chapter twenty

*******

desire

*******

There was a faint noise from far away and an ache beneath Levi’s back, a familiar stiffness in his body, through his shoulders and hips, from him sleeping on the ground. This was the worst part of being out in the ‘wild’, other than the damn dirt and bugs and Hange carrying on about her precious experiments-

Except that it was too quiet around him, without the sounds of those damn bugs and birds and people shifting about in their sleep, and the air smelled of chemicals with the acrid tang of old blood beneath it instead of dirt and grass, and the last thing he remembered was… was….

He woke up with a gasp, his hands reaching for the throat he suddenly remembered being torn into, reaching with a right hand that suddenly was working once again, sitting up with a body that responded to him instead of being sluggish and slashed to shit. Woke up to find himself in Hange’s *lab* of all things, stretched out on one of her workstations, and turned to see Mikasa sitting with an unreadable expression on her face a few feet away.

……

Yeah, no doubt about it, that blonde vampire bitch killed him and he was in hell. The only thing missing was that fucking shovel in Miss Sunshine’s hands over there.

“Great, I get to put up with you for the rest of the afterlife? If I’d known that, I would have stomped on more puppies or something.” He fell back onto the workstation and rubbed at his eyes. As if it couldn’t get any worse, he got to spend eternity in a *filthy* uniform.

“To think that I believed that Eren could be so dense.” There was the sound of metal creaking and then cool hands wrapped around his wrists. “Much to my regret, you’re still among the living,” Mikasa informed him as she pulled his hands away from his eyes.

“Bullshit.” Levi yanked his wrists free and glared at her. “You don’t walk away from what that bitch did to me and-“ As realization washed through him, he sat up and skittered away from her as far as the hard surface allowed. “Oh *no* fucking hell.” He scrambled to look over his body, tugging at his soiled and torn uniform, at the healed flesh through the slashed fabric. Despite the dried blood, there weren’t even any damn scars to mark where he knew the Malforms had torn into him, *nothing*. “What the hell did you freaks do to me,” he demanded to know as he all but fell onto the floor.

“Yes, definitely slow.” Mikasa tugged on her scarf and glared at him, her eyes shading into gold. “What do you think happened?”

Anger washed through him at her shitty attitude and before he could yell at her that he’d been fucking unconscious, how the hell was he supposed to know, his vision went weird. The room started to look flat, the colors faded away except for Mikasa, and his teeth… oh *fuck*! “Where the *hell* is Eren!” What the hell had that little shit done to him? He looked down to see fucking *claws* sprouting from his fingertips and cursed again. Oh, he was going to *kill* that brat when he got his hands on him.

Burrowing her face in that damn scarf of hers, Mikasa shook her head a few times. “Most likely? He’s up on the roof right now.”

“Why the hell is he up there? Get his ass down here *now*!”

“He’s up there because he’s waiting for me to go see him and tell him that you’re waiting to be killed, for good this time!” When Levi stared at her in shock and tried to make sense out of that insane answer – what, the idiot turns him and then wants to kill him? – she sighed and dropped her hands to her side. “Look, he’s not… all there at times, okay? He gets ideas in his head and that’s it for him. Right now he’s convinced that turning you was a mistake and you’re going to be against it, and I must say that he might be right this time.” She stared at him as if waiting for Levi to agree.

About to rub the back of his head with his right hand and stopping just in time when he remembered about the *fucking* *claws*, Levi cursed and spun around, needing some space just then. As far as he knew about things, a few minutes ago he’d been fighting for his life and not doing so well. Then he wakes up and finds himself turned into… well, turned. And being told by *Mikasa* of all people.

“Just to be clear, if you’re *not* happy about things I won’t bother to go get Eren, I’ll do it myself.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you and that fucking shovel are just chomping at the bit there, Sunshine,” Levi told her, not bothering to turn around. “Give me a damn minute, okay?” He was tempted to throw one of Hange’s experiments at her but when he stepped closer to it, the stench was so overwhelming that he recoiled in horror. What the hell?

Skirting around the workstation, he took a few shallow breaths and was relieved when his vision returned to normal and the fangs and claws retreated. That shit… well, that shit would take some getting used to, obviously. If he was going to… dammit. He honestly hadn’t expected to live more than a few more years at the most with the way things were going, and that was if he was lucky. At best he hoped to not turn into a Malform and to at least go down fighting, but yeah, he knew his days were numbered. So was it a bad thing to be… whatever it was that Eren was if it meant being able to live? He couldn’t quite grasp the concept of living as long as the siblings, of counting years as centuries instead of decades, but it sure as hell beat being put down for being infected. And it sure as hell was better than being dead, especially if it meant that he could track down and pay back a certain blonde bitch.

So yeah, he guess he was ‘happy’ about it. As much as he could be when all that he really knew was that he wasn’t dead and he wasn’t a vampire. Well, wasn’t mostly a vampire. Shit, this would take some figuring out, but he supposed he had time now – and a certain brat’s ass to kick to get some answers out of if said brat knew what was good for him. Pushing aside any doubts he had at the moment, Levi turned around to face Mikasa with a slight smirk on his face. “Sorry to ruin your day, but looks like you’re going to have to put up with me for a very long time to come.”

It wasn’t much of a surprise when she didn’t react to the news, just nodded and went to fetch something from Armin’s workstation. “That’s good, I suppose.”

“Damn right it is.” He rubbed at his neck as more things began to drift back to him. “Hey, was there yelling? Seemed to me that there was a lot of noise or something before I woke up. And where’s Hange?” There was no sign of the crazy scientist anywhere, which was odd. He’d have expected her to be descending upon him with an arrangement of medical equipment by now.

Mikasa returned with a bundle of material in her arms, which turned out to be clean clothes for Levi. “I sent her out of here – told her that it might not be the best thing for her to be around when you first woke up in case you were starving.”

Levi accepted the clean clothes with a grimace; he was grateful for them, but there wasn’t much of a sense of changing when he was still so filthy. “But I’m not starving.” He felt somewhat hungry, but it wasn’t uncontrollable or anything. Setting the clothes aside, he flexed his arms and legs; everything felt perfectly normal, as if nothing had happened. The stiffness from before was gone, there were no signs of his injuries and he felt in perfect shape.

“You should be okay until we can sneak you out later tonight to hunt. I just thought it might be good to give you a little privacy when you woke up, just in case.” Mikasa shrugged and handed over a box of wet wipes; she must have seen his reaction to the clothes.

He grimaced again at the thought of feeding off of Malforms, but supposed he’d better get used to it. “Great. So looking forward to it. If it wasn’t Hange screaming, who was it then?”

A frown marred Mikasa’s usually impassive visage. “Ymir managed to barge in here when Captain Hange was leaving and demanded to know if you’d been turned. We… had words.”

Ah. It was a shame that he hadn’t been awake for that one, though he had a feeling he’d see round two, three, four, etc. of that fight in the upcoming days. Eren certainly had set himself up for a lot of grief in saving Levi’s ass, not that Levi wasn’t grateful. Mostly grateful. He’d revise his opinion after hunting tonight. “Must have been fun.”

Mikasa grunted, which meant that she didn’t want to talk about the subject anymore. That was fine with Levi, who was tired of feeling utterly disgusted with himself. “So, we’re done here, right? I’m up, I’m fine with things, no need to chop off my fucking head, you can go now.” He began to strip off his shirt, hoping that she’d get the fucking hint and leave.

Mikasa merely shrugged and stayed put. “It might be best to supervise you around other humans at first.” When he glared at her for treating him like an uncontrollable twit, a slight smile curved her lips. “All right, I’ll need to take you out hunting later tonight, but yes, we ‘should’ be done here. You shouldn’t leave until you talk to Captain Hange, though – I believe she’s spreading the story that you weren’t injured as badly as suspected, that it was mostly a concussion and superficial wounds but people will probably still talk.”

“Let them talk.” He cracked open the case of the wet wipes and gasped at the pungent chemical odor that escaped. “The fuck?”

“Hmm, horrible, isn’t it?” She motioned to the case. “Be sure to wipe off all of the blood. You’ll have to scrub really hard since it’s dried on.”

He nearly threw up at the thought of wiping that… that… “The hell? You expect me to use this shit?”

“Of course. Come on, be a man.” Her smile took on a sharp edge. “It’s just a wipe.”

He flashed back to saying something similar to Eren once and narrowed his eyes at the manipulative bitch. She wanted to play this game? *Fine*. Taking a deep breath and holding it, he grabbed a wipe and used it to start cleaning the blood from his neck and upper body.

Breathing shallowly through his mouth as he grabbed another wipe, he vowed that he was going to make Eren pay for this somehow.

*******

Eren stared out over the courtyard, which was now emptied of all the fallen Freedom Corps fighters. The maintenance bots were busy racing about removing traces of blood and other signs of the impromptu triage. Would it be back to the usual training sessions tomorrow?

He hadn’t moved for a good while when he heard the scrape of claws against the wall and braced himself for the company; it wasn’t a surprise when Ymir’s head appeared over the ledge and she leapt onto the roof a few seconds later. “You’re becoming predictable, you know.”

“There’s not exactly a lot of places where I can go,” he told her as he continued to gaze out over the dome.

“That’s true.” She came over to sit beside him. “They really do have you pinned down, don’t they?”

Feeling like that question didn’t deserve an answer, Eren just sat there in silence. He knew what she wanted from him and that she’d get to it soon enough, why waste the breath?

The quiet lasted a couple of minutes, Ymir a warm presence beside him during that time. “You know, I saw Levi before I came up here. He looks pretty good for a dead guy.”

Eren hung his head until his hair hid the world from his view. “Yeah? Imagine that.” He picked at a spot of blood on his knee. When had that happened? Was it from earlier in the courtyard or was it Levi’s?

“Yes, imagine that.” She let out a flat, unamused laugh. “Imagine the guy who has the ability to turn others, to keep them from becoming these mutated fucks yet refuses to do so no matter how much power or money people offer him, no matter how much begging they do, over years and *years*, and all of a sudden he turns this bitter fuck of a man. Imagine that.” Her voice couldn’t be more sarcastic if she tried.

“Ymir….” Eren wrapped his arms around the back of his neck and gave his head a small shake. “It’s been… an unbelievably shitty day or two. Really. One of the shittiest in a couple of centuries. So could you spare me the little song and dance where you do the whole tearing apart thing and just get on with it?” He didn’t know how much more he could take right now without one of them ending up going over the ledge – hell, maybe both of them. What he wouldn’t give for a proper skyscraper just then.

