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Levi never knows entirely what to expect when the door is closed.

It’s closed for a reason, of that he doesn’t doubt. Erwin isn’t lazy, and rarely shuts the door because he wants to give the illusion of work so he can slack off.

Sometimes the door is shut because someone other than him has convinced Erwin to take a break. Levi threatens him, Hanji uses all their scientific jargon to cajole Erwin into seeing the logic behind the break and even Zacharias uses the length of his relationship with Erwin against him by saying he would blackmail Erwin by revealing embarrassing things.

Levi thinks it’s less because Erwin cares how he’s perceived, he could come back from any slight on his reputation and more out of respect to his friendship with Zacharias that he obliges. It doesn’t help Zacharias is a mountain of a man and has the strength to rip Erwin away from his desk if necessary.

It’s also helpful with his height being such a bullseye that Levi can avoid him easily, but that’s not the point.

The point is he doesn’t like to waste things and it isn’t as if the Survey Corps encourages an environment of excess. He’s gone ahead and heated the tea and if he waits too much longer then it’s only going to get cold.

Reheated tea simply isn’t the same as the first heat. Cold tea is even worse.

Even if there was a very good argument for the ‘tea’ they consumed being very far removed from any definition of the word. One thing that stayed the same regardless of the quality of the tea was that they almost never had the indulgence of anything to alter its natural flavor, sugar and milk were too extraneous to make room for in their ever tightening budget.

If anything, it was one of the few things that reminded Levi of the underground, he had always drank plain tea there too with rare exceptions. The few times he had the chance to partake in any additives, it was often too sweet for him to enjoy in even the most modest of qualities.

Levi didn’t often reserve tea for others, it went without saying most of the time that you couldn’t hoard all the slim resources the Survey Corps had for yourself. First come, first serve was the name of the game. Levi slept probably the least of anyone here. Of course there were those who slept odd hours, too daunted by what was to come, or haunted by what was already witnessed to have anything remotely assembling a stable sleep schedule when death wasn’t on the table if you didn’t catch every second of sleep possible.

Levi had foregone a cup for himself this morning as it seemed many people were up throughout the night burning through their tea supplies. Erwin would have to restock, and if he wasn’t already aware of the pending shorting then bringing him a cup of tea would be one way to do just that.

He went to knock naturally as the same time as the door swung open, he would have moved out of the way if he had been anyone other than Zacharias peering down at him because of that he held his ground and glared back.

Despite the months since their first meeting, neither of them had managed to get along with one another only putting on a show of expected formality around Erwin to sidestep any unwanted conversations about their turbulent relationship. Not that Erwin wasn’t aware, it was always the smart bet to assume that Erwin already knew even if you had no evidence for the argument.

Levi’s small stature came in handy here where he could comfortably look under Zacharias’ arms, one resting on the jamb and the other on the doorknob and spy Erwin at his desk, overlooking a document and surrounded by various piles of paperwork like always.

Zacharias’ however made no motion to move, as if he could somehow prevent Levi’s entrance by maintaining his position, it might have worked if he’d been taller or if he’d been an easily intimidated man. Given he was neither, Levi went under his arms and into the room paying the man no further mind and taking some satisfaction when the door closed behind him without further posturing.

“You two could try being friends.” Erwin said, not looking up from the paperwork.

Levi responded by sitting the tea down and not entertaining that with a response

That action made Erwin noticed the lack of an extra cup. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Levi. You do act as a good memory aid.”

“Already losing track of your memories in your old age?” Levi heckled, because that’s what he did. He knew the age difference between him and Erwin wasn’t that extreme. A handful of years, sure but nothing like decades separating him unless Erwin was feasting on the corpses of the Survey Corps like some of his more superstitious opposition said to keep himself charming and young to recruit more to their ranks.

“No, just many things on my mind.” Erwin glanced at the tea, but didn’t move to drink from it. The action immediately put Levi on edge because Erwin didn’t usually ignore tea after it entered his field of vision. “Speaking of, I’m glad you decided to visit before I had to track you down myself. I do know how you hate to be interrupting when you’re cleaning.”

“Some of my methods are very precise, it’s how I keep this place as clean as I do.” Levi was glad Erwin was at least willingly to indulge his quirk, some people weren’t so accepting which in truth made them idiots.

Cleanliness helped everyone whereas filth harmed all.

“But what did you need to talk me about? Surely it’s not about Zacharias.” Levi had to wonder because to date, Erwin had never said anything before and his comment now meant something had changed. Perhaps his patience was wearing thin in the hopes, they’d resolve this without outside interference. “You can’t say anything about that relationship when it never affects our efforts outside the walls.”

“That’s true, I can’t say anything on a professional note. Personally, however, I can say I would appreciate if the two of you made an attempt at being friends but that isn’t what I have to discuss with you right now. It’s about fundraising.”

“So no one wants to give us money again. What a surprise.” Levi would roll his eyes in surprise, if there was any surprise to be had.

Above ground or below ground, one thing never changed. These damn rich people never liked to be parted from their money even if it came to the good of others. But for themselves, they were willingly to spend small fortunes on such worthless trinkets and trends.

“Well, that’s not true. They just don’t know they want to give me their money yet.”

Levi was far from the only one impressed by how Erwin managed to secure their funding again and again. In another life, he would have made a great criminal. The best kind of criminal who left victims abound without realizing if they did at all until it was far too late that they had already been had.

Maybe if things had been reversed, Levi wouldn’t have been taken from his life of crime and instead convinced Erwin to join him instead.

“There is an upcoming event that I believe should be enough to secure our next outing. In a matter of speaking, it’s a good thing, it means that inside the walls your reputation is-“

“Do not coax me into this bullshit like I’m one of them.” Levi growled, knowing he was crossing a line here but knowing that if Erwin was being this direct, if he was mentioning him then he had to go play nice for so called Elites so the Survey Corps wouldn’t go defunct.

His discomfort was nowhere near worth all that. “It’s mandatory isn’t it?”

“It’s mandatory.” Erwin agreed, studying him with those calculating eyes that saw too much and always left him feeling exposed. Levi gritted his teeth as a distraction from that, and in response to having to come to terms with what going to a fundraising gala would entail.

He had never asked on the nights Erwin went missing, wearing formal clothes that made him look ever bit of the aristocracy that Levi hated so much. He had never wanted to hear about that. Let alone be forced to endure it for even one night.

“Alright.” Levi said, like he had any choice in the matter.

“Maybe you should have this instead?” Erwin offered the cup, pushing it on his desk until it faced Levi.

Levi was tempted, to divulge in the small comfort but it would have made the purpose meaningless if he had. “I got it for you. The least you can do for me is drink it.”

“Very well. Thank you, Levi.”

 

~

 

He hates them.

Hate’s a very familiar emotion to him, one Levi’s known all his life. There were plenty of things to hate in life: disease, famine, poverty all things he had known at one point or another in his life.

But these people, these people, so far in the walls, the ones who had never had to struggle a day in their life, the same ones who were memorized by him like looking at some wild animal someone had gone and tame. It wouldn’t bite but it was exotic thus interesting. They awed and cooed over him and Levi had to act the part of being somewhat docile however never losing that wild edge that showed them he was dangerous.

The temptation to bite at the hands that feeds (funds) was a hard one to resist, but Levi knew blood transmitted all kinds of disease. Despite the short-lived satisfaction it would provide, it just wasn’t worth the risk and the consequences it would invite thereafter.

Then again, Erwin would never bring him to these places again, if he wasn’t executed for the crimes that was. He wouldn’t be left to stew in his hatred, and contemplate violence left and right.

He gritted his teeth together, a bad habit but much better than snarling at anyone who dared approach him.

