chapter nineteen

*******

cat people (putting out fire)

*******

Mikasa sat perched at the edge of Armin’s bed, her hands clasped before her as she watched him sleep. She’d done this ever since he was a child, had seen him grown up from that small child haunted by nightmares into the lovely ‘young’ man that he’d become. There were shadows around his closed eyes and frown lines on his forehead, signs that he hadn’t gotten enough sleep during the night – he’d been up too late working in Medical, so she was loathe to wake him up just yet. However, the noise of everyone else in the common room going about their morning routine as they prepared for the day was about to do the job for her.

Armin stirred a little, the thick brown blanket similar to what was issued to everyone sliding a little down his left shoulder; he mumbled something that sounded like ‘five more minutes’, prompting Mikasa to smile. No, Armin disliked waking up just as much as Eren had back… well, back *then*.

She’d just decided to wait it out a little longer when a loud bang of someone slamming their locker shut managed to stir Armin awake. “Asshole,” he mumbled as he rubbed at his face, his shoulder-length hair almost as tousled as Eren’s and a decided glare on his face as he slowly sat up in bed. It took him a couple of seconds to notice her sitting there at the bottom. “Mikasa?” He smiled at first, and then began to panic. “Is everything all right? Where’s Eren?”

“He’s fine – he’s at the showers.” Mikasa smiled and stood up. “I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”

“Uh, other than feeling like I got two hours of sleep, I’m fine.” He rubbed his eyes for a moment and then shifted about to place his feet on the floor, clothed in his underwear and a t-shirt. “Petra’s doing much better now.”

“That’s good to know.” Mikasa was glad that the woman would survive, but her main concern was Eren and Armin. “You’re going back to the lab today?”

“Yeah.” Armin ran his fingers through his hair and looked up at her, his eyes narrowed as if trying to figure out why she was asking him about his day. “Captain Hange is excited about… well, we’re checking out Petra’s blood.”

Because of Mikasa and Eren giving their blood to her, no doubt. Mikasa mostly trusted Captain Hange, and she thought that the Short Bastard might have an interest in keeping Eren around whole and safe for a bit longer but she’d be on guard now – and knew Armin would warn them if they were about to become involuntary test subjects. “All right. Could you do me a favor before you disappear into the lab for the rest of the day? Well, two – I want to make sure you eat a good breakfast first,” she told him with a stern frown. He looked as if he’d been skipping meals lately.

Armin smiled up at her, his blue eyes bright with affection. “Anything for you.”

She reached down to tuck into place a stray strand of blond hair. “Always the charmer,” she chided. “After you eat that breakfast, I need you to fetch me something.”

*******

Armin stared at the results from the latest blood sample and compared it to one taken from last night; there was a marked improvement in the infection rate, so much so that it might only take another dose or two of Eren’s blood to push her to the point where she wasn’t in any more danger of being turned and her body could slowly clear out the infected cells on its own. Armin felt a sense of excitement build inside of him as he punched the new data into the program he’d compiled earlier, so it could set about graphing the infection rate and calculate just how long it would take for Petra to recover – now that they had a hope of Petra recovering.

While he waited on the program, he sat back and stared off at the far white wall of the lab, the bland paint broken up by various splotches of Captain Hange’s ‘experiments’. Was *this* what Grisha Jaeger had intended when he’d infected his son all those years ago? Was it as Armin had suspected, that Eren wasn’t supposed to turn people but that he carried a cure to the Malform infection? Did Grisha turn his son into a vampire hybrid to save what he could of his research? If so, why would he go to such drastic lengths – both to alter Eren in such a way and not come outright with an important cure?

They’d never know until they finally reached that box hidden away so long ago, and maybe not find all of the answers even then. Yet Armin felt that they’d stumbled upon an important piece of the puzzle just now….

“How does it go?”

“Fuck!” He bolted upright in his chair and clutched at his chest, certain right then that he was having a heart-attack since his heart was beating so hard. Turning to glare at Captain Hange, who had a confused look on her face, he motioned in her general direction. “What are you doing here?” And what was it with people sneaking up on him lately?

“You asking that in an existential sense such as ‘why are we on Earth’ or a more general ‘why is your ass in this lab’?”

“The latter one.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and got up to go over to where a large beaker of ‘coffee’ was simmering over a Benson burner. “Shouldn’t you be getting your head beaten into a wall by Ymir rather than scaring me to death?”

Captain Hange laughed with what seemed to be delight and joined him at the ‘drink’ station. “Can’t say that it wasn’t fun, but I ended my training early to check up on Petra.” She clapped her hands together in excitement and did a weird little dance that made her blades and ponytail swing about. “Her wounds are healing at an amazing pace! At this rate she might regain full function in the arm!”

“As long as she doesn’t turn,” Armin pointed out while he added some sugar and milk to the coffee to help make it palatable.

“She hasn’t yet, so I think it’s safe to say that she’ll be fine.” Captain Hange leaned forward to rest her elbows on the counter and propped her chin up on her hands. “What’s the result of the latest bloodwork, hmm?”

He paused for a moment and then nodded. “Yeah, it looks as if she’ll recover.”

The captain’s brown eyes became unfocused behind the lenses of her glasses. “To think that Petra would become the first person to successfully recover from a massive Malform infection – this is history right here.”

“Yes, but how do we want it to go down in history?” Armin made sure he had her attention before he continued. “If word gets out exactly how Petra was healed, people will tear Eren and Mikasa apart to get at their blood – or worse, chain them up and drain them dry.” He refused to let that happen.

Captain Hange straightened up and nodded. “That would be incredibly short-sighted of them. You don’t risk the source of your cure that way, especially since you don’t know if there’s alternate ways to manufacture it.”

Armin managed the most condescending snort possible as he rolled his eyes. “And we all know so very well that the human race is anything but short-sighted,” he remarked, sarcasm all but dripping from the words.

“Aw, you’re much too cute to be so jaded.” The captain reached out to ruffle his hair. “Leave that to sour-pussies like my Sweetie – he’s got the beady little eyes and the bad attitude for it.” She grinned like the maniac she was for a few seconds before she sighed, her demeanor changing into something more serious. “No, we’ll make sure to protect Eren and Mikasa – it’ll be nice to get more blood from them and see if we can’t isolate whatever it is that fends off the infection, something to do with their white blood cells… see if we can’t compare it to Ymir’s….”

He combed his fingers through his hair and risked derailing her thoughts. “It might be that the answers lie in Grisha’s box – your suggestions are great and along the lines of what I was thinking, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe it’s what Eren’s father left behind.” Whatever he and Captain Hange came up with, it probably wouldn’t be along the lines of anything of large scale, not with just Eren and Mikasa providing the base of the serum. He still believed that Grisha Jaeger had *something* of value hidden away.

Captain Hange hummed to herself for a few seconds. “Dammit, I need to make Erwin let me out of here!” She smacked her right fist into her left palm. “It’s driving me crazy, knowing that there’s all that delicious knowledge just *waiting* for me!” At Armin’s blank stare, she chuckled and pushed up her glasses. “All right, making me even more crazy.”

“As if that’s not a frightening thought,” he mumbled.

“Oh hush, you.” She waved a long finger in front of his face and then took a step back. “I can put you in charge of Levi’s annual physical if I want.”

“I- you wouldn’t- I’m not a- that’s an abuse of-“

She laughed at his pathetic attempts to stutter out excuses and waved goodbye. “I’m going to check up on Petra and go torment Erwin – maybe if I do it enough he’ll throw me out of the dome himself.”

Armin sighed in relief as he watched her leave; she was brilliant, of that there was no doubt, but she was *mad*. He had to wonder what that said about him, considering that Eren and Mikasa kept assuring him that he was just as bright.

*******

Jean rubbed his hands up and down the sides of his jeans in as surreptitious a manner as possible; this was *so* not the type of place he would normally be found in, with its walls painted a faint grey, the sounds of what had to be stringed instruments playing in the background, people dressed in fancy clothes all around him and *actual artwork* hanging on the walls. Hell, he was standing in front of a holo projection of some sculpture, something about an ugly girl in a skirt standing with her arms clasped behind her. Yet Mikasa had picked the place for their third date, deciding that it would be something different than a restaurant since the ‘gluttons’ weren’t tagging along this time, and Jean had been so happy at the chance to be alone with her that he hadn’t questioned anything….

“So, you know about art?” He didn’t know a damn thing about it, but Mikasa had spent the last hour walking around the place, pausing to stare at the paintings, pictures and holos with that small smile on her face, something appearing pleased, sometimes appearing sad.

“I know a little.” She slanted a look at him from the corner of her dark eyes and gave him one of her sad smiles. “Our – Eren’s and my mother – loved it, and would always… well, she taught us to appreciate it.”

Since Mikasa didn’t talk about her past very much – hell, she usually shut things down when Jean brought up anything to do with her brother – Jean found himself taking a step forward and almost said something without thinking. He forced himself to take a deep breath before he asked something that would just make her upset. “Then it must be nice, to come here.”

Her smile strengthened and she reached out to thread her fingers through his. “Yes, it is.” She turned her head to look back at the ‘sculpture’. “Especially since Eren gets bored after about twenty minutes.”

That prompted a laugh from him, loud enough to earn some disproving looks from a few of the other patrons. Feeling a little sheepish over his outburst, he tucked his free hand into a pants pocket and pretended to study the statue. “So, what’s so amazing about this artwork? Know anything about it?”

“Well, it was from a famous pre-collapse artist who did both paintings and sculptures, and caused a lot of criticism when it first appeared.”

