Sugar Plums

T'was the night before Christmas, and all throughout the room, boots alike were shuffling, along with the sweep, sweep, sweeping of a broom. Bedsheets were folded - tucked and taught neatly - double-checking to make sure, hoping to the dear Heavens above that their sleeping Corporal would not stir.

"Eren, hand me that broom," Armin said, speaking no above a whisper.

"In a minute," Eren replied, trying to sweep as far behind the cookware chest as he could manage. He spoke in segments, as he said, "I just get...this one last-okay, got it." Eren pushed the final clump of dust into his metal pan, before handing the broom over to Armin.

While Eren had used the broom for sweeping, Armin had other plans. Walking over to a particularly cluttered corner, he reached for Jean's arm to give it a quick tug. "Can you hoist me up, for a second?" he asked pleasantly. "I need to get that cobweb up there."

Jean, who had been helping Historia with the bedsheets, seemed a bit reluctant to grant Armin his favor, but in the end (with Historia's encouragement), he squatted down low and waited for the small soldier to climb onto his back.

"Do you think any spiders live around here?" Jean questioned. He wondered such a thing, as he watched Armin's broom tackle the web and tangle it into its bristles.

"I wouldn't be surprised," was Armin's answer, as he allowed himself back down to the floor. With a sly smirk, one that was a bit too grown up, he added, "But not anymore. We just annihilated its food trapper."

After Jean had returned to Historia to help her with the folding, it was Connie who broke the subtle silence that they all had contributed to. He and Sasha had been in charge of dishwashing, which, in retrospect, had been a great match for the pair, but was now turning into a total nightmare.

The silence hadn't been the only thing that was broken.

"Connie, what are you doing?!" Eren whisper-yelled, quickly trekking over to assess the damage. He'd broken one of Levi's teacups, and it was with that realization that the young soldier's face went a sickly white.

"I-I didn't mean to!" Connie sputtered. He pointed an accusatory finger in Sasha's wayward direction. "She splashed me with the water, and it scared me!"

Eren was shaking by this point, clearly trying to suppress a multitude of emotions at once. "Are you telling me," he began, voice dropping to a deathly low measure, "that you've been in Titan territory, fighting for the sake of humanity, and you got scared over a measly drop of water?" Even to Connie, the excuse sounded stupid.

Armin had been the last one using the broom, so he quickly rushed it over to the area where the teacup had shattered. For such a small piece of fine china, it sure did make quite a ghastly mess. He began sweeping the broken shards of ivory into the dust pan, while Eren continued to lecture both Sasha and Connie about how this was no joking matter, about how what everyone was doing was no joking matter.

Everyone, even Mikasa, who had previously gone unmentioned, was busy at work, cleaning the cabin like never before to surprise their very own Corporal by the time that he woke up the following morning.

And it was truly turning into the nightmare before Christmas.

"Shh," Mikasa suddenly noised, causing the entire room to go pin-drop silent, with the mere breath passing through her lips. "I think I heard something."

Luckily, after the five minutes that they'd all stood around like marble statues, it was deemed that the sound had been a false alarm, and they all continued cleaning.

The act of tidying up the place didn't seem as structured as it used to be, and it was with a tortured sigh that Eren realized it would never be the same. What had felt like four minutes ago, let alone four months, he could distinctly remember how he'd struggled to keep up with the rest of the group. Now, he was the one struggling to keep it in check.

With another sigh and another sweeping motion of his broom (Armin had passed it off to him again), Eren came to the conclusion that, although things were different from they way they were back then, if he resolved to think positively and remain strong, it wouldn't be so bad.

As the night progressed into the early morning hours, whispers and secret laughter began to fill the void of silence.

"...And then, Eren was like a little, freaking drill sergeant, waking us all up right after the Corporal shuttled off to bed." Jean had been the one that said it, and it left everyone but Eren himself amused.

With his arms crossed, the young soldier scoffed and continued wiping the windowsill. The way that the early morning sun reflected off of his chafing knuckles made him worry that they wouldn't be finished in time. "Yeah, well, if it hadn't been for me, we wouldn't of been able to pull this off in the first place, okay? Can I at least get some credit for that?"

