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he loves me, he loves me not

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Lance hums as he flits around the shop, singing along under his breath to the latest pop hit that floats around the room out of hidden corners. Boxes stash themselves as he twirls, fingers lightly tracing over dust-free shelves lined in a variety of mason jars, each tied with a different colored ribbon to help him tell their differences easily.

It would be another fifteen minutes before the shop opens up for the day, but Lance still centers himself in the middle of the room, closing his eyes and focusing on the energies in the air around him. Pinks and greens and the faintest traces of orange swirl all around him, mingling with the different salves and liquids lining the shelves. A heavy blue focuses around the table tucked in the corner, where Lance does his readings, the faintest traces of yellow still on the chair from where his last client sat.

Everything is exactly how it should be; nothing that would give away his real secret, but just enough to make the customers believe in something just a tad bit… magical.

Lance was good at what he did. Had the gift from an early age, cultivated it through hard work, and now works (rather successfully, if you ask him), right in the center of town, a healthy amount of foot traffic to the shop to supplement the love readings with normal potion and salve purchases.

Everyone could use a little bit of something, and that was his specialty.

The bell chimes, and Lance opens his eyes, spinning around and shelving the rest of his daily stock with a subtle flick of his wrist.

“How can I help you today?” Lance asks, voice silky smooth and perfect for clientele. The girl that just walked in stuffs her hands in her jeans pockets and clears her throat.

“I’m here for a love reading?” she says, posing it as a question.

The smile on Lance’s face is genuine. “Come on back, darling, and we’ll get started.”

~~~
The girl shifts on the seat across from him, staring down at the paper Lance had just set in front of her, reading over it carefully, flicking glances up at Lance every now and then. He waits patiently, tracing the edge of the table with a forefinger.

“Alright,” the girl says at last. “I think I’m ready.”
“Excellent!” coos Lance. “Now remember, don’t tell me their name, or the process gets interrupted.” He waits for the girl to nod. She does; and so, the process begins.

“When did you meet them?” Lance asks gently, diving into his fortune teller persona.

“We’ve been dating for a year,” the girl—Romelle—says. “Same hometown, but we lost touch a ways back. Until a year and half ago, then we got back into contact, and I’ve had a crush on her—I mean them—forever, and well, things just ended up working out.”

“So you’re childhood sweethearts?” Lance asks, but his own voice is different now as he steps out of his head, into the place that isn’t.

“Yeah,” Romelle says, a little laugh in her small word. “Yeah, I guess we are.”

“Can you tell me why you’re here today, Romelle?”

“I uh, I want to get my love line read before I fall too deeply for her. I’ve had bad luck with relationships in the past, had a lot of people leave me rather abruptly. And I like her—so much—that I just don’t want it to happen again, you know?”
Lance feels his head nod on autopilot, but really, he’s as far from here as possible. His hand reaches out to take Romelle’s right in his own, the forefinger that had been tracing the table now tracing the palm of her hand. Really, this part is just a formality to keep up the appearances (can’t have everyone knowing his true identity) as he reads her aura from the place that isn’t.

Her hand is warm in his, as he finally taps into her psyche, her future.

Now, this is what makes him legit.

Ever since he was a young child, he’d always known things before they were going to happen. His father called him a psychic jokingly, but his grandmother and mother knew. A gift typically passed down the female bloodline, that made the McClains a little…different. A little witchy, almost.

Glimpses, impressions, feelings. That’s what he got, what told him if a love was true, if it was bound to end in heartbreak and sadness, just what the kids would look like, just who’s crushes were absolutely, utterly unrequited.

And every now and then, there was the brush of something more. He didn’t believe it the first time he read one, but it was the feeling of soulmates. It was the rarest thing to read; the perfect alignment of energies didn’t always meet, didn’t always work out. Only twice had he read a soulmate line bound to end in happiness.

He feels his thumb press down harder on Romelle’s palm, and there—that was the feeling he was looking for.

The presence that echoes next to Romelle’s own is soft, lilac and pink and wholesome. He feels love radiating, though neither have said it, sees two long lines intertwined as far as he can see. Though not soulmates—the feeling isn’t strong enough for that—they are destined for love and happiness.

He’s still looking when it appears; grey dots dart the middle of the line, peppered once, twice, three times.

Oh.

Though their love will be long, there is always sadness in the road ahead.

He pulls back, retreating out of the place that isn’t and back into the world of the living, leaving behind the swirling colors and love lines and happy futures.

Lance blinks his eyes open, feels the wetness in them as a tear slips down his cheek.
Romelle immediately pulls back her hand, a horrified and dismayed look wrinkling her pretty features.

“No,” she whispers. “It’s bad, isn’t it?”

“Quite the opposite,” Lance chuckles. “You have a very happy future ahead of the two of you. Your love will remain strong, pure, so long as you let it. I wish you the best with her.”

Romelle watches him, gauging the truthfulness behind his words, and Lance drums a heartbeat onto his thigh. Her eyes light up with the feeling he took from her future and put in her chest, trying to convince her of his reading.

She smiles, and Lance smiles back at her. So young, so sweet. She deserves the love she’s been fated.

“Thank you,” she says, and reaches out a hand to shake. “I really apricate it.”

“Of course,” Lance says. “It was a pleasure reading your love line.”

She beams one last time before heading out to the register to pay for her service.

He takes a deep breath before following her. She was the first for today—the first of many. Being well-known comes with a price, and his love readings are booked for a full month. But business is good, and Lance loves what he does. Really, he does.

Most of the time.

Another deep breath and he’s following her to the front of his shop, where she’s admiring a set of crystals on the front counter. They don’t serve any purpose other than aesthetic, but the customers love them, and honestly, Lance loves the aesthetic. Makes him feel, weirdly enough, more of an authentic witch for having crystals scattered about. It’s the same reason he has a crystal ball stashed in his back room, and the one time Hunk found it he claimed it had been a gag gift and totally not something he bought when he was 18 on a whim.

He checks Romelle out as she pays for her service, purchasing a crystal in the same shade of her lover’s aura. He smiles softly at the not-at-all coincidence, bidding her goodbye with a wave. The bell jingles, the door not even shut before his next appointment walks in, a burly dude with a handlebar mustache sporting a leather wife-beater tank top.

It was certainly going to be a long day.

