People traveling from Shiganshina to Trost usually took the King's Road south, crossing through the Rose Mountains at a low pass and then turning north at an offshoot to the road instead of continuing on to the capital city of Sina - all in all, a journey of about five days. There was a shorter way between the two towns: an overgrown, disused road, little more than a path, that wound high through the pine forests blanketing the mountains. Using that road was a journey of two days on foot, although it could be completed in one day if the traveler pushed themselves. However, that route was one only used by the truly desperate or the utterly foolish.
It wasn't just that it was a treacherous road in the winter, running higher than the main pass and often choked and clogged with snow. No, according to local tales and superstition, there was something far more sinister lurking up in the shadows of the peaks. Travelers would tell tales of storms cropping up out of nowhere, blowing snow and ice that would block their path or even chase them back down the mountain. They would talk about seeing silver-blue eyes staring at them from the shadows of the trees or hearing mocking laughter floating on the wind. Every spring, as the snows melted, bodies would be found, faces quite literally frozen in expressions of fear. Even more disconcerting were instances like the one that had happened in Trost just the last Mid-Summer's Eve. Early that morning, the residents had woken up to a dozen horses milling around the town square, hides lathered in sweat and eyes showing white in fear. The blacksmith and a few of the hunters had followed the horses' trail up the mountain to find what looked like a bandit camp.
Every last man in the camp was dead, and their bodies and sleeping furs, even the grass and flowers around them, were all rimed in a thin layer of ice that steamed and cracked under the warmth of the morning sun.
Not all the stories were horror stories, however. There were tales of sheep lost in the mountains as darkness fell being found in the shepherd's pen the next morning none the worse for wear. Children would wander too far from the path, hunting for berries and herbs in the forest, only to have a silver orb of light appear as the shadows around them lengthened, leading them back to the road and back home. Sometimes, people would get caught in early or late winter storms as they braved the path, trying to make the crossing before nightfall. The ones that made it through instead of leaving their bones in the mountains to be found in the spring (or not at all) would relate remarkably similar stories of seeming to be surrounded by slightly warmer air, the blizzard lightening in intensity in the direction they needed to go until they arrived safely at their destination. Some of them even claimed to have seen a mysterious man, cloaked and hooded in white, walking ahead of them and beckoning them through the trees.
Some claimed this figure was a snow demon, still others that he was some sort of winter spirit. A few of the elders of the two towns insisted he was the god of the abandoned shrine at the top of the pass, still guarding his domain even though the people of Trost and Shiganshina had forgotten him.
He merely thought of himself as 'Levi,' and he didn't really care what the people called him - demon, spirit, or god - as long as they left him alone.
The first snowfall of the year began just before sunset, steadily blanketing the mountain in stillness as Levi felt the small lives of the animals and plants slow as winter settled in. Every once in a while, he could vaguely feel a life here and there end, but it was easily shrugged off, like noticing a neighbor had snuffed out a single candle in a room filled with dozens of others. The lives of the humans in Trost and Shiganshina were stronger, but also more distant since the towns were just outside the edges of Levi’s domain, like seeing the light of a distant fire while being too far away to feel the heat.
As the sun rose, the wind picked up in intensity, whipping around to scream along the mountains from the north and turning the steady fall of snow into a blizzard. It was then that Levi felt it: a life on the mountainside much larger than the animals, bright and strong but fading quickly. Levi sighed and stepped out into the storm.
He didn’t have far to go from the shrine before he spotted the figure of a man collapsed face-first on the path, streaks and splatters of red staining the snow behind him and showing that he’d come from the direction of Shiganshina. His clothes were ragged and torn, the scruffy brown fur cloak and hood thrown over him making him look more than half like a bandit. Levi was tempted to just leave him as he was and let the storm do its work. But then the man stirred and lifted himself to his hands and knees to crawl forward a few more yards before he fell again. As he did, the wind caught his hood and blew it back, revealing a face that looked young, barely settled into his adult features. But what truly gave Levi pause was that the youth had wolf ears rather than human ones poking through his shaggy brown hair. He was a wolf-spirit, then - one of the various demi-god creatures of the forest that could switch between an animal and a human-like form, not quite mortal but not quite “other.”
