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One but Not the Same

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"Hey, Levi. I can take over from here."

Bright eyes and a wide grin.

Those were the first words that Levi could describe to him.

 
"Shitty brat, you better not be attempting at making a cat latte art again."

"I'm getting the hang of it."

"First off, your latte sucks. Second, there's no fucking milk left!"

Persistent. Determined. Very Determined.

Levi learned at an early time that he wasn't one to give up easily, no matter what the odds may be. It was quite admirable, really, and Levi could find himself entertaining the idea of finding him attractive –


"Hey, Levi. What grade were you when you were in fourth grade?"

"... Fourth."

– If he wasn't such a moron.
 

But see, Levi thought he knew the basics about Eren Jaeger. Or at least the general ones that you could attribute to a person that could make you say, "Yeah, I know him."

Eren Jaeger has eyes like the ocean and a smile like the sun; topped off with a nest for a hair. He was a determined brat to the point he could be utterly stubborn. He was on his second year of college and wasn't really sure of his major yet, so he was focusing on taking the minor subjects. He was working as a part-time barista at a coffee shop near their university for almost a month now, and after he saw Levi making a cat latte art on his first shift, he was dead set on perfecting the same feat. It goes without saying that he could also be a complete and total idiot.

See, Levi thought he knew the things one would bother to know about a person; would even go to the point of referring to him as a borderline friend. (Friend, if he didn't annoy Levi as often, and if Levi wasn't such a prissy princess). Maybe he even knows more than necessary about him at the short time they've been seeing and working together. Heaven knows Eren could run his mouth.

But there was a time when Eren was strangely more silent than usual. And he was never usually silent; at least as far as Levi have known him. Levi thought he wasn't just feeling his usual self or has personal issues to deal with. He is in college, after all. Levi could relate to that to some extent. And hey, at least it'll be a day with less annoyance from the brat.

But then "a time" turned to "several more times".

Once, Levi berated him while he was at this "mood" and he glared at Levi. Eren Jaeger actually glared at Levi fucking Ackerman. Business fucking major, Levi Ackerman. Eren's fucking senior, Levi Ackerman. Clean-freak, fucking stoic king, Levi Ackerman. I-could-castrate-you-with-my-fucking-scowl-alone, Levi Ackerman.

And then at their next shift together, Eren acted like nothing happened.

"Fucking teenager," was all Levi could think for an explanation. And quite possibly bipolar.

Okay, so he was like two sides of the same coin. Or whatever that saying applies to. Maybe Yin and Yang? Bottomline, Eren Jaeger could be loud at times and silent at others.

Understandable. Teenage hormones. Whatever. Nothing unusual.

Except when he found him sitting under a tree with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at hand. They don’t really cross each other’s paths at school that often. And when they do, nothing much is exchanged other than acknowledging glances, subtle nods, and the occasional grin from the brunet.

It could also be noticed that his bag was filled to the brim with different varieties of food you could think of. Then again, he could just be starving when you think about it. He is quite lanky when it comes to Levi's standards. There's nothing unusual about that.

Except for that peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"I thought you hated peanut butter."

Eren's eyes were wide as they shot up at him, looking very much like a deer caught in the headlights. It took a few more moments for him to consider swallowing the food he kept in his mouth. (Thank heavens he had the mind not to talk with his mouth full).

"I... did." He answered hesitantly, as if he was still thinking for his answer. Levi raised a brow at this.

"What changed?"

It took a few more moments before Eren could respond once more.

"I'm hungry." He mumbled before stuffing his mouth full again.

Levi doesn't respond to this; just gradually getting more convinced about Eren's possible bipolarity.
 


 

"What in the actual fuck happened to you?" was Levi's greeting as Eren entered the shop with a bruised and patched-up face.

There was a blond beside him that Levi has often seen hanging around the brunet. The brunet in question just stomped his way towards the back room, grumbling and muttering inaudible words along the way.

"Sorry. Eren had gotten into a fight. He's still quite pissed off about it." The blond explained in place for the said brunet.

"No shit. What happened?" Not that Levi really cared (to admit). But at least it's something interesting to talk about.

"There were these guys who wanted to copy my assignment and got... physical in their convincing. Eren just went to my defense. I tried to tell him to lay off, but he's quite reckless." The blond answered lowly, an apologetic look plastered on his face.

Levi just hummed a reply, not really finding it much of a stretch that Eren acted that way. Just then, Eren came out of the back room already in his uniform, still muttering bitterly under his breath.

"Let it go, Eren. I'm fine, and I still could've done the assignment even if they took it from me." The blond tried to placate him.

"That doesn't justify shit to what they did, Armin."

'So this is Armin.' Levi thought. He'd heard that name way too many times.

"I swear I could've fucking broke their fingers if they just--"

"Shhhh, Eren! You've got customers here." Armin shushed him.

'Good kid.’ Levi noted.

Now, Levi isn’t in any way a role model when it comes to manners, but he does know how to be decent at the right places, at the right times. Mostly, anyway. If Armin hadn’t shushed Eren, he would’ve done it himself. In his own way.

And before Eren could open his mouth again, Armin already beat him to it. "Look, Eren. We'll talk about this later. Just please don't take out your anger on any of your customers, or just anyone really, okay?" He leveled him with a look that Levi could only consider to be reprimanding.

"Fine," Eren grumbled, and he actually pouted. What a kid.

"I'll see you later, then. Nice to finally meet you, Levi." Armin stated before exiting out the door.

Levi didn't remember having any introductions.

But if Eren's constant ramblings were any indicator, well, it was a blatantly obvious indicator for that.

Eren chose to simmer in his own anger and bitterness, though. Levi chose to let him be. He'll talk when he wants to, despite Levi wanting to hear it or not. He was still huffing to himself when the bell signaled the arrival of new customers; three rowdy students being obnoxiously louder than necessary. Levi scowled more at the sight of the students, but was a little distracted when he saw his co-worker stiffen beside him.

He tilted his head to the side and saw Eren's eyes already blazing with fury, glaring at the newcomers with an intensity that could've set them on fire if it had been possible. He saw his jaw clench and his hands tightly curled into fists on the counter in front of him, stance ready to attack at a moment's notice.

"Hey, look, isn't that Blondie's boyfriend?" One of them sneered.

As if Levi needed that comment for things to click in his head.

He took the initiative and subtly pushed Eren to the side and behind him, trying to cover him with his own presence. Not that it did much. Fuck height differences. So he put his voice into use to make up for the situation. If a brawl were to break out here, there's no saying he wouldn't be involved.

"What can I get you?" He asked, effectively diverting the attention to him.

They regarded him for a moment before one of them flicked a glance at the brunet and said, "I dunno. What does Blondie's boyfriend suggest?" which earned a few encouraging chuckles from his companions.

"You fucking--"

"He means a cup of get-the-fuck-out," Levi cut him off, leveling the three others with a seemingly passive expression.

"Whoa there, what's this? Another boyfriend? Damn, aren't you a slut?"

Levi felt Eren twitch and tried to shove him aside, but he firmly held his ground. Somehow, he knew he was going to raise his voice again, so he quickly flashed him a look before turning to the others once more.

"Whoa there, what's this? Another highschool bully? Damn, aren't you pathetic?" Levi bit back, still with a passive look on his features.

They actually looked taken aback by the comment. "Dude, aren't you the one who looks like a highscho---"

"Wanna know how actual college students settle these matters?" Levi cut him off before he could finish the sentence, now leveling all of them with his trademark glare. "I'm out of practice, but I'm pretty sure I could take all three of you down. Five minutes, give or take." He casually lifted the sleeves of his uniform to show off his toned arms. Even going so far as to low-key flex the muscles there.

The three sized him up for a moment, Levi not letting down the aura of a challenge and dominance about him. Their leader, or at least the one who had been opening his mouth, was about to speak again when he was nudged by one of his acquaintances.

"Shit dude, I think that's Levi Ackerman. Look at his name tag," he harshly whispered to his companions, but it didn't fail to reach Levi's ears.

At least being a former street gang member has its perks.

The look of recognition flashed through their faces, and along with it comes the horror. They just stood there for a few more moments before their leader finally muttered out, "Whatever, this place is crap, anyway." And off they went.

Levi was grateful for their remaining few brain cells that at least responded to intimidation. And he was more grateful they didn't manage to attract unnecessary attention.

"You didn't have to do that. I can take care of them myself." Eren grumbled out behind him after the three have made their exit. He was still simmering in suppressed fury.

"I could see that," Levi retorted flatly.

"Next time, let me handle my own matters," Eren hissed out.

"Maybe when you're not in your fucking workplace, I'd gladly let you."

Eren just continued to glare at him. But it wasn't the same glare as the one when he was in his "silent mode". And Levi could tell it wasn't really directed at him.

Shitty brats and their shitty tempers. Whatever.
 


 

A week later, Levi found himself working alongside the silent (but not glaring) Eren. He didn't mind the lack of (mostly one-sided) conversation. Really, he didn't mind it, at all.

Nothing was out of the usual, it was a lazy afternoon and not a lot of people came in. Another thing Levi didn't mind, at all. That was until the bell signaled the entrance of a new customer who was stomping his way towards them.

"You!" He pointed a finger at Eren. "You're the one who put my buddies in the infirmary, weren't you?"

Levi's brows shot up at the accusation. He haven't met this guy before, but he was sure he was referring to the other three that once came in here. Unless Eren had beef with a lot more people that Levi was unaware of. But what he was even more surprised about was the brunet's answer.

"Depends. Do they look like you?"

'Okay, what the fuck is going on?'

"You fucking asshole," the guy seethed as he reached out to grab Eren across the counter.

... Only to be turned swiftly and have his hand pinned effectively on his back. He tried to instinctively push away, but Eren swiftly locked his arm around his neck, and now the guy was bent awkwardly with his back on the counter.

"Look, if I was the one who sent your buddies to the infirmary, don't you think I'd have no problem doing the same to you?" He stated calmly on the guy's ear.

The guy struggled against his grasp, and Eren released him after a moment; not without bending his back further towards the counter for an instance.

"Get out," he ordered in a clipped manner and the guy hastily shuffled towards the door.

And Levi was left soaking in everything that just happened.

This was the same guy who could barely keep a lid at his temper the last time he was confronted, right? The guy who would have undoubtedly launched himself into violence had the taunting escalated further? Shit, this is the guy who got beaten up by those three who showed up barely having a scratch on them, right? And he sent them all to the infirmary? On his own? Without gaining new decorations on his face?

It didn't make any fucking sense.

 

Just who the fuck is Eren Jaeger?

Chapter Text

Levi isn’t one to stick his nose in matters that didn’t concern him. He isn’t one to dwell on things that are none of his business. He’s not one to ponder on issues that didn’t necessarily demand his attention.

But lately, he found himself subconsciously straying away from that principle.

Eren Jaeger has gradually become an enigma to Levi as time went on. It was like the more he got to know (both forced and willingly) the brunet, the more he didn’t really know him. It even got to the point where Levi actually looked up the signs of bipolar disorder on the internet – and cursed himself for doing so, afterwards, since it was like admitting he actually give a damn about that wide-eyed brunet. He just wanted to know what he’s dealing with on a regular basis (self-denial at its finest).

And what he learned didn’t help in the slightest. He doesn’t know Eren that much to determine whether or not…

  • His periods of anger and aggression could be could be considered uncharacteristic. Though Levi personally thinks he was justified in his anger. The temper could be argued, but the reason behind the trigger of the emotion could be understandable.
  • He has moments of grandiosity and overconfidence. Well, Levi never really found him to boast much or even appear cocky in general.
  • He easily tears up or is frequently sad. Sure there are moments when he is unnervingly silent and aloof, but Levi never really chalked it up to sadness. And Levi never saw the brat cry or even came remotely close to tearing up. Not that there had been appropriate situations to do so, but the fact that he could throw back dirty looks at Levi instead of cowering, well… it just doesn’t seem likely.
  • He doesn’t have much sleep nor feel the need to. Now, Levi knows this one all too well. He has the almost constant dark bags under his eyes as proof. And he doesn’t see that sign in Eren’s feature. His eyes usually appear bright and alert. Fuck that brat, and double fuck his beautiful eyes.
  • He was uncharacteristically impulsive. Levi doesn’t put it past him to be the impulsive type. He’s seen glimpses of this behavior from the brunet. However, again, he wasn’t sure if this was uncharacteristic for the brat.
  • He was moody. Now, this one Levi could vouch for. Those days when he was upbeat and annoying, and other days when he was subdued and aloof were more than enough evidence. But then again, those could just be teenage hormones for all Levi knows.
  • He’s showing a behavior of confusion and inattention. Well, sure. But he could really just be stupid as well.

Overall, none of that helped Levi in his belief of Eren’s bipolarity. If anything, it just totally debunked the idea. Fuck you, WebMD.

So what is Eren’s deal, really? Levi could wrap his head around the hot-and-cold idea. What he doesn’t understand is the other quirks that come with these seemingly polar moods of his.

There was the cheerful, always grinning type who always try to engage Levi in whatever conversation that comes to mind. There was the happy, smiling, but subdued type who constantly throws longing glances at the pastries on display. There was the silent type who never hesitates to counter his glares, and always try to unsubtly keep his distance from him. And there was the other silent type who doesn’t seem to hold any sort of animosity towards him, and could even match Levi in the level of pasting a passive expression on his face.

And Levi is naturally observant. The fact that he and Eren have been working shifts alongside each other for almost two months now didn’t help at all for him not to notice these details.

But still, he thought it was normal. He convinced himself it was normal; that the seemingly different versions of Eren he could see and work with at different times were just part of Eren’s quirks. Whatever his deal is.

He almost came close to actually convincing himself that was the case. Almost.

 


 

One day, Eren was noticeably grumbling to himself. Levi wouldn't really bother trying to ask what was wrong... if it didn't came to the point where it got annoying.

"Would you fucking stop with the muttering if I ask you what your problem is?" Levi snapped.

Eren looked genuinely surprised and confused for a moment at his sudden outburst. It took him almost a minute before he got to process what Levi was saying. What an idiot.

"Sorry. I'm just having trouble with what major I'm taking." He answered almost sheepishly.

Well, at least it's good to know that he's actually taking these things into consideration. And before Levi could ask for an elaboration (not that he was intending to), Eren already went on with his rambling.

"I wanted to try out art," He started. Levi almost commented on how Eren suck at art in his opinion (what with the countless latte art incident), but held back his tongue at the last moment.

"But they said it'll just be a waste of time and finances, and I should go for the more practical options. Not that I entirely disagree with them. I'm just still not sure on what I really wanted. Jean says I could go for pre-med or pre-law. But like hell I'm actually surviving any of those. Mikasa and Annie don't help at all; said they're fine with anything, but would be much better if I go with something that focuses on physical abilities. Sasha said I could go for culinary, and the others didn't think much of it until they realized the word "arts" came along with it. I think Reiner was the only understanding one, saying I still have time to think things through and just follow what it is that I love. But when I think about it, what I love is the ocean, so does that mean I should go for nautical courses? Maybe I should just ask Armin for advice. Again."

Okay. Those were a lot of names, and Levi may have gotten lost somewhere in the middle of his litany.

"Who the fuck are those people?" Levi blurted out. The only name he recognized there was Armin's, and he doesn't even remember the rest.

Eren's eyes went wide and he seem to still at the question. Again with the deer-in-the-headlights expression, as if Levi had asked something that could incriminate him.

"They're my... friends." He almost mumbled his reply. Again, Levi's brow shot up at this reaction.

"You let your friends tell you what to do?"

"No, not really. It's just that... they help me a lot when it comes to these things."

"So you're depending on your friends a lot?"

"Kind of. Not really. It's complicated." He rubbed the nape of his neck.

A complicated relationship with his friends? Isn't that something?

"Why do you think you can't survive pre-med or pre-law?" Levi tried to divert the topic. He actually has a clear idea on why he thinks he can't survive those courses. He just wanted Eren to start another one of his ramblings since Levi find it easier to tune out than the muttering. Ironic, really.

However, Levi didn't expect to be answered with silence. When he flicked his gaze to his direction, the brunet was looking dazed and was staring at the distance. The silence stretched for what seemed like hours, just enough to make Levi feel creeped-out by the sudden shift in mood.

"Oi, brat. You okay?"

Just then, Eren snapped out of his thoughts and was blinking rapidly like he was trying to re-focus his sight.

"I'm sorry, you were saying?" He asked, rubbing out his eyes.

Levi just blinked at him for a moment. "Why do you think you can't survive pre-med or pre-law?" He repeated flatly.

Eren's eyebrows met and he huffed out a breath before diverting his gaze elsewhere.

"Because Eren is too stupid for that, apparently."

There was a beat of silence.

"Did you just refer to yourself in the third person?"

Eren's eyes shot back to him and he was silent for a while, before casually shrugging and responding with, "Makes it easier to admit."

Levi just stared at him. He decided that the conversation had reached unsettling waters, and all he wanted was to drop it completely. So drop it, he did.

He was tending to a customer that had just arrived while Eren just sat back. He could feel the brunet's eyes on him as he minded his own business.

"Do you have any more problems?" Levi confronted him as soon as he was done giving out the order.

"Nothing. I just realized how short you are."

Levi's brow twitched at that.

"The fuck did you say?" Levi glared as he yanked him by the collar.

"Hey, chill. It was an observation, not a judgment." He raised his hands in a placating manner.

Despite being yanked down to his eye-level, Levi was both irritated and impressed at the fact that the brunet actually dared to smirk at him.

Levi just regarded him in silent agitation. It was like seeing a whole new side to the conundrum that is Eren Jaeger.

 

And if that wasn't creepily confusing enough, what happened the next day baffled Levi even more.

"Hey, Levi. Sorry for what I said yesterday. I forgot to turn on my filter at the time. But I really don't mean to offend you in any way. I do believe an apology is in order."

'What the fuck?'

Eren was really making it harder for Levi to maintain his mask of passiveness. It was gradually becoming more difficult to pretend that Levi doesn't get any sort of whiplash by the abrupt changes in Eren's behavior.

This Eren standing in front of him didn't even appear to be sheepish at the statement. If anything, he actually looked confident in taking responsibility for the minor and easily forgotten hiccup in their... situation (Levi couldn't bring himself to call it a relationship, in whatever extent).

So after staring at the brunet like his forehead turned into his ass, Levi just gave a little nod.

"It's no problem." Levi inserted as soon as he realized he could still talk.

And that little comment (no pun intended) from the brunet was really no problem at all.

At least not when compared to the brunet himself.

Chapter Text

Ever since Eren swooped in – like the hurricane that he is – into Levi’s daily life, he had constantly found himself thinking about the brunet in one way or another. And the more he catches himself with his thoughts, the more irritated he got with himself and with the one responsible for it in the first place.

He shouldn’t care, really. It’s not like it matters to him. The only thing he ever got from all this was a headache.

So how does he deal with that?

Distractions.

Everytime he catches his thoughts drifting into a particular ocean-eyed brat, he would start studying for a subject that didn’t really demand his attention. If that didn’t work, he’d opt for scrubbing his apartment down to the inch until it’s completely spotless (not that it isn’t already). And if it got to the point of desperation, he would recite all the different kinds of tea in his head like some sort of mantra.

However, it goes without saying that it’s especially difficult to stay distracted when the object of your internal struggles works and interacts with you on a regular basis. Well, maybe not much with the regular interaction, but his mere existence is more than enough of a reminder.

So since his methods of coping was gradually depreciating in effect, Levi was forced to take another method of action.

And that is to let himself be swept up by the whiplash of the brunet’s mood swings.

 


 

Levi perked up at the tinkling sound of the coffee shop’s bell, only to find Eren entering the humble establishment. Levi’s shift starts an hour and a half ahead of Eren’s, and ends an hour and a half ahead of him. They usually work the weekday afternoons together for a couple of hours or so. Hannes, the shop owner, was exceptionally understanding of their student status and would never even consider reprimanding them as long as business is striving.

“Hey, Levi.” The brunet greeted as he made his way past the counter and straight to the back room.

Levi regarded him closely as he passed by his position by the counter. There was a greeting and a grin plastered on his face.

‘Most possibly Eren version 1.0’, He thought, referring to the version of Eren who was upbeat and talkative.

See, instead of Levi rattling his mind in trying to figure him out, he opted for an easier alternative and just noted and categorized the variety of Eren’s moods in order to have an idea of how to deal with the brunet for the day. He stopped questioning the why’s and the how’s. He just wanted to become the bigger person (in his mind, of course) and be the one to adapt and adjust to the situation.

“So, have you decided on what major to pursue yet?” The raven initiated the (inevitable) conversation as soon as Eren took his position behind the till; just to confirm whether or not his diagnosis was correct.

Eren let out a dramatic sigh. “I guess? I mean, maybe I’d be going for the nautical courses. I’m not really sure how I feel about ships. But, I guess it’s okay since I’ll be seeing the ocean a lot, right? I haven’t asked Armin for his recommendations yet. Though I do hope he has better options to provide for me.”

He was rambling. Definitely Eren version 1.0.

“Why not marine biology or something?” Levi threw out casually, not really giving it much thought after feeling the relief of knowing which Eren he’s dealing with for the day.

Eren was silent for a moment. The raven instantly worried that he was doing that creepy thing of staring off at the distance again.

But when his sight landed on him, Eren was only staring at him with furrowed brows.

“Why haven’t I thought of that?” He asked, seemingly to himself.

Levi internally let out a sigh of relief, grateful that he doesn’t have to witness that part of Eren again (as intriguing as it may be).

“I wonder why?” He deadpanned.

“I’m such an idiot.” Eren proceeded to rub his face on his palms.

“So that is why.” The raven continued dryly.

 


 

“Are you just gonna stare at your food all day?” Levi couldn’t help but ask when he went into the back room for the third time in the last 30 minutes, and found Eren still picking on his food.

Eren had entered the shop an hour early and went straight to hiding in the back room. Levi soon found out the reason behind this when Armin entered, not more than 10 minutes after, carrying a huge take-out box from a local restaurant.

“I don’t care if you think it’s too much. You haven’t even eaten since this morning when you found out we’re having those leftovers you don’t like for breakfast, and you’ve barely touched your food last night. And no, you don’t get to tell me you’ve had a couple of pop tarts, ‘cause that is not an excuse. So you better not waste what I’d spent in this, Eren Jaeger. And don’t think I won’t find out if you’re going to lie to me.” The blond had berated before rushing off to his classes.

Good kid.

Well, it was no wonder now why Eren had twigs for limbs. Sure, it's an exaggeration. But Levi tends to refer to unfit bodies as twigs.

“Don’t tell me the shit they serve at the school cafeteria is better than what your friend gave you.” Levi arched a brow when Eren still didn’t seem to make a move of touching his food.

“What?” Eren’s brows furrowed in confusion.

“Don’t think I’ve never noticed you inhale your food at different occasions during lunch break.”

“Oh,” was all he could offer before his attention went back to the take-out box.

The next seconds were spent in relative silence.

“You use your mouth, not your eyes, to eat, Jaeger. It’s not gonna magically transport to your stomach if you stare hard enough.”

“Sorry. I’m just… trying to find my appetite.” Eren replied, rubbing his nape and not even lifting his eyes.

“And you think visually determining the ingredients will do that?”

Eren just hummed a reply, still staring at the box in front of him. Levi had a sinking feeling that he was going to get all weird again; decided to nope the fuck out of there and went back to his position by the counter.

After 10 minutes of entertaining himself with checking the stocks, he found out they were running low on the sugar packets. So into the back room he went to fetch more.

And there he saw Eren shoving the last spoonful of peas in his mouth.

“Ahh, that was good. Armin really is an actual angel!” He sighed contentedly, leaning back on his seat before patting his stomach.

Levi stared at the now empty box.

How in the actual fuck did the brat go from being childishly picky into a fucking glutton in the span of a few minutes? Did determining the ingredients actually helped in triggering his appetite? Levi refused to believe that was possible.

And if it was, the raven could only wonder what other fucked-up quirks the brat has under his sleeves.

“Oh, Levi, did you need something?” Eren asked as soon as he noticed him just standing by the doorway.

Levi forced his brain to not dwell too much on what happened, just go with things as how they are like what he kept telling himself when it comes to dealing with the brunet.

“Sugar packets.” He responded shortly before getting his feet to move again.

Eren came out a few more moments after Levi finished with his restocking, just in time for his shift to start. He wasn’t initiating any conversation yet, and Levi, as usual, wasn’t too keen on doing that himself.

Time passed and he still wasn’t talking.

However, the raven did notice he was stealing glances at the pastry section again. As if what he just had earlier wasn’t enough.

‘Guess this is Eren 4.0.’ Levi thought, referring to the relatively upbeat version of Eren who isn’t much talkative, and is nursing a bad crush at the pastries on display.

 


 

After being exposed to the brunet for almost every day, and witnessing the different moods he has, Levi narrowed down four versions of Eren:

  • Eren 1.0 – The one he usually deals with. The chatterbox and a, supposedly, picky eater.
  • Eren 2.0 – The you’re-not-the-only-one-who-knows-how-to-glare and the stay-away-from-me type.
  • Eren 3.0 – The I-don’t-give-two-shits-with-anything and, if he wasn't mistaken, also the I-could-make-you-an-appointment-to-the-hospital version of the brunet.
  • Eren 4.0 – The one who’s like the first version of Eren minus the excessive talking, but multiplied by the excessive food ogling.

There are also other minor versions of Eren that Levi had observed such as the blunt and somehow cocky version, and the diplomat. But he really had only witnessed these at one time or two or three. Still, it would’ve been easy to dismiss if the differences in behavior weren’t as striking as Levi found them to be.

Overall, Levi had harnessed his abilities in dealing with the brunet the more he was forced to work alongside with him. He would closely regard him everytime he enters for his shift to watch out for signs on how he should go about with the day. (He really should be given an award for going through all these efforts).

 


“Levi, you really are a genius! You’re a lifesaver!” Eren gushed out one day.

Levi could only furrow his brows at the praise, not having a clue as to what in the hell he had done.

“Marine biology is awesome! I’ve checked with Armin about the course and he gave me an overview of it. It has everything to do with the ocean and the life that inhabits it. We’re going to be learning about marine organisms, oceanology…” he rattled on while Levi instinctively tuned out the rest of his speech.

He was talking animatedly and his eyes were full of life. Even though the raven could barely follow his passionate speech about the ocean and whatnot, he didn’t mind letting the younger talk his ear off.

What Levi would never admit is that he gets mesmerized by Eren’s eyes when he starts talking about his interests and the things he love. They were just so alive and were almost sparkling from the brunet’s enthusiasm.

 

He decided he liked this version of Eren best.

Chapter Text

“Jaeger! Get your ass over here.” Levi barked out.

“What’s wrong?” The brunet cautiously approached, still holding a broom on one hand.

“Redo this all over again.”

Eren frowned as the raven gestured to what he could only see as a spotless glass window.

“Why? I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

The shorter man’s eye twitched at the statement before pointing to one corner of the glass. If you squint hard enough, you could make out a barely-there smudge.

The brunet frowned even more. “Geez, Levi. Do you really have to check every inch?”

“Yes.” Levi deadpanned. “In fact, there’s another spot on the opposite corner.”

“I could just wipe it off.”

“No, you don’t, you little shit. What’s the point of cleaning if you’re just gonna half-ass it? Redo everything, and for fuck’s sake, the window pane is part of the window.”

“Fine.” The brunet grumbled before setting back to work.

It had been another slow afternoon at the shop and Levi took it to himself that they could at least be productive with their time, rather than simply lazing around. Usually, Levi does a good job at maintaining the cleanliness of the place, but after going through the busy days of last week – start of exams would usually mean a steady inflow of students who needed their caffeine fix or they’d die a miserable death by exams – he didn’t have the chance to do so, and the state of the area (though it could still really be considered relatively clean) is starting to tickle his nerves.

A while later, a middle-aged woman entered the establishment, looking all posh and important in her business attire. Levi left his task of scrubbing down one of the tables in favor of tending to the customer, knowing full-well how nasty these type of people could get. Not that he gives a shit about it, but it’d be too much of a risk to instead throw the idiot on the frontlines.

“What can I get you?”

“I’ll have a long black for takeaway. And make it quick, I’m in a hurry.”

Yep. Definitely one of those people.

Levi didn’t bother for another response (not that he usually does), just gave the correct change and went to make the order Ms. (or Mrs.) VIP demanded.

As he was getting the drink, the woman’s phone rang and she hastily answered it. She instantly went into an argument with whoever was on the other line saying things like “You’re such a useless idiot, what do you mean you didn’t foresee the result?” and “I don’t care if we lay-off a couple employees.”

The raven set the takeaway cup on the counter wordlessly, to which, the woman just grabbed while still ranting off to whoever was on the other side of the phone. She wasn’t even making a move of exiting yet, just pacing around the area of the shop.

‘”I’m in a hurry”, my ass.’ Levi scoffed.

He was about to go back to his previous task when the horn of the delivery truck got his attention. It was supposed to be Hannes’ job to deal with the deliveries. But being the longest student-employee working in his business, Hannes taught and entrusted Levi with this part already. Actually, he trusts Levi for the most part of his coffee shop business as he tends to his other business which involves running a bar. (Levi has no doubt Hannes prefers that one over the shop, what with the variety of liquor displayed there. It’s practically Hannes’ personal heaven). One could even say Levi has become the manager of the shop.

He followed the truck through the back door of the establishment and went through the familiar routine of checking the packages, making sure they got everything they ordered, letting the other men place the boxes inside the room, paying with the money Hannes left for this purpose, signing papers, and everything in between.

The raven was about done with this task when he heard a commotion from inside the building. By the time he got in to check what happened, he saw the same woman from earlier yelling obscenities at the brunet.

Upon closer inspection, the woman’s clothes have been stained with the coffee she ordered from the chest down. The rest of the liquid was spilled haphazardly on the floor along with the cup which had rolled to a corner.

The poor brunet was keeping his head low, muttering words of apology as the woman continued to berate him. Levi could only make a rough guess at what had happened, judging by how the woman had somehow ended up near the vicinity where Eren had been cleaning.

“You worthless piece of junk! Do you think your apology could take out the damage you’ve done to my clothes?! I’m supposed to have a meeting in an hour and now I’m going to run late because of your carelessness. Why are you even working here? A useless trash like you shouldn’t even think about getting employed anywhere! You’re just a waste of oxygen who does nothing more than cause inconvenience for other people.”

Levi was internally reeling from the flood of unnecessary toxicities that gushed out from the mouth of a stranger, who obviously has superiority complex, and thinks their social status grants them the privilege of stepping down on other people. He quickly made his way towards the source of the commotion and stepped in-between the woman and the brunet, subtly trying to cover the other with his own presence again.

“What happened here?” He asked the still fuming woman in front of him.

“You’re useless co-worker over there had the audacity to dump coffee on my clothes!”

“I’m sure it was an accident.” Levi calmly stated.

“So what?! That doesn’t mean he did nothing.”

“He’s really sorry for that. It wasn’t done on purpose.” He answered in place of the brunet, whom he could still hear muttering words of apology from behind him.

“Sorry doesn’t take the stains off my clothes!”

“Neither does your barrage of insults. Unless you think that your yelling with the kid here, who already expressed his sincerest apologies, are the magic words that could chase the stains into nonexistence.” He retorted bluntly, obviously done with trying to play nice to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

“I’m sorry, but neither of us are your fairy godmother, nor are we pieces of trash that are as filthy as the shit that comes from your mouth. If you have further complaints, you may speak to the store owner.” He handed her one of Hannes’ business cards that’re kept in the aprons of their uniforms, and dragged the still mumbling Eren into the back room, all the while tuning out the still incoming comments of “terrible customer service” this and “insolent people” that.

‘Right back at you lady.’

He sat Eren down on one of the chairs in the back room. He was still muttering a string of “sorry’s” under his breath and was keeping his head down. To be honest, he didn’t expect that this would be the brunet’s reaction to what happened. Sure, the woman may have gotten too far with her tirade, but he was kind of expecting Eren to somehow take it in stride, or hell, even put up more of a fight and defend himself.

He did not expect him to look… traumatized.

It was then that he noticed something else. The brunet’s hair was dripping with the same liquid that have spilled on the floor. Levi ducked down slightly to see that Eren’s face was, indeed, wet, and there were spots of coffee stains on his shirt.

“Fucking hell.” He muttered. That fucking woman must’ve dumped the rest of the coffee on the kid. He didn’t know how he had failed to notice this earlier. He may have gotten more creative with his wordings if he did.

“Fucking hell.” Levi repeated as he went to fetch a clean washcloth and ran it through cold water on the faucet. He didn’t want to think about how hot the coffee must’ve still been when it was tossed directly on his face.

“Here.” He handed the cold washcloth to the younger. Eren wasn’t making a move of taking it or even lifting his head, though; his hand busy with rubbing his nape while the other lay limply on his lap. But at least he wasn’t mumbling anymore.

“Eren.” Levi tried getting his attention again, because no, he would never wipe Eren’s face, himself. No matter how sorry he feels for the brat.

Still, he was only met with silence.

Levi didn’t know how much time had passed before Eren finally lifted his head up.

“Can I go home ahead?” He asked lowly, numbly.

Levi just stared at him for a while. He noticed then that his eyes lacked the life it had just before the incident. And he knew. He just knew he was dealing with another version of Eren right then and there.

“Go ahead.” He allowed, despite it meaning that he would have to cover up his shift.

Whatever. It was a slow afternoon anyway. And Eren looked like he really needed a timeout.

He spent his extended shift finishing out on making the shop spotless once more, all the while wondering what the kid must be doing at the time. When he was left with nothing else to keep him occupied, he decided to phone Hannes and inform him of what happened. Even if the woman had beaten Levi in telling their boss, Hannes would have to be as stupid and downright repulsive as her if he would give either Eren or Levi shit for what had happened.

Thank fuck Hannes isn’t that kind of person.

 


 

The next day, it was the silent Eren that worked alongside the raven. Whether it was Eren 2.0 or Eren 3.0, he couldn’t tell. Perhaps it was even Eren 1.0 standing beside him at that moment; only that he was still reliving the events of yesterday.

“How’re you doing?” Levi decided to ask tentatively.

Eren flicked his gaze to him for a moment. Enough for Levi to see that his eyes still lacked the usual vigor and were rather dull.

‘Definitely not Eren 1.0.’

“Good.” He dismissed curtly.

Levi raised a brow and used one of his determining tactics that he’d developed over time.

“You still look like shit, by the way.” He commented offhandedly. The brunet just glared at him.

‘Ah. Eren 2.0, it is.’

The rest of his shift was spent with less interaction and complete lack of conversation. Just like how it always is when the brunet was in this mood.

Levi expected it to last for a day like how it usually is. But this version of Eren had lasted for the entire week. It was completely unusual, and he could only wonder when Eren would ever switch back to his sunny self. If he would ever switch back to his sunny self.

 

 

“Hey, Levi.”

The raven couldn’t help the whiplash he got from that greeting alone.

There was Eren Jaeger, in all his smiling glory, accompanied by his blond sidekick who whispered something to his friend before making his way towards one of the booths.

He cautiously watched the brunet make his way to the back room, humming all the while. The fucking brat was actually humming to himself.

“Armin said he wanted a flat white and two bagels. Can I do it? It’s been a while since I’ve practiced my latte art skills.” He was grinning widely as he typed in and placed the payment in the cash register.

Levi didn’t bother giving him a response.

“Is something wrong?” He asked when he noticed the other was looking at him strangely.

 “Does this mean you’re okay now?”

There was a brief flash of confusion on the brunet’s face.

“Umm, yes?”

Levi just regarded him for a while longer, entirely bewildered by how the brunet could jump from one mood to the other like a fucking Ping-Pong ball.

“So you just had to sulk for a week to get over that incident, and now you’re just gonna act like nothing ever happened? Fucking unbelievable.” Levi shook his head.

Eren now looked genuinely confused by the statement which didn’t escape the observant eyes of the raven.

“Yeah, sorry…” He trailed off uncertainly. Levi’s eyes narrowed at this.

“Don’t tell me you don’t remember what happened.”

“I do.” He responded uncertainly.

“Well, what did happen, Jaeger?”

There was a look of panic in Eren’s eyes as his gaze flicked back to the raven.

“I… messed up.” He started rubbing his nape again.

“And how did you mess up?” Levi pressed further, tone seemingly impassive.

“I… uhh…” The younger trailed off, diverting his gaze somewhere else.

Levi waited with a raised brow for the other to finish his sentence. He waited enough for what seemed like a considerable amount of time.

“Do you really remember what happened?” He prompted when the brunet still wasn’t giving an answer.

And boy, oh boy, was he not expecting the answer.

“I do. So will you please drop it?” He hissed, glaring at Levi intensely.

What in the actual fuck?

Even Stoic King, Levi Ackerman was taken aback by this abrupt change in the brunet’s demeanor.

“Eren, where’s my order? You know my brain refuses to work without caffeine.” Armin whined as he trudged towards the counter.

But stopped short when he noticed the look on his friend’s face.

“Eren,” The blond called out, effectively tearing the glare directed at raven. “My coffee?”

Eren looked at him briefly before giving a short nod and went to making his order.

“Can you hand it to me by the booth? Thanks.” The blond traced back his steps before even giving his friend a chance to respond.

There was a beat of silence as Eren wordlessly complied with the order, and Levi following the brunet around with his eyes. The younger treaded towards where his friend was as soon as he was finished.

Levi merely observed as the blond invited his friend to sit beside him and proceeded to have some sort of conversation with him. Whatever they were talking about, Levi could only guess it had to concern with how the brunet was acting.

He was getting sick of being clueless about the brat’s issues. Sure, it wasn’t his place to pry. But being forced to work with the guy regularly, he should at least be aware of who he’s working with, right?

This is where Levi’s attentiveness (only when he wanted to, that is, minus the moments where he tunes out the ramblings of other people) serves him best. He remembered that the blond had ordered for a flat white and two bagels. Eren only carried out the drink. So he took the opportunity to hand out the food, himself.

He cautiously approached the duo who had their backs to him, making sure to make his steps light (not that it takes actual effort for him).

“Mikasa! You know Hanji advised you not to put Eren in a bad light.” The brunet hissed at his friend.

‘Mikasa? Who the hell is he actually talking to?’

“I know you’re just trying to protect him, but can you at least try to do it like how Eren would do it? You know, like how Hanji said?”

It was at this point that Levi had finally reached their table. Both pairs of eyes shot towards him, one still scowling, while the other was just plain surprised.

“Yes?” The blond prompted.

“Bagels,” was Levi’s only answer as he set the plate on the table.

“Oh, thanks.” The blond responded. “Uhh, sorry. Do you need Eren back?”

Levi watched them closely. “Depends on which Eren you’re referring to.” He blurted out.

Both of them donned startled, deer-in-the-headlights looks. Perhaps he may have gotten an answer, perhaps he may just be dismissed. In the end, he didn’t had a chance to determine which was which when the tension was saved by the bell.

Levi just stared at them for a while longer before going back to his position by the counter.

There was definitely something more going on around the brunet. Whatever that was, Levi planned on extracting the answers come tomorrow afternoon… if the odds were in his favor.

He’d likely start with Eren 1.0.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Levi.”


The brunet froze on the spot when he saw the scowl directed at him on the other man’s face. It was obviously more intense than his regular ones.

“Did I do something wrong?” He couldn’t help fidgeting under those eyes.

Levi took a moment to just observe him, trying to determine whether this was the Eren he intended to talk to today. He tilted his head towards the back room and wordlessly instructed the other to follow him. The brat did so, gingerly, keeping his head ducked low like he was expecting for a scolding.

“Eren.” He started. The younger instantly perked up and looked at him apprehensively.

Just what Levi wanted; for those eyes to meet his.

“Are you ever going to tell me what’s going on with you?”

Ocean eyes widened at the question.

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Jaeger.” Levi snapped. “I know it’s not my place to pry. But I’m not gonna lie and say that I’m not getting affected by your terrible mood swings. I think I spent long enough time chalking it out as mere teenage hormones. I do hope you realize I’m not stupid to not notice that how you’ve been acting isn’t normal. So if I’m going to keep working with you for an indefinite amount of time, I think I, at least, deserve some sort of idea with what I’m dealing with.”

Eren just stared at him for a while. And Levi never backs down on a staring contest.

“Yeah, I’m sorry. You’re right.” He let out a sigh. “I was really hoping you’d never ask. I don’t know… I guess it’s just because you’ve never mentioned anything, after all this time. So I was hoping you didn’t notice anything, or even if you did, you wouldn’t care.”

I don’t. Levi wanted to say. But the fact that he’s demanding for answers is a blatant contradiction to that claim.

“It’s… it’s complicated, really.” He continued, rubbing his nape.

“Don’t do that.” Levi narrowed his eyes at the action.

“Huh?”

“Don’t rub your nape. You get all weird when you do that.”

Ocean eyes widened once more.

“So you’ve noticed that too, huh?” The brunet stated after a while. “I guess there’s no point trying to find some way out of it.” He chuckled to himself.

He continued fidgeting on his spot and his expression implied that he was internally debating about something. Levi didn’t know what else to ask other than what he had already said, so he just opted for waiting for the explanation.

“So this is why Armin told me I might need to bring it today.” He mumbled, seemingly to himself.

“Bring what?” The raven prompted.

“This.” He reached into his pocket and hesitantly handed the shorter man a green flash drive.

“And what’s this supposed to be?” Levi raised a brow as he inspected the tiny device.

“Answers. Explanations. Things you might want to know?” He stated the last part uncertainly. “I’m bad with verbal explanations. And I’m terrible with complicated explanations. Especially when I had to do it on-the-spot. So… that… helps. I hope.”

“Should I be expecting for a ten-page document, complete with opening statement and conclusion, inside this?”

The brunet let out a little chuckle at that. “No. But there is sort of an opening statement and conclusion; if you’d call it that. It’s better if you check it out yourself, really.”

“Alright then.” The raven pocketed the device.

“Levi?”

He perked up at the hesitant tone in the brunet’s voice as his name was called.

“I… I hope you won’t feel… repulsed by me when you learn the truth.” The younger wasn’t meeting his eyes and was rather shuffling his feet as he said this.

Levi didn’t say anything to this. He didn’t want to give out promises he’s not sure he could keep.

 


 

Levi waited until he got back to his apartment to plug the flash drive into his laptop.

He was partly expecting he’d find links or a compilation of downloaded information since the brunet had said it was a complicated matter that he couldn’t explain well on the spot.

What greeted him though was six folders named 1 Eren, 2 Mikasa, 3 Annie, 4 Sasha, 5 Jean, and 6 Reiner, in that exact manner. He squinted at the name Mikasa, remembering that was what the blond had addressed when he overheard his conversation with Eren.

He decided he would go through things in order. So when he opened the first folder named after Eren, he wasn’t expecting to see a bunch of video clips.

He clicked on the first one.

It showed a video of the brunet sitting on a bed in front of the camera.

“Hi, my name is Eren. I’m 17 years old, and I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID.”

Levi blinked at the term. He may have heard those words before, but he was 90% certain it was from a thriller movie. Was it actually a real thing?

“Apparently, it’s real and not mere fiction.” Eren continued on the screen, as if he had somehow read through Levi’s thoughts. “I know it comes as a shock to everyone when they hear about it, and I’m no exception myself. Despite having this condition for, seemingly, years now, I’ve only come to terms about my condition four, five months ago after meeting my psychiatrist, or psychotherapist rather, Dr. Hanji Zoe.”

Levi immediately noticed that the video has been edited, in the manner that there are noticeable cuts in-between a few sentences here and there. Not that it matters. It may have even been better than the raw ones. This was shot like over two years ago, anyway, if his approximations were correct.

“So, DID is caused by severe trauma that happens during childhood. I’m not going to go through the details of the trauma that caused my DID, and not just because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. I don’t remember the details of what happened during my childhood tragedy. In fact, I don’t think I remember a lot of what had been happening and what happens around me at times. I was told amnesia is a common side-effect to having DID. Mikasa does though. I mean, she remembers what had happened and what had been happening with me on times that I ‘black out’.” He finger quoted the last words.

“Anyway, when a child is faced with a fight-or-flight situation, and he could do neither of those… and if he had no one to turn to at these situations, a part of their brain kind of detaches or dissociates the child’s memories, along with it comes the child’s conscious state from that situation. And that’s how altered state of consciousness, or alters, for short, are formed or created. It’s like a defense mechanism, really. A very, very unusual defense mechanism. But it does do the job of… protecting the person, nonetheless.”

Levi couldn’t help wondering just what kind of trauma child Eren had to go through that forced his own brain to resort to this condition. He didn’t think he wanted to know, but he was insanely curious on the matter as well. The fact that Eren claims to not remember the details, but one of his “alters” does, is just a whole shitload of intriguing.

“So these alters, or parts, or identities, whatever other terms are used for them… they could and they do form their own experiences, opinions, their likes and dislikes over the time that they grow. I was told not all alters age. Mine do. We’re all very close in age actually. But some alters in other systems are stuck in time. But because of their experiences in the ‘outside world’, their opinions or their characters could still develop and they could become like… more like their own person, if you get what I mean. Alters could also have different genders. Just because they’re in a body… well, like mine, it doesn’t automatically mean that they should also be guys. Apparently. They could also have different looks, different heights and weights, and the like. Obviously that doesn’t mean that when they front, or when they take control of my body… I’d suddenly have boobs or whatever. That’s just impossible.”

‘Would be interesting, though.’ Levi thought.

“Apparently, there are different types of alters. I’ve also been told that alters could be inanimate objects. There’s that possibility that people with DID could act like tables or chairs… or lamps, even. I’m just glad I don’t have any of that.”

‘You must have, you chatterbox.’

“One could also have animal alters. I do think I have a horse one, myself, named Jean.” He was grinning as he said this and Levi could only wonder whether he was kidding, or he’s actually happy that he has a fucking horse alter.

“There are also what we call as Fragments. They’re like parts that aren’t... as developed or well-rounded as other alters. Like, they have a limited range of emotions or roles in the system. Basically, they don’t do as much as the other alters, but there is a possibility that they could develop into a more… well-rounded personality if they front more frequently. Maybe.

“So I have five alters: Mikasa, Annie, Sasha, Jean, and Reiner. I also have one fragment, Ymir. But she has been staying dormant for a long while now, and I’m not quite sure if she’s still there. It does feel like it, though.” He listed off their names along with his fingers on one hand; his pointer finger sticking out more at the mention of the single fragment.

“Hanji, Armin, and I are actually trying to convince them to make their own videos about themselves. But since I can’t really be sure they’d do so, and I don’t really have control over which alter would surface and when, I’ll just give a brief background of each of them.”

Levi settled back on his seat as he anticipated whether or not he could put a name to his own categorization of the brunet.

“I wish I could draw you a picture about how each of them look, but I, unfortunately, suck at that. Armin and Connie helped me search for pictures online though, that closely resemble to how they look inside my head. So the first one is Mikasa.”

There was a picture of a girl with short, black hair and dark eyes that flashed on the screen.

“She’s been with me the longest. At the time, I didn’t even know she was an alter. I thought she was just an imaginary friend that my brain conjured to keep me company. She’s quite silent and may appear aloof. But she always fusses over me like a mother. She’s always wary about the people around me, especially those that I haven’t known for a long time, so she always tends to keep her distance.”

‘Must be Eren 2.0 then.’

“Next one is Annie.”

A photo of a blond girl with blue eyes, noticeable nose, and a bored expression was what flashed on the screen next.

“Annie is like Mikasa, minus the fussing and overprotectiveness. She kicks ass like a pro, too. She was actually left-handed, but after knowing that she was the only one of us who was a lefty, she started training her right frequently. And now, she appears ambidextrous, but still favors her left hand more at times.”

‘3.0.’ Levi immediately thought. Though he didn't seem to notice the left-hand thing.

“The next is Sasha.”

There was a picture of a brunette with hazel eyes.

“So basically, she’s a glutton. I can’t really complain though, since it is my body that’s receiving the stuffs she gorges on. I’m surprised that she – or even me, for that matter – doesn’t appear anywhere close on the obesity meter. She’s also a fun person to be with and could be loud when she wants to.”

‘And there is Eren 4.0.’

Levi was surprised that the versions of Eren he had encountered occasionally were actually females. What gives? He finds it quite difficult to comprehend on how that thing works.

“And then there’s, Jean.”

A picture of a person with a horse head appeared on the screen. Levi raised a brow, incredulous that this was what his animal alter looked like.

And then Eren could be heard laughing on the background.

“I’m kidding. Mostly. This is actually what Jean looks like.”

The photo was replaced with a guy with two-toned, ash brown hair and narrow, brown eyes.

“Basically, he’s blunt and straightforward, to the point that he could be an asshole at times. He grinds my gears simply by breathing. He also thinks he’s smart. But that’s entirely debatable.”

‘Well, that awfully sounds like the cocky Eren.’

“And then last but not least is Reiner.”

Another photo of a blond guy with narrow eyes appeared.

“Reiner is like the big brother in the system. He’s the biggest out of all of us when it comes to bulkiness. But, he’s actually a softy. He’s the pacifier when there are conflicts that arise within the system or in the outer world.”

‘So the diplomat, it is.’

“So, those are the five alters that exist in my system, plus me, who is the host or core, but still is considered as an altered state of consciousness. If I were to describe my personality… I’d sugarcoat it, really.” He laughed. “Generally speaking, I’m gay. In both meaning of the word.”

Levi didn’t know why he was as (relieved) surprised as he was on hearing that statement.

“I think the other alters are all bisexual, even though some of them – and by ‘them’, I mean Jean – claim to be straight. Wait, I think Sasha's straight. Whatever. Anyways, I could be loud most of the time and I could ramble a lot when talking. Or so I’ve been told. I’m hot-headed and stubborn and a terrible picky-eater.”

True that. It was almost surprising how self-aware he is of his traits.

“But hey, the good parts of me outweighs the bad, right?”

Entirely debatable.

“So there you have it. An explanation or a brief background about me and my condition. I don’t know if the way I said it made much sense to you. Maybe I could ask Hanji if I could film her for her explanations someday. But overall, that’s all I could say right now.” He gave one last smile before the video ended.


Levi just stared at the screen after the video had ended, still trying to digest all the information his brain has been given. It was something he would have never considered possible – if it wasn’t for Eren. Hell, if somebody had approached him and just said, “Hey, I have these people in my head. Would you like to meet them?” His first thought would automatically go to, “This person is batshit crazy.”

However, Eren never really appeared crazy – in the literal sense of the word. His “alters” didn’t appear crazy as well. Sure, each had their own quirks, and it was unnerving how one of them could “front” at any given time. But hey, the condition itself isn’t normal at all. Then again, Levi would be lying if he didn’t believe at one point that Eren’s “mood swings” were simply teenage hormones. ‘Cause that was how they appeared at first. Especially if the coffee incident never happened.

After a while, Levi brought his hand up to click on the other videos in the folder. They were more like video diaries where the brunet just talks about what had happened during his day. Other videos were of him introducing his friend, Armin, whom he refers to as “his brother from another mother” and apparently had been his friend since forever; and there was also another one named Connie, a bald guy, who says his favorite among the alters – or the one he gets along with the most – would have to be Sasha.

So apparently, these people knew about Eren’s condition and were very open and accepting to it.

Although, Levi couldn’t help but notice that there doesn’t seem to be anyone else aside from those two.

There was also one video where the brunet talked about going to college and rooming with his best friend, Armin. And how unfortunate it was that Connie was attending at a different college, and how he was sure Sasha would miss him immensely, despite being promised that he would be in touch a lot.

The ones that come after that are Eren already being in college. He talked about how he was still unsure of what course to take and looking for a part-time job to help with his finances. He also talked about gaining new friends in college – Historia, Marco, and Bertolt – who were, thankfully, aware and still is accepting of Eren and his alters.

And then there were those where he talked about his job at the coffee shop, but more so focusing on “the short, raven-haired man who’s always either bored or angry”. The one who makes him clean the things that are already sparkling, always tell him how his latte and latte art skills suck, but wouldn’t really complain to the point he'd shut him up when he would ramble about anything and everything that comes to mind.

“You know, despite being short, he’s radiating with this dominating aura and confidence that just make you think that he chose to grow low.”

Levi’s eye twitched at this.

“But despite how intimidating he may seem, I think he’s secretly a nice guy. Somehow. Hopefully.”

Levi could only narrow his eyes at the uncertainty lacing his tone.

The clips had ended there and Levi wondered if there were more recent ones that he had made since the last one appeared to be made a couple months prior or so.

He’s also noticed how Eren talked a lot about the handful of friends, and other people (i.e. Levi) he got to interact regularly, but never about his family. Does he have one? Where are his parents? Does he have any siblings? Relatives?

Levi thinks it would be inappropriate to ask the brunet about these stuffs, if he never even hinted at it in any of his videos. Maybe he really doesn’t want to talk about them; Levi could only guess. It would be really stepping-out-of-the-line if he pries further, though. So he’s just settling for the information he’s been willingly given. At least it did answer the basics of his questions.

The raven let out a sigh before exiting the folder and clicking on the next one.


Time to meet Mikasa.

Chapter Text

"My name is Mikasa. I'm 17 years old, and I'm an alter in Eren's system." came the monotonous introduction of the person on-screen.

The vast difference in mannerism was still very much striking. Although Levi had personally met this alter before, it still baffles him how the cheerful brunet he watched just a moment ago, and this seemingly apathetic person, exist in one body and mind.

"I was the first alter to be created and have been with Eren since he was 10. I'm also what is referred to as a 'memory holder'. That means I keep Eren's traumatic memories locked away from his state of consciousness."

 

 

Eren was only 10 years old when his life turned upside-down.

It all started when he was throwing a tantrum about wanting to go to the ocean. He was promised by his parents that they'd take him to the ocean when he'd do well on his studies and if he was good. He did his best in school and kept fights with the other kids at a minimum. He'd even volunteer to help his mom do chores around the house, and even tried to finish everything on his plate with less complaints. He was really looking forward for that summer.

But then they said that his dad had to tend to important matters.

Being a kid, he was devastated by this. Despite how his mom had tried to console him that his dad, who was working out-of-town, was doing best to come home sooner, he already refused to listen and just kept yelling at her about how they promised him and how they were a liar.

It was late afternoon when he had this argument with his mom. He ran out of the house and went straight to Armin's. He ranted on to the blond about how his parents lied even though he was being good. He kept reiterating about how they promised and how he had been looking forward to going.

It was already late at night when his friend finally convinced him to go home, despite his intentions of spending the night there. The blond's house wasn't too far from Eren's. Armin's grandfather still wasn't home at that time, but Eren told him he'd be fine going alone than having the blond come with him, and then go home by himself.

With his red scarf as the only source of warmth in the chilly night air, he started the trek back home.

The front door was slightly ajar when he arrived and he could vaguely hear sounds of struggling from inside. His young mind didn't think much of it and just went in straight. And what he saw with his own eyes was something no child should ever see.

As luck (or an atrocious twist of fate) would have it, Eren lifted his eyes just in time to see his mom getting stabbed by one of the three men he didn't recognize.

He just stood there with wide, horrified eyes, not understanding why he couldn't move his body all of a sudden.

"Fuck, man. There's a kid here." One of them called out, effectively diverting all their attention to him. Two of them were wearing black clothing complete with gloves, and face masks with grinning mouths and sharp teeth printed on them, while the other one, the one who was carrying the knife, had his pulled down his chin, revealing his face entirely.

"Eren, run!" His mother choked out, clutching the wound on her side.

But Eren couldn't move.

'Run. Run. Move.' He willed his body. 'Mom's hurt. Mom's bleeding. Mom's telling me to run.'

"Eren! Get out of here, now! Listen to me for once and run!" His mom tried desperately, already straining her body more from her efforts.

But Eren only had one thought left in his head.

'No. No. No. No. No. No. No.'

"What do we do?" One of the masked guys asked.

The one whose face was exposed stepped closer to Eren and knelt down in front of him.

"Hey, kid." The man started, he was smiling, except it was anything but warm. "You didn't see us in here, alright? If you go and call the cops, you're gonna end up like mommy over there." He gestured to his mom's now limp body on the floor.

Eren didn't respond. He couldn't. Shock had rendered him motionless.

The man just grinned wider and patted his head while standing up.

"Come on, guys. Let's get outta here." He called to the others. They were carrying huge bags behind them, which Eren didn't even notice from his state.

"Here, kid." The man bent down to take one of his hand with the other's gloved one and placed the bloodied knife there.

"Should you be really giving him that?" One of them asked.

"Relax. Look at him. He's practically broken." The man replied with confidence.

And maybe he's right. Maybe Eren was broken. He didn't even notice the men had already left carrying whatever stuff they took with them. He was just staring at the body of his mother, the knife he was given still in hand.

He didn't know how long he just stood there. But when the knife slid from his grasp and hit the floor, it snapped his mind awake and he fell on the floor, screaming, bawling.

It attracted the attention of the closest neighbors and they went out to investigate.

Eren didn't know how he ended up in a police station. He didn't know when his father had arrived. He could see that some men in uniform were trying to talk to him, but he couldn't comprehend nor hear what they were trying to say. He could see Armin crying and talking to him, but he couldn't understand anything he was saying. Time was passing by in a blur, but he didn't know when he had slept, if he ever had slept.

All he knows was that his mom was gone and it was his fault. If only he wasn't so hard-headed. If only he didn't throw a tantrum. If only he hadn't argued with his mom and ran away. If only he listened to his mom and ran to get help. Maybe, just maybe, things would have gone differently. His mom would still be here.

But she wasn't. And it was his fault.

One day, he found himself inside the car with his dad driving. He didn't know where they were going. He didn't care either.

Maybe he should have if he'd known his father was going to abandon him.

He was left in the care of a family he didn't recognize. If they were relatives, he'd never met them. One would think that when a parent leaves their child to the care of others, they'd trust those people to take good care of them.

Well, his foster family did him no good, whatsoever.

He had no idea what he's done for them to hate him from the get-go. His foster father was said to be working overseas. His foster mother, Dina, kept looking at him in disgust. His foster brother, Zeke, looked like he never wanted to see Eren in their house.

Despite the large house, he was instructed to sleep in the basement, which wasn't even prepared for him. There were boxes everywhere, the place looked like it had never been cleaned, and there wasn't even a bed on sight; only a dusty couch.

Things weren't so bad, at first. Until the shouting came.

His foster mother would verbally abuse him whenever she had a glass of too much wine. She would shower him with countless insults like how useless and pathetic he was, how his father lamented him, and even went as far as telling him it was his fault his mom had died, and that he should have never been born in the first place.

His foster brother, on the other hand, sees Eren as a stress reliever. Whenever he'd come home drunk or upset, he would always find some reason to lay a hand on the brunet. Whether it was a misplaced remote or unwashed glass left on the sink, Eren would always take the blame.

He was still sent (forced) to go to a new school with new people. Even the students there didn't appear to like him on sight. Zeke must have something to do with that. He spent most of his days to himself, without anyone to talk to.

Except for the girl in his head.

Her name was Mikasa, and she was his age. She was calm and composed and strong, everything Eren wished he was. She was also very protective and doting on him, even more than his own mom would be.

Eren didn't even realize he couldn't remember what happened to his mom anymore.

Eventually, he was slowly bouncing back to his old self, and even made a friend or two at school. Those whom he found out didn't like Zeke as well. But when he was at the house, he would always be subdued and would only talk to his imaginary friend. It wasn't much, but it was enough to help him through every day.

When his foster father got back in the house, he was the only person who had treated Eren well. In fact, they even had the same first name. Eren Kruger was his name. He soon discovered that he and his dad were really good friends, and his dad had once lost a bet that made him name his son after his friend. He also found out that the reason he was rarely home was because of his job as a soldier.

During his stay at the house, Dina never drank, and Zeke never laid a hand on him. He was even given an actual room to sleep in. Eren Kruger acted like what a proper foster parent should be. Eren never thought things would get better like it did.

Until it didn't.

His foster father soon had to go back work and was still unsure of his return. The moment he was gone, Eren was sent back to the basement and things went back to how they were when his foster father wasn't present.

There was even a time when Zeke had shoved him in scorching shower after he couldn't find the remote to the television. Eren kept muttering words of apology, though he knew the reason for Zeke's anger was the loss of his baseball team in the competition. He even still had his uniform on, the team name TITANS plastered across his chest in bold letters.

He was 12 when he finally got out of the house. One of his teachers had reported noticing cuts and bruise marks on different parts of his body regularly, and had contacted child services. He was pulled out from the house and he'd never heard what had happened to his foster family after that.

They weren't able to contact his father, though. They didn't even know where Mr. Jaeger was anymore. And he didn't know how it happened, but he suddenly found himself being driven down the familiar street towards Armin's house.

The blond instantly pulled open the backseat and dragged the brunet out (with surprising strength) to hug him tightly, tears streaming down his eyes. Caught completely off-guard, Eren could only allow his friend, whom he didn't expect he would be seeing again, to manhandle him, watching from the corner of his eye the blond's grandfather talk to the people who had driven him here.

And then he was living in with his friend. It took a while, but Eren gradually recovered from what had happened to him, and ever so slowly bounced back to himself again.

Eventually, Armin thought it was safe enough to ask his friend if he'd like to talk about what happened to him with his foster family. Eren didn't really plan on keeping anything from his best friend, but it was then he found out he couldn't exactly remember the details.

"It don't know. It felt like time was passing by in a blur. I don't even know how the child services thought to bring me here at your home." He admitted.

The blond regarded him for a moment.

"It was you who told them." He stated slowly.

Eren blinked at his friend before furrowing his brows. He doesn't remember doing anything like that. Hell, he can't even remember thinking about his friend at the time they were apart.

But apparently he did?

 

As time went by, Eren was finally feeling like himself again. He still finds himself talking to the girl in his head, but always thought it was just a coping mechanism he developed. He didn't really mind talking to her anyway.

He was 15 when he started getting troubled by what his friend kept telling him he does, that he's unaware of. He said there were times when he was unnervingly silent and calm and distant, but that Armin thought he was just remembering whatever had happened to him.

He doesn't even remember what happened.

"Please don't tell me you're wearing that scarf again." Armin told him as they were prepping for school.

"What scarf?" He asked in confusion.

"The red one?"

"Why would I wear that, or any scarf in general? The weather's hot."

"Yeah, right. You've been wearing that one yesterday. And not just that, but there have been other days you refuse to leave without it."

Eren frowned at this. He doesn't remember wearing that scarf since he was 10. What he does remember though is telling that girl in her head, Mikasa, he'd give it to her if he could when she once complained it was cold.

But hey, it was just in his head, right?

That was what he kept telling himself until Armin showed a photo of him wearing the scarf. And if that wasn't enough, he even filmed him on his phone.

"Why are you wearing your scarf?" The blond asked the brunet who had his back to him.

"'Cause it's nice." Eren could hear himself respond. But it was low and dull.

"Isn't it too hot for that?"

"It's not that hot."

Eren just stared at the phone.

It couldn't be. Why was he acting like the girl in his head? Why couldn't he remember it happening?

He was freaking out when he told Armin about this imaginary friend of his. They went to their school counselor for advice, but it didn't really help him in the end.

 

Eren was 17 when he met Dr. Hanji Zoe. She was the first one to confirm (with confidence) to Eren that he, indeed, has DID. The other doctors they'd went to were hesitant to diagnose Eren as such even though Armin had an inkling that maybe that was what he was going through.

He was 17 when he finally accepted his condition, along with the people in his head. He was still wary of them at times, and the idea that they could take over anytime still haunts him. Even though it finally answered the mysteries that he kept finding himself in, there was still that sense of dread about not being in control with your own body. But with Hanji's help and guidance, he and his alters are slowly coming to terms with each other.

Even now that he was 19, his relationship with his alters are still a work-in-progress. The are still times when they couldn't agree on a single thing like for instance the case with what major Eren has to take. But for the most part, they have gotten along well, and are now striving together to live a normal life.

 

"I have short, black hair and dark grey eyes. I don't trust a lot of people, or more like, I don't trust a lot of people with Eren's well-being. I know how much Eren likes to make new friends. But for most of these people, once they find out what Eren is going through, they stay away from him like he's someone dangerous. And I don't like that. I know our condition is abnormal compared to a lot of people, but we're just doing our best to fit in in this cruel world."

Levi sat back in his seat in contemplation after the short video ended. It was plain as day that Mikasa doesn't talk much. Though Levi couldn't help considering maybe what she's been through, protecting Eren and being the one who remembers the ugly details, had to do something with how she is.

Levi doesn't blame her for how she is, now that he knew about her. If anything, he understands.

He clicked on the other videos to find most of them were videos taken by Armin; filming Mikasa's habits and mannerisms. He found out that Mikasa liked to wear that red scarf, but would take it off (if the weather was warm) whenever they'd go to school or meet people they know. Probably to lessen unwanted questions about the brunet.

There was also one video where she was just sewing patterns on some white cloth while Armin kept asking her what she was doing and just other brainless topics. She was actually good at what she was doing if Levi had to admit. The cloth really did look nice from the floral patterns slowly taking form.

There were also some videos where she talked about Eren's new friends and how she thinks they were nice. She said she was wary of them at first, but was really grateful that they didn't disown Eren as a friend even after they found out about his condition. They would even strike a conversation despite knowing it was her who was fronting.

And of course, there was one where she was talking about a certain midget whom Eren has the misfortune to work with.

"Eren may find him intimidating, and that midget may think he's scary and all, but I wouldn't hesitate castrating him if he lays a finger on Eren." She threatened.

Not that it had any effect on the raven, he was merely amused (and a little pissed from the midget adjective). But hey, at least he now knows a little more about Eren 2.0.

Levi stretched and decided he'd make himself a cup of tea before settling down in front of his laptop again.

 

Next one on the list is Annie

Chapter Text

"I'm Annie. 18 years old. I'm an alter in Eren's system." was the bored tone that greeted the raven's ears.

At first glance, you could have mistaken her for Mikasa. However, if Mikasa's introduction appeared dull, Annie's was even more so. She even perfected the I-don't-give-a-fuck slash what-am-I-even-doing look, complete with almost half-lidded eyes.

"I'm a... protector in Eren's system. What I mostly do, though, is prevent Eren from getting his ass kicked, or kick the asses that kicked Eren's."

 

Eren was around 14 or 15 years old. At that time, he was already adjusting well in the school he attended with Armin. Without the detailed memories of the abuse he went through, he was developing into the teen he was supposed to be. Upbeat, energetic and of course, hot-tempered.

When he found out that Armin has had bullies in school ever since he started high school, it immediately grated on his nerves. He instantly went into protective mode for his friend, despite Armin's reassurances that he was fine. Whenever there was someone mildly harassing the blond, he would be at his side in record time, confronting whoever it was even if they were a higher-up.

When push came to shove and fists started flying, Eren always ended up getting bruised more badly than the others. Not surprising really considering he was relatively underweight for his age and was completely lacking in the muscle, or even fighting skills, department.

There were even numerous times when he'd let his temper get the better of him (like always) and dive head-first into a fight involving three or more other kids against him alone.

Of course, it ended ugly.

He was constantly wishing he was a better fighter so he could protect Armin well without having to be beaten up himself. He even had this conversation in his head with Mikasa. When she told him she's going to protect him, Eren instantly refused. He didn't want to be protected by Mikasa. And not just because she's a girl, but because she's never seen (or thought of) her fighting before. And of course, even if she was a decent fighter, he couldn't ask her to protect Armin because that was impossible.

Eren also found himself wondering what his friend would be if Armin had been a good fighter, and was better at protecting himself. A short, blond guy with blue eyes taking down his bullies, but could remain calm and composed like Mikasa ('coz he didn't want his friend to be as short-tempered as him). It was amusing to imagine his friend know martial arts like what they watched in movies, and break other people's nose with it.

Little did he know this train of thought was what created Annie.

He couldn't really tell how or when it happened, but he just found himself one day talking to another person in his head.

"So this is what badass Armin would look like. If he was a girl." He commented absently, and was surprised when the other talked back.

"My name is not Armin. It's Annie."

 

One afternoon, Eren was waiting for his friend beside the school gate. This was where they would always meet up before walking back home together, as their classes for the last period were different. The blond was only five minutes late than usual when Eren's patience had enough and he went marching to where his friend's last classroom of the day was.

He was about to go inside the room when he spotted three students on the other far side. They seem to be cornering someone, and when a familiar blond hair peeked out from the shoulder of the one in the middle, Eren's mind instantly went overdrive.

But then he couldn't remember what happened after that.

 

He was just surprised one day when he saw three of Armin's usual bullies one day bruised and battered, and were looking at him apprehensively when he passed by them with the blond on his side. One of them, their leader, even had his arm on a cast.

"About time someone finally put those guys in their places." He muttered as they turned around a corner.

"By 'someone', you mean 'you', right?"

His head instantly swiveled towards the blond at the accusation. He was frowning deeply and Armin took the initiative of explaining.

"The other afternoon? When you found them ganging up on me in the classroom?" His friend prompted.

But he remained clueless.

"You beat them up, Eren. Actually, what's more surprising is that you didn't just came swooping in with fists flying this time, and instead, you calmly asked them to let me go. When they didn't and rather opted to take a swing at you, well... I was really surprised your fighting has improved so much in a very short span of time. You didn't even break a sweat nor took a hit from any of them."

Eren couldn't believe his ears. Armin had to be lying, right? Maybe he was just trying to boost his also bruised ego or something.

"And they didn't even tell anyone?" He asked even though he still couldn't believe what his friend was saying.

Armin raised a brow at this question. "Of course they did. We were sent to the headmaster's office yesterday. I really thought you were gonna get into trouble 'cause it was three against one and they were sickly good at playing innocent. I... I'm really surprised how well you were taking it, and even thought about making them check the room's security cameras. It was there they saw how it was those three who instigated things and were even the first ones to take a swing at you. So, in the end, they concluded your actions was for self-defense. Which it was, really."

The brunet just kept staring at his friend like he was scientifically explaining how pigs could fly.

"Eren... you don't remember?" The blond asked when he saw the look on his friend's face.

 

And no, he doesn't. He really doesn't remember any of that.

 

"I have blond hair and blue eyes. I'm... the shortest one in our system, but I can still take Reiner down. Eren's body is a little... inconvenient, 'coz he severely lacks in the muscle and weight department. Though I don't really start fights, I'm quite confident I can finish them." Her gaze then turned slightly upwards like she was looking at whoever was behind the camera.

"I have nothing else to say." She admitted, still staring upwards.

"Just say more about yourself. Your likes and dislikes, or how you're the only one who's left-handed in the system." Levi could hear someone else's voice, and recognized it as Armin's.

Her brows (or Eren's, for that matter) furrowed at this statement.

"I am?" She asked.

"Uhh... yeah? As far as I can tell." came the reply.

She just stared for a few seconds more before abruptly standing up and taking her leave, ending the video promptly.

Levi didn't know why, but he has a feeling he'd come to like this alter.

He clicked on the other videos, and like Mikasa's, it was mostly just Armin following her around with the camera. Although, unlike Mikasa, she didn't have much of those where she's the one talking.

Most of her videos were her in a gym, pulling weights and the like, and then getting irritated that Eren's body couldn't lift much. But mostly it was just her in front of a punching bag.

"Come on, Annie. Just show us some of your moves, please? Pretend there's no camera filming you." came the male blond's voice while the camera was pointed at Eren who was standing on a matted floor, with his arms bandaged properly like those fighters on a ring.

He was only wearing gray sweatpants, with sweat beading down his head and his naked torso. Levi may have looked more closely at the screen, but no one had to know about that.

Eren (or Annie) took on a slightly crouching stance with his fists on head level. Levi raised a brow as he watched him move with practiced ease with movements he vaguely recognized as Muay Thai. He has to admit he was impressed by this.

There were even some videos where they were merely doing regular, mundane stuffs like writing and lifting objects. Until Levi realized they were actually doing it on purpose, as Annie was trying to use her right hand more often. Her handwriting still needs a lot of work, but she was getting better at doing other things as time went by.

Most of those videos where she was the one talking had to be prompted by Armin. The male blond had to ask her questions and she would only answer accordingly. Of course, like the previous two, there was that one video found last.

"What do you think of Eren's co-worker at the coffee shop?"

"I know Mikasa doesn't really like him. But he's quiet, so he's okay for me." was her brief answer.

Levi returned the sentiment, thinking she was okay in his books as well.

 

Moving on to the next was Sasha.

Chapter Text

"Hi there! My name is Sasha. I'm 18 years old. And I am an alter in Eren's system." The energy bursting from that introduction alone could be rivaled against Eren 1.0.

"Oh, what is that smell?" She started sniffing and turning away from the camera.

"Sasha, no." came the blond's voice off-screen before the video was cut.

"So... I was labeled as a protector in Eren's system." She continued. "I guess that makes me Eren's savior from malnutrition. Eren's a really picky-eater. That's one thing I couldn't really understand about him. I, on the other hand, am a huge foodie. I love food. I don't care what anyone else think, but for me, food is love, food is life."

 

Eren was probably 11 or 12 at that time. Just a child living with a foster family who weren't doing any fostering at all. They didn't even care if he was eating well or not, or if he was even eating at all. In fact, Eren wasn't allowed to sit in the table and could only eat if the homeowners were finished with their meals. Sometimes there were food left, other times, not even a drop of sauce was spared.

He was also tasked to clean up after every meal.

With one of his major flaws being fussy when it comes to food, it was no surprise that he'd skip meals more times than necessary. Mikasa had constantly scolded him for it, saying he needed to eat if he didn't want his gravestone to say, "Died because he didn't like the food on the table".

And he did want to eat when he was hungry. He really did want to. Could hear his stomach protesting the same. He just couldn't find the appetite for it.

There was a time when his being fussy took a toll on his body. He had been skipping meals consecutively, and now he was feeling weak from the lack of sustenance. Dina and Zeke had just finished with dinner though, so he had to force his body to get up and clean after the table and do the dishes.

There was still food left on the table. A lot of it, actually. But seeing that a lot of it were steamed vegetables and others he couldn't really comprehend anymore but decided he didn't like, it was another meal to be skipped in his decision.

In his hazy mind, he could vaguely make out an image of a brunette inside his head. He blamed it on the lack of food that now he thought he'd been hanging far too often with Mikasa that he's starting to imagine himself as a girl. Nonetheless, he thought that if he was going to be a girl, at the very least he won't be the finicky type as he was now.

He also blamed it on the lack of food how he couldn't remember what happened after that.

He woke up the next day feeling completely fine. He didn't dwell too much on it. He was just relieved he didn't feel as shitty as he did the day before.

He still skipped meals as often as he did. And though he was wondering how his body was taking it well, he didn't question it. It was better that way and that's what matters.

One time, when his foster father was home and had announced he'd cook dinner for them since he'd be leaving again the next day, he was really hesitant when he heard about what his foster father had for his menu. He didn't like the sound of most of it, but he didn't want to disappoint him either.

He was dreading the moment they'd be called to gather at the table, but soon found out he couldn't exactly remember anything that happened during that time. Before he left the house, his foster father had seemed pleased with him though, or at least he didn't appear even a bit upset or disappointed at him, so he could only think that maybe the food had been better than he thought.

It was until Zeke suddenly slammed him by the door not even five minutes after his foster father had left.

Eren couldn't grasp the things he was accusing him about how he was an ass-kisser going on and on about how good his father's cooking had been, and even had the audacity to indulge in most of what had been served on the table.

Eren couldn't understand what he was saying; couldn't remember doing anything like that. But he thought it was just one of Zeke's 'reasons' to take out his anger on him.

"Fucking pretentious pig!" Zeke had said before finally letting him go.

How ironic he had to hear it from him.

 

Contrary to the other alters, Sasha had been the best so far in taking Eren's place. She was as upbeat and energetic as the host himself, and has the least problems in acting like Eren, himself. In fact, if it wasn't for Hanji, they wouldn't have found out Sasha was an alter.

Even though Armin had suspicions about Eren's sudden appetite at times, he just really chalked it down to hunger. Eren really wasn't acting anything more different, save for the abrupt gluttony. But that's what happens when one is hungry, right? There was nothing unusual about that.

Except there is when it came to Eren.

Before, she didn't really come out unless Eren's body was treading the desert of starvation. And she didn't make herself known, thinking if she did, she couldn't indulge in the "outside world's food" anymore.

Thank heavens Hanji convinced her that was not happening if she did.

 

"I have hazel eyes and brown hair that's borderline reddish. I don't know how that color is called, but you get the idea. And you may think that, from my shameless devotion for food, I'm an overweight female in a lean male body. But I'll have you know that is totally not the case!" Her eyes were wide and her actions were animated as she spoke.

"I actually have fairly normal weight for my height. And if you must really know, I stand at 5'6" and only weigh for 121 pounds, thank you very much."

Levi's brow shot up at this. She could probably eat ten times more than him, and still, she weighs a lot lesser – what with Levi himself weighing at 143 pounds (of pure muscle). But if her bouncing energy is anything to go by, well... it's no rocket science.

Unlike the former two, Sasha's videos were more like Eren's where she's usually the one talking and dragging the camera around. Several of the clips were of her cooking and trying out new food. Other videos contain her "adventures" with Connie and a dragged-out Armin who had to keep them in check.

There was also one where she and the bald guy were trying to imitate Annie's fighting moves. And if you've watched martial arts comedy where the moves are exaggerated and mostly made-up, you get the picture.

But what Levi found surprising is that she actually has a good aim. Whether it was throwing basketballs into hoops, tossing trashes into bins, or even playing darts, Sasha had an impressively accurate aim.

 

"Sasha do you really have to do this?" The blond could be heard whispering worriedly behind the camera.

"Relax, Armin. Do you even have to ask? Besides, Annie did tell me I had to put on more weight in this body. And that's a task I would gladly fulfill."

They seem to be inside a restaurant. But what the blond was so worried about, Levi had no idea.

Until a ridiculously huge burger, that was filling up the entire plate, was placed on the table.

"You have 20 minutes to finish this burger. If you win, you get the burger for free along with some coupons for the restaurant. If you fail, you have to pay for the amount of the food." The staff had instructed.

"There goes our monthly budget." The blond muttered.

"Are you ready?" The staff asked.

Eren (Sasha) was practically drooling in his place already, and it almost seems like his eyes could roll at the back of his head in euphoria.

"That means yes." Armin had to translate. The staff only nodded in amusement.

"Timer starts... now!"

And off he goes, shoveling piece after monstrous piece of the food inside his mouth. It was difficult to tell if he was even chewing it, and the raven could only look in disgust as he stuffed his mouth like there's no tomorrow.

It took him 14 minutes to finish the gigantic burger, leaning back in his seat and sighing in contentment. The staff looked surprised at this feat, and even Levi has to say it was disgustingly impressive in its own way.

"Wow, so far, you're only the third person to win this game. But what's impressive is that you're the one who finished it earlier, and even the former winners were... heavier in comparison." The staff remarked in astonishment.

"I'd be hardly surprised if you have gastric problems later on." The blond commented after they got out of the establishment.

"What's important is that Eren is full, and we didn't even have to pay for it. Plus, coupons!" The brunet waved the tickets in the air.

Another videoclip later and it showed the same brunet tucked in bed.

"Eren, how're you feeling?" Armin asked, pointing the camera to a groaning Eren.

"Fuck, Armin. I think I'm pregnant."

"Yeah, that's Sasha's fault." His friend replied sympathetically.

"Why did you even let her?" Eren grumbled.

"Have you ever tried getting in between Sasha and food? You have better luck trying to catch a unicorn."

The brunet just groaned in reply.

 

When it came to the last one, of course it had to talk about the infamous coffee shop co-worker.

"I really think he's not someone to be messed with. I don't know, but everytime I'm with him, my instincts are telling me to keep my mouth shut or suffer the consequences. Most of the time, I really feel like saluting everytime he addresses me. Although, I have to say he makes really, really good coffee. Don't tell him, but there was one time when he prepared himself a cup, then went to tend to a customer. At that time, it just felt like the coffee was calling out to me, so I stealthily took a sip and had to stop myself, with great difficulty, from draining the entire cup. Until now, I could still taste it in my tongue. If heaven had a taste, it had to be that."

Levi's eye twitched at this confession.

If it wasn't for the fact that it was the ocean-eyed brat's lips that touched the cup without his knowledge, he may have hunted this alter down (had it been possible) and karate chopped some sense in her head.

The raven just huffed out a breath before proceeding to the next folder.

 

Coming up next was Jean.

Chapter Text

"I can't believe I'm doing this." came the muttered complaint from the person on-screen. "My name is Jean. I'm 17 years of age. And I am, begrudgingly, an alter in Eren's system."

Well so far, that was a first.

"Honestly speaking, I still really don't know what I'm supposed to be doing as an alter. Or even more so, as Eren Jaeger's alter. It's really not like we get along a lot of times." His arms were crossed, and he was stating his words in a matter-of-factly tone.

"Though, I guess that's just one of the downsides in doing what I think is my role in the system. Eren is an idiot and he doesn't seem to be aware of it most of the time. He jumps into a situation without thinking things through. I'd like to think it's my job to be his 'voice of reason'. Not that he listens, what with that thick head of his. So I've also took it upon myself to give him a reality check on how he's acting. And so far, I'm given shit for it by the others just 'cause I was being honest."

 

 

Eren was around 15 when he was starting to get really self-conscious about himself. He kept finding himself in places he didn't know how he got into, and situations he doesn't remember instigating.

He constantly found himself wondering what was wrong with him.

Nonetheless, he did his best not to let it show and get the better of him.

Still, the moments when he was confronted with people he didn't know, in places he didn't remember going into, kept coming. Especially when he couldn't find Armin by his side, he would always resort to apologizing – or even when he'd figure punches had to be delivered, he would dive into fights despite the confusion.

He'd find himself wondering if he was really that stupid to remain clueless of what was happening with himself after all this time. But his friend never really referred to him as such. Sure, there were times when he'd call him an idiot now and then, but he was aware he totally had it coming. Even so, Armin wouldn't really call him out whenever he did something stupid. It just didn't seem like to be in the blond's nature. He was far too kind and meek (mostly) to do that.

Eren started wondering what if there was someone who did.

Eventually, like how his brain had conjured up the girls in his head, this time, it seemed to decide that there's already one too many girls in his head that he couldn't even find an attraction to, and made up a male one instead.

If the purpose of it was to cater to Eren's sexuality, then it has a shitty job of doing so.

Whenever he finds himself "talking" to this person in his head, an argument always breaks out. It would always start with a single topic, followed by disagreements, and ending in insults. Sometimes, Eren even visualizes landing a few punches on that ugly mug of his.

He was having way too much unnecessary headache debating with someone who doesn't even exist.

At least that's what he thought.

 

One day, Armin found himself hanging around the brunet, who seemed more tense yet laid-back at the same time. Or maybe it was him who was tense around the laid-back brunet. Armin couldn't place a finger on it, but somehow, it just felt different for some reason.

He wasn't talking as much this time, but he wasn't as distant as well.

But it all took a turn when one of their friends, Hannah, asked about their opinion for a scrapbook she made for her 3-month boyfriend, Franz.

Armin didn't really know what to say about it. It wasn't his thing. Though he thinks it's too glittery and pink and just screaming, in neon bold letters, "too girly", he doesn't really know if that was supposed to be normal or not. And of course he's not one to be tactless.

Eren, on the other hand...

"I don't know if you should really ask me for an opinion. But if I were to receive the same thing, I'd probably appreciate it, though I wouldn't know what to do with it. I don't know about your boyfriend, but it's a bit of an eyesore in my perspective. And I don't really know how he'd feel about carrying it around. If he would even carry it around. I'm betting not. Besides, don't you think it's a bit too much and too cheesy for a mere 3-month celebration? Lots of things could still happen, you know. I'm just saying."

Armin could only watch incredulously.

Then afterwards, rack his brain on how he was going cover up for this one.

So when Eren asked him, after some time, why Hannah seemed to be avoiding him, Armin could only shake his head and say, "Just go apologize to her, Eren."

That was okay if he knew what he was apologizing for.

 

Up until the present time, Eren and Jean still clash a lot more than necessary. But despite Jean's lack of tact and therefore, assholery, he still deserves credit at times when he tells Eren, or if he was fronting, make Eren do what is necessary. Where Eren would jump into fights without thinking about it, Jean knows when to avoid unnecessary conflicts. Where Eren is torn between what he wants and what he needs, Jean follows the more realistic decision and one where it benefits more than not. And where Eren denies facts and reality, Jean makes sure to punch some sense into him if need be.

He doesn't hesitate to call out Eren on his lapses. He doesn't hold back in informing Eren of his flaws. If there's something he wants to say, he doesn't opt for sugar-coating and indirect ways of doing it.

Yet at the same time, he wouldn't let Eren apologize for things that are not really his fault. He wouldn't let Eren accept things way less than he deserves.

 

"I have brown eyes, and two-toned hair shaved into an undercut, where the top part is dyed light brown. I have no doubts Eren may have commented on how I look, but I assure you it's not as bad as him. And I definitely do not look like a horse! I would call Eren an owl. But that would be an insult to the species." He huffed.

"If anything, he looks like a tarsier." He added.

Levi almost snickered at this. He did have a point. Eren was a brat with huge eyes, and he wouldn't put it past him to be clingy.

Unlike the others, Jean's folder contained lesser video clips. Other than his laid-back demeanor, there wasn't really anything striking that makes him stand-out from the others. Until he opens his mouth, that is. There are moments where Armin would purposely ask him for his opinions on a piece of art, or just about anything, really. And of course, he had no reasons not to stick to saying the truth.

There was also that one video where he talks about Eren's college friends and how he thinks they're too kind for their own good, but is overall better than other people who are too narrow-minded when it comes to things that are outside of their realm of understanding.

"So what do you think of Marco?" Armin suddenly asked.

He visibly blushed at this and glared at the person behind the camera.

"Why the hell are you even asking that Armin?" He huffed out.

"Nothing. I was trying to ask your opinion about each of them."

"I can't tell if he's a kiss-ass or it's just really his nature to be a goody-goody." He answered briefly while still frowning and diverting his gaze elsewhere.

Apparently, the blond didn't ask furthermore for his opinions on the others, and Levi felt like giving him a pat on the shoulder for his wittiness.

There were other clips where Jean appeared to be studying from Eren's school materials, and when Armin interrogated him about it, he simply just dismissed it as "having nothing better to do". Though Levi suspects he was actually helping in Eren's academics more than he'd let on.

And when it came to the last video...

"That guy is short, period."

Levi should've punched him when he had the chance.

"But vertical disabilities aside, I wouldn't be surprised if he could take down someone double his size. He does look like the type to be able to. If he wasn't as silent as he is, I don't think I'd mind much talking to him since he tends to say things the way they are."

Levi also wouldn't mind talking to him (probably), as long as the things that come out of his mouth wouldn't give his fists brains of their own.

He would like to call him out on being an ass, but that's just like the pot calling the kettle black.

Whatever. The bright side is that at least he doesn't have to deal with him regularly.

Levi took the teacup he placed on his desk, forgetting he had long since drained his tea. Oh well, at least there's only one folder left.

 

Last one on the list, Reiner.

Chapter Text

"Hi. My name is Reiner. I'm 19 years old, and I'm an alter in Eren's system."

Levi doesn't know how it was possible, but even he could feel the "big brother" vibe that was radiating from the person on-screen.

"I was the latest alter to surface, and I've only fronted, for the first time, a couple of months ago. I'm one of the protectors in the system, and my main role is to act like a peacekeeper both internally, or in-between alters, and externally, or in the outside world. Eren's temper usually gets the better of him, so even though he wasn't intending to, there may be times when he pushes people away. It's my job to try and patch things up when Eren's relationships with other people get shaky."

 

Eren was 17 and have just been informed of Armin's suspicions about what he's going through. Safe to say, he didn't believe it. He didn't want to think that he was not in control of his own body, and the idea of having other... personalities in his head that are actually taking form in his lifestyle is just plain unbelievable. It's something that happens in movies and fiction. This was reality.

