Levi notices Eren rising.
A shadow in the night as the tent flap opens and shuts.
Figuring he needs to take a leak Levi goes back to sleep. Waking hours later, chilled and disturbed to find that the place beside him on the mat still unoccupied as Eren has not yet returned to him.
By how much darker it is in the tent, and how cold it is at the place next to him- Eren must have been gone long.
Thinking of the day before and Eren's solemn expression Levi jolts out of bed. A notion he'd rather forget he'd had, unwilling to be forgotten with the loneliness of the hour. Not bothering to pull on his coat or boots he rushes out from the tent. Narrowly missing tripping over the large pink shell Armin had gifted Eren yesterday, hoping to cheer him. Eren had placed it near him before he'd laid down to sleep. Levi glancing his way, knowing it'll turn obvious as it always does as he continues to look. Eren's disposition quiet. His faced turned away from Levi's not as it typically is when they share a bed. Looking at the seashell, lost in thought or elsewise as he often is nowadays. Levi left to watch merely his soft breaths rising with his chest and leaving from his softer lips. His dark brown hair trailing to rest either at his throat or on the small space between them on the pillow. Tempting him to touch it. Eren always tempting him- Levi turned away as well, having figured it was the time to keep his hands to himself. Surely Eren needs to sleep. He looked tired. More so than usual. Levi expectant that Eren would steal all the covers that night as he typically did. Not only had that not happened as Eren had been restless- odd-
Levi strides quickly past a fast asleep Connie who was supposed to be on night watch for any unlikely titans that were still out there to have missed Wall Maria's guillotine. Past the other tents where the others are not yet awake, up the embankment, past the wall, and down another-
This is the first time that panic has struck him so soundly and he'd not bothered to take his sword.
Levi looks across the dark horizon where the blackened sky meets the blackened water, the sea alight only where the moon hangs above it, the stars higher above.
Amidst that light Levi sees-
He'd not dared to enter the water before, untrusting of the smell that hung around the banks. The sticking sand, the dried seaweed, decay and salt, life and death. Not blood as he was used to for that sense of scent but this foul something else. It'd been unappealing in the heat of the day and it remains even so in the cool of the night.
But wading forward, from his knees to his waist, deeper into the water- beneath the moonlight is Eren.
Fearing that it is not just Eren.
That sleep holds him.
Levi wastes not a moment as he rushes to Eren, through the water. Cold to touch. Eren very much not so when Levi reaches him, gripping his arm firmly and pulling him up from where he'd been reaching. Eren had started to lower himself into the water, bending. As if to go beneath it-
Thinking it will not be Eren of sound mind he'll be seeing, given Eren had not turned to him upon his name being called. Levi is surprised but relieved when Eren's eyes turn to meet his. Also surprised. He'd merely not heard him, concentrating hard at the task he'd endeavored.
"Captain Levi! What are you doing out here?"
Levi's scowl is slight in comparison to previous ones. Unable to completely yet dispel his concern.
"That's what I wanted to ask you."
Eren unbends from his slight crouch, forced to with Levi's hold on him and the few waves that ripple forward with the gentle tide. He'd been reaching for-
"I...couldn't sleep. I just wanted to go for a walk, clear my head. I was walking along the shore when I saw a seashell like the one Armin gave me... I figured I'd give him one too but it was farther in the water than I anticipated..."
Eren bites his bottom lip briefly, brow furrowed as Eren recalls what happened.
"And then the water started moving and the shell started moving I think an animal got it before me because it just kept going deeper into the water..."
Levi is full on scowling.
"And you went with it?"
Even in the dark, Levi can tell Eren's face has turned pink.
Eren nods sheepishly, turned away from him but it is Eren for certain who is speaking. Levi relieved for that aspect.
Eren has not been himself lately.
The responsiblity is more than Levi had anticipated. More than he could have known from all the years he's lived. What came with having the titan's power. The True King's legacy. The Coordinate. It was dragging Eren with it, not bothering to carry the weight of the lives that had been sacrificed to preserve it and leaving that instead to Eren. As soldiers it is their responsibility to take on the burden of the fallen, since it'd be expected should they fall that their comrade who survives the battle take upon them that life they won't live and live in their stead. For a better tomorrow, a future they fought for.
But Eren knows.
It is heavier than all the lives they've lost, sacrificed and thrown away.
Just to see this sight before them.
I will be free.
Eren has had this very thought.
How many times?
As countless as Levi has had it?
Even more Levi is sure.
No one had hated the titans, the walls- constrictions more than Eren.
Nobody dreamt of this horizon, waters of molten fire, lands of ice, fields of sand- the sea- as much as Eren had. Not for what they were but what they would mean. Armin had made a vision for Eren, but Eren had given that vision meaning.
