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The secret to many long marriages within the upper echelons of Eldian society is the acknowledgement that the pairs involved barely spend any time with each other. Captain Levi Ackerman and Duke Zeke Yeager are no exception to this; the dashing captain of the elite Survey Corps and affable, respected court advisor for internal affairs have barely deigned to grace each other’s presence informally for the three years they have been married. In the public eye and to ambassadors, they are a symbol of the transcendence of love above everything – the whirlwind and lasting romance between one of the most respected princes of the Empire, and a humble alpha from the gutter.

In the palace, everyone knows better; knows that the two disagree on almost everything in every fortnightly state meeting, when it comes to strategy or espionage, cannot bear spending any time with each other outside of required events. It’s a miracle, some courtiers whisper, that the Duke can withstand such a surly husband. No wonder he seeks more pleasant company in his bed.

It's a miracle, the soldiers chatter to themselves, amidst drinks, that our captain puts up with his husband’s indiscretions.

In short – there is no love lost between the two of them; neither of them wait for the other in the late hours of the night, or spend the day writing and passing epistles of their grand affections for one another – or perhaps Zeke does, when he is bored - if only to see how far Levi can maintain his temper and not appear as if he is about to lose his wits over the falling price of apples in the South. Today has been no exception; they had argued quite volubly in the morning, much to the rest of the room’s weary amusement.

“I don’t see why you can’t divorce each other,” Petra, one of his squad, says as they convene in the training ground before lunch. “You clearly aren’t happy with each other.”

“Well,” Levi says grudgingly. “That’s his decision. And it’d be better all-round if he makes it.” There are strange, courtly rules that govern their relationship – or lack of one, as well as societal compulsion; an omega divorcing an alpha is somehow seen as tasteful; the other way around implies something is wrong with the omega, limits their social chances of remarriage for life. And that’s the end of that conversation – even if he sees the other members of his squad exchange worried glances. He doesn’t think much of the whole affair as he changes out of uniform after training, as he walks back to his apartment with a box of tea newly acquired from the kitchens. He does however, feel his suspicion increase when he notices the slight opening that has been left on the main door to them – and he feels nothing but weariness when he sees who his unexpected visitor is.

Zeke is lounging on one of the low sofas in the reception chamber – Levi’s favourite one, where he likes to relax by the fire in the evening – and reading. There’s a half-drunk glass of wine next to him, a manuscript in one hand, the text of which he is peering at with a frown. He hears the door click shut, glances up with a look of mild surprise, as if he’s suddenly found himself in the wrong room. This, Levi knows, is bullshit because there is nothing Zeke does that is unintentional, if he can help it; it’s defined the entirety of their relationship.

For a moment, they stare at each other in complete silence – two individuals whose trajectories have never deliberately crossed. In the firelight, Zeke’s eyes almost look golden, hair suffused with the flickering glow of the flames. There’s something a little off about his appearance too; it takes a while for Levi to realise why. He’s wearing less layers than he normally does – he’s dispensed with the fur-lined, high-collared cloak he favours for the winter months. Instead, his tunic – Survey Corps green – is only loosely laced, and there’s an unusually wide expanse of skin on display, from the firm, solid line of his long neck, to the broad span of his collarbones.

“Why are you here?” Levi says, eventually.

“Am I not allowed to visit my husband?” Zeke retorts, leaning back and stretching out his legs even further. He lies back on one of the arms, tips his head backwards slightly to look at him, the bob of his larynx as he swallows suddenly prominent amidst the utter casualness he exudes. It’s the one sign of something other than nonchalance, and Levi realises with clarity that it’s nothing other than apprehension. Which means that for once, he might have the upper hand. It’s a rare position to be in. “After all, he never visits me. And I get so lonely, sometimes, without him.”

“Well,” Levi says, eyes narrowing. “I think that your husband would like you to drop the act and tell me what you’re really here for.”

“Mm,” comes the vague reply. “Tell me, Levi, have you ever thought about actually taking a lover? I feel as if it would make you much more relaxed. It can’t be healthy to be so aggressive all the time.”

“Unlike you, I actually respect the sanctity of marriage,” he says, cannot help the note of bitterness that enters his tone. “Besides, we can’t all be you. It’s one thing for a member of the royal family to sleep around – but I actually have a reputation I care about.” His unwelcome visitor’s smile twists into something sly. He turns over onto his stomach, folds his arms along the top of the sofa arm – props his chin on top of them. His dark velvet cloak hangs over the back like a stage curtain.

“Ah, but is because you care, or because you care about what Commander Smith thinks? Or perhaps it’s both? You know, I’m sure if you approached him, he’d probably say yes without even asking why. Most betas are starved for attention from alphas and omegas, you know. They’re quite remarkable, once you give them that ego trip.

“You would know, of course.” He’s heard the rumours among other squads, when they think he isn’t listening; that his husband is highly selective about the genders he beds – sometimes other omegas, mostly betas, and never alphas. Naturally, most of those who are aware seem to view it as some odd form of respect for his poor, cuckolded husband; that his sexual adventures are permissible as long as it isn’t with another alpha. It might even make Levi laugh in derision, if the very thought of his so-called husband did not make his stomach twist in on itself.

