eruri week day 1 - post ACWNR
“It was the Titans. I know. Save it,” Levi’s anger softens and melts into despair as they ride back, sun sinking shamefacedly below the mountains. “It was the Titans, and you and I aren’t to blame. I get it.”
“I wasn’t going to say that,” Erwin brings his horse closer, dust stirring aggressively under their feet. “I was going to ask something. Why are you following me?“
“Why do you care?” Levi wipes the froth off his horses’ neck. “I won’t betray you or nothing. Don’t fret your ass about that.”
“But why?” Erwin crimps his mouth, frowns as his hair is whipped back by the dirty, hot wind. “Have you suddenly converted to the cause? Are my words so powerful?”
The cause? Levi cannot give less of a shit. The Titans, yes, he hates them and he will kill every one his eyes set upon but the cause? Humanity? When had he cared about anybody’s skin except his own when the consequences of caring were staining the battlefield behind him red with old blood and discarded heads. What damn cause did he care for? Why did he follow this man and his white horse and his serious eyes?
“I don’t know, damn it,” Levi grinds out his words like gravel. “Stop asking me.”
He’d gone to Sina for Levi’s arrest warrant to be revoked, threatened lives and lied, searched back woods and government facilities and storage ships. He’d saved Levi’s world a hundred times over. With every time he kneels to a noble and greases a palm he thinks of Levi’s unrelenting fury, his calculated precision in cutting out any threat.
“What were you doing down in Sina?” Levi asks. “You took so long, the trainees’ arses are itching.”
“My family lives in Sina.” Erwin tells the truth in order to not let Levi hear the barer truth. “My mother and sisters.”
It comes again, to Levi. The longing to be a follower.
“I’m tired,” he hums. Looks at the sweat on Erwin’s temples.
“Of? Of the Corps?”
“No.” Levi slumps down straight onto the floor, ugly and crumpled. “Of leading. Of being a leader. I’d led Farlan and Isabel. Captain Smith -”
“You’ll lead,” Erwin says too sincerely and he smiles sideways, looking at Levi with such raw affection that his chest tightens. “You’ll lead teams and squadrons. You’ll do it ever so well.”
“Ah,” Levi says after a moment, composing himself and pressing hand upwards to the kneeling Erwin’s shoulder that offsets his cool tone. “we’ll see.”
Then, in the threshold of the bathroom with the knife lying still on
the tile behind them, he’d held Levi’s arms by his sides, fought the urge
to shake him. He’d wanted to ask that laundry list of questions used in school. Who, what, where, when, why. Erwin wanted to ask how Levi would have calmly watched his own face in the mirror as he prepared to take his own life, the same
one he’d saved a hundred times over. He wanted to ask why, why, why
would he do this to him (and the Corps!) to himself, to them?
“Please,” Levi said, before Erwin could get anything out. His eyes were pale and focused on his face. “let’s discuss this later.”
“Your friends are dead. And you wanted to join them, did you not?“
He watched Levi pick up the knife and lock it back in it’s sheathe. He watched Levi like he was a subtle, lethal thing.
Levi looks up at him, searching,
untethered by the way Erwin kept his hands in the open space between
“I had to try, Erwin,” he whispers. “I owe them at least that.”
“No. Why?” Erwin grits his teeth and clenches his eyes shut. “Tell me why, that day -”
“You are never a cryptic man, Levi, tell me why.”
He remembers again, obliquely and out of context, kneeling below Levi on the bloody ground.
“I must know. Levi, I must know.” Erwin’s eyes are darting, flinty in the half-light. If he squints he could pretend he doesn’t know Levi. He is a murky figure, breathing shallowly.
“Because of you,” Levi starts, his mind catching like a dirty record. “Damn. because I wanted to follow you. You were all I saw, the damn sun rising behind you, like… like you took me out of something I had buried myself within. And my friends were dead and I was done for and all I could think of was that I had sliced your palm. So I followed you. It’s like if I drank poison, then coughed it back up - sickly sweet with a forever aftertaste. I taste your words every day. Because I tried to kill you, I tried to shit on your dreams and I didn’t give a fuck about your Corps and all you did was comfort me on that damn battlefield and you brought me home. I follow your damn corps only for you, you - and I forgot that today. You could have left me for dead a hundred times but you saved me. I should be dead, but you fucking…”
“Then follow me, Levi -” Erwin urges. The hottest flames are blue.
“For life,” Levi whispers.
“Remember that,” Erwin says. Levi grips his hand like an iron lifeline.