They say that if you drop a frog into boiling hot water, they'll jump out, but if you gradually turn the heat up higher and higher they don't notice until it's too late, effectively boiling themselves to death.
Eren ponders this as that cop (no, Rivaille, he corrects himself, and then wonders again about just how deep in he is) bites into his shoulder, earning a moan from the younger man.
How did this happen again?
Eren sighs and rolls his neck as he drives into the hotel parking lot, glancing around at the town he had just driven into. Some tiny little dot on the east coast, a place that was probably more of a pit-stop to by-passers than somewhere to stay.
He had picked the place randomly, circling it on the map mostly based on it's proximity to a beach. It was inconspicuous enough, and would probably be fine for the week or two he had planned on staying.
Small places seemed to work the best, he noticed. When you lived in a smaller community, everyone knew everybody and there was a higher trust level all-around. Easier to find unlocked doors, which made his job considerably simpler.
He flipped his wallet open, checking how much money he had before he went to go check in at the hotel. Definitely more than enough to live here for a while, thanks to his last excursion. Either that grandma was richer than he thought or that pawn shop really gave him a good deal.
He shook his head. It didn't matter now, the jewels were sold and Eren was long gone.
Such was the life of a thief.
Flashing his fake ID at the hotel receptionist as she typed in a few numbers, he took the key card she handed to him and went to check out his new room.
He walked down the hotel hallway, noticing the tacky green wallpaper that was plastered everywhere. Just who designed these places?
Thankfully, the awful wallpaper was replaced by cream-colored walls in the actual hotel rooms. The first thing Eren noticed besides the walls was how simple the room looked. Nothing too fancy, a decent-sized bed in the middle with a small TV sitting on a dresser in front of it. Next to the window on the other side of the room was an uncomfortable-looking chair that matched the brown drapes.
It was perfect for what he wanted. He never got expensive hotel rooms - that was money better spent on food and things to survive, or even more importantly, to send back home to Mikasa.
Mikasa. His little sister, who had gone through so much chemo that they'd be paying the bills forever. He was grateful she was a survivor, but his parents could never cover the costs all by themselves.
He made phonecalls home a lot.
Eren fell backwards onto the bed, letting out a sigh. It had been a long trip, from the last spot he had hit to here, and he was glad to finally be able to stop and get some rest. He rolled over onto his side, kicking off his shoes haphazardly and closing his eyes. Things like exploring the small town and taking showers could wait until he woke up.
As it turned out, this town was a lot smaller than Eren had thought at first.
It was evident in the way that he kept running into people that he had seen already. More alarmingly, how he kept running into the same cop everywhere he went. The first time, literally, as he almost spilled hot coffee onto the shorter man. It was probably just the fact that he was so wary of police officers, but the man's face stuck out in his mind. He looked like he was perpetually scowling, his features sharply defined. He wasn't unattractive, but...
Eren frowned at where his own train of thought was headed. Nevermind his looks, he should be worried about how out of the 5 places he visited, the shorter man had appeared in four of them. The coffeeshop, the beach, the bookstore (hey, even thieves had to have some way to pass the time), and now the grocery store.
It was really putting Eren on edge, and it showed.
"There something wrong with you, kid?"
And for the first time, the man spoke. Eren froze at the voice. He could talk to normal people fine, but no matter what he found it hard to act natural around members of the police force. He swallowed.
"N-No, sir." he replied, hand still on the can of green beans resting on the store shelf. "Just shopping."
The officer's eyes narrowed. "I've been seeing a lot of you, but I don't recognize you. You from out of town? What's your name?"
Eren nodded. "I'm a traveling artist. Photographer." Not exactly a lie. He did take a lot of pictures when he was out. "My name's Ere- Uh...min." Smooth.
"Ere-uh-min?" the other man quirked his eyebrow, and Eren backpedaled. Not good.
"Eremin. It's Italian." He mentally slapped himself for merging his childhood friend's name and his own. If only he could have recalled the name on his fake ID fast enough.
The officer seemed unconvinced, but turned back to the shelf anyway. Picking up a can of corn, he then brushed past Eren, who pretended to be thoroughly fascinated with the label on the canned vegetable he was holding.
"Well, Eremin, I'm Rivaille and as long as you stay out of trouble, we won't have any problems."
Eren watched as the shorter man disappeared into the next aisle, gently hitting his head against the shelf was he was out of sight. "Stupid, stupid, stupid..."
It was near impossible to avoid the other man, no matter where he went. Not that there were that many places to hit up in a town as dinky as this one. Eren quickly memorized the cop-car and it's address plate, making sure to avoid at all costs any places he knew Rivaille was. But still, it was like they were destined to meet, because if Rivaille wasn't at a place before Eren, he was there not too long after. He wasn't sure if he was being stalked, or if he was accidentally stalking the other, but either way he was sufficiently creeped out.
He thought about locking himself up in his hotel room, a place where Rivaille definitely wasn't at, but he couldn't spend all of his time cooped up in there. He had went and bought a few groceries, but they were mostly snacks. It's hard to make meals without a kitchen. Not to mention, Eren never did have a very long attention-span. It was one of his downfalls, he always felt the need to be on the go.
Thankfully, spending time at the beach was innocent enough. He was sitting on a bench, spacing out when he noticed it in the distance: a fairly large house overlooking the beach. It was like a sitting duck, and he was already plotting it out in his mind. Strike during the day, when the owner would almost certainly be out working. Judging by the size, probably a dentist or a lawyer or something. As long as he was unseen, he could make it back to the beach and blend right in after it was done. Nothing unusual about a person walking around with a backpack at the beach.
It would be a peace of cake. Even better, there was a forest for a backyard. He could sneak in through there, his car wouldn't even need to be close. He hadn't seen a job this easy since-
"Kid, you're freaking out that lady over there."
Eren's eyes snapped into focus at that, realizing there was a bikini-clad young woman sitting on a towel a few yards in front of the house giving him quite the death glare. He coughed loudly and ripped his gaze away, only to find that Rivaille was standing to his side.
"Here, brat, take this. My break's over and I can't finish it anyway." he said, dumping a McDonald's bag into his lap. Eren frowned.
"U-Uh? Sir, you don't-"
"I don't know how much vagabond teens have to eat, but just accept it. It's better than throwing it away." the older man cut him off before he could protest.
"I'm twenty-one." Eren said it automatically, having thoroughly memorized what his fake ID said after the last incident. Rivaille scoffed.
"Yeah, and I'm a 12 year old girl. Just eat the burger and shut up."
Eren was more than confused. He had been to a lot of small towns, sure, but never had the people been so friendly as to give him free meals. Warily, he checked the contents of the bag.
Some fries and a cheeseburger, sure enough.
"What did you expect, a severed hand? Don't answer that." the Police officer sensed Eren's shock. "I don't know for what reason you left home, but it's probably for a good one, so don't look a gift-horse in the mouth and ask questions, brat." he turned to leave, and Eren was at a loss.
"Wait, sir! Er, Rivaille." the dark-haired man turned his head around, looking unamused at being stopped again. Eren cleared his throat. "Thanks."
Rivaille rolled his eyes. "No problem, Eremin." he bit out the last part, still clearly unconvinced about the name. Eren watched him leave.
He never would have expected the angry looking police officer to be so kind.
A/N: I swear things will get more interesting (and more Riren based) next chapter. I'm pretty sure this is going to be split into 3 parts, with maybe an epilogue. Chapter 2 should be up fairly soon, since I'm already almost done with it!
Thanks for reading!