The truth behind Zeke’s preferences is far closer to a matter of biological compatibility than anything else, and certainly not because of some emotional tie to his spouse – it’s not impossible, but certainly more difficult for sexually active omegas to become pregnant when laying with either a beta or another omega. And if there’s anything Zeke despises more, it’s the way his own body rebels against him when he doesn’t drink astringent tea that stymies his reproductive capabilities, and the thought of bearing children. It had been the whole reason Levi had ended up in this sham of a marriage in the first place, because Zeke had somehow thought that despoiling himself would prevent him from being a pawn in a political marriage with another family, would have prevented him from bearing a child he might see die on the battlefield before they even reached their second decade. For someone who’s supposed to be a master strategist, that plan certainly had not been far-sighted.

Unfortunately, his own family had cared far more about his own honour than he had – insisted that he marry the lowly alpha that he had spontaneously chosen to ruin himself with. In return, Levi had benefited somewhat; an exalted position in the army that he had proven himself more than capable of – and more than enough time to spend with plenty of people he would much rather have married, but who would forever be out of his reach. His presence has also helped boost the family’s popularity too – and ironically, Zeke’s, not that it needed any further reinforcement; now he’s seen as one of the people – something that makes Levi feel even more disdainful every moment he hears it.

He kicks the leg of the sofa, feels a sharp pang of amusement at the way Zeke jolts in surprise, as if he’s been so wrapped up in being condescending that’s he’s excluded any other sort of awareness apart from that of himself. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise him. Zeke’s type of self-loathing is grandiose enough to be almost identical to self-centredness. “You have three minutes to answer, or I’m kicking you out. I’m sure you’ve got someone else to warm your bed, waiting for you in your wing.” As he expects, Zeke promptly spends two of those minutes simply grinning smugly; it’s only when Levi actually glances at his watch that he promptly scrambles into a sitting position, eyes wide.

“I need a child,” he says in a rush – and for a moment, the air seems to be knocked from Levi’s lungs. “I need to have a child, and therefore, I need to sleep with -” he pauses, lets his gaze drift across to the fire. “I need to sleep with an alpha. You were the first one I thought of.” Levi makes a sound that borders on – no, is incredulous.

You? Pregnancy?

“Don’t,” Zeke says. “Just – don’t. It was a waste of time coming here, I knew it would be. Ah,” he adds, as if the sudden lightness in his tone might dispel the flicker of disappointment that had crossed his face. “What sort of aberrant spouse have I been, that my husband doesn’t even want to sleep with me?” He rises to his feet, sweeps up his cloak and starts to drape it over himself. “Don’t worry,” he says, grin curling at the edge of his mouth. “I’ll see myself out, don’t worry about anyone talking.” It’s only as he’s two paces away from the door that Levi blinks, realisation dawning as he thinks of the uncharacteristic softness that had been on display, the skin – the display of unguardedness.

“Wait. Were you trying to – were you just trying to seduce me?”

“Oh,” Zeke says blandly. “I’m sorry, I thought that much was obvious. Should I have just draped myself across your bed without any clothes whatsoever? Stripped in front of court and declared my undying love for you? Levi, for someone who grew up in a brothel, you have all the sexual sensibilities of an ascetic. I don’t see why half the court seems to think you’re so attractive.”

“Oh,” Levi repeats mockingly. “No. It’s that you have as much sexual appeal to me as a fucking turd.” A blatant lie, considering sleeping with him had been what landed him in this mess. Even now, there’s no denying there’s a pull to Zeke, when he suddenly decides you’re worth the effort; a desire to worm his way under all that grandiosity, to dig his nails into the cracks in the joints of his persona and pull it apart, to take him apart and reassemble him into something more sincere. Or perhaps that’s just Levi – most of Zeke’s acolytes seem to think its a gift from the heavens to be granted even a fraction of his attention. He must get bored of them quickly; it’s easy enough to know exactly who’s been fucking him, because they reek of Zeke’s scent and complete dejection.

“You certainly weren’t complaining three years ago,” Zeke says suddenly, looking at him through lowered eyelashes. “In fact, I remember you were very -

“Look,” Levi says, pinching the bridge of his nose and motioning towards the sofa again. “Just – sit down and tell me why you’re suddenly so inclined to pop out a brat. This can’t be your idea.”

“Perhaps I’ve grown fond of the idea of rearing a child of my own, and I’ve learned from my grievous mistakes of the past,” and this time he sits in a way that Levi’s used to from strategy meetings, straight-backed and engaged in the conversation. “Obviously, I would like to settle down with my husband.

“You looked like you were about to throw up when Armin started talking about tax rebates for expecting parents this morning.”

“From excitement. Besides, surely that would make us eligible.”

“…you got up, and said – word for word – ‘that tax rebates will only encourage more children to be brought into the world without their consent,’ and that all it would do is contribute to the overall suffering of humanity. Besides, I think the royal family is swimming in enough wealth that you might not miss getting to luck in for a tax rebate. In fact, you were arguing that, right until you went to talk to – ” Levi pauses, eyes narrowing. “You had an audience with Eren, straight after that. What the fuck did he say to make you change your tune so quickly?”

Zeke’s answering smile is rueful.

“Ah, how astute. And – I can’t say anything further on the matter, I’m afraid. Only that the suitable recourse for our topic of discussion was that I should probably bear a child in the interests of…near-future stability for the kingdom.”

