(warnings for implications of a deathwish)
“I can’t do this.”
Eren’s voice is tamped down to barely a whisper, but the sound of that sentence is enough to knock the breath out of Levi’s lungs.
“Eren,” he says, unsure of what to do.
“I’m so tired,” Eren says, and he finally looks up and meets Levi’s eyes - Levi doesn’t know what to do – Eren’s never looked so exhausted before, eyes rimmed red and the skin of his face thinner than it ever was. Levi can see his cheekbones, and they are sharp and beautiful in a way that is all wrong.
It’s night, and it’s quiet and still - everyone else has long gone to sleep, and Eren and Levi are the only ones outside, breathing the still, clean air and sharing in the silence at the end of the day. Levi had found Eren out here a few weeks ago, eyes bruised dark with insomnia. He wonders when the last time Eren got some sleep was.
Eren is trembling beside him, and Levi doesn’t know what to do, beyond sit in silence and watch his charge break apart from grief.
“I can’t die - I’m humanity’s last hope-” he says, and the catch of his voice makes Levi pause, uneasy.
Does that mean he wants to die?
“Eren,” he says again, stern this time. The tone of command in his voice has Eren straightening instinctively, and Levi suppresses the shiver of pleasure at the sight of Eren’s obedience.
Eren looks at him, lost in his youth.
“Captain,” he says in reply. His lips are trembling.
Levi sighs, and reaches forward, hand grasping Eren’s shoulder and pulling– until Eren stumbles close, hands coming up instinctively to curl against his chest until he meets Levi’s body, his palms flattening out to press against the white of Levi’s shirt. The sound he makes is undignified, and it makes Levi smile, just a little.
“You will be strong, Eren,” Levi says, stern and commanding and every bit the young, ruthless captain of the Scouting Legion.
“You will be strong, and we’re going to win. Understood?”
Eren ducks his face down, cheeks pressing against Levi’s neck, and despite his attempts to hide his reaction Levi can still feel the warm damp spread of tears on his shirt, and the shudder of Eren’s shoulderblades under his palms.
“Understood, sir,” Eren whispers, and Levi thinks he can hear a hint of a smile rounding out those words.