"Who knows if we'll even be able to pull this off at all," Connie groaned, exhaustion swallowing his tone. "The sun's already starting to come up, and we still aren't finished."

"We'll make it in time," Eren yawned. He swiped the back of his wrist across his forehead to rid himself of the perspiration. "We'll make it."

Rising with the sun was usually the Corporal's obligation, but on such a frigid morning, his level of reluctance began to outweigh his level of motivation. By the time he'd crawled out of bed, the sun had already made quite an ascend, and the plant and wildlife alike were coming into view.

He didn't care about any of that. All he cared about was getting a cup of tea.

In his sleepy haze, Corporal Levi stripped himself of his nightwear, and began dressing in something that was much more appropriate for combating with the frosty temperatures. Speaking of frost, a small shine of the stuff coated his windowpane. How magical.

On route to the dining area of the small cabin, the Corporal was forced to stop dead in his tracks, when he'd seen seven lumps of bodies, all strewn about in various locations, blocking his path and nearly causing him to go into cardiac arrest.

By the time the initial fright had subsided, he was not so lightly jabbing the side of Eren's hip with his left boot.

At first, Eren groaned at the feeling. He wanted it to stop, so that he could go back to sleep. After he'd realized what that feeling was, he was on his feet and saluting with utmost honor.

"G-good morning, sir!"

The sharp sound of his voice caused everyone else to rise from the dead, all saluting in much the same way, but not as quickly, nor as brilliantly as Eren.

Corporal Levi surveyed each and every one of his subordinates, noting the dirt smudges on their faces and clothes, as well as the tiny crescents of purple and blue beneath their eyes.

"What is the meaning of all of this," he asked, his tone as commanding as ever.

Hey, Eren had been the one to organize this wonderful idea, so he should at least be the one to fess up to it, right? They all waited for him to do so, Corporal Levi included.

"W-we," he swallowed, trying to steady his voice before carrying on, "we wanted to clean the cabin for you. We wanted it to be a surprise..." He'd said the last part, as if the surprise factor hadn't been achieved.

There was a brief pause, before the Corporal asked, "Did you stay up all hours of the night? All of you?"

Seven heads all nodded in unison.

"And you think that this is sufficient enough for a full night's worth of work?"

The heads all turned to one another, assessing familiar faces for answers that were not as clear as they could be, before slowly and not so surely nodding once more.

It was with that response alone that Corporal Levi breezed past all of his underlings and continued on with his prior motive: acquire a cup of tea.

After he was out of sight, everyone looked to Eren with both desperate and irritated expressions.

"After all of that hard work," Historia murmured quietly, "and he didn't even like it..."

"Tch, we should have just slept like every other normal human being," Jean scoffed. "I knew he wouldn't appreciate it."

"Did he even notice that I got rid of all of the cobwebs?" Armin asked hopelessly.

"Connie and I have numb fingers from all of that scrubbing," Sasha sighed.

"Yeah," Connie added. "He could have at least shown some sort of gratitude."

Eren shook his head. He shook it again and again, disregarding everyone's comments and concerns, before saying, "No, you guys have got it all wrong." It was their curiously confused expressions that prompted him to continue his thought. "Corporal Levi, he's not upset with us. You haven't been around him long enough to realize that the way he just brushed us off like that, it's because he is happy. He's happy, and he doesn't know how to express it. Guys, we actually did it."

Skeptical of Eren's explanation, Armin was the first to ask, "Eren, are you sure about that? I mean, he looked kind of upset."

"I'm positive," he answered. "He's reacted this way before. And that's just his face. If the Corporal would have really been upset with us, he would have said something like-"

"Hey, brats." The entirety of the group fell silent, at the sound of their superior's seething tone. Not sugar plums, but clouds of absolute anxiety danced within their heads. "Where's my teacup?"

Hi there! Chappy here! :D

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you all had a very wonderful holiday! I know I did. (:

AND IT'S LEVI'S BIRTHDAY TODAY. Okay, sorry for the caps, but you know...Levi. *cough*

Thank you very much for taking the time to read, and I hope you've enjoyed this short drabble!

- Chappy (: