Actions

Work Header

Search Light

Chapter Text

October first, 2008:

"Get back here, you shitty little brat!" Levi ran after the blur of chocolate hair and cerulean eyes ran down the stairs of his apartment building.

"You can't catch me!" The childs voice squealed in laughter and excitement. The raven haired man couldn't help but smirk at the boy.

"Eren, I swear! When I get you-"

"But you won't!" Eren landed on the bottom step of the stairs, giving Levi a taunting grin before he took off again. Levi kept running after him; damn brat took his keys. He was going to be late again.

"You're just too slow cause you're old an-" His voice stopped talking and started yelling as he tripped over the curb. Levi sprinted to his side and caught him before he landed on his head. Eren gasped and stared up at the pale man with teary, scared eyes.

"You need to be more careful, brat." Levi sighed, taking his keys and patting Eren's head softly. Eren pouted and shoved his face against Levi's chest. "Did that scare you?" Levi asked as he placed a small kiss on the childs head. Eren nodded. "Don't worry, Eren. I'll always protect you."

Present:

Levi stared at the ceiling of his apartment. It was dark, cold, empty. It had been for a while now. He turned and faced his clock, already knowing what time it would be.

Six in the morning. The time Eren would wake him and drag him to breakfast every morning. Levi had gotten so used to it that his body never gave up the habit, making him rise at the same time every morning. He rubbed his eyes, then stared at the picture frame on his end table.

"Good morning, Eren... I promise, I'll work hard." He breathed. His heart clenched at the sight of Eren's happy, grinning face.

Today marked eight years. Eight years of constant anxiety and fear of what Eren might be going through. Eight years of pure uncertainty. Eight years of being told he was wrong, that he'd never be found. Eight years, and Levi still hadn't given up. He refused to.

He remembered the day clearly, as if it were a nightmare he'd just woken from. It was a balmy spring day. Levi and Eren were supposed to go on a picnic, but Eren needed to go to the store. So, he ran off like he normally did, waving cheerfully, and calling that he'd be home soon, but he never was.

At first, Levi thought the hyper kid had forgotten about their lunch rendezvous for the park. Then, dusk came, and no bright eyes or flopping hair came to greet him. By that time, Levi was slightly worried. When the sun had hidden itself behind the tall peaks of the mountains for the day, he'd gone into a full blown panic. He called his best friend, the Commissioner, Erwin Smith, and demanded that Erwin send teams to search for Eren right away.

Everyone that worked in the police force knew that the 'wait twenty-four hours before filing a missing persons report' was pure bullshit. Levi knew Eren well enough to know that the brat wouldn't just vanish without letting Levi know he was going somewhere. Levi also had a strong, terrible feeling that settled in his gut, but no one would listen to that.

The search had commenced the next day, after Erwin had gathered all of the details. The city was raked top to bottom, but they never found the cheeky boy that wormed his way into Levi's heart.

Eight years, and Levi knew he was still alive. No one believed him. That is, no one except for Eren's older sister, Mikasa.

She had listened to Levi's drunken slurs, screamed with him, threw rocks at empty houses with him, all for the sake of grieving the loss of Levi's ray of sunshine. She had thought Levi was weird at first, because he and Eren got along creepily well, and because of how protective Levi was over someone he wasn't even related to, but she grew to understand Levi. And she believed him.

She believed every word he cried out as he laid, screaming on the living room floor of his apartment, bottle of Jack in hand. She listened to his theory and why he knew it was right, and she agreed. It was all Levi could have asked for.

And there she sat in the calm office of the 104th precinct. His subordinate, and hell od a good partner in solving crimes. The two of them had worked their asses off for Eren's sake to become detectives. This way, they could have their hands on all of the evidence at all times; all the case files, all the suspects. This still didn't help much, because there was barley anything to go off of.

Eren hadn't even made it to the store. He wasn't picked up somewhere there were camera's, and there was no record of an unusual vehicle in the area. Everyone thought it was a lost cause, then Armin, Eren's best friend, disappeared as well as Jean, Eren's frenemy. This angered Levi to no end. Not only did the fucker have the audacity to go after someone as precious as Eren, but he then went after the two kids closest to Eren. As if the people surrounding them hadn't suffered enough.

Three of them were missing, but Levi knew that if he could find Eren, he'd find the others, and vice versa.

"Levi." Erwin's words cut through Levi's thoughts like a butter knife. Levi's head shot up and he stared into the concerned oceans before him.

"Hmm?" He asked, wanting to get it over with. He knew that puppy look on the Commissioners face, and he braced himself for the onslaught of words he'd want to scream at Erwin. He needed to hold those back for later. He was, after all, in his workplace.

"I understand today is a hard day for you." Here we go. "Please, feel free to go home if you wish..." Erwin's gaze was almost pleading. Levi sighed and glared at him.

"Shitty eyebrows. You think I want to be stuck wallowing in self pity when I could be working my ass off to find people like the one that took Eren?" Erwin winced at the harshness of Levi's tone, but Levi couldn't give a damn.

"I... I'm sorry, Levi. I was coming as your friend. I know how hard this has been on you..." Erwin's brow furrowed, and Levi saw he was in pain. He tried to ignore it, but knew in his heart that he couldn't really be angry with Erwin. Concern was concern, simple as that.

"Whatever, Captain America. I'm fine. Thanks for the worries. Now, get the fuck out." He said a little less abrasive. Erwin's frown softened as he nodded and backed out of the office. He may have been Levi's superior, but he did say he was coming as a friend.

Levi wasn't always to distant and cold, though. No, he used to be quite warm and caring. He'd always smile and greet the day with heartfelt kindness. That was before. This was now, and now he hated the world he saw revolving day by day.

He hated how cruel it was, how disgusting it was. He hated how evil it was, to take something so pure and lock it away, doing god knows what to it.

He sighed, agitated, and downed his coffee. It was certainly going to be a long day. He grabbed at the files before him, eyeing them and reading them to see if there were any connections.

Though he tried to pinpoint the culprit and find Eren, there was nothing. All they had found was a single sandal that belonged to Eren, and it had been down by the river, hinting that Eren was dead. What a load of shit. Eren was an excellent swimmer. He would have had to have been drowned, but his body was never found.

Levi had never ignored cases, though. Sure he was fixated on finding Eren, but he would be damned if he let any of those other slippery fucks doing crimes just as bad get away simply because he couldn't be bothered. Besides, what if one of them gave him a lead one day? He could dream, couldn't he? And Eren wouldn't want him to ignore the other criminals.

"Hey." Mikasa wandered into Levi's office and sat down across from him. Levi nodded in acknowledgment. "Wanna get really fucking drunk tonight?" She asked coolly, even though she already knew the answer.

"No shit, Sherlock." Levi scoffed. Mikasa smirked at his attitude, because it matched hers.

"Whatever, shorty. Did you see the new case we got?" She eyed Levi carefully. He looked up at her, confused.

"What new case?" He wrinkled his brow.

"Well, it isn't new, but..." She slid a file over to him. His eyes glued on to it. He knew it all to well.

"Why the fuck are you giving this to me?" He asked lowly, voice deathly still. He glared up at Mikasa.

"Just... read it..." She sighed. Something in her eyes flashed. Sadness? Hope? Pain? Maybe it was all three.

Levi ignored whatever was looming in her grey orbs and hesitantly pulled the file to him. He flipped it open, and ran his fingers over the pages he had memorized in his mind.

"It's the same." He sighed. Mikasa moved forward and flicked to the back. Levi's eyes widened, frozen on the single sheet of paper his hands now desperately clung to. "What... What the fuck is this?" He breathed.

"A new witness report."

Chapter Text

October fifteenth, 2008:

Eren had been glaring at Levi's tall, blonde boss for quite some time now. Why? Levi wasn't sure. It wasn't like Erwin had said something to offend Eren. No, he'd actually been showering Eren in affection, trying desperately to get Eren to like him.

Erwin knew that Eren had a huge impact on Levi's life, and he could see why. The tanned child with gorgeous, teal eyes was full of life that spread to Levi like an infectious disease. When Eren smiled, Levi smiled. If Eren laughed, Levi laughed. If Eren was sad, Levi was worried, but also sad. It baffled Erwin. Why had this kid made such a difference that Levi's closest friends could not?

"Eren, what's wrong?" Levi asked tenderly, pulling the small boy into his lap. His glaring eyes never broke from Erwin's face.

"Nothing!" He huffed, folding his arms and pouting. Levi pursed his bottom lip and looked between Eren and Erwin, who just stared blankly back at the brat.

"Eren, is this any way to treat a guest?" Levi's voice cooed as he ran a soft hand in Eren's locks. Eren's glare softened and he let his gaze fall to the floor.

"N-no..." He sighed in defeat. Levi felt a small smile creep over his lips. He kissed Eren's cheek and chuckled.

"That's a good brat." After that, Eren was nicer to Erwin as they had dinner, and of course Eren stayed for that even though his mother was calling for him. Levi eventually had to let his landlady, Carla, know that Eren was vehemently refusing to leave, and that was that. Eren stayed the whole time Erwin was over, scrutinizing the man in a way most ten year olds would not.

"Well, it was lovely to meet you, Eren. I hope we can be friends." Erwin gave Eren his killer, charming smile, hoping it'd work. It didn't. Eren scrunched up his nose and stuck his tongue at Erwin while Levi wasn't looking. Erwin frowned; why couldn't he get this brat to like him!?

"See ya later, mister." He smirked as he ran to Levi, jumping into his arms. A devilish grin plastered itself on Eren's face as he rested his head on Levi's shoulder, and Erwin understood what this was all about.

"Thanks for joining us, Erwin. Sorry that Eren here has shit for manners." Levi jabbed a finger at Eren's side, making the small child yelp and squirm. Erwin smiled at the two, and shook his head.

"No, no. I understand. I was in his territory, uninvited. Next time should go smoother. See you tomorrow, Levi. Remember to finish up those reports." Erwin waved as he turned and walked away, smiling at Eren before he walked down the stairs. What a protective little thing that Eren was.

Levi closed the door to his apartment, and walked the two of them to the couch. He sat down, and Eren clung to him. His legs wrapped around Levi's waist and he rested his head on Levi's chest. Levi smiled and ran his hand through Eren's hair.

"What was that all about, brat?" He laughed slightly. Eren stiffened and glared at the cushion beside them. Levi rolled his eyes. "Come on, kid. Tell me." He poked at Eren's side again.

"Do you love him?" Eren blurted out, his cheeks going red. Levi froze and stared into the worried, cerulean eyes before him.

"No, Eren. He's my boss and a good friend, nothing more." He sighed. Eren relaxed a little in his arms. He still sensed that Eren was tense, so he held him tight. "No one can replace you, Eren."

"Good."

