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Keith exited his dorm, still pulling on his Gryffindor robe and shuffling down the stairs. He blearily wiped the sleep from his eyes as he made his way down to the Great Hall. He lets his red and gold striped tie hang loosely around his neck, arms too tired to bother fretting over it.  

 

He gave a great big yawn as he walked over to the Ravenclaw table and plopped down on the seat next to Pidge. As always she had her head stuck in a notebook, scribbling away furiously, for her to show Matt when he came down and they would get lost in the plans of their latest project. How she managed to even solve two plus two before 9 am was beyond him.

 

Lance looked up from his astronomy textbook when Keith sat across from him and smirked. Keith could feel his stomach flip at that. I’m just hungry , Keith bit down on the part of his conscience that seemed to spout out sensible reasoning for stuff he didn't want to think about.

 

“Oh ho ho, morning sunshine, you look like crap.” He drawled out. And Keith feels a heat crawl up his neck at that. He hoped it wouldn’t show against his pale skin. Oblivious to Lance and Keith, Pidge looked up at Hunk and they exchanged smug looks before turning away.

 

Keith scowled “Not everyone gets eight hours of beauty sleep like you do Lance”

 

Lance arched a perfectly shaped eyebrow, probably the result of hours standing in front of the mirror, like he did every other day. “Bold of you to assume that I did” he answered.

However, his face contradicted his words, he looked like he slept soundly like a baby, his golden bronze skin, perfectly clear like a cloudless sky. Even his hair didn't seem to have a bad day, it didn't have a tangle in sight. His brown tufts seemed healthy and blooming with new life, glossing in the morning light, just like his blue eyes, glinting as the light caught on his pools of sapphire.

 

Keith laughed as he fumbled around for the pot of coffee while rubbing his eyes. In doing so he nearly crashed his hand into Lances’ face and Lance yelped and took Keith’s hand in his own. Keith’s eyes shot open, a hot flare sending shivers down his spine. Keith snatched his hand back from where it lay in Lance’s palm and muttered a quiet “Sorry” before focusing on a spot on the table in front of him with such ferocity, it could have burnt a hole through the thick wood.

 

Lance in return pulled his hand way and handed Keith the coffee pot, while Adam and Shiro came down to breakfast together, hand in hand, heads bent low and whispering mutely. They took their seats next Lance and Keith, Adam sat next to Lance and upon seeing the book laid open in front of him, they immediately launched into a conversation about the latest Astronomy project that Adam was working on. Space nerds, the both of them, thought Keith, slightly shaking his head.

 

“Hey kiddo,” said Shiro, ruffling up Keith’s hair.

 

Keith scowled and swatted Shiro’s hand away.

 

Shiro scoffed “You look like shit”

 

“That’s exactly what I said!” perked up Lance, hearing Shiro scold Keith while Adam chuckled beside him.

 

Keith scowled even more “Thanks, I love being showered in compliments.” he drawled. He knew he didn't look the greatest right now, he could feel the dark bags under his eyes weighing down. His limbs felt like lead and his mind was still half asleep, moving slowly like sludge. And he was cold, and all he wanted to do was go back to sleep.

 

“What lessons do you have today?” asked Shiro, acting like he didn't know everyone's timetable by heart.

 

Keith groans in annoyance, “Ugghhh I have divination with Slav first period” he says dropping his head onto the table with a faint thud.

 

Shiro sucks in a sharp breath beside him, “Would not like to be in your shoes, the dude really annoys me” he says, shaking his head.

 

Keith doesn't really have an appreciation for Divination, no, to be exact, he hates it. He hates looking into futures and fates and destiny and all that bullshit. It's all tea leaves and magical orbs and tarot cards with creepy little symbols on them. He hates it. He hates all of it.

 

Keith feels something soft landing on his head, and he goes to raise his head off the table surface when he feels it.

 

Fingers. He feels fingers carding through his scalp. His muscles stiffen and the air gets stuck in his lungs, he doesn't dare move a muscle. Long fingers, slowly and methodically stroking his hair. It sends a shiver running down his spine and goosebumps crawl on his arms. He knows that if he looks up now he’ll make eye contact with those blue eyes, those eyes that are printed on the back of his eyelids, blue like the tie that's wrapped around a long slender, tanned neck. He’ll see the dusting of freckles on high cheekbones, and if he looks closely at them, he'll be able to draw constellations amongst them like the ones they study in their astronomy class.

 

So he doesn't dare move, help captive by the cowardice that seems to hold his head down under.

 

“Your ridiculous mullet is getting far too long,” says a smooth voice above him. “My offer to chop it off still stands,” he says. Now Keith whips his head up, a scowl prepared on his face, but when Lance’s grinning face comes into focus he feels it falter, the corners of his mouth pulling down, as Lance pulls his hands back into his lap. And Lance winks , he honest-to-god winks and Keith feels like his cheeks will combust with the amount of blood rushing to them.

