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the thing about haircuts

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The thing about haircuts, is that they are never easy. Not with Hanji, at least.

They can't stand it, the feeling of a stranger touching them. The sensation of the comb upon their scalp; The pulling and itchiness all make the experience one that Hanji rarely can endure without severe upset.

They hate it and it had always hurt Levi to have them feel that way, so he had taken it upon himself to become their hairdresser. He was versed in keeping his own hair tidy, had been since the first time he chopped it all off in front of the bathroom mirror, heart euphoric and kitchen scissors in hand. How hard could it be to cut someone else's hair, really?

He'd learned, for Hanji. After a few YouTube videos, he was certain of the theory - He only ever needed trim the ends and as long as it wasn't horrendously wonky, it would do. Hanji didn't care at all for perfection.

Hanji didn't care much for hair as a whole really, they would leave it to grow and grow if they had the chance. But their habits only lead to uncomfortable situations like untangling bird nest type knots and hard to wash tresses.

Levi's home salon quickly became routine and he has been cutting Hanji's hair for years. It's still a struggle for Hanji, even if it's Levi with scissors in hand, but it's better. And then when they met Eren, she stepped in to help too, her presence one so calming to Hanji. Levi has always been left wondering how she tames Hanji at all.

So there the three of them are, in the garden path on an early Summer afternoon, Hanji in a chair dragged outside from the dining table and Eren lounging between their legs on the floor.

The weather is beautiful, the Sun warming Levi's skin and making his blood feel as if it were glowing within his veins. The garden is bathed in light that feels promising of more heat to come as the Summer months progress.

Eren's skimpy outfit is telling of the heat - Only a lace bralet to cover the small swell of her chest and some tattered shorts she had fashioned herself from a pair of Levi's old jeans.

She looks like she belongs to the Summer, the Sun highlighting the warm tan of her skin and reflecting off the screen of her beat up Nintendo DS. Eren holds the little stylus in the fingers of her dominant hand, and in the other hand she holds Hanji’s, the contact soothing to the older.

Hanji looks over Eren's shoulder at how she plays, absorbed in the moving characters as their anxious fingers get tangled in the girl’s hair.

Levi squints but can't make out the screen from his position, so he poses the question, “What are you playing?”

Eren turns to him, her smile is wide and her eyes are squinted against the Sun. “Animal Crossing! I can turn the volume up, if you want to the hear the music.”

“I want to hear it,” pipes up Hanji, before Levi can even get a word in. Eren nods softly, increasing the volume enough that Levi can hear the gentle music playing. It's soothing, and somehow it completes the scene before him.

“I'm starting,” Levi announces, he watches as Hanji’s shoulders hunch up in anticipation, but carries on with his task regardless. Some things just have to be done, unfortunately.

Hanji had allowed Eren to brush their hair before coming outside, so Levi doesn't have to tackle many knots. Overall, it's a pretty painless process. He combs as gently as he can, sectioning their long hair and trimming it level with Hanji’s shoulders.

Dead ends fall to the garden path, but it's okay. The mess doesn't bother Levi, the garden path is easy to sweep and isolated enough that he won't be finding loose hairs inside for weeks. It's better out here than inside, he cannot stand hair on the kitchen tiles, especially when their scatty cat inevitably runs through it all.

Hanji remains absorbed in Eren's mindless chatter, her explanations of what items she needs to take to her villagers and other such tasks. Levi hears her asking what flowers she ought to plant by Lily's home - Yellow or pink? (Hanji insists on blue.)

It's not too long before he's finished. Hanji’s hair looks as neat and tidy as it'll get… Within a few days it'll be bunched up in a ponytail, knotted in the most terrible mess. Levi sighs at the thought, but that's just Hanji.

He tickles the back of Hanji’s neck, just above their spine. They shiver softly in response but lean into the touch, like a plant reaching for the Sun.

“You know, this Summer you should let me buzz cut the bottom. Like mine. It'll be cooler and it won't tangle as easy - It's so thick as it is…” Levi explains, diplomatic. He knows his suggestion will be met with rebuttal, but it doesn't hurt to remind Hanji of the option.

