A/N: obligatory spoiler warning up to chapter 123.

i suppose i can say this is my cursed parting gift to the fandom. it's the final stretch, friends. godspeed.

Eren has been here before.

The bustle of the main road is distant in his ears, prevalent in the back of his mind. Discolored brick walls surround him on either side and stretch as far as the eye can see and into the bright sky above. The stillness of the atmosphere is suffocating, burying deep in his lungs, holding them hostage while he waits.

The sky is always the same, at least. In Marley. In Paradis. It's a fragile thing that miraculously thrives, a gentle murmur that weaves through every thought, every heretical belief that he doesn't dare breathe a word of.

It doesn't take long before he catches the faint echo of footsteps that approach him. He aches with an odd sort of familiarity - he knows, deep in the white-noise that fills his head until it's spinning, that he's meant to be here. Meant to wait, meant to be patient. He doesn't turn to face the man behind him.

There's a shallow inhale. Held tentatively, exhaled slowly. Zeke is silent for a long while, no doubt thinking about what to say. Something close to anticipation simmers in his throat, rearing up on his tongue, rushing forth to press against his lips. There's many things that wait impatiently to get out, shoving and colliding until it's nothing but a jumbled mess.

There isn't a single thing he knows how to say.

Their last encounter wasn't the brightest. Then again, Eren feels no animosity towards his half-brother; he remembers the day with the same cold indifference as a narrator that describes a battle through the apathetic lens of a textbook. A lot of memories have degraded in that way. He's unsure of which were his and which weren't, sometimes.

He doesn't remember when it got this way. It must have been gradual, rising in heat until it boiled, pulling him in until he was swathed in its searing embrace with no means of escape.

Zeke takes another breath. Holds it in his chest, long enough to hurt, exhales fast enough to shatter through the tranquility of the narrow alleyway.

"Eren." There is no tension that skulks dangerously in the corners, no apprehension that melts between them like the steam that billows from an open wound. It shouldn't be surprising, but it is, almost more than Zeke's breathy whisper, "I knew I'd find you."

Eren glances back up at the sky, a thin sliver that glows faintly between the buildings. "Did you?"

Zeke laughs at the deadpan, as grating in his throat as it was lovely in Eren's ears. He feels the odd urge to tilt his head, to undo the bandages that cover one ear so he could hear the sound better.

"You wouldn't have been caught alone so easily if it wasn't what you wanted."

Eren feels the corners of his mouth tug fleetingly upwards. The smile is faint, fading as quickly as a cloud that billows from his lips on a cruel winter day. For once, the surprise is pleasant.

In clearwater, almost technicolor detail, Eren thinks back to the day they met.

The battle of Shiganshina. The sun that breathed into the clear sky above, mouthing along the edge of the wall, lapping over stone and down onto the tiled rooftops in honey and gold. The smoke that still rose high in the air, fading rapidly as the body hissed and vanished. There's ashes that fill his sinuses and long streaks of healing flesh that brand the edges of his eyes and cheeks.

The smell of burnt flesh is putrid in his nostrils, as thick and rancid as the bile that stings on the back of his tongue. There is an odd sort of tranquility that settles, a deafening silence that follows once the tumultuous billow of a rushing carriage falters and then falls still. Nothing follows, nothing moves. He soon hears the rapid footsteps of a Titan, thudding despite being hollow, echoing despite how nimbly it stepped over rubble and corpses. Slowly, he looks over his shoulder.

Zeke is readjusting his glasses. It's lopsided, sitting precariously on the bridge of his nose, reflecting the shimmer of the sunlight that bleeds out from the mouth of the wall. His skin is pallid, smeared with crimson, no longer dripping, but drying on his chin, his throat, his collar. He's rancid, with gore caking the dip of his clavicles, the stretch of his neck, the delectable curve of his lips.

Eren feels how wildly his blood thrums through his veins. It pounds in his wrists, his thumbs, his jugular, rushing to his head, curling numbly in his gut. He doesn't understand why he lets his gaze linger. Trail lower. Zeke says something he doesn't hear. His eyes snap sharply back upwards.

