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the marigolds we saw that day

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Alejándro Élias McClain was the youngest of five siblings. He grew up on the shore of Cuba’s oceans, the stars in his veins and a love for the moon in his heart.

His paternal grandfather was an Irish immigrant - thus the last name - and the same man who Alejándro idealized, the same man who christened him with the nickname ‘Lance’. The same man who would take walks with a young Lance along Varadero beach, listing the constellations one by one, Lyra, Sagittarius, Aquila…

Once, Lance had asked what happened to his wife, his grandmother, the women much adorned and well loved during remembrance.

And he will always remember the way his grandfather had looked over the ocean’s surface, loss and love shining brightly in his eyes.

“She was murdered,” His grandfather had whispered. “And they got away with it.”

This, Lance muses, almost fifteen years later, is perhaps what was the beginning of creating the monster he is today. Now, sitting in the bathtub, with filthy fingernails and the faint echo of blood soaked hair, Lance smiles vaguely at his hands. Emptily.

Unnoticed to him, tears continue to run down his cheeks, landing in the bloody bathtub with quiet plick, plicks.

If he wasn’t a monster, perhaps Lance would have never killed the one person he truly cared about. If he wasn’t a monster, perhaps he wouldn’t have ruined that boy beyond repair.

If he wasn’t a monster, perhaps they would have never met.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Months earlier

Pidge sips her drink loudly in annoyance as the girls in the seat over just. Keep. Gossiping.

“-is that-”

“-heard what a total man whore-”

“-slept with Emmy-”

Oh for god’s sake - Pidge turns in her booth just enough to pin one of the girls with what Hunk refers to as Nasty Glare #39. “Some of us are trying to study here.”

They giggle, tittering nervously for a long moment before they back down. Good, because Hunk is making his way back to the table, drinks in hand, Lance at his heels like a cute puppy.

“Midget!” Lance cries out, wrapping his way too long limbs around her. “I’ve missed you so much, my favorite shortie! Biology just isn’t the same without you.”

Pidge huffs, shoving at him. “It isn’t my fault that you failed it last semester. And get off of me!”

Lance laughs, but did as she commanded, taking the seat next to Hunk.

The Balmera is an incredibly quaint coffee shop, with vintage cups and artwork done by regulars strewed across the yellow wallpaper walls. Located right near the college campus, it received more than a healthy amount of business. But yet, the three of them obtained regular status within the year, and not because they visited that often.

Pidge hides a smirk into her cup of coffee. The owner’s granddaughter having a crush on Hunk might have counted towards their green cards, just a bit. It’s sweet - if only Hunk would find one of his balls and confess already.

Ah, well, she’s holding out hope for it anyways.

“How’s the new job going?” Hunk asks, nudging Lance’s shoulder.

“Oh yeahhh,” Pidge snaps her fingers. “Police secretary, right? Meet any hot police woman recently?” She leers jokingly, neatly dodging the kick at her shins.

Lance pouts, but he answers Hunk readily enough. “Yep! All I really do is point lost people where to go and occasionally yell for help when we get drunks. College towns are actually really boring.” He whines, dropping his head dramatically on Hunk’s shoulder. “Apparently my voice range is quite impressive, though!”

Grinning, Hunk bumps against him. “And who told you this? Huh?”

This time, a frown passes across Lance’s face, but it’s so quick that before Pidge could get more than a glance at it, it’s gone. Narrowing her eyes, Pidge tries to figure out if his smile is sincere when he says, “Officer Shirogane! You know him, he’s close with Matt, right?”

Forgetting about her chain of thought, Pidge nods her head slowly at Hunk’s expectant stare. “Yeah, they’re childhood friends. Shiro’s been over my house so often for dinner that he has his own placemat and coffee cup now.”

“Aw, that’s sweet.” Hunk coos.

Scrunching her face up, she vehemently disagrees. “Not in the morning after pulling an all nighter with Matt watching anime, no.”

Lance argues, “They’re cute, though, aren’t they?”

Her head whips around so fast she’s surprised she doesn’t break anything. “What? No! Matt and Shiro - ew! No no! I’ve seen Matt try to marry his Pikachu stuffie, I don’t need that mental image in my head.”

He shrugs. “Just saying,” a definite evil, evil, grin crawls across his face. “But you share a wall with Matt, right? If you hear anything -”

“Okay, no.” She holds up her hand. “We’re stopping this conversation right here.” Side-eying Lance, she decides to change the conversation. “How’s the dating scene?”

Hunk takes another sip of his hot chocolate. “I thought you were already dating someone last week?”

For a moment, Lance’s expression freezes. And then just as soon as it freezes, it completely relaxes, an easy grin coming to his face.

“Tell you what,” Lance whispers, leaning forward. Instinctively, the two of them follow, all of them hunched over the coffee shop table. “I’ll let you in on a secret.”

A moment of silence, and then Lance grins, his smile nearly reaching his ears as his eyes soften, looking for all the while that he has the world in his hands.

“I’m in love.”

“No way!” Hunk leans back, his own face splitting into a smile. “I have to tell your Mama, the last time -”

“No!”

All three of them stop.

Lance smile weakens, his own hands fluttering around his face. “We’re not ready for that, yet! I’ll introduce them to you as soon as we hit that stage, okay?”

Pidge notices the gender-neutral pronouns, but chooses not to comment on it. Not while Lance looks so panicked.

Later. She’ll corner him on it later.

Hunk must come to the same conclusion, because he backs down as well. “If you say so, buddy. Are they cute, at least?”

Neither of them notice the way Lance’s smile frosts over. “Yep. The cutest you’ll ever meet.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance pauses outside of his apartment complex in the dimly lit street, a breathless smile coming to his face.

While Pidge and Hunk’s questioning was a little insensitive and too touchy, it was nice to be able to confess his adoration, to get that off his chest.

And now, his beloved awaits him.

The ride up to the fifth floor is agonizing, when he’s so close to his sweetheart, his darling, his one and only. But the Castle of Lions elevator eventually arrives on the highest floor, as it does every day when he comes home from work or school.

Unlocking the front door, Lance beams as he quickly lets himself in. “I’m home!”

Violet eyes greet him, along with dark, hair curling around the nape of their neck, like ink bleeding across traditional rice paper. Small hands reach for him, as plush, pink lips stretch out into a smile where they wait for him slouched against the hallway wall.

“Lance!” The child cries, scrambling to their feet.

He drops his bag, opening his arms in preparation for the flying hug. It’s only when his love is in his arms that Lance feels the tension unwind in his shoulders.

Resting his hand on the back of their head, Lance murmurs, “Keith.”

Keith grins up at him, his chin resting on Lance’s stomach. “You’re home! I waited for you, I wanted to welcome you home, did I do good?”

Lance slides to his knees, entwining his fingers through his silky locks. “Wasn't it cold, though? You didn’t have to do that.” At Keith’s wilt, he hurriedly backtracks. “But thank you, that’s so cute of you.”

“I’m not cute,” he frowns, but nuzzles his head willingly into Lance’s open palm. Discreetly, Lance takes a deep inhale of Keith’s sweet scent, feeling the shivers wrack down his spine. God - it was better than any high, feeling Keith’s smooth skin, his soft baby smell.

It’s only been a couple days since Lance found Keith, but he’s sure that he’ll never get tired of the way Keith smells, the way he feels in his arms.

Ah, Lance thinks later, resting his chin on top of Keith’s damp hair. The little boy sits between his legs in the bath, humming quietly to himself as he pushes the rubber duckie Lance’s niece left the last time she visited across the surface of the soapy water. This is…

“Lance,” Keith interrupts his thoughts, looking up at him with wide, fathomless eyes. For a moment, Lance’s breath catches in his throat on just how stunning Keith is, inside and out. “What time will you be back tomorrow?”

“A bit later than usual,” he apologizes, grimacing slightly. “I’m sorry baby, but the night shift pays more than the cafe. But hey, I’ll be able to buy you some more toys, so you won’t be so bored all day.”

Keith sighs, sinking down into the water until his chin is submerged. “I don’t want toys, I want you.”

Despite himself, Lance feels his heart flutter in his chest. Keith is just! So! Cute!

Squeezing him to his chest, Lance peppers his cheeks with kisses. “I’ll be home before you know it! And, if you’re good, I can bring you some of the cake you like so much.”

Predictably, Keith’s eyes sparkle. “Ice cream cake! Ice cream cake!” He splashes the water with his palms excitedly until Lance reaches forward and grabs his hands to stop him from splashing all of the water out of the tub.

“We can play later, I promise.” Lance laughs at his perturbed expression, kissing the tip of his nose. “But first, we have to finish our bath.”

Keith grumbles, but he doesn’t protest as Lance scrubs the shampoo through his hair, closing his eyes obediently as the pink tinted water runs down his face.

The bath is quick to finish after that, Keith bored with playing in the water when he can’t splash it all over the bathroom tile. Instead, Lance dresses the both of them in soft PJs, wrapping a towel around his head and gingerly placing a face mask on.

“C’mon,” Keith whines, pulling on his hand. “Your stupid face mask takes forever.”

Lance raises an eyebrow, and Keith hurriedly backtracks, face sheepish. “Your face mask isn’t stupid, sorry. Well, kinda stupid.”

His eyebrow only inches higher. Now Keith is beginning to panic. “Uh…I’m sorry?”

It’s too much. Lance cracks up in a smile, squeezing Keith to his stomach. “It’s a good thing you’re cute.”

This time, Keith doesn’t protest at being called cute, but his face still scrunches up regardless.

Once his timer for his face mask goes off, Keith mutters a quick ‘Finally’ as he scrubs it off, already tugging him in towards the living room. It’s Keith’s favorite time of the day, and if Lance is honest, it’s his too.

As Lance kneels down on the hard floor with the sheer curtain tucked over his head, Keith’s cheeks pink in embarrassment as he holds it up from falling in Lance’s face, billowing the two of them in their own private cocoon.

“It’s just like I told you.” Lance says, giving his forearm an encouraging squeeze. “You’ve got this.”

Keith lets out a deep breath, nodding his head quickly. Then, just like they’ve practiced; “In sickness and in health, through happiness and sadness, for richer, for poorer, I promise to love you forever…”

Until death do us part

And as Keith recites their wedding vows, ending it by gently kissing Lance’s forehead, Lance can’t think of anywhere he would rather be.

This is love, Lance thinks to himself as they curl together in his bed, Keith humming as he cuddles up underneath his chin. It has to be, there’s no other word to describe this consuming sweetness, washing away any of his ugly feelings.

Opening his eyes, he stares into the dark bedroom, wondering if he could just stay with Keith all day, where it’s safe and warm.

But he can’t.

The house and bills are already automatically payed, but he still has to pay for the food for him and Keith, along with clothing, and any extra fees he needs for his college classes. He needs to go shopping soon, seriously, Keith still wears the same red T-shirt and black shorts during the day and only an old shirt of Lance’s for pajamas.

And, he muses with a wry smile, he wants to spoil Keith too.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

“Officer Shirogane!” Lance chirps, waving as Shiro makes to enter the office.

“Lance.” Shiro greets back, a weary, but sincere smile on his face. “I see you’re as chipper as ever. Anything exciting today?”

He shrugs. “Nothing much. I think Officer Iverson has a college girl talking to him, but nothing else.”

Shiro’s eyes sharpen. “Oh?” As quickly as he arrived, he rushes off into the office towards Iverson’s desk.

Lance watches him for a long moment, exchanging harried words with Officer Iverson before the blond girl comes back from the bathroom, rubbing her forearm harshly across her face.

And then he looks away, back towards his millionth game of minesweeper. While the cafe payed fine, he just didn’t get enough tips to have a solid living, especially with the addition of Keith.

But now, working the front desk of the town’s only police station, he has access to any information he’ll need.

Especially, he thinks as his eyes slide over to Shiro, who stormed away from Iverson and is back in the copier room, anything about Keith.

He doesn’t know why, but Shiro’s accessed the missing children’s archive six times in the last two days. The only reason he knows this is because he doesn’t keep his computer password locked strong enough. Honestly, he wrote it down on a sticky note, he’s practically asking for trouble.

Eventually, the blonde girl storms past Lance’s desk with teary, desperate eyes, a worried Shiro on her tail.

“If you won’t take me seriously, then I’ll find someone who will!” She screeches, slamming her hands against the push handle on the door.

Geez lady, Lance winces, lower you pitch a little bit, why don’t you?

“I’m sorry for Officer Iverson -” Shiro’s voice disappears as the door closes behind him.

Lance tilts his head to the side, curious.

Oh, what was that about?

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

It doesn’t matter, he decides as Keith drools on his arm, lulled to sleep by the television.

Lance runs his fingers through his hair, signing in contentment. He had a test in his literature class and work today - it’s been stressful, to put it mildly.

But it’s like the instant he comes home and sees Keith’s smile, then nothing else matters. Not while they’re together.

Lately, Keith’s been getting bored stuck inside all day, and Lance can’t blame him. He’s a very active kid, and he’s been eying the door to the balcony more often then he’s comfortable with.

He glances at said door, but he’s too comfy right now to move, not when he can feel Keith’s warmth sinking through his shirt and into Lance’s skin. Slowly, he raises a hand, lightly touching the sleeping child’s lips, caressing the bottom lip.

Should he -?

Lance leans in, and then jerks back, wanting to punish himself.

Keith’s asleep! That’s -

Abruptly, he sits up, hoisting Keith up in his arms. When the little boy stirs, Lance softly hushes him with a, “We’re just going to bed, don’t worry.”

Keith settles down, curling into his arms with a soft sigh. His eyelids twitch as sleep reclaims him once more, tiny, delicate hands folded on his chest.

He tucks him into bed first, pulling the thick comforter over his shoulders and spending a moment just watching him sleep. That was close - he wanted their first kiss to be special.

So instead, he kisses Keith forehead, resigned to having to stay up another hour to get some homework done.

What Lance wouldn’t give to just throw it all away, to spend all day with his beloved. But he has to venture out into the outside world, he needs provisions for him and Keith. Once he graduates and gets a higher paying job, then he can kiss Keith.

Touching his own lips, Lance blushes, wondering if Keith’s mouth is as soft as the rest of him is.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Back in the bedroom, Keith’s slowly opens his eyes, touching his own mouth, in the liminal silence.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

He knew something was up with the blond girl.

And now, as officers rush out of the building, the whir of sirens and shouting voices, Lance tsks under his breath.

Fuck. Now he won’t be able to get home early today. Shit shit shit! He promised Keith that morning over breakfast that he would be in time for dinner and watch his favorite show with him.

As he's just a secretary, he’s not a big part of the case, not at all. The only thing he can do is keep the coffee maker going and deliver any of the printed files, but it’s just enough that he’s stifling in his boredom and still not allowed to leave.

He bites down on his thumbnail. Hard.

But he notices the way Officer Sincline smirks to himself as the mess of the office continues on, and Lance’s eyes narrow.

“What’s going on here, Shiro?” Lance asks sweetly, setting down the requested files in front of Shiro with a conspiratorial grin.

Shiro rubs the crease lines between his eyes. “Triple homicide, an entire family. There’s a survivor though, the daughter.” He pushes over one of the several photographs he has printed out, pointing at the smiling girl.

And with a sick sense of realization, Lance realizes he recognizes her. “That’s…”

“The teenage girl from last week.” Shiro admits. “She told Mitch she thought someone was stalking her. Mitch blew her off, and look where we are, three dead bodies and a girl in the ICU.”

“That’s awful,” he says, but his eyes are distant, focused on the smiling boy under the girls arm. He looks nothing like Keith, but they’re around the same age, roughly. He feels a pang of empathy for the girl anyhow. If anything ever happened to Keith, he wouldn’t be able to take it.

“So yeah,” Shiro chugs his coffee, rubbing at the bags under his eyes. He’s the definition of a hard working detective, but he’s hiding something. There’s the tan of a ring around his finger but no ring, there’s no pictures of children on his desk but he has a car seat in his trunk. He’s an enigma - and Lance hates enigmas. “The media got wind of it, and everything’s a circus show. I really appreciate you staying behind, though. Maybe I can take you out for dinner as thanks?”

Lance cocks his hip, smirking at Shiro. “Maybe I’ll take you up on that.”

Not. He would rather die than cheat on Keith.

But - maybe he’ll take him up on the offer anyhow. He’s Pidge’s friend, it wouldn’t hurt to play nice with him.

Eventually, he’s allowed to go home once the mess of reporters outside learn that the girl is alive, all of them fleeing en mass to interrogate the traumatized kid. And people wonder why he hates this world.

He practically runs home, already anticipating the soft touch of Keith’s skin, his biting but caring remarks, the shy smile he gives when they say their vows to each other every night.

Lance has to stop himself from skipping. Love, love, love…

Slamming open the door, he grins into the apartment, eyes already searching for Keith. “I’m b-”

Quickly, he cuts himself off, covering his sheepish grin with a hand. Keith’s asleep! Lance crouches down next to him, pulling up the blanket Keith has around him up a little higher.

