“I love you, Keith.” Lance gasped, hands gripping at the sides of his top hat, snow falling around him like a curtain and settling in the curls of his chestnut hair, kissing his lashes to rest on the apples of his cheeks. It was cold, Christmas Eve, and blue eyes looked at the raven-haired boy standing in the doorway with the hope that only young love brings. Pale lips part to speak in response to such a heavy confession, but a rough hand pulls him back from the door before any words have a chance to slip past, and Lance can’t remember the last time he saw his classmate turned backroom lover though he’d never forget the soft smiles exchanged between quiet words.
The next time they saw each other, Keith wouldn’t forget the sun-kissed skin of the farmboy alongside the road, eyes that seemed to see straight through him and know every detail that made him who he was. But he was a prince, and he couldn’t recall ever speaking to someone as beautiful as this dirt-covered boy-- he would remember that smile, he’s sure of it. However, luck in this life is hard to come by, and Keith is only left with a faint memory of a warm day and the brightest smile he’d ever seen.
Fate had a way of stringing those along, connecting two souls in the endless scape of the universe no matter how far apart they were pulled or dire the circumstances. If one could remember each encounter, perhaps they’d consider it cruel. However, as it was, not a single memory remained ingrained in their being from the last time other than the inexplicable pull towards one another that almost always developed into a love to withstand time.
Keith wasn’t one that believed in faith, God, whatever you wanted to call it-- the ‘Creator’. It just wasn’t something that had impacted his life in any sort of capacity other than a roll of his eyes every time he was told to repent his sins. It was hard growing up gay in a small town in the heart of good ol’ Texas. One just had to look around at the abundance of Confederate memorabilia to get an idea of what the townspeople deemed acceptable. While his father loved him unconditionally, despite the multiple piercings along the shell of his left ear and a quiet announcement of his sexuality, he wasn’t always around. Growing up with no idea of who his mother was, Keith spent a lot of time alone with his thoughts in the small heart of Texas.
Lance had grown up in a Catholic family, in a cramped house nestled in the heart of Georgia, full of nice shirts and slacks on Sundays and hair slicked back despite his groaning. If Keith’s family life could be considered desolate, Lance’s was just the opposite. There was never a dull moment in his house, nor really time for oneself either. He’d stand by the fact that applying to Garrison Tech University was probably the best choice in his academic career so far, if only for the chance to get away from everyone who knows him as Lance McClain, good albeit rowdy Catholic boy. The chance to truly express himself at college wasn’t one he was keen to pass up on.
With a stroke of luck, or perhaps that thing people liked to call fate or divine intervention, Keith had been accepted to start in the same semester that Lance was set to start as well. The future started at Garrison Tech University. Or at least, that’s what the slogan claimed.
The first few weeks of university had been rough for Lance. His classes were fine even if he wasn’t the smartest one in his class, and the food wasn’t anything like his mother's which wasn’t a bad thing, but perhaps that was why. He’d never been gone from home for so long unless you counted the week-long summer camp in his freshman year of high school. He missed the bustling of his younger siblings and his mama’s consistently sharp wit. He missed walking on the bank of the river as a third wheel with Hunk and his girlfriend Shay as ice cream dripped from the waffle cones to sticky their fingers. But perhaps most of all, he missed sharing his room with his younger brother and not whoever this Keith Kogane kid thought he was.
Seriously, the piercings weren’t that cool, and getting him to open up was like kicking a brick wall to break it down. Impossible. All he knew was he was from Texas but spent most of his childhood in Nevada, his diet consisted of mostly spam and rice, and he had a hippo plush he tried to keep hidden under his comforter. Meanwhile, Lance was pretty sure he’d shared all but what his star sign was to this guy and yet he was still sent dirty looks every time he came back to the room from their communal bathroom after applying a face mask. It’s not like he cared a whole lot, he didn’t come to college expecting a best friend out of his roommate, except that Keith is kinda cute and maybe he cares just a little bit.
As the weeks passed, so did Keith’s initial adherence to one-word answers and stormy silences-- Lance was pretty convinced a thundercloud was going to accumulate over his head while he hunched over his desk to study at some point. He started to learn more about the engineering major as time went on, and honestly, he was pretty pleased with himself for getting him to open up.
“What’s the rainbow ribbon on your backpack for?” He’d asked, kicking his feet off the edge of his bed, setting down the comic he’d been reading when the rainbow in his peripheral caught his eye. He didn’t ask about the alien and UFO next to it.
“I’m gay.” Keith hadn’t even looked up from his homework, continuing to punch numbers into his calculator and scribble even more numbers down. Lance wasn’t sure how his professors deciphered his handwriting, honestly.
“Oh, cool.” He’d spent the last month assuming he was just an adamant ally, but hearing it from Keith himself sent a terrible amount of butterflies in his stomach into overdrive. He was just going to ignore those and go back to his comic.
“Is that going to be a problem?” Lance heard Keith asked, finally turning in his chair to look over at Lance. He got an answer with finger guns before any actual words.
“No, I’m bi, I get it.”
Keith rolled his eyes and turned back to his work, but Lance is pretty sure there was a smile somewhere in there too.
By the time finals week rolled around staying in and ordering a pizza to split between the two of them, with books strewn across the floor (not all of them were academic, but nobody else had to know that), was becoming the norm. Lance wasn’t escaping to the library in hopes of asking a cute girl for study tips any longer, and Keith was actually helping Lance with his math homework in his own brusque way. And honestly, if they took a few breaks down at the local arcade, and Lance hip checked Keith a little more than necessary during two-player games or leaned too close to him during one player ones, nobody else had to know.
Keith didn’t go home during the winter holiday, and Lance didn’t question it-- only grilling it into him that he had to text him back while he was away. He could openly admit how much he missed his family despite bi-weekly phone calls, but admitting to himself he’d miss Keith while he was away a little harder. He was probably just going to miss his quiet room. And probably the arcade. And the back table in the commons where they liked to eat dinner. Alright, and maybe he’d miss the person who made all those places special. But he didn't need to tell Lance that.
See, the thing about a crush is you’re not expecting it. Nobody ever does. You can go through multiple lifetimes and the feeling of falling for someone new was always as nerve-wracking as the first. Keith didn’t realize he was fucked until it was far too late for him to do anything but quietly stew in this revelation. The absence of Lance tossing and turning every night made the room too quiet. The smell of his usual facial products began to fade halfway through the week. And though he never thought he’d admit it, the lack of complaining when he made spam and rice was unsettling. He made sure to answer every text Lance sent him over the break-- even the ones at 4 am about Lance’s dog throwing up in the living room.
The day after Lance returned from break, Keith was pretty sure he’d been imagining missing all of those things, but he still smiled when Lance welcomed him at the door with a crushing hug.
Winter semester started without incident, and honestly, Lance couldn’t be more grateful. There’d been a party thrown by one of the fraternities on campus the Saturday before classes started after most had returned to campus, and he was pretty sure the headache he felt on Monday was from the hangover on Sunday. Most of the night had been a blur of music and the spinning of the hosts living room stuffed with too many people. He vaguely remembers lips pressed against his neck and seeing Keith in the kitchen with his back pressed against the counter and a stranger's hands resting on his hips as they kissed. Both thoughts make his stomach twist, though Keith promises he doesn’t remember anything important from Saturday night. Lance remembers that part all too clearly.
Most of their free time has migrated them from the arcade to the new gaming console in their dorm room. They’d pitched in on a small TV after Keith had gotten the newest system for Christmas from his dad, and one of their beds was the perfect amount of space for the two of them to sit and spend too many late nights cursing at one another as they competed in various games.
“C’mon, I just keep losing because I’m distracted! Otherwise, I’d totally kick your ass.” Lance insisted after his third loss in a row. Granted, they weren’t particularly skill-based games, because Lance knew he’d definitely kick Keith’s ass at one of those.
“By what? It’s just us in here.” Keith snorted in reply as he set up the next match, selecting his character and waiting for Lance to do the same.
“Well, maybe if you weren’t basically sitting in my lap I wouldn’t be so distracted!” Lance was prone to exaggeration, but even this one had the both of them flushing. Keith clearing his throat as his blush spread from the tips of his ears down past his adam's apple. “I-I mean, it’s just. Wow, it’s warm in here, huh? I’m gonna go, uh, get some air.”
Lance was up and out of the room in five seconds flat, leaving Keith to wonder what the hell had just happened.
When Lance had come back after a brisk walk around campus, the two of them had gingerly stepped around the topic and resumed the game with a good five inches between them that wasn’t there before. Fortunately for the both of them, the incident was quickly forgotten in the mess of essays and projects each had to keep up with, preferring to brush the matter aside and spend time hanging out while doing homework. Or, reading comics in bed and throwing paper balls at the back of your roommates head if you’re Lance.
It isn’t until later in the quarter that they attend their next party, at least together, and Lance is committed to making sure what happened at the last one they went to didn’t happen again. Even when Keith reassures him that it’ll be fine, just a few drinks and games of foosball and they could go-- he had never been one for large social events.
As it was, a few drinks turned into more than just two for the both of them. Their bodies warm from the buzz of strong alcohol leading both of them outside and in the comfort of the night breeze that ruffled their hair and carried the noise of the party with it. Despite being winter there was only a slight chill in the air, rather pleasant after the stuffed house and stumbling bodies around one another. Lance shuffled his way over to the steps of the deck, sitting on the bottom step with as much grace as a newborn deer. Keith, finding this rather hilarious, was still laughing when he sat beside him.
They couldn't remember why they’d come out here in the first place, be it to get away from the crowds, cool down, or both. Regardless, the two of them sat quietly, occasionally sipping from the drinks they'd brought out from inside. Some kind of cheap beer Lance knew he’d regret drinking in the morning. For now, it was just what he needed, liquid courage as he let himself lean against Keith’s shoulder. The solid, warm surface beneath his cheek was comforting as a sigh slipped past his lips.
“Hey, Keith.” He murmured, eyes closing to the glare of fluorescent porch lights.
“Do you like me?”
