A/N: The POV in this story will bounce between Levi and Mikasa in each chapter, so in this one we get to know Levi a bit better and in the next chapter we'll check up on Mikasa and see how she's doing. ;)

By the way, writing for Kuchel is pretty hard since we never actually seen her in action in the manga, so I just made up a personality for her; I tried to make it a mixture of Levi's and Kenny's personality while still implementing motherly traits, but this is quite difficult so her personality may be inconsistent at times.


The potted plants adorning the window sill reflected Levi's composure perfectly: dry, withered and on the verge of death. The heatwave assaulting his burg had been unimaginably cruel today, although not surprising. This type of weather was to be expected on the southwest hemisphere, which conveniently boarded the entrance to the fiery pits of Hell.

The motel lobby Levi currently occupied normally served as shelter from the heat, but the absence of artificial cool air made the office more unbearable to stand, more so than usual. Roasting directly under the blazing sun outside had to be cooler than this room—at least then there would be an occasional breeze. In here, all Levi had accompanying him was smoldering air, a sweaty plastic water bottle nearly at its boiling point, and a wrathful banging sound that assaulted his aching skull every two seconds or so. The angry strikes mingled with stifled curses and groans, and Levi soon discovered his patience diminished as fast as his tolerance to the heat.

"Please tell me you're almost done fixing it," Levi strained his eyes over to his noisy uncle, tempted to add that consecutively hitting and yelling at a broken air-conditioner wouldn't repair it. Knowing a heated argument would only ascent his temperature more so, he decided to keep his censure to himself.

Snaring like a panting dog, Kenny fussily rolled up his drooping sleeves. "Don't rush me, runt. I'm working on it."

"You've been working on it since this morning." Now it was nearly high-noon; the hottest, most agonizing time of the day for desert dwellers.

Kenny scratched at his head, his hair greased with sweat. "Why the hell're you working the front desk anyway? Where's Kuchel?"

"I'm filling in for her today."

"I must say, I prefer the sound of her bitching over yours—less whiny."

With his leg jittering restlessly, Levi clamped his lips tight, barricading the retort on his tongue.

Knowing the heat would be too much for his mother to bear, he told her to take the day off and stay home—though he didn't phrase it as so. The woman was downright stubborn, just like everyone else in his family. Simply telling her to kick back and rest until the heatwave blew over wouldn't have been enough to tie her down. Instead, Levi told her he had some business to tend to on the office computer and could simultaneously handle checking lodgers in and out, adding that it'd be too cramped for them both to work in the lobby today. In truth, he already tended to the monthly logs days ago. The lie was enough to keep her home where it was cool, at least.

Ducking down, Levi return his water bottle to the mini fridge under the desk, hoping it would regain the chill it lost. The frigid wind that escaped upon opening the door swept up to lightly graze his face, granting him temporary relief.

"Piece of shit!" Kenny bellowed, a few incoherent curses lagging behind as he continued to attack the unit with full force. At least his vents were working just fine.

Levi tipped his chair back and watched the show. "You might be able to threaten and beat others to get them to do what you want, but when will you learn that same method can't work on inanimate objects?"

"Shut your hole. I don't need tips from the maid." As he said that, the groove of the vent pinched his clumsy finger, and he yelped like a young coyote who lost its mother. A satisfied hum vibrated in Levi's throat as Kenny sucked on his swollen finger.

"I said quiet."

"You're the only one making a racket," Levi sighed wearily as he leaned over to grab a brochure to fanned himself off. It served no better use—it's not like it advertised any exciting landmarks or attractions in the area. Anyone that rolled through this dusty town wasn't on vacation. Either work forced them here or they're fugitives running from the law. Guest at the motel all looked the same to him, so unlike his mother who strived to turn their family-owned motel into a resort spot for vacationers, it made no difference to Levi if they were here on vacation or hiding from the cops. Kenny didn't care either—in fact he didn't care much about anything.

"I give up." Kenny let the tool drop to the floor, surrendering his weapon with a look of defeat.

"You useless shit," he spat.