Present:

Levi's wide eyes roamed over the paper before him. It wasn't a witness report from eight years ago. No, this was a witness report from a couple days ago. His heart was beating sporadically as he read each word.

An elderly lady had been walking along the banks of the river, when she saw a tall, tan boy that resembled the missing Eren Jaeger eight years ago. As soon as she called to him, someone came, an unidentifiable person, and grabbed him, hauling him away. Before she could say anything, she was knocked unconscious.

"Eren... I... I knew it. I knew it..." Tears flowed from Levi's face. He leaned forward, resting his head on his arms and let it out. Mikasa joined him, closing his door and blinds as she did so. The two of them let their new tears of hope and relief rip from their bodies as sobs echoed within the small office.

"We can find him, Levi... He's still alive!" She choked out. Levi nodded, hugging her close. His hell of a life had just brightened, but he knew it'd be a long time before he saw sunshine once more. He had waited eight years, what was a few more months?

Their bodies shook as they smiled and cried. They'd work even harder now. They'd stay over night, not resting until Eren was brought home. How could they when Eren was suffering somewhere? They wouldn't let up, they'd get a warrant for every building in this town if they needed to.

A knock sounded from Levi's door. He whipped his tear stained face up to face Erwin.

"I was called by Mikasa... Is everything okay here?" He asked with wide, worried eyes. The sight before him was not one he was expecting, nor did he expect to see Levi's smiling face.

"Erwin... He's alive!" He held out the report for Erwin to take. Erwin gave him a skeptical gaze before taking the paper. Levi watched with rapture and teary eyes as Erwin stared in shock.

"He's... Holy shit." He breathed.

"There's no one, I mean, no one that looks like Eren in this town. Even then, if it was tourists, why would they knock her out? Erwin, it's him!" Levi gasped out. Erwin nodded, still in shock.

"There's no way it isn't Eren. This lady has known Eren since he was a baby!" Mikasa added further.

"Then... I assign Levi, Mikasa, as well as Petra to this case. You two are too hell bent and I know Petra will keep you from dying of exhaustion or starvation." Erwin smiled and rolled his eyes. Levi felt his heart lighten up a little as his close friend smiled with a look of reassurance. "He's out there, Levi."

"I know he is. You and Hanji are coming over tonight, no arguing." Levi commanded. Erwin gave him a slight nod and smiled at the two ravens. He then left, leaving Levi and Mikasa to celebrate.

"Holy shit!" She yelled and jumped up. "Levi, we... Oh my god.. I-"

"Don't lose yourself now. Eren is out there, and we need to get all of the information we can from this little old lady. For all we know, they could go after her to silence her. They've held Eren this long. I doubt they want to let him go." Levi said firmly. Mikasa was still grinning like an idiot but she nodded. She knew his words were right. Levi let her bask in joy, just so long she didn't lose her head

"We still getting drunk as shit?" She asked.

"Yeah, but not out of sorrow. This time, it's cheers to Eren, not to grieving." He smiled at his desk. His heart was fluttering, his mind buzzing from happiness he hadn't felt in years.

"Aye, aye, Cap'n!" She giggled as she walked off. They could do this; they could find Eren.

***

"Remember that one time he came into the precinct and ran around trying to find Levi?

"Then he ran into Oluo and kicked him in the shin!"

The four of them sat around Levi's apartment, empty beer cans littering the floor and a big bottle of vodka standing empty in the middle. They reminisced about the crazy things that Eren had done.

"He's a crazy little shit." Levi shook his head, taking another swig of the beer in his hand. They'd polished off the vodka first, and then moved to the less serious stuff. Now they all sat in a nice, drunken haze, their faces warm and their skin fuzzy.

"He used to hate me. Remember that, Levi? He thought that we were dating and resented me for it." Erwin chuckled. Levi remembered that oh, so very well. He nodded in agreement.

"Oh, how could I forget that? He held on to me everywhere I went around the complex for the next few days! Whenever I sat down, he clambered into my lap and glared at anyone who walked by." The four laughed at Levi's memory.

"He used to give me sloppy kisses whenever Levi brought him in! He was so cute... But he wouldn't let me experiment on him!" Hanji pouted.

"I wouldn't let you experiment on him!" Levi yelled at her. "Shitty glasses, as if I'd let you poke a needle into his arm!" He laughed.

"It was for the sake of science! I wanted to figure out what made him so cute!" She screeched.

"Yeah! I woln't eit-her!" Mikasa said, very drunk. Her words were slurring, so Levi took her beer from her.

"I think that's enough for you, 'Kasa." He chuckled. Mikasa glared at him and laid on the floor. Then, all was silent. They all felt light and happy, but knew what needed to be done. "We'll bring him home." Levi said softly.

"We will." Hanji agreed.

"We'll bring your sunshine home." Erwin patted Levi's back. Mikasa was passed out. Levi nodded and stood. He picked Mikasa off the floor.

"I'm gonna put her in the guest room. You guys can use the pull out. Don't do anything weird." He sighed.

"I will!" Hanji called as she jumped onto Erwin's lap. He rolled his eyes and walked off.

Once Mikasa was set down, he went to his own room. He sat on his bed, clinging to the photo of him and Eren at the summer nights festival he had taken him to. He sighed, staring at his wall.

For years, he'd slowly covered the massive cork board in photos, leads, stories, suspects. He'd kept it updated in order to find Eren. He stood now, and thumbtacked a photo of the old lady that lived down the street.

One step closer.

Chapter Text

October twenty seventh, 2008:

Carla Jaeger had to leave for a week on account of a family emergency. She didn't want Eren to go because it was for his father's side of the family, and she knew her son would not behave for them. Mikasa Jaeger was away at college and could not return home. That left Levi to watch the little brat.

So, there they sat on the Saturday night that Hanji wanted to get so drunk she could see stars through the ceiling, watching Little Mermaid instead. Eren was curled in Levi's arms, smiling and signing along with the red crab on the screen. Levi couldn't help but smile and hold Eren closer.

"Levi?" The boy cooed in a sleepy voice. They'd made it to the part where the prince and Ariel were touring the town.

"Hmm?" He looked down at the child who's bright, blue-green eyes stared back up at him.

"Can I be a princess?" He asked innocently. Levi couldn't help but chuckle and pull him so he was laying on his chest.

"Of course, Eren. I'll make sure everyone treats you as a princess." He kissed Eren's forehead. Eren beamed at him and turned back to the movie. He watched with rapture as Sebastian sang for Prince Eric to kiss Ariel. Levi watched Eren's intense face with curiosity.

"Levi?" He called, not turning his head to face him.

"Hmm?" Levi stayed focused on him.

"If I'm gonna be a princess... I want a prince, too." He spoke lowly, averting his gaze from Levi's. Levi felt his heart thud.

"Oh? And would that be Armin? Or maybe Jean?" He smiled gently. Eren whipped his face to him and frowned in disgust.

"Eeewwww! No way! Armin's my best friend and Jean is a horse!" Eren yelled at Levi. Levi laughed as a tiny fist pounded at his chest in disagreement.

"Then who will be your prince?" Levi chuckled. Eren froze, and hid his blushing face. "Eren? Did I say something wrong?" Levi pursed his lips in worry and pulled Eren closer, trying to get the child to look at him. "Eren?" He called again, running a hand through Eren's hair.

"I know who I want my prince to be, but I dunno if he'd agree..." He sniffled against Levi. Levi was all ears for who the boy wanted his prince to be, because he'd probably be watching them closely from that point on.

"Who?" Levi pressed. Eren remained silent and snuggled his head even further into Levi's chest. "Eren?" He poked his side and the boy squirmed. "I'm gonna tickle you, brat." He warned.

"I want you to be my prince!" Eren blurted, curling even tighter into the ball he was. Levi stopped poking him and just stared. Those were the exact words he was hoping Eren would say. He smiled gently at him, and moved him so they were staring eye to eye.

"I would be honored to be your prince, my princess." He kissed the boys nose. Eren giggled in glee and wrapped his arms around Levi's neck. Levi held him close, feeling at peace. "Oh, Eren. I forgot!" Levi pulled out a necklace chain and placed it around the boy's neck.

"What's this for?" Eren asked. He picked up the gold key that hung around the necklace and eyed it.

"As long as you have that, you have a home to come to. You have the key to me, and my heart." Levi ruffled his hair softly. Eren smiled widely and nodded. He grabbed at Levi's face, and planted a gentle kiss on Levi's nose. Levi smiled, and gave him a kiss on the nose back.

Present:

Mikasa and Levi waited outside the door of the elderly woman's home. Her name was Heather Flaming, and she was seventy two. She had watched Mikasa and Eren before Levi showed up, and even then she'd stop by to say hi and see Eren. She'd spoil him rotten with candy and sweets, new movies or games. She had lost her grandson when he was five, so Eren was precious to her.

"Oh, Mikasa! Levi! You've grown so much. Oh, come in! Come in! I just baked some cookies!" She ushered them in, urging them into the house that smelled of vanilla and sugar. It comforted Levi, and he could tell Mikasa's sweet tooth had kicked in.

"Thank you, Ma'am." Levi smiled softly. She nodded and walked to the kitchen table.

"So, I assume you're here to ask about those... hooligans?" She stared at the kitchen table, her face blank, but her eyes teary. Levi sat down next to her and nodded.

"Can you explain exactly what happened?" Mikasa sat down on her other side, a tape recorder in one hand and two cookies in the other. Levi leaned back and grabbed one for himself.

"Yes. I'm ready whenever you are." She gave a tight lipped smile. Mikasa nodded, and pressed the record button.

"This is Mikasa Jaeger, badge number 10789, and I am here with-"

"Levi Ackerman, badge number 19671, and we are here interviewing Heather Flaming on account of the possible sighting of Eren Jaeger that went missing eight years ago at the age of ten, as well as the assault against Mrs. Flaming. Please state your name, the date, and your age for the record."

"My name is Heather Flaming. Today is the fourth of April in the year 2016. I am seventy two years of age."

"Can you please explain in detail what happened on the day of your sighting and assault?" Mikasa asked.

"Please tell the date and time that these things occurred for the record." Levi added.

"It was April second, around three in the afternoon. I was walking along the river bank like I normally do, and I saw a tall, tan boy with bright teal eyes. I know my little Eren anywhere... I'm certain it was him. I called to him, I said his name, and his head shot up. He froze and I started walking towards him, but then someone, this girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, grabbed him and started pulling him off. He looked like he was struggling to get way... Then I was knocked out. I woke up, it was dark and he was gone..." She breathed. Tears were pricking at her eyes as Levi furrowed his brow and clenched his fists.

"Do you remember anything else? Maybe, like what he was doing at the river? Was there anything in his actions that stuck out to you?" Levi asked, desperately needing more information.