He paid more attention to the life-like sculpture and frowned. “It’s not very… pretty, is it? I thought artwork was supposed to be pretty.”

Mikasa’s right hand played with the end of her ever-present right scarf. “It’s representative of life – and life is rarely pretty.” She stared intently at the statue as if reading something from it.

He felt as if he was missing something here and wanted to change the topic; he didn’t like it when things got too dark – he felt sometimes that there was too much darkness in Mikasa’s life. “So, what happened to it? You gonna tell me it’s worth more than I’ll ever dream of making so we just get to see a holo?” A lot of the ‘artwork’ here was either on loan from various ministers or reproductions of items owned by chairmen.

“Oh no – this one was lost a long time ago.” Mikasa indicated to one of the holo’s blurry edges. “They must have scavenged some pre-collapse footage and enhanced it.”

“Really?” Jean knew that a lot of items of ‘cultural significance’ were lost – or claimed to have been lost – but he never really gave it much thought. “So no more ugly ballerina statue?”

“Supposedly.” The smile on Mikasa’s face just then took on an enigmatic quality. “It was in one of the major museums at the time of the collapse, and a lot of looting occurred in the following years. Perhaps it was melted down for the bronze, perhaps it was bartered for supplies and is hidden in some private collection, perhaps it’s tucked away in some cave for its own good.”

“Seems silly to stick it in a cave if it’s worth money.”

“Some people aren’t concerned about money.” Mikasa shrugged and then moved on to the next sculpture, another holo – this time of a massive vase. “Some are more concerned about honoring-

She didn’t get a chance to explain any further since there was a loud beeping noise coming from inside Jean’s black jacket. He flashed her an embarrassed grin and reached in to pull out his datapad, wondering who the hell was sending him a message just then; if it was Connie giving him an update on his date with Sasha, he was going to need a new partner. Since the beep wasn’t the loud double-staccato of the MP’s emergency signal he knew it was a private message, and he didn’t really know too many people who would send him a message on his work device. “This better be important.” He scowled at the screen as he flipped to the message.

“Hmm?” Mikasa watched him while he stared at the screen. “Is it something about work?”

“It’s- I don’t think so.” Confusion won out over annoyance as he opened the message, which was from an unknown sender. “Someone named Daz-“

He almost didn’t see Mikasa move before the datapad was snatched out of his hands – one moment she was standing a foot or two away with her hands clasped in front of her, and the next she was frantically scrolling through the message, her expression intent while she read it.

“Ah, you know him?”

“Yes.” Just the one word, snapped in an almost churlish manner. She stared at the screen as if this ‘Daz’ had written a report on it, her body perfectly still except for her eyes moving back and forth, and then she shoved the datapad his way. “He’s in the Freedom Corps. I need to leave, now.” She didn’t wait for an answer, she merely turned and began to quickly walk away.

“Hey, wait!” Jean glanced down at the screen as he followed, but all he saw was ‘Eren – Kälte. T.’

“So what, is it about your brother? You just drop everything if-“ He nearly tripped over his feet in his haste to stop when Mikasa whirled around, her face almost frightening in its blankness and took two long, quick steps to catch up with him.

“He’s my *brother*. I will do *anything* when it comes to him, and the sooner you respect and accept that, the better. You’re a nice boy, Jean, but don’t get in my way.” She spun around without saying another word, her face still that perfect mask, and hurried out of the gallery so fast that her scarf trailed behind her as if a scarlet banner.

He watched after her for a more few seconds, stunned by how such a nice date had gone so… so wrong so quickly. How had Mikasa’s friend known how to reach him? Why had she left like that, over some ambiguous message? Why was her brother so precious to her? Jean loved his parents, but it would take more than some odd word to get him to leave in the middle of a date.

He tucked away the datapad then rubbed at the back of his head, feeling confused and upset. Why was it that the more time he spent with Mikasa, the less it seemed that he knew about her and the more infatuated he became? Letting out a slow breath, he left the gallery as well, deciding he might as well head back home.

*******

Eren pretended to not hear the sniggers from the ‘older’ Freedom Corps fighters as he made his way to Levi’s quarters. His temper flared when he caught a barely whispered ‘well, that’ *one* way to get on Ackerman’s special squad, I suppose’, and had to curl his fingers to hide his claws and duck his head to cover his eyes. Yeah, yeah, he got it – weren’t they the clever fucks for insinuating that he got where he was by lying on his back? Or was it on his knees? Hell, maybe it was both ways, since Levi sure was a finicky asshole. Eren was two seconds away from pointing out that fact… until he thought of what would happen when Mikasa found out. Yeah, no need for bloodbaths between their own ‘people’, not with the trio out there….

He forced himself to take a deep breath and let it out slowly before he knocked on the door. It took Levi a moment to answer it, and unlike Eren the man was still dressed in most of his uniform, minus the gauntlet, jacket and gloves since he was still expected to go out on patrol later tonight; Eren felt a stab of jealousy over that fact. Dammit, he was starting to go a bit stir-crazy right about now.

Levi grunted something by way of greeting and jerked his chin toward his desk while he stepped away from the door.

“And good afternoon to you, too.” Eren tucked back a lock of hair that was falling onto his face and frowned, uncertain about what seemed to be causing Levi’s foul mood *this* time. Yeah, today’s practice hadn’t gone very well, considering it was just him, Levi and Erd, but he’d left it believing that Levi was looking forward to him coming here after he cleaned up.

Levi’s frown intensified and he clicked his tongue in obvious annoyance while he reached up to shove Eren’s damp bangs behind his ears. “Why don’t you just cut the damn mess short? It drives me crazy, seeing you fuss with it all the time.” His fingers continued to comb through the strands, the touch almost soothing.

Eren closed his eyes and let out a slow, humming breath. “Well… I guess it’s habit.” He huffed in protest when the asshole yanked on a strand and opened his eyes to glare, which of course amused the sadistic bastard. “Not a lot of places around to get your hair cut after civilization collapses, you know.”

“You think there are in Tartarus?” Levi scoffed and ran his fingers along the nape of Eren’s neck, his smile becoming more pleased when Eren shivered. “I always made do.”

Eren touched the neatly trimmed bangs that just barely missed falling into Levi’s intense grey eyes. “Yes, but I’m sure you had something a bit better than a damn sword.” He winced at that particular memory. “Mikasa did her best with it, but it took us a few months to come across a decent knife again, and at that point….” He shrugged, the motion causing some of his hair to slither free from behind his ears. “It was easier to just let it reach a certain length and then cut it all off.” He lightly traced the arch of Levi’s right cheekbone. “At least after we turned, we didn’t have to worry about things like lice or ticks anymore.”

“Nice.” Levi grimaced at the mention of parasites and gave him a not-so gentle shove away. “You and your fellow bloodsuckers.” He stomped over to his desk.

Tempted to regale the clean-freak with stories about flea-infested camps, Eren reluctantly decided it would be in his best interest to change the topic. “So, Armin told me that it looks as if Petra’s going to recover.”

Instead of going to sit behind the desk, Levi whirled around and leaned against the front of it, his arms folded across his chest. “Yes, Hange told me much the same thing after practice.” He stared intently at Eren as if sizing him up for something. “You know not to trust the crazy bitch if she starts asking for a lot of blood, right? Don’t let her drain you dry looking for some damn cure – or let Erwin talk you into anything.” He spat out the words in a rush, leaving Eren with the impression that this topic – Petra’s recovery and his part in it – was the reason for his anger.

“Ah, yeah, I do.” He came to a stop within arm’s reach of Levi and chuckled, a little nervous from the intensity of the gaze from those grey eyes. “Being a lab rat fucked things up enough for me once, I’m not about to just blindly agree to anything like that again.”

“Good.” Levi reached out to snag hold of his grey shirt and yanked him forward. “Because you’re *mine* - I have first claim to you,” he breathed against Eren’s lips before he kissed him.

Part of Eren wanted to say that no one had any claim to him, that Levi was delusional as well as sadistic, but most of him was too busy enjoying the damn kiss. He moaned in happiness and moved forward until he was nestled between Levi’s thighs, his arms draped over those surprisingly muscular shoulders; he liked the feel of Levi pressed against him, liked how *solid* he was, all muscle and bone and attitude. Oh fuck, was it going to be good to be beneath him….

He whined a bit in frustration, his hands sliding down Levi’s firm chest, along the warm cloth of the white shirt until he reached the waistband of the white pants. Once there, he began to tug at the shirt to pull it free, all the while kissing Levi back with a desperate fervor.

Levi nipped at his bottom lip before trailing his mouth down to Eren’s neck, leaving a burning trail along sensitive skin while his hands cupped Eren’s ass. “You are here to get fucked, right?” His hands gave Eren’s ass a firm squeeze as he asked the question.

Eren shivered as warm air blew onto the damp spot where Levi’s mouth had just been and rocked his hips forward. “Ohh… if you don’t fuck me this time, I’m going to gut you with… with a damn teacup of all things.” He didn’t care if it made sense or not, as long as it got the point across.

Levi’s lips twitched as if he wanted to laugh yet he shook his head instead. “Shitty brat,” was all he said as he pushed away from the desk, urging Eren to go along with him.

“Asshole,” Eren mumbled as he stumbled backwards. He groaned when the insult earned him a smack on the ass and forced his fingers to fumble along the buttons of Levi’s shirt. Dammit, couldn’t the man prefer jerkins or sweatshirts or something easier? He’d probably get bitched at or kicked if he just tore the damn thing….