Kenny drop down to the sofa and pushed up an unapologetic shrug. "Look at it this way—we can charge guests extra to sweat in the lobby by calling it a luxury sauna. We'll be like those fancy hotels with a spa." Kenny turned a goofy smile to his nephew, like a comedian waiting for applause to break out. His upper lip stiffened when his joke drifted by unnoticed. "C'mon, crack a smile."

"I'll crack that thick skull of yours open if you don't fix the damn AC."

"Someone oughta fix that disrespectful mouth of yours," he seethed, then widened his arms cluelessly, "What do you want from me? I can't fix it. We'll have to buy a new one."

"With the money we'd waste on buying a new unit, I can hire a repair man that actually knows how to repair things."

With icy eyes, Kenny stabbed a finger at Levi. "You shut your mouth. You don't call the shots around here."

Levi clicked his tongue in derision. When Kenny wasn't facing his nemesis: air-conditioners, he actually made a decent repair man, but it took him a day to finish a task that could've been done in an hour. He wasted most of his time lounging around drinking and would often run off to play cards with Uri when no one was supervising him.

Levi's mother was the hardest worker in the family; the devotion and heart she put into this business was stupendous, but due to her wonky health she couldn't be at full charge all the time. On her good days she accomplished more work than both Levi and Kenny combined, but when her condition weakened it was up to Levi to fill that demanding spot. Unwillingly, he was dragged into the lifestyle of owning and operating a business—and surprisingly, he wasn't that bad at it and knew he earned his share around here. He might not call the shots and run this place on his own, but if Kenny was the muscle, and his mother was the heart, surely Levi had to be the backbone keeping this place from crumbling down.

Too pissed to continue banal banter with his uncle, Levi diverted his attention in search of a more interesting sight and found a blinding one instead. Beyond the bright window, he spotted two lodgers depart from their room, lock up, and hurdle their belongings into the trunk of their car. Squinting through the streaks of luminous light, Levi tried to depict who the blurry figures were, but it wasn't until the duo enlarged with hurried gaits and neared the entrance of the lobby that Levi recognized them, and by then it was too late.

"Ah..." Kenny squinted out the glass. "It's that weird one and their pet again."

Kenny could see them too. That confirmed it. The figures approaching weren't mirages or imaginary visions rendered by Levi's over-heated brain. Quickly, he swiveled his chair around to face the bare wall. Creating constellations out of the thumbtack holes on the wall would be abundantly more interesting that any conversation with those nut jobs. Maybe if he didn't move and refrained from making a sound they would drop off their key and leave without saying a word.

The door opened with powerful bang. Levi tensed. Stay still. Don't move. Cease breathing. To keep his sanity in check, he let his eyes trace three pinholes. That formation almost looked like Orion's belt.

"Leeeevi!" came a bone-shuddering screech. "I have come to bid you farewell—but before I do I have LOTS to tell you!"

Too bad he couldn't hang himself with said belt. Reluctantly, he twisted back around wearing the most miserable expression he could muster as he eyed that zany smile looming over him. As expected, that shitty-glasses wouldn't leave until they got their hour-long goodbye in. Of course, like most things in Levi's life, things didn't go the way he wanted.

Levi survived the next twenty minutes or so by half-listening to a voice that sounded like a broken rotor that lost all function to stop. As usual, Hanji detoured from their original point and took the vocal scenery route, locking Levi in for the nauseating ride.

"So after Moblit and I hiked down the craggy slopes, we uncovered an unusual ravine..." Hanji tented their fingers together like a villain about to finally spit out the point of their long speech. "The gorge was completely scorched by black soot and all vegetation in the vicinity was burnt to a crisp. Wild, right?"

"If by wild you mean wildfire, yes," Levi said dryly, his cheek drooping into his sweaty palm. " The desert spontaneously combust all the time."

"No no no," they shook a disapproving finger at him. "All signs point to this being a crash or a landing spot!"

Levi unleashed a lengthy groan up at the ceiling. "What you just said would make a decent punchline if you were joking, but I know you're not, which just makes you're entire story depressing."