Hanji shudders dramatically, shaking their body in the chair and turning to shoot Levi a dirty look, “How could you say such a thing! If you want to scalp me just admit it!”

Eren looks up to Levi from where she sits, her mouth twitches into a mischievous grin, “Yeah, if you wanted to scalp them, you should say so!”

Levi rolls his eyes, suppressing a smile of his own. “I'm sure I do, on many occasion.”

Hanji seems to think this over, eyebrows meeting in a frown, before nodding, “Yeah, actually, I think you've threatened to scalp me at least twice this week.”

“And it's only Wednesday!” Eren adds on, yesterday's smudgy eyeliner getting caught up in the happy crinkles of her eyes.

This time Levi does smile, a soft laugh escaping him. What's he to do with them both? His sweet girl and his Hanji. There's no saving him at this point, to be fair. He's stuck with them.

He runs the pads of his fingers over Hanji’s scalp, careful not to pull any hair as he goes - A sensation he knows they enjoy to make up for the ordeal of having their hair cut.

They lean back into Levi further and he watches as they close their eyes and untangle their own fingers from Eren's. They're calm once again, comfortable and unburdened.

“While we're at it can you do mine?” Eren asks, standing from her place between Hanji’s legs. “Let's swap, and I can rub your head until I'm finished too.”

“Your most sensible idea in a while,” Levi teases, his voice is soft and good natured.

Eren rolls her eyes but shows Levi a bashful smile, her crooked teeth just barely peeking between her lips. As he looks to her, Levi realises she's somehow only got one eyebrow filled in, but he doesn't ask about it. It's most likely remnants of yesterday's make up she didn't wipe away properly - Maybe Levi should drag her into a shared bath and remove it for her this evening?

Eren and Hanji swap places, the little DS no longer making music, folded away and stored in the girl's pocket. But still, the steady conversation flows between Hanji and Eren.

Levi observes from his standing position as Eren weaves her fingers into Hanji’s freshly combed locks and watches her rub little circles against their head. Hanji sits contentedly, their fingers searching for something to do, finally finding purchase and picking at nearby grass.

Eren's hair is easy to cut, the texture thick but well looked after - Very unlike Hanji’s. He pulls the wavy locks down with his comb and trims the length, so it's in the one length bob that Eren enjoys having.

It's a world more simple than working on Hanji, Levi doesn't have to think so hard about pulling, or touching Eren's scalp. All of the sensory issues Hanji faces with haircuts mean nothing to Eren, she sits like a rock.

Levi's close to finishing the back when Eren makes a suggestion, her voice filled with conviction, “Let's give me an undercut!”

Levi nods even though Eren cannot see him from his position. He's fully aware that if he tries to refuse, she's likely to take matters into her own hands and he can't have that. He has visions of the mess she would make, of both her hair and his bathroom. But he attempts to be diplomatic, to make sure she's certain.

“You're sure?” he asks, voice filled with knowing and affection.

“Of course! We could braid the underneath and keep them, one for you and one for Hanji,” Eren says, even if he isn't facing her, Levi can hear the way she talks around a grin. “Tokens of your undying love for me!”

Eren laughs shortly, and Hanji squeals assent from their place on the path, “I want one!”

“No, really though, it'd be nice for my diary I think?” Eren explains, her voice taking on a serious tone. “I journaled my transition and growing my hair out was a big step… Now I can feel secure in shaving parts and that's something I want to remember.”

Levi nods, thinking deeply as he begins to section off the bottom layer of hair from the top. He taps at her arm gently, gesturing for Eren to pass him the hair band she keeps around her wrist at all times. She does so, and he ties one section into a little bun at the top of her head.

“Hanji, could you go back inside and collect some of the little elastics? So I can cut off the braids individually,” Levi asks of them.

Hanji nods, jumping up and heading back into the house with great haste. Levi takes this as a chance to question Eren without prying eyes. “Are you sure, love?”

Levi steps around so he's facing Eren and with the comb he takes the hair free of the hair tie and sections out her side swept fringe for trimming, he smiles down at her and she watches him intently through her eyelashes.

