Airports are places where people go to die, Eren realized as he jostles the camera bag hanging off his shoulder and moves it to his lap. He pulls the suitcase behind him, the overhead lights reflecting off the steel handle as he makes his way to the counter.
He presents his ticket and his passport and waits, turning his head to look around.
Airports are places where people go to die, he thinks again, because once they're here and once they've left, they've changed.
A teenage girl in a line four stations down from him, her hands tightly gripping the handles of her backpack, staring blankly before her as she waits for her turn. An older man wrapped in a faded jacket, a duffle bag in one hand and a bottled water in the other, his foot lightly tapping against the carpeted floor. An entire family, looking lost and worried, as the clearance officer discusses something about their passports to the father and mother.
They were all different people, with different lives and different paths. Eren was like them, too.
A runaway photographer, scorned by his parents for choosing a future that was against what they planned. Medical school wasn't in any of Eren's dreams. He longed to see places, meet different people, frame time in the click of a shutter behind the lens of a camera.
His parents did not like his plans—hated them in fact.
"A photographer? And how are you going to make a living with that?" His mother asked, a frown on her face as she stares at her son, incredulity shining in her eyes.
"Forget about making a living! What about our reputation, my reputation? I will not have my son tarnishing our name because of this stupid fantasy!" His father had shouted, booming voice echoing in the vast dinner hall. Eren had stilled, fingers clutching both spoon and fork tightly that his knuckles turned white, an impossible weight on his chest that refused to let him breathe.
It was dreadful, listening to his parents tear his dreams apart, but it was bearable...until they found his camera, his applications to art schools and his photos.
Even until now, as he is cleared by the officer and enters the waiting area, he can still hear the deafening crack as his camera flies through the air and hits the wall—a little object that Eren had saved up for months and had given him and his dreams a startling possibility—and breaks into a thousand pieces; the ripping of his photos as his father scowls darkly and throws it across his bed, his application letters an unrecognizable lump on his carpet.
He had stood, frozen and unable to breathe, and he had never hated his father as strongly as he had that day.
Airports are places where people go to die, because Eren is a runaway from home, with a new camera (one he bought a few weeks ago as he took a part-time job as a waiter at a local fast food chain) and shattered dreams and maybe a lonely soul because searching for a better life outside his home is never easy. Airports are places where people go to die because once Eren leaves, once he enters that plane and leaves behind him all the endless nights of anger and frustration and sorrow, leaves behind him the hateful, cruel words of an unappeasable father and a distant mother, leaves behind everything that he was and never looks back, he'd become a different person.
That teenage girl with the backpack could have been a student at a university, dreaming big dreams and studying to make them come true but had to go home because her mother is sick and the medicine she needs means that she couldn't afford to go to school for a while.
The older man could have been an employee working at a firm in the city, framed by a jealous co-worker for something he did not and was fired because of it, leaving the city to look for a way to feed his pregnant wife at home.
A loving, happy family now wrought with worry as the clearance officer barred them entrance—they could have been on their way to a better life, for a better opportunity abroad because they've lost their home and what little they had and even their dreams of finding a place in this world for them seems to have gone, too.
Different kinds of people from all walks of life, meeting up in a place where they did not know one another, but each receiving the same fate.
And the Eren that used to smile so happily as his father gets home is nothing but a rotting corpse and a fading memory disappearing behind the trail of smoke and darkness.
Levi walks into a small cafe—it wasn't a cafe as much as it was a mere booth—in a corner of the waiting area. It was quaint and cozy, a little refuge from the chilling air being released by the many air vents across the expanse of the airport. The bludgeoning rain outside did not help, of course.
He heaved his briefcase against the chair next to his, a sigh escaping his lips as he sat down and extended his legs under the table. The dim, orange lamps above exuded warmth that made him relax, something that had been nigh impossible for Levi lately.
His order was served by a lovely girl with an even lovelier smile, Petra glinting off her name tag and Levi smiled—one that almost seemed foreign on his face, across his lips because how long has it been since he had last smiled, last truly smiled? Because he couldn't help smiling at this girl with the kind eyes who smiled at a lonely stranger sitting in her cafe on a cold June night.
He takes a sip, inhales the aroma of caffeine and he desperately wants to close his eyes and sleep—the lull of conversation was like a soothing balm, a blunt drumming in his ears that comforted him—and he almost did until a young, hesitant voice spoke and his eyes blinked away the grasp of slumber.
It was a boy (or one who was at least on the verge of becoming a man), taller than him and with the most interesting eyes Levi had ever seen. They were a mixture of blue and green, like calm seas on a clear night, wavering between hesitance and a lingering shyness.
