A/N: obligatory spoiler warning up to chapter 132.

i've been meaning to post this. i know i said i was done with the fandom, but . . . yeah.

see you later, hange.

It is a dangerous thing to say.

Levi does not remember the first time it happened, or the time after that.

He does not remember this exchange, or the lack thereof. He does not remember why it is they started it, why it is they say it, why it is that they insist on saying it every time their paths diverge.

It is a thing that prevails for a long time between them. Before missions, before expeditions, before they retire for the night; always, without fail, Hange says to him, "See you later."

He never knows how to respond.

It must be the familiarity, he sometimes thinks, because he is the only familiarity there is beyond Titans and ashes and the smell of death. He is the one constant, just as they are, as constant as the billow of steam into the air or the white of their uniforms mottled red with blood that is not their own. So he accepts it just as he accepts any other inevitability, and it is there for as long as he remembers.

But he does not remember it feeling as perilous as this.

He does not remember the words sitting so precariously on a crumbling edge that he cannot quite see just yet. He does not remember them feeling so out of place, so foreign, so unnatural. He does not remember questioning why it is that Hange insists on seeing him later, especially after a night like this.

Hange lays amongst the many that were wounded. They seem to occur often nowadays, these wounds that nearly take them to a place where Levi can no longer reach them. Something about that feels like an ignition, or a spark left skittering before it finally catches on a fuse left forgotten.

The white that binds their shoulder glistens crimson. Their skin is pallid in the moonlight, more so than it was before. But they are okay - their breaths do not rattle, and their hands do not quake, and their eyes are not dim. They are okay, and for now, they wait for morning to come and for Rod to come with it.

For now, Levi turns to prepare for the dawn that quickly approaches, and Hange calls after him, "See you later."

He makes a noncommittal noise in response.

"See you later."

For once, Hange is silent.

They sit with their chin resting on their knees, curled up at the center of the Wall while they cast their gaze beyond. For once, they do not speak to fill the silence, and Levi does not bother to edge away from them when they sit too close. The company is not unwelcome. No bit of comfort is unwelcome after what they found.

The sunset bleeds out into the sky in waves of orange-tinged velvets, washing over their skin and igniting their eye golden. It occurs to Levi that this is the first time he has ever been close enough to see it - the way the sunlight looks on their skin, warm, heady; the way it shines in their iris, the single one now that bloodstained bandages cover what remains of their left eye.

"He was right," Hange eventually says. Either to themselves or to Levi, he is not quite sure, but he is listening all the same. "Hell, I was right, but . . . I don't know why I'm surprised."

Levi would laugh if he had the energy or the will to. "You're bound to be surprised when you're right about something shitty."

Hange sighs. They stretch out slowly, languidly, basking in the warmth of molten golds and weeping velvets before they finally say, "I guess so."

They do not speak after that, not as the sun continues to delve below the horizon, lower and lower until the blues of twilight melt into view. Even without the words, the plea, Levi knows to stay still and quiet, as well. He does not remember the last time they have had the luxury of respite like this. He does not know if it will ever come again.

It almost feels wrong, resting now when the city behind them is in ruins and the land before them is stained crimson.

But even so, if there is one thing he knows better than most, it is to never take a moment for granted.

So he watches the sun set. He watches the stars come to light one by one, the process slow and methodical until the sky is bright and crystalline above them. He watches as Hange's eye flutters shut, how their breathing evens out, how they allow themselves to rest now that the battle is over.

When he stands, they mumble out, "See you later."

And somehow, for some reason, it feels safe enough to respond, "Yeah."

It is dangerous because it implies that later is guaranteed.

Days pass.

Days turn into weeks.

Weeks, then months, and now, years.

It has been years since Eren left. It has been years since they first crossed the ocean and learned of the wonders they have been deprived of.

It has been years since Hange has gotten a decent night's sleep.

The fruits of their labor are laid out across one long, decrepit table, sleek and glossy where lamplight bounces off silver-lined edges and polished surfaces. Blueprints among blueprints stacked haphazardly off to the side, and nearby, a board smeared white. Written and rewritten, drawn and cleared, explained and updated when deemed necessary.

Briefly, as Levi watches the others filter out of the meeting room one by one, he wonders what it would take to get them to rest.

Not that there is any time to rest or any real urge to fight for it, but the craving is there. Craving for respite that they are not granted, yearning for reprieve that nothing will ever truly give them. But that is a natural thing, he sometimes tells himself, just as it is a natural thing for Hange to approach them afterwards.

New weaponry, new garments, new straps and covering and steel-edged clasps to relearn - he heard it all, and he resigns himself to it easily. This is only the beginning.