After the few doctors and psychiatrists they consulted, all hesitant to diagnose him with Dissociative Identity Disorder and suspect other, "more plausible" explanations that include stress, trauma, depression that may have resulted into subconscious memory blocking, and even possible bipolarity. But never DID.

He didn't know if he should be glad about it or not. Part of him is, since he liked to believe that meant he's not too far gone with having such implausible disorders. While the other part of him wanted the answers as to what was happening with him and why.

It was when they met Dr. Hanji Zoe that things clicked into place.

At first he didn't want to believe her, wanted to hear another opinion. But the more he talked to Hanji, the more things made sense. The more he talked to Hanji, the more he was opening up to the idea of his condition.

He doesn't know how she does it, but there are times when she could somehow bring out another alter by prompting. She could ask him how he feels about peanut butter and then follow-up with, "Okay, but what does Sasha say about it?" Then he just feels all weird and he'd just absently be rubbing at his nape.

She advised him to "talk" with his alters and try to come to terms about how they should manage their situation. At first it was a trainwreck. It was like the more he acknowledged the existence of his alters, the more he just wanted them to not exist, or at the very least, not front.

Of course this caused a turbulence in the system, where Jean expressed the most dissension. It wasn't like Eren was completely ungrateful of their help, and he does like to interact with them in his head.

He just wanted to be normal.

He had lost friends once they found out about Eren's condition. Some of them thought he was going a bit too far with his "excuses" for his behavior. While others thought of things like, "What if his brain suddenly decides he'd like to harm other people?" or "So if he does something wrong, he just gets to blame it on his 'alters'? What kind of excuse is that?"

Being someone who treasures his friends (out of the lack of family relationships), this hit Eren hard. He became more and more irritated with himself and eventually started to project this irritation outward. He pushed people away (or more like distanced himself from them) with thought that they'd get repulsed by him once they found out about his condition. He never really liked doing it, but he was just terrible at saying the right things and owning up to his actions.

It got to the point where even Armin had a hard time trying to understand him.

They spent days where they were barely talking to each other. Most of their walks going to school and back home were spent in complete silence. Eren hated it. He barely had friends anymore, and even those he talked to in his head were having issues with him. And now, even his best friend was slowly slipping away.

He wished he was better at reconciliations.

 

One day, Armin was surprised when the brunet approached him. And he was even more surprised when his friend expressed remorse for his actions and genuine apology. Knowing his friend, the blond knew Eren would at least look embarrassed at his confession. But the person in front of him wasn't. In fact, he looked perfectly fine at taking responsibility.

He just knew it wasn't Eren himself.

So when he confronted whoever was fronting this time, they seemed to be shocked at how he knew about it. It didn't take long for them to introduce themselves and explain that even though he was the one doing it, Eren himself badly wanted to do so, but didn't know how. Or at least that's what it felt like to him... when Eren absently opened up to him like someone would do to a trusted older brother.

Armin understood. He really did. He knew his friend had gone, and is going through a lot, even though he may not show it. And he thinks it's actually a good thing that at least there's someone who could help him cope up with these flaws.

The blond thought Reiner would stop there. But apparently, he continued to reach out to those people who were once Eren's friends, but were now avoiding him. Unfortunately, they thought it was just one of Eren's pretenses again and they only seemed more creeped-out with him despite the genuine intentions. Only Connie had remained by their side, not that he even thought of disowning Eren in the first place. If anything, he found it awesome.

 

When college came, though Eren usually sticked to having mere acquaintances and only a number of friends that you could count on one hand (and still have space for more), Reiner took initiative in maintaining good relationships with them. Even those acquaintances who didn't really know about Eren's condition, he would always try to put out a congenial and responsible version of Eren (if he was fronting), in hopes that Eren could make even more friends out of them.

Internally, it's also him who takes in the rant or complaints of each alter to the other, and would try to find a middle ground where both could be pacified. Safe to say he does this mostly with Eren and Jean.

 

"I have short, blond hair and hazel eyes. I'm also the bulkiest in our system. So if anything, I mostly act like a bouncer between Eren and Jean. Those two fight like cats and dogs. It's amusing to watch them at times until it comes to a point where you just have to put them in their own corners."

The raven had to wonder how often he had to break those two apart. If it was Levi, himself, he would have challenged each of them to fight him and have their asses handed to them over and over if they kept trying to bite each other's heads off.

What can he say? Some situations could be handled more easily with a flick of the wrist.

And if Jean's folder contained lesser video clips, Reiner's was the same, if not even more so. In contrast to Jean's though, Reiner's opinions of various matters were very much tactful.

"They're all really nice and I'm quite grateful they were very accepting of our condition." He started when the topic of their friends came up. "I do look forward in interacting with them, even though I may not front a lot as the others. It's still a nice thought to have that there are still people like them that exists, and that we were fortunate enough to meet not only one, but three of them."

"What can you say about Bertolt?" Armin asked.

If Reiner was affected by the sudden question like Jean was, he didn't show it.

"I think he's a tall guy. I mean, he is. But he's ridiculously tall. I also can't help but notice that he seems to be anxious a lot of times. I don't know, maybe that's just me. I do hope the guy is doing okay, though." He responded accordingly. Though without prompting, he went on to talk about how Marco is like a freckled Jesus, and Historia an angel in the flesh.

 

"So this is just one of the qualities I've noticed about Reiner." Armin began in one of the clips, placing the camera in one corner of the room. "Currently, he's busy fetching stuffs from the car and placing it inside the dorm. My job is to place things to where they belong. And I haven't really started yet."

"Watch." He instructed as he stepped away and lifted a heavy-looking box.

He let out exaggerated grunting noises and alternated between heaving up the box and placing it back on the floor, looking like he was trying to catch his breath.

Moments later, Eren (Reiner) appeared by the doorway.

"Need help there, bud?" He asked.

"Yeah, sorry. I'm just trying to transfer this over there." The blond explained, pointing to the far corner of the room.

"I'll have that." He volunteered before kneeling down and heaving the box himself.
With Eren's body, it seemed like he was also struggling himself.

"Need my help?" The blond offered.

"No, I got this. You could take a break for a while."

He managed to place the object to where Armin pointed, not without breaking a sweat.

"Thanks, Reiner!" Armin beamed.

"No problem. If you need more help, I'll be at the other room, alright?"

"'Kay. Thanks!"

Armin waited for him to leave the room before facing the camera again.

"I wish he was my actual brother." He stated before cutting off the film.

Levi had to give it to him. He knows how to take advantage of Eren's condition.

 

"Levi? Let's see... I actually had a hard time approaching the guy the first time I personally got to meet him. It's funny when you think about it, but it's true. Not that I'm trying to mock him, but he's quite scary for his size. It's like his aura of intimidation is condensed to fit in his body. I mean, hell, even Annie's the same. If she can take me down, that guy can probably do it ten times over."

And Levi believes he can probably do just that. If he even has any reason to.

 

The raven stretched once more as he finished every single video. He didn't know how late it was when he started watching, but as he checked the time, it was already past 5 o'clock. His day starts at 8. So basic math states that he has barely 3 hours left to catch up on sleep.

Oh, well. What's new?

He closed his laptop and padded the short distance to his bed. But even a while after he had laid down, he found his thoughts drifting towards the brunet he'd been watching on the screen for hours. He would have to face him later in the day. But he realized that wasn't really a problem.

His thoughts revolved more around the fact that despite the different alters that have been introduced to him, his opinion still remains that he liked Eren, as in Eren 1.0, best.

 

He fell asleep thinking about dazzling ocean eyes with a blinding smile.

Chapter Text

“Hey,” came the timid greeting from the brunet.

Levi just arched a brow, which only made the younger look more apprehensive.

“I'll uhh... I'll go prep in the back room.” He lamely excused as he sped-walked past the raven.

It took him longer than usual to join Levi out in the front. And by the time he did, he was strangely silent and kept fidgeting on his spot. The raven knew it was Eren – as in Eren 1.0; Eren, the host – who was just showing a sign of anxiety. And the sadistic part of him let the other suffer for a bit longer than necessary.

Levi could feel the tension radiating from him; could notice the relief in his features whenever a customer would enter the establishment; could see how he seemed to be more interested in keeping himself busy with engaging whoever is merciful enough to interact with him.

And boy was it amusing.

“Jaeger.” He called out when he decided he had his fun torturing the brat.

The brunet practically jumped out of his skin at the sound of his name, and he visibly fumbled with whatever it was that was trying to keep his hands busy.

“Oh, look. We're running low on cinnamon. I better go get some.” He copped-out and hastily went to the back room.

Levi couldn't help the smirk that curled his lips. At least the brat was going where he was intending him to. By the time he followed him in the room, Eren was only standing in front of the open closet where they kept some of their stocks.

Poor kid.

‘I wonder what he could be so antsy about?’ Levi couldn't help smirking at his own brand of humor.

He tried waiting for the other to turn around just to see what his reaction would be. But when he didn't seem to be making a move anytime soon (and they still had a shop to look out for), he decided to make the first move.

“Jaeger.” He called out again.

“Fuck me!” He hissed out after being caught off-guard. He slowly turned around to face the older man, still with the same level, if not more, of apprehension on his features.

“Well, not what I was planning, but if you insist.” Levi responded casually, thoroughly amused.

Eren's eyes widened at the remark before going through different shades of pinks and reds.

Levi decided he liked that look on him.

Eren's mouth alternated between opening and closing, trying his best to string together coherent words under pressure. Yet somehow, he settled with, “What can I get you?”

“Fuck, Jaeger. I'm not a fucking customer.”

The brunet went silent again, steaming red at his stupidity. Levi decided to finally take pity at him.

“Here.” He handed back the green flash drive.
Eren's eyes widened at the device before hesitantly taking it.

“So you've watched it?” He asked tentatively.

“Every single one.”

“Wait, what? How long did it take you?”

“Hours.” Levi replied flatly.

Eren only stared at him for a moment before saying, “I wasn't expecting you to finish it all in one night. Did you even have enough sleep?”

“I had nothing better to do.” The raven shrugged, avoiding the posted question.

Eren busied his attention toying with the device on one hand.

“So...” He trailed off.

“I'd like to ask some questions. Only if you’re willing to disclose, that is. But since we're currently working at the moment... do you have any plans after your shift today?”

Eren's (gorgeous) eyes went wide once again. Levi worried they'd be falling out of his sockets if he kept doing that.

“Yes! I mean, no! I don’t… have… plans. I’m available. I mean, I’m single. I mean, FREE! I’m free after… my shift.” The brunet stumbled repeatedly.

“Quite suggestive today, aren’t we?” The older couldn’t help teasing.

“I wasn’t… I’m not…”

“So later, I’ll be waiting at one of the booths. Most possibly near the corners.” He cut him off before turning to make his leave.

“Wait.” Eren stopped him before he could step out. Levi looked over his shoulder with an arched brow.

“Do you… uh… do you think it’s… uhh… I don’t know… repulsive?” He asked tentatively.

Levi’s never really thought about that. Does he think it’s repulsive?

“I think it’s interesting.” He admitted before walking out, leaving a stunned brunet whose eyes could really fall out of their sockets at that moment.

 


 

 

When the clock struck at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, Eren’s nerves were going haywire. He took his time changing back to casual clothing all the while fighting the urge to dissociate. He caught himself rubbing his nape, and the sensation of “floating” was there that he fought hard to keep himself grounded. The voices were a chaos in his head, and he could only think it was because of the anxiety.

Anxiety from the thought of having another person – that person – feel repulsed by him.

He concentrated on the fact that Levi never said he was fended off by him – in order to push down the bubbling anxiety. And that he said it was interesting. Which was a good thing. Right?

When he felt like he could focus back to reality again, he willed his legs to move and just get it over with.

“Take care of yourself, Eren.” Eld, one of the coffee shop’s employees, bade.

There were currently six employees of the coffee shop. Four out of six are college students. Petra and Aurou, who usually work the morning shift; Eren and Levi in the afternoon; And either or both Eld and Gunther (who were non-students) for the remaining hours until the shop’s closing. They also help out at Hannes’ bar. Occasionally, Hannes also takes over the night shifts (with much hesitation) when no one was available. (He was exceptionally understanding, after all).

“Thanks.” Eren returned with a smile, before gingerly making his way to the farthest booth where an ink black blob of hair was (barely) peeking out.

As he slowly approached, he could see that the raven was busy typing stuffs on his laptop. He wasn’t even that close yet when the other raised his head up.

There goes his heart rate.

He trudged the remaining steps and practically plopped down on the seat across the raven.

“Hi.” He attempted to greet with confidence, and failing miserably judging from how his voice wavered from that single word alone. He immediately cleared his throat before repeating the greeting.

Levi disregarded his obvious anxiety and closed his laptop to give the brunet his full attention.

“So, is there any place you want to go to? Or would you prefer staying here?” He asked instead.

“I don’t think I can move my legs again.” Eren admitted.

“Alright then.”

The brunet was restless on his seat. He alternated between rubbing his nape, wringing his hands, and even tapping the table, all the while avoiding eye contact with the other.

Levi wanted to tell him to relax, but instead opted to just start things off with an easy question.

“So,” he started. “Why did each of you had to express detailed opinions about ‘the coffee shop co-worker’?”

Eren instantly shot him a look of confusion.

“What do you mean?”

“Exactly as I said, Jaeger.”

The brunet just frowned at him even more. “I don’t get it. I mean, yeah, I admit I did have a video that talked about you. Mikasa, too. I don’t remember copying it to the hard drive, though. But I don’t think the others have talked about you specifically… have they?”

“Each one of you.” Levi stated flatly. “There’s at least a clip on each folder found last that talks about the intimidating raven that they work with.” Levi almost said “midget”. But like hell he’d disparage himself like that.

Eren took a moment to think about it.

And then he was blushing furiously.

“Armin’s probably responsible for that.” He grumbled. “He’s usually the one who keeps tracks of our documentations. I have no doubt he purposely hid those from me and messed with the files on the hard drive.”

“And why would he do that?” Levi had to ask.

“Because… he’s… Armin.” He answered lamely. “And by ‘Armin’, I mean ‘evil’.”

Levi decided to leave it at that. At least he was successful in loosening up a little.

“So, how does it feel like to… dissociate?” He decided to start asking the things from his mental list.

“It feels… weird. It’s like you’re floating, or daydreaming. My nape starts to get tingly, and it just feels like you’re… detached from what’s happening at that moment. People’s voices feel like they’re talking from a distance or like they’re slightly muffled. I basically space out.”

“Obviously.” The raven couldn’t help the remark spilling out. “Can you control it?”

“I try, but it’s mostly out of my grasp. I can’t really control when to switch or who to switch to. I guess that really depends on the situation and who is more suitable for that. There could be positive triggers, though, to bring out an alter. That’s what Hanji usually does in our therapy sessions.”

“Does that mean you always… ‘black out’ when it happens? You can’t remember anything that happened when one of your alters come out?”

“That used to be the case. But after some therapy sessions with Hanji, I’ve gradually learned how to be co-conscious – which is a rather weird feeling – and have better connections with my alters, though we’re still working on that up until now.”

When Eren saw the furrowed brows on the raven’s face on that one word, he immediately went to explaining.

“Co-consciousness is like… you’re aware of what’s happening around you, even though you’re not the one controlling the body. Sometimes, I could hear and see everything that’s going on. Other times, it’s like… watching a video of some of the stuff that happened, or being told about it. It’s just weird, really.”

‘Everything about this is weird.’ Levi thought.

“How do you talk to your alters?”

“It’s like… talking to yourself – or in my case, with an imaginary friend – inside your head. It’s not always possible though. Sometimes, another alter has to relay the message to the other. I guess that happens when one alter refuses to ‘talk’ to the other. ‘Coz I’ve noticed it happening whenever I refuse to talk to Jean, and one of the others – mostly, Reiner – has to relay what he wanted to say to me and vice versa.”

“Are you… ‘talking’ to any of them right now?”

“Not really, there’s just all sorts of chattering I could hear right now.” The brunet admitted.

Levi sat back for a moment to absorb all the information he heard so far. Everything sounded ridiculous, but interesting – fascinating, even – at the same time. He figured it was going to be a much more long discussion since the more his questions get answered, the more they pile up.

“What would you like to drink?”

Eren was surprised at the sudden change in topic. He didn’t know if the raven was asking in comparison to the other alters.

“I figured we’d be taking a while in here. Just choose whatever. It’s free, anyway.” (Because Hannes gave it as one of the employees’ benefits for working at the shop.)

Oh.

“Uhh… hot chocolate.”

Levi arched a brow, but didn’t comment on it. Instead, he stood up and made his familiar way behind the counter. Weaving through the different machines and equipment and substances with practiced ease, idly chatting with Eld as he did so. Then he spent a few minutes in the back room before finally tracing his steps back to the booth, carrying a tray filled with hot chocolate, a cup of tea, and several croissants.

“Thanks.” Eren almost mumbled as Levi handed him his cup and placed the plate of pastries in the middle of the table. The drinks were free. The food wasn’t.

He took an initial sip of his hot chocolate and was instantly stunned. Sasha was right. He had never tasted any drink made by Levi before, until now.

“Don’t go all shy on me now, Jaeger.” The raven said as he nodded to the plate of pastries.

“It can’t be helped.” Eren muttered under his breath as he helped himself to a croissant.

“Is it okay to continue?” Levi asked, to which, the other just nodded.

“I’ve seen Jean in one of the videos going over some of your materials from school. Does what he study connects to you or something?”

“Not really. It’s kinda complicated, and I still don’t really know how it works.” Eren furrowed his brows as he thought hard on how to explain it. “Sometimes, during classes or a test, I feel like I know the topic even though I don’t remember ever going through it. It’s kind of like that nagging feeling you get that you’ve read something, somewhere and just couldn’t recall it clearly. Of course there are some moments when I have absolutely no idea of the topic, but Jean does. Though when I’m co-conscious and Jean is fronting, I could remember some of the stuff he might read, but most are hazy. There are also times when Jean just randomly come up and say, ‘Hey dipshit, did you know that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell?’, or something like that. It’s just really hard to describe.”

Well, isn’t that fucking intriguing?

“What about Annie? Is it possible that you’d learn some of her moves since she’s using your body to train at times?”

“Oh, fuck, do I wish that was true.” He shook his head. “But so far, it’s most probably a ‘no’. I was told that somehow, muscle memory isn’t always shared between the alters. Each alter can have their own set of skills that’s unique to them. So, I can’t fight like Annie, or sew like Mikasa, or be as accurate as Sasha, or hell, I don’t even have the social skills that Reiner has. I’ve even heard of some cases where the host was blind but one of their alters wasn’t. At first, I thought it was highly impossible. But then I realized it might be possible considering how Annie was originally left-handed, and I never was. Trust me, I’m just as dumbfounded as you might be with this condition.”

And dumbfounded, he was.

There was a beat of relative silence as both of them took sips from their drinks, and a few bites from the pastries.

“So, can an alter completely stop fronting, or like, leave your… system entirely?” Levi continued once he formulated the question in his head.

Eren mulled it over for a moment. “I’m not entirely sure about that. I’m quite certain, though, that some alters could stay dormant for a long time. I could tell by my fragment, Ymir. But none of my alters, so far, have completely stopped fronting or ‘left the system’. I think the proper term for that is ‘integration’, if I recall correctly. It’s where an alter… ‘fuses’ with the host, and therefore, integrates their personalities and traits into one. I don’t really know much about that, though. It’s never happened to me.”

“Why have you never really talked about your fragment? You’ve dropped hints of her here and there, but you’ve never really talked about her or what she’s like.”

Eren stilled at the question.

“That’s uhh… that’s because there’s not really much to say about her. She’s never fronted a lot, and have been dormant for years now.” He was absently rubbing his nape, and was diverting his gaze to one corner.

Levi observed his reaction. Obviously, he’s stumbled upon a sensitive topic. He was actually wondering if the brunet would start dissociating in front of him.

And sure enough, after a few moments of spacing out, he blinked his eyes rapidly and sat up straight once more, face morphed into one of indifference.

He stopped talking, merely moved his hand to trace the shell of his ear, like how girls do when they were tucking a lock of hair behind their ear.

The raven just observed him for a while longer.

“Mikasa.”

The brunet was startled by this. A confirmation.

“How’d you know?” She asked.

“You used your right hand to touch your ear.” He pointed out.

An action like that was instinctual. Therefore, Annie would more likely do so with her left.

“You’re quite observant.” She admitted.

“I’m aware.”

“I still think you’re an ass, though.”

“It’s one of my charms.” Levi retorted, not missing a beat.

They just stared at each other afterwards.

“So, can I still ask questions?” The raven decided to break the silence.

“Depends, if I want to answer them.”

“Why does Eren have more female alters? Why does he have a female alter in the first place? And why does it seem like the females front more than the males do?” Levi blurted out, the questions forming in his head now that she was in front of him.

She just merely stared at him. Then her eyes suddenly narrowed like there was someone yelling at her ears.

“It’s just our theory, but it may be because of Eren’s need for his mother when he was still a child. I’m not going to go into detail on that.” She finally decided to answer. “And the females front more often because most of the stress and situations that Eren has to go through is our responsibility to help or protect him from.”

“What kind of stress and situations are we talking about?”

Mikasa took her time answering, and she kept blinking as if she was trying not to space out.

“When there are some things that would come up that would remind him of a past trauma, fights with other people, and starving himself.”

Makes sense.

There was another beat of silence as the two just looked at each other. (Mikasa still blinking more often).

“Tell me about this ‘inner world’ of yours. What is it even?” Levi asked as the words flashed through his memory.

“An inner world is where alters go to when they’re not fronting. The elements that consist it varies. It could just be a room, a house, a scenery, an entire country, or an entire planet. Some inner worlds could have their own stories where alters have their own lives far different from when they’re fronting. Not all systems have it, but we’re one of those who have.” That must have been the longest string of words she said, so far.

“And what is your inner world like?” The raven prompted.

“Our inner world is set at a past time. We’re soldiers whose weapons are blades instead of guns. Our enemies are giant, man-eating monsters called ‘titans’.”

Levi blinked.

“You’re shitting me.”

“It won’t make any sense if you don’t know about Eren’s past.”

And the knowledge about Eren’s past is, indeed, a vital part in interpreting and understanding why his mind conjured up this scenario for their inner world.

Their world was set at a past time, which they theorized was because of how Eren still feels (subconsciously) hung up over the past, before his corrupted childhood.

They were soldiers, just like how his foster father was.

They have blades for weapons, like how a knife was used to take his mom’s life, and was even handed to him.

And their enemies were giant, man-eating monsters called “titans”, which could be paralleled by child Eren’s perspective on his mom’s killers (huge men with printed face masks), and the name derived from his foster brother’s baseball team name.

As the silence dragged on with Levi still mulling over what else he wanted to ask, Mikasa was already spacing out completely.

“Are you switching again?” The raven asked.

The brunet in front of him snapped in attention once again, and rubbed out his eyes.

“Sorry, what did you say?” He asked as he set his gaze back on the raven.

“You have beautiful eyes.” The other blurted out.

‘Beautiful eyes’ widened as his face flushed again.

Welcome back, Eren.

“I-I… wait… what?” He stuttered out.

“I think that’s enough interrogation for now. We still have classes tomorrow.” Levi smirked before standing up and walked away, the brunet stumbling to catch up with him.

“Wait! Does this mean… you’re okay with me? I mean… my condition?” Eren asked hesitantly once they were outside.

“What do you think, Jaeger?” The raven arched a brow.

“I don’t know. It’s kinda hard to tell when it’s you.” Eren frowned.

“It’s not bad, Jaeger. Like I said, it’s interesting.”

The relief that flooded the brunet was almost tangible to the other man.

“Does this mean you’re officially my friend now?” He grinned.

“Don’t push your luck.”

“Too late. You’re already on the list.”

“Another finger on one hand.” Levi remarked dryly.

“Rude.” The brunet frowned.

“Honest.” The other corrected.

They walked together for a while longer before stopping at an intersection.

“The dorms are this way.” Eren pointed out when he noticed the older going into the other direction.

“I know.” Levi deadpanned.

“Where are you going?”

The raven just looked at him blankly for a moment.

“Have you ever seen me enter or exit that filthy building?”

“No, but I thought you were in the far opposite side of it, and that we’ve never just really bumped into each other.”

“I have my own apartment, Jaeger.” He stated.

“Oh. Can I…”

“And no, you’re not welcome to visit.”

Eren pouted. Brat.

Not even five minutes after he was forced into a friendship, and now the brunet was acting like they were best buds.

“See you.” The raven bade as he turned to the other direction.

“Wait!”

Of all things that could’ve followed after that, Levi never expected receiving a hug from the brunet.

“Thanks. I mean it.” Eren stated lowly, genuinely into the shorter man’s ear.

Then, all too sudden, he was pulling away again.

“Bye, Levi! Take care.” The brunet waved as he rushed off to the direction the dorms.

 

Leaving a stunned raven who was now troubled with a whole new problem.

Chapter Text

"Levi!”

The sound of someone screaming his name, somehow, sent a chill down his spine. He knew that voice.

By the time his sights landed on its source, a certain brunet was already bounding towards his direction.

“Fancy meeting you here.” Eren grinned as he slowed down to a stop beside the raven.

“Here”, as in, in front of the university’s commerce building. Right.

Without waiting for an invitation, Eren sat down beside the raven, who was just minding his own business in one of the few canopy tables around the area.

“What’re you doing here, Jaeger?”

The blinding grin he was sporting didn’t even falter at the tone. “Nothing. I was just walking around when I saw you here.”

Levi just stared at him, unimpressed. He couldn’t have just been walking around on the far side of the campus which is located in the exact opposite of where his classes should be.

Ever since that night, the brat seemed to be getting cheeky around him. He doesn't even appear to be affected by the look the raven puts on that usually has people running for the hills.

"Can I help you?" He arched a brow. It was supposed to be a subtle version for "piss off".

Unfortunately, he forgot Eren was an idiot.

"No, it's..." He trailed off. "Actually, now that you're offering, I do need some help."

The raven was about to protest, when the younger cut him off.

"Do you think you could help us bring Annie out?"

"What?" Levi asked, bewildered at the strange request.

"You see, there's this routine we're trying to build that just started like... a couple of weeks ago. And today, Wednesday afternoon, after my shift at the shop, we're supposed to be at a gym training, or more like... muscle-building, really. I usually count on Annie for that, and sometimes Mikasa. But Annie won't come out. Says it's getting quite boring and that she'd rather sleep this week out. But then, that'll ruin the routine. I think she prefers sparring matches, over mere muscle-building. We couldn't find sparring partners around this area who are willing, though. Usually, they'd ask you to take lessons before they'd agree. And paying for one could get quite expensive, and it's not like we have a need to. I've spent hours watching fighting movies and even UFC fights to try and trigger her out, but all I got was a headache." He rambled.

Levi blinked. Too much information cramming their way into his ears.

"Then try with Mikasa." He stated simply.

"I would, but Mikasa worries too much. She's likely to stop when she thinks my body has enough. Which is way too early, from what Armin said once."

"Then try with the others."

"I'm not putting it past them to fool around more than train. Especially Sasha and Jean. I still can't tell with Reiner, though. But it's not really like I can control my switching. And I still haven't really figure out what positive triggers could be used to bring him out."

"Then do it yourself." The raven continued.

"Leeeviiiii." He whined. Fucking brat.

The other just leveled him with another unimpressed look at the action.

"Fine." He huffed out. "I bet you're just scared of Annie, anyway."

Levi arched a brow at that.

"I bet I can take her down." He responded coolly.

Eren's eyes suddenly dilated before he was shaking his head and blinking rapidly.

What the fuck was that?

"Sorry. Annie suddenly felt too close after you said that." He explained.

"Fuck. I think... she's... co-conscious now. Good job." He attempted to smile, but it looked more like a cringe as he was intently focusing his eyes on one spot of the table, still blinking heavily.

Levi merely watched in fascination at the display.

"How can you say?" He decided to ask.

Eren took a few more moments before responding to the question.

"It just feels like... she's really close. And I can... hear her."

"What's she saying?"

The brunet closed his eyes for a moment and was slightly tilting his head.

"She's challenging you to a sparring match later." Eren snorted.

Interesting.

"You accepting?" The brunet asked.

"Maybe."

"Really?" The hopeful look Ocean Eyes was sporting was making it difficult to turn down.

"I'm interested to see for myself how she works your body." Levi admitted.

The grin that graced his features was almost blinding, and then he was blinking heavily again.

"Are you switching?"

"I don't know. Not really. Annie's just co-conscious right now. It just happened so abruptly, it's kinda trippy. It's never felt like this before." He rubbed his forehead. "It's kinda like she was running towards the front, but was stopped by a glass wall or something. And now, she's just... directing... or influencing me from that side."

The raven had to wonder if this thing was ever to come short of being dumbfounding. How could this be what is "normal" for people like Eren? Hell, even if it wasn't normal in any sense, it's still a lot interesting compared to the normality that people like Levi live in.

Other people might be quick to dismiss people like Eren to be mere brainsick people. But to Levi, it's people like Eren who make normal people seem so bland and basic.

"Eren!" Another voice filled the area.

Both heads turned to see the source and sighted out a familiar blond who had three other people tailing behind him.

"Hey, Ar. Hey, guys." The younger greeted as the group of students approached.

"Mind if we join you?" Armin asked.

"Go ahead." Eren allowed, not even asking for the raven's opinion. The nerve.

Armin, a freckled guy, and a beanpole of a guy sat across from them, while a female version of Armin took the spot beside Eren. Levi suddenly felt overcrowded from the sudden company.

"You must be Levi." Freckles started. "Eren talks a lot about you."

Said brunet was about to open his mouth in protest.

“Eren talks a lot in general.” The raven cut him off.

Said brunet clamped his mouth shut.

“Well, that can’t be contested.” The blond joined in.

“I’m right here.”

Said brunet grumbled. The others just looked at him in amusement.

“Anyway, Levi, you already know Armin, beside him is Marco, and then beside him is Bertolt.” Eren introduced. “Then this one beside me,” He leaned back, “Is Historia.” Female Armin peeked out from the brunet’s side and waved at him.

“Marco, Bertolt, Historia, meet Levi.” He continued, gesturing to the shorter man on his other side.

They all smiled and nodded in acknowledgement, with a couple of “nice to meet you” thrown in.

Levi couldn’t remember the last time he was introduced to new people, save for those times when it was for merely for business purposes. There was a reason why you could usually find him alone, after all.

“Hold on, how’d you know I was here? We usually meet around the cafeteria at this time.” Eren asked.

“Armin said he had a feeling we’d find you here.” Female Armin… Historia, chirped.        

“Actually, it was more like he was certain we’d find you here.” Beanpole… Bertolt, added.

Said blond was smiling innocently at them. But Levi had a feeling it was anything but innocent. He must be on to something that concerns his friend. Whatever that is.

“So, will you be joining us, Levi?” Freckles… Marco, asked. “We’re gonna go get a bite to eat. We usually skip the cafeteria food if we had enough time to go somewhere else.”

When was the last time Levi was ever invited to hang out? Hell, if he could remember.

“Unfortunately, I can’t. My next class starts in less than fifteen minutes.”

‘And all this sudden socializing and being… recruited in a friendship group is not really something I’m good at.’

“That’s okay, we could try next time.” The brunet smiled. “And you’re still taking on Annie later, right?”

“Wait, he’s what?” Historia interjected.

“Annie’s challenged him to a sparring match.” Eren answered smugly.

“I thought Annie wasn’t coming out?” Armin asked.

Wasn’t… until Levi provoked her somehow. She actually feels really close right now. If I concentrate hard enough, I could hear her.”

And somehow, Levi could see how the brunet’s eyelids were subtly shifting lower when his gaze would linger on a spot, giving him that half-lidded, lethargic look that Annie usually has when she’s fronting. Then he would blink and open his eyes wide enough again.

Fucking fascinating.

“Now, I gotta see this.” Armin piped up. “You guys want to see it too, right?”

He was answered with enthusiastic nods from the three others.

“Well… that is, if it’s okay with you?” Marco asked hesitantly, expectantly.

As if Levi had a choice.

“I haven’t known you for longer than ten minutes, but I don’t expect you’d listen even if I decline, what with that look on your faces.”

Grade-A social skills right there.

Yet somehow, they didn’t seem to be that affected with his attitude at all and were just giving him guilty smiles.

“Actually, I think we would listen.” Bert started.

“But only after we’ve pestered you enough.” Historia finished.

No wonder they’re friends with this brat.

 

And he really should’ve seen it coming when they entered the shop just five minutes before Levi’s shift ends.

“Hi, guys!” The brunet beamed beside him.

“Hey, Eren.” Historia waved back. “You don’t mind we wait here for you, right? We just had nowhere better to go.”

“Nah, it’s perfectly fine.”

“Armin said we were to meet here, he still have classes though. Marco, too.” Bert explained.

It was really hard for the raven not to notice the blatant height difference between the two. Historia was not even close to reaching Bert’s shoulders. Not that Levi was any better, but that’s entirely beside the point.

(And thank fuck there was someone shorter than him).

The brunet took their orders while Levi set out to make them. He relished in the fact that he had to tilt his head slightly down when he handed over the blonde’s drink. (That’s a rare occurrence when it comes to the raven).

And then he instantly hated everything when he had to tilt his head high up when the fucking big-ass tree of a student came next.

He could tell the brat was trying hard to bite back his amusement at Levi’s sour expression, and he gave him a look that says, “One word, and I’ll spar your ass right here, right now.”

Thank fuck the brat decided to hold his tongue.

“I’m clocking out.” He announced as he stepped into the back room.

“You remember which gym we’re meeting later, right?” The brunet asked when he came back out in casual clothing.

“How could I forget?” Levi stated flatly. Not only was he familiar with the place, but the brat had just been telling him every 20 minutes.

“I’ll see you later, then. Or Annie will. Hopefully.” He grinned.

The raven didn’t give another response and just strode out of the establishment. He made his way back to his apartment for an hour of downtime before packing up the necessities for the activity and changing into a more appropriate outfit; which, for him, was a dark grey t-shirt and loose shorts.

It’s been a while since Levi last… “sparred” with someone. (Quotation marks, ‘coz his version of sparring involves beating the other guy/s up). Sure, he’s seen Annie move in some of the videos, but he’s never seen her fight with another person, other than the brief glance of it during one of their earlier coffee shop encounters.

He’s interested to see on how exactly she “protects” Eren.

Hell, ever since he discovered about the Eren’s condition, he’s been interested about a lot of things revolving around the brat.

Which is definitely unlike him.

By the time he arrived at the area, Eren and his squad were already there. It was a fighting gym where a few punching bags hung from the sides, racks of dumbbells on the corners, judo mats taking up most of the space, there was even a fighting ring and an octagon inside.

There wasn’t a lot of people present at the building, which suits the raven perfectly. Hell knows how sweat and body odor could easily take over the atmosphere in places like this. The two blonds and Marco were lounging on one area of the mats, while Bert was helping the brunet do sit-ups not too far from the others. They chose a spot near the corner, furthest from the other users of the gym. Again, this suits Levi’s preferences perfectly.

“Levi, there you are!” Armin was the first to notice him approach.

The others’ attention turned to his direction, and even Eren stopped with his sit-ups. He was wearing black sweatpants and a white shirt. However, at the impassive face of the brunet, it was easy for Levi to tell that Annie was already out.

He set his duffel bag just a little further away from where the other three where sitting, took off his shoes and socks, and placed them neatly beside his bag, before proceeding to the center of the mat to do some warm-up stretches.

Eren, or Annie, had stopped with the sit-ups and was instead rolling his shoulders while bending his neck from side-to-side.

“Oh, my gosh! This is so exciting!” Historia whisper-squealed at the side as Bert joined them on the spectating. Armin already had his camera out.

Both people on the mats took their sweet time getting prepped while visually sizing each other up.

“So, what’re the rules?” Marco asked as they waited for the match to begin.

“I don’t know. I guess no serious blows?” Armin answered uncertainly.

“How do we know when it ends, though?” Bert followed up.

“Maybe when one of them taps out or something.” The blond responded.

None of them were anywhere near experts on this stuff.

Aside maybe from those two who were still assessing the other through looks alone.

“Umm… are you guys ready?” Armin asked hesitantly when they noticed nothing was still happening.

Both gave consecutive short nods before taking their stance. Annie was slightly crouching with her fists raised towards head-level, like how Levi saw her in one of the videos. The raven took a slightly similar stance, though with his fists slightly lower and more distanced from each other.

Historia was practically squealing in her place, while the others were subconsciously leaning forwards in their seats at the floor.

“Uhh, who’s gonna signal the start of the match?” Marco asked lowly.

The three guys were looking at each other, and before they knew it, Historia practically bounced from her seat and yelled, “Start!”

It was like everything happened in the blink of an eye. Annie had launched herself towards the raven and threw a hook towards his head. Levi’s reflexes were fast and he ducked at the last second, using his own momentum to throw an uppercut, but it merely grazed the brunet's chin as he stepped back.

Without wasting any moment, Annie made her next move and aimed to kick Levi at the side. The raven blocked the blow with his arm. He was surprised at the strength, though. Maybe the muscle-training was already starting to pay off. Annie was relentless as she attempted to sweep the raven with her other toe, which Levi side-stepped before it made contact.

She used her momentum to deliver another kick high up to the raven’s head. Levi caught the offending foot this time, though she didn’t hesitate to use his hold and jumped to deliver a straight kick aiming for his chest.

Levi saw through this attack and dropped his hold in a split-second to step back. She landed hard on her back – the fall cushioned by the mats – but immediately rolled back to stand up again. Unfortunately, Levi used this moment to close the distance and launched a straight punch to the face. She instinctively tilted her head to the side before his fist made any contact. And she can’t deny she was surprised by the rush of air that was carried off with that punch.

The raven knew she was using Eren’s longer limbs to her advantage. However, all of Levi’s brawls had him on the short side.  He was far too used by it to know that they would always use distance to their advantage.

That doesn’t mean he can’t turn the tables with that fact, though.

So after she evaded the first punch, he followed it through with an uppercut on his other fist, fully expecting she would step back to put that distance between them, and would probably hurl another punch in his direction.

So when that happened, Levi used that window of opportunity to grab her arm and yank her down. Though when she wasn’t low enough, Levi used his full weight and maneuvered his body expertly to throw both his legs up to trap Eren’s head and the arm he was still gripping in a triangle choke hold. Eren may be taller, but Levi was heavier.

The raven landed on his back, and Annie bent forwards awkwardly, still trapped in the other’s hold. A few shifts of his hips and legs, and Levi had the other completely strangled and helpless by the hold. All he had to do now was wait for the other to tap out, or pass out from the lack of blood supply to the brain.

Fortunately, Annie was smart enough to choose the former. So when Levi felt the desperate tap on his leg, he released her immediately before rolling over to stand up. He looked over his opponent to see she was rolling her left shoulder and tilting her head from side-to-side.

“Wow.” A voice sounded from the sidelines. Levi didn’t have to look to know it was Armin.

“Yeah.” Bert followed-up.

“That was…” Marco trailed off.

“Amazing!” Historia burst out. “Armin! You got all of that, right?” She crawled over to the other blonde’s side.

And then the four of them were huddled together to re-watch the fight on Armin’s camera.

“You’re good.” Annie admitted. Levi flicked his gaze back to her.

“You’re not bad yourself.” He returned.

They just looked at each other for a while.

“It felt like you weren’t holding back on your punches, though. How could you when you’re against a delicate and fragile girl like me?” Her tone remained emotionless as she said this.

Levi let his gaze slowly sweep over Eren’s entire profile.

“It’s kinda hard to tell.” He retorted dryly.

“Hey, Levi!”

When the raven turned his sights back to the group, he was surprised to see two blonds almost pressed up to his face that he had to take a step back.

“Do you think you could try that move to Bertolt over there?” Armin asked, with Historia nodding enthusiastically.

“Wait, what?” Bert piped from the back.

“A triangle choke hold is not really something you can easily do to someone taller than you.” Levi stated.

“But you just did it with Annie. I mean, Annie who is in Eren’s body.” Historia pointed out.

“I said it wasn’t easy, not that it’s not possible.” The raven clarified.

“Just try it with Bertolt, please!” The blonds chorused.

Levi had no idea when and how he had let himself be manipulated by a bunch of brats.

After a hesitant Bertolt stood in front the raven, the blonds were practically radiating with excitement; the male one already at the ready with his camera, while the female one was bouncing by the soles of her feet.

“Umm… should we really do this?” Marco hesitantly asked.

And was answered with twin “YES!”

Unbeknownst to Levi, the cause of the blondes’ enthusiasm was seeing someone around their range of height, make another person, who’s taller, submit to them.

As the raven tried to figure out how he was going to pull-off the move with someone who’s practically twice taller than him, he was ticked-off by the fact that he had to tilt his head way back to accommodate for the fucking beanpole and just decided to, “Fuck it.”

He yanked the other’s arm down and maneuvered his body to swing his legs up as he did before. It was a lot awkward with the height difference, so Levi took another approach and rolled them over so the taller was lying on his back and struggling, still locked on the hold. It wasn’t even that tight but it only took a few seconds for him to tap out, and the raven released him immediately.

“Did it hurt?” Historia asked.

“It wasn’t obvious? I didn’t want to wait and see what happens if he takes it further.” Bert admitted as he rubbed his shoulder.

"You didn't strike me as the Jiu-Jitsu type." Annie commented.

The raven knew she was referring about the height disadvantage.

"I'm not." Levi stated. "I didn't want to end the match with a knockout and deal unnecessary damage to the brat's body."

"How're you so good at this?" Marco asked curiously.

"Practice." was Levi's clipped answer.

Though what he really meant was "experience".

 


 

“Hey, Levi.”

 

When the brunet went in for his shift the next day, despite the fact that he was beaming as he entered, somehow... Levi could just feel it was somebody else.

He let his eyes trail the other as he went into the back room to change, then back out to stand behind the till.

“Is something wrong?” Eren asked as he felt the raven’s eyes bore into him.

“What prompted a switch this time?” He asked offhandedly.

The brunet’s brows shot up to his hairline, before morphing into one of confusion.

"What do you mean?" He asked.

Levi merely stared straight into his eyes for a few, agonizing seconds.

"You know what I mean, Sasha." He deadpanned.

The brunet looked like he was trying his hardest to maintain composed.

"It's Eren." He stated.

"Is that so?" There was a lilt in the raven's tone.

 Eren continued to frown at him, and Levi didn't back down on his statement. He was willing the other to admit by looks alone.

The tension was broken when a customer entered the shop and approached the two.

"I'll have a cappuccino and two chocolate rolls."

Eren worked behind the cash register while Levi set off to make the order. He set the cup of cappuccino down on the tray first before moving to fetch the rolls.

"Oh, wait." He purposefully lifted the plate of chocolate rolls near the brunet's nose, while feigning to check on the drink.

"Cappuccino, right?" He pretended to ask the customer.

Only when the customer confirmed the order did Levi set the plate on the tray and watched said customer step away.

"You're horrible." The brunet grumbled.

"I don't know why you even try. It's not like I'm not aware." He smirked.

Sasha just made a noise that was somewhere between a groan and a whine.

"You still haven't answered my question." Levi reminded. "What prompted a switch this time?"

"I don't know, really. Sometimes, the switches just get random. Or I don't know, maybe Eren was looking at food or something. Somehow, we can't switch back, though. So based on what we agreed with having routines, I have to be Eren at this moment. Like make people believe I was Eren. Not like we haven't been trying to do it before, but I prided myself in being the best Eren impersonator in the system. And now, you've stomped on my pride." She complained. "How'd you know, anyway?"

'Your eyes.' Levi wanted to say, but bit back his tongue.

"Dunno. Guess Eren's a lot chattier." He shrugged.

Sasha just hummed in agreement.

They spent the next few minutes in relative silence.

"How does it feel like being in a male's body?" The raven suddenly blurted out.

"What?"

"You're a girl, right? How does it feel like being in Eren's body? Does it bother you?" The question had been bothering him for a while now.

"Not really. I mean, when I don't really think about it, it just feels normal. I still feel like me. But when I look at the mirror, sure I see Eren, but... I don't know. I guess I've always just accepted it as it is. We are soldiers in our inner world, so we're always surrounded by a lot of men. I guess that helped in adjusting to being in one." She explained.

Levi asked more about their inner world which Sasha catered to answer. He learned that Sasha was originally a hunter before becoming a soldier, thus, why she was good at accuracy. He'd also convinced (intimidated) her to talk in a native accent like how she did back in her hometown, and was surprised at how genuine she sounded as she spoke. He'd also come to learn that Sasha's gluttony resulted from the fact that their village was having a shortage of animals to hunt and food to grow ever since the attack of the titans.

"How is your inner world story so detailed? Is it always like that?"

"It differs from system to system. Ours is actually unique because of... well, because of what you've just heard. But we think that's just the brain's way of creating reasons on why we are the way we are."

If he used to wonder if the condition was ever to come short of being dumbfounding, he now knew the answer to that was written in bold neon letters of "NO".

"You know, you're not as intimidating as I thought you were." Sasha commented out of the blue.

The raven raised a brow at her.

"I'm not saying you're not. 'Coz you really are." She defended. "What I'm trying to say is that I think I now know why Eren... wanted to be your friend."

"And why's that?"

"Like I said, you're not as intimidating as I thought you were." She responded vaguely.

Levi just leveled her with a look, but didn't say anything.

"You know that means we're your friends too, right? We, as in, the alters? I know Mikasa still has a bone to pick with you, and Annie is still secretly fretting over her loss in your match – thanks to you, though, she's taking Eren's muscle training more seriously. But... if your Eren's friend, then that just means he trusts you, and that we could be ourselves around you. So... we're your friends, too. If you want." She hastily added the last sentence in.

Levi didn't respond to this. Didn't know how to.

 

He didn't know how to feel suddenly having a lot of "friends" after spending years of keeping other people at arm's length.

Chapter Text

“Armin! I got accepted at the coffee shop!” The brunet announced as he practically slammed the door open.

Armin squeaked from the sudden (dramatic) entrance of his friend, and dropped the book he was reading. You would think after years of living with the brunet, he would get used to the unexpected outbursts (amongst other things) from his friend. But nope, you can’t control heart attack, unfortunately.

“That’s great, Eren.” The blond commended, picking up the book that landed ungracefully on the floor. “What did the shopkeeper say?”

“He… uhh…” The brunet trailed off.

When blue eyes peered up from the page he was reading, he noticed the other was staring blankly at the pile of books on the coffee table, rubbing his nape all the while. He already knew the drill and waited patiently for the next identity to come out.

It took almost a minute for the brunet to snap back to attention and rub his eyes.

“Hey there, Ar. What were you saying?” The brunet asked as he looked at the blond on the couch.

Ever since his friend was finally diagnosed with the condition – or hell, even way before that when he only had his suspicions and self-research to rely on – Armin had developed some sort of sixth sense over which one he was interacting with.

“Hey, Jean. Been a while.” He responded confidently. “I was just asking Eren what the shopkeeper had said. He told me he got the job.”

Jean sank down on the couch opposite of the blond and randomly picked up a book. “Yeah, well… from what I could tell, I can’t even be sure if he was really that nice or it was just the alcohol speaking.”

“You were co-conscious?”

“Kind of. Reiner, too, I guess. I suppose it was to keep the idiot from saying idiotic things. But in hindsight, I think that was hardly needed.”

“So when are you starting?”

“We’re to be oriented at Friday by the one we’d be working with on our shifts. Pray tell your friend doesn’t accidentally switch out during that time. Heaven knows he needs it more than any of us.”

They kept chatting idly while they merely skimmed through whatever it was they were reading. Armin was already used to Jean’s bluntness. At first, he was shocked hearing the words coming out from his friend’s mouth, but after some much needed medical enlightenment, and a lot of exposure, he had learned how to adapt to each of the different personalities that existed inside one mind and body.

 

“Armin! Do you know of a guy named Levi Ackerman?”

The blond jumped out of his skin, and he almost grazed his finger with the knife he was holding as his friend made one of his bursting entrances again. It was really a wonder why he hasn’t been rushed to the hospital for a heart-attack at this point.

“No. What about him?” He asked as he calmed his pulse to resume his task.

The brunet started talking as he followed his friend’s voice towards the kitchen.

“Holy smokes, Ar! He looks like a fucking god with an aura like Satan. He looks so hot but he acts so cool. He kinda let it slip that he also studies at the same university. That’s it! We’re getting a dorm now. I don’t care what I said before, if that guy is at the same university, there’s a high chance he’s also rooming in one of the dorms there.” He was talking animatedly as he leaned by the sink beside the blond.

“I take it this Levi guy is your new co-worker?”

“Yes! Like, what are the odds, right? I knew picking that coffee shop was a great decision. I just had a feeling there was something in that shop that…”

“You chose that shop ‘coz it’s the closest to the campus.” The blond interjected.

“That too, but that’s beside the point.” He dismissed. “Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that he’s this really intimidating short guy whose tongue could put Jean’s horse-mouth to shame. But at the same time, he’s really good at making a latte art of a cat it was difficult not to coo as I watched him work. I have no doubt he would’ve kicked my ass nine ways to Sunday if I did that. But damn, Ar, my gay little heart can barely contain it. Fuck, I don’t even know if he’s straight or not.”

Armin let his friend ramble. If he could fully accept his friend despite his condition, the case of his sexuality doesn’t even come remotely close to it. He knows all about Eren’s crushes since high school. But even back when he wasn’t even aware of his condition yet, none of his crushes really went further than that. And by the time he finally knew what was happening with him, he was even more hesitant to consider ever being in a relationship. Hell, he was even hesitant in choosing his friends. Which was why he was settling with concealed admirations and mere acquaintances.

Armin knew of his insecurities despite him never saying it out loud. And his heart goes out to the brunet. Heaven knows what he had and has to go through.

Despite of that, he was proud of his friend for all the progress he’s made. He could still remember the tragedy the Jaeger’s have had, and how much it impacted the brunet. He could still remember the loss he felt when Eren and his father moved away. It was like losing a family member. Because that’s what Eren had always been to him: a brother.

And he wasn’t using that as a mere metaphor. The blond knows what it’s like to lose a family member. His own parents had died in a plane crash, leaving him in the care of his grandfather way before he could even reach the age of 10.

However, when Armin went back home one day and found a couple of people he didn’t recognize talking with his grandfather, his grandpa had gently asked him to go upstairs to his room and start his homework, like how he usually does.

As young as he was, he could tell the adults had something important to discuss. What it was about, he didn’t know. And he wanted to.

So he took the few steps up the stairs until he was out of sight from the other people and stayed there. They seemed to be talking about some kid who was found to have been abused by his foster family, with no close relative to take him in. Armin briefly wondered who in their family could have been unfortunate enough.

And when he heard Eren’s name, it was like his mind went static.

“Where is he?!” He demanded as he rushed back down the steps, manners forgotten. “I’m his friend. Where is he? Is he okay? Is he hurt?”

Being only at the mere age of 12, his actions may have been considered that of a child throwing a fit. But Armin’s grandfather knew he was too mature for his age, and have placated him by asking the blond to sit beside him and letting him in on the conversation.

It wasn’t long after that that Eren had started living with them. A hollow of a shell at first, but was gradually improving as time went by.

Another strange occurrence was when a large sum of money was deposited at his grandfather’s bank account. They later found out it was Eren’s father who had done it. But they remained clueless as to why he never showed up for his son. Armin assumed Mr. Jaeger must have still been wallowing in guilt and self-pity. He never really seemed like himself ever since his wife’s death. Ultimately, the blond decided not to tell Eren about it. He didn’t want to cut back open healing wounds.

He was relieved by the brunet’s rapid recovery despite what he went through. Really, he was happy for him. But he was just concerned about some “side-effects” that seem to come along with his recovery.

The first and what was probably the most bothering for him was the brunet’s lack of memory of the certain abuse he went through. Though, he thought it was normal for victims to choose not to remember whatever it was that they had to suffer. What he couldn’t understand was how Eren claimed not to remember how his mom died, despite Armin being told that the brunet had been in the house when the neighbors had called the authorities.

Not only that, Eren had been noticed to have times when he seemed depressed. “Depressed”, because that was the only explanation he could find from his friend’s moments of silence and being distant. He thought that was somehow still in the realm of being normal, considering the different experience his friend went through growing up. Little did he know, that was only the beginning of the complexity Eren’s own brain had weaved to help him cope.

It was difficult at first. There have been times when Eren would suddenly go out, and then call the blond hours later asking him to pick him up in a place he couldn’t remember going to. Then there was always the element of surprise when he’d just find Eren not really acting like Eren from time to time.

Eren had lost friends, got lost, lashed out, secluded himself, spaced out, bitten more than he could chew (literally speaking), starved himself, freaked out, calmed down, and everything in-between; and Armin had been there to witness him go through it.

And he was proud of his best friend. Sure, he has his flaws, but who doesn’t? Why would one’s condition make them any less better than the other?

You can’t just say a piece of art is any less good because the person who made it is autistic.

You can’t just say a piece of literature is any less good because the person who wrote it is dyslexic.

You can’t just say a piece of idea is any less good because the person who said it is schizophrenic.

And you can’t just say a person is any less human because the condition they have brings out the fangs of the cynic.

Because what if they really are good? What if they are valid? What if they’re just human?

After all, it wasn’t like they chose to be that way.

 


 

 

Armin thought his friend’s fighting days, or more like protect-Armin-from-bullies days, would end at high school. Unfortunately, there are just some people who refuse to grow up.

It usually ends up rough, especially if he couldn’t switch to Annie for some reason. And this time was one of those times.

He stayed at Eren’s side as he accompanied him towards his workplace, half-worried his friend would track down the trio – who harassed him earlier – again, if he would leave the brunet’s side.

They made it inside the shop and his ears were instantly greeted by a sharp, “What in the actual fuck happened to you?”

He turned his head towards the source of the voice and found a grumpy-looking, short guy who had neat trims of black hair falling just above his eyes, and the rest was styled into an undercut.

‘So this is Levi.’

Eren had mentioned he was intimidating despite the height, and Armin thought he was just exaggerating. Now, he could say he believed his friend fully.

He apologized in place for his friend who just made his way directly into the back room, and he instantly noted what his friend had meant when he compared him to Jean.

Honestly, he couldn’t tell what had Eren swooning over this guy. Being a bisexual himself, he could at least agree that the raven was good-looking. But he was too unnerved with his aura to admire the view.

After a few words with the brunet, and a “nice to finally meet you” to his co-worker, he exited the establishment and made his way back to the campus.

He hasn’t even gotten that far yet when he spotted the trio that had roughed-up his friend earlier. He immediately avoided their area of periphery and silently watched where they were heading. When their direction led them to the very coffee shop the brunet worked, his stomach instantly sank and he stalked behind them despite not having any idea what to do.

He didn’t want his friend to be involved in a fight while he was working. It was a sure-way ticket of getting fired on-the-spot. And Eren didn’t deserve that. Yet at the same time, he couldn’t figure out how he was going to prevent that from happening.

When they did enter the shop, Armin was at a complete loss of what to do. Should he go in and beg his friend not to fight back? Would that even do any good? He seriously doubt it, but what other options does he have?

He was about to follow-through with his not-so-good plan when something caught his eye as he passed by the shop’s window. He was surprised that it was the raven who was doing the talking while his friend simmered in fury behind him. Experience told him that Eren has difficulties keeping a lid on his temper, and would usually jump at the slightest taunting. Yet one look (glare) from the guy, and he was keeping his feet rooted on the spot.

He couldn’t hear a lot from where he was standing. He could vaguely hear the voice of one of the trio, but it was impossible to hear the raven talk. He wasn’t raising his voice and looked perfectly calm being in-between a seething brunet in his back, and an obnoxious trio of students in front of him. He even managed to make the latter walk away without an incident. How?

Why was Levi even coming to Eren’s defense in the first place? Is it out of duty or a sense of responsibility? Or is it something a lot more subtle?

Whichever it was, the blond was slowly coming to an understanding of what Eren must have seen in him.

 

So by the time he realized they couldn’t keep hiding Eren’s condition from him anymore, the blond took it to himself to do a few adjustments to the files Eren had prepared whenever he was going to reveal to someone about his condition. Historia, Marco, and Bert have all watched it, too.

But this was Levi.

And after the endless stories his friend had rambled on about this guy, how he was actually nice underneath his demeanor, and especially after that incident with the woman who forced Mikasa to take over and block out that certain memory, he figured there was indeed something in the raven that Eren had seen.

Maybe something you couldn’t see in other people, if the blond’s instincts were right.

So he included in the videos he had previously taken months before of all the other alters’ and their opinion on a certain raven-haired man.

“Here goes nothing.” He muttered under his breath as he clicked on the ‘copy’ option.

If Levi does reject Eren after he’d find out about his condition, then it’s not like it would matter much.

But then it did matter (for Armin, at least), since the raven had expressed interest in Eren’s condition instead of the more unfavorable options. And heaven knows how elated the brunet had felt after that.

He wanted to get to know the guy his friend had been pining over for months. As much as he would let him, anyway. But then he noticed how stiff he seemed when they joined the two in their conversation. (He knew Eren would be around the area where Levi’s classes were. He hasn’t been too subtle about hinting that). He could only guess the raven wasn’t too comfortable being around new people.

He could agree, though that Levi could be soft underneath his hard exterior. He could see it during the sparring match with Annie. If you look closely enough, you could see how he was more focused on evading than working on the offense. Whether he was reduced to doing so, or it was really his intention to, it was his statement that made an impact to the blond.

“I didn't want to end the match with a knockout and deal unnecessary damage to the brat's body.”

So, if Armin read through it right, he was being ever-so-subtly thoughtful by using submission tactics despite of it being more of a disadvantage and difficult to him, and despite the fact that he just hinted at preferring of knocking out his enemies.

 

And when Sasha arrived at the dorm after work the next day, declaring she was now starting to find her co-worker just a bit less scary, – and she was the one who expressed to have felt the most intimidation from the raven – Armin could only believe Eren must be on to something really good this time.


And heaven knows he should deserve it.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Levi!”

The raven could only sigh in resignation. This is the fourth time in a row that Eren had “accidentally” wandered around the commerce building of the university. He was practically expecting it by now.

He only arched a brow in acknowledgment as the brunet took a seat across from him without waiting for an invitation. Again.

“Do you have any plans this afternoon?” The brunet grinned.

 “Depends on why you’re asking.”

They didn’t have to go to work today after one of Hannes’ friends had rented the shop for the day for some kind of party or something. Whatever.

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’ then.” He grinned even wider. “What do you say we hang out with the others later? Our schedules are all free, anyway.”

“No.”

It was really an automatic response. One that Levi didn’t even think about.

The younger pouted. The older merely stared.

“Come on, Levi. This is the 10th time I’ve asked you to hang out. It’s not that bad, really.”

“7th.” The raven blurted out.

Eren frowned in confusion before he figured out what the other meant.

“You’ve been counting?” He asked with a shit-eating grin.

Well, shit.

“I know how to count, Jaeger.” He attempted to bite back, but knew it amounted next to nothing if the smug look on the brat’s face was anything to go by.

“So, is that a ‘yes’?”

The raven was about to spout a few colorful words when the brunet cut him off with, “If you do agree to hang out with us, I’ll wipe the window spotless for a week.”

Levi seriously considered it for a moment.

“Even the window pane. Just how you like it.” The brunet threw in.

Yet the older still wasn’t giving a response.

“Please?” He resorted to pleading instead, complete with the fucking puppy eyes that was fucking perfect with his fucking gorgeous eyes.

“Fine.” Levi huffed out.

If he didn’t agree now, the brat will just continue to pester him ‘til he gives in. What’s worse is the high possibility of him calling for backup if he still gets turned down. Hell knows Levi has had one too many brats to deal with lately.

Fucking persistent, indeed.

 


 

Levi arrived at the meeting place ten minutes ahead of schedule. It was in front of a gift shop. It wasn’t that he was looking forward to going, he just didn’t have anything better to do. Plus, he thought it’d be better than to spend the time (over)thinking about what could happen and ending up not going at all.

He was surprised when there was a knock on the shop’s window behind him. Turning around, he was greeted by the large blue eyes of female Armin.

She was smiling sweetly while waving at him, then pointed towards the door of the shop. The raven merely stared at her. He knew what she was asking. But he didn’t know why she was asking (and him, of all people).

When the blonde noticed the other was not making any move to join her, she whipped her phone out and began typing. Then she pressed it on the glass for the raven to see. He had to squint to read what she had written.

“I NEED your opinion on something.”

Levi’s brow shot up at the request. What could she possibly “need” his opinion for?

When he focused his gaze back on the blonde, she clapped her hands together and mouthed, “Please.”

The raven sighed in resignation. He really was going to be dealing with a bunch of brats for the day.

When he finally entered, the blonde wasn’t where she was just seconds ago. He scanned the area until he saw a hand peeking out from one of the aisles. Her head appeared for a second before she called out, “I’m here!”

He couldn’t help smirking at the fact that she had to jump to see over the racks.

‘What a midget.’

And fuck does it feel good to say that.

By the time he stepped in beside the shorter (yes, rub it in while he can) blonde, he noticed she was focused on the display of assorted sunglasses. She picked up a pair of aviators with baby pink lenses and put it on.

“So what do you think?” She tilted her head on different sides to give the male a few angles to work on.

“Did you seriously just called me in for this?” He asked dryly.

She smiled guiltily. “You see, I don’t own any sunglasses ‘coz I can’t seem to find anything that fits me. So since you’re here, and since we still got time… what do you think?”

What’s a good adjective to use to a girl in this kind of situation?

“You look like shit.”

Fucking nailed it.

She didn’t seem to mind the choice of words though, and just proceeded to the next option. They spent the next 8 minutes trying to find the suitable ones, with Historia only going by the raven’s variety of “shit’s” – “It looks like crap”, “The previous shit looked less shitty than that shit”, or “You’re not pulling it off, so pull that shit out now”. When the older finally settled on “not bad”, it was with a pair of groucho glasses.

In the end, they exited the shop empty-handed.

“Oh, you’re here.” Marco commented as he saw them. Bertolt was already beside him.

“We’ve been here for the past 15 minutes or so.” Historia chirped.

“What were you doing then?” Bert asked.

“Levi was helping me pick out a pair of sunglasses.”

“And?” The tall one prompted.

“He wasn’t any help at all.” She pouted.

They continued chatting idly while waiting for the rest of the group, with Levi only responding to questions directed at him. Not that he’d admit it, but he was feeling slightly antsy by the unfamiliar company. Sure, he’d talk to them twice or thrice, but there were still infinite steps to be taken before they’d be braiding each other’s hair.

He only felt relief when the last duo finally arrived at the place.

“Sorry, we’re late. Eren was feeling a little switch-y earlier.” The blond explained.

“With whom?” Marco asked.

“I don’t know, really. There’s just all sorts of noises in my head right now.” Eren answered.

“Are you gonna be okay?” The raven asked, finally speaking out of his own volition.

The brunet grinned widely at him. “Of course. In case you didn’t know, this had happened and still happens a lot of times. The duration of when I could feel a switch could be for hours, a few minutes, or even instantaneously. So if I do switch, you just have to deal with whoever it might be.”

“I don’t think that’s a problem.” Marco responded, to which, Levi only nodded at.

“So where are we going this time?” Bert asked.

“Shouldn’t we let Levi decide since this would be his first time joining us?” Armin suggested.

He got everyone on-board with the idea.

“That’s right. So, Levi, is there anywhere you wanna go?” The brunet asked.

“Home.” He deadpanned.

“Come on, Levi. I know you like shit jokes, but don’t be such a party-pooper.” Eren pouted.

Levi had to admit that was a good one.

“I don’t know what you brats do in these kinds of shit, and the only reason I’m here is because you kept whining for me to.” He stated frankly.

“Maybe you should decide then, Eren.” Armin joined in. “I mean, still going by the fact that this is Levi’s first time joining us, maybe you should be the one to show the ropes or something.”

“Alright then.” The brunet agreed. “Let’s start with the basics.”

 


 

If the basics were going to the amusement arcades – as in the arcades where some carnival games are incorporated – Levi had no idea. He merely followed the group who was led by the very brat that dragged him here in the first place.

“Arcades, really?” He asked as he stepped beside the brunet. He may not have been expecting anything when he tailgated the brats, he just never thought “hanging out” meant acting like a bunch of high-schoolers.

Eren made an offended-shocked sound as his head whipped towards the raven, putting a hand on his chest for effect.

“Levi!” He exclaimed with feigned disbelief. “You should know that the arcades is where bonds are shared and trusts are built between friends. This is where the foundation of friendship begins. This is where you get to know the others a lot better and camaraderie…”

“Shut up, brat.” Levi cut him off. He may be clueless. But he’s not stupid.

The others could only shake their heads in amusement, also having gone through Eren’s sermon about arcades and friendships.

Truth was, Eren prided himself in being “the better one” when it came to arcade games; whether it was video games or virtual shooting games or air hockey or table soccer or high striker or whatever. Granted his basketball or ring toss or any game that requires accuracy skill and such could still use a lot of improvement, he merely shrugged it off as games of chance… even though it’s obviously not. Besides, he could still play better at those than his friends (only ‘coz he’s determined enough to beat them).

And now, he was contemplating whether or not bringing Levi to this place was a good idea. He was wiping him out in every game he challenges him.

Video games? It took 5 minutes to teach the raven everything before he was kicking his ass at it.  

Virtual shooting games?  He just told him to point-and-shoot and the raven was even saving his ass at co-op.

Air hockey? He felt like the disc flew towards his side of the goal as fast as his heart could beat.                

Table soccer? They had to stop before the raven could break the table.

High striker? The raven may have broken that one.

Hell, he even challenged him to a DDR match thinking the older would be less skilled at using his feet.

He was dead wrong.

“Is there something you’re not good at?” The brunet grumbled.

“If there is, I won’t tell you.” Levi smirked in amusement.

They were absently making their way towards the area where some sort of shooting game was found – one where you can win prizes – while the others were trying their luck at bulldozer and a couple of claw machines. There was a wide variety of prizes displayed, ranging from candies and snacks and pencils and little toys, to hankies and scarves and stuff toys and teddy bears.

Levi noticed the brunet came to a halt in front of the game and instantly knew he was about to issue another challenge.

“You might wanna switch to Sasha in this game brat.” He commented before the younger could even say the words.

Eren smiled but his attention was elsewhere. The raven followed his gaze and saw the line of scarves hanging across from them. It didn’t take long for him to start rubbing his nape and space out completely.

And then the smile was gone.

“You wanna get that scarf?” Levi asked, knowing full-well who he was talking to now.

“I already have one from Eren.” Mikasa answered.

Levi just hummed in reply, and before they even knew it, they were already in a wordless, heated match on who could score the most points.

Mikasa missed two of the targets while Levi missed none. She was already walking away when the attendant asked for the older to choose a prize.

“Hey.” He called out to the figure walking in front of him.

Mikasa stopped and turned to scowl at him, thinking he was going to rub his victory on her. She never expected what happened next though.

“Here.” He handed her the prize he had chosen and just walked away.

Her breath hitched when she saw what he had given her.

It was an embroidery set.

 


 

It was getting dark when the squad exited the building. Each of them were taking turns in challenging Levi to a game they were good at after they noticed that Mikasa had fronted – thus, Eren had stopped hogging the raven to himself. None of them won, though they came close especially during the onset when the older was still learning.

They didn’t know what else to do now that Eren wasn’t out to lead (drag) them. Levi thought they would call it a day, until…

“Oh my ever-loving food gods! Do you see that?!” The brunet exclaimed as he pointed to a pizza parlor across the street.

Levi was astounded at the abrupt change. It was the fastest switch he had ever seen the brunet do. One second he was impassive and the next he was beaming. There was no spacing out, no rubbing napes, nothing. It’s like it just happened at the snap of a finger.

The others followed the direction of, now, Sasha’s finger and noted she wasn’t pointing to the establishment as much as she was pointing at a little poster on the window.

 

54” Pizza Challenge

If you and 7 friends can finish this within 2 hours,

The pizza is free plus a cash prize of $1,000!!!

 

‘Of fucking course.’

And that was how he had found himself sitting in a booth with four other hesitant brats, and another one who was practically drooling.

“Sasha, are you sure we could do this? We’re even two people short.” Marco asked.

“Plus, it costs over 200 bucks!” Armin threw in.

“I’m not paying for shit if we lose.” Levi protested.

“Oh, come on, guys! I’m sure the ‘friends’ part were more for moral support.” She grinned.

When the pizza arrived at their table, several mouths hung open (one in repressed excitement) as the thing took the entirety of their table.

“I think I’m already full just looking at this.” The blond muttered, gaining a few slow nods from some of the group.

When the timer started, Sasha shoveled in piece after piece without any trace of hesitation. The others tried to keep up. If anything, this was already their dinner. And this thing does cost a lot, so might as well just give it their best.

Levi ate at his own pace. He didn’t want to be spending the rest of the day (or night) in a shitter, hating everything about the world. All because he couldn’t say no. (Well, he could. That doesn’t mean the others would let him out easily, though). This must be what peer-pressure is like.

Not even 30 minutes had passed and there were already a few complaints and agonizing groans being thrown in the air.

“This is impossible!” Armin exclaimed as he set down what must have been his 15th slice of pizza.

“I think my stomach’s gonna explode if I eat more.” Bert joined in.

“Chill, guys. We have two hours to finish this, and we’re almost into half of it.” The brunette encouraged, picking up another slice and practically swallowed it down.

How in the fuck does she do that?

In the end, Levi was the one who ate the least share (though he was still fairly full) while the others practically collapsed on the table. Safe to say, Sasha had eaten the most; maybe even half of the entire thing.

“Please give us a few minutes.” Marco almost whined at the attendant as she announced their win.

They didn’t know how long they spent to recuperate. But as soon as they felt they could stand up again, they all agreed to call it a day.

“I. Can’t. Move.” The brunet grumbled as his face was planted on the table. Whether it was still Sasha or Eren was out again, no one was sure.

“You, brat. This was your idea in the first place.” The raven chided. He only got an agonized moan in response.

Though they were basically dragging their feet now and had spent the last two hours torturing and pushing themselves to take in more than they usually do (all except for Levi, of course), they had free dinner, and an extra hundred plus bucks of cash in their pockets, so it was worth it.

Levi had to carry the brunet on his back after he refused to move an inch from the table. He didn’t even know if he was still conscious or not as he wasn’t even stirring from the raven’s hold.

“Do you think wine is a good way to take the taste of pizza from my throat?” Historia asked out of the blue.

“Why’re you asking?” The other blond asked in return.

She pointed to a stall that was displaying a few bottles of wine along with a sign that stated “Free Wine Tasting”.

“You’re better off drinking juice.” The raven commented, shifting Eren behind him. The brat was fucking heavy from all those slices he ate, or Sasha made him eat, at least.

“Are you saying I can’t handle my drink?” The blonde contested.

Levi gave her a quick once-over before glancing at the display of wine bottles.

“No offense, but those aren’t for kids, your highness.” He smirked.

Historia was appalled that the raven actually mocked her height (when he wasn’t doing any better). It might have been from too much pizza, but the others watched her stomp her way towards the stall.

“What’s she doing now?” Bert asked as they watched her talk to the attendant at the stall.

She spent the next few moments with smiles and even vaguely gestured to the guys behind her. And then she was given six plastic cups of crimson liquid, which she made a show of pouring it all in one cup in front of the raven.

“Wait, Historia…” Marco tried to stop her.

But she was already gulping down the entire cup.

“Hah! What do you have to say for that now, huh?” She exclaimed after wiping down her mouth with one hand.

She staggered as she made her way back to the group.

“I rest my case.” Levi deadpanned.

“You know what’s resting?” The blonde asked. She was already having the tell-tale signs of intoxication judging from the faint blush on her face.

“My fist… on your…” She trailed off as she gave a rather weak punch on the raven’s arm, before she was fully leaning in to him. Already wiped out.

Levi just stood there, contemplating whether or not shaking her off would be a good idea.

“Hey, brats.” He called out instead. “Mind giving a hand here? Mine are already full.”

The three other guys shuffled to peel of the blonde from him.

“Sorry. It’s just… we’ve never seen her like this before.” Marco explained.

Levi didn’t give a response to that and settled on shifting again the brat he was carrying.

They walked the rest of the way in relative silence with 2 out of 6 already passed out; Eren on Levi’s back, and Historia on Bert’s back.

The day wasn’t anything Levi had ever spent before. He didn’t even expect he’d be carrying back to their dorm the very person who dragged him out in the first place. And as much as he won’t declare it out loud, he could at least admit to himself that he enjoyed it at the very least.

It was new. And though it wasn’t entirely welcome at first… it was good.

 

He didn’t even notice the genuine smile that curled his lips at the thought.

 

Chapter Text

“Stop being so hard on yourself, bro.”

“Levi, you’re a lot better than you think you are.”

“I know you can do it.”

“We believe in you.”

 

The raven’s eyes fluttered open to the dark ceiling of his bedroom. He blinked for a couple more times, trying to re-orientate himself back to the present.

Tilting his head towards the direction of his bedside table, he noted his clock proudly displaying the godly hours of 1:23 AM in angry, neon red figures.

He tried to just go back to sleep; twisted and turned to find a more comfortable position. But who was he kidding? That shit never worked in the past.

Here we go again.

He slipped from underneath the covers and padded his way towards the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. Tea is always a good way to relax for him.

A steaming cup in hand and he made the familiar pattern of walking into his favored red sofa, and just try to unwind until his eyes decide they were tired again.

His brain had other plans though.

Broken images of his long deceased mother, his bastard of an uncle, a redheaded girl, a guy with sandy blond hair, and faces of people who are bad company that he used to deal with, flashed through his mind in an erratic yet continuous string.

 

 

Levi Ackerman was born and raised in the city of Mitras. Well, not so much in the progressive part of the city as he was in the slums of the said city – also known as the “Underground”.

His mother was a prostitute in a brothel, and he was merely the consequence from one of her clients. Though as atrocious as the case may be, his mother was anything but unkind to him. He was only 8 when she got infected by some sort of disease from one of her clients. And having no means nor resources that could grant them medical attention, his mother died on their very bed at the shithole that was their home.

Young as he was, he knew he was loved by his mother. Could feel the essence of that very word die on the same moment that she did. And as young as he was, he was clueless on what to do now that he was all alone.

So he stayed by his mother’s side. He didn’t know how long time had passed as he continued to refuse leaving her side. He didn’t care either. The smell of her rotting body couldn’t even force him away. Hell, it didn’t make much of a difference from the atmosphere in the shitty place anyway.

He felt himself getting weaker as more time passed by. He couldn’t remember the last time he had something to eat. He couldn’t even think straight anymore. So when an unknown man helped himself through their decaying door and straight into the bed where his mom’s corpse was, he could only watch in silence from the corner where he was curled up on his own.

The man seemed to know his mother, judging by how he called her by her real name rather than the alias she uses at work. Levi never really understood her job back then. All he knew was that she goes to her workplace every night where a lot of filthy-looking men go to. She always asked him to stay in the house and go to bed without her, promising she’ll be back before he’d wake up.

Most of the times, she’s there. But there are times when she wasn’t.

And there were times when she got back with bruises on some parts of her body, even her face.

She’d tell him she was just a little clumsy and tripped over something, or other half-baked excuses that child Levi would always believe. ‘Coz why would his mother lie to him, right?

“Damn, Kuchel you’ve lost a lot of weight, haven’t you?” The man spoke.

“She’s dead.” Levi didn’t even know he was voicing his thoughts out loud by now. He didn’t even know he could still speak.

The man turned his attention to him and asked for his name. Dazed from starvation, Levi merely answered the questions he could understand. He didn’t know if his voice was loud enough or if he was simply whispering, all he knew was that he was responding somehow.

When he was fully back to his senses, it was after the man who visited his dead mother fed him. He learned the man’s name was Kenny, and that he was taking him under his care.

If “care” was even the right word for it.

Sure, he was fed, clothed, and even sent to school. Kenny didn't want any sort of authority or just anyone from the government trailing after his ass. But other than that, there was nothing. It's like he was just given the means but there was no guidance on how to go about them.

He wasn't taught how to communicate well – which was one of the major problems he carried growing up. He didn't know how to make friends, and when he would get into a fight with the other kids, Kenny would cheer him on and would even teach him better ways on how to kick the other's ass (away from the supervision of school faculty and other grown-ups, of course).

He was 13 when he understood what Kenny does for a living. He was a drug lord. One of the most notorious, in fact. That explains the seemingly mansion-like house that they reside in despite Kenny barely stepping foot inside for long periods of time.

If Levi had been a problem kid during grade school, high school was even worse. The constant mocking of his height and scary looks involved him in more fistfights than he can count. Kenny was never present whenever the faculty would call for the attention of a parent or a guardian. He would only send one of his lackeys to take care of that stuff. Sometimes, there was even no one to stand up for him.

Whatever. If they don't care, why should he?

He was 14 when he got recruited in a gang. His growing reputation from the fights he got involved in was difficult not to go unnoticed by such groups. He didn't mind it. In fact, it felt like he was finally part of something. He couldn't say they were friends since he didn't really know them that much. He was just getting dangled along with whatever trouble they get into.

He was 15 when Kenny tried to train him into someone who could succeed him one day. He was 15 when he realized Kenny was his uncle. He was 15 when he realized he still had a family. He was 15 when he realized he wanted to make someone in his family proud.

He was 16 when he unintentionally saved a red-haired girl from a bunch of guys. They were chasing her after she stole something from them. However, after they bumped into the raven and noted he belonged in the opposing gang, they all went after him, instead.

Safe to say, he managed well by himself. Street fighting was something that could be equated to watching TV for Levi – it's mundane by now. He could probably break a pen more than he could write it. Yet even though he was nowhere near exceptional in his academics, he wasn't failing at it either.

He just didn't want to be stuck in school for longer than necessary. Finishing high school was something that was required for youngsters like him. If he could get over that, then it's just a flip of the bird to the idea of college and he'd rather be focusing on being his uncle's successor.

The redhead thanked him profusely, even though he had no idea what he did differently this time. She was insistent that she wanted to bring her savior to her home to treat him as he deserved. Despite being firm in his refusal, the redhead merely dragged him instead.

He was brought to a run-down shack that very much reminded him of his own home when he was a lot younger. There, he met a tall guy with sandy blond hair who immediately gave the girl an earful when he saw her.

He discovered that the girl, Isabel, had stolen a small box of cake from the guys (who were chasing her) to celebrate the birthday of the guy, Farlan. Farlan was moved by the gesture, but he was set on reprimanding Isabel never to do that again. He also thanked the raven for saving her and even invited him to eat with them.

That was how Levi found himself seated on the floor, eating (a now ruined) cake with two people he barely knew, along with celebrating the birthday of one of them. He didn't understand why the girl had to go through all that trouble just to get cake for her friend's birthday. If it was her brother, he'd probably understand. But she said they were just friends. So, no. He doesn't understand at all.

"That's what friends do. They're basically like you're non-biological family. So even if I say Farlan is my friend, I also mean that he's like a brother to me." Isabel had explained.

Yet Levi still couldn't comprehend it.

"Don't you have friends, Levi?" Farlan asked.

The raven thought for a moment even though he already knew the answer.

"I have the other gang members." He mumbled.

"I can't tell if that's a yes or no, but if anything, we're happy to be your friends." The blond offered.

Levi's face morphed into confusion and disbelief.

Who the fuck would want to be friends with him?

These two, apparently.

He didn't know how it happened, but he found himself getting more and more company from the two. He learned that they weren't able to go to school because of obvious financial reasons. The raven didn't mind giving his barely used school materials to them. He'd even teach them (with much hesitation) some of the things they couldn't understand.

Other times, he'd secretly hide cash under covers, inside pockets, and other good spots to keep it. He didn't want to appear showing-off by waving money in front of their noses. Sure, he could be an asshole. But he wasn't that far-off.

He didn't know what did it for him really. Was it their lifestyle that reminded him of his childhood? Was it the fact that they welcomed him despite barely even knowing him? Was it when they took his attitude in stride instead of clashing with it? Was it any of the above? Or was it something he hadn't thought about?

Fuck if he knew.

All he knew was that he didn't mind their company, and that it somehow felt different from the other connections he had with most people.

"Bro, how come I haven't met your girlfriend yet?" Isabel suddenly asked out of nowhere.

"What the fuck are you even talking about? I don't give a damn about that."

"Boyfriend, then." Farlan joined in.

"Ooh, I bet he's hot, that's why bro doesn't want to share him."

"Or maybe he's cute that Levi just keeps him in his pocket. Unless he's taller."

"Double fucks to the both of you." He muttered with no real venom in his words.

He was 17 when the topic of college came up between them. Farlan was curious whether or not he was going away to study. He simply stated the truth about not having any desire to do so and would just help his uncle with the drug-dealing business.

"Okay, but is that what you really want? I'm not talking about what your uncle wants, Levi. I'm talking about what you want. Is drug-dealing something you really want to do? Or are you just going along with it because of your uncle? Do you really want to live the rest of your life as a fugitive of the law?"

Levi didn't know. He didn't know what he wanted for himself.

"Come on, bro. There must be something you want to do." Isabel encouraged. "Maybe you want to have your own business? Something that's not illegal? What about a company that deals with cleaning products?"

'Or a tea shop.' His mind suddenly supplied. But he shook it off.

"Yeah, right. Like I could do that. You know me, the only thing I'm good at is picking fights and driving people up the walls." He shrugged.

He got twin frowns at that statement.

"Stop being so hard on yourself, bro." The redhead pouted.

"That's right. Levi, you're a lot better than you think you are." The taller agreed.

Levi wanted to believe that, but...

Months later, a rumble broke out between the gang where Levi was a part of, and another opposing gang who was also well-known not just around the area, but throughout other cities as well. It was in the vicinity where Farlan and Isabel lived, but the raven was too high in adrenaline to notice. It got to a point where innocent civilians got injured and the police got involved.

Shots were fired, panic broke out. Some people were injured, some people were killed.

And among those of the latter, were a redhead girl, and a guy with sandy blond hair.

 

Levi shook the memories away, not wanting to remember the details further. Only then did he noticed that he had long since drained his cup of tea and set off to busy himself with cleaning after it.

He knew it wouldn't be much. So he wasn't surprised when his thoughts drifted back to that already paved path after he settled back on the sofa.

 

He was 18 when he ran away from the house. After the death of Farlan and Isabel, he realized he didn't want to be like Kenny. Their words kept repeating in his head.

"I know you can do it."

"We believe in you."

He didn't believe in himself, but he wanted to atone to his mistakes by doing what they think he could do: Be a better person.

With only a few clothes and some cash he saved, he started doing odd jobs here and there. Whether it was pumping gas, cleaning windows, serving food and drinks, sweeping the streets, he would take all that he could get.

He was 20 when news of Kenny's death reached him. He was killed during one of the police operations.

Levi didn't really know how to take that in. The man didn't really raise him, but he gave him some means to live, nonetheless. He was a blood relative, but he felt more distant than even his former gang members.

The news was relayed to him by a blond guy with blue eyes and bushy eyebrows. He didn't know if he worked for the police, or if he was even the one who killed Kenny. Hell, why did he even bother looking for Levi just to tell the news of his uncle's death?

"In case you were wondering, the reason I tracked you down is because you're the only family member we could find that is linked to him." Eyebrows explained, as if he had just read through the raven's thoughts.

Levi stiffened at the information. Does that mean he gets dragged into his shit, too? 'Coz what-the-ever-loving-fuck! He was doing so well not to mess with the law for years now, and even refused to take his uncle's position. Is all that just a big "ha ha motherfucker" for him?

"Don't worry, I'm not here to arrest you or any of that sort." Eyebrows stated. Levi really was considering the possibility of him being able to read minds.

"I've been monitoring you for a while now, and I could tell you didn't want anything to do with your uncle's line of work. I've researched a little of your background, and took it upon myself to offer some... assistance of some sort."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" The raven hissed.

Monitoring him? Researched his background? Offer some assistance? What the fuck?

He slid a card on the table in between them.

"This was one your uncle's. Apparently, it's named after one of his aliases that the authorities haven't caught on to. It's still active and I could tell you the pin code to it. There's a decent amount of money there. Transfer it to your account."

Levi's eyebrows shot up to his hairline.

"You're shitting me." He gave an incredulous laugh. "If you want me arrested, you could've done better."

"I'm the one getting in trouble if the authorities find out. I found this in one of your uncle's drawers near where your file is located. I'm no one to judge what your relationship with your uncle must have been like, so I won't be saying your uncle must have left that for you. But after conducting research on your background, I figured this could be used in help of... your current finances."

The raven still couldn't believe what bushy brow was spouting. This has got to be some sort of trick.

"If you want it, take it. If you don't, I'll surrender it to the authorities. I would advise you to think about it though. Take the money, go to college, start up your own life again. Or leave it be, stick to your current job, and hope for the best. The choice is yours."

After much deliberation, Levi decided to fuck it, swiped the card from the table, and took his leave. Though not without sparing the blond another look and a mumbled, "Thanks."

He was 21 when he left Mitras, went to Trost, and started college there. It was rough at first since it had been years when he last attended school. Not only that, he was never a good student to begin with. He spent the last few months orientating himself to how things work, and got an apartment to himself (after discovering how filthy college dorms were, and how he refused to room with a potential mental punching bag).

He didn't want to depend on his uncle's wealth, and he was in no illusion that it could last him forever, so he looked for a job that could occupy him.

It was then he discovered the coffee shop. Just a step close to the tea shop he once dreamed to own. The owner was nice, though questionable in his state of sobriety. And his co-workers weren't so bad either. Most of them had come and gone, but Levi had stayed for years now – since his freshman year, until now, in his senior year. You could say he haven't left since he started.

It really wasn't much, but he was content. In fact, there wasn't anything that could make it better.

"Hey, Levi. I can take over from here."

Or is there?

The newest student-employee was a brunet with the most mesmerizing ocean green eyes Levi had ever seen.

The raven was cramming on his paper that was due later in the day when the brunet volunteered to cover his shift as well. He was hesitant to leave it all to the newbie (especially since he still needs a lot of improvement on some of his drinks), but he wasn't really left with much of a choice.

There were only a few hiccups when he got back, but overall, the brat wasn't so bad.

 

"Levi!"

The raven snapped back to reality when he heard his name being called. It took a few seconds, but he realized he had been staring at his laptop, in the very coffee shop where he works at, for quite a while now.

"What?" He grumbled as he scowled at the brunet in front of him.

"Nothing, it's just that you were spacing out a lot. Are you dissociating?" The brat joked.

The raven ignored him and just went back to work.

"You look tired. Did you sleep well? Is that so important?"

"If I want to graduate this year, then yes." He opted to answer only the last question.

"Wait, you're graduating?" Eren's voice pitched up in surprise.

A beat of silence followed.

"I'm fucking offended, Jaeger."

"No, no, I didn't mean it like that." The brunet hurried to explain, waving his hands in front of him. "I just... I thought... Well... I just thought it wasn't so soon." He almost mumbled.

"Not soon enough." The raven muttered back.

Eren just observed him for a while longer before standing up and making his way back to the counter. If Levi was right, he was still on shift at the moment.

Moments later, he came back and placed a steaming cup beside the older. Levi arched a brow at the gesture.

"I would've made you tea, but I don't know where you hide your stash. And it looks like you could use some coffee." Eren explained.

Levi gave the cup another look.

"You just wanted to show-off your cat latte art." He deadpanned.

A slight dust of pink spread over the brunet's cheeks.

"Hey, you gotta admit I got better." He grinned.

Levi raised the cup to his lips to hide the smile he was sporting.

"Why do you hold your cup like that?" The brunet asked as he observed how the older holds cups by the rim instead of the handle.

'You're not the only one who has traumas, kid.' Levi thought as he remembered breaking his first self-bought teacup when he used it for the first time.

Granted it had been a cheap one. But the fact that it shattered just as he lifted it up (by the handle) was enough for him to start distrusting handles.

