Actions

Work Header

Remastered

Work Text:

He didn't really remember what happened. Everything after the part where he killed the Beast Titan was a blur. The war. The house. The kids. Death. It all passed him by like a mystic fog.

It was not like he wasn't grateful that Gabi and Falco got to grow up in a world he never could have imagined and got access to all the wonders he never could have dreamt of. The world to him had always been about survival, pain and freedom. It was good that they didn't have to build their entire lives around those things like he did. There had been enough suffering.

He was grateful. But it didn't mean that he felt entirely like living. His new squad was torn inside out when their friends breathed their last breath. His old squad was dead. His comrades were dead. His family was dead, down to the very last person.

It seemed like he had the tendency to outlive everyone he ever cared about.

It was a somber thing, living without your loved ones.

There was a haze. A swirling mess of voices and thoughts and emotions. Events. Discoveries. Crisis. Joy. Or something close to it.

He couldn't, for the life of him, recount them.

Then there was a blank. A white canvas stretching out to eternity. A world devoid of scent and sound and feeling. A new slate clean of blood and pain.

He almost wished he could stay there forever.

But it soon ate away at him. He hated sitting on his ass with nothing to do. He had never prided himself on being a man of action. But years and years in the underground had taught him that being in suspense is the easiest way to get yourself killed.

He wondered why that scared him. He was already dead.

So he stood up and forced himself to move, to stand up and carve out a pathway where he could go forward. He didn't know what was waiting for him at the other end of the road, but he didn't care much. Being in the Survey Corps had taught him to never fear the unknown.

----------

Whatever he expected to see, it most certainly wasn't this.

He found the way into the world again. A different world. A world without walls or titans or kings. A world with a different type of building and a different set of rules. But somehow still with the same number of idiots and narcissists. Ruled by the same greed and ego and ignorance.

Guess some things never change.

In a twisted way, he revelled in that fact.

It took him a while to remember all the things that happened the last time he was alive. The walls. The key. The war. It was as bloody and shitty and horrifying as seeing it with his own eyes.

But it didn't bother him.

At least he knew.

Whoever said knowledge is power was a shitty poet, because he found no power in knowing that, in experiencing the gore and loss over and over again every time he closed his eyes.

What he found, though, was comfort. Small and flickering like a dot of fire in the winter chill. But it was there. The comfort that this time around, things weren't as bad as they could have been.

This time, Kenny wasn't late. He rushed them both into a hospital and swindled his way into not paying more than he was willing. Levi didn't know if it worked. But they stayed there for weeks on end.

It felt like a wicked torture chamber, hugging his knees to his chest and staring at her slowly moving breast, knowing that she didn't make it the first time around.

He thought he had killed all hope the last time. When he watched them all die. Alone and out of his reach.

Still it stayed. As stubborn and unmovable as life itself was.

He had never believed in a higher power. But during those endless nights curling in on himself on a stiff plastic chair, he prayed she wasn't brought here just to suffer another time.

Despite it all, Kuchel Ackerman lived.

The moment she opened her eyes and looked at him with those steel-colored orbs, he found himself crying for the first time in a long, long while.

----------

In a world without curses or titans, there was no Ackerman bond. Yet it didn't mean that the Ackermans were any less stupid. Shortly after his mother was released from the hospital, Kenny fucked off to tend to his “liege".

It didn't hurt him like the first time. It wasn't because he didn't feel any kind of emotional attachment to the old bastard. It was just that last time, Levi was all alone. This time, he had someone he needed to take care of.

At the end of the day, he was grateful he got the knife skills out of the whole ordeal. Helped a lot with finding a gig bashing people's skulls in in the underground fighting rings.

There was freedom there in the rings. People could laugh all they wanted about how small or how young he was. But the moment fists started swinging, they shut the fuck up.

It reminded him of all those years wielding blades too heavy for his body and descending on mindless titans like a spinning top.

It might not be noble. Still, it was what he was very, very good at.

