Eren knew he was dead when one of the cups of tea he was carrying slipped carelessly from his hand and onto Corporal Levi’s desk. It landed with a clatter, the porcelain shattering and spilling its contents all over the papers on the no longer neat surface. The shards settled and the tea soon began to soak into the documents. Levi was terrifyingly quiet as he snatched up the papers, attempting in vain to wipe them clean with his handkerchief. The ink had already begun to smudge.
“Heichou…! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to…” Eren stammered, looking over the incredible mess he had managed to make.
There was another period of harrowing silence. Eren noticed through his fear that the papers in Levi’s hands were rustling; he then noticed the death grip the other had on them. The Corporal was practically shaking with rage.
“C-corporal…?” he sounded like a frightened child—perhaps because he was.
When Levi spoke for the first time, his tone was bland but dark. “Run,” he stated, still gazing upon the lost potential of his paperwork.
“Levi Heichou, I swear it was an accident…I’m so sorry!” Eren bumbled on despite the grueling warning he’d received.
When Levi finally turned his glare to the young cadet, his eyes were so filled with fury that Eren thought he might spontaneously combust. His gut dropped in absolute fear.
“Do you have shit for brains, brat? Or didn’t you hear me say run?” Levi’s ground out every syllable.
The titan shifter couldn’t help the effeminate squeak that escaped him as he sprinted from the short Corporal’s office. He had no idea what Levi was going to do to him, but scenes from a certain court room incident wormed their way into his mind. Eren would be damned if he was going to lose another tooth. So he ran away, screaming like a little girl. He wondered vaguely what his comrades would think of this. But that would have to wait until he reached safety.
“Jaeger!!” the bellow was impressive; its intensity was something that Eren could only have accomplished in titan form. It begged the question, is this man even human?
Eren knew from watching the man fight titans that Corporal Levi was a fast little bugger, but he wondered if that skill transferred from air to solid ground. Though he feared more than anything what he would find, Eren peered over his shoulder as he ran. Levi was practically right on top of him. Eren would’ve been in awe if he wasn’t about to piss himself. How on earth can he run so fast? The teen was already huffing from the exertion.
It took only a small stumble of his foot for Eren to go tumbling onto the stone floor. Levi swooped down on him, landing a swift kick to the teen’s side to keep him down. He drew one of his swords from his belt and pointed it up under Eren’s chin.
“Those stains will never come out, you fucking shit,” Levi’s growled in an unearthly manor.
The other whimpered in fear, raising his hands up to his throat defensively. Levi stepped on either of his wrists to keep Eren down—and from protecting his flesh from Levi’s sharp blades.
“H-heichou, please! It was an accident! I-I’ll fix it!” Eren choked underneath the pressure of Levi’s sword.
His superior’s eyes narrowed to a dangerous level, “You can’t fix those papers, shit face. They’re ruined.”
The blade under Eren’s chin was pressed harder against his jugular, drawing out a thin stream of blood. The teen gasped at the pain, rolling around under Levi’s grip. The Corporal’s feet twisted to quell the wriggling, grinding the skin on Eren’s wrists. He squeaked again in pain.
“I’m sorry! Please, Heichou!” Eren shifted once more, trying to shake free from the Corporal’s snare. When the blade was pushed further into his throat, he gagged, “Y-you can’t kill me! Wh-what the hell good would that do?!” The words were hard to push out.
Levi’s brows knit together. Despite his obvious anger, to anyone else he might’ve looked completely disinterested; but Eren could tell the difference. In fact, he had never seen the Corporal so angry. His eyes burned.
“Oh I won’t kill you, Jaeger. But I can bring you close. And besides, you heal fast anyway…” He cocked his head, as if needing a fresh angle, “Right, shitty brat?”
“H-heichou! Please! What good would that do?! They were just some stupid papers!”
Levi dug his heels into the shifter’s wrists. The heeled soles were cutting off the appendages’ circulation. Eren grunted through clenched teeth.
