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My Money's On The Kid

Chapter Text

Armin stood behind the long wooden bar, wearing a barkeep's apron, his short golden hair tied back in a half ponytail.

He looked around the dingy, rundown establishment, known as "Highroller's", which specialized in watery beer, cheap food, and slow service, as it only had two employees, the young blonde, and an aggressive brunette, who worked there part time.

As Armin looked around, he was greeted by many of the usual customer that were there nearly every night of the week, and some new, curious faces, craning their neck to get a view of the young barkeeper.

He heard the same conversations picking up much like they had in nights past. It was like HE was the best thing the customers in the bar could think of to discuss, and in their drunken whispers, they weren't exactly being discreet.

"That's him."

"The blonde behind the counter? Looks harmless enough, how old is he, 16? Is he even old enough to be serving beer?"

"That's the Arlert boy. I heard he has to run the place now since his dad got towed off to prison again. Don't place any sort of bet with him, he'll rip you off, just like his old man."

"What do you mean, 'bet'?"

"You know, wagers. He'll win nearly anything. I've seen him drink men thrice his size under the table in a drinking contest. He'll always bet right on horse races, and will come out on top in poker and craps too. I'm telling you, he'll end up in the pen* one day just like his father. That man's a drunk and a gambler."

"I heard he killed the wife and ran off with the son, then they ended up here and he just cheated and drank until he finally went to prison for one thing or another. Embezzlement, maybe?"

"Really? I heard that the wife hated him so much that she killed herself and left the boy with him, even though he was only about six at the time. And I heard he went to jail cause he beat the kid up so bad."

"Well someone told me--"

Three mugs of beer were slammed down on the worn wooden table, interrupting the three men's gossip. "Armin's mom died in a car crash, you assholes. And his dad's a loser but that has nothing to do with Armin, so fuck off."

The men at the table looked a little taken aback by the fiesty, teal-eyed brunette who had just slammed the mugs onto the table, splashing a river of beer over the small surface.

"What's it to you, kid? Are you even old enough to work here?"

"Pay at the front when you're done. And leave a tip." That was all Eren responded to him, before winding his way back behind the bar with Armin.

Armin gave him a soft smirk. "You know, you don't have to tear everyone a new one when they talk like that. I'm used to it. What they're saying is true."

"Yeah, but you don't deserve it. It's not like you want to be here, working seven, 15 hour days to keep this crappy, cockroach infested bar open."

The blonde turned and looked at his friend. "What am I supposed to do, Eren? When my dad gets out of prison, he's going to come back here and expect me to have kept the place up for him. I can't just run off."

Eren gently gripped his friend by the apron. "But you can, Armin. This is your life. You don't owe that bastard anything. You're almost 21 now, you should be going to college and enjoying life, not doing...this." He said, motioning around them.

Armin looked down. "What if it's true, you know? What if I end up like my dad? I can gamble. I can drink. That's about it. Those aren't really respectable talents. What if that's just my destiny? Working this crappy bar then going to jail, you know? Some people just get a shitty hand in life. Bad genes, bad circumstances. Maybe that's me."

"Never." Eren said, gripping Amin's uniform. "I'll never let that happen to you. No matter what. I'm going to get you out of this place, okay? And what you said, that's not true. You're the smartest person I know. You've got an amazing mind. It even shows, like, Armin, you're running a whole bar by yourself. You're doing bookkeeping, purchasing, customer service, you're doing the jobs of at least five people all by yourself."

"That's not true, you're here with me."

"Armin, I work part time, when I can, that's like, two hours a day! This is all you. All of it."

"I'm just doing what I have to."

"Sometimes that's all we can do. But listen. Things are going to be okay. We're going to get through this, and have awesome lives. We're not stuck here, I promise you. Now, do you have a place to sleep tonight?"

Armin cleared his throat. "Yeah. I'm totally fine."

Eren rephrased the question. "Where are you sleeping tonight?"

"Here. I had to cancel my lease." Armin said quietly. "The debt collectors came again yesterday and that was about it for everything we've made in the past few months. I'm never going to have enough for everything my dad owes, but I definitely can't afford to keep both my apartment and the bar. But it's totally ok, I made a pillow fort in the office."

Eren clenched is jaw. "It's not okay, Armin. You can move in with me until we get something worked out. No matter how long it takes."

"Eren...no..."

"Yes. We'll do this. We can win life together, Armin." Eren was silent for awhile, before he gently took the blonde's hand. "Good things will happen to us. I know it."

Chapter Text

Armin would consider himself to be a lot of things. Hardworking. Handy. Clever. He managed a bar and balanced different tasks: purchasing, customer service, bookkeeping, inventory. He kept up with his father’s debts. He survived on ramen, gin, and three hours of sleep a night.

One thing he wouldn’t consider himself, however, was brave. He was not a brave man.

He wasn’t a coward necessarily, he did hard, challenging things constantly. He crawled through life, hanging on by his fingernails, doing what he had to do to survive.

However, he would say that his life was absolutely, completely driven by a fear of his father.

His father was a bear of a man, with vices that had ruined the Arlert family in countless ways: gambling, drunkenness, and violence.

He had been in and out of jail for multiple things over the years. When Armin was about 6 he went to jail for the first time, for manslaughter, after his drunk driving resulted in the death of Armin's mother.

He got out from prison only about five years after that incident, and went back to prison a couple years later for embezzlement, stealing from the company he worked with in order to pay back one of the loan sharks he was indebted to.

For some reason, it seemed like he never was in prison very long. Maybe that was in Armin's head, or maybe he had some good connections, he could never figure it out, but that thought in and of itself scared him shitless.

After his father was out of prison for the embezzlement charges, he picked up the 16 year old Armin and moved to York, where he opened the bar "Highroller's", where he of course, held all sorts of different types of gambling sessions, hoping to win back all the money he had lost in the past.

He was arrested again a year later, the official charge this time was aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

That didn’t mean much to people who heard the story. But to Armin, it meant “almost getting shot eight times.”

Armin remembered the night distinctly, he was a senior in high school, and it was one of the last days of his senior year. His father lost a poker game terribly. Another $100,000 or something down the drain, a regular night, betting away money they didn't have.

Somehow, between the bar and the apartment he decided if he had never had a child, he would have been able to win.

When Armin came home from a party a few hours later, he emptied an entire clip of a .38 at the boy as he walked in the door. He only shot him twice, thankfully, but that was more than enough to seriously wound him. He shot him once in the chest and once in the gut. He would have died within minutes if the neighbors hadn’t have heard the ruckus and come to help.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of gossipy whispers, court cases, and Eren taking over as Armin's parent. His father was sent away for what could be between 2 and 10 years in prison.

Armin realized he had stepped out of high school and into a load of problems, including running his father's bar, debt collectors, bills, and barely scraping by. He had to face the realization that he may never be able to live out his dreams of going to college and getting a job, becoming an architect, falling in love and having a house and a small orange cat. The thing that made him the most terrified, though, was knowing that one day his father would come back. He couldn’t run, or hide, he was trapped and defenseless.

So he did all he could do.

He tried to take care of his fathers bar in hope it’d make him proud enough when he got back, he wouldn't try to murder him. He'd let him alone, set him free. And that was his life. His entire, pathetic life.

--

Eren’s phone rang as he was walking out the door from his real place of employment, A Wells Fargo where he worked as a bank teller. He worked hard, working full time, helping out Armin as much as he could, and also pushing through a college business degree in hopes of working in a professional office one day, maybe as a PR Representative or something like that. He had always liked the corporate environment, no matter what people said about it.

He picked up his cell phone. “Hello?” Even though it said the caller’s name and photo on the screen, answering like that was still just habit.

“Hey Eren, It’s Mikasa.”

“Long time, sis, how have you been?” Eren asked with a smile.

Mikasa wasn’t technically his sister, but they had been good enough friends growing up they nearly considered themselves family, even though work had kind of kept them apart as they got older.

She sighed, “Oh, alright. Work’s really stressful, and Thomas's freelance construction work has been a little unsteady lately also so there have been some up and downs for us, but other than that, things are good. How about you?”

“Oh, same as you I suppose. Work is fine, and so are classes, but I’m almost in the stage where I need “real world experience" to finish out my degree. I have to find an internship program pretty soon.”

“Hmm.” Mikasa said thoughtfully. “I'll keep my ears open as I go to trade shows and whatnot in the next few weeks. How’s Armin?”

“Same as usual. Scared shitless that his dad is hiding around every corner, surviving on Trix and Patron. He’s working himself to the bone, he’s honestly going to kill himself.”

Mikasa sighed. “I wish there was something we could do. He can't let himself be controlled by fear like this.”

"That's easy for you to say, Mika. You're not scared of anything. You'd wrestle a bear."

"I have, actually. In Alaska. It was a baby bear so it didn't really count."

Eren rolled his eyes. "Unbelievable. Besides, Mika, you remember everything that happened. I think that if someone tried to kill you or I, yeah, I would be afraid of them too. Especially if I didn't know when they were going to pop back up into my life.”

“What was the sentence again?

Two to ten years, officially. And its been three and a half. His dad never stays in prison long. I don't know if he just has exceptional behavior, or if he has some sort of contact on the outside. But he has good reason to be worried. Not like I'd tell Armin that though. I try to be as comforting as I can to him. He's living with me now. He just had to cancel his lease, out of cash and couldn't keep both the bar and his apartment.”

“Why doesn't he tell the guy to go fuck off and run away?”

“He doesn't have the resources, the money, a car. Disappearing is a lot easier in the movies. Not to mention, he has to pay the debts back by law before he can do basically anything. On top of that, and he’s absolutely terrified. He has the idea that his dad's like a demon who'll hunt him down wherever he is. And I don't think that's true, honestly, I don't think that the man cares enough, but I wouldn't be able to tell you.”

Mikasa nodded, even though Eren couldn’t see her. “I can see why that would influence his life in such a terrible way. Poor baby. He needs to start enjoying life, while he's young. He has so much to offer a lover. He's adorable, smart, a hard worker. I hate to see him like this. It's running him ragged. He didn't used to be this way. Remember when we were growing up? He was fun, conniving, and just a bit ornery. It was the best."

Eren agreed. "I know. I want that Armin back."

Well, we have an opening here. My CEO needs an administrative assistant. I was thinking about it, with all the stuff he does for the bar, he’d be a really good fit. Mr. Smith’s just wants someone who is a hard worker and down to earth, able to get stuff done. I really think Armin would do well. He’d make really good money and would be able to pay off the debts. If he wanted to, he could even ask Mr. Smith for a loan that he could pay back little by little with a piece of his check. It'd be a solid place to get a loan from, and he would be able to pay him back in a timely manner and get the debt collectors off his back. Plus, Mr. Smith always has Mike his bodyguard with him. He’d be safe here.”

“That sounds amazing, Mika, but he won’t accept, I’ve tried to help him out in the past. I've tried to have him go to a company where he’d be around people, where he'd be safe, even if something happened. But, at least he’s living with me now, maybe that will make him feel less isolated, and I can get him on a bit of a better diet. If there was anything I could do, I would. I want this more than anyone.”

“Well, I’ll...hmm...here’s this.” Mikasa hummed in thought. “I’ll put his name in for the position, and if you can figure out how to get him to the interview, I’m sure that Mr. Smith would offer him the job. He’d be a good fit, he's what Mr. Smith is looking for, and he's also definitely his type. Which wasn't part of the qualifications, but it's definitely a plus. On top of that, when it comes to hiring, Mr. Smith trusts my judgement as his hiring manager.”

Eren sighed. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Keep In touch. As long as Mr. Smith gives the go ahead, I’ll have an interview spot reserved for him. You just have to get him there.”

“How?”

“Ask him for the thing that he likes best.”

“What’s that?”

“Make him a bet.”

--

Mikasa stood in front of her boss, a stack of yellow folders in her hand. She handed them over to the blonde CEO.

“Mr Smith, I have gone through the application submissions and have picked out these six candidates that I think would be good matches for the qualification requirements for your new assistant.” she reported professionally.

He took the folders from her, opening the first one. There was a filled in application, attached to it a resume, cover letter and photo. The photo was of a short haired girl with red pigtails. She previously had been working two jobs to support her small family, which consisted of a husband and young son. She was experienced in many different types of work, and also willing to learn new skills. Erwin nodded.

“She sounds competent. Good choice, Mikasa.”

He went through the other few folders, nodding as he approved of his hiring manager’s choices. He got to the last folder and opened it up. There was a simple white piece of paper, with a few bullet points listed, giving the candidate's name, occupation, schooling and basic qualifications. The name at the top said “Armin Arlert.”

“What’s this, Mikasa?” Erwin asked, flipping the paper over looking for more information. There wasn’t a cover letter, detailed resume, application or a picture, just a short few sentences written by Mikasa.

Mikasa folded her hands. “This is a personal friend. I know he would be perfect for this position.”

“Did he put in an application?”

Mikasa shook her head, shortly explaining Armin’s situation. “I just want to give him a chance. To see there are good places and people in the world where he can thrive and be safe.”

Erwin stood. “If he doesn't want to be here, I’m not going to put him into this important position, expecting him to do a good job. But for you, I’ll interview him, as a personal favor. I trust your opinion. Please set up the interview slots for next Monday and Tuesday." He said, rising from his desk indicating the discussion was over.

Mikasa nodded. "Very well. Thank you sir."

She left the room, shooting a text to Eren.

“Interview set up for Tuesday at 2PM. Your job to get him here.”

