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Yesterday, I Loved You

Chapter Text

Not many things scare Levi, but seeing Eren lying on the hospital bed, bandaged up and sleeping, is frightening. He's on the edge of his seat, fingers clenching the sides, eyes shifting between Eren’s battered face and his monitor. He hates to admit it, but he’s worried.

It’s been an hour since the car accident. An hour of watching Eren sleep. An hour of not knowing anything.

The doctor said he would be all right: slight injuries to the head, a broken arm, a shattered leg. “He won’t be able to walk or use his left arm for awhile.” That’s fine. “However, he might have difficulties communicating, since he received a direct blow to the side of his head.” That's not fine.

Levi has always predicted what Eren would do next. Whenever Eren's eyes light up, he would then smile. Whenever he blinks twice, he would then lie. Whenever he bites his lip, he would then try to recall something. — But now, Levi doesn't know what to expect, and in all honesty, he's afraid.

The second hour passes.

Then the third.

At the fourth, Eren stirs, and Levi stops pacing the room. He glances at the monitor to make sure Eren’s heart rate is normal, then he turns his gaze to the rousing figure. Eren groans, low and weak, and opens his eyes. He blinks one, two, three times, and lets out a breath. During this instance, Levi manages to move his feet, and as he approaches the bed, Eren peers over at him.

His green eyes are empty. That’s the first thing Levi notices. They’re empty, dull, dead.

"Can you hear me?"

The response is slow, but Eren dips his head ever so slightly, indicating that he has heard him.

"Can you see me?"

Eren blinks slowly.

Relief washes over him. Three hours of worrying (though he will never admit to it) has gone to waste. Eren is fine. Eren is okay.

Keeping his gaze on him, Levi reaches over and pushes the button to call for the doctor. After informing them of Eren’s state, he draws back and stares more. Eren’s eyes are still glazed over and lifeless. It’s as if he hasn’t realized where he is. It’s as if he hasn’t realized who he is.

"Say something." Tell me you’re all right.

Eren’s lips part, but nothing comes out.

"How are you feeling?"

His lips move again, and this time, he whispers something. Levi steps closer to the bed.

"Class .." The words are muffled, but within a few moments, they become clearer. "I missed .. your class."

"What are you —" Before he can finish his question, the answer dawns on him.

ClassHis class. Eren was in his class four years ago. He was teaching mythology, and Eren, being in his last year, took the class out of whim. At the time, Levi didn't expect to get attached to a boy. At the time, Levi didn't plan to fall for a student — his student. When Eren graduated, he thought he would be free from the guilt of wanting someone half his age, but then Eren came back. And they happened.

But now, what's left of them?

"Do you know who I am?"

Not many things scare him, but right here, right now, he fears hearing Eren’s reply. He almost wishes for Eren not to answer him, but he needs an answer; he needs to know.

"Te .. teacher." Eren clamps his mouth shut and tilts his head back. His lips tighten, and his brow creases. Levi recognizes the expression as pain, but he doesn’t — no, he can’t — move forward to help.

Teacher.

Eren’s memory dates back to four years ago.

Back when they barely knew each other.

Back when they weren’t in a relationship.

Eren doesn’t remember.

As the revelation begins to settle, the doctor and his two nurses rush in to aid Eren, and Levi, realizing that he's useless, steps aside. He watches as they check to make sure he's okay; he turns away when they start questioning him about what he last remembers. "Store .. class .. Mikasa." Those are the only words Levi can decipher from the mumbling, and he's not sure what he can make of it. He doesn’t know the extent of Eren’s memory, but from what he has gathered, Eren remembers being in his class. He knows who he is, so the question is does he know his significance?

Levi's eyes flicker down to his own left hand.

How much does Eren remember?

He clenches his fist.

How much has Eren forgotten?

Not many things scare him, but losing his lover — losing his fiancé — is a truly terrifying thought.

Chapter Text

When he moves, he moves with ease; when he thinks, he forgets. Over the past week, Eren’s physical condition has improved significantly, but his memory appears to have declined. Levi recalls telling him his name twice already, but Eren insists on calling him “teacher.” It soothes him to know that Eren recognizes his face, but sometimes he struggles, and Levi can’t bring himself to remind him.

Another week passes.

Eren continues remembering patches of his life, yet he still often puzzles over how one thing happened, because he can't recall the events that led up to it. At times, he remembers the insignificant things: car colors, school grades, first bicycle. Other times, he remembers the significant things: name, parents, friends. Not once does Eren mention him, and by the 11th night, Levi has given up hope.

On the 12th day, things change. He brings Eren his sketchbook (a personal request that surprises Levi since art is more or less one of the insignificant things). During the first hour, Eren spends his time observing his past sketches; during the second, he draws Levi and relishes on how his hand just seems to know where each line goes. When Levi looks at the finished product, he sees that Eren's artistic ability has deteriorated as well. The lines are rigged, the shading off. There's not enough detail, and chances are, it's because Eren has forgotten how to draw him (despite having drawn him every day for the past four years). The portrait isn't, by any means, awful, but it doesn't show the full extent of Eren's capabilities, and of all things Eren has lost, this is perhaps one of the worst.

Levi keeps the sketch, though. He folds it into sixths and sticks it in his wallet behind the picture of them both. Eren happens to lean over then, and after inspecting this photo for some time, he asks when they took it. Levi replies that they did about two years ago. A part of him hopes that Eren would question the picture further, but Eren accepts the answer and moves onto talking about a childhood memory of his.

It ticks him off.

Eren can remember what happened fifteen years ago, yet he can’t remember what happened in the last four.

It really ticks him off.

He talks about his parents, how his mother died young, how his father struggled to raise him. He talks about his friends, how he first met them, how they impacted his life. Not once does he talk about their relationship. Not once does he talk about him. And things aren't the same anymore. Even though Eren is sitting here in flesh and blood, it's not his Eren. There are similarities — the look, the voice, the posture. But more so, there are differences — the unfamiliar look he gives him, the tone of voice he speaks to him with, the stiffened posture that he usually holds himself in whenever he's uncomfortable with any interaction. Things have changed, and Levi doesn't like change.

Three hours later, when Eren is fast asleep, the doctor visits. He glances at Eren, checks his monitor,  and does all the things Levi has done twice already. For the most part, he remains silent; it's only when Levi asks a question does he talk.

"Will he get all his memories back?" There's a slight waver in his voice.

"We can only hope he regains the majority of them." The doctor pauses for a moment. "Are you his brother?"

No.

I’m his lover.

"Distant relative," Levi ends up saying. He didn’t have a problem telling others about his relationship with Eren before, but because of the current circumstance, he’s not sure if his affection is requited, and therefore, figures it’s best to mention their connection in silence.

"And the girl from earlier?"

"Adopted sister."

Mikasa Ackerman had dropped by before lunch. Eren, at that time, was sound asleep, so she only lingered as long as she could bear being in the same room as Levi. Despite them being the closest to Eren, they have yet to get along. Levi sees her as a potential threat to his relationship with Eren (and even more now, since Eren has shown signs of remembering Mikasa better). Mikasa, in turn, sees him as a significant threat to Eren’s happiness. He had been told multiple times before that, if he were to hurt Eren, she would hunt him down. He promised her that if Eren were to get hurt, it would be his own fault. She disagreed.

And apparently, Eren getting into the car accident is somehow his fault.

"You shouldn’t have texted him while he was driving," she said.

"The accident wasn’t his fault."

"Because it was yours." And she parted with those words.

He has never hated Mikasa more, because he knows she’s right. Eren got off work at 6:00; he texted at 6:05 to ask him to buy some milk on the way home. After Eren agreed, Levi didn't hear anything else from him. He didn’t expect it to happen; they had texted multiple times before while Eren was out driving. Just .. why this time? To this day, and to this hour, he asks himself the same question: why this time? And still, he doesn’t know.

"Does he live with her?"

Eren groans and turns his head to the other side. Levi tears his gaze away. “No,” he replies, “he lives with me.” And he wonders more. He wonders if Eren will remember the home they share. He wonders if Eren will remember why there’s only one bed. He wonders if Eren will remember the exact place in the kitchen where they first kissed.

He wonders.

And he continues to fear.

"He seems fine now," the doctor tells him, as if Eren's not lying there, beaten and bruised, clinging to life, as if it makes everything better. "If he heals at this rapid pace for the next three days, we'll permit discharge." The doctor moves towards the door. "I have another patient to attend to. If he needs any assistance, don’t hesitate to call."

Levi doesn’t respond; his eyes return to Eren’s rising and falling chest, and after counting three breaths, he notices that they’re finally alone again.

He reaches out to touch Eren’s hair but stops and balls up his fingers.

It’s not fair.

