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Prologue: Changing Phases

 

Now --

“Did I leave my black hoodie over here?”

Levi, who was in the kitchen stirring some wonderful smelling sauce, nodded.  “I put it in the wash,”

“Oh.  It’s chilly out and I wanted to wear it,” Eren said, a touch petulantly.  Eren had been tasked with running out and getting a bottle of wine and he was miffed about it, or something.

Levi stirred his sauce in silence.  The smell of the garlic bread, prepped and ready for the oven, pervaded the room, mixing with the heady tomatoey smell of sauce.  All they needed was the wine.

Eren huffed around, putting on his coat and boots a bit too loudly. The whole was punctuated by the occasional gusty sigh. 

Levi carefully ignored him. 

Which only made Eren more angry. 

“Fine,” he said under his breath, then, “I’ll be back,” louder.

“Be careful, brat. Supper will be ready when you get back.”

The door slammed and it was Levi’s turn to sigh. 

He was well aware that Eren was 22 and a not-so-mature 22 at that. He also was, by now, acquainted with the boy’s volatile temper. 

He sighed again, putting the lid on his pot and wiping his hands before carefully folding the towel. In only a month and a half of knowing each other, they had already butted heads repeatedly. Eren’s temper crossed with Levi’s own snarky, sarcastic, no-bullshit attitude had gotten them in trouble more than a few times. But nowadays he didn't know why Eren was so cross.  He pampered the boy, bought him anything he could afford, insisted that he didn’t have to work, that he could move in with him. Levi even offered his spare room for them to live as roommates first if Eren wanted. They hadn’t even had sex yet (just making out and groping). Levi didn’t want to rush him. But now Eren seemed angry all the time. Levi just assumed it was something he’d done.

Well, the fresh, cold air will cool him down a bit. Perhaps we can talk about it over supper. 

Levi began to set the tiny kitchen table. 

 

After a half an hour Levi figured that Eren---who had just been running down to the store that was, literally, on the corner of their block---had a hair laid across his ass just right (as his uncle Kenny used to say,) and was crossly staying gone.  Just for a bit. Enough to make Levi fret but not long enough to make him genuinely worried. 

After an hour the food was cold and Levi began to fret. 

After two hours the food was ruined from being reheated three times and Levi was genuinely worried. 

“When will you be back, brat?” He asked the empty apartment, “I’m sorry, OK?  For whatever I did.”

 

But Eren never came back at all.  




Chapter 1

Then --

Levi and Eren had met via their mutual friend, Hange.  Hange was a bartender at The Garrison Club on Titan Avenue in Mitras when she wasn’t in graduate school at Sina U. Eren was a regular customer and Levi was just moving into Hange’s hometown, Trost. 

Eren had been drinking his frozen strawberry daiquiri and eyeballing Levi as he chatted with Hange and drank his whisky. 

“So where’s the shop?” Hange asked, “what’s it like?”

Levi took another sip of whisky, 

“It’s off of East Wall street, in one of those older neighborhoods. Down close to the canal.  The apartment’s right above it. “

“Nice and quiet but with lots of foot traffic. You’ll like that, “ Hange said and, slinging her bar towel over her shoulder, moved sideways down the bar to Eren. 

“Another?” She asked brightly

“Yeah,” the young man said, “Say, Hange. Who’s that?”

Hange, who had been well aware of Eren’s longing looks, glanced over her shoulder casually. 

“Oh that’s an old buddy of mine from college: Levi”  Hange made his drink quickly and efficiently and pinched the ten dollar bill up off the bar as she handed the boy his daiquiri.

Eren leaned over his new drink, playing with his straw, never taking his eyes off of Levi. 

“He’s really cute,” Eren said, gulping daiquiri.

“Cute?  He’s a hot-as-hell short stack!  Travel sized for your convenience! Everyone was after him at Sina,“ Hange said, smiling knowingly at Eren’s besotted look.

Levi’s gaze wandered to Hange and Eren and the boy blushed but held his stare. Levi’s gaze flickered elsewhere. Eren grunted in annoyance. 

“One more, after this”

“You sure?  Your Dad’ll be livid if you get home too late.” 

“Oh I’ll deal with my fucking Dad” Eren murmured.

Hange, who was well aware of Dr Yeager, his attitudes, and his relationship with his son, held their hands up in surrender.  They slid smoothly left, farther down the bar, and made two blue drinks for two giggling girls who fluttered their lashes at Eren and Levi both.  The girls got absolutely zip in return and walked off in a huff. Hange re-appeared in front of Levi.

“Who’s the kid?” Levi asked,  “And why is he staring?”

“I think he wants me to introduce him, but I think he’s too drunk,” Hange said.

Levi contemplated the info.

“I'm not interested in some kid who’s had too much.”

“He’s not really a kid,”

“He looks 16.”

“You think I’d serve a 16 year old?” laughed Hange, “He’s 22”

“Hmmph”

“You have to admit he’s cute”

Levi couldn’t help but let his gaze roll over Eren again.  Eren blushed and stabbed his straw repeatedly and nervously into his melting drink.

The kid was cute.

“Ahh, but does he know how old I am?”  Levi asked, “Eight years difference is too much,”

Levi threw back his drink a bit savagely and stood, tossing a handful of bills down as a tip.

“See ya later.”



Two weeks later Eren and Levi happened to be at the Garrison Club at the same time again.  Eren was there with his friends and Levi was there to get drunk.

“What gives?”  Hange asked, eyeballing Levi.  He was usually careful not to overdrink.

“Nothing important,” Levi said, crisply tossing back his first whisky and tapping the bar with the glass for a refill.  “I met a guy.”

“Ohhh!” Hange said, smiling like a hyena.

“Don’t get too excited.  It didn’t work out.”

“I'm sorry.”  Hange’s face fell.  She was aware of how lonely her friend was.  He had always been lonely. With his acerbic personality and total lack of social skills, he had a hard time meeting people.

“Yeah, he was a bit older, not the greatest looker, but, look at me.”

Hange frowned and clicked their tongue at his self deprecating attitude but said nothing, letting him vent.  The second whisky went down Levi’s throat as fast as the first.

“We went out and it was Ok, but on the second date he just wanted to fuck.”

Hange’s eyebrows arched up.

“Not that I’m averse to a good fuck, mind you,” Levi amended quickly, “but I’m too old for that shit.  I no longer want to just stick my dick into anybody who’ll let me. I want more.” Levi scowled. “Go me.  See how much I’ve matured?”

Hange hummed politely.

Levi ducked his head and tapped the bar again.  Hange silently refilled his glass. Levi sat there with his head hanging for a moment when a roar of voices rolled across the bar.  It was Eren and his friends, at one of the pool tables, jumping around and high fiving each other. Eren peeled off from the group and approached the bar, his eyes on Levi

“What, does he fucking live here?”  Levi asked, gulping at his third whisky.

Hange laughed.

“And he hasn’t taken his pretty green eyes off of you, either,” They teased.

“Fuck the fuck off, Four Eyes.”  Levi tossed back the rest of his glass.

Hange refilled it without being asked.  They began to casually wipe the bar around Levi.

“You’re not actually cleaning anything with tha’ nasty rag,” Levi pointed out.  He realized he was getting drunk. “Y’r just pushing the crud around.” he sipped at his new drink.

“Uh-huh,” Hange purred.  Behind them, Eren slid down the bar in their direction.  He stopped at the corner, sitting perpendicular to Levi, a couple of feet away.

“Uh ...Hange?  Can I … uh … have another?”

Hange hummed and drifted away, lifting their eyebrows at Levi before they left.

Levi frankly contemplated the younger man.  Unruly chestnut hair, teal eyes, tan, smooth, young skin.  Levi realized he was staring and took another sip of his drink.

“I’m Eren,” Eren blurted.

“Levi.”

Hange materialized with a strawberry daiquiri and set it in front of Eren.  The boy fumbled in his pocket for some cash. Levi tapped on the bar. “Put it on my bill, Shitty Glasses,”

Hange’s grin threatened to split their head in half.

Eren fiddled with his glass, a blush lighting up his cheeks.  “Thank you.”

Levi nodded and contemplated the young man.  He really was a pretty thing; tall, broad shouldered, and narrow waisted with an ass that would not quit.

He seemed very immature though.  This wasn’t a deal breaker however.  He was only 22. Levi had the maturity advantage being 30.

The older man was currently hemming and hawing over whether to buy the kid a drink again - these decisions were easier when you were sober - when Hange wandered away to other customers and those teal eyes turned his way.   Eren smiled shyly and Levi took an impressive gulp of his drink. Neither could keep their eyes off of the other but neither knew what to say to break the ice. They sat in a tense silence, glancing furtively at each other until Hange showed back up.  She refreshed both their drinks and leaned her elbows on the bar. “Soooo, what are we talking about?”

Levi, ever the social butterfly, buried his face in his drink.  Eren blushed and figited.

Hange grimaced suddenly then, incongruously, grinned.  “Goodness!” they announced, “The ice needs refilling, I’ll bet!” They tossed their rag over their shoulder and tripped lightly off, “Be right baaaaack!”

Eren stared after them.  Levi snorted.

“What?” Eren asked.

“Hange wants us to talk,”

“Will you talk with me?” Eren asked.

Levi took a long sip of his drink.

“Are you a homeless drunk?” he asked.

“No!” Eren cried, aghast.

“Mentally incompetent?”

“No!”

“Drug fiend on the run from the law?”

Eren giggled.

“NO!”

“Then I’ll talk to you,”

Eren settled in onto his barstool, chin in hand, delighted.

Levi thought it was adorable and wondered if he thought so because he was getting drunk or if he was as attracted to this boy as he seemed to feel.

"So where are you from?" Levi asked hoping his faintly pink cheeks didn’t show.

"Shiganshina,"

"You're a long way from home,"

"Two trains and a bus away!” Eren said, “but It's worth it.  The Garrison's the best and Hange is always ready to listen. She’s like my personal therapist."

“That’s me, Dr Zoe,” Hange said, reappearing. “You can talk to me any time day or night, Eren dear.  You know that. I’m either here or at my apartment right down the block.”

"What do you have to bend anyone's ear about?"  Levi downed the rest of his whisky, "If you don't mind my asking,"

Eren shrugged and played with his straw.  "I sometimes ... uh ... butt heads with my dad,"

"Ah," Levi said as Hange refilled his whisky.  

"He's lying," Hange said, gathering up Erens glass and scooping ice into the blender.  "He and Grisha have a terrible relationship if you could even call it a relationship."

"Grisha's your dad?"

Eren made a face and nodded.

Levi was definitely getting drunk or he was definitely crushing on this boy.  Or both. Oh fuck.

“Well … I’ve heard that most sons fight with they … their dads”

“Did you ... fight with yours?”  Eren asked.  

Levi realised that the younger man was getting wasted too.

“Never knew mine,” Levi announced, sweeping his hand so wildly he almost tipped over his whiskey.  He focussed on Eren and found his turquoise eyes smouldering.

Holy fuck.

“I gotta go t’th’ john,” Eren announced, “You gotta go t’th’ john?”

“You need someone to hold your hand?” Levi asked, smirking.

“Or other things,” Eren breathed.

Levi wasn’t sure he’d heard that right but what the hell.

“Hanshe!” Levi said, too loud, “Gotta go piss.  Be back soon.”

