Dangerous Territory

BY : Rhov
Category: +. to F > Attack on Titan /Shingeki No Kyojin
Dragon prints: 2485
Disclaimer: I do not own “Shingeki no Kyojin” and do not make money from this fanfic.

Chapter 37

What Does He See

 

Eren called Levi back down, and with wine and four sandwiches, they had plenty to eat as they talked idly. Eren told him about challenges he faced in Napola as a child, including a mock battle where one of his classmates was killed, and Levi told him about some of his “jobs” as a spy. Once they were done, Eren pushed the cart out into the hallway, locked the door, and they relaxed together in bed.

Levi stared up at the ceiling, feeling the soft pillow under his head and Eren’s warmth radiating beside him. Eren’s fingers occasionally touched him, just soft caresses to his arm, or reaching up to touch his hair, like he needed to feel Levi’s body to convince himself he really was there. As for Levi, those touches kept him in the moment, as opposed to sinking into dark memories. It was almost like, every time a painful memory came up, Eren was right there to ease him out of the past.

“This feels weird,” Levi muttered.

Eren’s fingers had been caressing his arm, and they pulled away suddenly. “Weird?”

“Not you,” he said. “I like that.”

Eren smiled and kept softly feeling along Levi’s wrist and forearm.

“I mean, resting. Just sitting in bed, nothing to do, and … actually relaxing. I got that week off after … after that time.” Eren suddenly grabbed his wrist, as if to keep him in the present and not slip off into the past. Levi patted Eren’s hand to assure him he was okay. “But that wasn’t really relaxing. The bed was awful, it stank of Moses, I hurt everywhere the whole time, and it was nightmare after nightmare. It was torture more than anything. Being able to work and not think about it might have been more merciful.”

Eren’s gaze lowered. “I’m sorry, that was my idea.”

“No, I needed to recover, but … I just mean, it wasn’t relaxing to sit in bed back then.” He rested his head against Eren’s shoulder and closed his eyes. “This is better.”

Eren sighed softly and kissed Levi’s forehead. It really was a rare opportunity, to see Levi at rest, all defenses dropped. No scowl, no grimace, no deathly coldness in his eyes. His lips were not exactly in a smile, but the lack of a frown was just as good as a smile to Eren.

Then, to shatter that almost-smile, a pinch tightened between his eyebrows. Levi muttered with wistful sadness, “I wish it could last.”

Eren glanced aside, also wanting that. Yet the reality was that this city would be a war zone any day now. Armin predicted two weeks, but the tides of war could change rapidly. They had to get Levi out of there before the bombs began to fall.

And when that started, there was no guarantee that Eren would make it out of the battle alive.

These few moments of peace might be their last.

Determination filled Eren’s eyes, and he sat up in bed. Levi frowned in displeasure at having Eren’s shoulder taken away, but he saw the seriousness in his gaze.

“Armin asked something,” Eren began, “and it made me realize, I’ve never been clear on certain things. I’ve never said it directly, and I need to while I still can.” He took both of Levi’s hands, gripped them tightly, and looked right into his eyes. “Levi … I love you.”

Levi looked confused for a moment, then stunned as he realized Eren really just said that, then he looked like he wanted to laugh it off, yet as he saw the seriousness in Eren’s eyes, that feeling changed to fear. Levi sat up in a rush as a tiny gasp escaped and his heart pounded heavily in his chest.

“You … love?”

He wanted Eren to laugh and say it was a joke, but instead he had a diffident smile, so hopeful but nervous, with eyes that were warm, gentle, and far too innocent. Levi began to shake his head. A deep tremor started from his chest and spread out to his limbs. He suddenly yanked his hands free and rose to his feet. He felt like he was choking as he backed away, like he had seen a landmine and feared triggering it.

“Levi?” Eren asked in concern.

Levi snapped, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

That harsh reaction stunned Eren. “What? Of course I do.”

Levi still shook his head stubbornly. “You’re too young to know what love is.”

“I’m nineteen. Many of the other lieutenants are married. Wim and Oliver have children.”

Levi spun away. His neck hurt from how tight it was, like a ghostly hand was crushing his throat, cutting off his air. He needed to breathe, but he feared it would be a scream. Suddenly, the clenching invisible fingers released, and a deep, shaking gulp of air gasped into his lungs. Levi hugged himself as he walked to the window, needing to see outside, to see reality, not the horrors plaguing his mind.

Eren watched, worried by the reaction. He had expected blushing, maybe a coy refusal with Levi’s typical insults to hide his feelings. Not that look of utter horror.

“Levi?” he whispered again.

“You’re just a little brat,” he snapped quietly. “You don’t know…” His throat clenched again, and his fist went to his mouth to hold back something: screams, vomit, he was not sure, he just knew he could not let it out. It was dangerous, whatever it was, and he had kept it buried for so long.

“I know my own heart.” Eren paused and dropped his gaze. Maybe this was another case of—what did Levi call it?—moving too fast. “You don’t have to love me back. I don’t want you to think I’m forcing you to feel anything more than you do already. That much is enough. I just wanted to finally say it.” He glanced up, smiling wistfully, but Levi still stared out the window. “Levi?”

“You’re mistaken,” he stated, suddenly sounding cold, finding solace in emptiness. “It’s not love. That’s a mistake. You’re not in love with me.”

“But I am,” Eren said, confused by Levi’s words.