Even though Eren’s a shitty, stupid brat, he didn’t — doesn’t — deserve any of this. He's a good man; he has always been a good man. Whenever someone needs a shoulder to lean on, he's there. Whenever someone needs words of encouragement, he's there. A soft heart cannot survive in such a brutal world. That's what Levi thought, but then, Eren came in and changed his perception, and that was one change Levi didn't mind.

He’s going to find the person who ran that red light. He’s going to find them, and he’s going to make them regret. He's going to make them regret taking away peace. He's going to make them regret stealing happiness. He's going to make them regret —

The clock strikes midnight, but Eren remains unconscious. Levi considers going home — he hasn’t slept there in the last two days — but decides against it, for he wants to be here when Eren wakes.

Tired of the day’s past, yet unwilling to sleep, he drags a chair over to Eren’s bedside and sits. From there, he lays his head down and synchronizes his breathing with the other's. He doesn’t know when he dozed off, but when he wakes, the sun is shining through the slightly parted curtains, and Eren is holding his hand. He doesn't want to move; he wants to savor this moment, because he might never have a chance to hold Eren's hand again.

But somehow, Eren seems to know that he's awake. "They’re smaller than mine," he mumbles, looking over to meet Levi’s gaze.

”.. Yeah.” He would’ve told him to shut up — that’s what he did the first time Eren mentioned the size of his hands — but he bites back the remark. “What are you doing?”

"I was drawing your hands." Breaking his hold, Eren picks up his sketchbook. "But then I got distracted."

Levi leans over to take a glimpse. The work is near completion and looks, well .. nice. Except the left hand is missing a ring finger. “Are you going to finish it?”

Eren chews on his lips before nodding. “I was .. just wondering why you’re wearing a ring.”

He doesn’t remember.

It’s clear now.

He doesn’t remember their relationship, doesn’t remember proposing, doesn’t remember anything. And realizing this, Levi feels inclined to destroy. He wants to punch the monitor beeping next to him; he wants to kick the shit out of the white walls surrounding them; he wants to scream, and he wants to cry, but he holds himself together.

For Eren, he holds himself together.

"If I wear it, I won’t lose it." It shames him to hear his voice slightly falter, but much to his luck, Eren doesn’t seem to acknowledge it.

"But it’s on your ring finger." A flicker of confusion in his expression only confirms that he has forgotten everything about them.

"So it is."

Out of the corners of his eyes, he sees Eren’s fingers tighten around his sketchbook. It's a simple reaction but one Levi can't interpret.

"Who gave it to you?" Eren asks, this time quieter.

The word ‘you' is heavy on Levi's tongue, but he bites his cheek to refrain from saying that. Instead, he gives, "Someone important to me."

It’s not a lie. Eren is perhaps the only person he truly cares about, and because of that, he can’t bear to ruin his life anymore than he has. He wants nothing more than to grab Eren’s hands and tell him everything, but he can’t, because Eren’s feelings towards him now are vague and foreign. Not to mention, there’s a possibility that Eren can fall for someone else, and if that were to be the case, Levi doesn’t want him to feel guilty about leaving him behind. (Of course, his chest will hurt, and of course, his heart will ache. He has never loved anyone more than Eren, and he doubts he ever will.) It’s a sacrifice, but for Eren's happiness, it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make.

"Do you know how old you are?"

Eren blinks. “Eighteen .. nineteen?” He bites his lip. “Nineteen,” he says finally, though still sounding unsure.

Twenty-two.

The three .. four years they’ve been together have been forgotten. All the times Eren has kissed him good morning, all the times Eren has made him breakfast, all the times Eren has scattered the many love notes around the house for him to find. All the times they've gone out to dinner, all the times they've lain awake in bed, talking about things irrelevant to their lives, all the times they've made sweet, sweet love. All the times forgotten.

.. But no.

Eren can draw him — his face, his hands — given, the sketches aren’t as good as the ones before his incident, but they are still of him. The thought isn't much to cling onto, but at the moment, it’s his only spark of hope.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Eren remembers Levi’s name, and when he does, he grins as if he’s expecting some sort of reward. Sometimes, however, Eren forgets and spends a few minutes staring at his face until he whispers an apology for not being able to remember. Levi always ends up telling him that it’s all right (except it’s really not) and that he has nothing to apologize for, but Eren does so anyway, as if he can see the disappointment Levi is trying so hard to conceal. Levi finds it humorous. When it comes to emotions and reactions, it's easy for him to appear apathetic, but when it comes to this, he struggles to hide.

And it doesn’t get better. As two — three days pass, Eren recounts on more memories from his distant past and continues to stumble over the recent ones.  During one occasion in particular, Eren asked about the ring again, and Levi, not wanting to explain it a second time, carefully sidestepped the question by proposing a new topic. Eren’s attention was diverted immediately.

Though his memory hasn’t improved as much, his physical condition, on the other hand, has. On the 16th day, Eren is discharged from the hospital. Mere jubilance cannot describe how thrilled he is to finally go home; he grins when Levi signs him off, and he laughs when the doctor tells a joke ("break a leg!" Levi doesn't find that funny at all, but he lets Eren laugh). They're home by noon, and while they eat lunch, Eren looks around, soaks in the atmosphere, then turns back and reports that this isn't Mikasa's place. "Why is that?" he asks. Levi explains that it was a mutual agreement between him and Mikasa to let Eren move in with him. He doesn't bother elaborating past that, and for some time, Eren doesn't bother prying.

But at dinner, he does.

"How long have I been living here?"

Levi doesn’t see a reason to lie. “Two years,” he tells him. They dated for two, then Eren decided to move in with him. At first, it was difficult adjusting to living with another person (a lover, to be specific), but then things smoothed out. He learned more about Eren within a week than he had the entire two years previous. It's nice — living with someone, not being subjected to inevitable loneliness. And despite his fondness of order, he likes waking up to see things disarray: arrangement makes everything perfect; disarrangement makes everything real. He cleans, and the atmosphere is dead, but when Eren leaves things out of place, the atmosphere is alive.

"I kinda remember it." Eren puts his fork down and looks around. "I mean, I know where your room is." He pauses for a moment, and when Levi inquires, Eren hesitates. "Do I .. sleep on the — that?" He gestures at the sofa.

"Couch," Levi reminds him.

"Yeah — do I sleep on that?"

"You’ll sleep on the bed." When Eren opens his mouth to retaliate, Levi adds on, "I’ll sleep on the couch if it bothers you."

Eren’s cheeks turn a light shade of pink. "Ah — no, it's fine!" The subject drops then.

After dinner comes getting ready for bed, and helping Eren shower isn't the easiest task. His arm and leg are healed to the point where he can wiggle his fingers and toes, but for the most part, they're immobile. Levi finds himself stripping Eren down and heaving him into the bathtub. He washes his hair, his back, and though they talk, quite comfortably so, Eren still appears tense. His shoulders are arched forward, his body stiff. Somehow, Levi manages to get around these obstacles.

When they’re in bed, Eren falls asleep immediately. Levi stays up. It’s been awhile since they’ve lied in bed together, and he finds that, with Eren here beside him, he truly misses what they had. He misses staying up late, talking to Eren about worthless things. He misses Eren leaning in and kissing him softly, sweetly, slowly. He misses being told “good night” and then being held against until the sunlight seeps through the curtains the next morning. He really misses Eren — his Eren, and he falls asleep yearning.

Mikasa and Armin visit on the third day, and while Armin entertains Eren, Mikasa pulls Levi aside. Before she can even open her mouth, Levi knows her pending words. Mikasa has two ways of speaking to him: offensively and defensively. Last time when she came around to blame him for Eren's accident, she was playing at offensive, so chances are, this time, she'll be on defense.

"You haven’t done anything with him, have you?" she asks, her voice hushed, defensive.

"I spoon fed him and wiped his ass. Were you expecting anything else?"

Her lips twitch, but nevertheless, she doesn’t press. “If he’s too much trouble, I can take him back. I still have his room —”

"Eren is fine here." He glances over when he hears Eren laugh at something Armin said. "It’s my responsibility to look after him." After all, what else can he do? He's not going to leave Eren behind to fend for himself, especially when he's at his weakest state.

"That’s also my responsibility." Mikasa shifts over to block his view of Eren. "Listen, Levi. I think it’s best if he’s under my care for awhile." She's always saying that, and he doesn't know why. Mikasa has known about their relationship for four years now. Not once during that time has he hurt Eren, and yet, she appears to be convinced that he's not properly taking care of him. It doesn't make sense.

“He’s already settled here.”

"We can arrange a —"

"Mikasa," Levi says, exasperated. "I can take care of him."

"I’m his sister."

"And I’m his lover."

She bites her lip at that, but after a moment of thought, she gives in and heads over to Armin and Eren. They don’t talk about it again.


