“Here comes Church running down the side… passed it to Ackerman…”
Eren stared intently at the screen; his eyes followed the ball in slow motion as it bounced off the chest it was passed to before hitting the grassy field and back up in the air again. Blue cleats slipped underneath the ball and kicked it behind and-
“-HE’S DONE IT!”
Eren leaped from his spot and cheered loudly, unaware of the amused smiles from his friends as they watched him jump around, similarly to what the soccer player was doing on the screen along with his teammates.
“Oh my goodness! What a shot by Levi Ackerman! Let’s see the replay of it…”
Eren practically pounced on top of his friends and got up close to their faces. “Did you see that?! He did a bicycle kick goal!”
Mikasa calmly put her hand on Eren’s face and gently pushed him away. “Yes, we saw, Eren. We have perfectly functioning eyeballs, remember?”
Undeterred, he said, “But did you see it? How fast he was to get to it and that form. It was amazing!”
Mikasa didn’t bother holding in her sigh while Armin chuckled. “Eren, sit down. That match isn’t even over yet.”
“With Levi Ackerman on the team, there’s no way the Scouts will lose.” Even so, Eren sat in-between his friends as the match continued, adding little remarks once in a while as the game progressed and ignoring Mikasa’s, “Holy shit, Eren. Will you shut up and let us watch?”
The match ended half an hour after that goal and just like Eren said, the Scouts won the game ending with a 3-1 win against the Ryodans. Eren wildly thrashed the soccer pillow he was resting on around excitedly and Mikasa had to forcibly remove it from his hands or else he would break something from his post-game-watching hype. It wouldn’t be the first time he did it.
The TV screen’s camera view switched to one of the reporters on the field with one of the Scouts players for an interview.
“Mr. Smith that was an incredible save you did there at the end.”
The blond goalkeeper, Erwin Smith, chuckled and gave the reporter an award-winning smile. “Thank you. But I must admit, I have my team to thank for giving me a break this time.”
“The Scouts have been doing really well this season and we just saw that the team played with a new formation. Was there a reason for this?”
“We have Coach Zoe to thank for that. We knew that the Ryodans are known for their solid defense, so we combat that with a 3-3-1-3 formation.”
“And what can you say about the execution of the formation? How did they know that it would work properly?”
Erwin’s smile grew wider. “Because we have Levi Ackerman on our team.”
“Damn right,” Eren said.
Armin playfully nudged him. “You sound like a proud parent.”
Mikasa snorted from the other end of the couch. “Oh please. He sounds more like a proud girlfriend than anything.”
“Sorry. Proud boyfriend,” she corrected herself. “You’re even wearing your boyfriend’s jersey.”
Eren looked down at the matching dark green and white jersey the Scouts wore, except his had ‘ACKERMAN 10’ in white in the back. He flushed and shot her an accusing glare. “I’m just a big fan of his, that’s it. Besides, this is Armin’s birthday gift to me. You didn’t even get me anything this year,” he pouted.
Mikasa rolled her eyes as she dug out an envelope from her sweater and tossed it to him. “There. Happy Birthday, you soccer nerd”
Eren rapidly blinked, not seriously expecting something. He opened the envelope and once he saw what was inside, he shrieked louder than his friends have ever heard him before and tackled her.
“I- you- I can’t-” Eren was having difficulties forming words and Armin sat back and looked at the lump that was his friends with amusement.
“I can’t breathe?” Mikasa muffled from under his weight. “Yeah, me neither.”
Eren scrambled off of her instantly, but despite her words, she smiled at his actions. “You’re welcome, by the way,” Mikasa said as she straightened her clothes.
“Seriously, you’re the best. Thank you so much, ‘Kasa.” Eren delicately held the tickets in his hand, eyes sparkling as he re-read the bold print telling him that he would be watching the Scouts' next match against the Riesens a few weeks from now. She even got him seats in the middle section so he could see the whole field!
He hugged her, gently this time. “This is the best birthday ever,” he sniffled.
She and Armin patted their best friend’s back. “Don’t get emotional on us, now. We still need to check out the highlights of the match,” Armin said.
And just like that, Eren was back on his spot on his couch. Armin and Mikasa shared a pointed look as Eren started spit firing about every play of the match. What a nerd.
Eren breathed in the strong scent of freshly mowed grass as he took in the view of the field in front of him. There were muffled murmurs around him as people slowly trickled through the stands to find their seats. He stood proudly amongst them all with his Scouts' jersey (the home team for this match) along with the many other fans as the stadium turned into a sea of green and blue.
