Dangerous Territory

BY : Rhov
Category: +. to F > Attack on Titan /Shingeki No Kyojin
Dragon prints: 2483
Disclaimer: I do not own “Shingeki no Kyojin” and do not make money from this fanfic.

Chapter 32

The Window in the Attic


Eren reached the officer's hotel, climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, but a group of men were standing near his door. For a few seconds, utter dread engulfed Eren, and his heart pounded at the horrific thought of Levi being caught by Gestapo hiding up in the attic. However, the men were laughing as they passed around a photograph of a scantily clad woman. They glanced over as Eren approached.

"Pardon," Eren said. "That's my room."

One of the soldiers leaped forward. "You must be the new guy who just arrived today. Welcome to the Lieutenant's Floor." The others laughed, as if this was a great joke. The blond officer shot his hand out. "The name's Holger."

Eren shook his hand. "Eren Jäger."

"Great to meet you, Jäger. These are Surma, Wim, Phil, Samuel, Daz, Oliver, and the stern guy over there is Griez."

Eren nodded to the group of men. "Nice to meet you all."

"Bringing food back?" Surma asked, pushing up his oval glasses as he eyed the paper bag.

Griez scoffed, "You should eat with the officers, not alone in your room."

Eren looked down at the paper wrapping. "Ah, this is just … I was out with my platoon, we drank so much, I know I'll probably vomit. I asked for a sandwich to go, so I can eat after my stomach wages an insurrection."

"And another beer to defeat the hangover," Samuel teased.

Eren laughed. "And cookies to exterminate the taste."

They all laughed, and Holger pounded him on the back.

"Eat with us tomorrow after roll call," Holger offered.

Griez said, "Yeah, stick with us, and I'll show you the really nice restaurants where officers go."

Oliver had a welcoming smile. "It'd be nice to have another lieutenant in our group."

"That sounds like fun," Eren said, happy to get to know more officers. "How long have you men been here?"

Griez scoffed. "I've been here since 1942."

Phil rolled his eyes. "Not again!"

Griez ignored him. "All the rest of these invaders to my territory arrived over the past two weeks, and I was forced to move into this hotel."

Daz grimaced and dramatically threw his hands up. "There he goes, thinking he's the King of Metz just because he's practically married to one of the locals."

Griez snapped, "Hey, we're gonna get married after the war. She already accepted my proposal."

"Sure, sure," the men laughed. "And that's why she took off on you."

"She left to the countryside for safety, dimwit!"

"How about you, Jäger?" asked Holger. "Do you have someone special?"

"Ah…" Eren looked down at the bag of food. "Well…"

Phil waved the picture of the sexy model. "Maybe you want a night with her and your hand."

The men roared in laughter.

Another set of footsteps came up from behind. "Jäger."

They turned and saw Ian Dietrich and Gunther Schultz just coming up the stairs.

"Oberleutnant," Eren greeted. "Men, this is Dietrich and Schultz. We served in the same company over the summer."

"Cheers," the men shouted.

Holger went right up to Gunther, already inviting him to go out drinking tomorrow, but Ian stepped up sternly to Eren.

"The company is having an assembly at 0800. Have your platoon ready."

"My platoon is going to be hungover," Eren said with an apologetic laugh.

Ian cracked a tiny smile. "Mine as well. However, at roll-call earlier, there were men missing."

"I noticed that. Milieus Müller is nowhere to be found," he said, thinking about how Levi had killed three soldiers for trying to rape women, including Milieus.

"Hauptmann Woermann wants to know if anyone saw anything, if they were lost, attacked, or ran away."

"Very well. My platoon shall be ready for inspection."

"Good. So, are you staying on this floor?"

"Ah," he said, looking around. "Yeah, it seems a bit lively."

"Indeed. I'll be in room 415 if anything happens." He glanced at the group as they burst into laughs. "Maybe try to convince these men to keep it quiet after hours."

Eren laughed. "I doubt the new guy has much authority. You outrank us, Herr Oberleutnant."

"True, but I don't want to have to pull rank on my first night here."

Ian Dietrich continued down the hall. Not wanting to be the poor sport who told others to keep it quiet, Eren merely excused himself, now that the group had Gunther to talk to, and he went into his room.

He locked the door behind him, leaned against it, and let out a sigh. The attack earlier had not hurt him, but it had shocked him. Luckily, he still had increased strength and energy from the Pervitin, otherwise he might have not acted fast enough. Not paying attention as he walked around Metz at night had been foolish of him, especially after Colt's warning. However, his head was full of new information, new places, new people, a whole new view on his Christian faith.

Everything was changing here in Metz, and it made him smile.

He threw off his peaked cap, took off his boots, and removed his uniform tunic. He wore only a drab cotton shirt underneath. Eren rubbed out his thigh. That long walk had felt good to clear his head, but his fast pivot during the fight yanked some stiff scabs on his leg, and it felt like it might be bleeding again. The Pervitin had numbed the pain for the past two days, but as it faded away, the sensations to the gash on his thigh came back.

First, he wanted to make sure Levi got dinner. He climbed up on the chair under the attic door, pushed it open as quietly as possible, and pulled himself up. No sooner had his head popped through the opening than a knife was at his throat, the blade sharp against his skin.

