A/N: I haven't shipped Eren/Levi Levi/Eren before (or anyone fron SnK) but many of my precious sweethearts on tumblr do. They are under attack right now so this is for them.
He was forced to become a man before he'd ever really had the chance to be a boy.
Well, they all had. In the hell that was life after the Fall. No, even before then, from the first moment the titans appeared, no child had been able to actually be a child, not really. How could they, when before they could crawl, before they could speak, there was the wall, looming over them, reflecting in their parents' eyes, shadowing their very existence.
Safe but not free, never free, that's what that wall whispered to them as every boy and girl toddled off to their trundle beds. Where is the innocence of childhood when you are born and raised with the knowledge that death with it's grinning, gaping maw is just a stone structure away, scrabbling and tearing it's own flesh just to get to you, to devour you?
And then the wall fell, and the illusion of safety, of any remaining innocence, disappeared in a rain of blood and flesh and death. So much death the very air trembled with it, stank with it.
So yeah, when Eren stood there, taller than him, still bleeding, still bandaged from their last foray outside the wall, and in an adult's voice said, "Corporal, I am in love with you," Levi knew it was a man speaking, not a boy.
Hell, his own parent's had married at fifteen, even younger than Eren. It was common enough in their fractured, broken world. When you lived with the understanding each and every day could be your last on this earth, that life took on a frenzied, urgent quality that made you want to cram as much joy, as much happiness, as much living as possible into each and every day.
Rarely was he at a loss for words, unable to act, to think, to formulate a plan, but Levi was blindsided by Eren's confession, there in front of the rest of their squad, in front of the Commander, in front of that childhood friend of his that glared daggers before Eren even finished talking.
"You're confusing admiration with love," Levi finally responded, putting down his tea cup and pushing away from the long table where they had all been sitting and eating in silence, mourning their losses, celebrating their own continued existence.
Eren grabbed his arm before he could completely turn away, and there was such strength, such determination, such conviction in the fingers on him that he allowed himself to be restrained, just this one time.
"Don't talk to me like I'm some stupid kid."
"You are a stupid kid," Levi turned back around to face blazing, gray-green eyes that had seen so much pain, so many lives destroyed, so much horror that men twice Eren's age had crumbled under the weight of it, and yet those eyes still hoped, still dreamed, still loved, still believed victory was possible.
It broke Levi, those eyes.
And it saved him, too.
He looked pointedly down at his arm. Eren blushed and hastily released him.
"If you are going to apologize, then you shouldn't do it in the first place, annoying brat."
Eren's flush of embarrassment became one of anger. "I'm not a brat!"
"Aren't you?" Levi flicked his eyes to their companions who weren't even pretending not to be interested in the spectacle before them. "Only a brat cries and screams for attention without caring about the time or place."
Biting his lip, Eren glanced over at his friends and comrades. His shoulders hunched for a moment, but then he straightened and mulishly lifted his chin.
"Think what you want, then, but I'm serious."
His tone was clear, unwavering, just like his gaze.
Levi sighed heavily and shook his head, but before anyone could guess his intent, he reached out and dragged Eren close, so close their breath mingled.
"Then show me your seriousness, Eren." He deliberately emphasized the other's name, then shoved hard, so hard Eren stumbled back and fell flat on his ass. "I'll be waiting."
Without another word, he pivoted and walked away. Levi's lips curved and there was a gleam in his eyes, but Eren didn't see it. Rather, Levi wouldn't allow him to see it. Not yet. The brat hadn't earned the right, but when he did, Levi would be, as he had promised, waiting.