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The Cellar

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Being kidnapped is not an altogether loud, horrifying event where one instantly feels their world changing in an instant. Rather it’s a gradual realization that is much like the grieving process. Eren Jaeger spent much of his time in the denial stage; he refused to accept that he was indeed trapped, that his freedom had been stripped away. What indeed gave someone the right to take away another person’s freedom? The idea had been so ludicrous to him that it had taken him many years to realize that there was no way out, and even then, he refused to give up, much to the chagrin of his future roommate and precious confidant in that awful cellar.

Eren never thought he become an expert in what it was like to be kidnapped. As many say, that sort of thing never happened in his small rural town. What wasn’t covered in farmland was carpeted in forest, and in between the farms and forests a few dwellings were clustered together that included houses, a school, grocery stores, etc. There were fewer than five thousand people in that tiny town, so it made it easy to know who everyone was. However, it did make things a pain for an obstinate trouble maker like Eren. God knew he had been tattled on by a friend of a friend of a friend’s mother to his own mother for not showing up for tea to a family friend’s house or some nonsense. And it was impossible to cause mischief in his neighborhood because he knew that anyone would be able to identify him, and forget what the cops would do to him. When almost everyone in town was like your aunt or uncle, they’d hang you up by your toe nails on the clothesline themselves before the police could every get their hands on him.

So, naturally, everyone felt safe walking home from school, no matter what grade they were in. Child predators were a big city problem, after all. That was what Eren’s parents had always told him. He could travel in daylight or moonlight and no harm would come to him. If a stranger approached him, of course he was not to trust them. But the person who rolled up in his car as young, preteen Eren was walking home from school one chilly fall day was not a stranger.

“Hey there Eren!” came a man’s voice as he rolled down his car’s window.

The boy brightened up, pausing on the sidewalk. “Dennis, right? Reiner Braun’s uncle? Yeah, you’re the one who tosses us off the dock and into the pond during his birthday parties!”

The man laughed. “Well, used to. I’d reckon you boys are too big for me to do that to now.”

They made small talk there on the side of the road for a while, talking about how Eren was doing in school, how Dennis’s herd of cattle on his farm was doing. How yes, he was still happy living in that tiny secluded farmhouse all by himself. How Eren said someday he wanted to move to the big city and see the world beyond the mountains that bordered their tiny town and experience how the city folk lived.

“I’m going to own my own business there!” he declared proudly. “Maybe a café with shelter animals that need homes…I’ve always loved animals.”

Dennis laughed at his statement. “Sounds like a plan.” He then glanced at the sky, seeing that there were in fact little rain droplets that were beginning to come down, and said, “Well Mr. future animal café owner, want to hitch a lift with me back home? Since it’s starting to rain?”

Instantly, Eren accepted his offer with an eager, “Sure! Thanks!” and scooted around to the passenger’s side door.

Once the door shut and the boy had buckled up, Dennis pulled away from the curb, getting onto the main road shortly after. They continued to chat during the drive, the lovely country scenery whipping by their windows. The man made sure to keep him engaged, talking about whatever kept that bright, sweet smile on the child’s face. So that he kept his attention on the driver.

So that he didn’t notice that they weren’t driving in the direction of Eren’s house.

By the time the boy noticed that the buildings of the town had given way to farmland, and then to forest, it was too late. He felt his joy die down and give way to concern, but figured there was some sort of explanation.

“Are we taking a different route?” Eren wondered. “This isn’t the way I usually go home.”

Dennis nodded and replied, “Oh yes, sorry about that. There’s construction on route nine.”

Eren raised an eyebrow. “There wasn’t any on my way to school.”

“There was when I drove to the school.”

The boy shrugged, sitting back in his seat. He looked up at the tress that lined both sides of the roads, half bare. Mist rose up between them as a result of the rain, giving everything a delightfully gloomy atmosphere.

“I can’t wait for Halloween,” Eren said offhand. “My parents said they’d let me throw my own party at my house instead of going to someone else’s. I have a cool costume planned”-

“Eren, how old are you now?”

His thoughts stuttered, caught off guard by the man’s question. “I’m-I’m twelve? What does that have to do with anything?”

Dennis shrugged and shook his head. “Nothing. I was just curious. You kids are getting big, you know? It’s a shame you can’t stay kids for longer.”

“I suppose. That’s what my mom keeps saying.”

Oddly, he didn’t say anything for the rest of the drive, and Eren didn’t feel the need to keep asking him question. An odd, tense feeling had settled in the car, as thick as the mist between the trees, one that only grew even worse when they reached the end of a long driveway and began pulling into it.

“Dennis, this isn’t my house,” Eren explained, laughing. “Did you forget where I live, silly?”

“Nah, I didn’t. This is my house. I needed your help quick with something before I dropped you off at home, is that okay?” the other man asked.

That certainly struck Eren as odd, but not odd enough that he felt uncomfortable. Why would he him and not someone he knew better for help? Perhaps it was just because Eren was there and was more convenient to ask for help. He shrugged. “Yeah, sure, why not. Just as long as it doesn’t take too long, otherwise my parents are going to wonder where I am.”

“No problem.”

Once they parked the car in the garage and the garage door finished shutting, they got out of the car, Eren deciding to leave his backpack in the car. Dennis motioned him over to a metal door that was leaning against the wall, explaining, “I just need to get this into the cellar, and it’s too heavy for me to lift by myself.”

Oh, Eren could do this. He perked up, and agreed, “Yeah sure, you got it! Here, I’ll grab an end, and you get the other one?”

Dennis nodded and did as he was told, both of them finagling it until Eren both of them had managed to lift an end and the boy was backing towards the open cellar door. Dennis told him to mind the steps as he walked. Eren felt the tiniest bit nervous, as the steps and the gray bricks rising on either side of them, as well as the open doorway beyond it, looked like a black maw that was waiting to swallow him up. It sent a shiver down his spine; it looked like every basement that had been in every horror movie he had every scene, and he wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

When they reached the bottom of the steps, Dennis instructed, “Good, thanks. Can you hold it up for me while I screw the hinges in place?”

“Uh…yeah sure, I guess. Just hurry, it’s kind of heavy.”

The boy felt his heart hammering the moment the light blotted out when the door was placed in the doorway, creating a suffocating wall of blackness around him. He had to stifle a whimper, telling himself he was being ridiculous. He was twelve for God’s sake, he was a young man, too old to be scared of the dark. He could do this.

He stood like for who knows how long, waiting for Dennis to tell him that it was okay to come out, that he was done. But it didn’t happen. And it didn’t happen. And it still didn’t happen.

“Dennis?” Eren called, trying not to let his voice shake. “Are you done yet? I think my parents are going to start worrying about me soon, I should really go.”

Surprisingly, his voice came from a distance when he answered, “Yeah, sorry Eren, I’m coming hold on.”

With a great effort, the heavy metal door was wrenched open, and Eren got a brief view of the other man in the doorway, his outline dark and harsh against the light, suddenly much more foreboding than it had been. He backed up a step, seeing a cloth in the man’s hand. A pungent smell rose up around them, making him very uneasy.

“Dennis, can you let me by?” he asked, his muscles freezing up.

The man shook his head. “Sorry kid, I can’t let you go home right now. But it’s going to be okay, alright? Just relax.”

Before the boy could retort, he was lunging at him, and he was being pulled against the bigger man’s chest. A cloth was then placed over his mouth and nose, cutting him off from clean air. He hadn’t even seen when or where Dennis had picked it up, but more than likely he had been keeping it in his car for this exact occasion, unbeknownst to the boy. The cloth smelled awful, and adrenaline kicked in, trying to get away from it, but all too soon, he felt his body begin to sag and his head began to grow fuzzy. Whimpering, Eren kept trying to fight, kicking at the door and clawing at Dennis’ wrist with slow, sluggish movements, but ultimately he couldn’t fight the sluggishness filling his limbs or the blackness filling his head, and he unwillingly succumbed.

000

The next thing Eren knew, he was waking up, but he had no idea where. Before his thoughts could become anywhere near coherent, his body was screaming at him that everything hurt; his back, his head, and all of his extremities. Everything felt heavy and sluggish and his stomach was rolling, threatening to spill its contents. He groaned helplessly, forcing himself to move. There was a nasty, musty wet smell in his nose, like mold. Water might have been dripping somewhere, and it was freezing. His fingers and toes where numb, and he felt terribly uncomfortable and frightened. He forced himself to sober up, to get up and find his way out of wherever it was he was. He hated that his first coherent thought was how much he wanted his parents.

“Dennis?” he called out, his voice terribly hoarse. “Are you here?”

“Don’t even bother. We’ll be lucky if we see him again for the rest of the day.”

Eren jumped and shrieked, not recognizing the voice that had answered him. He ended up leaping backwards, scrambling until he felt his back hit a cold, damp wall. More than that, he heard something clinking with his movement and felt something restricting him when he tried to tuck his legs underneath him. He tried pulling harder, but whatever it was that was holding him, it wasn’t going to give. His breathing grew high pitched and panicked, even more so when he tried moving his wrists and he heard the clinking again and his movements were restricted again. He felt tears in his eyes when he registered that he was in fact sitting on a bed, on a worn, dirty mattress, and that his wrists and ankles were in fact chained down, but to what he couldn’t see.