"Ye-yes... He was holding something. It... was shiny. I don't know if he dropped it, though." She replied. Levi felt his heart flutter with hope.

"We should go lo-"

He was cut off by the pounding on the front door. All three froze. Levi motioned to his lips for the other two to stay quiet. He walked towards the door quietly, but the door burst open before he could reach it. He grabbed his gun from the holster and aimed at the three people wearing masks that broke in. His eyes flashed to Mikasa who was ducking behind a flipped over table with Heather.

"We know you saw us, old lady." A harsh, male voice called.

"Did you recognize the boy? He's been our good friend for eight years now!" Another male voice laughed, sounding insane and sadistic.

"Come out and play with us!" A female voice chimed. Each of them moved slowly towards the kitchen. "We know you told those officers; the two with the black hair. The brat back home won't shut his yap about the guy, Levi, finding us and killing us. I found that hilarious!" The female continued. Levi's grip around his weapon was so tight he was cutting circulation to his fingers.

"He has so much faith, but it's been eight years!" One male laughed. "You used to care about him, right? We have old videos of you spending time with him along with that midget." Levi held back the want to yell at them and kill them right there.

Levi jumped from the wall he was hiding behind and fired two shots at the intruders. The female gasped and screamed slightly; Levi had shot her in the leg.

"Oh, so you wanna play?" She hissed. The two males rushed to the kitchen, and Levi tried to shoot them, but the female jumped into action. She shoved his gun up towards the ceiling so the shots hit nothing but wood. He glared daggers at the masked lunatic.

"Where the fuck have you taken him!?" He screamed.

"Ah, so you're the one the little shit is so hung up on. Nice to meet your acquaintance!" She lurched forward, trying to swipe his legs out from under him. Levi jumped up quickly, but shoved a leg down so he landed right on her shin. She was good at fighting, but Levi was better.

He heard bone crunch under him and he smirked. The girl cried out and Levi kicked her face. She fell back, unconscious. He then ran towards the kitchen. Mikasa was fighting valiantly. She had one of the brutes held with one arm behind his back while she jabbed and kicked at the other. Every move she made twisted the others arm even further. Levi jumped into the hassle, grabbing the blonde one from her and kicking kicking him in his side. He let out an 'oof,' but then reached his free arm out. His arm snaked around Levi's leg, and ripped forward. Levi landed on the hard tile, his breath knocked out of him.

Before he could act, the blonde male surged forwards toward Heather. Levi tried to grab at him, and he knew shooting him would be too dangerous. He was too close to Heather. Levi jumped to his feet and tried to pull the brute away, but wasn't fast enough. Heather was passed out, or that's what Levi hoped it was, before the man had even reached her.

Anger ripped into Levi's body paired with adrenaline. He glared at the blonde man before him, pointed his gun, and fired. The man went limp as he fell to the tile flooring. He turned to face Mikasa, who was flung to the floor. The brunette she was fighting took off seconds later. Levi tried to chase after him, but the man sped off in an escape vehicle. Levi dragged the unconscious girl to the kitchen, where he found a panting, crying Mikasa.

"She's dead..." She murmured. Levi's eyes widened. "We got her testament, that's what matters." She tried to shake her sadness away. Levi's brow furrowed in sympathy. Mikasa froze, her gaze ripping to Levi's face. "The river... Something shiny..."

Levi felt his mind go blank at her words. "Go! Quickly!" She yelled. Before Levi could think, his legs were moving, sprinting, to the river bank. It was right across from her house, bless the lady, but where had she been when she saw Eren!?

Levi scoured all along the bank. He even willed himself to go into the unclean water for the sake of finding whatever it was the Eren had possibly dropped. He felt angry tears fill his eyes as he walked, trying his hardest to find it.

"Fuck!" He screamed. He shoved the palms of his hands against his eyelids. What if Eren hadn't dropped it? What if there was no sign of him being there!? He wanted to cry, to give up, but he couldn't. Eren's smiling face was behind his closed eyelids, begging him to keep going, begging for him to be found. "Eren!" Levi opened his eyes once more. "I won't give up!" He let the tears fall.

Something bright caught his eye. He turned to see something glimmering in the sunlight. He walked cautiously towards it. He crouched, and felt his heart sink.

A gold key lay in the mud, a necklace attached to it.

Chapter Text

November first, 2008:

Levi hated the beach, and it was clear on his face. Eren, however, adored it, and that was all that mattered to Levi.

Normally, Levi would vehemently refuse to endure the crowds of people that stopped every two seconds, clingy dirt everyone called "sand," and gross water that felt sticky once it dried, but when Eren had requested they go together, Levi was all for it. If it meant enduring those things to see Eren smile brilliantly with ice cream smeared over his lips, Levi could do it.

Eren didn't even want to go to be in the water, because it was too cold now. He wanted to go to the pier with Levi. He had told Levi that he had heard that the pier was where all fun people went, and Eren certainly wanted to be counted as a fun person.

"You are too messy!" Levi laughed as he tried to wipe at the sticky ice cream on Eren's cheek. Eren stuck his tongue out and Levi gasped. "Kid, you're gonna get it." He glared jokingly. Eren giggled and moved from sitting on the bench besides Levi to sitting in his lap. He was smiling endearingly at Eren, when he suddenly felt cold ice cream stick to his cheek.

"I got you!" Eren laughed loudly. Levi's eyes widened and he stared at Eren.

"Fine! If that's how you want to play, you have lick it off. No wiping. It's your ice cream, after all." Levi was said, messing with Eren. He wasn't serious in the least, but it didn't seem Eren realized this, because the next moment Eren's tongue was pressed to Levi's cheek where the ice cream was. Levi froze, and moved his eyes to see Eren grinning stupidly at him. "Eren... What are you doing?" Levi stared into Eren's flaming cerulean eyes.

"What you told me to!" Eren laughed at Levi's expression. He seemed horrified yet pleased with Eren's actions, but didn't know how to respond.

"Tch... Shitty brat." Levi laughed and shook his head. "Don't take everything so literally, Eren. We'd better start heading back. Do you need to use the restroom before we head out?" Levi asked standing up. Eren still clung to him, his legs wrapped around him and arms draped over Levi's shoulders. It wad indeed getting late, and Eren was feeling really tired. "Oi, go pee before we go." Levi commanded, setting Eren on his sleepy legs.

"Mm'kay..." He yawned and rubbed his drowsy eyes with his sticky fingers. Levi smirked and waited outside while Eren took care of his business.

It had been a little over five months since Levi had moved to the little town of Shiganshina, and he way more happy than he expected himself to be. He'd first moved due to a reassignment of precincts after a tragic accident that claimed two lives that Levi had known and cherished. After that incident, they thought it best that Levi get a promotion and move on.

That's when he had met Eren; the brat was the son of the landlady he rented an apartment from, and had thought it be amazingly hilarious to hide in Levi's new apartment the day Levi arrived. Eren had scared the shit out of Levi, and the made blood vessels burst in Levi's head from the yelling and chasing that ensued. The rest was history; days of back and forth between him and Eren resulting in the kid spending the night or drawing Levi pictures of them. To say that Levi had fallen under Eren's charm was an understatement. The kid had Levi at his beck and call, wrapped around his small, tan fingers. Not that Levi minded; he adored Eren.

Levi straightened himself off the wall he was leaning on, breaking his nostalgic spirit, when he realized Eren was taking a while. He rolled his eyes. The kid had probably fallen asleep against the urinal. He walked into the bathroom, and froze.

A man was crouched down in front of Eren, speaking with a soft smile on his face to the scared looking boy. Levi felt his blood boil under his skin.

"HEY! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HIM, YOU PEDOPHILE!" Levi ran to Eren, and the man took off. Levi wanted to go after him, but the frightened Eren below had his attention. "Eren? What did he do? What did he want!? Did he do anything!?" Levi picked him up and stared into the boy's scared eyes.

"H-he just asked my name... He wouldn't let me go..." Eren rolled his sleeve up to reveal a red mark where the man's hand had been grasping. Levi's eyes fixated on it. He was livid. He grabbed Eren's head and pushed his face into his neck.

"Don't you worry, Eren. I'll make sure he won't ever touch you again." He held the boy tight. He walked out of the bathroom, carrying Eren. He glared at anyone that looked their way. He'd find that fucker and make him pay.

He walked to his car without confrontation, but couldn't shake the feeling that someone was watching.

Present:

"How could I have been so stupid?" Levi mumbled, staring at the face of the man from the beach almost nine years ago. He'd aged some, but this was definitely the same man.

Levi had been sure to file a report with Carla about the man, but he was never seen or spotted again. That is, until his body wound up on the coroner's table in the lab.

"Honey, don't beat yourself up over it... You couldn't have known, then." Hanji rubbed his back softly. No words could console him. If he'd watched Eren more closely, if he wouldn't have let him go alone that day... He'd have Eren in his arms, forever.

"This isn't your fault, Levi..." Erwin sounded from the door. Levi ignored their words. He promised Eren he'd protect him forever; he had failed. He closed his eyes, trying to drown out his negative thoughts that made his head ache brutally.

"Have you been sleeping okay?" He opened his eyes to see Hanji's face in front of him. He glared slightly. "I'll take that as a no." She sighed, poking at the purple creases under Levi's eyes.

Was that even an accurate question? He hadn't slept well in years, now. The only thing that let him rest was Eren's warm body against his own, his sugary scent wafting into his nose with every inhale. Now, there was coldness and nightmares that kept him awake at night. Recently, they had worsened. He'd wake up shivering, reaching around for something, anything to give him warmth after seeing Eren being tortured behind his closed lids.

"You really should try to sleep more." Erwin pushed. Levi scoffed. They didn't get it.

"I know this has been hard, but a sleep deprived Levi won't help Eren." Hanji smiled sympathetically.

"Whatever, shitty glasses. I don't need your words of wisdom either, shitty eyebrows. What I need is to know who this fucker is and what prints appeared on the key." He snapped. Hanji sighed and shook her head. Erwin slumped his shoulders in defeat.

"Fine. His name is Reiner Braun. Age twenty nine. He was reported as a missing person ten years ago when he vanished from Trost. He was a university student that was dating another student that also disappeared; Bertolt Hoover. After a while, people drew the conclusion that they eloped. The only thing that didn't make sense was where their female friend, Annie Leonhardt had gone. Sure, the other two may have eloped, but she wouldn't have gone with. Well, now we know it has to do with Eren..." She sighed.

"Is that Annie bitch the one we have in interrogation?" He glared at the pictures on the screen of the three. Levi had no doubt the brunette man that had attacked them was Bertolt, and the man knew where Eren was. That meant the bitch they had caught did too.

"That is correct. As for the key, two sets of prints appeared. One set from Eren, but the second... It doesn't make sense..." Hanji furrowed her brow and went silent, something that rarely happened.

