His dreams were breathtaking again, in the most misleading meaning of the word.
As a soldier he had expected the nightmares. After all the battlefield is unforgiving, and more so the enemy. But what he did not expect was to see Zoe in them – Zoe, the wide-eyed, bright-minded woman who wore a coat of white over a suit of healthy green.
In his dreams, she wore a jacket embroidered with white and black wings. She was a soldier who held two blades and slayed monsters that ate men. She smiles all the same, laughs and rambles all the while, but there is this certain dullness in her eyes that made her look dead, sometimes. Levi thinks it doesn't suit her.
And while on the topic of things that doesn't suit her, let us talk about red.
Red doesn't suit Zoe. Red doesn't match her hands, her face, her half-bitten body. Especially when red is liquid and warm and metallic – that is the worst type of red, because its the one that takes all the important things away.
Levi sat up, palms automatically positioning themselves on his closed eyes, rubbing them, remembering. He couldn't recall what she looked like. Were her eyes open? Did she appeared to be in pain? Everything is a blur to him but her lips – soft as they were cold – cold and unresponsive to his voice, to his declarations of love. Love. There it is again.
He had never viewed her like that, ever. Hange is always the friend, the sister, the family figure in his life. Levi treated her like a blood relative – loved her like a blood relative – yet when she kissed him this morning his blood sang differently, much differently. Why was that?
Pulling away from his palms, the soldier swung his legs off the couch, thoughts still muddled. There must be some kind of mistake; some blunder he had overlooked. This was not right. Zoe is his friend, his family, and you don't think of french-kissing your own family, even if it might even feel go—
"Stop." No. Don't ruin this. Zoe is your only special person now.
Levi looked up, eyes squinted. He shouldn't have pressed his palms on his eyelids too much. "I'm good."
"You look kinda shitty," She grinned. His vision is still a bit blurred, but he knows that expression well. Zoe had emerged from her room, and is currently leaning against the door frame. "Hungry?" A few steps later, the brunette is already beside him, tousle-haired and still smiling. "I have cereal."
"It's two in the afternoon, and you're offering me cereal." When grey eyes finally adjusted, Levi sent her one of his signature blank looks.
"I can't cook, alright? I don't have much stuff in my fridge either. But we can go out! I know a good place. They serve the best lasagna. And those croissants you like so much, they have it in all sizes and flavors."
"You happen to know a lot of restaurants... Its suspicious." Hange laughed at this, glasses sliding down her nose a bit.
"When you left, I've never tried cooking. I had to improvise or else I'd starve to death." Hopping off the couch, Zoe made her way to the kitchen and reached for the fridge handle. "I don't usually invite friends over, but even in those times I do, they don't cook for me like you do. Except for Moblit though; he's a cutie."
An eyebrow rose to such statement. "Who the hell is Moblit?"
"He's a nurse at St. Sina's. Nice guy, great friend." Pulling out a carton of milk, Zoe pulled the top open and downed a few gulps. "As I've said, a cutie."
Standing up himself, the soldier walked over to Hange and snatched the carton from her hand. "I feel sorry for this guy." With a quick motion he tipped the carton too, draining the container some more before handing it back to her. He would have preferred ice-cold water, but Hange doesn't like hers chilled. Opening the fridge to get some would be fruitless.
"Yeah, yeah." Snatching it back, the brunette rolled her eyes and shoved the milk back in the fridge. "So are we going out or what?"
"We're not?" Zoe echoed back, blinking.
"Who's she?" Nodding now to the closed refrigerator door, Levi stared at the solitary picture pinned against it with a heart-shaped magnet. It was a picture of a woman. More precisely, it was a picture of Zoe and a pretty ginger-haired woman. Both were making a face, eyebrows scrunched up and lips curled in a funny manner.
"You don't remember her? That's Petra. Petra Ral. Don't think about hitting on her though, she's already taken – but that's not the point! We're not eating out? Where are we gonna eat?" Waving her hands at him to tear his attention away from Petra's face, Zoe asked again, expression still confused.
"Here. I'm gonna cook. We're buying groceries."
"Oh, what? Today's my day-off and we're gonna go grocery shopping?" With utter disappointment on her face, Hange threw her hands in the air, all in disbelief. "Levi, come on, don't do this to me."
"Don't do what? We need groceries. You ain't got shit in your fridge, and I'm assuming your pantry is just for display. I don't have any things of my own too. We really need to get some stuff bought."