“No. You have some warm feeling in your dick and you think you’re in love. Well, you’re not.”

“What? No!” he cried out. “It’s more than that.”

“You’re a hopeless idiot. You’re too young.” His brow furrowed deeply as he glared at this French city infested with Nazis, with red banners containing the swastika hanging from buildings everywhere, dripping like blood. His teeth clenched in rage, fear, regret, and grief. “You’re … too young,” he whispered again.

Too young, like Petra was too young, only now Eren was even younger. Nineteen! He had barely started life!

For Eren, this was worse than a rejection; it was a denial of his feelings, and it pissed him off. He rose from the bed, stomped up to Levi, grabbed him, and spun him back around, away from the window. When Levi made to break free, Eren pinned him to the wall and slammed his hand by his head, forcing him to stay there and hear him out.

“I said, I know my own heart,” he declared, keeping his voice soft, but that made it sound far more dark and dire. “You don’t get to decide how I feel. You don’t have to feel the same, just don’t tell me I’m mistaken. Don’t tell me I’m stupid, or too young. Don’t…” He sneered to hold back the anguish. “Don’t tell me I’m not in love.”

Levi still shook his head, feeling a deep tremor through his whole body. Softly, in a whisper filled with grief and fear, he warned, “Loving me will get you killed.”

Being me will get me killed,” Eren countered. “At the very least, if I’m going to die, I would rather tell you how I feel first.” His anger softened, and he combed his fingers through Levi’s hair, wishing he knew how to brush away all of that fear in his eyes that had such dark circles under them. “I know my heart,” he whispered tenderly, “and I know … Ich liebe dich. Wahnsinnig, hoffnungslos, völlig verliebt. I’ve fallen madly, hopelessly, completely in love with you.”

Levi stared, not wanting to believe it, not wanting it to be true. If Eren really was in love

Ich liebe dich von ganzem Herzen.

“What … What does that mean?” Levi asked in a tentative whisper.

Eren smiled with a blush on his cheeks. “I love you with my whole heart.”

Levi shook his head. “You can’t.”

“I can, and I do.” Eren leaned in close to his lips but hesitated just before they touched. “May I kiss you?”

“You always ask,” Levi pointed out.

“I’m always worried you’ll tell me no.”

Levi let out a huff, but he could not be frustrated about Eren’s worries, not when he had to think the matter over every single time. Yet over the past week, he had come to realize something.

Each time they kissed, it became less bizarre and more relaxing. He looked forward to their chances to kiss.

“You may.”

The kiss was gentle, full of warmth and life and dreams of happiness. That was what scared Levi. Eren was far too good and pure. He deserved a long life, being a source of joy to all around him. He deserved a family. If he did not want a woman in his life, at least he could adopt. He deserved to raise children with that sunny smile of his and pat them on the head as he sent them to school, dreams of happiness he had once … with Petra.

Levi suddenly pulled aside, dropping his head as something broke in him.

Was he fearful for Eren, or himself? Both?

Eren was not forceful, but he was determined to get his feelings across. He reached forward and touched Levi’s cheek. Gray-blue eyes turned up, not the snarky coldness Eren had grown to love; something fragile hid in that gaze. Eren barely wanted to move, lest he break Levi.

It looked like Levi was trying to talk. His throat tensed, his lips pressed together, but emotions held him back. He gulped hard and managed only a thin whisper.

“You don’t deserve this.”

Eren’s heart broke at the buried fear in those words. “It’s what I am, and it’s the world we’re in.”

Levi still shook his head, slipping away into grief. Petra did not deserve to die. She wasn’t even Jewish, and they murdered her because she fell in love with a Jew. Now Eren as well. To Levi, it felt like every person who fell in love with him risked death.

He was poisonous to love!

“Levi,” Eren whispered. “This is all I want. You,” he said, cupping Levi’s cheek. “This.” He kissed Levi’s brow. “I think I deserve happiness. Do you think I don’t?”

He grumbled, “That’s not a fair question.”

Eren leaned in close again. “Then just let me be happy. Only if you’re happy too.”

Eren wanted it to be Levi who made the choice, so he paused there, leaning over to reach his lips, his body ready to smother the small man, but it was all on halt.

Levi waited for the kiss, but he saw that Eren was forcing him to make the move. What a brat! Levi was still unsure about this, but how was it different from five minutes ago, before Eren said those words?

“Tell me again,” he breathed. He needed to hear it, to accept it, and at least not disgrace those pure feelings with his dark fear.

Eren leaned in even closer until his lips fluttered over Levi’s and whispered, “I love you.”

Three words he feared. Three words he craved.

Levi grabbed the back of Eren’s scalp and pulled his head in closer, crashing their lips together with aggression Eren had not expected. His eyes widened in a moment of shock. Once again, he anticipated one emotion from Levi and got another.

Not that he minded this time!

Eren immediately pressed up closer, opened his mouth, and felt Levi plunge in right away. One arm rested on the wall to hold him up while the other hand caressed Levi’s face, tilting his chin up. To his delight, he felt Levi’s arms wrap around him, clutching at the gray undershirt, nails digging into Eren’s back.

Then suddenly, Levi’s mouth broke away. He spun Eren around, pushed him up against the wall now, and attacked Eren’s throat. Eren gasped at the feel of those wet lips nipping, sucking down his Adam’s apple, along the side, and down toward his collar. A soft but shuddering moan breathed out his mouth, knowing he needed to keep quiet but unable to hold back.

