A/N: The Mature rating will be earned in the next couple chapters.
Cicadas had always been somewhat of a fascination to him ever since he was a small child. Ugly things really, with great big bulging red eyes and latticed wings that looked like flimsy windows. All through the day and night the cicadas would buzz and altogether they sounded like the movement of the earth. With eyes closed Erwin would listen with rapt attention in the dead heat of summer, feeling the prickle of the thrum along his arms. He had put one in a jar once, carefully carving tiny holes in the tin cover so air would still get in. He stuck blades of grass through the openings, and sprinkled water for the captured creature to drink.
It had been over three inches long, the cicada he'd caught, and it sang in the dark as Erwin watched the stars. The song sounded so much more frightening when it was alone and captive, but Erwin wouldn't let it go. He'd wrap the jar tightly in linens to dull the noise until he quieted it to a low hum, an echo of the cicadas in the wild. Buried beneath his pillow he listened to his cicada until he fell asleep.
As much as he tried he couldn't remember the cicada beyond that summer, only its song deep in the velvet night.
And as nice as those memories were, the single cicada buzzing raucously in his classroom wasn't nearly as charming. Erwin shook his head free of the past, wishing he'd sprung for that extra shot in his Americano. The day would be long without it. Maybe he'd just spend this day of the prep week reviewing films for class. Less demand for brainpower. Setting down his satchel on the nearest desk, Erwin glanced up when he heard a sharp order, "Close the door or he might fly out."
Sunlight bathed the room in heavy gold light, showered with dancing dust motes so thick that he hadn't even noticed the teenage boy staring at him from where he stood on top of Erwin's desk. The gaze was accusatory, and Erwin felt as if he'd trespassed into his own classroom. He blinked, regret about that missing extra shot of espresso growing by the second. Of all the faces listed in various student rosters he'd been studying, this one couldn't be placed. A transfer, maybe? He looked too young to be a junior or senior.
The boy huffed irritably and turned to look at the far corner of the classroom, Erwin apparently forgotten. A single cicada was tucked up against the wall, grating sound harsh and stripped bare in the closed room. Even standing on the desk the insect was well out of his reach.
Eyebrow arched, Erwin sighed. "You look a little young to be in pest control."
Gray eyes sliced over and surveyed the tall blond man with bland disdain.
"What's your name?"
"I don't talk to strangers," the teenager replied coldly.
"We don't have to be strangers," he pointed out. "I'm Erwin." The boy rolled his eyes. Erwin shrugged. "Technically this is private property-"
"This is a public school," the boy parried without missing a beat.
"Forget pest control, you must a be a lawyer." Grinning when the teenager shot him an annoyed glance, he drawled, "I'm not sure an unaccompanied minor has much say anyway. When the school is closed you're trespassing unless employed here."
"Levi," he ground out, tensing when the cicada fluttered its wings.
"Levi," he repeated. Feeling playful, Erwin walked slowly forward and squinted up into the severe young face that glared back at him with growing impatience. "Well, Levi, that is a desk. And you are not a paperweight." A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "Though you are pretty scrawny. Are you one of the students? Eager of you to be here a week early for classes."
What was a scowl turned quickly into a glower. "No one asked you."
"Stuck in Summer school maybe," he prodded, warming up to Levi's pinched expression. He always was a sucker for riling people up. The boy was an easy target and Erwin was very entertained. "Is that cicada your biology project?" Sometimes the science teachers would have students raise insects to study life patterns, though Erwin hadn't heard of any Summer science sessions.
Above their heads the cicada continued to buzz and Levi huffed irritably. "Go away if you're not going to be useful." With a very pointed expression shot at the man, he turned back to strategize a way to capture the cicada with consideration of his vertical disadvantage. His lip curled when the blond man kept talking.
"Cicada's symbolize rebirth in many civilizations." Walking around the desk, Erwin pulled the blackboard stool over and glanced back. "They are considered sacred." He got a groan from the boy and smothered a smirk.
"I didn't ask for a history lesson."
"This is a history classroom," Erwin explained, "and I am a history teacher." Standing next to the stool, he looked up at the cicada tucked into the corner of the ceiling, brow knit. Though cicadas weren't aggressive, if this one had been stuck inside long enough it might attempt to treat his hand like a tree and burrow out sap. Not entirely a pleasant experience, though killing it wasn't an option – he never could bring himself to do it. Perhaps nostalgia kept him from harming them. That, and this Levi kid might bust a gasket if he did.
Levi shifted uncomfortably behind Erwin. "What happened to the other history teacher?" He watched the outline of the man's back beneath the off-white of his starched shirt. Muscles moved subtly beneath the thin cotton and Levi looked away.