That would make the Survey Corps look bad and he couldn’t have that. These people loved collective punishment.

Levi wondered is this how Erwin felt all the time? Pinned under the weight of knowing how a single look, a single word could tarnish the Survey Corps and threaten their very future?

He glanced over to Erwin, he looked light and careful, as if he was enjoying all this even when some clumsy woman in an expensive outfit that could probably match their entire budget for a week stepped on his shoes repeatedly.

He really hated all these people. He hated all the food they had spare, how it would all go to rot or tossed out for the simplest imperfection to maintain the perfect picture image instead going to all those who were starving away in the underground or hell, even inside the walls to those who didn’t have a fortune to their name.  He hated all the opulence they exalted as if all this money couldn’t go to something far more important than all these gaudy adornments made to make you feel the wealth of the host at every glance that the wood, glass and metal all used here couldn’t be used for something far more practical.

He hated the very air around these people as if they emitted a miasma, always drawing those likeminded near and always draining away those they deemed unworthy with the weight of it all.  

Levi was absolutely murderous dwelling on them had not help unsurprisingly, thus it was times like this where his demeanor came in handy, he was known for having a foul expression, known for having crass speech, and known in general for being difficult.

He looked up not knowing exactly what for only to be met with a fine and delicately crafted chandelier, he almost hoped it would collapse under its own weight and just crush him to death to get him out of this party. The Survey Corps was known for going about some unusual strategies for recruitment but even they couldn’t stick corpses on horses and expect them to fight titans. 

Better yet, he could string all these nobles from the chandeliers, there were certainly enough of them that he could pick out the most deserving targets and string them up for their crimes if he couldn’t get them all.

He may have been a criminal, but his potential to hurt people had never been as great as the people in this room with him. A lot of his crime had been borne out of survival rather than an outright lack of humanity to people who couldn’t phantom other people had problems, problems that they had contribute to somehow and yet somehow that always left them blameless in whatever shadow of a court of law they had.

As Levi said, and could repeat to ad nauseam, he hated these people. He hated being brought along but he didn’t have the authority to refuse and as had been pointedly and painfully reminded to him in the past, he had nowhere else to go too.

Levi absentmindedly grabbed at one of the wine glasses on the table ahead of him, the stem of the wine glass would easily break under enough pressure and would be an adequate, if not a little fragile weapon for stabbing people in the neck. A bottle would have been a lot better though, the weight behind and the glass was thicker so it would hold up more and fracture less shards before crumpling completely from the abuse. Either way, the arterial spray from such a wound would paint these pretty walls red and with how fast he moved, he could take out multiple targets before he’d be subdued.

By Erwin no doubt, or by one of the more twitchy handed nobles who travel with the least copiously bodyguards that Levi had ever seen that he would have been able to id them if he was drunk and on the edge of unconsciousness.

It’d take several of them to beat him to death though quite doable given the girth and that sheen to the eyes that told Levi they liked the violence, Erwin could probably kill him by himself.

Probably even had a contingency plan for given what a smart bastard he was.

Though if it was on one of these leeches dime, then he might as well drink some more. Levi didn’t have a lot of height or weight on him so his body worked against him in this aspect but he’d been downing liquor since he’d been young. It was much easier to get your hands on than water after all, so he could keep it down a lot easier than people thought.

Levi drank without tasting because wine had never appealed to him. However, if there was anything a food insecure childhood had taught, it was how to eat and drink things even if it wasn’t to your taste or even if it outright disgusted you.

Couldn’t be picky and survive in the underground.

If it had been anyone else, he would have told them to fuck off without question for intruding on his personal space, if not outright attack them. It was too hardwired into his instincts to accept people being close as anything other than an attack.

It had dulled in the past but considering how that had worked out… Levi was a little on edge, he wasn’t reacting more poorly to Erwin’s presence.

The glass was lifted out of his hand without protest, thus it meant Erwin’s fingers had brushed against his in doing so. The action was somewhat intimate in a way mostly because people didn’t touch his hands like that even if it was done for a practical reason.

Thinking back to their first proper meeting, Erwin had held his wrists but even that action was obvious in its means to disarm, but it hadn’t meant Levi didn’t notice even then the strength in his hands alone. It had been hard not to with the intense pressure on his wrists seeping the strength from his fingers, and loosening his grip on the blades. Later on there had been bruises that could have been left by the restraints on his wrists but Levi always assumed Erwin had been the one responsible for them.  

The man could have easily choked the life out of him with those large, strong hands, the thought had certainly crossed Levi’s mind back then. Afterwards particularly after a few times when he had mouthed off to Erwin and seen his hands twitch, the thought return in full force. A barely there flicker, but it was enough to know that Levi succeed in getting under his skin sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.

What point was there for using his hands when a verbal command would have had the same effect and been much less effort on Erwin’s part?  

Maybe he was giving this all too much thought, maybe he had more to drink than he realized. Maybe it was a good thing that Erwin had come over to cut him off and likely chastise him for such an offense because Levi doubted it was going to go by without comment.

Naturally because Erwin lived to be a hard fucker to predictable, he did exactly the opposite of that. Wordlessly Erwin merely knocked back the wine glass with style and grace making it look less like he was downing a shot and rather actually indulge the taste and flavor wine had to offer.

“That’s unhygienic, you know.” Levi said not entirely sure what to make of the action. There were plenty of wine glasses to choose from rather than the one he had drinking from.

It was an odd action that stood out to him because something more seemed to be going on than Levi understood. However, he couldn’t say he always understood what Erwin was doing just that his judgement was usually sound.

“I wouldn’t worry about catching something from you.”

It’s a compliment, he’s being complimented? Levi made a face. What the hell? Had Erwin had too much to drink instead? He should be getting punished for his behavior right now and instead he was being praised?

This didn’t make any sense.

None of this world made any sense so he wasn’t sure why he was surprised.

“How many wine glasses have these rich shits made you drink?” It was probably bordering on insubordination to be that frank with Erwin. Their relationship wasn’t nearly as tense as it had once been given he had wanted and tried to kill the man before, but it didn’t mean they had the kind of camaraderie between them that rank could be forgotten like this.

Maybe he was being somewhat charitable given how far out Levi was from his comfort zone or reasoned that Levi mouthing off to him was incredibly less dangerous than him mouthing off to a noble so let him get it out of his system now.

“Not nearly enough to deal with them.” Erwin said, sounding tired. He placed the wine glass down gently on the table ahead of them, extending a long pinky finger down on the table first to help muffle any sound that the gesture could have caused. Levi rolled his eyes, god these people and their rules. Their backs stood against the crowed providing some sense of privacy as no one else had dared to come over, probably in no small part due to him, but also because there were several tables lined up with wine glasses. “Not enough to be openly thinking about murdering them. Levi, you could be more subtle about wanting to kill someone.”

“I suppose, you would know.”

It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to bringing up that aspect of their relationship to Levi’s surprise. Maybe it’s finally because he’s finally got rid of any lingering doubt that Erwin was in any way responsible for what happened.

It would have been much easier to pin the blame on him and kill him, but Levi didn’t deserve to live without that guilt haunting his every step at all.

He still probably didn’t deserve to live at all but he had been conscripted into serving until death and it gave him something to do, so he would do it until he died because again, what else what he supposed to do?

Levi felt Erwin’s eyes on him, but he didn’t look over to the blond, not giving him that pleasure and instead just focusing on some melting carved ice in what looked like the shape of the swan at once point but by now, it’s heads and wings had melted off making it look like a more grotesque abomination he might spy on the battlefield instead.

Even fighting titans was more preferably to these parties where they had to go around and beg for the funding. Or this weird silence.

“Levi.”

