Levi didn't want to return to his previous job.
It was dirty, dehumanizing, and left his body feeling as if it had been completely hollowed out.
It wasn't until Levi had taken some time off from his job that he realized how much he had disliked it in the first place.
"You don't have to work, but you can if you want to. Of course I think it would be safer for you and Eren if you stopped working at the brothel, but the choice is yours. Just know that I'll support you no matter what you choose to do."
That's what Erwin had said when Levi first moved in.
Since brothel hours were extremely flexible and had no real schedule, Levi hadn't worked since the night Erwin had proposed to him. He still had a small amount of savings left in his bank account, but was running low on funds ever since Eren's unexpected visit to the doctor's office.
Any chance of him saving up a comfortable amount of money to rent a decent apartment for him and Eren was slowly getting slimmer and slimmer by the day.
From the way he was looking at things, he had only two solid options.
The first option was that he take Eren and resume his previous life. He'd have to reluctantly return to his job, but once he'd gotten a fair bit of money saved, he could quit his brothel job and find a more preferable one along with a place for just the two of them to live in.
And, the second option was, of course, that he and Eren continue to live with Erwin. Eventually, they get married and Eren gets raised by the two of them in a more family friendly environment.
It seemed clear what option Levi should choose, but he was still in deep consideration on which step he should take next.
On one hand, the first option made him feel more liberated in the sense that he could control his own life and choices without the influence of others, aside from Eren, involved.
Naturally, the second option sounded more appealing but it wasn't without it's drawbacks. He hardly knew Erwin- and that fact became more evident with each day that they spent together.
Erwin Smith wasn't a bad man. Infact, he was incredibly perfect. From his handsome and neat appearance, to his alluring but professional personality. His flaws were few and far between but perhaps the most noticeable of all was the fact that he shared very few private details of his life with Levi.
By the second week of living together, Levi grew tired of being kept in the dark about Erwin's private life.
"The reason I want to marry you? Didn't I tell you already? It's because I took an interest in you."
Erwin's eyebrows were tightly knit in confusion. He was leisurely sitting on the couch while sipping his morning cup of coffee.
In the center of the room, Eren was busy at work in his kitchen playset. He crushed up a pack of crayons with his hands and poured the contents into a plastic tea cup.
Levi, who stood beside the playset, crossed his arms impatiently and tilted his head slightly to the side. "You said there was another reason. You said you had to be married by a certain time, but never explained why."
"Ah, I guess I never did."
"Well, get on with it then."
Erwin silently scratched his chin. "You really want to hear the answer?"
"Consider my position." Levi firmly stated. "I'm living here with an ex-client who I know nothing about. He tells me that we can benefit from marrying each other, but never tells me how he can benefit from marrying me. How do I know you're not just a creeper who picks up random men and babies that you find? You seem to have a pretty good record going for you at the moment."
"I'll admit that that sounds fairly sketchy." Erwin stated with a small laugh. He sipped his coffee before continuing again. "Alright, to tell you the truth there's no specific reason why I chose you specifically. I really did just happen to take an interest in you."
Levi stared a moment at Erwin before asking, "And the reason you need to be married is?"
"It's because I have to be married by a certain age before my parents will take my martial status into their own hands. Call me stubborn, but I'm a man who prefers to be in command of his own life." Erwin explained, a casual air surrounding him.
"You mean like an arranged marriage?" Levi straightened his posture and lowered his arms to his sides.
Erwin nodded his head once. "Right. Exactly like that. It's not that I doubt my parents abilities to choose a suitable person. I suppose that I'd rather make the choice on my own. It seems childish when I put it into words, but I know that this is the right choice for me."
Levi furrowed his brows as he stared at Erwin. "Won't they be disappointed?"
"No, not at all. On the contrary, they seem delighted that I found somebody suitable on my own." Erwin stated with a smile. "And Eren. I think they'll really like him too. My mother is especially fond of babies. She's just so in love with Armin, she'll go crazy for Eren too."
"Huh." Levi breathed quietly.
Erwin's answer had been unexpectedly satisfying to Levi. He had half-expected that the man would dodge his question, or to evade it completely, but instead he had been frank and point blank with him.
"Are you having second thoughts?" Erwin asked, setting his cup on the coffee table.
Levi glanced at his side, observing as Eren continued to mix a random assortment of objects into his toy tea cups. He returned his glance to Erwin as he shook his head. "Not particularly."