Levi crouched in the snow next to him. “You’re dying, you know.” The young man’s eyes shot open at the sound of Levi’s voice, and Levi felt his breath hitching in his throat despite himself. If someone could manage to capture the green of the new growth of spring, the clear aqua of the streams splashing down in summer, the golden light of the autumn sun shining through the leaves, and the bright blue sky of winter, then they might come up with something close to the color of the eyes that now blinked blearily up at Levi, filled with pain and exhaustion but still trying to focus. Levi mentally shook himself and held out his hand, palm up in offering. “I could help it along, if you want. It would be painless - you’d just quietly drift off to sleep.”
His hand was smacked violently away as the young man bared his teeth and snarled. Levi watched as he pulled himself up on his elbows, dragging his body slowly forward a couple more feet before the last of his strength finally gave out. His eyes fluttered shut, and he slumped unconscious into the snow. Levi stood and looked down at him for a moment. “So, you want to live that badly?” He remembered the fierce, determined look from the youth as he’d rejected Levi’s offer. “Not bad.”
He bent down and picked up the boy like he weighed nothing, ignoring the blood that stained his white cloak with red as he made his way back to the shrine.
It was well after nightfall when the wolf-spirit started to toss and turn in the bedroll Levi had tucked him into. Levi looked over from the pot he was stirring on the open hearth in the center of the room just as his eyes blinked open. “Ah, you’re awake.”
The young man startled, his ears pressing flat against his skull as he eyed Levi warily. “You tried to kill me.” There was a distinctive growl in his voice.
Levi sighed. “No, I offered, there’s a difference. You chose to live.” Levi narrowed his eyes when the young man continued to glare. “Oi, brat, stop looking at me like that. If I wanted you dead, I would have left you there, not taken you somewhere warm and bandaged you up. The fuck do you think I am?”
The ears slowly started to come back up as the boy had the good grace to look at least a little embarrassed. “Aren’t...aren’t you the snow demon that lives on this mountain?”
Levi scoffed, “Do I look like a fucking demon to you?”
“No…? Um, maybe? I-I mean, snow demons are supposed to be really pretty, and you...um… Argh!” The young man’s face grew more and more red while he talked, until he finally hid behind his hands.
Levi stared at him, eyes wide and mouth hanging open slightly. Did he…did he just call him pretty? Levi turned back to the pot, giving the contents an unnecessary stir. “I’m standing right next to a fire, dumbass. If I were a snow demon, I'd be melting.”
“My name is Eren.” Levi looked back around to see a glare once again on the young man’s – Eren’s – face, although this time his ears were relaxed and facing forward.
“Levi.” He decided that the soup looked done enough. It was a fairly simple dish, chicken and winter root vegetables, thickened with barley. None of which Levi had on hand in the shrine; after he’d bandaged up Eren’s wounds and made sure he wasn’t going to die anytime soon, Levi had slipped down into Trost and filched the ingredients from a nearby farmhouse - after making sure they had plenty of other food in storage and leaving a small pile of nondescript copper coins behind. He didn’t have much use for money himself, after all, and the bandits and highwaymen it had come from had even less use for it now. Levi filled a bowl, carrying it over to Eren. He crouched down next to him. “Here.”
Eren slowly sat up and took the bowl, sniffing the contents cautiously before, well, before wolfing it down. Levi frowned, “Slow down. You’re going to choke.”
Eren held out the now empty bowl to Levi, the tips of his ears flicking back and then forward again. "Sorry. I haven't eaten since yesterday." He glanced at the dark window as Levi took the bowl back to the hearth. "Or...I guess it was the day before yesterday."
Levi refilled the bowl with more soup and handed it back to Eren. "That's even more reason for you to slow down. You'll just make yourself sick, otherwise."
"Thank you." Eren ate more slowly this time, and Levi just sat and silently watched him. Eren looked up at him, his eyebrows furrowing together. "Aren't you going to have some?"
