Chapter 2 - Picking up the Pieces
"Grown ups are complicated creatures, full of quirks and secrets." - Roald Dahl
"You be a good boy now, Eren, okay?"
Standing outside the Ackerman house, the six year old boy nodded his head as older woman embracing him finally let go. Mikasa's mother smiled at him in the way only she could do, her small eyes turning into thin lines. It was a sign of the woman's Asian heritage.
"Eren…" Mikasa stepped out from her mother's side and stared earnestly at her friend. The little girl's hand were clutching with the edges of the maroon-colored scarf he gave her long ago. "You'll come visit us again, right?"
Before the boy could open his mouth to respond, Eren felt a big warm hand ruffle his hair. Looking up, the little boy saw Mikasa's father smile down at him.
"Mikasa's right, Eren. You can always come visit us whenever you want to," said Mr. Ackerman. Turning his head to the social worker waiting on the side, the older blond man called out to Mike. "You… Mr. Zacharias, right? You make sure he gets a good home, you hear?"
"Don't worry, sir," the man with sandy blonde hair felt the edge of his lip tug upward, a small smile graced his solemn face. "It's my job."
Mikasa embraced her friend one last time before he had to leave. The little girl felt sad that Eren couldn't stay with them any more, but her Mama had explained to her that Eren was going to live with his other family relatives. Being with one's family was very important and, besides, she could always see him at school.
Eren hugged his friend back and said his last good byes to the Ackerman family. Taking his blue and red Spiderman backpack, the six year old made his way to where Mike and his old car were waiting.
"Ready to go now, kiddo?" the tall man asked in a friendly voice.
The little boy nodded his head impassively and gazed at the mustached stranger before climbing in to the passenger's seat of Mike's car.
The social worker ran a hand though his sandy blonde hair and sighed. Poor kid… It had only been a week since the funeral and two since he heard the terrible news. Mike could only imagine what pain the little boy was going through right now. Taking one last sniff outside, the man entered his car and started to drive.
Eren said absolutely nothing during the course of their trip (the social worker would occasionally glance back just to make sure he was still sitting there). The little boy would stare out the window with unseeing turquoise eyes, clutching the Spiderman backpack on his lap tightly. Mike tried to fill the silence with some small talk but the kid refused to say anything to him, only nodding and shaking his head in response to the older man's questions.
Of course, Mike had expected the kid wouldn't open up to a stranger he barely knew, but it couldn't hurt to at least try talking to the little boy… The social worker sighed once more and focused his gaze back to the road. He turned on the radio and put on his favorite jazz station.
The smooth and cool melody of the tenor saxophone from John Coltrane's "Stardust" filled the suffocating silence that had infiltrated the car for the rest of their trip.
Two weeks ago, Levi Rivaille had been a grumpy but relatively ordinary man. He had raven black hair and steely gray eyes. The man was rather short in stature, standing at 5'3 at full height (though, any mention of this in front of him would earn you a glare from those intimidating gray eyes of his), but what was most notable about his features was the perennial scowl that seemed to be perpetually etched on his face. Among his numbered colleagues and acquaintances, it was unheard of to have ever seen the man laugh or smile, even. Suffice to say, Levi Rivaille was not a 'sunny' man.
Levi was a dentist by trade and together with his godfather and head dentist, Erwin Smith, the two operated their own private dental clinic in downtown Shiganshina.
Dr. Rivaille, as he was called, was a very meticulous man of whom order and structure was of direst necessity. As expected of a man so painstakingly precise, he did his work as dentist thoroughly and well, but this certain fastidiousness of his was not only present in his professional life, but also in his private and personal life as well.
Putting it in the simplest terms, Levi was a neat freak. From the belongings at his home to the clothes he was wearing, anything and everything related to him was clean and spotless. He also followed a rigid schedule that had not once been changed ever since joining his godfather's practice. Really, the man was the very definition of order; if one were to look up the word, it would not be very surprising to find the picture of Levi Rivaille underneath the description.
To say the man was extremely happy was not essentially correct per se, but Levi was content with his way of life and wasn't exactly keen on changing the pattern that his life followed all to soon. Yet, Life never made a habit of following a plan. All it took was a phone call and a visit from a strange man for Levi's life to take a 180 degree turn in another direction.
That Saturday, two weeks ago, the day had started normally and was carrying on to be so until a little late in the afternoon. Dr. Rivaille had been in the middle of cleaning a patient's teeth, when Günter, the resident dental technician, interrupted saying there was an urgent call for him. The dentist was about to make a retort, saying he was in the middle of work, when he felt a hand on his arm.
"Go on, take the call. It sounds important." Dr. Smith, the head dentist, nodded his head and gestured to the door. "I'll finish this up for you."
"Tch." The raven-haired man reluctantly left his post and made his way to the telephone. The news waiting for him was… more than a little shocking.
His cousin, Carla Rivaille Yeager, and her husband were dead. They had passed away when the couple's plane got caught in a typhoon and crashed in the Pacific.
