A/N: This story has been translated into Spanish by GirlSchifffer! Check that out at this link: s/9709291/1/Fantasmas. I'm also writing a humorous, lighthearted slice-of-life vignette from the POVs of the 104th Trainees' Squad called "Just Another Day", at: s/9686476/1/Just-another-day.
Levi takes a moment to rest his forehead against the palm of his hand. He is first and foremost the world's strongest man, and the whole world within the Walls knows this. Then why is he stuck an uncomfortable chair in his military office, pushing papers?
His eyes drift down the written pages sleepily. He shouldn't be the one scratching out meaningless words on paper for the government to keep in some obscure information storage shed. Maybe he should sic this work on Hanji instead. He shouldn't be the one doing this shit, especially this late in the evening.
He never wanted to do this particular stack of paperwork.
His eyelids have just slipped shut when the familiar sound of a mug alighting gently on his desk rings its way into his ears. His right arm moves almost of its own accord, grasping the warm handle and lifting the cup to just under his nose first. The welcome aroma of coffee wafting up into his nostrils alone is enough revitalize him; his eyes flutter open, finding the smiling face of Petra standing in front of him.
"You looked like you needed a pick-me-up," she says fondly.
Levi takes a careful sip of the dark and sweet beverage, but of course he needn't have worried; Petra's waited the appropriate amount of time to bring the temperature of his drink down to bearably hot, and she's added just the right pinch of brown sugar to bring out the coffee's earthy flavors without overwhelming it with the taste of molasses.
"Thank you," he says gruffly, taking a slightly deeper drink before setting both the mug and the pen he'd still been holding back onto his desk.
The sensation of paper slipping away from under his left hand causes Levi to instinctively apply downward pressure onto his runaway documents. The blonde Erd laughs quietly as he slips the rest of the stack of paperwork out from underneath, leaving Levi with only his first page. Gunter steps in front of his fellow soldier as Levi hotly demands, "Erd, return that to me now. That's an order."
"Captain," says Gunter reasonably, "You cannot complete your work to the best of your ability when you are emotionally compromised."
His psyche is slightly out of whack, Levi silently admits to himself; he normally would be able to keep his cool in any and all situations. Today, though, is an exception. It's been a long, long day, and a lot (too much) has happened.
He is very, very tired.
Still, he maintains his stern expression as he leans to the left, trying to look around Gunter's stocky form. Unfortunately, from his seated position within his office chair, his torso is too small to give his eyes much more than the very edge of Erd's cloak to latch onto. "Erd. Now."
"I have spent many an afternoon sealed up in my office physically documenting the technical methods that have led to my extremely high number of Titan kills," Auruo boasts as he swaggers up on Gunter's right. "And I must say that, despite my great accomplishments, even my productivity sharply declines after the first hour. If you do not take a rest in between, Captain, nothing good will come out of this."
"Are you trying to imitate the Captain in front of the Captain?" Petra cries indignantly. "Not only is that incredibly lame, it also makes you look really stupid."
"Don't argue in such an unprofessional manner when the Captain is here with us," Gunter interrupts before the fight can get much farther.
Erd walks from behind Gunter's back to where Levi can see him again. He holds up the thick stack of documents for his superior to see. "Don't fill this out just yet," he murmurs, slowly backing his way towards the office exit. "Wait until you've recovered more before you think about tackling this monster."
"At least wait until tomorrow morning before you return to your work," says Gunter firmly.
"Even the strong must rest," Auruo declares knowingly, following Gunter out the door.
Petra is the last to leave. Her eyes shine softly and her smile is tender, but... "Say your final farewells to us first, Captain Levi."
Levi can only stare silently as the door clicks shut behind her.
Silence pools in the empty room.
The perfect mug of coffee is gone.
His pen still rests within his right hand.
The stack of blank documents lies untouched in front of him. Levi's eyes drift down onto the first page.
Name: Petra Ral
Age: 22 years old
Affiliation: Scouting Legion
Deceased. That's what he should write. He should be writing pages and pages of damn paperwork on the military service and death of Petra Ral. The death of Gunter Shulz. Of Auruo Bossard and of Erd Gin - all about the ultimately meaningless sacrifices that his squad made for humankind.
For a long while, Levi can do nothing but cradle his head in his hands.