"Why is that?" Erwin asked, brow furrowed as well. Levi almost laughed; it was no wonder theses two were married. They acted the same all the time.

"The second set is for Grisha Jaeger, Eren's dad..." She trailed off.

"But he disappeared a couple years after Eren was born..." Levi said, wide eyes and clenched fists.

"He was never confirmed as dead, just like Eren. This means he's alive, and he has something to do with wherever Eren is being held and why he was taken."

"But why the hell would a father need to kidnap his own son!? This doesn't make sense!" Levi yelled. He felt the pent up anger he'd kept for so long slowly seep it's way into his blood stream.

"Levi, I know this makes no sense at all, but that's exactly why we cannot afford to lose our heads right now. Eren can't afford that either..." Erwin spoke in a calm and collected voice. Levi narrowed his eyes at the tall blonde, but took a deep breath nonetheless.

"I know that..." He mumbled, his voice shaky. "I know that!" He yelled again. "I just want him home! I know he wants to be home! Not only with me, but with all of you, too! He... He loved being around everyone, making them laugh and smile! He was always so happy..." Levi let the tears fall. Hanji immediately scooped him into a hug.

"Shhh, it's okay... We know, Levi. We'll get him back. I promise we will." Hanji rubbed his back as he shook. "Listen, I know we didn't believe you for all those years, even up until recently, we doubted you... I want to apologize... Maybe if we hadn't doubted, he'd be her-"

"There's no use in saying that. He's not here. Nothing changes the here and now. Thank you, though... For realizing..." He stayed curled in Hanji's arms.

"Mm... Well, now there's no question as to whether or not your ray of sunshine is alive. You have everyone backing you, now. There's no way we can't get him back!" She squeezed the small raven in her arms. Levi nodded.

"One thing to add, Levi." Erwin sat beside the two. "Whatever this is, it is bigger than we anticipated. Like you said, why would a father need to kidnap his own son?" Erwin asked aloud, not expecting an answer. Levi pondered the question, tossing the realms of possibilities around to try and explain the events. Then it hit him, like a semi truck hit a small car, painfully and unwanted.

"Human experimentation."

Chapter Text

June second, 2008:

Eren hid in the closet as he listened to his mother and her new tenant shuffle around the apartment. They talked about things like where this guy had moved from, which Eren learned he was from the rougher side of Maria City, and how he liked Shiganshina so far. This was all nothing of interest to Eren; he just wanted to scare the guy.

He held his breath when he heard footsteps approach the closet, trying hard not to laugh. As soon as the door slid open, Eren jumped out, landing on the firm chest of the newbie.

"Oi! What the hell!? Why is there a brat hiding in my closet!?" The new guy yelled. Eren giggled wildly as strong arms wrapped around him, holding him back from his escape. "You shoulda thought twice before attacking a cop, kid!"

"Wait you're a cop?" Eren turned in the man's arms excitedly, eyes shining. He stared into silver eyes as he took in the man's pale complexion and ebony hair. His eyes were wide at first, but then he smiled gently, surprising the man.

"Of course I am. Now, what the hell are you doing in my apartment!?" Eren shrunk into the man's arms, scared by his sudden harsh tone.

"I-I... I hid here. 'Cause I wanted to meet you..." Eren avoided the man's intense gaze.

"And you thought hiding was the best way to go about it?" He asked. Eren squirmed in his arms, but the man held him taught. He nodded shyly, and the man gazed at him. "Why?" Eren shrugged. His cheeks were flush and his eyes were glassy with forming tears.

"I'm sorry, mister... I just wanted to be friends..." Eren replied honestly. The man's eyes widened as he stared at the little boy staring up at him. He sighed softly, and rubbed the boys head.

"Levi." He murmured, still holding the boy.

"Huh?" Eren stared with his teal eyes wide and curious. The man felt his heart flutter a little.

"Call me Levi, brat. And don't pull that shit again." He glared slightly. Eren giggled again.

"Okay, Levi! Say, do you want to play with me?" Eren's eyes absorbed Levi's attention every time he dared look into them. Eren smiled and sat in Levi's lap.

"Sure, kid. I will whenever you want to."

Present:

Eren picked at the scab on his leg that would vanish in a minute. He sat alone, cold in the dark room that reeked of stale blood and tears. He sighed and let his head hit the wall behind him.

How long had he been locked in this hell hole? How were Armin and Jean?

How was Levi? Had he changed? Had he closed himself off to everyone after he disappeared?

That was what really concerned Eren. Nothing else screamed in his mind. No other questions stood out as much as this. God, if Levi went off the deep end Eren would never forgive himself!

All he wanted was to be by Levi's side at all times. He wanted to make Levi smile everyday. He wanted to laugh and joke around with him. Even though he was ten at the time, Eren knew that Levi was meant to be in his life for a reason, one beyond Eren, but a reason nonetheless.

How often had he caught himself dreaming memories of Levi and him running around the apartment complex during the summer, eating ice cream in the park during the spring, watching fireworks in the winter. Levi made him feel whole, and that was that.

Now, he sat. Eight years of waiting for Levi to find him, to hold him like he used to. Eren longed for that day of freedom. He longed to see Levi's silver eyes that wrinkled at the corners when he smiled, the dimples in his cheeks that formed when he laughed. Eren wanted to hear the man's silky voice sing him to sleep while his warm arms held him tight.

He'd had quite the crush on Levi when he was little, and he wondered if those feelings carried through the years. Would he still feel that way once Levi came to save him? He hoped so.

"I saw your friend today! The one you're always going on and on about." The brunette male named Bertolt approached Eren. Eren flinched a little. He and Reiner had found pleasure in torturing Eren is ways that made Eren cry out and beg for an end. There were days where they'd take out frustrations, whether it was emotional or sexual, on Eren, and he hated them. He wished they were dead. "He killed Reiner." Bertolt spat. Eren sat up; maybe wishes weren't all he'd chalked them up to be.

"Don't fucking smirk like that! Reiner is dead, you shit! And you're buddy is to blame; which means this is your fault!" A rough hand connected with Eren's face. Eren didn't do anything in response. He knew the pain would fade, as well as any bruise that was blooming, in less than a minute. Perks of being a human lab bunny, Eren guessed. "Fucking respond, you piece of shit!" Bertolt's foot landed against his gut.

"Bretolt, that is enough. It's time for his injections. You can resume after." Eren glared at the dark figure that was approaching. He glared at the face of Grisha Jaeger. "Good afternoon, son." His father said plainly. Eren spat at his father's shoes. "Be a good boy and give me your arm." He commanded. Eren didn't move. Grisha's eyes narrowed at him. "Eren, don't make this worse than it has to be." He scowled. Eren stared st him with contemptuous eyes.

"Fuck you." He snarled. Grisha's eyes flickered with hate. He ripped Eren's arm away from hiding and crudely injected a needle into his arm. Eren gasped harshly as the hot liquid spread through his body. It was painful, the searing heat burning through him, but he knew it would pass. His body spasmed as he fell to the ground, gasping for air as his lungs begged for him to stop breathing. They ached with each puff of air.

"Bertolt, you have free reign because Eren acted rudely. Just don't kill our little pet." Grisha waved as he walked away. "I'll be back to get blood samples in an hour." The door closed, and Bertolt grinned evilly.

"How does it feel, Eren? To know that your at my mercy?" Bertolt moved closer. Eren couldn't move, still in shock from whatever serum they had put in him. "It's your fault that Reiner is dead... And now I'll make you pay." Eren closed his eyes and awaited what was to come. Fists and feet collided with Eren's body, rough hands groped him and forced against himself. as he laid lifeless, chained and unable to get away.

He endured the pain, knowing it'd all heal in a matter of seconds anyways. He didn't care. He knew Levi would come; he knew Levi would save him. He just had to wait a little longer.

Now that he knew without a doubt that Levi was out there looking for him, he could face everything, the beating, the torture, the rape, without worry. He could now that he had confirmation that Levi was out there looking for him.

He'd been taken eight years ago by his own father. He had been so elated to see him, that he fell for his trap. He was taken to the facility he was now in, and had become the test subject of his father's experiments. For years, it was day in day out injections and prodding of needles into his skin accompanied by torture if he cried, yelled, or acted out in the smallest way. For a while, he didn't care what happened to him, so he acted out as much as he could. That's when Armin and Jean were pulled into the room. He was told to act nicely, or they'd die. Since then, he'd been somewhat obedient.

Still, that didn't stop Armin from begging Eren to run, even if it was a few feet, so he could leave a sign that he was still alive. That's when he went to the river, when he saw Heather Flaming, when he dropped the key. He knew Levi would find it.

Eren had received the worst beating that night. Bertolt had continued to beat him throughout the night. The lack of rest caused his body to heal slower, but he still healed. By the next morning, his skin was smooth and his muscles no longer ached, but that did nothing for the emotional trauma that ebbed endlessly in his mind.

Still, it was worth it. A small smile played on his lips as he closed his, trying to ignore the pain as Bertolt had his way.

Everything would be okay.

Chapter Text

November twelfth, 2008:

Levi sat on the white couch in the parlor as he waited for Hanji to come out. He was attending the dress finding portion of her wedding. Erwin had wanted him to be his best man, but Hanji had made Levi her maid of honor first, thus resulting in a ten year old ring bearer running in the wedding dress store, touching everything in sight.

"Eren, I swear to God if you don't calm down then you're gonna get in trouble, and we will get kicked out!" Levi hissed.

"But I wanna try one on, too!" Eren whined. Levi stared at him, unsure of what to say. Eren wanted to try on a dress? Levi shrugged. He supposed it wouldn't be that bad for Eren to try one on. He waved down the nearest employee and they approached.

"He wants to try on a dress. Is it possible for him to do so?" Levi asked plainly. Of course, the lady giggled, assuming it was a joke. Levi stared at her. "What's so funny?" His voice was devoid of emotion, and that straightened her out.

"O-uh, nothing, sir. Sorry, sir. Of course he can! We have a section for-uhm, flower girls... What color would he like?" She asked, cheeks flushed and clearly flustered.

"Eren, what color?" Levi asked.

"Silver!" The boy yelled in glee. The lady nodded and rushed off. Eren dove into Levi's lap where he sat, more wiggled than sat, in anticipation.

When the worker returned, she hid the dress and beckoned Eren over. Levi eyed her suspiciously, but she just laughed and pulled Eren towards Hanji's changing room.

Levi rolled his eyes and opted for staring at random dresses to distract himself. After a while, that got boring, so he pulled out his phone texted Erwin that he was extremely bored, to which Erwin replied it was his own fault.

"LEVI!" Two loud voices called in unison, ripping Levi's attention up to the sources. Eren and Hanji stood, holding hands. Hanji wore a gorgeous, ivory, lace gown that clung to her curvy figure and made her glow. Levi smiled at her beaming face and nodded in approval, then turned to see Eren.

