chapter two

*******

I charge thee, hence, and do not haunt me thus

*******

*******

Erwin studied the dead were at his feet, his eyes drawn to the brand on its hind leg while his mind considered various possibilities.

“Gonna be like that all night?”

“Perhaps.” He looked up to discover that Mike had shifted back to his human form and shrugged out of his Burberry trench coat to hand it over to the naked man. “Though I have to admit, it is a bit disconcerting to have a member of the Trost pack this far out of their territory.”

“Smelled real desperate to me.” Mike inhaled long and deep through his nose before shaking his head, which caused his thick and shaggy bangs to fly about his face. “And a bit mad when she was fighting.”

Those comments indicated that the were had most likely been under a geas, which would explain why she hadn’t backed down once Mike had shifted; she had to have known there was no way a wolf could defeat something as unusual and powerful as him. “Something is going on here-“

“Huh, you think?”

Erwin shot a warning glare at his friend, which Mike ignored with ease as he fell in step beside him once Erwin decided that he’d examined the corpse long enough and called up flames to destroy it before moving away. “Something is going on here,” he repeated with a touch of reproof, and caught a hint of sharp teeth from Mike. “And who is normally to blame when something is going on?”

Mike rubbed at the side of his nose while heaving a heartfelt sigh. “Hange for weird bug stuff, Levi for most everything else.”

“Yes, exactly. Since this isn’t some unknown or long dormant disease running rampant, I think we can exclude Hange for now.” Though not entirely, since she loved to involve herself with their favorite sociopathic necromancer. “Levi it is, though I must say, I’m rather impressed with who he’s managed to annoy this time.” Erwin pinched the bridge of his nose and wondered just what part of ‘lay low until I call for you’ his temperamental friend didn’t understand – and why Hange wasn’t keeping a tighter rein over Levi. Oh, who was he kidding? Whatever trouble Levi had ended up in this time, the blood witch was probably cheering him on for the hell of it.

“He’s going to need an army of the dead when I find out what he’s been up to,” Erwin muttered as he wrapped his plaid scarf tighter around his neck. “He knows how important it is to not draw attention to us until everything is ready. All he had to do was stay at home, read a book or three and drink his tea. How hard is that?”

Mike huffed a little, as if amused.

“Exactly,” Erwin sighed as he ran his gloved right hand over his hair. “I truly should have known better.”

*******

“Where the fuck are your brains? Did you shit them out this morning or what? Focus, dammit!” Levi flicked his fingers at Eren’s left ear to make the brat concentrate.

“The hell? I am focused! Do you really expect me to learn this spell in like two tries?” Eren rubbed at his ear while glaring.

“Why not? I got it on the first one.”

Eren made a gagging sound as he wiped the palm of his hands on the black sweatpants which Hange had bought for him, the cuffs rolled up because of his lack of height. “Oh, right, because you’re the ‘great’ Levi.”

“And you’re a shitty brat who should be grateful to learn from someone like me,” Levi growled out. From the corner of his eye he saw Hange stir while over at her desk with a worried expression on her face, and he ran his fingers through his hair attempted to rein in his temper. Dammit, he was in a bad mood and taking it out on Eren, who sat across from him in the temporary magic circle with a mulish expression from being snapped at for the past half an hour. No, more like for the entire morning, all because Levi had woken up for the second time in a row with an armful of sleeping, attractive shifter and too fucking hard for words.

He let out a shaky breath and rubbed at the nape of his neck. “Let’s try again,” he said in a softer tone of voice. “Center yourself and-“ Just then he felt a ‘tug’ from one of the sentry spirits he’d posted around Hange’s property.

Hange leapt up and went running for the door. “Yay! We’ve got a visitor.”

“What?” He reached for Eren’s left arm and tugged the brat in close while he concentrated on that spirit, on the sense of magic he could pick up through it and only relaxed when he recognized who was approaching the house. “Moblit’s here?”

Hange must have tuned in on the disbelief and bit of anger he was feeling since she flashed him an uneven smile. “Don’t worry, I didn’t tell him about Eren! Just follow my lead.” She bounced on her toes until there was a knock on the door and then threw it open so she could welcome her erstwhile assistant inside. “Moby-baby, it’s so good to see you!” She swamped the poor guy with a hug.

“Ah, it’s only been about a week, ma’am.” The were’s face went a splotchy red at the sign of affection, and it seemed to take him a few seconds to realize that Hange had company; during that time, Levi dispelled the protective circle and urged Eren to stand up while still keeping a hold on his arm. Eren stared with what appeared to be curiosity at the man while pressed against Levi’s side, something Levi didn’t discourage.

“Uhm, Levi’s here?” Moblit juggled the bags in his hands as he stepped away from Hange.

“Yes! And he has an apprentice of all things. Moblit, meet Eren.” Hange did a fancy wave of her hand as she gestured in Eren’s direction. “Eren, this is Moblit, my familiar.”

Levi rolled his eyes at the old and terrible joke while Moblit took to blushing again and stuttered out a denial. “I-ah I’m na-not ah-a fah-familiar!” The were set the bags on the floor with a heavy ‘thunk’ and then folded his arms over his chest. “I’m a canine-were!”

“He turns into the most adorable German Shepard,” Hange cooed while she patted him on top of his light brown hair in a manner similar to one petting a dog.

There wasn’t much that affected Levi, but he had to admit that he felt sorry for the poor guy who had to put up with this shit from Hange. “Why don’t you just cut off his fucking balls?” he muttered as he felt Eren shiver against him.

“Huh? Why would I want to physically castrate poor Moblit? He hasn’t done anything to deserve it, and I could always just chemically alter his blood if it came to that.” Hange frowned in confusion while poor Moblit appeared ready to die of embarrassment.

This was getting them nowhere. Levi sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why the fuck did you call the unlucky guy here, other than to torment him?”

“I don’t torment him,” Hange insisted as she stepped toward the bags that Moblit had dropped. “I asked him to pick up a few things for me.”

That seemed to catch Eren’s attention. “Anything for me?” He craned his neck to look over at the bags while he picked at the soft fabric of the sweatpants, the overlong sleeves of black cardigan he was ‘borrowing’ from Levi sliding down to cover his hands.

Hange shook her head as she picked a book out of one of the bags. “Not exactly.” She gave Levi a loaded glance as she straightened up. “There’s some packages that should arrive soon, but for now, I asked Moblit to fetch some books for me that Levi can probably use to teach you a few spells.”

Books that probably had some information on shifters and ‘keys’, among other things, if Levi had to guess. “What, you couldn’t just order stuff from Amazon?”

Moblit made a pained noise and shook his head. “These have been in storage for at least a century – I had to drive half the night to get them.” He picked up the other bag for Hange. “I also got those herbs you wanted.”

“Great!” She beamed at him and motioned for toward the kitchen. “That’ll help with a couple of spells I want to try. Do you want something to eat before you go? Eren made these fantastic frittatas for breakfast and there’s some left over.”

The offer of food perked up Moblit and put a smile on his face. “That would be great, since I didn’t have time to stop for much. There’s still some more books out in the car.”

“We’ll get them later.” Hange set her bag on the table and went to fetch the food, while Levi decided to check out what Moblit had brought with Eren tagging along. The books did indeed look old and at least one of them was in an indecipherable language.

Eren ran a finger over the spine of one of the books. “So there are a lot of spells in here?”

“Should be, and probably a bunch of other crazy shit that it’s best to be kept away from people like Hange.”

“Hey! I heard that, Grumpy!”

Levi ignored Hange’s protest while he gave Eren a pointed look. “Still, like she said, should be able to find a few useful things in thing to help you out.” That was about all he’d say in front of Moblit.

Eren ducked his head and took a deep breath as he continued to touch the book for a moment, and then let his hand fall back to his side. “Is that how you learned? From books?” When he looked up again, his brows were drawn together and his eyes shone brighter than normal.

“Not really.” It wasn’t often that Levi talked about his past, but for some reason it didn’t bother him as much when the inquiries came to Eren. “My uncle taught me the basics, and then Hange and another friend helped me out with the finer control. There’s not much out there on necromancy since everyone’s scared shitless about it.”

“He was such a prodigy,” Hange called out from the fridge, where she was digging for the food promised to Moblit. “Erwin and I were in awe of how he soaked up everything.”

“A prodigy, huh?” For the first time in what seemed to be hours, Eren smiled up at Levi, his turquoise colored eyes sparkling with good humor. “Who would expect that from the ‘great’ Levi?”

“Damn right, brat,” Levi drawled as he tucked aside a lock of dark brown hair that had fallen across Eren’s nose. When Eren tilted his head as if to follow Levi’s fingers, Levi found his touch lingering for a few seconds, the feel of Eren’s warmth and magic soaking into his hand as Eren continued to stare up at him with those eyes….

“Oooh, Levi’s pretty ‘great’ all right.” Hange was so close all of a sudden that both Levi and Eren jumped at her presence; Eren’s hands spouted claws, which caused Levi to snatch at them and pull the brat against him before Moblit noticed. Eren’s face became flushed in return, and Hange cackled like the madwoman she was and patted Levi on the back. “You can learn so much from him, Eren-honey, which is why you should stick close with the grump. Really, *really* close.”

He was going to kill her. He was going to kill her, take pleasure in obliterating her spirit so there was no chance in any of the hells that she could ever be reincarnated, and then use her corpse as his personal house maid until it disintegrated, just watch him.

Meanwhile, Moblit seemed too preoccupied with making himself something to eat to notice much. “Is there any coffee, ma’am?”

Hange gave Levi’s back one more pat while his hands were still occupied with Eren and then fled to safety. “I can brew some more!”

“Thank you.”

“While you’re eating, we can talk about a few more things I need you to track down for me. I got a response from Pixis late last night, and he’s willing to swap out some books for a short while.”

“But it’ll take me days to fetch them!”

As Hange placated her overworked assistant, Levi took a deep breath and loosened his hold on Eren’s hands, which were back to normal now. “All right?” he murmured.

Eren nodded once, his face downturned as if he didn’t want to look up at Levi yet he didn’t pull away. “Sorry.”