"Er...is this seat taken?" the boy asks quietly, his hand grasping the handle of his camera bag tightly. His other hand pulled on a suitcase behind him.
Levi glanced around, noticing that there weren't any free tables and when he looked up, the boy seemed to grow more hesitant and he looked tired and lonely and maybe that's why Levi replied with a "No, go ahead."
The boy thanked him, bowing his head a little and he shuffled quietly towards the seat, carefully setting his suitcase behind him and the camera bag on the table, fingers lingering on the bag as if he didn't want to let go even when given the chance.
Levi took a moment to appraise the boy, with his mop of dark hair, the sinewy length of the grey sweater that stretched across his arms and the almost beaten and exhausted pull on his shoulders.
"I'm Levi," he spoke suddenly, surprising himself as he extended a hand to the boy. The other jumped, not expecting the words, and he seemed surprised that someone talked to him as he took a moment to reach his own hand out, answering with a low "I'm Eren."
The silence that stretched between them afterwards was long. Levi continued to sip on his coffee, the seconds turning to minutes as he sneaked glances at Eren, even when the boy stood to make his way to the counter to order.
He watched as Eren spoke, the subtle shifts in his muscles as he fished out a wallet from his pocket; watched as he took out each bill in measured, careful hands like it was his last. When he had returned to his seat across Levi, he waited quietly for his order, thanking Petra when she approached the table to deposit a mug of hot chocolate.
"Where are you from, Eren?" He asked, curiousity winning over holding his tongue. The boy glanced at him before ducking down, eyes on the table.
His words were quiet, like the boy. "I'm from here, actually."
Levi tucked the information into a compartment somewhere in his mind. "A native, then. Going on a vacation?"
Eren shook his head. "No, not on vacation."
Not a talker, Levi mused. Still, he was not deterred. There was something about the boy, something about those eyes that glowed with fragile hope and a tinge of fear, something about the way his shoulders seemed to tremble with a certain kind of coldness that was more within than without, something about Eren that intrigued him.
It had been a while since he had felt this curious, felt this drawn to someone.
His life back in New York was just a monotonous routine, a mere parody of existence. He was alive, working and existing but he was not living. A jaded man returning to an empty house, to an empty bed and an even emptier life and this boy was the first interesting person that he had met in a really long while.
He honestly had wanted to leave that life behind when he came to this city, to escape the loneliness that seemed to follow him like a plague. But he couldn't, not today, not right now, at least. He had responsibilities, obligations. Sometimes, his wants had to take the backseat for the pressing matters of life.
"Me neither," he spoke, leaning back on his seat, eyes taking in the way the light shone in Eren's sea-coloured eyes. "I mean, I thought I was, sort of, but then I realized that I really wasn't, if you get what I mean."
Eren glanced at his mug, mulling in Levi's words as he nodded slowly. "It didn't feel right. You didn't feel right here."
Levi nodded, raising a brow in quick surprise. He honestly had not expected the boy to get what he was saying, despite how pathetic and stupid it was from the way Levi had worded it.
"Yeah, I didn't feel right. Guess that's why I'm here again, going back home."
Eren did not answer, turning to look at the rain pitter-pattering against the tall glass windows. Beyond, one could see faded city lights, silhouettes of jets as they take off and the stark reds and yellows of the air strip.
Maybe it was Eren's silence, or his reluctance to speak, to express himself that made Levi talk, to bring life into one crazy idea he had conjured in a second's time.
"Do you wanna hear my story, Eren?" He asked, his fingers tracing circles on the wooden design of the table. Eren turned to him, surprise and curiousity flashing across his face like traffic lights.
He seemed conflicted, on the verge of wanting to and not wanting to. His lips moved as if he wants to say yes, but the way his chin shook belied his reluctance to say so; the way his hands gripped the table showed his curiousity, the way he held back showed his hesitance because Levi knew that Eren knew that once Levi starts talking, this was no longer something impersonal—something indifferent—between them.
And, for once, Levi felt something warm bubble in his chest when Eren slowly nodded, eyes connecting with his for a second before he looks away.
Levi tells his story. It's nothing memorable, nothing that would elicit tears or gasps from Eren but it was his story, it was his life.
Dreams of a man wanting something different from what life had given him. A man who was a lawyer, a good one at that, but detested every second he was being one. Dreams that were swept under the rug as life was not kind to the man, forced him to forget about nights lying on vinyl floor, breathing heavily after an intense routine with only the sound of his pants to accompany him in the dance studio; dreams of performances on stages, of muscles burning with the need to stretch and move and bend to the music in his ears and in his heart.