His cerulean eyes stood out against the light silver that clung to him until his waist, then puffed out like a princess dress. It was so fitting for the little boy that wanted to be a princess. Levi smiled widely at Eren, who ran towards him.

"Levi! Levi! Look at me!" Eren giggled as he toppled over into Levi's lap again. Small arms wrapped around Levi's waist as teal eyes shimmered up at him.

"I know, you look stunning, Eren. But doesn't Hanji as well?" He kissed the top of Eren's head, who nodded vigorously. "Well, Hanji? Is that your dress?"

"HELL YEAH IT IS, SHRIMPY!" Hanji jumped towards them, creating a group hug. Levi grimaced at first, but then accepted the fact that there was no escaping and embraced Hanji as well. "Eren, why did you want to try on a dress?" Hanji looked down at Eren, who's cheeks flushed. He avoided eye contact with Levi as he spoke.

"Cause I wanna get married, too!" He yelled into Levi's chest. Levi's eyes widened as his brow furrowed.

"To who?" He asked quietly. Eren shook his head, and Levi glared. "Eren, can you tell me? Please?" He brushed stray hairs from Eren's face as he softened his expression so that Eren wouldn't be scared.

"To you, Levi..." He still avoided eye contact with Levi. He stared at Eren with surprise and adoration. His heart melted at his words, and he couldn't help but crack a grin.

"We'll see about that when you're older, kid." He kissed Eren's forehead as he giggled and nodded.

"Okay, it's a promise!" He stuck out his small pinky. "A pinky promise!" His eyes shined brightly at Levi expectantly. Levi linked his own pinky with Eren's and nodded.

"Whatever you say, kid."

Present:

"What do you mean, Levi?" Erwin eyed him cautiously.

"I mean exactly what I fucking said, commissioner eyebrows. Human experimentation." Levi shoved the palms of his hands into his eye lids, pressing firmly against them. He couldn't believe he'd completely forgotten.

"Levi, what are you talking about?" Erwin semi scoffed. Levi could tell he thought he'd lost his mind.

"I'm talking about the reason Eren's dad disappeared off the face of the earth when Eren was two. He was ostracized by society because he had been experimenting on humans. He vanished because the authorities were after him. He just up and left Carla and Eren... Of course. He'd need a guinea pig that was easy to catch. Who would work better than his own fucking son!?" Levi passed the room. How could he have been so blind? It was all so obvious and plain to see!

"Levi, stop blaming yourself for this! It's been eight years, and Eren was so young when his dad left... It wouldn't have made sense for his dad to take him if he had disappeared." Hanji tried to reason, but Levi was mad. He was mad that he had wasted time following dead leads and trying to find Eren off of false assumptions. He was mad that Eren's own father was most likely the culprit. He was mad that he'd been so naïve and stupid.

"Levi!" Erwin's voice boomed, making Levi stop his pacing. "You need to calm down. This isn't. Your. Fault." He said pointedly. Levi sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"I just want him home." He murmured.

"So do we. Please, let us help. Can you explain more of what happened?" Hanji smiled softly.

"I can't do that, but Carla can." Levi sat back down in the chair across from Hanji and pulled out his phone. He hesitated from pressing the dial button.

Had Mikasa even told Carla that they'd received news of Eren? Did Carla even know the case was reassigned and refocused anew? How did she feel about all of this is she did know?

Before he could think anymore, he pressed the call button and listened to the rings of the line.

"Levi? What is it, dear?" Her gentle voice always made Levi feel happy and loved.

"Carla, would you be able to come to the station today?" He asked cautiously.

"Of course, but... What is this about?" She asked. Levi took in a deep breath before finishing.

"It's about Eren, Carla." Levi listened as the woman on the other end stayed silent. Not a single noise, except the quiet static from the phone, sounded. "We think... We believe he's still alive, Carla... We have evidence, now."

"Evidence? My... My baby is still alive?" He voice choked. Levi could picture her sitting down now, tears running from her face.

"Yes, Carla... He's still alive." Levi affirmed. His heart pounded hard at his own words.

"Oh my... I've been waiting to see his face for eight years..." She cried.

"I know... I have, too. But we need some information in order to find him." Levi pressed. He didn't want to be rude, but he was getting impatient.

"Oh, right! I'll be there in five minutes!" She exclaimed.

"Okay, see you then." Levi ended the call, now nervous.

Sure, Carla was his land lady, but after Eren had disappeared, their relationship as good friends kind of... faltered. Levi hadn't realized that Eren had been the driving force in a lot of his friendships, but that fact hit him like a truck when he found himself alone more often than not. When Eren was around, peace and quiet was rare, now it was suffocating, and Levi was surprised to find he missed the days of loud yells and screams. He used to complain about it, but he never did anything himself. Maybe that was because he actually enjoyed it...

His heart was racing at the thought of seeing the woman that Eren resembled so much. Was that why he'd somewhat cut ties with her? Because of the uncanny resemblance between the mother and son? Perhaps that was it. Levi recalled his heart drooping every time he saw her. It was as if he'd had false hope that it was Eren, only resulting in being Carla.

"Levi?" Hanji waved a hand in front of his face. He blinked at her. "Carla is calling." She pointed at his phone. Levi blinked, then answered.

"Levi? I... I can't leave the complex." She whispered.

"Huh? Why not?" He furrowed his brow.

"There's a van parked across the street... I think they're waiting for me to leave..." She mumbled into the phone. Levi froze, almost dropping the phone from his hand.

"Go back to your home. Lock the doors and windows. Stay on the line with me. I'll be there soon."

Chapter Text

December tenth, 2008:

 

Stuffy noses; swollen, glassy eyes that screamed for sleep; raw throats aching for warm tea. All things that meant one thing in Levi's mind: sickness. With sickness came germs and filth, things Levi never ever wanted to be near. Yet there he lay, a ridiculously sick Eren curled on his chest, clinging as if it were a life preserver. He sighed and raked a hand through Eren's messy mop of hair that was perspiring from fever. He was certain he could feel the symptoms manifesting within his own body from having close proximity to the ailment within Eren.

 The boy had crawled into bed with him earlier in the morning. How he had even managed to enter Levi's house was beyond Levi, but he guessed Eren had found a way to smuggle the spare keys from his mother's room. No matter what he had done, it scared the shit out of Levi when he felt little hands grab at Levi's bare skin at six in the morning. He nearly grabbed his gun from underneath the draw of his side table, had it not been for Eren's sickly whine when Levi tried to move. He then called Carla, who was extremely relieved when Levi explained that the little brat had wound up in his apartment on his day off. She then begged Levi to watch Eren, who Levi really didn't want laying on him - with his contagion and all-, but Levi agreed to do so while she took care of some things.

 "How did you even get sick, kid? Oh, wait. I know how. You never eat your veggies or fruits and never take medicine when your mom tells you to, and you never get to bed on time. It's a wonder you haven't gotten sick before this." Levi rolled his eyes and Eren whimpered on his chest. Levi felt his hear pang in guilt at his contemptuous attitude towards Eren. It wasn't as if he was frustrated with the kid. No, he was frustrated that he couldn't get the filth out of Eren a.s.a.p.. He wanted nothing more than to purge the small child of his illness so he'd be back to being Levi's little ball of sunshine.

 "I just wanna feel better..." Eren sniveled lightly. Levi frowned sympathetically at Eren and kissed his toasty forehead. Eren's sea foam eyes glinted up at Levi in the most pathetic way, and it made Levi's heart thump against his chest.

 "I'll help you feel better, kid." Levi smiled gently at the face that always held him in rapture. Eyes that sparkled with the hope of tomorrow always on the brim of his iris' and pink lips that parted to flash a smile that would light any dark place; Levi's little sunshine. His only ray of hope. "What do you want for lunch?" Eren shrugged and nuzzled his face back into Levi's shirt, surely getting snot all over it. "Hmm... how about some soup and some tea?" Levi asked, tenderly picking Eren up and cradling him within his arms. Eren nodded sleepily, cheeks flushed pink from the warmth that made the boy's head ache. Levi's own body was cool, making Eren cling further to him, trying desperately to stop his fever. "Would you mind if I invited Hanji over? She might have just the thing to beat your silly cold." Levi explained. The crazed woman was always working up some concoction, and her weird mixtures had saved Levi's ass from infections too many times to count. 

 "No! I just want to be with you right now. I don't feel good." Eren grabbed at Levi's shirt and pouted at him. His shimmering eyes pleaded that Levi do nothing of the sort. Levi gave in and nodded.

 "Fine, fine. But I'm calling her tomorrow. You need to get better. For now, just take some regular medicine, okay?" Levi sat Eren down on a stool and heated some water on the stove for some herbal tea he knew would calm Eren's sore throat. He pulled out a medicine bottle and Eren's eyes widened. Levi could read the boys face easily as he felt the oncoming bolt Eren would attempt. "Eren, don't you dare think o-"

 Eren took off before Levi could finish. He was slower due to his drowsy, sick state, but a little flash of tanned skin nonetheless. Where he would go, Levi had no clue. Eren wouldn't leave the apartment, and Levi knew all of his hiding places in the apartment. Despite the lack of urgency that came with catching the blur that was Eren, Levi still chased after the boy. He followed him to Levi's room, where he dropped to the floor and scurried under Levi's bed. Levi rolled his eyes and stooped down to peek under at the brat.

 "Eren. Fighting it won't help. Medicine will help you feel better..." Levi sighed as Eren laid with his back turned to him.

 "I don't wanna take medicine ever again!" Eren hissed. Levi furrowed his brow .

 "Why not? It'll help you feel better, Eren. I promise." Levi tried to crawl under the bed, but Eren scooted away as soon as he realized what Levi was doing. He froze then, half under the bed and half exposed. Eren shook his head and curled around himself. "Eren? Will you please tell me why?" Levi pressed, still confused. Eren huffed in response. Levi moved stealthily under the bed and reached an arm towards the small being. Before Eren could react, Levi pulled him into his arms. "If you don't want to, then that's fine. I was just curious as to why you didn't want to." Levi pressed a small kiss to Eren's cheek, who just clung to his before him.

 "Daddy used to make me. Even when I wasn't sick. He used to make me take shots and medicine when mommy wasn't home..." He murmured. Levi froze. Eren's dad? How could Eren remember something from when he was two? More importantly, why had his father forced Eren to take medications and shots when he didn't need them? Was that the reason Eren was rarely sick? Questions that could not be answered for the time being swirled in Levi's mind.

 "I won't force you to take the medicine, Eren. I'm sorry." He hugged him softly. Eren turned and pressed his head into Levi's chest.

 "Will you keep taking care of me, though?" He mumbled. Levi couldn't his smile from spreading across his lips.

