The first time I saw your face, you were crying. I remember you had tears sticking like dewdrops to your slightly flushed cheeks. You were silent, but your shoulders were shaking with the weight of your pain and all I could think was that I wanted to wrap myself around you and keep you safe from the world as if I were a fort made just for you.
You were staring at something I couldn't see; something far away from the present, I'm sure. Maybe if I were someone other than myself, I would have approached you. I would have told you that you didn't have to suffer alone. But I am nothing more than the should-haves, would-haves, could-haves. I am missed opportunities and chances given away to someone more deserving. I am broken, so who am I to try and comfort you when I know nothing about what it is to be consoled?
I saw you for the second time a week later. I was sipping on a cup of coffee, curled up with my favourite book in the corner of an all-but-forgotten coffee shop. The bell chimed above the entrance and I peeked up in curiosity. I didn't see people here very often, you see. You were shaking snowflakes from your chestnut locks and your nose was pink from the late winter chill. I watched as you ordered something and moved to take a spot at a table across the room.
I've never believed in fate or anything fantastical like in the fairytales that first gave me my love for reading. But something in my stomach was warm and frightening and as much as I tried to shake it off, the nagging sensation only grew worse. Sparing another glance in your direction, I felt my heart stutter as I noticed the cover of the novel in your hands was the very same as the one that now laid in my lap.
I think I must have been staring too long because I noticed your earthshattering turquoise orbs meet my own dreary greys; a sort of questioning air in the look you gave me. My body moved without my permission as I suddenly found myself standing in front of you. You tilted your head in wonder and I couldn't help the thought that you were perhaps the most adorable being I'd ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on.
Clearing my throat and tightening my hold on both my mug and my book, I managed to break the awkward silence.
"Would you mind if I joined you?"
The smallest of smiles lifted your lips as you slowly nodded your head and gestured to the chair beside you.
"Not at all."
Taking the previously empty spot gratefully, I let out a breath I hadn't realised I'd been holding. Your attention strayed back to the pages before you and I willed myself to do the same, somehow feeling oddly at ease beside you now. Like I had always been right here beside you. Your knee grazed mine and stayed there; I was all too aware of the contact. Our bodies angled toward each other like we'd done it a thousand times before.
I'm not sure how long we stayed this way, but quite some time later, I felt eyes on me and my gaze found yours, that slight smile from before back again as you slowly stood up and stretched.
"It's getting late and as much as I'd love to stay longer, I'm afraid I have work early in the morning. Thank you for the company, it was really nice. Could we maybe do this again sometime?"
I felt myself nodding as my heart hammered in my chest. You were the first person to have ever stated enjoying my presence and wanting more of it.
"Great. I'm Eren, by the way."
I was on my feet now, shrugging on my coat and moving toward the door, holding it open as I let my eyes bore into you expectantly.
"Levi. If it doesn't creep you out or anything, I'll walk you home."
I'd like to think I wasn't imagining the light dusting of pink that now adorned your cheeks and the bridge of your nose. You wrapped your scarf back around your neck and passed through the door.
"It's pretty far from here, you know."
It sounded like a challenge, the way your eyes held something I couldn't quite put into words. My mouth tilted into a smirk.
Tuesdays quickly became my favourite day of the week. Like clockwork, you would show up half an hour after me and waste no time in grabbing your usual, seating yourself beside me with a warm greeting. After three weeks, I asked for your number and you scoffed that it took me long enough. Tuesdays turned into Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Some nights we would talk about everything and nothing while others we would simply bask in the silent company.
The fleeting touches started soon after and it only took another month for me to gain the balls to ask what I'd been wanting to do since the first time you leaned against my side and let your head fall on my shoulder.
That's how we were seated now. My arm was draped across the back of the tattered brewery couch, my fingers absentmindedly sifting through your hair as I read a collection of poetry.
"Eren, want to grab dinner?"
"Oh? Are you finally putting the moves on me?"
"Shut up, brat. You complaining?"
I could see your soft smile out of the corner of my eye and my heart squeezed at the sight.
"Only because it always takes you so long, asshole."
The chuckle left me easily as I pushed you away in jest, my hand lingering on your wrist. You seemed to stare at that hand for a moment before deciding to twist your own to slip your fingers between mine. They fit like pieces to a puzzle. Then again, we've always seemed to fit together that way.
I took you to my favourite restaurant, a little Italian place downtown that had the absolute best pasta, in my opinion. We spent an hour and a half talking about different food preferences and habits. You made fun of the neat, orderly fashion in which I do pretty much everything, but there was a sort of understanding that flickered in your eyes as though you were making mental notes to remember later on. I grimaced and in turn gave you shit for the way you always seemed to be able to make a mess of yourself. We were polar opposites in that respect and I caught myself wondering how on Earth we could ever manage to live together should the possibility ever arise. A cough escaped me and I could feel my ears heating. What was I thinking? Honestly. Unfortunately, you were not the type to simply notice something and let it go.
"Something the matter?"
"Ah, no, it's nothing."
You were silent for awhile, chewing a particularly large bite of bread.
"I'm really happy we met."
I thought I might choke on my wine. My eyes met yours and all I saw was everything I'd been trying to deny was there out of fear. I would hurt you. I knew it was a great possibility. I was not one for companionship, romantic or otherwise, but the way your hand reached for mine and gave a fleeting, reassuring squeeze ... I couldn't deny it any longer.
"Say, Eren. Do you ... "
Dammit. Why were the words getting stuck now? You were right here in front of me, giving off that damn warm smile. You're all I've had in my head for nearly three months now and I knew. I knew. I've been tethered to you since the moment my eyes found yours.
"Geez, Levi. Must you always be so slow?"
I glared at you across the table, but far too soon my heart was in my throat because you were positively beaming now, glowing even. I'd never seen a more beautiful sight. You should be illegal.
"I'm already yours, you know. If you want me."
Your voice dropped to a mere whisper and I could see the fear in your emerald orbs. You've been hurt so much in your life. I can see it when you think I'm not paying close attention. That intense desire to shelter you bubbled up inside me again and I nodded to myself, feeling the beginnings of a determined smile lift my lips.
"Can I keep you, then? You have my heart, you damn brat."
You laughed then, visibly relaxing and flushing in mild embarrassment. I asked if you'd mind me walking you home again and you rolled your eyes, latching onto my hand without another word. I hesitated as we reached the door leading up to your apartment, my fingers leaving yours.
I couldn't meet your gaze now, but I sensed you were guarded now, your hands shoved in your pockets.
"I just ... I'm not very good, you know. I'm rude and I get cold and pull away or push others. I'm a mess of a person. I will probably hurt you as much as all I want is to protect you and make you happy. I wanted to warn you. You can change your mind at any time about this; about us. I won't blame you."
By the time I managed to look up, you were staring straight into me, as if you could peer into my very essence and I felt far too vulnerable and exposed.
My brow furrowed, but in a matter of seconds, your arms were around me and I clung to you, afraid you would disappear any moment.
"I'm not all that great, either, y'know. I tend to do the same as you, actually. Retract and shove people away. I've been hurt a lot. I've lost a lot. But Levi, I want all of you. I want the good and the bad. I want the parts of you no one else gets to know. I know there's no way this will be easy, but I find myself unable to think of a life without you now. I know that sounds crazy and you probably - "
Overcome by emotion, I pulled you down by your scarf and my lips were on yours before I even really registered it myself. They were soft, as I'd predicted, and I could feel your shudder even through our coats. When I pulled back, I noticed the flush in your cheeks first and then the affection in your eyes. No, it wouldn't be easy at all, but I couldn't see myself living without you either.