October 28th: Purity
LL LL LL LLLLLLL
The first time Levi Rivaille meets Zoe Hanji, she is wiping snot on his pant's leg on his way to the bus stop. Her big eyes look up at him in surprise as he takes notice of the green muck on his once-clean pants. She is only four and he is nine. There is no one else with her and she looks as if she picked her clothes out of the trash with how wrinkled, stained, and smelly they are. He can't help but feel disgust roil in his stomach at the sight and the urge to teach her how to properly clean up her appearance seizes him before he can think better of it..
He chews her out for about a half-hour about being clean. The entire time she stands there, big brown hazel eyes, messy brunette hair that he can tell is tangled and ratty. (By all the heavens were those split ends?) When he asks if she understands him, Zoe has the gall to just stare at him before grinning slowly. He doesn't learn her name until later when he tells his father just how much he hates slime on his pants, when his father mentions his friend, Dr. Hanji down the street being her father. When he stops ranting, he realizes that he's missed his bus and decides that today he will skip and go home and clean his now dirty pants.
He glares at her, hoping she will run away in fear from him.
Instead, she sneezes on him, blowing snot all over his other pant's leg.
LLLL LLLL LL
The next time Levi meets Zoe, she is doing the science fair at school for her class. Considering she's representing the first grader class under Mr. Hannes, he can only conclude it's going to be yet another damn poster board all about lima beans and how to grow in them in cups. When he is able to leave his own project, the one about a potato battery, courtesy of his partner, Sascha Braus who's nickname since kindergarten has been Potato Girl, he walks over to take a gander of the other projects and is surprised when he gets to hers.
Zoe is there with a big wide smile holding a pitcher of dark red what he hopes is- kool-aid. Her project is on the amount of blood human's carry and the potential amount of things that can be introduced with it. Sitting in front of the poster board is what looks to be an old 'Operation!' game table, except blood is flowing around it and lighting up as it hits certain places. Her teacher is pale as she pours out the red liquid into a cup to offer students and teachers around her. Mr. Hannes quickly looks elsewhere and finds some parents to chat with a few stations away. The liquid is thick and slushy, not what Levi thinks kool-aid is supposed to consist of. He wonders if her parents are around and if they helped her with the creepy idea.
"Levi! I'm clean today!" She cheers when she sees him, big grin on her face as she sets the pitcher precariously on the table next to her project. He blinks his blue-grey eyes in wonder, forgetting to scowl at her. He only met her that one time when he was nine and now he's eleven and about to graduate elementary school in the next few months. Zoe prance in front of him. Her dress could be considered clean if she hadn't just put her stained hands down the front of it to which he can only feel his eyes wanting to roll skyward in aggravation and her brunette hair is still a mess but it's in a strange side-ponytail fraying ends this way and that with her bangs barely staying to the sides of her childish face.
"What's with the blood and not some stupid lima beans?" Zoe tilts her head at his question before her face brightens considerably and there is a gleam in her eyes that he can't help but not want to trust. Her cheeks turn a considerably adorable shade of pink that Levi feels embarrassed about for some strange reason. She giggles and he can't help that some way he actually likes hearing the cheeriness in it.
"I wanted to show people what I saw!" Her grin only throws him off-balance as he stares in question. "I was there and it's amazing! The human body I mean! We all carry everything in us and if we get knifed," He thinks she means stabbed. "We're water balloons and we pop out this red stuff!"
He stops her for a moment.
"What do you mean you saw?" She blinks at him, owlishly before her face becomes hardened and in the pit of his own stomach, Levi feels the darkest tendril of fear. Hannes, he notices, is four projects away from them, talking with parents about some stupid kid's plant project. Her fingers are clenched into fists as she speaks in a soft way that surprises him from the earlier excited chatter.
"When my parents got killed by the robber." Her words are heavy for such a young child to bear and Levi doesn't know how to respond. Her eyes are looking away from him, perhaps thinking he would look at her in pity, they way everyone had looked at her since the incident, using it as an excuse for her curious behavior that has the adults around her apprehensive. After a few moments, she looks up at him with strangely wide eyes, burning brown shining in a way that he isn't used to at all.
Something in him remembers hearing about the robbery a few streets away from his house a couple of months ago. His father had looked into where Zoe's care would take care but she had been taken in by a family friend of hers, the Jaegers, who had also adopted her little sister, Mikasa who was an infant.
Levi can only stare at her. There are no words that come to mind to ease his way out of this. She smiles up at him after a few moments, reaching out to one of her cups that are ready to give out. Her small hands give it to him with a thoughtful nod, wrapping his fingers around it. The way she spoke only moments ago makes him wonder just how fast her moods can change and how she can act so much like a kid in one second and a frightening idiot the next.
"Don't worry! I'm going to find him and make him sorry!" She giggles innocently enough. Levi realizes something rather frightening. She's creepy and freaks him out but he thinks, if he saw his parents killed, he doubted he would be able to actually handle it as well. When he automatically takes a drink of the cup she's given him, he spits it out in repulsion.
"WHAT IS THIS CRAP?!"
He learns that Zoe is a terrible cook as the liquid he spits out in aversion falls all across her bright blue dress that looked somewhat presentable before and black scuffed Mary-Jane's resembling as if she walked into a blood bath. When she pouts at him, Levi Rivaille can only feel an oncoming sense of dread, looking at her. He wants to yank the dress of her and shove it in the laundry immediately. He grunts in his anger before tossing the cup to the ground at her feet and turning away.
"Shut up and go get clean, idiot." He looks behind him and she smiles widely, laughing at his response before giving him a firm affirmation on his command, scampering over to Hannes who screams at her change in appearance. Levi heads back to his own piece of work with Sascha and finds himself at odds.
It is only the second time he's met Zoe Hanji and he's already pissed at her existence for annoying the crap out of him.
LLL LLLLLL LLL
He doesn't meet her so much as she runs into him. This time she is nine and he is fourteen. Her hair is still as wild and rampant in tangles and split ends down her back with brown hazel eyes that are blinking at him in confusion, squinting at him for about a few minutes as he is sprawled under her. Zoe smells like she's covered in vanilla, coated with it liberally. He cringes at the onslaught.
"Oh! Sorry, Levi!" She gets up hastily, bruising his ribs with her elbow before reaching her hand out for him to get up. He slaps it away, which she seems to shrug off with little care, not taking it to heart. The girl smiles at him as she decides to pick up her fallen books. Finally getting up, Levi notes that all of her books are things on biology and nearer to his grade level than her own. There are pieces of paper all over the library hallway they are in as well. He picks up his loaned book from the ground, 'Frankenstein', which he had to borrow for his literature class.
"What is all this for?" He picks up one of the papers lying about from their collision and raises an eyebrow at the subject. There are pictures of bones and the skeletal structure drawn with clumsy hands. Writing is all over each piece that he can easily identify as hers from when she did the project a few years ago about the human blood system.
"Oh," She glances down at the strewn papers, blushing in a manner that makes him feel silly on the inside for even asking. When she glances up at him, all big eyes and bashfulness, biting her lower lip, Levi wants nothing more than to run. He just knows she's going to say something creepy and probably screwed up and he doesn't really want to have anything to do with it. "I want to make a monster."
"A monster?" 'Yup,' he thinks. That's just Zoe Hanji's way of throwing him out of tune and making him feel like he really shouldn't talk to such a girl, one who was more interested in the human physiology at such an early age when most kids were all about Pokemon and playing tag in recess or how terrible the math homework was. He doubts Hanji has any trouble with math homework, not with the numbers he can see her having written up on some of the parchments.
"Yes." He only watches her out of morbid curiosity. She is something disturbing and not what he's used to girls being like. Hell, his best girl friend, Petra Ral, talks more about weird girly crap than Zoe Hanji even thinks about the outfit, which is a right destructive hook to any sense of hopeful fashion she could have ever hoped to achieve, that she is wearing any given day of the week. When he doesn't ask anything else, she continues. "It's so the monster can find another monster."
"Which monster are you looking for?" The question is just begging to be asked and Levi has yet to ever leave a nagging urge alone when he does have it. The monster was probably make believe. He had no doubts that Zoe believed in her delusion if it was a delusion but if it wasn't he also knew she was dedicated to at least finding it.
"The one that killed my parents. It wears the skin of a human being. I want to find it." He stares at her in fascination and a slight bit of apprehension. Here he is, barely getting passing grades and getting beat up for how short she is and there she stands, staring hard at the sheets of paper that she's collected in her hand. He doesn't say anything as he's sure he has no idea yet on how much this idea has driven her beyond what he thinks it should.
"Why aren't you into girly shit? Like ponies and all about getting married and crap." The question stands as a divider. Zoe doesn't know how to answer him it seems as she looks down at the compiled amount of papers and books she's grabbed from running into him. The look she gives the books make him feel as if he's stepped onto a landmine, one he was really unaware of.
"Oh…Who'd want to marry me?" Her voice is quiet, a tremulous waver, compared to the boisterous ephemeral tone she carried before. There is no chirp, sunshine with a cloud and silver linings all around and Levi thinks he dislikes it more than anything because that means he has to do something he hates. He has to make her happy, just to make her not cry because he doesn't want another instance of snot on his clean pants.
"You know, Zoe, I'd marry you…." Levi hands her the papers he's already picked up in his slightly bigger grasp, watching her eyes widen in surprise and confusion at his declaration of intentions for he is sure no other boy has even given her an offer. He looks down at her and grins wickedly, a playfulness coming out in him that not a lot of people has seen. He turns away with his book by Mary Shelley under his arm, waving with his other hand in goodbye. He decides to squash her hopes by giving her an ultimatum about it, one that he knew would be unattainable. "...when you actually clean yourself up."
Looking back on it, later on that year, Levi realized that was a really big dick move.
LLLL LLLL LL
It is when she's twelve and he's seventeen that they hold a conversation that he can't help but feel like they just became friends instead of acquaintances. Mikasa is attached at the hip to Eren, their adopted brother, and his best friend, Armin and Hanji's only friend that he can see is him. Levi finds out that she doesn't have anyone but some guy nicknamed Moblit who is basically her lab partner, mostly so her teachers don't keep her unchecked when she's been doing science.
So when he finds her outside of the high school dance, which is a surprise in itself as she's in middle school, he can't help but see that she snuck in a text book of some sort. Her eyes are straining to read the text in one of the darkened corner stairwells in the old section of the high school that was considered dangerous and supposedly locked off, where kids can easily slip off into for a quick macking.
In fact, that had been his original plan when his current girlfriend, Petra Ral, had indicated she wanted to snog him silly. He wasn't opposed to it but was stopping in his tracks at the silly sight of the brown haired creep that plagued him for years. For once, she looked like she actually tried some semblance of hair care despite the rat's nest for a side-ponytail she was wearing, and her clothing didn't have indeterminate stains on them. The dress was barely long enough to brush the tops of her knees, though it was big enough to look as if she wasn't the original owner. He had no doubt that the dress was originally from Eren's mother.
He chooses to ignore Petra's earlier request to meet in one of the potentially best spots to not get spied upon and goes over to Zoe and sits down next to her. The book she is reading is on criminology and it looks like she has splashed condiments and sauces all along the book's edge. She doesn't greet him for about five minutes until Levi turns his head and says "Creepy kid," in her ear.
The jump up she makes is all worth the face full of text book he gets but the playful satisfaction he gets is short-lived. She breathes in rapidly, hyperventilating in a way that Levi's not comfortable with. Her body trembles and as he looks at her face, which is going paler than he thinks it should go. There is also sweat falling off her forehead. Her arms wrap around her body with the criminology textbook lying flat by his feet, open on a chapter about motives for crimes.
"Hey, Zoe." He calls out to her, trying to wake her from whatever state she's in. He has no experience dealing with her like this and in fact, is off kilter from her behavior, not that being around Zoe has been particularly not mind-bending at times. Her breaths come in shorter pants and he knows he has to do something to stop her from passing out on him or even worse, vomiting around him. "Zoe!"
He curses himself, looking around quickly before pressing his hands to her open her mouth and speaking quietly to her, moving to kneel in front of the sitting teen. "Zoe, you're alright. You're with me. Now breathe through your nose. Follow my words." He talks her through slowing her breathing down enough that he can finally take his hand away from her now closed lips. The brunette shyly looks down at her feet as he sits beside her. He can tell she doesn't really want to talk about it and that's in fact fairly well good enough for him. When she does talk, it's quiet, which is abnormal for her but then again this whole damn friendship they have, is unconventional at best.