"If you are then don't hesitate to tell me."
"I'm not." Levi stated firmly. "I just don't want you to think that I'm your new housewife or something because I'm not."
"Between doing all of the cooking and cleaning that I've had to do, I've been typecast as a stay-at-home mother, basically."
"Oh." Erwin mumbled in concentration. He thought a second before continuing. "You're right. I'm sorry for leaving all of the housework to you. I tend to lose track of time on my own, but I'll help around more."
"Honestly, how did you survive before I arrived here?"
Erwin let out a small laugh. "I wonder the same thing."
When the room grew silent, the soft sound of rain pattering against the window could be heard. It was a light, and gentle rain. A nice change from the heavy rain that had plaguing the town for the previous few weeks.
After creating two cups of tea that he was satisfied with, Eren walked over to Levi and called out to him. "Beebee! Beebee! Tea!"
Bending over, Levi accepted the cup and thanked Eren for it. The toddler simply nodded his head and smiled as he walked the second cup over to Erwin. Holding it up, Eren didn't say anything but eagerly awaited Erwin's reaction.
"Oh, thank you so much, Eren!" Erwin exclaimed as he accepted the toy cup. Looking at its contents, he could see that it was full of crushed up crayons and ripped up pieces of paper.
Eren glanced back at Levi, who had already disposed of the garbage in his cup and was pretending to drink it. "It's the best tea I've ever had." he stated, oddly monotone.
Smiling contently with himself, Eren spun around on his heels to face Erwin and watched as he mimicked a swallowing sound.
"Ahh! That's sooo good!" Erwin exclaimed, pretending to wipe his mouth off.
Eren clapped his hands together in delight, his giggles sounding like high-pitched squeaks. He accepted the toy cups from the two and then placed them in the sink of his kitchen playset. He pretended to wash them as Erwin and Levi watched over him.
"He likes to copy the things you do, I've noticed." Erwin commented.
Levi shrugged his shoulder. "It's what babies do. They copy the things they see."
"Speaking of, how are his verbal skills? He doesn't talk much to me, but he seems to know a fair chunk of words."
"Yeah." Levi answered flatly. Keeping his gaze on Eren, he answered, "I guess his vocabulary is developing the way it should be. He can say things like "yes" or "no" and he's pretty good with animal names and sounds. He struggles with forming proper sentences, though. I think 'I love you' is the only one he can really string together."
"I love you? I've never heard him say that before."
"Well... He's never said it to me but he can say it."
"Hm." Erwin hummed. "Have you ever said it to him? He might have to hear you say it first."
Levi eyed the ground thoughtfully while trying to recall a time he had ever uttered the phrase to Eren. When he realized he hadn't, he shook his head. "No, I guess I haven't."
Erwin raised his eyebrows ever-so-slightly. "I'm sure he'd say it right back to you if you said it to him. Give it a try."
Levi shot the man a confused glance, unsure of why he seemed so eager to hear him utter the words to the baby. Though, he was curious himself to see Eren's reaction to hearing the phrase for the first time since the passing of their parents.
"Eren." Levi said, catching the baby's attention. Eren quickly poked his head around the side of his playset and scurried towards Levi.
Shooting a quick glance at Erwin, Levi realized that the man was still intently watching with a look of intense curiousity on his face. Levi returned his gaze to Eren, and quickly decided to not beat around the bush. "Eren. I love you."
Eren remained quiet for only a second before breaking out into a cheeky smile. "I la you."
It was close enough.
"Thanks." Levi said, reaching his hand forward and tickling Eren's side with it.
As he was terribly ticklish, the baby instantly crumbled to the ground in a fit of giggles. After a few seconds, Levi stopped tickling him and gave him time to breath.
Surprisingly, as soon as Eren's breath had returned to him, he hopped back onto his feet and ran into Levi's arms. At that point, Levi pulled him in a small bit closer and Eren buried his small face in Levi's chest.
"He's so sweet." Erwin commented smoothly, as he observed with a small smile.
"Yeah." Levi quietly agree'd as he ran his finger's through Eren's hair. "He's sweet."
Levi woke abruptly the next morning.
Although he was a light sleeper, he had grown accustomed to his usual alarm of light smacks to the face, and the cooing of Eren's shrill voice.
However, that morning, things were different.
Eren was fast asleep against Levis chest, clutching his little hands against his shirt and breathing quietly. Despite the man's best efforts to keep the toddler on his own side of the bed, Eren somehow always managed to worm his way back towards Levi.