 

May 18, 18:02, received: do we need anything from store
May 18, 18:05, received: is that all
May 18, 18:09, received, locked: ok i’ll be home soon love you

He doesn’t remember sending these texts to Levi. Actually, he doesn’t remember texting him at all. It’s frustrating. He knows that Levi was once his teacher, and he knows something happened that made them start living together. He just can’t make the connection.

May 18, 18:09, received, locked: ok i’ll be home soon love you

Love you.

There's definite significance in those two words. Why else would he text him that? Why else would Levi choose to lock it? Maybe they were in a relationship — but he doubts it. If he felt any romantic interest toward Levi, he’s not feeling them now. Then, why the “love you”? Why that?

Eren chews on his lip and clasps Levi’s phone closed. As the front screen lights up, alerting him of the time and day, his eyebrows furrow.

June 28th.

The day seems familiar to him, and this feeling of familiarity is normal. He knows something is there; he can feel it nudging him. It's there — somewhere in the midst of his subconscious, it's there. He just needs to be reminded.

"Levi."

The figure lying next to him rouses. "Mm?" Levi turns over and peers up at him. Sleep is still heavy on tongue and eyelids, but Eren finds that he rather likes that. For once, Levi's vulnerable; there's no hard edge in his voice, no glare to match his words. But of course, his awakening state doesn't stay long. When he notices the cellphone in Eren's hand, he reaches over and plucks it from him. "What were you doing?"

Eren ignores the question (not because he fears answering, but because he fears forgetting what he wants to ask). "Levi," he repeats, this time firmer. "Is today my birthday?" June 28th. It's an important date, but it doesn't feel like his birthday. Though his memory is fuzzy, he’s sure that his birthday is in March .. May? Whichever one it is, it isn’t in June. "No .. it’s someone else’s birthday." Armin's? Perhaps.

As he ponders this, Levi replies, "We’re going out for dinner tonight."

"Why?"

Levi doesn't answer immediately; he swings his legs over the side of the bed and pushes himself upward. Now, with his back facing Eren, he says, “It’s my birthday.”

Oh.

Eight hours later, they’re seated at a table for two at a restaurant called Sasha’s. It’s not, by any means, a huge and fancy one, but Eren likes it. The dimmed lights and gentle music make his heart warm, and the low murmurs of the other customers make his spirits lift. And without the consistent rushes of life, it's comfortable, soothing. He really likes it here, and from the looks of it, Levi likes it, too. He's not sure how he can tell (since he's not the best at reading expressions), but Levi just seems .. happier.

He doesn’t have time to dwell on that, though; the waiter comes around with a bottle of champagne and two tall glasses. As he begins to pour, he asks, “How are you holding up?”

It takes Eren a moment to realize that the man is talking to him. “Ah, I’m — well.”

"That’s good." He shifts to place the glasses in front of each respective guest. "It's nice to have you both for dinner again. We've missed your visits."

Eren knows he should say something, anything, but with no accessible memories about this restaurant, he can only look towards Levi for help. Fortunately, his companion picks up on his unease. "We’ll have our usual tonight, Mike," Levi says, picking up his cup.

The waiter, Mike, hums as he caps the champagne bottle. “Sasha has already prepared a special dinner for you two, since it’s your anni—”

"Birthday," Levi interjects, causing him to quirk an eyebrow. "It’s my birthday."

Is it really? Eren wants to ask.

"Your birthday. Of course." Mike straightens up, no longer fazed by Levi's interruption. "I’ll be back shortly."

As he disappears into the kitchen, Eren reaches over and picks up his champagne glass. He swirls the fizzy liquid around before proceeding to sniff it. It smells .. well, weird. "Are you sure I can drink this?" he asks, peering at Levi, who’s also swirling the contents within his own glass.

"You don’t have to drink it."

That sounds like a challenge.

Eren lifts the cup to his mouth and takes a sip.

Fruity.

Dry.

Bubbly.

The corners of Levi’s lips curve up into a small smile. “Do you want apple juice instead, so it looks like you’re drinking champagne?” There’s something different about the tone in his voice. It’s not low and murmured nor is it strong and firm. If anything, it’s teasing.

"No, I like it."

Levi places his glass down and leans against the table. "Are you sure?" He bats his eyelashes twice. Definitely teasing.

"Shut up." Eren takes another sip, cringes (how can anyone stand this stuff?), and puts the drink down.

This reaction stirs Levi in a peculiar way: he laughs. His laugh isn’t like Armin’s or Mikasa’s. It’s not like the doctor’s or the nurses’. Rather, it’s soft — gentle, almost. And Eren thinks, ‘what a beautiful sound.’ He can't recall ever hearing it before, which is a shame, because it's truly heartwarming. All he can hope for is that he'll hear it again. When the laughter dies, Levi looks away, and the small smile he holds becomes a reminder that Eren made him laugh. Eren likes that smile. He likes that smile a lot, even though it drops when Mike returns with their orders.

Dinner is served, but the food tastes bland. This is because, while he eats, they talk. They talk about their pasts, they talk about their family and friends, and they talk about their stupid mistakes (Eren makes him laugh again). It’s all worthless chitchat, but he enjoys the company. They talk as if they’ve known each other for a long time. They talk as if they are closer than acquaintances, closer than friends. They talk, and they laugh, and half-way through dessert, Eren thinks, ‘maybe I can fall in love with him.’

Maybe I can love him.

Maybe.

Just maybe.

He thinks about this all the way home, and he continues thinking about it as Levi helps him into bed and turns off the lights. He stays awake thinking, and during this time, he hears Levi shift next to him. He feels soft lips pressing against his forehead, and he hears “happy anniversary, my love.” He doesn’t think anymore after that, because he knows:

I’ve already fallen in love with him.

Chapter Text

When he draws the outline of Levi’s face, he focuses on the slender slopes downward, the strong jaw, the cheeks, the chin. When he draws the eyes, he focuses on how they always appear half-lidded, how their darkness seems to enhance the pale skin. When he draws the nose, eyebrows, and eyelashes, he focuses on their perfection: the slim bridge, the black, fine lines of hair, the long, almost feminine, lashes. When he draws the mouth, he focuses on each curve and dip, and each pucker and shadow. He focuses on the lips’ thinness and — how much he wants to kiss them.

It’s a struggle.

Ever since dinner that one night, he's been noticing the smaller details — jaw, cheeks, chin, eyes, nose, eyebrows, lashes, mouth, lips — simple details that make Levi much more attractive to him. And ever since dinner that one night, he's been drawing Levi, trying to perfect all the curves, shadows, and dips. Six sketches and four days later, Eren holds up his final work. As he compares it to Levi who's sitting across the table from him, reading a newspaper, he can't help but smile. This one is his best work; it's his masterpiece. All the lines fall in place, all the shading done properly. He wants to show Levi, but he doesn't want to disappoint him more than he already has. For his previous six sketches, Levi would glance at it — not even a look, but a mere glance — and then, there would be that flicker of dissatisfaction. It hurts. Just once, he wants Levi to look, really look, and say "I like this." He doesn't want the insincere compliments ("it looks nice"); he wants a genuine "I like this," and that's all.

"What are you grinning about?"

Eren lowers his sketch. "I —" want to show you this "— finished." He brings the portrait closer to him and looks up at Levi, hopeful that he'll ask to see it. (Maybe this time Levi will react differently, he tells himself. Maybe this time. This one time. Please, please, please.)

"Can I see?"

After a few moments of hesitating, he shows him. "I worked hard on it." His words are like needles penetrating the silence lingering in the air. "What .. what do you think?"

Levi takes his sketchbook from him and examines the drawing closer (this one time, please, please, please). Eren knows he shouldn't bother with other people's opinions. He loves art, so he should draw for his own satisfaction. It's just — Levi's different. His opinion matters.

"It looks nice." And what a hurtful opinion it is. It looks nice. There's that insincere compliment again. It looks nice. It looks nothing but nice.

"Thanks." He obtains his sketchbook and glances over his portrait of Levi. All the flaws stand out — the curves, shadows, and dips — and suddenly, it's not his masterpiece anymore. The jaw is slightly off, the cheeks high. The eyes are far too bright, the nose too wide. The eyebrows are uneven, the lashes heavy. Flaws. All of them. It's no wonder Levi's disappointed. (But the flaws weren't there before. What changed?)

"I'm going to the store." Levi folds the newspaper up and stands. "Do you want anything? Food, art supplies?"

Eren glances down to survey his inventory. He's almost out of eraser; his pencils are getting short; his pens have run out of ink, and — “I don't need anything.” He could have anything and everything, but he doesn't want to burden Levi anymore than he needs to. Art is just a hobby. He can live without it.

"All right." Levi's gaze lingers on him for a moment, as if he wants to say something more, but his lips remain sealed until he turns to the door. "I'll be back soon. Don't do anything reckless." He leaves, and Eren does the most reckless thing he can think of: he tears his drawing out from his sketchbook and rips it in half. Then he rips it again and again and again until the pieces show nothing but flawed pencil lines. As he tosses these pieces into the trash, he considers throwing his sketchbook away as well, but he can't. All his memories of Levi are in this sketchbook, and throwing that away is the same as forgetting.