"Levi!" he whispered.

The knife pulled back. "Sorry. I wasn't taking chances."

Eren sighed, but he did not blame Levi for being cautious. "Here." He tossed the paper-wrapped food over.

Levi sheathed his knife, took the wrapped up food, but his hand suddenly yanked back. He sniffed a wet spot and looked up sharply at Eren.

"Blood? What the hell did you get me?"

"Blood? It should be a chicken sandwich." Then he thought. "The attack. I didn't know blood got on the food. I'm so sorry. I can buy you another."

"It's just a speck, and what attack?" he snapped.

"It's nothing. Some idiot thought he could mug me."

Levi shook his head. "Damn, not even one day in this city and you get yourself into trouble. Are you okay?"

"I wasn't injured at all, don't worry."

"If you say so," Levi muttered.

"Let me grab the drink."

Eren leaped back down and went to where he had placed the beer bottle. He checked it, and sure enough, there were tiny specks of blood on it as well. There was also a speck on his tunic and congealing blood on his gun. He would have to clean everything later. First, he wanted to make sure Levi got his food.

After wiping the bottle clean, he climbed back up into the attic with the beer. Levi was inspecting the paper-wrapped meal.

"That's a lot of food," he muttered. He sniffed the wrapped up sweet loaf. "Is this a cake?"

"Pfundkuchen. It's for breakfast, since I might not make it back here for a while. I have to get up early for an assembly." He decided not to mention that the subject of the meeting were the men who seemingly vanished without a trace.

Levi crawled quietly across the floor and over to a spot he had made for himself by a tiny window. As the clouds moved away from the moon, a beam of silver lit up the spot. Levi had pulled out two beaten leather chairs, a tiny table of richly carved mahogany that looked like it came from Napoleon's time, and with an ample amount of old duvets and quilts, he arranged a fairly comfortable bed that was hidden away, tucked inside a wall of boxes, so if anyone came up into the attic, they would not easily see Levi as he slept.

"This is nice," said Eren.

"For an attic," Levi grumbled. "At least I have it to myself. I can take a shit without fifteen other people watching me. Talking about shit, I could use a bucket or something while I'm here."

"I'll find you one." He saw the Tanakh on the small table. "Finally, I don't have to carry that around everywhere to protect it."

"I fetched it out of your bag," said Levi.

"You went back down for it?" Eren said in surprise. "How did you make it back up?"

Levi pointed toward the opening and a rope ladder now laid out on the ground. "I found that nearby. It looks handmade. The bedding was also already set up, although it was so dusty, I didn't dare use those blankets. Still, it's pretty obvious that someone lived up here."

"I wonder if it was another Jew," Eren mused. "Apparently, there's a lot of French Resistance activity in Metz."

"That's good to know," Levi muttered. "I'd rather not use them, but they may know escape routes."

Eren hummed, not liking the idea of getting involved with the Resistance again.

"For the record," Levi said in a quiet voice, "the fact that you got that room shows that you have the devil's luck. There are five openings to this attic. Two seem to be sealed, the third has a pile of boxes on top. So only your room and one other lead up to here. I'll see if I can block that other entrance tomorrow after everyone is gone."

"It's the Will of God," Eren muttered.

Levi glanced over sharply. "God?"

He shrugged, still thinking about the revelation in the cathedral. "I think God meant for this to happen. All of it. I think this is all destined, part of God's plan."

Levi thought back to the priest in Fischbach and what he had said. "I don't believe in luck. I believe in miracles, destiny, and the Will of God."

Eren sat in the chair next to Levi, across the fancy small table. His eyes drunk in Levi's moonlit features as he opened up the sandwich and carefully inspected it, making sure none of the blood soaked through. He still wore the stained, drab clothing he had all summer, but the flat cap added a little charm to him.

"It looks good."

Levi glared and slowly pulled the food closer to himself. "If you wanted some, you should have bought yourself a sandwich. This one's mine."

"No, no, I mean your hat. You're still wearing it. It looks good."

Levi shrugged off the compliment without even a tiny smile. "It's a bit big, but it keeps my head warm." He finally took a bite of the sandwich and hummed in surprise as he found it tasted pretty good. Then again, they were in a French city, and France had the best chefs in the world. "So, where did your clothes go, the ones you were wearing on our walk to Metz?"

"Oh. I guess they're in a bag; I'm not really sure. I haven't had a chance to unpack."

"It looked good on you. Far better than your normal distasteful get-up."

Eren pouted while privately wanting to laugh that Levi felt comfortable enough to insult a Wehrmacht uniform. He looked so smug saying it too, taking another bite and glaring across the way at Eren, as if daring him to argue back. Instead, they both ended up gazing at each other in the darkness, gray eyes and teal locked together, while Levi slowly chewed his bite.

Eren's eyes drifted down, watching the way Levi's lips made tiny, adorable puckers with each bite. As he swallowed, Eren watched the way Levi's throat moved.

How he would love to lick that throat!

His eyes snapped away, feeling ashamed to have let his thoughts drift to something like that. Across the table, Levi wondered what Eren must have imagined. He almost wished they had a candle to light up Eren's features so he could see that boyish blush, but he knew any light was dangerous.

