AN: Alright, this is it! The last chapter. I can't believe it's done (not that I'll ever be done with this little au of mine). So many good things have happened to me because of this silly thing, like finding my girlfriend and love of my life Allie. And, I've decided that I'm going to be a real life published author. I'll be reworking this fic into my own original novel actually.
So thanks so much for all you guys for reading and supporting this fic. It means a lot to me. *hugs all around*
Anyway, hope you enjoy!
Recovery and Resolution
The recognizable pitter patter of little feet woke Levi from his doze. The sight of Eren's head peeking through the curtains surrounding his bed greeted him. A little sluggishly, Levi pulled himself up into a sitting position as Eren's face brightened with a large smile.
"Papa! You're awake!" Eren yelled excitedly, rushing forward to his side.
"Eren, we said you needed to be quiet and calm!" Hanji whisper called after him.
Next from around the privacy curtain came Mikasa, Hanji, and Armin, who all held hands and stepped in cautiously. But upon seeing her Papa sitting up and pulling Eren onto the hospital bed with him, Mikasa rushed forward as well. There were tears in her eyes as she reached up her arms and Levi felt a pang of guilt. He lifted her up as well, and situated the kids so they sat on either side of him, an arm wrapped tight around both.
"Look, Papa's awake!" Eren declared to Hanji and Erwin, who was the last to enter their private space.
"I see we didn't succeed in not waking you up," Erwin observed with amusement.
"It's fine," Levi replied, pressing his cheek against Mikasa's head. She was clinging to him tightly. "I'm happy to see my little kidlets."
"Papa, are you all better now?" Mikasa asked quietly.
Levi gave her a gentle squeeze. "Yeah, I'm all better," he replied. "I'm sorry I scared you sweetheart. But I heard you were very brave and got help. I'm proud of you." He punctuated his praise with a kiss on her head.
Eren tugged on his hospital gown sleeve. "I was brave too!"
"I know. You were brave and helped Mr. Erwin. I'm proud of you too buddy," Levi told him, giving him a nuzzle as well. "But Papa's not going to be sick and worry you again."
"It's okay Papa," Eren replied. "We accept your 'pology"
Levi felt like his heart was going to burst with pride and love for his children. Eren had parroted those words just like Levi had taught him.
Erwin had been right, all his stress had taken a toll on his kids. Even if he hadn't meant to and even if the circumstances had gone out of his control, he hadn't done all he could to support his kids. This wasn't going to happen again, Levi was going to make sure of it. His monkeys were too sweet and innocent to go through something like that once more.
"Thanks for looking after Eren and Mikasa today," Levi said to Hanji.
"No problem," they replied. "We had fun. And Armin helped too!"
Levi looked to Armin who was standing shyly by his dad. It occurred to Levi, that he'd probably been worried too.
"Do you wanna sit up here too, little guy?" he asked, patting the empty space in his lap. With a little duck and nod, Armin muttered a yes. "Come on up."
With Levi's hands full, Erwin lifted Armin up and sat him down on Levi's legs. The little boy sat up straight and clasped his hands together.
"I'm glad you're okay Mr. Levi," he said quietly.
"Thank you Armin," Levi replied.
With a little nod, Armin looked down again. He looked like he wanted to snuggle close, but felt hesitant. But Eren reached forward and grabbed his hand.
"You're too far away," he remarked and gave Armin and encouraging tug.
So Armin smiled and scooted forward to curl against Levi, squished between Eren and Mikasa. All three of them were a pleasant weight against Levi. The feeling of his kids physically being there and physically being alright, helped ease the guilt he'd felt.
Levi hadn't just gone to sleep when Erwin had left him earlier. The remains of anxiety he'd felt wouldn't let him do that. There were things he needed to get done. First, using his phone, he called his publisher and explained that he wouldn't' be able to make his deadline. To his surprise, they had all been understanding.
"Just get it to us when you can," they'd told him.
With that taken care of, Levi felt as though the weight that had been crushing his lungs had been lifted away. He'd known he had been stressed, but Levi hadn't known how much until he didn't have to worry anymore. Still, the holdover adrenaline left him feeling tense and shaking until an hour after, when he could finally calm down.
