It’s important to tell you that Eren doesn’t like working with others. Headstrong and full of his own ideals, most people did not find Eren all that agreeable, and, therefore, saw him as intolerable. Eren returned the sentiment.
It was not that Eren did not have good qualities. He was kind, with a low tolerance for any sort of abuse of power or waste of human life. He was loyal beyond belief; fierce and set in his convictions. When someone needed help, Eren was there.
When he had walked in on his mother, eyes black and the blood of his father on her mouth, Eren had done what had to be done.
Eren was strong; he knew what worked for him. He knew that other people would only get in the way and would, therefore, be in danger. These ideals did not endear him to other hunters. Loneliness aside, this did not bother Eren.
Hunting demons was dangerous, dirty work. Many souls perished to the dark spirits, whether it be through seduction or death. It was impossible to kill off every demon out there. There were too many, some too immersed in civilization to be picked out from the neighborhood humans. Others dug themselves holes in hell and refused to leave.
Then there were the ‘pets’. As humans had an exotic market for animals, there was also one for the magically inclined. Demons included.
Everyone wanted to show off their power. The wealthy were always looking to brag; always wanting to one-up one another. Eren had been called to houses splattered in blood before only to stare into the eyes of a creature too abused and enraged at its treatment to truly be at fault. The loss of human life burned him, but Eren let those sorts of demons go. Those that attacked even after having things explained, were killed. Those that did not, lived. Eren had no desire to kill the innocent and victimized—even if said innocent was a demon of whom the word did not usually apply. Surely, even being called a victim would have any demon baring their teeth in outrage.
If there was one thing Eren had learned throughout the years, it was that demons were very prideful creatures.
The demon he was hunting was no different.
There were few clues, many victims. Vibrant rooms of gore; bodies left in pieces. Pride had claws drawing a symbol into the scene every time. It was that symbol, that had brought Eren this far. At a familiar witch’s doorstep, Eren had come with questions and had left with a companion.
Eren had endured Hanji’s enthusiasm with much grumbling, not understanding why it was so important to take the stranger in their house with him. Eren had been steadfast in his refusal, but Hanji had been unrelenting in the face of his stubborn nature. Just as stubborn as Eren, and with an excited exuberance that could last eternities— literally—Hanji had emerged victorious in their small battle.
The male Hanji had insisted upon Eren had looked almost amused when they had returned from Hanji’s workspace, as if he had heard every word of protest and counter.
In the end they had departed together, one party sulking, the other silent. They were laden with supplies, enough food to last them for several months stored safely in the enchanted pouch Eren kept in his bag. Hanji had also restocked his dwindling magic supplies, enough to keep Eren chasing after the demon just as long as their food store would last, if not longer. In the end it would all be up to his target.
They traveled silently, both on their respective mounts. An enfield and a hippalectryon were not animals usually seen together. Eren had worried that Sandor, in his playful nature, would cause some great offense by pulling on the black plumes that rose from the horse and rooster hybrid’s rump. Thankfully, one twitch of the fox’s muzzle and a glare from the animal Eren had learned was called Daeva had the possible catastrophe evaded.
Looking back on it, Eren almost wished something had happened. Maybe it would have chased the other male off and left Eren to his own devices. Instead they were stuck in this dreadful quiet. Eren was unsure how to bridge the sulky silence he’d kept since they’d met, and the other male seemed all too content with it to say something himself.
Eren sighed. Sandor’s ears twitched, swiveling back to focus on his rider. Eren gave a pat to the fox’s feathered shoulder. “So, Levi, right?” He finally said, unable to take the silence any longer.
A pair of silver eyes met his, blue so light they were nearly white. The sight unnerved Eren. “It is,” Levi acknowledged. His voice was low, with a rasp that told Eren he could speak the old language. “and you are Eren. The demon hunter.”
“Either you got an earful from Hanji or you’ve been listening to gossip.” Eren snorted. “Did you come looking to see if the stories are true?”
Levi’s face was too hard to read to tell if he was lying when he asked “what stories?”
Eren’s eyes narrowed. He examined Levi critically, trying to take apart his mask. When the silence stretched on and Eren had made no progress, he gave up. “It depends where you hear them from. Some are good, others are bad. They’re rarely neutral. I’ve never hear any stories about you, though. Why are you traveling with a demon hunter?”
Levi looked nonplussed by Eren’s suspicion. He combed fingers through Daeva’s mane, pale fingers sticking out like bone against the ink spill of black strands. “I have a history with demons.” The words were delivered with the precision that came only with careful thoughts. “since I was a young child they’ve been a constant shadow over my life. I believe the one you’re chasing has been a main factor in that. I’d like to get some answers and Hanji thought us traveling together was only logical.”
“Hanji thinks a lot of things,” Eren muttered. Sandor let out a soft growl of agreement, wings twitching against Eren’s thighs.
“If you’re concerned that I’ll get in the way, don’t be,” Levi told him. “We can take care of ourselves. You’re not the only one that has magic, nor are you the only one that can fight.” Daeva was silent, the odd rhythm of her front hooves and her hind claws clicking against stone the only sound that escaped her body. Her stride was long, enough to make Sandor stretch to meet each footfall. Eren got the impression that she was putting him through his paces; testing Sandor like he got the feeling Levi was testing him.
Eren could not deny that she looked like a formidable foe. The bored glare she kept was intimidating enough, what should have been the white of her eyes eaten up by black. Add in the wicked talons of her back legs and anyone would be wary. One good swipe of those and your innards would no longer be safely inside your body.
Then there was Levi. Eren hadn’t thought much of him at first. He’d been determined not to take the man with him from the start. Now that they were traveling together however, Eren found himself taking a good long look at him.
There were black tattoos climbing up Levi’s arms, magical runes to ward off evil and to protect painted into ivory skin. Those arms were muscular, Eren noticed, like the rest of Levi seemed to be. His hair was longer in the front, parting around his eyes to fall down to his cheeks while the back was cut short and close to his scalp. Levi was small for someone that could give so much presence, shorter than Eren but no less compact. Eren didn’t doubt that Levi could pack a punch.
“I am worried about potential battles,” Eren admitted. “I haven’t fought alongside another person in a long time.”
Levi’s mouth curved into a ghost of a smile. There was something knowing in his gaze; something that unnerved Eren. “You and me both.”
They traveled in silence after that. Eren’s curiosity staved by the strange vibe Levi gave off. Somehow, he got the feeling that if he asked too much he would regret it. Not that his newfound companion seemed threatening—Eren felt as safe as he could feel around a stranger that seemed to mean him no ill will. There was just something about Levi that made Eren think he knew stories; ones that would give him nightmares for days to come should he ask to hear them. Bad dreams were part of the territory of being a demon hunter, so Eren stayed silent. His target was what was important in the end. If Levi wanted to tag along then so be it. Eren just hoped the decision wouldn’t prove to be deadly in the end.
The party of four came across a village several weeks into their travel. They’d been traveling west, in the direction Eren had been following since before he had arrived at Hanji’s house. There had been no luck thus far. This demon liked to disappear for extended periods of time; long enough for Eren to wonder if another hunter had gotten it only to reappear when he least expected it. It had had him running around in circles since Eren had first started the hunt, leading him in a sick game of cat and mouse—and Eren knew very well what role this demon thought he played.
It was infuriating.
Each death was a mockery; a silent taunt that Eren would never be able to catch the creature. His failure splattered on the walls, dragged out into woods and painted in shades of crimson. Eren was determined to succeed.
“We should stop here,” Eren said. He brought Sandor to a halt with a small shift of his weight into his seat bones. They knew one another enough by now to communicate without words or visible actions. “We still have supplies but it can’t hurt to stock up again. Who knows when this demon will make another move. I don’t know about you but I could use a bed, anyways.”
“You’re right,” Levi agreed. “It’ll give the animals a rest too. Daeva has been wanting to stretch her wings.”
Eren watched him dismount, knees bending to absorb the impact of the rather long fall. Next to Daeva, Levi seemed even smaller. His head was several inches below her shoulder.
Eren’s mouth twitched in amusement.
He swung his leg over Sandor’s back, careful of the wings jutting out from his shoulders before Eren jumped down. He gave a pat to the fox’s shoulder, letting him know it was okay to rest. Sandor gave a slow stretch, the talons on his front paws digging deep into the dirt. Eren rolled his eyes fondly as the fox gave an exaggerated yawn before his body began to shrink.
“Interesting,” Levi murmured, when Sandor was no bigger than a large feline. “Is his previous form as large as he can go?”
“That’s right,” Eren said, letting the enfield jump up into his arms. “Anything bigger exhausts him too much. I’m lucky that he can carry me.” He turned to Levi, curious. “Do you want to stable Daeva or is she going to roam free for the night?”
The horse gave a soft snort, as if offended he had asked Levi and not the animal herself.
“Roam free,” Levi said wryly. He pushed away the hippalectryon’s pink nose, muttering a soft curse when sharp teeth nipped at pale fingers. “Go, you monstrosity,” Levi shooed. “just don’t get eaten.”
Daeva turned, giving Levi a face full of black plumes. She trotted off, wings lifting from her back as the hippalectryon went off to find a good place to take off—or so Eren assumed.
“You two have an interesting bond,” Eren said, when the sound of her footsteps had faded away.
Levi snorted. He combed fingers through his hair, shedding small black feathers. “That’s one way to put it.” When he looked up, Eren was staring at him, as if expecting more. “What?” Levi asked. “You expect us to be all over one another? I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but roosters aren’t very friendly. Mixing them with a horse was a bad idea.”
“I’ve never been around a hippalectryon before,” Eren admitted. “But I guess that makes sense. She’s very different from a hippogriff. Did you meet her when she was very young?”
“Sort of,” Levi said. “She was two or three years old. Still young for a horse, but not a baby. I think she got confused about what bird she was crossed with and tried to be a mother hen. She’s a ridiculous creature.”
Eren smiled. He lifted his arms, helping Sandor to rest on his shoulders. “You seem fond of her.”
“We tolerate each other more than anything else,” Levi answered. “But see what you wish. Do you think we could have this conversation while we walk? I don’t know about you, but I could really use a bath.”
Eren grimaced. Now that he thought about it, Eren was sure he smelled. They’d had a few dips in passing rivers but the last one hadn’t been for a few days now. He was looking forward to the hot water, now that Levi had mentioned it. Traveling for weeks on end could certainly get your muscles in a twist. “You’re right,” Eren nodded, beginning down the road. “We could all use a bath right about now.”
The village of Krossatoen was a modest one. While it was not the biggest village Eren had ever been to, it was certainly not the smallest either. With an assortment of wood and brick houses scattered about in all shapes and colors, the stone pathways that guided visitors in were well lit with lanterns and witch lights. There were charms and herbs hooked onto doors and dangling from window sills, meant to do anything from keep evil spirits away to bring luck. Eren smiled in amusement at some of the useless trinkets. There were charms whose worth were in looking pretty and nothing more. He supposed that if it brought the owner’s some peace of mind they did their job, no matter how false.
They made their way to an inn at the heart of the village. The open doors and dancing witch lights cast a warm glow over the deep red of the wood it was made from. There was a soft sound of a chime as they walked through the door, and Eren’s belly rumbled as the smell of a home cooked meal hit his nose.
“Good evening,” a woman who Eren assumed to be the innkeeper greeted. “My name is Maria. Will the two of you be needing rooms?”
“I’m Eren,” he smiled, meeting the woman at the front desk. “and we’d both be grateful to stay if you have the room.”
“Of course,” she gave an answering smile, pushing one of the long strands of hair falling from her temples back out of the way. “Together or separate?”
“Separate,” Levi said, from behind Eren. “Please,” he added, when two pairs of eyes turned to him.
“Of course,” Maria said again, pushing a book their way. “Just sign here. The rates of the rooms will depend on if you would like food included. Payment is due in the morning.”
They both signed in their respective spots, indicating that they did want food before taking their keys with quiet thanks. They ate in silence for the most part. Eren’s occasional conversations with the cook and other guests filling the quiet that had descended around them.
Levi was done with his plate long before Eren. He gave a soft goodnight before disappearing up the stairs. Eren did not see him again that night.