Eren suddenly perked up. "Hey!"

"Quiet, idiot!" Levi hissed.

Eren dropped his voice back to a whisper. "You have that Jewish Bible there. Can you look up Leviticus?"

Levi's face drew a blank. "Leviticus? What the hell is a Leviticus?"

Eren's mouth dropped. "What do you mean? The Tanakh is the Jewish Bible, right? You would have the Book of Leviticus."

"Book?" Levi shook his head. "The names of our books are not always the same as the Latin Christians use. Like the very first one: you guys call it Genesis, we call it Bereshit." He gazed warily at Eren. "Why? What's in Leviticus?" he asked, biting into the sandwich.

Eren wondered if bringing up his discovery was appropriate, or if like Levi warned earlier, it was moving too fast. "I was wondering what the original Hebrew said about a certain scripture. I stopped by the cathedral earlier, and I discovered that there are many translations of the Bible. Some are very, very different from one another."

Levi scoffed and swallowed down his bite. "Christians keep translating it into dozens of languages; of course it's going to get fucked up. Even if you told me precisely where to look, I don't read Hebrew very well. I might be able to make out the words, but if it's something that can be translated many ways, I wouldn't know the subtleties of the language."

"Oh," Eren mumbled. "Well, there's a difference in Hebrew between man and boy, right?"

"Sure. There's adam, of course."

"Adam means man? You mean, God named the first man Man? That's like naming your cat Katze."

"I guess God wasn't good at naming his pets. Then there's ish, geber, enash, and for boy there's yalad, naar, bachar, or avil. There are different words, slightly different meanings, but like I said, I don't know the language well enough to grasp the subtleties."

"So, when the Bible uses the word boy, it definitely means someone who is young, right? But it could be translated many different ways into German."

Levi shrugged. "I would assume so. I don't know German, and I barely understand Hebrew."

Eren nodded in satisfaction. Of course, there would be a difference!

"Why?" asked Levi. "Are you worried about how God will punish a naughty little boy like you for all those dirty thoughts you have?"

Eren blurted out, "Do you really think of me as a boy?"

"Keep your voice down," Levi muttered. "This attic echoes. And you're a brat."

"But, do you think of me as a little boy? As a child?"

"You are a child."

"Then you don't see me as a man?"

Levi paused in his eating and eyed Eren curiously. "What is this about?"

Eren scooted a little closer, gazing intently at him. "Do you see me as a boy, or as a man?"

Levi was ready to insult him again, but he saw the seriousness in Eren's face. Whatever this was about, it weighed on the soldier's heart. With a sigh, he admitted, "I see you for what you are, an adult. Immature and naïve, maybe, but … you're a man."

Eren smiled, not sure why he felt relieved. Maybe because God only cursed men who slept with boys, and so if Levi saw him as a boy, perhaps God's curse would fall upon him. If he saw Eren as a man, then that was fine.

"What's going through that head of yours?" Levi whispered. He shrugged it off, letting Eren have his odd worries. "So, did you kill someone?"

"Huh?" Eren asked, caught off-guard.

"The blood on my sandwich. You said you were attacked. Did you kill him?"

"Oh. Yeah, they're dead."

"They? More than one? How many attacked you?"

"I don't know. Ten."

"Te-…" Levi's shout was instantly quieted down to a whispered hiss. "Ten! You killed ten men?"

"No, just two. The others ran off."

"What the bloody hell happened?"

Eren told him the story, and while he related the details of the attack, Levi ate his chicken sandwich. He had to admit, it was delicious food with a mustard that tingled his tongue. He ate up every crumb, although he was careful not to lick the paper that had wrapped it up, still seeing in the moonlight those droplets of congealed blood.

"So, you went to a church? I hope you confessed your sins, all the shit you did yesterday."

"I'm sorry about that, really. If there's any way to make us even."

Levi thought about it. "There is." He stood up. "Get on your knees."

Eren obeyed, figuring the least he could do was beg for forgiveness on his knees.

"Now, cover your mouth."

Eren raised an eyebrow. "My mouth?"

"Yes. Cover it, with both hands."

Eren was confused, but maybe this was a Jewish thing. He placed both hands in front of his mouth.

"Tighter. Press your hands against your lips."

He obeyed, pushing his hands to his mouth. Suddenly, Levi gave a swift kick to Eren's head. He let out a scream of pain, but with his hands covering his mouth, the yell was muted.

"You hit me over the head yesterday. Hard! Now we're even."

Eren rubbed out his head. "That seriously hurt."

"Then maybe next time, you won't hit me."

He scowled petulantly, but he accepted it as punishment. "Is that all? Anything else to make us equal again?"

"We've never been equal, takhshet. You're my captor. I'm your prisoner." He sat back by the window and took the beer bottle Eren bought for him. "Open this for me."

Eren was still rubbing out his head as he grabbed the bottle and lifted the metal lever on top that cracked open the seal. Then he handed it back to Levi.

"Is that how it works?" Levi muttered.

"Have you never had bottled beer?"

"This is France. We drink wine." He took a sip and grimaced. "Really, how can you drink something so bitter?"

"I'll bring you a bottle of wine next time."