--

Eren stood in the bar with Armin. It was his turn to broach the subject with his friend, like he had so many times before.

“Armin?”

“Yeah, what's up?”

“I...Mikasa…” He stuttered.

“What is it?”

“Mikasa’s company is hiring for a position. Its the assistant to the CEO. Mikasa got you an interview with them, I was wondering if you would go.”

Armin stopped in the middle of the limes he was slicing as if thinking for a second, then continued his chopping. “No. Thanks for thinking of me though.”

“Why not?”

“You know why not, Eren.”

Eren sighed. This is exactly how he thought this conversation would go.

“You won’t even interview? As a favor for me?”

Armin sighed. “Eren, don’t do this to me.”

A woman at the end of the bar looked down, wide eyed through her glasses. “What’s the argument, kiddos?” She asked. The two looked over to her, a little put off by the stranger interrupting their conversation.

Out of courtesy, Armin answered her with a sigh, “Eren wants me to interview at Sina for some sort of administrative position.”

“Ooh, how exciting!” The woman said. “That’s a great company. Erwin’s just the best. Why don’t you want to?”

Armin sighed “Because I have a responsibility to this bar.”

And my dad will literally kill me if I leave. He finished in his head.

“How’s this.” Eren said. “If you can beat me in a drinking contest, I’ll never bother you about this job again.”

Armin’s eyes narrowed. “What’s the catch? I’ve beaten you before Eren, I can do it again. I could drink two of you under the table, you're a lightweight.”

“Maybe I’ve been practicing. And if I win, you go to the interview.”

Armin stuck his hand out with a shrug. “Done.” He began taking his apron off.

"We're doing this now?" Eren asked.

"Yes, I told you, you'll be passed out before I'm even feeling it. Let's get this over with."

A group gathered around as they watched the two push a small table out from the wall, known as the "shots table".

“Pick your poison.”

“Absolut.” Eren said, as they picked up two shot glasses and three bottles of the clear vodka from under the bar.

“Who's counting?”

The woman in glasses pulled up a chair next to the table. “Ooh me I'll be the judge! It’s Hange by the way.”

“Hange then.” Armin said as the two sat down and everyone in the bar gathered around, money exchanging hands. “Get ready to count. And everyone, place your bets.”

Money exchanged hands around them and voices got louder as people argued who the winner would be.

"The brunette there. He's much more filled out."

"Have you seen the blonde drink? My money's on the kid."

"Dunno, the other one's much taller. I think he could take him."

"You've obviously never seen blondie drink before. I saw him put 26 away once."

"That's bullshit. That's not even possible."

"Just watch, you'll see."

Armin's eyes narrowed as he looked at Eren, and Hange filled the small glass for the first time. "You know you don't have to do this. You don't have anything to prove."

"I do, though." He gave his friend a soft smile. This is for you, Armin." He said, throwing back his first shot.

Chapter Text

Eren slammed his glass down on the table again. That was his 14th shot, and he was not looking well.

Armin looked him over, mentally doing the math in his head. His own limit was about 20 shots, but on a good day he could push to at least 30, but not before getting violently ill and then blackout drunk for two days afterward.

He and Eren were not the same person.

"Stop drinking, Eren." Armin said softly as he easily downed another shot. Vodka had never been hard for him to drink, but Eren was struggling through it. He didn't do much drinking at all, and this was going to wreck him, he should have stopped 10 shots ago.

"I won't." Eren replied. It was a different sort of tone, less of a statement, almost a warning. They were quickly approaching their 16th round. Eren wasn't going to stop, which meant only one thing, that Armin needed to decide what was more important: himself, or Eren.

He could either wait for Eren to pass out, whenever that happened, or stop before something bad occurred.

Eren had the most mental fortitude of anyone Armin had ever met. He had no doubt Eren could push through almost anything out of sheer will. Alcohol poisioning wasn't something to be trifled with, and he had no doubt Eren would easily push himself to that point.

18 shots came with a shudder, Eren gagging and holding back his vomit with his wrist.

"Call it, Eren. It's not safe for you to keep this up."

"I won't, Armin. I made this bet, and I intend to win. I want you to go to this interview." His words were very slurred, and Armin was surprised he could even think straight as he wobbled in his chair.

Eren was way over his limit. Pushing him any farther could kill him, and it would be Armin's fault.

With a sigh, the blonde stood from the table. 'The things we do for each other, Eren.' He thought to himself.

The smaller man took his shot glass and flipped it upside down. "I concede."

The crowd around him roared to life with conversation and boo's, while Eren smiled a very drunken smile, before leaning over and vomiting the contents of his stomach on the floor.

Hange raising the brunette's hand into the air to proclaim him the victor, then helped him outside so he could continue to throw up in peace.

"Damnit, Eren." Armin muttered.

--

Tuesday came, and Armin stood in front of the tall glass building in downtown York.

He had dressed in black skinny jeans and a wine colored button down, which wasn't even close to meeting dress standards for Sina, but it was basically the nicest outfit that he had.

He saw men and women entering and exiting the building in buisness formal: three piece suits, expensive dresses, shiny shoes, blingy watches and silk ties. He knew there was no way he would fit in, he would be an eyesore even entering the building.

He crumpled up the piece of paper Eren had given him with directions on it, and walked to the nearest trash can, dropping it in. Fuck this. Sorry Eren, but I'm calling it on this one.

He began to walk away when a hand gently grabbed his arm. "Armin! You made it!"

He turned and behind him was Mikasa, dressed in a black and white sheath dress and red high heels, her long black hair done up in a french twist. She had been standing outside waiting for him, as if anticipating this very moment. Apparently she and Eren knew him too well.

"It's been such a long time, Armin! It's so good to see you!" She beamed.

He gave her a half-smile in return. "Mmhmm, it's really nice to see you too. How is everything? Sorry I missed your wedding...I was working."

She waved her hand in a 'don't worry about it' motion. "It's fine. You should really meet Thomas sometime though, I think you guys would really hit it off. Anyway, I'm so glad you came today!"

"Yeah."

"Eren told me what you did, about quitting the drinking game so he wouldn't get too sick. You're a good man, Armin. You care about your friends, you've always been that way. Let us care about you now, okay? Please just...give this place a chance. I think that you'd feel comfortable and safe here, and could really, really find your place in the world. I don't want you to be afraid anymore."

Armin swallowed. He would love that, more than anything. But somehow, it didn't sound plausable to him. "Yeah, okay." He responded quietly.

"Lets go inside. I've told Mr. Smith all about you." She walked into the large glass building, pulling Armin behind her.

--

Erwin rolled his eyes as he swivelled slightly in his leather chair. He had already chosen the person he wanted for his new assistant, a younger woman named Sasha, who seemed like a hard worker and a fast learner. She would do.

As long as the same issue didn't arise this time as had with his last assistant, they'd be absolutely fine.

His past assistant had been a fine worker, and a good man. His name was Bertholdt. He'd worked at Sina for a few years as Erwin's private aid, and somewhere along the way he'd gotten absolutely enamored with the CEO and fallen completely head over heels in love with him.

It got messy and ugly. Erwin hoped to god he wouldn't have to deal with that again. He just needed a good, efficient assistant who would stay out of trouble.

He sighed, thumbing through the files on his desk. As soon as he was finished humoring whomever Mikasa's friend was, he could wrap this all up, hire Sasha and get back to work. He had way too much business that was stacking up.

Mikasa was a dedicated hiring manager, and after all she'd done for the company, he owed her this much. It shouldn't be that hard to pretend to be interested in some kid for a few minutes.

The door to his office opened, and his diligent hiring manager walked in, towing behind her a blonde young man.

He had sharp blue eyes and blonde hair cut to his chin, half tied back in a ponytail. He was small and absolutely adorable, not at all what Erwin had been expecting.

"Mr. Smith, this is my friend Armin Arlert, whom I told you about. Armin, this is Mr. Smith."

Erwin looked over the petite, tired-looking young man. He appeared to be in his very early 20s, maybe, and if he went to school with Mikasa that would make sense.

He was scrawny, too thin for Erwin's liking, with a graceful swan-like column of a neck and wrists that could easily be held in one of his hands. His body almost looked breakable.

He looked fragile in more ways than one, and it brought out a long-dormant protective instinct in Erwin, like he wanted to wrap the smaller man up in his arms and hold him while he slept, which it looked like he hadn't done in a long time.

Armin brushed a golden strand of hair out of his face. His eyes scanned over the elder man, looking the taller man's body up and down slowly, as if he were taking in and downloading information like a super computer, processing and sorting the data he perceived.

Mikasa silently exited the room, a small smile on her face as she saw the two sizing each other up.

She wasn't one to play matchmaker often. But if there were a few people that she knew well in the world, it was Eren, her brother, Armin, whom she had known all her life, and her boss, Mr. Smith, whom she worked closely with. And she was one to know when some people just need a little nudge in the right direction.

"Armin, right?" Erwin asked, even though Mikasa had just introduced them seconds before.

The smaller blonde nodded. "That's right." He didn't exactly know what to say. His eyes scanned over the tall, gorgeous man, dressed in a charcoal suit with a navy button-up shirt underneath, paired with a white tie. He wore expensive shoes and a large silver watch, everything that was around him looked to be costly. Armin was fairly certain the man's haircut had cost more than his own entire outfit. He was older, nearly twice his age from the look of it, wealthy, and single, or unmarried at least. Armin would almost pin him as a trust fund baby, but he didn't have quite the spoiled vibe for it. He wondered how he had made all his money. He was the kind of man who liked to be in charge. To have his I's dotted and T's crossed. To negotiate, to design, to come out on top.

Armin looked around the room at the books, maps and different materials spread about. He was intelligent, well educated and well travelled. What an amazing sort of a man. He had lived a life completely opposite to Armin's.

"Won't you sit down?" Erwin invited.

Armin took a seat on the leather couch, looking over the decorations on the coffee table in front of him. There was a neat stack of books, a short vase, and inbetween the two an expensive glass chess board.

Armin reached out for an interesting book on the table, called "Das Parfum". He flipped it over and mindlessly began to read the synopsis on the back.

Erwin crinkled his eyebrows as he watched Armin for a couple moments. "Do you speak German?" He asked. That's when Armin realized the synopsis he had been reading was in German.

"Yes, I guess. Not as well as I used to." Armin replied, a little embarrassed, as he put the book back down in the stack.

"How did you learn?"

"I taught myself. My best friend's family spoke it frequently and I wanted to be able to speak it with them."

Erwin smiled. "Excellent. Well, that's a good book, I recommend it."

"Do you speak these languages?" Armin asked, his fingers scanning over the stack of books, noticing that a couple of the books were in German, and there were also a couple in French, one in Italian, and one in Russian.

Erwin nodded. "I speak a few languages, but not fluently, just mostly business chatter. It's good for international partnerships."

Armin's eyes drank in the elder man. Handsome, smart, linguistically capable. He was so, so aroused.

He could imagine him, holding him, caressing his naked body while he bounced him up and down in his lap, sitting legs open and relaxed in his comfortable leather chair. He bet the elder man had a perfect, long, curved cock that he knew how to use well. He would manuver it inside of him gently, taking his time, teasing and pleasuring him, his lips moving across his shoulder as he came inside him. Armin blinked slowly. Now was NOT a good time to be thinking about this.

Erwin looked at the smaller, blue eyed man sitting opposite himself, and he was trying to keep his mind from floating to sinful places. He imagined gently pinning the small man down to the couch by his thin wrists. He thought of kissing up his soft, delicate neck, and coaxing an orgasm out of him while soft, breathy gasps left his pouty pink lips. He imagined watching his cum splatter across his soft, white chest, catching on his perked pink nipples.

And...shit. He was hard.

Things got weird as the silence between them was realized. "Um, would you like to play some chess?" Erwin asked.

Armin agreed and they set up the frosted glass chess board, making light small talk about the company, the city, and Armin's bar as they skillfully moved their pieces across the checkered glass.

Mikasa had given Erwin some insight into what Armin was like, but he hadn't heard the full story.

Armin spun a simple story of his dad going to jail and him watching out for the bar until he got back. Erwin knew there was more to the story than that, since the pieces didn't quite fit together. In any event, Armin was amazing, keeping up the numerous tasks at the bar all by himself, and caring about his friends enough to come to this interview.

He smiled.

Their conversation stalled for a moment, as they concentrated on their pieces moving across the slick board.

They both only had a few pieces left, when Armin announced "You're in check."

Erwin looked down at the glass, and noticed that Armin had looped him into a perfect little snare.

The CEO moved his king again, but Armin put him into check for a second time. Armin had set up the perfect inescapable trap, and Erwin finally forfeited, giving Armin the win.

The elder man smiled a bit. "You're good at chess. I've only lost a couple times before."

Armin shrugged. "Games are easy. You just have to know how to read you opponent."

Erwin tilted his head to the side. "And what did you read in me?"

"You're confident." Armin's eyes raked over the elder man's body. He had good reason to be. "You thought you were going to win so you took it easy on me. Once you realized that I knew how to play, you overcompensated and made risky moves. You weren't strategizing well so it was easy to pull you into my trap." Armin gave him a satisfied smile.

Erwin leaned back in his chair with an interested hum and smile. "Are you a poker player, Armin?"

Armin smiled. "I am."

"Would you say that your rule, knowing your opponent, applies to poker as well?"

Armin shifted in his chair. "Any type of gambling is 10% luck, 90% skill. In poker, you have to understand the other players. In horse racing, you have to know how to pick your jockey. In Blackjack, its simple counting cards. There's a trick for everything." He picked up a pawn and held it between two fingers, then closed his hand around it. Reopening his hand, and the pawn had disappeared.