“…did you both come to this decision, was this something he told you, or was this one which you decided to make for both of you?” A grimace flits across Zeke’s face, almost too quick to catch – before it settles back into its regular, unreadable geniality.

“I hardly see the point in answering that question. It hardly matters to you.

“It would be my child.”

“…it…wouldn’t have to be.” Zeke says eventually, staring at a point past Levi’s shoulder. His voice is remarkably steady – too steady, considering Levi feels as if someone has pulled the rug from under his feet; in a way that he’s not entirely sure he appreciates.

“I was under the impression that was generally what happened when you got knotted,” Levi says. “In what way wouldn’t it be mine?”

“I could ask Eren to grant us a divorce, afterwards. You would have as much responsibility, legally, for the child as any other alpha – ergo, none.” The thought is not one which Levi feels comfortable with; sits in his stomach like mercury in a pool. He thinks of his mother, of growing up inside the brothel – of always thinking on some intrinsic level that he had never been good enough somehow, to merit two parents instead of one. To hear it being discussed so casually here, puts his teeth on edge. But perhaps that has always been the issue between the two of them; the sheer difference in perspective. He wets his lips, tries to stifle the annoyance that rises in him.

“You say that as if a single parent is a luxury.” he settles for saying neutrally, watches as Zeke’s eyes widen a little; then settles back into placid superciliousness. No apology is forthcoming, however. He’s not particularly surprised.

“Better one parent who might spend more time with you, than two parents who don’t care at all,” he responds, continues to peer at whatever seems to have held his attention. He sprawls against the rest of the seat, arms stretched out against the top, one legs crossed over the other – the image of indolence, as if he hasn’t just asked for something that goes against his very philosophy, and all Levi can think is that something is very, very off in this situation. He wishes he knew what – but Zeke is always like this, so aggravatingly roundabout. “Are you going to fuck me, or not?” There’s a light, friendly tone to his voice; but it’s countered by the careful air about him.

“…what happens, if I don’t?” he says, taking the seat opposite him. He’s greeted with a shrug.

“I took a heat inducer with the wine just now – and don’t look at me like that, Levi, you’re being so staid. I know that it can have side effects, but considering how long I’ve actually been drinking that infernal tea, I thought my reproductive system could do with a…slight boost. It should start in about an hour, and after that – if you don’t want to do it. I suppose – I suppose I can find another alpha. It’s not as if,” he pauses, and Levi watches as his hands tighten a little around the edges of the sofa. “Well,” he says nonchalantly. “It’s not as if they’re in short supply around here.”

Levi isn’t entirely sure why, but that doesn’t quite agree with him; not in any sort of possessive way – more a wave of concern, although he’s not sure where that’s come from either. It’s not as if Zeke is some innocent; he’s probably had far more experience than him at this point. And yet –

“I’m sure you won’t want for any attention, once it starts,” he says instead, sees the way he inhales sharply at the half-denial. “…I don’t know why you’d come to me. There are plenty of – better prospects.” The smile he receives in reply is vague in intent at best. It is not especially reassuring. This is precisely the sort of reason why he feels the need to engage in arguments with him at every court meeting, if only so he can disturb the smug equilibrium Zeke practically bathes in, the rest of the day.

“…I suppose you’re right,” Zeke says slowly. “It’s been a while, that’s all. Since I slept with one, and it wasn’t really in my heat. I don’t think – ah,” he says, leans back and rests his head against the sofa with a sigh. “My goodness, I don’t think I’ve had one of these since I was eighteen. I hated every minute of it.”

And there’s such a strangeness about his tone that it makes Levi sit up in his own chair, exhale slowly as he thinks of all the possibilities that might occur once his husband steps out of the room. He doesn’t think omegas are weak, and he certainly isn’t chivalrous – both of those attitudes are incredibly delusional, but there’s no denying that heat is a bizarre experience; something which makes the individuals who undergo both more aggressive, yet more vulnerable at the same time. And the thought of anyone he knows being exposed like this is – well. He wants to take Zeke apart, not fucking maul him; he’s seen the effects of some temporary matings between two strangers. He’s a result of one, after all.  

“I’ll do it,” he says abruptly, doesn’t miss the way he watches the slow smile spread across Zeke’s face; gets the feeling he’s just lost some fucking game. And he probably has, suddenly finds that he doesn’t quite mind, because for once he isn’t being looked at with derision by him in recent memory. “If you need someone to – well. It’d be better if it were someone you knew.”

“Spoken like a loving husband,” Zeke says, flutters his eyelashes at him mock-coquettishly – and for a moment, all his concern for him disappears under a desire to leave his body outside Eren’s throne room.  “I only hope your years of celibacy haven’t impeded you from getting it up.”

True to Zeke’s word, the inducer doesn’t take that long to kick in, especially with the help of alcohol – in under an hour, he looks distinctly less put together than he had when he’d entered; ironic, considering he’s actually wearing more clothing. At some point however, he loses the cloak again, this time in a pile on the floor, practically melts against the sofa he’s lounging on in a boneless heap. He’s not quite incoherent enough to try and reach for the last half-measure of wine – only to find his way is impeded by Levi, who removes it from arm’s length, places it in some distant corner of the room.