"Just make sure I have water," he grumbled, still drinking, but making a face. "I'm going to have to rely on you. I hate that."

"I know," Eren said with a tiny smile.

"Don't look so happy about it," Levi muttered.

Eren shrugged. "I want to take care of you. I feel like I need to, like I deserve it as punishment."

"Oh? Is keeping me alive that much of a burden?"

"I don't mean that. It's just … you said, Abel's last words were for me to take care of you. I killed him, and that blood will always be on my hands. My punishment for that sin is to take care of you. I can keep you up here for a while, and I will bring you food, water, whatever you need."

Eren looked down at his right hand. There were still streaks of dried blood from the man who tried to mug him. Shooting a thief like that was easy; shooting an innocent man like Abel tortured his soul.

"It's the least I can do," he whispered, and his voice quavered. "His face still tortures me."

"Good," Levi grunted.

"I don't see how you can do it, slit someone's throat, take their life with your own hands, not in a battle but one-on-one, and then simply walk away."

"Practice," Levi grumbled into his bottle of beer.

Eren looked at the small man in front of him. "How many people have you killed?"

"Enough so I stopped counting before I was sixteen."

"That young?" Eren cried out.

"Quiet!" Levi sighed at Eren's forgetfulness. "After my mother died, I lived on the streets of Paris." He gazed out at the darkness, remembering those grimy early years. "I killed my fair share before it was my job to kill others. Slitting a throat, stabbing a back: it was how I got dinner."

Eren shook his head. "You had a rough life. You're strong."

"I had to be, or I would have died."

Eren's eyes landed on the Tanakh again. "So, talking about your mother, did she take you to church, or synagogue? I mean, she doesn't sound like the religious sort."

"What, just because she was a prostitute?"

Eren opened his mouth to protest, but that was precisely what he meant.

"You're right, my mother wasn't really religious—I've never even stepped foot in a synagogue nor had a bar mitzvah—but she would read from the Tanakh on holy days. She taught me Yiddish and the Hebrew alphabet, but she warned me to only speak French and never tell anyone that I was Jewish. Even back then, we were hated."

"How did she die?"

"La grippe espagnole."

"Die Spanische Grippe," Eren said to himself. The Spanish Flu. It was the reason he had no other relatives. They had all been killed in the Great War or died of influenza.

"I was raised by an uncle, who later abandoned me, so I learned how to survive on my own. All I have left of my childhood is my mother's Tanakh." He placed his hand on the worn cover of the book. "More than once, I sold this book to get money to buy food, only to return to the shop and steal it back."

Eren laughed at the cleverness. "How did you go from that to a soldier, and then a broom maker?"

"That was a long journey," he admitted. "I got off the streets by joining the military. I didn't just want to enlist, I wanted to escape, so I became an officer. I made a name for myself in French Cameroon, and shortly after that, I was approached about a job opportunity working with the Deuxième Bureau."

"I knew it," Eren cried out. "You actually were a spy!"

"Spy, assassin, whatever they needed me for. In 1929, my job brought me to England, working with the SIS."

"That's why you know British slang," Eren realized.

"It's why I learned English in the first place. I lived there off and on for eight years. It's a nice country overall, but it's cold, wet, and London was too crowded, filled with pollution and crime. It reminded me of all the worst of Paris."

"Are … Are you still a spy?" Eren asked, wondering if all of this, the whole summer, was a long game played by the Deuxième Bureau.

"If I was, I might have to kill you for asking." He was amused when Eren looked momentarily worried. "No, I got out of that years ago."

"You once told me, you liked being a soldier."

"Military life suited me. I could've made a lifelong career out of it."

"Then why leave?"

"I was bad at following orders," he muttered, although Levi knew that was not really the truth. "I wasn't given much of a choice after my last mission. I had been assigned to work with some SIS agent who took his job a little too seriously. We were sent to Poland, assassinate an ambassador, leave no witnesses, standard job. One of the maids had brought her daughter along, not even ten years old. She saw me slit her mother's throat. I grabbed her but … I couldn't do it," Levi whispered glaring as he remembered the scared face of that little girl who did not fully understand what was going on. "I let her go, but that SIS bastard wasn't about to go against his orders. He pulled his gun on her, I slit his throat, and then I helped the girl to a monastery. As the nuns took her in, I realized I was done with that life. Killing as a soldier, that's one thing. Even mugging people on the streets, that's just the brutality of survival, but that maid? Her only crime was getting a damn good job with the wrong old man. I quit before they had a chance to kick me out, and I escaped into the countryside before they could try to arrest me."

"Wouldn't they come after you?" Eren asked in concern.

"Hunt down France's best assassin?" Levi let out a scoffing laugh. "Only if they're idiots."

Eren had to chuckle, feeling a warm sense of pride as he gazed at Levi's profile in the moonlight. Levi really must have been the best, to be sent to work with other nations and travel all over Europe like that. "So, you ran away to the countryside? Didn't you want to stay in the city?"

"Fuck no. I hated Paris, plus I didn't want the SIS to do anything stupid. If I vanished into the countryside, they were less likely to send someone after me. I found a village that was barely on the map, and I had enough money to buy a little house. I don't know how I ended up a broom maker. I learned the trade somewhere, can't remember. The village I landed in lacked good brooms, so I made them. That's where I met a lovely young woman named Petra Ral."

