi that he had no excuse to mope about in bed anymore and so he got up. Since he wasn’t at home, the bed remained upmade, as he through a complimentary dressing gown around his bare down and slid his feed into the fluffy slippers that came with the lodge. As the bath was almost ready, he wandered into the living space to find Erwin. The blonde man was in the kitchen, finishing off their drinks by placing them on a small tray.

“Here’s your cup of tea.” He held the tray up to show, smiling.

“Thanks Erwin.” Levi said, walking over to Erwin. He nuzzled into his side, giving him a small hug as Erwin almost dropped the tray and had to hold it higher in the air, steady with one hand. Levi was feeling surprisingly clingy, and Erwin enjoyed it, wrapping his spare arm around his partner. After a moment of holding one another, Levi released his boyfriend and turned to walk to the bathroom.

Never had warm water looked so inviting. Erwin had lit little candles around the side of the bath, bubbles flowing over the top practically, and he could hear the jacuzzi part, fizzling away. Levi smiled, slipped his dressing gown onto the chaise lounge, and climbed into the water, submerging his body.

Erwin gently placed the drinks he’d made on the side table by the bath, smiling warmly at Levi, before heading back to the bedroom quickly. He threw the thick duvet back, ready to make the bed to be respectful to the cleaners who would attend later, when he noticed a few small red dots on the sheets. His heart sunk slightly. He thought that he had been gentle with Levi, not wanting to cause anything that would make him bleed. And yes, he had read online that often there might be a tiny bit of blood the first time, because it was something the body wasn’t necessarily used to. But still. He didn’t want Levi’s first time to be like that at all.

With a sad sigh, Erwin pulled the sheet off the bed and folded it up, small. That way the blood was hidden, and the cleaners wouldn’t see it. Erwin placed it directly into the wash basket, ready for the maid, unsure what else to do about it. He then took his own dressing gown off and added that to the wash basket, before walking to the bathroom and joining his partner in the water, who looked as though he was in bliss.

“And how are you feeling today, Levi?” Erwin asked.

“Mmm.” He grumbled into the water, “A lot less sore now I’m in here.” His eyes remained closed, almost asleep once again, barely noticing the heaviness in Erwin’s voice. But Erwin was trying very hard to cover up his concerns about the evening prior. That was until he couldn’t help himself but to apologise.

Erwin splashed about in the water a little, bashfully. “I’m sorry I hurt you, Levi.”

Levi sat up, rolled his eyes, and looked right at his boyfriend. “I told you not to apologise. It’s fine, it didn’t hurt for the most of it and it’s bound to at first anyway. I still enjoyed it.”

“But you bled a bit Levi I feel terrible –”

By this point Levi was unimpressed, practically scowling. He didn’t even know, and he didn’t care. Last night was perfect and exactly what he wanted, he could fault nothing about it. “Clearly not a lot ‘cos I didn’t even notice. God Erwin, stop saying sorry it’s my birthday and I’m fine and I wanted to. It was perfect.”

“Promise?”

“I promise. Now, let’s talk about something else, nothing blood related.” He grumbled.

Erwin let out a sigh of relief as the pair laid in the water together, tirelessly chatting about unimportant things such as school gossip, exam result release date, the plans for later that day. Realising the time, Erwin and Levi descended from the bath tub, getting dressed quickly and just making it back into the living room for the pancake delivery.

Erwin ordered all the extras for the pancakes, since it was a special day. It included maple syrup, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, fruit, marshmallows, and chocolate pieces: Levi’s idea of a dream breakfast. They placed the plates full onto the dining table, before sitting opposite one another and eating their way through everything. They even went so far as to lick the bowls clean, savouring every sweet taste. Feeling full, the couple walked back into the main living area and sat opposite the fire, on the sofa.

Erwin grinned at his boyfriend, excited for what was to come. He’d been waiting all week just to see this. “Now, it’s time for your presents from me.”

“Erwin you’ve seriously got too much.” Levi replied, eyeing up the table still packed with gifts, each individually neatly wrapped. There was a mixture of brown paper packages with neat blue bows, and deep green velvet-coated wrapping paper with silver ribbon around them. Even the decoration of the presents was far too much, Levi thought.

“Shush, shush.” Erwin wafted his hands in the way Levi often would, hinting that it didn’t matter. “You need to start opening them now! Pick whichever one you fancy first.” Erwin replied, already smiling.

Levi delicately opened the gifts laid on the table before him, and despite Erwin saying he could open any, he interrupted by pointing at the ones he wanted him to open and in what order, clearly wanting to save something for the end. The one present that Levi kept reaching for, obviously. But it was fun, and Levi liked knowing what order to go in, especially since there were so many to unwrap.

The first thing he opened was some more teas, but these ones were loose tea leaves which he’d always dreamed of trying, always eyeing up when they went into town for years. But Levi had never been able to afford them. They were in a dainty box decorated with Chinese art. Alongside this gift, the next thing he opened was a beautiful tea set. It was clearly hand painted, with ivy leaves wrapping round the tea cups in the deep green Levi loves so much.

He carried on, opening a new green jumper, a top he was eyeing up in the mall a few weeks ago, an assortment of DVDs. He opened a mason jar next, filled with small coloured paper wrapped into rolls, each containing a date night suggestion for the pair to use since they could never decide what to do or where to go. Erwin joked that he saw the idea on Pinterest and copied it, but Levi loved it. He loved homemade things.

Erwin had also bought Levi some new black boots, since he was moaning his were getting a little too scruffy – they were almost identical to his pair he had now, but a lot less battered. A small bag on the table was filled with 18 small things that were Levi’s favourites: favourite sweet, drink, CD, green pens, a small cuddly black cat.

“Okay now it’s down to your last two presents.”

“Erwin” Levi groaned, throwing his head back in annoyance. He felt it was too much; he’d bought him so many things. “I’m so grateful, obviously. But it’s just so much, too much.”

“I said no moaning.” Erwin smiled, “Nothing is too much. Here, this one first.” He handed Levi a very thin but wide box. Curiously, Levi delicately pulled at the bow that was holding the lid on, before removing and picking up a thin piece of silk inside. It was a gentle white cravat, with E.S embroidered into one corner, and L.A into the other in a deep green thread. Levi picked up the silky material admiring it – he had commented how he wanted a cravat ages ago to wear with his suit for the prom at the end of the year, and for other dances since his old one is so tatty. He’d never owned something so elegant, so lavish.

 “This is so nice, Erwin.” Levi gasped, as Erwin took the material from Levi’s hand and pulled his collars down slightly, tying the piece of silk around Levi’s neck. He was wearing the shirt his mum had originally meant to gift on this day but ended up giving him early for Erwin’s do. The cravat matched perfectly and fit around Levi’s neck charmingly. He felt regale.

“It’s a good job I got you this.” Erwin joked upon seeing a few love bites around Levi’s neck, and Levi frowned at the comment completely aware of how prominent they seemed to become overnight. But he didn’t care, too overjoyed and overwhelmed with the whole birthday so far. He never dreamed of his 18thturning out so well.

“Open the last one!” Erwin announced next, handing Levi another small box. Levi did as he was told, taking the box delicately from his boyfriend’s hands, before pulling the lid back, revealing a thin, silver band. Inside the ring Erwin had got their initials engraved again, making the whole piece of jewellery more sentimental; more special. Carefully, Levi pulled the piece of metal from the black velvet which encased it, sliding it onto his middle finger on his left hand. He looked lovingly over it, before realising what Erwin might have intended it to be, especially since he was such a romantic. With unease, Levi looked up at his boyfriend with a frown of confusion.

“It’s not an engagement ring, don’t worry.” He laughed. “It’s just a special thing to have for your 18th.”

Levi let out a small breath, before a small chuckle also escaped. He smiled, a proper smile. Showing his teeth and creasing his eyes. He fiddled with the ring on his finger, noting how the colour matched his pale skin perfectly. Not really sure on what to say, Levi leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Erwin’s neck, pulling in for a gentle kiss, before whispering ‘thank you’ numerous times in a soft voice. As Levi pulled back to sit in his originally position, Erwin slid his birthday card into Levi’s palms.

“Don’t you dare give me anything else after this.” Levi smiled, entirely grateful for all the thoughtful gifts he had received, but he couldn’t accept anything else. He’d got more from Erwin that one year than he’d ever received in his whole life, and he wasn’t really sure what to do or how to handle it. It was something he wasn’t used to, and never would be used to. Although, Levi imagined dating Erwin would mean extravagant birthdays and celebrations all the time, and he was sure eventually he’d get used to the excess gift giving.

Taking extra care, Levi pulled the seal on the envelope revealing a small, dainty card. It was red, with ‘for my boyfriend’ written along the top, a cartoon picture of a cat and a dog at the bottom. Cute.

Dear Levi,

You’re the best person I’ve had enter my life. I’m so happy that I chose to share colours with you in elementary, ten years ago. I’m so grateful that you chose to spend your life with me and let me love you.

You make me so happy; you make my heart warm and it sings whenever I see you. I’m so proud to call you my boyfriend, and I never want to not have you around.

I hope you have the most amazing birthday in the world. No one I could think of would deserve a more special day than you, so I hope to make it that way.

I love you, so much Levi.

Yours forever,

Erwin xxxxxxxx

Levi read the card a few times over, his eyes getting glassier with each read. He couldn’t look up at Erwin yet, he kept his eyes attached on the words. The amount of love he’d felt so far on his birthday was so much, so unreal. Especially considering the amount of love felt was from the boy he’d fancied for years now. Back at the start of high school, he never thought he’d end up like this: the boy he’d loved for years his, a group of true best friends, his mum completely better. Spending his 18thin an expensive lodge far away from his little town. Everything was finally going right.

Noticing the silence, Erwin broke it. “Everything okay, Levi?” He asked, concern in his voice, but a smile on his lips. He knew really why Levi was quiet, but he wanted to hear his voice.

Levi shot his eyes to Erwin before letting out a loud sob, tears finally flowing down his face as he fell into his boyfriend and felt the strong arms wrap around him. Erwin was shocked; this wasn’t the reaction he’d expected. He thought Levi would look up at him with a small tear and push him a little, calling him something stupid. What he didn’t expect was for Levi to become a blubbering mess, without any explanation for it. Erwin looked over his boyfriend, both worried and confused.

“Levi?”

“Shit.” He mumbled, sitting back up and wiping his eyes. “So fucking embarrassing.” But Erwin didn’t care, he was just smiling on with so much love in his heart. Levi was crying at the card, clearly. And that meant so much to Erwin, that the words meant so much to his boyfriend. He rubbed Levi’s arm softly and gave it a small squeeze, before lifting his thumb to Levi’s cheeks, wiping away the excess water.

When settled, Levi looked over his presents again, admiring each one individually and asking Erwin about them as he did so, thanking again after each one. He looked like a small boy celebrating his first Christmas, receiving so many new toys he couldn’t control his excitement. But once Levi had looked over them all, he felt a little sleepy and so decided he and Erwin should cuddle for a bit, knowing they’d both have busy evenings with their parents’.

Time passed, and Erwin’s alarm started to ring on his phone. Awkwardly, he reached down to his back pocket, having to separate from their embrace as he did so to turn the alarm off. It indicated that it was already two in the afternoon, and they only had thirty minutes left to enjoy the peaceful location. Erwin’s eyes widened upon realising the time.

“Crap, we better get packed Levi.” Erwin said, pulling himself out from under Levi and dragging the large suitcase into the living area. Carefully, Erwin began to pack Levi’s presents away wrapping them in clothing pieces wherever possible, slipping to boxes he’d want to keep away too. Levi too began to pack, dashing to the bedroom and neatly putting used pyjamas and clothing away in his overnight bag. Clothes that were left drying by the fire the day before were too folded away, and toiletries zipped neatly back in their bag. He also made sure to grab the gift bag of Erwin’s Christmas presents, noting to give him them later on.

Once Erwin had packed the presents and his own things, he quickly ran off in the direction of the car park so he could drive up and load it that way, saving them having to wait for a buggy, or to drag their belongings through the snow. Levi went around the lodge, checking they’d got everything, grabbing the remaining food and bouquet of flowers, before stacking everything neatly by the door. They packed the car together, the boot looking so much fuller than when they came. Their overnight bags even ended up on the back seats, just to make room for presents and cake.

On the journey down the road, Erwin pulled up outside the reception and handed the keys back to the lady stood there. He wished her a Merry Christmas, before turning on his heel and walking back to the car, fastening himself in, and putting their heated seats on. Little luxuries.

Levi felt like he was in a daze, considering all the wonderful things that had already happened for his birthday. He reimagined opening his presents, enjoying their snowball fight, laying in the hot tub, sleeping together. His heart was so full of love and thanks for Erwin. It would definitely be the most wonderful 18thbirthday he ever had, or even the most amazing birthday in his entire life.

“Thanks Erwin.” Levi said again, squeezing Erwin’s hand which was on the gear stick.

“Anything for you.” Erwin looked away from the road to smile at Levi quickly, before his concentration peaked again and his eyes not leaving what was laid out in front of him.

“And don’t you fucking dare tell anyone I cried.” Levi laughed, still embarrassed about his reaction from earlier on. He’d never cried like that before, not over something he felt so good about.

Erwin laughed at that, dimples on his cheeks showing. “I wouldn’t, don’t worry.”

Slowly, with the gentle hum of the car and the quiet roads, Levi found himself nodding off for most of the journey. He was exhausted from a hectic few days, overwhelmed with emotions. But he did wake up the second they pulled up at the services, sensing the stopping motion. Erwin, once again, treated him to a croissant and a hot drink – this time both enjoyed a coffee, wanting to perk up a little before getting home. He knew Kuchel would be excited and wanting to talk about everything they’d been up to, so Levi definitely would need the energy for it. They drank and ate in the services, holding hands over the table in silence, before getting back off on the road, wanting to get home quickly now.

As promised, a quick phone call was made to Kuchel when they were twenty minutes away from home. Thankfully the roads were particularly clear since it was Christmas day, and they arrived home earlier than expected.

Erwin pulled up in front of the sweet shop, walking around to Levi’s side of the car and opening the door. They looked up towards the windows of Levi’s flat, noticing that it was dark, and it looked like no one was there. Levi frowned, slightly confused.

“I thought your mother was in, Levi?” Erwin questioned. Levi shrugged.

“She might have gone to the diner, they always call her in last minute, especially on busy days like today.”

“I thought she was in when you phoned not long back?”

Levi just shrugged again, a little irritated that they’d rushed off if no one was even going to be there. They opened the boot as Erwin grabbed the flowers and suitcase of gifts, Levi leaned into the back of the car and grabbed his overnight bag and the remaining food, before smiling at Erwin ready to head up the stairs. Awkwardly the car doors were all shut using feet and heads, before Levi had to place the cake on the mat by his door and unlock it, entering a pitch black flat.

Not even bothering to turn the light on, boots were kicked off at the door as Levi stumbled into the flat, putting the food and flowers on the counter, bags on chairs, and suitcase neatly on the floor. Their coats and scarves were hung up on the coat stand, as always, before Erwin shut the front door and locked it. When everything was sorted out, Levi leaned over to the side of the front door and hit the light switch, illuminating the flat.

There was a rustle, then a chorus of excited, “Surprise!”

Kuchel was stood in front of the couple holding a cake with candles in it, and Mike, Nanaba, Hange, and Petra were all stood in the room smiling at Levi and Erwin.

“God, you made me jump.” Levi grumbled, but quickly turned it back into a smile. Erwin walked up behind his boyfriend, resting a hand gently on his back, as everyone started to sing happy birthday with as much enthusiasm as they could muster. Petra held her phone out, filming the whole affair, as Levi awkwardly looked around at his friends with a smile, blowing the candles out once the song had ended. It resulted in a round of applause, and questions of what he’d wished for, of which he answered with “I’ll never say.”

Once the cheering was done and the cake was put on the counter, Levi turned to face the rest of his friends who were still stood in the living area.

“What are you all doing here? It’s Christmas Day.” Levi asked, curious. They’d never been allowed to see him on Christmas before, hence why they usually celebrated a few days after.

“It’s also your 18th, and I’m pretty sure only one of them happens once in a life time.” Hange joked, smiling. Levi nodded in response, before each of his friends took it in turns to say Happy Birthday to him. They wandered back into the living area to take a sit, spreading out on the sofas, floor, and cushions. Levi and Erwin sat beside one another, close. Very much in love.

“Thanks everyone for your presents, they were great.” Levi said, smiling at everyone. Kuchel had her camera out, taking as many photos of her son being so happy and content as she could. “I especially love my new basket of cleaning supplies, everyone should have one.” He joked, and Mike laughed.

“Did you two enjoy the cottage?” Nanaba asked next.

“Yes, it was lovely,” Erwin began, “it was in a secluded forest, and we had a hot tub, a Jacuzzi bath. The bed was even four posters with curtains around it. I can’t even begin to tell you how magical it looked, remind me to show you the pictures later. Oh, and the snow so deep it was up to Levi’s knees.”

“That’s not that deep.” Mike mumbled, chuckling, earning a very stern glare from the birthday boy. He knew it was all in good faith, though.

“Anyway, and then yesterday we had a large Christmas dinner, followed by birthday cake and custard. Pancakes this morning after a lovely warm bubble bath, it was just perfect.”

As Erwin spoke, Levi could see Kuchel looking at him with suspicious eyes at the mentions of baths and beds, but he ignored her glances. At the end of the day, she always let them sleep in the same bed here, so what difference does it make when it was somewhere else? He knew his mum could be funny though, and quite strict. And he was still waiting for her to creep out and give him ‘the talk’ one of these days soon. The joys of been a teenager in a relationship, he supposed.

“You get up to some fun then?” Mike winked, laughed, and then his face dropped upon remembering Levi’s mum was there. “Oh wow, I’m so sorry Miss Ackerman.”

She just laughed and wafted her hand in the same manner that Levi does, “no need to apologise Mike. Just save that for when it’s just friends, yeah?” She laughed slightly, before heading to cut the cake up and bringing a slice back for everyone to enjoy, anything to change the subject. And cake was always a good call.

After a few games of Cluedo, and old party games like pass the parcel, the four friends had to leave to head home for family events and Christmas meals. Levi and Kuchel both thanked them again for coming on Christmas, and for their lovely gifts, before the three left over headed to the living room and started to go through the gifts that Levi had got. The large suitcase from the lodge was dragged from under the dining table and into the main room area, unzipped, revealing all the precious things he’d got for his birthday.

Levi showed her the ones from the Smiths first, then his friends, finishing with Erwin. She admired everything; the cards, the teas, the books, the vouchers and shirts. It was clear she too was shocked at the number of things that Levi had received this year including the silk cravat around his neck, and even more shocked when she finally noticed the glimmer of silver on Levi’s finger.

“And what’s this?” She said, lifting Levi’s hand into her own and admiring the piece of metal.

“Erwin got me it.” He said, smiling at the blonde man sat on the floor beside him. “Just as something to remember my 18th. Look, it has our initials engraved too.”

She admired it for a bit longer, looking at it in detail. Kuchel knew too tell that a ring like that was not cheap and would have cost a hell of a lot of money. She looked with concern at Erwin, who knew what she was thinking, but he returned the smile assuring her that it was okay to spend so much money on him. Gently placing Levi’s hand back in his own lap, she stood up and walked to get her gifts for her son and grabbed a small collection of cards too, addressed to Levi.

“Here’s your cards sweetie.” She said, handing them down. Levi opened them slowly, revealing cards from the old neighbour next door, a lady who worked with Kuchel, and one with a prison stamp in the top corner which he discarded immediately. Erwin’s heart felt like it was sinking to his feet upon seeing how few people actually either remembered or acknowledged Levi’s birthday, upon comparing it to the amount he received for his 18th. The Ackerman’s were a tiny family.

“And these are for you, from me, darling.” She bent down and kissed Levi’s cheek. He smiled at his mum, before peeking open the top of the gift bag and looking inside. There were numerous presents, all of which looked exciting to open. His mum always picked Levi thoughtful gifts. And this year was no fail.

Kuchel had chosen to go for things that Levi would most likely keep forever – memorabilia that would always remain special to him. She got him a picture frame, just like Erwin, with both himself and Erwin in it, and then another with her and him in it from when he was younger. Next, she got him a silver chain, with a very subtle locket at the end of it. Inside the locket he found pictures of two people: Farlan and Isabel. His heart started to swell at the sight, before he excitedly showed Erwin the pictures, explaining who they were. Erwin looked at the jewellery with a warm smile, noting how cute his childhood friends were.

Kuchel had also got him a lovely new green scarf, a scrap book of adorable things including pictures and tickets of events the mother and son had gone to together when they were younger too. Flicking through all the pictures brought back so many fond memories, and once shut Levi held it close to his chest, allowing everything to settle in his mind. Everything, once again, was too much. He didn’t feel he deserved this, didn’t think his 18thwas allowed to be so special.

But it wasn’t done there.

Finally, an old shoe box decorated in special paper was handed over, and inside it was loads of envelops of Kuchel’s writing. Each completely different – some had his name on and nothing more, numbered 1 to 18. There were other envelopes in there too, each with different phrases on the front such as “open when you’re feeling anxious.” Looked like his mum had been exploring creative gifts on Pinterest too. Levi smiled, lifting an envelope out and looking at the sticker seal on the back.

“I’ve written you a letter about your year ever since you were a baby, to give you on your eighteenth. And here we are! There are also some I wrote for you for when you’re feeling happy, or sad, just to help you cheer up. I know it’s not a lot.” Kuchel looked at her son hopefully, watching as he silently stood up and walked over to her. His arms enveloped his mum in a large hug, pausing in their hold for a while, trying to subtly wipe his wet eyes on her top. Once convinced his eyes weren’t red, Levi pulled away and sat with Erwin once again as Kuchel handed him a card.

“Don’t forget this.” She spoke quietly. The card was handed over to the birthday boy. Once the envelope was opened, two cards fell out onto his lap. Confused, he opened the small one again first, reading what was written inside.

To Levi,

We hereby invite you to Mitras, where you have a luxury hotel with a spa, and a voucher for a meal at the 5-star restaurant, The Titans Arms. There are two invitations, so take someone special.

Love Mum.

Levi’s mouth fell open, “Shit mum you shouldn’t have got that for me!” Levi said, excitement and annoyance in his voice. It was clearly why she was working so many extra shifts; why she was saving up as much as she could. “God, thank you so much.” He said. He held the invite open to his boyfriend, just so show him what it was. How exciting it was. “I’ve always wanted to go, and now I can! I don’t even know what to say, just. God. Thank you.” He barely kept the excitement inside.

When he was a lot younger, Kuchel and Levi took a trip to Mitras together to the centre, where Levi was utterly amazed at the buildings and how everything was so fancy. They hadn’t been able to afford to eat there, and upon seeing the restaurant in the shape of a castle named The Titans Arms, Levi had promised himself that he’d go there one day. He told Isabel about the place, and she too wanted to go after hearing how amazing it looked. It was a magical place, he could only dream of living there one day.

Ever since Levi was a child, when he played with Farlan and Isabel, they used to pretend to live in a very large castle where they had to fight off tall, weird creatures with swords. Of course, Kenny never bought them pretend swords to fight with, so they ended up using kitchen knives as they killed off these imaginary characters. It was one of the fondest memories he had with his two best friends, despite how wrong it looked considering Kenny got them into knife crime. But he overlooked that bit.

“That’s okay, love. Don’t rush in going, the vouchers all last for a year so you’ll have plenty of time to go.”

Levi nodded, pulling the larger second envelope from the main one and opening it gently. He began to read the message she had written, Erwin’s arm wrapped tightly on his back subtly reading over his shoulder.

Levi,

Happy birthday honey. I can’t believe that you’re already 18! It seems like just yesterday I was taking you home from hospital and wrapping you up in your little green blanket. I’m so proud of you, and so proud of the person you have become.

You’re a ray of sunshine and I’m really glad you’re my son. I know life hasn’t been great for you, and to think you almost didn’t make it to this birthday, but I’m so proud of you and so glad that you did. My life would be so worthless without you in it.

I love you to the moon and back and will always be here for you no matter what life throws at you.

Loves and kisses from your Mum xxxxxxxxxx

When he finished reading, he shut the card and walked over to Kuchel giving her another kiss and cuddle before saying a huge thank you to her. He was still holding the pictures of Farlan and Isabel in his hand tightly, and then chose to hang it round his neck before checking the time.

Erwin was sat on the floor, rereading the card that Kuchel had got him. ‘And to think you almost didn’t make it’played on his mind, his brows furrowed in confusion at the sentence, but he didn’t want to bring it up now, not when Levi was having such a lovely day. Instead, when he felt eyes on him, he shut the card and smiled up at his boyfriend.

“What time did you have to be home?” Levi asked, suddenly, voice turning from excitement to nerves.

“I said to mother I’d get back at seven.” Erwin responded, still smiley.

Levi tutted under his breath after looking towards the clock. “Great, because it’s almost nine.”

Erwin’s face dropped as he pulled the phone from his pocket, reading the four missed calls from Mrs Smith. “Crap.” He muttered. “She’s going to kill me.” He stood up, getting ready to phone his mum back when Kuchel interrupted.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay here tonight, Erwin? I’ll give your mum a ring and just say you got back late, or you were asleep. To be honest I doubt she’d mind anyway, considering the occasion.”

Hesitantly Erwin paused, thinking of how much trouble he might be in if he was to not wake up at his usual house on Boxing Day, and even more suspicious about how that must seem to the rest of his family who didn’t know about his relationship. He’d never slept at a friend’s house over Christmas before, and most definitely wouldn’t normally be allowed such a luxury. But he guessed that none of his other friends were born on Christmas Day, so he’d never had the chance to try it.

“We’ll cover for you.” Levi chipped in, trying to pull Erwin back to sit on the floor beside him.

Erwin gave in to the small tugs on his trousers, sitting in the same position as before. “Only if you’re both sure.”

“Of course. I’ll give your mum a ring now.” Kuchel stood up and walked into her bedroom taking the phone with her, ready to pass message onto the other family. Levi turned around and planted a kiss on his boyfriends’ lips.

“Thank you again for today Erwin.” Levi mumbled into the kiss. Erwin smiled and rubbed his hands up and down Levi’s back.

“I just hope I made it a special birthday.” Erwin muttered, and Levi responded with a sharp nod.

Kuchel appeared in the room a second later, and Levi quickly climbed from Erwin and chose to flop onto the sofa instead. Erwin’s eyes looked up at Miss Ackerman to try and read whether his family were annoyed or not.

“All sorted, Erwin. As long as you’re home at eight tomorrow morning it’s fine for you to stop tonight. And don’t worry, your mum wasn’t annoyed. She just asked if you both had a nice time.”

A sigh of relief left Erwin’s body. He didn’t want to upset his family at Christmas. “Thank you, Miss Ackerman.”

“You don’t need to thank me, Erwin. By now I’d assume you know you’re always welcome here.” Kuchel smiled warmly at him. “Right, its late and I need to get ready for bed, I have work all day tomorrow.”

Levi nodded, “night mum. And thank you so much, again.”

Kuchel nodded at her son, before turning from the room and locking herself in the bathroom, washing and getting ready for bed. Once the shower was turned off moments later, Kuchel crept through into her bedroom and shut her door steadily behind her.

Levi and Erwin too decided to head to bed after that, worn out from their busy night away. Levi was still feeling totally overwhelmed by the gifts of everyone, and everyone showing up despite it being a special day for everyone. In a daze he somehow managed to shower like normal, slip on his pyjamas, and climb into bed. Erwin joined him moments later, putting his own pyjamas on which were always kept at the Ackerman’s house.

As soon as the taller boy climbed into the warm, yet small, bed, Levi huddled up to him and wrapped his arms around the large chest. Protectively, Erwin’s arms responded by squeezing as tightly to Levi as they could, trapping him in the warmth and contentment of his grasp. Only moments later the two managed to drift into a peaceful sleep, with Kuchel subtly peeking her head in about ten that night to say a proper goodnight and make sure everything was okay, she found them both fast asleep together. She smiled happily, proud that her son had a wonderful birthday.

                                                ***

Erwin’s alarm rang sharp and clear at seven the next morning much to the couple’s reluctance. Levi rolled from his boyfriend and tucked himself further into the covers when Erwin stood up, the warmth leaving with him. It was too early, too soon for their special weekend to be over.

Kuchel was already pottering about in the kitchen when Erwin left Levi’s room to get ready in the bathroom, making food to last Levi the day at home and some breakfast for Erwin to take on the trip home with him. Kuchel was always hospitable, and would never allow for a guest to leave without at least eating something.

“Good morning Erwin, and Merry Christmas.” She smiled at him, knowing it was his turn to celebrate the festive holiday.

“Morning Miss Ackerman, and Merry Christmas to you too.” He smiled, before tucking into the bathroom and washing quickly, throwing a new top on with some trousers, and brushing his teeth and hair before heading back into Levi’s room where the latter was still snoozing peacefully.

“Levi I’ve got to get off.” Erwin whispered, gently nudging his lover in the bed. Levi rolled around, eyes slightly opening and peeking up at the blonde-haired man. It was too early for Levi, he didn’t even realise what was going on. He only properly noticed Erwin had even got up now, thinking he’d just gone for a wee and come back to bed.

“Okay.” He mumbled, barely getting the words out through his groggy morning throat. Erwin bent down and placed a soft kiss on Levi’s lips, before grabbing his bag and walking towards his bedroom door.

“Take your presents too.” Levi groaned, before shifting back onto his side and nodding off again. Erwin just nodded and smiled, picking up the gift bag that was at the foot of the bed, before thanking Miss Ackerman for the stay and walking to the door.

Climbing into the front of his car, Erwin smiled upon just thinking about what had happened the past two days. He’d never felt so in love before, never been to content with someone in his life. He’d also never felt so lucky to have Levi to himself, had never seen Levi so happy after all these years. And even more so after what happened at the lodge.

The memory made his cheeks flush a gentle red as he turned the car on and set off driving home for Christmas, slowly and steadily. He was excited to be home to see his sister, finally, and the rest of his family who were coming to join them on Boxing Day for their new Christmas.

As he pulled up onto the drive there were numerous cars also parked around the house, indicating that family must have stayed over the evening before to make it easier. Quickly rushing to grab his gift bag and overnight bag, Erwin rushed inside, unlocking the door quietly and dashing to his bedroom to get himself sorted for their traditional breakfast. He didn’t want to upset his family anymore after the day prior and didn’t want to be late down. Erwin had never found himself changing clothing that quickly or managing to dress smart as speedily as he did.

As he approached the kitchen on his way back down the stairs, Mrs Smith was getting started on their roast, so it’d be ready for mid-afternoon (it always took her a while to cook at Christmas since they had such a large, extended family) when she looked up from mixing stuffing, smiling at her son.

“Erwin darling! Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas mother.” He smiled, planting a kiss on her cheek and washing his hands, ready to help with the food preparations.

“How was your night away with Levi? Did he have a wonderful birthday?”

“It was amazing, mum.” Erwin began. “The lodge was beautiful; the food was amazing. I think he was a little overwhelmed by the amount of attention his birthday drew this year, since he’d never really celebrated on his birthday before. Everyone got him some lovely gifts.”

“I’m so glad. Levi definitely deserved a fabulous day.” Mrs Smith smiled. Erwin heard her say that so often these days, since the event that took place on his own birthday. “I’m so glad you’re there for him, Erwin. What did Kuchel get him?”

The pair continued in the kitchen all morning, joined later by Erwin’s grandmother and auntie, and finally a very tired sister who Erwin sat with and spent a lot of time catching up. They worked together to ensure that everything was prepared correctly for the traditional Smith meal. When a simple breakfast of poached eggs, avocado, and crispy toast was eaten, the whole family joined around the very large Christmas tree in the sitting room to share and open gifts.

Erwin made sure to stay beside his sister; the pair barely stopped talking. It was clear why he always missed her so much, they were almost best friends. She apologised for the fact she couldn’t make it to his birthday, but he didn’t mind. He understood and opted to spend the entire holiday together this time round. Which they did, sitting together for presents, and over their Christmas meal. Mrs Smith looked on contentedly at her two children getting on so well.

The entire Smith family was there: Mrs Smith’s brother and his wife and two children, Mr Smith’s brothers and sister with their children, both sets of grandparents, Erwin’s older sister and partner, and a lot of family dogs. The day ran smoothly and happily as it always does, and there was no sign of annoyance that they weren’t celebrating on the twenty fifth. But a dull ache was in Erwin’s heart throughout the day as he thought of Levi alone at home, and the lack of cards and people outside their friendship group he truly knew. Christmas must be hard for him, living with a parent who works in hospitality. He’ll never properly celebrate.

Mrs Smith noticed Erwin’s mood deteriorate as the day went on, despite his positive facade, and as it got late that evening after a film and a few board games, she collared him as he was walking back from the bathroom, fiddling with his cuffs.

“Erwin honey is everything okay?”

“Yes of course mother, I’m just tired. A busy few days, that’s all.” He offered a smile, but it was clearly put on.

Reading through her sons lies, she looked him right up in the eye and could sense that it had something to do with Levi.

“Go, Erwin.”

“Sorry, what?”

“Go to Levi, its fine. You’ve spent Christmas here, and you’re growing up. I’m sure he needs you more right now, plus everyone will be heading off to bed soon anyway. I’ll just tell your father that you went to see Mike or something.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes of course I am. I’m guessing Kuchel has had to work today, I’m sure he doesn’t want to be alone on Boxing Day either. It’s only just five now, you’ll have plenty of time to keep him company.”

“Thank you so much mum.” Erwin said, the frown his face had held all day turning up to a smile, as he bent down and gave her a swift cuddle, rushing for the door and grabbing his car keys on the way out. He got to Levi’s flat in less than ten minutes, excited to see him again. He’d spent so much time with him recently that even been apart for a day felt too much, especially after having such a romantic few days together.

Running up the stairs to the flat door, Erwin knocked a few times receiving no answer. Confused, he peeked through the windows where there was a small gap through the curtains and noticed that the lights were on in his bedroom and the bathroom. Quickly Erwin pulled the spare key from its hiding place and let himself into the flat.

“Levi, it’s only me.” He shouted loudly, so he would be able to hear it if he was listening to music or in the bath. Tentatively, the blonde-haired man walked over to Levi’s bedroom, knocking again before opening the door slowly and quietly in case he was asleep still. Although he knew that would be unlikely, even though Levi was not a morning person, he didn’t favour sleeping through the day often.

As the door opened, Levi appeared. He was sat on the edge of his bed, staring out of the window holding a piece of paper in his hands; something that looked like a birthday card. His head turned back to face Erwin, cheeks wet with tears and eyes red and puffy. Realising he had company, Levi wiped away the water on the back of his hands and sniffed deeply.

Erwin dropped his coat on the floor and joined Levi on the bed, sitting next to him and wrapping his arm around him. A small shoe box on the floor was opened, and it was clear that Levi was going through old things that he’d had stored away forever. Not wanting to press or put pressure on Levi, he didn’t ask anything, and the pair sat in silence for a long time before Levi handed the piece of paper over that he was holding.

It was a very child-like hand drawn card, with three stick men positioned on the front. They were stood in a park with trees surrounding them, and birds flying in the air in the traditional M shape kids are taught in school. A smiling sun was in the corner of the card, and a message along to top read ‘happy birthday big brother’. Erwin opened the card to find a message written from Isabel and Farlan, clearly from absolutely years ago.

Not knowing what to say, Erwin closed the card and placed it back in the box, before shutting the lid and putting the box gently in the cupboard that was open. Levi laid back on the bed and beckoned for Erwin to join him and hold him tightly, squeezing out the bad flash backs and memories he was having.

“They’ll have wanted you to have a lovely birthday, Levi. They wouldn’t have wanted you to be sad.” Erwin whispered into the soft dark locks. Levi nodded, pushing his face further into the others chest. It was always hard at this time of year. He always remembered how they made his birthday special when Kenny forgot, or the first birthday he had without them there. It was hard. And even though Levi locked the locked his mum got him, just seeing their faces properly again made him miss them more.

After more silence, Erwin decided it might be best to try and lift the room’s mood a little bit. Think of something to distract Levi from the past, something that would be fun. “What did you do today then, Levi?”

“Hange came around this morning.”

“Oh, I bet that was lovely. What did you two do?”

“Just watched a film. They had to go after, though. Off to Petra’s for a party.”

Erwin nodded. He wished he could bring Levi to family gatherings as his boyfriend, not just a close friend. He knew that Mike and Nanaba too were celebrating the holidays at each other’s’ houses with families. Erwin let out a soft sigh. One day soon, hopefully.

“Why you here? Isn’t it the big Smith day?” Levi asked, in a joking manner.

“Mother said I seemed forlorn and sent me here.”

“Bet your dad liked that.” Levi scoffed, turning to lay on his back and look up at the ceiling. Erwin just sighed.

“Well I for one think it’s a good thing I came around. I was worried about you being alone all day, and now it’s clear that I had reason to worry. Please Levi, just ask me to stay whenever you need me. I’m old enough to not need to be with my family all the time.”

Levi remained silent before nodding a quiet, “okay.” And the two proceeded to lay in Levi’s small bed until Kuchel got home, joining her in the kitchen where she gave them both a small gift box each as she did every Christmas, with novelty gifts and small tokens. Erwin returned the thanks and gave her some chocolate he’d picked up from the French bakery.

After a few more board games and a lot of non-alcoholic wine, everyone returned to bed. Levi and Erwin shared a few small kisses, but soon the raven-haired man turned on his back hinting that he didn’t want to do anything else. Erwin just cuddled up to him, breathing in the soapy scent before falling into a deep sleep, dreaming of the memories surrounding the card.

Chapter Text

As always, the days between Christmas and New Year flew by, making the party at Petra’s house creep up as quickly as expected. Her mum was going away with her new boyfriend to celebrate the turn of the calendar and allowed Petra to invite her friends around for a party. The normal group were all asked around, with the strict rule of no alcohol but lots of fun.

The six sat in the middle of Petra’s living room, sprawled out on the sofa and the floor. In the background, the TV was playing its usual program about the end of the year, but no one was paying attention. Instead, the friends were going around the room telling their favourite stories of the year, joking around and having fun before the countdown would begin.

It was the first year that Levi would enter with both a boyfriend, and a New Year kiss from someone who wasn’t a relative, that relative always been his mother. It was also the entrance of the year that welcomed their end of school, and departure for college. It had been playing on everyone’s minds for a while now, but everyone ignored it and just tried to live in the now, not wanting to think about what might happen when people move all over the country.

Mike and Nanaba were laid on the sofa, talking about everything they got up to that year, elaborating on stories where they’d been up to things that you wouldn’t exactly say were innocent, making everyone else in the room cringe at the thought of it. Levi sat in silence, not wanting to talk about private matters: he hated discussing things like that. He never got why Mike and Nanaba flaunted their private affairs to their friends, but if it made him happy, Levi just left him to it and kept quiet himself. Thankfully, Erwin took after Levi on that too.

Since his birthday and the mention of the lodge at his surprise party, everyone had bugged both Levi and Erwin about what they got up to at the lodge, just to tease them and also because everyone was extremely nosy about things like that, obviously. Since they’d all known each other since the start of school, and everyone else had told Levi and Erwin their relationship stories, everyone only found it fair that it happened vice versa. Each time Erwin managed to brush the question away, laughing and joking, avoiding the teasing.

Levi on the other hand would simply swear at people, telling them to fuck off and mind their own business, clearly showing that they’d done things but wasn’t going to disclose what. He didn’t really get why, he knew it was fun. He had a lot of fun with Erwin, but surely that fun would be taken away should everyone know about it.

Hange and Petra were beside each other in front of the fire, delicately holding hands and sharing a sparkling juice between them. When Hange came around on Boxing Day, they talked about how things between themselves and Petra had become slightly awkward since discussing universities they were planning on going to, and it was evident this evening.

Hange had always had the plan to go off to Mitras or travel further northern to Orvud: to one of the Red Brick universities that would help them further with their biochemistry degree they were wanting to do, whereas Petra wanted to stay home close to her mum and was only applying locally. Applications were sent off with the exams they sat; their results would create or deny an offer to a university. Levi was pretty sure that Hange was going to accept an offer from either of them colleges, should they receive the option. Which was fair enough, he couldn’t expect them to put their entire life goals and aims on hold for a relationship.

Levi looked up from where he was sitting on the floor perched next to Erwin, and glancing at Hange for a while, until they awkwardly caught his eye and shifted theirs downwards. He sighed.

“Hange. A word.” Levi said, standing up and passing his drink to Erwin.

Hange didn’t reply and instead still stared at the floor, eyes looking extremely glassy behind their glasses. Levi sighed louder, causing Mike to stop his story as Levi shouted for Hange again, this time looking up.

“Okay.” They mumbled, letting go of Petra’s hand and following Levi to the kitchen.

“Lighten the fuck up.” Levi said, once the door was shut.

“Sorry Levi, just. I’m just not sure what to do still.”

“Go with your gut. Do you want to do biochemistry at a top uni?”

Hange paused, “well yeah of course I do.”

“Well do that then.” Levi said, as though it was blindly obvious.

“What about Petra though? Levi, I love her so much I don’t want to lose her.” Hange’s eyes began to water slightly, and Levi sighed even louder this time, but put a consolidating hand on their shoulder for a split second. He went over this once already with them, he didn’t realise how they still didn’t get what he was trying to say.

“Stay with her then.”

Hange looked up at this point, eyes meeting his. “But she’s staying here.”

“And?”

“And what if she gets bored and finds someone better than me? What if long distance doesn’t work?”

Levi scoffed. “Isn’t she worth the attempt?”

Hange paused again now, taking in Levi’s words, then face forming a smile as if they’d never even thought that was an option. Despite the fact they had this exact same conversation on Boxing Day. They collapsed into Levi, giving him a hug and he returned the sentiment by patting their back before pushing off.

“See. Now lighten up its New Years, and fuck knows where we’ll all be next year.”