The Corporal laughed bitterly, “Just some stupid papers, huh?” He put every ounce of his weight onto Eren’s raw wrists. “No, not urgent paperwork from Wall Sina, nothing important at all, just some stupid papers.”
Eren wondered how much blood he was losing from the pinprick on his throat—was his faintness from blood loss, or just plain terror? Either way, he feared what would happen when Levi finished his speech. Would he cut his throat? Or perhaps sever a few limbs? Maybe he’d just beat the shit out of him with those lethal kicks of his? All three wouldn’t have been too much to expect.
Though Eren’s limbs would grow back, it still didn’t feel too good to lose them in the first place. He wasn’t looking forward to Levi’s torture. He had to do something quickly. As Levi spoke, he slithered his hands around to loosen them a bit, latching onto the Corporal’s boots when he had enough hand room.
“Tch, just some stupid papers…well you know what, brat? You’re just some stupid shit I’m about to cut to pieces!” Levi growled.
When Levi leaned forward over top of him, Eren took his opportunity.
Eren pushed back against the Corporal’s weight with all of his strength, effectively heaving him off his perch. Levi stumbled—surprised that the brat had the audacity to even try and break free of his hold—and fell over entirely. He landed ungracefully right on his ass. The resounding thump was enough to alert those eating in the mess three halls away. The throw had perhaps been too effective.
It was at the moment he saw Levi falling backwards that Eren had decided he was dead. He didn’t even wait for Levi to tell him to run before he scrambled to his feet and began to haul ass in the opposite direction.
Levi sat, stunned. The fall had knocked the breath out of him, leaving him in a momentary daze; one that was broken the second he saw his underling clambering through the hallway like a drunken squirrel.
He unleashed another vicious growl as he jumped to his feet, “Eren fucking Jaeger!!”
“W-what’s going…on?” the timid voice came from behind the fuming Corporal.
When Levi snapped around his head, he saw the cool-headed Armin standing before him. He looked positively frightened, like he was approaching a rabid pitbull—a thought Levi supposed wouldn’t have been too off the mark. He must’ve been alerted to the drama by the sound of their Corporal falling on his ass. Or perhaps it was all the yelling and cursing? Either way Levi didn’t give a shit.
Levi apparently didn’t think the question had merit, as the fair-haired cadet received no response. Instead, the Corporal turned on a heel and sprinted at unholy speed in Eren’s direction.
“Come back here, you shitty brat!” Levi let out another battle cry as he rampaged.
Armin stood there confused, what did Eren do this time? He knew he would only find out if he followed the two of them in their little cat and mouse chase. He couldn’t run very fast, but he was determined to catch up before Levi ripped his friend clean in two.
Armin supposed the sight was a bit odd: Eren perched up high in a tree, hugging the trunk like a lifeline and Lance Corporal Levi at the base, hurling daggered stares and curses the other’s way. The two had quite a strange relationship he thought; if they had to work so near each other, shouldn’t they at least try to get along a bit better? He wondered what had gotten the Corporal to fume like this.
“G-guys? What’s going on?” Armin asked a little too quietly.
“Get down here so I can kill you, shit face!”
“Why the hell would I do that?! I’m staying up here until you calm the hell down!”
“Hey guys?” he spoke up this time.
“Calm down you say? Do I look upset to you? I only want to cut off a few limbs, dumb shit. Maybe your head.”
“Someone want to tell me what’s going on?” the blonde tried to put more urgency in the words.
“What the hell were you even carrying tea for, you dumb fuck?!”
“It was for you god dammit!”
“Do I look like I need your shitty tea?”
“Guys! Will you just shut up for one second and tell me what the hell you’re yelling about?!”
As the rabble quieted, Armin realized it was because he had been screaming. His cheeks flushed—he tried to keep his composure when he could, but when he lost it people tended to look at him weirdly. He cleared his throat, as if inciting their responses.