Eren grabbed Levi, and they spun again, wrestling as they both craved more. Eren pinning Levi right into the wall with a thrust of his hips as a throb pulsed through him.

“Shit, Eren,” he hissed in pleasure.

Who made the next move, they weren’t even sure. It was like they both knew what came next and silently acted as one. They pulled away from the wall, not letting go of one another, and stumbled over to the bed. Levi pushed Eren down first, but Eren grabbed him and spun him in a strong-armed roll, putting Levi’s head up by the pillows and climbing on top.

He wanted to try kissing like that now!

He kissed Levi’s throat, trying to mimic what he had just felt. He nibbled all the way up to his earlobe, and then down until his lips met the collar of the blue shirt. His blue shirt!

If it was his shirt, then he could remove it, right?

He flicked the first button, just so he could go lower down on Levi’s neck, but that wasn’t enough. He unbuttoned another and nibbled down toward Levi’s collarbone, all the while hearing Levi’s breathing getting harder and feeling fingernails scratching into his back.

Still not enough!

He kept fumbling with the buttons, listening to Levi’s rapid breathing, trying so hard to keep quiet. He kissed all over Levi’s body with frantic madness, like a deep hunger awakened by the tiniest taste of savory food.

Eren pulled up, flushed, lips wet, and saw the shirt completely unbuttoned and spread apart. He gazed at Levi’s exposed torso. He was so painfully handsome. Eren touched his pale chest reverently, like touching the statue of a Greek god.

Levi’s eyes opened at the pause in kisses and gazed up. Once again, a kiss with Eren always turned into more, and the young man was a quick learner. What was he thinking about now, though? Levi had allowed him to undo his shirt, remembering when he had helped to take off Eren’s shirt at the Reeves’ house. It was only fair to let him try the same thing. But … now what? Those teal eyes were filled with so many silent thoughts. Levi wished he knew just a few of them.

Eren suddenly pulled his cotton undershirt over his head and threw it aside. Levi gazed at the defined muscles built up after years of hard physical training and months of battle. Levi had never been sexually attracted to a man before, but he had at the very least an aesthetic appreciation of strong men. There was something about it that made him respect the man right away. He could still hate a person, but also respect that they worked on strength and spent time to build up muscles to be a better fighter.

That aesthetic appreciation was different this time. More than just admiring from afar, Levi wanted to touch. His hand reached up instinctively, but he pulled back, worried if this was too much. Eren reached forward, took his hand, and brought it to his chest, urging him to feel.

Maybe that was all he needed: someone who wanted him.

Levi’s hand slid up Eren’s chest, across his smooth pectorals, over to his shoulder, and down his muscular arm. He had touched him like this at the Reeves’ house, but it had been dark. Now, it was the middle of the day, sunlight poured in, and he could see every detail. There was a thrilling danger to this, but Levi was never one to shy away from peril.

Eren leaned over him again, caging him in, and their lips met. Only now, their bare chests pressed against each other. Levi could feel Eren’s heat right on him, and as his hands slid around to Eren’s back, all was bare, free to touch: smooth skin, sinewy muscles, roughened scars, all of it.

Eren’s kisses grew more aggressive. He kept pressing his body down, sliding along Levi’s bare torso, and then pulling up to feel the lingering heat, only to push down again, an undulation of his body rocking against Levi. Then he dove down and kissed his collar, neck, and chest. He wanted to kiss and venerate everything, each mole and scar and chest hair and … all of it!

Yet when he kissed Levi’s nipple, he heard a gasp, and Levi flinched away. Eren pulled up, worried if that was bad. He had heard from Jean—who loved to boast about his nights with women—that nipples were especially sensitive, but maybe it was different with men.

Then again, by the blush on Levi’s face, maybe it was not all that different. It was just too much. Eren could feel down below where their hips were pressed up against one another, it had definitely stirred something.

Eren chuckled. “A weakness.”

Levi stared. That was familiar … ah yes, he had said those same words at the Reeves’ house, and basically in the same spot for Eren. Levi smirked arrogantly and replied with the same words Eren had said back then. “Do you want to conquer me?”

Only this time, Eren leaned down and whispered right against his lips. “Yes!”

“Ah, but I already know your weakness.” Levi reached up and softly pinched Eren’s nipple.

Eren's whole body arched up, and the moan from him was far too loud. They both blushed at how erotic it sounded. Levi bit his lip, seriously wanting to tease Eren there more, but if his response was that loud, maybe it was not a good idea.

Eren saw Levi pull his hand back, so he teased, “Are you retreating?”

“I believe it would be a Pyrrhic victory.”

“Pyr- … oh! Pyrrhussieg.” He chuckled and lowered back down to Levi’s neck. “Well, if you won’t take to the battlefield, I will.” He latched onto Levi’s throat and heard a sharp hiss, while Levi’s fingers clutched desperately into him.

He kissed down Levi’s body, slower this time, keeping his gaze up at Levi’s face as he planted gentle pecks down the center of his chest, to his stomach, leaving small kisses all the way down. He listened to the deep breathes, airy-soft moans, trying to find more good spots, but when he reached the belt, he knew that any lower was forbidden for now.

He moved back up to the chest, kissing around, avoiding the nipples for the moment, just relishing the reactions from Levi. He went back up to his neck, and as he nipped the edge of Levi’s throat, a small but distinct moan rang out, only for Levi to slap a hand over his mouth.

