Chapter VIII. II.
Chapter 1- 2- 3- 4- 5- 6- 7-8
link to AO3
The stars look far away.
Levi stares at the night sky. All vast, infinite, and black and he thinks about how lonely the moon is. The bottle in his hand is almost empty yet it feels heavy, nearly halfway to slipping away between his weak fingers. He holds onto it anyway. It is the one and only solid thing he feels at the moment. The sole thing that feels real, tangible. Under midnight, with the lone company of the moonlight, it is so easy to dream of oblivion. It is so easy to wish to vanish, to just not be anymore. If only there was a way, if only he could turn into dust and join the stars above, he would do it without a second thought.
He wonders if his mother can see him now from wherever she is up there and what she would think of him if she could. Disappointment, possibly. Hurt. He is a failure from head to toe. There is only one thing that he is absurdly good at and that is letting the people he loves down.
“Sorry mom,” he whispers to the night with a sliver of hope that maybe she can hear him and see how regretful he is for not trying harder. “I couldn’t save you.”
It’s still so hard to accept. Thinking about his mother now is like parting the ground in half with his own bare hands. Only the ground is his heart, and it feels like it is being ripped apart. But he hasn’t shed a single tear since the funeral. He knows he should possibly scream, cry or maybe punch something around him. Just to let it out so that it wouldn’t kill him from inside out slowly like a deadly poison.
Rather, Levi brings the bottle up to his mouth to drink the last remnants of the bitter liquid. It fills his mouth briefly before rolling down his throat. He stares at the empty thing then, his drunk gaze barely focusing on the letters written on its vitreous surface. He barely stands on his two feet. Everything around is blurry. Getting drunk on the edge of a roof was not the best idea, probably. Yet the cold glass he grips has been the mere thing that is close to a friend in these last few weeks. And the roof is the one thing that he feels close to home. It is familiar but in the most foreign way. It has the warmth of a living room when there is a blizzard outside. All he can feel right now though is the bitter cold.
It is a difficult task not to think about her now. On top of this building when he is alone with the night when he tries to forget about his loss, he remembers her. Her laughter and bright eyes, her wit and her foolishness, her voice and her existence. He thinks he needs them more than ever. To have her here with him now. The time had cruelly erased the sounds from his mind. No matter how hard he had tried to keep them by his side, treasure them in his heart and mind, he had given in to the passing years at last. Let them carry away the sound of laughter that felt like the only thing his soul needed. Now he is greedy, desperate to hear it one more time. Maybe one last time. He doesn’t deserve it; he knows but if only—
He stills, fingers wrapping around the head of the bottle tightly. His body instinctively gravitates to the owner of the voice. His eyes nearly take the shape of the full moon when he turns his head to the side, his mind in a drunken haze, and he cannot believe, he cannot even fathom that what he has just heard was real. Because no amount of lost time or countless distance would be enough for him to not recognize who that voice belonged to.
“Hanji?” he whispers to himself, dumbfounded.
The bottle slips down from between his fingers and shatters to pieces on the ground. He stares at the broken pieces with shocked eyes, his heart pounds like a newly cut wound. It can’t be.
It can’t. Of course. He is drunk as hell. Levi blinks his eyes rapidly, and among the thick mist in his mind, he somehow founds the will to chuckle. A dry, humorless sound. “Fucking great,” he murmurs. “I am seeing things.”
“Levi!” The imaginary voice calls him again. This time he looks up just in time to see the dream Hanji standing in front of him. She looks painfully real, and different too from the last time he had seen her. Taller, somehow, and a little skinnier. She has grown up too. Levi hasn’t realized his dreams catching up with the present. He had always dreamed of her in her teenage years. Young, alive and bright. Now her eyes stare at him with apprehension, brows furrowed and a pair of oval glasses slipping down her nose. Hair a wild mess but even so she is beautiful. Cruelly beautiful.
“What the hell are you doing here?” The imaginary Hanji chides him. She is mad at him for some reason. For some reason? She had every right to be mad at him. Apparently, he manages to sadden her even in his dreams. “Are you out of your mind?”
Levi blinks. He is drunk. Incredibly so. And he is in no mood for the mind games his subconscious obviously takes great joy in playing with him. “Clearly, I am,” he murmurs. The dream Hanji looks even more pissed at his comment. She purses her lips for a second and Levi finds himself staring at them as if he is hypnotized. Even though he knows she is not real he barely holds himself back from reaching out to touch her face. To trace the lines of her lips, her eyes, and her cheek. To touch the soft hair adorning her face, to press his lips—
“Levi,” the dream talks again. This time the tone of her voice is different. It’s softer, quieter, and tender. As if she is afraid to cross a line. As if she is afraid to press on a deep, fresh wound.
Which is absurd. Because she is just a dream and dreams don’t think. They are not real. So is she.
The imaginary Hanji takes a step forward and he sees her eyes alight with tears. They search his eyes and the look in them is almost pleading like she is trying to reach out to him, to find him wherever he has hidden behind the walls of his heart. “I’m here.”
His lips tremble and he struggles hard to not avert his eyes from hers. Even though he knows he will look like he has gone mad talking to someone who isn’t actually here he answers regardless, “Hanji wouldn’t be here,” he says, determined.
“Why?” the dream asks, confused.
Eventually, he looks away, his eyes focus on the edge of the roof, and traces the lines of a puddle on the corner. It reflects the starry night, the moon shines on its surface, and Levi’s heart shivers when his next words leave his mouth, “Because she hates me.”
The imaginary Hanji is silent for a terrifyingly long moment, and he cannot bring himself to turn back to her eyes just to see the hurt and anger he is sure are hidden in them. His mind loves to torture him even in his dreams. This wouldn’t be the first time he faced those emotions.
After a considerably quiet moment, the dream Hanji asks, “Why do you think so?”
Levi swallows. He is sure his mind knows the answer, yet it wouldn’t let go of him that easily. He listens to a plane landing, making a howling sound, cutting the silence. And then he moves his eyes up to the moon. It is a perfect circle and so bright. He thinks about all the secrets it had witnessed them giving to each other during those years they spent with its company. And how it was the onlooker of each drop of tear he had shed on this rooftop. All alone. Desperate. And hurt. “Because I broke her heart,” he whispers.
A sharp breath leaves the mouth of his very vivid dream. This is it now, he thinks. She must be gone. He is still drunk. The alcohol runs through his veins, and it makes him unstable. It is not healthy he knows. His mother constantly chided him for giving up to the brief oblivion it provides. But she is not here anymore, is she? Just like Hanji. They both were the only things he had valued with everything he got and lost painfully.
He decides he wants to look at her one last time before she disappears. Who knows when he will see a dream which feels as realistic as this one? He wants to make the best of it. Wants to engrave each and every detail of her face in his mind just so it will be impossible for it to ever disappear from his memory.
Just when he moves his eyes back on her, he sees a drop of tear sliding down her cheek. “And I broke yours,” she whispers.
He hates to see her cry; he thinks knitting his brows and he almost almost reaches out to wipe the tear away from her cheek.
But before he can do so he feels cold, soft hands cupping his face, and warm breath touches his face. And he freezes, eyes widening and mouth agape. A dream shouldn’t feel this real, this solid. A dream shouldn’t make his breath hitch and his heart skip a beat. A dream shouldn’t be able to hold him like this.
Unless it is not a dream. Not a product of his drunk and mourning brain. But reality. Actual, palpable reality. “How?..” He says, bewildered. “Hanji…”
A sound between a sob and laughter escapes her mouth. “And you call me an idiot.” Her thumb traces his cheeks, wiping away the tears he hasn’t even realized fall from his eyes. “I’m here.”
“But why?” He asks again. Insistent. Because he is curious. He wants to know why after everything he has done, she has come here to find him in a place he has specifically made for himself just so nobody could.
She looks at him with wet and sorrowful eyes. The hazel-brown shade of them is so familiar it makes his stomach burn with longing and with the ashes of a love he had been hiding in his heart like a valuable mine. “Because you are still my best friend,” she says quietly and with tears shining bright on her face.
And somehow it is enough for his drunk brain cells to finally accept the fact that she is here with him for real. That the hands holding his face and the eyes searching his are not a dream. That she is not a dream, and he hasn’t yet crossed the line of sanity.
Blindly, his hands find her waist, circling around her to bring her body flush against his. He buries his nose in her neck, breathing in the scent of her he has been yearning to feel again for years. His eyes close and his arms tighten to hold her impossibly closer. Hanji’s arms wrap around his neck and her fingers run through his hair and his undercut.
Maybe it is her presence, her solid warmth that in the end encourages him to speak out the words of truth he has been trying to ignore for days. There is no one else he can open his heart so blatantly to, without worry and without any fear. She is the only one who can kneel with him to pick up the millions of pieces of his soul that are scattered apart. And now she is right here, between his arms, just where he needs her.
“I lost my mom, Hanji,” he whispers against her neck, throat tight with sobs that are ready to leave his lips at any second. The tears he has been holding so stubbornly now wait on the edge, threatening to fall down.
“I know,” she says, and he feels her lips pressing hot kisses on his neck, and her tears leave wet traces on his skin. “I’m so sorry, Levi. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” She repeats it like a mantra, like the more she says it the more she can take away from his pain.
His body is trembling as a result of how hard he is fighting against his tears and to not just give in and let go of everything that had been building out over and over in his heart like a skyscraper. His nails dig into her raincoat, and his teeth are pressed so tight it is nearly painful.
Hanji picks out the shivering that is shaking his whole body. And of course, she understands and sees the reason behind it. “Let it go,” she tells into his ear. Her voice is soothing, familiar like a spring breeze on his skin. “Let it go, Levi. I’m here. I’m here. You’re not alone.”
And as if he has been waiting to hear those words, let go he does. After a long, fierce battle he comes out bloody and wounded but rises the white flag all the same. Eventually, the sobs leave his mouth one by one, tears fall down like a waterfall and the mere thing that keeps him above the surface is her touch and her warmth. And as he wets her shoulder with his tears, as his whole body jerks with the force of his sobs she holds him throughout it all, whispering into his ear, her fingers caressing his skin.
