chapter seventeen

*******

fire and gasoline

 *******

Levi passed by a nervous looking Moblit on his way to Hange’s lab; that wasn’t too unusual, as the poor man put up with *Hange* for a living, but the way the man studiously avoided meeting Levi’s eyes was more than a little suspicious. He paused for a second to watch Moblit scurry away before continuing on his way to meet up with Hange, determined to find out what had happened with Pixis earlier – if Erwin had revealed anything about Eren to the old drunk, he wanted to know now so he could string the manipulative asshole up by his own entrails.

He entered the lab, expecting to find Hange huddled over her computer while crunching away at some statistics or haphazardly mixing some random chemicals together, not bent over on a chair clutching at her sides, tears streaming down her face as she laughed hysterically. “All right, I am *seriously* telling Erwin that you’re useless to us now as anything other than Malform bait,” he informed the raving lunatic.

Hange appeared to try to stutter out something while shaking her head back and forth, her face an appalling shade of red. She rose up a few inches from the chair and collapsed on the floor, a heaving pile of insanity that Levi didn’t want anything to do with except that he needed some answers. Clicking his tongue in distaste, he skirted around the squirming madwoman to go collect one of the liquid-filled beakers that littered the surface of the nearest workstations. Figuring that he had an even chance of it containing something acidic, he stood about an arm’s length from Hange and dumped its content around the proximity of her head.

“Agh!”

So, not acidic then. He supposed that was good while he tossed the glass beaker aside. Meanwhile, Hange shot up onto her knees, her hands frantically wiping at the light yellow liquid that was streaming down her face. “You *asshole*! I spent days on that formula,” she wailed.

“Seems to be a good cure for senseless laughter to me, so the sacrifice was worth it.” He shrugged as he folded his arms over his chest. “Act like an idiot on your own time – I want to know how the meeting went with Pixis.”

Muttering under her breath things that it were probably in her best interest that he didn’t hear clearly, Hange shoved herself up onto her feet and stomped over to one of the lab’s sinks, where she removed her glasses and stuck her head under the stream of water to rinse whatever the chemical had been from her hair and face. After fumbling around a few times for a towel, she dried off as much as possible and turned to face him, damp bangs and messed-up ponytail sticking up in all directions around her still flushed face. “You are *such* an asshole.”

“Tell me something that I don’t know.”

For a moment a sly expression came over her face and she chuckled. “Oh, wouldn’t you *love* that, Captain Napoleon?” She threw the wet towel to the side and hooked her thumbs over the waistband of her white pants. “So, the meeting with Pixis, eh?”

Not liking how she’d changed the subject, Levi narrowed his eyes in suspicion yet nodded. “Yes, you shit for brains, the meeting with the Engineer’s commander. How did that go?”

“Hmm, someone a bit worried about his cutie? I still haven’t forgotten about the two of you in the hallway.” Her grin grew even wider. “You decide to listen to my advice after all?”

Levi took a step forward, his hands balling into fists and his eyes narrowing even more. “Hange…”

“All right, sheesh.” She held her hands up as if in surrender and rolled her eyes. “You’re supposed to be less grumpy after getting some-“

“Hange!”

“Okay!” Pushing back her unruly bangs, Hange let out a huff of air before she finally answered Levi’s question. “The meeting went well, you inconsiderate bastard.” She stalked over to a cleared off section of the lab where she’d set up a beaker of water to be boiled and lit the burner. “I figured we’d even have some tea and biscuits to celebrate, even though you don’t deserve it after trying to melt my head off.”

“As if there’s anything strong enough in your lab that’ll eat through the junk in your skull,” Levi muttered, but he joined her over at the station. “What did Erwin say to Pixis?”

Some of Hange’s bad mood seemed to vanish at the question. “Eh, you’ve got it bad, don’t you?” When he resumed glaring, she began to fuss with the tin of biscuits set out. “Well, we talked about ‘my’ research and how it proves that the vampires are doing their best to hide the fact that the outside is almost ready to be resettled, along with the help of the Chairmen. Pixis wasn’t too happy about that. Then we brought up vampires being in the MP and messing with the domes, and while I’m not sure if he’s 100% behind us on that, he’s willing to help out.” She shrugged as she peeled off the tin’s lid and then proudly displayed its contents to him for his approval; he wasn’t as crazy about sweets as she was, but they looked all right so he nodded.

“Erwin kept Eren and Mikasa a secret?”

“Hmm, yeah, he didn’t bring them up at all.” Hange paused to bite into a biscuit, moaning in pleasure at the taste in a way that made Levi want to step away before she tackled him to the floor in some perverted manner. “Oh, these are *good*.”

“I’m so happy for the two of you,” Levi snapped, more than a little sarcastic. “Do you think he’ll *keep* them a secret? Pixis isn’t an idiot – he’s going to want to know more information soon, especially if his people start dying.”

“Always looking on the bright side of things, aren’t you?” Hange removed the boiling water from the heat and poured it into the waiting pot. “Between the three of us, we’ll figure out some way to protect Eren’s secret.”

“You better, because I can’t imagine that Mikasa will just idly stand by if she feels threatened.” Levi picked up a biscuit and gave it a try; it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t rate Hange’s near ecstatic reaction. He noticed his friend staring at him oddly and frowned. “What?”

“Yeah, because *Mikasa* will be the one coming after Erwin’s hide if that happens.” She did an exaggerated eye roll as she set the beaker aside. “You’re a bit more transparent than you’d like to think, Sweetie.”

He brushed the crumbs off of his hands before he rested them on the hilts of his blades. “I’ve no clue what an insane person like you is referring to.”

This time Hange remained quiet, she merely shook her head while she waited a minute and then poured them both some tea and went to fetch the milk and sugar. When she came back, she withheld the milk in one hand and shook the finger of the other in front of Levi’s face. “Nah-ah! So, tell me how things are going with Eren! That was quite the blush when I asked him about his collar!”

Dammit, why couldn’t that liquid have been acid? Levi scowled as he snatched free the milk. “I’m sure you’re very familiar with the aspects of two adults and what they do together when there’s a physical attraction.” Then he reflected upon that while he poured a bit of milk into his tea. “Never mind, I don’t want to know the perverted shit you get into with your victims.”

“Levi!” Hange wrung her hands together while she cried out. “How can you be so mean? I’ve only mentally scarred…” She ticked off several fingers and frowned. “Well, we won’t go into that right now, we’re talking about *you*!”

“And why is that, when there’s so much shit piling up around us that we should be drowning in it by now?” His friends had some seriously messed up priorities, but what else was new? “All I wanted was to make sure that Erwin kept his promise and to get some blood for Eren.” He regretted saying that last bit when he saw the way that Hange’s eyes lit up in a demented manner.

“Oh ho! So Eren’s stopping by again tonight, eh?” She leaned back against the counter, her freakishly long legs stretched out in front of her and the mug of tea held cupped in her hands. “You gonna do some more ‘practicing’?”

“I’m going to give him a chance to feed in private is what I’m going to do,” Levi snapped. “And just stop right now with the teasing when you’re the harping bitch who told me to give the little shit a chance.”

Hange pouted over the rim of her mug. “Aw, but you’re so cute together, how can I resist? Just like Napoleon and Josephine!”

Levi pressed his fingertips to his temples and wondered if he’d inhaled some noxious fumes when he’d poured that shit on the maniac. “Seriously, just how scrambled is your brain? He’s a fuckbuddy – or will be if we’re left alone enough to get to that stage.” Then he frowned as something occurred to him. “And what’s with all this ‘Napoleon’ shit? Only those with fangs call me that, not you.”

It was rare to see Hange truly flustered, but right now was one of those times; she nearly dropped the mug in her haste to straighten up and act innocent. “Uh, well, Eren called you it earlier and-“

“And you decided to follow along with the guy I’m swapping spit with? That’s disturbing as hell, even for a freak like you.” Levi grimaced then picked up his mug of tea to take the nasty taste that thought brought to mind out of his mouth. When he was finished, he set it aside and glared at the still obviously disturbed scientist. “Who the hell Is ‘Josephine’?”

“Ah, see, I was doing a little digging and found out a bit more….” Hange laughed, the sound as nervous as she looked just then, a bead of sweat sliding down the side of her face as she edged away from Levi.

Years of hunting Malforms and stalking easy targets before that had honed Levi’s senses, and they were pinging like mad right now that he should go in for the ‘kill’, even if he didn’t know what exactly the ‘kill’ was at the moment. “Hange, just *what* did you find out?”

“Did you know that Napoleon was a rather brilliant strategist, all things considered? I mean, he lost some rather important battles and that whole Russia campaign was a mess, but you could argue that- ack!” Hange scrambled to get away from Levi, but she was just too slow; Levi had her cornered against the workstation and unless she wanted to knock over several of her ‘works in progress’ just then, she was screwed. For a moment it appeared that she considered it, her body tensed enough to push up and over the surface behind her, and then she let out a sudden breath and hunched into herself. “You’re such an evil bastard.”

“Takes one to know one,” Levi shot back. “Now, what did you find out?” Hange wouldn’t be aping Eren and Mikasa – wouldn’t be using a name that *Ymir* repeated, and if anyone wanted to talk about evil bastards, that was one right there – unless she found something that… “Why the *hell* were you laughing so much earlier?”

