for the drabble prompt, since I'm a caffeine addict: Coffee?
Caffeine addicts unite! *highfive*
The sun hung low in the sky, swollen with the last rays of light that bathed Erwin’s office with warmth. There’s a comfortable silence between them, the room quiet save for the sounds of Erwin’s pen scratching, or the soft gurgle of tea that Levi pours for himself.
“Does this blend taste any better?” Erwin asks conversationally. He doesn’t look up, eyes still roaming the pages spread in front of him.
It was something of a tradition between them, that whenever Erwin had to travel into Sina without Levi, he would always bring back a little trinket, usually a small box of tea. No matter how busy he was in the city, or how long his trip was, he would always present Levi’s gift with a small smile.
Levi breathes in the woody scent, face warm from the steam.
“Not bad,” he murmurs, taking a sip. “I can taste the rose, but it’s not overpowering. Subtle.”
Erwin looks up at that, a smile curving his lips. “Tea always makes me think of you.”
Levi snorts. “Yeah, well, I do drink quite a bit of it.”
“You don’t ever get sick of the taste?”
Levi thinks. “No. Every blend is different. People think it’s just dead leaves, but each one has a subtle taste that’s a little different every time. Even the same tea from the same box tastes different with every cup.” He trails off, suddenly self-conscious. He hadn’t meant to ramble about tea like that, but the drowsy, slow pull of descending nightfall makes him relaxed. It doesn’t help that Erwin has put his pen down, gazing at him as if he’s the most fascinating thing he’s ever come across. Clearing his throat, Levi puts down his cup with a little more force than necessary. The clank of ceramic hitting ceramic is jarring in the quiet peace, and they both give a little jolt.
“I actually bought back something else from Sina this time,” Erwin says, standing. “Come take a look.”
Levi is already following him. In the cool pantry, Erwin pulls a crumpled brown bag from a shelf, the wrinkled paper marked with a stamp and hastily tied with string.
“The owners of the tea shop gave this to me for free when they learned I was the Commander of the Survey Corps,” Erwin chuckles, carefully unwrapping the package. “I told them it wasn’t necessary, but they insisted. I thought perhaps we could try it together.”
Levi eyes the tiny parcel, unimpressed. “If they’re going to give a gift, they could have given a bigger one, stingy bastards.”
Erwin laughs aloud at that, the sound rumbling deep from his chest. Levi hides a smile. It’s been a while since he had heard Erwin’s laugh.
“What is that?”
Erwin tips a handful of small, brown beans into Levi’s outstretched hand. They tumble, the dried, hard skin clicking against each other. Fragrance blooms: a rich, earthy scent.
“Fuck, is that coffee?” Levi inhales greedily, almost groaning at the scent. He’s had coffee before, but it was always delivered to the Corps in boxes of damp coffee grounds that tasted like dirt. This, however, was entirely different.
“Just enough for a cup or two,” Erwin smiles.
“I didn’t know it came from a bean,” Levi picks one up, testing it between his teeth. It’s like trying to nibble on a rock, and he drops it back into the pile. “How are we supposed to drink it?”
“We grind it,” Erwin explains. “Boil some water for me, please.” He starts rummaging through the shelves until he finds a strange contraption. It’s a small wooden box with a metal press and a handle. Levi doesn’t bother to ask where the fuck that came from. He’s more fascinated by the way Erwin drops the beans down into the box, and uses the handle to grind them down. It takes a few minutes, but they’re left with a soft brown powder that looks nothing like the dirt consistency of the coffee that Levi’s used to. He presses a finger against the powder, unable to resist. Erwin says nothing , allowing him to explore, even if it’s not the most hygienic thing.
Satisfied, Levi steps back and watches as Erwin puts the grounds into a tankard, slowly adding hot water over it. The rich aroma permeates the air, and Levi inhales again, mouth watering.
“In Sina, they use a special type of paper to filter the water from the coffee grounds,” Erwin explains. “I was going to use a piece of burlap instead, but I’m afraid that would ruin the taste.”
He’s so careful with the damn drink, using mesh to filter out the grounds before finally, finally, pouring out two cups. One is a little more full than the other, and Erwin pushes it towards him. “Have a taste.”
Levi waits until Erwin picks up his own cup before taking a sip. The taste is nothing like he’s ever had before: bitter and rich, earthy and savoury all at once. Erwin smiles at his reaction.
“Not bad, is it?”
“Fuck,” Levi croaks. “Almost as good as tea.”
“I think I’m more of a coffee person,” Erwin grins. “In Sina, they add sugar and boiled milk, but I like it the way it is.”
“Rich people are fucking weird,” Levi growls, almost offended at the very idea.
“Ah, well, the bitter taste isn’t for everyone,” Erwin shrugs. “I understand that.” His eyes unfocus for a moment, and Levi’s stomach twists.
“You know why I like tea?” He asks suddenly, as Erwin snaps his attention back to him. “You douse it in boiling water, and it forces the tea to give you everything until there’s no taste left. It’s just a pile of wet leaves and nothing more. But the tea gave me everything I wanted. And it’s not just a pile of wet leaves. No matter how short the time was, it made me happy, and I’m grateful for that.”
Levi inhales sharply, cheeks flushed. He’s not one for poetry, but the way Erwin stares at him, jaw slack and eyes wide, almost overcome, makes him think his words have made their way into his heart all the same.
It’s quiet for a moment, then Erwin says: “You know why I like coffee?”
Levi stares. Heart hammering.
“It’s small and dark and bitter,” Erwin laughs. “And people who don’t know how to appreciate it want to add to it, like sugar to make it sweet, and milk to make it mild. But actually, it’s fine the way it is. I like it just the way it is.”
There’s nothing but the sounds of their quiet sips in the half-dark, both hiding their smiles behind their cups. Like the day, their coffee is almost gone, just a couple of drops in the dregs of the cups, and pressed between the soft seam of their lips.
ok i know the prompt was coffee and half of this was tea but asdfghjkl; idk I hope you liked it! \o/