Meanwhile, Levi nipped at his neck while attacking his pants, flicking open the button and pulling down the zipper. Eren let out a needy whine and nearly tripped over the slippers he’d worn out of the showers before deciding to just kick them off, desperate to shed his clothes in the fastest manner possible. Finally reaching the last of the damn buttons, he paused in removing Levi’s shirt so he could yank his own over his head.

Levi chuckled at the spectacle, the sound dark and pleased. “You’re not a bit eager about this, are you,” he asked as they passed the threshold of the bedroom, his own hands busy shedding his shirt, which he draped over the back of some padded chair rather than dropping to the floor as Eren had done to his own.

“Tell me there’s not a chance of Captain Hange barging in here demanding that we let her film this for posterity’s sake and I’ll slow down.” Eren smirked when Levi’s expression turned grim and he suddenly attempted to remove his left boot with his right foot. “Yeah, I thought so.”

“Shut it, brat.” Levi hopped about for a moment and then appeared to lose his balance, not helped by the fact that his pants were partially undone. “Dammit, do something!”

Eren bit back on a laugh as he shoved the short bastard back on the bed before kneeling down and grabbing at his left foot. “They might be sexy as hell, but these things have a bit of a drawback.”

“Yeah, well they’re just fine for kicking a certain twink’s asses,” Levi grumbled while he pushed himself up onto his forearms and watched while Eren pulled off first the one boot and then the other.

“Again with the sweet talk.” Eren tossed the second boot behind him with a bit more force than necessary and then joined Levi on the bed, sliding up against him until their lower bodies rocked together. “Don’t you want something other than your foot up my ass?” He breathed against Levi’s lips as his eyes became heavy-lidded.

Hands tangled in his hair as he was pulled closer, lips pressing against his for a searing moment and then he was twisted about until he lay back against the bed with a smug Levi looming above him.

“I told you that *I* would be in charge,” Levi insisted as his hands pressed against Eren’s shoulders as if to hold him down.

“Then do it,” Eren murmured, the world fading away except for Levi, who glowed so brightly in his sight. Hunger filled him, languid yet hot, a hunger that wouldn’t be satisfied until Levi stopped being so damn pissy and *fucked* him. He rocked his hips upward the same time he arched his neck, his lips parted slightly while he looked at Levi through his lashes. “I need you to fuck me,” he all but moaned.

He could see the impact he had on the bastard, could almost see the warring thoughts of ‘is this a scam’ versus ‘dammit, just fuck him now’. Levi’s pupils were blown and his normally pale face flushed, his strong hands dug into Eren’s shoulders almost painfully before the desire won out and he leaned down for a savage kiss.

It wasn’t an act – Eren wanted him so badly that he was about to claw at the mattress in need, about to flip him over and ride him until he broke. Something about Levi infuriated him and broke down his control, and now that he’d given in this far… well, no one better damn well interrupt them.

He struggled to restrain his fangs during the kiss, to allow Levi to dominate it, to not nip back and risk spilling blood. Levi made it *very* clear that he wanted to be in control, from the way his hands roamed and clenched around Eren’s body to the way he set the pace of grinding their hips together. Eren lost himself to the scent/taste/feel of the other man, pleased for once to be having sex with someone he wanted so badly.

Because he *did* want Levi so badly, he reached up for the headboard and grasped it tightly, the metal frame creaking slightly between his fingers. Levi didn’t notice it at first, until his hands slipped down into Eren’s loose pants. “Oi, a little help here would be nice.” He glanced up at Eren, his black hair falling into his eyes in a rare moment of dishevelment.

“Not… a good… idea,” Eren panted as he struggled with himself. He bared a hint of fangs at Levi before shaking his head. “Just… no.”

Levi lifted up on his arms for a few seconds and stared up at the headboard – at Eren’s hands. “Huh, that happen often?”

“Not really.” Eren flexed his claws and whined, displeased at the loss of Levi’s body against his. “Don’t stop, dammit!”

Frowning at the order, Levi’s eyes narrowed yet he resumed stripping Eren of the last of his clothes; Eren moaned as they were removed, his eyes burning brighter when it was Levi’s turn to strip naked. Damn, but that body….

“Just fucking great – and here I was planning on making you do the messy shit while I watched,” Levi complained while he sat back between Eren’s legs and leaned over to the night stand to fetch the bottle of lube.

Eren bared his teeth again and gave the asshole a kick with his left foot. “Life is… so fucking hard. You’ll have to… work a bit… to fuck me.” He struggled to breathe, his heart racing and body feeling as if it was burning up. What was wrong with him?

“Your ass better be worth it.” Levi frowned as he poured the lube onto his fingertips.

“Three… hundred thousand credits,” Eren reminded him as he took a deep breath and forced his body to relax.

Levi was better than most at the whole prep thing, taking his time to work up to two fingers before Eren whined and thrashed his head about. “That’s enough, just do it.”

“You saying that I’m-“

“Oh for- I’m saying that I’m fine, just do it!” Eren bared his teeth and hooked his heels around the asshole’s waist. “Who’s… been doing this longer?” He didn’t think he could wait any longer; something was scrabbling inside of him, desperate for… for….

He was graced with one of Levi’s more potent glares for his troubles, but the bastard finally seemed to get the hint. “Fine.” For someone who was about to finally have sex, he sure could be a bit happier, the asshole. Levi settled on top of Eren, snug between his thighs, and Eren had to fight to not reach down and slide his hands along that muscular back.

He felt Levi’s solid weight on top of him, felt Levi’s hand slide along his ass and Levi’s cock press against him and then-

-then it was the familiar madness, the deep darkness rushing forward with all emotion yet none at all, the need to protect, the need to rend, the need for blood and death and-

-and he was pressed against the headboard while a very confused and angry Levi stared at him. “What the *hell*?” He pressed his hand against the mattress where Eren had been lying before, where there were deep rivets torn into the material. “Just how fucked up are you?”

Eren stared at the damage his claws had done and shivered, feeling a coldness that sunk into his bones. What had he done? *Why* had he done it? The… the ‘madness’ only came out when something endangered his loved ones, when Mikasa was in trouble. Why had it happened now, when he was with Levi? “I… I don’t….” He couldn’t stop shivering.

“If you didn’t want to fuck you could have just said ‘no’, dammit, and not ruin my damn bed,” Levi shouted. “Like a fucking cat you are, with those shitty claws!” He jerked his hand threw his hair and punched the mattress, causing bedding to fly up into the air. “How am I going to sleep tonight?”

“So-sorry.” Eren’s teeth were chattering from the shock. Mikasa – he needed Mikasa. She would know what to do. He forced himself to move.

Levi finally seemed to notice him and cursed some more. “Where the hell are you going? You don’t just destroy my bed and leave!” He attempted to snatch at Eren, but just missed him. “Hey, are you all right?”

“Mi-kasa.” Eren grabbed his clothes off of the floor and raced for the door, unconcerned that he was naked. His sister – he needed his sister.

“Hey! Get back here!” Levi yelled as he followed, but Eren was faster and managed to get out the door first. “You’re naked, you shit!”

Several people turned to stare at him as he burst out into the hallway, which didn’t slow Eren down at all; he’d been through much worse in his long life than a bit of impromptu streaking. He went far enough to ensure that Levi wasn’t following him before stopping to pull on his shirt and pants, hampered by how much his body was still shaking. Once he was more or less decently attired, he forced himself onward to the common room in hopes of finding Mikasa returned from her date.

There were several odd looks sent his way as he entered the large area, and he didn’t see his sister anywhere. As he neared her bed, a familiar voice cried out his name. “Eren! What is going on?” Armin wrapped an arm around his shoulder and pulled him toward their bunk-bed. “I heard this crazy story about you running around naked?”

“I ne-need Mikasa,” he told his friend as he buried his face against Armin’s neck.

Armin’s arm tightened around him and a few seconds later he was pushed down onto his friend’s bed. “Okay, I’ll get her. She’ll be here soon.” Blankets that smelled like Armin were wrapped around him; Eren breathed in deep and felt some of the awful tension inside of him ebb away, but not enough to stop the shivering. “I’ll be back in a minute, okay?”

“’kay.” He closed his eyes and curled up on the bed. All around him were hushed voices, and he could hear Armin talking to Daz about something. Soon enough, Armin returned and lay down next to him on the bed.

“She’ll be here soon, I promise. Then you can tell us both what happened.” Armin rubbed his hands along Eren’s back.

“Th-ank you.” It would be okay now. Armin and Mikasa would make it okay. Eren let out a slow breath and tried not to think of how he could still smell Levi on his skin.

*******

Somehow, people seemed to know better and scurried to get out of Mikasa’s way, clearing a path for her to reach the common room shared by the newest recruits as quickly as possible at a ‘human’ pace. She struggled to maintain that important façade, to not run down the hallways at full speed in an effort to reach her brother as quickly as possible and find out what had gone so wrong. ‘Cold’ was the code word between her and Armin whenever Eren lost himself in his… more ‘animalistic’ side and came back to himself shivering and confused – which usually happened when the damn vampires had him and Mikasa cornered somewhere. What had happened to trigger it when Mikasa was away? Why were things so quiet at headquarters if Armin had been in danger?

Finally reaching the shared quarters, she nearly tore through the cavernous room in search of Eren, for a moment wondering if Armin had him sequestered somewhere else for everyone’s safety. Yet she could pick up his scent and soon caught sight of them curled up on Armin’s bed. Eren was wrapped up in blankets with only his tangled hair left exposed, while Armin was curled up around him as if to help provide heat.