Hange slowly began to sink to the floor, as if she could somehow escape his notice that way. “You see… it’s really pretty funny, how expressions develop in language! They take on lives of their own, and of course as new words come in from different languages and events happen over time certain ones take precedent and older ones fade out due to-“

Levi loomed over her and drew out a blade several inches. “Explain before I gut you.”

“Napoleonapparentlywasaveryshortassholejustlikeyousotherewasthisphrase’Napoleoniccomplex’todescribeshortbastardswhohavemajorpersonalityissuesbecausetheyfeelinferiorduetotheirheightandtakeitoutoneveryonearoundthemandifthatdoesn’tdescribeyouIdon’tknowwhatdoes!”

It took several seconds for that vomit of words to make sense, and then Levi remained still above Hange for a moment longer. With an icy control that centered more on a certain honey-eyed brat than the lunatic cringing before him, he sheathed his blade and took a step back. “The blood – where is it?”

“Uhm, did you-“

“The. Blood. Give it to me.” The cold stare he directed at Hange made it clear that he wasn’t done with her, not by a long shot, but she was low in his priorities at the moment.

“Oh-kay.” Hange huffed as she jerked her right hand through her bangs and then went off to fetch something from one of the mini-fridges. She returned with a plastic bag filled with red liquid, detouring a moment to wrap it in one of the towels scattered about. “Here you go, one unit of AB, courtesy of Moblit. Tomorrow I’ll start pulling random people in for the ‘blood drive’.”

He snatched at the bag as soon as it was in reach, uncaring about anything else. Giving Hange one last icy look to let her know he wasn’t finished with her, Levi turned to leave the lab so he could go settle a score with a certain brat who thought he was so clever. 

*******

Eren tucked back the strands of his still damp hair and wondered why he felt so nervous while he headed to Levi’s quarters. It wasn’t as if he’d been in this situation hundreds of times before – hell, a lot of those times it had been with people he hadn’t even *liked*. He wasn’t even sure that he was showing up for more than a snack and a cup of tea, just like Levi had insinuated earlier, so he was probably getting tied up in knots about nothing.

The answer when he knocked on the door was almost instantaneous; Levi opened the door and stood there, an unreadable expression on his handsome face and still mostly dressed in uniform; he’d removed his jacket, gloves and gauntlet. Used to the man usually appearing either pissed off, sullen or bored, Eren frowned when he was greeted with silence and then motioned at the room behind the captain. “Uhm, are you going to let me in?”

“I suppose.” Levi’s tone just then was so laconic that Eren almost turned around and left; he didn’t feel like putting up with Levi if the man was in a shitty mood, but what else was there to do when he was stuck on base for the foreseeable future? Mikasa was out on patrol, Armin was busy with the new friends he’d made and Ymir and Krista were out on a rare night off. That left Eren to spend the time either alone, here with… whatever Levi was to him or allow Hange to run some tests on him. Maybe having Reiner and Bertolt tear him apart wasn’t such a bad idea….

“Get your ass in here,” Levi snapped, grabbing at Eren’s arm to drag him into the room.

Great, so they were back to that. Eren wanted to snap something in return but didn’t have the energy just then – this back and forth relationship crap was almost as draining as the constant fighting without an adequate source of blood. As if he needed any more proof, it was definite that Armin could be one heck of a manipulative, evil monster if given a chance for insisting that Eren submit himself to this… this *mess* with Levi.

“All right, I’m *in* already,” Eren complained. “So where is this ‘lit-“

He didn’t get the chance to finish his sentence or even his thought, as he suddenly found himself whirled around by the grip on his wrist and shoved *hard* against the wall. “What the fuck!” Eren bared his fangs at the bastard.

“Funny, I was wondering much the same thing, earlier.” Levi leaned in closer, his body pressed against the length of Eren’s. The man might be slightly smaller than him, but he had the advantage of added weight, packed on in muscles, that meant he wouldn’t be easy to dislodge.

“*You* invited me here, remember? If it’s just to smack me around, hate to break it to you but that’s not a kink I’m into.”

Levi did some teeth-baring of his own in a parody of a smile. “Ha, ha, brat. No, apparently you’re into being a sneaky little shit, thinking you can get away with being all funny and sly.” He kept his hold on Eren’s left wrist and gave it a painful squeeze. “Think you can play games, hmm?”

“What the *fuck* are you talking about?” Eren was about two seconds away from throwing this asshole across the room. “What games?”

“Tell me about ‘Napoleon’.”

Levi’s question was like a bucket of cold water on Eren’s temper – the world flashed back into color between one blink and the next, leaving Eren stunned and a bit confused. “Uhm, what? It’s a nickname…” Why was he asking that now? Was all of this really about that silly nickname? “You call me ‘Rebel’ so what’s the big deal?”

“Hmm, but that’s something Ymir says to annoy you.” Levi leaned in to brush his nose along Eren’s neck, and *damn* if the gesture didn’t make Eren shiver in response. “So why are you calling me ‘Captain Napoleon’?”

Eren went to push the bastard away and then he breathed on Eren’s neck, right where he’d just caressed it. Oh, someone wasn’t playing fair. “Because he was known as a dictator and an asshole, which seems to fit the bill when it comes to you.” He glared at Levi when the man pulled back enough to look at him.

“No, that doesn’t seem to be all.” The slight smile on Levi’s face hardened and his eyes narrowed. “Hange seemed to think it was pretty funny, you calling me that name.”

Oh, Eren was going to *kill* the scientist. He was going to let her bleed out slowly…. “Really?” Even though he was certain it wasn’t going to work, he tried the innocent routine on Levi, his eyes going wide and his lower lip trembling the slightest bit, even bending his knees just a little so their height was level.

Levi let go of his wrist and grabbed a fistful of his hair to yank his head back for his troubles. “Don’t even try it, brat. You’ve been *insulting* me this entire time, making fun of me, calling me *short*!”

Ah, of course *that* would be what the insecure bastard focused on, wouldn’t it? Eren snarled to get Levi to back off a little, part of his bangs falling into his eyes which were once more glowing. “So what? You can’t go two whole minutes without calling me ‘brat’, and how many times did you call Mikasa a ‘bitch’? Yet you’re going psycho over a nickname that a handful of people here can understand? Get over yourself!”  He used his strength to shove Levi away, even if he lost some hair in the process.

Stumbling backwards, Levi caught himself after a few steps and looked as if he wanted to come back swinging, his hands clenched into fists and his face flushed with anger. When he saw Eren scowling right back at him, he paused after a step and let out a slow breath, his right hand jerking through his hair so quickly that the straight strands stuck up in all directions. “You- it’s- this crap doesn’t happen to me. People don’t do this crap to me.” He actually sounded petulant just then.

Forcing his temper to cool down, Eren rubbed at the back of his sore head. “Yeah, well maybe that’s the problem. If you think I’m just going to kowtow to you all the time, Levi, this isn’t going to work.” At the man’s blank stare, Eren sighed and rubbed at his forehead instead. “It could have been worse, you know. I almost went with ‘Caligula’.”

Levi appeared curious despite himself. “And how is that worse than an implied inferiority complex,” he demanded to know, his arms crossed over his chest.

Maybe a change in topic wasn’t such a good idea. “Ah, he was an insane Roman emperor whose name meant ‘little boots’?” Eren winced when Levi’s expression morphed into ‘pissed’, grateful that he left out the supposed incest part…. “Look, we’re big into nicknames, all right,” he rushed to explain when Levi practically stalked toward him. “It’s a habit we pick up over the years – you never know if someone’s using an alias so you start calling them something that won’t stand out too much, something that they can explain away as a joke or a private thing between whatever relationship they feel it’s best to pass you off as this time. Sometimes it gets to be a private joke, what we call each other.”

He was once more pinned against the wall, with Levi’s hands pressed near either side of his head and the man scant inches away from him. “Like ‘Napoleon’, eh?” Grey eyes stared intently at him, possessing just a hint of warmth.

“Yeah, like ‘Napoleon’.” Eren dared to rest his hands on Levi’s hips. “You do love snapping out the commands, you know.” Had he managed to smooth things over?

“And I expect to be obeyed.” Levi’s eyes became heavy-lidded and he leaned in closer, his nose almost brushing against Eren’s jawline. “But I don’t think it’s fair that I’m stuck using someone else’s nickname for you. I think we should come up with something new.”

His eyes drifting shut in anticipation of the feel of lips against his neck, Eren whined in frustration when the meaning of Levi’s words sunk in. “What? Are you serious?” When Levi smiled in a particularly smug manner, he hissed in frustration and smacked the back of his head against the wall. “What are you, three years old?”

“Yes to the first, and not quite.” Levi jerked his hips forward, into Eren’s. “You’re already enough of a perv considering our age differences.”

“I’m not the one who’s rubbing up against the person he keeps calling ‘kid’ and ‘brat’, am I,” Eren pointed out with some satisfaction, only to lose it when Levi kept staring at him in that expectant manner. “All right, what type of nickname?” The bastard wasn’t going to let this drop, was he?

Levi shifted his left hand down until his fingertips stroked along Eren’s neck. “I’ll let you go with it being equally obscure as mine, but it also has to be just as annoying. It’ll be ‘our’ little joke.” His smile just then was anything but amused.