"You can't be the only one who has weird quirks." He opted to say instead, before taking another sip of the drink.

"How is it?" Eren prompted afterwards.

"Not bad." He responded, staring straight into ocean eyes and a sunny smile.

 

Not bad, at all.

Chapter Text

“Hey Eren, have you seen my…” The blond trailed off when he noticed his friend swiftly changed tabs on his laptop. The brunet was staring at the desktop now.

“Yes?” Eren asked as he turned around to face his friend. Though the blond already knew what he had been up to.

“You’re watching the sparring match again.” A statement.

The brunet groaned in embarrassment as he buried his face in his hands. What could he say? It was way better than porn.

“Have you watched it, Armin?” He almost whined. “Have you seen how he moved? Have you caught a glimpse on those abs when his shirt rode up? Fuck, have you seen those thighs when he wrapped them around me? Holy shit, Ar! I wish I was in Annie’s place at that moment. I never would’ve tapped out.”

“Good thing Annie was fronting then.” Armin shook his head. He could just imagine his friend willingly let himself be knocked unconscious by the raven.

Eren groaned again before he launched himself onto the bed and buried his face under the covers.

“He smells so good, too.” His voice came out muffled, but Armin caught on to it.

The blond raised a brow at this statement. It didn’t take long for him to figure out how exactly his friend had made the claim.

“You were awake that night when he carried you back, weren’t you?”

The brunet rolled on his back and threw an arm over his eyes.

“How could I fall asleep when he kept adjusting his hold on me? I was trying so hard not to pop a boner right then, what with all the rubbing my crotch had made on his back. I even forgot I was feeling sick ‘til he left.”

“Shame on you, Eren. Having dirty thoughts on someone who was just trying to help. This isn’t how I raised you to be.” Armin teased.

The brunet threw a pillow towards his friend’s direction. The blond just laughed as he caught the offending material and proceeded to take a seat beside the other.

“How can he look so scary yet act so kind? And yet, at the same time, how can he look so good without even trying? He appears like this really intimidating, albeit short, guy, but he’s nowhere near the assholes I’ve confronted so far.”

“Maybe I should tell you that he seemed like he was seriously considering just hurling you through the window that night.”

“What do you mean?” Eren frowned in confusion.

“We spent almost 5 minutes just standing outside the building ‘coz he didn’t want to enter the dorms.” Armin shook his head at the memory.

The brunet snorted a laugh at this. Why isn’t he surprised?

“He’s kind of a neat freak, and he once told me that college dorms were filthy that’s why he doesn’t room here.” 

“And here you are, after spontaneously deciding you wanted to get a room just so you could get a glimpse of him.”

“No, it was so that we didn’t have to commute regularly. I told you that, and it was your idea in the first place.” Eren defended. “Besides, Grandpa seemed happy having the house all to himself to have regular bingo nights with his buddies.” He added.

Eren had taken to considering Armin’s grandfather his own. Despite the age, their grandfather was still healthy and active, and a lot more social than they would have liked. That is, the house would be filled with old people on a regular basis after their grandpa would invite friends over.

They didn’t mind it that much, really. They were happy for their grandfather.

There’s just the obvious gap in their generations.

Because as polite and thoughtful as it may sound, Armin and Eren couldn’t just hang around with people thrice their age and expect to carry out conversations both sides could easily relate to.

“If you say so, Eren.” The blond grinned.

The brunet gave a rather weak glare, knowing he wasn’t winning this. Why does he even bother trying to hide things from his best friend slash non-blood related brother slash human diary?

“Eren,” Armin started. “Is this crush of yours… you know… is that really still merely a crush? It’s been months now.” He let out gently.

This would be the first time his friend was nursing a "crush" on the same person for months.  Usually it was just for a few weeks, and weren't even as serious. And by "serious", he wasn't talking about said person day in and day out like a love drunk high school girl.

The brunet crossed his arms over his eyes again, his cheeks flushed rose.

"I... I don't know, really. Is it? I mean, okay, I admit I do like him. I'm not even sure why. He's just... he's just different, you know? You know how he acts like he's annoyed with me all the time, but he never really pushed me away. He never hesitates to shower me with empty threats – or at least I think they're empty, 'coz he never followed through with them – although at the same time, he never hesitates to defend me if other people do it. I mean, fuck Ar, he already knows about my condition – perhaps my sexuality as well – and he's not hightailing it to the next city. Or at least, not yet? Doesn't seem like it, though. Hopefully. I don't know." He groaned again before rolling back to his stomach.

"And I'm still not sure if he's straight or not." He muttered on the covers.

"Why won't you ask him then?" Armin offered casually.

"Hell no. That's just too obvious." The brunet grumbled.

'You're already too obvious.' Armin couldn't help thinking. 

"Well, let's just say that he isn't. Would you be willing to take it a step further then?" He opted to ask instead.

Eren turned his head to the side, staring at nowhere in particular.

"I don't know. I mean, personally, I'd like to. But I think that'd be too much to ask of him. Why would he even consider being with someone like... me." He mumbled the last word out. "No one wants to be with someone mentally unstable, anyway." He planted his face back on the covers.

"Hey, you shouldn't be the one to decide for him. Besides, you don't even know if that's what he thinks." The blond consoled. "But before we get into that, what do the others think?"

By "others", the blond was referring to the other alters.

Eren rolled onto his back again. "As you already know, they pretty much consider him a friend. That said, he's pretty much 'safe' in their books. But that's only on the line of platonic relationships. Mikasa is still wary of him at some level, but I guess that's just how she is, really. Hell, I think all of them already know what I think about Levi, and they're not really voicing out their opposition to it. At least, not actively? They always say as long as I'm happy and safe, then they would go along with it. But... I don't know, Ar. I don't know how this... thing would work if I were to have a 'romantic' relationship with someone."

Armin took a moment to take in his friend's hesitation. He could tell the brunet was yearning for something more. Something that was supposed to be normal. It was as plain as day. Have been for some time now.

There's just that nagging insecurity that's holding him back.

And as much as the blond wanted to back his friend up and tell him everything will be unicorns and rainbows... who is he fooling? He's yet to know the raven that well, and how is he to know how things will work out between them?

 


 

Levi had noticed a subtle change in his co-worker's demeanor. And by "co-worker", he's referring to host Eren. Sure he still babbles a lot, yet he's been trailing off his sentences for countless times now. And when the raven would shift his attention to him (when he notices the gibberish sounds have stopped; "gibberish", coz he still tunes out most of the brat's rambles), he would catch the brunet staring at him for a split-second before looking away and continuing with his talk, or changing the topic altogether.

All the while sporting a blush on his cheeks.

He didn't think much of it at first. Would have even disregarded it if it stopped.

But it didn't.

Asking his other versions were no help either. They would simply shrug it off, play dumb, or say Eren was just being Eren.

Fine, sure. Whatever. But what changed now?

 

"Oi, brat. What the fuck is up with you now?" The raven asked offhandedly.

The brat in question whipped his head towards the older.

"What do you mean?" His brows furrowed in confusion.

Levi stared at him straight in the eyes. "Is there anything else I should know about?"

"What? What're you talking about? I'm not hiding anything else. Why should I hide anything? I'm definitely not hiding anything... from you. Of course not. I don't know what you're talking about."

Well, isn't that fucking convincing?

"You're a shit liar." He commented dryly.

The brunet was looking everywhere but at him in that moment. Not only was he fighting back a blush (again, for some reason), but he's starting to rub his nape now. Levi thought a little more push would have the brunet dissociating to "escape" the question.

At least that's one of the upsides of having that condition.

Like hell the raven would let him do that, though.

He waited for the younger to calm down and stop rubbing his nape, all the while internally willing the brat not to switch. He must've waited for a while longer since minutes later, the brunet's sidekick entered the shop. The relief in the brunet's disposition was palpable.

"Armin!" He greeted a bit too enthusiastically.

The blond halted for a second at the greeting. He could tell something was up. He's quite astute like that.

He walked the rest of the counter with cautious steps, trying to see if the situation would present itself without him having to prompt it.

It didn't. Though the tension was there.

"What can I get you?" The brunet asked.

It would look like he was asking normally as he would with any other customer. But the blond knew there was definitely something up behind that facade.

"A piccolo latte." He stated simply. "To go." He added, thinking he may have to make an escape should the situation call for it.

It was the raven who set off on making the drink. Armin debated whether or not he should just ask his friend what was up, but ultimately decided against it when the older approached the counter with his order.

There was a question mark on the coffee made by Levi, and the blond didn't really know how to take that.

"Hey, mop-top."

The blond's eyes shot towards the name Levi just called him.

'Ah, shit. Didn't mean to say that out loud, but what the hell?'

"What's up with your friend over here?" The raven tilted his head towards the side where Eren was standing.

He got the same look the brunet was donning earlier.

"What do you mean?"

And the same question too.

Levi was starting to think he may just be misreading the situation –

"Look at him, he's blushing like an idiot, and I haven't even done anything."

As if on cue, the brunet's eyes widened and he flushed pink again as Armin took a look at him.

– if it wasn't for the look of comprehension that flashed across the blond's features.

Armin looked like he was seriously contemplating his next words. Eren looked like he was desperate to get out of the area. Levi tried to observe them simultaneously.

"I can't really say anything about that. You may have to pry the answer out of Eren himself. Or wait for him to switch out." The blond finally responded.

"You don't think I've done that?" The raven arched a brow.

"Wait, you have?" The brunet piped in.

"Well, according to the unspoken brotherhood code, I can't betray Eren by divulging everything I know about him. Or at least not in front of him." Armin continued.

"Armin!" The brunet exclaimed in incredulity.

"Anyways," He started rummaging his bag. "Here. Could you give this to Jean for me?" He handed out some sort of textbook.

"What? Why are you giving me this now? You could just wait for him to front. You know I have no idea when the horse would be released." Eren complained.

"Just hold on to it for now." Armin dismissed as he took his cup and headed for the door. "Oh, and Jean?"

The brunet blinked.

"I mean, Eren." He corrected himself. Though not soon enough as Levi figured he did it on purpose.

"I'll see you later, okay?" He bade before exiting the establishment.

"Oookaayyy." Eren drawled, not understanding what just happened.

However, Levi knew exactly what just happened. The blond really deserves a slow clap for his wit.

"May I have a look at that?" The raven asked, gesturing for the book, to which, the brunet just handed without hesitation.

"Interesting." He commented, feigning to actually go over the contents. "What does Jean think about this?"

Eren's brows furrowed once more. "How should I know?" He grumbled.

Levi continued with the task hinted by the blond. That is, to try and trigger Jean out. He hasn't been able to talk to him about Eren's recent behavior, and he may just be the person who could give him an answer.

It took minutes. 10, 20... he didn't know. He kept initiating the conversation all the while casually, yet deliberately, bringing out Jean's name from time to time – "What does Jean have to say about this?", or "Does Jean know about that?" The brunet's lack of awareness has become the raven's saving grace in the task at hand.

He carried on until he noted the telltale signs of Eren rubbing his nape and the occasional staring off at one spot – this time, his gaze would usually land on the book the raven was holding. He only stopped when he noticed the brunet had spaced out completely.

"About time." Levi muttered as the younger started rubbing out his eyes.

"I'm sorry, what?" He asked as he set his eyes on the shorter guy.

"Do you have any idea what's going on with Jaeger?"

The brunet's brows met. "Uhh... do you know who you're talking to?" He contested.

"Jean." Furrowed brows shot up. "Now answer my question." He crossed his arms.

There was no point going through things indirectly with this guy, anyway.

"Damn, you've really gotten good at this, huh? I should say I'm quite impressed." He mimicked the older's pose, though with an amused smirk on his face.

Levi just hummed a response, not bothering with using words for that statement.

"So?" He prompted when the other still hasn't answered the question.

Jean shifted his weight on one foot, his arms still crossed. "I would've been more impressed if you figured that out yourself." He shot back.

The raven arched a brow in a silent dare. The thief is angry with his fellow thieves, after all. Or in other words, two same poles of a magnet repel each other. Whatever.

"Dipshit likes you. It's quite obvious that it's frankly embarrassing." He finally answered.

The raven was stunned into silence at that one.

Now, Levi Ackerman is no idiot. He did have an inkling about the brat's behavior. But he was not an assuming person either.

So hearing that confirmation... he really didn't know how to take that in.

Eren likes him? Him, of all people? 

He could comprehend it on a platonic level. But for something going over that, it was (surreal) unbelievable.

"Then he's an idiot for doing so." He grumbled out.

 

Though this time, Levi was even more of an idiot for denying his apathetic heart didn’t beat more enthusiastically at that information.

Chapter Text

Armin perked up at the sound of the door swinging open.

“Hey, Ar. I got your book.” The brunet lifted the said book to show to the blond.

“Hi, Jean. I ordered takeout.” He gestured to the boxes on the coffee table.

Jean just made a grunt of acknowledgment before he placed the book on a free space on the table, and sat down beside the blond.

Armin waited for a few moments to let the other go on about his business. He picked up his own box from the table and started digging in wordlessly.

“I’m guessing you figured out why I’ve given Eren the book earlier?” He initiated after a while.

“I guess so.” Jean answered before shoving another spoonful of fried rice.

“So, what does Levi have to say about it?”

The other took his time chewing his food down. “He thinks Eren is an idiot for feeling that way.”

Armin instantly felt dejected at that information. How is he going to break that news to Eren now? How would Eren even react to that? The brunet already seemed secretly despondent from his insecurities alone. What more now that the raven had, in a way, amplified those ideas?

However, there was a look on Jean’s face that tells him that wasn’t all that happened earlier.

“What is it?” He prompted.

The other just turned to look at him.

“You’re thinking. I can see it.” He pointed out.

Jean let out a sigh. “It could just be me, but the guy was blushing.”

Armin’s eyes went wide as saucers at that one.

“We’re talking about Levi here, right?” He clarified. “Levi? Blushing?”

“It seemed like it.” The other shrugged. “He was grumbling a half-assed excuse about checking stocks in the back room afterwards, though.”

“Okay, but you were there. What do you think about it?” The blond probed.

Jean set the box down on the table before leaning back on the couch, folding his arms across his chest.  It looked like he was still contemplating on what he could say on the matter.

“I could be wrong, but I think he feels the same way for dipshit. I’d feel sorry for him if that was true.” He snorted at the thought.

However, Armin felt like squealing at what he just heard. (Perhaps Historia is starting to rub off on him). Anyhow, it’s just in Jean’s personality to say things as how he sees them. Therefore, there is a high chance he could be right if that’s how he perceived the raven’s reaction to be.

“How can you say that?” He decided to inquire further instead, giving the other his undivided attention.

“Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t really think of it if it wasn’t for his reaction earlier. And you know what? I really thought he’d be able to figure out Eren’s… affections for him on his own. I think anyone in the line of average intelligence would. But now that I think about it, it almost seemed like he did have an idea but was just waiting for someone to confirm it. I mean, he couldn’t be that dense if he was already able to tell us apart at this point.”

“True that.” Armin muttered to himself. Then his brain backtracked a few steps. “Wait, hold on. He could tell you apart already? I mean, did he know when you fronted?”

“Shit, Ar. He instigated it himself.”

The blond’s brows shot up to his hairline.

“Isn’t that why you’ve given Eren the book?” Jean frowned at his reaction.

“Well, yeah. But… I just thought Eren would just catch a few glances at it, and his stress from being under Levi’s scrutiny would force him to switch to you. I know it sounds kinda cruel, but if Eren were to switch nonetheless, I figured it’d be better if it was with you. And I never thought Levi would think of triggering you out himself.”

Armin was dumbfounded that the raven had already figured out how to use positive triggers to bring out an alter. How much does he know already?

“How could you say he instigated it, though? I mean, you may have just spaced out and he noticed it.”

“Well, I have no doubt that happened. But when I was like… aware of my surroundings, he seemed like he was expecting me to show up. I mean, he shot off his question right out the bat the moment I fronted.”

“Wow.” The blond couldn’t help commenting.

Even their friends, who have been around Eren for longer than Levi had, were still having troubles telling Mikasa and Annie, and Eren and Sasha apart. And if Jean and Reiner really tried, they could pass off as a subdued version of the brunet, just none too conspicuous to the general public. They haven’t even triggered out any of the alters on purpose yet, and there were times when they couldn’t tell an alter had already taken Eren’s place, until sometime later when their base personality leaks out.

“He could just be insanely observant.” Jean offered.

“Or he could have been too invested in Eren for him to notice all of that.” Armin added.

“Whichever it is, not my problem.” Jean shrugged as he picked up the box again.

“You never know, Jean.” Armin grinned slyly. “I mean, you and Eren do exist in one body.”

Despite it already being a well-known fact, the way the blond said it sent an unsettling feeling in the pit of Jean's stomach.

Something he couldn't blame on the food, even if he tried.

 


 

Levi would never admit it, but he was dreading the moment a certain wide-eyed brunet would enter the establishment at any moment soon. If he was usually up all night due to nightmares, this time, he was up all night due to reality.

He still couldn't wrap his mind around the idea that Eren likes him. 'Coz seriously, what the fuck did he even do? Sure, he may have teased the brat once or twice, but he's been nothing but a constant bitch to the brunet - always telling him how annoying he was; always bossing him around, especially when it comes to cleaning; always tuning out his ramblings; just... he was always being himself.

It must take a special kind of idiot to even consider liking those traits.

The tinkling of the shop bell interrupted him from his thoughts. And there he was, donning a charming smile, which shouldn't affect the raven whatsoever. Yeah, right.

Fuck you, heart.

"Hey." He greeted as he passed by the counter.

Levi wouldn't be surprised if he was sporting a glare on his expression at the moment. He wasn't mad at the brunet. He was mad at his abnormal heartbeat. Okay, and maybe the brunet for causing it.

Only when Eren came back out from the back room did the raven realized something was off.

"Where's Jaeger?" He asked offhandedly.

The brunet was taken aback by the question.

"Uhh... here?" He answered uncertainly, his brows furrowing.

Tch. Again with playing dumb.

"Let's see..." Levi trailed off as he gazed directly into ocean eyes. The other looked back with apprehension, but he could care less about that.

Mikasa would’ve scowled by now. Annie would’ve blankly stared right back. Sasha would’ve looked more apprehensive, but attempt to conceal it. Jean would’ve raised his eyebrows in a silent question or something.

"Reiner?" He guessed.

Brown eyebrows shot up to his hairline.

"Uhh... it's Eren." He tried.

The raven levelled him with an unimpressed look.

"Right. Sasha could've done a better job." He remarked, diverting his gaze back to the front of the counter.

The other didn’t even bother trying to mask his surprise this time. “I heard you were good. I didn’t know you were this good.” He chuckled.

“Maybe you could work on holding back your reactions, if you’d ask me.” Levi offered.

“Yeah. But it’s quite difficult when you’re being called out by your name, you know? I mean, if you would’ve mentioned Eren’s name instead, it would’ve been considerably easier somehow.”

The raven just hummed a reply, not really knowing what else to say to that.

“So, is Jaeger gonna be hiding for a week again?” He asked instead.

“I don’t think so. I hope not. He and Jean are actually bickering as we’re speaking. It’s giving me quite the headache. I don’t even know why I’m out right now.” He rubbed his temples with his thumb and middle finger on one hand.

“What’s it about this time?” The raven opted to inquire. He would very much prefer idle talking rather than dealing with his thoughts at the moment.

“I think you have an idea.” Reiner answered.

Levi did. He just wished he didn’t.

“Humor me.” He uttered blankly.

“Eren’s pissed that Jean outed him to you.” He stated simply.

“I asked him, though.”

“Yeah, but he was hoping Jean would shut up for once. A feeble hope, really. Not that I’m saying Jean is a bad person. That’s just the way he is.”

Reiner let out a tired sigh as he started rubbing his temples again.

“Okay. Stop it, you two.” He mumbled to himself.

Levi let the other deal with his internal strife for the moment. Then he decided he may as well deal with his own.

There’s no denying the fact that Eren really does like him. The kind of “like” that branches out from attraction, and makes you want to stick cupid’s arrow right up his ass.

The question now is: how does he feel about it?

“Fuck.” He muttered out loud when the first word that popped into his mind was “elated”.

Sure, there had been multiple times when he entertained the idea of finding the brunet attractive, ever since he first laid his eyes on him. He just never considered how things would go if it escalated further than that.

With his shitty back story laid out behind him, Levi never had any experience with romance and whatnot. Hell, he barely had friends. He knew most people were too intimidated to even approach him. And it usually worked in his favor since he wanted to be left alone most of the time.

He never had much problem being on his own for long periods of time. And though he may be aware when someone draws his attention, he never even thought he’d be inclined to try such a thing as a relationship (if that was even what this was leading to).

Until now.

He couldn’t help shuddering at the thought.

Just what the fuck had Eren Jaeger done to him?

 


 

 

When the brat finally fronted the next day, it was a whole shitload of awkward that filled the atmosphere between the two co-workers.

Levi knew it was Eren. Could see it in his demeanor. Could feel it in his gut.

And as the charged silence continued to drag on, the raven knew he was done dancing around the matter. If they didn’t address it now, who knows how long they would have to endure moments such as this? Days? Weeks? Indefinitely? Like hell he’d want to go through that.

He tended for the few orders that were made, and waited for a few more moments to make sure no customer was entering any time soon.

When the bell didn’t announce any arrival for a span of 10 minutes, Levi thought he might as well make use of the time they’ve been given.

“Jaeger.”

The brunet visibly jumped at the sound of his name.

“Could you get more milk from the back room?” He ordered. An excuse, of course.

“Yeah, okay.” Eren shuffled out to comply with the command. He didn’t even bother asking what kind of milk the raven was referring to.

Not that it was important.

Levi followed him to the back room, leaning his shoulder against the doorframe and folding his arms over his chest. He waited for the brunet to turn and face his direction again. And he wasn’t at all surprised when it took longer than necessary.

“Um, I got it…” The younger trailed off hesitantly, carrying different jugs of different kinds of milk.         

He started shuffling his feet when the older man didn’t make any sort of acknowledgment.

Truth was, Levi didn’t know how to go on about the conversation. All he wanted was for the awkwardness to stop.

“Are you still pissed at Jean?” He asked tentatively.

A look of confusion flashed briefly across the brunet’s face, before being replaced with annoyance. He just diverted his gaze to the side, and gave a single nod.

“Not that I’m defending him, but I just wanna know if you’d feel the same way if it was Armin who did it.”

The look of annoyance was completely wiped out of his face.

“I… I don’t know. Maybe not as much.” He admitted. “He wouldn’t do that, though. Or if he did, at least he would’ve done better.” He grumbled out.

“You shouldn’t really blame him.” The raven started. “I would’ve found out some other way, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have an idea of what was going on.” He reasoned.

Ocean eyes widened before the blush started to creep in once more, and the brunet was diverting his gaze back to the side.

Now that that’s out of the way, time to ask the real questions.

“Why, though?”

Eren’s eyes shot back to him once more.

“I don’t understand why you would even… be attracted to me.” It was the raven’s turn to divert his sight elsewhere.

“Are you kidding me? You’re ho---andsome.” The brunet faltered mid-word, and started blushing furiously at his mistake.

He was about to say “hot”. Though what he said was also entirely true. Just not what he thought he’d be admitting so soon.

The raven arched a brow at his response. At least he was finding some sort of consolation from the younger’s discomfort. (Sadist)

"Is that it, then?" He prompted.

"No, it's a lot more than that." Eren mumbled. "It's just that... you're different. Like... you're quite nice under all your intimidating aura. You're both hot and cool at the same time. You're always so calm and composed despite whatever situation you're in. You're really good at everything you do that it almost seems like you're barely giving out any effort to do it." He rambled off. "But then, it's like... you're a lot different than how you appear to be. I mean, I could still remember the first time you demonstrated a latte art. You appeared so passionless, but the cat in the cup came out really good. You looked really adorable that time."

A brow raised at that last sentence again.

"I mean, the cat!" Eren backtracked. "The cat looked really adorable. That cat... that you made... in your latte art."

What the fuck is it with the brat and cat latte arts?

"I'm flattered." Levi started. "But I don't think I'm half of what you just said I am. I'm not exactly what you might think I am." He admitted.

The brunet looked at him directly in the eye.

"I think you're more than what you think you are. Say what you will, but that's how I see it." He stated boldly.

The raven's eyes widened slightly at those words. Fuck, the brat was really barreling his way through his walls of insecurity.

Because, though they may not be aware of it themselves, it was what was holding both of them back. Their insecurities.

Eren was insecure of his condition and the multiple personalities he has.

Levi was insecure of his background and his own personality.

The silence stretched between them. None of them knowing what to say or do next.

"So, what now?" The raven asked when the atmosphere was starting to suffocate him.

"I... I don't know." The younger answered timidly.

Oh, hell no.

Both of them knew they wanted something out of this. None of them just wanted to take that first step.

Levi uncrossed his arms and crossed the path towards the brunet, standing directly in front of him. He wanted an answer he couldn't admit himself. And he sure as hell don't want this conversation to end with a vague "I don't know".

Just nope. Fuck, no.

"Jaeger." His voice came out lower than he intended it to. The younger couldn't help looking at him with wide, apprehensive eyes.

"What the fuck do you want to happen now?" He asked, staring (glaring) straight into alarmed, ocean green eyes.

With his heart beating double-time and his mind focused on mustering up all his willpower to push the anxiety down, Eren threw caution to the wind and leaned down towards the shorter man.

Though with his eyes tightly shut and his body barely in his control, he missed a few centimeters; his lips landing just beside the raven's.

Nevertheless, it still had the desired effect.

Levi was stunned motionless for a few moments. He could've sworn his heart skipped a few beats at the action. He didn't know how long they stood there. He didn't know what expression he was wearing. Hell, he didn't know if he was still breathing.

But when the brunet made a move to walk away from his lack of response, his body jolted into action and he grabbed the other by the collar, yanking him down.

Eren's eyes widened even more. It was a miracle he didn't start dissociating, or even have a panic attack, from the alarming rate his heartbeat had reached. He thought for sure he fucked up big-time from his impulsiveness.

But taking a second, closer look at the man just inches away from his own face, he noticed that despite the deep frown on his features, he was as red as the scarf he's given to Mikasa.

"Eren."

The brunet's breath hitched at hearing the sound of his first name escape the raven's lips.

"Do that again."

Oh fuck, he's in heaven, for sure. Somebody wake him up.

Closing his eyes once again, he leaned in closer to the other man.

And the raven was meeting him halfway to do it right this time.

Chapter Text

Hesitant lips pressed gently against each other. None of them sure how they should take things further. If they should take things further.

Eren's mind was spinning. Everything felt so surreal. He wasn't even sure if this was reality, and not just one of the hundreds – thousands – of vivid daydreams he had of this exact moment. Hell, he was even starting to worry if he was dissociating since it practically felt like it.

Levi's mind, on the other hand, went blank. He was still trying to soak up what was happening at that very moment. He could hardly believe this was real. The feelings coursing through his chest were new. But fucking hell did he like it.

And no, it wasn't his first. He's kissed both guys and girls in the past (not a lot, but enough to have the experience). Hell, he'd even had sex with some of them. However, he couldn't tell why his emotions were detached in those times. Unlike now, when it was practically overwhelming.

Soon enough, their lips finally started moving. Whoever moved first, they didn't know. They didn't care either.

It was slow, tentative, and with all the grace of inexperience. But that just made it feel all the more pure. It was perfect.

Eventually, they parted. Cheeks flushed, breathing coming out slightly ragged. Ocean green eyes met metallic gray. None of them spoke. Still dazed by what just happened. Still lost in a trance of the other's presence. Still breathing in the same air.

"Does this mean I can go to your apartment now?"

Of course the idiot just had to ruin the moment.

"Brat." The raven muttered, shaking his head and trying to fight back the smile threatening to curl up his lips.

The brunet stood back up straight, a wide grin splitting up his face. He was about to say more when the bell on the counter rang up and caught their attention.

Right. They were still at work.

Wordlessly, they (begrudgingly) retraced their steps back to their posts. The raven was glowering at the source of interruption (customer service be damned), while the brunet hardly let it dampen his mood.

No words were exchanged as they continued their shifts side-by-side. Yet the atmosphere that wrapped around them was anything but awkward. Eren was way up high on cloud nine to even think about initiating a conversation.

And the older didn't mind. He really didn't mind at all. He was also busy reliving that moment over and over again. The surge of unfamiliar emotions was quite overwhelming, and he still has no idea how he was going to deal with it. All he knows is that it is not entirely unwelcome. Not that he would ever admit this out loud.

The brunet didn't even realize that Levi had extended his shift to match his own. He only noticed it by the time Gunther had come in the shop to take over, and the raven was still there beside him.

They dressed back into casual clothing in silence. Eren didn't know why Levi had opted to stay behind, and now that the intoxicating high of sharing their first kiss was slowly starting to fade, the bubbling anxiety was ever so slowly creeping up into his nerves.

After bidding farewell to their co-worker, – Eren verbally, and with a wave; while Levi just gave a nod – they stepped out of the establishment and into the familiar streets of Trost. It took a while, but as Eren found his voice (and courage) again, he finally asked the raven the question that was dangling between them.

"So... what are we?"

Levi took his time to respond, still struggling to get his thoughts in order.

"I wouldn't mind if you call me your boyfriend." He stated in a leveled tone, which is in direct contrast to his internal turmoil.

The brunet's eyes widened and his entire face down to his neck was flushed red again, before proceeding to avert his sights elsewhere.

"I also wouldn't mind that, at all." He answered lowly, clearing his throat afterwards.

The walk towards the intersection where the dorms and Levi's apartment diverge was short, so Eren not-so-subtly took a detour instead. The raven didn't comment on it though, so that was good. That was with-a-hundred-relieved-deep-internal-sighs good.

They found an unoccupied bench on the sidewalk and helped themselves on to it. There was quite some distance between them as neither of them were aware of the guidelines in being in a relationship. (In other words, both of them are idiots).

"Are you... are you really... okay with this?" Eren asked slowly after a moment of quiet.

"With what?" The raven asked in return. ('Coz if it was the distance between them at that moment, then he would prefer closing it a little more).

"You know." The younger absently scratched his head. "Being in a relationship... with me?" He was staring at his shoes now. "I just thought you would've preferred being with someone... normal."

The raven's gaze lingered at the other.

"Honestly..."

Eren automatically braced himself from that single word alone.

"I've never been in a relationship before. So I wouldn't be able to tell, either way."

All the air must've left his lungs when he breathed out that sigh of relief. Hell, he must've breathed out his own soul in the process.

"Wait, hold on." His mind reeled back from the information he just heard. "You've never been in a relationship before? Never? That's not possible!"

"I don't see how that isn't impossible." The older arched a brow.

"But you're ho---mazing." And poof, he was flushing red again.

Fucking shit. He really needs to stop that.

Levi smirked at his reaction. At least the brat's awkwardness makes him forget his own. Might as well take advantage of it while he can.

"How about you?"

The brunet gave him a look of confusion.

"Ever been in a relationship before?"

Eren instantly shook his head. As if waiting for another second makes his answer invalid.

"Then I could only say the same about you. You know... ho-mazing."

He didn't thought it was possible for the other to blush even deeper, but there he was.

However, Levi wasn't naive to what the younger really wanted to say. So he might as well address it while everything is still at a start.

"I don't really care about your condition." He started. "Like I said, it's rather interesting. I don't have problems with any of your alters, so far. If the same can't be said the other way around, then I don't know. But I'm dating you, Eren. Not Mikasa, not Annie, not Sasha, or Jean, or Reiner. However, since they're practically built-in with you, I really don't have much of a choice but to accept them as well. Not that it's any trouble. I don't mind. Unless they give me a reason to, that is."

Are those angels singing in the background? 'Coz their songs are practically blaring in Eren's ears.

"On the same note," Levi continued. "I know how much you grumble about my standards of cleaning. But if you think I won't kick your ass if you don't do it properly anymore, I'd advice you to rethink your decisions. If you have problems with my attitude..."

He was cut off when the brunet pressed his lips against his.

"I don't mind." He almost whispered as his face hovered just a few inches away from the raven's own.

"Good. That's good." Levi whispered back before diving in once again.

He heard someone gasp from somewhere behind him, and he just gave whoever it was the finger without breaking the kiss.

 


 

When the door slowly opened to reveal a dazed-looking brunet, Armin's alarm bells instantly rang on high alert.

"Eren?" He asked cautiously, setting down his book.

Said brunet just trudged listlessly inside the room, not even bothering to acknowledge his friend.

The blond immediately sprang out of his seat and stepped in front of his friend. He carefully held the sides of his face to guide the brunet's vision to meet his.

"Eren, what's wrong?" He asked levelly, not wanting to cause unnecessary alarm even if he felt like doing so.

Something horrible must have happened. Eren never really acted like this. None of his alters acted like this. Heaven forbid a new one... a bad one has come to surface.

"Armin..."

Oh good, at least he still recognizes him.

"I love you."

It was like every bit of the blond's intelligence went down the drain.

Stunned with shock at what he just heard, he could only let his friend continue to trudge further until he reached the couch.

The brunet took a second just standing in front of the furniture, before slowly crawling on to it and burying his face on the cushions.

"What... happened?" Armin asked, dumbfounded.

"I'm getting married." came the muffled reply from the brunet.

Yep. He should start recollecting back his intellect.

 


 

The next day, Levi couldn't tell if what he was feeling was already regret.

The brat was way, way too enthusiastic than usual. The blushing idiot from yesterday is history, and the babbling idiot of today is already starting to set his record.

He kept asking the raven what their pet name should be now that they were together. After the older told him to shut the fuck up, he took it to mean to list off further suggestions.

"Sugar? Sweetheart? Babe? Oh, how about Kitten?"

"I swear to whatever deity exists out there, Jaeger. If you don't cut that shit out, I will cut your balls out and make you wear them as earrings." He gave his most menacing glare to emphasize his point.

"Pfffftt! Sorry. Shit, that was hilarious." The brunet started laughing heartily.

Oh, great. Now he's immune to the raven's threats. Fucking wonderful.

Levi could only sigh in resignation. This was what he signed-up for, after all.

Although contrary to how he was acting, he actually spent last night researching on "how to be a good boyfriend". But of course, no one had to know about that.

 

  • Be honest? No sweat.
  • Trust them? He's not sure if he could trust the brat not to be stupid. Nope. That's clearly a no in that department.
  • Contribute equally to conversations? Well, you can't really expect him to match the brat in his ability to talk other people's ear off.
  • Be a good listener? Surely the times he tunes out the brat's ramblings should still be acceptable. It was necessary for his maintenance of sanity, after all.
  • Learn to compromise? That shouldn't be too difficult.
  • Be supportive? Unless the brat aims to be a literal mermaid and tries to drown himself in the ocean, then he should be fine with that.
  • Be sympathetic? Oh yeah, he's good with feelings, all right. (Not)
  • Show affection often? Well... there are many ways to do that.
  • Appreciate their beauty? "You look less shitty today" is also a form of appreciation for their beauty, right?
  • Compliment them sincerely? Well, he's honest. It should come naturally.
  • Give gifts, at special times and anytime? Not that he's parsimonious, but what kind of bullshit consumerism tactic is this?
  • Sprinkle your relationship with doses of spontaneity? Well, he's not spontaneously giving out the ideas, but he's spontaneously getting dragged into the ideas.
  • Take care of yourself? Pshh. Easy-peasy.
  • Give them (and yourself) some individual space? He really shouldn't be the one to be told about this.

 

He may have answered wrong on some of the mini quizzes on the site, but fuck you, WikiHow. Levi Ackerman could be a good boyfriend basing on the list that was posted.

 

He still stayed behind after his shift at the shop. Though this time, he was working on his laptop in one of the far booths. Eren would wander around his vicinity each chance he gets.

"So what're you doing? Maybe I can help." The brunet asked as he took a seat in front of the raven.

"Something you wouldn't understand." The older replied flatly.

"How would you know I wouldn't understand?" Eren pouted.

"If I'm right, would you go back to the counter and do your job?"

"Rude." He grumbled, standing up.

Levi was slightly worried he may have gotten a bit too far. But then the younger slipped in the seat beside him and proceeded to check the screen on his laptop.

That's all the "help" he received. Additional eyes.

Fucking gorgeous eyes, though.

Eren kept muttering "I don't get it" under his breath. The raven could only snort and roll his eyes. He didn't ask him to go back though. (Why should he now that he's beside him?)

When Eren's shift ended, Levi took it as his cue to pack up. The brunet's grin was still blinding despite the hours that passed.

They walked side-by-side towards the intersection that separates their places, content in the extended presence of the other no matter how short it was.

"So I'll see you tomorrow?" The brunet asked, still with a wide grin.

"Do I have a choice?" Levi replied dryly.

Eren's grin didn't falter, and he slowly leaned down towards the shorter to give a quick peck. Levi let him.

"Goodnight, kitten."

"I hope you fucking get nightmares."

The brunet just laughed as he moved away before the raven could think about hitting him. He gave one last wave before he was off running towards the building.

Levi waited until he was out of sight before he started his own trek towards his apartment.

Tomorrow is another day.

 


 

Except when tomorrow came, it wasn't the same brunet that greeted the raven.

"Annie." He blurted out as he took a good look at the other.

Annie just hummed a reply, expression impassive.

They worked alongside each other as how they always had: filled with relative silence. Though the brat may have started to rub off on him since it felt too quiet all of a sudden for the raven.

"So where'd you learn how to fight?" He initiated a conversation instead.

Look at him already fulfilling the "contributing equally to conversations" part. Maybe not with his actual boyfriend, but at least with a part of him.

"My father taught me." She answered simply.

They kept talking idly with each other, and when Levi mentioned he wouldn't mind learning a few moves from her, he could've sworn he saw her eyes sparkle. And for the first time, she actually smiled, though she tried to conceal it.

Well, holy shit that was something.

 

"Why're you still here? I couldn't say Eren would be fronting anytime soon." She asked as the raven fell into step beside her as she was walking out.

"I know. Though technically, you're still a part of him. And I don't mind doing it." Levi dismissed.

She left it at that and let the older do what he wanted. They weren't far off when they heard someone say, "Damn, Jaeger! Already cheating on your blond boyfriend?"

Both heads turned with impassive looks on their faces. Levi didn't recognize the guy. Annie did.

"Don't bother." The raven uttered flatly.

"Wasn't planning to." She answered in the same tone.

Both turned their backs on the guy and tuned out the rather pathetic attempts of getting a rise out of the brunet. Though it might've worked if Eren was actually out.

When they reached the intersection, Levi merely gave a pat on the head to the other.

"Shouldn't it be the other way around?" Annie smirked.

"Don't push it. According to your host, you're actually shorter than me."

Annie frowned at this before she huffed out a breath and turned around.

"See ya." She waved without even looking back.

The raven didn't bother with a response and simply waited until she was out of sight.

No kisses today, apparently.

Oh well.

 

Tomorrow is another day.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Levi!”

The raven instantly braced himself for the oncoming attack from the brunet. Sure enough, after a couple of seconds, said brunet launched himself on his back.

He was just about to sit down on his favorite spot on one of the canopy tables around the campus – one located the farthest from the rest – when he heard the battle cry from the brat.

“Whoa! You didn’t even budge this time.” Eren commented with awe as he continued to cling onto the shorter man.

“This time”. Because obviously this has happened countless times before.

It seemed like as each day passes by, the brunet was getting bolder and bolder around the raven. Though they’re still not really past the occasional kisses, occasional hugs (initiated by Eren, of course), walking back to their places after work, and the younger sporadically trying to tackle him to the ground as greeting. Levi, in turn, couldn’t help finding the brunet more (endearing) annoying.

Interactions with his other alters were going smooth as well. They already seemed to have accepted the fact that their host has a significant other. Though how he treats Eren is different from how he treats the others – in the sense that he isn’t as “intimate” as how he is to his actual boyfriend.

From the get-go, it has already been unofficially established that he wouldn’t kiss anyone other than the brunet. In his perspective, the other alters are persons of their own; they just exist in the same vessel. They don’t really see him in the same way as their host, and the same could be said vice-versa. He could be civil… or fuck, be friendly with them, but that’s as far as his affections could go: Platonic.

And he was glad it was a mutual understanding. Especially with Mikasa.           

“Get off, you’re heavy.” Levi complained.

“Are you saying my muscle-building is paying off?” Eren asked as he leaned more heavily on the other.

“Don’t act so smug about it. It’s not like you’re doing the work.”

“Hey. I do my part if Annie’s not fronting, you know?” He pouted.

“Yeah, sure. Whatever.”

The brunet was practically plastered by Levi’s side as they sat down on the bench. Not that he really minded, though it’s hard to have a conversation when the other’s face is just inches away from you. What is personal space?

“By the way, are you free tonight?” Eren asked after they situated themselves.

“Depends on why you’re asking.”

“Good.” (‘Coz obviously that was a “yes”). “The others – especially Armin – wanted to go out for dinner tonight, since they wanted to… ‘celebrate’ the fact that we’re finally together.” He grinned.

“Why the fuck would they even do that?” Levi frowned in confusion.

“I don’t know. Must be a thing.” The brunet shrugged. “They told me we should’ve done it earlier, but our schedules were just clashing with each other. So now that we all have free times, we could finally go along with it.”

“Who says I’m free?” Levi arched a brow.

“Oh, I know you’re not. You’re already taken.” The younger replied with a shit-eating grin.

Sly bastard.

The raven could only scoff and roll his eyes before pulling out his laptop and setting it on the table.

“If that’s all you wanted to say, then get lost already. I’m working.” He dismissed, shifting a little to the side to get some space.                                                       

“Aww, come on, kitten…”

“I swear to fucking god, Jaeger.” He cut him off. “If you don’t stop calling me that, this laptop will be stripped to pieces and shoved so far up your ass.”

The brunet instantly clamped his mouth shut. Though not even a minute had passed and he could barely hear him whisper, “Kinky” under his breath.

Fucking brat.

 


 

 

Levi’s futile hopes of skipping the dinner invitation were instantly crushed the moment he saw the squad of brats enter the establishment. One of the blondes was already bounding towards them.

“Eren! Levi! Congratulations! I’m sorry this came out late. I’m so happy for you!” Historia practically broadcasted it to the entire shop.

“What the fuck are you on about? Jaeger’s not pregnant.” The raven deadpanned.

“Oh, that would be wonderful. I love kids.” The blonde replied, unperturbed by the idea.           

The younger was already blushing from the volume of the blonde’s voice when she… congratulated them. Levi’s comment only took it a step deeper. He thought he could already handle the raven’s teasing (along with other… attempts at humor) after they got together. He was dead wrong, of course.

“Err… thanks, Historia.” He responded a bit awkwardly. “Have you decided where to go later, by the way?” He resorted to changing topics. His and Levi’s relationship could be discussed in some other place, some other time.

“I’ve booked us a spot in this restaurant not too far from here.” Marco answered, stepping in closer with the other guys. “It’s nice and affordable. And the food’s great.”

“I can vouch for that.” Bertolt joined in. “We could also order some drinks if we want to.”

“That’s great!” Historia clapped her hands together.

“Oh, hell no are you drinking, your highness.” Levi responded tightly, remembering the last incident they had with the wine.

“Fight me, Ackerman. Grow a couple inches and I might just listen to you.” She retorted.

A beat of silence followed afterwards.

And then another one followed after that.

“His… Historia. Wha--- where’d you even learn… that?” Armin asked.

Historia had never been the gutsy type of girl as far as they’ve known her. Hell, she was supposed to be the embodiment of angels on earth. So it was perplexing how she could easily act this way with the raven. Especially with the said raven.

“Mikasa taught me.” She beamed sweetly.

Of course it was the other raven that encouraged her.

There was an unreadable expression on the older’s face, so Armin took the initiative of diverting everyone’s attention again.

“Hey, maybe we should just make our order and wait in one area, yeah? We can’t keep holding these two from doing their work.”

It was a relief that he was met with unanimous agreement.

 

Levi opted to extend his shift than join the others in their corner. He just had a feeling they were going to interrogate him, and would rather delay the activity until he wasn’t the only one in the spotlight (or a hot seat would be a more appropriate term).

He didn’t even know why they thought they should insert themselves in his relationship with the brunet. Not that he thinks negatively of it, he just couldn’t understand why. He may need to ask the terms and conditions that come along from being friends with these brats.

When their shift finally ended, the raven found himself almost getting squished by the others as they treaded towards their destination. There was a lot of idle chatter and playful banter that surrounded their small group, yet Levi was content in keeping his silence. It wasn’t that he disliked being in that situation, he just wasn’t used to it, despite the number of occasions he’d already spent time with these people.

He noticed Eren subtly shifted a little closer to him. Whether it was because he noticed his slight discomfort, or he was just being his clingy self, Levi didn’t know. Nevertheless, he was grateful.

They entered a rather quaint-looking establishment. The interior of the building has a homey feel to it. With that in mind, it was rather odd to think that this restaurant does reservations for their customers.

“Reservation for Bott, table for six?” Marco asked as they were welcomed by one of the staffs.

Their table was located at a corner, which the raven was relieved to know. He took the seat near the window with Eren following closely behind him. Armin took the seat beside the brunet, and Marco, Bert, and Historia took the ones in front of them, with the blonde near the window.

They soon took their orders and the raven opted to start with lasagna first (because whichever restaurant fucks up lasagna needs to shut down immediately, in his opinion). It didn’t come as a surprise to any of them that the brunet took the longest time to decide what he wanted to order.

He was still focused on examining the choices on the menu while everybody waited for him (thank heavens their waitress was a patient woman). You would think a restaurant is always the safest bet for everyone to hang out… until you meet Eren Jaeger.

“I think I’ll have whatever your specialty is.” He finally decided.

“Are you sure with that, Eren? Do you even know what their specialty is?” Armin asked hesitantly.

“Well, if it’s their specialty, then it should be the best option, right?” He shrugged.

Their waitress left shortly after jotting down everyone’s order.

“Why did I have a feeling you were gonna come out?” The raven blurted out when they were left alone at their table.

Everyone gave him looks of confusion for his comment.

“I’m sorry?” Eren inquired in behalf of everyone.

The raven took his time just staring straight into the brunet’s eyes.                                                

“I know it was you who ordered that, Sasha.” He stated flatly.

Everyone donned the same surprised look it was almost comical.

“Umm… it’s still Eren, you know.” He responded, wearing the same look of confusion from earlier.

“Is that so?” Levi arched a brow in a silent challenge.

“I didn’t notice any switch happening.” Historia interjected. “Did you?” She addressed the other guys at the table.

“I don’t know. I think it’s still Eren.” Bert answered hesitantly. He was backed up with silent nods from the other two.

“Maybe Sasha’s just co-conscious. We are at a restaurant, after all.” Armin offered.

Good point.

Levi supposed that would be true. Unless…

“Prove it, then.” He challenged.

“How?” The brunet frowned.

Levi smirked before he tapped a finger on his lower lip.

Different shades of red was instantly slapped on the younger’s features. Even the others who were speculating couldn’t help getting flustered from the raven’s audacious implication.

“Wha--- you… What’re you even saying, Levi? Can’t you see we’re in public?” Eren protested.

“Yeah, so?”

“That’s not… why would you… we can’t just do it here… in front of everybody.” He gestured wildly in the air.

Well, she’s quite good, if he had to say so himself.

“I’ll do it, then.” He leaned towards the younger as he said this, giving the other only a few seconds to react.

He heard a squeak before both hands were slapped against his mouth to stop him.

“Okay, okay, fine! It’s me. It’s Sasha!” She finally admitted.

The raven leaned back on his seat with a victorious smirk plastered on his face.

“See? That wasn’t so hard.” He stated smugly.

The others watched in complete fascination at the display. It came more of a shock to Armin since he was usually good at perceiving when a switch had occurred on his friend.

And in that moment, he didn’t even notice it. Fast switches are usually hard to identify right off the bat, especially if it’s between Eren and Sasha. So if Levi noticed it immediately… just how attentive was he of the brunet?

“How’d you do that?” Historia asked, dumbfounded.

“Just had a hunch.” The raven shrugged, taking his glass of water (by the rim) and sipping it leisurely.

The others continued to watch him with astonished looks on their faces. The older paid them no heed and opted to gaze out the window instead. By doing so, he missed the silent conversation that passed through the other people at the table.

 

Eren’s found a keeper.

 


 

A day came when Levi was surprised the brunet was running late for work. Usually, he would be at least 5 minutes early in arriving at the shop.

He didn’t mind it that much at first. Maybe something just came up. Eren has never been absent to work before. Well, not counting the innumerable times when it’s one of his alters that takes up the job. But bottomline, he was always, at least, physically present.

After 30 minutes had passed, Levi began to grow impatient. He fished out his phone from his pocket and dialed the brunet’s number. He couldn’t help narrowing his eyes when the contact name “Brat <3” popped up. Originally, Eren had named his own contact as “Babe <3” on his phone. But after a rather pointless bout of debate and quibbling, they made a compromise that Levi would change the name, but would have to keep the heart on it. Whatever.

He should actually be more pissed at his own contact name on the brat’s phone. Because whoop-de-doo, it just had to be “Kitten <3”.

The brunet wasn’t answering his calls. Levi began to wonder what kind of “reasons” he would have to hear when he shows up. After three missed calls, he dialed Hannes’ number instead to ask him if he was ever informed the brat would be absent today.

When he got a negative response, a sinking feeling settled in his gut. He instead ask the store owner if someone else could cover up for the brunet’s shift. ‘Coz if he wasn’t going to show up, Levi might have to start looking.

He was already getting antsy as the phone call ended. He started regretting not asking for the other brats’ numbers. (He really didn’t even ask for Eren’s. The younger just took initiative of it since he wanted to converse with him as much as possible). And now, he was left with no one else to ask.

There was still at least 10 minutes left on the clock, but the raven had already went into the back room to change. He didn’t know why he was feeling so unsettled, but he didn’t like it one bit. Growing up, he’s always trusted his instincts on certain matters.

He fished out his phone again and dialed the brunet’s number.

It rang, and rang, and rang, and rang… until it rang out.

“Fucking hell.” He muttered as he redialed the number.

“Levi? You okay?” Eld asked as he stepped into the back room.

Thank fuck he could finally leave.

“I’m fine. Sorry, I have to go.” He muttered, already taking long strides out of the establishment.

His last call rang out again, and he didn’t waste any time redialing.

After the 5th ring, the call was finally picked up.

“Levi?” came the shaky voice of the brunet.

“Eren, where the fuck are you?” Levi didn’t intend for his voice to sound as sharp as it had just been. It was just the mixture of relief and worry leaking out.

“I… I don’t know.”

His stomach dropped at that response. The brunet sounded so scared on the other line.

“Eren,” He started, a lot more softly this time. “What happened? Did somebody do anything to you? Are you trapped somewhere?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know, Levi. I don’t know where I am. I don’t remember anything.” was the distressed reply.

“Okay. It’s okay.” He murmured, more so for himself, as well. “Tell me how the place where you’re at looks like. Can you do that for me?”

If this was any other situation… then holy shit! Levi didn’t even know he was capable of being remotely gentle.

“Okay.” The brunet whispered before sniffing. “I… I can see the city from here.”

Holy fuck! Just how far has he gotten?

“That’s good. You’re doing good. Anything else?”         

“There’s a railing here. I think I’m up on a hill.” He continued. “I think… I could see a bus stop on the far side.”

Levi’s brain worked double-time in trying to determine the exact location.

“Is there an oak tree near the bus stop?”

“I think so. Yeah, there is.”

Levi was already on his feet in record time upon hearing that confirmation.

“Okay, I’m already heading there. Just stay on the line with me, alright?”

Eren was at one of the bus stops just outside the city. Well, somewhere around there, at least. He was probably at the spot where a rather impressive cityscape could be seen from high above. Levi had been there before. It was one of his first stops as he moved from Mitras to Trost.

The raven spotted the bus already starting to get in motion. He sprinted as fast as his legs could go and had to yell at the driver to “fucking stop” while banging at the side of the bus. Like hell he’d wait for the next one to come around.

“Eren… I’ll be there in 10 minutes, okay? Stay on the line.” He stated in between catching his breath.

Of course, with the bus’ route, it took more than 10 minutes. Levi was already tempted multiple times to either go on foot, or threaten the driver in going faster. In the end, he merely waited impatiently near the door, and resorted to constantly check the brunet on the other line instead.

The bus hasn’t even fully come to a halt yet when the raven flung himself outside and started sprinting to where he guessed the brunet was.

He was fucking relieved to see a figure huddled up besides the railing situated above the hill.

“Eren!” He called out, coming to a stop just in front of the brunet.

And his heart dropped as he got a good look at the other.

Eren’s stuffs were dumped haphazardly just beside him, and his bag appears to have been thrown far on the other side. An open notebook with torn pages and crumpled sheets of paper littered the area.

But what was really alarming was the state of the brunet’s wrists and arms. It was like someone had tried to cut through them with a blunt object. It didn’t take long for Levi to realize that it was the ruler he found on the ground, and a bunch of cards that were used to deal the damage. Hell, there were even tracks of pen littering his limbs that some parts had already drawn blood.

Levi knelt cautiously in front of the other, gingerly holding the sides of his face, yet not forcing him to look up.

“Eren… what happened?”

The raven felt the side of his hand getting wet. He soon realized that the brunet was crying.

“She’s back.” He almost whispered.

“Who is?” The raven asked gently.

He could feel the shakiness in the younger’s breath as he answered.

“Ymir.”

Chapter Text

It took a while and a lot of coaxing to get the brunet to finally leave his spot on the ground. Levi took it to himself to collect the younger’s things and place it neatly back to his bag. He pocketed the crumpled sheets of paper, though.

The brunet kept mum the entire walk towards the bus stop, and it didn’t cross the raven’s mind to break the silence between them. He just held the younger close to him by the waist while carrying his bag on his other shoulder. It was only then that he realized he left his own stuffs at the shop in his haste.

Oh well. It's not like he could even bring himself to give a fuck about that at this moment.

They waited by the bus stop in silence. Every shift in the brunet's movements had Levi involuntarily tightening his hold on the other. He could care less if it had already been another alter that took over. At that moment, he just wanted to be there for any of them.

The silence dragged on as they boarded the bus. The raven had guided Eren to a more secluded corner at the back and made him sit by the window. Some people couldn’t help giving them strange looks at the state of the brunet, but one glare from Levi had them diverting their eyes elsewhere. Heaven forbid someone would misunderstand their situation and call the cops on the raven.

“Would you like to stop by my apartment so I could tend to your… wounds?” Levi asked tentatively, narrowing his eyes on the marks left on the brunet's limbs. “Or would you rather go back to your dorm?”

Eren took his time mulling over the idea that the raven had begun to wonder if he’d heard him at all.

“Can I… stay with you for a while longer? If that’s okay.” He answered meekly.

“Of course.”

It’s a lot more than “okay”.

Just like how they boarded, the raven was practically glued to the brunet as he guided him down the bus. He never would consider himself as the clingy type, but the vulnerable state of the younger somehow managed to flare up his protective side he didn't even know existed.

Truth is, there were a lot of sides to his personality he wasn't entirely aware of until meeting the brunet.

He continued to guide Eren by the waist through the inside of the building, into the elevator, and finally inside his own apartment; making sure to shoot warning glares at anyone who would even dare to look at their direction. He just didn't want the brunet to feel more exposed from the stares of strangers. And he especially didn't want to have to go through unnecessary interrogations, or even hear unsolicited murmurs from people who don't know better.

The younger let himself be led around by the raven, content in keeping his silence. Or more like, he was too mentally troubled to care at this point. He barely noticed that the older had steered him towards the bathroom sink and gently took his arms towards the warm running water of the faucet.

On the other hand, the raven was being extra vigilant to the brunet's reactions. He hasn't met Ymir yet; has no knowledge of what she might be like, other than the only hint he could gather from the aftermath of what he could see on the brunet's limbs.

Has she done something worse before?

When he noticed Eren slowly tilting his head from side-to-side – probably from being unable to rub his nape – then completely spaced out in a matter of minutes, he was already preparing for whoever might come forward next.

His features completely morphed into one of indifference before he was blinking heavily. Then his eyes widened upon seeing the state of his arms.

"Hey, hey, it's okay. I'm only trying to help." Levi tried to placate the other when he instinctively pulled his arms away from the raven.

Furrowed brows and eyes filled with confusion shot up to the older man. When a flash of recognition hit the brunet, he was darting his gaze everywhere on the place.

"You're at my apartment." The raven started, already having an idea of who he might be talking to currently, but still isn't 100% sure about it. "Come, let's go to my room so I could tend to your cuts."

The other made no move to comply, but also made no protest when Levi pulled them gently by the arm into his room, and made them sit on the bed.

"What happened?" The brunet asked softly after Levi came back into the room carrying a first-aid kit.

"I'm not entirely sure myself. I found Eren somewhere outside the city already in this state." Levi answered while he tended to the cuts.

He could notice the younger narrow his eyes as he applied antibiotic cream on the cuts that broke skin, but made no move to pull away.

"Mikasa, has this happened before?" He asked tentatively.

The other kept silent for a while, merely staring as the raven finished up his work.

"How'd you know it was me?" 

"'Coz you fronting would make more sense than Annie or the others in this situation." He replied simply.

She just absently gave a nod at that, still keeping her head low. Whether that nod was in response to his question or his answer, the raven wasn't sure.

Silence ensued afterwards. One that felt like it had been stretched on for hours.

"Would you like me to take you back to your dorm? Or would you prefer to stay here? It's still... around 7 o'clock. I don't mind whichever you choose." Levi decided to ask after a while.

She thought it over for a moment. The raven was sure she would have preferred to go back to the dorm, but was surprised when she finally opened her mouth again.

"What did Eren say?"

"He wanted to stay for a while longer." He answered with a raised brow.

"Then I'll stay." She stated simply.

"You know, if it's against your will, I'm sure Eren would understand."

She shook her head at this. "Eren's still close. There's a possibility he'd front again soon. I don't want him to find himself back in the dorm when he wanted to stay here."

"Alright. Make yourself comfortable then." He patted her head briefly as he stood up and walked away to give her space.

"Can I get you anything?" He asked as he stopped by the doorway.

The other just shook her head and proceeded to curl up on the bed.

"I'll just be out for a while. Maybe I'll bring food when I come back." He informed her.

He was only met with silence, though he knew he was heard. His gaze lingered on the figure curled up on his bed before he forced himself to move away.

Levi made his way back to the shop to collect his stuffs. Eld was curious by his behavior earlier, but the raven didn't bother explaining himself. No way was he telling other people what Eren had done to himself without his knowledge.

He was just picking up his order from a Chinese restaurant when his phone rang with an unknown number.

"Who's this?" He answered after he got out of the establishment.

"Levi, it's Armin." The voice on the other line answered. "Mikasa just called me, and she said Eren might want to spend the night at your place... is that alright?"

"I don't mind." His answer may have come out quicker than normal. But, whatever.

"Okay, that's good. Umm... I've packed up some of Eren's stuffs. Should I go there or..."

"I'll go there." Levi cut him off.

"Oh... uhh... okay." The blond answered hesitantly. It actually came out as a surprise to him considering how the raven had expressed his clear distaste for the dorms.

Levi had to set aside his personal issues for now. He had something he wanted to ask the blond, after all.

 


 

In the end, the raven merely waited outside the building. After seeing some of the resident students enter the building drenched in sweat, and some hauling stuffs he would never even lay a finger on, he couldn't bring himself taking in another step.

Armin could only shake his head when the raven called him and demanded he bring Eren's stuffs down instead of having to make him go up. It would seem like the only way you could get the raven to enter the building was through Eren himself.

"Hey, thanks for coming here to get this." He opted to say instead, handing over the bag with Eren's clothes in it. He hesitated for a moment, seeing that the raven already had a sling bag and takeout bags in his possession. But then the other just took the bag and swung it over his free shoulder wordlessly, balancing the takeout bags on one arm.

"And thanks for letting Mikasa... or Eren stay at your place tonight." He added.

"You're not worried?" Levi arched a brow.

"Oh, I am. Very. But if Eren said he wanted to stay with you, then that must mean he feels safe being around you." The blond admitted. "Besides, even Mikasa agreed to it. So that's something."

The raven gave no response to this. "I'm actually here because I wanted to ask you something." He stated after a while.

With his free hand, he fished out the crumpled papers he had pocketed earlier when he found the brunet.

"This has bothered me a lot now. I found these earlier in Eren's belongings. I can't be sure if that's in his handwriting or not. But if anything, are there people who are still into bullying your friend? Or are we dealing with something else right now?"

Armin's eyes widened, and he couldn't help setting a hand on his mouth as he read what had been written on the papers.

 

"Go die already!"

"Why are you still alive?"

"Why are you even breathing?"

"You don't deserve to be here."

"It's your fault your mom's dead."

"You should have never been born in the first place."

 

"This... this isn't Eren's." He answered lowly. "I think this is..."

"Ymir?" Levi interjected.

Alarmed blue eyes shot up to him, before giving out a single nod.

"Isn't Ymir a part of Eren's system? Why is she doing this?"

"Not all alters are... good." The blond answered hesitantly.

"What do you mean?"

"If there are protectors in a system, there are also what are called 'persecutors'. Basically, they take the form of being the abusers, and they're more inclined to harm the host and the other alters than help them. I don't really know much about it, to be honest. I've only ever researched about them on my own."

"How long has this... Ymir been around?"

"I don't really know. Eren doesn't like to talk much about her. Mikasa doesn't either. I don't know about the other alters, but they don't really seem to know much about this fragment either. I haven't even really interacted with her myself. There were only times when I'd find Eren self-harming, and he didn't appear to remember doing that himself. I thought... I thought that part of him was over. I guess she's still there."

Levi mulled over this information, trying to see how they were going to have to deal with this.

"How did you make her go dormant back then?"

The blond shot him a confused look. "We didn't do anything. There's not really much we could do to 'control' an alter. I don't even know if that is possible. It's really just up to her if she would refuse to come out. Though something may have happened to Eren if she showed up again after all this time."

"Do you happen to have an idea of what that could be?"

"No, not really. I wish I do." Armin hang his head in resignation.

A beat of silence passed through them.

"Maybe Hanji could help him. It's been a while since he's been to one of his therapy sessions with her." The blond suggested.

"How soon could we get an appointment with her?" Levi asked immediately.

"Oh. Well... I'm not even sure if she's in the city. She travels around a lot. I'll have to look up on that as soon as possible."

"Alright then." The raven adjusted his hold on the multiple things in his possession. "I have to go back. The brat must be wondering where I am. Or fuck, maybe Mikasa had ransacked my place by now." He couldn't help frowning at the thought.

"Yeah." Armin smiled absently. "I mean, no! Mikasa wouldn't do that. Hopefully." He added hastily.

"I'm not taking any chances." The raven muttered as he turned to walk away. "And get rid of that shit for me." He stated over his shoulder, referring to the papers in the blond's hands.

"Eren's quite lucky to have you." The blond blurted out all of a sudden.

The raven turned around again at this statement, arching a brow in silent question.

"You're a good guy." was Armin's only explanation as he turned and walked back inside the building.

Why is it that the people connected to the brunet give out the most vague and cryptic messages?

 

Except Jean. Jean's straightforward.

Jean's an ass, though.

 


 

By the time the raven had gotten back to his apartment, he found the brunet still curled up on the bed. Though this time, he had one of Levi's pillows clutched close to his chest.

Whether it was still Mikasa or another alter altogether, he couldn't tell. He decided he'd let the younger stay in bed as long as he needed to. He could sleep on the couch for all he cares. It's basically his second bed already for all those troubled nights he spent there.

He set aside the brunet's portion of dinner for later as he ate his alone. He cleaned up after and set to work on one of his papers as how he usually does.

He was worried about Eren. But there isn't really much he could do for now.

 

Eventually, he was startled when the brunet sat beside him.

"Sorry." He droned sleepily, rubbing out his eyes. "Why're you still up? Did I hog your bed?"

Levi spared a glance at the digital clock on his laptop and noted it was already past midnight.

"It's fine. I was just finishing up something. If you're hungry, there's Chinese on the fridge. Just heat it up if you want." He responded as he set his laptop on the coffee table.

Eren merely gave a dopey smile before he crawled closer to the raven and buried his face on his chest. Levi adjusted his position to give both of them more comfort, his work completely forgotten.

This would be the first time they'd find themselves in this position. Yet for some reason, it didn't have the awkward first-time vibes, at all. On the contrary, it felt somehow familiar like they've done this multiple times before, and the comfort it gave was entirely welcome. 

Maybe they were meant to be like this all along.

Then again, none of them ever believed in such bullshit.

"How're you feeling?" Levi asked, absently stroking the younger's head.

"A bit better now. I just talked with Mikasa. Was she mean to you?"

"Not at all. Is she okay? She seemed frightened when she fronted earlier."

"She's fine. Like everyone else, she was surprised that... Ymir had surfaced again."

The raven continued absently stroking the younger's hair, not knowing what he was doing was soothing the other.

"None of you were aware of her presence or something?" 

"We're not always aware of each other's presence in general. Much more with Ymir since she doesn't really get along with any of us."

"Do you know why she's doing that?" He asked cautiously.

Eren stilled at the question. He slowly shook his head before burying his face deeper into the raven's chest.

Levi dropped the topic immediately, and opted to stroke the brunet's back instead.

They stayed like that for a while longer, content in the presence of the other.

"Levi?" The brunet called out after a moment.

The raven just hummed a response.

"Thank you." He stated softly.

"Don't mention it." The raven dismissed before planting a kiss on the younger's head.

They fell asleep on each other's arms. Levi slept a lot more than usual, having dozed for over six hours straight rather than a barely three.

Of course they woke up being sore in certain parts of their bodies. It would've made the raven even grumpier if it had been under any other circumstances.

But seeing those sleepy ocean eyes and that lazy smile as he stirred to consciousness...

 

It was fucking worth it.

Chapter Text

Levi made breakfast for both of them. It was still barely 20 minutes past 7 o’clock and both their classes would start around 8:30 AM.

The brunet just got out of the shower when the raven noticed him padding gingerly around the living area. He was only wearing a towel around his waist, and Levi’s eyes couldn’t help themselves feasting at the sight of the brunet’s naked (and fucking deliciously tanned) torso given the opportunity.

Then he immediately snapped his eyes up when the younger noticed him from his spot by the kitchen counter.

“Yes?” He arched a brow in question. As if he wasn’t just shamelessly ogling his boyfriend’s half-exposed body.

“Uhh… have you seen… my bag?” The brunet asked, looking around the area.

The raven instantly knew this wasn’t Eren anymore.

“Do you know where you are?”

The brunet shot him a surprised look before he seemingly remembered how Levi was quite perceptive when it came to Eren’s switching.

“Eren told me we’re at your apartment.” He admitted, running a hand through his hair.

“Let me guess… Reiner?”

The brunet couldn't help frowning at the raven.

“Seriously, how do you do that?” He asked incredulously.

The raven just shrugged. Though it was really how he ran a hand through his hair that made him notice. Girls don’t really run their hands through their hair in the same manner that guys do. And he seemed to lack the cocky vibe that Jean has.

“Eren’s bag is on the low dresser in the bedroom. It’s the door just across the bathroom.” He instructed.

“Thanks.” Reiner smiled as he followed the directions given.

And of course, Levi just had to stare at the tanned back of the brunet as he walked away.

Bless Annie for doing a good job in improving the brat’s physique.

 

“Eat.” Levi instructed as Reiner joined him once again on the counter. “Jaeger didn’t eat any last night.”

“Yeah, I get that.” Reiner snorted, shaking his head.

They just ate together in silence for a while, before Reiner decided to initiate the conversation.

“Thanks for taking care of Eren, by the way.”

“It’s no big deal.” Levi dismissed.

They should really stop thanking him for coming to the brunet’s aid. He’d actually be upset if he was clueless – or worse, useless – with what goes on with the brunet.

“It’s just really fortunate of us that Eren found someone like you. I know he could be a bit too much at times, but please be patient with him.”

Why does Levi get the feeling that he was being talked to by a family member of the brat? What’s weirder is that physically speaking, it’s the brat himself who’s doing the talking.

He just hummed a response to that before diverting the topic altogether.

“So, do you know anything about this fragment of yours?”

Reiner frowned at the question before shaking his head.

“Not much. I’ve only ever seen her once before.”

“You’ve seen her?” Levi reiterated.

“Yeah. I wanted to talk to her, but Mikasa ordered me not to. She said last time they tried doing that, she lashed out on them. I was the last alter to surface so far, so I don’t really know what happened other than what Mikasa told me.”

“How long has she been around? Has she done something worse before? Because it seems to me that Eren’s quite scared of her.”

Reiner’s head instantly snapped towards the direction of the raven.

“I can’t really tell you the details. That’s like… Mikasa’s jurisdiction or something. She’s pretty tight in revealing about the… ugly parts of Eren’s past. What I can tell you though is that… we’re not really sure if she was the first one to be created rather than Mikasa.”

What… the… hell?

“What the fuck do you mean you're not sure?”

“It’s complicated really. There are just some internal changes as time passes by that somehow shifts our memories of certain things. We can’t even really remember when or how we first came out ourselves, or how we became associated with each other. Eren has told us that before, when it was just him and Mikasa, our inner world was actually just a cottage in the mountains. Or at least that’s how he remembers it.” He explained. “But then, Mikasa once said that she felt like she’s already seen Ymir before at that time, and she just wasn’t aware she was actually a part of Eren’s system.”

 

It was around the time when the shouting and verbal abuse had started tormenting the young Eren.

With no source of comfort or words to counter the ones his ears were crammed with, those words started to haunt him with every passing day, and he started succumbing to the damage they dealt to his mentality.

It’s common to hear some people saying that they could hear “demons in their head”. In Eren’s case, it would be in the form of a fragment.

By the time he started believing he never really was meant to continue existing after what happened to his mom, he finds himself subconsciously staring at the kitchen knife whenever the item was in his periphery.

It was a good thing Mikasa managed to talk him out of his thoughts every time before they could go completely haywire and Eren ended up doing something that could harm him.

But it seemed like there was someone else who wasn’t satisfied by the lack of… results.

There were times when Eren woke up with bruises on random parts of his body. At first, he thought it was Zeke who caused it. But then he gradually noticed how even those parts where he doesn't remember ever being landed by Zeke's fist were turning blue and purple.

Still, it didn't bother him too much. What difference did it make anyway?

Until things started to take a turn for the worse.

Cuts started to appear on his wrists, his arms, his thighs. But what was more daunting was that even before he took notice of the cuts, he blinked back to awareness with the kitchen knife aimed at his nape... held up with his own two hands.

It frightened him shitless. Maybe that was how Eren associated a tingling sensation on his nape to dissociating. He doesn't feel safe everytime he felt like being pulled away from his own body.

However, as he thought more about that occasion, he chalked it down to one of those moments where his "depression" takes over that time seemed to pass by him in a haze, and he wasn't really aware of his surroundings and his own actions. Young Eren had no clue about dissociating or whatsoever, after all.

Perhaps the moment that really terrified Eren was the one where he just found himself at the rooftop of the tallest school building in his high school. He didn't remember ever stepping foot in that area. Hell, he was even aware that it was prohibited for students to go up there. It even had a padlock on the door – which was soon discovered to have been "broken down by someone".

He was only two or three steps from the edge, and it was pure luck that his panic brought him down on his ass rather than toppling forward.

 

High school is perhaps the peak of bullying. And since Eren had already been dissociating without his knowledge, the other kids at school never failed to inform him how weird he was.

He's been called names ranging from "weirdo" to "freak" to "Sick-headed faggot" and everything under the sun. But other than the name-calling, the worst always comes in the form of hate messages.

There were a couple of times when he'd find random notes tucked in his bag, in his locker, written on his notebooks, on his desk, and everywhere they could fancy. Messages telling him how he was so gay for his best friend, or how he acts innocent when in fact, he's actually a jerk, or how he should get his brain checked, or the worst: how he should just kill himself.

Perhaps these conduct were what triggered Ymir to take action. Though instead of protecting Eren like what Mikasa and the others would do, it would seem like Ymir agrees more with what the bullies say about the brunet.

By the time Armin found his friend with his thighs drenched in blood, clutching a box cutter with a horrified expression on his face, he had always made sure to check Eren's stuffs for hate mails and whatnot, and was adamant the brunet would never have to carry anything sharp with him.

It was only then when Armin had intercepted the notes before the brunet could lay his eyes on them did the self-harming stop. Not fully at first, since there were still other people who resorted to voicing out their ignorant criticisms instead. Eren had stopped carrying anything sharp with him by then, and Armin had always checked his room for other potential things he could use as an alternative.

But then they woke up with the brunet having multiple bite marks, with some that had managed to break skin, especially on his hands.

It had been a difficult time for Eren, and when Armin would ask him what happened at times he appeared to have hurt himself, Eren would only blurt out "Ymir", and have no explanation as to why he said that.

It was thanks to Mikasa that Eren had forgotten the worst parts of the times when Ymir had fronted.

But it would seem like Eren would never be able to forget the terror the fragment had brought to him.

 

As to the recent incident, Eren had just been on his way to the shop when he spotted someone familiar. His heartbeat instantly picked up when the woman he saw looked a lot like his foster mother, Dina. Although upon closer inspection, it was really just another blonde woman who just happened to have some similar features as to that of his foster mother.

But with his anxiety already on the rise, multiplied by the shouting and loud chattering of the busy streets of the city, his thoughts and emotions unfortunately went haywire. The inaudible chatter of the crowd around him filtered into the words his foster mother used to shout in his ear.

He was practically having a panic attack right then. And by the time he blacked out, Ymir had come to surface.

 

"How does she look like?" The raven decided to ask.

"She has dark hair, narrow eyes, and has freckles. According to Sasha, she could be somehow likened to Jean, in the sense that she's also blunt and doesn't hesitate to call people out. Before, I was actually confused whether Jean was a protector or a persecutor. It just seems like he's dancing on the line between these two roles. But when the information about Ymir came to my knowledge, well... I think that put some things into perspective."

"Is that how fragments are? Are they like the bad parts of the system while the alters are the good ones?"

"No, no. Not at all." Reiner waved a hand in the air as if to dispel the very idea. "The term for that would be 'persecutors'. They're like the opposite of the protectors. Fragments are... from what I understood from Hanji's explanation, they're like... lesser alters. They don't front as often as full alters do, and they're only limited to a certain range of emotions or responses, and tasks. Like for example, my role in the system is a protector. More specifically, I act as a peacekeeper within the system, and outside of it. But at the same time, I could also take over other roles in Eren's daily life like in school and work. And of course, if you weren't aware of me being an alter, you might think I'm an actual person of my own. Fragments aren't like that. Using Ymir as an example, she only feels hatred or spite towards the others, and perhaps even to herself. And so far, all she's ever done has been to cause harm to our host, and to the system as a whole." He explained.

"By chance, is there any way to... fix that or something?"

Levi would hate for the brunet to have to go through this at random intervals, and for an indefinite amount of time. Seeing it once had already been unsettling. He's not sure what else would happen if it were to happen another time. Heaven forbid the damage caused would reach to an irreversible extent.

"I really hope so." Reiner sighed. "Currently, we're all on edge after finding out about what happened. I think Ymir had secluded herself again 'coz we can't really get a hold of her. I would really like to try talking with her one day."

The raven remained silent at this. It would really seem like there's not much they could do to the situation.

"Hurry up." He ordered all of a sudden. "I have to re-dress your bandages before you go out."

Reiner was pleasantly surprised by this. He had actually opted to wear a sweater in order to cover up the brunet's still healing marks. But it would look like the raven was intent on taking extra precautions.

"Now I could see they were absolutely right." Reiner muttered, seemingly to himself.

"Right about what?" Levi arched a brow..

"Ah, well..." He trailed off, scratching the back of his head. "Everyone's been saying you're different from the person you tend to show to others. I think I can vouch for that now."

"Why? What kind of person did you think I was?"

"I'm not gonna lie, I thought you were really intimidating, and would snap at the slightest disturbance." He admitted. "But now, I'd say you're not as intimidating as I thought you were."

Well, that sounded awfully familiar.

Chapter Text

A few days passed and it almost seemed like nothing had happened to the brunet. It came as a relief for Levi as it somehow gives the illusion that nothing was wrong.

But that’s all it was for the raven… an illusion.

He was more than glad that the brunet was doing a lot better. But he wasn’t naïve to even start believing that the worst part was over. Hell, maybe that was even just a glimpse of it.

He also took it to himself not to mention the incident ever again, or even give out hints that would remind the younger of what had happened. If Eren was set on wanting to forget that incident, then Levi would help him do that.

 


 

 

“Hey, Levi. Why haven’t you taken me out on a date yet?” Eren asked out of the blue.

Nimble fingers instantly halted their clacking and were merely hovering on the keyboard.

“We already did that, didn’t we?” Levi answered before resuming his typing.

“Really? When?” The brunet frowned in confusion.

“When you dragged me to the arcades.”

“That wasn’t a date! We weren’t even together back then.”

“When we had dinner with your friends.”

“That wasn’t a date either!” Eren protested. “Well… not really, I guess? I mean a date where it’s just the two of us.”

“It’s just the two of us right now.” The raven pointed out.

The brunet groaned as he planted his forehead on the table between them.

“I mean we should go out together. Just the two of us. We could visit places, eat out together, the stuff. You know… a date.” He whined.

“Is that really necessary?” Levi asked without diverting his attention from his laptop.

“No? But it could be fun.” The younger grumbled.

“You’re not happy just spending time with me?”

“Of course, I am. You’re just… quite busy most of the times.”

“I don’t wanna cram these papers ‘til the last minute.” He explained briefly.

Eren lifted his head to see the raven still focused on his laptop. He knew his boyfriend was a graduating student, and therefore, more bombarded with academic requirements. He just couldn’t help seeking more attention from him. True, they’ve only been together for a couple of weeks, but that only means he needs all the attention he could get from him, despite how needy it sounds. It’s the honeymoon period, after all.

The tinkling of the shop’s bell alerted them of the arrival of a customer.

“Brat, you’re still on the clock.” The raven reminded him, eyes still glued on the screen.

“Yeah, yeah.” The brunet muttered before trudging back to his position behind the counter.

Soon enough, Levi finally finished with one of his projects, and was cracking his knuckles. It was only then did he notice that Eren hasn’t wandered back to his table again.

Casting his gaze towards the counter, he saw the brunet leaning forward on the countertop; his chin on the palm of his hand, and a pout evident on his face.

Is he sulking?

Not a moment later, he breathed in deeply before giving out a dramatic sigh.

Well fuck, he’s definitely sulking.

The raven gritted his teeth before letting out a sigh of his own.

“Fucking brat.” He muttered as he opened a new tab on his browser.

 

By the time he noticed Gunther enter the establishment, he took his cue of packing up. The brunet still looked downcast as he approached him, but he kept trying to cover it up with a smile.

The walk towards the intersection was spent in relative silence. Not that it’s something new, but Levi clearly knew the reason behind this reticence.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” The brunet smiled after planting a short kiss on the raven’s lips.

Levi just hummed in response, regarding closely the younger’s reactions.

“Are you free this Saturday?” He decided to ask.

A mixture of surprise and confusion was painted on the brunet’s face.

“I think so. Why?” He frowned.

“Good. We’re going out.” The raven stated tersely.

Ocean green eyes widened, and he was alternating between opening and closing his mouth like a gaping fish.

“Wait. Does this mean… are you…”

Levi leaned up to cut-off the younger with a quick peck.

“It’s a date.” He confirmed.

A blush crept up into the tanned cheeks of the brunet. Then a genuine, blinding smile curled up his lips afterwards.

“Are you serious?” He asked, even though he already knew the answer.  He was just a little concerned about the raven’s projects since he had just been fussing about it earlier.

“Do I look like I’m fucking joking?” Levi deadpanned.

“Then, it’s a date!” Eren beamed before launching himself on to the shorter man.

“That’s what I said.” The raven grumbled as he pried the younger off of him and turned him around. “Now, go back to that shithole you call your dorm.”

But like a magnet, the brunet spun around again and pulled him into another hug.

“Goodnight, kitty.” He whispered as he planted a kiss on the raven’s forehead.

“You little shit…”

 


 

 

“Will you cut that out?” Levi hissed, getting fed up by the brunet’s constant fidgeting on his seat beside him.

“I can’t help it.” Eren whined. “Where are we going really?”

“How many times do you have to ask that question? I told you, you’ll know when we get there.”

The younger just groaned for what must have been the 50th time in their entire bus ride.

He tried entertaining himself by attempting to peek out the window from the raven’s side to try and guess where the other man was taking him. But after Levi shot him a look, he groaned for the 51st time and forced his head to look forward again. All he could see was the back of the seat in front of them and the top of a head peeking out above it. How entertaining.

He started tapping his fingers on his lap. After a full minute, it lost its charm and he started bouncing his knees instead.

“Eren.” The raven stated with a hint of a warning in his tone.

“Are we there yet?” He whined yet again.

“Are you always like this when travelling?”

“Only when I have no idea where we’re going.” He shot back.

“Well, if you could just wait and behave, you’d soon find out. Or would you rather we stop here and have a picnic in the middle of the road?”

“So, we’re going on a picnic?”

“Oh, yeah. In case you haven’t notice me bringing my imaginary picnic basket.” Levi retorted without missing a beat.

The brunet just huffed a breath and started grumbling under his breath.

Well, so far, isn’t this date going just lovely?

Eren started tapping his fingers on his legs again, and the raven knew it won’t take long before the cycle begins once more. So without even thinking about it, he reached for the brunet’s hand and held it with his own.

“Wha-What’re you doing?” Eren stuttered.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Levi arched a brow.

Though in all honesty, he really had no idea what he’s doing.

The brunet had no response to that and was reduced to flushing different shades of pinks and reds.

It was actually ironic how they could kiss like it was completely natural for them to do, or exchange hugs like a panda bear on a bamboo (Eren being the clingy panda, while Levi being the stiff bamboo), but never had they once held hands.

Oh, well. At least now the brat was keeping still.                                             

 

By the time the bus had slowed to a halt, all embarrassment seemed to have fled the brunet and he was practically dragging the other with him.

“No way.” He uttered lowly as he realized where the raven had taken him.

It instantly gave Levi second thoughts as to whether or not he had chosen a suitable place to conduct a date. He just thought the brunet might like it, and people on the internet had stated it was a safe bet.

“The zoo? I’ve never been to the zoo before!” Eren flashed him a dazzling grin.

Levi didn’t even know he was holding his breath until he released it.

“I’ve never been to one either.” He admitted absently.

The brunet’s features seemed to brighten even more at this admission.

“Then that means we both get to spend our first visit together. How romantic.”

‘How exactly is that romantic?’ Levi couldn’t help wondering. But whatever, that thought only works in his favor anyway.

Eren was practically bounding towards the entrance, the raven following behind him at his own pace. Ever since the beginning, Levi already knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the younger’s seemingly bottomless energy. Doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy simply sitting back and watch him, though.

“Levi, let’s take a pic at the entrance.” The brunet suggested.

“No.” He instantly declined. Taking pictures were never his thing. Hell, he was absolutely sure that every photo taken of him probably had him glaring at the camera or something of the sort.

“Oh, come on, Levi. This is like Dating101. We’re taking a picture together whether you like it or not.” The brunet demanded.

“Fucking brat.” The raven muttered, though ultimately succumbing to the younger’s whims.

“Smile.” Eren instructed as he whipped out his phone and opened it to the front cam.  It only made the raven frown more, but he took the shot nonetheless.

He was smiling widely as he checked their first photo together. Levi thought that was it, but apparently, that was only the beginning.

“Excuse me, ma’am? Is it okay to ask if you could take a photo of us at the entrance?” He proceeded to ask another person wearing what looked like the zoo’s uniform. If the logo was anything to go by.

The lady willingly agreed and Eren was instantly by Levi’s side. He threw an arm over the shorter man’s shoulder and tilted his head a little towards his side.

“Smile.” The lady stated before taking the shot.

And then she hesitated.

“Umm… are you alright, sir?” She asked falteringly, addressing the raven.

“Oh, don’t worry about him. That’s just his face.” The brunet dismissed with a charming smile.

Who could imagine these two were actually a couple? And on a date at that.

Levi might have planned it, but Eren was leading the way as they got inside the zoo. He was dragging the raven around as something would catch his interest. Which is basically everything.

“Hi, it’s Eren. And right now, I’m on my first date with my grumpy little boyfriend.” He started filming himself in the middle of their tour. His free arm was thrown over the raven’s shoulder and he was trying to get the other included in the shot.

“What the fuck did you just call me?” The raven interjected.

“Sorry. My handsome little boyfriend.” The brunet amended, though it didn’t make it any better due to a certain adjective that was still present. He tried to make up for it by placing a kiss on the top of the raven’s head.

“Fucking brat.” Levi could only grumble to himself.

They continued walking around aimlessly, trying to take in all the sights and animals present in the area. Eren would alternate between taking pictures and filming every now and then and the raven could only follow him around like a puppy… following a puppy. Huh.

 

“That’s you in an alternate universe.” Eren grinned as he pointed to the area with the giraffes.

Levi gave him his best scowl, though he already knew of the brunet’s immunization to his intimidation.

“Oh, look. There’s your kind.” The raven pointed out as they stopped in front of the pandas.

The brunet flushed a little at this as they were blessed with a sight of one of the pandas rolling down an inclination after attempting to climb a branch and failing.

“Are you implying I’m cute?” He decided to ask.

“I’m saying you’re stupid.” Levi deadpanned as his eyes were glued to that one panda that had just stopped rolling.

 

Their banter continued for as long as their tour did. Both of them always trying to find an animal they could compare or contrast to the other.

But perhaps the highlight of the tour for the raven would be the part where they were at the avian section of the zoo.

Just their luck, one of the zoo’s staffs was giving a talk about the Northern Saw Whet Owls. One look at the tiny feathered critter, and Levi immediately decided it resembled a lot like Eren.

They were at the front of the small crowd that gathered around the handler. The brunet was practically cooing at the bird while the handler droned on about some information about the species. Soon enough, the handler had allowed taking photos with the fowl as long as they follow guidelines.

The brunet stepped forward in a flash as soon as the go signal was issued. Levi stayed behind holding up two phones in both hands. One, Eren’s, which is currently filming the situation, while the other, Levi’s, was at the ready to snap photos.

Eren held the tiny creature carefully with both hands, scared he might startle the poor thing at the slightest mistake. When the brunet held it up to eye-level and was staring straight into the animal’s eyes, Levi instantly took it as his cue to snap a photo.

After a moment, the brunet gingerly shifted the little bird around to face the direction of the camera, before flashing a wide grin of his own. Another photo.

“Try matching your expression to the little shit.” Levi suggested, unmindful of his language.

The brunet took his suggestion, pursing his lips a little and schooling face to a neutral one while widening his eyes at the same time. Snap.

There goes the raven’s new wallpaper.

 

“Levi! I finally found the perfect animal for you.” Eren suddenly beamed.

The brunet had excused himself for a moment and was now running back towards the raven with something furry in his hands.

“Ta-da! See? He looks exactly like you.” Eren grinned holding up a furry, grumpy looking cat.

Of course it had to be a cat.

“Where the fuck did you get that?” The raven asked, wondering how in the fuck that thing had ended up in a zoo.

“From that little girl over there.” He tilted his head to the side towards where a little girl was waiting along with what could only be her mother. “I only borrowed him for a while so you could take a picture with him.”

“Fuck, no.” Levi protested. But it fell on deaf ears as the younger was already shoving the animal gently on his hands.

“Come on, Levi. Just one pic, please?” The brunet begged, already holding up his phone.

Might as well just get it over with.

Levi merely held up the feline by its sides, leaving its bottom and legs dangling in the air. The animal, in turn, looked even grumpier at the handling, and the raven wasn’t doing any better. Perfect.

There goes the brunet’s new wallpaper.