He opened his other hand out flat, and the piece was in his opposite hand like a magic trick. "Gambling isn't luck, its science and observation. You just have to know how to do it."

He set the pawn down on the table as he stood from the couch.

"Are you leaving?" Erwin asked.

"Yes, I have to get back to my job. But thanks for humoring Mikasa like this. Make sure you let her down easy. She was really invested in me getting hired here."

Erwin rose from his chair automatically as Armin stood.

It was a pleasure to meet you." Erwin extended his hand to Armin, and took the younger man's small, cold hand in his own.

"Same to you."

Erwin opened his mouth as Armin turned to leave, but nothing came out as the door swung open, then closed as he left.

Erwin's eyebrows furrowed together as he picked up the pawn that Armin had held in his hand. He sat for a minute then slowly pushed the large stack of candidate notebooks off of his desk into the trash with a rustle and a thump.

Don't leave, Armin. You're perfect.

He rolled the pawn between his fingers, not exactly sure what had just happened, but knowing that the small blonde had just blown his mind. He had never expected the slender, quiet looking man to be so amazing. He was already addicted to him, and needed more.

You're perfect, Armin, and I will make you mine.

Chapter Text

Armin's head sagged between his shoulder blades as he slowly regained conciousness. He blinked blearily, raising his head and looking around, he realized he was in a room full of well dressed younger people, being held up by someone. He looked behind him, and Hange, the acquaintance from the bar, was holding him up by his waist.

"Rise and shine, cutie! You woke up just in time!" She said with a chipper voice.

Armin looked down at himself. He was dressed in a nice suit, that was a little too big for him, with a blue shirt.

"Where am I?" He asked, a terrible headache rocketing through his body. "How did I get here? And why am I dressed like a waiter?"

--

Three days prior

Mikasa strode down the hallway towards her boss's office, a smug look on her face. She already knew what the conversation was going to be about, and she was looking forward to it.

She knocked, and being beckoned in, she entered Erwin's office.

"Mikasa, I'd like Armin to be my new assistant." He said, crossing his hands and laying them on his desk.

"Really?" She said, trying as hard as she could to sound suprised.

"You're not suprised." He responded flatly.

"I had a good feeling about it." She shrugged. "How badly would you like him to be your aid, sir?"

Erwin thought over the question. "It's important to me." He responded carefully, as Mikasa's eyes flicked to the trash can full of applicant folders and papers that had fluttered to the ground around the bin.

"I'm happy to hear that, but I'm sorry. I believe that if you want him as your assistant, you're going to have to convince him of his importance on your own. Eren and I have done all we can. You'll need to tell him what you can offer him."

Erwin sat back in his chair, his brow furrowing. "I don't know what you mean."

Mikasa advanced towards his desk, taking a seat on the couch. "Let me tell you a story."

--

After Mikasa had relayed the whole story about Armin from beginning up to present date, Erwin's eyebrows were drawn in and his brow furrowed. "That's troubling. I understand his hesitation now."

"I'm sure you can offer him a lot. You just have to show him." Mikasa said, standing. There was a protection joke in there somewhere, but Mikasa decided it was in poor taste, since Erwin was her boss. She knew however, that if anyone could convince Armin to work there, it would be him. Erwin had one shot. She sincerely hoped he'd make it count.

"Oh, Mikasa, another thing I'd forgotten...you had told me that your friend was looking for an internship. How about he come and join ours? The orientation is in a couple days."

Mikasa hadn't thought about that for some reason. She had worked hard to keep her private life and work life seperated, well, until the last few days, that is.

Mikasa smiled. "I'll ask him about it. Thanks for the thought."

"There's a place for him here. Just say the word."

--

Erwin sat behind his desk, his large hands clasping and unclasping. He had spent the last two days trying to figure how how he was going to confront Armin, and he was running out of time now, considering the fact that the orientation for new hires was the following day.

He bit his lower lip, standing and walking across the room to the large window, gazing down at the city below. He had no idea what he was supposed to do.

He decided to go to outside and take a stroll to clear his head. The weather was pleasant for June, not too hot and not too cold. The summer would turn out nicely.

He took the elevator down slowly and entered the lobby. He waved to his polite receptionist, and nodded to a few other people around the office who murmerred their hello's to him as he passed.

He stopped near the door when he saw Mikasa standing inside the lobby vestuble, arguing with someone. The man was tall, with shaggy brown hair and firey teal eyes. He looked nothing like Mikasa, however they were fighting like siblings.

Erwin cautiously pushed the door open to the vestuble, and both turned to look at him. "Is everything alright?" He asked.

Eren looked him up and down. "You must be Mr. Smith." He smiled victoriously.

"I am. Did you need something?"

Mikasa sighed. "This is Eren. He was the one I talked you about being an intern here."

Erwin extended his hand. "Ah, welcome. The orientation is tomorrow."

"I know." He replied, running his fingers through his thick hair. "I came here to talk to you about something else."

"Which is?"

"Armin."

--

A few minutes later the three were seated around a small table in a nearby cafe. "Here are three things you need to know about Armin." Eren said, as he spilled his friends deepest secrets. "One: He needs to feel safe. He never has. That's what he's been looking for his whole life."

"I told him the story." Mikasa said.

Eren's jaw dropped as he looked at his sister. "You traitor!"

Mikasa rolled her eyes. "What are the other two things?"

Eren continued. "Armin's smart. Smart as fuck. Nothing he does is left up to chance. He knows everything that's going to happen. He's a genius."

"Whats the third?" Erwin asked curiously.

"He can drink like a 500 pound man. Except..." Eren smiled sneakily, "He can't drink Jager."

"Jagermeister?"

"It will put him down in...I'd say four shots."

Erwin smiled. "That's interesting."

"Isn't it though?" Eren said, tipping his head to the side with a grin.

"I'm going to see him this afternoon." Erwin decided.

""I'll be at the bar. Maybe we'll run into each other."

"Highroller's, right?"

Eren nodded.

--

The bar was small, smoky and crowded. Erwin let himself in, the bells over the door jingling to signify his presence. The blonde behind the bar cast a glance at the door, expecting one of the regular customers, but when he saw Erwin Smith in the doorway, he did a double take. The broad-shouldered CEO was still dressed in his work clothes and severly overdressed for the location.

The majority of the patrons in the bar were dressed in dirtied jeans and tee shirts, and the bar was filled with yells and shouts as the customers yelled at the horse races on the TV and exchanged money for bets.

The large blonde smiled, seeing Armin behind the bar. He made his way through the crowd to the counter and mounted himself on one of the barstools, looking at the small blonde, who was now wearing a white barkeep's apron, his blonde hair back in a half ponytail and his sideswept fringe kept out of his face with a couple bobby pins.

The younger man moved across the bar to where Erwin sat and greeted him with a smile. "Mr. Smith. It's nice to see you again. I didn't know this sort of place was your speed."

"There are a lot of things you don't know about me, yet, Armin." He said with a small smile. He let the words hang in between them, the two of them locking eyes as if trying to determine what he had meant exactly.

Armin shook off the comment with a laugh. "Of course. Can I get you something to drink?"

"Burbon. And I'll cut to the chase. Armin, I'd like you to come work for me." Erwin said.

Armin smiled a sweet smile. "Thank you for the offer, but as you may have noticed, I work here."

A familiar brunette came out of the back room, carrying a box of pretzels. He locked eyes with Erwin, shooting him a smile, then continued his work.

The CEO frowned, then sighed. "Well if that's the case, how about a bet?"

Armin leaned forward on the counter, intrigued. "What kind of bet, Mr. Smith?"

"On the races."

"Okay, and when I win, you and Mikasa and Eren will stop asking me about this job?"

"Yes. But if I win, have a drink with me."

A smirk sat on Armin's lips. "Fine."

The two looked up at the screen as the horses readied for the next race.

"Number six. 'Luck-of-the-Irish'." Erwin said, choosing his horse matter-of-factly.

Armin shook his head. "Number Two. 'Holly.'"

The two sat and watched as the gun fired and the horses took off around the track. Erwin was holding his breath, unsure about his choice. He hoped he didn't lose. The horses took the last turn, with number six and number two neck and neck, but then, it happened. Number two slipped in the muddy track, losing a pace, and number six charged forward, for the win.

Armin looked away from the TV, his eyes locking on Erwin's. "How did you know that would happen?"

"Because." He said, "You picked for the jockey. Which was a good choice, he's always been in the top three, however, 'Holly' has never performed well in inclement weather. Since she generally only races in the summer months, she's used to sun. This rain is out of the norm for her."

Armin tipped his head to the side. "Are you big into the races, Erwin Smith?"

"No," He responded, smiling. "I just knew this would be an important bet so I did some research. Know your opponent, isn't that right?" He smiled. "Now will you drink with me?"

Eren appeared beside Armin with a grin. "I'll pour. Take a seat for awhile, Armin!" After much objection, Armin found himself sitting at the "shots table" across from Erwin. He wasn't exactly sure how drinks turned into shots, probably something to do with Eren, again.

"What are we drinking?" Armin asked, just as Eren slammed down a bottle of Jägermeister between the two.

"Oh, fuck no." Armin objected, standing from his seat, only to find himself being shoved back down into his chair by Eren.

"Come on, Armin."

"No, Eren, remember last time there was Jaeger? Remember what happened? THIS!" He said, standing up he yanked his shirt up, revealing a long, scripted tattoo down his back. "I have the law of equivalent exchange tattooed on my back, Eren!"

Eren laughed hysterically. "Well there will be no tattoos this time. I promise. Come on, Armin."

The small blonde huffed, flopping down in his chair and looking at the tall businessman across from him, who was sitting with a slight smirk on his lips.

Armin was two shots in when Erwin decided to try his coercion technique again. "Armin, I'd really love it if you came and worked for me. I think you'd be great. I can offer you everything that you need. Money, security, a soft place to land. You won't need anything, and you won't have to worry ever again."

Armin let out a hiccup as Eren stood behind him and poured him another shot, nodding to Erwin hopefully.

"I can't." Armin said, drinking his third shot, Erwin keeping pace with him, not sure how much longer he himself would be able to keep downing the thick, licorice tasting liquid, so he hoped he could convince the blonde soon.

"Why not?"

"I don't have any suits. Or any nice clothes."

"We'd get you some. It wouldn't be a problem, we would need you looking dapper if you're to stand by my side. I would take care of your wardrobe."

Armin thought about it. "You'll keep me safe? Do you promise?" He asked, squeezing the shot glass in his hand that was filled to the brim, thanks to the grinning Eren standing behind him.

"Yes. You have my word. You'll always be safe with me. And Eren's coming too, as an intern, so he'll be at Sina too. You'll always be comfortable and have everything you need. I know it will be a great place for you."

Armin downed the last shot, and then nodded. "Okay. Fine. I'll do it."

Erwin smiled. They were both going to be very hungover tomorrow, but this was definitely worth it. For the heck of it, he took another shot poured by Eren, as he ordered an Uber on his phone. Tomorrow, he would have his new assistant.

--

"How did I get here, and why am I dressed like a waiter?" Armin groggily asked Hange. She explained the whole evening prior while Armin cursed Eren, Erwin and Jägermeister, blinking and willing his headache to go away. Half of him absolutely was so angry about being dragged there, but the other part was thrilled and excited. A new job. The ability for a new life. Erwin had promised that he would keep him safe. Maybe, maybe it was true. He could have what he had always been searching for.

A new beginning. His own story. Life. Love. Happiness.

He screwed his eyes closed, furrowing his eyebrows as he took a seat near the back next to Eren. He was sure his eyes looked bloodshot and he looked hungover. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, and then felt a large hand on his shoulder.

He turned around and Erwin was there, looking equally as tired and his eyes looking similarly bloodshot. Armin breathed a short chuckle out his nose. The larger man held his hand out, dropping two large pain reliever into the blonde's hand and giving him a bottle of water. Armin looked down at the items and then back up at the man.

"Thank you." He murmured.

"You're welcome." Erwin responded with a tired smile. "Welcome to Sina. I look forward to having you."

Chapter Text

"Well you look like absolute shit. What happened to you?" Levi asked, looking at Erwin, who dragged himself into the Operation Manager's office the morning of orientation, red-eyed and clearly a bit hungover.

"I had something I needed to take care of." The man replied, putting his hand to his aching forehead.

"Seriously? Was it a frat party, because you're about 20 years past your prime in that department." The smaller man said sarcastically, moving from where he was planted in front of the large window over to his desk. He pulled out the top right drawer of the large cherry oak rolltop and yanked out a bottle of pain reliever, tossing it across the room to Erwin, who caught it expertly, despite his aching headache. "You're not in college anymore, Erwin."

"Thanks, Levi." Erwin mumbled, taking a few of the pain reliever and shoving the bottle in his pocket.

Levi crossed his arms, moving back to the large window in his office. "I hate these orientations. And interns." Levi turned around to gaze at Erwin with a clearly annoyed gaze. "Why, Erwin. Just hire competent, qualified employees and save us time and resources."

Erwin shrugged, rubbing his temples as he leaned against the back wall next to the door. "I think it's good to give people a chance. I seem to remember a young man I worked alongside with a long time ago who had no experience, but ended up making it pretty far."

Levi huffed. "Well, not everyone is like me, Erwin."

"Very true. But there are lots of different types of people in the world. Lots of different personality types other than the usual stuffed shirts that come and go from here. Maybe this will be good. Give you a chance to get out there, meet some new people. Take some of the younger generation under your wing. Find someone to invest in. Maybe someone to open up to."

