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a safe place to stand

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It's a strange thing, really, that after everything he's managed to survive, all of the times he's managed to cheat death, that it would be now, at a time he had actually been unprepared for it, that he finally reaches his demise. Levi grits his teeth as the searing sensation overtakes his senses, the panicked shouts around him fading away into white noise.

--

Death isn't so bad, Levi supposes. It's a little brighter than he'd expected, that much he can tell even with his eyes clamped shut. But it's warm, and actually rather comfortable. Who knew there were beds in the afterlife?

This thought seems to send a bolt of lightning through Levi's veins, wiping the groggy feeling from his mind and body, and he realizes he's still alive, somehow. His fingers twitch slowly where they lie along the side of his body, his heartbeat picking up slightly. He's almost afraid to open his eyes - he doesn't know what he's going to see, but he takes mild solace in the fact that his limbs seems to be working; the feel of the sheets rustling against his legs as he shuffles his feet from side to side is strangely soothing.

Really, they must have done some major upgrades to the beds in the infirmary. How long has it been since Levi's ended up here? It doesn't feel like that long ago, but this bed is ridiculously comfortable, and this pillow, this is quite possibly the softest thing he's ever felt in his life. Levi takes a deep breath and presses his head back further, feeling the soft give of the pillow beneath him. Erwin's always going on about budgets and necessities, and yet he's okay-ed the overhaul of the beds in the infirmary? Levi will never fully understand that man for as long as he lives.

And he does indeed live. Levi finally cracks his eyes open, immediately regretting the decision as a series of completely unfamiliar sights make his stomach lurch.

First there is the awful purple knitted blanket resting atop of him, the thing ghastly enough to make Levi's lip curl in disgust. Where in the hell had this thing come from? Are the doctors here really so bored that they've decided to take up knitting in their down time?

But beyond that, there's even more to worry about - the strangely sleek desk over in the corner, the absurd flat black thing propped up on the top of it, and those cheery yellow curtains have definitely never been there before, and--

Levi feels his blood run cold as realization hits him - he isn't in the infirmary, he has no idea where in the hell he is right now, but he needs to get up, find someone who--

Levi nearly trips over his own feet in his haste to get out of the bed, and as his feet hit the floor his eyes are once again drawn to the curtains. He wanders over to the window, brushing the curtains out of his way and promptly cracking his forehead on the glass at the sight before him. His heart lodges in his throat and he feels dizzy, incredibly dizzy, his fingers tightening their grip on the curtains, and he wonders briefly if he'd been wrong, maybe he has died, because there is nowhere in the walls that looks anything like this.

It's-- it's beautiful, and open, and strange, incredibly strange, there are weird things lined up all along the streets outside, and there's a man walking with a dog on a leash, holding something up to his ear and talking into it, and Levi cracks his forehead again at the sound of someone ascending a set of stairs.

He looks around in panic, his hands helplessly patting at his body where there is no maneuver gear, no blades, and they're nowhere here in the room either, and the steps are getting closer, Levi's ears tuned to the sound, and they are familiar, almost, but that doesn't make sense, because--

There's a short knock on the door, and Levi reminds himself that he can take anyone down without the use of his blades. He'll just use other methods to make this person talk, and just as he's about to forge a path to the door to surprise the intruder, the door swings open to reveal a sudden confirmation to himself that he truly must be dead, and not just dead but in hell, because there's no other way to explain why Eren would appear here to torment his consciousness.

And it is Eren, Eren who's smiling and asking, "Hey, why didn't you answer me? I was calling you." Levi stares at him, eyes wide and hands still awkwardly placed against his sides, his mouth suddenly dry.

Eren's face softens in concern and he takes a step forward, Levi moving to take a step backward in turn, his back bumping against the window ledge. Eren frowns and walks toward him, and Levi feels panic starting to rise in his belly, into his chest, and he raises a hand and manages to grit out, "Stop."

Levi doesn't actually expect Eren to stop, or this-- this Eren apparition, whatever the hell he is. But he does stop, lips down-turned slightly and eyes showing a mixture of hurt and concern. Levi briefly contemplates turning around and diving out the window, but he's not sure he'll survive the drop without his gear.

"Levi, is something wrong?" Eren asks, and Levi clenches his hands into fists. Why is his mind showing him these things, he's sure that in just a few more moments Eren is going to disappear in a puff of smoke, or worse yet, attempt to kill Levi, because Levi's absolutely certain now that he's dead, wrapped up in some strange afterlife shit that he never actually took enough time to think about, apparently.