 

They stopped by a café to order refreshments and have a light snack. The brunet was already gushing about everything that had happened so far during their tour despite Levi also being there to witness it. He let the younger talk his ear off as how he usually does. Though this time, it was with a sense of relief – and maybe pride – with the knowledge that the brunet had enjoyed their date so far.

Though in the middle of the brunet’s chattering, a small group of the zoo’s staffs passed by them. And with them, they were carrying an ape inside a steel cage who seemed to be throwing a tantrum. Its screeches were piercing to the ears, and the people who were carrying it apologized profusely to the disturbed customers. They tried to explain briefly that the primate had been somewhat problematic with its behavior and they were doing their best to tend to it.

The raven merely scowled at the disturbance, and once the screeches could no longer be heard, he turned his attention back to the brunet… only to find him already spacing out and rubbing his nape.

He observed as the other’s features morphed into one of apathy before he was blinking heavily again. When it seemed like he was back to full awareness, the brunet was looking around as if he was trying to guess the place he ended up in.

“A zoo?” He asked levelly.

“Pretty much. Apparently, Eren’s never been to one before.” The raven responded.

The other just hummed a response before reaching out for the drink in front of him.

Right hand. Mikasa.

They remained in silence for the following minutes, the chattering halted as Eren switched out.

“You’re not wondering why you’re here?” Levi decided to ask.

“Eren already told us he was having a date. We just didn’t know where.”

“Do you still wanna continue looking around?” Or do you wanna go back now?

“Eren might switch back. So might as well just see through it ‘til the end.” She shrugged.

And so they did just that. Though this time, conversation barely passed between them and a space was maintained between their two bodies. Mikasa didn’t hold the same wonder in Eren’s eyes as they took a look at every animal in the area. Although when they were at the butterfly garden, her features entirely softened as she observed with rapt attention the insects flying all over them.

Their last stop was at the gift shop. With Eren out at the moment, Mikasa didn’t even try to consider giving something to her host’s boyfriend. Levi still went with it though.

“Here.” He handed a rather beautiful blue butterfly hairclip to her.

She just blinked at it for a moment.

“Why would you choose that for Eren?” She asked incredulously.

“Who said that’s for Eren?” He arched a brow. “This is for Eren.” He handed over a paper bag.

Mikasa took it and pulled out its content. It was a stuffed owl.

“This… is for you.” He handed the hairclip again.

“Why’re you giving me… this?” She asked, perplexed.

“You’re here right now, aren’t you? It’s only fair you also get something out of it.” The raven shrugged.

Mikasa appeared to be at a loss on how to respond. Though not a moment later, she planted a palm on her forehead.

“Eren’s close.” She explained, not waiting for the question to come from the raven.

Wordlessly, they made their way out of the zoo and on to a nearby bench, then decided to take a break for a while. The sun was already setting at the sky yet the area around them was still bustling with activity. There were a variety of stands and stalls selling a variety of items whether it be food, or clothing, or random trinkets.

Levi noticed how the other was rubbing her wrist with the thumb on one hand. Eren’s cuts were slowly fading thanks to the cream Levi had insisted the brunet apply regularly. He was still opting to wear long-sleeved clothing despite the faint marks that were almost barely visible.

“I’ve been having this thought for a while now.” The raven started. “Somehow, it appears to me that Eren doesn’t really remember what had happened with the… recent incident. Did you have something to do with that?”

Her thumb stopped brushing the area before she gave out a single nod.

“It must be pretty damn difficult.”

She immediately swung her head at his direction at this statement, confusion written all over her face.

“You know, being the one who has to bear the burden of the ugly memories? It must be hard on you.”

Somehow, Mikasa’s defenses rose up as those words were spoken.

“If you’re just saying that so you could pry into the details of Eren’s past, that’s not going to work. You may be Eren’s boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean I could trust you.” She scowled.

Levi tried to consider his next words.

“I’m not gonna ask for details if you’re not willing to confide. I understand why you’re the most uptight out of everyone in your system. I just wanted to say that I… appreciate what you do for Eren. I’m guessing if you weren’t around, Eren must still be wallowing in the events of his past, and he wouldn’t be who he is right now. I know I haven’t been with the brat for long, and you have every right to be wary of me. But for what it’s worth, someone should also look out for you.”

Different emotions flashed through her face at those words.

“Why?” She almost whispered. “Why would you even say that?”

“I know what it’s like to carry the burden of terrible memories.”

That is, the constant nightmares, dwelling on things long since over, hardening your emotions in order to cope.

“You mean… you…” She trailed off.

“I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but Eren’s probably the only ray of sunshine that I’ve had the fortune of encountering. I’ve had a shit past that I would be more than fucking ecstatic to forget, but couldn’t. Though what I’ve been through may not pale in comparison to what Eren had gone. But then again, that only gives more credit to you, and the other alters as well.” He wasn’t making eye-contact while saying this and was content on keeping his eyes forward.

Silence enveloped them afterwards. Until Mikasa finally decided to speak again.

“It was horrible. What happened in the past… was horrible.” She stated vaguely. Though it was enough for the raven to know it would be too much to let go all of a sudden.

She was trying to pull up the neckline of Eren’s sweater as if she wanted to hide in it.

“Wait here.” The raven blurted out before standing up and walking away.

Mikasa looked like she was trying to shrink further into herself as she waited for the other to come back. And when he did, she gasped as she felt the soft fabric being put over her head.

“I know you already said you have one from Eren. I’m not trying to replace that, but this one’s thinner and could be used in warmer temperatures. Besides, there’s no harm in having more than one of it, right?”

She looked down and noticed he had given her a red infinity scarf with white butterfly prints on it. She looked back up at the raven with wide eyes and tears were starting to form at the corner of her eyes that she refused to let fall.

Levi merely patted her head before taking back his seat beside her. Another beat of silence fell over them, with Mikasa absently playing with the fabric of the scarf.

Then it was the raven’s turn to be surprised when the other had leaned her head on his shoulder.

“Thank you.” She breathed out.

“Don’t mention it.”

After another moment of relative silence, the brunet spoke once again.

“Whatever you did, Mikasa seemed really happy just now. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her smile so genuinely, and it almost looked like she was about to cry any second. What did you do?” Eren asked, his head still resting on the raven’s shoulder.

“Must be the scarf.” Levi shrugged.

One of the brunet’s hands flew up to touch the fabric around his neck, as if he only noticed it just now. He lifted his head up after a while to look directly into the raven’s eyes.

“Why am I so lucky to meet you?” He asked rhetorically with a smile on his face.

“I’ve been asking the same thing.” Levi returned before leaning in to share a well-deserved kiss.

Chapter Text

“Hey… Levi?”

Nimble fingers stopped in an instant. It wasn’t the usual battle cry, yet the raven seemed to have been conditioned to react as such; especially if they were on campus.

“Sorry, am I disturbing?” The brunet asked as he sat in front of Levi.

Well, that’s awfully nice of him to even consider asking.

‘Must be Reiner.’

“What is it?” Levi asked as he set back to work.

“Ahh… well, you see… it seems like we’ve been having problems with Annie lately.” Reiner started.

“Such as?” The raven spared him a glance, fingers never leaving the keyboard.

“Well, she seems to be sulking. At least that’s how we see it. She’s been kind of gloomy lately.”

Wait… “Annie” and “gloomy” aren’t synonymous?

“I was kind of hoping you could help us with that. If it’s alright with you.” Reiner continued.

“How so?”

“Well… anything would do, really. We just wanted her to cheer up a little. She’s been refusing to front a lot these days.”

“Why’s she doing that? Sulking, I mean.” Better go ahead and ask the more direct questions when your attention is divided between two things at once.

Though he was met with silence at that one. It’s funny how the lack of response would be the one to successfully pull out the raven’s attention from his current task.

However, he wasn’t presented with any signs of dissociating from the other. It looked more like the brunet was seriously considering whether to answer the question or not.

“Damn. Jean should be out here to say it.” He scratched his chin.

He took a deep breath as if to signify that he has finally made his decision (and accepted his cruel fate by doing so).

“This is just how we see it, so I can’t really be sure but… Annie seems to be sulking from… the lack of attention.”

Levi’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline.

“I never took Annie to be the type to seek attention.” Quite the opposite, actually.

“Oh, she’s not. Definitely, no.” Reiner immediately defended. “It’s just that… well… we’re all aware of how much progress you’ve made with Mikasa. I mean, that’s like a really impressive feat on its own. Annie may have been kind of… geez, I don’t wanna say it.” He pinched the bridge of his nose.

‘What? Jealous?’

“Anyway, you get the point. Especially with the gifts you’ve given to Mikasa, Annie may have kind of felt… left out. Don’t tell anyone about this. Especially not Annie. She’s gonna kill me for it.” He stated with much seriousness lacing his tone.

The raven just blinked at the information for a moment.

“I’ll see what I can do.” He stated, diverting his attention back to the screen in front of him.

“Thanks, man. Really sorry for disturbing you.”

Levi just hummed in response, now fully immersed back to his task. He felt firm pats on his shoulder which signaled Reiner’s exit, leaving him alone in his canopy table again. Only Eren would be stubborn enough to stick with the raven for as long as he was allowed to (and even beyond that).

Fingers continued clacking on the keyboard until he hit a block. But instead of trying to find his way around it, he found his thoughts drifting back to the earlier conversation.

Annie’s sulking. What can he do about it? He doesn’t really know what she likes, and most of the time he spent with her has been inside the shop. Should he just give her matching accessories with Mikasa? Would she even appreciate that?

The raven couldn’t help letting out a sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose in slight irritation. Juggling between these two thoughts is getting him nowhere in particular. He should really be working on his projects first, but the thought of the brunet’s alter kept nagging at the back of his mind.

This was what he signed up for. It should really have sunk in his mind that he would not be only looking out for one person, but six of them in total; all in the same body (which made it even harder to resist).

Annie. What’s something he could give to appease Annie?

It was then that a flash of a memory popped into the raven’s thoughts. The moment where he thought he saw Annie smile for the first (and only) time.

What were they talking about again? Moves. They were talking about teaching moves.

Of course. It seems like what Levi could give to her was his time and participation.

He whipped out his phone and sent a text to the brat.

“Wednesday afternoon, after work. Tell Annie I’ll be seeing her at the gym.”

 


 

Come Wednesday afternoon and Levi was already in the middle of his warm-up routine when the brunet arrived. Annie hadn't fronted during their shift earlier so he was starting to have doubts whether or not she was coming out at that moment or not.

Raising his head to get a better look at the other, he noticed he was already in his apathetic mood and knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was Annie.

"I thought you wouldn't have the balls to challenge me this time." She stated as she set down her bag beside the raven's stuffs.

Levi was in the middle of his leg stretching – that is, with his legs sprawled out on the floor and him reaching for his ankles in that position – when he stopped in favor of doing a once-over on the other.

"Last time I checked, I'm pretty sure I won that match. But that could just be me, right?" He retorted, a hint of smugness lacing his tone.

She just huffed a response before proceeding to do her own warm-up stretches on another side of the mat.

Soon enough, they were hopping in place and sizing each other up for the second time around. No one was there to signal the start of the match this time, so it was unsure on how or when they were supposed to begin.

Or at least that would’ve been the case had it not been an unspoken rule for them that the fight always begins when either one of them makes the first move of offense.

In this case, it was Annie. Again.

She threw a hook towards the raven as how she did before. Though this time, Levi merely evaded it without any sort of counterattack. As expected, she was quick on her actions and immediately followed it up with a knee towards the raven’s face as he dodged the first attack.

Levi dodged the move at the last second. Literally. As in, if he had been a second too late, her knee would’ve made impact on his nose. He was given no chance for a break as Annie hurled another punch straight to his head which forced him to step back to avoid it.

Annie used this distance to aim a kick towards the raven’s waist. Levi had to crouch down slightly to block the blow with his arm. It was much to his surprise that the kick made him shift his foot a little to the side to maintain his balance. This minor distraction, along with the position he was currently in, gave Annie the opportunity to grab hold on both sides of his head and pulled it towards her knee.

It was a split-second reaction, but Levi managed to swat both her hands away to pull his head back. However, her knee managed to connect with his jaw at the last second.

“Why aren’t you attacking?” Annie asked as a safe distance was created between them.

Levi rubbed at his jaw. That had been a pretty decent hit and no doubt would’ve been more powerful if he caught the full force of it. Is she even holding back on this?

“You wouldn’t want me to do that.” He responded, hopping in place a few times before getting back into stance.

He knew that Annie was aware he couldn’t land powerful hits on Eren’s body, and perhaps that was why she was way too eager on her attacks towards him. And what he said before was true: he was not the Jiu-Jitsu type of guy. Though he has watched a few moves he has never yet put into practice.

Might as well try them now while he’s got the perfect practice dummy.

This time, it was his turn to launch himself towards the other first. Surprise was evident on Annie’s features as she took in the raven’s speed and barely dodged the jab hurled in her direction. Then again, Levi merely uses these attacks for distraction or to create some distance between them, and he expertly steered his entire body so he was standing directly behind the brunet.

He spent the first milliseconds cursing at the height difference, yet quickly solved the problem by hitting the back of his knees so he was forced down. He swiftly caught the brunet’s head and looped his arm around his neck to lock him in a classic Rear Naked Choke.

However, Annie seemed to have instantly sensed this as she had broken free of the hold before the raven could even complete it. She threw her head back forcefully and, at the slightest loosening of the other’s arms, quickly rolled a safe distance away from the raven.

They continued on like this; Annie trying to land hits on the raven, and Levi trying to lock the other in a choke hold. As sweat slowly started to cling over their bodies, Levi took a moment to pull off his tank top as it was starting to stick to his skin.

Annie stood still for a moment before her eyes narrowed and she suddenly jerked her head to the side.

“Damn it, Eren. Don’t distract me.” She muttered to herself.

The raven arched a brow at this. He was not so low as to suddenly attack someone who was clearly preoccupied.

She blinked her eyes for a few seconds and was shaking her head (probably to shake off the brat that was currently annoying her).

“Stop it. Sorry.” She stated simultaneously as if she was having a conversation on her own.

It must’ve took a minute or two, but she managed to get back to her stance and face the raven again.

“Everything okay there?” Levi asked as he took his stance as well.

“Your boyfriend just decided to throw a gay fit after seeing you naked.” She blurted out.

The raven smirked at this. It was nice to know Eren was participating in on this as well. Not much for Annie though.

They spent the next few minutes in the same dance as earlier. Punches were hurled, kicks were launched, limbs were grabbed, bodies rolled on the mat.

“Men’s bodies are disgusting when they sweat.” Annie stated after a while as she pulled off her shirt and threw it near their stuffs.

This time, it was the raven’s turn to rake his eyes over the sweaty torso of the brunet. It was a nice view until his gaze stopped at his head.

“I would’ve been offended if it had been my body you were shamelessly ogling.” Annie smirked.

Like Levi would even spare a glance at her body when he has this tanned beauty in front of him.

Their fight resumed after a beat, with Levi initiating the first attack again, determined to put an end to this match. He was going out of his way to resist denting the brunet’s body with his own hands. But perhaps a little hit won’t hurt… too much.

So when Annie hurled another jab his way, he took the opportunity to swiftly sidestep the blow, snake his arm under the armpit of the offending limb and through the back of her neck. With his free hand resting atop the hand on her nape, he forced her down to the mats and quickly maneuvered his body to trap her in a D’Arce Choke.

Using the same hold, he forced her to flip on her back, arms and head still trapped by the raven. It took him a moment to realize that to complete the hold, he had to shift his body to the side – with his chest directly above the younger’s face – to add the necessary pressure for the choke to settle.

So he did just that and merely waited. And waited. And waited.

It was only for a few seconds, and he still wasn’t quite sure if he had done it correctly, but fucking hell she should’ve tapped out by now; what with the way he was squeezing her head and arm in the hold.

Is his hold too tight? Oh shit, is she already unconscious?

Panic instantly popped out and he scrambled out to check over the other.

“Ow.” The brunet croaked out, his body falling limp on the mat.

Levi was in conflict on whether to feel relieved or annoyed at that.

“Fucking brat! Do you even know what tapping out means?”

Apparently, it was annoyed.

“I didn’t (want to)… have the chance to.” The brunet answered, not moving an inch from his position on the floor.

Only Eren would be stupid enough not to tap out in a choke hold.

Levi could only shake his head as he set off to grab a towel and a water bottle.

“Oi, get up. You shouldn’t have fronted if you know you can’t handle it.” He instructed as the brunet remained limp on the mats.

“I didn’t choose to come out.” Eren grumbled as he staggered up.

“Yeah? Like you weren’t co-conscious for a while now.”

The brunet instantly flushed at this. “That doesn’t mean I can control it.” He defended.

 

They took their time to wind down, both of them trying to catch a glimpse of the other’s torso as it was still on display… until it wasn’t.

Of course they had to (begrudgingly) put on fresh clothes after a while. Eren thought it was time to head home, but he was puzzled when the raven pulled out his laptop instead.

“What’re you doing?” He frowned in confusion as he watched the older settle back on the mats.

“I was intending to exchange a few lessons with Annie. But since she’s out at the moment, might as well try to learn some online.”  The raven explained without looking up from the screen.

The brunet joined him without much hesitation, and together, they browsed a few videos online. They were currently on a grappling tutorial when the brunet spoke up.

“Is that what you just did earlier?” His voice came out flatly. Levi instantly knew a switch had occurred again.

“That’s the one.” He confirmed, looking at the D’Arce Choke tutorial.

They carried on watching clip after clip in relative silence. After a while, the raven decided he might as well address the reason why he asked for this match in the first place.

“You know, if you wanted something, you could always try asking.” He commented off-handedly.

The younger whipped her head towards him with a hint of confusion on her usually stoic face.

“If you wanted someone to join you in your training routines or whatever it is in your interests, you could try asking me or the other brats out here, instead of merely sulking about it. You may not be Eren, but like I said, you’re still technically a part of him. So I don’t mind it that much. I will tell you though that I’m not always available at every brat’s disposal.”

She didn’t have a response to it and was merely staring at the raven, trying her damnedest not to let any emotion break through her cool façade.

“Okay.” She replied after a while, turning her attention back on the screen. “But who said I was sulking?”

Ah, shit.

“A little birdie told me.” Levi shrugged off instead.

“Neither Eren nor Jean is little.”

The raven didn’t give a response to that. If he did, it would only narrow down what handful of choices there is.

“And Reiner’s a fucking ostrich.” She muttered under her breath.

Looks like he really doesn’t need a response, after all.

 

They scrolled through various videos wordlessly. Levi noticed Annie was ever-so-subtly shifting closer to him as time went by; until they were already shoulder-to-shoulder.

He didn’t mind the contact. And as much as it was Eren that was physically visible to his eyes, all he could feel from the other was purely platonic. Perhaps Annie felt the same way.

And perhaps it was perfectly fine if their relationship stayed like this.

Chapter Text

"Levi, what's your favorite color?" Eren asked out of the blue, poking the raven's cheek.

It was another slow afternoon at the coffee shop and the brunet has far since succumbed to the boredom, and thus, resorted into annoying the shit out of his boyfriend instead.

"Why the fuck are you even asking?" Levi scowled, swatting his hand away.

"Oh, come on. Can't I have a normal conversation with my kitten?" The brunet merely grinned.

"Fucking hell, Jaeger..."

"Mine's blue. Like the ocean." He interjected before the raven could bless him with his holy words.

The shorter glared at him for a moment before conceding (again) to his whims.

"Teal. Like the ocean." He stated, staring straight into the brunet's eyes.

He really didn't have a favorite color before the question was asked. Sure he had "preferred" ones like black and white and gray (talk about variation). But he figured teal was his favorite the moment he got caught into the allure of the brunet's eyes.

Eren was confused for a moment, thinking Levi was referring to some sort of Caribbean ocean like what he saw in some pictures. However, when he noticed (and processed) the raven's look on him – or more like, the way he was intently looking into his eyes – he immediately flushed up to the tips of his ears.

"I see. That's... nice." He muttered awkwardly, clearing his throat.

Levi mentally gave himself a pat on the back after successfully shutting up the brunet, while being completely honest in the process. At least for a few minutes. Heaven knows Eren would not be Eren without the incessant jabbering.

So before the brat could recover from being flustered, he had to quickly switch tactics, and thus, started bossing him around to do some cleaning instead.

The brunet frowned and gave a once-over at the already pristine interior of the shop.

"Clean what exactly?" He challenged, despite knowing the raven would always have an answer to that.

Levi swiped a finger on the counter. "For starters, how about wiping down every flat surface in this establishment?" He made it a point to show an almost imaginary dust on his finger.

The brunet just continued to frown at him, hopelessly trying to will the other to say he was just kidding. Keyword there is "hopelessly".

"Fine." Eren groaned.

Cleaning and Levi was almost as inseparable (and very much synonymous) as eating and Sasha.

"At least I'm not the only one with weird conditions." He mumbled under his breath.

He trudged into the back room to retrieve some rags and a cleaner specifically hand-picked by Levi himself. Actually, it had come to his knowledge that most of the cleaning materials of the shop was specially requested by the raven, according to Eld.

He retraced his steps away from the back room and towards the counter the older had (questionably) made his point on. He started scrubbing down the area in earnest while Levi merely stood by and "monitored" his progress.

This, right here, is workplace abuse. This is boyfriend abuse!

"What were you like when you were a child?" Eren asked offhandedly.

Levi made him clean so he'd be busy with his hands more than his mouth, but it seems like that plan had backfired, after all.

"Why are you even asking now?" He sighed in resignation.

"Well, with your OC tendencies when it comes to cleaning, it makes me wonder if you were born and raised in a completely sterile hospital or something. It even makes me a little anxious every time I enter into your apartment for fear of dirtying the place with my previously sanitized hands. I even had to seriously consider sanitizing my feet as well, or wear mops for socks, since I could practically see my reflection on your floor."

Levi didn't know whether he should take that as a compliment or an insult. There is one thing (from everything he rambled off) he has an answer to, though.

"I was rather born in a shithole." He stated flatly.

Eren gave him a look of confusion.

"It was filthy. I hated it. Perhaps that's why I want everything to be clean." He explained briefly, not wanting to delve into details.

Eren may seem like a moron for most of the time, but when it comes to these things – especially when it comes to childhood stories – he's really sensitive with these matters.

So he left it at that. A brutally honest person like Levi would have very good reason to avoid going into details about his past.

Further conversation dropped entirely after that. As much as the brunet wanted to play it off by diverting the topic, he rather finds himself internally dealing with it. Despite being together for quite a while now, he just realized they haven't really discussed anything about each other's past.

Is it really necessary? Eren didn't know. And he wasn't sure he could hold onto his end of the exchange considering he doesn't even quite remember a lot about his own past.

Levi joined him on the cleaning after a while, and they worked in relative silence around the shop. Soon enough, the raven approached him again.

"What would you like to have for a drink?" Levi offered.

It successfully snapped the brunet out of his thoughts as he considered his options.

"I'll have whatever you're having." He responded boldly.

"You sure?" The raven arched a brow.

"At least I want to know more about your taste in stuffs." The brunet shrugged.

Levi acquiesced and set off to prepare tea in the back room. He's quite dubious what the brat would think about drinking tea, considering he was more of the chocolate drinks type of guy. He did appreciate the thought, nonetheless.

He invited the younger into the back room after finishing the drink. He made sure to add a little bit of sugar and honey to the brunet's cup thinking he'd appreciate the sweetness more.

"Hey, this isn't bad." Eren commented after his first sip.

The raven just hummed a response at that (internally relieved the brat didn't show aversion to his favorite drink), and together, they sipped leisurely at their teacups.

After a while, the brunet thought it'd be a good idea to try imitating the raven on his rather peculiar way of holding his cup. It was all fine and dandy at first... until his hand slipped.

"Shit!" Eren hissed as the cup shattered on the floor. "Fuck! I'm so sorry."

He was already prepared on apologizing profusely for his clumsiness, yet the moment he caught the look on the raven's face, the words died in his throat.

Levi was merely staring at the broken pieces of the cup, as if it took a lot of time for the incident to process in his head. It came to the point Eren started to feel uncomfortable by the raven's lack of response as it eerily reminds him of something.

"Hey, Levi?" He called out tentatively. "You okay?"

The raven in question appeared to have just snapped out of his thoughts, and he was diverting his gaze elsewhere.

"Yeah, sorry. Just had a little flashback there." He muttered out.

Oookaaayyy...

"I'm really sorry. I'll go clean this up right away." Eren made a move for the cleaning supplies' closet.

"No, it's fine. I'll do it. You should probably go back to the counter instead." The raven offered.

The brunet's eyebrows couldn't help furrowing at that. He had been pretty sure he was going to get an earful of reprimands from his carelessness. But apparently, he was getting none of that.

He stepped back behind the till wordlessly and waited for the other to join him, thinking his chiding would have to wait for later. Levi did join him afterwards, but he was content on keeping his silence from the matter.

Eren couldn't help feeling something was off from the raven at that moment. Sure, he may just be his usual stoic self. But looking closer, the raven's expression appeared more relaxed than indifferent. There was none of those lines between his eyebrows that become more pronounced the moment they meet, or even the usual sharpness in his eyes.

He appeared so... calm and composed, despite what just happened.

Sure, a cup shattering was nothing grand to share around a campfire, it just seemed to have flicked a switch somehow that Eren couldn't pinpoint to what.

Hell, even he was feeling like dissociating after what happened. He could feel Mikasa floating around his head as he started rubbing his nape.

"Hey, Levi? I'm really sorry about the cup." He started to apologize again as he felt the telltale signs of spacing out.

"It's alright, kid. Don't worry about it." The raven dismissed.

Kid. He just called him "kid".

Levi never really addressed him as "kid" when speaking directly to him. It's always either "brat", or "little shit", or "Jaeger", or "Eren".

Something's wrong here.

However, inevitably, Mikasa had already fronted before he could dwell on it further. She had already been co-conscious ever since the cup shattered on the floor, and thus, has an idea of Eren's current predicament.

She intently observed the other in silence. The subtle mix of confusion and surprise from the raven's features when she fronted (changing Eren's entire demeanor along with it) didn't even escape her.

"Who are you?" She asked bluntly, knowing the older would never break the ice (i.e. staring contest) first.

The raven's brows shot up to his hairline at the question. Whether he was thinking the younger was stupid for asking that question or that the reaction was for an entirely different reason... it was his answer that dropped the pin.

He considered the brunet for a moment longer, though not in the same way as he usually does when his brows would slowly meet and he'd be staring at the other with sharp eyes.

His entire demeanor was so... relaxed.

And then, when he finally opened his mouth to answer, it was like everything was suddenly too loud and too silent at the same time for Mikasa.

 

"Rivaille. Levi's alter."

Chapter Text

Hours turned into days, and days turned into weeks. And before they knew it, Levi's graduation was fast approaching.

"Does this mean you won't be working at the coffee shop anymore?" Eren asked, not moving his eyes away from the television.

They were lazily lounging in the raven's apartment, with Levi finally free from all those projects and papers he worked so hard to pass. Juggling between school works and looking out for the brat wasn't as exhausting as he initially thought since his other alters weren't as needy as Eren himself.

"Pretty much. I've already talked to Hannes about it." The raven replied, eyes also glued on the screen despite having little interest on the movie playing.

A beat of silence passed through them; the sounds coming from the TV the only source of noise filling the atmosphere.

"Shouldn't you be studying?" He asked after a while.

Levi may be finished with his academic problems, but the same cannot be said for the brunet. He still has his own exams coming up.

"I don't want to hear horseface neighing in my head just yet." was Eren's response.

Thing is, the reason why Eren was in Levi's apartment in the first place was because he reasoned he "wanted to have a nice, quiet place to study." Then an hour later, they find themselves watching television. Because priorities.

"Any other excuses? I'll make you regret it if you fail."

"I won't." The brunet grumbled.

"Go study before you say that." The raven retorted.

The younger just pouted before he was crawling over to the other's side of the couch, and nuzzled his way to his chest. He looked at the raven with wide eyes and a small smile playing on his lips.

Well, if he thinks some fucking cute display like that would make Levi Ackerman waver –

"Brat." The raven scowled, yet wasn't able to resist planting a small kiss on the brunet's head nonetheless. It didn't even take a moment before he was already stroking the younger's head.

– then he's goddamn right.

Eren just grinned in satisfaction, which didn't falter even after Levi firmly told him he'd better start studying once the movie ended. They continued cuddling with each other, not paying as much attention to the movie as they were to each other's presence.

It was when the credits started rolling that the brunet spoke up again.

"Fuck. This is awkward."

Levi immediately released his hold on the other.

"Jaeger's bag is beside the couch." He informed, clearing his throat while slowly sitting up.

He didn't need to ask to know it was Jean who was fronting at the moment. And he didn't even want to know for how long he had been conscious of their previous position.

"Right. Got it." The brunet responded awkwardly as he set off to do what Eren should have done in the first place.

Levi let the other mind his own business. He tried to content himself with merely observing as Jean sat on the floor and laid out their school materials on his coffee table. However, with nothing better to do, the raven let his curiosity take over.

"Do you always do Eren's studies for him?"

Jean finished whatever he was writing first before answering.

"Not really. We all had to study somehow since we can't be sure who's fronting when exams come. I know it may come as a shock, but Eren actually studied last night.

Well, that is quite shocking.

"How do you all work on that exactly?"

"We create some sort of study guide." Jean handed him the binder he was writing on. "Eren fronts the most out of all of us – since, of course, he's the host – and there are times when we somehow just know the things he studied. We still do that just in case, though. Basically, whoever is fronting at times when we were supposed to be studying, we jot down notes about the topic to keep track of how much we collectively had studied so far."

"What's with the different colors?" Levi asked as he skimmed through the pages.

"It's so we know who's writing what. There are times when we switch in the middle of taking notes, so we use colored bullet points as markers. Green one's Eren, Mikasa's red, Annie's blue, Sasha's brown, Reiner's yellow, and mine's black." He explained.

Interesting. It's quite intriguing to know that they've created some sort of system in their academic life that actually works out for them. Levi also noticed that the alters have distinct handwriting from each other. Eren's and Sasha's were more of messy scrawls; Mikasa's and Annie's were written in almost elegant handwritings; Jean's was written in neat prints; while Reiner's was somewhere between a messy scrawl and a neat print.

But perhaps what came more of a surprise to the raven was that Eren's markers took majority of the pages; followed by Jean's. Sure it could be because of the reason that the brat fronts the most, he just didn't think he was actually the type to study seriously. What with his behavior just earlier.

"I didn't know the brat could write this much." He voiced out loud.

"Yeah, surprisingly." Jean scoffed. "I mean, I still stand by my opinion when I say dipshit's an idiot. Actually, that should already be a fact. But his saving grace is that he's very determined when you push him just right."

True. Levi could couch for that. Hell, even if you didn't do any sort of pushing, as long as it's in his interests, chances are, you'll be the one to give up first trying to stop him from doing it.

The raven just flipped through more pages, already familiar with some of the lessons written, before he handed back the binder and let the other continue with his business. He didn't want to disturb the younger with more questions, but it became hard to resist especially when Jean rummaged through their bag and took out a small, narrow case.

"You wear glasses?" The raven inquired with a hint of incredulity.

"Only when my eyes start to feel strained." Jean responded. "Though I've noticed it's been getting worse lately."

"Are you the only one who needs glasses then?"

"Apparently. Not quite sure how that works." He mumbled.

Levi left it at that, also not quite sure what else to ask of it. Minutes have passed before Jean was the one who initiated the conversation the next time.

"Where will you be working after you graduate?" He asked, not letting up from his note-writing.

"I'm still considering my options." Levi admitted. "Though I have heard that the Survey Corps is opening a branch here in Trost."

"Aiming big as a fresh grad, huh? Wonder how you'll deal with your boyfriend once you've become more busy being a working man."

Ah, shit. There is that possibility that Eren would become more of a whiner from the inevitable lack of attention. But then again...

"I wouldn't worry about it too much since he'd also be quite preoccupied with starting up on his major." The raven pointed out.

Jean just acquiesced with that as he continued burying his nose into textbooks and papers. Levi couldn't help wondering how Eren would look like when he was seriously studying.

Would he tie his bangs up to get it out of the way? Would he bite on his pen when he's thinking? Would he have that gleam of determination in his eyes?

Levi didn't know how he'd look like when he's, indeed, seriously studying. Yet he doesn't find it difficult to paint a vivid picture in his head of what he might look like when he's doing it. It was almost scary how Levi's brain could easily picture out the brunet's different expressions in different situations.

Much more so when his thoughts started derailing into more... inappropriate scenarios.

"I'll go make tea." He muttered out as he left for the kitchen, trying to quell back his boner into its limp state after perking up in attention at the mental image of a sweaty, panting brunet grunting out the raven's name into the sheets.

Fuck.

"If you don't stand down, you'll be learning what 'teabagging' means when I dump this kettle on you." Levi threatened his own dick.

 


 

Huge banners with equally huge words of congratulations written in them littered throughout the campus. People in toga filled up the center of the gymnasium, while people ranging in casual to formal attires filled up the rest.

Respective and enthusiastic claps accompanied each graduate as they marched up the stage to take their diplomas. And a certain raven couldn't help flinching as a resounding shout of cheer drowned out the rest of the noises when it was his turn to be presented with his diploma.

Hell, the brat actually managed to turn heads into his direction as opposed to the one on-stage. Not that Levi minded it that much, at least he was already out of the scene when people started shifting their attentions back.

And when the newly graduates started throwing their caps in the air, Levi held tight on his own and rather used it as a shield against the force of gravity when those caps started raining down on them. He couldn't help smirking when he witnessed a guy getting poked in the eye by one of the caps.

'Congratulations. You're an idiot.'

By the time he was steering his way out from the sea of people, he stopped dead in his tracks when he heard the ever-familiar battlecry from a certain brunet.

"Leeviii!" Eren launched himself on the raven.

Thank heavens Levi had taken off his cap. Otherwise, the brat would probably be blind by now.

"Congratulations! You made it!"

"Yeah, yeah. Can we get out of here first?" The raven complained, trying to pry off the younger away from him.

"Shhhh... I'm busy trying to congratulate you." Eren hushed as he continued nuzzling the shorter's head.

Levi humored him for a while, until he was starting to feel especially hot in his toga and he started stomping towards a less populated area, dragging the brat along with him.

"Eren! Levi! There you are!"

Both heads turned to see a familiar mop of blond hair heading towards their direction, with the rest of the squad in tow.

The raven had to struggle against getting flustered (or at least from showing it) from the chorus of felicitations and well wishes being showered upon him. He wasn't even sure if he liked being in the spotlight and have already been tempted multiple times, in a span of a few minutes, to get away from all the attention.

"We should be starting to take pictures already." Historia suggested.

"Let's find a good place first. It's too crowded here." Marco offered.

It was met with a unanimous vote, and Levi was more than happy to get some fresh air from the stale atmosphere that filled up the inside of the gymnasium.

"Come on, Levi. Would it kill you if you smile in one photo, at least?" Eren complained as they tried to take solo shots of the raven.

Levi paid him no heed as he continued standing indifferently while holding his diploma up for the camera.

"Alright, go join him Eren." Armin suggested, knowing they won't be getting much of a reaction from the raven even if it was celebrating his own achievement.

The brunet joined him with much enthusiasm. He stood behind the other, wore his cap on his head and draped his arms around the shorter man. He was grinning widely at the camera as opposed to the raven, feeling very much proud of his boyfriend's success.

And he, himself, was successful in getting some sort of reaction from the older as he kissed his cheek in one of the shots. Armin captured the surprise on the raven's face perfectly.

"What if we hoist him up on Bert's shoulders?" Eren suggested as they started planning on taking group pictures.

'What if I shove this paper down your throat?' was Levi's immediate thought, but was saved the breath when Bert spoke up first.

"I don't think that's possible." He stated a little nervously as he glanced at the raven. "I mean, he's quite heavy judging from that one time you made him do those fighting moves on me."

Now, Levi is a little intrigued on the suggestion. Would the beanpole be able to hold him up? Or will he snap from his weight? Will the raven's heaviness cause his bones to grow shorter?

Fuck, this is where Levi wishes cartoon logic applies in reality.

In the end, they had to ask for assistance from another person as they surrounded the raven's with huge smiles on their faces. Eren was the one closest to him, and the only one throwing an arm over his shoulder. He didn't even bother doing different poses (or even facial expressions) as with the other brats, who were pointing at him collectively and doing peace signs.

There was even one where they were making an "L" sign with their fingers (courtesy to the brunet and his ideas). To the general public, it would most definitely seem like it would signify as "loser", and Levi wasn't quite sure how he felt by that.

 

Eventually, he was dragged by the same brats for some "proper celebration" with food and drinks and chatting and cheering and smiles and laughter and a partridge in a pear tree. He wasn't even aware it was supposed to be his treat until the brunet mentioned it.

"Maybe we should just split the cost." Armin offered hesitantly after seeing the raven's eye twitch from the shitload of everything that was served on their table.

"It's fine." Levi muttered out.

It shouldn't be that bad to splurge once in a while. Besides, these people made efforts to celebrate this milestone with him. Hell, being friends with him in the first place is already an effort worth commending.

Eren tried his damnedest to stay grounded the moment the mountain of food was on sight. Unfortunately, there's really close to nothing that could get in-between Sasha and food.

"Slow down, you're gonna choke yourself to death if you keep that up." The raven chided as he took a napkin and wiped the brunet's face.

"Ish fine." Sasha complained around a mouthful of food as she reached out for more.

The others around the table could only give the raven sympathetic looks knowing they couldn't do anything about the situation even if they tried. The least they could do is have the emergency number on speed dial in case medical help is going to be needed.

"Tch. I'm not carrying you back to your shitty dorm if you start complaining again." Levi warned.

Though unsurprisingly, he ended up doing just that. And things just got even more nostalgic when Bert also had to carry Historia after getting shit-faced from only two rounds of shots.

He received another chorus of congratulations and words of gratitude for his "treat" as they were about to part at the dorms.

"My kitten's off to do great things." Eren mumbled drowsily as the raven settled him on the bed.

Levi was pretty sure it was perfectly fine to smack a sick person, and get away with it. But despite the urge to do so, he rather tucked the brunet properly in bed, looked around to see if the coconut was watching, and placed a quick kiss on the brat's forehead after making sure no coconut was, indeed, watching.

"Night, Levi. Congrats... again." The blond mumbled sleepily, already buried under the sheets on his own bed.

This was just one of the many things Levi would never admit. Contrary to popular belief, he actually appreciated these moments with these brats. It was thanks to them that Levi knew how it felt like to have friends. And it was ultimately thanks to Eren for introducing them to him.

He couldn't help wondering how things will change from that moment on. He find himself somehow wishing something like this wouldn't end.

Nevertheless, it was already time to move forward.

 


 

[I got a little bored while waiting for the ideas to come to me, so I made another shitty edit for the story.]

 

 

Alternative link here.

Chapter Text

"Levi! If I pass all my subjects this sem, would you let me spend the summer at your place?" The brunet asked with every bit of enthusiasm on the other side of the line.

The raven just hummed in response, preoccupied with dusting the corners of his ceiling – his phone wedged between his ear and shoulder.

"Wait, are you serious?" came the incredulous follow-up question.

"Mhm."

"No take-backs?"

"Mhm."

"Promise?"

"Mhm."

Then you better prepare yourself for the best summer yet, 'coz I, Eren Jaeger, will be sure to deliver!"

"Mhm."

Truth was, Eren already lost the raven in the middle of his rambling about baby sharks (which almost pushed said raven to promptly end the call and block his number altogether when he started singing that fucking stupid, annoying song), which had been the very first topic since their phone call started roughly an hour ago.

In other words, Levi had no idea what he was even agreeing to.

"On another note," Eren continued.

"Mhm."

"You know..."

"Mhm."

"... You're not even listening, aren't you?"

"Mhm."

"LEVI!!"

"Fucking shit! Motherfucker!" The raven cursed generously as he almost dropped his phone. "What the fuck were you fucking screaming out for?" He hissed as he managed to save the device from an unsolicited drop test on the floor.

"Do you even have any idea what we were just talking about?" The brunet asked exasperatedly.

"Sharks." He replied flatly.

"See? You see? You weren't even listening the whole time!"

Levi could practically picture out the brat's wild gestures as he uttered those words.

"Well, what the fuck were you talking about, Jaeger?" He pinched the bridge of his nose.

"You just agreed that I'd be spending the summer at your place." The brunet responded, deeming it unimportant to mention the "passing the subjects" part when the older already gave his permission.

Well, what the fuck? Did Levi really just agreed to that? Or was the brat just fucking with him?

"You promised. No take-backs." He added, just when Levi was thinking he could squirm his way out of that agreement.

"I'm just thinking that couldn't be everything I unawarely agreed to." The raven responded instead.

He was actually dreading there could've been worse things that were mentioned while he wasn't paying attention. And while he could always bullshit his way out of it, it would be pretty much difficult once the brat's expectations have been set. However, it seemed like that wasn't the case.

"Well..." The brunet trailed off. "I'm allowed to spend the summer at your place if I... pass my subjects this sem." He fessed up.

'Huh. Well, that's not too bad.'

There is that chance that he could fail at least on one of his subjects. Not that Levi was wishing for it, but a chance is a chance. (*cough* asshole *cough*).

"Alright, then." He agreed a second time.

To be fair, he (secretly) adores the brat. Well, he's his boyfriend, for fuck's sake! So at the very least, he could admit he does feel a little strongly for him. But then again, he could never be sure how dealing with him 24/7 is going to turn out. Heaven forbid gags and ropes (and professional psychiatric help) would have to get involved. And definitely not in the sexy way.

Then again, what if it was in the sexy way?

'Ah, dick. Stop getting... a head of yourself.'

 


 

Levi swears he wasn't looking forward for the brat's stay when classes officially ended and summer came. He swears he did not scrub his apartment down to the last millimeter of area every day since the arrangement was made. He swears he didn't promptly stacked up on his grocery, and spent more time than necessary wondering what he could prepare that could convince the brunet to eat. He swears he didn't get impatient as each day rolled by without any update on the brat about the said agreement. He swears it didn't drive him up the walls when days turned into weeks and not even a single text from the brunet popped up on his phone.

And he swears he didn't just slam the door on the aforementioned brat's face when he showed up all of a sudden at his front door, all smiles like there was fucking nothing that happened since their last conversation (which, in a way, was true).

"Hey, Levi. Come on. Why'd you do that? I'm here like I said I will. I passed all my subjects. You can't back out now." Eren whined as he kept knocking on the door.

"You fucking shit. Why would you suddenly show up after fucking weeks of keeping your always fucking blabbering mouth shut?" The raven seethed behind the other side of the door.

"I'm sorry! I had to go back to Shiganshina to see how grandpa was doing. I also had to properly inform him and Armin about my plans to spend the summer here since I know they'd worry if I just tell them abruptly. Plus, I had to settle some things with the other alters with regards to staying with you. I mean, they like you, really. And they feel like they could trust you with our safety. It's just that... this would be the first time we'd be staying with someone that is not either Armin or grandpa." He explained.

"I also wanted to surprise you." He added softly, but enough for the other to hear. Fuck, he could practically hear the pout from that statement.

Well, Levi wasn't entirely happy with the surprise. Or more like, at all. Nevertheless, he figured he could at least take his reasons into consideration... despite how shitty it still was that he refused to send him at least one fucking text.

He let out a deep sigh to let his anger dissipate in the very least. Levi Ackerman was the fucking Stoic King. He will not let a wide-eyed brunet change that; boyfriend or not.

He slowly opened the door, glare still plastered on his face, and he might've felt a little tug on his heartstrings when he witnessed the younger's face light up at the sight of him.

"I'm guessing you're upset 'coz you missed me?" The brunet grinned smugly.

The door was promptly shut on his face. Again. Obviously, that tug on his heart was not something good for the raven's health.

 

"Okay, is it just me, or is your apartment extra... sterile today? Should I start worrying about the cops showing up anytime, asking if I've seen a dead body around here?" Eren asked, half-serious since he could still practically smell the bleach in the air.

"If that happens, I trust you know what to do and say." The raven deadpanned, making the brunet laugh a little nervously.

It took a while and a lot of pleading for the raven to finally open the door once again. So, Eren was starting to act a little more careful for fear of being kicked out so soon after he just stepped foot in the building.

"So... where do I sleep?"

A beat of silence.

Levi has never felt like an idiot before, but that feeling came crashing down on him like a fucking meteorite the moment he realized he forgot to take into consideration that "little" detail.

In his defense, the brunet was just brimming with this bottomless pit of energy no human should be allowed to have, thus, the thought that brats also need their sleep completely escaped him.

Well, what-the-fuck-ever. They're both guys, and they're together. There's nothing complicated about that.

"I only have one bed in this place, in case you haven't noticed." The raven started. "So obviously, you're sleeping on the floor."

Nothing complicated, indeed.

"You're a terrible host." The brunet pouted.

"I never really invited you in the first place." He pointed out.

"You're a terrible boyfriend." The younger amended.

Levi cocked a brow at that one. As far as he's aware, he has followed that WikiHow guideline he had filed inside his head. Well... in his own way, at least. And there wasn't anything that mentioned you can't let your boyfriend sleep on the floor.

“Am I now?” He challenged.

The younger had a defiant look on his eyes that was as plain as day. He was about to open his mouth when the raven beat him to it.

“’Coz you could always sleep outside. I’m just saying.”

“See? That’s why I love you.” The brunet’s tone was dripping with sarcasm.

However, it didn’t exactly have the desired effect. Silence settled around them as those three words escaped the brunet’s lips. Sure, he didn’t really mean it, it was just the first time the words ever came up between them.

Eren also seemed to have realized the weight of his words from the other’s lack of response. He wanted to take it back and expound on it being merely a joke. Yet at the same time, for some reason, he couldn’t bring himself to do that.

“Of course you do.” Levi cleared his throat.

But then again, it didn’t have that desired effect of playing things off. Their lack of experience has come to bite them on the ass as they have just come to realize they didn’t really know where they stand in their relationship.

Sure they cuddle and make out whenever the desire arises, but things never really went further than that. There were no wandering touches in certain areas of their bodies, no sign of lust present in their lingering stares, it was almost like they were the perfect example of the sweet, innocent couple.

Which, if they were honest, they really weren’t. Not at all.

Levi could admit there would be times when his thoughts would wander into unholy grounds, but that’s where they have always stayed: inside his head. He had always prided himself with self-restraint, and his “affections” for the brat was no exception. If anything, it just made him more determined to act more careful around the younger. The fact that the brunet could look so innocent just subconsciously boosted this sense of protectiveness. Even if it was against himself.

“So, where do I sleep, really?” Eren tried again.

The raven gave out a sigh. Whether it was out of relief or something else, he couldn’t tell.

“Go take the bed. I’ll sleep on the couch.” He offered.

“What? No, I can’t do that. It’s your apartment.” The brunet protested. “I’ll take the couch and you’ll take the bed.”

“Don’t be stupid. Like I could sleep on my own bed knowing there was someone else around.” He reasoned.

A complete lie, of course. He really couldn’t sleep most of the times. So he figured at least the brat could put his bed into better use, and that he wouldn’t risk disturbing the younger’s slumber whenever he would amble out of his bedroom to try finding the sandman.

“How about we both take the bed instead?” The brunet proposed.

Levi mulled it over for a moment. “And what if one of your alters suddenly decide to say hello?” He pointed out.

“Then it’s up between the two of you to decide whatever fits you best. As for me, I’m completely fine sleeping with you.” He stated boldly.

And then he was blushing furiously when the raven cocked a brow.

“I mean, sleep with you… on the bed. Like, just sleep-sleep! Nothing more. Like doze off on the bed with you.” He tried to correct himself desperately.

And as always, Levi took advantage of his flustered state.

“I see. I also wouldn’t mind sleeping with you.” He smirked as he took the brunet’s baggage towards the bedroom.

And left said brunet melting on the spot.

 


 

When nighttime came, Eren initially offered to help Levi cook dinner, but had to back out into the living area, scrolling through pictures of the ocean on his phone, when he felt Sasha close by.

He started to feel more desperate on keeping himself grounded the moment the aroma of whatever Levi was cooking wafted into his direction.

“Sasha, stay.” He mumbled under his breath.

He plugged in his earphones and started listening to the music he likes – all the while going through video clips of the ecosystem under the sea – in another attempt to prevent a switch from happening. It was usually out of his control, but if they could use triggers to pull an alter out, he figured he could use his own positive triggers to help him stay in place.

He was startled out of his thoughts when the raven was suddenly beside him, nudging a bowl on the side of his face.

“Here.” He offered as he took a seat beside him.

“Thanks.” The brunet accepted the bowl. “Are you sure it’s okay if we eat here in your couch?”

“Not really. But I’ve been trying to get your attention for the past ten minutes, so I really couldn’t be bothered with going back to the counter now that I’ve brought food with me.” The raven shrugged.

“Sorry. Sasha was floating in my head.” He explained. “What is this, by the way?” He asked, inspecting the contents of the bowl that was given to him.

“Cheeseburger soup.” The raven responded after swallowing his first spoonful.

Eren’s eyes widened at this. “No, shit. Really?” He asked incredulously. He’s never heard of such a dish before.

Levi looked a little apprehensive at that. It wasn’t really his go-to recipe, but he thought it would be a safe start to get Eren, the host, eat since he had this unhealthy habit of preferring fastfood. And also, since he thought it would be a popular dish amongst kids.

“Thank fuck! I love cheeseburger.” The brunet exclaimed after checking over his bowl once more. “Sorry, Sasha. No fronting for you tonight.” He muttered to himself as he took a spoonful of the soup.

Levi enjoyed the brunet’s reactions to his cooking, more than the food itself. He would appear dismissive by the younger’s constant compliments of the dish, but he was secretly relishing every second of it. It especially boosted his ego when the brunet asked for seconds.

Eren helped him with the dishes and his general routine of “light cleaning” around the apartment, despite his objections. They’ve also managed to watch a movie both have already seen as they took turns of using the shower.

“Shitty brat. Couldn’t you even dry your hair properly on your own?” Levi chided as he made the younger sit on the floor by the couch so he could towel those chocolate brown locks dry himself.

Eren couldn’t bring himself to care much about the scolding as he was rather enjoying the attention the raven was giving him. He stayed on the floor between the raven’s legs even after the older had demanded he was done with his task. And despite Levi finding it a necessity to put the used towels in the hamper promptly, he rather took to stroking the brunet’s hair instead.

The action made Eren drowsy, and little by little, his head found its way resting on the raven’s thigh. Levi let the movie come to a finish before he reluctantly nudged the younger and directed him to go to bed.

“What’re you waiting for?” Levi asked when he came out of the washroom to find the brunet still on the floor by the couch.

“You.” The brunet yawned as he sluggishly stood up and stepped into the direction of the raven as opposed to the bedroom.

“Tch. What a brat.” The raven muttered half-heartedly as the younger started to cling on to him.

He had to drag the both of them into the bedroom, and by the time they both settled on the bed, the brunet can’t seem to help gravitating closer towards him. He couldn’t even tell if the younger was aware of his actions when he took to cuddling him after a while. Nevertheless, he finds that he didn’t really mind it at all.

Levi remained awake for a while longer after he heard the soft snores coming out from the clingy creature draping his limbs all over him. He kept stroking the younger’s arms absently as he got lost in his own thoughts.

Eren had sworn he’d give him his best summer yet. And in that moment, simply lying in bed with the comforting heat of another person beside him, – as opposed to the cold nights he had spent alone so far – Levi could say every single time he spends with the brat would probably be the next best (and most infuriating) thing that could happen to him. If this was how his life would be like with the brunet in it, then fucking-goddamn-hell, sign him up for an extended version of this contract.

He fell asleep looking forward for the days he could share together with the fucking most adorable yet most annoying creature beside him… all without forgetting the other versions that come with this package.

Chapter Text

Waking up from a much appreciated peaceful, undisturbed slumber, Levi felt like something wasn’t right as he blinked his way into awareness. Sluggishly tilting his head to the side, he spotted what felt missing that morning: the warmth of a certain brunet who was currently curled up on the other side of the bed, with his back to him.

Thinking he could always just excuse his actions to the haze of drowsiness, he shifted closer to the younger and flushed his body to him, wanting to merely feel that comfortable warmth for a while longer.

He felt the brunet stiffen at his hold, yet chalked it off to nothing more than surprise.

He should’ve really known better at that point.

“Not to seem offensive or anything, but… it’s Annie.” She informed, not moving an inch.

“Oh. Right.” He responded, awkwardly retracting his arm from the other and rolled to the other side of the bed.

Silence settled over them, none wanting to get out from the clutches of the sheets just yet.

“It’s not that we’re against it.” Annie started, still with her back on the raven. “We’re just not used to… receiving it in the outside world.”

“You receive it a lot in your inner world, then?” Levi decided to ask.

“Eren tends to do it a lot.”

He didn’t give a response to that, not really surprised with that fact considering how he could vouch for the brunet’s touchiness himself.

“Who’s ‘we’ exactly?” He asked as the thought hit him.

The other took her time answering. “Me and Mikasa. I can’t speak for the guys in the system, and Sasha is pretty much into physical contact as Eren is. She’s just scared of you still.”

Levi tried to read between-the-lines of what she was saying. If there was something that was implied with what she just said. He couldn’t tell if she was merely stating facts, or if she was asking for something.

He knew she was more of a physical person, but not in the cuddly form.                                                              

“Alright, then.” He chose to answer instead. Whichever it was, he inferred they could just figure it out when the situation presents itself at another time. If anything, at least he now know the other alters wouldn’t mind sleeping next to him on the same bed. Or at least it is in Annie’s case.

“Any preferences for breakfast?” He asked as he finally got up from the bed.

“I’m not Eren.” She answered as she also began to sit up. “I’m fine with anything.”

“Go shower then. Your stuffs are in the bottom drawer.” Levi instructed as he set out to prepare breakfast.

He was almost finished by the time the younger wandered around the kitchen. From what he could tell, no further switches have happened as he left the other to their own devices.

“Is there anything in particular you wanna do today?” He asked as they wordlessly settled on the dining area.

“Did Eren tell you anything?” The other asked in return.

Levi noticed how she picked up the spoon with her right hand, and had come to the conclusion that a switch had apparently happened. Unless Annie was trying to appear ambidextrous again.

“Eren wanted to take a stroll in the park. Or just ‘hang out in general since we got all summer to do it’.” The raven quoted as he managed to tune in to the brat’s ramblings just the day before.

“Then we’ll do that.” came her simple reply.

No doubt a reply like that could only come from Mikasa.

“Alright. We’ll have lunch out and see how we’ll take things from there.” Levi settled before digging in on their food.                                             

 

Their “hangout” turned out to be rather… weird. It wasn’t entirely awkward, yet the lack of conversation didn’t make things entirely auspicious as well. Levi was used to the relative silence whenever it was one of Eren’s alters that was fronting – most especially if it was either Mikasa or Annie. But if he was to use their previous hangouts (with friends) as a point of reference, then he could only presume it shouldn’t be how things should go.

Hell, they were merely sitting on a bench, staring at a pond in that very moment.

He was about to attempt at a conversation when a voice caught both their attentions.

“Eren! I wasn’t expecting to see you here.” The ever-familiar blond came bounding towards their direction. “Oh, Levi. You’re here too. I mean, of course you are.”

“Armin, what’re you doing here?” The brunet asked, standing up to face the blond.

“Oh, Mikasa, it’s you.” Armin noted instantly. “I know it’s all of a sudden, but there’s just someone who wanted to see you.” He turned around and gestured for another person to come closer.

“Yo, Eren! How’ve you been?” A bald guy grinned as he approached the others.

“Connie.” was Mikasa’s only reply before her eyes narrowed andand  planted the heel of her palm on her forehead again.

And just a few seconds later, she was an entirely different person altogether.

“Connie!” The brunet beamed before he blinked for a second. “Connie!” He repeated again in a higher pitch.

He started blinking rapidly as he tilted his head to the side. “Goddamnit, Sasha. Just one minute, okay?” He muttered to himself.

Everyone else gave him a moment as Eren and Sasha fought towards the front. Both were highly co-conscious all of a sudden that they were practically co-fronting in that instant.

“Whew. Okay, I’m good.” He announced. “Connie, man! Good to see you again.” The brunet beamed again as he held out his arms towards the other.

Apparently, Eren won that battle.

“It’s great to see you again, Eren.” Connie returned the embrace with the same level of eagerness. “I can see you had to put Sasha down again.” He laughed.

“Yeah…” He trailed off and started spacing out for a moment. “But I’m back now! Connie, I missed you.” The brunet hugged the other again.

Apparently, Eren couldn’t win that battle long enough.

“Sasha! I missed you too.” Connie replied smoothly, seemingly used to this kind of situation.

“Why’re you here? I thought you were busy with college?”

“I am, actually. I just took a few days off from my part-time job to get some of my stuffs from Shiganshina and pop by for a visit. I’ve been a bit busy at home for the past two days, actually. Then, Armin said you were here at Trost, so I figured I could at least come here while I’m at it.” Baldy explained.

They launched off to further conversations after a beat, completely oblivious to the other people that were currently present. At least for a while, until Connie started throwing nervous glances at the raven seated at the bench behind the brunet.

“Hey, Sasha. Is that guy who seems like he wanted to skin me alive with you?” Connie whispered as he tried to take discreet glances at the raven yet failing at it.

“Huh?” Sasha turned around to see what he was referring to. “Oh, that’s Levi. He’s Eren’s boyfriend.” She stated nonchalantly.

“Wait, seriously?” came the incredulous question as Connie’s eyes widened and switched back-and-forth between the brunet and the raven.

“Of course. Levi, this is Connie.” Sasha introduced, which was really unnecessary at that point.

“I noticed.” Levi replied dryly, standing up to approach the others.

“Hey, man. It’s nice to meet you.” Connie held his hand out a little nervously.

Levi didn’t gave a response to that as he took the offered hand and sized up the other at the same time. They were standing at the same height (if baldy wasn’t a couple centimeters shorter – to the raven’s satisfaction), so he didn’t deem him to be much of a threat. Not that he was in the first place. Levi just wasn’t used seeing his boyfriend throwing himself to other people other than him and the blond (‘coz the blond, with his big blue eyes and nerdy lifestyle, was completely safe and harmless in his book), despite having the knowledge that it was more of Sasha than Eren that was present.

“So, when will you be going back to Ragako?” Sasha asked eventually, breaking the silence between them.

“My flight leaves tomorrow actually.” He replied, a bit guilty about having to leave so soon. “It sucks having to travel faraway just to go to college. I don’t even know why I thought it was a good idea in the first place.” He sighed.

“You did say they have the best program with your chosen course.” Armin decided to join in again, leaving Levi the only one out-of-place in their little group. As always, really.

“They do.” Connie confirmed with a smile. “Though it still sucks it’s located far from here.”

“That’s it! Today, we’re going to go on adventures like old times. Just so you know, I’ve been improving my skills at the arcades so you probably won’t stand a chance with me now.” Sasha bragged.

“Oh, you’re on!” Connie accepted the implied challenge vigorously.

At that point, Levi was considering just going back to the apartment and (reluctantly) let the brunet have this day with his friends instead. However…

“Well, that’s a great idea.” Armin spoke up again. “But I have to apologize, I really need to follow-up on some university requirements since I’ll be taking summer classes soon.”

It was a completely valid reason to skip out on this particular reunion. But why does Levi have a bad feeling about it?

“So, Levi. Why won’t you go in my place instead?” The blond proposed.

… What? Surely these two won’t be needing him around.

Or would they?

“It’ll be fun, and a great way for Connie to get to know you, even if it’s just for a day. I know this summer was supposed to be yours and Eren’s moment, but… well, maybe Eren would front sometime soon. I’m sure he’d love to have you around if that happens. I would catch up if I could. I mean, I do have to go with Connie back to Shiganshina, after all.” was Armin’s reason.

But why does it feel more like an excuse to the raven?

“Eren’s still co-con right now, actually. And he does want Levi around.” Sasha backed up.

“I have no objections with that. I say the more, the merrier.” Connie encouraged further.

But Levi still felt like refusing. Usually, he had others who had generally calming auras (i.e. Marco and Bert, and the occasional Armin) that balances out the dynamic vibe of Eren/Sasha with the subtlety of Historia (and the occasional Armin).

So seeing how he’d be spending the day with two-three contrasting energies from his alone, his first instinct was to nope out of it.

“I do. It might be better if you two could have the day to yourself.” He dismissed.

“Oh, come on, Levi. Please?” The brunet begged, planting his arms firmly on each of the raven’s shoulders with a pout on his face. “This is Eren.”

“No, it isn’t, you little shit.” He grumbled.

But that look already sealed the raven’s fate for the day.

 


 

Levi didn’t know how he had managed to keep his sanity after being kicked out of the fourth establishment for the fourth time in a span of four hours. The first three times have been in different arcades where the maddening duo kept making a ruckus and attracting everyone’s attention to themselves at every game they competed in. They just couldn’t seem to resist yelling at each other and making dramatic actions as they did so.

The last one had been when the two thought it would be a fun idea to abruptly join in a violin class (with a bunch of fucking literal kids) the very moment they saw the sign outside the building. Levi didn’t know how he managed to sit through two hours (as the duo’s “guardian”) watching them drive their instructors up the walls as they constantly tried to teach them the basics… only to make everyone’s ears bleed when they were finally asked to demonstrate what they have learned so far.

Of course, there was the constant “snack stops”. The raven had to smack both of them at the back of their heads when they started choking on the fries after trying to determine how many they could fit in their mouths.

And right now, he was practically internally begging for someone to kill him as he had to watch the two join in with a bunch of teenagers as they battled it out on some kind of street dance competition. The indubitably embarrassing moves they were making as they were practically just flailing their arms around and rolling on the concrete had the raven stepping out and away from sight before people could start affiliating them to him.

He had always said “no” to each and every idea they proposed, but have been ignored each and every time out of “majority vote” (with Sasha constantly throwing in an “Eren’s with us” whenever a vote was issued). None of his intimidation worked against their combined determination to do what they wanted to do, despite how stupid it may be. He was practically itching to go home ever since they’ve been kicked out the first time, but would always waver with just one look from the brunet.

When had he gotten so soft with him?                          

He let out an exasperated sigh as he found a spot to sit in. He was practically feeling like the third-wheel (not that he knows how it feels like exactly) in this sudden hangout, even though he was the one in a relationship with Eren, the host. It was probably the most vexatious day he had so far, which his prior experiences with even more brats than just those two couldn’t even compare to.

Levi could only wonder how Armin had managed to keep his head from all those times he spent with the two. He could tip his hat to the blond after going through his experiences firsthand. At the same time, he also wanted to shave those blond locks off after realizing why he left those two in his care and made his escape.

“Ahh… all that movement made me hungry.” Sasha exhaled as they found their way back to the raven again. “So how about dinner this time?” She proposed.

“Sounds good to me.” Connie agreed. Because, of course he would.

“Fine. But if you and cue-ball here try to outdo each other in eating this time, I would shove the plates down your throats myself.” Levi glared.

“Right. No speed-eating. Got it.” Baldy raised his hands in a placating manner.

 

As what had been happening ever since their “hangout” took place, Levi let the brunet drag them to a random restaurant and choose the main course for all of them. Apparently, it was one of those restaurants that serve foreign dishes from different parts of the world, and Sasha had ordered some sort of “Chicken Adobo” for all of them (since she reasoned that you can’t really go wrong with chicken).

Levi thought it was generally a bad idea to take suggestions from someone who could eat just about anything and everything. However, as the aroma of the food that was served at their table wafted into their noses, it was almost enough to make the raven forget about the headache he had suffered throughout the day.

He was fully aware he had been the one who implemented the “no speed-eating” rule. But at that moment, he was uncharacteristically trying to beat the other two on who could eat the most of the dish. Sasha didn’t get to notice this change in the raven’s character – not with the presence of food – but Connie did.

And it was his turn to be baffled when the two marched up towards the counter and practically demanded the recipe for the food they had just partaken. Twice, since they ordered the same for the second time around.

 

“My body feels so tired.” Eren complained as he was gradually leaning towards the raven while they were walking.

“No shit, really?” Levi responded caustically.

“I don’t blame you, man. I feel the same.” Connie spoke up from the other side of the brunet.

They kept walking towards where Armin had texted he’ll be waiting, with Eren’s incessant groaning filling up the silence. He kept leaning his weight more towards the raven as their walk continued.

“Hey, guys! Over here.” Armin called out the moment he spotted the three heading towards his direction. “Long day?” He remarked as he watched his friend basically draped all over the shorter man.

“Oh, you would know.” The raven replied dryly.

“I guess.” The blond shrugged, and he had this look on him that Levi could only describe as guilty. “Unfortunately, we had to go back now, though. We can’t miss this next bus.”

Eren sluggishly unwrapped his arms from the older as he gave his friend another hug.

“Thanks for today, Con. Sasha is really happy with your visit. Actually, no. She’s really ecstatic about it. I should say I quite enjoyed it as well… in a way.”

“No problem, man. I’m quite ecstatic seeing you guys again, as well. Things have been different without you or Sasha around. Armin, too.” Connie returned the hug without hesitation.

“It was also nice meeting you, Levi.” He turned to the raven after a while.

“I wish I could say the same.” Levi returned blankly. “But after all the shit you and Sasha got involved in… you get my point.”

Connie gave a little laugh at that. “Yeah, sorry. We got carried away. Thanks for sticking around, though.” He scratched the back of his head.

Levi just hummed in response as the brunet started clinging to him once again. He didn’t notice the fond look that settled on the other’s face as Connie observed the two of them together.

“We should probably get going.” Connie announced after a moment.

Soon enough, after a few more words of farewell and promises to keep in touch, the four of them parted ways. Connie looked over his shoulder just in time to see the raven place a kiss on the brunet’s head as they headed towards the opposite direction.

“So what do you think of Levi?” Armin asked after they had settled on the bus back to Shiganshina.

“Damn, I thought he was really terrifying as a person.” Connie admitted.

“But?” The blond prompted.

“How do I say this?” The other mulled over his words. “Even for a guy like me, I could clearly see just how much he feels for Eren. I mean, I really thought them being in a relationship was just a joke, and I’ve been waiting for the moment when they’d tell me exactly that. His sharp tongue and cold demeanor in contrast to Eren’s generally cheerful personality just makes it seem impossible at first glance, you know?”

“Yeah, I know.” Armin laughed.

“Damn, Ar. Thoughts about filing for a life insurance had constantly been plaguing my mind the more Sasha and I dragged him to different places. I really thought he would beat us up at any moment. Well, he did smack us at one point, but it actually helped more than it hurt.” Connie stated, remembering how he dealt with them choking on their food. “Even so… it was clear that he had a soft spot for Eren. Like, a really, really soft spot if he was allowing even Sasha to drag him around. I couldn’t be entirely sure how he deals with the others, but considering how they were way more well-behaved… it couldn’t be that bad. I should say I’m actually happy for them. For all of them.”

Armin could only smile at his friend’s sincerity. He was glad that even Connie had noticed the subtleties of the raven’s affections for their friend, even though, as he said, it was quite impossible to see at first glance.

“I think he’s good for Eren.” Connie concluded.

“He is.” Armin agreed. “I think they’re great for each other.”

 


 

A few days later, the time that Levi had waited for finally came. The new branch of the Survey Corps that was situated in Trost was finally hiring applicants.

“How do I look?” The raven asked as he turned away from the full-body sized mirror and towards the brunet.

“Fucking gorgeous.” Eren replied.

He should feel flattered. But he could wear nothing but burlap sacks and rugs, and the brunet would probably say the same.

Though currently donning the typical business attire fashion, he supposed it wouldn’t really matter much as long as he got the correct look nailed down.

“Be good. I’ll be back later.” He instructed as he placed a kiss on the brunet’s forehead before taking his leave.

Eren couldn’t help melting into a puddle of goo the moment the raven was out the door. It almost felt like they were living an established, domestic life together from what just happened. The urge to squeal into the pillow was too strong he wasn’t able to resist doing just that.

 

This moment was a huge step for Levi. It was more of a milestone for him than graduating college. From being a mere kid living in a shithole to a teen who thought brawls were the only way of life he was good at, having a stable and secure job was something he would’ve laughed at five years prior.

He was under no illusion that this company was sure to hire him, and have already made countermeasures by filing applications to other companies. Nonetheless, this one right here was what he had been aiming for after the benefits and work ethics they conduct here have been brought to his knowledge.

For countless times already, Levi was more than fucking glad of mastering his stoic façade as it completely concealed the inner turmoil he was currently experiencing. He was now waiting in line with other aspiring applicants as the vice president of the company took it to himself to conduct the interview for their new branch.

And when his name was finally called, he had to remember taking steadying breaths to help settle his thoughts and his nerves.

He walked into the office with the pretense of full confidence in his stride. He sat up straight in his designated chair as the other had his back to him and was currently pre-occupied on his phone.

And when the other finally turned around to face him, every bit of Levi’s composed veneer came rushing down the drain.

“Levi. It really is you.” The huge man with his blond hair and blue eyes greeted him with that charming smile.

What. The. Fuck?

“Eyebrows?” The raven asked incredulously.

Perhaps that wasn’t the best thing to greet your potential boss with.

Chapter Text

The bushiest eyebrows Levi had ever seen plastered on a person’s face, shot up in a silent question with a tinge of surprise (and hopefully not offense).

“Hold on, you’re Erwin Smith?” Levi asked as his brain was still trying to catch up with what was happening.

“I’m pretty sure I introduced myself properly the last time we met.” The blond responded calmly.

Had Levi not been as shaken as he was at that very moment, he would’ve noticed the look of amusement the other guy was sporting.

Did Eyebrows really introduced himself the last time? Even if he rattle his brain for that particular memory, the only thing that remained crystal clear until now was the feeling of dread when he once thought his ass was landing in prison for good. Which reminds him…

“Aren’t you supposed to be a fuc---,” Levi caught his tongue before he could further offend his potential boss (thank fuck his brain still managed to retain such vital information under the given circumstances).

“Aren’t you supposed to be a cop?” He asked, trying to appear composed as if it still mattered at that point.

“I never said I was a cop. Though, I don’t blame you if that’s what you believed.” Eyebrows replied with the same air of composure that made the raven want to shake him roughly by the shoulders if only to get another reaction from him.

“Then… back then… what was that? Why were you the one who talked to me?”

Erwin continued to look amused at the raven’s confusion before his aura and demeanor morphed into one of seriousness as he delivered his answer to that question.

“Does the name Nile Dok ring any bell?”

Levi narrowed his eyes at the name. He knows him, alright. As a former patron of street brawls, Levi has become familiar with Chief Superintendent Nile Dok who was in-charge of the Rose District where Mitras was covered.

Erwin noticed the look on the raven and took it as his cue to continue his explanation. “Nile Dok is an acquaintance of mine and, at the same time, was in-charge of the hunt for Kenny Ackerman. At that moment, Kenny had only been known by his aliases so it had been a difficult task to track him down. As I said, I’m no cop. The only reason I’ve been involved in the case was due to the death of my father, which had been traced back to your uncle.”

Levi stiffened at the last word. The blond had been consistent on merely stating Kenny’s name the first couple of times that he foolishly hoped that little detail had been forgotten.

However, there was no spite in those blue orbs as they gazed at him. The blond appeared cooler than a fucking cucumber in spite of the sensitive backstory he was delivering, that it was unnerving even for a proclaimed Stoic King like Levi.

“My father was a simple university professor who mainly teaches Criminal Psychology. I don’t know how he managed to discover Kenny’s real identity, but it is hard to doubt that that had been the reason behind why he was silenced for eternity.” He paused for a moment to gauge the other’s reaction. And when he only got a dead air and a look with the same level of suppressed apprehension, he could only carry on with the story.

“I returned home one night to find out the entire place had been ransacked and my father’s corpse dumped on the floor. In hindsight, deliberately disobeying my father’s constant orders to stay away from his office and belongings is something I would never regret. After all, it was that defiance that made me able to locate and unlock my father’s safe, which contained delicate information about his theories and discoveries of a variety of cases. One was which contained the real identity of Kenny Ackerman.” Another pause. “So I asked Nile to let me in on the case and grant me access in the search of his mansion in Mitras in exchange for the information I possessed. The rest, you could probably figure out on your own.” He concluded.

Levi remained silent for a long time after that, preoccupied with the flood of thoughts that crashed his brain.

“Does this forfeit my application then?” He reluctantly asked as he managed to find his voice again.

To hell with dealing with the past all over again. What really mattered to him at the moment was to know if his background continued to hinder him up to this point, despite his struggles to break off from those chains.

“What makes you ask that?” Erwin returned, mildly surprised by the raven’s lack of interest in the case about his own uncle.

“Because I am the nephew of Kenny Ackerman, who was suspected to be responsible of your father’s death.” He stated matter-of-factly, deeming it a stupid question to be asked in the first place.

The blond leveled him with a look he couldn’t decipher. His lack of response sent an unsettling feeling in the pit of the raven’s stomach. Levi was actually considering just taking his leave at that point since he could already gather the answer from Smith’s silence alone.

“Like I said,” Erwin started.

Levi found himself involuntarily bracing for the next words to follow.

“I do not regret disobeying my father. When I found your file in Kenny’s belongings, I immediately hired people to look for you, and have investigated further in your background. However, as I’ve come to learn about how you ran away from your uncle’s mansion and struggled to stand up on your own feet, it reminded me of that defiance I had. Being the only blood relative he could find, it is my belief that Kenny took you in in hopes that you would inherit his legacy. I could not say anything with regards to what kind of relationship you might have had with your uncle. But running away from him… that’s the same as defying his wishes from you.”

Levi couldn’t keep his brows from furrowing further even if he tried. Erwin’s actions of “offering him assistance” back then now made more sense to him.

Before, figuring out Eyebrows’ intentions as he talked to him that day was next to impossible. Add in his tendency to be cryptic and the general air of feigned formality that the raven could pick up, and you’ve got the perfect neon sign of “Warning: Don’t Trust!” nailed in your instincts.

Actually, even until now, Levi had a hard time figuring the blond out. Life trained him to be a cynic, so thinking that the other man didn’t have other motives behind his actions is something his mind could never come to terms with.

“Furthermore,” Erwin started once again, breaking the raven out of his thoughts. “The moment I learned about how you moved to Trost shortly after our little meeting, I already had a hunch that you were set out to become a far better person than you once were. I didn’t really have doubts on you considering how you still managed to move forward regardless of everything you’ve been through. And as it turns out, seeing you now in a well-pressed suit and tie in comparison to the worn-out clothing you donned the last time I saw you… I was correct.”

Okay, that was flattering. But how the hell did he specifically know he had moved to Trost out of all places? And the accuracy that it was, indeed, shortly after their first meeting?!

Erwin Smith is a dangerous man. He was starting to give Levi some mild paranoia about being tracked 24/7 and having eyes at him in every angle. In fact, he was already discreetly patting himself down to check if there are any trackers that had been planted on him without his knowledge.

“Don’t worry. I assure you that I have not gone so far as to plant anything on you.” The blond stated with a charming smile. Which only got the raven frowning even more.

Erwin Smith is a fucking dangerous man and a fucking mind-reader to boot.

“I should also acknowledge the fact that your records in Trost University are quite remarkable. I’m well aware how getting a high mark from Professor Zacharias is no easy feat and have only been attained by those who really deserved it. And it seems like you’re one of those people.” He commended.

“You know Mike?” Levi couldn’t help asking.

“We were colleagues back then.” Eyebrows responded, still with that fucking smile on his face.

Mike Zacharias was one of the very few – if not, the most – well-liked professors in Trost University by the raven. He was the type of man who was concise in his words, but whom Levi found to be the most helpful in making him understand certain topics.

Hell, he was the one who introduced the Survey Corps to him in the first place. So knowing now that he has connections with this fucking bushy eyebrows sitting across from him, it just explained some things Levi didn’t even think needed explaining at all.

“So, Mr. Ackerman, I’m not going to bother beating around the bush anymore. What do you say about dedicating your skills to Survey Corps – Trost branch in three weeks’ time?”

No. Fucking. Way.

Was Erwin Smith really accepting him in the Survey Corps just like that?  Somebody stab him.

“You’re not gonna interrogate me at all?” Levi asked incredulously.

“I would like to believe I already know things about you than you’re aware of.”

Aren’t those the words of a fucking stalker? Just what kind of person is this guy? Levi wouldn’t be surprised if the Survey Corps was actually an organization of spies or the mafia at this point.

“Well, Mr. Ackerman?” Erwin prompted when the other still didn’t give him an exact answer.

‘Fuck, yes!’ Levi wanted to say (an attitude of a certain brat that started to rub-off on him subconsciously). Thoughts about Eyebrows being a criminal mastermind in disguise be damned. But then, he has to remember that this was still an official job interview despite the bizarre route their conversation had taken.

“As long as you’re not shitting with me, then you don’t even have to ask.”

How fucking professional.

 


 

Levi walked out of the building still a bit dazed by how things turned out. It was fucking surreal how the person who had helped him before in starting out his life anew, is the same person who was helping him secure a part of his renewed lifestyle.

He walked aimlessly at the streets, trying to absorb that he was now officially a working man. As in, a corporate working man. As in, a person who was on the way of establishing his career. As in, holy fucking shit, is this even real?

He absently fished out his phone from his pocket and was greeted with a bunch of texts from the brunet he left back at his apartment.

 

“R U done? How did it go? - E”

“Were U accepted? I’m sure U got accepted. - E”

“Give me a call once U’re able 2 <3. - E”

“On 2nd thought, I’ll just w8 4 U 2 come back cuz I feel lyk Annie’s close. -E”

“Annie’s craving 4 donuts. -E”

“Annie’s demanding 4 donuts. OMG she sounds lyk a pregnant woman. -E”

“Annie’s giving me a headache now. She got pissed off w/ d pregnant comment. -E”

“You’re out, right? Buy us doughnuts. -A”

 

The brat’s texting format was a blatant eyesore. And it was already an improvement compared to his past texting skills. He really didn’t need to add his initial in the end, since he was the only one out of all of them who texts like that. Like how difficult is it to let autocorrect do its job? Seriously. It’s not like it takes three fucking seconds to correctly type out a word.

The raven let out a sigh as he stepped towards the nearest donut shop he knows of. Eren and co. were lucky he was in a good mood at the moment to give in with their demands. (Like he doesn’t cave in for almost all the time). And if that wasn’t enough, he even picked out the best selection they had.

 

By the time he returned in the apartment and stepped into the living area, he was greeted with the sight of the brunet already with a box of donuts close to him while watching an MMA fight on the television. Though it was surprise that he felt, it was an unimpressed look that showed on his face.

“Why did you ask me to buy donuts when you already had?” Levi asked blankly.

“It’s empty.” Annie stated as she stood up from the couch to pry off the box the raven was holding.

Levi let out another sigh knowing there was really nothing he could do with that. He joined the other on the couch after he finished hanging up his suit jacket and loosening his tie as he sat down.

“Did you seriously just ate a box all by yourself?” The raven asked as he took notice of the other box that was now lying bare on the coffee table, along with a couple bottles of soda.

“It was only a half dozen.” The younger dismissed, clutching the new box closer to her as if Levi was considering confiscating it. Which, he was. Mildly.

“Are you trying to take advantage of the fact that it wouldn’t be your own body getting all those carbs?”

“Maybe. But I’d like to see it more as a reward for being the one who mainly burns out this body’s carbs.” She countered.

Well, she does have a point. Levi supposes it was only fair she could have a cheat day for her efforts. After all, she really did a good job in whipping the brunet’s body into shape. And besides, if Eren does build up more of that unnecessary fat, it was still up to her to get rid of those at the end of the day.

“How’d the interview go?” Annie decided to ask after a moment, not taking her eyes away from the screen.

“I got accepted, apparently.” He tried to play it off.

“Good for you. Eren would be ecstatic once he finds out.”

Levi could practically hear the brunet gushing about the news in his ears already. Though it was weird to think how that brunet is, in essence, the same one talking to him in that impassive tone.

Silence settled between them as they idly watched the fight taking place on the screen. The raven noticed the other had stopped munching in on her treats. If the reason behind it was due to some stomach protest or cavity problems, then Levi wouldn’t hesitate giving her the “That’s what you get” spiel.

However, that didn’t seem to be the case.

“Which one of these do you think is the best of all?” She asked all of a sudden as she presented the box to the raven.

Levi arched a brow at that in a silent command to let her explain herself. Though she only stared back at him for a moment before diverting her gaze to the box in her hands as if she was trying to determine the answer to her question on her own instead.

He decided to just go along with whatever game she was playing since he didn't really have much else to do anyway.

"This one." He pointed to a glazed French cruller. It may not be the most attention-catching of the bunch, but its simplicity suited the raven's tastes just fine.

She picked up his item of choice and observed it for a moment, before offering it to him.

"What's this for?" Levi asked with a hint of surprise, despite already having an inkling behind the action.

The other was already staring back at the television intently and appeared like she was mulling over whether to answer the question or simply ignore it.

"For buying the donuts." She chose to shrug as she took another piece and bit on it generously.

Levi left it at that. Though he could guess that it was more of him being accepted in the job than him buying the donuts as she said.

People have different ways of expressing themselves, after all. That was a fact the raven could attest to without hesitation. So if offering a piece of her favorite delicacy was her way of showing a kind of affection, then it's not a thought that would merely go over the raven's head.

Annie stopped chewing at one point as her eyes narrowed.

"Sasha." She muttered out-of-the-blue.

Levi wasn't surprised that the brunette was close with how Annie was almost desperate in clutching the box closer to her. If Sasha were to front in that moment, Annie would probably kill her.

And speaking of Sasha, Levi wouldn't be surprised if she would only offer less than half of a piece as opposed to Annie's entire one. That is, if she would even offer her food at all.

Though as mentioned beforehand, people have different ways of expressing themselves. And he could only hope he'd be able to pick up on each of their manner if he was to continue spending time with them indefinitely.

Which he wanted to.

Chapter Text

The beating sun was not doing any good to the raven's current mood. Ever since Eren found out that their summer would somehow be cut short in less than three weeks' time due to the older's new job, he had been intent on maximizing everyday that they would spend together.

Thus, why now he was waiting under the shade of a bakery while the brunet went off to "get something important".

Levi may feel his balls freezing during the winters, but that doesn't mean summers are any better as his skin was not made to turn tan like the brat's, but rather to burn into a crisp and render him closer to the description of a shrimp (anyone who mentions that to his face obviously has a death wish and would immediately be dealt with).

Eren had lovingly bought the raven a pair of sunglasses earlier, if only to just help him cope somehow. Though Levi wouldn't put it past him that it was more so that he wouldn't be able to see the scowl that has been plastered on his face ever since the brunet had dragged him out for the 9th time in a row.

"I'm back! Sorry for the wait." Eren apologized as he approached the other once again, hiding something behind his back while donning the brightest of smiles that could put the sun to shame.

"Where the fuck have you been?" Levi snapped as another bead of swear trailed down from his temple to his jaw. Disgusting.

His (extra) cranky attitude isn't anything new to the brunet, and he had come to expect it the more he forced the raven out of the apartment to hang out and make the most of the summer.

"Sorry." The younger apologized again, still with that smile, as he fished out a handkerchief with one hand and dabbed at the moisture that had built-up on his boyfriend's face.

He focused more on the forehead area – more to try and smooth out the crease between his brows that had taken form even before they stepped out of the apartment, than to merely wipe the sweat away. Of course, it didn't work.

"Out with it, Jaeger. What the fuck are you hiding behind your back?" Levi crossed his arms as the younger tried to fuss over him.

His temper had been a little above the average line, courtesy to the fucking hear that was fucking with his system.

"Something to help you with the heat." The brunet responded before showing the item he was concealing.

Levi blinked at the summer hat that was presented to him. Sure, it was a thoughtful gesture and he could appreciate it since mere sunscreen wasn't really enough for him. 

To be honest, it was actually a good idea.
If it wasn't for that large, mint green ribbon that adorned the fucking thing.

"You expect me to fucking wear that?"

"Well... I thought it'd be helpful in dealing with the weather." The fucking brat had the audacity to look confused by the raven's reaction.

"Couldn't you have picked something better? Or were you expecting me to shove that fucking thing up your ass?"

Eren simply pouted, undeterred by the threat not the tone that was used to accompany it.

"It's cute. I thought it would fit you."

Levi's brow twitched at that. How in the fucking hell had the even been possible that he was – is – dating this idiot?

Though in the end, he did wear the hat. But the ribbon had been ripped off and tied around the brunet's head instead.

It made the brat pout even more. Though it was due to the fact that he didn't get to see the raven wear the hat with the ribbon on, than him wearing said ribbon himself.

"Let's get popsicles!" Eren perked up again as his sight landed on the stall. Levi didn't have a chance to protest since the younger was already dragging him by the arm.

They spotted a nearby bench that was fortunately shaded by a tree, and immediately occupied it without even having to think about the after they bought their treats (where they got a few curious glances from the vendor).

Eating popsicles under the beating sun was a terribly mundane activity for just about anyone. Though maybe not so much when Levi chanced a glance at the brunet beside him.

It really shouldn't have, but seeing the younger slowly trail his tongue from the base of his popsicle up to the tip made him pause involuntarily. He was lucky the other couldn't see how he was shamelessly ogling him with the sunglasses he has on.

His brain was starting to crash as he stared intently at how that tongue swirled around the flavored ice. And when the younger popped the treat into his mouth down to the hilt and slowly dragged it out with his lips pursed, Levi didn't even notice his sharp intake of air.

"Out of all people, I never expected you to be a messy-eater." Eren looked amused as he noticed how the raven's own popsicle was already melting on his hand.

He took the shorter man's hand that was stained with colored water and alternated between licking and sucking it clean, thoughts of how his boyfriend was a clean-freak and might find the action utterly disgusting completely escaped him at that moment. 

Actually, the fact of being a clean-freak was also forgotten by the raven now that his brain has went down the drain. Because fuck, oh fuck, the brat must have been doing that on purpose by now.

"Are you okay? Your face is really red. Is the sunscreen wearing off?" Eren asked in concern as he touched one of the raven's cheek.

Levi's fucking resolve is wearing off!

He didn't respond to the question and let the other believe it was, indeed, due to the sunscreen wearing off rather than the alternative... which is the truth.

The brunet continued to observe him out of concern, trying to determine whether he should head off to buy more sunscreen or stay by his side unless he instructs him otherwise.

When Levi's brain finally rebooted itself, the first thing that popped in his mind was to get back at the brunet.

With what was left of his own popsicle, he started putting on a show of licking and sucking it dry. It appeared nonchalant and subtle at first, but the more Eren gazed at the raven, it was his turn to pause as the other started getting nonchalant yet lascivious in his manner of eating.

He was clueless with the raven's intentions as he was also unaware of what he had been doing to him just recently. The way Levi trailed his tongue all over the ice and letting out soft sighs afterwards was sending his thoughts to uncharted waters. He didn't know the other was doing it on purpose.

What he does know is that that image of the raven is now safely stored in the "specific references" drawer in his head for future purposes.

"Out of all people, I would expect you to be a really messy-eater." Levi smirked, but making no move to imitate what the other had done earlier now that his sense of cleanliness was back in full-force.

 

It took a few more instances within the span of a few days for Eren to finally start suspecting the raven behind his actions.

When he started moaning a bit lewdly on purpose as he stretched on the couch he was lounging on with the raven, Levi had countered in his own way afterwards when he suddenly decided to take a shower and came out of the bathroom still dripping wet with only a towel wrapped around his waist.

He feigned looking for his razor as he pranced around the brunet's line of sight, swayed his hips ever so subtly, and bended over in places where he really shouldn't be looking.

Eren knew what he was doing, and he was fully aware Levi would never misplaced his own stuffs in his own apartment.

Nonetheless, he couldn't stop swallowing at the show the raven was putting on.
That was how their game started. They would each try to get a ride out of the other through suggestive displays, all the while putting on a mask of either innocence or impassiveness.