Levi responded with a 'tsk'. "You're still drunk if you think that will ever happen." He headed for the door, opening it, giving Erwin his cue to exit.

Erwin walked past him out the door. "Thanks for these." He said, holding up the bottle of pain reliever with a tired smile.

"Don't mention it." Levi responded. "But I want those back. Those little shits downstairs are already giving me a headache."

Erwin nodded with a slight chuckle as he left, Levi swinging the door shut behind him.

He retuned back to his seat at his desk, crossing his arms and flopping his head down. Orintation. Interns. People. He sighed. He didn't feel like being around any of it. He just wanted to do his job, run operations smoothly, check the boxes. Keep everything in order.

What Erwin had said was true. He had started out at the bottom. He had crawled his way up to the top to where he was now, hanging on with his fingernails and teeth. Sina was his triumph. The first place in life he could ever call home.

He had never had anything growing up. He was a ward of the state as far back as he could remember. He didn't have a home or a family that wanted him.

He had been in so many foster homes by the time he was 16, that he eventually stopped holding on to hope that he would ever actually have anything that was his own. Anything that wouldn't be stolen away from him.

The doctors had diagnosed him with a serious attachment disorder later in life, due to his childhood trauma. It had been his weakness when he was young. He had felt alone. Vulnerable. Weak. Now, it was his strength. He was cold. Serious. Untouchable. Surrounded by so many thick, unbreachable walls, nothing would ever be able to hurt him. Sometimes he was unsure if he had any feelings at all.

Sina. This was his job. His place. He had earned it with pride. He had began as the night janitor, working side by side with the young Erwin Smith, the front desk phone operator. Time had passed since then. They had both climbed, together. To where they stood on top of everything.

Erwin was his best friend, one of his only friends, for the last two decades. He couldn't count how many times over the last many years the professional, smooth talking Erwin had gone to bat for him over things he'd done. He'd been getting much more professional over the last couple years, he hadn't called anyone an incompetent asshole and walked out of a business meeting in some time. So there was that.

This was what he had. Erwin had joked about it many times before. "Getting out there," "meeting someone," "opening up," and god forbid "finding love," whatever that meant. The thought of him becoming attached to one permanent thing not only seemed idiotic, but it seemed impossible. He didn't need someone else. He had his walls. His high, unbreakable walls, to keep him safe. Isolated, alone. But safe.

His desk phone rang. It was the front desk clerk, beckoning him down to introduce himself to the new hires and interns. He sighed.

He took the elevator down to one of the main conference areas, a long, oblong room with a stage set up in front and a few rows of chairs facing the stage. Erwin was standing front and center, finishing up a power point of the company's main mission statement.

The HR manager, Hange, introduced herself next in a cheerful voice, and the hiring manger, Mikasa, who carried the same last name as himself but was no relation introduced herself afterward, followed by a few other department heads.

"Next up please welcome our Operations Manager, Levi Ackerman." Erwin announced, his eyes scanning the room and locking on Levi, who was leaning against the back wall with a bored expression on his face. He always saved Levi for last at things like this, knowing how much he disliked the whole scene. Levi appreciated it more than he would ever admit.

The operations manager approached the stage and went up to the microphone, which was, as usual, set for Erwin's enormous height. He tilted it down to his level, his eyes scanning the crowd of well dressed, wide-eyed younger people. There were at least 15 or 20 of them. He wondered where they would be working. Specific departments, or was it just basic intern slavery work? He knew that Erwin's new administrate assistant he had heard so much chatter about the last few days was out there somewhere. He would probably be petite, well dressed and well spoken. Someone that would be an excellent assistant, but also look good standing by his side.

He scanned over the interns. Blonde, brunette, redhead. It looked like a good mix of male and female, bright eyed and ready for an exciting corporate job. Ugh. Don't get your hopes up, kids.

His eyes landed on a sandy-haired man with a long face, similar to a horse. He looked like he would be one with attitude issues. Levi could almost always tell right away. He was one whose ass he was going to have to kick in a few times.

Sitting a couple seats down from him was an exceptionally thin blonde, his hair up in a half pony tail leaning forward with his head between his knees. Levi looked once, then did a double take, when he realized that the kid was wearing the spare suit that he generally kept hanging up in the closet of his office. What the hell. The blonde sat up, trying to look interested, but his eyes were red and he could barely sit upright, looking very hungover. Levi's silver eyes narrowed. The whole thing was weird, and somehow he knew Erwin had something to do with it.

That must be Erwin's new assistant. Not at all what he had been expecting. He was expecting some well put together, starry-eyed dreamer, not a hungover portrait of the great depression. He let out a small 'hmm'.

Then he noticed what was sitting next to him. The man appeared to be the same age as the rest of the interns, and he was beautiful. He was long legged, dressed in black pants and a teal shirt that perfectly matched the ocean-colored hue of his eyes, which peeked out from under a mop of chocolate hair. His teal orbs were focused on the blonde next to him, his hand gently rubbing his petite friend's back while he whispered something to him. Then his eyes turned back to the front, silver eyes locking with teal.

'He looks like a..something. Like a mermaid or some sort of mythical being. Something beautiful, that I've never seen before.' Levi's head was filled with awe as he stared into those enormous eyes, unable to tear his gaze away.

"Levi." Hange whispered from a few feet away, reminding him it was his turn to introduce himself.

"Right." Levi said, brows furrowing, snapping back to the present. "I'm Levi. I work in operations. Do all your stuff right or I have to fix it. And don't leave those nasty Ramen noodles in the kitchen sink, because I will find you, and I will kill you." With that, he exited the stage, the sound of spattered clapping following him.

Erwin went back up to the mic, adjusting it with a smirk. "Thank you, Levi, for that inspirational bit." He said, watching Levi walk quickly toward the back doors, throwing one last glance over his shoulder first at Erwin, then at the intern with the teal eyes.

--

A couple hours later, Hange was standing in the doorway of Levi's office, Eren behind her.

"Levi." She said, the man not looking up as they entered.

"Mm."

"I've brought you an assistant. Someone to help you out around here."

"I don't need some shitty brat getting their nasty dirty fingers all over my things." He said, sparing a look up. He did a double take as he saw the teal eyed man behind Hange.

"Well, don't think of it as an assistant. Think of it as...just, an intern that you can call directly if you need extra help."

Levi's eyes narrowed as he looked Eren up and down. "What's your name, kid."

"It's Eren." He responded.

"Eren."

"Eren Yaeger."

"Eren." Levi repeated, rising from his chair. He locked eyes with the younger man again, falling unwittingly into those deep teal pools. He was getting lost. "Fine, just, whatever." He murmerred, snapping his gaze away.

Hange smiled, doing an excited wiggle of her hips.

"Now both of you get the fuck out and clean something and I'll call you when I need you. IF I need you."

The two left and Levi collapsed in his chair. He was fine. This was fine. Just a shitty intern brat that would be around every so often. No big deal.

It's not like he would get to know him. As long as he stayed away from his personal business, everything was fine. Everything was strictly business.

--

"I'm not sure this is a good idea." Erwin said quietly, squeezing his iced tea as he spoke quietly to Hange at a small outdoor table at the special rooftop café.

"That was the first time I've seen Levi even look twice at something. Or rather, someone. What if this is our chance? I've know Levi for how many years, 8? You've known him for much longer. There's things about him that even we don't know. He's dying inside. He's going to die alone, a bitter old man unless he finds someone to open up to." She responded.

"Stop yelling, Hange, I still have a headache." Erwin said, rubbing his temples. "And Eren's not some sort of pawn in a big chess game. He's here to learn things and get experience. He's a real person. I don't want to make him uncomfortable."

"Just trust me. On this one, trust me."

Erwin bit the inside of his cheek. He wanted to. He wished the best for Levi. He really did. But at the same time, he was afraid how things would turn out for Eren.

"Don't worry about Eren. I think he can take care of himself. It will all work out. I think you have someone else you need to be taking care of right now, right?" She said, pointing over a few feet to the very hungover, tired Armin, standing at the railing and looking out over the city from the high up café.

"She's right, you know." Armin said, as Erwin came closer to him.

"Hmm?"

Armin turned toward the larger man to clarify his statement. "Hange is right. Eren can take care of himself in the end. But he'll take care of Levi until it almost kills him first. That's the thing about Eren. He cares about everyone. To a fault. I'd know, he's the reason I'm here."

Erwin hummed, mulling over Armin's words.

Chapter Text

Armin sighed as he unlocked the bar, the bell above the door letting out a faint jingle as he entered. He walked into the back numbly, stripping out of his borrowed suit, dropping it to the floor, pulling on his jeans and white tee shirt and apron, which were exactly where he had left them from the night before.

He had been working at Sina for two weeks, and he hated to admit that he absolutly loved it. He loved working alongside Eren and Mikasa, learning new skills, and feeling like he was an upstanding, contributing member of society. When he was at Sina, he felt like someone that mattered instead of like riff-raff and trash, the way he had felt his entire life.

He sighed. Then there was Erwin. The amazing, talented, harworking CEO. He wanted to know more about him. The blonde blushed a bit at the thought of the devilishly handsome elder man. Completely untouchable and a million miles out of his reach, but Armin still felt blessed he could spend all day just outside his office, answering his phone calls and emails, finding excuses to ask him questions so he could have those ice blue eyes focused directly and singularly on him.

He had a crush. A bad one, on his boss. Typical. No big deal. This was work. Just a job, and with it, he would be able to accomplish his dreams. The things he had Eren had talked about all their lives. If he had to push through a celebrity crush while he worked there, he could deal with it, he was a big boy.

He sighed as he prepared to open the bar. It was only when he was alone in brief times like this did he realized how much his body ached and how tired he was. He pulled a bottle of Sailor Jerry's out from under the counter and took a drink of it.

He was working at Sina regular office hours - 8:00 am to 5:00pm, and then opened up Highrollers at 6:00. The bar was open until 2:00 am. He was averaging 3 hours of sleep at night, if he got lucky. It all depended on how long the nightly chores took: balancing the books, cashing out the register, stocking the shelves and cleaning. His eyes were watering and his body felt like it was falling apart, but there was nothing he could do, except drink and try to will the pain away. Somehow, strangly, that seemed to be making it worse.

The usual customers started piling in around 6:15 as expected, the bar filling up with usual chatter, glasses clinking and the buzz of the TV running constantly in the backround.

Armin leaned on the bar making idle smalltalk while he poured drinks, waited tables, ran the cash register, cleaned up spills, broke up fights, and everything else that came with being a bar owner. He had a dull, grinding headache in the back of his head. All he wanted was for the night to be over.

--

"Where's blondie?" Levi asked dryly as he stopped in front of Erwin's door the next morning, Eren trailing a few steps behind the ravenette, his arms full of Levi's pressed suits, briefcase and two folders, which were constantly sliding off to the left side of the uneven pile, Eren having to reach out and grab them with his hand before they dropped to the floor.

Armin's desk was set up nicely in front of Erwin's office as usual, phone, netbook and headset all ready to go, but he was nowhere in sight.

Erwin frowned as he stood from his large desk, crossing his arms. "I don't know."

"You mean he didn't come in?" Eren asked, his voice muffled by the enormous stack of laundry piled up to his eyeballs.

"What's that he's carrying?" Erwin asked, looking at Eren, then directing his question to Levi.

"Dry cleaning." Levi said boredly. "What's that look? You said the shitty brat was supposed to help me with stuff. This is helping."

Erwin just pressed his forehead to his hand, looking like a father disappointed in his son, but didn't respond.

"So what, blondie just quit on you?" Levi picked up the conversation they were having before, "See, what did I just say about the interns? Unbelievable, Erwin. A waste of time and resources. Do you know how much it costs to train a new emoloyee?" He asked, pointing the pen in his hand at the CEO.

Erwin sighed. "I know. I get it Levi. But, I mean, technically he didn't want to be here anyway. Eren, Mikasa and I sort of coerced him to work here. But I am still disappointed. I really thought he was starting to like it."

Eren shook his shaggy head behind the pile of clothes. "Armin does like it here. He told me that yesterday. He loves Sina, and working with us, and you." He blushed as he realized he divulged his friend's secret, but it seemed like Erwin didn't notice the slip. "If he was going to have quit, He would have said something, to me and to you out of respect. But if there's something I know about Armin is that he's not a quitter. I have to go look for him."

Levi 'tsk'd'. "Hang up my dry cleaning first, you shitty brat. See, kids these days, never finish anything they start."

Erwin's eyebrows furrowed upon Eren's declaration, and he stood from his chair, throwing his sport coat over his arm. "Hmm. I'm going out."

"You're going to go look for him?" Eren asked as he struggled under the dry cleaning again, the folders on top finally sliding off and crashing to the ground, Levi sighing as he bent down and picked them up, adding them to the top of the pile and blocking Eren's line of sight.

Erwin hummed. "I don't want to lose him. If I have to chase after him to keep him by my side, I'll do whatever it takes."

"Whatever you say." Levi said dryly as he hooked his hand in the back of Eren's belt, tugging him backward toward the elevator, the younger man letting out a squeak as he walked backward blindly. "He's just a kid, Erwin. All of them can be replaced in a heartbeat--Oy, stop being a jackass and get in the elevator...oh for shit's sake." Directing his attention to his intern, Levi grabbed Eren around the waist as he wandered off to the side of the elevator and pulled him gently back into the metal box, pressing the down button.