Lost in thought as he is, Levi doesn't notice that Eren's right in front of him, placing a hand around the crook of Levi's elbow. Levi flinches and yanks his arm away, snarling, "What the hell do you think? What is all this shit, huh?" Eren's eyebrows knit in confusion, and Levi presses a palm against Eren's chest, ignoring the warmth there and pushing him backwards, Eren's mouth opening a bit in protest as he stumbles. Levi laughs bitterly, taking a step forward after him. "Is this supposed to be some kind of 'what if' fantasy afterlife? Am I supposed to fall into a false sense of security before it all goes to shit? Huh, Eren?"

Eren reaches out and grips Levi around the shoulders, and Levi knows this definitely isn't Eren, Eren would never be so brazen to do such a thing. But this Eren shakes him slightly, leans right down in his face and exclaims, "Seriously, what are you saying! Levi, did you have a nightmare or something?"

The hands about his shoulders attempt some kind of comforting squeezing motion which makes Levi's heart speed up and his stomach twist. He shrugs Eren off, slips off to the side to move away from him a bit. He can't-- he can't think when Eren's that close, even though he knows it's not Eren, not really, because it can't be. If it were, he'd be explaining to Levi just where he is and what's going on, not getting up in his personal space and touching him like it's something normal.

"What happened to the titans?" Levi asks, crossing his arms. He won't get wrapped up in this fake fantasy, whether it's a dream or a nightmare or some kind of hell dimension.

Eren is starting to look exasperated, and he throws his hands up. "I... don't know? I'm more worried about what happened to you."

Levi scoffs, tossing his head to the side. He's not going to get anywhere with this fake Eren, so he marches toward the door, making his way down the stairs he'd just heard Eren climbing not long ago. Not too surprisingly, he hears footsteps rushing after him, and Levi's not sure why it makes him almost want to smile. It's stupid, because it's not Eren, it's not, but he has a feeling that his Eren would be doing the same thing.

Once he reaches the bottom of the stairs, Levi pauses, unsure of where he wants to go. Eren softly bumps into his back, and Levi almost presses back into the warmth before he forces himself to randomly veer off to the right. He ignores the somewhat whiny, "Levi, come on, what are you doing?" and wanders along until he's in a homey little kitchen. He hates that he feels so disoriented; everything feels so off, so completely off, and Levi always has his wits about him, but this, this is something else altogether.

Eren bumps into his back again, and Levi wonders if he's doing it on purpose. He can feel the last vestiges of his control snap, and he whirls around, voice coming out tight and dangerous. "Why are you here, Eren?"

Whatever response he'd been expecting, it certainly isn't this one. The corners of Eren's eyes soften, and Levi feels himself freeze as the back of Eren's fingers graze his cheek. The skin beneath those fingers feels warm, and his breath catches in his throat as Eren smiles, murmuring, "Why wouldn't I be?"

Truly, his mind is trying to torment him. There is something so fond, so adoring in those eyes, something Levi will admit to longing to see only in the confines of his own mind, and even then it's like mentally pulling teeth. And it's honestly more disorienting than his inexplicable surroundings to see it, to see this look directed towards him, and Eren's tilting forward, thumb rubbing a circle near Levi's jaw, and-- this is--

Levi's stomach goes through a strange, lively fit of tremors at the press of lips against his, and his fingers twist in the front of Eren's shirt without him making the conscious decision to do so. Eren's lips curl up in a smile, and Levi hates himself for giving in to this, even for this small moment, for loving the warm caress of Eren's lips, loving the pleasant feeling pooling in the pit of his stomach.

He jerks away suddenly, running the back of his hand along his mouth. Eren chuckles and asks playfully, "Don't tell me you want your key back?"

Levi lowers his hand just enough to mutter, "You're not... you're not Eren." He's clearly not, because Eren would never look at him like that, would never kiss him that way.

Eren tilts his head to the side. "Levi, really, did something happen? Did you hit your head?" At the glare he receives, Eren shrugs, looking apologetic. "I don't get why you're saying all of these things. I am Eren, I don't know where the titans are, and I think what you really need is to just calm down and have some tea."

It's only because he's more disoriented than he's ever been in his life that he lets Eren guide him by the shoulders to sit down in a cushioned chair at a small table. Levi stares blankly at the wood, listening to the sounds of Eren tinkering around in an apparent attempt at making tea.