Levi shook his head. "I don't need to eat. Or sleep, for that matter. I can, but I don't need to."
"Oh. Weird." Eren set aside the bowl and yawned before lying back down. A tiny crease of pain formed between his eyes, and he shifted underneath the blankets. "My leg hurts."
Levi rolled his eyes. "I had to stitch it closed, so no shit. If you were human, that wound probably would have killed you." When Levi had undressed Eren to find the source of the bleeding and stop it, he'd discovered a long gash on his left leg running from his hip to his knee. It hadn't been his only wound, but it was the worst one by far. "What the hell happened to you anyway? Where's your pack?"
Eren curled up on his side, putting his back to Levi and the fire. "I don't know where my pack is; I got separated." His voice was quiet, and his ears drooped down against his hair. "We had a little village in the mountains north of here. We weren't hurting anyone. We hunted in the forest, gathered herbs for medicine, traded what we didn't need in Shiganshina for whatever we couldn't make for ourselves. And then the other day, a bunch of soldiers showed up, said we were trespassing on the King's land and drove us off. Some of us tried to fight, but we were outnumbered. When I finally ran, I could smell smoke coming up from the village; they were burning our homes, burning everything. And I still don't know why!" Eren's hand clenched into a fist against the bedroll.
Levi sighed. He remembered seeing the smoke two days ago and wondered what it was from. "I can take a guess. There's a lot of iron in those mountains. Silver and gems, too. Sounds like the King wanted a new mine, and your people were in the way."
Eren growled. "So my pack got turned out in the snow, everything we owned destroyed, for a bunch of damn rocks?!"
"Kid, nothing humans do surprises me anymore. They only value something as long as it's useful to them, and as soon as it's not, they don't give a shit what happens to it." Levi couldn't stop the bitterness from creeping into his words. He turned his head away as Eren shot him a questioning look and cleared his throat. "Anyway, you should try to rest. I've got some friends I can have keep an eye out for any news of your pack." He stood up headed for the door.
Just as he reached it, Eren called out, "Levi, I meant it. Thank you. For...everything."
Levi nodded once before leaving and shutting the door quietly behind him.
Levi's "friends" actually turned out to be some of the ravens that made the mountain their home. When they brought back the news that Eren's pack had scattered but otherwise seemed fine, Eren had immediately tried to leave to find them, and Levi had stopped him by the simple expedient of pointing out that Eren couldn't take three steps without his injured leg giving out from under him. Levi found some parchment and ink for Eren and then sent the ravens back out with letters assuring his friends that he was safe.
As Eren healed, he started to explore the shrine complex. At first, he was only able to hobble around the monks’ quarters where he’d been staying and the gardens right outside, but eventually he was able to explore further. Everywhere he went, however, it was becoming increasingly clear that the shrine was completely deserted, and had been for a long time.
It was especially obvious when Eren pushed through a side door leading into the main temple. The room was in worse shape than any of the others he’d seen. One of the double doors leading outside was lying flat across the threshold, the remaining door hanging askew from a single hinge. A corner of the roof near the front of the room had caved in, broken bits of tile and wood scattered across the floor beneath it. As Eren shut the door behind him, some sparrows flew out through the opening in the roof with a burst of loud twittering, and a couple of foxes stuck their heads out of an alcove near the altar and blinked sleepily up at him before disappearing back into the shadows.
"Pathetic, isn't it?"
"Wh-!" Eren whipped around at the unexpected voice, tail twitching in agitation. Levi stepped out from behind the statue on the raised dais at the back of the temple, although Eren could have sworn he wasn't there before. But...god. Right. "Why don't you fix it, then?"
"I can't." Levi sat down on the edge of the dais, and Eren edged over to carefully sit next to him. "I can't affect anything in the 'holy' areas, and the last monk died of old age about eighty years ago. It's just as well; the Celestial Courts are enough of a bureaucratic nightmare without gods being able to build their own temples wherever they please." The foxes had tumbled back out of their alcove at the sound of Levi's voice to curl up next to him opposite of Eren, and Levi was now absently stroking their heads. "Besides, I don't mind the company. There was a bear that stayed here last winter. Shit conversationalist, but he wasn't too bad."