"Sure they can, Levi." Erwin mused as he approached the elevator himself, smiling as he heard the Operations Manager bitching until the door closed. "I'd like to see someone replace Eren. Even now, I can already see you wouldn't be without him."

--

The CEO was surprised to find the door to the small bar unlocked, even though the closed sign was hung in the window. His brow furrowed, and somehow he knew something was wrong. His fists clenched around the handle of the door as he slowly squeaked it open, immediatly calling out for the smaller man.

"Armin, are you here?"

There was no answer.

"Armin, please, I just want to talk to you for a moment."

His eyes scanned the bar, which still looked dirty, beer glasses on the table and the floor sticky with spills. The TV was on, tuned into a sports station, which was now playing a boring golf tournament.

"Armin? Are you here? Please answer me."

He continued looking, no signs of life in the bar. He had no idea why he had chosen the bar to come to, Armin worked at Sina now, there was no reason he'd be in the bar. He'd most likely be sleeping in somewhere, maybe cuddled in next to some pretty warm thing he'd met at the a coffee shop or the library. He laughed, trying to imagine where Armin would pick up a lover, but at the same time a quick pang of jealously ran through him. Hot, possessive envy, an actual, audible growl escaping from between his lips. He pushed the thought-the issue, how much he wanted his assistant- his young, male, very emotially damaged assistant from his mind. He'd compartamentalize and dwell on that problem later.

Erwin knew he was intruding, but felt like he had to continue searching for some reason. He moved behind the long wooden bar, sliding back into the employees only section of the establishment. There he saw him. Armin was face down on the floor next to a stack of boxes. Glass was shattered around him, as if he had been carrying a tray of glasses and dropped it the second he passed out.

"Oh my god, Armin!" Erwin yelled, hurrying to the smaller blonde's side. He grabbed him, rolling him over and holding him in his arms for the first time. Feeling his body, he realized how gaunt and thin the small man was. His skin was cold and blotchy and he was barely breathing.

He held the smaller man close to his chest while he yanked out his phone, first calling 911, then calling Mikasa, alerting her of what was going on. It was only moments before an ambulance and paramedics were on sight, towing away the small unresponsive body.

--

"What happened?" Eren demanded, jumping from the chair and beginning his interrogation as soon as the nurse entered the waiting room.

The woman frowned, crossing her arms. "You may see him now. Your friend is extremely overworked, dehydrated, and his body was diminished of almost all of his critical nutrients." She wagged her finger inches from Eren's face. "You call him your friend, but why is this man in such bad health? If he wasn't found today, his body would have stopped functioning, do you know what that means?"

Eren shivered and tears unwillingly welled up in his eyes. Armin could have died and he would have done nothing to stop it. If it wasn't for Erwin, Armin would probably be dead. He had no idea that his friend was in such bad shape. He should have noticed sooner. All of this was his fault.

The nurse's expression softened as she saw Eren's hurt. "He's okay." She said, patting Eren on the shoulder. "He needs to take better care of himself. Sometimes people just don't know how to monitor that. That's why we need friends and people around us to take care of us."

Eren nodded. "I'll help. I will."

Erwin smiled, putting his hand thoughtfully on Eren's shoulder. "We all will."

Erwin, Eren and Mikasa entered the room and saw Armin attached to the machines. "Armin. Are you okay?" Erwin asked, immediately feeling stupid after he asked the question.

"I...guess not." He said with a short raspy laugh.

"Armin," Mikasa asked as she sat down next to the bed, slipping her hands over Armin's in a comforting gesture, "Why have you been working at the bar and at Sina?"

"You know why." He responded quietly.

Erwin reached forward, brushing a strand of hair out of Armin's face and tucking it behind his ear, colbalt eyes locked with ice blue orbs. "Are you afraid?"

Armin just tsk'd and didn't respond, and Erwin smiled inwardly that Armin would dare respond that way to him.

"Because of your dad, Armin?" Eren followed up.

"You already know the answer to that, Eren. Why are you even asking?"

"You don't have to do that anymore, Armin. When I said that I would keep you safe, I meant it." Erwin said softly.

"You don't understand." Armin's answer was more of a whisper than anything.

"Armin, please. This can't go on. If you want, there's even a studio apartment that's right next to me that's open. I'll help you out with first month's rent."

"I don't want to owe you money."

"I'll take it out of your first paycheck. Consider it an advance."

Armin looked away, and Erwin caught his chin, pulling it back. "Let us help you, Armin. Please. You don't need to be afraid anymore. Don't be scared. It's time for you to finally be happy."

Armin didn't answer, his hand squeezing Mikasa's and a single tear escaping from his eye, rolling down to rest against Erwin's knuckles was enough of an answer for everyone.

--

"That's everything, Armin." Eren said, as he put the last small box in the middle of Armin's tiny apartment. "It's perfect. A new job, a new place. A new life, Armin."

"Right next door to my boss." He said, poking the wall next to him, indicating Erwin was on the other side.

"I guess you can't have any ragers." Eren winked.

"And, Armin, you'll always be safe. Even if you stopped working at Sina, I know Erwin would keep you safe." Mikasa entered, bags of groceries in her arms. "He cares about you."

Armin's heart leapt in his chest as he listened to Mikasa's words, then had to calm himself down. He cares about me, because I'm a decent employee and a good guy. Not like, cares about me like that.

"I expect you to eat all these groceries I got for you, Armin." She said, "And Erwin will be watching."

"Watching me eat?"

"Watching to make sure you're doing okay. We all will. We're all here if you need anything. Any day at any time."

Armin sighed, moving to look out the large glass window down at the traffic below. "What about the bar?"

"Sell it." Eren said, his mouth stuffed full of food, "Sell it, pay off that bastard's debt, and be done with it, and him, and everything."

Mikasa nodded, grabbing the bag of pretzels out of Eren's hand. "Those are for ARMIN. Go home, Eren. Armin- I can help you with selling the bar. I have lots of friends in commercial real estate. Just say the word. "

Armin looked at the two, this his eyebrows furrowed. He took a deep breath, eyes closing, and was silent for a long, long time. "Okay." He finally responded. "Let's do it."

The three celebrated the decision with healthy carrot cake dessert made by Mikasa, while Eren helped Armin unpack his few belongings. "We need to buy you lots of stuff, Armin." Eren mused. "A bed, a dresser, all the stuff for a kitchen...." He went down the list for the next 20 minutes while Armin rolled his eyes.

"I know. I'll get around to it." He yawned. "I'm fine now. I have my air mattress and can use paper plates and what not. No big deal." He smiled, putting his head on Eren's shoulder, getting comfortable in the makeshift couch they had made by propping the pillows up against the half-wall between the living room and bedroom. He smiled a grin that Eren hadn't seen in a long, long time, which made Eren light up.

"You smiled, Armin." Eren said softly.

"I know." He replied. "For the first time in a long time, I don't feel like I'm drowning."

Eren kissed the top of his head in a friendly, comforting gesture. "You never have to feel that way ever again. Never. Everything is going to be alright from now on. I know it."

Chapter Text

The unexpected summer rainstorm pounded down against the glass of Levi's huge office windows, and he stared out at the torrential deluge with a scowl. It was August. It was supposed to be sunshine and daisies and crap, not this. He huffed. He had had an absolutely horrid morning, and it had been all downhill from there. He was in a foul mood.

He looked down at the disorganized folders stacked on his desk. They were each stuffed full with papers and held together with a heavy binder clip. It was without a doubt the worst back-up filing system he had ever seen in his life- if said train wreck could even be called a filing system.

It was audit week. He had four days to clean and organize the mess the accounting department had been making all year. He gritted his teeth. This was absolute madness and he was about 6 seconds away from throwing himself out the window and into the typhoon outside to avoid it all.

A heavy knock came on his door and he didn't respond. Hopefully whomever it was would bugger off and leave him be, but 9 chances out of 10 they would just enter without his permission.

As expected, a few seconds later the door sqeaked open in spite of his wordlessness and Hange floated into the room, a typical mischevious grin plastered on her face.

"What." The ravenette said flatly, hardly sparing her a glance. "I seriously don't have time for any of your jackassery today, Hange."

"Levi, you wound me." She replied dramatically, putting her hand to her chest as she plopped down into one of the comfortable leather chairs across from his desk. "I just came to say hi and see how the audit was going. You always turn into captian crabby pants during audit week, and--ooh hey, nice tie, is it new?"

He murmered something in way of an irritated response as he continued working, digging through the flutter of papers on his desk.

Hange watched him curiously as he paused for just a moment to take off his grey suit jacket and straighten his teal and purple striped tie. She raised one eyebrow as she inspected the suspicious necktie. In the 8 years she had known him he had only worn solid, neutral-colored silk ties. The necktie he was wearing looked like an awkward candy-cane that would be some sort of disappointing blue raspberry flavor, and was made of an inexpensive polyester or wool blend. She tapped her chin in thought. How very odd.

The operations manager continued to work, brow furrowed in thought. The only sound to be heard in the large office was the paper shuffling and the rain splattering down against the large windows. Hange sighed wistfully as she looked out the window, nibbling on one of her fingernails as she continued her musing about the mysterious tie.

"Are you planning on just sitting there all day?" Levi asked, annoyed after about 10 minutes of Hange's deep sighing and doing nothing but staring out the window at the rain. "Why don't you do something helpful, like organizing this shit or cleaning."

Hange leaned back in her chair, yawning. "Not my prerogative." She crunched her face into a satisfied smile. "Where's that doe-eyed intern you've taken a fancy to? I'm sure he'd lend a hand. Or two, even."

"Like hell I've taken a fancy to him. He just somehow happens to always be around when I need something."

"Why don't you get him to help you out with all this? Where is he now?"

Levi rolled his eyes, growling in obvious annoyance. "What do I look like, the fucking Marauder's Map? How would I know where he is?"

Hange snorted. "Obviously you know--"

At that moment, there was another knock on the door. As before, Levi ignored it, and a few seconds later the door swung open, Erwin entering and immediately speaking, adding to Levi's annoyance. "Hello Levi. How's the audit--wow, your tie. Really stepping out, are we?"

"Fuck off, Erwin. I'm going to start locking my door." He shot back, not looking up from the stack of papers on his desk.

"Office doors don't have locks. It's against company policy." Erwin responded, straightening out the cuffs on his pinstripe shirt. He strode over to the window. "What a nasty day outside."

"Really? Is it really? Thank you so much, captain obvious."

"A bit testy today, are we? You know, if you need help with the audit--"

"I'm fine. I don't need any shitty little interns getting their nasty, grubby fingers all over my stuff."

Erwin just hummed as he looked around Levi's tidy office. He noticed something hanging half out of the trash can so he went to pick it up. When he lifted the item from the ground, he realized it was half of a necktie. It was singed on one end, as if it had been caught on fire. The second half was in the trash, also burnt and crumpled up sadly.

"Oh my goodness!" Hange said, standing from her chair as she saw Erwin pull the other piece from the trash and watched him confusedly holding the two pieces of the necktie, "Levi, what happened to your tie?"

"Eren happened." Levi replied, tapping on his keyboard furiously hard, the keys making a deafingly loud clicking as he slammed his finger down on every key.

"Isn't this the one I got you last christmas in Persia?" Erwin asked, holding the two burned pieces together as if it would magically knit themselves back into a complete item.

"Yep."

"Oh my god....Levi," Hange paused, "What happened? Did you kill Eren?"

The ravenette looked up at her with the most irritated gaze he could muster. "Long story. But supposedly the brat's never ironed before and apparently doesn't know the science behind heated metal. Obviously."

"So, yes, you did kill him, then." Erwin followed up.

"Oh, I wanted to."

"What did you do to him? Nothing terrible, I hope." The large blonde asked, tossing the destroyed necktie in the garbage.

"Did you whip him?"

"Make him stand outside in the rain?"

"Chain him up somewhere naked?"

"Assign him to kitchen duty for the rest of his life?"

"Make him scream and cry?"

"Make him clean all the bathrooms?"

"Make him crawl around on his knees and call you master?"

Levi's brows furrowed. "Hange, why are all the things you're saying so sexual?"

"They're not. You just have a dirty mind." She responded, crossing her arms with a satisfied look on her face.

Levi cast an annoyed glance at Erwin then put his hand to his forehead. "I just yelled at him a bit and sent him to the archive room. Haven't seen him since."

"Ooh, poor baby. You yelled at him? You probably scarred him for life."

--

"Eren? Are you in here?" Armin's voice echoed around the large, darkened room in the basement. It was similar to a warehouse, with rows of shelves all stacked with boxes full of old files. "Eren?"

The smaller man walked the aisles, looking for any sign of the brunette. He turned the corner and saw Eren high up on a ladder, dusting the top of a box with a small feather duster. The brunette looked down and saw Armin and was startled, teetering on the thin rung of the ladder before grappling onto the rough edge of the shelf to keep his balance. He was wearing his suit pants but had stripped off his jacket and shirt, leaving only his white undershirt. He pulled one headphone out of his ear.

"Scared me." He laughed, climbing down from the ladder. "What's up?"

Armin smiled, brushing his nose as he tried not to sneeze from the dust in the old room. "What are you doing in here? I looked everywhere for you, then Jean finally told me that he thought he saw you coming down here."

"Levi banished me." He said with an awkward laugh. "I think I fucked enough things up for one day."

"What'd you do?"

Eren explained the situation, and Armin listened his hand crunched over his mouth.

"Oh my gosh!" Armin exclaimed. "I'm suprised he didn't slaughter you then and there. What did he say to you?"