The brunet's stubbornness and determination had started to rub off on Levi that he was refusing to simply stand by without mounting some sort of counter-attack. It was the same with how the raven's calm and composed demeanor had started to rub off on Eren that he was able to pull off some of his moves without getting blatantly flustered.

And both were refusing to cave in first, despite not having an idea why they were doing that in the first place, or what they hope to achieve from that little game of theirs.

All they know was that they were enjoying it far more than they initially thought and both liked the challenge the other would pose.

Safe to say the idiots didn't know how their actions had sparked a tension that was only gradually increasing as their game went on.

It came to a point where the kisses they share would turn heated without any of them meaning to. But before they could take things too far, one of them would break the contact while looking at the other with a glint on his eye.

It would then look like it was all part of the game, when truth was, they had to break apart in order to conceal the excitement that was taking place downstairs.

Those moments before sleeping and after waking up had also begun to feel a bit more awkward what with their little friend wanting to say hello to the other.

Of course, it goes without saying that things are different when it was one of the alters that was fronting. Levi was far too used in treating them as their own person that he was already seeing them for who they really are, in spite of the fact that it was Eren's gorgeous mug that was physically visible to the eye.

And of course, their game would resume once either of them initiates the first move.

 

This time, along with the thought that the raven would be starting his new job really soon, Eren felt a little more (stupid) bold in his attempt.

He thought it would be a good idea to walk around the apartment in only booty shorts and covered in glitter, in order to have that stripper appeal, hoping that he could finally get the raven down on his knees.

"Well, figuratively, at least." He hastily muttered to himself when another image flashed through his mind at his last thought.

However, since he was a moron, he thought of using glitter dust instead of the actual shimmer lotion to spread on his body.

Levi scowled when he spotted the brunet topless and struggling with something on the kitchen floor. He had found it weird that the apartment had been silent for the past 20 minutes, and even weirder when he didn't find the chatterbox in the bathroom, in the living area, nor in the bedroom.

Said silence would be normal had it been another alter that was currently present. But since he hadn't been aware of any switches, and Eren had previously excused himself to go to the bathroom, he found it odd that he was now practically naked on the kitchen floor.

When Eren finally stopped with whatever he was struggling with and got up to his feet, revealing those pink booty shorts to the raven's front seat viewing, Levi chose that moment to speak up.

"What the fuck are you doing?"

Caught completely off-guard, Eren yelped in surprise and swiftly spun around to the source of the sound. Jerking his hand involuntarily in the process, the action caused the little tub of glitter he was recently wrestling with to spill all over the shorter man.

"Fuck!" Levi cursed as he felt something caught in his eyes. "What the fuck were you fucking doing? What the fuck is this shit?"

"Oh, shit. Don't rub it!" The brunet quickly caught his wrists and held it away from his eyes before the action could cause further damage. "Shit, shit, shit. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. Here, let's go to the bathroom." He hastily offered as he started steering the raven into the right direction.

"Fuck brat. If I go blind, I'm taking both your balls and eyeballs out."

The brunet just kept muttering words of apology as they made their way into the bathroom.

"Umm... are you okay with getting your clothes wet?" He asked with much hesitance now that they were both situated inside the shower booth.

"Fuck, no." Levi started stripping down to his boxers blindly.

Eren was lucky the raven couldn't see how beet red he had turned as he gingerly accepted the discarded clothing that was handed to him. He soon started to assist the shorter man by holding the showerhead and carefully directing it to the parts which took the sparkling damage – more focusing on his eyes and hair.

By the time Levi got his vision back, it was only then he realized the situation they got themselves in: soaked in a cramped shower stall with nothing but pairs of booty shorts and boxers on.

Eren was lathering his hair with shampoo at the moment in atonement for the accident, which gave him the excuse to duck his head down and stare at those tanned thighs with a VIP view of the brunet's crotch. Now that he has taken his time to observe the other, he could only approve how much those pair of hot pink shorts suited the brunet.

If only he could get a (better) view of the backside (again).

Meanwhile, Eren had his turn of ogling his boyfriend down during the duration of time when the raven was temporarily blinded. The sight of those, broad shoulders, toned arms, and a delicious pack of abs was almost too much for his little gay heart. He was soon rinsing his hair down after he deemed it enough and up to the raven's standards.

However, when their eyes met again, it was like a switch had flipped between them and the entire atmosphere had shifted into something that was new to the both of them.

They didn't know who started it first – it could've been Levi, it could've been Eren, or it could've been both of them meeting each other halfway. But the next moment, they found their lips crashed against each other in a heated kiss that was almost out of their control.

Levi bit down lightly on the brunet's lower lip. Eren took the hint and parted his lips to grant his boyfriend access. Tongues caressed each other in a sensual dance both had found their rhythm in the more they took part in it.

With all the sexual tension that had built-up from their continuous teasing of each other, Levi's self-restraint had dwindled over time and his hands soon roamed around the brunet's body.

Eren's breath hitched when he felt the raven's hands knead his asscheeks. His own hand found its way stroking the raven's abs that he had always been itching to touch, while the other raked its nails on the shorter's back.

"Levi." The brunet whispered hotly when he felt a hand wormed its way through the waistband of his shorts and cupped his ass.

Oh, shit. You do not do that to Levi, unless you wanted to get ravaged.

Spurred on with the brunet's reaction, Levi got a little more daring and started to pull the younger's body flush against him, all the while subtly pulling those shorts down. He immediately felt the hard-on the brunet was sporting, and he wasn't doing any better himself.

However, it seems like Eren got impatient and couldn't take any more teasing as he was the first one to pull the other's boxers down. The raven's erection sprang free directly in front of his face, and he was surprised at how he was actually bigger than he thought. Eren gulped down, unsure of how to proceed.

"Eren, come back up here." Levi instructed, which the younger hastily complied.

Their lips instantly found each other again, and the raven took that moment to slip those tight shorts down those deliciously tanned thighs. He stepped back slightly to take a moment to appreciate this gorgeous being in front of him, and Eren doing the same in return. The desire in their gazes was palpable and before long, Levi was on to the brunet again.

Caught in the heat of the moment, both threw caution to the wind and gave in to their primal craving they've never gave much thought to until now, kicking their discarded clothing out of the way without breaking the latch they had on each other.

Breaths turned heavy and hands roamed all over their naked bodies. Without giving it any thought, Levi slammed the brunet into the wall before diving in for those lips again.

However, when he noticed a lack of response from the other, he stepped back to check what was the matter. He found the brunet blinking rapidly while tilting his head to the side.

"Sorry, I... I think that triggered something." Eren mumbled as he started rubbing his nape.

"Shit." Levi cursed as alarm bells rang in his head, and he instantly bolted out of the stall to find some towels.

He wrapped one around his waist and didn't waste anymore time as he stepped back into the stall and wrapped another one around the brunet's waist, who was currently spacing out at that moment.

When the brunet snapped out of it, Levi was already at a safe distance away from the stall and was reduced to observing him with a hint of apprehension. The younger was then looking around, trying to determine what had happened just before their awareness returned.

"What happened?" The brunet chose to ask instead, adjusting the towel around his waist while narrowing his eyes at the same state of the raven.

No doubt it was Mikasa.

"You don't wanna know." Levi responded now that he was sure another alter was out.

Nothing could kill his boner faster than a switch happening, apparently.

Mikasa must have put two-and-two by then, and smartly chose to keep her mouth shut about it. Talking about the intimacies between your host and his boyfriend's relationship isn't exactly something on her to-do list as a protector.

 

With fresh clothes on their back, Mikasa took her time in joining the raven on the couch as he flipped through the channels on TV.

Awkwardness filled the air since none of them knew how to go about what just happened.

In the end, both wordlessly agreed not to talk about the incident or even think about it.

Mikasa, fortunately, wasn't aware of the details so forgetting about that isn't something difficult for her to do.

Levi, on the other hand, does and would choose to remember those vivid details. He was a little bummed that they couldn't follow through their session until the end. Then again, at least he now know to be more careful if ever they were to do such things again. He wasn't really opposed to being the vanilla type of guy. He does hope the switches could be managed somehow, else he'd have the worst case of blue-balls if it keeps up.

They soon settled on some action movie that was currently playing on one channel.

Conversations didn't flow through them, as usual. Both know how to appreciate the silence and only work with the presence of the other. The same goes with Annie.

Eventually, Levi was a little surprised when the other started leaning her head on his shoulder. The girls in the system have gradually shown their own little quirks of showing how comfortable they were around him, and the raven could only appreciate the gestures in silence.

Perhaps intimacy doesn't only come in one form. And Levi could only expect he'd come to learn more about its variety as their unconventional relationship goes on.

Chapter Text

When the time came that the heated turned awkward incident between the boyfriends seemed like a topic you can discuss around the table, Levi decided to ask for some tips from the brunet's alters on how they could go around the matter without doing the same mistake or something of the sort.

Unfortunately for Jean, he was the one fronting when Levi launched the question. As anyone would expect, he outrightly refused to answer at first.

Though unlike Eren, Mikasa, and Annie, who were immune to the raven's intimidation, Jean still couldn't achieve that same feat no matter how much he thinks he could, especially when Levi wouldn't let down on his aura and would resort to silence (which only makes it a million times more effective).

So, in the end, Jean took a moment to beg Mikasa inside his head to help him with his problem.

The answer the raven got was in the form of a list.

No touching his nape; no slamming into walls; no doing it under a scorching shower; no slapping or any pain kinks; no bondage or blindfolds; no sharp objects to be included; no excessive trash-talking; and so on, and so forth.

If Levi didn't know any better, he would think Mikasa was basically saying "no sex" on every item on her list. But since he did know better, he could only guess that the items listed were in accordance to a certain trauma or memory that none of them would want to trigger.

And when Jean suddenly muttered a, "Oh, shut up, Annie. You tell him that." Levi's interest was again piqued.

"What's the matter, Jean? I thought you were supposed to be the 'honest and smart' one in your system?" The raven challenged, knowing how easy it was to rile him up (courtesy to Eren, of course).

Jean huffed and crossed his arms, obviously baited already. "Annie says to use a lot of lube and to curl your fingers in the right angle. Or if Eren's topping – which I highly doubt is possible – it would be better if you ride him for his first time." He blurted out rather tightly. "Fuck. I don't even want to think about it."

"Oh? How does Annie know about all that?" Levi humored, fully knowing how painful the topic was for the other.

"Hell if I know. Ask her yourself." He snapped before diverting his gaze elsewhere.

And just a few seconds later, his eyes narrowed like how they would when it seems like there was someone yelling in their ears.

"She says it's because of how her role dwells more on the... physical aspects." Jean sighed in resignation. "Though the way I see it, seeing two guys going at it is just one of hers and Sasha's fetishes. I wouldn't be surprised if they'd be co-con while you guys do your thing." He threw in afterwards.

The idea doesn't bring any comfort to Levi (the total opposite actually), but then again, the younger doesn't have to know about that.

"I wouldn't mind the audience. You might like the show, as well." The raven smirked, already adroit in pulling off bluffs.

And Jean was left looking so done with everything.

 

However, despite asking for tips and receiving the answers in return, Levi never really initiated resuming the act again.

Other than the fact that it didn't come up naturally between them (since they both seemed to be content with innocent cuddles and not-so-innocent make-out sessions), all the no's just kept swirling around the raven's head that it was almost difficult to sensually touch the brunet without dreading losing his self-restraint, resulting in a switch to happen.

And the opportunities just continued to dwindle once the raven had started on with his new job.

It took some effort to get used to, but Levi gradually found his way around his new workplace. It was a relief to know that the company does live up to its reputation of having above average decency in work ethics.

Though he still can't help getting wary with a certain bushy eyebrows who goes by the name of Erwin Smith; especially when he found out during his first day of work that it was him who would be managing Trost's branch.

Eren, on the other hand, thought to resume his part-time job at the coffee shop, if only to keep himself busy while his boyfriend was away.

It almost seemed like they were living that domestic life from the routine they had created. Much more so when they would exchange kisses before the older would leave for work.

Though eventually, the brunet started fussing over the start of another semester.

Finally starting with his major, Eren was more than eager to enroll in the designated classes and get his schedule taken care of without even waiting for Armin's nagging (who was busy with his upcoming internship himself).

That was supposed to be the plan for the day.

Until shit happened.

 

Eren was just walking around the campus when he stopped by the shade of a tree to update the raven on how he was doing. (Levi didn't really ask for it. He just likes to annoy him, especially now that he's working nine-to-five and couldn't give the brunet any excess attention). It was then he overheard a couple of girls talking about a rather sensitive topic.

"I heard she attempted to kill herself, but she was rushed to the hospital. So apparently, she's still alive." One of the girls attempted to whisper. Attempted.

"Huh. Would've been better if she succeeded. She's better off dead, anyway." The other harrumphed.

It was that last sentence that echoed over and over again inside Eren's head. And when his heartbeat started to pick up, his first instinct was to get out of there.

"No. No. No. Don't. Don't. Not again. Please." He kept muttering desperately under his breath as his cursory steps subconsciously led him back to the apartment.

"Please, don't do this. Not again. Please." He pleaded even more desperately as he crashed his back against the door, and a hand flew up to clutch his raging heart.

He slowly slid down on the floor when he felt his legs refusing to hold him up for much longer. The brunet buried his head on his knees while covering both ears with the palms of his hands, as if the voices he could hear was something that came from the outside, rather than the memories he couldn't bring to remember.

 


 

When Levi got home that night, he was a little puzzled when he found the apartment in complete darkness.

He thought the brat would've been back at that time, but then again, maybe he got distracted or was off doing hell knows what.

He didn't get any text informing of the sort, though. And he didn't want to appear clingy by giving the brat a call himself. It was still early anyway, so there was no reason to be alarmed yet.

Unless you found said brat on your kitchen floor with cuts on his wrists and blood pooling on his sides.

"What the fu---" Levi managed to hold his tongue as he took note of how the brunet was shaking uncontrollably on the floor.

He instead took to approaching the younger with heightened caution, kicking the crimson-stained knife out of the way before kneeling down in front of him.

"Eren, come with me." He stated as gently as he was holding the sides of the younger's face.

He didn't need to ask to get a gist of what happened. What he needed to do at the moment was to tend to the aftermath, and be the source of placidity to Eren's current maelstrom.

The brunet sniffed before giving out a single nod and letting the raven guide him to the bathroom.

The whole situation would've seem nostalgic if Eren actually remembered how exactly the raven took care of him the last time, or if there was anything to be wistful about in both situations in the first place.

No words were exchanged until Levi finished securing the bandages around the younger's wrists. He wouldn't be surprised if he had already dissociated by then.

But when the brunet straddled and enveloped him in a tight embrace as Levi steered him towards the couch (with the intention of offering him some hot beverage to help him with his nerves), it wasn't hard to determine that Eren had held out until that point.

He returned the embrace with his own, giving the younger the strength he was seeking. It took a while, but Eren's sniffles soon slowed down until it finally came to a stop. His hold had also slackened by then that the raven thought he fell asleep.

"My wrists hurt." The younger almost whispered. "Did..."

"Yeah." Levi cut-off, knowing Mikasa had showed up again.

He felt her stiffen by his confirmation but made no move to tear herself from the raven's embrace. If anything, her hold actually tightened around him.

Thus, Levi remained rooted in his position to console the other alter who had to deal with this problem.

He hated seeing not only one, but two individuals (and perhaps even more than that) whom he cared deeply for, be reduced to this.

Alas, try as he may, he really didn't have an idea on how to deal with this Ymir issue. Hell, this would be the second time the fragment had fronted and he didn't get to catch even just a glimpse of her.

So despite his body starting to protest from the prolonged position he found himself in, he refused to move an inch until the younger eventually fell asleep in his hold, and he then had to struggle with shifting the body as slightly as possible, and then carry the brunet to bed.

He felt helpless thinking that was all he could ever do. He'd have to follow-up on that blond coconut with regards to the doctor they kept talking about.

 

Cleaning the dried bloodstains on the floor, and some spots on the counter, took a while – maybe hours. Despite the bad company he grew up with in the past, Levi never thought his own apartment would pose any sort of threat.

Then again, it's not like he could Ymir-proof the area without causing inconvenience to everyone else around. If he'd have to hide every single thing that he thinks could be used for self-harm, that'd leave his apartment thoroughly bare, and maybe include the entire building in on that, as well.

Knives may be the more obvious choice, but that doesn't mean cushions couldn't do any harm.

He immediately shut the cleaning supplies' closet when he faintly heard some sort of movement around the area. He didn't want the brunet to catch him tidying up the damage done and make him feel worse for himself.

Soon enough, the brunet did show up, rubbing the sleep off his eyes.

"Levi? Why haven't you changed your clothes yet? Or did you just arrive?" Eren asked in confusion.

Levi looked down on himself, only realizing he was still wearing his work clothes – minus the jacket and tie – now that the brunet pointed it out.

"I got a little busy." He casually shrugged off. "How're you feeling? Do you want anything to eat?" He proceeded with his own questions before the younger could think to follow-up his with the obvious "what were you busy doing?"

"Not really. I was just wondering why you weren't in bed." Eren yawned.

"Let's just have dinner now that you're up. You're not skipping meals under my watch. Just give me a moment to take a shower first." Levi stated, trying to make it seem like everything was alright and not an incident had happened just recently.

He didn't know if Mikasa had done her magic in owning that memory all to herself again, but he's not about to say or do anything that would remind Eren of exactly that, either way.

"I'll go heat up the food, then." The brunet offered.

Levi was a little hesitant at that. He was still on-edge that it was almost borderline paranoid, with his brain rushing to come up with scenarios on what might happen once the brunet got in contact with anything in the apartment.

But, as usual, the rational part of his mind put him in place, thinking again of how he should be avoiding "saying or doing anything that would remind Eren of what happened" more strictly.

They soon ate dinner in relative silence, with Eren eating a lot lesser than Levi would've liked. But he supposed that was better than nothing.

The brunet also helped him clean up, as per routine, and the raven could only let him do as he wanted.

When they finally settled for bed, Eren instantly curled up on the raven, and Levi, in turn, held him close.

They've been through this before, and Levi could only expect that they'll be dealing with this again in the future.

 

They really needed that appointment with that doctor.

Chapter Text

"The soonest I could book is on Friday, two weeks from now. Actually, that's exactly the day she'll be back in Trost." Armin informed on the other side of the line. "I really wish I could go with Eren. But as luck would have it, we'll be having an overseas trip at that time before we'd start on the internship."

"And I have a job." Levi replied bitterly, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"I'm really sorry. Maybe I could ask the others if they're not busy. Or if Eren does end up going alone, I could check on him from time to time. I just hope Hanji wouldn't mind. Much." The blond offered.

"I'd still prefer if I could go with him." The raven confessed. "Maybe I could pull a few strings. Hopefully."

And by "pulling a few strings", he meant "making a deal with the devil".

Just like before, the Ymir incident had soon been forgotten as by the people involved. Well, not so much as forgotten (with the exception of Eren) as they just wordlessly agreed not to bring it up in conversations, particularly around the presence of the brunet.

Since classes had started, Eren had taken up residence in the dorms again. That doesn't mean there are no more "regular" visits in the apartment, though. Especially during the weekends when the raven was off-duty.

Though as much as they try to bury the incident behind them, things just didn't stay stable for long.

Most of Eren's classes were situated at the higher – if not, the highest – floors of the buildings. Other than that, Eren always prefer to sit by the window for various reasons: spacing out, fresh air (or as fresh as city air could get), and the faint feeling of not being trapped inside the four walls of the lecture rooms.

He didn't know why, but for some reason he had completely blacked out more often than not, and found himself hurt or lost somewhere else. It was almost like highschool all over again. But other than that one student who reminds him so much of Zeke (with curly blond hair and round glasses) that he has the misfortune of seeing sporadically around the campus, he didn't know what else was causing the triggers.

Heaven forbid it was Ymir, herself, who was choosing to come out.

With everything that was happening, all the excitement he felt before the semester began turned into stress and a shitload of apprehension. And not just for him, but for Levi and Armin as well.

It came to a point where he would almost refuse to attend the classes, especially when the professors had informed him about his forming habit of "stepping out without a word".

It caused Jean to simmer in annoyance that even their academic life would have to be at stake. Again. It had always been difficult back in highschool. Hell knows just how much more it is now.

 


 

By the time two weeks was up, a burned-out Levi had insisted to accompany the brunet in his appointment. He had been working overtime in consecution just to appease the management about taking a day-off so soon into his employment.

Sure, he has been working for over two months. But two months is still too early to be asking for a day-off. So with the consecutive overtimes he pulled off, he hoped the management wouldn't think he was slacking off.

Just because Erwin had accepted his application right off the bat doesn't mean he was under the illusion that he's a special snowflake compared to the rest of the workers.

He let out another sigh as he tried to ward off the headache that was setting in from the overworking paired with a lack of sleep. Eren instinctively leaned closer to him as they waited, looking exhausted himself but wanting to provide comfort to the raven in return. Levi's hand flew up as he absently stroked the back of the brunet's head. Aside from his exhaustion at work, another thing that was bothering him was what happened the night before.

He arrived back at the apartment to the sight of the brunet sleeping on the lap of female Armin. When he asked her what happened, her simple answer was, "Ymir came out."

After the raven (protectively) took the younger to bed, he didn't have the chance to interrogate the blonde further as she said she was supposed to be at some place for about an hour ago.

Although, she did say that she had personally met the fragment. And if that wasn't enough, she said something utterly incredulous to Levi just before she rushed off; when the raven asked her about anything she could say about said fragment.

"I don't think she's so bad." Historia smiled sweetly, showing no hints that she was fucking around.

How the fuck could she even say that after all the cuts that we're still very much visible on the brunet's limbs?

Levi also doesn't think that she doesn't have any clue about Eren's history with the fragment from Armin.

He was snapped out of his thoughts when the brunet cleared his throat beside him.

"Yes?" Levi prompted.

"Nothing. Just a little parched."

"Anything you wanna drink?"

"Just a bottle of water would be great. Thanks." Eren smiled weakly yet genuinely.

Levi stepped out to fulfill the request, grabbing another bottle of milk chocolate since it was one of the brunet's (very few) favorites. When he was about to reach the younger, he was startled when a piercing voice shot through the hallway.

"JELLYBEAN!! I'm so sorry momma had been away too long. Did you miss me? I missed you, too! Work had been very hectic, and I really did intend to come back sooner. I know, I'm a terrible momma. I'm so sorry, cupcake!" A crackpot with thick-rimmed glasses and brown hair tied into a messy ponytail babbled off while suffocating Eren into a (wild) bear hug.

'Fucking hell. Don't they handle the patients here?' Levi couldn't help thinking.

He hastened his steps and promptly tore-off the lunatic from his boyfriend before he got suffocated to unconsciousness.

"Are you okay?" He asked the brunet before shooting a quick glare to the other who was now watching them with a mix of confusion and interest.

"There you are! Don't just run-off like that all the time." A man with a lighter shade of brown hair and wearing a lab coat approached them next.

Thank fuck a restrainer.

"Hanji..." Eren croaked out as the raven tried to fuss over him and protect him.

Levi instantly shot his gaze towards the man, thinking that was who the younger was referring to.

"You must be Dr. Hanji Zoe. I'm Levi, and I'm here with Eren." He addressed the male.

The man, in turn, looked confused at the introduction.

"Actually, my name is Moblit. I'm Dr. Hanji's assistant who's right over here." He gestured to the brunette who was now grinning widely at them.

The raven looked entirely baffled at that, unable to believe that this person, who looked more like a patient than Eren would ever be, was actually Eren's therapist.

"You're shitting me." He deadpanned.

"I'm pretty sure I said Hanji's a female." Eren joined in.

The raven looked even more baffled at that.

'That's a she?!'

He was starting to worry that his own mental state would also need some helping at that point.

 


 

After Hanji had her unrestrained laugh from the whole incident, followed by a very brief re-introduction between the two, Levi was again left waiting at the designated area while the session went underway.

Inside her rather quaint office, Hanji has morphed into someone with an air of professionalism, while maintaining her approachable demeanor at the same time.

The hint of formality and seriousness in her vibe was in direct contrast to her "off-duty" personality.

Nevertheless, that was exactly what Eren liked in her. She was both his therapist and an authentic friend.

"So honeybunch, I know you'd like to skip to business, so I'm just gonna ask first if you prefer to be the one to talk? Or should we prompt for another alter to come out?" Hanji asked gently.

"It's okay. I... I want to do this myself. I've actually asked Mikasa to help me remember the... aftermath ever since Ymir had fronted quite occasionally again." Eren professed, keeping his gaze at one spot like every other session he had with her.

"Is Mikasa co-conscious right now?"
Eren nodded at that.

"It's actually quite noisy inside right now." He pointed to his head. "But Mikasa feels closest."

It was Hanji's turn to nod at that, fully understanding what he meant. Actually, there have been one too many times when she had a better description of the sensations than Eren himself.

"So, are you okay with sharing how exactly Ymir had been acting?"

"She... it's like before. I... 'wake up' in a place I don't remember going to, usually in high places, and... with regards to the damage... you could see for yourself."

Eren tugged on the sleeves of his hoodie to reveal the cuts on his wrists. Some of them still looked fresh, and with Hanji's trained eyes and experience, she could tell the trail continued beyond the brunet's wrists.

She could see how Eren was trying to maintain control by the way he was slowly tilting his head to the side, while closing his eyes. And she knows full well how talking or even remembering these unpleasant events usually trigger Mikasa out.

"Is there anyone outside that has interacted with her? Like Armin? Or maybe Levi?" She proceeded to ask.

"Armin still hasn't seen her out yet. Levi, too." Eren answered after a while. "Actually, now that you mentioned it, Levi told me earlier that I've been with Historia last night when Your fronted. He says she, Historia, has gotten to talk to her, but he didn't have the chance to ask what exactly happened. Historia has been doing a lot of volunteer work that could rival Marco's, so I'm not really surprised by that."

 

Meanwhile, in another place, Armin had successfully gotten hold of the other blonde in a video chat. His phone was on standby in case Eren or Levi got in contact.

"Historia, hi! Thank heavens, you're free." Armin sighed in relief.

"Hey, Armin! I'm glad I've got some spare time, too." She giggled. "How's the weather down there?"

That had been a running joke between the two blonds – what with being the shortest ones in their little group – ever since they found out Bertolt was aiming to be a meteorologist. Attempting to extend the joke to a certain raven had been a lesson learned the hard way for the two.

"It's pretty great. Not much different from Trost or Shiganshina, really. Though the change in scenery is really nice. You'd probably like it here." Armin responded kindly.

"I wish one of my classes would have overseas trip. You're quite lucky, Armin." Historia pouted.

"Calm before the storm, I should say. I'm already dreading the internship and the mountain of projects. Don't even get me started on exams."

They kept chatting leisurely for a while, trying to catch up with each other, before Armin finally got to the main reason why he called.

"Hey, Historia... Levi had told me, just last night, that you got to meet Ymir?" He started. "As you know, I've never met her before. How was she? I mean, what happened exactly?"

"Oh, right. I, well... she's... strange. Kind of." Historia began as she mulled over the events that happened yesterday. "I just happened to bump into Eren yesterday, and when I asked where he was heading to, he just gave me the cold shoulder. I had a feeling then that it was someone I haven't met before. And from the clues you've told us about Eren's alters, I had an inkling as to who it might be.

So I followed him and kept pestering him even though he completely ignored me. After a while, he finally snapped and told me to go away. I didn't, though. Of course. I was more scared that he... that they would hurt themselves again over the empty threats that don't even hold a candle next to Levi's."

Armin acquiesced. Until now, it was an enigma to him how Eren could simply shrug off the raven's threats like a red flag wasn't planted on his life.

"I guess he got tired of me after a while, 'coz he was finally giving me his attention. He tried to ask me, subtly, if I had anything sharp with me. I instantly denied, even though I actually did have something with me. Not that I'd ever offer it to anyone who has... those tendencies." She continued.

"Yes, thank you." Armin interjected, letting out a sigh of relief from his friend's initiative.

"You're welcome." She spared a response. "But you see, we were already at the engineering building's rooftop by then, and I was already considering clinging to Eren with my entire body if he ever would decide to climb over the already high railing. At that point, I already knew for sure it was Ymir. I mean, it could've only been her if she already knew the way to the rooftop, and I haven't been told of any new alters, so far."

Historia may seem like an airhead for most of the time. But contrary to popular belief, she has actually more brains to her beauty. And in accordance to popular belief, she's more heart than brains. That's not to say she's an overly emotional person (though she is quite sensitive), she's just a ridiculously nice girl – which earned her the brand of being "an angel on earth".

"You know, when we were up there in the rooftop, it seemed like she had this melancholic look about her as she gazed into the open. The vibe she was emitting, it's... it's something I'm quite familiar with." Her voice had gradually dipped lower as she said it, and she had a contemplative look on her features.

 

"What do you think of her, Eren?" Hanji asked seriously.

She always make a point to mention the name of whoever she was conversing with during their sessions. Somehow, it does help Eren feel a bit more grounded with the knowledge that he was the one being currently addressed. And when Hanji brings out an alter's name during their sessions, it almost seems like he'd be suddenly aware of that alter's presence even when he didn't feel them close just a minute prior.

"The same as I always have." The brunet replied with a hint of bitterness in his tone. "I think she's dangerous. I don't know why she hates everything and everyone in the world. I don't know why she keeps harming me... harming us. I don't know why she's like that. I just hope she stops."

 

"Not that I'm defending what she had done in the past. I don't really think I have the grounds to stand with that. But I think... well, I really don't think she's as bad as we believed. I know you may think I'm just being a Pollyanna, but I really do believe that." Historia spoke earnestly.

Armin just nodded in silence, more intent in listening to every word of his friend than voicing out his own thoughts.

 

"I understand. But Eren, have you ever tried reaching out to her? Mikasa had told me you've attempted to do so before. So, I'm asking if you've ever tried again? Maybe another approach?" Hanji asked as she clasped her hands on her lap, giving the younger all of her attention.

"What's the point? If she's adamant on not listening and pushing us away... what's the point?" Eren grumbled. "What I want to know is if there's any way to put a stop to... this." He gestured vaguely to himself.

Hanji took it to mean that he was indirectly confirming her suspicions that the damage done extended way beyond his wrists, and most probably way beyond the physical aspect.

 

"I just kept talking to her by then. Even though I haven't really called her by name, and that she was mostly just ignoring me and throwing dirty glances my way, I just kept telling her all the good things that have happened to Eren, so far.

She wasn't really looking at me, but it's easy to notice how her frown deepened the more I go on. I really thought she was going to ignore me the whole time, and I was fine with that as long as they were safe. But then... I guess it was out of annoyance, but she started speaking to me eventually."

"What did she say?" Armin prompted, already on the edge of his seat.

"She told me – rather harshly – that Eren couldn't be as happy as he may look like. That he doesn't deserve to be happy in the first place, nor does he deserve to continue on with his life after everything that happened. I'm paraphrasing. It's actually a lot harsher than that, but the point's the same. It was almost like I was listening to a meaner version of Jean. I mean, no offense to him." She raised a hand up in defense.

 

"Is that even possible?" Eren asked lowly, his eyes pleading with desperation as he finally looked straight at their therapist.

That look tugged at Hanji's heart. It really goes out to the brunet whom she had taken a fondness of ever since they first met years ago.

Hanji settled back on her beanbag of a seat. When her office was described as "quaint" beforehand, what it really meant was "eccentric". She wanted to cater to her patients' comforts (thus, the myriad of different furnitures and internal design), which, in turn, make the sessions somehow easier.

Eren was a bit fidgety, so having a beanbag to sit on kind of helps with his need of movement while speaking.

"Eren, honey... I know how much you want to put an end to this." She started carefully, trying to tiptoe her way through the landmine field that is the brunet's current tumultuous state. "But just as how you're not in full control of your condition, you can't really control your alters. And if you could, I personally think it would be a bad idea. The concept of 'controlling', I mean."

When she saw the mix of devastation and perplexed look on the younger's face, she immediately hurried to follow-up.

"Now, hear me out." She raised her hands in a placating manner. "Let's just put it this way... how would you feel if one of your alters would expressively say you're a bad host? That... even though you're only trying to cope in the way you know how, that you just don't see things the way they do... they would keep on insisting that you're a bad alter? That you're a bad host?"

 

"I felt then that there was something more to her. I mean, sure it was quite brutal for her to say those things, but... I think I understand." Historia had a pained look on her, but Armin decided not to point it out.

"What do you mean?" He chose to ask instead.

The blonde gave a small smile. "She just reminds me of someone I used to know." She answered vaguely.

"Anyways, that's what I told her. I told her that I don't know what she's been through, but, in a way, I think I understand." She redirected the conversation. "At that point, it's like a switch flipped inside her. She finally looked at me with surprise written all over her face. And when that surprise subsided... her whole expression just softened."

 

"What exactly are you getting at?" Eren asked uncomfortably, apprehension present on his features.

"I'm just saying Ymir may not be a bad alter like what you've always believed." Hanji began. "Would you believe me when I tell you even Mikasa or any of your other alters could have their own issues that they're struggling with?"

The brunet nodded slowly at that. There have been one too many times when he witnessed Mikasa breaking down, but had always kept mum about it (as per her wishes). She had always strongly refused to be seen in her most vulnerable state. So when it happens, it could either be that she trusts you, or that it was too much to handle.

"And would you believe me when I tell you even alters have their own ways of dealing with certain situations?" She continued.

Again, Eren nodded, thinking that if there was someone being particularly harmful towards them, Mikasa would most probably be cold towards them; Annie would've ignored them (unless things got physical); Sasha would've avoided them; Jean would've confronted them; and Reiner would've been cordial towards them.

"Stop insisting Ymir is a bad alter. Try viewing things from another angle; from another lens. Like you said, you have no idea why she's doing that. It could just be her way of coping, or how she thinks things are supposed to work. We never know which it is."

 

"When I felt like she wasn't about to speak again, I offered to walk her home since the sun had long set by then. I mean, I knew you weren't at the dorms and Eren had mentioned spending the summer at Levi's place. So, I figured maybe Levi could watch over him for the rest of the day."

Armin had texted the raven's address (with very reluctant permission and a few words of warning with regards to visitations) to the rest of the squad in cases of emergency that would mostly involve the brunet.

"She ignored me at first, but finally caved in after further insistence. Levi wasn't there when we arrived though. And it was only then that I remembered he was already a corporate man. Thankfully, Eren still had his bag on his back, so I rummaged through it and fortunately found a copy of Levi's apartment keys."

"But Eren keeps his keys in his pockets." Armin pointed out.

"Yeah, I found out about that afterwards. I wouldn't be surprised if he actually had more copies." Historia giggled.

The other blond could only agree. Maybe Eren was making copies in case Levi would confiscate the one he gave.

"Anyways... I just kept talking to her again. You know, just to take her mind away from the more... unpleasant things. Since we were at his residence, I started talking about Levi and his relationship with Eren. I showed her some pictures that Eren posted on his social media, and some that I've taken on my own.

It could just be me, but she seemed interested when I talked about their relationship and how Levi had treated Eren so far despite being aware of his condition. Or come to think of it, maybe she was bored 'coz she soon started to get drowsy in the middle of my rambling. And I don't know if it was still her or Eren or another alter that was fronting by then... but they used my lap as a pillow when they really started to doze off. Or maybe they were just too tired to care."

"I'm guessing that's how Levi found you?" Armin pieced together the information the raven had given him.

"Yep. I kinda feel bad I haven't explained myself well on why I technically, sort of, trespassed his residence. But I was really running late from the volunteer work at the orphanage." She sighed.

"Don't worry, I'm pretty sure Levi understands, and he's more grateful that you've actually managed to prevent Eren from hurting himself... without his knowledge." The male assured. "Did... did she really made no attempts to do... anything?" He asked vaguely yet clear enough for the other blonde to get the gist of it.

"Maybe if I left her for a second, she would have. Or maybe I'm just paranoid. Either way, I'm not taking any chances."

 

"I just strongly recommend you keep reaching out to her. You and everyone else in the system, or anyone in the outside who's willing to help. Don't antagonize her, even if... from your perspective, that's what you believe she is. Give her a chance, Eren. All this time, all you've tried is to shut her out in the same way she does it to you. This poor communication is what makes every kind of relationship suffer.

Remember Eren, dear, Ymir is still a part of you. Even for me, as a singleton, there are parts of me that I don't fully understand or am still coming to terms with. And if you really must know in order to believe... apparently, I have this spiteful part of me that I didn't think I was capable of. My actions could be driven by hate. So, you could say I'm not really an altruist even though I'd like to think so." Hanji fessed up.

She rarely ever talks about herself as she believes her personality is like an open book. And she doesn't really care what other people have to say about it either. It may also seem like it would be unprofessional for a (psycho)therapist to talk about themselves while they were still in session with their patients.

But Eren could care less. To hell with formalities. In his opinion, Hanji is doing a splendid job on being his doctor – all things considered.

"But enough about me. That's really the best advice I could give you, honeybunch. It may seem like a long stretch at first, but some people do take time to warm-up to a certain idea. Especially if it's something in contrast to how they are."

Eren took his time contemplating Hanji's words, and doing a bit of self-reflection with regards to how he'd been dealing with the whole situation himself.

With the belief that Ymir was, indeed, a bad alter, he had acted on that and treated her as such. Even if it was beyond his control, he had always wished he could somehow restrain her or find a way to make her stop fronting completely.

If he was honest, he could still feel that way.

 

"You know, Armin... I really wish I could talk to her again. I mean, I don't want her to hurt Eren in any way. I just... well, I just want to try and help. Maybe talking to her would be a good thing, considering it did prevent... something when I tried it. And not to sound like an avid idealist, but maybe we could convince her to stop harming Eren, herself, or the rest of the guys in the system. At least we could try, though." Historia spoke gently.

 

Both the brunet and the blond nodded to themselves in silent agreement. It would really seem like the only option left that they had to try was to reach to out to the fragment if they really want to go over this hurdle.

After years of being terrified and wary of the alter, they would need all the help they could get.

Chapter Text

Levi instantly perked up at the slightest indication that the door was turning open. When it did, the two brunets stepped out; one with a contemplative look on his features, the other looked completely laid back.

He was already up on his feet when the younger slowly approached him. He eyed him carefully, trying to determine the signs as to who it currently was.

"Everything okay?" The raven asked, looking straight into ocean green eyes.

"Yeah. I'm fine." The brunet smiled.

Levi internally let out a sigh of relief. He was expecting to be greeted by another alter since he thought these therapy sessions would talk about his experiences or something of the sort. And talking about experiences would require memories. And some memories, especially the ones they wanted to address, were mostly unpleasant and may be unbearable for Eren, himself.

"Levi, you have a moment?" Hanji suddenly asked, still hovering by the door.

It could only mean she wanted to talk about Eren's situation with him, so he really couldn't refuse even if he felt like it. Even if she was a licensed, professional doctor, his first impression of her being a crackpot still lingers in his mind.

"Here." He handed the brunet the bottle of milk chocolate he had previously gotten for him.

Eren's face lit up at the sight of the bottle, and he was finally smiling wide again.

"Thanks. You're the best." He leaned down to give a quick peck on the raven's cheek.

They didn't notice how Hanji's eyes widened with surprise at the small action. And they didn't notice the gleam in those eyes that settled afterwards.

With a light tint on those alabaster cheeks of his, he soon followed the bespectacled brunette inside.

The moment his sight landed in the interior of her office, he was starting to doubt which of the two had been the patient, as well as his own state of mental health.

"You can sit wherever you like." Hanji chirped up when she noticed the raven hadn't moved a single inch since getting just past the doorway.

After eyeing his choices carefully, Levi settled for the sleek, black leather office chair. The sofa and the couch looked very tempting, but he didn't want to feel like he was having an extemporaneous therapy session, especially not with this person. On the other hand, Hanji pulled over a white, plastic stool and sat on it with the backrest in front of her.

To any other person who had no context between the two and on what was happening, it would really seem like there was some sort of role-reversal in the general picture.

As usual, the raven remained stoic in his appearance, masking the slight apprehension and full wariness that he was currently feeling. In a way, the whole setup somehow reminds him of his first meeting with Eyebrows. Even the things he was currently feeling were in the same range as it did back then.

"Don't be so tense, you're not here for an interrogation." Hanji grinned, as if reading right through his thoughts.

Great. Another fucking mind-reader. Just the type of people he could fucking braid hairs with.

"Well, not in the 'detective' sense, 'coz I do have some questions." She added.

Since they were on the page of detectives and interrogations, it could be said that Levi has the right to remain silent, and he put that to full use.

He felt like a lab rat under the brunette's scrutiny. Even with those thick frames on, Levi could see how she was observing him with rapt interest. He didn't know if it was normal for her to look at others in that certain manner, considering her profession.

Ever since meeting Eren, he had long adjusted to the idea that normalcy could differ from person to person, and that a single wight could never be the barometer to determine everyone else.

Nonetheless, he still thinks that manic grin she was sporting at the moment shouldn't really be there.

"I could sense there's something special about you and my cute little sunshine." Hanji soon began. "I could only infer, especially since you're here, that you're well aware of his condition. So, is your relationship with him, the same as the rest of his alters?"

An eyebrow cocked at a certain phrase she had uttered. Levi almost wanted to say that Eren was his cute little sunshine, but thank fuck for self-restraint.

"I'm in a romantic relationship with Eren." He stated matter-of-factly since that should've been obvious by now. "But my relationship with others in the system go only as far as the platonic range could reach."

"So you're only friends with them while you're in a relationship with their host? Are they okay with it?"

"If they're not, they haven't said shit about it 'til now. Though my... friendship with the... females isn't exactly the same as it is with others." With "others" being Historia. "Like I said I'm only in a romantic relationship with Eren, but the girls, in my opinion, has been more than just 'friends' for me, yet still on a platonic level. I don't get to interact with the guys as much, but the sentiment extends to them."

He didn't know why he was speaking more than usual with less prompting. If this was the "magic" Eren and Armin kept referring to, then Hanji is a dangerous person in his perspective.

"So they're like your sisters?"

"Maybe."

Hell, if he knows what it's like to have a sibling.

The gleam in Hanji's eyes was getting stronger the more the raven talked. And the more that gleam gets caught by the raven's sharp eyes, the more he wanted to build his walls up. However, he really doesn't see a point in not fessing up, especially if this person is believed to be able to help his boyfriend in ways he couldn't.

"How's your relationship with Eren so far?" Hanji continued.

"I don't have any point of personal reference, so all I could say is it's not like those shit in the movies. That's not to say that we don't do any of those romantic shit. What I mean is that one minute I'll be listening to the brat's incessant ramblings, the next, I'll be shoving food down Sasha's throat."

He could see how the bespectacled brunette was biting the insides of her cheeks at his answer. Whether that was to refrain from laughing or squealing (or both), Levi didn't know. Though he could give her credit for gaining control over herself as compared to their initial meeting just earlier.

"Has there been any problems so far? Aside from Ymir, that is." She probed further once she got back her composure.

Levi took his time to mull it over. There hasn't really been any problem between them, or at least none that could compare to the fragment problem so far. The thing with coming to terms with the condition, getting to know the different alters, and learning to coexist with each other had long since been addressed (or at least he'd like to believe so). Other than that, it was all really just part of the process. So what other problems could there be?

"We haven't successfully had sex yet." The raven blurted out, not breaking eye contact with the other – never have since his ass landed on the seat.

At this point, Hanji was unable to contain it anymore. Her loud cackling echoed throughout the entire room and continued to fill the air for a few more minutes. It must've sounded differently from the outside as Hanji's assistant, Moblit, came barging through the door almost instantaneously.

"Is everything okay?!" He asked, sounding very much alarmed the moment the door flew open.

He was answered by a blank look from the raven and Hanji's continuous laughter. She was already in tears from laughing as she kept hitting her knee in quick succession.

"Did something happen?" Eren asked hesitantly, peeking out from behind the other man.

"Oh, Eren... you've got quite the guy here." Hanji finally answered, coming to a slow from her laughter and was wiping the corners of her eyes.

The raven continued to look blank as both pairs of eyes shifted to him in silent inquiry, giving no clue whatsoever as to what caused the brunette's outburst.

After dismissing the other two with no further explanations, and a single reassuring nod from the raven to the brunet, the two carried on with their conversation once the door was shut closed again.

"What exactly is the problem in that department?" Glasses followed-up.

"I didn't want a repeat of how he almost switched out while we were ass-naked." The raven shrugged, unembarrassed with giving out details. "Actually, he did switch out back then."

"Did something cause it?"

"Probably. I've already asked the others with what to do to avoid it."

"And?" Hanji prompted, mildly surprised that the other had the initiative to ask the younger's alters in helping him deal with the situation.

"I got a list." He replied flatly.

The brunette snorted gracelessly at that.

"I figured." She commented, grinning widely. "But if you'd ask me, I don't think there would be much problem if you heed their advice and ask for Eren's opinion as well. As long as it's consensual and safe, and wouldn't trigger anything for Eren, then it should be very much possible. I know it may seem like my sunny bear is someone fragile – and in a way, he is – but he's also stronger and braver than he gives himself credit for." She stated genuinely.

"And with everything he went through, paired with the fact that he's still struggling until now, I think it's rather impressive of him and his alters that they continue to strive to live and function normally in spite of everything else."

Levi couldn't agree more to that as he, himself, also shared the same sentiments. Actually, every person who is internally struggling with any type of mental health issue yet still continue to stand strong in their battle against life and society and the injustice of the cruel fate that they were cursed with... they all deserve a fucking medal. Some fucking respect and validation should also be in order from all the other ignorant assholes who don't know any better and think that these people – who are merely trying their best to fit in – are someone to be ridiculed or aversed with in general.

On another note, from what Hanji had said, he could only gather that she was aware of what kind of trauma Eren had went through that resulted in the condition he has now. She was his therapist, after all. Levi still didn't know what exactly the brunet had gone through, and he was fine with not knowing. He was fine with leaving the ugly past behind.

Still, Eren was his sunny bear.

"So, Levi..." Hanji started as she stood up for a moment to finally turn her stool the right way 'round before leaning back in it in a completely relaxed manner. "What do you do?"

Again, the raven's brow arched at the sudden change of topic.

"I work in the financial department of Survey Corps here in Trost." He responded simply.

He wasn't expecting the shocked look Glasses donned on by his answer.

"Hold on... is your last name Ackerman?"

The frown that settled on Levi's features clearly indicates that he doesn't like where this was going.

"And how'd you know about that?" He countered warily.

"So you're the guy Erwin told me about!" Hanji bursted out.

"You know Eyebrows?"

That doesn't sound good.

"We've been friends since high school." Hanji responded with the same wide grin, ignoring the name the raven just called him with like it was something she hears all the time.

"You're shitting me." He deadpanned.

It seemed like Hanji took that as a challenge when she suddenly fished out her phone from her pocket and proceeded to make a call. The raven couldn't help narrowing his eyes when she set it on loudspeaker and held it idly facing up with a tilt of her hand.

"Hello?" A deep, smooth voice picked up after the third ring.

"Hiya, Erwin! Just calling to say I'm back in Trost. For a couple weeks, at least." Hanji chirped.

"I'm aware." The blond replied coolly on the other side of the line.

Because of fucking course Erwin fucking Smith would know.

"Yes, yes. What I really wanted to say is that there's this employee of yours right here who refused to believe we were really buddies since high school."

"I take it you're with Levi then?" Erwin responded like he didn't have to think much about it. Which is true.

"That's the one." Hanji confirmed nonchalantly.

Levi's frown deepened at how he was being talked about like he was either deaf or stupid. And more so on the knowledge that these two actually know each other. Just how fucking unlucky could he get?

"Great. First Nile, then Mike, and now Glasses." The raven thought out loud.

"You know Mike, too?" Hanji perked up.

Levi leveled her with a blank look.

"You know Mike, too?" He echoed back.

"We met him in college and he's Erwin's fiance. So how could I not?"

One second. Five seconds. Ten seconds.

"I thought they were just colleagues?" Levi diverted his gaze to the phone on the brunette's hand.

"We were colleagues. Past tense." Erwin replied like he could actually see he was being addressed to.

"Okay. Who else do you know? Old man Pixis?" The raven asked in a mixture of incredulity and exasperation, randomly referring to his landlord.

"You mean Dot Pixis?" Glasses piped up.

"The one who owns a couple apartment buildings and complexes?" Eyebrows followed.

Levi was rendered speechless after that, unable to process what to think or how to feel about the sudden turn of events. He was just done with all these coincidences. If they were even fucking coincidences at all.

"Erwin, I think we broke him." Hanji laughed loud enough to drag the raven back to earth after failing to verbally and physically respond in any way.

"Why're you even with him, Hanji? As far as I'm aware, he's asked for a day-off today."

"Oh, why's that?" Hanji probed with a lilt in her voice and a twinkle in her eyes as she stared at the other.

"Must be something important if he had to work a couple overtimes just for that."

Levi was back to glaring when the other two were back to conversing about him like he wasn't fucking there.

"Oh, but it is, Erwin!" Hanji beamed. "He's here to support my jellybean, Eren, for his session with me. Isn't that awfully cute?" She was practically squealing on the phone by now.

"Eren? You mean the boy you were taking care of?"

If Eren turned out to have known Erwin all along as well, Levi may have to admit himself to a mental institution.

"Well, in a way. I think Levi here is mostly doing that job. You should've seen him when he tried to protect his boyfie from me. It was totally adorbs, Erwin!" She gushed out.

"Alright, that's enough." Levi snapped before they could carry on gossiping to each other like a bunch of teenage girls... right in front of him.

He's already had his share of dealing with brats. Heaven forbid he'd have to add these two grown-ass adults on that list.

"Go easy on him, Hanji. He may bite." Erwin, Levi's fucking boss, teased.

"Duly noted, commander." Hanji, Eren's fucking doctor, saluted before promptly cutting off the call.

"I thought you called me in here to discuss about Eren?" The raven scowled, not really good with keeping up the pleasantries for an extended period of time; had never been good with pleasantries in the first place. Though he is trying his best, and people who are quite aware of the raven's personality could give him credit for his improvement.

"Right, right. Yes." Hanji grinned easily as she pocketed her phone again and leaned back on her seat.

The way her entire demeanor slowly shifted into one of seriousness and formality was kind of unnerving for Levi as it was almost like watching Eren dissociate. Though actually, he thinks he's been spending way too much time with the brat that every sudden mood shift of just about anyone had him associating it to a switch.

"So I gather you're having quite a great relationship with Eren and his alters. That's something I'm positively sure that they're all grateful for. Even me, as Eren's doctor, I'd like to thank you in behalf of everyone." She started before turning more seriously. "Do you think you can extend that... sentiment to Ymir?"

Levi frowned at the question, folding his arms and placing an ankle to his knee.

"What I'd like to know first is why she's doing what she's doing."

Hanji crossed her legs and clasped her hands on her lap, going into her professional mode.

"As what I've told Eren, even alters have their own issues to deal with. Eren may be the host, and it may be his life that they're leading, but obviously that doesn't mean each of them experience, or deal with things in the same way. It's just my theory, based on everything I know about the alters and Eren's story so far... but I think Ymir had not only just harmed Eren, but she's also helped him in some way."

The crease between Levi's brows deepened at that proposition.

"First things first, I'm saying Ymir is not an 'evil alter' like what you may believe as of the moment. Sure she's done things to the body, but could you really call a person who self-harms, 'evil'? Though it could be argued that she's really not just doing it to herself, but to Eren and the rest as well... that still wouldn't mean she isn't hurt herself.

Taking into consideration what Mikasa once told me that she's seen Ymir from way before when she thought it was just her and Eren, you know that means she's been around for as long, or even longer than Mikasa."

Levi kept mum. Yes, he knows that, ever since Reiner had mentioned it that one time. What he doesn't know is what this doctor is implying.

"Before I could expand on that, could you tell me more what you think, or what you once thought about Mikasa?"

"I thought she was hostile. I mean, Annie may have the same 'fuck-off' attitude at first glance, but she wasn't really as cold." The raven admitted truthfully. "But after knowing about what her... role was in the system, I think I could understand why she's that way."

Hanji was pleasantly surprised at how much the raven had gotten to know about Eren's condition, and more so that Eren's alters had somehow opened up to this man in ways not just anyone gets to experience. In ways that require a certain amount of trust.

"So you know how Mikasa holds the memories of Eren's past traumas?"

"Generally. Not the details." He clarified, to which, Hanji just nodded in understanding.

"So, as I was saying... Ymir had been around for a while. So it's quite possible she also holds the memories of the traumas that caused Eren his DID. It's already apparent to both of us that each alter have their own ways of dealing with different situations. Nonetheless, we shouldn't blame her if this is what she resorted to, or what she thinks is the appropriate action to be taken, or even how she views things. Not when we don't really know the reason behind why."

Makes sense. Makes a lot of fucking sense, really.

Maybe this woman isn't a total nutjob, after all. Which really should've been established from the get-go, considering her profession. But it was quite difficult to tell with her.

"So basically, what you're proposing is that we sweet talk some sense into her?"

Well, that certainly gave her a glimpse of his capabilities to "sweet talk". However, Hanji merely smiled easily at him, unaffected by his rather crude way of putting things.

"Going by how lovely this conversation has been so far, I can tell it may sound like a feat that would require great effort on your part. Not that I'm judging you for your oratory skills, so feel free to voice out your corrections."

Levi bit his tongue. Correcting her might only end up proving her right. And thinking about how this woman must be aware of that had him scowling even more Eren would have to worry about the lines on his face.

"Besides, I don't think you intimidated your way into Eren's, and the rest of the alters' hearts." She continued.

"I may have." He responded dryly, to which, the brunette just laughed heartily at.

Ever since meeting and dating Eren, Levi has been encountering more and more people who barely bats an eye at his charming use of words and generally congenial personality. And he's not quite sure how he feels about that.

"You're adorable. I could see why Eren likes you." She blurted out.

"Excuse me?" The raven instantly objected.

Levi Ackerman is anything but adorable or any shit along that range.

"At first glance, you may seem like this really scary panther or something. But in reality, you're actually this cute kitten who's very fussy and protective over my jellybean."

Everything she said in the latter sentence was horribly wrong down to the letter.

"Mine." He blurted out before he even thought about it.

Everything she said in the latter sentence was horribly wrong down to the letter. And apparently it's quite strong on the last two words.

Confusion was evident on her face at the response. And though no trace of embarrassment could be seen on the raven's profile, Levi was actually already thinking frantically to backtrack from his sudden objection.

However, it would seem like all the forces of the universe were really against him since the bespectacled brunette was soon (as in "ten agonizing seconds of her mouth forming into an 'o' shape" soon) progressively showing signs of comprehension. And when that manic grin curling her mouth was back and stronger than before, he already knew he wasn't going to like it in the very least.

Everything she said in the latter sentence was horribly wrong down to the letter. Until Levi, himself, turned it around unintentionally and dug his own grave in the process.

"Oh. My. Gosh!!" She squealed, hard enough to almost make Levi's eardrums burst. "Okay, I yield! Of course, he's all yours, catnip! I would never dare to stand in-between you and your road to forever."

"Don't call me that." was the only response he could come up with.

Seriously, what is it with brunets and cats? He already has Eren who keeps calling him kitten no matter how deadly his glare or how dark his threats could go (though obviously not as horrible as he thinks, because Eren). He doesn't need another one who'll call him with another stupid pet name.

"Alright, alright. Calm your whiskers." Hanji grinned, raising her hands. "Seriously though, Eren is lucky to have you. I've personally witnessed how much he struggled with his condition back then, and he's gotten quite a long way from denying it. This is one obstacle he's yet to get through. But with you, and Armin, and everyone else who sees... your sunshine for who he is despite everything else, I could only think it's enough to relieve even just a tiny bit of burden from his shoulders."

Levi hopes so too. But he's more looking forward to relieving more than just a tiny bit of burden from his sunshine's shoulders.

"One question." He started, looking straight into the brunette's eyes. "Is there any chance that Eren's condition could be... cured?"

He could see how the grin on the other's face wavered at the question.

"No, it couldn't." She stated gravely. "There is no cure for DID, there are only treatments. Every possibility of the condition being... gone like some sort of sickness is only in theory. That is to say, if each and every alter in the system would integrate with the host. But then again, the cases of forced integration had only made it worse for these people. So bottomline... no. There's no cure for DID."

Silence blanketed them afterwards. The kind of silence that wasn't entirely awkward, but more contemplative in nature.

"Is that going to be a problem in your relationship? The fact that Eren might never be... traditionally normal?" Hanji asked seriously.

Levi took his time answering that Hanji was beginning to worry about what she might hear. Not for herself, but more for Eren.

"I didn't come to like Eren because he was 'traditionally normal'. I didn't decide to date him because he was 'traditionally normal'. I am in a relationship with him because he isn't 'traditionally normal'. So I don't see how it's going to be a problem when he could never be 'traditionally normal'." Levi emphasized the quoted words.

As someone who has taken fondness of the brunet ever since they first met and seeing him way beyond than just her mere patient, Hanji was on the brink of tears at the raven's words. It took everything in her not to pull the other into a hug as she could tell he despised unsolicited physical contact from the get-go. Or at least he looked like it.

However, after seeing him out the door with... his sunny bear who was already approaching them the moment the door slid open, Hanji found it impossible to resist anymore.

"What... the fuck?!" Levi managed to utter out as Glasses pulled both him and Eren into a bone-crushing hug.

It took one last squeeze before Hanji finally let them go, completely ignoring the glower that had been there on the raven's face since he was born.

"Eren, Levi's cupcake." She planted both hands on the younger's shoulders while beaming widely at him.

Eren, in turn, was confused by the doctor's sudden change of use of possessive (pro)nouns.

"I want a dozen godchildren."

"You... I... wait, what?" Eren stumbled, completely baffled.

"I want details!" She sang as she took refuge back in her office.

"Fucking shitty glasses." Levi muttered, rubbing his shoulder. "How the fuck is she even allowed to be a doctor?"

Eren smiled fondly at his boyfriend. Whatever they talked about inside her office must have gone well, going by Hanji's rather cryptic messages. And, well, the fact that the raven hadn't committed murder in the span that they've been together.

"That's Hanji for you. Armin gets attacked like that everytime. Even grandpa had his share of her trademark momma bear hugs."

"No shit." Levi shot a glare towards the now closed door of the brunette's office.

They talked a bit with Moblit for future appointments and whatnot before finally stepping outside again.

"Anywhere else you wanna go to? It's my day-off anyway." Levi asked casually, trying to fight down the weariness to tend to the younger instead.

He wouldn't have to work for the next day anyway, so might as well completely burn himself out for today. And at least it'll be a valid excuse to stay in bed for the rest of the day tomorrow. Not that his body is able to sit still and look pretty, but having the thought is relieving enough.

"Well, shockingly, I'm actually tired." Eren gave a little laugh, completely aware of how it would come as a surprise to the raven that he'd pass off the opportunity of wandering and dragging him around. "I know the sun's still up, but I would love to just curl up in bed or laze around with you, really. If that's okay."

"Brat. You volunteering to sit still and behave is a blessing I wouldn't decline." Levi smirked as he pulled the brunet closer by the waist.

Chapter Text

"Heading 2 class. Running a little l8. -E"

"Sum1 took my seat by d window. Can't complain coz prof's n. D world s cruel. -E"

"Txting U n d middle of class, bcoz Y not? -E"

"Ugh! Cafeteria food s just blech! -E"

"Brat, you better be eating your lunch."

"Hello 2 U 2, k10 <3. -E"

"Heading back 2 class now. Still me. -E"

"Eren... did you eat?"

"Armin made me eat his very own creation of broccoli sandwich which he learned directly from Satan n xchange 4 a bowl of whatever it was he got 4 me. I swear he's evil. -E"

"Feeling out of it. I think sum1's close. -E"

"Oh, no. 8's worse than I thought. -E"

"I can hear neighing. -E"

"Don't worry. Dipshit's fine. -J"

 

Levi internally let out a sigh of relief at that. Ever since having that session with Hanji, Eren and co. plus Levi had tried to take her up on her advice. Though it goes without saying that the miraculous change didn't happen in a snap of a finger. It's not like in the movies where once you've been presented with a solution to the problem, things just fall conveniently into place afterwards. Nope. Fuck no. Fuck life. Fuck reality.

Getting a hold of the fragment whether it was in their inner world or outside was, in itself, a difficult task already. They couldn't reach her inside their headspace, and her fronting had been sporadic. Well, "sporadic" since they still couldn't tell what causes the triggers.

And since they could still find Eren "hurting himself" during these times – though not as badly as before, but it's still there – Levi had demanded he get regular updates on how the brunet had been doing. The rest of the squad had also agreed to keep an extra eye out whenever they can and to give an update to the raven as well, especially if something was wrong.

All the fussing had been a bit too much for Eren, but he knew it was (somehow) necessary, and that his friends and boyfriend would've still done so despite his objections. The attention wasn't so bad, either. As shitty as the scars that have littered his limbs may be, the aftercare he kept receiving afterwards had been a great distraction to keep his mind from wandering into the shadows.

 

"On your phone again, Levi? My, my."

The raven let out a sigh for the nth time that day as he placed his phone back on his desk and went back to work without even sparing a glance at the person leaning by the doorway.

"What're you doing here, Eye---win?" He stumbled. Not for the first time, and definitely far from the last.

Erwin, on the other hand, had been overlooking the raven's slip-ups since even before day one when he first worked at the company. Actually, he'd be more surprised if Levi actually managed to call him by name without some quite noticeable efforts.

"It's late." The blond pointed out. "In fact, you're the only one remaining in this office."

Levi looked up from the screen to see that he was, indeed, the only one left on the floor. Well, that explains the lack of migraine-inducing chatters he usually get during office hours.

"As much as I'd like to commend you for your hardwork, doing it frequently would only be troublesome in the long run. Though I'm quite sure you're already aware of that."

Levi just hummed a response. Of course he knows that. Nonetheless, he felt it necessary to do so, especially since Eren's sessions were never on his days-off.

Armin had wanted to accompany the brunet himself, but the start of his internship and general academic schedule had also proved to be difficult. Though despite the others in the squad who had volunteered to take time-off their schedules to take Levi's or Armin's place, the raven found himself declining thinking if there was something that was going to happen to the brunet, he ought to be there personally instead of being informed through phone.

Actually, he only started disliking being informed through phone when the news he would usually get was Eren already hurt or lost. It just seemed like he was never there when Eren needs him despite his willingness to jump into the situation should he only be informed on time.

"Not that I'm playing favorites, but if you want to ask for a day-off to accomodate your... boyfriend with regards to his medical assistance, you could try asking me directly."

The raven's fingers instantly halted and he was finally looking up at the blond.

"I know Hanji, so I could have a reliable confirmation on where you've been and what you've been doing. For the required hours, at least. Also, I think it's a valid excuse." Erwin continued.

The raven just stared blankly at him for a few more moments. Something that didn't unnerve the blond, for some reason, like it would've done so with other people.

"Look, Eye---win. I appreciate the thought, but I don't really think that's necessary." Levi declined, no matter how tempting the offer was. "I've barely been in this place for... what? Three months? I don't think I've earned any sort of special treatment yet." He responded factually before re-directing his gaze back to the screen.

The blond, in turn, could only commend the raven's attitude in silence. He has a far way to go before he could even be considered as a model employee, but despite the sharp tongue and the general leave-me-alone-or-I'll-bite-you aura, Levi didn't harbor some sort of superiority complex and was rather humble in the most subtle ways that he could show it.

"The offer still stands whenever you're willing to take it." Erwin pushed just a bit further, thinking the raven does deserve it even though he had been right with his argument.

Nevertheless, Erwin knew of Levi's working habits and the fact that he could never be a slacker, even before he had met the man personally. It wasn't exactly "stalking"; he'd like to call it more of a "surveillance".

"Is there someone waiting for you back home?" The blond diverted when he noticed the other's phone lit up.

"I don't think so." Levi responded before he even glanced at his phone.

It wasn't the weekends yet, so Eren would just probably be staying at the shitty dorms. Unless...

"Actually, I think there is." He amended as his eyes narrowed on the message his phone.

"Just switched out. At your apartment. Unwell. -M"

"Go home, Levi. You'll be hogging everyone's overtime pay if this keeps up." Erwin said before taking his leave, not bothering to wait for the raven's response that may never come if the furrowed brows and the tight line that formed on his lips were anything to go by.

 


 

It took him longer than usual to arrive back at his apartment, no thanks to the fucking cabbie who didn't fucking know his way around the city. It was a miracle that the cab's windows didn't shatter when the raven viciously slammed the door shut once he got off.

He was expecting to find the brunet curled up on the bed, the couch, or in one corner when he entered the door. So in the split-second that he found the brunet in the kitchen, he internally panicked... but then calmed down when his brain managed to process that the younger was fine. Or at least he looked like it.

"Oh, hey. Jeez, you scared me there." The brunet gave a little laugh when he noticed the other's presence. "Sorry, I can't really cook, so I just helped myself to heating up what was in the fridge. I hope you don't mind."

How polite. No doubt it was Reiner.

"Where's Sasha? No, scratch that, I thought Mikasa was out?" Levi asked, only taking off his suit jacket just then and hanging it neatly on one arm.

"She was. I think she's talking to Eren right now. I don't know with Sasha, though. She was with Jean, last time I remember. And Annie just told me to feed Eren his dinner since I'm out."

Seems like everyone was somehow active at the moment. Not really surprising since it had become common everytime the fragment comes out. They were trying to "catch" her, after all.

"Once you're done, follow me into the room. I have to take care of that." He looked pointedly at the younger's wrists.

Granted, it's not really as bad as before. There were only a cut or two or three on each limb, and they didn't even look that deep. Still, it wasn't like Levi would be settled with leaving those wounds untended.

"Oh, sure. Have you had dinner yet, by the way?" Reiner asked as he trailed behind the shorter man.

"No." Levi hanged his suit up properly while bending his neck side-to-side and letting out a tired sigh that caught the younger's attention.

"Well, then it's a good thing that I just heated up the food. I could do the cleaning afterwards. You look like you badly need some rest." Reiner offered.

"M'fine." Levi denied as he changed into more comfortable clothing.

Had it been Eren who was out, he would've took to staring at the raven's exposed body despite the countless times he'd seen it exclusively. It was still just a tad bit weird for Levi to see the brunet's different reactions to whatever it was he does. Though he is getting used to considering when and with whom he could freely get naked in front of – which is not with the girls. And maybe Eren, since there would be times when he'd get so red, Levi was starting to think he'd be bleeding out from every hole in his head.

And that's not something he'd be remotely flattered with, in spite of the reason behind. Not when he kept seeing the brunet's blood in places where it doesn't belong: outside his body.

"Any luck making progress with her?" The raven asked as he got into the now familiar motion on one of the younger's wrists.

"Well... we've been seeing her a lot now. I mean, compared to before. But the weird thing is that she's sitting way up high on the walls where we can't seem to reach her. Even yelling is useless 'coz she can't really hear us. That, or she's just been ignoring us." Reiner sighed.

Levi couldn't give a response to that. Didn't have one. He'd been given a general picture of how their inner world looks like. And as interesting as it was, what really stood out to him was how they were surrounded with walls that are 50 meters high. There were three divisions, in fact, and Eren and his alters were currently, residing behind the second wall.

It was theirs and Hanji's theory that each wall symbolizes one of Eren's greatest hurdles. The first and innermost one, they believe, is coming to terms with his condition. Something he has now accepted and got through. The rest of the walls, they've yet to figure out.

"Maybe Hanji could help us figure out what this means." The younger continued.

Levi grunted, both as a response and out from the reminder of why he was pushing himself to work double-minded these days. Funny how months... a year, more or less, earlier, he wouldn't have given a damn as to what goes on with the brunet's life.

And now, here he was, doing things that never even crossed his mind before meeting said brunet that, much to his (so-called) annoyance, he fucking adores.

"Hey, Levi?" Reiner called out with hesitance lacing his tone. "Maybe I should just bring you your food here. Then you could go to bed ahead." He proposed, seeing that the raven was practically oozing out with exhaustion no matter how much he tries to conceal it.

"It's fine. I don't eat in bed." Levi declined, fighting the heaviness that was settling on his eyelids.

"Well, you see, Eren's gonna be upset with me if he finds out I've been letting you overwork yourself again. And personally, it's kinda against my nature to just sit back and watch you collapse."

"He doesn't have to know." The raven tried.

"Yeah, well... he's still floating around, and heaven forbid he fronts and sees you face-flat on your plate."

"Look, I appreciate it. But I'm fine."

Reiner frowned at the blatant lie that he got out through his teeth. Yes, he was normally an honest person. But then again, he also doesn't get normally fussed with.

"Okay, how about this... once you're done eating, you go prepare straight to bed. I'll take care of the cleaning." The younger proposed.

Levi was about to make his objections when Reiner cut him off.

"And maybe, just maybe, I could try and ask Annie to give you a massage to help you relax. She's really good at it, and there's a really low chance she'll end up breaking your bones or giving you bruises since she likes you a lot."

Maybe the brat was closer than he initially thought if his influence was this strong on the current alter. And much to Levi's irritation, the brat's propositions are, more often than not, convincing in some fucked-up way.

"Fine." He muttered out after much deliberation. "But if I find anything that's not up to standards, you're sleeping on the sink."

"Right. Of course." Reiner gave a little, nervous laugh.

He wasn't really as good at cleaning as Eren (yes, Eren, since he's been trained well by no other than Levi, himself) or even Mikasa. The rest of them were mostly a hit-and-miss, with more misses under their belt.

Which is why they tend to steering clear away from the raven whenever a hint of cleaning has been made. They even have their go-to excuses even though the raven never bought them, not even once. Annie would start working out, Sasha would start cooking, Jean would start studying, and then there was him who couldn't find it in himself to decline once he was asked to do something.

Thus, how he ended up doing and re-doing every chore to the best of his abilities. He even did one last checkup before heading to the only bedroom in the apartment, all the while trying to bring out Annie to at least help the poor guy loosen up some tension from those muscles.

However, as he entered the room, the raven was already fast asleep. That's when you get a solid confirmation of just how burned-out he was considering he would always be the last one to surrender to the Sandman. He even still had his phone grasped loosely on one hand, and he wasn't even under the covers yet.

Reiner could only infer he was waiting for them to join him in bed. He does appear more satisfied whenever the brunet (most especially Eren) was by his side before he'd doze-off. Reiner felt a tad bit guilty then that he hadn't catered to that. However, all he could do as means of compensation at the moment is to properly tuck the raven in.

Which proved to be more difficult than he thought coz Levi was how-in-the-world-did-he-manage-it-oh-good-heavens-let-me-at-least-slide-this-comforter-under-his-weight-which-I-can't-apparently-do-without-breaking-a-sweat heavier than he looks.

Chapter Text

Eren was sulking on the couch one weekend while Levi was taking a shower. He had wanted to shower with him but the raven had firmly told him he'd only give in to his whims after he was done studying. He did try using his charms and tactics to make the raven reconsider, but Levi had stomped into the bathroom resolutely before he could work his magic.

Eren blames it on horse-face for telling the raven about their upcoming tests and the fact that they had been struggling to focus these past weeks. Although, he fully knew that Jean had done nothing wrong and that he really did have to bury his nose back into those books. It was just easier to justify your irritation when you have someone or something else to blame for it.

However, even though he tried to take his mind back in track to their lessons, he couldn't help recalling the words Hanji had told them during their last session with her. She had pointed out that maybe the reason they couldn't "reach" Ymir, and why she was just propped up on the wall, was because that Eren still didn't really accept her as one of his alters. Which, is true.

Well, really though, how could he after all that has happened (and is still happening) between them? How is he supposed to "accept" someone who had done nothing more than harm him as... a part of him? How is he going to come into terms that there's this part of him that wants him hurt (or worse, dead) when he, in his own state of consciousness, just wants to be safe?

It's something he finds extremely difficult to wrap his head around. Hell, he already had problems with Jean since they usually had conflicting opinions. How much more that he has contradicting viewpoints with this fragment? Just how in the fuck would his brain conjure up this personality when it had resorted to this condition in the first place as a "coping mechanism"?

So many questions with no answers. Answers that wouldn't come unless they managed to do what Hanji had advised them to. Or at least, they could only hope.

And yeah, sure, he has considered trying to talk to her, but just the idea of approaching her already scares him shitless. If she could physically harm the body when she was fronting, what kind of damage could she do when they were inside?

Eren is a naturally determined person. But only for those things he wanted to achieve or succeed in. This? He still couldn't tell where he really stands in this situation.

He just wanted it to stop. Wanted her to stop. As much as he was curious on what she has to say, he just ultimately want everything she does to be over with. It's kinda cruel to put it that way, sure. But how is he going to harbor any sentiment towards her when from the beginning, he didn't want anything to do with her – or more appropriately, the other way around?

Letting out a disgruntled sigh, Eren let his head dangle on front of the couch while he threw his legs towards the backrest. His sights landed on the television he had neglected to turn off, which was currently airing a baseball game... unfortunately.

He didn't even register the moving images he was being presented with, already lost in the dissonant noise that instantly derailed his train of thought.

It would only be much later then when he'd realize that he had blacked-out. Again.

 

Levi came out of the shower to find the brunet still on the couch, his head buried on his knees. He thought he was still sulking when he had declined him of his request earlier, and so, just decided to go and dress-up in the room. However, as he took a step towards his destination, the brunet had took note of his presence and lifted his head up. There was an eerily neutral expression, if not, a little apprehension that had taken over his features, and he was looking at him as if he was seeing him for the first time

His stomach dropped then. This was it. This was her. Even without verbal confirmation, he knew in his gut that this was the infamous fragment who threw the brunet's life into turmoil.

And holy fuck... he knew to expect the unexpected when it comes to the brunet, but meeting this fragment for the first time with only a towel wrapped around his waist... he couldn't help thinking how great he was at making first impressions.

'Could be worse.' He thought to himself recalling the time when Eren had switched out during the shower.

Then again, what now? He knew he shouldn't really be concerned about himself at this dire moment. But could he really chase after the brunet in the only humble covering he has on once he decided to bolt out the door?

And anyone who still couldn't tell how fucking fantastic he was with words has to be living under a rock. Or having rocks for brains might be a better metaphor.

His first thought was to offer her something to drink. Most, if not all, of Eren's alters do get much satisfaction (not to mention benefit) from him being a former barista who was actually fucking good at his job (which, in turn, boosts his ego).

But then, what if she throws the drink all over her and burns herself?

Reconsidering his options, what if he just tells her to make herself feel comfortable while he changes? Who the hell would like to converse with someone barely clothed anyway, right?

Then again, what if he comes back only to be greeted by the lack of presence from the brunet? Or what if her ways of feeling comfortable involves some really uncomfortable methods?

Fucking hell. What's a guy got to do in these situations?

"Hey." He called out delicately, ultimately deciding to fuck changing and rather keep a close eye on the fragment. "Do you know who I am?"

A brow raised at the question, but she offered no answers. Levi took it as a "yes", though more so on mere recognition than actually knowing him.

He racked his brain for more ideas on how to proceed. Those endless hours he spends in front of a screen has taken their toll and left his brain half-dead for these occasions, i.e., general conversations. He could endure the cold atmosphere stinging at his exposed body. Autumn seemed to be in a rush to get it over with, or maybe the winter chill was just hot (ironically) on its tail.

His real problem was preventing the other from doing anything unpleasant.

Could he really achieve that? At least now, he could admit that he's not the one best equipped to deal with the situation. Could he do it? He could only hope.

Or better yet –

"Do you want me to call Historia over?" He opted to ask instead.

– he could only ask for help; from someone who had actually managed to do just that.

Her brows furrowed at this question. Yet again, she refused to open her mouth for some reason.

"You know. Short girl. Blonde hair. Big eyes." The raven described, interpreting her reaction to one of confusion.

And just as he thought, he saw a flash of recognition in her features which cued in the confirmation to his initial suspicions. For some reason, he's not surprised that she hadn't recognized Historia by name. It's either she didn't remember until it was mentioned, or that Historia had omitted to mention that little detail.

His money's on the latter.

"Wait here. I'll call her." He instructed before stealthily making his way to the bedroom to retrieve his phone.

He didn't even bother picking up another cloth to drape around his body as he quickly, yet discreetly, proceeded to the kitchen where he could clearly check on the other from a distance.

He kept a close watch on the brunet as he dialed up the blonde's number. Ymir looked more bored now that she was left alone, though she merely took to leaning back against the couch and crossing her arms over her chest.

Each ring was like an internal wail of distress for the raven as he would be at a loss on what else to do should the blonde be currently busy. He could try asking for the other blond instead, though he wouldn't be surprised if even the coconut would be perplexed on what to do.

Out of all of them, Historia was the only one who had personally met the fragment, after all.

Thankfully, and to Levi's extreme relief, the blonde picked up after the 5th ring.

"Oh, no. The world couldn't be ending before I could get to hit the 6 foot mark, right?" was the greeting he received on the other side of the line.

Levi calling first is something akin to a miracle, or more like a foreboding. So her reaction was something the raven could tolerate, at least.

"First off, you're better off believing you could grow wings than grow height. Second, I need you to come over. It's an emergency."

"Huh? Did something happen to---"

"She's out." Levi cut her off, knowing she was aware of who he was referring to.

There was a lull on the line which lasted for a few fucking agonizing seconds before Historia got to respond again.

"Give me 20 minutes." Levi could hear some disturbance in the background and he could only guess she was on the move.

"Ten." He responded briefly before hanging up.

He knew it was pointless. She'll be here when she'll be here. Though the statement "The sooner the better" still stands and more proudly in this current predicament.

 


 

Levi didn't know how much time had passed that they spent just staring at each other. He had offered her a glass of water which was left untouched on the coffee table between them. He had also attempted to engage her in a conversation, but it seemed like she was content in keeping her mouth shut and merely observing him.

Which works in his favor since he'd also rather do the same. As much as he wanted to ask his questions, he's no way naive to the implied message from being constantly ignored so far. So at the moment, he was just looking for signs if there was anyone inside who might be co-conscious.

Though being just an outside observer and with no expertise on the matter, it's pretty damn difficult to determine so. He also wouldn't bet too much on it considering none of them really remembers what happens on times when she fronts.

With his almost thoroughly dried hair and towel, Levi fought with the chill threatening to shake his body. He could mentally tolerate the atmosphere, but damn it all to hell if he did manage to catch a cold.

Both of them perked up the moment a series of knocks rapped on the door. Levi was instantly on his feet and by the door in record-time.

"Thank fuck." He muttered out as soon as he registered the presence of the blonde they had been waiting for. "You look like shit." He added when he took in the disheveled look on the other.

"Yeah, I get that a lot. From you, at least." Historia gave a little laugh as she tried to comb out the tangles on her hair with her fingers. "Though you are quite the eye-candy yourself." She retorted.

She had rushed all the way here once she had received the call. Thus, her disarranged state has its reasons. Levi, on the other hand though, didn't appear to have left the apartment for the past 30 minutes or so (if his terribly underclothed state for the current weather was any indicator).

"Wait... did I... disturb something?" The blonde hesitantly asked as another idea popped into her head.

"Get that shit out of your brain. It's a long story. And I didn't call you here for that." The raven chided when he noticed the blush on the shorter's cheeks.

"Oh, right. Where is she?"

Levi answered her by treading into the direction of where he left the brunet. It was only then that he noticed a shift in the brunet's expression when Historia stepped into view. The look of surprise and recognition was evident in her portrait.

"Hi, there." Historia chirped up in an extremely friendly tone that the raven could not even dare hope to achieve. "You remember me, right?"

The brunet still didn't utter a single response nor attempted a gesture to do so that Levi was beginning to wonder if she was either deaf or mute (or stupid... because Eren).

"Of course, you do!" The blonde continued, unperturbed by the other's silence. "And I see you've met Levi. You know, the guy I told you about? The one in the pictures?"

Wait, they've been talking about him? Just what the hell had this shorty (yes, it still feels good to say that) been telling her? And what the fuck are these pictures she just mentioned?

"I'll leave you two be, at the moment. If you need anything, just call." Levi excused himself as he really didn't feel like towel-modelling for anyone. Except maybe Eren.

Once the raven was out of sight, Historia made herself comfortable on the couch beside the fragment. No protests were heard, though the other was wrinkling her brows when she approached. Historia didn't want to scare her off by appearing too friendly which may then be viewed as something that was forced.

She wasn't forcing herself to do this. She was just tiptoeing her way through the eggshells.

"So... what do you think of Levi, so far?" Historia initiated. Again. And when she could tell she wouldn't get any response – again – she just proceeded to continue the mostly one-sided conversation (again).

"Is he scary? I don't blame you if you think that. I don't even think he'll blame you if you think that. We all thought he was scary at first. Even Eren said he was intimidated by him when they first met. But he really is a nice guy deep down. Well, if he wasn't, then I don't think they would be together until now."

As she did before, she kept rambling on just about anything. How Eren gushed about Levi before they got together; their first time meeting the raven; that moment when she dragged the raven into a gift shop; the pizza challenge with everyone; every moment she could think of that had Levi involved in one way or another.

And when she ran out of ideas, she went on to share about her day instead. The extra hours she spares just to help around the orphanage or just about any other organizations or groups that she could volunteer to help in. She talked about her love for kids in general, which is the reason why she's quite passionate in her chosen field of primary education.

"I should say I've already quite the experience of teaching kids at the orphanage. They're quite a handful to keep in line, but they do have their potentials. There's actually a few of them who show some promise. I just wish they do grow up to have better circumstances than they do now." The blonde mused with a fond smile on her lips. "How about you? Is there something you really like to do?" She attempted to engage the other again.

"Give me a blade, and I'll show you how good at carving I am."

Historia's smile faltered just a tad bit at that. She should be happy that the fragment had finally responded. But then again, her response is quite contradictory to that elation. She was about to drag the conversation back into a lighter note, but it seemed like the other wasn't done talking yet.

"Look, why are you even doing this?"

"Doing what?" Historia frowned, confused.

"This? Blathering to me about things like I actually give a damn? Why are you even here? I know that shorty called you, but why did you agree to come here?" The other asked in an irritated tone.

Though despite the pronounced frustration, the blonde managed to detect the confusion at the very core of the series of questions.

"First off, I'm glad you're finally talking to me." Historia smiled sweetly. "And why I'm doing this... well, to be honest, I just wanna help you."

A deep frown instantly took place in the other's features. "Help what? What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Remember when I said that I think I understand you? I mean that. You remind me so much of someone."

With a soft smile, she slowly reached out for one of the brunet's wrists while inching closer to the other. She gently tugged the sleeve of the brunet's sweater to reveal the still-healing cuts that she knew the fragment was very familiar of.

"These marks... each cut is a cry for help. Each cut marks a desperation of wanting to escape from the pain. The kind of pain that is... beyond the physical aspect. I guess that's why some people cut deeper to reach that certain affliction." She solemnly, gently traced the cuts with the fingers of her hand.

"I know that even though it looks terrible, you could feel some sort of relief from this. But trust me when I say that there are better, safer options for that."

"Who is it?"

Blue eyes filled with confusion shot up to meet teal ones.

"You said you're reminded of someone. Who is it?" The fragment asked, looking intently at the other girl.

A soft smile with a tinge of bitterness graced the blonde's lips. Without a word, she slightly lifted her shirt up just enough to show her hips.

Pure shock could now be seen on the brunet's face. And no one could blame 'em. Anyone who had even just a glimpse of the blonde's sunny disposition would never expect to see scar marks anywhere on her body; no matter how faint they may appear now.

"Well... since we're both girls here, I guess it's just fine if I'd show you more." Historia said out-of-the-blue.

And before the other could ask what she means, Historia was up on her feet with her back to the brunet. Any words of either protest or inquiry couldn't seem to get past the fragment's throat when the blonde started pushing her pants off down to her knees.

"What? Did you expect to see another type of underwear?" Historia teased when she looked over her shoulder to see the fragment blushing furiously. "I guess you could say I've been hanging out with the guys too much since I'm preferring to wear boxer shorts. But you gotta admit they're still cute." She gave a little shake of her hips which had the other blushing even more than she thought possible.

However, every thought of those checkered pink boxers and underwears went flying out of the fragment's head the moment the blonde turned around to reveal her front thighs and legs. Traces of red marker pen formed a myriad of lines all over her fair skin. If you look closely enough, you could barely see more scar marks than you can count on every finger of your body plus your dick, if you have one.

"This..." Historia gestured to her thighs. "... is what I meant by better alternatives. Whenever you feel that urge to pick up a sharp object, try picking up a marker instead. I draw these lines as substitute for drawing blood. It may seem silly, but it's actually quite therapeutic. Sometimes, I even draw or paint or write on paper... anything that could be used as a safe outlet for my emotions. I used to scream at the top of my lungs too. But I don't think my dorm mates would appreciate it if I do that there."

"They're new." The fragment blurted out. Not once had her eyes strayed away from those marks the moment they were presented to her.

"Just this morning, actually. I almost had a breakdown coz of some bad dream. But I'm fine now, so it's okay." She kept her tone light and casual despite the seriousness of the matter.

She let the other observe the red marker lines for a moment longer before pulling her pants back up again. She sat back down beside the brunet, but just a bit closer this time.

"You know... when I was younger, I've been quite troubled a lot, too. My own mother never really cared for me back then, and being the result of an affair, I wasn't even recognized by my father. I've only ever started to learn how to read and write when I was about 8 or 9, coz my mother never really bothered giving me any proper education. I don't know, but I guess it was why I get bullied a lot by the other kids in my neighborhood. In hindsight, I think the money my mother blackmailed from my father for child support was spent on drugs or I don't know what kind of recreation she did back then.

And the one who taught me the basics of education had been my half-sister, Frieda, whom I didn't even know was my sister back then. She was really sweet and kind and humble and just everything I wanted to be. But when my mother died... no, actually she was killed. I guess it was one of the bad company she got involved in. I was actually there when it happened. I was hiding behind this crack of a door in my bedroom when I saw her throat slit out. I don't know if I remember it correctly, but I think it was by a man named... Ken... Kenny or something.

Anyways, after my mother 'died', my father finally took me in. Eventually, I learned about his connection with Frieda, and in consequence, Frieda's connection to me. I was actually happy... ecstatic knowing Frieda was my sister. However, at the same time, I've also learned how she had already died even before my mother did. It was through a fire that burned their home, and only my father had managed to escape somehow. I didn't even had the chance to just see my other siblings coz they were taken victims as well."

Pain was evident on those blue orbs as she relived the tragedies of her past. Her voice was even beginning to waver, especially at the mention of her sister. Nonetheless, the fragment didn't dare to interrupt her.

"After that, I felt empty. If I do start feeling something, it would always be grief. I don't even know when or how it started, but that feeling of sadness was then converted into anger. I was mad with how my life turned out to be. I was mad at everything. I was mad at everyone. But most importantly, I was mad at myself. I was mad at myself for being pathetic." She gave a little huff and shake of her head as she said this.

"So I lashed out. In my own way, at least. And on myself. Although, I hated attracting unwanted attention to myself, so I just do it on areas where I can easily conceal it. In some effed-up way, it helped. I guess it's because of the fact that the physical pain was way easier to deal with and understand in comparison to the mental, emotional ones. The ones that you can't really see in front of your eyes, but behind them... in a way.

This went on for quite a while. And it only got worse by time since I was gradually considering that my life would've been tons better if it ended. I started hating everyone who felt happy with their lives, because why can they have something I can't? And then I would hate myself afterwards for thinking that of other people, when it was only me who deserves it.

I can't tell what could've happened if that kept up. I guess I'm just glad it didn't. Ironically, it was my father – who was more occupied with his businesses to even spare time with me – who managed to snap me out of my horrible habits. I don't know if he was ever aware of what I've been doing back then, but he just sat me down one rare evening when he was actually home and started talking to me about my siblings. Especially Frieda.