“Eren!”

Armin looked up as she nearly flung herself onto the bed and reached out to give her a hug, Eren cradled between them. “He’s… he’s mostly okay,” he whispered as he shifted back enough so she could join them on the narrow bed.

“Eren?” Mikasa lifted the edge of the blankets and slid beneath them, startled to find her brother still shivering. “What happened?”

He stared back at her with eyes so bright that she half-expected the glow to cast shadows onto his face, his fangs partially extended when he spoke. “I... I don’t know.” He nestled closer to her as if grateful for her warmth and presence, his head tucking beneath her chin. “It’s… Levi was there… and it was good… felt good… wanted it… wanted *him*… and then it… happened.” He shivered violently for a moment and then slowly began to relax against her. “Just… too much….” He let out a trembling breath as the shivering slowly eased. “Came to and… had clawed things up, so I ran.”

Mikasa could smell the Short Bastard on Eren, could smell sweat, lubricant and desire, but she didn’t smell blood so she assumed that the captain wasn’t one of those ‘things’. “It’s okay, Eren.”

“Uhm, he left in a bit of a hurry.” Armin sounded rather amused as he pressed against Eren’s back. “So much so that… well, there’s talk about what a nice ass he has, I’m afraid.”

Mikasa grit her teeth against the beginning of a growl and clutched at Eren, who was mumbling an apology. One thing at a time. She’d deal with one thing at a time. “The short bastard wasn’t forcing you, right?” It didn’t sound like it, but she wanted to be perfectly clear about what had set off Eren’s… well, what had set him off.

“No.” He sounded on the verge of falling asleep, but the answer came through certain enough.

“Okay.” She pressed a kiss against the top of his head and held him until he finally gave in to the exhaustion.

“So, what do you think that was all about,” Armin asked, slipping into the German that they’d taught him.

She let out a weary sigh and held Eren tighter against her. “You just had to tell him to try his hand at a relationship, didn’t you?” Despite her best efforts, a hint of venom crept into her voice.

Armin raised up his head to look at her for a few seconds. “I really do think it’s for the best, you know. Do you want him to keep sleeping around with strangers? Sooner or later he’s going to run into someone powerful enough to cause us problems.”

It wasn’t anything that they hadn’t discussed – no, complained about – before. She saw the logic in it, she just…. “It may be that we didn’t think this through.” She stroked her fingers through her brother’s unruly hair and smiled a little at the way the strands refused to settle. “When Eren cares, *truly* cares….” She closed her eyes for a moment and rested her cheek against the top of his head. What would her life be like if he hadn’t been there for her all those years ago?

Armin was quiet for a couple of minutes as if thinking over what she’d just said. “So you believe that tonight… but Captain Ackerman wasn’t in any danger, was he?”

“There’s always a risk when we….” Mikasa felt her cheeks heat up. “It’s not much, but we do have to make sure we’re in full control during moments like that. That we don’t claw or bite, that we don’t use our full strength. I think… I think that’s why in part that Eren’s never cared for anyone he’s slept with, because it’s easier to stay detached that way.” She knew it was in part why she left the ones she cared too much about at that point. “Maybe something got tripped up inside of him, that ‘too much’ he was talking about and it set off… well, it set him off. From the little he said, he didn’t hurt the captain.”

There was a heavy sigh from Armin as he stretched out his arm to cover her and Eren. “I just wanted him to be more serious about his fuckbuddies for once, not to… not *this*.” He smacked his head against the bed a couple of times, which Eren continued slept through. “With Captain Ackerman of all people?”

It was as bad as the whole trio situation – Eren certainly did know how to pick them, Mikasa thought. “He could do so much better.” Even Reiner and Bertolt had treated him with more respect than the Short Bastard had ever shown him, before… well, before revealing what they truly were.

They all laid together squeezed onto the bed while Eren slept, seeming dead to the world; she knew that the lack of proper blood was wearing on him, so between that and the emotional trauma earlier she expected him to sleep longer than normal. After some time had passed, she spoke again, startling a dozing Armin. “Did you get the thing I asked about?”

“Huh?” Armin shifted about a little and propped up his head. “Oh, yeah, it’s in the lab – Captain Hange was curious about it but I just said that I needed it for a project. Do you need me to go get it?”

“No, I’ll do it later. Thank you.” She smiled in anticipation and snuggled closer to Eren.

“Just… just don’t leave too much of a mess for us to clean up, all right?”

Mikasa didn’t say anything since she didn’t want to make any promises.

*******

Annie leaned against the wall in the rec room and watched her ‘fellow’ MPs interact, hopelessly bored yet all too aware that she needed to ensure that they didn’t have another ‘Marlo’ on their hands. He’d been quiet since assigned the extra shifts, but she still wanted to keep an eye on him, and to make sure that no one else was paying attention to things that were best left alone. Besides, it wasn’t as if she’d be stuck with babysitting duty for much longer; just a few more nights of putting up with these annoying infants and then she’d be free.

Speaking of annoying infants… Hitch was in the middle of a small group, as usual, taunting one of the newer recruits about some bit of nonsense or another. Really, there was so much potential there in the young woman, and she wasted it by being incredibly petty. Annie’s gaze flickered about the room, quickly assessing and dismissing each of the MPs as possible threats, an exercise that had been ingrained into her long ago by her father.

Once she was certain that the room was relatively secure, she mentally went over the plans for the night; Reiner and Bertolt would be in charge of shifting the Mutates again while feeding, and she had a few tracks to cover as well. The Engineers were becoming a problem… but at least they helped to feed the Mutates. Not much longer, Annie reminded herself. Things were coming together, which was what mattered the most. After so many years, so much effort, they finally had Eren cornered and in their grasp. Just a few more nights and he’d finally be caught.

An image of earnest blue eyes and a tremulous smile flashed through her mind for a moment, almost causing her to hiss in response. She wouldn’t allow herself to be distracted by Eren’s little stray, to believe anything he said – there was only one option here, one path to take and that was dragging Eren kicking and screaming back to the Elder.

“Oh ho! Look what we have here! Someone cleans up real pretty, doesn’t he?”

“Go to hell, Hitch, I’m not in the mood for you right now.”

It wasn’t so much the loud voices that cut through Annie’s dark thoughts just then, but the trace of an elusive scent. She pushed away from the wall and toward the small crowd, toward her partner and the girl’s cronies and a tall young man who was dressed rather nicely in black pants and a black coat over a white shirt – Jean Kirstein, if she remembered correctly. The one who had pissed off Commander Dok. In case she was right about the scent, she pulled out her comm and sent a quick text to Bertolt to get his ass to the room, *now*.

Hitch made a rude gesture with her left hand, her manicured nails flashing bright through the air as her eyes narrowed at Jean. “Now now, no need to get nasty with me just because it looks like you got stood up. That’s what happens when you go dating Winger trash.”

Annie inhaled sharply – that *had* to be Mikasa’s scent she was picking up from the boy. “Winger? He’s dating someone from the Corps?”

Hitch sent her a pitying look before returning her cruel gaze back to Jean, the obvious target of choice – she’d learned the hard way that Annie was *not* to be taken lightly. “If you bothered to take your nose out of a book long enough to talk to the rest of us, you’d know that Jean here as well as his partner have been hanging out with a pair of Winger whores.”

“They’re not whores! Mikasa is-“

“Oh really? Then why are you back so early?” Hitch laughed in the face of Jean’s rage, while Annie was thankful for the many years of experience which allowed her to maintain her own impassive expression upon hearing *that* name. “Don’t tell me that Connie’s having better luck in getting laid than you!”

It took both Amir and Pietr to hold Jean back when he lunged at Hitch, and all the while Annie’s partner merely laughed in the face of Jean’s anger. “Oh, did I hit a sore spot?” While she was busy taunting the boy, Bertolt and Reiner strolled into the room.

“You’re being even more of a bitch than usual, which is saying something,” Annie told her partner, which made Hitch pout in an exaggerated manner. “And you, you’re a fool for letting her get to you like that.” She shoved Jean back a good foot or two away from the manipulative child and gave him a cold look. “What’s the big deal about being stood up on a date?” She had to force herself to remain calm when she could smell Mikasa on him; it helped to have Reiner and Bertolt here with her to ground her.

Jean’s heartbeat raced and blood flushed his cheeks, but he took a few deep breaths before he spoke. “She didn’t- I wasn’t stood up, okay? She got some weird text from a friend about her brother and she had to leave.”

“Ooh, as if that doesn’t sound like some cheap excuse to ditch your ass to me!”

“Listen, you-“

This time it was Reiner and Bertolt who separated the two squalling brats, Bertolt apologizing to Hitch the entire time he held her back and Reiner rolling his eyes as if he had something better to do. Annie noticed how he dipped his neck to sniffed at Jean, the motion so quick that she doubted anyone but a vampire would catch it, and the brief flare of red in his eyes. “Do you both want to get into trouble with Commander Dok for fighting?”

Reiner’s question seemed to settle the idiots for the moment; Hitch went back to being petulant while Jean took to glaring at everyone. “Good, then start acting your ages.”

“I was just pointing out-“

“Mikasa didn’t ditch me,” Jean yelled, cutting over Hitch’s childish whine while he reached into his jacket. “See, she really did get a text!”

Bertolt was quick to snatch it from the boy’s hand, his expression apologetic even as his green eyes were sharp. “Hmm, it’s a bit weird but yeah, it’s to this ‘Mikasa’.” His brow became furrowed as he handed back the device. “Why did they send it to you? Or did you steal her ‘pad?”