She was quiet long enough that he was almost, *almost*, tempted to look up. “Okay, I’ll skip the whole spiel where I go on about you being a huge fucking hypocritical asshole. Because really, you are.”

“Thank you.” Oddly enough, he meant it. He’d known her long enough that yeah, they could be up here for hours on the topic if she really wanted to drag it out.

“You’re welcome. Let me just ask what was it that drove you to turn the short little shit down there?”

Eren wasn’t going to answer that. Nope. Not with Ymir. He’d spent enough time thinking about it before she’d arrived, about what last night had meant, about why he hadn’t been able to- nope, not talking about it with her.

“Yeah, okay.” There was a shuffling sound as if she was standing up, which finally made Eren look up at her. Instead of her usually mocking expression, there was a look of desperation over her sharp features. “Well, now you know how I feel about Krista, what I would do if it was her lying on that table, torn up by Annie. Which is why I *need* you to turn her, because there’s such a tiny chance she’ll survive if I risk attempting it.” She didn’t say anything else, just continued to look at him for several more seconds before leaving.

He continued to stare up at where she’d been and did his best to not think about certain things long after she’d left.

*******

Erwin set aside the datapad and rubbed at his eyes while he mentally digested the latest report; eighteen dead and thirty-five wounded. Almost half of the 104th incapacitated in some manner or another, and they hadn’t had as many casualties as the Engineers….

They would open up to new recruits, but he knew they wouldn’t gain enough to recoup the losses, not with the attacks increasing in their savagery. Some people might be spurred on to do something to help protect the dome after the close call on the seal, but in the end people were too content to go about their ordinary lives and let other people take the risks for them.

Hange thought that most of the wounded would be back to fighting form within two weeks, but a lot could happen in two weeks….

He rested his elbows on the desk and propped his forehead against his palms, desperate to figure out what it was that the vampires were after, other than Eren Jaeger. Today’s attack couldn’t have been a diversion since Eren was still safe, so what had it gained them? The dome’s seal was still intact, the gate was still unbroken – did they just want to whittle away at the Corps until Eren had no allies left?

If so, they may have made a miscalculation at last – Erwin straightened up in his chair and picked up the datapad he’d set aside so he could type out a response to an earlier message from Dot Pixis; he agreed to the new meeting date. The Engineers’ commander needed time to tend to his people, and then he wanted answers for today’s bloodbath as well as to share some valuable information.

Erwin wondered what that information was – Pixis did seem to love playing things close to the vest – and how much of his own information he should share. He kept that question in the back of his mind while he worked on a new duty roster.

About ten minutes into rescheduling the patrols with the reduced availability, Erwin looked up when there was a knock on his door. He managed a smile when Hange strolled inside. “Please tell me that you have good news.” Since she was smiling, he had to assume that she wasn’t here to deliver anything too depressing.

“That depends on if you consider the fact that Levi won’t give me a comprehensive fluid sample collection ‘bad news’ or not.” She pouted for a few seconds before dropping into one of the spare chairs in front of his desk.

“I take it that he’s awake and… adjusting?” He still found it difficult to believe that Levi had not only survived being attacked by a vampire but was partially one as well now – it was one thing for the siblings’ blood to be used to heal Petra, but to start turning other people? Where was the line? Weren’t they supposed to be human? Still, he supposed that if anyone was to be turned, Levi was the one bastard who would be too stubborn to change too much.

“Basically.” A huge grin broke out over Hange’s face. “I think the improved senses are messing him up, but he settled down once I made him some tea and he realized that he could still enjoy it.” The grin slowly faded away. “I haven’t allowed him out of my lab yet – I know that just a few of us saw how bad he really was, but I wanted to make sure you were ready to back me up once he gets out of there.”

Once people saw a man walking around who should at least still be in Medical, she meant. “Most people believe him to be superhuman already, but if it gets out of hand, let me know.”

Hange nodded and relaxed back in the chair. “I might let it slip that I’ve been tinkering with the nanos – it would help explain Petra’s recovery as well, and any time we use Eren and Mikasa’s blood to speed up the healing process. Speaking of Petra, she’s getting bored in Medical.”

“She has lots of company right now.” Erwin frowned at the thought of his people being struck down by Malforms as part of some incomprehensible vampire game.

“Yeah.” Hange stared down at her hands for a few seconds before practically jumping up from her seat. “Well, I’ll go let the grumpy bastard know that he’s free – if I have to keep hearing him bitch about how he needs a proper shower I’ll be tempted to run him through with my blades.”

“All for the purpose of an experiment, of course.”

Hange paused in leaving to give Erwin a level look. “No.” She didn’t say anything else as she left.

Erwin was staying far away from Hange’s lab for the foreseeable future.

*******

“Eren?” Mikasa’s smile faded when she reached the top of the roof and found her brother sitting perfectly still, his knees drawn up to his chest and his head bowed. “Are you all right?” She rushed over to him.

“Mmm?” He slowly lifted his head and blinked at her, his eyes glowing faintly in the dim light. “Yeah.” Despite what he said, he didn’t *sound* or *look* fine – his face was pinched and his voice weak.

“Oh, Eren.” She knelt beside him and wrapped her arms around him to hold him close, and smelled Ymir on him. “What was *she* doing here,” she hissed. “Did she-“

“It’s all right.” He reached up to run his fingers along her left cheek. “We just talked for a little bit.”

“But-“

“It’s all right,” he repeated. “So, how’s Levi?” He glanced down as he asked the question, as if unwilling to see her face when she answered.

Settling beside him yet keeping her arms still wrapped around his shoulders, she let out a slow breath and shook her head. “He’s as stubborn as you are – no wonder you two get along so well.” She could feel him stiffen at the words, probably trying to figure out if they were good or bad. “He’s not upset with you or what you did.” Well, not too upset, or else she wouldn’t have let the man leave the lab in one piece.

It was as if all of the tension drained out of Eren at the news, he slumped against her, his head resting against her shoulder. “Really?”

“Yes, really.” She tilted her head against his and smiled. “I think it’ll take a few days for everything to really sink in, but for now, it’s fine.”

“Then-“

“Eren… it’ll be fine.” Really, sometimes he could be so negative. “That idiot is too much of a fighter to not accept the changes,” she admitted. It had been amusing to see him refuse to back down from the challenge earlier, even though she knew he must have been almost sick from the wipes; it would take him awhile to get used to the enhanced senses.

“Still, that doesn’t mean he’ll be happy with me for forcing it on him.” Eren sounded really upset; his body had become tense again and he seemed unable to look at Mikasa.

Shifting around to force him to look at her, she knelt in front of him and clasped his hands between hers. “What’s bothering you? Is it something that Ymir said?”

He stared past her for a second before shaking his head. “No… yes… in a way.” When he finally did meet her eyes, a faint blush spread across his cheeks. “She said I finally understood why she wants Krista turned so much, and it’s true.” He tugged his right hand free so he could run it through his hair. “I… it was like with you – I couldn’t let him go. I didn’t even think about it, not really, I just found myself *doing* it because there was no way I could have let him die.”

Was he realizing that he had some feelings for the Shor- for the man? Mikasa entwined their fingers together and gave him an encouraging smile. “And is that so bad?”

He stared at her as if she was insane. “You’re my sister. Of course I care for you. But he’s….” He shook his head as if there were no words at all to describe what Captain Ackerman was just then.

In a way, Mikasa had to agree with him, but she also knew that they’d never get off of this roof if she left it up to Eren to figure things out at his own pace – once he was lost to one way of thinking, it was so frustrating to get him to get him out of that mindset. “He’s also someone you seem to like, who seems to make you feel something.”

Eren’s eyes narrowed as he cocked his head to the side. “Are we talking about the same person? I thought you hated him. Aren’t you upset that I turned him?”

“This isn’t about me,” she told him, unwilling to let him get out of this so easily. “Is he my favorite person? No. Do I think he’s good enough for you? *No*. But do I think that you turned him for a reason? Yes. So why did you turn him?” She gazed back expectantly at him, willing him to say it out loud.

He bit at his bottom lip for a moment before closing his eyes. “I don’t want to lose him. He means too much to me.” The words came out raw-sounding, as if they cost him so much to acknowledge them.

She suspected that was as close as Eren would come for a very long time to admitting that he had feelings for someone else and leaned in to give him a hug. “Then I won’t cut off his head.”

“Uh, thanks. I think.” Eren hugged her back, his arms wrapped so tight around her back that it was as if he had no intentions of letting her go any time soon.

“I might have to have another talk with him again, though.” Maybe bring an ax or something along with that one….

That startled a weak laugh from her brother. “You’re not enjoying yourself, are you? What was the old saying about watching out for the quiet ones?”

“Not at all.”

They were quiet for several minutes, and then Eren slowly let her go, as if reluctant to do so. “I’m going to talk to Ymir again… to tell her that she’s right.” He was once more staring past Mikasa’s shoulder at something in the distance.

She wanted to tell him no, that he should think about this some more… but she knew that he wouldn’t agree to such a thing without giving it a lot of thought. That he’d weighed such a decision for *years*. Also, in the end it was something that he had to choose to do on his own. “All right.” She shifted about to sit next to him, and smiled when he entwined their fingers together and rested his head against her shoulder.

Things were changing – humans knew what they were, the vampires were closing in and now there would be two others like them, one with a claim to Eren that made a part of Mikasa feel deeply unsettled – but this would always be the same, this bond she shared with her brother. She found peace in that and pushed away the fears she had for the future for a little while so she could enjoy the moment with Eren.

*******

Krista searched through the common room for the second time yet failed to find Ymir anywhere; she hurried past Armin on her way to the ’lounge’ area the when he called out her name.

“Krista? Is something wrong? You seem to be going in circles.”

She paused and looked back at him. “I can’t find Ymir anywhere – have you seen her?”

He set aside the datapad he was reading from on the bed with a worried frown on his face. “No, I haven’t. Do you want some help in finding her?”

“That’s okay.” Letting out a long, frustrated sigh, she joined him on the bed. “She’ll probably get angry if I ‘unleash the hounds’, as she’d put it.” The odd phrase provoked a smile from Armin. “I just wish I knew where she was and what she was doing – lately she’s been acting a bit odd.” It felt nice to have someone to talk to about things – for so long there had only been Ymir to confide in.

Armin smiled back, the expression more than a little wry, and slid his right hand into his hair. “Honestly? I think everyone’s acting a bit odd right now.” He propped his elbow up on his knee and leaned his head into his hand. “A lot of stuff is going on. Maybe she wanted a little space to think things through because of the whole… well, Eren and Captain Ackerman stuff?” He glanced out at the room beyond them, and the people going about their day; no one seemed to be paying them any attention, but they couldn’t exactly talk about certain things out loud.

