Remember to Regret
From the very beginning, he should’ve known better. It’s happened before, and the raw emotion that follows is the same. The piercing reality is etched in his mind, intensifying the longer he stays. Steel-blue eyes catch the rivulet of blood that spills over your frail lips and grimy skin. Again, he is forced to remember the despair that once drove him to the brink of insanity. The same thickness is carried within his breath as it vaporizes in the day’s icy air.
Levi doesn’t spare a blink, leaving his visage impassive—though, that’s far from the truth.
The glint that’s meant to signify life within your eyes is long past, leaving only the dimness of a dead gaze. Your dry lips are parted, stained with fresh crimson, and are nothing like they used to be. Nothing like the sweet flesh that he once admired from afar when you spoke. Strands of unruly, dirt-caked hair have fallen around the countenance of a face that is no longer grinning for the simplicity of his presence.
As Levi stands over your body, the lingering guilt consumes him… but, he doesn’t show it. He never does, nor will he.
He should’ve been there for you. If only he’d known that multiple Titans would ambush at your position, he would’ve done his part. It’s obvious that your body isn’t the only one that’s around, but it’s the only one that Levi can focus on. Why hadn’t he arrived earlier? He could’ve prevented this, and it is this knowledge that breaks him. It is the harsh realization that you could’ve been saved, had he been there to protect you.
The promise of protection is unspoken, although it’s more vital than any other.
It isn’t visible to his eye, but the mess of thick blood that your motionless body rests in is more than enough for Levi to know that your back is split and probably broken… in multiple places. The trickle that slides from your mouth shows the internal bleeding that followed a brutal impact to your shattered ribcage.
Despite all efforts, a dark gloom falls over his eyes when he crouches down. A steady hand rests on your forehead before lowering your eyelids, and in an instant you appear at peace. Not a single word has been uttered, however, Levi’s hand traces over the flesh of your motionless jawline and crumpled collarbone. Somehow, he finds his hand clasping onto yours, and the ring on your finger is a symbol of what the two of you had once dreamed of together--before any of this. Something holds the pads of his fingers against yours, and it’s a force that overwhelms him, tightening his chest. It isn’t long before the priceless remnant of your broken future is removed from your cold finger to be clutched within the palm of Levi's hand.
Seconds pass again, and he still sits there. It’s a sight that he doesn’t wish to see, yet, the feeling of responsibility and loss keeps him there. There’s nothing more he can do.
You’re gone now. Dead is dead.
And, once more, he remembers the hardships that he’s been through so many times before. He had always vowed to distance himself from emotional ties, but he was always aware of the inevitable bonds that would prove inescapable. Still, there was never any assumption that it would carry on between the two of you for so long before withering away so suddenly. Undoubtedly, you were dedicated to him, giving your all to him, and this is how it ends?
Tightly, Levi’s jaw clenches at the thought of how much he wanted for you, and it wasn’t this. Your value went beyond any price, far too precious for such a fate, and this agonizes him deep inside. The world is truly cruel, and he knows this better than most. Keen eyes take in the sight of your mangled body one last time, and the features of a face that will never perish in his memories, nor will the past times you shared be forgotten, either.
Closing his eyes, a sigh is breathed moments before he forces himself to stand. The soles of his boots are heavy with the burden of failure as he turns away from your corpse. His footfall comes in even strides atop the ground, his expression staid against the sharp affliction of loss within. It’s knowing that he’s leaving you behind on the filthy ground in your own blood that fills him with grief.
As he grows numb to his inward suffering, the sky above rumbles deeply before scattered raindrops pelt atop Levi and your broken corpse. In the midst of the rainwater streaming down his skin, the few tears that follow are hard to distinguish…
He’s heard that call so many times, and yet, his eyes warm…
“What is it?”
He could hear your rapid steps closing in throughout the corridor, along with your voice:
“Did you hear that they’ve assigned us to separate squads for the next expedition?” Your question is backed by perched eyebrows, your hands on hips when you approach him.