"Levi. Levi listen," they voiced over his brassy groans, flapping their arms around frantically to lure Levi's attention. "This is important. There were even metal remnants scattered about the scene. We recovered a few, and that's why I'm checking out a day early—I need to get them back to my lab for experiments. We're onto something big!"

"Something big, huh..." Levi repeated as he massaged at his temples, hoping enough pressure would kill him. "Like the time you said you had cosmic contact with another life force, only to later discover the interfering signal producing the 'exotic language' on you radio was from a Spanish talk-show?"

"I am a scientist, not a linguist!"

"Obviously. You thought your name would go down in history for finding a broadcast discussing a new telenovela."

A mixture of frustration and embarrassment created a red streak across Hanji's cheeks. "This time is different. I have tangible proof!"

"Dr. Hanji, careful. That information is classified," said the assistant, Moblit, who was remarkably a few ranks below Hanji in whatever it was they do. With the way Moblit ridiculed and disciplined his reckless boss, it seemed like the other way around.

What Hanji and Moblit did for a living wasn't quite clear to Levi. From what he gathered, Hanji was an obnoxious scientist who checked into the motel too often with their partner to conduct local research on his boring town. Hanji probably explained their jobs in full detail countless times, but Levi's ears naturally sieved out Hanji's voice.

Overall, Levi found himself less surprised at hearing about the remnants of an alien space craft, and more surprised by the fact that two quacks like them actually found employment.

"Levi is a local," Hanji explained to Moblit, making a flourishing gesture up at the ceiling. "He deserves to know about his extraterrestrial neighbors."

"Well, if you see these aliens," Kenny finger-quoted skeptically before collecting a beer for himself from the fridge, "let them know we'll score them a discount here at the motel if they choose to take a vacation on Earth."

"Will do!" Hanji squeaked as they coiled their fists excitedly. "Ah! Can you imagine it?"

"Not really," Levi answered flatly. The room felt significantly hotter from their long-winded ramblings. If aliens did exist, he hoped they'd abduct Hanji and take them far away to another galaxy. "Can I have the key now?"

"Oh, right," Hanji perked up and flung the key ring; it made a clang as it hit the surface of the desk. "I'll be back in a month or so, remember to keep a room vacant for me."

A part of him wished he could use the no vacancy excuse when the time came, but they hadn't had a full house in recent memory. There'll likely be at least one damned room available for that eccentric nut job and their test subject.

As Hanji and Moblit departed from the office with friendly waves, Levi stood up from his chair to return the key to its hook on the wall, hesitating a moment before hanging it up in the slot labeled room nine. His frownlines deepened with a flinching grimace. Returning to his seat heavily, Levi almost found himself missing the distraction the two scientists offered. Once again, all he could focus on was the heat clinging to his skin like a woolly coat—and her.

"Usually you go stampeding into a room with an arsenal of cleaning products as soon as someone checks out," Kenny commented from the couch, the bottle of beer lingering by his lips.

Grimly, Levi hung his head and pinched the creases between his brows. "It's too hot to clean."

"Quit whining and go make yourself useful. I'll manage the office until you get back."

"...Fine," he muttered, but only because he had no other excuses to give—well, there was one valid reason why he avoided that room, but it was too shameful to voice. Once he gathered the key and all the needed supplies from the closet, Levi headed toward the door.

"And don't even think about turning on the air in that room," Kenny quickly added, "that's for paying customers only."

After struggling to insert the key into the knob while juggling the supplies in hand, Levi kicked the door to room nine open. A quick pan around later, he set down the cleaning supplies and defiantly made his way over to the air unit. With a press of a button, he ignited the power and out poured a crisp gust of winter air.

Just that short trip outside in the sweltering heat managed to shed the last remaining layers of productiveness he had. For the first time in Levi's life, he didn't want to clean. He wanted to stand in front of this air until his face bruised with frostbite. And most of all, he didn't want to be in this room—this room that was still haunted by blurry memories and still retained the residue of her perfume. No—that must be his imagination. Two months had past since that night. All traces of her were surely gone.