“Guess it’s a good thing that you’re such a short shit,” Levi teased, a part of him highly amused by the fact that *he* could say those words as he tugged at the overlong – on Eren – sleeves which covered the shifter’s now normal hands. Eren’s head snapped up and for some reason he gave Levi an odd look before a lopsided smile tugged at the right corner of his mouth.

“Yeah, guess it is.” He stared at the way his fingertips barely poked out of the edges of the sleeves and sighed. “You might never get your stuff back at this point.”

Somehow, that didn’t sound bad at all to Levi; as picky as he was about his belongings, there was something to seeing Eren walk around in *his* sweaters. Something about standing here with Eren so close, with his hands on Eren’s hips and their magic entwined.

Forcing himself to take a deep breath, he stepped away and jerked his head toward the living room. “Come on, let’s go back to practicing.” Now that he felt calmer he’d been before Moblit’s arrival, he should have more patience with the training.

There was a flash of something across Eren’s face as he pulled away, which smoothed out when Levi offered to continue the training. “Okay.” He was quick to bridge the space between them and hovered near Levi’s left side, not quite touching yet barely more than an inch or two away until it was time to sit facing each other. Levi missed the brat’s heat as he sat down on the floor, yet as soon as he set up the magic circle around them, there was the rush of Eren’s magic so things felt right once more.

Fuck, was he screwed.

*******

It was karma.

Eren glared at the jar of oregano just out of reach on the upper shelf and figured that this was Fate’s way of getting back at him for all of those times while growing up that he’d teased Armin for being short. Never mind that Armin had hit a growth spurt in his early twenties and then teased Eren back, but *something* was now enjoying the fact that Eren was short as hell and couldn’t even reach a damn jar of spices while standing on his tip toes. He was going to have to pull over the chair, wasn’t he? Why the hell couldn’t he shift himself back to his original height anymore?

About to take a step back to fetch the damn chair, he felt a rush of familiar magic and then something solid pressed against his back the same time that he took a deep breath and inhaled the comforting scent of cedar soap and Levi.

This just wasn’t his day, was it?

“Need me to get something for you, *short stuff*?” Levi’s breath hit Eren’s right ear and made him shiver.

“Like you can do much better, old man,” he grumbled as he forced himself to clutch at the counter. “You’re what, a whole inch taller than me?”

“Yes, but sometimes that inch can make all the difference in the world,” Levi drawled as he pressed even harder against Eren and managed to grab onto the traitorous jar of spice.

No. No no no no no. The last thing Eren wanted to hear right now was innuendo from the man, not when Eren had to fight to keep from pressing his ass back against him, not when he’d woken up this morning clutching at a pillow which smelled like Levi, with the asshole’s scent clinging to his skin and rubbing against- *No*. All he needed was to trust Levi, he didn’t need to be twisted up with sexual frustration as well. “You just got lucky,” he sulked as Levi dangled the jar in front of his eyes while still pressed against him.

Levi scoffed before he set the jar on the counter. “Lucky that I’m not as tiny as you. No wonder you shift into a giant to fight – you’re puny.” He poked at Eren’s right arm as if to make a point.

Okay, so maybe Eren wasn’t made out of solid muscle like a certain necromancer, but he wasn’t that bad, was he? Being on the run for the last thirteen years had put on a few muscles, mostly because Mikasa had made him learn to defend himself while not shifted into a hulking monstrosity. What really had him annoyed as that *he wasn’t supposed to be this short*, and the reason he was had the audacity to give him shit about it. “I would think that someone like *you* would have a bit more sympathy for a twerp like me,” Eren spat out as he knocked his elbow back into Levi’s ribs with as much force as he could muster.

The blow seemed to take Levi by surprise, yet when Eren spun around to follow up with another strike, Levi had his arms ready to block and did something with his left leg that swiped Eren’s feet out from under him and sent him crashing to the floor. Letting out a yelp as he fell, he found his body unresponsive as he attempted to shift because despite the fearsome glower on the necromancer’s face, he wasn’t picking up any true anger or hostility from Levi. Fuck, when had he become so locked in to Levi’s emotions? This was bad, this was really, *really* bad, was-

“Pathetic.” Just the one word, but Levi made sure it conveyed more than enough scorn to have Eren squirm. “I can tell that we’ll be adding physical self-defense along with the magical lessons.” He loomed over Eren, knees on either side of Eren’s hips and wrists pinned to the floor.

“I know how to fight!” Eren bared his teeth at the asshole even though they weren’t fangs.

Levi clicked his tongue a couple of times and shook his head. “You know how to tear things apart. What you did just now was *pathetic*,” he repeated.

“Mikasa taught me a few things,” Eren mumbled while he attempted to yank his wrists free.

“She taught you jack-shit from what I can tell, that or you rely on your shifting too much. Maybe if you knew how to fight properly, you could have taken on those were back in Karanese without revealing that you’re a shifter.” Levi’s eyes narrowed when he noticed that the jab had hit its mark.

“Fine,” Eren ground out. “You’re the ‘great’ Levi, you know it all. Teach me the ways of your wisdom oh great Jedi master, pretty please.”

The sarcasm seemed to just piss him off even more, since Levi leaned in closer, a hint of silver in his grey eyes and the feel of magic skittering along Eren’s skin to the point that he wanted to moan. “You think this is a fucking joke? That we’re hiding out here for the fun of it? Very powerful people want to turn you into a shitty *toy*,” his hands tightened around Eren’s wrists hard enough to hurt, “one with even less brains than right now if that’s possible, and you think that I’m here for the hell of it?”

“No,” Eren gritted out as he shook his head. “I’m sorry that I dragged you into this. I don’t think it’s a joke, I don’t want them to… to… I don’t know what’s going on but I’m glad you’re here,” he confessed, upset that he’d pushed Levi too far by speaking without thinking. “I’m sorry.”

Levi let out a ragged breath and bent forward enough that his bangs brushed against Eren’s heated face. “You better be, brat. You better learn whatever shit I cram into that empty head of yours.”

“Yes sir.”

Eren’s response made Levi blink and his lips curl up at the corners, just a tiny bit. “Don’t call me ‘sir’, it’s creepy.” He stared down at Eren, his hands still tight around Eren’s wrists, and then… Eren felt the emotions *shift*, either his or Levi’s or both, and the next thing he knew rough lips were brushing against his own, gentle at first and then insistent. As he parted his own lips, he strained at the hold Levi had on his wrists, eager to slide his fingers into Levi’s hair, to tug that muscular body down onto his so-

“Hey Grumpy, did you see where I put that book on sympathetic mag-eeyikes. Oh, wow, stay right there, I need a picture of this.”

“Fucking shitty glasses,” Levi snarled as he pulled away from Eren, his hands still wrapped around Eren’s wrists so Eren found himself yanked up from the floor as he stared in shock at Hange’s retreating back. “Don’t even think about it or else I’ll shred your soul into mist!”

“Ha! I have to *have* a soul for that threat to work, and dammit, you moved!” There was a distinct pout on her face when Hange returned to the kitchen with a phone clutched in her right hand. “How am I going to get the evidence now?”

“Evidence of what?” Levi let go of Eren’s wrists but wrapped his left arm around Eren’s waist instead; Eren used the freedom to scrub at his flushed face and wished that he could shift into something tiny, like a house cat, yet once again his talent didn’t want to behave while Levi was near. What was going on? First there was his messed up shifting and now he swore he was picking up Levi’s emotions, something that wasn’t the case with Hange. All he sensed was a general trust when he thought about the blood witch, but that was all. Normally this depth of empathy didn’t happen unless he knew someone for a long period of time, like with Mikasa and Armin, or unless he was-. Nope, not going there, he told himself as he tugged on his bangs.

“Never mind that,” Hange insisted with a nervous smile as she hid the phone behind her back. “What’s more important is what’s going on with the two of *you*.” Her grin widened as she made a fist bump in Levi’s direction. “You go, you! I always knew you had it in you to make the moves on something not dead!”

This time it was Eren’s turn to wrap his arms around Levi. “If you kill her, the wards will disappear,” he warned as an overwhelming sense of Levi’s magic filled the room. “We need those wards!” The spirits that had begun to coalesce in the room slowly faded away as Levi took several deep breaths and began to calm down.

He clicked his tongue twice before he patted Eren’s arms wrapped around his chest. “How soon will dinner be ready?”

Realizing that the question had been posed to him, Eren blinked in surprise then gave it some thought. “Uhm, probably another hour.” He let go of Levi when it looked as if the man was in control of himself, even as it almost physically hurt to lose contact with him and that delicious sense of magic. “I’m going to need another bottle of red wine, though.”

“Really? You need two for the ragout?” Hange went over to one of the cabinets to fetch it.

“No, the second one’s for me,” Eren complained as he rubbed at the back of his tense neck. He barely got three steps away before there was a smack to the back of his head. “Ow!”

“You’re not getting drunk when we could be under attack at any moment,” Levi ordered. “Don’t be a brat.”

*This* was the man he’d wanted to fuck him into the floor two minutes ago? Eren whined as he tugged on his hair and wondered just when things had gotten so messed up and why his magic hated him so much.

Meanwhile Hange all but cackled as she put back the bottle of wine. “Now, not to be a busybody at all, but I’m just saying as someone who’s had both of your blood, I find it interesting that you have something in common in that you’re both disease-free, if ya know what I mean, wink wink.” There was a broad grin on her face as she leaned against the cabinet.

The air took to shimmering for a few seconds before Levi slashed his right hand through it. “I’m going to be outside for a little while looking for dead things to explode. Or not so dead things. Feel free to join me.” He cast a pointed glare Hange’s way before stomping out of the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Eren rubbed at his temples in a futile effort to stave off a headache. “Hange….”

“Sorry, honey, but nope, no extra bottle of wine before dinner while he’s in a mood like that.” She shrugged and gave him an apologetic look for a few seconds. “But, I bet if he doesn’t cool off by this evening, you’re in for a treat at bed-time!”