His gaze slips down to his own hands on his lap, and he turns them over, eyebrows furrowing at the smoothness of his palms. He rubs them together experimentally, frowning at the lack of roughness. Something is really wrong here, but Eren's just kissed him and apparently doesn't know what a titan is and he's brewing tea in an attempt to calm Levi down.

Before he knows it, Eren's sitting across from him, settling two cups on the table and gently pushing one toward Levi, the motions easy, like he's done this a thousand times before. Levi feels a strange tightening in his throat.

Eren rests his cheek against his palm, looking Levi over critically. Levi doesn't know what to say at this point, so he takes a sip of tea instead; it tastes good, just like his Eren had learned to brew it, and he closes his eyes momentarily. He doesn't want to think, at least for a few moments, but then Eren's contemplative voice reaches his ears. "I think maybe you'll feel better if you go see Petra."

Levi's fingers loosen around the cup, and it hits the table with a loud clatter, the hot liquid spilling over the tabletop. "What the--!" Eren cries out, jumping up from the table and reappearing with a handful of napkins a few seconds later. Levi can do nothing but stare, his heart thumping and his body feeling strangely numb.

It's only when Eren looks back up to him, eyebrows creased, that Levi says hoarsely, "Petra's dead."

Eren's eyebrows disappear into his hair and his hands leave the soggy napkins to wrap around Levi's shoulders once again. "No she isn't, Levi. She lives right next door."

Levi's fingers dig into his knees, eyes boring into Eren's, and try as he might, he can't detect a lie there, can't see anything murky hiding amidst the earnest gaze. "She..." he murmurs pathetically, unable to finish the thought. He can see her broken body perfectly in his mind, and he knows that is the reality; this, whatever this is, is not.

"Come on, let's go over right now," Eren says determinedly, practically manhandling Levi out of the chair, and Levi panics suddenly, reaching a hand out to grip at Eren's arm. Eren looks at him in surprise, a question on his lips, but stops at the look on Levi's face.

"Eren..." Levi can feel his head pounding, the blood rushing in his ears, and he feels sick to his stomach, weary and confused. "Something's wrong."

"I know that," Eren replies quietly, looking somber, and that is somehow familiar, the slight furrow, the seriousness in his face, but Levi knows that this isn't the right Eren, his Eren.

"No, I..." Levi doesn't know how to explain this, if he even can, if it even matters if he does. "I'm not... I'm not your Levi."

Eren's eyebrows furrow further, and he mutters, "You're not making sense. Actually, you're starting to scare me."

Levi closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. He's more than aware that none of this makes any sense, but apparently this is the world's shitty way of deciding to fuck with him, so now he has to somehow deal with it. He opens his eyes again, stating matter-of-factly, "I'm not your Levi, and you're not my Eren."

He doesn't wait for Eren's protest, he can see it already forming on his lips, so he raises his other hand, lets his fingers graze those lips to stop the words from coming out. "Listen to me," he says, and the seriousness of his voice must be enough to keep Eren from arguing. "I am a soldier. I fight in humanity's war against the titans, monstrosities that feast on humans, and my Eren..." Levi hates the feel of those words, 'my Eren', leaving his lips, but he tries not to dwell on it. "My Eren fights with me."

There's a curiousness in Eren's eyes now, and Levi wonders if there's any chance of his story sounding plausible. Probably not, but he continues on. "Petra is dead. She died in battle." He can both see and feel Eren's lips turning downward, but he still doesn't interrupt. "I don't know what... what this is, what this world is. But I've never seen this place before, and I have no idea why you're here, or why Petra is alive and lives next door, or--"

Eren's finally had enough, and he bats Levi's hand away. "Levi, I don't... I don't know if you're trying to pull my leg here or something, but you're freaking me the hell out."

Levi looks away from Eren's face, looks at his own hand grasping at Eren's arm. He should let go, should walk off to try and find some kind of explanation for all of this. But-- he's afraid, yes, Humanity's Strongest is afraid, and if Eren is here with him, wherever this Eren has come from, Levi wants to stay here.

"I don't know if the Levi you know has ever lied to you?"

He directs the question toward Eren's shoulder, only glancing up when Eren doesn't answer. He looks conflicted, and Levi knows it's confirmation that the other Levi hasn't.

"My Eren watched his own mother be eaten alive by a titan," he states factually, watching Eren's face twist in horror. "He joined the military to obliterate the monsters that terrorize humanity, and the first time I met him, I promised to take him under my care."