Another weakness!

How Eren wanted to hear more!

That hardness growing down below especially intrigued him, and he tried to rub up and down it, small movements with his hips, not full rutting but just cautious gliding. He did not want to scare Levi away, but Eren desperately needed some friction for himself. While kissing Levi’s throat, he stroked his hand down the length of his torso, all the way to the belt. That seemed to be fine. So he reached down lower, between their bodies, and started to rub up from the thighs.

At that, Levi jolted away, almost trying to pull into a ball, but he was stuck under Eren’s body.

Pas mes jambes. My legs are sensitive,” he said in a soft warning.

“Sorry,” whispered Eren. His hand went back up, threading his fingers through Levi’s hair, silently assuring him he would not touch there again. He satisfied himself with kisses to his lips, neck, and chest. Levi’s hand went to Eren’s hair, petting his head, letting him know this much was good.

Minutes ticked by, hours could have passed and it would not have been enough. Eren wanted to spend the whole day like this, just venerating Levi’s body.

He tried one more time to kiss his nipple. It earned him a sharp breath, but no attempt to pull away. He carefully tried again, just planting a kiss there. That seemed better. He kissed again, liking how it began to tense up, hardening while Levi’s face flushed. He gave the nub a tiny lick, and Levi barely crushed a moan in his throat before it could fully bubble up. Eren’s hand reached to the other side, just caressing that part, twirling his finger around, feeling it harden and watching how Levi bit his lower lip. However, instincts kicked in, and Eren suddenly sucked on the tiny pebble while pinching on the other side.

Levi gasped and shoved him away hard.

“Sorry,” Eren immediately said. He knew that was too much; he just couldn’t help himself. “Is that not a good spot?”

Levi felt his heart fluttering, so aroused he could hardly think. His mind had drifted, not to the past, not to anything really. For a few minutes, he had existed in purely this moment of gentle pleasure. It had been a sweet escape, but the suck to such a sensitive area made a throb pulse so hard through his dick, it jolted him out of that hazy peace.

“It’s not … bad,” he muttered. “I just … I … don’t know.”

Eren smiled gently. For being far more experienced in the bedroom, Levi was surprisingly timid. Eren leaned his ear down onto Levi’s chest and simply rested there.

Levi raised an eyebrow. “What are you doing?”

“Listening to your heart,” he whispered. “It’s racing.”

Levi humphed. Of course it was racing! He reached down and began to stroke Eren’s hair again. A happy hum buzzed out, and it made Levi want to laugh. What sort of insane situation was he in!

Hormones calmed down, excitement eased away, and Levi found himself gazing up at the ceiling, enjoying the weight of Eren’s head on his chest and the softness of his hair. It was soothing to just lie there together.

“Levi?” Eren asked, sounding drowsy. Levi hummed in question. “I meant it earlier, but I’m sorry if telling you was inappropriate.”

Telling him … that he loved him. Just the echoing memory of those words hit some painful nerve. “Why are you like this, takhshet?”

Eren leaned up, worried if he was angry, or maybe even disgusted. “Like what?”

Levi could not meet his gaze. “So … up? Filling me with hope. Putain, I don’t know a good word for it.”

Eren cupped Levi’s face and pulled it back to look at him. Levi let the young soldier guide him and saw Eren gazing at his lips. As he drew nearer, Levi watched, barely breathing.

“Does that make you happy, having hope?”

Levi’s lips tightened, but he nodded.

Eren gave him a soft kiss. “Should I never say those words again?”

“No, it’s okay,” he whispered. “They’re your honest feelings, right?”

Eren hummed in agreement.

“Then it’s fine. I’m … honored.”

But did he feel the same?

Did he have the right to feel love again?

Eren caressed his face, and in firm words told him directly, “You don’t have to feel the same, or tell me anything back. Just know I love you, and if that brings you hope…” His smile was like sunshine piercing storm clouds. “…then that makes me happy. Maybe one day it will make you happy too.”

Levi felt another barrier in his heart break apart, and the emotions that poured out burned, hurt, and confused him. “Feeling happiness … is hard for me,” he confessed. “Even before I married, I was called gloomy. How a sunshine woman like Petra put up with me, I’ll never know. Especially now, with this war, it honestly hurts to feel happy.”

Eren caressed his bare chest and rubbed their noses together. “Be happy in any way that works for you, and fall in love with me as slowly as you need. We can do whatever feels right for us both. Just let me feel the way I do, and don’t treat it like something disgusting.”

“It’s not disgusting. It’s not normal,” he added, “but then again, some would say neither was my marriage. A Catholic and a Jew? It breaks laws in some places. Perhaps that’s just the way I am; I can’t follow rules or what people say is the proper way to do things. I do what I want. I was like that in the military, and I’m like that with my own heart.”

“With your own heart?” Eren nudged him with a playful smile. “Are you saying you already love me?”

“Shut up, takhshet,” he grumbled. “I like you. I don’t know about love.”

Eren simply gave him a kiss on the cheek. “That’s good enough for me.” Then he rested his head back down on Levi’s chest. “Can I stay here a bit?” he asked as his eyes drifted down.

Levi reached down and stroked through the brown strands of hair. “I’d like that.”

Eren snuggled in closer. Levi drifted back into that moment that was purely in the present: no grief of the past, no fears of the future, just them, right here, right now.

This moment, at least, was peaceful, and that was what Levi direly needed.