 

At that moment, Allura steps into Keith's peripheral vision and sits beside Adam, her long silver hair floating around her like a majestic waterfall and Lance's attention gets drawn to her instead. Allura is his saviour at the best and worst of times, thank god for her , he thinks. Romelle sits down next to Shiro and she beams at Keith in greeting, around Shiro. Romelle smiles like the sun lives inside of her, and if the sun were a person, it would take the form of Romelle.

 

Keith smiles back in response.

 

“Good morning lovebirds,” says Lance, wiggling his eyebrows flirtatiously. Romelle blushes but Allura raises her eyebrow at him and says “I could say the same to you” in response, slightly tilting her head to the side in a knowing way, a teasing gleam in her eye.

 

Lance breaks out into a cough as Adam and Shiro laugh beside him. Keith watches, confused and brows furrowed, as they all laugh along to an inside joke.

 

There's a dusting of pink beginning to bloom on Lance's cheekbones and it flushes against his dark skin in contrast, bringing out the deep blue of his eyes.

 

Maybe Keith feels a wave of affection wash over him and an urge to take that beautiful face into his hands and pepper it with kisses.

 

what.

 

Horrified, Keith looks away and reels in his thoughts before he impulsively acts on them. He sees Romelle staring right back at him, and for two seconds his heart drops to his stomach as he panics and worries that she’s skilled in Legilimency before he remembers that she isn't. She fixes him with a stern look before turning away. He knows what that means. She'll relentlessly interrogate him later.

 

Keith helps himself to two pieces of toast and strawberry jam. In front of him, Lance wolfs down scrambled eggs and sausages at an alarming rate and gulps down a glass of orange juice. His Adam's apple bobs along, his slender neck on display, warm brown smooth skin tempting Keith closer, seduced under a spell, he watches as Lance wipes the back of his hand across his mouth, leaving parted, plump, pink lips in its wake.

 

“Be careful, you’re drooling” whispers Shiro in his ear, leaning away sniggering.

 

Keith blinks, snapping out of the hypnotises that is sitting in front of him, oblivious to his internal crisis. He wipes a hand across his own mouth and once again frowns at Shiro when he fails to find any drool on his hand.

 

When he looks up again, Lance is still munching away. Keith doesn't understand how someone who has a slim figure like him can eat so much yet still be in shape. It's probably due to the hours he spends on the Quidditch pitch, he figures. Keith has seen him work harder than anyone else to be the Ravenclaw Quidditch team captain, spending hours flying amongst the clouds, all throughout the rain, snow and sun.

 

It's like Lance is trying to reach somewhere he isn't even sure exists, beyond the clouds, beyond their planet. It’s in his nature to fly, every molecule he's made from was made for the sole purpose of being up in the air, he’s a restless baby bird, itching to take flight. It’s shown in the terrifying determination he gets before a match, alight in his eyes,  Keith has seen it before. When their houses are playing against each other, Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw, a swirl of red and blue, both reaching for the damned golden snitch. They don’t call Lance the sharpshooter for nothing.

 

Shiro is talking to Allura about a literature book that he’s been studying when Adam suddenly reaches over and cups Shiro's face in his left hand. Shiro blinks, startled, but Adam just smiles and wipes his thumb over the corner of Shiro’s mouth, wiping away a smear of strawberry jam just as sweet as their love. Shiro holds his gaze and takes Adam’s palm in his own hand, and gently presses a kiss to the inside of his wrist. They smile at each other, so softly, lost in each other's eyes, lost in their own world.

 

Keith feels as if he's invading his brother's private and intimate moment with his boyfriend and he looks away sheepishly. The others have fallen back into a quiet conversation so as to not disrupt their quiet bubble.

 

Except for Lance.

 

Keith catches Lance looking at the couple, his head propped up by his palm and a small smile playing at his lips, watching their exchange. It's not unknown that Lance is a huge romantic and a sucker for other people’s love. He’s like Cupid, always a wingman for anybody and Keith has lost count of how many couples he’s got together.

 

Keith wonders why Lance doesn’t have someone for himself, Lance deserves someone who will give their all to him. Love him unconditionally, spoil him to an overwhelming extent. He deserves to constantly be happy and smiling. He deserves the whole world.

 

But the thought of someone else offering him all that happiness makes his mouth sour and a bitter feeling starts to rise from deep within him. A hot flare of something foreign and indecipherable, that has him feeling uncomfortable in his own skin. It feels too hot and stuffy. He should get out of here before something irrational slips out.

