She wakes, and she’s not startled to find herself in a strange bed. There’s no moment of sleep-bleared confusion, no profound moment where the events of the night before come flooding back in some vivid rush; this isn’t one of Varric’s stories, after all. She simply wakes, and breathes, and he is there beside her; and it’s hard to imagine that it hasn’t always been this way.
He looks like a stranger, dappled by the warm dawn light that spills across the bed, but there’s little surprise in that, either. She lies beside him, watching the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he dozes peacefully, and for the moment he’s not Commander Cullen, but something softer, something untouched. His face, slack in sleep, looks impossibly young, a time-travel glimpse into some part of his life before, before the weight of duty etched lines into his brow and carved hollow circles beneath his eyes. His hair has been mussed into a glorious halo of bedhead overnight, separated into a mess of golden ringlets that spill across the pillow, and she smiles as she reaches out to gently run her fingers through one of the curls. This man truly is a stranger, so different from the carefully ordered Commander that she knows by day.
For a moment, she’s afraid to even breathe, reluctant to risk waking him. When he wakes, whatever magic the dawn light weaves will be broken, and he will become Commander Cullen again.
She likes Commander Cullen immensely … but Maker, she loves this man. This man who, somewhere halfway to the bed, sent some piece of armor or another crashing to the floor and let the weight of the world slip unnoticed with it, sliding gently from his shoulders to pool like fallen velvet on the rug. She loves this Cullen, fiercely and beyond all reason, this man who held her through the night with such unabashed wonder, such quiet and profound joy, that it was easy to forget that he’d ever been anything else but this, soft and new.
She can hear activity begin to stir beyond the broken ceiling, and she knows she should get out of bed, begin the task of dressing and preparing for her day. Slip out before she’s seen, out of some wistful desire to keep this theirs for another day or two more before Skyhold’s prodigious rumor mill inevitably gets hold of it.
But Maker, a moment like this feels too rare and precious to step away from. A gift she somehow can’t believe that she’s been given, in simply seeing him soft-eyed and smiling in his sleep.
She stays. And when he wakes, there’s no moment of confusion, no alarm at finding someone in his bed. There’s simply the crook of a sleepy smile as he turns his face into the pillow, a single amber eye peeking out from the tangle of his curls, a soft murmur of greeting.
She stays, and reaches for his hand, carefully threading her fingers with his; an anchor, as he drifts through this gentle liminal space, back to himself.
This is my cat, Amidala. We found her outside my grandparents house, just chilling on their porch. We took her in and she’s now about 18 years old. One of the sweetest babies who loves cuddles and head boops all day.
some of the deepest secrets are the ones that are out in the open.
some scouts have booze, others stray cats, many have special spaces in the training woods with their names carved out in the bark of tree trunks. levi has none of these. there’s no diary under his mattress, or lacy underwear deep within his dresser drawers. he has no hidden space to hide contraband, or a mistresses out in the capital. levi is as closed a book as he is open. he hides nothing about his interests or his intentions. in his stoicism is the truth, and everybody seems to have him figured out.
it’s no secret that erwin and levi are close. there’s rumors about them, but even if they are true, they don’t effect morale. mortality rate is too high to care about sexuality, about relationships, about anything much else but oneself. erwin is a capable and ruthlessly intelligent leader. levi is the strongest and most compassionate of them all. their secret is public, but it just somehow makes them stronger. a bond worth fighting for, even from on the outside, even from their men and women that have taken the wings. because together they fight for humanity; together they are humanity’s greatest hope.
erwin has levi mapped out. he has a routine, sticks to it so strictly that if it strays he becomes a compressed bottle of rage. erwin is included in on this routine–from sunrise to dusk, he’s cared for in little ways. shined boots, oiled leather straps, groomed horse, restocked blades. erwin has stopped fighting him on these things, appreciates being thought of because sometimes he forgets to think of himself. when on base, they’re almost always together. erwin knows levi; erwin knows everything about levi.
that is until his finger hooks into levi’s uniform pocket, his lips lingering on his captain’s. he leans back in his chair, digs his finger deeper down into the pocket as levi tries to move away. he succeeds, shoves erwin’s hand and steps aside from his desk.