“What?” He answered without thinking because he had been conditioned to respond to that questioning tone with promptness. It had been the same voice that stirred him from unconsciousness after a bad fight, or when he happened to doze off into a blissfully free titan free nightmare every once in a while.

Coaxing and demanding all in the same breath.

He hadn’t realized he had been balling up his fists out of some sort of anxiety over this situation until Erwin’s fingers stroke against them. Calloused but gentle, the same hands that signed many of the death notices were touching him with a tenderness Levi couldn’t reconcile, the affection striking enough to make him meet Erwin’s eyes.

“We’re leaving.” That tone, that tone Levi knows it’s the one Erwin uses when he’s cut off his reply early, usually because he was going to say something that might get him court martialed or some equally awful offense instead of his usual silver lined words.

Erwin is much better at restraining himself than just about anyone Levi’s met to date. He didn’t fall victim to indulgences that claimed lesser men and that gave rise to the rumors that he wasn’t human.

So this was odd.

Levi arched an eyebrow at that, another moment like that? In the same night? That was highly unusual for Erwin. He didn’t make mistakes like this, but it wasn’t something he was willingly to examine too closely at the excitement of being able to leave.

He let out of a sigh of relief, probably too loud and too clear how glad he was to hear those words. “Fucking finally.”

If he could at least act the part of crass underling then things would be okay, things would be normal and there wouldn’t be hopefully anymore weird silences that got him anxious for inevitably stupid reasons.

Levi must have looked like he was bolting out of there like a common criminal bouncing away from a crime scene given the hand on his back, or well, back and hip. Erwin was a tall and broad man, it wasn’t strange that his hands were also proportional. It was better than way then Erwin was so tall already that having proportions that were off would give credence to the belief he was part Titan or something. 

There was something classically attractive about his features. Levi wasn’t an idiot, he knew part of the reason how Erwin got some of his funding came down to the fact he was attractive. To the point it could be arguing protecting his face might actually be of military importance given he’d be a lot less likely to score so much funding if he wrecked his face too badly.

A scar or two might make him look rugged, and some people were into that, but Titans never left behind such meagre scars. Sure, Erwin could get into a fight with a human. That was much more likely to give him a scar like that but as Levi had found out the hard way, Erwin wasn’t such an easy target.

He just looked like one and that’s what drew the hope starved to him.

“Something on my face?” Erwin’s blue eyes were lit with unabashed amusement, a rare emotion featured on his face that paired well with his self-satisfied smirk as if he was endlessly pleased with Levi’s screw up.

Levi realized with no small amount of horror, he had just been taking in Erwin’s face, at least he had enough of his mental facilities intact that he could walk and look at the same time meaning his blunder was privy only to Erwin.  

Not that there weren’t eyes on their backs or an uptick at hushed mutters behind them no doubt fueled by their departure. Erwin had however put himself closer these retched people leaving Levi less exposed to them given Erwin’s incredible height. Probably as a precaution to keep him from enacting any of this violent fantasies, though the gesture had comforted him nonetheless.

“Is that lipstick?” Levi managed because there was a smear of something too colorful, something a little too close to his lips to be anything as friendly as a cheek kiss. The aristocracy seemed to use it as a greeting. He must have missed that before as that side of Erwin’s face hadn’t been turned towards him earlier on. “These people really don’t know how to keep their hands to themselves.”

Considering those with money were some of the most frequent visitors of brothels, those habits extending to the day to day life was typical. There had been rumors about what exactly Erwin did to secure funding, but it had never bothered him even if the rumors were true.

Levi didn’t have anything against people who undertook such services, in the underground such had been rather commonplace. They didn’t make nearly as much of a secret of them compared to those above ground. It was a way to survive and there was no shame in that.

The lucky ones got to make the decision themselves, those who weren’t… Levi didn’t like thinking too hard on that, knowing that there was no limit on those who kidnapped in the trade. Didn’t matter your gender, your age, anything like that, anyone was a target though some people were targeted more often.

Levi had run into people like that before who thought he’d been an easy mark because he had such a small stature that make him appear younger and more feminine than he actually was. The second point was occasionally protested against given the exact nature of his biology but the end result was always the same, answering such protests with a punch to a face if he was in a more charitable mood or worse if he wasn’t. Nonetheless, they had been gratifying to get rid of and it had come as close as he felt before joining the Survey Corps for doing something good for society for once.

“Some could argue I’m too handsy with you.”

Levi briefly wondered who would dare, not a lot of people cared how Erwin dealt with him so long as Levi had the appearance of an obedient solider. Erwin really could have beat him black and blue each day until it was a conditioned response to obey his orders or face violence and no one would probably bat an eye.

Of course, Erwin rarely had to resort to violence. Why would he need to when he had such a way with words to begin with?

“Because they haven’t noticed that you’re a very strange man yet somehow.” Levi didn’t get it however, it didn’t mean he opposed the hand on him, or anything else that had happened this evening. He just had no idea what exactly Erwin’s endgame was here.

Any other time, Levi would have figured this was a seduction tactic to get him into bed. But Erwin wasn’t that simple. Trying to decipher what he was doing while he was doing it wasn’t always possible and sometimes Levi didn’t piece together what the man was trying to accomplish until several steps after he’d already done something.

People had certainly tried the route with him before but they quickly learnt it wasn’t a very productive strategy.

“Strange is far from the worst thing I’ve been called.” Erwin said, quieter in response to the change of scenery from the loud indoor party, to the still night air instead. The entrance was brightly lit up enticing you to go inside though it was devoid of all life, signaling to Levi that this party was likely nowhere near its end if even the serving staff wasn’t stationed here. However, it didn’t really matter if that was the case or not, in the interest of being frugal, and considering they were both fit they had arranged a carriage a modest walk away from the property that had been posted at.

A few cut through alleys and streets here and there and then they’d take the rest of the ride back to headquarters. Levi wondered, if they would have to spare the expense of another one since it seemed they were leaving early. Or if Erwin had challenging himself to finish this early knowing he’d be combatting mounting frustration no doubt after securing their funding.

He wasn’t the type of man that would let a small thing like discomfort stop him from reaching his goals.

Still, his voice had begun taking on that strained note that it did sometimes. Something Levi had only begun to notice thanks to Zacharias. Or rather his nose. Levi couldn’t begin to understand how anyone could have an enhanced sense of smell but there were stranger things in the world, so it wasn’t something he lingered on for very long. However it seemed in due part to his nose, that Zacharias had been able to tell – sometimes, never always – when Erwin was starting to show cracks and needed to take a break.

It was interesting that even to those closest, Erwin remained an enigma and it was something he had never really told Zacharias about it either. It was one thing to trust Levi to watch his back against a fight with Titans but another thing to trust him with Erwin, it seemed.

Either way, Levi only had Zacharias to thank for learning to read Erwin better which was ironic in a way because if he really meant to slip a small knife through his ribs and into his heart, knowing when Erwin was wearing thin would only help. Now, Levi actually felt somewhat guilty for being responsible for causing Erwin distress.

At least, he wasn’t only like this with Erwin. It had happened with plenty of people he’d known over the years, not knowing how to tell the fire in this words from the fondness underneath them given Levi had a bad habit of delivering backhanded compliments.

“If I was insulting you, you’d know it.” Levi had never been one to mince words, it had gotten him in a few fights before and now it didn’t net him any allies when he wouldn’t swallow his words back compared to Erwin who did so near constantly.

Granted it was mostly the military police he irritated, but Levi could argue that he was just keeping up with the tradition of the Survey Corps and the MP not getting along. That it was for the sake of unity or some other bullshit if he really wanted to be a little shit about it.