“Yes, Levi. Thank you.” Hange smiled again, wiping their eyes and collecting themselves before the friends returned to the living room. Upon doing so, Hange went straight to Petra and wrapped her in an extremely tight cuddle, sitting like that for the rest of the night. Petra looked relieved; she could tell Levi must have cheered Hange up, and was grateful for it.

“Everything okay?” Erwin whispered to Levi, and Levi just nodded and kissed Erwin’s cheek quickly.

“Did you apply to any schools, Levi?” Hange asked, looking at him. They realised Levi hadn’t even been asked, despite everyone going on about it for a while. But Levi kept quiet with school things, so everyone assumed he must have at least applied to go somewhere, to do something.

“No.” Levi mumbled, taking a sip of his drink. He was fine to help his friends follow their dreams but didn’t want to think about his own yet. It’s easy to tell someone to do long distance, but he didn’t want that with Erwin. He needed him by his side. His plan was going to be to wait until the real exams that counted, then apply wherever Erwin was going last minute, if he was smart enough to get in, which was extremely unlikely considering how brainy his boyfriend is. And how low results Levi found himself getting more often than not.

“What about you Erwin?” Petra asked after, softly smiling.

The blonde-haired man looking worryingly at his boyfriend, who clearly didn’t notice, and then continued to reply. “I sent off a few applications to loads of places, but I’m not really sure what I want yet. I’ll just wait and see what offers I get back, I guess.”

“Oh, I thought you were dead set on studying History in Mitras?” Mike sparked up then, looking at him intently. Levi turned his head and glared at Erwin upon hearing this, a panic behind his eyes. He hadn’t heard anything about Mitras, and of course Erwin would tell Levi first about something that was going to be that far away, right?

“I’m not sure yet, I need to think about it some more. I probably won’t even get in.” Erwin replied, finishing with a smile.

Levi leaned closer to his boyfriend and whispered, “have you applied to Mitras?” worry in his tone.

Erwin leaned back to him and replied, “of course not. It’s too far.” But Levi struggled to buy it, the thoughts pushed aside as Mike interrupted and carried on telling the room his plans.

“Me and Nan are going to move in together and stay local, going to college near home. Flats are cheaper round here, plus my dad said he’d help out with rent until we managed to find part time jobs.”

“That sounds great Mike.” Erwin chipped in.

“Yes, I can’t wait now!” Nanaba said, smiling at Mike and kissing him. Everyone in the room smiled at them, apart from Levi who was now looking down at his glass, a face full of concentration as he started to think about the future. He quickly brushed the negative thoughts away though, as the TV started blaring out it was a minute until the countdown.

Everyone climbed up from their positions and stood around the TV in a line, holding hands. Hange then Petra, holding Levi’s hand. Levi held Erwin’s, Erwin held Nanaba’s, and Mike was secure at the other end. When it got to the 10 seconds, everyone began to count down together loudly, brushing the conversation of the future behind them ready to start fresh in the New Year.

As soon as the clock struck midnight, each couple turned to their partner and shared a very swift kiss, before turning to hug everyone and wish them a Happy New Year. Smiles and laughter filled the room, everyone seeming so content with their friendships. And they were. It was a flawless friendship group; everyone trusted one another, loved one another, and needed one another.

Once the words and sentiments were shared, Levi walked out into the garden watching the rainbow of fireworks as he quickly rang Kuchel; it was the first time he’d spent away from her on a big holiday such as this and promised to ring her as soon as it was midnight. He could just sense she’d be sat waiting by her phone. Hange had also left the room to phone their father, who also was waiting on a call.

“Hi mum.” Kuchel picked up after one ring.

“Levi, darling! Happy New Year sweetie!”

“Happy New Year.” Levi replied; Kuchel could hear his smile through the phone.

“Thank you for calling. I’ll let you get back to your party.”

Levi smiled. “Thanks mum.”

“I love you sweetie, see you in a little bit. I’ll wait up for you.”

“Love you too.” Levi replied, before pressing the end call button.

Levi let his arm fall by his side and sat himself down on the cold step below him. The air was crisp and cool but seemed oddly refreshing at the same time. There was something magic in the air whenever a new year began, but something that no one can quite put their finger on. The breeze flew through him, so he pulled the sleeves on his jumper down further and wrapped his arms tightly around himself, taking in the moment.

The last year had been hard for Levi; and whilst there were so many good things, it was still a struggle. He thought back to the party, back to how Nile had treated him; the fact that he’d consumed alcohol for the first time, the way his anxiety and panic got worse. The fact that his boyfriends’ dad hated him, the hospital trip; shattered arms.

But then he started to think back to everything else. The way Mike had stood up for him, their new friendship with Nanaba, the fact he and Erwin had finally started seeing each other after his very long-standing crush. The way that Erwin kissed him, held him; the lovely birthday he enjoyed just six days earlier. How Kuchel had welcomed Erwin still despite them being in a relationship; the help she gave towards his birthday, the meal vouchers.

Levi sniffed, rubbing his eyes with the corner of his jumper sleeve. His cheeks were cold and rosy from the cold, as he shivered a second time. When he was sure his eyes weren’t watering (from the wind, of course) he took a deep breath and looked out into the sky. Fireworks really were beautiful, he thought.

A second later the patio door opened behind him, footsteps proceeding down the patio, walking up towards Levi. The tall blonde perched himself on the cold step and wrapped a gentle arm around the black-haired man, tucking him under his shoulder and giving a gentle squeeze before relaxing. Erwin brought a blanket out with him, and wrapped it around both his and Levi’s shoulders, trapping the pair in the warmth. He kissed the side of Levi’s cheek, realising it was wet.

“Levi is everything okay?” Erwin asked, calmly.

“Yeah, just. Yeah, I’m fine. It’s blood freezing.” He said, wiping it one more time before looking up to Erwin and offering the kindest smile he had. Erwin returned it, before the pair took to looking out into the green garden, lit magically by the fireworks still going through the sky. Levi shuffled himself closer to his boyfriend to warm up slightly, Erwin moving his arm up and down the side of Levi’s body to rub heat back into him.

“I never thought I’d be welcoming this year in the arms with someone I love, especially someone I’ve loved most of my life.” Erwin commented.

“Me too.” Levi agreed.

“Happy New Year, Levi.” Erwin turned, smiling again at his boyfriend, causing Levi to also look up into the deep blue eyes. “I love you.”

Before Levi could even reply, or think about the words Erwin spoke, their lips met, and they shared a deep kiss: the real way a New Year kiss should be. They moved in unison, arms wrapping tightly round the other, kissing in the dark with just the lights from the sky shining down on them.

Secretly the four from inside were peeking out of the window at the pair in the garden, and Hange took a sneaky photo just because the image was so beautiful: just two dark figures on a step, huddled together, with the fireworks flashing behind. It was very romantic, and very cliché. Definitely something that would be in a cheesy 1980s John Hughes film, Petra decided.

After a few minutes, the four went outside to interrupt the pair and found themselves sitting beside them on the stairs just looking up to the multi-coloured sky, silently. Occasionally they’d all gasp at an extravagant flash, or a loud bang, but for the most part they remained in silence just enjoying and basking in each other’s company.

Once it reached one in the morning, it was time for everyone to part ways. They thanked Petra for letting them enjoy the party at her house, before Mike, Nanaba, and Levi climbed into Erwin’s car, ready to drive them all home.

By the time they pulled up outside Mike’s house, Nanaba was sound asleep on his shoulder and they had to gently nudge her to wake her up, and she sleepily wrapped her arms around her boyfriend as he carried her inside after thanking the blonde-haired man for the lift. Erwin said his happy new years to the couple again, watching them walk up to the front door to ensure they got home safely, before setting off in the direction of Levi’s flat.

and Erwin continued to Levi’s flat in silence, just holding hands over the gear stick. Once they pulled up outside and unfastened their seatbelts, they got out and climbed out up the stairs to see Kuchel. The lights were all still on in the flat, and Levi could still subtly hear the TV playing in the living room. Kuchel had her friend over that evening to enjoy the celebration with, but she must have gone home now.

Slowly Levi unlocked the door, in case she was asleep, and let his boyfriend into the flat before shutting the door and locking it behind him. To his surprise, Kuchel was wide awake and smiling at the boys as they walked into the living room.

“Happy New Year, boys.” She said, standing up and wrapping her arm awkwardly around the two, before removing herself from Erwin and kissing her own son on his cheeks.

“Happy New Year, Miss Ackerman.” Erwin replied politely, sliding his boots off and standing them by the door.

“And for your resolution, Erwin Smith, I want you to start calling me Kuchel.”

He chuckled, “Okay, I can agree to that.”

She smiled, giving her son one last hug before heading back and turning the TV off. “I’m terribly sorry but I’m really tired and have a busy day at work tomorrow, I’m afraid I’m going to have to go to bed. But I’m glad I got to see you both.”

“Okay mum, love you.” Levi said, as she ruffled his hair.

“Love you too. I’ll see you both in the morning for New Year pancakes.” She smiled, before retreating to her bedroom and shutting the door behind her. Levi and Erwin both walked into the bathroom and got ready for bed themselves, before heading to the bedroom and climbing straight into the bed.

It was the perfect way to start the New Year, Levi thought: secure in his boyfriends’ arms, after spending an evening with people he trusted and called his friends. No Nile, no Marie to ruin it: just friends and no one else. He hoped that was how the entirety of the new year would be: just surrounded by the best people in his life, the negative ones all been left in the past.

Once in bed, the boys both squeezed closely together, noses touching but eyes closed. They closed the seal, locking their lips together, before becoming more passionate: kisses deeper, stronger. Hands roaming the others body, taking clothes off before Levi reached in his side drawer for the items left over after the lodge trip, and they entered the New Year as close as they physically could: limbs entwined together, embracing each other, sharing each other.

Quietly they fell asleep in each other’s arms, a smile on Levi’s face for the first time of a fresh calendar since the parting of his friends: and there was nothing that could take that smile away from him. As they were drifting off, Erwin continued to place loving kisses on Levi’s face, dotting them like tiny stars, before eventually his eyes closed.

The cool winter sun shone through the windows of Levi’s bedroom early the next morning, causing Erwin to stir awake. He sat up in bed, eyes squinting slightly, before properly looking out of the window, noting the frost-bitten roofs of other shops and houses around him. He shivered thinking about how cold it would be, before sliding back down under the quilt and giving Levi one more snuggle.

When he decided he definitely wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep, Erwin climbed out of the bed and retrieved his pyjamas from the end, slipping them back over his body. He grabbed his phone quietly from the socket by the bedhead, before leaving the room and heading towards the living area.

The flat was still deadly silent: Kuchel and Levi both fast asleep in bed. Erwin looked down at his phone screen then, understanding why they were still fast asleep. It was only just past five in the morning. Erwin rubbed one hand over his tired eyes, before flopping down heavily on the sofa and letting a soft sigh leave his body. He noted the many texts from his family from midnight and started to reply to them now. As he reached the bottom of his list, he frowned. There was a text from Marie.

00:12 happy new year Erwin, hope this is a good one for you. Xxxxx

He sighed, weird, he thought. But out of politeness, he sent the same message back to her before climbing back up from the sofa. His eyes were drawn to the cards from Levi’s birthday displayed on the mantel piece, as he began to reread through them all. He looked through the ones from friends first, smiling at Hange’s as he had the first time. When he got to Kuchel’s card, he paused. Looking at the same line that bothered him before, debating whether or not to question Levi about it, or whether that would cause issues for the New Year.  

Just as he placed the card down, a sleepy Levi walked into the living room rubbing his eyes behind his glasses, which were at an odd angle due to his hand. Erwin tried to hold back a squeak of how cute Levi looked right then, but instead coughed slightly to stop another noise escaping.

“Where did you go? It’s cold?” Levi grumbled, walking straight to the sofa and curling up, eyes shutting instantly. Erwin did not understand why he’d even got out of bed in the first place, or how he’d even managed.

“Sorry Levi, the light from outside woke me up.”

“Mmm.”

“How are you feeling today?” Erwin asked, sitting next to his boyfriend on the sofa and placing a soft hand on his side, rubbing it up and down automatically in a soothing way. Levi grumbled again.

“Sore.” Not just because of what they got up to last night, but mainly because Levi’s bed was not designed for two almost fully-grown men to sleep in together. It was a small single, Erwin was over six foot. It was never going to be a comfortable rest, no matter how many times they’d done it.

“I’ll start running us a hot bath, I’m aching too. Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Too loud. Mum asleep.” Levi grumbled into the sofa cushion, before Erwin stood up and walked straight to the bathroom, starting to run a deep bubble bath for the couple to share. The door was shut immediately so the noise of the water splashing about wouldn’t be too loud. Once the temperature was okay, the taps were switched off. Before Erwin went to get Levi from the sofa, he headed back into the bedroom and cleared up the rubbish scattered from their previous night, trying his best to wrap it in a bit of tissue so it wouldn’t be obvious in the bin what it was. Straight after, Erwin headed back to the tired Levi, nudging him and saying the bath was ready if he wanted to join.

“Bath is ready now Levi, if you want to get in.”

“Yeah.”

The pair walked together to the room and locked the door behind them, Levi descending in the water first and Erwin soon after. They both soaked in the deep water for a while, not speaking but just absorbing the warmth. A few sighs of relief slipped from Levi’s mouth as the warmth soothed his aching skin.

Erwin was gentle with Levi the previous night; still worried about hurting him, since it was only their second time – the last thing he’d want to do is make him uncomfortable, and Erwin still needed reassurance from Levi the day following, which Levi had to give him throughout their bath, ensuring Erwin that it was okay. He appreciated his boyfriend been to kind and caring, but it still got under Levi’s skin a little. He was fine, and if it ever wasn’t, he’d definitely let Erwin know.

However, he didn’t let that dampen his spirits. Once the boys were both clean, washed, and content, they climbed back from the tub and dried off quickly, before slipping back into pyjamas and heading to the bedroom. It was only six thirty in the morning, and they wanted to get some more rest before breakfast later on. Levi fell asleep quickly, Erwin resting his eyes and slowly melting back into the warmth of the small bed after, trying hard not think about the worrying card still playing on his mind. Surely it was nothing, right?

A few hours later, almost ten in the morning, the sweet aroma of Kuchel’s pancakes passed under the door frame, raising them both from their sleep. It was, at least, a much more sociable hour to awake and they definitely felt better for a little more rest. Kuchel had woken up early herself, taken a shower, and cleaned the bathroom before heading to the kitchen to prepare breakfast, cutting up berries, and melting some chocolate for the top of the fluffy pancakes; something extra sweet which was only saved for the first day of a new year.

Erwin was the first to properly get himself from the bed and leave the room, heading towards the breakfast bar to accompany Kuchel. Taking a seat on the higher chairs, he checked his phone quickly, before smiling up at Kuchel. But she was too distracted cooking their breakfasts, that was, until Levi appeared moments later and took a seat beside his boyfriend. His hair was messy, and his glasses framed his tired eyes. Levi still had the silver ring upon his finger, making Erwin’s heart feel full. He still hadn’t taken it off since his birthday.

Upon hearing her son make an appearance, Kuchel found her voice. “Good morning you two. Sleep well?” She asked, not even turning to face them from the oven top. Levi was still too tired to answer, not properly listening. Erwin locked his phone screen and placed it down on the breakfast bar.

“Yes, thank you, Kuchel.” Erwin replied, glancing at Levi who was paying him no attention but was staring forward still in a sleepy daze. His stomach was rumbling; he was so ready for a hearty breakfast.

Kuchel, however, didn’t bother to respond to Erwin. She instead turned the oven off, placing the last of the pancakes onto the stack which was already on the plate, before turning the tap on full blast and filling the smoking pan with soapy water. Once rinsed, the tap was turned off, and Kuchel carried the tray with pancakes and toppings to the main dining table. Erwin and Levi both climbed from the breakfast bar and joined Kuchel, sitting in their usual places. Pancakes were chosen from the pile, and with a word of thanks from both boys, they were eaten in silence. That was until Kuchel decided to speak up, once again.

“Did you take a bath earlier, Levi?” Kuchel asked, looking at her food as she cut up a pancake, still making no eye contact with Levi.

“Oh. Yeah.”

“How come? It was extremely early. Was everything okay?” At this point she decided to watch her sons’ response, seeing if he’d lie.

Levi evidently gulped slightly, fidgeting awkwardly in his seat, before acting as though the pancakes were the most fascinating things in the world, mumbling a response under his breath. “Yeah, I woke up cold. I needed to warm up.” But Levi wasn’t stupid; he knew fully well that Kuchel would see straight through his lies, and he definitely knew that she had guessed what was up. Or even worse, heard what happened last night. The very thought of that made him cringe.

“I see.”

The three continued to eat in silence, Erwin barely even looking up or attempting to spark a conversation, knowing that it wouldn’t really be responded to. So instead, their usually fun and jolly New Year breakfast was turned dull very quickly as everyone rushed to eat, eager to avoid the uncomfortable situation. Erwin was the first to finish, and politely took everyone’s empty places alongside his to the kitchen, washing them up quickly before announcing he was going to get ready. He knew that Levi and Kuchel had things to talk about and decided that hanging around would only make things worse.

As soon as Erwin left the room, Kuchel took to discussing the situation that was bothering her so much. She wanted to know what was going on, and she wanted her son to tell the truth.

“This morning I got up and cleaned the bathroom, including emptying the bins. Which is why I was shocked to find this laying at the top of the rubbish.” She put an opened condom wrapper on the kitchen breakfast bar. “Not when I’m in, Levi.” She shook her head disapprovingly.

Levi scowled, trying to keep his cheeks from inevitably burning pink; a curse of pale skin. He looked down at the piece of foil on the table, cringing at the thought of his mum finding it that morning. Erwin must have put it in there when he went to get the bath ready, Levi thought. “Shitting hell, mum. No need to waft it everywhere!”

“No need to do it when your mother is sleeping next door.”

“Where else do you expect us to do it? In the sweet shop? In the car? In the fucking street?”

“Watch your language!” Kuchel shouted. She rarely raised her voice at Levi, but this was unacceptable. “You need to learn respect, son. You two always have the house to each other, do it then. Do not do it when your mother is about.”

“It was New Years! Can’t you just let me be happy for once?!” Levi stood up from the table, angry.

“Of course, I want you to be happy!” Kuchel shouted back. “I didn’t even know you and Erwin had gone this far you’ve hardly even dated each other for long. At least you know how to be safe, but Jesus Levi! Wait until I’m out, that’s all I’m asking!”

Levi shot his mum a dirty look, he was extremely pissed off at her. He was embarrassed she’d brought it up so obviously too, and even shouted back at him. “Of course we’re doing it mum, what do you even expect?! I just want to be a fucking normal teenager, and you never let me be one! Always putting me on pills, it’s shit! Let me just enjoy this one thing, please!

Levi snatched the empty wrapper from the table, aggressively forcing it into his pyjama bottoms pocket, before turning away and leaving the conversation there. He couldn’t deal with shit like that now, he wanted this year to start off good. And within eleven hours of the turn of the calendar, he’d already managed to both piss his mum off and fall out with her. He stormed to his bedroom, slamming the door loudly behind him before throwing his body dramatically onto the bed. A cushion was brought in front of his face as he let out a scream, muting it with the cotton.

Erwin was still in the bathroom, thankfully. But Levi knew fully well that Erwin will have heard the entire conversation, and probably now would feel too uncomfortable to ever do anything with Levi again, considering how nervous and wary he always was about it. Even more annoyed, Levi pathetically rolled onto his side and stared out of the window, a firm grimace etched on his face. He heard Kuchel pottering about in the kitchen, sighing multiple times, before he heard the bedroom door beside his open and close, meaning the coast was clear.

Very obviously, Erwin had been waiting for that moment too, as the blonde man appeared in Levi’s bedroom just moments later, gently opening and closing the door. He looked over at the lump laid on the bed facing the opposite direction, before softly sighing to himself, approaching Levi, and he sat down beside him.

 “Everything okay Levi?” Erwin’s voice was nervous, he didn’t really want to have to talk about what just happened between him and Kuchel, but since Erwin was practically the heart of the problem, he had no choice but to discuss it.

“We’re not allowed to have sex anymore.”

“Levi that’s not true, don’t be silly.” He paused, “We just can’t when your mum is in, and that’s fair enough. Yeah?”

“I don’t think that’s fair.” Levi grumbled.

“Levi, it is your mums house. If she doesn’t want us doing that, then that’s okay. We can at my house, and it’ll probably be better with a larger bed anyway. And we can when she’s at work, or whenever. It’s okay, honestly. I don’t mind.”

Levi scoffed, still clearly annoyed at how the day was panning out. “Fucking typical. First New Year I’m actually, for once, happy. And obviously I’m not allowed to be.”

Erwin sighed, not really sure how to handle something like this. He put a hand at the base of Levi’s back, rubbing it gently. Levi forced his body to roll over and look up at his boyfriend, finally pulling. Himself into a sitting position. His face began to look a little less peevish. “Levi that’s not true, your mum always wants you to be happy. She’s simply looking out for you, I suppose.”

“Well I’m not a kid, I can look after myself.”

“I know Levi. Least she found out that way though, rather than something worse like her mentioning noise or walking in on us. That would have been awful.” Erwin laughed, “Don’t you remember how bad it was when my mum walked in on us? That was humiliating.” Levi chucked under his breath at that one, just the thought of it making his skin crawl. He still couldn’t believe that’s how Erwin’s mum found out. Proving that this whole situation could definitely be a lot worse.

Upon noticing Levi’s sudden mood change, Erwin interjected. “I think you should go talk to your mum, after a bit. Calm down and then just apologise, and she’ll be fine with it.”

Levi nodded, agreeing. He knew he’d overreacted, but he just wanted to act normal for once. Just for once in his life. “Why are you always so right, Smith?” he joked, leaning into his boyfriend and resting his head on Erwin’s broad chest. The taller man chuckled, wrapping an arm lovingly around Levi, before the two laid back slightly onto the bed, gazing out of the window and resting their busy heads.

Levi stayed like this for thirty minutes, composing himself properly. He didn’t want to attempt to apologise whilst he was still bitter and, in a mood, – knowing that it would only lead to a further disagreement. So, he allowed himself time to calm down and unwind, before deciding he couldn’t put it off any longer. He didn’t want his mum to be annoyed at him for too long.

So, with a brave breath in, and a push from his boyfriend, Levi exited his room and walked to his mums, knocking a little on the door before pushing his way through. He found Kuchel sat on the bed, gazing from her window. She looked upset, making Levi instantly feel worse about everything that just happened.

 “Sorry mum.” Levi said, walking in and sitting beside her on the bed.

“I just want to protect you Levi: you’re mine, you’re my only family. I almost lost you once before, I just-”

“Yeah but I’m here now, and plus you were just annoyed that you were in the house. Which I do get, don’t worry. We won’t do it again.”

“No Levi that’s not it, I just don’t want you to get hurt. I just want you to be safe.”

“And I will be, god mum this is Erwin Smith we’re talking about.” Levi laughed a bit.

She smiled softly at him at that, “very true.” Kuchel placed a soft kiss on Levi’s head, clearly suggesting that they’d made up. Kuchel was fully aware of how people fall in and out of love when they’re young, and Levi just had been through so much in such a short space of time, she just didn’t want him to suffer more when she could have done something to protect him. “I just wish you talked to me, Levi. That’s what I’m here for. Okay?”

Levi nodded, “it would be awkward to just tell you but honestly, I am sorry. I didn’t even think you’d find out or be bothered.”

“It’s okay, Levi. I was young too once believe it or not. Plus, least you’re both being safe about it.”

“God mum.” Levi groaned, pushing himself away from his mum again before smiling at her. Kuchel laughed at him, before tilting her head and telling him to head back to his boyfriend. Levi did as advised, standing up and walking straight back to his bedroom where Erwin was sat patiently, flicking through a book Levi had on his desk.

“Well that was fucking awkward.” Levi mumbled, flopping backwards on the bed. But Erwin could definitely sense he felt lighter and smiled at that thought.

“I’m sorry Levi, this was my fault. I just put the rubbish in the bin, I didn’t think your mother would see it. I did try wrap it up in tissue.”

“Yeah well whatever its fine, done now. Worse things could have happened. And this is my mum we’re on about, she’d definitely have found out one way or another.”

Erwin chuckled slightly, before laying down again next to his boyfriend, pulling Levi in for a gentle hug on the bed. The pair ended up entering their positions they were in prior, in a tight cuddle laid down lengthways. Erwin kept his arm tightly around his boyfriend, and neither spoke: they just took each other in as much as they could.

The last few days had been extremely tiring for the pair: with all the parties, events, nights away: so much had changed in a short space of time, the two just needed time to flop and relax before they were heading back to school in a few days. And in them few days, it’s when they were to find out their results from the exams before Christmas, showing if they’d be accepted into their universities or colleges they applied for. Honestly, that thought had skipped Levi’s mind, but Erwin found himself thinking about it more often than not.

Erwin breathed in deeply, thinking over the last few days. The thought of what Kuchel had written in his card still on his mind: he wasn’t sure if it was because she almost lost him in the fire, or because she almost lost him when she was ill, or for something else. But it concerned him, and Erwin really needed to know. He didn’t like not knowing everything he could about people he loved, just in case it was important. To stop his mind replaying on him all the time, he decided now was the best time to query it.

“Levi, can I ask you something?”

Levi grunted a hum in response, allowing the question to be asked.

“You know in your mothers’ birthday card?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“What did she mean by that she almost lost you before?”

Levi remained completely silent laid next to his large boyfriend: he closed his eyes and took in a very deep breath; on the silence, Erwin turned his crystal blue eyes to look at his boyfriend, who in return was simply looking at the ceiling.

“We’ll talk about it another time? Already enough drama for New Year Day.”

Erwin nodded politely in agreement, “that’s fine, Levi.”

Eventually the couple decided it would be best to get up and went to sit with Kuchel in the living area, all awkwardness melted. They put on basic TV programs, ate some nibbles that Kuchel had gotten for New Year Day so they could relax, watch films, and eat sweets.

When it approached late afternoon, Erwin announced it would be best if he headed home since he hadn’t seen his own family yet on the turn of the calendar. Everyone got up to say their goodbyes to him, as he gathered his belongings and wandered down the stairs to his car, putting everything neatly away and speeding off home.

Levi and Kuchel returned back to their flat and sat together on the sofa for the rest of the day, giggling at TV programs and chatting about life in general; how things at school were, how Levi’s friends were. They talked about memories from when Levi was a child, and how he’d changed so much.

It was so pleasant for the two to actually spend some alone time together where neither was tired, angry, nor waiting to go to school or work. By the end of the night they were left sat together watching a cheesy film Levi loved when he was a kid, cuddling on the sofa. The raven-haired boy nodded off on his mothers’ shoulder, whilst she stroked his hair gently and took his glasses from his face.

When it got too late, Kuchel helped Levi to bed and tucked him up like he was still a child, planting a loving kiss on his forehead. As soon as his small head hit the pillow, he fell asleep. Kuchel too returned to her room, and drifted off peacefully not long after, a warmth in her heart at how content her son finally seemed. The Ackerman’s both appeared to be smiling in their sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Nerves were high on the first day back at school, friendship groups gathering around their own tables trying not to think of their pending results. Mike and Nanaba were already there, sat beside Hange and Petra who both looked terrified. Levi and Erwin walked into the form room soon after, wandering directly to join their other four friends. Today was a big day for everyone, so they wanted to stick together.

“How you all doing?” Erwin asked as he pulled up a seat next to Mike. Levi perched on the table too, sat beside Hange. He seemed the least nervous of all the friends, but that was because he wasn’t waiting to hear back from a college or university. He still hadn’t decided properly on his own plans, waiting to hear what Erwin was doing first.

“Good thanks! You two alright?” Mike replied.

“Yeah thank you Mike. I’m a bit nervous for the results today, what time are we meant to be getting them?” Erwin looked around the room, as if they’d just magically appear then.

“God Smith you’re the last person that needs to be nervous – you’ve worked so hard for them, you’ll easily pass.”

“That’s very true, I totally agree with Mike. What colleges did you end up applying to in the end?” Nanaba asked, joining in the conversation with her boyfriend.

“Oh,” Erwin began, realising he hadn’t even spoken with Levi yet about the distance of schools, and his plans for post-graduation, “just a few different ones.”

Erwin could feel Levi’s quizzing eyes on him from the table, which were immediately drawn away as their teacher walked into the room carrying envelopes. Everyone fell silent and looked to the front, waiting eagerly for their results. For the first time, a small butterfly blossomed in Levi’s stomach. He was nervous for his boyfriend, so he told himself. He desperately wanted to know of Erwin’s plans for the future, but that all depended on what grade he’d got. He also didn’t want Erwin to be disheartened by his results, knowing how hard he worked for them.

“Good morning class. Here I have your results, so I’ll come pass the envelopes round now. Should you have any questions or need any advice at all regarding your outcomes just let me know. Just remember these aren’t your official grades for this year, they’re just so the universities can confirm you an offer or not.” They smiled to the class, before handing the envelopes round to the students. Everyone remained in absolute silence, awaiting their white paper.

Levi took his obediently, before looking over his friends in the group around him. Mike was the first to open his.

“What did you get, Mike?” Petra asked, a nervous smile.

“I got four A’s, 3 B’s, and 1 C. I’ve been confirmed for our local college. Nanaba, have you got in too?!”

Nanaba tentatively peeled the letter open, before pulling the form out a huge smile taking over her face. “6 A’s, 2 C’s. I’m in too!” She threw her arms around her boyfriend, squeezing him tightly as they giggled. Everyone in ear shot congratulated them, a small clap proceeded. Their life was sorted then, Levi thought. And although slightly jealous of their plans and how far in advance they’d discussed them, he did feel happy. He liked Mike. He wanted him to enjoy his life.

“Our turn, Hange.” Petra said, giving her partner a soft squeeze on the hand. Both opened their results at the same time, eager to see what they got. Hange remained very quiet, and Levi tried to peer over the top of the letter, but they were holding it so close to their eyes he couldn’t quite see.

“Hange?” Petra whispered, softly.

“I did it! 8 A*s! Unconditional offers from both Orvud and Mitras!” They squealed loudly, causing the teacher to walk over and join in the conversation. Hange was ecstatic; this was their dream. They had been offered places at the best two universities in the country.

“What was that, Hange?” The teacher asked, and Hange showed them the form. Immediately, a round of ‘well done’ and ‘that’s amazing!’ ensued, and Hange just beamed around at everyone, super proud of their accomplishments. Levi too felt so proud and happy for his best friend, yet still his heart was already sinking. That was the first of his friends who would be moving away in just a few months. Least Hange and Petra both didn’t seem saddened by the prospect, just incredibly happy. That was a relief considering how they were before New Year.

“Petra? What did you get?” Nanaba asked. Petra smiled down at her form, before looking back up to recite the results. After hearing, the teacher walked over to Nile who seemed to be pretty pissed at his.

“I got 4 A’s, the rest B’s.” Petra began, “I’ve got into the local college too.” A sad smile looked at her partner, and Hange just hugged instead and whispered quietly, something that Levi seemed to be able to lip read as ‘we’ll make it worse’.

Petra wiped a lose tear from her cheek, before turning it into a smile proud of the actual results she had managed to get. She was so relieved she’d got in and would still be able to live at home with her mum. That was the main thing she’d wanted to do, and it was all possible still. Another one relieved at everything.

After that, all eyes turned at the couple that was left: Levi and Erwin. The former looked down at his boyfriend who hadn’t spoken or taken his eyes off the sheet for a long time; it had turned out he’d already opened it and was rereading it numerous times. Levi glared – trying not to show a hint of any emotion.

“What did you get, Erwin?” Mike asked beside him.

“I did it. I got 7 A*’s and then just one A in Maths.” Erwin practically whispered out, very breathy. Mike instantly peeked over the form that Erwin was holding anxiously; Levi was staring at him, waiting to hear if he had applied for a college yet. Mike was happy to clarify that for the smaller boy.

“Shit Erwin you got into Mitras for History?! An unconditional offer too?! That’s amazing!” Mike embraced his best friend in a tight squeeze quickly. Levi didn’t take his eyes off his boyfriend, waiting for some kind of reply or explanation as to why he’d applied for Mitras. Especially when just a few weeks before Erwin promised Levi, he’d never apply for some place that far away.

“Erwin that’s insane! That’s what you wanted to do, isn’t it?!” Nanaba called out from beside him. “Your childhood dreams coming true!” She beamed.

“Yeah Erwin you’ve been aiming for that since however long I’ve known you, and you finally got it!” Petra called back.

Levi’s heart literally fell to his feet: all his friends had known about Erwin’s college plans; they’d all known he’d wanted to go to Mitras, but Erwin hadn’t told him? He remained speechless, sat on the desk at school. He wanted to congratulate his boyfriend, tell him how proud he was after he worked so hard. But his mouth was heavy and dry, he couldn’t speak. Instead his eyes rested harshly on the blonde. Irritation boiling in his chest at the fact Erwin didn’t bother to speak to him about it before. In private. Where they could’ve talked it over.

Erwin knew full well that Levi hadn’t known about his university plans, and he knew that Levi was now staring at him, but the taller man couldn’t lift his eyes or even look forward. He kept staring down at the mangle of letters on the page before him, trying to take in the news he’d just been told. He had literally got his degree handed to him, no worry about results of the summer exams, no worry about how his coursework would pan out – he’d literally been accepted, before the real exams that counted start. He was guaranteed a place.

Levi’s breathing began to hitch up at the thought of Erwin moving so far away after he’d relied on him since he was eight. If Hange left, and Erwin left. Mike and Nanaba would no doubt settle in together and hardly see anyone, Petra would make loads of new friends at her school, leaving Levi who hadn’t even applied for a college or university by himself: alone. Levi drew his eyes away from his boyfriend coming to the realisation of what was unfolding before him.

Quickly the small boy pushed himself from the desk, ripping his envelope harshly in two and got out of the room that was beginning to feel locked and closed as speedily as he could. He could hear his name been called out by his friends, and heard the teacher even proceeded after him, but he couldn’t do it: he couldn’t see everyone. He knew that Erwin too had got up and was following him down the corridor, but Levi simply picked up his pace and began to run as far away from the scene as possible.

After contemplation of the best thing to do, Levi walked from the school straight to his mums’ diner where he knew she’d be working today. The walk was far away from their school, at least forty minutes, and he didn’t know if he’d be able to hold himself together for that long. He was feeling too many things: frustration, panic, anger, sadness. He always felt teary when he was angry; he couldn’t stop it. All he could think about was how his boyfriend was abandoning him, just like he had with Marie: but the difference this time was that he’d not see Erwin daily, he’d simply see him occasionally if there was a holiday or a reason for him to be back in their town. There was no way the two could make it work, and there was no way Levi would ever be able to afford to even move to Mitras, never mind live there.

The closer he got, the more emotions he felt. He couldn’t hack the thought of Erwin leaving him. And it would be properly leaving him. Erwin was smart and handsome, he could literally have anybody. And that anybody would be an equally beautiful person he’d meet at university, who was a doctor or a lawyer, who would be equal to Erwin. Anyone but Levi who would end up stuck at home forever, never smart enough to get into any big schools or afford to live in fancy houses.

When it got worse and the thoughts couldn’t be pushed aside as easily, he picked up his pace and sprinted the rest of the way to his mum, slamming the door open and instantly collapsing on a heap on the floor as soon as he saw her. His knees harshly hit the cold floors of the diner as his small body fell forwards kneeling down, head lolling on his chest. He felt sick from exerting his body so much, he’d definitely twisted his ankle running, and he was so frustrated he couldn’t hold himself back anymore.

Without hesitation, she rushed over, not even noting the order she was originally meant to be taking, as did two of the other waitresses who were close to Kuchel. They helped Levi stand from the entrance to the diner, guiding him to a small table located by the kitchen entrance. It was like the first year of high school; he felt the same emptiness, the same feeling that he wasn’t wanted or needed by anyone. He thought he’d got over his mum leaving him, Farlan and Isabel, Kenny, but now the people who helped with that were leaving him too. No one stuck around for levi.

Levi began then: he began wailing so loudly, breathing so heavily. Harsh tears flooded his flushed face as he curled himself as tightly into a ball as he could trying to block everything out, practically disappearing in the plastic pink seats, leaning against the wall. He wasn’t even thinking about the germs, about how mucky the wall was: he was thinking about Erwin, and the fact he wouldn’t have him every day anymore, or possibly ever again.

Thankfully, the diner was extremely quiet – there was only one other customer who was sat at the bar, who politely got up and left as soon as he heard the commotion. One of the ladies who worked there locked the door, and all staff surrounded Levi, stroking him gently or grabbing him tissues, glasses of water: anything they thought might help. The chef anxiously stood at the entrance to the kitchen, looking over both Levi and Kuchel with a worried expression. He’d known about her problematic son and the troubles he’d faced throughout the eighteen years he’d been alive.

“Shh, Levi. It’ll be okay.” Kuchel repeated into his soft hair, but everything caused him to scream out the tears. She held his body close to her and rocked him back and forth gently, soothing. “What’s happened Levi?” She asked, softly, assuming Levi wouldn’t answer: but he did.

“Erwin’s fucking moving to Mitras! Hange is moving! And Mike and Nanaba! Everyone’s leaving me again!” He shouted out, trying to get his words through the tears but they barely came through. “He didn’t even tell me. He told everyone else he’d applied and not even me! He doesn’t care. He doesn’t trust me, after everything I told him.” The diner staff all exchanged saddened expressions at the words Levi was crying out: they’d never really seen anyone this worked up, in this much of a state before. They’d heard about it from Kuchel due to the times she’d leave early to protect her son, but never seen him so distraught in person. They were so used to seeing Levi with such a stoic expression, barely showing any emotions.

“Levi sweetheart, they won’t leave you. They’ll come back and visit all the time. Maybe Erwin didn’t say anything because he wasn’t sure how to.”

Levi shook his head aggressively. He knew they wouldn’t come back to him, he knew they’d settle down and create a new life for themselves. Who wouldn’t at university? Every single one of his friends were so welcoming and sociable, it was just him who seemed the recluse.

“No one fucking wants me! I might as well just fucking die!” Levi shouted out. Kuchel looked towards her friend and motioned for them to call the hospital: she’d seen this before, she knew she couldn’t leave him alone. Not after last time. His tears hadn’t been so strong for a long time, in fact she even believed he was slowly getting better but clearly, he was still struggling. Especially if something like this set him off in such a bad way.

“Levi darling, they want you. I want you. Erwin wants you, in fact he needsyou sweetheart.”

“I fucking hate it, mum.” Levi cried, turning his head and tucking it under her chin. She continued the gentle stroking motion, patting down the ruffled black hair and holding him tightly in her arms. “I didn’t apply for anything and everyone’s gonna go and I’ll be left here like the thick shit I am. Erwin will definitely find someone new. What’s the point in me being here?” Levi hiccupped out, in between cries and wiping his tears on a napkin.

Kuchel tried not to sigh in annoyance at the fact he didn’t apply for anything, and instead just focused her attention on her son. She’d not heard him announce that he wanted to end his life since his attempt to and shortly after that too. He’d never expressed he’d felt like that since, and her heart ached at the thought that her baby was so unhappy that he didn’t want to live anymore.

“Levi there’s every point in you being here. You’re my life, honey. You’re the reason I wake up on a morning, the reason I smile.” Kuchel whispered, stroking him. Slowly Levi’s crying began to calm down, but the colour was drained from his face. The small hands wrapped around his knees were shaking and white; he was physically and emotionally drained. He’d dealt with far too much, held it all inside. That always made it a million times worse when it needed to be flushed out.

Seconds later the ambulance pulled up outside the diner and the nurses knocked on the door. A lady who worked there opened it up and walked them over to the small, frail boy who was in the corner rocking back and forth slowly, his mother comforting him.

“Levi Ackerman?” the nurse asked. He had a kind smile and fluffy brown hair.

Kuchel quickly stood up and turned to face the young nurse, shaking his hand. “Hello sir, I’m Kuchel Ackerman, Levi’s mother. Can I have a word, quietly?”

“Yes of course.” He gestured his arm and hand out, suggesting her to follow to another booth. Of course, Kuchel obliged and she sat beside the nurse ready to tell them about Levi. The other waitresses took to chatting to Levi, trying to distract him from what was really going on. They didn’t seem to have much luck, but anything was better than letting him get inside his own head too much.

“He’s not done anything, but I’m concerned about his suicidal thoughts. He’d attempted once before, and…” Kuchel broke off, tears straining her voice. Inhaling deeply, she quickly composed herself for her sons’ sake. Before continuing, the nurse interrupted not needing to know anymore from the situation.

“We will take care of him, Miss Ackerman. If you want to follow me and we’ll get Levi into the ambulance and take him straight to the doctor at the hospital who will be able to check him over and get a therapist for him to talk to. I’d recommend leaving him in hospitals care for a few days, he seems pretty worn out.” The nurse glanced back around the booth at a very pale Levi.

Kuchel nodded politely and stood up beside the nurse as she tucked her arm around Levi and walked him slowly to the back of the van. He climbed in and laid down on the bed in the centre curling up in himself. Kuchel sat beside him, as the two nurses climbed into the front and set off to the hospital. The diner staff stood around the entrance and waved them away kindly, before returning back inside and continuing with their day.

                                                ***

“Levi, wait!” Erwin shouted, but his boyfriend had already gone: he was far out of reach, and probably wouldn’t have wanted to see Erwin either considering the circumstances. Erwin stood in the corridor, staring into the emptiness as Mike joined beside him. He felt utterly broken.

“He alright?” Mike asked, genuinely concerned. Erwin pinched the top of his nose before exhaling deeply.

“I didn’t tell him about Mitras. I didn’t tell him I’d be moving so far away.”

“Oh. How come Erwin?” Mike asked, turning the pair towards the classroom but walking slowly. Mike had assumed that Levi was the first person that Erwin would tell, especially considering it was practically a lifelong dream, even though Erwin had rarely spoken about it. And never spoke about it in front of his boyfriend.

“Because I was worried, he’d act like this.” Erwin sighed.