Hange waved happily and Levi followed the weaving Eren into the bathroom.

Both men stumbled to the urinals to relieve themselves and both giggled at how they matched - left hand on the wall to steady their drunk asses and right hand on their dicks.

Levi shook off, tucked himself back in, and was washing his hands when Eren grabbed him by the hips.  He was maneuvered awkwardly into a stall and then Eren fell on his neck kissing sloppily.

“Eren, whatcha doin’?”

“You don’t want to fuck me?” Eren breathed into Levi’s ear.

Levi struggled to unwind the boy’s leg from around his own.

“You haff … have no idea how badly I wanna fuck you,” Levi said, low, “But there’s no need to rush.  I wanna do other things with you. Wanna to get to know you.”

Eren stood back, suddenly sober.  Nobody had ever said that to him before.  Men just wanted to bend him over the hood of their car, grab him roughly by the hair while he blew them in a bathroom stall, take him home and then kick him out as soon as they came.  Nobody had ever been interested in getting to know him.  He just gaped down at the older man who almost smiled.

“Close  yer mouth brat.  We can talk about this uh ‘nother day.  gimme your phone number.”

And Eren did.

 

On their first date, Levi had cooked for Eren at his cozy apartment in Trost which was over the tea/book shop that Levi owned.  On their second date they kissed and by their fifth Levi was sure. He had resolved to tell Eren what he wanted to tell him.

They were sitting on Levi’s small sofa making out like a couple of high schoolers when Eren dropped his hand to the bulge in the front of Levi’s trousers.  The older man drew back with a hiss of pleasure and took Eren’s hand.

“Please, Levi,” Eren said, kissing along the edge of Levi’s sharp jaw, “Let me blow you or something.”

“Eren …”

“I need to pay you back for all the things you’ve been buying me, the PlayStation, that awesome backpack, and the hoodie …”

Levi frowned and took Eren’s face into his hands forcing him to pay attention.

“Eren, you don’t owe me for anything.  I buy you things because I like you, and because I can.  You’re not a prostitute. When we fuck I want it to be because we enjoy fucking each other, not because you feel obligated.”

Eren ducked his head, blushing and smiling despite himself.  Levi was all the time saying things like that as if he actually valued Eren.  Why didn’t Eren’s father see any worth in him?

“Well, since we’re talking seriously, I have a proposal,”  Levi stood, taking their wine glasses to the kitchen area to refill.  Eren regarded him a bit anxiously. Levi poured their wine and crossed back over to the couch.  He handed Eren his and smiled a small smile.

“I want to offer my spare room to you, no charge.”

Eren’s mouth fell open.

“But … but that’s your office.”  It was all he could think of to say.

Levi shrugged,

“I don’t need a whole room, just the desk, which will fit in my bedroom.  I want to give it to you as a roommate. No sex stuff until we decide to, IF we decide to, no owing anybody anything.  Just friends.”

Eren couldn’t wrap his head around it.  To be able to move out of his father’s house, to get out from under his father’s thumb.

“But I don’t have a job,” Eren said, “I can’t help with bills or groceries or anything …”

Levi held up a hand.

“I know.  I’m going into this with my eyes open.  I like you Eren. I want more with you. I’d love it if you would live with me.”

 

---

 

“You what ?”  Grisha Yeager's voice was dangerously low.

Eren glared at him belligerently.

“I’m dating a guy.” He repeated,  “He’s nice to me. I really like him!”  He shot a glance over at his sister, Mikasa, who was shaking her head at the floor.

“You’re dating a guy ?”  Grisha pinched the bridge of his nose under his glasses.  “Dear god.”

“Dad, I told you I was gay.”

Grisha stared at him.

“I thought you’d grown out of all that crap!”

“You don’t grow out of gay , Dad!”  Eren’s hands clenched into fists.

“Eren...” Mikasa murmured.

Grisha’s hand shot up and he held it palm out toward Mikasa.

“Don’t you interfere!  Is this guy in school, Eren?  Does he work?”

“He … he owns his own business!  And his own apartment!”

“Owns his own …?  How old is this man?” Grisha snapped suddenly.

Eren fidgeted.

“He’s older …”

Grisha removed his glasses and dragged a hand over his face and Mikasa gave Eren a look that was both angry and pitying.

“Oh, Eren …”

“It’s not like that!  He’s a good guy! We haven’t even fucked!”

Mikasa looked disbelieving and Grisha frowned thunderously at the vulgar word.  Several minutes passed as the older Yeager got himself together.

“I thought we agreed that you would go to school for medicine.” Grisha said, finally, slowly, as if speaking to a child.

Eren’s jaw clenched and his eyes blazed.

I never decided that.  You decided that!”

“Eren, you need to make some decision about your future,” Mikasa murmured.

“I am … I will … but I want to be with Levi in the meantime.  He’s … he’s asked me to move in with him.”

Grisha exploded.

“So you’re just going to … going to become the … the … kept boy of some old faggot?!” He roared.

Eren went suddenly very still and stared at his father.

“Number one.  Don’t ever call him that again.  And number two, That’s all you think I’m capable of?”  He whispered

“It’s up to you, Eren,”  Grisha said tiredly, “To prove what you’re capable of.”  he turned away, speaking over his shoulder “But let me tell you, if you move in with that man you are hereby cut off.  None of my money will go to support such a useless child.”

Eren heard Mikasa suck in a breath.

Without a word Eren spun on his heel and vanished into his room.  He emerged minutes later with his new backpack stuffed full, his new playstation, and his laptop.

Mikasa intercepted him at the door.  Grisha had retreated to his study.

“Eren, are you going to him?  This older man? He could hurt you, take advantage …”

“Levi’s not like that, Mika,” Eren said. “I’ll ask Armin if I can crash at his place for a few weeks, think about shit.”  He shrugged.

“Eren …”

Eren pulled gently out of her grip and left without another word.

 

Chapter Text

 

Now --

By midnight Levi had called every police station in his quarter of town and every hospital in all of Trost.  Nothing. He had called Eren’s mobile dozens of times. It went directly to voicemail.

Where was he?  Where had he gone?  Why was he not returning Levi’s calls?

A half a hundred scenarios swirled through is head; from Eren having been kidnapped and dragged to a conversion camp by his homophobic family, to Eren having fallen down an open manhole and being stuck down there, injured and unable to get out.

When he tried to wash dishes he envisioned Eren run down by a taxi and the unscrupulous driver stealing everything on him and he had amnesia and was crouching in an alley somewhere with the homeless.

When he tried to get some sleep the horrible vision of Eren taken by a madman and kept prisoner and subject to humiliation and torture and sexual abuse.

By dawn, he was a walking disaster of shaking hands and trembling legs, hair disheveled and body twitching.

What had happened to Eren Yeager?  His Eren.  The man he loved.

Levi was slowly coming to grips with his worst suspicion; It was him.  He was to blame for Eren’s leaving. Eren must have been unhappy. Levi must have done something.

Eren must have left of his own volition.




Levi knew that he had pampered Eren - spoiled him to hear Hange tell it.  They had warned him time and again that it would come back to bite him on the ass.

"It's a dangerous parallel, Levi," Hange had insisted. "You shouldn't ignore Eren's relationship with his father."

"I am not Grisha Yeager, Hange," Levi growled.

Hange was silent for a moment.

"I'm not saying you are, love, but it's the same result."

"How?" Levi asked,  "Grisha lets him do as he pleases because he doesn't want to be arsed with him.  I dote on Eren for the opposite reason: I love him and don't want him to worry about anything."

"But can't you see it's the same in the end?" Hange demanded.  "The boy is 22. He's never had a job or any cares in the world, really.  He needs to grow up and be responsible for himself. Hell, he wants to even if he doesn't know how to express it!  He resents Grisha's rules, such as they are, and he resents Grisha's money. How long do you think it'll take before he starts to resent you ?"

Levi stared at his dear friend for a long moment then slapped some bills onto the table, rose, and left.

 

---

 

For four days Levi searched on his own, going so far as to check all the morgues. He had gone over every tiny aspect of their previous days, recalling every conversation, every event no matter how insignificant.  Finally he did what he truly dreaded; he took the train to Shiganshina. 

 

Levi stood in front of the simple wood and plaster house, just looking, working up his nerve. After an interval, he took a deep breath and strode forward to knock on the heavy wooden door. 

The door was opened by a striking dark haired girl; Mikasa Ackerman, Eren’s sister. Levi had met her once in Mitras at the Garrison Club, introduced by Eren, and she had behaved exactly like a mother bear protecting her cub. To say that she hated Levi might be a stretch but she certainly disliked him. A lot. 

He had called her within 24 hours of Eren’s disappearance - just to ask if he was there. Mikasa had sounded smug at Levi’s distress, unaware that her brother was missing and unaware of everything Levi had been going  through. 

Now Levi had to tell her. 

Mikasa was scowling at him. Making no move to open the door wider or invite him in. 

“Levi,”

“Mikasa …”

“Who is that?” a voice called from the other room; Grisha.

“Nobody Dad!”  Mikasa called out, “Just someone asking directions!”

“Mikasa,” Levi said again

“Look, Levi, he’s not here. If he hasn’t contacted you in all this time then I assume he’s broken up with you and I —“

“Shut up!” Levi snarled,

The girl looked as if she’d been slapped. 

“Wha …?”

“He’s gone Mikasa!  As in missing !  We didn’t break up. He … he …”. Levi had to suddenly choke back tears. 

“Gone?”

“H-has he called or come by?”

“No, but that’s not unusual.” she said, gathering a bit of her composure back, “Did you go by Armin’s apartment?”

“Of course I did!  I rang the police, the hospitals, of course I went to Armin’s apartment!”  Levi, already frayed looking, seemed like a madman, his hair hanging in his face, eyes wild. “Armin’s out of town, spending the break with his grandfather.  I let myself in with my key yesterday - after four days,” 

Mikasa frowned at that. 

“Do you know what I found?” He took a rather menacing step toward her.  “Trigger,” he said quietly, “thin as a rail and dehydrated. He would have been dead in a few more days.”  Trigger was Eren’s big orange cat, so dark as to be golden.

Mikasa had paled. 

“He would never have left Trigger …” she whispered.

“Ever,” Levi finished grimly.

“Oh, my god … Eren is … missing ?”

And she closed the door in Levi’s face.

Levi pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment, there was no doubt that Eren’s family would start a concerted and well funded search for him.  Much better than Levi could do.  

Feeling suddenly very small and very inadequate, Levi turned and went up the sidewalk, digging in his pocket for his return ticket.

---



Levi was jogging toward the shop.  He always hurried home on the off chance that Eren had returned but today was different.

Levi slowed to a trot and then to a walk.  There was a policeman and a police car out in front of his apartment.  The cop spied him and seemed to make him immediately.

"Ackerman?  Levi Ackerman?"

"Yes ..."

"I'd like to ask you a few questions about the whereabouts of ... " He consulted his notepad, "Eren Yeager."

"I don't know where he is, that's the problem."

"Eren yeager is missing as far as you know?"

"Yes."

“Did you file a police report?"

"I did!  I filed it as soon as the 48 hours was up!"

The cop rested a casual hand on his gun, "Settle down there, Mr Ackerman."

Levi raised both hands placatingly.  "I'm sorry officer, I'm just upset."

The uniformed man grunted. "So is Mr. Grisha Yeager.  Says he's sure you have something to do with his son's disappearance."