“Shh, hey, don’t do that. Panicking won’t do you any good,” the voice came again. “I panicked too when I first woke up, all you’re going to do is make yourself faint again and wake up with a monster headache. Take deep breaths, okay? Easy, it’s alright…”

The voice was quite young, as young as his own even, and that both comforted him and depressed him. There was someone else in this situation with him; he wasn’t alone, but someone else was suffering with him. At least the person didn’t sound like they were going to hurt him. He did as they asked, holding his breath for four seconds before letting it out again, and then repeating the process again until he didn’t feel like he was going to pass out anymore. When he let his eyes adjust, he saw that there was a dim lightbulb on above their heads, and it wasn’t bright enough to see fine details, but it was enough to see the highlights and dark shadows of the figure laying in the bed next to him.

Looking closer, Eren could see that the figure was also a boy, and true to his assumption, he looked like he was his age. However, he was terribly gaunt, eye sockets and cheeks hollow, and pale, and it only made his black, greasy hair stand out even more. He was filthy, like he had rolled around on the dirty, wet floor beforehand. Or had been forced to. His eyes were dark, but hollow, though they seemed to gain a bit of a spark when they took in Eren. He could see the glint of chains on the other boy’s wrists and ankles as well. He looked like he hadn’t seen the sun, a decent meal, or a shower in quite a long time, and in an instant, Eren saw his future if he couldn’t get these chains off in this other boy. Though his breathing had slowed, his heart continued to pound, but he wasn’t going to get out of here by panicking. First, he had to figure out what was going on.

“Thank you,” Eren finally said. “I just…alright, what the hell is going on here? Who are you?”

The other boy shrugged. “Best I can say is you’ve been kidnapped, like I was. He kept telling me he was going to add another boy down here, that I wasn’t enough for him anymore. Looks like he has a type: boys that look like dolls. Gross. What a fucking pervert. Not that anything he does surprises me anymore. I’m Levi by the way. I suppose it’s nice to meet you, just too bad it had to be under these circumstances.”

Eren’s mouth fell open in shock. “Kidnapped? No, Dennis would never do that! I’ve known him for years, he’s a nice guy! I’m sure this is some stupid joke he’s playing or something. And I’m not a kid, I’m twelve!”

Levi let out a bitter bark of laughter and shifted so that he was sitting up, facing Eren. He leaned forward so that he could fold his hands and lean his elbows on his knees. “Well, if it’s a joke, it’s a fucked up one. I’ve already been here for a year and I’ve yet to hear the punchline, or for him to tell me he’s just kidding. And well, I suppose you’re a little older than I thought. I’m fourteen now, I think. I don’t know, time is weird down here. I kinda gave up caring a while ago.”

Fury filled the younger boy, and indignantly, he said, “You’re wrong! I just have to get out of these chains and he’ll tell me what’s going on.”

Levi shook his head and told him, “Good luck. I tried to get out of them for months. I wouldn’t even bother, really. If you want my advice, I would just keep my head down and do what Captain Asshole up there tells you to do. It’s your best chance of not being hurt too badly.”

“None of what you’re saying is making any sense,” Eren grumbled.

“When you’ve been down here long enough, it will.” Levi sat up and fixed him with a meaningful look. “I know you don’t like it, but you better get used to it; you don’t operate in normal reality anymore. You operate in our captor’s reality. He’s our god and we’re his playthings, and the sooner you accept that the easier things will be. I guess other than that all I can say is welcome to Hell, Eren.”

Eren still had no idea what to make of what he was saying, and it disturbed him so much that he didn’t want to dwell on it. So, heart pounding, he began working on his chains, trying with everything he could to slip the cuffs off and failing, all while Levi laid in his bed and listened to his pointless exertions with a heavy heart.

000

The first time Eren was raped was later that evening was what finally showed Eren that this was all for real and not some sick joke. And Levi had to give him credit, he did not let Dennis have his way easily. He fought like an angry cat the entire time, practically hissing and literally spitting in the other man’s face. Even the threat of having his throat slit didn’t do anything to settle him down, and Levi thought for sure he was going to have to listen to the gurgle of the boy’s final breaths because he was being a stupid, suicidal bastard. However, Eren knocked the knife out of his hand, and was about to start whaling on his face, before their captor decided to teach him a lesson with his hands as well, wrapping them around his neck and working to squeeze the life out of him. And it was only being unable to breathe and his consciousness fading that made him compliant, Dennis keeping his hand around his throat with one hand while he drove into Eren’s poor body with the other.

During the entire time, however, Levi didn’t say a word.

Eren managed to look over at him a few times, face turning blue and tongue being forced out of his mouth as he clawed at their captor’s huge paws, eyes huge and pleading for help. However, the instant Levi saw them, his face pinched with pain and he rolled over on his bed, putting his back to the other boy. He clamped his hands under his armpits and curled in on himself, knowing that if he didn’t he’d be too tempted to ignore every instinct he had been forced to develop over the course of the year being trapped here and lash out at their cruel jailor on Eren’s behalf. Dennis told the boy matter of factly that he wasn’t going to get any help from his roommate, that Levi was already a “broken in bitch” and knew better.

When the assault was over and Eren was left bleeding and aching on the bed, still rubbing at his throat to try as if he could inflate his crushing windpipe that way, to Levi’s shock, the boy’s first words were an angry, “How come you didn’t help me!? We could have both pounced on him and stabbed him with his own knife or something and gone for help!”

Levi hunched up a bit, guilt gnawing at his gut, but he didn’t dare turn over and face him. “Because the chains would limit my movement too much, and I’m too weak anymore to fight. Besides, if I did anything against him, he’d have either you or me removed from the room and lock that person up in another part of the house. And I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.”

“What are you talking about?” Eren burst out.

He hesitated, embarrassed to admit it, but figuring he had nothing to lose. “I don’t want to be alone again. I’ve been alone for too long and…it’s nice to not by myself anymore.”

That gave the younger boy pause. The anger fizzled out, and he became more contemplative. He replied with a quiet, “Oh. I see,” and then went silent again. He fiddled with one of the chains, giving it a halfhearted tug, but it remained firm, the chain links welded into the ground.  In a much more humble voice, he said softly, “You um, you said you’ve been here for a year?”

At hearing his gentler tone, Levi at last rolled over to face him, the chains draping over his thin, bony side. Eren was glad it looked he was going to talk; he was terribly upset and shaken over what Dennis had done to him and his behind was throbbing with every pulse of his heart. Talking to someone would help to get his mind off of it.

“Yeah,” he told him. “I was a runaway, trying to get away from my group home. I was going to make my way to California somehow and just make it on my own out there. I don’t know what I was going to do...but I suppose it doesn’t matter now. Dennis found me hitch-hiking on the side of the interstate late at night. No one was around, and the public transportation around here is a joke, so when I saw his headlights coming up behind me after walking for five miles, it was like a blessing. He seemed really nice. Even took me to his house saying he’d give me something to eat and a place to shower before he’d take me anywhere I wanted to go. All I had to do was help him take some stuff down into his basement. And well…I never came out of the basement.”

He laughed humorlessly. “You know, he lets me listen to the radio sometimes. And all that’s done is made me hate country music and tell me that no one is looking for me. No one has reported me missing. So if I die down here, no one will know or care.”

Immediately, Eren replied passionately, “That’s not true! I’d care! I mean, I know we haven’t known each other for more than a couple of days, but…you’ve been nice to me. You calmed me down when I first got here, and though I was mad at first, you made me feel important just now by telling me that you like having me here because you have someone to talk to. I like that I can comfort you, especially when you’ve been down here by yourself for so long.”

Levi blinked, unsure of what to say. So, he reached up and scratched the back of his head, the chains clinking with his movements. “It’s no big deal.”

They sat there in silence again, each wanting to say something but unsure of exactly what to say. Eren shrugged, figuring he should break the quiet. After all, if they were going to be down here for a while, they might as well get to know each other.

“So, besides running away from home, what did you like to do before all of this?” he wondered.

The older boy was taken aback. Such an innocuous question against such a sinister backdrop. He was sure there were new bloodstains on his roommate’s mattress. It was amazing. His resiliency was something Levi did not expect, especially not from someone so young and small. At least Dennis had brought someone interesting and engaging, though somehow, that made it all the more sad. If the man had trapped someone Levi couldn’t stand, maybe he could justify the abuse he inevitably would go through.

“Well, I liked walks in the woods,” Levi said, “you know, the rare few times I could go. I liked watching the animals walk through the tree and listening to the birds sing. Looking under logs for critters and playing the water and stuff. I liked drawing in a sketchpad too. Made friends with a few stray cats that would wander near the group home, always tried to protect them from the messed up fucks that would try and hurt them that I lived with.”