He keeps his sketchbook, and he keeps the piece of the drawing that shows Levi's left hand. This is the one piece he should discard, burn, eradicate, but for some reason, he can't let go. It's strange. He hates seeing Levi's left hand, because that's where the ring sits, yet he can't look away. He hates drawing said ring, yet he spends hours detailing the diamond and its surrounding jewels. It's impractical, and his involuntary reactions are impractical too. Every time he catches a glimpse of the ring, he feels his heart weighing down. He feels like he's slowly sinking, drowning, and there's nothing he can do to rescue himself. And it doesn't help to know that this ring represents a memory Levi wants to keep forever. If envy is a sin, then he is a sinner.

Levi comes back thirty minutes later. As he begins unpacking the plastic bags, he places two boxes of pencils in front of Eren. Eren blinks. "What are these for?"

"You draw, don't you?" Levi gives him a pointed look before turning away to store the vegetables in the fridge.

"Oh." He didn't think Levi noticed his lack of art supplies. "Thanks." Levi actually thought about him, and that idea alone makes his heart pound. For once, he means something to him. For once, he's important. He never realized how wonderful it is to feel wanted until now. — But then, there's always that painful reminder that he's not as important as he think he is. That ring on Levi's finger. The drawing of the ring in his palm. There's someone else that means more to Levi; there's someone he wants more. And Eren's not that person.

"You all right?" Levi raises his head to acknowledge him. "You're quiet."

Eren wants to laugh and wave it off, but he can't pretend that this doesn't affect him. He needs to know. "I was just thinking."

"About what?"

You . Me. What we don't have. "I was wondering about your ring." He bites his lip and hesitates. This isn't the first time he asked about the ring — he knows this for certain — but he can't remember Levi's answer, because Levi replies the same way every time.

"What about it?"

"Have I met this person before?" He just wants to know. Has he met the person who gave Levi the ring? Where is that person now?

"I already told you." That's always his answer. I already told you. It's as if Levi's using his short-term memory against him, but for what reason? To keep a secret?

Again and again, Levi refuses to acknowledge any of his questions.

Again and again, he avoids the topic.

Again and again .

"Why don’t you tell me?"

Levi stops unpacking. “Tell you what?” Sometimes he ignores him; other times, he plays ignorant. Eren doesn't know which response he prefers, but he hates them both. It's clear that Levi's keeping information from him, and perhaps he should respect his privacy, but he's curious. He wants to know things. Even if the answer hurts him, he still wants to know.

Tell me  — "About your ring." About the person who gave it to you, how important they were, how much they meant to you. Tell me everything.

Levi closes the refrigerator door, and his ring gleams against the fluorescent lights. “There’s nothing to tell.”

"It’s important."

"It is."

"Who gave it to you?"

"I already —"

"Please stop saying that." His fingernails dig into his palm, creating crests that will probably still be present tomorrow morning. Levi straightens up in his seat. His jaw is locked, his eyes dark. The look he gives is unforgiving, but Eren pushes on, "I want to know." There will be a time when he'll regret ever asking, but that time is not now. He knows he has lost fragments of his memories, so he needs to get every piece back. (But is he asking for the sake of recollecting what he has forgotten, or is he asking for pure selfish reasons? He doesn't know.)

Levi’s lips are pressed into a firm line, his eyebrows drawn together. It’s an expression of displeasure — not annoyance, but displeasure. Eren doesn’t like that face at all. "I had a lover," Levi says at last, "and I lost him."

That isn't the answer he was expecting. "Lost?" he echoes.

"He’s gone."

Levi excuses himself from the kitchen then, and Eren doesn’t ask anymore.

Knowing the truth doesn’t make him feel any better. It keeps him up at night and distracts him during the day. Likewise, he learns to hate the ring even more, because it becomes constant reminder that Levi belongs to someone else. Maybe they — he and Levi — were never in a relationship. Maybe Levi's just using him as a replacement (which would explain "happy anniversary, my love"). Maybe it has always been a one-sided love — maybe it's him who's been pining after Levi all this time. But if that were the case, didn't his past self know it's futile? Didn’t he know that Levi was — is — still in love with another person? Why did he choose Levi of all people?

He can’t remember .

When he lies next to him at night, he listens to their steady, synchronized breathing. It’s calming, but what more is watching Levi’s chest rise and fall. He memorizes the movement and reaches out to touch. His fingers brush against the soft fabric, then he pulls back. He yearns to grab Levi, to feel, and to hold him. But he can't. There's an invisible wall that separates them.

In the morning, Armin and Mikasa visit. Armin showers him with art supplies, and Mikasa plays twenty questions with him to make sure he’s being treated properly. Levi leaves to make breakfast during this time, and when he’s out of earshot, Eren leans towards his friends. "How long has Levi been married?"

Armin and Mikasa share a look, but it’s Armin who answers, “He’s never been married.”

Oh .

"Engaged?"

Armin nods. “Half a year.”

Never married but engaged? The ring is an engagement ring? Eren sits idly with his hands folded in his lap; he stares straight ahead, and he doesn't breathe. Levi was engaged for half a year, then he lost his lover — to death? break up? Whatever it was, Levi's been loyal to that person this entire time. And the ever slightly astonishing revelation settles down on Eren: he wants to be that person. He wants to be the one Levi pledged his undying devotion to. How nice it must be to have someone who cares after everything. How nice it must be to have someone who loves him unconditionally.

"What happened?" he asks. "Why?"

"Why what?" When he hears Levi's voice, he knows he won't be getting an answer. "What are you all talking about?"

"Nothing," Eren interjects before Armin could even think about responding. Levi meets his gaze for a moment, then looks away, uncaring. "Breakfast is ready." That's all he says, and that's all it takes to bring them to the table.

They're quiet as they eat. Eren stuffs the scrambled eggs into his mouth, Armin nibbles on the toast, but Mikasa and Levi don't eat at all. Mikasa's gazing off to the side, her expression unreadable. Levi, on the other hand, is looking straight at Eren as if calling him out on the conversation he had earlier with Armin. Eren squirms in his seat and tries to avoid the daggered stare but to no avail; Levi stares on. It stays this way until Armin asks about his arm and leg. He answers that they're getting much better and that he can dress himself now. Levi doesn't bother adding on; he just turns away and sips his coffee.

Another five minutes pass, and this time, it's Mikasa who speaks up. "How about we go to a movie later?"

"I'm up for it." Armin puts down the rest of his toast. "I hear there's this new movie about giant robots."

"I don't mind going, but it's kinda up to Levi to decide." He glances at Levi, hopeful.

Levi returns his gaze then looks at both Armin and Mikasa. After awhile, he lets out a sigh. "Fine."

Four hours later, they're seated in the theatre. The movie Armin suggested is interesting as far as visual effects are concerned, but half-way through, Eren finds himself distracted. Every so often, whenever there’s a bright scene, he sees the ring on Levi’s finger gleam, and he’s reminded that Levi once loved — and probably still loves — another person. And with that, his mind wanders. What made that person attractive to Levi? What made their relationship work? How did their first kiss go? How many times a day did they hold hands? How many years were they together? What happened to that person? He questions all these things, then he thinks about being in that person's place. How would it feel to hold Levi’s hand and trace his fingers? How would it feel to kiss his mouth and taste his lips? How would it feel to outline his body and make sweet, sweet love to him?

It would feel nice.

No.

It would feel the nicest.

He wants a chance to make him happy. He wants to see that smile again; he wants to hear that laugh every day. He doesn't want to think about his sketches or that other person. He wants everything to be Levi and him. So on the way home, he pushes his boundaries.

"Levi?" He fears rejection, but he needs to try, because there’s always a possibility — and no matter how slim the possibility, it’s definitely worth a shot.

"Yeah?"

"I want .." His heart is racing. He feels as if he can’t breathe, as if his throat is closing up, as if his lungs are constricting. He shuts his eyes, breathes, breathes, and breathes.

"What is it?"

They’re driving in silence.

It’s dark out.

Breathe, breathe .

He swallows and says it: "I want to be as important to you as the person who gave you that ring."

No, that's a lie; he wants to be more important. He wants to be the person who shows Levi that it’s possible to let go of the past, to be happy, to love again. He wants to be that person. He can’t remember who he was before his accident. He can’t remember what role he served or what impact he had. His former self might have been someone, but that doesn’t matter if he can’t remember it. He wants to be someone — someone with a purpose. And he wants to be that person Levi can’t live without.

Chapter Text

Levi can’t sleep. No matter how long he lies in bed, no matter how many sheep he counts, his thoughts keep him awake. Like parasites, they feed on his restless state. Like ticks, they refuse to go away. One hour passes, then two, and on the third, he gets up to make a cup of coffee.

