Over the past few years, Levi gained much knowledge about betrayal. He came to believe that it is close to the worst thing people can do to each other, and it's something that happens more and more as one grows older.
The worst pain in the world goes beyond the physical. Even further beyond any other emotional pain one can feel. It is the betrayal of a friend.
“Sir! Your orders!” Petra's voice cracked halfway through her scream, her eyes watering steadily as her fingers tightened over the blade in her hand. Her eyes were glued on Captain Levi, awaiting the next order, but he said nothing. For the first time in what seemed like ever, he was truly shocked into silence.
His eyes were glued to the holes in the wall; the very same holes that Annie's titan form created whilst she was trying to climb the wall and escape. Except, Annie was nowhere to be seen, and neither was Eren.
Annie's titan form had already started burning up and disappearing bit by bit. Levi could see the panic arising within the soldiers as they understood what just happened; the titan had climbed the wall and escaped with their witness- Eren betrayed them. He and Annie were both gone, now.
“Levi!” That was definitely Hanji; she was the only one who dared to call him by his actual name. “Snap out of it!” Hands shook at his shoulders and his knees buckled under him, not able to hold up his useless body anymore. His ankle throbbed in pain at the movement and he hissed, snapping out of the daze and his grey orbs connecting with Hanji's.
He didn't say anything. In turn, he turned around and scanned the whole crowd.
Mikasa stood in the back, blank as ever, caught in the movement of pulling her scarf over her mouth and her eyes steering to the ground.
Armin was on his knees on a rooftop, dramatic as ever, as realization quickly dawned on him and the tears started streaming down his cheeks. His best friend betrayed humanity; how was he supposed to come to terms with that?
Even that horse face-Jean, was it?- was shocked into stillness. His freckled friend standing by his side, as always. Both their weapons drawn but neither moving.
He understood; it was easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first.
His eyes turned to watch the wall again, still bewildered. He didn't usually allow his feelings to take over him like this, but there was no way he could have prepared himself for this kind of scenario. He was ready to face hundreds of dead soldiers, but not the betrayal from one kid.
“Levi.” Hanji's voice was urgent by his ear, a simple whisper above the shocked silence. “We have to get out of here. The Military Police will hold somebody responsible.” Her fingers dug into his shoulder as she shook him. “You have to get out of here.”
But her helpful advice was useless now.
A squad of Military Police soldiers emerged from between the ruined buildings, led by no one other than Commander Nile Dawk himself.
And the realization dawned on him.
Other than Erwin, who was probably already in custody no doubt, Levi was the other person responsible for Eren's actions. He was his guardian, and he was expected to put a blade to the kid's neck the very second he acted out of control.
But Eren was in control. That's what made it worse.
He didn't see the dangerous glint in his large eyes like he had seen previously. He was acting rationally by his accord and he was fully in control of the titan form. Knowing he betrayed them knowingly hurt that much more.
He didn't struggle when there were handcuffs clipped onto his wrists and a member of the Military Police was uttering familiar words; he was under arrest and everything he said could and would be held against him at court. Hanji's frantic excuses also registered his ear, but he paid her no attention.
So this was betrayal. It was like being left alone in the desert at dusk without water or warmth. It left your mouth dry and will broken. It sapped your tears and made you hollow.
His eyes remained glued to the wall, hoping to see Eren emerge from the other side with Annie in tow, proving that he was not a traitor. He kept his gaze there until he was forced to turn around and walk.
No such thing happened.
Levi remembered some things more than others, as any sane person would. He remembered the things that brought him joy, and blocked the things which brought him pain. It was basic human desire to want happiness and avoid pain. Unfortunately, right now, some of the memories mixed into both categories.
He remembered the slow, lazy days they spent in the sun. Eren would laugh and point out that he was a workaholic while Levi loosened the buttons on his own shirt and leaned against a tree, filling out a report in the warm sunlight. Levi said nothing at his accusations.
He remembered the rainy, redundant training days. Eren would practice his manoeuvring amongst the trees while Levi grumbled about dirt and tried to fill out yet another report under the protection of thick leaves. Eren would land by him and shake the water out of his hair, just like a dog, and would laugh about it before Levi would shove at him.
He remembered the grouchy, long days where Eren would whine at every single thing but would light up at the mere mention of a reward from Levi.
He remembered the nights they shared; those cold, lonesome nights where Levi would crawl into bed with Eren and let the younger man wrap his warm body around his, a comforting calmness overcoming them both. Somewhere where they could pretend that the whole world wasn't against them.