He's lovely, stained red, mere whispers of his injuries left drying on his impeccable skin. He glances over Eren's shoulder. The Titan that carries him follows his line of sight. It blinks. Wavers. It looks like it considers something, flexes its shoulder blades, nudges Zeke into speaking once more. Eren thinks he's going to be sick.

"I'll save you, Eren," Zeke tells him. "We'll meet again one day, and I'll save you from the mess you've been dragged into."

He oozes something fond, reverberates something exquisitely delicate, something far too intimate for people who have just met. Brothers who have just met, but Eren didn't know that until later. Even so, nothing changes when he finds out. The memories never cease in their beckoning whispers. The images never fade. Part of him is glad they don't.

He's known since the day Historia took his hand.

There is something inherently ominous about the inevitability of every memory, present and future, that simmers in his mind, bubbling up into relevance with each passing day. He isn't omniscient by any means, but he does slowly learn what it means to accept what fate hands to him with naught more than an obedient bow.

What it means to be a slave to memories and current events alike. What it means to hide, to act, to execute. To tie them together, to weave them into something coherent. It is far beyond him. It is far beyond what any Eldian or Marleyan could possibly hope to fathom.

It takes him a while to understand.

He learns what unchanging truly means. He learns what fate brings, what it gives him, what it means to be powerless, what it means to be a pawn shrouded in an air of importance. At the very least, that means that his actions will not pose much of a changing force in anything. He acts as he should. Preaches as he should. Bites his tongue and nods along as obediently as he should.

"You understand me," Zeke says. "You know better than anyone else - what our father has done. The lies he's told us."

He's so pretty when he's endlessly confident in the blatant lie that's thrown in his face. His eyes are bright, and his skin glows with warm lamplight, and he passes a hand through his hair. It's large. Spotless when it was once marred a deep red. Fingers clean of the gore that once filled the spaces underneath his nails.

Eren wonders how they'd feel digging into his throat. Making his head spin, his chest heave, his eyes roll back.

"It'll be a long process," Eren warns him. He leans back in his chair. Pretends the fire in his veins isn't there. "A few years will pass before the right moment comes along."

"And how long is that?"

Eren hums. Bites his lip as he considers the question. He doesn't miss how the action attracts Zeke's attention. "You know I can't exactly give you a time and date."

"I also know that you aren't as clueless as you want me to believe," Zeke says.

Eren laughs. It spills from his lips before he could stop it. He doesn't quite understand the giddy rush in his chest, between his ribs. "Three years from today, give or take."

Zeke's smile is faint. "That's more of a shove than a push."

"It's enough," Eren reassures in a heartbeat.

"You're confident for someone who has nothing but fleeting memories to go off on," Zeke muses. His smile crooks higher, slants just a bit, perilous enough to be concerning. Predatory enough to be alluring. "You've changed since Shiganshina. It suits you."

Eren watches how Zeke hooks a finger into his collar, pulling it away from where it clings to his neck. He resists the urge to push close and shove his face into his throat. Breathe him deep. Taste the salt on his skin. He catches the flame in Zeke's eye, the way it flickers. Knowing, teasing. He swallows thickly.

Three years will never go by slower than this.

The first couple of letters he sends to Paradis are strictly professional.

The third he sends is unrelated.

It's disgustingly sentimental. His quill scratches for a long while. There's much he needs to explain. There's plenty he doesn't. Too many things are too sensitive to write on paper, to make more explicit than a few convoluted clues and phrases, whether it's to the team as a whole or to the specific person that still haunts him.

Levi is only clearly there once. The second time is far more tentative. Far in his memories, like a distant ray of sunlight that's on the verge of breaking dawn, like the beginnings of pink and hazel that form a gentle streak over the dark horizon. The memory is too vague for him to comprehend, like a dream that slips like heavy silks between his fingers when he finally wakes up.