When his belly was full and conversations had eased, Eren headed up the stairs. He gave a curious glance towards the door beside his own room, before using his key to go inside. Eren was tired but Levi had been right, he could use a bath.
By the time he was clean and in bed, he gave no thought to his strange traveling companion.
Eren awoke to the sound of a piercing scream. He jolted upright in bed, hands sparking with defensive magic before he had even opened his eyes. There was a threatening rumble coming from the floor. It filled Eren’s ears in the silence after the scream, making the small hairs at the back of his neck rise. Perceiving no actual threat in the room, Eren let the magic on his hands die out, using them instead to rub the sleep from his eyes.
“Sandor?” He asked, searching his bed for the fox. The growling grew louder. Eren looked down at the floor, frowning.
Sandor was as big as he could possibly be in the small room, which explained how loud the growling was. The enfield’s head nearly brushed the ceiling with his current height. His fur was bristling, spine arched and head down in warning. He was facing the window, and Eren couldn’t see just what he was staring at around the fox’s bulk.
Putting a hand on Sandor’s flank Eren slipped off the bed. He ducked under a flared wing, hands sparking in the unease he felt.
When Eren saw the window, he understood.
Something cold and hard settled in his stomach. A series of handprints were smeared against the glass of the window, as if someone had tried and failed to climb in. Eren would have called it a night of passion from the previous inhabitants if not for the fact that Sandor was so disturbed by it—if not for the fact that the prints were dripping crimson.
“Easy,” Eren murmured, stroking Sandor’s shoulder. He walked closer, humming softly when the fox snarled in warning. Eren’s right hand lit with magic. The soothing green helped calm his nerves somewhat, and Eren stepped up to the window sill, a bit more at ease.
It was still dark out, the summer nights lingering even in the morning. It was hard to see anything below or around the window. It was for this reason that Eren did not see the owner of the one whose magic painted words onto the wall across from his window, red like the blood staining the glass he peered out from.
N'a aeanjv zeg oep.
I’m coming for you.
There was a body on the street. The protective wards had kept whatever had attacked away from the inside of the house, but had done nothing to protect what was outside. The charms were shriveled up and burned. Destroyed under the power of the evil that had sought to do harm. Eren knew what had done it.
The demon had grown tired of their game of chase, that much was clear. The hunt was on now, and it wanted Eren to know it. The evidence was strewn out on the street. This demon was strong enough to break through all of the charms surrounding the village, and yet, it had not stolen into Eren’s room when it had had the chance. It was clear that the bloody hand prints on his window were a taunt. The demon wanted to play, and Eren was its new prey.
The message was obvious as he observed the broken body of a man. The ruptured organs, the gaping hole of a stomach that left the bone of ribs exposed to the air; the empty eye sockets and broken jaw; the missing heart—the demon was coming for him, just as it had said.
Eren was next.
“You need to leave,” Eren told Levi, as soon as the man had opened his door. “We can no longer travel together.”
Levi’s eyes sharpened. He stepped aside, letting Eren inside. The door clicked shut behind him, hiding their conversation from listening ears. Everyone was on edge now. “I thought we had an agreement.”
“Being forced to bring you along is not an agreement,” Eren snapped. He took a steadying breath, calming himself. “We all came very close to being a demon’s kill last night. I don’t know why it didn’t attack anyone else, but I know that it’s coming for me. Which puts you in danger. This demon is strong, one of the strongest I’ve ever had to face. It broke through the village wards without a hitch and destroyed all of the protective charms on the nearby buildings. I can’t play its game and watch you at the same time. It’s too much of a risk.”
“Isn’t that my choice?” Levi asked. His arms were crossed, pale eyes staring Eren down. There was an unspoken challenge there; daring Eren to turn him away. “I determined the risk long before I met you. This is my choice. I’ll follow you even if you turn me away. If you’re concerned about my safety, then let me tag along by your side instead of in the distance. Either way, I’m coming. That is my decision. Make yours.”
Eren gaped at him for a few long moments, speechless. “Do you have no self-preservation?” He demanded. “Did you see what that thing did to one of the towns people? Do you have any idea what it’s done to others?”
“I’ve seen worse,” Levi said. Somehow, looking at him, Eren believed it. “So which is it? Am I coming with you or am I following you? I don’t have all day. Especially not if this demon is hunting you. You could have minutes at most.”
Eren shook his head incredulously. A few long curses in the old language left his lips. “Fine,” he finally said. “You can come. But your death is on you.”
Levi’s face softened. His mouth quirked up into a wry smile. “Noted.”
They paid a pale faced Maria for their rooms before leaving. Eren gave her a grimace of a smile on their way out. The gesture fell short and they left in silence.
The village was silent on the walk back to the woods. Everyone had holed up in their homes, scared the demon would return. Already, charms had been remade and hung. A futile effort if the demon did return, but Eren could not judge. He himself was shaken, the tattoos on his skin that were made to keep him safe burning dully.
They had cleaned up the body, but still Eren could see the blood that stained the stone they walked on. He was glad when they entered the shelter of the trees. The eyes of the silent village had felt like spiders crawling over his skin. Eren wanted to be gone as soon as possible.
“Is Daeva around?”
“She’s coming,” Levi said. He crossed his arms, leaning back against a tree. When Eren glanced at him, he found Levi staring off into the distance, pale eyes distant and head cocked as if listening to some unknown sound.
Leaving his companion to his strange ways, Eren let Sandor jump from his arms and to the forest floor. He stepped back as the enfield grew in size, until his shoulder was nearly at Eren’s head. “Good boy,” Eren said quietly, stroking his feathered neck. The fox gave a low chirp, turning his great head to nuzzle Eren. He had been plagued with guilt since finding the body. The death had been his fault, and the blood stained his hands just as much as it did those of the demon.
Sandor’s head shot up, ears swiveling. Eren stepped closer to his mount, defensive magic beginning to light his hands. It was the strange sound of Daeva’s footfalls that reached Eren’s ears in the end. He let out a heavy sigh, slumping against Sandor. He was far too strung out. Eren knew he needed to calm down. He couldn’t afford to lose control of his magic.
Daeva went straight for Levi when she came into sight. She was—magically—spotless of filth, even with her long mane and the white and grey that speckled her body.
Eren watched in bemusement as she took one look at Levi, snorted, and bit down on his shoulder. A spew of what Eren assumed were curses escaped his companion’s mouth. Eren knew the old language but Levi said it in strange ways. It made it next to impossible to understand the conversation that followed. He had a harsh accent, vowels sharp and words strung together in a low rumble much like thunder. It reminded Eren of something, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
By the time Levi had wrestled Daeva off of him, Eren had lost the nagging thought to amusement. He had never seen the other man so disheveled, even in weeks of travel. Nor so expressive. He was sporting a glare behind messy bangs, cheeks flushed with exertion and a hand glowing red as it pressed to his shoulder.
“Are you alright?” Eren did his best not to laugh.
“Just peachy,” Levi said scathingly. Daeva tossed her head with a snort. Her eyes were pure black, but if Eren could have seen her iris’ he was sure she would have been rolling them. Even still, she knelt, letting Levi hop onto her back. Eren followed suit on Sandor.
“You have any clue where we’re going?” Levi asked, as they set off into the woods.
“No idea,” Eren admitted. “The demon is after me, though. It’s only a matter of time before it shows up. Until then I think we should stay away from civilization as much as we can. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”
Levi sighed. “Sounds fun,” he said flatly. “it’s a good thing I bought soap.”
This time, Eren did laugh.
They traveled quietly for several days without any demon appearances before deciding to set up camp for a few days near a well-placed stream. Levi’s disgust for filth had been made clear, and Eren was hoping the ability to bathe as much as he wanted would help ease the other man’s ire. Daeva waded into the water immediately and was gone within minutes. Sandor watched from a distance as if debating whether he wanted to go after her. In the end, he settled with splashing around in the stream while they collected firewood for the night.
When everything was settled it was Eren that offered first wash to Levi. The other man gave him a droll look. “The water is a few feet away, does it really matter if we bathe together?”
Eren found he had no argument for that, and was soon shedding the mix of leather and fabric adorning his body. Anyone coming across them would call them an easy target. Eren knew full well they were anything but. He was down weapons but he still had his magic and Sandor. Levi did as well, and Daeva was just a call away. Even still, somehow, Eren felt uneasy.
“Lighten up,” Levi said, catching Eren’s nervous gaze. “we’re only waiting for a demon to come kill us. Smile.”
Eren found himself doing just that. “Is it your way with words that makes you a lone wolf?” He mused, sinking deeper into the water to get his hair wet.
Levi snorted. Eren shifted back from the flick of water he sent his way. “I’ll have you know I’m very charming. Just ask Daeva.”
Eren laughed. He floated on his back, soaking up the fading sunshine while he could. “Daeva looks like she wants to eat me half the time, I’ll pass.”
“Your loss,” Levi shrugged. Eren looked over at him, watching as Levi lathered himself with soap. He turned to rinse himself off and Eren frowned at the glimpse of his back. “Hey,” Eren said, standing behind Levi before he realized he was even moving. His fingers hovered in the air, tracing the burns on Levi’s shoulder blade. “You were marked.”
Levi stiffened. “I was,” he said slowly, in that particular way he had that made Eren sure he was weighing what was okay to say.
“When?” Eren asked. His hand spread out, fingers nearly fitting into the handprint that colored Levi’s skin a molted black and white. It was smeared a bit, and he lacked the claws, but Eren could fit his fingers over the gaps.
“I told you I have a history with demons,” Levi said quietly. “It happened when I was a child. I almost died. That’s how I met Daeva.”
“Winged horses guide the souls of the dead,” Eren realized, letting his hand fall back to the water.
Levi turned. His mouth curved up at the corners for the slightest of moments. “Turns out I wasn’t dead enough. We’ve been stuck with each other ever since.”
Eren stared at him, searching pale eyes. “You also said that you have an interest in the demon chasing me.” His eyes narrowed, catching the slightest flicker of emotion in Levi’s eyes. “You think the demon is the one that marked you.”
Levi laughed. The sound was low and rough; it sent chills down Eren’s spine. “I know it is, Eren.” Those eyes looked straight into wide green, hard as ice and with an emotion Eren couldn’t quite place. “That mark you’ve been following? He carved it into my mother’s corpse.”
They bathed in silence after that, Eren not quite knowing what to say, and Levi not bothered by the silence. Any words that came to Eren soon died out as they proceeded to start the fire and eat. Nothing seemed right, and soon they were no longer alone. Daeva returned when the stars began to shine through the black of the sky. She settled down beside Levi’s bed roll and closed her eyes without a sound. Eren couldn’t tell if she was asleep and Levi made no indication of caring either way. When they were in their bed rolls, the only sound that of the crackling fire, Eren finally spoke.
“He’ll kill you,” Eren said quietly. “That demon. If you stay with me and I can’t win, he’ll tear you apart. I don’t want that to happen.”
For a moment, Eren thought Levi had fallen asleep. A soft sigh came from the other side of the fire. “Why do you care?”
That was a good question. From the beginning, Eren had argued against Levi tagging along. They had had a rocky start from the get go, Eren had made sure of it. But they had traveled nearly two months together now, and he had grown used to having company around, even if it was silent. He didn’t want Levi to die because of him. “I like you,” Eren admitted. “I didn’t want to, but we’ve become… friend’s almost, don’t you think?
“Yeah,” Levi said after a pause. “I guess we have.”
“I don’t want you to die,” Eren confessed to the stars. “I don’t want another person to die because of me. I wish this demon would just show itself and leave the rest of the world be. I don’t know if I can beat it, but I’ll try. I just don’t want you to suffer if I fail.”
Before Eren knew it, tears were dripping down his cheeks. He sniffled, trying to be discreet. The curse from across the fire told him he was unsuccessful. Levi sat up, his figure a dark shadow lit by flame. “Listen, Eren, I have no plans on dying anytime soon. Especially not because of some demon asshole. Until I get some answers you’re stuck with me. Alright?”
Eren swiped at his eyes. “Okay,” he whispered.