Motioning to the cup of pencils on his desk, Erwin waited for the teen to take the pencils out and hand it over to him. He got to look into his eyes up close and see the strange colorless irises in his small but angular face. Dark hair cut short at the nape of his neck but hanging longer at his brow, he looked exceedingly young. Erwin wondered if he was the kid of one of the summer staff members, stuck passing time on school grounds.
It was darker in this corner of the room where the cicada had made its temporary home, above the rows and rows of student desks and yellowed posters featuring out-of-date maps dressing the otherwise bare walls. Levi cut a stark figure amidst the muted brown hues of the empty classroom, all dark angled lines and austere features. He looked like a charcoal drawing, a collection of sharp shadows.
"She moved, some grant for research…" He paused when he saw Levi's mouth tighten and his frown grow deeper. "I'm sorry, did you know her?"
Shrugging, the boy pointed at the cicada. "Get him down, I've got shit to do."
That startled an amused laugh out of Erwin. "Do you know this cicada personally?" Hands on his hips, he was tapping the cup that was once a pencil holder and now a cicada trap against his thigh with a thoughtful expression. Cicadas could be scary if they chose to fly into your face instead of sitting still to get scooped up in a rescue cup, and the stool Erwin was about to trust with his weight was already rickety from years of use.
"His name is Tymbal," Levi grudgingly supplied. "He's not mine."
"Interesting name," Erwin grunted as he hefted himself up onto the stool. It shuddered under him and he stilled as the unstable legs found balance. "Whom does he belong to then?" After several beats of stubborn silence, Erwin gave up. "How do you know he's a he?" he tried instead. Carefully he tested his reach and ended up freezing as the cicada rustled its wings warningly. He could feel the boy looking at him, and wondered again where he came from. With a week of summer left most students would be avoiding the grounds at all costs.
"Females don't make the sound," said Levi, watching Erwin with sharp eyes as the tall man reached slowly towards the cornered insect. His body unfurled, slacks tight over the man's thighs. Images of Greek statues flashed through Levi's mind. "And it's an organ; his name."
The cicada shifted and Erwin hesitated. "An organ?"
"The sound," he deadpanned, sounding bored, "Comes from that organ."
Flinching back when the cicada ceased its noise and pivoted to look at him with what he interpreted as buggy suspicion, Erwin glanced back at the boy. Levi was perched on the edge of the desk, worn sneakers half off the edge as he balanced himself with grace that extended far beyond his years. His gaze was fixed on the insect, expression a mix of mild curiosity and impatience.
"I followed him here. He flew into this room through the rip in the window screen."
"Well," Erwin sighed, switching the cup to his other hand, "Tymbal, you best cooperate or things could get messy."
That caused Levi to sharply remind him, "Don't hurt him."
Chuckling lightly, Erwin stage-whispered, "Of course I won't. But he doesn't know that, does he?"
Despite the effort the boy wasn't in the least amused. "Don't try to be cute. It's creepy when you're old."
Sighing in a decidedly put-upon way, Erwin snapped the cup up in one swift movement and held it against the ceiling as the cicada buzzed angrily inside. "I guess I would seem old… to a baby." Sliding his gaze over Erwin was pleased to see the teen's face darken in a hilarious display of wrath. "Now pass me a piece of paper, if you can reach." A grin sprang across his face when Levi slapped the paper into his hand and glared morosely up at him.
With the cicada safely trapped inside the cup, and the paper secured with a rubber band, Erwin waited for the boy to thank him. Instead they stood in stony silence, Erwin holding the cup and Levi scowling unbecomingly. The clock was the only sound in the room, Tymbal having finally admitted defeat and gone silent. Seconds continued to tick by, and Erwin found that he was enjoying himself way too much.
"Give me Tymbal," Levi snapped brusquely. "I don't have all day."
"Busy for a squirt, aren't you?" Erwin tapped the side of the cup with a finger and Tymbal rattled angrily inside.
"Do they pay you to harass innocent bystanders?"
Lips quirking, Erwin said breezily, "Only the ones that break into my classroom and use my desk as a stepping stool."
"Door was barely locked," the teen grumbled.
"Barely locked, I like that," Erwin said, grinning crookedly. "Where'd you learn to open barely locked doors?"
Levi sniffed, uninterested. "None of your business."
"You can't want Tymbal that much if you can't even answer one little question." Part of him knew very well that teasing some poor kid was a sorry excuse for passing the time, but another part of him couldn't resist. There was something about Levi that won his attention, and held it tight.
Somehow the teen's bored expression fell even flatter. "You really have nothing better to do than hold a cicada hostage." Stalking closer to the tall man, Levi's stared straight up into his annoyingly handsome face.