"What?!  That old fool!"

The officers fingers brushed his gun holster again.  "Says you drove the young man away."

Levi yanked at his hair in frustration "What in the---"

"What exactly was your relationship with Eren Yeager?"

"We were friends"

"'Friends'"

"Yes!"

"Are you aware of just how young Mr Yeager is?"

"Of course, he's 22,"

"And how old are you Mr. Ackerman?"

Levi flinched, "30."

"That's a bit of a May-December thing isn't it?"

"It’s only eight years and you make it sound like we were in a relationship.  I told you; we ... we're just friends."

"Mr Grisha Yeager didn't describe it like that--"

"Well fuck Mr. Grisha Yeager!" Levi yelled,

"Language, Mr Ackerman!"

Levi ignored him, "Grisha Yeager is ... He's the one who has done such a piss-poor job of raising his son!  And now he's blaming it on me?! Because his son is gay and might have a chance to be happy?!"

Levi’s phone chirped urgently.  He frowned.

“Why don’t you take that, Mr Ackerman,” the cop suggested, “and calm down a bit.

That was not destined to happen.

Levi slammed the phone to his ear.  “Yes?!”

"So you’re the bastard that preys on young boys!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa there!   Who is this? Is this Grisha?  Number one, your son is 22 years old he's a grown man!  Number two, I may be a bastard but you're the one who raised that 'boy' and fucked him up like you did!"

"You son of a bitch!" Grisha roared.

"You old asshole!" Levi spat back and threw his phone unceremoniously into the potted cabbages.



The officer had no more questions for Levi beyond a lengthy quiz as to where Eren might be and 20 minutes later Levi watched behind a curtain in his upstairs flat as the cop car pulled away.  He dusted the grass clippings and strands of mulch off his phone and cursed. After a moment he went and started the shower. Uncharacteristically, he shed all his clothes onto a sloppy heap on the bathroom floor.  He climbed into the shower to sit down on the tiles, arms around his knees under the stinging spray, tears mingling with the water.




Levi remained convinced that Eren had left because of him.  Just picked up and left on the spur of the moment. That would be like Eren.  The young man wasn’t known for his impulse control. But what about Trigger? The kid adored that hunk of fur.  Had the headstrong boy assumed that Levi would go to the apartment within a day? Was he unaware of Levi’s attempt to provide Eren with some space?  The cat in question, newly installed into Levi’s apartment, filled out a bit and shining golden in the morning sun streaming in the window, insinuated himself under Levi’s hand.  Levi scratched absently.

“I don’t even like cats,” he told an unconvinced Trigger.  “Where’s your master, Trig?”

The big cat purred like distant thunder.

 

---

Eight days passed.  In a fit of morbidity Levi checked all the morgues again.  Then the hospitals again. And the police stations.

He had put up flyers all over the neighborhood.  He had even put an advert in the paper. He couldn’t offer much of a reward so he put $200 - it was in crisp $20 bills pressed in a book in his library.  His emergency money.

Well, this was an emergency, right?

 

---

 

It shouldn’t hurt this much, Levi mused, halfway through his bottle of wine.  This shouldn’t hurt this much.  He should have never gotten so invested.  Ask the kid to move in with you?  Idiot!

Levi took another rather sloppy sip of wine, the fingers of his other hand sinking into Trigger’s golden fur.  The big cat purred adoringly. Levi fought back tears.

Fuck, I’m an idiot for falling for him.

I’m a moron for thinking that a 22 year old could love and live with a 30 year old.  He probably has decided that I’m some pervy old man.

Levi rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand.

Where are you, brat?  I love you. At least let me know you’re OK.  Leave me if you must, but let me know you’re alright.

 

---

 

One a.m. found Levi staggering along beside the canal, wine bottle clutched by the neck in one hand.  His head hurt, it hurt horribly and he wondered groggily if it was the wine or how many times he'd gone over every detail of his and Eren's time together.

Trying to find the flaw.

Trying to find out what he did wrong.  What he did to drive Eren away.

He came to a bridge over the canal.  It was a big one, one designed for wheeled traffic with a sidewalk down each side for foot traffic.  At this time of night it was completely deserted. The bridge was old and it's parapets were broad. Wide enough to sit on.

Wide enough to stand on.

Levi found himself standing on the north parapet of the bridge, not another human in sight, clinging to a narrow lamp post with one hand and his wine bottle with the other.  It was exhilarating. The breeze was crisp and strong without being overwhelming and somewhere a bit of fabric or tarp snapped in the wind. It was like what he imagined being at sea was like.

"Woo hoo!"  He warbled suddenly.  "I'm free!"

His face fell immediately.  He didn't feel free. He felt hopelessly dragged down as if the memory of Eren was a heavy chain around his ankle.  He stared downward into the water. It was dark, a greenish-black, and the whole place smelt faintly fishy and brackish.

Levi leaned out suddenly, focussing hard down at the dark water, held in place only by his grip on the light pole.

Without Eren what was he?  Some old lonely bookseller?  A socially awkward bastard whose heart had beat wildly for a short time for a boy almost ten years his junior?  What were his chances of finding love again? He swayed and the light pole creaked.

Growing up poor as he had he’d never learned to swim.  Now it seemed advantageous. Just drop into the chilly water.  Just let go of the light post. He’d fall silently and probably no one would even hear the splash.  And certainly no one - except Hange - would miss him.

For several seconds he just hung there and contemplated the smoothly moving water, then he lost his grip on his wine bottle.  The bottle fell and was engulfed immediately. He didn't see it again.

Like Eren.

Levi shakily climbed down from the parapet of the bridge and staggered off in the direction of home.



At the end of fifteen days - it was a Saturday - Levi gave up entirely.  Hange came to the apartment. They had a key and they used it, throwing open the door and immediately fixing Levi in a dangerous glare.  Levi, for his part, was on the couch, scrunched down almost flat, staring at the ceiling. The apartment smelled nose-stingingly of cleanser.  Levi still had on pink dish-gloves.

“You didn’t come to my lecture!”

Levi arched his eyebrows and stayed silent.

“You promised you’d come!” Hange whined, “My study on communicating with the comatose patient?”

Levi grunted and resumed inspecting the ceiling.

“You could be one of my patients!” Hange said, “What gives?”

“Eren’s gone,” Levi told the ceiling light fixture.

Hange’s normally happy face, fell.

“Levi, sweetie, I know, but he’ll be back …”

“No.  Gone forever,” Levi whispered.

Hange knew better than to hug or even touch their best friend so they settled for helping herself to the glass of wine on the coffee table

“Moblit turned up a lead for you, by the way,’ They flung themselves down on the chair. “A John Doe.  A hospital in Sina.”

“That’s too far away and I’ve already looked at three unidentified bodies,” Levi said, shuddering slightly, “It wasn’t fun.”

“No, this one’s alive.  Young guy. Got injured grabbing a guy in the subway who was going to off himself by jumping in front of the train.  Sideswiped! Skull fracture, broken cheekbone, massive bruising and swelling, still hasn’t been identified, in a coma. ”

“If it just happened then it’s probably not --”

“No, he came in two weeks ago.”

Hange cocked their head.

“Levi?”

Levi had sat up disturbingly like dracula sitting up in his coffin in the old films.

“What does he look like?”

“Wha--?  Well we can’t tell his face has been smashed up pretty badly as I said, and …”

What does he look like?!

“Jeez, Levi, like Eren .  About 5’10”, slender, brown hair--”

“Oh my god.  Oh my god.’ Levi twisted himself to sit up, “OHMYGOD!  Hange! It could be Eren!”

“WHAT HOSPITAL?!”  Levi was up on his feet, trembling with excitement.

“Mitras Grace West, but I still don’t understand!”

But Levi was gone, out the door, his coat and keys in his hand, door swinging back on its hinges, pink dish gloves still on.

 

Chapter Text

Levi couldn’t sit still on the long train ride.  The other passengers edged away from him as if he was dangerous; a criminal or a junkie.

Levi’s leg jiggled restlessly - he was a junkie and his addiction was Eren Yeager and he hadn’t had a fix in weeks.  He wrung his hands and chewed his lip on the seemingly endless ride, a thousand things running through his head, but he kept coming back over and over to two things: was this Eren?  And was Eren alright?

 

The hospital was one of the biggest in Mitras and had a train station right next to it. The walk to the front door was brief but by the time Levi reached the hospital most of his anxious eagerness had evaporated.  It wouldn't be Eren. It would be some other person's lean, chestnut-haired young man and Levi would have a long ride back home to Trost alone on the empty train. He jammed his freezing hands into his pockets and trudged toward the automatic doors.

Right at the brightly lit entrance where stray snowflakes had begun to twist between the branches of the leafless trees flanking the door, a bundled figure stepped forward.  Levi stopped, startled.

It was Moblit Berner, long suffering research assistant, and man with a desperate crush on Hange.

He held up his mobile phone.

"Hange called me.  They wouldn't have let you in."  The handsome brown-haired man smiled kindly.  "Come on."

Inside the building was warm (thank the powers that be) and Moblit gestured for Levi to wait while he went up to the desk.  Levi fiddled with the pink dish gloves that he'd finally removed on the train and stuffed into his pockets. Moblit returned.  Again the kind smile. Levi was suddenly grateful.

"So what happens now?" Levi asked.

"I know a guy," Moblit said mildly. "He's the one who told me about the John Doe."

"Can't you get into like super bad trouble for this?" Levi said, "Both of you?"

Moblit shrugged.

"You're Hange's best friend.  She hates to see you in pain."

Levi felt hot tears behind his lashes.  He ducked his head and studied the soothing green and white tiles on the floor.

"Where is this guy?" Levi asked, trying to knuckle away the wetness in his eyes without being noticed.

"He's on duty.  Be patient."

There was a long, drawn out silence.

"It won't be him, you know," Levi blurted. "It won't be Eren."

"I know the chance is slim," Moblit said reasonably.  He paused. "I heard you had even been to the morgues."

Levi nodded, glaring at the floor, willing back more tears.

"You really love this guy."

Levi's head shot up.  Moblit's brown eyes were filled with sympathy and, to Levi’s relief, no pity.  Levi nodded fiercely, finally allowing a few tears to trail down his cheeks.

 

After a short wait a young man in spotless dark blue scrubs jogged toward them, bright white running shoes squeaking on the polished floor.  It was Moblit’s friend, the one who had spotted the boy who could be Eren. He was tall and darkly handsome with an adorable smattering of freckles across his face.  In a different world under different circumstances, Levi would have tried flirting with the young man.

“Marco Bodt,” Moblit said.  The young man held out his hand and Levi took it.

“Let’s go up,” Marco said, “I know you’re ready to get this done,”

 

 

Levi and Eren were not lovers, had not been yet, but Levi instantly recognised the lanky body on the bed anyway.

“Oh, Eren …”

Levi stumbled into the room and gazed down on his boyfriend in stunned horror.

“Believe it or not, the swelling has gone down quite a bit.”  Marco murmured, aware of how ghastly the younger man must look to Levi.

Levi stepped forward slowly, hesitantly, feeling as if he was hovering outside his own body.  Looking down as if in a grim, hellish dream.

Eren’s face was still a nightmare of cuts and horrible greenish-purple bruises.  The cheek and the jaw on the side that had suffered the impact had two ladders of black stitches.  Levi guessed that was the side with the broken cheekbone, too. The whole affair was done up in bandages but Levi still knew him.  He would have known him if he’d had twice as many bandages.