One of the foxes, feeling like it wasn't getting enough attention, butted Levi's hand with its head. Levi looked down with a small smile twitching up the corners of his lips, and Eren found himself staring at Levi's face. Despite the smile, Eren felt like there was something melancholy about his expression. Levi looked back up, catching Eren's eyes, and Eren self-consciously cleared his throat and looked away. "Uh, I could probably do some repairs for you, once my leg is a little better."
Levi's eyes widened in surprise. "I thought you'd want to leave to join your pack as soon as you could."
"Mm." Eren shrugged. "I do want to find them, but I know they're safe, and they know I'm safe, so a delay won't matter much. And you saved me; I feel like it's the least I could do to repay you. Besides..." Eren looked down, his ears twitching back and forth as he felt his face heat up. "I don't mind the company."
Eren was as good as his word. He got both of the doors re-hung (after convincing the foxes to move into an unused shed), and temporarily covered up the hole in the roof with a board and an oiled canvas. Levi walked into the temple one morning as Eren was sweeping the last of the debris off the floor. It wasn't perfect, of course - there was a lot more work to do than just one person could handle - but it was an improvement. "Eren," Levi called out softly, and Eren looked up, ears perked forward attentively. "Could you come with me outside for a little while? There's something I want to show you."
"Sure." Eren put the broom away and grabbed his fur cloak, throwing it across his shoulders as he jogged after Levi through the snow. Well, Eren jogged through the snow. Levi just lightly stepped on top of it, his boots barely sinking into the surface. Eren looked over at him. "Where are we going?"
Levi led Eren behind the shrine and down a little path that led along a frozen stream and through a cleft in the mountain. When the path opened back up into a wide glen a few minutes later, Eren blinked and looked around.
The stream that they had followed here flowed down the mountainside as a waterfall - currently a sculpture of ice - into a small lake. The pine-covered slopes of the mountain rose up around them on three sides, protecting the area. Under the cover of the snow, several large mounds surrounded the lake, too regular and even in their shapes to be anything but man-made. Eren looked at Levi questioningly.
Levi gestured at the remains of the buildings. "This used to be a village that served the monks. Eventually, the people decided they didn't like how isolated this place was in winter, and they slowly trickled away into Shiganshina and Trost until it was just the acolytes and the monks' families here. And then even the families left, and there were no more acolytes."
Eren tilted his head. "I don't understand."
"What I'm trying to say is that I figured a village of wolf-spirits won't mind being isolated. And you don't have to worry about the King running you off again, no matter how large of an army he sends." Levi grinned, with more than a hint of malice showing. "Not as long as you're on my mountain."
Eren gaped at him. "Levi are you... Are you saying we can stay here? All of us?"
Levi huffed and looked away. "Why the hell else would I drag you out here? It'll be a lot of work getting the buildings rebuilt before next winter, but the hunting's good here, and there's fish in the lake and-oof!"
Levi was cut off as several pounds of enthusiastic young man suddenly wrapped him up in a crushing hug. "Thank you! Thank you so much!"
Levi decided to ignore the wetness he could feel where Eren's cheek was pressed against his own and brought his hand up to run through Eren's hair, gently scratching around his ears. "Don't mention it, kid."
Eren ended up deciding to just wait out the winter at the shrine, after sending off letters again with Levi's ravens to tell everyone that he'd found them a new home. Levi was, for the most part, happy that Eren was staying, but there was one habit of Eren's that was starting to drive him nuts.
Eren had recently taken to staring at Levi whenever he thought the latter didn't notice. He wouldn't approach him or say anything. Levi would just get a sensation of being watched, only to turn his head slightly and catch a glimpse of green eyes. One day, Levi was in the garden, enjoying the last bit of afternoon sunshine, when he felt that familiar prickling between his shoulder blades.
Without saying anything, Levi bent down to scoop up a handful of snow, packing it tight before whipping around. Eren caught the snowball full in his face.