Levi looks off to the side, then marches over and grasps a knife from the counter, ignoring Eren's shocked gasp. Without looking away from Eren's wide eyes, he flips and twirls the knife in his hands, back and forth, and he can see Eren's eyes trying to follow the motions. "This is how I slice the titans, how I kill them," he informs Eren, then darts forward and slices a deep line into the wood of the table, watching Eren jump.

It's quiet for a long moment, the air thick with tension. "I'm not a liar, either," Levi says firmly, finally letting the knife drop with a clatter. "I wouldn't lie about this, and I wouldn't... lie to you." God, it sounds so utterly sappy coming from his mouth, but he needs to say something to get Eren to believe him.

Eren lets out a noisy sigh, running a hand through his hair. Levi crosses his arms across his chest, waiting for some kind of response. When it appears he's not going to get one, he huffs, "Do you believe me?"

Eren bites at his lip, looking agitated. "Um... you're sure you're not shitting me?" Levi raises an eyebrow, and Eren rushes on, "I mean, if you're trying to tell me you're not-- Well, then what happened to the Levi I know?"

Levi's lips twist. This doesn't seem like some kind of hell dimension anymore, it seems like... another world. And if he's here, then...

"I guess he's where I'm from."

Eren's face pales, and he mumbles, "W-with the... human-eating monstrosities?"

Levi groans and rubs a hand over his face. "This is fucking bullshit, I don't know what the hell is going on, and I know I must sound absolutely insane right now, so you're probably about to cart me off to the loony bin--"

His short tirade is cut off by Eren's hand wrapping around his arm, mimicking Levi's earlier hold. Eren says slowly, "I... I don't know what to say. I'm probably a complete asshole for maybe sort of trying to believe you, but..."

Levi's heart does a hopeful leap in his chest, and the expression must show on his face. Eren's lips twitch into a somewhat wavery smile, and he murmurs, "I have something I want to ask you, though."

Levi nods, figuring he should expect as much.

"Your Eren..." The next words are formed carefully, but they still make Levi's stomach twist uncomfortably. "Are you... in love?"

His mouth opens, then closes. He doesn't know what to say to that, because the fact is, he's so in love with Eren that it's pathetic, while Eren feels nothing of that nature toward himself.

Eren raises a hand and places it against Levi's cheek, making him jump. "Your face is red," Eren says, a small smile on his face. "I guess that's a yes?"

Levi twists his head away from Eren, feeling embarrassed and yet again completely out of his element. "Shut up, don't talk about things you know nothing about."

He can hardly believe the gall of this kid, to be laughing so easily before him. "I think I know quite a lot about it, since I'm in love with you as well."

Levi's breath leaves him in an awkward rush, and he's aware of the burn still persisting in his cheeks. "Maybe you are, but he's not," he replies tersely.

Eren's lips are still quirked in a half smile. "If he's me, then I think he has to be."

"You're wrong," Levi dismisses, frowning. "It doesn't matter, anyway. There's much more important shit to worry about, here."

The look on Eren's face changes instantly, and he appears contemplative, only articulating his thoughts after a few long moments. "Maybe this is an alternate personality that you never knew you had."

Levi stares at Eren for a minute before realizing Eren's just implied that he's crazy. Levi cuffs him across the back of the head, enjoying the pained yelp the action earns him. "I'm not fucking crazy, you piece of shit. I'm not afraid to kick your ass if you make more quips like that."

Eren rubs at his head dejectedly. "But seriously...! It's easier to believe than you being from some other world where monsters roam freely."

Levi snorts, lips twisting into an ugly grin. "It's funny, people can't even imagine a world where titans don't terrorize humanity, and here you dismiss their existence so easily."

"Well, what am I supposed to say!" Eren cries, shifting around uncomfortably. "You... I mean, you're Levi. I'm looking right at you, and you're telling me you're not." He pauses. "I really think you'll feel better if you see Petra."

"I don't think seeing my dead squad-mate will help me regain the marbles you think I've lost," Levi replies bitterly.

"My mother's fine, I just talked to her yesterday..." Eren murmurs distractedly, looking off to the side, and Levi smacks his arm this time.

"I didn't say your mother died, I'm saying the Eren I know-- fuck, this confusing," Levi mutters, rubbing at his temple. Eren mutters something to himself, rubbing at his arm, and Levi scoffs, because he'd purposefully held back on that smack.

Eren sighs and sinks back into his chair, looking frazzled. "This is either an extremely elaborate prank that you've gone to great lengths to play on me, or..."

Levi sits back in his own seat, frowning slightly. "Or I'm telling you the truth."