Eren’s left arm had been broken as well and was in a cast so Levi circled the bed to sit gingerly on his right.  Eren was pale, so pale; his normally tan skin had taken on a grayish pallor. 

Levi reached for Eren's hand and held it gently as if he could break him further.  He was working up to speaking, horror and relief battling in his heart, his throat dry and constricted.

“Thank … thank you!”  Levi said abruptly, canting his head to look at Marco, “Thank you for finding Eren!”  Tears welled in Levi’s eyes.

“Are we sure this is Eren?” Moblit asked gently.

“I’m sure,” Levi said, lips compressing into a thin line. “Can you tell me why … why he doesn’t wake up?” He asked, swallowing hard.

“He’s comatose,” Marco said.  “Has been since he was brought in.  His brain must have suffered a good bit of trauma in the accident.  He has plenty of brain activity, though. We have hopes that he will wake any day now.”

Levi frowned and squeezed Eren’s hand, looking into his disfigured face.

“Please wake up Eren,” he whispered, “Please.  I love you.”

Marco and Moblit exchanged a smile at the sentiment.

“We’re gonna go,” moblit said, “Is there anything you need?”

Levi lifted his head and shook it.

“The hospital will contact the authorities tomorrow,” Marco said, “And give them the good news that Eren has been identified.”

Levi nodded distractedly and the two other men slipped out the door.

 

And Levi stayed.  He didn’t eat, he didn't sleep, he just stayed.  He never left Eren’s bedside except to use the bathroom or take a quick turn up and down the hall after sitting so long.  He rang Hange with thank yous and a few tears and she promised to bring him a change of clothes and some toiletries. And he stayed.

 

The nurses came and went like efficient ghosts in the night.  Levi liked it when the sun went down and all the visitors left.  The windows there on the third floor were softly illuminated by the lights in the huge hospital parking lot outside.  That along with all the patient rooms being dark, made for a restful atmosphere. Levi moved down the hallway more ghostly than the nurses and bought himself a diet coke out of the machine.  He took a moment to appreciate the stillness and silence. Almost everyone was asleep but him. The quiet beeping of machines and the soft murmur of the two nurses on duty down the hall at the nurses' station was soothing.

Levi took a moment to sip at his ice cold drink and his stomach clenched.  Had he eaten today? He couldn't remember. That morning seemed days away, if it had even existed at all. Now was only the gentle beeping, the soft nurses' voices, the dim lights.  Levi hurried back to Eren's room.



Early the next morning, before 7:00, before the doctor’s regular rounds, Levi met with Eren’s doctor and a police officer and told them that he believed that the young man in the bed was Eren Yeager.  Since he was neither family nor Eren’s spouse, he couldn’t officially identify Eren. He rang Mikasa.

 

Mikasa appeared at the hospital two hours later with Jean, her boyfriend and - conspicuously - no Grisha.

She quite literally ignored Levi sitting by the bed and holding Eren’s hand.

“How do we know this is my brother?” She demanded of the police officer.  The poor man gestured at Levi and opened his mouth to speak.

“Anyone who is not family needs to leave this room,” Mikasa snapped.

The officer’s mouth closed and Levi stood quietly and left.



Levi lurked around the room door and eventually the police officer left with a sympathetic look to Levi.  Mikasa apparently grudgingly accepted that the boy in the bed was Eren because when she emerged later her eyes were red and swollen from crying.  She stepped directly up to Levi.

“You …” one perfectly manicured finger poked Levi’s chest, “You call me if there is any … any change!”

And she was gone.  Levi sighed and resumed his vigil by Eren’s side.

 

It was five more days, 20 days since Eren had disappeared from Levi’s life, 20 days since the accident and Levi was a victim of his own depressed thoughts.  Eren was not waking up and Levi missed him so much. He wanted him well … and home. At least he had him, though. At least he was comfortable and well cared for.

Levi didn't outright cry but he did lean forward, settling his forehead onto Eren’s good hand, breathing a silent thank you to whatever beings might be out there that Eren was safe and there with him.

Abruptly the hand beneath his head flexed and he jerked upright.

Eren was awake.  

Beautiful green eyes warmed to emerald by the sunlight from the window.  And they turned on him; Eren looked directly at him.

Levi smiled, a rarity, and clutched at the other’s hand as if some force would pull them apart.

“Eren …”

The big green eyes blinked slowly.

“Who are you?” Eren asked.

Chapter Text

Levi put one trembling hand to his own chest.  This was a joke surely. A jab at him. A prank set up by Eren.

But Eren didn't look mischievous, he looked confused and polite, his gaze flickering around the room, looking for someone, anyone, who was not this ernest, little, handsome, dark-haired man who held his hand.

 

The first minutes after Eren awoke were a whirlwind.  Doctors and nurses descended and took every test they could think of and generally poked and prodded him.  He was immediately assured that it was normal to have lost a part of his recent memory including memories of the accident, as well as bits of less recent memories.  Hange appeared shortly thereafter and Eren was greatly reassured: he remembered Hange from when he first started going to the Garrison Club. Between the two of them they pieced together that Eren had lost about six or eight months of memories.  He didn't remember his family’s vacation to Cancun that summer or storming out of his house and crashing at Armin’s. He didn’t recall adopting Trigger and he had no memories of Levi at all. It was as if they were strangers.

After all the hubbub had died down, Eren ate a bite and dozed.  When he awoke the sun was just going down and the air had turned that purplish hazy hue of dusk.  Dust motes hung in the dim last rays of the day coming in the window.

He blinked, trying to clear his head.  The nurse had clearly given him his evening painkiller.

Eren. That was his name; he remembered his name.  Eren picked nervously at the thin, bone-colored hospital blanket.  The little dark-haired man---his name was Levi---had not left his bedside save for pressing himself against the wall and out of the way when the doctors and nurses were there.  Now he sat beside Eren's bed. Not in a stalker, creeper-ish sort of way, but patiently. He sat in a hospital chair dragged close but not too close and kept both his hands in his lap.  Eren chewed his lip. The little man---Levi, he reminded himself---had been holding his hand when he awoke. That made Eren curious and embarrassed all at once. What exactly had been their relationship?  Had they had a relationship? Eren didn't know what was real right now.

"Do you feel OK?"  Levi suddenly asked, "Can I get you anything?"  His hand reached out, as if for Eren, but he pulled it back.

"I'm ok." Eren said.  The swelling of his lips and jaw slurred his voice.

Eren was slightly nervous with Levi there but at the same time didn't want him to leave.  He was so comforting in his taciturn way. Eren's eyes darted around the room. He found that if he let his guard down, he would start staring at Levi.  The older man was incredibly handsome. His jawline and cheekbones could cut glass they were so sharp and his eyes smouldered, slightly hooded. The irises themselves were a pale blue-grey and rather startling behind long black lashes.  His hair was black too, cut in an undercut with inky strands falling in his eyes when he ducked his head.

Levi was beautiful.

Eren fidgeted and looked away, aware of how horrible he looked right then with his broken cheekbone and many stitches.  Strangely, Levi didn't seem to mind.

When Eren looked back Levi had bent over a small book in a language Eren didn't recognise.  That's what he had been doing since Eren awoke. Either reading or attending to him (including one embarrassing trip to the bathroom where the weakened Eren had had to lean on Levi to piss.  But Levi was better than the motherly nurse on duty. Eren would have died of mortification.)

 

That's it.  This was ridiculous.  His sister would be back here in the morning and now was his time to talk to Levi.  He had to know. He had to know what the black haired man knew about the time Eren couldn't remember.  He cleared his throat, cringing at how phlegmy he sounded. All the trauma and swelling had done a number on his sinuses.

Levi looked up immediately.

Eren had discovered that Levi wasn't a smiler but when he looked at Eren he got this soft expression that was, to Eren, as good as a smile.  He had that expression now.

"Uh, Levi?"

The book was immediately put down.

"Yes?"

“What was I like?"  Eren asked, worrying the edge of the blanket again. "As a person, I mean.  The doctor said I've lost about six or eight months of memories but there’s other stuff I don’t remember.   What was I like? Am I a good person?”

Levi resisted the urge to reach out and grasp Eren’s hand.

“Of course you’re a good person.”  He hesitated slightly, thinking of Eren’s rather turbulent relationship with his father, “You’re a 22-year-old person, though.  Stubborn, hot headed, but kind and gentle when you want to be. Remember you saved a man’s life in that subway.”

"Hange said I had quite a temper and got in a lot of fights, though."  Eren persisted, glaring at the blanket in his fingers. “Did you and I ever fight?”

“Sure, over trivial shit,”  Levi shrugged. “We argued the night you got hurt”

“We did?  About what?”

"It's not important," Levi insisted.

"Tell me.  Tell me what it was."

"Eren ..."

"Don't treat me like a kid!  Tell me. What was so bad that I wanted to leave someone as nice as you?!"

Levi stared at the younger man, tears prickling beneath his lids.

“I had washed the hoodie you wanted to wear."

Eren's battered jaw dropped.

"A hoodie."  It was a statement.

Levi frowned and chewed the inside of his cheek,  Eren abruptly rolled over, away from Levi, and pulled the covers up to his chin.

"Eren ..."

“It doesn’t sound like I was a good person," Eren said after a moment, voice muffled.  "It sounds like I was an asshole.” 

 

Three days.  Three days he had had to interact with Eren and - for all intents and purposes - to say goodbye.  Levi felt empty, emptier than he had before when he's thought he'd lost Eren and didn't know why he'd lost him.  Now he knew why and it hurt. It hurt more. And here he was making Eren feel worse. Should he lie to the boy? Or skirt the truth?  He drifted off to sleep trying to decide.

 

Eren woke again at 1 am and Levi was there, dozing in his chair.  He immediately woke.

“Need some water?  Got to piss?”

“Water,” Eren croaked.  Levi was up and checking the status of the ice in the large hospital cup.  It was full and had water as well. He brought the cup to Eren and adjusted the bed up.

Eren drank noisily out of the bendy straw (he still couldn’t breathe through his nose) and finally sat back with a sigh.  He leaned his head over toward Levi who was straightening out his topsheet and blanket.

“Why are you so good to me?” he demanded suddenly, petulantly, “Why are you still here?”

Levi paused and regarded the younger man with pursed lips.

“I care very much for you Eren.  I’m not leaving unless you ask me to leave.”

Eren blushed pink on the uninjured side of his face and looked away.  He fidgeted with the blanket for a bit then turned back.

“Can I ask you something … uh … personal?”

“Of course.”

"Were we ... were we lovers?"

Levi eased up to sit on the bed.

"No.  Not yet.  We were taking it slow."

Eren smoothed the edge of his blanket over and over.

"Why?"

Levi's heart leapt in his chest, fluttering there against his ribs like a captured bird.

"Well ... you're a lot younger than me and we've both had some bad breakups and ..."

"How much younger?"  Eren asked, his green eyes huge and frank.

"Well, you're 22 of course, and I'm ...." Levi cursed in his mind, damning the years between them.  “Thirty,” he concluded, staring down at his clenched hands.

Eren's eyebrows climbed upward.

"Oh,"  He said.

Levi continued to look wretchedly down at his hands.

Eren scooted down the bed and pulled the covers up.