It could be monotonous sometimes, but at least the pay was good. It persuaded his mother to stop selling herself. Unlike the rest of the world, he didn't hold any kind of judgement towards her profession. He just didn’t want her to go back to the job that had almost cost her her life.

He told her he was attending the school that Kenny and his “boyfriend" paid for like a good little boy. That was the answer to all of his dilemmas. Kenny. Years of trailing after the sick fuck in the past had taught him to mimic his handwriting to downright perfection.

So he put the money in an envelope with his name on it and slipped it under the door once a month.

He didn't know if she knew. He would like to think she was completely oblivious. But sometimes she would look at him with eyes too knowing and a smile too sad, and he would doubt himself all over again.

If she knew, she never said anything. He appreciated that more than anything. Autonomy. Trust. Affection. It was so calm and warm. It almost felt like when he was with….

He met Isabel and Farlan in the rings, running up and down the aisles collecting bets. He didn’t know if they remembered. Still, whenever Isabel threw her arms around his neck and Farlan patted him on the shoulders, he decided that it didn't matter.

Whenever he sat on the bench after hours with a pile of cash and the girl prattling on about how "amazing" he was, whenever he nursed on a cold drink and raised a skeptical eye brow at the boy passionately presenting some far-fetched conspiracy theory, he found himself truly grateful to be there. They were all broke as fuck but they were all alive and well.

Maybe that was enough.

Funny how low the bar was.

----------

In a world without curses or titans, Uri didn't have to get eaten by whoever the fuck it was that decided that that was a good idea. He lived to find out how his pathetic little kinda sorta lover abandoned his family and came to the rescue. It was weird and awkward as all hell. His mother invited them into their dingy apartment as if they were guests of honor, thanking them both for their help even though Kenny, the sick fuck, didn't really do anything.

He found dark eyes on him, anger and confusion morphing up into an inquisitive glare. He glared back, older and wiser and no more afraid of him than he was as an 8-year-old. But inside he was begging. Begging him to be the selfish bastard he had always been and take all the credits. Because he didn’t want the person he loved the most in this world to find out he had lied to her. He didn't regret it. No. But it didn't mean he didn’t feel guilty.

Kenny took one long, calculative look at him. Cocky and arrogant and so fucking full of himself. He gritted his teeth. He would not let this bastard see him tremble.

“You didn't think I would let you suffer alone, did you?”- Kenny smirked and held out his arms, a mask of attentiveness firmly on his face.

“Well thank god for small mercies.”- he thought as he watched his mother tearfully embrace the piece of shit that was her brother.

----------

They moved into another house. Bigger. Cleaner. More convenient. Some people said it was better. But he wasn't an expert on houses.

It was just a house. It was still too soon to trust this bastard. He decided not to get too excited.

He kept an eye out for when there would be trouble, half expecting his loving mother to let Kenny walk all over her with how grateful and awestruck she looked during that little reunion of theirs. Turned out he needn't have worried. Their sibling bond was anything but imbalanced.

“Don't you dare gamble with your boyfriend's money.”- she yelled, shoulders squared and eyes burning, hands placed firmly on her hips, as if that would make her look any more menacing than a little kitten.

“He's not my boyfriend.”- Kenny said stiffly, crossing his arms like a petulant child.

By the way she sighed, Levi knew this was not the first time that happened. Whether that was him dipping his fingers into Uri's funds or him denying that they were not fucking, he didn't know, and quite frankly didn't care. He was not smart by any means. But even he knew that any sensible person wouldn't want to go anywhere near their parental figure’s sex life with a ten-foot pole. Even if said parental figure was an asshole.

“Just put the money back, Kenny.”- she said, voice as firm as steel.

“Or what?”- he smirked at her confidently, but Levi knew it was just for show. He could see the sweat forming on top of his brows.

“Or I’ll make boiled brussel sprouts for dinner.”- she smiled triumphantly, waving the spatula in her hand for emphasis.

“You wouldn't dare.”- he shouted, visibly horrified by the idea.

What a dramatic dick.