These letters are even rarer than the ones he sends addressing the entirety of the group. They're filled with nothing of importance, tinted the faintest, nearly imperceptible spark of pink. Of roses, of clean linens. A vague apology wrapped in leather, bruising and aching like the straps to their gear do. He isn't given a response.

After a long while, he sends another.

He never gets a response.

Tension bares its teeth. It skulks in the shadows, lurking behind every word, every glance, every breath. It strings itself tight as Zeke approaches him, dancing in his heavy sigh, smouldering in his blood. The sky is bright above them, cradling the moon, speckled in stars that shimmer and sing. His finger taps insistently against his thigh. The night is cold, but he feels nothing but heat.

This isn't the first time Zeke has snuck off in hopes to find him.

This also isn't the first time Eren has let himself be found.

They haven't touched despite the piano wire that digs and bruises into their skin, drawing them together like the pull of gravity, tying them in place like the northernmost star that never wavers. It's a dangerous thing, slicing through everything it touches, mending them together like skin that knits itself back in place in a rush of steam. Zeke drifts ever so closer with every talk they have, every hushed whisper of his euthanasia plan, every careful step that he maps out with meticulous, jaw-dropping precision.

Eren becomes a better actor the longer he nods and whispers just as fiercely.

That's how this goes. That's what every memory leads to, what every grueling intention urges him towards. He does his part. He does it well.

He's allowed this, at least.

His wants are petty. That's what makes them harmless to indulge in.

"We just keep running into each other," Zeke says.

It's almost laughable, how he tries to act insouciant, how he fails to pretend that the oncoming collision isn't absolute. Eren looks up from where his eyes had been plastered to the cracked cobblestone of the courtyard, unblinking, unseeing. The stars are in Zeke's eyes. The cosmos illuminates the traces of a flush, mapping the blood that fills every open space beneath his skin, scorching, all-encompassing.

Eren doesn't care to hide his simper. "Business?"

"You're smarter than that, little brother."

The endearment stokes the embers that nestle themselves in his abdomen, has them flaring, sparking. Zeke says it as a test more than anything - applying pressure to the support, increasing the stress until it shatters or thrives. Eren finds that he grows more anticipatory by the second, especially with the low rumble of a growl that laces Zeke's words.

It's hungry. Predacious. Eren wants it to drown in his voice.

Zeke isn't wearing his uniform. His sleeves are rolled up to his elbows, the shades of the night and gleam of the stars accentuating every curve, every vein. The first two buttons of his shirt are undone, dipping low over his collar. His trousers cling to his thighs. The unabashed want that hid itself amongst his words is now blatant in his demeanor when their eyes meet again.

"I'll give you an hour," Eren murmurs.

There's dirt in his mouth. Bile brands the back of his throat. Blood is slick on his tongue, in his teeth, on his lips. It dries rapidly on his scabbed knees, his scraped knuckles. He limps home that day.

He whines something. The words are low, muted, sinking gradually into the thick, sticky air. The woman's brows knit. She tilts her head, and she coos something in return. Soft. Pitying. Dreadfully condescending.

Whose memory is this?

The city is silent at night. Long, winding alleyways remain dreadfully tranquil, horrendously still and quiet, but it's more suffocating now than it is during the day. They keep quiet, Eren knows, but every breath reverberates and rattles, every slide of skin against fabric a thundering echo, every slick press into him an ear-piercing shatter.

Zeke presses his fingers in deep and curls them. For the first time that night, Eren groans. The noise is nestled in his chest, strangled in his throat, muffled against Zeke's shoulder. His heart races, the white-hot rush through his veins exhilarating, the pleasant numbness that grinds under his skin and radiates deep inside him headier than alcohol ever was.

His thigh hitches higher after Zeke hooks a hand under his knee and tugs him closer. His mouth is dry, and his legs shake, and Zeke pins him more firmly to the wall. The brick scratches at his back, tugs at his hair, but he still pants, still bucks his hips.

He feels how hard Zeke is against him, feels how it throbs when he sucks in a trembling gasp. He clenches around Zeke's fingers, hisses out between his teeth, "Hurry."

