memento mori / levi ( attack on titan )
( EVERY VERSION OF THE STORY ENDS WITH YOU BEING SLAUGHTERED. )
a/n: quote by tory adkisson
ONE : IN YOUR WINGS THERE IS HORROR FOUND, THE LINING OF CRIMSON FEATHERS TARNISHED WITH BRUTALITY AND APPARITIONS AND HAUNTENINGS. rust coats your tongue, brutal, invades the senses when the bitterness falls from bloodied lips.
coward. coward. coward coward coward COWARD.
your hands quiver, seek purchase in the sensation of cold steel against flesh. oh, love, how they ache, calloused and scarred from the aftermath of combat. your fingers wrap around the battle gear, attempt to find stability in something-- to ground yourself to reality, make yourself known and real and present through the acknowledgement that you can touch your surroundings, leave your presence through the imprint of your existence.
you wonder if your next expedition will be your last. you always do.
you think you are ready for this ; you think you can prepare yourself for the worst, brace yourself for pain and sacrifice endured, steel the heart to protect what little of it is left from the deaths you will witness. but you can't. you never can.
YOU ARE HUMAN, AFTER ALL. you cling to the thought of that, try to save yourself from drowning in the madness they call despair. ( to be both human and a survivor in an everlasting war is an oxymoron in itself : impossible, unachievable, and surely you know this by now, don't you? )
but you are a soldier first and foremost, and to struggle in the battle against fear is to succumb to selfishness, to wave a white flag and admit defeat before you have truly even fought.
beyond the walls there is devastation, death, & doom. the encounter of horrid creatures, the tearing of limbs, the screams that pierce your ears. beyond the walls is what follows you inside the comfort of your home, and beyond the walls is what follows you into your nightmares.
the door creaks behind you. your hands are aching. you turn, see levi standing at your doorway. his expression is indecipherable as always, but you smile nonetheless ; it is hollow and born from hopelessness.
"captain," you speak up, and how silly that you almost think you will drown in the tears that refuse to fall, "i don't want to die."
he does not speak.
in silence, you mourn together.
TWO : so they'll say the grass is meant to be greener on the other side, that it'll flourish and bloom in the presence of flowers and vegetation alike. you grimace, your limbs exhausted, bruises and fresh injuries serving as a reminder of pain. you stare out into the distance, observe your surroundings.
instead of green there is red, the grass stained with the blood of comrades you cherished. numbness overtakes you, and to what extent does grief accompany it? you are unsure. but you think you should be feeling something more.
your chest is heavy, feels like you can't breathe. you keep looking, anyway.
your allies rest nearby, countenance made of anger and agony and anguish. knees hugged to their chest, solemn and quiet tears that make their bodies tremble until their muscles scream in protest.
( you think you should be feeling something more. you think you should. )
something tells you to stop-- tell them it's alright, it's over for now, but the truth is that none of those words will matter. a temporary consolation can only work for so long, and everyone has already reached their breaking point. it wouldn't mean anything, not anymore. so you keep your mouth shut, continue to walk forward in a mindless trance until you come face to face with humanity's strongest.
there is blood smeared across your cheek. your shoulders hang low, exhaustion settled deep on your features. how different things are now, levi thinks -- he recalls your first expedition-- how your hands wrung together with anxiety, your body tense, your gaze wandering as if an ambush could come at any time.
now, before him, he sees nothing. you are unrecognizable.
( you know this, too. you look in the mirror, see nothing but vacancies in a self-deprecating reflection of who you once were. )
"did you survive?"
the words ring apathetic, but somewhere in them, there is a brewing disquiet.
you smile, but it does not meet your eyes.
"i don't know, levi."
THREE : you used to love and hate returning home. home meant returning to the comfort of your bed, returning to safety-- returning to a semblance of normality in this shitty life. but returning home also meant returning to hatred, suffering, and the angry and remorseful cries of the civilians. you don't know where their loved one went. you don't know why that child's father died-- did he die in vain? did you find remnants of his being? did you see her? did she tell you how she was going to come home to her younger siblings?
you tread forth, ignore the resentful tones that carry too much weight. it's not heavy, not anymore, but something still is, you suppose. you just don't know what. you can't feel it, either way, so you choose to not think about it. it's easier this way.
levi looks at you, recognizes that feeling that sends a longing in the ravages of a tattered heart. he knows this feeling : the acknowledgement of yet another loss of someone he cherished, the knowing that you are too far gone, the seldom acceptance of yet another fallen.
he doesn't want to know. he doesn't want to feel this, doesn't want to understand this -- but he can't tear his eyes away -- and why-- why does his chest tighten and hurt when you meet his gaze?
you try to smile again, worn from the throes of survivalism, but it only leads to more heartbreak.
( LOOK INTO THE MIRROR, LOVE. ARE YOU THERE? ARE YOU? WHERE HAVE YOU GONE? )