They were very close. Erwin was impressed with the kid's gall. He looked back down at Levi, the angle straining his neck. He saw the age in Levi's face that was belied by his stature. Intrigued, he opened his mouth with questions on the tip of his tongue. But Levi started to move without warning and in what felt like a flash the teenager had Tymbal in his hand and a sharp little foot had kicked Erwin's leg right out from under him. "What the-"
Skipping back a few steps as the tall man stumbled, Levi's lips finally lifted out of their downward curve. He hefted Tymbal in his palm. "Slow, old man."
"Some thanks," grumbled Erwin. Levi only offered a sarcastic salute. As the boy slipped out the door Erwin called to him, "You should teach me how to pick locks sometime. Always wanted to learn."
After a few beats of silence Erwin shrugged. Oh well. He would probably never see him again.
The next Monday morning Erwin stood outside the classroom listening to the ebb and flow of chatter from within. Juniors. Too young to be taken seriously; too old to be cute anymore. When he was an elementary school assistant teacher the year before the kids had been so charming; little chubby faces filled with wonder and joy. And now they'd grown into… He thought of Levi fleetingly and snorted. That wasn't fair; not all kids grew up to be such bitter little miscreants.
Standing a little taller and slapping on what he hoped was an intimidating expression – best not to let them know he was nice just yet – he pushed into the room and inwardly smiled at the sudden silence that greeted him. With his intimidating eyebrows furrowed, Erwin set down his satchel, removing the day's materials and neatly placing them on his desk. In the pregnant silence he could hear the distance echo of cicadas and thought again of that brat, Levi. Hopefully none of his students would be like that one.
Finally he looked up and the room took a collective breath. A few girls tittered and traded glances, while the boys seemed to marvel at his height. Walking around his desk Erwin slipped his hands into his pockets and canted his hip against the corner of the desk. While the students fidgeted he looked around at each face in turn, already guessing who would give him trouble. Best to set the standard now.
Mouth affixed in a thunderous scowl, eyes sharp and blue, Erwin said quietly, "I am Mr. Smith." As one the class leaned forward, straining to hear him with awe in their eyes. "We will be spending the year together. First impressions are everything." He paused for dramatic effect. "I hope you make a good one." Turning sharply away he scrawled a line of text on the board, movements sharp and aggressive. The chalk clacked under his hand, white stark against the blackboard. "Open your books and I would like a volunteer to begin reading from the top of page 56."
He glanced back when a boy stood up and started to read. His blond hair was cut like a girl's, voice high and light. Squinting, Erwin faintly remembered the face from the roster. Armin. But the student faltered when the classroom door swung open with a bang.
They stared at each other, Levi looking mutinous and Erwin looking somewhat dumbfounded. A beaming face crowded in behind the boy; herding him forward like a fussy mother goose. She looked familiar, strong features showing through thick brown hair tied messily back, and intelligent eyes twinkling beyond a smart pair of glasses. The Biology teacher Erwin had met briefly at a staff meeting, Hanji.
"Hello," she crowed, waving at the students. Practically lunging at Erwin with a brooding Levi in tow, Hanji gripped the History teacher's hand and pumped it in an exhaustingly enthusiastic handshake. "I forgot your name. I'm Hanji Zoe, Biology. This student was transferred from the other class last minute." Leaning in, she whispered conspiratorially, "He's a little troublesome."
"Smith," Erwin said tightly, "Erwin." Of course as the new guy they land him with the troublemakers. But Erwin wasn't sure he minded as his gaze was greeted with that familiar scowl.
"First class, eh?" Hanji hedged, nudging him with her elbow.
"Currently in session, yes," he hinted.
Hanji seemed to get the message and clapped, making everyone in the room except Levi jump. "Ah!" She grabbed Levi by the lapel of his school uniform and hauled him forward. "Well, I will see all of you next period. I hope you're excited," she cooed. "Science!"
After she'd gone bounding out of the room, Erwin cleared his throat. Levi slunk into an empty seat, his gray eyes burning amidst confused faces. He looked like a little storm cloud and almost against his will, Erwin thought, Cute. After they'd parted ways he hadn't been able to shake the thought of Levi, and a part of him lit up at the sight of the boy. He wondered how Tymbal was doing.
"Tardiness will not be tolerated," he said instead, voice threaded with authority.
"I get here when I mean to get here," Levi drawled, eyes flashing. Several students gasped.
Erwin couldn't help it. He grinned. This kid was something else. Students squirmed nervously as their teacher edged closer to the front row. Keeping his eyes locked on Levi's face, Erwin said sweetly, "And in detention tonight you'll leave when I mean for you to leave." Turning dismissively, Erwin waved Armin on, "Keep going." He felt Levi's eyes burning into his back.
Really, something else.
To Be Continued
A/N: Short first chapter… and my first dalliance in the Attack on Titan fandom! I always enter fandoms so late, so I hope there are some fans left. XD Excited and nervous, I hope you will let me know what you think – we're just getting started! :)