A sudden strong and firm force had grabbed Levi by the shoulder, and shook his body quickly. Since he could feel Eren's weight on top of him, he knew that it couldn't possibly the baby.
Without so much as opening his eyes, Levi swung his hand to the side until it came into rough contact with a firm object.
"O-Oh Jesus." An exasperated voice mumbled.
Opening his eyes, Levi saw a blurred figure bent over at the waist. As his vision quickly cleared up, he realized that the figure belonged to Erwin, who clutched onto his pelvis tightly. It took to Levi a moment to realize what he had done.
"My bad." Levi mumbled under his breath, as he groggily rubbed his tired face.
Erwin waved his hand in an attempt to show that he was fine. "I didn't mean to wake you so abruptly."
While sitting upright, Levi was careful to keep a firm hold on the sleeping baby to make sure he wouldn't wake suddenly and become fussy. "What's going on?" He asked. It was unusual for Erwin to enter their room, and never before had he attempted to wake either of them.
"There's someone downstairs for you." Erwin said, as he slowly eased back into his usual straight posture.
"Ah... I never asked for a name."
Levi groaned as he tossed the blankets to the side. If anything bothered him, it was his morning schedule being disturbed. Beginning the day with a specific routine made the rest of the day go by easier- and any interruptions could potentially throw the entire day off.
Still looking frumpy and tired, Levi made his way down the stairs while clutching onto the toddler. He'd been in such a hurry to get to the door that he had forgotten to leave the baby behind and he didn't realize it until that second.
Upon arriving in the entryway, Levi didn't see anybody else around. He scoffed quietly to himself, assuming that Erwin had just used some cheap excuse to get him out of bed early, when a voice came from behind him.
"Oh! Pardon me! I was just making myself some tea!" an energetic voice chimed out.
Turning to face the living room entrance, Levi was faced with the image of a familiar person, with greasy brown hair and thick-rimmed glasses, sitting on one of the tiny stools in the toddlers kitchen playset. In their hand, one of the plastic cups was tilted on it's side, and only inches away from the large, almost cartoon-ish grin on their face.
The person was Hanji Zoe. Levi had only met the person twice before, but never in very comfortable situations.
"Eren, too! So nice to see you!" Hanji stood and made way towards the two.
"Be quiet." Levi mumbled, raising a single finger in front of his lips. "He's sleeping."
"Ah, too bad, I'm sure he'd be excited to see me again."
"I think you scare him more than anything."
Hanji laughed loudly. "Probably so!" they bellowed. Only then had they realized how loud they had been and placed a hand over their mouth. "Oopsie!"
It was too late.
Eren's eyes shot open and he began to squirm in surprise. Levi attempted to rub his back to soothe him quickly, but had no such luck. The baby began to wail as loudly as his lungs would allow him to, in a high pitched ear shattering tone.
Levi shot a disapproving look at Hanji. "He usually likes to sleep in."
"Aww I'm so sorry, Eren. I didn't mean to make you fussy." Hanji knelt down to the toddlers level and smiled gently.
His crying only became more hectic at that point, which triggered the entrance of Erwin, who sauntered quietly down the stairs.
"Is everything alright?" Erwin asked, stopping at the bottom step.
"Hanji scared Eren." Levi explained simply.
"Oh." Erwin glanced between the two. "Your friend?"
"No." Levi stated flatly.
"How cruel!" Hanji whined, quickly changing expression to a more serious one as they faced Erwin. "I'm a Child Protective Service caseworker. My name is Hanji Zoe."
Erwin's eyes widened in confusion. "Is there a problem?"
"Hmmm." Hanji hummed, tilting their head to the side. "I don't know. Is there?"
The sound of Eren's crying continued to ring through the room as Erwin shot confused glances between Levi and Hanji.
"Well I don't know what any of this is about but I have to change Eren so excuse me." Levi said, pushing passed the two. "I'll be back when he's settled down."
He quickly shot Erwin a look as if to say 'Don't talk about unnecessary things' before he made his way back up the stairs.
What seemed like hours later turned out to be only forty minutes later when Levi returned. Eren was still red-faced from his earlier tantrum, and was looking more on the worn out, grumpy side.
Erwin and Hanji were sitting on the couch over a cup of tea, and heavily into the conversation when Hanji stopped mid-story to greet Levi.