“You like animals too?” Eren gushed, green eyes gleaming in the dull yellow light. “Oh, oh my God, let me tell you, okay, someday I’d like to open a café with shelter animals in it…”

And off they went, talking for hours, Levi feeling himself floating in a way that he hadn’t for months and months, feeling a shred of happiness in this place of crushing hopelessness. Eren was wonderful, sweet and passionate, and he couldn’t wait to keep getting to know him.

“And don’t worry Levi,” the younger boy said eventually. “We’re going to get out of here.”

Levi regarded him suspiciously. “Eren…”

“No, I mean it. I’m not giving up, and I won’t let you give up either. People will be looking for me. My parents will be worried sick, and they won’t rest until they find me. My dad’s a doctor, so he knows lots of important people that can help look for us. We just have to make it until then. Okay?”

The dark haired boy sighed. This kid was out of his mind, though he did appreciate his candor and his determination. It sparked a hope in him he hadn’t had in a very long time, and that hope was nice; it was warm, like a fire in the middle of a cold winter. Already, he owed Eren quite a bit for that, for he thought he’d never feel such a thing again. “Alright Eren. I suppose since you’re here, we have a better shot of getting out of here than before.”

“There you go!” And oh what a pretty smile that was that the other boy flashed him. “Besides, Dennis has to slip up at one point. He’s going to have a harder time dealing with two people than one. Things are going to be different for you from now on.”

Levi very much wanted to believe him, almost desperately so. But he had been down here long enough to know better, and he was only proven right when Dennis heard them speaking just a little while later and stormed down the stairs, yelling at them about talking and about he was going to teach them both a lesson, a lesson that left them both bleeding anew, Levi crying, and Eren hissing and spitting curses afresh. However, the bravado eventually broke the longer and harder he was assaulted and raped, until the curses dissolved into tears, and his words of rebellion and hate were turned into cries of pain and begging for it all to stop.

“Can’t stop,” Dennis told him, hovering menacingly over him. “We’ve only just started, pet. We have a long time together ahead of us.”

000

For a long time, Eren got most of their tormentor’s attention. As the “new boy” he was told that he needed breaking in, that his dick, asshole and mouth were going to get quite a workout during his time here. He was fucked as many times as it took and in as many different positions as it took before Eren stopped fighting him. Or at least, not while he was in the room. Eren eventually got tired of being punched and beaten with a belt every single time he tried fighting him, so he finally got the idea that Dennis liked him submissive when he fucked him. However, when he left, he’d spit a whole collection of vitriolic curses at the door that often sent Levi into fits of laughter, curses that he had in fact learned from the older boy.

Levi had in fact very quickly begun to act kind of like an older brother, teaching Eren things he knew that the younger boy didn’t, telling him stories he had learned in school that the younger boy hadn’t heard yet because he hadn’t gotten that far in school. Telling him stories about his own life and the things he knew, how he’d pick locks, or everything mother cats needed in order to successfully deliver a litter of kittens. Eren in turn delivered all of the medical knowledge he had learned from his dad. They grew closer and closer as the weeks passed, despite the fact that Eren was growing weaker as his meals were limited to one a day and that the area they lived in smelled horrendous both because they were only allowed to shower once a week and they had to use a bucket as a toilet that was emptied infrequently. They were there to comfort each other in the wakes of the rapes and beatings, there to ground the other and drag each other out of Dennis’ depraved world and back to reality. Levi helped him learn the rules of their captivity: be submissive, do as your told, scream when you’re told and keep silent when you’re told. Call their jailor “master” whenever he was in the room. Don’t talk to each other so that he can hear either what they’re saying or that they’re talking to each other at all, otherwise they risk being pulled apart forever right after a severe beating. They already knew they didn’t want that to happen, ever. So, Eren swallowed his pride and decided he’d do what he had to do.

However, their deepening bond did not go unnoticed by their captor.

One day, Dennis came down to see them one Friday night, a larger smirk on his face than usual, and what he was carrying frightened both of them to the core. It was clearly a whip of some kind, but unlike any kind of whip either of them had ever seen. The ends of it glistened with shiny metal fishhooks, and it was clear this was a homemade instrument. Without a word, he laid his whip on the floor and took a hold of Eren, the boy wriggling around as he dragged his chains forward, digging in his heels. He was already putting two and two together and figured if he was going to be whipped, he might as well make it harder for Dennis to accomplish his goal.

“You’re just going to make it worse for yourself if you keep that up,” he growled at the boy as he draped the chains over a hook centered in the middle of the room, tightening them until Eren’s arms were hoisted over his head, his body lifted into the air until his toes barely touched the ground. It was immensely painful, all of his weight hanging by his arms, and his shoulders burned immediately. Still, the pain only made him angry, and he gave Dennis a glare.

“Fuck off,” Eren hissed.

“What was that?”

“Oh I’m sorry, fuck off master.

Dennis looked considerate for a second, before he shrugged, and then also dragged Levi over to stand beside them. Levi looked like he was trying to make himself as small as possible all while staring worriedly at Eren, wondering what was going to happen. Dennis picked up the whip, bouncing it teasingly in his hand and looking upon Eren’s body.

“So defenseless, and so much pretty skin for us to mark up,” he murmured, half to himself, gently caressing Eren’s vulnerable ribs with the metal hooks, barely tickling him. Still, the boy flinched.

“Go ahead,” the boy spat bravely. “More proof I have later to show the cops what you were doing down here.”

“Provided I let you live that long,” the man said airily, and the words sent a chill down Eren’s spine.

Levi looked helplessly between the both of them, wishing dearly Eren would shut his mouth. He was going to get himself seriously hurt if not killed if he pissed off their jailor. However, he was utterly flabbergasted when Dennis suddenly handed him the whip, pushing the handle into his small, frozen palm. The boy stared dumbly at the whip, unsure of what he should do, before Dennis dragged him forward until he stopped arms length from the strung up child.

“Do it,” he demanded.

“W-What?” Levi stuttered, glancing between him and Eren with horror. “You want- I, no, I couldn’t…”

Eren’s eyes were wide with equal horror, and he watched as Dennis then pulled a gun out of his belt and held it to the back of Levi’s head. The teenager froze, grey eyes glossing over and a whimper escaping his throat.

“I don’t believe I was asking,” the man said lowly. “Whip him, and do it good. Or I’ll paint that wall with your brains.”

Levi kept hesitating, shaking his head subtly, every limb shaking. He looked as if he was about to start crying, or throw up, or both. He had a passing thought where maybe if he threw up if would be enough of a distraction to turn around and attack Dennis with the whip, but a gun could shoot much faster than he could turn around and attack. The gun was pressed against the back of his head, and he heard a click as the bullet was loaded into the chamber. Tears sprung up in his eyes, and then they spilled over his cheeks when Eren just lowered his head, accepting his fate, figuring at this point if he said anything Dennis might just kill his friend anyway. Seeing this display of submission, Levi really did start sobbing, and through his tears finally swung his arm. However, the first time he missed, his aim terrible because he was shaking so bad, and Dennis shouted at him to do it again, and if he missed again he’d kill him. So Levi was forced to strike his friend and confidant, to finally get him with the whip and bury the hooks in his flesh before pulling it and ripping skin. He was forced to do it over and over, until holes and deep, red welts appeared in his smooth, delicate skin, and he had to ignore Eren’s cries and screams, his thrashing. However, not once did Eren beg for him to stop, for he knew Levi had no choice, and the sympathetic looks he managed to flash the other boy in the middle of all the blood and pain only made the whole thing worse.

So all he could do was keep hurting him while Dennis held the gun to his head, powerless to comfort Eren except by sharing in his tears and praying that they would survive the night.

000

Though that was the first time Dennis turned them against each other, it certainly was not the last. It depended on what he was in the mood for. Sometimes he made them whip each other with that fish hook whip, sometimes he would force one to rape the other. Sometimes he would rape one and force the other to watch by chaining them in place, or even begin to choke one of them while the other looked on helplessly, praying that he wouldn’t kill the other’s only friend. They knew they would never get the image of the other turning blue and mouths feebly gasping for breath just a few feet away while they struggled in their chains, unable to help out of their heads. Some nights even when Dennis did nothing more than bring them their night meals or change out their bucket toilet they still woke screaming from the awful images.

The weeks melted into months like that, and eventually months melted into a years of a steady rhythm, if one could call it that. Dennis would most nights leave them alone, especially during the work week; he would just show up to make sure they were still breathing, that their wounds hadn’t become infected, before leaving then alone again. Sometimes they would go days without food and precious little often dirty water that tasted like filth and metal. But they had no choice. They could either drink it or go without.

If they were very unfortunate, if Dennis was in a particularly foul or sadistic mood, he would often make them drink their own urine for a few days or a week at a time, sometimes longer, as their only source of water. When he did that, most of the time they ended up vomiting and if it kept up long enough, their lower backs would ache and when they did urinate, it would be very dark, almost brown some days. Other times their only food would either be cockroaches or mice Dennis caught in his traps in the basement, and all they could do was hope they didn’t get any parasites from them.