 

He rises to his feet abruptly and everyone’s heads turn to him, looking up in confusion. “Uh-” he begins, and winces as his voice sounds hoarse “I’m gonna head to class early, I just need some fresh air.”

 

Everyone else except for Shiro turns back to their breakfast, nodding. “You okay kiddo?” he asks, concern lacing his voice.

Keith gives him a smile that he hopes looks convincing enough and says “Yeah, I’m okay, don't worry.”

 

Just as Keith is turning around to walk away, Lance calls out “Hey Keith! wait up buddy”

 

“I’ll walk with you,” he says, “I have to go meet Professor Page to help out with the first years' flying lessons” he explains, picking up his wand and stuffing it inside his robes.

 

This wasn't the plan. He wanted time away from Lance so he could just breathe without being suffocated by his thoughts of fingers running through hair and pink lips that looked so tempting, just presented in front of him.

 

It's no use now though, Lance is already striding away in the direction of the entrance to the Great Hall, so Keith just trudges along behind him.

 

He can feel the gaze of his friends burning into his back. They get to the humongous double doors, and Nyma walks in. She sees Lance and shoots him a flirtatious smile.

 

Lance, upon seeing her, quirks his mouth up into a smirk and says “Good morning beautiful.” Keith feels a hot flash of annoyance stab him in the gut and settle in his veins.

 

Nyma turns back and winks at Lance as she's walking away and Lance chuckles beside him and Keith feels his feet move on their own accord despite feeling rooted to the spot.

 

Lance jogs lightly to catch up to his as he says “Woah there cowboy, slow down.”

“Everything okay buddy?” asks Lance, his wide blue eyes peering at him closely, and he’s far too close because Keith can feel the heat radiating off him. Keith nods mutely and that's satisfactory enough for Lance because he just shrugs and promptly launches into talking about a wild dream he’d had with a red lion flying in space. He fills the silence of the deserted corridors with his loud voice reverberating off the walls, animating his story with haphazard gestures as his hands fly everywhere.

 

They make their way through the giant maze of the castle, and Keith is pretty sure that Lance should be out in the training grounds instead of weaving his way through endless stretches of corridors to walk with Keith.

 

“Aren't you going to meet Professor Page?” asks Keith into the silence they’ve fallen into. Lance hums, his hands in his pockets, his Ravenclaw robe fluttering behind him.

 

“Yeah, I’m just taking to your lesson first,” he says nonchalantly.

 

“Oh” Keith replies smartly. “Thanks, but really don’t have to”

 

“I know,” Lance says, turning to Keith.

 

Keith nods and keeps his eyes fixed firmly on the ground to prevent tripping over his feet.

 

They arrive at Keith’s divination classroom. There are a couple of other students from Keith's class hovering near the entrance.

 

The classroom itself is a little dark, with dreamcatchers and wishbones hung decoratively around the room. There are various sizes of teacups on the shelves along with a range of different coloured crystal balls. The little windows near the back of the room filter in rays of sunlight but the dark colours of reds and browns painting the furniture makes the room feel stifled. Keith always sits next to the window because he hates how suffocating it feels to be in this classroom, if it can even be called that because it feels more like a caravan filled with clutter, and painted with hideous and alarming symbols and weird signs.

 

Keith turns to Lance, shuffling his feet and waiting expectantly for him to say something. When Lance makes no move to say or do anything, Keith starts, “Um, thanks for walking with me, it helped that you were there,”  and wonders why he said that last part.

 

Lance beams widely and replies, “Sure thing buddy, glad to help. I’m gonna go meet Professor Page now, I’ll see you later okay?” he says clapping the space between Keith's shoulder and neck, and quickly turning around and walking away from the direction they arrived. Keith stands, and blinks at Lance’s back, watching him turn away into another corridor, and he hesitantly raises his hand to the spot where Lance’s hand had been a moment ago, “Yeah, later” he replies quietly.

 

Keith turns around just as Professor Slav is entering the room, and realises that all the other students have already filed into the room. He shuffles into the room behind a Slytherin and makes his usual way to the back of the room.

Slav is already droning on about the probabilities of today outcomes if one chose a pair of different coloured striped socks instead of choosing the black and white polka dotted ones. Most lessons Keith just blocks out his rambling by either doodling on his notebook or staring at the students doing various activities outside.

 

Keith settles down at his table and immediately stares out of the window, not even bothering to listen to what they’ll be doing today. The sun is out and he sees the great lake shimmering as the rays of sunlight catch onto it. It ripples slightly as the creatures beneath the surface of the water swim undisturbed. He hears the quietly excited chatter of the first years as they all stand, huddled in a group, staring up at Professor Page, as he talks to them while holding a broom. Keith remembers that Lance is helping out with this class and he sits up in his chair, a rush of excitement running through him, and leans forward closer to the window, trying to get a glimpse of that mop of brown hair and blue robe. And just like a divine being heard his thoughts, Keith sees Lance walking towards the group of first years.