"Your wife," Eren realized, interested to hear more, but also knowing this part of Levi's past would be hard to listen to.

Levi took a long drink of beer and gazed up at the moonlight, thinking back to those idyllic days. "She needed a broom for her mother. She kept coming back, not to buy brooms, but to see me. I didn't know how to act around a woman. We didn't meet many in the military or the Bureau, and living on the streets, the girls were as vicious as the boys. She was different, tough but refined, brave enough to talk to someone like me. It was … nice … flirting with a woman and it wasn't part of the job. God knows what she saw in me, but she kept coming back. We courted a bit, but she insisted, if I wanted to sleep with her, I had to marry her. So I did."

"You married her purely so you could sleep with her?" Eren asked, aghast at the reasoning.

"Also because I knew I would never get a woman as good as her. She was way too good for some former rat d'égout like me. Plus I didn't want her to end up like my mother: pregnant, outcast, alone. I wanted to take care of her, and I knew any children she had would be beautiful. She wasn't very religious, but her family was Catholic. With a name like Levi Ackerman, it was pretty clear that I was Jewish by heritage, and they hated me for that."

"You said before, your marriage was controversial."

"Of course it was. I was Jewish, and the French hated Jews even back then. They just weren't as kill-happy as the Germans."

Eren dropped his head, sad to hear that Levi faced that sort of hatred his whole life.

"So, that's how I settled into a quiet life, with a nice home, a modest job, and a beautiful wife. I figured we could raise our children to believe in some greater power without the annoyance of religion, and whatever they picked, Jew or Catholic or nothing at all, it was fine by me. For some reason, Petra became interested in Jewish culture, far more than I was. She loved hearing me speak in Yiddish, something I hadn't done much since I was a child. She kept inviting other Jews over for dinner, saying I needed to make more friends." Levi rolled his eyes at that idea, but Eren chuckled quietly.

"She sounds like a good woman."

"She was," Levi said with a distant, fond glow in his eyes. "Those first two years—"

His throat clenched as sour bile shot up from his stomach at memories so beautiful, they burned like acid now. He swallowed it down with a gulp of beer. It took him a moment, looking up at the moonlight, struggling to push past the pain and keep talking.

"She wanted a family, I was more than happy to oblige, but on the first pregnancy, she lost the baby. Ironically, that was in September 1939, just a week after we heard the news about Germany invading Poland. She needed some time—the miscarriage really hit her hard—then a few months later, Germany invaded France. We thought the war would bypass us, no armies came to our village, we were small, and even as France fell and signed the armistice, we figured it wouldn't bother us. Until we found out … one of the stipulations of the armistice was that France had to hand over records on all of its Jews to the Nazis. They knew I existed, but they didn't know where I went. That is, until Petra's parents turned me in."

Eren's mouth dropped.

"Yeah, they really didn't like me. I had to leave. I told Petra to stay there. Hell, I feared her parents would hunt me down themselves if I took her with me. She insisted on coming."

"She was loyal," Eren said, glad to hear that Levi had someone like that in his life.

"To a fault. We managed to hide, going place to place, trying to figure out how the hell we could escape. Then once, we had been living in a basement for about a month, and she went to buy food, since she had all the proper paperwork to prove her heritage. The Gestapo came while she was gone; me and the family who took us in were arrested. Even as they handcuffed me, I was just glad that she wasn't around."

Eren remembered when they first met, Levi said, Don't think you're the first German soldier to capture me. You probably won't be the last, either.

"We were taken to an internment camp where the Gestapo had rounded up thousands of Jews. They were preparing to throw us onto a train, probably to our deaths. Then Petra showed up, flirting with the guards—God, she was so gorgeous, they were falling over each other for her! Somehow, she convinced them that I wasn't a Jew at all, but her retarded little brother. I played along, she began to cry, they all tripped over themselves for her, and she got me out of there just as the train pulled in."

"That was brave of her," Eren whispered.

"She was always brave," Levi said proudly, but his eyes grew sad. "I was impressed. When I worked with the Deuxième Bureau, there were times when I had to act a part."

Eren recalled when Levi acted like a French shepherd in front of American soldiers, thoroughly convincing them to the point where they even showed him where their troops were so his "bah-bah black sheep" would not get spooked. It had been a shocking performance out of the normally stoic man.

"Seeing her act, though? The world is lucky she was never a spy. No man could resist her … and neither could I after that." His throat choked again, and Levi shook his head. "I loved her even more because she came back for me, and … we…"

He struggled, and Eren saw a stinging pain in his face. He reached over in concern and put a hand on Levi's arm, letting him know he was there for him.

"While we were on the run, we rarely made love. I was too scared, not just to make noise, but to get her pregnant and what that might mean for us. On that day, because she had to travel into the city, we got a hotel for a week, and … well, that's when she got pregnant again. I begged her to go back to her parents where it was safe, but … as I said, she was brave. She stayed with me, and I was both happy and terrified. As she got larger, I knew we had to do something. We couldn't keep living in basements and closets with a baby. We found a group who were smuggling Jews out, they promised us safe passage, but before we could reach Switzerland, the whole group was caught. If she had not been pregnant, they likely would have let her live, but because she was pregnant with the baby of a Jew … with my baby…" He sneered and his eyes darkened.