“Let me guess, you were one of those kids who were always bitter about ‘life lessons’, weren’t you,” Eren muttered. Armin was so *right* about that lack of emotional maturity.

Those fingers pressed hard against his neck for a couple of seconds. “Do you want to give me some suggestions or should I come up with some?”

“Fine,” Eren huffed. It was a little difficult to think properly when Levi resumed the caress, which was probably the bastard’s intent, but he did his best. “I’m not sure what you’re going for here-“

“Start with what other people called you while growing up.” Levi’s fingers moved up from his neck to clasp at his chin and keep his face from moving. “And nothing flattering.”

“You won’t be able to pronounce most of them since you don’t speak German.” Eren smiled a little at the thought of that. “I’ll try English first and then we’ll move on to some other languages.” He could be here all night, going through all of the ones he knew and the others he’d partially picked up over the years. “There’s the obvious – or at least they were back then – like psycho, nutter, fag, twink, pikey-“

“Wait, go back.” Levi’s hand tightened around Eren’s chin.

“Huh?” Eren blinked twice and tried to shake his head, but the tight hold on his lower face prevented that. “Uhm, what, pikey?”

“No, the other one. Twink.” A wolf-like smile spread across Levi’s face. “You grimaced a little when you said that. What does it mean?”

Oh great, the sadistic asshole had noticed. Eren batted the man’s hand away and sighed, suddenly in the mood to go smack Armin for landing him in this mess. “It’s… well, I don’t know if you should consider it a derogatory term or not. Back when people used to give a shit when others slept with the same sex, they used to classify who was what type, if that makes sense.” He was doing a lousy job of this, but he was tired and Levi had a way of throwing him off-balance. “Twinks… well, they were the younger guys who... looked young and cute. As soon as I made it clear that I only liked guys, I got called it a lot… especially because of how I wasn’t aging.”

“So who was calling you ‘twink’, hmm?”

“A lot of people.” Eren grimaced again. “It’s like Hange said, things were… well, people didn’t think twice about seeing Mikasa and me as commodities after the collapse, and I… definitely attracted a certain type. ‘Oh, here comes that cold Asian bitch and her twink brother.’” Eren felt his fangs start to peek out at the memory and did his best not to let his claws out as well, especially since he was still holding on to Levi’s hips. “They thought it was funny. ‘Why don’t you come here, twinkie, and let me show you another way to get some new boots for the winter?’ Stuff like that.”

Levi’s fingers once more found Eren’s neck and stroked up and down. “Well then, I think we’ve found ourselves a winner, ‘Twinkie’.”

Why wasn’t he beating the shit out of this asshole yet? “You’ve got to be kidding me! Didn’t you listen to anything I just said?”

“Yes.” Levi pressed hard against Eren’s right shoulder, a fierce glare seeming to drain the color from his grey eyes. “You insulted me in front of my people and to my face, so suck it up, brat.”

Eren moved his lips several times yet no words came out, he was that furious. Yet what Levi said did make an odd type of sense; he had deliberately insulted the man, had counted on the name being so obscure that Levi wouldn’t ever figure it out. Turnaround was only fair, he supposed.

He slumped against the wall and hung his head, a weak chuckle escaping despite his lingering anger. “You do realize that Mikasa’s going to go for your throat the first time she hears it, right?” Fine, he’d take his punishment like an adult and hope he could keep his sister from going ballistic. If he couldn’t, then….

Levi clicked his tongue as if to show how concerned he was over the idea. “Let her try – she’ll find it’s a bit more difficult to take me down lately, thanks to a certain twink.”

Eren jerked his head back up and found that Levi was still looking at him in that cold, hard manner with no hint of amusement whatsoever. “You’re really pissed off about this, aren’t you,” he asked, more than a little surprised by the fact.

The pressure against his right shoulder relaxed a little even though Levi’s expression didn’t change. “Wouldn’t you be?”

Not really – Eren’s temper tended to run hot and cold, so while he flared up, he didn’t tend to hold grudges that long unless blood was involved. Sure, being called ‘Twinkie’ was going to be annoying as hell, but compare it to being hounded over the world by a bunch of vampires? All a matter of perspective. “I’m sorry.” He began to slowly slide down the wall, his eyes cast up through his lashes as he stared at Levi. “It was just meant as a joke. Let me make it up to you.” Since talking didn’t seem to be doing any good, he decided to try a different tactic.

At first it looked as if Levi was about to bitch at him some more, and then it seemed to sink into that bitter little brain of his just how Eren was going to ‘make it up to him’ as Eren went down to his knees, his hands shifting to the front of Levi’s white pants. Eren had never seen those grey eyes grow so wide before, then they narrowed with something that appeared to be satisfaction.

“You have an awful lot to make up for, brat.”

At least the asshole had the intelligence not to call him ‘twink’ when he was about to suck him off. “Then I’ll do my best, Sir.” Eren gave Levi his most enticing smile while his fingers worked to undo the pants’ button and zipper. His smile strengthened as he felt Levi’s cock begin to stir already; he rubbed his hand gently against the rough material of the uniform before he pushed the pants down Levi’s muscular legs, as far as the leather boots would allow. Then he ran his hands up the man’s nearly hairless thighs, fingers trailing along the warm skin, feeling the occasional bump of a scar.

He leaned in as he grasped at the waistband of Levi’s boxer-briefs, nose briefly nudging aside the hem of the white shirt that fell past Levi’s hips. There was an amused snort and then Levi began to undo the buttons of his shirt the same time that Eren slowly pulled the underwear down, tugging them out just enough so the tumescent cock popped free as they skimmed along the man’s thighs. Eren followed their descent with his mouth and placed a kiss on Levi’s left hip, in the ‘v’ indent leading to his groin, along his thigh near the newly healed scar, a little lower… and resisted the urge to bite when he felt fingers tangle into his hair and pull him back up.

“Use the fangs and it’ll be the last thing you do,” Levi warned, the pissy look back on his face.

“Then don’t go putting ideas in my head or even worse, giving me *temptation* to do just that,” Eren shot back as he allowed his eyes to begin to glow.

Levi made another snorting sound but kept his *damn* *mouth* *shut*, so Eren decided that he could put his to use, finally. Really, here he was about to give the bastard a blow job, and he was bitching? Such an asshole. Glaring up at Levi for a few more seconds, he made a show of opening his lips wide and revealing his *non*-fangy teeth before holding the bastard’s half-hard cock with his fingers and lowering his head.

He stuck out his tongue and swiped it along the length of Levi’s cock, smirking at the shudder the contact produced. Swirling the tip of his tongue along the flared head peeking past the foreskin, he engulfed the cock with his mouth, sinking back onto his heels so he could stare up at Levi and look him in the eye. He knew from past experience that most of the men found this a turn-on, that they were attracted to the unusual color of his eyes and with Levi… well, this time he didn’t have to hide his true nature. He continued to let them glow yet prevented his fangs from triggering, a delicate balancing act that kept his senses extra-sharp.

He could smell Levi’s arousal and the bit of perspiration building on his skin. He could hear Levi’s increased heartbeat and quickening breath. Beneath his curved tongue as he licked up and down the man’s cock, as he continued to suck along its length he felt the rush of blood beneath the thin skin while it became fully erect. He could feel each minute twitch and spasm beneath his fingers while he cupped Levi’s balls and held on lightly to his left hip, could see how those grey eyes grew more and more dilated with each passing minute. The last of his anger melted away and desire simmered through him, that long-familiar languid hunger building inside as he breathed in Levi’s scent and tasted Levi on his tongue.

Levi let out a low moan and leaned over him to brace himself against the wall when Eren pulled his mouth off to once again run his tongue along the length of his cock, his breath blowing over the wet, sensitized flesh. “Fuck...,” Levi groaned, his head hanging down but his eyes still locked onto Eren’s. His right hand reached down to once more tangle his fingers into Eren’s hair yet he didn’t force it to move in any way, it was almost as if he wanted some type of contact with him. Eren gave his cock another lick before wrapping his mouth around it once more and sliding it completely down its thick length, throat relaxed to keep from gagging. “Fuck!”

Eren deep-throated a few more times, but judging from the way that Levi’s thighs trembled and his hips began to jerk forward, the poor guy didn’t have much left in him. Pulling back a little, Eren wrapped his left hand firmly around the base of Levi’s cock and slid it along with his mouth while he gave Levi’s tightening balls a gentle tug. He would have laughed if he’d been able to just then at the way that Levi nearly went cross-eyed, and pulled back a little more for what was to happen next.

Levi’s fingers tightened almost painfully in Eren’s hair when he started to come, breath hitching in little gasps as if he refused to allow himself to make too much noise. Eren slowed his strokes and kept his mouth still until the spurts and twitches stopped, and then sucked softly one last time before pulling away. Levi shuddered a little before sinking to the floor, unbuttoned shirt flaring out around him, eyes dazed and pants still shoved down his legs.