“No bath time today, huh?” He whispers, brushing aside a lock of Keith’s bangs. No bath times, no dinner, no story time, no…vows.

But what can he do? Just this once, he’ll have to let it go. Besides, there’s always tomorrow.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Except

It just

Keeps happening

again and again and again and again and again -

“We’re short staffed, you’re going to have to stay for overtime,” Iverson tells him, and what can Lance say?

again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again  -

Having to shove another nosy reporter out of the office, doomed to a building full of testosterone and rage at the trails going cold. No one knows who murdered the family and left the girl for dead still.

again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and and  -

Keith’s soft whimper as Lance picks him up off the floor, opening his eyes blearily.

“You’re home late again…” Keith sighs, not angry, just

disap

pointed

again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN

Now, opening the front door, staring at Keith’s sleeping form as he comes home late from work once again, he feels something in him begin to break.

Gasping, he clutches at his chest, feverly shaking his head. No no no, he can’t - not like this!

Please don’t take my love away from me.

All this candy sweetness, being taken from him.

No

Stolen.

Dropping his knees, he watches Keith’s scrunched up face, eyes moving beneath his eyelids deep in sleep. His bag follows after him, but he doesn’t care.

They haven’t said their vows in a week. He hasn’t seen Keith smile at him for nearly as long.

i need him where is keith i want him back where did you take him i want my love back i want to feel please stop it hurts

Lance, she says, breath ghosting over his ear like when she used to -

this i                                                                                                                           s                             lo                  v           e

“Fine,” Lance mutters. “I guess I’ll have to fix this myself, then.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

“Lance?” Officer Sincline smiles - fake, fake, fake - at him as he steps through the door, opening his arms wide. “What do I owe this pleasure?”

He quietly closes the door behind him with a small, demure click. Leaning against the door for a moment, he keeps his face down to the floor.

“I could accept the stalking,” he starts out, ignoring Officer Sincline’s jolt. “I could even accept what you did with that girls family. What I couldn’t accept was you taking so much of MY FUCKING TIME!”

When he looks up, Officer Sincline’s masked his expression and gives Lance a befuddled grin, but his hand is in his pocket tellingly. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, my dear -”

“Was she cute?” Lance asks.

Officer Sincline raises an eyebrow. “What? You’re not making any sense.”

“Was she cute, the way she smiled?” He continues on. “You met her somewhere easy - a mall or a movie theater. Was she with friends? Probably, but she laughed the loudest. You hit on her, thinking she’d be easy.”

Lance steps forward, ignoring Officer Sincline's stumble back. “But she rejected you. And you - you were furious. No one’s ever rejected you before. You were always the golden boy, weren’t you? And you got angry.” Another step. “Maybe it was just some threats at first, maybe you just started with some harmless photos. But then she went to the police, the same station you work at it, and you weren’t just angry, you were scared. Another new emotion, wasn’t it? Because it wasn’t just harmless photos and threats, this was stalking and harassing a minor. You’re entire career, you’re status, all of it gone, all because of one girl with a cute laugh.”

Lance glances down at his hands. “And if you shoot me with that, everyone outside is going to hear and come running.”

Officer Sincline releases the gun, slowly inching his hands back to his side. There’s still a mask, but there’s a crack in it now. Lance’s winning.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Officer Sincline throws outs.

“Don’t I?”

Lance tilts his head, expression flat. His blue eyes seem to bore into Officer Sincline, utterly devoid of any emotion, the intensity breathtaking. With his hands neatly folded behind his back and stance relaxed, someone could mistake Lance for calm, even collected.

But both of them know differently.

“Don’t I?” He continues to stare at Officer Sincline, not even blinking.

Ah.

There it is.

crack

“You’re fucking crazy,” Officer Sincline breaths, shaking his head. “You - so what? So what if I did?” He throws his hands out desperately, a frantic sheen to his eyes. “The little bitch wouldn’t shut up! I just wanted to scare her off - she was supposed to be home alone!” The police officer runs his hands through his hair. “It’s not my fault! It that’s stupid slut’s fault -”

Snap

Officer Sincline freezes. Lance brings his phone up from where he had it hanging behind him between his legs, watching the upside down video with dull eyes. “Wow, what an expression.” Squinting, he turns the video to the side, replaying the last couple of seconds over and over again.

“Give that -” Lance swings the phone up behind him, hovering his finger over the send button, Shiro’s contact info already put in hours earlier. Thank god that Shiro already offered dinner, it was a good excuse as any to get his number.

The two of them stand at an impasse, waiting for Lance to make his move.

“I really don’t care what you do in your free time as long as it doesn’t bother me.” He says, monotonous. “I have more important things to worry about. But I do have one question.”

Lance yanks at Officer Sincline’s tie, bringing their faces inches apart before he spits out, “Why couldn’t you control yourself?”

Pushing him back, Lance barely pays any attention to how the police officer falls to his knees, having to blink his own tears back. “Why couldn’t you just control yourself?” He asks, voice wobbling. “I controlled myself. Even though I had to keep working late, even though I couldn’t spend time with my darling Keith, I controlled myself. If you just kept yourself in check…”

When Lance looks up, his eyes are once against blank.

“Then neither of us would have had to go through this.”

Officer Sincline flinches back, but Lance has lost interest. Sighing, he pockets his phone, staring at the empty, pathetic shell of a man. And to think that he’s the big bad wolf in the night to everyone in town right now.

“Fix your mess, or I’ll fix it for you.” He smiles, a doll’s vacant mockery of a human expression. “And for the record? Try not to look so happy when they can’t find fingerprints, you’re shit at hiding your emotions.”

Shutting the door behind him, Lance hurries out of the police station, hopefully for the last time in a long while.

Clenching his teeth, Lance swings his bag as he practically runs home, his mind a relentless mantra of bitter bitter bitter bitter

so bitter

He needs - he needs -

Unlocking his front door, Lance slams it open, eyes darting around the entry way as his heart beats an uneven rhythm, a constant ba-thump ba- thump BA-THUMP BA-THUMP -

“Lance!”

Slowly, the door closes behind him, and Keith is in his arms.

Lance stares blankly for a moment, trying not to let his jaw hit the floor. “It’s almost midnight, what are you doing up?!”

Keith grins up at him, arms wrapped solidly around Lance’s waist. “I took a nap so I could say hi when you got home. I missed you…” The last part was an embarrassed mutter, and Lance felt his cheeks puff up from holding back his laughter.

“You’re. So. Cute!” Lance squeals, picking Keith up and spinning him. “I just can’t take it!”

“Put me down! Lance, put me down!”

Lance smushes their faces together, smiling from ear to ear. The sick feeling in his chest is finally going away.

And he has Keith to thank for that.

“I love you, Keith.” Lance is content to cuddle up next to his beloved, but then a thought occurs to him, drawing back with a sharp gasp. “Fu - I forgot! Come on, I have a present for you.”

Keith points to himself, all adorable like. “Me?”

“Yes, you.” Lance pinches his cheek, snorting at his scrunched up expression. “C’mon, follow me. And wear this,” Shrugging off his jacket, he helps Keith manipulate his small arms through the thin fabric, tucking the large hood over his face. “Now don’t let go of my hand, okay?”

Then he steps back, opening the front door once again.

“I - I -” Keith stutters, glancing uncertainty outside as his hands clamp down on Lance’s free one. “A-are you sure? Isn’t the outside world bad?”

Lance nods, keeping his expression stern. “The outside world is very bad Keith, you’re right. It’s filthy and disgusting and it’ll take you away from me. But that’s why you’re going to hold onto me, okay?”

Keith doesn’t meet his eyes, shuffling his bare feet at the unexpected brush of cold air. It’s a shame he doesn’t have shoes - maybe throwing them out was a bit of a hasty decision.

Oh well.

“Can you carry me?” Keith asks, opening his arms out for Lance.

He immediately softens. It’s kinda sad, really, how weak he is to this boy. “Of course.”

Easier said than done. He’s too nervous to take the elevator and chance others seeing Keith, so the stairs it is, with fifty pounds of baby fat clinging to his neck.

But it’s worth it, so worth it when he unlocks the roof door with the key the maintenance worker gave him, seeing Keith’s face lights up when he spots it.

“Flowers!” He giggles, now trying to get out of Lance’s arms. Lance helps him down, and there’s no stopping Keith now once he spotted all the carefully crafted flower beds.

“I love it!” Keith squeals, careful not to pluck any of the petals of the wisteria flower in his hands. “I love it I love it I love it! Thank you Lance!”

And Lance just watches the love of his life dance among the rooftop garden, looking the happiest he’s seen him in weeks, both of them content as can be.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance watches Keith sleep for several minutes - maybe an hour, it’s hard to tell. His eyes are soft as he watches the child murmur in his sleep, turning away from Lance to sleep on his side. Sighing, he takes it as the sign it is, standing up from the desk chair.

Glancing back one last time, Lance silently closes the master bedroom door behind him as he steps into the hallway, the only light being the single lamp near the entryway for when Keith had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Double checking the chain, Lance closes his eyes briefly, resting his forehead on the front door.

Then, he turns on his heel and heads to the second bedroom.

He’s never been in love before. Lance earned the reputation of a slut, willing to let anyone sleep with him, but not a single one of them ever caught his eye.

Eyeing the door, he trails his hand up the door frame, fingers resting on the first lock.

Lots of people have told him they love him. Their smiling faces, watching him, waiting for a reaction. Because no matter what they told him -

Click

Or what they did for him -

Click

He never felt anything.

0-1-2-3-6-0

But things are different now.

Beep-Beep

Keith taught him what love was. He’s positive that Keith’s going to keep on teaching what all these new feelings and emotions are.

The door shuts automatically behind him. Lance steps forward on socked feet, smiling into the second bedroom.

He can still see her, at night, when Keith isn’t there to protect him.

Stuffing his hands in his sweatpants, Lance rocks back on his heels. “So, I just wanted to come by and say thank you.” He nods to the long dried blood on the wall, the stained knife lying on a pile of ruined towels.

He laughs, slouching on the metal door behind him. “You’re house is pretty comfortable, actually. Smart of you to prepay all your bills, by the way, I really appreciate that.”

That’s why he has to protect this.

Head held high, he walks past the blood stains towards the packed boxes, art supplies lined up against the wall, along with a dusty easel with a sheet draped over it.

He has to create a castle, for just the two of them.

Somewhere out in the city, a man stops in front of an aged telephone pole, holding a nail carefully between his teeth as he sets the paper against the wood. Carefully, he manages to nail the poster in.

A fortified castle for them, where Lance could live alone with Keith forever.

The man steps back, admiring the poster for a long moment before he sets back off, deeper into the forest of houses, leaving behind a single poster with a smiling boy, holding a dog in his arms under the sun’s bright rays.

It doesn’t matter what he has to do to keep this slice of happiness.

Missing: Keith Kogane

No one else matters to him.

“You are kinda getting in the way though…” Lance says, eyes empty as he stares at the several trash bags half hidden behind one of the storage boxes. “And you’re starting to smell too,” he giggles, taking a seat next to them.

Tilting his head to the ceiling, Lance lets a soft smile grow on his face as he folds his knees to his chest, humming under his breath.

“Welcome back,” he murmurs into his knees, smoothing a finger down the stained wood. “My precious love.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance met Keith the day the marigolds bloomed.



Chapter Text

“Ugh,” Lance groans, slumping down to the tile floor. The door closes softly behind him, but he’s too busy trying to slink through the ground to notice. “I’m so tired…”

He hears more than sees someone kneel down next to him, his cheek being poked at repeatedly. “Lanceeee, Lanceeeeeeee!”

Groaning, he blearily opens his eyes, smiling softly at Keith crouching down next to him, gaze open and curious. “Hey baby, what’s up?”

Keith puffs up his cheek. “I’m not a baby.” Shaking his head, he turns his attention to rubbing his small hand through Lance’s hair at the back, liking the texture of the short strands. “You okay?”

“I’m okay.” He says hoarsely, sitting up straighter. While working at the police station in theory paid more, on top of his waitering job, the hours were a little much, nevermind school.

Scrunching up his face, Keith watches him for a long moment, looking a bit dissatisfied by Lance’s answer.

“It’s okay, you know,” he says eventually, avoiding eye contact. “If you have to quit one. I won't be sad.”

For a long moment, Lance just watches the love of his life fidget underneath his gaze. How did he get so lucky?

“How are you so cute!” He squeals, snatching up Keith and leaning back, nuzzling those messy strands. “You’re just so adorable!!”

“No I’m not! Lanceeee, let go of me!!”

Laughing, he leans back with Keith in his arms, smiling up at the ceiling. Really, how did he get so lucky? Giddy happiness fills him, rich with sugar and softness as Keith wiggles in his arms. 

And then it all crashes down around him when his phone rings.

Keith quirks his head, eyes focused on his buzzing pocket. “What’s that?”

Quickly covering his pocket from sticky fingers, he laughs nervously, gently scooting Keith off him so he could go pick it up. “Wait right here, or actually, why don’t you watch some TV? I’ll be right back.”

Keith pouts, but Lance has to push down the stab of guilt, hurrying into their bedroom and shutting the door behind him. Glancing down at his phone, he frowns at the contact name.

“Pidge?” He answers, concerned. Pidge never called, unless someone was dead or dying. “Everything alright?”

Yeah, I’m fine. Just someone wasn’t answering their texts, so I had to take drastic measures. ” Pidge drawls. “Well, anyhow, me and Hunk are going bowling this Friday. You coming?

Lance hesitates. No, in all honesty he doesn’t want to go, not when Keith so obviously needs him. His poor baby is so lonely when he’s not there to comfort him.

But he’s also turned down the last three invitations to hang out, something the Lance of three weeks ago would have never done.

He can’t afford to put more suspicion on him.

“Sure!” He chirps, plastic smile already stretched out like tanned leather over his face. “I need a time and place, chika.”

As Pidge gives him the details, Lance writes them down in his strawberry colored planner, occasionally humming in response or adding “Yep!” when it was necessary, only half listening to whatever his friend was spewing.

Frowning, he strains his ears, trying to listen for something he knew was wrong. Something wasn’t right, something wasn’t there -

He freezes.

The TV never turned on.

“Sorry, gotta go!” He sings cheerfully into the mic, hanging up the phone with shaking hands. Keith Keith Keith Keith -

Banging open the bedroom door, his head whips around trying to find his lover, choking as he sees those small hands reach for the front door, standing on his toes -

KEITH!”

Shrieking, Keith stumbles back, but it’s not enough, his hand is still on the doorknob. Lance slams his hands down on the door on either side of Keith’s head. Keith flinches, eyes wide, already stilling himself in preparation of being hit and oh god, no -

Calm, calm, you have to calm down Lance…

Once he finally feels like he has a handle on his emotion, Lance softens his body language, muscles relaxing even as he keeps Keith trapped like a butterfly on a board beneath him. “What were you doing, honey?”

Keith doesn’t meet his eyes, keeping his head down and shaking underneath Lance's body. Lance croons to him, shuffling closer so that Keith’s back met his hips. “Baby, you know you’re not supposed to go outside without me. What if someone took you away from me, hmm? I would be really sad. Do you want to make me sad?”

Silence. Then, a sniffle.

“I just wanted to get you flowers,” Keith mumbles.

Lance feels the last of his anxiety fly away, his entire body untensing at that realization. Keith wasn’t leaving him. Keith wasn’t leaving him .

“You should have just asked then, baby. I would have taken you.” He murmurs, sliding down to his knees to wrap Keith up in his arms.

Everything is just as it was supposed to be. He has nothing to worry about, just a simple misunderstanding. Lance is juggling two jobs, school, his friendships, and taking care of the love of his life. Of course he's stressed out, who wouldn’t be?

But he could do this. He has to do this, for Keith, for their cotton candy love. For every sweet moment shared between them, he has to keep it up. Just for a little while longer.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith stares at the wall blankly as Lance hugs him fiercely, thoughts spinning.

He left to get Lance flowers, but…why? The outside world was a bad place, he was safe here, inside. Lance would protect him. Lance would take care of him.  

But…

Someone else had brought him flowers too when he was sad, right? His arm had hurt, and the man had smiled behind the purple blooms, sitting next to Keith with Hey buddy, if that’s what you look like, I hate to see how the other guy is doing -

Blinking, Keith limply brings his arms around Lance, smiling brightly when Lance glances at his face. Everything’s just fine! Lance protects him and takes care of him, so he has nothing to worry about.

He just has to smile and be happy, right?

… right?

…Hey Keith, it’s me J11[;’].]//.,,!*!^!%! - - - - - -

Are you there?

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith hugs Lance goodbye the next morning, determined to make this day a good one.

“Bye-bye!” He waves, smiling as Lance waves back before shutting and locking the door behind him. With his hands on his hips, Keith surveys the apartment with a grim air. Lance goes to work and school to buy him all these things, so Keith should help out too!

“Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up…” He hums as he tottles across the hardwood floor. Luckily, Lance left the vacuum out last night (it hurt his ears!) for the rug, so Keith knows which button to press.

Well. Maybe.