 

Lance saunters forward, all long legs and a smug smile plastered on his face as the first years immediately turn towards one another as one of Hogwarts’ beloved seekers is helping them with their flying lesson. Lance is thriving off this attention and admiration, Keith thinks, as a small smile tugs at the corners of his lips subconsciously. Keith watches as Lance talks with a smile on his face, the excitement seeping through his hands flailing around as he talks about his passion. Keith is fully smiling now, his mouth pulling up, out of his control.

 

Lance takes the broom from Page and shows them how they should adjust the grip on the handle, and he mounts the broom, kicks his feet off the ground, and he’s off. He‘s in the air at an alarming speed, taking sharp turns and bends and daringly raising one arm off the broom, as the kids below him screech in delight.

 

Keith accidentally lets out a quiet chuckle in the middle of Slav giving them a lecture, causing the classmates around him to turn their heads in his direction with weird looks and raised eyebrows. Processor Slav has managed to hear him and scolds at him to “Pay attention instead of daydreaming about Quidditch,” which has Keith ducking his head as a blush creeps up on him, at the real reason to why he was daydreaming, or the person .

A few minutes later, Keith risks a glance out of the window again, but to his disappointment, Lance nor the group of first years are anywhere to be found. Keith slumps and pouts and tries to find his concentration for this pointless lesson.

 

It turns out they’re reading tea leaves this lesson, Keith finds out by asking his neighbouring table. The kid he’s working with, Keith forgot his name - despite being in the same year as him for nearly 6 years - carefully levitates two teacups in front of them. Keith grimaces at the fragrance steaming from the teacup, it smells too sweet, like jasmine, and he’s doesn’t particularly have a sweet tooth.

 

He takes his sweet time sipping his cup of tea, while Rolo - Keith hopes his name is - downs it in five gulps and is already trying to squint into the cup to read his tea leaves. He hears others’ around him gasping in varying degrees of shock and astonishment and confusion as they decipher the meanings of their tea leaves.

 

By the time Keith has finished, Rolo has his cup held over his head, his neck bent at a weird angle and is trying to painfully decode the shapes in his teacup. Keith looks down at the teacup held in his own hands, and stares at it for a long time, trying to see if he can see any shapes formed by the residue. He can't see anything but little clumps spread around the teacup, maybe he doesn't have the ‘insightful eye’ needed to read a bunch of tea leaves.

 

Slav is walking over to their desk now, his hands clasped behind his back and his glasses slipping down his nose. He stops in front of Rolo and leans forward to inspect his teacup. He squints into it and furrows his brows, asking Rolo, “Young man, do you know what your tea leaves are indicating here?”

 

Rolo looks up, scratching the back of his head like Keith’s seen him do when he gets landed in a sticky situation. “Um, no?” he says unsurely.

 

Slav hums under his breath, and says “What you’ve got there is the symbol of a flock of birds, meaning you will either travel or have visitors from abroad or receive some very good news.” Rolo’s eyes widen and he exclaims a quiet “Woah” under his breath.

 

“So this stuff really works,” he says and Slav frowns, insulted as to his student's disbelief to his passion, “I actually have relatives coming over this week for a special occasion,” he says, a surprised smile on his face. Slav says no more and instead nods and turns to Keith. Keith looks up unconcerned, not having a single clue about the symbols and meanings of tea leaves and not giving a care in the world.

 

“Mr Kogane,” he addresses Keith sternly. “What is your discovery of what the future hold for you?”

 

“I don’t know,” Keith says, shrugging.

 

Slav sighs deeply and looks into Keith’s teacup. His immediate frown piques Keith’s interest and he waits in anticipation for Slav to break some sort of tragic and unfortunate news.

 

“A heart. Interesting, very interesting,” he murmurs quietly. “Something good comes your way Mr Kogane. Your heart’s deepest desire will be given to you, and in your case, it seems to be romance. There will be a new romance on the horizon for you Mr Kogane.” From the corner of his eye, he can see that Rolo’s attention has been fixed on him and he’s gaping at Keith curiously.

 

Keith doesn't know what to reply, so he just settles with a short and blunt “okay” to signal the end of this conversation, hoping that Slav gets the message and moves on to his next victim. Luckily he does, and once again nods at Keith and turns away.

 

Keith can still feel Rolo staring at him, so he turns to face him, and raises an eyebrow in question, challenging him to say something. Rolo abruptly turns away and keeps his gaze fixed firmly on the textbook laid out in front of him.