Jean’s expression darkened while he tucked back the datapad. “She won’t use one of her own – something about people hacking hers in the past.” Beside Annie, Reiner stiffened but otherwise didn’t say anything. “So I guess it’s serious about her brother if her friend feels the need to track down me down in order to send something – she sure as hell acted like it was, since once she read it she was out of there.”

They allowed Bertolt to continue speaking, since he was the ‘friendliest’ out of the three of them. “Uhm, if it were my family, I’d be concerned.” He patted Hitch on the shoulder before giving her a gentle shove aside and smiled at Jean. “She probably really cares about him. Don’t be too upset with her.”

That seemed to deflate some of the anger that Jean was feeling; his shoulders slumped forward and he rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I get the impression that he’s basically all the family she has left, and they joined the Corps together.” He let out a slow breath. “They both report to Captain Ackerman, you know?” That got the attention of the small crowd that had gathered around them. “Mikasa’s always sore from training with his private squad, and I always see her brother with that guy. He must be pretty good if he reports directly to Ackerman, but maybe he got hurt training today or something.”

“Or maybe-“

“Enough,” Annie hissed at her partner. “Don’t go stirring up shit when Commander Dok is only too happy to hand out extra shifts,” she warned. “Because I will *not* be pleased if it happens to us.” She gave the girl a cold stare until Hitch dropped her gaze and shuffled away, her group of friends falling in line around her. That problem dealt with, she directed a sneer toward Jean. “And don’t come crying here with your problems about a Winger.”

“I didn’t-“

“I don’t care.” Annie flicked her fingers at him as if dismissing something miniscule. “Now go away before the sight of you ticks off Commander Dok.”

He looked as if he wanted to argue with her or do even something stupider, his face becoming flushed and his hands clenching into fists, but Reiner took a step behind her and that seemed to make the idiot child think twice about taking her on. Mumbling imprecations beneath his breath, he stormed past them toward the sleeping quarters, and Annie let him go. “I’m tired of dealing with morons,” she announced to the room before walking away herself.

She found a quiet corner to settle in far away from the rec room, and after about ten minutes the other two showed up, with Reiner leading the way. “Why the *hell* is Mikasa hanging around with a human,” Reiner growled out.

“Yes, their little stray aside, I thought we’d broken her of that nasty habit a couple of centuries ago.” Annie finished cleaning beneath her claws and tapped them together twice before sheathing them. “Rather interesting that this one is an MP, don’t you think?”

Bertolt gulped in a lungful of air before he spoke. “You think it has something to do with us?”

“I ‘think’ Mikasa would do an awful lot when it comes to us and her precious brother.” Annie scowled for a moment as her thoughts drifted back to that terrible night so long ago. “It’s not a coincidence, but it might be something we can turn into our favor.” The trouble with dear old Mikasa was that she never was as good at controlling her emotions as she liked to think she was – you just had to know where the vulnerable points were to strike, and Annie had lots of experience with that over the years. Pushing aside all thoughts of the sister for now, she refocused on what was important. “What did the message say?”

“It was brief and in code – Eren’s name and the German word for cold.” Bertolt shrugged, a silent apology for not having a better answer.

It was rather perplexing, but they knew that something was wrong because of Mikasa’s reaction. “Perhaps he attacked someone. He’s always been temperamental.”

Reiner’s laugh was more bitter than amused. “That’s one way of putting it.” He glanced at Bertolt before focusing on Annie. “That one captain – Ackerman. He got a bit possessive of Eren when we fought him the one time.”

“Yes, he was really determined when he came after me.” Bertolt rubbed his right arm as if it were sore. “He’s really talented for a human. I also saw him with Eren at the park.”

“He’s supposed to be one of their best.” Perhaps that’s why they had assigned Eren and Mikasa to the man’s squad… but she recalled seeing the human scouring through the dome a few weeks ago, intent on any groups of kids – and those with dark hair in particular. She’d worried that maybe the Corps had been looking for the three of them and even arranged to bump into Captain Ackerman to gage his reaction, only to be confused when he basically ignored her after getting a good look. That meant that he’d been fixated on a certain someone.

“Something’s going on here, and it has to do with Eren.”

“When doesn’t it,” Reiner sighed. A warning glare from her made him stand up straight and pay attention.

“Get the Mutates settled in for the night,” she ordered the boys as she pushed away from the wall. “Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day.”

Bertolt reached out to wrap a hand around her left arm, a confused look on his face. “Another attack so soon? What’s the goal of this one?”

She smiled up at him as she gently brushed aside his hand. “I believe it’s time to give Eren some incentive.”

*******

Kicking his door shut behind him, Levi wrenched at the sleeves of his jacket to pull it off, uncaring about any damage to the material; he was tired, he was pissed off, and he was beyond frustrated. Where the *hell* were the damn Malforms when he desperately wanted to chop something into bits and watch it melt into puddles of foul-smelling goo? Was that too much to ask for after the past few days? The past few hours? If it wasn’t bad enough to come *so close* to sex in… he wasn’t going to think how long, only to have that shitty brat spaz out on him *and* claw the shit out of his mattress, he’d had to put up with the snickering and snide comments of a good third of the people he’d walked past thanks to Eren’s inspired little dash from his room. He didn’t care what people thought about him, but if he heard one more remark about ‘tapping it a little young, isn’t he?’ then Erwin was about to lose a significant amount of his Corps….

At least he was done for the night – finished with the damn patrol and unwilling to put up with anyone’s bullshit for the next nine hours or so. He’d flat out told Erwin and Hange to bother him on the pain of death – a long, drawn out death at that – and they’d must have heard the rumors because for once they merely shut up and left him alone.

He’d just wrestled out of his jacket and gauntlet when there was a rapid knock on his door, giving him hope that perhaps the night wouldn’t end without a homicide or two. When he realized that he was running his left hand through his hair just in case it was Eren coming back to explain what the *hell* that crazy shit had been about earlier, he mentally cursed himself while opening the door – and then cursed out loud when he saw the brat’s sister standing there with some sort of farming implement in her hand. “Go the *fuck* away,” he snarled while slamming the door shut,” – or attempted to, but the bitch was too fast and managed to shove the wooden handle of the damn thing she was carrying in the way before it closed.

Pushing into the room with the wooden handle held out as if a weapon, Mikasa charged forward, her eyes glowing golden and her fangs on display. “*You*,” she declared, loud and full of disdain as if his presence was offensive.

“Yeah, me.” Wishing he’d kept his blades on for this shit, Levi folded his arms over his chest and faced down the bitch. “So what, you come here to finish trashing my place? Eren didn’t do a good enough job so he sent you?” He motioned to the... the shovel? what the hell? in her hand and resumed glaring. “I’m not impressed considering the damage he did all on his own.” Really, couldn’t Eren man up and come here himself?

Mikasa appeared to take a few deep breaths, her clawed hands clenching and unclenching a few times around the handle of the shovel. “I came here to talk, but by all means, I can inflict some damage first if you want.” She hefted the shovel in a threatening manner for a few seconds. “Now, are you going to listen or do I have to beat some manners into you first?”

Levi took a step forward, his hands falling to his sides and balling into fists. “I’d like to see you try, Sunshine. Even your twink of a bro-“

The shovel moved so fast he didn’t even see it come at him, only that it stopped within a hair’s breadth of his eyes, its passage causing his bangs to fan out and then settle against his forehead. “You see, *that* right there is part of why we’re having this conversation,” Mikasa said, her voice the lowest that he’d ever heard, a deep, rumbling growl and her eyes a pure, molten gold. “You are going to shut up and *listen* to me or I swear I will eviscerate you with the dull end of this fucking shovel.”

Something told him that she wasn’t exaggerating, so despite the urge to tell her where to put the damn shovel, Levi once again folded his arms across his chest and met her glare with his own level gaze.

Seeing that she had his attention, she shifted back a little and lowered the shovel to the floor, yet kept her body tense enough to move quickly if he tried anything. “You don’t have a clue, do you? What that word means, among other things.” Scorn practically dripped from her words – hell, from her entire being.

Taking that as a sign that he could talk, Levi rolled his eyes and snorted once. “Which word? You mean ‘twink’?” When her glare went up an even more potent notch, he fought the urge to sigh in exasperation. “Something about young guys – all I care about is it pisses off your brother, so it works for me.”

“It ‘pisses’ him off because it’s an insult!” Mikasa slammed the butt of the shovel into the floor hard enough to make Levi flinch. “Do you know how often we’d hear it back… back then? How people would look at him when they’d call him that? Like a fucking piece of meat, something for them to use and pass around, something to be broken and sold.” She hissed and bared her fangs at him, just like a furious cat. “They took something and denigrated it even more, because they didn’t want him to mean anything more than a pair of shoes or blanket, and here you are taking delight in calling him it!”

Levi stared at her, at the fury and hurt that radiated from her with every word and motion; he had wondered why Ymir hadn’t joined in on the new nickname after laughing at it, and why Eren had rushed through his explanation as if doing his best to avoid the whole thing. “I didn’t know.”

“No, you were too happy getting your own back.” Mikasa let out a slow breath as if doing her best to control her temper, her eyes still so bright but her teeth not quite so sharp. “Look, Eren told me that he was going to give you a few days to get over things and then explain it better, but it’s still too much. I won’t stand for it anymore.”