Staring down at the vacuum, he presses his thumb against the start button more insistently. Kneeling down, Keith pats its stomach sympathetically. “It’s okay Mr. Vacuum, we all have those days.”

Moving the weird spikes on the end of the wire thing out of the way (what is he supposed to do with that?), Keith springs back up to his feet. Cleaning isn’t over yet!

Mr. Feather and him are the best of friends (almost as close as him and Lance!), so Keith laughs as he gently bonks it against every surface of the house he can reach. “Pomp pomp! Pomp pomp!”

Running down the hallway even though it’s against Lance’s rules, Keith slows to a stop in front of a door he’s never been in before.

“I gotta clean you too!” He tells Mrs. Door seriously, and tries the handle, ignoring the strange keyboard above it. “Oomph! C’mon…”

Sighing, Keith drops the doorknob, staring at Mrs. Door with a pout. Next time, then!

What else should he do?

Oh! Maybe he should cook Lance dinner! Lance will like that, won’t he?

Dragging the stool Lance bought Keith so he could brush his teeth over to the counter, Keith waddles up, awkwardly lifting the frying pan Lance left in the dish rack from this morning.

But…He doesn’t know how to cook.

Sighing, Keith stares at the frying pan. Bored, so bored… Maybe he should watch some more TV again, or finish the stubs of crayons Lance left him. Or something.

The sound of rain jerks him out of his thoughts, forcing his head up to the balcony doors, where Lance strung out some of their laundry because the unit downstairs likes to take his coins and run off with them.

“Oh no,” Keith whimpers, climbing down hurriedly to go and open the balcony door. But he can’t reach - !

Not even when he goes back inside to grab the broom. He can only watch with distraught as the clothes become soaked through, some of the raindrops even hitting his face.

For a minute, his vision goes wonky, the image of two men laughing as they strung up laundry between the two of them lighting into his brain like fireworks before it disappears, leaving his head splitting.

“Ow…” Falling to his knees, Keith covers his ears, whining low in his throat.

Spinning, spinning…His head is spinning. What should he do? Why won’t it stop?

It hurts -

It’s okay

Keith looks up, eyes widening. There’s a woman kneeling in front of him, gently cupping his cheek, but he can’t see her face, it’s all scratched out -

You just wait here, and he’ll come soon, I promise

“Who...are you?”

But she’s gone.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Still shaken up over the day’s previous incident, Lance busies himself after his cafe job trying to find a flower shop nearby. Luckily, google maps says there’s one within a couple minutes by walking, barely out of his way at all, so he just pops his headphones in and hurriedly strides down the sidewalk.

Why would Keith try to leave like that? Maybe he should back over how scary the outside world is to Keith again. Get it into his brain that the safest place in the world is by Lance’s side, and that while Lance allows his access to the outside, it’s only when his safety is absolute.

He wouldn’t be able to take it if anything happened to Keith.

Lance slows down as he reaches a crosswalk, impatiently waiting for the light to turn green. His eyes scan the university's downtown unhurriedly, lost in thoughts about college and what to make for dinner and where should he go to buy Keith some more clothing…

And then his eyes cut across the telephone pole, and his breath catches in his throat.

Missing: Keith Kogane

Keith is wearing unfamiliar clothes, a green t-shirt with some superhero on it and cargo shorts. His smile, the one that greets Lance everyday when he comes home from work, is looking at someone else, holding a drooling beagle without a care in the world.

There’s a phone number, and a plea to call it if anyone has heard any information about him.

For a moment, Lance can’t breathe, but then the stoplight turns green and jerks him out of his thoughts. Ripping the poster off the pole, he hurriedly stuffs it into bag, keeping his head down as he jogs across the intersection.

What is he getting so worried about? Of course Keith has family worried about him. It’s not like it matters, Keith’s happy with him and Lance takes wonderful care of his boyfriend.

And, he muses as he steps into the flower shop Yelp gave four and a half stars with an empty smile, there’s not a single shred of evidence to where little Keith Kogane disappeared to.

He made sure of that.

Browsing through some of their seed packets, he doesn’t notice until it’s too late when someone collides with him.

“Oof!” He yelps, barely managing not to hit the floor. The other person isn’t so lucky, tearing away from him as if he would punch them for the misdeed and knocking against the tile roughly. “I’m sorry! Are you okay?”

The woman looks up at him, blonde hair falling like a curtain around her -

Cherry lips and her smirk as she leans across the breakfast counter. “Hey handsome,” she says with a leer and  -

“I’m so sorry!” She laughs nervously, ignoring his offered hand to push herself to her feet, still a couple good feet away from him. Lance pulls his hand back with a frown. “I’m still getting used to working here and Ms. Ryner keeps everything very organized and I’m still learning the system -”

“Hey it’s okay,” Lance smiles, noticing for the first time that she dropped what looks like a bag of dirt, though thankfully unspilled. Taking a step closer, he opens his mouth to offer his help -

The woman flinches.

Lance steps back, his lips turnt down as he assesses her. She looks vaguely familiar, with her hair messily done up in pigtails and eyes that remind him of a Keith, a blue so dark they look violet.

And then it hits him.

“You’re the girl from the news.”

Her name tag reads ‘Romelle’, he notices as she she smiles at him, if a bit painfully. “Yes, I am…her. Excuse me, do I know you?”

Lance straightens up, smiling sheepishly. “Ah, sorry! I’m Lance, I work the front desk at the police station.”

Her face closes off. It must be tough, to lose such complete trust in the country’s justice system.

But then Romelle smiles at him, eyes flat. “Why don't we go into the backroom for this?”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

The two of them sit at a small fold up table, shoved between two shelves. Romelle inhales her tea with a gusto that speaks that there’s something decidedly non-tea spiked in it. Lance, on the other hand, sips his mug slowly, keeping his eyes on the table.

Goddamn enigmas.

“I remember you,” Romelle eventually says, voice hushed. “You had cute nails. Do you have a kid?”

Huh? Lance tilts his head to the side. His own nails currently were scratched up and nail polish free, but a couple weeks ago…

Oh yeah! Keith painted his fingernails for him, curious about the blue paint he was putting on his toes. Hunk didn’t comment on it, or Pidge, so he thought that Keith’s messy attempts were passable enough as his own.

Then again, neither of them had younger siblings. Romelle once did.

“My nieces, actually.” He smiles at her, putting the mug down in front of him.

Lance hasn’t seen his nieces in almost six months.

Romelle nods her head. Silence suffocates the room, lingering to the point where Lance feels like he’s going to choke on it.

“So,” awkwardly clearing his throat, he makes eye contact with her. “It’s good to see you out and about. You liking the new job?”

“Actually, yes. Ms. Ryner’s strict, but she’s kind and the pays fantastic for someone of…my background.” She shrugs her shoulders, like she’s ashamed that she dropped out of high school because she was raped and her entire family was murdered in front of her.

All in all, she’s handling things fantastically.

“Even if…” She closes her eyes, pained. The next works come out in a rush. “Even if I can’t handle being around older men and they terrify me so much I can’t even breathe without feeling like I’m going to suffocate.”

She shudders out a shaky breath, visibly calming herself down the edge.

“But I have a goal in mind, someone to work for.” She looks up at him through her bangs, a genuine smile playing around the corners of her mouth. “I want to make them proud.”

Lance brightens up, beaming at her full force. “Right! I’m the same - it’s always important to work hard for someone you love.”

Both of them grin at each other, comforted to know that the sugary feeling is shared by more than themselves.

Downing the rest of his drink, Lance stands up, if a bit slowly so as not to aggravate her obvious fear of him. Though whether it’s her rightful phobia of men or his job, he doesn’t know. “I have to get home, but it was nice seeing you. Though…” His eyes skirt to the side.

“What happened to the officer?”

Her eyes go flat. “The fucking bastard’s in jail for life. I hope he get the death penalty, I hope he dies in agony. Lotor deserves to rot in hell for what he did, he deserves it, he deserves it…”

Nodding to himself, his silent question answered, Lance waves goodbye, leaving the muttering woman behind. He supposed it’s easier to be angry than to mourn. Years ago, after his grandfather died, he was much the same, though he was only a child then.

Around Keith’s age, if he remembers right.

Well, for now he’ll go home and make Keith some dinner, maybe take a bath. And then they’ll have their vows, and they’ll do it all over again the next day, and the next…

Smiling to himself, Lance leaves the flower shop without a second glance behind.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Romelle digs her fingers into her shorts, breaths coming too fast and too short.

“Mommy,” she whimpers, her head bobbing as she fights against another round of sobs. “Daddy. Bandor -”

She freezes.

Fumbling for her pocket, she pulls out a crumpled sheet of paper, decorated with so many creases the image inside is barely legible. She ducks her head against the paper, inhaling the smell of ink and something heady, something like Sunday evening at home where the radio would play and her parents would flirt as Bandor and her would gag playfully behind them -

“Bandor,” she whines into the paper, still remembering the small hand, limp in the puddle of blood right by her head as -

Shaking her head, Romelle pushes the memory violently out of her head.

Taking another breath, she lets the wave of calm settle over her. The smiling boy looks back on her from the paper, mid laugh and bright as the sun. Romelle strokes the photo lovingly, smiling with tears in her eyes at her little brother.

“I’ll find you, Bandor.” She whispers desperately, eyes wide, bright with both tears and mania. “Don’t worry, Rommy’s coming. Your big sister is coming.”

Folding the piece of paper, she slips it back into her pocket, comforted by her brother’s picture with her always. Just a little longer - she’ll find him soon, and then they can go home! This nightmare will finally be over with!

Ignoring the neat little letters under the photo, she steps back out into the flower shop, wiping her eyes. She has work to do, her house and bills don’t pay for themselves after all.

But the words still linger.

Missing: Keith Kogane

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith wakes up slowly, blinking up at the ceiling. Distantly, he can hear Lance humming, running his long nails through his hair, scratching against his scalp.

He must give some sign that he’s awake, because Lance enters his field of vision, smiling down at him, a touch of concern in his eyes. “Hey, silly goose. You fell asleep on the floor.”

Gasping, Keith jerks up from where his head was resting in Lance’s lap. The rain stopped while he was sleeping, but it’s too late, the clothes are already soaked through, the door still wide open.

Floundering, he opens and closes his mouth soundlessly. “I…Lance…”

He just wants to be good. If he’s a good boy, then Lance won’t throw him away, like ------

“You took such good care of the house today.” Lance cuddles up close to his back, dropping a kiss on his hair. “I saw the vacuum and the feather duster, sweetheart, you didn’t have to do that, but thank you.”

Bad mood uplifted, Keith squeals, giving Lance a large hug. Content, he sings under his breath as he sits between Lance’s legs, tapping his socked feet together happily.

“Hey, can I ask you a question?” Keith nods his head, looking up Lance through his bangs with a bright smile.

Lance smiles back, but his eyes are blank, like chips of ice.

“Who’s the person you love the most?”

Well, that’s obvious. “Lance!”

Like a switch, the coldness fades away from him, leaving the Lance he knows back in his place. But still, what a weird question. “Are you feeling sick? Do you want me to kiss it away?”

Lance covers his mouth, eyes sliding partly shut as his cheeks turn red. “No!” He laughs, but there’s still something strange in his eyes. “That’s too sweet, baby.”

Standing up, Lance goes over to the balcony door, sliding it close once for all. “And I don’t know how many times I need to tell you this, darling, but the outside world is a bad place. Don’t open this again.”

Chastised, Keith nods. Satisfied with his meek response, Lance tilts his head with a small turn of his lips, rubbing his thumb against his index finger.

“Why don’t I make dinner, and then we can say our vows, mmh?”

Nodding his head with an excited wiggle, Keith laughs. “Yay!”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Yes, things are just fine.

Lance’s eyes slide slowly open as Keith repeats their vows, holding the veil carefully over his head. Keith’s acting normal, and there’s no hint of him lying either.

His little castle, full of this sugary love, is still here. He hasn’t lost it.

And that’s enough for him, he decides later, sitting on his couch in the dark in only a large t-shirt. Keith’s family doesn’t matter at all, so he shouldn’t worry about it. Instead, he should think about his precious treasure tucked away securely in his bed.

Striking the match, Lance smiles at the small flame. So tiny, but yet so bright, just like his Keith.

“What should I make for dinner tomorrow?” He debates quietly, humming lightly as he holds the match to the crinkled missing poster. “Oh, maybe some hash?”

Laughing, he watches the poster catch aflame, disintegrating into ashes in his hands. “So pretty!

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance sighs, brushing his hand through his hair in aggravation. He has to go bowling today, but after school and a shift at the cafe, he just wanted to go home and lie down in Keith’s lap. The two of them could watch that movie Keith saw an ad of the other day, and Lance would cook them dinner, and it would relaxing and honey sweet.

But no, the outside world calls, and he has to bowl. Who even bowls in this day and age?

His friends. Ugh.

Flicking through his cheap burner phone, his expression goes flat at the numerous unread texts from his mother and siblings. No doubt they’ve contacted Hunk already, concerned about his uncharacteristic silence. But he’s been so busy, and why would he call them back when he could be spending his time with Keith instead? He has priorities, and Keith has always been it for him.

Opening the door to the bowling alley/arcade, he squints his eyes into the initial darkness, trying to find the shortest person in the room that wasn’t screaming.

And sure enough, there Pidge was, smirking at something Hunk said, no doubt. But what catches his eyes is the two forms chatting in the seats next to them, one that looks like Pidge succeeded in cloning herself but slightly taller, and the other…

Oh, he hates enigmas.

“Hunk, my love!” He shouts, running across the room and ignoring the weird stares he gets. “I’ve missed you!”

Being the complete bro he is, Hunk catches his flying hug, laughing as the force of it sends him taking a couple steps backward. “Lance! Good to see you buddy, it’s been practically forever!”

Wincing, Lance smiles through his guilt. He doesn’t mean to stay away, it’s just so easy to get swept up in Keith and the way love makes him feels. God, it’s addicting, and he almost hates himself for it.

Almost.

Pushing down the gross feeling, he smiles and steps back from Hunk, holding his shoulders at arms length. “I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been just a bit stressed lately!” Laughing, Lance tries to dismiss Hunk’s concern. “Still getting used to college, plus the new job.”

Hunk accepts it, nodding his head with a kind smile. He doesn’t deserve Hunk.

“Is the work that hard?” Someone asks curiously, and Lance turns to face Mr. Enigma.

“Just strange hours!” He assures Shiro, winking at him. Shiro blushes him the most delightful shade of red that reminds him of Keith, strangely enough, and he can’t help his surge of fondness for the noisy officer.

Damn him.

Matt butts his way in, wiggling his eyebrows at the two of them. Even Pidge has that shit eating grin on her face that she always used to get when he had crushes in the past.

Not wanting to or willing to fuel the two demons imagination, he turns to Hunk, ignoring the siblings, and thus Shiro, by extension. “So when are we starting?”

Hunk points him in the direction of the shoe exchange, and Lance quietly grimaces, grossed out at the thought of having to share shoes with probably thousands of others, with their failure to abdicate by decent hygiene standards.

Another benefit of being in love with Keith: even though Keith complains about it and would probably be just as happy never showering in his life ever, Lance gets to control when and how often he bathes. It’s an added bonus.

Sighing, Lance trades his shoes in for a similar size, muttering to himself as they pinch at his toes. Shiro chuckles quietly at his misfortune, standing up for his turn up on the scoreboard. While Lance was busy getting the plastic soles, everyone else but the officer had already gone up, with Hunk already dominating the sport.

“Another fun day in paradise,” he mutters, and stands up to join them.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith squeezes the pillow to his chest, staring anxiously at the clock on the TV stand. Lance is late!

Whimpering, he rocks on the couch, murmuring to himself little reassurances. “Lance will be back soon, it’s okay, nothing happened, nothing happened, he’s fine, he’s fine -

Keith shudders, his breaths coming fast and panicked. Lance is fine! He has to be be! His mean boss is probably making him do stinky paperwork again, that’s all, and Lance will walk through that door any second now.

Any

Second

Now

Because Lance is fine!

But…

What if he isn’t?

Sobbing, Keith curls up tighter, hands shaking around the pillow.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Six rounds of bowling later, Shiro and the Holt siblings finally get the notice that unless they suddenly get superpowers, there’s no human way to beat Hunk at bowling.

“Jesus,” Shiro sighs, collapsing down next to Lance on the plastic seats. “What number strike is this? The third?”

“The fifth, actually.” Hunk says, smug. “And one spare, too, and only because Pidge cheated and shoved me.”

Pidge, who was currently sulking across from them, scoffs. “It was not cheating, it was pure strategy -”

“And how is shoving me strategy?” Hunk raises an eyebrow, wearing his ‘oh please, continue, let me hear this’ expression.

Matt sighs, ignoring the bickering friends. “I’m gonna take them to order a pizza, you two want anything?”

Shiro shakes his head, while Lance asks for a coke. Matt salutes them, grabbing each of the duo’s shoulders and leading them toward the ordering desk.

The two of them sit in silence for several long moments, before Shiro sighs, dragging himself to his feet. “Could you watch our stuff? I really have to use the bathroom but I was afraid to leave Hunk alone in case his score rose even higher.”