“Try me.”- she said in a fake saccharine voice that made the both of them cringed.

Damn, the woman was scary.

“Fine.”- Kenny sighed, looking like a kicked puppy.

It was fucking hilarious.

“Welcome home, darling.”- she turned to him with a soft smile that was so different from the sharp one she had on only a minute ago. It would have given him whiplash if he wasn't too busy basking in the soft kiss she placed on the top of his head.

When he walked by a stupefied Kenny wearing a half-constipated, half-disgusted look on his face, he made sure to offer him a wicked smile.

“You're a dumbass.”

“Watch it, shrimp.”- he glared, but Levi could see a stupid charmed look at the bottom of his eyes, hidden behind layers and layers of assholsery and insecurity he had no intention of unwrapping.

----------

Kenny's not-boyfriend, however, was a wildcard.

He looked harmless enough, kind and soft and incredibly sweet. So much so that Levi could smell the fishiness from a mile away. Still, he decided to give the man a chance. There were many sick fucks in the universe. As long as he wasn't into anything morally disturbing, he guessed he could live with that.

Turns out the man’s craziness extended much further than he thought it was. But then again, he had a tendency to underestimate other people’s perchance for insanity, the glowing example being one blond-haired, blue-eyed bastard.

Nope. Not going there.

What was he on about? Oh right, Uri and how much of koo-koo that little body was able to hold.

The man tracked him down one day, sitting on the benches like some rich fuck that had come to the ring and betted every fucking day of his life. Like he fucking belonged there.

No wonder he got simpering Kenny on a leash.

Levi almost lost his composure when he looked to the side and found violet eyes fixated on him.

He took a blow to the shoulder, but it was no big deal. He was a professional, god damn it. Fuck Kenny and his unhealthy obsession with silver-haired men. Fuck King Reiss for thinking he could one-up him. Fuck smart-asses with eyes that shone in the dark.

He got a fight to win.

He couldn’t deny the fact that he won that fight entirely out of spite. Not very professional of him. Sure. But it’s not like anyone was complaining.

He gave the man a chance to back down, retreating into the locker room with Lizzie and Farlan talking over his head.

He didn’t take it, approaching 3 homeless kids with a kind smile on his face that got them all defensive within a minute.

“Let’s get this over with.”- he muttered, pushing himself up from the bench, mustering up all the confidence a half-naked kid in gym shorts could find.

“I would appreciate it if you didn’t rat me out.”- he said, face expressionless. He knew he was not in a position to bargain, but he hoped he looked confident enough to at least get a good deal out of this.

“It was not my intention.”- Uri Reiss didn’t even look the least bit worried. Which was not good. When you were that small and frail, not being afraid of someone who had beaten a muscly dude half to death means you are dangerous.

He expected to be coerced into joining a gang. Dealing drugs. Moving guns. Being the escort to some rich asshole with an attitude and a lot of enemies.

The list of possibilities was long. Being offered an education, not only for him but for Lizzie and Farlan as well, wasn’t even on it.

“Yeah, I’m not buying it.”- Farlan said, cocking an eyebrow, a disbelieving smile on his face- “How dumb do you think we are?”

He certainly had a way with words. Levi surely didn’t understand much of it. He had a tendency to zone out whenever people started getting all inspirational and ideal and shit. But in the end, he had to pay some mind to all that babbling, since it managed to convince Farlan. Sure. He was no genius. But he was the smartest person in Levi's life right now.

He squashed down the small voice in the back of his head telling him how terribly things had gone down the last time he decided to trust Farlan.

“It was a different life.”- he reasoned- “It won’t happen again.”

It seemed he had spent too much time with the both of them. So much so that he had absorbed their positivity simply through contact. It was bad. But it was such a familiar feeling that he didn't have the guts to complain.

He sighed when they said that yes, they would like to go back to school. He made a face when he thought about how shit would go down if he said yes, too. He was way too old to go back to school. He didn't want to sit in a class full of teenagers listening to some person rattling on about dreams and inspirations. No sir. Not even if you paid me.