As if it mattered after today. Levi clicked his tongue and took a few steps back so he could sit on the edge of his desk. “I doubt there’s going to be a problem – pretty sure your brother’s going to be avoiding me from now on.” He grimaced at the trace of bitterness that he couldn’t quite mask.

Mikasa looked upward at the ceiling for some reason and shook her head. “Have you wondered about this yet?” She held up the shovel for a moment.

“Yeah, it’s not my first choice for a murder weapon, but thought maybe you were into multi-tasking or something.” Levi rubbed at his left shoulder, which felt a little stiff from wearing the gauntlet for most of a day. “That or you’re as bugshit crazy as your brother.”

That caused those eyes to flash a little brighter for a moment before Mikasa took another deep breath; it was almost amusing to see her try to remain calm. “Back when I was… well, when I was young, there was this thing called a ‘shovel talk’.”

“If it’s anything like the ‘metal bar talk’ when I was a kid, I’d rather skip the beating, thank you.”

Mikasa barred her once again sharp teeth at him. “Shut up unless you want to bleed out.”

All right, time for a history lesson, Levi told himself while he glared at the bitch.

Once more forcing herself to be composed, Mikasa held the shovel in a horizontal fashion. “As I was saying – the ‘shovel talk’ is when someone who cares deeply for another, be it a friend or a family member, approaches the person they’re romantically seeing and has a talk with them. The purpose of that talk is to basically say that they have very high hopes that said person will treat their loved one with the utmost respect and would never, ever do anything to foolishly break their heart.” She stared intently at Levi while she spoke. “Things can happen in a relationship, but it’s the intent that matters, and that person will do their best to always honor and treat fairly the other, or….”

“Or….” This was fucking ridiculous.

“Or I will use this shovel to break every single bone in your body to dust, pulverize your organs to liquid and then scoop your remains into the sewer,” Mikasa promised him as she held his gaze. “And that’s *after* your vocal cords have frayed from screaming in agony from me flaying off your skin.” She swung the shovel with a surprising amount of grace to point the metal end toward him. “Do anything to deliberately hurt Eren, and I will carry through with all of that. Do anything through your stupidity again to hurt Eren, and I will carry through with all of that.” She smiled as spoke, the expression chilling enough to make Levi believe every word she said. “I’ve even planned out where I’ll start on you first.”

He stared at her for several seconds before rubbing his hands over his face. “This is… *such* a fucked up conversation for me, which is saying something.” Shovel talk. Hange would be *delighted* to hear about this. Erwin probably wouldn’t stop laughing for days. “Again, why the hell does it matter when your brother was so desperate to get away from me he showed half the Corps his bare ass?”

The question seemed to deflate some of Mikasa’s psycho-ness, causing her to lean against the propped up shovel. “Maybe because he’s not really upset with you?” She tucked back a lock of hair falling onto her face while Levi stared on in confusion. “Look, Eren’s… it’s difficult to explain.”

“Don’t stop now,” he snapped at her. “You’ve been doing a stellar job up to now with all of this shit.”

She resumed glaring at him but at least started talking again. “Eren’s always been… excessive about the people he really cares about, like his family.” A faint blush spread across her cheeks, lending her some much needed color, and she let go of her death-grip on the shovel to fuss with her scarf while she talked. “And it seems… well, it seems that’s been extended to you.”

It took a few seconds for that to make sense. “So what, he shredded my bed and ran off just as we were starting to fuck because he *likes* me?” Yeah, that sounded just as ridiculous spoken aloud as it did in his head. “Nice try.”

“It’s just sinking in to him, okay?” Mikasa looked ready to use the shovel to smack him over the head. “Part of him is realizing that he cares about you faster than the rest! You could try taking things a little slower than trying to fuck my brother so quickly!”

“I don’t see him compl- well, he was all for it before today,” Levi muttered. Dammit, they’d been so close, too.

Mikasa mumbled something beneath her breath while she closed her eyes, speaking in a swift cadence. When she was done, she stabbed a clawed finger in Levi’s direction. “Give him a little space, all right? Stop calling him awful names, show some damn respect and let him figure one or two things out if you want more than his ass.”

“And if that’s all that I want?”

She hefted the shovel in a clearly threatening manner. “Then I’ll be back with this.” She didn’t say anything else after that, but really, she’d said more than enough on the topic. To think Levi had believed that his end would come from a fucking Malform, not a damn gardening implement.

He watched her leave and had to wonder what shitty rumor was going to start now, before deciding to head over to Hange’s lab to see if the lunatic had any more alcohol stashed away. There was no way in hell he was going to think about Mikasa’s ultimatum while sober.

********

Hange was in the middle of reviewing Petra’s results when she heard the door to the lab open; considering how late it was, she was at first shocked that someone was paying her a visit, and then doubly shocked to see that it was Levi. “Uhm, if this is another ploy to get me out of here to clean up-“

“Where’s the alcohol?” When she stared at him in confusion, Levi hauled a stool over to her workstation and sat down, a truly ferocious glare on his face. “I don’t want to put up with any of your shit until I have some alcohol in me.”

“Oh-kay.” Well, it looked as if the research could wait until later – or even tomorrow. Taking in Levi’s less than immaculate appearance – his half undone shirt, tousled hair and missing weapons – Hange hurried from her chair and went over to the filing cabinet where she hid the liquor. She returned back to the table with a bottle of vodka and two clean beakers, only to have Levi snatch the bottle from her as soon as she came near. “Huh, guess I need one for me then.” She went back to the cabinet for another bottle.

By the time she returned, Levi had gone through about a fourth of the bottle. “So, you wanna tell me what the hell’s gotten into-“

“Shut it.” Levi set the bottle down on the table and wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand. “I’m going to tell you what someone told me earlier tonight – keep quiet or I’ll gut you in the most painful manner imaginable.”

It sounded like someone had one hell of a fun night so far, and that was *after* having Eren run naked from his room. Hange made a big show of pressing her lips together and motioning the grouchy bastard to continue with whatever the hell he was here for, other than his usual abuse.

He gave her a dirty look for a few seconds before picking up the bottle again yet didn’t drink. “So, the lovely psychotic Mikasa came to visit me, with a *fucking* shovel.”

Ah, that explained Armin’s little surprise that morning. Hange bit back on a laugh and had to make a show of choking down some vodka when Levi’s grey eyes narrowed in suspicion. She smiled around the rim of the beaker and continued to say *nothing*.

Clearly he wasn’t buying it. “Yeah, from now on, you crazy bitch, anytime one of those three show up with farming tools, give me a fucking warning, will you.” He clicked his tongue in annoyance and paused to take a sip of vodka. “Apparently, it’s some old tradition where a psycho sister threatens the guy fucking her brother or something with a shovel – the finer points were lost on me other than ‘treat him right or I’ll pulverize your organs’.”

Hange couldn’t help it, she had to set the beaker aside as she burst out laughing. “Oh… I wish I could have seen that!” Someone other than her taking Levi to task over how he treated someone? *Finally*.

“I’ll gladly get a shovel and reenact it on your ass,” Levi groused. “What did I say about keeping your shitty mouth shut?”

“Then why did you bother coming here, hmm?” Hange set her elbows on the counter and rested her chin on her hands. “Come on, what do you really want, other than the alcohol?”

For a few seconds she was worried that he was going to throw the bottle at her, and then he sighed and set it back down. “Because Mikasa told me I could leave Eren alone or I could treat him right.” He picked at the bottle’s label with one of the most forlorn expressions on his face that Hange had ever seen.

She was tempted to swoop on in and give him a hug… and remembered that this was *Levi* and decided that she’d rather keep her arms and her spleen a little longer. When the silence spun out to an uncomfortable amount of time, she took a shot of vodka for courage and then cleared her throat. “Look, Sweetie, what do you want? Is it to leave Eren alone and go back to being a miserable bastard?” When Levi gave her an evil look for the question, she sighed and dared to reach over to grasp his left hand, utterly determined that now was the time to have ‘the talk’.

“You know, it’s not your fault, what happened to Isabel and Farlan.” When he made to pull away, his expression utterly closed off, she held on tight. “Listen to me for a minute, okay? They came along with you out of Tartarus and they chose to stay in the Corps. They loved the freedom of the wild so much… don’t diminish what they were to you by shutting everyone out.”

He stared off at nothing for about a minute and shook his head. “They’d still be-“

“Don’t go down that road,” she admonished him. “You know as well as I do what your chances were in Tartarus.” She waited until he looked at him and then stared him down. “What, do you begrudge your time in the Corps? Do you wish you were dead like them?”

“…no.” He shook his head again and pulled his hand free. “No, I want to live.”

“Then why do you insist on being so miserable? If Mikasa’s threatening you with a… a shovel of all things, then she must think that you have a chance with Eren.” Hange gave him a smile that had nothing to do with amusement. “So be a mature adult for once in your damn life and don’t fuck this up, yes?”

Levi continued to gaze at her levelly for several seconds before he snorted in derision. “You just want us together so you can keep asking your perverted questions.”

“Busted!” She clapped her hands together and laughed. “Eren’s so *cute* when he’s flustered, but I’m sure you know that already.” She grinned as she poured herself more vodka, deciding to not push it too much more; if she get too touchy-feely or went on too long about the past then he’d be stubborn just to piss her off. Yet she knew that he liked Eren and he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t want her to talk him into the relationship somehow. “But I do care about you, Sweetie, and you’re so much less grouchy when you’re getting some.” She paused to think about that. “Well, a bit less grouchy.”

“Very funny.” He snorted again but a smile hovered on his lips while he toyed with the vodka bottle. “Let’s hope it helps with Mikasa, then.”