 

Keith doesn't know what to make of this new revelation. He doesn’t know what he should do with it. His love life hasn’t exactly been the most active as per se. Is he even interested in romance? Does he want any romance in his life with someone?

 

His mind conjures up a flash of blue eyes and a toothy smile and loud laugh without his consent and Keith’s breath hitches in his throat. Suddenly his nerves are on fire, and his heart is beating too fast than the normal rate it should be going at and he has an odd urge to bolt out of this stuffy classroom and run until his lungs are screaming for air. But he knows that if he does that again he will have to endure two separate three-hour lectures from both Shiro and Adam about how he’s not achieving his potential and throwing away his future.

 

Instead, he clenches his fists in defiance and stays stuck to his seat, all the while trying to brush off flashes of cool blue eyes and warm brown skin and a chuckle that echos in his head.

 

-x-

 

Keith feels disoriented as he makes his way to the last lesson of the day. It’s potions with the Ravenclaws and his heart give a suggestive little jump at the thought of seeing Lance again after a long day. Keith hadn't seen him at all after breakfast that morning. Usually, they would see each other when passing through the corridors and Lance’s eyes would light up upon seeing Keith and he would raise his hand in a wave and turn it into a high five as they walk past each other, Lance’s laugh ringing in his ears as he shakes his head and not-so-softly smiles to himself.

 

The day had dragged on and finally dwindled down into the last double lesson of potions with Professor Coran. Keith enters the classroom and makes his way to the back of the room with clammy hands, to the shared table between himself, Lance and Pidge. The students are all talking amongst themselves as Professor Coran is quietly conversing with a Ravenclaw at the front of the class.

 

Lance sees Keith walking towards them and waves enthusiastically. Keith chuckles and sits down in his seat as Lance launches into great detail about how his day went and how a first year lost control of her broom and landed on the roof of the north tower. Keith laughs and responds how boring and long his day was, sparing the details of “a new romance in the horizon” for him.

 

Coran clears his throat loudly, standing by the big blackboard with his arms crossed across his chest, waiting for the class to descend into silence. Once they all settle down, he greets them and begins the lesson, “Today we will be brewing a love potion called Amortentia. Many of you may know Amortentia as the most powerful love potion in existence, and also a highly dangerous one at that. Many tend to underestimate the effects of the one who has consumed this potion, as they will be overcome with powerful infatuation and obsession of their heart's deepest desire,” Coran says into the silence, looking at them all gravely.

 

“Heart’s deepest desire” echos and rattles around in Keith's skull and suddenly he becomes hyper-aware of his left knee leaning against the soft flesh of Lance’s thigh. He moves his leg away hastily, as if the touch had scorched him, causing Lance’s attention to turn to him as he raises an eyebrow in question. He promptly turns his attention back to Coran when he receives no reply from Keith.

 

Coran continues, “Amortentia is recognisable for its distinctive mother-of-pearl sheen and the steam that rises from the potion in spirals. Amortentia has a different aroma for each individual that smells it, reminding each person of the things that they find the most attractive, even if the person doesn't acknowledge or is unaware of their fondness for the subject of their affection themselves.” The room is now submerged into a deafening silence, and everyone is gaping at Coran in astonishment.

 

“So today you will be brewing what is considered the most powerful love potion, if you can handle it without nearly losing your mind,” Coran says with a mischievous glint in his eye. And then the room erupts into excited chatters and hushed whispers barely containing impatience as a room full of daring Gryffindors and keen Ravenclaws buzz in anticipation.

 

“Alright!” Croan shouts over the chatter, “Turn to page 92 in your textbooks and collect the ingredients laid out at the front. Follow all the instructions precisely. Emphasis on the precisely. I will be making my way over to each group to see your progress and if you mess this up, you will write me a 10-page essay.” Coran finishes with a smug smile as everyone groans in annoyance.

 

Pidge whips around to face Lance and Keith, “Okay guys, let’s do this,” she starts, rubbing her hands together, eagerness radiating off her in dangerous waves, “Lance, you collect the rose thorns and moonstone,” she commands, reading off the list from the textbook as Lance nods and gets up to collect the ingredients.

 

“Keith you collect the ashwinder eggs and the refined peppermint oil” Keith sets off, looking for Lance in the mass of heads in the process. He spots a mop of windswept chestnut in standing behind a huddled group. Long legs hugged by the black fabric of Lance’s tight trousers disappear into the long blue robe. Keith keeps staring at him not-so-secretly and as if Lance had sensed himself being watched he turns around, locking onto Keith’s eyes. Keith feels his stomach drop at being caught red-handed, staring and possibly checking out his (best)friend and turns around in embarrassment as he fumbles with the small glass vials of peppermint oil as they clash against one another.