“Who hasn’t heard, idiot,” his gaze catches yours at that moment, blinking at the hint of uneasiness behind the color of your eyes. “What about it?”
“Well… We both know it’s a reckless choice,” your voice was firm in its deliverance, eyes boring into his. “This won’t turn out very good. I can feel it, Levi. I... don't want to set out on this one.”
Even when he tended to harbor his inner thoughts, it was quite often that your intuition proved correct, especially if they pertained to the expeditions beyond the walls.
“Oh?” he breathed lowly, lacking in enthusiasm as he stepped to walk further down the corridor. “What are you expecting me to do or say? My word won’t do any more good than yours. We'll just have to deal with the higher-ups' orders.”
Inhaling sharply, your muscles tense as you shuffle behind him. “I take it you don’t have a problem with being separated? We’re at our best when we fight together, and you know it!” Your heated stare fell downcast for moment. “I’m sure that you don’t need me around to survive like I need you, right?”
Levi’s stare is unreadable afterward, his movements halted.
Of course he needs you, but not to survive. It's deeper than that. Personal... Intimate.
His eyelids lower a bit. “…If that’s how you see it,” he mutters anyway. “I suppose you’re right for once.”
Swallowing at his words, you manage a small quirk at the corner of your lips. All the while, you twirl on the silver band that is worn on your left ring finger, the affection in your eyes returning tenfold.
“This time, I just hope I can pull through without you, Levi.”
Wordlessly, slender fingers soon curl around your wrist in response, gently tugging you behind him down the length of HQ's corridor.
Although he's filled with nothing but quiet passion and commitment toward you, there's no ring on Levi's finger, because it's nearly always kept within his jacket's pocket for security. He'd rather not risk losing it... but, you'd rather not risk letting your promise of a future be forgotten, and the simple band reminds you every time it glistens in your line of sight. And so, you wear yours, while he protects his...
He chooses to ignore the words that echo faintly in his ears, and Levi continues to lead his steed toward HQ’s stables by its reigns. Behind him, the light pounding of more horses are heard trailing after his as the rest of the special operations squad follow him. The distance between isn’t much, and certainly close enough for him to recognize the shared words that they utter in secrecy:
“Petra-san,” Eren calls timidly, his voice just louder than a whisper. “Captain Levi’s been quiet all day… did I do something wrong during patrol or am I just overanalyzing it?”
The suppressed gasp that falls from the petite woman’s mouth is somewhat hesitant as her amber eyes widen.
“Eh? You’ve done nothing wrong, Eren,” she reassures sweetly, yet her brows wrinkle more. “Like I said before, I don’t know all the details about what happened exactly in his past, but… I think today marks the death of his —“
The silk voice catches her off guard and has her gripping onto her steed’s reigns tighter than before, her knuckles turning white. At her side, Eren only blinks with confusion at her actions and the grave sternness of his Captain’s tone.
“S-sir?” Petra sputters shakily.
Levi halts in his stride, raven hair catching the sun’s light when he peers over his shoulder.
“He doesn’t need to know about her… Understood?”
She gulps before nodding hastily. “Of course. S-sorry, Captain,” she obeys immediately, shooting Eren a small glare afterward. “Listen, Eren. It’s best if you don’t bring this up again… I’d hate to upset him during times like these.”
There was little doubt that whoever had passed was important, if not precious in his life.
It’s then when the younger soldier blinks again, his eyes wide and owlish. “R-right.”
And, as Eren ponders over the situation, Levi keeps walking ahead, like the time when he had no other choice but to leave you there on that day, some years ago. He still remembers it as if it was yesterday, and the emotions are just as fresh.
The pair of rings within his jacket's pocket are still there, and will always be there… Just as the faint curve of your lips and the sound of your laughter cling to him… reminding him of the life he's lost with you, time and time again.