“I do appreciate your honesty.” Erwin laughed, he looked happier than he had all evening when Levi’s eyes landed on him from time to time. It had been habit from their relationship from beyond the walls, he kept eyes on Erwin out of a sense of security. When things went to hell, Erwin was there with a plan on the spot, if the one he had already planned ahead of time failed to perceive a possibility or if an unforeseen circumstance forced him to adapt on the fly. “It’s refreshing.”

“Someone really must have been trying to get you drunk.” Levi said, it seemed like a reasonable excuse for Erwin’s behavior, why else would he be treated like a port in the storm?

Erwin’s swept over him in one calculative and languid look. “That is one possibility, yes.”

It wasn’t a confirmation or a denial and Levi really had come to hate that kind of political speak that often found its way through the military. Erwin used that kind of speech when he needed to say something without really saying anything at all but it didn’t mean it didn’t piss Levi off when it was a personal matter.

He had no reason to be annoyed really. He had secrets himself or Levi liked to think he did around Erwin it was always the safe bet to assume the blond had already known whatever it is you were about to confess or do.

Erwin didn’t really get surprised, or at least not so far he hadn’t been.

On the other hand, Levi saw how much work Erwin undertook, there were only so many hours in a day that Levi couldn’t help but think knowing his entire life story up until the moment they had met would just be unnecessary and time he could better spent elsewhere so naturally of course, he would devote his time to something more important.

Levi clicked his tongue. “You’re cryptic as always. You find it hard turning off the charm after a long night?”

“Not with you, no. Your hatred of the aristocracy always warms my heart.”

“Like you don’t hate them, either.”

“I think it’s less fruitful even if cathartic to dream about stringing them up from chandeliers than to act nice and play their game because that way I can get what I want without planning a coup. They’re always rather messy and the aftermath of that anarchy can be difficult to be predict unless you already have someone else in line to take the helm to smooth out the transition.”

Levi didn’t even try to look repentant only offering a shrug instead. “Didn’t realize it was written on my face.”

“You kept looking up and you’re not a religious man, Levi. It really wasn’t that hard to figure out. Some people of course could have written off as a quirk of yours but I know you much better than that.”

Erwin looked smug, and Levi wanted to wipe that look off his face immediately. “Oh, you do, do you? Better not try that doctor stuff you put me through that one time.”

“They were testing you for insanity in hopes that perhaps if you were insane, then death would a blessing that they could grant you and that they could save the poor, unfortunate Survey Corps from having a madman amidst their ranks.”

Levi scoffed, “As if they give a shit about that.”

“They did try really hard to keep you from me.”

Erwin likely doesn’t mean it that way in the slightest. He means it from a strategic point of view that the powers at be were keeping him from something he needed for his goal to save humanity and he had grown frustrated at their attempts to keep it away from him. But even rationalizing that, it still sounds possessive to Levi.

Oddly enough, that doesn’t bother him which really has guessing if he has gone insane or not.

Maybe the trauma of fighting titans has caught up to him. Levi had heard of it happening before, that sometimes they lost soldiers not because they died in the jaws of titans but rather because they just became unable to fight though living.

As long as he could fight, Levi reasoned then he wasn’t insane.

“Probably couldn’t imagine that I’d have so much use beyond the walls. Here I would thought they’d love feeding me to the titans. Hard to imagine many worse deaths than that.”

Levi couldn’t help his bitter tone, the memories still too fresh in mind, a burn that would never fully leave him for his role in their deaths. Logically, he knew there were probably worse deaths, somehow, somewhere but it was hard to phantom such a thing.

“You’d be surprised the kind of deaths they have had their hands in.”

Levi wants to argue that no, he wouldn’t, and he’s seen the handiwork done by the hands of the government particularly of the MP. In the underground there was even less of a network to do anything about corruption where above ground there was at least a pretense of dealing with such things underground, laws that might have flew above ground cease below without really the ability to enforce consequences for a violation.

But there’s a glimpse of something, gone in a moment’s notice in Erwin’s eyes that have him hold his tongue instead.

“Can we not talk about all these shitty people? Even shitty four eyes is better than all these people put together.”

“I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to hear you say that.”

“Do not.” Levi warned but there was a lack of bite in his words. Hanji had been one of the few people who even at first had really lacked any fear of him even despite his background. Of course, early on it had been rather clear that they were as close to insane as you could get in the Survey Corps what with their love of titans and just how willingly they were to go for scientific progress throwing all sense of self-preservation out of the window at best, and at worst endangering others with their antics.

“You brought them up.” Erwin reminded as if he needed to be, Levi was now regretting that change in topic. “Though, I am glad you’re making friends even if Hanji gave you considerably less say in the matter.”

“Everyone referred to them as my friend without me saying a damn thing.” Their boldness had been part of the reason they began friends in the first place, though Levi had known they had something else in common given Hanji made no secret of it. Levi had been wary about how Hanji would respond given sometimes people of science were the worst when it came to accepting any variance on gender from the exalted status of born a man and born a woman. However given Hanji was in a similar vein as him, though not the exact had made that less likely. It had been a relief when that wasn’t an obstacle he would have been forced to tackle again.

“I’m still convinced they did it to annoy me, not that their appalling sense of personal hygiene doesn’t do just that.”

Erwin corrected, “That horrifies you more than it annoys you.”

“They’re going to catch something and die before a titan can even eat them because they think baths are optional.” It was one thing to go without bathing because you had no way of cleaning yourself that Levi could understood and had been forced to deal with himself on more occasions than he liked. But it was another altogether to avoid them as if you were a cat with an extreme dislike of water. That putrid task had unfortunately fallen to him or Hanji would stink up their entire headquarters and be a vector for who knows what disease if he didn’t personally see to it that they bath on a semi-regular basis.

Levi had tried to be understanding at first assuming that Hanji’s dislike of baths may have had something to do with their gender expression, but it had become clear quickly that wasn’t the case.

And so, Levi had loss quite a lot of sympathy for them given the trouble it caused him.

“I have faith you’ll prevent them from suffering such a fate. I can’t say I always understand their mind, but it would be a grave loss to humanity if we were forced to part with it.”

“Hate to say it, but you’re probably right. Humanity would be fucked without you too, though.”

“Humanity could survive without me.” It was said so nonchalantly that it unnerved Levi, sure, it wasn’t uncommon to find soldiers in the Corps who spoke freely and frequently about their upcoming deaths or even find humor about such things but this was spoken like fact. Like Erwin honestly believed that about himself, and if he did, that meant he would likely do something stupid.

He was all about sacrificing whatever was necessary for the future of humanity, did that include himself?

Levi growled, the anger from earlier on this evening paled in comparison to the wrath he felt now. He slammed Erwin into the wall behind him, more force behind the move than he should have been able to muster.

“You do not get to drag me into the Survey Corps and then get yourself killed! You don’t get to die on me, you giant shit stain!”

“Because you want the pleasure of doing so yourself?”

Levi recoils like he’s been hit, letting go of Erwin and stepping back nearly bumping his own head against the opposing wall in the thin alleyway before righting himself. It hasn’t been like that for quite some time now and he thought, he thought that Erwin didn’t still think of him like that. Of course he did, Levi was stupid for entertaining otherwise. He had joined after all to kill Erwin, and though time had passed, it wasn’t as if some things could be forgotten.

Any sense of closeness that Levi had assumed they had naturally was all just an act, wasn’t it? Erwin was playing him using the fact he lost his friends and it had been his own fault by mimicking closeness to what end? To give him a mimicry of companionship until he had more friends than just Hanji to help him get through his mourning? So that he’d been the best weapon that the Survey Corps could wield?

Erwin could do it too, he was certainly crafty enough to entertain the idea and bring such a plan to fruition.