 

He sheepishly makes his way back towards their worktop, clammy hands wrapped tightly around the small glass vials. Pidge immediately sets to work, grabbing each ingredient and chopping and smashing and measuring to the precise amounts. Lance lends a hand but Pidge insists that she can do it by herself and Lance resigns with a small sigh of relief.

 

They idly stand around, and Keith rips out a piece of parchment and starts to doodle random little symbols. A few minutes pass by and he feels pressure against his elbow, slightly pushing his arm away to make way and a little empty grid of noughts and crosses sits at the corner of the paper, waiting. Keith feels the familiar spark of competitiveness spike in his chest and he throws Lance a shit-eating smirk as he leans over and quickly scribbles on the paper. They go back and forth, leading victory until the other smashes down their score ruthlessly

 

After a good half-hour, Pidge announces that the potion is completed and they need to record their observations and results. The potion looks fairly harmless, illuminating vibrantly as each colour plays in harmony with the other. Keith can’t feel it at first, but then slowly, gradually, the aroma from the potion makes its way towards him. Keith swears he has never smelt anything so good in his life, ever . It wafts its way up to his nose, gliding around him seductively and captivating his focus.

 

At first, it’s hard to distinguish between the combinations of different scents he’s experiencing but he closes his eyes and obeys his brain to get back on track and terrifyingly accurate as to what Coran said about losing one’s mind to the power that Amortentia holds. He revels in the way it seems to enthral him wholly, breathing in gulps of air, filling his lungs with the sweet, sweet fragrance. He can't get enough of it, he needs more and more, he needs it to congest him fully, needs to feel it fill up the empty space in his lungs with the incense.

 

Then it comes to him. Slowly.

First, it's the hint of blueberries, like the freshly baked ones that melt on your tongue. Then it's the vanilla, sweet sweet vanilla that makes him melt from the inside out and makes his mouth water.

It’s the musty trace of old books, worn out but cherished by generations. It’s the trail of mint aftertaste and the sharp sting of freshly bloomed roses.

 

It’s the cold crisp air on the days that spring dissolves into early summer, the wind biting at your face like a woodpecker nipping at the tree bark, foraging for prey.

It’s the calm before the storm in a desert, as the first few rain droplets test the grounds before they’re relentlessly attacking the parched soil, a never-ending army of soldiers cascading down to earth like falling angels.

Then it’s the familiar faint breeze of sea brine, the waves washing ashore seaweed like a stranded mermaid seeking rescue. It’s days spent out on the beach as the sun soaks into your skin as you sprawl on the shoreline lazily.

 

Keith could have stood in that dingy little room all day, sniffing a cauldron filled with a dangerous potion it weren’t for Pidge jabbing him in the side for taking too long. He snaps back into the reality of his potions classroom, and hears the other students murmuring contentedly, trapped in a daze.

 

Pidge shoots him a weird look before she’s ducking her head dangerously close to the potion, but Keith’s limbs feel too heavy to move and his mouth can’t form a single syllable. Keith sees it happen, her eyes glaze over and her movements become fluid, and she seems to sway on the spot and Keith wonder if this is what he looked like.

 

Lance suddenly appears at his side, and he feels Lance’s breath fan on the back of his neck in a quiet whisper. He feels the hairs at the nape of his neck bristle and feels the cold shiver run down his spine like a smooth stream of water.

 

“What did you smell?” he asks quietly, staring intently into Keith’s eyes. Keith tries to work his voice but finds his throat lodged with a lump. And suddenly it all comes in waves, surging and pulling him under, making him weak at the knees and suffocating him. He detects the faint smell of vanilla creeping up on him but from behind, the sharp and sudden jab of roses prick punch him in the gut, winding and leaving him breathless. Keith doesn't dare move a muscle, and the fragrances emitting from Lance envelope him like a siren seductively alluring its prey to its imminent death.

 

The sudden realisation coursed through him in icy cold water and washes away any consciousness, leaving him freezing with his mind blank. He takes in a shaky breath that rattles in his ribcage and tries to utter out a string of words, but all that comes out is silence. He stands there gaping.

 

His breath comes out in short gasps and he swiftly turns around, leaving Lance standing where he is and making a beeline towards Professor Coran. He makes an excuse about feeling sick and Coran, upon seeing Keith’s pale face lets him go to the infirmary.

 

Keith runs out into the grounds instead.

 

-x-

 

Lance keeps glancing at the doorway, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. Pidge catches the crease between his eyebrows and lightly smacks his arm, causing his head to snap towards her, wearing a scowl.

 

“Can you please stop staring at the door every two seconds and actually take your turn?” she says exasperatedly.   

 

It’s been nearing ten minutes since Keith rushed out of the classroom in a hurry, looking sickly pale.