"Sorry. I don't like being sneaked up on." It's the only words she says and he realizes there is a depth to them that he would have previously thrown off as nothing. Her eyes raise up to meet his own and in them is some unspoken word that he has yet to fully define but she is okay for now and the sense of relief that drives his heart makes him think upon the fact that he and Zoe aren't just people who bump into each other. They're friends despite the number of times they have actually talked being on one hand.
"There you are!" Petra's voice echoes down the empty hall to their ears, steps following quickly after before slowing shortly behind Levi. Despite her status as his girlfriend, one of four months, Levi Rivaille only feels irritation at her interruption, partially because he'll feel irresponsible if he ignores her completely for the person he just realized is his friend. "Levi, who's this?"
"Zoe Hanji!" The girl in front of him perks up giving a million-watt smile and for the first time, the teenager realizes this is her pretending she's fine from so many years of people apologizing and pitying her. The smile doesn't reach her eyes, however so Levi isn't fooled in the least, not after seeing the first one she gave to him when she was four that reached her eyes and caused his skin to broil with irritation. He growls in aggravation, roughly pressing a hand down on her head to keep it down, ruffling her ponytail and tied up hair side to side causing her rather maintained bushy thick hair to show its true colors, escaping the confines the hairspray and hairband had been keeping it held under.
"Hanji, shut up. Tch! Look at the fucking mess your hair is in. No stupid ass is gonna want to shit in the same toilet as you looking like this for the rest of your life." Levi doesn't acknowledge his petite auburn-haired girlfriend standing behind him, keeping his blue eyes on the girl in front of him. Zoe's hands slide down to her knees, nearly pressing into his chest with his hand not moving out of her hair, clenching tightly as she realizes what he sees, her fragility. For such an inquisitive child, barely entering adolescence, Levi can tell she's been burdening herself with the darkness that she can't bring out in any other way than the way she reads book upon book and writes notes much like the ones he saw when he was young in the library hall.
"Levi?" Petra's inquiry is met with no noise from the kneeling student as he tries to decide on what to do. Feeling a pesky need to stay conflict with his own personal feelings of getting kissed silly and potentially more, Levi can only groan inwardly to himself. He's responsible enough to know that if he leaves Zoe, the little girl he met when she was four, six, nine, and twelve, that he will be leaving her in the darkness of the stairwell without a chance, much like her chances out in their world with her current trend of creeping him the hell out at every age he meets her.
"Petra, leave." His decision is made and Zoe's big brown eyes stare at him in wonder, making him wonder just how many people have left her to stew in the dark by herself. Just how many times has she offended and eventually driven off anyone who even thought she could be a possible friend, a possible light from her lone thoughts? Her bottom lip is trembling and he knows any second she may start crying, something he really doesn't want to have to deal with. His clothes are clean and since she was four, he has honestly never wanted her snot again on his damn clothes.
"A-are you sure?" His girlfriend's soft voice, one he particularly has liked listening to since they met wavers at his command. Petra is a sweet girl despite being raised around Erd, his friend since the beginning of middle school, and having been hanging out with Levi, Aurou, Erd, and Gunter, all four rough-housing boys intent on just being slackers and talking about nothing much of their school days. The short teenager can only glance over his shoulder at her, meeting her honey-brown eyes in response to her question. Petra should honestly date Aurou he decides. Aurou would walk away from Zoe and go at Petra's discretion to any place she would prefer. He would charm her if he stopped his emulation of Levi, who acts as their friend and group leader most times when they end up in trouble. He feels fucked up for choosing a girl who he has only met a number of times over his girlfriend but the one thing Levi will not do is leave Zoe by herself, not right now when she looks too vulnerable and he was the cause of it.
"Yeah, I have to fix Hanji's hair before her damn date finds out she's fucked it up." His hand digs further into the rat's mess of hair that had looked combed and dressed before, making it more of a mess. His blue eyes look away from Petra back to Zoe who is trying her best to not break down with his girlfriend there, though he's not sure how long that will last now with this to it. "I'll be out in about ten minutes."
His promise to Petra is empty and they both know it. Her footsteps carry her away, stomping loudly enough for him as he knows he will have Erd and Aurou on his case when they find her later, probably in tears because he chose to stay instead of going with her. However, he stops when he hears the sound of a dying cow, loud and stupidly annoying coming from in front of him.
Zoe's face is blotchy and red and snot is dribbling down from her large nose. Her tears only make him want to pinch her cheeks out of exasperation. He finds her all sorts of adorable and wonders how much of a sadist he is deep down inside at that prospective thought.
"Oie!" He calls out to her though her name is stilled on his lips when she launches herself forward to wrap her arms around his shoulders, falling back to land on his ass. Her body is trembling, quivering quickening with each hesitant gulp of air. In a way, Levi doesn't really know how it came to this. He didn't want her crappy tears in his nice clothes, nor did he come out to the dance wanting to hold some sobbing chit and ignoring his date.
He sighs in his increased vexation of Zoe Hanji and feels like this is a repeat of each damn encounter they end up in together. He gives up on not doing anything, reaching one of his diligent hands to her back and the other, that has been resting in her hair, starts stroking the mess on her head gently.
When she calms down, embaressingly enough, she thanks him before grabbing the book on the floor and sitting back on the steps. Unlike the other people who come out to the darkened halls, Zoe and him do nothing of the like that the other dirty teenagers are acting upon. He is sitting behind her keeping his promise on fixing her hair, threading his fingers through the catastrophe he helped create on her head, enjoying the feeling of peace it brings somehow. She talks to him and the teenager, who is soon off to college next year, finds out things that he hasn't known for years.
She likes to dance and prefers belly-dancing when she's got the time to do it. She's great at gymnastics which she does on Saturdays. Mikasa and her are amicable at best but Mikasa, though quiet to a fault, prefers Eren's company. Eren finds her weird most days, fun others. She hates lemons and lemonade and lemon candy and don't even get her started on twizzlers. She has a stated affection for horror movies and slasher films. Levi isn't sure if this is because of her past or not. The only thing surpassing her affection for those types of films is science fiction, but only in the matter of how technology has advanced and how much more it can go. She's been taking higher science classes and was asked to the dance by her other lab partner, the high school one for anatomy, Erwin Smith, a classmate of Levi's in his Economics class, of whom Levi Rivaille has a firm memory of.
