Dawn stretched over the world in a lazy creep, the light slowly illuminating the world in a grey pallor, a drizzling rain preventing the sun from shining through. Levi watched the gates of the headquarters as they faded between the trees. The caravan of soldiers had already begun to march back towards the walls, leaving their momentary nightmare behind them. Though, the ride wasn't exactly easy, knowing that the hybrids lived deep within the trees, where the canopy was a thick blanket and the underbrush was as wild and unhospitable as the monsters themselves.
At first Levi had tried to protest, saying that there were discoveries here that they could not simply walk away from, but Irwin had no say in the matter. He simply explained to Levi that if the rest of the world found out that Eren could be one of them, then the operation would be over and they would dissect him to figure out what it was that made hybrids tick.
"It doesn't matter if he's as old as you or a child, they won't let him live. If we leave with a report of a threat eliminated, say it was a cluster of minor titans, Eren can live and the operation will be continued," Irwin had said.
"People have a right to know what's here, Irwin."
"And Eren has a right to live."
Levi couldn't argue any further. Irwin simply cast his gaze into the dying fire and sighed. "I joined this war to help people… and I learned that sometimes to help the right people you have to make sacrifices that, at the time, don't make sense," the blonde nodded, walking over to his friend and placing a firm hand on his shoulder. "I promise you that this will make sense."
Now, riding back to the wall, it was only Eren that had reservations about leaving. He had so many questions. Who were all those hybrids gone wrong and why were only two sentient among the hordes? Why was he the only one who could control his demons? Quite literally.
It's because they didn't have the will…
Levi turned his head back and looked at Eren suspiciously. The boy shook his head, smiling nervously then immediately shooting his eyes away in shame. He could still remember what had happened not a day before they'd departed.
They didn't have the will?
Not to stay above the level of consciousness… You think titans are just an act of God? You were engineered… but those who created you didn't expect so many to of the test subjects to relapse into chaos. There was always a sixty percent chance you wouldn't come out of it. Those who didn't either mutated into the hybrids… or they became a titan.
But… then… I could have…
Who the kid was never mattered, Eren… it was simply a matter of will to fight. And to have that will you must take everything from a person. Your mother was the catalyst for step one… and your death and near defeat was the final phase.
But then where did you come from? You weren't always there, right?
Some people think that when the process happens that the genetic shift creates a coping body, me. But there's no way to test that since you don't know who the others are, do you?
Eren shook his head to himself. He couldn't' even so much as voice the fact that he had another person inside his head who on occasion took the reins on his life.
The horse plodded forward almost in practiced unison with the rest. It was white noise for Eren's private conversation as he soaked it all in. The shock of the fact that the flickering memory of his father with a needle… that could have been his own father… no… No… No?
Eren, allow me to be abstruse.
I don't want to hear it.
Tough horse shit in a hand bag. Your father has a very large hand in this.
He can't. He just… he can't!
I mean, we can play at this the whole ride back to the wall. There are just some facts, you know?
Give one good example for that argument!
I exist, don't I? Can't ignore the nagging secondary body taking creative control of your body.
I don't want to think about it… Then the others… Did their parents sell them out or was it just my father?
Time tells and the nose knows.
I hate you.
You just said you were going to be clear. What in the world does 'time tells and the nose knows' mean?!
Well, if you have to ask, you shouldn't know.
You sound too smug. I don't like it.
Beside Eren Levi cleared his throat, sharp eyes narrowed in a very judging manner. Catching the glimpse of those eyes sent a cold chill down Eren's spine as he snapped his eyes back forward. Had his conversation become verbal again?
"You keep steering your horse off the trail, Jaeger," Levi said flatly. As Eren looked around he realized that he was on a course to a hard right. Seeing this he quickly corrected the mistake, falling to the back of the line. Unfortunately for the eager hybrid Levi did not just trot back to the front in Erwin's shadow.
"Anything else, captain?" Eren asked, throat dry.
You know, besides that tight ass and-.
"Augh!" Eren snapped, face burning red hot. This only got more stares angled at the young recruit.
"Something wrong with you, Jaeger?"
"N-no, captain!" Eren jolted, back stiffening as he kept his eyes straight once more .
"I take it Pilot's still an issue to be resolved?"
Without warning the proxy snagged control and Eren's eyes grew sharp and cold. Levi sighed, pretending he wasn't alarmed and cast his eyes straight down on the trail as they talked. Pilot grinned in such a proud, smug way that he could only sigh with satisfaction.
