a dream of you,
in a world without you.
(either a) canon where eren is dead or b) au where levi reincarnates as a painter who tries and tries and tries to find eren but he can’t and he’s so tired and maybe he should just leave eren alone to be happy this time—)
no you will not write this
you will not
Levi is born to a mother with wanderlust in her soul, a gypsy of a woman who could not stop and stay for the life of her, no matter how much she loved her lover or her son. His father is left with a squirming bundle and a shattered heart, and the postcards that come in the mail every couple months. Together, he and his son live a normal life, in a normal town, in a normal apartment.
Levi grows, goes to preschool, to kindergarten, to elementary school. An endearing pout becomes a fearsome scowl, and when he goes to middle school he miraculously begins to make friends, meets Hanji Zoe who is constantly two steps away from permanent mental damage (courtesy of Levi), and Irwin Smith, who puts up with his whiplash temper and deadpan snarking with remarkable aplomb.
In high school, he decimates the fencing team and kendo team in turn, browbeats his underclassmen into the fiercest team the school has ever seen, and Petra, Auruo, Erd and Gunter join him in taking over Nationals, while he and Irwin knock away the competition with every men they score.
Through it all, he dreams. Glimpses and flashes of a world almost recognizable, so close is it to his reality, but violent and brutal, primal. Towering monsters, who fear no pain, no death, who lock their jaws around soldiers with his teammates’ and friends’ faces, bite down, and he is unable to duck his head away from the spray. The swords in his hand snap as they dig into the tough flesh of giant napes, and he soars through the air on wire cables and gas propulsion. In that world, he cleans, though his hands are always bloody.
In his dreams, there is a boy, a boy with green, green eyes who matches his stare, flies alongside him into battle, soft and young but full of will, full of heart. A boy who sometimes has no limbs, no hands, no legs, who comes back and back like a phoenix rising from the fire, biting his hand bloody and emerging from the smoke like a wraith, wild-haired and powerful. A boy who shivers and cries against him in the night, who strokes his cheek and presses fleeting, trembling lips against the corner of his mouth before Levi’s sword comes down a final time, execution turned lover’s suicide.
His hands move before they intend to, and he feels a terrible restlessness thinking of this boy, a yearning, an anger. Levi needs to see his face, needs to hear the name. Pages and pages of charcoal, pencil, acrylics, pastels go to waste trying to capture the boy, the sweet curve of his mouth, the smooth sweep of his eyes, and startling green, like spring, like budding leaves, and the way his hair feathered over that endearing forehead when he took the time to smile. Levi devotes years learning and discovering this boy, and when finds the perfect grass green in a set of watercolors, he refuses to use anything else.
When he graduates from high school, he takes a gap year to travel the world. It’s what he tells his father, but really, Levi is looking for the boy. He follows what green there is in the world, backpacks over Europe, trawls through Asia, and everywhere he turns his ears strain for a hint of that voice, shot through with fear and conviction, of cautious hope, those brave, verdant eyes, unwavering. He returns home and goes to art college empty handed, and the itch is worse than ever, the heaviness in his chest.
Now on his own, he gets postcards separately from his father, and he wants to ask this woman who he never met if this is what wanderlust is, the craving deep down in your soul, not just for places, but for a single person, a mirage, an illusion, one he cannot do anything but cling to. Dead bodies litter his dreamscapes, torn in half, dripping entrails and body fluids, and he closes his eyes and sees the funeral pyres lit fiercely against the dark of the night sky, and the boy is there, clasping his hand in his, watching the greasy smoke funnel up and out, digging bloody crescents into the meat of Levi’s palm, shaking in fury and vengeance.
He gets distracted by flashes of green, by the laugh and curve of a vulnerable nape, looks and looks but never sees. His works get their first gallery exhibition, splashed in shades of viridian bright and vibrant, layers and layers of grass, moss and trees until it turns to dirt, watercolors on good days, acrylics and gouache on bad. The red of torn bodies and grotesque shapes is stark in comparison, and Levi leaves Hanji to manage it while he goes on another trip.