The last things she tells him is of her want for revenge and understanding on who and what type of person it was that killed her parents in front of her. She wants to find out why. She wants to know and dissect every little detail until Zoe Hanji can say without a doubt that there is nothing more to find from his corpse and that she has picked everything out that she can. She wants a reason on why they had to die as from the way she spoke, there was nothing the thief took. There was nothing but her and baby Mikasa and her parents and their things which were left without a single touch upon them. Zoe tells him how she wants to join the police to find the thief and how she will find him and make him pay. Levi doesn't think anything of her declaration.
When he finishes finally with her hair, choosing to put it up in a high ponytail in the back where the bushy mane spazzes in different directions, he moves to stand up. Her date is nowhere to be found and neither is his. He offers his hand and when she accepts his help up, he growls in anger. She is approximately an inch taller than him.
"Do you want me to take you home?" She nods, smiling gently, one he can tell is from her genuine happiness. Her fingers don't let go of his as he leads her towards the parking lot where his beat up forest green volvo is waiting. The ride to her place is quiet with neither of them saying a word about what happened in the stairwell until he gets to her front door where he is dropping her off, intent on going home and calling Petra to apologize for ignoring her and seeing whether or not Petra will still be his friend, girlfriend, or perhaps just become an acquaintenance.
"Is Petra gonna be mad?" He shrugs. He doesn't know but he has no doubts that Erd and Aurou will white-knight her to him as soon as they hear. Zoe looks down to her feet, then to his before dragging her gaze up from his boots to his face, taking him in in a fashion he isn't really used to. She quickly takes in that he's an inch shorter than her, a smile dawning on her cheeks at the fact. "Thanks again."
"Not needed. Get that shit off and take a shower. You smell like you've crapped yourself." He sneers at her, moving to step back and start heading to his car which is idling on the side of the road by the Jaeger's humanoid-looking mailbox, what with it's mouth being where the mail is stored. It is when he steps back that he's surprised at his own actions as he thinks to himself at the disorderly way her face has ended up that night that she should need something to at least make her a little happy, even if it's silly and stupid. His hand reaches out, snagging the back of her head and ponytail dragging her down to him and his lips kiss one of her besmirched cheeks. "Have a good night, shitface."
Blushing madly at his stupid actions, Levi Rivaille feels immediate exasperation at the fact that Zoe Hanji exists and lets go of her to his car. It isn't until he closes his door and is buckled in that he looks up to see the damn girl blushing like a melting tit on the doorstep.
Great. He does not need this added to his list of crappy things he's done so far in his life, is all he can think of.
LLLL LLL LL
It ends up that it takes four and a half years before Levi even hears of the girl who sobbed on his damn outfit again. He has just come back home after getting his degree in criminology and judicial law, something that he actually thought he wouldn't have ever done and in the midst of applying to the police academy to try and become a detective. It took a year before he had decided his major at the college he had chosen, thinking hard upon the revelations of Zoe's situation with dealing with her past and the questions it always brought forth.
When he comes back home, the first thing he does is run into Eren Jaeger at the grocery store who mentions that there is a Halloween party down at Jean Kirschstein's who invited Mikasa, Armin, and by extension, Eren in hopes of dating Mikasa finally. The boy he remembers hearing about from Zoe is older now and it frightens him that Levi is nearing twenty-two a little.
"Where's Hanji?" His question is met with silence as Eren shrugs, picking at his sleeve in his unconcious effort to hide something from Levi. He never calls Zoe by her first name to people, preferring her last name in hopes they wouldn't think more upon his strange friendship with her. It is something he's picked up from his years slacking off and being thug-like in college, where he hanged out with a typically terrible crowd before Erwin beat the shit out of him and demanded he help the world by joining the police with him.
"Are you a friend of hers?" Levi nods slowly, not opening his mouth to answer the black-haired kid who is nearing his own height. Levi feels a groan happen inwardly as he notes that down with the rest of the people who are ending up to be taller than him since he's come back home. The man stares the boy into a steady tense silence, daring him internally to not say anything until a few moments later when the Jaeger boy finally breaks out of sheepishness and embaressment.
"She's never home, so I don't really know. I mean, she still goes to school and her report cards are always As but...She comes to the college parties sometimes…." Levi finds apprehension fill his veins. He thinks of where she could hide and places she would find appropiate to do so. If it were the library, he has no doubt Armin, the bookworm of a kid from Eren's group of friends would have found her and if it was any place near other people, he doubted Zoe would stay long, not after breaking down and telling him so many things of herself before he left. Without another word to Eren, he leaves the store intent on going to the old school building that was supposedly locked up next to the high school where they sat on the stairwell for a long enough time that he had pissed Petra off for a whole month before she would speak to him again.
The door he entered through was the right one and he could see all through the stairwell, her chicken scratch that he had peeked at when she was nine is all over the walls in chalk. The writing is all scientific terms that he can sort of understand from his mandatory medical class for his degree, the others are all equations and notes on criminal activities. Books are stacked with notebooks, papers yellowing and held under weights. She has a desk under the stairs along with an overhanging extension light, the kind used for under the hoods of cars.
This place is her and he sees that he has stepped again into a world he barely understands. There is nothing there but her drive and ambitions splayed open for him and anyone else around to see. Her chair, if she had one for the broken desk, is no where to be seen and as far as he can tell, Zoe is not here, despite the rising amount of evidence that she stays here with clothing under the desk and hair ties lying all across the floor in the mix of stacks of books and papers that have no actual organization to him.
He leaves to only come back with a heavy padlock, the kind that he even finds hard to pick open. With a cursory glance around the stairwell and the available part of the old building that someone can get to and finding her no where, he locks the door with the lock, heading home for a quick shower as he certainly has no doubts that she probably was sleeping with rats in the old building.
He gets out of the shower and decides to do something he know he will hate so much.
Levi goes to Jean Kirschstein's party, dreading the noise to blast his ears with and the chatter that will inevitably cause him to want to punch himself in the head until he could be considered out cold. It takes him an hour of sitting against the wall, seeing Petra Ral, who is a fairy, and Aurou, wearing a Peter Pan costume, who are now engaged, and disengaging himself from the offers of teenage girls and boys before he finds the girl that he's looking for.
