After the first expedition after the Titan War, he said he’d seen enough of the world - the expansion of civilisation let Levi pick a spot originally outside the walls. He grows a small selection of tea in a quiet town, living a quiet life, alone with his tea and the ache of his injuries.
Meanwhile, Eren spearheads exploration expeditions. He always returns to Levi’s side, though - and his captain always complains, but when he sets a cup of tea down in front of Eren, his eyes are soft - the brew is always different, and there is always two scoops sugar in Eren’s cup. Eren knows that Levi doesn’t take sugar in his tea, even after plantations expanded and sugar was no longer a rarity. Eren blames the tea for the warmth in his chest, and smiles
"It was amazing, I didn’t think it’d get so cold - Here, I brought back some stuff, and Armin did some sketches. Hange also wanted me to pass this to you, Captain!" the boy chatters, happy and relaxed. The years have been kind to him, his slightly awkward body filling out as the Titan-shifter grew. He’d gotten taller, too, Levi noted as he eyed Eren.
"I’m not your captain anymore, Eren." he says, weary.
Eren flushes, mumbling something that sounded like ‘I’ve never called your name before..” Levi snorts, and tells Eren to not be an idiot.
The sound Eren’s lips around two syllables Le-vi, shy and soft, is remarkably sweet.
He keeps everything Eren brings back from his expeditions, and tells himself that it’s because it’d be a waste to toss it out.
When winter comes, Eren visits, asking to stay with him for a while - (It’s too cold for the Northbound Expedition to continue their operations with the equipment they currently have).
Levi deliberates, and relents.
Eren’s hair is long now, much like his Titan-form, and wet strands lie across his nape when he gets out of the bath. Levi tries not to notice the careless curve of Eren’s shoulders, averting his eyes.
The thing is, Eren is in love with Levi. He has been for so long, it simply has become a fact of his life that he’s completely accepted. Now that he’s older, he’s more relaxed around the man, and long years of fighting alongside each other has given Eren enough time to not stutter and blush like his 15-year-old self might have done.
His 15 year old self has never seen Levi in soft, civilian’s clothes, though - hair damp from a bath and feet bare - he looks calm, and the rumples of his shirt are just inviting Eren to touch-
He turns away.
A week into Eren’s stay, he hears it. Jolted out of his bed by the sound of things crashing to the floor, Eren resists the urge to grab his gear (It’s not even there anymore, there are no Titans here, except for him) and goes instead to Levi’s room, hesitating outside the door.
'Levi?' he calls.
There is only the sound of something being thrown at the door and shattering. Eren makes up his mind, and enters.
Levi is crouched in a corner of the room, leg still tangled in one of his sheets. The sight makes Eren’s chest ache, and he approaches Levi warily. There is a glint of metal in his Captain’s hand - Levi is holding a knife, fingers clenched and trembling around the hilt.
'Captain,' he tries. Levi flinches, curling in upon himself. He's close now, right in front of Levi, not yet touching. Levi's skin, already pale, is drawn tight over his bones, shadows deep cuts under his eyes. Eren places an open palm on Levi's shoulder, bracing himself for impact.
In a whirl of grappling, Eren has been pushed down (despite his skill at hand-to-hand, he’s never beaten Levi more than a handful of times. To be fair, he isn’t trying very hard at this point, he doesn’t want to hurt Levi, not like this), Levi is leaning over him, snarling, a blade pressed hard against his throat.
Eren closes his hands over Levi’s, despite the movement causing the skin of his neck to break against the knife’s edge. “Levi, it’s me. It’s Eren,” he tries again, pitching his voice low, soothing. His thumb rubs absentminded circles on Levi’s wrist as he waits.
Slowly, Levi seems to come back to himself. He pulls away, looking horrified, looking down at Eren sprawled on the floor before him.
"Eren," he says, hoarsely.
Levi looks more shaken than Eren has ever seen him - and Eren can’t really formulate a reply before Levi is leaning down again, a deep furrow between his eyebrows.
"Fuck, I cut you. You okay?" he says, shaky.
Eren nods as he replies, moving to grip Levi’s forearm - whether to anchor himself or Levi, he doesn’t know - “It’ll heal soon, I’m okay.”
"Fuck, brat, don’t -"
"Don’t tell me to ignore you if I hear that the next time, Captain. You know there’s no way in hell I can do that. You know I won’t, Levi."
Levi grits his teeth in irritation, moving to stand. He pulls Eren up, and produces a damp cloth from somewhere to wipe at Eren’s mostly healed neck, tossing the knife aside in distaste. Eren watches as Levi sits heavily on his bed, palms dragging over his eyes in frustration and exhaustion.
"Does this happen often?" Eren asks softly.
Levi exhales, saying nothing. Eren takes that as a yes. He approaches Levi again, and Levi’s hands are still trembling. Without thinking, he takes one of Levi’s hands in his own, rubbing his palms over them to warm them - Levi stiffens, but allows the contact.
"Eren," Levi begins, but Eren cuts him off.
"I love you. You’ve got to know that. I don’t care, captain. Unless you say you never want to see my face again, I’m going to stay." He looks up at Levi, and his face is honest - as it always is - green eyes bright in the dim of Levi’s room, bright and serious and earnest, and Levi’s chest is aching - "Let me help."
I am old and broken and far too little for someone like you, Eren, he thinks but does not say, but somehow it looks like Eren understands anyways, looking like Levi in a way that makes him want to hide, to never look Eren in the eyes again, but Eren is moving again, drawing closer, and the boy is so warm -
The press of dry lips to his own is soft, but sure. When Eren pulls back, he looks calm, waiting for Levi to react. Levi exhales, shoulders slumping as he leans forward to rest his forehead against Eren’s, exhausted. His hands in Eren’s are warm now, so he moves to grip Eren’s shoulders, kunckles aching with the movement.
Eren moves with him, quietly observing him, allowing Levi to touch, fingertips dragging over Eren’s cheek, Eren’s ear, Eren’s neck - Eren, alive and whole like a miracle. The feel of his hair - now so long it was almost unfamiliar - is cool and smooth under the callouses of his fingers, and Eren’s eyes drift closed as Levi scrapes his fingers over his scalp.
"Levi," Eren whispers, eyes dark, hopeful.
A/N: Maybe I just need them to find solace in the end. Half a week till break, guys. ;A;