**Inspired by the song You Are Loved (Don't Give Up) by Josh Groban**
Seven: Don't Give Up
Eren knew going into this, working with Rivaille wasn't going to be easy. It was anything but. Five days he didn't go to just work anymore, it was coaching, training. Rivaille hadn't touched the topic of singing again, but he had reintroduced Eren to the Cello. It was the one time when Eren was sure he would have the chance to be praised and not chastised. He still had the skills needed to play and the natural talent. Two weeks went by and Rivaille was starting to play alongside of him on the piano. There was nothing that Eren loved more.
They spoke very few words besides that of music and technique. On that day, though, things would be quite different. Eren walked up the familiar drive and let himself in. He heard Rivaille on the piano but another sound stopped him. Singing. A beautiful, soprano voice rang out of the music room. It reverberated nothing but pure tone and quality. He slowed his pace and listened. It sounded wonderful to him, but the clashing pound of the keys in frustration by Rivaille stopped the opera singer.
"No, no, no! You always go sharp on that note, support your breathing." Rivaille's tone was short.
"That note is always sharp because this version is unlike the original." He was impressed to hear her spat back.
"It is my aria I wrote for you, you will sing it as I wish for you to sing it!"
"What about taking artistic liberties?"
"You always do this…come to me every time just to argue…"
"I don't come here just to argue, I come here to see you. How long must I wait? How long will you stay locked within these walls?"
"How long Levi? I cannot wait forever!"
"I said ENOUGH!" There was silence. Eren saw Hanji on the stairs and she put her index finger over her lips. He nodded, but crept closer to the doorway.
"It was a simple question, Levi." The woman's voice was hurt, broken.
"Now, Miss. Ral, please…from the second page, sixth measure." He ignored her obviously.
She began to sing again, but it had lost its strength, its pride. He stopped playing soon, realizing the change. Eren took another step closer and the floor boards creaked. Hanji shook her head and a strong hand yanked the boy into the room.
"Levi!" A woman's voice cried out and gentle arms caught him. "How dare you!"
"That's what he gets for eavesdropping, HANJI, same goes for you." He glared at the door as if knowing the woman was out there. Than man turned and made his way to his chair, clumping in it.
"You…sing very beautifully," Eren decided to ignore the violent outburst and turned around. Green eyes widened at the tiny, auburn haired woman smiling at him.
"Why thank you, you must be Eren, Mr. Rivaille has said a lot about you."
"Has he?" Eren didn't believe it. He heard a scoff from where Rivaille sat, but ignored him.
"Oh yes, come with me, Eren," Petra Ral – that name. It finally sunk in. She was the classical sensation who hit Broadway after Rivaille trained her. They walked out to the gardens and she stopped, looking back at him.
"Don't mind his outbursts. I know they can be, violent at times. He's been locked behind walls for so long, I think it is finally started to get to him. He worries me."
"He trained you, didn't he?"
She smiled, "Yes. He saw potential, and took me under his wing. I come back from time to time, refresher courses." Her smile widened, "…He always isn't afraid to critique me."
"What did you mean, when you said, you had to wait?" Eren pressed further.
"…Oh, that." Looking down, Petra played with her hands. "He wrote a song for me, but he refuses to let me sing it, without him playing. It would be a hit, but, he refuses. I think it's because he doesn't want people to see his face."
"What was he like before, the accident?"
"Not much different to be honest. He has always been one for strict discipline. He did smile every so often, even laughed." The woman's face turned into a soft, wistful expression. "…He and I used to be together."
Eren felt something in his chest drop. "Oh?"
"It was just a brief moment in time…" She blushed and waved it off, "…It wouldn't have worked anyway…"
He was silent. They had been together? He could see it. She was beautiful, petite, and talented. It would have been the perfect pairing.
"Eren, listen to me," Petra took the young man's hand, "He needs someone like you right now."
Brows furrowed at her comment, "What? Why, like me?"
"He tells me how infuriating it is to have a pupil who will not listen; someone who challenges him." She smirked, "He secretly loves it."
"Why? I annoy him," Eren was skeptical.
"He enjoys people who aren't afraid to question him. He respects people with a strong mind and will. I can tell you, he sees potential in you."
"It doesn't feel like it," Green eyes averted away from her perfect face.
"…I know…but that's just how he shows it. Try to understand…he is a very proud man." Petra looked back to the house and began walking back.
Eren hesitantly followed her. Rivaille was still sitting in the same chair where they had left him, his head resting on his chin. She collected her jacket and purse, then, walking over to him, gently caressed the left side of his face. Eren was surprised he didn't yell, or pull away. Instead, he just closed his eyes and waited.
"I have to go, Levi. I'll be in touch…don't give up…" Backing away she flashed the young man a warm smile. "It was a pleasure meeting you Eren."
"You too," he nodded and looked back to Rivaille who was watching her walk away. There was sadness in his eyes. Eren knew better than to question. He too tried to walk out of the room.
"Eren." Rivaille's voice was quiet. He turned and walked a few steps back, but still distanced himself.
He watched the man's face go through a series of emotions, and the one he settled on, startled Eren. "…I'm sorry…" He looked away, jaw flexing, blinking faster than usual. Was he sad to see her go?
"Its fine, I understand." The younger came closer waiting for another outburst, but it never came. He was standing right in front of his mentor and he still refused to look at him. Eren leaned down and gently pushed stray hair from the man's harsh eyes. They flickered and slid to look into green.
Rivaille turned his head, brows furrowing.
"…Don't give up…because I know…you want to be heard…"
Eyes widened as he set his lips in a thin line. Eren noticed his hands were gripping the arms of his chair tightly. He placed a warm hand over Rivaille's cooler. The muscles of his jaw were tensing and releasing. Eren wasn't sure if it was emotion or rage that was being choked back over and over again.
"People still love you Rivaille…care about you…"
"Tch…" He looked away, but Eren felt his hand turn and the younger felt his heart beat faster. Looking down, Eren saw their contrasting skin tones against each other, pale and a light gold. When his eyes returned they met, locked.
"I'm…I'm sorry, what was that, sir?" Eren practically choked on words.
Rivaille leaned back a bit, as if relaxing to the touch, "I said Levi…you can call me by that if you like."
Eren's face was one of shock, and must have been amusing, for Levi smirked.
"Ah, yea…yes…Levi, okay," he exhaled the breath he had been holding. His thumb ran against smooth skin. The look he was cast was one that confused him. It had the arrogance of annoyance, and yet, there was something kinder hidden deeper, he couldn't place it.
They sat there for a few moments in silence. Levi was trying to make sense of everything in his mind. This young man continued to defy him – and it intrigued him. Looking down at their hands it made the older wonder, question; what was it about Eren that made him feel free?