 

“Fine” Lance snaps at her and walks near the cauldron. Pidge had written down what she’d found from the potion but Keith had not.

 

Lance stand in front of the cauldron and stares, mesmerized, at the swirls of steam produced from the potion.

 

He catches a whiff of cinnamon and cloves, the kind that fills his home at festive seasons, reminding him of warm cookies that his mom makes, sprinkled with love and affection. It tugs at the homesickness he keeps hidden away and makes him ache inside.

 

Them it’s the smell of leather, laced with the underlying sharpness of cigarette smoke. The kind of leather that’s been worn out over time, found in thrift shops, hidden amongst old antiquities. He catches the scent of burning wood, like the cackle of the common room in winter as they all huddle around the fireplace in groups, covered by blankets.

 

To his confusion, Lance smells gasoline. The stench of burning gasoline leaves a sour feeling in his mouth. Gasoline, like his brother’s mechanical garage, repairing and fixing vehicles for wizards and witches that travel from everywhere to see him. Gasoline left after an explosion, flames licking at the liquid and fire blazing. For some reason, it reminds him of Keith, jumping headfirst into a heated situation and setting everything around him alight in his wake.

 

Keith.

 

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

-x-

 

Keith can’t sleep. He tosses and turns in his bed. It’s too hot so he throws off his blanket, but then it’s too cold so he wraps it around himself again. He’s avoided everyone all evening with a poor excuse of being too tired. For the past four hours, he’s been laying on his bed with his hands locked behind his head, staring up at the ceiling, unmoving, unblinking.

 

The fragrance of roses and the smell of the sea refuse to leave him, clinging onto him like a second layer of skin. Every time he blinks, he’ll catch sight of a pair of blue eyes that seem to be permanently tattooed on the back of his eyelids. It’s like some celestial being wants him to suffer, constantly taunting him.

 

He sighs for the umpteenth time and throws off his warm blanket, letting the rush of cool air welcome him in surprise. He puts on his slippers, grabs his wand and pads across the room quietly so as to not wake his fast asleep roommates. When he arrives at the common room, there are a few students scattered around the room, snoozing on top of their unfinished essays and on painful angles leaned against the armchairs. The fireplace crackles undisturbed. He sneaks out through the portrait and quietly illuminates his wand in the corridor. He moves fast and quiet, like a cat whose movements are fluid and swift but deadly silent. He scolds himself for only wearing a shirt in the cold and weaves his way through endless stretches of hallways to the north block, climbing his way up the stairs to the astronomy tower.

 

He steps onto the landing and quietly pads across the floor towards the railing looking towards the grounds of the castle.

 

Keith stops.

There’s someone there and the only possible person he could think of coming up here would be him .

 

Lance. He’s leaning against the railing, elbows supporting his weight, head tilted up at the stars.

 

This is their spot. The spot that they both sneak of to on restless nights unable to get some shut-eye. They end up here on most nights, just basking in each other's company in silence, just staring up at the stars and talking about the strangest things from recollecting childhood memories to opening up about their deepest darkest fears.

 

Keith wonders why Lance is here today, and before he can think of quietly disappearing back into the dark, Lance turns around and meets his eyes. He doesn't say anything, just holds Keith's gaze then blinks and looks away.

Keith breathes in deeply and keeps striding forward purposely.

 

“Hey,” Keith initiates the conversation.

 

Lance doesn't turn to him, just keeps looking ahead and Keith isn't sure if he sees a muscle jump in defiance on Lance’s cheek.

 

“Hey,” Lance replies after a few beats.

 

“Couldn't sleep?” Lance shakes his head.

 

“You?” Keith shakes his head.

 

They stay like that for a while, just staring out as stars sparkle like pearls against the inky layer of the night sky and the moon accompanies them like a lone traveller providing solidarity. Keith knows that Lance is drawing constellations amongst the stars with his eyes, it’s what he does on the nights his mind is unable to calm down.

 

“Are you feeling better?” Lance asks again, but there’s a hint of something cold in his tone that Keith can’t quite place properly. He frowns, starting to ask what he means by that but, oh, that .

 

It might be the wind ruffling his hair but he feels a chill crawl up his arms and through a croaky voice he says “Yeah, I am.”

 

“You know, you never answered my question from earlier,” Lance says, suggestiveness layering his voice.

 

“What?”

 

“What you smelt in potions from the amortentia,” Keith feels his heart leap into his throat and the blood rushes through his ears like a tsunami. Lance knows. How does Lance know? Did he slip up while he was in shock? But he doesn't remember saying anything. Should Keith tell him? The sudden impulsive urge is eating away at him from inside. Would it completely shatter the fragile bond that they’d strengthened over these past years? What if Lance reciprocates his feelings? No that’s not possible, Lance doesn't see him that way.