“Hmm, they do say that endorphins-“

“No more talking,” Levi ordered before he raised the bottle to his lips.

Sometimes the bastard had some good ideas.

*******

The whispers and snide remarks were even worse than they had been yesterday, causing Eren to grit his teeth and do his best to pretend that he couldn’t hear the hushed voices. If he wasn’t so nervous about seeing Levi he’d have waited and gone out with Mikasa and Armin, but….

He didn’t remember too much about last night, he never did when he had one of his… ‘spells’, but he recalled enough to know that Levi must have been furious over him running away like that, and it didn’t help that Mikasa had come back late last night smelling of the man. She promised Eren that she hadn’t harmed Levi, but he’d rather make sure of that fact himself.

He reached Levi’s quarters and ignored the barely stifled sniggering that came from behind him as he knocked on the door. Considering the early hour, he found it somewhat alarming when there was no answer – was Levi already up and called away? Just what did Mikasa consider ‘harm’? He was knocking on the door again when it opened to reveal a very surly Levi dressed in a rumpled grey robe, his black hair sticking up in all directions and the dark circles beneath his eyes even more pronounced than usual.

“Knock again and I’m breaking your fucking hand.”

“Ah, good morning?”

“Fuck no it isn’t.” Levi reached out to latch onto Eren’s jacket and pulled him into the room. “At least you’re wearing clothes this time.”

“Yeah I… I figured everyone saw enough yesterday.” Eren felt his cheeks heat up at the thought and ducked his head. “Uhm, I’m sorry about that.”

Levi waved aside the weak apology while he shuffled over to his desk, where a pot of tea was brewing. “What, for showing your ass to half the Corps? Don’t do it again or I’ll smack you so hard you’ll shit teeth for a week.” He pointed to the chair in front of the desk with a clear intent for Eren to sit down.

Well, that was a new threat. Eren rubbed his jaw as if he could already feel the punch to it and sighed – of course the bastard couldn’t make this easy, could he? “No – not that I intend to moon everyone again, but I mean I’m sorry for… well, for freaking out on you like that.”

On his way to sit down on the other side of the desk, Levi grunted once and changed course, to come over and stand in front of Eren. He reached out to thread his fingers through Eren’s hair, his touch gentle for once, and used the hold to urge Eren back onto his feet. As soon as they both were standing, Eren found himself soundly kissed.

Levi’s mouth was insistent upon his, his tongue a slight pressure against his lips that sought but didn’t demand entrance inside. Eren was just as eager to join in, to part his lips and run his hands along Levi’s chest even as a small bit of him waited for that slip of control, for the madness to return. Yet all that happened was a slow burn of desire, the joy of feeling Levi press against him and hold him close.

Just when his hand had slipped beneath the soft material of Levi’s robe to stroke the hard smoothness of his chest, the bastard had to pull away. Grey eyes narrowed at Eren’s frustrated whine, appearing much too pleased just then, and Levi pushed him back into the chair. “So, you still freaking out?”

“No, I’m wondering why I put up with an asshole like you,” Eren complained as he clutched at his thighs. How was it that Levi could provoke such extreme emotions from him like that?

There was a harsh yank on his hair for a moment before Levi left to go settle behind the desk. “Who’s the asshole who tore up my bed?”

“Yeah, I said I was sorry about that.” Eren still didn’t know what had brought the whole episode on and hoped there wouldn’t be a repeat of it. “Maybe we should use handcuffs next time….”

“Maybe.” Levi gave him an odd look before he directed his attention to the tea pot and poured two cups. “So Hange thinks that Petra will wake up today.”

“That’s good.” Then Eren remembered about Olou. “I guess.” He wondered how she’d take the news of losing her partner like that. “What’s on the agenda for the day?”

“Not food anytime soon after the night drinking with Hange.” Levi grimaced before handing over a cup of tea to Eren. “After this I’ll get ready and we’ll go practice some more with Gunther, and then I have to meet up with Erwin and tag along with him as he visits Pixis.”

Eren took a sip of tea and moaned in appreciation for a moment. “Any chance of me coming with you for that?” He gave Levi a hopeful look and sighed when he was given a flat stare in return. “Come on, I’m bored silly staying here all the time.”

“At least you’re not being attacked by vampires, so count your blessings. Now drink your tea, which you’re also supposed to be thankful for, and be prepared to get your ass kicked. I’m really pissed off about that bed.” Levi’s expression turned the slightest big smug as he leaned back in his chair, his tea cup held cradled against his chest.

“Oh, you *wish*,” Eren informed the delusional bastard. “How about we make a bet? Whoever has the most takedowns today gets a massage tonight?”

Levi sipped his tea while he considered it. “I catch you using your claws on me during practice and I’ll fucking pull those suckers.”

“Deal.” Eren leaned back and enjoyed his tea while he thought about his massage.

*******

“And that ties us up.” Eren grinned down at Levi, his hair framing his face and making his eyes appear all the more brighter because of its darkness.

Lying flat on his back with Eren settled on his lap, Levi spent a few more seconds than he should enjoying the moment. Despite a lingering hangover, the practice was turning out to be fun – when you did something day after day for the purpose of staying alive, having even a silly goal such as winning a massage made a big difference. It would feel so great after wearing the damn gauntlet all day….

“That doesn’t mean anything until the final count,” he warned the cocky brat and gave his ass a nice hard pat to get him off of him. Eren no longer yelped at being smacked but there was still a hint of red on his cheeks when he jumped up.

“Am I to take it that spanking is an alternative method to fighting vampires and Malforms, Sir?” Erd sounded perfectly respectful, but he couldn’t quite keep a straight face while he asked the question.

Levi dusted off his gloves after he stood up. “I don’t know, what do you think, brat?”

Eren was busy climbing back up on the wall at the moment, but paused to shake his head. “I’d like to say give it a try, but Annie’d rip off your arm in two seconds. Best stick with chopping off their heads.”

“Some people have all of the fun.” Erd joined Levi in the center of the room, where they did their best to track Eren’s eccentric crawl pattern over the walls and ceiling in order to anticipate where he’d leap from next.

His concentration so focused on Eren, Levi let out a loud curse when the door to their ‘training’ room suddenly slammed open and Hange burst inside. “Dammit, why don’t you answer your fucking comm!”

“Because we’re training, you shitty glasses,” he shot back. “How do I-“

She didn’t give him a time to explain. “Malform attack! Southern gate! Ass in gear NOW!”

Levi paused only for a second while he realized the importance of those words and then he was in motion, racing toward where he’d set his blades aside for the practice session; Eren got there first and handed him his gear, a solemn expression on his face.

“I can-“

“*No*.” He didn’t give him any time to explain.

“But-“

“NO!” Levi finished clasping the belt around his waist and then grabbed onto Eren’s shirt to yank him forward. “They went after Mikasa last time demanding to know where you were. I’m not about to hand them over to you like a fucking present! Your ass is staying here – ask again and I’ll break your fucking legs, you hear me? Now stop wasting my time.”

Before he could let him go, Eren shoved forward to give him a quick, desperate kiss. “Be careful,” he breathed against Levi’s lips.

“Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone,” Levi shot back before forcing himself away, running for the door.

Once on the main floor, people were pouring toward the exits, rushing to get to the Southern Gate; Erwin must have called an ‘all hands’ for this emergency, every member of the Corps who weren’t already out on patrol. Levi couldn’t blame him – if the seal was breached, then the Malforms outside could get in, and then the dome would well and truly be fucked; fighting ones turned inside a dome were bad enough, but ‘wild’ Malforms were even worse, were ‘rabid’ from the lack of human blood and subsiding on the animals they hunted outside. Levi would rather fight a dozen dome Malforms than a wild Malform any day.

The Southern gate wasn’t too far from the Freedom Corps’ headquarters, which made him wonder what those shitty vampires were up to now; once outside on the streets, he took to rappelling to the gate, both out of speed and necessity. The streets were packed with people fleeing from the massacre and both Corps and Engineers rushing to aid the fighting, so much so that the only thing that could be heard were the sounds of screams and wires hitting into concrete. Levi gritted his teeth against the noise as he swung through the air, anger building in him as he noticed how the concentration of bodies on the ground start to increase the closer he got to the gate.

Hange swung in next to him and pointed to a clutch of Malforms climbing up the wall about half a block from the gate. “Engineers are holding the gate for now,” she shouted.

“For now.” He readied his blade and came in fast, hacking through one of the undead freaks’ neck and then pushing off of the wall so he could slice through another before they even had a chance to strike back. Erd and Hange took care of the rest, and they were on to the next set of targets. Unfortunately, there were more than enough for them to choose from at the moment and they quickly got separated.

If he’d thought the fight at the park had been bad enough, it was nothing compared to this – where had all of these bastards come from? Worse, they were the ‘improved’ version – faster and stronger – which meant that the Corps and the Engineers were taking on more damage than usual. Levi was holding his own, as were a few others – Erd, Hange, Mike and their personal squads – and Ymir was laughing while she tore through the Malforms. A few of the Engineers were doing an impressive job as well, especially a woman with blonde hair and glasses. She seemed to have caught on to the importance of immediately beheading anyone at risk of turning into a Malform.

In one of the hardest battles he’d ever fought, they kept driving toward the gate, cutting through the waves of Malforms at a cost; Levi had to risk dropping to the ground to take out a yet another fellow Corps, a new recruit assigned to Mike’s squad. He’d just flicked the blood from his blade and was about to launch a new wire when there was a line of fire along his lower back. Biting back on a gasp of pain, he spun around, blades swinging out to strike at the Malform that had just struck him, and cursed when he found the undead fuck looming over him. What the hell had it been in life? Some sort of giant? He shot out a rappelling dart so he could gain some air and wasn’t surprised when it followed him.

All the practice with Eren helped in dodging the bastard, and he managed to turn the tables after a nerve-wracking minute or two. Slicing through its neck felt satisfying as hell, but at that point his back was on fire and his hands trembled from exhaustion and pain. Looking for a ‘quiet’ place so he could slap on a pressure bandage, he cursed when he saw a pack of Malforms heading his way, probably drawn by the scent of blood. This just wasn’t his day.

Not waiting for them to corner him, he dove at them head first, spinning in the air with his blades lashing out. Two of them fell quickly, but he gained another wound while taking out the third and a blow to his head from the last one.

He blinked several times while hanging in the air, his vision marred by spots of darkness. Dammit, did he have a target on him or what? The shitty things had been after him with a vengeance ever since he’d arrived near the gate. He struggled to orient himself, to figure out which way he needed to swing so he could find a safe spot to catch his breath and tend to his wounds. Not the ground – never the ground. He needed to reach-

There was a dark blur coming at him from the above; at first he thought it was one of the dark spots moving and so didn’t react in time to avoid it. The blur hit him and shoved him into the wall, knocking the air out of him and pinning him against the hard concrete.

The hood of a black sweatshirt fell back enough to reveal blond hair and flat blue eyes set in an impassive face. The girl from the market leaned forward to sniff at Levi’s neck. “As I thought, you smell like him.”

He struggled to lift his right blade – the left one had been knocked from his hand when he slammed into the wall – but the undead bitch snatched at his wrist as he lifted it and squeezed until something broke. “You fucking – ungh!” He bit into his lip to keep from screaming.

“Yes, he’d like that about you.” A smile that was nothing more than a curve of pale lips formed on the vampire’s lips. “I want you to carry a message to Eren for me.”

Levi fought to unclench his teeth through the pain so he could tell the bitch to fuck off, but before he could stutter out anything, he saw a flash of white rushing forward and then there was only pain.

*******

Eren swung his blade down through the neck of yet another member of the Freedom Corps and watched dispassionately as the flesh began to disintegrate. Taking a step back away from the liquefying corpse, he continued his way through the stretchers filled with the wounded members of the 104th, checking to see which ones were in danger of turning. The medics had argued with him at first, until he’d kept them from being killed by the patient they’d been trying to save; they just weren’t used to dealing with victims of Malform turned by vampires.

He believed that he’d caught all of them, that the remaining patients should be fine as long as they received the proper medical care, and waited for the next wave of injured to arrive. The common room would be quiet tonight, with plenty of empty beds due to the wounded and dead. That Eren knew some of the people he’d seen today, had known those he’d brought the blade down upon… well, it was just a part of his life. Armin would be upset about Daz, though.

One of the small trucks that served as ambulances came barreling into the courtyard, so Eren shook himself from his dark thoughts and went to see if there were more people who could be saved or would need to be dealt with for the sake of everyone else. He was surprised when Captain Hange burst out of the back, her uniform covered with blood, and felt the breath get knocked out of him when Mikasa soon followed, carrying a limp body in her arms. A limp, bloody body that appeared a lot like Levi.

“I need someone to get- oh! Eren!” Captain Hange noticed him standing there and ran over to him, Mikasa right behind her. “I need you! Levi needs you!” She almost barreled into him as she yelled, her left hand latching onto his right shoulder; he had to drop the blade he was holding in order to keep from hurting her. The blood on her glove soaked into his shirt – it reeked of Malform and Levi. “We need to get to my lab, quickly!”

“What happened?” He allowed himself to be pulled along and looked back at Mikasa, at his sister and the man she easily carried despite Levi’s size and weight. She looked all right, despite the blood on her face and torn clothes, but Levi….

“It’s what Levi would call a cluster-fuck – there were so many Malforms and they seemed to have a hard-on for Levi, Erd and Mikasa in particular, especially Levi and Mikasa.” Captain Hange grimaced and shook her head. “Erd’s in the next truck – he’s more stable since he didn’t get chewed up so much. Levi got separated from the rest of us and….”

“It was Annie.” Mikasa’s voice was hoarse, as if she was struggling not to growl. “I can sm- it was Annie.”

“We’re here.” Captain Hange threw open the door to her lab and urged them through it, then did something to it. “Quick, put him down over there.” She motioned to a clean looking section of the lab counter. “Eren, I need your blood,” she told him while Mikasa laid out Levi’s still form. “I took some from Mikasa on the way here, but it’s not enough, the infection’s taking over and we don’t have much time!” She rushed over to a drawer and pulled out a sterile syringe pack.

While she talked, Eren approached Levi and took a deep breath; there was the scent of blood, of sweat and pain and anger, of Levi. He wanted to bury his nose against the man’s neck, in that black hair, but overriding everything else was the scent of infection – Levi had probably only held on this long because of the blood Eren had already given him. Between that and Mikasa’s, it had held back the change for a short time, but….

“Eren! Give me your fucking arm!” Captain Hange was shrieking like the mad woman everyone claimed her to be, her eyes wild behind her glasses. “I swear I’ll break it if you-“

“It’s too late,” he told her. “It won’t do any good.” He had to force the words past a throat gone tight, and as he spoke, Mikasa rushed to his side.

The captain stared at him in shock, her lips moving without a sound while she shook her head. When Mikasa went to pull free one of her blades, Captain Hange let out a loud scream and jumped forward. “No! No, dammit, he said he wants to live! We have to try!” She reached out to grab hold of Eren’s shoulders. “Can’t you try something?”

“More blood won’t work,” he yelled back, a coldness spreading through him at the thought of losing Levi.

“At least *try*, dammit! The stubborn bastard wouldn’t give up on you without a fight!”

Mikasa wrenched the hysterical woman away from him and hissed at her, telling Captain Hange to leave him alone. Eren rubbed his hand over his face and tried to think of what to do, what was the right thing and why he felt so horrible just then. People died all the time, died every day and he was used to it. He expected it. He-

He found himself at Levi’s side without even thinking about it, the scent of blood so strong that his fangs pushed out in a rush. The world went grey except for Levi, who glowed so brightly before him. He could hear the slowing heartbeats in the man’s chest, could smell how the infection increased between each breath. Without meaning to, he leaned closer, leaned toward the bandaged neck.

“Eren, no!”

“Yes! Yes, do it! Please!”

There was little resistance as he bit into the unmarked flesh on the other side of the neck, his teeth being so sharp and human flesh so… so *plump*. The blood tasted bland and watery yet something drove him on to keep drinking, to dig his teeth in deeper so more would pour into his mouth, his fingers tangling in the soft strands as he tilted Levi’s throat about to ensure that he got every last drop. He couldn’t stop drinking until the blood stopped flowing, until the heartbeats slowed and the breathing stilled and… and… and Levi died.

Levi was dead, and Eren had just drained him dry. Had most likely changed him.

Pushing away from Levi’s body in horror, Eren wiped at his bloody mouth as if he could deny what he’d just done by getting rid of the evidence. Meanwhile, Captain Hange rushed to his side and clutched at his right arm. “Is it done? Did you do it? Oh, I would give my left kidney to have been able to record that!”

He wanted to shove her away, to yell at her that she’d just stood there and watched while her friend had been made into a monster, but a new wave of excited shrieking cut him off – he looked up to see smoke begin to rise from Levi’s wounds.

“Oh! Where’s my camera! I have to record this!” Captain Hange ran off to search for her equipment, leaving a shell-shocked Eren to stare at the second person he’d ever turned. A person he didn’t even know who wanted to be turned.

“Eren?”

He jumped at Mikasa’s presence and shook his head, too… too drained of *everything* just then to deal with anything else. “I… I didn’t mean to – it just-“ He didn’t know what he meant to say. How did he explain that just like all those years ago with his sister, something had taken over?

There was something akin to sorrow in Mikasa’s expression just then. “It’ll be all right,” she assured him, her right hand pressed gently against his cheek.

Would it? “I can’t – I’m sorry, I *can’t*.” He couldn’t be here when Levi woke up and found out what he’d done. “If he can’t… I’ll deal with it then, I promise.” He rocked up on his toes to give Mikasa a kiss on his cheek and felt guilty about dumping this on her, but he couldn’t bear to see Levi’s face when the man woke up. Once Levi decided that he hated what he was then Eren would deal with things, but he needed some time to come to grips with what he’d just done.

“Go, it’ll be all right,” Mikasa assured him.

Reaffirmed yet again that he didn’t deserve a sister like her, Eren fled. He had to unlock the door to get out of the lab, and nearly clawed off Ymir’s face when he found her lurking right outside. “What the fuck!”

“What’s going on in there?” She grabbed hold of his chin and wiped at his mouth. “You just fed,” she asked, dropping into an older dialect of English. “Did you feed on Levi?”

Shit, he forgot about the blood. “Not now, Ymir.” He scrubbed at his face with the sleeve of his shirt and attempted to push past her.

“The little shit was badly wounded, what did you do to him?”

“Not now!” He managed to shove past and began to run down the hallway, desperate to get away.

“Did you turn him? Eren Jaeger, did you turn him?”

Fuck, he was fucked. Running as fast as he could even though he had nowhere to escape, Eren couldn’t get that one thought out of his head.

*******

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