It wasn’t quite the same thing as exploding dead stuff, but Eren was going to enjoy chopping the shit out of the vegetables and meat for the ragout, yes he was.

*******

Hange grinned around her mouthful of ragout and swallowed. “Wow, *I’m* seriously considering slapping some geas on your boyfriend there, Grumpy, and keeping him for myself. Dinner is delicious.”

Eren slumped a little more over his own bowl of food while Levi’s eyes took on a silver cast and he appeared ready to gut her with his spoon. “Why are you still breathing?”

“Hmm, yeah, I keep thinking that I’ve found those genes that’ll let me just absorb oxygen through my skin but no luck yet.” She waved her spoon around as she frowned. “Even tried it out on this one earth mage who thought he could break through my wards by pretending to be a sycamore tree of all things, but nope, no luck.” It was so annoying when she felt she was *so close* to a breakthrough and nothing happened. Well, nothing good. Something usually happened, but it was a bunch of screaming and convulsing and blood shooting everywhere and bleh.

Levi gave her a blank stare for several seconds before he clicked his tongue and looked away. “Don’t fucking touch the brat, understood?”

Oh ho, someone didn’t argue about the ‘boyfriend’ label, did they? “But you have to admit that he’s a pretty good cook.”

“He does all right.” Levi reached over to shove at Eren’s shoulder. “For a short shit.”

Eren finally looked up and rolled his eyes. “You’re so loving this, aren’t you? Must have been like your birthday coming early to find someone shorter than you.”

“Please, as if I let my height define me – as proven earlier, I can take you or anyone else down.”

“And being an asshole helps a lot.”

“An asshole who wiped the floor with you.”

Hange resumed eating while the two continued with their verbal sparring, for all intents and purposes locked into their own little world. She found it very interesting that what started the squabble was Levi picking on Eren’s height – or lack of it – when she’d read in Eren’s genes the fact that he should be at least a few inches taller. It was well known that shifters changed when influenced by people, either those who had them under geas or in times of strong emotion such as desire or anger. From what she could tell, Eren must have been influenced upon first meeting Levi for her friend not to realize that Eren had been anything other than how he appeared now – which was most unusual. And for Eren not to shift back to ‘normal’ meant that he was either unwilling to do so… or unable. Oh yeah something was going on here, besides two sexy guys making out on her kitchen floor and sexual tension thick enough to cut with a butter knife.

For some reason Eren held up a piece of buttered bread in a threatening manner, which made Levi, *Levi*, grin as he snatched at Eren’s hand. “Didn’t I smack you down hard enough last time?” There was an unexpected heat to Levi’s voice just then, and that adorable pink blush spread across Eren’s cheeks as his eyes went wide.

Huh, Hange wondered if she could sneak out of here without either of the guys noticing her – and snap a few pictures at the same time. Though dammit, there was no way she could send it off to Erwin, Mike and the others since Eren was supposed to be a secret. She bit into the spoon as the air seemed to thicken around her from the heady sense of magic, that of Levi’s and Eren’s while the two lovebirds continued to stare at each other.

Okay, she knew that Levi was a bit backwards when it came to the whole ‘dating’ thing – being a necromancer and a powerful one at that was sorta a major damper on one’s Grindr’s profile. From the sounds of it, Eren had spent a lot of time on the run so she wondered if he had been able to fool around much, either. Oh, this was just sad. Amusing as hell, but also sad.

“You know, there’s some lube in the spare bedroom that the two of you could be putting to great use right about now rather than giving me a headache from the feel of all this magic bouncing around.” She picked up her wineglass and swirled it about as an illustration while both of them jerked their heads around to gape at her. “I mean, obviously it’s a turn on to you, but I feel as if I’m being battered about by a bad love spell or something.” She paused to take a sip and thought about things a little more. “Or you could go at it on the floor again, which I wouldn’t mind.”

Levi was still for several seconds, and then all of a sudden he lunged for the bread knife, only to be stopped by Eren. “Wards!”

“I’ll use her body and her spirit to craft new ones,” Levi growled out as he none-the-less allowed Eren to pull his hand away from the ‘weapon’. “It’ll work, trust me.”

“Oh I do, what I don’t trust is what she has in *her* blood.” Eren cast a worried glance Hange’s way while he shoved the nearest wineglass into Levi’s hand.

Hange giggled as she waggled her left forefinger at the grump glaring at her. “You’ve got a smart one there, Grumpy. Best keep him.”

He gave her a sour look while he sipped the wine. “Don’t need you to tell me what to do.”

“Hmm, think so because you’re not dragging him back into the spare bedroom.” She giggled some more when he spat out the wine he’d just sipped.

Meanwhile, poor Eren was red as a beet. “Cou-could you please stop saying such things! We’re not- I don’t- it’s… just don’t,” he stammered as he handed Levi several napkins. “You really could manage the wards?” he asked Levi.

“Eren-honey, how could you do that to me?” Hange wailed as she clutched the half-empty glass of wine to her chest. “I’m on your side! I just want you to get laid!”

Levi appeared rather smug as he wiped clean his chin and neck. “Nothing you don’t deserve, you lunatic.” His smile vanished, to be replaced by the steely look he normally gave people before he ripped out their heart, either by digging it out with a knife or via a revenant. “Not another word about… us. Else I’ll make sure Erwin finds out about that ‘little’ outbreak of hoof and mouth five years ago.”

Hange gasped and slammed the glass onto the table. “Blackmail? Really? Well fine,” she huffed. “Go on with the googly eyes and the groping on the floor and fumbling your way through a relationship, see if I care.” She pouted for all of five seconds before sniffing. “All right, I do care, but I’ll butt out.” Besides, if Levi was stooping this low, he had it *bad* and it wouldn’t take long before the sexy times commenced.

“Can we please stop talking about the… floor things,” Eren moaned, his voice muffled since his face was currently buried in his hands with his messy hair falling almost to the table. Ooooh, ‘floor *things*’, huh? *Multiple*. Hange did her best not to smirk.

“*I* think everyone,” Levi seemed to make an effort to glare at Hange while he spoke, “should just stop talking and eat their damn food.”

She made the exaggerated motion of locking her mouth shut and tossing away the imaginary key before scooping up more ragout, which really was good; Levi watched her like a beady-eyed hawk for about a minute before grunting and jabbing Eren in the back, which made the poor shifter groan and sit up straight.

The rest of the meal continued in silence, with Eren and Levi slowly leaning closer to each other while they ate. Hange rolled her eyes even if she found the scene adorable, and wondered if there was a way she could set up a ‘succubus’ circle to syphon off the sexual energy that was certain to be generated at some point that night; waste not, want not as she’d been taught, and that energy could come in handy for some spells.

And dammit, how could she claim the pot if she couldn’t tell anyone? Life was so unfair sometimes.

*******

It was official, life hated Levi. That and Eren was Evil Incarnate.

Levi had spent the evening pouring through the books Moblit had fetched for Hange, desperate for a distraction after the dinner from hell, and stayed up half the night reading until the words had become too blurry to distinguish from each other. He’d contemplated sleeping on the couch but… it was Hange’s couch. Yeah, no thanks.

He’d even gone so far as to put up a minor ward between him and Eren once he’d crawled into bed, hoping that would keep the brat to the one side, and yet here he was, sprawled on his back with an unconscious shifter tucked against his side and breathing against his neck. With his left hand resting on one damn fine ass his imagination was only too happy to give him ideas of what he could be doing to it instead of just lying there, with Eren’s magic soaking into him with each of the brat’s languid heartbeats.

There were a million reasons why Levi should just get up out of bed and take a cold shower, foremost of them the fact that Eren had a very high price on his head, was barely more than a kid, would probably disappear once things were safe enough and that they barely knew each other. There was also the fact that Levi had never felt such a strong desire for anyone like he had for Eren, which should be worrisome – yet all he could think about was that Eren was in bed with him, that Eren was the one who ended up treating him like a human body pillow every fucking night, that Eren-

That Eren had just let out a low moan and was rocking against him now, hips moving steadily….

Fuck this shit.

Levi damn near snarled as he lunged and shoved the infuriating brat onto his back, which startled a yelp out of Eren. There was a flash of gold as Eren’s eyes fluttered open and a gleam of sharp teeth, but other than that, Eren didn’t shift. “Wha? Levah?”

“I’ve had *enough*,” Levi snapped as he straddled Eren’s thighs. “You wanna fuck? Either we fuck or one of us is sleeping with Hange from now on.” And if it was the latter, then there were more dead bodies he needed to explode to help him calm down.

“Fuck?” It seemed as if Eren was a little slow when waking up, so Levi ground his own hard-on down which prompted another of those needy moans from the brat. “Oooh, this isn’t a dream, is it?”

“Hell no, more like a nightmare.” He rested his hands on the wall above Eren’s head and sighed, his own head hung forward. “You’re driving me crazy.”

Eren made a sound as if he was choking and sat up until his forehead bumped into Levi’s. “Me too.” His right hand trembled as it touched Levi’s bare chest. “I – there’s all this confusion and lust, and it’s not just mine.” He closed his eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. “Never felt things like this before, and then there’s the magic. Your magic.”

It took Levi a couple of seconds to make sense of that, considering how occupied he was just then with the thought that it wouldn’t take much effort to move in for a kiss. “Wait, you’re feeling stuff? You’re feeling my shi- ah, emotions?” He recoiled a little when Eren nodded.

“Don’t think it’s everything, just the strong ones.” Eren opened his eyes and frowned. “The stuff I always pick up on subconsciously, it’s like some switch got turned on all the way for you.”

What was happening here? Levi wasn’t sure he liked the idea of someone knowing how he felt, even if it was just the broad strokes, yet the sense of Eren’s magic as well as the gentle touch all along his chest made him want to groan in pleasure. He reached out to cup Eren’s face and almost smiled at the way those thick lashes fluttered, at how Eren gasped and the sense of their magic twisting together grew stronger.

Something seemed to push them together, and Levi… Levi was losing any and all resistance the more he touched Eren. “Get the fuck out of here if you don’t want this,” he warned again as he leaned in.