Levi sent one last sharp stare toward Eren before sheathing his blade. He turned to face the small blonde, crossing his arms and glaring at him like why’d you have to come ruin my fun, you shit?
“Eren spilled his shitty tea all over my papers. Any other questions?” he said neutrally.
“It was an accident!” Eren cried from the tree.
Levi shot him such a pointed glare that the teen visibly flinched, gripping tighter to the bark of the tree.
Armin blinked in confusion. “You’re chasing him down, blades drawn, because he spilled his cup of tea?”
Levi’s eyes narrowed, “You got a problem with that, Arlert?” His hand traveled back down to the swords at his side.
“W-well I mean…He said it was an accident. And besides, spilled tea shouldn’t have caused any permanent damage to the papers—maybe some stains and a little crinkling but if let out to dry they’d be fine. In fact, the ink would’ve only smeared if someone had tried to wipe away the mess…”
The Corporal’s hand gripped the hilt of his blade, “Just what are you trying to say, brat?”
Armin spoke, resolute despite his superior’s toxic glare, “Any real damage, sir, was probably caused by whoever tried to clean up the mess,” he continued, slightly quieter, “Which I assume was you, sir.”
That had been the wrong thing to say. Levi’s sword was drawn with undo speed and pointed at the blonde’s neck. The Corporal’s disinterested gaze had once again filled with fire. Armin raised his arms on immediate instinct. He grimaced slightly, but stayed his ground.
“I’d watch that mouth of yours, cadet. That is…unless you’d like a taste of my steel as well?” His brow lowered treacherously. A slim finger ran down the blade’s flat, calling attention to its razor sharp edge.
Eren shifted uncomfortably in the tree, “Armin you might want to run now.”
Intelligent blue eyes fell upon the Corporal; they were filled with an odd determination despite there being a blade drawn at their owner. “Of course, the initial incident was obviously Eren’s fault.”
The latter gave an indignant squawk, “Hey! I—”
Armin shot him a look and the brunette quickly shut his trap. Armin returned his attention to the one before him.
He took a breath before continuing, “And despite his guilt in said incident, it seems that it was just an accident—and one out of kindness at that, I mean, he said the tea he brought was for you, so isn’t it a little extreme to run after him with the intent to kill?”
The Corporal’s entire face distorted in disgust. Armin could see the answer written plainly there: No, not extreme in the least. Levi’s blade didn’t budge.
“Ya’ know…maybe you should take Eren’s advice, huh Arlert?” Lance Corporal Levi examined the long edge of his sword with new found interest.
Armin began spewing out his logic again when Levi’s boot inched forward, “W-wait! Eren may be an idiot, but really there’s just no sense in harming him!” Seeing those fiery eyes again he added, “Or me.”
Levi scoffed, “Tch! Well what do you want me to do then? Let you little shits get away with whatever the hell you please? Hold hands and skip into the sunset with Eren McShitface, the brat who destroyed my vital documents?”
“Excuse me?!” Eren really wasn’t helping Armin’s case. Levi’s head snapped back to look at the tree-bound teen with such vigor it was a miracle his neck didn’t snap.
“No, sir! I’m just saying there are other ways to punish him…ways that won’t cause any strife to the army should battle break out.” Armin was starting to worry his argument was all in vain. At this rate, the Corporal would have them both disfigured by dinnertime.
Levi reluctantly lowered his sword—a great relief to the one whose neck it was aimed at. He didn’t quite sheath it, but having its point away from a throat was progress enough. Levi sighed, blatantly fed up, “Your logic is starting to get on my nerves, brat. Just what the hell kind of punishment are you suggesting?”
That was good. It seemed the Corporal could understand logical reasoning after all. Armin piqued at the cooperation he was finally receiving. He racked his brain, What kind of punishment would the Corporal find satisfying? Eren looked incredulously down on the situation.
“I’m waiting,” Levi demanded.
“Well, of course his cleaning sucks…so that’s not an option…” Armin began to speak his thought process.
Eren was opening his mouth to protest but decided against it. He’d leave this to the one with actual negotiation skills.
“But some kind of difficult labor…something that must be done often—like taking care of the horses in the stables.”
“That’s not good enough. He does that normally. I’d rather pare his flesh.” Levi had put away his blade, his arms now crossed.
Eren watched helplessly as they discussed his fate.
“Right, but he normally has help, no? Stable work is usually done by multiple hands along with shift changes. You could make him do it all alone.”
“Yeah. That way he has to work long and hard, sun up to sun down, with time only to eat, sleep, and train a bit.”
“ARMIN!” Eren didn’t approve of this plan, but no one really paid him any attention.
“I see…but what if he just does the shitty half-assed job he does with everything else, eh?”
Eren buried his face in his palms. What did I do to myself? I should’ve only made tea for myself…
“Well, he wouldn’t be distracted by his comrades like usual. He’d be forced to focus on the job at hand. And on top of that, you could threaten to beat him if he does a bad job—that way he’d be scared into working harder, or you can give him the beating he deserves if he doesn’t.”
“I thought the point was to get him to not beat me…” Eren grumbled. Again, no one was listening.
It was quiet as Corporal Levi considered his options. Eren was willing to take the beating at this point.
“Alright, Arlert. I won’t kill him.”
Armin breathed a sigh of relief.
Levi glared up to Eren, still perched up high in the tree, “Get down here, shit face. You’ve got work to do.”
The Corporal turned heel and began to walk back in. Armin stepped forward to help Eren down when Levi stopped him. He pressed his shoulder almost painfully into Armin’s, and leaned in to whisper in his ear, “Watch that damn mouth of yours, Arlert. I’m not afraid to slice you up.”
Levi walked casually into the building. Armin was frozen in place; Did I just make a huge mistake? His thoughts were broken by the sound of Eren falling out of the tree. He rushed over his friend and lent him a hand. Eren refused to take it, still salty from Armin’s betrayal.
“Thanks a lot, Armin,” he said bitterly.
“At least you’re not dead,” Armin retorted, optimistically.
The two reentered in silence. Though Eren would never admit it out loud, he was really thankful to Armin for what he had done. After all, Corporal Levi was humanity’s strongest, and boy did his kicks reflect that.
“Levi, how goes that paperwork I asked you do?”
Corporal Levi turned to face Commander Erwin. His anger was dredging up again, but he suppressed it as he spoke, maintaining a calm and impartial demeanor, “Shitty.”
The Commander seemed slightly surprised by the answer, quirking an eyebrow but waiting for Levi to explain.
“Eren spilled his tea and ruined it.”
His arms went back to cross across his chest. Just remembering the incident made Levi’s blood boil. I should have killed him, he thought callously.
“I see. Well that’s fine.” Levi looked to the Commander in mild horror. It’s okay? Erwin motioned to the papers in his hand—Levi hadn’t even noticed them. “I have another copy. I just wanted to get your opinion on the matter.”
Something akin to embarrassment crossed the Corporal’s face, but as soon as it was there it was gone. Shit. Maybe he had overreacted then…did that mean he had to take back Eren’s punishment? No, that would be downright degrading—the brat would never shut up about it. He’d let that detail slide by unnoticed.
“Levi?” the Commander prodded.
“I’ll take a look at them right now.”
He snatched the paperwork from Commander Erwin’s hands and proceeded to stomp to his office. Along with the other, intact cup of tea Eren had brought, the shattered remains from earlier were still scattered across his desk. Levi gently swept the broken shards into the waste basket and sopped up the rest of the tea with a rag. When the area was once again neat, he sat down in his chair to read the papers in his hand. The other teacup sat there sadly. Levi eyed it for a bit. Well it’s mine, anyway. He picked up the cup and sipped its contents. The tea was still warm. It was perfectly bitter, with just the right amount of sweet.
Refocusing on his papers, Corporal Levi mumbled to himself, “Damn, Eren. You’re going to have to make me tea more often.”