If I see such sights that none else in these walls have ever seen before, I will be free. Freer than any other being on this earth.
Such was his ambition.
Such is his desire.
But at the end of this dream, the truth holds reality.
The history they repeat, the fate they are doomed to meet.
The walls can come down, the titans they'd feared are no more upon their lands.
Eren has reached the sea, thinking, dreaming, believing- beyond it.
Is that freedom he has fought for.
Will die for.
Beyond the sea.
Is the real enemy.
The reason for the walls, the true forgers of their swords, the depth behind their sorrows.
Fellow human beings who do not regard them in kind, and it does not pass Levi, this irony with every trial and tribulation Eren has had to face- they are why they are not yet free.
Eren's voice draws Levi out from his contemplation. Eren is frowning, squirming beneath his grip that had tightened harshly, strongly.
"Sorry," Levi says, relenting his hold but still keeping it there. As if untrusting that should he left go of Eren, Eren would dissappear from before him. Into the very shadow he casts.
Eren stares at the water between them, the ripples overlapping over their slight movements. Stilling.
Eren draws a breath, about to speak but thinks better of it. Mouth frowning as he keeps his gaze downcast, trying to think in his opinion- of something better to say.
Levi gets straight to the point.
"What did you come out here to think about?"
Asked so forwardly, Eren's long eyelashes flutter before he deigns to reply. A morose nuance to his features, already taunt and haunted by experiences not his own, and echoing of his own. Worn and tired. Levi feels the pinching of guilt as he considers that even as such Eren is still too beautiful. Levi regrets the question only within the seconds he's not given an answer.
Eren is still looking upon the surface of the water. Unseeing it. His hand folds over Levi's that has not moved from him, tense and telling. The lighted surface of the water stirs with every breath, but beneath the water where their bare feet dip into the sand it is still.
"I... I don't know what it is I should do anymore."
Ripples begin and end into another as Eren continues, voice quaking as his tears fall, joining with the sea.
"Can you please tell me sir?"
And Eren is raising his face, his lost and uncertain gaze meeting Levi's, directly, surely.
"How many more people will we have to kill to finally be free?"
When Levi does not speak.
"Do you think we can really kill them all-?"
The water splashes between them as Levi pulls Eren into his arms. Pressing his mouth over Eren's. Eren trembling not from the cold of the water, but the darkness of his thoughts. Levi not needing to know the salty taste of the sea as Eren's tears merge over their lips, between their mouths, on their tongues as Levi runs his against Eren's. A hand drawn over Eren's neck. His fingers tangling, coveting, fisting in the soft, longer locks there he'd gazed at. As if Eren might try to pull away.
Wanting to be comforted. Eren does quite the opposite than Levi fears. Letting Levi kiss him as he pleases, where he likes, how he wants. Eren's arms are over his shoulders, trying to draw him nearer to him as he presses his body to his.
Levi holds him closer. His hand that is not in Eren's hair, dips from where it'd been at the small of his back, into the water to get under the long night shirt- the only article of clothing Eren is wearing. Kneading and groping Eren's plump ass Levi groans into Eren's mouth as he feels Eren rut against him. Eren's nipples perked through the wet material of his shirt from when he'd nearly ducked down into the water. Dampening Levi's shirt. Eren can feel Levi's hard stomach to his and gasps. Moaning when his soft thigh feels Levi's erection through the water and his trousers. Eren presses his thigh to it eagerly, short of breath and patience as he reaches into the water as well to pull down Levi's trousers enough to draw out his cock.
Eren wraps his legs around Levi's waist. Droplets of water running down his knees and thighs, his wet skin when it emerges from the water, briefly before it is submerged again. Levi holding Eren to him with both hands, by his ass and thighs, directing his cock inside. A delightful heat, this change in temperature, to the waters around them. The water rippling around them, splashing as Eren moves his hips into Levi's. Whines and moans keening higher with every thrust.
When Levi reaches to kiss him, Eren meets him obediently, unhesitatingly. Wanting his kisses, his touch, his love and attention. Reassurance only Levi can give. Consistency. While Eren may look away from him and shy beneath his ever present gaze, he has grown to expect it. Depend on it. Levi is guilty of this. Just as his words has driven Eren down a path where others have lost their lives, leaving him to forge ahead without them. Levi has accused Erwin of this as if they were not likewise, using pretty words to incite the hearts of men and women who may not have sacrificed their lives otherwise. Had he any room to talk? When it is Eren- these children, taking his words to heart, however unsightly they be? The Queen who was crowned, friends who would not be turned away. The hope and light of his life echoing 'I don't know' as if that future that can't be still has a chance. All because if nothing else Eren believes in him. Trusts him. Wants just as badly as he does- to believe.