"Since when did you become so demanding?"

"That implies I was patient, once."

Zeke adds a third finger. The stretch sears between his thighs, as slick and gradual as a wound that weeps out into cotton, sinks heavy through every thread. His lips press to Eren's temple. "Aren't you?"

"And here I thought we understood each other," Eren bites back weakly.

He feels the rumble of Zeke's laugh in his chest, and the sound ignites the fire under his skin with the burst of a matchstick that catches, rushing sweetly through his limbs, his hips, his cock.

He stops sending unrelated letters to Paradis.

The hollow that gapes wide in his chest fills and mends quickly enough.

The room is dark, frigid, its walls filled with endless rows of wine. Each bottle reflects the light that rushes into the room when the door is opened. They're all unopened, neatly polished, kept perfect and impeccable by the cook whose name Eren cares not to retain. The wine is a deep, glorious red, tinted black from the hue of the glass. It runs smoother than blood, sings sweeter than honey.

There's so many of them.

On one of the rare nights they spend together, he finds himself running his hands down Zeke's spine. He outlines the ridges with his fingertips, presses his thumbs on either side, the electricity of the initial touch long gone. He pauses at the smooth curve of Zeke's lower back, lingering on the dimples there, then starts the slow, meticulous glide back upwards.

Zeke's skin is perfect. Untouched. Such is Ymir's blessing, Eren supposes - but after a long moment, he thinks that he prefers there to be scars left behind. Circular indents, small and yet still so disgustingly thick, discolored with age, raised and puffy through improper aftercare. He wants to be able to dig his nails into them and leave crescent-shaped indents in the ones that were bruised the worst.

There's so many bottles lining the walls, waiting to be opened by the Garrison, the MP. By nobility and soldiers. The cruel and the innocent, the impeccable and the broken. There's no discrimination when they are all lumped into one pile. When they are all considered one.

A misfortune. A common enemy.

Eren doesn't like to dwell on that.

Later, long after he's gone, he wonders how many times Zeke will pass out when the night comes, gnawing and ripping at his lower lip to keep silent, steam wafting up into the sticky air as the skin constantly repairs itself. He wonders how many vials the Marleyans will fill with his spinal fluid, how they'll dilute it, how they'll eventually wrangle Zeke for more.

Eren clenches his jaw. Grinds his teeth.

"Mr. Kruger?"

He doesn't startle at the prompt, but he comes close; he didn't mean to lose himself in thought, but that seems to happen often when fleeting memories concerning Zeke plague him. They linger longer than others, sometimes. Dig their nails into his skull, claw and wrench until he's left writhing, pining, waiting desperately for the next time they meet.

It's almost cute, the genuine concern that riddles the boy's face. Maybe once upon a time, Eren would feel guilty for worrying someone horrendously so. He wants nothing to do with it now.

"Ah." He fidgets a bit. Pulls his cane closer to himself. He's lucky he's become such a good actor, because the boy buys it immediately. "I apologize. I was just . . ."

His voice falters as he glances briefly downwards towards his residual limb. When he looks back up, there's nothing but a painstakingly earnest frown on the boy's face. The hurt is blatant, like a thick needle is digging into his own spine, like it's forcing out the fluid almost quicker than it can regenerate. He seems like he wishes desperately to offer any semblance of support, of comfort.

Eren would say there is no need or time for fleeting comforts, but that would be hypocritical of him.

"You're distracting me."

Eren doesn't care to match the mirth in Zeke's tone. His fingers are methodical, unbuttoning his shirt slowly, rolling their hips together. The chair groans in loud agony underneath them. He tilts his head back to grant Zeke room to mouth at the column of his throat.

"Didn't I used to say that?" Eren muses dimly.

Zeke's hands fall to his thighs. They dig in hard enough to bruise, like he's trying to pull him closer, pull him apart. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you lost the motivation."

"Maybe I have."