It's silent for awhile, Eren looking conflicted and rather dazed. Levi feels a little bad for him, but not as bad as he feels for himself. This is too real to be a hallucination, but at the same time, how can it be real? Yet Eren's sitting before him, face shifting between expressions, probably not even realizing he's making soft sounds of contemplation. It makes Levi want to kick him, because it's both stupid and endearing.

Eren's gaze focuses on him suddenly. "Why would you want to go back there?" He pauses, then adds quickly, "Not that I believe you, of course."

Levi rolls his eyes, but otherwise stays quiet. How is he supposed to answer that question? Maybe fate has taken pity on him, scooping him up and depositing him into this peaceful existence, one where Eren has a key to his home, where Eren kisses him and touches him and maybe really loves him.

But Levi can feel it in his gut - his world, his Eren, it's still out there, somewhere, and...

"I don't know," Levi mutters softly, because he doesn't. Is he being stupid? Is this his chance at happiness? Or is there another version of him being eaten by a titan right now, Eren watching, his Eren, the Eren he's fallen in love with, the one he's sworn to protect?

He sighs wearily. "But why would you want me?" He looks into Eren's eyes as he continues, "I'm not the person you... say you love. I don't know anything about you, and he's... probably off getting himself killed, actually." Eren looks pale at that statement, and Levi bites the inside of his cheek. He probably shouldn't have voiced that thought, but it's too late now. "I don't know much of anything right now, but I do know that I need you on my side."

There may be some sweet, very much alive neighbor-Petra here in this world, as well as who knows who else, but Levi knows the one he needs right now is Eren. Eren, who's thinking hard, whose eyes are now alight with the kind of passion Levi's seen many times before as he proclaims, "I'm on your side, Levi." He stretches a hand across the table, not quite touching Levi. "I may not believe you completely, but... if there's someone who's going to be on your side no matter what, it's me." With that, he smiles, earnest, with just the smallest quiver in his lips, and Levi finds it hard to fight a small smile of his own.

"Good," he says simply. It's nice to know that some things haven't changed.

Chapter Text

"This is ridiculous."

Levi almost does something childish like fold his arms across his chest, but he catches himself just in time, instead moving to rest his chin in one hand. Eren raises an eyebrow at him, making no move to stop what he's currently doing.

"Well, you don't want to leave the house, so..." Eren trails off, his eyes drifting back downwards as he deals a set of cards to both himself and Levi. It's getting incredibly difficult for Levi to resist the urge to fold his arms in an act of petulance; he does end up letting out an irritated huff, in the end. His lips thin as he watches Eren try to suppress a smile.

He should be... doing something. Not that he has any idea what, of course, but sitting at the kitchen table and playing a hand of cards doesn't quite seem like the correct course of action. Not to mention that Eren seems way too calm here, like it's just a normal occurrence for a man that looks exactly like someone he knows to claim he's from another world.

Without realizing it, Levi huffs again, and this time Eren meets his eyes as he finishes up with the cards. "You're usually good at this kind of stuff." He pauses, shuffling his own cards a bit awkwardly. "I mean, not you, I guess. But don't you like playing cards?"

"There's not really time for such things," Levi replies, frowning. Quiet moments are usually spent poring over paperwork, or other such tasks. Now that he thinks about it, he's not sure when he's last done something as mundane as playing cards to pass the time.

He straightens in his chair, plucking his hand off the table. Eren looks up in surprise, and Levi smirks. "Just because I'm rusty, don't think I'll go easy on you."

--

It only takes Eren just under an hour before he appears to get tired of his own proposed game; apparently, Eren is a sore loser, which doesn't surprise Levi too much. He thinks about coercing his Eren into playing cards with him, and the smirk that twists his lips initially turns into something more like a grimace.

He stands up suddenly, Eren jumping a bit in his seat in alarm. "Levi?"

Levi doesn't answer, hovering momentarily before making up his mind. He strides out of the room determinedly, brows furrowed. Maybe if he leaves this house, this-- illusion, or whatever it is, will shatter, and he'll be back where he should be.

He can hear Eren trailing after him after a moment, but he pays him no mind. Levi pauses in front of the large door that appears to lead outside, his hand hesitating just briefly over the doorknob before yanking it open.

"Levi!"

The panicked shout behind him is unnecessary, as is the way Eren runs up and places a hand on his shoulder. Levi is frozen to the spot, eyes wide in horror, knuckles white where they grip the doorknob. It's not fading away, any of it, and seeing it like this, not through the glass upstairs, only makes it seem all the more real, even though he knows deep down that it isn't.

