Chapter 1: Reconciliation
"Falco, we have two orders of black milk tea, one without boba!" called Gabi from the main area of a small tea shop.
As Levi calculated the cost of the order, he watched Falco get to work brewing the tea. He never thought he'd live long enough to enter a more peaceful line of work, but with Armin making progress on a treaty between Paradis and the outside world, there was no need for expert Titan slayers. Despite his wheelchair-bound state, Levi considered himself a lucky man. He survived the Rumbling and got to live out his dream in safety, something that couldn't be said of many former comrades. Levi also got to have two perfect caretakers to help him achieve his dream. Falco was the levelheaded one with a good sense of situational awareness. He was surprisingly quick to learn how to brew drinks too, something that motivated Levi to take him off sanitation duty (that and his inability to achieve a level of cleanliness that reached Levi's standards). Then there was Gabi: loud, outspoken, but not without kindness underneath that fire. Gabi's extroverted personality was popular with customers, making her an excellent waitress. In a strange way, those two dorks reminded Levi of his two companions from his life before the Survey Corps. The ex-captain had a habit of picking up strays.
"HI GUYS! I HAVEN'T SEEN YOU IN AGES! COME TAKE A SEAT!"
Gabi's greeting tore Levi from his reminiscing. Admittedly, she could be a little too loud given the small size of the shop.
"Hey boss, these customers want to meet the owner!" said Gabi in a tone that hinted that there was more to the story than that.
After Falco assured him that he could handle things on his own, Levi wheeled himself to the shop's entrance. It became apparent what Gabi was so excited about. Next to the smiling waitress was an older man in a cap, a young man with a familiar grin on his face, and a young blond woman with a mortified expression. The woman's expression was understandable, given that the last time Levi interacted with her, she was trying to kill him as the Female Titan.
"Isn't it great? Armin and Annie came to visit!" exclaimed Gabi, the poor, clueless thing.
"Right. . . I guess I'll show you to your table," said Levi.
With Annie, her father, Armin, and Levi seated, Gabi began taking orders.
"Armin, you've been here before. What do you recommend?" asked Mr. Leonhart.
"The takoyaki here is amazing. I get it whenever I have time-off from work."
"Very well, I'll have an order of takoyaki and a green tea. What would you like, daughter?"
Annie remained silent, as if she didn't hear the question.
Armin spoke up. "Annie, dear, did you want anything? The tea here is. . ."
"What? Oh, I'll have whatever's most popular," replied Annie a bit too quickly.
"Ok, I'll let you all get reacquainted with Levi," said Gabi as she took everyone's orders to Falco.
"So. . ." began Levi before Armin interrupted.
"Before I forget, Mr. Leonhart, there was something I wanted to talk to you about, in private."
Soon, Armin and the elder Leonhart had left the table, leaving Levi and Annie by themselves. The tea shop was mostly empty this time of day, so there was no noise distracting the pair. After a minute of awkward silence, Annie's face turned red.
"Levi, I'm sorry," said the woman at a tone barely above a whisper.
"I said I'm sorry,'' quickly replied Annie. When Levi didn't respond, Annie continued. "I'm sorry, about everyone I took from you. I see how peaceful the world has become, and I can't help but think of everyone who can't be here to enjoy it because of me. I always thought the world would always be cruel, and to see my father again, I'd have to adapt to be just as cruel. That's what I told myself so I'd have the conviction to do so many horrible things. But this peace has given me time to think about all the people I stole from their fathers."
As Annie poured her thoughts out, Levi watched with a silent but intense glare. "Why tell me all this now? It's been three years since the Rumbling was stopped, and seven since you killed my squad. Did the guilt take that long to settle?" Despite his desire to remain calm, Levi couldn't help but let his anger show in his words. He had come to terms with the loss of his team years ago, but the last thing he wanted to do was pick at old wounds just so this brat could feel better about herself.
Annie didn't fail to notice Levi's frustration, pausing to make sure her answer was worded carefully. After taking a deep breath, the Female Titan said, "I've been thinking about the kind of world I've helped make, the kind of world. . . the world I'll be raising my child in."