Far be it for him to stop Lizzie and Farlan to do what they wanted, but he couldn't just leave them in the care of one King Reiss, who he was sure must have had some mental issues given the fact that he was fucking piss-poor Kenny. If he was smarter, or just more creative, he would have come up with a better way to keep an eye on his family. But he had never been particularly socially inept, so the best he could come up with was.

“Only if you find me a job somewhere close so I can keep an eye on them.”- he leveled the ex-king with the most menacing glare he could muster, which, given by the accounts of his old squad, was pretty damn impressive.

“No problem.”- Uri just smiled, the bastard. He stilled for a moment, expression thoughtful. Levi felt like he was back on patrol, a squad at his back, training their eyes and ears in the distance, waiting for something to stir and change their lives forever.

After a while, Uri straightened, a bright smile on his face.

“How do you like cleaning, Levi?”

Levi could feel himself perk up and hear the soft giggling noises his friends made from behind his back. If there was one thing he was really good at besides fighting, it was cleaning. And boy did he love cleaning. The pungent smell of supplies was a thousand times better than the disturbing stench of blood.

He had been fighting for so long that he had saved up enough to afford taking up a gig at the local school. Besides, he thought, if Uri actually decided to kick them out, he could always go back. He was the best of the best, afterall.

“Fine.”- he sighed, staring into glittering violet eyes. They were too intense. He felt like they could stare straight into his soul. A different pair of eyes popped into his memory. Blue like the sea and deep like the sky. Just as piercing and sharp but a whole lot warmer, like balm to a bleeding wound.

Annnnnnd that was his cue to stop.

If Uri saw the slight glaze in his eyes, he didn’t say anything. Kenny, though, wasn't so kind. He gave Levi a smirk all too knowing for his comfort.

-----------

It was still a while until the fall semester started, so he asked Isabel and Farlan to give him one last month in the rings. He didn't know why he lingered there. Didn't understand why he was so intent on doing the thing he didn't even like when he didn't need to anymore. Didn’t understand why he felt like he would lose something important if he left now.

It was just a feeling. Vague and faint. But it was still there, preventing him from quitting just yet.

He told himself he needed the money for a rainy day. Told himself he liked the feeling of control and freedom in fighting. Told himself he enjoyed hearing his friends cheering him on from the benches.

But deep down he knew. That he was only stalling. Waiting for a certain someone from aboveground to come find him.

His life would have been a lot different if he hadn't listened to tall blond men with smiles as soft as a breeze and eyes as sharp as blades. Despite a sea of pain that life brought him, he didn’t regret it. Those were the best years of his life, walking down the hall fearing of hearing explosions from the tiny room that served as a make-shift lab. Days of training bright young faces to fly through the sky and find their freedom in the wind. Nights of sitting in an uncomfortable chair listening to the rhythmic scratchings of pen on paper.

It sounded cheesy and stupid as all hell. But if he could, he wanted to share this life with them, his brothers and sisters in arms, as well.

Now if tall, dark and handsome would come find him already.

----------

The moment Levi saw him, all prim and proper with slick-back hair and a three-piece suit, he let himself heave out a sigh of relief.

Which was not a smart choice, for it had allowed his opponent to deck him in the fucking face.

It was a fun fight, all things considered.

He would never admit it, but he liked having his friends admiring his talents. Lizzie's stream of “You are so great, big brother.”. Hanji's unending strings of scientific babble. Or those blue eyes, shining on him like a spotlight.

Let's give the bastard a show, shall we?

It might not have been as impressive as zig-zagging between buildings on stolen gear. Still, he was pretty damn cool, if he did say so himself. The prickling at the back of his head and the tingles running down his spine didn't help in the slightest. But he managed.

“No Shaggy this time?”- he asked as he approached the benches, well aware that he was dripping and half naked but didn't have the mind to care.

“Levi.”- he got the nerve to smile and fix those bombay blue eyes on him.

Fuck him but the knowledge that he did remember made him tingly all over.