“Eren, sit down. It doesn’t start for another half hour,” Armin chided loudly, taking a seat next to the obviously excited brunet. It seemed like whenever soccer was involved, it was the norm to see Eren on his feet.
“Here.” Mikasa passed Eren his drink when he finally sat down.
Thanking her, he absentmindedly sucked on the straw as he looked around. The murmurs grew in volume as thousands of spectators waited for the match to start. He didn’t even realize he was shaking his legs in excitement until he felt hands rested on top of his knees to make them stop.
Eren sheepishly grinned at his friends. “Sorry. I’m just excited.”
“We noticed,” Mikasa said flatly, but her voice was amused.
He stuck his tongue at her and before he could rebuttal, the announcer’s voice came through the stadium speakers.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Trost Stadium. Today, we have a match between the visiting team, the Riesens against our very own Scouts. We now ask you to stand as the teams enter the field.”
Eren eagerly jumped to stand and his friends followed but showed much less vigor than he did.
His eyes scanned all the players coming out from the entryway. Cameramen and photographers clamored nearby to get good shots of the players entering the field. His breath hitched when he spotted the back of Ackerman’s head followed behind Church.
He must have squealed or something because Mikasa nudged his side and raised a brow at him. Oh, right. Gotta keep the fanboy-ness down in public. But shouldn’t it be okay for him to unleash all his fanboy-ness at a game? Especially when cheering on for his favorite pla- er, team?
After the sponsor announcement and the national anthem, the teams went on their respective sides to get ready. Eren saw the Scouts huddle around Coach Zoe for their plan of attack. It was comical to see in person how much shorter Ackerman was compared to the rest of his teammates, but that was his advantage: his height and speed were used to spin and fake quickly and go for the opponent’s blind spots whilst still shielding the ball from any defenders. Using what would be considered a ‘weakness’ into a strength was what made him a formidable striker. He followed through every formation, plan, and order and executed them perfectly with his flawless form.
Was it obvious that Ackerman was his favorite player yet?
Finally, the match started with the players on the field. Eren eyed the 4-4-2 formation with a nod. It was a good and balanced formation with a solid defense. It was a popular formation used by many teams, but he had a feeling that Coach Zoe probably had something up their sleeve. It seemed like they decided to test out the first game to see how it goes.
The sound of the whistle pierced through the stadium and everyone roared into life. Eren’s body was thrumming as he watched the whole game with rapt attention, his eyes never straying too far from the ball.
Zacharius had complete control of the ball and passed it to Church as the incoming opponent charged at him. Just before Church’s foot connected with the ball, one of the defenders from Riesen successfully intercepted and kicked it to the Scouts' side of the field.
Eren was never more grateful for where he was seated because the ball was now being tossed back and forth between the middle; both teams unable to get past the other’s midfielder players or defense. From the corner of his eye, he saw one of Riesen’s forwards charge forward from the side and stole the ball, making a break for it back on the Scouts' side of the field – closer and closer to the goal.
The centre-backs were having difficulty trying to get the ball away from him. Eren held in his breath as Ackerman sprinted across the field to his side, weaving between his teammates, and managed to steal the ball. Ackerman did his signature spin move and kicked the ball back to the nearby defenders.
Eren cheered wildly as did the other fans in the stands at the amazing maneuver, but then groaned in frustration when the referee whistled after the Riesen player fell down overdramatically, indicating a pause in the game.
“He didn’t even make contact!” he complained. And from the disagreeing voices around him, he wasn’t the only person who thought so.
Even from where he was standing, he could see the scowl on Ackerman’s face as the referee came up to him. Eren wondered how the referee didn’t run away at the intense stare down Ackerman was giving him as he tried to explain the foul to the star player.
The game resumed with a penalty kick and unfortunately, with such a great advantage, the Riesens scored the first goal of the match.
Eren huffed and plopped down in his seat, crossing his arms as the two teams went over to their respective coaches. “Is the ref blind? Ackerman didn’t even touch him.”
“You know how these things go,” Mikasa supplied with disdain, “They don’t have pride as players, only winning matters to them.”
Eren bit his lips to refrain from shouting obscenities. It wouldn’t do much good for him if there was a nearby Riesen fan who would hear him. He learned his lesson after that one time at the bar where the Scouts almost lost to the Garnisons and ended up getting kicked out onto the streets after a fight had broken out between him and a Garnisons fan.
More murmurs broke out in the stands when the Scouts returned to the field, but with a new formation.