He felt Eren’s head lulling, his body slumping, one heavy arm wrapped around his waist, that brunette head on his chest right over his heart, as his body completely went limp with sleep. Levi felt so at peace, he let his eyes drift down.

If life could be just like this, that would be paradise, a dream come true.

* * *

The ringing of a bell pierced the air. Levi bolted straight out of bed with his knife drawn while guarding Eren. He blinked his eyes against the afternoon sun and hazy sleep. The ring clanged out again, and Levi looked all around him, searching for the enemy.

Eren sat up and yawned. “It’s the telephone.” He gulped dryness out of his throat and answered. “Hallo. Oh, Stabsgefreiter Berner! Ja, ich habe Sie gebeten, hierher zu kommen. Nein, nein, Sie haben mich beim Nickerchen erwischt, das ist alles. Sind Sie hier?” Hello. Oh, Corporal Berner! Yes, I asked you to come here. No, no, you caught me napping, that’s all. Are you here?

Levi suddenly bolted into the bathroom with a hand to his mouth. Eren frowned, but he could not hang up on Moblit.

“Yes, now is a good time, just give me ten minutes. Sorry, like I said, I was just taking a nap. I’m on pain medication for the leg. No, it’s fine, I wanted to see you today. Hey, can you see if this hotel has real coffee? If not, some black tea. Yeah, that’d be great. See you in ten.”

He hung up and let out a long sigh. That really startled him. He heard gagging noises from the bathroom, pulled forward his cane, and hobbled over. Levi leaned over the sink, pale, his shirt hanging open. He looked like he was barely holding back from vomiting.

“Are you okay?” Eren whispered.

Despite his stomach still trying to heave, Levi nodded.

“I’m sorry if that scared you.”

He wanted to insist he wasn’t scared, yet he had to admit, for a few seconds, he had felt the deepest horror ever. “That ring,” he said with a trembling voice. “It’s the same type of telephone.”

Eren waited for more, but Levi looked like all of his energy was going into keeping his stomach down.

For a moment, the ringing telephone reminded him of the French Resistance when they were caught by Gestapo. He, Petra, and the Jews they were transporting to Switzerland had been hiding in another room when Gestapo banged on the door. Sitting in total silence, they could hear that things were not going good. Their room had a telephone, meant for emergencies, to warn them if the worst happened.

Someone in the Resistance had called the telephone, screaming at them to get out of there, just before Levi heard gunshots and the line went silent. They had tried to flee out a window, and being pregnant, the group had Petra go first. However, Gestapo in black uniforms had completely surrounded the building.

Petra had not even been completely out the window when she was grabbed and screamed in protest. Levi tried to bolt to her side, leaping straight out of the window and taking a tumbling roll outside with his knife drawn, ready to fight, only for strong arms to grab him from behind, wrestle the knife away, and pull him back. He had reached out to Petra, and she to him, yet she was pulled one way, he another, and the rest of the Jews still inside the room had been ordered to come out.

Then, for a moment, he saw the aftermath: Petra’s mutilated body slumped on the ground, her eyes open and hazy, half of her skull blasted out, her swollen belly sliced apart, intestines spilled on the roadside, a discarded amniotic sac leaking fluid into the mud, and dumped like trash, the underdeveloped baby, the head smaller than a fist, limbs the size of fingers, his tiny throat slit before he could even take his first crying breath of air.

Blood and entrails.

The woman he loved, the baby they had rested their dreams on.

Gone. Forever.

Levi leaned over the sink, wanting to vomit, cry, scream, and curse in every language he knew. Instead, he held it all in, like he always had to do. Bury it back, push it all down, grief had to come later.

In the coldness of such deep sorrow, a warm hand touched his shoulder. He jolted and looked up. His shirt was drooping off, only barely still on his arms. Eren was beside him, nude from the waist up. Warm feelings soothed the chill of death, but with them were new fears.

He would never allow that to happen to someone he loved again. Never! No matter the price.

Eren took Levi into his arms, and feeling their bare chests pressed together brought Levi fully back into the present moment. He wrapped his arms around Eren and rested on his shoulder. A single choked sob hiccuped out before he could fully regain control.

“I will never let it happen to you,” he whispered. “I swear. Never again.”

Eren felt like he knew what Levi was talking about, and he simply held him. For Eren, this was his first love, exciting and new. For Levi, his last love ended in death, so of course he was scared to try again.

The fact that he was even trying showed how strong he was.

“So,” Levi said, starting to gather his wits, “who was on the telephone?”

“One of my soldiers, Moblit Berner. I plan to make him my new Unteroffizier. I told him to give me ten minutes.”

Levi nodded, pulled away, and tugged his shirt back up onto his shoulders. “You better get dressed,” he said, trying to sound normal. “I’ll take a piss and get out of here.”

Eren watched at Levi buttoned the shirt back up. He was right, of course. He needed to be ready to meet Moblit and not give any reason to suspect something. He walked back to the main room, found his discarded undershirt, and pulled it on. He opened his wardrobe and pulled his uniform tunic on. As he made sure his medals were straight, he heard Levi urinating in the bathroom, the toilet flushing, and then the water running as he washed his hands.

He heard Levi whisper an exhausted curse. Eren worried if the Jew would really be okay. He would have rather held Levi until the nightmares faded. Instead, he had to send him away for his own safety.

Eren packed up the leftover sandwiches that Jean and Armin did not eat, and the spare bottle of wine, placing them into the bucket he had gotten for Levi. After a couple of minutes, Levi came out of the bathroom, his face washed, looking slightly better. He climbed up the rope ladder to the attic hatch, and Eren lifted the full bucket.

“I’ll scratch on the hatch when it’s clear,” said Eren.

Levi glanced down at the bed, still rumpled from them sleeping together. From up here, a person could tell that the bed had held two people. “No. Let me be alone for the rest of the day. I … I need some time,” he whispered. “Now that I have a bucket and plenty of food, I’d rather stay where it’s safe.”

Eren frowned, but he did not want to demand that Levi do anything he was not comfortable with. As much as it pained his heart to see Levi mentally suffering, he wanted to respect his need for space to grieve. “If that’s what you need.”

“And make your bed before that soldier arrives. It’s a mess.”

“Right,” Eren muttered. He began to turn away.

“Eren!”

He turned around, and there he saw it. A smile! Faint, but unmistakable.

Levi felt oddly bashful as he muttered, “Let’s do this again. Tomorrow.”

Eren felt his heart leap in joy. “Yes!”

Levi nodded, not sure what else to say and realizing he must look like an idiot. He pulled back and slid the attic door shut.

Rather than crawl over to the window, he stayed there. A few minutes later, he heard a knock on Eren’s door, then two voices as Eren invited Moblit in. the conversation was all in German, but just listening to Eren’s voice was a comfort. Levi slowly lowered his head to the ground, keeping his ear near the hatch, listening to that velvety voice as sleepy warmth soothed away the chilly dread.

* * *

It was late at night, and Levi had long ago shifted over to the window to eat his sandwich and have a little wine. The memory of those kisses and Eren sleeping on top of him were a warmth in the chilly night. All he had to do was close his eyes to hear those words again.

I’ve fallen madly, hopelessly, completely in love with you.

Love.

A part of him still did not want to believe this was true. If this was just some sex-crazed soldier with a crush on him, that was one thing, but love?

Then there was the issue of how fast their relationship was moving. A little over a week ago, he and Eren kissed for the first time. Now they were at the point of undressing each other, kissing, touching … he could hardly believe Eren had actually tried to touch his dick! Impetuous little boy!

And his nipple … that had been new.

Petra had never touched him there. For how much he had loved to play with her nipples, she had never touched his. She liked to caress his chest when he slept, noting how he had so little chest hair, but she always kept to the center, or kissed him over his heart. Maybe she worried that it was an inappropriate thing for a lady to do, to suckle a man like a baby nursing a teat.

Thinking back, when it came to making love, she normally just lay back on the bed and let Levi do the work. She enjoyed it—or at least, he sure hoped she did—but their lovemaking had been fairly basic. She was never wildly aggressive like some of the women he had seduced for jobs, but he liked that about her. She had never had a man before him, and it was painfully obvious that her parents had never explained to her what goes on in the bedroom. He had to teach her some very basic things about a man’s body. She was timid and bashful, even after years of marriage.

Levi admittedly was not experienced with love. He had never courted a woman before Petra. His uncle got him a prostitute for his fifteenth birthday to break him in, but after that Levi went seven years without sex. (Well, he still had no memory of what happened in that London opium den, sex was probably involved, but did it count if none of the people involved remembered?) There were about a dozen women he seduced for jobs, but quick fucks in empty closets were more his style. Before Petra, Levi had never caressed a woman with anything remotely approaching love, nor had any covered him in kisses like Eren.

Not even Petra had ever worshiped his whole body like that. She really had just lain back and let Levi do whatever he wanted. Maybe she honestly did not know more, and Levi did not teach her what more a man liked. He did not even know he would like something like that, kisses to his chest, nipples, and stomach. It was definitely something new, strange, but not unwelcome.

He reached up to his chest now and touched his own nipple. Same as before, he pulled away, shocked by the sensitivity, which felt similar to his legs. Yet the memory of Eren touching there made his face warm up. He closed his eyes, pictured Eren, and touched his chest again. He tried to mimic how Eren had touched, including the soft pinch. His mouth opened in a silent moan of pleasure at that sensation.

A scratching on the hatch made his hand yank away. For two seconds, he felt like the time when he was fourteen and his uncle walked in on him wanking off. Then he sank with humiliation and guilt. Had he seriously been touching himself to thoughts of Eren?

There was a second scratch, and he glared at the hatch. Part of him knew it was dangerous to keep growing closer like this. Every time he went down into Eren’s room, he risked not only his own life, but the young lieutenant’s life as well. He should be focusing on how to get out of Metz, not snuggling and taking afternoon naps together.

Still, he felt a deep desire to see Eren again. He crawled slowly across the attic, avoiding spots he had marked with discarded boxes to warn of squeaky boards. It was a snaking path through the attic, but it meant being able to move around silently. He reached the hatch and lifted it, momentarily blinded by the brightness pouring up from the room. After blinking out the spots in his eyes, he saw an even brighter smile.

“Oh, good. I was afraid you fell asleep already.” Eren handed up a book.

Curiously, Levi took it and saw French on the cover. “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo?”

“I asked Surma to get me a book in French. He said I would like this one. Have you read it?”

“No,” Levi muttered, opening the book and seeing the first lines. “I’ve heard of it, of course, but never read it.”

“Good. And…” He went over to the desk and came back with a boxy device. “Taschenlampe, so you can read at night.”