She is dancing, obviously drunker than he could imagine her being, dressed like a hippie from the 1960s. Her hips are showing in tantalizing below the hip jeans that are ripped and dirty, glimpses of tan skin exposing with her movements. She is taller than him by five inches and her body has grown into one more owned by a woman than the child she was years ago when he left.
He can concede with each firm swerve of her hips that Zoe definitely is a dancer and with glimpses of her skin from her shirt riding up, that she has chosen to stay true to her gymnastics that she had professed to loving so many years before. Levi can feel awe and temptation gnaw at him until he eyes the crappy ponytail she's wearing now. Instead of the side-tail he remembered her wearing when he was younger, she pulls her hair back in a wild messy high ponytail resembling the one he put on her at the dance. His fingers itch to reach out to her and pull her towards him where she could drunkenly be brazen and dance her way around him instead of the center of a whole slew of other bratty teenagers.
This train of thought stops abruptly when he sees her ear being whispered into by a guy he knows is certainly not young enough to be in her age range and the guy leads her away from the room where all the dancing is. Levi's eyes lose sight of her when he moves from his perch to follow them, cursing at his height all the while.
When he hears her giggling, he looks up, wide-eyed to see her being pushed into a wall and being kissed. He feels ice drip down his spine. Her hands are pushing against the man's arms with her face turning away as the lips that had taken her own so roughly is biting and kissing her neck. She has tears beginning to show in her brown eyes and a tremble in her lips that Levi wants to smooth into her genuinely childish smile from when she thanked him.
Paralyzed, Levi watches her catch his eyes. Her own widen considerably, mouth silently whispering his name before she is picked up enough that her feet are barely touching the floor and she disappears from his view. Quiet rage fills him with a slow flickering heartbeat that thrums in the seriousness of the matter. He came back expecting Zoe to have not fallen into disarray, hoping that just having him for that night was enough to offer her a way out of the possible amounts of walking off onto uncertain and darker paths of life. The rage is enough to get him moving. He finds Petra and Erd debating in the kitchen.
"Crash the party." His words are met with astonished stares. Petra's honey eyes only blink in the silence before Aurou sets aside his drink. Eren is hanging out there as well with Armin and Mikasa, who is being hassled by Sascha Braus, whom he notices is wearing a wedding ring and has a half-mind to wonder if she married a potato farmer out in Idaho from how much she loves the stupid vegetable.
"Levi?!" Petra's voice echoes the looks of the group around him. The red plastic cups filled with alcohol shift under their quiet visages despite the loud booming music of the techno-pop that is bursting his eardrums and making the normally cool-headed neat freak bristle. She grabs the phone from the hook, looking hesitantly back to her ex-boyfriend, recieving a nod for confirmation before she dials in the non-emergency number for the police.
"Do it." With his words, he leaves, heading up the stairs and opening doors until he gets to one where the door doesn't open and is locked from the inside. He puts his ear up to the door and can hear the sounds of a scuffle and muffled cries. He knocks again, louder this time and more intently as he's sure this is where she is.
"WE'RE BUSY." The male's voice yells out to the wooden door. Levi finds himself at odds with how to go about this as he could pick the lock and let himself in, but at the unmuffled cry of Zoe, the chit that ruined his clothes at least twice in his life, an unforgivable offense, Levi's rage increases in such a manner that he may just kill the bastard touching his friend. Backing up, he eyes the door. Jean had ugly yellow wooden doors with horses and ropes over this particular one. "It's shitty anyway," he decides firmly in his mind. He promptly kicks the door off the hinges, causing the wood to go flying over the bed to the other side of the bed.
"No. You're not." He walks over to the confused and belligerent man on top of his quarry, who is wide-eyed with tears coursing down her cherry red cheeks, obviously having been in her cups for a bit before getting up and dancing. One of her cheeks is looking far redder than it should be, blood tinging the corner of her lips that had told him that she was going to create a monster.
"Levi!" Her call is heavy with relief and he can see the beginning of a smile despite the bruised cheek and the hiss of pain that escapes her when she does it to him. All Levi can come up with is how fucking ridiculous Zoe is. She was in trouble and now that he's here, all she can do is smile up at him?
"What the fuck are you doing, dude?!" The idiot on top of her doesn't realize the fact that a 5'2" man is filled with enough years as a thug to easily teach him a lesson, when he sees that the hand the man has on Zoe undid her blouse and is resting on a place Levi Rivaille in all his twenty-two years of living has never wanted to see another man's hand on. The need to punish the transgression fills him to the core that he sees red.
"Shut up, filthy dog AND you, don't move." His hand snaps out and yanks the monkey off the child he has heard out, the ward he technically isn't really responsible for. Hissing in anger, Levi points at Zoe with such seriousness that she is terrified for once in her life of the boy she has never ever been afraid of before. She sits upright on the bed, clutching her shirt together.
"Get the he-" With a kick from his leg, he cut off him off. Whoever the man was, Levi frankly didn't care. All he wanted was to make sure that he suffered for making the isolated curiosity suffer. The sound of his boots, the steel toe biting into his arms, echoed in the room as if it were the only sounds plausible in the house. The music was still blaring but he could only hear the roar of blood in his ears and the pitiful thumps of flesh he was hitting. He finally stopped, breathing heavily and wondering if he was mad at himself for being a dick and not contacting the woman on the bed for the years he was gone or the man on the floor, curled into a fetal position.
"I wonder what the police would say if I hung your dick up like mistletoe above the door. Maybe you want me to create a hole in your stomach so you can shit in a bag for the rest of your crappy existence. Is that it, shithead?" His firm grip was around the human's throat, enjoying the undulating warbling for breath. Levi's voice was levelled, not showing how much satisfaction he may actually get out of the acts that he described before he felt the warmth of the woman he left behind against his back. She was warm and made him stop from squeezing. He could hear the distant sounds of sirens.
"Levi, let him go. I'm okay. I'm really okay." Zoe's voice was soft, whimpering pleas into his ear with heated breath that made him aware of her. One arm was around his chest, holding him to her while the other was gripping his wrist. He felt the rage disappate slowly, letting go with her prying fingers pulling on him. Levi was pulled into her, held onto until he could feel her smile against his skin. "Please…..I'm okay."