“I’m sure it has something to do about those two.” Krista picked at the edge of her left boot while she thought about how furious Ymir had been when she’d learned that Eren had turned Captain Ackerman. “I just don’t know why she’s carrying on like this over it.” Why she was shutting Krista out instead of them talking about it like they always did?

“At least you can mostly figure out why Ymir does what she does,” Armin remarked in a dry manner. “That’s more than most of us can do, including Eren and Mikasa.”

Krista was offended by the comment at first… and then had to admit that Armin was right. “Well, she’s used to confusing people in order to keep them off of her trail. It’s second nature to her by now.” She just didn’t usually do that to Krista, until recently. So why did it seem that she was being so secretive lately? Why did Krista feel that there was something being hidden from her?

“That and she likes to confuse people.” Armin shrugged when Krista glared at him for that. “I think Eren does a bit, too. It must be an effort to keep everything straight, all the different languages, customs and histories and such, that they just stop caring at some point.”

“Yeah.” Krista dug her thumbnail into the leather of her boot and frowned. “But that doesn’t help me find her.”

“No, I guess it doesn’t.” Armin sat up straighter with his hands clasped in front of him. “Well, I’d say try tracking down Eren since he has what she most wants right now. If she’s not harassing him, then I don’t really know where else she’d be.”

All of which was true, and what she’d done already. “I can’t find Eren, which was why I was looking for Ymir.”

“Oh.” Armin blinked a few times and smiled in a sheepish manner. “Sorry I wasn’t much help, then.”

“It’s all right,” she told him, doing her best to hold back the frustration she felt. At least she’d been able to talk to someone.

She stood up and brushed her hands down her thighs while she forced a smile onto her lips. “Thanks for trying to help.”

“I hope you find her soon. I’m sure she’ll show up – she doesn’t seem to leave you alone for too long.”

No, which was in part why Krista felt that something was wrong – Ymir usually didn’t disappear like this, when them being away from each other was such a bad thing in case they had to leave in a hurry. Instead, she just nodded and waved goodbye to Armin. “I’ll check the roof one more time in case she’s up there stalking Eren.”

He laughed at her weak attempt at a joke and reached for his datapad. “That’s one way of putting it.”

Keeping an eye open for her girlfriend as she left the common room, Krista headed to the nearest exit, filled with a sense of worry that she couldn’t rationalize away.

*******

Levi stared at himself in the mirror above the sink in Hange’s lab as he did the best to rinse the stink of those awful chemical wipes off of his skin and appraised his appearance in the most detached manner possible; he’d always been told that he looked young for his age, and he supposed that he’d aged well for 34 years of age. At least his face was free of any lines and scars, though he’d always thought that his eyes were rather small and off-putting. The dark circles beneath them didn’t help – the dark circles appeared less prominent since he’d become one of the blood-sucking ‘undead’. Guess he owed the brat for that one.

So if he was stuck with looking like ‘this’ for centuries to come, it wasn’t too bad – at least he wasn’t fooling people with some barely out of prepubescent face like a certain *someone*… and he wouldn’t think about the fact that he was going to nail the ass of said certain someone later. It wasn’t as if he was that attracted to Eren’s face… well, Eren did have a cute face, when he let his true self show and all that experience aged his appearance beyond something so childish.

What would people see when they looked at Levi in another fifty years? A hundred years? Even more than that? He supposed that he’d find out eventually. What would they think when they saw him standing next to Eren? It was probably a good thing that he looked young for his age at this point in time, considering that the shit people were talking about them now was bad eno-

“Hey! You looking for a glimmer of a conscience in there? I can tell you it’s not going to happen.”

He pushed away from the mirror to find Hange grinning at him while she leaned against a counter a safe distance away. “What did the almighty asshole have to say? Can I leave yet?”

“Yeah – he’s taken pity on me and unleashing you upon the unsuspecting hordes so I can get some work done.” She pushed away from the workstation and made a shooing motion at him. “Go on, get out of here – but expect to see me later tonight.”

Yes, so she could watch him feed off of a Malform. He shuddered a little at the thought of tearing into one of those unclean freaks with his *teeth* even as he made his way past her. “Are Petra and Erd still in Medical?” There were a few things he needed to do before going ‘hunting’ that night, and one of them was to check on what remained of his squadron.

Something akin to pity flashed across Hange’s face. “Yes, in one of the private rooms.” She fussed with her glasses for a moment. “251.”

“Thanks.” He was a bit surprised that they’d moved Petra but took it as a good sign that she was doing better. “And where’s Eren?”

“Uhm…” Now the crazy freak came across as uncomfortable. “Yeah, Eren.” She laughed a couple of times, the sound too forced to be amused. “No one’s seen him all day.”

Why wasn’t Levi surprised? Still, one thing at a time, and that was seeing the remains of his personal squad and breaking the news to them of what he’d become. Levi didn’t waste any more time with his friend and hurried out of the lab before she decided to hound him for more obscene ‘samples’.

Fortunately Medical wasn’t too far away from Hange’s lab, so Levi wasn’t out ‘in the open’ for too long. If he thought he’d garnered a lot of attention after Eren’s little incident, it was nothing like today; people were whispering about how he was back on his feet, about what Hange must have done to heal him so quickly and how unfair it was that captains received preferential treatment. He gritted his teeth and continued on his way to see Petra and Erd.

Once in Medical, it only took a minute to find their ‘room’, which was set up to give them both some privacy. At the moment, the heavy cloth sub-dividers were withdrawn to allow them to talk to each other; Petra was sitting propped up in her bed, appearing mostly healed save for some bandages still wrapped around her arm, while Erd was reclined in bed with gauze wrapped around the right side of his face and his upper chest.

“Captain!” Petra spotted him first and leaned forward from her nest of pillows, a bright smile on her face. “You’re looking well! Erd told me that you actually had to be carried away from a fight for once.”

Levi clicked his tongue in annoyance and shot the injured man a disproving look. “It wasn’t that bad.” A blatant lie, but he wasn’t taking any chances that someone might overhear them.

“Sorry, it’s difficult to see things properly with a Malform trying to claw off your face.” Erd grimaced as he lightly touched the bandages covering half of his face. “It’s good to see you back on your feet, Sir.”

He grunted in acknowledgement of the well-wishes and came to a stop between their beds, uncertain of what exactly he was doing here now that he’d arrived; Hange kept him appraised of their conditions and it wasn’t as if he normally made a habit of visiting Medical like this. His people knew he cared about them but did a shit job of showing it, so why change things now? “Hopefully you’ll be joining me soon.”

“Definitely. There’s some debts outstanding that we need to balance.” The bright smile on Petra’s face dimmed as she stared off at the far wall. “Captain Hange thinks I’ll be out of here by tomorrow – I want back on patrol as soon as possible, Sir.” Her normally light-colored eyes were darkened by shadows when she finally looked up at him.

He stared back at her and thought about Gunther and Olou, about how those shitty vampires had decided to target *his* squad in their damn game with Eren. The world lost some of its color, a fact he really didn’t notice until Petra gasped.

“Sir? Is… Sir?”

“As soon as Hange clears you for duty, you’ll be back in uniform,” he told her. It was when he reached out to give her shoulder a reassuring squeeze that he finally realized that his fingers had grown claws and that she was staring at him oddly - staring at his *eyes* - and cursed beneath his breath. Yet Petra didn’t flinch away or scream at him, she merely smiled and gave his hand a quick squeeze in return.

“Tell Eren ‘hi’ for me, okay,” she asked with a small, knowing smile on her face.

He nodded in confusion at the request, wondering why she was bringing up the brat just then, and turned to nod in goodbye to Erd while struggling to regain control of whatever it was that had caused him to ‘vamp’ out like that. So much for breaking the news to them ‘easy’, but at least it was done. Erd smiled back and wished him a good day.

As he walked away, he could hear Erd complain to Petra about how unfair it was that he was the only one not to get any of the ‘good stuff’.

*******

“Hey, Roswitha, have you seen Krista?”

The tall Corps fighter frowned and motioned down the hall toward the common room. “She was headed to the ‘room looking for you, last I saw.”

Ymir inwardly winced while she thanked the other woman and hurried on her way to find her girlfriend; why did it seem like Krista was checking up on her lately? Did she suspect something? What could she possibly suspect? It wasn’t as if Ymir had a huge ‘being forced to help a bunch of asshole vampires’ sign tattooed on her forehead or anything.

Still, a lot of shit was going down lately, enough to make anyone paranoid. People were getting jumpy back when some of the Corps’ elites were getting killed, and now when so many people had died? Yeah, it didn’t require too many brain cells to figure out something was going on, and Krista was pretty damn smart. She had to be worried that Ymir would get dragged into all of this shit somehow.

Ymir’s thoughts were so focused on the whole vampire mess and how it was affecting herself and her lover that at first she thought she was imagining the faint beeping sound coming from the pouch on her belt. When it finally sunk in what the noise meant, she let out a yelp and fumbled for the comm device hidden inside of it while she searched for a private place to talk – fortunately, there was a small training room available.

“Dammit, can you make the ringtone on this thing any more obvious,” she snapped once she was alone.

“And ‘hello’ to you, too.” It was Reiner on the other end; she supposed she should be grateful that it wasn’t Annie. “It worked, didn’t it? Got your attention? So don’t complain.”

Then again, it was clear that the bastard had hung out with Annie a little too long. “How am I going to explain it if it goes off during something important?” Then something occurred to Ymir. “Don’t tell me that you want me to help you now – Krista hasn’t-“

Reiner cut her off with an annoyed grunting sound. “No, now isn’t the time, though it’s getting very close. We wanted to check in on Eren, see how he’s doing lately.” There was something… expectant in his tone, as if he was waiting for her to make a big revelation.

Ymir pulled the comm away from her ear and glared at it, suddenly even more suspicious about the day’s events. “Like what?”

“Don’t play games, Ymir, I’m not in the mood. Just tell me what Eren did after receiving Annie’s ‘gift’.” Reiner could have a temper, but he usually wasn’t as short-fused as that.

Ymir hated feeling like being a pawn in someone’s choreographed game, and knew that Eren *really* hated that sensation. “Let me get this straight,” she talked out very slowly, needing to put her thoughts into words before she started breaking things. “You sick fucks nearly took out a gate just to see what Eren would do?”

Reiner made a scoffing sound. “There was more to it than that.” Yet he didn’t say ‘no’. “Now what did Eren do?”

Count to ten and then speak, she told herself. It didn’t help all that much, but she knew it pissed off Reiner to be made to wait. “He turned Captain Ackerman. Does that make you happy?”