Lance snorts, waving a hand for him to do what he pleases. Shiro scoots his messenger bag a little closer to Lance before leaving for the bathroom, sending one last worried glance at the trio still waiting in line.

Fiddling with his phone, Lance keeps Shiro moving in his peripheral vision until he disappears behind the corner, one last glance towards his other friends still busy in line. Then, he drops his phone in his lap, hurriedly dragging the messenger bag up and ripping it open.

Goddamn enigmas. Lance hates them so much.

Case file, case file, some mail, an advertisement for a restaurant, case file, his police issued gun, wallet, a bundle of papers -

He pauses.

Carefully grabbing them, he pulls the flyers out, all of them paper clipped and neatly organized, and nearly screams.

Missing: Keith Kogane

And a small sticky note, tabbed right on the top corner of the first page.

Our vows, in sickness and in health, it reads in a painfully familiar handwriting, shaky and uncertain. Through happiness and sadness, for richer, for poorer, I promise to love you forever.

Till death do us part, Keith’s sloppy penmanship reads back at him.

luve youu sherow & adum - keith

Oh god, oh god, oh god

That’s THEIR VOWS STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT JUST FUCKING STOP -

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith hovers in the entryway, wavering.

Lance is two hours late. He promised, he promised he wouldn’t be late again, liar liar liar!

But -

What if something happened?

“What do I do?”

Clutching at his shorts, Keith stares at the front door. The outside world is a bad place, it’s bad bad bad bad bad and yet. And yet.

Lance might be hurt. He might be in pain and hoping desperately for Keith to come rescue him.

He can’t go outside. He can still see Lance’s furious expression when he thoughtlessly tried to leave for flowers just like her perfume -

It’s okay, Keith.

She leans over his shoulder, taking his hand carefully. Her voice is raw and scratched out, like a half broken radio. Slowly, she raises both of their hands towards the doorknob, and then higher.

His fingers rest over the lock, her hand gone.

But she still whispers in his ear.

Don’t worryshe murmurs to him. I’ll always be with you.

Keith swallows.

Click

The door swings open.

Lance!”

Slowly, the door shuts under its own weight with an unsettling creak, at last leaving a dark and empty apartment silent.

Not even ghosts linger here now.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance shudders out a shaky breath, still staring at the posters in his hand.

Missing: Keith Kogane

His heart pounds in his ears.

Missing: Keith Kogane

The number, oh no wonder, it’s Shiro’s number.

Missing: Keith Kogane

Takashi Shirogane was a single man with no children and no siblings. So how does he know his Keith?

Has Keith ever smiled at him like he smiles at Lance?

bitter 

Lance opens the bathroom door, his vision blurring in front of him. Shiro’s down at the end of the sinks, - bitter - washing his hands and not noticing Lance hovering in the doorway.

Silently, he stares at the man who knows his Keith’s, who’s searching for him.

so bitter

Who Keith loves.

bitter bitter bitter 

Hovering his hand over the gun he stole from Shiro’s bag, Lance smoothly pulls it out from his jacket’s pocket.

M A K E  I T S T O P

its so bitter

Chapter Text

“Lance?”

The Latino boy faces the wall, and even from here Hunk can see how he’s staring at nothing, eyes wide and vacant. His hands are clenched tightly at his sides, tight enough that his knuckles have turned white from the pressure. 

“What are you doing, buddy?” He asks, taking a cautious step forward. Glancing up at the bright restroom sign, he wonders why Lance is having a panic attack right now of all times in front of the bathroom, but quickly pushes it aside in order to comfort his best friend.

Lance inhales sharply, eyes dilated as he shakes apart in front of Hunk. His mouth parts around something - a name, maybe? - before his head snaps towards Hunk, recognition slowly flooding in.

“I….” Lance swallows, and Hunk’s eyes follow the motion. “I think I need to go home, I’m - I'm not feeling so good.”

Disappointment washes over him, but Hunk knows it’s probably for the best. Lance knew himself best, and if he needed space, then Hunk would make himself scarce.

After the disaster of everything that went down with Nyma, then Hunk would do his absolute best to support him, especially with this new girlfriend of his. Lance’s seemed so much happier, if a bit more aloof, since they’ve started dating, so hopefully she’s having a good impact on him and can handle this.

“Of course.” Hunk smiles sympathetically, reaching out to give Lance a hug.

But Lance flinches away, looking trapped as his eyes dart between Hunk’s hands and the hallway.

“I’m - I’m sorry.” Lance mutters, and then he’s gone, scampering down the hallway with his hand protectively over his jacket’s pocket.

Hunk, months later, standing in front of The Castle of Lions behind the police tape as they wheel out a body bag, will turn this conversation over and over in his head, wondering if he should have noticed something was off.

That maybe Lance was hiding more than he seemed. That maybe something was wrong with his friend, something deeply disturbing down to the core, from the very beginning. That he needed help.

That maybe Lance never trusted him enough to tell him anything to begin with.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance hurries back to their things, keeping his back to Matt and Pidge - who are currently chowing down on a pizza - as he stuffs the gun hazardously back into Shiro’s bag.

What was he thinking? What the fuck was he thinking?

Besides the fact that he just tried to murder Shiro in a public place, with countless of witnesses and a weapon that had Lance’s fingerprints all over it. God, he was asking to be arrested! And where would he be, in a prison cell to rot away the rest of his life and Keith taken away from him?

“I have to go,” he hurriedly says to the siblings, shouldering his own bag and practically running out of the bowling alley without sticking around to see their reaction.

Thank god Shiro had to take a phone call - the ringing of his cell snapped Lance out of whatever haze possessed him. That was so - so reckless of him.

He’s never like this, ever. What’s going on with him?

The college town is washed in darkness, covering the multiple clubs and bars in a blanket of secrecy, their neon lights staining the air around them in vivid and bold colors. He can hear their chatter and shouts, eyes boring into him before he abruptly veers into an alleyway, bracing himself against the filthy brick wall.

Something’s wrong with him - he’s never like that! He’s always been so smart when it came to Keith, he made sure Keith’s face was never shown in any cameras the day he took him home with him, he bought all of Keith’s clothes and toys from the town over and always with cash, he stole the maintenance key from the main office and smashed anything that had the chance to record him with a baseball bat, he got rid of that decomposing body by dumping the limbs in the river all across town and even burned some of it in the furnace at work.

He’s already gone so far, he can’t afford to mess up now.

Think, think…

It was bitter , but not in the way that the officer was, or the thoughts at himself whenever he found himself staring too long at Keith’s mouth.

Lance has to understand it, so that he doesn’t ever put himself at risk like that again.

What triggered it?

He was fine earlier, finding Keith’s face posted all over town. Now that he has a moment to think it through with a clear head, he realizes it wasn’t even finding out that Shiro was looking for Keith that messed with him so much.

Then what was it?

Keith’s voice, his poor handwriting from a hand unused to holding a pencil the proper way. His soft smile, the sensation of his hair touching Lance’s arm as he falls asleep watching TV. Their vows, being said to someone else, someone unworthy of Keith’s affection, someone who wasn’t him -

He can’t stand the thought of Keith being with somebody else -

Oh.

Oh.

“Jea…lousy…?”

Lance leaves the alleyway, keeping his face towards the ground, one hand holding so tightly onto the strap of his bag that his knuckles wash out. Slowly, he makes his way towards his apartment, breathing shallowly in and out through his mouth.

“Hey pretty boy!” A couple of women and even a few men jeer at him from the bar across the street, one of them catcalling him obnoxiously. “Wanna join us?”

Lance draws to a stop, staring at his shoes for a long moment.

Then he looks at the crowd, a bright, manic smile cutting through his face.

“I’m good,” he laughs, voice floaty as he near skips down the road. “I have someone waiting for me at home!”

Jealousy! He was jealous!

Never before has he felt like this - felt this sweet sugary relief. Because even through its bitterness, it’s another emotion that Keith has taught him. Because this bitterness was born out of his love for Keith, and nothing that was created out of their love could be bad.

Humming under his breath, Lance rushes down the street towards The Castle of Lions, excitement and ecstasy running hot in his veins.

He can’t wait to tell Keith!

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

“Ow…”

Keith winces at the gravel stabbing through his socks, leaning against the brick wall with one hand to lift his foot up.

Brushing off the sharp rocks, he tentatively put his foot back down, relieved when pain didn’t burn through him again, just hot and as sharp as a stove top.

He has to keep searching! Lance couldn’t be far, right?

But the outside world is so dark, so dark and scary, yet…bright, at the same time. It's so much bigger than he could ever expect, nothing like TV has prepared him for. It’s too much, his head is aching -

He needs Lance.

“Lance!” He screams, limping down the empty road as fast as he could. “Lance, where are you? Lance!”

Lance, why did you leave me alone? Lance, where are you? I’m scared!

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Romelle breathes in Bandor’s poster, feeling the ecstasy of calmness wash over her.

It was getting worse. She could barely get through a shift without having a panic attack, needing Bandor’s poster more and more to relax her.

She needs to find Bandor, soon.

Sighing, she folds the poster back up, slipping it back into her bag. She needs to go back home, make herself some dinner or something, even though she wasn’t particularly hungry, and go to bed only to start it all over again the next morning. Her court mandated therapist recommended her getting a cat, but nothing can replace the empty ache in her chest. Nothing but her family could replace it. 

Maybe she’ll take a walk or something before going home. It’s a nice enough day for it, and she has her taser on her if anything goes wrong.

Anything besides returning home to that empty shell of a house.

Popping her earbuds in, she makes her way further down the street, deeper into the city, passing right by a tall, white apartment building, the words The  Castle of Lions written along the walls.

What a strange name, she muses, and keeps on walking.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Smiling giddily, Lance skips into the lobby, impatiently pressing on the button to go up.

He can’t wait to see Keith, to touch his soft skin, to hear their vows. All this excitement is curling hotly in his gut, twisting around each other like worms. It’s almost like arousement, but something so much stronger, better than any ecstasy drugs could give him. Masturbation, sex with random girls and boys, even Nyma, nothing is quite like having Keith sitting between his legs during bath time, or the sensation of the veil lightly held over his head as Keith practices their wedding vows in his shy and stuttering voice. 

And with the problem with Shiro…

Well.

“Our vows…”

Lance eyebrows furrow, stepping into the elevator. It’s not a problem now, he considers slowly. Shiro’s important, he’s a well known police officer with friends who will notice if anything happens to him. Not to mention that Lance has interacted with him several times in public, people will remember their involvement and he's not confident in his ability to bluff an alibi if questioned about it. 

But, he thinks, eyes blank as the elevator doors close in front of him. If he gets in the way, or tries to meet with Keith...

“...I’ll have to strategically get rid of that thing.”

But that’s for a different time. Now, he’s going home to his sweet darling. Beaming, Lance practically skips down the hallways. Next time he runs into Shiro, he’ll control himself better, no matter how bitter it might be. He won't risk his precious castle with Keith because of that thing.

More importantly, he wants to tell Keith all about this new emotion. Humming, he tugs out his keys from his bag, thinking about Keith will smile at him and maybe he’ll get a cheek kiss! And then the two of them can take a bath together before dinner and then they’ll do their vows. 

He can't wait. 

"Keith!" He calls, inserting the key into the lock. "I'm home -"

Click

Lance stops.

He twists the key the other way. And then once again.

Why - why -

The door was unlocked.

Opening the door slowly, Lance’s eyes rove around the empty entryway.

“Keith…?”

He drops his school bag uncaringly to the floor, striding quickly into apartment. “Keith? Keith! This isn’t funny, where are you?”

The living room is dark. "Keith?"

"Keith?" So is the kitchen. Keith’s not in the bedroom or the kitchen, and even the second bedroom is undisturbed. "KEITH!"

Lance bites his thumb, staring deeper into their bedroom. He’s not here. Keith’s gone.

Without any hesitation, he slides open his closet door, shoving aside his numerous shoes for the duffel bag he didn’t think he had any reason to hold onto until right now. Stringing it over his shoulder, he rushes out of his apartment, barely remembering to lock the front door behind him.

He ducks into the open elevator, impatiently tapping against the down button, again and again and again and again. Tears run down his face as the elevator slowly descends, even as his expression fights to keep itself blank.

All he can think about, all he can see, is Keith and that thing hand and hand, getting farther away from him by the second, leaving him behind. "No," he breathes, shaking his head as his tears hit the floor. 

The instant the doors are open, he’s lunging out of the apartment complex, the duffel bag bouncing against his sides as he runs into the dark city. Lance sobs.

Keith!

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

On the other side of the city, a man carefully nails up another flyer. Once it doesn’t look liable to be torn away by the wind, he steps back and just stares for a long moment.

Missing: Keith Kogane

Shiro sighs. “Where are you, buddy…?”

“Thank you for watching him so much,” she gratefully clasps his hand, looking so worn and weary that he can’t help but feel for her.

“It’s no problem.” Shiro waves it off, adjusting Keith on his hip. The toddler looks up at him with such trusting eyes that Shiro melts a little bit, tweaking the baby’s nose. Keith squeals, patting Shiro’s cheeks with chubby hands and happy noises.

“Shirow,” Keith mumbles. “Play, Shirow.”

“Not right now,” Shiro laughs, shaking his head. “It’s time to go home.”

“Oh.” Just like that, Keith wilts, but he goes obediently into her arms just the same. Keith looks longingly towards Shiro as she starts to leave, reaching out one hand sadly before ducking his head into her shoulder.

“Shiro?” He raises his head from where he was watching Keith with furrowed eyebrows to make eye contact with her. She watches him with something indescribable, like the day she first moved next door all over again with dirt all over them and bruises up and down their arms and legs. “If something were to happen to me… would you take care of Keith?”

Shiro blinks. Adam would have said no, kindly, but he still would have said no, explaining that they were still in college, they weren’t ready for the responsibility of a child, nevermind one as young as Keith.

But he wasn’t Adam, and he couldn’t quite explain his own fascination with Keith. He was drawn to this child more than he was to his own boyfriend.

“Of course,” he says, and Krolia smiles at him, before whisking Keith away.

Three years later, both of them would go missing, and not a single record of Krolia’s existence would be found. Krolia Kogane never existed, and just like that, neither did Keith. Nothing but a few stray photographs of him and a forged birth certificate.

Shiro’s forehead creases as he stares at the poster. So many he’s printed out, so many hours he’s obsessed over tip phone calls and any hint towards where Keith must have gone.

It’s been weeks since then. He has no idea if Keith’s alive or dead, whether he’s okay or not. The only thing he knows is that he has to find Keith before -

Rubbing a hand against his eyes, Shiro bites back his own tears.

It’s time for him to get home. It’s late, and he’s still tired from bowling with everyone. It was nice for him to hang out with Lance outside of work though, he’s been trying to ask that secretary out for a dinner date for weeks now. He’s not sure if Lance is purposefully avoiding giving him a straight answer or if he really just not interested. To be honest, he's not even interested in him like that, just in a distraction. 

Either way, it deals him no good to dwell on it.

God, if only things were like when he was younger, with Keith’s bubbly smile as he calls out ‘ Shirow ’ and Adam’s hand in his own, the familiar press of their engagement ring shared between them. Before Krolia's disappearance, before Adam decided enough was enough, before the diagnosis. 

But they aren’t, and they won’t ever be again.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith peeks out from behind a trash can, flinching when he hears a cat holler in the distance. There’s so many people out there… Maybe he should just head back.

Turning around, he heads back the way he came, glancing several times over his shoulder at the busy street outside the alleyway. So busy in glancing behind him, he misses the glass bottle shattered on the ground in front of him until he's stepping on it. 

"Owie," he whines pathetically, lifting his foot up and watching with misty eyes the blood seeping out of the cuts and onto the ground below. 

Cringing a little bit, Keith hops messily on his uninjured foot, using the wall to brace himself. His foot stings, the scratches on the bottom soaking into his sock. Way to make him wish he had shoes…

Why doesn’t he have shoes, anyhow?

It’s not like he goes outside, the outside world is a bad place filled with mean people. But sometimes, if he’s good, Lance takes him upstairs to the roof, so he should own some shoes for those occasions, right?

He misses Lance.

Sniffing, he finally gives up on hopping, letting himself sink to the ground. It’s cold outside, the concrete biting into his bummy from where he’s sitting. He has to blink back tears as he holds his head, feeling like it’s going to burst.

It’s scary! He’s scared and he’s alone and he wants Lance!

The pain spikes. Whimpering, he clenches his eyes shut as hard as he can.

Spinning, spinning. Spinning, spinning.

His head is twisted up into knots from all this spinning. 

What should he do? How…

Footsteps.

She stands in front of him, face scratched out. Her leather jacket flows in the wind, as she offers out a hand towards him.

Come here

Keith stares, still on his knees. But slowly, ever so slowly, he climbs to his feet, not even bothering to wipe his tears away as he runs after her.

His injured foot aches. He’s so cold that it hurts. Everything’s so scary and lonely.

But.

What… is that?