Something tells him that the plans they have to discuss the upcoming attack on Liberio and subsequent detainment of a certain Eren Jaeger is also just the beginning.

He does not know what looms just overhead. All he knows that it is there, not a feral thing that waits to pounce but something sophisticated that waits for the right moment to execute its plan. Hange feels it, as well, if the bags under their eyes and the shaky grip against one spear is anything to go by.

They do not reach out, but for a moment, they look as if they will. Their fingers twitch, leave the surface of the weapon for a heartbeat, then settle once more.

"See you later."

It is spoken quietly, almost ragged, and for once, there is a stillness to the words as if they do not entirely believe it. A part of him wants to reassure them, because there is always a later. There is always a lull, always rest to be had, always Hange to come back to.

Levi would respond if he knew how to.

For a while, Levi believes it.

He hears them distantly, perhaps an echo-memory of sorts that reverberates like broken lakewater. He hears their voice in some far-off land, curved just out of sight, wringing itself tight before it snaps right back to him.

It is then that he registers the throbbing ache in his hands, his face, his skull. He grunts, the sound soft, jarring, rattling out of his battered chest. Next to him, Hange murmurs something again, something he does not quite register over the white-hot fare of pain that pangs beneath his skin.

He blinks up towards the lattices of leaves and branches high above, bleeding out sunlight in patterned patches across the clearing. It does not occur to him just yet that his world has been shortened, sharpened, its clarity blurred around the edge of one single eye.

When he pushes himself up on his elbows, Hange emerges from where they trailed off to. "We could leave," they say to him quietly, solemnly, "just the two of us."

He regards them with a fleeting sense of confusion. Not because of the prospect of running away with them, but because they are asking him to leave. Asking him without actually phrasing the question, asking them with a silent stillness that whispers something like hope.

Which is interesting, because they know what must be done. They know it is not that easy. They know what they wish for is nothing but a far-fetched fantasy.

But he supposes it is a comfort of sorts, asking impossible questions and making impossible requests. A daydream, a wish, a prayer - all fleeting comforts that he can never fault them for. He settles back down against the bedroll when they urge him to, his silence an answer enough. They know just as he does. They know just as they always do.

The world sways like petals in the wind, rocks like the glittering surface of the languid oceanside, frays around the edges like leaves caught in wildfire. He would try harder to stay awake, but he is tired beyond measure, and he is with them. They are there by his side, their hand an anchor, a tether, and that is all he needs.

Before he drifts into a dreamless sleep, they rise from their seat and murmur, "See you later."

He believes it despite knowing he should not.

Hange is not smiling.

Or rather, they are, but Levi is not about to insult them by calling it a smile.

It is hollow, but not in the same way that Titans are hollow. It is thin, glasslike, fragile in a way that Hange has never been before. Never in combat, never in battle, never when carving the names of fallen comrades into the trees of the territories they clear. It is the surface of lake water, ready to break, ready to echo before it falls still and silent.

"See you later," Hange tells him with a strained stillness and a poor excuse of a smile that they must know is easy to see through.

Levi reaches out before he can stop himself. He does not know what compels him, does not understand what it is that throbs so violently within his rib cage. Fist over their heart, not quaking but close, not breaking what is there but splintering it completely when he says, "Dedicate your heart."

They waver. It is a moment, just a moment, a throne shaken, sky fallen, everlasting sunlight snatched from its perch in the sky and burning right beneath where his fist lays. They look ready to burst, something like a confession on their tongue; there is something close to a promise in their lungs, trapped with the breath that hitches in their throat.

For a moment, Levi thinks they will say it.

Instead, they laugh.

They laugh, and fleetingly, they smile, and that is all Levi needs to let himself walk away.

He believes it despite wishing he never did.

Outside, there is the bleeding sun, the vacant sky, the ever-looming thrum of the Rumbling soon to reach them.

Inside, there is silence. Hollow, desolate, silence that would be fit to break Levi if he was capable of feeling the jagged-edged seams of something fragile inside him that grows weaker by the day.

But he does not feel it. He never has, and he never will, he always tells himself. He does not feel the knot in his throat, does not feel the weight in his chest, does not feel the beat of a pulse too quick and too frantic at his thumbs where they're pressed to the hilts of his blades.

He does not feel it - or at least, not anymore.

Outside, there is sunlight. Outside, there is a piece broken from the jigsaw and left to be forgotten. Outside, there are echoes of tremors deeper than before, one by one, growing further apart each time.

Further and further until it falls silent.

"See you later, Hange."