And he prays, maybe for the first time since his mother passed away that if this moment is a dream, then please God don’t make me wake up.
Hanji stands quietly behind Levi as he very much struggles, given how drunk he is, to open the door to his apartment with his keys. Silent curses leave his mouth as harsh whispers and Hanji purses her lips to hide the smile that quite obviously wants to shape on her lips.
He hasn’t changed a bit.
They had taken a taxi ride to his home. She had learned from Kenny that he lived alone. Though not very far from his mother and Kenny he had an apartment a little away from the city center. They hadn’t talked much during the ride. But she had felt Levi’s gaze on her until the car had stopped to signal their arrival.
It still feels like a dream. Him being in front of her now. He has grown up a lot as expected. His shoulders are wider, and he is a little bit taller, the lines of his face are sharper. His hair is still the same though. Straight black with an undercut. It looks smooth and clean. His overall appearance is clean. Very much like him. Very much like the Levi she has known.
Finally, after a lot of hard work, Levi manages to open the door. He pushes it open and gestures with his arm for her to step inside. His eyes watch her every move intently.
Hanji smiles and enters his house with her heart beating loudly. It is dark before Levi follows her behind and closes the door and he switches the lights on. She is nervous. Completely opposite of how she felt when they were together while they were young. It is different now. She is aware of his very presence; of every breath he inhales and every sound he makes. On the one hand, it is normal considering that it had been eight years since they last saw each other. On the other hand, though…
“Would you like something to drink?”
Hanji winces, quite visibly, and stares at him with wide eyes. Too nervous. “Uhm…”
“Not anything that includes alcohol,” Levi adds, his eyes are a pretty shade of blue under the yellow light of the hall and they are slightly red around. But he has that same sharp gaze. Intense, even though they are merely talking about what they should drink. Somehow, it causes goosebumps on her skin. “I am still a little drunk.”
Hanji snorts, just to gain a little more confidence, and maybe relax a bit. “That was a big ass bottle, Levi.”
“It’s barely enough,” he says grimly, then sighs, “I do need to sober up tough.”
Hanji pushes her glasses up her nose and nods. Together they walk towards the kitchen. Levi’s steps are calculated like he might trip down any second. No wonder he had thought she wasn’t real with that amount of alcohol he had consumed.
The kitchen is big and wide and the cupboards are white. There is a kitchen island in the middle with chairs lined around. While Levi fills the kettle with water Hanji travels her hand on the cold surface of the island just to have something to do other than thinking about the way he held her, the way he stared at her, and the way he looked like when he said, “Because I broke her heart.”
It pains her even to think of. He had spent years thinking that she might hate him when in reality all she had felt was confusion and unresolved curiosity as to why he had chosen to be alone like that.
And how he had cried in her arms afterward like each drop of tear took away a part of his heart. It had taken minutes for his sobs to subdue and tears to dry. Hanji couldn’t even think of how long he had been hiding them inside, keeping them behind a barricade that was inevitably bound to break at some point.
The sound of the kettle boiling disperses her thoughts. “So, what do you do?” He asks, his back facing her as he takes two teacups out from a drawer. Small talk with Levi as if they are two strangers feels awkward and a little bit painful, but Hanji goes along with it. That’s what they need now. A fresh start.
“I am working as a space scientist,” she says, sitting on one of the chairs. “In Jeager Space Administration.”
Levi throws her a brief look from above his shoulder. There is a small smile on his lips which makes her heart flutter. He turns back to his work of placing two tea bags inside the cups. And although she cannot see his face now, she can hear the pride in his voice when he says, softly, “That’s my Hanji.”
The sound of her heartbeats reverberates in her ears, her lips open and close with no words leaving her mouth and she finds herself dumbfounded, staring at his back. My Hanji.
She shakes her head as if to clear the fog his words created in her head. “What about you?” she directs the question back at him, clearing her throat. “You’re an aerospace engineer, right?”
“Yeah,” he answers as he fills the cups with boiling water. “I am working at a small company. Nothing worth mentioning. It’s totally not as fancy as yours.”
Hanji chuckles and rests her cheek on her palm after placing her elbow on the kitchen island. She is fully aware of the fact that they are beating around the bush, ignoring the actual matters that they should be talking about completely. Like how, despite everything he had told her that day they were moving away, he had become an aerospace engineer still. Following the dream that they had set for themselves to work side by side, to be together no matter what. Knowing that the last part of that dream never came true was heartbreaking.
And Kuchel. Hanji can feel the matter hanging in the air, heavily between them. Though neither of them makes a move to say a word about it. It is not that difficult to see the dark brushes of grief on his face. It is all over his body. Settled on his shoulders like a dead weight.
Unaware of what’s going on inside her head, Levi walks towards her, bringing two cups of tea to the island, the hot stream rises from their surface, and they have a nice, soothing smell. He places them on the island, then straightens up but just when he is about to walk around her to get to the other side, he stumbles on his feet, and with a startled huff he loses his balance.
Hanji doesn’t even realize what she is doing until they become face to face with bewildered eyes and her fingers are grabbing his upper arms. He feels solid underneath her hands. And warmth radiates through the fabric of his white shirt. Her fingers don’t even wrap fully around his arms. They merely hold a part of them which is quite weird because how the hell had he become so big?
“Have you been working out?” she blurts like the bewildered fool that she is. Immediately her cheeks heat up and she bites her tongue inside.
An almost smug grin lifts one corner of his lips. “Every now and then.”
“Good,” she comments. “For your health, I mean.”
“Mmm,” he murmurs, still playful smile hanging on his mouth. But then his eyes leave hers to travel around her face, past her cheekbones, and her nose, and they stay fixated on her lips.
Her breath is stuck somewhere in her throat and Hanji cannot stop her eyes from taking the same route. Following his dark eyelashes, the circles underneath his eyes which are the remainder of his sleepless nights, his little, perfect nose, and the barely visible shadow of a beard around his jaw.
And then finally his lips.
She feels her fingers tighten around his biceps uncontrollably. This isn’t what she thought would happen when she saw Levi again for the first time after all these years. Love had been an innocent, fragile thing while they were merely teenagers. And she had been so busy trying to ignore her feelings and accept the fact that they would never be requited she hadn’t paid enough attention to anything that was simply physical. She had been in love with his mind and the kindness he kept hidden in himself. Everything aside, it had been years. She must’ve buried all those emotions by now. She had thought she had. Yet, now they sprout again, emerging through what must have been the gravestone of her feelings. And it is different now, poisonous even, given how it affects her at the moment as if she had drunk it straight from a bottle.
Somehow, that poison must have paralyzed her for she cannot look away from the way his lips move when he talks, “I should probably take a shower.”
The way her heart pounds is nearly painful. She finally manages to rip her eyes away from his mouth to carry them up to his eyes. She blinks. “Okay.”
Now under the white, fluorescent lights, his eyes are somehow darker, and they seem to be losing focus from time to time. And as seconds thick by but he doesn’t move, gradually they fill with much sorrow and undeniable longing. She can feel her own eyes reflecting the same emotions. They had a lot to talk about. So many things to unravel. Countless misunderstandings to fix.
His eyes soften and a little smile flutters on his lips. And just like old times, Hanji doesn’t get surprised when he says, as if he has read her mind, “We have much to talk about, don’t we?”
Somehow, that single question finally makes her relax. She can feel the tension on her shoulders at ease, and she displays a smile mirroring his. “Yeah.”
His smile vaguely widens then eventually he straightens up and Hanji’s hands fall on her lap. He doesn’t instantly leave. Instead, he holds up his hand and his thumb brushes her chin, caressing it with a featherlight touch. Yet it is enough to send a rush of goosebumps along her body. “Drink your tea,” he says unaware of what his little gesture caused. “I’ll be right back.”
Hanji has been watching the flickering city lights from behind the large window in Levi’s living room when he finds her. She sees his reflection on the glass first, resting against the door frame with a towel around his neck and wet hair combed back. He watches her for a while as if he cannot believe that she is actually there.
Then he comes to stand next to her. His shampoo spreads a sharp, fresh smell like that of peppermint. His eyes are thoughtful as they observe the past-midnight view outside.
“Pretty view you have here,” Hanji says as partly an attempt to break the silence and make the atmosphere less awkward and more familiar.
Levi shrugs as if it’s no big deal. He looks at her then, his eyes take in the frame of her face. Examining her features. “I think I do,” he responds.
Something in the way he has said those words makes her cheeks go aflame, “You’ve changed,” she remarks getting more and more aware of that fact. Change has been of course inevitable and while in some aspects he is still the same in some he is clearly different. He is more somber, thoughtful, and calmer.
He looks away, giving her a clear view of the self-evident sorrow on his face. “I’ve lost a lot.”
Her throat tightens, “I’m so sorry,” she whispers. “Levi—”
“How did you know?” he cuts, and he sounds curious like he has been meaning to ask the question since the moment he saw her tonight.
“Kenny called me,” Hanji answers, slightly taken aback by his abrupt question. “He was really worried about you.”
Hanji had texted Kenny to let him know that she had found Levi while Levi was taking a shower. Kenny had replied with lots of colourful swear words and a thank you in return.
A muscle moves on Levi’s jaw upon hearing his uncle’s name and Hanji remembers her conversation with Kenny this morning. He must be still mad at him she thinks but his anger doesn’t seem to have been directed towards only one person. She has a feeling that he is angry with himself the most.
Then she adds, quietly, “I was too.”
But too late. She can clearly see the moment he builds his walls and surrounds himself with them. “I’m alright,” he says turning around and walking towards the L-shaped sofa in the corner of the room.
Hanji follows him as he sits down. “You don’t look alright,” she comments.
He runs a hand through his half-soaked hair and throws the towel wrapped around his neck on top of the back of the sofa. “Wonder why,” he murmurs.