Levi sat back in his chair and resumed his book with an aching heart.  Eren stared at the ceiling until he drifted back off to sleep.




Mikasa arrived bright and early two mornings later to take Eren home.

“Mikasa, Mikasa!  Give him a chance to remember,” Levi pleaded.

“The doctor said that he may never regain the memories he’s lost.  He may never remember the accident … or you, Levi,” Mikasa said pointedly.

“But he might!  Let me take care of him, I beg you!”  Levi circled around her as she gathered Eren’s stuff. “Just for a few weeks, then let him decide …”

“I’ll send Jean around to collect Eren’s stuff from your apartment,”

“Mikasa, please …”

“He doesn't need you anymore Levi,” she said grimly. “Let him go,”

Let him go ?!  Mikasa, he’s my life!  I love him! ” Levi said, “Eren?!”

Mikasa was literally pushing the younger man out the door in the wheelchair,  “I’m sorry!” Eren said, twisting round, “I really am, but I don’t know you !”

 

The ride home from the hospital was ... off.  It should have been a joyous thing for Eren to return home after his horrible ordeal and having to be in the hospital but it wasn't.  It was just off. The ride back to shiganshina was a long one and Eren sat in the back seat, chin in hand, staring out the window at the chilly, rainy day.  The clouds were a uniform gray cottony blanket and made the trip even more gloomy.

Mikasa would have been enraged if she had known, but Eren was thinking of the small, dark man, Levi, who claimed to have known him.

He had been so kind, so caring.  He had looked at Eren like he was the greatest thing ever and had been so patient.

Eren's own family had not been.  Grisha had come once and had acted as if the accident was Eren's fault.  Mikasa tried, but she still oozed disappointment and blame toward Levi. Jean was a bit better in private - more understanding toward Eren - but got gruff when Mikasa was around.

Eren sighed, his breath fogging the car window.



Eren spent several days in bed upon returning home.  His sister doted anxiously on him and Grisha ignored him.  He slept mostly, trying to wrap his head around the whole thing and secretly hoping that some of his memory would return.

When he did get up he drifted around the house in a lackluster fashion.  Little snippets of memory would come back to him; he smelled black tea when he stood barefoot in the kitchen making a cup of Mikasa's terrible instant coffee.  He heard popcorn popping when he saw the Netflix logo in the evenings and had faint fleeting snatches of memory of warm snuggles and strong arms holding him.

 

Grisha was not impressed with either the accident ("well you're alive aren't you?") or the memory loss and simply assumed that Eren was bluffing in an attempt to move back in.  He had moved back in, of course, Mikasa would have gone through hell or high water to assure that Eren was safe at home where she could keep an eye on him.  

Grisha had brusquely and single mindedly cleaned out Eren's room, after he left to move in with Armin, throwing away all of his personal stuff that he hadn't taken when he'd stormed out.

Mikasa helped him get settled back in, giving him clean bedding, even grabbing things from her room; a music box that she'd had since childhood, a favorite stuffed animal that Eren remembered.

 

Eren lay spread eagle on his back on the bed staring morosely at the ceiling.  He had no idea what to do. He wasn't bored per se, he was just ... directionless.  He could hear Mikasa and Jean talking outside in the living room and Grisha clattering about in the kitchen but he did not want to go out there.  If he went out of his room then the talking would start. The questions, the speculations, the bad mouthing of his former life and by extension, Levi.  Eren and Eren’s ‘situation’ were a favourite topic. He loved his family. He even kind of felt semi friendly with Jean. But the talking. All the words and none of it helping his memory.  He just couldn't stand it. Not that. Instead he let his mind wander.

He spent a good portion of every day going over the details that he knew of his missing memory and trying to recall something, anything of that time.  He dwelled a lot on the memories he had of Levi. Those were just the ones from the hospital but he cherished them. Cherished? That was a strange word to use for a man who for all intents and purposes was a stranger.  Until eren could regain some memories - if he ever did - Levi would remain so.

Could his heart remember loving someone his brain did not?





The next day they ate supper in an awkward silence.  Mikasa tried some conversational forays but Eren just grunted.  Grisha took his supper in his office. Afterwords Eren begged off watching television and retired to his room.  He lay on the twin bed, arms folded under his head, staring at the sloped ceiling. He could see the paler rectangles on the wall where his father had taken down his childhood posters and he wondered vaguely if Mikasa had at least saved his baseball and glove and his trophies.  he'd like to pass those on to his children if he ever had them.

Children.  Thinking of kids made him think of relationships and that made him think of Levi.  He sincerely missed the intense little man. He missed his crude banter and soft deep voice.  The short time he’d known him in the hospital he'd made Eren feel, well, loved .

Whoa.  That was weird.  Loved. He rolled the word around in his slightly bruised brain.  He knew Mikasa and Armin loved him and he knew that on some level Grisha must ... but love, love?

Levi hadn’t asked him for anything except the opportunity to stay by his side.  He hadn’t told him what to do or judged him on what he did

He wished he could remember his time with Levi.  He had his rough edges but the man had seemed devoted to Eren.  

Why had Eren left him that night?



"You should think about going back to college," Mikasa said the next morning over breakfast.  Leave it up to her to sense his listlessness. Grisha grunted in agreement.

Eren looked wary.  He'd gone to college straight after a summer-long, post-high-school jaunt through Europe.  It had been a slow motion disaster. He'd spent three years failing courses and changing majors.

Eren stabbed at his cereal with the tip of his spoon.

"That might be a good idea," he conceded.

Mikasa jerked and Grisha slowly looked up from his paper.

"Willing to throw my good money after bad?" Grisha asked dryly.

Eren frowned at him.

"It's different now," he insisted.

Grisha grunted and returned to his eggs and his paper.

"And I am going to get a job," Eren announced into the silence.  Neither family member looked up.

 

Eren was listlessly going through his clothes.  

Two small canvas bags that held his items from Levi’s place.  Levi had provided the canvas bags and had clearly packed the clothes.  They were clean and folded neatly.

Then he found the hoodie.

It was on top of the second bag.  It was his favorite one, black with black and dark grey sleeves and a dark grey demon skull on the left breast.  Very goth. Very emo. And it evoked an emotion. No memory per se but a powerful emotion of want, of need, of loneliness.

A sudden recollection of the man in the hospital, Levi, black hair dishevelled as Mikasa took Eren away, “Mikasa, I love him!”

Somebody had loved him?  Somebody still did … maybe?



“I’m moving out,” Eren announced that night.

Mikasa barely managed to not drop her glass of wine.

“What?!”

“Mikasa, I can’t stand it!” Eren said, fists clenched, “I need to be my own person!”

“But, Eren, you’re still recovering---”

“Everyone needs to stop babying me!  I’m leaving!”

Mikasa took a deep breath. “Where are you headed?” she looked like she was trying to keep calm.

Eren shoved his hands into the pockets of his black hoodie; he had worn it all day.  “I’m moving to Trost, with Armin.”

“But, Eren!” Mikasa cried, “That’s so far away!”

“I can’t find a good job here in this podunk town!”

“But i thought you liked shiganshina,” Mikasa said

“I do, I guess, but I need to work.  I need to be out on my own. I don’t want anyone taking care of me!”  Eren slammed one fist into the other hand then winced as his broken arm twinged.

Mikasa lost her cool, “You were happy to let that angry midget support you!”

Mikasa realised her error as soon as the words left her mouth.  She actually put her fingers over her lips.

“You mean Levi?”  Eren asked slowly.

Mikasa just stared

“You do mean Levi!  He said i didn’t work!  What a loser I was!” Eren angrily shrugged into his coat, “Well, I'll not be dependant on anybody anymore!  Maybe that’s why he never bothered to contact me after I left the hospital!” He went out of the apartment door, slamming it in his wake.  

 

Hours and a train ride later Eren stood sheepishly on his friend’s doorstep.

"Of course you can stay as long as you like, Eren," Armin was saying, "It's nice having company."

Eren lugged in his stuff, all jammed into one black plastic trash bag

Chapter Text

After leaving the hospital, Levi kept the bookshop closed for another week and spent his mornings drinking tea and thinking and his afternoons drinking wine and brooding.  He talked to Trigger into the night and slept only when he got too drunk to sit upright.

 

Levi couldn't get it off his mind.  That had been Eren .  His Eren.

No.  No, not his eren.  His Eren was gone.  A dream dissolved in the sunlight.  This was a stranger who looked like him.

 

He opened the shop the second week and the customers seemed unsurprised to find the old, disgruntled, pre-Eren Levi back.  Some cottoned on, noticing the cheerful, bratty brunet was missing, and expressed sympathy. Levi merely grunted in response.

 

Levi was simply existing.  He missed that brat so much.  He missed the cheerful, volatile, and slightly ignorant boy who didn’t quite know how the world worked.  He missed the challenging teenager-like moods. He missed his hot temper and getting to sooth him back to reasonableness.

Late at night he missed the long, lean, tan body and his soft lips.  He felt it was pathetic and kind of sad that he still masturbated to Eren even though he was gone, but there it was.

Eren was gone.  Levi knew it. The bright eyed, chocolate haired man he left in the hospital had absolutely no memory of Levi or their time together.



Two days after that Levi spotted Eren in Trost.

For a moment he just stood and gazed like one would at a favourite painter’s work in a museum, breathless.  Then he cursed his fate and walked the opposite way.

“Of course he’s in Trost!  Why the fuck not?” He asked the cool afternoon air.

As he paced down the street he snuck one last quick look back.  Eren was staring at him. Levi walked on.



It didn’t take Eren long to find the bookshop.  He didn’t remember where it was but he wasn’t stupid.  He arrived early in the morning, before most places were open, and huddled up into the doorway of the old shut down butchers shop across the street, hands in his pockets, collar turned up.  There was an old, small, cloth awning over his little sanctuary and Eren could hear the hollow sounding pok-pok-pok of raindrops on the aged canvas.

He felt like a number one creep or some stalker watching Levi as he opened the door to his bookshop.  He had no idea if Levi even noticed him there. The bookshop was a nondescript place, just a plain storefront with an apartment above.  The dark haired man had tried to make it cozy though, and had filled the window boxes with brightly colored ornamental cabbages both in the downstairs bow window and in the two small windows above.  Despite the frigid weather the plants happily crowded the boxes with greens and pinks

When Eren closed his eyes, with just the sound of the rain dripping from the eaves, he could still hear Levi’s voice, “He’s my life!  I love him!” He watched forlornly as Levi reemerged and swept the blown leaves out from under his own awning and set out the sandwich board sign to draw customers.  He never once looked Eren’s way. Eren was clearly not his life any more.

 

It was afternoon when Eren stepped under the gently chiming bell and looked unsurely at the counter.

Levi bowed his head, pinched the bridge of his nose, and screwed his eyes shut.  He looked up again.

Nope.  

Eren was still there.  

At least there were only two customers, both lost amongst the racks, browsing.  Levi could endure this pain without a huge audience.

But Eren didn’t move.

Levi sat almost bonelessly on his stool, hands laid in his lap like two downed birds.  He kept his gaze lowered.

One of the customers wandered up with three books, the other with one.  They chattered animatedly to each other and to Levi as they checked out.

When Levi looked up from counting change at the bell jingling, Eren was gone.

 

Two days later Eren was back.  Levi was ringing up a lone customer.

As soon as he saw him, and without his permission, Levi’s pulse fluttered in his throat.