“Hey,” Keith comes to a stop on the sidewalk, staring up at the woman. “Who are you?”

Their surroundings bleed back in.

The two of them are standing in front of an empty square of land, where nature ran its course in lieu of anyone building up anything with the property. Trees arch overhead, throwing both of their clothes into deep shadows, and wild flowers cling to his clothing as he catches his breath.

Distantly, he thinks the flowers are marigolds.

A brief flash of a memory burns into his brain. Lance is kneeling in front of him, eyes wide and bright as he says something Keith can’t hear. There’s a napkin in his hand, dotted with blood.

When... ?

Turning his gaze up to the woman, he swallows heavily.

“I…Have I been here before?”

She seems to stare at him for a long moment, before leaving her back to him and turning the corner. Keith yelps, hurrying after her. “Wait! Wait, please!”

He doesn’t know her name, what she looks like, anything. But…

It feels like she’s always held his hand.

…It feels so familiar. Like home. 

Before he even realizes it, he trips, painfully skidding against the pavement. Sobbing, he tries to will the urge to follow her again, but he’s so tired.

A hand wraps around his. Just a little more

There’s a man, with a white streak in his hair and a kind smile as he holds Keith high above his head. But just as soon as he’s there, he’s gone.

She waits for him.

What...What did he forget?

“Please…”

You are…

“Mama -”

Another hand grabs his, breaking her hold on him. Keith jerks, turning horrified eyes toward the woman. She reaches back, but she’s already fading, like the sun beneath the horizon at sunset, something distinctively panicked in her empty face.

“Oh god,” someone breaths, and then someone is petting his face desperately, panting heavily as they stare at him with a red face and glassy eyes. “To think…”

Blue eyes. Blonde hair done up into two pigtails. The woman pulls him under her, cupping his face between her delicate hands.

“I’ve finally found you, Keith Kogane.” She says, grin so wide it almost splits her face in half. “My Bandor.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance pants, footsteps thudding against the concrete.

Keith, Keith, Keith Keith Keith KEITH KEITH KEITH PLEASE

He wasn’t at the emergency stairs, or any of the other floors. But seeing as Keith didn’t bring anything and doesn’t understand the outside world, he couldn’t have gone far on his own.

That is, if that thing didn't somehow find him. 

Keith…

Tears fly out of his eyes as he sprints down the darkened street. He feels like a madman possessed as he runs, sneakers pounding as heavily as his heart.

Keith was his home, his heart, his love and devotion. Without him, he had nothing. Without him, he was nothing, just a boy from Cuba with loneliness freezing him to a slow death.

He wails, uncaring of anyone watching him.

Keith, where are you?

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Romelle pants, rubbing those small hands in between her own. She found him, she finally found him! Those large eyes and fluffy hair, the innocent way he watches her with a slightly parted mouth. Such soft skin, the warmth of a child… God, she just wants to take him home right now and bundle him up in blankets, like how they used to watch Saturday cartoons as children before Romelle got full of herself and decided she was too old for them. What she wouldn't give to go back in time and fix all of her mistakes. 

Stroking his hands, she pants heavily, just watching him from lowered eyelashes.

He's so cute! 

Oh, but waitThere's something she needs to ask of him, isn't there?

“Bandor,” she whimpers, knocking her head pathetically against his. “Can…can you please please please do me a big favor?”

He watches her, uncomprehendingly. That’s okay. He’s there. He’s with her. She’s not alone in this big scary world anymore.

Romelle moves her grip from his hands to his shoulders, rubbing her thumb soothingly along his collar bones. She watches him with wet eyes, trying to choke down another wave of sobs.

She’s so tired of crying.

“Can you tell me it’ll be okay?”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith stares at the weird lady, watching her cry on the park bench they eventually moved to. She kneels on the bench, crying into her open hands as he pats her head.

“It’ll be okay.” He says, awkwardly rubbing his palm against her hair. “Shh, it’s gonna be a-okay.”

For a moment, he stops just to watch her heave into herself, cries so loud and painful her chest shudders like she’s going to puke. Keith's never met her before, but she knew his name. 

"Keith Kogane"

Kogane…

What’s a Kogane?

He turns his gaze back to her, noticing that her cries seemed to have calmed down a little bit. Yay! “Why are you crying so much?” He asks, neither of them realizing how insensitive he sounds.

She sniffs, her face still turned towards the bench instead of him. “I’m gross.” She mutters, holding herself like a hug. “I’m dirty, I can’t get clean. No matter how many showers I take, I still feel him…I just want to be myself again.”

“But,” her voice cracks. “You make me feel good again. I’m just…really happy.”   

He doesn’t really get it…but he still feels a little bad for her.

Keith pats her hair again. “There, there, miss.” His fingers play with the ends of her strands, admiring the bright color. He’s seen brown, black, and white hair, but never yellow.

He pauses. When has he seen white hair before?

“Pretty hair, pretty person.” He hums happily, laughing a little bit as she finally raises her head to look at him. Her eyes are bright red, and her nose is runny, but she’s still a very pretty lady. "Don't cry, crying makes you sad."

“It’s Romelle Arus.” She corrects gently, taking his hand in hers.

Keith chirps. “Okay, Melle.”

She shakes her head, but she’s smiling too. “ Ro -melle.”

He tilts his head to the side. “Melle.”

Laughing, Romelle finally gives up, instead, she straightens up, fixing her ruffled and messy hair back into its proper piggytails. For a moment, it looks like she has one ponytail instead of two piggytails, dark hair instead of blonde, and his eyes blur.

That lady from before…they did this too, didn’t they?

But why?

He feels like he wasn't supposed to forget about them. 

Unexpectedly, his eyes burn.  

“I don’t get it.” Romelle perks up at his muttered words, her eyes going wide as he starts to cry instead. “Why…Why can’t I remember?”

It hurts. It hurts so much. His heart clenches in his chest, even as something like sadness wells up inside him. Why is he sad? Why is he so sad? He doesn't know why? He doesn't understand!

He blinks furiously. “I don’t get it.” He repeats, bringing up both of his hands to rub at his face.

It’s something he should remember. It’s important, he knows it, so why can’t he remember it?

Marigolds. A blood stained napkin. Lance’s mouth on his.

If only Lance was here. Lance would know, wouldn’t he?

Keith doesn’t realize he’s spoken aloud until Romelle’s leaning forward, a curious look in her eyes. “Is Lance your family?”

He blinks, confused. “What’s a family?”

“A family is someone like your dad or your mom.” Romelle explains, a distant expression settling over her before she’s back to her smiling self. “It’s the people that are always by your side, no matter what, who love you unconditionally. They're always there for you. I'm sure they're looking for you!”

Keith blinks again. And then he bursts into tears. “I don’t get it!”

Romelle panics, trying to calm him with several large waves. “No no, it’s okay! I’m sure you’ll understand someday.” A thought seems to cross her mind, as she straightens up, smiling at him with a giddy grin. "Why don't I just show you? I'll help you find your loved ones; it'll all be okay."

"Lance… ?"

Romelle beams. "Yeah! Like Lance!"

Keith thinks about it, and then comes to an obvious conclusion. “Oh… If Melle knows me, then you must know Lance too!”

He doesn’t notice her weak mutter of ‘sure’ and just grabs her hands, smiling brightly up at her. “Thank you big bunches!”

“In the meantime

Their eyes connect.

“Why don’t you come home with me?”

Keith grins. "Sure!"

Romelle slowly stands, helping him to his feet. She grins at him, her eyes both too close and far away. She mutters something like ‘banter’, tightening her hold on his hand, before starting to walk off deeper into the park. Keith obediently follows her, trailing just a step behind her.

Soon, he’ll be able to find Lance, and finally end this awful night. And once he goes home, he’s never gonna go outside again, that’s for sure! But maybe he can ask Lance to invite Romelle over once in a while. Surely not everyone is so bad!

Both of them are so involved in their own worlds that they don’t notice the shick of a knife until it’s too late and it’s pressed against Romelle’s throat.

“Hand over your wallet and phone right now,” the man orders, a mean sneer on his face. Romelle pales immensely, looking ready to vomit as she just watches his face. “Did you hear me? Give methem  or I’ll slit your throat!”

Romelle shakes, her hand letting go of Keith’s to fumble in her pockets. The man smirks, something scary crawling across his face as his gaze travels up and down Romelle’s body, licking his lips.

Keith shakes, his palm drifting towards her pants to cling to the stiff fabric. Romelle is shaking so hard that his own arms jitters along with it, her breaths coming out faster and faster as she fishes out her wallet and her smartphone.

“Good girl,” the man croons, his knife lowering to rest along the top of her work blouse. “Now -”

The rest of what he’s about to say gets cut off as Romelle punches him straight in the jaw, knocking aside the knife in one smooth movement and throwing her wallet as far as she could in the other.

“Run!” She barks at Keith, grabbing his hand and sprinting in the other direction of the wallet. Behind them, he can hear the man curse bad words, but instead of following the wallet, the man follows them.

Romelle seems to realize this as the same time he does, because she dives behind a thicket of trees and pushes him down. “Don’t worry, Bandor.” She mumbles, pulling something that looks like a black bar out of her jacket. “I’ll keep you safe, you just wait here.”

And then she’s gone, her neck leaking a small trail of blood as she goes back out into the open. Keith can only stare at the small splatters of blood on the ground, feeling himself shudder as the world goes silent around him.

It hurts. His head hurts again. Why does it hurt every time he sees…

Red.

Red - no - please - it hurts 

she falls to the ground in front of him, red staining her face and her shirt

He doesn't want this. He doesn’t want this pain, this fear. He doesn’t want this.

Someone - 

“Help me,” he whimpers quietly, voice small.

Please. It hurts.

No…!

Help -

She’s there again. The leather jacket and ponytail flow in the breeze, face scribbled out as she stares at him.

Family? People who are always by your side, and love you unconditionally? Who take care of you?

“Will you…help me?

He reaches out for her.

Like the light breaking over the sky, he can see her.

And she’s angry.

Leaning over him, she glares, eyes wide and bloodshot. Keith

Didn’t I tell you, her hands reach out to cup his cheek, cold as ice. Not to let go of my hand, no matter what?

But you let go of Mama’s hand.

Keith falls apart.

“M-mama…”

You know, Keith, he blinks and she’s directly in front of him, nose to nose. Violet eyes bore into him her pupils gone, nothing except for the expanse of violet. I will never, ever forgive you.

It’s too much.

He screams.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Shiro jolts, the missing person papers scattering against the concrete.

Quietly, almost in desperation, he breathes a quiet, “Keith?”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Blue eyes snap up.

Lance grins.

Found you.

Chapter Text

Haxus grunts, wiping the drool away from the corner of the mouth as he shakily climbs to his feet. Goddamn bitch tased him! Blondie ran as soon as he swung at her, something too wild in her eyes that send his own hackles up. Haxus has only survived this long by listening to his gut, so he wisely backed up when she tore off into the woods as if the devil itself was on her tail. 

But… 

Flicking the earwax out from inside his ear, he peers down at the boy curled up in a ball at the base of a tree. Poking him with his boot yields no result - he’s truly out cold. 

Haxus groans - great, the pretty blonde with a great ass is gone and now all he has is this stick thin piece of shit. He’s not into little boys, dammit. 

Crouching down, he squints at the kid, vaguely thinking the kid looks familiar or something. Did Sendak have a kid and he didn’t know? 

Oh right! He’s the kid from the missing posters that are all over town! Kevin, or something… 

“You’re alive, huh?” Tilting his head, he shakes one of the kid’s shoulders, but the kid only whines in protest. “Fucking amazing…Think I’ll get some money from the cops for turning you in?”

There’s a familiar snort from behind him. His long time buddy and fellow lurker, Ranveig, peeks over his shoulder. “Doubt it. But the number under the photo? Belongs to some cop guy. I’m sure he has some money, and if not, I always wanted to punch one of those fucking goody cops.”

Haxus laughs harshly. Good old Ranveig, must have heard the boy scream and coming looking for a fight, or money, either one. “Smart idea, might be some flyers lying around. You into kids?” 

Ranveig scoffs. “No way in hell, where would I even put it in?” Both of them laugh. 

Standing up, Haxus grabs the kid by the hair on the nape of his neck, roughly shaking him around. “Rise and shine, boy.” 

The boy whimpers, but doesn’t respond. Someone else does. 

“Hey big guys,” a sensual voice interrupts them. “Am I interrupting something?”

Both of them glance up, mean sneers on their faces as they evaluate the newcomer. A young man stands in front of them at the beginning of the trail, must have just rounded the corner and spotted them. Neither of them can get a good look at his face, not with his hood drawn up, but Haxus doesn’t even bother bringing his gaze up higher when there’s some bare legs to be appreciated. 

He tilts his hips to the side, resting a delicate hand on his waist. “If you’re not too busy, I could use somebody to play with.” A small smirk. “For a fee, of course.”

“Sure.” A cocky grin spreads across his face. “I’ll play with you.” 

Ranveig jolts, sending him a miserable glare. “Someone picking up Johns this late at night? You shitting? You’re gonna get a knife in your back.” 

But Haxus doesn’t listen, still wrapped up in his anger about missing out on the Blondie. “Nah, he’s a good catch. I can smell it, y’know.” He drops the kid carelessly, not even blinking when the boy hits the ground roughly. 

Neither of them notice the way the young man clenches the hand on his waist. 

“Besides,” Haxus smirks. “If he gives us any troubles, we’ll just beat some obedience into him, he’s just a skinny slut.” 

Striding forward, he barely notices the duffel bag by the young man’s feet - probably just a runaway. “How much do you want, sweetling?” 

This close up, Haxus can see the young man’s eyes, and admittedly, they’re a little creepy. Just the dead way they stare into him, lacking the genuine emotion his smile portrays. 

He’ll fuck him on his knees then, he doesn’t care too much. 

But… 

You’re gonna get a knife in your back

Just then, the smile widens. “Big guy, do you have anything you care about, more precious than money?” Haxus blinks at the young man wraps his arms around his neck. 

Before he can respond, he shrieks for the second time that night, falling to his knees and pathetically clutching his neck. Coughing on his spit, he peers up at the latino man, practically a boy, who smirks at him and raises his taser tauntingly. 

“I do.” He says, face curling into a bitter expression. “Something tells me you wouldn’t get it, though.” 

Ranveig snarls, running at the boy with his fist raised. “You fucking bitch!” 

The young man throws his taser straight at Ranveig, the stupid whore, only for Ranveig to dodge and laugh loudly. “What an idiot!” He mocks loudly. “You threw away your only weapon? You seriously think a brat like you can take me ?”

Ranveig goes to punch him, only for the young man to neatly side-step him, grabbing his duffel bag in one smooth motion and swinging it around to smash it into Ranveig’s face. Ranveig goes sputtering to the ground right next to Haxus, who’s still trying to climb to his feet with his fiercely aching throat. 

The young man sighs, dropping the duffel ground to the bag, the zipper spilling open and showing them the sheer amount of tasers, batons, knives, and even a gun all piled into there. 

“It’s a first for me, really.” The young man says conversationally, digging through his bag as Ranveig pulls himself up to his knees. “When the person you care about more than anything is gone, the world looks monochrome.” 

They both look up. 

He stares at them serenely with ice cold eyes, a knife reflecting the half moon behind him in one hand and a sparking taser in the other. “But that night is over now.” 

A deranged smile grows on his face. “Let’s all go home, mmkay?” 

Haxus doesn’t have time to back away before he grabs his hair, pulling him up so his face is in clear sight. The young man brings the knife closer to his eye without blinking, still with that manic grin on his face. “Wait, what are you - Stop! STOP!”

He screams. 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Romelle pants, holding her side achingly and catching her breath against the park’s public restroom. She needs to find Bandor again, she needs to go home where it’s safe - both of the needs are battling in her head like a nonstop hurricane. 

But the decision is taken out of her hands when she sees a hooded figure hurrying across the park, holding a small, familiar looking figure in their arms. 

Hidden as she is in the shadows, they don’t notice her, not even when the wind pushes their hood down, showcasing their worried expression and stark, recognizable features. 

“That’s…Lance?”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

“Keith!” Shiro screams into the empty park. “Keith, where are you?!”

He knows he heard him. He can’t be mistaken. 

It was Keith. But now he’s gone. 

Rubbing his face tiredly, Shiro squeezes the corners of his eyes until he sees spots. 

So close. So damn close, and yet so far. 

It’s only because he’s looking down that he sees it. 

Blood. Lots of it. 

Gasping, he stumbles back, eyes inevitably drawn to the crime scene in front of him. 

Fuck. He has to call it in - now. 

911, What’s your emergency?” 

“My name is Takashi Shirogane, I’m a police officer at the local station. There seems to be a double homicide, both male victims, late twenties, with their eyes gouged out...” 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

So warm

(jasmine perfume)

So soft… It feels nice 

(the stained jacket and boots she always wore)

It’s really warm… 

(reading aloud to lull him to sleep)

He loves this feeling

(the potted plant on the windowsill she had him name)

But then why… 

(pillow forts for just the two of them)

Did everything go black all of a sudden?