“Eren actually turned another living being?”

“Yes, he did.”

“Good.” There wasn’t any kind of explanation, just the one word spoken with enough smugness that Ymir wanted to scream. “We’ll be in contact with you soon, so be prepared to do some work.”

“Wait – aren’t you-“

“Don’t fuck this up.”

This time, Ymir did let out a scream of frustration when the other end went dead. The fucking assholes! The sanctimonious, fucking assholes! If it wasn’t for- ooh!

It was a struggle to not lash out and destroy something, to punch holes in the wall or break the tables set up in the room; it would only raise questions she didn’t want asked and draw attention to herself at a time when she couldn’t afford such things. But *dammit*, did she want to break things just then, all the while imagining certain faces as she did so.

She thought that she had gotten somewhere with Eren today – well, the boy better have come around, because every indication was that time had run out for them.

*******

One of the things that Eren missed from his childhood were libraries. Oh, it wasn’t as if he’d gone to them that often and usually he complained the entire time when his mother forced him to go along with her – he was never allowed in one unsupervised, not when there would be other children around – but it was the *thought* of them that he missed. An entire building devoted to stories you could borrow on a whim, a place designed to cure your curiosity and your boredom. He sure as hell could use a library right now, instead of lying on his back and staring up at the blank, bland ceiling of the basement training room.

The only thing of interest down here were the claw marks he’d left on the walls and ceilings during the practice sessions. If he let his mind drift and his vision blur, sometimes patterns would form. That one looked like a mutated giraffe, and that one looked like a race car, and that-

The sound of the room’s locked door opening shook him from his fantasizing and had him scrambling to his feet, since the majority of the people who knew the code to the door were either dead or injured. He was debating whether or not he should launch himself onto the walls and try to hide in the shadows when Levi sauntered into the room.

Seeing the man appear perfectly healthy after… after…. Eren shook his head to rid it of the image of Levi’s bloody and still form lying on the counter. Now Levi seemed utterly fine, moving with his usual confidence and grace as he approached Eren. He was dressed in his ‘casual uniform’ of black pants and white shirt, no sweater against the chill of the dome’s artificial environment.

“You try to run away and I will kick your ass,” Levi warned as he stopped about an arm’s length away. “I’ve climbed all over this shitty building looking for you, until it finally occurred to me to try down here.” He didn’t sound very pleased with having to expend so much effort. He didn’t sound pleased with Eren at all.

“Yeah, well, someone told me I was becoming a bit predictable so I decided to do something different.” Eren shrugged and wondered if he could get away with inching backwards by tiny increments while Levi stared at him so intently, his face an unreadable mask.

Levi clicked his tongue a couple of times while his hands rested on his hips, around where he normally wore his blades. “You seem to be doing a lot of that lately – doing unusual things.” He paused as if waiting for Eren’s response and then let out an angry huff. “Were you ever going to fucking face me? You turn me and that’s it?” He took a step forward each time he spoke, while Eren took a step away, and soon Eren found himself pinned against the wall with a furious Levi in his face. “’Here’s your new life now fuck off’?”

“No! That’s not-“ Eren pushed at Levi’s chest in an attempt to gain some space between them, but Levi had always been so damn solid and now the bastard had the enhanced muscle to back him up. “I didn’t- it’s- just… fuck!” He didn’t think he just lashed out and hit Levi’s chest; the first blow landed, but Levi caught his fist the second time and held it trapped.

“We tried that once, it didn’t work out that well, remember,” Levi sneered.

Equally confused and agitated just then, Eren’s only response was a loud snarl, his fangs fully extended and his eyes glowing.

“You’re a big boy, so use big boy words.” Levi bared his own fangs while his grey eyes burned into gold.

Seeing the physical change overcome the other man helped to restore some sort of rationality to Eren; he let out a shuddering breath and bent forward to rest his head against Levi’s shoulder while he struggled with so many conflicting thoughts and emotions. All he did for almost a minute was to breathe in and out slowly, to inhale Levi’s scent and listen to his heartbeat. Both of those things helped to center him, to calm him down, and he let out a sleepy little murmur as he closed his eyes.

Levi allowed this for several seconds before he released Eren’s hand and boxed him against the wall, both arms resting on either side of him and body pressed against his. “I’m not hearing anything, you shitty little brat.” Despite the insult, he sounded amused and even nuzzled Eren’s hair.

“I want to make sure I don’t use words too big for you to understand,” Eren mumbled, and then yelped when his left ear was nipped by rather sharp teeth. “Dammit, that hurt.” He lifted his head up so he could glare at the asshole.

“Oh please, it’s already healed.” Levi rolled his eyes, which were still glowing. “Now talk.”

Eren contemplated another punch but settled for resting his hands on Levi’s hips instead. “I’m just… it’s a lot to figure out, okay? I mean, I didn’t know what I was doing when I turned Mikasa. You’re the first person I’ve turned… knowing what would happen.” He leaned his head back against the wall while he looked at Levi.

“I still don’t see why that’s a good enough reason to hide from me.” Levi shifted closer so that their faces were barely more than a couple of inches apart. “Own up to your fucking actions. You change my life like this, don’t hide from the responsibility.”

“That’s just it – it’s not just your life,” Eren hissed back while he struggled not to claw at Levi’s hips. “Do you have any idea how many people begged me to change them? The offers of money and power I received?” He didn’t give Levi a chance to answer the questions. “One person was involved in building the first domes – he would have set up a private dome for Mikasa and me. Our lives could have been so much easier if I’d turned others along the way, but I didn’t. I swore I wouldn’t. But you… I couldn’t let *you* go, when I’ve watched thousands of other people die,” he admitted in a quiet voice.

It looked as if Levi wanted to make some sort of smart remark over that revelation, that he wanted to argue with or belittle what Eren had said. Yet when Eren continued to hold his gaze, to not look away, all his bluster melted away. “So why me?”

The question, asked in an almost confused tone of voice, prompted a laugh from Eren. “I was asking myself the same thing.” He closed his eyes and once more rested his head against Levi’s shoulder. “It’s… well, it’s just *you*.” Infuriating, annoying, brave, sadistic, talented, intelligent, insightful smart-ass that he was, somehow something inside of Eren had decided it wanted him. Yeah, he was fucked. Fucked and fucked-up.

Nimble fingers wove through his hair, at first untangling the knots and then gently gripping the strands. “Even when you talk normal, you still don’t make much sense.” Levi heaved such an incredibly weary sigh that Eren knew it was exaggerated. “It’s a good thing you’re *my* problem to deal with, and now I can kick your ass all that much harder.” Levi used the hold to tilt Eren’s head back for a kiss.

A certain someone forgot that his fangs were still partially out, which led to a scraped tongue on Eren’s part; Levi seemed all the more determined to get the kiss right after that and latched onto Eren’s mouth with more fortitude than passion. Almost laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, Eren decided to just go with the flow and kissed him back, figuring that a chewed up tongue wasn’t too bad a thing in the whole big scheme of things. He rubbed his fingertips along the undercut of the asshole’s hair and rocked their hips together, which along with a few seconds of a blood-free kiss seemed to satisfy the idiot.

“There,” Levi murmured as he trailed kisses along Eren’s jaw. “Now, another fucking word about feelings or such shit and I’m breaking bones.”

“Agreed.” Eren hummed in pleasure and arched his neck. “Mikasa taking you out soon?” He could feel Levi’s teeth scraping along his skin and hear the other’s increased heart-rate from that taste of blood; as much as he would love to think of it as hormones, he knew that Levi needed a proper feeding.

“Yeah.” Levi huffed against Eren’s neck and groaned as if in pain when he pushed away. “Told her we’d go after I found you.” The accusatory look he gave Eren made it very clear that he blamed him for being so much trouble. “You going to freak out if I tell you to be in my quarters when I get back?”

Eren went still and gave the question some serious thought; he’d faced his feelings for Levi so there shouldn’t be any more surprises, and Levi was now ‘safe’ from him if he did lose control. There was no reason to fear having sex with him at this point, other than the whole ‘who knows what the future will bring’ bullshit that everyone faced. “No, I think we’re good now.”

“Because if you claw up my mattress again-“

“Yeah, yeah, much kicking will occur. I am suitable cowed. Get going.” Eren rolled his eyes to show how sick he was of being told he was getting some part of his body kicked and gave Levi a quick kiss on the lips before shoving him away. “Have fun sucking down Malform blood,” he reminded the asshole in as sweet a tone that he could muster.

Levi appeared as if he was going to be sick. “I fucking hate you right now. Malform blood. For *years*.” His lips pressed together tightly as if to prevent any of the blood from slipping past them.

“It’ll be so yummy, just you wait and see. All nice and thick and gloopy.” Eren grinned as he waved off the grumbling bastard.

*******

“And where the hell have you been, Rebel?”

Eren’s good mood vanished as soon as he heard Ymir call out to him. Rubbing at his right eye with the heel of his hand, he told himself that her tracking him down was to be expected and that he’d been lucky to avoid her for so long. “All right, let’s get this over with, okay,” he said in English.

He wish he had some type of recording device just then because it was clear the last thing that Ymir had expected was for him to agree to talk to her – she came to a halt and stood there with her mouth open for a couple of seconds before she snapped it shut and nodded. “Hell yes, it’s about time.” She motioned for him to move closer to the wall; a few people gave the strange looks as they walked past, probably because of the language or maybe because he was wearing clothes today, but a nasty glare from Ymir had them moving along quickly.

“So, you turned Levi,” she said, wasting no time.

“Yeah, we’ve been over this.” He took a deep breath and forced himself to say the words, to commit what he’d decided upon before he lost the nerve. “I turned Levi, I did what I said I’d never do-“

“Which is why you need to turn Krista, dammit!” Ymir stepped closer to him, her hands clenched into fists as if she wanted to either hit or grab him and could barely stop herself from doing both, her brows drawn over her eyes which were flashing back and forth between brown and red. “You need to do it-“

“Yes.”

“Huh?” If it wasn’t for the seriousness of the situation, what he was agreeing to do when he wasn’t even 100% certain that it would work, he’d laugh at the utterly gobsmacked expression on her face just then. “Did you just… did you say ‘yes’?” Her eyes narrowed even more as if waiting for him to deny what he’d just said.

“Yes, I’ll do it.” He ran his hands through his hair and tugged on the strands for a moment. “Whenever Krista is ready, I’ll do it.”

“Tomorrow,” Ymir said in a rush. “She’ll be ready tomorrow.”

He raised an eyebrow at the answer. “Shouldn’t you talk to her about it first?”

