levi ackerman lives the charmed, fairytale existence of a man that's never seen hardship a day in his life.
he wakes up at the same time every day, like a steadily ticking clock. the first thing he does is stare out the window, into the vastness of the sky beyond and the sun's early rays. he is meticulous when he gets up, makes his bed properly, lays out his clothes, and takes a shower. every piece he puts on, after he dries his hair, is done with precision; obsessive in the way he fixes his tie. after breakfast, which is light and always involves toast and tea, he heads to work.
the tea shop he has now does not have the kind of name he would have given it. the store itself was acquired, given to him, after the owner's retirement. having come in day in and day out, like clockwork, for half a year, levi ackerman was given the opportunity to run it himself. its something he would have done had things not went the way they did back home. the rose veil is a staple in zephyr, overlooking the valley, the garden, it features a huge array of different teas using local and imported ingredients as well as desserts.
it has been, and still is, a local staple in zephyr's main town of corvid.
he is not, necessarily, what anyone would call 'personable' and, frankly, he's not really even the best at dealing with patrons. he treats his workers better than he may have treated his subordinates back in his old life, but that's only because there are laws that prohibit him from causing bodily harm. levi ackerman holds his breath and stands straight and stock-still when things upset him, so that he doesn't do something stupid. he is short and lithe, and he makes a pretty picture on paper, not so much when you talk to him.
he is brash and he is crude, he says what is on his mind, no matter who he may hurt. but he tries his hardest for the honor of the tea shop he's come to love. its a grounding force, something he may have done within the walls if the circumstances of his birth and upbringing were different. if titans weren't constantly threatening the general way of life. he lives each day so mundane and boring and normal that its almost as if he hadn't gone through hell and back over and over and over again. as though he hadn't seen his squad mates slaughtered in front of his face, like his best friend's bodies weren't strewn before his eyes, like he can't see titans in his sleep or feel the handle of his gear in his hands, like he wasn't forced to make choices that only he could make, as though he hasn't been covered head to toe in blood.
yes, levi ackerman lives the perfectly idyllic life of a man that's never had to make sacrifices.
levi ackerman is unequivocally and irreversibly plagued with guilt. but he hides it well, just the same as he hides the trauma of everything he's ever seen. cold and aloof, guarded and distant, levi is an enigma to many, the same as he is an enigma to the soldiers that work underneath him. sometimes not even erwin can tell what he's thinking, but he tries, levi knows how hard he tries to worm his way into levi's head. he loses his cool, goes into a rage, and then calmly as can be, throws insults while wiping his hands of the situation. he sits alone staring at the stars outside, gets three hours of sleep almost every night, and can't help that his dreams are full of screams.
he thinks, often, about his place in the survey corps and his reasons for sticking around. at first, its anger that draws him in, a need for vengeance, some sort of sense of pride. erwin smith is a pain in the ass and levi hates him for a good portion of his first year within the corps. he joins not because erwin tells him he should, but so that he can finish what they started and kill the bastard with his own two hands--if he had known then what he knew now, he never would have joined. he would have remained in the slums pulling petty heists with furlan and isabel and he would not have allowed himself to feel for other people.
a common misconception is that levi ackerman has no heart.
for a long time, he also thought that true--but a man without a heart would not grieve the way he does. they would not be full of anger, of blind fury, and hatred for the things these titans have done to the people he's come to know. seeing the bodies of soldiers, hand-picked to be in his squad, would have been of no consequence. but it tears him apart, piece by agonizing piece, and there's no way to put those pieces back together. levi has always known that he is expendable, that his life doesn't matter, he's known it from the day he sat alongside his mother's rotting corpse in the slums underneath the city. he's known that he is to be a tool, a puppet, something useful for the people in charge. but these people are not tools, they are genuine, they want to make a difference. levi is a selfish man, under it all.
but he will wear the title of heartless, the brand of being a monster proudly, if it makes the victim's families feel better. if it gives them some kind of closure, someone to hate, he will be that person. levi ackerman will be their scapegoat if only because he doesn't know how to openly care for others, but he does. he does not do so with the same strength he approaches a fight, but he's learned to care. his life is still worth nothing, and its why he's always ready to die, but oruo, eld, petra, they didn't deserve what happened to them and he doesn't know how to properly process his grief. its why he can't tell petra's father, when he approaches all smiling and pleased and blathering about how much petra idolizes him, that he is the reason he'll never see his daughter again.
he thinks they're lucky, for their suffering is over.
where do you want to go, beyond the wall?
don't ask me that bullshit, the fuck is wrong with you?
its a question that levi has never once considered. its foolish, to even entertain the notion of ever being able to safely traverse outside the walls, unfettered and free, as the birds that soar above them. levi himself is unconcerned, has taken down more titans on his own than anyone really cares to count. its a stupid idea, to think that either of them would actually ever be able to live in peace. levi doesn't have the time for such nonsense.
erwin laughs in that annoying way of his, something that levi has barely heard for so long now. he's got a sick sense of humor, that one. the expression on levi's face is that of indignant disgust, some amount of shock that the question would even come up. they're sitting atop the wall, overlooking the general landscape and levi considers the question despite the fact he finds it asinine.
i would like to see where the sun goes down. he starts, chooses his words more carefully than he may have at any given moment. he does not turn his head to look at erwin at his side, only crosses his arms and stands in that arrogant manner of his. there's a huge ridge over the wall where the sun disappears every day; you can't see beyond it, but he has heard that the sun itself sinks low and slides underneath the sea. i'd like to witness the moment the sun disappears beneath the earth.