~~~
It’s 8:15 (his last appointment was running behind) when his final client of the day makes himself settled in the seat across from him.

A teenager, if Lance had to guess, later years of high school and in love with someone he isn’t sure will last the test of time.

The slip of paper rests in front of him, and the boy reads it quietly, pushes it back when he’s done. “Legal requirements?”

Lance shrugs. “Better just to make sure I don’t get stabbed in a back alley when someone doesn’t like the reading I gave them.”

“Fair enough,” the boy says. He hasn’t shown any hint of nervousness up until this point, as many of his clients do; his relaxed shoulders are utterly at ease, a hand ruffling his short brown hair absentmindedly.

Lance knows his type. The kind who don’t believe in what he does, doing it for the laughs or the chance to see if the girl they like will sleep with them, and when the girl doesn’t, the boy has a person to blame it on.

They never really take the readings seriously, and it always hurts just a bit to have to do these ones, but the business is what it is. No one is ever going to fully believe anything (just look at how many religions there are).

He takes the boy’s hand in his own, tracing his love line. “So, tell me when you met them. Not their name, no identifying characteristics, just how and where you met them and length of time you’ve known them.”

The boy takes a deep breath, blows it out, looks up at the ceiling. “Let’s see. Freshman year English. She sat in front of me, and I remember distinctly the smell of her strawberry shampoo. That was the moment I knew there was no looking back.”

Lance doesn’t leave immediately. He watches the tense set to this boy’s jaw, the way he looks up at the rafters as if looking at Lance is going to cause him to lose it. “She um, she didn’t want to go out with me at first. Called me a dumbass, claimed I didn’t know anything about her and that I was just some stupid jock. It took me some time, but I learned what her favorite book was and read it all in a night, just so I was prepared to talk with her about it in English the next day. Funny thing was, I ended up sobbing all night over that damn book. It was a beautiful story.” He trails off, eyes having lost focus, stuck in the memories of his love.

The boy suddenly seems to remember that he’s there, as his eyes suddenly snap to him. “That was probably too much information, right?”

Lance shakes his head. “Perfect, actually. Gives me a lot of insight into your relationship.”