"That's a shame," Zeke says against his skin. His breaths are hot on Eren's throat, hotter than the fervent ache between their hips. "I'm being replaced soon, you know."

Eren rolls his eyes, snorts out over the crown of Zeke's head, "Woe is you. Here, take my pity. There's more than I know how to handle."

His head spins when he's shoved backwards. Pushed onto the table, the screech of crumpling paper and tumbling ink bottles muted through the blood that rushes in his ears. Zeke ruts harder against him. "Oh, you're cruel."

Cruel is a word that rings in his mind, echoing like glass, pounding like a heartbeat. Cruel is what lurks in the memories that are left behind, the memories that have yet to manifest, the memories that he's creating. Cruel is thundering footsteps and crumbling walls, chains that bind his wrists and the ankles of a girl with hollow eyes, blood spatters and broken spinal cords that reconnect at the very last moment.

"You haven't seen anything cruel yet."

Eren hooks his legs over Zeke's waist. He numbs the whispers in sweet pain and burning pleasure, in the taste of copper and the salt of sweat. He shivers at the drag of Zeke's cock against his own, slick with pre, white-hot and merciless.

"Then show me." Zeke's voice is sugar on his tongue, warm linen on his skin, fresh bandages over his residual limb. He sinks into it, quicker than a plunge into the ocean, a simultaneous gasp and sigh. He clings to every word that Zeke breathes low over his collarbones, "Show me something cruel. Show me something that'll send me running."

They both know he never would.

Eren ignores the odd sink that weighs in his chest.

Fingers clammy. Mouth dry. He clears his throat, but it aches, and his eyes are heavy, and it's nearly impossible to breathe. The words are blurry on the page before him. Dialect he can't remember, letters he can't comprehend. His fingers quake, but somehow he writes slowly, steadily. The candle is low and on the verge of dying when he tucks the next journal away.

He stares at the photo on his desk for a long while. Removes it from its frame. Brings it closer, skews his glasses when he passes the backs of his knuckles over his eyes. There's nothing but hurt and love for the boy. There's nothing but hurt and love for the woman, as well.

He will never forget. He tucks the photo away. Draws a key that glints in the light, threads string through the ringlet.

Whose memory is this?

Eren sends his last letter to Paradis.

The boy he speaks to learns after a long while not to question the glasslike serenity that he adopts. He doesn't care too much for appearances as of late. At the very least, the boy is delighted when he offers to play catch one last time.

It's almost time.

Eren is uncharacteristically frantic when they meet. His lips glisten when they part, hanging open with a wordless sound when Zeke moves lower to bite into his neck. He slacks in Zeke's grip. Rolls his hips, fingers scrabbling over the collar of his shirt, fumbling with the buttons until he loses his patience and merely tears it open.

The buttons clatter delicately along the floorboards. Zeke pulls back, and there's red on his lips. On his teeth, light against the tip of his tongue. The sight is captivating, more so than the sunset that bleeds against the window, the rapidly dimming gold and orange in the sky that glows before it succumbs to the night.

"Behave," Eren warns him. The back of his head knocks against the wall at the next seething bite torn into the other side of his neck. It's a struggle to keep his voice from quaking when he says, "You know what is wrought from an open wound."

The red is bright on Zeke's lips, almost pink where it smears. He looks feral; he looks stunning. Eren has never wanted to kiss his brother more. His eyes flutter shut when Zeke digs his nails into the initial bite mark that lays weeping against his skin.

"You'd risk the lives of everyone in this building?" Zeke teases.

As if he needs the confirmation. Eren would roll his eyes if he wasn't tugging eagerly at the hem of Zeke's trousers. Zeke is breathless, panting a little. He scratches, digs harder, draws another well of blood. Eren bucks his hips. His mouth goes dry at the hard weight of Zeke's cock pressed up against his thigh.

The next kiss is messy. Slick. It tastes like copper, sharp and heavy, burning on their tongues, melting on their lips. They stumble blindly, the process slow and arduous, until Eren's pushed onto the thin, scratchy bed that awaits them. He's offered a moment of respite before Zeke latches high on his throat.