“He’ll come around, Erwin. He probably just needs a breather, it’s been a lot to take in recently, you’re possibly best to give him some space.” Mike said, holding the door open to their class and walking to his desk at the back. Erwin nodded and walked back to his table, taking a seat and rereading the confirmation of his place at university.

But Erwin was finding it hard to be excited or proud – his mind was constantly on Levi, the sight of his worried face, the image of his small body hurtling down the corridor. Then his mind flashed back to the panic attacks he’d helped Levi get through, the stories he’d told of his childhood: Farlan, Isabel. Erwin’s big heart filled with sadness.

“You got into Mitras too, Erwin?” A female voice asked, as a very bonny girl approached his desk and leaned over the front of it. Marie.

“Ah yes, Marie. I’m assuming you did also?” Erwin asked. He tried his best to straighten his face and remain polite. She nodded enthusiastically before leaning towards the blonde.

“I did, but mister grumpy pants over there didn’t do much work and didn’t get an offer. He’s only got them from smaller colleges, his dad is going to be so pissed.” Marie gestured her head towards Nile, who was currently running his hands through his hair and looking incredibly stressed. Erwin subtly smiled at the thought that Nile didn’t get into a top university.

“Hey Erwin, we should go for a drink sometime before summer. Make plans for college together.” Marie beamed at her ex-boyfriend, who simply nodded in agreement, trying to avoid awkward situations.

“Sounds good Marie. If you’d please excuse me.” He said, standing up and walking towards the back of the classroom to a very worried looking Petra and Hange, who clearly were concerned about Levi. He just couldn’t make exciting plans for the future, especially with people Levi detested. He couldn’t even properly think about Mitras until he’d talked to Levi properly about it all.

“How is Levi?” Petra asked the second Erwin approached the pair. He sat down between them, his back against the wall as he rubbed his eyes trying to discard the worried tears that kept prickling up. His hand rested on his forehead for a moment as he tried to gather his thoughts, stable his mind. It hardly helped.

“No idea.”

“Do you want to go and grab a coffee or something, Erwin?” Hange asked, and he nodded in agreement. Their teacher permitted it, since it was just the welcome back day and not a day of proper lessons. She was busy trying to get hold of reception to give Kuchel a call anyway, worried about Levi herself.

The three friends walked to the canteen in the school in silence, grabbing a drink each and huddling around one of the small tables close together. There were a million unanswered questions for everyone at the moment, and no one really understood where to begin in questioning or asking them.

It was Erwin who decided to break the silence.

“I didn’t tell Levi about Mitras.” Two confused pairs of eyes glanced up as Erwin stared down into his coffee, as though it was the most fascinating thing in the world. “I didn’t want him to react like this, I thought keeping it a secret was the best thing. I never thought I’d get in. God, I don’t want to leave him, either. I love him. I don’t really know what to do.”

Petra stretched her hand across the table and gave Erwin’s a loving squeeze, before turning and looking at her partner who still had a very concerned expression on their face.

“Levi’s tough. He’ll be okay. I’m guessing he’s just gone home.” Hange said, in a troubled tone as though they were simply trying to reassure but were very uncertain to Levi’s whereabouts. The last time he took off he ended up on top of the school building, but they knew he wouldn’t run there again. He’d have gone some place where people wouldn’t easily chase him.

“Can we please go then? To Levi? I need to explain.” Erwin said, and everyone just nodded. After their lukewarm coffees were finished, the three proceeded to walk to Erwin’s car which was parked in the student lot. He turned on the ignition, and drove slowly to Levi’s flat, unsure of what to say once he got there.

The car still remained in silence as they drove, everyone’s thoughts on the future. Petra was worried about her relationship, as was Hange. Erwin was worried that his relationship had already ended thanks to his selfish actions. The only people they didn’t really need to worry about were Mike and Nanaba, who seemed pretty content and settled with the outcome of the morning. Least they had their own relationship settled and normal.

The large car pulled in front of the sweet shop, and everyone climbed out and walked up the stairs to Levi’s apartment. Erwin peeked in through the window on the way up and noticed that there weren’t any lights on, and all doors were wide open as Levi left them whenever he went out, clearly showing he wasn’t in. Just to be sure, he knocked upon the door but there was no response. He turned to his friends and shook his head, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

Hange and Petra stood awkwardly on the stairs, just watching Erwin as he pulled his phone from his blazer pocket and dialled Kuchel’s phone number.

After two rings, she picked up.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Kuchel, it’s Erwin.”

A pause. “Erwin, are you okay?”

“Yes of course. Are you with Levi? He left school in a bit of a rush and we can’t find him at home, I assumed he’d be with you.”

“Erwin honey we’re at the hospital.”

Erwin’s face dropped, looking extremely glum. Very worried looks were passed between the couple on the stairs at seeing their friends’ response to the phone call.

“Can we come?” Erwin asked, anxiousness in his voice.

“Of course, darling. Levi is fine, he’s not tried or done anything, but it was a safety precaution. Come over whenever you want, I’m going to have to hang up and just talk to the doctor, but I’ll see you when you arrive. We’re in the young person’s psychiatric ward.”

“Okay, thanks.” Erwin replied, as the phone line went dead, he dropped his arm lazily, letting it hang down and hit his side on the way. Petra and Hange looked extremely panicked, but when Erwin told them to go back to the car and he’d explain, they did what he said.

The car set off and Erwin began to drive quickly, thoughts flowing through his head at what Kuchel had meant: the words from her card to her son, Levi’s distance from the times he’d known him. He’d never known his boyfriend go to hospital before for any reason, other than the odd jab if he needed one.

As briefly as he could, Erwin explained to his friends what Kuchel had said on the phone to them, and they replied with gentle words, trying to sooth the blonde driver who was getting quite fidgety. They kept their own emotions hidden, not wanting to make the situation worse, although they had their own worries and concerns for their best friend too.

About ten minutes later, the car parked up neatly in the car park and the three friends rushed inside to the front desk asking for Levi Ackerman. A very pretty, blonde haired lady led them to where they needed to be: he was in a private room in the young adult section of the mental health ward.

With trepidation, Erwin knocked on the door quietly. Kuchel appeared moments later, not obviously upset or distressed which could only be a good sign.

“Ah, Erwin. Hange, Petra.” She said, smiling at the three of them and pulling each into a soft hug, before leading them into the room where the raven-haired man laid asleep in the centre of the bed. He looked worn out, small, weak laid there. Erwin felt wobbly at the sight of his boyfriend and went to sit next to Kuchel, trying to draw his eyes away from the bed. He didn’t really know how to react to the sight, but thankfully the other two friends managed to speak up for him.

“What’s happened?” Petra asked, worriedly. She and Hange sat down on the bench at the other side of the bed, eyes all on Kuchel waiting for an explanation.

“I just don’t think he’s ready for the future.” Kuchel said, calmly. “He’s alright though don’t worry. This was a safety thing, we were told to phone if he ever felt himself deteriorating and it seemed like he did.”

“What set it off?” Petra asked quietly.

“Honestly, he has problems with abandonment. I think just the talk of universities today set it off worse than usual, he’s been through it all before. I know he worries that you’ll all move on and forget him, when you get on with life.”

“Forget him? How could we ever forget him?! I love that boy more than anyone I know!” Hange exclaimed, repulsed at the idea that he’d think he’d be forgotten. Kuchel smiled at Hange’s kind words, before her gaze dropped back on her son.

“It’s hard for him to see that. He was like this in first year too, felt distant from everyone like he had no one even though he did. He’s been that way his whole life, I’m afraid.”

“What happened in first year? What do you mean?” Erwin asked, brows furrowed as he reached his hand out and took Levi’s in in softly, massaging the back of the smaller boys’ hand with his thumb, suddenly feeling the need to be holding him.

“Didn’t you know? I thought Levi might have said something, or that someone might have guessed.” Kuchel replied, looking slightly confused.

“No, we know nothing, Miss Ackerman.” Petra chipped in, too wanting to know about what Kuchel meant had happened in first year. He was close to them all then, and they failed to see he was being left behind, or that he was struggling.

“It wasn’t anyone’s fault. He’d had a bit of a rough start to life, and he couldn’t get them thoughts out of his head, no matter how many times he tried. At one point, I think we just reached enough. He phoned me from the bathtub after drinking an entire bottle of medication, apologising. I rushed home quickly, and he’d already passed out. Thankfully the hospital was able to pump his stomach and brought him back around. It’s why I worried so much today when he was saying how he felt, I couldn’t go through that. Not again.”

Kuchel wiped her eyes gently with a tissue she’d had in her palm since arriving at the hospital, as Erwin gave her a soft hug. Petra too stood up and walked over to Levi’s mum, pulling her into a squeeze. Hange piled on top last, and the four remained hugging for a few moments as tears were spilled at the thought of a small, young Levi trying to take his own life. Guilt resided in their stomachs, shocked that they didn’t even see Levi been that way inclined at all. But he hid so much from everyone.

Eventually, everyone returned back to their seats in silence as they waited for Levi to awaken from his much-needed rest. Erwin’s eyes were leaking quietly as the realisation hit him of what the cards meant: of what he’d almost put Levi through again by keeping secrets from him. Kuchel sensed this and simply offered her support, holding Erwin’s hand and whispering that it wasn’t this fault at all.

Levi managed to wake up later that day to his friends surrounding the bed. Mike and Nanaba came straight to the hospital once school was finished after Petra texted to say what was going on, and they brought flowers and chocolates for their best friend.

“Levi! You’re awake!” Petra squealed as she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, before moving so Hange too could do the exact same action as their girlfriend.

Levi grumbled, still half asleep. “What you all doing here?”

“We were worried about you, buddy.” Mike said, ruffling Levi’s hair as he ducked away from the touch as much as possible laid in a bed, but unfortunately couldn’t avoid the man’s large arms and hands.

“I’m fine.” He said, looking up at his mum who just smiled warmly at him. “Just my brain fucking everything up again.”

“Levi Ackerman, that is the last time I will hear you use that word in front of me.” Kuchel joked, and he just sneered at her in a mocking way before directing his gaze to Erwin who was still holding his hand.

“Hello, Levi.” Erwin said, tone low and quiet, so much so that it was almost a whisper.

“I think we’ll leave the two of you to talk whilst we go grab a coffee.” Kuchel said, as she stood up and gestured for everyone else in the room to walk out and headed to the canteen. The friends all smiled at Levi before they left, closing the door gently behind. Even though they all knew he was fine, and would be, it was nice to actually see him awake and back to his normal self. The second the door shut, Erwin shuffled his chair closer to the hospital bed.

“Levi I’m so sorry.”

“Why didn’t you tell me, Erwin? I trust you with my life so why can’t you trust me back?” Levi asked, hurt in his voice. “I told you everything about me. Things I’ve never said before, and you couldn’t even tell me about Mitras?”

“I do trust you, I just didn’t want to upset you, but it is clear that I still have managed to do that. I thought keeping it a secret was the right thing to do.”

Levi remained silent, looking towards the door. “Are you going there? To Mitras?”

“I’m not sure yet. Possibly, but I have a lot of things to think about.”

“Well don’t let me hold you back, Erwin.”

Erwin looked taken aback at Levi’s comment. “You never hold me back, in fact you inspire me to move forward.”

Levi smiled at that subtly, before continuing. “You know what I mean, if it’s your dream go for it. Don’t just ignore it because I’m a needy boyfriend and have a stupid brain. It’ll get better one day.”

“It’s something we both need to talk about in the future, but for now you need to focus on getting your mental health back to being stable and healthy.”

“I’m fine, mum just overreacted.” Levi said, pulling at one of the drips attached to his arm, unsure of why it was even there in the first place. He wasn’t ill, he just was upset. He thought she’d just bring him home and put him to bed, not that he’d end up in a bed of a ward.

Erwin took a deep breath, thinking about the best way to word the next question. He swallowed, before opening his mouth. “Levi, Kuchel told us that you’ve tried to kill yourself before. Why didn’t you tell me? I don’t ever want you to feel alone like that.”

“Erwin, that was three years ago. I wouldn’t try it again now, not ever. As soon as I swallowed those shitty pills, I regretted it and ended up phoning her to get someone to fucking save me. It was a mistake, and I’m not going to do it again even if you do all leave me behind.”

Instead of responding, as Erwin was unsure of what to say to Levi at this point, he climbed into bed beside him and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend. Instead of Levi’s usual protests, he too wrapped his arms around the strong back and breathed in the scent that he associated with home: with safety.

They remained in bed together for a while: the entire time the group was grabbing a drink. Even when they returned back to the hospital room, Levi wouldn’t let Erwin climb out and instead clung onto his top with his strong hands, keeping him secure in their hugging position.

“You’re not going anywhere, Smith.” Levi mumbled into his chest, causing everyone who could hear it to giggle softly before announcing they had to head home since it was getting late and their parents would be wondering where they were, wanting to leave the family in peace.

Kuchel and Erwin stayed in the hospital with Levi for the next night, taking it in turns watching over him and checking he was okay. The nurses popped in religiously through the night, removing the drip half way through and allowing Levi to sleep comfortably. By the next morning, they decided that Levi seemed stable enough to go home as long as he took it easy and agreed to therapy sessions. It took him a while to approve that rule, but appointments with a therapist were set up again at school, thankfully of which school were paying for (which Kuchel was extremely grateful for).

Once the three returned happily back to the Ackerman flat, Erwin helped Levi straight to bed where the couple cuddled and embraced, not letting the other go – they stayed like that until the evening crept around, sending Erwin home to his families and leaving Levi at his. The smaller boy climbed into his most comfortable pyjamas, before going to lay on the sofa with his mum who gently stroked his hair and reassured him of how much she loved him until late into the night, when he fell asleep soundly as the evil thoughts of the future disbanded from his sensitive brain: for now, anyway.

Chapter Text

Levi got out of hospital the day after he was brought in, and he returned to school a week after that. Kuchel had taken the week off from work to ensure her son was stable enough to return to studying and doing okay. Honestly, he seemed to be more himself the day he got home but she wanted to be safe, especially when all people would be talking about was their futures at university. Kuchel constantly checked in with Levi, but he kept telling her he was okay. Hence why she let him back to school, but if it was her own choice, he’d have stayed at home a lot longer.

As normal, Erwin picked him up that day and drove him to school as though nothing had happened in the hospital. When Levi entered the form room, his teacher pulled him aside to plan a private meeting between the pair of them, to discuss Levi’s options for after graduation and for the ceremony itself, since he would be the only student who would graduate without having a set plan for after. Reluctantly, he agreed to that, before heading back to his seat in the classroom, subtly smiling at Erwin as he pulled his seat out.

No one mentioned what happened at school the earlier week: not even Nile or Marie. Everyone seemed very anxious at the moment, with their new-found results and exams which weren’t far away. The morning in form was spent simply revising or studying, since their actual classes had now finished and it was just about refreshing before exam season crept around.

Levi sat on his seat at the front of the class reading a book and ignoring the work that actually needed to be done. He hadn’t done as badly in his exams as he thought he would have, managing to scrape a distinction in his mock art coursework, B’s in Maths, English, and History. The rest he got a C in, with a D in foreign languages. He wasn’t that let down, and knew it was only down to Erwin that he even got higher than a C. Before he was expectant to get fails in everything, pretty much.

Once the school bell rang for dinner time, the group of friends rekindled then headed out of the room to find Nanaba who was now back in her normal class, before walking outside and sitting down on a bench in the park opposite school.

Everyone was wrapped up in big coats and scarves, the January weather not being kind to them yet. Levi pulled on his big scarf he got for his birthday tightly around his neck, his slim fingers in dark green mittens clinging onto his lunch wrapped neatly in a brown bag. Kuchel said she’d packed in extra sweets that morning from the shop downstairs, so his day seemed a little brighter. He was very much looking forward to nibbling his way through a packet of gummies.

Once outside of school where no students would be able to see them, Erwin tucked his arm around his boyfriend possessively: not wanting anything or anyone to take him away. He even managed to put a loving kiss on Levi’s cheek, before he moved his head away and sneered.

Over the past week Erwin had been around almost every day to check on Levi. He’d even picked him up in the car and driven him to a counselling session at school, his first one, and sat with him through it to make sure he was okay before returning him safely to Kuchel. But they’d still not discussed the issue of the future together yet, and it was clearly still on Levi’s mind.

The smaller boy slightly nudged into his partner on the bench to make room for Petra and Hange, who were slowly walking along carrying six hot chocolates on trays from the local café. Politely, everyone picked one from the tray and held it in their hands tightly, soaking up the heat.

“Glad to see you back, buddy.” Mike said eventually to Levi.

“Yeah. Thanks.” Levi replied as kindly as he could. Mike smiled at him, before returning to his conversation with Nanaba.

“Petra and I are off to Orvud this weekend to look at student accommodation. I think my parents are coming too. On the way we’re going to look at Mitras I think, to see which I prefer.”

“That sounds good, Hange.” Erwin replied to them, smiling sadly. Even the mention of post-graduation plans was a sore point at the moment, especially since he’d not even discussed his.

“I was going to ask if you wanted to come with us, to look at Mitras on the way?” Hange asked, clearly oblivious to how it was affecting the smaller boy sat with Petra, shifting awkwardly in his seat. Petra shot Hange a look as if telling them to shut up, but they didn’t notice it, too excited with their own future plans.

“That’s very kind of you, thank you. But I need to think of my actual plans a bit more thoroughly first before I rush into making any decisions.”

“That’s fair enough Erwin, I’ll just grab some leaflets on it for you.” Hange took a large sip of their drink, before moving position to sit opposite Nanaba and Mike who were a lot more enthusiastic about the prospect of moving out of their parents’ houses.

“Can we talk tonight Erwin?” Levi asked, almost a whisper. He was staring forward into the park, cheeks and nose bright pink from the cold. After speaking, he brought the hot chocolate to his lips and took a sip, enjoying the warmth of the liquid seeping down his throat, warming his stomach.

“Yes of course Levi.” Erwin replied, pulling him into a gentle squeeze. Levi seemed to slightly relax under the touch, yet still appeared tense under his many layers of clothing. The smaller boy turned to talk to Petra then, leaving Erwin to lean closer to the other four, listening to the decorating plans for the Mike and Nanaba flat. Levi shuffled slightly towards Petra and lowered his voice.

“Are you worried about Hange going so far away?”

“Yes, I’m bothered that they won’t be near, but I’m just going to take it how it is and see if we can cope being so apart from each other.”

“And if not?” Levi proceeded.

“If not, then I guess we’ll have to see when it gets to that time. But there’s still a few months before we even need to start worrying about things like that.” Petra replied, smiling sadly.

Just then the school bell rang, and everyone quickly ran back to class, not realising how long they’d been sat in the snowy park. Thankfully, their teacher was pretty kind about them being late into the classroom and allowed everyone to have a relaxing afternoon watching a film, sitting wherever they wanted.

Levi sat on the back row with his best friends, careful not to lean in too close to Erwin or hold his hand despite how tempting it felt. So far, despite the number of months they’d been together, no one had found out about their secret relationship yet. And they most certainly wanted to keep it that way; at least until graduation. Then he didn’t really care who knew, as long as Mr Smith never found out anyway.

Throughout the film playing on the TV, Levi kept noticing weirdly sly and subtle glances from Marie to Erwin. She kept smiling at him the whole way through, or just looking behind trying to get his attention. Erwin was clearly trying to be engrossed in the film to push her off, but the brown-haired girl wasn’t having it.

By the end of the film and school, she decided it was acceptable for her and Nile to get up and walk over to Erwin and Mike, ignoring the other three completely. Levi obviously rolled his eyes at Petra and Hange, who laughed loudly. They were trying to make the couple feel as uncomfortable, although their gestures didn’t seem to disturb them from chatting to the taller two.

“Erwin, Mike. It’s been a while since we properly spoke.” Nile said, smirking.

“I wonder why?” Mike mumbled under his breath, turning around and swinging his bag over his shoulder ready to walk out of the classroom and find his girlfriend.

“I think we should all go out for a drink tonight, somewhere nice. A bar in town, perhaps?” Marie suggested, smiling at the thought.

“Not tonight I’m afraid, I already have plans.” Erwin said, too committing to the gesture of swinging his bag over his shoulder once his coat was buttoned up fully.

“You’re no fun, Erwin.” Marie grumbled. “You better be more entertaining when we’re at Mitras.”

“I’m not even sure if I’m going to that college yet, I have a lot to think about.”

“What? Not going to Mitras? Erwin are you stupid? That’s one of the most prestigious schools in the country!” Nile exclaimed, appearing shocked and taken away by Erwin’s seemingly ungrateful comment.

“Yeah Erwin why wouldn’t you want to go?” Marie asked. Levi was now watching the whole conversation unfold from the side, pretending to look out of the window but watching their reflections instead listening intently.

“Because he might not want to go there? Ever thought of that?” Mike chipped in, before adding. “I’m going now, meeting Nan. I’ll text you later Erwin.” He patted a large hand on his best friends’ shoulder before heading out of the classroom.

“Is it because you want to stay here with your little angry dog?” Nile scoffed, laughing at his own poor comment.

Erwin just shook his head in annoyance. “I’m leaving now. It’s not your business Nile, especially after all the things you’ve done these past few months. We’re not friends, and I would only discuss my concerns with friends. Good evening, you two.”

Erwin walked straight to the door, Levi trotting along slowly after, smiling to himself as he remembered the shocked and hurt faces plastered on both Nile and Marie in the classroom; they never thought that a Smith would stand up to them in such a way, but he did. And Levi was proud.

Once in the car, the couple remained silent on the drive to Erwin’s house. Both his mum and dad were still at work, so the pair agreed it was the best place to go and talk; plus, Levi was getting bored of seeing the same four walls in his house every day, and quite fancied going to his boyfriends for a change, hoping the coolness from Mr Smith would be blown over from October. Erwin reassured him numerous times it would be, and that he was truly sorry for what he said to Levi. But the latter decided that he’d only believe that upon seeing it.

They pulled up in the snow-covered drive and dashed into the house to get out of the cold, taking off all wet clothes in the porch before removing shoes. Erwin asked Levi to head to his bedroom whilst he gathered a pot of tea and a plate of biscuits, so they had something to snack on after school. Levi did as was asked, sitting in Erwin’s little living area, sitting crossed legged, tucking his cold toes under his thighs. Erwin returned up the stairs only minutes later, a tray full of their snacks which he placed on the coffee table in the centre of the seats.

“We need to properly talk about this.” Levi said, cutting straight to the chase. He definitely did not like to wait around. He’d been thinking about what to say, and how to say it, the entire week Kuchel made him stay at home. He just wanted to get it over with now, enough thinking was done.

“I agree. What first?” Erwin poured the tea into cups, before taking one in his own hands.

“Well, first, I’m sorry. I uh, am proud of you. You know, for getting into a big place.” Levi stuttered, sipping at his piping tea.

“Thank you, Levi, but I’m not sure I even want to go there yet. There’s so much to plan, to think about.”

“And why don’t you want to go?” Levi asked, looking directly at his boyfriend.

Erwin shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He had a million reasons of why he wanted to go there: he’s always wanted to go to a top university, mainly to follow in his fathers’ footsteps, but also to help benefit himself and become the best he could possibly be. But there was one main thing holding him back: one main thing stopping him, and the one main thing he knew wouldn’t want to hear that.

“Levi, I don’t want to go anywhere without you.”

“But I don’t want to hold you back either.”

“Yes, but I can still achieve what I want by going to a college closer to home. I applied locally too, to where Mike and Nan are going, and Petra. I don’t have to go all that way, I don’t want to. I need to stay with you, Levi. We both need each other, and I don’t think I’d be any good at Mitras if I didn’t have you there.”

“If you’re so adamant you don’t want to go there, then why apply in the first place?” Levi asked, furrowed brows. “You knew realistically I couldn’t go there.”

Erwin couldn’t reply: he just sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He hadn’t felt this worked up or stressed for a long time; he should be excited about going to such an amazing school with an unconditional offer which was ultimately unheard of, but the thought of leaving Levi behind just broke his heart. And it broke even more when his mind constantly flashed back to what Levi had told him in the hospital about feeling alone.

“Now I want to say what I want.” Levi said, and without waiting for response, began to speak. “I want you to go to Mitras. I don’t want to not see you, but I want you to do what you’ve always wanted – do what makes you as happy as you can be, and if that’s a posh snobby school then fucking do it. We’ll make it work. I’ll learn to drive or something. Or get a job and pay for travel.

“I’m sure mum would take me too, or you could come back every weekend and see me. Maybe when your family drives up, I can tag along. But we’ll make it work, Erwin Smith. We always make things work.”

Levi was rambling, clearly his thoughts jumping into his head as he spoke. Erwin just looked at him fondly, proudly. He was worried that Levi was just going to protest the entire thing: not want him to move away, not want him to go to where he’d always dreamed. He knew that Levi wouldn’t ever outright say that, but he knew he’d suggest it in body language. But no, he’d given him the get set. Ultimately it was Erwin who wasn’t allowing himself that feeling.

“I’ll always facetime you too, Levi. Call you daily. We will make it work, I promise. You’re the most important thing in the World to me, and I wouldn’t replace you for a degree: not ever.” Erwin shuffled closer to his boyfriend and held him in his arms. He put his cup of tea neatly back on the coffee table, as Levi followed the gesture, before deflating at the touch, sinking his head into his boyfriends’ arm as he held in tightly. “I was so worried about this talk.”

“Me too, Levi.” Erwin mumbled, placing a soft kiss on the dark hair, breathing in his scent slowly.

“I thought you’d leave me.” Levi then mumbled out, closing his eyes and letting his body completely relax into the touch. “I thought you’d decide to have an entire fresh start at uni.”

“What? Are you serious Levi?!” Erwin asked, pushing away at arms-length and shooting a very worried look at his partner, eyebrows drawn, lips held in a thin, stern line. “You really think I’d leave you for university?!”

“Well I don’t know, I know I’m a little annoying, messed up shit.” Levi said, genuinely shocked at the hurt that was on Erwin’s face.

“Levi you’ve made me the happiest man in the world and have done ever since I was eight whether as a friend or as a lover. I couldn’t ever leave you, not now. We’ve been through so much together.”

Levi just stared on at Erwin, eyes growing softer by the second. He moved his body over the sofa and wrapped himself over his boyfriend, kissing him gently at first before deepening the kiss, holding each other tightly.

They moved from the sofa to the bed, where they awoke even later that evening to the front door opening and Mrs Smith returning home. Levi slowly pulled himself out of the covers, grabbing his discarded clothing. He ran to the bathroom to wash again, before dressing himself in his uniform. Erwin in the meantime had made the bed look untouched in case his father came home and sat in the living area with Levi just as his mother walked in, somehow managing to dress back fully in his uniform during that time too.

“Ah, hello boys. Levi it’s lovely to see you, it’s been a while.”

“Yeah, you too Mrs Smith.”

“Would you care to join us this evening for dinner?” She asked, smiling at Levi, who instantly looked at his boyfriend who nodded.

“Yeah, please.”

“Perfect. Well, I’ll get on with the cooking and let your mum know. I’ll give you both a shout when it’s ready.”

With that, Erwin’s mum walked from the room closing the door gently behind her. Levi looked towards his boyfriend, smiling warmly, before he walked back to the sofa and allowed himself to be enveloped in Erwin’s large arms. They shared even more kisses, feeling so happy now that the elephant in the room was spoken about. That was until Levi thought about it a little more and pulled away from Erwin.

“What’s wrong Levi?” Erwin asked, confused.

Levi looked him directly in the eye, “Have you told your parents’ about Mitras yet?”

Erwin shook his head, “Not yet. I wanted to discuss it properly with you first, in case I ended up changing my mind.”

“Erwin!” Levi snapped. “You have to tell them first, you know they’ll be waiting to know. Especially your dad! Promise to tell them over tea tonight, yeah?”

Erwin laughed a little, Levi so passionate about something he hated thinking about only days before. But Erwin was so glad his boyfriend was taking it all so well and responding to happily to it all. “I promise, Levi.” He replied, placing another kiss on Levi gently, before Mrs Smiths’ voice echoed up the stairs, calling for dinner.

As soon as Mrs Smith called the boys down for dinner, they both tumbled down the stairs steadily. It was to be the first time Levi would see his boyfriends’ father since the incident at Erwin’s eighteenth party, so he was feeling pretty anxious about the whole prospect of sitting opposite him throughout dinner. But Erwin did say it would be alright, and if not, he would shut his dad up. He also gave permission for Levi to just be arsey back if it needed it, much to Levi’s delight.

The couple walked straight to the kitchen, helping Mrs Smith carry plates of food to the dining room. It looked like they’d be having homemade tacos for tea, with salad and nachos on the side. It smelt amazing: Levi had forgotten how much he missed Mrs Smith’s cooking.

He took a seat beside Erwin and waited patiently for the two adults to enter the room and take their seats, father at the head of the table as always. Mr Smith barely looked at Levi as he entered the room and sat down. But he also didn’t purposefully go out of his way to scowl at him, so Levi saw that as some kind of improvement, be it small.

“Well, enjoy everyone.” Mrs Smith smiled, as she picked up the first taco shell and began to fill it. Everyone else too followed her movement, filling their plates before conversation took place.

“Levi,” Mr Smith began, causing the boy to shift awkwardly in his seat, “I would like you to know that everything that happened last year is water under the bridge. Consider this to be a new start after a few troubled years for the both of us.”

Levi just looked on at the man talking and blinked numerous times, completely shocked and taken aback by the comments being made at the moment. He never thought that Erwin’s father would ever forgive him, never mind discard all his opinions of his family history. The raven-haired boy could sense Erwin looking on at him, a smile on his face.

“I uh,” He slightly stuttered over his words, “Sorry about all of that. Sorry for ruining your games room, too.” Levi said, looking down at his food and pushing a piece of lettuce awkwardly with his fork.

“No need. If my son choses you to be his best friend, then I trust his judgment to be correct. And the games room is okay, it’s all material goods that were replaced anyway.”

“Thank you, Mr Smith.” Levi said, looking up finally and offering a weak smile at the man. He couldn’t trust him completely: but he was more shocked that he’d finally been welcomed into his life after all these years of negative thoughts. It seemed like today was in fact a day for big changes and maturing, on not just his and Erwin’s parts, but everyone’s.

“Well, now that’s out of the way, let us enjoy this delicious meal my loving wife prepared for us.” Mr Smith smiled towards Erwin’s mum and placed a kind kiss on her cheek, before picking up his fork and digging in. In all the years that Levi had known the Smiths, and had seen their family interact, he’d never known it to be so kind or warm. Something must have changed in the few months he hadn’t been around, and to be honest, Levi couldn’t be happier that it was changed.

Perhaps they’d soon be able to open up to Erwin’s father too about their relationship. But not today, and not yet. Not after he’d only just chosen to get along with Levi; they definitely wouldn’t want to mess that up again.

“Mother, father.” Erwin suddenly began, after wiping his mouth on a napkin and placing it on the table. “I have something to discuss with you.”

“Oh, what is it son?” Mrs Smith asked, concern in her voice. She looked at Levi quickly, almost suggesting it was going to be what Levi had just been thinking, but that worry was altered soon after.

“It’s about my exam results and college offers.”

“But Erwin, we already know how amazing your offers and results were, and we as parents couldn’t be prouder.” Mr Smith said, quizzically.

“No, it’s not that. It’s something I kept a secret. I did get another offer. From Mitras, to study History. It’s unconditional too so I’m in whether my exams go well or not this summer.”

Mrs Smith looked like she could burst with pride at hearing the words leaving her sons mouth. Her eyes began to water hysterically as she pushed her chair away from the table and walked around to hug Erwin tightly.

“Oh, darling I am so relieved and proud. That was your goal, I knew you’d make it. You’re so intelligent and smart, I can’t believe you’re mine.” She gushed, squeezing him tightly.  

Mr Smith too then stood from the table and walked around to Erwin, shaking his hand firmly and holding his face tightly as if he too might begin to cry. He then turned the shake into a hug, pulling his son into an embrace.

“Erwin Smith, I am so incredibly proud of the man you have become.” His father said, pride radiating from his body. This caused Erwin to start crying slightly as Mrs Smith rushed out of the room to get the phone, ready to give her daughter a call in London to let her know the amazing news.

Levi just sat looking on at the scene, feeling a little jealous and pushed out. He tried not to think of the jealously bubbling inside, and just on how proud he too was of Erwin reaching what he wanted. Yet that niggling feeling of abandonment lingered, and the happy family laid out in front of him made his heart ache in longing for that set up too.

It’s not that he didn’t totally love Kuchel, because he did. More than anything ever. But the Smiths were just the traditional happy family of four. Their son and daughter both extremely successful and smart, having reasons for parents to be proud. Levi couldn’t think of one single reason why his mum could be proud of him, other than the fact he was still surviving despite his brain being in the mental state it was.

Feeling awkward at how long he’d been staring, Levi returned to his food and began to eat when Mr Smith sat back down and decided it was a good time to ask Levi about his future too.

“Levi, what were your results like?” He asked, wiping the corner of his eye with the back of his hand capturing a leaking tear. Erwin reached his hand under the table subtly giving Levi’s thigh a gentle squeeze, maybe in support? Levi wasn’t sure why the gesture took place.

“Okay, yeah, thanks.” He mumbled, putting his knife and fork neatly on his plate once he finished eating. “Better than I expected, anyway.”

“Any offers from schools? Or a plan for what you want to do after you graduate?”

Before Levi began to answer, Mrs Smith returned her place at the table sniffling softly beginning to eat the rest of her tea. Erwin too had returned to finishing the food on his plate, his crying now finished but leaving his cheeks puffy and red.

“No, I didn’t apply to any. I’m not sure what I want to do yet.”

Mr Smith stopped chewing his mouthful at hearing that: both shocked and worried about Levi’s plans for the future. They were due to graduate in less than five months and he had no job lined up, no college plans. He was about to comment on it when Mrs Smith interrupted, deciding her answer would be a lot gentler than that of her husbands.

“That’s okay, Levi. It may be better for you to have a few more months to decide a plan. You can apply with the summer applications anyway.” She smiled. Levi just nodded along. He honestly didn’t know whether or not he suited going into something academic anyway, not after how he’d dealt with school and his lack of motivation for work. The only thing he could see himself enjoying was art, but he had no idea if he was good enough to go and study that properly.

The conversation after that drifted back to Erwin, and how excited he was for Mitras, each bubble of happiness causing a heartbreak in Levi’s body, but he pushed aside the numb aching to smile and join in the conversation when he felt he had to. They spoke about visiting dorms, finding him a place to live, visiting his lecturers to meet them formally. It was all very exciting.

Soon enough everyone had finished their dinners, and after a celebratory bowl of ice cream with fruit, the table was being cleared. Erwin and his father were cleaning the dining room down, laughing and joking about how Erwin was following in his footsteps. Levi followed Mrs Smith to the kitchen, helping her wash and dry the pots before putting them neatly away in the cupboards.

“How have things been, Levi?” Mrs Smith asked kindly.

“Not bad I guess.” He replied, shuffling around the kitchen trying not to make much noise as pots bashed against others.

“And school? Have you seen anything of Nile or Marie recently?”

Levi thought back to his first few days at school, and the fact that Nile didn’t seem to get great results. He smirked at the thought. “I think Nile didn’t do well in his exams, but Marie got into Mitras. They’ve not really said anything to me though.”

Mrs Smith nodded in agreement, “I could have guessed that. He got into a lot of trouble with his father after Erwin’s father found out the truth of the party. I’m guessing he wasn’t as focussed on his exams as he could have been. However, I am glad they’re leaving you to it.”

“True.” Levi said, just thinking about Nile’s dad having a go at him over spiking his drink. He was glad his family finally heard about how bad he was, not this perfect smart angel he was made out to be.

“And how come you didn’t apply to any schools? Does your mother know about that, Levi?” Her voice sounded stern and serious, causing Levi to feel panicked about how annoyed people seemed when they heard he didn’t want to go to further education. He didn’t think that was the kind of reaction people would have, guessing it was common to apply at the end of school in summer. It was starting to appear that it definitely wasn’t as common as originally planned.

“Mum knows, she said that its okay. She said just think about my plan before I rush into it. We can’t really afford college anyway, and there’s no way I’d have got an unconditional or scholarship like Erwin.”

“Levi you know that isn’t true. You’re amazing at art, for example. Perhaps you could reapply in summer for an art program.” She said, warmly as the last cup was rinsed and put on the rack to dry.

“Maybe.” He shrugged.

Mrs Smith paused for a second, clearly contemplating the best way to word what she was wanting to say next. “And what is your plan regarding Erwin moving to Mitras?”

Levi sighed heavily, putting what he was drying on the worktop. They’d only just discussed this as a couple, but he was only telling Erwin to go and not let him be held back. They hadn’t talked about their relationship in much detail, but he was sure it’d work out fine.

“I think we’re just going to see each other every other weekend, phone daily, facetime and stuff. It’ll be fine.”

“I’m sure it will. You can always come along with us when we visit too, of course.” Mrs Smith kindly replied, before helping Levi put the rest of the pots away in silence. Erwin joined them once he was finished with his father and offered to take Levi home in his car since it was getting late.

Levi thanked the Smiths for him being round, especially aimed at Erwin’s father. Since the truce at dinner time, he wanted to do whatever he could possibly do to show he wasn’t anything like Kenny, and he was actually a good kid who would motivate not hinder his son.

The couple walked from the front door, hopping into Erwin’s cold car wrapped up in their warmest coats and scarves. The engine was turned on, and the two drove back to Levi’s in silence, an anxious air between them both. Much sooner than either would have liked, they pulled up outside Levi’s flat.

Quietly into the dark car, Levi mumbled out what he’d been thinking the entire ride. “We’ll be okay, won’t we?”

“Of course, Levi. You’re my everything, we will make this work no matter what. Plus, we still months before I leave for college. We definitely will make the most of this time.” Erwin smiled strongly, showing that he wasn’t worried in the slightest about his relationship faltering as he moved away. That smile was enough to dispose of Levi’s worries, and he leant into his boyfriend kissing him passionately on the mouth.

The two stayed in the car kissing for a long time uncomfortably leaning over the gear stick. When Levi’s phone started vibrating in his pocket, he said his final goodbye to his boyfriend and rushed up the stairs to his mum apologising for his lateness.

Soon after his night time routine, Levi crawled into bed thinking about how he would make sure it would work out with Erwin. How he would make sure that college wouldn’t get in the way of his relationship with the one he loved and trusted.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks of school were less focussed on futures, and more focussed on exams. Everyone had finally settled down over their excitement for future universities, since realising most had to actually get their mock grades to even get accepted in formally. Therefore, the whole year began to knuckle down and get revision done properly, focussing on how to pass exams.

Levi had also started to think more about what he was going to do, leaning more towards the idea of art college, should his work be good enough. Since it was what he was thinking about originally, and especially after Mrs Smith mentioned it, he’d been more attracted to the idea. But he did have until the end of their exam period to decide and apply, so he wasn’t rushing into it properly first. He needed to figure out budgets and such before even bothering to look at the application.

Since the school work had begun to pile up drastically with past papers and practice questions, it meant that Levi and Erwin had less time to spend together. Saturday’s were their only official day, but even then, Erwin spent the entire time revising, hardly noticing that Levi was also in the room. It was getting on Levi’s nerves, just wanting to spend time with his boyfriend before he moved to Mitras.

But the black-haired boy knew he couldn’t say anything. Erwin would want the best results he could achieve, and would push himself to do so, even if they didn’t count. And Levi didn’t want to take that away from him, so let him be antisocial and let him hardly focus on him. Levi just had to find other things to do to keep him occupied; anything that involved as little revision as possible.

Kuchel was also irritated and angry at Levi for his lack of care towards his exams. He knew he wouldn’t pass with flying colours, even if he tried, so he just didn’t bother trying at all. Instead he’d mope about on the sofa playing on his DS, or he’d be at the Smith’s house just watching Erwin revise instead. Kuchel just wanted her son to graduate with the best results he could, but at this rate, it definitely wasn’t going to happen. And that was going to limit Levi’s options in his future drastically.

 

One thing that was going well, however, was Levi’s therapy sessions at school. They’d helped him deal with his abandonment issues greatly, and he even felt comfortable enough to open up slightly, as long as Erwin was in the sessions with him. Normally this wasn’t allowed, but after numerous weeks of Levi not talking at all, the therapist changed their mind and allowed him to bring in another person. And it did seem to work a lot better. He was doing so well he couldn’t even remember the last panic attack he had, or the last time he’d had suicidal thoughts. A huge improvement.

Another thing helping people through the hard revision and work for exams was the thought of the dance, coming up the week following. It was planned to be a break from revision for the evening; an excuse for friends to get dressed up and celebrate school with one another before the real work began. So, in the breaks beside the revision, all everyone was speaking about were outfits, partners, music, and food. It was exciting: the whole year buzzing for the excitement of a break. The Friday, exactly one week before the dance, no one could think of anything but.

“So, we’re in agreement that we’re going as a six?” Hange asked, putting the lid neatly on their pen as the bell rang for break.

“Yes, I think that’ll be the nicest way.” Nanaba said, smiling.

“My mum’s boyfriend has a campervan he could take us all in, if you can all get around to my house for seven just before the dance? I’m sure everyone’s parents will be wanting photos anyway.” Petra offered, kindly.

“That sounds lovely Petra,” Erwin began, “I will pick up everyone and take us all over to yours. Will my car be alright parked up there?”

“Should be fine. Hange’s getting ready with me though, so it’s just Levi, Mike, and Nanaba that will need a lift.”

“That’s absolutely fine, I’m sure I can do that.” Erwin smiled, looking at Levi as he did. Surprisingly, Levi was feeling totally okay about the dance despite what had happened at the previous one he agreed to attend. In fact, he was excited to spend the night with his best friends but would never admit that.

“Have you all got your outfits sorted?” Mike asked, aiming it at Erwin and Levi but was interrupted by an excited Hange.

“Yes! I’ve got a three-piece suit that’s navy blue, and bright white flowers to put in my hair. Also, I’ve got a flower crown for Petra to wear, so we’ll match.”