 "Of course I will, Eren. I'll always take care of you whenever you need me to. Haven't I said so before?" Levi rolled out from under the bed, dragging Eren with him. Eren nodded and continued to pout. "A promise is a promise, Eren. I don't break promises."

 

Present:

 

Levi pulled into his normal spot at the complex, Carla Jaeger no where in sight. He knew she was safely inside, for they had never hung up the line. Now he had to act like he had forgotten something within his apartment and somehow get Carla to his apartment. He had a plan, but had no idea if it would work. He took a deep breath, and pressed the phone to his ear as he put on his normal, disinterested face and stepped out from the car.

 "Yeah, yeah, Erwin. Don't get your fucking panties in a bunch... I forgot one report, and it wasn't even an urgent one!" He stepped towards his apartment, taking note of his surroundings. White van about one hundred feet away, visible suspect in the drivers seat. He had glanced briefly at the building to his right, and noticed the visible person sitting in the window, no so discrete. These people were amateurs, and they amused him. Guess they had assumed they'd only be dealing with a Mrs. Jaeger today, but even she had learned to be cautious of her surroundings since Eren had disappeared.

 "Oh my god, will you shut it for once in your life, eyebrows!? Can't a man make a mistake once in his life?" He scoffed as he made his way up the stairs, checking the view from his peripherals. two more behind the van, hiding and thinking he wouldn't be able to see them from the stairs. That makes three immediate threats and one possible sniper. He furrowed his brow grimly and sighed. He approached his door and then grabbed at his pants, acting as if he'd left his key at the office. "Shit. Hey can you check my desk? I think I left my key." Levi leaned against the door frame and stared up instead of out, not wanting them to act in case he made eye contact. "It's there? Well, damn. Alright, this is gonna be a little longer than a few minutes. I gotta get the landlady." Levi pushed off the doorframe and sauntered away from his room. He hopped down the stairs nonchalantly and made his way to Carla's home. He stayed on the line, and continued acting like he was speaking with Erwin. "Yeah, she's doing good, as far as I know. Haven't seen her around much as of late. Yeah, well. I can't help it. I need to work if I can't sleep, ass hat." Keep up the act, Levi told himself as he knocked against the wooden door.

 Carla appeared and put on a brilliant, fake smile. It hurt Levi's heart how much Eren's smile resembled her own. He expected it, the smile that could warm the coldest of days, but he hadn't expected his heart the shudder within his chest and ache for the small boys arms to be wrapped around his neck once again. He smiled sadly at Carla.

 "What brings you here, Levi?" She acted. Levi puffed out a sigh.

 "Shitwin made me rush and I forgot the key to my apartment." He explained. "Oi, don't use such foul language, captain eyebrows. I'll call you when I'm on the way back to the precinct." He then hung up his phone and placed it in his pocket.

 "So you need me to unlock your place?" Carla giggled, as if there weren't four people waiting to pounce and kill her. The whole situation made Levi sick to his stomach. Her own husband sent his hounds to kill his own wife. How fucked up could this man be? Levi understood that the man had been known to have a few screws loose, but never expected it to be that bad.

 "That is correct, oh wise Mrs. Jaeger." He chuckled along.

 "Oh, please, Levi. How many times must I tell you to call me Carla? You're family, too. Eren and Mikasa always considered you to be, and so do I." She patted his shoulder softly and he nodded.

 "Sorry about that, Carla." She stepped out of her home, locking the door as she did so, and Levi stepped so the sniper would not have a clear view of her. Totally strategic on his part, but he prayed they wouldn't notice. When they reached the stairs, he moved again so he was by her side, again blocking the view for the sniper. "How have you been?" He asked, attempting small talk that was anything but fake.

 "I've been good, Levi... I've missed seeing your grumpy self around my house to eat cookies with Mikasa, though..." She trailed, a nostalgic smile on her face. Levi felt guilty. She had suffered through all of this too, not only him, and he was selfish. Selfish because the woman that lost her son that she looked so much like was now alone to grieve. Levi had assumed Mikasa would be there, but she delved herself into her studies and Carla was indeed alone and without her ball of energy son to be with her every day.

 "I'm... I'm sorry, Carla." He breathed, shutting his eyes softly.

 "It's okay, dear. Just... promise to stop by once a week and I'll treat you to a home cooked meal." She rubbed his cheek gently like the mother she was. Always kind and nurturing, no matter the situation, that was who Carla was. She always put others before herself, even in the worst of times. She never pressed Levi to come out of his brooding; she left him meals outside his door and let him continue on his road of solitude. He may have felt alone, but she was always taking care of him from afar.

 "I promise, Carla. I'll do whatever it takes." He promised to find her son all those years ago, and now the two of them knew he was reiterating that same promise.

 She unlocked the door to his apartment and stepped inside. Once they were both hidden behind the locked door, Carla turned to him.

 "What information do you need?" She asked, tone and air suddenly serious.

 "We need all information you have on your husband, Grisha Jaeger." Levi stated without hesitation. Carla's brow furrowed.

 "Grisha? What does he have to do with this?" She scoffed.

 "We found his prints on the spare key I gave Eren before he disappeared." Levi explained. Carla's body seemed to stop moving and freeze as her mind registered the words Levi spoke.

 "Grisha... has Eren?" He face contorted into worry as Levi nodded. "Oh my god..." She gasped, a hand over her mouth.

 "Carla... what do you know?" Levi removed his phone and started recording. Carla took a deep breath and sat down on his living room couch.

 "It... I kicked Grisha out. I made him leave after..."

 "After what?" Levi pressed. They were running on such little time.

 "I had come home early from working a shift at my old job, and Grisha... He had Eren pinned down, screaming at the top of his lungs because he didn't want whatever was in the shot that Grisha was forcing into his arm... I-I didn't want to believe what I saw, but... I had to for the sake of Eren. I forced him to leave. He came back when Eren had school and collected his things, but he never saw Eren again... At least I thought he didn't..." She placed her head in her hands and shook from the tears that left her eyes.

 "Carla... it's okay." Levi rubbed her back in attempt to comfort her.

 "I wish I ha-"

 "No. Do not blame yourself." Levi stopped her. If anyone was to blame, it was Levi, not Carla, at least that's what Levi told himself all the time. "Is there anything of his left here?" Levi asked, praying that she would say yes.

 "The computer... it's old and nothing is left on it, but I'm pretty sure there are old floppy disks and USB drives that I can give to you." Carla nodded. Levi sighed in relief.

 "Now it's just a matter of getting them." He bit his bottom lip and thought of how this would work out. "Alright. I'm going to need you to take cover. Hide in my room, in the closet. There's a crawl space Eren showed me back there. It should be behind the black suitcase." Levi walked with her back to the room and showed her where to hide. She did so, cowering un the dark spot that Eren often hid in when he knew Levi was showering and he wanted to scare him. "Don't come out until I get you, okay?" Levi ordered. Carla nodded. He then closed the door and heard her lock it, replacing the suitcase before he left.

 He made his way towards his wardrobe and opened it. He smiled at his old friend that he hadn't needed to use in a while. His AR-15. He often took it to the ranges, but he never had reason to use it in his line of duty. He pulled it out, made sure the stock and magazine were loaded, and made his way to his window. He sat, and called Erwin for real.

 "Hey, shitwin. Letting you know I probably need reinforcements but probably don't." Levi explained.

 "How many?"

 "Four. One sniper three ground. There may be more in the back, but I can't tell. Either way there will probably need to be a coroner." Levi smirked.

 "Which are you going for first?" Levi could hear the amusement in his voice. Levi hadn't jumped up in rank in a simple two year period for no reason, and Erwin knew that.

 "Sniper, duh. If I go for the others I'm asking for a death wish. I have no idea how good these guys are, but if they're anything like the blondie and her buds, we're in for an interesting afternoon." Levi retorted. He pushed the window to his apartment open carefully, thanking god that it would not squeak like his neighbors.

 "Alright well we're just around the corner. At first fire we're coming in." Erwin replied. Levi nodded as if he could see him.

 "Sounds good. Keep you on the line?" Levi asked.

 "Yeah. Just in case we don't hear it."

 "Alright. I'm going to have to make a quick shot, so forgive me if I miss." Levi joked. As I he'd ever missed a target before. He set his phone down and breathed calmly. Just another day on the job. "Firing in three... two..."

 The shot rang loud and clear and he instantly heard the sound of sirens the second he the body in the fourth floor window across the way went down with the shattering glass. The people in the van burst forth, and, sure enough, there were three more hiding in the back of the van. Levi smirked as police cars flooded the complex. He saw the bulky figure that was Erwin jump forward and take down one of the men with his sheer size and no weapon. Levi kept watching as Petra moved out of her vehicle and shot down another. Two of them were getting awfully close to the Jaeger residence, so Levi took it upon himself to take one down while Mikasa took the other. Two more to go, Levi scoped the area in search of the other two. He froze as he saw one approaching Petra from the front and the other from behind. He gritted his teeth and prayed someone would come to her rescue, because his shot wasn't clean.

 Levi wanted to close his eyes, but he couldn't. Petra took on the first one without a problem, fighting and punching, but when the second one struck from behind, Petra was not expecting it. She struggled as Levi tried to signal to someone that Petra needed help. He kept his gun ready, in case she was able to shake the man far enough away so he could shoot him down. His breathing quickened as he watched her struggle and he begged for someone to aide her. The assailant had her pinned, choking her. Levi's finger was beginning to squeeze the trigger. The shot wasn't the cleanest, but he was certain he could save her.

 The AR shot, and the guy dropped. It was as if Levi could hear Petra gasp for air as she shoved the mass off of her. Levi sat back and breathed. They were safe, for now. The intruders were taken down expertly by his team, plus Erwin, and he could not feel better about that. Carla, the piece if Eren he had left, was safe, and now she could give them the information they needed to bring them closer to Eren.

 "I'm coming Eren. Nothing can hold me back now."

Chapter Text

December twenty-fifth, 2008:

 

"Happy birthday, Levi!" Eren's adolescent voice yelled cheerily as he burst through the door to Levi's apartment, tackling the older man into a hug. Levi chuckled as he tried to maintain balance unsuccessfully while he caught the young child in his arms. They fell to the floor in a loud thud, but Levi made sure the boy was safe as they did so.

 "Thanks, kid, but calm down, okay? I just woke up." Levi shook his head and looked to the clock with fatigued eyes. He had gone to sleep at the early hour of two, only to be woken by the buzzing Eren at eight, barely giving him a solid six hours. He had been deeply invested in a homicide case that he was certain he cracked. He knew that Eren would stop at nothing to wake Levi, on account that, not only was it Levi's birthday, it was Christmas, and Levi had promised Eren a very special surprise. "Did you even spend time with your family, yet?" Levi scolded. Eren shook his head and snickered into his small hands.