The next morning, Eren awoke to something falling onto his chest. He bolted upright, hands hissing with magic before his eyes were even open. When Eren finally looked around, he was met with Levi’s unimpressed stare. “You done?”
Embarrassed, Eren let his hands return to normal. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I thought something…” Eren trailed off, looking down at what had fallen into his lap. It was a necklace, he realized. The rope was woven carefully and was laced with magic—enough for Eren to feel it tingle against his skin. There was a stone tied into the end of the rope, with several artfully twisted sticks. It was akin to the dreamcatchers children kept by their beds to keep night terrors away. The only difference was that a single feather dangled below the red stone, the color pitch black. It was soft to the touch when Eren ran a finger over it, and barely bigger than the tip of his thumb. “Is this Daeva’s?”
“No,” Levi said shortly. He gave no other answer than that, rummaging in his pack.
Eren blinked at him in utter befuddlement. “I don’t understand,” he admitted.
“Demons play tricks,” Levi told him, sitting back with a piece of bread in his hands. He tore off a chunk and tossed it to Eren. Eren caught it automatically. “You were worried about me dying right? That will keep us connected. If we get separated you can call out to me. The stone will also tell you when demons are nearby. It has demon blood infused in it so it won’t lie. Keep it on you at all times.”
Eren ran his thumb over the smooth stone, surprise written all over his face. “This is… thank you, Levi.” He smiled, lifting his arms to settle the cord around his neck. The charm settled under his shirt, warm against the beat of his heart. “I appreciate it.”
Something pleased and heated passed over Levi’s face as he watched Eren, but it was gone too soon for Eren to decipher the cause. “You’re welcome. Just stop talking about me dying from now on. It’s tiresome.”
Eren bit into the bread in his hand.
The following day passed by so well, Eren should have known the comfortable companionship he and Levi had settled into was never meant to last. This time, it was Daeva that woke him from sleep. Her shrill cry pierced through the beginnings of dawn, the sound less like that of a horse and more like that of a scream. Eren gasped, lurching up from his bed roll. It was the third time in a span of a week that he had awoken to magic on his hands and panic in his chest. Eren really hoped it wasn’t becoming a regular thing.
Sandor leapt to his feet, growing in size before Eren could even follow suit. With a growing terror Eren realized Levi was nowhere to be found. The sound of Daeva’s scream made him think the worst, and he took off running. Eren didn’t have to run long. The hippalectryon was pacing by the stream, worked up in a way Eren had never before seen her. The sun was still fighting to rise but in the dim light Eren soon saw why. There was a deer as white as snow laying on its side. Its skin was so marred with gore that Eren almost couldn’t see its original color until he was closer.
It was a buck, he realized, though it was hard to tell. What had once been great antlers had been broken and scattered like glass along the bank. Its intestines were strewn out with it, pulled out as if the buck’s killer had played a game of tug a war before growing bored. There were great claw marks all over the body and just as the human victim from the village, the ribs had been broken and pulled apart to get to the heart. It was the only body part missing, Eren realized. He didn’t bother giving that much more thought before he was raising a hand to the necklace Levi had given him. Eren’s silent cry for his friend was loud enough to be a scream.
Eren sank to his knees before the mutilated corpse, shaking with the force of his terror. He needed to get up and search and yet, somehow, his legs wouldn’t work. He was stuck staring into blank blue eyes, with the realization that they were almost as pale as Levi’s.
By the time Levi crashed through the trees there was a cloud of magic roiling around Eren’s body. “Eren?” Levi panted, taking in the scene.
Eren turned to look at him with glowing eyes. His skin was burning with the amount of power seeping from his body, but Eren couldn’t seem to calm down. “Levi,” he whispered. “You’re alive.” Dripping wet and marked with blood in places where branches had slashed at his skin, but alive nonetheless.
“I am,” Levi agreed. He took a step forward, and then another. “You need to calm down. Let your magic go.”
“He’s here,” Eren said, eyes flickering to the woods. “I can feel it.”
“There’s no one here,” Levi soothed, within touching distance of the magic surrounding Eren. “It’s just another game. He’s messing with you. You’re going to hurt yourself if you don’t stop.”
Eren didn’t blink; didn’t move. He continued to stare into the woods unseeingly, waiting for his death to step out from the shadows.
Levi grimaced. He took a slow breath before breaching the gap between them. Eren’s magic spasmed. It felt like electricity and fire against Levi’s skin. It stung and burned all at once and he wrapped his arms around Eren by sheer will alone. Eren went stiff in the embrace, before with a small shiver he fell into Levi’s arms. “Levi,” he sobbed, magic falling away. “I thought it was going to be you, I thought that you were dead. He—he killed—“
“Shhh,” Levi murmured, lowering them slowly to kneel in the dirt. “It’s alright. It’s just a deer.”
Eren shook his head, shoving his face into Levi’s neck as if that alone could hide him from the horror around them.
“It’s not just a deer?” Levi looked over at the corpse with blank eyes. “Looks like it to me.”
He let out a hiccupping laugh. “It could have been you,” he repeated, pulling away to look up at Levi. His eyes were wide, spilling over with tears. Levi had to fight a smile.
“It wasn’t,” Levi said, stroking Eren’s hair. His nails were crusted with blood, but in the dim light Eren couldn’t tell. “I’m here. We’re both safe.”
Daeva watched them as Eren fell back into the embrace. Distraught as he was, Eren didn’t notice the necklace around his neck had turned a jet black. Nor the smug smile that Levi hid in Eren’s hair as he clung to the other man.
When he was calm again, Eren insisted on burying the buck before they moved on. Sandor helped dig up the earth, while Levi grimaced at the mess. Eren cut the intestines off from the body. There was no way to collect them that wouldn’t take all day, nor cover them in gore. Instead he took what was left of the buck, lowering it into the grave to be buried. Eren picked up the biggest piece of the antlers that had been left behind, a smooth shard that was about the length of half his palm. “I’m sorry,” he said, standing over the filled grave. “You didn’t deserve this.”
Sandor gave a soft purr of comfort, nudging Eren’s side. Eren smiled faintly before climbing up onto the enfield’s back. “Let’s get out of here,” he told Levi quietly. Levi said nothing. The sound of Daeva following after the pair was answer enough.
When they settled for camp again it was only due to Levi’s insistence that Eren get some sleep. Eren had been having nightmares, eyes dark with shadows. Though he argued, Eren was out as soon as he laid down.
With the sun still shining, Levi was left to look after him and the camp. He rummaged through Eren’s bag, pulling out the piece of antler Eren had kept. With the fish Sandor had caught cooking over the fire, Levi began to carve away at the bone. He spent hours bent over the piece, magic lighting his fingers and the old language mixing with a strange tongue that made Sandor’s ears twitch and Daeva’s wings ruffle. When he finally straightened up there was a finely shaped dagger in his hands. Levi put it back in Eren’s bag before he pulled the fish off the fire. Sure that they were done, he woke Eren to eat.
Later, when Eren was looking through his bag for his canteen, he froze. He pulled out the dagger, examining it quietly. When he tucked it back into the pack, Levi smiled from the cover of the trees before vanishing back into the woods, unseen.
After the buck's death they traveled days without incident. Eren took to asking Levi questions about his life when he could no longer sleep, and the other man acquiesced. He learned that Levi was an orphan, just like Eren. That he hadn’t been well off even before the demon had killed his mother and marked him. He learned that Levi had grown up fighting to survive, that the tattoos on his skin had been made by Hanji, who had helped infuse the ink with demon blood to make the wards all the more powerful.
He had survived a demon’s attempt at possession, Levi explained. Which was why he could survive having demon blood in his system without going insane.
Eren was amazed. Even with the tolerance, it had to have hurt like hell to mix the blood.
With the learning of Levi’s past came the explanation of Eren’s. He spoke of his mother being possessed, of finding her with bits of his father in her mouth and of killing her because it was what had to happen. He spoke of being nine and staring at his mother’s blood on his hands and fleeing; of finding Hanji and getting into contact with hunters and learning to keep others safe. Even demons.
“You’re the one,” Levi said in surprise. There was something like approval in his voice; it made Eren’s chest warm. “I heard that there was a hunter who was letting the demons those barbarians keep as ‘pets’ go. I should have known it was you.”
Eren looked over at him. They were sitting close together, shoulders and thighs touching. “Why’s that?”
“Because you’re kind,” Levi said simply, turning his head to meet Eren’s eyes. “You care about the world even though it’s a shitty place to live in. I admire that. Even if it is stupid.”
“You have such a way of flattering me,” Eren laughed. “do you not care about the world?”
“No,” Levi told him. “does that bother you?”
Eren thought about it. “No,” he decided. “I think it’s strange, but I understand. You don’t really have anyone. Your family was taken from you. You look after yourself, and that’s it. It’s what most people do.”
“But not you,” Levi said quietly.
Eren’s cheeks flushed. When had they gotten so close? When did Levi learn enough about him to say that? And furthermore, when had Eren grown so fond of the man next to him. “Not me,” Eren echoed. He shifted nervously, eyes cutting over to Levi. He found blue eyes already looking his way, and Eren’s face flushed all over again. “What?”
Levi was silent for a few long moments. Their eyes were locked and Eren knew he should feel uncomfortable, but all he wanted was to understand the emotion in Levi’s eyes. He wanted to know more.
“Nothing,” Levi said. His eyes flicked down to Eren’s mouth. The action was quick but, focused as he was on Levi’s face, Eren caught it. His heart sped up, stomach clenching. He wanted it, Eren realized. His eyes fell to Levi’s mouth. He wondered what it would feel like; wondered what it would be like to be close to someone again after so long.
“Can I kiss you?” Eren blurted. As soon as the words were out, he wanted to take them back. He was terrible at this.
Levi’s mouth curved. His eyes flashed, and this time Eren knew for sure that there was pleasure in those eyes. “Yes,” he said. His face drew closer, even as he teased. “but I think I’ll kiss you first.”
Eren was smiling even as Levi’s mouth met his own. His entire body lit up with a mix of excited nerves. He hadn’t done this in a long time; long enough for him to feel weak at how much he wanted more. Eren shifted, resting his weight on a hand to better get at Levi’s lips. The pressure was slow, testing. It was a question and Eren answered with a resounding yes.
“That wasn’t fair,” he whispered, when they had parted just enough to breathe. Levi was ghosting his lips against Eren’s even then, teasing with a wicked smile.
“I never play fair,” Levi murmured. He turned his head to bite down lightly on Eren’s neck. Eren shuddered, body lighting up all over again.
“I’m noticing,” Eren said breathlessly. His fingers carded into black hair. He bit his lip, meeting Levi’s eyes. “Again?”
Levi laughed against his mouth. Eren supposed that was answer enough.
The third time it happened, Eren awoke to not a body, but a heart impaled by a horn. Eren pulled the horn free of the cold flesh with trembling fingers, Levi’s hand grounding on his back. “How?” He whispered. “Daeva and Sandor were here. My wards didn’t notice a thing—how is he doing this?”
“He must be able to get past your magic without being detected,” Levi said, pulling some water out to wash the unicorn’s horn of blood. “You must have met him at some point. Your magic knows him—accepts him even. Can you think of anyone like that?”
Eren stared at the heart, his own aching. “No one but you,” he said.
Levi landed the horn back. It was clean now, and the iridescent surface gleamed. “We’ll figure it out.”
The bone still felt warm when Eren touched it. He felt sadness towards the creature that had had to perish in order for him to get such a gift. “I don’t understand,” Eren admitted, after they had buried the heart and had breakfast cooking. “this is used for protection. It’s a gift, not a threat. Is he just playing with me?”
“Maybe he has other plans for you,” Levi murmured, eyes focused on the fire he was tending. “maybe death isn’t the goal anymore.”
“But why would he change his mind?” Eren shook his head, clutching the horn close. “He said he was coming for me. He’s killed three creatures now. I don’t know what he’s waiting for.”
Levi sighed. He stood, rounding the fire to sit beside Eren. “You’re going to make yourself sick worrying,” he chided. He lifted a hand to brush Eren’s hair back out of his eyes. A smile curved his mouth when Eren leaned into the touch. “he won’t hurt you, remember? I promised and I don’t break promises.”