And maybe it was because Eren understood, maybe it was because Eren knew how it felt, how it hurt to see something you've invested your entire soul in get ripped apart before your eyes.
Shattered remains—glass and plastic—lying across carpeted floor, weathered ballet shoes laying against mirrors the lengths of walls.
Levi spoke, words mumbling from an indifferent beginning, hurtling through ups and downs (tightness and hiccups, sharpness and dulled bitterness) and Eren swallowed, because the rumble of emotions and that very impossible weight on his chest seemed to expand, to grow heavier and crazier because Eren knows, he knows what it's like, knows what it's like to feel like you've wasted your life chasing after something you could never have, but you're still giving yourself one last chance—one final chance—because this is what you've wanted for so long and maybe, just maybe, this time, it might be it.
Eren wants to sit closer, wants to reach out and touch Levi, leave him with some modicum of comfort. He desperately wants to, but he can't because it's awkward for strangers to touch, for one to embrace the other with a desperation that could be frightening, with a need that could be terrifying by itself. Eren desperately wishes to, but he stays his hand because he knows next to nothing about Levi except for the way his lips tremble, the way his nose turns a shade of red when his throat clogs up and the way those blue eyes glow bright as he talks about ballet and performing, leotards and the keys of a piano tapping in the background.
His leg touches Levi's, and the man doesn't seem to notice, and Eren could almost believe he doesn't notice until he feels Levi resting his leg on his and Eren thinks that, yes, this could be enough.
He doesn't know when they've left the cafe and reached the seats, when they've sat next to each other and their bags are resting before them and he feels Levi's warmth beside him and it's okay, Eren thinks, because it's nice to not feel so lonely right now, with the comfort of a person beside him and the calm pace of his breathing lulling him into hazy peace.
"I want to be a photographer." Eren speaks, and underneath the calmness, he feels his fears coiling.
Levi doesn't respond, doesn't tense or turn towards him. He simply nods his head, and Eren feels a thumb rest over his wrist and he's breathing easier.
"My parents didn't like it. They tried to stop it, stop me, from wanting it. It was always med school or law school or something else that did not bring shame to their name. All I wanted to do was just take photos, something I love." He continues, encouraged by the warmth on his hand.
It should have been awkward, tense and uncomfortable for Eren to talk about this, with a stranger a decade older than him and his thumb rubbing circles across the inside of his palm but it wasn't. Unbelievably, and truthfully, it wasn't.
How many times could this happen to anyone? How many times could two incredibly different people meet, on a road going to nowhere, and find a clearing for their dying dreams and hopes?
And Eren continued to speak, continued to talk and Levi did not make a sound, did not comment even when Eren's voice starts to shake, starts to tremble and starts to break.
"It's unfair! It's unfair! All I wanted to do was photography. I just wanted to travel, take photos and meet lots of people! How could that be so wrong?!" He gasped through his anger, through his bitterness. He was reliving old, painful memories, reopening wounds that he had believed that he if he ignored them enough, they'd disappear. He was angry, heartbroken and bitter, but most of all, he was scared.
He fucking scared because he didn't know how to do this. How could he do this by himself? How could he face this world on his own? All he wanted to do was to travel and take photos, how could this possibility be so impossible and so daunting to chase after, to hope for?
"A-and, I thought that maybe they're right. Maybe they were right all along and I'm just in over my head about this and maybe I should just give this up and be a doctor or a politician or anything that could make them happy because I know what I have," Eren manages to squeeze out, grasping the handle of his camera bag tightly, "won't."
He looks down, and he swallows. There are no tears, but his voice breaks the same. His eyes sting the same and his heart crushes under the weight all the same.
It takes him a long while to realize that he was holding Levi's hand in the midst of his emotions and he makes a move to unclench his fingers away because this is awkward, this is weird and because Levi is a stranger and Eren is a stranger to him and so what if they've both shared their lives to one another that night? They're still bound for different paths, different destinies—two roads that are bound to stray close, fated to almost touch but to never meet.
He lets out a silent sob because Eren realizes that he might not be strong enough for this. He was only eighteen and he's run away from the only place that sheltered him and fed him and clothed him.
"Maybe this is wrong. Maybe, maybe, this is wrong. I should go back, right? I should come back home? Maybe I should go to college, become a doctor because not everyone gets that chance, not everyone gets the same cards as me." And Eren is terrified because maybe, maybe, he can't do this on his own.
Overhead, the PA announces that boarding is now going on for the next flight and Eren realizes it's his flight and he stands, lets go of Levi's hand and he bites his lip as he avoids looking at the man.
