The sky fascinated his father.
“See, Lance? That’s Orion,” he would say, tracing the stories out from a smatter of stars in the indigo of night. “He was a hunter.”
Lance would hold his breath, pretending they hadn’t done the same thing the night before. “What happened?”
“He loved.” An answer, always too simple for Lance.
He was drawn to space like how his father loved the stars. He spent his nights sprawled out on the lawn, limbs too long, gazing up into the unknown with the same kind of vigour his father had in his eyes when he was searching for constellations. They called him the dreamer, back then, when he watched the sky turn from navy to the pastel yellows of down, until his eyes burned with the effort of keeping awake.
No one ever told him that sooner or later, he’d wake up tangled in sweaty sheets and forget when his dream turned into a nightmare. He dreamed of the stars and got what he wanted, but heaven was a desert of scorching sand when he finally reached it.
He didn’t cry when he left his parents for the Garrison. He didn’t know he wouldn’t see them again, not until the war was over and it seemed less and less likely with every battle they almost lost.
Most days, the castle held nothing but the choked off gasps of words they couldn’t say. Lance filled in the cracks with careless words and obnoxious laughter, slinging his arms around his friends like a bandage trying to stop his heart from bleeding out. They smiled and pretended he was funny, and he smiled and pretended that he didn’t want to grab their shoulders and shake them until they cried just so he could see some emotion in their glazed eyes.
The silence made him uneasy. He wondered what they thought- if they felt the need to play up their colours like he did. He’d never gotten the chance to understand the traits of the blue paladin, so he had to test out the limits of what he could and couldn’t do like a child running too fast, too far for the first time.
Lance counted the times he fell out of place like an insomniac trying to fall asleep by counting sheep. He counted stepping stones to infinity until the numbers got too big to multiply. His walls started to collapse and he was covered with words that were paint that would not wash out no matter how hard he tried. The words built up like the swell of a song right before the start of a chorus, but the moment he opened his mouth, he couldn’t recall the lyrics at the front of his mind.
Lance was turning blue with every breath he didn’t take, fingers tap-tap-tapping until someone snapped and told him to shut up.
He was losing all the other colours he felt, the reds and yellows seeping out like warmth through the window that didn’t shut in his childhood bedroom. He was losing his past self: a boy with the gap teeth and hands smeared with paint and innocence. A boy who stared into space and wondered if aliens were friendly.
He felt like the shades of blue in between home and peace, the indecision of too much and not enough all at once and the butterfly that caused tornados with a single photo.
He didn’t remember how to be anything but blue.
He was the washed-out denim of hand-me-downs and thread, straining to sew himself back together with pricked thumbs. The dark navy of homesickness spread through his veins, echoing nostalgia. He missed his family, but he’d rather be lonely and die a million times if it meant that they were safe from the war.
Did they know he was alive? Ignorance was bliss. He’d rather they forgot him.
His last words to them were blue, he thought, weaving timelines together with the desperation of a spider without a web. He didn’t know if he’d ever see them again.
Lance lay awake most nights, thinking until his mind jumped between words. Someone told him that he concentrated too much on making the words pretty and not enough of what he wanted to say. (They weren’t wrong.) He switched between wallowing in words and self-pity.
If every thought he’d ever had was a raindrop, he’d be sitting in a thunderstorm with his fingers curled around the handle of his blue umbrella. The rain would leak through, but he wouldn’t wipe them off the nape of his neck because the sudden iciness feels like a cup of water in the middle of a desert.
Being stuck in between reality and the swirling mess of metaphors inside his mind was a hand clamped over his mouth, until present-day Lance gasped with the effort to keep breathing.
The air sat heavy on his shoulders.
His fingers were long but they hurt when he pulled them away from the wood of the handle. He held his pillow wishing it was his mother, warm and breathing and alive.
He craved home with the same kind of endless turmoil he used to feel at school, with his eyes on the clock waiting for the hands to tick to three.
His lion tried to comfort him. She shared her memories of Altea and Earth and beauty until Lance forgot his own mind and started living in hers. It helped a little when she was there, but the moment he left her side, the melancholy crept in and started to throb, like an old wound that refused to heal.
Lance loved her but she reminded him of bad things he’d rather forget. She was cold metal and some kind of unearthly energy that Lance had never tried to define. Cold sweat in the middle of the night, the cool blue of the walls of his room in the Castle, the empty gaze of dead bodies and hollow eyes of the ones they couldn’t save. She was war and death but also life, so full of it, and Lance loved her but she reminded him of bad things he’d rather forget. The voices of the ones he left behind reached through the gaps between the doors with its ugly fingers, tainted blue for them.
There’s sadness, and then there’s sadness, and he was trapped in the blurred lines between.
Once upon a time, his favourite colour had been blue.
Some people say that the reason teenagers are so angry is because fifteen is the age you realise the world wasn’t as great as you thought.
Lance was nineteen when he realised that being his favourite colour wasn’t what he thought it would be.