“Hmm, but it’s so nice here,” Eren breathed out as he closed his eyes. “Nice with you.”

That was a first for Levi; he huffed a little as the fingers of his right hand threaded through Eren’s mussed hair. “Last chance.”

As if in answer, Eren bridge the space between them and pressed their lips together; Levi moaned at the contact and his fingers clenched, determined not to allow Eren to pull away. The brat didn’t, and was quick to part his lips as if sensing Levi’s need.

Sensing. Shifter.

Levi jerked away in a rush which prompted a whine from Eren, and studied the shifter, intent on any signs of change.

“What?” Anger flashed in Eren’s brilliant eyes for a moment, and then he frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“You’re not changing.” Hange had said that Eren’s face and form was his original, so shouldn’t he be changing now? Didn’t a shifter… well, shift during these moments?

Eren’s frown deepened and he toyed with the hem of the sweatshirt he’d worn to bed. “Why would I? You seem to like me as I am.” Then his eyes narrowed. “Unless you have any weird kinks we need to discuss, then maybe I will go sleep with Hange.”

That earned him a light tap to the side of the head. “You little shit, no I don’t.” While Eren whined, Levi tugged him forward. “This is really how you are?”

A slight blush spread across Eren’s cheekbones. “I’ve always looked like this.”

“Huh.” Levi brushed the back of his knuckles along the right side of Eren’s lovely face. “That’s good, it would be some weird shit if you shifted during sex.”

The sense of heat intensified beneath his fingers and then Eren attempted to duck his head. “I tried… well, there were one or two guys when I was younger. Never got very far because… even if it felt good, I just can’t go on when I realize they don’t really want *me*. That I’m changing so much for them.”

“Huh? Oh.” So in other words, Eren hadn’t gotten too far because of others wanting him to change. Meanwhile, it was the opposite for Levi – the few times when he had felt the desire to be with someone, they had been put off by his magical nature so there hadn’t been much past some blow jobs and mutual jerkoff sessions. “Why would anyone want you to change? You’re perfect the way you are.” All gorgeous eyes and sun-kissed skin, a contrast of colors that made Levi want to stare and touch and stroke.

Eren cast him a look through those thick eyelashes, cheeks once more ablaze with some strong emotion. “Seriously – other than my, well, my family, only you like seeing me this way.” He caught Levi’s hand and pressed it against his cheek. “I think that’s why in part I knew I could trust you.”

“Idiot,” Levi chided him as he tilted Eren’s face upward. “Just means I have good taste, not that I’m trustworthy. Have a lot of rather unmentionable thoughts about you right now.”

He found himself tugged forward as Eren squirmed onto his lap, right on his fucking cock, the tease. “Hmm, think I’m picking up on how they go. Maybe you should teach me a lesson so I know better next time.”

Perhaps it was the feel of Eren against him, kissing him, clearly eager for whatever was going to happen next. Or maybe it was the lash of that wild, addictive magic against his own, so insidious as it sunk its claws into Levi. It could have been a mix of both, or the fact that some part of Levi had wanted this since he’d hauled Eren up off the ground back in Karanese but the next thing he knew, he’d grabbed onto the back of the light blue sweatshirt Eren was wearing and pulled on it until something tore.

“Huh?” Eren broke off the kiss and twisted around as if to look behind him, but Levi used the space between them as an opportunity to yank the ripped shirt over the brat’s head.

“Arms up.” Eren sputtered a little as the fabric rushed over his face, but soon he was clad only in his boxers, just like Levi. Boxers which did little to hide the fact that he was just as ‘eager’ for this, like Levi. “Last chance,” Levi warned, though he wasn’t certain if it was for Eren or himself.

He got an oddly knowing look for his concern as Eren reached to run a hand over his collarbones. “You don’t really mean that.”

“Mean what?”

“That you’re fine with me leaving.” He looked at Levi with eyes darkened with desire, strands of tousled hair in his face as his fingers left burning trails of magic and heat along Levi’s upper chest.

Fuck it, Levi had done his best, he told himself as he tumbled the little shit onto the bed. He almost asked if Eren was this much of a cock-tease with the other guys, until he remembered what Eren had told him, and then had to wonder if *this* was what *he* liked. Shit, was he fucked up or what.

Eren’s lips were parted when he dove in for a kiss, so eager and responsive that a moan slipped free from Levi before he knew it, his hands buried in Eren’s hair as his hips ground down and pleasure coiled deep in his stomach. So. Fucking. Responsive. He had to tear himself away before he came like a damn brat before the age of fifty from just rubbing against someone, a thought spared to send a spirit searching for the damn lube that Hange had mentioned earlier.

“Levi.” Eren reached for him, pupils blown with passion, skin flushed and lips swollen but still *Eren*, still unchanged in a physical sense. Yet his magic seethed so much that Levi felt dizzy from just being near the shifter, and any time Levi moved, Eren did too to match him.

“Not going anywhere,” he said, and then nearly jumped when the drawer on the far nightstand bumped open. Unsure if he should be grateful at the moment or not, Levi scooted across the bed so he could fetch the lube, and after peeking into the drawer, snatched up the unopened bottle he found before slamming it shut. All right, he was having a serious discussion with Hange about what the fuck she stocked for her guests.

The bed shifted and a warm, tingling presence pressed against Levi’s back. “It any good?”

“Looks like it.” It was still sealed and a better brand than Levi usually bought for himself. Realizing that he forgot to grab a condom, he was about to brave the drawer again when Eren tugged him back to the center of the bed.

“Then come on.” It was then that Levi noticed that Eren had shed his boxer shorts while he’d been fetching the lube. “Taking too long,” the brat complained while reclining back on the bed.

While dressed up in Levi’s clothes, it was easy to think of Eren as being almost delicate, but he was in good proportion for his height; he had long legs and some breadth to his shoulders, a bit of muscle definition to his chest and abdomen. It was almost a shame he didn’t have any real height to him, though it would be a pain to deal with a taller lover.

The flush to Eren’s golden skin deepened. “You’re staring.”

It wasn’t often that Levi paid anyone a compliment, mostly because he was horrid at it. “Those other assholes were fucking mental to want you any way other than you are.”

Eren was quiet for a moment, making him think he’d fucked it up again, and then smiled. “Come here, old man.” He used those long legs of his to hook his feet around Levi’s hips and urge him forward.

“What about the condoms? There should be-“ Levi’s thoughts got derailed as Eren’s legs wrapped around his hips. “Fuck.”

“Yeah, trying to do that.” The brat sounded a bit annoyed at the moment.

Levi gave him a cool look as he snatched at one of the discarded pillows. “If you’re in such a hurry….” In all honesty, he was all for speeding things up, he was so hard it was difficult to think. As soon as the pillow was shoved beneath Eren’s hips, he rocked back a little and cracked open the bottle of lube.

Once his fingers were slick, he ran his left hand along Eren’s thigh, unsurprised when the brat parted his legs wider with that slight urging. It only took a little rubbing around the tight hole before his finger slide inside, prompting a low moan from Eren.

“What, no self-lube,” Levi teased as he leaned forward and wrapped his left hand around Eren’s hard cock. “Guess that’s just a shifter rumor.”

A heel kicked him on the back. “Ha. Ha.” Dark strands clung to Eren’s forward and he arched his neck as another finger was added. “Ah!”

The sense of that wild magic intensified and pressed against Levi until it was almost difficult to breathe. It didn’t help that Eren looked gorgeous before him, body writhing on the bed as Levi’s fingers sunk into him, low moans and broken gasps sounding so sweet. Eren’s body seemed to open up to him, so warm and inviting that he was so on edge with needing to just pull out his fingers and-

Hands latched onto his head and yanked him down onto a fervent kiss, one that had him swallowing a ragged gasp of Eren’s. “Do it now,” Eren pleaded as their lips parted.

“But-“

“Fine, it’s fine. Need you now.” It felt as if Eren’s magic was all around Levi, almost a protective spell of its own, and he nearly snarled when he rocked back so he could yank down his boxers and free his own cock.

By now it was slick with the precum that had soaked the front of his boxers, but he managed to squeeze out some more lube – shit, half the damn bottle, the duvet was going to be fucking trashed after this – and slick it up proper before falling back onto Eren. There was a brief flash of a better way of doing things, of… oh fuck it, this was happening. Now.

Eren was like a damn monkey, arms and legs wrapping around him and pulling him in, magic all around Levi and then he lined up and *fuck*. *Fuck*. Nothing had prepared him for this, for the heat and the friction and fuck. He shuddered as he rocked all the way inside, Eren so damn tight yet sucking him in, hips lifted up to meet his so he didn’t stop until he was balls deep.

“Fuck.”

“Don’t, don’t, don’t stop,” Eren moaned, eyes closed and hands once more in Levi’s hair. “More, please more.”

If the brat wanted more, Levi was all for giving him more; he braced himself with his left hand on the wall and began to thrust, slowly at first and then with more speed as Eren moved with him, still wrapped around him as if to keep him from pulling away – as if Levi would do such an insane thing. When he reached down to start stroking Eren’s half-hard cock in time to his thrusts, Eren’s back arched off of the bed and that incredible tightness increased. Levi thought something inside of him would burst from the intense pleasure coursing inside of him, yet each thrust, each burn of friction only made it stronger, harsher, made the magic press harder against him until he felt as if he was drowning from it all.

“Don’… don’….” Eren was gasping beneath him, one hand digging into his shoulder and another splayed against his chest, neck arched and skin damp from sweat. Levi hunched down to brush their lips together, and the shift in position caused Eren to groan out his name while digging his nails into Levi’s shoulder. “Ah! Levi!”

Still hunched over, Levi gasped himself as the pleasure spiked and twisted inside of him, as it felt as if the emotion was hollowing out everything inside of him from its intensity until finally it burst forth. He shuddered as he came, teeth biting back on a moan and spots dancing before his eyes, and over the rushing of his own blood he heard Eren cry out as if from afar. Something warm spurted onto his hand as Eren tensed up around and beneath him, but at the moment he was too exhausted to care.