After that, he'd called a nurse and asked to speak to someone about psychiatric help. Levi had been nervous and ready to be defensive, but the nurse hardly batted an eye. The person that they'd sent in had been kind and let Levi speak, making no assumptions and only asking probing questions. It was sometimes difficult for Levi to find ways to describe what he was feeling- he was always more eloquent in writing than speaking. Honestly, he felt like he was somehow answering their questions wrong. But they seemed to understand what he tried to express and gave him a few recommendations for therapists to look into.
The exchange had left him feeling emotionally drained and with all the tasks Erwin had given him to complete done, Levi had finally felt ready to sleep. All that was left had been guilt regarding his kids.
They were here now and they knew he was going to be okay. He was taking steps to make sure he could be a better father. In that moment Levi felt more at peace with himself than he had in a long time. Thanks to Erwin, who had been better to him than any lover- any man- ever had before.
A few days ago he'd been furious, but now, he was ready to forgive and deepen their relationship. There were still things they needed to discuss; it wasn't as thought everything was perfect between them now. But based on the strength of Erwin's caring for him, how is own wellbeing was so important, Levi knew that it would work out alright for them. Levi could see their relationship going for the long haul, making him and his little family happier than they'd ever been.
"Thank you," Levi repeated again, quietly this time and keeping his eye contact with Erwin.
"It's nothing really," Erwin replied. "We're all happy to help you out and to see you healthy."
"Eren, you should tell you Papa what we did today," Hanji prompted.
Instantly, Eren sat up straight from where he'd been resting lazily and started bouncing with excitement. Normally, Levi would've told him to calm down and sit quietly, particularly as tiny knees jabbed at his side, but this time he allowed Eren his exuberance.
"Hanji took us to the park and then we went to McDonalds and then we even got ice cream!" Eren explained.
"Wow. Sounds like you were spoiled today," Levi replied and Eren agreed with a vigorous nod.
"Hanji should babysit us all the time!" he declared.
"I don't know if they can handle you every day, buddy," Levi answered with a gentle tease.
"Eren forgot the cards," Mikasa interjected, giving his sleeve a tug. "We made cards for Papa."
"Did you?" Levi asked and he received three little nods in return. "Well, do I get to see them?"
"Hanji has em!" Eren said, twisting around to point at them. They were already fishing three slightly crumpled pieces of paper form the bag they were carrying. The cards were handed over to Eren who gave them to Levi.
"You all made these for me?" Levi asked softly, pulling his arms from behind his kids so he could look at the cards properly.
Mikasa nodded and pointed to the top one. "This is the one I made. That's me and that's Papa."
The figures were crudely drawn and surrounded by a wobbly heart. At the bottom, Mikasa had signed her name is carefully spaced out letters. It was colorful, but also fairly neat, like many of the other works of art she'd done.
"It looks great, thanks sweetheart," Levi replied, giving her a little kiss on the forehead. She blushed with pride and snuggled close to his arm again.
He flipped to the next paper, which he instantly recognized as Eren's. It had his trademark spider-like people, with short lumpy bodies and long wiggly limbs. Across the top was a long line of half formed letters and scribbles, followed by Eren's messy name squished at the end, curving up to fit on the page.
"Is this yours, Eren?" Levi asked.
"It is!" Eren replied delightedly. He pointed to the scrawl. "It says 'I love you Papa!'"
Levi hummed in acknowledgement. His signature was as carefully crafted as Mikasa's but they could work on it. He gave Eren a kiss, which Eren returned with giggle. Last, Levi flipped to next card. This one had actual words, in a shaky writing, surrounded by flowers. It read 'Get well Mr. Levi!'
"Armin did you write this?" he asked, impressed.
The boy nodded. "Hanji helped me spell."
"You did a good job little guy," Levi said. "Thanks for making me cards guys. I feel better already."
"It was Armin's Papa's idea," Mikasa replied.
Again, Levi looked to Erwin who shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. How much had this man done for him? How much more would he do in the future? And he asked nothing in return. Levi wondered how he managed to get a guy like Erwin to care about someone like him. However it had happened, Levi wasn't going to let him go.