“Let me at least have some measure of relief,” he laments, arm over his eyes. Quite honestly, Levi doesn’t quite see how he’s in pain if he’s still managing to be melodramatic. He swings to his feet, crosses the room in long strides in an attempt to try and find it, tries to grab him by the shoulder to stop him from getting rid of it completely - probably as a teasing gesture.

Levi, who has spent a good portion of the day fending off attacks from training, however, promptly kicks his feet from underneath him, and promptly blanches at the collision between body and floor; sees the way Zeke climbs onto all fours with concern. He's a little cautious about approaching however - Zeke might not be a soldier in the same way he is, but he has a very good reach. He's seen it; even witnessed it once, on an occasion when some war-hungry diplomat had demanded a contest of strength from the royal family as part of a custom they had to honour. His belligerence had disappeared as soon as Zeke had somehow managed to throw his goblet at him and knock him out from across the room. "Why do you always have to take the fun out of things?" Except, it comes out as a stuttered, choked out question. He doesn't move, stays on his hands and knees - and the way he holds himself is almost - 

- Levi places the toe of his boot underneath his chin, tips it up – and is taken aback by what he sees and smells; the stutter of his breathing and the sharp spike of arousal in the air. He’s never really been one for the florid descriptions that populate the torrid romance novels he’s seen some of his men read to each other, but he can see the appeal. Zeke smells desperate to be fucked, a heavy, overbearing scent that settles across the room like a fine mist, creeps into his own senses like an insidious gas – makes him want to sink his teeth into the juncture at the base of his neck as he fucking breeds him –

A sharp whine cuts off his train of thought, and he realises that he’s been releasing his own scent into the air; the sharpness of it cutting through the torpor that Zeke’s own scent seems to induce in both its owner and the other individuals in the immediate environment.

Fuck,” he says, voice strained. “You actually like this.” Zeke stares up at him from his kneeling position, flush spreading from cheeks, stains his neck and chest in blotches. His eyes are wide, his pupils blown – as if he’s just undergone a revelation; Levi certainly has. He isn’t entirely sure how he feels about it.

“I don’t – ” he starts, motionless. His voice however, cracks slightly in surprise. “I didn’t – ” he tries to reassemble his expression into something a little less discomposed, inhales sharply when Levi leans forward, fingers sinking into his hair and pulling his head back the rest of the way. He cups his hand against the side of his face, watches as Zeke’s expression collapses and he runs a hand down his face. “Ugh, fuck – that’s – pretty hard to deny, isn’t it?” He huffs, already making to stand. “Alright, Levi – we can stop, if this isn’t what you’re into. You probably want someone who can give you nice, plain, simple sex, and I can go and find someone else who can – ”

“…I don’t ever remember saying I wasn’t into this,” Levi says slowly, folds his arms. His pulse skips a beat at the sheer look of wonder which crosses Zeke’s face at the comment, is careful to keep his face neutral. “In fact, I think the idea of this is getting more appealing by the second. Tell me, do you do this often with others?” There’s a pause, a heavy flush spreading across Zeke’s cheeks that spreads across the entirety of his face, disappearing underneath his beard. He purses his lips.

"...It's not exactly easy to find someone who wants to do this with the Emperor's brother, you know. Most people are pretty worried that they're going to be punished."

"I'm not surprised, considering it's you they're dealing with. They probably think you're about to lure them into some sort of trap, behead them and steal their land." His husband inclines his head, crawls forward and places his head against his fucking thigh, looks up at him with eyes full of guile. He can feel the scratch of his beard through his clothing. It's all part of whatever this grand scheme is, that Zeke's concocted - Levi's known him for far too long to be taken in. For someone who seems to hold their secondary gender in such contempt at frequent intervals, he’s certainly grown effective at weaponizing it. Then again, that’s one of his strengths.

It's interesting in a way; he's never really seen Zeke try and exert so much control, act as if it's only matter of time before they'll end up sleeping together - he'd been like this too, when they'd first met, as if he wasn't a ball of nerves that had never touched a cock but his own before. He wonders how many people fall for it, let him act as if he knows precisely what he's doing the whole time - wonders if Zeke ever gets disappointed when people just fall into line. 

"And you're not worried that will happen to you?" he's saying. His throat suddenly feels constricted; he lets his tongue dart out - licks his dry lips, sees Zeke's eyes fix on the action.

"Zeke, I don't have any of that to offer." And Zeke blinks, momentarily surprised at the comment before he huffs in amusement, glances away. 

"No," he says, half-mused, half contemplative. "I suppose you don't. Not in the material sense anyway," His brow furrows briefly; it's only when Levi reaches out unwittingly, presses a thumb against the creased lines on his forehead that he glances up in surprise. His hand rises, brushes against his own fingers - as if he's unaware that he's been doing it. "Well, Captain, you have me at your mercy," he sighs, and they both lock eyes - Levi's distinctly unimpressed, and he rises up - still kneeling, raises his hands in supplication. "...sorry, I'm just – ah."

"We should start," Levi says, cutting through his blustering - renews his grip in his hair again, delights in the slight noise of surprise it elicits. "With you taking off your clothes." He leans back and lets go, watches as Zeke’s eyes widen in surprise.