(“Why did you let go of Mama’s hand?)

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith gasps, jerking awake violently in a pair of arms. 

Where…? 

Familiar hardwood floors, high ceilings. Light paint. 

He’s home. 

Tearing his gaze up, Keith jolts as he meets Lance’s watery eyes. 

“Keith,” he murmurs. 

It smells like Lance, the same lavender and cotton comforting smell. The one the real Lance carries like a cloak of honor. 

The real… Tears slip down his face

“Lance!” He yells, toppling out of his hold to throw his arm around Lance’s waist, ignoring his startled look. “Lance! Lance! I’m sorry! I got so scared - I broke our promise! I went outside looking for you, and, and I got so lost, and then, and then -”

A warm hand ruffles his hair. “Shh, shh.” 

Keith glances up, confused at Lance’s kindness. But Lance only runs his hands through Keith’s hair. “You didn’t do anything wrong.” He soothes, cooing at Keith kindly when the younger boy shakes his head no. “I’m the one who messed up, not you.” 

Lance smiles through his tears. “I’m so sorry, baby.” 

Keith falls into the hug, letting both of them embrace each other as tightly as they dare. After a moment, Lance squeezes his shoulders, drawing him back to make eye contact. 

“But listen to me, sweetheart.” Lance warns him. “I’d never leave you and go somewhere else. I promise to love you forever, remember? That’s why this castle exists.” 

Stars fill the void of their castle, lighting it up. Keith eyes go wide, sparkling as he looks around the apartment, truly, for the first time, seeing it as the magical castle Lance has always told him about. 

“A castle for me and you, to live together happily, forever.” Lance explain gently, cocooning him in his arms softly. “I might be late sometimes, but I’ll always come back here, come back to you.”

Keith’s eyes flutter shut as Lance hugs him securely against his chest. “So…So it’s fine. You don’t have to think about anything at all, because I’ll always protect you and keep you safe. Okay?”

He whimpers, small hands digging into the back of Lance’s hoodie. “Okay…” His voice breaks off into small sobs, curling into Lance’s hold. 

Lance smiles sadly at him, kissing his forehead delicately. “Don’t cry, Keith. Don’t cry, you did nothing wrong…” 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance stands next to their bed, watching Keith sleep. The poor dear had cried himself to sleep, obviously exhausted from his night out in the impure world. 

His class tomorrow doesn’t start until eleven, he’ll have time to wash everything that Keith touched after going outside. He can’t have any of the outside filth getting inside - even his darling isn’t immune to it, he needs to scrub it all off - 

But that’s for in the morning. 

Moonlight breaks through their window, setting Keith’s face aglow. He’s always so beautiful, even with dried tear tracks down his face. 

Yes… It wasn’t Keith’s fault at all. 

It was Lance’s. 

Him, who trusted Keith’s words, was wrong. 

Moving away from Keith, he tugs open his desk’s drawers, ruffling through them with a small smile. It was Keith, so he trusted his words subconsciously. 

Love really is a mysterious thing, he muses, pulling out the toolbox and swiftly slamming the drawer shut afterwards. For a moment, he just pauses and stares at the vase of flowers he plucked from the rooftop garden for Keith. 

Love, love…

Love.

"̸V̶e̵r̸o̸n̵i̵c̴a̷,̵ ̵w̸h̷y̷ ̷d̶o̴ ̴y̶o̵u̷ ̷a̴l̵w̸a̵y̸s̸ ̶h̷a̴v̵e̸ ̵b̶r̶u̵i̴s̶e̸s̵ ̶o̸n̷ ̸y̶o̷u̶r̸ ̶h̸i̷p̶s̴?̴"̶ ̴H̵e̷ ̴a̸s̶k̶e̸d̵ ̵h̸e̵r̶ ̶o̷n̵e̸ ̴d̶a̴y̴ ̵a̴f̸t̶e̶r̴ ̸a̶ ̵d̵a̶y̷ ̸a̵t̶ ̶t̶h̴e̶ ̵p̸o̴o̵l̵.̶

̵S̶h̶e̷ ̵s̶m̵i̴l̷e̷d̷ ̸a̶t̴ ̷h̴i̵m̵,̵ ̴p̵u̶l̶l̴i̸n̴g̸ ̴h̶e̸r̵ ̵t̶-̸s̵h̸i̴r̸t̸ ̷d̵o̸w̵n̶ ̵l̴o̸w̸e̶r̴ ̶t̴o̶ ̵c̸o̷v̵e̷r̵ ̵t̸h̴e̷ ̶a̸d̴u̴l̵t̷ ̷s̵i̴z̵e̶d̴ ̷h̷a̶n̵d̶ ̸p̴r̴i̶n̸t̶s̵.̷ ̷

̷"̸I̷t̵'̶s̷ ̶f̵i̷n̸e̴.̴"̵ ̴V̷e̷r̸o̷n̶i̷c̵a̷ ̷s̷a̷i̸d̵,̷ ̶l̷y̴i̸n̴g̶ ̵t̷h̴r̶o̶u̵g̸h̴ ̵h̶e̷r̷ ̸t̷e̷e̴t̶h̷.̴ ̵"̶B̴e̸c̷a̸u̶s̷e̵ ̵t̶h̸i̸s̸ ̷i̷s̵ ̷a̸l̷s̸o̵ ̶l̸o̸v̴e̸.̸"̴

The front door closes shut behind him, the apartment’s outdoor walkway completely empty and silent this time of night. 

He drops the toolbox next to him. But this won’t happen again. 

Kneeling down, he starts to silently work on the door, choosing a spot about a foot off the ground. 

He won’t make the same mistake. Absolutely not. 

This time, there’ll be no way for Keith to leave him. 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

A person’s love is awakened in various forms. 

Alejándro Élias McClain’s love was awakened by a certain sister. 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance hums to himself as he flips the batter in the pan, sashaying his hips along to the music softly playing from his phone. It was still early in the morning, so he didn’t have fear of waking Keith, who was usually such a deep sleeper. 

Or so he thought, until he hears the bedroom door creak open and soft footsteps approach the living room/kitchen open plan. A head full of dark hair peeks past the fridge, yelping in surprise when he immediately meets Lance’s eyes. 

“Good morning, Keith.” Lance greets, using the spatula to dump the last pancake onto the plate. “Did you sleep okay?”

Keith shyly nods his head, still lingering in front of the doorway. “You?” He asks quietly, shuffling his feet. 

Lance smiles, bringing the breakfast plate over to the island. “Yep!” He chirps cheerfully, gesturing towards the seat next to his. Keith hesitates, but then waddles forward, clumsily climbing into bar stool. 

When he’s sitting in his usual spot, a shy, but pleased, look finally crosses his face and he happily kicks his legs as he eagerly stuff a bite of pancakes in his mouth, barely taking any time to chew before swallowing. 

“Lance’s pancakes are always yummy!” He hums, closing his eyes in bliss as he takes another bite of his breakfast. Lance ignores his food just to watch the boy smile to himself as he hurriedly eats. 

Grinning into his palm, he’s more than delighted to see that Keith’s his usual self, the floaty feeling finally returning to his brain. His sweet and adorable Keith. However, something’s a little…

“Hey, Keith?” The little boy looks up, his cheeks stuffed like a hamster. 

Lance stares. “Last night, did you talk to anyone besides me?” 

Keith chews, staring back at him with something unreadable in his eyes. Lance moves his hand to brace his cheek, eyes never leaving as the boy finally swallows his bite. 

Then Keith smiles. “I didn’t!”

Lance tilts his head, the fake smile sliding off his face like water the instant Keith turns his gaze away. “I see.” 

There’s…something, just a bit off. He muses about it as he gets ready for the day, applying ample concealer under his eyes to hide away his dark bags. When he steps back out in the living room with his book bag strapped over his shoulder, he frowns at the sight of Keith just…sitting there, on the couch with his gaze distant. He hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. 

Slipping on his shoes in the entryway, he tries to ignore the itchiness under his skin. Like he thought, going outside must have been very frightening for Keith. Whatever happened, it’s probably best to give Keith some time before bringing up those memories. 

A smirk slips on his face when he thinks about those two men at the park. He did take care of them, but he’s sure that someone must have found their bodies by now. 

For the time being, at least, things should be fine. 

Lance hears small, almost silent footsteps behind him. “Lance…Are you going to be late today too?”  

He turns around. Yesterday, he was just plain lucky. He might not be again in the future. 

Kneeling down in the entryway, he leans up to cup Keith’s face, pressing their foreheads together. In return, Keith grips his elbows, staring right into his eyes with his own unfathomable blues. “Keith, I’m sorry. I’ll try to start coming home earlier. That way, we can talk lots and lots.” Unnoticed to Lance, Keith’s arms fall away, limp by his sides. “We’ll bathe together, eat dinner together, and spend more time close to each other, okay?”

After a moment, Keith smiles. “Yeah.” 

Lance steps away, opening the front door cautiously. “Well then, I’m off!”

“Be careful.” Keith waves, and Lance spares him one last smile before closing the front door. With a loud click, the first lock, available to both the inside and outside, is shut. 

Then, he crouches down, and locks the second one. 

His brand new lock, one only accessible from the outside. A small round thing, just a foot from the ground, very easy to miss. 

To ensure his sugar angel never spreads his wings, he must hold him tighter.

Lance stands back up, pressing his palm against the wooden door. His face cracks, a manic smile crawling like spiders across his cheeks as he stares at his apartment door. 

“Welcome back.” He murmurs, filled with such incredible longing his body aches to wrap itself around Keith. “My precious love.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith stands in the entryway, staring at the door. 

He doesn’t move.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Lance scrolls through his phone, smiling to himself at just how full his bank account has gotten. Cooking at home actually does help in saving money!

Tapping the top of the phone against his mouth, he feels almost dizzy with relief. He has enough savings to last him through any worse case scenarios. He got access today to three different addresses, each of them to clinics who won’t ask questions if he has to bring in a kid who’s obviously not related to him. Keith’s home, safe and sound, and he might even have enough to install surveillance cameras, just to keep an eye on Keith when he’s away all day. 

“Oh hey Lance,” Hunk’s warm voice pulls him out of his daydreams where he could just watch his beloved nonstop until his eyes bled. “You…feeling better?”

He blinks, unsure of what Hunk means. Then it hits him. Friday night, bowling. “Oh, yeah, much better. Just got out of a lecture and I’m on my way to a shift now.” 

Hunk sips his coffee, not looking like he believes a word Lance is saying. The two of them are standing in front of the library, just one of the many students wandering around the busy campus, even on a Saturday. “If you say so. Hey, um, how’s Veronica?”

Lance smiles blandly. “She’s fine. She always is.” 

Hunk starts to look unsure. “And your girlfriend?”

The smiles grows. “Also fine.”

“I - just.” Hunk swallows. “You’ve been different, you know. Since you broke up with Nyma and started dating this new girl. Why did you guys even break up in the first place?”

Lance resolutely doesn’t think about nosy little blond bitches who never learned the meaning of the word no. Either way, she’s been dealt with. “No real reason, we just stopped getting along as much as we used to. No point in continuing to be together if all we did was fight.”

Well, more like one fight. One big, explosive fight that was the point of no return for either of them. 

“It’s no big deal.” Lance pats Hunk’s shoulder, slipping his phone away and silently promising himself not to linger anymore on campus, if it meant anymore awkward interrogations by his best friend. “Things just happen for a reason, sometimes.”

the smell of her perfume

but who?

veronica?

nyma?

mami?

ḩ̶̅͛̌̚ȋ̵̖͖͔ṣ̷̹̋̓̏͑ ̵̠̘͂̆ã̸̛͙̞̃u̵̗̜͉̙̇͌̅͑n̶̞͙̒͠͝t̶̜̂͌?̶̺͇̇̃̕͜͝

“Lance?” Hunk’s soft voice stops him in his tracks. “You know, no matter what, that I’ll always love you, right?”

Right there and then, Lance nearly breaks. Nearly falls to his knees and begs for Hunk’s forgiveness, for all of Lance’s sins that he’s committed. For the blood on his hands, for his attraction towards Keith, an innocent child who cannot fathom the depths of Lance’s love no matter how much he says otherwise. 

But he’s gone too far now. Nothing he says now will absolve him, it will only doom him. 

Instead, he smiles bitterly over his shoulder at the one person in his life, besides Keith, that he couldn’t bring himself to harm. That unwillingness may be his own doom, if he lets it. 

“I know,” he says, and leaves Hunk standing alone, on the steps of the library, watching his best friend’s back walk away from, feeling for some foolish reason that his Lance has been replaced by a stranger.

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

It was difficult to keep his smiling default expression when Shiro leaned against the front desk, but Lance had a lifetime of faking his emotions, so he looks up with a dazzling grin when Shiro tapped a finger against his computer. 

“Hey there,” Shiro smiles brightly at him, still dressed in it’s police uniform. “All non-essential staff are being let go early today.” 

He raises an eyebrow. “Oh? Why?” 

At this, Shiro sighs a little bit. “Double homicide late last night, Iverson wants everyone to go home early before night falls.” 

“Really?” Lance keeps on smiling. “Maybe I’ll clean the house today, then.” 

For a moment, the officer gives him a strange look, and Lance realizes a little too late that he probably should have acted sad. Shit. Empathy is harder to fake than pretty much any other emotion, but he thought he had it down. Guess not. But thankfully, Shiro moves on with barely a pause. 

“So I was wondering…Do you want to get dinner together? Today?” 

Lance blinks. Well. He certainly wasn’t expecting that. 

But if it would mean getting more information out of it, then so be it. 

He smiles. “Sure. What time?”

It looks relieved, laughing a little bit. “Oh, I haven’t decided on a time yet. Tell you what - I’ll get changed, and we meet up here in twenty and decide where to go from there.” It offers to him. 

“Sounds good to me.” He chirps, smile only dropping when it went back inside through the sliding doors. Great. Just what he needs. 

An hour or two at most, he promises himself as he packs up his things. And to think he wanted to spend the afternoon doting on Keith. 

Before he can finish logging out, Iverson stops by his desk with a heavy frown. 

“Ah, McClain,” Iverson says. “A package we sent to you was returned.”

He blinks. “Huh?”

Iverson frowns, his gaze fixed on something through the large doors. “We tried sending it a few times, but no one accepted it. Didn’t someone tell you?”

Lance shakes his head. “N-no. But I’ll take it home myself today. Sorry for the trouble.” 

“See to it that you do.” Iverson doesn’t even bother looking at him before he’s barking out something that sounds like “Rizavi!” and storming back inside. 

Another thing to do. Fun. 

Nothing else to it besides stopping by Iverson’s desk and picking it up. And then dinner with Shiro. 

Luckily for him, the dinner isn’t half bad. Shiro takes him to some hole in the wall Italian food place, and they chat about meaningless stuff the entire time. 

“You’re going to school, right?” It asks him at some point, and Lance nods through his mouthful of spaghetti. “Are you staying on campus?”

Lance shakes his head. “Staying with my sister.” 

It looks surprised, for some reason. “Your sister? Would I know her?”

A snort. “I doubt it.” Lance takes another bite. Chews. Swallows. “She doesn’t get out much.” 

Shiro seems at a loss at what to say, so Lance takes over the conversation. “How about you? Any family?”

He watches with empty eyes as Shiro winces a little bit at the question, recovering quickly. “No, unfortunately.”

It doesn’t seem keen to elaborate, but he keeps pushing. “Any lovers, then?” He asks, wiggling his eyebrows. His efforts work, because Shiro laughs despite being mid chew and has to hurriedly cover its mouth. 

“I had a fiance, but we separated a couple months ago.” Shiro finally confesses, as if it was a dirty secret, and Lance keeps his face at mildly interested. 

“That sucks,” he says, when it seems like Shiro isn’t going to offer anymore. Shiro nods, and that’s the end of that. 

Shiro walks him halfway back to his apartment, their arms linked together. Lance chatters on about the time his professor had to buy the class cupcakes, while Shiro looks too genuinely interested for just a silly story, when he spots the flower shop he frequently visits across the street. 

Sorry, we’re closed

Huh.

“Something the matter?” Shiro asks, ducking down to make eye contact with him. 

Lance smiles up brightly at it. “Nope!”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Romelle turns over in her bed, gaze lost and staring at the door. 

Sweaty hands and grunts - 

Her walls have been haphazardly plastered with posters of Bandor, overlapping across her door and ceiling. The small studio apartment’s air is stuffy and overheated, but Romelle barely notices it as she caresses another missing poster of Bandor. 

Something buzzes inside her stomach, a hive of bees ratting around under her rib cage. Lifting her arm up, she lazily passes her hand through the dust motes floating in the air. 

In the end, she couldn’t bring herself to go to work today, even though Ms. Ryner had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon and Romelle was supposed to cover for her. Ms. Ryner was understanding when she called, begging to have the day off, but she knows, knows, that her patience won’t last forever. 

She has to get it together. 

But it’s so hard. 

Rolling over, Romelle shoves her face in her pillow, feeling the faint echoes of hunger claw at her. Huh. She hasn’t eaten all day, has she? 