He spluttered as he pawed the snow out of his eyes. "What did you do that for?!"
"No reason." Levi turned back around with a small smile.
The smile dropped when something cold and wet exploded against the back of his neck.
This was war.
What followed was a brief but furious snowball fight which Levi won after he took careful aim and tossed a snowball high above Eren's head.
"Ha! You miss-"
The rest of Eren's sentence was cut off as he was buried by the large mound of snow that Levi had knocked out of the tree branches above him. A few moments later, a shaggy brown wolf popped out of the snow. He shook himself off and looked at Levi with what could only be described as a disgruntled expression.
"Oh, don't pout. Come on, it's almost dark. Let's get a bath to warm up."
Eren was pressed against the wall of the large tub, as far away from Levi as he could get and carefully looking everywhere but at Levi, for a change.
Levi sighed. "Don't tell me your old village didn't have a public bathhouse."
"Of course it did." Eren was mumbling, his ears pressed down against his skull. He ducked down deeper in the water, still looking away.
Levi rolled his eyes and climbed out. He heard a bubbling noise behind him and turned around to see Eren resolutely staring at the wall next to the tub, his face bright pink. Levi frowned. "You should get out before you overheat."
"I-I'm fine. I'll be out in a minute. You...you can go ahead."
Levi looked at him searchingly for a moment longer before drying off and leaving with a muttered, "Whatever."
A few minutes later, Eren slinked into the room that he was still using as a sleeping quarters. He'd managed to find more bedding and furs that were still in good shape and used them to make a much more comfortable bed in the corner. Levi heard the door open when Eren came in, and stood up from tending the fire just in time to stop Eren from shaking himself like...well, like a wet dog.
"Honestly, what the fuck is wrong with you?" Levi snatched the towel from Eren's shoulders and pushed him toward the bed. "Sit."
Eren did, and Levi settled behind him, draping the towel unceremoniously over his head and starting to dry his still damp hair. Eren squirmed. "You don't... You don't have to do this."
Levi snorted. "If I don't, you'll go to sleep with wet hair like an idiot and end up with a cold. Now be still." Once Levi was satisfied with his hair, he started to gently dry off his ears. Eren started to shift again. Levi stopped. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing!" Eren's voice sounded a bit higher pitched than normal, and Levi frowned. He tried to lean forward to get a look at Eren's face, but Eren hunched over and turned his head away. The little bit of Eren's face that Levi could see was flushed red again. Levi's frown deepened, and he moved around to Eren's front, trying to get a better look at his face. Eren curled up even further and wrapped his arms around his knees, hiding his face inside them.
Levi tried to gently pry his arms away. "Don't tell me you really are getting sick. Come on, let me look at you."
"I said I was fine!" Eren tried to jerk away at the same time Levi tightened his grip on Eren's wrists. The sudden motion sent them sprawling with Levi ending up landing on top of Eren and pinning his hands down to the furs underneath them. Eren stared helplessly up into Levi's eyes before swallowing heavily and looking away.
Looking into Eren's face, Levi would have been inclined to think that Eren really was coming down with something. His face was flushed, his eyes were slightly dilated and a little unfocused, and his breathing was heavy and uneven. However, the hard pressure digging into Levi's thigh where it had ended up neatly slotted between Eren's legs gave a different explanation.
Levi's hands slackened reflexively as realization washed over him, and Eren took advantage of the loosened grip to free himself and push Levi away. He curled up on his side, his back to Levi and his ears and tail pressed close to his body. "Eren...?" Levi reached out slowly and laid his hand lightly against Eren's shoulder.
He felt Eren flinch. "Don't..." He sighed and quietly said, "I should leave tomorrow."
Levi's heart lurched in his chest, and he wrapped both arms around Eren, pulling him close and curling flush against his back, even as he felt Eren's body go stiff. "Please..." Levi pressed his face into the back of Eren's neck. "Please, stay." It was almost funny. Levi was used to being alone. He liked being alone, and before now, he'd never felt lonely, hadn't even had an inkling that he was capable of it. Not until a certain bright-eyed brat had collapsed into the snow of his mountain.