Levi wanted to run. No good would come from it, in some ironic twist of fate, the Survey Corps had ruined him for the freedom he used to feel within the walls, flying around in the air with the stolen maneuvering gear now would never measure up like it once had. It was a terror outside of the walls, but it was freedom in its purest sense. He would never be content going back.

Like one of those caged birds that rammed themselves against a cage until they died from braining themselves against the wires because they just couldn’t cope with never reaching the sky again.

The Survey Corps, no Erwin had broken him making damn sure even if he thought about escaping, he wouldn’t enjoy whatever reminder of life he had before he was inevitably captured again and sent to the gallows. 

Levi bit back a laugh or maybe it was even a sob until he tasted blood in his mouth. The explosion of iron meeting his tongue in familiarity. Yeah, maybe he wouldn’t enjoy the rest of his life, but then again it’s not like he deserved to in the first place.

So what did it really matter in the end? 

Levi went to leave, agility had always been on his side and that would give him a temporary advantage at best, the hand around his wrist was hardly a surprise considering. The force from it had pulled him closer Erwin which Levi had allowed because if he had to strike Erwin, it’d be easier to do it closer and immobilize him for a bit.

“Wait… I’m sorry. Please don’t leave.”

Levi blinked, wondering now if perhaps he had actually been drunk this evening and was now experiencing some sort of weird dream. Or maybe he slipped on their fancy flooring and cracked his head and his brain was bleeding out whilst trying to make corrupted sense of reality.

"I didn’t realize you felt like that. I assumed you still struggled with the urge to run and that any thoughts of my death would inspire glee rather than grief in you.”

“How are you so smart and dumb at the same time?”

“Because I thought I was over this, that I had become a person that had much more self-discipline than I apparently do. You don’t deserve me acting this way around you, and it’s really by no fault of your own. This is my problem and I’ll see to it that it never troubles you again.”

“It would help if I had any idea about what you’re talking about.”

Erwin blinked, long and slow. “Levi, what do you think is going on here?”

“I have no idea.” He shrugged. “I figured you’re just drunk and that got you emotional. You are human after all, you might be a fucking giant but even you can’t down glass after glass of alcohol without it eventually taking effect.”

“So in the previous weeks, you haven’t noticed anything unusual?”

Zacharias had been more of an ass recently but beyond that, nothing quite stuck out to Levi. They had never gotten along but the last couple of weeks had been especially tense perhaps because of one thing.

“We were becoming friends, at least I think we were. With you, it’s hard to tell always why you do something. I’m not dumb but that doesn’t mean I can always tell what you’re thinking.”

“I hope I haven’t done anything that lead you to think I question your intelligence.” Erwin sounded earnest, and free of the usual bullshit he spouted to the point Levi was surprised by his honesty. “You’re good at reading situations, your life experiences up until you joined the Corps helps give you an edge that few others would be able to provide me, and even though you may clash with your fellow squad mates I know you would do whatever you could to save them. I’m the one that often calls you back to my side preventing you from doing something reckless that would get you killed on the very slight chance it would have saved someone else.”

“You really are drunk if you’re praising me that much.” Levi glanced to the side, for a moment, he needed a moment’s reprieve from whatever this was, but he had enough pride he wouldn’t show his embarrassment. Praise from Erwin had always meant more to him than anyone else, and he hated the effect it had on him.

“I’ve been attending fundraising meetings long before you joined. My tolerance for alcohol is quite high, I assure you. Everything I’ve done this evening has not been cause for inebriation.”

Well, if Erwin wasn’t drunk there were several other theories, Levi had racked up in its stead. Focusing on them, felt centering and Levi felt more in control of himself as he mentioned one. “Or someone drugged you, wouldn’t put it past these rich fucks. Did you taste anything strange? Some of them are tasteless, but I know some of them are salty or just make the alcohol taste off. Sometimes it’s the color-“

“Levi, I’m already aware of all these things. I am quite careful when it comes to what I drink and eat though it may not always look like it. I may not have your sleight of hand but it is something I’ve taught myself.”

Levi glanced down at Erwin’s hands before looking back up at him incredulously. “With those big hands of yours? Yeah, I’m calling bullshit.”

“They’re not big, they’re proportional.” Erwin said looking down at him, turning his palms upwards before flipping them back over once again before they went to rest casually at his side.

“Same thing.” Levi rolled his eyes. “We’re getting off topic.”

“No, I am trying to get you back on topic. I’m not drugged nor am I drunk.”

“Then you must be sick.” Maybe it was airborne and Levi was starting to experience symptoms too which could explain his own weird reactions to many things that had happened this evening, too. “Incubation period must have let up and hit you all at once. You’re not making sense so maybe you’re running a fever.”

“Levi, I’m not sick.”

“Because you’re always so truthful when it comes to health checks. Like I don’t see you ducking them at the same time you demand me to do them. Hypocrite.”

Levi invaded Erwin’s personal space again, not waiting for an invitation, standing on top of his shoes before leaning up on his toes to reach his hand onto Erwin’s forehead. With his core muscles alone he kept himself upright without having to lean against Erwin’s body.

His forehead was normal.

Fever was far from the only indicator of ill health, but it was one of the most common signs when combatting an illness. The lack of one annoyed Levi even if he really didn’t want Erwin to be sick per se, he just wanted an explanation.

Erwin asked, looking down at him. “Satisfied?”

This close he could feel the warmth of Erwin’s body radiating against his own, it was tempting to wait a moment longer than necessary given they were later into the year, and there was a chill in the air.

Formal clothes didn’t quite provide the warmth that the military attire did as it was meant to stand up to the elements.

“Tch.” Levi stepped back and away. “You can’t blame me for all those scuffs on those shoes. Some of them kept stepping on your feet to the point I wondered if they were trying to cripple you.”

“There are much easier ways to do that with a higher success rate so I doubt that was their intentions. Though it’s nice to know how much I hold your attention.”

“If anything happens to you, I’m going to get blamed. It doesn’t matter what I was doing, wouldn’t discount that one of them might pull a knife and stab you in front of all their peers and them all to point the finger at me. Even if you survived from that point, they still would have sent me to the gallows and just claim I did something to your mind.”

“I like how you assume I’m just going to let myself get stabbed.” Erwin sounded offended for once before pinning him with an intense look that made Levi feel glued to the spot and waiting for whatever his next comment would be. “Or that I’d let them take you away from me.”

There’s that possessive tone nearing its head again. Levi must be imagining it, projecting it onto Erwin because it didn’t make any sense he’d heard that tone from Erwin voluntarily.

Shit, what did it say about Levi that he liked hearing things like that? Maybe he did need to see a doctor.

“I guess I am underestimating you.” Erwin had always known Levi meant to kill him from the start after all, he had to be rather aware of any and all assassination attempts on him though that didn’t mean Levi didn’t think about how he’d end up holding the bag for it even if he had been truly innocent.

That was life for Levi, just constantly fucking him over at every turn.

Speaking of fucking, “Have you gotten laid recently? If it’s been too long that might explain your weirdass behavior tonight. I’m sure if you went back in, you could have your pick of anyone that you wanted.”

“I don’t want them.”

“Well, I can’t blame you for having standards. Try one of the brothels, I know some in the underground that don’t beat or rape their workers if you have to use me as a reference but you’re a very resourceful man. I’m sure you could find these things out yourself.”

“Apparently not resourceful enough.” Erwin muttered more to himself than to Levi. “I know I may be married to my job, but I assure you that is not the problem.”

“There was a ceremony? I’m so sorry I missed it. I didn’t want to come.”

“Very funny, Levi. If you’re through with these admittedly interesting excuses for my behavior-“

“Oh, I’m not done yet. It’s rude to interrupt.” Levi was intentionally being a piece of shit because it was familiar and helped him deal with his own mounting frustration as he was running out of excuses.