Eren touched his forehead to Levi’s. “But what if it’s not your choice?”
Levi touched a hand to Eren’s chin. He tilted Eren's head up for a slow kiss that left Eren’s chest warm. “It is,” he said.
Eren wanted desperately to believe him.
“Are you keeping the horn?”
He looked down at his hands. He didn’t like the fact that it had been stolen from such a beautiful creature, but Eren couldn’t just throw it away. “It would be rude to the life that was taken to not take care of it,” Eren said softly.
“You’re too kind for your own good.” The crooked smirk on Levi's face was at odds with the words. Before Eren could ask what he meant, Levi was kissing him again, deep and possessive and long. Eren set the horn aside, clutching Levi closer. He was scared and in desperate need to forget things for a while. He was more than happy to let Levi kiss away his worries. By the time they parted, Eren was on his back, legs hooked around Levi’s hips and hands buried in Levi’s hair. He smiled shyly, a blush dusting his cheeks.
“Hi,” Eren said softly.
Levi smirked. He leaned down, placing a kiss that sent heat rocketing through Eren’s stomach behind his ear. “Hey,” he answered huskily. He bit down on Eren’s neck, mouth working the skin under his teeth into a blooming bruise. Eren arched under the feeling. A moan pulled itself from his throat, but Eren could not bring himself to feel embarrassed.
Levi pulled back to examine the mark, a finger tracing the skin. Eren shivered at the look of utter possession that flickered over Levi’s face. “Breakfast is ready,” he murmured. Despite his words, he made no move to get up. Eren admittedly, did not want him to. His hands tightened in Levi’s hair, and he pulled the man back down to him.
“It can wait a while,” Eren said breathlessly. He bit his lip, looking from Levi’s eyes to his neck. “Can I mark you too?”
Something in Levi’s face changed. His pupils widened, nails digging into Eren’s skin. It was the most shocked Eren had ever seen the other man. “Yes,” Levi said, voice thick. “Fuck, do it.”
Eren didn’t need to be told twice. He wanted to mark Levi as his as well. He didn’t know how much more time they had together, and he wanted to enjoy it while it lasted. He traced kisses over Levi’s neck, teasing him with slow scrapes of teeth. Levi was almost shaking against him. Eren would have been worried if the man’s arousal wasn’t pressed against his thigh. Without warning, Eren bit down. Levi groaned, long and low.
“Rlbb’i zn’gl,” Levi breathed. He cradled Eren’s head in a hand, holding him close. “Harder, Eren.”
Under Levi’s coaxing, Eren found his jaws closing. He’d been planning on easing into the gentle sucking Levi had given him, but Levi seemed far more interested in the bite itself. It wasn’t until Eren tasted blood that he realized just how far he had gone— and before he could so much as apologize, his body registered the liquid. Eren seized, body lighting up in flames. A scream tore its way out of his throat and then Eren knew nothing but pain.
When Eren awoke once more, the sun was beginning to come down from the sky. His entire body ached, and when he swallowed, his throat burned. It felt like he’d drank a gallon's worth of seawater. “Levi?” he croaked, registering the figure next to him. Eren cringed at the fire that lit his throat.
“Welcome back,” Levi said. He pressed a glowing hand to Eren’s neck, easing the burn. “Drink this, it’ll help.”
Eren opened his mouth for the vial that Levi pressed to his lips willingly. The mixture was cool, sweet like honey, with an underlining bitterness. It soothed Eren’s pain immediately. Able to speak now without feeling like broken glass was being dragged down his throat, Eren asked the question that was nagging at his conscious: “What happened?”
“You came into contact with some of my blood.” Levi sighed, setting the vial down. He stroked Eren’s hair, at ease now that he was awake. “I told you I have demon blood mixed into my system. You swallowed some of mine and your body rejected it. I knocked you out before you could hurt yourself.”
“I made you bleed,” Eren realized, eyes wide. “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what came over me, I just—“
Levi hushed him. “It was nothing I didn’t ask for, you silly boy.” He traced Eren’s lips with a fingertip, smile rueful. “I often forget how fragile you humans are.”
Eren sighed softly. He shifted, sore body protesting the movement. “You speak as if you aren’t one.”
Levi’s face shuttered off, eyes far away. His voice was quiet when he next spoke. “Sometimes I feel as if I’m not.”
A hand touched Levi’s, fingers twining together. “I understand,” Eren murmured. He squeezed lightly. “Lay with me? I feel like I’ve been pummeled.”
Levi chuckled, letting Eren tug him down. He pulled Eren into his arms, letting him get comfortable against Levi's chest. “You did ingest demon blood. It’s no surprise.”
“I’ll remember to stay away from your blood,” Eren said, already half asleep. “I don’t want to hurt you anyways.”
“That’s quite a relief to hear,” Levi murmured. He stroked Eren’s hair, staring up at the setting sun. “I find myself not wanting to hurt you either.”
Eren was out before he could hear the words.
This time, when Eren woke up, it was to no pain in his body and no gory display. Levi was gone, Daeva and Sandor as well. Assuming they had gone to the river nearby, Eren took his time waking up. He let out a soft yawn, stretching out on his bed roll. It wasn’t the comfiest thing to sleep on but Eren had had worse. He was grateful to be sleeping normally again. Eren rubbed at his eyes, sitting up with a soft sigh.
He needed to bathe, that much was obvious. The sun had heated his skin and made Eren sweat in his sleep. He would have to see about stealing some of Levi’s soap when the man came back. Unsure of when that would be, Eren snagged an apple from his bag, biting into the crisp skin. Juice ran down his chin and he was glad Levi wasn’t there to chide him.
Eren sighed. He tossed the core into the woods when he was done, leaving it for the birds. Levi’s bag was sitting next to his own, he noticed. Eren debated between waiting for the man to return and just grabbing the soap himself. Deciding that Levi could be gone for quite a while, Eren pulled the bag closer. The soap was easy to find, thankfully. It sat in a magical pouch and a simple touch of magic infused fingers to the surface left Eren with a bar of soap. The inside of the bag reacted to a stranger’s magic, and he was blinded for a moment by a bright flash.
Cursing softly, Eren blinked away the spots in his vision. When he could finally see again, his blood ran cold. Floating above the bag were crimson words.
Come and get me.
Eren ran, as fast as he could. He had whistled for Sandor until his lungs ached and there had been no answer. Eren could only assume that the enfield had been blocked from coming to his aid; Eren just prayed that he was alive.
He clutched Levi’s necklace in his hand as he ran, sending out pulses of magic in a cry for Levi to come back and let him know he was safe. Eren knew it was futile. There was a deliberate intent in using Levi’s bag to rely the message. The demon had Levi, and if Eren was lucky, he would still be alive by the time he found him. He half wondered if this is what the demon had been waiting for. Had he watched from a distance, letting Levi and Eren get close just so he could hurt Eren even further? Suddenly there seemed to be a new meaning behind the missing hearts of the first two warning kills, and the heart that had been speared with a horn.
A flare of magic answered Eren’s next pulse. Eren couldn’t help the cry that escaped his lips. He changed direction, a blur in the trees. He had not put his boots on, nor the rest of his gear. Too distraught at the thought of Levi dead, Eren had taken off as soon as the message had faded. His feet stung and bled on the forest floor but Eren ignored it. Nothing mattered but keeping Levi safe.
Eren crashed into a clearing after what felt like an eternity. He was heaving for breath, magic flickering unevenly around his form in his panic. There were cuts covering his body, twigs and leaves caught in his hair and stuck in what little clothing he wore. Eren didn’t care.
“Levi?” He called, voice quivering. Eren held the necklace to his chest as he stepped further into the cleared space. He wished it could answer him. The trees flashed, a ward slamming down into place. Eren was trapped, he knew it even before he threw a ball of fire at the barrier only to have it bounce back.
You found me, foolish thing.
Eren backed away from the words, eyes guarded. He searched the woods and found nothing but sunshine and shadows. “I know you’re there!” He spat, fingers curling around the now black stone. Eren placed the necklace back around his neck, hands blazing with power. “Stop hiding, you coward!”
I’m not hiding, was his taunting answer. Turn around, Eren.
Eren was spinning before the sentence was even complete. He was so set on looking for a taunting shadow that he almost didn’t register what he was seeing at first. “Levi?” Eren whispered, hands falling to his sides in shock. “You’re alright.”
Levi gave him a crooked smirk from where he leaned against a tree. He was in strange clothes, cloth like an oil spill covering him from head to toe. “I am,” Levi agreed. His voice was a purr that Eren had never heard before, and his hair stood on end.
He was outside the barrier, Eren realized, even as Levi stepped closer. “Wait—!“ Eren began, only to be left floundering. Levi’s smirk did not diminish as he stepped through the barrier, as easy as breathing. If anything it only grew. Slowly, things began to fall into place.
“Tl’bbe, bn’hhl aepil,” Levi murmured. “I’m afraid our little game is over.”
“You’re the demon,” Eren whispered. His body grew cold, magic dying away. Eren couldn’t move, even as Levi drew near. “All this time it’s been you. From the very start you’ve been toying with me. Laughing at me.”
“Yes,” Levi agreed easily. “At least at first. You’re an interesting human. I wanted to play some more. I practically gave you the answer several times, but you were too absorbed in friendship.”
“You were pretending,” Eren said numbly. “All this time you were just…” his eyes pricked with tears. Grief welled up in Eren's chest against his will. He’d been happy for a short time, even with the fear that had surrounded him. Having that torn away was a torture in itself. “Why am I still alive?”
“Good question,” Levi approved. He circled Eren, boots making no sound despite the leaves that they crushed. “I was going to kill you at first. You’ve been a thorn in my side for quite some time. Always chasing me, trying to trap me and take me down. I was planning on doing it in that human village but I changed my mind. I decided to scare you instead to see what you’d do. You care a lot about the scum of this earth, you’re far nicer than me —I did mean that when I said it.” Levi paused, hooking a hand suddenly tipped with sharp nails under Eren’s chin.
Eren’s eyes met the demon’s.
Levi’s pupils were slits as they examined the him. “Then you began to interest me. I grew… fond of you. So I decided to court you instead. You reacted wonderfully, minus all the crying.” Levi’s lip curled. “I had to dial back on my plans, you kept getting upset all the time. But you accepted my gifts. And then, precious thing,” Levi said, voice going soft and tender. Eren couldn’t help the way his body reacted to the tone, eyes widening as Levi cradled his face in dangerous hands. “you marked me, of your own free will. You started something you had no clue of, and you, little mouse, sealed it in blood and nearly got yourself killed.”
Eren shook his head, even as Levi drew closer. “That’s impossible,” he whispered. “you killed people. You kept leaving behind ways to scare me.”
“Think about it, pet,” Levi prompted. “you took the necklace. Where do you think that feather was from? You took the deer’s antler and then accepted the knife I made you. You kept the unicorn’s horn too. And then you marked me; asked for it even.” Eren shivered as an abnormally long tongue licked some of the blood from his face. “You started this.”
“But I didn’t know what they meant!” Eren argued. His hurt was beginning to turn to rage. Levi had been lying to him; toying with him even if he hadn’t been planning on killing Eren. “Why are you even doing this? Why did you bother with this whole charade?”
“I knew you wouldn’t trust me if I told you what I was,” Levi said simply. He stepped away, letting Eren watch as he slipped into what he truly was. Wings unfolded from his back, black as night and matching the feather around Eren’s neck. Horns broke through the skin of his temples to point to the sky, black and tipped in crimson. Levi’s eyes flashed, and one iris turned red. The blue bled into the other, leaving Levi’s right eye a mix of ice and blood. Eren hated himself even as he thought it was beautiful. By the time it was done, Levi’s skin was smeared in black in some places, and he resembled something far more dangerous than the human skin he had worn. “you wouldn’t have let me within a foot of you if I had shown up like this.”
“You’re right,” Eren said, staring at Levi’s wings. “because you’ve killed people. Not because of your appearance.”
Levi threw his head back and laughed. His mouth was full of razor sharp teeth and Eren wondered if it had hurt to grow them in. “We all kill, Eren. Even you. Isn’t that your job?”