Levi's sigh fought against the cold wind as he reflected how much of a fool he's been. He purposely avoided renting out this room, just so he didn't have to step foot in it. However, when Hanji rolled into town his mother happened to be working the front desk and rented it out to them. It was probably for the best—he felt pathetic for trying to deny the existence of room nine, like it was some overlooked quarantine housing his regrets and shame.

The sight of the room itself wasn't profoundly unpleasant for him; it was an exact replica of the other fourteen rooms. The last time he was in here he hardly paid any mind to the room itself, after all. His attention was fixated on her and only her—but being alone in this room again, just like the morning he woke up and found her missing from his side, left him feeling hollow and bitter.

The details of that night were fuzzy, like the memories of a dream he wished he never awoke from. And her voice had become a distant chime like the chapel bells that barely grazed the edge of hearing each morning. The sight of her still projected like a flicking reel of film in his mind that would, in time, fade to black. The thought of forgetting what she looked like made his stomach harden with a cringe. He did not want their beginning to be the end.

Shaking off the troublesome thoughts, Levi decided to moved his attention to the current task he had at hand to keep his mind busy. First he shed the blankets and sheets from the mattress and hurtled the heap atop an arm chair. He then equipped a can of furnishing polish and a rag from the supply basket. A greasy spritz of polish spout out onto to the wooden surface of the nightstand, and Levi buffed it furiously, as if cleansing this one night stand would somehow cleanse him metaphorically.

Paying extra attention to the questionably sticky ledges, he exfoliated it until the wood squeaked and glimmered like new. During this he caught a glimpse of something wedged between the stand and the bed, something rectangular in shape, but he couldn't quite figure out what it was due to it being cloaked in shadows.

A brow crooked up as he curiously bent down to pick it up...and what he pulled out from the cranny was a cellphone boarded with a red silicone case.

Taking a seat on the bare mattress, Levi held down the power button to turn it on, but after a moment of waiting for the startup screen to appear it became apparent the battery was dead. The lint and crumbs stuck to the silicone indicated the phone had been burrowed in a nest of dust balls for a while—that or it belonged to a certain filthy scientist.

After setting the phone down, he wiped his palm on his pant sleeve and made a mental memo to call Hanji's office later to ask if they or Moblit lost a phone. Great, he'll have to endure an extra dose of crazy when they come to pick it up.

Dropping to his knees, Levi ducked his head down to peer beneath the nightstand to make sure nothing else was accidently left behind. Stretching out his arm, he reached for the only other object he could spot and latched onto it.

A quavering breath stilled in his dry throat as he stared down at the tube of lipstick now in his hand.

Memories raided his mind in an instant. Levi thought he'd never see that shade of red again after he washed it off his body in the shower the morning after his encounter with that woman. He recalled how the lipstick once festered throughout his skin, like a stamp shaped as luscious lips.

His focus switched back to the the cell phone, like a detective trying to make a connection between two pieces of evidence.

If this is her lipstick...could that possibly be her cellphone?

Rising back to his feet, Levi paced back and forth, his hand slicking back his hair in pensive frustration. Panic and a pinch of excitement swarmed through him as he mulled and moiled about the room.

No...it's not her phone, he decided to tell himself before he clung to any wild assumptions. It would be more reasonable to assume the phone belonged to Hanji. Slowing to a stop, he let his eyes maneuver back to the cellphone and he squeezed the lipstick tight in his fist. Next, his eyes moved to the bed, where his heart had bloomed with something special before being crushed and deserted.

In a burst of rage, he threw the lipstick at the wall and stomped off testily, wanting to proceed with his chores and forget he ever found anything.

"Stop thinking about her," he demanded beneath his breath, "she surely isn't thinking about you."

~x~

A breeze came rolling in from one of the open office windows, wafting the hanging room keys like a wind chime. The flaming orb in the sky Levi had been cursing all day finally went off to bother another timezone with its blazing rays, granting the quiet desert town a cool night.