“Don’t be sarcastic.” It’s his trait, his way to cope with things she knows. But if he is sarcastic then she is stubborn and she won’t let him get away easily.
Levi looks up at her from where he sits, and she sees the thing she fears the most in his eyes, coldness.
“Why?” he asks, “What are you going to do about it?” And Hanji knows. She feels the sharp edges of the knife right on her ribcage before she even sees it. “Leave me again?”
Her body freezes, motionless as a statue and she cannot even talk for several seconds. Her remorse and pain resurface, rises like a hurricane, and almost drown her with its crashing waves. “Don’t,” she manages to say.
“Why not?” he stands up and takes a careful step towards her. “Isn’t that the truth, Hanji?”
Hanji knows he is in pain, a pain she cannot even imagine. And she is aware that he has the right to be mad at her, to yell and demand answers. As much as she does. He had accepted her decision then. Never once questioned it after she left. Now it is time to pay back. Both for her and him.
Nevertheless, his cruelty is what she cannot bring herself to accept. This isn’t a fair game though and being brutal isn’t an option but a necessity. So, she plays her own card. “You left me too.”
Her remark sparks something in his eyes. They flicker as if he is holding himself back from displaying whatever he feels inside. He keeps the walls safely around him though, doesn’t let her even touch their surface. And Hanji thinks there are only a few other things more painful than watching one person you know heart and soul now becoming a stranger. The person who once had been a book the pages of which she had known by heart now standing right in front of her having ripped all those pages and burned them to ashes.
“I had to,” he answers shortly as if that explains everything.
But she won’t hold back now. If he demands answers so does she. “I would’ve come with you,” she says, voice roughly trembling. “You know I would.”
“You didn’t even want to talk to me—”
“Because I was stupid!” She burst, causing his eyes to slightly widen with bewilderment upon her outburst. “I was in pain, and I didn’t know what else to do with it! But I would still come with you if you asked me for it, Levi. You know damn well I would.”
“So what?” he retorts, finally he lets the flames of his anger lighten his eyes. “What if you came with me? I didn’t even know what kind of hell I was walking into. My mother was sick, I was moving away to somewhere I didn’t know shit about, and we didn’t have enough money to fucking live properly. I barely managed to finish the first year of university because my idiot of an uncle lost all the money we had.”
His breaths are fast, his chest moving up and down quickly as if he had run a marathon. Hanji merely watches, unable to do anything else. No matter how much she wants to reach out to hold him for all the years he had to live alone and all the suffering he had to carry on his own.
“You didn’t have to face all that alone,” Hanji tells him, she feels her anger dissipate and she waits for him to calm down.
And he does, merely seconds after like he doesn’t even have the energy to yell, to be mad, or to feel anything anymore. “It was goddamn hell, Hanji,” he adds, now calmer. As if he is exhausted. “How would I have let you go through it as well?”
It hurts her to know that she had been the reason why he had made that choice. “That’s why you never picked up when I called?” she asks her heart tightening with sorrow. “The reason why you never talked to me?”
He nods, his eyes looking everywhere else but her. “I wanted you to hate me,” he says honestly. “I thought it would make it easier for you to go on with your life. Without me…”
“It wasn’t easier,” she completes his sentence. “You know how important you were to me. I was angry but I never hated you.” She takes a step closer to him, eyes searching his face. They burned and her vision blurred. “I wouldn’t care you know,” she whispers, and she doesn’t feel even a moment of hesitation while uttering her next words, “Going through hell with you.”
“I know.” He closes his eyes and a second later when he opens them, he looks at her with such candidness that it takes her breath away. “But you don’t understand Hanji,” he says, and the way he stares into her eyes and the emotions floating on their surface captures her soul like a tornado. “I was in love with you.”
Time slows down around her; air gets thick and the mere thing she sees is the blue of his eyes. The colour of the moon. Hanji thinks of that boy who watches the stars, and she feels like that girl on the rooftop again. A child and ecstatic, unaware. A teenager and heartbroken, in love. Hanji had always thought it was the rooftop that made feel her closer to the sky. But it wasn’t the rooftop that lifted her up to touch the stars.
It was him.
“You loved me?” She asks, silently, bewildered, dizzy, and without even waiting for an answer.
“I was going to tell you,” he continues as if what he has just said hasn’t turned her entire world upside down. “Remember the day I called you and told you that I had something to tell you? It was that. I was going to tell you that I loved you. I didn’t even care what would happen after. I was ready to take the risk but then…”
He sighs and closes his eyes, but Hanji understands. “You learned your mother was sick,” she completes instead of him, a few drops of tears have already wetted her face.
Levi nods. “I had to leave you, Hanji,” he stares into her eyes as if he is begging her to understand. “It was the only way to keep you safe, to make sure you fulfilled your dreams, to know that you were happy. Away from me,” he releases a shaky breath. “I was a fucking mess. Believe me, you were better off without me.”
Hanji shakes her head, “You shouldn’t have faced all of that alone.”
“I managed,” he says. Barely is what is hidden behind his words.
Hanji wipes her cheeks and decides that it was only fair if she laid all her cards on the table. “I was selfish.”
Levi looks at her curiously, “What?”
“I left you because I didn’t—couldn’t bare seeing you with her.” She averts her eyes to the painting on the wall behind Levi. “I should’ve been happy for you as your best friend. But I—the more I tried to come to terms with it the more I realized that it was eating me alive like a worm. Bit by bit.”
“So, I broke our friendship before I made something stupid to make it even worse,” she carries her eyes back at him to see his somewhat shocked expression. “It was way too late when I realized that I had fallen for you already. But I chose to run away from that feeling rather than facing it.”
Levi stares at her with astonishment for a handful of moments and then he says, “And you were supposed to be the genius.”
Upon his obviously unexpected reaction, it takes Hanji a while to respond, “I am the genius!”
“Clearly you’re not emotionally intelligent.”
“You’re the one to talk!”
“I bet you didn’t figure it out yourself,” Levi challenges. “Who told you that you loved me?”
Hanji hesitates before answering, cursing at the way he can still see through her. “Erwin,” she says timidly.
“Glad to know you two gossiped about me,” he says, smugly.
“What about you?” Hanji asks, crossing her arms.
“Who told you? You couldn’t have possibly found it out yourself either. You are not so good with feelings, are you?”
Levi glares at her before answering, so quietly that she barely catches it. “Petra.”
“Hah!” Hanji exclaims throwing her hands in the air. Unbelievable. “Congrats, we are both the fools of the century.”
“We are soulmates for a reason,” Levi says, and once again the mood instantly changes.
Up to this point they both had talked in the past tense. Hanji is perfectly aware that there is no guarantee they are holding the same feelings now. Life is like a constantly moving train. It never stops to wait for passengers. It merely comes to a brief halt only to pick up, bitter or sweet, all memories and nothing else. It collects all the laughter and pain, tears and merriness then it leaves, moves so swiftly the eye fails to catch even its silhouette. o
But, Hanji thinks, being someone’s soulmate is something the passing years cannot wither, cannot erase. Whether something like it exists or not. Hanji is sure some way or another other their souls are connected.
No one in this world can understand her better than him.
And as such, she is certain that throughout all those years she never once stopped loving him.
“Sorry,” Levi says, probably having misunderstood her silence. “Was that—”
“Why did you study aerospace engineering, Levi?” Hanji drops the question finally. It had been demanding an answer for years for it was in contradiction with what he had told her the day he left.
They weren’t our dreams, Hanji. They were yours.
Hard she tried, she could’ve never forgotten those words. They had hurt her more than anything. The two had grown up building their future with their bare hands, piece by piece. And that day he had stepped on it as if it meant nothing to him.
For a second she is able to see the regret in his eyes and she knows he understood the reason why she asked this question. And it doesn’t take him long to answer it.
“Because it was our dream.”
Taking off her glasses Hanji presses the palms of her hands on her eyes because at this point there is no way to stop the tears from flowing furiously. She barely manages to prevent her sobs to shake her shoulders by pursing her lips. It feels like an overflow for everything she had buried until now. For the lonely nights, she had spent on the rooftop without him as the cold wind pierced her clothes and she had thought that the stars meant nothing. For the days she had walked past his empty house staring at the naked windows and praying for the door to be open and be welcomed with the smell of newly baked apple tart and warmth. For the sleepless nights, she lay on the floor of the attic, staring up at the navy blanket with tears running down the sides of her face and wishing to hear his voice once again. To have him right beside her. To laugh with him one more time. And for the times she sobbed hugging her mother’s chest as her fingers ran softly through her hair, “I miss him, mom. I miss him so much.”
For Kuchel. And for the fact that she will never have the chance to see her smile again.
And for Levi who has lost his mother, who has had to carry all the burden by himself because he loved her, and he loved his mother. Because he is selfless and the strongest person she had ever known.
“I’m sorry,” Levi whispers. “I don’t know if it means anything though for it,” he pauses, and Hanji waits for him to continue while her ragged breaths leave her mouth. “if I had to do it again, I would. Without hesitation. But Hanji… wouldn’t you do the same?”
For some reason that makes her cry even harder, and she no longer tries to subdue her sobs from jerking her whole body. She is somehow able to nod because he is right. She would do anything to protect him.
Then she feels his presence right in front of her and his fingers grab her wrists. Hanji lets him pull her hands down but she is unable to meet his gaze as his fingers caress her skin softly and she is certain that there will never come a time when he will feel like a stranger to her. It is not possible given the fact that she knows him with every fiber of her body.
And then he hugs her gently, holds her carefully and tenderly. Completely opposite to the way he had held her earlier on the rooftop. Hanji presses her forehead on his shoulder, and her fingers grab his t-shirt weakly. And as he leaves a kiss on her hair as light as a butterfly, she wishes she hadn’t waited so long for this moment to come.
“I’m sorry, Levi,” she gives him her very late apology. “I really am.”
“It’s alright. Don’t think about it now,” Levi whispers, his fingers running through her hair. “Let’s get some sleep. You must be tired.”
We both are, Hanji wants to say but only approves with her head and lets Levi direct her out of the living room.