"You should give me more credit than that, captain. It's a troublesome thing, maintaining control, but now that you've loosely gathered I'm not an immediate threat to Eren's safety he's more agreeable to the break," Pilot smirked, posture unnaturally relaxed despite being in the very woods where the hybrids and smaller titans roamed.
"I prefer Eren."
"Oh, I know you do," Pilot snickered with a teasing wink. "But the real facts here are what's to happen when you return to the wall?"
"Preferably peace, order, and less death. Has been a daily goal for some years now."
"Oh, I'll say. All this double-consciousness and nightmares. Makes peace and order difficult," Pilot chortled and rolled his shoulders.
"But the real question is… what are you?"
The silence that stretched between Eren's proxy and Levi was sharp enough to cut through the fabric of reality itself. Pilot's cold eyes watched the nearing clearing of the flat horizon that danced with a chilling, dangerous fog. He thought of his first scream of life and the infant like one that followed his own, that of his body. He remembers sitting in the subconscious of an infant going mad with silence and infancy. Pilot wondered if it was the drugs in his veins that twisted his DNA or the very existence of Eren Jaeger that damned his mind from the start. Though, looking at Levi now and his mathematical sort of empathy, full of numbers and seemingly self-preservation oriented goals, Pilot knew he was a mistake of a repeated pattern. The sentient titans and hybrids were never supposed to feel the painful remorse of the change, control, or the slaughter of the masses. They were never supposed to feel the life gush from the bodies they ripped to pieces like the blood that rained down from their lifted corpses. It sickened Pilot when he thought of the first time he took a life. Sure, the madness in his very being found relief in grabbing a man's jaw and skull and ripping until a sickening crack and gargle filled the air followed by an unimaginable amount of blood… but that wasn't him.
But back to the main query.
What was he? Such a loaded question for a being that barely had control long enough to pick a book off a shelf and find the answer to that question pressed between the pages of a text never meant to be seen. What he was… where he was pulled from… Levi truly didn't want to know that answer.
"I am… nothing…" Was all Pilot whispered, corneas swallowed by a sea of black as the control slipped from his hands. "And I will become… nothing…"
"Eren, wait!" Levi gasped, grinding his teeth as he leaned across his horse and grabbed the boy by his shirt just as he fell unconscious. "D-damn it!"
The black velvet that was Eren's quiet mind echoed for the first time in a long time. Eren laid on the ground with half-lidded eyes and a limp body. He breathed slowly, his mouth slack and legs curled near to his chest as he can pull them. Pilot saw this exhausted soul and frowned hard. Each time he took control turned Eren into something akin to a vegetable and not a very attractive one at that. Sighing with regret the proxy sat on his haunches next to Eren and rolled him onto his back in the quiet of his mind.
"Oh, Eren… You're stronger than this… Come on, kid, you're not that submissive," Pilot chuckled as he pulled the boy's head into his own lap and gave his face a few slaps. Seeing no change he sighed and pursed his lips. "You remember the lullaby Mikasa hummed sometimes? Come on, kid, you gotta say something…"
The only sound was their breathing and Pilot's disappointed grumbles. Instead he began murmuring the words to the lullaby and letting Eren's half heal. It was hard on both of them. So much to tell Levi and yet he wasn't sure he'd ever get another chance.
"Trees tall and mountains old, for you my love my heart is gold.
"Hundred soldiers each ten strong, for you my love I'll sing this song.
"House with hearth and fire too, for you my love my faith is true.
"Perils testing and gods fading, for you my love I'll come'a aiding.
"Faerie, faith, and war no doubt, my love's flame will never die out.
"Sickeness, health, all subdued, dear lover, I'll never not love you…"
Looking up into the velvety quiet of their subconscious Pilot smiled as a dappling of hopeful stars shone through the thick black. Eren was coming back to himself slowly but sure. A relieved smile curled over the mirrored face of Eren Jaeger. Pilot could see just how much he meant to Levi. It was such a shame… such a disappointing shame that there was far too much left to do.
"Oh, Eren… you've been so strong," Pilot whispered, leaning down and pressing his forehead to Eren's. "Stay strong and hopeful for me just this next go, huh?"
"Try," Eren whispered, eyes fluttering closed as he relinquished control in exhaustion.
A weak smile pulled on Pilot's lips as he felt a wave of true relief crash over him. Eren could rest now without the vibrations of a nervous proxy stirring his sleep. But there was something troubling on that foggy, quiet horizon. Nothing good was ever behind a thick curtain of clouds like that, not even earth-bound ones.
"Something is coming…"