“It’s different,” Eren said, unsteady under that mismatched gaze. “I do it to protect people.”
“Maybe,” Levi purred, crowding Eren’s space once again. “but a corpse is a corpse and we both leave them behind. Do you really have any right to be getting judgmental?”
Eren found he had no argument for that. He stepped away from Levi, even as Levi followed after him. Eventually, his back hit the barrier, and Eren had nowhere else to run. “What was the point of this then?” he asked tiredly. “are you going to eat me?”
Levi laughed again, tracing a nail down Eren’s throat. “No, little one, I’m not going to eat you. At least, not as a food source. Sexually on the other hand…” Levi trailed off, eyebrows raising suggestively even as a snake’s tongue flicked out over his lips. “I didn’t go through the pains of courting you just to dispose of all that hard work. I want to keep you.”
“As a pet?”
“As a mate,” Levi corrected, tapping Eren’s nose. “I like you, surprisingly. You’re not as terrible as the rest.”
“Charming as always,” Eren snorted. He looked away, biting his lip. “What if I refuse?”
Levi sighed. “Then I’ll let you go on your merry way to be one with the rest of the scum on this earth. However, I have one condition.”
“You’ll give me three months,” Levi said, meeting Eren’s gaze levelly. “Three months to court you the human way. If you still don’t want me around after that, then I’ll go.”
Eren stared at him for a few long moments. “It’s not like I have any other choice but to agree,” he finally muttered. “you have me locked up.”
Levi stepped back. He raised a hand, muttering something under his breath. Eren stumbled as the barrier suddenly gave way. “Better?” Levi asked, raising an eyebrow.
Eren didn’t have time to reply. A blur of red and brown shot past him. It went straight for Levi, causing Eren to let out a shout of surprise. It wasn’t until the animal bounced off of Levi’s magic that Eren realized it was Sandor.
“Ah yes, he wasn’t very happy to see me,” Levi mused, staring at the snarling enfield. Sandor herded Eren back, stuck in a protective crouch. “but I figured you wouldn’t want him dead.”
Eren stroked Sandor’s neck, shooting Levi a glare. “You thought right,” he said sharply. “Are you going to stop terrorizing us now?”
“Terrorizing is what I do best,” Levi said with humor. “But I suppose it’s not a part of human mating rituals. I’ll stop for now.”
Eren stared at him for a few long moments before letting out a sigh. “Good enough, I guess.” He started to limp back towards the camp, only to be scooped up by strong arms. Levi danced away from Sandor’s snapping jaws with a taunting snarl of his own.
“You injured yourself by acting foolish,” Levi tsked, eyeing Eren’s bloody feet. “It’ll be faster this way.”
“I am perfectly capable of walking back,” Eren snapped. “I can ride Sandor.”
“Why bother when I already have you?” Levi said easily. His wings unfolded behind his back, and Eren was struck silent for a moment at the sheer mass of them. “You’re not afraid of heights are you?”
Levi flashed him a smile that was all teeth. “No reason.”
Later, when they touched back down into their camp, his hair wild from the wind and stomach left behind long ago, Eren realized that Levi was a very big liar. Even still, he couldn’t deny the flight had been exhilarating. Not that he would ever tell Levi that.
“So how is this going to work?” Eren asked, when his feet were bandaged and he had a bowl of stew in his hands. “You and me? Are you just going to follow me around?”
“It’ll be like it was before,” Levi told him from across the fire. The demon had kept his distance after taking care of Eren’s wounds and Eren was glad for the space. Sandor was still keeping watch by Eren’s side, growling whenever Levi got too close. It would take time to rebuild that relationship. “You’ll just know what I really am.”
“A killer,” Eren said flatly.
“A demon,” he returned. “We’re both killers, Eren. Remember that.”
Eren grimaced into his bowl. They ate in silence until Daeva returned. The hippalectryon took one look at Levi’s demon form and bit him. Eren watched in bemusement as Levi shoved her away, spewing curses the entire way. It was not the first time Eren had seen the two quarrel, but it was starting to make sense now. Daeva was a rare breed. Meant to guide souls of the dead, Levi was already at odds with her nature. Adding in a rooster, who meant to signal the rising of the sun and the end of the demon’s hour, was just the cherry on top of the whole situation. It’s no wonder Levi said they just tolerated each other. He did have to wonder how their first meeting had went though, and just what had led to the hippalectryon staying with a demon of all things. It was an unusual partnership, not that Eren really had any room to judge. Hanji had probably had a field day if they had known what Levi was.
“Did Hanji know?” Eren asked, caught on that train of thought. “Did they know you were planning on killing me?”
Levi looked up, eyeing him critically. “I’m sure they had some idea,” he said finally. “but they did not believe I would kill you in the end, I’m sure. Otherwise they would have loaded you with charms and spells when you weren’t looking. They’re very fond of you.”
“Fond enough to send me off with a demon that wants to kill me,” Eren said, though he held no negative feelings towards Hanji. Despite their eccentricities, the witch always looked out for their friends. They had known each other for many years now and Eren did not believe Hanji had convinced him to travel with Levi just so he could die.
Levi smiled a smile that was all knives. “You’re perfectly safe, Eren. In fact,” he mused, eyeing the forest. “you’re the safest you could ever be with me. Why else do you think we’ve had such peaceful travels?”
“So you can eat your meal in peace, probably,” Eren muttered sarcastically. He set his bowl aside, letting Sandor lick out the bits of broth and meat that was still left. Eren stretched with a sigh, feet twinging lightly in pain. It was about time he healed the wounds. It was when Eren was reaching towards his toes that he realized the camp had gone silent. It took a moment for Eren to register that Levi was no longer in his place, and by then Eren could already feel air on the back of his neck.
Sandor snarled, whirling around only to be held in place with a single point of Levi’s finger. “You are half correct in your assumption, little one,” Levi murmured. There was the scrape of teeth against sensitive skin and Eren shuddered. “you are a meal to be enjoyed without any interruptions. One day, I’ll savor you the way you deserve, if you’ll let me.”
It took a moment for Eren to collect his thoughts, goosebumps spreading out along his skin at Levi’s proximity. There were black feathers brushing his arms, temptingly soft. Eren had to resist the urge to run his fingers up along Levi’s wings. “And if I don’t?”
Levi was silent for a few long moments, teeth sinking in almost enough to hurt. “It will be a pity,” he finally sighed, wings withdrawing. Eren found himself missing their absence as Levi retreated to his side of the fire, releasing Sandor on his way. “I will do my best to convince you otherwise; and I warn you that I don’t fight fair.”
“I didn’t think you would,” Eren said, touching a hand to the back of his neck self-consciously. It was as if he could still feel Levi’s breath; the touch of his teeth.
“Do you want me to?” Levi asked, voice drenched in amusement.
Eren’s silence earned a rough chuckle, one that crackled like the fire between them.
For all Levi had told Eren of playing fair, Levi was surprisingly docile in the following days. They carried on in their daily routine—with a bit of hesitance on Eren’s part—continuing as if Levi was not, in fact, a demon. The man brought back food from the forest, carried wood to the fire, filled their canteens and collected herbs and berries that were safe to eat.
Then there were the gifts. Little trinkets that caught Eren’s eyes; left on his bed roll, in his bag, by his clothes. A shell that was polished a milky white and gleamed a multitude of colors in the sun; a crystal that was dusted in sparks of fire; an earring made of the smallest bone, inset with an even tinier stone; a flower dripping sunshine from its center, frozen in a drop of ice that was warm to the touch. There even came the meat for Sandor; rare, exotic foods that the enfield seldom got the chance to eat. Eren didn’t know what to make of any of it.
Levi was alluring in a dangerous way, and the shift in his persona was something Eren adjusted to slowly. The demon was clever, charming Eren with gifts and chivalry instead of going straight for what he wanted, like most demons did. Eren wanted to hate him for it, but he was more impressed than anything else.
See my control, Levi silently told Eren.
See how willing I am to wait for what I want.
Eren saw alright. He knew it was entirely his fault when the gentle touches began. He had not rejected the gifts. Even now, he wore the earring, the necklace; had the horn and the trinkets in his bag. Eren had shown nothing but acceptance—and even gratitude—towards the offerings. It was his own fault that Levi saw it as a silent permission to continue.
It started first with the brush of fingers across the fire, a written off accident in the midst of dinner. Then came the stroke of a wing down his back; the brief slide of fingers through his hair; the oh so careful trail of talons down Eren’s arm. It was almost painful how careful Levi was with him. Levi was obviously trying hard to win his favor and trust back amidst all the lies that had been told. Eren found himself giving it as the days passed into weeks and they continued to travel.
There was no real destination this time. Eren wasn’t hunting anything and Levi had no plans other than to chase Eren around it seemed. But staying in place wasn’t Eren's style, and he grew restless as the time passed. So they moved.
Levi learned what was okay to reveal to Eren about his past and what would make the other man look at him in disgust. He told tales of his time in hell, and of his time out.
Told Eren of the differences and the similarities and made Eren rethink some of what he had already known. He knew the environment made the monster, but it was a new feeling to be informed of the fight for survival in Levi’s realm. Killing was the way of doing things in his world, it was no surprise that when demons came into the human world that was all they knew how to do. Eren didn’t want to sympathize, but he did.
Eren was not blind to the scars on Levi’s body. When he shed his clothing they were there as clear as day. Eren had seen them before of course, but now that he knew what Levi was, he saw them in a brand new light. Saw the teeth and claw marks for what they truly were. Battles that Levi had fought and won in order to survive.
His wings were different colors in some spots, something Eren had noticed one night when Levi had sat close to him. A wing was stretched out over Eren’s shoulders to help keep him warm. The nights were growing colder as the leaves shifted colors and began to fall.
Eren combed his fingers through long primaries, having long since given up on arguing about the contact. For the most part, Levi’s wings were black, as if they had been drenched in ink. But there were places where the color was tainted, if only a little. There were sheens of red and grey dotting the surface, and Eren couldn’t help but notice the way Levi’s wings fluttered when he touched them.
“They're places where my feathers were ripped out,” Levi murmured, when Eren grew the courage to ask. “They grow back differently. Some demons don’t even have their original colors anymore. Our wings are an easy target.”
Eren could remember the black markets he’d been to. Could see the long feathers dangling from booths and the horns displayed like knives. There had been traps sold beside those same booths, with sellers that boasted and chortled about the creatures they caught screaming in the metal, held tight as they were plucked and skinned. Not for the first time, he was reminded that humans were monsters too.
The day came when they approached another village. Eren hesitated on the outskirts, debating whether they should turn around. The wind whipped past them as if in reprimand, cold and with the threat of frost. Eren shivered harshly. Levi could survive out there but Eren, in his mortality, needed to get some warmer clothes and sleep in an insulated room for once. The last thing Eren wanted was to fall ill.
“If you’re worried about me killing someone, don’t,” Levi said, hopping off of Daeva. His wings melted into his back, features returning human. “Best behavior, remember?”
Eren felt distinctly guilty as he watched him go, before quickly following suit. Sandor shrunk down to wrap around his neck as they went. He was far more docile around Levi after the weeks of careful actions and offered gifts. The enfield had grown a wary trust in Levi again.
This time, Eren let Levi do the talking at the Inn, far too tired and cold to be charming. They took their food to their rooms—or well, room. Levi had taken the liberty of getting a double bed instead of separate bunks. Eren rolled his eyes at the decision. Even still, he scarfed down his food in little time, before collapsing into the bed. His body ached from the days of travel, and the cold hadn’t helped.
There were quiet footsteps and the sound of the lantern being blown out before the bed shifted. Eren did not complain when Levi drew him into his arms. He told himself that like this, Levi could not sneak away without him noticing, but Eren could not deny that his hands sought out Levi’s back, fingers curling into the fabric where feathers had once been. He missed the familiar weight and texture.
“Gl’ih lmi’o,” Levi murmured. “je r’mga ir’mbb seal he oep.”
Maybe Eren imagined it, but he fell asleep to the touch of feathers under his hands.