 

“Um,” Keith stalls, “I smelt vanilla, and um, the sea,” Keith forces out a chuckle that sounds pained to his ears, “I didn't know vanilla and roses were my heart’s deepest desire,” he says, trying to make a light joke.

 

Lance nods and keeps his face void of any emotion, and it looks so hauntingly foreign to the wide smile that’s always plastered on his face that Keith feels his stomach drop.

 

“What did you smell?” Keith asks, not wanting them to fall into the awkward silence that’s hovering above them.

 

“Oh, I um,” he tries, his voice hoarse. “Uh, cinnamon and leather,” he says quietly.

Cinnamon and leather? Who does he know that would smell of cinnamon and leather? Is it anyone in his year? It has to be, right? Who wears leather jackets? Keith himself owns one but he hasn't seen anyone else in his year wear on-

 

Oh shit.

 

Keith’s eyes blow wide and feels the gears in his head finally clicking.

 

No, it can't be. It can't be him. There's no way, that Lance McClain would like him. Nope.

 

Would he? It can’t hurt to be sure.

 

“Is it someone you know that wears leather?” Keith asks hesitantly.

 

Lance turns to him with the most deadpan face and says “Keith, think hard about what you’re asking right now.”

 

“Oh” Keith replies smartly.

 

“How long?” he whispers into the wind.

 

“Not that long” Lance replies, murmuring.

 

Suddenly Lance groans out loud in annoyance and blurts out, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to ruin our friendship because of a stupid little crush-”

 

“What?”

 

“-just forget I ever said anything and-”

 

“Lance-”

 

“I’m pretty sure you hate me right now and I’m sorry-”

 

“Woah woah, Lance! Calm down for a moment,” Keith says, holding out his hands in front of him and raising them in an attempt to quieten Lance’s outburst.

 

Keith scoffs, “Are you joking?” he asks, endearment lacing his voice. “I don't hate you, Lance. I would never hate you. And I won’t ever forget about it,” he says.

 

“In fact, your ‘stupid little crush’ may be returned after all” Keith says with a slight smile, and feels as if he had unloaded a ton of bricks he’d been carrying on his shoulders.

 

Lance stands in front of him, the wind running its fingers through his hair, his eyes blown wide and his mouth opened in a little ‘o’. The t-shirt he’s wearing fits snugly against his muscled arms, and Keith can see the v-neck dipping below his collarbones, his tan skin illuminated by the moonlight.

 

Lance just stares at Keith for what feels like hours, his mind processing the words that left Keith’s mouth, until he can find his voice again.

 

“What?” Lance murmurs. There seems to be a lot of confusion between them.

 

“I said, that your crush may be returned after all.”

 

“Wh- how long? You?” Lance manages.

 

“Very long” Keith provides, flashing him what seems to be a supportive smile.

 

“Why would you think I’d hate you? I would never do that” Keith says, moving closer to Lance.

 

“I just didn't think you liked me, or was interested in me,” Lance says, bashfully, staring anywhere but Keith’s violet eyes.

 

“I always liked you, and I was always interested in you,” Keith says while moving even closer, his voice going down an octave deeper. Lance feels the pit of his stomach set alight on fire, and a heat crawls up his neck, comfortably settling down at his cheeks. Lance blindly steps backwards while Keith keeps approaching him, with half-lidded eyes and a jaw set in fiery determination.

 

Lance keeps stepping backwards, backwards, until his shoulders hit the wall. Keith comes to a stop in front of him. He raises his left arm above Lance’s head and places it on the wall behind Lance. Lance watches, eyes wide and knees weak as Keith slowly raises his right hand and gently cups the left side of Lance’s face. Lance melts into the touch and leans against his palm.

 

Keith moves in, slowly. He’s staring at Lance’s lips with a hunger in his eyes and a heart in his throat. And then Lance is leaning in too, so there’s no escaping now, no time for cowardice or second-guessing. They're so close that there's a hairsbreadth of distance between them, and Lance can feel the ghost of Keith’s shaky breath on his lips.

 

Lance makes a low, guttural and impatient noise in the back of his throat and snakes an arm around the nape of Keith's neck, bringing their lips together. They collide like earth and water, moving softly against each other. Keith tastes of the bitter aftertaste left by coffee, and carries the smell of cinnamon and leather and fire. Lance tastes sweet and minty, and smells even sweeter, of vanilla and roses and the ocean.

 

It’s a perfect match really.

 

They pull away, breathless and grinning from ear to ear, leaning their foreheads against one another.

 

“I really like you,” says Keith, gasping slightly. “I hope you know that.”

 

Lance smiles against his lips and hums contentedly.