At age five, the grocer’s wife cracked a stick over Levi’s knuckles when he reached for an apple. It took years for that ache to heal. At age twelve, he took that stick from her hands and broke every window pane in their storefront. At age seventeen he bought his first apple from the grocer himself. It was mealy and had spots, but it was his, he’d paid for it with his own money—sure it was dirty money, but still. At nineteen, he joined the Survey Corps and the rations were better than anything he’d ever tasted in the underground.
He never forgot Isabel’s face their first day training on mounts.
“They give the horses apples,” she whispered to Levi, face ashen.
“Only the rotten ones,” Dita said grinning, feeding a spotted apple to a mare and completely unaware of the horror in their expressions.
That was it. That was the moment he realized his life, Isabel’s, his mother’s…everyone in the Underground was worth less than beasts. Even the luxuries he was denied as a child were fed to the livestock as slop.
If he could have, Levi would have given Isabel apples every day. On his last ride outside the walls, they passed by an abandoned orchard. He snagged one for himself. The first bite was so crisp, the juice fell down his chin and onto his cravat. He’d frowned at that, but the taste was unbelievable, like nothing he’d ever experienced. It didn’t have the brine of walled life on it. It was unsullied and wild.
As a captain of the Survey Corps, he learned that he had to lead by example. He lived a spartan existence. The higher ups look for any reason to withhold funding. He kept his meals small, but proportional. He passed by stands of overpriced fruit in the market. He knew he could easily slip one into his pocket without the store owners seeing him—and if they did who would deny Humanity’s Strongest?—yet he kept walking. Tea was his only vice and now they were getting whole shipments for free from the Reeves Corporation thanks to his little side deal.
At a meeting with Zacklay and the other Commanders they offered him sugar for his tea. Typical Military Police gluttony. He declined the artfully shaped sugar cubes, instead taking his seat by Erwin in his usual show of silent support.
Eren sat in on the meeting, as the plans often included him or his abilities, but he had a hard time paying attention. He nodded his head and then jerked awake, wiping a spot of drool from his chin. He caught Levi looking and flushed in embarrassment. Levi turned his attention back to the meeting. When he next looked over at Eren, the bowl of sugar cubes was empty. Levi’s eyes trailed from the empty container to Eren’s face pointedly. Eren pretended to look outside at the birds. Levi glowered.
Levi waited until after the meeting to say something. He didn’t want the other Commanders to think he didn’t have complete control over his subordinate. It wouldn’t bode well for the Survey Corps or Eren’s life. Levi fell into step behind Eren as they made it to headquarters. Sensing his Captain behind him, Eren quickened his pace. Levi stepped around him, cutting off Eren’s path to escape.
Before Levi could utter a single word of admonishment, Eren pressed a sugar cube to his lips. Levi’s mouth closed around it. Eren kept his finger there, his lips hovering over Levi’s own. Levi could feel Eren’s panting breath against him, hesitant and unsure of what to do next. His thumb brushed against each little grain of sugar still left on Levi’s parted mouth, index finger caught under Levi’s chin.
And just like that, he was gone. Eren staggered back, shoulders tight, face pinched, his entire body preparing for Levi to chastise or punish him. Taking advantage of Levi’s shock, he ran down the hallway in the opposite direction.
Levi stood there, tongue rolling over the treat, looking out at the sunny day.
“Huh,” he said to himself.
That day Levi bought a whole bushel of apples for the kids at the orphanage.