 "'Kasa isn't gonna be home 'till later, and mommy's still sleeping." Eren wrapped his arms around Levi's neck and nestled his head into the crook of Levi's neck.

 "So you decided to wake me, first?" Levi sighed, rubbing a slow hand at his bleary eyes.

 "Mhmm!" Eren cuddled closer to Levi and nodded.

 "Jesus, kid. You aren't even dressed for the weather outside. It's damn near freezing!" He looked down at Eren, who was dressed in a t-shirt and some pajama pants without a jacket. Though it was well into December, the snow had just started to fall, dusting the ground wherever you walked, nipping at your cheeks when a breeze blew. Eren shivered lightly and Levi jumped to his feet, child in arms. "No way in hell am I letting you get sick, again. " Levi muttered, making his way back to his bedroom. Eren yawned in his arms and stretched; he knew it. Eren was just as tired at he was. "Did you sleep at all last night, kid?" Levi asked. Eren remained silent, and Levi looked down to see that Eren had closed his eyes and fallen asleep.  "Of course not... maybe I shouldn't have told you I had a surprise." Levi laughed lightly.

 He made it back to his room and laid Eren on his bed, tucking him into the still-warm comforter. He then picked up his phone and called Carla. Two rings in, she picked up the phone with a not so sleep ridden voice.

 "Good morning, Levi! Happy birthday!" She chirped. Levi cringed slightly. He loved Carla for the joyous person she was, but it was too damn early.

 "Thank you Carla, and Merry Christmas. Just thought I should let you know I've got the little monster here at my place. He passed out the second after he said happy birthday and laughed into his grubby, little hands." Levi explained sarcastically.

 "Mmm..." Carla hummed, as if she already knew. "I figured. Getting him to even go lay in bed was a nightmare, last night. He was bouncing off the walls; said he had to be 'the very first,' to wish you a happy birthday." Carla explained, adding some enthusiasm to Eren's words to relay the message clearly. Levi couldn't hold back the snort that came out as he shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose.

 "Your kid is something else, Carla." Levi laughed.

 "He really is. He's grown really attached to you, though." She pointed out. Levi frowned a little and furrowed his brow in thought. "Not that that is a bad thing, Levi. It's just... surprising. I thought that, after what happened with his father and all, he'd hate any male figure, but you seem to be the exception..." Carla trailed off.

 "I guess so..." Levi agreed. He turned to face the small child, bundled under Levi's blankets. His cheeks were a light pink from the warmth, his eyes relaxed under tanned eye lids. Levi stared at his long, think lashes and smiled at the boys restful face.

 "Thank you, Levi. You mean so much to him, and you've done more than I could ever ask... He really looks to you for nearly everything. I know I'm his mother and that I should be the one for that, but he chose you, so I can't really argue." Carla continued. Levi smiled gently and rubbed Eren's soft, chocolate locks from out of his face.

 "It's honestly a pleasure, Carla. This kid... I have to admit, he changed my life." Levi sighed, laying down. From his new position, he could hear the deep intakes of breath from Eren's sleeping state; he could hear the rhythmic beating of his heart. Levi, himself, felt at peace with this.

 "You've changed each other's lives, Levi. I hope you see that it was a two way partnership in that aspect." At this, Levi turned and face Eren. Levi nodded, even though Carla couldn't see.

 "Hmm... I'm glad I could be such help."

 "So am I, little raven."

 

Present:

 

Levi held the shaking Carla in his arms, calming her and assuring her she was safe. They had evacuated the building, letting the residents know they would need to stay elsewhere or in protective services until further notice. Carla was filled with anxiety the second the first bullet had sounded, and Levi felt so guilty. The guilt ate away at him with every tear that fell from her eyes. He knew they were more than just tears from the ordeal of today, but from every year and every day that she had to sit and wonder what had happened to the ray of sunshine that was Eren Jaeger.

 "Carla, I am so sorry..." Levi breathed, petting the top of her head. They stayed like this for a while, Levi shielding her from seeing anything around them that would upset her more. Petra had gotten her a blanket from one of the ambulances and wrapped it around Carla to keep her more comfortable. "I am so, so sorry..." He breathed again. Carla raised her head and stared at him with furrowed brows.

 "Levi, you have to know that this is not your fault... none of this is." She replied, still sniffling but no longer crying. Levi didn't reply. He pressed his lips into a thin smile and nodded, trying to lie it out. Carla narrowed her eyes into slits and glared at him. "Levi." She hissed. "This is not your fault."

 "Everyone, and I mean literally everyone, keeps trying to tell me this, Carla, and for a while, I felt that I could believe them. For a bit, I let myself believe them, but I wish I never did. I wish that no one had tried to feed that lie into my head, because no matter which way I look at it, all of this is my fault. Eren was stolen from under my watch, Carla. I was in charge of his safety, and I failed. I'm a fucking cop, and I couldn't even save the kid that practically lived in the same apartment as me, that I cared about most, from being taken from under my nose. Do you realize how much failure burdens me every morning i wake up and see his smiling face in the picture by my bed? How awful this all makes me feel?"

 "And I am his mother, Levi." She cut in. Levi shut his mouth as soon as her sharp tone interrupted his self loathing tirade. "I gave birth to that beautiful, green-eyed boy. He was my baby, my precious baby. He brought so much light and joy into this dark world, into everyone's life, especially yours. And Levi, never have I ever blamed you for any of this mess, and I never will. So, how can you sit there and blame yourself for all of this when Eren's own mother refuses to do so?" Carla eyed him, waiting for an answer. Levi drew in a sharp breathe and raked a shaky hand through his ebony locks.

 "Exactly," She replied for him, "you can't. You can believe that this is all your own fault all you damn well please, but I know, that deep inside, you know the truth. You know who is really to blame, Levi, and it isn't you. The bastards that took him? Those are the ones to blame, and you should know better than to blame yourself for someone else's evil deeds. You would never harm Eren. Anyone who saw the two of you together knew that, so stop blaming yourself." Carla scolded Levi thoroughly. Levi turned his head to the side and stared at the ground as he nodded in defeat. He nearly jumped when Carla's soft, warm hand cupped his cheek and gently pressed his face to look at her own. "Little raven, it hurts me to see you like this... You know that you are like a son to me, right?" She smiled tenderly, eyes glittering with nostalgia at the use of his old nick name. Levi nodded against her hand, leaning into it slightly. He had been avoiding the ever-so-motherly Carla Jaeger, in fear that she would pin all of this on Levi, even though, in his subconscious, he knew that his fears were nonsense. He had missed hanging around her; she really was a motherly figure where he lacked one. She always made him eat dinner when he stopped by, even though most of the time it was to drop off the brat. She always made sure Levi ate plenty of fruits and vegetables with each meal, and she never relented on spoiling Levi with desserts, that were mostly stolen by a certain ball of energy. If there was anything that Levi ever needed, Carla was there to bet he mother she was. It was as if she simply knew the pain that Levi has felt from never sharing these experiences with his own mother, so she made up for it in any way she could. At one point, he had briefly explained to Carla that he hadn't really had a chance to know his mother before she passed, and that was when the motherly nurturing was kicked up about ten notches.

 "I know, Carla. I'm sorry. I was just... being a coward." He sighed.

 "No, Levi. You're wrong. You were in pain, and you were hurting. You were also scared, and there was nothing cowardly about that. These are simple human emotions, Levi. It's how you dealt with them that made you a coward. You hid from everyone, blocked us all out when we tried to reach out to you. You pretended to not feel anything, but we weren't stupid. We knew, I knew. I knew every night I saw your apartment light on because you had to 'work on Eren's case.' I knew because I felt the same things that you did. I felt that loss, I had the nightmares, but I knew that if I blocked anyone out, I would be hurting them more than they were already." Carla cooed. Levi felt his eyes watering at her words. "Oh, raven, it's okay, because we're here now, aren't we? And we're so close to saving him." Carla wrapped her small frame around Levi, pulling into a sheltering hug, knowing that was exactly what he needed. 

 "To think of all the birthday celebrations I missed out on with him. He's already eighteen... He could have his license and could be out terrorizing the city as an adult at this point..." Levi sighed, dreaming of days to come when Eren would finally be home.

 "Hmm... that is, if he even learns to drive." Carla chuckled lightly. Levi snorted a little at this and rolled his eyes.

 "I suppose you're right... I just hope he knows that we're coming for him." 

 "I have no doubt in my mind that he does, raven." She smiled. Levi nodded his head. "And if you ever think about blocking me out of your life again, there will be consequences, young man!" She pointed a finger at him and glared. Levi smiled and nodded.

 "I understand, Carla. I really am sorry."

 "So long as you know." 

 "That I do."

Chapter Text

January seventh, 2009:

 

Levi sat, eyeing the paperwork in front of him, determined to not miss a single detail. He had been reading and rereading the same documents for over an hour, scowling while he did so. Eren huffed and sighed on the couch, glaring at the man every so often to see if he could get his attention in any way. He had flopped and flipped all to no avail; there was no way to tear his eyes off those stupid papers.

 Eren opted to pout in defeat, smooshing his cheek into the arm of the couch while he picked at a loose thread. He let out a deep sigh, glancing at Levi every now and again. After his patience had worn off, which was about thirty seconds, Eren then opted to change tactics. He hopped off the seat of the couch, and picked up the model airplane from the Smithsonian Museum, which had been Levi's big surprise (Eren loved every second of it), and began to pretend he was piloting the craft. 

 He circled around the small living room, making obnoxious noises as he did so; screeching tires as the plane came to a stop, the engine starting with a loud boom, the sound of frightened passengers as the plane fell. Nothing; none of them phased Levi, much to Eren's disappointment. Instead, Levi seemed to gaze deeper at the paper. Annoyed, Eren increased the motions he made as well as his volume, and then he did it.

 It was as if time had slowed as the scene played in Eren's wide, horrified eyes. He leaped forward to try and prevent the inevitable, but it only made matters worse. The plane that he had been holding slipped, literally flying through the air, directly towards Levi's fresh cup of hot, black, staining coffee. Eren reached a short arm out, unable to get closer to stop the dooming impact. He gasped the second the nose of the plane crashed into Levi's mug, knocking the contents out and onto every paper below. Eren fell to the ground and cowered, knowing that Levi would be fuming after what just happened.

 Levi stared at the mess. He wasn't entirely sure what had just happened, but he registered that there was coffee where white, pristine papers should have been, and his tan trousers were sopping with the hot liquid. He turned slowly, anger rising within, to face the little boy responsible for ruining important documents, which Erwin had demanded to be ready for the next morning.