Petra giggled, “We’ll match even more since my dress too is navy and floor length, covered in sequins. It’s strapless too, so my grandma is lending me her choker she wore to her graduation ball.”

“That sounds so beautiful Petra, and Hange.” Nanaba said, smiling.

“What you wearing, Nan?” Erwin asked politely.

“I’ve got a floor length halter-neck black dress with a slit up the leg. It’s literally just plain black and quite tight fitting, but Mike helped me choose it, so I felt bad saying no.” She laughed, Mike poking her jokingly in the side at her comment.

“Nanaba you’ll look like a movie star.” Petra ogled, just imaging the bonny blonde-haired lady in the beautiful dress she was describing.

“I’ve just got myself a black tuxedo: mum said I had to make an effort this time since it’s our last school dance.” Mike said, cringing at the thought of how dressed up he’s going to look. “It’s a tailcoat and everything.”

Everyone on the table chuckled at Mike’s annoyance but resounding that he’d look very handsome in the outfit, especially since throughout the year he seemed to fill out his clothes better, becoming the tallest in the class and the most muscular by far. Nanaba and himself made the most attractive couple in school by far, they looked like celebrities when they were all done up.

“Erwin?” Petra asked after, waiting for him to describe his suit.

“I’ve gone for a black suit with a white shirt. I’m not wearing a tie or anything, but that bolo tie that Levi bought for my 18th. I thought it would look quite fitting with the whole outfit.”

“Definitely.” Hange replied, smiling over at Levi as they did so. Levi was touched that Erwin still liked that present so much, considering how many months ago he’d given it. It meant a lot to him that he was planning on wearing it for the last big school dance.

“And you, Levi? What’s your suit like?” Petra finally asked.

Levi didn’t really want to admit he hadn’t been able to afford a new suit since the last dance and was planning on wearing what he wore to the homecoming after been taken to the drycleaners to get the blood stains out of it.

“Just a black suit I guess.”

“Oh, come on Levi, haven’t you got something super special for our last dance?!” Hange shouted, excitedly. Levi cringed in his seat at the volume of their friends’ voice.

“No, not for a shitty dance I’m not bothered about.” He crossed his arms across his chest, trying to exaggerate his pretend lack of interest in the dance. But he could feel Erwin’s eyes resting on him with concern and worry at the thought he hadn’t got a new suit. Erwin knew he wouldn’t really want to wear something that had bad memories attached to it.

“Well you’ll look handsome no matter what you wear. You’ve turned into quite the looker, Levi.” Hange teased from across the table, trying to squeeze his cheek as they joked. He managed to duck his head just in time to avoid the dirty fingers, causing everyone to burst out laughing at his stroppy attitude.

The rest of the week leading up the dance went very much like that: all conversations surrounding the dance, outfits, and after parties of which Levi was certainly not attending. Instead, the six made a plan to just go back to Petra’s and have some nibbles, enjoying a film at the same time. The best way to celebrate after a dance.

The Friday of the event rolled around extremely quickly, students in their final year of school being allowed to leave early to get ready for the big event. Erwin drove to collect Levi and Kuchel from their flat after school, so his boyfriend could get ready with him and his mother could see them both suited and booted.

Levi walked to the car, his old suit neatly pressed in a bag and hung it on a hook in Erwin’s car. Kuchel climbed in after locking up, holding a camera in her hands and a box with a corsage clearly in it. Levi had given her it to hide it from Erwin as he wanted it to be a surprise, but she wasn’t very good at being subtle. He also couldn’t give Erwin the corsage properly, until they’d got away from the Smith’s, concerned that Erwin’s father would see it.

The three excitedly pulled up into the Smiths driveway soon after. Kuchel went straight to the living area with Mr and Mrs Smith whilst Erwin led Levi to his bedroom, so they could start getting ready.

“Where can I hang my suit?” Levi asked as soon as the door was shut.

Erwin turned his back to Levi, smirking happily but hiding it from his boyfriend. “Just in the right-hand wardrobe, nearest my bathroom.”

Levi walked over to the cupboard, pulling the sliding door across. Inside the rail was empty apart from one suit. It was crisp white, pressed perfectly. The collar was neatly folded revealing a deep black shirt underneath. Around the hanger hung a thick, black belt with a solid silver buckle. Towards the foot of the wardrobe were placed two extremely shiny shoes clearly brand new. Inside the left-hand foot laid a card with Levi written in bold letters across.

The small boy turned around ready to say something to Erwin, but just as he did so the bathroom door slammed shut and the sound of the locker sliding echoed into the bedroom. Frowning, the envelope was peeled open and a card was slid out.

Heart fluttering, Levi opened the white card. On the front it read ‘be my date?’ with a small drawing of both Levi and Erwin holding hands under a tree. It was clearly homemade, and Levi found himself laughing a little at Erwin’s terrible art schools; finally, something he wasn’t amazing at.

Levi,

I bought you this suit, so you could have a fresh start to the end of an amazing year. You’re the light of my life and make me complete. Have an amazing end of school dance, I love you forever and always.

Will you go to prom with me?

Erwin X

Levi held the card close to his heart, before placing it gently on the floor. He stripped off his clothes, already having showered at home before being picked up by Erwin. The entire suit fitted perfectly: the trousers the right length, the jacket and shirt hanging on Levi’s thin yet firm arms. He looked at himself in the mirror, realising there was one last touch needed.

Quickly he slid open the zip on the bag of his old suit, sliding off a thin piece of silk and wrapping it around his neck tightly in the style he liked. It was the cravat that he’d got for his eighteenth from Erwin, and it completely made the outfit. Levi had never felt so amazing, nor looked so good. He felt a million dollars, and couldn’t wait for Erwin to come from the bathroom to show him.

But there was still no sign of Erwin being ready to leave the bathroom, so Levi quickly gathered his thoughts together from the warmth he felt from his loving gift. He picked up the box with the flower in, and opened it, getting the smaller box from the inside. Getting himself composed, he sat on the edge of Erwin’s bed and waited for him to leave the bathroom.

Moments later the bathroom door unlocked, and Erwin walked out in his full suit. He looked incredible: handsome and so grown up. His suit also fitted around his broad shoulders amazingly: the shine of his shoes reflecting the shine of his sparkling, white teeth. His shirt was crisp, the top buttons open. He was holding the bolo tie in his hand, waiting for Levi.

The two however couldn’t find the words between them. They stared at one another for a while, taking each other in completely. Levi felt his knees wobble at the sight of his boyfriend and was extremely thankful to be sat down on the bed. Erwin’s mouth was slightly hanging open upon seeing Levi sat in his beautiful suit, the most gorgeous thing he’d ever seen in his life.

Without saying a word, Erwin walked to Levi who stood up hiding the two boxes behind him. The taller man ducked down, and Levi fastened the bolo tie on his neck, placing a soft kiss on the stone before placing a soft kiss on the lips.

“Thank you, Levi.” Erwin whispered, breathy. They stood looking into each other’s eyes for a moment, before Levi grabbed the larger box from behind.

“I uh,” he stuttered, “This is for you.” He held the box out nervously, waiting for Erwin to open it. He did, delicately lifting the lid off, then unwrapping the white tissue paper which stood in contrast to the dark box. Gently, a blue rose was lifted from the box: Levi had asked for it to be for a pocket, so he wouldn’t have to wear it on his wrist. He could see Erwin’s eyes watering slightly at the sight of the petals, before the deep blue eyes caught Levi’s.

“Will you do me the honours?” Erwin asked, kindly. Levi obliged, nodding softly, before taking the rose from his hands and sliding it into Erwin’s jacket pocket. The dark-haired man had never felt or done something so meaningful, so romantic. He had chosen the flower to match his boyfriends’ eyes, and it did so: perfectly.

Before the special seconds passed, Levi reached behind him again and lifted out the second box: much smaller in size. Nervously he knelt down in front of Erwin, refusing to make eye contact with him as he did so. The taller man’s breath hitched at the action performed before him, as Levi took the large hand in his own.

“Erwin this is a, uh.” He began, unable to get the right words across. “A promise ring. Promise me we’ll stay together forever? And then maybe marry one day when the time is right, and you’ve graduated and uh, just. Promise?”

Erwin nodded his head vigorously, taking the band of silver from the box and placing it directly on his wedding finger, not hiding any embarrassment that people might mistake it as an engagement ring. He pulled Levi close to his mouth, whispering “I promise” before taking his lips to his own.

After they shared a deeply passionate kiss, Erwin took Levi’s hand in his own and moved the ring that Levi wore to his wedding finger too, to match. Levi looked up at his boyfriend in confusion.

“A promise of engagement ring has to be worn on the promised finger.” Erwin said, smiling, kissing the band on silver that was now on Levi’s heart finger. He smiled.

Breathy, and with a slight pause, Levi mumbled, “I love you.”

Erwin held his boyfriend tightly, repeating the phrase numerous times before the couple concluded they better head downstairs for a photo before everyone headed to Mike’s house. They didn’t even think properly about Mr Smith seeing them both; the rings, the flower, the new suit. But at this moment, they were too in love and too content to even care. The worry of his reaction slipping from both their minds.

As they walked down the stairs together, they could hear a scuffle of feet approaching from the living room. All three parents stood at the bottom of the stairs, cameras at the ready and smiling faces. Both mothers began to cry the second they saw their handsome sons’ descending the stairs.

“Oh wow, you two look gorgeous.” Kuchel blubbered, getting her camera flashed up and taking a photo of them on the steps. “So, so handsome.”

“You both do scrub up extremely well.” Mr Smith continued, also appearing to be holding the tears back. “Let us go to the garden to get a photo of the best friends before we go get Mike and Nanaba for some more pictures.”

Everyone nodded in agreement contentedly, as the boys walked down to the bottom of the stairs. Erwin’s parents put their arms around him, leading him outside, whilst Levi walked with Kuchel. She commented on the suit, saying how lovely it was. Levi whispered that it was from Erwin, and she almost choked up again. Why was it that parents always got so emotional at their children dressing up?

Once they got to the garden, Levi and Erwin were gestured to go towards the large blossom tree in the centre and stand below it. Awkwardly they stood beside one another, trying not to touch at all: trying not to insinuate anything about their relationship.

Enthusiastically, Kuchel and Mrs Smith shouted directions to the two boys and ordered them to stand in different positions to pose. Everyone was laughing and joking along, getting family shots too: Erwin, Mr and Mrs Smith. Then Kuchel and Levi, before the couple were sent to the lens again.

That’s when Mrs Smith caught sight of the matching rings on the boys’ fingers and paid more attention to the flower in Erwin’s pocket. She looked directly at her son with a raised eyebrow, then back to her husband and Kuchel, then back to Erwin. He noticed, gulping obviously and shifting uncomfortably next to Levi, trying to cover his hand and ring slightly as he did so. Levi noticed the gesture, before doing the same.

“Everything okay, Erwin?” Mr Smith asked upon noticing his awkward shifts, standing up from behind the camera.

“I um, Levi?” Erwin looked down at his boyfriend, waiting for his response. Levi just nodded, looking down at his feet knowing exactly what Erwin was on about. He agreed it was now or never, there was no point keeping this a secret for much longer.

“Father, we need to tell you something. And actually mother, and Kuchel too.” He stuttered nervously. Mrs Smith and Kuchel both nodded at Erwin with encouragement, deciding now was the best time whilst everyone was in a good mood and feeling a wave of relief from the break of stress.

“Me and Levi, we are, um. We’re together. We’ve been dating since September, but I have been in love with him since I was small. He got me this corsage this evening, and we both have promise rings just as an agreement to stay together when college comes around.” As soon as the sentence was out, Erwin breathed out a shaky breath and Levi took his hand in his own. “Please, father, don’t hate me and don’t hate Levi. I’ve never been as happy as I have been with him, he means the world to me.” The garden remained silent for a second, before Mr Smith decided to interrupt the uncomfortable aura.

The old man weirdly began to clap, a wide smile forming on his face. After a few claps, he walked up to his son and Levi, pulling them both into a hug. “You think I didn’t know, son?” He asked, chuckling as he pulled away. Levi just stared up at him feeling extremely awkward.

“You knew?” Mrs Smith asked.

“Of course I did! I’ve known since Erwin’s birthday. I felt uncomfortable accepting it at first, I was sure he’d go for Marie. But once I started to accept it, I felt content. Levi is a wonderful match for our son. Welcome to the family Levi, Kuchel.”

A wave of relief flooded throughout both the boys: Levi in particular practically collapsed upon hearing the acceptance from Mr Smith. He actually began to smile widely, causing everyone around him to contract the rare but contagious smile. That was not the reaction he’d expected; he was waiting to be called scum, kicked out, anything but hugged and welcomed to the family. Anything but hear that he was the perfect match for Erwin.

“We better take some traditional couple photos then, hey?!” Mr Smith called out, everyone agreeing. The two boys were told to pose Erwin behind Levi, arms wrapped around his waist. Then photos were taken looking at each other, then candid shots of them laughing together and holding hands, much to Levi’s embarrassment. But at the same time, he didn’t seem to care much. Just too relieved in what had just happened to even care what else was happening.

When they decided there was enough photos, the five decided to drive to Mike and Nanaba’s, where even more photos were taken. Mrs Smith managed to pull Erwin aside just as Levi was getting his picture with Nanaba to have a quick word.

“Erwin, I’m so happy and proud of you today. You and Levi bring the most joy to me in the world. The corsage he got you is beautiful.”

“Thank you so much mother, and I know, it’s amazing.” He looked down longingly at it, smiling.

“And what is this about promise rings?” She raised her eyebrows, an excited smile on her face.

Erwin was sure his mother would want to know more about this, believing in just the traditional engagement and then marriage. He laughed. “I bought Levi a ring for his birthday, and he bought me this one back: it’s just a promise that we’ll get engaged as soon as I graduate.”

“That’s wonderful, Erwin. Gosh, I love you both so much.” Mrs Smith lent up on her tip toes and planted a loving kiss on her son’s cheek, and he pulled her into a hug, realising how small his mother was compared to his large frame now.

“I love you too, mum.”

“Hey Erwin! We’re getting shots of boys. Hurry up!” Nanaba shouted, causing Erwin to run back up the drive to stand with his best friends: Mike and Levi. Admittedly the height difference in the photos was amusing, but also warming. Everyone had a small chuckle, hardly believing that they were all the same age. Once they were content with the simple photos of just the four, they proceeded to Petra’s house where even more photos were taken.

By the time it approached eight, the six’s mouths and jaws were aching from smiling so much. They said bye to their parents, before Petra’s mum’s boyfriend ushered them inside the car and drove them to school, the big hall, and the venue of the dance.

Excitedly, the six climbed out walking to the entrance together giving their tickets in at the door. The hall as they walked in was decorated in a botanical theme: flowers covered the tables, archways of roses throughout the walkway to the dance floor. The cupcakes had edible flowers on them, and the photo booth was decorated like a fairy tale garden. With the darkness and the dotted fairy lights surrounding walls and chairs, the entire thing looked magical.

The group walked over to their designated table for the evening, taking their seats where name tags were placed. Levi and Erwin sat together, holding hands beneath the table cloth to avoid exposure to other people from the school. Nile and Marie’s table were right beside theirs, with some people from other classes they didn’t really know that well.

However, the six sat ignoring that table completely. They enjoyed their three-course meal that was served; a tomato soup starter with focaccia bread, the main a simple pasta and pesto dish with fresh tomatoes, and the pudding the cupcakes that were on the table at the start.

Once eaten and cleaned away, everyone just sat and chatted, no one braving the dance floor just yet. It was then that Erwin put his hands on the table, catching the attention of Hange who noticed the new piece of jewellery placed on his finger.

“New ring, Erwin?” Hange asked, smiling.

“Ah yes. It was from a certain someone.” Erwin smiled, looking at Levi who was now slightly blushing. He tutted under his breath, picking up the grape juice in his glass and drinking a large swig. “A promise ring.”

“I think it’s beautiful.” Petra replied, leaning closer to examine the silver band. It was beautiful too; Levi had saved up for months to buy it; his original plan was to give it to his boyfriend for Valentine’s Day, but he was unable to afford it by that point and decided this was an equally important day.

“Me too.” Nanaba said, and Mike and Hange simply nodded in agreement, smiling warmly at their friends who now seemed a little embarrassed.

“I’d like to say some stuff, whilst we’re all here together at school.” Mike announced, tapping the side of his glass with a spoon and clearing his throat in a sarcastic manner. All eyes drew from Levi and Erwin and to the tall, mousy haired man now leaning forward on his chair.

“Firstly, I’d like to say I am so glad my last year was spent with you guys. You’re the best bunch of people I know, and you’re my best friends ever. Next, I just want to say to you Levi. Seriously, bud, you’ve had a shit school year. Like they’ve all been shit, but this was bad. I’m just really glad you’ve pulled through it – pushed past the dicks, ignored the haters. And I’m just glad you’re so happy with Erwin. Literally you’re the person I think deserves the best graduation ever, it’s been rough for you.”

“Yeah I totally agree. I only just got to know you properly this year Levi, but I’m certainly glad I did. I wish you all the best for the future.” Nanaba said, raising her glass. Everyone copied her in the motion, raising their glasses and chanting ‘to Levi’.

He had never felt so humiliated yet happy in his life. Awkwardly he shifted in his seat, fiddled with his fingers, tried to hide his blush by frowning and crossing his arms. But his friends saw right through it and just smiled.

“Shit guys. You’re all not fucking off for another, what, 3 months? Calm down.” At that comment everyone started to laugh, just admitting how much they loved their small, angry friend. Erwin smiled at him and held it for a moment, the giggles dying down.

By now people had started to take to the dance floor, so Hange offered their hand to Petra who accepted it. The two took to the floor, spinning each other round to the upbeat song, smiling and laughing along as they did so. Mike decided then too it was time to join everyone, taking Nanaba’s hand in his own and walking her to the centre.

They made a picture-perfect couple as they danced, flowing as one. They both knew the steps perfectly and inside out, not falling about like Hange and Petra seemed to be. Levi and Erwin watched on, smiling contently at the sight. That was when Marie decided to join the two at their table, leaving Nile dancing with one of their friends.

“Erwin, Levi. You both look very handsome tonight.” Levi rolled his eyes away from her, crossed his arms and stared at the mass of people in the centre of the room. He didn’t want her to come in and ruin his night as she always seemed to do, so he thought the best way to deal with that was to ignore her.

“Thank you, Marie. You look very pretty yourself.” Erwin replied truthfully: she did look very beautiful. The long locks of brown, curled hair tied neatly in a bun on the top of her head, and a dress as red as blood flowing past her feet. She smiled at her ex-boyfriend.

“Always the charmer, Erwin.” She joked, and he laughed along. “Care to dance with me?”

“Ah, I’m sorry Marie but I’ll have to decline today. I’m not one for dancing.”

Marie rolled her eyes at that, then looked back at Levi. “Why don’t you ask your date for a dance, then? It’s your last school prom – make the most of it.” At this, Levi’s gaze drew back to her in a sneer, but she was simply looking on with no malice in her face.

“I didn’t come with a date, Marie.” Erwin replied calmly, maintaining eye contact with her.

“Oh god Erwin.” She groaned, “I’ve known you years. I can read you like a book. It’s obvious you and Levi have been together for months, so he’s clearly your date. You guys even wear matching rings.” She laughed, pointing to both of their hands as she did so. Levi’s face fell white as he listened to her, which she must have noticed. “Don’t worry, I promise to keep it a secret. If that’s what you want. But just think, you both only have a month or so left, just have a dance: make the most of it.”

Marie stood then, about to turn away before she ducked back down and whispered something to Erwin who smiled slightly. Then she walked away to pry her boyfriend back off the girl he was dancing with, softly smiling at Levi kindly as she began to dance. He decided that she was bad, but nowhere near as bad as Nile.

Both Levi and Erwin sat in silence for a while then, clearly debating what was just said to them. Levi knew his boyfriend loved to dance: at every other school event, he’d always taken someone’s hand to dance with them, whether he knew them well or not. Levi had always watched on the side, jealous of the person he was pressed close to. Now was his chance to get rid of them original jealous feelings and take Erwin as his own.

Nervously but determined, Levi stood up and stretched his arm out to Erwin firmly, waiting for Erwin to look up. The blonde slowly met eye contact, before raising one of his large eyebrows at the gesture.

“Dance with me.” Levi commanded, and of course Erwin began to join his hand with his boyfriends before stopping with trepidation: “are you sure, Levi?”

He nodded firmly. “Yes. It’s our last dance, who gives a shit what these people think? I want to dance with you. Come on before I change my mind.”

Erwin then smiled brightly at his boyfriend, taking his hand as they walked together right to the centre of the floor. Levi could see Marie grinning at them both as they wandered up, and his best friends too were smiling at him, stopping dancing to see them both together finally opening up as a couple to everyone.

The song, typically, that was playing was a slower song. Erwin decided he wanted to lead the dance and do it properly, so took Levi’s hand in his wrapping the other around his waist. Levi followed suit, a hand joined in his boyfriends and the other on his shoulder.

They moved together, awkwardly at first Levi stumbling a few times, before the dance was fluid and the figures spun around together perfectly. Levi could sense other students looking at them, in confusion he assumed, but pushed the negative thoughts aside to look at his boyfriend. His big, floppy, handsome boyfriend who was smiling like a kid on Christmas.

Levi hadn’t realised that his friends, and Nile and Marie, had gathered around the two until the end of the music and dance when they started clapping. Hange hollered out, and Mike shouted something along the lines of ‘fucking finally’ causing everyone to laugh, including Levi.

The couple danced for another few songs before Levi decided he’d had enough of that and went to dance with Petra for a bit as she’d asked him if he would a few weeks ago. Least everyone had stopped watching him by then, he thought.

Erwin and Mike returned to the table, as Hange and Nanaba had taken to each other to have a few dances. The old friends simply watched on, smiling proudly at how far their friendship group had come over the years.

“Erwin, I’ll miss you in Mitras. Promise to call?” Mike said, looking on at Nanaba as she was spun around.

“Of course, Mike. You’re my longest standing friend, I’ll always miss you. All the best for you and Nanaba too. You make a perfect couple.” He said, kindly. Mike smiled bashfully.

“I’m planning on proposing after exams, you know?”

“I thought you would be, I know you too well.” Erwin smiled. The two laughed, then let out a long sigh.

“Look after Levi, Erwin. He’s a tough guy but not nearly as much as you’d think.”

“I will. I love him, Mike. I’ve not felt like this before.”

“Good. Well, don’t let studying consume you. Make time for him. Come home to him.”

“I promise.” Erwin said, thinking over the memories he’d made with Levi that year, and the special moment they shared just hours before in his bedroom. Just recalling the image of Levi fastening his bolo tie, offering the ring, the flower – it made his heart flutter with joy.

Just then, Nile came too and sat with Mike and Erwin at the table, the two latter turned away or looked down awkwardly trying to avoid conversation.

“I have a few things to say, and first be an apology.” Nile began, causing Mike to look up first. “I shouldn’t have treated you guys the way I have done this past year. I don’t know what came over me. But we’ve all known each other since we were young, and it’d be a shame to leave it in a shamble when we all part ways. So, I deeply apologise to you both, sincerely.”

There was a silence, no acceptance of his faults. “It’s not us you should be apologising to.” Mike grumbled, Erwin still silent.

“I know,” Nile sighed, sadly. “I just don’t think he’ll listen to me.”

Something boiled in Erwin at that sentence: the defeatism he heard from Nile. He knew all about Levi’s past now: the attempt at ending life, the panics, the anxiety, and the loss of his friends at a young age, the alcohol. Erwin was so annoyed that Nile would even bother to speak to Levi in an attempt.

“What the fuck do you expect, Nile? You’ve picked on him since he was eight years old, simply because he’s not as well off as you. He deserves so much just because he’ll sit in the same room as you. You’re a coward if you won’t speak to him. But don’t you fucking dare try talk to him tonight. Let him enjoy this dance, since you ruined the last one.” Erwin grumbled, but he couldn’t stop. “Now why don’t you prance off to your new friends and at a more appropriate time the four of us can meet up to discuss this. Now leave, I’m enjoying time with my best friends tonight.”

Nile looked utterly shocked. Erwin rarely, if ever, rose his voice or swore. Nile certainly had never heard him curse in the years he’d known him, so he was obviously extremely angry. Sensing the icy air, Nile simply stood up and walked away, too worried to say anything else. As soon as the dark-haired man left the table, Mike burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Hange asked, as they flopped into a seat opposite him, out of breath. Mike continued to laugh, causing Erwin to catch on. Soon he too was laughing loudly, unable to control his volume. That made Hange’s throat tickle, seeing their friends so happy. They too began giggling.

By the time the other three got to the table everyone was in hysterics and no one really understood why. The laughing didn’t stop either: Petra caught on, then Nanaba. Soon it was just Levi who was left stood looking confused. But as he glanced over the table sitting down, he felt the corners of his mouth turn up as he too began to chuckle under his breath.

“I can’t believe Erwin fucking Smith swears” Mike chuckled out between breaths. He knew it wasn’t that funny, as did everyone on the table, but with the emotions of the night and the happiness they all felt, no one could help but laugh along.

By the end of the prom, the six walked out holding hands still giggling away. Levi even was laughing and continued his happy nature throughout the night at Petra’s party. He linked to Erwin the entire time, holding him close, leaning against him. Everyone was so uplifted and so happy, it was the perfect way to end the school prom.

When the night drew to a close, Levi and Erwin returned to his flat where Kuchel was sat up waiting for them, despite it being almost three in the morning. Upon seeing the two boys, she stretched her arms out and took them in a large embrace as soon as they walked through the doors. They stayed holding one another for a while, before Erwin excused himself to have a quick shower and get into his pyjamas, leaving Levi with his mother for a few moments.

“Levi.” Kuchel said, sitting down on the sofa. He sat down beside her.

“I just want to say how immensely proud I am of you. You’ve almost finished your final year of school, you’ve stood up for yourself, and you’ve found yourself a wonderful, kind, and caring boyfriend. And one that you’ve always loved, if I may I add. I just don’t think I’ve ever felt this much pride, just seeing you today being yourself with all your friends made my heart swell. You’re a very brave boy. You even told Mr Smith about your relationship and think back to all the problems you had with him! It’s incredible. You’ve blossomed into an amazing young man.”

“God mum.” Levi groaned, embarrassed about his gushy mother’s behaviour. He was extremely thankful that Erwin was in the bathroom at this point. “Thanks though.” He added, meaning it honestly. It was nice to hear such nice things from her, considering the hell he’d put her through.

“I mean it Levi. I just love you so much.” She said, pulling him into a hug. He accepted it, holding her back and telling her that he loved her too. Not wanting to say it, but Levi was pretty damn proud of himself too. He knew he had a tough year at school: he knew it had been exceptionally hard on him, but he’d come out genuinely happy, something he never thought would happen.

Erwin appeared from the bathroom then, and Levi followed in to start having his evening wash. Whilst he was locked in the room, Erwin told Kuchel all about the evening: the giggles they shared, the food, Nile trying to talk to him and how he stood up for himself (of which she laughed at too). Lastly, Erwin told Kuchel about how Levi had offered him a dance and showed the entire school that they were together.

At this, she hugged Erwin too, so proud that the couple had come so far since September, or even before when they clearly liked each other but were afraid to admit it.

That night, Levi and Erwin made love. They kept it as quiet as they could after New Year’s Day, but it made it more loving: more emotional. They then fell asleep locked in the other’s arms, smiles plastered happily on both their faces.

It was the way Levi wanted the night to end: the best way to end the last dance they’d share at High School, and a damn sight better than the end to the dance they opened the year with.

Throughout the night, Levi kept waking up as his body was too excited and content to sleep properly, and every time he did a gentle kiss was placed on his boyfriends’ nose, cheek, and eyes – all the way until he reached his hand where the silver band shone in the moonlit sky perfectly. He bent his head up to it and kissed it, locking hands with his own until his body calmed down and let him drift off, peacefully. Happily.

Chapter Text

The dance was on a Friday night, so the teachers and pupils all agreed between one another that the weekend following should be spent relaxing, not revising. Everyone had worked so hard up until that point, and a week earned break was definitely in order. Levi wanted to do something nice, having his boyfriend back for himself for a few days, and decided to use his voucher for a trip to Mitras with Erwin: he wanted to see where he might be moving.

Erwin was giddy at the prospect of a weekend away. He’d been to Mitras many times before with is parents’, and she was excited to show his partner around the city, the best spots, the nicest parks. He was, admittedly, excited that he would soon be calling the city his home too. And he wanted Levi to share the excitement too, knowing that he could visit the city he’d always loved as often as he wanted, staying at Erwin’s whenever he did.

The thoughts of Levi visiting made Erwin thrilled, so he packed a notebook and pen: somewhere to jot down date ideas, or places they saw when walking around for where they want to go again in the future. He also packed some delicious chocolate truffles, and a bottle of elderflower juice from the French bakery, wanting to make it a special occasion for the couple. Once everything was neatly packed up in Erwin’s bag, he bid farewell to his own family, before storing everything neatly in his car, and setting off to pick his boyfriend up.

Once he pulled over at the sweet shop, he walked around the back stairs, knocking on the front door and letting himself in. Levi was already sat eagerly on the sofa beside Kuchel, his own bag balanced on his knee. Next to him sat a carrier bag, filled to the brim with food for their long journey – it was only for one night, but the car trip was going to be long, and they didn’t want to keep stopping at services along the way. As they both saw Erwin, the Ackerman’s stood up from the sofa, Levi quickly checking behind him to make sure nothing had been forgotten.

“Now you two, stay safe. No getting into trouble. Don’t be out too late at evening, and don’t separate from each other.” Kuchel began to reel off a list of things the boys had to comply with on their trip to the city. “Erwin, I know I won’t have to say this, but drive carefully and both of you text your mothers when you land.”

“Yes mum, god.” Levi sarcastically grumbled, rolling his eyes, and standing up; walking to stand beside Erwin. The latter instinctively wrapped his strong arm around his boyfriend then, smiling at Levi before looking back at Kuchel.

“Yes, Kuchel, don’t worry I will take good care of your son. We’ll be back tomorrow evening anyway. And we’ll keep in touch.” Erwin nodded firmly, meaning it. He didn’t want to whisk her son away and not keep her updated, knowing how much she always worried.

“I know, I know. Thank you. You two will have an amazing time.” She said, taking the two into her arms and giving a joint hug, before pulling away and pointing towards the carrier bag her son was holding. “I’ve given Levi some nibbles for the journey, and here’s some extra money in case you don’t have enough.” A twenty-pound note was given to both Levi, and one to Erwin who graciously thanked her for the gift.

They said their goodbyes, as Erwin took Levi’s overnight back from him so he could place it in the boot. Levi gave his mother a quick hug, before dashing down the stairs behind his boyfriend, placing the foot at the foot of the passenger seat.  The boot slammed shut, and Erwin joined Levi in the front of the car, fastening seat belts, and turning the engine on. Kuchel watched as they pulled from the driveway, waving lovingly at them until they disappeared far into the estate.

Levi was excited about his time away with Erwin and was so excited to finally be going to the big city, the way he promised Isabel he would. The last time he and Erwin had shared time away together was at the lodge for his birthday, and since now was over half way into the New Year, he felt like he definitely needed some time alone with Erwin and no one else. Especially since he’d hardly seen Erwin properly lately due to revision, and the large amounts of stress everyone was under. It would be so nice to just escape for a bit.

But the further they drove from home; the more Levi grew worried about the distance. Mitras didn’t hold the excitement it once did when Levi was younger as now it represented something different. He kept glancing over at the Sat-Nav on Erwin’s dashboard, trying to determine how far they were away from home, counting how far they had left. It felt to Levi as though they’d already been on the road for hours, time ticking on, every second meant another second further away from Erwin he would be in a very short space of time. Trying to pull himself away from those thoughts, Levi glanced out of the window at the scenery, forcing himself to admire the trees, or just nosy into other peoples’ cars as they sped passed down the motorway. But Levi’s face always showed what he was thinking: a frown very evidently placed there.

Noticing his boyfriends’ unwillingness to speak, Erwin kept glancing sideways towards Levi whenever it was safe to not have both eyes on the road. He did it for a while, realising that Levi hadn’t looked back into the car once in about twenty minutes. Growing worried, he decided to try and question it.

 “Everything okay, Levi?” Erwin asked, sensing the boy growing uncomfortable. Levi shifted awkwardly, trying harder to push the thoughts to the side.

“Yeah, fine.” He muttered, deciding that something to eat might be a good distraction. He leant forward to fish through the bag of food on the floor, seeing what goodies Kuchel had packed. Much to Levi’s annoyance it was mainly food that would make a mess, or plenty of crumbs. He sighed, looking back at the map. They’d only been in the car for forty minutes, but he was growing restless. The car was beginning to feel squishy, closer to him. Levi sighed loudly at the lack of food but carried on rooting around in the bag for a while, trying anything to stop Erwin from looking over at him.

“Are you sure?” Erwin pressed, taking his eyes from the road to furrow his brows at his boyfriend. Levi was making a racket going through the food bag, rustling it all around loudly.

“Fucking hell Erwin, I’m fine!” Levi snapped. He lifted himself back onto the chair, throwing his body aggressively against the seat as he sat up. Instead of looking toward the blue eyes that were heavily set on him, Levi focussed on the dashboard in front of him, staring at the glove box. He didn’t want to look at Erwin or think about him, because surely Erwin would guess what was wrong with Levi. And Levi didn’t want him to worry about everything and end up not going to Mitras for university. All because Levi couldn’t deal properly with the prospect of Erwin going. He didn’t want to make Erwin feel bad about leaving him, he didn’t want to feel selfish.

With a deep sigh, Erwin turned back to the road, concern knitted in his brows. He tried to ignore the sharp tone Levi expressed, and tried to continue his excitement about going to Mitras, thinking of all the lovely things they could do together when they got there. With the silence growing uncomfortable, Erwin turned the radio on, putting on some rubbish pop station to try and liven the journey slightly. But Levi barely noticed.

In fact, Levi was growing more fidgety every moment. Within the next twenty minutes of the journey, he had managed to unbuckle his seat belt, removed his jumper, then fastened himself back into the seat. Then he uncomfortably pulled his knees to his chest for a while, before crossing them and tucking his feet under his bum after removing his boots, before putting them back down, slipping his shoes back on. He was shifting more; deeply uncomfortable. He hadn’t had this feeling in months, literally months. But he felt it growing, he knew what it was.

The car was closing around Levi, tightly. Quickly. He began to feel trapped. He wanted fresh air, he didn’t want the false air conditioning, he didn’t want the smell of clean car. With a raspy breath, he looked at Erwin. “Pull over.”

Erwin didn’t say anything, nor indicate that he heard, but a moment later he was pulling into the grass at the side of the country road they had turned onto, turning the engine off immediately. Before Erwin even had time to turn to his left-hand side to see his boyfriend, Levi was out of the car, door hanging wide open. Erwin quickly removed his seat belt from his body, climbing from his side of the car to try and speak to Levi.

He was already curled on himself in the grassy path on the floor, shaking subtly despite the warm sun beating down on him. Erwin knew instantly what was happening, despite not seeing Levi in this state for months and months. Speedily, Erwin went directly to his boyfriend and crouched down beside him. Levi noticed he was there immediately, and shot a worried look at Erwin, who knew exactly what to do.

“Breathe Levi, one deep breath in and hold it.” Levi tried to do what Erwin had asked of him, and after a few very shaken breathes he managed to hold it and let it release. This took place multiple times, his form slowly seeming less tense. When the attack was over, the heavy body collapsed into his boyfriends. It wasn’t as bad as it felt it was going to be, and slowly Levi was learning how to handle them better, grateful for Kuchel forcing him to go to the appointments at school.

Once feeling better, he threw his arms around Erwin’s neck and pulled him down for a kiss: partly for reassurance that Erwin was still there, that he hadn’t actually left yet. Partly because he wanted to thank Erwin for not leaving him there, and actually helping him. He knew he’d have been a mess without him there. Erwin replied to the kiss lovingly, rubbing a hand up and down Levi’s back tenderly.

They held onto one another for a few moments, before Levi realised, he was sat on filthy grass, cringing at the thought. He released Erwin’s hold, standing up and brushing his jeans off thoroughly. Erwin copied, wiping the base of his bum, before they headed back into the car in silence, feeling a little lighter at the prospect of driving off again now. Levi washed his hands with anti-bacterial gel as soon as he was sat in the car again, asking Erwin to do the same.

He accepted, washing himself thoroughly too, before turning on the ignition and pulling carefully back onto the road. This time Levi felt a little happier now, trying to force excitement that they’d be in Mitras soon, as he could go to the Titan’s Arms, and see all the beautiful buildings he’d dream of seeing since he was a small kid.

Levi decided not to speak first, he knew Erwin would be wondering what had triggered him after so long, but he didn’t want to have to start the conversation. Luckily for him, Erwin did – he pressed Levi for the first time in a while, his eyes not losing connection with the road as he drove forward.

“Levi, what’s going on?” Erwin asked. Levi was still contemplating how to word it without sounding either pathetic or clinging. “Is it exams? Are they getting to you?”

“No, it’s not them. Well, uh, it’s sort of it. But not properly. I’m just worried.”

“And what are you worried about, Levi?” Erwin had put on his ‘dad’ voice, sounding both calm and kind, yet very mature at the same time. Levi liked it when he spoke to him like this, not treating him too softly like most people would after seeing something like that.

He took in a deep breath. “You.”

Erwin furrowed his brows into his face more, still not looking at his boyfriend. “Me? You don’t need to worry about me. I’m fine.” He turned to look at Levi with a smile, trying to show that he was fine.

“No, us. University. Erwin it’s miles away, look we’re only a third of the way there and we’ve been in the car for over an hour.” He sighed angrily; he didn’t want to talk about it with Erwin, he didn’t want to make him not go follow his dream, but he needed to let it out. And he knew for a fact that Erwin was the kind of person who would somehow find out how much Levi was actually bothered, one way or another.

“Levi,” Erwin groaned, “you don’t need to worry about us. I’ve already said that we’ll make this work, it’s not going to be hard. We’ll just be messaging a lot more, and I’ll be coming home all the time. You can come up here too. It’s fine.”

“You keep saying that. But it’s far Erwin.”

“That’s because it’s true! Honestly, we’ve known each other for ten years it’s not going to be easy to get rid of me. And yeah, it’s far, but there’s trains and cars.”

“Yeah. I guess.” Levi grumbled, pulling his knees into his chest ensuring his shoes were off when he did so, so the seat wouldn’t get mucky. He was finding it increasingly hard to trust that their relationship would work long distance, as the distance grew of the journey.

“Levi, I love you and I’ll do whatever we need to make this work. If it’s too hard, I’ll move home. I’d rather give up a degree than give up you.”

Levi looked angry at the comment; whilst he appreciated the sentiment, he wouldn’t want Erwin to stop doing what he loved for him, so instead he didn’t say anything but just nodded in agreement, Levi making a mental note to never let Erwin know when it was hard. He needed this degree, and it wasn’t forever. He could move home after. The car fell silent again, until Erwin pulled into another grassy verge a few seconds later.

“What you doing?” Levi said, confused. But Erwin stopped his mouth by leaning over the centre of the car and placing a soft kiss on Levi’s lips. Levi took the kiss back, slightly parting his mouth and moving closer to his boyfriend, shifting uncomfortably over the car controls. But Erwin was stopping, nor letting go. He pressed into the kiss firmer, with more passion and fire behind it. And Levi loved it, doing the same. They kissed until any worries of the future had dissipated, until the panic had truly left, until they felt excited for their journey. And it worked, pulling away from each other flustered and pink, Erwin winking a little as he pulled to set off again, leaving Levi hungry for more.

The uncomfortable need for more made the whole journey fly by faster, each man trying to awkwardly shift their legs about, to calm their excitement. And soon enough, they were pulling into the car park behind the hotel. Levi’s eyes glistened as they saw The Titans Arms, thinking of how happy he was to finally be going there that eve. Erwin parked, before climbing from the car and taking their bags from the boot, Levi taking it off him once he too had exited the car.

Once checked in with the voucher Kuchel had gifted Levi, a receptionist led them to their room on the third floor. It was large and homely, decorated in a medieval style. The bed was king sized, with a small table set in the corner decorated with refreshments and a kettle. A large sofa sat at the end of the bed, facing a flat screen television, and a bathroom was off from the left of the bed, a deep bath inside.

The luggage and food were placed neatly on the table, whilst Erwin flopped backwards onto the sofa and Levi frantically began to unpack both their bags and put clothes in their respective places, eagerly wanting to explore. The drive took almost four hours to get to Mitras, mainly because there were a few stops on the way – but Levi wasn’t going to think about it, not while they were having a weekend away. They must have spent over an hour pulled at the side of the road or nipping into services, anyway.

“So, Levi. What would you like to do first?” Erwin asked, as Levi folded the last of their socks into a drawer.

“You pick, you’ve been before.”

“Well, would you like to go for a shop and a wander first? It’s past lunchtime, perhaps we could go to a bakery and pick up a snack before we go out for a meal at the Titans Arms this evening.”

“Yeah, sure.” Levi smiled, straightening up from being crouched on the floor and putting his boots back on. Erwin, realising the sudden desire to leave from his boyfriend, also stood up and slid his shoes back on leaving the hotel room and heading out into the large city.

Mitras was not as beautiful as Levi had remembered when he was a small kid.

When he was small, everything looked large and glamourous. The old brick that was the shops and buildings shone in the light, the products glistened: old market stalls on the streets were traditional and sold interesting things, the smell of fresh bread and sweets was what plagued Levi’s memories, but he didn’t see it like that anymore. Instead he saw corroded, old, heavy brick crumbling at corners. On almost every street corner there was a homeless person, begging for money or food. The shops were full of unnecessary stuff he wouldn’t be able to afford. It looked like any capital city.

Erwin could also sense that Levi wasn’t as impressed as he had hoped, maybe due to the scowl that was on his face the entire time they walked around the streets near the hotel. But Erwin knew they weren’t in the nicest part of Mitras, wanting to show it off for the beauty it actually was.