Levi was a man known not to show many emotions, but, that moment when he heard the news, shock invaded his normally stoic face. Eyebrows raised in surprise, the man unconsciously clutched the receiver tighter and put it a little closer to his ear. His jaw tensed and his lips formed a grim line as he heard the details of the horrible news.
A pang of regret hit his chest. Carla had actually been one of the few people, if not the only person, in his family that Levi actually liked. Despite having possibly been the black sheep of their family, his cousin had always been nice and genuinely kind to him. Even when both of them became adults, she would still send him a Christmas/Birthday greeting card on the holiday and his birthday. He would never admit it but he would miss her.
Nine days later, after he had gone to the couple's funeral, a tall man with sandy blonde hair and a washy kind of moustache came knocking at his door. The giant asked if he was Levi Rivaille (to which the dentist nodded reluctantly), introduced himself as Mike Zacharius, a social worker, and promptly began sniffing him like a police dog on the search for drugs.
"The fuck?!" Levi swore at this invasion of personal space. It took all of the dentist's willpower not to knee the taller blonde man in the groin.
Minutes later, the strange man stopped sniffing him and gazed at the raven-haired man with an unreadable expression. Levi was tempted to slam the door in the social worker's face, but common courtesy held the dentist back. He opted to glare at the blonde instead.
The man who identified himself as Mike Zacharius chose to ignore or seemed not to notice the mean look Levi was giving him. Stating he was social worker sent by the government, first he would like to offer his condolences over his deceased cousin, Carla Yeager.
Levi's eyes focused on the taller man and he motioned the social worker to continue.
"You are familiar with Eren Yeager, correct? The son of Grisha and Carla Yeager, your nephew?"
The raven-haired man nodded his head, intense gray eyes not leaving the mustached man.
Mike cleared his throat. "By the laws of this country, custody of a child with deceased parents go to the nearest and most financially stable relative and in this case, Dr. Rivaille, that happens to be you."
"…You've got to be shitting me." Levi growled and scrutinized the social worker, making sure this wasn't a sick joke or something.
Mike only shook his head calmly in reply.
Fuck. As much as he would miss Carla, Levi hated brats. He had only visited his cousin's family a few times and barely knew the boy. From his memory, his nephew, Eren was… Five? Six years old? He couldn't possibly raise this little kid…
"What happens if I can't take care of the brat- I meant, my nephew?"
"If no relatives are willing to take him in, we will look for people willing to adopt the child." In a flash, the social worker lost the casual air about him. It was replaced with something more serious, passionate even. "But, it would be for the child's benefit to live with someone related to him. In times of hardship, children need their family even more."
Levi scowled even deeper and placed his palm against his forehead. If Levi was anything, he was a honorable man. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if he just abandoned the brat. "Is there no one else who can take care of the kid? Someone from his father's side?"
"Well… He has an aunt who moved here a few years ago. Hange Zoë, she's his father's cousin and she's financially stable as well."
The lips of the dentist curled upwards slightly. Okay, so he didn't have to be saddled with raising a brat. He'd just make sure the woman wasn't crazy or psychopath and he'd negotiate some deal with her so the kid would be out of his hands.
To say that Hange Zoë was a psychopath, that would be a definite lie. But, to say she wasn't crazy… That was definitely arguable.
The woman had a bird's nest of dark brown hair that was customarily tied into a messy ponytail. Standing at 5'7, she was quite tall compared to other women around her. But, what most noteworthy about her features, was her eyes. Most people would not notice due the large owlish glasses she normally wore, but, if one were to look closely, they'd notice her eyes were a lovely shade of chocolate brown and that they sparkled whenever the woman was excited.
Hange Zoë, or rather Dr. Hange since she had a PhD (Zoë was her given name), was a biologist. She was the head of her own independent research team under Maria National University.
Dr. Hange was a very dedicated researcher (a little too dedicated in most of her subordinates opinions). She'd spend days in the lab, conducting experiments or making new hypotheses, not caring whether or not she hadn't eaten or bathe in a while. Really, it's only thanks to her assistant Moblit that the woman could be separated from her precious research.
Well… At least until two weeks ago that is, before she heard of the unexpected demise of her cousin, Grisha Yeager, and his wife. For the first time in a long while, she took a day off. Though she wasn't particularly close to her cousin and his family, Zoë was really saddened by his passing. As a young girl, it was Grisha who introduced her to the wonders of Science. She'd been really grateful to her cousin ever since.
A few days after attending her cousin and his wife's funeral, Zoë was surprised to find a tall stranger knocking outside her apartment. The man introduced himself Mike Zacharias, a social worker sent by the government. He then asked her if she was Hange Zoë, to which the woman smiled and said she was.
To the biologist's surprise, the man stepped forward and began smelling her. While the woman was kinda weirded out by this strange greeting, to her credit, she took it a lot better than the other people Mike had previously smelled, only looking at him with a curious and amused look when he finished his routine sniffing.
After this, Mike the social worker went straight to the point and explained why he had come to visit her. He told her of Eren Yeager, Grisha's son and her nephew, and his situation now. To all of this, Zoë listened to attentively until, of course, the man told her about the custody of the little boy. The woman visibly paled as he spoke.