The boy nods, his jaw clenching, now staring at where their hands are joined on the table. That’s his cue to lose himself.

Lance steps out, into the place that isn’t. Some clients are hard to find, others he’s able to pinpoint exactly where their heart lies. This boy is the latter; his strong orange presence practically pulsates, and Lance feels his body smile.

Flashes tell him exactly what he said earlier; he can see their beginning, English class stumbles and the fierce look on her face when she rejects him the first time, the softening around her eyes when he starts to talk about that one book. The laughter of their first date, a beating desire deep in this boy not for sex, but intimacy. Emotions overwhelm Lance as he watches snippets of their history unfold, caught up in the way things have always been, rather than the way they will be.

Lance has to pry himself away from the shining love he feels in their past, untangle himself from the oranges and reds.

Oh.

Her color is that of a deep red, flowing next to his, occasionally intertwining but very rarely doing any more than dipping to meet the orange. His orange line spins around her red line, and Lance feels the shift the longer he looks at the two lines.

A third line joins, and Lance knows. Deep, forest green touches the red, once, twice, a third time, and the orange dances closer as the red pulls away.

Feelings, stronger here than in the middle, muddle together the longer Lance observes. He can feel the pain echoing from a heartbreak yet to happen, the sharp break he can see in the road ahead.

He feels the sadness as though it is his own, feels the longing this boy holds for a girl who no longer loves him the way he wishes she did.

It feels invasive to still be in here; he’s been in here longer than normal, and it’s taking a strain on his own powers.

Pulling back and out and practically forcing his consciousness back into his head, he swallows thickly before opening his eyes.

The boy is watching him, sharp green eyes boring into Lance as Lance slowly pulls his hand away.

“I’m sorry,” Lance says gently, and there’s that jaw clench again. The rest of him doesn’t move, doesn’t betray the hurt Lance has felt inside of him. It’s Lance’s turn to clench his jaw, debating how much he should tell him. Just because he isn’t the first doesn’t make it any easier.

See, that’s the tricky thing about playing with fate. About his powers, what he can do with what he’s been given. People come to him all the time asking for their entire love lives to be told, and Lance learned the hard way that isn’t feasible or something he should do. As much as people might seem like they want the truth, the matters of the heart are a very personal and painful thing. Now, he just reads the present love. The love that either they are looking to have, or have had, or have just ended. It’s much easier to just focus on one specific person, to find that life and read it, gauge the emotions and feelings and use spells and magic to read what he needs to. For the most part, it’s easy: telling people that their crush either will or won’t work out, figuring out the best time to propose to that fated lover, helping people move on by explaining the emotions behind it all.

Those are the easy ones.

Not all of them are this way.

Like figuring out if he really, truly has the power to make these calls. When he sees a love line full of passion that ends in heart-breaking pain, the kind of pain that people die from. Is it worth it to tell them to pursue that love, knowing that it’s going to hurt very badly but it’s something that they need? Is it his right to tell people that they shouldn’t go after that person, knowing that it isn’t his life to live nor his romance to lead? People need pain; it’s such an important facet of life, the exact reason his shelves are always full of remedies for broken hearts and recovering from loss and even balms to rub over the hands that failed an important test.

Like the boy sitting in front of him, hopelessly, utterly in love with a girl who’s only going to break his heart, seeing someone behind his back and leading him on. Who is Lance to tell him that? Break his heart, all because he paid for a service to get his love line read?

It isn’t his place.

“It’s not going to end well, is it?” the boy asks.

Lance shakes his head.

“She’s seeing someone else, isn’t she?” the boy whispers.

Lance hesitates, and then nods.

The boy looks at him for a long moment before slowly taking his hand back from where it rests on the table, tucking it in his lap.

“I can offer you a Heartbreak Helper, or a Close-Lipped Chapstick.” The boy shakes his head. “How about a Worry-Me-Not?”

The boy opens his mouth, looking like he wants to protest but also like he’s on the verge of tears. “I’m really not trying to push product,” Lance says hurriedly. “I just want to help. It hurts, I know it does, I felt it too. I really just want to make things a little softer, you know? It’ll be on me.”

He hesitates, glancing from Lance to the shelves and jars lining his walls. “Whatever you think is best,” he says quietly, at last.