He told me that he didn't know Frieda had been visiting me regularly until I told him so. He started talking to me about what kind of girl she was, everything that confirmed what I've always thought of her. And then he told me how Frieda would've wanted nothing more than for me to grow happy and safe. She's quite an angel like that. And then he gave me her favorite book that she had read to me a couple times before, saying she would've wanted me to have it, if nothing more than a symbol that she had left something very precious in this world... her memory."

A tear slid down the blonde's cheek. There may be a soft smile on her lips, but her eyes spoke of painful memories that she was currently reliving.

"When I told my father I wanted to go to therapy, he didn't even question me. He just... I don't know. Money has never been much of a problem for him, I guess. I mean, at least that's what his response revolved around.

Though apparently, that didn't actually have its effects until at a later time. It's not easy to shift your mindset like a switch. If it that was the case, I wouldn't have gone to therapy in the first place. And getting better was a process that until now, I'm still trying to achieve. Those thoughts never really go away, right? But we can learn not to listen to them. Or at least, not to give in to them." She wiped the dampness on her cheeks with the heels of her palms before she looked at the brunet once more.

"Ymir... I don't know what you've been through. But I can tell it wasn't easy. I bet it might've been a lot worse than mine. But please trust me when I say that it gets better. I'm here to help you. And I bet Levi and our other friends would love to as well. I bet Reiner and the other alters would love to offer their aid too. You don't have to be alone in this. You don't have to cause yourself more pain than you already had. I love Eren and Mikasa and Annie and Sasha and Jean and Reiner. They're really great friends of mine. I hate seeing them hurt. But I don't blame you for it. In fact, knowing that it's you, I hate seeing you hurt as well."

At this point, pure shock and confusion were the only emotions that could be seen on the fragment's portrait. Other than everything the blonde had said, this would be the first time she was being addressed by her name. For some reason, that gave her a little more impact since using her identity would somehow mean that what she just said wasn't anything generic. Something she didn't say just because she had to, but because she meant it.

"If you'd just let us, we could help you. In the best ways that we could. I know you've only just met me and might be overwhelmed by all the sudden talk and stuff, and you haven't even met the others yet. But I assure you that we're all willing to help. Have been ever since we've heard about you. So... will you? Please?" Historia continued.

Ymir couldn't understand why she was the one pleading in this situation if she was the one offering to help. She couldn't even fathom what kind of "help" the blonde kept offering.

But if anything, it was the first time she's met someone whom she thought had a perfect life – what with the tooth-rotting sweetness and friendliness she seemed to emit effortlessly – but was actually hiding the ugly marks from the public view.

Only goes to show that no one is who they really are on the first glance. Or even if you do take a good look, they aren't really who they  choose to show.

If some people can deceive you for some ulterior motive of gaining your sympathy, then there are also people who can deceive you in making you believe everything was peaches and creams in their lives.

The former does it to trick just the other; the latter does it to trick even themselves. The former does it to acquire the necessary help; the latter does it to avoid even just the idea of it.

Historia and Ymir... they were total opposites when you look at it, yet in a way, they're the same. They are scarred, they were broken. Or at least Historia was. If she managed to get out of her misery with little to no help, then there should be no harm trying, right? As ironic as that sounds.

"What if I refuse?" Ymir finally responded after what seemed like an eternity of keeping her silence. She wasn't looking at the blonde anymore, but rather on the damage she had done to her... to Eren's wrists instead.

"Then I'll just have to bug you more." Historia grinned more genuinely this time. "I'll warn you though, I might call for reinforcements eventually. It worked for Levi, so maybe we could try tag-teaming in pestering you 'til you cave in." She winked.

Which only made the fragment glare at her. It might seem like a joke, but it didn't sound very appealing at all. If Historia was like a golden, clingy fluff-ball who was apparently a motormouth, she didn't know what to expect from the others once she does meet them.

 

Lost in their own little bubble, both have completely forgotten about the raven who had been listening to every word the entire time.

Chapter Text

"Oh, Historia, hey. Uhh... what happened?" Eren asked as he blinked back to consciousness.

Looking around, he could register that he was (still) in Levi's apartment. He tried recalling what had happened before he came back out, but his mind was too muddled to come up with pieces of memories. He could sort of remember being aware coming into the raven's apartment, but he has no clue how the blonde got into the picture.

"Hi, Eren... am I right?" Historia responded a bit unsurely. The brunet did sound like Eren, but she could never really be sure.

"Yeah, it's me." Eren confirmed with a smile. "Why're you here? Did I call you? Or Reiner did? I mean, anyone in the system, at least?"

"Actually, Levi did."

Teal eyes widened at that information. Why would Levi call her to come over? Why would Levi call anyone to come over? Hell, even Eren himself had problems getting permission to do so. Which is why he just stopped asking at some point and just "drops by" unannounced for most of the time. Or at least with very short notice.

With his brain gradually clicking into place, he soon started to connect the dots from the last piece of memory he could remember, to the reason why Levi had resorted to calling the blonde over.

He quickly checked over his wrists, his arms, his legs... only to find nothing. Not even a scratch.

"Don't worry, everything's fine. She didn't do anything." The blonde smiled reassuringly.

"What? How? Why?" Eren stumbled in confusion.

"We just had a little chat. I should say it was rather nice." She smiled genuinely.

With the nonplussed look the brunet was unable to conceal even if he tried, Historia took to recount her recent interaction with the fragment, along with the first one that the brunet still hadn't known the full details of.

Eren listened intently to every word she said, completely perplexed that his blonde friend was able to even approach said fragment. And she made it sound so easy.

In the middle of their conversation, both were startled when the raven waltz in to offer them tea. He had been feeling very out-of-place in his own apartment for hours now, and thought maybe now was a good time to show up considering his boyfriend was back again.

"Levi! I'm so sorry, I honestly forgot you were here the whole time." Historia apologized.

"I noticed." was the raven's clipped response as he sat down on the other side of the brunet.

Which Eren found a little weird since they're now a bit cramped in one couch. Levi could've taken any other vacant seat; for instance, the one in front of them look very convenient. But no, the raven just had to sit beside him for some reason.

On one hand, he may just be worried about the brunet considering Ymir had made an appearance once again. On the other hand, he didn't took to immediately checking him over like how he usually does. In fact, he looked completely nonchalant with sipping his own cup of tea.

"Oh, wow. This is really good. It smells really good too. Is there honey in this?" Historia asked as she took a sip of the offered drink.

"I just thought you'd have the same taste as Eren." The raven shrugged.

"I didn't take you for a tea person, Levi. I mean, you did work at a coffee shop. And you make really good coffee." The blonde continued to initiate the small talk. Which is gratefully received by the rest of the company present.

"Right? He actually prefers tea over coffee anytime. So if you think my tastes are getting sophisticated, you've got Levi to blame for that." Eren joined in.

"You're welcome." Levi responded flatly.

Their little causerie continued for a while longer, each of them grateful for the lighter change of topic. And as Eren expected, he did find it weird that he'd have to turn his head to opposing directions whenever one of the people at his sides was opening their mouth. He almost wanted to take the seat in front of them, but figured that might give out the wrong signals – especially to Levi who was ever-so-subtly inching closer to him.

Soon enough, the raven tried to steer the conversation back in track.

"So, Blondie... not that I'm trying to get rid of you, but you don't seem to be in a hurry today. You know, despite the short notice."

"Well, yeah. I got my schedule cleared up after you called." Historia shrugged.

"Sorry." Eren almost mumbled, looking very much guilty for having his friend dragged in this mess.

"Oh, don't be. I would've felt bad if I haven't been able to help. I'm actually really glad that Levi called me." She took the brunet's hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

"You're welcome." The raven muttered out, casually throwing an arm over the brunet's shoulder.

If Eren had been even just a bit wiser, he would've hinted at the tinge of possessiveness his boyfriend was showing. But then again, it's not like Levi was actively aware (or would even admit) of it himself.

"Do you really think she'd agree to... stop?" Eren asked quietly after a beat of silence.

"She will." was the twin response he got from both people at his sides.

Historia gave his hand another squeeze, while Levi started stroking the side of his head with the same hand that was draped over his shoulder.

And if Historia had been just a bit more perceptive, she could've noticed that the reason Levi had been able to give that answer was not because it was something Eren needed to hear, but because he could only believe it after everything he heard.

Without the genuine support Eren was currently receiving from two of the people who mean the world to him, perhaps Eren wouldn't even be optimistic at the whole idea. So for that, he was eternally grateful.

 


 

Fortunately, Levi and Historia seemed to have been blessed with an angel's tongue considering Eren had been experiencing next to none when it comes to self-harm. He almost wanted to believe that perhaps Ymir had stopped fronting again, but the memory blocks he kept having at random intervals – ones where even the other alters also experience – seem to contradict that belief. Other than that, he's also found himself filled with curious scribbles of markers on his limbs on more than one occasion.

It could either be that Ymir is, indeed, trying to suppress her habits out of her own volition... or it could be that after talking to both Hanji and Historia, along with the support of Levi and the rest of his friends, Eren has managed to gain just a tad bit of optimism when it comes to the fragment, which is then subconsciously worked by the brain to somehow make Ymir strive to become better.

Whichever it is, they could only guess. The important thing is that, finally, all of them seem to be in the same boat on the way to recovery.

 

"So can you talk to her in your... inner world by now?" Levi asked one evening when the brunet – presently Reiner – was planning to spend the night at his apartment again.

"Well, about that. It's caused quite a bit of a stir in our inner world." Reiner scratched the back of his head. "I may have... kinda... forced Eren and Ymir to be at one place to... talk." He admitted guiltily.

"What do you mean?" Levi asked with furrowed brows and a hint of accusation, out of confusion and concern for the brunet.

"I'm sorry. It was hard to get them both in one place. So once I found out that Ymir had somehow relocated from being perched up the wall to the Forest of Giant Trees, I... well, I brought Eren there as well."

"Why him? You know he's scared of her the most." The raven looked pointedly at the other.

"I know. The others are there as well. We're making sure none of us, especially Eren, is... harmed. It's just that, the others can't seem to get as close as Eren and I could to Ymir. We don't really know why, but maybe it has something to do with my role in the system, and Eren being the host."

"So... he's okay with it?"

As much as Levi didn't want to doubt his alter's judgment and intentions, he couldn't help worrying for the brunet. He's witnessed first-hand, multiple times, how terrified Eren was of this personality inside his head. And if it was up to him, he would do everything to keep the younger out of the fragment's radar.

He does feel a little bad about it, though, knowing it's not only Eren's well-being that's on the line here. Nobody said (and could ever say) he was adept at handling these situations. Hell, he could barely get the fragment to talk once he had been given the opportunity to do so.

"Well, he hasn't complained. Much." Reiner almost mumbled the last word out. "I mean, the thing is, Eren seems to be a little... disconnected with our inner world. He comes and goes, and there are a lot of times when he had to ask us if this thing really happened, or if it was just a dream or his imagination. Except when we're in our headspace, or what we'd like to call our barracks. He's always clear there. But so far, he's unharmed, and we intend to keep it that way." He assured.

"I see..." The raven trailed off contemplatively.

Well, come to think about it, Eren hasn't mentioned or shown any sign of being unwell... in a way, that is, aside from his usual complaints (and excuses) of "Notice me, kitten!" "I'm not hungry, really." "I'll study later." and the like. In fact, he's heard it so many times that he's developed a sixth sense of knowing when the brat would say them even before he could open his mouth.

So, in other words, nothing was out of the ordinary. Or as ordinary as being with the brunet could be.

"Forest of what?" Levi thought out loud.

"Giant Trees. Literally." Reiner supplied. "What's interesting is that it's located within the third wall. We've never really ventured that far before. Though Ymir seemed completely familiar with it. And it's just my theory, but I think we were only able to go out of the second wall now because Ymir is allowing us somehow."

"You mean you're... residing in the third wall now?"

"Oh, no. Not at all. That area is still crawling with Titans. We could only stay there until sunset, then we'd have to go back again. It's kind of like standard military procedure during expeditions in our inner world. Maybe it's mostly because we only have torches as a source of light during nighttime. Plus, we travel by Jean. I mean horse." He quickly corrected himself while donning a look of sheer startlement at his own slip-up. "Sorry, Eren's close." The brunet sighed, shaking his head a little.

"Sounds convenient." The raven remarked dryly.

 


 

"Levi! I never would've thought I'd bump into you in this place." A very familiar blonde bounded her way towards the raven.

"Likewise." Levi responded flatly.

Historia frowned at that before making it a point to look around the place where they were currently at.

"It's a bookstore, specifically, the school supplies section. I'm a student. An education major at that." She pointed out. "But what's a corporate man like you doing here?" She asked, eyeing the well-pressed suit and tie that he was still clothed on.

Instead of giving a verbal answer, Levi showed her the marker sets he recently picked up. He could swear he saw the blonde's eyes shone at the sight and a flash of understanding could be seen in her features.

"I see. How're they doing? I mean, I try to see them as often as I could, but I've never really got to interact with her again after the last time."

"Better." was the raven's clipped answer. He also hasn't caught the fragment fronting after the last time, but he could attest that they were, indeed, doing better from what he could see and hear from the alters themselves.

"That's great. I'm glad they're doing well." Historia beamed genuinely. "Are you checking out now? Can I join you?"

"I'm actually considering adding other art materials on my cart." He admitted. "Eren's shit at art, though he could become a tiny bit better if he practices the same thing over and over again. The others are mediocre at best. And that's not me criticizing them, those are Jean's exact words."

"I think it's a great idea. Maybe you could also try with journals, if ever she's into writing." The blonde suggested. "Actually, I have one here that I haven't used until now. She could have it instead."

In the end, it was Historia who picked out the items according to Levi's vague instructions, i.e., "Just pick out any shit that has to do with drawing or painting and writing." She tried to check with him if this was okay or that was better, but she would always be answered by either a shrug or a blank stare.

They happened to pass by a section displaying an assortment of novelty items. The blonde was immediately drawn into it and was already trying out the different head accessories by the time the raven stepped in beside her.

"What do you think?" She asked as she put on a snapback cap.

Levi regarded her for a moment, and what came out of his mouth was something Historia fully expected.

"Looks shit."

Undeterred, she just moved on to the next item her hand could grab hold of. The situation was almost like a deja vu of the gift shop scene, only this time, the raven did something Historia never expected.

"Not bad." Levi remarked after he put on a plastic crown on top of the blonde's head himself.

It rendered her speechless, completely stunned by the small gesture. She could only assume the raven was complementing her for something. But before she could rack her brain for the possibilities of the what and the why, the older spoke up.

"Makes you look taller." He smirked. "Your highness." He added with a smug look on his face.

Historia's jaw dropped at the remark. Until now, she remained incredulous as to how the raven could mock her height when they really aren't that far apart from each other. Hell, even Armin must be a couple centimeters taller than him if you look closely enough.

Eventually, their purchases were then paid for and bagged, before they were heading out the store. Levi promptly adjusted his coat and scarf, and put on his gloves as his defense for the current weather. It was the tail-end for autumn and winter would all too soon be finally upon them.

Fun... not. Never for Levi Ackerman.

"Almost forgot." Historia said as she rummaged through her bag. She took out a softbound journal and fished out a pen from her pocket, then wrote something on the first page of the notebook.

"Here." She handed the item, which the raven took without question.

She was about to bid him farewell and other pleasantries, but stopped when the other took an item out from one of the bags he was carrying.

"Here." He handed her a set of markers.

"What's this for?" The blonde asked with limpid surprise as she took the markers with a bit of hesitation.

"As thanks. For what you've done for Eren and the rest." Levi shrugged.

"Oh, thank you. But why markers? I thought you got this for Ymir?"

"She has hers. That's for you. I think everything you offered to Ymir should also be offered to you."

"Wait, you mean you..."

"My apartment isn't as spacious as you think, in case you haven't noticed." The raven cut her off. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but since it could hardly be helped, I can't pretend I'm fucking clueless to what's happening to you."

Big blue eyes went even bigger at that statement. Historia knew she had mastered concealing her own state of mental health from everyone, thus, receiving words of support was something she could hardly come by, and the vast majority of it came from her therapist.

"I don't think Eren and the others, or even the blond coconut and the rest of your gang would even think of dismissing you when you talk to them. You don't have to pretend to be fucking peaches all the time. Even just thinking about it sounds exhausting. So if you need anything, just ask. And don't worry, I don't plan on telling them shit as it's not really my place to do so." He gave a single pat on her head before turning around to head home.

But then he stopped all too soon and faced the blonde once again.

"And I'm sorry for whatever shit Kenny did." The raven added cryptically, voice so low his words nearly got lost in the palaver of their current vicinity.

Maybe it was just her, but Historia thought she saw a flash of guilt in his eyes (for reasons entirely a mystery to her) before he turned around again and started walking away.

Levi had almost rounded the corner where he would catch a bus back when he was startled as he felt someone crash on his back.

"Thank you." Historia almost whispered as she embraced the raven tightly from behind. "I'm really glad you're my friend. And I'm really, really happy for Eren that he has you to take care of him."

And as quickly as it happened, she was already letting go and skipping away.

"Bye, Levi! I'll see you another time. Maybe we could all hang out again soon." She yelled after gaining quite some distance away from the raven.

She didn't even wait for a response as she briefly waved before turning around and started heading towards her own destination. Not that Levi had any response, anyway.

He could only contemplate about the amount of physical contact he has gotten from different individuals these past months (year, whatever) that he was formerly deprived of before.

Before meeting a certain brunet with ocean eyes who was probably waiting back for him at his apartment.

Chapter Text

With Eren's continuous recovery, Levi could finally be settled enough to fully focus back on his job. He wasn't half-assing his work at any point, though he could admit he had been a little distracted one too many times.

It was also quite a fortunate timing since the Survey Corps was about to meet with one of the other blue-chip companies that is also widely known, that is, a company known as the Garrison which also happened to have their own branch located at Trost.

The raven did wonder why the meeting was to happen at Trost and not in their main branches at Sina. But then his question was answered when he happen to overhear one of the higher-ups complementing Erwin for his initiative to woo the other company in considering forming a partnership with them.

And if Levi thought his experience with working overtime consecutively was a pain in the ass, preparing for a potential partnership with another prominent company was even more so. And with the holiday season already in the air (which is way too soon for his liking), their efforts in coming up with projects and whatnot had not only doubled, but tripled accordingly.

Documents were analyzed and re-analyzed over and over again to make sure there were no mistakes. Statistics and forecasts were adjusted and re-adjusted to determine the optimum results. One adjustment from one department had them re-doing almost everything they have done to cater to the better proposition. Everyone in every office had their noses buried with the tasks they were burdened with.

Even though most of them think they had more than enough time to prepare for the upcoming meeting, Erwin Smith was not a man to take monumental things such as this lightly. If the company was presented with a potentiality of growth, Commander Bushy Brows would put all hands on deck.

Speaking of, Levi couldn't help wondering if the blond commander was purposely "entrusting" him the extra load of work out of spite from all the times he had failed to address him properly by name. Which is, again, all the time. He knew it was a rather absurd thought, but really, who knows what goes on behind those eyebrows of his?

Sure, he never stated that Levi should do all those task himself and had rather told him to share the load to his fellow co-workers. However, after the first few instances where he'd had to wait for their data so he could start aligning it with his own, only to find out there are a few mistakes that he'd have to correct himself; not to mention all those moments where their communication needs a lot of oiling... he could really hold hands and sing songs of misery with all those people who prefer to work alone.

And don't even get him started with the preposterous proposals the marketing department always comes up with. He could understand if they were being highly ambitious (or perhaps desperate) considering their situation. But in turn, they should also understand if the raven would call them out on their bullshit, coz financially speaking... it's just not possible.

Bottomline was that there was not a day that he doesn't feel completely burned-out. Even as his head hit the pillow, he would find himself dwelling about unsolved problems at work on moments when the Sandman would desperately try to blind him with his dream sand or whatever.

On weekends, he'd be almost inseparable from his laptop and the numerous documents he had at hand. His stress was something tangible to the brunet everytime his vision would land on the raven, and whoever was fronting tried to "help" in their own little ways – even if it meant staying away so as not to bother him.

 

"Hey, Levi?"

The raven perked up at the hesitant tone of the brunet that was paired with a light knock on the already open door of his bedroom. When his sights landed on the source, he saw the brunet walking in with a tray of food at hand.

"You haven't had lunch, and it's already late at night. Eren was worried about you. Actually, we all are. So, I've made you dinner. I'm not really sure if I made your tea well. Or as well as Eren could make it. But I tried."

Without a doubt, it was Sasha.

"Thanks." Levi muttered out as he rubbed the heaviness from his eyes. He hadn't even noticed he had been working for hours straight now.

"Something wrong?" Sasha asked when she noticed the raven seemed to be frowning heavily at the food in front of him.

"Nothing. Just... fuck. If this keeps up, I might go blind." He sighed exasperatedly, rubbing his eyes in the process.

Sasha just regarded him for a while longer, unable to come up with something that might help the raven. She really wasn't surprised that his vision was starting to get bad considering the countless hours he'd been spending in front of the screen or staring at sheets of papers. Actually, she was kinda expecting it. But it's not like she could really tell the raven how to take care of himself. Or at least not now when he was fully invested in doing his job.

Generally, she could only think Levi might need a pair of glasses. But it's not like she has one with her. She doesn't even need them, so why would she have them?

Though there is someone she knew who actually has one. She doesn't know if it would be of any help, but there's no harm in trying, right?

"What's wrong?" Levi asked when he noticed how the other had their eyes closed and was tilting their head to the side, eyebrows furrowed in a look of concentration.

He was met with silence and he could only look on as the younger would alternate between blinking their eyes open, or shutting it close. He thought the brunet was dissociating again, which is why he just carried on with his meal while waiting patiently for the other to come back to reality.

"Right. Okay." The brunet mumbled to himself. "Hold on." He added after a while.

Though if Levi was correct, it was still Sasha who was out at the moment. If the lack of confusion or subtle demeanor shift was any indication.

She proceeded to walk over their bag that was placed beside Levi's low dresser. The raven was sure she was looking for anything but clothes since half of those (or at least Levi suspected it was half of Eren's entire wardrobe) had taken residence in one portion of the raven's dresser that he had spared for the brunet himself.

"Ah, here it is!" Sasha triumphantly held up a narrow case. "I just asked Jean if you could borrow it, and he said yes."

So that was what the silence was about.

"Here you go." She sang as she handed the case to the raven. "Come on, just try it. If it doesn't suit you, then there's nothing to lose, right?" She added when said raven hesitated on taking it.

Levi let out a sigh as he gave in to the younger's request. What choice does he really have, anyway?

Blinking his eyes open as he had the glasses in place, the raven almost wanted to sing praises for her (very, very rare) sagacity... not that he could or ever would, but the idea is there (and will always just remain inside his head).

Having his vision boosted to 1080p HD as opposed to his former 480p (maybe 360p) was indeed... a sight to behold. He already made a mental note to take a trip to an opthalmologist to have his own pair of glasses. He really didn't want to be reliant on such a thing, but if it's for the better, then why the hell not?

"So?" Sasha prompted when the raven hadn't given any verbal response.

"Not bad. Might be getting my own soon." Levi admitted.

Sasha watched on silently as the raven went back to his meal. Then the frown was back on Levi's face when the younger whipped out his phone and pointed the camera at him.

"What the fuck are you doing?" He asked after swallowing the spoonful he just had.

"Sorry. Eren wanted to take a picture of you with glasses on." Sasha explained.

That didn't erase the scowl on his features though.

"He's close?" He asked casually before picking up another spoonful of the brunette's cooking.

"I think so. I mean, I don't usually get these urges to snap a photo of you every now and then. So it could only be Eren." She shrugged, adjusting the phone to get another angle of the raven.

"Eren doesn't take a photo of me every now and then." Levi pointed out.

"You say that, but you haven't even seen his camera roll yet."

"What?" He looked pointedly at the younger.

"Smile!" She beamed and took one last photo before hopping out the room altogether.

Levi wouldn't be surprised if it was the brat who would greet him any moment now.

 


 

The closer the meeting was, the more pressure Levi was feeling. They've still yet to achieve the numbers and propositions that could be equated to the perfect bait for the Garrison to finally hold hands while skipping together leisurely with the Survey Corps.

The cold-ass snow was only making it worse for the raven. Pair it with the holiday rush and you've got the perfect scene for the new installment of Levi's Nightmare Before Christmas. He never understood how people could even consider attaching the word "wonderland" with winter. Snow and the chilly atmosphere had always been a pain in the balls to endure for him.

 

"It's almost winter break." Eren started one night.

He was already used to being the first one to initiate or even carry-on the conversations himself. He was used to Levi's passive demeanor whenever he would start rambling about something, or even those moments when he wouldn't really listen.

But lately, it really seemed like he was talking to a rock. Levi may ignore him at times, but he really would respond accordingly afterwards and wouldn't brush him off. Unlike now.

"Think I could spend the holidays with you?" He continued despite when the raven didn't appear to hear him.

Nothing. No response at all. Again. Even a hum would've been appreciated.

"Levi?"

He wasn't even sparing him a glance.

"Hey, Levi?"

None.

"Kitten, come on." Eren whined as he finally stood up from his seat and wrapped his arms from behind the raven.

"Later. I have to finish this." Levi dismissed without even pausing from his work.

He didn't even respond to Eren's initial question. Does he even know it was Eren who was currently out?

Letting out a distressed whine, the brunet tightened his hold around the raven.

"I'm busy." Levi grumbled out, but making no move to acknowledge the brunet's presence further.

Eren let out a defeated sigh before slumping back on the couch. He knew his boyfriend was far too occupied with his job, and he understands. Really, he does. He knows how the raven had pushed himself to work overtimes for him, and was now working overtimes for himself. He appreciates his hardwork and is quite proud of him for his dedication to his job.

Nonetheless, he does get worried for his boyfriend's well-being. And other than that, he does get lonely. It's almost like once they had been reaching out and building better communication with Ymir, the inverse effect was happening with Levi.

Eren shook his head roughly to get those thoughts out. Levi had been really understanding and considerate with him so far, he figured he really should have his own contribution to that attitude. Levi is a working man now. Had been for months. He really should just get used to moments when he'd be more occupied with his job than with other people.

Even if that other people would mean Eren, himself.

 

But then it came to a point when he started thinking what if Levi was not disregarding other people but just Eren, himself? It was an absurd thought, sure. But there had been one too many times when their other friends seemed to have even just a very brief chat with the raven on his way back to the apartment. Not to mention those times when he'd be on the phone with one of his co-workers. Sure, it was mostly just him complaining or berating whoever was on the other side of the line, but at least it was something.

So, Eren adjusted his options instead. He waited just a distance away from Levi's workplace in hopes he could talk with him on the way back. The weather was freezing, but not something Eren couldn't handle especially if it's for Levi.

Entertaining himself with the vapors forming in the air from his breath, his face soon lit up when he spotted a very familiar raven coming out of the building. His feet instantly made their move before his mind could, but then stopped short when he took note of another person following closely behind the shorter man.

Despite the passive expression, there was a trace of exhaustion on the raven's features as the big, blond guy fell in step beside him and talked about something Eren couldn't hear from where he's standing. Probably something work-related. The raven soon opened his mouth to speak which brought a rather charming smile from the blond's lips.

The more Eren kept watching, the more his insides twist at the scene. It may be irrational as he hadn't even known about this guy's connection to Levi, but he doesn't feel... okay with this man being so close with his boyfriend. Not if said boyfriend could pull out those smiles from those lips in the same way as he could pull out laughs from the brunet. Laughs the brunet hadn't had for quite some time now.

"Eren? What're you doing here?" Levi asked the moment he spotted the brunet just standing dumbly in the cold.

Eren didn't even realize the raven was already approaching him with hurried steps.

"I... uhh... I just thought... maybe... we could... go home together?" He responded meekly, unsure of his actions by now.

"Why didn't you text me first?"

"I wanted to surprise you."

Why is he asking that? Does he not want Eren to see him at work?

"Brat." The raven let out an exasperated sigh. "I'm sorry. I'm not off-duty yet. We have to meet with someone right about... now." He continued, sparing a glance at his watch.

"Oh." The brunet responded dumbly, his prior hopes being stomped down on the frozen pavement.

"You could go back on your own, right? I'm really sorry, but we really need to go."

"Yeah. Sure." Eren almost mumbled out, his entire being going numb not from the cold, but from the rejection.

Why does it seem like he was purposely getting that blond guy away from him? Why is he not at least introducing them to each other?

Eren thought he would at least offer to walk him to the nearest bus stop or station or help him catch a cab. Not that he'd really accept it, coz he really didn't want his job to be compromised, but at least the thought is there.

"Text me, okay?"

"Yeah. Sure." The brunet repeated blankly.

"Take care." The raven stroked him briefly on the cheek before hurrying away to catch up with the blond.

 

And that was the most physical contact he had received for a while now.

Chapter Text

"Jellybean!" came the brunette's usual greeting as she crushed the younger brunet into one of her momma bear hugs. "Huh? Where's your catnip?" She asked when she didn't notice the menacing aura that had been following the brunet during his last sessions.

"Busy." Eren attempted to smile, but it didn't help lightening his gloomy tone in the slightest.

Hanji immediately noticed this and ushered the younger into her office where they took their usual routines before starting up their sessions. Though this time, Hanji also noticed how Eren had picked up a throw pillow on his way to his favorite beanbag. The last time he did that was years ago, when he and Armin was having a rough time with their relationship.

"So, Eren... sunny bear, is there any reason why you're here alone? Levi couldn't be skipping out just coz it happens that this would be our last session, right? At least until I'm back in Trost." She began, keeping her tone light.

Eren fidgeted on his seat while he clutched the pillow close to his chest. "Actually, he doesn't know it's our last session today. He doesn't know we have a session today, in general." He admitted.

"You didn't tell him?"

The brunet shook his head. "He's been very busy lately. I don't want to... disturb him."

"Oh, honey. I get the impression that he's always busy." Hanji tried to console him.

"Yeah, but it's like... ten times lately. He barely spares me a glance and he always brushes me off everytime I try to talk to him." Eren complained, distress filling his tone. "I don't think I've had any decent conversation with him in forever. Even though he's physically there, his mind would always be elsewhere. And I know that he's only doing his job. But even my friends had the chance to have a little chat with him during one of the rare instances when they could catch him heading back from work or something. Meanwhile, even though I stop by his apartment, he's always glued in front of his laptop or his phone, and the only time you could separate them is when he's asleep. I know it's irrational, but I really feel like he's becoming more distant with me." He rambled off.

"Not to mention last night." He mumbled under his breath. Had the office not been as silent as it was, it would've escaped the brunette's hearing.

"What happened last night?" She prompted.

"That blond guy dropped him off with his car." He responded sullenly. "Levi always take the bus or a cab back, no matter how late it is. It's the first that he accepted a ride from someone. At least as far as I've known. And I usually overhear him grumbling about his co-workers, but it doesn't seem like he has much of a problem with that guy."

"How does this blond guy look like, Eren?"

"He's big. Taller than me. Looks like Captain America, but multiply the eyebrows."

Hanji bit the insides of her cheeks as means to restrain herself from laughing, both from his description as well as the fact that he seemed to be oblivious about how Erwin is actually Levi's boss. She could also gather that Jean may be co-conscious if the frank remark was anything to go by.

"Eren, sweetheart... forgive me for saying this, but... are you perhaps jealous of this guy?"

The brunet curled in further on himself. And that was an answer all on its own.

"It can't be helped, right?" He mumbled out. "He seemed like a charming man, has a strong build, and no doubt far more stable in his life than I am... in more aspects than one."

And there it was, the lurking insecurity. Eren thought he had long since gotten over it after dating the raven, but it would seem like it would never really go away for as long as he doesn't think nor feel "normal" by society's standards. Because in his eyes, Levi was someone that could be viewed as such, and in turn, wouldn't that make him part of that society?

All the what-ifs had been plaguing his mind as of late. Despite the reassurances from his other alters who could sense his distress, nothing seemed to put him at ease if said assurances don't come from the raven himself.

"Oh, jellybean. I'm pretty sure Levi does love you very much. I haven't known him for a long time, but basing on our conversations and my own observation, I could tell he really cares for you. Give him time to settle things with his work, and once it's done, maybe things will go back to the way they used to be." Hanji consoled him, careful not to mention anything that would imply she knew how Levi had been working double-time to be able to accompany Eren's sessions, which may then lead to exposing her connection with Erwin, and in turn, Erwin's connection with Levi.

If Levi didn't mention how Erwin was actually his boss, Hanji didn't think it was her place to reveal that to the brunet. Maybe Levi had his reasons, or maybe he just failed – multiple times – to mention that detail.

Soon enough, their conversation lead them to their main issue with Ymir, in which, Reiner had took over by then with Mikasa close by. They told her about the progress they've made with the fragment so far and how she's been fairing after their talk with Historia.
Internally, they also mentioned about how they regularly bring Eren to the forest to talk with her. Out of all of them, only Eren could come as close to the fragment as possible, while Reiner stands by from a relatively close distance than the others. Though the times where they come back without both Eren and Ymir uttering a single word had far outnumbered the times where they actually attempted to talk. Attempted.

Still, it was a progress worth acknowledging, and they were actually proud of Eren for his efforts. Hell, during one of their very few instances of "conversing" with each other, Eren managed to discover heights is actually one of Ymir's triggers. That explains why she had been fronting a lot ever since Eren's classes were located at the highest floors of the buildings.

"Do you plan on making Eren relocate his seat?" Hanji asked curiously.

"We're still not sure about that. Eren loves being close to anything that doesn't make him feel trapped in a way; be it a window or a door. Unless if he has someone he feels safe with. And that's usually with his trusted friends and Levi." Reiner answered contemplatively, though his tone was wavering between his own and Mikasa's stolid one. Hanji could even notice him absently tugging at the neckline of their sweater from time to time.

"Also, Ymir has been doing really good of not doing anything harmful, so it would seem a bit cruel if we continue to deliberately prevent her from fronting. She also seem to enjoy using Levi's and Historia's gifts so far coz we always find something new that only she could've done; whether it was a rough sketch of something or random scribbles everywhere, even on the body. Bottomline, I guess it's really up to Eren if he wants to move just so we could minimize her fronting, or not." He sighed.

"I think that's a good call. It would be better if those two could find a middle ground they could agree on. Though that's not to say yours and the other alters' comforts should also have to be totally compromised. Your opinions still and will always matter in any situation, coz this is not just Eren involved here. Like I said, your condition is a 'one for all, all for one' arrangement and would always be." The bespectacled doctor advised. "I'm really glad you've finally got to communicate with each other. If you keep it up, I'm sure things will eventually get better."

"That's what we're all aiming for." Reiner agreed.

"So, Reiner, you mentioned the forest is located in the third wall, right?"

"It is." He confirmed. "What do you think it could mean?" The younger prompted when he noticed the contemplative look on the doctor.

"Maybe... just maybe... the second wall signifies Eren's acceptance of his alters. Of all his alters. You did mention Ymir could freely go out of the second wall, and there must be a reason why she was sitting on that exact wall on her own. Maybe once Eren could find it in himself to fully accept Ymir as a part of him, you'd be free to relocate from the second to the third wall. But if that was the case, it's highly possible that there's more to Ymir than what we thought."

"Like what?" The brunet's tone had completely shifted into a duller one, signifying another alter was already at the front by then.

"Hello, Mikasa." Hanji greeted casually, confident about addressing the right alter. "That's something that's still unclear to me. I haven't talked to her myself yet, so all of these are just mere assumptions. Remember when I said she might have been around earlier than you? I'm really starting to feel that it might be true. Maybe she is somehow like in-charge of the area inside the third, outermost wall. You said none of you remembers what happens everytime she fronts. So what if beyond the second wall contains memories only she knows?

I mean, think about it... the duration in which you stayed from the first wall to the second wasn't that long. I mean yeah, it took months, maybe more than a year, but until now, you're still stuck behind that wall. But why could Ymir move freely around the third wall?" She thought out loud.

"I've been thinking about that, as well. I wanted to talk to her myself, but other than Eren and Reiner, she doesn't seem to want anyone else to come close. I'm not even sure if she's doing that on purpose." Mikasa replied. "What more, I doubt Eren would do much 'talking'. Not with what's happening between him and Levi at the moment."

"Is it really that bad?"

"For Eren, it is. Being constantly ignored makes him think Levi is pushing him away. And branching out from that is his anxiety from his previous experiences with his former friends." She stated the word bitterly. "We try to keep him company for as much as we could. Though as much as I hate to admit it, it's hardly on par when it comes to that midget. Honestly, just a second away from his screen wouldn't hurt. Even his silence would be appreciated as long as his attention is there."

As much as Hanji felt sympathy for them, she also couldn't help adoring the fact that it doesn't seem like it was only Eren who was sulky with the lack of attention from a certain raven. From this, she could tell that Levi had done a marvelous job of taking care of them so far if his lack of presence was affecting not only Eren, but the others as well.

Nevertheless, she also agree that Levi should really take a break from constantly exhausting himself. Not only is he putting his own health at risk, but he's also unconsciously disconnecting himself from the people who care for him.

 


 

"I initially thought you'd have your own car by now, Levi."

"If you were going to give me shit, you shouldn't have offered me anything, shitty eyebrows." The raven snapped, nursing the brewing migraine he was certain to have.

Once again, Erwin Smith had so kindly offered the now intoxicated raven a ride back to his place. Their most awaited meeting had finally come to a conclusion and ended with a resounding "yes" from the desired company. Like a successful wedding proposal, the Survey Corps immediately had their own "pre-party" as a celebration to their recent achievement.

Levi didn't even know how, but he could almost swear the bottles of champagne were pulled directly out of their asses when Erwin, along with Survey Corps' president, Keith Shadis, personally delivered the news to the anticipating employees. It could either be that they have been anticipating no less from Commander Bushy Brows, and have since prepared for a celebration; or that they finally decided they were better off being wizards than office workers, what with the magic they do with their reports and other documents.

Whichever it was, Levi decided he could indulge at least this once. For weeks, all that was running in his veins was stress instead of blood. All his eyes had seen was numbers and charts and graphs and pies... and not the edible ones at that. All his mouth had tasted was the bitching he had done more often than not to his fellow co-workers.

True, he was a mere newbie at the company. That doesn't mean he was the only one, though. And that certainly doesn't mean he would let anyone get away with their bullshits. Not when he believes it would only do more harm than good. And it wasn't like he was not backed by the other experienced employees who agree with him, not out of favoritism or whatnot (coz really, when was Levi Ackerman a crowd favorite?), but out of the arguments and facts he could provide.

Of course now, in hindsight, it was a terrible idea. He used to be able to handle his drink so well. "Used to" being the key phrase. His rebellious days seemed like a lifetime ago, and being fueled by nothing more than tea, coffee, and other beverages that was remotely connected to the liquor tribe, he may have lost his touch.

Thus, why he was currently slumped in the passenger's seat of his boss' car. The boss whom he have just insulted, apparently.

"My, my. You really have no filter when you're drunk, aren't you?" Said boss merely chuckled in amusement at the state of the raven.

"M' not drunk." Levi grumbled.

And he really wasn't. Not completely anyway. Just enough to make him disregard formalities or just everything in general. All he could focus on was his spinning head paired with his exhaustion. He just wanted to crawl into his own bed and give everything and everyone else the middle finger if they interfere.

Okay, so maybe he was drunk. But not the brick-faced, I-won't-remember-anything-come-morning drunk. Heaven forbid he even throw up.

All in all, he really felt like shit. And that's him being modest.

"Levi. Levi. Hey."

The raven snapped his eyes open to see they have already stopped in front of his destination. When had he even start to close his eyes? He hadn't even notice the blond had gotten out of his seat, nor the door to his side opening.

Getting his gears back, Levi stepped out of the car unsteadily – which had blond's arm flew out instinctively to support him – and mumbled out his own version of gratitude for the free ride.

"Maybe I should walk you to your unit?" Erwin offered, seeing as the raven doesn't seem to be in a condition to be left alone.

"I'm fine. You've done enough. I can take it from here." He refused, trying his damnedest to put on a front that doesn't make him look as pathetic as needing to be carried on the way up.

"Levi?"

Both heads snapped towards the direction of the voice. Despite his intoxicated state, Levi immediately registered the brunet who was stepping hesitantly towards their direction.

"Eren? What're you doing here?"

"I was waiting for you."

"No, you little shit. What're you doing outside?" He amended, exasperated.

"I was waiting for you." Eren repeated blankly.

"Fucking brat." Levi muttered, but enough to be heard by everyone present.

Snow had long since blanketed the city, and though the brunet may be wearing the proper apparel for the weather, having him stay out in the freezing cold was still an idiotic thing to do.

"Well then, I'll leave him to you, Eren. I wish we could've met under better circumstances." Erwin broke the silence as he slowly let go of his hold on the raven just to make sure he wouldn't topple off without support.

Eren just hummed, not really paying as much attention to his words as he was to his actions.

Levi took another moment to thank the blond once again and waited until he was off before turning his attention back on the brunet.

"Come on, it's fucking cold out here." He grumbled as he willed his head to stop throbbing.

The younger trailed behind him wordlessly, and the raven was glad he wasn't talking as much as his daily quota. His head already felt like splitting open with the current noise.

He really should've known better than to assume the brat could keep up with the silence.

"So... who was that?" Eren tried to initiate.

"Someone you shouldn't get involved with." He dismissed, fumbling with the key to his unit.

"Why not?" The younger asked in confusion as he followed the other inside.

"Because I say so." Levi stated with finality, wanting to leave no room for arguments and just end the conversation or put it off for another time. He was already rubbing his temples with his thumb and middle finger as he took off his coat.

But Eren refused to drop it. He was done being shoved aside all the time when all he wanted was to talk. With a defiant look in his eyes, he decided he was going to speak what was on his mind; rationality be damned.

"Is that it? Or is there something you wouldn't want me knowing between you two?"

Levi immediately halted his actions and gave the younger an incredulous look.

Where the fuck did that come from?

"What're you implying?" He asked levelly, though his portrait had already contorted into a scowl.

"Wouldn't you know?" The brunet bit back, accusation clear in his tone.

Well, what the fuck? Eren sure isn't making this easy for him. Hell, nothing is ever easy with him. However, Levi could not, for the life of him, figure out how in the fuck he had given out any implications that he was even into Eyebrows.

"Fucking hell. Do you even hear what you're saying? Why would you even--- Fuck it, you know what? I don't have time for this." He sighed exasperatedly. He really didn't want this conversation while his head was splitting open.

"You always don't have time. You're always busy with work that you barely give anything else a damn. Even though it's already taking its toll on you, you never listen when I tell you to take a break. I don't understand why you would even do that when it's only---"

"Of course you wouldn't." The raven cut him off, having enough of the yelling that was like a physical nail on his head. "Well let me tell you something, Jaeger, that I'm sure you don't know: That's what normal people do." He spat out before he even registered his own words. He really didn't have a filter once intoxicated.

But then, the look on the brunet's face was almost enough to sober him up completely. Ever since before they even got together, Eren had always been highly insecure of his condition. What Levi had just said was almost like a physical blow to his face. Forget bitch slaps, it was a full-blown punch straight to the face.

Cupping his nape, Eren shot the raven one last look of pure hurt with a hint of resentment before turning around and walking away.

"Eren, wait." Levi immediately followed him, the feeling of regret instantly crashing down on him like a bucket of ice cold water thrown directly on his face.

And the brunet did stop; not from the raven's pleading, but because of the switch he could feel taking place.

Levi waited for the next personality taking over. Although he already had his bets on who. So when the brunet started to blink heavily and started tugging their scarf up, it confirmed his assumptions.

"Mikasa, I didn't---"

"Save it." She cut him off without even sparing him a look. "He's not here anymore."

"Where are you going?" Levi asked instead as the younger started to head out the door.

"Taking Eren away from here."

"But it's late." The raven protested.

"So it is."

"Look, just stay the night. I won't bother you, I swear." He tried, anything to keep the brunet from walking out that door and possibly never come back.

She mulled it over for a moment, her silence stretching on as she deliberated on the best course of action. And possibly, she wasn't alone in trying to determine that.

"We're going back to the dorm." She finally answered, which made the raven's heart drop.

"Mikasa, please."

"Eren comes first." She stated resolutely, as if saying Eren (and maybe the others as well) didn't want to stay there any longer and she's set to fulfilling that request.

When her hand landed on the doorknob, Levi's flew out to stop the door from opening.

"Stay safe." He said lowly, feeling very much defeated.

"Safer than normal people could hope to achieve." She remarked before pulling the door open and stepping out.

Now Levi really felt like shit. And he won't even deny that he was even one himself.

Chapter Text

"Sorry, Eren's not out. - S"

"He won't talk. - A"

"He's being a snowflake. Real mature. - J"

"Sorry, Eren's still upset. Don't worry, I'll talk to him. - R"

"No. - M"

 

Levi threw his phone haphazardly on the bed, which he soon followed suit. Throwing an arm over his eyes, he let out a tired sigh. Just when he finally broke free from the clutches of overworking, the brunet – specifically Eren – refused to even utter a single word to him.

He had bombarded them with text messages, constantly asking if Eren was out, only to be responded by a negative. Of course it had occurred to him that maybe Eren himself was the one sending out the replies using another alter's name, but it's not like he would answer his calls either. If someone did pick up, it was never Eren.

How many days has it been since he last saw that brat? A week? More than that? He wasn't sure. What he was certain of was how the apartment felt empty without the brunet's presence. Hell, if he was (more) honest, he felt empty without the brunet's presence. Was this how Eren felt?

Groaning, he tossed and turned on his bed. He knew he screwed up. If he didn't, Eren would have been there in bed with him by now. He was hoping the brunet would show up unannounced on his doorstep again since it was the start of the weekends. But alas, Eren still resents him.

And Levi couldn't blame him. He resents himself, too.

Although, he has every intention to make it up to the brunet. Had even went as far as to visit him in the dreadful dorms in hopes of talking to him. But what greeted him was Sasha, who had to take care of the brunet's terrible eating habits again, and the blond coconut. The second time he did, it was Mikasa who was back to ignoring and avoiding him.

And now, he was at a loss on what to do. How is he going to make it up to the brunet when he didn't even want to see him? He had tried (subtly) asking the others on what to do, but all he got was different variations of "give him time".

Okay, but for how long? Heaven forbid it won't go as far as a month or so. Levi's still not sure how he's going to take that in.

And not that he'd ever say it out loud, but it's fucking cold being alone. Sure, the current season itself is cold as fuck, but Eren's body was like a portable heater... with legs. It was one of the reasons he didn't mind getting too much physical contact with him. It was warm and comfortable. It was... home.

Groaning for the umpteenth time, he stood back up and wandered into the kitchen, following his routine whenever he couldn't sleep at night. Actually, he had only relapsed back on this routine after that incident with Eren. And he's done it every night since then.

With his cup of tea in hand, he sat down on his favored sofa, letting his mind meander around. Before, he really didn't have to mind much about what goes out of his mouth. It's not really that he doesn't care how it would impact the other, it's just that he believes he's only being honest. As harsh as the truth may sound.

Okay, and maybe he doesn't really care much since chances are, he won't be interacting with them again. If he could help it, that is.

Though in this case, it's hardly about truth or facts or honesty. It's about crossing a line and sensitivity and tact. Everything he's hardly ever given a flying fuck before.

Then again, he's hardly ever met someone like Eren Jaeger before. And he really didn't mean to say such things to the brunet. It didn't even really cross his mind until it was out of his mouth.

Which begs the question... what's he to do now?

Jerking his hand in irritation, it escaped his mind that he had set his cup on the arm of the sofa he was currently on. Inevitably, said cup was now in shambles on the floor.

'Fucking hell... that's already twice this week.'

He was never usually clumsy. But whenever his thoughts wander into a certain brunet who was stubborn as all hell that he fucking adores... it's like everything else gets pushed to the background and temporarily forgotten until he snaps back in attention.

What had Eren Jaeger done to him? He ruined Levi fucking Ackerman, apparently.

After taking care of the mess he made on the floor, the raven's mind kept scrambling for ideas on how to make peace with the brunet. However, to do that, he has to actually catch Eren, the host, first. Eren, who was determined to avoid him. And a determined Eren is a difficult, difficult Eren.

Goddammit! If only he was an expert on these things.

Speaking of experts...

Levi shot up as an idea popped in his head.

Hanji. Maybe Hanji could help him. She knows how to handle Eren best. Professionally speaking, at least.

But how is he supposed to get a hold of her? Sending her an email (which had been his only way to contact her so far) seems hardly fitting in this situation. But it's not like he has her number anyway. Is she even still in the city?

Of course, there's the option of asking Erwin. Though just thinking about owing him a favor is by no means appealing in the slightest. As how he sees it, Commander Eyebrows is always scheming. Giving him more leverage would be like digging your own grave, smacking yourself on the head with the shovel, and burying yourself underground unconsciously. All while the blond watches with those scrutinizing blue eyes of his.

'Okay, just breathe and think. Breathe and think. Breathe and... Mike.'

Of course. He could opt to ask Erwin's better half instead. (Or at least the one he likes better).

Picking up his phone from the bed, he contemplated on whether calling him or just sending a message. He decided on the latter, considering the time and the fact that he could at least edit his choice of words on text.

He ended up sending a rather quite formal text to his former professor. His work habits may be bleeding into his daily life already. Levi wasn't really expecting for a reply to come until morning, so he was surprised when his phone alerted not too long after.

Mike even teased him a bit about his message, but he asked no questions on how the raven came to know how he was associated with the doctor.

'Maybe he's currently with Erwin.'

He shuddered at the thought. He doesn't want his mind to go down that path.

If Mike was still up, Levi risked calling the bespectacled brunette so late into the night. It rang, and rang, and rang, and rang. Each ring was a step closer to convince the raven to postpone the conversation until a more reasonable time in the day.

But then, he instantly perked up when the call connected.

"Zoe's sperm bank. You squeeze it, we freeze it. How may I help you?"

What the fuck?

Levi took to checking if Mike gave him the right number, even though he had no way how to determine that exactly. He'd also really doubt it if Mike was trying to play a prank on him.

"Hanji?" He asked tentatively.

"Why does your voice sound familiar? Now, let me see..."

Well... at least the raven could recognize her voice now.

"It's Levi." He sighed. He really shouldn't have been surprised by the greeting.

"CATNIP!!"

The raven hissed as he promptly tore his ear off the phone.

"This is a really pleasant surprise. Why'd you call?" She kept squealing on the other side of the line.

"You're not even gonna ask me how I got your number?"

"Erwin just gave me a heads-up. Like, just now, really." The brunette stated casually. "In case you're wondering, he's with Mike at the moment. And we both know what that means." She added cheekily that Levi could practically see her waggling her brows at the implication.

Fucking hell. How often do these people keep in touch with each other?

"I don't wanna know." Levi muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Look, it's about Eren."

"Did something happen to my sunny bear?!" She asked in an alarmed tone.

"No, that's---"

"My sunny bear." She emphasized.

Sure, rub it in. He really didn't question it much as the only thing he could think of was that he deserve things not going his way when it comes to the brunet at their current state.

"Listen... I'm calling to ask for your advice."

"Lemme guess... is my jellybean upset with you?"

Levi couldn't help looking around his own apartment warily, mildly paranoid about his unit being bugged, or if there was really some sort of tracking device planted in him.

"Please don't tell me you got that from Eyewin."

"Of course not. I got that from Eren."

"What?"

"He didn't exactly say he was upset with you, per se, but he did look like it during our last session."

"What do you mean?"

The last session Levi could remember was like ages ago. Had Eren been mad of him since then?

"You know, the one which he didn't tell you abo---" Hanji trailed off. "You did not hear that from me." She gave a nervous laugh.

"Hold on... you're telling me Eren had a session with you... without me?" Levi asked incredulously. "Who was he with?"

"No one. He came alone. And before you blow your whiskers, he told me he didn't want to disturb you coz you've been really busy. Even Mikasa told me you hardly had time for anything else. I'm just guessing that's why they neglected to inform you that."

Well, fuck. Guess he'd really been an asshole without even realizing it.

"So, what happened?"

Levi recounted the incident with as much detail as he could willingly impart, which is just about everything from his perspective of things. It may just be her habit from work, but Hanji was intent on letting the raven talk and would only ask the questions necessary. It almost seemed like they weren't even talking through the phone with a thousand miles distance between them.

"Oh, catnip. That was harsh. No wonder poor sunshine won't come out."

"Glad we're on the same page." The raven retorted dryly.

"Well, if you'd ask me, I would strongly advice against forcing him to switch out. Even if you're using positive triggers, if Eren doesn't want to come out, it would be best if you would respect that."

"I do respect that. But how am I supposed to get on with the apology if he doesn't even see me?"

"Why don't you start with his other alters? Even though they're technically not Eren, that doesn't mean they're not in on this considering they're the system's protectors, right? Besides, what you've said to Eren also applies to the rest of them. Have you done that yet?"

Levi was silent at that. Until that point, it didn't occur to him that he had also overstepped his boundaries with regards to Eren's alters. He had always treated them as a person of their own no matter how much he only sees Eren physically.

"No. I guess, I'll see to it." He answered lowly.
Hanji just hummed on the other side of the line and gave the raven a few moments to contemplate before speaking again.

"You're a good guy, you know?" She stated fondly.

"I highly doubt tha---"

"You're a good guy. But you're not perfect." She cut him off. "And that's perfectly fine. Yes, you've done a horrible thing. But a few mistakes don't automatically make you a horrible person. What's important here is that you're trying your best to make it up to Eren. I'm sure he'll soon see that for himself. He's young. Or younger than you, at least. Just give it time and work on what you can at the moment. And remember, don't be too hard on yourself. Whether it's for overworking or overthinking. Coz, even though you may not notice it at first, it also affects those people who are close to you."

"Right." He's learned that the hard way.

"This is just a theory of mine, but perhaps that bad habit of yours of completely immersing yourself to your work, and neglecting everything else branches out from something. Perhaps there's something in your past? Or maybe something that you're scared of happening?"

Levi tensed up at that. Fucking hell, why does he keep getting unintentionally associated with the types of people he finds dangerous? He has developed his stoic personality for a reason. A lot of reasons, in fact. And one of those is to prevent people from easily seeing through him.

Apparently, there are people who are capable of seeing beyond that. Which is exactly why he considers those types as dangerous.

"It's okay if you don't tell me anything. I don't really have the right to pry." The brunette continued when the raven failed to offer a response.

"I wasn't about to, anyway." Levi mumbled out.

"I'd hug you right now if I could. I was told my hugs are quite therapeutic."

"Don't you think you misheard? I think they meant those moves you call 'hugs' could send someone to therapy." He deadpanned.

"That's not a really nice thing to say to your new phone buddy, Catnip."

It was only then that the raven had realized they'd been on the phone for quite a while now. The longest Levi had ever spent with someone, in fact.

"Oh, hell no."

He was seriously considering changing his number right then and there.

 


 

Come Saturday, on his third visit at the dorms, it was Jean who was currently out and had his nose buried on school materials. Levi found it a bit weird since he thought Christmas break was fast approaching, though he also thought the younger didn't have anything else better to do.

Lounging on the bed (since it was, ironically, the safest spot he could find in the room) while the other sat in front of a nearby study desk, Levi took a moment to muster up the courage to just spit out what he really came here for.

"Hey, Jean." He called out.

Though the younger didn't even make any sort of acknowledgment.

"Oi." He tried again.

The brunet just flipped the page on the book he was reading.

"Jean."

Nothing.

"I get it. I'm an asshole. And for that, I'm sorry." He sighed dejectedly.

It was only then that Jean put down the book and turned to face him.

"Look, if it was just me, I'd probably have been more... patient." He started. "However, I understand where Eren's coming from and I've been there to witness him go through shit. Personally, I think that's one of the main problems here. Both of you don't know much about each other's backgrounds."

His eyes immediately narrowed after saying that. "No, Mikasa, I'm not telling him anything. Even though I just said that's the problem." He mumbled the last sentence out.

"She's close?" Levi couldn't help asking.

"Oh, she's been constantly on standby since that time. Same as how she's been before really." He shrugged.

"What do you mean?"

"Sorry, can't expound on that." He pointed to his head as if reminding the raven of another ravenette currently present... in a way. "I don't really get why she's so adamant on being tight-lipped when it comes to Eren's past. I mean, yeah, sure, it's not exactly something you just tell anyone. But I don't really think you're still part of that 'anyone' to this point."

"It's okay." Levi assured. "I'm not forcing anything. And I could understand her reasons. Even though I don't really know them. All I really want is to apologize. Whether or not I know about what shit Eren went through, that still doesn't rationalize what I've said and done."

"Point taken." Jean conceded. "Though you're snowflake isn't really aware of this conversation we're having right now."

"I'm apologizing to you, Jean." The raven clarified, to the brunet's surprise and confusion. "There's no arguing that I did Eren wrong. But by doing so, I've also come to realize that I did the same to the rest of you. Or at the very least, it affected you in one way or another. So... I'm really sorry for that."

Jean scratched the back of his head as he started to grow restless in his seat.

"Damn, man. I wasn't really expecting anything like that from you." He admitted. "You didn't have to, but... it's appreciated nonetheless." He stated before staring back at his book intently.

 

The next day, Levi was floored when he opened his door to the sight of the brunet. Granted it wasn't exactly Eren who greeted him (since he usually just skip the knocking and just barges straight through), but their mere presence on his doorstep was enough to make the raven's spirit soar.

"Sup?" The brunet greeted flatly, adjusting the bag on his back.

"Annie." Levi couldn't help thinking out loud.

"You sure about that?" The younger challenged.

"Have I ever been wrong?" He countered.

"You might be."

Levi arched a brow before nodding to the hand the other was holding their bag with to prove his point. Annie frowned at the giveaway, which only made the raven smirk as he stepped aside to let her come in.

They proceeded as if nothing ever happened. Of course, Levi also had an apology owed to her, so at the moment he addressed that during lunchtime, Annie merely stared at him.

"If you could spare time for regular gym and sparring sessions, you're forgiven." She finally responded after a while.

"Or maybe a box of donuts and a six-pack of soda." He haggled.

Annie seriously mulled it over.

"Two boxes. Monthly."

"Pig." The raven snorted.

"Three boxes. Twice a month." She muttered out.

'I rest my case.' Levi wanted to say. Though that may only end up setting the stakes higher.

"Does Eren know you came here, by the way?" He asked instead, considering (and hoping for) the possibility that Eren could front at anytime.

"Pretty much."

"And he's okay with it?"

"Even if he wasn't, I would've came here either way. It's already Christmas Break, and tomorrow, we're heading back to Shiganshina."

"Oh."

Well, that just means Eren wasn't planning on spending the holidays with him. Understandable, really.

Still hurts, though.

When they were almost done eating, Levi risked asking something he wasn't entirely sure the younger would... well, tolerate, perhaps.

"Annie, I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but..." He started, on the brink of backing out from his request. "Can you... pretend to be Eren. Even for just a minute?" He continued abjectly, staring holes on the plate in front of him.

Silence draped over them. Each second that ticks by makes the raven regret saying the words out loud.

And when the brunet stood up from his seat wordlessly, Levi didn't even notice his hands had curled into fists. Maybe it was too much to ask of her. Annie was a person of her own, even though she may be inside Eren's body. And though their comfort levels may have significantly increased ever since he started dating Eren, they've still yet to venture the intimate physical contacts beyond leaning against each other. Basically, no limbs were involved (as much as possible), unless they were hurling it at each other. Granted the latter was hardly considered intimate, but sparring matches have already been like a bonding moment for the two.

Maybe she did take it the wrong way and thought Levi was using her as Eren's substitute. Even though, technically, that has been part of her role as one of the system's alters. Still, the thought that she's not being seen for who she really is and is just reduced to being "Eren's subdued attitude" – that her presence is less appreciated than the other – is quite hurtful. Especially if it's from someone she had willingly shown herself to.

They may exist in the same body, and even though it may just be a result of a condition that Eren's brain developed, for them, that still doesn't mean they're the same person.

Or not yet, at least. For whatever that statement is worth.

And Levi sees that. It's not that he's disregarding that fact that pushed him to make that request, but it's only because he just really missed Eren, the host, that he resorted into asking.

He was startled when he felt arms wrap around from behind him.

"I'm pretty sure this is how Eren does it. You're gonna have to settle with this." Annie mumbled as she awkwardly held the raven.

"It's fine. This is fine." Levi sighed as he closed his eyes and let his mind do its magic.

 

Around bedtime, Mikasa had took over after showering. Levi had noticed it even before the brunet took one look at him and promptly headed straight to bed without a word.

By the time he finished his own shower and padded into the bedroom, the younger was already tucked and had her back facing the raven's side of the bed. Levi could tell conversations are futile at the moment, but if anything, at least she still wasn't opposed to sleeping on the same bed as him. Although he would be hardly surprised if she ended up kicking him out. Or off (if it's to be taken literally).

Once under the covers, the raven didn't drift off right away. It must've been hours that he spent lying wide awake in bed. And when he was mildly sure that the younger was fast asleep, he inched closer to their heat and lightly rested his head on their back.

"I'm sorry." He whispered in the air between them. "From the start, I told you I'm not who you might've thought I am. I'm a shit person with terrible personality problems. I'm actually surprised you've lasted this far with me. That's not to say I want things between us to just keel over and die. Fuck, I don't even want to think about it."

Even as a whisper, his voice held emotions he wasn't too familiar of, out of sincerity. It was rare for him to be so vulnerable in the presence of another person. Hell, Levi himself didn't even know he was capable of doing so.

Even though he knew the other couldn't hear him, he still felt like it was necessary to say it to whoever it currently was.

However, his third surprise (all in one day) occurred then when the brunet suddenly reached out from behind him until he caught hold of the raven's wrist, and pulled on it to wrap over his torso.

"Just this once."

Apparently, it was still Mikasa, if the jejune tone was anything to go by.

And if the gesture was anything to go by, maybe, just maybe, the raven was forgiven (or, at least, somewhere along that range) in her books. After all, she knew how the actual couple (liked) loved being tangled together while lounging together or drowsing off. Well, if anything, she had been partially present the previous times the raven had expressed his apologies. 

Grabbing the opportunity, Levi chanced shifting closer until he was practically spooning the brunet. Eren's body was warm as all hell and was a much better rival for a standard heater than Satan could ever be. Not that the two were appropriate choices of comparison, but you get the idea.

He noticed the younger tense up which immediately made him hesitate his actions.

"Is this okay?" Levi couldn't help asking.

He wasn't offered any response, yet at the same time, Mikasa made no move to push him away or anything of the sort. Eventually, the younger completely melted in his hold and Levi could only guess she was already asleep.

This was good. This was better.

And it would be the best if Eren, the host, could finally give him the chance to make it up to him.

Chapter Text

Levi watched every inch of movement from the brunet with rapt attention. Well, at first glance, that would seem like the case. However, truth was, the raven was slowly dying inside as each piece of clothing from the bottom drawer gets transported into the bag on the floor.

"Grandpa... Armin's grandfather, that is. He always tell us to just call him Grandpa. He has this friend that grows Christmas trees. So every year, we're shoved in the car and dragged miles away just to get a tree of our own. Eren likes to pick the biggest of the bunch, but we always end up with a smaller one since it's only Armin and either of us who'd be carrying it into the house." The brunet – currently Reiner – kept on filling the dead silence in the air as he packed their stuffs in the bag.

"I guess that should be enough. Why am I even out? Mikasa should be the one doing this." He mused after shoving in another shirt. "Ah, wait. Where's that..." He trailed off when his sights finally landed on the look the raven was currently wearing.

He was staring intently on the bag, though despair was evident on his features. It really looked like as if he was going to be completely abandoned for good.

"Oh, don't look like that, Levi. I'm not packing everything up, see?" Reiner showed the drawer which was still filled with a few of their clothes.

It was only then that the raven shifted his gaze back to the brunet.

"Right. Sorry, don't mind me." He mumbled as he tore himself from the bed and stepped out of the room.

He didn't think he could still bear to watch another second. Hell, he didn't think he could bear to see them walk out that door again.

It didn't take long for the brunet to join him on the couch. He was hardly surprised, really. Levi already knew it was in Reiner's nature to come to aid to whoever was needing it. Most especially when it comes to Eren, and everyone else connected to their host.

"That brat... he really took that shit about being 'so close yet fucking far away' to a whole new level." He snorted a laugh out rather bitterly.

Eren's body was literally there sitting beside him. But Eren himself – his state of consciousness – was fuck knows where. It was a difficult concept to take in, but one Levi had to come to terms with.

"Sorry." Reiner couldn't help muttering out.

"Don't be. It's my fault." The raven sighed.

A beat of silence passed over them. Reiner could practically see the raven's dejection clearer than Jean's vision.

He had already received Levi's apology earlier, which he more than gladly accepted without further ado. It was a rather refreshing experience to be the one to receive such genuine admission of mistakes, instead of being the one to initiate it. Though that's not saying he wasn't the tiniest bit disappointed at the raven for his errors.

This time though, Reiner thought he should really be doing his role in this current predicament. Not that he was completely slacking off his job, it's just that he hasn't had much opportunity talking personally with the raven as of late. What with Eren refusing to see him.

Eren was also very glum inside as he was outside. Reiner wouldn't really be surprised if the brunet wasn't paying much attention to him during those times he attempted to talk to him.

"You know, even though it may not seem like it, Eren is really, really sensitive when it comes to his condition. I'm sure you already know that. And, well, you've seen how much your words have impacted him." He started.

"I didn't mean it. I... wasn't thinking straight." Levi reasoned. "But fuck, I know that's not an excuse."

"Well... other than that, I'm sure you've noticed how... clingy Eren is. I think it's just right that you should know he's been feeling very left out the past weeks. Not that he has abandonment issues, but he still doesn't take it well. He'd already lost a lot of people, most of whom he thought were his friends. I don't even wanna think about what happens if... you know... it happens between you two."

"You don't have to think about it, 'cause it's not happening." was the raven's immediate response. "Is Mikasa okay with you telling me about Eren's history, by the way?" He couldn't help asking, considering even Jean couldn't get much out.

It would also seem like Mikasa was serious when she said what she allowed last night was a one-time deal, which was probably just out of pity. Besides, he'd also just recently learned that it was Mikasa who outrightly refused "stopping by" the raven's apartment for whatever reason, if it wasn't for Annie's insistence, backed by Jean and a very hesitant Reiner who just wanted to settle things out.

Actually, even Sasha seemed like she was on-board with the idea but chose to keep her mouth shut to avoid diving in to the confrontation. All of them were upset by what Levi had said and done, but that doesn't deny the fact that they have already been very attached to him – what with everything they spent with him so far – and wanted to give him a chance.

Other than that, they could see how the raven was serious with Eren to the point that he'd be the one initiating the first move to patch things up between them. Yeah, sure, it was his fault in the first place, but that doesn't mean Eren did nothing wrong from the way he accused the raven for something that was mostly visceral and one he had no solid evidence of. So as much as they were on Eren's side, they couldn't let their stubborn host add someone like Levi to the people in their history just like that.

The guy was trying. If only Eren could see that. Hell, even Mikasa could see it. She just refuses to acknowledge it if she was going to stand by Eren's side completely.

"Oh, she's giving me warning vibes right now." Reiner gave a little laugh. "But it's not like I'm going into details. I'm just giving you a general idea. If it had been Jean, there's no knowing what he could divulge. So she immediately tells him off if he starts heading down that road."

That's no surprise, really.

"I guess I may have took him for granted and expected that he'd be more... I don't know. Forebearing, maybe. I thought that he'd understand and just let it slide when I have to focus on my job first."

"He does. It's just that... well... you were kinda overdoing it."

Levi just grunted out an agreement. Everyone's been telling him that, so arguing would most likely be a futile effort. It was just something he hadn't realized for himself.

"And now that I have time, he doesn't even come out. How are we gonna sort this out if he refuses to talk?"

"I'll talk to him. Well, I've been trying to get through him for a while now really. But don't worry, I'm sure he'll get around." The younger assured.

Before they could stretch their conversation further, a knock had sounded on the door which the raven went to answer. What greeted him was the sight of icy blue eyes and blond hair that reminded him so much of Commander Eyebrows now that he suddenly thought about it.

"I'm here to fetch Eren." He informed briefly.

The last time Levi had encountered him was back in the dorms where it just so happened that he was just about to head out when the raven arrived.

"Armin? Oh, shoot. Hold on, I'm almost done prepping." Reiner said as he peeked out from behind before rushing off back to the bedroom.

And so the two were left lingering on the doorway. He didn't have much chance talking to the blond (or any of the squad in that matter) as of late, but from what he could gather from the unusual silence and body language, he could tell the younger may also harbor some sort of... displeasure against him.

"I'm guessing you've heard from them?" The raven started tentatively.

Armin let out a sigh, deciding it was better to have this conversation right then and there, than later or perhaps never at all.

"Right after it happened, actually."

"Do you resent me, too, then?"

"Eren's like my brother, so I couldn't help feeling dismayed by what happened." He admitted. "However, other than that, I don't feel any other ill will towards you, and I'd like to reserve my judgments until I've heard about your side of things."

He saw the brunet passed by from behind the raven towards another room before rushing back to where he had been. He knew it wasn't Eren and was most probably Reiner, going by the earlier response. He was probably getting who-knows-what and was rushing to get their stuffs prepared like he said. Heaven (and Levi) knows how much of their belongings Eren tends to leave at that apartment.

"However, I can tell you and the others have gotten along well already. I don't think they'd insist to be here if that wasn't the case. Sure, Mikasa opposed to it, but that's to be expected." The blond continued after the brunet was out of sight. "And I've seen how you've cared for them before that incident happened. So really, I can't even be mad at you for something that was probably a result of frustration."

Levi wanted to say something. Anything. But the blond was beating him to every point he wanted to address.

"I'd be lying if I said I've never had any conflicts with Eren before. And I'd be lying if I said there wasn't one point where I almost, almost, gave up on him. The way I see it, you seem to be keen on chasing after Eren. That's not something I'll ever take lightly."

"Almost done!" Reiner interjected from within the room. Whatever was taking him so long, none of them knows.

"My train of thought just got derailed from everything you just said." Levi commented offhandedly.

The blond said he wanted to hear Levi's side of things. Yet at the same time, he hardly gave him a chance to. What gives?

"Don't worry, I've already decided I won't give you a hard time in trying to reconciliate with Eren after that time you apologized to Jean." He smiled. "Besides, I have other ways of knowing your side of things." He added cryptically.

Well, that awfully sounds like something another particular blond would say.

He was tempted to ask if he knew a man going by the name Erwin Smith. But the thought of getting a positive response was something to dread about. So, in the end, he opted to keep mum about it.

'Ignorance is bliss.' He decided.

"I'm all set." Reiner reappeared behind the raven, a bag filled to its extent on his back.

"We should get going then. Take care of yourself, Levi. Happy holidays! Don't work too hard, alright?" Armin bade as he stepped away.

Levi merely acquiesced at that. Though he wasn't entirely sure what he'd be doing if he wouldn't be working.

"Hey." Reiner caught his attention next. "I know you're still fretting over Eren, but don't let it affect you to the point you stopped worrying about yourself. We're also trying our best to help out. So take care, okay?" He put a hand on the shorter man's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

The raven just gave a tight nod, more focused on studying the brunet's face. Mapping out every inch. Engraving it (again) into his memory. If he was going to spend weeks without the brunet's presence, he'd have to settle with this image to help him cope.

If a year ago someone would tell him he'd do such things, he'd probably stare at them 'til they start re-evaluating their life decisions, then afterwards make them regret opening their mouth in the first place.

Yet here he is. And he's not even aware of the look of desperation he was currently wearing. If Eren is a clingy brat, he would most probably revel in the thought that Levi is even more so. Rub it in his face, even.

Speaking of faces...

Everything his sights traced screamed Eren. Everything but the eyes.

 


 

Inside their inner world, they've once again brought Eren to the forest for his "regular interaction" with Ymir. Though he may have let them drag him along, they really weren't surprised when Eren kept moping every step of the way; and even when they arrived at their destination.

As usual, the others couldn't do much other than to keep watch at the perimeter, while Reiner and Eren ventured further into the forest to approach the fragment.

"Eren, won't you even try?" Reiner tried to encourage when the brunet hadn't uttered a single word even though they were only an arm apart or so from the fragment.

Eren spared a glance at Ymir, who had been staring at him blankly the whole time, before planting his chin between his knees again.

"I don't know why, but now that I think about it, she reminds me of Levi somehow." He mumbled out.

"How's that?" Reiner asked, his brows furrowing in confusion as he also took a look at the fragment to make out any similarities.

"The eyes. Hair color." The brunet pointed out, not moving from his curled-up position.

Reiner decided not to respond to that as he really didn't have a good one at hand. He just started to wonder how he's going to approach the brunet once they got back to their barracks again.

"Aren't you a hypocrite?"

Both heads turned to face the fragment who seemed to have gotten sick with keeping her silence. She was still sitting on the branch close to the brunet with her right leg propped up, which she rested her elbow on, while the other was left dangling.

"You keep telling me that midget is anything but a "bad person" even though he practically looked like it. And yet here you are, hiding and sulking away coz apparently, he turned out to be the scum of the Earth."

"I never said that." Eren instantly defended.

"No, but you act like it." She countered.

Despite the sharp words, her face remained apathetic to the whole ordeal.

The brunet glared at her at that, having no better response to what she said. Even though he may have tried talking to her several times before, the way she talks a lot like Jean was making it difficult for him to even act all chummy towards her.

"How'd you know about that, by the way, Ymir?" Reiner immediately stepped in. He was all too familiar with that look on the brunet.

"Just because I like my silence doesn't mean I'm deaf or stupid." She answered matter-of-factly.

Of course she was aware of the whispers the others kept discussing amongst themselves. She had no clue what had been happening in the outside world as she hadn't fronted for a while. The others made sure to stay away from whatever potential triggers of the fragment as they could never tell how she's going to deal with the situation. However, the clues she kept picking up – especially Eren's sudden bout of depression – was enough for her to connect the dots.

"Well, in case you missed it, he just basically told me I'm abnormal." Eren couldn't help making his stand.

"So what? It's true, isn't it? What's wrong with what he said?"

"What's wrong is that he just had to say it!" Eren seethed. "And I thought you would understand." He spat out.

He wanted to point out how she was resorting to harming the body when dealing with her own problems while he was merely sulking. But that would be crossing the line.

"You think I don't?" She arched a brow. "Tell me, Eren... is that the worst thing you've heard someone say to you?"

"No." He muttered out. "That still doesn't make it right, either way."

"Of course, it doesn't." She scoffed. "Look, this is just something I've realized after speaking with big-eyed Blondie outside. It's that everyone has at least one flaw or two. And if you learn to overlook that, you'd see they aren't as bad as you thought they were. If you have the tiniest speck of memory of all the ugliest shit that happened in the past, you'd see what shorty had done couldn't even count as a scratch of damage."

Every argument flew out of Eren's thought process at the last sentence. He wanted to argue that yes, Levi's words and actions had done damage. For him, at least. But the fact that she hinted at remembering things he couldn't, it was enough to make him rethink his ideas.

Being with Mikasa gave him a more than vague idea on how it's like remembering things that are better off forgotten. And until now, there's a huge part of him that feels guilty for making her shoulder that burden.

 

The journey back to their barracks was spent in relative silence, with Eren keeping a tight line on his lips and brows furrowed in what looked like concentration. It really wasn't that different from their previous trips, aside from the fact that the brunet's silence was out of contemplation rather than sullenness.

Reiner wasted no time in sitting Eren down once they were in their quarters. Earlier, even though the urge to step in-between the accumulating argument between their host and the fragment is there, he opted to rather take a step back not only because Ymir is making valid points, but because it would also be a first that the two are actually interacting with one another without those long gaps of awkward silence.

He spent a good portion of the time re-telling how Levi had been constantly waiting for the brunet to come out and how he had already expressed his apologies to the other alters. He told him how apparent the raven's repentance was of what he said and did, if only the stubborn brunet could see it for himself.

"Like Ymir said, we all have our lapses. No matter how great a guy Levi may seem, he also makes mistakes." Reiner tried to explain.

Before, his optimism didn't really make Eren's friends stay. It worked nothing more than to console the brunet when he was already left hanging in the air.

This time though, it wasn't meant to make anyone stay or help the brunet believe people will stay, since Levi wasn't going anywhere. It was to convince Eren to meet the raven halfway where he was waiting.

"Stop putting him up on a pedestal, you dumbass." Jean butted in casually as he climbed up the bunk. Ironically, he and Eren were bunked together.

"But that doesn't mean he cares for you any less." Reiner hastily continued after he saw the brunet's eyes flash with annoyance at the interruption. "Here, let's put it this way... all of us could vouch that Levi... isn't good with... verbal communication, right? But did that make you like him any less?"

Eren mulled it over before he finally gave a tight shake of his head.

"I'm not putting him up on a pedestal." He muttered out, glaring at the direction of Jean. He never would let things off so easily when it comes to horse-face.

"I think what Jean meant is that despite how amazing a person Levi is, you have to remember he's only human. He's not perfect, but no one ever is." Reiner cut in again before the other could. "I know how much you look up to him. Even me, I also have a high regard towards him. If anything, he's the first person who's willing to go far beyond just friendship with you. With us. And yes, I was a tad disappointed by what happened. But seeing how he's been very persistent to set things right... well, that's not just something anyone does if they weren't serious."

Eren kept mum, but Reiner knew he was finally getting into the brunet's senses.

"Eren, listen... as much as I hate making you choose, this is just something you might want to contemplate on." He started delicately. "Of the two, which are you willing to overlook: the first slip-up Levi made, or everything, every moment you've spent so far with him?"

The brunet curled in further on himself. It really wasn't a necessary question to be asked, but it is a necessary reminder to be said. After all this was Eren's (and Levi's) first go at being in a relationship, so any problem that would arise may be viewed, for them, as something akin to an end.

"Oh, come on. It's not like we don't know the answer to that." Jean interrupted again. "Why don't we skip the dramatics, and go pack your bags and fling yourself all over him like we all expect you'd do?"

"Fuck off, horse-face." Eren punched the division that was the only thing separating him from the person above. "Tell me one good reason – that Reiner hasn't mentioned yet – on why I should do the shit you just said?" He challenged.

Just a few seconds later, Jean's head popped out from above. Though he was looking at him upside-down, there was no mistaking the victorious smirk that was plastered on his face.

"Well, dipshit. Since you asked, do you even know that it's his birthday on Christmas?"

This information hit the brunet hard, and before he knew it, he was already yelling out Armin's name.

 


 

Come Christmas and Levi was all alone in his apartment. Nothing unusual, really. This was how he spent every year for as long as he could remember, after all.

Although he would be lying if there weren't one too many times when he imagined he'd be spending it with one person in particular. Perhaps that was where the emptiness, that he felt only now after all these years, materialized from.

He treasured tranquility and solitude, something that was difficult to achieve when everyone, everywhere was celebrating. And now, he still does treasure these luxuries. He just thinks it would be a lot better if he could share it with someone.

Someone that was the embodiment of summer in this freezing climate, perhaps.

Taking another sip from his tea, he took pleasure in merely watching the falling snow from his window. There was really something else he oughta do, but for some reason, he couldn't find the goddamn thing.

Eventually, a knock was heard on the door. Letting out a sigh, the raven dragged his feet to answer. He could pretend he wasn't home, but his neighbors were already far too familiar that he wasn't going anywhere on Christmas Day, or any other holiday for that matter. He didn't know why they kept offering him extra servings of their own little feast – even though they barely utter a single word to each other for the entire year – but he figured it'd be disrespectful of him to even complain.

But then his heart stopped when he saw the brunet on his doorstep, a couple of boxes at hand. It took him a while to realize they've merely been staring at each other before he snapped to attention and ushered the younger in.

"What're you doing here?" He just had to ask as the other set the boxes on the coffee table.

"It's Christmas. You're alone." came the brunet's clipped and vague response.

Basing on the tone, it could either be Annie or Mikasa.

"And how about Armin and your grandpa?"

"We've already told them we'd be here." He shrugged.

"And why's that?" The raven pushed.

"I already told you why."

"That was hardly an explanation."

The brunet let out a sigh. For some reason, he didn't want to look at the raven properly. Well, come to think about it, Levi could understand the unspoken reason behind that.

"Eren wanted to give you that. Sasha picked out some cake, too." He pointed to the boxes.

Right hand. Must be Mikasa then.

Levi sat on the couch and pulled the bigger box to his lap. It was obvious the other one's the cake. The brunet soon followed and sat on the couch adjacent to his.

"Who wrapped this?" He asked as he inspected the work done. He'd be surprised if Eren actually wrapped that on his own.

"Mikasa did."

Huh. So it's not Mikasa who's out, apparently.

The raven tore off the wrapping almost reverently. He didn't want to disregard the effort by acting like a kid on Christmas. A plain white box was revealed, and the only other clue he could gather was that it was kind of heavy.

He could feel the brunet's eyes anticipating his movements, and it took a lot not to divert his attention from the present at hand.

His breath hitched when he finally opened the box to see what was inside. It was a tea set. And a gorgeous one at that.

He carefully took a cup out and regarded it with crystal clear admiration. He never would've noticed the sparkle in his eyes the moment he opened the box. But the brunet did.

"Why'd you get me this?" He asked lowly, settling the cup back into its initial place.

The brunet cleared his throat before answering. "Annie noticed the shards of glass in your bin and some of your teacups missing."

Apparently, it wasn't Annie either. Though Levi already had a hunch from the get-go.

Fucking finally.

"I'm guessing you'd want to tell your host what I think about it, huh?" He asked as he settled the box back on the coffee table, still not lifting his eyes to meet the brunet's.

"Right. Of course."

The shift in tone didn't escape the raven's attention, and he could tell it was out of the fact that he was getting up from his seat and stepping closer into the other.

"Well then, Eren..." He started, now leaning close to the younger's face and staring straight into ocean eyes that widened after hearing his name. "I fucking love it." He breathed out as he closed the distance between their lips.

Eren stiffened at first but didn't take long to completely melt into the kiss. Though he instantly got back into his senses when the raven tried to deepen the kiss.

"Hold on, I'm still upset with you." He stated sternly as he pushed the older back a little.

Levi let out a distressed groan but didn't fight with the hand holding him back.

"Fine. What do I do?"

"First off, what is your relationship with that blond guy you keep hanging out with at work? Don't just tell me he's not someone I should get involved with."

"I don't 'hang out' with him. He's my boss." He finally answered. "And I'm serious. Do not get involved with him. He's a dangerous man who's capable of knowing your every move whether it's in the past, present, and perhaps the future."

Eren looked at his boyfriend with a tinge of worry. He sounded so serious despite the ridiculous things he just said. Although, he opted not to comment about it. The fact that he now knows he was his boss was enough explanation for now.

"Then how about why do you keep exhausting yourself as if the world's gonna end any second?" He asked next.

The raven's expression immediately softened at this and he had to take a seat beside the brunet while he gather his thoughts.

Levi's bad habit of pushing himself too hard branches out from his fear of going back to his previous life, before Erwin "helped" him. He didn't want to re-live the moments when he could only do odd jobs here and there, or heaven forbid, his childhood situation. Thus, why he was so invested in his job since he sees it as his insurance to a better lifestyle.

"Other than that, I'm still getting used to the idea that there's someone looking out for me. Ever since as a kid, I've barely had anyone worrying about me. I do things on my own terms without having to think much about how it'll affect me. Taking care of you, sure, I could get used to the idea. Already have, in fact. But the other way around?" He sighed.

He only gave vague details about his history that was just enough to give the brunet a rough picture. He focused more on the financials (or lack of for this matter) to emphasize his point.

"Dummy, of course I would care for you. Why the hell would I even be with you in the first place if I don't? This isn't a one-way arrangement. I don't think relationships work like that. Hell, even friendships don't work like that. And it's not just me, there's Mikasa, Annie, Sasha, Stallion, and Reiner. Armin and the others, too. We all care for you, Levi."

"Stallion?" Levi couldn't help asking.

"What? I'm being generous. He hasn't earned the rank of a unicorn yet." The younger shrugged.

What Levi doesn't know is that the brunet was still pissed at Jean for withholding the information of the raven's birthday from him until the last minute.

"For someone as sharp as you, don't tell me you haven't noticed it?" He asked, (referring to the "caring" part as opposed to the "stallion").

"Shut up."

"Or maybe you just needed someone to confirm it out loud?"

"Don't push it, brat."

Eren just gave the raven a shit-eating grin, which only deepened his scowl. Not like it makes any difference. If anything, at least they were now back to how they used to before.

"I'm sorry." Levi blurted out after a while. But before he could expound on that, the brunet had already cut him off.

"I'm sorry, too." He started. "I shouldn't have accused you like that. Especially not when you were at the peak of your stress levels." He apologized guiltily.

"It's okay." The raven almost cooed as he stroked the younger's cheek to divert those eyes back to his. "What matters now is this." He leaned in to capture those lips with his own again.

They were interrupted when multiple thuds sounded from the bedroom.

"What was that?" The brunet asked with clear alarm in his voice.

"Your Christmas present." Levi groaned as he padded into the source of the noise.

Eren followed closely behind him, and when the shorter stopped by the doorway, his eyes went wide once again at the sight that greeted him.

"There you are, you little shit." Levi muttered out as he finally found the little critter he had been looking for earlier.

On the floor, along with a couple books that have landed gracelessly, was a little British Longhair kitten with golden shaded fur.

Letting out a barely repressed squeal, Eren was immediately on the floor and picking up the feline, cradling it carefully in his arms.

"You got me a cat?! Why did you get me a cat?!" He asked enthusiastically, not tearing his eyes away from the fluffball with legs.

"I found it wandering the streets the other night. My conscience won't let me leave it in the fucking cold-ass snow." He shrugged.

What he didn't mention was that how it was those eyes that really gave him in.

"I figured you'd like it and besides, at least now whenever the word 'kitten' comes out from your mouth, at least I could try to think you're referring to the cat instead of the alternative."

"Which is you?" The brunet supplied.

"Fuck you, too."

How romantic this scene played out.

"Have you thought of a name yet? How about Captain?" Eren continued, unperturbed.

"What kind of a name is that? Plus, that's a she."

"Catnip, then?" The younger asked casually as he lifted the kitten up to check on the sex.

"Do you really think I would take name suggestions from a potential crackpot?"

"So you have thought of a name. What is it?"

Levi lagged for a reply. Yes, he already had a name for the critter. It just sounds a little sappy now that he thinks about it.

"Latte."

Eren halted his petting to redirect his gaze back to the raven. Of course. How could he forget about the first cat latte art he's seen the raven do and his countless attempts that followed after that? Somehow, that was how their relationship started forming.

"It's perfect." He beamed. "I love it."

"I love you, too."

It was like everything went silent after those few words unexpectedly escaped the raven's lips. Eren couldn't hide his shock, and Levi wasn't doing any better himself.

"What?" The brunet asked dumbly.

"Merry Christmas, brat." The raven muttered out as he turned around to escape from the situation.

"No, wait." Eren protested as he set the kitten on the floor and chased after the older. "Happy birthday, Levi. But I want to know what was that you just said."

"You already know it, Jaeger." Levi responded defensively.

"Say it again." He demanded.

They just stared at each other for a long while. The determination and defiance burning in the brunet's eyes were enough to melt the ice walls the raven desperately built around himself.

Levi let out a defeated sigh as he mustered up every ounce of courage he could gather to just say the fucking words out.

"I love you, Eren." He stated, his cheeks instantly heating up at the admission.

However, the blissful look on the younger's face was all too worth the I'm-not-a-fucking-high-school-girl-denial type of embarrassment.

"I love you too, Levi." Eren breathed as he leaned down to initiate the kiss this time.

Chapter Text

Levi didn't know how many cycles of Happy Birthday the brunet had hummed, yet he could hardly bring himself to care. He was too occupied in reveling in the comfortable warmth of his personal portable heater. And if anything, at least it was different from the Christmas carols that had been crammed in his ears for weeks.