“What’re you doing here?”- he asked, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Erwin's eyes traced the moment with the kind of interest that got him swallowing.

“Looking for you.”- Erwin had that serious expression on his face. It reminded him of the first time they met, a lifetime ago. Of the way he shot through the air like a bullet. Of the way he held his head high like an immovable wall. Of the way his eyes glittered like stars when he heard the sharp cling of metal hitting the ground.

He pulled the edges of the towel closer to better cover his shoulders, feeling entirely too exposed in the face of old memories.

“You're late.”- he said, though he didn’t sound the least bit angry.

“I apologize.”- Erwin held out a cold water bottle as some form of peace offering- “You're not easy to find.”

He had been taught, from the age of 4, not to take food from strangers. But he took one look at the inviting bottle covered in droplets of condensation, and decided that he could afford this particular risk, for reasons that escaped his attention.

He uncapped the bottle and gulped it down. The chill of the liquid sliding down his throat made him shiver.

“Get off your ass.”- he turned away decisively, making his way through the throngs of people .

He saw Isabel and Farlan watching them curiously from the benches, whispering softly among themselves. He tapped Lizzie on the shoulder, gaining her attention. Startling brown eyes caught his in an inquisitive stare.

“If I don’t check in in an hour, call the cops.”

She gulped nervously, vibrating in her seat. Eventually she nodded, pinching her voice low so that only he could hear.

“He's not a serial killer or something, is he?”

He wished he had an answer to that. He could personally attest to the fact that Erwin was not a serial killer in their last life, despite everyone's insistence. But the bitch was crazy. His silver tongue and razor-sharp mind could get him anything he damn well pleased. He could be a mob boss intent on recruiting him for the gang. He could be a slimy businessman with the hots for raven-haired boys. He could be a goddamned lawyer trying to make him sell out this very ring. Or worse. He could be a politician. Urgh. Just thinking of it made him sick.

It didn't mean he wouldn't be doing this, though, as silly as it might sound.

“I don't know.”- Lizzie's eyes went as wide as saucers. He sighed- “Just…”- he carded his fingers through the mess that was his hair to hide how uneasy he felt after examining those possibilities- “...do as I say, yeah?”

He could see the worry lingering in her eyes, but she nodded anyway.

With that out of the way, he called out to the bastard standing to the side, watching the whole thing unfold with a polite smile on his face.

“You coming or what?”

----------

Erwin lived in an apartment building not that far from the underground rings. He offered to buy him train tickets, but Levi insisted on walking.

“It's 30 minutes away.”- he said, voice strained.

“Scared of a little exercise, Smith?”- he goaded, to which Erwin just sighed.

He wouldn't say this out loud, but the reason he refused to travel by train was that it left a bad taste in his mouth. Reminded him of those moving tubes he saw in Marley. Ships, too, was a no. Planes, even more so. Call him dramatic, but seeing his friends burnt into a crisp from the windows of those vehicles tended to make him want to avoid said vehicles.

So what if he couldn't leave the country? He could certainly live without a little bit of sightseeing.

The moment he set foot out onto the curb, though, he was reminded by a violent gust of wind of why it wasn't a good idea to walk. The weather was dreadful, and he was shirtless. He could feel his teeth clattering together in a plea for him to change his mind. But he forged on nonetheless. Couldn't appear weak to a stranger now, could he?

A heavy piece of cloth landed on his shoulders with a thump, enveloping him in a cocoon of warmth and cologne. It was made of thick wool and lined with some warm shit that meant it was expensive. The smooth glide of fabric on slick skin made him shivered.

“Are you crazy?”- he frowned, trying desperately to hide the redness crawling up his cheeks as he pulled in lungfuls of that wonderfully familiar scent- “I'm all sweaty.”

Erwin, the bastard, just hummed, looking down at him with mirth in his eyes.

“I'll live.”

He rushed down the streets with a vengeance, even though he had no idea where he was supposed to go. Damn the bastard for being his calm, collected self. Damn the world without titans or noble purposes to suppress his weirdness. Damn him for missing those ridiculous eyebrows and that shitty mop of hair. Damn it all to hell.