Drip, drip.

It's been a month since the car accident, and Eren hasn't shown any signs of remembering the last four years. If anything, all he's been doing is drawing. His sketches have improved, that Levi can't deny, but they're all lacking an essential component. He can't exactly pinpoint what that component is; he just knows that it's important. That's why, when he looks at Eren's artwork, he can't bring himself to say anything but "it looks nice." It's not that he's lying; the drawings are, in fact, nice. It's just — something's missing.

Drip, drip.

He can't let go of what Eren told him just three hours ago. I want to be as important to you as the person who gave you that ring. There’s no way Levi can misinterpret that. The ring on his finger denotes his engagement to another. Eren knows this, but he offers his heart (again). And there it is, that spark of hope he's been waiting for. Then, what's keeping him back? Uncertainty. There's always the possibility that what he wants is not the same as what Eren wants. He needs to be certain — certain that Eren loves him, certain that Eren wants to be with him, certain that Eren will never forget —

Drip, drip.

They had a future planned out together: get married, buy a house, adopt kids — and a month ago, this future was attainable. But then, the incident happened, and now, Levi can't see that future anymore. Actually, he can't see a future at all. What will happen once Eren fully recovers? Will he move out? Will he find someone else? Will them getting married, buying a house, and adopting kids become nothing but an abandoned dream? Uncertainty. Possibilities.

Drip, drip.

His fingers linger along the side of the coffee maker as he relishes on the memory of last Christmas. Even though he explicitly told Eren not to buy him anything, Eren disobeyed and came home with a stack of wrapped presents. When Levi scolded him for wasting money, Eren said that any money spent on him was never money wasted. Eren always spoiled him — whether it was with gifts or with kisses, he always gave him more than what he wanted. And honestly, it felt nice to be spoiled, appreciated. No one had ever shown him gratitude before — all his students disliked him — but then, here came Eren who changed everything.

Drip, drip.

Ding !

Thoughts muddled with the past, Levi turns the coffee maker off and snatches the mug from underneath. As he lifts it to his mouth and takes a small sip, he burns his tongue and is suddenly reminded of the mornings when he woke up to the smell of coffee. Eren would always wake up before him to make breakfast. On the weekdays, he would leave some sort of a note behind, telling Levi that the ham and cheese omelette was in the microwave. On the weekends, he would rouse him with hot soap and fresh bread. Those were the days, the good, faded days.

He sets his mug down on the table and pinches the bridge of his nose. He wants to forget, but at the same time, he doesn’t want forget, because the thoughts that make his chest clench in agony are the same thoughts that make his stomach flutter with joy.

It’s stupid.

It’s ridiculous.

It’s unlike him.

But he can’t control it.

Sometimes, he wants to grab Eren by the shoulders and tell him what he has done to him. You made me feel, he wants to say. You made me human, and by God, I love you for that. Because he has never had a chance to show emotions. In the classroom, he's always stoic — that's the persona he adopted. Outside the classroom, he's no different, but behind closed doors with Eren in his arms, he's a changed man. It's nice being able to finally let go, but that's the past. He can't show emotions now; he can't let Eren know how much that car accident impacted him. He needs to stay positive.

Picking up his cup, he takes another sip. He thinks about his level of contentedness and how satisfied he is with their current relationship. He thinks about the possibility of a future together and how perfect it can be. He thinks about this and he thinks about that. He thinks and thinks until he hears a loud thud. The mug slips from his fingertips and lands on the floor. Coffee spills and spreads, but he doesn't bother to clean it up. Heart in throat, he ushers to the bedroom. He fears the worst, and when he flips the lights on, he sees the worst.

Eren’s lying on the floor in a crumpled mess. His legs are tangled, his arms oddly positioned. Levi can’t think. He can’t breathe.

Not again.

Goddammit, not again.

No coherent thoughts are passing by him as he rushes to Eren’s side and pulls him away from the foot of the bed. Eren whimpers an apology, but Levi only hears it as a cry for help. He straightens out Eren’s arms and legs and prays that they aren’t broken — that they can’t be broken, not when they’re so close to being fully healed, not when Eren suffered through all that pain, not when, not when —

What the hell were you thinking?” He regrets shouting the moment Eren flinches.

"I .. I saw the kitchen light on, and I thought .." Eren glances at the wheelchair sitting on its side. ".. I just wanted to see if you were okay."

Inhale.

Exhale.

"I should be asking you that," Levi says, even though he really means "sorry for yelling.” He hates raising his voice, because that represents a repulsive emotion: anger. He has always been patient — not necessarily understanding, but patient. It's rare for him to shout, nevertheless show unfiltered anger, but that's the effect Eren has on him. Eren makes him feel, Eren makes him human.

"I’m fine .. It doesn’t hurt."

Thank God.

Inhale.

Thank God .

Exhale.

Shoulders relaxing and anger dissipating, he pulls Eren close to his chest. “Don’t ever do that again.”Don’t ever scare me like that again.

"I’m sorry," Eren murmurs, and ever so hesitantly, he shifts to wrap his arms around Levi’s waist. When there’s no objection, he buries his nose into Levi’s shirt. "Forgive me." Though it appears Eren's apologizing for falling off the bed, Levi feels as if he's apologizing for something more. Forgive me for getting into that accident. Forgive me for losing every single memory of our relationship. It's not easy for Levi to forgive, but it's not even Eren's fault. He has nothing to apologize for.

"Don't," Levi says, holding him tighter. Don't apologize for what fate had in store for you.

Eren doesn’t answer, and in the midst of their shared silence, Levi hears his own heart pounding. He's not sure if it's because of what just happened or because Eren's holding onto him. He knows one thing for certain, however: whichever one it may be, Eren's the reason for it.

He doesn’t move, he doesn’t breathe, because Eren’s close. It’s just so simple to lean down and kiss him right here. It’s just so easy to say “fuck it” and act on his desires.

But he can’t.

He can’t .

An hour passes, and his legs are beginning to feel numb, but he doesn’t move. He knows the lights are on in the kitchen and that he should probably go turn them off, and he knows the coffee spill on the floor would stain and attract ants, but he doesn’t care. Eren’s asleep in his arms, and turning off the lights and cleaning up the spill means leaving Eren behind. He can’t do that. This is his paradise — sitting here, with Eren, alone. It’s all he has ever wanted.

Another hour passes. 

He wants to stay up. He wants to experience every minute of this moment, but his eyelids are growing heavy, so he settles with something else. Leaning down, he places a chaste kiss on top of Eren’s head, and with that, he’s perfectly content.

Chapter Text

When Eren stirs, warmth surrounds him. It's a peculiar type of warmth — one that a mere blanket can't provide. He wakes to this, and he's confused. Why is he on the floor? Why is he lying in Levi's arms? Dimmed memories tell him that he had fallen off the bed, and a glance over at his toppled wheelchair proves this memory true. He had fallen off the bed, then what? Squeezing his eyes shut, he tries to remember, but he finds that, the more he focuses, the less he recalls.

He lets it go and instead, concentrates on the position he's in. His cheek is pressed against Levi's steady rising and falling chest. His arm is curled around Levi's waist, holding him close, tight. He hears the soft breathing and the gentle thump thump of the heart, and it makes him feel at home. He doesn't want to move even though the posture strains his arms and legs. Levi may scold him later, but that's fine. Being this close to him puts him at ease and introduces him to a particular kind of solace. He doesn't want to move, because being here in Levi's arms makes him so, so happy. He can deal with the consequences later.

Time passes.

Thirty minutes.

An hour.

He touches Levi’s hand, then pauses to see if he has woken him. When Levi doesn’t stir, Eren proceeds. He brushes his fingers against the still ones and smiles when he sees the pinkie twitch. Levi’s hand is beautiful. His fingers are long and slender, delicate. His nails are neatly trimmed and filed, lovely. His skin is soft to the touch, and Eren wants nothing more than to embrace it. What stops him is the sight of the ring. It sits there innocently on Levi’s finger. It doesn’t move, doesn’t speak, but it mocks him. It laughs at him — cackles at how his heart breaks, shrieks at how his stomach turns. And it taunts him — jeers at desperation, flirts with his misery. Eren hates it.

Time passes.

One minute.

Two.

He does something he knows he’ll later regret: he takes Levi’s hand and removes the ring. It smirks up at him, and he has every intention to hurl it across the room, but he doesn’t. He knows the ring is important, so he tucks it in his pocket and leaves it there. Out of sight, out of mind, as they always say.

(How horrible of him.)

He slides his hand into Levi’s and tangles their fingers together.

(How selfish of him.)

He closes his eyes and holds tight.

(How wrong, how immoral, how .. undeniably perfect.)