-------- EARLIER ---------

A scowl was painted on Levi's face as he climbed into the elevator wrapped in a bathrobe. The torrential rain had soaked completely through his suit, and of all the days, yesterday was the day that he had taken his spare suit in to the dry cleaners. He had no other option but to dry his expensive suit, vest, shirt, jacket and tie in the industrial dryer in the kitchen, which disgusted him to no end.

He scowled as he stood in front of the dryer, listening to the loud machine bang his expensive clothes around. When the cycle finally came to an end he pulled out his laundry, sickened at the thought of whatever grossness was in the dryer was now on his clothes, but there was nothing he could do about it.

The elevator doors opened and he prepared to board to go back up to his floor, his freshly dried clothes over his arm.

"Oh, Levi--your clothes?" It was Eren, blushing pink as he saw the elder man. He was carrying a stack of books and appeared to be headed up to his floor.

"Yeah don't ask." Levi grumbled. They rode the elevator up in silence and Eren deposited the books in the office he has been assigned to take them to. Then he returned to Levi's office upon his beckoning, where the man had an ironing board out and the iron plugged in and ready. That's when the accident ensued.

Eren wasn't exactly sure how it happened. He didn't know if the iron was too hot, or if he had left it sitting too long. All he knew was that he smelled fire and looked down and the expensive silver tie was in flames. He beat the fire out with the iron, Levi's head jerking up at the smell and the banging sound. He approached the man at the ironing board, picking up the two pieces of his singed tie.

"Oh my god. This is it. This is how I die," was Eren's only thought.

Levi grabbed Eren's teal and purple striped tie and yanked the taller man down to his eye level, holding up his destroyed silver necktie. Their eyes locked, Levi's nose less than a centimeter from Eren's, grey eyes narrowed to slits. "That was Persian silk, you little shit."

Even though a small man in a bathrobe generally shouldn't be intimidating- Eren was scared shitless. "Sorry...sorry, I'll pay for it, I swear."

Levi tsk'd and reached up around Eren's neck. The brunette flinched, as if he was actually afraid the older man was about to strangle him. He squeezed his eyes closed, preparing for the worst.

Levi's fingers moved deftly, unlooping Eren's tie and slipping it from his shoulders, he put it around his own neck and tied it. It was visibly about 4 inches too long and looked ridiculous with the bathrobe, but Eren didn't dare speak.

The ravenette ran his fingers over the cheap polyester tie around his neck. "It will have to do." He murmered. "Go dust the archive room, you little shit."

"Yes sir, sorry sir." Eren said, stumbling out of the room, still afraid for his life.

-----------

"He didn't say much." Eren said, remembering the incident- Levi's tiny body wrapped just in a bathrobe, his face so close to his own, his slim fingers near his neck. The brunette blushed and was thankful that the room was too dark for Armin to detect it.

The small blonde snorted. "You're so lucky, Eren. Well, we all have those days. I got locked in the storage room last week, remember? Erwin basically sent a SWAT team after me- I'm pretty sure he thought something terrible happened with...well, you know..." His voice trailed off.

"I know, they put the building on lockdown. The alarm started going off while I was taking a dump." Eren laughed.

"It was so embarrassing. I was just stuck in the closet. The handle was jammed. Erwin was in a mad panic when they finally got me out of there. He wrapped me in this huge hug like I was his long lost nephew or something."

Eren smiled softly. "It was so good that he was worried. It's like he said. Like we all did. You have nothing to worry about here. You're safe. We'll take care of you."

"I know." Armin said quietly, looking at the floor with a smile.

They were both quiet for a bit before Eren chimed in again. "So how about this room? I'd never been down here."

"Mm. I know right? I was just thinking about that. It'd be a good place to make out." Armin mused.

Eren laughed. "Keep your dirty fantasies to yourself, Armin."

"Whatever, I know you were thinking it." Armin responded, punching Eren in the arm. "That's probably all you've been thinking about the whole time you've been down here- Levi and his tiny little butt and all the things you want to do to it."

"Armin!" Eren exploded, blushing red as a tomato.

"Come on, let's get out of here." The blonde said with a mischievous grin. "I'm starving."

--

The two shared an umbrella as they ventured across the street to a small dessert and coffee shop, where they ordered coffee and cupcakes and stared outside at the pouring rain.

"So, how are things with the job, and with Erwin?" Eren asked as they sat across the small table from each other.

"In what regards?" Armin asked. "The job is great. A lot to learn but I'm keeping up. Erwin-He's my boss, a good, sincere man."

Eren feigned snoring as Armin recited the textbook answer.

"Seriously, Eren, what do you want me to say?"

Eren shrugged. "Dunno. What you're really thinking, I guess."

"Ok. Well, Erwin's a-fucking-mazing. I like him. A lot, a stupid lot. He's kind, smart, and so incredibly sexy. He spilled coffee on his shirt the other day and I "accidently" saw him change...let me just say...abs." Armin gushed. "It's just a crush, you know. He's you know...rich, and smart, and older and all the things. All the things I'm not. It's dumb and distracting to dwell on or throw any energy into because we're completely different types of people in completely different lives. Even if we were the same age he would still be out of my league. We're from different worlds. But I enjoy being around him. He does make me feel safe, and worthwhile, and I don't know...valued. "

Eren smiled. "That's better. I'm glad he makes you feel that way. And just because people are different doesn't mean relationships don't form, you know? Like in that one documentary, where the girl is living in the woods and then she almost dies, but the rich guy saves her and they get married."

"Not a documentary, Eren. That's Snow White."

"Right." Eren said, scratching the back of his head. "I think I was drunk last time we watched that."

"Yeah. It was one of those movie marathon nights. You threw up for like six hours."

Eren laughed a deep belly laugh. "Good times. We should do that again. Minus the throwing up part."

"We should." Armin agreed with a smile. "It's been awhile. Anyway, what about you and Levi?"

Eren shrugged. "He's basically indifferent to my existence. I like him a lot. He's strong, determined, and always seems so on top of things. He seems like a real hardass, but the other day I saw him at the front desk down there helping Petra out with something she couldn't work out on the computer. I think he's really kind underneath it all. I don't think he likes me though."

Armin shrugged. "Sucks, right? We're gluttons for punishment. Why don't we just love each other, Eren?"

Eren looked Armin over. "You're adorable Armin, but that's pretty much incest."

Armin giggled.

--

The door to the small shop swung open and Erwin and Mike entered, followed by Hange and a drenched Levi, who was being continuously shoved out from underneath the umbrella.

They took a seat by the far window, and heard a familiar, musical laughing. Across the room at one of the small, circular tables were Eren and Armin.

Erwin smiled. It had been two months since the two had come to Sina. Armin had filled out, his face was smooth and soft and his hair was back in a loose blonde ponytail. He was beautiful, and his face lit up with laughter, his lips pulled back showing rows of blindingly white teeth. He was smiling. When he had first met him in June, he was unsure if he could even smile at all. Now his smile was something so beautiful, he wanted to see it every day.

"Stop fucking staring, you perv." Levi said dryly from behind him, his eyes locked on Eren.

"You're one to talk," Erwin said, tearing his gaze away from Armin and looking at Levi, who was looking Eren over with a furrowed brow.

"You look distressed, Levi." Hange hummed. "What are you thinking about?"

"The fucking audit. Why did we even come over here?" He said as he continued to rake his eyes over the younger man, who was conversing with his friend, putting his coffee to his lips while he ran his fingers through his shaggy brown hair. Everything about him was beautiful. His eyes. His hair, his lips, the inflections in his voice, the way his eyebrows creased in the middle in thought. Beautiful, wild, young.

"Hey! Armin! Eren!" Hange yelled, drawing both of the younger men's attention to where the two older men were staring at them unabashedly, making them both look away hurriedly. "Come join us!"

The two younger men brought their coffees and pulled up seats around the table with the three co-workers. Armin visibly blushed as he slid in next to Erwin, the taller man helping him push his chair in. Eren shared a small bench with Mike, who was leaning back relaxed, one ankle resting on his opposite knee. On the opposite side of him sat Levi, who was looking out the window with a cross expression on his face.

"So what's with this weather?" Armin said, smiling as he wrapped his hands around his coffee, warming himself.

"It's quite something, isn't it?" Erwin responded with a smile as he threw his arm over the back of Armin's chair and took a sip from his mug. Armin's entire body stiffened and his face blushed, then he quickly relaxed, trying not to seem too obvious.

Armin's eyes scanned the table, resting on Eren, noticing for the first time that he wasn't wearing a tie. His eyes went from the brunette's dark purple shirt over to Levi's black shirt, which was paired with an out of place teal and purple striped tie. His eyes went back and forth between the two upon the realization and he opened his mouth to speak. As if anticipating his words, he felt the soft touch of Erwin's fingers on the back of his neck. The smaller blonde blushed, his eyes meeting with Erwin's, and the larger blonde shook his head in a warning not to bring up the wardrobe situation.

"How's the audit coming along, Levi?" Eren asked, breaking the silence.

"Shitty. I fucking hate accounting."

"Isn't the audit generally run by the accounting department?" Armin asked, willing the blush away from his cheeks. He could still feel the tips of Erwin's fingers gently brushing across the back of his neck. It was so distracting, it felt like there was an electric current running throughout his body.

"Typically." Levi said, crossing his arm. "Our accountant has shit-for-brains though-"

"Levi, that's not polite." Hange interrupted him.

"Seriously, Hange, it's her fucking fault we have to do this audit so many years in a row."

"I can help." Eren volunteered. "I'm not super great at math, but I'm a bank teller on weekends when I'm not doing the internship. I can do 10-Key and all the necessary typing and so on."

Levi opened his mouth, not exactly sure what he was going to say. He wanted to tell this kid to bugger off. That he was fine. That he could do it himself. But also the way those swimming teal eyes looked at him. If he could draw that gaze for just one second more, he would be alright.

"Yes. That's a great idea." Erwin answered smoothly, wrapping his hand delicately around the back of Armin's neck and giving it a gentle squeeze. "Eren, we can get you set up with a laptop when we get back to help Levi out."

Levi growled a bit that Erwin had answered for him, but at the same time he was glad he didn't have to answer for himself. He wondered what answer actually would have come out of his mouth. In any event, he would be glad to have the help.

"Che. Whatever." Levi just responded, rolling his eyes.

The deluge continued as they chatted for a bit longer, then all got up and got ready to go back to work.

"Would you like to come with me?" Erwin asked, directing his question to Armin. "I have to stop by a couple places before we go back in."

"Yes, of course." Armin said happily, a soft blush on his cheeks.

Erwin and Armin, followed by Mike, went out into the downpour, Erwin opening the umbrella to shield them from the rain.

"I'm going to stay here for awhile." Hange said with a smile. "Do some, you know, HR stuff."

Levi rolled his eyes. "You're unbelievable." He moved to the door, Eren trailing after him.

"Wait!" Eren exclaimed, and Levi turned around to look at him.

"What, kid."

"I'll share my umbrella with you."

Eren popped the umbrella open and the two huddled closely together as they walked through the storm across the street back to the office.

Chapter Text

"--overrated. Everyone pairs the theme of Masquarade and Halloween up for parties. I think--"

"--Cheezy. What other themes are there? Should just aim for a fall theme instead--"

"--options. We'd just have to be creative. I don't think--"

Armin and Hange stood outside of Erwin's door, holding an array of holiday decorations. They had been arguing for the last 20 minutes about what the theme of the upcoming Halloween party should be. Erwin couldn't care less about the whole circus, in all honesty. He sat with his chin resting on his hand looking out the door, gazing at Armin's slender figure, his bouncing blonde ponytail, and the way his grey suit hugged his small body just right.

Christ, all he had been thinking about was Armin. How much he wanted to peel that tailored suit off his body and fuck him hard and fast against the floor to ceiling windows in his office. He had been daydreaming about doing it with Armin everywhere. His fantasies were beginning to get a bit out of hand lately.

He knew he was truly up shit creek when he zoned out in the middle of a buisness meeting, imagining that small, slender frame naked on the large cherry oak conference table. He wondered if the table would hold both of their weight- if he could just fuck him right there on top of it like a bed, or if he should instead set his tiny little bottom right on the edge of it, bending him in half with his ankles over his shoulders, and fuck him deep and hard from a standing position. He'd adore hearing those screams echo around that large room.

Erwin leaned back in his chair, inspecting that tiny ass as the smaller man leaned forward, resting his palms flat on his desk and talking to Hange more seriously about his party plans. The larger blonde imagined pulling those pants down right there and bending him over, pounding into him right in the hallway. He wondered what noises the petite blonde would make as he slipped inside of him. How he'd scream out in pleasure. How many times he could make him come before he fainted in ecstasy.

"Nnh, aah--Erwin, no, we can't!" He could imagine Armin panting breathily, "Someone could see!"

"Ssh...then let them see." He'd respond, as he parted those sweet, round ass cheeks, gently sliding in and out, watching his big blue eyes roll back as he hit his prostate just so, blinding him with the perfect sensation of being filled and satisfied.

"Please...aah...Erwin..." The smaller man would gasp, his nails dragging across the desk, "You're so...nnh...big..."

"Mmhmm, baby?" He'd reply, slipping one arm gently around his tiny assistant's waist while he kissed him on the neck, the other hand resting on his perfect, plump hip. "Am I hurting you?"

"No. Please...More. More, Erwin. Don't stop. Aah!"

Erwin let out a small grow as he thought about Armin. On his desk. Against the windows. On the floor. In the hall. Everywhere.