She shook her head. “We’ve been after this ever since she’s learned the truth about our kind – she’ll probably want you to turn her as soon as I tell her the news, but tomorrow will do.”

“Yeah.” It would give him a little time to prepare himself for it. “You do know I can’t promise anything, right? I wasn’t even sure that it would work on Levi.”

For the first time that day, Ymir smiled, the expression a little nervous but still a smile. “It’s a chance, Eren. All we’re asking for is a chance. Without it, there’s too great a possibility of her growing old or being hurt.”

He could understand that, after all of the people he’d watched die over the years. Reaching out, he wrapped a hand around Ymir’s upper right arm. “One more thing – you’ll be the one to bleed her,” he demanded. “I’ll finish it – do enough to turn her, but I won’t bring her to that point, all right?”

There was another flash of red and a hint of sharp white teeth from Ymir. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, Rebel.” She glanced down for a moment, and appeared back to ‘normal’ when she looked back up. “Eren… *thank you* for this.” She almost looked guilty for a moment, but that didn’t make any sense. “This means a lot to us.”

He looked aside, suddenly made uncomfortable by Ymir’s gratitude – he was used to them trading insults and the like, not this… well, not this. “You were right, what you said about – well, you were right. That’s the only reason I’m turning Krista. So watch out for her since I won’t be doing this again.”

“I will.” She touched his shoulder, the gesture quick and light, and stepped away. “Tomorrow morning?”

“After breakfast, in Captain Hange’s lab.”

“See you then.”

He heard her walk away, her footsteps fast and quiet, and hoped that he wouldn’t regret this.

*******

“Maybe we killed most of the undead bastards,” Levi grumbled as they searched down yet another back alley. His stomach was beginning to cramp from hunger, which didn’t help his temper any – a temper already frayed from being in Hange and Mikasa’s company.

“No, I’m sure a few victims managed to escape at least during the confusion yesterday, and the trio are still out there. We’ll find something,” Mikasa assured him. She took a few steps forward and breathed deeply, her scarf pushed down past her chin. “Let’s try heading east – I think I’m picking up something.”

He wanted to tell her that she was crazy, but when he inhaled as well, he smelled… he wasn’t quite sure what he smelled, but it caused that whole weird color shift to happen and his fangs to descend so quickly that his jaw ached.

“Levi? You’re going all ‘vampy’ on us. What’s happening? Can you describe it for me?”

“Not now,” he told Hange, unwilling to put up with her crazy science shit when *something* was urging him forward, when he felt the need to… to… *fuck*, he was so *hungry* just then. He pushed past Mikasa to get to the exit of the alley and fired a rappelling wire, desperate to reach the source of that scent, something both so enticing and repellent at the same time.

“Shouldn’t you follow him?”

“No, he’s doing all ri-“

The voices faded behind him as he swung after the scent, tracking back when he went a little too far southeast at one point. When the scent was so close that he was almost drooling from hunger, he caught a glimpse of something pale moving up the side of a building and acted without instinct – he fired another wire to bring him in close, to come in fast, and then let the momentum of the wire’s arc fling him through the air so he could slam into the Malform.

There was an awful screech when he crashed into it, a flash of pain both from the impact and something sinking into his left shoulder, and then he was tearing into it with fangs and claws, all thoughts of his blades forgotten. The world spun around him, the sense of wind rushing past his skin and another flash of pain, but all he cared about was the rush of something so *delicious* and *hot* flowing into his mouth as he bit into the thing’s neck.

The Malform struggled beneath him and steam rose around them for some reason, but Levi merely dug in his claws and tore a bigger hole in the creature’s neck so he could get more of that blood *now*, and groaned when it gushed down his throat. The pain he felt faded away as he drank, as did the hunger; he closed his eyes so he could concentrate on the pleasure he felt from drinking, the sense of strength that flowed through his body with each swallow.

It felt as if he drank forever, but a time came when he eventually was full. Shifting away from the barely moving Malform, he opened his eyes to realize that they’d ended up on the ground, with Hange and Mikasa standing a few feet away. He forced himself to stand up, his body unresponsive for a few seconds, and in that amount of time Mikasa moved forward in a blur to decapitate the Malform with one of her blades.

“Not bad for a first time, though you need to pay better attention to your surroundings while you feed. Also, you have claws for a reason, learn to use them. There was no reason why you couldn’t have fed up on the wall, where it was safer,” she chided while she wiped her blade clean.

Stung over the criticism, Levi glared at her and went to brush the dirt from his uniform – only to realize that he’d made a mess out of it during his ‘meal’. In fact, he could feel the cooling blood on his face and along his left shoulder, where the Malform had clawed him. Fuck – he’d just eaten a fucking Malform. “Not all of us are perfect.”

“You don’t have to be perfect, you just need to keep from getting yourself killed or from revealing what you are,” Mikasa shot back. Then she motioned to Hange.

“It was really thrilling to see you feed! So animalistic – I wonder if the change unearths buried instincts or supplants them along with the altered DNA,” Hange babbled while she dug around in the bag that she’d brought along during their patrol. Levi inwardly cringed when he saw her hold out a packet of those shitty chemical wipes and knew that Mikasa was smiling – to think that he’d adored the damn things a mere day ago.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever lets me keep down this shitty blood I just swallowed.” He didn’t want to think about where it came from, even if it had tasted incredible at the time. Wrinkling his nose, he set about removing his ruined jacket and shirt so he could clean himself up enough to return back to headquarters without attracting too much attention – showing up one day covered in blood was bad enough, but two in a row?

“How did it feel when-“

“Not now, Shitty Glasses.” Levi shot his friend a nasty enough look to put an end to the questions for the night. He’d been through enough in the last day or so, all he wanted was to get back to his quarters and not deal with any more shit for a while. If a certain brat was waiting for him, as agreed, then so much the better.

Hange pouted but fell quiet as asked, and helped make him presentable. She did seem to find it amusing when he nearly gagged over wiping himself clean, while Mikasa was a bit too obvious about hiding the lower half of her face behind that damn scarf. As soon as Levi was dressed in clean clothes, save for his scuffed boots and dirty pants, he motioned for them to exit the alley.

“I’ve had enough of both of you for the night, let’s get going.”

“As if you’ve been the life of the party lately, Sweetie,” Hange shot back, and smiled in the face of his glare.

They made good time back to headquarters, without spotting any more Malforms along the way – that or sign of any of those shitty vampires. Bastards were probably up to some other way to screw over the Corps… but they’d just have to deal with it when it next happened, Levi supposed. He looked forward to returning the favor of ripping out throats when it did.

Once back on safe ground, Hange waved goodbye and headed back to her lab, babbling about a busy day ahead tomorrow, while Mikasa paused and looked at Levi. “Remember what I said about treating him right.”

He really wasn’t in the mood to put up with this shit right now. “Your brother is more than old enough to decide if he’s being treated ‘right’, you know.”

She gave him an odd look for several seconds before turning away. “You’re both complete idiots at this,” was all she said to him before leaving.

And someone was a meddling bitch. Fed up with people butting into his life, Levi rushed to his quarters and felt… *something* inside his chest seem to let go, some kind of tension unravel, when he took a deep breath and picked up on an oddly familiar scent, could see a slumped figure in the chair by his desk when he took a few more steps forward.

Eren was curled up in the chair, his legs pulled up on the seat and hugged to his chest while his head lolled against the back of the chair. He smiled at Levi, the expression lazy and barely-formed, and his eyes glowed faintly in the room’s dim light. “Hey you. How’d your first time go? You get his number and name or was it a ‘wham-bam thank you ma’am’ thing?”

Levi scowled at the casual impertinence directed his way in *his* quarters of all places while he stripped off his jacket, his pace quick and determined as he approached the desk. “Do you ever talk in a way that makes sense?”

“All the time. It’s the rest of the world that’s even more fucked up than me.” Eren closed his eyes, a lock of dark brown hair falling onto his nose. “Which is pretty sad, when you think about it.”

The brat had a point there, which was really messed up. Levi folded his jacket and set it on the desk, to be followed by his blades with their belt, and then the gauntlet; he cursed as he struggled to remove the contraption and sought some sort of distraction. “Yes, I fed tonight. It was… bearable.” He thought back to the rush of pleasure, strength and intense hunger he felt upon the first few drops of Malform blood and was grateful that his voice had been so even.

Still, something must have slipped past because Eren snorted through his nose while he rolled his head around. “Yeah, right. You probably nearly bit through the poor bastard’s head in an attempt to get at all its blood.” When Levi was silent in the face of the accusation, Eren finally opened his eyes. “Really? Bet Mikasa was pissed to have to yank you back in line.”

“Yeah, well, your sister’s lucky I didn’t decide that she looked nice and juicy.” Levi was getting sick of her smug ‘listen to me, little boy’ shit and wasn’t going to put up with it for much longer.

Eren shook his head back and forth before letting it rest against the chair at a very odd angle. “I’m going to forget you mentioned my sister and ‘juicy’ in the same sentence. Yuck.”

Finished removing the gauntlet, Levi went to stand next to the annoying idiot and flicked a finger at his nose. “Isn’t that uncomfortable as hell?” He hadn’t invited Eren so they could squabble all night out here while Eren sat all contorted on his chair.

“I’ve been in worse positions.” Eren pouted up at Levi while he rubbed his nose. “I’d ask if you’re going to abuse me all night, but I think we both know the answer to that one.” He sighed in a dramatic manner before wrapping his right arm back around his knees. “So if you-“

Having had enough of the useless talk by now, Levi grabbed Eren’s face gently yet firmly with both hands and used the hold to lift it up enough so he could give it one hell of a kiss. Catching Eren talking like that helped, as the brat had his mouth open. One swipe of his tongue inside of Eren’s mouth seemed to be enough; Eren was still for a moment and then he was kissing Levi back with a savagery that was almost scary.

Eren practically climbed out of the damn chair and onto Levi as if he was just another piece of furniture, up over the back of it and the next thing he knew, he had an armful of writhing vampire-hybrid doing his best to crawl *into* Levi. Eren’s tongue sought out his mouth and pushed deep, flicked about in his mouth while Eren’s legs wrapped around his waist and Eren’s arms latched onto his shoulders.

… well, that was one way to get things started, wasn’t it? Levi was a bit taken back to find out that Eren had actually been here after he’d gone out to hunt-

Stumbling into his bedroom with an armful of desperate brat whose claws were just scraping along the back of his neck, Levi managed to get them over to his *new* bed before he dumped Eren onto his ass. “Oi! You getting the fuck turned on because I drank undead freak blood,” he demanded to know.