They only nights the torture escalated was if Dennis came home in a particularly angry mood, and then he would use the boys as a way to vent his frustrations. There was one night where he did strangle Eren, tying the boy up tightly and bringing him to brink of death, and as he lay there, blue in the face and lips, he masturbated over his chest and face, even sticking his cock into the dying boy’s mouth and forcing him to suck him off, even turning to Levi at one point and saying, “Don’t worry, his screams mean he likes it.” Eren had gone still and quiet for a few horrible seconds, unmoving, those few seconds the longest of Levi’s life. He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, barely even noticing when their jailor left, his footsteps echoing back up the stairs, utterly helpless to do anything but call out to his friend to try and get him to revive.

“Eren, please breathe, get a hold of yourself,” Levi pleaded, scooting as far forward as his chains would allow. It still wasn’t close enough to touch him; it never was. When the other boy didn’t move, he tried a little more desperately, “Eren, come on…shit, don’t do this. I know it’d be easier for you to rest, but I-I don’t want to be left here alone. I need you, Eren. Please wake up. Please breathe. You can do it, I know you can, you’re such a fighter”-

Luckily, as soon as those words were uttered, Eren began to cough and wheeze, lips gasping like a newborn’s. He sucked in air harshly, his lungs and windpipe sounding terribly abused, and when the feeling returned to his limbs, he reached up to massage his own throat. Levi nearly began to shake with relief, his shoulders drooping as he lay on the opposite bed.

“Don’t ever do that to me again you asshole,” he groused, but he wasn’t serious of course. And besides, once Eren got his breath back, he managed a wheezy laugh.

“My bad,” the other boy rasped, “I’ll make sure to cut his hands off next time he comes near me again with them.”

Levi breathed a laugh through his nose, smiling gently. “Seriously, you scared the shit out of me, and of course it wasn’t your fault but…I”- he averted his gaze for a moment, looking down at his hands as they fiddled with some tears in his old mattress, “Listen, the first year I was here by myself was horrific. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Not even because of the shit Dennis was doing to me, because that really hasn’t changed. But it’s the fact that I had to go through it alone. With you here, well, at least you give me a reason to wake up every day. I feel like I can hold on, knowing that there’s someone else here with me. Especially someone as brave and ridiculous and wonderful as you.”

A weak smile made it to Eren’s lips. “You’re just saying that, you scary kitty.”

Levi smiled in return at that. The other boy often pointed out that he acted like a cat; with the way he seemed to be so fastidious when he was able to about staying clean, as well as Eren staying clean. He also had an almost cat-like expression most of the time on his face in that things rarely seemed to amuse him, and when he stretched on his bed, it was often with the same languidness and carefulness of a cat. He appreciated the nickname, but he was sure if anyone else were to call him that but Eren, he’d have to punch them.

“You stopped breathing, Eren,” the older boy insisted. “This isn’t the time for me to be just ‘saying stuff.”

The boy just waved him off, shrugging, still thinking it was just a joke. No one ever said things

like that to him, not ever since he had left home. Levi was just trying to lighten the mood, that’s all. The other boy could clearly see he wasn’t getting his message across however, so he gave up, sighing heavily, and changing tactics.

“Listen, I know I’ve already said it, but I can’t stress it enough,” Levi told him. “All the times he makes me hurt you, or…force myself on you, I’m so sorry Eren. I don’t want to hurt you, and it makes me sick to. But, I just”-

“Levi, I’ve also already said,” Eren replied gently, “that I know you don’t mean to hurt me. I don’t blame you for any of it. We’re both in this together, yeah?”

The older boy cast his eyes towards his mattress, mumbling, “…if it was just you and me, and I had the choice, that’s not how things would go.”

In the silence of the cellar Eren heard every word, and he froze, but not because he was scared. He was just surprised, wondering if he was understanding his meaning correctly. So, very softly, almost shyly, he asked, “How would they go then? If it were up to you?”

Levi was more than a little shocked at his reply, and truth be told, he couldn’t believe he had said something like that. That was why he hesitated for a moment, his cheeks and ears turning bright red, apparent even in the dim light to the other boy. He finally muttered in a low voice, “Well, pretend I actually had money and we met at school or something. I probably would have seen you in gym class and immediately gone stupid over seeing you in basketball shorts kicking ass at kickball or volleyball. You probably would have gotten the basketball to go into the hoop all the time too considering you’re already becoming such a tree, and I would have acted jealous but really I would have been in awe. So then my stupid, embarrassed self would have tried to make friends with you because I would have thought you were really cool.”

The younger boy snorted. “Oh please, I was never that cool.”

“Shush up, you asked me how I would handle this, so this is how. So after we became friends for a while, I probably would have eventually convinced myself to grow the balls to ask you out and would have only puked four times while doing so. Then after that I’d date the hell out of you, you know, holding hands, taking you to the movies and trying to pay for everything while you inevitably threatened to slap me upside the head if I didn’t let you pay for some things at least. Trips to the beach in the summer, kissing you after class when I’d see you, annoying everyone at lunch during school with how sappy we’d be with our kissing and pet names. That sort of stuff.”

Eren looked at him dreamily. “Mmm, I’ll bet you’d look really cute all cleaned up and trying to impress a date. I like guys that wear their shirts with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows? And beanies?”

Levi snorted. “You’re adorable. Yes Eren, I’d wear a beanie and a shirt with the sleeves rolled up for you. I’ve always liked guys that could lift me and would go on ghost hunts with me.”

The younger boy’s eyes lit right up and he sat up straighter in bed. “We should do that for our first date! Go into an abandoned building or something with a camera, see what ghosts we find! I’ve always wanted to try a ghost hunt!”

“Good thing I’d be going with you then, you’ll need someone to hold your hand when you start jumping at every noise. Like this yeah?”

“I would not”-

But then Eren cut himself off when Levi began to reach out, scooting as far forward to the edge of the mattress as he could, and it took a minute for the boy to figure it out. He then reached out his own hand, also moving as far forward as he could, however unfortunately, their beds were too far away and their chains limited their movements to the point where they could only barely touch the tips of their fingers together, and that was if they nearly fell off the bed. Eren sighed bitterly, pulling his hand back, and Levi did the same, eyes glimmering sadly. Why was it the only time they were allowed to touch each other was when they were hurting each other?

Eren tightened his hand into a fist, saying determinedly, “I promise we’re going to get out of here, Levi. We’ll get out and go on that date, okay?”

The older smiled at him sadly. There was no way Eren could promise something like that, and odds are at this rate, they weren’t going to survive long enough for anyone to find them.

“Yeah. That sounds good.”

000

Time passed steadily for them like that. After a while, Dennis put an old radio down in the basement with them that they could listen to, breaking up the monotony during their day, and though it didn’t get too many channels down there, it was still better than nothing. At least they could keep up with the events of the world, or learned how much time had passed since they had been down there. To their shock, they had already been down there for almost six years, and they had no idea where the time had gone. Time and seasons blended so seamlessly, and while they knew it had to have been quite a while, they had no idea it had been that long. They changed so little in appearance that they hardly appeared to be growing, it seemed, and they both figured that so little food had to be detrimental for their growing bodies, which of course demanded more food than usual.

Another thing they found out was that the search for them was in fact still ongoing. Or rather, the search for Eren was. On the anniversary of his disappearance, just like clockwork every year, they’d talk about his case, and he’d hear his parents’ voices in interviews talking about how they hadn’t given up on finding him yet. It was always terrible to hear their pain and to hear the comfort of their voices, knowing he was so close and yet so far away from them. But poor Levi never heard anything about himself on the radio. No one would be looking for a runaway seriously, anyway. No one cared about him. At least, that was how he felt.

Over the years, things seemed to get worse. Not necessarily for them, as Dennis hadn’t really devised any new methods to torture them for a while, but for others, perhaps. Sometimes, in the dead of night, the two boys would be woken by a faint scraping outside, sometimes close, sometimes for away from them. The nights they heard those sounds, Dennis wouldn’t visit them at all. It was only a chance look out the dirty basement window above their heads that they saw a shovel digging into the ground. Their jailor would keep up this sort of thing for hours, and the two of them had to wonder, their hearts pounding with horror.

Was he digging the graves of yet more victims and burying them on his farm? Were there more people being subjected to his cruelty besides Eren and Levi?

Dennis never told them, and in the end they didn’t dare to ask. However, his cruelty began to die down over the years. Besides the radio, he would even let them shower in the downstairs shower sometimes, and even though the water wasn’t warm, the clean feeling they received afterwards was a blessing beyond words. They were even given old board games to play that his own children had outgrown.

Yet, the biggest surprise of all was when their jailor showed up one afternoon and dropped a wriggling ball of fluffy brown fur on Eren’s bed. The boy regarded him with surprise, and then looked down at the ball of fluff, watching as it uncurled to reveal that it was a puppy. It had oversized feet, ears where the tips folded over, and a fluffy, teddy bear like coat, as well as a very fluffy tail. Once its one liquid brown eye and one blue eye caught Eren’s, it immediately started wagging its tail and tottered over to him, climbing into his lap with little whimpers. The boy’s face lit right up with delight, and Levi couldn’t help but smile as well at his friend’s reaction.