“I would hate to be rude.” Erwin chuckled. “Go on.”

“You might have a concussion. Four eyes says you can get them from a bad fall instead of just a knock to the head, and that floor had no support, great for spinning people around I guess, but slick enough to trip on if you weren’t careful.”

“I feel as if I should be insulted that you’re doubting my coordination.”

“With those long legs of yours?” Levi looked down, and then back up, it was a long look up given Erwin’s height. No one could say the man didn’t keep himself in shape unlike some lazy fucks in the military. The formal attire didn’t hug him in the same places that their standard military attire did hugging his shoulders more closely, and drew more attention to his trimmed waist. From the bottom down, the pants were more streamlined made to look and give some freedom of movement for the dancing. In comparison to the military look which pants and boots definitely framed Erwin’s legs better. “I’m sure you’ve tripped over them once or twice. I just haven’t seen it yet.”

“I can assure you, I am a good dancer. Do you know how to dance, Levi?”

“And I can assure you, no one’s going to ask me to dance.” Levi mocked, he was good about keeping people at a distance, and dancing required contact. Contact that these people were wisely averse to giving him but very, very lavish about doling out to Erwin.

“So you don’t know how.”

“Do other people like it when you figure things out like that?” Levi asked, a genuine curiosity on his end because sometimes it was maddening.

“No, it’s not always my most attractive quality.” Erwin looked rather thoughtful for a moment before carrying on, “But still, I can teach you, even though you may find little use for it, it is good exercise. It can help with flexibility and muscle conditioning. You can work up quite a sweat depending on the intensity.”  

Trust Erwin to make something that formerly look unappealing take on a new light. Though dancing usually was equated with a measure of formality, which had Levi second guessing any agreement. “In clothes like these?”

Formal attire wasn’t great at moisture wicking capabilities which mean the sweat usually permeated the clothing and made it more difficult to get clean. Which would just mean more work for him because Levi had high standards.

“Well, not at first. Something more casual.”

“Casual? Like our military attire?”

“Should be fine as long as it’s without the harness. I know some soldiers start to feel naked without them, but I promise you it’ll get in the way.”

“You should know how I feel about that given I wasn’t allowed the freedom of keeping my maneuvering gear when I was first here.”

It had made Levi anxious though he’d known he was going to part with given his conscript wasn’t all that voluntary. There had been many days and nights in the underground that he had fallen asleep in the gear, the comfort in knowing he could escape and with much more maneuverability than most people would have had been one of the few things that had helped with his insomnia.

“Given your extreme talent, I knew I couldn’t be lenient and just let you have it without supervision. As blissful as it is to see you in full flight, it would not look good if I had to explain away missing gear nor the man attached to it.”

“Blissful? You’re getting as weird as Hanji now. Is that was this is? Have they infected you with their weirdness? It’s horrifying to know it might be contagious. Though if anyone was going to start an outbreak… or it could be Zacharias. He’s still weird too with that nose of his. I mean, what is he even smelling all the time? I’m still not convinced it’s not a tic that he does just to make people think he’s weird so they don’t try to pull things around him.”

Building yourself up in the underground was a constant thing. If you act too batshit crazy, people tended to avoid you but if you acted with an air of intimidation around you the threat of having to fight you sometimes prevented fights before they even happened regardless of your ability to actually fight.

It all came down to appearances.

Though, Levi knew from the past, that Zacharias was not someone who had to act stronger than he was, he was that strong just sparse with the display. Showing restraint in a way that had always reminded him of Erwin.

He knew those two had been friends, wondering if Zacharias had always been like that or if it was because of Erwin he had become that way instead.

“Though he’s better than Nile. He’s so capricious, I don’t know how you two are friends then again, you and him aren’t that close are you?”

“I consider us friends but things are admittedly strained.” Erwin said, sounding wistful. “It was to be expected but I don’t regret my course of actions.”

“So what did you do?”

“We fell in love with the same person.”

“You’ve been in love before? Here I thought you just came out of the womb with only military strategy and might on your mind.”

“Is it that surprising? That I could fall in love with a person?”

“Well, no. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just strange to think anything could distract you.”

“Anyone.” Erwin corrected.

“Right. What are they like?” If Erwin hadn’t given a gender yet of the love interest then neither was Levi, though it was likely borne out of being intentionally vague rather than an interest in genders in any way similar to his own.

You couldn’t always tell about a person, but there was a kind of radar that people seemed to have that let them know when someone was like them or not. Levi’s radar never registered Erwin as even a blip meaning his attraction probably was the probably the more so called traditional route solely to woman.

“Not as important as the one I like now.”

Levi blinked. “You fell in love again? When have you had the time if you’re so supposedly married to your-“ The answer was obvious. “It’s someone you work with. Way to make your life difficult.”

The military was willing to overlook what some might call more untraditional relationships or at least the Survey Corps really didn’t seem to care one flying fuck about it however if it was someone you work with, then that brought problems. That could cause favoritism and could break up unit cohesion with relationship discord so they were considered taboo though not strictly speaking illegal.

It was more of a legal gray area where sometimes relationships were prosecuted and sometimes they weren’t. It really depended on how much chaos said relationship turned up.

“Where else was I really meant to meet someone?” Erwin asked aloud as if it wasn’t a rhetorical question.

“I don’t think people join the military to fall in love. Or if they do, they’re idiots.”

“What a surprise, you’re not a romantic.”

“You’re a workaholic. I don’t get to be lectured by you about not being a romantic when we’re in the same boat.”

“No, I suppose you don’t. Have you ever been in love before Levi?”

Levi shouldn’t even responded to that question, but the audacity of it had a snarky reply coming before he could help himself, “I was married to crime, don’t you remember? I mean, you’re literally the one that stole me away from them.”

“It sounds like a sordid affair when you say it like that.”

“Oh, yes, it’s a love story for the century.” Levi scoffed, rolling his eyes for added measure to show Erwin how he really felt about this. “Boy meets crime, boy turns into a man and that man rises in the criminal underground, man meets another man who takes him away from a life of crime to repay his debt from society by military service. Great for morale as it shows even the worst criminal can arise from their sin filled past. As long as you don’t mind the propaganda angle. I’m surprised you’re not recruiting more after you could say I was a success.”

“No one could replace you, Levi. Though it’s true, there may be other who have a criminal past that may ordinarily be forfeited from military service, I was always regarded as rather unorthodox in recruitment strategies.”

Erwin didn’t have to gesture at him, but his pointed look was enough to get his message across as if somehow this had escaped Levi’s knowledge. Being you know, the person who had been recruited, even though that had been a very murky affair to begin with.

There was a pregnant pause before Erwin continued, “At this point, it would be rather counterproductive to bring up as measure such as that particularly given the fact we don’t often have to deal with overflowing prisons given many crimes the only acceptable answer is death. From a practical standpoint, it’s a small pool of people to draw from and many criminals lean towards selfishness and wouldn’t make good candidates even if they had skill. So high risk with relatively little reward promised make it a difficult gamble though on the other hand if we did recruit from criminals more the very real threat of facing death by titans could provide a powerful countermeasure against those who turn to crime.”

“If you use that angle, they’re just going to justify sending people outside the walls for even the slightest infraction.” Levi crossed his arms against his chest, like perhaps he was cold, but his fingers were digging in too deeply at his elbows pondering the world that would be like. “A good way to control a populace but not every criminal even deserves death by titan. Poverty explains away much more crime than people think and addressing that would do more to lower crime rates than just coming up with more creative ways to punish people.”

“You always had more humanity in you than people ever gave you credit for. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always felt drawn to you.”

“What are you a moth?” Levi arched an eyebrow, the strange statement relaxing his previously tense posture by his arms returning to his sides.