That would require getting up, though. 

“Bandor…” It’s barely a breath on the wind, just one little, desperate sigh. 

And about what happened last night… 

Romelle smooths her hair back, watching a flock birds fly by the setting sun through her window. 

“Lance McClain, huh?” 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Inside a small closet in a dark and silent apartment, a small boy kneels on the wooden floors, scribbling on the wall with a broken red crayon. 

“A family is someone like your dad or your mom. It’s the people that are always by your side, no matter what, who love you unconditionally.”

Who? 

But you let go of Mama’s hand. 

Keith stares at the wall with empty eyes as he drags the crayon, up and down, up and down. 

“Spinning spinning.” Up and down, up and down, up and down. Thump thump thump, goes his heart. “Spinning spinning spinning.”

Eyes glazed over, he continues to scratch on the wall. “Spinningspinningspinningspinningsp -”

A lock clicks, The door opens. 

“Keith! I’m home!”

He pauses, crayon still tightly held in his hand. After a moment, he sets the crayon down carefully, backing out of the closet and quietly closing it shut. Only when it was closed all the way, did Keith quickly run out of the room with a wide smile on his face. 

“Welcome home, Lance!”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

“Bubbabubbabubba,” Keith sings into the water as he pushes his rubber duckie along. 

Lance watches his darling with his head propped up his hand, occasionally running a soothing fingertip down Keith’s bony spine. “How was your day, honey?” 

Keith pauses with his rubber duckie, looking up at him through his wet bangs. For a moment, Lance indulges himself and brushes his hair aside, smiling sweetly at his adorable lover. 

“It was good.” Keith says simply, before going back to playing with his toy. 

…What?

Lance grabs the toy, pulling it a bit too roughly away from Keith, ignoring his “Hey!” with a saccharine smile. “C’mon, why don’t you tell me more about it?” Look at me, notice me, pay attention to me. 

Finally, Keith shifts around so he’s no longer sitting between Lance’s legs, but he’s at least looking at him. “You okay?”

His smile cracks. “Yeah, I’m fine baby. Just had a stressful day.” 

Keith purses his lips, but he crawls forward through the bathwater to pat Lance’s face. “There there.” He offers hesitantly, looking up at him hopefully. 

Lance tries to smile, he really does, but it’s hard for him to fake everything around Keith, Keith, who makes him feel so alive

Seeing that his attempts at cheering Lance up isn’t working, Keith frowns, before he steels himself. Climbing up to his knees, Keith puts his small hands on Lance’s shoulders before leaning forward. 

He’s not really - !

Lance can only watch with wide eyes as Keith presses a soft kiss against his mouth, barely a kiss so much as a brief touch. But yet. He shudders.

“Mwah!” Keith watches him with bright eyes, plopping back into the water with a little splash. Soft hairless legs brush against his own, and Keith smiles up at him brightly at Lance’s shocked expression. 

“Kiss to make you feel better.” He explains, after a full moment where Lance’s brain refuses to compute. 

His little darling really… 

“So cute!” Lance shrieks, instantly bowling Keith over and scooping him up in his arms. “I love you so much!” 

Keith throws his arms around Lance’s necks, giggling loudly. “Love you too!” 

The rest of the bath goes over much better, and Lance carries the bliss of their first kiss with him through dinner and cleanup afterwards. 

He pokes his head around the corner of the kitchen, “Keith, you ready - oops.” Covering his mouth, Lance smiles guilty at the sight of Keith fast asleep on the couch. He must still be tired from last night!

Carrying his beloved to their bed, he tucks Keith away, leaving him with one last forehead kiss and a quiet murmur of “Goodnight, Keith.” before shutting the door. 

Sighing longingly, Lance rests his hand over the door, craving more than words could say more time with his beloved, despite having spent the full evening with him. 

But, life must goes on, so he regretfully tears himself away and continues on with the night’s chores. 

Ringing the rag out over the bucket of water, Lance pauses. “Oh, we didn’t say our vows tonight.” Sighing, he continues to squeeze the excess water over it. “Nothing I can do now, Keith’s already asleep.”

Once he deems that the rag won’t drip all over the floor, he goes right to scrubbing at the wall. “I’ll just have to ask him to do them for me tomorrow.” He pauses, as if he was waiting for someone to speak, before abruptly laughing and continuing on. “Without them, I always feel so weak, you know?”

Finally, Lance stops washing the walls, just staring at them with a blank expression. “This blood just won’t come out.”

Sighing, he drops the rag in the bloody bucket, ignoring the old blood-stained knife and sheets covering the ground. “Well, that’s enough for today.” Standing up, he brushes the dirt off his bare knees, sending the room a vacant smile. “We don’t really use this room, anyways. See you tomorrow!” 

The room, silent and empty, goes dark as the door to the hallways closes shut. And with it, the small covered easel in the corner, along with a single long strand of wavy white hair. 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

That ocean boy is oblivious

Keith mutters in his sleep, pulling the blanket up higher over his chest and anxiously biting his thumb. 

That little by little

Romelle tosses in her bed, stuffing the pillow over her ears as her parents’ phantoms continue to scream for help.

His world is cracking, 

Shiro staples another missing poster to the telephone pole, covering a yawn into his hoodie’s sleeve before trudging on into the night.

And those cracks

Inside a small closet in a dark and silent apartment, there lays a child’s drawing of a woman in a jacket and a ponytail, her face scribbled out.

The ocean boy has yet to notice

Lance smiles down at his phone in the kitchen, his bank account balance pulled up, along with several couponing books in front of him. 

Only a little while longer until then, he promises himself.

“I've got to keep building this wonderful castle," he vows quietly. "Where I can be with Keith forever."

Chapter Text

“Keith? You okay, honey?” 

His darling looks up at him after a delayed moment, blinking in confusion. “Huh?” 

Lance smiles kindly, cutting Keith’s waffle for him. “I asked if you were okay. You seem a little out of it - does the food taste weird?” 

“Oh. No, it’s good.” Keith smiles back, quickly taking the offered bite. Lance keeps his face open and affectionate, even as his fingers tap against the kitchen bar in aggravation. 

Keith waves him off as usual that morning, and Lance can only frown to himself as he bites on his pen during his lecture. 

“You feeling okay?” Luxia, his seatmate, asks with a somewhat flirtatious grin as the professor begins to wind down.

Lance plasters on a fake smile to reassure her. “Just a little sick, don’t worry about.” 

She doesn’t look all that reassured, but he pushes her out of his mind, mind back to the important matters. 

Namely: Keith is feeling down. 

Keith came out for breakfast and everything, but… 

He slaps his cheeks, pouting down at his desk. It just makes him so anxious! And they haven’t even been able to say their vows! He can’t even go cuddle with Hunk today because Hunk’s down with some kind of stomach bug that’s going around campus. 

“Lance?” Luxia asks, this time definitely more concerned. 

He grimaces. “Maybe I should just go home early today.”

She laughs. “That’s probably for the best.” The professor calls for the end of the class, and she joins him and standing up and heading for the entrance. “Oh, I forgot to ask - I like what you did with your school bag!”

Lance glances at his bags, picking out what she’s complimenting. Dangling from the straps was a collection of keychains: dolphins and stars and fake flowers. He smiles, eyes closed. “Ah, thank you. I was really into them for a while.” 

Reexamining them, he guesses it didn’t really take much to satisfy him back then. 

Now that he has Keith, he doesn’t need them. But still… 

They wave goodbye outside the classroom, ignoring her flirtatious suggestion that they go study at the nearby starbucks.

Oh, he should make one of Keith's favorites for dinner! Maybe he'll make breakfast for dinner, though he'll need to stop at the grocery store, hmm... He grins, blushing at the thought of Keith's smile.  

Sighing, he flips through his phone, feet automatically taking him to the library to get some of his homework done before his next class, one headphone already in his ear, when he hears a familiar voice call, “Lance? Is that you?” 

He freezes, eyes wide. Heart beating way too fast to be normal, he stumbles around, almost dropping his phone. 

Lance gapes. “N-Nyma?” 

His ex-girlfriend smiles at him, red painted lips curling up. “Let’s talk.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

What is she doing here? Lance grins through his panic, his hand way too tight around his coffee cup. Goddamn Enigmas. Nyma sits next to him, her perfect lipstick never smearing even as she drinks her own latte. 

The sit on the edge of one of the school’s fountains, tucked away from view by the trees surrounding them. She smooths down her mini-skirt, turning to face him with a little bit of apprehensive in her eyes. 

“I’ve missed you.” She says honestly. “You were always so incredible, I was always envious of you, you know? Besides being great in bed, you never had to put any work into being attractive, you’re smart and adaptable.” She laughs a bit self-consciously. “I wanted to be just like you.” 

“…Am I really so perfect?”

Nyma blinks. 

Lance swallows. “After all, I made a huge mistake recently. Things happen even I’m not smart enough to predict. To be honest, it was absolutely devastating.” 

He almost lost the only thing important to him. He thinks of Keith’s sleeping face, scrunched up in pain as those men in the park held him by his hair. No more. Never again.

“So I’m not gonna make the same mistakes.” His hand tightens. “I’m going to face it with all I have.”

Nyma’s haughty laugh breaks him out of his thoughts. “That’s still pretty amazing though!” 

She leans into his side, perfectly manicured nails wrapping around his elbow. The familiar scent of her lemon perfume both comforts and sickens him. Nothing like Keith’s innocent baby smell. How often did they fuck each other in sheets reeking of citrus? 

“Hey,” she giggles. “We should get back together.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Hunk leans away from the phone, gagging into his bucket. Once he stops dry-heaving, he returns to the phone call, mumbling something affirmative. 

Sorry Hunk, I wouldn’t have called if I knew you were sick.” Shiro apologizes, voice sincere.

“It’s fine.” Hunk wipes his teary eyes, gently laying back against his bed so as to not upset his delicate stomach right now. “So what’s up? You don’t usually call.” 

Shiro’s more of a ‘texts a meme at one am and then doesn’t talk to you for three months’, and he knows it, so he just laughs somewhat nervously. “It’s about Lance. Iverson has to send out some kind of survey for corporate, but no one’s answering the door.

Hunk shivers, wrapping his blanket around and thanking his lucky stars that he doesn’t have a roommate to put them through watching, or god forbid, listening to his misery. “Lance is pretty careful about giving out where he lives. He had a stalker freshman year, you know? And he’s pretty protective of his sister too.” 

To be honest, he just thinks that Lance is living with his new girlfriend now and that’s why he’s not answering the door, but like hell is he going to say that to Lance’s coworker, kinda boss. “Have you ever met his sister?

Hunk shakes his head, and then remembers that Shiro can’t see him. “No…wait, yes actually. Once. It was when we were kids though, at Lance’s grandpa’s funeral. She was scary smart even when she was a preteen.”

He can still remember the eerie silence at the funeral of a man who drowned in the waters he loved so much. Standing next to his moms, watching a young Lance wearing an ill-fitting child’s suit holding the hand of a girl only a little older than him with short hair and thin lips pressed together. Lance never let Hunk over his house when they were kids, explaining that with so many young kids and his extended family living there it was always a mess. 

How old were they when Lance’s grandpa died? Six, seven? Young, that’s all he remembers. 

And his apartment?” Shiro asks, curiosity palpable. The two of them aren’t close by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re still friends, so Hunk only feels a little guilty when he answers truthfully. 

“Well, I went there once.” He says, shifting in bed. “I dropped off a packet for him because he overslept class…and, well.”  

Yes?

“I don’t know if that’s his apartment or not - we ran into each other on the elevator after no one answered the door. But, even if no one was there, it just…kinda felt like it. Like someone was inside, listening.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~ 

Lance stares, jaw dropped. “But - you broke up with me!”

Nyma flips her hair over her shoulder, uncomfortable. “I did.” She says simply, a frown pulling at her tinted lips. “And besides, we broke up with each other, it was a mutual agreement.”

He scoffs. “No. You dumped me after one little thing.” 

She whips her head around to pin him with a nasty look. “I doubt that it - that thing - I found on your phone was a little thing.”

“You can say it, you know.” Lance states blandly, face flat. 

Nyma swallows, looking a bit distinctively green. Looking around, she leans in close when she’s figures there’s nobody in sight. “You had child porn on there, what was I to think?” 

Lance - 

Lance picks at his nails boredly. “That someone’s allowed to be into whatever they’re into, and that maybe you shouldn’t have gone through my phone when I was in the shower?” 

“You were acting weird.” She defends, huffing. “You stopped being able to get off all of a sudden and you kept sneaking off.” 

Lance - 

“I told you.” Lance says icily, wanting to fling his hot coffee into her nosy face. “That my sister was sick and I was checking in on her.” He doesn’t mention the part about getting off, because it’s true. Her soft skin wasn’t soft enough, her healthy fat on her sides and thighs weren’t chubby enough, she was curvy in places that should have aroused him but only made him sick. 

She rolls her eyes. “Whatever. As long as you don’t watch that revolting shit in front of me, I can accept a few disgusting kinks. Let’s just get back together again, I’ve missed us.” Nyma purrs, rubbing herself against Lance’s arm. “I love you.”

̵"̶B̴e̸c̷a̸u̶s̷e̵ ̵t̶h̸i̸s̸ ̷i̷s̵ ̷a̸l̷s̸o̵ ̶l̸o̸v̴e̸.̸"̴

“I’ll keep it a secret, but if cops come knocking, I ain’t helping you out.” 

Shut up. 

“We can use the couples deal at the movie theaters on Sundays again -”

Shut up.

“Remember are all day sex-thons? Those were so much fun.”

SHUT. UP. 

its bitter

He lunges. 

Lips against her, he furiously kisses her, slamming her down on the lip of the fountain. Hands running up her blouse, he squeezes her hips, grinding down on her with a wicked smirk and not a single ounce of desire in him. 

“Wait - ”

His hands slip down her underwear, and she cuts herself off with a moan, head sliding back and red lips parting. 

his aunt

“Wasn’t one of your disgusting kinks exhibition?” He mocks, lifting up her skirt and kneeling down on the ground. He pinches her thighs ṇ̷̓͘o̵̤̟͒̚ẗ̷̬̯́ ̵̣̿̐c̷̡̃͠h̵̢̓̿ư̸͉b̵̡͒̐b̶̯̟̄y̸̛̦̥͋ ̸͚͇̌ȇ̶͎n̷̗̺̒̉o̴͓͋͜û̶̹̑ģ̴̳̔͠h̵͕̑͌ the way he knows she likes, smirking at her choked groan. He leans in - 

Lance creeps down the hallways on light feet, footie pajamas padding on the old wooden floors as he lets the light of the nightlight guide him. His mouth is so dry, but he’s scared! It’s so dark in this strange house and he wants his mommy! 

There’s a strange noise coming from Ronnie’s room. Is she having a nightmare? He had a bunch of them ever since grandpa died. Tip toeing, he shuffles down the hallway, peeking around the doorframe. 

Ronnie is crying - 

His uncle is between her legs, her pajama pants hanging off one leg -

Groaning and moaning as something wet moves and Ronnie’s tears are muffled from behind their uncle’s hand - 

Lance squeaks when a hand clamps down harshly on his shoulder, spinning him around to face his aunt’s harsh glare and her fierce red frown. 

He looks between his uncle’s surprised face and Ronnie’s hopeful tear-stained one, before he squares his shoulders. “I’m telling mommy!” He shouts, before taking off towards the stairs, not hearing his aunt’s footsteps right behind him and her hands reaching out to pull push pull push pull push pull push pull push pull push pull - 

push -

Lance stands up, wiping the back of his mouth. Nyma’s chest rises and falls quickly with her post-orgasm bliss. “Sorry for surprising you.” He chuckles, pulling down her skirt. “I’m not looking for a relationship right now, but you know I’ll always love you.” 

She laughs herself, slowly bringing herself up to a sit, satisfied just like he knew she would be. “Me too, I do love you Lance. You know that, right?”

He takes a seat next to her, smiling gently. “Of course.” With a lover’s touch, he helps straighten out her clothes and fly-away hairs. “But you know, Nyma…”

She hmms, looking up at him before freezing. 

Lance stares at her with dead eyes, face completely blank. “I’m a little angry right now.” 

He ignores her flinch to rub at a spot her lipstick smeared. He smiles emptily at the pretty girl he just ate out, wishing to cave her skull in. “Don’t ever talk about what you found on my phone again, understand?”

Nyma nods, shaking. 

̵"̶B̴e̸c̷a̸u̶s̷e̵ ̵t̶h̸i̸s̸ ̷i̷s̵ ̷a̸l̷s̸o̵ ̶l̸o̸v̴e̸.̸"̴

He turns away, face downcast. 

Veronica, even though I thought I’d never see you again, your words still echo inside me. 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

The sink runs loudly, water pouring into the basin of the residential hall men’s bathroom. Lance gargles the water, spitting it into the porcelain and watching his own reflection stare back with too wide eyes. 

He rubs against his mouth furiously, until the back of his hand is tinged pink and his lips tingle unpleasantly. 