"You're coming with me, got that?" Standing up, Levi turned around and held his hand out expectantly to her. Zoe took it, much like she had when she was twelve and he became her first actual friend.
"Fine, fine!" He couldn't see it but the graduate could hear the soothing sound of her cheeriness coming through as they ran out the back door as the front doors were opened by Jean Kirschstein and to his surprise, there were police officers, charging past him into the house. Lest to say, Jean was pissed and most of Jaeger's classmates easily escaped.
When Levi was able to get Zoe in his car, taking his time to buckle her in securely, she pressed her injured cheek to the cold window. They didn't talk, which Levi understood all too well. He didn't have control of his mouth, otherwise he might say something even more harmful than he intended which was a truthfully strange thing. Usually he spoke his piece, consequences be damned to all hell no matter who the person was, even friends and family bore brunts of his words.
Parking was easy at Petra's house since her driveway was larger than his own and honestly, he didn't think he should be the one to help her, what with her feminine needs and perhaps want of something or someone who didn't remind her of the recent breach of her trust. Entering the house to see Petra, rubbing off the glitter from her face with a towel and Aurou, looking sheepish in his green tights and shorts, Levi indicated with his head towards the woman he had in tow. For a blessed five minutes, Petra immediately took over herding Zoe towards the bathroom, closing it behind them.
Standing around with Aurou only made Levi nervous as he was waiting for Petra to come out. When she didn't after another ten minutes, he marched his way to the door and knocked on the door softly. There was a squelch right after along with a quiet, "We're alright."
"Make sure she cleans everywhere. I don't doubt this is her first shower since she was born." He can hear Zoe's laughter, loud and bouyant at his declaration. He knows that his first meeting with the kid in the tub was stupid and had been brought out by the super-hygenic part of him that always turned off other women that he had tried dating, Petra being a slight exception. "Wash off and scrub under your nails too."
"Yes, mom!" He sighed, choosing to sit at the base of the wall next to the bathroom, keeping quiet to Zoe's retort that was far too much like her natural self that he had gleaned years ago. A balm sets into his bones, resting and making him stare at his hands, where his fingers had grasped that man's throat earlier. He knew if Zoe hadn't stopped him that this night would have gone in a very different direction. The question that plagued his mind was it because it was Zoe or was it because of the act? Which inflamed his arteries, pumped adrenaline through his muscles and drove his rage to his core more? His hands flexed into a fist that he placed between his outstretched legs.
"Petra, thanks for letting me borrow these." He tilts his head as the sound of washing ceases and he overhears Hanji's serious voice. The one she hasn't used around many others. Levi can feel a slow smile dance upon his lips. Petra might be a girl who can help Zoe, and if Rivaille was honest to himself, he would like her to be able to connect as well.
"Welcome. So, you're that girl from the dance all those years ago?" Petra's soft voice precedes the sound of the tub starting to drain. Leaning his head back in shame, Levi is embaressed at the memory, not because it happened, but because of how Petra was treated. He could have been nicer and explained things better but that was rare to get from him and always had been.
"Haha, you remember that?" The question is light but he can hear Zoe's unheard question of, 'Did I cause bad things to happen because he stayed?' His eyes close out of the admission that annoying things happened but he was happier that he had stayed with the girl on the stairs then had gone away with his girlfriend at the time.
"I broke up with Levi because of it." A frown mars his visage. Damnit. He had forgotten about that being one of the primary reasons for Petra dumping him only later that night when he had left the curios entity at her home. Zoe wasn't supposed to know about that part. He didn't want her to feel responsible or to overanalyze.
"Oh...uh...Sorry." He hears the drop of her towel and his mind flirts with ideas that he doesn't want to think of. She's just Zoe. She's the four-year old shit that snotted all over his pants, the creepy brat who gave him really crappy kool-aid, the girl who wanted to build Frankenstein, the one girl who needed someone to understand just what she was obsessed with and why, and the one he saved not even a half-hour before. He figures he would be an idiot to like Zoe as more than what she is to him, but now that he's thinking about it, Zoe is Zoe. There is no definition for it.
"No, I think I should be thankful. He cares for you and it seems like you need him as much as he needs you," He blushes darkly, ears tickled pink at the idea that he could be transparent even a little bit. It wasn't that he needed Zoe Hanji and the chaotic rampant mess she brought with her nor the way she was a whirlwind that threw him back and forth, but that he felt he needed to be there for her. "Don't let his exterior annoy you. He's just…."
"A clean freak and a thug." Levi snorts. The graduate can just imagine the upcurl of the assaulted woman's pink lips, brought forth with a giddiness he can always have expected from her and her immense amount of enthusiasum. There is a shuffling and Levi stands immediately, moving to stand in the hall, waiting by the entrance to the kitchen where Aurou is drinking a beer with Erd and Gunter who had seemed to have come to Petra's home and watching a game show.
"That's true." Petra opens the door slowly, gasping softly when she sees Levi, wide-eyed and hoping that he didn't get caught by the ever-kind ex-girlfriend he had. She grins at him. The girl behind him has her hair still wet and resting on her shoulders that are bare except for a camisole shirt.
"Levi! Ah, I'm going to go and see if Aurou, Erd, and Gunter want anything to eat! Turkey sandwiches okay with you two?" Zoe nods heartily as he just grunts, more so for an actual response than out of irritation that is rising at the mop of wet hair on Hanji's shoulders. He looked up at her, taking in her figure again without the costume. She is worn thin and he can tell all too easily with how much little weight she seems to be carrying that isn't muscle.
"Levi, thanks again." Her voice is barely above a whisper, moving to sit on the edge of the bath tub she had just stepped out of. Levi can feel his hackles rise at her voice. Everything is completely stupid and when he's with Zoe, Levi feels it. His anger rises at her because she never takes care of herself and never ensures that she is okay. It nearly drives him up the wall now that he thinks about it. A loud growl is heard in the house causing three men too look down the hallway towards the bathroom where Zoe and he are. His hands grab the towel from the floor that he could conclude to have been wrapped around her earlier.
"Zoe, shape the hell up. If you keep going like this, you're never going to catch that asshole." His hands rubbed the towel all around her hair, drying each strand to the best of his ability. His words were harsh, biting and full of his frustration. Deep down, he had to consider that he did care for the girl on the rim of the tub and the only way he knew to get through to her was the one subject that she never wanted to talk about with anyone but him. He feels deja vu hit him from their first meeting where he did nothing but rant at her reckless behavior and dirtiness.
