He doesn’t recall conversations anymore. Only trimmings of moments that happened, but doesn’t remember living. Some days the titans are still out there, he gets up, puts on the belts and walks towards the door only to find he can’t cross it. But the titans are out there, and he has to.
Some days Erwin was here, asking about his condition, some days Hange was the one explaining to him, again, as if saying it out loud will imply there’s a cure for it.
There are eight steps from his bed to the door, fifteen to the end of the corridor, nineteen steps of the stairs, twenty three until reaching the entry of the house.
He can only so much as take the first eight and that’s everything. If the titans are still out there he can’t fight them. He doesn’t remember how the gear works, how to hold his blades. You’re still our hero, is what Eren tells him. Liar. But he doesn’t have the strength to argue.
I’ll be there in his name, the kid is currently saying, in that way Levi hates so much because of the connotations it entails: he is no longer useful. He, humanity’s strongest, is nothing but a broken wooden sword in the hands of the one he once promised to fight for. Ironic, how things turned out at the end. Now Eren’s the one facing battles for him.
Maybe that’s how it had always been.
“It’s going to be okay, I won’t fuck up”, Eren informs him minutes later, when the bed sinks slightly to one side, as if it’s necessary. Levi already knows he won’t. As he knows Eren’s smiling out of pure patience, a feature in the kid he never thought he’d ever see. In the same way he never thought he would see those green eyes pitying him. Levi tightens in the space he’s occupying, already small enough, consumed in this mattress that is ending him.
“I’m tired of you”, but Eren’s smile doesn’t falter. He doesn’t have to look to know. This, somehow, has always been like this: everyone dies and leaves his side, but Eren. Levi feels worse by minutes, those eyes of spring still see the wings of freedom perched on his back like Levi’s the answer to all of his prayers and it sickens him, it sickens him so much in the worst days he crawls to the edge of the bed and empties the insides of his stomach. He leaves it for the brat to clean it because this is his fault. Levi’s guts recht in disgust for himself because of Eren.
He is no longer that man Eren looks up to, but he wants to.
He hates him for that.
“Levi”, a pause. “It really is okay”. What is? The world wants to exhibit him like a war hero and still demands for Eren to be locked up in a dungeon even though the war is been over for years, and it’s okay? He guesses he understands what Eren really means: it’s okay, I want to stay with you, we are the same, at the end. Just the tool humanity still uses to feed the ghosts of their war: both broken, only in different ways.
He hates him so much he tells him to leave in the smallest of the voices, the weakest of the voices, but enough for Eren to hear. It’s always been enough for Eren to listen even if he wasn’t speaking.
Levi is undeserving.
He can’t get up and out of this room.
He can’t get up because this bed is the only thing he knows now, the one he has.
He still waits for Eren to leave.
“Don’t come back”, but the kid doesn’t move. Only sighs, like he’s letting him win for today but his eyes are telling otherwise: there’s a solid determination there Levi doesn’t have the strength to deal with anymore. There are no longer titans in this world, kid, you’re not needed.
He looks beyond the limits of his bed, sinks deeper in himself and ignores the way those thoughts aren’t talking of Eren.
The weight on the mattress is lifted momentarily, the brat’s back before he can realize it just happened.
“I’m going to read”, he announces, accommodating in the bed. Levi’s eyes are lost but hurtful when he snaps a quiet you never could to which Eren barely shrugs.
“I never gave up”.
And it stings, it stings so much Levi feels his eyes burn with humiliation. It’s of no use to bark at him he’s not the man Eren wants him to be, he’s useless, there’s something wrong with him that can’t be cured. The world outside this bedroom terrifies him. He wants to yell he’s eating himself alive but then no,
titans do still exist
Eren is eating him alive
“Please”, he doesn’t have any force anymore, “please just leave now, Eren”.
It’s forceful in a way that has his stomach tensing, strangling his lungs in the process. He can’t breathe.
“Armin gave me this book two weeks ago. He says it’s about poetry, about the ocean. Maybe one day we get to see it, Levi”.
No, they won’t. Stop it, stop believing in me .
“You’re sickening me, Eren”, and Eren, as always, ignores him. Levi knows, though, the sickness is in himself. He reads everyday to his captain, no longer captain, though, but still everything to Eren. Struggles with the order of the letters, skips the words Levi doesn’t bother to correct and tries to read a poem he doesn’t know how to intone because he doesn’t really understand it. But he still tries and that’s something Levi also hates.
“What if we go for a small walk to the corridor?”, he asks another day, patient and hopeful. Levi doesn’t bother in replying in the same way he doesn’t bother in getting up. There is nothing outside for him. No titans to free, no walls to rebuild, no comrades to avenge.
“Eren”, he calls, later that day, voice rusty of not using it in days. “I’m old”. He says it in a way that implies I’m forty but you still have your whole life ahead, go live it , because maybe he can’t pray for himself but he can for Eren.