"You told me," Eren whispered in grief. That must have ripped Levi's heart apart, surviving for so long, worrying so much, thinking he was on his way to freedom, only for the very worst to happen, to have his wife killed and his unborn child mutilated in front of his face.

"I used to think, it was like I killed her. If she hadn't been pregnant, she would have been just another one of the women."

"It wasn't your fault," Eren said immediately.

"I know, but it felt like it was. If I hadn't gotten her pregnant, if I had never married her in the first place, never flirted with her, never talked to her, just sold her the damn broom and chased her away … fuck it all, it felt like it was my fault," he sneered, and Eren heard the emotions tightening his throat. "So when they sterilized me, I didn't care. At least I would never damn another woman." His head dropped and he rubbed his eyes as if merely frustrated; Eren was pretty sure he was wiping aside tears. "I admit, I sometimes wonder if that's why I'm okay with … this. With you."

"Because I can't get pregnant?" Eren asked with a slight frown.

"Not that it made me want men, but … but more like, I'd never want a woman after that. No woman could ever compare to her. So if I'm going to fall for someone…" He left the thought hanging. "That's shitty of me, isn't it?"

Eren shrugged, unsure what he felt about that. Sure, this was a deep emotional trauma that Levi still had nightmares about, and he would probably always grieve for the woman he loved, but Eren also did not want to feel like he was merely some alternative.

"Not that I've fallen for you," Levi quickly clarified. "I'm still figuring this out, so don't think that yet."

That persistent contrariness made Eren want to chuckle.

"Anyway, that was my married life. Petra was brave, brilliant, and way too good for a man like me. The only stupid thing she ever did was stay by my side."

"You're a lucky man."

"No. I'm a cursed man. So many people I've known, killed right in front of me."

Eren flinched as the scene with Abel flashed through his mind.

"Her death changed everything. How dare they kill her for a religion she wasn't a part of and I didn't even care about! Purely to spit in Hitler's face, I became interested in religion for the first time in my life. I met a rabbi along the way who taught me how to read Hebrew, and I began to read my mother's Tanakh. Any Jews I met along the way, I begged them to teach me the prayers and chants, and I memorized the holy words. Some of my companions were impressed with my studies and urged me to become a rabbi after this is all over, but no. Fuck no! I'm beyond that level of redemption. The guilt in my heart weighs heavier with each death, and my hatred for those who murdered Petra will never soothe away, no matter how much religious solace I slather on."

Eren squeezed Levi's hand. "What would you like to do after this is all over? Go back to making brooms?"

"No. Factories make them cheaper now, and soon there will be no broom makers anymore. I have a dream, though. Petra and I would talk about it, but she felt it was silly. It probably was, in such a small village, but maybe it would work in a big city like New York."

Eren eagerly wanted to talk about their dreams of the future rather than the horrors of the past. "What is it?"

Levi grumbled, "Why should I tell you?"

"Because I want to know."

"You'll laugh like she did."

"Come on, tell me, tell me."

"Idiot," he sighed. "Fine. I like to drink tea. When I worked in England, I picked it up, and I really enjoyed it. France may have the best wines in the world, but we have shitty tea. So I would like to open a tea shop."

That shocked Eren. A picture popped into his head, maybe from a movie he saw, of a man in a tuxedo pouring tea for a duchess. "I honestly can't imagine you serving tea."

"I'll brew you a cup one day. Until then, shut your mouth."

"I didn't say anything."

"You implied plenty with that remark." Levi tipped back the beer bottle and finished it off. "The sandwich was good, the beer was shitty."

"Did you try the cookies?"

"Cookies?" Levi cried out. He then saw the bag set aside. "You brought me cookies?"

"I thought they might cheer you up. It seems you need it," he muttered.

Levi opened the small bag and pulled out a large, thick cookie, pulling it into the stream of moonlight. He stared at the cookie for a long time.

"Is that okay?" Eren asked, wondering why he was only staring.

"I haven't had a cookie since … since Petra." An anguished smile flickered on his face and vanished. "She made cookies all the time. I got a bit sick of them. She was horrible at it too. They always had too much salt, or they'd be burnt on the bottom."

He shook his head to chase away those thoughts of the past and, with determination, bit into the cookie. Eren watched eagerly, hoping to see a genuine smile. Instead, Levi stared forward, not swallowing yet.

"Is it okay?" Eren asked in anticipation.

After a moment, Levi kept chewing and finally gulped it down. "It's good," he whispered with a tense throat. He took another bite and chewed. "Real good."

Eren saw that this was also painful, and maybe Levi needed a night to reflect, remember, mourn, and simply be on his own for once. He stood and straightened his clothes.

"I have to wake up early. Do you need to use the toilet before we close up for the night?"

Levi set the cookie down. "Yeah, that's a good idea."

Eren gathered up the trash and empty bottle. "I'll get you a cup of water to wash the cookie down."