A bruise is sucked onto his skin. It's blatant, impossible to hide, but Eren has never cared enough to try and prevent the inevitable. He refuses to allow it to heal. Sometimes, it's unavoidable, fading as quickly as his foot grows and knits and stings and pulses as it regenerates, but for the most part, the marks stay.

It's heady in how possessive it is, almost territorial, but Eren likes that. He relishes in the ache, the sting that hisses with each movement. The way they pulse red, the slow trickle of blood that licks down over his clavicles, the irritated simmer as he dabs them clean some time later. It's a brief reminder that he isn't that vastly different - a holder, a vessel, yet still human enough to hurt. Human enough to bleed, human enough to feel.

The same as any other. Born in the same world, raised under the same sky.

He fails to stifle a helpless noise when Zeke finally slots into him. Fills him so wholly, stretches him like the sunlight that reaches far out into the sky, takes the air out of his lungs with the same intensity of the honeyed glow that dances in Zeke's irises. This is the only truth they share; one vulnerability that was never to be carefully constructed, meticulously executed, kept strictly in place.

His back arches. Sounds punched out of him, his cock leaking against his stomach, his hips sparking ecstasy, his veins pumping more adrenaline than blood. He sighs out praise, leaves marks of his own, clenches with every hard thrust inwards, just to feel how his brother's cock twitches inside him.

To hear the broken noises that Zeke makes. To watch the marks deepen and redden, ooze and glare. They're reminders that he also isn't infallible. That he's also human. It's heady, knowing that Zeke also makes the effort to prevent them from healing. More mind-numbing than alcohol, more intoxicating than battle.

They'll meet again, Eren knows, but it still feels like grief when Zeke pulls out of him.

He steels himself the moment he boards the airship.

Footsteps approach him swiftly. They're calculated, confident, ringing in his ears, rattling in his jaw. He doesn't bother avoiding the boot that slams into his abdomen and sends him stumbling back against the wall. He glances back up to Levi, who is haloed in the blaring lights of sirens and warfire, whose eyes are dim and frigid in a way they hadn't been before Eren vanished.

Eren has been here, as well.

In dreams, in memories, in person. In the past, cowering in a courtroom. In the present, uncaring of what he's done, of what has yet to unfold. The scene plays just as he expects it, but he still feels like he's missing something. Something that eludes him like a leaf that skitters just out of reach in a persistent breeze.

He's brought to a neighboring room shortly after Levi informs him of his arrest. Just down the narrow hallway, the cheers and chatter and laughter seeping through the thin metal walls. He continues to stare blankly forwards, even as Levi steps into his view.

"You've been gone for a long ass time, Jaeger."

Ah. Back to square one, it seems. Eren might have been devastated if he hadn't left Paradis all that time ago. If Historia had never touched him, if Mikasa had never insisted he come with them past the ocean.

If Levi returned his letters.

But three years is a long time, and neither of them are the same. He doesn't recognize the man that stands before him. Levi no doubt doesn't see the same man seated just before his feet, either. No longer cowering, no longer impressionable, no long filled with unique, individual thoughts, wants, goals.

All there are left are memories that aren't his, and a blended power that is becoming too muddled to pinpoint.

"I've been busy," he offers.

Eren can hear the sneer in Levi's words when he says, "With this grand scheme of yours, yeah, I've heard."

He looks up at Levi after a long, dreadful moment. Levi's arms are crossed, and his brow is furrowed, and his suit clings to his skin, stops just under his sharp jawline. The furrow deepens, and his eyes trail lover, and abruptly, Eren realizes what he's looking at.

Their eyes meet again. Levi's glare is largely enigmatic, as constant as it always has been, but there's something that lurks in them. Eren doesn't know what it is. He's light, oddly dismissive when he says, "I never explicitly said I was yours, Ackerman."

No honorifics, no endearments, no lilt.

For an instant, Levi looks like he's going to kick him again.