"Thanks," Levi repeated. He'd said the phrase more in the space of 20 minutes than he had in a while.
"Papa, when are you coming home?" Eren asked, as he settled back against him.
"Tomorrow morning," Levi answered, putting his arms back around Mikasa and Eren. "The doctor says I need to get some rest. Do you think you can sleep over at Armin's house?"
Eren rested his head heavily against him and nodded. "Yah."
All three of them were snuggled sleepily around Levi. They'd had a long day, so Levi wasn't worried about letting them fall asleep against him. He looked over to where Hanji and Erwin stood, still a little distance from the bed.
"You can come closer. Pull up a chair or something," Levi muttered. "I think these guys are gonna be here a while."
"They've had a very busy day," Hanji agreed as they pulled up a seat to sit closer. "Now that they don't' need to worry about you, I'm not surprised they seem ready to crash."
"I'm not gonna crash," Eren mumbled in protest, as he hadn't fallen asleep just yet. Though he didn't move from where he was pressed all comfortable against his Papa. "Just wanna snuggle."
"Of course Eren," Levi humored him and gave him a squeeze.
"What have you been up to these last few hours?" Erwin asked. "Sleeping I hope?"
"Well, it's not like there's much else to do around here," Levi muttered flatly.
"But, uh, I actually did what you suggested. And I'm feeling better."
With Hanji around, he didn't want to go too into detail. But that was enough for Erwin to understand. He nodded and smiled softly.
"I'm glad," he replied. "Oh, by the way, I drove your car down here, so you can leave as soon as the hospital releases you tomorrow. I would pick you up, but I have to make up for unexpectedly missing work today."
"I hadn't even thought about that," Levi stated. Another thing to add to the list. It hadn't even occurred to him that Erwin had missed work to get him to the hospital and make sure he was okay. "God you literally think of everything. What would I do without you two?"
He spoke in an almost sarcastic manner, but he knew his eyes were sincere. Feeling tired and overwhelmed by the kindness being shown to him, Levi settled his head back against the pillows.
"Well, that's just when friends do," Hanji replied with a smile. "Single parents like you guys need all the help you can get."
"Think of it as repayment for who you did to help me, back when we first met," Erwin added.
Now Levi felt all kinds of embarrassed. He'd had enough of all the gushy feelings stuff for now. Another wave of tiredness gave him the perfect escape too.
"Well," Levi stated, letting his eyes close. "I'm going to sleep now. You two can do whatever you want."
"Do you want us to take the kids?" Erwin asked.
"No, let em sleep here for a while," Levi replied, not wanting to admit that he would miss the comfort of the touch. It helped him fall asleep quickly and deep, so he hardly noticed when the children were being pulled from his sleepy grasp and Erwin offering him a good night.
Once home again, Levi was greeted by Eren and Mikasa giving him a big hug. He suggested they all make something special for brunch, and Hanji politely excused themself and Armin from the apartment, saying the kids needed some alone time with their Papa. No one protested.
Enthusiastically, Eren and Mikasa helped Papa cook, a rare treat. But today was special, a day Levi planned to use as a silent apology to his kids for worrying them so much recently. He helped them into aprons, folded and adjusted to fit them better and he let them push two chairs to the counter so they could reach.
Mickey Mouse chocolate chip pancakes were the obvious choice for breakfast. Levi didn't even insist on making eggs to go with it this time. He didn't allow himself to worry about the mess of flour on the counter or the spilled vegetable oil (he'd clean the whole kitchen later, in a bit of a frenzy, being sure to sanitize everything- but for the moment, the mess would be tolerated).
When it came time to actually putting the pancake mix onto the griddle, Levi did insist on doing it himself. Eren jumped up and down excitedly as he carefully poured the mix into the iconic Mickey Shape. Both kids had to be reminded a few times to stay back from the hot griddle.
"Papa, you're so good at this!" Eren declared as he flipped a pancake. "Can I try?"
As much as Levi was planning on being extra doting on his kids today, that was a little too much. He wasn't ready to trust Eren with a spatula and griddle.
"No," he answered firmly.