it sounds childish to his ears when he thinks it over. the more silence stretches between them, the more tense he grows. finally, he chances a glance over and up at erwin and the man is smiling, just barely concealing his desire to laugh. fire lights in levi and he aims a kick to the back of the man's knee, scowling and glaring daggers. erwin does nothing but buckle a little, his form always much sturdier, and he angles his head, finally looking down at levi. he stares back for a moment before scoffing and turning forward again; the sun isn't even halfway across the sky when they start, but now its dipping.
that's the most childish thing i've ever heard from you.
shut the fuck up.
we'll go find that place together.
armin arlert wanted nothing more than to one day see the ocean.
its all levi can think about his first few months in elysion, when trying to fully settle into a way of life that didn't involve fighting. he tried it, for a while, might have entered void tournaments in pandora at one point, but the idea of killing people still sits like lead in his chest. even titans, they were people. they could be people again. he's been killing otherwise innocent people--its not like maiming others in the underground. you did whatever you had to in order to survive down there.
armin, he thinks, would have loved cascata. an entire sector built on water and a beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. he stands upon the warmth of the sand, listening to the ebb and flow of the tide and, it is here, that he witnesses the sun in its descent on the horizon. it touches the water seamlessly, sending golden rays along the imperfections of its surface. the water reflects the sunset, streaking pink and orange, and levi stands there, inadvertently worrying the blue gemstone of the bolo tie around his neck. he's carrying the bones of the dead and its weighing him down; his wings are matted with blood and he can no longer fly. he doesn't want to fly.
he thinks about standing here with them beside him, armin's wonder and big eyes wide; eren, petra, mikasa, furlan, isabel, everyone he's ever lost. he thinks, the longest, about seeing erwin, standing with him while the ocean rises and falls. he has a part of erwin with him everywhere he goes by way of the hideous tie around his neck; he's always hated it, but there's comfort in it. a strange, misplaced type of comfort, maybe, but with it he feels like maybe he can stay sane. right, as though he's ever been sane. the stone has a scratch in it by now, some physical representation of the dark groove in himself.
levi knows there's no use in dwelling in the past, he hasn't thought about his childhood in many years now, and he should put the mistakes and regrets of his life behind the walls and fighting titans behind him. its been a year, its time to move on. he doesn't want his squad behind him anymore, but he wants to see them alive, he wants to see them thrive and accomplish things that they never would have been able to back home. but it doesn't stop him from picturing erwin on that beach even though it is armin's dream.
he knows he made the right choice, even if it took mikasa and eren insisting to make him realize that. erwin's life had run its course and, no, perhaps he wasn't the best hope for humanity. willing to put people's lives on the line for the good of the many; levi is the same. using the titan serum to save armin's life--bright and fresh, a boy that wanted so much to live and be useful--over erwin's is the hardest choice he's ever had to make. in war you do what is best.
he made the right choice.
he made the right choice.
he made the right choice.
if he keeps repeating it over and over, he'll eventually believe that its true. no matter what the ache in his chest tells him, that little demon that screams that he was wrong, he's always wrong, he's never done anything good. he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice, he has made the right choice.
he misses erwin smith.
the rose veil is a tea shop full of teas named after tarot cards. every deck, every genre, but they all rub him the wrong way. the only stipulations when taking over were that he could not change the names or blends. so levi sits with his own tea in hand dark, without cream or sugar, and hates all their names.
the fool is a white tea with lime, mango, and apple. its light and easy, a small kick of sour from the lime, and sweetness from the mango. it is best served cold.
(the fool is eren yaeger, all naive and innocent, bright eyed and confused; hiding a sweetness and charm, a concern and compassion--reckless and guided by his heart. a titan that maintains the feelings of the human within him.)
strength is an oolong tea with vanilla and crushed orchid blossoms. fruity and floral, it is a perfect blend of both as neither flavor overpowers the other. it is best served hot.
(strength is mikasa ackerman, withdrawn and emotional regardless, stoic and level-headed, she harbors a disdain for levi and he does not blame her--he hates himself most days too.)
the sun an herbal tea containing carrot, candied ginger, beetroot, pumpkin, hibiscus, orange peel, marigold, and orange. its said that amazing things will happen when you drink this sun-soaked tea. it is best served cold.
(the sun is petra ral, sweet and kind, easily flustered but dedicated. he hopes she shines bright in whatever life she's living now, whatever the afterlife has in store for her.)
death an herbal tea crafted with soft flavors in mind including pears, apple, and candied papaya. despite its name, there is nothing foreboding about this tea; it is meant to calm.
(death is armin arlert, a boy that has cheated it more than once. death is inescapable, but perhaps for the naive, the innocent, the ever-changing, death can be avoided for the reaper shows pity to things still too pure for the world.)
the hermit a strong black tea, ultimately plain at first glance, but offering a spice of something distinct to the leaves used. a tea that very well might change your life. it is best served hot.
(the hermit is levi ackerman a man guided by selfishness, withdrawn and outcast--alone and lonely is all one in the same, miserable.)
the emperor an earl grey tea packed full of cornflower, marigold, and vanilla with the hint of citrus. sophisticated and a nice take on the traditional earl grey. it is best served hot.
(the emperor is erwin smith all authority and order, a man with a dream to rid the world of the threat of titans, with a sick sense of morbid humor and a laugh that would be uplifting if it weren't so strained--the true story of a martyr.)
the lovers, please. he hears in a sweet voice from a girl at a table, holding hands with another. they wear the same smiles, those of children in love, and levi stares at them a long time. he watches as one reaches to the other, brushes hair from her face, and her girlfriend smiles and blushes; he is unsure of what the feeling that crowds him is. initially disgust but it turns into a painful ache. he hates it.
but how nice, he thinks, to be able to be young and in love.
(one whispers to the other, she sighs in content, and they kiss.)
(when they're done, they leave, hand in hand.)
(somehow, it hurts more than he thinks it should.)