Levi accepted the green steel box with a light bulb and three dials that changed the color of the light for military signaling. “Will you get in trouble for losing that?”

“With any luck, you’ll be gone before I need it back. I will need it if I’m sent into combat again, and you’ll need a light for your trip, so I’ll try to find you a civilian one.”

His trip. Their separation.

He would leave Metz, leave France, leave all of Europe, and while the promise to meet again after the war was nice, this war had already been going on for five years. What if it went on another five? What if Metz truly was a last stand for the Germans?

Eren had begun to turn away. “I’ll let you sleep now.”

“Wait!” The whisper was spiked with anxiety. He would lose Eren! All these little moments, as dangerous as they were, might be their last moments together. “I, um … I should clean out my bucket, so the attic doesn’t smell like piss all night. Maybe brush my teeth.”

Eren grinned in agreement. Levi pulled back to go fetch his bucket, which he had set on the far side of the attic so he did not have to smell it. He slowly crept back to the opening that shot a beam of light up into the dark attic space.

Eren was that beam of light in his dark existence.

Levi shook that sappy thought out of his head. That sounded like something Petra would say after reading one of her romance novels. She had loved romantic poetry by Victor Hugo and steamy books of intrigue like Les Liaisons dangereuses.

One poem Petra used to read to him, smiling with a deep blush on her face, came to his mind now.

 

Aimons toujours ! Aimons encore !
Quand l’amour s’en va, l’espoir fuit.
L’amour, c’est le cri de l’aurore,
L’amour c’est l’hymne de la nuit.

 

Levi softly thought over that first stanza. Love always! Love again! When love goes, hope flees. Love is the cry of the dawn. Love is the hymn of the night.

Eren loved him.

Levi feared falling in love.

Yet that poem Petra had loved so much sang to him. Love always. Love again.

Could he really love again? Would Petra want him to?

He grabbed his bucket, which he used only once to pee out the wine. He slipped down the rope ladder and walked right past Eren to the bathroom. Just looking at him made his face feel warm. He dumped the bucket into the toilet and used it himself. Then he cleaned his bucket out, washed up his hands and face, brushed his teeth, and gazed into the mirror.

How long had he gone without seeing his face? Growing up, he had only a silver platter his uncle probably stole and used to see his reflection to shave. Levi had no interest in how he looked, other than his uncle saying he looked like his mother. He got his first proper shaving mirror in the military, but he was lucky that his facial hair came in so slowly. He shaved once every few days, while some of the men had a shadow of stubble on their faces before dinner.

Petra had a large mirror she used to fix her hair. She was normally not picky about looks, but when guests came to visit, she liked to look nice. Levi had thought she looked beautiful even without her hair done. She had opted for the shorter haircuts that were trendy with women in the 1930s, styling after film stars like Annabella, Renée Adorée, Mireille Balin, and Annie Ducaux.

After they fled that home, Levi had not bothered with mirrors. He normally only used them to shave, not really looking.

Gazing into the mirror now, he realized he was a lot thinner and older than when he and Petra lived together. He was in his thirties now, not quite out of the prime of his life, but edging toward the time when his body would head steadily downhill. He combed through his hair and managed to find a few grays had sneaked in. His eyes especially looked a lot older, tired, bitter, creases on the edges, with dark circles under them.

He wondered, what did Eren see in him? He claimed he was in love, but Levi did not see how he was remotely attractive. He had never been handsome. He was shorter than most women. His narrow eyes tended to scare people, making them think he was always angry. His cheeks had never truly taken to a beard, so he always appeared much younger, yet the permanent dark circles under his eyes made him look weary of life.

What does he see in me, he wondered to himself.

Levi shook his head, grabbed his bucket, and headed out. Eren was in bed smoking another cigarette.

“You’re going to burn the bed smoking like that,” Levi warned.

“Sorry,” Eren said, setting the cigarette onto an ashtray. “I tend to smoke more when I’m bored.”

“You need a better hobby,” he grumbled. “Your breath reeks after you’ve smoked. You should brush your teeth after every cigarette.”

Eren glanced down at the cigarette. Did they really make his breath bad? Was it less enjoyable for Levi to kiss him? He had been told for years, he should quit, it was bad for him, but if it was also something Levi hated…

“Do you want some food?” he blurted out. “I haven’t had dinner yet. I can order something large and share it.”

“No, I already ate the sandwiches. I wanted to finish them tonight before any rats ended up eating my food.” He headed back to the attic, but he paused at the rope ladder. “Eren?” he whispered, his brow tense in thought. “What do you…? No, never mind,” he sighed.

“What is it?” Eren asked, sitting up in bed.

It was humiliating to ask, but Levi was curious. “What do you see in me?”

Eren looked confused. “See … in you?”

“You say you’re in love with me. What is it that makes you … attracted? What is it about me?”

Eren laughed at such a question. “What isn’t to love?”

Levi grumbled, “I’m getting old, I’m short, I’m not manly or handsome…”

“You’re very manly.”

Levi scoffed in disbelief. “I never understood what Petra saw in me either.”

Eren stood up, walked over to him, and picked up Levi’s hands. “Maybe we are both the sort of people who see beyond faces and flesh and see the soul within.”

Levi grumbled, “That is almost exactly what she once said.”

“So see! It must be true. She wouldn’t lie to you, right?”

Levi glared at him, again using a phrase he could not reject.