Eren waited until the customer had left with his purchases, then he just stood awkwardly, clearly at a loss for words.  Levi waited. He’d been through hell. He knew how to wait.

After a few moments Eren turned toward the door and Levi’s thrumming pulse seemed to stick in his throat like a bug he’d halfway swallowed.  He wanted Eren to leave. He didn’t want Eren to leave.

Eren paused with his hand on the doorknob and looked back.  Abruptly an orange streak zipped across the floor and wound itself around Eren’s legs; Trigger.

The shop was so quiet.  Only the spit and crackle of the wood stove and Trigger’s booming purr made any sound.

“Levi …” Eren said finally.

Levi blinked at the floor.

“I thought maybe … I thought maybe …”

Levi sighed.

“What do you want from me, Eren?” he asked wearily.

“I just want to know … I just want us to be … be friends.”

“Look, kid, I know how you feel, but---”

"You have no idea how I feel!"

Levi stopped, looked up, eyebrows arched in surprise at Eren's tone.  "I'm sure --"

"No!  You can't!  You can't know,"  Eren's hands balled into fists.  "I feel like ... like shit's happening around me and I'm helpless to stop it."

"Eren ..."

The younger man came toward him hands out, "Listen, when ... when I was a little kid---Mika and I were about six or so---we found a sparrow with a hurt wing.  My mom patched it up and we kept the sparrow in a box. It quickly got well and we let it go, but all the other sparrows had moved away because winter was coming.  For days it just hung out in the trees, chirping, and finally it disappeared."

Levi moved slowly to make tea as if Eren was a wild animal that he might startle.

"I hope it found its friends and its mate!"  Eren said. "I feel like that sparrow! I'm better now but everything that mattered to me is gone and I gotta find it!"

Levi poured water into the teapot and didn't look up.

“All that’s well and good, Eren, but the fact remains that we are strangers. ”  He took a deep breath and returned the kettle to the stove.

“You're not here.  You're not you. You're dead.  Dead to me ... " Levi scrubbed his face with both hands and fell silent.

“Levi …”

"Just ... just go."

After Eren had left, Levi sadly consoled Trigger.  “He doesn’t remember you, either, Trig. It’s better this way.”



That Friday night found Levi drunk at the Garrison Club.

“Hows my best grumpy little man?” Hange chirped, pouring whisky.  They crossed their arms on the bar. “Bummed, I assume,”

"No I'm just fucking peachy," Levi snapped, "The man I love is actually stalking me but he's a stranger to me or might as well be." He shook his head. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do Hange."

The brown haired woman patted his arm.  "How about give him a chance?" They swiped at the bar with their rag.

Levi made a noise between a snort and a growl.

“Hange, he doesn’t remember me at all.  I know him as my boyfriend whom I had just asked to move in with me.  He knows me as the creepy guy who was in his hospital room when he woke up.”

“I don’t think he thinks you’re creepy,” Hange said, “I think he’s still attracted to you.”

Levi tossed back half of his drink, “He’s attracted to the idea of me.”

"Levi, you should give him a chance!"

"That's not Eren!" Levi roared, "Not my Eren anyway ..." 

Hange had clearly had enough.  "Levi Ackerman! You ... you ... IDIOT!"

Levi's eyebrows shot up.

"You still love him," Hange cried, grabbing him by the arm and shaking, "You said as much!"

"I still love my Eren, who's gon---"

"NO!  No, Eren is still here!  He may be a bit different but it's still Eren.  You have a chance to woo him again, Levi! Do it all over from scratch!  Correct any mistakes!"

"Mistakes ... " Levi murmured.

"It can be romance all over again, Levi," Hange said softly

Levi blinked back the prickling underneath his eyelids.  All over again? Could it possibly be?

 

Levi shook his head drunkenly.  No. His luck just couldn’t be that good.

 

"Well, all that aside, don't look now," Hange murmured, "but you have an admirer."

Levi looked blearily up and as he stared, Hange surreptitiously filled his half full glass of whisky up with water. 

"Who’m I lookin' at?"  He grumbled.

"Young guy, brown hair ..."

Sure enough, there was a cute kid at the end of the bar who was stealing glances at Levi.  Levi almost choked on his watered down drink.

It was Eren.  Eren fucking Yeager.  Why couldn't he get away from this kid?

Sure enough, Eren began purposefully moving Levi’s way

“No, no, no.  Don’t come over here …”  Levi dropped his head onto the bar.  When he raised it, Eren fucking Yeager was right there.

“You just keep popping up like a bad penny, doncha?”

"Look, I’m sorry I came to the shop but … I didn't see why we couldn't be friends," Eren mumbled.

That was it.  Levi had had enough.  He wasn't in the mood for this, wasn't strong enough for this.

"Friends?  Friends?! "  Levi gestured with his glass so violently that he slopped his drink over the edge of the bar. "No.  You don't get to do that! You don't get to be sorry and you don't get to apologise! You vanished .  I know you didn't get hurt on purpose but the fact remains that you left .  Left us.  Left me !"

Levi made a sound then, suspiciously like a sob.

"Eren, you were my boyfriend .  We were about to move in together and now you don't even remember me at all!"

"That's not my fault," Eren said both angry and sad

"I know that but it's still true.  Look at it from my point of view. I can't just be your friend, Eren.  I ... I still love you."

Levi sniffled suddenly and stood, swaying.  He threw down a handful of bills onto the counter and, dragging his sleeve across his eyes, wove his way to the exit.

 

When Levi got home, a tiny bit less drunk, he slouched against the inside of his door with a sigh.  He wanted that brown haired brat so badly but he couldn’t have him. They were strangers. He missed him, missed his big warm hands and soft lips, missed that long, lean frame.

Shit, he was getting hard.

“One last wank thinking of the old boyfriend?” Levi asked himself out loud.  With that thought he crossed to the stairs leading up to his apartment and stumbled up.

 

There was no door between Levi’s upstairs apartment and the book shop, downstairs, either at the top or the bottom of the stairs, (which occasionally resulted in confused customers wandering around Levi’s flat wondering where the books were.  Once a customer had excitedly discovered and extracted a book out of Levi’s private library and had attempted to buy it.) When Levi made it into his own personal space he wove his way to the bathroom and, closing the door, leaned his back against it.  He fumbled his already hard dick out and spat in his hand, rolling it over the head slowly. The action made his hips buck up eagerly. He let his mind wander to Eren.

Long lean torso, acres of tan flesh just made for kissing, an ass so plump and soft that it almost make Levi salivate.  Yes, that ass. If he could, he'd kiss and gently bite just to hear the sounds Eren would make. Levi started up a stuttering rhythm trying to stroke slowly, trying to prolong the pleasure.  Oh how he’d love to part Eren’s plush ass cheeks and lap at that hole. Stroke along the outside of the ring with his tongue and then push the tip in. He wondered how Eren would react? Would he squirm and sigh?  Moan and cry out in pleasure? Levi had moved quickly to a brisk pace, fucking his own fist, still standing with his back against the door. His breath came in quick gasps as his mind played out his fantasy. Would Eren call Levi’s name?  Beg him to fuck him? No matter what, Levi would reach around and grab the boy’s neglected member and---

“Hah, hah, Ahh !” Levi huffed and came in his own hand, eagerly milking his slick cock of every drop of cum.  He sagged back against the door, panting. Now if only he could enact this scenario with Eren … but that was not to be.

 

The next morning it was raining again.  What hellish weather. Nothing big or extreme; just the steady, wearing patter of rain, the chill, damp morning fogs.  It was depressing Levi thought.

Levi moved around his tiny apartment by rote, making tea, spreading butter on a slice of toast, feeding Trigger, getting ready for his day with it still dark outside.  His mind flitted back to seeing Eren yesterday at the Garrison Club. And his solitary wank. He was depressed about it and sort of glad at the same time. It was time for some closure.

He sat at the window, drinking tea and nibbling on his toast and thinking.  Perhaps he should find a new bar to frequent. The Garrison was a long way away and he had the benefit of Hange as a good friend.  She often came to him and they talked into the wee hours up in his flat.

That was it.  A new bar. Perhaps he would meet someone nice.

 

When Levi went down to open the shop he peered, as he had become accustomed to doing, through the front window, into the inchoate morning, at the shop across the street.  No Eren. He sighed thankfully. Yes. Time for something and someone new.

 

---

 

The day went well---aside from his persistent low mood that he tried to shake---and evening came with no fanfare or sudden appearances of ex boyfriends.  Levi used to be able to stay late into the night down in the shop; shelving books, dusting and cleaning, building and repairing bookshelves. Now his heart wasn’t in it.  He kept the place sparkling clean, of course, and he had the company of Trigger, but all the rest … well, it had lost its appeal. Before, he had done all that he had done for a future---a future that included Eren Yeager---now it all seemed dull and useless.  But what would he do about the work that needed doing? The shelving alone was a job. A job ...

“I’ll hire some high school kid or a college student!”  Levi told the empty store and Trigger. “Leave some of this drudge work to a youngster.”

Satisfied, he finished counting out the drawer, put the money in the safe, and turning out the lights went upstairs

The next morning a neat Help Wanted sign hung on the door.

 

Chapter Text

For two days Levi interviewed potential help and searched for a good local bar to call his own.  He tried both of the gay bars in Trost but they were more like meat markets than anything else. A man couldn't just sit and enjoy a drink without being hit on.  He must have turned down over a half a dozen offers for a hook-up over two nights. It was flattering to be wanted, but the basic truth was that Levi wasn't ready.  No one compared to Eren. He needed to get over that chocolate haired brat first.

 

The only thing to do next was to visit the local watering holes and decide.  To that end Levi worked his way around. One, several streets away, was mainly focussed on sports and all the blaring televisions made Levi's head hurt.  Another one was very run down and suspiciously quiet with lots of lowlife looking goons hanging around. Levi left that one early. Finally he tried the pub closest to his shop; a low-ceilinged, chair-cluttered affair with old men playing checkers in the corner and young men boasting at the bar.  It was called the Golden Coin and Levi liked it.

 

His luck, however, didn’t hold out.  The next morning It was raining in a desultory way, a thin persistent drizzle that was just cold enough to be unpleasant.  And Eren was back again, standing in his now accustomed space in the doorway of the shop across the street. If Levi knew he was there, he ignored him, going about the business of opening the shop, counting the till, waiting for the fire to come up in the ancient wood stove.  He was just putting the kettle on when the bell over the door tinkled.

"We're closed," Levi said automatically and without looking up, kicking himself for leaving the door unlocked.

There was no reply.

Levi looked up, hoping he wasn’t about to be robbed.

Instead, Eren stood there, in his black hoodie, drenched to the skin, face wide open and full of desperate hope.  In both hands he held the Help Wanted sign.

Levi sighed.

“Just give me a chance,” Eren began.

Levi started shaking his head and stepped forward to retrieve the help wanted sign.  Eren held it up out of his reach. 

“Please.  Please , Levi give me just one more chance.  I’m not talking about us being boyfriends.  Just let me work and prove to you that I can do a good job.  No funny stuff, no sex stuff, just the job. I need the work really bad.”  Eren sniffled, wiping his nose on his sleeve. There was a long uneasy quiet.  The rain was turning to sleet outside and the ‘tik-tik-tik’ against the glass storefront sounded abnormally loud.