“Yeah, of course.” His voice is softer than Lance remembers ever hearing it, but the answer is more than enough to satisfy his curiosity for the time being. A content nod from the brunette before he’s falling fast asleep against his friend, and when he wakes up the next morning he’s tucked in bed with the same clothes from the night before and a pounding headache while Keith is fast asleep in his own bed.
The rest of the quarter passes without much fanfare, though studying for these particular ones tended to fall by the wayside in wake of a new Voltron game in the series. They’d bonded over their favorite pilots when finding out it was coming out and there was no way they weren’t going to play it on the midnight release. And for days afterward. They didn’t pass finals with flying colors, but Lance was just relieved to pass and be home free for spring break.
Keith’s plans were much the same as they had been for his winter break. As in, none. Except maybe beat Lance’s score in Voltron. But there was something different, something missing that hadn’t been there before. Or at least, not that he’d been aware of. He missed Lance, even going as far to dial his number, finger hovering over the ‘call’ button when his phone would ring-- a call from Lance. They’d talk until Lance was called to dinner, and Keith couldn’t help but chuckle every time one of his younger siblings could be heard through the phone and complaining to Lance for hogging the phone.
By the end of spring break, two weeks later, Keith was more than ready to occupy the silence of their dorm room with Lance’s laugh and terrible choice in music. You had no idea how many times he had to listen to The Neighborhood on nights when Lance was in A Mood. However, he’d cleaned up the old pizza boxes before Lance came home, even going as far as to lean against the door frame when he heard the familiar lilt of his voice from down the hall.
“Keith,” Lance was breathless from running up the three flights to their dorm, cheeks red and lips pulling into the brightest smile Keith remembers seeing.
“Hey, welcome home.” He greeted with a soft laugh and shake of his head, reaching out without much thought to smooth the flyaways framing Lance’s face. The action elicits a pause before his dark cheeks color.
“Uh, yeah, I’m home.” Lance grinned, leaning into the touch before stepping past Keith and into their dorm, suitcase wheeling over Keith’s toes in the process.
Spring semester wasn’t anything to write home about. They went to class, played too many video games, and got drunk too often. But their first kiss now that, that was something.
Lance had been pumping himself up for his confession since the end of winter semester. He’d decided the moment Keith had chosen the red paladin in Voltron-- he always had been his favorite character. It was going to be grand, and sweet, and Studio Killers were definitely going to be playing in the background.
What he hadn’t planned on was Keith’s own plan as it was. Coming home to their dorm to see Keith sitting on the edge of his bed, fidgeting with the pages of his textbook and starting when Lance announced himself with a song-- which wasn’t unusual after their first month of living together. The whole fidgeting thing was new though. Lance didn’t think much of it as he kicked off his shoes and flopped back onto his bed with a groan.
“Man, today was a--” Lance didn’t get the chance to finish.
“I like you.”
“I mean, yeah, I’d hope so at this point bud.”
“No, uh, I like you. As more than…” Keith cleared his throat before finishing. “As more than a friend.”
Lance blinked up at the ceiling, a familiar sense of relief washing over him as he sat up and stared at Keith for a long moment. Had he heard him right? Keith Kogane, previously a brick wall with a storm cloud brewing in his dark eyes, liked him ? He opened his mouth to say something, anything, in reply but found himself at a loss for once. Nothing he said could convey the relief, the fondness as he took in his hunched shoulders and the way he wouldn’t meet his eyes after the confession. How could words convey the way he felt about his once terrible roommate and how those feelings had grown to a point that it felt natural to be by his side as if he’d known him his whole life.
Keith, on the other hand, was this close to saying ‘fuck it’ and pretending like he’d never said a word. He was staring holes into the carpet by his feet but he can feel Lance’s eyes on him and not saying a word. They were good friends, still learning about one another on the daily, and he’d gone and said the wrong thing.
Any thoughts past that were cut short when he feels a quick hand catching his chin and tilting his face up. Before he even has the chance to react with more than wide eyes, Lance’s lips are on his and he’s never felt anything quite as soft as they slot together. Maybe he’d stop giving him shit about his hygiene routine, even if two face masks seemed excessive. The kiss is as brief as Keith’s confession, hardly giving him a chance to relax into it before Lance is offering a nervous smile and stepping back. His hand shoots out to catch Lance’s, keeping him from moving any farther away.
“Is that a yes?” He can’t keep the hope out of his voice as he looks up at him from his seat on the bed, fingers curling into the fabric of Lance’s polo. The question almost brings the other boy to laugh but he only nods before answering.
“You totally ruined my romantic plan for a confession, but I guess this works too.” Keith feels his heart slam in his chest as if to remind him that it’s still working and he hadn’t died and this was God’s way of punishing him. This was real, their kiss was real-- familiar even, and Lance seemed to like him too.
He couldn’t ask for a better way to end his freshman year at GTU, Lance sitting beside him and already going on about their plans for dinner, long fingers laced with his own. They’d discuss plans for Keith to come visit over the Summer later, after a few more days and even more soft kisses exchanged between them. Keith didn’t believe in fate, but he was sure something had led him to Lance in the first place if he was going to be this lucky with the most beautiful boy that had the brightest smile he swears he’d ever see.