“levi?” erwin says softly. he misses the heat on his skin, the smell of dark tea and honey on his breath. levi stands with his back to erwin, brings his hands up to his breast pocket and tucks the paper back in. “what is it?”
erwin wants to reach out to him, drag him back into his arms and feel the softness of his skin against his own. “all right.”
levi’s hand stays on top of his pocket before he finally takes the paper out. he holds it in his hands, folded and frayed around the edges, having been worn against denim for so long it has started to tear along the folds. his finger draws under the edge and he opens the paper as he turns to face erwin. he reads the words scrawled across the surface as erwin watches him intently, curiously. levi hands him the paper, his head down, as if he is a scolded child waiting to be reprimanded.
erwin takes it, eyebrow raised, and holds it carefully in front of the candlelight. the parchment is rough to the touch, and the pulp of the paper has rubbed away some of the ink of the words. it’s clearly levi’s handwriting, beautiful and careful with each loop of his cursive. it makes erwin’s heart seize–everything about this man is nothing short but awe-inspiring.
he reads it again. and a third time. there’s not much written on it, four words to be exact: he sees the sky.
erwin looks up, his eyebrows drawn close, and asks silently for an explanation. “i don’t know.” levi says quietly.
“i guess.” levi trails. there’s something he’s not saying, something he’s unable to say, but is trying to find the words. he sighs with frustration before settling on something. “i guess i forget sometimes.”
“why i’m here.”
erwin places the paper down onto the desk. “to protect and free humanity, was it not?”
“yes.” levi says. “or it was.” levi turns his gaze up to the office windows behind erwin. he’s afraid he’s already said too much.
“how do you mean?”
“i should be looking at the sky too.”
erwin runs a hand along his cheek, his brow creasing with more thought, as if levi has presented him with an incredibly difficult riddle. “i am not sure i follow.”
“you’ve become my sky.”
erwin looks up from the paper, stares slack jawed at his captain who refuses to look back at him. there’s a sadness in levi’s eyes, something darker than usual. erwin has seen him deal with grief, has seen the minute differences of the creases of his skin as he works through each emotion. but this brought out lines along his eyes that made him look much older than his age, like the reveal had taken twenty years off of his life and cast it ugly across his features.
he sees now. this secret that is not a secret. this secret that levi wore in his pocket, a reminder to deny his feelings in the face of freedom. that outside of erwin’s office and bedroom, he has to play the role of weapon for humanity, to dedicate his heart to them instead of him. and even though they knew–their soldiers, hange, mike, nanaba… they never once felt the hesitation levi always had to fight against. the need and desire to protect one–to live and fight for erwin and erwin alone.
erwin folds the paper again, making sure to fold exactly as it had been so many times in the past and leaves it on the center of his desk. “it is difficult for me at times as well.”
levi looks at him now, the whites of his eyes showing more. “how?”
“you are my soldier.” erwin closes his eyes and sighs softly out of his nose. “i fear the day i hesitate to put you into harm’s way.”
levi studies erwin, watches as erwin’s face falls into blankness fitting only for stone, and leans over to pick up the paper. he holds it over the candle flame, waits for it to catch before pulling it out and letting it burn between his fingers. they both watch, the flames licking and crawling up ladders of burning paper, until levi shakes his hand and lets the small nub of parchment fall to the desk and burn itself to ash.
“we can’t let anything get in the way.” levi says flatly.
erwin’s lips draw thin. he nods once, slowly, morosely. “understood.” but he doesn’t, and neither does levi.
war knows no bounds–much like love. but they never, ever wanted to have to find it. never thought they could find it. never thought they were worthy of finding it. and now they wish it to be a thing that never had found its way to them. to not have it etched so deeply upon their hearts, burning under the shadows of white and blue wings and along fields of bloodied men.
where the only futures that were open to them were ones that could hold no promises.