 "Eren, what the hell!?" Levi immediately reprimanded. His shocked expression quickly flipped to one of anger as he glared at the little child. Eren rose to his feet, dusting his knees as he did. He lowered his head, ashamed of the mess he caused, and twiddled his thumbs. He refused to meet Levi's gaze while the older man awaited an explanation.

 "I... I just wanted your attention..." Eren replied meekly. Levi inhaled sharply and pressed his lips into a thin, sullen frown. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance. He tossed his glasses to the table and held his breath while he listened to the dripping splats of coffee land on the floor.

 "Damn it, Eren. I have to work, okay? Do you understand that?" Levi snapped. Eren nodded remorsefully and kept his eyes at the floor. "Do you really understand, Eren? Because I don't think you do. This," Levi motioned his arm at the mess, "all needed to be done by tonight, and now I don't think I will be able to finish it, because these are the only copies I have. The originals are at the station, and I can't bring those home. Do you really get the gravity of the situation?" Levi rebuked harshly. Eren scrunched his nose and nodded; Levi knew the kid hated when he used big vocabulary when being corrected.

 "I'm sorry, Levi... I just thought you needed a break..." Eren apologized sincerely.

 "Sorry doesn't fix the mess you made, Eren. Go sit on the couch and color, or some shit. I have to clean up this fucking mess and finish what I can." Levi grumbled. Eren jumped at the coarseness of his words and nodded sheepishly. He curled into a ball on the couch, back facing Levi, as he pouted. Levi rolled his eyes and sighed, dragging his hand through his dark hair as he tried to ignore the guilt welling within.

 He set his mind to cleaning the mess, knowing that if it was not spotless, he would never be able to focus. He scrubbed at every surface, making sure nothing was stained, besides his pants and the ruined papers. It took half an hour for the desk and floor to be cleaned to Levi's standards, and Eren hadn't moved all during this time. He hadn't made a sound, and hadn't dared looked Levi's direction. Levi had taken note of his behavior, but was too preoccupied to allow his emotions to get the best of him. He knew that he was rather rough in his scolding, but Eren needed to know that was not okay, right?

 No; it was evident across the small boys face that he knew he had messed up. The glassy look to Eren's teal eyes was most definitely from tears that Eren had been trying to hide, and the slumped shoulders were a sign of pure guilt. Levi groaned and rubbed his face; today was not going the way he had wanted. Still, he refused to acknowledge his discoveries and kept working. He needed to get shit done.

 "Levi..." Eren's shy voice called, starling Levi another hour later. Levi jumped slightly and turned in his chair to face Eren. It was obvious the boy had been crying, tear streaks lined his cheeks as he sniffed his stuffy nose. His bottom lip jutted out in a pout, and his bright eyes were watery. Levi felt his heart pang as he sat before Eren. "I made a new paper for you; I'm sorry I ruined the first one..." Eren reached his hand out from behind his back and presented a sheet of paper. On it, some words had been scribbled in black crayon. Levi took a better look at it as he took it from Eren:

 "Reasons I like being at Levi's:

1) Levi is the best

2) Levi lets me eat sweets when mommy says no

3) Levi lets me sleep in even though I have chores

4) Levi plays with me

5) Levi makes me feel happy

6) Levi lets me pick the movies

7) I like Levi's hair

8) Levi sings me to sleep when I have a bad dream

9) Levi is my best friend

10) I love Levi"

 Levi stared, in awe, at the sheet of paper. He went over all ten reasons over and over and couldn't argue with any one of them. He smiled, lips curling upwards and spreading out into a wide grin as laughter parted from his chest. Eren's frown deepened, and tears rushed from his eyes.

 "I knew it! You think it's stupid! I should have never written it!" Eren yelled out. Levi reached out and grabbed the small boy, before he could run away, and pulled him into a warm hug.

 "What are you talking about, Eren?" Levi chuckled, holding the sniffling Eren.

 "Y-You laughed at it! You think it's stupid!" He repeated. Levi rolled his eyes and shook his head.

 "Eren, I laughed because I love it." Levi explained. Eren froze and pouted his lips, not believing what Levi had said. "I thought it was all one-hundred percent true, which is why I laughed. You're so honest in everything you do, which is also why I owe you an apology." Levi cooed. Eren furrowed his brow in confusion, and Levi kissed the boys creased forehead. "I'm so, so sorry for yelling at you, Eren. You were just doing what you thought was best. I know you didn't mean to make a mess, and I know that you know work is important, hut you're right. I shouldn't prioritize work over your feelings, and that was very wrong of me. Will you forgive me?" Levi pleaded, not being able to handle how sad he had made Eren anymore. Eren nodded slowly and rubbed at his eyes. "Thank you, Eren. Now, if I ever get that way again, you can yell 'Levi is being a stupid meany!' as loud as you want, okay?" Eren's frown cracked into a smile, making Levi grin. "Want to try it?" Levi egged Eren on.

 "Levi is being a stupid meany!" Eren yelled at the top of his lungs. Levi couldn't contain the laughter that bubbled in his chest as Eren burst into fits of giggles. "Don't ever be a stupid meany again, okay Levi?" Eren scolded. Levi nodded and kissed the boys cheek.

 "I promise I won't, Eren."

 

Present:

 

Levi stared at the framed paper with Eren's list of why he liked Levi's apartment and sighed. He looked down to his right hand, where he held a half-empty glass of scotch. He shook his head and pressed his forehead against the wall. He had spent hours going through all of the documents on every flash drive and every floppy disc he could get his hands on, and it was proving to be pointless. His frustrations were high, and so was his anxiety. Levi knew that with his anxiety came the crippling depression and fear that he would never get his ray of sunshine back again. He shook his head vehemently and downed the last of the glass. He couldn't let those thoughts get the best of him right now.

 He turned back to the computer that was illuminating the dim room with its annoying, blue light. He glared at the machine and cursed under his breath. Would he even be able to find anything that would help him? All he had found, so far, was old patient records and addresses of hospitals Grisha had worked at. Levi had looked up each one, seeing if it lead him anywhere, but they were all in the butt crack of Germany, thousands of miles away from where Eren had been spotted. Nothing added up to any information that would bring Eren home, and Levi was starting to lose hope.

 He looked around his living room, peering out from his study; Hanji and Erwin were passed out on the sofa pull out. Mikasa had gone to her normal place in his guest bedroom. They had decided to set up base here in case anyone came prowling around. There were officers outside, motion detectors, security monitors, and they each had their radios on full blast. Levi inhaled deeply and rubbed at his exhausted eyes, begging whatever was listening to grant him at least one clue as to where Eren was.

 He thought back on all of the hospitals he had researched that Grisha had worked in; Sina Memorial, Maria Children's Hospital, Rose Pediatric. Levi had already caught that two of them were children's care, but the other didn't fit in. There was nothing tying the third to the other two besides the fact that it was located in Germany. Levi pinched the bridge of his nose and walked to the kitchen for another drink. He had read the articles on how Grisha was exposed for human experimentation and was disgusted by each one. He was driven out of the country, and that was when he returned home to Carla and a young Eren Jaeger. It was soon after that he had attacked Eren with the syringe and Carla had caught him. Levi shook his head, not able to think straight on two hours of sleep. Maybe more alcohol was not what he needed, but damn did it numb the pain.

 Sina, Sina, Sina. Levi thought in his mind. He kept replaying the word over and over until it started to sound funny. He snickered to himself and rolled his eyes. Alcohol was definitely not  what he needed. Oh well, he thought, just as he was about to take another swig. Then he stopped. 

 "Sina." Levi breathed aloud. "Holy shit... Sina!" He yelled. Erwin jumped into a sitting position and rubbed at his sleepy eyes.

 "Levi... what is it?" He called groggily. 

 "Erwin, get the fuck out of bed right now." Levi flipped the lights on in the living room, earning complaining groan from Hanji, who buried her head further into the pillows. "Hanji, this is no time for sleeping!"

 "It's three in the fucking morning, it most certainly is the time for sleeping!" She yelled, voice muffled by the pillows.

 "What the fuck is going on?" Mikasa waddled from the guest bedroom, eyes still shut.

 "Guys, I'm going to really need you all to wake the fuck up!" Levi demanded.

 "Levi, just tell us what is going on." Erwin sighed, looking at Levi pleadingly.

 "I figured it out." Levi replied.

 "Figured what out!?" Hanji called, head still hidden in the mountain of pillows.

 "I know how to find him." Levi explained confidently. Everyone lifted their heads, eyes wide and staring with confusion.

 "H-how...?" Mikasa asked in a hushed voice. Levi bounded to the computer and pulled up the information on Sina Memorial.

 "It's here. It's all fucking here. Sly son of a bitch..." Levi trailed. Erwin raised an eyebrow and rubbed his face, still trying to process what was happening. 

 "Levi, explain. You aren't making any sense." Erwin deadpanned.

 "Fine, fine. I was looking into the different hospitals that Grisha worked at in Germany, and I noticed a deviant in the norm.  Sina Memorial, Maria Children's Hospital, and Rose Pediatric." Levi motioned to the computer, waiting to see if anyone else got where he was going. Unsurprisingly, the walking dead said nothing, just stared at him like gaping fish. "Sina Memorial was the only one that stood out. So, I went back through the patient history as well when I was doing my research, right? Three children, who's last names are now their first names." Levi cut off, looking to all three. Confusion was very evident on all of their faces. Levi sighed and continued. "Catherine Annie, Justin Bertolt, and Dimitri Reiner." 

 "Holy shit." Erwin gasped lowly. Levi nodded his head and smirked in proud accomplishment.

 "Those fuckers were his patients at Sina Memorial! All three were reported to have died from mishaps in surgery. All went under the knife with Grisha as a stand by, none came out 'alive.' And all of the doctors that were supposedly responsible for their deaths? Fell off the face of the earth; never head from again." 

 "Dear god... does that mean...?" Mikasa looked to Levi with worried, yet excited eyes.

 "'Kasa, think about it. Sina Memorial. Does that not sound familiar?" Levi turned to her, waiting. She then gasped and covered her mouth.

 "Sina Mountain Road." She replied, face devoid of emotion as she took in all that had been said.

 "He's there." Levi claimed with full faith. He had no doubt in his logic or where his thoughts had lead him; Eren was on Sina Mountain Road, there was no question about it. It all added up, and there was no time to try and figure out another possible solution. "Erwin, we need to go; we need to get him!" Levi exclaimed, practically shouting.

 "Then... Let's get ready."

 Levi burst into tears in that moment. All he had worked for, all this time, was finally at his finger tips. He gasped in as he crumbled to the ground, heart racing with anticipation. He couldn't believe it; soon, he would be able to pull that boy into his arms, kiss his sun kissed cheeks and look into his teal eyes. He would be able to brush chocolate locks away from his forehead and finally be able to say the words that had been stuck in his throat for eight, long, excruciating years: "You're home, Eren."