"Levi," Eren says again, softer this time. His hand remains on Levi's shoulder, his other hand moving to gently pry Levi's iron grip from the knob. Levi doesn't fight it, letting both arms hang awkwardly at his sides.

"It's okay," Eren murmurs, and Levi hates the softness in his tone, the care in it. Eren thankfully releases him, moving to close the door gently. He turns back to Levi and repeats after a moment, "It's okay."

It's not, it's really fucking not, but Levi can't quite find his voice. His hands curl into fists, and he steps past Eren, toward the stairs. Without turning, he knows Eren is following after him, which is the last thing he wants.

He whirls around, keeping his voice as steady as he can when he speaks. "Don't follow me."

Eren's look of hurt is quickly morphed into one of understanding, and he nods. "I'll be here if you need me," he says, stupidly earnest, and Levi almost fools himself into thinking this is the Eren he knows.

But it's not, so he doesn't reply, just turns around and stalks up the stairs as quickly as he can without looking like a desperate man.

Everything seems to be passing by him in a blur, and he moves mechanically into the room he'd woken up in, the room that's not his, it's someone else's, but he doesn't know where else to go. He hates this feeling, this helplessness; it's not something he's used to dealing with, and he can feel panic welling up in his chest, enough to knock the breath from his lungs.

Levi sinks down onto the bed, crawling forward on his knees until he can press his face into the pillow. It's almost comical that opening a door and looking out at a bright, beautiful street can make him have a panic attack, can make him almost miss the serenity of killing a titan.

He lets out a bark of laughter against the soft fabric, pressing his forehead firmly down, hair fanning across the pillow, chin tilted away so he can breathe. Not that his attempts at breathing are working correctly right now; it's all coming out in choppy gasps of air, and Levi's arms feel embarrassingly weak, leading him to sag further down onto the bed.

Maybe he can suffocate himself, and he'll wake up in his own room, or maybe he'll actually die, for real this time; that would certainly be a better fate than this, that much is for sure.

Levi crumples awkwardly onto his side, fingers gripping the pillow tightly. He needs to be rational, that's all, think rational thoughts, but it's incredibly fucking difficult when he doesn't know where the hell he is or what's going on. What if this is it, what if this is his life now? What if he can't adjust, he knows he can't, already knows it, he'll go crazy, he already is half crazy at this point, probably, and he lets out another laugh, weaker and pathetic-sounding, this time.

Of course his mind decides this is the perfect time to remind him of things he should regret about his life, selfish things, maybe, like how he should have let himself look at Eren more freely, sometimes, let himself enjoy Eren's presence without worrying over his own muddled feelings, because now all he wants is to have Eren here with him, even-- even though he wouldn't be able to make sense of what's going on either, Levi wants to see him more than anything.

His breath leaves him in a rush at the soft, "Levi?" that reaches his ears, and the painful thump of his heart makes him want to shred the pillow in his hands, because it's not his Eren, and he'll most likely never see him again.

Levi closes his eyes, and it's childish, he knows that, but he doesn't care - what does it matter, now. He listens to feet shuffling closer, hesitancy obvious, and Levi's fingers unintentionally twist further into the pillow.

"Are you okay?"

Levi ignores the quiet question, but isn't able to ignore the way the bed dips beside him. "What are you doing?" he grunts, not turning around, mostly because of the way all of his limbs seem to be frozen in place.

Eren shuffles around a bit, and Levi assumes he's just sitting down, which he's thankful for, because if Eren touches him right now he's not sure what he'll do.

"Nothing," Eren murmurs, and Levi hates the way his heart starts to race. He scrunches his eyes shut tighter, like it will help. It's quiet, aside from the sounds of Levi's labored breathing; he attempts to control it, somewhat, but it's not any easier to think rationally with Eren so close.

"I was worried," Eren admits eventually, and Levi feels him shift again. A hand is brushing against the back of Levi's neck, suddenly, and he jerks away, skin erupting in goosebumps.

"Don't," he hisses, and it sounds awful to his ears, a desperate sort of sound. Eren stops immediately, pulling his hand away, and Levi can envision the hurt expression perfectly in his mind. He opens his eyes to stare blankly at his hands, curled pathetically as they are, and he loosens his grip, lies them carefully onto the sheets.

"Levi."

He fights the urge to close his eyes again at the way Eren says his name, the way that his Eren never has; never has he even uttered 'Corporal' with the amount of emotion he's just heard his name spoken. His stomach twists into a knot, and he curls his legs upward more, realizing too late that the position leaves him looking even more vulnerable.