“No, just a man.”

Erwin leaned down and into his personal space and Levi naturally only seeing one reason he had done something like that in the first place took the handkerchief out of his pocket and went to wipe the lipstick off of Erwin’s face.

Erwin looked confused. “What are you doing?”

“Cleaning.” Levi replied, like he was an idiot. “This would have come off much easier if you did it after it was left.”

“That wouldn’t have been polite.”

“I suppose it’s not the worst thing you could have on your face. Did you know though they’re still wary of me, some of the others in our Corps have come to me for cleaning advice? Honestly, it’s terrifying to know what some people get up to in their quarters. Though I know the mastermind in you would be glad to know the various bits of blackmail material that nets me like who’s sleeping with who, and who isn’t sleeping through the night. Assuming you don’t already know.”

“I suppose we could compare information, it’s be good to know if there’s anything I did miss.”

“Set some tea out and I’m yours for an evening.”

“Mine, huh?”

“Didn’t I just say that?” Levi narrowed his eyes, not seeing the reason to repeat it as if were a question. “If you want, we can do that dancing thing later on. I doubt you’re going to wear me out if all we’re doing is just talking.”

“Well, that’s true. The chances of us being interrupted is high however so we may not be able to do both in the same day.”

“Let’s not cut into the time you sleep, then. You know I get by on less.”

“I’ve never met anyone before who slept less than me.” Erwin said, surprised. “It shouldn’t actually be possible to survive on that little sleep though my knowledge of human health is admittedly limited, chronic sleep deprivation is rather well known for its ill effects.”  

“Yeah, well, can’t actually blame that on the military. I never slept well.”

Sure the service hadn’t exactly helped his issues, exacerbating them sometimes but such was the way of life. It would be far stranger if you weren’t impacted in the least.

“I do worry about that.”

“Have I ever fallen asleep when it was important before?”

“No.” Erwin answered without hesitation. “You do seem to have a habit of dozing off around me though. I asked Hanji about it, and they said they only caught you sleeping once and that was when they went off on a scientific tangent on something they found quite interesting. They forgave you considering you did need the sleep however.”

“Because you’re quieter for the most part and save the really impassioned speeches when you have an audience rather than Hanji who speaks as if they’re speaking to an audience when I am less than ten feet away from them, and using their outdoor voice inside.”

“So you think that’s all to it?”

Levi felt twitchy at the implications that could be suggesting choosing to go for the most direct meaning. “Am I doing something weird in my sleep? You’re allowed to tell me because really if I’m doing something weird, I want to cut that shit out so I don’t embarrass myself around anyone I dislike.”

“You’re not doing anything weird in your sleep.” Erwin reassured, his coaxing tone appearing again. “Though by your own admission that must mean you don’t dislike me.”

“Why are you phrasing that like a question?” Levi titled his head. “Shouldn’t that be obvious, here you go about how you know me so well but somehow you can’t tell how I feel about you?”

“I am admittedly not as well versed when it comes to emotions. They can be very unique experiences and each person can have a different recollection of them entirely so there’s some room for… ambiguity.”

“Do you think I still want to kill you?”

“No.” The lack of hesitation this time was a balm to the horror he had experienced earlier on. It was strange to think that was only a matter of minutes ago now.   

“And if I don’t want to kill you doesn’t that make it considerably more likely that I actually like you?”

“Yes.”

“Then that’s your answer.”

Levi isn’t expecting the hand cupping his face. It’s warm and there’s a part of him that wants to accept the affection without complaint given it is chilly. However, the much larger part of himself knows that this is off and he’s compelled to say something, anything about it.

Naturally, it comes out sarcastically instead. “This is a really shitty way to warm me up.”

“Levi, I’m giving you permission to punch me in the face if I’m wrong about this.”

“You want me to assault you?” The offer may have been tempting a while back now, but right now it only unnerved Levi.

There’s a single digit resting off his pulse and judging by the look in Erwin’s eyes he had felt that too. However instead of explaining himself which Levi honestly would have preferred because what the fuck is going on, instead he just leans down and closer into his personal space.

Fingers come to rest underneath his chin pushing up with a slight pressure indicating Erwin wants him to lift his chin up for some reason. Levi wondered why Erwin didn’t simply do it for him, the man certainly had enough strength in his hands that he didn’t need the assist however Levi obeys the gesture.

Things start slitting in place the moment Erwin’s lips meet his and suddenly Levi gets why Erwin was acting this way the entire evening and naturally it had to have been the only thing he thought he could rule out with certainty.

The kiss is surprisingly chaste, nearly hesitant at odds with the driven, strategic man that Levi knew Erwin to be. Despite the fact, he hadn’t really thought about kissing Erwin before, it’s not something Levi minded.

Kissing is a good way to share germs but Levi can trust that Erwin keeps himself up to or near his own standards of cleanliness. It’s been a while since Levi last kissed someone, but it’s not something that you forget.

Levi reaches for the lapels on Erwin’s suit for purchase just as the blond pulls back. He scowls but the confused but happy look on Erwin’s face is worth it.

“So you didn’t get punched in the face, what does that tell you?”

“You’re not doing this because you think I’ll kick you out of the Survey Corps, right?”

“This coming from the man who several times this evening has made possessive remarks about me?” Levi pinned Erwin with his own paralyzing look. “You’re going to kick me out? Bullshit.” 

“Ah… about those-“ Erwin actually sounded remorseful and as fun as that was Levi didn’t want any more misunderstandings.

“I liked it.”

“Really? That’s odd, I would have thought you’d been averse.”

“I’m really not the kind of person who’s going to put up with something I don’t like. You cross a line and believe me, I will tell you.”

“I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

“There’s just one thing first, what do you see me as? Do you just see me as a girl playing dress up or do you see me as the same as you?”

“You’re just as much of a man as I am.”

“Okay, good, if you ever forget that, I am leaving your ass.”

“Understood.”

“Now you better finally get me in from the cold. If you or I catch a cold, I am going to make you suffer for it. Strategic mastermind of the generation my ass, couldn’t even confess his feelings where it was warm.”

 

~

 

“I bet it’ll happen tonight, you know how Levi loathes the aristocracy.”

Mike didn’t comment which didn’t deter Hanji in the least who continue on. “So maybe he’ll stab someone, if anyone can get a knife into those sort of places without attention, it’s Levi. Though Erwin might not say again given he lets Levi get away with a lot, although on the other hand, it’s a prime excuse for a sexy cavity search.”

Hanji broke out in a grin, knowing that even if that weren’t the case, Levi would never have a traditional entrance into romance.

Mike wrinkled his nose. “Can you not?”

“No, honestly, I cannot. We have both been suffering these last couple of weeks to the point you and Levi have just had glaring contests because you didn’t want to have that conversation with him.”

“You didn’t, either.”

“Why would I? Let them both just work it out in their natural habitat, that’s what the scientist in me said! I mean, sure they may have met on bad terms, but love can blossom in the strangest of places! Besides you said you can sniff out lies, why don’t you just be blunt and ask Levi directly? He prefers the blunt approach anyways. I think you two could get along pretty well given Levi isn’t going to make you talk any more than you want to.”

It was just like Hanji to speak without pausing to breathe, despite that impassioned paragraph, Mike wasn’t convinced. “Erwin hasn’t been convinced Levi still doesn’t want to kill him.”

“Oh ho, that’s interesting. But you know, even Erwin can be wrong sometimes.” Hanji shrugged. “It’s statistically impossible that he’d be right all the time. And we all have biases, Erwin happens to lean towards self-flagellation meaning it’d be a lot easier for him to think Levi wants to kill him than consider the possibility it might be mutual. Love scares men like that.”  