Even furrowed his brows and scrunched his nose in annoyance, but didn't argue. "Okay…"
As soon as two pancakes were ready, Eren and Mikasa scooted the chairs back to the table and sat in anticipation. Levi brought over the plates and set one in front of each and Eren clapped his hands in excitement. For once, Levi made himself a Mickey Mouse pancake and sat down to eat with his kids as well. Rarely if ever, did he eat breakfast with them. They both smiled brightly at him as he sat down.
It took until the three of them were done eating for Levi to need to clean the kitchen. The kids seemed to be fine with it however, and went off to play while Levi scrubbed until he was satisfied. Once done, he sat himself down on the couch for a quick rest.
That was when he remembered the other things he'd planned on doing once hone. There was a conversation he needed to have with a certain tall, handsome, blond who lived across the hall. Levi took out his phone and sent Erwin a quick, inviting him over later; Armin invited to play with the kids as well.
A while later- Levi suspected during his lunch break- Erwin replied.
'Glad you got home okay. Armin and I would love to come over.'
'We need to talk' Levi replied.
'Of course. I'm looking forward to it'.
Even when Levi was direct and forward in his words, Erwin knew how to read between the lines.
For the rest of the day, until it was time to make dinner, Levi hung around his children. Mostly, he sat on their bed and watched them play and listened to the rambling tales they had to tell him. He would've joined in on the play, but he was never good at improvisation and the ways children played. That was alright with Eren and Mikasa though- they had no desire to be slowed down by their Papa's ineptitude. Both were just happy to be able to be near him and show off. And Levi was happy to be showed off too, even if he got a little tired of Eren's near endless chatter.
"What should have for dinner?" Levi asked when he could really feel his patience waning. If he had to listen to more 'then your guy says this' and 'then my guy says that' he would get a headache or snap- which was the opposite of what he wanted to accomplish today. "Armin and Mr. Erwin will be over."
That grabbed their attention and halted the play.
"Armin's coming?" Eren asked excitedly.
"Yeah, so what do you think we should make for dinner?" Levi repeated.
"Pancakes!" Eren declared.
"You want pancakes again?" Levi replied incredulously. Both nodded. "Why don't we try something else?"
"Mac an' Cheese!" Eren offered next.
"Hmm… something nicer than mac and cheese," Levi countered.
"Pizza!" was Eren's next suggestion.
Levi opened his mouth to shoot down the idea, but paused. He could do homemade mini pizzas. With all the ingredients kept well stocked in his kitchen, he wouldn't even need to stop at the grocery store.
"Alright, we can do that," he agreed and Eren cheered.
The whole process of trying to get three four year olds to pick out toppings for their pizza was a difficult one. Eren in particular made a mess of the cheese and pepperoni. Luckily, with Erwin there, he was able to help Levi sort everything out. Levi knew it was going to be tricky, letting the kids help with the pizza making, but his guilt was still pushing him to say yes to doing things the fun way.
With the pizzas in the oven and the kids wiped down, Levi sent them off to play. He had to have a conversation with Erwin.
"This was a fun idea," Erwin remarked, drying off his hands. "I'm surprised you agreed to it."
"It was my idea and I'm never going to do it again," he replied flatly.
Erwin smiled and stepped forward to put his hand on Levi's shoulder, almost like he wanted to give him a hug, but changed his mind halfway through. "I'm glad you're doing better," he said quietly.
"You mentioned that already," Levi replied. "But we need to talk and I'd like to get it down before the pizzas finish cooking."
"Always so efficient," Erwin observed with amusement.
"Yes, someone has to be," Levi quipped, then sighed.
Wordlessly, he moved to the seating area and sat down. Erwin followed but sat a little away, giving him some space and angling himself to speak more face to face. Both were quiet, waiting for the other to start. Finally, Levi decided to take the lead to get the whole thing over with.
"First, I just. I want to apologize. I overreacted to the whole job thing. I mean, I was stressed, but that's not really an excuse to take things out on you."
Instantly, Erwin was shaking his head, "No don't apologize. I overreacted too and said some things that were definitely out of line. Besides, you did have a point, I should've told you about my job sooner."