"So...neither you or Moblit lost a cell phone? You're sure?" Levi stammered into the office's phone, his fingers drumming tentatively on the surface of the desk.

"Nope," Hanji replied surely, "all my equipment, personal items and mobile devices are all accounted for. It must belong to the person who occupied the room before me."

"Yeah...You're probably right."

After hanging up on Hanji's extraneous ramblings a while later, Levi pensively stared at the mysterious cell phone on the desk, contemplating what to do next. The chances of the phone belonging to her just rose up significantly—but there's only one way to cross off all doubts.

Prompt by the thought, Levi pushed himself up from the chair and hoofed over to the supply closet where he whipped the door open. Crouching down, he tugged out an encumbered box and began to dig through it. On one of the cardboard flaps the words lost & found were sprawled on with marker. In time, copious amounts of discarded items piled up around him.

The amount of crap people left behind in motel rooms was remarkable—actually, it wasn't all crap; most items were valuable. Jewelry, electronics, identification, you name it and Levi found it at abandoned at one point. Some came back to claim it, but most of the time these abandoned items live out the rest of their days in this cramped box. Unless Levi took a liking to a certain unwanted item, then he'd snatch it up for himself.

Untangling yet another wire, Levi reached out to plug it into the outlet. He had spent the past fifteen minutes trying to find a charger that matched the phone he found in room nine. So far he hadn't found a match yet.

With a hold of the phone with one hand and the end of the cord with the other, the plug clicked in and the icon of a battery flashed on. At long last: a match. This must be how the prince felt when he finally slipped the glass slipper on Cinderella's foot. How did that idiot forget what she looked like after spending an evening together, anyway? Levi was plastered all to hell and he still had that woman's face carved into his memory.

To avoid distractions he shook the image out of his mind like a Etch-a-Sketch and clambered back up into the chair. From there he perused the charging phone in brooding silence, his fingers drumming along the surface of the desk, the beat as rapid as his heart.

If this phone does belong to her...I should be able to contact her.

Ever since that night, Levi hadn't been able to erase the sensation that woman left imprinted on him. It was like nothing Levi ever felt before. And he wanted more of it. More of her. More of her sullen eyes that brightened when he said the right thing to her. Or moved inside her in just the right way. He wanted a name, another conversation, another chance.

He wanted all of her, and it took him until now to consciously admit that.

Before he found this cell phone, coming into contact with her seemed impossible. Levi didn't even know her name for starters—he didn't know jack shit about her, in fact. They bonded intimately, not personally.

Thoughts of her had orbited around his mind for two months like a unceasing hurricane, but he was trapped in the eye, unable to escape those raging thoughts. Waiting for the post-coital tristesse phase to pass was his only option, at least until he felt daring enough to sought out her presence in Trost Tavern on a few lonely nights, hoping he'd meet her again. The same drunken faces were accounted for, but not the new pretty one he had come to like. At one point Levi began to contemplate whether or not the woman ever even existed. Maybe the heat fried his brain. Maybe she was a figment of his imagination. Maybe she was, literally, the woman of his dreams.

If she did exist, however, all signs pointed to her not wanting anything to do with him. Her leaving without a goodbye the morning after their affair made that abundantly clear. She probably regretted the whole thing once she returned to her senses—and Levi understood all this, but he also liked her, a lot. Even if she didn't want to have a sexual or romantic relationship with him that would be fine. Living in a town like this could get lonely, even for a loner like himself. A local friend would be comforting to have. All he had was his mother, uncle, and the fly-by-nights that strolled in to rent a room. There needed to be more than what he had, and he suspected that woman possessed the qualities he looked for in a person.

All he wanted was a second chance with her to start over. Apologizing might be a good place to start. There's a chance she felt embarrassed. Defiled, even. Of course Levi didn't intent to take advantage of her in her vulnerable state. In all fairness they were both smashed and neither one of them were capable of making responsible decisions. He never would've slept with her so quickly under different circumstances—he'd like to move past that fuck up and get to know her.