It took Eren a few seconds to come to his senses, his eyes were glowing so bright just then. “Uhm… hello?” He cocked his head to the side and attempted to reach out for Levi. “Maybe… a little?”

“Shitty little….” Levi attempted to step away yet Eren sat up quickly and snatched at the sleeve of his white shirt before he could do anything. “Back off!”

“No!” Sitting up on his knees, Eren tugged Levi closer. “Look, you did taste so good.” He licked his lips as if to prove his point, and Levi found himself staring at the pink tongue that appeared and disappeared so quickly. “It’s been so long! And it just kicks in when I taste it… but I’m *here* for you.” He toyed with the untucked hem of his grey jersey while he stared at Levi through his thick eyelashes, his golden eyes glowing faintly in the darkness of Levi’s bedroom. “Thought we were going to be doing something other than talking – or bitching.”

Part of Levi wanted to kick the manipulative little shit out of his quarters on principal alone, but another part – hell, everything to do with his cock at that point – insisted that he ignore that first part. So he clicked his tongue while he reached out to grab onto Eren’s chin with a bit more force than necessary. “From now on, you get turned on by *me*, not some undead freak shit.” That made him equally pissed off at himself for spouting such bullshit.

Still, Eren grinned as much as he was able to with Levi’s fingers holding onto his lower face like a vise and licked his lips again. “Then do something to turn me on.”

“Such a little shit,” Levi grumbled before setting out to do just that, leaning in for a kiss that was even more ardent than the one before. He released Eren’s chin so he could thread his fingers through that messy tangle of hair, holding Eren still so he could practically assault his mouth with his tongue and teeth, an assault that Eren met with equal fervor.

They tumbled back onto the bed, Eren holding onto Levi and cushioning his fall, hands busy stripping each other of their clothes. Cursing when he had to pull away to kick off his damn boots, Levi found the entire process hampered by the fact that his fingers were now sprouting claws that loved to shred at his clothes and scratch at his skin. “How the fuck do you manage with these damn things?”

Eren laughed and leaned forward to pull off Levi’s left boot. “You get used to them, and learn to control them better.” He had some claws of his own, which didn’t seem to slow him any since he was stripped down to just his pants and a small pouch hung around his neck. Once he got rid of the boots for Levi, he unzipped his pants and shimmied out of them, underwear and all, to recline naked on the bed.

Levi hurried to remove the last of his clothes and then knelt beside Eren, his clawed hands carefully stroking along golden skin; Eren shivered at his touch, body arching up beneath his fingers as if to ensure that the caress lasted as long as possible. Eren’s body was more wiry than defined – he lacked the definition of muscle that Levi possessed but still had built up some. Judging from the length of those slim legs and the way his waist cut in from his shoulders, Eren’d had some hope of height if he’d been allowed to grow up naturally.

At least it meant that his sometimes childish looks aside, Levi didn’t feel that he was bedding a fucking kid once the clothes came off. He lightly traced his claws over Eren’s left thigh and smirked at the low moan the touch provoked – no, definitely not a child. “A little eager, are we?”

Eren propped up on one elbow and reached out the other hand to brush his fingertips along Levi’s erect cock, which prompted a sharp hiss from him. “Like I’m the only one?”

“Yeah, but it seems to me that we have a problem.” Levi held up his clawed fingers. “This is getting damn annoying.”

Eren muttered something beneath his breath and held out his own hand. “Give me the lube.” While Levi stared on in confusion, he closed his eyes and seemed to concentrate on something; after a few seconds, his claws retracted to leave his fingers normal. His eyes still closed, Eren snapped at Levi, “give me the damn lube before you piss me off and they return.”

Almost starting an argument over the claws, Levi decided that he could wait to question Eren on how he’d done that and handed over the lube kept in the nightstand’s drawer instead – bitch later and get his show now. “You’re getting awfully bossy.” Well, maybe not entirely skip the bitching.

“I’m about to put my fingers up my ass, I think I can be whatever I want.” There was a frown on Eren’s face when he snatched the lube from Levi’s hand, yet his tone was more teasing than anything. He lay back on the bed with his knees splayed and hips tilted upward, causing Levi to rock back on his knees so he had a better view of everything.

As soon as his fingers were slick enough, Eren reached between his legs with his right hand and began to prepare himself, his fingers circling around his entrance before one slipped inside. His cock was jutting upward, bobbing back and forth as he squirmed from twisting his fingers about, that golden skin becoming slowly flushed from pleasure.

Levi could feel the anticipation and need growing inside of himself with each passing second, from the sight of Eren arching his neck and sinking another finger inside of him, from the sound of the moans and gasps he made as he readied himself for Levi’s cock. Levi reached for the discarded bottle of lube and nearly squeezed out its entire contents, forgetting for a moment about his new strength, and began to stroke up and down his own cock while he stared hungrily at the sight before him.

“Eren….”

“Hmmm, Levi.” Eren gazed back with eyes gone luminous, strands of dark hair falling onto his flushed and sweat-dampened face. “You ready? Because I know I am. Ready for you to fuck me.”

It was such an incongruous thing, hearing those words come from someone who looked like Eren did. Levi wasn’t certain he liked it, but right now all he cared about was that they could finally fuck. “Then get your ass over here.” He waited impatiently for Eren to finish preparing himself and then yanked the brat onto his lap by pulling on his wrist. The feel of Eren’s body against his, almost feverishly warm, made him shudder.

“What?” Eren was all tangled arms and legs for a few seconds, until he sorted himself out with his legs straddling Levi’s and his arms over Levi’s shoulders. “Are you sure?”

“Don’t mess with my bed,” he ordered. “Now, start fucking before I kick your damn head in.” He felt as if he was going to burn up if… if… dammit. He latched onto Eren’s neck while his hands slid along smooth skin until he grasped Eren’s firm ass.

“Ohhh… always the sweet… talk with you.” Eren trembled as Levi’s mouth moved along his neck and shifted up on his knees until his ass brushed the tip of Levi’s cock. Both of them reacted at the touch, Eren by moaning and Levi by squeezing Eren’s ass, and then Eren reached back to hold onto Levi’s cock as he slowly began to lower himself onto it.

As soon as Levi pushed past the initial resistance, he couldn’t hold back on a low groan – Eren felt so tight and so damn *hot*, reminding him of that haunting dream. Eren murmured something in that guttural language as he slowly sank onto Levi’s cock, his eyes closed and face drawn in what appeared to be concentration, the pinpricks of what felt to be claws skittering along Levi’s back and shoulders.

After what felt to be too-fucking long, Eren finally bottomed out, taking all of Levi’s length in a slow descent. Levi let out a breath that he hadn’t realized that he’d been holding and gave his hips a slight thrust, arms wrapped tight around Eren’s waist as if that had a chance to hold on to him if the brat decided to go all crazy again. Yet all that happened this time as that Eren shivered a little and opened eyes which were glowing brightly, and give a light scratch along the nape of Levi’s neck.

“If you don’t fucking *move*, I will claw out your spine,” he told Levi in what seemed to be a perfectly civil tone of voice, except for a hint of a lisp because of his fangs.

Well, once again he’d let the bastard get away with giving orders. “Let’s see what your ass can handle.” Levi glared back while he shifted his hands to Eren’s hips and decided to teach a certain little shit to be careful about he asked for.

He let Eren rise up a little, hissing at the loss of that amazing heat and friction and then thrust up *hard* while pulling the brat down at the same time. He smiled at the loud moan that slipped free from Eren, and then hissed again when he swore that the damn brat did something to become even tighter. Closing his eyes for a moment, he lost himself in the sensation of that marvelous heat enveloping him, of the almost-pain skittering up and down his back that served as a counterbalance to the intense pleasure building inside of him.

He wanted to this to last, to hold out as long as possible, but it felt too good, felt too powerful. Eren was all wrapped around him, not just his body but his scent and his heat as well, seemed to sink into Levi until he even breathed him in. He tasted him on his tongue, drank in the sight of him with those huge eyes blown with passion, and thrust into him with a growing, erratic desperation as the pleasure and desire grew to an uncontrollable peak.

Letting out a curse, he tumbled Eren onto the bed, laying the brat out on his back with his ass in Levi’s lap as Levi continued to thrust in as hard and fast as he could. Eren had the gall to smirk up at him, at least until Levi pulled his hips up higher and then Eren’s back arched off of the bed as he cried out something indecipherable, his hand moving fast along his own cock. Feeling his encroaching orgasm, Levi snapped his hips back and forth with an added urgency, his fingers digging into sweat-slick flesh as the ecstasy built to an overwhelming crescendo and crashed into him.

It had been so long since he’d had an orgasm that intense, his senses scattered to the winds for what seemed a small eternity. Shivering in the aftershocks and dazed, he sensed as if from far away Eren crying out and tensing beneath him, causing more aftershocks of pleasure to course through him. He struggled to even out his breathing when he slipped out of that exquisite heat, groaning a little as he did so, and stretched out next to Eren.

His brain finally waking up, he patted the bed between them and grunted once. “Still intact?”

“Go to hell,” Eren mumbled as he brushed aside the hair on his face with his left hand. “Next time I’ll claw up your back instead of the damn bed.”

“It’ll heal, right? Go right ahead. Will be a damn sight easier than having to fill out a new order form and sit through Erwin’s questions.” He swore that the bastard had gotten off on that little session. As he lay there, he watched as the bruises he’d left on Eren’s hips slowly began to fade away.

“I’ll remind you of that.” Eren stretched a little, his arms raised above his head and his back again arched off of the bed, and let out a happy sounding sigh. “Oh, I so needed that.”

Levi was going to assume ‘that’ was what they’d just done and so took some of the credit. “You’re welcome.”

He got an eye roll for his troubles. “Thanks.”

Starting to feel itchy from the sweat and other things drying on his skin, Levi sat up and grimaced. “I need to wash off.”

“Hmm, okay.” Eren continued to lay there, busy playing with a strand of hair while Levi got off of the bed.

Was he supposed to offer for Eren to join him? He didn’t have the biggest shower, considering it was meant for one person, so Levi assumed that they could take turns. Or did Eren just not care about things like being all clean after sex? He didn’t seem like such a slob any other time….

Levi tried to figure out the brat while he gave himself a quick shower. Eren didn’t seem like much of a cuddler after sex, which was fine with him since he didn’t feel like putting up with all that crap. But to be so nonchalant? Was that normal?

Finished washing off and only bothering to dry off and then wrap a towel around his waist, Levi returned to the bedroom, only to find that it was empty; Eren wasn’t anywhere to be seen. At first he thought that the brat might have gone in search of something to drink, until Levi realized that there were no signs of his clothes, either. Still, he checked the rest of his quarters, only to come up empty.