“Aren’t you going to help?”

“I rather think a spoiled prince like you at least knows how to undress himself without any help,” Levi says, lip curling. “You’ve had plenty of experience of that over the years,” and the fucking noise Zeke makes at that comment; both indignant, and also partly turned on is enough to make his own cock twitch. “Of course, we can do this nicely if you comply – or if you don’t, then we can both wait until you’re actually on the floor and trying to fuck yourself. Then again, you might even like that idea.”

He watches as Zeke pulls his tunic over his head, tilts his head consideringly as he takes in the view; his broad shoulders and chest, the skin that sees just enough sunlight not to be thoroughly pale, the way his stomach muscles shift as he pushes his breeches down, the firm thickness of his thighs. It’s not hard to follow the planes of his body, down to his shallow dip of pelvis. His half-hard cock rests snugly in against him. There’s a smattering of pale hair across his chest, his stomach and his arms; a little lighter than his hair and beard.

Zeke has a nice body; this is always something Levi has remembered, even if they haven’t shared a bed ever since they married – both too caught up in their separate worlds being thrown into upheaval and smashed against each other. Levi had despised Zeke then, had thought he was nothing more than a spoiled brat who had no full realisation of consequences, had been too stiff with anger to sleep. On the other side of the bed, his new spouse had barely moved at all, arms wrapped around himself.

But in the morning, it had been Zeke who had spilled oil onto the bed in an approximation of fresh slick, had sat with his back against the wall of the bed and told him a comprehensive plan for the future of their matrimony; had given him every fucking out he could apart from the then socially unacceptable act of divorce. And later on, for all of his own comments about Levi’s upbringing, he’d managed to steer him through state dinners with an easy smile that promised harsh punishment to anyone who slandered his spouse. And sometimes, when they would part ways, late enough in the evening that no-one might notice – Levi would think about Zeke and the way he’d looked, with his eyes bright from overtiredness and alcohol, cheeks flushed – how sometimes, he might lean in a little too closely until his lips brushed the shell of his ear, whispering provocative nonsense about all the attendees.

You did a good job, he’d said one night, after a particularly trying guest. “…thank you.” And Zeke had flushed, suddenly looking far younger, despite the atrocious beard he was attempting to cultivate, the glasses he had acquired over the summer. When they’d arrived at the hallway in which they normally parted, he’d paused for a moment – opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, then closed it – glancing away.

“Have a good evening, husband.” He’d said, instead – and Levi had been left with a strange, insistent feeling – as if someone had reached inside him and hollowed him out completely, like a seashell without an inhabitant. He’d gone to bed then, and his dreams had been full of the expanse of Zeke's back, of hovering over him and running a hand down his chest, of the way he'd slept that night, curled up as tightly as an ammonite.

Age and a shift in royal duties, from military training to organising a spy network has made Zeke fill out; he is not as lean as he had been in the past, and his middle has thickened a little – there’s a definite give when Levi leans over him, keeps him on all fours as he binds Zeke's wrists behind his back with cord. He starts by grasping at his waist – just above his hips and mouthing at the base of his neck, scraping his teeth against the top knob of his spine. His nails dig into soft skin, and the lave of his tongue against his neck – over the red indents he had left – cause Zeke to arch his back, even in the uncomfortable position he’s in. Levi lets his mouth drift across, presses his teeth against his mating gland and feels the slow pulse of slick against the front of his own tunic. Around him, the air is filled with nothing but the smell of their combined arousal. He rubs his clothed cock against him, watches with dark eyes as Zeke tries to rock back against him, breathing shallow and rapid. He reaches for his hair, pulls it back and sideways so he can see Zeke’s expression; the watering eyes, the damp shine of his lips and chin as they wrap around the leather in his mouth. He cups his chin, slides his thumb through the mess, smears it into his beard – rubs his knuckles against his jawline, watches as Zeke seems to press into his touch.

Beautiful, he thinks – and it’s only when Zeke’s breath hitches, and he seems to become even more compliant in his hold that he realises he’s said it aloud. And really, it isn’t embarrassing as he might have found it, when it causes this reaction. He retracts his hand, laves his tongue against each jutting knob of his spine, watches as he twitches and his legs spread further with each graze of his teeth against the thin skin covering his bone, the line of his back threatening to collapse as he shivers into the contact. He looks at the way his back dimples, slides his hands from his waist and presses his index fingers into the divots. He runs his thumbs down his cleft, places one hand on his hip to steady them both – before he moves one cheek, uses it to cushion his face as he runs his nose downwards, hears the hitch in Zeke’s breathing, the whine he makes as it catches on the edge of his rim, goes lower – palms his sac as he spreads his tongue flat across his perineum. It’s already partly wet from where slick has slid down and dripped onto the floor and his tucked, bound hands, and he can feel more trickling down as he continues.

He can feel the way Zeke’s thighs strain in an attempt to hold himself upright, sees the way that his hands have curled into fists. He lowers his head, kisses against his knuckles – watches them unfurl at the contact; takes two fingers into his mouth and sucks the slick from them.

