If you don’t like fanfiction, shipping, romance, or Levi from Shingeki no Kyojin, you probably shouldn’t read this.
Consider yourself warned.
I like shipping, I like romance, but I don’t like when it’s done badly. Especially when it comes to characters like Levi who aren’t put in romantic situations in canon. A lot of romance-genre fanfiction that I’ve read usually portrays Levi in one of three ways: 1) a possessive Jerk with a Heart of Jerk who has a romantic interest in the OC/reader (if you look for Levi fanfiction that isn’t slash you get lots of reader inserts…scary); 2) a possessive/protective Jerk with a Heart of Gold who has a romantic interest in the OC/reader; 3) a normally impassive-looking person who is actually extremely mushy on the inside and shows their vulnerable side to a new person entirely too quickly. Basically, they make him a tsundere, a sort of yandere, or a mushpot.
None of these characteristics describe him well at all, even outside a romantic situation. He’s not a mushpot, and he’s most definitely not a tsundere.
What does describe him, you ask?
The main thing about Levi is his dedication and dutifulness. He gives what he’s doing one hundred percent if he believes in it. Levi trusts Erwin and does so implicitly–even when he’s not so sure that Erwin’s plans will turn out well, or doesn’t like the plans. For the purposes of a shipping fic, then, he’d be extremely dedicated to and trusting of a significant other. Romance certainly wouldn’t be at the top of his list–he’d probably fall into it unintentionally–and a relationship would come second to his work both because defeating the Titans is a more pressing concern and because he wouldn’t want to create a deep emotional connection like that which would more than likely be cut off by an early death.
Levi may not express his emotions loudly or often, but his actions indicate that he not only feels but does so deeply. He has a great amount of empathy and compassion–we see this in his attitude toward his special squad and his other subordinates, as when he speaks proudly of his team or comforts his dying subordinate, or gives Dieter–a cadet he probably barely knows–the badge he meant to keep for himself. He simply has a great amount of emotional control. The only emotion he has trouble with controlling is his anger. He probably beat Eren up so much because of his anger at the government; his loathing for it is evident whenever he speaks to any of the military not part of the Survey Corps. He also hates the Titans and taunts the Female Titan, which becomes very partly responsible for her escape. His biggest fault thus seems to be his short temper, which is especially highlighted because he is such a no-nonsense, dedicated person.
He’s not totally impassive in other situations either–we see his sorrow at his squad’s death; his surprise when he recognizes Mikasa as Eren’s friend; and the look of utter horror and hopelessness on his face when Petra’s father talks to him after their mission. But as I said before, he’s extremely controlled, and he knows that things have to get done no matter who dies, so he moves on very quickly (at least on the outside). Thus, Levi would show a significant other affection, but not loudly and probably not in public. He would still feel very deeply for them and would might be somewhat protective but not possessive, as some fics like to portray him. If his girlfriend wanted to fight Titans, if there was no reason for her not to other than that she could die, I could imagine him asking her not to go but not ultimately arguing or insisting that she stay. He wouldn’t be what we think of as romantic, either (see the next paragraph).
Also, one big reason Levi’s not a tsundere: he’s extremely straightforward and blunt. When he explains to Eren that if they have to cut Eren out of his Titan body they’d have to cut off some limbs, he admonishes Eren for being unwilling to sacrifice. He also addresses the Military Police et al very rudely, and explains quite frankly that he can contain Eren–though only by killing him. He doesn’t hide his feelings–he’s quiet about them. Those are two totally different things. The only feelings I could see him actually trying to hide would be romantic ones.
He’s very focused on practicality and the now–long-term does not seem to be in his vocabulary. I have a feeling he won’t know what to do with himself after the Titan attacks, if they eventually win and he’s still alive. I’d like to think he’d probably live a quiet life on a farm. He might also soften up somewhat–he probably doesn’t show his emotions so much because he has to keep them from affecting his decisions. Anything long-term about a romantic relationship would get delayed until all business with the Titans was done–which could take years.
Since he himself isn’t loud, I imagine he probably enjoys quieter things–we already know he likes cleaning, and I’d probably add maybe music and reading to that list, though he doesn’t seem like he’d be an intellectual reader. Again, I think farming would suit him too because it would give him a goal–he seems like the kind of person who needs something to do or else he’s lost.
His past may also be responsible for shaping certain of these characteristics, but since that’s still a mystery to me I can’t delve into anything more.
He’s actually a much more normal person than one might think (and thankfully somewhat mature since he’s supposed to be in his 30s). Definitely more normal than a tsundere. So if you’re trying to write him as he is, these are things you have to keep in mind. I’m definitely trying to keep them in mind as I write my fics!