(also on ao3)
Levi’s phone pinged and he dug it out of his pocket, tapped at the notification and opened his email. It was an e-vite to Erwin’s birthday party. Hange already knew Levi was coming - he had helped them book the hotel for the occasion just a few days prior - but he supposed this was his official invitation. He replied with a Of course I’m coming, you shitstain, then scrolled to the bottom in search of the most important information.
What the fuck to take.
He had asked Hange to list some ideas so he could attempt to get a decent present for once - he was abysmal at gift giving, tending to go for things that were boring and practical over exciting and inventive.
Levi stopped scrolling when he saw “gift ideas” and pursed his lips in disappointment when he read the message:
Bring something nice! :)
How unspecific and unhelpful.
Levi sighed and put his phone away. He had a few weeks. That was plenty of time to think of something.
Not that he did.
The party was only a couple of hours away and Levi had nothing but a rising sense of urgency to find something, anything that could pass as an acceptable gift.
Think, you idiot, think, he reprimanded himself. What did Erwin like? Too much sugar in his tea. Those super fuzzy socks with rubber on the bottom to keep you from slipping on floors. Mike’s butt.
Levi sighed. If nothing else, he supposed he could get Erwin a gift card. He hated doing that, though. It felt like the easy way out, like he hadn’t put any thought into it. Which he hadn’t really, but he wanted to make it look like he did.
Eventually he pulled into the parking lot of Barnes and Nobles. Erwin liked books. Levi just had stumble upon one he didn’t happen to have yet, so he beelined for the table of new releases as soon as he walked in, thinking his best bet would be to get something from there. He picked up the one closest to him and skimmed the back. It sounded kind of boring to Levi, but maybe Erwin would like it? He put it back and picked up the one next to it, read the summary on this one as well. Or maybe this was good? He put it back down and went to the next one.
He repeated this until he had gone through every book, only realizing what he had done once he read a summary that sounded strangely familiar and noticed that it was the first book again.
“Fuck,” he whispered. He still didn’t know which one to choose.
“Sir? Can I…help you?” a voice asked.
Levi turned his head to find an employee - judging from the tacky green apron and nametag reading “Armin” - standing a few feet from him. He had blonde hair tied into a loose bun at the top of his head and two sky blue eyes framed by a pair of round reading glasses. He was taller than Levi - rarely was there a person who wasn’t - but not by much. Levi didn’t have to crane his neck to look at him anyway. He liked this guy already.
“I need a book,” Levi answered.
Armin chuckled. “Then I’m happy to tell you that you’re in the right place.”
Levi snorted. He had Levi there.
“Do you have a specific genre you’re looking for?”
Levi shrugged. Erwin read just about anything as far as he knew.
“Hm…” Armin circled the table, fingers tapping at his chin. “Try this one,” he said, holding up a paperback with a pair of white wings surrounded by barbed wire on the cover.
“Wings and war?” Levi asked as he read the title. He didn’t remember the summary for that one.
“It’s historical fiction based on events in the Great War and the use of homing pigeons. It’s cooler than it sounds,” he added when Levi gave him a skeptical look. “Oh! Like in one of the chapters–”
And he was off, talking rapidly, hands gesturing wildly as he spoke. Levi wasn’t really following what he was saying, too busy marveling at how Armin’s face lit up, his eyes shining with excitement. It was kind of endearing. Levi found himself wishing he could go back so he actually could listen.
Armin must have noticed Levi staring because he trailed off and cleared his throat.
“Sorry. I get carried away sometimes.”
“It’s fine. You made it sound good.”
Levi hummed. Armin’s enthusiasm was all the convincing he needed. Plus, now that he thought about it, Erwin was a history buff.
“Thanks.” Levi took the book, looked at it a few moments, then looked back at Armin. “Hey.”
“Do you…want to go to a party later?”
“A party?” Armin tilted his head.
“Yeah. For a friend’s birthday. The invitation said to bring something nice. You seem nice. And cute.”
The words had come out of his mouth before he had really thought about them, and Levi felt his face turn red. Fuck.
“Sorry,” Levi blurted quickly, shoving the book at Armin. He backpedaled and turned, practically running out of the store and across the parking lot to his car. He flopped into the driver’s seat and groaned, leaning forward and smacking his forehead on the steering wheel.
“Idiot,” he grumbled. “Well, I can never go back to that bookstore again.” And he had left before buying the book, so he was back to square one with Erwin’s gift.
It was not his day.
A knock at his window made him jump and Levi looked up to find Armin standing there. Levi rolled down his window.
“You forgot this.” Armin held up the book.
“You…bought it for me?”
“You really are nice. Thank you,” he said quietly, taking it from Armin’s hands.
“Pick me up at seven?”
“That’s when my shift ends. Or is that too late? For the party?”
Levi blinked at him in surprise. “…You want to go?”
“I do. That was one of the most embarrassingly sweet ways anyone has ever asked me out. How can I say no?”
Levi felt his face heat up again and he scowled. “I take it back, you’re not nice at all.”
Armin pushed out his bottom lip in an exaggerated frown.
“Still cute, though,” Levi mumbled.
“I’ll take it. So, seven?”
“Great. I’ll see you then…?”
Armin gave him a crooked smile. “I’ll see you then, Levi.”