“You’re doing so well,” he says, watches as his body shivers at the compliment. “Fuck, you smell – ” he breaks off, just before he sounds like he’s some cliched, faceless protagonist in the smut books that he knows his men pass around at night; although, he realises with a slight, dull ache – he probably is one to Zeke. It’s easy to forget that, however, when he’s so compliant, lets him press his mouth against his rim and lap up the excess slick that his body generates in broad, rough sweeps of his tongue. He slides two fingers in – then a third, feels the soft give as he crooks his fingers, presses them against his prostate; feels the way he jerks and stiffens under him like rope gone taut. He keeps pressing, stroking the pads of his fingers across, one arm wrapping around his waist, pulling him back and deeper onto his fingers. Slick rushes out, runs down his fingers in sticky rivulets across his palm. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the way Zeke seems to submit underneath him – seems to burrow himself further into his grip.

“Ah,” Zeke breathes, body trembling under the exertion of keeping himself upright. “Fuck, just fuck me Levi, I don’t need you to be nice. Of course you’d make this -” he cuts off, inhaling sharply, because Levi has just pressed the head of his cock against his rim – pushes forward in one go, and he can hear the way the air seems to disappear from Zeke's lungs as the warm heat of his body closes around him, and suddenly, everything narrows down to Zeke and the way he reacts to the drag of Levi's cock against him, how he presses back against him, shudders when Levi bends forward and over him - finds himself drawn to that fucking juncture again and sinks his teeth in.

It isn't enough for a lasting, permanent mark - but the effect is almost the same, and Zeke unravels underneath him, spilling into his hand with a soft noise that he probably hasn't intended for Levi to hear. It's certainly not the last time that evening. He barely stutters when Levi continues to fuck him, every part of him fever-warm, Zeke’s cock twitching back into life as Levi feels him tighten, more warm slick leaking out, smearing against the shallow grooves of his own hips as he presses one hand against Zeke’s back, pushes him down even further; changes the angle of his thrusts. He moves his own hand upwards, spreads his fingers across Zeke’s stomach where he can feel the shallow curve of his cock as pushes back in, rakes his nails across Zeke’s chest and downwards – sharply enough to sting; it’s with another shudder and a half-choked groan that he finishes again with another shudder, legs finally giving out.

“You’ve come twice, and I haven’t even knotted you yet,” Levi says dryly. “You were saying earlier about my inability to get it up?” He rises to his feet; uses the toe of one boot to roll him over until he’s lying in his own cum. He’s certainly a sight, a paradigm of indecency – his hair has darkened at the roots with sweat, and a fine sheen of it runs across his flushed body, from exertion. Saliva pools in the corners of his mouth, and his eyes are almost completely dark. He practically whines when Levi stands over him, presses the sole of his boot onto his chest. Then he smiles, grin sharp as Levi pushes his own dishevelled hair back, into a more respectable style, stares at him with a coolness that is undermined by his own ragged breathing.

“You’re a fucking monster, underneath all of that prudishness, aren’t you, Captain? If I’d known that you were like this, perhaps I wouldn’t have – ”

“We both know you would,” Levi says. “Don’t even fucking pretend. The only time you’d come crawling to me was when you wanted to be bred, like you are now. You’d still be the firstborn prince, with his easy virtue, too terrified to sit on a knot. I had to coax you through that, the first time, don’t you remember?”

“Well, you clearly didn’t do a good enough job if I didn’t -”

“If I recall, you were practically begging for it then,” he grinds his boot down, watches as Zeke jerks upwards. “You were insufferable, even then, but you took it so well. You pulled your knees up, spread your legs. If I’d known how much trouble you were, I wouldn’t even have fucking touched you.”

“But you did.”

“I did, and we’re here now – and you’re still asking me to fuck you because it’s a necessity. Remember, I’m the one doing you a favour here, just like before. Times really don’t change, do they?”

“Mm,” Zeke says, “Well, you didn’t have to agree.” There’s an odd hitch in his tone as he says this, as he glances back, and watches as Levi moves to untie the cord around his hands. When Levi glances up at him, he notes that underneath the clouded arousal, he almost sounds as if he’s musing. Neither of them comment on how Levi’s fingers falter temporarily in their unbinding.

“No,” he concedes. “I didn’t.” More fool, me. But that’s all the thought he’s allowed before he finds himself being pinned on his back – that fucking stretch of arms again, Zeke grasping his shoulder with one – strangely rough, for an aristocrat – large hand and sliding one hand underneath his tunic and across his stomach for purchase as he sinks slowly down onto Levi’s cock. And that’s a revelation in itself, because Levi can almost see why most of Zeke’s bed partners probably do nothing else but lie back when he rides them. He does it so consummately, full lips parted – red and obscene as he grinds down, rolls his hips with a fluidity that suggests extensive practice – and Levi knows this because Zeke has all the innate practical athleticism of a lump of rock; that is to say, not very much – aside from the advantage he has in height and reach. He’s sparred against him enough times to know.