“I got plans for that dog, but since I’m not here most of the day, he’s your responsibility to take care of,” Dennis explained. “You guys will all eat the same things, and you’ll teach him basic obedience and toilet training. I’ll dig a dirt pit down here and that’s where he’ll shit. He has any accidents and you guys will be punished, got it?”

“Yes master,” Eren said absently, but he was clearly enthralled by the puppy trying to crawl up his torso and get at a loose button on his dirty shirt.

“Thank you master,” Levi added. He hated that the title used to leave a bitter taste in his mouth and it no longer did, the saying of it so many times having dulled the feeling he got from saying it.

Once Dennis left the room, the older boy fixed his gaze on Eren and his new little friend, watching as he stroked the puppy and spoke in a high pitched, happy tone that made that little puffy tail wag like crazy.

“Look at his feet, Levi,” he gushed, “You’re going to be a beast someday! I wonder what kind of dog he is? He looks like a mix. Hmm…oh see this spot on his cheek? That’s something German Shepherds have. And he has the dark saddle…but those ears, that’s like what Collies and Shelties have, and you have the long coat…I guess we’ll see as you get older huh? Yes we will.”

He picked up the puppy and it immediately tried climbing up his face, putting one foot on Eren’s nose and licking him everywhere it could reach. Levi felt a warmth fill his chest; the other boy really was in his element around animals, and it was so nice to see traces of the old Eren once in a while, someone he rarely saw anymore. Where would he be if he wasn’t trapped down here? Surely well on his way to achieving his dream of working with animals somehow.

“You’re going to have to come up with a name for him,” Levi mentioned.

“Well…” Eren hesitated for a minute, “Hmm, we’re going to be going ghost hunting someday? You and me? How about Ghost? For this ghost eye he has here? Maybe he’ll be able to sense spirits near us.”

The older boy laughed. “Yeah, I like it. Now, pass Ghost over here if you can, I want to pet him.”

Grinning, Eren sat up and did so, being careful and placing the puppy on the floor, watching as it waddled over to Levi, its puffy hind legs and rear end giving it a funny gait. Levi picked it up and held it to his chest, fluffing up its fur and laughing at the puppy’s happy, dopey expression.

It was rare that they got to feel hope like this, but something they had learned after being there for so long was to savor it every chance they could.

000

But of course, it couldn’t last, could it? Just as Ghost turned seven months old, Dennis revealed what his plans were in the form of shackling his hands together, asking him to get down onto the concrete floor on his hands and knees, and remain that way while he rubbed a strange oil on the boy’s rear and thighs, concentrating most on his anus. Eren sighed, getting tired of this routine, and was thinking about how lucky Dennis was that he was shackled. His rage still burned towards the man, but now he was taller than him, and if he were stronger, he’d be able to do serious damage. Hell, even though he was so weak, if his hands were free, he’d still find the strength to break Dennis’ skull, somehow.

“Alright pup, put on a show for your master, won’t you?” he finally asked, stepping back. “Eren, spread your legs wider so he can get a good sniff.”

Levi watched with abject horror, still chained to his bed. This must have been a newly discovered fetish for their jailor, and that was why he had bought the puppy in the first place, especially a male puppy, so he could make it fuck them and watch, and do God knew what else. He began to feel sick, praying that Ghost wouldn’t do this to the boy who played with him day in and day out and lavished him with kind praise, saying how he was part of their little messed up family in that dark family and they’d protect him for as long as they could. But a dog was going to do whatever it wanted, and they were powerless to defeat their instincts, weren’t they? And Ghost was just beginning to sexually mature, hence why Dennis was doing this now.

Luckily, some higher being seemed to hear Levi, because Ghost was too busy wondering why Eren was on the floor to be paying attention to the pheromones that had been rubbed on him. He sniffed the air briefly, before going over to Eren’s face with a wagging tail and trying to crawl on top of his head, thinking that they were playing a game and Eren was play bowing. He began sneezing happily, and Eren couldn’t help but smile and laugh softly.

“You gonna get me?” he said to Ghost playfully, “Huh? You gonna bite my face? I’m going to bite your face, how about that?”

Dennis growled in frustration and took the puppy roughly, placing him by Eren’s rear. “Back here, pup, you need to be back here.”

But Ghost found nothing interesting back other than a strong smell that he didn’t fully understand, and instead wandered back up to the more interesting part of Eren, continuing to lick his face and nibble at his nose.

That was when Dennis reached the end of his patience.

“Yeah?” he snarled, “You really want to see what happens when you can’t fucking follow directions? Come here you little cunt.”

He grabbed Ghost, his large hand encompassing his scruff and one of his soft, floppy ears, his hold so painful that the puppy cried, flailing in his hold as he was lifted off the ground. Levi cried out in dismay on the bed and lunged forward, but was held back by his chains. He found the fight bleed out of him then, too afraid to call out and try to stop the abuse. If he did, he knew he’d be hurt as well, and he hated himself for freezing. He was such a coward, hated that Dennis had turned him into this. Before all of this, he wasn’t afraid to throw himself headlong into a fight, not caring what happened to himself. And Dennis had cruelly snuffed it out.

However, it seemed that in Eren, even after all of these years of rapes, beatings and depravity, that fire still burned, and it flared to life when their jailor slammed Ghost on the ground, causing the dog to screech in a way that didn’t even sound like it belonged to a dog, but a tortured spirit, and it made Levi want to cover his ears. Dennis began to pull Ghost’s head back like he was going to bash it against the concrete floor, and that was when the younger boy snapped. Uncaring of the consequences, Eren leaped up from the floor with a snarl, ignoring his shackled hands and ramming his whole body into Dennis’. Surprised by the attack, he was pushed off of the dog, and Eren immediately kneeled down, gathering the still crying puppy in his arms.

“Shh, oh shh, baby I’m here, it’s alright, it’s okay,” he said soothingly, on the verge of tears. To the best of his ability, he began rubbing where the man had grabbed him, trying to pet away the pain. And though still terrified, at least Ghost seemed to know who was holding him, because he leaned into Eren’s caresses, whining and shaking, but still cowering close to his boy.

Furious, once Dennis recovered, he stood back up and tried to make a grab for the dog again, but Eren covered Ghost with his body, holding him against his chest.

“Get off him Eren, he’s the one that needs to be punished,” Dennis growled.

“No!” the boy shrieked, sounding slightly hysterical. He knew he was doing something stupid by disobeying him, but he would absolutely not just stand by and let someone hurt an animal if he could help it. “He doesn’t understand why he’s being punished, but I do! So punish me instead!”

Enraged, their jailor began beating him instead, landing blow after blow on Eren’s kidneys, his head, anywhere that might get him to let go of the dog. But no, he stayed firmly where he was, sobbing, but unmoving, keeping Ghost underneath him while he accepted his friend’s punishment for him, until finally Dennis tired himself out and left them to go back upstairs and wash the blood off his hands and clothes.

Eren lay there for several minutes, completely motionless, Levi choosing that moment to come alive and pull on his chains towards him as far as he could, gasping, “Eren!? Oh my God, are you- please, say something! Shit, Eren!”

“S’okay,” the boy mumbled, “Ugh, I bit my tongue. It’s okay, Levi. Ghost is okay, and I’ll heal. Same as always.”

The older boy bowed his head, shutting his eyes and clenching his teeth. Shame was practically choking him. “I’m such a fucking coward, I’m so sorry. I should have done something to help the both of you, but I froze. I got so scared that I just didn’t do anything.”

“No, now stop,” Eren rasped after a moment, slowly raising himself up into a sitting position, wincing and whining with every movement of his muscles. Ghost shook himself off when he was free and, hearing his whines, tried to crawl up his front and lick his face, but he too was in pain from where he had been grabbed around his neck. So instead, he just leaned against his boy, licking his arm in slow, sad motions. “Of course you got scared. I’m just an idiot with no sense of self-preservation I guess. It’s alright Levi, I’d rather you stay there and keep yourself safe, otherwise I’d have to throw myself over you too.”

“Don’t you dare,” Levi barked. “I can’t handle what he does to me. But it makes me want to die seeing him hurt the two of you like that.”

Eren sighed and shook his head. There was simply nothing he could say to reassure him; they had been down this road countless times over the years. So he just groaned again, trying to raise himself up onto his feet and failing. “Aw dammit, I’m not going to be able to get up. Alright, guess I’ll just spend the night down here. Whatever, I can deal with it.”

“Eren…”

“It’s okay, yeah? Not much different than sleeping on that shitty mattress. I’ll be able to get up in the morning.”

No he wouldn’t, Levi thought. Laying on that cold concrete floor would just exacerbate his aches, but there was nothing he could do to help up on to his bed, restrained as he was. So, all he could do, much as it pained him, was to lay as close to the end of his bed as possible, the edge nearest to where Eren was while Ghost laid next to him on the floor, and the two of them comforting him to the best of their abilities.