Eren knows he won't.

The others follow shortly after. They talk briefly at him, not with him, and he doesn't bother listening much at all. He spots the confusion in Armin's face, laid bare and spread wide like an open book; he sees the quiet hurt in Mikasa, betrayed only by the first that trembles in her scarf. He's about to speak, finally, when the gunshot cuts him off. It rattles through the walls, echoes in his ears, screams through the dead silence of the room like a shattered window.

Oh. That's what he forgot.

He laughs. It bursts out of him, slips right through his clenched teeth like water through the cracks in a dam. The others rush, and soon he hears the screams that follow, the sobs that wrack through the metal, the pleading that grates in his ears like a loose floorboard that screeches in the dead of night.

He wonders if he would have warned them if he did remember.

He might have, years ago when he refused to believe that death and loss were unavoidable. He might have if he never inherited the Attack Titan or the memories that span long and winding through some convoluted timeline. If Shiganshina never fell, if their blissful tranquility within the walls was never forced out from underneath them.

There's a weight that settles in his gut, both freezing and burning, both lifting and sinking. It's revolting.

He laughs some more.

Eren doesn't need to hear their words to know what they speak of. He doesn't need to listen in on more than their hushed voices, their murmured words, the vague discomfort in their words when they address him. The effort is admirable, he admits that much, but nothing trumps time, fate, a will far greater than their own.

He stares at himself in the mirror. His hair is pulled up and out of his face, no longer framing his jaw or spilling forth onto his neck. His skin is blotchy and coated in red and purple. He trails fondly over them, lingering for a long while before he allows them to fade.

There is nothing that will quell the pull between him and his brother. There is nothing that will stop them, already set in motion, rushing faster until they collide. He's coming to a lull, a pause rapidly approaching, a point in the timeline that he has no insight on, no further guidance.

All he has is truth and the inevitability of it. All he has left is the ghost of an ache on his skin, branding deep in his muscles, sinking far into his bones. They will meet in due time despite every contradiction, every roadblock that is thrown in their converging paths, but this time, it's different. In intent, in purpose. It's different, but it feels the same, somehow. Their paths both diverge and converge, so closely intertwined, almost impossible to discern.

Zeke is serendipity, as futile as he is endless.

Eren is nihility, as empty as he is overflowing.

His skin is perfect by the time Hange stops by his cell. They curiously follow the movement of his fingers over his throat, as if they've known, from the moment he set foot in Paradis, what lay underneath. When he meets their eye, they ask, "What was that you were mumbling about?"

Liberation can't come sooner.

There are no directions. He floats, mindless, effortless, drifting along a sea of sand, swathes in ash and light as he is slowly put back together. Moulded from clay, crafted at the hands of a young girl whose eyes are forever cast downwards.

He doesn't feel. Doesn't think. He sees, but he doesn't. He breathes, but he doesn't. It's a beauty that enraptures him, an understanding just out of his reach, a truth that beckons him.

Soon, he's embedded in every memory. Follows closely behind his father, Zeke trailing behind him, slipping and grasping deliriously at whatever strings of control he thinks he still has. He speaks, and Grisha responds; he commands, and Grisha weeps; he's back in sand, whole and absolute, and finally, Ymir answers to him.


The chains have shattered. There's sand at his feet, in his mouth, around his eyes, under his nails.

"You . . . you've always. . . ."

Zeke's desperate. His mouth moves, but the words catch in his teeth, and they're swallowed back, buried in his throat. The confidence is gone, replaced only by the incredulous stare that he pins Eren with, the wet gleam in his eyes.

There's a chance they will meet again. Eren doesn't have a memory to go off of, only a hope. A yearning. His lips meet Zeke's, soft and languid, a promise more than anything. It's fleeting. He's pulled away before he can speak. He's beckoned by fate before the window can seal shut. He doesn't know where Zeke is in the waking world, but he'll find out in due time. They'll meet again, just as they always have.

It's never long before Zeke seeks him out.

It's never long after Eren lets himself be found.