He especially wanted the younger blonde underneath him in his big bed, those thin legs tangled up in the soft grey sheets, feet twitching in pleasure as he spread his slender thighs wide and milked his prostate teasingly. Armin would no doubt look beautiful in the moonlight, those big eyes brimming with tears as he stuffed him full of his thick fingers, twisting and teasing them, filling the room with the smaller man's sweet moans.

Erwin thought about Armin sinfully nearly every night now, with the younger man living alone just next door. He thought about what it would be like to have him with himself in bed. What it would feel like to have him tucked in safe and warm next to him, his muscled arm wrapped around the younger man's smaller body as he drifted off to sleep, the large open windows ruffling the sheets.

It had been a long time since Erwin had been in a relationship of any kind. But when he saw Armin, he couldn't help but selfishly want more. More of his conversation. More of those serious blue eyes looking deeply into his. More of his sweet blush that happened when he hoped no one was looking. The more he got to know his assistant, the more he hungered for him. For all of him. His time. His attention. His body. It was getting very distract--

"Are you listening to me?" Armin asked, tapping his finger on Erwin's desktop impatiently.

The larger man jerked his head up, unaware that the man in his fantasies had appeared directly in front of him.

"Sorry, what?" Erwin said, issuing a small, awkward laugh. "I was lost in thought, I guess."

Armin breathed out a little chuckle and leaned up against Erwin's desk with one hip, holding his array of decorations in his arms. "We need your help deciding what the theme for Halloween should be. Hange wants it to be Venitian Masquarade, but I think that theme is overused. I was going more for a sort of dark forest/shadow sort of theme. What do you think?"

Erwin looked between Hange, who was still standing out by Armin's desk, a plastic masquerade mask taped on to her face, and Armin, leaning on his desk, each looking for his approval. He thought for a moment. "Didn't we have a masquerade theme just a couple years ago?" He directed the question at Hange, since Armin wouldn't have been present for the event.

Hange nodded. "Yes, but that was in summer."

Erwin smiled. "Even so, since we just used that theme, let's go with yours, Armin. It's a good idea. Very unique."

"Thank you." Armin said softly, blushing slightly at the compliment.

"Of course." Erwin responded, standing from his chair. "I need to get on to a meeting down on floor 1, but please reach out to me for whatever you need for the festivities." He spent a couple more seconds gazing at Armin, then reached out and gently ran his thumb down his assistant's cheek and chin. "Sorry." He said slyly as Armin blushed deeply at the touch, "You had a stray eyelash. Have a good rest of the morning, Armin."

--

"Where are you going?" Levi asked as he ran smack into Hange in the entrance of the building. Hange's coat was pulled tightly around her, and her purse was thrown over her shoulder.

"Home. I've been super sick lately and I just can't seem to shake it!" She said with a hoarse laugh. "There must be something going around."

Levi tucked his nose into his jacket. "Don't get me sick, I have things to do. Go to sleep. Drink some tea. Take a shit."

She smiled, heading toward the door with a wave of her hand. "You know me. A little good old fashioned winter flu couldn't keep me down."

"Yeah, I know. Hey Hange."

The woman turned to look at Levi with her hand on the door.

"Call me if you need anything."

Hange grinned. "Oh you ol' softie, Levi. I'll be fine. See you soon."

"See you."

--

Armin pulled the small light on in the storage closet on with a click. Eren stood across the blonde, looking at him quizzically.

"Isn't this the storage room you got locked in a few months ago?" Eren asked, surveying the dusty shelves lined with spare office supplies.

Armin nodded. "It is, good memory. They've had the door replaced. Erwin was afraid I was going to get locked in here again."

"Soooo what was so important that you had to call this secret meeting...in a broom closet?"

"I wanted to talk about what we should wear to the Halloween party in three weeks."

"Like what, like costumes?"

Armin nodded. I thought we could be like...themed. I talked to Jean about it earlier. He wanted to be in on it too."

"Jean...horseface Jean? Ugh. He'll cramp our style."

"No he won't. Don't be a jerk. I had a few ideas."

Fine. Let's hear them." Eren crossed his arms over his chest, "But if it's like matchy stuff, I'm not wearing anything to match Jean, just so you know."

"As expected. I said themed. Not matching."

"Fine, so what's the theme?"

"I was thinking..." Armin paused a bit for effect, "Hometown Heroes."

--

THREE WEEKS LATER

--

Levi looked at his watch. It was 10:05AM. Where the hell was that bratty, big-eyed intern? If there was one thing that was never supposed to be late, EVER, it was morning tea. The operations manager huffed. He pushed up from his desk and went to the door. Swinging it open, he yelled Eren's name into the hallway, half expecting the younger man to be there, caught up in an argument with Jean or cornered by the older ladies from the bookkeeping department again.

The brunette was nowhere in sight.

With an annoyed grunt, Levi strode to the elevator and rode down to the kitchen, ready to chew the intern out for taking to long to deliver the scheduled tea, but there was no one in sight in the kitchen either.

Levi crossed his arms, eyebrows furrowing. Where the hell was he?

--

"Yes, I'm on hold. I'm calling regarding the catering event at Sina tomorrow evening. I wanted to make sure everything was in order." Armin spoke authoritatively into a Bluetooth while Eren, Jean, and a few other interns turned the large Event Center on the top floor of the building into a scary forest scene worthy of a Halloween party. Round tables were set up with black table cloths and set with and gold and white plates and shining gold flatware.

The room was decorated with tall white trees and gold candlesticks. White and black gourds, tea candles and pinecones were arraigned on the tables and around the room, and white tulle was spread from the large chandelier held high up in the middle of the ceiling out to the corners of the room, creating a mystical, creepy feeling.

A raised stage was in one corner for the live band, and long tables were along one side of the room for the expensive food and drink spread Armin was in the midst of confirming.

When Armin finally got off the phone with the catering company he let out a deep sigh.

"You're sure doing a lot to get this all squared away." Eren said as he looked at him, putting his hands on his hips as he surveyed the room.

"Yeah." He sighed. "Hange was supposed to do most of the grunt work, being HR and all that, but she's been in and out being sick lately."

"I know it really sucks. I miss seeing her around."

"Yeah. She called earlier and said she was going to try to make it tomorrow, though. She was checking in and seeing if there was anything she could do from home, it was sweet. I told her she should just take it easy and get better."

"For sure. That's the worst that she's sick though." Jean chimed in, frowning. "Hey, Eren. Come help me move this huge ass tree," He pointed at a large, out of place decoration, "I think it's supposed to go over by the stage."

--

The door to the Events room squeaked open, Levi's eyes narrowing to slits as he zeroed in on Eren. So here's where Erwin had sent the little shit off to. He looked the slender young man over. He was dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt, quite different to his usual formal office wear. He was in the middle of helping Jean move an enormous tree-at least 10 feet tall, to it's location over by the stage. These decorations were ridiculous, but the room was shaping up to look like a dark forest, just like Armin had intended it to.

Levi watched as Eren bent over, exposing his sunkissed skin and defined back dimples as he rearranged the heavy decoration. Eren was beautiful. Levi always knew it. Every time he saw him, he noticed it again and again. The brunette and Jean were talking and Armin chimed in, Eren turning and flashing a dazzling white grin at the blonde, while Jean gave him a punch in the arm.

It was then that he realized it. He wanted that. That smile and gaze, directed only at him. There was a knot in his gut as he grappled with the unfamiliar feeling in his chest. He was...jealous.

He watched Eren move about the room a little bit longer. The way his body swayed and his muscles flexed as he moved the heavy objects around. He was perfect. He wanted him, and he hated it.

With a snarl, Levi left the room, slamming the door behind him.

"Was someone here?" Eren asked, looking at the suddenly slammed door with alarm.

The other two stared at it similarly. "I don't know." Jean said after a bit. "Guess it was nothing."

--

The music from the live band was vibrant and loud around the room. Hundreds of people from all departments of the large company meandered around, chatting lively while muching on snacks and sipping champagne being offered by waiters. Erwin stood in a corner talking to a group of investors, and Levi stood next to him, his hands awkwardly crossed in front of himself. It would have looked like a boring business meeting, had Erwin not been dressed up in an unsightly green suit baring gold question marks all over, obviously dressed as the Riddler, and Levi standing next to him dressed in a white and purple suit, playing the Joker, the investors each in their own costume of kind.

Erwin's eyes scanned the room as he looked for Armin. He knew the younger man had been there for hours beforehand, making sure all the table settings, catering, band, and other assorted details were in place. He had left an hour ago to change into his costume and Erwin hadn't heard a peep from him sense. He had hoped he'd be back by now, this party was dreadfully boring without him.

He turned his attention back to the conversation, where Levi had taken the reins and was adding a bit about their company from the operational standpoint. Then he heard a few catcalls from some young interns and his gaze was drawn back to the main double doors.

It seemed like time stopped for a moment, as he and Levi's jaws dropped simultaneously.

Standing in the doorway was Armin, dressed as a fireman, Eren, as a policeman, and Jean as a doctor.

Armin's black and yellow costume, complete with boots, a hat and a heavy axe was absolutely adorable, Eren on the other hand, had silver handcuffs and a night stick hanging from the utility belt on his hips, and a black police hat pulled low in front of his eyes. He looked absolutely tantalizing. Unwittinly, Levi reached out, gripping into Erwin's arm as he swayed on his feet. The elder man laughed, helping him stand. "Already have too much to drink?" He asked in a friendly manner.

"Oh, for shit." Levi murmured. "Fuck this party."

Chapter Text

It was a better part of an hour before Erwin could escape the boring conversations he kept getting roped into and make his way over to his assistant. "Armin. Over here," He called softly with a wave of his hand in the air. Armin was in the corner of the room, his arms crossed as he heatedly discussed dessert with the catering manager. He had stripped off his large yellow jacket and fireman's hat, and was wearing only his blue fireman's shirt tucked into classic yellow pants, held up by thick red suspenders and completed with heavy boots. His attention snapped to the call as Erwin beckoned to him.

"Erwin, hi!" Armin's face cracked into a huge smile, quite different from the very serious and confrontive look it had had seconds earlier. He scanned the elder man's costume up and down. "You're the Riddler, right?" Erwin nodded in response to his question, and he continued, "That's so cool, what a great costume!"

"Thank you." the taller man smiled. "It was a collaborative effort. We have a very unenthused Joker over there," He pointed across the room to Levi, who was standing near the band, wiping some of the white makeup off of his face in disgust. Armin was unsure how they had pinned him down long enough to do his face up in the detailed makeup, but it was amazing. "There's Superman and Wonder Woman up there." He continued, pointing at Hange and Mike, who were dressed to the nines in their authentic costumes, relaxing at a table nearby the large windows.

Hange had her arm thrown over the back of the tall bodyguard's chair as she took a sip of champagne and then spit it back into the glass, a disgusted look on her face. "Oh my gosh!" She exclaimed, putting her hand on her stomach and handing the glass to blonde Superman next to her. "I picked out this champagne a few weeks ago, but now it's terrible! Do you suppose that different bottles taste different?"

Mike shrugged as he took a sip of his glass, insisting it tasted just fine, and the two began to bicker about the taste of the drink and logistics of how champagne was made.

Erwin shrugged as he watched Hange and Mike argue. "Well, strange. I think this champagne is absolutely perfect. Everything is perfect tonight, Armin. You really did amazing pulling this all together, practically by yourself. I'm very proud."

Armin was speechless for just a moment. He had never really had anyone tell him he was proud of him in his life, except for Eren and Mikasa, but that didn't count. He cleared his throat after a beat, composing himself. "Thank you very much. That means a lot to me. It's been fun, all of this. Being here, at Sina, I love it. Thank you for the opportunities and all the things you've done for me."

Erwin smiled as he gripped Armin's chin in his hands, pulling the smaller man's gaze up too his. "You deserve it. Thank you for coming here, and for staying. I couldn't have ever asked for a better assistant."

Armin looked away from his gaze, a slight blush on his cheeks. "You're too kind."

The larger man smiled as he released Armin's chin, gently running his fingers through his soft ponytail and pulling the smaller man just a few inches closer to himself, his fingers sliding down the back of his warm neck like he knew Armin liked the most.

"You look very handsome tonight, Armin." Erwin lowered his voice to a whisper, twisting a stray strand of Armin's soft blonde hair that around his finger. "I love your costume. So many people have been staring at you all evening."

"You're ridiculous." Armin said rolling his eyes, blushing again as he downed his glass of champagne in one gulp.

"Careful. Have you had anything to eat today?" Erwin asked, as he took Armin's glass away and handed him another one from a nearby waiter's tray.

"No, but believe me. I could drink three bottles of Champagne and not feel a thing."

Erwin opened his mouth to argue with him but decided against it. He was pretty certain Armin hadn't been drinking regularly in a long time, and wasn't sure if his alcohol tolerance was the same as it used to be, especially if he hadn't eaten all day, which he was sure he hadn't. He always forgot to eat when he got to working hard, and he had spent all day running around and making sure the party was running smoothly. He'd have to keep an eye on him- the last thing he wanted to see was some old man putting his nasty grubby hands on his drunken assistant. Erwin growled at the thought.