“Shall we go into the main shopping centre, Levi? It might be a tad nicer in there.”

“Sounds good. It’s filthy out here.”

Erwin nodded, and grabbed his boyfriend’s hand leading them both into the large, old building converted into a shopping centre. Inside were the usual clothes shops, shoe shops, food shops that they had back home. The two walked in and out of each in silence, not buying anything but instead just browsing, window shopping.

Once they passed the large Mitras University shop selling hoodies and guides for new starts in the next few months, Erwin walked inside to browse whilst Levi waited outside leaning against the wall and looking extremely disinterested. That was, however, until someone caught his eye. Someone he remembered from his childhood, and it was clear they noticed him too as they directed their footsteps towards the dark-haired boy.

“Levi?” They asked, hesitantly as they approached. Levi kept his brows furrowed, trying to read who the person was. It was only when they got closer that he realised.

“Jan?” He replied, almost in disbelief. The last time he’d seen this person was when he was a kid, when Jan wasn’t much older than himself. He was a friend of Farlan’s and used to hang around with them when Kenny sent them out to steal or fight. He just assumed something bad would have happened to him, considering how most people he probably knew back then were in prison now.

As the man approached, he stopped in front of Levi a large smile on his face.

“What are you doing here in Mitras?! It’s been so long! How have you been?!” Jan’s presence was very excitable, and very much like Isabel’s. Just him being there brought up ghosts from the past, ghosts he was trying to avoid. But still, it was pleasant to see someone from his past who he hadn’t seen in so long. And a relief to see he was doing well, too.

“Yeah it’s been about eleven years now. Alright. Weekend break.” Levi tried to answer in as few words as possible, wanting to talk to his old friend but also not wanting to reveal too much. He knew that the mention of his old friends would creep up sooner or later, and so the briefer the conversation the less likely it would be mentioned.

“Ah I see, who are you with? You back with your mum now? I heard Kenny’s still in prison.”

“Yeah back with mum. I don’t give a fuck about Kenny.” Levi grumbled, growing agitated at the constant questions. He didn’t want to even think about Kenny. “Where are you now?”

“I’m here in Mitras, got a cheap flat share with a few friends from school! I’m glad you’re safe again. Are you at uni yet?! I’m about to graduate from Mitras in medicine.”

“No, it’s last year of school now. Your leg better now?” Levi briefly recalled Jan suffering with a bad leg when he was younger, and remembered many operations that Jan had to go to before being taken away from his friends and moved to a hospital in the capital. Judging by the fact there was no crutches, he safely assumed Jan was better, but wanted to ask to deter the conversation from him.

“You’re not going to college?! But why not Levi?! You were always so smart! And yeah thank you, it got fully healed when I was about thirteen so I’m back to me now! That’s what inspired me to go on and study medicine, so really I guess the pain was worth it in the end.” Jan forced a breathy laugh, smiling still.

“I didn’t say I’m not going, I’m just not there yet.” Levi crossed his arms frustrated just as Erwin left the shop. He was about to open his mouth and show him what he bought when he was caught by the attention of a stranger standing over Levi, quite close – Levi hadn’t noticed Jan’s position, to be honest. But tall people always stood weirdly around Levi, leaning over him, just because of his height. It never made Levi feel threatened.

But Erwin being Erwin put a very protective arm around his boyfriend, almost blocking Jan from getting too close to him. Levi just tutted in annoyance, not at Erwin, but the situation as a whole.

“And who is this, Levi?” Erwin asked, trying to maintain a polite tone.

“Jan. Farlan’s old friend.” Erwin looked at his boyfriend for any sign of emotion, but upon seeing nothing decided to look up and introduce himself to Jan. The latter in return introduced himself, adding he was very close to Levi when they were younger. Levi rolled his eyes, not recalling this apparent friendship. He just remembered them hanging around together in the streets – an acquaintance, at most.

“Well, I’ll leave you two to it then. Enjoy your weekend break. Levi, give me a call or text whenever you want!” Jan said, passing his number to Levi on a piece of paper before skipping in an opposite direction trying to find the people he was shopping with. As soon as he was out of sight, Levi let his stiff body relax.

“Everything okay Levi?”

“Yeah. Wasn’t expecting to see him here, that’s all.”

Erwin nodded understandingly and decided to leave the things he bought at the shop for a later date. He could sense that Levi had already got himself angry over Jan and didn’t want to throw the future into the mix to make him even more annoyed. Instead, the tall blonde suggested heading back to the hotel and getting ready for their meal at the Titans Arms. He was hoping that the food would help pick Levi up a little bit, since he seemed so distant and upset the entire time. He knew he wasn’t doing it in an ungrateful manner to what his mother had bought him for his eighteenth, but the angry atmosphere was disconcerting.

They both decided to dress up relatively smart for their evening out: Levi wearing a dark shirt, dark trousers, his new boots and cravat to match. Erwin had got his bolo tie tightly around his neck, a crisp white shirt and some dark pants too. Once ready and happy with how they looked, hand in hand they walked to the restaurant from Levi’s childhood.

For the first time that day, Levi seemed impressed by the new surroundings. The place they were eating was spotless and decorated tastefully, with candles dotted on every table and plush velvet chairs seated around them. There was still the original bar and pub to the front of the building, highlighting the traditional sides that Levi remembered slightly from peeking in windows, but the rest was clearly demonstrating that it was a five-star restaurant. The two boys got seated at a small, secluded table by a roaring fire.

The menus were passed to them, and the waiter poured water into glasses before walking away to give them time to decide what to get. They decided on a shared starter of bruschetta, and Erwin ordered the stone baked, large vegetable pizza for his main. Levi ordered a spaghetti dish with fresh vegetables mixed into the pasta. For dessert, a chocolate fondant was shared with marshmallows, fruits, and chocolate biscuits.

By the time the table was emptied of food, the pair were absolutely stuffed, and Levi appeared a lot more content than he had done earlier that day, and the worries seemed to have washed off his face, making Erwin smile in relief. The Titans Arms was exactly what Levi had dreamed of, and his heart was warm thinking he could now tick it off his bucket list.

“You enjoy that then, Levi?” He asked, politely.

“It was so good. I’m so glad we came here.” He replied, getting the voucher from his wallet and placing it on the table.

“I am too, Levi. Especially with you.” Erwin offered his trademark smile, and Levi subtly kicked him jokingly under the table, softly smiling back at his boyfriend.

“Tomorrow instead of exploring more of Mitras, shall we spend the morning in the spa before heading back home? I know the city isn’t what you expected it to be.”

“Yeah, sure, I guess. Don’t you wanna see it? You’re the one who will be living here.” Levi replied, the smile he had turning down into a frown again.

“I have time to explore it at a later date with my parents. For now, this weekend is about you, so we will do what you’d like.”

“Then spa, yeah.” Levi concluded, as the waiter collected the voucher from the table and the two boys stood up and left the building, walking hand in hand back to the hotel room. Mitras was a lot prettier in the evening, masking the disgust and muck noticed earlier that day: instead the street lamps extenuated the carvings in the old brick, and fairy lights dotted along the side of some buildings made the place seem a lot more magical.

Once back in the safety of the hotel room, the door was locked and the two descended into the bath decided to sooth their sore bellies from the food they’d consumed. The bath was filled with rich bubbles offered by the hotel, and Erwin lit some candles along the side of the water. Levi collapsed into the warmth, basking in the heat and they laid there, silent for a long time.

Both were aware this was the last romantic break they’d be able to have away together for a while; with exams and Mitras University for Erwin, Levi trying to figure out if college was actually for him. So instead of speaking, knowing it would inevitably lead back to that, they stayed in silence, just enjoying one another.

Once the bath water was growing tepid, the couple collapsed back onto the bed, kissing and taking in one another. They kissed until their lips were swollen, their cheeks red, their bodies excited. Levi quickly dashed up and blew candles out, drew curtains, turned lights off then climbed under the covers to join his boyfriend, continuing their actions from earlier on.

By the time morning rolled around, they had both slept in far too late to have time to enjoy the spa together for a full day event, and instead opted to just enjoy a swim and then the sauna, followed by a very quick back massage to relieve tensions. It took Levi a lot of convincing to let someone he didn’t know touch his body, but Erwin calmed him down and he actually found himself enjoying the massage much to his surprise.

Before parting from Mitras to journey home, the couple walked to a close park and ate the chocolates sat on a bench in the shade. The pair had barely said a word to each other all morning, both very unsure of the best thing to say. As the last chocolate was taken from the box by a sneaky Levi, Erwin decided it was time to speak.

“I have enjoyed this weekend in Mitras with you, Levi. Hopefully it is the first of many to come.”

“Yeah, hopefully.” Levi responded, clearly quite disheartened.

“I love you Levi.”

“Do you?” Levi responded, it coming out more harshly than he originally had planned.

“Well, yeah, of course I do. I always have, I’ve told you a million times.” Erwin replied, slightly confused at the sudden question from Levi.

Levi paused in silence for a second, before leaning up to kiss his boyfriend, melting into him. “I love you too.” He mumbled, and Erwin wrapped his arms around him, enjoying their last few moments in the city before heading to the car and setting off on the very long journey home.

Chapter Text

After the relaxing weekend break from hard work, everyone realised they didn’t have time for more fun, and they had to be taken seriously. From now on, it was all hard work and no time for play: there were mock exams, revision sessions, cram revision classes. Even Levi realised it was time he started doing some work, opting to attend revision classes with Petra who struggled with the same lessons as Levi. Finding motivation was hard, but he forced it.

Through the next month Levi didn’t get to see Erwin on a weekend: revision sessions took place on Saturdays, as did catch up sessions from days missed of school which Levi almost always had to go to. It seemed like every day was a cycle of essays or math questions, and when it finally reached Sunday, everyone was too exhausted to do anything and instead spent the day in bed or with their families.

When the week before exams crept round, it was almost dangerous to be around anyone. Everyone was stressed and snapping, particularly people whose colleges had set high grades to be able to be accepted, or people like Nile who needed to revise and work hard to get to a good school: his hopes still set on Mitras, despite not receiving an offer in the first place. Apparently, he applied with the summer applications, but Levi hoped he wouldn’t get in, not wanting Nile to be around Erwin.

Although, Nile still hadn’t contacted Mike, Erwin, or Levi about what he said at the dance. Frankly, neither of the three wanted him to. It also seemed that Marie was trying to distance herself from him too, but no one wanted to say anything in case it was wrong as she too was just stressed considering the current situation. But they had noticed when Nile tried to kiss her, or give her a hug, Marie shifted far away from him.

It was two days before the exams began that Levi sent his application off. He applied to a local art school, so he could still stay at home with his mum, but go into college two days a week to practice art. He wasn’t sure where it’d lead him, but least it gave him something to do after school other than just look for a job for ages.

But the late application also heightened Levi’s anxiety: now he had an aim, he had to reach the grades the school had set for him. He needed at least two A’s to get in, and a pass in everything else. He’d already received a distinction in his art coursework so that was a pass, but it was everything else that was causing him to worry.

Throughout the exam month, his panic had increased and now Levi had to see his therapist twice a week, as a break from the work load which he’d put on himself since leaving it last minute, and also due to the panic attacks he’d suffered regarding his boyfriend. He hadn’t brought Erwin along to his recent sessions, simply because he was too busy, but Levi felt comfortable enough to talk without him there anyway. To be honest, he didn’t want Erwin to hear him bitching about the fact he was moving away also, or the fact that it was the root cause of Levi’s poor mental health.

The panic tended to be in a night more than when he was awake, and Kuchel had often had to walk into his room in the early hours when she awoke to her son’s harsh breathing or hurt cries. Twice she walked in on vivid nightmares, where Levi was laid in the bed screaming out for Isabel or Farlan. Because of this, she tried to talk Levi out of doing exams and graduating this year, but he’d come so far that he ignored her request and was pushing through it. It would happen no matter when he sat them; stress affected him more than people knew.

Since Erwin and Hange both had unconditional offers, after they learnt enough to get a good grade the first time round, they began to help the rest of their friends revise for their exams. Hange helped Levi with science, as it was the worst of his subjects, whilst Erwin helped Petra with a poem she wasn’t understanding for English Literature. Soon enough, the exam days rolled around.

It seemed like a complete blur to Levi: he woke up, sat two exams, then went home and revised for the ones the day after. It was a continuous cycle for a week and a half, until all his exams had finally finished. On the last day, everyone walked from the school leaping and shouting excitedly that they’d finally finished High School.

After it was simply a waiting game: a waiting game for results, for university or college acceptance, for saying bye to friends and family, for graduation.

In the few weeks that the group had before the results came through, Levi and Erwin spent the entire time together, finally. Levi had packed a large suitcase and moved to Erwin’s for a fortnight, as Erwin wanted to be around both Levi and his family. It had taken a lot of persuasion, but since Levi was staying home no matter what he agreed – it would be a lot longer before Erwin was able to see his family again once he left at the end of summer.

In the time they spent living together, they made up for their time spent away over the revision weeks. There was a lot of sex, a lot of kissing and cuddling. They watched loads of TV, films, played games. Mr and Mrs Smith allowed Levi and Erwin to sleep in the same room as they soon would have to part ways for college. And of course, they took this to their full advantage. Since Mr Smith had found out about the couple, he was a bit funny about them sleeping together, but Mrs Smith talked him around pretty easily, much to Erwin’s delight.

Time was going too quickly for Levi’s liking though: he wanted it to go slow, so he could savour every moment with his boyfriend. He really wasn’t ready for him to move away yet, as Erwin was such a large part of his life. They’ve been friends since they were both eight, and since then they were never truly apart. The thought of not having him around the corner was killing Levi inside, but he wasn’t letting it show and tried his best to get excited for his boyfriend.

Mr and Mrs Smith took the boys to ikea to get Erwin’s student flat fitted out. They agreed to pay his rent for a private apartment with a parking spot, rather than putting him in student halls. Erwin offered numerous times to pay his own way and live in student blocks, but his parents didn’t want it. So instead they got an unfurnished apartment for him and needed to get the essentials for it. To be honest, Levi was happy that he had a private apartment. It meant he’d be allowed round more, with no strict rules set on them. It also meant that Erwin wouldn’t be living with strangers who would most likely be scruffy and mucky.

Levi followed the three around the shop, trailing behind, and heart heavy. Erwin was so excited about everything – getting excited when he picked a bed, TV stand, table, desk, and sofa. It was eating away at Levi, who simply watched on sadly. Erwin was so giddy to be moving away, yet Levi felt like he’d been punched in the stomach. It was too hard on him. He tried to plaster on an excited face for Erwin, sometimes picking up items and throwing them in the basket. Pointing out things like plants and candles, kitchen utensils and pottery, that his boyfriend would end up forgetting. Erwin kept thanking him with small kisses, a smile behind each one, and Levi had to respond with his own fake smile. He wanted to be happy for Erwin, he really did.

Instead of staying over for the last weekend of their two weeks together, after the shopping trip Levi decided he needed to go home and see Kuchel. He wasn’t sure how he’d hack watching Erwin pack, considering how he was for the shop. Erwin tried to persuade him to stay, but Levi knew he wouldn’t be able to. He felt worse than normal; therapy sessions at school ended as he wasn’t enrolled there anymore, and he’d been fine up until the last week when the truth dawned on him. His suitcase was packed from Erwin’s quickly when he decided to go on the Friday.

Erwin had offered to drive him home, but Levi refused, instead choosing to drag his large suitcase from Erwin’s house to his home, where he walked straight to his mother and rested his tried head in her lap. She didn’t even need to guess what was wrong; instead she remained silent and stroked her sons’ hair carefully, as small tears fell from his eyes.

Since seeing him so distraught on the Friday, Kuchel phoned in to let her work know she’d been unable to come in for the weekend, and they were thankfully understanding. So, to distract Levi, she took him out and treated him – they went on a day trip to the old castle on Saturday, joking around and acting like it was their home. On Sunday they went shopping for new art supplies for college, before spending the evening in the cinema. Levi enjoyed it so much; spending mother-son time together again, something they’d been unable to do for a while.

Erwin texted Levi constantly over the weekend, rang him all the time just to chat. At first his replies were blunt, and calls rejected, but as the weekend drew to an end, he felt better about the entire situation – eventually growing excited upon hearing his phone buzz, answering calls with a smile. His mum had made him realise that Erwin was still going to put in the effort when he was away, helping his panic calm. So, the night before the results were realised, Erwin stayed with Levi at his house doing what they used to do: games with Kuchel, they ate pancakes every morning for breakfast, and even made each other’s favourite pizzas like they did on their first date.

It was a perfect way to spend an evening and morning together before their small lives would be changed forever, either for the better or the worse.

Wednesday morning crept around exceedingly quickly, meaning the results were to be released. Everyone was to go to school to pick them up from the library, and Erwin was coming with Levi to pick up Petra and Hange. They decided it was best the four stuck together since everyone was in very similar situations. Mike and Nanaba agreed to meet them after they’d found out about their colleges, wanting to share their moment together.

Nervously they walked to the front desk and took their named envelope, everyone very silent: the air of the room was tense and heavy, students already there crying with both joy and sorrow upon seeing what they got in exams. There were pupils already at the resit desks, and people going through clearing to find a university of their choice.

Erwin and Hange were the first to open their results, since it didn’t properly matter what they got. Much to no ones’ surprise, both came out with a full set of A* results – nothing lower than the best. The school took photos of them both beaming at their grades, the local paper too got an interview with the two smartest pupils of the year. It was rare for a school to produce two smart kids, with almost full marks, and they wanted to record it, to encourage more students to enrol there.

Levi and Petra were pushed to the side as everyone swarmed the smart pupils, and they both sat in a sofa in the library not bothering to open their results. They looked equally as fed up as each other, wanting their partners to be there for the grand reveal. But it looked like they weren’t going to be able to.

“How do you think you’ve done?” Petra asked Levi, a nervous twinge in her voice.

“Knowing me, shit.” Levi replied, seemingly disheartened.

“Shall I go first?” Petra asked, taking Levi’s hand in her own. Due to the circumstances, Levi didn’t flinch or pull away and let his best friend hold him. He nodded in response to her question as she removed her hand and ripped open the results.

“What you get?” Levi asked, trying to maintain his curiosity of nosing over the top of her paper.

“Levi, I’ve passed everything!” Petra exclaimed, her voice breaking as she did so, “I got 6 A’s too! I’m into the college!” She wrapped her arms around Levi, who tentatively did the same to her, congratulating her. “You open yours now, Levi!”

He nodded, looking around once again for Erwin who was already too caught up in his own life to pay attention to him. Sighing, he opened the envelop revealing his, and he hadn’t done as badly as thought. C in both Science and Maths, A in English, A* in Food Technology, and B’s in the rest. He held the form out for Petra to look at.

“Wow Levi, that’s amazing! I’m so proud of you! You got into Art College too! Look at both of us, college students now!” Petra joked, smiling as a soft tear fell down her cheek. Levi let out a sigh of relief, not really wanting to be in that environment anymore. He congratulated Petra before excusing himself, trying to catch Erwin’s attention as he did so. But the blonde-haired man was too busy, wrapped up in his own celebrations. So, Levi waved bye to Petra one more time, before walking out the library and heading off home.

As soon as he walked through the front door, he noticed Kuchel had baked him a cake and put ‘congratulations’ balloons around the front room. She stood in the kitchen, waiting anxiously for her son to show her his results, trying not to question the fact that Erwin was with him right away. He did so almost immediately, putting the piece of paper firmly on the counter.

“I’m into Art College mum, I’ve done it. I’ve finished school.” Levi said, his voice almost showing a hint of excitement as he announced the fact. She quickly dashed round the front of the counter and threw her arms around her son tightly and protectively, “Levi, I am so, so proud.” Kuchel kept repeating it into his ear like a mantra. He finally allowed himself to grin, relieved, happy, and proud. It was done. The worst years of his life were finished.

When their emotions calmed slightly, the cake was cut into and placed into bowls, each Ackerman taking their own slice, before wandering to sit down. Still overwhelmed and excited by the amazing news. Kuchel decided it was best to ask about Erwin too, considering they were both meant to be coming back to hers to celebrate.

“Where’s Erwin?” Kuchel asked.

“Still at school.”

“And what did he say about your amazing results?! I bet he’s so proud!” She exclaimed.

“He doesn’t know. Too busy with his own life, apparently.” Levi mumbled, stabbing his cake harshly with his spoon. “If he’s fucking ignoring me already, this isn’t going to work out.”

“Levi honey, he was probably too excited about him leaving for University and his results today. He has worked extremely hard these past few months, I’m sure he’ll come around soon to find out what you got.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Levi moaned, finishing his cake, before he pushed himself away from the table, a small word of thanks muttered to Kuchel as he did so. He wanted to stay with his mum and celebrate, but his mood was growing foul. How could he celebrate his results without the one person he so desperately wanted to tell? The thought of Erwin just blanking him at school angered him, and he sat looking out of his bedroom window with a very stern face.

A few hours later, Erwin had come around. Levi was not exactly happy with him and refused to leave his bedroom upon hearing the other man’s arrival. It was his own version of a passive aggressive protest. He wouldn’t have minded if Erwin at least looked in his direction sympathetically at school, but he didn’t even do that, even though he knew Levi was there. It pissed him off.

“Levi? Erwin’s here.” Kuchel called through the closed door. Levi didn’t respond, and instead got a book and tried to make himself as disinterested in his partner as he possibly could. He sat laid on the bed, legs crossed, pretending to read.

Slowly the door opened and Kuchel and Erwin walked inside together, sitting down beside Levi on his bed. He blanked them.

“He’s come to see what you got, Levi, and tell you how he did.” Kuchel said, voice very steady and slow. She knew how annoyed Levi was at his boyfriend and frankly too was irritated that he hadn’t even congratulated or asked Levi about results yet.

“I don’t give a shit what Mr Perfect got.” Levi replied, mockingly. Erwin sighed.

“Levi I’m sorry I couldn’t come talk to you at school, everyone hounded me about my exam results. I only just managed to get away from everyone who was trying to interview me to put me in the local papers. I tried to get away, I really did.”

“There he goes again, Mr Perfect gets his fucking perfect results in the papers too. Who gives a shit about an average person getting into college?” Levi sat up, announcing the sentence in a laugh of sorts, very sarcastic nonetheless. Kuchel looked at Levi with a disapproving yet understanding face.

“I care what you got Levi. And you’re not an average person, not at all.” Erwin tried to argue back.

“Levi it’s a very stressful day for a lot of people, I’m sure Erwin didn’t mean to be swept away by the mass of teachers. He just got extremely and rarely high results, as did Hange.”

“Yeah Levi, honestly I’d have come straight to you if I could. I’m sorry.”

His back turned to the two, Levi looked on ahead at his wall of photos above his desk. Thinking over what Erwin said, he decided to forgive him for the mishap at school and look past the fact he was ignored on an equally important day for him. But obviously, Levi wouldn’t announce someone was forgiven out loud and instead turned back to face his boyfriend, putting his own results into Erwin’s hands.

Erwin took the thin piece of paper and read over Levi’s exam results, a very large smile on his face as he did so.

“Levi, I’m so proud. These are amazing!”

Kuchel too was smiling again at this point, realising the tension in the room was slowly passing away and Levi had clearly got over the argument from just a few minutes ago.

“Thanks. I got into Art College too.” He mumbled out and was interrupted by a big blonde throwing arms around him, pulling him into a very tight squeeze.

“That’s incredible Levi. You deserve that so much.”

Kuchel slowly patted Erwin on the back before getting up and leaving the bedroom, ensuring the door was shut behind her, before she could finally head to the living room and relax after what had been one of her most stressful days in her parenting career. Nothing was more saddening than seeing your child upset when he should be celebrating, especially when it was to do with a relationship. She’d never wanted to see him heart broken, and it looked like he was earlier.

Levi and Erwin stayed hugging on the bed for a while longer, before pulling away and laying down beside each other.

“Well, I guess this is it then Levi. The end of High School.” Erwin said, arm resting behind his head on the pillow.

“Yup. Now welcome to the adult life of shit, shit and even more shit.”

“Hey, we still have three years of being students left. Don’t rush us into adulating so quickly.” Erwin laughed, “and besides, it might not be so bad being an official grown up I suppose.”

“Whatever you say, Mr Perfect.” Levi teased, rolling onto his side and smiling at his boyfriend mischievously.

“Don’t call me that, I’m not perfect.” Erwin grumbled, too turning to face Levi.

“It’s true though.”

“It’s not! I do things that aren’t perfect!”

“Yeah, but when you do, they’re usually because of me.”

“I guess that’s true, Levi.” Erwin laughed.

“Told you so, Mr Perfect.”

The two smiled and melted into each other’s lips, savouring the last kisses they’d share after visiting school. From now on, it was spending weeks together before they both parted ways, and spending time with their friends before they also went off to study in other areas all over the country.

                                                ***

Everyone decided to meet at their usual milkshake café the week before everyone parted ways, since they had spent so much time there throughout the year. It was the last night in town for Hange, as they were leaving slightly earlier to set up in their halls and relax into the University.

Each couple sat beside each other, a tension filling the air: no one seemed happy, apart from Mike and Nanaba who weren’t going to have to separate by the end of the week. No one drank their milkshakes, and instead the table took it in turns to look towards each other.

“Look, it’s my last night so I have a few things to say to each of you, if that’s okay.” Hange began, causing everyone to stir slightly in their seats. Petra looked up at their partner with loving eyes.

“Firstly, Nanaba. Hi.”

“Hi.” Nanaba responded, a bit of joy heard in her voice. She giggled slightly.

“At first we didn’t really know you that well, and no one was entirely sure how you’d fit into our little misfit group of friends since we’ve known each other since middle school, but you fit right in. This group of friends would be nothing without you, you’re literally the person that seems to keep the calm and hold us all together when everything is going wrong. You deserve Mike, you both deserve to have somewhere to call your own and to spend the rest of your lives in. So basically, Nan, I’m just trying to say that I’m glad I’ve got to know you this past year.”

“Me too, Hange. You’re the most innovative, unique person I know and I’m proud to call you a best friend.”  Nanaba stood up from her seat and wrapped loving arms around Hange, who too returned the gesture and they cuddled for a few seconds before returning to their seats. Nanaba looked slightly teary now upon Hange’s words but managed to hold it together. Hange, on the other hand, was smiling enjoying everyone’s attention on them.

“Next. Mike. You’re up.” They began, “You have been one of the strongest and nicest people I’ve known literally half my life now. You’re so strong and tough but under the front you are a pure cinnamon roll.” Everyone laughed at that, knowing how true it was. “You’re wonderful, caring, and kind. You offer nothing but support to all your friends, and half of us wouldn’t be who we are today without a special Mike in our lives. Thank you for always being my buddy, and for always looking out for every one of us. High school would have been so much worse without you there.”

“Hey, thanks Hange. You too, never met someone as amazing as you to be honest. You’re going to do ace at your new school. Can actually practice more experiments than you can back home.”

Hange laughed at that, eyes gleaming. It was obvious they were extremely excited about what they were going to do at college and weren’t too phased about their lives here. Well, a bit anyway. But they wanted to blow things up in a proper lab, and experiment on weird things properly. It was all they ever talked about.

“Okay, okay I don’t have long, and I have three speeches left to make. I am leaving in 10 minutes, off away for a long time in an hour so I need to speed up a bit.”

“No one’s stopping you, Hange. The floor is yours.” Erwin said.

“Ah yes, well Erwin you’re now anyway. So, you’re one of the best people I’ve ever met, and I never thought I’d be the one you’d turn to for advice: I always thought it would be the other way around. However, nonetheless you’ve too always been there for me through thick and thin. You welcomed me into your friendship group, you’ve invited me along to all your social parties and events. And frankly I am incredibly happy that you’ve ended up with Levi. God, I could see the sexual tension since middle school and finally, finallyyou two realised you were meant to be and honestly thank god for that. I’m glad to share the highest results in our school’s history with you, Erwin. And I’m so looking forward to spending the next few years with you close by.”

“Hange that is lovely. I too am very excited to have you by my side at college, and also very proud to share my results with you also. You’re a great friend, and the most intellectual person I know.”

“Thanks, Erwin.” Hange beamed, patting his shoulder gently as they decided to continue speeches before they would need to leave.

“Now for my best friend and favourite human being, Levi.”

“You don’t have to, Hange.” Levi grumbled, trying to look relaxed by crossing his arms and leaning back on his seat, causing it to knock onto two legs. Erwin, ever the worrier, immediately put his arm behind the seat to stop it from falling backwards and to stop his boyfriend hurting himself.

“I do have to. Now let me speak. Well, Levi as you know you were always grumpy with me throughout our entire friendship, but I managed to wiggle past all that angst and meet the real you. You’re incredible, Levi. No one might realise it, but you hand on heart are the bravest and strongest man I know. Shit, you’ve been through quite a lot and half of it I don’t even know but look at you still smiling here today. Well, sort of smiling, in your weird grimace kind of way. You’ve had a lot thrown at you through both middle and high school, yet as a person you’ve not faltered or changed at all. You’re still the person you were at the start, but even stronger like I said before.

“I’m so touched that you’re my best friend. I’m touched that you trusted me to keep your relationship secret even though I sort of didn’t do that very well, I’m touched that you came to me for advice for dates, that you came to me when you felt worried and no one else was available. I’m honoured to call Levi my friend, and I’m sure everyone on this table would agree.

“You’re humanity’s strongest leaving our school: a very small, very cute, very angry man who has kept strong through all the losses in your life. Levi Ackerman, I hope we remain best friends forever and ever, and we talk all the time at university because I want to share my experiments with you, and I also want to be the most prominent guest at your wedding. So, don’t forget me.”

“I’d never forget you, Hange.” Levi replied, eyes staring ahead trying to focus as to not let his emotions show. It meant a hell of a lot to him that Hange had said such nice things about him, and even more that everyone too nodded in unison with Hange’s speech. Looking across the table, everyone was smiling towards him and he was about to smile back until his very excitable friend began to ruffle his hair, so he ducked out of the way as quick as possible.

“See, you’ve not changed.” Hange laughed, and everyone else joined in.

“Now, I still have Petra’s speech to make but as we are going now otherwise my dad will kill me, I’m going to put it into one basic sentence.” Hange then leant down to whisper something into Petra’s ear about telling her when they were in a private space, “Petra Ral. You are the love of my life.”

With that Petra stood up and took Hange’s hand in theirs, before the former decided it was time to end the speech and head off for their new life.

“It has been an honour to spend my troublesome teens with you all, onwards and upwards to the future folks! Look out for me inventing something that’ll save us all but keep in touch. I love you all!”

“Good luck Hange, we love you.” Echoed from the table as the couple left the door, and instantly everyone deflated. It was happening, the change, the leaving: it was starting now. Petra obviously would be coming back, but the group already felt empty without everyone sat around it.

“Well, buddy it’s probably the last time me and Nan will see you too before you head off to college. We move into our flat tomorrow, so are going to be having a very mad week.” Mike began, looking at Erwin.

“Oh, wow? So, this is our good bye as well?” Erwin said. Levi felt him tense beside him, and the blonde’s eyes looked very blue and shimmery.

“It seems so.” Nanaba replied. She looked at her boyfriend who then stood up and walked over to Erwin who proceeded in the action too, and before they knew it the two were wrapped around each other, holding one another tightly.

Levi and Nan looked on at the pair who had been best friends since they were pretty much born. It was a big move for them to be separated after seeing each other at least five days a week for the past fifteen or so years.

Once separated, both Erwin and Mike cried slightly. They didn’t really need to say anything to each other as they both took their seats again, comforted by their partners.

“Promise you’ll keep in touch though, yeah?” Mike sniffled.

“Obviously.” Erwin smiled through his tears, smiling towards the mousy brown-haired man.

“You too Levi. I know you’ll only be around the corner but no excuses. You’re one of my best mates too, easily. You have been since I met you when you were eight.”

“Yeah I promise.” Levi replied, nodding on at Mike who smiled. Levi then smiled back at his friend, before Mike and Nanaba decided to head off.

“Well, good luck in Mitras Erwin. You’ll be incredible, you always are. And you too, Levi. You’ll ace through Art College with your talent.”

“Thanks, Mike. Good luck to you and Nanaba in your own home together. We’ll definitely come and visit together when you’re both settled in properly. And please keep your eye on Levi whilst he’s up here by himself.”

“Oi.” Levi replied, a frown on his face. Erwin merely smiled it off.

“I promise. See you guys in October?”

“Yeah. Hopefully. Bye Mike, Nanaba.”

The couple then left the shop leaving the blonde, and black-haired men alone at the table with half full milkshakes. After sitting in silence, Erwin collected himself and took Levi’s hand, leading him to the car to drive home together: he was going to be the hardest one to say bye to, and it was going to take a lot longer than just a few speeches in the milkshake bar.

In fact, it took the whole week for them to say bye. Cuddles on the sofa, films in bed, shared baths, private dinners, dinners with the others family. Sex, a lot of sex. And even when the Sunday of leaving came around, neither of them were ready. Despite the excitement, no one was ready to let go.

Kuchel and Levi were gathered at the Smith’s household, helping load a small van with Erwin’s belongings and new furniture. Mrs Smith was running around in the kitchen getting a food hamper ready for her son to take with him to his new house. Erwin was helping his father load things into the back of the van, whilst Kuchel stood quietly beside Levi stroking his arm calmly. Her son was just watching the movement around him, trying to take himself out of the picture.

“It’ll be okay, Levi. I promise.” She whispered to him, and he just nodded and carried on looking ahead. He found it helped distract him from the reality of what was happening: the reality that the person that held him together was moving far, far away.

The van doors slammed shut causing Levi to twitch slightly.

“We’re all loaded up! Get your shoes and coats on everyone, we’re about to be setting off.” Mr Smith called out, and everyone did as they were told.

Erwin grabbed Levi’s hand and led him up to his room to help double check he’d got everything he’d need with him: the whole space looked sparse and empty, book shelves half full, the wardrobe bare, the bed without a sheet, no desk, computer, or TV. Even the living space felt bare without things dotted on the petite coffee table. Levi just looked down at his shoes and wiggled them in his socks to focus on something else.

The door shut behind them as Erwin took Levi into a tight embrace, squeezing him as much as possible. That’s when Levi gave in, wrapped his arms around his boyfriend and let out a wail. Erwin also began to cry into his boyfriends’ hair; quietly at first, but then he too started crying – properly crying. He continued to hold Levi as hard as he possibly could, each pull in causing Levi to cry a bit more.

The pair collapsed onto a heap on the floor, still holding each other tightly and crying into one another. They didn’t realise it was going to be this hard, not at all. But the day had come, and realisation struck, and they figured out and came to their senses about how difficult being separated would truly be. Erwin had been too focussed on getting ready to go and study away to think about how much he’d miss Levi, and only now he’d let himself feel it.

They cried until there was nothing left – no more water could be shed from their eyes, no more shivers sent down their bodies. Hiccups came over Erwin and he twitched as every one left his body, Levi still wrapped tightly in his arms. But Levi was struggling; he was struggling to see a future without Erwin there every day. Struggling to see how he’d cope without them strong hands guiding him. He’d miss Erwin’s morning cuddles, or just the door been opened for him as he got in the car, the surprise breakfasts, the walks to school. The overwhelming sadness made his stomach turn, feeling nauseous.

The smaller boy crawled out of his lovers grasp and headed to the bathroom where he threw up into the toilet. He wrenched a few times after, before collapsing backwards leaning against the bath tub. Erwin stood and began to walk over to his boyfriend before a tap sounded on the bedroom door.

“Erwin sweetie? We have to get off now. You’ve been up here for about an hour and we don’t want to hit the traffic on the way to Mitras.”

“Coming mum, won’t be a minute just get a few more things.”

She sighed outside the door, “Okay sweetie. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah it will be.” Erwin sniffled. “Coming now.”

Erwin headed into the bathroom where Levi was stood at the sink, brushing his teeth and cleaning up. He wrapped his arms around his boyfriend before letting him know they had to go, so Levi kissed him quickly and followed him down the stairs to the cars where all their parents were looking at them with loving expressions, trying to ignore their red eyes and puffy cheeks.

“We better be off then, Kuchel if you come with me and my husband in the van then Levi can go with Erwin in his car. We’ll take you and Levi home in that after too, if it’s okay with you.”

“Sounds good. Are you alright, Levi?” Kuchel replied, looking towards her son who was extremely pale. Both Levi and Erwin looked distraught, and he nodded in response before climbing into his boyfriends’ car. Erwin walked around the other side and climbed in quickly, not wanting to talk to anyone and enjoy the last few hours with his boyfriend before they had to be separated.

“How were they when you went upstairs?” Mr Smith asked, a worried expression on his face as he glanced towards his son getting into the car.

“It didn’t sound great, but this is going to be tough for them I suppose. Just need to keep your eyes on Levi I think, over the next few days. Erwin will be alright as he literally started college and will be distracted tomorrow, but Levi has another few weeks before he starts too.” Mrs Smith replied, directing it towards both Mr Smith and Kuchel. The other two nodded before climbing into the van and setting off for Mitras.

                                    ***

As excepted, when Levi got home, he collapsed into a mess of emotions once again. He got angry at first, before collapsing into his mother’s lap and crying into her for most of the night. He felt weak, alone. He wasn’t really sure what to do with himself without a boyfriend or his best friend around the corner anymore. Even Petra wouldn’t be back till the following evening, so he had his mum or no one.

Kuchel stayed there patiently, comforting her son. She stroked his hair from his wet face, rubbed his back softly when he was being sick, tucked him up in bed and sat with him until he managed to fall asleep. Erwin did ring him the second he assumed the Ackerman’s would have arrived home, and even then, the phone call was hardly words but just recognising that each other was still there.

Nights went on like that for a half the week, even though Erwin managed to call and message him daily without fail. Eventually, Levi began to feel a lot better and more himself as time passed and he settled into his new college, managing to make friends and relax back into a routine. The worrying stopped, and he felt a lot better in himself when speaking to Erwin.

Maybe they’d manage to make it through the next three years, despite the distance. Levi definitely felt he’d be able to pull through with regular visits, and Erwin too believed nothing would be able to tear apart their perfect relationship and had big plans for his beautiful future with Levi.

Chapter Text

“Levi! Have you fully packed everything?” Kuchel shouted through the shut bedroom door, Levi frantically checking over making sure he’d have everything needed for his visit. It was the same bag he'd used for his previous getaway's with Erwin, and slowly was becoming something of a tradition for him. As he heard his mum shout, Levi scanned through the bag making sure he'd picked up the basics for the trip: clean clothes, clean underwear, pyjamas, toiletries. He ticked them off in his mental checklist as his hand brushed over each item.

“Mr and Mrs Smith are here Levi! You better be getting off!” Kuchel shouted yet again, tapping on the door for further emphasis. Levi tutted, quickly grabbed his bag and opened the door, appearing into the main room. He was sporting his favourite jumper and a pair of joggers, hoping to have picked something reasonably comfortable for the long journey. As he left the room, with a free hand a scarf and coat were picked up since the weather was beginning to turn autumnal and breezy. 

“Fully packed.” He said, trying not to show how excited he was to be heading to Mitras: the first time he'd see Erwin face to face since they parted ways almost a month ago. He was exceptionally giddy.

“Good! Mrs Smith said that you’re all getting the train from the city centre since it reduces the length of the journey by almost half, so you’ll be there even faster. They got your train ticket already for you, too.” She smiled towards the couple sat in the living room, before pinching her son’s cheek with a smile. Kuchel had seen how hard Erwin leaving had been on her son and was relieved that he was able to visit him after a short space of time. It was exactly what Levi needed.

“Thank you for my ticket.” Levi said to the in-laws, who just smiled back, saying it was their pleasure. The money was tight again in the Ackerman household: Kuchel had to cut her hours down at work due to feeling worn down and stressed - and honestly, the less money and hours was worth the time she'd been able to spend with her son due to it. But now he was getting better and settling into art college, she was struggling to keep up with bills, rent, council tax. Not that she’d ever impose that worry onto anyone else.

“Levi, don’t feel you have to talk or sit with us the entire journey; however, it would be nice to see how things have been for you.” Mrs Smith passed a caring smile towards the man. He'd always had a soft spot for her and thought her general chatty conversation would make the journey go faster anyway.

“Thanks. Will catch you up on college.” Levi replied, before reaching up and giving Kuchel a small kiss on her cheek. Despite the fact he was eighteen now and probably finished growing, Kuchel was still slightly taller than him. She wrapped an arm around him, pulling him into a squeeze and whispering to him to stay safe. Subtly he nodded into her chest, before turning to face his boyfriend’s family.

“Right! Let’s get off.” Mr Smith stood up tall, stretching before heading to put his cup back in the kitchen. They had arrived early at Kuchel's house, so she had made them both a cup of tea to keep them going whilst Levi finished getting ready. Erwin’s mother did the same, and they all bid their farewells to Levi's mother before the three attending Mitras walked over to the car, Levi looking up one last time to wave at his mum who was also stood at the doorway waving down.

Everyone took their seats in the car ready to jet off to see Erwin. He'd only been at University for just less than a month, but everyone was eager to see how he was settling in and finding the course. From what he'd told Mrs Smith over the phone, he also desperately needed a visit from his boyfriend as he was feeling lost and lonely without having him by his side. Levi felt the same, but neither had admitted it to the other and just their parents knew. Mrs Smith made the effort of turning to face Levi in the back, smiling at him with a grin.

The Smith family car pulled into the train station car park in less than twenty minutes after setting off. Once a parking space was found, everyone departed from the comfort of their squishy seats, grabbing their bags on the way. Mrs Smith passed everyone their train tickets as they walked to the screens to find out which train platform they were on. As soon as the train was located, the three picked their bags back up which were placed on the floor as tickets were found, and resumed on the journey to their seats. Levi's heart was beating hard in his chest. Under three hours and I'll be with him.