The biologist blinked in surprise, not really believing her ears. He couldn't possibly expect her to care for a child! Her experience with children was so very limited, she didn't the first thing about raising kids. Despite her diplomas and the recognition she received for her research, she knew anyone who worked with her could tell the social worker that Dr. Zoë Hange was not mother material!
"Wait! Mr. Zacharias, right? Are you sure there's no one else more suitable for taking care of little Eren?" the woman asked hopefully.
Mike frowned. It had been the second time he'd been asked this question. It seemed neither of the little boy's two relatives were eager to take him in. "He has an uncle on his mother's side. His name is Levi Rivaille-"
"That great! I'm sure he would be happy to take the little boy in, right?" the brunette exclaimed enthusiastically.
"Well… Not exactly." The social worker's lips angled a couple more degrees downwards.
"Oh… I'm sure I can get him to change his mind if I manage to speak with him!" The woman smiled brightly. As much as she wanted to help Grisha's son, Zoë knew she couldn't possibly raise a child.
The man sighed. It seemed finding someone to care for little Eren was harder than he thought.
"Eren?" The little boy felt someone gently shake his arm. "Wake up. We're here already."
The six year old yawned and rubbed his eyes. Somewhere along the ride, Eren had fallen asleep. The boy turned his head to see the tall mustache man calling him.
Though he was still quite sleepy, Eren wore his backpack and followed the man outside the car. The boy waited for the man to get the rest of his things out of the trunk before tugging the edge of the social worker's shirt. "Mister… Where are we going?"
A small smile graced Mike's face. It was the first time Eren spoke to him all day. He patted the little boy on the head. "We're going to meet two of your relatives. One of them is going to be taking care of you for now."
Though little Eren did not know it yet, the two people he would meet today would be very important to him for the rest of his life.
AN: Hi there! :D First of all, I'd just like to say a humongous thank you to everyone one who bothered to read, review, fave and follow this little fic of mine. It was just an annoying little plot bunny in my head, really. I had no idea so many people would like it… ^^ The positive responses for the first chapter made me really overwhelmingly happy, but also overwhelmingly nervous as well, haha XD
Also, I'm really sorry for the really long wait and if this chapter wasn't good enough! D: I found about LeviHan week really late, so my reaction was to drop all fics and focus on the seven prompts for the week. Unfortunately, I only managed to finish 5 out of the 7, orz… If you happen to like LeviHan, please do feel free to check them out! It was a headache to write but I sure had fun writing these, especially the one called "Eat your Veggies!" LOL C: /shot for self-advertising
Random Headcanon: For some reason I imagine Mike to like jazz for some reason, LOL :)
To be honest, this chapter was kinda rushed (I'm so sorry…D: ) Especially, from Hange's scenes onwards. I know a LOT of you have been waiting for the next chapter and I know I'm going to be super busy next week because of family stuff, so yeah I forced myself to finish it… I'm sorry…
Umm… I think I've mentioned this in the previous chapter, but I really have no idea what I'm doing… If there's anyone willing to mentor me or answer my really stupid questions about anything and everything under the sun (especially about kids, families and the West), then I think I need your help. I really do think I need a second opinion about what I want to do with this story and about everything in general. If you happen to be interested, then please do drop a review or a pm. Though be warned, I can get pretty annoying with my stupidity ^^;
To Xinshen (anon reviewer) : Thank you! ;w; 1) no, they don't know each other yet 2) I have no idea. I'm so sorry... 3) Well... I have a lot of pairings I like and want to include like NanaMike, Petra x Auruo, and Ian x Rico, but I don't think I really have the skill to do all of that... I'll try my best, but I make no promises...
If anyone else has any questions, feel free to ask! :D
Right! Unrelated to the story, but, guys, please pray for my country the Philippines. Last week, the Visayas region was hit by the super typhoon Haiyan (aka typhoon Yolanda) and what happened was really, really sad… Towns, cities, crops, so many things got destroyed and so many lives have been lost… I know I'm super lucky I live in the capital where we weren't affected too much because of the typhoon, but it still makes me very sad when I think about the people suffering from the aftereffects…
Special thanks to : maplecat, CoreofBlossom, Shuuta Hikaru, sayurijaina0839, ViciousBluesummers, BlackDesires, fruity-bunny, AILOVE-withcake, jellophish, Kimi-nyaaan, Mew, Reniel Moza, Xinshen, lil'chrome-chan, koryandrs, and zozikoozy. Thank you all so so much! ;w; Reviews make so happy... For those who followed and fave, I'm really sorry I can't thank you all individually, but I'm also very grateful to you guys as well. Thank you :D
Also another special thanks to: Lulu-ichigo! Thank you so much for your how-to-write-Mike tips... Even though, I didn't portray Mike very well here, I still found them really helpful.
OK, It's like 1 AM now and I don't think I'm making sense any more. I should really sleep now... Thanks for reading everyone and I do hope you'll drop a review! :3