They were cautious crawling back to the attic opening. Levi took the rope ladder and swung it over hooks in the floor that held it in place. Then Eren climbed down, and Levi came after him. He headed to the bathroom, and Eren searched through his bags. He found his cooking gear, which included a metal cup for coffee and soup. After Levi came out of the bathroom, Eren filled his metal cup with water from the sink and handed it to Levi.

"If you need anything more, let me know."

"As I said, I'll eventually need a bucket. I can't always go down into your room. Even now, it is dangerous. If you have someone in your room and I really have to go, I don't want to shit in the corner."

"I'll find something."

They both paused, Eren unwilling to say goodnight, and Levi dreading spending a night alone with the demons that haunted his dreams. Slowly, Eren reached forward, tenderly taking Levi's hand.

Levi looked down at the hesitant touch. Without his uniform, this was just Eren again. He stretched his fingers out, and they interlaced with that warm, rough hand. He glanced up and saw the relieved warmth in Eren's face. Every action was nervous again. That horny, bluntly honest version was gone, faded with the drugs.

Levi rather liked this version of Eren. He seemed more innocent this way, although Levi knew now that Eren's private desires ran deeper than just holding hands.

"May I kiss you goodnight?"

Levi's eyes turned sharply to the door.

"It's locked," Eren assured him. "No one will see."

He still had to think about it, but he looked up with a very faint softness in his eyes.

"You may," he whispered.

Eren could barely help but break into a smile, only to struggle reigning it in. He leaned in, and Levi closed his eyes as he tipped up his head in anticipation. He felt a warm breath still sweet from a night of drinking, and lips softly pressed against his.

Eren gave him a brief peck on the lips and immediately pulled back. Levi's head remained there, lips waiting, expecting more. When he opened his eyes, he saw that Eren had already pulled away. Eren smiled at seeing Levi looking slightly disappointed.

"Is that considered not moving fast?" he asked in amusement.

Levi snapped out of his perplexed look and forced a scowl into its place. "You still need to practice kissing."

"Oh? Is that an offer?" Eren asked playfully.

"Maybe it is," Levi whispered with a glint in his eyes.

That surprised and delighted Eren. His hand began to reach forward, but Levi turned sharply. He grabbed up the metal cup of water as he strode back to the rope ladder.


"Wh-What?" Eren cried out, just as he had begun to hope that Levi wanted to kiss more.

Not looking back around so he would not show Eren his haughty smirk, Levi climbed into the attic, pulled the ladder up, and closed the hatch.

Eren let out a sputtering sigh of frustration, but he had to smile. He would get to banter like this with Levi every evening … at least until he was forced to leave.

Up in the attic, Levi chuckled silently to himself. Such a brat! He crept over the attic floorboards, cautious not to let any creak, and made it back to the small window. The cookies were still there wrapped in paper, and the sweet cake loaf. As nice as it would be to eat all of this now, he had to conserve whatever he could, just in case Eren could not bring him food. At least in the dungeon, he was guaranteed two bowls of soup a day. He had no such assurances here.

Still, one cookie had two bites in it, so he figured he might as well eat that one now. He took another bite, still surprised by the taste.

Petra's cookies never turned out this good, but the fact that her cooking was so bad made the food memorable. He would never taste anything quite like her salty, half-burned cookies that had the occasional strand of auburn hair baked into them.

Petra's cookies had been salty, just as the memory of her was like salt in a wound, yet they had been memorable for how horrible they were, just as their brief and troubled romance was memorable for the passion and the atrocities. Eren's cookies were sweet and soft, just as the thought of him was sweet, and the warmth of his kisses softened Levi's frozen heart.

Both were good cookies in their own ways.

Tears stung his eyes as he used a scrap of linen to tie up the cake and other cookies. He took another bite, and his throat trembled at the tension he needed to hold back his sobs. When he was around other Jews, he had felt the continuous need to be strong, to be the emotionally cold, calculating soldier, ready to fight to protect others, and never allowed to be the grieving widow. Now, all of that was gone, there was no one to act brave for, just him alone in this massive attic.

Yet a new thing restricted his grief: the immense danger there was in his predicament. He could not openly sob, lest someone hear him.

He had been sloppy, talking to Eren for so long up here. He was not sure how much sound traveled between the attic and the rooms below. He had tried to whisper the whole time, but it was still careless. Once he started talking about Petra, though…

He had barely let himself think about her, let alone talk about the happy days he had with her, in the two years since her death. He felt Eren deserved to know what she meant to him, how much he had loved her, how much he deeply missed her. Not just anybody deserved to be told such private, precious memories, but Eren…

In a way, Levi felt like Eren was trying to replace her in his heart, so he deserved to know, that could never happen. Nobody could replace her!

His rational side knew that was not Eren's intent; it was just his own lack of confidence when it came to emotions. Letting himself be this happy felt like he was betraying Petra's memory. Being happy hurt, so he had to push Eren away; yet not having Eren near him hurt just as much.

Even now, he knew he could slip back down into that hotel room, and Eren would happily hold him through the night. It was a warm, tempting thought, and he also knew it was far too dangerous.

Just the fact that he was so tempted told Levi that something was changing in his heart.