He couldn't even throw a tantrum in peace. Erwin's long legs gave him an insurmountable advantage. He kept striding casually alongside Levi, eyeing him curiously. At least he had enough wits about him to keep silent for the rest of the walk, being content with humming a slightly off-key tune to himself.

----------

“Holly shit, Erwin.”- Levi exclaimed as he placed his foot on the hardwood floor, humming at the luxurious warmth it radiated- “You're a drug lord or something?”

“Hate to disappoint you.”- Erwin said in the teasing tone Levi had only heard once or twice in their last life- “But I'm just a teacher.”

“A teacher, huh?”- he asked pointedly, holding up a plaque that said “Headmaster Smith".

“Oh.”- Erwin blinked, looking too innocent for someone who had just been called out on being a big fat liar- “So that's where it went.”

“Always gotta be the one calling the shots, don't you?”- Levi found himself thinking fondly back to the green gem sitting on top of his old bolo tie- “You're all too smart to follow orders.”

From the corner of his eye, he caught the man staring, a disgusting charmed look on his ridiculous face. So he coughed, dragging himself and the too-big jacket to the fridge in an attempt to hide his no doubt equally disgusting charmed expression.

He stared at the contents for a good long while, darting his eye from the bottle of ketchup, to the carton of milk, and finally landing on a plastic container holding together 4 sad-looking eggs.

“I can explain.”- blondie piped up somewhere to his left, but he was having none of it.

“Save it.”- He folded the jacket into a square and dropped it at the bottom of the hamper.

He showered with one eye trained on the door knob. It stayed firmly shut the whole time. Good to know he wouldn't be molested or murdered anytime soon.

He opened the bathroom door to find a white shirt whose hem landed just above his knee and a pair of pants whose waist almost reached his nipples. Yeah, he was not wearing that.

He buttoned up the shirt and rolled the sleeves up to his shoulders. They sagged down his arms like a sack of potatoes. Better that than nothing, he guessed.

He strutted into the kitchen in Erwin's too-big shirt and his too-tight pants, dropping his cracked phone on the counter and dialing Isabel while Erwin watched on curiously from the other side.

“I'm fine.”- he said as the line picked up- “He's not going to kill me. Are you, blondie?”- he asked, eyes narrowing sharply.

“No sir.”- Erwin said dutifully, eyes trained on the top of his collar.

“Ooo….kay.”- Farlan's voice was hesitant on the phone, but he raised no objections- “I'll call again in an hour, yeah?”

Levi nodded before he realized Farlan couldn't see him over the phone.

“Yeah.”- he said, rummaging around in the fridge for the eggs and the milk.

When the line stilled, he called out.

“Hope you like scrambled eggs.”

“Oooh.”- an excited voice answered him- “I've always loved your scrambled eggs.”

That shouldn't have made him as flustered as it did.

----------

“I know I shouldn't ask this.”- Erwin said, munching on his eggs too enthusiastically for such a dreadful subject. He really was as crazy as Levi remembered- “But did we make it? Did we find out the truth about the world?”

He sighed, stabbing at a piece of egg with the end of his fork.

“Yeah.”

He could tell that Erwin wanted to ask more, to know about all the wonders of the world and the truth of humanity and the advancements beyond their imagination. Could feel it in the blue spotlight fixed on his face and the excited way his fingers tapped on the tabletop.

Yet he didn't say anything. Didn't push. Didn't press. Just shoveled more eggs into his wide mouth and chewed happily, as if he didn't die scared and alone, trapped in his own head.

Brilliant man, that one. Crazy as a loon. Smart as a whip. Could read you like an open book and talk you into almost anything.

How could he ever let himself forget that?

“You were right.”- he said, folding his hands in his lap- “The world was big. There were other people. People that can turn into titans, and people that can't. There were ships that sailed across the sea. Planes that flew through the sky.”