“3-4-2-1,” Eren muttered with disbelief.
“Doesn’t that mean their defenses are more vulnerable?” Armin asked.
Mikasa tugged on her scarf and eyed the field thoughtfully. “Looks like they’re going for the attack now.”
When all the players situated themselves on the field, the referee blew the whistle to start the next game. The ball immediately went onto the Riesen’s side. Zacharius, Ackerman, and Church made a triangle formation and were passing the ball between each other, not letting the opponents come even close to them before kicking the ball to their teammate. The Riesen’s defenders and midfielders were having trouble coming through the wall the star Scouts players created.
Church kicked the ball to Zacharius. Zacharius passed it back and Church bypassed a Riesen defender, sending the ball to Ackerman. Church yelled something to Ackerman that no one except the players on the field could hear.
Heart pounding, Eren stood up when the ball connected with Ackerman’s foot. The soccer player ran by another defender.
Ackerman pulled his right leg back.
He took a shot and-
Eren screamed and cheered as the Riesen goalkeeper fell onto his side, failing to catch the ball as it hit the inside of the net. The whole stadium went wild as Ackerman was pounced on by Church and had his hair ruffled by Zacharius. The game was tied in a blink of an eye.
This was way better than watching the TV. Excitement filled his veins and the joyous atmosphere in the stadium was infectious. Mikasa and Armin cheered right beside him, adding to the wild screams from fans alike.
Eren watched Ackerman jog across the field, receiving multiple congratulatory pats or roughhousing from his teammates. He laughed when the man tried to swat them away, only to be embraced by Coach Zoe in what it seemed like a bone-crushing hug. He only wished that he could see the player in person to congratulate him too.
The match ended far too quickly for Eren’s liking.
Of course, the Scouts won 4-2, two goals by Ackerman and one each by Church and Zacharius to no one’s surprise. While Ackerman was an amazing striker, Church and Zacharius were also powerhouses themselves.
Eren stretched as he got up when the announcer signaled the end. “That was such a great match. Thanks for the tickets again, Mikasa.”
“Glad you enjoyed it. Now it’s time for the second part of your gift.”
“Eh? What second part?”
Mikasa hid a secretive smile behind her scarf. “You’ll see. Come.” She gestured for her friends to follow her as they made their way through the crowd of people trying to leave the stadium.
“Do you know what she’s talking about?” Eren asked the blond beside him.
Armin offered him a sly smirk and shook his head. “I do. Trust me, you’re going to love it.”
They went by the main traffic of people and headed towards a restricted area guarded by stadium security. Eren was going to question Mikasa what she was doing, but she flashed them a pass that was attached to a lanyard around her neck.
To Eren’s surprise, the security men stepped aside and he dumbly followed after Mikasa as she stepped through the corridor.
“Are we even allowed to be here?” he asked.
Mikasa rolled her eyes. “No, I just went through the trouble of getting a pass through security in order to get us kicked out.”
“Alright, jeez. You don’t have to get all sarcastic on me.” He pouted behind her back and almost ran into her when she abruptly stopped. “What’s up now?”
“We’re here.” And before Eren could even question her again, she opened the door and stepped inside the loud room.
Eren looked over to Armin for any sort of clarification of her actions, but he wasn’t much help either. His friend just smiled and pushed him into the room as well, ignoring his protests.
The first thing his mind registered was the familiar scent of a locker room.
The second thing he noticed was that his favorite soccer team was right in front of him, still sweaty from the match they just won.
“You’re going to catch flies with your mouth open like that,” Armin said teasingly beside him.
Eren whipped his head to his friends who wore matching grins on their faces. “Wha- buh- How?”
“Hey, you the birthday boy?”
Eren slapped a hand over his mouth in order to not let the shriek that threatened to come out. Church was right in front of him. Repeat: Farlan Church, Scouts’ best attacking midfielder, was right in front of him.
Church cracked a friendly smile and scratched the back of his head. “Oops, I mean belated birthday boy. You’re Eren, right?” When Eren nodded, he continued, “Nice to meet ya, Eren. I’m Farlan Church, but call me Farlan.”
Farlan didn’t offer his hand like Eren expected. Instead, the soccer player hooked his arm around his neck and pulled him towards the center of the locker room where everyone was in the middle of changing. “Um…”
“Come on, I hafta introduce you to everyone,” Farlan said. Pushing the stuttering brunet closer to his changing teammates, he announced, “Hey, guys. This here is Eren. He’s the special friend and the biggest Scouts fan Mikki told us about.”