Eren swallowed then wiped at his mouth with the back of his right hand, amused as all hell at the sight before him; Levi appeared as disheveled as all hell, half naked and completely out of it. He drank in the sight since the man had one hell of a body, even if the personality was a bit lacking. “So, am I forgiven now?” He adjusted his own half-hard cock in his pants and willed both the erection and the hunger to fade; blowing Levi had been quite the turn-on, as was the sight before him, but he’d had lots of experience in ‘doing unto others’ and not worrying about himself until later, if at all. Right now… just wasn’t a good time, not with some anger and tension still simmering beneath the surface. He’d learned that the hard way over the years.

“Huh?” Levi shook his head as if trying to clear it. He seemed to realize that he was ‘letting it all hang out’ and scowled down at his lap before scrambling to his feet and leaving the room.

Eren hoped that meant ‘yes’ but didn’t take it for granted. At least he was confident enough in his skills that he’d derailed a certain stubborn bastard for the time being.

Levi appeared to have gone into his private bathroom, judging from the various sounds of flowing, flushing and running water. Eren amused himself by playing with his bangs until he heard footsteps approaching again and looked up to see Levi, his clothes once more in order, come closer with a towel in his hands.

“Get your ass off of the floor, it’s dirty.” He tossed Eren a damp towel while he bitched.

“Oh please, in your quarters? It’s probably clean enough to eat off of or something.” Eren caught the towel as he stood up, and used it to wipe off his hands and then his face. “Thanks.”

Levi grunted something incomprehensible as he took the towel back, disappearing again for a moment to put it away. When he came back, he kept his gaze locked on the floor, of all things. “So, what about you?”

“Hmm?” Eren rubbed the back of his neck while he tried to figure that one out. “Me?” Did Levi mean what was he doing here? “Uhm, don’t you have some blood for me? Or was there something else meant by that ‘little’ comment earlier?”

There was a heavy sigh followed by that annoying clicking sound as Levi raised his head and glared at him, his bangs framing his eyes. “No, you moron, what about *you*.” He stepped closer to Eren and grabbed him by his shirt. “Don’t you want something now?”

Yeah, he wanted his lousy human- oh. Talk about morons. “I think the blood and a cup of tea will be just fine,” Eren said as he pried Levi’s hands from his shirt. When Levi stared at him in confusion, he shook his head. “Look, save it for some other time when you’re not mad at me, okay? It’ll be more fun that way.” Even if it didn’t end up a total disaster tonight, he wasn’t in the mood for a pity fuck or some ‘tit-for-tat’ relationship. Things like that never turned out well, and this… this was fucked up enough to begin with that it didn’t need any other potential minefields added to it.

It looked as if Levi was going to argue with him – the man’s brows drew together and his eyes turned that icy grey – and then his expression smoothed out after a few seconds. His hand shot out to grasp at the back of Eren’s head and yanked him forward, and to Eren’s surprise he found himself kissed with initially an ardent amount of passion that slowly turned into something… something almost gentle. He slid his arms over Levi’s shoulders and surrendered to the kiss, allowing Levi to take it wherever he wanted and sighed with regret when it ended after what seemed to be much too short a time.

There was an actual smile on Levi’s face when he shifted back enough to look at Eren, one that was equally parts smug and pleased. “Fine, but *I* get to call the shots then.”

Eren rolled his eyes to show what he thought about that even as he agreed. “And you wonder why I think you’re bossy.” He got a very firm swat to his ass for his troubles, followed by an equally firm squeeze.

“Shut it, Twinkie, if you want your blood. Now go sit down.” Levi’s smile transformed into an evil grin, making it clear that he had no compunctions about holding said blood hostage if Eren thought to complain about the use of the hated nickname.

Barring his fangs in a silent protest, Eren did as he was told. Dammit, he *should* have gone with Caligula…. 

*******

“C’mon, Jean, we can’t stay here forever. We still have our patrol to finish.”

“I know, just give it a few more minutes.” Jean scowled at Connie and clenched his hand around the empty can of iced coffee. “Maybe she’s running late.”

Connie appeared ready to say something then seemed to think better of it, his mouth pressing shut as he shook his head. He leaned against the wall next to Jean and sighed. After about a minute, he resumed talking. “That Sasha was cute, wasn’t she?”

“Yeah, a lot cuter than a short slacker like you deserves.” Jean grinned as he took to teasing his partner; when he wasn’t complaining about their double-shifts or their fellow MPs, Connie often brought up his blind date from the other day. “Way out of your league – you so owe me.”

“Hey, as if!” Connie pushed away from the wall and tugged on the hem of his jacket, as if it would make him look any taller. “Girls like it when guys aren’t all tall freaks like you – they find us adorable.”

“They find puppies and kittens ‘adorable’. Twerps like you they just take pity on.” Jean continued to grin as he rolled his eyes.

“Oh yeah? Well I’m not the one being stood up, am I,” Connie taunted.

Jean shoved away from the wall, his right hand held up in a fist. “That’s not true!” He noticed that he still had the can clenched in his hand and threw it in the recycle bin.

Connie’s expression was one of regret for a moment, then he forced it into something almost mocking. “Yeah? Then why won’t she give you a number to call her? Why won’t-“

“Look, Mikasa! You have a welcoming committee!” A cheerful voice rung out, followed by laughter. Jean and Connie both whirled around to spy three people in Wingers – no, Freedom Corps uniforms, Jean really had to stop thinking of them in that insulting nickname if he wanted to date one of them – strolling toward them. He recognized Mikasa immediately because of her red scarf and thought he remembered seeing the other two in Captain Ackerman’s elite squad upon occasion. The petite woman with reddish hair gave Mikasa’s shoulder a friendly pat before motioning to the store. “We’ll go grab something to drink while you catch up, all right?”

Mikasa nodded, so the woman grabbed hold of the man’s arm and pulled him toward the store. “Let’s go.”

“Petra, I refuse to be stuck buying ag- ack!“

“Shut up and come on!”

Mikasa slowed her pace as she approached Jean, her eyes downcast and her right hand fussing with her scarf. Jean wanted to ask why she always wore that accessory – was she cold or did it have certain sentimental value? He felt his palms begin to sweat and resisted the urge to rub them up and down his legs, felt the sensation of butterflies in his stomach as he took a step closer to the gorgeous and quiet girl. If only Marco was still here, since his friend would know what he should say to her, would give him some clue what would be the best approach to take; Marco always had the best insight into people….

“Uhm, hi,” he stuttered out, and was certain that Connie was rolling his eyes right now. “You came.”

Mikasa looked up at him, a slight smile on her pale, pretty face. “Yes – it’s our patrol.” When Jean’s grin slipped at the answer, she shook her head. “That’s a joke, you know. I told you I’d come.”

“Ah.” His nerves increasing, Jean scratched at the back of his head. Why was it so difficult to read this girl? It was in part why he liked her so much, but he felt like he’d been thrown into the deep end of the training pool with all of his gear on with her or something. “Yeah, I’m glad you did, though.” He thought he heard retching sounds behind him and resolved to smack Connie later.

“I’m really sorry about how our date ended the other night.” Mikasa’s hands twisted in the ends of her scarf as if she were just as nervous as he felt. “Will you let me make it up to you?”

Feeling as he’d been punched in the stomach, the air rushed out him that quickly, Jean needed a second or two to answer. “Yeah! Yeah, that would be perfect. When can you get out again?”

“And Sasha,” Connie shouted. “Don’t forget to bring Sasha!”

There was another of Mikasa’s slight smiles at the mention of her friend. “Don’t worry, I believe she’ll be very upset if I leave her behind,” she told Connie. Then she focused her attention back on Jean, her dark eyes bright as if she were amused or happy – Jean wanted to remember how she looked just then, her eyes sparkling, her cheeks slightly flushed and that faint curve to her lips. Damn, was she beautiful. “How about in two days time, around 15:00? We’ll have a patrol later that night, but we can manage a few hours.”

“That’s perfect!” Jean was pretty sure that their schedule would match up then, and if not, he would *beg* for someone to switch shifts with him and Connie if he had to – beg, cajole or use force, whatever it took.

Mikasa’s smile strengthened a tiny bit more. “Great.” She held out her left hand, and it took Jean a moment to remember that she’d done this before, had used his datapad to tell him where to meet up. He scrambled to hand it over.

“Ah, don’t you have one? It would be easier if I could contact you through that or a comm if something goes wrong,” he pointed out.

Her brows drew together as she typed out the location of where they’d meet. “Hmm, no, sorry. I got hacked once so I’ve avoided them ever since.” There was something… dark to her tone when she spoke, and then she shrugged as she handed his device back to him. “I always know where my brother and cousin are so we never see the need of using them.” She sounded normal when she spoke about her family, so much that he wondered if he’d imagined that part before.

“Okay, I guess I can see how that would make you paranoid. And we do know where you live.” He grinned just then so he didn’t come across as too creepy, but it wasn’t like he couldn’t just go to the Wi- the Freedom Corps base if he felt like she was blowing him off.

“Yes, you can always leave a message for me and Sasha there.” Mikasa fussed with her scarf and looked over at the store. “I think Petra and Oulo are done – we need to resume our patrol now.” She hesitated for a moment and then stepped forward, going up on her toes at the last moment to press a kiss against Jean’s check. “See you soon.” She was quick to pull up her scarf while she turned away, so Jean couldn’t quite see her expression yet he thought he caught a lighter hint of red on the exposed part of her face.

He stared after her as she met up with her squad-mates, accepting what looked to be a can of something from the other woman before the three of them resumed their patrol.