He blinked a few times and realized that Eren had come as well, now a boneless figure beneath him splattered with come, while Levi loomed over him supported by the wall. The sense of magic in the room had lessened a little, enough so it wasn’t as overwhelming as it had been before, and just then Levi wanted more than anything to sleep. Then he realized that his right hand was covered with come and he was sweaty as well, not to mention slick in certain spots, and there was the filthy duvet to consider.

“Oi, you still alive?” He wiped his hand on the duvet before he prodded Eren in the side; between Eren’s sudden breath and him rocking back, his cock slipped free and prompted a round of hisses from them both. Oh yeah, they definitely needed a clean duvet now.

“… maybe?” Eren clutched at his head as if it bothered him. “Ooooh, talk about overload.” Oddly enough, he didn’t seem to have any problem sitting up; Levi was about to ask him about his ass considering… well, considering, and then he remembered about a shifter’s healing ability.

“Come on, let’s wash off. I’m not going back to bed like this.” He hauled Eren onto his feet then yanked him toward the attached bathroom. Despite, well, everything they’d just done, it still felt good, the simple contact of touching the brat.

Eren must have felt the same because he leaned against Levi while waiting for the water to warm up in the shower. “Hmm, that was good.” He appeared ready to fall asleep at any moment.

“Damn right it was.” Levi wasn’t about to admit that ‘it’ was basically his first time.

Something, either his tone or his emotions – shit, he was not happy about the whole emotion thing – made Eren cast a baleful look his way. “What, because I’m a shifter?”

Levi clicked his tongue as he shoved an idiot brat beneath the now warm water. “No, because I’m the ‘great’ Levi.”

That startled a laugh from his… fuck, his lover, right? That took some getting used to, but if he was in this deep, might as well enjoy the benefits, no? “Should have seen that one coming.” Eren pushed aside the wet bangs falling onto his face and smiled up at Levi. “I’ll give it to you this time.”

“Oh, you’ll give it to me more than this time,” Levi drawled as he joined Eren in the shower.

That earned him another laugh as an armful of wet and sleepy shifter rested against him. “Fine, long as you wash my back, oh ‘great’ Levi.”

That didn’t seem like a bad offer, so Levi gave in with graciousness – at least that way, he knew the brat would be clean.

*******

Feeling the magic calm down for the night, Hange decided it was time to head off to bed; dammit, she really should have tried better to set up that ‘succubus’ circle - she could power a ward for a least a year with all of the magical energy that had been pouring out of the bedroom! Ah well, it wasn’t as if it would be a one-time thing, she was willing to bet. Nope, not with the way those two were acting together, and the fact that no one had come slinking out of the room yet to do a walk of shame.

Which was good, because not only did she need them to stay together long enough to set up that circle, but for her to get physical proof that Levi was in a sexual relationship with another man since she couldn’t call up anyone at the moment because of Eren. She’d better keep her phone on hand and hope for another ‘floor thing’ to happen soon.

And, well, there was the fact that Eren seemed good for Levi. It was about time the grumpy bastard caught a break, not to mention a real cute boyfriend.

She wondered if Levi would be upset about a celebratory ‘so you finally popped your cherry’ cake with dinner tomorrow…. Balloons were probably out, darn it. A new mug, maybe?

*******

“Pour a bit more energy into the ward.”

Eren grunted to show Levi that he heard the command, his eyes closed and most of his attention focused on the bit of magic he *mostly* had under his control; over the years, he’d always left this up to Mikasa or Armin since they had wards down pat, and then never had really stayed in one location long enough to bother with setting them up. They were tricky things, but he thought he’d finally got the hang of them.

“Ow!” He flinched at the light flick to his left ear and nearly lost hold of the magic.

“Focus, and don’t pour in that much energy,” Levi ordered, his emotions a mix of annoyance and amusement.

Grumbling beneath his breath, Eren struggled with both his thoughts and the energy until at least the latter flowed smoothly into the magical barrier he’d set up around the two of them. After a few seconds, it seemed as if something ‘clicked’ into place and there was another ‘flick’, this time a bare brush of fingers against the tip of his nose.

“Dammit, why do you do that?” he whined as he opened his eyes.

“It gets your attention.” Dressed in a black sweater and blue jeans, Levi sat across from him on the floor, arms crossed over his chest and a bland expression on his face. “Not bad for your fifth try.”

Eren scoffed at that as he rubbed at his nose with the overlong sleeve of his – well, Levi’s – dark grey sweater; there were the sweatshirts that Hange had bought for him, but for some reason he felt more comfortable wearing Levi’s hand-me-downs. “Maybe if I had a better teacher I’d learn faster.”

It was Levi’s turn to scoff. “You little shit, you have the best one out there – you want Hange to take over these lessons?” When Eren thought back to the mess that had been him learning the plague spell and shook his head frantic enough to make his neck sore, Levi clicked his tongue. “Thought so.”

The truth of it was, Levi wasn’t that bad of a teacher, the occasional flicks and swats aside. Sure, he was gruff and a bit stinting on the praise, but Eren responded well to his magic, especially after this morning. Refusing to blush as he thought about it, Eren reached out to ‘feel’ the wall of magic he’d just summoned. “So I’ll be able to block out people now?”

“Anyone who can’t tear down your magic, or who’s not ‘programmed’ to get through the ward.” A slight smile graced Levi’s handsome face when his hand slipped past the ward. “It can be a bit tricky, setting up those exceptions, so it’s best to just focus on building them up for now as strong as possible for your own protection and worry about the difficult stuff later.”

It figured that Levi could get through it – he was hellaciously strong, after all, but Eren didn’t feel him batter at the ward, it was more an… acceptance on the ward’s part. Even his own magic gave in to the man.

Feeling a bit tired from the morning’s lessons after everything that had happened so far that day, he sighed and slumped forward until he rested against Levi; he felt Levi’s body stiffen for a couple of seconds, and then Levi slowly relaxed as his arms came up to wrap around Eren. “’m tired.”

“What, you telling me a couple of easy spells wore you out? Such a baby.” Fingers slid through Eren’s hair and gave the strands a gentle tug.

“’m not a baby,” he insisted. “You’re a slave driver.” The feel of both Levi’s magic and arms around him was much too comforting, especially after so long of being on his own.

Levi snorted once, the sound soft and derisive, as he tugged again on Eren’s hair. “You’re definitely a baby, and a spoiled one at that. I had to ward the whole damn house for my first time, and that was after learning an offensive spell that can force a were to shift.”

“Eh?” Eren twisted about enough so he could look up at Levi. “Why would you want to learn that?”

The necromancer kept toying with Eren’s hair as he shrugged and stared off through the distance, his emotions a little distant just then. “It can really mess them up – forcing a shift when they’re not ready is supposed to be painful as fuck and throws them off mentally, so it gives you a few seconds to either run or launch an attack. Plus, if they’re hiding in a crowd and you don’t know who they are….” He arched his left eyebrow as he gazed down at Eren. “See where I’m going?”

“Huh.” Eren chewed on his bottom lip as he scooted a little closer. “Wonder if that spell would work on me.”

Levi’s hand left Eren’s hair to reach for the mug of tea he’d set aside. “To do what? You don’t have a default animal or hybrid form, so at best it might work if you’re shifted into something else.”

“True.” Eren shrugged as he let his head rest back against Levi’s shoulder. “Maybe later we can go outside and try it out? I can shift into my main attack form and we’ll see if I return to normal.” He wondered if he’d gain back his missing inches, but had a feeling he was stuck like this as long as Levi was around.

His idea got him a poke to his left ribs. “Hey!”

“Don’t go tearing up my clothes, brat.” Levi scowled at him over the rim of the mug. “We’ll borrow one of Hange’s robes for you to wear before we go outside.” There was a hint of jealousy beneath the curiosity and desire.

“Funny, you were all for tearing stuff up stuff this-“ Eren blinked in surprise as he found himself flat on his back with Levi hovering over him. “Ah, why do we always end up on the floor?”

The stern expression on his… lover’s? face lasted for about all of three seconds it changed into something disgusted. “The fuck all I know, and Hange’s floor at that.” Levi made a choking sound as he rocked back onto his knees and pulled Eren onto his lap. “Better?”

That hadn’t been exactly what he was going for, but Eren found himself unwilling to complain at the moment. “Yeah,” he whispered as he slid his arms over Levi’s broad shoulders. “Especially since Han-“ He raised his eyebrows over the fact that Levi’s hand was now covering his mouth.

“Don’t say it, or else you summon… *it*,” he hissed.

“Okay.” Yeah, she should be back at some point from running out for whatever stuff she was hunting down. Smiling a little, Eren waggled his brows as he leaned in close. “I’m taller than you for once.”

Levi rolled his eyes as he gave a smack to Eren’s ass. “You’re on my fucking lap, you brain-dead brat.”

“Still, how does it feel to look up at me, hmm? *Shorty*?”

Levi didn’t reply at first, just looked *up* at Eren with eyes that gained a hint of silver. The next thing Eren knew, the world heaved around him and he was tossed over Levi’s shoulder as they hustled through his first official ward. “Where are we going?”

“To a level playing field, so to speak.” There was a roughness to Levi’s voice that startled Eren, enough that it took him a moment to realize that they were headed to the spare bedroom; a ward went up around the room the same time that the door shut behind them. Before he could get out a proper complaint, the world spun around him again and he ended up landing on the bed.

He just got his hands beneath him to push up a little when Levi crawled on top of him. “So, ready to make any ‘short’ jokes now, hmm?” Levi appeared calm, but there was still a hint of silver in his eyes and that roughness to his voice, along with a return of the tumultuous desire that had swamped Eren earlier that morning.

Forcing a swallow past a throat gone tight, Eren summoned up a shaky smile. “You going to rip my shirt this time?”

“You want me to?”

He had to take a few seconds to consider his answer. “Uhm, no?” Not when he had so few to begin with, unfortunately.

“Then raise your fucking arms so I can take it off.”