They were currently lounging on the couch, with Levi's cheek planted firmly on the brunet's chest, his hands wound tightly around his back as if he was afraid the brunet would just up and go if he doesn't hold him tight; while Eren took to idly playing with raven strands, humming all the while.

They have wordlessly agreed to deal with the cake (or any other food) at a later time since there's a high chance Sasha would take over. Levi still hadn't made his apologies to her yet and though he already planned to, he still wants to savor the return of his brat.

"Mreow ~"

Levi groaned as he buried his face onto the brunet's chest, while said brunet's face lit up at the additional company.

"Hey there, Latte." Eren cooed as he fished up the kitten with his free hand. "You do know no pets are allowed in the dorms, right?" He asked as he raised the kitten above.

The raven just grunted an affirmation, not budging from his position.

"That means you'll be staying here with daddy, aren't you, Latte?" He continued cooing as he lowered the kitten a little to spread kisses on its head.

"What did you just say?" Levi finally raised his head to look at the younger.

"What? You're practically her daddy since you took her in. And I'll be her dada, isn't that right?" He answered, making smooching noises afterwards.

"Meow ~"

"See? She agrees."

"I'm not that little shit's father." The raven stated, burying his face again.

"Why're you so crabby towards her?"

Levi lifted his arms and tugged his sleeves a little to reveal the scratch marks he gained from taking care of the critter. Some looked newer than the others.

"Latte... did you do that to daddy?" Eren asked as he set the kitten on the raven's back to take a better look on those wrists.

"Not only is it damn difficult to get that shit to bath, she also prefers to put things on the floor, and she's annoying as fuck when she wants to be fed." He grumbled.

The younger observed the kitten perched comfortably on his boyfriend's back, staring at him with emerald eyes before grooming up her golden fur. And he couldn't help wondering how something as adorable and sweet as Latte could even be remotely close to being obstreperous.

Or perhaps it was exactly that Latte was adorable and sweet that his grumpy boyfriend was willing to suck it up. Perhaps underneath all that cranky exterior was a big softy who was a sucker for particularly cute things.

"You two are going to get along so well." The brunet couldn't help laughing.

"Meow ~"

"No shit." The raven said at the same time.

Eren just looked at both of his "kittens" fondly and stroked both heads with much adoration. Levi could pretend he hated the kitten down to his core, but he knew he would endure the scratches if it meant he could cuddle up with the "little shit" away from prying eyes. He also wouldn't be surprised if he goes all mother hen on her.

And he knew this because if anything, he was also Levi's little shit.

 


 

The next day, as expected, Sasha came forward the moment the cake box was opened. Taking the opportunity, Levi decided he should start making amends with her as well. However, instead of doing it verbally and directly as he did with everyone, he opted for another approach instead.

"There's a little festival happening in the city at this time of year." He began, perking up the brunet's full attention effortlessly. "I'm guessing you'd want to go have a look?"

It took a few seconds for Sasha to digest the fact that the raven was actually asking her out to a crowded area. Levi Ackerman who was Mr. No-but-go-ahead-and-drag-me-along-anyway-I'll-just-bitch-the-entire-time was actually initiating the invitation to go to a Christmas festival.

This incredulity was written all over her face that the raven could practically see it more than just sense it.

"If you don't want to, then---"

"I'm gonna go change!" Sasha hastily interjected and ran off into the bedroom before the raven could back out from the miracle.

 

"Leeeviii ~" The brunette sang as she bounded her way towards the raven.
The way she did it kind of gave Levi a glimpse of another brunette going by the name of "Shitty Glasses".

"I got you one." She handed him a huge, blue cotton candy.

"You didn't have to." Levi responded dryly.

It came as no surprise when Sasha immediately declared they'd have to try out every food stall in the area the moment they stepped foot in the festival grounds. The raven sucked up any sort of complaint as he got dragged around from stall after stall with the brunette trying to shove a portion of every food into his mouth despite his refusals.

As much as Levi hated below zero temperatures, the clusterfuck of people kind of helped in the heating department. Not that the raven would willingly snuggle up to the free heating like a newly hatched chick. If Eren wasn't available, he would rather let his cup of tea do that job for him had he been given the option.

"If this is how you're going to say sorry, I wouldn't mind pretending to be upset from time to time." Sasha blurted out of the blue.

"Never tell your victims your plans of defrauding them." The raven responded mechanically.

"Oh, right. Pretend you haven't heard anything then." Sasha laughed, locking an arm with the older as they explored the area together.

They happened to spot some sort of shooting game similar to the ones that are common in fairs. Their targets are in the form of reindeers though, and Christmas trees, elves, Santa Claus, and the usual holiday tropes, and Levi didn't really know what to make of the irony of it.

Of course, Sasha being confident in her skills challenged the raven on who could score the most points, which Levi nonchalantly accepted. At least the brat could take a break from keeping her mouth stuffed.

Soon enough, the raven realized he actually had to keep up with the younger. Although he may seem indifferent on the outside, on the inside, he was actually a bit agitated (and impressed) by the brunette's accuracy.

Even though none of them had missed yet, Sasha was ramping up her scores by choosing to target the candy canes, which are the most difficult ones in the game. As much as Levi wanted to one-up her on that department, he couldn't deny that the time it takes him to shoot down one cane, the younger can do it twice or thrice over. And there were times he felt his shots just got lucky.

"I'm gonna have to kick you out now. If you keep this up, I'll run out of business." The guy manning the game finally complained.

Though they deserve much more for their prizes, Sasha simply picked the oversized ice cream cone plush, while Levi opted for a variety of small plushies and toys, specially picking a stuffed fish.

"Are you gonna start building your altar of Eren with all that?" Sasha teased as they walked away with the raven carrying a bag full of toys.

"Maybe." Levi answered, shifting the bag on one arm. "Not for Eren, though."

"Then who are those for?" She asked, confused.

She had noticed how Levi had favored picking the stuffed fish and she thought it was because of how Eren loved the ocean. Sure, plush toys aren't exactly Eren's forte, but he had treasured the stuffed owl the raven had given him before.

"Latte." Levi responded simply.

"Oh."

Right. Of course. It's not like he ever said he wasn't "that little shit's" father or anything.

After getting kicked out of the game, Sasha went back to her previous task of trying out every food available, and she was determined to get it done before the raven could even think to ask of going back already, which she figured wouldn't be long now. What with how much she had consumed already.

Despite Levi's best efforts to keep watch, the brunette kept slipping out of his sights from time to time, only to return a moment later with another thing to munch on in her hands. He knew she was using the crowd to her advantage, but it's not like he could just glare everyone out of existence, as much as he wanted to.

And right now, she had managed to slip out again, and he was back to blindly steering his way through the maze of people. Any asshole who dares to point out how his height was only making it more difficult for him, he will kick their balls to their throat.

But if anything, only Eren would be stupid enough to do that. Stupid, as well as brilliant, since he fully knew the raven wouldn't lay a finger on him, and he could use that to his full advantage.

And perhaps Jean – whose only saving grace is that he's in the same body as the brunet's.

Levi perked up when he finally saw the nest of chocolate hair – which had clearly neglected multiple appointments to the barber – waiting in front of what he noted as a delicacy stand.

"Oh, Levi, hey." Sasha started when the raven stepped in beside her. "Sorry, I meant to come back sooner."

"Sure you were." He stated flatly.

"A friend of yours?" Somebody spoke up from the brunet's side.

The raven turned his head to look at two girls grinning widely at him then giggling to themselves the moment they got his attention.

"This is Levi, my boyfriend." The brunet introduced, throwing an arm over his shoulder and nuzzling the side of the shorter's head as if to emphasize that fact.

It shouldn't have, but Levi was surprised by this. He wouldn't have minded it much if he was introduced as being a mere friend since technically, it was true – considering it was Sasha speaking.

"Ohhh." They both droned on unanimously, eyebrows shot up to their hairlines, surprise evident on their portraits.

And before he could think that was enough, the brunette just had to push it further.

"This is actually really good." She remarked after taking a small bite out of the Christmas cookies she just received from the lady selling it. "Here, try it." She offered the same piece to the raven, whose hands were currently full with the bag of plushies and Sasha's own giant ice cream.

Levi went along with it, though not without shooting her a meaningful look.

Said look must have been misread by the other girls as they promptly huddled close to each other, a hand over their mouths.

"Good, right?" She grinned brightly, to which, the raven just hummed an affirmation, not once breaking eye contact.

He had to give it to her, she really was exceptionally good at acting like Eren. Levi had deduced that the reason she was keeping up the act was because these people might have known the brunet. To a certain extent, that is. Had Levi been as clueless as those two, he would most probably have fallen for it as well.

Which got him thinking... way before he actually knew about Eren's condition, just how often had he actually interacted with Sasha instead of Eren?

"That is so sweet." One of the girls complemented, diverting the raven's attention once again.

"I never would've thought either of you weren't straight." The other one admitted. "Not that it's a bad thing." She hastily added.

"A lot of things aren't the way they seem." Levi commented offhandedly. "And keeping an open mind is the key to seeing beyond the tricks of appearances." He added cryptically.

What the raven was hinting at was the fact that majority of the people only settle with things they could easily understand. When faced with something that's as complex as Eren's condition, most would straight off claim it to be a lie or just resort to ridiculing it until it becomes a stigma of society.

Actually, the sentiment goes to mental health in general. Unlike physical injuries, it's something that doesn't just manifest to cater to the naked eye. Therefore, despite it being frankly important, it's reduced to nothing more than dramatics to the stable-minded majority.

"It's all in the mind," they always say.

That's exactly why it's a big problem.

If Eren didn't make his condition known to these people, then that could only mean he doesn't fully trust them. And Levi doesn't blame him for having such issues. The brunet losing people he thought were "friends" is a testament to the matter addressed beforehand.

"Why'd you have to do that?" Levi couldn't resist asking the moment the brief interaction was over.

"Well, we both know that's what Eren would most likely do." She answered simply.

"Does it bother you?"

"What does?"

"Having to pretend to be Eren around other people?"

Levi didn't know why he was asking this now after all those moments he knew the alter had to take the place of their host. Perhaps seeing Sasha acting like Eren in front of people they knew had been the point of realization. They'd always been with the squad or mingling with complete strangers, after all.

"Not really, I guess." She answered after giving it some thought. "I mean, from the beginning, I've always taken it in stride, and I'd rather not dwell too much about it. This is our reality and no amount of thinking could change that."

"I think five bags of cookies wouldn't change the reality of me taking four of those out of your hands before you inhale them in one go." The raven responded, eyeing the said items on the younger's clutches.

Her face instantly lit up in alarm, and she was away from the raven's reach in a split-second.

"Look, your hands are full. So how about you leave the food-carrying to me?"

Levi gave her an unimpressed look, his mind auto-correcting "food-carrying" to "food-inhaling".

"My hands are full." He repeated flatly. "So if anything happens, you'll be dragging your own ass back or I'll be feeding this big-ass pillow to you." He shook her ice cream plush as means of accentuation.

"Aye, aye, captain!" Sasha saluted with much enthusiasm, confident she'll be able to handle it.

Unless Eren (or one of the others) comes out.

 


 

"You're working on the holidays?" The brunet asked when he entered the room to the sight of the raven in front of his laptop and a few documents at hand.

"Just skimming through some stuffs." Levi shrugged as he took off his glasses and set the papers on the table.

"I thought you were gonna take a look at that giant Christmas tree or whatever tonight?" He asked as he sauntered towards the raven and casually picked up his glasses to give it a try. "Huh. Not bad." He mused.

Apparently, it was Jean who was currently out. Not that Levi couldn't tell ahead.

"It's Eren who wanted to go, and he's not exactly here right now. So I thought we could just postpone it." The raven reasoned. "Unless you're fine with going in his place." He suggested.

Jean took a moment to consider it, ultimately deciding to take the raven on his offer.

"Why not? There's nothing better to do anyways." He shrugged.

 

Fast forward to roughly an hour later and two pairs of ocean and silver eyes could be seen gawking at the colossal tree.

"They really weren't fucking around when they said it was enormous." Jean remarked.
Levi couldn't even spare a response, too busy staring at the big-ass decorated tree.

"Not everything that's huge is a Titan, you dumbass." The other suddenly muttered out under his breath, successfully catching the raven's attention.

"What?"

"It's Eren." He explained shortly.

"So, you mean Titans are this huge?"

"Oh, yeah. Some are even bigger." He shrugged.

"And you deal with those daily?" The raven couldn't even hide the hint of being dumbfounded in his tone.

"Not daily. Only when we go on expeditions. Which could be once every few months or so. Though we've been going out more frequently since that issue with Ymir."
It took a moment before Jean finally noticed the look on the raven's face.

"Look, don't fret too much about it. It's really complicated to explain, but inner worlds – especially our inner world story – don't necessarily make sense. We may be tough soldiers who fight giant, man-eating monsters on our spare time, but do you see us even remotely acting as such?"

"Yeah, but what about dealing with the... losses?" He asked delicately.

Jean sucked the side of his bottom lip as he mulled over his explanation.

"How do I say this? It's... complicated. Yes, there are gruesome deaths of people we consider our comrades. But... most of the times the visuals are quite hazy. We just know they're... gone, but it's like we're only given a picture of how it happened, but we didn't really see it for ourselves. Even though it supposedly happened in front of our eyes. It doesn't make sense, I know.

And how we feel about it... it's like when you're watching a movie or reading a book. It doesn't quite feel... as intense or as genuine as it may be in... well, the 'outside world', maybe. Though, that's probably for the better. And it's quite a relief Eren doesn't appear to remember that part of the story. It would've been a pain in the ass if we had to cover his eyes and ears on top of keeping that idiot safe."

Levi was silent. What could he possibly say to that? Even his brain was still trying to comprehend the information he just received.

However, the raven didn't fail to notice the sincerity in his words when he said how it was a relief that Eren was safe from dealing with the (even more) grotesque details of their already bizarre world. As evident as it was that Jean tends to be an ass to Eren (and presumably just everyone in general), it could also be argued that he still has the brunet's best interests in mind.

Because at the end of the day, he is still one of the system's protectors.

"Eren? Hey! Didn't expect I'd bump into you here."

"Shit." Jean hissed as a guy with mahogany hair slowly approached them. "Hey, Floch. I could say the same thing, really."

Levi couldn't help arching a brow at the sudden shift of demeanor the younger had taken.

"I thought you were going to be at your hometown for the holidays?" Floch asked with furrowed brows.

Though with the raven's keen sense of observations, he could detect a hint of being uplifted by the matter. Huh.

"Yeah, well... change of plans. Turns out, I couldn't stay away from my kitten, after all." Jean shrugged before pulling the shorter close by the waist. "This is Levi. Levi, this is Floch. We're in a few classes together."

The use of the pet name grated at Levi's nerves. But instead of succumbing to the itch of pummeling his knee straight to his gut, Levi willed his attention to focus on the alter's act.

The arm wrapped around his waist was fucking tense. The body flushed beside him was fucking stiff. The smile he was donning on was fucking strained.

And though none of these may appear obvious to their guest, the raven could see it plain as day.

"Oh..."

If there was anything that's obvious, it was the borderline shock and quite subtle demoralization present from that word alone.

"So you're that guy Eren kept mentioning about." Floch hastily bounced back to his cheery tone. "Are you two dating?"

'Are you fucking stupid?' was the raven's immediate thought. It was a miracle that only a raised brow was the response he had made to the posted question.

"We are." Jean confirmed. "Have been for quite a while now." He leaned his head sidewards until it touched the raven's own.

"Oh, I see..." Floch trailed off as he appeared to have regarded them both, especially Levi, more carefully. "That's great. I mean... that's awesome. I guess I should uhh... leave you two to continue on your date or something." He continued awkwardly.

"Right." Levi responded flatly, keeping his eyes trained on the other.

"Well then... Happy holidays to the both of you." The other guy greeted with a friendly enough smile. "Eren, I'll see you around campus soon, yeah?" He enveloped the brunet in a one-arm bro hug.

"Yeah, sure." Jean responded, giving a few pats on the other's back.

"Come on, Eren. I thought you wanted to grab a mug of hot chocolate?" The raven interrupted as he turned around to leave. Obviously not liking the physical contact, no matter how "platonic" it may seem.

Or more accurately, he didn't like seeing his brat touching this particular person.

"Fuck, yes!" Jean exclaimed. Whether that was for the prospect of the hot beverage or having been given the window of opportunity to escape from the situation, he couldn't tell for sure.

After a moment of bidding each other farewell again, they finally separated ways. Levi couldn't resist the urge to look back over his shoulder only to see Floch still looking at them. Smirking, he made a show of casually grabbing the brunet's ass as they walked away, reveling in the frown that took over the guy's features before directing his sights forward again.

"Hey, I know it's still the holidays, but that doesn't mean it's still your birthday, you know." Jean spoke up after he was sure that they were at a safe distance, while tearing the raven's hand groping his ass at the same time.

Levi just hummed, not really sorry for the bout of possessiveness he just displayed.

"How'd you know about that, by the way?" He asked. "My birthday. I never told you about it." He clarified when the brunet shot him a confused look.

Eren had mentioned his birthday to be on the 30th of March. At that time, they weren't really together yet, and he had always kept his mouth shut whenever the brat would ask him of his own. The brunet had also mentioned it was Jean who told him of the occasion when the raven asked him about it after they made-up.

"Well, if you remember when I took a look at your application documents last summer, then you'll get your answer."

They entered a quaint looking cafe that was housing the least customers at the meantime. Jean opted ordering some kind of Eggnog Latte instead of Eren's preference, while Levi went for mulled wine. It was just their luck that the group of people occupying the table near the corner by the window was just taking their leave when they approached.

They sat across each other in relative silence, trying to keep themselves occupied by whatever catches their attention. Levi allowed a few more moments of muteness before breaking the ice.

"So who was that guy earlier?" He started.

"Floch Forster. Has the same major. And in case you haven't noticed, has a high possibility that he's taken a fancy to your boyfriend, who's, unfortunately, dense enough not to notice." was Jean's straightforward answer.

"Eren never mentioned anything?" Levi asked as he leisurely took a sip of his own drink.

Internally, he was trying to stomp down the idea of a threat with regards to his boyfriend. He may have a possessive side about him, but he will not let it overcome his rationality. He's a grown-ass man who knows how to adult, goddammit!

Or at least he'd like to think so. ('Coz apparently, he's been failing a lot of times, so far).

"I doubt he hasn't. They talk a lot, since, as I said, we're in the same classes for the most part. I think maybe Eren is even considering telling him about our condition if it keeps up."

"Then why does he seemed surprise with the introduction?"

"Like I said, they talk a lot. So he may have known about your little hiccup and was hoping Eren would break up with you or something."

'In his fucking dreams.' The raven internally seethed.

After a while, Levi found himself asking the same question he had with Sasha when they were in front of people they recognized. Jean took longer than usual to respond that he began to think he wasn't going to answer at all.

"Honestly... it sucks. Not having your own body, your own life, and having to pretend to be someone else... fucking sucks. I'm not gonna lie, it was difficult for me to come to terms that the reason for my existence is to protect the damn idiot. But it's not like I have a choice on the matter."

"Do you resent him then? Eren, I mean?"

"See, that's the funny thing. He's annoying as fuck, and he drives me nuts more often than necessary. But I don't feel any resentment against him. If anything, we're in the same boat. Him sharing his body with five... six other people must be very burdensome for him. Hell, there was even a time when he told us not to front since he didn't want to share his body with anyone. Admittedly, I was the one who took on the active role of opposing him. I mean, I knew he was terrified when he found out what was wrong with him, but it's also unfair for our part since we also didn't ask to be in the same vessel as him." He sighed.

"I still don't know how the others are so readily accepting of our situation without yearning for something more. I mean, despite seeing the horrible side of life, it must be nice to be able to live it according to how you want it to. It must be nice to choose your own direction, your own partner, how you'd like to look, the stuff. I mean, Eren still doesn't get to decide these stuffs freely and on his own, but it's still his life that we're leading. So his opinion still weighs a lot more than ours, individually speaking. Like when he said he only wants one outside partner for the entire system after meeting you, instead of trying out some sort of polyamorous relationship, well, that's exactly what we're following." Jean continued.

"Do you resent me then?" Levi blurted out. "If I didn't date your host, is there a possibility you'd have picked one yourself?"

Jean lagged for a reply, staring straight into the raven in front of him. His silence was only making Levi brace himself for the worst, and Marco suddenly popped into his mind. He didn't know the details, but from what he could tell, Jean and Marco had been getting along very well before Eren landed the job at the coffee shop.

If Eren hadn't met Levi, and Jean and Marco have made progress with their friendship first, would things have been different by then?

"I don't." Jean finally spoke up. "If anything I should be grateful to you. I could whine all day about how unfair our situation is, but that wouldn't change a damn thing. At the end of the day, we're all struggling with our own issues, and the least we could do is at least make an effort to endure it. Everyone in the system is making an effort to fit in with the society's definition of normalcy. And fair enough, Eren is struggling the most with it. So him being in a relationship with you? I should say it rather helped a lot.

Whether Eren feels at the top of the world or down in the dumps, we're all getting stringed along with him or whatever the situation is. I know shit always happens as much as you don't want it to, but Eren had never been better ever since he's been with you. And not that I'm appealing to your conscience, but it would be appreciated if you could keep it up."

None of them broke eye contact the whole time, the sincerity in his words conveyed not through his tone but through his eyes.

Levi could admit he's impressed at Jean for accepting his role and actually making an effort to be good at it even though it's a hard pill for him to swallow. He would never truly know what it's like to be in their position, but at the very least he could sympathize with the thought of being helpless in the situation they were burdened with.

They went back to their own drinks afterwards, both not really knowing how to proceed with the topic. Perhaps how they ended it was already good enough.

It was only then that Levi realized he's mostly ever had decent conversations with Jean when they were talking about something serious or somewhere along that range. Hell, he could even have banters with Annie, as ironic as that sounds.

Though maybe that's because their conversations are usually initiated by the raven's inquiries.

Perhaps he could change that.

"So, did you like it?" He asked offhandedly.

"Liked what?" Jean frowned in confusion.

"You know... when I grabbed your ass earlier." The raven smirked.

The different emotions that flashed through the younger's features before it settled into a pokerface was almost comical.

"Fuck off. You're the one who enjoyed it." Jean shot back.

"Well, with Eren's round globes, it's impossible not to." He shrugged. "Although, he gets easily flustered when we're out in public. Maybe we should go out more often, you and me."

And there it was... the classic Jean I'm-so-fucking-done-with-this-shit look.

Chapter Text

As someone who never really got into the bandwagon of holiday cheer, it was usual for a certain raven to get annoyed when that particular time of the year draws near.

Yet as someone who has spent every moment of it with Eren Jaeger and co., it was unusual for the same raven to get even more annoyed when that particular time of the year had to come to an end.

As Eren went back to the blissful corridors of Trost University, Levi was also back in the paradisiacal offices of Survey Corps.

If only that wasn't a sarcasm.

Don't get him wrong, Levi doesn't really hate his job. But at the same time, he does hate it as well. As proud as he is for landing a position in the company of his choice, he really doesn't know how it's even possible to sugar-coat the stress that comes with dealing with spreadsheet after spreadsheet and document after document.

And as was mentioned beforehand, Levi spending every moment with the brunet as means of making amends had him currently chasing after the projects he should've gotten done sometime within the span of no-work days.

"Hey, don't stress yourself too much about it. We still have some time before deadline." Nanaba, one of the few co-workers the raven actually tolerates, reminded.

As much as what she said was true, and as much as Levi had told Eren he'd get his tendency to overwork in check, trying to recover from habits that have practically become imprinted in one's lifestyle is a gradual progress. Something he's, evidently, still struggling with.

Taking off his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose, Levi allowed himself a few moments of rest. It's not anything major, but taking breaks every now and then is at least a start for him to actually begin his journey to "not-overwork."

"Excuse me, sir. Mr. Smith has asked me to call you into his office." One of the janitorial staff informed him politely.

Looking around, it was only then that the raven realized he was the only one left in the office.

'So much for making progress.' He sighed.

Working on autopilot, Levi made his way towards his boss' office. His mind was still occupied with remnants of the data from the files he had been working on to think about what the blond commander could possibly want with him at this time of the night.

"You called?" was how he greeted his boss the moment he stepped foot into his office.

"Take a seat, Levi." Erwin instructed, to which, the raven wordlessly complied. "How was your holidays?" He asked with a charming smile.

Levi cocked a brow at the question. Why was he even asking that for? He may not have anything done during the break, but as Nanaba said, there was still time before deadline.

"Fine." He answered briefly. Obviously a major understatement.

"Just fine?" Erwin probed further.

"Why're you asking?" He decided to ask. No matter how much he tries, he could never really figure out what Commander Bushy Brows is constantly scheming.

"I'm just wondering why you're back to working overtime. I thought you would've learned your lesson last time."

"What the f--- do you mean?" He managed to hold his tongue at the last second, but apparently not his scowl.

"I'm guessing you had a little domestic with your boyfriend?"

"And how the hell would you even know that?"

As much as Levi strives to be more respectful in his interactions with his own boss, the fact that the blond always seem to know what he was doing sets his nerves on edge and renders him a little paranoid the more it keeps up.

"Well, by the way he looked at me the first two times we've seen each other, I've already had an inkling."

Levi didn't respond. Though he also wasn't entirely convinced Eyebrows deduced that from both of those very brief moments he had with the brunet alone.

"How is he?"

"Stay away from him, Eyebrows." Levi found himself saying before he could even think about it. "I still don't know how you do it or how much you're capable of, but I will not let Eren get dragged into this." He stated firmly.

"You 'researching' my background and having me 'investigated' may have been necessary. Call me paranoid, but I still think you have me bugged that's why you seem to know everything that I do. And yeah, I let it slide because for all I know, you still suspect me with my connection with Kenny after all these years. Fuck, you might even have accepted me into this company so you could keep a close watch on me.

But I will not let you do the same to Eren. Just because he's with me, doesn't mean he knows a damn thing. He's even more innocent than I am and you have no right to pry into what happened and what goes on with his life. If I ever found out you had dragged him into whatever game it is you're playing, I will make sure you'll regret it."

A beat of silence followed. In Levi's defense, it was the first time Erwin ever brought Eren into their conversation. The raven always made sure to keep their interactions professional and mainly focusing about their work. And if anything, Erwin didn't really have a good enough reason to suddenly ask about Eren's well-being as how he sees it. What more, in Levi's perspective, the blond's questions always seem to have some hidden motive behind them.

Heaven forbid, the blond actually manages to pry into the brunet's history, discovering things Mikasa doesn't even want to speak of. It's not a deal about Erwin knowing about Eren's past before Levi could (if Levi could). It's about respecting boundaries. And as much as they were talking about Eren, Levi was actually making a stand for Mikasa in this matter.

If Erwin was surprised by the raven's sudden outburst, he didn't show it. If he was affected by his words and the glare directed at him, it didn't seem like it. If anything, he actually had the gall to chuckle lowly at the raven's little (threat) speech.

"I take it he's alright then?" Erwin responded, still donning on that fucking smile.

"Why the fuck are you even asking about him?"

"Take it easy, I'm just doing it for Hanji. She said you haven't been answering her calls, so she asked me to check on Eren in her place."

All the tension seemed to have evaporated from the raven's system at that instant, and left him feeling quite stupid for his outburst. It was true that Hanji had kept calling for more times than he even bothered to count during the break that he had to temporarily block her number.

It would've been fine if she called just to check up on the brunet, but the first few instances Levi actually answered had left them derailing into topics that are, more often than not, hardly connected with his jellybean.

The last straw that promptly made the raven block her number was when she suddenly asked if either of them had "put it in the other" while he was laying in bed... with Annie... who not-so-subtly shifted away from him – muttering out a, "I could only watch, not engage" – after Levi told the lunatic it was none of her fucking business.

"Another thing I called you in here for is with regards to your work performance." Erwin spoke up again, snapping the raven's attention back fully. "Before, you told me you haven't earned any sort of special treatment yet. However, I'm afraid I may have to temporarily prohibit you from working overtimes."

Levi visibly frowned at this, but Erwin didn't give him a chance to object.

"You've already proven yourself during our planned partnership with the Garrison that had turned out to be a success. Everyone could see just how much you've committed to do your job well despite the... well, problems with communications. I also wouldn't want people to think this company encourages, or worse, forces its employees to work to the point of exhaustion. So, just take it easy at the moment. You've earned it."

"Why just me? Why can't you ban the others as well?" The raven argued.

"Have you seen anyone else in the office before you came here?" Erwin countered. "Aside from the janitorial staff, of course."

Levi frowned even more, if it was even possible.

"Fine. You're the boss. I bet that brat would offer you songs of praises for what you just did." He grumbled.

"This is just out of curiosity, and I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but..." Erwin started delicately. "What is it like to be in a relationship with someone... like Eren?"

"I'm pretty sure you could be more specific than that, Eyewin." Levi arched a brow, knowing that even if he did utter a lengthy discussion to that question (not that he could), it wouldn't really address what the blond wanted to hear.

"Your directness reminds me of Mike. I guess that's one of the reasons why he's taken a liking to you." The blond remarked with a light chuckle before taking on a tad more serious vibe. "I'm just wondering if you've ever thought that... you have the short end of the stick in your relationship."

Another beat of silence draped over them.

"I seriously hope you didn't just say that for a fucking pun. But that thought never even crossed my mind once." Levi finally responded after a while. "Technically, I'm dating one person. But I've got six... maybe seven people taking care of me in return. Looking at it that way, I should say I've pretty much hit the jackpot."

"I guess that's a better way to look at it." Erwin agreed with a smile.

Levi regarded him for a moment, trying to figure out if there was anything to be read between the lines of that simple response.

"If you think Eren is the reason why I keep pushing myself to work double-time, then you couldn't be more wrong. Just because Eren is... different, doesn't mean he's an invalid who is unable to do the things anyone could do. Eren is not entirely dependent on me, and I'm not entirely independent of him. Yes, he may be the type to need extra attention, but that's only because he's a clingy little shit."

It was Erwin's turn to eye the raven after that. It would really seem like Hanji wasn't exaggerating when she said the guy could be quite protective. He hasn't even said much but Levi was already tucking the brunet ten feet away from him, emanating an aura of threat at the same time.

No wonder Hanji compared him to a mother cat hissing to protect her kittens from potential threats. Erwin could pretty much vouch for that analogy now.

And he couldn't help wondering if it's just something inherent in his personality, or if it's because the raven had failed to protect someone in the past.

"I see." The blond put on that fucking smile again. "I guess things are going very well between you two. I'm sure Hanji would love to know about that."

"If you could convince her not to blow up my phone every now and then, that would be much appreciated." The raven deadpanned.

"If it's Hanji we're talking about, then I can't make any promises."

"Tch."

If Commander Eyebrows can't put a leash on Shitty Glasses, then the probability that someone could is next to nothing.

"Anyway Levi, it's late. So I expect you to go home directly after leaving this office."

"You don't have to tell me twice." Levi responded as he stood up and took his leave.

A few moments after the door clicked shut, Erwin leaned back in his chair and idly twisted it from side to side.

"That should be enough of an answer, right Hanji?" He spoke in the air.

"I told you I heard wedding bells, Erwin! I'll bet you my entire tarantula collection they'll end up getting married to each other." Hanji squealed on the loudspeaker connected to Erwin's phone.

Apparently, Hanji had been listening the whole time the two guys talked. Actually, she was already on the phone even before the raven entered the office.

"I'm afraid I don't have anything worthy to place against what you just put at stake, Hanji."

Said brunette just cackled at the humor. Her voice could be heard loud enough that it was almost like they were speaking across from each other instead of on the line.

"Who knew both our babies would end up together? I'm telling you, this has to be fate, Erwin. My sweet little sunshine with your grumpy little kitten is a perfect match!"

"If you say so, Hanji." Erwin replied without missing a beat.

He was far too used with Hanji's terminologies and whatnot. Being friends with her for years had already made him immune to her eccentricities.

"Erwin, your suspicions of Levi had to be cleared by now, right?" Hanji diverted the conversation into a more serious note. "I'm pretty sure you intercepting the files of Levi being Kenny's successor before the authorities could catch a glance at them, had to be a good call on your part. Otherwise, the poor guy must be rotting in a cell by now for something he shouldn't really be involved in. Does he already know about this, by the way? I mean you have to at least explain why you had 'lookouts' watching his every move, don't you?"

"He's a lot more perceptive than I gave him credit for." Erwin admitted. "Though believing I actually had a tracker planted in him is a bit too far. He even thought the reason I accepted him in the company was so I could keep a close eye on him."

"Is it?" Hanji asked seriously.

"I've already called off the surveillance even before the moment he stepped foot in this building. Actually, I already knew he was never going to follow after Kenny's shadow, but I had to have evidence to silence that part of me that had doubts when I covered up for him all those years ago for close to no reason at all. I have no grudge against him. He was in no way responsible for what happened to my father. If anything, he's actually showing a lot of potential for being an asset in this company."

"So you haven't told him anything, have you? Are you actually enjoying making him borderline paranoid with the thought that you know every second of every activity he does?"

"I'm not that cruel, Hanji." The blond chucked.

"Uh-huh. That's what Mike said when I asked about your bedroom activities. But we both know what caused the limping, don't we?"

If there was anyone that could render Erwin Smith speechless, it was Hanji Zoe.

"Anyways," The brunette continued when she knew she wasn't receiving any response. "Are you actually taking him under your wing now?"

"I've already had, Hanji. But it's up to him to figure out if the coincidences that had been happening to him were really just mere coincidences."

Pixis actually gave Levi a special offer (without his knowledge) just to ensure he would accept a tenancy in his apartment. Mike actually had transferred to Trost University not long after it was found out Levi had filed his college application there. And Erwin, himself, appealed for a branch extension in Trost after learning the raven took up business for his program.

As much as Erwin "monitored" Levi's actions, he had also been discreetly helping him along the way. Hanji had been doing the same to Eren (albeit, in a completely different way), which is why she had referred to both of them as their "babies".

They kept chatting for a while longer, jumping from one topic to another, and mostly initiated by the brunette (which is hardly surprising).

 

Little did they know a wide-eyed raven had been standing right outside the door the entire time.

Chapter Text

"Oh, hey Floch." Eren greeted as he sat down beside the other, who took his seat by the window again.

"Hey, Eren." Floch greeted back warmly as he abandoned idly doodling on his notebook in favor of giving his attention to the brunet.

The brunet had been mildly pissed the first time Floch had taken his seat, which gradually grew when it kept happening for multiple instances. But after the case with Ymir, especially after knowing about her triggers, he figured he should actually thank the guy for preventing switches he didn't even have any knowledge about.

So he tried getting friendly with him as means of compensation for his prior thoughts about him. Of course, Reiner helped him in this matter, but it didn't take long for Eren, himself, to realize they actually get along really well.

Floch had been nothing but pleasant with him. Granted he may not have the slightest clue about Eren's condition, but he has been consistently patient and nice when Eren would space out for most of the time when they're conversing. Or even when Mikasa would (subtly) ignore him when she's out.

However, as Jean said, Eren could be dense. Little did he know Floch already had his eye on him even before he approached him. It was the reason why he took his seat in the first place. It was in hopes that the brunet would be the first one to initiate to talk to him. Even if it was under the reason that he wanted his seat back and just shoo him away, at least Floch could put on an act of being apologetic and clueless and hopefully worm his way to a friendship with the bright-eyed brunet.

So when Eren was actually the one who started getting friendly with him, it just made it easier for him. He still tried to steal the brunet's seat just to see how far he can push himself, but was quite surprised when the other hadn't mind it that much.

Or maybe he has, since there are times when he'd catch him narrowing his eyes on him before taking the seat beside him. Sometimes, he'd pick one farther.

However, Floch's hopes came to a screeching halt when he stalked the brunet on his social media accounts. He had heard Levi's name being mentioned rather fondly by said brunet from time to time but had always shrugged it off as something he does when talking about his closest friends.

The pictures don't seem to agree to that though.

Sure there was nothing explicit that makes their relationship blatantly obvious... aside from that one picture where Eren was kissing the raven's cheek on what could only be his graduation day, a close-up shot of the raven asleep on his chest, and the multiple pictures he had uploaded of said raven which seemed to have been taken without the other's awareness.

Nothing blatantly obvious, indeed.

"How was your holidays?" Eren asked.

"It was fine. Spent it with the family as usual. Not as awesome as yours, I presume?" Floch responded with a hint of teasing at the last sentence.

"Oh? What's that supposed to mean?" The brunet shot back playfully.

"Well, last time I saw you, you were pretty cozy with... Levi, right?"

Eren was genuinely confused for a moment. He could vaguely remember the two meeting like it was merely a dream he once had (since it was thanks to his influence Jean was able to pull through with his act without much problems). But he wasn't really co-conscious back then, and thus, can't remember the details of that moment.

"Oh, right." Eren responded rather hesitantly, letting out a rather confused laugh.

Of course this didn't escape Floch. Though he may have taken it another way.

"You two are okay now, right? I mean, no offense, but he did seem a little... intense... to say the least." He donned on a look of concern.

As Jean had suspected, Floch did have hopes that Eren and Levi's relationship would take a turn for the worst. As soon as Eren mentioned he had some problems with the raven, Floch instantly jumped into the opportunity of being the "shoulder to cry on". Not that Eren ever cried in front of him, but he did have moments of slightly suppressed ranting.

His actions were all done in careful subtlety. Pair with Eren's regular tendency to be oblivious, and his intentions went unnoticed – both to his advantage and disadvantage.

"Yeah, we're fine. We're great!" Eren immediately defended. "I know I've whined a lot about him, but he's already made it up to us. I mean me. Not... us." He awkwardly gestured to the both of them as a way to bypass the slip-up.

"You sure?" Floch asked skeptically.

"Definitely. I've actually gotten a lot more out of him during the holidays. He hates the cold, but he sucked it up when I dragged him to different places. He even spoiled us--- me with things he wouldn't have normally done. He even got me a cat for Christmas! Well, kitten, to be specific. Her name's Latte, a name given to her by none other than her Daddy. And... yeah. Overall, we're great. Sorry, I rambled." He scratched the back of his head.

"You know you don't have to apologize about that. I rather like it when you do that. Makes your whole face light up, and it's quite a nice view. Well, compared to when you're miserable, that is." He covered-up smoothly. "And it's good that you're... doing well. But if anything, just know I'll always be here. I mean, I don't know... he's been looking at me strangely the whole time, so I honestly can't really tell how... well you two are doing."

"Oh, don't worry. He looks intimidating, but he's actually quite nice. I mean, yeah, he could be grumpy like... all the time, but deep down, he's an amazing person." Eren stated with much fondness filling his tone and a dreamy look in his eyes.

"If you say so." As much as he couldn't see what was so great with the raven – he was hella short, has a stone face, and might he dare say not even that good-looking – it was the only reply Floch could offer.

Bottomline, it would seem like he was more on a disadvantage in this situation. A hopeless disadvantage to be more specific.

 


 

When Eren barged in the apartment that night to a soulless, dim room, he already had a feeling Levi was slipping from his word to keep a steady pace. He tried to wait a while longer to see if the raven was just running a little late, or had stopped by to make purchases or something. But when an hour passed and he still hasn't arrived, Eren just couldn't sit still and decided he'd try surprising him at work again.

With spring making its way to the city, the brunet didn't wrap up as much as he really didn't get easily cold like his boyfriend did. Less clothing also means easier movement. And if the raven would fuss over him with his choice of apparel, then it's still a win for him.

Everytime Eren would smile dopily at him as he chides him over the little things, Levi would instantly stop talking in favor of looking at him blankly. Well, "blankly" if not for the unspoken words of "Are you fucking stupid?" To which, Eren would respond with a surefire "Yes". Yes, he is stupidly in love with this grumpy midget.

One bus ride later, Eren walked the short way towards a corner not too far from the Survey Corps' building where he can get a good view to make sure he wouldn't miss the raven heading out, as well as a good spot for a surprise attack once he heads in the certain direction.

But in all honesty, it's not just that Eren wants to surprise his boyfriend from work that he's made an effort to actually go. It was also that this way, he could see if said boyfriend was still hanging out with his Captain America of a boss.

Sure, Levi had pretty much established that his interactions with Erwin are purely professional, or at most, cordial (or more like borderline cordial, really). However, that doesn't mean the same could be said the other way around, right?

If it so happens that the raven does come out with the blond in tow, Eren would ditch his position to tackle the raven directly and make sure he had the necessary distance away from Blondie.

Because if Levi is the type to be possessive, who says Eren isn't?

He kept himself entertained with his phone, trying to figure out if it would be a good idea to shoot his boyfriend a quick text or something. He could pretend he was upset with him again (though that was partly true) and try to see how much he can extort from him again.

Though on second thought, it was highly likely he wouldn't get any response, or the raven would only notice it by the time he was back at the apartment. Besides, he could show up any moment now, so why bother?

Just as he pocketed his phone and diverted his gaze back to the direction of the building, a group of six guys were heading towards his direction. From the looks of their faces alone, he knew he wouldn't like whatever was going to happen.

"Told you it was a guy." One of them commented offhandedly.

"Damn, you're pretty cute for a boy." Another one responded as he grinned wolfishly on the brunet.

"Yeah, in the dark, you could be easily mistaken for a girl, you know?" Yet another one followed, making a move to touch Eren's growing locks that had already covered his nape.

"Fuck off." The brunet shot as he swiftly swiped away the hand before it could make contact with his hair.

"Ooh, a feisty one. This would be fun."

"What're you doing here all alone, cutie?"

"Wanna have some fun with us?"

The very moment a hand landed on his hip, his arm flew out and punched the offender right in the jaw.

"Fuck!" The guy cursed as he flexed his damaged jaw. "Now you're really asking for it." With a jerk of his head, all the other guys went for the brunet.

Eren did his best to protect himself, though with a six-to-one and lack of skill disadvantage, it didn't take long for them to restrain him. Still, his eyes held all of the defiance he felt as he was held back and rendered motionless.

For some reason, he couldn't reach Annie inside. Again. She doesn't feel remotely close either. Although now that he could barely move his limbs, he would also hate it if she were to come out in this situation. There had already been times when Annie had to shoulder the physical pain inflicted on his body just coz she fronted a bit too late, and had to limp her way back home. As much as possible, he would never want her to go through that again.

As clueless as he was on whatever options he has, all he knows is that he's not going down without a fight.

 


 

"Anyway Hanji, I better be off now..."

Levi instantly snapped in attention as he hastily stepped away from the door and spedwalked back into his own office before the blond could even speak another word. Just when he thought he was already spent with all the work he had done, his mind was, apparently, still capable of clocking double-time with what he just discovered. What Erwin Smith had done.

All of a sudden, everything made sense. Eyebrows seemed like he knew everything Levi did, because he knew everything Levi did. Well, almost everything. Or maybe a lot... of everything.

There was no tracker planted in him, but there were lookouts posted fuck-knows-where (perhaps everywhere).

Their first encounter all those years ago flashed into his memory. Erwin Smith had been monitoring him. Erwin Smith had researched his background. Erwin Smith had... offered some assistance.

Until all this time, apparently.

He had always kept the blond at arm's length, never knowing just how much he had helped him. He did not just give him his uncle's (alleged) remaining financials. He did not just give him a stable job. He had given him the drive to pick the right choice in the first place.
Because all those years ago, even though it might seem like Erwin was just stating the facts of either choices of taking the card or not, he was actually issuing a challenge. A challenge that Levi took and accomplished.

Though that's not to say the blond had no benefits of some sort from the matter. If anything, it would seem like he had made an investment on the raven, and was now gradually reaping the returns through his services.

Fuck, if that was the case, then it would seem like Commander Bushy Brows is a fitting title to the man's cunningness.

A dangerous man, indeed.

Levi willed his attention to focus on getting out of the building before said commander could catch him lagging behind and inquire him of his reasons. However, he didn't even get particularly far when another thing caught his attention.

And even though the scene playing in front of him was that of the brunet who had his arms held back by one guy each, each leg held by another two, one guy holding his chin up, and the last one making a move to slide his hand under his shirt – all Levi saw was red.

In record time, he was at the scene of the commotion, silently promising each of the fuckheads he'd make them all pay – starting with the one who actually dared to touch his boyfriend.

One quick, hard punch to the side of the head and the fucker was stumbling several steps away, with the others temporarily stunned by his arrival. Even Eren took a few seconds to register the raven had popped out of nowhere to come to his aid.

Or maybe it was more than a few seconds since he was reduced to staring dumbly as said raven took down his offenders one by one. Seeing Levi in that state was more effective than chains in terms of restraints. He had never seen Levi absolutely mad before to the point he'd go berserk on his opponents. Hell, he'd never seen him actually beat someone senseless before. He'd seen him spar with Annie countless times already. But seeing him in actual combat? It was far beyond his imaginations.

There was none of that careful, hesitant move. No holding back. No playing it safe. The rage and strength he displayed were raw that one would have to be more concerned for the handful of offenders than the raven alone.

At the back of his mind, Eren knew he should help. But even outnumbered, the odds seemed to be on the raven's favor. He actually feared he'd just be in his way if he did decide to join in. 'Coz of there was anything that could testify to the phrase "blinded by rage", this would be it.

True to his unspoken promise, Levi knocked down the bastards one by one. When one of them attempted to make an escape, the raven grabbed him by the collar and slammed him back down. He wouldn't stop until they couldn't stand anymore. That's what any fucker gets when they dare to harm his Eren in any way.

He wasn't really proud of his juvenile days. But he couldn't deny being able to do this has to be one of the upsides in the experience he gained. He could understand the no-violence advocacy of the common people. And as much as he wanted to adhere, he's in no way anything remotely close to a saint and would rather play the role of a demon if it meant he could give those people he cared about justice.

Meanwhile, Eren continued to stare at the scene unfolding in front of him in a mixture of awe and concern. It would really seem like the raven's aura of intimidation was not just for show. He really is not someone you'd want to mess with.

But if Levi thinks this is proof of just how horrible of a person he is, Eren sees the opposite.

When Levi says Eren is annoying, that is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The brunet deliberately pushes his buttons over and over again from time to time just to test how far his patience go. And there was never a time when he had laid a finger on him despite his (rather blank) expression screaming just how much he's itching to do so.

He also hasn't seen him lay a hand on anyone until now. Not when he defended him from other people, not when Mikasa purposely misses a spot when she's tasked to clean, not when Annie consciously puts more strength in her blows against him, not when Sasha splurged his money in one day, not when Jean effortlessly pisses him off, not when Reiner unintentionally spills his drink and burns his food, not when the rest of the squad deliberately does all the things he claims to hate.

He doesn't engage in violence with the purpose of hurting. He does it to protect. As much as he tries to do better, words are not his forte, and there are really just times when one person is reduced with less to no options left to consider. He doesn't engage if the cause is to no merit of some sort.

If anything, Levi could be pretty much considered as Eren's outer world protector.

The brunet was snapped in attention when he noticed one of the guys laying on the ground discreetly fishes something out of his pants. His eyes widened when he saw a knife, and he could swear his heart stopped when the guy went charging towards the raven.

"NO!!"

Eren's scream was enough to serve as a warning for Levi as he swerved around just in time to dodge the weapon and disarmed the bastard with practiced ease.

"Never bring a knife to a fistfight." He managed to comment dryly with feigned disappointment before punching the lights out of the offender for good.

When no one had even attempted to get up from their positions on the ground where they belong, it was only then that Levi brought his attention back to the brunet. He thought he'd find the younger still staring dumbly, but was startled when he saw him curled up on himself, his arms clutching the sides of his head desperately.

He slowly approached the brunet with slow, steady steps that were in contrast to his slightly ragged, unsteady breathing. He didn't know if it was still Eren or someone else had unwillingly took the reins.

"Eren... what's wrong?" He started hesitantly, coming to a halt in front of him and slowly kneeling down to his level. "Hey." He placed a delicate hand on his arm.

"No! Stay away from me!" The brunet screamed as he frantically kicked away from the raven, with a look of horror present in his tear-stained eyes.

Levi was suddenly struck with a feeling of dread as the thought that his display of violence was what caused the younger's sudden terror flashed in his mind. He couldn't tell who was currently in front of him, but he knew it couldn't be Eren.

Is it one of the others? Is it someone new?

Fuck if he knows. He barely has any clue how to proceed now when it seemed like the younger was terrified of him.

But when the brunet started hyperventilating, he knew he should at least try something to calm him down.

"Hey, it's okay. I'm not gonna hurt you. I would never hurt you." He started approaching again delicately like someone would to a scared animal.

He knew he was having a panic attack. But for what reason, he couldn't tell. He would've thought the brunet would be able to handle fistfights. It doesn't even seem like he's the type to cower away from it.

"Hey, look at me." He forced the brunet to face him dead in the eye as he gently held the sides of his face to ground him. "That's it. Breathe. Breathe with me. That's it. You're doing good." He started to guide his breathing back to its normal state.

He hadn't dealt with anyone having a panic attack before. But it was thanks to Hanji that he had an idea how to handle it as she had taught him during one of her sessions with Eren where she would have a moment with the raven afterwards.

Eren was a unique case since despite his condition, he actually has less panic attacks than others. His level of anxiety was also relatively low that if he hadn't been aware of his condition, he might've been much more social than he is now.

For once, Levi is actually thankful he had met the bespectacled brunette.

"Th-th-the kn-kni-knife. I-it was hu-hurled at... I saw it." The brunet stuttered out after a while as he began to clutch the raven's arms desperately.

So that's what was wrong.

"Shhhh, it's okay. I'm okay. I'm not hurt. And I'm not going to let you get hurt, too." He stated softly as he enveloped the younger into his arms, who then proceeded to sob earnestly.

Soon enough, the authorities showed up who had been alerted by some bystander who had witnessed the commotion. The poor bastards tried to drag their thoroughly beaten-up bodies as soon as they heard the sirens, but like hell Levi would even consider letting them go.

He held the brunet flush as they were interrogated, not letting go for even a fraction of a second. He even wrapped him in his now torn suit jacket for whatever comfort it could serve. To hell with the fucking cold. He would freeze his balls off if it meant the brunet would feel safe.

Along with the testimonies of a couple of witnesses, all six of the bastards were thrown into jail for good. The brunet didn't even utter a word and was just reduced to giving out nods or shakes of the head as answers. The cop who was assigned for the interrogation seemed to want to probe the brunet further, but the daggers the raven kept glaring his way pushed him to keep it concise.

They caught a cab back to the apartment since Levi refused to be ushered back in a police car. That would only gain them unnecessary attention and how easy it was to misunderstand the situation would only give the gossipers their scoop for the day (or night).

The ride back was filled with silence. The cab driver tried to initiate conversations with either of them but was always answered with silence. So it didn't take long for him to participate with his own awkward silence as well.

"I hope you don't mind me asking." Levi started after he had sat the brunet down. "But who am I speaking with?"

None of Eren's alters had ever displayed something close to what he had just done earlier. Though they get scared at times, it never got to a point of a full-blown panic. And as much as he wanted to believe it was Eren the host who was out, he could just feel it in his gut that it wasn't true.

He had been told that it was possible Eren could still split up more personalities, depending on the situation that happens to him. But Levi would be damned if that was the case since, in his perspective, that could only mean he had fucked-up in his responsibility to protect him.

The brunet took his sweet time answering the simple question. But now that he was calm, Levi could sense he might have an idea already.

"Ymir."

Chapter Text

"Well... I should say this is surprising." Erwin remarked as his colossal eyebrows merged with his hairline.

Who wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Workaholic, a.k.a Levi "What do you mean I can't work 72 hours straight? Fucking watch me" Ackerman – actually asked to take at least a week-long leave of absence.

"I hope this is not under the reason of your temporary prohibition from working overtime." The blond continued.

'Coz what if he asked (forced) the raven to take a vacation and he ended up resigning from his job? Who knows, right?

"Just tell me if you're going to deny my request." Levi shot back with a hint of apprehension. "But if you do accept it, I can assure you I could work at home if it's going to be necessary."

"I understand your reasons, Levi. I'm just surprised, that's all." Erwin replied with a little chuckle. "I never thought you'd take my offer so soon, but I can't say I'm not pleased about it."

The raven kept a thin line on his lips. Somehow, he wonders if Eyewin really was surprised or he was expecting it at some point. Judging from his response, he was. Just not "so soon".

He was still wary of the blond at some level. Even if Erwin had said that he had long called-off the surveillance on him, he still didn't know to what extent he actually knows. He understood why the blond deemed it necessary he be put under surveillance. In fact, he would definitely prefer that over being directly sent behind bars under mere accusations, like how Hanji had implied in their conversation.

He really didn't plan to follow Kenny's footsteps. And he hopes Erwin would be assured of that by now.

And even if all Erwin had done until this point was help him directly and indirectly, Levi could still see his mind waving the red flag from trusting the commander.

Then again, it's not like he had trusted a lot of people growing up. So even if the blond did have good intentions, Levi would still prefer a safe distance away from him, especially knowing what he's capable of.

His mind was torn between adding said blond on his handful of friend list or not (which he mostly acquired through Eren, of course). In the end, he decided he'd put him under the waiting list a.k.a on-probation list instead. Right next to the entry which says "Shitty Glasses".

"You must be the only boss who allows his employees to do monkey business instead of the actual one. But I can't say I'm not pleased about it." Levi shot back after he had sorted his thoughts out.

"Well, for a company that has managed to be successful despite the... interesting choice of employees, I should say they deserve some sort of leeway as long as nothing suffers greatly in the grand scheme of things." Erwin replied smoothly. "And I doubt such words truly exist in your vocabulary. Much less your personality."

There he goes again. Everytime Eyebrows would hint at knowing something about the raven, it just sets his alarms off, even though he really shouldn't be surprised about that anymore. The fact that Erwin could blackmail him anytime was something to dread about, after all. But if that had been truly his intention all along, then the fact that he's helping him wouldn't make sense.

If he remembers (and heard) correctly, Erwin was "taking him under his wing". Whatever the hell that means.

"How's Eren?"

Levi automatically frowned at the question, instinctively getting defensive at the mention of the brunet.

"I'm not trying to pry, but I do know you taking a leave has something to do with him. It should have." The blond defended before the raven's mind could take a turn for the worse case scenarios. "And being friends with Hanji, I could tell the conditions like Eren has isn't easy and is never going to be. Personally, being engaged to Mike isn't all blissful either. He's an amazing man, but like everyone, he does have his lapses as I do mine. So I actually commend you for your commitment to Eren."

Levi lagged for a reply as the sudden turn of the conversation caught him off-guard.

"Why're you suddenly telling me about your personal life?" He couldn't help asking.

Erwin gave a light chuckle before responding. "Because I've noticed how you've been awfully wary of me. I mean, you always were, but it seemed to have increased lately." He reasoned simply. "Have I done something?"

Safe to say, "lately" could be translated to "ever since that phone call incident".

Levi could vaguely tell the blond was making an attempt to make him see that he was just a man and not some sort of transcendental being that watches over his every shift of movement like he was the stock market. He appreciates the gesture, but like his habits, this mindset is going to take a while to change.

"You've done a lot, don't you think?" He retorted flatly.

If Eyebrows is, once again, trying to help him change this particular way of thinking, he could at least make an effort to participate.

 


 

When Levi came home that night, it was to the sight of a sweaty, panting, shirtless brunet standing in his living area with limbs that have been stained with markers of varying colors. Papers and art materials were piled haphazardly in one corner, and Levi could only sigh as his body automatically approached the area first.

"It's good that you haven't broke anything so far, but you really shouldn't be straining yourself in the first place, Annie." He commented casually as he knelt down and picked up one of the papers. He couldn't make out a word with all the scrawls in it.

Annie didn't bother for a reply and just made an opponent out of thin air. Levi divided his attention between the mess on the floor and the brunet punching and kicking imaginary enemies. His apartment isn't that big, but he doesn't have to worry much about anything breaking, not with what few things he bothered to keep.

Most of the papers, he observed, were ripped out from journals, ripped to pieces, or crumpled into a tight ball. It was also difficult to make out anything coherent as all were scratched out and just plain messy.

No doubt Ymir's doing. And no doubt it was exactly what she was currently going through.

However, there was one thing she didn't leave at sixes and sevens, but rather unfinished. It was a painting on canvas of what looked like a night sky full of stars. Levi observed it more carefully for a while longer. The work was clearly amatuer, but was better than what Eren and the rest could probably achieve.

Whatever it meant, it's certainly something that brings tranquility to the fragment, so he decided to take good care of it and put it somewhere that could be easily seen, in case Ymir decides to finish it.

"Any preferences for dinner?" He addressed the brunet once more after he was done organizing the papers and was starting with the other stuffs.

Though again, Annie didn't respond and just carried on with her business. When Levi was done tidying up, he sauntered towards the bedroom to hang his suit jacket and tie, placed the canvas near the glass door to the balcony, and grabbed a towel before wordlessly approaching the younger.

He easily evaded any accidental hits and grabbed hold of Annie's arms to halt her actions and get her full attention.

"Stop." He instructed sternly before releasing and placing the towel he grabbed to dangle on her head.

She complied instantly, not due to the authority in his tone, but because she really did need to stop.

"You must hate me." Annie almost mumbled as her arms now hang limp on her sides and her head drooped low.

"Why would you think that?" He arched a brow.

She didn't respond once again. Didn't even move. Her face obscured with the brunet's long bangs (which could be argued if it still could be considered as bangs) and the towel which remained untouched.

Levi let out another sigh as he grabbed the younger by the wrist and steered her towards the couch.

"Sit." He gestured to the floor between his legs.

Again, Annie complied silently and Levi took to drying off the sweat from the brunet's head and torso himself.

"Listen. Whatever happened is not your fault. Stop beating yourself up over it." He started as he continued with his task. "I know it's your job to protect Eren, and I have no doubt you would have done so if you only knew about it. But you didn't. Not until after it happened. And with regards to the effect it caused, there's no one to blame but those assholes who hopefully rots in jail. Not you, not Eren, not even Ymir, but those fucking assholes." He gritted his teeth at the memory. "And don't worry, I made sure to get in a good kick or two for you. Just like the way you taught me."

Annie's lips curled into a little smile at that which she tried to hide even though the raven couldn't see it.

"Did all of them receive it?" She finally responded.

"Of course. I would've gotten you a knocked-out teeth as a souvenir if that idea isn't downright disgusting." Levi followed-up smoothly. "Now go shower. I'll start with dinner." He gave her head a single pat to signal her to move.

"Thank you." He heard her mumble before she stepped into the direction of the bathroom.

 


 

"Let's see... are you gonna be free next week? I mean, I can't really be sure of that, 'coz I don't really know what's the itinerary for that time. There's a reason why Moblit manages my schedule, after all."

"That must be the wisest I decision you've made so far." The raven deadpanned. "I'm going to be free this entire week. But I could open up my schedule if needed. I just wanna know when's the soonest you'd be able to come here."

Levi was on the phone with Hanji while the brunet – currently Ymir – was holed up in the bedroom for hours now, with earphones blasting some sort of classical music. With her frequently out once again, the system decided it best for them to skip classes in the meantime. Eren was also back to dreading the possibilities of what could happen if he was left unchecked for long periods of time.

Ymir had also established she wanted to be left alone whenever she was brought out. She even declined when Levi proposed to bring Historia over. So the raven decided it would be best if he could just keep an eye on her from a distance.

"You're free the entire week? Why catnip, that's a big improvement of you! Momma Hanji is proud." The brunette cooed on the other line.

"Shut up, Shitty Glasses. Now tell me when could I bring Eren to your office again."

"For you, I'll be meeting my jellybean in three days' time. I just have to let this seminar come to pass, else, Moblit would lose it again. Maybe we could all finally hang out by then if things go smoothly. I mean, I'll reschedule every plan I have if it's in exchange for a good partay."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'm sorry. I meant your jellybean." She amended. Which was exactly what Levi was referring to instead of the latter parts of her sentences.

"Damn right." He muttered. "How in the hell did you become a doctor, anyway?"

"Beats me." She responded nonchalantly, and Levi could practically hear the shrug in her tone. "How did you become an esteemed Survey Corps employee?"

Levi mulled it over for a while. He could say it was hardwork and perseverance, but being accepted to the company right off the bat still isn't something within his depth since the answers lie within massive blond eyebrows.

"Fair enough."

On another note, it may be a little difficult to believe that this is a conversation between two professional adults.

Once the phone call was over (or more like, cut-off by Levi when the brunette started babbling about how come no one's ever seen a baby pigeon before), he made his way back to the bedroom to check-up on the brunet. Opening the door, the sight of the brunet picking up another pile of mess greeted him. The trail of markers had been a constant on his limbs as of late.

"Sorry. I made a mess." The brunet apologized when he took notice of the raven's presence.

Levi knew it was Eren. And he knew it wasn't Eren who did that.

"How're you feeling?" He asked as he helped pick up some of the clutter.

"I don't know. My chest feels heavy for some reason, and my head's still a bit muddled. I've only been conscious for a few minutes."

The raven gave a hum to that. "Hanji would be meeting with you in three days." He blurted out.

"She's back in Trost?"

"In three days." He repeated.

They tidied up the area together, with Levi working more efficiently than the younger. He was about to put away the items when Eren spoke up again.

"I'm sorry." He stated softly. "Because of me, you had to take a leave from work just to babysit me. I could've stayed with Grandpa."

"But?" The raven prompted when the younger trailed off his sentence.

"I feel more safe with you." He admitted.

There was also the option of staying at the dorms, but with Armin frequently out, Eren just couldn't trust himself on his own, especially within the vicinity of people who could recognize him.

"But you almost got hurt... because of me."

The raven set the things back on the floor before tilting the younger's chin up to look at him.

"I said this before, and I'll repeat it as many times as necessary. It's not your fault, and it never was in the first place. And there's not a scratch on me, so stop blaming yourself over what happened." The sincerity in his words could be seen through his eyes. "Besides, I thought you would've been ecstatic with my constant presence. I'm hurt." He spoke flatly.

The brunet cracked a smile at that and he crawled closer to bury his face on the older's chest.

"I love you." His voice came out muffled.

Levi still isn't used to hearing those words being directed at him. Much less utter them himself. But he knew how much the brunet love to hear them, and there's really no harm in stating that truth.

"Love you too, brat." He muttered out, planting a small kiss on his head.

 

When three days was up, Levi escorted Eren back towards the familiar office of Dr. Hanji Zoe. The raven could give her credit for actually sparing the effort to have her own permanent office in Trost, even though she was barely in the city. Just goes to show how much she's actually dedicated to her profession despite the rather questionable deportment she displays.

"Hey there, sunny bear!" Hanji inevitably enveloped the brunet in a hug. "Go on ahead, I'll just have a few words with your kitten." She winked at him in spite of the glare being directed at her by another man.

"'Kay." Eren responded with a small, amused smile and spared one look to his kitten before entering the room as instructed.

"You say you might have an idea on how to bring Ymir out?" She asked as she diverted her attention to the raven. "Other than heights, which we don't have the luxury to try out in this setting, unfortunately."

"Go through Eren's music player on his phone and check out the classical playlist. It contains the music Ymir usually listens to." He informed. "And I'm not sure, but showing her this might help." He handed her the still unfinished canvas that the fragment had made some progress on over the days.

"She made this? This is actually pretty good." Hanji remarked as she took the painting.

"I don't know how she'd feel with me bringing that here, but I'll take whatever shit she hurls at me for doing so." He shrugged, though he really was a bit apprehensive at that thought.

She just gave a nod of understanding and after a few more exchanges, finally followed the younger inside.

"So, Eren, honey. I think we both know what it is we needed to address in this session. Is there anything you wanna say? Have you kept talking to her in your inner world?"

"Ever since that time where Levi had to save us from a bunch of assholes, we can't actually reach her inside again. She also snaps at Levi if he wouldn't leave her alone when she's out. I have no idea what causes her to front more often these days. We haven't even been in university for a while now and have avoided any sort of heights, but she still comes out for some reason. Levi said she had a panic attack when she saw a knife. But we've been seeing knives for a million times over the years, so I don't know why she just acted up now."

"Is there anything different with that particular knife that she saw?"

"Well, Levi said it was a pocket knife. But if I remember correctly, I've owned one before, which Armin had to confiscate and throw away after the... damages done. Well, I didn't really own it as much as Ymir did, I guess. I don't even know where she got it."

Hanji nodded and remained silent for a while as she tried to process all the information.

"Who do you think is close right now, sunshine?"

"I don't know." Eren tilted his head to the side and closed his eyes briefly to see if he could pinpoint another alter who was close. "Everyone, I guess."

"I see. Eren, honey, are you okay if we try to trigger her out today?" She asked gently.

Consent is always important if one wanted to talk to another alter aside from the current one. The only reason Eren and co. didn't have much problems with it is because his friends, who were aware of the condition, didn't try to forcefully trigger another alter out, just coz they wanted to talk to them over the one who was currently fronting. Doing that would also seem like an insult or just be hurtful for the one who had been forced to switch out.

Switching is actually a vulnerable state for someone with DID as the people who may deliberately cause it would mean (highly) possible memory blocks for certain alters. If Eren didn't have a better connection with his alters and if they had been less stable individually, there's always the possibility that people could easily toy, manipulate, take advantage of them and just generally disrupt their system.

Who wouldn't be terrified of the knowledge that other people may have better control of you than yourself?

"It's fine. You know I trust you, Hanji." He gave her a small yet genuine smile.

And trust is always the foundation for any kind of relationship. Something that is always held high for people like Eren.

"And I thank you for that, sunny bear." Hanji grinned back.

She followed Levi's advice and borrowed the brunet's phone to make him listen to the playlist Ymir listens to. She also held the unfinished painting for him to look at as the classical music kept filling the room. Both of them waited patiently.

It took a while, but when the brunet shifted his gaze and frowned at her, Hanji's heart started to race.

"Ymir, I'm so glad I finally met you. My name is Dr. Hanji Zoe, but you can just call me Hanji. I'm Eren's therapist." She introduced warmly, trying to suppress herself from overdoing it so as not to spook the fragment.

The other kept silent for a long while, just staring at the brunette with a hint of apprehension in her eyes.

"Did you make this painting? I'm no expert in art, but I can say this is turning out gorgeously. Do you like stars? Or is it the night sky in general that inspires you?"

"Why did you bring me out?" She asked directly, and the doctor could detect a tinge of accusation in her tone.

Though, Hanji was mildly surprised by the attitude. She had already been told prior about Ymir's bluntness that could rival Jean's.

"I know you've only just met me, but I've known Eren and the rest for a couple of years now. The reason I triggered you out is because I want to talk to you. I've helped Eren deal with his condition ever since he first approached me, and I've done the same with Mikasa and the rest of the system. I also want to offer you help, Ymir." Hanji spoke in the same gentle manner.

"Why?" Confusion was evident in her tone since she really couldn't comprehend why people keep reaching out to her for help even though she never asked for it.

"Because you're struggling. And when you're struggling, Eren and the others suffer along with you. I'm not saying one of you – especially Eren – is more important than the rest. I'm just saying that you're all in this together, so whoever of you needed help, I want to be able to assist you with that."

Ymir clamped her mouth shut again, having nothing else better to say. She had heard of Hanji's name being spoken by the others at some points, so her cynicism may have been dampened a bit. When it seemed like she wasn't about to speak again, Hanji initiated the flow of their conversation.

"Ymir, that last incident with Levi... is there something in particular that caused you to be dragged out? Did you see or remember something in particular before you had a panic attack? Don't worry, you can tell me anything. And you don't have to worry about word getting out if it's not something you'd like."

Ymir's eyes shot back at her, throat going dry at her words. If Hanji could perceive that much, then any doubts that the doctor could help her were slowly being pushed to the background.

"That shorty... Levi... he almost got stabbed." She answered, voice so low she was almost whispering.

The brunette lagged for a follow-up, realizing it hadn't been about the knife, but more about the attempted knifing.

"Does this concern about the incident of Eren's mother?" She asked carefully.

The younger just gave a tight nod. "And it's not just that, it's about those times Zeke would hurl a knife at me to threaten me. It's about that time Dina got so drunk she actually succeeded in sending me to the hospital, which of course, she reasoned to the doctors that I did it to myself." She huffed out a bitter laugh.

She kept using "I" and "me" instead of "we" or "us" or "Eren" like how the others tend to. It's because in her perspective, if Eren had truly been the one to experience it, then he should be the one to remember it.

"Do you experience flashbacks, Ymir?"

"I do." She confirmed. "And try as I might, I don't fucking understand how the others could continue acting like nothing horrible ever happened. If they do hold some of Eren's memories, I don't fucking understand how they could act like it's just fine." She seethed.

From this, Hanji could gather that even though Ymir knew the others hold some of Eren's memories, she wasn't aware that they don't have flashbacks like she does. Hanji also doesn't remember any of the others mentioning about the multiple knife incidents. Not even from Mikasa. On the contrary, Mikasa had pointed Ymir to be the reason when she fronted one day to find out they have a stab wound on their side.

Hanji's theories of Ymir being the actual first alter to be created was then proven true by this testament. It would also seem like she keeps the worse memories as compared to the others in the system.

Ymir was never a bad alter. She was just suffering the most.

Hanji tried her best to pry out more answers from her. She was both patient and determined enough that the fragment soon gave in and told her what she wanted to hear.

Her efforts led her to discovering that there had been a point in time when Ymir could "watch" what was happening outside, even though she wasn't out. She also surmises that everytime someone "dies" in their inner world, it was somehow in parallel to when Eren would lose friends in the outside world.

Of course, the bespectacled brunette didn't fail to praise her for the fact that she hadn't been hurting the body for a while now, especially since she's been out more often.

"Honestly, the itch is always there. But shorty had been keeping a close guard that it's hard to do anything else but pray I could get back inside sooner than later. The one time I picked up a blade to sharpen the pencil, he came out of nowhere and confiscated the stuff from me. Although he did give me one which wasn't as sharp as I would've preferred, and never left the room no matter how much I tried to make him." The fragment complained.

Hanji couldn't help barking out a laugh at that. "Levi's an absolute sweetheart, isn't he?"

"That's hardly a word I would use."

"Then how would you describe him?" She probed.

"Stuck-up."

That made Hanji snort gracelessly. "Oh, sweetie. Levi could just be really awkward. But despite his flaws, I'm sure you could tell how much he loves Eren just by the fact that he does his best to keep him away from harm. He did save you that night didn't he?"

Ymir just gave a nod at that, only then remembering how the raven had kept her close when she was panicking due to a flashback.

However, as much as Hanji would like to talk to her for hours on end, the fragment was eventually showing signs of dissociating. More prominently, through rubbing her nape. From the entire system, Eren, Annie, Reiner, and now Ymir were the ones who tend to rub their nape when they felt like switching. Mikasa, Sasha, and Jean would just simply zone out. Though there are moments when Mikasa would look like she has a headache whenever she feels Eren close.

Blinking back to consciousness, the brunet re-oriented himself to the present time.

"Hanji?" He called out with uncertainty. "Did... did she come out?"

"Yes, she did, sunshine." The brunette smiled warmly.

She recounted the conversation she just had and told the younger of some of her assumptions that she gathered throughout their session. Eren didn't say much and rather settled for listening intently to her, giving a few nods and a muttered, "I see" every now and then.

When the door opened, Levi was immediately up and approaching them. He carefully observed the younger who gave him a small, reassuring smile to convey that he was fine. He didn't even bat an eye when the brunet sluggishly latched on to him.

"Don't." He warned Glasses, an index finger held up for emphasis, as he held his Eren close, thinking the nutcase was planning to join in and attempt to break his ribs again.

Hanji took the hint, and as much as she wanted to whine at the denial, she had more important things to talk about with him.

She let them have their moment before calling the raven in and briefing him with her findings, so far. She didn't really delve into details since that would be breaking the code in her profession, but she did give hints and the generalities, and hoped the other man would be perceptive enough to determine things further on his own.

As always, Levi listened with rapt attention. Hanji being professional is something to be taken seriously as opposed to when she was outside doctor mode where the raven would just want to shove her glasses down her throat to shut her up.

And he should've seen it coming when the moment Eren approached the both of them after they came out of the office, Hanji tackled them both to another bone-crushing embrace before running off behind the refuge of her office door once again. One scale at the piece of wood and Levi knew he could break it. Then again, thank heavens for rationality.

 


 

Levi thought things couldn't get worse after the attempted molestation incident. But it's not like life would let things go their way and make it easy for them. Shit would always happen whether you like it or not. Whether you deserve it or not.

Now he was back on duty, Levi tried to catch up on some stuffs at work while Jean sat beside him on the couch, watching the news channel dully. The brunet had still been skipping school just to be on the safe side.

As much as they wanted to catch up on some lessons on their own, their current predicament was constantly taking its toll on their mental state. Although the fragment hadn't physically harmed the body, her feelings of aggravation just kept leaking into the entire system.

Preoccupied with his current work, it didn't even come into the raven's attention whatever it was that was displayed on the news. And with that, it didn't even come into his attention that a switch had took place.

Articles about abuse, murders, violence, deaths, and whatnot flitted through the screen simultaneously. The words and graphics going straight into the brunet's senses.

Into Ymir's state of consciousness.

'Who am I kidding? This place is still a shitty place to exist in.' She thought to herself before bits of memories forced their way into her thoughts.

Levi's advertency was brought back when the brunet abruptly stood up and ran towards the bedroom. He didn't waste time following him and when he entered the room, the brunet was already kneeling by the side of the glass door to the balcony with his hands clutched desperately on the door pane. With his heartbeat picking up its pace at the sight, he immediately went to the brunet's side to discover he was actually having another panic attack.

Eren never went beyond the glass door to the balcony due to previous experiences with heights, and the others stayed away from it after learning about the fragment's triggers. And with the evidence of the panic attack, it goes without saying that Levi instantly figured out who it was whom he was dealing with.

Again, he went through the process of guiding her breathing back to normal. Like what happened before, she initially flinched from his touch but soon allowed him to after a few gentle words to focus on him.

"Don't worry, it'll pass soon. You're okay. You're going to be fine." The raven murmured as the younger was slowly calming down.

"Bullshit." was the first word that came out of her mouth as she got herself in control.

Tears were flowing freely from her eyes as she raised her head up to frown at the raven. Levi wasn't expecting that she'd bat his hand away and shuffle towards the railing of the balcony. But when she did, alarms were blaring in his head on the horrible possibilities of what she might plan to do.

"Fine? What the fuck makes you think I'll be fine? What the fuck makes you think I was fine in the first place?" She spat out once she was away from the raven's reach. "How can you say that when you don't even know what I've been through? It's so easy for you people to say everything's going to be fucking peaches, when we all know it's not. It's not, and it's never going to be!"

She tried, really. She tried not to dwell too much on her own tendencies for coping. She tried her best.

But it's in moments like this when flashbacks hit hard that the feeling that all your efforts are in vain is at its peak.

"The world will always be a shitty place to live in. It's not worth it. Going through shit just to keep existing is not fucking worth it!"

It's in moments like this when utter hopelessness takes over and just makes you want to give up on everything.

"I never asked for this. I never asked to be in this world. I never asked to be in this body! Fuck this! Fuck everything! If Eren thinks he's hurting, then maybe he fucking deserves it!"

It's in moments like this when you would prefer physical pain over the emotional, psychological one.

"Tell me one good reason why I shouldn't just put an end to his misery. One good reason why you think things are going to be fine." She was heaving as she finished her rant. Vision blurry with tears, head aching with turmoil, chest heavy with emotions.

Levi was rooted in his spot. One wrong move and the fragment might up and jump over the balcony. One wrong word and he might make things even worse than they already are.

Words aren't his forte. But right now, it's all he can count on. If he did opt to forcefully grab her away from the railing – which he's fully capable of doing – chances are, she'd hate him and everything else even more, and slip back to her habits of harming the body. Maybe a lot worse this time.

"Ymir... whatever happened in the past... I'm sorry. For what it's worth, I'm really, really sorry." He started carefully, genuinely. "Eren didn't deserve what happened. The others didn't deserve it. You didn't deserve any of it. I know you think the world is shitty. That people are shitty. And I'm not gonna lie, I agree."

He cautiously inched closer to the younger as he spoke. Trying to close the literal and figurative distance between them through both words and actions.

"But that's not always the case. Whatever happened, it's in the past. You're here with me right now. And I may not have an idea of what you went through, but I swear I'll do everything not to let it happen to you again. Eren isn't hurting as much anymore. It's time for you to start healing as well. I'm not trying to downplay it and make it sound easy, but if you haven't noticed, you already took that step, Ymir. I'm not going to blame you if you'd have lapses in the process. That's just part of it. But this... existing right now... living in this very moment... without new scratches on you... you're getting better, Ymir. Things are getting better."

He didn't have the luxury of being able to edit his sentences to its optimum construction. But whatever he said, he meant it.

As much as Ymir wanted to argue no, no and no... the fact that no one had ever told her of those words, and with much sincerity, was what rendered her speechless. It was true that ever since she had fronted after being dormant for years, people haven't been as cruel as she remembered. Definitely not Historia, not Eren's other friends (whom she had briefly, yet unwillingly, met at one point), not Hanji, not Levi.

And it was true that all this time, she had been reliving in the past like a constant nightmare she couldn't wake up from. When the other alters had moved on, she was stuck in the same Gehenna she had known from the very beginning.

"I'm sorry you had to go through shit. But if anything, I'm also grateful for you. If it wasn't for you, Eren may have not been who he is right now. As ironic as this may sound, he may not have been here at all if it wasn't for you. If he was able to remember the memories you hold, I wouldn't know how he would have dealt with them alone. And frankly, I don't want to think about the possibilities either. So, thank you. I know you didn't want this, but thank you for being here."

No one ever thanked her for existing before.

Which was probably why she couldn't help but let the raven guide her head on his shoulder where she sobbed openly. Levi kept silent and let her pour it all out. Though he resorted into murmuring reassuring words in her ear when minutes passed and she still wasn't letting down.

They didn't know how it happened, but they soon found themselves in a position where the brunet was laying on the raven's lap, gazing at the night sky with bloodshot eyes and tear-stained cheeks. No protest was heard from Levi as he took to staring at the stars as well. His leg was starting to go numb, but after everything that just happened, for him, it wasn't bad at all.

Eventually, Ymir wasn't sure if she was just feeling drowsy or she was already dissociating again. But if there was one thing she was starting to get sure of, it was that things really are getting better now that she's seeing what's happening in front of her, instead of what was in the past.

Chapter Text

"So, how is it?"

"Well... everything is in shambles. Or mostly everything. The restoration project is already underway, though. Might take some time, but that doesn't really matter in the inner world."

Levi hummed a response as he contemplated on the choice of ingredients.

He was currently grocery shopping with Sasha who had just been from another session with Hanji (who was then dragged by Moblit back to Sina since she had apparently snuck away from her scheduled lectures). Ymir had considerably been doing better and had focused on using painting and art as her main outlets, other than scrawling all over the brunet's limbs.

"Does Ymir have something to do with you being able to go out of the second wall now?" The raven casually asked as he put down his choice of condiments and let the brunette push the cart around.

"That's what we all thought. Except for Hanji. I haven't been really co-conscious earlier, but if I'm right, I think Hanji said that if going out of the first wall would mean Eren had to come to terms with his condition, then the second wall was him coming to terms with all of his alters, including Ymir. 'Coz when Hanji asked her earlier, Ymir said she did nothing. But I think Eren told her he was slowly understanding Ymir now. So maybe Hanji's right with her theory." Sasha shrugged.

"So, how does it happen? Did you find yourselves suddenly out? Or is there something that happened that told you it's fine to go out now?"

Levi had to physically drag her and the cart away as he spoke since the younger's gaze was lingering for longer than necessary and was starting to drool at the aisle of sweets.

"That's quite hard to explain." She responded with a pout, going back to sulkily pushing the cart. "We just know we're allowed out. It's just like that, really. It doesn't really make sense if we're going to abide by logic. It just happens. That's just how our inner world works."

They made their way through the aisles with the raven mentally going through his checklist on the priorities. Sasha, in turn, kept trying to sneak in some of her choices everytime the older was turning his back and wasn't paying full attention to their cart.

"So is there anything different beyond the second wall? Anything interesting?" Levi asked again, though his sight was set on the different brands of tomato sauce.

Sasha mulled it over for a while. "Well, there is one thing that's quite interesting. Even though we're already free to roam around the third wall, we're prohibited from going into the basement of some wrecked house. I don't know what's in there, but the door's locked and we can't break in even if we want to. It's like there's some sort of barrier or something."

"Any guesses on what's in there?" He asked as he settled on a particular brand and tossed it into the cart.

"Considering only Ymir can go in there, it's probably where Eren's memories are kept. Well, figuratively speaking. You know... inner world logic."

"Ymir can go in?"

"We've never seen her, but she's not limited in our inner world like the rest of us are. She can access parts and places, and can prevent others from going in there. It's almost like she's the gatekeeper in the system. Although, it also seems like she doesn't quite know how to take on that role."

"What the hell is a gatekeeper?"

"A gatekeeper is... someone who can do those things I just said. I think they're also able to control who switches out and when. I don't really know much about it, so you can ask Hanji instead."

Well, that... or he can just Google it instead. Definitely much less hassle compared to asking the "professional" one.

By the time Levi did a once-over on the items in their cart, he couldn't help the twitch in his eye even if he tried.

"Sasha... did you just replace the bag of potatoes with bags of potato chips?" He asked levelly.

The other didn't respond and was rather finding the rack of paper towels very interesting.

"I don't remember these being here just a minute earlier." He continued as he picked up another bag of chips and a huge bar of chocolate. He doesn't doubt one bit that more are buried underneath the items he put in.

"Huh. That's weird. I'm pretty sure you were the only one who had put stuffs in there." She tried, but was met with an unimpressed look.

It didn't come as a surprise when the raven pulled over an empty cart where he tossed the items Sasha had picked up. Nonetheless, the brunette still looked close to tears when she had to say goodbye to majority of her stash.

"Stop moping and get that bunch from the top rack for me." He ordered, gesturing to the paper towels on the top shelf.

If she only have Eren's audacity, she would've put on an act of defiance after what Levi just did. Unfortunately, the most she could do was to keep moping as she complied to what was asked.

Sasha only perked up again when they made it into the pet section where Levi would be restocking on "little shit's" regular offerings and other pampering necessities.

"Levi, look! We should totally get this for Latte." She squealed, holding up a little pink tutu for him to see. "Ugh. Sorry. Eren might be close." She grumbled afterwards. The brunet was the most invested in being Latte's Dada, after all. "But I do still think we should get this for Latte."

"I don't think that'll fit her. And that might only end up to be her chew toy." Levi responded flatly.

"Oh, come on. Mikasa could do some necessary adjustments. That's not going to be a problem. And she's starting to behave now. So can we get it, please?" She tried putting on the look Eren would resort to when he wanted something from the raven. "Eren wants it, too." She threw in when it felt like she wasn't nailing it.

With a defeated sigh, Levi could only grumble out a, "Fine."

"Psh, gay." They heard someone muttered close by.

With a cocked brow, Levi wheeled around to the direction where the voice came from to find one guy who was also picking up some dog food to add into his cart. Levi wanted to give him a piece of his mind, but the brunet had spoke up before he could open his mouth.

"Why, yes I am. Thank you for noticing." The younger beamed up at the stranger. "In fact, this is my boyfriend right here." She clung to the raven from behind and made a show of nuzzling his head.

The guy just looked at them with unconcealed disgust, and with a click of his tongue he smartly swallowed down whatever unsolicited salty comments he had as he turned around and went on his merry (homophobic) way (mostly thanks to the menacing look the raven was directing at him). As soon as he was out of sight, Sasha sagged behind the raven, still clinging on to him with her head rested on his shoulder as they continued their grocery shopping.

"You didn't have to do that if you're not comfortable with it, you know? Besides, I doubt that guy knew you." Judging from the only comment he uttered, of course.

"It's not that. I'm just trying to prevent any interruption on Ymir's progress. I would've just avoided it as usual, but it would've continued to bother me. I just don't want it to reach Ymir in there." She sighed.

"Then you could've just let me handle it." Levi pointed out.

"Well, if you wanted to make up to me, we could at least stop by the ice cream shop after this." She retorted.

"Fine." Levi rolled his eyes. Brats would always be brats.

"Aw, yeah!" Sasha finally lifted her head and pumped a fist in the air.

"Just for clarification, you are straight, aren't you?" He asked as he handed the cart back to the brunette to keep her hands from wandering.

"I believe so." She answered with a shrug.

"And Mikasa?"

"Probably bi. Annie, too. It's funny, 'coz both of them had a crush on Eren before he came out gay. And then they went to Armin, who they ultimately mutually decided was best if they could keep it platonic. And don't tell anyone, but I think they went for each other eventually. Sometimes, I'd catch the both of them looking intensely at each other that you could feel the gay tension in the air. Or maybe that's just me." She rambled.

If she so wanted to, she could vie Eren in his ability to talk other people's ears off. However, she's mostly more on moving than talking. Probably because her mouth's stuffed for most of the time.

"What about Reiner?" Levi continued his questions despite his eyes straying somewhere else. He just had to keep the younger entertained, lest she slips away and he had to go look for her. Again.

"He said he hadn't really thought of it much, but that he doesn't really care about the gender either. So, he's most definitely pan."

"And Jean?"

Sasha lagged for a reply, mulling it over for a while. Jean had been adamant of his sexuality ever since the start, although the rest of them are still skeptic about it. Her thoughts and deliberations led her to one word for an answer.

"Confused."

Levi had to snort at that.

 


 

"Historia, it's your turn. Stop molesting the cat already."

"I can't help it. She's so cute."

"Do you think it's still possible to pick out a piece?"

"I bet Armin could do it."

"I think one breath is all it takes for it to topple over."

"No, Latte! Don't!"

Levi sighed as he heard the unmistakable sound of the Jenga tower collapsing followed by the collective groans of the brats in the living area. He reappeared in the scene carrying a tray of tea and sweets which he set on the coffee table before taking his position beside the brunet.

"Honestly, I never really got the appeal of tea 'til you made us one, Levi." Marco remarked as he sipped on his cup.

"I agree. I tried brewing on my own once. Didn't really turned out the same though." Bert added.

"These teacups look lovely, by the way. Are these new?" Historia observed.

"They sure are." Eren answered in Levi's place, feeling very much proud that the raven had adored his present.

"Eren got them for Levi last Christmas." Armin butted in, knowing this for a fact since he had helped his friend look frantically for the "perfect Christmas/birthday present".

"I trust you know the consequences when there's the tiniest scratch on them then." Levi calmly stated, sipping on his own cup like he hadn't just casually threatened the group.

Soft laughter filled the room, albeit tinged with nervousness and worry as they could only imagine what the raven could do had they been stupid enough to take on his warning. They knew Levi was a good guy. Though they also knew never to get on his bad side. At that thought, they took special care in their handling of the cups and may have drank the liquid a bit too quickly if only to reduce the time and risk they spent with the raven's treasures.

The squad had gathered up one weekend to visit Eren at Levi's place since it had been quite some time since they last hung out together. Eren had long decided (although with much reluctance and disappointment) that he should drop the semester while they still try to recover. Not only had they missed a ton of lessons they're sure to struggle with, but they also couldn't fully focus on their academics with what had been happening.

He had been going back and forth from Shiganshina to Trost where he would stay with his grandpa for a while before going back into the raven's domain. Sometimes, when Levi was at work, he would sneak a visit to Armin at the dorms where he was now rooming with Marco.

The blond was actually surprised that one time when he came back to their dorm to find it in pristine condition. Well, in his standards, that is. It was still a step below Levi's, but it's still a pretty impressive feat. When he asked his friend about it, Eren just shrugged and told him he was bored and wanted to keep himself busy. He knew the brunet couldn't have done it in the raven's apartment due to obvious reasons (i.e. there's mostly nothing to clean). Nonetheless, he was pleased said raven actually managed to rub off his sense of cleanliness (and quite good on that) on the once borderline sloven brunet.

