Levi was fighting an internal battle. Part of him wanted to say fuck it, storm out and endure all the pitying looks the other customers in the restaurant would no doubt give him. Part of him wanted to stick it out and just order food for himself-he was hungry, after all. And yet another part of him wanted to sink into the floor from embarrassment and never resurface again.
Ok, let’s rewind a bit.
A while back, his acquaintance—he truly hesitated to say friend simply because he didn’t have friends if he could help it—Hanji, had given his number to a friend of theirs, insisting that Levi (and he quoted) “got his hot ass out on the market again.”
The man, Erwin Smith, had immediately texted Levi and the two had struck up an instant—albeit awkward, as text messages can sometimes be—connection. They’d been exchanging texts for a few weeks now, and finally, earlier this week, Erwin had suggested they meet up and have dinner together.
Now, Levi wasn’t the sort of guy who needed someone like Hanji to set him up; he simply didn’t bother putting himself out there. However, he knew Hanji had only meant to help, and the pictures Erwin had sent of himself were certainly nothing short of enticing.
Which wass what brought him to his current situation, unfortunately.
Levi, ever one to be punctual, had arrived at the restaurant—a nice, quaint place called Wall Sina—and asked for a table for two. The restaurant was surprisingly packed, but the host had taken him to a central table, set up intimately for couples, and had graciously offered him a hand towel and laid out two menus.
After a few minutes of perusing the menu, Levi had glanced around nervously. It was ten minutes past their agreed meet-up time, and he hadn’t received a text from Erwin since around 3 that afternoon. The waitress, a short, kind-looking strawberry blonde by the name of Petra, had brought him a water and told him she would wait until his companion arrived before reading the specials.
A few more minutes passed, and Levi finally gave in and shot Erwin a text.
‘Hey, I just got to Wall Sina. Just wanted to check-we agreed to meet at 6, correct?’
Of course he didn’t have to check-the previous messages had confirmed the time and location, clear as a sunny day. Maybe Erwin just got caught up at a work meeting. The man had mentioned that he worked as a corporate lawyer for Latham and Watkins, and even Levi, who worked as a bartender and had never even met a corporate lawyer, had heard of the company.
“Hey, would you like me to get you started with a drink?” The waitress had come back, the iPad POS system in her hands.
“No, I think I’ll wait until he gets here,” Levi mumbled, fighting the blush that was currently threatening to take over his face.
Petra gave him a small, sympathetic smile and nodded before moving on to the next table.
And still, minutes passed with no contact from Erwin.
Levi wasn’t sure what to do. He’d never been stood up before, and vowed in that moment to never, ever stand anyone up in his life, if this was how it felt. He flipped through the menu again, hoping that he simply looked like he was contemplating what he was going to order and not like he was having an internal battle with embarrassment.
He resisted the urge to text Hanji and bitch them out for setting him up with such an asshole. It wasn’t their fault Erwin suddenly dropped off the face of the earth, after all.
A glance at his phone told him that he’d been sitting in the restaurant for nearly half an hour now. The other occupants of the place were starting to take note of his situation, and he caught several pitying glances and stares from nearby tables.
“I’m sorry,” Petra’s voice pulled his gaze up from the menu. “I really hate to do this, but I’m afraid my boss is insisting that I at least start you off with a drink or ask you to leave because we have a wait right now.” She looked genuinely distraught at the suggestion and was shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, eyes downcast.
Levi’s face flared up. This was probably the most embarrassing thing that had ever happened to him. As if it wasn’t bad enough that it was so completely obvious that he was being stood up, he was now being asked to leave because the asshole never showed?
“Um…” For the first time ever, Levi Ackerman had no words.
“Why don’t I get you a drink, on the house, and say you ordered it?” Petra quickly cut in. “Don’t worry, I’m sure he—” she gestured at the empty seat. “—is just stuck in traffic and will be here soon. Would you like to start with a glass of wine? Our house red is excellent.”
Levi could only nod, the mortified knot of embarrassment in his chest swelling.
He checked his phone again—still no answer from Erwin—and buried his face in his hands. Fuck, this was the last time he ever agreed on being set up by anyone ever again.
He was debating if he should send another text to Erwin when Petra came back with a generously filled glass of wine. He mumbled a thanks and she smiled again, but this time Levi could see the pity and apology in her eyes.
God fucking damn it, this was embarrassing.
To make matters worse, he saw people in nearby booths whispering and shooting condoling glances in his direction, clearly discussing the poor, short man who had been stood up on a date on a Friday night.
Fuck, he would rather be devoured by a giant than suffer humiliation like this.
He was debating whether he should just get up and leave, when the chair across from him was yanked out.
A tall, gorgeous brunette with sparkling cerulean-jade eyes that seemed to glow in the dim light of the restaurant was taking off his jacket, breathing heavily, as if he'd just run in. “Fuck, I’m so sorry babe. Traffic was fucking awful; I’m so sorry I’m so late!”
For the second time that night, Levi was rendered speechless. What the hell was happening?
The brunette had sat down, pulled the chair up to the table and leaned in. “Hey, my name is Eren, just go with it, okay? Whoever didn’t bother showing up is a fucking dick.”