“Wow, you have it bad, don’t you?”

Connie’s voice startled him from his thoughts and made Jean jump. “What?”

His friend made a face as he motioned toward where Mikasa and her squad-mates had vanished. “You’re like a lovestruck fool, pining for his lady.” Connie grimaced again. “Now you even have me sounding all stupid.”

“Oh please, as if I haven’t had to put up with you going on about that Sasha chick the last couple of days!” Jean reached out to rub his friend’s shaved head. “’Isn’t she cute?’ ‘Do you think she likes short guys?’ ‘Maybe I should get her a box of chocolates for our next date?’,” he mimicked in a high pitched, mocking tone.

Connie took a swing at him, which he easily avoided as they resumed their patrol as well. “Yeah, well, it’s not often I find someone who… who ‘clicks’ with me.” Connie tugged at his jacket again. “I’ve been on a few of these double dates with friends and usually the other girl seems to be there on sufferance and barely speaks to me – especially once she sees me. Most of them aren’t as pretty as Sasha, too.” He hung his head for a moment before he lifted it back up, his jaw jutting forward and eyes gleaming. “It’s gotten better since I joined the MP, but all they seem to focus on is what I do, not who I am. It’s clear that Sasha’s not impressed with the MP.”

“No, and neither is Mikasa.” In a way, that confused Jean – he’d worked so hard for so long to get into the MP, to know that his future was set because he was part of the prestigious organization. There was no way he’d ever be a Chairman or a Minister, so the MP was as high as he’d ever climb in life, and he’d made it. Yet it was plain that Mikasa didn’t care about that… Mikasa and her crazy brother.

What was it about the two that he couldn’t get *either* of them out of his head for long? Mikasa… she was beautiful, was this enticing enigma with how she was so calm, so mature. Then there was her brother, this… this kid who looked as if he needed a couple more years before he should be able to join the Corps yet he’d fought at Captain Ackerman’s back and had calmly beheaded some poor little girl before she turned into a Malform, the only emotion on his too young face at the time blatant disgust directed at *Jean*. The siblings were so different… yet they both had these moments where they made Jean feel so immature, so clueless….

“You dreaming about your new girlfriend again? Should I give you and your hand a few minutes of privacy?”

“What?” Jean shook his head a couple of times and stared at a smirking Connie as the words sunk in. “What? You sick little-“ He attempted to swat at the back of his partner’s head, but Connie darted out of reach, laughing the entire time.

“Yep, definitely got it bad!” Connie’s voice rang out in a sing-song tone as he hopped in front of Jean.

“Oh shut up.” Jean rubbed at the back of his head, along the undercut, and sighed. “Maybe it’s not too late to request a new partner.”

Connie made a rude noise as he fell back in step beside Jean. “Yeah, right, and who’s that gonna be? Marlo? He’ll drive you insane with his ‘the MP should act more dignified’ crap within a day. Or maybe Hitch? You two will be at each other’s throats within an hour.” He patted himself on the chest. “No, you’re lucky you have me.”

“That Bertolt guy isn’t too bad,” Jean said just to play devil’s advocate.

Connie gasped in a dramatic manner and clutched at his chest. “You’d toss me aside for a *tall* guy? I knew it! Us shorties just don’t get the love!” He pretended to sob for at least half a block. “My life is over now.”

“It will be if we’re not back at headquarters on time.” They hadn’t done anything lately to piss off Commander Dok, and he wanted to keep it that way, especially since he had something to look forward to on his time off.

“Yeah, yeah.” Connie was quiet for a few minutes as they hurried along the path of their patrol. “So, do you think Sasha would like some chocolates? Where should I get them? That one shop on Chartier’s Street?”

Jean groaned and wondered just how long it was going to seem before the next date with Mikasa and Sasha arrived. 

******* 

Armin took a bite of his supposedly ham and cheese omelet and surveyed his friends at the table. Mikasa was busy planning her next date with Sasha, who kept eating between bites of her, Mikasa and Eren’s breakfasts. Eren seemed to be lost in his thoughts – which never was a good thing – as he sipped his coffee, his long bangs falling onto his face and threatening to end up in the mug, while Ymir was uncharacteristically quiet this morning. She was sitting rather close to Krista and urging her to eat some of Ymir’s neglected breakfast.

“Come on, I know it’s crap but you might as well enjoy it while you can.”

That appeared to have caught Eren’s attention, since he looked up from the spot he’d been staring at on the table and frowned, his eyes flashing bright for a moment. “Ymir….”

“What?” She did some frowning of her own, her brows drawing together as she pointed her finger in Eren’s direction. “You telling me that you’re going to keep denying me a simple request? That you’re going to deny *Krista*?” She reached over to grasp her girlfriend’s chin and tilted Krista’s face to look at Eren as well. “You’d be so heartless?”

Armin couldn’t believe that Ymir was bringing up the topic here, in front of a bunch of ‘strangers’ even if she was caging it as carefully as possible, and wasn’t the only one judging from the incredulous looks on Mikasa and Krista’s face. As for Eren, he sighed in what appeared to be exhaustion and shook his head. “It’s not that simple.”

“Oh, isn’t it? You get over whatever issues you have and you do what you’re meant to do.” Ymir sounded downright vicious just then; she could be sardonic as hell at the best of times, but she usually didn’t turn this mean in Armin’s limited experience with the woman.

Eren continued to stare at her while only Armin’s hand on Mikasa’s arm kept his friend sitting on the bench. Eren eventually had to dip his chin lower so his bangs covered how brightly his eyes were glowing, the one sure sign of his temper. “You really don’t get how to ask for a favor, do you,” was all that he eventually said, the words coming out with a slight lisp which indicated that he was hiding his fangs.

“Yeah, well, I seem to recall doing your ass an awful lot of favors over the years,” Ymir mumbled as she pushed aside her breakfast tray. “Don’t know why it’s such a big deal for you to do this one for me.”

“Ymir!” A blush spread across Krista’s face as she tugged on Ymir’s left arm. “He’s right, you know. You shouldn’t be asking like this – and not here.” She glanced at Daz who was sitting a couple of seats away and watching them with obvious confusion.

“You guys don’t make any sense,” the teenager complained. “It’s like listening to half of a conversation all of the time.”

“Then don’t eavesdrop,” Ymir barked at him.

“And here I thought you’d be in a good mood after going out on a date yesterday,” Armin remarked, doing his best to ease some of the tension at the table. He patted Mikasa’s arm to try to get her to relax and glanced at Eren, who was still eyeing Ymir through his bangs as if two seconds away from tearing into her.

He didn’t expect Ymir to quickly snap her head in his direction and give him an inscrutable look for several seconds. “Yesterday was fine, Blondie. Now mind your own business, too.”

Okay, that was a bit uncalled for, wasn’t it? Before he could puzzle out Ymir’s odd behavior – and do it before Krista throttled her girlfriend, if the growing expression of rage on the pretty blonde’s face was anything to judge by, a deep voice called out to their table.

“Oi! Twinkie! Get your ass in gear, practice begins in five minutes.”

Confused over whom Captain Ackerman was calling out, Armin glanced around to find a huge grin spreading across Ymir’s face, shock and then rage morphing across Mikasa’s, and startling resignation on Eren’s as he lifted his head.

“Ohhh, Levi, getting some makes you even more manly! Shout out some more orders, it’s turning me on!”

“I am about *three seconds* away from showing these pathetic excuses of shitstains the proper way of decapitating a Malform while using you as an example!” Captain Ackerman looked ready to carry out his threat on Captain Hange, who merely beamed in deluded joy at her irate friend.

Meanwhile, Mikasa had slowly stood to her feet, her hands balled into fists on the table to thankfully hide the fact that her claws had most likely extended. “What did you call my brother?”

Captain Ackerman stopped glaring at Captain Hange long enough to turn the virulent look Mikasa’s way. “It’s his new nickname.” The right corner of his mouth twitched up the slightest bit. “Right, Twinkie?”

Eren let out a low moan and cradled his head between his hands. “I hate my life so much right now.”

Ymir let out a cackling laugh as she leaned over to thump an obviously miserable Eren on the back, while Armin shared looks with Krista, Daz and Mina over what they were missing *this* time. What was the big deal about ‘twinkie’? “Oh, *how* the *hell* did I let that one slip by me? It’s *perfect* for you!” Ymir laughed some more while Mikasa smoldered with rage.

She let out a noise that sounded like a mangled snarl and lunged forward, the motion aborted by Eren yelping in surprise and wrapping his arms around her waist. “Mikasa! Don’t!” He wrangled his sister back to the table while Captain Ackerman merely watched on in seeming boredom. “It’s all right! It’s… it’s a private joke between us, all right?”

“He’s insulting you!” She twisted in Eren’s arms and actually scowled down at him. “You’re just going to allow him tp keep doing that to you?”

Eren sighed as he let go of his sister and reached up to fuss with her scarf, which had loosened in the struggle. “It’s all right,” he repeated again. “Look… I’ll explain later, but just let this slide for now, please?” His hands lingered on her shoulders while he gave her a pleading look.

Mikasa’s anger lasted for a few more seconds in the face of Eren’s blatant attempt to influence her emotions, and then she wavered and gave in; Armin snorted softly and reflected on how the siblings felt that *he* could be the manipulative one when he’d clearly learned his whole ‘innocent’ routine and more from Eren.

She whispered something too soft to be heard to Eren and then summoned back her glare to send it Captain Ackerman’s way. “We’ll talk later.”

“Wonderful. So looking forward to it,” he replied, his bored expression remaining unchanged in the face of her ire. He shifted his attention to Eren and jerked his chin in the direction of the dining room’s exit. “Come on, we’re wasting time here.”

“Yeah, okay.” Eren gave Mikasa a quick hug before he hurried to Captain Ackerman’s side. “Did you ever hear the expression ‘bull in a china shop’,” he asked once he approached the man.

“What type of crazy shit are you talking about now, brat? If this is another way-“ Their voices faded away as they left, heads bowed together and Captain Ackerman keeping a clearly possessive grip on Eren’s right elbow.

Captain Hange let out a happy sigh, her hands clasped to her chest beneath her chin as she stared after the two. “Aren’t they so cute together?”

“Yeah, if you like your couples psychotic as all hell,” Ymir grumbled as she rose up to her feet. “I don’t know which one is more messed up, which is saying something.”

Krista jumped to her feet and gave her girlfriend a light punch in the ribs. “As if you have much room to talk?” She smiled as she spoke, as if to take the sting out of the words.

Ymir frowned at first and then shook her head. “What does that say about you, darling?” Krista merely laughed as the two of them walked away with their trays.

The captain groaned and rubbed her left side for some reason. “I guess that means I should get my butt in gear, too.” She glanced over at Armin. “You all right with working in the lab for now? Sorry that I’ve been so busy…”

He didn’t need her to finish the explanation. “It’s fine, really.” She was supposed to be training him, but she needed to learn how to fight vampires as much as possible first. “I’ll look into the research we’re working on and maybe run an errand if it’s all right.”

Captain Hange let out a happy noise and reached over to muss up his hair. “Such a good kid! I’ll see you later.” She hurried after Ymir and Krista.

Figuring it was time for him to leave, he said his goodbyes to Sasha, Daz and Mina. Mikasa was waiting to walk with him as he dropped off his tray and followed him out of the dining room. “So you’re still working with Captain Zacharius?”

“Yes, he’s pretty good.” She fidgeted with her scarf a little. “It’s a little nerve-wracking, waiting for… ‘them’ to strike next.”

“I can imagine.” Especially since they would be targeting Mikasa since Eren was being kept on the base. Would they try to kidnap her to use her as bait for Eren or would they send her back with some sort of message? Armin felt a rush of anger at the thought of anyone harming his dear friends. “But this time you’ll be prepared for them.”

“I hope.” Mikasa didn’t sound too convinced just then, and gave him a quick wave as she went on her way.

Well, that was a cheerful thought. Armin watched her walk away for a few seconds before he headed to Captain Hange’s lab. He knew that his friend hadn’t been completely behind the idea of using the Freedom Corps to help them fight back against the vampires, but did she really believe the human fighters to be so hopeless as allies? That didn’t bode well for Eren’s new relationship, let alone their future….

Armin entered the lab and settled down at the workstation he’d come to think of as his own over the last several days. He started up the computer and began digging through the information that Captain Hange had sent to him on the Malform victims that she’d collected over the years. Next to that he pulled up the blood samples that Eren and Mikasa had begrudgingly provided.

There was so much that they didn’t understand about Grisha Jaeger’s research, not only the how’s but the all important ‘why’ as well. What had been his goal when he’d injected Eren with the serum all those years ago? Had it been a simple test serum? Had he been doing his best to ensure that his son didn’t die along with his wife? Was it the best way to keep his work from falling into the wrong hands? Was it even a complete serum or had Grisha Jaeger passed on what he’d been able to at the time, an incomplete cure that had doomed his son and daughter to an immortality that wore on them with each passing year? Were they even meant to be vampire/Malform hybrids?

Armin wasn’t certain that Grisha Jaeger meant to produce a cure that would allow humanity to live forever, outside of being beheaded. The logistics of it… the logistics of it were a nightmare, to put it in plain words. If some people thought that the solar flares and Malform attacks were Nature’s way of redressing the insults that humans had done to Earth, to wipe off the majority of the plague that civilization had become, then an immortal race that kept on multiplying was asking for a true Armageddon. Perhaps it was meant to fend off the Malform, yes, and even provide some protection to the damaging UV rays, but not turn humans into vampires themselves. Then there was that cryptic comment to Eren about his ‘instincts’, which made Armin suspect that perhaps Grisha had tailored the serum with his son specifically in mind as there were times when Eren could be… decidedly more savage than Mikasa. As much as he teased his friend about his temper and not thinking things through, he lived in dread of seeing Eren lose control, of the veneer of humanity vanishing from Eren – never afraid for himself, but for the deaths that would mount up around them.

So he stared at the results of the various DNA analysis and did his best to see if there were any obvious differences until his head began to hurt, even if he wasn’t sure this was the right approach to take in hopes of finding a cure. Sure, there *had* to be something there that made Eren and Mikasa different from the Malform… but Armin wasn’t certain that it would really help them in the long run. He had a sinking feeling that they really would have to unearth whatever it was that Grisha Jaeger had hidden in that security deposit box if they had any hope of protecting people from Malform attacks.

Feeling the need for a break, he got up and left the lab. Captain Hange should still be training with Ymir for another hour or two, so he’d go do something he’d wanted to do for a couple of days, ever since Eren had let him in on the ‘big secret’. He made his way off base, telling the few friends he passed along the way that he was in the mood to grab a bite to eat outside.

True to his word, he stopped and got some grilled chicken and pita bread at one of the food stands not too far from the Freedom Corps base, which he ate as he walked around the dome. It wasn’t much better than what was probably going to be served at lunch today, but it felt good to be moving after sitting down for so long. He received some sidelong looks as he walked about, probably because he was in his Freedom Corps uniform but alone and not wearing any weapons, but people gave him a polite nod when he smiled at them. The two times he came across other members of the Corps, all he did was say that he was taking a break from Captain Hange and they laughed while waving him on.

After nearly an hour of wandering around he turned back towards base, frustrated at having no luck in finding his objective. It wasn’t as if he had the clearest picture of his goal and a set destination, but still.… He’d gone several blocks when he spotted two young women in the black and green MP uniforms, one a brunette and one a blonde, and he felt a bit of excitement. Hoping that he wasn’t about to make a fool of himself – or worse – he hurried to catch up with them.

“Annie?”

The young blonde’s back went stiff and she stilled, causing her partner to stop after a few steps when she realized that she was walking alone. The blonde paused for a moment before turning around, her pale blue eyes narrowing in either displeasure or disappointment when she noticed Armin.

“Annie! It’s so good to see you.” Armin stepped forward with a huge grin on his face. “It’s been ages,” he lied blithely, counting on the people passing by to keep him alive.

“You know this guy?” The brunette nudged Annie in the side.

“You could say that.” Annie’s eyes narrowed a touch more before she forced a weak excuse for a smile on her face. “Hitch, give us a few minutes, okay? I haven’t seen Armin here in a while and I’d like to catch up.”

“You and your old friends,” the MP chided, but she did as Annie had asked, pulling out a datapad as she stepped away.

Well, wasn’t it interesting how Annie knew his name? Armin forced aside the feeling of nervousness as the vampire approached, since he’d basically set up this little meeting. “I wasn’t sure you’d recognize me,” he admitted.

“Please, I know everything about Eren, including the little stray he took in not so long ago.”

Ouch, that was a bit insulting, wasn’t it? Armin winced not only at the words but the mocking tone in which they were spoken. “Yet here I am.” He held out his hands and motioned to himself. “Isn’t that a bit surprising?”

Annie let out a scoffing sound and stopped about a foot away from him. “What? Your continued existence? Don’t count yourself so important, Arlert. I decided to allow Eren to play house for a bit – it actually made it easier to track him for once.” A cruel smile twisted her lips, made her pretty face appear predatory under the false lights of the dome. “You were of great service to us.”

This… this wasn’t what Armin wanted to hear. He didn’t come here to find out that he really was Eren and Mikasa’s greatest weakness, that instead of helping them that he was only serving to tear them down. For a moment he was ready to turn and retreat, to slink away until he found either of the siblings and confirmed that he hadn’t betrayed them.

Then he remembered why he had come here, why he’d taken such a major risk. “And here I came to let you know something you might find interesting.” He smiled in the face of Annie’s bland expression. “You might want to back off on chasing after Eren, as it’s possible that we might be on the trail of a lead that’ll direct us toward a cure for… what’s affecting you. If you keep hounding him or worse, you might jeopardize your chance to get your hands on a formula that’ll reverse the effects of your disease.” He took a deep breath and waited to see what Annie’s response would be.

She was quiet for several seconds and then shook her head. “Are you insane? Do you actually think you can convince me that you can change things? That we would *want* things to change? Why would I give up what I am to be something so weak and mortal?”

“Because you were good enough at it to convince Mikasa and Eren that you were mortal all those years ago.” Armin dared to reach out to touch Annie’s arm, to forge some sort of connection with her other than insults. “You must be more than… you must still cling to some aspect of it after all this time. And if you take Eren by force, if you tear him away from us… you risk losing that. Do you really want to limit your choices like that?”