Mrs Smith interrupted Levi's thoughts as they opened the train doors. “Erwin’s father and I are staying in a local hotel, very close to Erwin’s flat. We didn’t want to disturb the two of you, especially since it’s been so long since you last saw each other. It’s probably the longest you’ve been apart before!” She passed a kind smile to Levi, who tried his best to return it despite his smiles usually looking very false or more like a scowl. But she knew him well enough now.

“Yeah, probably is.” Levi replied, looking down to his hands and playing with his ring; fond memories of Erwin kissing it floated around his mind. He was getting excited, time wasn't going quick enough. In less than three hours he’d be reunited with his boyfriend in person. Whilst texting and skype calls kept them in contact over the time he was away, Levi didn't find it enough. The talking was nice, but he felt uncomfortable seeing his face on the screen and calling just felt weird. He wanted to have Erwin beside him, holding him, kissing him. 

After boarding the train, the three found their seats pretty quickly: a table in the centre of the carriage. Mr and Mrs Smith sat beside each other, and Levi shuffled opposite, so he could lean against the window, settling in for the long journey. Once the carriage was filled, the train set off on the trip. Everyone stayed silent for a few moments, before the generic questions about school started, and how Levi was settling in. He tried his best to focus on answering the questions, but his mind was wandering at what himself and Erwin would be getting up to that night.

Mrs Smith noticed his distraction, "I think it might be best if you tried to get some sleep Levi. Kuchel said you stayed up quite late last night."

That part was true: Levi had stayed up, way later than he usually did. He couldn't stop thinking about seeing Erwin, his heart racing with excitement. It had been a long time since the reason he couldn't sleep was a good one, and instead basked in the joyous feeling, scanning through old photos of his boyfriend and reading old texts. Some made him blush thinking of them; the long distance had resulted in them attempting to sext, and when in the moment, anything seemed like a good thing to say. But looking back, some were exceptionally cringy. Especially when he stumbled among photos, they’d sent one another. Although, he did end up saving most of Erwin’s.

In response to Mrs Smith, Levi nodded and slipped his headphones into his ears. Softly, the heavy lids closed shut and he drifted off into a peaceful nap, hoping it would pass as much time as possible.

And true to what Levi wanted, the train pulled into Mitras quickly after. The sudden stop jolted him awake, and he squinted his eyes at the now present light. The adults sat opposite him smiled as he pulled his headphones out of his ears and glanced out the window. The first thing he noticed as the train pulled to a stop was the familiar blonde, shining hair. He smiled, climbing out of his seat as quickly as he could and grabbing his bag. Levi made it to the door of the train before anyone else even managed to get close, and Mr and Mrs Smith could see him dashing to Erwin before they even got up from their seats.

Erwin stood by the platform sign, tall and proud. His smile plastered and lit up his entire face, which was slightly rosy from the colder weather. His scarf pulled around his neck and the sleeves of his thick cardigan rolled up on his arms. Beneath the scarf, the bolo tie was placed upon his body and the shirt Levi had bought for him covering his firm chest. As soon as he saw Levi practically jumping out of the train, his face lit up even more than before and he too began to pace forward.

Levi pushed past everyone on the platform, dashing into the arms of the man he loved. He didn't care how embarrassing he looked: not as his body first touched Erwin's, not as he threw his limbs around the over man who lifted him into the hold upon response. After squeezing as much love out of one another as possible, their lips locked in a chaste kiss - cheeks flushed, eyes fluttering. They both could feel the smile behind the kiss, which was even more evident when they pulled away from their partner.

Mr and Mrs Smith approached moments after, and Levi climbed down from his boyfriend and pressed his head into the broad chest. Erwin again, wrapped his strong arms around the man pressing a kiss into his hair. The taller man then bent down to kiss Levi again, before whispering I missed you into his longing mouth.

Levi then stepped to the side to let Erwin's parents show their appreciation for the tall man. His mother wrapped her arms around him, and he tucked her under his chin in a similar way he did with Levi. He pressed a loving kiss on her forehead, before moving away to shake the hands of his father who was too beaming at his son. Levi never realised how similar Erwin's features were to his fathers, until the older man passed smiles out and he noticed the similarities. 

Once the reuniting was complete, Erwin went straight back to his boyfriend, wrapping a protective arm around his waist again. He wanted to be as close to Levi as he could whilst he was in Mitras, and that meant cuddling close at every opportunity.

“Well, shall I show you all to my home?” Erwin asked, clearly aiming the question at his boyfriend as he looked down at him on his side. However, it was his father that chose to answer instead of Levi.

“Yes, son. Sounds good. Here, darling, give me your bag.” Mr Smith replied, taking his wife’s luggage in his arms. Erwin was about to offer to his partner, but Levi just frowned suggesting he wanted to hold his own bag. However, when they set off, he realised it was restricting and flung it into Erwin's spare arm, who just laughed at his stroppy boyfriends’ gesture. Levi's lips slightly curled upon hearing the booming chuckle. He missed it so much.

The entrance to the train station approached soon after as they all left the front door, each couple attached at the limb. Erwin excitedly led the group, pointing out buildings that belonged to his University, or cafes he'd been to a few times. He sounded so full of life, so proud to be showing Mitras off to his family. Eventually the conversation fell between the two taller men: Mr Smith reminiscing on his own time in the city, and Erwin talking about his new life here and the course he was studying. Levi caught the father smiling proudly whenever Erwin spoke, content at the fact he'd followed in the same footsteps.

As Levi glanced up and around at the buildings, he tried hard to find beauty in the large city, but he just couldn't. The buildings were either plagued with the fact that they had taken Erwin away from him or plagued with the memories of running around with Farlan and Isabel, talking about what it would be like to own one of them buildings one day. But he tried to focus on Erwin's voice as he walked along, passing a fake smile whenever he felt it was needed. Erwin kept looking over at him, pulling him closer and checking he was okay. Just as considerate as always.

The walk to Erwin's flat wasn't long, only a few blocks from the train station. Erwin unlocked the front door to the converted town house, and then finally the door to his own flat letting his guests flood in and make themselves at home. Mr Smith headed straight to the sofa, passing an exaggerated sigh as his large body flopped down. Mrs Smith sat dainty on the arm chair by the TV, careful to avoid the books all over the room as she approached the seat. Levi frowned upon seeing the mess, grabbing a chair from the dining table and pulling it to face the living area. 

Erwin walked into the open plan kitchen pouring water into the kettle and switching it on. He grabbed Levi's favourite tea from the top shelf of his cupboard; one he'd specially bought for Levi's visits to him in the capital. Levi felt his heart swell as he watched his boyfriend making the drinks.

“And how is studying going?” Mrs Smith enquired to her son.

“Good. It’s a lot of studying, a lot of reading too. They just keep throwing more and more book titles at me that I need to purchase and read. My entire fund is going to go on them.” Erwin smiled, pouring the last cup and carrying them over on a tray placing them on the coffee table. He gestured around the room to emphasize the selection of books he'd had to buy for studying.

“I can see that.” Levi grumbled, pointedly looking around Erwin’s flat: and Erwin noticed it, giving him an apologetic smile. Books were scattered in random piles throughout the apartment, some with loose sheets of paper hanging out of them, other paper was just scattered in messy piles all over. From what Levi could tell, Erwin had tried his best to tidy up for the visit, but he was running out of room to put things in.

“We will be sure to buy you some storage for all your work, Erwin. It won’t do you any good to just leave it on the floor.” Mr Smith smiled. "You need to keep your books in pristine condition for the future."

Erwin sipped at his tea, grabbing a chair and pulling it up beside Levi. “You don’t have to; however, it would be quite helpful. Perhaps I’ll ask for some for my birthday.”

Once everyone lifted their cups from the table, and Levi sipped contentedly, conversation began to flow naturally as it always had. At first the smaller man joined in, joking about with everyone as best as he could before he begun to grow agitated and annoyed. He'd been with Erwin for over two hours now, and still hadn't been able to get his paws on his boyfriend to properly reunite. Erwin noticed his uncomfortable nature and soothed him with a gentle thigh rub, causing Mrs Smith’s eyebrows to raise slightly.

“We better go check in, sweetie.” Mrs Smith smiled towards her husband.

“But I’d like to discuss more University tales with my son.” Mr Smith frowned, before he looked towards her and realised what she was suggesting, “But that can wait for when we meet for dinner. Be ready for six, we’ll come and collect you.” He stood up, as did Erwin’s mother. Erwin followed them to the door and helped them grab their bags, locking it firmly behind them, a small sigh of relief escaping his lips.

A second later, he strutted over to his boyfriend, wrapping them large and muscular arms around Levi, who grunted with contentment at the warmth of the touch, letting himself slip into the hold.

“Levi, I’ve missed you so, so much. I’ve been finding it all very hard without you.”

“I’ve missed you.” Levi mumbled into his chest, barely able to breathe from the hug that Erwin was giving him. They held one another in absolute silence, until Erwin moved backwards and locked his lips with his boyfriends.

They both met needing; the desire to consume their partners overtaking them. It was rushed, necessary, frantic. Erwin tugged aggressively at Levi’s top whilst he unbuttoned his boyfriends, kissing every bit of skin as it appeared through the removal of fabric. Erwin picked Levi up and carried him over to the bedroom, practically throwing him on the bed before following over, pinning his arms down above his head and kissing his way down Levi’s body.

Pants were removed, neither pausing for a second – clothes scattered across the floor, the bed sheets became scruffy with the squirming of both men. They became one as quickly as was physically possible, despite the slight burn felt by the smaller man. The movements from Erwin were harsh, thrusting deeply not holding anything back. Levi moaned, whimpered underneath his boyfriend falling completely into the moment.

Upon release, the men collapsed into the bed panting hard, marks and scratches left all over their skin – it was clear how much they needed each other, how much they missed each other. When they managed to catch their breath, the two snuggled up together and fell asleep quickly, taking the moment in as much as they could – it finally felt right again, and worries they’d both been building up dissipated.

The sleep lasted until just before six, causing them both to frantically rush around the flat and make themselves presentable for the meal that evening. Levi took a brisk shower, appearing back in his clothes moments after as Erwin was straightening his hair in the mirror. At six, just as announced, the doorbell rang, and the boys grabbed their necessary belongings, walking down the stairs to meet the others there.

Deciding the autumnal air was a bit too cold, Erwin called a cab, and the four drove to the restaurant instead of trying to navigate the streets of Mitras. The journey was short, and the taxi pulled up to the local eatery in less than two minutes. Once paid, everyone departed, and Erwin led his group into the warm building, asking for a table and following the waiter to the seats.

As soon as bums touched the cushions, Levi wrapped his arm around Erwin's, pulling him close together. Their lovemaking earlier had made him feel exhausted and needy: everything heavy in the air, everything a bit too intense. Erwin noticed this and gave Levi's hand a soft squeeze as he scanned over the menu, deciding what to order for tea. He already couldn’t wait to go back to his flat later, to lay with Levi again, all night.

Food was ordered and brought to the table, and conversations about studying continued - Mr Smith leading the entire discussion through bites of food. Mrs Smith managed to tap in her own experiences at some points, but mainly it was between the two older men at the table. She passed a sympathetic smile to Levi who was trying to be interested, but his mind was wandering: thinking about the future. From what Erwin had said, University was going to be a lot of work. And a lot of work meant a lot of time, and a lot of time meant less time Levi would get to spend with Erwin. He frowned at the thought.

Erwin immediately noticed his discomfort, facing his boyfriend and leaning close to his ear. So close that his hot breath sent a shiver down Levi's spine.

“Everything okay, Levi?”

“Hm.” He grunted, poking at the food on his plate with a fork. He was feeling anxious, just the mere thought of seeing and hearing from Erwin less and less taking over.

“I’m sorry all I’ve talked about is school. We’ll enjoy ourselves more when we go back to the flat.” Erwin stretched up, smiling, but the scowl still remained on his boyfriends’ face. Erwin rubbed a soft circle with his thumb on the back of Levi's hand: something that was meant to be a comforting gesture, and Levi accepted it, trying to push away the nervousness and enjoy the time he was actually with Erwin.

“Have you seen anyone from school at University, Erwin?” Mrs Smith asked politely, clearly not realising that Erwin was wanting to move away from talking about it. But since the question was about school friends rather than work load, Erwin assumed Levi wouldn't mind as much.

“Oh yes, actually. Hange seems to have settled in nicely, although they seem to not be making much contact with Petra from what I have heard. Seems Hange has made a new friend called Moblit, he seems truly nice.” Erwin paused, looking towards Levi, “I’ve seen quite a lot of Marie too. She’s managing to keep me company whilst I settle in a bit more.”

“Marie?” Levi looked at his boyfriend, fury in his eyes. His frown deepened at the mere mention of her name, a curse word slipping from Erwin's mouth.

“I should have said, I'm sorry Levi. She’s just nice company to keep around since Hange is often too busy, and I’ve not had time to settle into any clubs yet. Marie and I study together often, just someone to be there for me whilst I get more comfortable in a new city.” Erwin tried to show Levi that it wasn't anything serious, and that he hardly considered her a friend. But Levi couldn't stop thinking about the day she spiked his drink, or the day she didn't help him when her boyfriend beat him up.  Or the day she datedErwin. Slept with him.

“I bet it’s nice to have someone from home here, a comforting presence I would assume.” Mr Smith replied, noting the silence from the smaller man. But Levi was less than impressed, muttering her name with even more venom.

Marie?

“She's just a safe face in such a large scary city, Levi. I hope you understand I do not intend to be her friend, especially after what she has done to you in the past. But I was feeling so very lonely, as she was. And we just offered to help each other feel more comfortable.”

Levi was visibly shaking with anger in his seat, stabbing the carrot he’d been playing with angrily and shoving it into his mouth, eyes staring towards the door as something to focus on, not wanting to say anything in case he spouted off. He whispered under his breath, "I can make you fucking comfortable, she doesn't." But when Erwin tried to question what he'd mumbled, Levi ignored it realising how petty it might come across.

“Is she still with Nile?” Mrs Smith asked, trying to deter the conversation.

“I think she is, yes. He was meant to be coming up this weekend too, but I’m not too sure what’s happened with that. She rarely speaks of him, come to think of it. I know he didn't get into a top University like he'd originally hoped.”

Before any further conversation took place, Levi stood up aggressively from the table, practically knocking it backwards which his sheer strength. Eyes locked up at the small man, who was looking down at the table a frown still firmly on his face, dark hair floating over his head. 

"I'm going to the bathroom." His voice said sternly, trying to put on a firm tone as to not show emotion. Erwin nodded, and Levi stormed over to the men's washrooms, before going to the furthest stall and locking the door behind him. He closed the lid of the seat, and felt his heavy body sit down - numbers started to mutter from his lips as he tried to calm his anger down. He breathed in slowly, breathing out moments later. Tiles on the floor were counted, patterns on the wall followed - just anything to focus on to stop the anger brewing inside of him. Eventually, it began to disperse slowly.

But not as slowly as Levi had thought, because moments later he heard a man appear into the toilets, about ten minutes after he'd ran off. He was hoping it was just another customer until a tap sounded on his locked door.

“Levi? I know you’re in there. Please let me in.” Erwin said, calm.

“No.” Was all Levi replied with, unsure how else to politely tell Erwin to back off. He didn't want to kick off: not on his weekend away with Erwin, not ever, and he was unsure if he'd be able to keep his emotions straight just thinking of Marie.

“Levi, please understand what I mean. She's nothing to me, just company whilst I settle in.” Erwin was telling the truth: he had no feelings towards Marie, and he was sure she didn't either. They both needed someone when they bumped into one another and took advantage of the situation.

“She’s your ex, Erwin! I don’t want you hanging around with your ex!” moaned Levi, trying to blame the anger on that fact rather than she was involved with Nile. He was hoping the jealously angle might make Erwin understand it a bit more.

“Is that why you’re upset? Just because we dated when we were what, sixteen? I’m almost nineteen, that’s years ago now. She literally means nothing.” Erwin sighed, “Please let me in.”

Levi finally gave in, pulling himself together and opening the lock and letting the blonde man squeeze his way into the small cubicle. Levi went back to sit on the toilet seat, feet on the actual toilet lid and his backside on the flusher. The room was small, and the couple were squeezed close together, unable to properly move around. This made it perfect for Erwin to look at his boyfriend properly, before his strong facial expression dropped into something of sadness.

“I’m so lonely in Mitras, Levi. I’ve not really had the time to make many friends and there’s a lot of work. Frankly, I’m just using Marie as a bit of home comfort until I get to see you. She wanted to come along this weekend, but I said no, I want to just be with Levi. I believe she is too finding college quite hard, and we both just need someone in close proximity to keep us sane.

“I promise you she means nothing to me, Levi. Not like you. She has been my friend, or at least in my life, for a very long time and it is hard to forget people from the past easily, especially when they’re around you daily. If it truly bothers you, I will stop speaking to her completely. I value you way more than Marie.” Erwin looked gutted, heartbroken almost. Levi hadn't realised he'd found his new home so lonely or difficult, and if he did, Levi was sure to have not reacted in such a manner as he was currently.

Levi sighed, looking down and fiddling with the button on his shirt before looking up and meeting eye contact with his boyfriend.

“Well if I say anything now, I’ll just look like a selfish, jealous dick.” He smirked, before letting his face fall again. “Fine talk to her, but I never want to see her. Or hear about her.”

“Thank you for understanding Levi. I am sorry, I should have talked to you about it before hand, but I needed to explain this in person, in case it came across wrong over the telephone.” Erwin did look very apologetic too; it was clear that he was finding Mitras hard since his eyes had gotten dark bags around them, just in the few weeks he’d been here. Levi just shrugged, grabbing Erwin's hand loosely in his own, swinging it slightly and passing the blonde man a tiny smile.

Erwin took that as an invitation for forgiveness, and leaned down, ready to seal their argument with a kiss to make things better, and Levi was about to oblige until he realised where they were both sat, and how unromantic the entire setting was. Just before their lips met, a small hand pushed the broad chest away and a tut left someone's lips.

“I forgive you, but I'm not making up in a fucking toilet, Erwin.” Grumbled Levi, hopping down and squeezing around the man to unlock the bathroom door. Erwin just chuckled to himself, following behind Levi to the sink to wash their hands. Another man who was using the urinals pulled a questioning look at the couple as they appeared together, but Levi just frowned at him before wandering out of the dirty room. Erwin laughing even more under his breath at the shocked face once the bodies left the room. Before heading back to the table, Erwin twisted Levi's hips round and kissed him quickly on the lips.

Upon return, the meal was finished, and the bill paid for. Mr and Mrs Smith decided to get a taxi back to their hotel and so bid their goodbyes to the two boys, calling a cab and hopping in. An arranged time was discussed for the day after before-hand, and the taxi dotted off down the street. Erwin therefore took Levi's hand in his own and walked back to his flat holding one another.

It felt good, so very good, to be able to walk through streets without the worry of seeing someone from school or getting worried about passing comments. Whilst they had announced themselves as a couple at the last school dance, Levi still showed reluctance as to flaunting his relationship when at home, and so Erwin basked in the opportunity whilst they were in Mitras together.

The couple walked along in silence, before Levi interrupted the comforting noise, announcing his thoughts. “It’s been over a year since I was dared to kiss you.”

“Oh? I guess it has.” Erwin replied, pulling his boyfriend closer: whilst the kiss was lovely, the whole memory of the night hadn't been as pleasant as Erwin had always longed for.

“I thought it was the end of the world at the time.” He laughed a little, thinking of the good that came from it in the end. “But guess it didn’t turn out so bad.” Grey eyes looked up, practically sparkling at the taller man. Erwin smiled warmly.

“I agree. I never realised how much of a good kisser you’d be either, until that night.” Erwin smirked, and Levi nudged him in the side.

Silence pursued once again, before Levi's thoughts dared to voice. “So much has changed in a year.”  Erwin just stayed silent and nodded along, unsure of what to say. It was very true that so much had changed, some things for the better and some for the worse. But one thing he was glad for not changing was his relationship with Levi: whilst it apparent they needed to navigate their way around a long-distance relationship, the love was still alive. Just the thought made Erwin buzz.

Not soon after the flat came into view, and their steps sped up to bask in the warmth of the property. Coats and scarves were hung beside the door, and Erwin made a new pot of tea before joining Levi on the sofa. They further discussed how Hange was doing at college, and what kind of experiments they were focusing on. Levi then replied by talking about Petra, and how she was getting really close to her new group of friends who he sort of knew. As he tried to explain everything, Erwin listened along intently, focusing all his attention on his boyfriends’ voice, hoping the sounds would ring in his mind even after they'd gone home again.

Mike and Nanaba were discussed also, but neither Erwin or Levi had heard Mike's plans for engagement yet and assumed it wasn't due to happen for a while longer. Erwin tried to tell Levi about what Mike had said recently about how he was finding school, but the small yawns coming from the other man suggested that the discussion could be saved for a later date. The time was approaching midnight, and they'd both had an emotionally exhausting day.

Instead of continuing the discussion of his friends, Erwin suggested “Bedtime?” and Levi replied with a small nod before climbing from his boyfriend and walking to the bathroom, washing and getting ready for bed as quickly as he could in his tired state. As soon as he was done, the smaller body curled onto the other in the bed, soft sheets floating over the bodies.

The two joined together again that night, this time slower and with more passion. There was no scratching or biting, but instead they took one another in – kissing softly, touching delicately. They wrapped arms around each other, Erwin falling asleep soon after, soft snores escaping his mouth. Levi smiled at the noise, but his own snores wouldn't escape his body, and instead his mind wandered noting every sense he was feeling.

He couldn't stop thinking about how good it felt to be held when he was off to sleep again. It felt completely different to be held by his strong boyfriend, not drifting off to sleep in a cold, lonely bed. The hold was strong, protective. The natural scent of Erwin filled his nose, and Levi couldn't stop sniffing it in, before realising he was acting very much like Mike and he shifted uncomfortably at the thought.

Levi nudged himself under Erwin's chin, allowing the heavy head to flop onto his firm chest. Limbs engulfed one another, and eventually Levi's mind began to settle down: no thoughts of Marie, no trying to take everything in for the future, just letting him live in the present and enjoy the comforting presence around him.

Sadly, the morning appeared too quickly. The night together, the touches, the cuddles: it wasn't enough. Levi needed it every day, every second, and Erwin clearly felt the same way as he pulled his boyfriend closer to him breathing down his back. The sun had awoken the couple, shining aggressively through the gaps in the curtains and placing an orange blanket over the bed. Levi sighed contentedly at the warmth from both behind and in front of him.

Realising it would be the last time they'd wake up together for a while, Levi put up with the morning breath and gentle kisses were shared in bed. Both too sensitive and tired from the night before, they chose to just hold each other until the last possible moment where they'd have to get ready. Reluctantly Erwin pulled himself from the bed and walked to the kitchen to make toast, whilst Levi went straight to the bathroom and cleaned and clothed as quickly as he could, just so a few more seconds could be spent with his boyfriend.

Breakfast was eaten in the living room, both still touching. Levi had climbed to sit on Erwin's lap sideways, and they shared breakfast off the same plate, so they could just be together. It was very silent and quiet, neither wanting to break the romantic air between them both. But time flew too quickly as always, and Mr and Mrs Smith texted to say they were on their way disrupting them from their dreamy moment together.

"One day, Levi. We'll be able to do this every morning, wake up together every morning." Erwin whispered into the man's hair who was tucked against his body, stood at the doorway with bags in hand and coat over his body. Levi nodded, pulling himself tighter into the broad body. He liked that thought: he liked the idea that himself and Erwin would be able to spend every future early day like that.

The doorbell rang, causing their embrace to part and they both looked at each other with deeply loving eyes. Levi reached onto his tiptoes to kiss Erwin once more, before the door swung open and Mr and Mrs Smith appeared to say farewell to their son. The same actions from the meeting at the train station were performed: a firm yet gentle handshake from Mr Smith, a loving cuddle from his mother. Noting that Levi would want a private goodbye, they walked back down stairs to wait for him in the flat lobby. Once the coast was clear, the small man tiptoed and reached up, pressing another kiss on his boyfriend.

“I love you.” Levi mumbled into the soft lips.

“I love you so much, Levi. I’ll see you soon.” Erwin kissed him one more time, before pulling away and kissing the ring that wrapped around Levi’s wedding finger. He smiled, one more kiss placed, before Levi ducked out of the flat not wanting to show Erwin how hard he was finding saying bye. The blonde man rushed to the window to watch the smaller man disappear around the corner with his parents, a small tear shredding down his rosy cheeks. The loneliness began to consume him again, and Erwin walked straight to the sheets he'd shared with Levi breathing in the scent until he managed to drift back to sleep.

The train journey home was a lot less joyous than the train journey there: everyone in absolute silence, Levi pretending to be asleep, so he didn’t have to try and make conversation. His headphones sat in his ears in absolute silence, and the thoughts of the weekend with Erwin filled his head. He wasn't even thinking about Marie anymore, and just the loving moments he'd shared with the man he loved and trusted with his entire life. The thoughts and memories were already heavy, and he subtly texted Erwin under the counter the entire journey home, trying to cover the fact he was on the verge of crying. Shit, when did I become so emotional? I just miss him already.

The train pulled in, and the three walked to the car, Levi climbing to the back seat. His home approached fifteen minutes later, and he said the quickest thank you he could pull out before opening the door and dashing upstairs, straight past Kuchel and into his room. She looked worryingly back at her son, before walking down the stairs to speak to the other parents at the bottom who had got out from their car. But Levi didn't care, he was missing Erwin already.

Quickly he grabbed a shirt that Erwin kept at his as a spare top and wrapped himself in it. Erwin being over six foot and Levi being just over five foot, the material drowned him. But Levi loved it and curled up on his bed pulling the sleeves close to his nose to breathe the comforting scent in, before managing to drift off, eyes damp and cheeks rosy.

Kuchel came in to check on him later that night, but upon seeing her son curled with a red puffy face in the shirt, she just looked upon him with a solemn smile before gently closing the door and heading to bed herself.

Will this ever get easier? How am I going to cope for three years if it’s this hard after seeing him?

That night, Levi found himself having harsh, violent nightmares from his past – but instead of Farlan and Isabel being in the dream, they were replaced by Erwin burning in the house where he had once lived.

 

Chapter Text

After two visits to Mitras, Levi began to get into a steady routine with Art College, making time began to pass by quickly: far too busy to pay attention to the fact he was seeing and hearing less from his boyfriend. Far too busy to dwell on the fact Marie messaged Erwin none stop on his last visit to him. He saw Petra pretty much daily becoming even closer to the girl since everyone parted town, and soon settled nicely into her group of friends: Eld, Oluo, and Gunther. He soon became popular with the new gang, and it even managed to operate its own little nickname around University: The Levi Squad. Whilst Levi didn't much like the attention, he liked the fact that his new friends liked his company so much. And as time went on, he saw a lot more of the Levi Squad and a lot, lot less of the original group: he hardly even heard from Mike and Nanaba these days, and only messaged Hange occasionally. The High School days slowly fading into the background.

Despite Levi's growing popularity, and thus business, Erwin still managed to message Levi daily, and they skyped once or twice a week each time talking about how much he missed him, and Levi replying with warmth in his heart. However, Levi only replied occasionally as time went on mainly because coursework was overtaking his life, and also because he had spoken to Petra in depth about Marie always being around messaging him, calling him, or wanting him to go work with her and it aggravated him. Recently as his social life became crowded, he released how hard it was to have a long distance partner.

The group parting ways came quickly but unnoticed by almost everyone - the original formation slowly departing to make room for new friends from Colleges. It was hard to keep friendships strong when you hardly saw the people involved, and even harder to keep relationships sturdy. Which is why Petra had called it off with Hange just a month into College, the week after Levi returned from his first visit to Erwin. She was finding it too hard to be with Hange who was miles away. At first the break up was heavy on the girl, and she opted to moving in with Levi just for company that week which Levi permitted. From what Erwin had said, Hange didn't take it too badly and expected it to happen all along despite their claims of love for the girl. Levi suspected they did take it hard, but were too focused on their degree to give it too much attention.

As time passed since the break up, Petra became her old self again and went out a lot more often with her new friends. Oluo, who clearly had fancied her since the start, got the courage to ask Petra out on a few dates which she obliged. At first it was an outlet of feelings of Hange, but as time progressed she started to really enjoy Oluo and his company, leading to them finally seeing each other. Levi wasn't particularly fond of her new boyfriend, since he seemed to copy Levi in everything he did from the way he spoke to the way he dressed. However, if the man made Petra happy, then he was fine to cope with him being around. He was gutted that a once strong relationship had ended, but mostly happy that they were both content in their new lives. But Levi couldn't help compare their old relationship to his and Erwin's, worried the distance would break them down too, soon.

Levi had called Hange weekly after the break up to check how they were doing, but each time they seemed content and happy enough just putting every inch of free time into their studies. He had suspected as much, but still wanted to offer his hand should they need it. After all, they had done that through his entire high school career. About three weeks after the break up Hange told Levi about their new boyfriend, a cute and loyal guy named Moblit. He did science with Hange, and from what Erwin had told him, followed them around like a little dog helping with experiments and stopping Hange putting themselves in too much danger. Just what Hange needed.

Judging by recent events, Levi and Erwin were one of the only couples to stick together despite the distance. Marie, surprise surprise, had called it off with Nile after Levi had first left his visit from Erwin too, around the same time as Petra and Hange. Apparently Nile wasn't enjoying his course at University and instead opted to go straight into work with his father, slowly working his way to the top instead. Marie said she wanted to live the proper student life, rather than being tied down so early and called it off with him. This ticked Levi off, as it was evident she broke up with Nile because she fancied Erwin. Judging by the texts and messages she'd sent Erwin, she was trying to get back into his pants. Erwin tried to say that no, she was just lonely. But Levi knew that was bullshit.

Even after expressing his discomfort with the whole situation, many a time he called Erwin on Skype Marie would be round, watching television or trying to study at his dining table. And after the first few times, Levi cut off refusing to talk to his boyfriend when she was there. Once he tried to strip tease Erwin with him watching through the screen, but Marie just snorted and walked into the bathroom to give Erwin peace whilst he watched his boyfriend: not the reaction that Levi was hoping for. After advice from Petra, Levi spoke to Erwin again about how unhappy he was with Marie being around him all the time, but Erwin just said they were friends now and everything was platonic. As much as Levi wanted to believe the entire comment, and even though Levi trusted Erwin with his entire life, he couldn't help but not trust Marie. Not one bit at all.

To try and take his mind off the whole situation, and how annoying it was that Erwin and Marie were now "friends", Levi decided to find himself a part time job somewhere clean enough. According to the therapist, Levi's mental health had drastically improved since the start of college, and his panic attacks were few and far between: a much needed flood of relief for Kuchel. So the small man got himself a job at a local book shop, working stocking shelves or manning the tills: it was nice to have something to do to earn his own money instead of borrowing his mother's, and nice to have something to do alongside college and seeing his friends. However, it made him extremely tired, often heading to bed early.

As Levi walked out of his last shift of the week, eyes drooping and body heavy with exhaustion, his phone started ringing and a big picture of Erwin flashed on the screen. Sighing quietly, he picked up his phone.

“Hello?”

“Levi it’s me! How are you?”

“Hi Erwin, yeah good just super tired. Just finished work.”

“Have a good day? I’m glad you’re good. If you're tired, maybe try head for an early night.”

“It was okay, just busy. Glad it's finished. I can't go to bed early, told Petra I'd go out with Oluo, her, and Eld.”

“How come no Gunther? I thought he always hung out with you all. I’ve just got a lot of work to do tonight for a lecture tomorrow, nothing exciting I’m afraid.” It was sweet how much Erwin had taken a new found interest into Levi's life, ensuring he knew the names of his new friends.

“Busy, I guess.” Levi stifled a yawn.

“What are you four doing?”

“I think we’re off to the cinema, hopefully I won't fall asleep.”

Erwin paused for a second, before continuing. Levi could sense something was bothering him, but was in a rush so he couldn’t really pester him about it now. “That’ll be nice.”

“Yeah.”

Silence filled the line and Levi frowned as a loud bing sounded in his ear and a text came through.

“One second Erwin just got a text.”

He put his boyfriend on hold and read the message from Eld, which was filled with annoying emoji’s that made Levi furrow his brows but soften them when he realised what the message was.

17:34: Levi :D it’s me : -) I’m gonna come pick you up on the way to the cinema! We’re meeting O and P there cos they’ve gone for food. That okay? You want any sweets or anything? I’ll pick us them up 8-) xxxxx

17:35: I need a nap first. But thanks.

17:35: No need to be so harsh in your texts grumpy : -( I’ll text you on my way :D it's five now, so I'll come at eight so you have plenty of time. xxxxx

Levi quickly closed the texting window and pulled the phone back to his ear to talk more to Erwin, who he had left waiting for a while and would probably be getting frustrated with him at this rate.

“Sorry Erwin I’m here.”

“So you are. You don’t need to say sorry, anyway I have some good news.”

“Oh, what?” 

“I’m coming home on Tuesday for my birthday and staying for one night! We have a few reading days at University so I thought we could all get together for my birthday? Maybe get hold of Mike and Nanaba somehow?”

“That’s well good, Erwin! Yeah, maybe try call them they haven’t spoken to me and Petra in about a month. Is Hange coming?” His heart beat a bit quicker at the thought of seeing his boyfriend, finally, in a place her felt comfortable. With no Marie. Levi originally had just planned to see Erwin on Bonfire Night for a family gathering at the Smith's household, and was planning to celebrate his birthday with him then, so finding out he'd get to see him earlier was thrilling.

“Hange can’t come sadly, they have a science thing with Moblit. I was thinking of bringing someone else with me, as long as it’s okay with you?”

“Who is it?” Levi knew he didn’t need to ask, there was only one other person who seemed prominent in Erwin’s college life. His heart fell. 

“Marie. Just, she wants to come home too. She shouldn’t be with us on my birthday, but just in the car there and back and probably would pop round to say hi. I think she's feeling rather homesick and I just felt bad when she asked, I'm so sorry. I know you two don't meet eye to eye, although I do believe she wants to patch things up with you all.”

Anger boiled inside the smaller man: the one thing he could do with is Marie not being there when he was being reunited with his boyfriend, especially after the way she selfishly took Erwin's time up the last two visits. Especially because she was the cause of Levi and Erwin's first proper fall out, and now she was planning to steal him away from Levi yet again. The thought of her constant texts, her face in the background of calls, her endless missed phonecalls - she was always around Erwin, even if not physically, and that thought sickened Levi. He sneered and scowled through the phone, despite knowing that Erwin wouldn't be able to see his unimpressed grimace.

Levi would never tell Erwin, but the true reason he hated Marie despite the alcohol spike was the fact she was an ex-partner of Erwin, his ex-girlfriend. And Levi got jealous, possessive, obsessive easily. He didn't like the thought of Marie being in Erwin's life in such a romantic way before himself, he didn't like that she was still hovering in the picture. Ex's were meant to go away when the relationship ended, not cling on like a leach. 

After their first fight about Marie when Erwin kept texting her back out of politeness, Levi took an early train home to get away from Mitras and the situation evolving before his eyes. He'd gone home in a strop, refusing to talk to his boyfriend when he believed he was being so irrational. However, Erwin's heart ached at the thought of hurting the one he loved, and got a large bouquet of flowers delievered to Levi's address. And while albeit the gesture was overly cheesy and romantic, making Levi cringe, he really appreciated it and forgave the blonde man for his actions. Since then, Erwin hadn't spoken of Marie at all. Levi had hoped originally it was the end of their friendship until she was still appearing in the background.

Eventually, the cold phone pressed firmly against his ear shook him back into reality, replying to his boyfriend with a tut.

“Your birthday. Whatever.”

“No Levi, I want to put you first. If it’s not okay, say so.”

“I said fine, fucks sake!” Levi growled, frowning as he picked up his pace to get home and ready, wanting the conversation to end. Erwin could tell it wasn't fine, and Levi could hear Erwin sighing down the line. It wasn't the first time Levi had gotten angry with Erwin over the phone, and recent conversations had often ended with a bit of a voice raise or a bit of a strop recently, not because of lack of love, but because they were both struggling with the distance and separation but Levi was too stubborn to talk about his feelings. 

“Okay, Levi. Well I’ll go now anyway, I have a lot of reading to do. I’ll text you later?”

“If you want.” His hand was shaking as his phone pressed even harder to his side.

“I miss you.”

“Yeah.” Levi said.

“I love you, Levi.”

“Thanks.” Levi said, hanging up the phone in annoyance. What the fuck does Erwin think he’s doing suggesting bringing Marie on his birthday? His first visit home and he's choosing to spend it with the girl who steals all his time in Mitras. 

As soon as Levi walked into the house, he slammed the door and went straight to the bathroom, slamming that door too. Aggressively the clothes were ripped off his body and uncharacteristically thrown onto the floor, his eyes watering with anger. The water of the shower began, and he sunk under the hot droplets, drowning himself in the sound of the pellets of heat splattering on his skin. Managing to calm down under the soothing drips, Levi climbed out of the shower and wrapped himself in the towel, picking his uniform up and neatening it before heading to his bedroom.

The door this time was closed gently, and Levi laid himself down on his bed trying to nap before his late night out. However, the anger and thoughts of the brunette floated in his mind, distracting him from the task at hand. Instead, he picked his outfit out for the cinema and got ready slowly, before making a strong coffee and sitting in the living room waiting patiently for Eld to arrive for him.

Thankfully time passed quickly, and before Levi even realised it had reached ten to the hour, pulling Levi out of his slumped position on the sofa and prompting him to collect his phone, wallet, and keys. Several texts had come through from Erwin, but he pushed them to the side in order to reply to his more modern blonde friend who had informed him that he was on his way. Just in time, Levi locked up the flat and walked down the stairs, met with a tall man grinning enthusiastically. 

At first, Levi envisioned Eld as Erwin, mistakenly due to the blonde hair and cheeky smile, tall and lean body. However, it came to realisation as he approached and the man was a few inches smaller and stressed in pale skinny jeans, a baggy blouse, and a vintage blazer: something that his boyfriend would never wear. Eld's hair was tied up neatly in a bun at the back of his head, and facial hair had slowly begun to grow along his face making him appear a lot older than eighteen. 

“You ready, Levi?” Eld asked as Levi reached the bottom of the stairs and began to approach the man.

“Yeah.” He responded, ducking into the passenger seat and belting himself in. Eld took his place in the drivers seat, before setting the ignition going and speeding off down the street. Oluo had suggested that the four attended a different cinema that evening, one in the city centre where the seats were velvet sofa's and the popcorn was served in a bowl rather than a cardboard box. The tickets were more expensive, but everyone thought it would be a nice change and a bit of a treat. Levi was glad for it, especially after yet another small argument with Erwin on the phone. 

Eld noticed Levi's discomfort and that the scowl on his face was harsher than usual. In a way of deterring the conversation, when they reached red lights he reached into the side of his door and pulled out a brown paper bag, smiling at Levi as he began to speak.

“I know you said you didn’t want sweets, but I bought you some anyway just in case. They’re just some hard boiled sweets but they’re all wrapped up individually so they’re clean, cos I didn’t think you’d want them if they were touched especially in a pick and mix shop.”

Levi could tell that Eld knew something was wrong, but appreciated that he wasn't asking or probing for answers.

“I didn't need them, but thanks.” Levi replied, as he took one out of the packet and popped it into his mouth trying not to show his contented face as he sucked on the sweet - he loved sweets, especially hard boiled ones. But Levi being Levi didn't want to make his new friend feel too proud of himself. Only Erwin had guessed this before, and ended up knowing exactly the best things that Levi would want to eat, as though they were telepathic. 

The rest of the car journey was Eld passing jokes and smiles, trying to help remove the scowl on Levi's face, and eventually it worked as he slowly began to forget about the argument with Erwin, and focus more on the night in front of him. The caffeine from the coffee Levi drank at home had given him a new sort of buzz, and he was slowly beginning to feel much more awake and alive, slowly replying to Eld's general conversation. It was then that Levi decided he liked Eld the best out of his new friends. Quick enough, the car pulled into a parking space by the cinema entrance, and they were greeted by Petra and Oluo, who were joined at the hip with their arms wrapped around one another. Levi hadn't seen his best friend this smiley or content since she dated Hange before, and he felt a swell of pride in his stomach.

They all bought the popcorn and took their seats on the fancy sofas: Eld and Levi together, Petra and Oluo. As soon as the screen lit and the film began to roll, Petra had climbed into Oluo's lap and began to snuggle up to him, which eventually led to kissing. Eld smiled contentedly at his friends, then at Levi with a bit of a smirk. Levi swore he saw a blush in the other man's cheek, but tried to ignore it and focus on the film in front of him, nibbling away at popcorn and hard boiled sweets up until the end when the screen ran with the credits. Oluo and Petra still consuming each other; it reminded Levi of the day he went to the cinema with Hange and Petra, and Erwin. That was the day he and Erwin shared their first true, proper and unforced kiss. His heart began to ache, wishing that he hadn't had a petty argument with the love of his life: wishing that he was sat sharing this one off experience in a new cinema with Erwin.

Once the credits had finished, Eld decided it was best that the couple unlocked lips and broke them apart by poking Petra in the side. She looked totally humiliated, before starting to giggle. The giggle developed into a nervous laugh, catching Oluo and Eld too. Soon enough all four were laughing (well, to an extent. Levi just turned his lips up slightly) before they left the cinema and headed to the car. 

Eld agreed to drive everyone home since it had gotten quite late, and dropped Petra and Oluo at her house first. Originally Oluo was meant to be going home, but Petra's mum had said it was okay for him to stay over. Levi thought it was mainly because she was finally seeing her daughter properly move on, and wanted to help with the progress. Either way, he tried not to think about it, not particularly wanting to think of his best friend having sex with their new boyfriend.

Soon enough the small car pulled up outside Levi's flat. The lights were still on in the kitchen, suggesting that Kuchel must still be up despite it being almost midnight. Levi sighed inwardly: he knew she'd have been waiting for him to get home, being the very protective mother that she was. He was pulled away from his own thoughts as Eld began to speak.

“Tonight was great.” Eld said, "I'm glad you seemed to perk up a bit."