Hanji changes her clothes with the ones Levi had given to her inside the bathroom. Meanwhile, she washes her face and wets her neck. Though the redness around her eyes is still clearly visible. She places her glasses on top of her nose and reties her hair before leaving the bathroom.
Levi is pulling the blanket of the twin bed down when she enters the bedroom. His room, as expected, is extremely tidy. There is nothing out of place or looks like a surfeit. He has a little library right next to the window and she can pick out the familiar backs of certain books she had read. And as she walks closer to it, she sees the copy of Macbeth, the one she had given to him on his birthday, on one of the shelves. A smile blooms on her face as if she had come across an old friend and she is about to reach out and take it in her hand when Levi calls her.
“You can sleep here,” he says, and Hanji turns around to see him pointing to the bed with his hand. “The sheets are clean.”
Her smile widens and Hanji walks closer to the bed and sits down, breathing in the fresh smell of the cotton sheets. She had never really realized how exhausted she actually had been for the last couple of days. No matter the fact that she had slept at Eren’s house and eaten a little before leaving to find Levi. She hadn’t been able to rest with a clear mind.
“I never doubted you, you know, clean freak.”
When he hears the old nickname, his eyes round slightly with surprise, and a pause after, a smile adorns his lips, and Hanji smirks. “That’s because you have no standard when it comes to hygiene, four-eyes.”
Hanji gasps, obviously fake. “How dare you!” But then she starts to giggle, feeling lightened for the first time in years. “You’re right though.”
Levi snorts. “Of course, I am.”
It’s been a long time, yet Hanji still remembers. Silence with Levi had never been something strange or uncomfortable. They, mostly her, one way or the other found a topic to talk about. However, at the moment as silence settled over, she feels awkward and doesn’t know what to say or what to do.
“Goodnight then,” Levi says eventually. And then turns around to leave the room.
That, in the end, is what prompts her. “Where are you going?” she sounds a little panicked because well she kind of is.
He stops and faces her, raising a brow. “To the living room.”
Hanji pauses. Well, naturally, that is the logical thing to do. “But…”
“It’s alright,” Levi interrupts. “I barely sleep on the bed anyway.”
For some reason that makes her feel even worse. “Don’t go.”
His shoulders tense, surprise paints his face and he seems ready to reject her. “Hanji—”
“You can sleep on the floor,” she suggests reminiscing about the old days.
“How is that better than sleeping on the couch?” he asks, confused.
Hanji shrugs and smiles timidly. “Or you can sleep in the bed.”
He inhales through his nose, patiently, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Hanji.”
“Why not?” she tries once more. “It’s not anything we haven’t done before.”
“We are not children anymore,” Levi says. For sure, Hanji is overly aware of that.
“The bed is big enough for the two of us,” she states. “We’ll keep our distance.”
Levi pauses as if he is at least considering her offer. “It’s a terrible idea.”
“Terrible ideas are my thing.”
“This is the worst you’ve ever come up with.”
“Worse than letting you cut my hair?” She smirks.
His eyes narrow while he seemingly compares the two of them inside his head. “Yes,” he decides to say at last.
Hanji pouts, picking at a stray string on the blanket. “You’re no fun.”
“This has nothing to do with fun, Hanji,” Levi says surprisingly gravely. “Sleeping in the same bed with you means I’m going to suffer until the damn sun rises.”
Hanji blinks his eyes. Truthfully that had made her feel just a little bit awful. “Well, sorry. Didn’t know you despised the idea that mu—”
“You’re the densest person I’ve ever seen,” Levi sighs.
“Idiot,” the familiar word spills from his mouth easily but there is no heaviness behind it. He says it much affectionately as a smile lifts one corner of his lips. Hanji never thought of everything else she would miss the way he called her like that the most. Then he sighs again like he is fighting against what his heart desires and what his brain rationalizes. “I should sleep in the living room.”
Hanji doesn’t say anything this time and just confines with watching him silently as he walks towards the door and murmurs something like ‘oblivious woman’ and ‘hasn’t grown up a day’ as he slaps upon the light switch and causes the room to go dark.
Then he turns around and approaches the bed.
Her body locks and with wide, bewildered eyes she watches him through the dark as he sits on the edge of the bed, opens the bedside lamp then lies down and pulls the blanket to his chest. And when he turns his head a little to do side, she is still quite astonished. He places an arm under his head. His stare is nonchalant.
“What?” she croaks.
He lifts his head up a little. “Didn’t you want to sleep with me?”
Everything happens in a second. Hanji doesn’t even bother to think or consider as she grabs the pillow on her side, holds it up and it lands on Levi’s face with a loud pat.
His ultimate shock lasts barely a few seconds. When he grips the pillow and pulls it away from his face his eyes are fiery, burning like coals. “The hell?”
“You wanted to play it dirty.” Hanji points to the pillow with her chin. “Dirty it is then.”
A heartbeat later she feels the soft surface of the pillow hitting the side of her face. It isn’t painful or hard, yet it is enough to freeze her with surprise. Her shocked glare finds Levi who is now sitting on the bed, his expression challenging, almost daring.
Her fingers clutch to either side of the pillow which Levi still grips as if his life depends on it. And when she pulls it towards herself, he pulls it back. The back and forth goes on for a while until it leaves Hanji sweaty on the forehead. He had become absurdly strong. “Give me the pillow!” she protests at last, out of patience.
“No,” Levi says casually.
“It’s mine,” Hanji remarks. “Give it back.”
“Technically it’s mine,” Levi slaps.
“You know I won’t let it go until you do.”
Stubborn bastard. Hanji inhales through her nose, gritting her teeth. Then she forces a smile, not sincere in the slightest. “Let’s chat a little then, shall we?”
He shrugs. “Fine by me.”
His stare is indifferent, posture calm and relaxed. He knows that Hanji cannot win over him with just muscle power. But she has another thing up in her sleeve.
“How’s your love life?”
The question causes the effect she had been expecting. He seems caught by surprise. “Huh?”
“Love life?” Hanji repeats and although she had asked the question as a distraction her heart beats faster as she waits for the answer which she actually is in great curiosity to hear.
“Oh that,” he says nonchalantly. “Non-existent.”
“Really?” That answer had satisfied her she couldn’t lie but apparently, she had been expecting a different one.
“Yeah,” he responds easily. “I haven’t dated anyone since Petra.”
“Oh,” Hanji says. Feeling disappointed for some reason. “I see.”
“You don’t see a thing Hanji. Even with those thick glasses of yours.”
Almost subconsciously, Hanji readjusts her glasses. “Now you’re just being rude.”
Levi sighs deeply, rolling his eyes. “Why have I—” He stops and looks into her eyes. “You know I broke up with her because of you.”
Hanji blinks her eyes, and she is about to react but why? But then again it is not rocket science to guess the reason behind it. He had said it himself. I was in love with you.
But before Hanji is able to let out a single word Levi acts faster than her. “Please don’t ask me why. You should know since you’re a genius.”
“You know Levi, the way you say it makes me feel like I’m a blithering idiot.”
He clicks his tongue. “Wonder why?”
Irritation fills her insides and Hanji pulls the pillow towards herself harshly, hoping maybe he has softened his iron grip on the corners of the poor thing. Yet his answering pull is even more powerful than before, and it makes her body jerk forward. She balances herself by pressing upon the pillow with her palms and stares at Levi with wide eyes. “This isn’t a fair game.”
“It never has been,” he lets his eyes roam about her features and her heartbeats go so fast they echo in her ears. Her fingers clutch the pillow even more tightly. For the second time this night, his stare pauses on her lips. “I told you this was a terrible idea.”
“Why don’t you elaborate?” Hanji challenges, feeling bold for no logical reason. What is the point of walking into the waters she is fully aware of that are deadly and perilous? None. But walking away for a dash of oxygen had brought nothing but dry air into her lungs and thousands of fractures in her heart. So why not walk into it instead this time?
When he looks back at her, his eyes are sharp and under the dim light of the bedside lamp, they are darker like the midnight ocean. Yet unlike the ocean, they are not placid or still. His stare is scorching, menacing. But enough running. She responds to his stare determinedly, steadfastly.
“Why do you think it’s a bad idea, Levi?”
But Levi doesn’t give her a verbal answer. Instead, he grabs her upper arms, fingers steady and robust but not quite painful around her flesh, and within a second, before she is able to give any kind of reaction, she finds herself laying on the bed with Levi hovering above her and the pillow they had been fighting for squeezed between their bodies.
For a handful of seconds, she lies there, dumbstruck while Levi pulls his fingers away and he rests his forearms on either side of her head. Her chest moves swiftly with her thick, unstable breaths making the pillow rise and fall with its movements. And his face is tense, solid like a rock. His lips are pulled in a thin line and his eyes are switching between all kinds of emotions. Hanji realizes that he is waiting for a reaction from her. Any kind of a reaction. Or else he seems like he is going to crumble away like dust.
Because he is self-conscious, Hanji notices. It is as if he waits for her to push him back, yell at him, or run away.
But it’s Levi. Her Levi. Her best friend. Her first love. He had never felt like a stranger. He never would.
So, she smiles, and delights in the way his eyes slightly widen, and the way tension finally retreats its invasion from all over his body. And as he closes his eyes a deep sigh leaves his mouth as if he has been holding it for some time then he leans in, resting his forehead against hers. Her eyes close on their own accord and she merely focuses on his fresh smell and cold breath that caresses her skin. She raises her hand to rest it on his neck, her thumb traces the line of his undercut.
“It’s because I want to hug you,” he whispers, finally answering her previous question and Hanji keeps her breath. “I want to hold you so close I feel like I might die if I don’t. Because I’m still trying to convince myself that this isn’t a dream, Hanji. That you’re here, with me.”
Once again, his candidness leaves her stunned and the heaviness behind his words, the emotions he hides underneath them all feel like a giant wall towering above her. It is the sincerity of a man who has already lost so much that he doesn’t care about pushing a little forward. They had wasted almost a decade running away from their feelings. It was enough.