"Talk to me," Eren mutters, sounding mildly frustrated; Levi thinks it's probably for the best, because the sooner Eren gets aggravated, the sooner he'll leave Levi alone. But it appears it's not meant to be, as a gentle hand is now sitting on his shoulder, and he freezes up just the way he had before. For some reason, he can't find his voice, can't spit out the words he should be saying, the words to rebuke Eren once more.

"About what?" he chokes out finally, the skin beneath Eren's hand far too warm. Fingers press gently against him, like it's a normal thing to do, and Levi still can't find it in him to shake Eren off.

"Anything," Eren replies softly, running his hand carefully along, gently squeezing the top of Levi's arm in some attempt at comfort. "How about the last thing you remember?"

Levi's stomach flips at the question, and he opens his mouth to answer, but finds he doesn't know what to say. He distinctly recalls being sure that he had been dead when he'd first awoken, but he can't exactly remember why he'd been so certain. The realization makes him feel a fresh rush of dread, and he clenches his jaw, eyes falling shut once more.

"I... don't know," he manages, head spinning. Why is it that he can't remember? Will he start forgetting other things, too? Important things, things he holds dear in his heart, in his memories, things that make him himself?

He doesn't even realize Eren has shifted again until he is pressed right along the curve of Levi's back, hand gently wrapped about his waist. "Stop," he mutters, hand shooting down to tug at Eren's, but that's a bad move, definitely, because it only takes a slight maneuver for Eren to twist things around so that he's carefully cradling Levi's hand. He feels so weak like this, like he can't do anything, can't push Eren away, can't protest, can't fight the way his heart rate is picking up, the way Eren's warmth seems to seep right into his bones.

"It's okay," Eren whispers, breath tickling the back of Levi's neck, and he's suddenly painfully aware that he's trembling, and it's less from being afraid and more from the fact that Eren is holding him this way.

"This isn't..." he murmurs, voice dying away pitifully. Eren presses his forehead against Levi's shoulder, and he's sure his heart is trying to leap out of his throat. It isn't fair, that this Eren can just hold him so easily, unravel him like it's nothing; it's his own fault, really, for being weak.

"Don't worry," Eren breathes, warming his skin and making him shiver more than he already is. "We'll figure it out."

Levi's heart thumps at that 'we', and he takes a deep breath, trying and failing not to sound like a dying man. Eren doesn't comment, just holds him closer, and Levi wants to scream, because he shouldn't feel this way; this isn't the Eren he knows, but it's so very easy to pretend that it is, and it makes his heart stutter and accelerate, makes his skin tingle and his ears heat up.

The worst part of all is how he isn't really panicking anymore, how he's more focused on the feel of Eren, how this attempt at calming him down has seemed to work out. He wonders how many times this Eren has done this, has cradled his Levi in his arms, has whispered soft words against his skin.

"Be quiet," he says, but it doesn't come out quite as annoyed as he'd been aiming for. Eren lets out a soft laugh, but doesn't say anything, doesn't pull away. Levi's torn between wishing he would and hoping he won't, which he knows is a dangerous train of thought, but for now, just for now, maybe he can let himself be weak.

The tension leaves his body slowly, and Levi would feel wonderfully content, if it weren't for the nagging little voice in the back of his mind telling him that something is seriously wrong. He knows that, but there's nothing he can do, and it's nice, like this, so maybe he'll let himself be indulgent, for once; it's probably too late, now, but he doesn't want to think about it.

"I'm here," Eren murmurs, running his fingers along Levi's arm, making his skin feel feverish and his stomach clench. Levi doesn't try to fight it, focusing instead on trying to will himself to stop shaking. He hopes that Eren believes he's still panicking, as pathetic a thought as it is.

It feels right, the way Eren's body curves into his, the way he seems to fit perfectly against Levi's back. There's a comfort in his hold that Levi has never realized he would even desire, something he hasn't considered indulging in with his role as Humanity's Strongest. It makes him feel so very weak, initially, so exposed, but he can't deny that he feels content in a way.

If it were anyone else, Levi's sure that he would have beheaded them for making a move to touch him like this, but it's Eren, even if it's not--

Levi lets his eyes flutter open for a moment, lets his gaze travel down to where Eren is tangling their hands back together. The sight leaves him conflicted, his heart stuttering along while his mind whirls in confusion; the more he stares, the more Levi frowns, and he eventually grits his teeth. A strange sort of burn tickles the corners of his eyes, and so he shuts them again. He doesn't want to think about the things he regrets, because he's certain he will truly go mad then, if he hasn't actually done so already.