000

It was safe to say that Eren and Levi and even Ghost grew almost too used to life in that farmhouse cellar, having knowing little else for so very long. Life was terribly monotonous, even the rapes and tortures and threats of death were becoming almost boring, too much for their strung out nerves to process anymore. Levi had gotten to the point where if he was to be killed, he would welcome it, because he could see it as the only way he was going to get out of this horrible place. Except, part of him was still torn. Not only did he not want to leave Eren and Ghost to fend for themselves, but part of him was still terribly scared to die, and he knew that was what had turned him into the coward he resented. Even Dennis saw how beaten down he had become. He no longer shackled him to the floor, but instead just kept his hands bound in front of him in a pair of handcuffs. It was his own will and his terror that kept him from touching Eren unless ordered to or from trying to escape. And he hated that about himself, very much wishing he could change.

But after ten years of having submission and fear beaten into him, he didn’t think it was possible anymore.

At least, that’s what he believed, more than he believed that his life had value, was that Dennis had broken him irreparably. Until the day when the violence all came to its inevitable crescendo.

He had already gotten a sick feeling in his stomach when Dennis had taken Eren up into the rest of the house; he never did that, except on a few rare occasions when he was going to do something particularly dreadful, and his boy was always delivered back to him broken with threats that Levi better fix him up otherwise they would both be killed. Levi was more often the person taken upstairs because he didn’t fight back, but today their jailor had fancied Eren for whatever reason, and had asked the older boy to hold onto Ghost while he unlocked his chains and led him through the heavy basement door he had asked him to put into place ten years prior. Levi did get a small sense of satisfaction that Dennis was afraid of Ghost. Whenever the dog saw him anymore, he’d bear his teeth and bark ferociously, obviously remembering that that man had been responsible for hurting his friends and him and was trying to protect them.

So there Levi lay on his bed, Ghost curling around him as they waited for Eren’s return, flinching every once in a while as they listened to his cries of pain upstairs. He pet him to soothe his anxiety, while Ghost whined anxiously, nudging his cheek with his wet nose. It seemed like hours before was returned to him with the slamming of the door and the thud of the boy’s body near the entry way. However, after that, the house didn’t stay quiet like it normally did with Dennis then readying himself for the next day. Instead, there was the sound of the door squeaking on its hinges, a car door slamming shut, and the squealing of tires as they tore down the driveway.

After that, absolute silence.

Ghost got up before him, his ears pricking and his body going stiff, before he hopped off the bed and made his way toward the doorway. Levi sat up afterwards, wondering what could have gotten his interest, before he heard the moan of pain. Then, he was up like a shot, leaping off the bed and scrambling over to the broken body lying in front of the door. The first thing that surprised him was the light streaming in from the open basement door, practically blinding him after so long without seeing it. He lifted his arm to shield his eyes and then lowered it when he saw what was laying in the spotlight. There was his Eren, looking like a toy someone had become tired of and thrown away, his body crumpled there on the concrete with Ghost whining and licking his face. At first, Levi couldn’t tell what was wrong with him as he scanned his body up and down.

That was when he noticed the blood that was dripping steadily and heavily from his rear, staining his upper thighs and leaking onto the gray floor.

Levi gasped, dropping to his knees beside his friend and placing his hand on his neck. “Eren? Eren! Oh my God, what did he do to you? Hey, come on, answer me. Or look at me, I don’t care which, just…Eren, open your eyes and look at me.”

His heart was pounding a mile a minute because there was so much blood, so much more than usual from when Dennis raped them or even tortured them. He had done something very bad, much worse than usual, hence why he had probably driven off in his car. Upon glancing up past the door, Levi could see that his car was indeed gone, before looking back at Eren, his features pinched with dread.

When the younger man did finally look up at him, his eyes were glassy, but focused on him eventually before he said in a raspy voice, “I’m looking Levi, calm down. You’re as beautiful as ever, if you’re curious. And he- he um,” he paused, breath shuddering in his lungs. “He fisted me. He’s never done that before, so I don’t think he knew exactly what he was doing. Managed to get up to his elbow I think, and on the way out I felt something tear. Then when I started bleeding all over his bed, he panicked I think and threw me down here. If he ran off…that can’t mean anything good, can it? He probably thinks I’m going to die and he took off.”

At his last sentence, Levi shook his head vehemently. “You’re not going to die! I’m-I’m going to try and stop the bleeding, okay? Don’t you move, just- just hold on.”

Eren huffed a laugh. Don’t move, he says. “But I was planning on getting up and doing jumping jacks Levi, come on, stop ruining my day.”

The older boy ignored him. His voice was already sounding faint, and it was scaring the crap out of him. Gathering his courage, he scooted out through the door and ran into the rest of the house, searching for blankets he could use. There were some in closets, and of course the bloodied ones in Dennis’ bedroom. There was also a steady trail of blood throughout the house where Dennis had carried Eren, and it made him feel sick. Once he gathered a whole pile of them in his arms, his eyes caught the phone sitting on a table in the living room. He remembered their jailor telling him that the phone in his house didn’t work because he didn’t pay the phone bills, but maybe he was making that up? As he made his way over towards it, Levi prayed fervently that Dennis had been lying, and after dropping the blankets, he picked up the landline phone awkwardly with his cuffed hands and placed it to his ear.

Nothing. No busy signal or anything. Just complete silence.

Levi cursed and dropped it back on the desk, before hurriedly picking up his blankets again and rushing back down into the basement. As gently and carefully as he could manage with his bound hands, he pushed them between Eren’s legs, apologizing over and over for the little noises of pain his friend kept making as he worked, even more so when lifting his leg made him gush a little more blood. Levi shuddered, his stomach churning. The blood was very dark, indicating that something deep inside of Eren had been ruptured, and when he looked up at his face, it was turning whiter and whiter. After he finished stoppering him up to the best of his ability, he returned to his head, stroking his hair out of his face. His cheeks were so cold and clammy, and his lips were losing their color. Levi’s heart pounded harder, his body shaking with adrenaline; he felt so helpless knowing there was so little he could do.

“The phones don’t work,” Levi told him. “I tried.”

Eren pulled in a shuddering breath, his skin stretching over his prominent ribs. Because he was so thin, he looked so much younger than twenty two, and it broke Levi’s heart. He still looked like a child, bleeding out there on cold hard floor, with the older boy helpless to do anything but pet his hair and let him know he wasn’t alone. Ghost was laying along the length of his body behind him, placing his chin on his heaving side, a source of warmth Eren very much needed at the moment as his extremities became chilled. He started shaking like a leaf in a winter wind and it made Levi that much more frightened.

“Then you’re going to have to leave the house,” Eren said. “Go and get us help.”

At those words, Levi froze. Leave the house? “I- Eren, I couldn’t. What if Dennis comes back? What if he’s waiting just around the corner or down the street for us? What if he’s just sitting there waiting for us to leave? I’m not brave enough, shit, it should be me laying there bleeding to death, you’d be brave enough to get help, shit shit shit”-

Levi,” Eren hissed, lifting up one of his clammy hands and grabbing Levi’s clenched, bound one. “You are brave. You’re so brave, and you don’t give yourself credit for it. You could have given in years ago, but you’re still here. You comforted me after every single beating and torture and told me to keep going even on days when I wanted to end it. Being scared in a situation like this isn’t cowardice, it’s just instinct, and no one can fault you for that. But…this is the first opportunity we’ve had since we got here to get away. We have to take it.”

Still torn, Levi shook with indecision. He really wanted to go, but ten years worth of torment kept him rooted in place. He looked down at the blankets between Eren’s legs, seeing that they were turning redder and redder as blood continued to spill steadily out from his beloved. Seeing the torn look on his face, Eren’s cheeks spread in a gentle but exhausted smile, and he said hoarsely, “You can do it, Levi. I believe you can. Take Ghost with you, okay? He’ll protect you in case someone tries to stop you. Go to the neighbor’s house and get help.”

The younger man held back the part where he believed just in case Dennis did come back and finish him off, at least Levi and Ghost would be out of the house. At least they would escape with their lives, and if they couldn’t find him help in time, then Eren could at least go to his death in peace knowing that they had gotten away. He winced, feeling a fresh rush of blood leave him, a bigger one than before, and it was so much in fact that his vision began to feel fuzzy around the edges.

“Levi,” he said, his voice thin and desperate, “Go. Now. I’m counting on you, scary kitty.”

At that, tears flooded the older boy’s eyes and he harshly wiped them away with the back of his hands. He then bent over Eren and placed his forehead against his temple, sniffling back tears, and when he spoke his voice sounded wet and wretched.

“Don’t you dare fucking die on me, you hear me Eren Jaeger? If you die I swear to God…please hold on, I know you can do it. You’re a tough little shit, you…Eren…

Eren lifted his head slightly, leaning into Levi’s forehead, but he couldn’t do so for long, and his head settled back on the hard floor again. The older boy’s shoulder’s shook, and he whimpered, “I love you okay? No matter what happens, don’t forget that. You’re the first person I can remember saying those words to. Shit, I love you so much. Just hang on.”