It’s still bitter. 

“Shit!” He tsks, empty eyes devoid of any emotion staring back at him from the mirror. It’s all because he uttered such a filthy lie. He can’t just leave things like this!

Or else, he’ll… 

Grabbing his bag, he says screw it to his history class, he’ll get the notes from one of the countless contacts on his phone. He has to get home, now. 

Lance books it from the elevator to his apartment, keys fumbling into the locks. Slamming the door open, ocean eyes glance from one end to the other. “Keith!”

It’s dark. Why is it dark?

Lance stumbles listlessly forward, feet dragging against the ground and eyes tearing up. “Keith?”  

He wants it to be sweet. 

“Keith?” He calls desperately, dropping his bag carelessly on the couch. “Keith! Where are you?!”

If it isn’t sweet - 

Thump 

A relieved smile breaks onto his face. He opens the bedroom door, mouth already opening - 

“K…Keith?”

His beloved whines between clenched teeth, slumped over on the hardwood floors with his hands pulling at his hair so hard his little fists turned white. 

Lance’s heart sinks. 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Pidge knocks on the Ms. Ryner’s door, smiling slightly when the woman opens the door. “Nice to see you again!”

“Katie!” Ms. Ryner coos, instantly drawing her into a hug. “It’s been so long, how has your brother been doing?” 

She shrugs. “Same old same old. You? I heard you took in a nutbag.” 

“Katherine!” Ms. Ryner scolds, Pidge flinching instinctively. She hates that look being directed at her, dammit. “Romelle is not a ‘nutbag’, she’s a very troubled young woman who went through something traumatic. You could try showing a bit more kindness.” 

“Sorry Ms. Ryner.” Pidge mumbles. To be honest, if she was that girl, she would do anything to have less of that ‘kindness’ directed at her. Nobody likes pity. It’s an emotion that was created solely from social constructs, humanity was not born with it. Also, it's annoying as fuck. 

Ms. Ryner sighs, but beckons Pidge to follow her. “She’s studying to get her GED, but I thought a young genius could help her study better than me.”

Pidge raises an eyebrow. “But you have like, three PHDs.” 

“And I run a flower shop.” Ms. Ryner counters, like it wasn’t her dream job and instead a job opportunity she was forced into. “Besides, none of them are for teaching and I haven’t been to school in years. I doubt my degree in abstract algebra can help a high school senior pass a single test.”

They stop in front of a door that looks just like any other door, Ms. Ryner tapping politely against the wood. They wait for a few moments, but gradually Pidge notices the sound of the shower running down the hall.  Ms. Ryner sighs, noticing it as well. “Again? I’m gonna need to start charging her for the water bill. Katie, if you could mind waiting here? I have to get back to work.” 

Pidge waves her hand dismissively. “No problem.” She watches Ms. Ryner tread down the stairs, turning on her phone as she listens with one ear to the continuous running shower and Ms. Ryner getting ready to leave. 

She leans back against the door, flicking through her contacts. With Hunk sick and Lance being so distant, she really has no one to talk to. To be honest, it’s been a little lonely. Don’t get her wrong! She’s glad Lance is dating again and seems so besotted, but it’s also just…weird. It’s like he’s a drug addict, and this new datemate is his fix. He rushes home as soon as class is done when he doesn’t have work, and he’s always off staring at his phone during lunch than goofing around with them as he usually does. 

Clicking the home button, she decides to look through her photos and send Matt a cursed meme instead, halfheartedly hearing something creak behind her. 

Wait - 

Pidge cries out as the door snaps open, sending her head over heels into this Romelle’s room. She twists to her hands and knees, groaning, before looking up. 

Her eyes widen. 

“What...is this?”

Missing posters everywhere. On the walls, the floor, the bed. All showcasing one boy’s smiling face. 

Missing: Keith Kogane

“Katie? Romelle?” Ms. Ryner calls from downstairs. 

She opens her mouth - “We’re fine, Ms. Ryner. We’ll be studying now, have fun at work.” 

That wasn’t her. 

Pidge turns around, watching a strange girl she doesn’t recognize - presumably Romelle - stare at her with an utterly blank expression as she closes the door behind them, locking them inside. 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Hey… 

What's family?

Someone like your dad or your mom. It’s the people that are always by your side, no matter what, who love you unconditionally.

Spinning, spinning....spinning, spinning  

It hurts. It hurts so much. 

Keith smiles up at her, holding a single daisy in his hand. “Mama, look!” 

She stops crying, hands shaking his shoulders harshly as her crying face contorts into something ugly. “Why’d you go outside, Keith?!” He winces at her touch, squirming away, but she won’t let him go. “Didn’t I tell you to stay away from strangers?” 

For the first time, he sees her face. Hair and eyes like his, the familiar leather jacket and jasmine perfume. “Why don’t you ever listen to me?!

Tears slide down his face, the daisy crumbling in his hand. “I’m sorry…”

Spinning, spinning... 

So much pain. 

Fear.

Trapped all alone. Unable to breathe. 

Is this ‘family’?

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

“Keith, Keith, wake up!” Lance begs, skidding to his knees and tugging the child onto his lap. Should he take Keith to one of the clinics? But it’s still light out. He can’t risk it!

“Please wake up, please please…” He mumbles, gathering him up in his arms. If he wraps Keith in a blanket, or maybe his jacket and flips the hood up, that might work. But luckily, Keith starts to stir at the moment, whining under his breath. 

Keith tosses his head, eyes slowly opening as tears make their way out of the corners of his eyes.  “Uh,” he whimpers, tearing at his hair. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

Lance laughs a little desperately. “Why do you have to apologize for, baby?”

“Punishment.” Keith mumbles nonsensically. “This is my punishment.” He turns his face into Lance’s jacket, small hands leaving his hair to scramble at Lance’s arms. “Lance…I lied.”

"Lied?”

Keith’s tears pick up speed. “I lied, I’m sorry I lied. I talked to somebody from outside that night.” He mewls, eyes meeting Lance’s. “It’s because I did a bad. That’s why it hurts. I'm being punished because I did something wrong.” He wails, covering his face as he sobs. 

Lance can only stare, his mouth open as he reaches for something, anything. Keith is crying - he has to say something - but - 

His teeth grind together. 

bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter 

he can’t think straight

this bitterness is killing him 

Why is this happening?! Why? 

 

Punishment. 

It’s a punishment? All of this? But what for?

Lance gasps, shaking as he covers his mouth. 

bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter 

When there is sin, there must be retribution. 

It’s because he did something wrong? 

bitter 

Keith continues to cry in his lap. bitter. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Lance, I’m sorry…” 

What did he do? What did he do wrong?

bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter 

What rule did he break? He did everything for the sake of his life with Keith, for the sake of protecting his love, EVERYTHING HAS BEEN FOR HIM

After all, he can’t be wrong, can he? If it’s for the sake of their love, then anything will be forgiven, right? Right? 

bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter 

But. What if that’s wrong? What if he’s made some mistake? But what was it -

“Lance,” Veronica kneels down in front of him. “This is your love?”

He shudders. She tilts her head to the side. 

“Something so bitter and nauseating it brings tears to your eyes.” Veronica gently wipes his cheek with her finger. “This is what you’ve sought the whole time up until now? This is your exceptional love?”

A field of wild plants. Marigolds clinging to his feet. Keith smiling up at him with blood dripping down his face. His uncle’s smothering touch. Posing for a portrait. Blood splattering across the wall and on his face. Sitting in the hospital waiting room longing for news. His aunt’s red, so red like blood smile. The river. The ocean. Bodies drifting out to sea. Mangled dolls and bloody underwear. We all die in the end. Love isn’t fucking real. The first time he held Keith’s small hands in his. Oh, this was his special one. Love. 

Lance cries. “Keith, I’m sorry.” He says, running his hand soothingly through Keith’s curls. “I’ve also committed a sin.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Romelle twitches, life coming back to her life. “Sorry, Miss Holt.” She kneels down next to her, collecting the missing posters into a neat pile. “I wasn’t expecting you for another hour, I’ll just clean up real quick.” 

Pidge stares. What the fuck? What the actual fuck?

“Just…Pidge is fine.” She manages, carefully sitting up and avoiding all the missing person posters. “Um? Romelle?” The girl hums. “Do I want to know why you have a bunch of missing posters all over your room? Do you know this kid?” 

Romelle stops, staring at the current poster she’s holding with glazed eyes.  “Bandor.” She mumbles, stroking a single trembling finger down the portrait. Then she shakes her head. “No, not Bandor. Bandor is dead.” Her eyes well up with tears, sniffling slightly before continuing to clean up. 

Pidge is almost afraid to ask for clarification, but luckily(?) for her, Romelle continues on. “I’m dirty, I’m so dirty. Filthy.” She spits. Softening slightly, Romelle smooths the poster down, looking up to make eye contact with Pidge. “He makes me feel clean.”

Here’s the thing: Pidge knows stuff about rape victims. She knows that this is unhealthy as all hell. That the whole obsession with being ‘clean’ is way more common than people think. 

But she also knows that if Romelle keeps going down this path, she’s going to hit the rocks at the bottom of the cliff full speed. 

Pidge slowly pushes the pile of papers down, hesitantly touching the back of Romelle's hand. “Do…do you want to talk? Just…talk.” 

Romelle bites her lips. Nods.  

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith blinks wet eyes open. “D-did you do something bad too?”

He nods. “It might be unforgivable, but I hope you can forgive me.” He swallows, hands trembling. “You see, I…I…”

da-thump da-thump da-thump da-thum da- thump DA-thump DA-thump DA-THUMP DA-THUMP DA-THUMP

Lance gags, mouth opening and closing. The words won’t come. His hands tighten around’s Keith’s. 

Should…should he tell him?

If he does, when Keith finds out what he did…what if Keith comes to hate him?  

DA-THUMP DA-THUMP DA-THUMP DA-THUMP DA-THUMP DA-THUMP DA-THUMP DA-THUMP DA-THUMP

If Keith hates him - 

Lance’s arms feel empty as he imagines it, thinking of every sweet and innocent moment they ever shared. He might lose his one and only love - 

“Lance?” He gasps, breaking out of his thoughts to see Keith kneeling in front of him, watching him with eyes that trust and love only him. 

He quickly averts his eyes. He’s scared - he can’t even look him in the eye. 

I hate this. His teeth tear into his lip. I hate it I hate it I hate it - 

He’s so scared. 

Dread - it’s the first time he’s ever felt it. He wants to hide, to shut himself away all alone so he doesn’t have to see or hear anything. But if he does that, then there’s no point in even living on anymore. 

Oh! If he just lies to Keith, yes, if he just glosses over it without revealing anything then - 

No. No no no no. 

If he doesn’t confess this sin, then this punishment, for both of them, will only get worse. 

Lance gently breaks Keith’s hold on his hands to grip his shoulders, breath catching as tears drip down his face. He’ll tell him. 

Keith, I beg of you, please don’t abandon me. 

“I..." He swallows.

"I told another person that I loved them!”

“Even though…” He sobs. “Even though I made a vow…Even though I made a vow that I’d always love Keith in sickness and in health.” Lance wipes his face desperately, blubbering like a child. “Even if it wasn’t the truth at all, I still told another person that I loved them.” 

Keith stares at him with wide violent eyes, hands falling to land in his lap. “I violated our vow of love!” He wails. “Keith, I’m so so sorry.” Kneeling over, his forehead touches the ground as he continues to cry his eyes out. 

There. He said it. 

“I love you Keith.” He pleads desperately, hands coming up to fist his own hair in utter agony. “I love you more than anything. I don’t need anything else! Only you!” 

Keith. Keith. Keith

The one and only person he loves in the whole world, his home, his heart, his - 

Small hands push his shoulders up, and then Keith’s in his lap, throwing his arms around his shoulders. “There, there.” Keith hums, tapping their heads together. “Don’t cry.” 

Giggling, Keith smiles with red-rimmed eyes. “I love you too.” 

Lance leans back, blinking back a fresh wave of tears. “You...you forgive me? I did…something wrong.”

Keith pats at his face, considering the question for a long moment. “Lance always works super hard for me! I love your hugs and bath times and when you smile. So it’s okay. Because it’s you! It’s okay.”

It’s…okay?

“Keith?” He asks. 

The child grins. “What?” 

Lance’s mouth trembles. “I love you.” 

“Me too!”

It’s really okay?

Keith leans forward, wrapping his arms around his neck tightly. “I love Lance more than anyone or anything! Even more than fa-mil-y. I love you the most, ‘cause Lance is warmer and happier than that!”

Lance sobs even harder, his own arms coming up to wrap around Keith’s back. 

It’s…sweet. It’s sweet!

Keith’s lip wobbles. “I’m sorry I lied too -” 

“It doesn’t matter!” Lance interrupts harshly, tears brimming from pure relief. “Thank you, thank you Keith!”

Keith smiles like the sun, nuzzling up under his chin. And Lance lets go, sobbing without abandon into those black curls, so thankful for his sugar angel. 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

The room is dark when Romelle finishes talking, voice cracked. 

“I don’t even know why I’m telling you this.” Romelle laughs, rubbing undoubtedly sore eyes. 

Pidge laughs a little self-consciously. “Lance tells me I’m a good listener, because while I judge you, I see things for how they are.” 

Romelle freezes mid-smile, mouth parting slightly. “Lance…” She says slowly, turning to look at her bag. Pidge doesn’t have much on their, unlike Lance’s entire hoard of pins and keychains, but she does have one single flower made out of duct tape that Lance made both her and Hunk when they were in high school. She was a little sentimental, screw her. “Lance…McClain?”

“Yeah. Do you know him?” Pidge asks. 

Romelle giggles, high and manic. “Do I know him? I saw him abduct this kid from the park!”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

“It’s kinda embarrassing…” Keith giggles, pulling the sheet up. “Maybe ‘cuz it’s been so long? Even though we’ve done it tons of times!”

Lance laughs himself. “I know, right?” 

They spend a few more moments arranging themselves, sharing matching grins and sheets fluttering in from the wind through the open balcony door before they begin their ritual. 

“Our vow,” Keith begins, touching their foreheads together affectionately

Lance has discovered something important. “In sickness and in health.”

Even for the sake of their love, there are things he must not do. “Through happiness and sadness.” He must not deceives the person he loves. 

“For richer, for poorer.” Yes. “‘Till death do us part.”

Keith kisses his forehead so tenderly that Lance can only manage a trembling smile. “I promise to love you forever.” 

He must not betray his love. No matter what. 

Lance tucks his darling into bed that night, kissing the crown of his head adoringly. Sitting up, he steps into the hallway with a small smile, glancing at the locked door down the hall. 

And so, about that room… 

It’s perfectly fine if he doesn’t tell Keith about it. 

After all, he thinks fondly of blood staining the walls, ‘that’ isn’t a sin. As long as he doesn’t betray his love, whatever he does for it is okay. 

He smiles, swinging his arms behind his back to hold his hands. “Isn’t that right, god?” 

Lance grins goofily, bare feet padding across the cold floors as he walks back into the bedroom, closing the door behind him and taking a seat in his desk chair to watch Keith sleep. His mouth is so full of sweetness, this happiness better than any orgasm Nyma could give him. 

His heart has become whole once more, completely pure. Climbing into bed with Keith, he brushes his dark bangs back, whispering against his precious, beloved castle’s forehead. “I also promise to love Keith forever.”

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Keith - 

He wakes up to the dark bedroom, alone. 

Keith yawns, turning over in bed. 

Family… 

There’s ‘dad’ - nothing. Just a blank space and the faint smell of smoke. 

His ‘mom’ - painful. So painful he doesn’t even want to think about it. 

And there’s - 

Pain shoots through his temple, sharp and agonizing until he’s clutching his head. Just as soon as it starts, it’s gone again. 

What was he thinking about again? 

Oh well. 

~⭒⁕⚘✧✿❂❀❃❄⚜⭑~

Pidge stands in front of a telephone pole, panting over her knees. 

There’s no way Lance would do that! Why the fuck would Lance abduct a child? 

Romelle spiraled soon after that admission, muttering something about cleanliness to herself as she started pinning up the missing person posters, so Pidge left as soon as she could, politeness be damned. 

She must be delusional. She obviously has something going on up there, and she latched onto Lance for whatever reason. 

It’s impossible. She slowly stands up, glancing at something smooth she feels. 

Missing: Keith Kogane. 

Pidge bites her inner cheek. This is Lance they’re talking about! Goofball, playboy Lance! There’s no way he abducted some kid off the streets. Romelle is just insane. It’s ridiculous. 

But then…why is there something that feels out of place?

Actually, where does Lance live? With his sister, right? But, has she ever met her? Like, once? She doesn’t even think Hunk has met her. 

Pidge slaps her head, groaning in frustration. This is insane! She can’t be accusing one of her only friends of something like kidnapping!

Does…Does she even really know Lance?

Footsteps sound behind her. “Katie?” 

Pidge looks up. 

Shiro stands behind her under the streetlight, an awkward smile on his face and a stack of papers in his hand, all of them reading Missing: Keith Kogane.