"I'll stay with you," Eren breathes suddenly, the warmth of his breath and his words enough to make Levi feel like he's melting, melting into Eren's embrace, into his easily-spoken promises. Though his mind tries to tell him this isn't real, the emotions Eren is expressing aren't meant for him, they're meant for someone else, Levi can't help but feel selfish, can't help but want to pretend, at least until his brain finally snaps and he's not aware of anything anymore.

He should rebuke Eren, but what he says instead is, "Alright."

Eren doesn't disappear in the moment Levi gives in, which is something Levi hadn't been quite aware he'd been afraid of. The warmth is still real and solid, the tenderness enough to make him want to squirm. He doesn't, he doesn't move at all, just lies there with Eren draped around him, his heart heavy and light all at once.

It's comfortable, right, and other things Levi doesn't want to think about. If he could just not think at all, he'd be in incredibly good shape, but that's not an option.

Unexpectedly, he feels a heaviness start to settle over his body, and the panic he expects to rush through him never comes. It's almost like it would be okay if he were to stay like this, if he were to fall asleep in Eren's arms.

When Eren murmurs another soft, "I'm here" against him, Levi doesn't fight the warm feeling in his chest, a feeling that spreads all through his limbs; instead, he keeps his eyes closed, lets the foreign comfort of another person so near carry him off into sleep.

--

He dreams of home, of the chill that seeps into his skin in the hallways on a damp night, the feel of his blades grasped firmly in his hands, the curve of a mouth on a face he can never get out of his mind no matter how hard he tries.

It's those final images that are in Levi's mind as he shakes off the sleep he had been pulled into. He shifts his head slightly, wrinkling his nose at the odd softness against the side of his face.

Levi remembers then, remembers where he is and what's happened - not that he actually even knows, really. He resists the urge to sit up and reach for his nonexistent blades, and lets his eyes slide open sluggishly. The ugly purple blanket is the first thing he sees that makes sense, and Levi groans. He had hoped, deep down, but truly, he'd known he'd still be here.

It isn't until he actually sits up that he recalls Eren wrapped all around him, Eren breathing, Eren's words. He freezes, glancing over to the spot where Eren should be, but isn't. There's an irrational part of him that's afraid, afraid that maybe Eren has indeed vanished, but he quashes that thought down immediately.

For all of his promises to stay, though, he's certainly nowhere to be found. Levi's lips thin as he stands up, not letting himself fully delve into the feelings of annoyance within. He supposes Eren has finally realized Levi isn't the person that he knows, and that's something he should be happy about.

As he makes his way down the stairs with just the slightest trepidation, Levi realizes he's pretty fucking hungry. At least he actually knows where the kitchen is, which is about all he can be sure of right now. Hopefully this house has something edible in it, or Levi will know he really is in hell.

He's always been quiet, it's simply a given after living the life he has. There will never be room for fuck-ups over something as asinine as being clumsy and loud in the middle of an expedition.

Eren can't be faulted for not hearing him enter the room, his serious gaze directed toward the table where he has two sets of cards spread out. It takes Levi a few moments to realize Eren is playing against himself, and further deduction leads him to realize that Eren is actually pretty fucking crafty at cards. He can't help his snort of disbelief, and Eren's eyes finally find him, filled with surprise and something else Levi isn't sure of.

It's guilt, he realizes, as Eren awkwardly shuffles around in his seat, lying an arm over the table like it'll hide what he'd just been doing. "Hey, you're up," he says, smiling.

Levi rolls his eyes. He wants to make a jibe about Eren not being there when he'd woken up, but how is it his right to expect such a thing?

But Eren is continuing on anyway, "I had to go to the bathroom and I didn't wanna wake you up getting back into the bed." The words are so strange to watch coming from Eren's lips, and Levi just stares for a moment longer.

He sighs eventually, scratching at his ear as he makes his way over to the table. He sits across from Eren, letting his gaze rest pointedly on the cards spread on the table before he looks back up at Eren. He seems torn, somewhere between guilt and amusement, and Levi finds it hard to keep himself from doing something he shouldn't, like reaching out to ruffle Eren's hair.

"You piece of shit," he says good-naturedly, crossing his legs under the table. Eren's sly grin could light up the room. And fuck, it does more than that, it sparks an unusual feeling in his heart, but Levi isn't one to be poetic, and he's certainly not going to start now.