To Levi it'd been unthinkable for the longest time that someone as willed, as determined- as beautiful as Eren could be defeated. Able to stand with him, though his steps were always trying to keep with his. What years of experience could not fill his titan shifting abilities had.
Briefly as it'd been, Levi had once not had to worry on Eren dying on him.
Levi had always thought given his duty, his own experience, his personal feelings- he would be the one to die first.
He'd been assured of this since they'd met, each time he drew his sword.
Even if he died, Eren would live.
But as the truth had rendered the radiance of Eren's dream to an end, so had it to Levi's single wish.
Betrayed by their own ignorance- that's right.
He doesn't know.
He doesn't know if they will be free if they manage to kill all their enemies.
All that Levi knows is-
"I will be with you to the end."
Above all else, Levi had chose Eren.
His happiness, his hopes, his dream.
Even if they were no more than a less tangible memory to the memories of those others' who walk with him along the cruel ways of their world.
While the truth is the truth, there is something ever yet stronger.
What you believe to be the truth- will it outweigh the truth of reality? Of history?
Levi knows there is no one else who can wrought such a miracle.
Levi will bet his life on Eren.
"If you want to exterminate everyone across this damned sea and burn this whole world to the ground, if you want to destroy the walls your dad saw, if you want to fuck it all and run away- see those lands of ice and the other shit for yourself. Whatever it is you choose Eren. I will be there with you."
A sword, a shield, an excuse.
To the extent of his strength.
Levi will give it to Eren.
Eren is cupping his face, holding it gently, tenderly, before he kisses him deeply, roughly as Levi thrusts his cock into him. Beneath then above the water. Back and forth. Eren gyrates his hips, delving to have Levi inside him to the hilt, shuddering in ecstasy as he manages it. A lock of his hair sticking to his cheek as he thinks belatedly over what Levi has said. Considering everything. Choosing. What should have been obvious to begin with. He doesn't know. But,
Like the King that'd abandoned them?
The Reiss' of before who would not fight?
As if he could!
Even if instinct tried to drive him to otherwise, Eren cannot change his nature.
And it is the same. Levi remembers.
Eren's eyes, engulfed, enraptured by only one sight, one vision, one truth- that which he knows and desires.
Hateful and vengeful, heated and striking.
The real truth.
Untouchable and unable to be possessed.
Within Levi's eyes.
Eren's will itself is the incarnate of freedom.
That which is beautiful.
"I will fight, sir. I'll fight every last one of them!"
Eren had thought before, in the depths of the woods on another tragic day where death tailed their every step and every move, if he had fought with Captain Levi there. If Captain Levi had been there with him. While Captain Levi had been there, if only he'd-
No more if onlys.
With certainty should Captain Levi be with him-
Without fail what it is he desires more than anything will be.
With Eren focusing upon him keenly, all encompassing, consuming him and driven. An answer. A response. That desire. Levi cums. Still inside Eren even as he leans back to float partially atop the water. Eren held by him and atop of him as their bodies remain entwined. Drifting together. The sea surrounding them, the moonlight washed over them. Eren's breast to his. Eren's heartbeat rapid and his skin flushed. His pink lips parted. That lock of hair still sticking to his cheek. Eren gazing into his eyes. His longings and fears rising together with each second that passes until Levi draws his arms tighter around him. Kisses him.
How many more times will he get to hold Eren? Kiss him? Have him?
Levi kisses Eren harder at the thought, damning it.
When their lips part.
"Stay with me too Eren."
Eren leans forward to bring their lips back together.
"Yes, Captain. Of course."
They'd wrung their clothes out best they could, before putting them back on. Not keen on the idea of getting caught naked on the beach by their comrades. They make do as such. Resting together on the beach, figuring after a moment's rest they will return to the campsite. The steady gentle crashing of the waves across the shore in rhythm, a lullaby. The sun rises before them, the warm morning light rousing Levi who didn't realise he'd fallen asleep. Eren sleeping deeply and comfortably against him. For only so long before Levi decides to wake Eren in a means favourable to him.
Eren has just pulled his night shirt back on, brought it by Levi after dipping in the water for a for now wash. Their feet nearly touching, submerged in the incoming waves when Hanji is seen up the embankment, her hands cupped around her mouth as she yells about how breakfast is almost ready. Very much not worried seeing as they're both still alive.
Levi takes Eren's hand and holding it they walk together back to camp. Both pausing here and then to brush sand that'd been missed from their clothes or hair. Eren not yet catching on that this may yet to be one of many excuses for Levi to touch his hair.