"Will you help me if I find him? Mikasa wants nothing to do with him. She doesn't remember our parents and doesn't really want to do anything Eren doesn't and Eren doesn't understand and you….." Her words are a waterfall caressing his skin, ebbing and flowing around him as he dries her hair, taking minutes for each side before the towel in his hand is dropped to the floor in his frustration. He can taste her sorrow and desperation when she utters the phrase he doesn't want to hear because she's right. "You left me."
There is nothing he can tell her to mend his shitty communication skills. He does the only thing that he can think of which is place his hands on her just cleaned sides of her head and lean down for a gentle kiss on the forehead that he hopes will embody his need to apologize the best he can. Her face is red when he glances down at her and he has no doubt from the heat off his own cheeks that he mirrors her. In that instant, like many others of random happenstance especially in his life when it concerned her, he made her a promise.
"If you become a cop, we'll take the case." His hands drop down to her shoulders, resting there. Her body snaps with wide-eyed brown gems staring up at him in wonder. She doesn't know he'll be a cop soon and that because of her case he wants to become a detective but Levi has no doubts on her intelligence and quick thinking. She realizes what she's being promised.
"R-really?!" The breathless whisper is enough to make him want to escape from how earnest her eyes are sparkling up at him. He has no doubt that in her mind this is better than asking for her hand in marriage. He knows he won't break this, not like when he left her and not like when he destroyed the dress she wore when she was six.
"Yes. I promise." In some retrospect, Levi almost wishes he had said something disappointing and crass like normal to which she would play along and then they would go back to their weird friendship that he had enjoyed without the parameters that he was now introduced to.
"Yahoo! Thank you!" Zoe's limp slightly less than wet but not all the way dry hair whipped around as she bounced around in the bathroom where there were puddles of water from her dripping before. Levi reached his hand out to steady and keep her from slipping on the tile, unaware of when she ran right into his arms.
The mischievous upturn of her lips did nothing to quell his anxiety concerning her reckless behavior. Being inches taller than him didn't help him either when her felt her fingers drag him to her to meet her lips halfway. The press of their lips is quick, nothing more than a peck but the effects of it hits him hard like a drug. He stares at her in his dumbfoundedness, out of words and unable to produce noise. Fingertips come to rest on his lip for a moment as she laughs and bounds away from his flabberghasted figure in the bathroom to the people in the kitchen.
"YOU BETTER BECOME A COP, DUMBASS." His state of bewilderment only lasts for a few moments before he bellows at Zoe, intent on showing her how much she caused his skin to crawl with her bothersome ways. She was making him feel like a pedophile for that kiss of hers. When he leaves later that week, he gives Zoe his cell phone to send texts to. The first text she sends to him is a picture of a turd in a toilet in the shape of an L.
She is sixteen and he hopes she'll still make shit jokes with him past that age.
LLL LLL LLL LL
He is working, wearing his jeans, a dress shirt, and his detective badge, with a cup of tea settled in the corner of his well maintained vest when he hears Erwin call the department over, or at least the detectives in homocide and narcotics. Looking up from his paperwork, he is greeted by the wildly large smile of an extremely disorganized looking brunette with hair in a high ponytail going in every direction. Other than age, Levi sees that she has a new addition to her features, a pair of really crappy looking cheap glasses with scuffs along the frames and the glasses at least have a scratch on one side.
"This is Zoe Hanji. She's the new scientist over in forensics." She waves in her purely enthusiastic way that endears Zoe to Levi even more. Her waves are returned by the detectives when Erwin, the police captain of their station watches him get up and greet her with the same face he always has. In fact, he is sure over half of the entire precinct is watching them as Levi isn't one to actually associate with anyone other than his partner, Mike Zacharius, who literally smelled people when he met them.
"You made it." His words are gentle and they are no longer back in Petra's house where she kissed him nor when he kissed her cheek on her door step. There is no distance from her abscence. He is looking at the beautiful and smart woman Zoe Hanji has become despite the frayed ends he can spy in her ponytail and the portfolio case she carries with files peeking out in every direction.
"Yeah, I'm awesome like that." She is blushing, like a lamb meeting a wolf that is ready to eat her. He can only stare at her, unheeding the many eyes that are watching the two of them as the rest of the world really doesn't seem to exist for a few moments. Levi tries to think of things to say so he isn't some shitty idiot with his tongue stuck flopping around in his mouth like cadet Jean Kirschstein who's Halloween party he crashed a few years before.
"The glasses are new." His face heats up intensely as he looks to the new things on her face. He won't admit that he likes the way they look on her, having always had a thing for glasses and smart women, but he knew they accentuated her face well. His finger traces the edge of the frames with light featherweight touches from his hardened hands.
"Oh, yeah. Eyesight was failing during all the late-night study sessions…." The grin she has blossoms and something new fills him. He doesn't know if it is wonder and new, all he knows is that it has flickered from a small candle flame into a strumming small fire. The entire precinct leans forward in their chairs, watching and waiting. Erwin thinks Erd is even holding a sign that looks about four years old with 'Levihan 4 ever' on it. He wisely chooses to not comment.
"You took fucking long enough, Shitty Glasses." Levi's hand slaps the side of Zoe's head with his natural arm strength behind it. He growls and proceeds to walk back to his desk, promptly sitting down behind it with a glare at the laughing figure he's just slapped. The brunette is grinning from ear to ear, bounding over to his desk all too happily and sitting on it as she begins telling him about her newest evidence finds for the Lockheart case of which was transferred to her only a few hours before. Erwin, who is watching every single one of his officers, hears the collective 'UGH's and watches Erd throw the sign in the trash. The precinct returns to its normal run and dry norm with the exception of forensic's Zoe.
At the end of her rather long tirade, she pauses, reaching down into her portfolio case and pulling out a rather inappropriate picture of a cat's litter box with a human-sized log in it, slipping it on Levi's desk.
"I missed you too, Shorty." is all she says. Levi looks up at her, hiding his grin behind the way he picks up his mug of tea and sips. She is all levels of inaproppiate and Levi can't help but admire every single level. He finds that they both still enjoy crappy fucking jokes at twenty-six and twenty-one.