Levi abruptly turned and added more wood to the wood stove.  Eren fiddled wretchedly with his cast and shuffled miserably while he did so.  Finally Levi turned back around. He had said before that he wasn’t strong enough to listen to Eren’s appeals but perhaps he wasn’t strong enough to ignore them either.

“Ok, number one, gross , wiping your snot on your sleeve. I have to wash that hoodie now.  Give it to me.”

 

Both men paused for just a second and it was as if time was standing still.  Each was thinking the same thing. This was it. This was the cause of the fight that tore them apart from one another.  This hoodie.

 

Eren struggled hurriedly and almost violently out of the soaked thing and handed it over.  Levi took it with a look in his eye that broke the younger man’s heart: is this what you want?  Are you sure? Am I overstepping?

Eren’s face conveyed everything Levi wanted to know.  For a moment they just stood and stared at each other.

“What was number two?” Eren asked finally, eagerly.

“What?”

“Number two?”

“Oh!” Levi cleared his throat.  “How can you live here in Trost and not own a better coat?” he asked crossly, “no nevermind, I don’t care.  Number two: no favoritism.”

Eren shook his head wildly

“Let me finish.  No favoritism from me, no slacking on your part!  I find so much as a book out of place or a mote of dust and you are outta here!”

Eren changed to nodding his head wildly and trying not to grin like a maniac.

 

The next day when Levi went to open the front door he found Eren sat with his back against the stones of the bookshop’s entranceway, a new nylon jacket on and his backpack in hand.

"Oi, don't sit on the doorstep like that," Levi groused, "folks'll think you're homeless."

"Basically I am," Eren said so softly Levi barely heard him.  Levi shot him a look thinking he was taking a dig at him but Eren merely looked sad.

"You can hang your bag in the back room ... do you remember where that is?"  Eren looked blank and Levi struck his own forehead lightly with the heel of his hand, "No, of course you don't remember.  Sorry. Through that door and to the right." Eren hurried off.

"There're aprons on those hooks as well," Levi called, "Grab one while you're back there."

Levi set Eren to the task of reshelving a load of books - old ones that had been mislaid and a crop of new ones.  The morning crept by with Levi double checking Eren’s work (with the occasional chastisement and correction) and Eren fielding questions by regulars who remembered him.  The younger man worked without hesitation or complaint. By lunchtime, Levi felt a pang of guilt and made Eren stop.

“Did you not bring your lunch?” Levi asked him as he opened up the wax paper on his own sandwich at the counter.

Eren didn't want to tell him that he was trying not to eat Armin out of house and home just as he had failed to tell him that the new coat was actually one of Armin’s that was too big for the blond.  But Levi could tell something was up and deduced that Eren hadn’t been lying when he said he needed the job. The boy must be broke. Grisha had made good on his promise to cut his son off. 

Leaving Eren in charge for a second Levi ran upstairs and retrieved two bowls, spoons, and a container that turned out to hold leftover stew.  Levi popped a pot on the roaring wood stove and poured the stew in. Within several minutes the smell of the homemade stew pervaded the air.  

The leftovers were for one but Levi shared his sandwich, so they each ate half a bowl of stew and half a cheese sandwich.

It was warm and cozy and comforting and made both men a little sad.

 

“So you’re living in Trost,” Levi said after they had paused their lunch when Eren had helped a customer find a book and Levi had rung him up.

“Back with Armin,” Eren said.

“You finally moved out of your dad’s place.”

“Thank god.  They think I’m living with you, I think.”

Levi shook his head.  “Probably.  

They both ate over the counter, an ancient mahogany affair that shone warmly in the light.  It was broad but with them both leaning over from either side their hands almost touched.

Eren couldn’t keep his eyes off of Levi, the alabaster skin, the sooty eyelashes, the thin black brows that always seemed to be knit.  With just a little push of his toes he could press his lips to Levi’s and …

“Oi, what are you doing, brat?”

Eren blinked.

“S...sorry!  I was just daydreaming, I guess”

Levi, who wouldn’t have admitted that he’d been staring, admiring the younger man, bent back to his soup.

 

Each day got more and more relaxed as the two men got used to each other again.  Eren began bringing bread, cheese, or vegetables in exchange for Levi preparing their lunch.  Each day Eren minded the shop while Levi cooked and then they spent time hunched over the counter sharing a savory meal that Levi had prepared.  The regular customers began nodding wisely and eyeing each other with smiles on their faces.

 

"Do you miss your family?" Levi asked Eren one day.

Eren shrugged. "I do but they don't miss me much.  No one has contacted me since I moved out."

The news was depressing and encouraging at the same time for Levi.  Depressing because Eren was losing contact with his family and encouraging because it meant that Eren was becoming almost exclusively his.

His?  What was he thinking?  The brat wasn't his.  Handn’t been for almost three months now.  Levi realised he was getting possessive and shook his head at himself.  His Eren was gone and this new Eren was a different person. He would never be his.

 

It wasn’t a week later when Levi spotted Eren at the end of the bar at the Golden Coin, his new bar.  Levi sighed. So much for closure. He was absurdly pleased though. With what Eren earned working at Levi’s book shop he could now afford to buy himself a drink at a pub on a Friday night and that made Levi happy.

He knew the boy had been eyeballing him from down the bar and the scenario sent shivers up Levi’s spine.  It reminded him of when they’d met. He caught Eren’s eye and gestured for him to join him at his end of the bar.

Eren hurried down the way, grinning.

“I thought you didn’t see me,” he said, “or were ignoring me.”

Levi paused, wanting nothing more in that moment than to kiss the younger man right then and there.

“I could never ignore you, Eren.”

A beautiful smile lit up Eren’s face and pink dusted his cheeks.

 

Midnight found them still at the pub and well into their cups.  While alcohol made Levi contemplative, it made Eren bold. He was on a rant now.

“I’m not the same person I was before.  I’m not that selfish, rudderless person.” He was insisting

“You were never --”

Erens hands closed hard around Levi’s beer, preventing the other man from taking a drink.

“I was.” he said seriously,  “I was a self centered asshole who wanted everyone else to make my decisions for me then resented them when they did!”

“I was raised by a father who made my every important decision for me - making me in his own image.  Between him and Mikasa; who told me what to wear, what to eat, who to be friends with, I was trapped.  Then I met you and you let me do whatever I wanted. I went out of control and became the spoiled jerk you knew and somehow still loved.”

“Oh, Eren …”

“You’ve got to let me be my own person.”

“I want you to be your own person!  I just wanted to give you everything, I---”  Levi stopped himself, brain blurry with drink.  He’d been about to say ‘I loved you’, and he had, hadn’t he?  Didn't he still?

“But you have to let me be me,” Eren went on,  “Even if I do stupid things. Like when I left that night!  I’m sure I had a reason, Levi, I’m sure!” He clutched at the older man’s hands and Levi gripped his back.

“I have to make my own mistakes.  Even ones as bad as that one.”

 

Chapter Text

It was Saturday and Eren didn’t work but he came by the shop anyway.

“Ugh …” he said, holding his head.

Levi smirked. “Go drink a big glass of water and I’ll make us some tea.  If you have to yark please do it in the sink and not on my floor.”

Eren avoided having to puke by a hair’s breadth, drank his water, and came back to the front counter feeling a bit better.

Levi jiggled a small plastic bottle, “Aspirin?”

“God, yes, please.”

“You lightweight.”

“You’re not hungover?”

“Excellent constitution,” Levi said.

“About last night …”  Eren vividly recalled holding Levi’s hands.

“Forget about it.”

“No.  I want to thank you for listening.  I’ve needed to get that off my chest for a while.”

“Well, I’m glad you did.” Levi said and patted Eren’s hand.  He withdrew himself quickly.

 

Sunday found them both building a new set of bookshelves when Hange arrived.

“I’ve come bearing food!” they called, “Take a break and eat something!”

The two men quit immediately, groaning in appreciation.

“I had no idea when I got this job that you were gonna make me do hard labor, Levi” Eren griped good-naturedly.

“Does you good, brat.  Wielding a hammer will make a man out of you, or so my uncle always said.”

“I thought that was ‘wielding a knife’, Levi,” Hange said, grinning.

“Shut up, four eyes.” 

Hange smirked and unloaded the bag of food.  Both men washed their hands and Levi put on the kettle for tea.

They all gathered around the counter as there were no customers (Levi had closed that Sunday for the bookshelf building.)  Hange had brought salami, pepperoni, thick slices of ham, several cheeses, and two types of bread; one chunky white loaf and a seed-filled dark loaf.  Levi jogged upstairs for a cutting board, plates, knife, and condiments. As he reappeared Hange was unloading jars of pickled veg and a lovely cherry tart.

Levi wasn’t a big eater but even he dug into a thick sandwich.  Eren and Hange had each made two, Eren’s so stuffed as to look comical.  For long minutes there was just the sound of chewing and sipping of tea. Not surprisingly Hange plowed through their two sandwiches and was chasing crumbs on the front of their shirt when they spoke.

“It’s good to see you two getting on.”

Eren blushed and cut his eyes to Levi.  Levi merely dabbed delicately at his mouth with a napkin. “We’ve always gotten on.”

“Not always,” Hange corrected, “you used to fight regularly before.

Levi contemplated that.  It was true he realized. He and Eren hadn’t fought at all since the kid took the job.  Maybe it was the employer-employee thing or maybe it was them almost losing each other entirely.

“I think we have a newfound respect for each other,” Eren said quietly.  He crumpled his napkin nervously in his hand. “I know now how hard it is to get up every day and go to work …”

“And Levi sees you working hard …” Hange finished with a maniacal grin.  “Respect!”

“Don’t you dare, Hans!” Levi growled.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T …”

“Shitty glasses?!  I swear by all that is holy … !”

And then Hange was dancing around the shop singing Aretha Franklin in a truly horrifyingly bad tenor.  Eren burst into laughter and Levi began chasing the brown-haired woman around between the stacks of books.  When they finally managed to topple a stack of how-to books destined for the new bookcase, Hange took the opportunity to charge out the door to freedom.

“Enjoy the leftovers!” she cried, leaping into her car and waving madly before driving off.

Eren collapsed against the counter laughing.

“Stupid shitty glasses,” Levi grumbled, “Come on kid, pull yourself together and help me pick up these books.”



Monday the store was open again but the two men were still working on building the new bookcase and rearranging the rest.  Customers didn’t seem to mind for the most part. Several found new tomes in stacks that had been excavated, many actually helped with reshelving.

At closing time Levi excused himself to pop a lasagna he’d prepared earlier into the oven.  Afterwards when he came down, Eren was already pouring the tea. They both relaxed for a few minutes.

“We should be done by tomorrow,” Levi said.  “Well, done building anyway.”

Eren hummed in agreement.

“I appreciate your help, Eren.  I couldn’t have gotten it done this quickly without you.”  Levi smiled one of his tiny smiles and Eren lit up like a Christmas tree.

Abruptly and impulsively Eren bounced up and across the counter to plant a kiss on Levi’s cheek.  He sat back down just as quickly and went red to the tips of his ears.

“S-sorry!  I just really appreciate your giving me this chance!”

Levi rubbed bemusedly at his cheek, “The chance to build bookcases?”

“You know what I mean!” Eren laughed.

 

An hour later they were digging into the lasagna and watching the sleet turn into snow outside.

Levi had opened a bottle of red blend to have with their meal and Eren drank it like Kool-Aid.  