He flashed Levi a huge smile, pearly white teeth in stark contrast against his smooth, caramel skin. Even sitting, Levi could tell he was tall, and he was wearing a short-sleeved, green button down that not only complimented his eyes beautifully, but showed off a pair of strong, toned arms.
The man—Eren, Levi reminded himself—picked up the menu and started browsing. “Man, I’m starving, let’s start off with some appetizers, yeah? Do you like Foie Gras?”
Levi continued to stare. He still wasn’t sure what exactly was going on.
Eren raised an eyebrow. “Babe, are you with me? Do you want to start with the Foie Gras?”
“Don’t fucking call me babe.” Wow, Levi. The guy was clearly trying to help, and those were his first words to him? “Shit, sorry.”
To his surprise, Eren threw his head back and laughed. The sound was rambunctious, genuine, and so loud Levi nearly jumped. Several people in nearby seats were staring again, but this time their gazes were startled and no longer aimed at Levi.
When Eren finally stopped laughing, he covered his mouth sheepishly. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know your name.”
“It's Levi.” Fuck, why was he telling some random brat his name?
“Levi,” Eren repeated, his tone testing, reverent, almost. Levi liked the way his name rolled off Eren’s tongue; the brunette put more emphasis on the second syllable, his voice pitching up on the ‘I’. Was that a slight accent Levi heard?
Just then, Petra returned. She leveled a glare in Eren’s direction. “Welcome to Wall Sina, good of you to show up.”
Eren blushed. “I’m sorry; I got really caught up in traffic and my phone died. It’s been one of those weeks.” He gave the blonde an apologetic smile. “I’m terribly sorry if I caused any inconvenience.”
Petra blinked, clearly not expecting a man who was 45 minutes late to a date to be so polite. “Oh, that’s alright. Can I get anything started for you?”
“A glass of your house red, please, and the Foie Gras.” Eren scanned the menu. “Could I have a few minutes to look at the menu? Unless you have any suggestions for a very ravenous hospital employee who’s spent all day treating disgusting bodily function disorders.”
The waitress hid a smile behind her hand. “Of course. I would highly suggest the wild salmon, if you like seafood. Otherwise we have a wonderful strip steak that comes with a healthy serving of truffle potatoes au Gratin and almonds.”
“That second option sounds heavenly; I’ll take that. Levi, what would you like?”
By this point, Levi had given up on making sense of the current situation. After all, Eren seemed like a nice enough person, and had just saved him from making an embarrassing exit from the restaurant. It didn’t hurt that he was also the most attractive man Levi had ever met.
“I’ll have the Chicken Tortiglioni Pasta, thank you.” Levi handed the menu to Petra, who was now positively beaming.
“I’ll get your orders in and get that Foie Gras out immediately.”
She left, and a surprisingly comfortable silence fell between the two men.
“So…” Levi started. “Why did you do that?”
Eren blinked. “Do what?”
Levi scowled. “You know, why did you pretend to be my date?”
“Oh.” Eren shrugged. “Honestly? I was pissed. It takes a real shitty person to just stand someone up, and frankly, the pitying looks that couple—” he jabbed a thumb toward the booth behind him. “—were giving you just rubbed me the wrong way. Besides, I’ve been there before.”
“No, you haven’t.” Levi retorted. No fucking way. “Who in their right mind would stand someone like you up?”
Wait, what did he just say?
A light blush spread across Eren’s cheeks—fuck that was adorable—and he gave Levi a small, shy smile. “That’s very nice of you, but I’ve had my share of shitty dates and people who’ve stood me up. It’s not a nice feeling. Besides—” The blush darkened. “You’re very…um…you’re really hot.”
Levi bit his lip to keep from smirking. Well, the brat was genuine, he'd give him that.
“Ugh,” Eren covered his face with his hands. “Sorry, I’ve been told I have no filter. Just ignore me if you want. I can leave if you’d rather.”
“No,” Levi dismissed his comment and reached over to remove Eren’s hands from his face. “I think it’s cute.”
Now the blush was traveling down Eren’s neck. Levi eyed that long, slender neck, noting the sharp collarbone that jut out from beneath the brunette’s partly-buttoned shirt.
Eren was saved from responding when Petra returned with his wine and their appetizer.
He thanked her profusely, then proceeded to take a long sip from his glass.
“Anyway.” Eren set down his drink. “If you don’t mind me asking, who were you waiting for? Girlfriend? Boyfriend? First date?”
“First date with a guy a coworker gave my number to.” Levi shrugged. “He suggested the place, hasn’t responded to me since this afternoon.”
“Hm. His loss then.” Eren gave Levi a grin that showed all his teeth. “Guess it’s just my lucky day.”
Now it was Levi’s turn to blush. Sure, as a bartender he’d get hit on all the time (hey, more tips), but most of the pick up lines and flirtations were coming from drunken, sometimes barely coherent men who, frankly, were still single for a reason. Not that he could say too much on that front; he was still single at 32, but he also didn’t resort to getting shitfaced and hitting on the server at a club.