"I see the little grumpy one is looking more awake... Ah, and so is Eren!" Hanji joked, and was the only one to laugh afterwards.
"Ah, why don't you let me take care of feeding Eren breakfast and you two can chat?" Erwin asked, as he stood.
Levi was vaguely hesitant to do so. He trusted Eren in Erwin's care, but wasn't sure how it would reflect on himself if he handed the baby off that easily to someone else. In the end, he decided it would give him a private moment with Hanji to figure out exactly why they'd shown up out of the blue, so he handed the baby off to Erwin.
Eren made a tiny cry of discontent as he was carried off into the kitchen. He flexed his small hand towards Levi, and mumbled "Beebeebeebeebeebee" until he was completely out of sight.
The room was silent after that, as the two remaining watched the doorway for a prolonged moment and listened to the sound of Erwin scooting chairs across the floor until he finally got Eren seated. Mindless baby chatter could be heard, and Erwin feigned interest in the incomprehensible conversation as he prepared food.
"Nice job on the boyfriend." Hanji commented, out of the blue.
Levi furrowed his eyebrows. "Excuse me?"
"I mean his cheekbones. Like, wow." Hanji shot a thumbs up of approval. "Well, anyway, I didn't come here to creep on your man."
"Alright." Levi muttered, feeling suddenly awkward. Finally facing Hanji, he asked, "Then, why are you here? I thought our meetings were over?"
"They were, but then you filed a change of address. I have to make sure that you're taking Eren to a suitable place, of course."
"You said I was in the clear though. That I was suitable to take care of him."
Hanji placed a finger on their chin and stared to the roof in an over-exaggerated manner. "Well, lets say it's not you that people are worried about. We're sure you're a fine guardian, but now you're suddenly living with two other men. It must be hard for Eren to get used to things, and we have to be certain that it's a safe environment for him."
"As his guardian, I wouldn't take him anywhere unsafe." Levi retorted. "Honestly, this is unnecessary, and I'm offended. I've already been given custody of him and this additional shit should be considered harassment."
"Levi." Hanji stated firmly. Their expression quickly changed from jokish to deadpan. "I'm simply doing my job. I'm sure Eren is just fine here, but it's my job to confirm that. Let me do my work."
Levi remained quiet a moment. He simply stared at Hanji through narrowed eyes before asking, "And how many more meetings is this supposed to be?"
"Well, if things go well then just this one." Hanji answered honestly. "Ah. I'm all out of tea. Perhaps I'll be more willing to pass you if you went and grabbed me another cup?"
Levi considered making a snarky remark but decided against it. Instead, he quietly took Hanji's cup and left the room.
Entering the kitchen, Levi was quickly greeted by the sound of Eren's upset whimpering as Erwin unsuccessfully attempted to feed him.
"Beebee! Beebee!" Eren shrieked upon seeing the man again.
Erwin turned back to face Levi. His hair was out of place across his forehead, and he had large stains on his shirt already. "Ah... Levi. He's still being fussy."
Although he found the situation amusing, Levi knew he had to once again take matters into his own hands. "No wonder. He hates oatmeal."
"Then what does he eat?"
"Cereal. Milk. A banana, sometimes. He's kind of picky, I guess." Levi answered as he filled the kettle with water and clicked it on. "Whatever. I'll just feed him since I'm here."
"Sorry about the inconvenience. Armin loves oatmeal so naturally I just made that first." Erwin explained as he set the bowl on oatmeal on the counter.
Levi grabbed a rag from the counter-top and gently soaked it beneath the tap water. Without speaking, he turned to face Erwin and began to dab at the spots on his shirt. "I should have warned you, anyway. It's no big deal."
"Thank you." Erwin said, watching as Levi fixed his shirt.
A silent moment passed as Levi finished cleaning Erwin's shirt. After that, he put all his attention into making Eren's breakfast and handed it off to the other man so he could feed him.
Eren was much happier with his second breakfast option and ate his cereal without much disagreement.
"By the way, Erwin," Levi randomly stated as he poured a cup of tea for Hanji. "Don't mention any of... 'those things' while the caseworker is here. The thing is that I used to 'work in a cafe' but it 'shut down.' We used to stay at our uncle's house back when the caseworker visited."
"Right. I get it. My lips are sealed."
"Good, then-" Levi cut himself off as he turned to walk out of the kitchen.
Standing there, in the doorway, was Hanji with their head tilted to the side in curiousity.
"Keep your lips sealed about what, exactly?"