They decided to play cards next. The poor brats didn't know how good Levi was at playing poker. Well... more like how good he was in cheating at poker. Of course it was something he learned in his youth (plus with Kenny's coaching), and though he may be out of practice, the others were nowhere near good enough to detect the sleight of the hand he kept executing under their noses.

"No fair. I refuse to believe Levi could win 7 times in a row." Eren complained as he threw his cards on the table. "You can't be that lucky." He pouted at the raven.

"If anything, I got you, so maybe I am." Levi shrugged.

Though in all honesty, he was kind of embarrassed since the words had spilled out on their own accord. And though he may enjoy teasing the brunet 'til he was a blushing mess, he had to pull himself together when the others teased him about it as well.

"Ah, geez. I'm being attacked by ants from all these sweetness!" Historia piped, making a show of slapping imaginary ants off her feet and arms.

"I think I have cavities now." Bert stated, rubbing the sides of his cheeks.

"Well, I'm pretty sure I just got diabetes." Armin joined in.

It was so easy for the raven to tell them off and say he hopes the insects and the cavities and the disease would get the better of the two blonds and the beanpole, had he not been momentarily distracted by Eren going red as a tomato that you could almost see his ears steaming.

"So when's the wedding?" Marco asked with an innocent smile that it's hard to tell if he was being serious or not.

They were saved the awkward dismissal of focusing on their careers first, or not having asked yet, or it's still too early for that – the cliche spiels of why it's not yet on the plans – when Historia perked up again.

"Oh, are you planning to have kids? You're going to have kids, right?" She could almost squeal at the idea.

"Unless you haven't noticed yet, we're both men. We can't have kids." Levi scoffed. "Although I wouldn't mind giving it a try." He threw in, smirking at the way the brunet melted in his seat beside him.

 

By the time they said their goodbyes and promises of hanging out again sometime, Eren and Levi were left alone again. The brunet was still buzzing from the time he spent with his friends, though eventually, he began to curl in on himself again.

Levi sighed as he found the younger tucked into one corner of the bedroom, legs hugged close to his chest, head buried on his knees. Eren had been like this shortly after Ymir's breakdown. It was why he welcomed their friends stopping by to hang out with them, thinking it could help the brunet lighten up. And it did. Just not for long.

He had tried asking him what was wrong, but the younger would always attempt to brush it off with a smile he didn't know the raven could sense was strained. And as much as he wanted to wait until it was Eren who approaches him first, the brat could be too damn stubborn for his own good.

Eren yelped when the raven suddenly lifted him off the floor and towards the bed. He hadn't even noticed him approach and thought he was still busy with his work.

"Mind telling me what's bothering you now?" Levi asked after he situated the brunet on his lap. "If you say 'nothing' again, I will shove those carrots down your throat. Don't tempt me."

Eren let out a distressed whine before clinging unto the raven. He knew his boyfriend would never really do that. Yet he also knew said boyfriend would still make him eat those dreadful carrots if he pushed his luck too far.

"There's just... something that happened in our inner world. I mean, I'm still not entirely sure if it really happened or it was just a dream of mine 'coz the others won't tell me anything." He fessed up, still hugging the raven for some much needed comfort and security.

"What is it?" Levi prompted.

"You know those titans? Those giant, man-eating monsters that're plaguing the people in our inner world? I think I... became one of them." He let out shakily.

"You became one of them?" The raven repeated.

"I transformed? Morphed? I don't know. But I'm quite sure I was a titan." He sighed. "I'm just thinking... even if it had been a dream or not, maybe it meant something."

"And what do you think it means?"

"After knowing how Ymir truly felt being... in this body, I just realized how horrible I am. Not just to her, but to the entire system. I mean, it must be really horrible to be forced to do something you didn't want. To live a life you didn't ask for and isn't really yours. So I guess me being a titan would mean that... I'm a monster." He gritted his teeth, tears already on the brim and ready to overflow.

"Just like how those titans caged us behind the walls, I caged my alters in this body. If it wasn't for me, they wouldn't have suffered in my place. They wouldn't have existed in the first place and forced to live under the guise of someone they're not. I'm a horrible person. I'm a monster."

Levi immediately tightened his hold the moment the brunet started to shake in his arms. He started rubbing soothing circles on the younger's back as he tried to formulate the right words in his head.

"So what did you do while you were a titan?" He decided to ask instead, deeming it necessary to at least have further information before he could ramble words that may turn out meaningless.

"I'm not quite sure, but I heard I went on a rampage and defeated more than 20 titans before running out of steam."

"Impressive."

The brunet let out a groan. "You shouldn't be encouraging the idea." He muttered.

"What? Of you defeating those monsters? 'Coz if you'd ask me, I don't think that's a bad thing at all." The raven refuted. "Glasses had told me that as much as your inner world story doesn't make sense, chances are it may be in parallel to something that happens in the outside world or that it could be a symbolism of something in your subconscious. Eren... sometimes good, righteous people aren't all that it takes to defeat the evil. Sometimes, monsters could be heroes. If you think that you becoming a titan is you being a monster, I think it's also possible that it's just you dealing with your inner demons. And I mean you struggling with yourself.

And hey, I'm just saying this, but aside from rejecting that... form of yours, don't you think it'd be better if you could gain control over it? Utilize its strength and make it your own? That's just a food for thought if you had to keep dealing with that problem internally." Levi shrugged, absently stroking the brunet's head as he spoke.

"Anyway, if anything, it had never and would never occur in my mind that you're some kind of horrible monster. Like them, you also didn't ask for them to take on a role in your place. It's not your fault, and neither is it theirs. I may never fully know and understand this whole thing about your condition, but I'm very much certain the victims are not to blame. Hell, you just said that even as a titan, you helped defeat the other monsters inside. So you're not really a monster Eren. You're hope. I'm no expert, so I'm not sure how the others would interpret that, but that's the way I see it." He concluded.

The brunet had stilled in his hold, though Levi knew he heard every word. Whether it was still Eren or not wouldn't really matter much since one's problem makes it everyone's own.

"How do you keep saying the right words?" The brunet mumbled after a while. His sniffing had subsided and his hold had lost its tenseness.

"I beg to disagree." Levi responded flatly. He still believes words aren't his strongest point, but with the brunet's help, he is learning. "Now wipe that snot out of your nose. I deserve a kiss for my litany."

The brunet couldn't help giggling as he pulled away only to dive back again into his boyfriend's lips, kissing him with all the love and gratitude he felt for the raven. Levi responded in kind and tangled his fingers into the brunet's chocolate locks.

"Don't you think your hair is growing too long now?" He remarked after they broke their lip battle off. He actually wanted to ask the younger at a much earlier time, but didn't have the chance to with all that has been happening.

Eren picked up a strand of hair that was now almost touching his shoulders and observed it. "I actually intend to grow it."

"Why's that?" Levi arched a brow.

"I've heard of alters experiencing gender euphoria. And even though the girls haven't uttered a single word of complaint, it's the least I could do for them." He stated thoughtfully.

Although the raven was genuinely confused for a couple of seconds before the idea kicked in.

"You mean dysphoria. Gender dysphoria."
The brunet stilled for a moment before muttering out, "That's what I said."

"Idiot." Levi shook his head. "And this is how a monster should be? How scary."

He only kissed the pout that instantly formed on the brunet's face. Yet as their tongues joined in the dance, their moment was broken when they heard something blunt hit the floor.

Searching for the source, Levi's eyes narrowed at the culprit.

"If there's any monster here, no doubt it would be that little shit." He grumbled as (deceitful) innocent green eyes gazed back at him from the nightstand.

He fucking hopes his phone didn't suffer any major damage after the little shit deemed it necessary to do a drop test.

Chapter Text

The very few people who were left in the finance office of Survey Corps couldn't help throwing a mix of amused and curious glances at the raven who had spent almost his entire lunch break on his phone.

"It's in the contacts icon. That one that looks like a book. There's a label below that reads 'contacts' and when you tap on it, scroll down 'til you reach Historia's name. What? Of course, you can't see it. You're still on-call with me."

Levi didn't know how much time he had spent teaching the fragment how to use Eren's phone.

"Generally, you have to drop the call before you could make another one." He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. He can't believe he was teaching someone younger than him how to use a gadget.

He was startled when he heard a loud thud on the other side of the line. It took him a while to figure out the cause behind it.

"Ymir... did you just drop the phone?"

"I'm just doing what you told me." came the voice that sounded like it was coming from a distance compared to a moment ago.

"I said drop the call, not the phone." He sighed tiredly. It didn't even register to him the snorts and sniggers of his co-workers who couldn't help overhearing his side of the conversation.

"How about this... I'll just call Historia over myself and then, if she's available, she could teach you how to use that thing?"

A pause.

"Good. Now just keep hold of your phone, alright? And for fuck's sake, do not drop it like that again. If Historia calls, just tap on the green button. The green one and not the red, got it? Good. I'm going to end this call now, so just sit still and wait." He let out another sigh as he dialed up the blonde's number.

Truth be told, this would actually be the first time he's had a decent conversation with Ymir. Well, not really, but it's an improvement.

Eren had called him over 30 minutes prior, asking about how his lunch (co-prepared with Sasha) was. The brunet had actually called 5 minutes before his break and haven't stopped 'til just recently, so said lunch was still left untouched on his desk. It was halfway through the phonecall when the brunet started complaining about feeling out of it, and after a few minutes of silence on the other end, his next lines were, "Who the hell is this?"

Of course, only Ymir wouldn't have known about the whole "Kitten <3" contact name for the raven, and since she was rarely out, she never bothered using a phone before. It also wasn't difficult for Levi to figure out there were no phones in their inner world, what with the era they seem to be stuck in. That would actually explain why the brunet didn't pick up his phone when Levi had frantically called him all those months ago when Eren didn't show up for work at the coffee shop.

Ah, memories.

"I'll be there in ten minutes." came the blonde's automatic response as soon as the call connected.

"Be where exactly?"

"Uhh... your apartment?"

"And how'd you figure I called you for that?"

"What else would you be calling for?" She shot back. The raven never really initiated to call her for anything other than things concerning the fragment.

"Don't you have classes?" He asked instead, he actually feels a little guilty he had to call her over everytime the fragment would look for her. Especially since the last strut towards finals is fast approaching.

"It's no biggie. I could always just talk to my professors and catch up on the lessons." She dismissed.

Because no one in their right mind would ever suspect someone like Historia Reiss to even remotely have delinquent tendencies. But as what Levi had come to believe, you should never take a blue-eyed blond lightly. Heaven knows he's been acquainted with more than enough to back up that claim.

There was less than 15 minutes left for his break when the second phonecall ended. Not enough time to prepare himself some tea from the break room apparently.

However, when he opened the wrapped package that was prepared for him, he discovered the brunet – whoever it was – had actually included a thermos filled with the beverage he had been craving for.

"Tried co-fronting with Eren to brew this for you. Still having a headache and a lot of confusion. I'm not even sure who I am right now. Am I Sasha? Am I Eren? Yes? No? Maybe? Why am I even writing this? Anyway, I don't know how it turned out, but Eren figured you might need it at work. -S/E" The rather long note had said.

His headache evaporated, and his heart was suddenly full. This would be a first that the brunet had prepared him lunch to bring at work since... they had a lot of time with not having to go to classes. As much as he wanted the brunet to finish his studies, he also wouldn't mind getting used to this sort of treatment at all.

"I never thought you were already a family man... Ackerman." Nanaba chuckled as she passed by his station, which was just beside hers. "Well, I would've thought you were just speaking with kids. Or someone older than you perhaps?" She went on to explain when the raven shot her a confused look.

And of course, the packed lunch complete with a note just seem to point to the conclusion of having a loving wife, and maybe a few kids, waiting for him at home.

"Neither." Levi answered simply. Hell, he's not even sure if they were already on friendship terms with the fragment. "I'm not even married yet. And even if I was, my spouse couldn't get pregnant."

Nanaba immediately felt like she had accidentally stepped a line at that statement.

"I'm so sorry to hear that." She apologized genuinely. "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, and I'm not trying to impose, but maybe I could help find some doctors for... you know... fertility problems?" She offered hesitantly.

"No. That's not the problem."

It was her turn to be confused. "Oh. Uhh... what is it then?"

"He has a dick, too." The raven deadpanned before taking a bite out of his food.

 


 

Levi was sure he followed the guidelines down to the letter. He was sure this was how they do it in those cheesy, shitty movies.

But why does he feel so stupid about all this?

He has the candles which were yet to be lit, the soft music playing in the background, the food heating up in the oven (nothing grand since it was to cater to Eren's very limited menu of edibles), the wine which he's not sure the brunet would even like (though it works in his favor since, as much as possible, he was only planning to give the brunet a drop or two), and then the flowers and petals that are scattered all around... which he's now itching to just suck it all up in the vacuum.

Alas, the only thing he'd have to suck up is this whole scenario before him.

Today is Eren's birthday and Levi wanted to do something more than just toss him a present. The birthday boy was currently out with friends after Levi kind of lied that he'd need to work overtime for the day. He had apologized profusely afterwards and promised he'd make it up to him, and even though disappointment was clear on his face, Eren just forced out a smile and said he'd just spend the day with their friends and maybe visit his grandpa for a bit.

Though right now, he's seriously considering just making it up to him some other time. It was so easy to just grab that perfectly white mantle and wrap everything up, pretend it never happened and just erase it from his mind.

But Armin had already texted him over 15 minutes earlier that Eren was already on his way back since he was starting to feel switchy. And in those 15 minutes, he spent internally debating with himself whether to follow through with this shitty plan or not. Hell, would Eren even be the one to open the door? Depending on who was fronting, this scene could turn out somewhat manageable or downright horrible.

Just when his hand made a move to grab the mantle, the rattle of the doorknob set his nerves alight. He instinctively reached for the bouquet of flowers he previously set on the table instead and steeled himself for what was to come.

Ocean eyes widened the moment they landed on the candlelit dinner prepared by none other than the raven standing in front of him, complete with a bouquet of flowers in hand. Levi cleared his throat, for all other reasons but snapping the brunet to attention... which was, unfortunately, exactly what it did.

"Happy Birt---"

"Thank you!!!" Eren launched himself on the shorter man without even letting him finish whatever it was he had to say. "I really thought you wouldn't be home right now. I'm not even mad that you lied. I'm so happy right now. I love you so much!"

"Brat." was all the raven could say. All the anxiety he felt just a moment ago left his system at the younger's enthusiasm. "You just killed the flowers."

Eren promptly tore himself off to accept the bouquet of flowers, give it a split-second check before going in for a kiss. Levi gladly returned the affection, wanting nothing more than to please the brunet on his day.

They must have enjoyed themselves far too much as the food was already burning in the oven, while the candles remained unlit on the table, and Latte had already become a walking bush with all the petals stuck on her fur. Nonetheless, it was all perfect for Eren as the whole gesture was already enough to make his heart full. He knew the raven had never done such a thing before, could tell it by the way he hesitates for a second and furrows his eyebrows every now and then as if he was trying to determine whether he was doing the right thing or not.

So the fact that Levi is stepping up (and perhaps out of his comfort zone) just to please him makes him feel fucking special.

"Can we drink the wine on the balcony?" Eren suddenly requested once they were done with dinner.

"Why's that?"

"I feel like Ymir would like to see the stars tonight." He stated casually.

"She's close?"

"I don't know. I guess? I've been having this heavy feeling in my chest earlier, and I found myself constantly looking up at the sky while walking back here. So, maybe she is."

"You're not scared?" Levi couldn't help asking. The fact that Eren was willingly letting himself get close to the fragment's potential triggers was a huge improvement for him. It was almost hard to believe that weeks... months ago, the same brunet would never touch any of those with a ten feet pole.

"I am quite anxious, honestly. Though I'm not sure if that's entirely me, or it's just amplified with Ymir's influence." He admitted. "But I trust you, and I know you would never let anything bad happen to us." He smiled sincerely.

"Never." The raven confirmed, giving a quick peck on the younger's lips before grabbing the wine bottle while Eren carried the glasses towards their destination.

There was a chill in the night breeze, but nothing the two can't handle since spring was in full bloom. Eren was content in making idle talk and taking kitten sips of his glass, and he kept zoning out more often than not. A full minute of staring at the sky and the smile was gradually wiped away from his lips.

"It's a shame stars can't be seen more properly with all the city lights." Levi commented offhandedly before taking another sip.

The brunet – now Ymir – just hummed and looked at the glass on her hand as if she just realized it was there. She took a tentative sniff and sip before downing it all in one go. She was looking at the raven's glass after that, and Levi instantly knew the silent request.

"Here." He grabbed the bottle and poured her another glass. "Although I would prefer it if you don't chug it down like you just did."

The fragment surprisingly complied, though she was still drinking at a much faster pace than Levi would've liked to see the brunet do.

"Damn, what is this? It's so good." She spoke out after finishing her second glass.

"Wine." He answered briefly.

She gave a scoff at that. "I know it's wine, shorty. I'm not that stupid." She rolled her eyes.

Levi knew it was mostly the alcohol speaking now, yet the nickname still grated at his nerves. Other than that, he couldn't help but notice her intoxicated attitude was like somewhere in between Jean's blunt personality, and Eren's cheeky one.

When he poured her a third glass (with much reluctance), Ymir had taken hold of the bottle, saying it would be much efficient if she'd be the one pouring since the raven drinks too slow. She was unexpectedly a chatterbox when drunk. It was like the alcohol in her system was converted into fuel for verbal energy.

"Alright, that's enough wine for you." Levi declared before making a move to grab the bottle away. "You're fucking drunk already."

"Noooo." Ymir protested as she leaned away and raised the bottle away from him. "Who are you calling drunk? I'm not drunk. You are."

"That's exactly what a drunk person would say."

They wrestled with the bottle for a while. And despite the brunet being much more intoxicated than he was, Eren still had longer limbs which ultimately worked in Ymir's favor.

"Pfffft! Look at how short you are. You know, if people would start looking for you, I'd advice them to look under their shoes first." She laughed, planting one hand on the raven's forehead to keep him away from the other one raised high with the wine bottle.

Well, isn't her sense of humor just fucking lovely?

"In fact, I think you're as short as Goldilocks. You know... that short blondie with big blue eyes who always talks to me even though I didn't ask her to? Is her name Goldilocks? Or is that the name of the character in that book she once read to me? It was pretty crappy, to be honest. Would've been much interesting if that little girl got eaten by the bears." She blathered on and only paused to chug a few gulps of the wine.

At this point, Levi stopped fighting. Not only is it pointless since she's now practically plastered already, but also because she's so open when her walls are down. Honestly, it was almost like he was just seeing and listening to Eren himself; albeit, cockier than usual.

But then again, Jean also has that side to him. And he was, undoubtedly, one of Eren's alters. So if anything, this only goes to show that Ymir really is a part of Eren who was just, unfortunately, split-off during childhood. As diverse as all their personalities might be, they all branched out from a single origin and have only developed their own perceptions and whatnot as time passed. Not to mention it was also to adapt to particular situations in which the host was faced with.

As how Levi understood it through Hanji's lectures and some tidbits he gathered from the different alters, people were like this whole puzzle picture. Everyone was born with large amount segments of themselves: how they think, feel, or do; whether they need comfort, sustenance, affections, so on and so forth. But as they grow older, all these segments or pieces integrate together to form this whole personality. People naturally become this whole puzzle picture in which they could access their different parts, or pieces, or egos without any issues.

But for a person with DID, trauma had interrupted this natural integration, and all the pieces remain separated. The cracks of the whole picture is still evident, and each piece remains a part of their own even though, altogether, they constitute one grand portrait.

In other words, people like Levi had naturally connected the gaps of the puzzle pieces and had become one whole, flawless picture; whereas people like Eren remain segmented, and even though you could see the whole picture, you could also clearly see which part is which.

"It would've been nice if I could bring her inside the inner world to keep me company. If only that was possible." Ymir mused. "I mean, sure with all the titan issue, she might just wet herself every other second. But fuck, it's not like this modern era is a paradise either. All this psychological shit just seem to exist everywhere, no matter the time and place." She shrugged, taking another couple of gulps on the bottle until it was dry.

Levi was tempted to ask her about herself, how she views things in their inner world and out, and just stuffs concerning herself in general. But then, with the current state she's in, it would feel like cheating since she wasn't entirely in control of her speech and thought process at the moment. So she just let her prattle about whatever it was she could offer.

Unfortunately, there was really nothing "informative" that she managed to slip out since most of her drunken blabber involved mocking the raven of his height, much to her enthusiasm and his annoyance.

"But you know what? Honestly, had you existed in our inner world, I think you would have been a great leader. I mean, hell, I've seen how you've protected and cared for Eren, and how you've interacted with your comrades out here. I should say your social skills are pretty shitty, but I'm no one to judge about that. So yeah. You might probably have been a good captain." She droned on, already appearing drowsy now that she had nothing to chug on.

Levi was rendered speechless. Had she really just complimented him? That was a compliment, right? He wasn't just hearing things?

As much as he wanted to shrug it off to the effect of alcohol, hearing those words come out from her mouth was still a force he hadn't prepared himself to. Now that he's actually sobered up a bit, he just realized how he was seeing a much different side to Ymir. What was once a spiteful individual was now showing insouciance about everything, yet also hinting at having some remarkable level of understanding of them.

Could Ymir still even be considered a fragment? Or has she transitioned into an actual alter now?

"Is that why you've changed my contact name on Eren's phone?" He opted to ask instead, deeming it better he just stick to their current topic than dwell about things that are beyond his comprehension and choice of profession.

"So you already saw that?" She chortled.

She must have done it after receiving a few lessons from Historia. Levi had came home one time to see Eren looking for his phone since he seemed to have "misplaced" it. Rather than taking a guess on where the device might be, Levi thought better and called his phone instead.

Following the sound, Eren found said device mixed up with Ymir's artsy materials. However, upon taking a close look on the name flashed on the screen, both of them found out what once had been "Kitten <3" was now "Cptn. Shortstacks".

"I thought it was a more suitable label." She continued.

She was actually lucky Levi couldn't say much in retaliation for fear of saying the wrong words, even if it was just as means to chaff. After all, he still didn't know if his sweet talk and pet names for the others would be taken the same way by her. She holds the worst memories of everyone, after all. Levi would hate to trigger anything. Thus, why he was reduced to sucking up all the jabs she had about his vertical disability and whatnot.

"Fuck, the world is spinning." She groaned as she slid down to the floor and buried her head on her knees.

"Yeah, that's what you get for not listening. Still think you're not drunk, huh?" The raven finally had an acceptable reason to nag as he finally confiscated the bottle. Which was rather pointless now that it was empty.

However, after the silence stretched on, Levi noticed her shoulders were starting to shake and sniffles soon followed.

"Hey, what's wrong?" He asked in alarm, kneeling down to her level. He gently pried her hands away and coaxed her to look at him.

"I'm not like Dina. I'm not like her. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get drunk. I'm sorry." She started to sob earnestly, repeating the words like some sort of mantra.

Levi had no idea what she was on about, but he could tell it was something from the past again. He tried connecting what few dots he was presented with and suspected whatever trauma they had went through involved some sort of alcoholic figure in their life.

"Hey, it's okay. You're right. You're not like her. Don't worry, getting drunk occasionally is normal. It's fine. As long as you don't do anything wrong, it's alright. You're alright. You're not like her." Levi consoled.

It took a while for her to calm down, but when she did, Levi thought she'd be dozing off already. Apparently, he was wrong.

"It's okay to get drunk?" She asked as if it was a difficult fact to comprehend.

"Well, I would prefer you don't do it often, but yes. It's normal. As long as you don't do anything that could harm you. But see, that's the thing. You're barely in control of yourself when you're intoxicated. So, if you know you do horrible things when drunk, it's better to just do your best to prevent it. Getting drunk, I mean."

He didn't know how much she was able to comprehend at her current state, but it was still better to give her the right advice which he, himself, learned the hard way and on his own.

She kept mum after that. And just when Levi thought she was taking his words into consideration, her eyelids fluttered shut and she slumped in her position on the floor.

Letting out a tired sigh, he stood up and stretched before carrying the brunet to bed. This day didn't turn out to be anything he expected. But that's the thing about being with the brunet; everything was a surprise waiting to explode.

Which is why his life had never been dull ever since meeting him.

Chapter Text

"Hey, Lee." Historia chirped the moment the raven stepped into view.

She was currently on the couch with Ymir, trying to teach her about the camera feature on Eren's phone since she seemed so interested about it. Ymir, on the other hand, remained impassive with the raven's arrival, and was more invested with the blonde beside her rather than her host's significant other.

Levi, in turn, just grunted out an acknowledgement and just made a beeline for the bedroom where he could set his stuffs and hang his suit. Sometimes, the brunet would offer to take care of his things for him upon arrival. But that's only when Eren was out, with the occasional Sasha and surprise, surprise... Mikasa.

"And then, this is where you could view the pictures you took and saved on your phone. It's called the gallery, as you can see." He could hear the blonde's directions with a lilt in her tone as he took off his tie to join with the suit.

It was kind of handy that Historia was training to become a teacher since what she's practically doing right now is teaching a brat the basics of how to use something.

"What're you smiling at? Wait, is that... Aahhh! Don't look at that! Ymir, give me that! I have to delete that!" He could hear the struggling before he could even step out to check what was going on.

The blonde was trying to snatch the phone from the brunet, who kept her eyes glued on whatever was on the phone while her other hand shot out to keep the shorter in place. Levi knew Historia could try her best to grab the gadget to no avail, as he had so experienced himself not so long ago.

"Levi! Please get the phone from her." She opted to beg instead when she took note of the raven's presence. Short people could still win by numbers, after all.

Levi casually swiped the phone from Ymir's grip which was conveniently extended towards his direction. He disregarded the glare that was directed at him, more interested to see what the fuss was all about.

He couldn't help the smirk that made its way on his lips at the sight of the photo. It was of a hammered Historia who was completely wiped out after drinking herself to a stupor (though it had really just been one shot of tequila). If he remembered correctly, this was during one of their earlier hangouts, just sometime after he got recruited into the squad. Historia's mouth was hanging wide open and drool was freely leaking from the corner. She also had marker doodles all over her face, courtesy to surprise, surprise... Levi, who might actually had his fair number of shots at the time. If memory serves him right, Mikasa was the one who took this shot since she fronted after Eren started feeling sick.

"Levi! Delete the photo. Hurry, before she takes it away again!" Historia pleaded as she struggled to keep the other from launching herself on the raven.

To her relief, Levi made a few taps on the device before tossing it back to the pair on the couch. Ymir simmered in annoyance as she grabbed hold of the phone once again and see if the midget really did delete the photo. Historia also chanced a peek beside her, waiting to declare and rub the "short people camaraderie" at her face.

"Ha! Now it's gone. I'll have you know that Levi and I have a strong bond together no one taller than 5'3 – maybe 5'4 – could break." She puffed out proudly after they couldn't find the picture in the gallery anymore.

But maybe relief and pride were the wrong things for the blonde to feel as a couple of messages popped into the brunet's phone not long after.

MarBott: I think I remember when this happened.

BertHoo: I was wondering if anyone took a picture of this.

"Levi, how could you?!" She gasped, feeling very much betrayed. Apparently, Levi had sent the photo to the whole squad before deleting it.

There goes her belief on "short people camaraderie". She never had problems with Armin before. She really should've known better when it comes to the raven.

"What? If you were going to delete it, might as well let the others take a glimpse of it, right?" Levi shrugged, busying himself with preparing tea.

"A glimpse? They are going to print a tarp out of this and hang it on my birthday!" She exclaimed as the idea is very much plausible considering her choice of friends, that is, it's going to be led by the joint forces of Eren and co. and Armin.

Speaking of...

Ar-Ar_MyBrah: Finally! A good shot to hang on a good occasion. Excellent work!

Ar-Ar_MyBrah: I just snorted coffee all over my senior btw. Worth it, tho.

"I wouldn't miss it, then." The raven merely smirked at her.

"What's a tarp?" The brunet piped up from the couch.

"You've seen those large pictures they put on top of buildings and shit?" Levi responded, not even tearing his eyes away from the current task at hand.

"That's a tarp?"

"Something like that. Basically, Historia's face is gonna be a hundred times bigger than that on the phone."

"Nice."

"The atrocity!" Historia scoffed. "Traitors, the lot of you." She dramatically threw her hands up in the air.

 

Levi had once told her that he will do his damnedest to keep things bright for Eren. It took days, weeks, months for Ymir to finally start believing him. There were a few bumps along the way, but overall, her road to recovery was going well.

However, now that she was starting to get better, now that she's not itching too much to make a new mark on the brunet's wrists, now that she's able to push (albeit, with difficulty) the memories to the background... that only left her more time to think; to reflect.

What really is her role in the system?

She genuinely believed at one point that it was to help put a stop to Eren's misery. Isn't that why she used to be thrown forward whenever the brunet was faced with something horrible? Isn't that why she remembers everything?

And hey, putting an end to his misery would also mean the same to hers. Which is why her former ways of coping were not only as means of having an outlet, even if that had been the primary reason for doing so.

Then again, if she does figure out her role, would she even want to take it?

Truth be told, her answer is still a resounding "NO". Not to be mistaken, she no longer feels any resentment towards Eren and has rather started feeling a tiny bit of protectiveness for him. It's really faint, but it's there. So if anything, she may have to protect him from herself.

And as much as she believes things were better now, she's not over fooling herself that problems are a thing of the past. And she's not so foolish as to believe that Historia would be able to continue to run to her side whenever she has to; or that Levi would coincidentally happen to be around whenever they were in danger again.

Then, of course, there's also Levi. Someone who undoubtedly would've been a much better protector had he been an alter. But then again, it was probably for the best that he wasn't.

All of Ymir's spare time in the inner world was spent mulling over these thoughts. The more she thought about it, the more certain she was on what she wants. However, she's not about to force Eren's cooperation into it, and would rather wait for his explicit consent. She was secretly grateful that Eren was trying his best to meet her halfway despite them still having much difficulties seeing eye-to-eye. Though ironically, she actually connects with Eren a lot better than with the other alters.

Probably 'coz she's been with him way before the others surfaced. She just finds it bitterly funny how Eren couldn't remember any of that. But hey, she can't really hold that against him.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard footsteps approaching her vicinity. Diverting her gaze below, she saw the brunet approaching the ruins of what once had been someone's home. The only one where they couldn't enter even if they tried.

She watched in silence as Eren trailed a hand over the wooden beam that once had been a strong foundation for the domicile. Now, it serves as a strong obstruction from the room located downstairs. Whatever thoughts were running through his mind at the moment, she could only guess.

"Hey, Eren." She called out when she was certain he wasn't planning to leave anytime soon, and that the others don't seem to be following him.

Eren whipped his head around, completely startled by the voice calling him. It took him a few seconds to locate the source who was currently perched up on the roof of a nearby house.

"Ymir... hey. I was just... I wasn't..." He tried to come up with an excuse of him wandering alone, though none came to mind.

Not that Ymir needed to hear any of it anyway. She just looked at him straight in the eye, trying to determine his commitment to his answer to a question she has yet to ask.

"Do you really wanna know what's in the basement?"

 


 

Levi found the brunet one night curled up on the floor just beside the bed. One glance at the scarf around his neck, and he could already tell it was currently Mikasa. Though upon closer inspection, she had actually worn the one he had given her as opposed to the one Eren did.

It could probably be due to the weather. It was already the start of summer after all, and Levi was looking forward for his balls getting fried under the wonderful summer heat... not. But climate complaints aside, it was still unusual for Mikasa to choose wearing the scarf that he gave over Eren's.

Why is she even wearing a scarf in the first place?

If his observations were right, she would usually do that whenever she was feeling down and in need of some comfort, but is unwilling to ask, much more admit it out loud. Add in the previous clue, and he could pretty much take a plausible guess on what might be bothering her.

He sat down on the bed next to her and noted how she tensed up a bit, but otherwise ignored his presence.

"Something wrong?" He decided to ask, knowing she would never speak out first. "Is it Eren?" He followed-up when she didn't bother with a response to the first question.

She went rigid once again before giving out a single nod, and tugging her scarf higher. Levi spotted a hairbrush forgotten on top of the nightstand and reached out for it before positioning himself directly behind the brunet, gently drawing those strands out from the fabric wrapped around the younger's neck. One of the advantages of Eren growing his hair out was that Levi found he actually enjoys brushing it straight. He made a mental note to learn how to tie it up if they were to go through this scorching season.

"Is he close?" He asked again, still gently brushing those chocolate strands.

"No, but Reiner is." She finally decided to use her voice, posture relaxing at the soothing feeling.

Well, that isn't surprising in the least.

"Wanna tell me what happened?" He risked asking. Mikasa was the least open among all of them, and he doesn't really blame her for that. Nonetheless, there was no harm in reminding her that he's just there whenever she's ready to confide in him.

He was answered with silence and he just inwardly sighed at how she's still unwilling to open up to him. So he just continued with his current task, having nothing else better to do.

"Eren head-butted me."

His hand paused its ministrations when she spoke up once again.

"Why's that?" He managed to let out, voice level and free of judgment as he resumed his actions.

"He told us Ymir wanted to integrate with him. I refused. So he got mad at me." She explained briefly.

 

 

Everyone stilled when Eren made the announcement. He had gathered them all in their barracks one day and told him of what Ymir had in mind.

"That's good, Eren." Reiner, ever the diplomatic one, spoke out first. "Did she tell you how she's going to do it?"

"She said she still doesn't know how. Just that, she just wants to do it." Eren responded, his eyes burning in what could only be approval.

"Okay, but do you wanna do it?" Jean butted in, eyebrows furrowed in skepticism.

"I do. Isn't that what we've been trying to achieve in our therapy sessions? I don't really see anything wrong with what she wanted. It's what I want, too."

A beat of silence passed over them.

"I guess you're right." Sasha's hesitant voice broke through the dead air. "I'm okay with it, if you are."

Annie kept silent throughout the discussion, keeping her opinions to herself. Although, she was subtly shifting closer to the ravenette who has also yet to speak out.

"This is going to be something new for all of us, but as your protectors, we'll just be here to back you up, alright?" Reiner spoke up again.

"Thanks guys. You---"

"I refuse." Mikasa cut in. All the attention diverted to her, and Annie couldn't help putting a feather-light hand on the small of her back.

Defiance flared up in the brunet's eyes. "What about you, Annie?" He opted to ask her instead.

Annie lagged for a moment. Being put in the hotseat is by no means comfortable in the slightest.

"I stick with what we've always agreed on." She finally responded. "If the majority agrees with it, then my only role is to support in what way I can."

Mikasa shot her a mixed look of annoyance, betrayal, and hurt.

"But what do you think about it?" Eren pushed.

"It's too risky." Mikasa butted in. "We still don't know the repercussions if it happens, but we do know it's going to be ugly. Eren, I don't think you're ready for it. And even if you insist you are, I still think it's a bad idea. A lot of things could happen, and all of them would, most probably, turn out bad. Horrible, even. I just don't want you to---"

"Stop fussing over me, Mikasa." He cut her off. "I know you're just worried about me, but I'm no longer the same kid as you knew me back then. Don't tell me you still couldn't tell even though we've literally been together for years? You're literally inside my head, for fuck's sake!"

"I know, that's why I'm telling you it's a bad idea." She insisted.

"Why are you even opposing to it? You should be happy that Ymir is actually proposing a major step in our treatment. One we've been struggling for years. Besides, we still don't know if it'll, indeed, happen. And she'll be integrating with me, Mikasa. Not anyone else."

"And that's the worst part! Out of anyone here, I should know best what it's like to shoulder the memories. And that's exactly why I'm saying no to the idea. Compared to all of you, I'm---"

She felt a pang of pain burst through her forehead, and it didn't take long for her to realize that Eren had actually head-butted her.

"Hey, guys. That's enough. Maybe we should---" Reiner tried to intervene but was cut-off when Eren spoke up again.

"Are you saying it's okay if Ymir continues to suffer?" The brunet seethed as he glared daggers at the ravenette who was reduced to touching her forehead with both hands and staring at him wide-eyed. "Are you saying it's okay for her to continue being haunted with visions from the past as long as we... I could go through everyday in blissful ignorance?"

"That's not what I---"

"Sure, I don't know how it feels like being unable to remember shit. Not yet, at least. But, do you even know how it feels like being unable to remember your own past? I know you think it's better off that way, but do you really think that's okay for me? Fuck, I barely remember what my own mother looks like!"

Mikasa stopped fighting at that. It was true that she never really took into consideration how Eren felt being unable to remember the intricate details of his history. Nonetheless, she still thinks it was better for him to know nothing about it. After all, Eren's well-being is her top priority, and she's only doing her best to do her job.

But what is she to do when it was Eren, himself, who insists on something that opposes her beliefs? It was an Augean pill to swallow, but it was something she could only, unwillingly, nod at.

 

Levi still doesn't know much about the whole integration thing. His general idea of it involves the "fusion" of alters. So if that does happen, would he notice Ymir more? Or would Eren still prevail?

More importantly, he figured Mikasa's opposition to the idea was more on the prospect of memories unlocking in Eren's consciousness. Taking that into consideration, he could fully understand her objection to the idea. Hell, he once thanked Ymir for shouldering those memories in place of Eren. Because what? Because he didn't even want to think what Eren would do if he, indeed, remember those nasty stuffs.

Does his opinion still stand to this day?

"I'm just looking out for him." Mikasa mumbled beneath him, curling further once again on her knees.

It was then that the answer to his own question formulated itself. He just hopes it would be in-line to hers, or at the very least she could come to share the sentiment.

"You know, I used to think it's better if Eren didn't remember anything, too." Levi started.

"Used to?"

"To some extent, a part of me still holds on to that." He admitted. "But I choose to trust Eren. As much as I want to cover him thoroughly in bubble wrap and keep him inside a vault for optimal safekeeping, I choose to trust him. As childish and immature as he may seem to be, I know he's trying his best to be more than that. He's still growing, as are the rest of us, and I think maybe giving him an idea of what exactly to grow up from would help."

"But it's not just an idea." She protested. "Maybe if Ymir would integrate with me, I could consider it. I'm fine with that."

"But he's not." Levi pointed out. "Eren's not fine with that. And the way I see it, you're not fine with it, either."

"You don't know that." She muttered out.

"Am I wrong, then?" He shot back.

Mikasa kept mum, and when she made a move to stand up, the raven firmly pushed her back down.

"Sit. I'm not done yet." He instructed before resuming his brushing. "Look, Mikasa, if you think Eren wanting to push through with the integration shit was more for some selfish desires of his, you're mistaken. He has told me multiple times how guilty he always feels everytime he's reminded of how you have to hold his memories in his place. Not only you, but the rest as well, considering they also carry their own share. But the fact that you're shouldering the heavier ones, he keeps blaming himself for that. Imagine what it's like with Ymir."

That hit Mikasa hard. She always knew Eren felt something from knowing about her role in the system, but she thought it was just mere pity. Something she wanted to resolve by appearing formidable; wanting to prove that she was worthy of the role she was given.

It had never really occurred to her that Eren had always wanted to look out after them in the same way as they do to him. Maybe Levi was right. Maybe she should allow Eren some room to grow. Maybe she did keep seeing Eren as the same fragile child who should always be protected as she did the very first time.

"Just like the rest of you, Ymir is also a part of Eren. Let him come to terms with that part of him. Let him embrace that. Although it might be different to how he's accepted the rest of you, I don't think he meant anything by it. I mean, surely it's not favoritism, 'cause it's Ymir we're talking about here. Then again... if they both really wanted to do it, then trust them. Trust Eren."

Maybe she should trust Eren more. Perhaps as much as Levi already does.

"Besides, if things do go south, he has you to turn to. He has Hanji. He has the rest of the brats. He has me. On the same note, you also have Hanji to turn to. You have the rest of your friends. You have me. Your system is no longer alone in this, Mikasa. So maybe, just maybe, you could start taking another step forwards."

Maybe she should trust Levi more.

"I guess you're right." She mumbled, voice so low it was easy to miss it.

"So, did it hurt?"

Mikasa craned her head up to look at the raven with confusion at the sudden change of topic.

"What did?"

Her breath hitched when said raven leaned down to peck at her forehead.

"This." Levi stated matter-of-factly.

She immediately snapped her head back before tugging her scarf way up that it covered her entire face. It was funny, since her face had become as red as the scarf concealing it.

"Not anymore." She mumbled through the fabric.

 


 

Roughly two hours before he could head home, Levi received a phonecall from the brunet.

"Hello?"

"I called Blondie over."

"A toast to that." He replied flatly. Who else would be calling Historia that? (Other than him, of course).

There was a lull in the line and Levi wondered if Ymir really just called him for that. Did she wanted to be praised? Or is it just to rub it in his face that she could actually learn how to use a fucking phone?

"Hey, shorty." She started once again. "How long do you plan on staying by Eren's side?"

The sudden question caught him off-guard. Nonetheless, he already has a definite answer to that.

"As long as possible." He answered with confidence. "Why're you asking?"

"Just making sure." was all she said before the line went dead. Weird.

 

He was no longer surprised when he, indeed, saw the blonde in his apartment when he went home that night. The usual greetings were passed around before he made his way into the bedroom to change.

"This has bothered me for a while, do you even have any other friends other than those I've unfortunately met before? I mean, do you have female friends?" Ymir asked after Historia prattled on about her day with Bertolt, her bump-ins with Armin, and how Marco had volunteered to assist in the same orphanage she works in.

"Of course, I do. There's Mikasa, Sasha, Annie, and you." She pointed out.

"I mean outside this body, you moron."

"I do, too." She responded casually, undeterred. "It's just... well, the sense of belongingness just feels stronger when I'm with these guys."

"You don't think that's weird? Dangerous, even?"

"No." Historia snorted. "Tell you what, I've only ever been drunk when I'm with them, and not once had they laid a finger on me. Levi actually chides me for doing so, and they always make sure I'm somewhere safe before they leave. So, I don't think being with them is dangerous for me. I should say maybe being away from them could be."

"You're not worried about developing attractions then?"

"Ymir, I'm gay." Historia stated fondly. "Well, bisexual. But the gayness is stronger, I guess."

"Any luck finding someone then?" Ymir decided to ask.

"With all these questions, I would think you're flirting with me, Ymir." Historia teased. The other just kept a tight line on her lips.

"But, no. I'm more invested with helping the kids out, rather than searching for that special someone. If it happens, then it happens. I just hope that when it does, I'd be as lucky as Eren and Levi are." She swooned.

Levi heard all of that from his place in the kitchen where he was currently preparing them something to drink. It wasn't really because he's hospitable, it's just that he was craving his daily servings of tea, so might as well make some for all of them. At least it was also a good excuse to join in the conversation.

"I see." Ymir muttered out. The next seconds were spent with her mulling over something.

"There's still one thing I'd like to know."

"Sure. What is it?" Historia prompted with enthusiasm.

And then in a flash, the brunet's lips were on hers. It was a simple pressing of lips-to-lips, nevertheless, it was something the blonde would never have expected.

The same goes to the raven standing in the distance, gripping a tray of teacups.

"So, that's how it feels like." Ymir mused. Though Historia's mind already went blank.

Before anyone could process what had happened, Ymir abruptly stood up, muttered out a, "Thanks", and gave a single pat on the blonde's head before heading towards the bedroom.

It must've taken forever before both people, who were left stunned by the turn of events, came back to their senses.

"Levi! I'm so sorry. I swear I have nothing to do with that. I had no idea she was going to do that. I didn't mean to do it. I was just taken by surprise. I swear I had no intentions. Oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry. I swear I didn't mean to do it." Historia frantically tried to explain as she bolted in front of the raven and was clutching his arms absently, her big blue eyes brimming with unshed tears, and face flushed with different shades of red.

"I know." Levi responded tightly. As tight as his grip on the tray was.

He really couldn't blame the blonde for what just happened. She wasn't even the one who instigated things. Still, the sight of the brunet kissing another person was something he would have lived with not seeing.

 

By the time Eren fronted, it was to his utter confusion when he noticed Levi seemed like... sulking. It was not a word he would have ever associated with the raven, but he couldn't find any other word for his current behavior.

Because really, how would you call it if someone refused to come out from the cocoon of his covers on the bed for the past three hours?

He had tried coaxing him out multiple times to no avail. He tried remembering if he had ever done something wrong, or if anything had ever happened that would cause the raven to act like this... also to no avail.
Then Ymir popped into his head. Maybe Ymir had done something. And if Ymir had done something, maybe Historia knows what exactly is that something.

Fishing out his phone, he didn't hesitate to dial the blonde's number. And just as he thought, Historia did know what exactly had happened. She sounded so flustered on the line and had apologized profusely to him, and even asked him to especially extend the apologies to the raven. Eren also couldn't believe Ymir had done that, and in front of Levi at that. But then, in the end, it was up to him to find a solution for it.

Sitting on the bed beside the raven's self-made cocoon, Eren couldn't help finding the situation amusing, now that he thought about it. Even Latte had took to sleeping on top of the covers Levi was currently wrapped in. She probably found her daddy's antics entertaining as well. Who would have thought this grumpy midget could act so cute?

"Hey, kitten." Eren cooed, lying beside where he guessed his head must be. "You do know that I love you, right? You and no one else?"

He just received a grunt in reply.

"Gimme a kiss, then?"

When the raven refused to budge from his position, Eren changed tactics.

"Fine. Seems like you don't love me, after all." He huffed, acting to roll away.

As expected, the covers immediately shuffled and Levi's head soon popped out.

"Come here, you little shit." He grumbled out.

Eren flashed him a triumphant grin before complying. If Levi wanted to be assured that he loves him and him alone, then Eren would spend every moment reminding him that.

 

Hopefully the same would still be reciprocated as the dark cloud hovering over them draws near.

Chapter Text

He wasn't 10 when it happened. He was only 5.

 

It all started when his mother fell sick to a disease his young mind could no longer comprehend, much more remember. His parents had to go somewhere... a place where a cure was promised perhaps. Somewhere far away. Somewhere they couldn't bring him along.

So as any parent would have done, they would entrust their child to the care of someone they trust. Or at least they think they could trust.

It was in the same house, the same people.

"Be good." His mother had always told him before they left. "Don't give your aunt Dina a hard time. Always follow what she tells you to do." She reiterated over and over again until his young mind could understand.

His father had told him that if he was good, then his mom would get better sooner. That if he did what he was told, they'd give him a reward. And that simple bribe worked wonders. Just the thought of being able to receive anything he would ask at the end of the day was enough to push the bubbling tantrum to the back of his mind.

How could he have known that they would be gone for weeks?

More so, how could he have known these people who were supposed to take care of him would be the ones he should be protected from?

 

"Who's this kid?" A boy older than him, with curly blond hair, had asked.

The brunet was uncharacteristically well-behaved just sitting on the sofa for almost 20 minutes after his parents had left. He wanted to play in the yard with the toys he brought with him, but he still had his mother's words at the front of his mind. Seeing the boy in front of him, he wanted to ask him to play with him too. He always liked making friends, and he wasn't really shy around strangers. He hadn't found any reason to be scared of them.

Not yet, at least.

"Carla's kid." He couldn't have noticed the venom in her voice as she spat the words out. Even if he had, he wouldn't have been able to identify it as such.

He couldn't have known about the history his father had with her. How they used to be together way before his dad ended up marrying his mom. He couldn't have known about how she always had this veiled spite towards his mother.

And how she was just presented with the perfect outlet to finally channel out these pent-up frustrations.

Especially with Eren being a very active kid for his age, it wasn't hard to find an excuse of "disciplining" him. Really though, even if he wasn't, it won't really be any difficult to do what she wanted. Kids are easy to manipulate after all. So innocent. So blissfully ignorant.

A firm reprimand, a timeout, facing the wall, being grounded... these weren't the things she had in mind. But she still wanted to play it safe.

So locking him inside the dark basement it is.

Eren had openly bawled as his tiny fists pounded against the hard wood. He pleaded to be let out. Begged to see his mom. Profusely apologized for something he had no real idea of. Promised to be good, even though he already had been. And it all fell into deaf ears.

And it continued on for his entire stay there. They never allowed him to take a step outside of the house, and if they so see his shadow go beyond the front door, he was thrown back in the basement. If he didn't promise to never tell anyone that they treat him badly, he's back in that dark room. Even if he hardly did anything wrong, he's always pushed back down to the cellar.

It was already usual for him to pass out from exhaustion of crying his eyes out everytime he finds himself in the basement. Sometimes, when he wakes up, the door would already be open which signalled he was okay to go out. Most of the times, it wasn't.

Sometimes, Dina would be at the other side of the door, telling him things like how he was a very bad boy, how his mother didn't love him, and everything under the sun that could break down a poor 5-year-old's heart. It didn't take long for Zeke to join along and would tease him about how he was such a crybaby and such, no wonder his parents didn't like him.

He even woke up one time to find a huge figure looming above him with a horrifying face that he was screaming as he scrambled up and away from the creature. His sudden movement caused him to graze the back of his neck against a sharp object that it actually bled before he even noticed it.

Zeke merely laughed at him as he picked up the dummy he purposely built just to scare the child. The reaction he got from the brunet encouraged him to try it again for another time, and another, and another – until he's satisfied his knack for frightening the poor kid to death. Dina has yet to give the go signal for Eren to be let out the room, so he just locked the door behind him again; not noticing the blood seeping out from the brunet's nape.

Not noticing the dazed off look that settled on his features.

 

When his parents returned, it was noticeable how the brunet had mellowed out during the span of time they were away. It caused them concern, but always thought it was due to Eren's first time being away from them for quite a long time. The cut on his neck had long been treated and was reasoned it was from a playing accident in the yard.

They've also noticed how the brunet had became lighter, thinner. Though with the knowledge of Eren's finickiness when it comes to food, they didn't even dare to consider maybe their child was being purposely starved.

His parents never thought ill of the house he had stayed with. Especially since he didn't... couldn't say anything bad.

Being back in his parents' care must've helped a lot. Although, they couldn't help but notice how he's having a hard time dealing with other kids now. More often than not, he would end up in a fight with another kid, or would just refuse to even interact with one. And there were times when he would noticeably shy away from the presence of a stranger.

Things he didn't really do before.

But just when his mom thought something was up, she would then find her baby laughing and getting along with other children other than Armin. He wouldn't hesitate to greet a person he hadn't met before, and actually keep his manners in check.

The switches in behavior was a bit unsettling, but Eren was still just a kid. And kids do tend to do a lot of weird things.

Right?

 

Eren had always thought he was just dreaming. During his stay at that house, he could hardly tell when he was awake or when he wasn't, after all. He always sees the same person in his mind. A girl who was way older than him with dark hair, narrow eyes, and freckles. A girl going by the name Ymir.

But after time passed, it wasn't just her.

There were Gabi, Falco, and Kaya. Kids just around his age, if not a bit younger. Then there were the older ones, Marlo and Hitch. Kids... teens... around the same age as Ymir.

He didn't know when exactly they "disappeared". He hardly had any idea on who they were. On what they were. He couldn't even tell when they were out. If they even came out. But placing his guesses out, Gabi, and perhaps Marlo, must've integrated with him. Which leaves Falco, Kaya, and Hitch to Ymir, since Ymir never really disappeared.

Probably because out of all of them, Ymir was the only one who absolutely despised their situation; their host.

Or at least she used to.

 

"I think I remember either one of you telling me though – I think it was Eren – that he'd never met his foster family before."

"I'm also not sure of the reason behind that. But as for the rest of us, we've always felt like they were really familiar. Like we've met them before, but we also get this feeling of not wanting to remember. But... I'd like to think that if you'd ask Ymir, she'd probably reason it's because Eren had always kept his head low the first time he'd been there. Other than being locked in for most of the time, of course. And maybe, even as a child, he just didn't want to remember."

Hanji cupped her chin contemplatively and mulled over the possibilities. It could be that Eren had been too young to remember or, as was stated, he just didn't really want to. If it's the latter, then there's a high possibility that those memories were repressed by none other than Ymir.

"Are these all of the previous alters who existed?" She asked instead, tone soothing yet somber at the same time.

"I don't know. That's as much as I could tell. I can't remember if I ever met them, but they do sound very familiar." The brunet responded; eyes puffy and nose buried in the wrapped comfort of the scarf around their neck.

Mikasa.

The brunet had been a blob and quite confused about his own identity throughout the session. With the alters being highly co-conscious, it was no wonder they were fighting for the surface and practically co-fronting with each other. However, it could be noticed that it was Mikasa who tends to take over especially when they delve into the more sensitive details.

After Ymir's integration, they were able to access the infamous basement of their inner world. To access the memories locked in Ymir's state of consciousness. However, it was Eren who took the most of the impact; followed closely by Mikasa. The spillovers the two could no longer bear to hold were then caught by the others.

"That must mean they integrated before Eren was 10. Before you and the others present now split off. Or maybe they were mostly insiders and had been there the whole time you just weren't aware about it. Kind of like what you first thought about Ymir." Hanji thought out loud. "But that would be weird, since they shouldn't have just stood by when you... well, when Eren went back to that house. So maybe, if we do consider that they've integrated with either Eren or Ymir – or anyone who might've been present at that time – after he was back with his parents, maybe he could've mostly recovered by himself... if it didn't happen again."
Mikasa nodded dumbly at this.

"As a child, what happened was already too much to bear. But things only got worse when we ended up back in that place. I guess they got even more daring since they knew Eren's father wouldn't come back for him." Mikasa continued tightly. "It went further from just being verbal to being more physical. Being regularly beaten up, sprayed under a scorching shower, threatened at knife point and..." She shut her eyes tightly and held unto the hem of their sweater for dear life. "I can't breathe."

A pair of hands instinctively shot out to push her scarf down and give her more breathing room, before proceeding to make soothing strokes on her back while the other hand tried to gently push stray strands of hair to the back of her ears. Levi was now kneeling in front of the brunet, observing her carefully before offering her a bottled water when he deemed it fit.

He had been there ever since the start of their session. Eren had requested his presence, saying he needed him to anchor him down on this one. Levi took the initiative of keeping his mouth shut the entire time, and speaking only when required and necessary. Not that it was difficult for him to do, he was more absorbed in listening anyway.

And what he just heard would forever grip his heart.

 


 

Ymir's integration, though viewed and believed to be good and for the best, took its toll on the system. They started experiencing flashbacks at random intervals. It was something they weren't used to experiencing, and they could only wonder how Ymir went through the years with it. Granted her ways of coping had been quite harmful on the body, but now that they were experiencing it for themselves, they find that they couldn't really blame her, after all.

It wasn't always intense, but when it is, their chest would start to feel like it's being weighed down heavily, their mind would go into overdrive, and breathing becomes a chore. It was like they were back in that scene all those years ago. Just a helpless little child whose only wish was for everything to stop.

Levi became their saving grace. The solid reminder that they were no longer living in the past.

It was difficult, but Levi did his very best to cater to everyone's needs when they were getting lost in that already paved road of their childhood. He gradually figured out what works best to keep each alter grounded.

Mikasa liked to be buried under the veil and comfort of her scarves, Annie prefers being wrapped in blankets, and Sasha would want to have a pillow or her huge ice cream plush to cling unto. The guys' flashbacks aren't as frequent as the females' (with the exception of Eren), but when they do happen, Jean prefers having someone's back against his, and Reiner's anchor would be someone's voice talking to him.

And just like Eren, someone's presence and physical contact work wonders for all of them. Most preferably Levi's. Which is why no trace of hesitation could be detected whenever the raven would wrap them around the security of his arms. The unpleasant awkwardness had long been history, replaced with comfort and the general rightness of it.

Well, the guys still get a bit (a lot) flustered afterwards, but that's to be expected.

 

By the time he saw Eren absently tugging at his chest, Levi already had a feeling they were going down that road again. He wordlessly coaxed the brunet closer to him on the couch until he was laying on top of him. Eren made no objections and naturally melted in his hold.

"I've been meaning to ask you, how does integrating with Ymir feels like?" Levi initiated, wanting to distract the younger from remembering his own memories.

"I don't know. I'm not even really sure at what point in time it happened exactly." Eren responded. "To be honest, I could still feel her. But... not like how I do with the others. It's kind of like when I'm co-fronting with someone, but like... differently. I don't know. It just feels like... I'm no longer separated from her."

"I see." Levi hummed, idly tracing nonsensical patterns on the brunet's back.

"The weird thing is that she still exists in our inner world, but more like... an NPC now. She doesn't have any knowledge of being an alter, and her memories are purely based on our inner world story."

Talking about Ymir's integration led to Levi realizing something. All this time, all he's ever done whenever the system experiences flashbacks was to keep them grounded and distract them.

Eren had already laid himself bare to him. He had let the raven see him at his most vulnerable states. He had trusted Levi with his darkest memories.

Perhaps it was time for him to reveal the skeletons hiding in his own closet.

"You know, my own mother died when I was 7; maybe 8... or 9." He blurted out. "She worked in a brothel, so safe to say I never knew whose sperm I belong to."

Wide teal eyes gazed up at him, and Levi knew he had the brunet's full attention.

"I'm pretty sure I've mentioned at one point that we lived in a shithole, so when she fell sick to some sort of disease, we didn't even have the means to consult whatever it was. It could've just been a cold for all I know. Bottomline, I could only watch as she rotted in the only bed we had." His eyes narrowed at the memory. "I went for days with barely anything to eat. I didn't want to leave my mother's side. She was the only person I know. But for some reason, my asshole of an uncle swooped in one day and took me into his care. I say 'asshole' because he is. He didn't even tell me we were related at first. Took me years to find out he was my uncle. But it didn't take me as much time to figure out how he was involved in a syndicate. One that had the cops desperately chasing after their tails, in fact." He snorted at the information.

"So I grew up with him. If you could even call it that. He was rarely seen in that big-ass house, and sparing at least three sentences to each other in a span of a week would be nothing short of a miracle. I never made any friends since communicating had become something foreign for me. He did teach me a lot of things, though. A lot of things that would have made me become like him. Hell, I might've ended up dead just like him had it escalated further. So if you think I'm an asshole... I am. But you could also blame him, if you want. That bastard deserves it."

Eren still wasn't giving him any response and was rather contented with staring wide-eyed at him. Levi got lost in those ocean orbs and what was supposed to be an extended rant about his not-so-heroic uncle, diverted into something else.

"Kenny didn't really took care of me, despite providing me with the needs to survive. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't one point where I thought it would've been better if he hadn't taken me out of that shithole." He admitted quietly, still staring into the brunet's eyes. "But now that I think about it, Kenny was indeed a vile man. But for what his flaws are, it was largely because of him I'm still breathing until now. If he hadn't taken me out of that place, I never would've had this pleasure of being with you here right now."

A blush instantly crept up the brunet's cheeks and he took to hiding on the raven's chest. Levi just huffed out his amusement before carding his fingers through those chocolate strands.

"What does your mom look like?" Eren asked lowly, voice slightly muffled with the raven's chest.

Levi halted his actions as he focused on his answer. Now that he gave it a thought, he could barely remember what his own mother looked like. They didn't have the luxury of keeping photos, and even Kenny had no shit to show him. The only faces that bastard made him remember were those of his "business partners" and those printed in the wads of paper bills he showered him.

He knew his mother was beautiful. But the more he tries to rack his brain for more details, the image of a rotting corpse keep popping into his mind.

"I'm sorry." Eren hastily apologized as he lifted his head and instantly took note of the raven's darkening expression. "I'm really sorry. Forget I asked. I forgot you were too young to remember. I'm an idiot. I'm sorry."

"I can very much guarantee she was very beautiful." Levi breathed out.

The brunet only stared at him with teal eyes wider than before. He looked shock at his response, but as to why, Levi didn't know. There was nothing unusual with what he said.

But perhaps what was unusual was the tear streaking down his cheek.

When was the last time he cried? Fuck, if he knew. What he could say with absolute certainty was that it was only his mother who had seen him cry before. And that was telling a lot.

Eren cupped the raven's cheeks delicately, brushing away the tear-stains with his thumb.

"I think I can guarantee that too." He stated genuinely with a gentle smile before kissing him tenderly.

 

From then on, whenever anyone of them would have a crash course to the past, Levi started sharing bits of himself along the way. They have their distinct ways whenever a flashback would happen. Eren was the most vocal and easily distinguished. Mikasa would seem like having a headache. Annie would space out and keep muttering "I'm sorry's" under her breath. Sasha would suddenly scream and clutch her stomach. Jean would have this creepy grin before morphing into a somber one. And Reiner... he would have a hard time distinguishing between the inner and outer worlds.

When these things happen, he'd tell Mikasa about his own childhood. He'd tell Annie about his gangster days. He'd tell Sasha about how he was severely malnourished as a child. He'd tell Jean about how he learned not to let others take advantage of him. He'd tell Reiner about losing the only friends he had.

Doing so felt like ripping a band-aid each time he recollects about his own past. Perhaps this was also what they felt like when they bare their own experiences to him. Who knew talking about things that already happened could be so difficult?

But then again, sometimes, band-aids do need to be tore down if only to be replaced with another. Those patches are all temporary anyways. No matter how much you try to bury your history behind, they will come back to haunt you in one way or another. Sooner or later, you'll need to come up with another coping method if the previous ones start to fail.

So they will tear open old wounds over and over again, and make sure to give it the aftercare it deserves as many times over until it heals. It may be foolish to believe the pain would disappear with a snap of a finger, but maybe those childhood remedies of magical kisses would at least soothe it. Something the two haven't had the luxury to know and experience, unfortunately, as their childhood was something that was corrupted by fate. But it's something they had been instinctively doing to support each other.

Maybe as late as it may seem, they could still re-live their lost springtime they've never experienced in full bloom.

Chapter Text

Levi was mildly startled when the brunet suddenly straddled him one afternoon while he was lounging on the couch with a cup of tea and a few papers at hand. Eren's face was tinted with a few shades of pinks and reds, but the fire of determination was present in his eyes.

The raven set the papers aside to give the younger his attention. Dealing with the flashbacks had been a tough experience for both parties. Nonetheless, with Hanji's help and Levi's unwavering support, Eren and co. had managed to overcome them each and everytime, to the point that they had become less and less frequent.

Although, it was to the brunet's utter disappointment when they had to skip yet another semester, since learning how to make things more manageable after the entire adversity had taken more time than he thought necessary. Everyone had constantly assured him though that he was doing way better than he thinks. And that had, at least, been enough to keep his fire of optimism going.

But with Eren's recovery comes some added quirks (which are mostly barely noticeable, unless one had the raven's keen sense of observations) that Levi had come to expect even though he really didn't have an idea what was going through the brunet's head. It was better to expect just about anything, really.

Basically, Eren had become a lot bolder with himself and had been determined to try out things he always wanted to do, but never had the courage to do so before. Heaven knows how much Levi had to talk him out from trying to slide down from the balcony using only blankets that were haphazardly tied together, or trying to slide down a flight of stairs through the railing... riding a cardboard box. The audacity of the brunet that had been amplified after the integration should have been impressive, to say the least. But it was also a lot more infuriating since said brunet kept dancing between the thin line of gutsiness and stupidity.

He arched his brow in silent question when Eren continued to keep his lips sealed.

"I wanna do it." Eren almost mumbled, but the words were stated resolutely.

"Do what?" Levi asked, internally sighing at the prospect of having to go with (or outrightly deny) whatever idea the younger had thought of again. He just hopes this wasn't about skydiving. Again.

Eren flushed even more and he hesitated for a moment before half-shouting to force the words out.

"I wanna have sex."

Insert figurative cup shattering.

"Figurative", because Levi's grip on the teacup – that he had treasured ever since Eren had so lovingly gifted it to him – tightened rather than the opposite. Although he remained brick-faced at the entire ordeal.

He set the cup down on the table to keep it safe since he has a feeling he could either drop it in this conversation, or grip it 'til it breaks. Both are undesirable results, so unto the table it is.

"Look, Eren. I---"

"I'm horny." The brunet interjected, face still steaming.

"That's not even remotely sexy."

And since he was straddling him, the raven couldn't really feel him down there. Not yet, at least.

Eren changed tactics and gently grabbed hold of one of the raven's hand and guided it underneath his shirt and up towards his chest.

"Please touch me, senpai." His voice wavered as he tried to mimick the hooded gaze he had seen in his "research".

The raven inhaled sharply, thoroughly confused on how he should really feel about all this.

"Fucking hell, Eren. Just what kind of porn have you been watching?" He pinched the bridge of his nose with the hand that was just on his tanned flesh.

Truth be told, the brunet was making his head throb – both up and downstairs. As confused as he may be in this current predicament, in his defense, he's just a simple man who has his weaknesses.

Number one being this brunet straddling him.

"Listen, brat. I know how much you wanted to try out new things. But don't you think you should give much more thought into this?"

"I already have. We've been together for what? Over a year already! We're practically living under the same roof, and we haven't even fucked once." Eren protested.

"Just because we've been together for long doesn't mean you should feel obligated to have sex with me." He reasoned.

Goddamn, he deserves to be fucking applauded for this. He may have liked to tease the brunet every now and then, but that's only for the enjoyment of watching him get flustered. He's not gonna deny there's been one too many times that the temptation of this tanned beauty had been far too strong to resist. Hell, he's not even sure how he's managed to keep his hands (dick) to himself when his own brain was already far down the gutter.

Oh, right. The switching. That had been a much effective demotivator than imagining someone's grandmother's undies – just coz he never knew his own grandmother.

The thought of how he could be sticking it in the brunet one second and have him screaming for a whole lot of other reasons, or when the brunet would be giving him a blowie only to choke and clamp down all of a sudden – were not the experiences he wanted to add on his yet-to-be-updated fuck resume. Having to deal with blue balls on top of it all just fortifies that argument.

"Look, how about we just take it slow and see how things will go from there, yeah?" He tried again.

"Fine." The brunet reluctantly agreed. He really did want to share such an intimate moment with no one else but the raven, yet he also knew his boyfriend had a point and was only refusing him out of concern.

Still, he did say to take things slow. That surely doesn't mean he can't start now, right?

Leaning slowly forwards, he pressed his lips towards the raven's own. The kiss was soft, slow – all under the guise of chastity. He could practically taste Levi's internal turmoil, though he made no move to break away or signal for him to stop.

But of course, this kiss was meant to be anything but chaste. Soon enough, Eren gradually turned up the dial until they were full-blown making out on the couch.

"Eren... hold on." Levi grunted out in between kisses, gently squeezing the brunet's thighs to stop him from grinding on his crotch.

"What's wrong, Levi? Don't you want this?" The brunet whispered hotly in his ear before attacking his neck.

The raven couldn't help hissing out a curse as mouth got in contact with his skin. "Eren... I... we're not prepared."

"Bullshit. Don't think I don't know about your supplies hidden in your bedside drawer." Eren retorted, making it a point to bite down the junction between the raven's neck and shoulder as means of reprimand.

Another curse slipped through Levi's gritted teeth, and his hand automatically flew out to find purchase on the brunet's hair. Fucking hell, nothing was ever easy when it comes to this brat.

It was true that he had more than the necessities if they were going all the way through. Actually, he had them on the ready ever since he and Eren started dating, but it's not like anyone had to know about that.

More importantly, what Levi really wanted to say was that he wasn't mentally prepared. An idea he would've laughed to tears at if it had been with anyone other than Eren.

Despite the haze of lust dangerously threatening to cloud his mind, he desperately searched for a way out of the situation where Eren wouldn't be offended and take it wrongly.

His spider's thread comes in the form of a key, which he clawed out a bit desperately from his pocket and almost shoved it on the side of the brunet's face.

"What's this for?" Eren asked curiously as he took hold of a brass key which had a diamond-shaped handle with rounded edges.

It took another second before Levi completely pulled himself together. "There's a wooden box underneath my clothes on the second drawer. Mind getting it for me?"

Eren just regarded him for a moment, trying to figure out what the raven was getting into through looks alone.

"Is there something interesting in this box of yours?" He asked wryly.

"Just be a doll and fetch it for me, please." Levi coaxed, going so far as to stroke the brunet's cheek tenderly.

It was damn near impossible to resist when the raven was all nice and gentle like that. So without further protest, Eren hopped off and marched up to the bedroom to retrieve the aforementioned item, and promptly settled back in his place on the raven's lap.

"I really hope all my stuffs are still exactly as I left them." Levi narrowed his eyes suspiciously on the beaming brunet on his lap.

"So what's in it?" Eren asked excitedly, completely ignoring the raven's statement and whatever else was implied there.

Levi was seriously torn between nagging and letting things slide. Ultimately, he decided that this kind of excitement from the brunet is considerably better than the other kind of excitement. For the meantime, at least.

"Could you at least sit beside me so I could show you properly?" He asked with a sigh.

Eren really didn't want to move an inch, but his curiosity got the better of him and he plopped down on the couch beside the raven.

"I've asked four-eyes for some ways on how to help you with your... flashbacks and stuffs. And after an excruciating hour of letting her run her mouth 'til my ears bled, she gave me an idea of something that might help." He explained briefly, handing over the wooden box to the brunet.

Eren was dumbfounded by the sudden depth and seriousness their interaction had turned into. It was completely out of the blue and definitely not what he would've expected his (attempt at) seduction would lead into.

He tried to pry open the lid, but instantly found that it wouldn't budge. The next few seconds were spent with him trying out different angles as if that was the solution to his little problem. He only halted his actions when he noticed the raven pinching the bridge of his nose.

"You fu--- Just how much... Why are you so..." He can't even find the right words to justify just how utterly stupid this... adorable... gorgeous... fucking brat could be. "What do you think the key is for?" He settled for asking instead, not without letting out a deep sigh.

It was only then that the gears in the brunet's head clicked in place, and he finally put the key into good use. Upon opening, what greeted him was the sight of an empty photo album with an image of a single blue wing on the cover, and an empty journal of the same size with a white wing on its cover. There were also multiple pens whose colors match each alters' preferred ones.

He shot the raven a clear look of inquiry. He has an idea on what these stuffs might be for, but he wanted to hear the raven's explanation, nonetheless.

Levi, on the other hand, looked like he didn't want to answer the unvoiced question. He stared right back at the brunet, pleading him to figure things out on his own through visual communication alone. Like, just-staring-into-each-other's-eyes communication alone.

Unfortunately for him, Eren has a much stronger, much brighter fire of (stubbornness) determination burning in his eyes, and with the recent demonstration of his impeccable intelligence, Levi knew he was fighting a losing battle.

Another sigh, and Eren knew he had won.

"Your flashbacks... obviously it's you remembering the horrible parts of your past." He began. "As much as I want to, I can't take away those memories from you, nor do I have the right to. But these stuffs... I just want you to focus on making new, better memories as opposed to dwelling on the shitty ones. And I thought... maybe that'll help. Considering it did with Ymir... in one way or another." He mumbled the last part out.

As if by instinct, Eren's eyes shot towards the finished painting hanging on one side of the wall. It was Ymir's artwork of the night sky filled with thousands of stars. However, as she was finishing it, she added a large body of water, presumably an ocean, at the bottom of it with a backdrop of mountains to complete the picture.

She left no explanations, but everyone who knew her and were aware of all the things that happened, could tell this was when Ymir started accepting Eren. And this might be her way of apologizing for everything she caused, as well as a message of gratitude for everything worth thanking for.

"You know, it wasn't all that bad." She had said before the whole full integration happened. "Being your alter for a while." were the last words Eren could remember she spoke.

"Hey. Shit. What did I do now?" Levi grumbled as he wiped the tears flowing freely down the brunet's cheeks.

Eren didn't even realize he was already crying.

"Sorry. It's just... why are you so perfect?" The brunet sniffed while pawing at his eyes.

"I'm not." The raven retorted blankly.

"Yeah." He agreed easily. "You're still the best though."

"Glad to hear it. Now stop crying."

Eren huffed out a laugh as he continued to wipe the tears away. However, as he leaned forward to give his imperfectly perfect boyfriend a kiss, the raven evaded.

"Don't come too close when you've got snot on your face." Levi wrinkled his nose.

"I take it back." He muttered with a scoff of incredulity. "You're undeniably the worst."

 


 

"Come on, Levi. We're almost there!" Eren almost yelled excitedly as he tugged on the raven's arm with all the enthusiasm of a sugar high 5-year-old.

"Calm down, will you? It ain't going anywhere." Levi grumbled, though letting himself be dragged along with the overly energetic brunet.

"Maybe the jump point won't. But to cable car will if you don't hurry your ass." He scoffed.

Levi could only grumble under his breath as he starts to wonder whether agreeing to this had been a good idea in the first place. But seeing that blinding smile and the brass key (now tied on a thin cord and hanging loosely around the brunet's neck) bouncing happily along with the brunet's movement, he figured that no matter how much migraine he might accumulate in this experience, all would be worth it.

That's what he kept telling himself as soon as Eren was practically vibrating with excitement the moment they arrived at their destination. The brunet was more than willing to immediately volunteer to go next while the other customers were still trying to summon every ounce of courage they may or may not have.

"Hey, brat. Are you really sure you wanna go first?" Levi couldn't help asking.

He already knew the answer to that, but volunteering to jump a hundred meters from the air with only a string of rope to rely on and serve as your lifeline... he really just had to ask.

After Eren had finally (yet with very, very clear hesitance) accepted that his wishes to go skydiving may still be a bit of a stretch, he settled for the next best thing instead. And that happens to be bungee jumping.

Of course Levi had (also reluctantly) agreed that it is a bit more plausible than his previous interest, and that he'd think about it. To which, Eren had avidly expressed that he had already done his research and had already located the nearest place they could go.

His ardor was practically palpable and borderline overwhelming that the raven couldn't help but to agree with his wishes.

Thus, why he was currently standing in a platform a couple hundred feet above ground, watching his boyfriend get strapped-up (disregarding the fact that he, himself, was also getting the same treatment), ready to be thrown off.

Eren was positively beaming as he took in how high his fall could be. Levi started to think he should be concerned at the lack of anxiety he was showing... and he was. Though he'd also like to believe that the brunet was also feeling some nervousness deep down. Just that it's overshadowed by the excitement he was feeling.

"Don't go pissing your pants on the way down, brat." He deadpanned, fishing out his phone and snapping a photo of the younger. This was something he wanted to add on his newly acquired photo album, after all.

"I hope so." Eren laughed genuinely, a sound that was music to the raven's ears, as he tucked the key inside his shirt for safekeeping. He refuses to part with it unless absolutely necessary. "Hey, Levi. Let's do the Sparta skit."

"No." Levi instantly declined. Not only does he think it's kinda stupid, but there are also people watching on top of that. "Besides, I think you should start with the basics on your first go. I don't want you to end up crying by the time they cut you off." He added, just for safety measures.

Still, Eren frowned at the rejection. "You know, Lee... Bungee jumping is just like love. It may be terrifying, but sometimes, you just gotta take a leap of faith."

And that had been enough to receive him a kick to the lower chest and send him toppling down the platform.

A sudden bout of panic surged through the raven's system for the first split-second at his impulsiveness. But hearing the brunet whooping and laughing his ass off below was enough to spare him from any regrets.

"You've got quite the guy there, buddy." One of the guys manning the jump platform chuckled.

"Tell me about it." He retorted dryly.

Actually, everyone around the vicinity who heard the brunet's wisecrack couldn't help finding the both of them amusing.

"You wanna go next?" The guy asked.

"Pass. That brat will come bounding back up here in no time. I can't be bothered to climb back up repeatedly."

True enough, it didn't take long for Eren to arrive back at the jump point, entire demeanor still alight with pure enthusiasm.

"Levi! Holy shit, it was soooo good! The fact that you've kicked me off-guard just added to the thrill! I swear my heart stopped for a second and I just..." He trailed off. "Hold on, why are you still here?"

"'Coz I haven't jumped yet." The raven answered matter-of-factly.

"What's the matter? Are you scared?" He taunted with a shit-eating grin.

Levi just looked at him, unimpressed. If there's anyone falling for a childish act such as that, it would have to be Eren, himself. And Jean. Who is in Eren's body.

Nevertheless, he had wanted to try it out ever since kicking Eren off that platform. He just wanted to make sure and see for himself that said brunet was perfectly fine on his first go of this extreme activity. Now that he had ticked that off...

"Not that I doubt you, but don't force yourself if you know you can't do it, alright?" Eren offered smugly as the raven was getting prepped on the platform.

Levi just ignored him as he stepped towards the edge and steeled himself for the drop. This would also be his first time and his nerves are already pumping with adrenaline. Turning around, Eren saw his face was contorted into what he could only assume was worry.

"You're right." He finally answered, still looking at the younger dead in the eye, with brows tightly knitted together. "I can't do this." He stated before closing his eyes and letting himself fall on his back.

Effectively giving Eren another mini heart-attack.

The free-fall was indeed an experience he can't even convert into words. Hell, he hadn't even realized he was already hollering the accumulated adrenaline on the way down. The moment you think you'd most definitely hit the ground, only for the cord to recoil and bounce you back up, had to be the best part in his opinion.

If he had been more of a poet, he'd probably have made tons of metaphors for that exact moment. But, alas, he's not and never have been. So all he could say was that it was "fucking amazing".

Arriving back to the top, he found Eren sitting on one corner, staring intently on one spot of the floor.

"You okay?" He asked as soon as he got close enough to be noticed.

"I'm fine." The brunet flashed him a grin. "Just that... for some reason, Jean's suddenly close after that stunt you pulled." He shook his head.

Levi just took a seat beside him, wondering if he was going to switch out anytime now. And if he would, will the next alter still be interested in doing more jumps?

"I'm not gonna lie, that shit you did gave me more of a heart-attack than you suddenly kicking me off. That's probably why I almost switched out." Eren admitted. "Though why Jean of all people is a mystery. Now I have to hear him telling me off about what we're doing." He sighed.

"What's he saying?" Levi asked casually.

Eren lagged for a reply as he tried to make out the neighing noises he could hear in his head.

"He keeps calling me a 'suicidal bastard'." He snorted.

'Well, that's not entirely wrong.' Levi couldn't help thinking.

It took a while, but when Eren confirmed he got himself under control and that he's still most definitely eager to do more jumps, they started taking turns once again.

They tried doing things differently each time. But perhaps they could both agree that their favorite had to be when they did a couple jump where Eren kissed the raven before both of them took the fall.

 


 

As Eren lied there in bed one early evening, he only had one goal in mind: He's gonna seduce the fuck out of Levi Ackerman.

As much as he enjoys the raven's odd generosity as of late when it comes to catering to his whims, he really wasn't as dumb as to not notice or figure out it was just his excuse from doing more intimate stuffs with him.

And as much as he understands that Levi was only concerned about him, he also wanted to prove that he isn't as fragile as he might think. That he's become more stronger, more braver, and a lot better ever since they've been together.

And really, it was difficult to resist the urges once they started to act up once again. He knew Levi could feel it as well. What with the countless make-out sessions he initiated to get the raven riled up. However, the farthest they ever went to was just heavy petting. Even then, he had felt the raven's dick rock hard before he squirmed his way out.

This time, he will take no excuses.

Hearing the faint rattle of the front door knob, followed by its opening and clicking shut, then Levi's voice in greeting drifting through the space and distance between them... Eren assumed his position on the bed.

The first thing Levi always does when he gets home is to look for the brunet. So Eren could only smirk when the raven was absolutely floored when he opened the door to the bedroom.

Eren was lying ass up, wearing those booty shorts he wore last summer and one of Levi's button-up shirts. And fucking hell, those white fishnet stockings made his already mouth-watering legs look absolutely delectable. Only the bedside lamp served as the only light in the room, giving the brunet a nice glow to his form.

"Welcome home, Levi." Eren purred, making a show of arching his back enticingly. "Would you like me to take off your clothes for you? Maybe serve you dinner, afterwards?"

Oh, good Lord of the Rings. Levi wants to demand whoever taught this brat how to play dirty to show themselves... so he could thank them accordingly. This is definitely unlike Eren's previous attempts at seduction. And even those have been goddamn difficult to resist.

This time though, Levi was positively screwed. There was no way he could squirm his way out of this one. Though truth be told, he was also reaching his limit. The sight in front of him just made him crash way over that line.

Levi took his time taking off his suit and tie like how he usually does, though keeping his eyes trained on the brunet who was twisting his body in all the right ways, not breaking eye contact the whole time.

Kicking his shoes off and swearing to himself he will put them away properly soon, he crawled into the waiting brunet in bed and caged him in place.

"Fuck, Eren. What have you been doing while I'm away?" He was aiming for feigned reprimand, but the huskiness his voice had taken into did anything but that.

"What I always do. I waited for you." Eren responded cheekily, wrapping his arms around the raven's neck to keep him close.

"Nothing more?" He asked, peppering kisses on the brunet's exposed neck and collarbone.

"Nothing more." Eren breathed out, closing his eyes and just letting himself feel.

"These tell me otherwise." He repeatedly tugged at the stockings and letting them snap back in place.

"You like them?" Eren grinned, eyes still closed contentedly.

"Damn right, I do."

Their kisses started slow yet didn't take long to turn into much more heated, much more demanding. Hands started wandering whichever way they could reach, leaving a trail of hot desire in their wake. They wrestled with each other's tongues as much as they wrestled with each other's clothes off, absently grinding at each other the whole time.

"Levi... please." Eren started begging by the time the raven took in his length in his mouth, feeling everything was suddenly too much yet not enough at the same time. He wanted more, everything that Levi could give him.

"Please, Levi." He whined between the unrelenting licks and sucks the raven was spoiling him.

It was both relief and agony when the raven finally took heed and popped that sinful mouth off his member. Levi swiftly rummaged through the bedside drawer for the necessities before taking his place back in-between the brunet's legs.

As Levi coated two of his fingers with a generous amount of lube, Eren took steadying breaths and willed his body to relax for the anticipated penetration; exactly like how his research told him to do.

However, it was to his utter bafflement that the raven inserted the digits behind him as opposed to the one waiting beneath.

"Levi, what're you---"

"If this is gonna be your very first time fucking, I figured you might as well get a general feel of it first." He cut him off. "Keep your eyes on me. Don't you dare switch out on me, brat." He hissed as he tried to get his body to loosen up.

Eren audibly gulped as the erotic display of the raven panting and grunting on top of him in all his naked glory blessed his sights. Like hell he would even want to blink at this image.

He had expected for Levi to be the one putting it in. Had prepared himself for that very concept. He had the stockings and all, for fuck's sake!

But if he was more honest, the idea was a bit terrifying. That's not to say he doesn't trust the raven with every inch of his being, because he does.

Goddamn, he does.

As he continued to glue his eyes to the beauty on top of him (since he really had no clue what else to do now), Eren couldn't help wondering if the expression the raven was currently donning was that of concentration or struggle. If anything, he doesn't seem to be used by whatever it is he's doing.

"Brat... I've always been a top before you." Levi struggled to answer as he tried to keep his breathing in check at the same time.

Oh. He hadn't even realized he had voiced his thoughts out loud.

Though in all honesty, by the time Eren had expressed his genuine desire to make love to him, Levi had tried to adjust his body in secret. It was why he said he wasn't mentally prepared at that time, and his private bathroom activities had involved him trying to teach his body and get it used to receiving rather than giving.

Still, the thought that Levi was willingly going through all this for his sake made Eren's heart swell all over again. Just goes to show just how much the raven truly cared for him (not that he needed more proof for that premise). It was easy to see that Levi wasn't used to bottoming with how much he already seemed to be struggling with opening himself up. So the fact that this raven wanted to get a first-hand experience just so he'll personally know how exactly it'll feel for the brunet in time... it was all a bit overwhelming to take in.

"Why the hell are you the one crying when I'm the one who literally have something shoved up his ass?"

"Sorry." Eren immediately wiped the tears away. "I just... I just realized I must be pretty damn hotter and sexier than I thought if I'm the only one you've let take you up on the ass."

Levi narrowed his eyes at that.

"Yeah? Keep telling yourself that 'til I get my turn. Then we'll talk."

Even with his brows pinched in concentration, the smirk he shot him was, indeed, the very definition of hot and sexy.

'This must be what a power bottom is.' Eren couldn't help thinking. And his dick twitched its agreement and appreciation at that thought.

"Don't move." Levi suddenly threatened, snapping Eren out of his thoughts yet confusing him all the same.

But when the raven grabbed hold of his length, coating it with more lube in the process, and lined it up with his hole, the slow descent pulled out the most sinful moans and groans out of both their throats.

"Fucking... fuck. That... shit... that feels fucking weird." Levi grunted out between pants, trying to get himself under control now that he was fully seated on the brunet's dick.

Eren, on the other hand, looked somewhere in between being dazed and wrecked, lost in the blissful heat of the raven's insides.

"Eren. Hey, brat." Levi called out when he noticed the state of the brunet.

But said brunet couldn't even bother with a response, too busy with just letting himself feel.

"I said... focus on me." Levi emphasized this statement by pulling himself up to the tip and slamming back down, making them both moan at the sensation.

"Fuck, Levi. Do that again." Eren managed to croak out.

And Levi obliged. Again and again and again, 'til Eren's hands grabbed purchase on both sides of the raven's waist, and they both set a pace to their movements.

At first, Levi, for the life of him, couldn't fathom just how his previous fuck partners could even tolerate being the one taking it in. But as he continued to bounce on the brunet's crotch, with Eren thrusting up to meet him halfway, converting into a switch is something he was seriously starting to consider.

Especially when one particular thrust made him curse out loud.

"Fuck! Eren! There." He rasped out.

Despite lust taking over his senses, Levi's voice seem to cut through that thick haze no matter how wrecked he may sound. If Levi says to slow down, Eren will slow down. If Levi says to give him more, Eren will give him more. If Levi says some incomprehensible shit... it doesn't matter. Eren's body seems to know how to respond on its own.

When Levi leaned down to latch on the brunet's mouth with his own in a desperate attempt to keep the embarrassing noises down, Eren let his primal instincts take over and flipped their positions so that the raven was now underneath him.

"Levi... feel... so... good." He praised as he rammed into that tight heat relentlessly.

Every bit of the raven's cool and composed exterior was now nothing more but specks of dust as he could do nothing more but just lay there and take it. Take everything the brunet has to give him. Let Eren dominate his entire being.

For once, that idea wasn't as frightening as he once found it to be. Not with Eren. Never with Eren.

"C-Close. So close." The brunet managed to warn, and Levi's hand automatically flew out to pump his unattended cock, not without desperation.

When Eren's hips started to stutter and his thrusts grew erratic, Levi's hand responded in kind as he chased after his own orgasm. It was when Eren's hips stilled, cock sheathed deep inside him, painting his insides white, that Levi's movements grew jittery and he came not long after; Eren's name leaving his tongue just as he heard his own being moaned over and over by the younger.

It took a few seconds before Eren pulled out and plopped headfirst beside the raven, completely spent and thoroughly sated. By the time Levi got down off his high, it was only then that he noticed a small box digging on his thigh. He really didn't want to move an inch, so he just tried to guess whatever the hell that was.

And then it clicked.

"We forgot to use condoms."

Damn, he doesn't even recognize his own voice now.

A beat of silence passed over them as they still tried to recuperate from all these post-coital sensations.

"Am I going to be a father?" Eren responded absently, tilting his head towards the raven and looking at him blankly.

"Fuck off." Levi elbowed him by the ribs, making him groan and whine out in pain.

Which, Levi thinks, is well-deserved since his ass is starting to complain now from all the brunet's pounding.

He's definitely topping next time.

 

Or maybe the time after that.

Chapter Text

Annie woke up one day feeling sore all over, especially on her lower parts. The next thing she noticed was the arm around her torso and the heat of another body pressed up against hers. Blinking again, what she noticed next was the direct skin contact from the said body behind her.

Already aware of the actual couple's numerous sexual exploits, she could only sigh at the thought that she was the unfortunate one to front and deal with the aftermath. The bastards didn't even bother dressing back up.

Reaching for the phone she knew Eren left on the bedside table, she squinted at the brightness of the screen and the figures of 6:09 AM glared right back at her.

Just a moment after, the raven star