Lance nods, and stands, going over to pick up a thin little vial. He considers it, spinning it around in his hand, humming softly.

Blue sparks sing around the vial, dancing and jumping against the glass. They reach a crescendo, and all dive into the clear liquid inside.

Lance holds it a moment longer, still feeling the ache of residual pain from the boy, before turning and handing it to him.

“No charge,” Lance says softly.

The boy takes it with a small nod, sniffling, and pockets it. He mutters a low, “thanks,” and then departs, the bell jangling behind him.

Lance locks the door with a flick of a wrist, a lamp turning on in the same movement.

He watches the dark outside of the window for a long moment, lost in his head.

He’s been there before; in love with a girl who loved attention more than him. He doesn’t have to do a reading to know that pain.

Lance knows exactly what the pain of a love lost feels like.

The lights flick off, the candles whoosh out, and Lance leaves his little shop behind for another night.

~~~

Lance hums as he walks up his stairs, the same damn song that had been stuck in his head all day. The elevator was broken (again) and yes, it would have been easy to fix it had this happened in the morning, but people get suspicious when elevators that are perpetually broken suddenly start working again. Also, he’s exhausted.

He pushes through the door that leads to his floor, digging his apartment key out of his pocket. It’s jumbled in there with a variety of little things he had picked up throughout the day, meaning he pulls out a gum wrapper, a pebble, two dimes, and a rock salt crystal before his simple metal key finally makes an appearance.

“Mother-fucker!”

Lance looks up, having heard his name, only to find a disheveled boy staring down at his feet, where the contents of the cardboard box in his hand now lay, scattered across the worn carpet.

The boy stares down, shaggy black hair hiding his face from view, and Lance stares at him.

“Need—” he clears his throat, “need some help?”

Shaggy-hair finally notices him, head shooting up and bangs falling back into place, as Lance sucks a sharp breath in.

Goddamn, he’s beautiful.

“Oh, uh, I’ve got it,” he says.

Lance looks pointedly at the double-open ends of the box and then back at his face. “You sure?”

He hesitates for a long moment, and let out a “yeah,” once more staring at the mess at his feet.

Lance pauses at his door, key still in hand, and then finally says, “alright.”

And that was that.

Lance unlocks his door, walks inside, tosses down his messenger bag, as the boy with the messy hair and messy box stands in the hallway.

Fucking hell.

He’s back out the door before the thought has even fully processed, stooping down in a smooth motion to help pick up the scattered office supplies. A variety of pens, markers, pencils, and long erasers now clutched in his hand, he glances over at shaggy-hair who gapes at him.

“I said I had it,” shaggy-hair says.

“And I said alright and left. Looks like we’re both liars.”

Shaggy-hair makes a noise, and Lance starts fixing the box (without magic, thank you very much).

“You really don’t have to do this,” shaggy-hair grumbles as they continue to work. Damn, did this guy own every pen in the universe?

“It’s really no problem.”

Awkward silence stretches between them. The last of the writing materials are picked up, the box retaped, and back in shaggy-hair’s hands.

Now it’s awkward standing and awkward silence.

Cool cool cool there’s just a hot, random stranger staring at me, no biggie, it’s fine—

“I’m Keith,” shaggy-hair—Keith—finally says. He looks as though he was trying to shake Lance’s hand, but both of his are clutched firmly on the box, so he was stuck with a constipated expression on his face.

“Lance,” Lance replies. Wow, look, words! “Well, it looks like you do actually have a hand on it now, so I’ll leave you to it.”

Keith nods, and Lance fishes around for his key the second time tonight, and then enters his apartment, waiting until the door clicks shut to scream into his cupped hands.

~~~
Pidge kicks her feet against the wooden backing of the counter, her butt planted squarely on top of the counter, giving him a dubious look.

“Really, Lance?”

“I’m telling you; it was like magic!”

“You have magic. There’s no way it was like that.”

“Yeah but like, this was the romance kind. You know, the real magic.”

Her face, if possible, deepens with the dubious look. “I’ve seen you tell people’s love lives by reading their auras and knowing if people are legitimately soulmates. I believe in the firm power of science, but even your magic is more real to me than your somehow fated meeting with this new neighbor.”

“Pidge,” he whines. “Why can’t you just let me have nice fantasies?”