It doesn’t feel as if he’s already fallen for him; it feels as if he’s still falling, and falling fast. Faster and faster, deeper and deeper — to the point of no return. He can’t love anyone else. It’s impossible. He has taken that leap of faith off a cliff, and instead of holding onto the edge, waiting for someone else to come save him, he willingly let go. Now, he can only hope that Levi will be at the bottom with his arms stretched out, ready to catch him.

"Eren?"

Maybe if he pretends to be asleep, Levi will kiss him again.

"Eren, wake up."

Maybe not.

Eyes opening, Eren tilts his head up to look at Levi. “Is something the matter?”

"You’re holding on too tight."

(Ah, he forgot

that he’s afraid

of heights.)

"Sorry." Letting go, Eren shoves his hand in between his legs in shame. He didn't mean to wake Levi up; if anything, he didn't want to wake him up. He likes watching him sleep, hearing him breathe, feeling him close, and he's willing to give anything to experience that again. "Did I hurt you?"

Levi shifts and sits up. "It's fine." He nudges Eren to the side before cursing about his back under his breath. Eren wants to apologize — he really does — but Levi doesn’t give him the chance to. "I'll make breakfast," he tells him. Eren wants to pull him into an embrace and never let go, but again, Levi doesn't give him that opportunity. He helps Eren into his wheelchair then pushes him to the kitchen. From there, Eren sits to himself and waits as Levi makes pancakes. It's apparent that Levi doesn't know how to cook (properly, at least). They usually spend most of their evenings in restaurants, and when they're not eating at a restaurant, they're eating leftovers.

"Do you ever get tired of it?"

"Huh?"

"Having pancakes every morning. Do you ever want something else? Do you ever —" Levi hesitates, and Eren's mind wanders once more. He doesn't mind the pancakes, but he does want something else, something more. He wants a chance. He wants Levi to let go of whatever happened in the past so that they can both look towards the future. He wants a possibility.

"I don't mind pancakes," he tells him, but in his head, he's screaming. "Anything you make is good."

A shadow of a small smile appears at the corners of Levi's mouth. "You flatter me." He places the plate of pancakes in front of Eren then turns away to clean up what appears to be coffee spill stains. Though Eren's curious about what happened, he remains quiet, and for the next two hours, the house stays quiet as well. It's only when he hears a glass break does he finally speak.

"Levi?" He puts his sketchbook aside and sits up in bed. "Are you okay?" His palms are pressed flat against the mattress as he contemplates getting into his wheelchair without assistance again, but before he can decide, Levi walks into the room. He looks calm, but his actions don’t reflect peace at all; he turns over the covers, peers under the bed, and walks around the room three times. It’s as if he’s searching for something —

"Eren."

Hearing his name, Eren straightens up. “Yeah?”

"Have you seen my ring?" Eren's mind is blank. He remembers seeing the ring this morning — remembers taking it off — but what then? Did he drop it? Possibly. Did he hide it? He wouldn’t do something like that .. would he? "I had it on yesterday," Levi continues. "I couldn’t have taken it off .." Words softening, he wanders into the bathroom.

Eren frowns. If he had dropped it, then Levi would’ve found it near the bed. — That means he hid it. But where?

"Did I have it on this morning?"

“Um .." Eren blinks once, twice. "Yes, I think so.” It's not exactly a lie, but it isn't the entire truth either.

Where can it be? In the drawer? In between the mattress and the sheets?

"It’s got to be here somewhere." Levi tugs open the drawers and leaves them open as he ushers to the closet, then to the nightstand, then back to the bathroom. When he emerges empty handed, his eyebrows are furrowed, his expression dark. "I can’t find it," he tells Eren. "I can’t fucking find it." He doesn’t wait for Eren to reply; turning away, he walks out of the bedroom.

Eren wants to puke. He knows that he hid it — he remembers taking it off Levi's finger this morning. The question is, where exactly is it? Fingernails scraping his palm, Eren lets out a shaky breath. He'll find it eventually. It can't be lost. (But what's this? Another side of him wants it to be lost forever so that Levi can finally let go and move on. What a horrible thought. What a selfish, wrong, immoral, but undeniably perfect thought.)

Levi calms down after an hour, but that doesn’t stop him from muttering about it. Eren wants to tell him the truth, but he knows — just knows — that Levi won’t forgive him. He can’t bear that burden. But at the same time, he doesn’t want the guilt in his chest to linger every time Levi curses himself for being so reckless.

Nothing changes when Levi takes him out for dinner.

Nothing changes over dinner. (They don’t even talk.)

Nothing changes on the car ride home.

But when Levi pulls into the driveway, Eren decides to change everything. He calls out Levi's name and prepares himself for the pending consequence. He needs to tell him, because he doesn't want to upset him anymore than he already has. He needs to tell him. He needs to stop fretting for once and tell him. Sucking in a breath, Eren looks over and meets Levi's eyes. And immediately, the confession dies on his tongue.

He can’t.

He can’t. He can’t. He can’t —

"Are you all right?" Levi leans over slightly, and Eren does something he doesn’t think twice about: he kisses him. He doesn't know where the burst of confidence came from. Perhaps it sprung from his guilt; perhaps it flared from his fits of jealousy. Whichever one it is, it doesn't matter now; he's kissing Levi, and his heart is soaring. He feels free, as if there's nothing chaining him down, holding him back. He feels exhilarant, as if he has reached eternal happiness, paradise. He can't breathe, can't breathe at all, because it's bliss, pure, pure bliss.

Yet it’s riddled with guilt — guilt that he’s kissing a man who doesn’t belong to him, guilt that he has hidden the stupid ring for his own selfish reasons.

He pulls away, chest heaving, face flushed. He’s made many mistakes in his life, he’s sure, but this one — this one is the one that kills him. "Sorry. I-I just — I couldn’t —"

Levi yanks him in and kisses him. Hard. There’s no fear and no regret. Their lips collide, and there’s heat. There’s a flame that sparks between them. Levi bites his lower lip, tugs for a moment, then rolls his tongue over it in a soothing manner. Eren burns. He reaches up and cups Levi's face, and he presses closer, moves his lips faster. Fire consumes him, his mouth, his chest, his mind, his heart, but he doesn't care. He kisses Levi with the desperation he had tried so hard to conceal. He kisses him with urgency, as if they’re running out of time. And he kisses him madly, because he’s madly, madly in love with him.

When they part for air, desire curls in his stomach. He wants more. He needs more. — But Levi has already pulled away. Far away.

They sit quietly. Levi looks out the window, and Eren looks at him. He wonders what kind of expression Levi has. He wonders if his face feels hot. He wonders if his heart is about to burst. He wonders if his stomach is turning. He wonders —

— if he regrets this.

Does Levi regret taking him in? Does he regret making him breakfast? Does he regret taking him out to dinner? Does he regret helping him shower? Does he regret helping him change? Does he regret letting him lie in the same bed? Does he regret holding him close? Does he regret kissing him in such a lustful manner?

"I couldn’t help myself." Levi’s voice is soft. "I’m sorry." He opens the door, and Eren’s heart stops.

He’s right here.

The man he loves is right here.

But he’s moving away, he’s slipping away, and no, no, no, Eren can’t let him go. Not when he’s so close. Not when he’s reachable. Not when —

"I love you."

He blurts it with his last breath and means every single word. He loves Levi. He loves his smile, his laugh, his frown, his anger. He loves his cooking, his cleaning. He loves when he helps him into bed and tucks him in. He loves when he’s patient and caring. He loves when he stays with him, talks to him, comforts him. He loves every strength and every flaw, every look and every gesture.

But sometimes, he hates when there’s nothing.

Levi doesn’t reply; he simply sits there with his back turned to him, ignoring him. It’s just like before. Every time he asked about the ring, Levi would always shrug it off as if it didn’t matter, as if he wanted to forget. Eren hates that. He hates not knowing, he hates secrets — especially now. He wants an answer — a yes, a no, a maybe — but Levi not’s giving him one.

Time passes.

Five minutes.

Ten.

Though the words aren’t there, it’s clear that Levi’s disregarding his confession. He’s waving it off with silence, as if he doesn’t give a shit, as if Eren’s feelings don’t even matter. It’s not fair. He just confessed. He just opened his heart to him, only to have it crushed by a silent refusal. It’s not fair. The least Levi can do is tell him directly that no, he can’t return his affections. That no, he’s still in love with someone else. That no, there’s no hope for him — for them.

But no.

He doesn’t speak at all.

How dare Levi care for him. How dare he embrace and kiss him. How dare he play him like a fool. How dare he get his hopes up, only to later destroy it. How dare he.

Why?” Eren doesn’t mean to sound angry — “Who am I to you? A friend? Your student?” — But he can’t help but be angry at the silent rejection that provokes him. “Why do you even try?” It’s hot; there’s another fire, but this time, it’s not the same type of fire. The last one was sparked by lust; this one’s ignited by disappointment, betrayal. "I don’t need your pity, so stop acting like you care when it’s obvious that you fucking don’t."