“I guess someone’s sleeping on my couch tonight.” Levi murmured.

Eren grinned tipsily.  Levi actually had no couch upstairs in his teensy flat but the book shop boasted two worn but incredibly comfy specimens along with several overstuffed chairs.  Hange had spent the night many times.

Levi rose to take the leftovers upstairs to the fridge and grab some bedding for Eren.

“Say, Levi?” Eren asked suddenly, hanging upside down over the back of his chair like a goof.  “You said we were getting on, right? Even Hange said sho … so.”

“Yeah …” Levi replied warily.  Eren did get to be a bit emotional when he got drunk.

“Why don’ we get back together?”

Levi froze.  “What?”

“Back together.  Let’s be boyfrienss again.  I miss kissing you. I wanna fuck y---” and Eren fell off of his chair.

Levi rushed to help the younger man up off the floor.

“Eren I dont--- oof ---think you know what you’re saying.”

“Don’t I?” Eren asked quietly, brushing off his knees.  There was that look on his face; the furious one. The graceless fall had fouled his mood.  “Why don’t I? Do you thing Imma kid?”

“Eren …”

“I’m notta kid!”

Levi’s own anger flared, “I never said you---”

“All this time and you still don’ truss me!” Eren yelled.  “Well fine! If you don’t truss me, then I don’ belong here!”  he snatched up his hoodie and struggled into it.

“Eren …”

“Don’t even try to apogolize … apologize!”

“Eren … that’s not---”

But Eren was gone out the door, the bell jingling brightly.

Levi stood by the counter and watched the love of his life storm off---again.

“It’s not that I don’t trust you, Eren,” he told the empty store, “I don’t trust me not to fuck up.  Like I just did.”

 

Eren had no idea where he was going.  He was doing it again, just as he had that night.  Walking and thinking. Angry at Levi, angry at himself.

He walked and walked and then, spotting a train station, followed the few folk out this time of night onto the platform.

As the train pulled up he got a not-memory, a feeling of familiarity and realized that this was what he had done the night he left and realized where he was going.  It was the train to Mitras. Holy shit.

He hadn’t been running away.  He hadn’t been leaving Levi or leaving their relationship.  He’d been going to talk to Hange that night. To get her advice about a stupid argument over a stupid thing.

Eren knew what Hange’s advice would have been: “Go back home and apologize, you idiot”

 

Levi, meanwhile, was living a nightmare.  Eren had stormed out. The last time he’d almost lost him for good.  What should he do? Chase after the boy? He was probably long gone. Levi looked out into the snow---falling faster now---and hoped against hope that Eren would find his way back to him.  No, he would wait. As long as it took.

 

Eren turned and stumbled down the stairs of the train platform, almost falling.  He was no longer drunk, the fresh air and feelings of misery had sobered him. He had to get away.  He had to get back. Back where he belonged. Back to Levi.

 

The bell jangled harshly when Eren burst through the door, snow on his shoulders.  Levi spun around.

“Oh god, you came home!” the smaller man said reaching for Eren and sweeping him into a crushing embrace.

“Home?” Eren asked, muffled.

“Yes, home,” Levi said,

Eren smiled as tears coursed down his cheeks, “Oh, Levi I love you so much!  Please tell me we can get back together!”

“I was thinking that it was about time we did.  I love you too, brat.”

They came together in a sloppy kiss; lips and tongue and grabby hands.

Eren’s lips and hands were cold and Levi warmed them with his own.

They finally broke apart, panting, and Eren grabbed Levi suddenly by the front of his apron.  "Please fuck me, Levi, please!"

Levi bent his head, resting his forehead on Eren's broad chest.  He was torn between his desire and love for this man and his reservations.  Was now the time? Was this it when they were both so raw and vulnerable? God he wanted him though, had wanted him for months, now even more.

"Levi please" Eren murmured against the older man's hair, "we've waited long enough." He nuzzled into the inky strands, "I've waited long enough."

 

The kettle was taken quickly off the stove and the door was locked and they both hurried upstairs.  Eren started to take his clothes off but Levi stopped him.

“No,” Levi said, “You said so yourself, we’ve waited a long time for this . Let’s take it slow.  Let me.”

Blushing, Eren took his hands off the hem of his shirt and waited.

Levi approached him slowly, assessing.  He kissed him first long and slow and deep, tongue probing.  Eren rested his hands on Levi’s shoulders.

“Ah, ah … no touching,” said Levi, “I do all the touching.”

Eren whined in protest but removed his hands.  Levi rewarded him with another deep kiss. This time the older man’s hands slipped under the hem of Eren’s shirt and drifted upwards under the fabric.  Eren gasped when Levi’s hands reached his nipples and gently pinched.

“Feel good?”

Eren nodded eagerly.

“Turn around.  And lose that shirt.”

Eren hesitantly did so, turning and pulling the t-shirt over his head, glad his cast had finally come off.

Levi sucked in a deep breath at the sight of Eren’s smooth back, his warm colored skin.  Without Levi’s permission, his fingers trailed phantom-like down Eren's muscular back, just barely making contact, causing the man to shiver.  His lips followed his fingers, leaving a moist trail of saliva as they went.

“Oh, Levi …” Eren said.

Levi continued to kiss, nip, and suck at Eren’s golden skin.  Eventually just when Eren was going to protest that he couldn't take any more Levi’s hands circled his waist and deftly unfastened his belt and fly.  Seconds later Eren was standing buck naked and half hard as Levi kissed over one hip.

“Bed?” Levi murmured.

“Yes, please!” Eren said breathlessly.

The bed was right there in the one-room flat so a couple of steps took Eren to the edge where he crawled into the center admiring the softness of the mattress and the crisp white sheets.  His attention was arrested by Levi who was slowly unbuttoning his shirt, his eyes smoldering.

It was excruciating for Eren to watch Levi undressing, seeing for the first time that expanse of pale, taut skin, the sharply defined muscles.  Levi stripped to his nylon boxers which did absolutely nothing to hide his burgeoning erection and Eren was almost panting with desire.

Eren shuddered in anticipation as Levi crawled onto the bed like a prowler, moving up to kiss the younger man.

Levi's fingers slipped downward now, barely touching skin, hovering, brushing the faint hairs and making Eren erupt in goosebumps.  The younger man shivered, pressing his lips together and trying to keep his hips from squirming in anticipation.

Levi's touch drifted lower, to his stomach, over his hip bones, then down to the insides of his thighs.  Eren couldn't hold back at that and a low moan escaped him, his dick twitching where it lay hard against his thigh.

 

Abruptly Levi bent to kiss at the soft skin of the insides of Eren’s thighs kissing and nibbling upward until his cheek almost brushed the younger man’s balls.  Eren’s cock jerked when Levi nipped softly.

“God, Levi, please … mmh ...”

The older man finally acquiesced and climbed up on the other’s body, slowly, so very slowly.  He draped himself over Eren, caressing every inch of skin he could reach and kissing him thoroughly.

“Are you ready?” He asked casually.  

Eren turned his head and, gazing at him with lust-blown eyes, nodded.  “Let me turn over. I want you to take me from behind.”

It was Levi’s turn to shiver at that image.  “Are you sure? I want to see your face.”

Eren clutched at him, “And I want you to take me hard and deep and bite me on the back of the neck when you cum”

Levi doubted he’d be able to reach the back of the young man’s neck but whatever made Eren happy.  The whole scenario had Levi’s cock spreading a stain of pre-cum on the front of his boxers. “Then turn over.”

While Eren arranged himself on his knees with his shoulders on the bed and his delicious ass in the air Levi rummaged in the bedside table for lube.  Levi took his time with the lube stroking between Eren’s ass cheeks and circling his hole till the younger man was moaning with desire.

“God Levi, please … you’re killing me”

“What do you want me to do Eren?  Tell me.”

“I want you inside me,” 

“You want my cock deep inside your ass?”

“Jesus yes, Levi don’t tease!”

“You want me fucking you hard and fast and slapping your ass?”

“Levi!”  Eren wriggled his hips in desperation.

The older man suddenly pressed two fingers gently into Eren’s ass.

“Ah … Levi … more”

Levi obliged, slowly sliding both digits in to the knuckle.

Eren moaned, low.

 

Levi was having a supremely hard time keeping control of himself.  He had waited long months for the opportunity to caress and kiss to fondle and take.  Now he was getting to and it was almost too much. His cock was rock hard and tenting his boxers and Levi could already feel the thrilling feeling of potential release coiling in his groin.

“E-eren, I can’t wait …”

“Mmmmh, fuck me, Levi.”  The lust-drunk younger man said.

Levi wasted no time getting into position behind that fine ass and stripping off his boxers.  He lined up the head of his cock with a shuddery exhale of anticipation. “Ready to be filled up with my cock?”

Eren wriggled his hips in reply and Levi leaned forward, breaching the tight ring of muscle.

“Oh! Ohh … Levi!”

Levi gave Eren a second to adjust then smoothly fed half his length into the younger man’s ass, starting a slow gentle rhythm.  After a moment Levi had his entire cock balls deep and paused again kissing over Erens back and murmuring praises against his tan skin.

 

His hands wandered everywhere, over Erens sides, his hips, down his thighs, then back up.

“You’re doing so well, Eren, taking my cock so well,”

Eren moaned in reply 

“Are you ready to get fucked properly my darling boy?”

Eren nodded and Levi immediately picked up his pace, fucking into the chocolate haired man hard and fast like he’d asked for.  Eren’s noises became louder and louder traveling up the register to shrieks. After a particularly loud yell, he bit into the sheets to muffle his noises.

Levi instantly smacked him hard across his left ass cheek.

The boy almost screamed. “God!  Levi! Oh!”

“Don’t muffle your voice, Eren.  I want to hear all the delightful sounds you make.”

Eren whimpered but didn’t bite the sheet again.

Levi was pistoning into the boy now, bent over the younger man’s back, kissing and biting as far up as he could reach, sweat dripping from the tip of his nose.

Eren was a writhing mess below him, “Please Levi!  I’m close! Harder!”

“I am too.  Oh, Eren I love you ... so ... much!”   And Levi came, shuddering, spilling himself deep inside the other.

“Oh, fuck … oh fuck” Levi said his stuttering hips still pushing his softening cock into the younger man.  Caressing his back and ass for a moment as he came down from his high, he was soon reaching around for Eren’s straining member.  He gripped Eren’s cock hard and immediately started a quick, merciless pace. “Cum for me my love,” He murmured adding a little twist at the end of each stroke till Eren was shaking with the need for release.  It didn’t take long.

“Yes, Levi!  Yes! Like that!  Levi!”




They lay snuggled in the blankets, Eren’s head on Levi’s chest.  The younger man was aimlessly running his fingers up and down Levi’s muscular right arm.  Levi was almost dozing off.

“So, is that a ‘yes’ on us getting back together?” Eren asked suddenly.  Levi woke fully and chuckled.

“I’d call that a ‘yes’.”

“Good.”  Eren snugged himself closer.

It was silent for a few lazy moments.

“Hey,” Levi suddenly said, “Do you want to move in with me?”

Eren lifted himself up so that he could look the other man in the eye. “Really?!”

“I dunno.  Maybe you should think about it.  It’d mean building more bookcases …”

That earned him two punches and a tearful Eren in his arms.

“Yes!  Absolutely YES!”