Telling Eren about Petra, rather than shoving him away, made him feel even closer to the young man. Eren was now the only other person to know how precious she had been, and how painful her death was to Levi. He had never told a soul about those details. This was now a secret shared between only him and Eren.

He took another bite of cookie and stared up at the waning crescent moon. Was this God's Will? Was it Petra who sent Eren into his life, so he could be loved again, so he could face the pain he hid from, grieve her loss, and have a chance to move on?

As a silent tear slid down his cheek, he only knew he was glad he could finally cry for the woman he had loved, and he could share that grief with someone who was just as willing—and stubborn—to stay by his side against all odds.

# # #

# #


I got a lovely piece of fan art from Yaoi-Lover-Bro of Eren and Levi on the walk to Metz. If you look closely, Eren has blood on his left leg from getting shot by Americans, but he still has a smile on his face, so happy to be alone with Levi... and doped AF on meth, haha! The suspenders are kinda hot, no? By total coincidence, I have a flat cap in the exact same style and color as Levi’s in this picture. It got packed away when I moved off the farm; I gotta find it and pull it out. It’s such an amazing feeling, being able to inspire talented artists. - https://yaoi-lover-bro.tumblr.com/post/638810991357984768

We get to see more characters in Metz. First was Floch, Colt, Gabi, and Falco, now a bunch of Jaegerists. We'll see more of this group in the upcoming chapters. If you only watch the anime, you will meet these guys soon. Since many of the Jaegerists have no dialogue and thus no personality to speak of, I took some liberties. Holger is the bouncy outgoing guy in the group, Surma is the intellectual, Phil and Daz are the chronic worriers with bad cases of PTSD, Samuel has a paranoid fear that if he does not follow the rules the Gestapo will get him, Wim is the silent muscle who is probably writing love poetry to his wife, Oliver is a family man and the oldest of the group, and Griez… well, he's still a racist asshole.

Beer Bottles – Prior to the invention of the crown cap (what you probably imagine when you think of a beer bottle cap) there was the flip-top, also called swing-top, de beugel, or "Grolsch" style top. A plastic or ceramic stopper was held in place by wires, and this meant they could be refilled and sealed again. These continued to be popular in Europe into the 1950s and are still sometimes found.

Leviticus – The books of the Tanakh are not named the same as the Christian Bible. For example, the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are called Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bamidbar, and Devarim, all taken from the incipit, the first line in the books. So Levi knows Vayikra, but does not know the word "Leviticus" which is Latin, meaning "of the tribe of Levi." Vayikra, וַיִּקְרָא or Way-yiq-rā, "And He Called" is the first word of the text.

ויקרא = way-yiq-rā = And He [implying God] called
אל־ = 'el- = to
משה = mō-šeh = Moses

The Deuxième Bureau (dew-zem bew-roh, or "Second Bureau") was France's external military intelligence agency, in charge of counter-espionage, surveillance, cryptography, propaganda, and intelligence. It's been mentioned a few times that Levi worked for them, but he never told Eren this, since if the Germans knew he had been a spy, he would have been shot on the spot. His nightmares of people shouting at him in many languages were from his days working with them, assassinating political targets all over Europe and French colonies in Africa. This is also why the French Resistance wanted to recruit him.

Levi’s dream of opening a tea shop actually comes from a 2014 interview with Isayama, where apparently Levi’s hobby was collecting tea (plain, he doesn’t have the budget for cream or sugar) and he once dreamed of opening a black tea shop. Even the journalist could not picture Levi going from a hero flying around killing titans to serving tea inside the Walls.

Spanish Flu – In my story, Levi's mother was a victim of the second-most deadly pandemic in human history. The first case of the H1N1 virus was in early March 1918, in an army camp in Kansas, USA. As American soldiers traveled in preparation to join the war effort (fashionably late) the flu went with them. By the end of March, it was in New York. By April, it had spread to French troops on the Western Front, and at one point more than half of the British forces had come down with the flu. By May, it was in Germany, Poland, and Ukraine. By June, it had reached China.

The 1918 outbreak was named "the Spanish Flu" because Spain was neutral in the war, and thus was the only country to honestly report about it. The warring nations feared that reporting about the virus would lower troop morale, and admitting just how bad it was hitting their forces might be used as an advantage by the enemy. It was not until after the war that countries admitted, some of their "casualties" were deadly cases of the flu.

As the war ended and soldiers went back to their homes, they brought the flu with them. While the first wave in the spring of 1918 was mild, it was the second wave in October that ravaged the world. With soldiers returning home and Armistice Parades bringing hundreds of thousands of spectators, cases of the Spanish Flu surged. A single parade in Philadelphia, USA, caused a super-spreader event that led to 12,000 deaths.

Masks became mandatory in some cities, quarantines were established, police cracked down on nonessential gatherings, and some major cities declared curfews and mandatory stay-at-home orders. (Sounds familiar?) A third wave hit in January 1919, which caused far fewer deaths, as hospitals were now better equipped to handle severe cases. After a fourth wave in 1920, the pandemic was considered to be over. All told, the death toll is estimated to have been somewhere between 17 million and 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million. Strains of the H1N1 virus are still very much alive today, like the 1977 Russian Flu and the 2009 Swine Flu.

Wear A Mask!

(Levi's orders!)

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