Levi isn’t there to catch him.

He hits rock bottom.

"I want to forget this. All of this." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the ring. “Here,” he mutters, tossing it into Levi's lap. He doesn't care for the consequence, because it doesn't matter now. Levi made his answer perfectly clear: there's no future for them. He's been a replacement this entire time. The kisses mean nothing.

Levi picks up the ring and rolls it between his fingers. He's silent as he examines it, but when he turns to Eren, his composure slips. "Eren .." he begins, eyes narrowing, "have you lost your mind?" He doesn't yell, but it's evident that he's angry. "Why the fuck didn't you tell me you had it? Do you have any idea how much this ring means to me?"

"No," Eren says, completely truthful. "No, I don't."

That’s all it takes. Levi gets out of the car and slams the door shut. He then proceeds to call someone, and though Eren’s usually curious, he doesn’t bother eavesdropping this time. At the moment, he’s past caring; he just wants to curl up in bed and sleep forever. It’s so embarrassing, so frustrating, and —

He can’t believe he said all of that to Levi.

Now, Levi probably hates him.

No.

Not probably. Levi definitely hates him.

He bites his tongue to keep from screaming. He bites down harder when Levi gets back into the car and turns the engine on. The soft buzz of the vehicle's motor agitates him, so he squeezes his eyes shut and wills away every painful sound and every painful thought. It doesn't work. They drive in silence, and when they stop at a red light, Eren finally looks over. "Where are we going?"

Levi doesn’t spare him a glance. “Mikasa’s house.”

His tongue is suddenly bleeding.

Chapter Text

He grips the steering wheel with such intensity that his knuckles turn white. He bites his inner cheek with much fervor so that he won't be tempted to say anything else he'll end up regretting. His hands are shaking, and he knows he should pull over, because goddammit, if he doesn't, he'll run a red light, he'll hit another car, and Eren — Eren can’t go through that again, because if he does, his memory might not be the only thing he loses this time. Parting his lips, Levi exhales. He shouldn't have gotten angry at Eren. He should've just accepted the ring and moved on, but he didn't because he couldn't. Eren hid the ring from him; Eren knew its exact location and yet, he lied and said he didn't know.

That ring is the sole proof of them ever having a relationship. Losing it is like forgetting. No, it's worst than that. Losing that piece of jewelry that ties them together as one is like disregarding their past. Levi can't bring himself to forget, or let go, or move on. He faces the past, and his back is to the future; he doesn't acknowledge the present where Eren stands, waiting for him to turn around. It's a bit selfish of him, he admits, but it's as if he doesn't have a choice. He's chained down by what he perceives as the only perfection. And he hates it. He hates being a prisoner of his own expectations, of his own memories. He wants to move on, but he feels like, with every step forward, he takes two steps back. He can't let go of the past. At least, not yet.

”I didn’t mean it,” Eren tells him when he pulls into Mikasa’s driveway. “I’m sorry.” It's always Eren who apologizes, because it's always Eren who makes the mistake — but no, not this time. It's his mistake. He should've told Eren everything on the first day; if he had, then they wouldn't be here. It's his mistake, and he needs to fix it .. but how?

"I know." He knows because he feels the same way. He didn't mean to react in such a manner; he's sorry. He wants to repeat these words back to Eren, but when he opens his mouth, nothing comes out. It's not time. He's not ready. "I need to be alone," he tells him instead. I need time to recollect myselfI need time to think.

Turning the engine off, Levi closes his eyes in attempts to clear his thoughts. It doesn't work. His imagination wakes, and he can feel Eren's lips on his; he can feel the warmth of his breath; he can taste the sweet longing that lingered on his tongue. When he opens his eyes, that bliss disappears, and he's reminded of the reason why he's here.

The porch lights flicker on, and Mikasa comes out. She doesn't bother sparing him a look; she goes directly to the passenger side and yanks the door open. "Eren!" Her hands cup Eren's cheeks and turn his head from side to side. "Are you all right?"

"Relax," Levi says, stepping out of the car. "I didn't hurt him." At least, not physically.

Mikasa lets go of Eren and turns her glare to Levi. "Care to elaborate what happened?" She doesn't sound happy, and he doesn't blame her. All he said when he called was "I'm dropping Eren off at your place." No explanations, no excessive details.

"I’ll explain later." Tearing his gaze away, he takes out the wheelchair from the trunk of his car.

After opening it, he moves to help Eren in, but Mikasa nudges him out of the way. "Let me," she mutters, and Eren lets her. Without complaint, he allows her to heave him from his seat and into the wheelchair, and from there, he allows her to push him away. As Eren reaches the door to Mikasa's home, Levi realizes that he's doing something he promised himself he would never do: he's leaving Eren behind. Given, Eren will probably be better off here, but it's still leaving him behind. He wants to reach out and pull him back, but it's not time. He's not ready.

"I’ll call," he promises (this promise, he won't break). "Keep him warm." With a slight nod in Mikasa's direction, he turns around and shuts the passenger side door. The clasp echoes through the silent night, but the neighborhood doesn't stir. He lets out another breath and then, without looking back, he proceeds to his side of the car. He has full intentions to get in and drive off, but he hesitates, and this moment of hesitation gives Eren a chance to speak up.

"Levi."

He can't. He mustn't.

"Will you come back?"

He pretends he doesn't hear that waver in Eren's voice. He pretends he doesn't hear that sound of desperation. He pretends and pretends and — that's all he's been doing: pretending. Pretending he’s not Eren’s lover. Pretending he’s not in love with him. Pretending he’s angry. Pretending he’s upset. Pretending to walk away. Pretending that this doesn’t affect him at all.

(Not many things scare him —)

"I always come back."

(— but losing Eren’s trust will be his downfall.)

Because he has been pretending — no, he has been lying to Eren this entire time. The one sin he accuses Eren of doing is the one he has been doing since the day of the incident. He lives a life full of contradictions: he hates liars, but he himself lies; he wants to escape the past, but he's not letting go of it; he yearns for Eren to come back, but he's only pushing him away. This is why he needs time alone. He needs to recollect himself — find himself. And then, he needs to think about what he’ll say, how he’ll confess. He can’t keep their past relationship quiet anymore. Eren admitted his love to him. It’smutual. It has always been mutual.

Then why not now? Why not turn around and tell him everything? Why not get it over with so they can go home together?

It’s because he’s afraid that he’ll fuck up again.

"Okay," Eren says, and Levi pretends it doesn’t break his heart.

He leaves Mikasa’s house feeling bitter. They were okay at one point. Even though he wants them to go back to what they had, he likes their relationship now. It’s as if they started anew. It’s as if he watched Eren fall in love with him all over again. They were perfect, but then, he had to bring the past back.

Stupid.

Senseless.

Moving on should have been easy, but he made it hard.

Selfish.

Stubborn.

He pulls over to the side of the road and parks. From there, the silence howls, and he sits in its misery.

 

 

He breaks his promise; he doesn't call that night, doesn't call the following morning, doesn't call the proceeding afternoon. Instead, he sits alone with an empty coffee mug in his right hand. Clutched tightly in his left is his cellphone showing three missed calls, all from Mikasa. In the first two, Mikasa leaves messages asking him what's going on. In the third, there's a hitch in breathe, and then the caller hangs up. Levi knows it was Eren that time, but still, he doesn't call back. He's tempted to, but he doesn't. He waits.

A day passes. Two missed calls, two voicemail.

Another day. One missed call, one voicemail.

And yet another. No missed calls, no voicemail.

He toys with his phone and contemplates over what he would say. By this point, he has no doubts that they're all calm. Now, it's only a matter of actually telling Eren the truth. They can't go on like this forever; they can't pretend that this silence is okay. It's time. He's ready. Without another thought, he calls, and Mikasa answers him.

"I’ve been trying to contact you." She doesn’t sound angry, just tired. "Why didn’t you answer the phone?"

Because I made a mistake, and I couldn’t face it until now. That's the truth.

"Can I talk to him?"

"Tell me what happened."

"I want to talk to Eren."

He hears muffled sounds, and though they are distinct, he can pick out Eren's voice against Mikasa's. They talk for a moment and argue for a split second, then Mikasa comes back on the phone. “He doesn’t want to talk to you.”

It's not upsetting; if anything, Levi expected that response. It's been four days since he last spoke to Eren, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to speak to him now. He's ready. He's prepared. "Get him on the phone." Levi pauses for a moment, then adds, "please.”

More muffled talk, and then —

"I tried to forget." It’s Eren. "But the more I try, the more I remember." His tone is firm, strong. There’s no waver, no hesitation. He's ready, too.