Armin took another sip from his champagne glass as he looked Erwin over. The taller man was so close to him, looking down at him with those kind, caring eyes. He was so blindingly handsome, and the way he was gazing at him- so endearing, so attentive, it was the best and worst thing in the world for him. He loved having Erwin stare into his eyes in such a way, but at the same time, he absolutely loathed it. It made him get butterflies in his stomach and start to think things, things he knew couldn't be true. He couldn't make the way Erwin touched him and looked at him anything special. Couldn't make it out to be more than it was. He tore his gaze from Erwin. He didn't want to get lost in his eyes and start dreaming about them again. It happened too often. Something that the man would say, or the way he would brush his fingers his ponytail while speaking to him. It would make him get a notion. That Erwin might...actually be attracted to him. Which was just ridiculous.

With a mumble of checking on Eren, Armin pushed the larger man's arm away from him and moved across the floor. The brunette policeman was standing near Mikasa, who was dressed as a nun. Eren had a nearly empty glass of red wine in his hand. He wondered how many his friend had already drank, because if there was one think that Eren could do exceptionally well, it was get wine drunk.

Eren giggled when he realized Armin was next to him. "Heya buddy." The brunette greeted him, giving him a large smacking kiss on the cheek while he wrapped his arm around the blonde's waist. Armin smiled, noticing how glazed over Eren's eyes already were. "Les dance." Eren whispered in his ear.

Armin shrugged, downing his flute of champagne. It had to be at least his eighth round, he wasn't sure. At this moment, he didn't exactly care. He set the empty glass down on the table as he gave in to Eren's pull on his waist. "Yeah, okay."

--

Levi was scowling as the accounting lady he hated so very much talked his ear off about something he didn't care about at all. How did he end up in this conversation anyway? He looked around the room boredly, spying Erwin. He would rather be over there with he and Mike and Hange, who seemed to be having a rather hilarious conversation about the way Mike's costume fit. Hanging out with Mikasa didn't seem too bad either, she was standing alone in her own world, looking out the large windows at the light snow that was beginning to fall. October was drawing to an end. Tomorrow would be November.

His eyes scanned the room and he found the person he had been looking in the middle of the crowded dance floor. Eren was there, a glass of dark red wine in one hand, visibly sloshing all over the sleeve of his costume. His other arm was snaked around Armin's waist as he pulled the smaller man's back into his chest, rolling their bodies together in completely innapropriate dance. The brunette was obviously plastered, and strangely, the blonde looked to have a bit of a buzz as well. He couldn't help watch for a bit, as Armin shook his booty into Eren's hips, the two looking insanely sexy but at the same time, adorable.

"Oh, for Christ..." Levi murmured again, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. He was trying so hard not to think about Eren. In his mind, he wanted to think of Eren exatly how he thought of all the other interns- as an annoying speed bump and a waste of company funds. Just another shitty brat. But seeing things like this just made everything harder, and reminded him why that good for nothing brat was different. Beautiful. Sweet. Special.

The song came to an end, and Eren finally realized he had been spilling red wine all over his police uniform. With a disappointed sigh and a giggle, he bid goodbye to Armin and moved to the bathroom, absolutely drunk, unbuttoning his top as he meandered down the hallway. He got to the bathroom and put his shirt underneath the faucet, the world in a blur, the bright light of the restroom seemingly making his drunkenness much worse than it had been in the other room.

Levi entered the bathroom. He couldn't help but follow him- the drunken brat who was undressing in the hallway. Eren was bent over the sink, completely shirtless, attempting to wash the wine out of his outfit, only succeeding in making his costume soaking wet and creating a mess all over the bathroom counter and floor.

The elder man stopped in his tracks as he looked over Eren's figure- his beautiful almond skin, strong back and muscled shoulders. It was more than he was expecting. Eren was noticeably taller and broader than himself, but he had never expected all that perfection was what was hiding underneath his dress shirts every day. A shudder of need ran up his spine as he stared, taking a mental picture of the smooth skin, deep back dimples and touseled dark hair. It was a sight he didn't ever want to forget.

The brunette teetered on his feet for a moment, and Levi stepped up behind him, wrapping his arms around the taller man's waist to steady him and keep him from falling. His fingers brushed against the younger man's front, experiencing smooth, chiseled abs and sculpted v-lines that disappeared into his dark pants. Levi gaped, his hands curling into fists as he had to physically restrain himself from running his fingers down the younger man's skin. It was absolutely tantalizing and Levi's mind immediately floated to sinful places- like what that smooth honeyed bronze chest would look like covered in a layer of his cum. He shook his head, pushing the thought from it.

Shit.

Get it together, Levi.

Eren cried out as he felt the unexpected arms around him, but when he saw Levi's eyes peeking over his shoulder and their gazes met in the mirror, he relaxed and smiled drunkenly. "Oh. It's you."

"Yeah, It's me." Levi responded distractedly. He ran his nose along Eren's smooth shoulder. The younger man smelled amazing. Soft and warm, like home. It was...comforting.

"You're the Joker. Thas' pur cool." Eren said as he looked over Levi's outfit.

"I am." He said as he looked the younger man over. "Jesus, kid, you're hopeless." He steadied the taller man with his arms on either side and grabbed the shirt out of his hands, holding the garment under the water and scrubbing at the stain. Eren smiled, crouching down to lean his head back on Levi's shoulder.

"Thank you." He murmured with a stupid smile.

"Yeah, yeah, don't mention it." Levi blushed a bit as the brunette snuggled into him, his half naked body pressed against him. He was thankful the kid was so plastered he probably wouldn't remember this. He would be so embarrassed he wouldn't even look at him again, knowing Eren.

Levi huffed at the thought as he nuzzled his face down in Eren's hair. It was soft- softer than it looked, and it smelled like lavender, one of his favorite scents. He carefully ran his lips over the shell of the younger man's ear, listening to his soft sighing. Eren's eyes slid closed and he let out a satisfied moan as he felt the elder man's lips trail along his earlobe.

God. He was absolutely stunning.

"'S good."

Levi hummed and continued softly trailing his lips over the taller man's neck, then down the back of his shoulder, breathing in his warm, clean scent. He was irresistible.

"Kiss me." The request came from between Eren's slightly parted lips, a blush on his cheeks as he ran his fingers down Levi's arm.

"What did you say?" Levi questioned, unsure if he had actually heard Eren speak, or if it had been his imagination.

The brunette didn't respond, and when asked again, Eren's head lolled a bit to the side, indicating he had fallen asleep on his shoulder. The elder man sighed. "Come on kid. Let's get your drunk ass home."

--

The night slowly wound to a close, the last guest petering out and only Armin, Erwin, Mikasa and Mike were left. They made quick work of cleaning and getting the tables cleared, leaving the main tear down for the next day. Having a work party on Thursday night wasn't ideal, but it had been important to Hange to have it on actual Halloween night.

"Where is Eren? He was supposed to be helping with all this." Armin sighed, putting his hands on his hips as they finished the last of the necessary cleanup.

"Levi took him home hours ago." Mikasa said. "He was passed out drunk, I can't believe you missed it! You know, Armin, you don't look to great yourself now that I see you in the light. I haven't seen you this drunk in...ever."

"Levi took him home?" Erwin asked, questioningly.

"Yep." Mikasa followed up. "He insisted. I gave him the address and key. Something about 'making sure the brat gets to bed' or something."

"Shit, he was my ride." Armin frowned. "Oh well, I guess I'll get an Uber."

"That's ridiculous." Erwin said reaching out and running his fingers across the back of the smaller man's neck. "You're my neighbor, just ride with me."

Heat pooled in Armin's gut again as Erwin's soft fingers caressed the back of his neck. He had to resist. The thought of being stuck inside a small box with Erwin for upwards of 30 minutes made his stomach do flips- especially since he was as little bit tipsy. He had no idea what would happen, but he couldn't risk himself doing something stupid on a drunken whim.

"It's--it's really okay. I was--" Armin stammered.

Erwin smiled as he watched Armin struggle through his words, and the few other people left in the events hall started to filter out.

"Do you not want to ride with me, Armin?"

"No, it's..." For the first time, Armin didn't know what to say.

"I'll have Mike pull the car around. You can think about it until then. I'm not going to force you, but I did say that I would take care of you. What kind of man would I be if I didn't see you home, especially when you've been drinking?"

And that's how Armin ended up in the back seat of Erwin's car. Mike was driving, and there was a stack of odds and ends from the party on the far seat, forcing Armin to sit in the middle seat, pressed between the party favors and Erwin's warm body. He could feel his heart beating up in his throat as he was suddenly nervous. He twiddled his fingers and looked down at his hands, picking at his hangnails.

Why are you nervous?" Erwin asked, pulling one of Armin's hands away from the other as he picked at his skin nervously. "You see me all the time, why is being in the car with me any different?"

It was. It was different. Maybe it was the alcohol. Or because of how he had slowly been becoming more attracted to the elder man. Or the way that Erwin was looking at him, with a teasing, playful sweet look. It made him terrified.

"Because--" He started talking and didn't finish again.

God damnit, Armin, pull it together.

The elder man reached over and gripped Armin's chin, pulling his gaze to his own. "Because why?"

The car jolted as Mike swerved to miss a sudden obstacle in the road, throwing Armin across the car into Erwin's lap in a sprawl.

"Why aren't you wearing your seat belt?" Erwin frowned, a slight blush on his face as he pulled Armin up, the smaller man now straddling him shamelessly. Armin covered his hands with his face.

"I'm so sorry."

"Armin." Erwin worked to pull the blonde's hands away from his face but he continued to hide like a shy little kid.

"Armin, look at me." He said softly, prying the smaller man's hands away from his face. Blinking, tear filled blue orbs met Erwin's colbalt stare, and Erwin was hopelessly, helplessly lost in his eyes. "Don't cry." He murmured. "Please, don't cry."

Before Armin knew what was happening, the elder man's soft, cool lips were against his, Erwin's hand slipping into his hair as he kissed him softly and gently.

"Why--why did you do that?" Armin asked breathlessly as Erwin pulled out of the first kiss, looking the smaller man over.

"Did you not want me to? I'm truly sorry. I thought..."

Armin's hands were twisting in Erwin's jacket as he slammed their lips back together a bit too forcefully, the larger man letting out a groan that turned into a chuckle as he slipped one hand up the back of the younger man's costume, sliding underneath his fireman shirt and running his soft fingers against Armin's smooth skin. The smaller man yelped at the contact and Erwin pulled their bodies closer together, one hand tightly in the smaller blonde's hair and one in his shirt. Armin twisted the ugly green fabric in his hands tighter as the elder man ran his tongue over his bottom lip, Armin eagerly opening his mouth and allowing him access, his large tongue sliding in and mingling, the younger man moaning.

"Erwin--we can't..." He murmered, his eyes fluttering shut as Erwin kissed and sucked on his bottom lip, running his large hand down his exposed back and gripping his fingers tightly in his ponytail, sending millions of pinprics of pain and pleasure rushing throughout his body. "Aaah...Erwin...."

"I like the way you call my name." The CEO rumbled, nuzzling into Armin's neck and leaving a few small bites, the younger blonde yelping as he rolled the tender flesh of his neck between his teeth. He was perched up high in Erwin's lap he could feel the elder man's erection hardening. It was impressive and Christ, he wanted to find out what that felt like inside of him. He ground down on it with his hips, his erection rubbing just so against the elder man's and making him groan. Erwin gripped his hair tighter, following the younger man's lead as he bounced him up and down in his lap, their erections griding together and Armin gasping out Erwin's name, the elder man growling from the stimulation.

"Aah--Erwin--" His cry was swallowed up in another kiss as they sucked and licked each other, tasting champange and sweet terimisu on each other's lips. Armin threw his head back and allowed himself to be devoured, Erwin kissing down his neck and suckling small kiss marks behind his ear.

They finally pulled up in front of the large building and Mike dropped them off at the front door. The two blushed as they got in the elevator together, but then the kissing continued, Erwin lifting Armin from his feet, the smaller man wrapping his legs around the elder as he held him gently, softly fondling those small butt cheeks while he held them, their lips sliding against one another until the elevator reached the top floor. There were only two doors once you exited the elevator- one for Armin's tiny studio, and one for the penthouse, the rest of the floor, which Erwin owned.

Erwin brushed Armin's hair from his face as he went to his door, leaning up against it, his fingers still tangled with his neighbor's. "Would you like to come in?"

"Yes. I mean no! No. No,Thank you." Armin jumbled, brushing the saliva off from around his mouth. "I should..." He pointed to his own door. "Thank you. For everything tonight."

"You don't have anything to thank me for." Erwin said, a twinkle in his eye, leaning in to steal one last kiss from the smaller man, before pulling away and unlocking his door. "Good night, Armin."

"Good night, Erwin."

--

Levi creaked open the door to Eren's apartment, flipping on the light. This drunk little shit was heavier than he thought he'd be. He carried him to the bedroom and laid him on the bed, yanking off his shoes. He was so handsome. He couldn't be around him very long. He would want to...

He made a 'tsk' sound, leaving the bedroom. He tripped over a pile of clothes in the living room. Foul little brat. The room was pretty messy, and there were dishes in the sink and clutter everywhere. Pizza was sitting out on the coffee table from who knows how long ago. He put his hand to his forehead. For shit's sake. He looked at his watch, then at the mess in the room. Priorities.

Thrity minutes later the dishes were done, the room was spotless and the trash was taken out. He went back in to check on Eren again, who was dead to the world, sleeping soundly. He had rolled over on his side and was curled up in the fetal position. Levi pulled the comforter up over him. "Stay warm, brat. It's winter time now." He murmered. He reached forward, running those smooth chestnut strands through his fingers one last time, before releasing them, watching them fall to rest on the pillow near his face. With one last look at the sleeping man, he turned on his heel and left into the snowing October night.