She stared at him as if he was some sort of unidentifiable creature, her attention unwavering for almost a minute. Then she shook her and took a step back. “You don’t understand – we *need* him.”

“’We’, or ‘you’?” Armin let his hand fall back down to his side. “Are you doing this for yourselves or because you’ve been told to do it? I would think that someone who were able to convince Eren and Mikasa that they were friends are more than just unthinking soldiers.”

Annie continued to back away. “You… I have to leave now.” She hastily turned away and went over to join her partner, whispering something to her to get her to stop playing with her datapad. Armin watched her leave – had the impression that she was *fleeing* of all things. He watched them make their way down the street for about a minute or two before he continued on his way back to the Freedom Corps’ headquarters.

*******

Levi had just finished dressing after his shower when he heard a knock at the door; at first he had hopes that it was Eren, and then he recognized Hange’s distinctive knock pattern. He paused for a second, wondering if he could pretend that he hadn’t heard it and then figured that she was stubborn enough to not go away if he didn’t answer. “What the hell do you want,” he asked as he opened the door.

Dressed for once in the Corps’ off hours uniform, Hange basically barged her way into the room, her hair gathered into a loose bun at the back of her neck and appearing almost half undressed without any sort of jacket. “Aw, you’re making me feel so unloved! Can’t I just stop by for a cup of tea? Do I have to have a spectacular ass and be putting out for a social visit now?”

Wishing that he’d put back on his blades when dressing after his shower, Levi clenched his hands into fist and glowered at the bitch as she made herself at home. “What, you going to suck my dick, too?”

Hange placed her hands on her hips and stared at his crotch. “I usually don’t put out unless you buy me a drink. Where’s the whisky?”

“As if I’d let a crazy bitch like you anywhere near my dick,” Levi scoffed as he went to sit behind his desk.

“As if you’d let *anyone* without a Y chromosome near your dick.” Hange rolled her eyes as she settled herself in the chair and made herself comfortable. Then she made a big production of pulling out a bottle of something clear from the bag she was carrying. “It’s not whisky, but it’s semi-decent vodka.”

“It’s alcohol, at this point it’ll do.” Levi was up on his feet again to fetch a pair of glasses for them to use and returned to the desk, where he found a suspiciously wide grin on his friend’s face. “Okay, spit it out,” he demanded as he set the glasses on the desk.

“So it’s safe to say that Eren’s well acquainted with your dick at this point?” When he glared even more at the nosy bitch, Hange cackled with demented glee. “Yes! I *knew* you were glowing this morning! So what, there was actual suckage occurring? Something more than that?”

“Hange, I will-“

“Oh, spare me the threats.” She made a rude noise and began to pour them both a generous amount of vodka. “I have a purely scientific interest here – I want to know just how good a vampire-hybrid is at sex after living for so long.” She waggled her eyebrows while she raised her glass in what Levi assumed was a toast. “So, did he curl your toes? Blow your mind as well as your cock? You know he’s clean, right? His blood work showed no diseases whatsoever, so you can ride him bare-“

“HANGE!” Levi’s throat actually hurt, he’d shouted so loudly. Taking a moment to toss back the shot of alcohol, Levi slammed the glass back down onto the table as the alcohol burned down his throat and did his best to resist throttling the annoying pest. “How the *hell* is this any of your business?”

She sniffed as she sat back in the chair, the glass of alcohol held close to her chest. “Please, you’re fooling around with a millennial old vampire-hybrid, why wouldn’t I feel it’s my business?” She paused to toss back the shot as well. “Plus, somehow he’s healing you,” she added a moment later, almost as an afterthought.

Levi was about to start shouting again, but that last bit made him fall silent and reach for the bottle of vodka. “I have no fucking clue what you’re rambling on about.” Maybe if he got drunk quickly, he could pretend to no longer be able to speak.

Hange’s eyes got that fanatical gleam which signaled that she was on the trail on something and wouldn’t let go even if it meant that it would come down to mass destruction and murder. “Sure you don’t.” She waited until Levi refilled his glass to do the same with hers. “Let me see if this jogs your memory – you get attacked by a Malform yet somehow heal in record time. Remember that?”

He shrugged before he downed the second shot. “I told you, it wasn’t that bad of a wound.”

“Right.” Hange raised her glass in another toast. “That still doesn’t explain how the wounds you did have healed in record time, enough so that you could fight toe to toe with a vampire so quickly afterwards. Or heal from those wounds in no time at all as well.” She gave him a rather satisfied grin before she drank down the shot of vodka. “And then there’s the black eye – or *was* the black eye.”

… dammit, he had forgotten about how quickly he’d been healing in the last week or so, thanks to Eren’s blood. “I guess the nanos have just been working-“

“Don’t even try it!” Hange slammed her glass down onto the table with so much force that he was surprised that it didn’t break. “You’re getting the same nanos as everyone else! Now, when I factor in the research I received from Armin, research that can’t possible have been done in the past five or ten years but more along the lines of thirty or more… I have to ask myself, ‘what is the common denominator that would allow for someone to have an extended life and an enhanced healing ability’?”

Shit, so there was Armin to consider as well – Levi knew that Eren was trying to hide *that* little fact. “How long have you been drinking this vodka?”

Hange slapped her right hand onto the desk, her eyes narrowed and her entire demeanor radiating a deadly seriousness that made him lean back in caution. “Don’t fuck with me, Ackerman. Not about this. I put up with your shitty attitude and Erwin neglecting my department ‘for the good of humanity’, but right now I’m on to something, and I *know* I’m right.” She shoved the chair back with an awful grating sound and stood up. “I’ve been on to several things, in fact, only to be told to back off by Erwin and Shadis for too fucking long, and NO LONGER,” she spat out. “SO TELL ME THE TRUTH BEFORE I KICK *YOU* IN THE DAMN HEAD!” Her face was flushed and she panted for air as if she’d gotten all of her pent up anger out in that sudden rush.

Levi sat back in his chair for several seconds and then calmly poured himself another shot. “Are you done now, you psychotic bitch?”

“Yeah, I think so.” Hange shrugged before she sat back in her chair. “I’m serious about the threat, you know. Something is enabling you to heal faster than normal, and I know it has something to do with Eren.”

He poured her another shot as well, and then reached over to grab her by the front of her shirt before she could react. “You threaten me again and I’ll break your fucking neck before you can even blink, you understand?” He waited for her to nod before he released her. “This is not a fucking game, you shit for brains. I’m not keeping secrets from you just to piss you off or to fuck with your research.” He clicked his tongue in annoyance as he sat back in his chair.

“No, you’re doing it because it involves Eren.” Hange didn’t sound upset about the threat – she smiled as she picked up the glass and tossed back the shot. “Sweetie, do you have it *bad*.” When Levi made to grab her again, she held up both hands, the glass still in one of them. “It’s not a joke, it’s just an observation, but it’s the truth. Now, tell me how the hell it works – is it proximity based? Saliva? It can’t be sperm because the two of you just moved on to that level of intimacy, right?”

“You- I’m seriously going to gut you one day.” Levi grabbed the bottle and began to drink straight from it. Seriously? His quiet night in had gone to discussing swapping spunk with the brat with Hange? Why couldn’t he be out fighting Malforms or something? “It doesn’t involve… *that*,” he spat out once he felt that he’d drank enough to make this conversation bearable. Dammit, he *knew* that the maniac would wait and then pounce on him about this topic, he *knew* it. “Eren gave me his blood after the fight in the park.”

“Blood.” Hange’s eyes grew unfocused and she pulled out her notepad so she could write down in it. “Of course. I’m shocked that you of all people would ingest something so unsanitary, but blood is a good medium, considering what he is – and when considering Armin, too.” She was busy for a minute and then looked back up at him. “So how does it work?”

Levi shrugged, the bottle of vodka still held in his hands. “From what the damn brat told me, if you take the blood long enough, it keeps you from aging. Short term effects is enhanced healing and it protects you from Malform bites – that’s how he got me to take it that one day. Once you stop taking it, it’ll wear off so it’s not as good as being turned.”

Hange made a happy humming noise. “It would be interesting to see how much healing ability you still have, but I’m sure Erwin would object if you’re injured and unable to fight.”

“Erwin?” Levi picked up his empty glass and threw it at the crazy bitch. “*I’ll* be unhappy!”

“Well, just get your cutie to give you more blood, then!” Hange frowned as she leaned over to snatch back the vodka bottle. “You know, why don’t you just see about Eren turning you?”

That question prevented Levi from keeping the bottle from being snatched away. “What the *hell* are you talking about now, you delusional lunatic?”

Hange grinned around the lips of the bottle before taking a long swig. When she was done, she pointed the index finger of the hand she had wrapped around the bottle’s neck. “Come on, tell me you haven’t thought about it, what it would be like if you were turned by Eren and could live forever. I sure do.” She sighed and leaned back in her chair. “The things I could research if I had *centuries*….”

“I don’t know if humanity could survive being tormented by your crazy ass for that long,” Levi muttered. He closed his eyes as the mere thought of it and shuddered. “Give me back that damn bottle.” He opened his eyes and glared until a pouting Hange handed it over, and grimaced in distaste as he wiped at the neck of the bottle. “This life has been shitty enough – why would I want it to last indefinitely?”