"Okay, maybe we do, but can't we buy that some other time? Tomorrow, maybe? Please? I don't have time, Levi. I only get to see you for thirty days and most of those days I won't be here so – just – not today, okay?"
Pink was turning shade by shade into red. Usually, red didn't suit Zoe, but when it adorned her ears, it looked quite endearing.
"I just arrived today." He said softly. "We have plenty of time."
"You'll be surprised how one month can pass by so fast, believe me." She replied with a sigh. "Please."
"This better not be a fucking excuse for your laziness," With a pointed look, Levi crossed his arms and headed back to the couch. "If you don't want to go grocery shopping, then we might as well not go out."
Slowly, the same, goofy smile began crawling back to Hange's lips.
"I'll go order us some food, then."
At six-thirty, Zoe had left.
Levi had fallen asleep on the couch again, since they were huddled together in the living room all afternoon playing video games, cartons of food and take-outs encircling their little make-shift nest. At nightfall they began exchanging stories, voices becoming hushed as late night approached.
Zoe had told him a great deal. She had always been open with her feelings, her thoughts more so. He on the other hand, wasn't as vocal as she is – he told her what happened, what he went through, but he didn't give too many hints on the more personal stuff, like what it felt like abandoning an injured soldier to save your own ass. He needn't to say more for her to understand.
"My shift starts at seven tomorrow," She said when it was close to two in the morning. "I won't be home till seven or eight, maybe. You can go ahead and shop for food. I'll pick up a few things myself before I get home."
"I'll cook dinner, so don't eat out." With a small yawn, he replied. "What do you wanna eat?"
"Anything," Zoe giggled softly, her grin still as bright as ever. "Everything Levi-made is good enough for me."
"Be careful what you wish for. I might add in some cat-parts if you're not tactful."
"Levi!" With a silent scandalized voice, the brunette hit him on the arm, reprimanding. The soldier merely snorted at this, ignoring the little slap he received.
"Good night, Zoe."
"I don't want to go to sleep," The doctor muttered, head leaning against the couch's backrest. "I'm tired of doing hospital work."
Levi had both of his eyebrows furrowed. "You can't say that."
"Funny, someone told me the same thing this morning." A chuckle. A hand reaching out to play with black locks. "Alright, you win."
"Go to sleep." He almost wanted to touch her hand and bring it to his lips.
"I will," She smiled, fleeting and beautiful. Soon Levi felt lips pressed to his forehead, arms snaking around his shoulders, bringing his face close to her hair as he sighed, contented. Zoe smelled of the hospital – the clean, crisp, white part of it. Away from red. Away from death.
"I dreamed of you today," He began, cradling her in his arms, body slowly falling down the cushion.
"Don't think about the bad dreams." Another kiss; on his temple. They sank together into the couch, consciousness ebbing away, bit by bit, until there is only the movement of their chests; the sound of their hearts.
Slamming down a can of pineapple juice, Levi snapped. "What?"
"There was smooching."
"Just so you know, Mike, I will not hesitate throwing this at you, and every other thing that has metal in it in this bag if you don't shut up."
"Ah, so it wasn't that kind of smooching. The plot thickens even more."
One spinning pineapple juice can hauled across the room later, the talking resumed once more.
"I'm just saying, man. There was even that running thing going on when you two saw each other. But even with that, there's still nothing? Hah, women. I can never understand them."
"How did you even find me?" Bringing his head up from rummaging, Levi gave the other soldier a narrowed glance. He was half done unloading the paper bags, groceries now littering the tables and counter.
"I didn't try. I just took a look outside, wondering what I should do to kill time until Nanaba came home and then I saw you, unloading so much shit off a taxi. Surprise, my friend – my girlfriend and your friend lives in the same apartment building."
"Great." The shorter of the two shook his head, almost throwing the bag of potato chips in the air in an attempt to contain his sarcasm. "Are we going to have double dates from now on?"
"Well, if you can get your friend into a relationship, then we could."
Levi sent him a disgusted look. Mike just laughed, heartily.
"Ahh, nothing like the smell of emotional turmoil in the afternoon."
"You seem pretty happy today."
"More than usual," Petra smiled, burying her hands into her coat pockets. "Did something good happen?"
"Nothing really," Zoe began, her signature grin returning. "I just had a good night's sleep."
"Lucky you." The ginger patted her on the shoulder, and scooted closer when the elevator doors opened and a few people joined them in the four-cornered space. "How's your friend doing?"