He didn’t reply, sides still heaving and his heart beating faster to make up for the blood loss. But he felt the desperate kisses Levi kept leaving against his temple, before he finally convinced himself to get up. He heard him trying to coax Ghost away, promising him that they would be back, and eventually, with more sad whines and soft kisses, the dog was pulled reluctantly from his friend’s side, but only because Levi was asking him to; he wouldn’t have done so for any other person.

Ghost followed Levi out of the basement obediently, though his ears were back and his tail was tucked, and it was a good thing too, because the boy had nothing to use for a leash. This was crazy, he thought as he took his first few tentative steps out of the garage and onto the driveway. He was stark naked, no shoes on, the summer sun was beating down on him, and he was all skin and bones. To make matters worse, he knew from being told countless times by their jailor that his nearest neighbor was a mile or two away. This trip was going to be agonizing in more ways than one. But all he had to do was glance back at the open basement door, and that gave him the final push he needed to wrench himself away, his loyal dog following at his heels.

The sun beat down on them the entire time, making sweat roll down Levi’s back. He was losing water that he couldn’t afford to lose, considering how dehydrated he already was. The trip down the road was also eating away at energy he didn’t have, his miniscule reserves of fat being burned up in an instant. The grass was dry and scratchy on his feet, and he hobbled along, Ghost sticking close to his side, the dog obviously terrified considering he had never been outside before, but still determined to stay with Levi. The boy kept his bound hands in the fur on his shoulders, which both kept him grounded and helped him stay upright. The two of them kept waiting for a car to pass by, each of them tensing when they so much as heard noise that might sound like one. Levi both prayed and dreaded a car approaching them, because it could either mean help or Dennis or one of this friends, and if it was the latter he was sure he’d be bundled into the car and brought right back to where he came from.

Within no time, Levi was exhausted, his legs trembling and his vision blurring. His muscles ached, obviously in no condition to be taking him more than a step or two, if that, and yet he had no choice. Every time he wanted to sit down, he thought of Eren bleeding in that basement and picked up his pace, knowing that he was the only person who knew he was in trouble, and if he didn’t get help, then it would be all over for him. Even if he destroyed his body in the process, he would get help for him. Even if Dennis did come back and find him again, he would be satisfied knowing he had least tried rather than cowering in that basement. If he was going to go down, he was going to go down fighting for their freedom.

However, as strong as his spirit was, his body was that weak. No matter how hard he pushed himself, his deprived muscles simply wouldn’t hold him up and they began to break down. He fell to his knees with a gasp, his whole body shaking. Ghost stayed by his side, pushing at Levi’s skin with his cold wet nose, as if to urge him to get up again. Panting, the boy nodded.

“You’re right, I can do this,” he said, wheezing. “I gotta get up. Come on, get up already. We have to move, Eren needs us, he needs us.”

With a groan, he heaved himself to his feet, his muscles burning so badly that he fell to his knees again briefly. Gritting his teeth, he pushed himself up again, practically yelling at himself to keep moving. Everything hurt and his head was spinning, his hearing warping and becoming muffled. He made himself keep walking, clinging to the vision of Eren’s pale face and all of the blood pouring out of his body, how he was his love’s only hope. Knowing that Eren’s life was in his hands gave him a tremendous burst of energy, enough for him to hobble along for several more yards.

However, that was all he needed to walk before a house appeared on the horizon.

Out of the summer haze it appeared like a lake of water in a desert, and it gave Levi yet another boost. However, this one only lasted him a few feet before his knees buckled, the strain on his muscles too great. He fell to his knees again, his head spinning horrendously, so much so that he began to feel ill. Faint and weak, he let himself lay down, telling himself that he would get up after he had rested. But the dizziness and weakness wouldn’t go away, and even Ghost began to grow worried. He circled around Levi’s body, whining anxiously, pawing at him. His nails scraped at his bare flesh, but even the pain didn’t inspire Levi to get back on his feet. His body had used the last of his strength, and there was no hope of him getting back up again.

“Ghost,” he whispered, “Ghost…”

The dog kept pawing at him, licking his face and nudging him, trying to do everything he could to get him moving again. But nothing seemed to be working, and that was when Ghost began pacing and whimpering. Levi didn’t smell good at all, and neither had Eren when he had left. Something was terribly wrong, and he knew he had to do something, but what? He turned his nose towards the house, sniffing the air, his nose twitching. There were definitely people in there, people he didn’t know. They smelled healthier than his friends, so perhaps they could help? Ghost was reluctant to leave of course, but his German Shepherd and herding dog instincts demanded he protect, and there was no one he wanted to protect than Levi and Eren.

He paced around Levi for a moment or so more, hearing his sickening wheezes and smelling his sour, weak smell. He bent his head down and licked his face again, trying to reassure him as much as he could that he wasn’t abandoning him, before he backed away, and took off towards the house, Levi watching him go with hazy vision.

Running as fast as his own deprived body would take him, Ghost made it the rest of the way to the house, his long legs taking him there quickly. Once he made it there, he looked around, realizing there were no people that he could see. Well, that wouldn’t do. He had to get someone’s attention somehow. Figuring they had to be inside, he stood at the base of the stairs that led up to the porch, too afraid to get closer, and began barking. His barks were high pitch, desperate, hoping he sounded pitiful instead of threatening. He kept barking and barking, throwing in a few whines, pacing around. Finally, after a minute or so, he saw a face peeking through a window, before it the person opened up the door. He wagged his tail and began whining. The person was female, not male. Not threatening, and not Dennis.

The woman came out a little further when she saw that the dog was wagging its tail, its fur laying flat, not bearing its teeth. Concerned, she asked him softly, “What’s the matter pup? Oh dear you’re thin, are you hungry? Here maybe I can get you something.”

Before she could go back into the house though, Ghost began to trot away, trying to lead her towards Levi. Luckily, his motion stopped her from going back into the house, but she didn’t follow him. So, Ghost tried again, barking his high pitched bark, and beginning to trot away again. He did this a few more times, before the woman called into the house, and suddenly a man appeared. The man did make Ghost nervous, but he figured as long as he stayed away from him, he couldn’t hurt him.

“Hon, I think he wants us to follow him,” the woman said.

“Well then let’s,” the man said with a determined nod, and then he met Ghost’s eyes. “Come on pup, where do you want us to go? We’ll come with you.”

Ghost backed up, trotting away once more, and when he did, this time, both people followed him. With a glance over his shoulder, he saw that they were both running after him, and he picked up the pace, loping along. He never strayed too far in front, looking over his shoulder every few feet to make sure they were still coming.

Eventually, they finally reached the place where Levi was still lying face down in the grass, and when the two people caught sight of him, they gasped and picked up their pace.

“Dear God,” the man exclaimed, kneeling down beside Levi. He placed his hands on his shoulders, shaking him slightly. “Son, can you hear me? Are you alright?”

At the motion, Levi groaned and looked up into the man’s face, his vision still spinning. He wanted to respond, saying that he was fine, that Eren was the one who needed his help, not him. But he couldn’t get the words out. All he could manage was a soft groan, his eyes lidding heavily.

“Get back to the house, call an ambulance,” the man told his wife, and with a nod, she raced back the direction they had come from. He then worked to pick Levi up as gently as he could, slinging him over his back, before following her. Ghost trotted along behind him, keeping a fair distance from the man, but close enough that he could keep his eye on Levi, to make sure he wasn’t going to be hurt.

When they eventually made it inside the house, Levi felt immediate relief when he was met with cool air and shade. Ghost followed them inside, watching as the boy was laid on the couch. Then man then left before coming back with a thin sheet and a cup of water. He laid the sheet over Levi’s waist in order to cover up his nakedness, before offering him the water. He sat the smaller boy up gently and put the cup to his lips, and the minute he felt the water touch his upper lip, he began to gulp it down desperately, not stopping until half of the cup was drained. With both the shade and the cup of water, he revived the tiniest bit, his vision clearing and his hearing less warped. It was then that he noticed that Ghost was sitting next to him by the couch, not wanting to be touched by the other people but not wanting to abandon his boy. That was when it began to register with Levi that the woman was on the phone and she was clearly talking to emergency services, calling an ambulance for him. That was when he remembered Eren, and he quickly put his water down, siting up far too quickly, but not caring how badly it made his head hurt.

“Wait!” he gasped. “Not just me…my friend needs help too! He’s bleeding, dying back…back at that other house. Call him an ambulance too!”

The two people looked at him, obviously worried, and perhaps thinking he was delusional. He shook his head, trying to explain himself as clearly as possible. “My friend, Eren Jaeger. We’ve both been missing for ten years. We’ve been held captive by your neighbor, Dennis Aberdeen for that whole time. Eren is bleeding out on the basement floor right now. I managed to escape to get help. Dennis is gone I think, I don’t know where he is. Tell them that.”

Clearly shocked, but determined, the woman began relaying his message. “Yes, he just told me that he’s a friend of Eren Jaeger, the boy we keep hearing about the news. The two of them have been held captive for ten years and we need an ambulance out to that address as well. Yes the address is…”

Levi shivered, feeling immense relief after hearing those words. He settled back on the couch, suddenly feeling so exhausted he could barely stand it. His eyes began to fall shut, the only thing keeping him conscious was his crushing worry that he hadn’t gotten help in time, that Eren was already dead. That he had died alone, cold and frightened, or that worse, Dennis had returned and finished the job. He began whimpering, trying to sit up, but his body was so heavy that he couldn’t move. He whispered Eren’s name, trembling, his voice fading away.