Years and years, he paints, he wanders, he searches. Humanity’s Strongest, he writes, covers the canvas thick and fast with furious strokes, kneeling in the battlefield of his dreams, and the white of the canvas surface quickly thickens with paint, smeared with brushes, hands, and in a frenzy, he slashes and tears apart the canvas with his palette knife. Ceaselessly, he dreams, sees his boy, visits graveyards with him, fights with him, kills with him, dies with him, over and over.
I want to see the ocean, the boy tells him, released from his monster carcass, hot to the touch, voice raspy and breath shallow. I want to go there with you. All the drawings he has of the boy, with watercolors, only the watercolors that get the shade of his eyes just right, he keeps at home. He visits the beach. It is nothing without the boy.
Where is he? Where is the boy? Levi grows ever older, becomes famous, stays anonymous, nameless, faceless thanks to Hanji’s efforts, and even having searched the entire world, he cannot find this one, necessary boy. Inside him the need grows fierce, and he doesn’t sleep, captured and caught by the monstrous roar that echoes in his ears, the sound of soldiers’ last words, buried and deafened by the weight of their wishes and pleas. Corporal they call him. Levi, the boy murmurs, curling about him even with his wrists chained and shackled, tucks his arms around Levi as best he can, tucks his face against Levi’s neck like Levi is the only true thing in the world.
Levi stops. He tries to stop looking. Travels the world one more time to settle his nerves, stops using green in his paintings, but he never stops seeing the front lines in his mind, never forgets the way his boy cried at the end, choking out a laugh, sad and small. But still, he stops, he tries. Frustrated, angered, he doesn’t to be like this, led around the nose like a fool, duped and tricked by a vestige of his own demented mind.
A month, two, pass, and the new collection is ready. Levi leaves to meet Hanji at a local gallery where his work will be shown; there’s a preview canvas from his last collection there already. A boy stands in front of the preview canvas, so still he might be a mannequin. Fever Dream, Levi had called this piece, placed thick, scalloped layers of green paint carefully on the canvas like mermaid’s scales, dusted the edges with a soft and soothing yellow, and thinking of the sea, and his boy’s wish, a soft blend of blues and jewel tones. Red webs, delicate, spin out.
Transfixed as he is, the man still turns, managing to hear Levi’s footsteps, no matter how quiet and unassuming they are on the wood paneled floor.
"You drew this, didn’t you?" the man asks, the strong set of his shoulders, the softness of his mouth achingly familiar. He’s been crying, and Levi wants to hit him, wants to lick up the tears that bead and fall to his jaw, tell him that he’s only allowed to cry for Levi and not to waste his tears for anything else.
"Corporal Levi, you remembered," he whispers, because suddenly Levi is close, so close and their breath mingles and the man just cannot stop crying as Levi brings Eren’s head down to rest on the crook of his neck, slips his hand to rest over Eren’s heart. "You remembered," Eren repeats, voice cracked, trembling. "And brought the sea to me."
Levi cancels the appointment with Hanji. They return to Levi’s apartment, and Levi has him in the room with him, his green boy, revels in the way the name, Eren Jaeger, curls delicately, deliciously over the tongue. He’ll have to adjust his palette, Eren’s eyes are much brighter, much livelier than he remembers, and he’ll have to make a new shade of green just for him. Eren cries again, like the big baby he is, crouched in the piles and piles of portraits Levi has drawn of him over the years, and has the gall to warble out a laugh when Levi kicks him in the seat of his pants.
Later that night, spent, cleaned in a brief but thorough shower, they watch each other. Naked skin on naked skin, their legs tangled together, Eren’s skin, even now, is warm, like a furnace, and Levi bites the tip of his nose to spite him.
"Corporal," Eren whispers, "Levi." He’s quiet like this, watchful. His hand flutters over Levi’s collar, traces warm shapes on his neck and chest.
Eren’s eyes flutter shut, lashes dark against the apples of his cheeks. “When you were away,” he says, swallowing, fingers trembling as they spread across Levi’s heart, “I dreamed.”
Levi clasps Eren’s hand, slips his fingers into the gaps between Eren’s as if they were made for him, clutches tight, doesn’t let go.
"So did I," Levi sighs, and Eren draws in tighter, safe and sweet. "So did I."
I WROTE IT OKAY NOW GO AWAY