This close, Levi studies her facial expressions, the way she bites her lip and her odd eyebrows furrow in the middle as she makes her choice - She's still unsure, even if she won't admit to it.

Cutting away small pieces of her fringe, Levi speaks again, his voice hushed in the space between them, “I'm not going to do something that could trigger dysphoria, you're no stranger to impulsive decisions.”

Eren sighs deeply and blows at the fallen hair stuck to her cheekbones, “It's okay, promise.”

She composes her worry and grins up at Levi as he pulls away his scissors and comb, finished with her fringe. Eren blinks her eyes in a coy manner, lifts her arm to rest at the back of Levi's head. He bumps his nose against hers, feeling her warm fingers as they scratch at his own undercut.

Feeling the tug of her arm, Levi leans down into her space and makes to kiss her, but instead he blows harshly against her face as she had before. Eren snorts sharply and dissolves into laughter as Levi does the same, their heads coming together to rest forehead against forehead.

Eren smirks up at Levi, tugs on his ear lobe with the hand from his nape, “Unfair! Kiss me for real.”

“If you're going to make me, I guess I'll have to,” Levi responds, voice breathy from his laughter.

“I am making you,” Eren states, her voice matter of fact, the ghost of her words playing upon Levi's lips.

The kiss Eren pulls him into is quick and sweet, her lips are familiar and Levi savours the contact, her natural fragrance filling his senses due to their closeness.

They pull away when they hear Hanji’s footsteps padding along the kitchen flooring and out to the garden path. They gasp, ever the dramatic, upon seeing Eren and Levi.

“Who said you could kiss without me?” Hanji asks, mouth jutting out in a playful pout and eyes wide behind their smudgy glasses. Levi makes a mental note to clean the lenses this evening before bed, God knows Hanji won't do it themself.

“You can have one if you want!” Eren enthuses, letting go of Levi fully and reaching out for Hanji instead.

“How could I refuse?” Hanji asks, bounding to Eren, with all the grace of a baby deer on its stumbling legs.

Levi snorts as Eren licks her lips before planting a few wet kisses on Hanji's forehead. Her over exaggerated sound effects and squealing from the older drowns out the whisper of a soft breeze among the trees.

Levi rolls his eyes and tuts, a grin pulling at his mouth as he watches the struggle between Eren and Hanji. The girl continues her sloppy assault undeterred, Hanji’s attempt to set themself free is feeble at most.

Eventually Eren lets Hanji go and they run to Levi, taking hold of his hand and using him as a human shield. Eren teases with her tongue stuck out from between her bared teeth and Levi feels his heart jump.

He rolls his eyes at her and when he speaks his voice is playful, “Okay, okay, stop being cute. Let's cut this undercut in, if you're still sure?”

“Of course I'm sure,” Eren challenges, most everything involving her a competition of will, “Onwards with the chop!”

Eren settles down into the chair and Levi squeezes Hanji's hand before letting go, getting back to the task at before him - Scissors ready and comb in hand.

That night in bed, after a long awaited bath, Levi strokes the fine hairs at Eren's nape. They're short and soft under his touch for the first time in so long. He's reminded of those first few dates, the way Eren's hair looked before it had grown out and her habit of twirling it anxiously as if she wished there were more to grasp.

She has come so far and Levi still cannot believe he's been around so long as to see her flourish in this way, as a bloom opens up and displays its brilliance after a cold Winter. Eren has come so far, in personal growth and physical.

She is truly irreplaceable. As unique as a butterfly, all stunning vibrance and effortless brightness.

Falling asleep beside her, Levi rests with affection thrumming through his chest and her body close to his. He could never have expected this, when he and Hanji met that uncomfortable girl with short choppy hair they would all end up here, but he wouldn't trade it for anything.

The thing about haircuts, is that they can make a person who they truly feel they are. Whether it's messy and long like Hanji's; Slightly less hectic and medium length for Eren; Short and as neat of possible for Levi. A haircut is a reflection of self, and Levi is glad to be able to see the most true versions of both his loves.