“Besides,” he whispered, tilting up Levi’s face. “You are very, very handsome.”

Levi scoffed and pulled away with a flush to his cheeks. “No, I’m not!”

“Yes, you are.”

Tais-toi!” Shut up!

“You wanted my opinion, right?” he said, chuckling at Levi’s embarrassed face. “I hereby state, as the official opinion of homosexual men everywhere, that you, Levi Ackerman, are one handsome, sexy man.”

Levi could not help but laugh, and Eren joined him, adoring that rare, honest, relaxed face, smiling and laughing together. How priceless hearing such a joyful laugh was!

As if catching himself, Levi slammed his smile down to a pout, but that only made Eren laugh even more. He was adorably determined to keep acting cantankerous.

“Really,” Eren said, caressing Levi’s cheek. “I don’t know who told you that you were not handsome, but they were wrong.”

He frowned and admitted, “It’s not so much that I was told I was ugly. I just was never called handsome. Mostly, people just teased me for being short.”

“I don’t mind! It makes kissing you more fun.”

Levi scoffed, but the blush on his cheeks darkened. He felt a hand take hold of his chin, and slowly he let it guide his face up slightly, right into the path of warm eyes lowered with adoration.

“I love everything about you.”

Levi again yanked his head away, knowing his cheeks were on fire. Not sure what he could possibly say to something that romantic, he turned and walked back to the rope ladder. He paused, turned back around, and simply gazed at Eren.

“Goodnight.”

Eren opened his mouth, wanting to call out to him, ask if he could kiss him goodnight, anything to delay him leaving. However, he pulled back. If Levi needed space, he would respect that.

Levi climbed up the ladder into the attic. Carefully, hating that it still squeaked, he shut the hatch. He put his bucket back in the far corner and picked up the book Eren had handed up. The Count of Monte Cristo. It really was thoughtful of Eren to make sure at least one of his books was in French so Levi had something to read. He also picked up the military light. He then carefully crawled around boxes, avoiding the squeaky boards, to his little space hidden behind towering crates, where the space between the cedar boxes and wall was just enough for a single bed.

He used one of the dust sheets that had been covering the table he now used, and with a little careful finagling, he got it to block the tiny space, like a cloth door. Then he went in, turned on the torch, and looked at the first paragraph of the book.

"Le 24 février 1815, la vigie de Notre-Dame de la Garde signala le trois-mâts le Pharaon, venant de Smyrne, Trieste et Naples."

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Eren is a fan of kabe-don, while Levi is like: ( ͡ಠ ʖ̯ ͡ಠ)╭∩╮

Kabe-don – Japanese for "wall bang." It's a common trope in shoujo manga. An aggressive partner pushes the love interest against a wall while slamming a hand near their head, creating a "don" (bang) kanji sound effect. This traps the love interest, and the aggressor uses the close proximity to get their point across. It is a dominating tactic, seen as powerful and erotic in Japanese culture. If you try it in reality, be prepared to get kicked in the nuts and reported for sexual harassment. Sadly, all the fan art I could find had Levi as the aggressor. (New fan art, anyone?)

Levi's breakdown contains many signs of psychological trauma from PTSD and Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD). He displays intense emotional detachment, distances himself right away, he uses minimization to discount Eren's feelings, he belittles Eren, escapes into emotional numbness, there's some massive cognitive distortion going on.… Welcome to Day Two of me in therapy, haha … hah … ha…

Pyrrhic victory – a victory that comes at a great cost. It inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. In this case, while Levi could attack and be victorious over Eren, just how bad he is at keeping quiet would put them in danger, thus the victory is not worth the risk.

Le Comte de Monte-Cristo – "The Count of Monte Cristo" was written by Alexandre Dumas in 1844. It is one of the most widely-known works of literature in Western civilization, about a man falsely imprisoned who uses a hidden treasure to exact revenge on the man who betrayed him to steal the woman he loves. It was first made into a silent film in 1908, a total of 23 movies were based on it, the latest being a Kevin Reynolds film in 2002. (Hey, it has Henry Cavill!)

Petra's Reading ListLes Liaisons dangereuses ("Dangerous Liaisons") by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos in 1782. You probably know it from the 1988 film starring John Malcovich, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Peter Capaldi, Keanu Reeves, and Uma Thurman.

Aimons toujours ! Aimons encore – a poem by Victor Hugo. Although mostly known for his novels Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Hugo wrote many volumes of poetry. Some translators use "Love still" for the words aimons encore, but maybe due to my background in music, when I hear "Encore!" it means "Again!" The translation "Love always! Love again!" holds a much different meaning to "Love still," but in the case of Levi, I liked the idea of falling in love again.

Annabella, Renée Adorée, Mireille Balin, and Annie Ducaux – I studied Film History for a semester in college. These are some influential French actresses of the 1920s-1930s, the sort Petra may have admired and wished she looked like them.

Wehrmacht Taschenlampe – Called a flashlight (American) or a torch (British), the Taschenlampe, or "pocket light," was a necessary part of a German soldier's combat gear. The light often connected just above the right breast pocket via a leather strap. It was highly compact, smaller than a dollar bill, and meant to be carried around on the uniform, hands-free. Many had different colored lenses that could be changed by lifting 1-3 levers on the front for different effects: green, red, and yellow were the most common, so soldiers could signal easily.

By the way, since both Eren and Levi learned British English, I have referred to this as a torch before and will in the future. It sometimes confuses American readers.



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