“You can have nice fantasies!” Hunk says, walking out of the back room and into their conversation.

“See! Hunk loves me!”

“Don’t encourage him.”

“Encourage me all you want, Hunk.”

Hunk sets down the box he was carrying on the table next to the register, and Lance opens it with a wave of his fingers, little mason jars floating out and over to their designated shelves.

Pidge watches with her usual amount of morbid fascination while Hunk went back for another box. He’s gotten used to Lance’s casual displays of magic, while Pidge never stopped trying to find out the logical science behind it.

The clock in the front chimes, letting him know that it was four minutes before his first appointment for the day. Hunk deposits his last box and Lance exerts perhaps a bit too much magic trying to quickly put everything away, a thin sheen of sweat breaking out on his forehead.

“Go, go,” he shoos Pidge and Hunk, guiding each of them out the back by one hand on each shoulder. He had work to do, for goodness’ sake.

They’ve just left when the doorbell chimes, and Lance glances over his shoulder to find his first appointment for the day.

Clean cut, polo crew neck, khaki shorts.

Welp, he knew exactly what this client was looking for.

Lance straightens his shirt as he walked back to the front, his client dragging fingers over the jars he had just restocked. “Hey, how can I help you today?”

The guy looks up, pink dotting his cheeks at being caught examining the merchandise. “I believe I have an appointment for a reading.”

“First name Clark?”

He looks surprised. “How’d you do that?”

“You put it on your appointment booking, dude.”

Clark clears his throat. “Right, right.” He laughs awkwardly. “Just freaks me out, mediums and all that, worried they might know more than they should.”

Lance inwardly bristles at the notion that he was a mere medium, but smiles, nonetheless. “Why don’t we get started?”

~~~
It’s the usual routine: ask for the dude’s name, have him read the sheet and wait for him to agree, a little about his love—but never their name—when they met them, the usual.

It was supposed to be a normal reading.

Lance has barely begun when the feelings wash over him. The subtle sense that something was wrong, that this vibe was tormented by something that shouldn’t be there. Then the images come.

A girl, pretty and young, a dark bruise around her eye. The feelings of anger that swirl around Clark’s essence, the harsh reds and violent blacks. His heart feels nonexistent; his power, all too dominant.

More flashes, but no more images, tell him the things Clark has done to this girl. Speak of people he has no right to know about, of the trust she puts in him but the way she gets none in return.

He sees how far their paths intermingle, how her soft blue fades into gray as his red burns.

Hers ends abruptly, and Lance knows it’s not because she left him.

Lance is thrust out of the client’s head and back into his own when Clark takes his hand away.

“So?” he asks with a grin. “What’d you see? Care to sell me a potion or some other hobble gobble to make her give me more blow jobs?”

Lance feels sick to his stomach, the swelling red still not fully gone.

Clark’s grin falters the longer he goes without a response.

But Lance doesn’t know what to say. He has an ethical obligation, he knows that, but how does he go about it? He can’t just report this abuse to the cops without any solid evidence (he learned the hard way that they really don’t believe the local love witch when he says he got a bad vibe from so-and-so, even when he’s always right). He can’t tell Clark off, certainly can’t save this woman without knowing her name or where she is or what other factors play into this abuse.

So he simply says, “I can’t.”

“What? What do you mean, you can’t?”
“You read the sheet. If I get a bad vibe from whoever I read from, I don’t sell them any potion. And I’m not going to sell you that today,” Lance says, mustering up as much courage as he can.

Clark’s face is frozen in the picture of a perfect smile, cracking at the edges and hard eyes that won’t take Lance’s no.

“What’s your wife’s name?” Lance presses. “Laura was it?”
“Rose, actually,” Clark bites out. “What kind of a terrible ass psychic are you? God, that must be it. You’re so shitty at your job that you read my love line or whatever fucking shit wrong and that’s why you won’t sell me it, cause you think I’m fucking cheating on my wife!” Clark stands up so suddenly that the chair tips over with the force of his movements. Lance doesn’t stand, watching him, waiting.

“I’m gonna leave you a terrible Yelp review, I just want you to know that.”

“By all means,” Lance says, not able to hide the sarcasm from his words.

“Fuck you, asshole,” Clark says, fuming as he stormed to the front of the shop. “You’ll get what’s coming to you, mark my words!”
The door slams shut, the bell jangling dangerously.

Lance lets out the shaky breath he had been holding, fingers clenching and unclenching against the table.

People like Clark were rare, but every now and then, they happened to stroll in. But time and experience had taught him how to deal with things like that, people like him, in a way that no one else got hurt.

He has just enough time between clients to scrawl down some information, make a few phone calls, handle some other customers that come into the shop, looking for smaller things that he doesn’t feel morally obligated to do a reading over.

And the day passes just like any other.