“I am,” Hanji holds his face with both hands to make him look into her eyes. “But I won’t be for long, Levi. So, let’s just… let’s just spent as much time together as we can, okay?”
“Right,” his eyebrows wrinkle, displaying his discontent. “How long will you stay?”
Hanji had asked for a week off but since she had a team to lead Mr. Jeager had only allowed her to take four days off. “I would love to give you a week off believe me,” he had said back when they both had been waiting for the bus. “But we can’t afford to be away from you that long.” A wink and a playful smile had accompanied his words so she couldn’t have told whether he was being sincere or not, but orders were orders and she had to obey them.
“Just a few more days,” she says, disappointedly.
Levi nods, curtly. It is clear he is not content with her answer yet doesn’t say anything else.
He rolls over to his side, and as Hanji picks the pillow from her chest and puts it back to its place, strong arms circle her body, pulling her towards his chest. She complies easily, settling over the side of his body, she hugs his stomach, resting her cheek near his neck. Levi kisses her forehead, his warm lips lingering a second too long on her skin and then he pulls back, covering them both with the blanket. “Let’s make the best of it then.”
It’s the first thing her sleep-clouded mind notices even before she opens her eyes. She fights to at least lift her eyelids up just a fraction and through her misty gaze –both because of sleep and the lack of her glasses—she manages to pick out the dark sky painted with bleak clouds. The sound of the raindrops tapping against the glass is a beautiful melody, almost like a lullaby that is there to draw her back into sleep.
The arms that are wound around her middle tighten slightly, and in his sleep, he murmurs something unintelligible and buries his nose deeper into her neck. His chest rises and falls in a stable rhythm on her back, his warmth surrounds her, and her heart beats calmly as if it has found its place after it has walked through ruins and wracks to at last find peace in where it belonged to.
A smile easily curls her lips, and she presses her back against his chest, stealing more of his warmth. Then with the company of the rattling rain and Levi’s steady breaths she closes her eyes again letting sleep once more take her away.
It wasn’t a dream. That part, he is sure.
Levi watches her while she is deep in her sleep. The side of her face pressed upon the pillow, lips parted open, and hair disheveled all around. Without allowance, his fingers follow the lines of her cheekbone, her jaw, and her lips. A sigh escapes his lips when he thinks about all the things he had done and said yesterday. He had crossed a line, hadn’t he? Not one, he had crossed plenty. Yet when he searched for a bit of regret in his heart, he couldn’t find any.
He thinks about his mother and all the times she had practically begged him to go see Hanji or at least talk to her through his phone. Levi had always understood yet never made it clear that his mother had blamed herself for the two of them falling apart. More often than not he would find her staring at him sorrowfully, with eyes full of remorse and despair for she had no power in her hands to fix things. No matter how many times she had asked him to go he never had. He had promised himself that he would keep Hanji out of that mess, at all costs. He had told his mother as much. Told her that it was his decision, and she had no reason to blame herself for what happened. Levi never knew if his mother believed in him but after a while, she stopped asking.
He blinks back the tears that thinking about her had caused. Levi wonders if there will come a day when his chest won’t feel like it’s being crushed under a truck, or his heart being thrown right in the middle of a burning fire even at just the mere thought of her.
Hanji sighs in her sleep and wrinkles her body moving her cheek up and down on the pillow. It is a habit of hers, Levi recalls which makes him smile. She hadn’t changed much. Apart from the maturity and responsibility that being an adult had brought about her. Hanji is still Hanji. The brightest and sometimes the most foolish person he had ever met. Stars in her eyes and a galaxy in her mind. She had a universe in her heart. Big enough to fit millions inside.
A few more days is all he has and this time he promises himself that he won’t make the same mistake again. This might not be a dream, but reality still glues his feet to the ground preventing him from flying too high. She will be leaving, and he has to accept it soon as he can, or else the result would be nothing but heartbreak. And neither of them can afford that.
Trying his best not to make so much noise so that she doesn’t wake up he gets up from the bed. Although it isn’t raining currently the sky seems dark through the curtains. So, leaning over he pulls the blanket up to cover her shoulders in case she feels cold. Then, because he is weak, the weakest person on the goddamn earth, he reaches out with his hand and touches her cheek with the back of his fingers. Featherlight but enough to feel her heat. And when she turns her head just barely towards his touch and her lips shape a smile so beautiful his poor, broken mess of a heart squeezes painfully inside his ribcage.
He thinks he doesn’t deserve this much happiness however short-lived it will be. Yet he is selfish and greedy, and he will use it to its very last bit.
Swallowing hard he retreats his hand and walks away from the bed to leave the bedroom.
He is flipping over the pancakes when Hanji steps into the kitchen, yawning and her head a mess as the clothes Levi had given her last night. One leg of her pants dragged up almost to her knee while the shoulder of her t-shirt looks like it’s about to slip down. His lips curl upwards without his consent, and he looks away when he realizes his heart picked up a pace that is not good neither for his physical nor mental health.
“Mmm smells delicious,” she murmurs, coming to stand next to him. She picks one of the pancakes that are stiffed on top of each other on a plate in her hand and takes a huge bite. “Taste delicious too,” she says hoarsely, mouth full.
“Finish your mouth first, you barbarian,” Levi admonishes her. Using the spatula in his hand he carries the cooked pancakes to the plate and adds the last remnants of the dough to the pan.
“You’re as cheerful as ever,” Hanji deadpans and shoves the rest of the pancake in her mouth. Levi twists his lips, disgusted. “My little sunshine.”
“Shut it,” he dismisses her. But he has to admit, this little back and forth, the bickering between them feels nostalgic yet so natural that it soothes all his worries and wipes all the anxiety he has been feeling lately away.
Hanji ignores him and stretches her arms above her head, groaning. “I haven’t slept this much for ages.” Then when she lowers her arms, they land on Levi’s shoulders, and instantly she is so close he can smell the faint scent of her skin. “It wasn’t a terrible idea, after all, was it?”
He glances at her sideways and struggles to keep his expression neutral when he sees her bright eyes and sweet smile. She waits for an answer and Levi doesn’t know if he can give her one. Sleeping with Hanji in her arms, her smell on the tip of his nose had been his dream for years. He had given an intense fight against this desire, to give up on it and forget her altogether. Needless to say, he has failed, miserably so.
And to know that that dark and deep desire of his had finally become reality is the best thing that had ever happened to him in the last few years. However, it was a terrible idea because now that he knows what it feels like to have her snuggled against him, her body fitting his perfectly he wants more and more and more. And the truth is he can’t and so he doesn’t have the answer Hanji is still waiting for.
She frowns as if she has sensed whatever chaos going on inside his head yet just as she opens her mouth to possibly question him a noise distracts them.
Hanji startles and looks around the kitchen to find the source of the noise. Not much later she finds it on top of the kitchen island, and it turns out it is her phone that has been ringing.
“Who could it be?” she murmurs to herself as she hurries to pick it up. Meanwhile, a smell that resembles suspiciously to burnt pancakes reaches his nose and he stares down back at the pan with panic to see the worst-case scenario happening right in front of his eyes. “Damn it,” he whispers sharply and turns off the stove, carrying the pan somewhere else along with the deceased pancakes.
“Mr. Jeager?” Hanji speaks to the phone while he takes the plate full of pancakes to the kitchen island. Jeager? Isn’t it the owner of the Jeager Space Administration thus, Hanji’s boss? Why does he call her on her day off?
“Ah, Hanji,” comes the man’s dusty voice from the other end of the line. Levi doesn’t mean to eavesdrop, he doesn’t really, but he happens to as he silently picks a seat around the table which also happens to be next to where Hanji stands with a confused expression on her face. “Sorry to call you like this. I’m not disturbing you, am I?”
“Of course not,” Hanji reassures. Levi doesn’t know the man, yet his smug voice irritates him. “What can I do for you?”
“Oh, nothing,” he says, and they exchange a look with Hanji. His narrowed stare is suspicious, while her eyes are round and full of questions. “I’ve heard that you visited my brother from Armin. Just wanted to ask you how he was doing.”
“Oh,” finally the confusion leaves her face, and she looks relaxed. Even a little smile shapes on her lips. “Right, yes. He was doing pretty okay, I guess. I didn’t see anything wrong.”
“Great,” comes the reply. “Heard he helped you find your friend?”
“Yes, he did.” Hanji smiles at Levi, her eyes twinkling. “I am more than grateful. I owe him a lot.”
“He owes you more so don’t mention it,” the man quickly closes the matter. “How is your vacation?”
“Oh, for god’s sake, leave the girl alone!” A female voice interrupts and Hanji seems kind of surprised, blinking her eyes.
“Was that Pieck?” she asks.
“Yes, she wishes for me to leave you alone. But we were just chatting—”
“Hello, Hanji,” the female voice, Pieck, seemingly takes over the phone. “And goodbye. I’d love to talk to you longer but I’m guessing you’re busy.”
“I’ll talk to you later,” she cuts her sentence. “And sorry for that inconsiderate boss of yours.”
“It’s fine,” Hanji giggles. “I’ll see you in a few days, Pieck.”
Afterward, she hangs up the phone and smiles at him somewhat timidly. “Sorry.”
“Was that your boss?” Levi asks, trying not to reflect the irritation in his voice.
“Yes,” Hanji replies and takes a seat next to him. “And Pieck is my co-worker, but she and Zeke are old friends.”
“Yeah, his first name.” She picks up her phone, scrolling through her photos, and shows him a picture of a blond, bearded man with ridiculous glasses and a long, black-haired woman next to him.
“He looks like a monkey,” Levi points out, as it is the first thing that had come to his mind upon his first glance at the phone screen. Hanji seems startled upon his observation. She even turns the screen to herself to examine the picture.
Then inevitably her cheerful laughter feels the kitchen. “Oh my God, Levi!” she doubles over, holding her stomach with one arm. “Now there is no way I can look at him without thinking that he—he—”
“Looks like a hairy, dirty, and stinky beast?”