And then he doesn’t think of much, after that; clearly, Zeke doesn’t, either, content to lose himself in trying to go deeper until he bottoms out. He shudders when Levi reaches forward, grasps his thighs and digs into his flesh with his nails – enough to sting. His hips jerk at the sensation as Levi snaps his own hips upwards, mouth opening in surprise – and it isn’t long until he’s tightening around him again as he unravels, the line of his body taut. He’s not the only one this time, either; Levi can feel his base swelling as his knot starts to form – is prepared for Zeke to slip into old defense mechanisms and try and climb off. But to his surprise – and it looks like Zeke’s too – he only sinks further down. A wince crosses his face; it probably would, considering he’s unused to the stretch after so long, but his body certainly seems attuned to it – and he slumps forward, swearing quietly, eyes slightly unfocused as he feels it plug him tightly. His breathing is heavy, and Levi, completely on instinct, feels the urge to stroke his thumbs across his hips as he settles. He smells distinctly less affected by his heat now; knotting tends to take the edge off for a little while.

“…everything alright?”

“It’s – it’s an experience I have to admit I was unprepared for,” Zeke says dryly. “Woefully. I guess I was right about your celibacy because a little warning would have been nice. Is that any way to treat your respected other half?” He smiles ruefully at Levi’s dry, humourless laugh. He shifts slightly, and both of them pull a face as it jostles them both uncomfortably. “Fuck, how long does it take for this thing to go down?” It is not, Levi knows, a compliment. Knots are complicated, painful things for individuals who are not used to them, most of the time.

“That depends on how nice you are to your bed partners.” For a moment, Zeke’s eyes widen as he stares at him, bows his head with a huff of strained laughter. There’s another odd expression on his face when he glances back up, as if he’s nicely surprised.

“That’s because they normally don’t have monster dicks. Did I just hear you make a joke? I must have been good, if I’ve managed to fuck some humour into you. Tell me another one.”

“I’m not some fucking clown.

“I don’t know, I’m starting to think that you have some talent. No, please Captain Ackerman,” Zeke coos, leaning forwards. “Tell me all about all the Marleyans you’ve defeated in battle, all the bandits you’ve defeated, how your magic is incomparable to – ”

“I’m going to fucking dismember you. Or stuff my cravat in your mouth, next time.”

“Keep talking like that, and you’ll actually make me fall in love with you.” Levi hopes Zeke’s joking, but considering his reaction and what they’d done earlier, he’s not entirely sure how lightly he should take that.

He opts for saying something blandly insulting, instead – watches as that sly smile emerges on Zeke’s lips once more, and before they know it, they’ve spent forty minutes passively-aggressively debating the ways in which exporting iceburst stone to Hizuru either benefits, or is to the detriment of – the future of Paradis. It’s almost reassuring in a way; to know that even with this drastic change in personal circumstances and their relationship to each other – they’re still able to fall into their own dynamic.

It’s then that he feels Zeke’s body grow heated again, another surge of slick enough to let his softening knot escape and catch on his rim. The scent of arousal grows in the air again, and before he knows it, the rest of the evening passes by in a daze of sweat and skin. 

It's easy for time in heats to work strangely too - he's not entirely sure how they really manage to move anywhere, considering the focus on well - each other, to the exclusion of everything else. At some point, however, they find themselves on his bed - this time facing each other - and he's struck by the sudden urge to see what would happen if he might kiss him. It's a strange, fleeting thought - entirely too coherent, considering what they've been doing. And it strikes him that it might not be an inherently bad idea. Or perhaps it doesn't seem like a bad idea because his mind seems to have become entirely focused on the man in front of him, and the way his hair spools out across the pillows and his half-lidded eyes that constantly watch him with lazy, unfocused satisfaction. Somewhere, a slightly less base part of his mind reminds him that it's probably a catastrophically bad idea. Thankfully, that reminder is drowned out, the moment he leans forward.

Zeke’s lips are as firm as he had expected, when he’d first pressed against them, and a little chapped too; there’s a softness in the way his lips seem to give. His mouth is hot, and wet – and he can taste a little of his own spend on Zeke’s tongue – but he’s also sure that Zeke can taste the slick on his. His hair – always a little too long – is damp at the base of his neck, when Levi slides his hand across it, twists his fingers into the strands and tugs. He smells of sweat and old arousal, warm body pressed against his; chest to chest, stomach to stomach. He can feel the way Zeke’s hard cock twitches between both of them, the way he tightens around his own cock, already starting to swell at the base as he hooks his legs around him, digs his heels into the undersides of his knees, pulling him forwards and deeper. The entirety of his being feels too sensitive, too aware of the other, too close - and yet, not close enough at all. And when Zeke shudders through what is probably his final orgasm, loose-limbed and limp as Levi locks inside him. There’s a faint noise of surprise when Zeke does feel his knot expand fully, a widening of eyes and another small sound of surprise that’s endearing in its sincerity. His head falls forward, face tucking into Levi’s neck, nosing at his own mating gland – and it must be a sign of how out of it he is, because there’s something incredibly uncontrolled about it.

Again? Is this going to take another hour?” he groans, words half stifled by his current position. There’s no heat in it however –  he seems to have adjusted quickly, in fact, almost seems to press down on it this time.

“Think about it as a very good insurance policy,” Levi says, feeling oddly fond. It’s the combination of satedness and the restful nature of their combined scents, he tells himself – all just fucking nature, rather than any actual sentiment. “The longer it stays, the more likely it is that you’ll get pregnant, surely. And then you won’t have to come to see me again.”

“It had better,” Zeke murmurs. “I don’t know how much time – ” he pauses, sighs. “You know, I think we literally overlooked nearly every sexual education lesson my tutors gave me when I was younger. This has been…informative.