As usual, he was getting too ahead of himself. To start over with her, he'd have to find her first. He shouldn't set his hopes too high. Even if this phone did belong to her, there's no telling how she'd react to him contacting her. Badly, he presumed, but even so, he booted up the phone hopefully.

"Levi."

At the call of his name, he jarred his head up and found his mother idling by the door, her arms crossed tightly across her chest. "What are you still doing here? It's time to lock up."

His eyes strayed over to the phone which now displayed the start-up logo. "I'll close up in a few minutes."

"Did someone make reservations?"

"No."

With her features wavering between curiosity and irk, his mother flounced around the front desk and leaned over to study her son. Her loose blouse rumpled down her arm like a curtain, exposing a pale shoulder. She made varying hums and tilted her head. This was typical behavior; the woman was fluent in translating his expressions and body language. That's how they normally communicated when Levi didn't feel talkative.

"If no one is coming, then close up," she said at last, dubiously. "You're just asking to be robbed by keeping the lobby open late."

"Do you truly believe someone could rob me?" he asked with a hint of amusement. "Plus it's not like I'm unarmed in here."

A gasp flung into her throat. "Don't tell me Kenny is storing his stupid guns in here again. I told him I don't want any weapons around."

"There's about ten guns stored in this room alone. And that's not counting the one's he keeps on him and his collection at the house."

With her face filling with mild disgust, she let out a gritty sigh. "That man has seen one two many Clint Eastwood movies."

"Tell me about it. He thinks he's the law man around here."

"As long as he doesn't go around drunkenly pointing a revolver at stray animals again I guess I can live with some extra protection." She took a seat up on the desk, and after a moment of staring at her son, a faint smile appeared on her lips as her hand reached out to comb his hair back in the way she liked it styled. Swatting her hand away, Levi combed his hair back in place.

"You're so moody lately—more moody than usual. Has Kenny been giving you a hard time? He better not be. I'll hit him upside the head with a cactus."

When she said things like that, it made Levi grateful to be an only child. His mother and uncle didn't paint the rosiest picture of sibling love. "It's nothing like that." Even though being around Kenny was a lot like having a thorn penetrating his ass, his uncle wasn't the source of his fraying sanity for once.

"Then what is it?"

"Don't worry about it."

Her eyes narrowed crushingly. "Don't worry about it," she mimicked his deep tone, "says the depressed bastard surrounded by guns...and junk," she moved her elevated foot aside to look at the floor, just now noticing the mess Levi created when he searched through the box. "You made a mess and didn't clean it up? Now I'm beyond worried. And don't give me that 'I'm fine' crap. I know you for thirty-four years; I know when you're bullshitting me."

With a pained expression, he cocked his head away and decided not to hazard an answer, knowing anything he said would trigger off his mothers built in lie detector.

After a while of silence, her lips lopsided. "Are you lonely?"

"No. In fact, I'd like to be alone right now." Levi swiped a hand down his face, mumbling promises about being fine.

"Who's phone is this?" she asked suddenly, and by the time he looked it was already in her hands. Quickly, he snatched it up, leaving her stunned, and a second later, he was too. His jaw had dropped the moment his eyes came in contact with the screen. For a few long seconds, he was completely absorbed in the snapshot displayed on the lockscreen.

"Is that a guests phone?" His mother tried to peek over but he pressed the phone against his chest, denying her visual access.

Her face erupted with annoyance. "Don't go nosying through it. That's an invasion of privacy. How many times have I told you and Kenny not to snoop through the guests belongings?"

"I know the person who owns this," Levi said softly, stealing another peek at the screen, which displayed a picture of his one-night lover centered between two smiling men.

"Hanji?" his mother guessed.

"No, it's someone you don't know."

"Honey, everyone you know I know too."

"Not this one."

"Suspicious..." she mumbled through pouting lips.

Levi ran his hands down his cheeks, trying to erase the heat accumulated there. With a wincing expression, he looked his mother in the eye and reluctantly said, "If I give you a short summery of what's going on, will you leave me alone?"