There’s a heavy pause that makes him move his head ever so slightly to focus his eyes on Eren. It has been so long since the last time he really saw anything his head throbs with the beginning of a migraine weighing heavy behind his eyelids. The kid’s sitting at the end of his bed, in his usual spot, face serious and eyes angry.
Always filled with hunger for life.
But then there’s something flickering through them, his shoulders drop and his back bends forward. He’s a small as he usually feels, then, both in this grave that is Levi’s mattress.
“I’m only here because I’m looking after you”, the confession is quiet, so quiet Levi doesn’t understand the meaning behind it until he sees Eren pick at his nails in that way he used to do back at headquarters, when he was afraid of the responsibilities he couldn’t shoulder. Here, he said, on this ground.
Levi actually snorts at that through his nose, low and short.
“Look at that, they’re saving space by locking up the monsters together”.
Eren is angry, again, at him, maybe, judging by the way those green eyes are back on his face:
“Even if we are not allowed to be outside that’s not a justification for your madness”.
Levi only stares back, because that’s also what he tells himself. But he doesn’t want to hear it from Eren’s mouth.
“I just decided to die in here, brat. What’s the use of going outside when we will be sliced in half before we can put a foot past the entrance by those we fought so hard to keep alive”.
“What’s the use of fighting a war we can’t win but won anyway”.
He hates him.
“Leave, and don’t come back”.
“Only if you come with me”.
Levi is tired .
He doesn’t understand his own sickness, and knows he doesn’t have any right to expect Eren to do so, but still, it upsets him. He turns again on his side to keep staring at the very same spot on the wall he spends the days staring at. He needs his room to not change. In the same way he needs Eren to finally abandon him so Levi can feed off flowers with his bones, like he’s always wanted to.
“I love you”, he feels his heart being eaten raw.
“Eren”, is strained, pained, deep, “ leave ”.
When the weight is lifted from the mattress and the door slammed shut carefully, Levi lifts his head to stare at the emptiness of his bedroom and finds out he wasn’t as dead as he thought, judging by the way his vision is blurring at the edges.
This is the first night he keeps track of time in so long he can’t remember. The hours prickle at his skin and weigh on his legs, urging him. He doesn’t move. Not even when the sun goes up, when his stomach twists with nausea and hunger, when he feels so weak his shoulders are trembling. Not even when he hears the house crack and thinks it’s Eren and his heart slams against his ribcage painfully. It’s not Eren.
Eren doesn’t come.
He feels the same crushing sensation he does when he’s out of the bed asphyxiating his lungs, pressing down on his chest so painfully he’s going to break in half, he can’t breathe, he can’t swallow, he can’t focus on anything but the sickness inside him growing, growing , growing , his legs don’t hold him, his hands don’t wipe at his face, his mind a spiral of Eren, Eren, Eren, and then, smaller, I want to go to him.
I want to get up,
I want to get up,
I want to get up
He wants to be the man Eren sees in him. He hates his own sickness so raw his gut is still pulsating with the efforts of throwing up. It doesn’t empty him. The worst demons weren’t those eating people, are the ones growing inside Levi. Those wings that made promises of freedom but are now weighing on his shoulders like gravestones.
He’s heavily sweating cold when he reaches the door of his bedroom, every step a battle he has to win; a soldier is always a soldier, Eren used to say, Levi can still be his humanity’s strongest.
He doesn’t make it past the three first steps into the corridor before he’s crouching down, shaking, nails scraping at his scalp in desperation, in frustration, in fear . He can’t do it. He can’t do it. He can’t do it he wants to go back to the bed he wants to go back to the bed he can’t do it he’s broken he’s wrong he’s useless he can’t do anything for Eren he’s sorry he’s sorry he’s sorry
“It’s okay.” Then, again, accompanied by a hand on his back, guiding him again to the bed: “it’s okay. I’m here”.
Eren keeps repeating the same words over and over again but Levi isn’t listening to him. He curls up on the mattress, grips at the blankets, tries to remember there’s a way to breathe.
It’s okay, the boy is saying, it’s okay I’m here but it’s not okay because he wasn’t here. Levi’s fingers tighten around the arm of the hand that keeps smoothing out the wrinkles of his shirt on his back.
“I’m sorry”, he really is.
He can’t be the person Eren wants him to. He’s not a war hero. He’s not humanity’s strongest. He’s only Levi.
“I knew”, Eren replies. He’s crouching down next to the bed, hand now tucking Levi’s bangs away of his face. “I knew you didn’t give up the fight”. A pause. Then: “I’ll bring us the ocean”.
Eren doesn’t have to, he thinks, he already is.
Maybe this is the only war he won’t win.
But it might be okay, because Eren is everything Levi needs to see from the world they freed from the titans.