It wasn’t as if he had any great plans for the rest of the night – there had been some idle thoughts of a round two of sex, either before going to bed or inviting Eren to spend the night and then having some fun after they woke up. Since this would be Levi’s first official cognizant night as a… whatever he was now, he thought it might be nice to have someone there to help prepare him for what to expect. But it looked like none of that would happen now.

Feeling out of sorts, he went to put on some clothes and then brewed himself a pot of tea since he wasn’t tired at all. Then he worked on some paperwork – or attempted to, only to find himself staring at the same report for ten minutes. Cursing a certain brat out loud, he got up from his desk and was out in the hallway before he realized what he was doing.

It had been years since he’d last visited the common room for the new recruits, and that had been over a discipline issue. He sort of had an idea of where Hange had assigned the siblings their new bunks, and went over to that area to begin searching for Eren; once he got close enough, he could track him down by scent alone. He was still getting used to his new abilities, but he knew Eren’s scent by now.

Upon coming across the little shit curled up in a bunk bed with Mikasa, the two of them wrapped up in each other’s arms, Levi felt… he felt something *dark* and *roiling* and *vicious* build inside of him. Again without thinking, he reached up into the bed to latch onto a twitching Eren’s arm and hauled him out of bed.

There was a loud, squalling sound as Eren came crashing into him, yet it wasn’t from the brat – Mikasa was up and awake, crouched on the bed and looking ready to launch herself at him, her eyes glowing gold and her lips pulled back to reveal her fangs.

Levi caught Eren and settled him onto his feet, yet kept hold of his arm. “Calm the fuck down, *Stieger*,” he ordered as the room came to life around them.

“Mikasa! Please!” Eren pleaded with his sister, taking a step in her direction before being yanked back.

“Let him go, you short bas-“

“No.” Levi put all of the venom and animosity he felt just then into the word, causing both of the idiots to look at him. “We weren’t finished, he’s coming back with me.”

All around them, people were whispering – or attempting to whisper – about ‘Captain Ackerman’ being there, about Mikasa being mouthy to him, so on and so forth. At least him snapping back at the bitch seemed to have startled her enough to revert her eyes back to normal.

“Now get your asses back to bed,” he ordered everyone, followed by a dirty look that sent those who were gathered around scurrying to obey – all except Armin, Ymir and Krista. Ymir gave him a saucy smile and then pointedly stared at Eren.

“Eren….”

“It’s fine,” Eren told his sister, and repeated it to Armin and Ymir, who hadn’t verbally asked anything. “Like he said, please go back to bed.” He finally looked at Levi, his jaw tight with anger. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Levi didn’t give a shit if the bastard was angry with him right now – it just meant they both were ticked off. “Come on.” He started dragging Eren out of the room.

For once not complaining over being led around like a dog, Eren was quiet until they reached Levi’s quarters. Once they were inside, Eren jerked his wrist free and then stood in the middle of the room, his arms folded across his chest. “So what the hell was that about?” His voice shook with anger, the emotion lighting up his eyes.

“That’s what I want to know!” Levi stabbed a finger in the brat’s direction. “I leave the room for five minutes – fuck, less than that! – and you’re gone without a word! Not only that, but you leave my bed for your *sister’s*? How fucking sick is that?”

Eren threw his hands up in the air as if disgusted. “We were sleeping – as in getting rest – together! Don’t make it out to be something sick! We always do that after… well, it’s just something we do.” His brows drew together and he ran his fingers through his hair.

Okay, were they speaking the same language? “You’re telling me that you fuck guys and then you go sleep with your sister?” Levi sat against the edge of his desk and tried to wrap his brain around this. “You honestly don’t see anything wrong with that picture?”

“Why would I? Mikasa is family, she’s always there for me. Who I fuck is just a body for an hour or two,” Eren told him, a puzzled expression on his face as if he couldn’t understand where Levi was going with this.

Just ‘a body’. Levi got a fucking ‘shovel talk’ from the charming Mikasa and yet Eren stood there and talked about how fucking someone was like… what, borrowing a cock for a short time? As fucked up as Levi was, he had a better grasp of relationships than that. “’Just a body’? Is that what I am? That why you clawed up my fucking bed and turned me into a bloodsucker like you,” he demanded to know as he surged forward, his hands reaching for the grey t-shirt that Eren had worn to bed.

Those golden eyes went wide as what Levi said sunk in to the idiot’s head. “What? No! I just-“ Eren didn’t shake off Levi’s hold, he just closed his eyes and let out a shuddering breath, his hands rising to rest on top of Levi’s. “Not you!”

“Then why the hell did you run out of here and go straight to your sister?”

Eren slumped against him, his body warm and supine; Levi wanted to pull him close, to bury his nose in that tangled mess of hair but forced himself to remain still until he got a decent answer from the little shit. “Because… because I didn’t think. I didn’t think you’d care, I didn’t think it mattered, and I didn’t think about how things are different now.”

“Because you’re a fucking idiot,” Levi summed up with a good bit of satisfaction.

Eren stiffed against him for a second or two before relaxing again. “Yeah, all right, I’ll give you that one.” He rubbed his cheek against Levi’s shoulder like a cat marking its scent. “Look, this whole thing is confusing as hell to me. I’ve no clue what I’m doing.”

Like Levi did either, but he knew better than to go off running to another person’s bed after sex. Still, he figured he’d be the adult here since one of them needed to be it and keep his mouth shut. “I think you owe me a massage, then.”

There was some grumbling for a few seconds, followed by another cheek rub that should be annoying but was actually not. “Okay. Tonight?”

“No, for some reason I’m oddly relaxed right now.” Levi finally gave in to the urge to comb his fingers through that ratty hair and sighed. “Right now you can make up the bed for me.”

“You’re not enjoying this at all, are you?” Eren pulled back to glare at him, but a smile kept twitching at the corners of his lips.

“Enjoying what? You making up for being an enormous asshole? Perish the thought.” Levi gave him a smack on the ass and pointed toward the bedroom. “Now get in there.”

“Yeah, well, enjoy it while it lasts. It’ll just be a matter of time before you do something just as spectacularly stupid if not more so.” Eren looked as if he was just waiting for that moment.

The shame was, the little shit was right. Levi rubbed at the back of his head and swore to get some more of that damn vodka off of Hange in the morning so he’d have it on hand for that occasion. And to kick her in the ass for talking him into this whole ‘relationship’ thing.

*******

Eren lay in the bed beside Levi and struggled not to fidget, unused to sleeping with anyone other than Mikasa or Armin. He’d managed to fall asleep eventually, but hadn’t slept as long as usual and now was uncertain about what he was supposed to do – should he remain in bed even though he wasn’t asleep? Would it piss off the short-tempered bastard if he got up and went into the other room? What could he do in Levi’s quarters while the man slept? Confused and a little disgruntled by the whole situation, he continued to lie there, barely moving and staring at the sleeping man.

Levi appeared so young when he was asleep, his face relaxed with sleep and unmarred by anger, worry or that damn mask of indifference. Eren ached to reach out and touch him, to tuck back the shiny black hair falling onto his forehead, to stroke along a curving cheekbone or a parted lip. The sheets were pushed down to Levi’s waist, revealing the sculpted muscles of his shoulders, arms, chest and abdomen, his pale skin marred by shadows and old scars. Eren could remember the feel of those scars beneath his fingers, the bumps and catch of them as his hands had run along Levi’s back and chest, his fingers digging into firm flesh as Levi had thrust into him-

His breath caught at the memory and he pressed his flushed face into the sheets that smelled of the two of them. Being with Levi was such a bewildering thing – usually fucking somebody meant that he was done with wanting them, that he’d gotten what he needed and could move on. But now… now he was lying next to the man and wanted more, despite having him twice last night. Why?

“Oi, shitty brat. Stop fidgeting too much.”

Levi sounded sleepy, though he didn’t look too tired when Eren glanced over at him. He was rubbing his eyes and frowning, his eyes clear when he finally opened them to stare at Eren. “What time is it?”

“Uhm, about…” Eren shifted up enough to glance at the clock behind Levi, “03:00.”

“Fuck.” Levi flopped onto his back and shook his head. “You weren’t kidding about that ‘won’t sleep too much’ shit, were you?”

“No, I wasn’t.” Eren sat up in the bed, the sheets pooling onto his lap. “We usually sleep two or three hours a night, that’s all.”

“I don’t sleep much more than that some nights, but I normally feel like shit. Now… it’s not bad.” Levi frowned up at the ceiling for a few seconds before his expression smoothed out. “Should help with getting the damn paperwork done.”

“That sounds terribly exciting.” Eren made a face while smoothed out the fabric covering his legs. “All that extra time, wasted on paperwork.”

Levi stretched out his arm to give Eren a smack on his thigh. “Some of us have jobs to do.”

“Whatever.” He fell back onto bed and let out a sigh. “Some of us are stuck inside headquarters with almost nothing to do.” He held up his right hand and flexed his claws as he spoke. “I really should be out there-“

“No.” Levi lifted his head to glare at Eren. “No way in fucking hell. Can’t you grasp the damn concept that they’re ready to tear the dome apart to get your ass?”

“So I should be out there fighting them!”

“No!” The bed shifted as Levi sat up next to him. “It won’t be forever. We’ll hunt down those assholes.”

Yeah, because Eren and Mikasa had done so well on that front for centuries, hadn’t they? And here Levi thought he’d take Annie’s head so easily? Still, he didn’t say anything else, just kept flexing his claws, his eyes half-focused on his fingers.

“Oi! You wake up in a shitty mood or what?” When Eren didn’t answer, Levi poked him in the side.

Letting his hand fall back to the bed, Eren sighed and rolled onto his side so he could face the annoying asshole. “I told Ymir that I’d turn Krista today,” he admitted to Levi, paying close attention to the man’s expression to see how he’d take the news.

If it bothered Levi at all, the asshole didn’t show any emotion other than the usual boredom. “Huh, guess she finally wore you down,” was all he said after several seconds.

“Wow, thanks so much for that helpful insight there – we really need to have these riveting discussions more often,” Eren snapped as he rolled onto his other side to put his back to Levi.

There was a rustle of sheets and then Eren was pushed onto his back while Levi straddled his hips, a pissed-off look on the man’s face. “So what do you want me to do about it? Kick her ass for making you do this? Tell you not to go through with it even though you’re supposed to be a grown up? What? It sure as hell won’t be to let you out there with a fucking target on your back to make you feel better.”