She laughs harder and has to wipe her eyes at some point. Levi feels somewhat proud of making her laugh like that. He had missed that sound so much he wants to hear more of it. But he also doesn’t understand the reason why he resented a man he doesn’t even know.
But doesn’t he really? That man might look like a pathetic, idiotic animal but he had the privilege to see and talk and work with Hanji every day. So, in that kind of hierarchy, he is above Levi, no matter how much he despises the thought.
“Why does he call you on your day off?” He questions after Hanji’s laughter subdues and she cleans her face with a tissue.
She shrugs, “He said he wanted to ask me about his brother—they don’t get along well--. His name is Eren. He helped me find you.”
“I don’t like you being indebted to that man,” he says, gloomily.
“He is not that kind of a man,” Hanji, for whatever reason, defends him. “But—why are you being so prejudiced against him? He is not that bad.”
“He sounded a little intimate for a boss,” he states. Then a thought comes to his mind and his whole-body freezes. “Are you two—”
“No,” Hanji cuts him off, thank fuck, before he finishes the sentence. “He is my boss. I rejected him way too many times now.”
“Oh, so he did ask you out?” Levi asks the question before he even had a chance to reconsider it. And the way he sounded as the words left his mouth…. Well, fuck.
Just as he had feared, Hanji puts her elbow on the kitchen island and rests her cheek on her palm, eyes shining mischievously signaling danger. “Why? You jealous?”
He huffs and turns his head away swiftly. He wouldn’t tell it out loud, but he is, damn it. Of course, he is jealous of every man that is lucky enough to have her all to himself. “No,” he says but it sounds more like, yes, and I would like to kill the bastard, please tell me where he lives.
“I went out with a boy during college, for about a year,” Hanji, surprisingly, changes the subject, making Levi look back at her curiously. She is staring at the surface of the kitchen island, eyes lost behind a mist of memories. “He was sweet and loyal, but he was a little bit naïve, you know what I mean? And I did like him, but I don’t think it was love. And we wanted different things too. Like he wished to get married and have children right after college, and I… I couldn’t do that, you know, Levi? I had so many dreams and I was so young. I think he just never understood where I came from. He thought I didn’t want him in my life, so he left me the day we graduated,” she laughs like she genuinely finds it funny.
Even though it surprises him, he snorts, “Douchebag.”
“Yeah, he kind of was,” Hanji smiles, and shrugs.” It’s alright though, it was for the best. It would’ve never worked out. The sooner I moved on the better.”
“What about later?” Levi asks, unable to stop himself.
“After college. Have you found what you have been looking for?”
Hanji stares at his eyes, his smile fading and eyes full of meaning he cannot figure out. “No, I haven’t,” she replies quietly. And she holds his gaze for a while like she wants to say more but doesn’t know how. Levi waits, expectation grabs his heart and shakes it fiercely. He doesn’t even know what he waits to hear, what he wishes to hear but doesn’t matter. Because Hanji doesn’t say anything in the end. Her eyes are carried somewhere else; she sighs.
Right, what has he been expecting anyway? Time is ticking, hours are limited, and they had no time to waste.
“Let’s eat,” he says, dispensing the dreary atmosphere. “I have somewhere to take you.”
The cemetery is unwontedly peaceful. The smell of after rain encircles them from all around. The wind is howling every now and then, making the bushes and the trees rustle. On the gravestone they are standing before is written the name of the woman who is so unfairly buried under. Kuchel Ackerman.
Levi places a bucket of tulips, his mother’s favourites, in front of the stone. Then he kneels, his fingers touching the cold marble as if he is caressing his mother’s hair, so gently and tenderly that it becomes impossible to stop the tears from blurring her vision.
“I haven’t been here since the funeral,” he says, to her, to his mother, or to himself she doesn’t know. “Isn’t it a little cold in here, mom?”
Two drops of tear land on the ground and she presses trembling lips hard on each other so that she doesn’t start sobbing and steal the moment he should—need—to have to himself.
“I’m sorry,” his sounds hoarse, like he is on the verge of tears which makes her throat go tight, and dig her nails into her palms. She doesn’t know what he is apologizing for but the word spills out from his mouth like it is meant for more than a single thing. “I’ve never listened to you when you wanted me to go see her,” he chuckles, tearily and his voice gets quiet when he continues, “So, I brought her to you.”
Hanji looks up, surprised, to see Levi smiling at her from where he kneels. His eyes are shining with unshed tears. And Hanji cannot hold back anymore. She takes a step forward, reaching out to him.
He reacts instantly, standing up he lets her circle her arms around him and to pull him tight against her. He presses his lips on her shoulder, whereas Hanji hides her tears on his neck, his coat crumpling inside her fists.
“Thank you,” he whispers.
Hanji thinks about all the times Levi had held her like this when she was broken and sad when she didn’t understand how to cope with things that were on her way and didn’t know how to breathe when she felt like she was a puzzle piece that belonged to nowhere. A surplus, a lost part no one felt the need to search for. No one but him.
And yet he had kept her together all the same. Never let her feel like she was a nuisance even though she was always so loud and so unnecessarily excited about everything. Despite her being his exact opposite, he had always been there, holding her, her hand, her soul, and her heart.
“Always,” she says, sniffling and leaning her cheek on his hair. “To the last syllable of recorded time, remember?”
His laugh which is more akin to a sob is muffled. But his shoulders shake, and she feels him nod.
And she smiles. It’s a promise.
Next, they go to Kenny.
Levi is tense when they both are waiting for the door to be open. Hanji bites her lip; she doesn’t know what to expect from this unison of an uncle and his nephew who had both lost someone precious to the both of them. Knowing the two men’s nature, she doesn’t dare to hope for even a slightly sentimental one though.
When the door opens, frantically, just after seconds Levi pressed the bell, Kenny stares at his nephew, eyes stern and unbending and Levi responds to his stare head-on. Lips pressed, and face muscles tense. Hanji feels like she is watching a ticking bomb and there is very little time for it to eventually explode. And as Kenny lifts one of his arms and extends it towards Levi she holds her breath, ready to push Levi out of the way in case Kenny aims a punch at his face.
But he doesn’t. Instead, the hand he is extending forward grabs Levi by the collar and in one swift motion pulls him to his himself. Arms tight around his shoulders, Kenny presses his nephew to his chest.
“Brat,” Kenny hisses but he looks like he has lifted a tone of weight off his shoulders. “You scared the shit out of me.”
Levi stands still for a handful of seconds, possibly shocked by his uncle’s unexpected gesture. In the end, slowly, very slowly he lifts his hands and hugs him back. And even though Hanji can see it’s a bit reluctant she knows that deep down he appreciates it.
When she smiles, Kenny catches her eyes and mouths, “Thank you.” Grinning widely, Hanji gives him a thumbs up.
Not long after, though it’s equal to an eternity given his cold nature, Levi pulls back, grunting. “Take your dirty hands off me, you stink.”
“I smell better than that cheap cologne you seem to be obsessed with,” Kenny snaps.
Levi stills, his mouth opening wide. “It’s not cheap,” he retorts. “And you had said you liked it!”
“Yeah yeah. Sorry to break your little heart. Come on in. We don’t want our Hanji to be frozen over there, do we?”
Levi stares at her as if he has forgotten that she has been there. And his face turns slightly red. “Does it smell that bad?” He asks, hopeful, and perturbed at the same time.
Hanji barely contains her laughter inside. He looks so worried. “Not at all.”
“Tell me the truth,” he insists as they both step inside the house. Kenny closes the door behind them, and they share a brief glance. Kenny winks, amused at the way he had annoyed his nephew.
“I swear it’s not that bad.”
Now he seems even more troubled. “So, it’s not good?”
“Levi, come on. You always smell clean,” Hanji reassures him and pats him on the shoulder. “You’re good.”
At that, he narrows his eyes like he doesn’t believe a word that leaves her mouth and clicks his tongue, annoyed. Then he takes off his coat and pushes it on his uncle’s hands. “For the record,” he says, glaring him dead in the eyes. “I still hate you.”
Kenny doesn’t even blink. “You and me both.”
Afterwards Levi turns around and Kenny and Hanji watch him walk down the hall, murmuring something under his breath they both cannot hear. Then they look at each other briefly before Hanji breaks down into a fit of laughter.
“He’ll never change, that brat,” Kenny says, chuckling.
“He better not,” Hanji adds. “We like him the way he is.”
During dinner, Kenny fills four glasses with wine, placing one of them in front of the empty seat on his left.
“Cheers, sis,” he says shortly before raising his glass towards the empty seat and swallows the liquid in one go.
Levi stares ahead, right where his mother should be but is hollow instead. Even after they start eating and having casual conversations about mundane things, his eyes remain focused on that one seat and the wine glass that hasn’t lowered a sip.
Her heart aches, knowing that there is no way she can take away his pain. He has to adapt, one way or the other. It might take time and it will, but Hanji knows that he is strong enough to bare it. Both mentally and physically. Nevertheless, they are human, and an earthquake might shake even the sturdiest of buildings. So, she will be there whenever he needs a helping hand.
Under the table she nudges his knee, making him look at her curiously. Hanji doesn’t say anything, but she smiles and somehow it is enough to ease his shoulders and lift the corners of his lips upwards.
He nudges her knee back as an answer and finally takes a bite from his food that he hasn’t touched yet and keeps his leg pressed against hers.
They stay like that for the rest of the dinner.
Hanji hugs Kenny briefly before they leave his house. He pats her back softly and tells her to come back soon. Hanji promises that she will, and Levi cannot help but let the flower of hope blossom in his heart like a lotus.
As Hanji waves and walks to his car, Kenny grabs his arm and Levi searches his eyes, wondering what he has to say. “Take good care of her,” he advises, grievously. “She needs you as much as you need her, brat. Mark my words. Don’t just let her go.”
If it were any other time he would scowl and ignore his uncle, saying he had no right to meddle in his life. But this time it is different. He can see that Kenny is serious and waits for an equally honest answer. “I won’t,” he says, determined.