"He's at home, probably cleaning stuff," A chuckle. "I'll introduce you to him sometime. I think you'll like him."
"I'll look forward to it then," A reciprocated smile. "What's he like, though?"
"Hmmm," Hange tapped her chin, eyes on the elevator numbers flashing one by one. "He's tactless and funny. And he's short."
"Short?" Petra blinked, just as the elevator doors opened again.
"Yeah," She laughed, skipping out with the ginger in tow, "Adorably short."
The next time he saw her, its already ten minutes to midnight.
Levi had prepared dinner, as promised. Roasted potatoes, carrots, beans (he added it in at the last minute so that he could make a joke about her cat) corn and chicken marinated in a secret formula he picked up back in Trost was the menu. Zoe loved hearty meals, so he figured he'd spoil her a bit, but just for this instance. It wasn't healthy to eat so much at night.
He had started preparing at five-thirty in the afternoon, just after he had driven Mike away when he couldn't take any more of the blond's playful jeering. Zoe's cats had made an appearance by then, surprisingly. The little shits were hungry, Levi later found out, when Sonny suddenly jumped up the counter and tried snatching away the chicken he was currently seasoning with salt. After he had very unwillingly fed the felines, they proceeded to play around, tumbling and running around their own territory, their toys now scattered about their small kitty corner.
At seven, supper was ready to be served. Zoe's shift ends at seven, or so he was told. Just in time.
But doctor Hange never arrived at seven. Or eight. Or the following numbers after that. Levi had grown tired of waiting for her when the short arm of the clock hit ten. So when his plate was loaded with food, he plopped on the couch and proceeded to entertain himself with silly reality shows and crappy movies on HBO.
The soldier had hit the showers and later, the bed, when eleven-thirty came. There must have been some kind of emergency in the hospital. Zoe's currently assigned to the ER (as ironic as that is), and as a soldier, Levi didn't have to know what kind of stuff happens in that place. He had been to battle, after all. Nothing is worse than that.
When sleep was just about to suck him in to dreamworld again, there was a soft creaking of a door. Cats were mewling, welcoming. Keys jingled, footsteps peppered the wooden floor. Soon the murmur of a weather report flooded his ears, news of rain and more rain over the weekend filling his consciousness, like a song with a melody he couldn't make out. Levi stirred in his half-asleep state, body soon responding to the clanging of metal and ceramic and to a voice, hushed, but happy.
Zoe was home.
"Was I too loud?" She asked, fork in midair, carrots and beans impaled by the utensil. She was sitting on the carpeted floor, cross-legged, with her bag beside her.
"Yes," Levi replied, stifling a yawn as he came out of his room. "I wasn't really asleep, anyway."
The brunette smiled at him and continued devouring her meal, eyes returning to the television screen. "The chicken is delicious, by the way."
"I know." He sat on couch, next to her, squinting at the screen as well. Apparently there will be some sort of storm coming. Bad weather ahead.
"Sorry I couldn't make it to dinner," Stabbing the remaining potato on her plate, Zoe began again. "The ER was loaded. They needed all the slaves they could get."
He hummed, not really caring about the matter. "I hope you were an efficient slave."
"I am the best slave." He snorted at her confidence, while she grinned. Breaking the potato in to two, the doctor stabbed one part and a piece of chicken before stuffing them in her mouth again, chewing silently, ears and eyes focused on the evening news, before wishing to speak again.
"I want you to meet Petra." She was looking at him now. It confused him for a moment, took him by surprise, even.
"Who?" He knew who it was. He had been meaning to ask 'why' instead, but the word came out different.
"Petra," Zoe shook her head, smiling at his presumed forgetfulness. "Doctor ginger-pants over there. In the picture." She pointed then at her refrigerator.
"I'm not going out with her." His mind was quicker, this time. Back in their high school days, the brunette had always paired him with random girls, whether he liked it or not. She used to tease him before that he'd look less unamused with a pretty girl beside him.
Hange made a face, confused, eyebrows furrowed for a moment before breaking into a chuckle. "I'm not playing match-maker, silly. Didn't I tell you she's with someone else?"
A pause. "Then why are you insisting that I meet her?"
"Because she's with me."
The world stopped spinning again.
A/N: Hey y'all. Sorry for the slow update my friends. Final exams are coming so no new chapter for another week. Bear with me.
On another note, thank you for all the people who left reviews! They really keep me motivated.