“Mikki?” Eren craned his neck to see her friend near the doorway.
Mikasa crossed her arms, pointedly ignoring her best friend’s staring. “I told you to stop calling me that, Farlan.”
“But Mikki sounds cute.”
“Wait, you guys know Mikasa?”
“Sure we do. I need to have the assistant coach train me, after all.” Smith stepped up and, unlike Farlan, offered his hand. “Erwin Smith. Though, with what Mikasa tells us about you, we don’t really need to formally introduce ourselves, do we?” he chuckled.
Eren shook his hand, but his focus was on Mikasa. “Assistant coach?”
Mikasa, being the unhelpful person that she was (in Eren’s opinion, right at this moment), shrugged. “I told you I got a job being an assistant coach for a local soccer team, didn’t I?”
“I thought you were helping little kids or high school players or something. Why didn’t you tell me that you were helping the Scouts?”
Still being unhelpful, she said, “You never asked.”
Eren didn’t realize that he made a garbled noise of frustration until someone started laughing.
“That’s so like Mikasa to do that,” Hange snickered. They patted Eren’s back and got up close to his face. “It’s nice to finally meet ya, kiddo. How did you like the match today?”
Eren’s eyes sparkled, telling them what they needed to know. “It was amazing! I thought the formations during the second half of the match were really interesting choices against the Riesens’ pure balance of defensive and offensive positions. I really didn’t expect the Scouts to use the Italian 4-3-3 formation, but switching Farlan and Ackerman to be wingers in the beginning threw the other team off from what people would normally expect.”
Hange grinned from ear to ear as he rattled on while the people in the room simultaneously groaned.
“Mike, hold them back,” Erwin ordered, knowing full well what would happen in a few seconds if the two weren’t separated.
The winger grunted, but complied as he pulled their coach away from the soccer-loving nerd.
“Wait- no! Let me go, Mike! I want to tell him about different formations and strategies I was thinking of for the next match and-”
“Sorry, Eren,” Erwin apologized smoothly, “Hange tends to talk someone’s ear off about different game plays the moment someone shows even a remote interest in it.”
“Oh, but I wouldn’t mind.”
Erwin put his hands on Eren’s shoulders and said in a serious voice, “Trust us, Eren. It’s for your own good.”
“Good.” The goalkeeper clapped his hands heavily once before letting go. “So, Eren, who’s your favorite player?”
“Do you even need to ask? The kid has Levi’s name on ‘im.”
Farlan turned Eren around so the rest of the team was able to see the jersey had Ackerman’s name and number on it. People around started chuckling and Eren flushed hotly. He didn’t know what to say; it would be stupid for him to deny it since he was literally wearing the striker’s name on his back.
“Oh? I’m flattered.”
A deep, rich voice cut through the air and into Eren’s heart. He had only heard him speak during interviews and conferences, but never in person.
Eren slowly turned around to see the Levi Ackerman, fresh out of the shower and out of his uniform.
Internally, Eren might have screamed… just a little.
Ackerman wiped his brow with the towel that was hanging around his neck, looking around with a frown on his face. “Hey, what are you idiots doing? Go shower now.” He wrinkled his nose as he opened his locker to put away his clothes.
“Aw, but we haven’t had a chance to properly speak with Eren yet,” Farlan whined.
“You can do it when you’re clean.”
Farlan made a face but then pushed Eren to him. “At least humor your biggest fan while we go hit the showers, then.”
Ackerman spared him a glance and Eren froze. “You’re the friend Mikasa has been nagging us about.”
Eren briefly wondered what Mikasa told them about him but then remembered he didn’t answer his idol yet. “Uh, yeah. Eren Yeager, sir. It’s nice to meet you.”
Ackerman rolled his eyes. “Just ‘Levi’ is fine. You’re not a reporter so no need to be formal with us.”
“Oh, er, right.” Was he still blushing? He was sure he was still blushing. Oh god, he was a blushing, stammering mess in front of his favorite star athlete.
Levi looked at him, thoughtfully. Eren held in his breath when Levi’s grey eyes caught his for a moment before Levi looked down at his jersey. “Do you want me to sign that?”
“I-if you don’t mind.” He bit his lips to prevent any embarrassing noises that were threatening to escape. He was going to get this jersey framed and hang it in his room.
As Levi reached for a marker in his locker, Eren recalled one of the interviews with the player and how he openly expressed his distaste of signing stuff on a person’s body since it was too close for comfort for him.