"Depends," she shrugged. "If I have follow up questions, no."

At least she's honest. He braced himself for her unavoidable reactions by sucking in a shaky breath. "...I met a girl."

His mother unhinged her mouth to let in a gasp, but Levi cut it short by slamming his palm on the desk. Crossly, he scooted up in his chair; the contrast between his mothers widening grin and his uptight posture was profound.

"No. Stop it," he demanded at his giddy mother. "Don't get too excited. It's not like that. Whatever ideas you're feeding yourself right now is wrong."

She rolled her glinting eyes, her smirk still widening. "Right, right. So what's the story with you and this friend?"

Troubled suddenly, his eyes cast aside."I wouldn't even call her a friend. We met once, and I lost touch with her. Anyway, I said I'd give you a summary, not the whole novel so I'm ending it there. I didn't want you worrying about stupid shit so I thought I'd let you now my change in mood is due to this woman..." his voice trailed off when he peered up to see the dopey smile painted across his mothers lips. Her and Kenny had the same smile, so naturally it pissed him off.

"What?" he snapped.

"You seem to really like her...this friend. Is she hot? I bet she's a cougar."

"A coug—mom. No. She's younger than me."

"Really? So I assume she's not from around here? Was she a guest?"

"I'm pretty sure she's from around here." Some traces of the conversation they had seemed to suggest that, at least. "I guess her and I make up the small percentage of people under fifty around here."

"Excuse you," she jabbed a finger at herself offendedly. "I should be included in that estimate too, I'm forty-six."

"...Yeah, for like six years straight now."

She whapped him in the arm for that. "Admit it, I could pass for thirty."

"Yes, and I could pass for fifteen. What the hell is wrong with your genetics?"

She hummed a sinister note. "Family secret."

An unbidden chuckle freed from Levi, and his mothers eyes soften on him. "There it is."

"Hm?"

"I like seeing you smile," she said, cupping the side of his cheek.

His lips descended back into a familiar frown a second later.

"You rebellious little shit," her soft caress transitioned into a sharp pinch. "You always do the opposite of what I say. With that said, here's what I have to say about your lady friend: Don't you ever tell me anything else about her. And under no circumstances should you ever introduce me to her. I have absolutely zero interest in this young woman—stop smiling, I'm serious."

Levi smiled more, but it wasn't totally genuine, there was something sad about it now. He had nothing to say in response to her hidden comical pleas-he probably should've have told her anything, he belatedly realized. All that did was generate excitement in her (and admittedly himself), but there was no telling what the future had in store for him and this woman. All day he's been telling himself not to get his hopes up, but he just couldn't help it. Right now he was pumped up and wanted to thumb through her contacts and try to find a number he could reach her by, like a home or work number. But when he peered over at the clock and noticed how late it was, he stored his motivation for later use.

Talking to his mother managed to clear his mind and unclog his nerves, at least. Once outside, she locked up the office behind them and he peered up at the crescent moon appearing between a rift of clouds as he thought that maybe, just maybe, he had a chance of patching things up with this mysterious woman that made his heart pound at the thought of her. Levi wouldn't call himself a firm believer of fate, but finding a way to contact her made him less of a skeptic.

The outcome didn't look too promising, but it was worth a shot.

~x~

After changing his clothes, Levi clicked off the lamp and crossed his bedroom, holding the phone up like a torch to guide his dark path. A relaxed sigh freed from him after he crashed into bed. Swallowing up his impending guilt, Levi mentally disposed of what his mother told him about invading people's privacy and spent the next few hours snooping through the cell phone. Levi wasn't a total insensitive stalker, though. He didn't read her personal emails, text messages or anything else that appeared too private to examine, but by looking through her apps, public status updates and photos, he learned quite a lot about her; things he had wondered about for the past two months was all at the touch of his fingertips.

Thanks to her Facebook account, he learned the most important question of all: her name.

From now on, he no longer had to refer to her as her or that woman. The person who had made him feel alive and then left him for dead was named Mikasa.