~~~

It’s 8:48 at night, and Lance is beginning to close up. It had been a busy day, and there are still a few people lingering around the line of bath bombs he had just introduced, each one charmed to do something different depending on scent chosen.

A dark shadow passes by the window, and Lance glances over, scanning the glass but seeing nothing.

The two teenage girls that had been admiring the bath bombs each pick one out, giggling about what kind of effects they hope to see come out. These were his favorite customers—the kinds of people that seemed to have magic, just in the simple smiles and snickers with friends.

They leave, bags swinging with their purchases, when Lance feels something tingle along the back of his neck. He stills, hands hovering above the notebook he kept of items to restock, eyes focusing and ears open.

“Hello?” he calls, wondering if perhaps there was someone still left in the shop but knowing there wasn’t.

He waits a moment longer, sending a current of magic to search the air, a low, subtle hum.

Nothing.

Lance lets out a harsh breath through his nose, steps a little more hurried as he closes up for the night. It’s a short walk back to his apartment, and soon enough he’ll be done with the day, leaving the feeling of wrong behind.

He doesn’t make it very far.

Two hands wrap around his neck as he steps out into the alley way behind the shop, and Lance stumbles, choking.

Go for the eyes.

He reaches behind him blindly, feet scrabbling on the asphalt, feeling his nails dig into soft flesh but the assailant doesn’t let him go. Dark spots dance in his vision as Lance struggles to get air in.

It’s like stepping outside of his body. The panic and lack of air and the feeling of wrong forcing himself to project whether he wants to or not. Clark stands behind him, both hands wrapped around Lance’s neck, face a wrinkled mess of fury.

Lance’s body kicks in vain at his knees, clawing desperately at his hands. Despite the resistance his mind creates, Lance steps back into his body, and slams his full weight backwards, toppling both him and Clark.

Clark’s hands loosen and Lance sucks in a large breath, coughing and gagging as he struggles to breathe. And while his arms had let him go, Clark’s legs wrap around Lance’s torso, spinning them both and pinning Lance to the ground.

Another round of spots dance in his vision when his head hit the pavement, a dull thunk. Fingers fist in his hair and wrench his head back and begin to beat the shit out of him with his free hand. Lance fights back the best he can, but Clark has the advantage of muscle, height, and being on top. Something sharp pressed against his exposed throat once Clark had slammed his head into the ground for the third time.

“This’ll teach ya to go around spreading bullshit,” Clark breathes into his ear as Lance feels the knife begin to dig in. Lance clenches his fists, breathing heavily, trying not to move as Clark’s hand trembles and forces the blade deeper.

Warmth pours down his shirt, and Lance closes his eyes, centering himself despite his raging heartbeat.

In, out.

In, out.

In…

Out.

Lance’s power releases, a wave of energy sweeping out of him through the cut on his neck, forcing Clark back and sending him flying across the alley, the distant sound of his body hitting the wall.

Exhaustion hits him in a second wave, and Lance slumps to the ground, blood still pouring, magic still thrumming but growing steadily weaker as his vision begins to give out.

He has just enough left in him to whisper, “home.” Using the blood on his hands, he traces a symbol into his palm, a softer energy taking him away from here.

And landing him in the middle of the hallway in his apartment complex.