“I'm fine. But yeah, it was good.” Levi replied as politely as he could, trying not to think about the reason why he wasn't in a good mood in the first place.

“Levi, if you ever need anyone to talk to...” Eld began, before looking down and fiddling with his thumbs slightly, a red flow appearing on his cheeks. “Look, if you and Erwin are finding long distance hard I get it. I'm happy to talk to you about things.” He paused again, looking anxiously at Levi who had a very permanent scowl on his face now, "I'm just assuming that might be why you weren't in a good mood earlier."

Levi furrowed his brows more, annoyed that this new friend was assuming his feelings for him despite being completely right. He wasn't sure how to reply, so just snapped at him instead. "I'm fine. We're fine."

Eld looked taken aback by the sudden aggression, causing Levi to correct the tone of his voice and readdress the statement at hand. "Sorry. Just, we're okay."

"It's okay, Levi. As long as you're okay and enjoyed tonight. I just really care about you."

“Eld, don't.” Levi sighed, looking towards his friend with a softened face. He knew where this was going, he had a feeling all along but didn't really want to say anything about it, and was sort of hoping it would never be brought up.

“I know I have no chance with Erwin in the picture or anything but, I don't know. I just wanted you to know."

He looked up at Levi with a bashful smile, his face becoming bright red. Levi ran one hand through his hair, closing his eyes softly for a second before reopening them. He was having enough problems in his own relationship, finding it hard enough as it was at the moment, without another confession knowing that one of the people in his life to support him actually fancied him. But he didn't want his new friendship or found respect to disintegrate, so he just looked up at Eld and gave a kind smile, causing the other man to smile back kindly. 

“Thanks for the lift, Eld. See you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, not a problem. I’ll see you tomorrow Levi!” 

Without another glance or saying another word, Levi undid his seat belt and climbed from the car that was beginning to feel slightly claustrophobic. He wasn't good with his own feelings, never mind somebody else. Sighing, his body stumbled up the stairs and unlocked the front door to a smiling Kuchel, sat comfortably on the sofa wrapped in a dressing gown. She looked up as soon as the door sounded.

"Good night, Levi?" She asked, as kindly as ever.

"Yeah. Not bad. I'm tired though, so I'll speak tomorrow." At that the smaller man walked straight to the bathroom and had another shower, hoping the words that Eld had said would wash away with the water. It did make him feel cleaner than before, but the words still lingered. Before leaving the steamed room, he scanned through his phone once more. There were even more new texts from Erwin apologising, wanting to ring him. The last one he received was saying good night. As he was about to close his phone, it binged again in his hands showing a text from Eld; but he couldn't deal with that right now, so the technology was switched off as he carried it into his bedroom and hid it in a drawer.

Sighing, he got into pajamas and tucked himself safely under the comfort of his quilt. Safely in a place away from any feelings: Erwin, Eld. Safely away from romance, a place where he could close his eyes and feel nothing but himself. Well so he thought, however images of Erwin wouldn't leave his mind. It started with Erwin kissing him on his first date, then he became the third person seeing Erwin kissing Marie. Tossing and turning, Levi tried to get the image out of his mind. Eventually it drifted to Eld, the tall blushing man sat beside him in the cinema. Soon enough, he was imaging himself kissing him instead. He frowned, but the imagine wouldn't escape and Levi found himself falling asleep to the thought of being held in another man's arms.

*****

The week after the cinema went really quickly, mainly because Levi's week was consumed with either work or studying. He'd managed to see quite a lot of Petra that week, both of them working together in the local library as an escape from other students. He hadn't bothered to tell her about Eld's confession, and instead focused all his attention on the fact that Erwin was coming round in just a few days. The day after the cinema trip, Levi called Erwin and talked everything through with him, both apologising for their childish nature. Erwin truly believed that they had properly made up, but Levi was waiting for his actual birthday to see if Marie would stick to her word and, crassly, fuck off.

The plan for Erwin's birthday was to get the group together and gather in the milkshake bar they'd often gone to throughout High School, mainly because it was one of Erwin's favourite placed. Levi called into the bar a day before Tuesday to ask if they could pop some decorations and cake in there, with a table of presents for Erwin. The staff agreed, and offered to close it to the general public for the afternoon so they could have a proper reunion with their friend since their loyal custom over the years. Gratefully, Levi accepted their offer and prepared everything Tuesday lunchtime ready for Erwin’s return.

Levi was the first one there, Petra tagging along to help him with the decorations. Once he was content the cake looked nice, the food was displayed on the table neatly and the gifts were wrapped to his standards, all that was left to do was wait. Nanaba and Mike showed up soon after, carrying a card and some more food for the gathering. It was strange how different everyone looked, Levi noting that Mike had yet again grown even taller, and Nanaba had also grown with her boyfriend. Because of the time apart, the time passed quickly as they engaged in conversation about what they'd been up to, and the official plan of the meeting. Once everything was discussed, Mike offered an apology about the fact that they'd not spoken much since they all parted ways, mainly because he was either at work or studying: but Levi understood, it was the same for him. Once a silence filled the group, Nanaba decided to perk up and begin asking more questions. 

“Is Hange coming?” Nanaba looked worriedly towards Petra, concerned for her friends attitude to the other after the break up.

“No, they’re too busy apparently.” Levi grumbled, crossing his arms and looking less than impressed with the absence of his friend.

“Ah, I see.” Nanaba replied with a soft smile. "That's a shame."

“Is he coming alone then?” Mike chipped in.

“Nope. Bringing Marie, believe it or not.”

“Marie?” Mike asked with an unusual crisp in his tone, looking towards Nan and scowling at hearing the name, suggesting he knew something that Levi didn’t. The smaller man caught onto this and looked towards his friend.

“And what is that face for?”

“Nothing, nothing Levi it’s fine. Look, he’ll be here in a minute we better get ready.” Mike stuttered out, looking around the cafe for anything to use as a distraction. 

Levi, annoyed that the conversation was brushed aside, went to light the candles on the cake and turn the lights out ready for his boyfriend’s appearance not wanting to ruin the grand surprise. He made a mental note to try to talk to Mike later if he got the chance, and if not he'd just message him to find out what the tone was all about. Just as the light switch went out, the tall blonde man walked into the shop with Marie following closely behind him. Levi's face already began to frown, but he tried to straighten it out so as to not ruin it for his boyfriend.

Immediately, singing erupted at the man that walked in, and Marie looking a bit startled tried to join in singing along, but Levi just kept scowling at her and giving her a very unimpressed look. She burrowed back into herself, clearing sensing how unwelcome she was in the room. Mike and Nanaba also had their eyes drawn to her, not glancing at Erwin at all. 

Levi moved his small body over to his boyfriend and wrapped his arms around the large body, Erwin repeating the action. He breathed in the warmth scent a few times, trying to stabilize his feelings after the last few meetings and phone calls: he wanted to fall into Erwin, for everything to be okay as it usually was when they made contact. But the pit at the bottom of his stomach wasn't filling as it usually did. Trying to pull his thoughts away from the sadness, he looked up and kissed his boyfriend delicately. "Happy birthday Erwin."

Petra took that as he cue to jump over to the blonde man, Levi pulling away just in time as she wrapped her arms around him. “Happy birthday Erwin!” Mike and Nanaba followed after, too patting him on the back and giving a quick squeeze before the man could walk back over to his boyfriend, who was now stood cleaning against the wall, glancing through the corner of his eye at Marie who was still hovering. Still here, despite the fact she was going to leave straight away. 

It was only when he could sense Erwin's body moving towards him that he averted his gaze, looking up into them familiar blue eyes that made him lose his thoughts. But this time, the thoughts stayed and he couldn't melt like he usually did: too angry, too tense. “I’ve missed you so much Levi.” He whispered, kissing his cheek as he straightened his back up.

“I missed you too.” Levi replied, trying to force himself to believe it, but even seeing him in front of him now just struck as false because Marie was still hovering in the background behind him, closely too. He realised she had moved forward once Erwin also moved from his original position. He wanted his full attention to be on his boyfriend, and the fact that he was finally home. But he couldn't find himself doing it. 

“Thank you for all of this. This is amazing.” Erwin said a lot louder this time, announcing it to everyone in the room. Mike beckoned him to sit down at the table where he opened his presents from friends: new stationery for University, a new game for his console, some vouchers. Levi had bought him a new aftershave that he knew he liked, a new shirt, and some history books that he was after. (As it wasn’t his big eighteenth this year, no one decided to go too over the top with gifts). He watched his boyfriend open the gifts with his usual essence of contentment and love, but Levi's attention was focused on her: the unwelcome presence in the room. She noted this, smirking slightly at Levi when his gifts were placed neatly back in the pile on the table.

“Thank you so much, everyone.” He said, after each gift, and leant to put a kiss on Levi’s lips again. Noticing that Marie was smirking towards him, Levi took this opportunity to make her feel even more unwelcome, even more uncomfortable. He climbed into his boyfriends lap and snuggled down, burying his face into his neck and kissing him causing Erwin to blush slightly at the very unusual behaviour coming from the smaller man. Marie's blood began to boil as she watched with envy at Levi. 

“Tell them what I got you, Erwin.” Her peevish voice came from behind, trying to drain the attention back to her. Petra looked at Levi and rolled her eyes in an over the top manner, suggesting her annoyance of the whole situation too. 

“Oh yes, of course. Marie is taking me out to dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant tomorrow evening when we’re back in Mitras. How exciting is that?” Enthusiastically he smiled at Marie, and she smiled back smugly, eyes meeting Levi’s.

“Fucking wow. What do you want? A medal?” Levi snorted sarcastically, and the whole room fell into a very uncomfortable air. Erwin's eyes looked angry at first at the rude comment, before they softened to something else; something Levi could only assume to be disappointment in his behaviour. But Levi didn't care, and instead just climbed off his boyfriend to side beside Petra again. But soon enough, the petite ginger stood up.

“How about some milkshakes?” She asked, trying to create a distraction. Everyone responded saying that yes, they'd love a milkshake. Well, everyone except the two creating all the tension in the room.  As soon as she moved from the table, Mike began to try and talk to Marie to change the subject and distract her from Levi. Erwin took this as an opportunity to lean down and whisper into his boyfriends ear. "Levi, is everything okay?"

"She's still fucking here." He grumbled quietly back, folding his arms over his chest.

"I know, Levi. I'm sorry. I thought she'd get straight off." Erwin replied, placing a soft kiss on Levi's cheek. The soft of kiss that used to fix everything, but now it just felt hollow and forced. Noting that Levi didn't seem his self, Erwin desperately wanted to get him to himself to make everything better again: to make love, to enjoy each other's bodies. He just needed to be close to him again, which was the main reason he'd come home in the first place. Seeing everyone else was just a spare front to cover the fact that he was trying to get his relationship on a sturdy path again.

“After this milkshake I think me and Levi are just going to head to mine. What are your plans, everyone?” Erwin announced, clearly trying to show to Levi that Marie was definitely heading home after this, and he was going to have him to himself.

“Me and Nan are going home, I think. Petra was saying something about heading out with Oluo after? I think that’s her new boyfriend.” Mike replied.

“I’m going to see my parents.” Marie said, “Will you still drop me home please, Erwin?” Her voice whined: it shot right through Levi, she sounded like a petulant brat.

Erwin just nodded in response to her question, not wanting to communicate with her anymore in front of Levi, not wanting to ruin his birthday even more than it already was. It was then that Levi shuffled back into his boyfriend, wrapping possessive arms around his neck and kissing him all over – Marie’s icy glare just looked on as the action happened. But Erwin didn’t seem to notice, and just bathed in his boyfriends attention instead: this is what we need.

Petra returned to the table with the milkshakes and handed them out to each person, and took charge of the conversation, slowly creating a much more pleasant tone talking about things at college, and she told them all about her new boyfriend with a blush on her face the entire time. She had also made sure to leave Marie completely out of the conversation, mainly for the benefit of her best friend - who kept nudging her to look towards Marie, looking lost and left out. Levi's spirits slowly lifted.  

After another few hours sat around the table, everyone decided it was best to head home as it now was approaching almost seven at night: Marie still there, which Levi couldn't understand since she had barely said a word the entire time and just sat close to Erwin, but not as close as Levi was. He'd also noted that Erwin too had stopped talking to her properly, and instead was putting his full attention on his old friends making Levi extremely happy. Agreeing to leave, people stood up from the table and thanked the bar staff for the quiet afternoon, walking to cars and parting ways. Erwin, Levi, and Marie headed to the formers car and sat in it, Levi in the front seat.

The vehicle remained silent until Marie was dropped home; she thanked him quietly for the lift and Erwin replied quickly that he’d come and collect her in the morning to take her back to Mitras, his eyes remaining on the road the entire time he spoke despite the car not moving. In the morning, Mitras University had its first mock exams to sit, and so they would have to be back no later than ten which meant an early night for everyone, and an even earlier rise. 

Levi and Erwin enjoyed the rest of the car ride together, still in silence but with a more comfortable air now that the tension had left with Marie. Levi was still bothered deeply about the fact she had come in the first place, and about the face that Mike had passed to Nan once the name was mentioned, but he wanted to forget about that for the rest of the day and just enjoy his evening with his long distance boyfriend, rather than making it all into another big argument because of her.

The door swung open, and Erwin was greeted warmly from his family, as was Levi. They sat together for a while in the living area, where Erwin received the new bookcase for his flat gratefully, giving both his parents a loving squeeze. However, he could sense that Levi wanted some alone time with him and so told his parents that they were heading to bed, which they just smiled at before the couple left the room. Levi was practically half way up the stairs before Erwin even finished saying goodnight. 

Instead of joining Erwin straight away in bed, the usual nighttime routine had to be fulfilled: Levi enjoyed the familiar shower, washing in the familiar body wash. He enjoyed drying in towels that smelt of home, climbing into his pajamas he kept at Erwin's, and walking back into the room putting all his attention on how everything felt like home rather than letting his mind wander to Marie again. Just focus on Erwin, just now. We can talk in the morning

“Levi, is everything okay?” Erwin asked, as Levi came back from the bathroom in his nightwear, his phone in hand and glasses on face. Before replying, he climbed into the covers and sat up besides his boyfriend.

“Yeah, why?”

“I'm just concerned about how today panned out. I am truly sorry about Marie staying the entire time, she told me she'd be getting off.” Erwin looked concerned, and slightly worried about Levi’s possible response. Levi sighed quietly, not wanting to go into it on his birthday, and instead pushed it aside.

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry I brought her, Levi.” He replied, kissing his head.

“Its fine we can talk about her tomorrow, I’m tired now. I've had enough of that topic for today.”

“That’s fine, Levi.” Erwin replied, as he reached over to the switch on the wall and turned the light off, snuggling into the covers. “Thank you again for my gifts. I’m so glad I got to come home to visit you on my birthday. And now I'm lucky enough to fall asleep with the man I love. The man I love with my entire heart, and always will.”

Levi noticed that Erwin had spoken about his love often recently, and always in the same way: it was like a mantra, like he had to keep saying it to believe it, like he had to keep saying it to keep Levi believing in him. But again, for the benefit of the loving evening ahead, Levi pushed the thought to the side and melted into Erwin as strong arms wrapped around him. 

“Me too Erwin. I have really, really missed you.” The warmth of his love engulfed Levi, making him feel safe and protected again for the first time in a while. He never realised how much he needed the loving arms to surround him until they met again in that touch; he never realised how much he missed Erwin's considerate nature until it was there, checking he was okay and kissing him softly when he needed it. 

Overwhelmed with the heat he was feeling, Levi climbed on top of his boyfriend in the bed, kissing him all over - gently at first, before he began to feel needy and wanting. Erwin responded to the actions with the same amount of pressure, following Levi's suggestive nature. He kissed his cheeks, lips, neck, ears. He slowly began to make his way down the large body before climbing back up, locking lips. The kisses started gentle, and the whole act remained as soft and loving. Erwin was extremely tender, and even as Levi tried to make it rough, it was clear the blonde wanted to demonstrate his love for Levi, kissing every inch of his body, taking care with him, loving him. They came together, collapsing into a pleasant heap of love and warmth.

They hadn’t had the needy, aggressive sex since the first time they met up at Mitras. Instead, Erwin always took the opportunity to ensure Levi knew and felt how much he was treasured and valued, and Levi really loved it. He loved feeling so close to Erwin after being apart for so long, and recently he loved the fact that it was him getting to soft touches rather than Marie.

After, the couple snuggled together in bed and Levi thought that everything might be alright between them after all, as long as Marie didn’t get in the way anymore. Deciding that everything would be alright in the morning, the thoughts of Marie were put to bed as Levi himself fell into slumber - sleeping soundly in the arms he felt so very safe in.

I just need to talk to Erwin tomorrow. I trust him with my entire life.

Chapter Text

The sun shining through the window awoke Erwin in the way that he was so familiar to at home, the crisp autumnal air sending a shiver throughout his body as he stretched, waking himself up even more. But as soon as his limbs returned under the cover, he felt nothing but warmth, his loving boyfriend curled up beside him looking peaceful; the only time that Levi ever truly looked at harmony with himself was when he was fast asleep. But Erwin wanted to spend as much time with his boyfriend as possibly before leaving to head home soon and placed a gentle kiss on the tip of Levi’s pointy nose.

The smaller man squirmed and shuffled his nose, trying to get rid of the thing that was causing it to tickle making a content Erwin huff in laughter slightly. Levi slowly managed to peel his eyes open, rubbing at his eyes with a scowl. He still hated mornings, even when they meant waking up to Erwin.

But once the pleasantries of seeing the handsome man beside him, Levi’s mind flew back to the memory of why he was grumpy yesterday. The memory of the gift that she’d bought Erwin, but more importantly the memory of the scowl Mike pulled towards Nanaba at the mention of her name: a scowl that Levi rarely saw on the man, despite being friends for so many years.

Levi didn’t want to talk about it straight away and was hoping the harsh feelings wouldn’t linger for long. He shuffled closer to his partner, letting Erwin embrace him in a loving cuddle for a while. Usually Levi wasn’t this clingy on a morning, however he knew that once they both got up Erwin would have to begin getting ready for the journey home almost right away, especially since he had an exam that afternoon.

They held each other for as long as feasibly possible, before Levi detached himself and wordlessly slumped to the bathroom. He felt groggy and tired from the night before, and the thought of Marie still hadn’t left his thoughts. His small body climbed under the hot water as he thoroughly scrubbed his entire body, trying to scrub the thought of her out with it: but it wouldn’t leave. Sighing, Levi climbed out and brushed his teeth quickly before getting dried. I’ll have to talk to him now, otherwise it’ll just eat away at me.

The bathroom door unlocked as the small man finished tying the rope around the dressing gown he kept at Erwin’s. The latter was nowhere to be seen in his room, so Levi sat down on the sofa in the living space waiting patiently for Erwin to reappear, which he did soon after Levi managed to begin to collect his thoughts on how to approach the topic.

“Good morning, Levi. All showered?” Erwin asked kindly, putting a tray down on the table with two croissants and a pot of tea for two. His voice was gentle, soft, and soothing. Levi always felt himself melting into it, however he needed to focus on the task at hand: he needed to address his annoyance with Marie before they could finally enjoy the morning together.

In response to Erwin’s question, Levi nodded before picking up a steaming hot croissant, taking a small bite, and placing it neatly on the plate before him. Erwin took this opportunity to sit opposite his boyfriend, pouring tea into the cups and saucers on the tray. Levi sighed.

“So, I’m pissed off about Marie.” Levi mumbled out aggressively, his previous plans of starting the conversation slipping from his tongue. He couldn’t be bothered trying to speak like Erwin: he knew that just being crass and honest was the best way to approach things. Levi was never that good with words, anyway.

“I’m truly sorry, Levi. I honestly didn’t think she’d hang around, I thought I’d just drop her off and she’d head off straight home once I got to the party.” There was a slight wobble in his voice, Levi noted. Something that usually calm and collect Erwin did not possess. However, Levi wasn’t buying it.

“I don’t just give a shit about the fact she stayed. What was with her funny looks at me the entire time?” He snapped, glaring towards Erwin. The last thing Levi wanted to do was get overly annoyed, however Erwin wasn’t understanding the whole reason behind the conversation: it wasn’t just about the day prior.

“I didn’t notice any funny looks, Levi.” Erwin’s brows furrowed.

Levi wafted his arms around as if to brush his boyfriends’ sentence away: he didn’t want the discussion to become a petty back and forth debate about whether they saw something or not. “Yeah whatever.” Pausing, his thoughts gathered again and before Erwin could speak, he butted in, “Anyway, I mentioned it to Mike that she was coming to your party thing, and he pulled this facetowards Nanaba like they knew something I didn’t. So, do they? I know you’ve spoken to Mike in the last few months, I’m not stupid.”

Erwin just looked on at Levi with utter confusion displayed on his face, but Levi knew that he was just stalling, trying to think of something witty and clever to say in response to Levi. But now was not a time for clever words, or calm tones. Levi was getting wound up and completely ready to snap. “And what’s with her stupid present anyway?”

“I’m not sure why she’d bought me that large present, Levi. And I also do not know what face you’re on about from Mike.”

Levi rolled his eyes, “Right. Erwin Smith I’ve known you for over ten years, I know when you’re lying.”

“I’m not, Levi.” He paused, looking down exasperated. “It’s just. God, I don’t know.” Sentence by sentence Erwin voice was showing signs of weakness, showing signs of secrets. And Levi noticed this, knowing Erwin far too well to be able to see when he was hiding something. The thought just aggravated Levi.

“Fucking tell me Erwin. Don’t you darelie to me.” Levi said, raising his voice slightly. His eyes had grown wider in both shock and anger, his accent showing through more like it usually did when he was angry. However, in his mind Levi kept repeating to himself that it wouldn’t be as bad as Erwin was making it out to be. This is Erwin, Erwin Smith. He’s a fucking softy, he’s kind and loving and-

“Levi, I’m not sure how to tell you.” Erwin looked up at Levi at this point, looking deeply into the grey eyes that had begun to shake slightly. He’s my boyfriend, I trust him with my entire life, its fine. Marie is just an obsessive bitch, just fancying him and following him around -

Erwin took a very deep breath in. “Marie and I shared a kiss, Levi.”

Levi’s thoughts cut off immediately. The words that his boyfriend spoke echoing round the silent room, his boyfriends’ eyes beginning to wobble. Everything was numb, everything utterly silent. Erwin wasn’t trying to explain himself, he was sitting their completely quiet and useless, eyes darting around.

But Levi’s look grew sickening: his eyes wide, mouths opening and closing slowly with no noise coming out. He stared on for a few seconds, before beginning to dart his gaze around the room, trying to look for something: anything to focus on instead of the break in his body, the panic in his stomach. The image of Marie’s smirking face, the thought of her lips locking his boyfriends – the familiar lips that reminded him of nothing but safety and home. The small mans’ heart pounded harshly in his chest, battering against the now very frail feeling rib cage. He was trying to think of a way to confront this: trying to be rational about the best outcome for this entire situation. But he couldn’t.

Everything was too different.

“You did what?” a fragile voice slipped from his mouth, and the small body genuinely felt hurt: he felt stabbed through the heart, all trust gone.

Erwin was too drawn out of the silence, panic in his voice: worry about where the conversation was going to go. “It meant nothing, it was an accident.”

Levi laughed harshly. “An accident? A fucking accident?!”

“Levi truly I love you with my entire heart.”

“How the hell am I meant to be able to trust you, Smith? How the fuck do you expect me to do that when you live so far away and go kiss the girl that literally poisoned my body?! That fucking watched me get battered?! I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t kiss someone who did that to you!”

“Well, how am I meant to trust you too Levi? All you ever talk about these days are your new friends. You’re always too busy for me, you’re always messaging Petra and Eld. You’re always going on about him, maybe I thought something was going on between the two of you.”

“So you kissed Marie? Cos you thought I was with Eld?!” Levi sat further forward and ran a hand through his hair scraping it back from his face. “Don’t you dare put this on me, Erwin. This is your fucking fault! You’ve kissed another person! I’ve not gone so far as hug Eld, who by the way, is just a friend! And I don’t fucking fancy him.”

“I’m just jealous, worried that you’re moving on with your new life whilst I’m stuck in Mitras being miserable. And I’m not passing the blame, not at all. I know I’m in the wrong. However, she was the one who leant into me and kissed me – I was caught off guard, unsure of what to do, so I kissed her back. Nothing happened after that, it was a mistake. I told her that as soon as it happened.”

“I can’t fucking believe you.” Levi said, standing up looking around flustered, before grabbing his bag and quickly climbing into his clothes, throwing the dressing gown aggressively onto the bed as he did so. “After everything she did to me?” He scoffed in annoyance, smiling at the stupidity of what Erwin was saying. His body wasn’t sure how to react: in anger, in sadness. He didn’t know what to do so focussed solely on getting into clothes as quick as possible. “And just for the record, you’re the one who fucked off to Mitras and left me. You’re the one who got a new life, so I had to make one for myself! I wasn’t going to sit around and mope, Jesus Christ.”

The sudden movement of his boyfriend caused Erwin to get up and walk over to him. “Levi, wait please. Honestly it was a mistake. I know you wouldn’t cheat on me with Eld, I don’t know what came over me. I just, it just got so hard not being with you and I was lonely. Look, please don’t go Levi.” He was practically begging: but Levi had had enough.

Erwin tried to grab Levi’s arm to stop him from getting dressed but the smaller man shrugged and pushed him off, slipping another foot into his trousers and fastening them before slipping a jumper on. The whole outfit was messy, belt buckle too tight, jumper sloping on one shoulder. Hair scuffed, eyes puffy. 

“No, I’m not waiting Erwin. That’s it. I’m done with you. I’m not going to date a fucking cheat. Especially when the person they cheated on me with is Marie.” He shook his head, “fucking Marie.” He huffed under his breath. Of all people.

Panic flew through Erwin’s body, his heart pounding quickly and his eyes beginning to water. “Levi please, don’t say that. Look, we can sort this out, I promise. Please.” Stray tears fell down his cheek as he watched Levi finish slipping clothes on.

Levi stopped getting dressed and picked his bag up from the floor, throwing it over his shoulder. “Erwin we’ve been a mess for months now because of her! I asked you months ago to avoid her. I repeatedly told you I was unhappy. But look, here we are, you going back to kiss your ex as I suspected. I asked you, Erwin. You promised me.”

“We can make it work, Levi. I love you so much, more than anything in the world.” The tall man tried to go towards the other and hug him, but he was pushed aside by the strong frame.

“No!” Levi shouted, moving far away from Erwin. He roughly grabbed the ring from his finger and snatched it off, looking over it one more time before throwing it harshly into the sofa.

The promise ring that Erwin had given him for his birthday, the promise ring that Levi copied and bought for his boyfriend in return for their last school dance. But all those promises had broken.

“Sorry, Erwin.” Levi said, walking out of the room without even looking behind him. “I’m sorry you fucking ruined everything.” The bedroom door slammed shut behind him, and he practically ran down the stairs as quick as possible to get as far away from the room as he could. He couldn’t let his true emotions shine through right now, he felt too tender and didn’t want to expose it to his now ex-boyfriend. Once at the bottom, he heard the bedroom door reopen as a shocked Erwin came running down, crying his eyes out and calling Levi’s name.

“Levi, wait! Please!”

“Erwin no, I’m going.” Levi said, slipping another shoe on. He sniffled slightly but tried to keep the tears at bay not wanting to show his weakness now. He wanted to remain looking strong in this, since nothing was his fault.

Mrs Smith appeared in the hall way after hearing the commotion, mainly her son practically screaming, unsure of what to expect or know what was going on between the seemingly perfect couple. “What’s happened, you two? Is everything okay? I heard shouting and door slamming.”

“Mum Levi’s leaving me!” Erwin cried out pathetically, his voice breaking and a deep cry flowing from his mouth. She walked over to her son and wrapped an arm around him, so he could put his head on his shoulder, burying it into her neck. Throughout her lifetime, she had never seen Erwin so distraught: not even when his sister moved abroad, not even after his first real break-up. It was clear how much Levi meant to him.

Mrs Smith looked towards Levi for advice on the whole thing, as if for some clue about why he was leaving him or what had actually happened over the last few months of not being together in person. But Levi wasn’t ready to talk to her, Levi didn’t want to look at her apologetic face, he didn’t want to see his strong ex-boyfriend completely broken, he couldn’t take it. He felt a mess and was in too much shock over the fact that Erwin Smith, an honest and loyal man, had kissed another girl whilst being with him.

“I’m sorry. I’ve got to go.” Levi practically whispered, a small tear flowing from his eye as he walked out of the house and phoned Kuchel to come and pick him up as quickly as possible, whilst he sat on the curb of Erwin’s house and let the panic finally consume him.

*****

The front door slammed shut inside the Smith household as Levi’s petite body walked through the exit, possibly for the last time. All that could be heard was the soothing clicking of the grandfather clock contrasting with the harsh sobs leaving Erwin’s mouth. Mrs Smith stood beside her son: not moving him from the position he arranged himself in, head resting on her shoulder. Mrs Smith’s mothering hand stroked his hair comfortingly, soothingly. She waited for a while patiently, before the wailing shallowed where she guided him to stand up slightly.

“Erwin sweetie, what was all that about?” Mrs Smith asked kindly, leading her son into the kitchen to sit at the breakfast counter – but she wasn’t going to get a response out of him, not when he was in the state he was. She had never seen him so frail: too distraught to even string a few words together to form a sentence. Worried about her son, Mrs Smith did what she thought would be best: she walked into the main kitchen area, filling up the kettle and putting it on to boil, all the while passing caring glances towards Erwin.

After a few moments of silence, with nothing but the bubbling of water as background music, the weeping man decided to speak up, his crying subsidising.

“Mum it’s all my fault.” Realisation struck of the fact that he’d betrayed the man he loved. He didn’t want to kiss Marie, and she did implement it, but he should have told Levi as soon as it had happened and stopped speaking to her. But the reason he didn’t, the reason he stayed her friend to make nothing look suspicious was ultimately the downfall of the relationship: the one thing he was trying to stop from happening. He sighed loudly, breath shaking.

Waiting to see if anything else would be added to the sentence, Mrs Smith pulled two large mugs from the top cupboard in the kitchen, the cupboard where fun cups and special mugs were placed with ages on, or family pictures. They were only used when there was an emotional chat, or a celebration. Upon realising that he wasn’t going to add any more words, Mrs Smith decided to use the opportunity to speak before finishing making the tea.

“Erwin, sweetheart. I’m sure it wasn’t all your fault at all. It’s completely normal for relationships to fall apart especially when distance is involved.” She assumed that jumping to that conclusion would enable Erwin to speak more about his feelings.

The room fell back to silence, so she quickly poured the kettle water into the two cups and carried them both back to the breakfast bar, retrieving a small saucer for the tea bags to sit on and a spoon. Erwin just nodded as a silent way of thanks, as his mother placed her bum on the chair beside him and ran her hand over his back in a warming, circular motion.

“It’s not the distance.” Erwin said, wrapping his hands around the boiling cup before him.

“Oh, I see. Is it anything you want to talk about?”

Erwin inhaled deeply. “I didn’t mean for it to happen mum, it just did. Oh god, I can’t believe it.” A hand removed and placed on his forehead, running fingers through his hair in an exasperated manner. “I kissed her back, didn’t I? Marie kissed me, and I did back. And then I carried on talking to her. Oh, god.” His voice was coming out as a moan, and Mrs Smith just continued to rub his back softly, now growing to understand why Levi had reacted in the way he did.

However, she couldn’t scold him for breaking another man: he was her one and only son, so it was her job to support him and ensure his emotions were stable.

“Erwin, sweetie. How did that happen?”  

“I don’t know. She’s just been there for me, and I didn’t even notice her original advances. University is lonelier than I thought it would be and she was comforting. The second we parted I regretted it. I should never have become close to her again, it wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair on Levi.” His voice was slowly becoming more stable yet hollow, taking small tips of the piping hot tea as he spoke to his mother.

“If University is making you feel alone, always talk to us. That’s what parents are here for – we’re all here to support you, to help you through this. I know Marie is a home comfort there, but we’re all still here and haven’t abandoned you, please make note of that.”

“I know mother, just it was a spur of the moment thing. Hange seems to be spending most of their free time with Moblit, and Marie had broken up with Nile and was finding it hard too. So, we clicked. I never thought it would lead to that.” He sighed, “Do you think Levi would forgive me?”

This was the first time he dared to look up and lock eyes with his mother: the first time she saw the wobbling blue, rippling like the sea. The first time she’d looked into them eyes and not seen any shine of hope or joy; no sign that her own son was displayed in front of her. Mrs Smith took the chance to wrap her arms around her son, who in turn returned the affection.

“I’m not in a place to say whether Levi would forgive you sweetheart. But you’re a wonderful person, an amazing young man. Just give him the time to realise that. I wouldn’t message him first or make contract. Let him.”

“Okay mum.” He nodded, regretting everything.

“And please speak to us when you’re feeling lonely.” Her own voice was beginning to shake: it was hard enough seeing her son with so much pain on his shoulders, but even more so that he was struggling and not speaking to anyone about it, not allowing anyone to help him through the troubles at University.

“I will do. I’m sorry.”

“You never have to apologise to me for anything!” Mrs Smith exclaimed, pulling herself from her son’s grasp and resting his arms gently down his sides, her looking on at him with nothing but care and love.

“I need to go and have some time to myself before I have to head back to Mitras.” He stood up slowly, sipping a little more of his tea before the large body almost left the kitchen doorframe.

“I’ll make you some food for the journey. And just call if you need anything at all, me or your father.”

“Yeah, thanks mum.”

Erwin dragged his now very heavy body up the stairs that seemed never ending. The very stairs that he had just chased his now ex-boyfriend down in a frenzy to get him back, to talk to him. The thought of having to go back into his bedroom stung his heart. The last scene there, the last memory that he could place being Levi getting dressed frantically trying to get out of the house as quick as possible. His heart felt torn once the door was opened.

The bed looked inviting, and Erwin found himself climbing back into it, clinging onto the dressing gown that Levi had upon his body just that morning. The fabric still warm, the scent still fresh – a perfect mixture of the cleansing shower gel and Levi’s natural body odour. Erwin felt himself melting into it, breathing the scent in deeply.

It was then that the true stab was felt through his heart. The true realisation that Levi, a man who had been the solid rock in his life since he was eight, had now left and there was a chance he would not see him again. The pain overtook his body, and Erwin curled up and sobbed like a baby until there was no tears left before needing to get off to pick Marie up.

                                                *****

A soon as the call came through, Kuchel got the keys and sped the whole way to Erwin’s. A deep pit formed in her heart just imaging the pain her son must be going through. Whilst he didn’t say much on the phone, she immediately jumped to the only legible conclusion in regard to what he son had spoken about.

The roads were quiet enough, so Miss Ackerman managed to pull up outside Erwin’s in less than ten minutes, a new record for her. The scene that fell in front of her eyes was traumatising: her loving son, her strong son, curled up in a ball crying his eyes out. The door swung open as she descended onto the path to sit in front of her son and talk him through the panic attack he was suffering.

The whole action had now begun to feel alien to her. It has been a very long time since Kuchel had helped her son through a panic attack since his improvements at college and talking to the therapist. It just emphasized how bad things truly were, how upset he clearly was. The whole situation felt severe and harsh, and in that moment Kuchel had never felt so much pain for her young son.  

Soon enough the attack was over, leaving the man laying down on the pavement feeling weak. It was unusual that Levi didn’t run off straight after, usually wanting to hide his face from everyone as it was often left red and puffy. However now he was too weak, too unable to move any part of his body. Sideways, he collapsed into his mother who held him softly.

He wasn’t too sure how to feel about the whole thing. He felt annoyed and deflated, disgusted that his own boyfriend could cheat on him with Marie. He wanted to scream, wanted to cry. But he knew that no noise would come out of him – he was drained, emotionally and physically. Kuchel tried to look into his eyes for any hint of emotion, but he was completely distant to her.

“Oh Levi, what’s happened sweetie?” Kuchel asked gently, not wanting to anger him or disturb him. However, in order to help she needed to understand completely what was going on and happening inside her sons’ head. Much to her surprise, he actually responded.

“I’ve left him, I’ve left Erwin mum. He kissed Marie, so I’ve left him.” He breathed in and put a hand to his forehead, twisting so he was laying backwards looking up at his mum, but his eyes were distant and not taking her in properly. “Shit, I’ve actually left him.” Quietly left his mouth.

“Levi, sweetie. I’m so, so sorry that this has happened to you. How are you feeling as a whole?” Her voice was steady and calm, but inside she was raging. It was the last thing she’d expected from Erwin, prior to this expose she assumed they’d fallen out because of the distance.

“Shocked?” He answered, not able to find any other words good enough to describe what he was feeling at that moment.

She ran a hand through his hair stoking it down, before shifting him to sit up slightly and standing up herself. “Let’s get you home, sweetie.”

Levi nodded and dragging himself into his mum’s car ignoring the bag that he’d left outside his ex-boyfriend’s house. He let Kuchel fuss over him as she checked his seatbelt was on properly and asked questions about his mental health, before picking the bag from the floor and placing it in the boot. Surprisingly, Levi was yet to feel the real surge of sadness through his body: he was truly shocked at what had happened, he didn’t anticipate actually leaving Erwin, maybe just having a very stern discussion and fixing everything. But as soon as he heard he’d kissed the girl that had helped spike him, he couldn’t take it anymore. It was her fault he’d let Farlan and Isabel down, her fault that a chemical entered his once clean body. And Erwin had kissed her.

Soon after the pair arrived back at their family flat, Kuchel giving Levi keys to let himself in as she took the bag from the boot and followed up closely behind him. He stayed very distant as Kuchel seated him on the sofa, helping remove his shoes and wrapping their largest, warmest blanket over his aching body. She tucked him in, kissing his forehead softly, as a film was put on in the background to distract him.

An array of Levi’s favourite snacks were placed on the table before him: sweets, crisps, some fruit, and juice. But he wasn’t hungry and couldn’t bring himself to eat, so collapsed into the sofa and let the comfort of the fabric consume his tired body.

The rest of the day was spent in the same way that it was when Isabel and Farlan had passed away; the same way it was spent the day of the funeral. Kuchel snuggled up to Levi on the sofa, his head resting in her lap. The warmth of his mother made him feel safe and secure: he felt protected when she was around, similarly to how he did with Erwin, but it was different, something unconditional.

They didn’t even bother to move for the entirety of the day; they didn’t bother to speak either. Erwin was probably on his way back to Mitras, or even sitting his mock exam by this point, but Levi didn’t want to say anything about that. Instead he focused on the soft muffled sounds of the television in the background, of the comforting hand placed on his head.

Soon enough the evening fell dark and it was approaching bedtime. It was here that Levi decided to open his mouth, wanting to keep his mother by his side for as long as possible. Being alone in the day would have been bearable in his distant state, but on a night, it would have haunted him. So, when he asked Kuchel to sleep on the sofa beside him, she obliged without any questions, turning the lights off straight away and snuggling under the blanket beside her son.

Honestly Kuchel was thankful that Levi had asked her to stay with him through the night. She’d never seen him disassociate in the way he appeared to be doing, and was worried that something might trigger inside him, encouraging him to leave the world again. By sleeping beside him, a watchful eye would be present if there was to be an emergency or a harsh nightmare. But much to Kuchel’s surprise, Levi drifted off before her, exhaustion finally taking over his body.

The morning after, Levi still felt the shock in his body and no other emotion had come to him yet. Just anger, and shock. He wasn’t really sure what to do with himself after finding sitting on the sofa for so long quite boring, and instead paced around his flat debating what to do with his time. Once decided, he headed straight to his mum who was sat in the kitchen reading through a recipe book.

“Mum can you take me somewhere please?” Levi asked, standing before her with a firmness in his voice. His mobile phone was tightly in his grasp and he looked on at her with severity in his eyes.

Surprised at her sons sudden need to do something, Kuchel looked up from her book and looked at him with a kind smile. “Yes of course sweetie. Do you need to do anything before we go?” She asked, not even bothering to discuss where he was going just yet.

“I’m off for a quick shower, and to get dressed. We’ll go then.”

Kuchel nodded and Levi dashed to get ready as quickly as he could, wanting to get out of the house and see someone who would take his mind from Erwin. So many things he owned reminded him too much of Erwin, and as he looked on them all the anger came swelling back. Quickly, an old shoe box was grabbed, and his cravat, ring, and other items were shoved aggressively into a box and hidden right in the back corner of his bed. Once completed, he practically ran back into the living room where his mother was waiting patiently for him.

“Ready?”

Kuchel drove him to his destination and dropped him there, telling Levi she’d be back in a few hours to get him before dinner. He thanked her and walked up to the large front door of the block of halls, tapping in the numbers of the flat he was going to. Nothing but revenge on Erwin was in his mind now: the shock finally simmering down, and he just wanted to get his ex-boyfriend back for betraying him so deeply.

The buzzer went off letting Levi into the student building near the local college. He got into the lift, taking him up to the fourth floor. There, he walked to room 405 giving it a knock and waiting outside, tapping his foot on the floor.

The tall blonde man appeared in joggers and a t-shirt, hair tied back in its usual style, a cautious smile on his face.

“Hi, Levi come in.” Eld said, stretching his arm out so the smaller man could walk in, before shutting the door and locking it behind. As soon as he turned back around and faced Levi, the smaller man threw himself upwards lips locking and kissing passionately. Eld stepped back, taken aback slightly at the sudden movement and very flustered at the action.

“I want to forget him, Eld.” Levi said, trying to reach up to meet lips again, but Eld held him down by the shoulders and looked him right in the eyes.

“Levi, this isn’t the way to do it. Look, shall I order us some food and watch something on the TV? Or I could run you a nice hot bath? My mum sent me some new bath things including a bath bomb, you can use that if you’d like.” He led Levi to the sofa and let him sit down, but Eld hovering around it rather than sitting down straight away.

“No, Eld. Can you just, can you just come here? Please?” He looked up to his friend with needy eyes, a begging voice. Eld had never seen the smaller man so desperate before, so much in need of something.