He heard Eren's breath catch in his throat. "L-Levi... If...if this is just something casual to you, just...just s-some diversion, I can't-"
"I know." Levi cut him off. Wolf-spirits took after the animals they resembled in many ways - fiercely loyal, recklessly brave, protective of anyone they deemed part of their "pack," and... "Wolves mate for life, right?"
Eren finally, finally, turned to face him then, his eyes searching Levi's own.
Levi smiled and brushed Eren's hair back before leaning forward and resting his forehead gently against Eren's. "I don't give up what I've claimed easily. Not this mountain. Not this shrine." Levi paused, his fingers that had been threading through Eren's hair tightening their grip. "And not you." He closed the small distance between their lips, reveling in the sensation of Eren's body melting against his as the last of the tension he'd been holding in drained away. Eren's mouth opened in a soft whine, and Levi took eager advantage to delve his tongue past Eren's parted lips.
Levi would have been content to spend an hour just mapping out the inside of Eren's mouth and memorizing the taste of him, but Eren seemed to have other ideas. Eren pressed his hands against Levi's shoulder, and Levi obligingly followed the motion. He soon found himself flat on his back with Eren straddling his hips. "What was that you were saying?" Eren ran a hand down Levi's chest through the gap in his disheveled robes as he rocked backward onto Levi's arousal. "Something about 'claiming' me?"
Levi groaned in appreciation and ran his hands up Eren's thighs. He sat up, keeping Eren balanced in his lap, and nibbled and licked along the tendon of Eren's neck, relishing the way Eren sighed and arched his throat back for Levi's access. He pulled back. "Is this how you want to do this?"
"Yes, please..." Eren breathed out, leaning down to slot their lips together again.
When they pulled apart, they were both panting for air. Levi reluctantly motioned for Eren to slide out of his lap and stood up. "I have to get some oil. I'll be right back." He leaned over to press one last kiss on Eren before walking out of the room, feeling Eren's eyes on him the whole way. He quickly grabbed one of the jars of aromatic body oil from the bathing room and then returned to find Eren sprawled against the furs and divested of all his clothes, the firelight gleaming gold and red off his smooth skin. Levi's breath caught in his throat. "Fuck."
Wordlessly Eren held his arms out to him, and Levi crossed the room to sink down onto the furs next to Eren. He set the jar down next to them and untied the sash of his own robes, letting them puddle around his knees. Levi took a few moments to run his hands and lips over Eren before lightly nipping his jaw and whispering, "Get on your knees for me."
Eren complied, sinking his front half down onto his elbows and twitching his tail aside. At the sight of Eren so willingly presenting himself, it took all of Levi's self-control not to just take him right there. Instead he kneaded his fingers into the supple skin of Eren's ass. "Fuck, you're beautiful." Levi ran his hands down Eren's hips and outer thighs, feeling the rough scar tissue under his fingertips as he traced the wound that had brought Eren here in the first place.
"Levi..." Eren whined, wiggling back toward him impatiently.
"Shh." Levi ran his hands once more along Eren's legs, and then he picked up the jar, removing the stopper. He drizzled out a generous amount over his fingers and closed the jar tightly, wiping the excess oil on his own length. Slowly, he rubbed one slick finger against Eren's entrance, watching him shiver in anticipation, and then Levi pressed inside, past the tight ring of muscle, and he let out a groan matching Eren's as he imagined what that enveloping heat would feel like wrapped around his cock.
Levi worked Eren open, adding fingers as he went, trying to take his time for Eren's sake, but Eren was impatient, bucking back against him as he tried to fuck himself on Levi's hand, tried to take him deeper, harder, faster. Eventually, Eren pulled away, panting out, "That's enough."
