Eren Jeager steps onto the brig of Her Majesty’s Airship the Maria Vega, absentmindedly wiping the grease from his cheek, before snapping to attention as he registers Levi looking at him, expression unimpressed, a thin eyebrow lifted every so slightly.
“Captain Levi,” he greets, swallowing nervously. The captain looks annoyed, and Eren doesn’t want to be saddled with extra cleaning duty (again).
“Jeager,” Captain Levi approaches him, boots clicking on the immaculate floor. The Maria was the cleanest ship amongst the Corps, Eren knows this.
“Who gave you clearance to run drills for offensive maneuvers?” Levi asks.
“It’s been slow today, sir, and Ral said it would be alright, surely, if we practiced just a little,” Eren begins, wondering if he’d get Petra in trouble for this.
Levi sighs, exasperated, and Eren thinks he can hear Levi muttering under his breath about speaking to Petra.
“I’m sure you know that our squad’s being scrutinised a lot more thanks to the higher ups watching you, Jeager. Don’t give them an excuse to come investigate; we have better things to do. If you want to practice, get clearance from me first, understood?”
Eren snaps a salute, tentatively relieved that he didn’t seem to be in too much trouble.
“And you’re on kitchen duty, today, too,” the Captain adds.
So much for getting off scot-free, Eren thinks to himself, before catching himself and nodding obediently, before asking, “Is there anything you’d like to have, sir?” knowing that out of the entire squad, Eren’s cooking is considered a treat. (Hanji had been on duty for the past week, after all.)
Levi narrows his eyes at him, and Eren can see him deciding if that small amount of insubordination is worth the effort of reprimanding him again.
“Watch it, Jeager, or I’ll put you on cleaning duty as well,” Levi growls, and the sound does something strange to Eren’s gut, and he tenses, slightly, as his Captain leans into his personal space.
“How long did it take you to perform the drills, earlier, Eren?” Levi asks, nonchalant and soft, and the use of his name sends his pulse up, almost like he was in the cockpit again. Eren swears that he can feel Levi’s breath against him - he’s so close - and stammers, “Just under three minutes per set, Captain.”
This close, Eren can see the shift in Levi’s expression – Levi’s impressed, just slightly.
“Not bad,” Levi says, and the bloom of warmth in his chest that always accompanies his Captain’s praise makes Eren flush.
“Take it down to two and a half minutes and we’ll make a pilot out of you yet,” Levi says, and Eren sputters, because Levi knows he’s that he’s the only one so far who has managed that time - they don’t call him Humanity’s strongest for nothing - and Eren cannot tell if Levi was joking or actually holding Eren to his own standard, and if he was Eren cannot possibly contain his happiness at the thought that Levi might think him capable -
His ears are beet red now, he’s sure, and Levi looks pleased, a curl to his thin lips that has Eren swallowing around a suddenly dry throat. Levi’s looking at him, appraising his flush, eyebrow rising slightly as he makes sense of the tense set of Eren’s shoulders. He lifts a palm up, swiping at the grease on Eren’s cheek, and Eren stops breathing altogether. Levi looks at the grease on his fingers, and then back up at Eren.
“You’re dismissed, Eren. You should clean up before you head to the kitchens.”
Eren somehow manages to salute once more, and flees the brig, face burning where Levi had touched.