Please be alright, he thought as he passed out on the couch. Please say I wasn’t too late. I won’t wish for anything else as long as I live as long Eren makes it through this.

 

Everything went black, and as the last of his consciousness tapered away, he swore he could hear Eren scream one final time.

000

Five Years Later

 

Though Levi loved summer, he had to admit, summer evenings always seemed to remind him of the time he had escaped Dennis’ house and made his desperate journey to the neighbor’s house. And that was a day he was trying his very hardest to forget, even now.

He sighed, taking in the pretty burnt oranges of the sunset from his porch swing, listening to the crickets and watching as the fireflies began to flit around in the dark, moist grass. Ghost, as always, was laying by his feet, a lovely black leather collar around his neck. He smiled down at him, petting him with his foot. As soon as he was in a position to, he had taken him to the vet to do a DNA test on him, curious as to what kind of mix he was; what was in this dog that enabled him to be brave enough to not only leave a basement he had been in for his whole life, but to go get help from strangers that he didn’t trust for the sake of the boys he loved. Turned out it was as Eren had suspected and that he was part German Shepherd, part Collie and with just a touch of Husky, hence his blue eye and love for the snow. But it didn’t matter in the end, because to them, he was all hero.

The ambulance had shown up that afternoon and the next thing Levi knew, he was drifting in and out of consciousness in a hospital, hooked up to a million different tubes. He was being told that he was suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration, as well as countless injuries both new and old. The biggest issue was of course the fact that he needed food and water, and once he was put on a steady diet, his injuries began to heal as well.

Once he had healed enough, of course the police had wanted to talk to him though.

He hadn’t held anything back, revealing everything about what he and Eren had been through, not leaving out a single detail, and they had decided that based on the state Levi had been found in and the fact that his account was so detailed that it was more than enough grounds to arrest Dennis.

The minute Levi had recovered, they wanted him to testify at his trial, but luckily, his testimony had been enough to lock him away forever. Not only his testimony however, but after Dennis had been arrested, the police had searched his entire property, and Levi had found out that he and Eren hadn’t been the only victims, just it turned out, the luckiest ones, for they had found fifteen bodies buried all over his farm, all of them belonging to missing boys. So, not only had he been a pedophile, but a serial killer as well.

Levi lowered his head, balling his hands into fists. Even though Dennis had been locked away, it still hadn’t been the end of it. Just a month into his sentence, the bastard had hanged himself in his cell, apparently unable to handle the pain he was so keen to dish out on his helpless victims. When he heard the news, Levi had flown into a rage, punching a hole into his wall and busting his hand so badly that he had had to go back to the hospital for stitches.

After he had recovered physically from his ordeal, the next step was to recover emotionally, and in order to do that, he needed to work hard to integrate himself back into society again. He had to build a life for himself. So, he went back and finished school, learned how to drive, worked to accomplish everything Dennis had deprived him of by keeping him in that miserable basement for years and years. He had gone to college and gotten a two year business degree, deciding that he was going to honor Eren’s wish to do something with animals. It wasn’t going to be easy, but he decided he wanted to open a kind of animal café combined with a library, where people could rent out an animal for a couple of hours, an animal that needed a home, convinced that if people could spend just a little bit of time with one of these animals, someone would adopt them. He would sweat and bleed to make Eren’s dream come true because it was the least he could do after…

Levi shook his head, tears welling up in his eyes. He wouldn’t think about the past anymore, he just couldn’t.

He thought he was doing well, working himself back into mainstream society. Eren’s parents had been kind enough to take him in, and it was in fact their porch that he sat on right now. Once they had found out about Ghost’s story, they had realized they couldn’t separate them and had allowed him to stay with them as well. The dog was as attached to Levi as ever, following him from room to room, even to the bathroom, as if he was convinced Levi couldn’t even take a shit unsupervised. Ghost had helped him through so many things because he understood exactly what he had been through. He had been a warm body to hold at night and fur to cry into when the nightmares came back to him. He was a source of comfort when the PTSD would hit and the crushing depression would take hold of him. Even Ghost hadn’t come through unscathed, and that in fact bonded Levi tighter to him. The dog had a hard time trusting strangers, especially men that looked like Dennis, but thanks to lots of time spent training him to trust others, he was much better than he had been when he had first arrived in the Jaeger house.

No, things hadn’t been easy. The mental anguish wouldn’t leave him, and he knew it wouldn’t for many years, if at all. But the more time passed, the easier things became. Eren’s parents had been a huge help as well, supporting Levi like the second son they had never had.

But of course, the biggest source of comfort of all had been his beloved.

Eren chose that moment to walk out onto the porch with him, Ghost looking up at his approach and wagging his tail while Eren bent down to pet him. He then sat down on the bench beside him, and Levi leaned his head against his shoulder.

Places that Ghost couldn’t go, Eren went with him. On those tough nights, Eren would wrap himself around Levi’s back while Ghost cuddled his front. Levi did the same for him when the fear would take him and make him unable to sleep for days on end. Levi would squeeze his hand when there were too many people around and monitor his moods, telling him when he thought he needed a break. The two of them had saved each other’s sanity over and over again, and Levi knew that without Eren, if the ambulance hadn’t managed to rescue him in time, stop the bleeding and nurse him back to health, Levi wouldn’t be alive today. He would have been overwhelmed long ago, unable to cope, and most likely would have ended his own life. But no, because he had this beautiful man here, and his family, and a very special dog that had saved both of their lives, he was still alive and kicking. He had survived those ten years of hell because Eren had kept him going, had given him a reason to wake up every morning.

“I can’t wait to be done with school,” Eren sighed, nuzzling his cheek against the top of Levi’s head.

“You’ll get there.” Eren had taken a little longer to start school than he had, as he had faced greater setbacks, both emotionally and physically. It had taken him longer to recover from internal damage done to him, and surprisingly, though he pretended to be so strong, he often had far more bad days than Levi did. He had far more days where he was trapped in that black, crushing depression, tucked up in his blankets and refusing to come out of his room, and Levi wondered if that came about because he had been trying to be tough during the time they had spent in that basement. Now that he didn’t have to be tough anymore, it all came spilling out.

But thankfully, as always, Levi was there to pick him up and put him back together. Just like when their wrists were chained to the floor and they were forced to sleep on dirty, thin mattresses.

“I’m gonna have the best business partner in the world,” the older man told him, squeezing his hand.

Eren flicked his eyes down towards the ring on Levi’s left hand and smiled. He had angsted so hard over picking that thing out, and he was beyond delighted that Levi had loved it, practically weeping when the young man put it on his finger. He breathed a laugh through his nose, also not failing to notice that the smaller man had chosen to not only wear a beanie, but have his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Just like how Eren liked them.

“Just eight more months until you’re stuck with me forever, huh?” he murmured.

“Mmm,” Levi hummed, and then pulled his head out from under Eren’s before leaning up and pecking him on the lips. “I’ve already been with you for fifteen years. I think I can handle forever.”

The younger man pulled him back, deepening the kiss, making it soft, slow and sweet. Levi sighed, his eyes falling shut. This was another of the many reasons that he was beyond thankful the two of them had managed to escape. They were no longer forced to hurt each other, and in this peaceful new environment, the two of them were able to love each other how they liked, and they found out quickly that both of them were exceedingly gentle, careful lovers. When it came to everything from just holding hands to making love, they were slow and soft. It had taken a lot of coaxing for the both of them to trust themselves enough that they wouldn’t hurt the other, but eventually, after a lot of therapy and a lot of verbal reassurance, they succeeded in every aspect of their relationship.

Finally, despite all of the hardships, everything seemed to be coming together.

When they eventually pulled apart, the sun was almost all the way down, now just a sliver of gold above the darkened horizon line. Levi snuggled against Eren, tucking his feet up under him and leaning against him. After a beat, he said quietly, “You know, as much as I hope that man is rotting in Hell, I suppose I have to begrudgingly thank him for bringing us together. You, me, and Ghost. Our weird little family. I think the best thing we can do now is to keep insulting him by living as happily as we can and helping others that are less fortunate. We’re going to help so many animals find homes, just you wait.”

Eren nodded, before he glanced down at Ghost again, who was still lying there peacefully, head on his paws. He then breathed, “Thank you both. For everything.”

Levi answered him with a kiss to the cheek, and then smiled brightly, remembering something. “Hey, maybe for our next date we can go on one of those haunted ghost tours? I know it’s not a ghost hunt, but it’s somewhere to start.”

The younger man laughed, squeezing him tightly around the waist. “Sounds great. Just hold onto me if you get scared, yeah?”

The last of the sun finally dipped over the horizon, washing them all in a gentle darkness as Levi replied, “Don’t worry, I will, though I don’t think I’ll need to. I can think of much scarier places to be.”