Levi was true to his words. The week they spent at the village was free of death. With how normal Levi was acting, Eren could almost forget that it was a demon by his side every day. Almost.
At night, Levi reverted back to his normal self, pupils slitting and wings unfurling from his back. As unsettling as it had been, Eren no longer complained at the change. The brush of feathers had grown into a familiar comfort, and Eren liked curling up in Levi’s long plumes. Sometimes, Levi would tell him stories—Levi didn’t know quite how old he was but Eren gathered that he had been around for a while judging by some of the tales he spun. Other times, he asked Eren questions, curious about his likes, his dislikes, his fears and hopes and past. Eren answered them readily enough, despite the sometimes sensitive subjects. When it came to his family, Eren grew quiet and somber. He had not broached the topic in a long time, but Levi had asked and so Eren would tell.
“She was marked,” he said, fingers combing through Levi’s feathers anxiously. “our village wasn’t very tolerant of that sort of thing. There wasn’t any help if they found out. If you were lucky they drove you out and into the woods. If you weren’t, they killed you. My father had calculated how much time she had; he was good at that sort of thing. He had contacts with hunters and he knew enough to help people in need. But the demon was stronger than anticipated and she was too sick from the struggle. It happened sooner than expected and when I came home she had her teeth in my father.” Eren shifted, shoving his face into Levi’s feathers. His eyes burned hot with tears. “I did what had to be done and then I left. Joined the hunters and found Hanji.”
Levi made a soft sound of understanding. He shifted, drawing Eren back into his chest. Eren was enveloped in darkness as Levi’s wings wrapped around them, but somehow it was more comfortable than scary. “That’s why you hate demons.”
Eren shook his head. “I don’t hate demons,” he protested, sniffing wetly. “I hate what they do to people. My mom was the nicest person I ever knew; and I’m not just saying that because I’m her son. Everyone in the village loved her. She always went out of her way to help everyone else. Do you know how she was marked? She stayed out late helping a woman that had fallen and twisted her ankle get home safely. She gave her protection charms away when she noticed they were broken from the fall. She did everything right in life and then that demon came along and just—just took her away.”
There was a soft sound filling the space between them. It took a moment for Eren to realize what it was as tears streaked down his cheeks. Levi was…crooning at him. A low rumble that vibrated his chest and wrapped around Eren like a warm blanket. It was not unlike the sounds Sandor sometimes made, but deeper, more ancient and feral. It triggered something in Eren’s mind that had his body relaxing, tension fleeing his bones.
“N’epbd hp’g’j hrl zn’kjd h’rmh r’pgh oep he dp’ih nz oep wenjhld hrla eph,” Levi said darkly. The words sent a shudder down Eren’s spine, though it was not one of fright. He could not understand what had been said, but he could hear the intent at least. Right then Eren felt safe in Levi’s arms, the safest he had probably ever felt.
“Levi?” Eren asked hesitantly. “Why haven’t you kissed me again?” It was a question spoken only with the confidence that came with the darkness around them, as well as the fact that he did not have to face him.
Levi was silent for a few long moments. “I believed trying to be any closer to you than this would not be well received,” he said carefully, in that way of his that told Eren that he had weighed each and every word. “at the beginning you disliked even my touch. I was waiting for your consent.”
“That’s not very like a demon,” Eren murmured.
“No,” Levi said quietly. “It’s not.”
Eren bit his lip. His fingers fidgeted with the feathers beneath his palm. “I wouldn’t be opposed,” he began. “if you kissed me, that is.” Eren's face was flaming even before Levi shifted. He rolled Eren onto his back, wings still carefully holding up the illusion of darkness. Eren thought he saw a glint of silver as Levi hovered over him, but he couldn’t be sure.
“Eren,” Levi murmured, as he traced a nail along his mouth. “tell me what you want, really.”
Eren shivered, lips parting under Levi’s touch. He felt vulnerable, even under cover of darkness. He knew Levi could see him, even if Eren couldn’t see Levi. “I want you,” he admitted softly. It was a fact that he was still at war with himself over. “I want you to kiss me.”
A low growl sounded through the quiet that had surrounded them. The sound was hungry and Eren’s eyes barely had a chance to widen before Levi was closing the distance between their mouths. The contact was firm, deep. Levi’s hands caught Eren’s as they reached for him, twining their fingers together and pressing Eren's hands down on either side of his head. He took Eren’s mouth as only a demon could, selfishly and with no apologies. He stole Eren’s breath with it, leaving Eren gasping and shivering beneath Levi. There was no room to pull away, no chance to think. Eren was lost in the demon, chin lifting to return each fierce press of contact with his own. He did not have fangs but that did not stop Eren from biting back when Levi’s teeth sank into his neck. Nor did it stop him from returning Levi’s feral sounds with his own moans.
For all that Levi was capable of, he had been more than gentle with Eren since their first meeting. Even after revealing his true nature Levi had handled Eren with care. It was for this reason that Eren did not fault Levi when he tore the skin on Eren’s neck with sharp fangs. Levi purred, long and low as he lapped up the blood that pooled free from the wound. It wasn’t a particularly large cut, more a shallow scrape from a careful canine than anything else, but it still hurt. Eren hissed softly, hands tugging at Levi’s in complaint.
Levi nosed at Eren’s chin, long tongue flicking out to soothe and heal. As destructive as demons could be, they also had the capability to do good. While Levi could kill Eren with a shot of poison to his veins, his saliva could also mend when given the intent.
Levi pulled away from Eren with a pained groan, stealing a hard kiss, and then another, before finally releasing Eren’s hands.
“Oep m’gl ao g’pn’j,” Levi panted, mouth hot on Eren’s neck. He was trembling, Eren realized, as his hands found Levi’s back. Barely restrained aggression keeping his shoulders taunt. “mj lh’lgjnh’o ez ip’gwn’w’mb mj’d oep sepb’d b’mo al he ‘mi’hl ie lm’i’bo.”
“Shh,” Eren soothed, cutting through Levi’s frantic rambling. “it’s okay. Just try to breathe. Why don’t you open your wings so we can get some air?”
It took a nudge of Eren’s fingers for Levi to start moving. Slowly, his wings shifted. Eren guided Levi up so that he didn’t have to yank his wings out from under Eren's body.
Levi's face was wild when Eren finally saw him. His pupils were blown, wide and hazed as they stared at Eren. his mouth was open as he took heaving breaths, tongue flicking out along his lips restlessly, as if searching for the last bit of dessert. Eren felt a bit of unease in his gut when he realized Levi was staring at his neck, where he had been bleeding moments earlier. Now that he thought about it, Levi looked far too close to the murderous haze he had seen many a demon fall to.
“Levi,” he said, touching a hand to Levi's face. Eren searched those predator’s eyes, heart sinking. “Please don’t make me hurt you.”
Something in Levi’s eyes flashed. His head wrenched to the side, eyes slamming closed. His hands curled into tight fists, nails cutting into his palms. Eren watched as his lips peeled back in a snarl, baring sharp teeth. There seemed to be an ongoing battle inside of Levi’s head, and Eren wasn’t sure which side would win.
Levi stayed frozen like that for what had to be several minutes, Eren watching him in turn. Finally, when Eren’s body was beginning to ache from the lack of movement, Levi’s eyes peeled open.
“Fuck,” he said, voice hoarse when he looked down at Eren’s worried face. His pupils were still blown, but they were no longer clouded over, much to Eren's relief. This was the Levi that he knew. “Are you okay?”
“Are you?” Eren countered. He touched a hand to Levi’s. Blood was dripping from between the digits, and when Levi’s hand uncurled, Eren saw the deep furrows his talons had made in the flesh. “Reckless,” he muttered. His hands glowed green as he reached over, healing each and every wound Levi had inflicted on himself to stay sane. Levi watched him quietly, eyes searching Eren’s face for a hint at what he was thinking.
“Eren,” he started, only to stop again. His brow furrowed. “I’m sorry.”
Eren ignored the words, cleaning the blood from Levi’s hands before settling back down into bed. “I’d like to do it again,” he declared, flashing Levi a challenging look. “if you’re up for it, that is.”
Levi’s eyes widened in surprise. It didn’t take long for him to recover. “I’m always up for it, little mouse,” he purred, gaze going predatory. “but I fear I’ll want to do more than kiss you if we continue tonight. It’s hard not to devour you when you’re so open beneath me.”
Eren shivered, knowing full well the double meaning behind those words. Even still, he could not deny the arousal stirring in his belly. “Another time then,” he murmured.
Levi’s smile was wicked. “Yes,” he agreed. His tongue dragged over the top row of his teeth. Levi looked like he wanted nothing more than to eat Eren right then and there. “another time.”
For all of Levi’s promises, the remainder of their time in the village of Endinbor was relatively simple. Every night, Levi wrapped Eren in a blanket of feathers. The only difference were the kisses they sometimes shared.
For a demon Levi was extremely patient. Eren had expected the floodgates to open as soon as he’d given his consent, but Levi kept his hands to himself—or, at least away from Eren’s pants. The night following the kiss Eren had expected far more than the slow burn of the kisses Levi had given him as he fell asleep. Eren had known from the start that Levi wanted him, and yet, Levi made no move to get more than what had been offered so far. It confused Eren. Surely it would make more sense to get as far as he could before Levi’s time ran up? So why wasn’t Levi taking advantage?
Needless to say, Eren left the village in a confused haze.
They began to travel back to warmer lands, seeking to escape the snow. The trees they passed under were dotted in colors of rust. They peppered the forest floor in a blanket of rot and decay. With every crunching step, Eren was reminded of how little time was left. Levi had asked for three months. The day before had marked the first week of the second. Time was slipping away and Eren still didn’t know what his decision was.
He liked Levi, that much he knew. Eren enjoyed the time they spent together, but Levi couldn’t play docile forever. He was a demon; he had killed people—tortured them even. Could Eren really live with himself if he mated someone like that?
We’re both killers, Eren. Remember that.
He frowned, looking away from the forest floor. The time would come for him to decide. Eren just hoped he made the right choice.
It was Levi that chose their next camp. Secluded and with little risk of any other human coming across them, they set up on the outskirts of a cave. It was abandoned, Levi had assured after stalking into the darkness. They could use it as a shelter from the rain and to keep warm at night. It was a good find, Eren had to admit. Almost too good. If he weren’t with Levi, Eren would almost say it was a trap.
With Levi’s abnormal speed they were done setting up in no time. Eren was still getting used to the benefits of Levi being a demon. It was strange to think that a creature built to cause havoc could be so useful when it came to such domestic things.
Of course, every time Eren found himself thinking such stereotypical thoughts he felt guilty. He knew that some demons were good, of course, but Eren hadn’t realized just how much impact hunting down the bad ones had had. It was hard to reconcile the killers and the friendly—and it was harder still when Levi was proving himself to be both. Eren wasn’t used to such gray areas and Levi had some of the richest shades.
Still, Eren found himself growing attached. Levi as a human had already become a friend to Eren—and had, admittedly, been on the way to being more. Levi as a demon was… not quite a lover, but, Eren was coming to realize that he was close. With every night they spent together, entangled and blanketed in Levi’s wings, it was harder and harder to stop. It was to the point where Eren knew he needed more answers, before things escalated past a recovery point. If only he knew how to bring it up.
“Something is bothering you,” Levi noted, as they sat by the fire. They were resting against Sandor’s side, the fur of the enfield and Levi’s feathers keeping Eren warm. It was the most progress Levi had had with Sandor so far. “I can smell your unease. What is it?”
Eren flushed. He would probably never get used to Levi being able to smell his emotions of all things. “Nothing bad,” Eren said hesitantly. “it’s a bit embarrassing, really.”
The wing around Eren shifted, drawing him closer. “I won’t make fun of you,” Levi told him. “the last time I teased you you kicked me out of bed for a day.”
“You told me it amused you to imagine the look on someone’s face if you decorated a Christmas tree with human entrails!”
“And I regretted it right after,” Levi agreed solemnly. “So much for honesty being important in a human relationship.”
Eren was half laughing as he shoved at his shoulder. “Homicidal tendencies don’t count,” he told him. “We generally keep those to ourselves.”