“Look, Levi. I know I do really like you, but I don’t want to just be a thing to use to forget Erwin, especially when you literally just broke up. If we’re ever going to sleep together, I want it to mean something.” Eld said, sighing at the same time. “I too wouldn’t want you to regret something, for example Erwin might get back to you shortly then you probably would hate me for letting you sleep with me in a break.”

Eld flopped down on the sofa beside his friend and smiled at his comfortingly. He didn’t want to upset him by saying no, but as he just said, he didn’t want him to regret it or just be a post break up shag.

Realising what he’d asked his friend to do, Levi paused what he was doing and instead ran shaking hands through his black hair, rubbing into his scalp as he did so. He didn’t mean to make Eld uncomfortable or use him to help him forget the fall out he’d just had.

“I’m sorry Eld, I didn’t even think.” Levi announced.

Shaking his head, “No it’s okay, don’t apologise. It’s really tough, breaking up with someone. Look, I’ll order some food and we can watch some films.” Eld stood up and began faffing, putting an order through on his phone and setting his TV up to put some comedic films on for Levi.

He then grabbed some freshly washed pyjamas for Levi to put on, and despite being too big he still did so, appreciating the gesture that someone was there for him when he was feeling so low. The warmth of the large clothes covered his body, and he snuggled down into the sofa pulling the sleeves over his hands and putting them under his head like a pillow.

Once the pizzas had arrived and were eaten, Levi and Eld sat together on the sofa watching the film, Eld trying to pass jokes every once in a while, which did make Levi curl his lips slightly, but he was still feeling heavy and his heart aching. He was truly glad to have his friend be there for him despite the circumstances; and just being around someone who didn’t know Erwin seemed to lift his mood slightly.

Kuchel arrived at Eld’s just an hour later, but Levi had fallen asleep soundly on the sofa. The flat owner managed to get up quietly and help Kuchel find her way around the block of flats, making her a quick juice and letting her take a seat at his dining table. He sat opposite her and began to chat about college, what he was studying, what they’d done that afternoon. He told her how Levi seemed to be doing regarding the break up, and she was very relieved to hear that he’d managed to have a few laughs that afternoon and seemed to be slowly improving.

A few moments later, Levi shifted around on the sofa waking up to the noises coming from the other side of the room, near the kitchen. It was then that the real pain and realisation struck him: he wasn’t in Erwin’s pyjamas, not asleep after listening to Erwin’s dad jokes all afternoon while watching his films, not waking up to listening to Kuchel and Erwin talk about something unimportant, not waking up in Erwin’s arms.

The pain struck through him light lightning, and he curled up in a ball and let his emotions flow out not caring where he was or who he was truly with. As soon as the soft whimpering was heard from the sofa, Kuchel got up and walked over to him telling him it would be best to get up and dressed. Levi took in a deep breath and did as he was told, using the bathroom to get back into his original clothes and thanking Eld for the afternoon as quickly as he could.

As soon as he was done, Kuchel and Levi left Eld’s flat and went straight to the car; no words passed between the two on their journey there. It was as soon as the door was shut, and he was with Kuchel that everything came flooding back, and the memory of Erwin wasn’t leaving his head no matter how much he tried to think of his afternoon with Eld.

On the way home he wailed in the car, crying so much Kuchel actually had to pull over numerous times to help settle him down and bring him back round, and it continued all the way home until he was just crying to himself silently on the sofa, remembering the past ten years he’d spent with his best friend and how there wouldn’t be any more of those since he’d ended the relationship.

That night he refused to sleep in the bed as he and Erwin had shared it too often, and the entire room just reminded him of his ex-lover. He didn’t even bother getting up to shower, and instead let himself melt away into the sofa as the sounds of the television blurred into the background. Kuchel sat with him, comforting him as best as she could. It was equally as hard for her, seeing her son go through so much pain. The first break up of a real relationship was always the hardest, and it was clear that it was the case for Levi.

He finally managed to fall asleep later that night but kept waking up with dreams of Erwin flooding his brain. He remembered the face of sorrow that Erwin displayed, the face of regret and true apologies. He should have given him time to explain himself better: Erwin always had an explanation for everything, but he hadn’t even given him time to express it.

Shit.

What the hell have I done?!

Chapter Text

Erwin managed to get back into the swing of University a few weeks after his break-up, once he started feeling more himself again. The mock the day of the break up went terribly, as did the drive home, Erwin hardly having the energy to drive all that way and Marie having to take the wheel half way home. The two hardly spoke throughout the entire ride home, just an unpleasant silence hanging in the vehicle. Once back in Mitras, Marie parted ways from Erwin and told him to spend some time by himself to think things over; she didn't want to make him feel more uncomfortable, and pressure him into a new relationship. This led to Hange spending a lot of time with Erwin at his flat; he chose to miss the few weeks of University to get his head straight, and his old High School friend was a massive support for this. 

There were a lot of tears them few weeks, a lot of tubs of ice cream eaten, a lot of love films with sad endings watched, a lot of talking, and then finally Erwin felt he was ready to throw himself back into college life and head out to study and try to get back on track with everything. He finally drew to the conclusion that if Levi hadn't messaged him by now, they weren't going to get back together. Two weeks is enough time to think things over properly, and that time was given. However, Levi was always still on his mind: the true love of his life, and no one could replace him. After all, it was almost as though Levi was a part of him now, after spending so many years with the boy in his life. Suddenly him not being at the end of the phone felt alien to him.

After a good month of getting his work back on track, and his mental space being a lot more pleasant, autumn was already in full swing and it was already the middle of November. That was when Erwin decided to message Marie to arrange a date for the couple, and to use the birthday voucher he had received from the girl in conservation. Marie was ecstatic that her crush had actually felt himself again and messaged her, eager to go on the date with the handsome blonde. And Erwin, truthfully, was happy to hear from her and excited for the date too. He needed this refresher in the dating scene: he needed to move on now, forget as much as possible his past relationship with Levi. He felt officially ready to begin to move on, properly. And Hange was happy for him.

Secretly, Hange was keeping conversation with Levi whilst attending to Erwin's needs as well. They hadn't actually managed to get much out of the smaller man, but from the sounds of it he too had managed to get back into his life again, forgetting about the fact he was cheated on and pushed away by his first. However, the brave act he was applying didn't fool Hange much and they wanted to put more attention on their best friend, and now Erwin was back to his usual self, they could do just that. One less person to worry about.

Erwin got to Marie's student accommodation at exactly seven at night, just as he promised (ever the polite). In his hand was a large bouquet of pink roses he'd collected fresh from the market that morning, and upon his body rested a very smart suit that his parents and sister had both bought him to help cheer him up through his break up. The bolo tie wasn't on him, and nor was any of the previous gifts from his ex-lover, deeming them too unlucky to wear on a new first date. It felt alien collecting someone to take them out for a romantic night that wasn't Levi, but Erwin tried his best to push that thought away as he waited for Marie.

Politely he tapped on the door and waited in silence, glancing around the halls he was stood in. She followed through a second later, wearing a gorgeous tight-fitting red dress, her brown ringlets flowing down her sides. She had black heels on, yet still nowhere near as tall as her date who was stood smiling at the entrance: the thoughts of Levi quickly were pushed completely from Erwin's eyes at the sight of his gorgeous new date.

“Marie, you look beautiful.” Erwin said, stepping into her hall and kissing her gently on the cheek, causing her to smile.

“Thanks, Erwin. You look handsome as always.” Marie gave him a cheeky wink before glancing down at the pink flowers in front of her. "Oh Erwin, are those for me?"

"Yes, I picked them up for you this morning. I hope that's alright."

"Oh Erwin, they're beautiful." Her small hands took the flowers from his grasp. They were petite, he noticed, very similar to Levi's. However, the hands he'd be holding tonight looked much smoother and less rough, and the nails on them were delicately painted a deep red colour.

When Erwin was caught up in his thoughts, Marie had managed to run the flowers into her kitchen, placing them in the sink filled with water. She returned to the front door, locking it closely behind her and wrapping her arm through her date's. Erwin just smiled down at her, leading them both from the building and to the car parked outside the front of the block. Politely, the passenger door was opened for Marie who took her seat. Erwin followed round and climbed into the driver's position, starting the car up and slowly pulling out of the estate.

The car fell to a deadly silence: not the comfortable silence he'd often felt with Levi when they went on dates together, but the uncomfortable silence that filled rooms when conversation was hard to spark and get flowing. Quickly, Erwin resorted to talking about the plans for the evening together.

“I’m very excited for this meal, Marie. Thank you again for the voucher.” Erwin reported, welcoming noise into the deadly silent vehicle.

“Me too! I’ve always wanted to go here. You don’t need to thank me, silly. Anything for Commander Handsome.” Marie joked, laughing at her nickname for Erwin. He was pretty impressed with it too, smiling back at her, but drawing his eyes straight back to the road. Safety first! Mrs Smith always said that when in the car with her son, making sure his eyes were forward at all times.

He hadn’t been out, not properly anyway, since his break up with Levi just over a month ago. The trips from his safety of his flat were to the shop to buy more junk food, and once more stable, just to University to get notes from lectures and to complete work. None of these trips were with friends, and definitely no potential dates. He wasn't sure how to react now, having been alone or just with Hange for so long. The whole vibe was making him feel slightly nervous, and even more so that the last time he and Marie had spent time alone in the car was after the break up. But the thoughts were quickly pushed aside as he wanted this evening to move on from Levi; he wanted this evening because he liked Marie. It felt nice, to be with her again, just like a few years ago in the first few months of High School. 

“It’s like High School, except this time we don’t need an adult to drive us.” Marie said, reminiscing on the first time they dated.

“I was just thinking that.” Erwin smiled back at her. Marie immediately took that opportunity to talk about their previous relationship and basic chat about high school, making Erwin's shoulders finally slump as his nervousness subsided. They kept the conversation up until they arrived at the restaurant, where the car parked up neatly next to the entrance and Erwin climbed out, opening the door for his date, and taking her hand. She was leaning into him closely, struggling to walk steadily in her extremely high heels.

After locking up, the couple continued to hold hands and walked into the building. The waiter held the door open for them, took their jackets and coats, and then recorded the reservation they had made earlier that week. Kindly, the staff led the couple to a secluded table towards the back of the restaurant, a candle placed in the centre and a bottle of champagne in ice beside Erwin's chair. Seats were pulled out for both people, who obediently sat down smiling at one another. Erwin definitely hadn't experienced luxury like this for a while, but Marie seemed to settle right into it. 

“Thank you.” They echoed to the waiter, before taking the menu into their hands and reading over what they wanted to eat. Erwin’s mind kept drifting back to his date with Levi for his birthday - the last time he'd been out on a properly exclusive, romantic date. However, he couldn't think about that, not now. So, he continued to peek up at Marie from the top of the menu and focus his attention solely on the beautiful girl sat opposite him on the table. Marie just began to speak, none stop. And eventually, Erwin could focus on just her again, and not of the small raven-haired man back home.

The two enjoyed the food together: a shared starter of bruschetta and oysters, a main of lobster, and a desert of fondue with different fruits and sweets to dip into the chocolate. Usually, when out with Levi, Erwin didn’t eat much meat at all: Levi had been brought up on a vegetarian diet, for Kuchel’s health, and decided to stick with it. He felt guilty eating it, but he tried again to distract from that memory.

Of course, the scene was very romantic as Erwin fed his girlfriend pieces of chocolate covered strawberries, kissing chocolate from her chin and lips when it spilled. He wished he could have felt the spark that everyone seems to for events like this, however he couldn't, and his heart just felt hollow. They were gentle, appropriate kisses: nothing too passionate, nothing more than a peck. It didn’t feel right without the scent of Levi there, Erwin thought, but he tried to ignore that thought yet again.

Once the meals were eaten and paid for with the vouchers, the two headed back to the car and for Erwin’s flat, holding hands until they were sat safely in the car, then once parked up Erwin protectively placed his arm around Marie’s waist, pulling her closely to him. The two were slightly tipsy from the free champagne shared over their dinner, something he’d never have had with Levi, giggling at the smallest of things all the way to the front door.

As soon as Erwin unlocked it, they were all over each other. He bent down slightly and locked his lips with Marie’s, who just as passionately returned the open-mouthed kisses. Arms wrapped around Erwin’s neck, pulling him closer to her as his hands roamed her sides, her chest, her back. Hooking his large hands under her bum, he lifted her up and carried Marie to the bedroom, settling her down softly onto his bed.

The movements continued then, yet even more frantic. Marie began to undress Erwin, stripping his tie off first then unbuttoning his shirt aggressively, possessively. She scratched down his back and undid his belt buckle, eventually managing to push his trousers off with the heel of her shoe. Erwin then slid her dress off, and shoes, leaving her in just underwear before climbing under the covers with her.

The kissing continued, the roaming of hands got much more violent: scratching, nipping, squeezing. Clothes were completely removed as Marie straddled Erwin. She pushed herself down onto him firmly, releasing a moan as she did so. Erwin began to melt into the moment, despite the feeling of being inside her being so different, so unusual compared to what he was now accustomed to. Nevertheless, it was still extremely pleasant. 

Marie was clearly very dominant in the bedroom, something that Erwin wasn’t too used to since he and Levi had very much equal positions, but he enjoyed it as something different: and it was definitely helping him take his mind off his ex, allowing himself to float into the moment and enjoy every movement the girl expressed on him.

Once completed, they ended up in a pile of limbs, Marie snuggling up to him, burrowing into his neck. A large arm wrapped round and protected her, pulling her close. She smelt of roses, and her long hair got tangled around his neck and tickled his throat. The thought was alien, the scents alien. He couldn’t help but wish it was Levi who he had just made love to, he couldn’t help but wish he was smelling the usual, comforting scent of Levi. He couldn’t help but wish he’d never gone to University in the first place, just so he could still have Levi in his arms.

Eventually he managed to drift off, breathing in unison with the girl tangled around him. They stayed in the same position throughout the night, clinging onto each other. He breathed in the new scent that was filling his room and placed a very small kiss on her forehead as she shuffled further into his body. He tried to smile, he tried to welcome the new, soft skin beside him, the curves, the softer skin. But, feeling increasingly guilty, he couldn't stop comparing it to Levi: the way he couldn't feel the soft hairs of legs, the smaller yet muscular body, the scent of Levi. It was very early in the morning that Erwin managed to finally drift off, squeezing his eyes tightly and only trying to picture Marie laid beside him. 

In the morning, he managed to wake up before his girlfriend and climbed out of bed as gently as he could, slipping on some jogging bottoms and walking to the kitchen to cook breakfast for Marie; the proper way to end a date night together. The place was a mess, when he walked in, not realising how he hadn’t looked after it since everything went downhill for him.

The kitchen sink was full of pots and take out boxes laid over the worktops. Cups were left on the side with tea bags still in them, cutlery abandoned on the work top. There were no clean pans, and literally no work space. The tall blonde quickly got to work cleaning everything down, putting pots into his dishwasher and cleaning as quickly as possible so he could get started on his usual Smith pancakes.

Unfortunately for Erwin, the cleaning was nowhere near as good as it was the time Levi came around and cleaned it. Everything was put away in its home, the rubbish put neatly in the bin, the worktops wiped and on the surface; it looked very sparkling, but underneath Erwin could just tell it wasn’t and he could almost hear Levi mocking him for it.

The sizzling of the pancake brought him back round to his senses as he flipped the last one in the pan and displayed it on top of the pile, bringing it to the table with his freshly squeezed orange juice and strawberries he’d got in just in case Marie did end up coming home after their date, so it was a good thing he did buy them. Just in time of the table being set, Marie appeared from the bedroom wearing nothing but Erwin’s shirt.

“Morning sleepy.” Erwin sung at the lady who wandered through with messy hair and a big, red love bite on her neck.

“Morning.” She grumbled, sitting down across from her boyfriend.

“Not a morning person I take it? Levi isn’t either.” Erwin reacted before realising what had left his mouth, “sorry, I don’t mean to mention him.”

“It’s fine. What’s for breakfast?” Marie asked, not fazed by the mention of an ex-partner. Instead, she was more concerned about what was going to fill her empty stomach after a vigorous night.

“I made some pancakes. We have strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and fruit jam to go on them.” Erwin pointed at each item of food as he reeled off the list, proud at what he had made so early in the morning.

“Erwin have you forgotten? I don’t eat pancakes.” Marie groaned. “Do you just have some yogurt? I’ll eat that and strawberries.”

“Oh, sorry I must have forgotten. Um, yes I think I have some Greek yogurt, I’ll just go get it for you.” He felt disheartened, and a bit annoyed that he’d spent the morning cooking for her to refuse the food. Levi always ate what he cooked, even if he didn’t like it. He definitely wasn’t a spoiled brat that Marie was, and never took things like that for granted.

Sighing, the yogurt was brought to the table where he sat it down with a bowl and a spoon for Marie to enjoy, without a word of thanks from his girlfriend. He tried to ignore it, and instead tucked into the pancakes which now tasted quite bitter in his mouth.

“I forgot how good you were, Erwin. Especially compared to Nile.” Marie commented after eating half her breakfast, laughing as she did so.

“Oh, thank you.” Erwin blushed, chuckling slightly. It was an awkward thing to say over breakfast, but he took the compliment in any sense.

“To say you’ve been with a man for over a year, you know how to treat a lady.” She laughed even louder at that, before standing up and saying she was off to the bathroom to clean up before heading home, leaving the man sat in his seat feeling very awkward and embarrassed.

Once the room was clear, he pulled his phone from his pocket and read over the last messages from Levi from October time. No new texts showed; Levi still hadn't contacted him throughout their months of separation. But Erwin refused to delete the old texts, mainly so he could keep reading over them, trying to see how happy Levi had seemed in their relationship since Erwin moved to Mitras. He had done this so many times, but nothing could be spotted.

Sighing, he too got up and ready to run Marie home, simply slipping on a t shirt and a pair of trainers, his joggers still on the lower half of the body, not bothering to wash before driving her back. She didn’t seem bothered about it in the slightest and went home wearing the clothes from the night before with make-up smudged on her face and hair shoved into a messy ponytail: something that Levi would never have done, he always went home washed and pristine. Erwin cringed a little at the sight of her, feeling scruffy himself. They’d look a state.

When Marie was gone and Erwin home, he cleaned the kitchen again quickly, mainly to distract himself from what had happened the night before. Now Marie was gone, nothing felt right to him and he hated himself for it. But the cleaning didn't distract him like it would have Levi, so Erwin opted to lay on his sofa and try to focus on something else. Like how beautiful Marie looked last night, but not as beautiful as Levi, and how good she felt in bed, but nowhere near as good as Levi, and how her skin was soft and fragile, but I prefer something muscular and firm like Levi. Shaking his head as if to put the thoughts of Levi from his head, Erwin opened a window to text Marie - but he found his fingers trailing over someone else's phone number.

Hange was phoned and asked to come around. Whenever he needed advice, they’d be there. Until then, he laid on his back and sighed deeply regretting everything that had happened in the past three months.

“Levi, I miss you.” He whispered, before his eyes shut and he drifted off into a peaceful nap.

*****

The initial shock faded quickly for Levi, and after a few days of aggressively crying at his mum and stomping around the small flat, he decided it was best to get back to college and be around his new best friends. Just as he had done for Petra, she stayed around at his house for a few days playing video games or watching films to keep him company. He told her what had happened with Eld, how he'd tried to come onto him. But Petra didn't ask questions, merely smiling at him sympathetically and kindly, just listening. Levi never realised how much he'd need it. Before, he didn’t really understand how someone just being there would help so much, but after suffering his own breakup, Levi really understood why it was important to have people around you at all times. 

Hange too kept checking up on him, but he knew fully well that they'd also be checking up on Erwin. So, he made it seem like he had moved on and was feeling very happy with the new situation, hiding whatever negativity he was feeling. He assumed that Hange would have seen through his act, but they didn't mention anything, so he kept it up whenever he was called or messaged.

Things with Eld were normal since he aggressively kissed him the day after leaving Erwin, and the former seemed very understanding over the whole situation not breathing a word of it to anyone else, which Levi was very grateful for. Uncharacteristically for Levi, he was very apologetic to Eld for what had happened that day - especially since the latter had just confessed his love for the man not long before it. But Eld just told him to shut up and that it was fine, he understood. Levi was glad to have such supportive friends around him when he needed it the most.

Once the entire situation was calmed completely, and a month had passed since the ending of his first boyfriend, Levi found himself round at Eld’s a lot more often. They slept over at each other’s houses, played games together, went to the cinema or out for food frequently. Just as friends though, Levi told himself. The man gave off a very good vibe, and Levi could feel himself trusting the blonde more and more, which was rare in his case. Plus, it felt good to be around someone who didn't really know Erwin or Levi's high school life, so he could pass himself off as someone new.

Eld was really good to Levi: he helped him come back round to himself, they had a lot of take outs and a lot of late-night chats, finding out more and more about one another’s past lives. Levi even felt comfortable around him enough to mention his past with Kenny, only briefly however, and told Eld about Farlan and Isabel who he used to live with - which came out a lot easier than the first time with Erwin. However, despite that, it was the first time Eld had to help Levi through a panic attack, instinctively knowing what to do without Levi needing to explain it to him once the attack was over. And to make everything even better, Eld didn't bother to ask any questions and simply left Levi to himself, making him a cup of tea and passing him a blanket. Levi was relieved he wasn't going to have to explain his feelings to someone else.

A week after the incident, Eld plucked up the courage and asked Levi to the cinema with Petra and Oluo, but as a date rather than a friend. With a lot of contemplation and advice, he accepted the offer feeling as nervous as he had done the first date with Erwin. It was going to be the best thing to help him move on from his ex.

Levi decided to just wear what he normally would but opted for a mustard jumper and blue skinny jeans with his black ankle boots, glasses instead of contacts. Since starting Art College, Levi had too got his ear pierced and had a hoop through it - dared by his new friends. However, he admitted it looked pretty good on him. His hair had grown slightly longer too, so he tucked the lower partitioned side behind his ear, showcasing his piercing. The other part of his hair flopped over his face slightly. His new friends were a big fan of it, Petra especially saying she was proud of the man Levi was slowly becoming. He could just imagine Erwin's face when he would finally see it, probably also really liking it, showing it by showering his ear with kisses. But Levi pushed that thought aside as he continued to get ready for his new date.

It felt good to not have to ask Kuchel for any money towards the cinema trip, since Levi earned it himself now. It would be the first date he'd been on without the need for a bit of extra cash, yet Kuchel still gave him five pounds to buy a drink there. He thanked her, smiling. Kuchel too smiled back to her son, feeling relieved that he was throwing himself back into life and moving on. She knew that he hadn't bothered to contact Erwin, deciding to wait for him to message rather than making the first move - after all, it was Erwin in the wrong, not Levi.

Instead of thinking of the old blonde man, Levi stood thinking of Eld. He waited by his door, peeking through the window to see when the small, red car was approaching, so he could dash downstairs to meet his date. Surprisingly, his heart was racing with excitement in his chest, a very unusual feeling for the smaller man. Without even realising, the small car was already parked outside the flat and a very smiley man was waiting at the bottom, grinning up. Levi ran out quickly. He shouted bye to Kuchel on his way through the door.

“Hello!” Eld shouted up to Levi, who turned around and smiled at him.

“Hey.” Quickly, Levi jogged down the stairs and got into his side of the car, Eld getting into the other side and belting up.

“I bought you them hard boiled sweets you like and a slushie.” Eld announced, starting the car.

“Thanks. I got you some sweets too.” Levi replied, holding up a small paper bag from the shop under his flat.

“Thanks Levi!” Eld exclaimed, and the two joined conversation about their favourite types of food and sweets until they parked up at the cinema and met up with Petra and Oluo who were already stood there waiting.

Walking to the screens, Eld held Levi’s in his which Levi didn’t turn away. It felt a lot smaller than hands held in his before, but the feeling was comfortable and warm, so he left them joined until they were seated on the back row with a tub of popcorn and their slushies beside them.

Petra and Oluo were all over each other as they were the first time the couples went to the cinema, but it made Eld laugh causing Levi to smile. He didn’t know why, but the way Eld giggled at things was cute and very contagious and Levi couldn’t help but feel drawn into it. The tension in his back managed to melt into the seat as the film continued, feeling nothing but comfortable beside his new friend. The smiles flowed naturally, and he didn't have to force them: he genuinely wanted to smile.

The way that Eld made him feel was warm and content: and Levi needed that feeling now more than he would admit, finally demonstrating that to his date. By the end of the film, he was kissing the blonde man, arms wrapped around his neck. The popcorn and sweets had been discarded on the floor, almost finished, and Eld’s kisses tasted sweet and buttery. The lips locked on the smaller man's felt very different than what he was used to, but they felt good and safe: Levi enjoyed it and pulled himself further into the others mouth until the film finished.

Without stopping to say good bye properly, Levi took Eld’s hand pulling him out of the cinema, only passing a small wave to the other couple. They managed to get to the car before the credits had finished rolling, slamming the blonde man's back against the vehicle and leaning up to his lips, kissing much more passionately and deeply. Levi knew he was ready, he knew he wanted to sleep with the man in front of him now, he knew it was the perfect time to get over Erwin. A good date, a good film, and a good fuck, Levi thought.

Getting the hint, Eld pulled away and climbed into the car, as Levi walked around the back and did the same thing. They barely spoke to one another on the drive home, deciding Eld’s was the best place to go since no one would be in there as he lived alone. The student hall’s walls were thin, Levi remembered after hearing the neighbours have sex a hell of a lot, but he didn’t care: not now.

Eld parked up and unlocked his door as quick as possible, Levi barely allowing him time to lock it as soon as they stepped through the door frame. He kissed him once, before repeating the action he did at the cinema and grabbed his hand, leading him straight to the bed.

With no further words needed, the couple undressed each other quickly: clothes folded neatly and placed on the edge of the bed as Levi always did. Again, Eld did that without needing any encouragement and just out of respect for the man he was about to sleep with. Smugly Levi smiled slightly at how well Eld had come to know him in the few months they'd known each other, and the thought of that turning him on even more in the moment they were sharing. He told himself he was ready to fully let go and sink into the moment with the new man, wanting to impress his date in the best ways possible.

Levi tried to remember the things that Erwin had done to him throughout their relationship that made him feel amazing, and he repeated them on Eld who was laid under him. He kissed his chest, squeezing it as he did so, teasing his nipples. Eld seemed to like that, Levi noted when the man groaned and shifted below him. Smiling, he continued to place licks gently all the way down from his neck to his abdomen, Levi lowering his head with each movement. Eventually, Levi took the cock into his mouth completely, sucking hard and twisting his tongue around as he did so. Eld moaned, raking a hand through Levi's hair, encouraging him to move on. And Levi did, he liked how it felt to have control; he liked how Eld was making him feel, he liked how he was managing to not picture Erwin in the moment at all. But soon enough, Eld pulled Levi's head away and up to his face, pressing a soft kiss on his lips.

Fingers slid into Levi slowly, considerately. He helped prepare Levi, not teasing him at all - just steady; Eld wanted Levi to know how much this moment meant to him, he wanted Levi to experience all the joy and contentment he deserved, and so treated him with respect and softly. But eventually, the two grew hungry for more, Levi sliding his body backwards into the hand, so Eld stopped what he was doing.

The blonde man climbed over Levi and positioned himself before the two were joined together. They moved slowly first before picking up the pace, eyes closing and moans slipping out from both men. Levi tried to keep his eyes at least half open, worried that the second they shut he’d see the face of another man – the one he wasn’t with in bed right now.

Eld made sure they released at the same time, before grabbing some wet wipes he kept in his bedside drawer and passed them to Levi politely. After cleaning each other up, they stayed sat in bed in one another’s arms for a while before heading to the bedroom to watch TV.

Levi decided to stay over that night, worried that it would be too much to go home alone. Erwin had been a very prominent face in his dreams recently, and he didn’t want to have a dream about him when he’d just been with Eld: he couldn’t disrespect his friend in that way and thought it would be best to just stay over so he could keep his focus on Eld and Eld alone.

That night, when the pair went to bed, they made love again but this time much slower and less needy. Levi found himself enjoying it, finding the differences pleasurable and unique. He let himself fall completely into the moment, let Eld place kisses around his neck and on his lips. He let Eld wrap his arms around the smaller man and fall asleep joined together after they showered together, enjoying the other’s body even more then.

Closing his eyes, Levi smiled. Maybe I will be able to move on, after all.

 

Chapter Text

The months continued without a message from either side: it was the longest Levi and Erwin had gone without making contact in their entire lives from when they first met, and to both of them it was feeling completely alien. Both men drew to the very simple conclusion that they weren’t going to hear from one another again, throwing themselves into their new lives with new friends and new relationships, trying as hard as they could to not think about the other, no matter how hard that was.

Marie had clearly taken advantage of the situation as a whole, even almost moving into Erwin’s flat in Mitras. She hated student accommodation, so Erwin, being the gentleman he was, allowed her to stay over at his as often as she needed to, which in her case, seemed to be daily. And Erwin was extremely grateful for the company: having someone to go home to after the end of a stressful day at University was lovely and warming, even if he wasn’t in love with them.

However, Marie had never really had to fend or live by herself before which was more than clear in the new flat. The once tidy and tranquil home had almost been flipped upside down. The minimalist rooms had been filled with ornaments and pictures brought by the girl, bright patterned throws displayed on sofas, the cupboards in the kitchen doubling in size with all the new items in there. But it wasn’t the materialist things that bothered Erwin, he could deal with a new few pots and pans.

It annoyed him that she’d come home and move his work, destroy his organisation. His piles of books were moved to make room for her won, his bookshelf was now filled with romance novels despite it being solely for his History books, his desk was not his anymore. It had developed to become a kind of dressing table for Marie, without her even asking to do that. Erwin found himself working more often than not at the dining table.

The bubbly and loud personality filled the rooms daily: Marie never shut up. Whether she was just talking away about what she’d done that day, or moaning about someone on her course, noise was always leaving her mouth. And Erwin appreciated that she had a lot to say, and enjoyed her company greatly, but when the course was getting harder and more work needed to be completed at home, she began to grind his gears: he found himself gritting teeth together more than he was comfortable with. But that wasn’t what annoyed him the most, he could deal with chit chat (to an extent).

The thing that annoyed Erwin was the utter mess. Marie had always had maids at her home, never having to clean or tidy up after herself. Food was always cooked for her, even in the student accommodation she had a hired cleaner and chef. But now she didn’t have that and expected it of Erwin. The flat was a constant tip: pots displayed all over rooms, piles of washing just abandoned. For someone whose natural appearance was so perfect and neat, you would not expect their home life to be so destructive and dirty. And Erwin struggled to work in clutter and mess, he needed things to be pleasant. So, it was this that annoyed him the most. He even took to studying at Hange’s, which really said something about the state of Marie.

Once their relationship did actually become official, Marie made no hesitation in letting her family know. They were very big fans of Erwin; truly ecstatic upon hearing the new news. Straight away, they made their way to the large city to pass their congratulations on in person. Erwin, unsure of what to do with this level of attention, acted politely. He shook their hands, paid for all food and drink all evening (making note that Marie’s family definitely enjoyed the finer things in life). However, the entire time with the new in-laws made him feel nervous and on edge.

He jumped to the conclusion that it was simply because they were new, and soon enough he’d find his footing and feel very comfortable around them all. But his mind couldn’t help but draw comparison to how relaxed he’d always felt around Kuchel. He couldn’t help but think that he never needed to impress Levi’s family, and they just accepted him without any flashy food or expensive cocktails. Memories always sparked up whenever Erwin didn’t need them: so, he pushed the thoughts to the side, aware that he was unlikely to ever speak to Levi again, and threw himself into the night, laughing and joking along with the new family.

Baring that in mind, Erwin plodded along from that day, trying everything possible to fall in love with the girl clung to him. He kissed her, they had sex, they enjoyed dates, shopped together, worked together – he was plodding along in his new relationship, just hoping and waiting for the spark he’d felt in his previous partnership. Oh, how Erwin longed for that feeling. But that spark was still taken by somebody else, and would inevitably stay taken by someone else.

Soon enough, Christmas rolled around the corner quickly and unannounced. The last pressurising winter exams were performed, which Erwin studied relentlessly for, cramming and working late into the morning. But he’d managed to sit them all confidently and felt proud of his first term at University been completed despite the very large hiccup along the way.

On the twentieth of December, Marie and Erwin found themselves loading his car with lots of presents and clothes for the few days they were staying at home. The plan was to stay at Erwin’s family’s until the twenty-forth, then go onwards to Marie’s until the twenty-seventh when they had to head back to school for the very big New Year’s celebrations in Mitras that apparently Marie just hadto see, and her best friends party that she just couldn’tmiss. Erwin just obliged, going along with everything his girlfriend had said.

His heart felt heavy at the idea of Christmas, though. The thought that he’d spend the actual day being so uncomfortable around people he didn’t really know yet, instead of with Levi happily together at his house or Erwin’s own. He found himself worrying about Levi being alone whilst Kuchel worked all Christmas again, just as he found him last year. He found himself worried that Levi wouldn’t have anyone there on his birthday, or hardly receive any cards. But the thoughts were forgotten when Marie began to distract him in the car.

The whole way home in the car she babbled on about what she’d asked from her parents that Christmas, and what she hoped that Erwin had got her. He didn’t get her more than two presents this year, deciding that it was best to get her something big and small. Unlike Levi, Marie was probably not going to like selections of thoughtful gifts that were small and cheap. She’d want big and fancy, which is why he bought her a pearl necklace and matching bracelet costing him a lot of money; especially since he only lived off his student loan, not able to find the time to have a part time job whilst studying. It hardly left him enough money for his own family, but of course he had to treat Marie first. Not that he necessarily felt like he wanted to.

“Oh, Erwin I’m so excited for you to meet the rest of my family. I’m sure you’ll just love them.”

Erwin kept his eyes on the road, trying not to sigh as he drove on. “Me too, Marie. It’ll be very pleasant.”

“I hope you’ve got me something good, mister.” She winked at him, but he couldn’t tell if she was joking or not and instead just smiled to himself, pressing his foot down further in the hope to get there a lot quicker.

After a good few hours driving without a break, the car pulled into the Smith driveway where Mrs Smith was stood in the porch smiling as her son climbed out of the car. She hadn’t heard from him much or even seen him since the break-up with Levi and was relieved to still see him looking healthy and somewhat happy. But immediately as the now very tall man stepped from the car, Mrs Smith could already get the sense that he wasn’t his usual self; the beaming grin he offered her not being as bright as it once was. And she knew why, so wouldn’t press him about it and ruin Christmas.

Marie waited in the car for him to open the door, so he did so quickly before turning back and unloading the boot of the car, the girl leaving him to go and kiss Mrs Smith’s cheeks quickly before letting herself into the house. Upon her leaving, Erwin’s mother walked over to him and started to give him a hand lifting things out, looking towards her son as she did so and giving exaggerated eye rolls towards him. She didn’t really like Marie, not after what Levi had told her about her. Especially after what happened at Erwin’s eighteenth.

“Careful mother, they’re heavy bags.” Erwin tried to pull the bag out of his mother’s firm grasp.

“Don’t be silly. If she won’t help you, I will.” She replied, sternly pulling a suitcase and three bags up the drive. Erwin managed to grab the rest and walked inside piled up, before dumping it all in the hallway. He looked around for his lost girlfriend, finding her wandering around his house, helping herself at looking through everything on display: she was fingering pictures, books, and even picking food from the fridge and sniffing at it quizzically. Erwin slightly cringed at her behaviour, especially as Mrs Smith began to frown at her actions too. But as soon as she found her son glancing, her expression turned to a smile in acceptance of his new partner.

“It’s not changed at all since your party, Erwin.” Marie commented, smiling and grabbing an apple, beginning to eat it. Ignoring her actions, Erwin finally found the time to turn to his mother, enveloping her in a large and solid hug: a hug that he had so desperately needed for so long. He struggled to hold himself together when he felt his mothers’ loving embrace.

“I’m glad you’re home, Erwin.” She said, placing a kiss on his cheek.

“Me too.” He said back, breathing in and smiling. There was no other person he’d want to be with more than his mother, she always helped him calm down and just make things better.

“And, how are you? And Marie?” She asked this incredibly quietly so the other wouldn’t hear, obviously directing the question to find out what actually has happened since she’d last seen him. All he had told her on the phone about his plans for Christmas was that he was bringing Marie and spending half the holidays there. And at the time, he didn’t seem very happy about the whole aspect of Christmas this year, not at all.

“I’ll tell you later.” Was whispered into her ear, as he straightened his back and took his and Marie’s suitcases up to his room to unpack for the next few days. Obediently, Marie followed him up the stairs quickly to clean up before it was dinner time. She took a quick shower whilst Erwin put her things away as well as his, and the couple headed back down to the dining room to enjoy some food after the long car journey.

Marie kept the conversation the entire meal. Everything she spoke about was how herdegree was going, about hernew friends at college, about how shehad split up with Nile after his bad results. Mr Smith barely looked up from his newspaper, not really caring to hear about her and just wanted to know how his son’s degree was going. It was only Erwin’s mother that attempted to pass chat back to her, occasionally slipping in a comment that was often ignored.

When Marie got onto talking about the restaurant she bought Erwin vouchers for, Mrs Smith kept catching Erwin’s eye contact and pulling a very concerned glance towards him. She knew her son better than anyone, and she knew that her son wasn’t interested in things like that: he didn’t care for people that were flashy and over the top, he liked quieter people who were caring – someone more like Levi. Worry pursued but Erwin passed her back a sympathetic smile showing that he was okay, he was coping with it all.

Clearing up was very different than usual after the meal, too. Mr Smith tidied the dining area as usual, placing placemats and the candles back into the cupboard. Erwin helped his mother carry the mucky pots into the kitchen to wash up and put away, and Marie just stayed sat there playing on her phone. Erwin sighed, extremely fed up with her, as he walked back into the kitchen carrying the last few things. Mrs Smith’s hands were deep in suds as she was washing up.

“Marie not helping?”

“Obviously not. She’s used to people pottering after her, doing everything for her. I end up clearing up for her most the time at home.” Erwin sighed, running a hand through his hair before beginning to dry up the pots on the side.

“So, whilst you’re alone. How are things?” Mrs Smith was careful how she worded it, not wanting to upset her son by bringing up his ex-boyfriend too much.

“Okay, I guess. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Hange. Well, I did until Marie became quite clingy. I’ve not heard from Levi since the break-up.”

“And are you happy, with Marie?” His mother kept her gaze towards the bubbles in the sink, she knew that he wasn’t happy but didn’t want to have to suggest it: she wanted to wait for him to tell her, not pry him too much for it.

“Yeah, I guess. Just tired, she’s hard work. Levi was never like that. Levi cleaned up, Levi got on with you, and even father after a while, Levi didn’t waste all my money. Levi was just Levi.” Erwin stopped drying up then, eyes feeling like they were swelling a bit. “God mum, I’m not over him. I want him back.”

He walked around the breakfast bar where the sink was in the centre and sat himself down, burying his head into his arms. Not crying, but he did wipe his eyes a few times before burrowing down further trying not to think of Levi too much. Mrs Smith dried her hands quickly and walked around to her son, sitting beside him and rubbing his back softly.

“Oh Erwin, perhaps now it’s the time to try and talk to him again. It has been a long time, there’s no need to be in a relationship you’re unhappy in.”

“I can’t talk to him mum.” Erwin sat up, looking at his mother, “Hange has spoken to him a lot. Apparently, he is with Eld now, and seems to be out pretty much daily with his new friends or doing his art. There’s no room for me in his life anymore, that’s the end of it.”

“Erwin honey he might be busy, but he’d always make room for you. No matter what happened, you have been a part of his life for over ten years now and I’m sure he’s feeling the exact same way you are at the moment. I did meet Kuchel for coffee after the break-up, and she said that Levi had just been moping around the flat or rushing out. He wasn’t seeming himself at all. I think it is time one of you speaks up.”

Erwin just shook his head, “no mother. I can’t. I better go find Marie, it’s been a while she might come looking for me in a second.”

Pushing himself off the chair, he wandered slowly to the dining room and took her hand in his, saying good night to both his parents and walking up the stairs with her in tow, where they went to bed, not touching each other – Erwin wasn’t in the mood, and hadn’t been at all recently. Instead he laid on his side, flicking through the few photos he had taken with Levi whilst in the relationship together. He didn’t want to admit it, or make a sound, but he cried to himself that night just wishing that it wasn’t the girl laid beside him, but the small man with the messy black hair and the furrowed brows.

                                                *****

“Levi sweetie, it’s your birthday in a few days. Have you got any plans?” Kuchel called out, as Levi was sat on the sofa flicking through TV channels. He’d just got home from being at Eld’s for a few nights and wanted to finally properly relax in the comfort of his own home. Sometimes he just needed time to himself.

“Celebrate Christmas.” Levi replied, looking off into a program he’d just found about ice skating.

Kuchel sighed. “Would you like to have anyone round? Petra? Eld, perhaps?” She hadn’t known that Eld and Levi were sleeping together. He wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re boyfriends, but each other’s time was consumed by one another. He decided they were friends with benefits, just to save putting an official label on anything yet. Whilst he was completely ready to have sex with different people, he was completely not ready to be in a serious relationship. Levi was definitely sure that his mum would fuss over him and want to protect him from another break up, deciding it was best to keep what he was doing in private a secret. He also knew she’d fuss about something like sex outside a relationship, for some bizarre reason.

“Petra’s with her family. Eld, Gunther, and Oluo are home for Christmas. They’re not from here.”

“I see. Well, I think it’ll be nice with just the two of us for once. We’ve been so busy at this time of the year the last few years, so a bit of traditional Ackerman time together will be lovely. I’ll get us a delicious dinner and dessert. I’ll make you a birthday cake too; if you want it can be a joint birthday and Christmas, if you’re not wanting all the attention on yourself.” Kuchel smiled, walking back into the living room and sitting beside her son on the sofa, a biscuit in her hand that she began happily munching on.

“Thanks mum.” L