“Hmm, I don’t know, because you wouldn’t grow old, you’d have a kick-ass healing ability and a cutie at your side.” Hange leaned forward and folded her arms on the desk so she could rest her head on them, a dreamy smile on her face. “He really does have a nice ass, you know.”

He so wasn’t drunk enough for this shit. Figuring that the bottle would have to be clean enough, Levi set about draining it dry. The liquor was a pleasant buzz in his blood when he set the mostly empty bottle back down again. “Look – we’re fuckbuddies. Mostly fuckbuddies. We haven’t gotten to the actual fucking yet and we better for all the shit I’m putting up with right now. But yeah, we’re just gonna fuck around for a bit and then go our separate ways. Don’t see how me being turned has anything to do with it.”

Hange nuzzled her arm for a few seconds. “And you call me delusional? Oh Sweetie….” She twisted her head back and forth on her arms. “But one thing at a time. Are you really fine with dying?”

Why was she talking such shit? “Who is? I just….” He shook his head and finished off the last of the vodka. “I don’t want to think about this shit, okay?” His vision was blurry and things were so wonderfully distant right about now.

“Aye aye, Captain.” Pushing back into a sitting position, Hange failed at a pathetic attempt at a salute, her right hand smacking into the vicinity of her left shoulder. “If you don’t wanna talk then… then I’m gonna go play in the lab. Maybe see if I can figure out those locked files that Armin downloaded….” She had a too pleased grin on her face as she staggered to her feet.

“Whatever.” Levi watched her stumble toward the door and leave and sat at his desk for a few minutes. What would it be like to live forever? He was used to people dying on him, to being alone, so he didn’t think that would be any problem…. Shoving away from the desk, he stumbled over to the sink, the dirty glasses in hand, and rinsed them out. Then he went to his bed and collapsed in it, deciding to lie down while waiting for Eren to arrive. He’d just lie down with his eyes closed and rest for a while…..

*******

Eren slowed down when he noticed what appeared and *smelled* to be an inebriated Captain Hange stumbling toward him, a ridiculous grin on her face. “Eren! Cutie! What are you doing out and about?” She nearly tripped over her feet in her haste to reach him. “Is this what they call a bootie call? Are you about to do something to make Levi less of such a grumpy bastard?”

“Ah….” He flinched when she threw her arms over his shoulders and barely resisted lashing out at the unwanted contact. “I’m not sure you should be-“

“Aw, it’s okay, there’s no fraternization rules here!” Captain Hange was practically yelling in his ear, which *hurt* dammit. Didn’t she remember about his enhanced senses? “You could bang anyone you want – though Levi might take offense.” She leaned back enough to look him in the eye and sniffed as if she was congested. “You wouldn’t do that to my grouchy Sweetie, would you? I know he’s a psychotic asshole, but he’s still my Sweetie.”

“Captain, I think you’re drunk. Maybe you should-“

The crazy woman cut him off again, which was starting to piss off Eren. “If you think I’m bad, you should see Levi!” Captain Hange let out a loud cackle of a laugh and began to drag him in the opposite direction of Levi’s quarters. “Trust me, cutie, he’s not gonna be of any use to you tonight!”

What the *hell* was it with these people dragging him around like a dog on a leash? Eren gritted his teeth and pulled on his captive wrist, but Captain Hange was surprisingly strong for her lanky build. “Captain, I really think-“

“Nope, alcohol has a known effect on blood flow, which means no boner, and decreases the big O as well. So no fun for you *or* Levi. I’m doing this for both of your sakes.” Captain Hange gave him a demented grin when she glanced over her shoulder. “But *you*, you look perfectly fine. I’m thinking you can help me with a few experiments!”

“Oh. Yay.” Eren wasn’t seeing a way out of this other than biting off the crazy woman’s arm – which wasn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility, to be honest. “What type of experiments?”

“Hmm, that wasn’t the only bottle of vodka I have,” Captain Hange proudly exclaimed as she nearly ran into a wall.

Well, if he wasn’t going to get laid tonight, at least he had some hope of getting mildly drunk. Eren allowed himself to be shanghaied on the chances that this would be more interesting than dealing with a drunk, pissy lover who might not even be able to get it up.

*******

Annie pretended to be paying attention to her datapad while the argument grew louder in the common area; Marlo was looming over her partner, he was standing so close to the girl, his face so flushed with strong emotion that he appeared even more unattractive than usual. “It’s the MPs’ responsibility to look after the welfare of the dome’s citizens! Pietr and Amir should have looked into that missing person’s request – they shouldn’t have just sent off those people like that!”

Hitch sneered up at the tall kid, unconcerned about their difference in height. “Oh get over yourself! Pietr said he checked and there’s no record of the woman! Those people are nuts!” She threw her hands up in the air as if she was at her wits end. “You need to stop doing this – you’re an *MP*. Stand with your own or hand in your uniform!”

“I’m trying to make everyone proud to be wearing the MP uniform,” Marlo practically bellowed. “For too long-“

Annie tuned out the familiar rant as she pocked her datapad and left the room – anyone who had been in the kid’s vicinity the past couple of weeks could recite the diatribe by heart at this point, and while she privately agreed with him, nothing was going to change. In fact, complaining about how corrupt the MP had become was only going to get the kid killed.

Strolling down the MP base’s hallways as if she had no particular destination in mind, she quickly came to a little used section of the building and snuck into a neglected storage room that Bertolt had taken the time to clear out over the last couple of weeks. Bertolt and Reiner were already waiting inside, dressed in their uniforms and ready to go out on patrol.

“Hey,” Reiner called out to her, the quick gleam of red in his eyes the only obvious sign of temper. “Took you long enough.”

“The main room was a bit more crowded than usual tonight, so I waited for a good distraction before leaving.” She folded her arms over her chest and glared at the idiot. “We don’t want people to start asking inconvenient questions when we’re so close to the end.” Her claws flexed at the thought of yet another failure; she had to take a deep breath and will her fingers to return to normal before she tore the fabric of her light grey sweatshirt.

Reiner shifted about on top of the old desk on which he was sitting as if he was uncomfortable. “About that – do you really think you can trust those humans? I don’t see why we can’t just take Eren down ourselves.”

“Because we haven’t seen Eren since you two revealed yourselves, and he’s got a bunch of humans who know how to fight willing to throw themselves in our way on his side.” Annie struggled to control her temper as she explained *yet* again why this plan was for the best. “We’ve been trying for centuries to take Eren down in a fight and it hasn’t worked yet – now, when he thinks he’s so clever, it’s time to try a new tactic.” She nearly growled in frustration at the thought of how many years, how many *centuries* Eren had slipped through their fingers, had killed his own kind in the mistaken belief that he was better than them. “We’re running out of time, so we’re not going to waste it on tactics that have proven to have failed.”

A fierce scowl overcame Reiner’s handsome features, and when Annie met it with a cool look of her own, he turned away to gaze at Bertolt. The other man seemed to shy away from the attention at first, then looked back at Reiner and shrugged. “Eren’s always had a certain blind spot when it comes to humans and his friends. It can work.” Then he glanced at Annie. “If the humans can be trusted.”

“If *Ymir* can be trusted,” Reiner growled.

“She can, because she finally has something she cares about besides her own neck,” Annie insisted as she leaned against a bare, grungy once-white wall. It served the traitor right, to be forced to bring Eren to them after all the grief she’d caused.

“It’s just….” Bertolt fidgeted with his blades as a blush spread across his face. “It’s just I worry about how Eren will think about us, after we make him join us.”

Reiner rose to his feet and rubbed his hand up and down his lover’s arm. “It’ll be okay – he was happy with us in the past, we’ll make it work once he realizes that we’re not really bad.”

“He’ll get over it, especially when he realizes that we’re leaving Mikasa and that brat of theirs alone,” Annie snapped. “It can always be worse, and if he continues to fight us, that’ll happen.” She pushed away from the wall and began to pace before it; she was so tired of this, so tired of everything revolving around Eren, so tired of needing someone who would tear out her throat if given a chance. It was all Mikasa’s fault – they’d been doing a good job of winning Eren’s trust, of making him part of their group and then something had set her off, the cold bitch. Now they were so close…. She shook her head, refusing to dwell on the words of the brat from earlier. “He’ll get over it.”

For a moment it appeared as if Bertolt was going to continue to complain, and then he backed away from the steely look that Annie shot his way. “All right then – you two need to go out on your patrol and make sure the Malform are settled for the night. I’m going to take care of any new missing person reports; let me know about any feedings that happen.” She folded her arms over her chest again as she gave out the orders.

Reiner nodded and resettled his blades. “What about the Wingers? Should we engage tonight or not? We want them to think we’re still trying for Eren, right?”

Annie debated that for a moment then shook her head. “No, let them sweat it out a little longer before we give them a nice surprise. It’ll make the Malform all the more hungrier and nastier.”

“Understood.” Reiner placed his hand on Bertolt’s back and urged him to leave the room. Annie watched them go and waited a few minutes, just in case, and used the time to send a message to Minister Zackly. Commander Dok needed to take a certain young MP to task for sticking his nose into matters where it didn’t belong….

*******

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