"But it's not like we've been dating long. We've only known each other, what, two months?" Levi replied. He could see Erwin open his mouth to protest again, but he quipped, "Just let me apologize and be sorry alright? Doesn't happen very often."
And Erwin closed his mouth again.
"Sorry," Levi added. He was trying to apologize and make things better, now wasn't the time for snapping and impatience. But Erwin grinned at him.
"It's fine," he replied, his voice had a hint of amusement. Then he cleared his throat. "But it did seem that you had some concerns about the power balance in our relationship?"
Levi nodded. "Yes, though I may be overreacted to everything." For a moment, Erwin looked like he wanted to say something but thought better of it and let Levi continue. "Just… you've done so much for me and my kids. Given so much help and advice and support. Not to mention all the stuff with … yesterday. I just feel your life is so much more put together than mine, that you're more put together. And I won't be able to catch up or return the favor," Levi explained.
He let himself say all the things he'd been feeling, even though it left him vulnerable and awkward. But that's what needed to be done if he wanted to be with Erwin. The other man nodded at what he had to say, before reaching forward to place his hand over Levi's.
"That's not how I feel at all Levi," Erwin replied gently. "And let me say that I'm not all put together either. I suppose I just hide it better. I guess I'm good at hiding things from you," Erwin attempted to add lightly. But Levi only gave him a weak smile. "And you're forgetting all the things you've done for me and Armin. That's how we met after all. You've watched and cared for my son. I just can't express how much happiness you and your children have brought us."
As Erwin finished, Levi had to look away. He felt overwhelmed, something Erwin seemed to make him feel quite a lot, and he knew his face was flushed.
"Well," he muttered. "You two make me and the kids happy too."
There was a pause and Levi turned over his hand to link his fingers with Erwin's. He turned his face to look at him, biting his lip. But he was met with Erwin's fond expression.
"So, if I'm following this conversation correctly," Erwin began. "It sounds like we'd both like this relationship to continue in some manner."
"Yes," Levi replied, feeling his throat go tight.
"In a romantic manner?" Erwin asked again and Levi couldn't help but notice the way he was leaning towards him.
"Yes," Levi breathed.
And then they were kissing. Their lips met gently at first, much like their first kiss, before Levi found himself scooting closer. At that vantage point, he could wrap his arms around Erwin's neck. Hands snaked around his waist, pulling him up into the kiss more. Erwin hummed against his lips and gave him a squeeze before deepening the kiss to something more passionate.
Levi had missed him. He poured those feelings into the embrace, into the way their lips moved against each other. This was the best way Levi expressed himself, he knew. He let his hands grip at Erwin's collar and he sighed into his mouth and-
"What are you doing with Armin's Papa?"
And it all halted with a startle.
Levi whipped his head around to see Eren, Mikasa, and Armin watching them with confused faces, standing at the start of the hall. Immediately, Levi dropped his hands and scooted away a little. But it was too late. The kids had seen them kissing. He hadn't wanted to let them know about their relationship just yet. But he didn't think there was any avoiding it now.
"I. Uh. We were," Levi tried glancing at Erwin for help. He was the smooth talker after all.
"Were you kissing?" Mikasa asked.
"Yes. We were," Levi admitted slowly.
"Are you boyfriends now?" Eren asked. "Because boyfriends kiss," he declared knowingly.
They hadn't expressly used that term, so Levi wasn't sure what to say. But Erwin stepped in for him.
"Yes, we are," he answered, taking Levi's hand again and giving him a smile.
"Okay," Eren replied. "Is the pizzas done yet?"
And that was as much as they talked about it that evening. The kids were far more interested in dinner, which coincidentally, was just about ready. When they all sat at the table, the pizzas cooled and cut into more manageable pieces, Levi sat next to Erwin. Not so subtly, Erwin placed his hand on Levi's knee.
As they ate, Levi watched his little family. They were all still a little broken, still a little screwed up. But now they had Erwin and Armin, who were also a little broken in their own way too. All together though, it was their brokenness that make then special, that made them all fit together as a whole.
And with Erwin, Levi knew he could make it all work.