He still for a moment to take a deep breath. His hands were shaking, but he pressed on. If anyone deserved to know, it was Erwin.

“We fought. Many people died. I…”

He looked up hesitantly, his vision blurry.

“I killed the Beast titan.”

Erwin smiled. Not the confident smile he used with politicians. Not the sharp smile he used when rallying the troops. Not the giddy smile he used whenever he was right. This one was different. Soft. Tender. Understanding.

It made him bite his lip to will the tears from falling.

“Tell me.”- he said, leaning across the small table to place his hand on top of Levi's shoulders- “Was it all worth it?”- he asked with a muted pain in his eyes. Levi could feel it resonating to the deepest part of his whole being- “Did our deaths have meaning?”

He could lie. Tell him they died for the greater good. For truth or freedom or some noble sounding shit like that.

But looking into those blue eyes that were all too knowing, he found himself unwilling. Afterall, he had never liked lying to Erwin. His commander deserved nothing less than the absolute truth.

“Not even close.”- he breathed out those words like a curse. The heaviness of it lingered in the air between them.

Erwin's fingers touched his cheek, tracing a gentle line down the side of his face. He closed his eyes. His fingers were so different. They were soft like veal. The hand of a scholar. Neither a soldier or a commander. A scholar. Like he had always wanted to be.

If he needed a reminder that things were definitely and irrevocably different now, he had found it on that winter night.

“I'm sorry.”- he said, tucking a stray raven lock behind his ear indulgently. The sincerity behind those blue orbs made Levi angry.

“Don't be an idiot.”- he allowed himself a moment to bask in the warmth radiating from that big, soft hand. It was so comforting that it had taken all he had just to turn his face away.

“Um…”- he struggled for something, anything to lighten up the somber atmosphere. He knew he should have given Erwin another moment to stew, to compose himself, to sort through all the confusing details he had just heard. But he was so emotionally raw that it physically hurt to let all their pain and grief linger in the air like that.

In his panic to change the subject, he blurted out something he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer to.

“Have you met four eyes?”- he asked, sniffling softly.

Erwin slid into the new line of conversation seamlessly, bless the bastard. He placed his hand under his chin and leaned his face against the palm casually, a wicked smile on his face. There was a kind of glee in his eyes that he only had when he knew something Levi didn't.

“You didn't let her be a teacher, did you?”- he asked, alarmed.

Please tell me you haven't given a crazy person the right to mould the young minds of this country, Erwin.

“I can't let or not let her do anything, Levi.”- Erwin chuckled, seemingly delighted by his horrified face- “She was there first.”- the glint of his teeth made Levi's fucking eye twitch.

“You're insane.”- he said petulantly, sipping on his tap water.

“So you've told me.”- was Erwin's answer, completely unruffled.

What a brat. A handsome brat. But a brat nonetheless.

“Say.”- he pressed on, oblivious to Levi's inner monologue that consisted entirely of cursing- “You don’t happen to be Levi Ackerman, the new janitor at the Gymnasium down the street, do you?”

The triumph in his eyes made Levi want to kiss, then strangle him.

“So you're the bastard that hired me.”- he said flatly. Guess he shouldn't be so surprised. Erwin did have a track record of giving him jobs he had no credentials for.

“How could I not?”- he tried to wink in the cheeky way people on TV commercials do. Except he looked like he just got shampoo in his eyes- “I've seen the way you clean.”

That was the moment Levi knew his life was going to change forever. Only this time, he wouldn't be descending upon beasts like a tornado. He just had to keep an eye on those crazy bastards, make sure they didn't blow up something too important or forgot to eat and sleep like a normal human being, and clean up after them.

“Could be worse, really.”- he thought to himself, a warm feeling spreading out from the center of his chest, draping over his shoulders like a wool blanket. He had done that for god knows how long already. Might as well get paid for it.

His world was about to be turned upside down and pulled in so many directions at once he couldn’t even keep count of.

But that was fine, he decided as he watched Erwin chugging down water like a parched man affectionately.

He wouldn't have it any other way.