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Growing up, Lance had always thought of love as a steady thing. Something gentle and constant and incandescently faultless.

He’d seen the easy, quiet love between his parents and thought that when you loved someone, it meant that you were your most perfect self. Like love alone could solve all your personal problems and world hunger and that it would be easy, easy as breathing. To him, love was all pastel, muted colors and big sweaters and dark roast coffee on rainy days and the beach at midnight, salt spray in his hair.

Lance couldn’t have been more wrong.

He’d chased love for a majority of his life, desperate for reciprocation, aching for the gentleness of a relationship. It wasn’t until he stopped looking that love found him in the form of the most hot-headed and the most genuine boy that he has ever met in his life.

Keith was not quiet. Despite being a person of very few words, he was loud in his actions, so loud, that even the silences were wrought with meaning and intent. His voice resonated with Lance on a level that just seemed fucking ridiculous . There was nothing gentle about the way he could shake Lance to the core with a simple reply to a question that someone else asked. Hell, Keith’s voice could be a murmur through a wall and Lance still felt it.

His awareness of Keith was sharp and painful, intruding on all of his thoughts like a pair of vice-like claws. Sinking, biting, indenting so viscerally into him that there was nothing but Keith, Keith, Keith, always Keith . At first, it was so obnoxious, so intimidating in its sheer scope, that all he could do was lash out at Keith, who never failed to rise to the bait, but he’d gotten used to it eventually. Welcomed it, even.

Falling in love with Keith happened fiercely, imperfect and rough around all of the edges. It was bright, burning red behind closed eyes and kiss-bruised lips, always desperate, never enough. It was an uneasy push and pull between two polar opposites who maybe weren’t that different after all. It was alien sunsets and a blanket of a thousand foreign stars and the smell of battlefield smoke in his hair. The puff of breath on Lance’s neck, hands low on his back, asking and then taking.

It set fire to his blood, blazing through him with hungry heat, the very existence of Keith devouring him from the inside out. Violent in its own right, but soft, so soft when the world faded into nothing more than the purr of a robot lion at 2am, ruby light promising a safe haven for just the two of them.

Lance didn’t know that one person could feel so much . He didn’t know how to articulate it, when the word love couldn’t possibly encompass the depth of what he felt. He was drowning, happily, and he never wanted to come back up for air.

He startles from his thoughts when a thumb smooths over the crease between his eyebrows. His eyes slowly focus on the shadow of Keith’s face leaning over him, tousled hair, and a gaze so dark and deep Lance thinks he could drink straight from it and live forever.

“You’ve been quiet tonight,” Keith observes, and he speaks at a normal volume but it snaps through the room like a fork of lightning. A well-read book lies forgotten on his lap. “You okay?”

Lance offers up a grin and tucks both of his hands behind his head, sprawled out on his back with a stolen pillows and old blankets from an unused room in the castle. “Never better,” he says, and it’s the honest truth. His heart sighs blissfully in agreement.

“You’re never quiet,” Keith points out, settling against the back side of the pilot’s chair once more. “You can’t blame me for wondering.”

“If you miss the sound of my voice so much, all you have to do is say so.” Lance turns his gaze to find Keith’s, who is still watching him with those violet eyes intently, as though he might die if he looks away. “Is something on your mind?”

Lance’s heart tries to climb up his throat in an Everest expedition of its own when Keith suddenly removes his book from his lap and then scoots closer. He places his hands on either side of Lance, firmly, calculated, not once breaking his gaze.

“I love you,” he says, the words rumbling around in his chest like thunder. Lance can do nothing but stare at him, electrified, because Keith’s focus is mesmerizing and soul-striking.

Breath effectively stolen, Lance slowly reaches up with one hand and cups Keith’s face, running his thumb tenderly against his skin, heart aching when Keith leans into the touch. “I wanted to say it first,” Lance murmurs, and he can taste the love in his mouth.

Keith cracks a smile at that, rolls his eyes. “It isn’t a competition, Lance.”

“No,” Lance agrees. “But I’ve been trying...I don’t have words for how I feel about you. It’s too much for words. Too big. I didn’t know how to say it.”

Keith goes very still above him, but when he speaks, his voice is raw with emotion. “Never thought it was possible for you to run out of words,” he says and the red, red light of the room softens all of his hard edges. He drops his head, arms trembling as Lance’s hand slides into his hair. “ Fuck , Lance,” he mutters.

Lance hums, slowly combing through the fine locks of his dark hair, so fond that he feels the affection might split him in half. “I love you, too, Keith.” He raises himself up on his elbow, and then slides into a sitting position. “I’m going to marry you, you know.”

Keith laughs silently, his shoulders shaking with mirth, before he looks back up. His eyes glitter and he’s so beautiful. God, he’s so beautiful it almost hurts. “Is that so?”

“Yes,” Lance confirms, running the tips of his fingers along Keith’s sharp jawline. How can such a simple movement stir up such a hurricane inside of him? He pauses at his chin, allows himself to caress Keith’s bottom lip with his thumb. “You don’t even know,” he whispers, looking up at Keith, awe and wonder and love gaping inside of him, threatening to swallow the universe whole. “You don’t even know how much I love you.”

Keith leans in with a low breath and kisses him. It’s chaste, but sweet, lingering. He pulls away only slightly, and when he speaks, his mouth brushes against Lance’s. “Show me.”

Lance drags him back in, and he does.