He doesn't know how to start, how to even look at the man because what do you do when you've unloaded your life's bullshit on a stranger? Scratch that Levi had opened his sorrows to Eren, it was still awkward and maybe it was best if he just said goodbye and left.
Suddenly, Levi was holding Eren's hand again and the man was standing next to him—close enough that Eren could smell his perfume, feel his warmth and he really wants to lay his head against a leather-covered shoulder but he resists. He closes his eyes and breathes deep instead.
Then they're walking, side-by-side, and Eren is still warm and Levi is like a balm in his silence and he couldn't ask for more. They walk towards the terminal and Eren feels his fears rising but he's able to will them down, able to push them back to the recesses of his mind—another nightmare for another day. The terminal doors are still closed when they get there, but there's already a long line of passengers waiting for the doors to open.
Eren turns, wanting to say goodbye but Levi seems to have other plans as he pulls the boy past the columns and into the empty restroom, and he turns to look at Eren.
Levi's eyes glow prettily even in artificial light, and somehow something's changed between them, between two strangers meeting on the stroke of luck or perhaps coincidence. Eren no longer cares about which is which, he's just grateful he came across a lonely man on lonely night in June.
They stare at one another in the silence and the restroom doesn't really smell pleasant, and Eren is pretty sure someone's still in the last cubicle at the end of the row but he couldn't care now, not with the way Levi is looking at him and really, he has the bluest—
And somehow, Levi's lips are on his and Eren feels something hot and fiery burst inside him because there's a stranger kissing him inside the restroom of an airport, but at the same time, this is Levi, this is a human being who was there for him for a very short while and Eren feels himself responding, pushing himself against the man.
Strong hands grip his waist and Eren turns his head, eyes closing because Levi's lips are like liquid fire and Eren might combust (and he oddly feels alright with it).
A hand reaches up to his hair and fingers scratch at his scalp and the feeling is so good, so delicious that Eren's fears disappear and he opens his mouth in abject need and there's Levi's tongue and Eren's mind is wiped blank.
On some other reality, some other alternate world, this could be impossible. On some other world, no one would ever believe that something like this was happening, of two strangers finding comfort in one another before they face their demons once more.
But it was, and Eren bucks because there's this rightness lancing through him like lightning and he can almost drown in this.
The sound of a lock being released pops the bubble between them and they stand back from one another, Levi's hands leaving his hips as a man passes by them to wash his hands at the sink and leaves, giving them a parting glance of curiousity.
The silence is deafening, and for once, Eren thinks it might be better if he just disappeared off the planet right now.
But Levi is on him again, a hand on his cheek and he's asking, "Will you be alright, Eren?"
"I'm scared. I'm really scared," Eren replies honestly, truthfully. "I'm scared, but I think I will be."
Levi smiles, and his eyes take on a glow and Eren asks the same question and he replies.
"I think I will be."
Airports are places where people go to die because once people leave, they leave a part of themselves that will no longer be the same, no longer who they once were.
That teenage girl who stops going to school because her mother is sick and they need the money for medicine will not be the same girl who walked into the same airport three years ago, bright dreams and possibilities bursting in her mind.
The elderly man with the duffle bag and desperation for a way to support his wife, pregnant with their child, will no longer be the same man who stepped off the plane (the same plane he's riding now) eleven months ago, newly-wed and trying to build a life for him and his wife.
That lost, wandering family that was refused entrance will no longer be the same, and they may never be able to carve a home for themselves out there in the world. They might have to separate, send their children to their grandparents as the mother and father look for a way to keep them all together.
Airports are places where people go to die, because airports have seen goodbyes, both said and unsaid; have seen hearts get broken and promises left forgotten and dreams fading into nothing and airports have seen miracles between strangers on different paths, on different routes—converging fortuitously for a single moment (because they had, Eren thinks. Eren believes) before disappearing off opposite ends.
Airports are places where people go to die because Eren has seen Levi die and Levi has seen Eren die as they bid one another goodbye on a cold, lonely night in June. Eren's lips are still red and swollen but he smiles because there's warmth in him—a certain kind of warmth that he's never felt before—and there's a spark of life in Levi's eyes and maybe, it was purely coincidental, purely fantastic that they met.
And maybe, in the future, when Eren is on his way home to his apartment from his photography classes or when Levi is driving on his way to work, if they remember that night, if they remember how they both tasted one another in that cold, lonely night in June, they might believe that it was not coincidental and maybe, maybe, they were meant to cross paths all along in an airport where people go to die.
AN: Yeah, it's pretty crappy writing. I'm sorry, really. I just...had no idea where to go with this because my life has lately become an emotional roller-coaster. I'm really sorry. T.T