When they finally arrive Mikasa is quick on her feet and quicker to bring Eren some clothes (some perhaps her own) in a rush to get him covered. She's really matured if her absence of a scowl in the face of the expected is any indication. Levi joins Hanji who he takes the tea things from before she can fuck up anymore than she already has; as she still manages to be effectively annoying with that glint in her one eye and that wide smile.
"What Levi? You didn't want to go into the water yesterday with the rest of us, but you'll go in barefoot when you're with Eren, and it's just the two of you-"
Almost reflectively Levi replies, though there is no heat in his words- "Shut up shitty eye patch. Ain't that obvious?"
("Hey! I don't have a patch yet!")
Above Hanji's remarks.
Levi looks over the very red face (head for that matter) of Connie who is frying (currently burning) the hash browns, and the very red face of Jean who is already plating the sausages he'd just put in the pan, and oblivious Sasha who is thinking what they are not all thinking about. The wellbeing of her breakfast which isn't being cooked right by either of these two who are not blind. (Though Hanji was practically blind but was Hanji.) Levi singles out the only person not doing anything in particular, his face not nearly as red as the other two.
"Armin. Come help with the tea since Eren is stuck getting forced to wear every article of clothing Mikasa can find."
Armin jumps at Levi's voice but comes to help with the tea.
Hanji joining in on helping Sasha salvage breakfast but somehow manages to make it worse with some sauces she may have made herself.
Levi has the cups all set up, the kettle full of boiling water ready. He gestures for Armin to measure the leaves. A task Armin feels is certainly not the best for him not because he's bad at measurements but for the fact that Levi had asked him to help probably meant this was not just because Eren is unavailable.
Sweat is at his brow the entire time as he tries to scoop an appropriate amount of leaves for each cup. He manages to find the right amount after Levi gets after him a couple of times for 'overly hefty scoops' ("That shit wasn't cheap, even if I did get it for free from Reeves'")
The anticipation getting to him, Armin hopes Mikasa will be done already so Eren can come save him.
"I'm counting on you," Levi says suddenly and Armin jumps again, wondering if Levi can read his thoughts or if his face is just an open book.
"Ah, yes sir!"
Armin resumes concentrating on the task at hand, thoughts flashing over the other in rapid succession. That was it wasn't it. Captain Levi wasn't talking about the tea was he?
(He is when Armin scoops too many scoops; even Levi doesn't have a cup that strong usually but it can't be helped can it? He'll be the one to drink that one.)
Armin starts quietly, carefully, "I-I know I can't fill the Commander's spot-"
Levi cuts him off.
"No one is expecting that of you. That's why Hanji's still kicking."
Armin withholds replying, waiting.
Captain Levi continues.
"Just fill your own spot."
The reason he is here.
Is because Eren and Mikasa cannot live without him.
They fought for him.
The reason why he can still be here.
Is not because Captain Levi had chose him over Commander Erwin.
Captain Levi had made the choice he'd regret least considering the certain consequences he'd be facing with either choice. He'd weighed them out and valued above all else-
"I'm fine Mikasa! This is fine! I'm not that cold! The sun is out!"
Armin turns disbelieving to the familiar irate tone of Eren trying to get Mikasa to back off from him as they draw closer to the camp fire. It's been a while since Armin has heard their almost sibling like bickering, that his heart feels it has swelled at the sound.
Tears spring to his eyes as he holds back a laugh when Mikasa flips her fingers to flick at Eren's hair, an almost smug smile on her lips, as if she has been waiting all this time to say- "Eren. Your hair has grown too long. Shouldn't you let me cut it? You don't want it to get caught in the 3D maneuver gear do you?"
Eren touches at a hanging lock as if noticing the length for the first time.
"I guess..." Eren starts, of course thinking Mikasa's worry which had been his worry years ago reasonable.
Jean has an indignant remark on the whole matter but it barely is thought before Levi interjects.
"You should leave it Eren."
As Mikasa looks at him in horror, Armin sees where this is going.
"You don't look bad."
Eren thinks about it.
"...is that so sir?"
Eren is twirling that lock between his fingers, a smile they've not seen in a while spreading over his lips.
"Alright, I won't cut it yet."
After breakfast, Armin suggests they go fishing as they've long planned. Mikasa has already made a net for the occasion. She tugs on Eren's right arm as Armin loops his arm into Eren's left. Telling him on what sort of fish they might catch. Eren's eyes alight and curious at his every word. Just as it had been before, for how much longer? Armin understands what Captain Levi had meant.
Captain Levi had chose Eren, and that is why Armin is still here.
To keep this smile as more than a memory.
Captain Levi wants Eren to be happy. Armin is the same in such regard.
They both wish for the brilliance of Eren's dream to continue on even though their time is up.