Levi removed his hand, and Eren quickly turned and pressed Levi down to the furs, straddling his hips once again. He reached behind him and gripped Levi's cock, and, with his teeth grit tight, sank down onto it. Levi's hands came up to grip Eren's hips, and he forced his eyes to stay open, watching himself being gradually swallowed up by Eren. It felt even better than he had imagined it would, and he trembled with the effort of holding himself still as Eren bottomed out, his ass lightly slapping against Levi's hips. Eren stayed there for a moment, breathing heavily, and then he started to move, small rolling motions at first that built up into a quick and even pace.
Levi lifted his hips to meet him, and Eren shuddered and cried out, tightening around Levi. Levi braced his heels against the bedding as he angled to hit that same spot again, and again, and again, and soon Eren was a shaking mess on top of him, repeating Levi's name in a mantra that sounded far sweeter to his ears than any prayer or chant ever directed to him before. Eren's pace grew ragged, and Levi wrapped a hand around Eren's cock where it was bobbing, heavy and dripping, between them, knowing by the tightening in his own lower stomach that he wasn't going to last much longer, either.
"Such a g-good boy," Levi panted out as he stroked Eren in time to their desperate rhythm. "Come on. Come f-for me. Eren-n..."
"L-Levi-!" Eren convulsed on top of him and cried out, his insides squeezing tightly against Levi as thick ribbons of white painted both their stomachs. Levi stroked him through it, and then he gripped Eren's hips, tight enough that it would probably leave bruises, as he sought his own completion. A few more strokes, and Eren weakly ground down on him again, and then Levi was coming, his back arching as pleasure crackled along his spine.
Eren whimpered and collapsed against Levi's chest, his body still shaking from his orgasm. Levi's softening cock slipped out, and he held Eren close with one arm while the other groped around for the discarded towel he'd used on Eren's hair earlier. He wiped each of them down, and then pulled Eren back to him and wrapped one of the furs around them both. Eren blinked tiredly up at Levi with eyes gone soft and satiated. Levi ran a hand through Eren's hair and softly thumbed his ears. "Go ahead and sleep, Eren. It's okay."
Eren sighed and nuzzled his face against Levi's neck and let his eyes drift closed. Levi didn't sleep, but he lay still and closed his own eyes as he listened to Eren's quiet breathing and felt his heart beating strong and steady where their bodies pressed together.
Spring was just starting to quicken in the mountains when Eren left the shrine to gather his pack. He stood with Levi on the path to Shiganshina when Levi suddenly bent forward and latched his lips to Eren's throat. Eren felt a sharp pain, and then Levi pulled away, placing a finger against the newly-created bright red mark. He smirked up at Eren. "There. Now everyone will know that you're taken."
Eren laughed. "It'll fade in a couple days, you know."
Levi snorted. "Just what the hell do you think I am?" He wrapped his arms around Eren's neck and leaned up to brush his lips against Eren's. "That mark will stay there until you come back to me." A soft kiss. "Until you return."
"Until I return," Eren agreed. They parted then, Eren walking down the mountain path, and when he looked back up, Levi was nowhere in sight. He could still swear he felt his presence though, until he'd left the stone of the mountain completely behind.
Over the spring and summer, the members of Eren's pack came trickling up the mountain singly and in small groups. The earliest ones set about rebuilding the abandoned village, while those that arrived later finished the repairs to the shrine that Eren had started. However, none of them saw any sign of the being that Eren claimed had saved his life.
Finally, on Mid-Summer's Day, Eren returned, accompanied by the last two members of his pack: a dark-haired young woman wearing a red scarf and a slightly built, blond young man. There was a huge feast that evening, to celebrate both the reunion of the pack in their new home, and the holiday. No one noticed when Eren slipped away and disappeared into the shrine.
He made his way in the darkness to a familiar room. The sliding doors were open to the garden to catch the breeze, and the pile of bedding and furs had been replaced by an actual bed, piled high with cushions, pillows, and light blankets. And something - someone - else.
The black-haired figure in the bed sat up and held out his arms to Eren, the moonlight pooling around him and making his pale skin glow like snow on the peaks. Eren gratefully fell into those arms, the weariness of his long journey falling away as he relaxed into the strong embrace.
"Welcome home," Levi whispered into his lips.
"I'm home," Eren replied.