Eren glared at the asshole and made to push him away, but Levi caught his hand and held on tight. “None of those things, all right? I just….” He closed his eyes and let out a slow breath. “You asked what’s bothering me and I told you. I don’t know if it’ll work, me turning someone on… on demand like that.” He opened his eyes and looked up at Levi. “Before, it’s always been me reacting.”

Levi stared back for several seconds before clicking his tongue. “Fine then, if you don’t think it’s going to work then we’ll feed the girl one of Hange’s shitty formulas. That’ll have her dying in minutes.”

The insanity of it all stunned Eren for a moment, and then he started laughing. Levi’s expression remained impassive at first, and then he slowly became smug while Eren continued to laugh. When he finally did regain control of himself, Eren shook his head and bucked his hips in an effort to dislodge the crazy bastard. “You’re really not much of a help.”

“I’m the biggest damn help you’ve ever had,” Levi insisted.

“Hmm.” Eren gave him a salacious smile and bucked his hips again, this time with less force. “You’re definitely the biggest damn something I’ve ever had,” he drawled, and almost laughed again at the way Levi’s grey eyes narrowed over the insinuation.

“That sounds a little doubtful to me. Time to improve your memory, brat.” Levi bent down, his eyes shading into gold.

Eren shivered when he felt first warm breath and then soft lips brush against his neck. “What… about the paperwork?”

“I’d say ‘fuck the paperwork’, but that’s not what I’ll be fucking,” Levi all but purred into his ear.

There might be something to say for this whole ‘sleeping with people’ thing, Eren told himself as Levi began to nibble on his earlobe.

*******

“No, seriously, Captain Ackerman *dragged* him out of bed! And this is after he ran from the man’s room naked! Do you think the captain is abusing his authority or something? He’s always been a mean control freak!”

“All I know is I messed up gauntlet training one day and he made me run around headquarters for FIVE HOURS. The man’s a sadistic bastard, I’m telling you.”

“At least you didn’t have to clean the *entire lower level*. I spent two days down there, inhaling dirt and dead spiders.”

“Do you think he tried to get Stieger to do something too kinky? Like dress up in something weird? What would Captain Ackerman consider kinky?”

“Did you see the ass on that kid? No wonder he hauled him back to his room – I’d be tapping that all night long.”

Mikasa’s teeth ground together as she forced herself to take deep, calming breaths in an effort to not reveal her true nature or start beating up on the uncouth idiots she had agreed to fight beside for the foreseeable future. Her hands gripped the plastic polymer of the serving tray that held her breakfast hard enough to start cracking it, prompting a worried look from Armin.

“Uhm, it’s just talk, you know. Give it a day or two and they’ll be gossiping about something else.”

“They’re *gossiping* about Eren *now*,” she pointed out, her voice a low growl as the colors bled out of everything but the targets for her anger. Deep breaths, she told herself. Keep taking deep breaths. For some odd reason it would be bad for her to start tearing out the throats of idiots….

“Yes, and soon enough they’ll be gossiping about something else, like Captain Hange’s latest experiment or who messed up the most at training.” Armin grinned for a moment and then winced. “Though it’ll help if Eren keeps his clothes on and Captain Ackerman stops paying midnight visits.”

*Deep* *breaths*. “You’re really not helping.”

“Yeah, I get that impression a lot lately.” There was a flash of sadness on Armin’s face for a moment before he forced a too cheerful smile. “But I do my best.”

Feeling guilty for some reason, Mikasa struggled with a smile as well. “You do more than that.” With all that had happened lately, she felt as if she’d shamefully neglected her dear friend. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

They reached their usual table, which had some blaring spots open in it this morning. Mina was surrounded by friends, a woeful expression on her face whenever she glanced at where Daz usually sat, and Mikasa noticed that Eren still hadn’t arrived. What was the Short Bastard doing to him?

Sasha was already there, and grinned when she saw the two of them approach and paused in her frantic eating of the greyish, lumpy oatmeal served that day. “Hi! I wasn’t sure if you would make it or not.” She motioned to the empty spots around her. “It seems like everyone else is sleeping in or something.”

By ‘everyone else’, she must be talking about Ymir and Krista, who were missing as well. Thinking of the vampire and what she’d managed to force out of Eren finally, Mikasa stared down at her tray of food until she was certain that she had control of her emotions. “Yes, well, it’s been a crazy day or two.” And not likely to get much better.

“I’ll say! Connie can’t believe everything that’s happening!” Sasha’s smile took on a goofy edge and she even lowered her spoon all the way to the table. “He said it’s much more interesting here than at the MP headquarters.” She was quiet for a moment and then jabbed her spoon in Mikasa’s direction. “Speaking of Connie – he said that Jean’s being all mopey because of how your last date ended.”

Caught by surprise over the change in topic, Mikasa paused in sipping her coffee and stared at the girl. “Jean?” She hadn’t given the young man much thought in the last two days, not with everything happening with Eren, Captain Ackerman and Ymir. The sense of guilt intensified, causing her cheeks to heat up as she blushed. “Uhm, I’m very sorry about that.”

“Connie said that Jean knows you had a reason to run off like that, that family’s important and all, but you shouldn’t let a nice guy like him hang for so long.” At Mikasa’s blank stare, Sasha sighed and shook her head. “Give him a call or something, make another date if you’re not blowing him off, all right? Jean really likes you, and Connie’s getting tired of hearing him whine about how he hopes that you’re not breaking things off with him.”

“Yes, Mikasa, it’s not nice to be so rude to someone,” Armin teased, which prompted her to jab her elbow into his ribs.

She had to think about this – Jean really was a nice guy and she did have some feelings for him even though they’d only gone out a couple of times. She’d started the ‘dates’ with the intent on finding more information about Annie Bertolt and Reiner, which she’d done, but Jean had proved interesting in his own right. Glancing at Armin, she knew that her friend would encourage her to continue seeing the MP, and Eren wouldn’t have much to say against it considering the mess he was involved in with that short bastard.

“Mika~sa~?” Sasha asked in a singsong tone, waving her spoon back and forth as if conducting to some unknown beat. “Are you going to contact Jean and put him out of his misery?”

“… all right.” Maybe she’d regret this, but at least she’d be sorry over doing something rather than doing nothing.

“Yay! Connie said he knows this great place we can go on our next double date!” Sasha started to babble about food menus, so Mikasa tuned her out while pushing over most of her uneaten breakfast. Beside her, Armin chuckled beneath his breath, which earned him another jab in the ribs.

*******

“Just think, soon enough you’ll be able to see a real sunrise,” Ymir told Krista as they watched the lights slowly brighten out across the dome, both perched up on the ledge on the top of building to the Freedom Corps’ headquarters.

“A shame when you’ll be hiding in the shade somewhere.” Krista lifted her head from where it rested against Ymir’s shoulder and smile. “But at least you’ll be able to watch it with me somewhat.

“Yes.” Ymir smiled down at her and leaned in to place a kiss against her forehead. “You’ll be so lucky, to feel sunlight on your skin whenever you want.” Sometimes she dreamt about it, about the warmth of it, how *clean* it felt, and woke up with such a longing….

“I’ve always wanted to go out into the wilderness.” Krista closed her eyes and hummed for a few seconds. “I felt bad that you haven’t been able to go there these last few decades.”

“Better to keep you safe than to play around with the overgrown kitties and pigs, darling. You’ll see them for yourself soon enough.” She hugged her girlfriend close and mentally counted down the minutes until breakfast would be over and Eren would come through with his promise.

Krista hugged her back and sighed. “Everything will be all right now, won’t it? You won’t have to worry so much?”

“Everything will be fine,” Ymir lied, and closed her eyes as she held on tightly to the only thing in the world that truly mattered to her. Just a little longer and Krista would be safe. The damn comm seemed to burn against her left hip, and she knew that it wouldn’t be long before it chimed again, before Reiner told her what she would have to do in order to keep Krista safe. Eren was doing this for her, and she’d pay him back with the ultimate betrayal.

But what else could she do? It was bad enough that Krista suspected something, and had mostly been put off with the story that Ymir was stressed over the vampire attacks and pushing for her to be changed. All Ymir could do was get through today, to see Krista turned into something stronger, something able to survive what was coming and then do her best to handle whatever it was that the vampires threw at her. She was good at surviving – they all were. And by going along with Annie’s demands seemed like the best way to ensure just that – everyone’s survival.

At least that’s what she kept telling herself.

*******

“Was the recent attack truly necessary? I’ve had ministers screaming about damages and how this is negatively affecting the dome’s reputation ever since the attack.”

Annie stared at Minister Zackly and struggled to keep the distaste she felt from having to deal with the pathetic human from showing on her face, instead settling on the usual impassive mask that she wore when she was forced to interact with his kind. Did he truly believe that she cared about what he put up with in his job? That he believed that she should curb her actions to make his life easier?

“Yes, the attack was necessary. Everything we do is necessary,” she reminded the fool. “We wouldn’t do it otherwise.”

“But the attack caused a lot of panic and cost-“

“It was necessary,” she insisted. “We achieved a very important goal.”

“And that was what?” The elderly man leaned over his desk with his hands pressed firmly against it as if in an attempt to intimidate her – as if he could scare her with his height and his ‘strength’. Oh, he ‘knew’ what she was, but he still took her at face value, still saw her as a small young woman who just happened to have something he wanted, and that was immortality – or as close to it as you could get.

“The ability to turn you and the others into what I am,” she reminded him. “Isn’t that what you want?”

Zackly hovered over his desk, his wrinkled face set in stern lines, and then shifted back. “I fail to see how such an action brings us closer to our… arrangement.”

Because he was an ignorant fool. “All you need to know is that we are working on obtaining what is needed to turn those who have been accommodating to us and will soon be able to reward you for your loyalty. But before that can happen, one or two more demonstrations will be needed in the near future.” She reached into her jacket to pull out a datapad, which she set down on the desk. “There are certain… elements which have become very annoying, and it will be in both of our best interests if they’re curbed before they get too far ahead of themselves.”

“Threats to you and your masters are threats to us as well.” Zackly picked up the datapad but didn’t turn it on.

Annie inwardly bristled at the ‘masters’ comment but didn’t argue over it. “It’s wise of you to see it that way. Follow the instructions and you know what to expect. Fail to comply and….” She gave him a smile with her fangs on full display. “Good day, Minister.”

Having finished with that task, she left the office, careful to slip out using in back stairwell that was reserved for private staff. Now that a ‘distraction’ was arranged for the Survey Corps, it wouldn’t be long before Eren would be extracted from his safe little nest and they could be well rid of this awful dome with its stale air and annoying humans. Just a little longer.

*******

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