“Oh, wait. I remember that you don’t like signing off of people’s back, so let me just…”
Without thinking, he reached behind his neck and pulled off the jersey in one, fluid motion.
The whole locker room dropped dead silent all of a sudden. Eren blinked at the sudden lack of noise, but then blushed furiously when he realized that he had no shirt underneath the jersey he wore and was currently standing right in front of his idol with his bare chest. There was a sound of a ‘smack’ behind him, and Eren didn’t need to turn around to know it was Mikasa who was facepalming at what he did, too mortified to even move from his spot.
Levi was looking at him with a new light in his eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it came. “Huh.”
Farlan broke the silence as he doubled over, laughing. “Oh god, this kid’s a gem. We’re keeping him.”
The rest of the team joined in on the amusement and Eren felt heat creep down his neck. Great. Of course now was the time for his favorite team to know that he was a full-body blusher. His life was absolutely wonderful.
“He is quite forward,” Erwin said with mirth. If Eren didn’t respect him like he does, he would have hit him for that.
Thankfully, Levi did for him, but he twisted his towel and whipped the goalkeeper with it. “Hit the showers already.”
“You heard the man,” Erwin said loudly, “Let’s leave Levi alone so he could have his chance to chat up with the adorable fanboy.”
Levi whipped him again and Erwin brushed it off with a laugh, leaving along with the rest of team to the shower rooms. Farlan threw Eren a wink before following, and before they knew it, the locker room was silent again.
“Are they always like that?” Eren finally asked.
“Sometimes they’re worse,” he said, “Pass me the jersey.”
Eren handed him the jersey and resisted the urge to cover himself with his arms. It was already dumb enough that he took it off without thinking ahead, he didn’t need to make another deal out of it.
“So, Eren, do you play?” Levi asked conversationally. He flipped the clothing around so he could find a good spot to sign and uncapped the marker.
“I only play recreationally. It’s kind of hard to find time to play between studying and part-time jobs. Unless you’re Mikasa of course.”
“She’s always been an overachiever since she was a kid,” Levi said fondly. “But you’re doing well on your own, so that’s good.”
“‘Since she was a kid’? You knew Mikasa for that long?” Eren asked curiously.
Levi raised a brow at him. “We’re cousins. Didn’t you notice that we have the same last name?”
“I never asked her since she gets pissy when people do,” Eren admitted. “I wonder why she didn’t tell me herself.”
“Beats me.” Levi paused to sign on the white ‘1’ on the jersey, but there was a sudden slam of a locker near the back that startled him, marring the autograph with a black streak across it. “Fuck. Sorry about that, Eren.”
“Oh no, that’s okay.” Eren hid the disappointment in his voice. He couldn’t really ask him for a do-over on the same jersey.
Levi looked at him through his bangs before putting the jersey away in his locker and pulled out another one. “Here, you can have one of my spares,” he said before signing it perfectly on the number.
“W-wait. I can’t accept that.” Except, he really wanted to.
“I ruined the one you gave me, so it’s only fair I give you a new one. My jersey is about your size so it should be fine.” He tried to offer the newly-signed jersey to Eren, but he vehemently shook his head.
“I shouldn’t take one of your spares. You need it, don’t you?”
“I can always get more,” Levi waved off. Seeing how Eren was trying to think of other ways of declining his jersey, Levi took the opportunity and suggested, “How about you take me out for dinner to make it up to me?”
Eren blinked. Did Levi just ask him out? His heart started beating faster. He knew shouldn’t read too much on it, but he couldn’t help but feel hopeful.
Unsure of how to respond properly, he said the first thing that popped into his mind, “Uh, sure. Are you free tonight?”
“I’m free after the post-game conference.” Taking out a card from his locker, he scribbled something on the back and passed it to Eren. “Here’s my number. If you lose it, just ask Mikasa.”
Shutting the locker door close, he passed by Eren with a slight wave. “See you later tonight, Eren.”
Eren’s jaw dropped when Levi sent him a wink before leaving the locker room. The sound of showers turning off broke him out of his thoughts as he stumbled to put on the jersey and shortly left the room as well.
He found his friends waiting for him outside with smug grins on their faces. “When did you guys leave?”
“After you made a blushing mess of yourself in front of Levi,” Armin said. “We didn’t want to interrupt you two.” He wiggled his eyebrows and Eren playfully whacked his shoulder.
“You got the autograph?” Mikasa asked.
“Yeah. And I got his number too. We’re going out after he finishes his conference.”
Armin whistled. “Guess Eren’s gonna score tonight.”
Eren hit him for that one.