Eren hurried to do what he’d been told, and swore that the asshole smirked before the shirt was jerked over his head. Levi was quick to shed his sweater as well, and then it was the feel of skin and magic pressing against him, the rush of desire and something almost sharp and painful but yet so sweet. Eren groaned as he laid back on the bed with Levi following him down, and wondered why this seemed more important than learning spells or running as far away as possible. Yet all that mattered was the feel of Levi’s magic and emotions entwining with his own, of Levi’s lips brushing along his neck and Levi’s weight pressing down on him.

There was some noise outside of the room, a crashing sound and a yelp of distress while Eren felt something press against his magic. He broke off the kiss with a gasp as Hange’s irate voice rang out.

“Dammit, who put a ward up in my living room? Eren? I can’t get to my bedroom!”

“Sho-should I oooh lower it?” Eren’s hips jerked upward as Levi began to undo the zipper of his jeans.

“No, less chances of us being interrupted.” A slight but decidedly evil smirk settled on Levi’s face as he tugged the jeans from Eren’s hips, his emotions just as wicked, so Eren just let his head fall back onto the bed and figured Hange was stuck for the time being before he let Levi’s emotions and pleasing touches obliterate any logical thought.

*******

“So what is it like to see dead people?”

Levi grunted and tugged on a strand of Eren’s bangs, which prompted the brat to nudge his chin deeper into Levi’s chest; they were sprawled out on the bed, sans duvet, Levi propped up by the pillows with Eren sprawled out on top of him.

“What’s it like to be the human equivalent to play-do?”

Eren seemed to consider the question while his right hand skimmed up and down the side of Levi’s bare chest. “Hmm, don’t know if I can put it into the right words – it was as if I always felt trapped when I was a kid, as if my skin was always itchy or too tight or something, and then when my talent hit everything was finally right.” He closed his eyes for a moment and smiled, the expression almost dreamy. “My body was *finally* right. It doesn’t hurt when I shift, I don’t understand it when people say how it affects were like that, but for me… my body just *flows*. I’m still me, but sometimes the emotions are sharper, stronger, especially if I’m fighting.”

Levi gave the chocolate dark strands another tug. “Maybe because you’re surrounded by a bunch of nasty shitstains, huh?” He clicked his tongue when the brat had the audacity to grin. “Yeah, thought so. To answer your question, I’m not sure when I noticed the dead people, it’s the first part of my talent that kicked in and it was when I was pretty young.” He paused for a moment as the memories resurfaced, yet having Eren here and feeling the shifter’s magic helped to center him. “Wasn’t in the best of places, then, so guess I was used to seeing fucked up people. Just knew, somehow, they couldn’t hurt me so it didn’t matter.”

“Hmm.” And just like that, Eren seemed to accept that Levi’d been the weird as shit kid who’d seen ghosts, that he was a necromancer. “Must have been nice, to always have somebody around like that if you wished.”

“Brat… *Eren*, you are one touched….” Levi shook his head as he flicked his lover in the forehead.

“What was that for?” Eren pouted as he pulled away a little, his brows furrowed and eyes flashing with annoyance.

“For being you,” was Levi’s retort, even as he yanked Eren back, his hands roaming over the soft material of the sweater – Levi’s sweater – Eren had put back on after they washed off. He smiled a little as he shook his head again. “Your ward went down, you know.”

Eren made a happy sound as he resettled on Levi’s chest. “Yeah, I… sorta lost concentration there.” His eyes narrowed as he poked Levi in the ribs. “Someone made me lose concentration.”

Levi scoffed as he smacked him on the ass. “Don’t give me that shit, you need to learn to hold a ward through worse than that. Later you’ll cast it again.” Though not in Hange’s living room, since she’d bitch up a storm if they kept blocking her from half of the house.

“Such a slave driver.”

“Damn right - you want to be captured?” When Eren whined and shook his head, Levi grunted and gave him another smack. “Though not.”

“This is ridiculous,” the brat complained. “Why do they even want me so badly in the first place? Just to make it easier to cast some spells and… well.” He rubbed at his eyes with his left hand. “Just doesn’t make sense.”

That was life for you. Levi sighed as he mussed his lover’s soft, tangled hair. “People always want something that’ll give them any advantage, and the rarer it is, the better.” And if they thought someone had more power than them? It was to be eliminated, something the Ackermans had learned the hard way through the centuries.

“It’s just, am I really worth it?” Eren rested his chin on his clenched fist and stared up at Levi, his expression serious and a little forlorn. “Am I worth my mom dying? My friends losing everything so they can keep me safe? You losing your home?”

That last question earned him another smack. “I told you, stop obsessing over the damn house!” Levi huffed as he wrapped his arms around Eren. “I’ve been running from those assholes a hell of a longer than you have, so I knew it was only a matter of time until I’d have to move on again.”

“Would’ve been longer if it hadn’t been for me,” Eren grumbled.

Oh, Isabel would love this – someone just as stubborn as him, Levi thought to himself. “Are you listening to me? Because if not, I can send some spirits into that empty head of yours to clean out the cobwebs.”

Eren blinked at the threat before he first shook his head, seemed to consider the action and then nodded.

“Good, because if you mention the damn house again, I *will* do that.” Levi bared his teeth for a moment before sighing. “Now, what’s for dinner?” Or should it be more like lunch? How long had they been in here? He just knew that he was getting hungry.

The brat appeared to ponder the question for about a minute. “There was some chicken in fridge.”

“Gah, Hange’s probably planning on doing something horrible with salmonella.” Levi grimaced as he wiped at his face. “One day she’s going to unleash a virus to wipe out most of the world.”

“Still, don’t see why we shouldn’t enjoy some roast chicken until she does.”

That did sound good. “Just make sure you cook it properly,” Levi warned. “I’m not going to spend the night shitting out my guts thanks to one of Hange’s special germfests.”

It was Eren’s turn to grimace. “Thanks for the visual.”

“Hey, you weren’t there when she unleashed a nasty strain of dysentery on these pricks who thought they could take us down since it was three to one. They were begging for death within five minutes.” Of course Levi was happy to help them out.

“Not what I want to be hearing when I’m going to be dealing with food,” Eren scolded as he glared up at Levi.

“Yeah, but I bet you wash your hands a lot now.” Levi counted that as a victory when Eren groaned and attempted to poke him again in the ribs. “Thought so.”

“I always wash my-“ Eren went still as a powerful sense of magic approached – one Levi knew well and was cause for a curse to slip free as he hustled Eren to the side before he leapt from the bed.

“This an attack?”

“Sorta.” Levi glanced over and saw how Eren’s hands began to shift and cursed again. “Fuck, I didn’t mean it like that – Hange and I know this bastard,” he explained as he snatched up the sweater lying at the foot of the bed and ran out the bedroom door. “It’s why he’s getting through the wards.”

Eren didn’t bother with grabbing any pants, but then again, he was a shifter, he probably figured if there was a chance of him changing forms, no sense in tearing up the clothes. Both of them hit the living room right about the same time that Hange was opening the front door to let Erwin inside.

“Erwin! Wow, this is a surprise, you’re rarely in this neck of the woods! You get lost or something?” Hange’s smile was a bit tense as she stepped aside to allow their friend access to the house.

“Not quite. I was wondering if you knew where Levi was, and can see that you do.” He stilled, his hands paused in unbuttoning his fancy trench coat, as he caught sight of Levi and Eren; his blue eyes were wide and his thick eyebrows rose up in surprise. “Are they…?”

“Yes!” Appearing pleased now, Hange pumped her left fist in the air and did a few odd steps as if dancing. “Yes they are!” Then she held out her right hand in an expectant manner.

While Levi watched on in a growing suspicion, Erwin sighed and reached inside his coat to pull out his wallet, then started counting out a large amount of bills. “Dammit, I’m rarely wrong about these things,” he complained.

“You can bitch about it in hell,” Levi ground out as he stalked forward, with Eren close on his heels. “Did you shitstains bet on me?”

Hange was quick to shove the money into the back pocket of her jeans and offer him a nervous smile. “Now come on, Grumpy, we bet on a lot of things! The pot on Mike getting ringworm is 7:1!”

“Hange’s not allowed to bet on that one,” Erwin murmured, and then his gaze narrowed in what appeared to be anger. “However, I’m not here to check in on any new romantic updates, but to find out what’s going on.” He finished unbuttoning the trench to reveal an equally expensive dark blue suit beneath. “I stopped by your house, Levi, only to find it burned to the ground.”

Great, so much for hoping that this was about Hange raiding any and all libraries in the vicinity, Levi thought a he ran his left hand through his hair, his fingers digging into his scalp for a moment. “Go grab some pants,” he ordered Eren. “Then meet us in the kitchen.”

For a moment it looked as if Eren would resist, and then he nodded before turning around; the sweater barely covered his boxer-clad ass, which prompted a whistle from Hange. Levi gave her a scowl for the harassment and got a too-innocent look in return. “Kitchen, now.”

“Yes sir!” Hange snapped off an insolent salute before sauntering away, leaving Levi to wonder why he hadn’t made better friends. Seriously? This was his best choice when in need?

At least she was putting on fresh water on for tea, so he decided she would live for now.

Erwin draped his coat over the back of one of the chairs and sat down, his body too tense for things to be played off as a social visit. “So, does your… boyfriend? Does he have anything to do with the loss of your house?”

Nothing like getting to the heart of the matter, that was Erwin Smith for you.

“Yeah, and enough about the damn house.” Levi pulled on the sweater before he leaned against the counter, not in the mood to sit down since he doubted this would be that civil of a discussion. He waited until Eren entered the kitchen fully dressed and shook his head when he noticed that the brat was headed for the fridge. “Really?”

“Well, you said you were hungry – unless we’re leaving after this, might as well get some food on, right?” When Levi didn’t argue otherwise, Eren nodded once and continued fetching the ingredients to make roast chicken.

“Eren’s a pretty good cook,” Hange informed Erwin as she put on some coffee. “He’s also a shifter.”

That was one way to break the news, Levi supposed, and was amused to see Erwin’s eyebrows shoot up once more.

“A shifter?” He studied Eren, who was busy washing his hands after grabbing a roasting pan. “I can’t tell – his magic is too wrapped up in Levi’s to get a clear read.”

“Oh yeah, they’ve been ‘wrapped’ up together a-“

Levi put one of the souls which always hovered around Hange’s house to good use and shook the blood witch’s chair to get her to shut up. “Thought I told you to butt out, didn’t I?”

Her eyes went almost comically wide as she sniffed. “But I’m-“

“Being a pain in the ass, so shut it.”

“So mean you are.”

“What else is new?”

Erwin cleared his throat in a loud and exaggerated manner as he got up to fetch a mug and then waited by the brewing coffee. “If the both of you are finished behaving like children, I’d like an explanation.” He nodded at Eren, who was in the process of cleaning various vegetables before placing them around the chicken. “I’m Erwin Smith, by the way. It’s a pleasure to meet someone as unique as yourself.” He bowed as he spoke, a quick dip of the head.

Eren eyed him with some trepidation before turning to Levi. “I can’t figure out what he is.”

“Mage, mostly, but he has some demon blood from a couple of generations back so I call him an evil bastard even though his parents were married.” The kettle started boiling just then so Levi reached around the stunned brat so he could pour the hot water into the teapot; he found it amusing that Eren had no problem with him being a necromancer and mostly took Hange’s weird talent in stride, but was currently eyeing Erwin as if he’d burst into hellfire at any moment.

Erwin cleared his throat again, a pained expression on his face. “Yes, well, I hardly think you’re one to talk about family history, Levi.” He ignored the glare sent his way and resumed smiling at Eren, who was busy preparing the chicken. “My bloodline might be a bit exotic, but nothing compared to yours.”

That earned him a glare from Eren as well, who took an anxious few steps from Levi’s side so he could place their dinner in the oven before scurrying back. “I don’t understand what’s the big deal about me. So I can change shape and stuff.”

“There’s also the fact that he’s some sort of ‘key’,” Hange offered up. “Eren’s father mentioned that to him, and no, I haven’t found anything about that yet.” She nodded when Erwin held up the empty coffee mug. “Though I just started looking, to be honest.”

“I think you need to tell me the story from the beginning – all I know is that two days ago, Mike and I came across a were from the Trost pack sniffing around where she shouldn’t be and when we attempted to question her, she attacked as if she had no choice. Mike thought she smelled as if she’d been placed under geas, so I figured that I’d check up on Levi to see if he knew of anything going on. That or if he might have been her objective.” Erwin paused to pour the just-brewed coffee. “Imagine my surprise when I arrived to find nothing but ashes at what used to be his home.”

Levi snaked his arm around Eren’s waist and gave his right hip a warning squeeze when the house was brought up. “Eren and I ran into each other in Karanese, when I was there to check up on Petra.” He caught the way Erwin’s eyes narrowed for a moment, but tough shit; it hadn’t been that long ago when Olou had died and Levi wanted to make sure his friend was doing all right. “Literally ran into each other, and….” Hange’s sniggering just then didn’t help. “There was something about his magic so I dragged him back home.”

“Bet there was,” Hange muttered, sotto voice. Warning looks from both Levi and Erwin had her gulping down enough coffee to shut her up.

Levi returned his attention to Erwin once the pest was back under control and shrugged. “You can see how determined they were to get their hands on the brat. We got rid of everyone sent after him and I did a better job of covering our tracks when we came to Hange’s.”

Erwin gazed at him – no, at him and Eren, his blue eyes deepening to an azure glow after a few seconds. “I have to admit, I didn’t sense any trace of you between your place and here, so yes, you did a much better job. I also didn’t sense you until I got into the house, though I have to wonder if it’s because of the wards and the protection spells or if there’s something going on with your magic. It’s… your ‘contact’ with Eren has changed it somehow.”

“Huh?” Levi scowled as he used his talent to summon a spirit to him; it responded just as easily as always, if not easier, while beside him Eren squirmed about as if nervous. “Nothing’s changed, I can still control things and sense the dead. Been casting spells all damn day, too, while teaching them to Eren.”

Erwin sat down at the table with his mug held between his hands and shook his head. “I’m not saying that you’re weaker, just that your magic feels a bit different. Perhaps if you and Eren separated a bit, it would feel the same again.”

“I’m not doing anything to him,” Eren insisted as he took a step forward.

“I didn’t say you did, just that there’s been a change and it’s best to be certain about these things under the current circumstances.” Erwin turned toward Hange. “I’m surprised you didn’t notice it yourself.”

“Well, Eren arrived all wrapped up in Levi’s spells and then Levi-“

Eren stalked forward and slapped his hands down on the table. “I didn’t do anything!” He shouted as his eyes flashed a pure gold. “And neither did Levi! Stop talking!” There was a flare of magic, of that wild, energizing force Levi recognized as Eren’s, though now there was a chill of something cool, something darker entwined with it which Levi took as his own, and then the table trembled as a creaking sound filled the room. Erwin’s eyes shone blue and Hange let out a yelp as thick tendrils shot out from the table as if it had suddenly come alive, tendrils that stopped once they hit the wall of spirits Levi summoned in a desperate haste.

“Stop it!” he hissed as he wrapped his arms around Eren’s waist and yanked him away from the piece of furniture turned impromptu weapon. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“I… I don’t know!” Eren stared at his hands in shock, his eyes mostly back to normal except now they were wide pools of black surrounded by a rim of turquoise. “I just – that never – what is it?”

“I think that’s probably an example of you being a ‘key’,” Hange remarked as she poked at a waving tendril, only to yelp again as it lashed at her. “Shifters are able to draw heavily on the life force around them, that’s why you have a healing factor on overdrive and can shift into shapes impossible for other were. I’d say at the very least, you can do what others can’t and channel that life force in ways impossible even for earth mages – you basically just reanimated something that was dead.” She grinned at them and gave them a thumb’s up. “Aw man, now I need a new cup of coffee.” She didn’t seem too concerned about her kitchen table being turned into… well, some sort of cross between a slab of wood and an octopus.

Erwin pinched the bridge of his nose as if he had a headache. “It’s the last item which I feel has some bearing on our previous discussion.” He waved his hand through the air in front of one of the tentacles. “Levi, touch the table with your magic.”

“Huh?” Levi didn’t see why he was being drawn into this shit, but he recognized that look on Erwin’s face and knew he wouldn’t get any peace until he gave in. Giving Eren’s waist a squeeze, he let go. “Don’t go stirring up any new shit, brat.”

“I didn’t mean to stir it up in the first place,” Eren muttered as he stepped aside.

“Right.” Levi let out a slow breath and approached the table, which for some reason didn’t attempt to attack him. “What am I supposed to do here?”

Erwin’s brows drew together as he watched the tentacles for a few seconds. “Will them to go away.”

Yeah, like that was helpful. Levi gave him a nasty look for being so vague as he set his hands on the table, his magic summoned but… yeah, his thoughts focused on wanting this nonsense to end. He had to eat at some point today, since breakfast had been hours ago and damn if he was going to do so in Hange’s living room.

The table continued to tremble for several heartbeats as the tentacles writhed about as if in hopes of latching on to Erwin and Hange, and then…. Then the new growths crumbled upon themselves like ash until the table was back to how it had been, save a hell of a lot messier. “Nasty,” Levi remarked as he dusted off his hands. “Oi, shitty glasses, wipe up this mess.”

“After I save a few samples, Grumpy.” Hange scurried over to a drawer to pull out what looked to be a couple of petri dishes. “That was *fascinating*.”

Eren approached the table and would have run his fingers through the ash if Levi didn’t snatch at his hand to pull it away. “So what, Levi can negate my magic?”

“No, I think it’s a matter of yin/yang.” Erwin went to fetch a new mug as well and of course kept them waiting to find out what the hell *that* meant until he had more coffee. “I think I understand why the Reiss organization is so upset that you swooped up their prize, Levi.”

“By all means, keep it to yourself, EB.” Levi figured the tea had steeped way too long by that point and went to pour some for himself and Eren.

As usual, the nickname wrung a weary sigh from Erwin, but prodded him to hurry up with the explanation. “While I’m certain that they weren’t pleased that a powerful mage like yourself got your hands on what they wanted first – my apologies, Eren, for talking about you as if you’re an item and not a person – it’s the fact that you’re a very powerful *necromancer* that set them off to the point they attacked you on your own ground.” He shook his head, a slight smile on his lips. “Not their brightest decision.”

“Why is the fact that Levi’s a necromancer so important?” Eren frowned until Levi handed him a mug of tea.

“As I said, it’s almost like yin and yang.” Erwin gazed at Eren for a moment before shifting his attention to Levi. “You said you ‘had to drag’ Eren back with you. His magic drew you to him, yes?”

The question made Levi uncomfortable, but Erwin usually had a point to shit like this. “Yes.”

“Ah. And Eren, is there a reason that you went along with Levi?”

The brat squirmed beside him. “Well… somehow I knew I could trust him. And yeah, his magic was… yeah.”

Erwin appeared much too smug just then, while Hange was humming what sounded to be the ‘Wedding March’ as she collected her samples. “I imagine that was your empathy kicking in. As for your relationship, I suppose it’s this sense of attraction due to the trust and the magic that helped speed things along?” When Levi glowered over the rim of his mug and Eren turned to hide his face against Levi’s shoulder, Erwin’s smugness went up a notch. “Indeed.”

“You enjoying yourself, you sick bastard?”

Erwin waved aside the insult as he sipped his coffee. “I don’t mean to be intrusive, honest. However, the answers just prove my hypothesis. Levi. Though explaining it as yin/yang is too simplistic, it is a way of saying complimentary forces.”

If it wasn’t for Eren pressed against his side and the fact that he owed the smug bastard a huge favor, Erwin would be missing a couple of vital organs right about now. “You calling me a woman?”

Hange paused in the middle of cleaning up the table. “Is that supposed to be an insult?” Her eyes took to glowing red as she pulled her glasses down her nose to gaze at him.

Levi combed through his bangs and shook his head. “No, it’s just that I’m not the passive woman in this rela-“ He stopped when he felt the prick of claws against his side and looked over to find Eren staring at him with golden eyes and sharp teeth bared. “Never mind, continue,” he told Erwin.

Oh yes, definitely a smug bastard now. “As I was saying, it’s not an ideal explanation, but it’s the *complementary* yet *mirrored* nature that I’m striving for here. Eren is a shifter and tied to the life force in a way we don’t quite understand. Levi is a necromancer and so tied to death. Both are very powerful, magical beings, and while most would assume their natures would be repelled by the other….” Erwin shrugged as he set his mug aside and threaded the fingers of hands together. “It’s a known fact that you can’t have light without shadow, cold without warmth, and life without death. Perhaps in the past shifters and necromancers were always drawn together like this, but shifters are born so rarely now and the most powerful necromancers are sought out and destroyed.” He cast a sorrowful look Levi’s way before picking up his mug. After another pause for a sip, he nodded. “The last thing Reiss wants is for the two of you to grow more powerful together, or for you to ruin their chances of gaining control over Eren.”

“Tough shit.” Organizations like Reiss had made his life little better than a living hell, so Levi was more than happy to mess up their plans in any way he could. That he did so with Eren was icing on the cake, as they said. “Like I’ll lose any sleep over it.”

Eren stirred from his side and held up his left hand, which now sported claws. “So you’re saying that what, it’s because of Levi my magic is acting this way?”

Hange paused in her cleaning to look at Erwin, who frowned into his mug. “I’m just saying that being with Levi is influencing both of your magics; I have only the most rudimentary ideas about you being a ‘key’ and don’t believe Levi has much effect on that other than to possibly offer some means of control.” He looked up to gaze upon Eren. “I do have to wonder if there’s a reason why the two of you crossed paths like you did.”

“What, like fate?” Eren scoffed at that. “Whatever.”

Erwin arched an eyebrow as he glanced at Levi. “Twenty-nine,” Levi answered the unspoken question.

“Ah, that explains it. Wait until you pass your first century and then tell me you don’t believe in fate, Eren.”

Eren looked about to wave aside that declaration, only to sigh and run his fingers through his hair. “This is… it’s just too much.” He slumped against Levi, a warm, magical bundle almost without bones. “Each time I think things can’t get any weirder, they do. I’m tired of running. I’m tired of people looking at me as if I’m a thing. I’m… I’m just tired.”

Hange made weird hand gestures to Levi until he wrapped his arms around the brat. “We’re working on the running thing,” he told him, which earned him something muffled from Eren and an approving smile from Hange.

“Yep, I’ve an arsenal of spells I’m just itching to unleash on those bastards, and there’s no way Levi’s gonna let anyone take his boyfriend away. Now that Erwin’s here, we’ve got the backing of a real army at our disposal, right!” She slapped her ash-covered hand on Erwin’s fine wool-covered arm, and he had the grace to merely smile in acknowledgement.

“’Army’ might be stretching things, but we are a rather impressive force.” He nodded to Levi. “I prefer to choose my battles, but this is a worthy one. It’s also one I believe we’re going to have to fight sooner rather than later.”

It better well damn be – if Reiss or anyone else got their hands on someone like Eren, it would be nightmare for everyone else. “So honored you see it that way,” Levi drawled.

Erwin was quiet as he gave Levi an assessing look, then shook his head. “And here I always believed that when the time came to take on Reiss and the other organizations like them which believe they can control our magic and cull amongst us at their whim, I’d have to drag you out to the forefront of the battlefield.” He shifted his gaze to Eren, who was still tucked against Levi’s side. “Fate indeed.”

That was a bit uncalled for – Levi had promised Erwin he’d fight in return for the favor all those years ago, though it was true that he wasn’t as active as some of the others. Still, now he had another reason to spur him on to fight – one that was poking him in the damn ribs. “What?”

The expression on Eren’s face just then was one of disappointment. “Wait, so you’re like a terrorist or something?”

“I wouldn’t-“

“Yep!” Hange cut him off before he could explain. “We fight for the freedom of all magical beings.” She paused in labeling the petri dishes to give Erwin a fisted salute. “Erwin’s our mighty leader.”

“I don’t know about the ‘mighty’ part,” Levi muttered as he rubbed at the back of his head. “And we’re not terrorists… not exactly.” Why was Eren frowning at him?

“Magical terrorists.” Eren’s nose wrinkled as if in disgust when he spoke. “No wonder they want to kill you all the time.” He folded his arms over his chest and *glared* at Levi.

“No, they want to kill me because I’m a necromancer.”

“A *magical terrorist* necromancer,” Eren corrected him. “Mikasa’s going to flip out when she meets you, I know it.”

It was official, Levi’s lover truly was brain-dead. “You know, anyone else would be shitting themselves over the ‘necromancer’ part, not that first bit,” Levi felt he had to point out. “And your sister is going to adore me.” Eren’s expression changed into one of extreme dubiousness. “Oh fuck off, you little shit.”

“Are they fighting?” Erwin’s whisper wasn’t quite quiet enough.

“I think it’s their version of foreplay – they start snarking at each other and then they hit the floor and oh, yeah, need to have my camera ready for the next bit, it’s really good,” Hange mock-whispered back.

Okay, maybe Levi was regretting abandoning and burning down his house quite a bit right now. “You’re seriously giving me shit for killing some assholes who think they can control who has magic?” he demanded as he yanked on the front of Eren’s borrowed sweater.

The brat’s glare melted into something more uncertain. “It’s just… that’s not how….” He shook his head as he grasped at Levi’s hand. “Everything’s all messed up anymore.”

It was a sentiment Levi was well familiar with these days. “I know the feeling.” He shifted his grip from the soft fabric to the silky strands at the nape of Eren’s neck. “Now stop spouting such bullshit before I really do use some spirits to clean out those cobwebs.”

That earned him a smile, one that lit up Eren’s lovely eyes and did weird things to Levi’s chest. He’d just rested his forehead against the brat’s when there was a painful sounding groan from the table.

“No!! Come on, I want to see some floor action! Give us some floor action!”

Only the fact that Erwin would object to losing one of his top fighters prevented Levi from summoning a revenant then and there. “How long until the food is ready?”

It might have been the angry bite to the words that caused Eren to pull back a little. “I need to start making a few other things in about forty-five minutes or so.”

“That’s fine.” Levi grabbed his left wrist and tugged him away from the counter. “We’re going to practice some spells for a bit.” When Hange gave him a knowing grin, he had a spirit bump her chair again. “*Practice spells*. Come anywhere near the bedroom, and you’re zombie chow.”

“But revenants aren’t-“

“Zombie. Chow.” Levi didn’t slow down as he stomped out of the room with Eren at his heels.

“Please tell me no more of your friends are going to show up any time soon.”

That dredged a chuckle from Levi as he all but shoved Eren into their bedroom. “I’m about to set up a wall of revenants to keep that from happening. Now come on, time to practice that ward again.” He had a feeling they’d need it to keep those two out come evening.

*******

Judging that the potion should have taken effect by now, Armin nodded to Mikasa, who stepped closer to the magically bound water mage. “What’s the last thing you heard about the shifter?” When he didn’t answer, she tightened the glowing white bonds around him until he groaned. “The shifter!”

The ruddy-faced man groaned, his sweat-soaked hair falling into his closed eyes as he attempted to resist the potion; Armin knew he must be in pain as the potion drove him on to break the geas binding him to silence but didn’t feel any sympathy, not for someone hunting down Eren. Eventually the potion won out, as he knew it would. “Kar-karanese,” the mage stuttered out, blood flying from his lips which he had bitten into in an attempt to remain silent.

Mikasa’s dark eyes narrowed upon hearing the name of the city but she otherwise remained still, while Armin gasped at the thought of how far away Eren had managed to run. “What about Karanese?” she asked as she tightened the bonds.

The mage struggled once more, only to groan in agony after a few seconds. “Wah-was spot-ted there.” He panted for a few seconds and shook his head, the sweat rolling down his face in fat drops, along with blood flowing down his chin. “Ah-almost caught.” As if weary beyond words, he forced his eyes open, his hazel eyes bloodshot. “Ah-all I know.”

Mikasa looked over her right shoulder at Armin, who nodded once; he knew his potions, and that this one was working despite the powerful geas on the mage. There was no way the mage could lie to them, so the information was correct. Without bothering to look back at the man, Mikasa rose up with a graceful sway and there was a snapping sound as the magical bindings broke the mage’s neck before fading away.

“We need to get to Karanese as soon as possible – I’m sure he’s gone by now, but at least it gives us a starting point to find his most recent trail.” She spoke with a rare hint of anger in her soft voice, no doubt at the thought of how far Eren could run in the amount of time it took them to get to the city – and how much trouble he could find himself in by then.

“He said ‘almost caught’,” Armin reminded his dear friend while he reached into his leather satchel for a potion that would render the dead mage into ash, which he then tossed onto the body. “One thing Eren’s very good at is slipping away.” There was some bitterness to that statement, as Armin’s right hand slid along to the healed wound on his left side, the wound that had caused Eren to leave them almost three years ago.

“Yes, but there’s been too many close calls lately from what we can tell.” Mikasa noticed, like she always did, and grasped Armin’s hand as she tugged him away from the disintegrating body. She never blamed him for what happened, for Eren leaving, instead focusing her anger and worry on those who sought to use and hurt her precious brother. “They’re really determined to catch him now, and….” She shook her head as they slipped back into the night.

And it didn’t seem to be just the major magic families and organizations this time, either. They had been lucky to finally run across the Reiss mage to question, since for the past month every lead they’d tracked down had turned up dead by the time they got there. Someone was hunting Eren, someone powerful and clever and very skilled at blending in, someone who had Mikasa worried to the point of tears for Eren. They needed to find him, and find him fast.

“We’ll get there in time,” Armin assured her and gave her hand a squeeze. “Now how about we head out to the East Side? I bet there’s a fast car there just waiting for us to steal it.”

Mikasa smiled at him as she hugged his hand to her chest. “Bet I can find a car and break in before you do.”

“You’re on.” Armin smiled back and laughed when she began to run, certain that this time, they were gaining ground on Eren.

*******

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