“A pity.” Levi sighed. “But what was the embarrassing thing on your mind?”
Eren’s face was still a bit flushed, but he felt better about speaking his mind. He’d grown comfortable in Levi’s presence all over again. “I’d like to know what mating you would entail, exactly. For you and for me.”
Levi's face was usually controlled, so Eren wasn’t sure if Levi’s look of surprise was intentional or not. “The act itself?” Levi asked carefully. “Or the benefits you would receive?”
“Both.” He bit his lip, shifting nervously. “Please.”
Levi brushed feathers down Eren’s arm soothingly. “Once the courting phase is complete and both parties have reached a mutual understanding, the mating ritual begins. It is Tenjn’jv ye Lel’bi. The Joining of Souls.”
Something about the way that he said it gave Eren the impression that he was being let in on something precious.
Blue eyes met his.
Eren shivered at the intensity behind that gaze.
“It is where you will give yourself to me,” Levi murmured, leaning closer—or perhaps Eren was. “and I to you. To seal the bond you leave the mating mark. Usually right here,” Levi brushed a nail along Eren’s jugular. “once the marking and blood sharing is complete, the bond is sealed. My power will claim you. Remake you. Join with your magic and turn you into something even greater than what you are now.”
“Will it do the same to you?” Eren whispered, hung on Levi’s every word.
He chucked. “It already has,” Levi said fondly. He brushed a bit of hair behind Eren’s ear. “Once the ritual is complete, we will share power. You will have the ability to go to hell if you wish, but I do not recommend it. I am not sure what physical attributes might change. You may be the same as you always have been, it’s unknown. Thought sharing will also be available to you. If you need me you will be able to call me back with a silent cry and vice versa.”
Eren blinked. “Wow,” he said, soaking that all in. “That’s… a lot. I thought it would be a bit more doom and gloom than that.”
A peal of laughter sliced through the cave. “I can make it darker if you wish.”
“No,” he backtracked. “good is fine. Good is great. I just wasn’t expecting you to be so forward. Or for things to be so positive.”
“You thought I would lie about this?” Levi frowned, tilting Eren’s chin up to meet his eyes. “I am many things, Eren, but I am not a liar when it comes to matters of the heart. I would not chain someone unwilling to me for eternity.”
“An eternity,” he repeated. Eren’s lips curved slightly. “That’s a long time.”
Levi brushed his mouth against Eren's. “It is even longer when spent alone.” He pulled away, standing with a soft sigh. “Goodnight, little one. I’m going to do a sweep of the area.”
Eren watched him go. He was warm with Sandor at his back, but he found that it wasn’t the same when he tried to sleep. Eren missed the familiar weight of feathers draped over his body, and the feeling of safety that Levi offered him. He fell asleep, knowing his choice was becoming more and more apparent.
They spent the last month secluded from the world. Or rather, Levi did his best to make the cave a home and Eren made no move to argue. It was the first time he had ever seen Levi act nervous. Levi had been confident from the start, to see him second guessing himself put Eren on edge. He didn't like making him so anxious.
Though Eren had to admit that the fact that his decision had so much power meant that this was more than just a game to Levi. He had suspected as much around the second month, but the way Levi was acting made him sure. It made Eren far more confident about his own decision.
The last night of the month was a full moon, yet the clouds covering the sky could have convinced anyone otherwise.
Sandor had went hunting after a single look. Eren had no idea where Daeva was. He might have been concerned if disappearing wasn't what she did best. Levi, however, was not someone he had thought would disappear along with her. He'd been looking for him for hours now, only to find nothing. Even his silent calls elicited no response. Eren wondered what the point of the necklace was if Levi never answered it in the first place.
He let out a long sigh, slumping against a tree. Maybe Levi had changed his mind, Eren thought forlornly. For all he knew, Levi could be laughing in the trees at the stupid hunter that had thought he had wanted him. Or maybe, Levi had thought that he knew the answer. Eren hadn't exactly been clear about his wishes.
It figured that he would disappear as soon as Eren was ready to succumb to his advances.
Eren turned, ready to head back. If Levi wouldn't let himself be found then Eren would just have to wait for him to show himself. It had been what Levi had been doing for so long; waiting for Eren to get over himself and accept his courtship. It was only fair that he waited in turn. He just hoped Levi returned soon. The tattoos on Eren's skin were itching, warning him that something was off. He couldn't detect any foreign presence inside their joined barrier, but the feeling still put him on edge. If there was a threat coming Eren would prefer having Levi by his side, not ignoring his calls and nowhere to be seen.
Sandor met Eren halfway to the cave. He was in his largest form, fur bristling and eyes wild. Eren didn't bother scolding him for coming back. He was grateful to have the enfield by his side.
The forest seemed to only grow darker the longer they walked. Eren didn't dare do more than mutter an incantation that allowed him to see in the dark. If there was a threat approaching, any light source would only draw it right to them.
Without any words needing to be spoken, Sandor ducked down to let Eren onto his back. Once on, the fox hybrid wasted no time in climbing the nearby trees. He used a high branch to launch himself into the air, wings spreading wide. Eren ducked down, holding his legs out of the way.
The flight back to the cave was quicker than running on foot would have been. They met no resistance in the air, nor when they touched down. The camp was just as they had left it. Though the fire had burned down to nothing more than coals. The only difference was the hippalectryon waiting for them. She blended into the shadows, but Eren recognized her. "Daeva," he whispered, stepping around the firepit. "what's going on?"
Her head turned to face him. Coal eyes gave nothing away. Eren couldn't even tell if she was actually looking at him.
"Where's Levi?" His hand closed around his necklace, burning with the worry he called out to Levi with. The forest was ever silent.
Fire burned to life above the cave. The flames were without heat, but Eren felt as if they'd burned him to the core.
Seal mjd vlh al, bn’hhl aepil.
Come and get me, little mouse.
Eren was running again. Only this time, he knew what demon he was running to. His magic was unstable with the confusion and worry wreaking havoc on his mind, leaving the night vision he had been using to fade away. It left him running blind, unsure of just what Levi was thinking. Daeva ran ahead of him, guiding him to who-knows-where. Whenever he stopped, she stopped. Eren hoped that if Daeva was onboard with whatever Levi was doing, it couldn’t be all that bad.
He ran until his lungs ached and his skin bled from being whipped with branches. When Daeva finally stopped, it was at the very edge of their wards, at the beginning of a cliff face. Sandor skidded to a stop beside Eren, wings ruffling restlessly.
“Where is he?” Eren panted, squinting at Daeva through the shadows. She snorted, wings ruffling.
He crept forward, careful of the crumbling edge. The drop off was pitch black, giving little away of just what they were doing here. "Levi?" Eren asked. His voice was too soft to carry down into the darkness, laced with uncertainty. The wind picked up as if in response, cutting through his clothes and sending a chill down his spine. There was laughter in his ears, fingers running down his arms, but when Eren turned there was nothing there.
"Levi, please." He bit his lip, fingers sparking to life in an effort to give some form of light. Deava was tossing her head, legs shifting restlessly in the most expressive movement she had ever shown. Sandor was no better, low to the ground and growling. "Where are you? This isn't funny!"
Eren spun, hand lifting to an ear. It had sounded as if Levi was right there, whispering into his ear—and yet, once again what met him was darkness. He was shivering in the wind, teeth starting to chatter. "L-Levi?"
Bn’hhl aepil, Levi's voice said again.
Green eyes widened. "You can't be serious!" He inched closer to the edge, staring down into the darkness doubtfully.
T'paw, the wind whispered, pushing against his back. Eg gpj.
Deava reared with a scream as lightning flashed, wings spreading wide. Eren felt the electricity in his bones, teeth aching with it.
Jump or run. An ultimatum? Eren shook his head, toes peeking out over the edge. No, it was a choice. The last he had to make.
"You better catch me," he muttered.
Come join me, little mouse.
The wind was loud in his ears as he fell. It silenced all but his heartbeat, which was racing as fast as a hummingbird's wings. He did not scream. Did not flail or writhe in an effort to slow his descent. If he twisted in the air it would only make it harder to be caught, and Eren really did not want to hit the ground.
He had to close his eyes when the wind tore tears from them, not that it mattered. It was as dark falling as it had been looking down from the cliff's edge. Eren was falling blind either way. His cuts stung in the rushing air, the sensation nearly drowned out by his fear.
For all his rational thought and silent fall, Eren was deeply and utterly scared. He had assumed running would be the equivalent of a rejection to Levi's mating, but what if he had been wrong? What if he was jumping to his death and leaving Levi behind thinking it was a refusal? Eren fought against the wind, fingers winding tight around the necklace Levi had given him. Though no sound left his lips, the magic he pulsed into the stone was no better than a scream.
The darkness burst into life. Arms caught Eren, bringing a stop to his freefall. What was left of his insides promptly disappeared, as instead of falling, he began to rise. Eren's eyes opened wide despite the wind. He recognized the glint of horns and teeth in the night, knew that glowing stare. "You asshole," Eren nearly sobbed, even as he threw his arms around Levi's neck. "You complete dick."
Levi let out a rumbling purr even as his wings pumped. He covered the ground Eren had fallen in seconds. When they shot up, past the edge of the cliff, Sandor let out a howl. Eren would have felt bad if he wasn't still shivering in a mix of cold and adrenaline, heart rushing loud in his veins.
"You did well," Levi said into his ear. "Rest now. I'll get us home."
Eren wanted to argue, wanted to pull on his stupid horns and smug face. But the descent of warmth was too good to pass up. Levi's magic wrapped around him like a blanket, easing the chill of the air. Eren knew the wind was rushing past them, and yet he felt little more than a light breeze. This is an apology, the gesture said. And a reward.
"Tlgc," Eren muttered.
Levi laughed, even as he closed his eyes. "I missed you too, little one."
Eren dozed lightly enough that when they landed, he knew. The camp was empty, the fire dead. Levi ignored it all. He carried Eren into the cave without protest, summoning a small light with the flick of a finger. He laid Eren down in a bed of furs and blankets. The material felt nice against Eren's skin. With Levi's magic still warm around him, he felt sleep linger, tugging at his eyelids.
"You hurt yourself," Levi murmured, tracing a cut on one of Eren's arms.
"I didn't know where you were." Eren shrugged. "I was worried."
Levi's eyes were almost regretful. "I needed to feed. You know how hard it is for me to control myself around you. I didn't want to risk anything."
Eren's chest twisted with conflict. "By feed you mean you ate someone."
"I consumed their soul," he ran his knuckles along Eren's cheek. "but yes. Does that bother you?"
"A little," he admitted. Eren nuzzled Levi's hand, arms pulling him in closer. "But if that was why you were gone what was the jumping about?"
"That was a game," Levi murmured. "One I didn't think you would play. You left me pleasantly surprised."
"There are easier ways to find out the answer to things."
Levi's smile was all knives. "But where's the fun in that?"
There was a heat pooling in Eren's stomach at the sight. He wanted that mouth closer, even if it would just as soon bite as it would please. His breath hitched as Levi lifted his arm to his mouth. A long tongue flicked out over tan skin, lapping away the blood that had spilled free from cuts. The touch made Eren shiver, goosebumps breaking out over his skin.
"Eren," Levi murmured, crawling into the space between his legs. "Will you let me make you my mate?"
Eren stared back into glowing eyes, noting the bloodlust there and the control Levi kept over it. "Yes," he said, voice trembling with the weight of such a simple word. "I want you to make me yours, and," Eren bit his lip, hesitating. "I want you to be mine."
A growl tore through the silence of the cave. Levi's head dipped, face pressing into Eren's neck. He was shaking, Eren realized, his arms tense with restraint. "You have no idea what you do to me."
Eren lifted his hands, touching fingertips to either side of Levi's face. "Then show me."
A broken sound replaced the low growl rumbling in Levi's chest. He ducked his head, stealing Eren's mouth with his own. The contact was desperate, giving away just how tight Levi was wound. He ran hands through his hair in an effort to soothe, reassuring Levi that he wasn't going anywhere. The other man let out a groan when Eren traced the smooth ridges of his horns, and he lingered just to hear the sound again. There were teeth on his bottom lip in revenge, a long tongue teasing with contact before slipping away. It had Eren whining, shifting restlessly for more.