Only after seeing the resolution in his eyes does Kenny let go of his arm. “You take care of yourself too,” he crosses his arms. “And don’t disappear on me like that again or I’ll break your legs.”
Levi rolls his eyes and waves him off briefly before turning around to join Hanji.
The next two days Levi takes her on a quick and admittedly insufficient tour around Rose. It’s a big city so naturally, it is nearly impossible to fit each and every place to visit into just two days. For every place they had skipped to not lose any unnecessary time, Hanji told him that next time they would go. And that word, the hidden promise behind it seemed to lighten up his features.
Towards the evening of her last night in Rose, they go to the rooftop Hanji had found Levi in. Hanji had initiated the idea thinking that it would be nice to reminisce about their younger years. Thankfully Levi had agreed upon realizing her keenness.
“Aah, good old days,” she croons sitting on the ground cross-legged. Levi sits next to her, pressing their shoulders. Hanji leans on him, to share his warmth. He hands her over the snacks they had bought before coming here and a packet of chocolate milk.
She grins widely and starts drinking it with appetite. The taste leaves a nostalgic feeling on her tongue, and with the stars and moon above and her best friend right beside it almost feels like they are teenagers again.
“I miss our rooftop,” she sighs. “It’s been years.”
“Yeah,” Levi agrees, drinking from his soda. He swallows and seems hesitant before he starts, “We should…” He searches her eyes, looking for something, maybe encouragement and willingness, and then goes on. “We can go sometime. If you’d like to.”
She beams at him and nudges his shoulder. As if she wouldn’t. “Of course, I’d love to.”
Afterwards they simply talk. About work, about their university years, they remember their past days, the old friendships, people who are now just a memory, or places that are pushed back into their minds but still carry their value in their hearts. Hanji mentions Erwin, who has married two months ago, and Levi scoffs because he hadn’t invited him to his wedding and Hanji laughs as if he has ever been so eager to see him.
Stars are bright, and vivid, and the moon is thin and welcoming. It almost feels like home with Levi beside her. His face is tranquil, the softest of smiles on his lips, his eyes argent with a touch of blue. His body is strong and real not a memory, not a dream. Hanji thinks he is beautiful. Then wonders how she had been so stupid enough to understand that what made her heart flutter when she looked at him was not the handsome shape of his features which everybody with eyes could see. But because he was her home, her safe place. That is why right now even on top of a derelict building she is not familiar with, her heart is content because he is here with her.
Levi points out the sky with his index finger to show her a shooting star. She watches it with a smile on her face and resting her head on his shoulder she makes a wish.
Please stay with me even when the sky is empty of stars.
“Gosh, for real,” Hanji pulls her hair, frustrated. “Why the hell do I keep losing things?”
“What is it now?” Levi asks, raising his brows.
Putting her hands on either side of her waist, Hanji huffs, standing in the middle of the living room and eyes searching madly around. “I can’t find my charger.”
Since they returned home about an hour ago, she has been in a hurry to collect her things because her plane is at ten in the morning. Levi wants to help but doesn’t really feel like it. Would a lost charger make her stay longer? Probably not. But it is worth a shot.
“Maybe it’s in the bedroom?” Levi asks, reluctant.
Hanji sighs. “Already checked,” she clicks her tongue. “But I’ll check again.”
Levi follows her fast steps into the bedroom, his heart weight heavy in his chest. He has been thinking of ways to accidentally make her stay for a few more days. Like maybe ripping away her plane ticket, or hiding her suitcase, or maybe throwing her phone out of the window—
“I swear I’m gonna lose it,” she bemoans checking the drawers of the bedside table. “Where the hell have I put it?”
Levi decides, against his better judgment, that it is best to at least look like he is helping her. A pissed-off Hanji is a scary thing he doesn’t want to face right now. So, he crouches to look under the bed and wrinkles his nose at the side of the dust that has been collecting for a few days, or almost a week. He couldn’t have found time enough to do a proper cleanup.
He doesn’t find her charger, but he finds a pair of her ridiculous socks she had worn only once and forgotten about later. And when he gets up and continues his fake search, he sees a black hair tie next to her earrings on one of the shelves. And the book she had brought with her is on his bedside table, half-read, unfinished. She had read it to him at night to help him fall asleep. It had been so easy for sleep to invade his mind when her voice filled his ears, and her fingers caressed his hair. Within merely a number of days how he had gotten so used to her presence when during the years she hadn’t been in his life, his heart and soul had failed to accept that absence? How he had been so foolish enough to let himself get carried away? Even though he knew from the start that it was to happen within just days. How had he forgotten that the time was always so merciless when it was filled with joy and happiness?
“I can’t find my earrings too, aah,” she grunts, laying her head backward. “I hate it when this happens. Zeke’s gonna kill me if I miss that plane.”
He cannot ask her to stay. He wants to, God knows he dies to do so, but he cannot bring himself to be that selfish towards her. But when will he see her again? She had promised to come back but how her work is going to allow her to do that? As for him, he had already taken a week off and because of his mother, he had used most of his annual leave already. When will they find time enough to see each other? What is he going to do now that he knows what her warm breath felt like on his skin, how his face fitted on the curl of her neck, and what she looked like in the mornings? Peaceful, soft, and beautiful.
He is a fool, isn’t he? He is the goddamn fool of the century. An idiot who cannot let go when he needs to. A desperate, useless man who has a bottle filled with poisonous water in his hand and despite knowing that it will kill him, or worse it will make him suffer and so he has to, he needs to turn the bottle over end pour the water out he does the opposite.
Because he is so thirsty, he is going to die anyway. He just chooses the more painful death.
“Hanji,” he says, heart beating so loud he fears he won’t be able to hear her when she answers. She stares at him, her face flushed, eyes fiery and hair disheveled all because she couldn’t find a goddamn charger.
His lips tremble. And he needs to stop, he knows, he is so fucking aware but—
Don’t just let her go.
“I’m going to do something very stupid,” he declares.
He has been expecting her to look confused, or curious yet she snorts, her eyes leaving him to continue her idle search around the room. “Don’t you dare steal my role, clean freak. It’s my job to do stupid things.”
He inhales through his nose, “You’re the smartest person I’ve ever known, Hanji.”
Now she is dumbfounded, eyes wide behind her glasses and she looks so ridiculous and so painfully pretty. He knows the moment he had laid his eyes on her that first night it had been over for him.
It’s ironic, compared to the long, seemingly everlasting thoughts and possibilities, and things that he is most possibly going to fuck up in his mind, it takes merely two steps, and hundreds of heartbeats to close the distance between them, hold her face with his hands and press his lips to hers.
It merely lasts for a handful of seconds, yet it is enough to set his skin on fire. His heartbeat is still so loud he barely even hears his own thoughts which are a growing list of basically him trying to comprehend what he is doing at the moment.
I am kissing Hanji. I am kissing my best friend.
Then as if he has been struck by a jolt of lightning he jumps back, because he realizes that Hanji hasn’t been responding. They both stare at each other with shocked eyes and red faces. Even worse, she stands rigid, her hands curled up as fists and shoulders tense. And right then a fear so profound creeps its seed into his heart and it grows so quickly that he feels it even on the tips of his fingers.
He closes his eyes then, tightly. And opens his lips to apologize, and if necessary, beg for forgiveness.
But just then he feels the smooth, almost timid touch of lips on his own, and then her hands cradle his face. He doesn’t dare to open his eyes afraid that if he does the moment will be over like a mirage in a desert. He lets her apply more pressure, her lips are hot, and her hands are trembling. And Levi can relate, really, for his whole body, his very own soul is shivering like a thin paper. Maybe, he ponders, he might have thought or even dreamt about kissing Hanji before but none of that could be compared to this now. To say that it feels like an otherworldly experience would be an understatement. He feels like he has been for his whole life for this very moment.
And damn him, and his inability to think rationally and his lack of self-control. Damn him for choosing Macbeth and letting those goddamn lines stick with him for more than a decade. Damn his deep and dark desires to resurface now of all times, exactly when they shouldn’t.
Hanji starts to pull back slowly and almost immediately his mind rings alarm bells. How can he let her go now that he had tasted that poison and knows that it is sweet like honey and addicting like a drug?
Snaking an arm around her waist he presses her body against his and tilts his head so that he takes control, deepening the kiss. Their chests move almost in sync, up and down so fast there is no pause in between their thick breaths. When he pushes his tongue between her lips and tastes the chocolate milk on her tongue an unwilling sound escapes him, and he feels the shudder that travels throughout her body.
The timidness and shyness pack up and leaves after a few brushes of his tongue. Hanji scraps her nails on his scalp, both arms around his neck. There is hunger in her touch, in the way she leans her body on his and in the way her tongue meets his, and in the little gasps and whines he manages to pull out from her lips. Levi responds with an equal or maybe more but not less hunger of his own. His hands trying to keep her impossibly closer, he runs his palms up and down her back, all the while fighting against the urge to travel them further down or place one of them under her—his—t-shirt to feel the hotness of her skin on his fingertips.
Can he? Would she let him go that far? Should they go that far? He doesn’t know, he cannot think straight when her mouth leaves his to press kisses along the line of his jaw and his neck. He throws his head back, eyes misty and head dizzy. “Hanji,” he gasps, and he means it as a warning, but it sounds much more like a plea. “Maybe—m-maybe we should—”
She rocks her body against his before letting him finish his sentence, pressing upon his currently overly sensitive areas and his whole world turns around him like a carousel. Groaning he lets his head fall on her shoulder. “Fuck.”
“I think we should,” she says, and he hears the amusement in her voice, and he feels so damn annoyed because how can she enjoy his torment like that? “Go on, I mean.”
His nails dig into her sides. “You’re gonna be the death of me, I swear.”
“But it would be so romantic, don’t you think?” Even though he cannot see her he can imagine her smirk as she goes on with her next words, “You know like ‘Those violent night has violent ends,’”
He groans, out of pure annoyance this time. “Hanji—”
“And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,” she recites, hardly suppressing her laughter.