Levi didn't make a sound, but his good eye did widen a bit. After absorbing this information, Levi dryly replied, "Congratulations. Does Armin know?"
"I only told him last night, and his response was to insist on taking my family to this tea shop he loves so much. I honestly don't know how I'm supposed to interpret that, and I haven't even told Dad yet. I guess, the realization that I'm about to bring life into the world made me think about all the life I took out of the world. And when I saw you, I needed to apologize for everything."
"Ok. I accept your apology."
Annie blinked rapidly a couple times. Her face held a confused look. "That's it? Just like that?"
"What else is there? That's what you wanted to hear, right?"
"I suppose. . ." Annie replied, though she didn't appear satisfied with Levi's answer.
Seeing Annie's discomfort, Levi continued. "Let me guess: you see your father and your new lover, and it's impossible to ignore how lucky you came out of all this. And it makes you feel like shit because you can't help but ask, 'Why me, after everything I've done?'"
"Well, yes, that's how I feel," replied Annie.
Levi sighed, allowing his earlier anger to fade. He understood better than many what was going through the blond's head. "What you're feeling is called survivors' guilt. It's pretty common among survivors of life-threatening situations. I would know. Listen, I forgave you a long time ago. You warriors were all children when you were forced to kill for survival. It's not something I'm unable to empathize with. Petra, Oluo, Eld, Gunther, they weren't spiteful people. They wouldn't hold a grudge, and I won't either. If you really want to atone for everyone who died so you could be here, dedicate your life to making their deaths worth it."
Annie felt as though a weight had been lifted from her chest. She was terrified to learn that Armin had brought her to the person with the most reason to hate her, only to find out Levi had forgiven her before she had even asked. Wait, why were her cheeks wet?
"Levi! You're not making the customers cry again are you?" sounded a high pitched voice.
Annie turned and saw Gabi place their orders on the table.
"We were just catching up. I can't help it that everyone from the 104th Corps is so damn weepy," said Levi.
Gabi sighed, "I swear, you're so hopeless."
"Looks like we got back at a good time," exclaimed Mr. Leonhart as he returned with Armin.
"What took you two so long anyways?" asked Annie, having wiped her eyes before anyone could see.
"Oh, I just needed some fatherly advice on a few things," said Armin dismissively. "Let's eat!"
The four spent the next half hour enjoying the takoyaki and tea. Levi shared all of Armin's less than cool moments from his time in the squad, much to the blond man's embarrassment and Mr. Leonhart's amusement. Armin in return told Annie about all the jokes the team made behind Levi's back, mainly related to the captain's stature and reputation as a clean freak. The group was laughing and talking for so long that it took forever to finish the small dishes. After Gabi had cleared the table, Armin's expression turned serious.
"Annie, the reason I wanted to bring you here was. . . well it's something a bit more serious than Levi's excellent tea skills."
The former Colossal Titan dropped to one knee and pulled out a small box. "Annie, will you ma. . ."
Before Armin could finish, Annie glomped on the smaller man, exclaiming, "Yes!"
Falco and Gabi "awwed" from the back.
"Armin was asking me for my blessing while you were with Levi," explained Mr. Leonhart.
Annie looked Armin in the eye and asked, "Now be honest, did you know Levi was the owner before you brought us here?"
Armin awkwardly scratched the back of his head. "Well, I had noticed how everything from the past weighed on you, so I thought before we entered the next stage of our lives, I should help you make peace with the past."
"Way to spring a confrontation on your girlfriend, Armin," snorted Levi.
"One of these days, you'll find a problem that can't be fixed with a talk over tea," said Annie, although there was no anger in her voice.
Armin shrugged sheepishly, "It worked here, didn't it?"
"To be fair, nothing cools tensions better than good tea," said Mr. Leonhart.
"Wait, that gives me a great idea!" exclaimed Armin.
The Paradis Times: World Peace Treaty Signed At Ackerman's Tea Shop
Yaegerists Punching Air
"This is some gourmet shit," - Marleyan Delegate
AN: That's it for my first entry in this anthology series. If there are any ideas you wanted to see explored in the world of Attack on Titan, leave a comment and I may be able to do something with it.