"Levi," he breathed. His head fell back as sharp teeth bit their way down Eren's neck, the pressure hard enough to make him bleed. "Fuck!"
Levi caught Eren's hair in a fist, yanking him back down to his lips . There was blood in Eren's mouth, magic against his skin, and all he wanted was to be closer still. Levi sat back, enough for Eren to see the crimson staining his mouth like berries, teeth bared and wet with it. "Off," Levi said, voice more growl than words as he yanked claws through Eren's clothes. Eren would have protested if he did not know that Levi would buy him a replacement and then some if asked.
"You too," Eren managed to say, even as Levi's hands ran over his bare skin. His hands lifted, fumbling with Levi's clothes. They were shaking in his eagerness and without claws, it was far more of a struggle to rid Levi of his garments. Levi let out a snarl of impatience, sending his clothes away with a flick of a finger. Eren's breath caught as he looked at him—all of him—for the first time. Levi's wings were flared behind his back, barely noticeable in the darkness.
It was with a gasp that Eren realized that those were not shadows on Levi's skin, but strands of magic as black as night. They wrapped around the demon, reaching out for Eren to do the same. Eren hissed when they touched his skin. Every brush left behind a sensation of electricity. It left him feeling raw and open, even with what little they had done.
"You need to bite me too," Levi rasped. He lapped at the cuts he had yet to heal like a dying man, even as his own claws left behind trails of their own. Eren arched, caught in a mess of sensation that left him reeling. He reached out for Levi, wrapping arms and legs around the man.
Levi let him. He let out a soft croon as he guided Eren's face to the crook of his neck. "Bite me, Eren," he coaxed, even as his magic found its way inside Eren. "Claim me as yours, little one."
Eren cried out at the intrusion, yet he welcomed it gladly. He bit down without thought, too distracted by the things Levi was doing to him. Blood spilled hot down Eren's throat. It burned, hotter than any blood should have been, even coming from a body in perfect working order. The last time Eren had consumed Levi's blood it had felt like he was being ripped apart. The second time held no less agony, but this time the torture was sweet.
A pleased purr sounded in Eren's ear. Levi guided him, letting Eren leave bites down his shoulder. A drop of his blood was toxic in a normal setting; in a mating it was painful ecstasy. Levi's magic was not as much under his control as it was taking his suggestions. It had been meant to prepare Eren for what came next and yet, when Eren was finally eased away, Levi found that the tendrils were having great fun in teasing his poor witch.
Eren was whimpering. There was blood dripping down his chin, staining the sheets. His eyes were hazy, pupils blown. Clutching desperately at Levi with tendrils of magic slipping over every inch of his body, Levi thought that he was beautiful.
"Shhh," Levi soothed, though he was hardly doing much better. "It's alright." He guided his arousal to Eren's entrance, careful of his claws. His magic made way and Levi sank into Eren with little resistance.
Eren's back arched as a cry tore its way from his throat. Levi crooned, leaning down to nose at the skin behind Eren's ear.
"Oep'gl wl'gz'lsh," Levi praised, even as he shook with restraint. He wanted to bite into Eren, flip him over onto his stomach and hold him down; he wanted to take and use and claim and have Eren do the same.
Eren clutched at Levi's shoulders. He was rocked by every thrust, soft noises escaping his mouth. Everything was too much. Levi's blood was still thick in his mouth, his magic writhing over Eren's body as Levi claimed him from the inside out. There were shadows winding around his arousal, moving in time with Levi's thrusts; it did not stop there. They were on his chest, curled across his hips, stroking his thighs and teasing around Levi's cock. Eren sobbed when they joined Levi in fucking him, stretching Eren wide. It was too much among the blood setting his skin on fire. Eren felt like he was going to burst, strung tight and trembling.
He orgasmed with a scream when a sliver of magic prodded at the head of his erection, unable to take it anymore. Levi cursed wildly at the feeling of Eren clenching tight around him. Magic spilled free from Eren's skin, as if it had been waiting for a chance to break free. The first brush of it against Levi's skin was ecstasy, and he spilled into Eren with a snarl.
His control snapped as green mixed with black. Eren's magic was just as willful as the witch it belonged to, and it wasted no time in teasing across Levi's skin. He pulled out of Eren, flipping him over onto his stomach without hesitation. Eren shivered when Levi yanked his hips into the air. If the cry that Eren let out when he was filled once more wasn't enough to make Levi shake, the magic that took up residence in his ass sure did.
His thrusts were wild and animalistic, claws cutting into Eren's hips as he was fucked in turn by his mate--albeit indirectly. He had been so careful with Eren. He'd been more human than demon in the past few months and Levi was shaking with the feeling of letting go. His wings flared wide, trembling against the sides of the cave. They gave him balance, gave him leverage to fuck into Eren the way he wanted. He was falling apart beneath Levi, sobbing into the furs. It was an intoxicating sight, and yet..
Levi's magic wrapped around Eren's wrists, pulling them above his head and keeping him there. It left him helpless to do anything more than take it, held down and rocked by Levi's thrusts. Eren orgasmed a second time. He writhed on Levi's cock, a mantra of his name leaving Eren's lips.
His magic thrashed inside of Levi, even as he was bound. Be it revenge or playfulness, Levi did not know. Did not care to find out. All there was was pleasure.
Levi's teeth bared, a hand fisting in Eren's hair. He yanked Eren up, until his back was pressed against Levi's chest. "So pretty," he murmured, tongue dragging up Eren's unmarked neck. "so perfect."
"Levi—" Eren gasped.
Levi snarled, teeth sinking down into vulnerable skin. "Mine."
Eren shook, breathless and overwhelmed. "Yours." He rolled his hips, squeezing down around him as his magic gave a hard thrust. "Mine."
Levi's hips bucked, eyes flashing. He yanked Eren up, off his arousal. "Turn," he growled.
Eren's legs shook as he he did as asked, straddling him. Wanton green eyes met sharp blue and boiling red, both blown wide. He bit his lip as he sank back down onto Levi's cock. "Mm, fuck." Eren sighed, giving a roll of his hips. "Don't stop."
Levi's hands caught Eren's hips, smearing the blood there. His magic caught Eren's hands once more, pulling them up over his head. "Fuck yourself for me then. Show me how good you are."
Eren whined softly. With every moment that passed the fire under his skin grew hotter. He felt weak already, overcome by Levi. Still, his hips moved, cock hard under the shadows that danced across his skin.
"Good boy," Levi purred, stroking Eren's sides. "Ao wlgzlsh amhl."
His breath caught. "Amhl," he repeated.
Levi's face softened. He drew Eren closer, stealing his mouth. "My mate."
A tear slipped down Eren's cheek, the gravity of those words hitting him. No longer would either of them have to be alone. They were mated, an eternity of companionship ahead of them. "Ao amhl," he repeated once more, even as their hips thrusted. "I love you."
Levi's eyes widened. Their magic surged up around them, tangling into a knot that was impossible to break. "Oep mgl ao dlm'glih ejl."
Eren kissed him and then he was lost.
Levi was the first to wake after their mating. He was sore in the places that Eren had bit him, but it was an ache that he embraced. The wounds Eren had inflicted would scar and claim Levi for eternity. A little pain was nothing in the face of what that meant to him.
Eren slept soundly next to him, a blessing in Levi's opinion. He would make sure his mate did not awake during the changes he would endure now that Levi's blood was in his system. The process could be painful and he would protect Eren from that to the best of his ability. Levi ran a hand through Eren's hair, feeling the beginning bumps of horns peeking through. His lips curved up at the corners. His mate had already been perfect; with both their power he would be phenomenal.
Levi stood, giving a slow stretch. He made sure to tuck the furs in around Eren now that his wing was gone. Sickness could not come to his mate now, but still, Levi would take care of him. Starting first, with a bath.
Sandor looked up as he left the confines of the cave. The enfield whined softly. "He's fine," Levi told him. "Keep watch while I go get some water."
He didn't like leaving Eren behind, but Sandor was loyal. He could sense Daeva nearby as well. Besides, Levi would feel Eren's distress through their newly forged bond. There was little danger to him when Levi was merely going down to the stream. Even still, he went quickly. He used his abnormal speed to appear beside the water, a canteen and a bowl in his hands. Levi set them down to bathe, motions quick and efficient. When he was done, he filled the utensils with water. Eren would need to stay hydrated, and Levi would keep him clean while he slept.
He found him in the same position as before, curled up in the furs and at peace. Levi felt fondness wash over him. He knelt beside Eren, wetting a cloth in the bowl of water. He got to work cleaning the blood and semen from Eren's skin. A part of Levi wanted to lick his mate clean, but he resisted. Eren needed to rest, there would be time for more later.
When Levi was satisfied with Eren's state, he tucked him back into the furs. Carefully, he eased some water down Eren's throat. It wouldn't do for Eren to get dehydrated. It wouldn't kill him, but it would make the days to come all the more harder. With that done, all that was left was to wait, a task that Levi had never been good at. Eren had been an exercise in patience, but Levi would still rather have things immediately than wait. For his mate, though, Levi would try his best to be patient.
It took several days for Eren to stir. Levi soothed him when his horns curled up into the air; held him and murmured spells to ease the pain when wings tore through the skin of Eren's back; rubbed soothing magic into his mate's skin when his tail grew from the base of his spine. It was a trait that Levi hadn't expected, but he was already growing fond of it. Even in Eren's sleep the appendage was expressive. It certainly helped make Levi sure that his mate was resting peacefully.
Eren's eyes were as beautiful as ever when they opened. Heavy lidded and still glazed over with sleep, Levi couldn't have asked for a better sight. "Levi?"
"I'm here, little one." He grabbed the canteen he had been using to keep Eren hydrated, pressing it to his mate's lips. "Drink first. Then we can talk."
Eren's mouth was pliant, lips parting to let Levi tip water inside. He swallowed a few mouthfuls before sitting up. His injuries were healed over into scars due to Levi's magic, as well as the demon blood that now ran through his veins. Eren touched a hand to a bite on his wrist, shivering at the sensitivity. Mating bites would always be a weakness. An addition to all the other benefits they had gained. "I feel different," Eren said, looking up at Levi. One of his pupils was narrow, like a cat's. "and hungry."
Levi chuckled. "You've been asleep for a few days. There's some left over meat outside, I can go get it if you wish."
He shook his head slowly. His hands slipped over his body, relearning the skin. Eren paused, staring down at a tail that he knew didn't belong to Levi. "Is that—?"
"It's yours," Levi nodded. He reached out, running fingers through the fur. "it's beautiful."
Eren shivered. Sparks danced across his skin, the appendage sensitive. "Is that all that changed?"
Levi looked up, mouth curling. "Why don't we go to the water so you can see for yourself?"
"I thought all the cryptic games were over," he muttered. Eren reached out, using Levi for support as he stood. His legs were shaky from having slept for so long but Eren found his footing fairly quickly.
They walked together to the stream, silent as Eren soaked everything in. There was a shift in his balance, a tickle against the back of his legs that gave the man a sneaking suspicion of what he would see. Still, he waited, wanting to see his reflection for himself before he voiced any opinion.
Levi held Eren's hand as they stepped into the stream. The water was moving, which meant the picturing playing out on the surface wasn't as clear as it could have been, but it was enough. There were wings tucked back behind Eren's shoulders, just as he had thought there would be. They were shades of brown, with the palest shades closest to his shoulders and a brown that was almost purple at the tips of his primaries. Chocolate horns sat at his temples, twisted into a curly cue as opposed to Levi's which stood almost straight up. Then there was the tail, the scars, the narrowed pupil. Eren almost didn't recognize himself. "It's..."
"Beautiful?" Levi supplied.
He blushed, touching a hand to his face. "I was going to say different. But I guess it is sort of pretty. Will I be able to hide everything like you?"
"It will take some time but yes," Levi caught Eren's hand, threading their fingers together. "no one will know unless you want them to."
He smiled, squeezing his mate's fingers. "It's a good thing we have time then."
Levi laughed. He dipped his head, stealing a soft kiss. "All the time in the world."