The last thing Levi remembers properly is watching Zeke’s eyes flutter closed, brushing his hair from his forehead and thinking, this might not be so bad, after all.

He wakes to Zeke pulling his undershirt on, watches as his skin is soon swallowed up under his tunic, as he snaps the clasp of the high collar of his outer robe around his neck. Even then, he can see the vague, smudged bruising rise just above it. He must hear Levi stir, because he half turns to him and reaches into the folds of his robes. The next sensation he’s aware of is a thick scroll of parchment hitting him square in the chest when he props himself against the wall of the bed; it appears that his spy-craft and diplomacy has not kept his military training out of practice. He chances a glance outside; dawn has barely broken across the sky, and it’s an hour before the servants will rise to prepare everyone’s chambers for the day. He has half a mind to tell Zeke that he doesn’t have to worry about being seen, if he stays – that he’d long taken over the duties of arranging his rooms himself, then realises it’s not his rooms Zeke’s concerned about being found in; it’s Zeke’s own chambers that he needs to return to, before the gossip starts.

“A thank you present,” the man says dryly, as he fastens the laces of his breeches back together. “For your continued dedication to the empire.” The seal is unbroken, the imperial symbol embossed in stiff read wax. It snaps cleanly when he opens it, reads the words, it is by imperial decree that I, Eren Yeager, Emperor of Eldia hereby acknowledge the dissolution of the marriage between Duke Yeager and Captain Levi Ackerman of the Survey Corps –

He does not need to read any further to know what the rest of the content details; a summary of their shared goods – there are none, the reasons cited – and strangely enough, he’s not sure he’d like to know what Zeke had said in order to secure this. One thing is evident, however.

“You’ve had this since before your heat,” he says, alertness flooding back to him as he matches the pieces together. “You obtained this from Eren, and you still came and fucked me. Why put us both through something we hate?”

Zeke pauses by the door – and for a moment, does not respond or turn around. When he does, it’s with a shrug and a half-amused expression; the type he’d worn the first night, long ago, that he’d come to him asking for help – as if somehow, he had been doing Levi a favour, rather than the other way around. His hand strokes the hilt of his sword and his tone is thoughtful.

“I just wanted to see if it would be worth it. Sleeping with an alpha, after three years.” And before Levi can respond, he’s already opening the door – stepping outside with his head held high, as amiable and as supercilious as always.

When he leaves, Levi can hear the measured pace of his footsteps as they disappear down the hallway; wonders if Zeke might feel ashamed at his forebears’ stares following him down the length of the gallery – painted generations of aristocrats who had probably heard him through the thin plaster walls. Wonders if any of the other courtiers who he walks past will be able to sense that their beloved prince had been on his hands and knees only hours earlier. As his half-lidded eyes lower to the curling, official script on the parchment again, he cannot help but feel bitterness well in him again at the belatedness of it all – and wonders if that fuck Eren appreciates how much his brother will sacrifice for him, ultimately.

“You really are a piece of shit, aren’t you, Zeke Yeager?” he says aloud. The only answer is the echo that bounces around the walls. He stays in bed for only a few more minutes, before cleaning up as much as he can – although the smell of dried slick permeates the room; probably covers nearly every flat surface, and Levi feels more than a little revulsed at how fucking eager they’d both been. He kicks over a scabbard, is momentarily jarred by the unfamiliar design on the leather. He realises why in an instant.

Zeke has taken his sword instead.

One month later, there’s a pounding on his door; he opens it to his ex-husband – who, he might add, he has not seen anywhere apart from official gatherings – and those have been few and far between. His hair is a mess, his glasses are askew, and he carries himself unusually cautiously, as if the only thing which is holding him together are his sleeping robes – which are barely intact, either. The entire hall, Levi realises, must be filled with the smell of pre-heat; the scent fills the air, rests against his skin like a slow, lazy summer heatwave.

“You need to sleep with me again,” he announces, pushing his way into the room before Levi can even speak. “It didn’t work. I suppose it’s because I had not had one of these for years before last month. This is your fault.”

“Isn’t it rather bold of you to assume that I’d help you again?” Levi says warily, as he watches Zeke disrobe immediately – half turned away from him. There’s something mesmerising about the light drop of the material as it pools around his ankles. He runs his eyes up, from his ankles to the taut outline of his thighs, the jut of his half-hard cock. “Besides, I would have thought that you might have diversified in your…options, seeing as I was just there to break the back of your inexperience with knots.”

It’s hard to contain the itch in his fingers to just reach forwards and touch. “Besides, I can’t tonight.” Zeke pauses, eyebrow raised, mouth twitching upwards – with both curiosity and intrigue.

“Why ever not? Have you finally managed to charm someone with those stellar conversational skills of yours?”

“No,” Levi says tersely. “But I’m fairly sure you’re triggering my rut, right now – and that’s your fault, by the way, because I haven’t had one of those for years either what?” And he finds himself pushed back onto the sofa; looks at the shadow of a very naked, very attractive Zeke hovering over him, smile curling at his lips.

“Well, Levi,” Zeke says blithely. “I suppose we’ll have to own up to our respective responsibilities then.”

Its the last coherent set of words either of them makes for a while.