“Hanji, I swear if you finish that sentence—”
“Which, as they kiss, consume,” she finishes ignoring him and his inefficient threats. She laughs heartily then, her body shakes between his arms.
He holds his head up and stares at her bright smile and just because he can, he kisses her hard on the lips. “Fucking Shakespeare,” he murmurs.
“Careful, you’re talking about a legend.”
“That legend won’t take you to bed right now,” he places his hands on her hips and lifts her up and she wraps her legs around his waist just in time. Their faces are centimeters apart when he whispers against her lips, “I will.”
Levi is gentle. Not that it is a fact she had learned about him just now, yet this is a different side of his kindness. His touch is smooth, yet possessive. He is extra cautious when he helps her take off her clothes one by one. Then his eyes take in the shape of her body so intently it makes her muscles twitch. His lips are hot as they touch each part of her skin that is free from its layers. She bites her lips when he presses his lips on her inner thigh, one and the other. She gasps for air when his mouth lands on the centre of her desire, making her arch her body. The sheets are a crumpled mess inside her fists and on the ceiling, she sees galaxies rather than plain darkness. His name on her lips repeated like a prayer. Levi, Levi, Levi.
Afterwards she lies there out of breath and with misty eyes, she watches him throw off his clothes. Her eyes drink in his fine shape. She sits up with a growing need to touch him. He shudders and closes his eyes when Hanji moves her knuckles on his bare abdomen, tracing the lines of his muscles as if he is savouring her touch. She presses her palms on his chest and feels the radiations of how quickly his heart is beating. She leaves open-mouthed kisses along his torso, and he whispers her name over and over as her touch travels down and he has to grip the covers to not lose his balance.
But he stops her with a gentle hand that grabs her hair. Then he brings her face closer to kiss her on the lips. She moves to straddle his hips, sliding her palms along his back, feeling his smooth skin without parting their mouths. He grabs her hips, his touch is firm, his thumbs caressing her skin. When they part, gasping, Hanji rests her forehead against his. “I wanna do this right,” Levi whispers.
He sounds concerned and she wants to take away all of his worries, and his hurt to the last drop of pain that paints his soul red, and his heart blue. So, Hanji kisses his nose, his brow, cheeks, and forehead. “It’s just me Levi,” she tells him, kissing the side of his lips. “It’s just you,” she kisses his chin. Holding his face between her palms, she leaves a soft kiss on his lips. “It’s just us.”
Because this moment already feels right, there is nothing else he should do. Sighing as if he has relaxed, Levi nods and places fevering kisses on her neck as he lies her down on the bed so tenderly that it almost brings tears to her eyes. Leaving a gentle kiss on her forehead, he places himself between her legs. His stare never leaves hers, now almost dark with lust but she sees her childhood in his eyes, in every corner of his face. Her thumbs move along the raise of his cheekbones, his eyelashes flutter and he kisses her palm.
And then the tenderness slowly retreats. Levi laces their fingers above her head with a tight grip and captures her lips with a passionate kiss, groaning into her mouth just as he enters her, swallowing her desperate moans. He moves inside her with careful strokes at first which later turn into hard and swift thrusts that make her go blind with desire. And even after the loud noises and ragged breaths, turn to soft and satisfied sighs he doesn’t let go of her hands.
And neither does she.
“We’re planning on launching a rocket to space,” Hanji tells Levi, as she plays with his hair, raven strands slip through her fingers like silk. She had always wondered if they were as soft as they looked. They are, she muses, smiling to herself. "It'll take a few years though."
Levi hums in response, shuffling to make himself more comfortable on her chest. The morning light creeps through the curtains, creating glittering patterns on the floor while they lie there, a tangled mess under the sheets. All but loose muscles and lazy strokes on each other’s skin. “Look how far you’ve come,” he says, attempting to sound serious but fails to do so for a mocking smile curls his lips.
Hanji pinches his shoulder, and he grunts, squeezing her thigh. “Four-eyes…”
Pulling his head slightly back he looks at her, eyes cautious, searching. His lips part open, and she can see that he is thinking, debating on whether to say whatever he wants to say or not. Her heart beats speed up as expectation builds up in her stomach. Because deep down she knows she wants him to say the word. Even if she cannot do it. And she wants to tell him to come with her. Even though she knows he can’t.
In the end, what leaves his lips is a mere sigh and nothing else. And she smiles, raising a hand to brush his cheek. He closes his eyes then when she leans closer to give him a slow kiss on the lips he welcomes it, his arm tightening its hold around her waist.
“Let’s keep in touch,” he breathes against her mouth when pull apart.
Hanji raises her brows to see if he is being serious and, in his eyes, she sees that he is. Very much so. She beams at him, “Deal.”
“I can visit you in Sina when I have time.”
Her breath hitches in her throat. “Really?”
“Yeah, and I’ll text you too,” he goes on. “You’ll probably forget.”
“You will, weirdo. You’re launching a rocket into space. You’ll forget that I even exist.”
Hanji gasps, offended. “How could you say that?”
“Because I know you so well,” he smiles, carelessly. As if they had all the time in the world.
“That you do,” she giggles. “Oh, and I don't have enough money to you know, open a coffee in the name of you but—”
A hand clasps her mouth, muffling the rest of her sentence. “Don’t say another word.”
Hanji wraps her fingers around his wrists, and he miraculously lets her pull his hand down. “Why not? I was so touched.”
He pinches her side and she yelps. “Is this a joke to you, idiot?”
“Not at all, grumpy,” she kisses the space between his brows, smoothening the frown with her thumb. “But you don’t need to worry,” she gives him a reassuring smile. “I’ll text you all the time. I’ll text you so much you’ll block me and then I’ll find other ways to bother you.”
“Like jumping on a plane and flying to Rose?”
She laughs, “That too.”
“Then I’ll block you right away,” Levi says, determined.
“But you’re ruining all the fun!” she whines. “At least wait until you see my mind-blowing memes.”
“Mind-blowing?” he raises a brow. “More like mind-numbing?”
“I can’t believe I’ve been friends with you for all these years,” Hanji shakes her head, disappointed. “You have no compassion for my poor nerves.”
Despite all his great affords, he laughs. Heartfelt. “Dumbass.”
She presses her lips on his forehead, breathing in his fresh smell. And it feels like she is breathing in the scent of her youth. In her mind, she sees the cheerful girl and the sulky boy, hand in hand in cold winter streets, under the moon, and on the road between the autumn trees. “Yours truly, clean freak.”
A few months later
He is not texting back.
No doubt, even though she hasn’t averted her eyes from the phone there is no notification coming from a certain, grumpy, clean freak that brightens her screen. She has to leave it at some point when her break is inevitably over yet until then she waits and waits. In vain.
“Hah,” she mutters, taking the phone in her hand, and sliding it open to search for any possible texts she might have missed for good measure. “And he was saying I would forget.”
Not that she is so bitter. Not entirely. He must have good reasons to not reply to her since… well since yesterday. And frankly, she doesn’t know whether to be worried or to be annoyed at being ignored for that long.
“Hanji, a little help over here!”
Seems like her break is already over. Sighing she puts her phone in the pocket of her trousers and goes back to work.
The next day, still no news from him except for an “I’m alive, geez,” message upon her constant texts and calls that obviously managed to bother him to that extent. She tries not to dwell too much on it. It’s Levi, after all. He can’t run away from her forever.
“I swear I’ll dig your grave, Ackerman,” Hanji furiously taps on her screen, so much so that literal flames are about to rise from the force of it. Because it’s almost a week and he still hasn’t contacted her, either via text or phone call. And she is growing a little concerned and admittedly overly angry.
So, unable to control that anger she taps another text, “I’ll cut your—”
“Hanji,” a voice that belongs to her beloved boss stops her halfway from sending him a very threatening text. Hanji looks up from her phone, alarmed, to be caught in the act during work.
Fortunately, Zeke doesn’t seem very much suspicious or mad. Though it’s hard to see the man with such sentiments. He is generally quite laid back. “A minute please?”
“Ah, sure,” Hanji hurriedly stands up from her chair to follow her boss through the halls that lead to his room.
“Everything alright?” he asks, eying her. “You seem… frustrated.”
Of course, he had noticed. “It’s nothing. I’m just a little stressed lately.”
He hums, and the corners of his eyes wrinkle with humour. “You won’t ask for another day off, will you?”
Startled at first, Hanji chuckles soon after, shaking her head. “No, no need for that.”
“Good,” he says as he opens the door to his room. “Because we have a new employer and I expect you to be on good terms with him that is if you aren’t already,” he winks and invites her inside. “Meet your new team member.”
The moment her eyes follow the direction of where he is pointing with his hand, her whole body jerks with shock, and an uncontrollable gasp escapes her mouth before she can avoid it. So much for being a professional in front of her boss.
But how can she not when who stands in front of her clad in his black suit is the one only Levi Ackerman?
“What?” She blinks, to make sure he is not a daydream while Levi simply smiles calmly at her yet in his eyes there is victory. The victory of having caught her off guard. I won this time.
“Levi Ackerman, our new aerospace engineer,” Zeke explains, not affected by her apparent bewilderment. “And this is Hanji Zoe, our space scientist. You’ll be working together from now on.”
That single sentence which to him means nothing while to the two other people in the room it means that a mutual childhood dream finally becomes reality swarms her heart and fills it to the brim. If only there was a way to reach out to that little girl now, to wipe away all of her tears and wrap her arms around her thin body and say that it’s okay, you’ll find him.
And he will find you.
Levi walks closer to her, a hand outstretched, that smile still in place. The same one that melts her heart and brushes her soul. My love, she thinks, my only true friend.
“I’m looking forward to working with you,” his eyes twinkle like he hides the whole sky in them. And she is sure, she will never get tired of watching its colours. “Four-eyes.”
A smile so big parts her lips and ultimately, she feels at ease. She lifts up one hand to shake his, looking into his eyes. “Likewise, clean freak.”