"I need to tell you something." Levi stands up and begins pacing around the room in hopes of calming his nerves. "Before the accident —"

"Levi." He doesn’t like how Eren says his name. It’s not soft, it doesn’t linger. Rather, there’s an air of hostility. Defensive. Eren’s playing defensive. “If you want to tell me something, then tell it to my face. Stop hiding.” And he hangs up.

Stop hiding. That’s what he said.

Stop hiding.

Stop pretending.

He pauses in his step and clasps his cellphone close. He takes in a breath, then lets it out. He’s going to stop hiding. He’s going to stop pretending. He’s going to stop being afraid.

It’s time.

Grabbing his car keys, he walks from the past that held him behind. He drives to Mikasa’s house, punches down the walls that surround him, and straddles the fear that eats at his heart. He rings the doorbell, stands his ground when Mikasa lets him in, and holds himself strong when he sees Eren sitting in his wheelchair with his arms folded across his chest. This is it. This is the moment. It's time for him to let go of the past and move on. It's time for him to stop being stupid, senseless, selfish, and stubborn. It's time to start over.

"Can you give us some privacy?" Levi asks, and without word, Mikasa leaves the room. Similarly, Eren doesn't say anything. He just sits there, staring, waiting. The look he gives him is unpleasant; there's no light in those green eyes, no smile upon those lips. Eren’s visibly upset, and Levi prays that his confession won’t make it worse. "How's your leg?" Casual. (Insecure.)

"Better." Stiff. (Vile.)

"And your arm?"

"Mikasa told me everything." Levi feels his blood run cold at the sound of that. "Why didn’t you tell me we were engaged?" Disappointment. Pure disappointment.

He wants to run away, to turn his back on the pending future. He wants to go back in time and correct the one mistake that snowballed into this mess. He wants all of this, but he can't have it, so he pushes on. It doesn't matter if Eren's disappointed in him. It doesn't matter if he hates him. Eren has done nothing wrong; he deserves to know the truth. "Let's go for a walk." When Eren doesn't object, Levi pushes him outside. Birds are chirping and children are laughing. It's a sunny day: clear skies, slight breeze — the perfect condition. He pushes Eren along until they reach the space underneath a huge chestnut tree, and it's then that Eren speaks.

"I don’t understand."

Inhale.

Exhale.

Stepping around the wheelchair, he kneels before Eren. He wants to reach over and cradle his hands and tell him he's sorry, but that apology doesn't have place yet. Eren needs to understand first. "I was afraid," he confesses, looking up to meet the firm gaze. "I was afraid that you wouldn’t feel the same. I didn’t want to tell you, because I feared you would reject me." He searches those green eyes for forgiveness, but he doesn’t find it. "You remembered me as your teacher, not as your lover."

Eren's expression perplexes, and he looks away. “You could’ve still told me.” That's what Eren says, but what Levi hears is "You didn't have to lie." And it's true. He didn't have to lie; he had a choice, and he chose wrong. He chose the safer route, the one he thought would be painless. What a mistake.

"You didn’t remember."

Eren narrows his eyes on him. “The mind forgets but the heart does not. I’ve been in love with you, and all you did was give me mixed answers.” His fingers curl around Levi’s hand, and he goes on. “Did you think I was asleep all those times?” All those times? As in, the time when Levi kissed him goodnight, the time when he whispered "happy anniversary," and the time when he held him close and refused to let go? Those times? "I may have forgotten about what we had, but that doesn’t change how I feel about you." Eren’s grip tightens. "I thought there was someone else, and I wanted you to forget that person. That’s why I hid the ring."

Levi wants to walk away so that he can breathe, but he stays. Even with his stomach curling and his lungs constricting, he stays, because this time, he’s not leaving Eren behind.

"I considered the possibility that you could fall for someone else," he tells Eren. "I wanted to give you a choice."

"And I made my choice. I chose you, so please, choose me." Let go of the past. Move towards the future. Choose me.

He knows that Eren's words can change, and he knows that Eren's mind can forget, but he's not going to make the same mistake again. Eren chose him, and fuck it, he'll take that leap of faith. Hand in hand with Eren, he'll jump off that cliff, and he'll fall. No, they'll fall. Together.

"I choose you." He squeezes Eren's hand. "Just you." Not the past you, not the future you, but the present you — the you that matters right here, right now. "I'm sorry." He searches those green eyes again, and this time, he finds that they have softened. He's forgiven, but he needs confirmation: "Are you upset?"

Eren’s fingers relax. “Are you?” The corners of his mouth twitch into a small smile. Forgiven.

"No." He takes both of Eren’s hands in his. "No, I’m not."

He doesn’t pretend anymore; he lets his smile through, and Eren kisses him. There’s no desperation, no fire. It’s just simple and sweet, lips sliding against lips, tasting, savoring. Their hands tighten around each other, and when Levi leans up for more, Eren complies. Their breaths are hot, but it’s Eren’s scent that suffocates him. And what a pleasant suffocation it is.

When they part, Eren sighs, content, and Levi breathes, relieved. They are okay. After weeks of pretending, of misunderstanding, of being afraid, they are finally okay.

A breeze sweeps by and rustles the tree leaves above them. They look up.

"I think I remember this place," Eren says, letting his gaze wander along the idle branches. "It’s where I proposed to you, isn't it?"

Levi nods. "It's where our life began." And where it begins again.

Chapter Text

They say love is painful. They say love is filled with agony, jealousy, and illusions, and perhaps that's true. There will always be a relationship that is perfect on the surface, but underneath lies dishonesty, anger, and betrayal. These relationships are often the most tragic, yet the most beautiful, because they show the strengths and weaknesses of humankind. Pain and anger are the truest emotions, because they cannot be hidden. People can pretend — pretend all they want — but in the end, the truth will come out. The truth always comes out. This shows humankind's weakness. Overcoming the deception and accepting that it happened, however, is the strength.

He never took the time to define love, because he always thought that love was so different for everyone that it couldn't be defined. He still thinks this, but now, he does have a definition of love — his love. And it's fairly simple: Love is when he first saw Eren. Love is when they grew closer. Love is when Eren laughed at all his shit jokes. Love is when they kissed. Love is when he took Eren out to dinner every Saturday. Love is when they stayed up the entire night, talking about nothing. Love is when Eren spent hours drawing him.

Love is when Eren proposed.

Love is also when he stayed in the hospital by Eren's side for days. Love is also when Eren apologized for not remembering his name. Love is also when they went home together after that incident. Love is also when he did everything he could to help Eren out. Love is also when Eren hid the ring. Love is also when they fought. Love is also when he lied, because he was afraid. Love is also when Eren forgave him for everything he had done wrong. Love is also when they fell, hand in hand.

Love is also when Levi proposed.

A year ago, the truth came out. Levi experienced pain; Eren experienced anger. But they overcame the deception and accepted that it happened, and now, they stand together.

"Eren, do you take Levi as your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?"

"I do."

"And do you, Levi, take Eren as your lawfully wedded husband to love, to honor, and to cherish from this day forward, as long as you both shall live?"

He looks up to meet Eren's steady gaze. His green eyes are bright. That's the first thing Levi notices. They're bright, shining, and full of life. This is who he's marrying. This is who he'll be spending the rest of his years with. And in all honesty, he's okay with that. This was his dream; now it's his reality. This was his past; now it's his future. It's time.

"I do."

Eren's face lights up when he hears him, and he smiles. And Levi swears it's the most beautiful smile he has ever seen.

"We will proceed with the vows. Eren, if you will."

Eren squeezes their joined hand before allowing his fingers to slide underneath Levi's. The simple gesture has Levi's heart pounding against his chest, but when Eren slips the ring — the ring of the present, not of the past — onto his finger, his heart stops.

"Levi," he begins, looking up, "I don't remember the details of what we had, but I do remember falling in love with you again. The past year has been my happiest, so thank you for giving me another chance." He eases back into a smile. "You gave me a choice back then, and I chose you. Today, I'm choosing you again. I love you, Levi. I've always had. Til death do us part."

Inhale .

He can't breathe.

Exhale .

He can breathe.

Taking Eren's hand, Levi slides the ring of their future onto his finger. And with that, he peers up.

"Eren," he starts with his mind a mess and his heart a blur, "I should be the one saying 'thank you.' You showed me what love is, and you taught me how to feel, and for that, I am grateful. I chose you in the past, but the past doesn't matter anymore. What matters is our present and our future, and I'm choosing you for that." His grip tightens around Eren's hand. "Yesterday, I loved you as my fiancé. Today, I love you as my husband. Til death do us part."

This is their new beginning.

"Now that Eren and Levi have pledged themselves to each other by the promises they have exchanged, I pronounce them husband and husband."

As their family and friends erupt with cheers, they lean in, and for what seems like the first time, they kiss.

Not many things make Levi happy, but standing here today with Eren is a blessing. This, he muses, is the true definition of love.