“So, what do you do?” Eren asked, scooping a piece of meat onto his plate. “Since we ordered food, I may as well get to know my dinner companion.”
“I’m a bartender at Le Bain at the Standard.” Levi tried to tear his eyes away from Eren’s lips, which had wrapped delicately around his forkful of meat, pink and plush—wow, way to sound like a creep and pervert.
“Wow, Le Bain? That’s crazy. I’ve only been there a couple of time with friends, and only for crazy special occasions. Must be awesome working there.” Eren genuinely sounded impressed. “How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?”
Eren nearly spat out his second forkful. “No you’re not.” He stared, eyes wide. “You don’t look a day over 26. Maybe 28.”
“I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted.” Levi took a bite of his food and nearly melted. Fuck, he hadn’t had Foie Gras like this in—ok, so he’s never had Foie Gras before, period, but this had to be a pinnacle for the dish.
“No, I didn’t mean it that way! You just look so young.”
“Speak for yourself. How about you?”
“I’m 28,” Eren replied. “Full name is Eren Jaeger, and I work and study at New York Presbyterian/Cornell Medical Center for my neurosurgery residency right now.”
Wow, beauty and brains, Levi thought. He allowed himself to look impressed. “Not bad. Smart guy, huh?”
Eren chuckled. “That’s a common misconception. It’s not like you can be stupid and become a neurosurgeon; you have to get through med school, after all. But a lot of this is simply hard work. My director says he knows plenty of neurosurgeons who aren’t geniuses; it’s really a field where hard work and tenacity pays off.”
“Hm.” Levi scrutinized the young man before him. He still wasn’t sure what to make of him. Eren was a bit of an enigma (granted he’d only known him for less than an hour at this point), but Levi had always been good at reading people. Clearly the young man was intelligent and kind, and so genuine that Levi didn’t know how to handle it. He could tell that the brunette was impulsive (why else would he make a split second decision to rescue a stranger from an embarrassing ditched date situation?) and confident, yet there was a sense of shy delicacy that would shine through when he talked.
“So Levi, where did you grow up? What brought you to this clusterfuck jewel of a city?” Eren leaned forward, resting his chin on his hand, gem-like eyes piercing.
“What, do you want my life story or something?” Levi leaned back casually and crossed his legs.
“Why not? We have plenty of time, and I still don’t even know your last name.” Eren smiled again. “You seem like a fascinating person, Levi. I’d really like to get to know you better.”
There was something new in his tone of voice, something Levi couldn’t name, but was certain he liked.
“Well then,” Levi said, sitting up in his chair as Petra came to their table with their entrees. “I suppose it’s the least I can do for you, all things considered. My full name is Levi Ackerman. And for the next hour or so, I’m all yours, Eren.”
“I’m so full, I don’t think I could eat another bite.” Eren slumped in his chair as Petra removed the last of their plates from the table. “That was phenomenal, Petra. Thank you.”
She winked. “I’ll pass the compliments to the chef. Would you two like some more wine?”
Eren glanced at his watch. “Well, it’s been almost an hour an a half now. It’s up to Levi.” He smirked at the raven, who raised an eyebrow. “My ‘hour or so’ is up now. But tell me.” He leaned in closer. “Would you be mine for a little longer?”
“You cocky little shit.” Levi couldn’t keep the smirk off his face.
“Is that a yes?”
Levi rolled his eyes and handed his credit card to Petra. “We’re good, Petra, thank you. Just the check.”
Eren’s face fell so quickly that Levi nearly laughed out loud. The boy had gone from a confident, arrogant flirt to looking like a kicked puppy in nanoseconds. “What’s the matter? Why the long face?”
The bright-eyed brat scowled and tried to give him a threatening glare, but it just came off as pouty. “So, Levi…” Eren started cautiously. He was staring down at the table, hands clasped before him, thumbs twirling in anxiety. “I know this was a pretty spur of the moment thing that led to dinner, and you might not even be interested…but I was wondering… can I see you again?”
“What makes you think you’re done seeing me now?”
Eren’s head came up so fast Levi felt like he got whiplash just from watching him. The boy’s eyes were wide, eyes glowing in anticipation.
Levi chuckled. “What do you say we get out of here? We can head to Le Bain if you want, for drinks.”
The teasing smirk was back on Eren’s face. “What, trying to get me drunk, old man?”
“I don’t need to get you drunk to get what I want, brat.”
Eren chuckled. “I can’t even deny that.”
Petra came back with the receipt and Levi quickly signed and got to his feet. He extended a hand to Eren. “Come on, brat.”
The brunette’s eyes lit up as he laced fingers with Levi’s.
As they walked out, Levi’s hand nuzzled warmly in Eren’s, he had to admit, getting stood up tonight was the best thing that ever happened to him. He stole a sidelong glance at his taller companion, who was practically glowing. His face was relaxed, eyes closed under messy, chocolate locks, his lips curved gently in a happy, content smile.
Levi decided that he was going to have to thank Hanji later. After all, he thought as they exited the restaurant into the busy streets of New York City, their meddling had ultimately led him to Eren Jaeger.