Leave it to Hanji to make a valid point, dole out wisdom and a double innuendo all in the same go.

“Besides if it makes you feel better, I have also learnt Levi’s body relatively well given our friendship exact height and weight and history of prior poisoning is useful if you were looking for what poison and what dose would be right if you want to torture someone without killing them accidentally.”

That sadistic glint in their eyes was a good reminder that despite Hanji’s more energetic persona, there was a real nightmare underneath to be unleashed if necessary.

It was something Mike had always smelt on them, but very few glimpses of that had peeked out over the time he had known them.

They were definitely the friend you called to get rid of a body.

“But you don’t think Levi means any harm?”

“Not really.” Hanji grinned once more, this time it was far less menacing that the ones they had sported just moments before. “Their relationship will probably always be a little complicated, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good for the both of them.”

 

~

 

Most people were taller than him and it wasn’t that all the surprising that would be in reach for the bulk of the popularity would be too tall for him. However, it didn’t mean it wasn’t a pain in the ass to clean when he just couldn’t reach things from determination alone.

However, it was to his surprise that the top shelves were clean. Acceptable under even his standards which meant Hanji couldn’t have been responsible for it. They would clean with him, often using it as an excuse to bond because Hanji was smart enough to know that Levi wouldn’t often refuse help. They weren’t a disaster when it came to cleaning but neither were they especially talented at it, and given Hanji wasn’t all that much taller than him, they weren’t that helpful at reaching the taller places without giving him a boost.

Levi often didn’t let people touch him so familiarity but with Hanji, it was practical, and filth disgusted him enough to bear it and not to mention, he knew Hanji wouldn’t use the excuse to cope a feel, they knew what it was like when you inhabited a body that didn’t always match up to how you viewed yourself.

Levi’s first thought would have been Erwin if he hadn’t known the man had a particularly busy day and knowing they had an upcoming date, that Erwin was strategically trying to figure out when their schedules lined up so they could do something about it.

Beyond that he hadn’t really made too many friends in the Survey Corps, favors earned here and there, yes, but not friends. Levi had always been rather particularly about who he asked to help him clean and that was only with him in tandem.

Though, there was someone, an unnaturally tall person whom Levi hadn’t been getting along with recently who could have been responsible.

He was only person who made sense. It was puzzling this show of good faith unless Zacharias was burying the hatchet or Erwin was forcing him to do so. The latter was more unlikely because Erwin hadn’t really forced his bond with Hanji, though had encouraged him to socialize, it hadn’t really meant he had interfered any more than that.

What would be the point? Long term success would have to be because Levi was willingly to get close to people again without Erwin merely using his influence to gain a short lived victory.

So the show of good faith was probably on Zacharias’ end, then.

Well, he knew the man wasn’t prone to many words, something Levi actually liked about him because while he liked Hanji sometimes their incessant chattering was overwhelming. So it only made sense that whatever gesture he did in return was also silent and would show he too was really to get over whatever lingering animosity he had left on his end, too.

Their last meeting in mind gave Levi the perfect idea.

 

~

 

There was the lingering scent of cleaning products in his room alerted him by scent alone that Levi had been in his room. Beyond that was the smell of freshly brewed tea, no doubt still warm by its smell.

The smell wasn’t focused enough for Mike to think that Levi was still there though it had to have been recent. His door was still locked which meant Levi procured the master key from under Erwin’s watch and with his permission, a frightening but not an unfounded thought or that Levi’s skills from the underground persisted and he just picked the lock himself and had the good grace to lock it behind him.

Opening the door revealed nothing out of place, and nothing that looked like Levi was just going to remove him from the picture now since he and Erwin had begun a thing except for the cup of tea on his nightstand.

Unless, Levi poisoned it which was fair given he did have a close relationship with Hanji but knowing them, they likely wouldn’t have given the right information in case of this incident. Say what you would about Hanji, but they did actually plan for contingencies in a similar matter that Erwin did.

Mike took a good long sniff of the tea before he drank it, no poisons he was familiar at least stuck out so he took a sip.

It would have been better if Levi hadn’t broken into his room to deliver it, but friendships had to start somewhere.

 

~

 

“So what were you doing?” Hanji had a good idea of how long it took Levi to clean so they noted when they had appeared early enough to have a cup of tea with them. They were in the middle of taking a sip when he answered.

“Breaking into Zacharias’ room.” Levi deadpanned.

Hanji choked, knowing that Mike had made a gesture of peace towards Levi but with that admission it meant that it hadn’t been returned apparently.

“To leave him some tea.”

On one hand, Hanji wanted to take offense knowing full well that hadn’t been an accident when Levi had chosen to speak but on the other hand, they were interested “Why do you need to break into someone’s room to leave him tea?”

“Because I don’t like talking incessantly, either.”

Hanji knew reasonably, it would have involved very few words if any to convey that point across without breaking into a room but baby steps. This was Levi, after all, so Hanji simply settled on, “You are a very strange man.”

“That’s rich coming from you.”

“No wonder Erwin likes you. Though I think it’s probably also because you both have size kinks.”

“Alright, I’m not having this conversation with you.” Levi sat up though he had just sat down moments before because there was a list of things he was willingly to listen to, and this didn’t make the list. “Also stop ducking showers or next time I make you choke it’ll be my hands around your throat until I throw you into the stalls myself.”

“Well, I trust you to know what you’re doing.” Hanji had been a victim of Levi’s hands more than once at his unneeded insistence about cleanliness. It really bordered on obsessive behavior, but it didn’t infer with Titans so they couldn’t say anything about it to Erwin who only allowed such behavior.

He really was rather indulgent when it came to Levi. Hanji wasn’t sure how many moments had passed between their inside thoughts and their outside voice but they had something important to say. “But does Erwin know how to choke someone without harming them? Death by autoerotic asphyxiation is common!”

Hanji blinked, realizing they had said that aloud to an empty room as Levi had made good on his promise of leaving.

Ah, shame, they would have loved to hear that answer. Hanji shrugged, oh well, Erwin and Levi were together now so they didn’t have to suffer through that mutual pinning nonsense anymore at least.

Though, it had been entertaining while it lasted.  

 

~

 

“Should I be concerned by that grimace on your face?” Erwin asked, this time looking up from his paperwork because made Levi had entered his room a bit more hastily than normal.

“Hanji’s not dead, so no.”

“Hanji, not Mike?”

“I don’t know if we’ll be friends, but it’ll be better than before?” Levi offered with a shrug. “We’re moving past things.”

“Ah, that’s good.” Erwin nodded, before his eyes scrunched up overlooking some paperwork and Levi felt attention drifting away from him.

Perhaps it was too much, but Levi didn’t fight the impulse when he claimed an unused proportion of Erwin’s desk and sat down on it. He reached over and took a single paper from the large file on his desk. Overlooking the contents himself, seeing if it was something that he could assist with.

“Levi?” Erwin looked up at him, an odd angle given their respective heights almost never was allowed for this reversal. “What are you doing?”

“This looks like something I can help you with.” Levi replied plainly not ignoring but not acknowledging the way Erwin’s eyes had ever so imperceptibly eyed him hungrily before the expression was schooled into something more innocuous.

“Ah, so you’re helping.”

“If we were going to be having sex, I’d tell you.” Levi had always been blunt, so he wasn’t going to start being coy now. “You haven’t secured our date yet, anyways. So get on that, and we’ll see.”

“Let’s work fast, then.” Erwin professionally but there was a hint of smile on his face.

Levi found returning the smile before he hid his smile behind the sheet of paperwork, judging by the slight chuckle, it hadn’t been unnoticed.

So, Levi didn’t feel bad about gently kicking Erwin in the ribs for his frankly unwanted commentary.