Now, if he could get her to stop sending dick pictures when he's being an absolute ass to the recruits.
LLL LLLL LLL
It is May 10th when he gets a phone call in the middle of the night from Zoe. She is currently house-sitting the Jaeger household for the weekend since Grishna and his wife are out of town for two months and the children, Mikasa and Eren, are sleeping over at their friend's in a cabin on some crappy ass mountain. He has no doubt Mikasa will love the nature she is so fond of and that Eren is sure to not make a move on his adoptive like sister.
"Rivaille," When he answers the phone, he is usually tired, having just gotten off a long shift working in homocide, which is typically the most depressing shit he's ever run across but it's where he can keep the Hanji Murders file on his desk despite the lack of evidence to implicate a suspect without crossing any jurisdictions. He also gets to deal more with Zoe on a rather daily basis, something he is not against at all. He is sure, as he recognizes the ringtone playing as "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira, something Zoe programmed herself when she was able to snag his phone from him, that the aforementioned forensics team member is only finding it particularly bothersome that he is winning their current game of Words with Friends.
"Levi! The killer's here!" He immediately sits up from draping himself across the couch. Her voice is hushed and furtive as if she might be found any second if he didn't hurry over there aat that exact moment. His stomach fell way to an empty pit where he was precariously balanced in his life. First things were first, hearts aside, he knew that he had to help her in some fashion. He grabbed his belt and gun, phone on his cheek and shoulder. His speech is sharp and quick to the bone.
"Hide! I'll be right there!" With that, Levi grabs his car keys and heads out of his home, intent on being the one to stop Zoe if he needs to.
When he gets to the house, the side door wide open, Levi feels his vexation with Zoe Hanji grow to new levels. He steps inside the house, staying light on his feet with his gun in his hand, police training enforced in his quiet and quick steps. He doesn't see anyone on the first floor, checking every nook and cranny for any chance that he is missing something. The fear that drops his stomach from unbelievable heights is causing his heart to hammer painfully against his chest.
He should have called for back-up but he chose to ignore it, instead going to his best friend's aid. His lightness of feet is a godsend as he trespasses up the stairs into the second floor where Mikasa, Eren, and the guest bedroom, which was once Zoe's bright lime green room decorated, he found out, with pictures of medical terminology and the structures of the body.
No one is at the top of the stairs nor in any of the rooms. Levi breathes harshly in his constricted throat. He has to keep cool, he reminds himself. He trusts in Zoe whom is the only woman he knows who understands crappy toilet humor and still beats him at fucking board games, especially monopoly. Erwin, when he's not being the captain of the precinct, sometimes join them on their drunken nights off.
He hears a noise from the downstairs. Nothing is touched in either the first or second floor. There are no heavy imprints of anything but the open side door that goes into the kitchen. The noise happens again and the man chooses to follow it, a clarion call to his hopes of finding his friend alive. He double-checks the study where he is sure that he heard the noise from. The study is normal looking but he immediately notices that there is a book that doesn't belong, hanging half-way off the shelf.
He pulls the book and feels the urge to smash his face into the bookcase as it slides open to reveal a hidden door. The door was opened recently from the dust being disturbed around it. He opens the door to see Zoe standing over the pleading body of the man he recognizes from the case file of the Hanji murders. She is holding a gun in her hands, shakily pointing it at the man.
In one moment, Levi knows only a few things. The woman standing above the man has a choice to make, a choice that will impact everything she is. The man on the ground, pleading for Hanji to not kill him is a useless bag of meat masquerading as a human. Levi also is irked that yet again, Zoe is wearing her holey jeans stained with things from the lab he really doesn't want to know about and that she has yet to actually wash her hair in three days, along with the fact that he has demanded she clean that shirt she's wearing since yesterday when Jean spilled coffee down her front during the morning rounds.
He knows if she pushes the trigger she will not be Zoe Hanji, who had so many questions and the need to find them with the ambition to do so. Levi is standing in front of her again, heart beating too fast and wildly for him to comprehend. The detective knows, just knows if he lets her, she will take that leap into the darkest part of her soul where she would find it alright to dissect him for an answer he isn't even sure the culprit can give her anymore.
She is twenty-one and his is twenty-six, sixteen and twenty-one, twelve again and seventeen, nine and fourteen, six and twelve, and four and nine. He is at every crossroad he's ever made with meeting the ever-changing, ever-flitting Zoe and Levi realizes something Petra figured out when he was seventeen, that Aurou and Gunter could guess at twenty-one, and Erd blatantly cheered for at twenty-six.
He is in love with her.
There is only the sound of a gunshot from the one of the trio.
The brunette can only blink in surprise as the man in front of her has fallen down into a pool of his blood, head shot through by a police-issued pistol. She turns her brown ember eyes to Levi, who snorts, cleaning his gun and putting his piece away. Her body lowers until she puts the gun on the wooden ground.
She is twenty-eight and he is thirty-three when her soul's purity is forever saved by Levi killing the man who had killed her parents. She runs through the blood on the floor, to only jump into her best friend's arms, using him as an anchor to shelter her reality as a heavy burden, one she has carried throughout childhood, one that has forever shaped her reality and inquisitiveness is now finally put to rest.
Zoe's fingers dig into his back in a way that he can only grasp tightly on her waist and whisper her name with the litany of saints he has no name of as he has never been a strong Catholic. She is warm and safe and he has protected her and to him, it matters that she is just so alive for he knows, if he hadn't met the Shitty Glasses all those years ago, if she hadn't swiped her snot on his damn pants like the unclean chit she is, then he would not have found her as easily as he has.
As soon as she backs from the hug, a large smile that only makes his heart beat faster erupts on her face before she bends down and kisses him with a passion he did not know could be directed towards him. She is insistent and panting and wanting and Levi can't help leaving the body where it is for a few minutes to enjoy finally getting Zoe, legal and not under 18 years, to kiss him, a thought that has kept his mind awake multiple hours at a time.
She presses her forehead against his, resting and pleased with his actions all too well.
When he calls Erwin five minutes later, which is a rather quick phonecall of "Dead body at Hanji's." Erwin has to wonder just why Levi is over at the Jaeger household in the first place.
Erd ends up winning the precinct bet that year. He guessed May was when they would get together.