It was no surprise when Erwin was cleared of charges. He was the Commander of the Survey Corps, after all. He was their leader, their strategist and their guiding light; killing him would be taking away any chances humanity had outside of the walls.
And even though labelled 'Humanity's Strongest', Levi wasn't as needed as Erwin was.
“I came to a decision.” The judge spoke, his eyes boring into Levi across the room. Levi didn't look up; he already knew what the decision would be. Killing him would not help anybody. The two members of Survey Corps by his sides tensed; of course, they expected the worst and would not come to terms with their brave Captain being killed off. “You are temporarily dismissed from all Survey Corps decisions and missions until further notice. You are not to leave the city.” The judge paused, his narrow gaze settling on Levi knowingly, “Is that clear?”
Levi simply nodded.
What irritated him the most in that entire situation was the fact that he wasn’t feeling humiliated, or annoyed, or even fooled. Betrayal was what he felt, his heart broken not just by the guy he was in love with, but also by, as he once believed, a true friend.
He paced on top of the tree, as if he could leave his guilt behind. But it tracked him as he walked, an ugly shadow made by nobody but himself and his own choices.
“You chose the right thing.”
Betrayal gets the best of everybody. It all goes onto a chain reaction. Betray one person and then they betray the rest that's important to them. Betray the wrong person, then you'll want them back. Enemies tell you what you've done, but you will never listen. Former allies become your enemies and then you are the most hated person to everyone.
At least he was.
He couldn't get their looks out of his head. He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration, trying to forget, to erase it all; it's funny how the things you want to forget the most, you remember in most detail. He saw Mikasa give up; something he taught her to never do. He saw Armin break down just as he had seen so many times before; except this time, he hurt him. He saw Jean realize that everything the horse-face ever though about him was true. Marco's betrayed face was like a punch in the gut. But the worst was probably Levi.
He had never managed to shock the Captain to the extent where he completely froze. Except for the one time where Eren took a huge leap and kissed him. But this wouldn't turn out well, unlike the other instance.
He took in a large breath, filling his lungs with the clear air which you only felt outside of the walls. He was completely shattered and realization dawned just how much effort getting to this point was.
Reiner sat on a tree branch not far from him, checking Annie's pulse and murmuring to himself about how she was going to be fine. She was only in shock. Eren scoffed to himself; who wouldn't be in shock after seeing an open mouth of a titan heading for them? Bertholdt sat across from them, his gaze focused on Reiner as it usually was. Ymir, for once, sat completely silently. Looking at her, Eren could tell how shocked she was that he chose to save her.
And Eren would do it again.
People always told him that one life didn't amount to the deaths of many more, but he worked to go around that; one life was just as important as any other and Ymir was no exception. With Reiner's threat looming over him, reminding him that if Annie was turned in, Ymir would die and they would attack the wall again, he truly had no choice but the join the group of titans outside the walls.
He didn't expect to be allowed to go back. Heck, if he did go back the Military Police would be on his ass trying to pin all the problems on him. Ymir's rescue wouldn't matter in this and neither would the fact his decisions kept Reiner and Bertholdt from attacking the next wall. If more walls went down, even more people would die.
“You might think you made a mistake.” Bertholdt's voice snapped him out. “But you didn't.” He looked away from Eren and to Reiner, where the two exchanged meaningful looks. “We want to get the same answers as everybody else. We want to save the people who didn't deserve to die.”
“Don't try to tell me you're the good guys.” Eren snapped at him, his teeth baring. “You broke down the walls. People died because of what you did.”
“We hoped there would be more shifters.” Bertholdt sighed. “Then, the titans which came into the city would be able to turn back into humans.”
“So you would endanger so many lives, just to get back the people you once loved?” Eren snarled again, the tears starting to well up in his eyes. “When you broke down the wall, a lot of people who were loved died.” He added, the images of his mother's body being snapped in half and eaten flashing in his mind.
“We're trying to figure out how to turn people back human.” Reiner spoke, his voice firmer than Bertholdt's. “If that's not important, then I don't know what is.”
Eren didn't answer, and his eyes instead turned to look at Ymir. Perhaps, if they worked together, they could escape the other shifters. The second Annie woke up, their chances would be completely diminished.
But where would he escape?
He couldn't go back. He would be put to death for his choices.
And everybody who has ever trusted him, who ever believed that he was Humanity's Last Hope; they all despised him now. He curled up by the tree, thinking back to Levi's face once Eren decided to climb the wall with Annie in tow.
He cried silently as he remembered what happened mere hours ago.
He cried knowing that the person who loved him, was let down in the most unexpected way.