The last thing he hears is, “What the fuck?” and purple eyes staring down at him before Lance blacks out.

~~~

The sharp sting of antiseptic.

The cold press against his throat.

The burning as it cleans.

Gentle hands that hold him.

Lance blinks open his eyes, slowly, feeling the crust of sleep pull at his eyelashes. It’s dark, that’s the first thing he notices, followed by, this isn’t my ceiling. He’s spent enough time gazing at his ceiling while trying to nap on his couch that the spots have become familiar, and many times have left him wondering how spots even form on the ceiling.

Right. Task at hand.

Where the hell is he?

Lance tries to sit up but feels a body jerk underneath his legs that causes him to wince from the stinging against his neck.

“Woah, easy there,” says a deep voice, and Lance’s head swims as he tries to pinpoint the source.

“Where—”

“Try not to talk, you’ve got a pretty bad cut on your neck.”

Lance nods and immediately regrets it when a wave of dizziness washes over him.

“Careful,” the voice says again and damn, Lance knows that voice, but from where?

“Lance, right?”

Lance, having learned from his mistake of the nod, lifts a thumb up.

“It’s Keith, your neighbor.”

Ah.

Oh. Oh fuck. The hot one.

Lance tries to sit up again, get his bearings but the dizziness and Keith’s firm hands push him back down. “I don’t know what happened, but you appeared in the hallway looking beat up as fuck. This felt like a time where I wasn’t supposed to call the police so I didn’t, but I can totally do that if you want me to—”

He breaks off when Lance violently shakes his head, apparently not having learned his lesson after all.

“…or I can not do that.”

They sit in silence, Keith’s lower half tucked under Lance’s legs and Lance stretched out across a damn comfortable couch. Lance replays the last several hours in his head. Clark. Clark in the shop. The reading, the not at all subtle abuse. That bad feeling he got. Clark’s hands on him. Blasting him off. Getting here. Purple eyes.

Waking up here.

“What time is it?” Lance croaks.

“4:41 a.m.,” Keith says casually, and Lance tries again to sit upright in shock but once more, Keith gently keeps him down. “Hey, easy there, I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m sorry,” Lance says, voice closer to a whisper this time.

“Woah, man, you have nothing to be sorry about. You showed up bleeding all over the place and covered in bruises, I’m the one that’s supposed to be feeling sorry for you.”

Yeah, but you just moved in and we’ve barely talked and now you’re taking care of me on your couch and I don’t know how to tell you this is not a normal way to make friends with hot neighbors.

“Thanks,” Lance whispers.

Keith hesitates before answering. “No problem.” His voice is soft, and for once, Lance believes the statement.

“Listen, I totally get it if you don’t wanna talk about it, but what happened tonight?”

Lance stares at the ceiling.

How does he answer this? Just casually, oh yeah, I’m a witch, I run a shop downtown where I sell potions and balms and I’m well known for reading love lines and telling people’s fate in romance?

Yeah, that’ll go over well. Especially the witch part.

“It’s… complicated,” Lance says at last.

Keith snorts.

“I’m being honest, and you’re the one who said I didn’t have to talk about it—”

“No, no I’m not laughing at you. I just really understand the phrase ‘complicated’.”

“Oh.”
Lance considers, feeling the weight of his various injuries and pain that lingers, the exhaustion that still threatens to pull him under. He’s going to have to reschedule all of his appointments for the next few days. What he did last night… it doesn’t come without a price. He’ll be magicless for at least three days.

“I run a shop downtown,” Lance says softly, more so from the words than the cut on his neck. “I do readings, sell like stuff to help people out. But sometimes people don’t always like what I tell them.”

“And someone took it out on you?” Keith asks, voice neutral.

“Yeah,” Lance whispers. Lance feels the aggravation at himself, at his stupidity, building in his sternum, the pressure choking him up. He should have been smarter about it. Everything about Clark read as a warning sign. He should have known better.

“What’s his name?”

“Who?”

“The asshole that fucked you up?”

Lance hesitates. “Clark.”

“I’ll go fuck his shit up.”

And it’s the sincerity of the statement, the ire behind it, that has Lance laughing, immediately wincing when a wave of pain washes over him. “You don’t need to do that. He got what was coming to him.”

“I bet he did. You look like you can give as good as you get.”

A wry smile finds its way onto his face. “Thanks.”

Keith gently stands, laying Lance’s feet down onto a pillow, and Lance shivers at the lack of heat. “As much as taking care of you has made for an interesting night, I have to get to my shift.” He leans over Lance, fingers dancing across the bandages as Lance holds his breath. “You’re totally welcome to stay here until you’re good to move,” he says, and Lance thinks his voice may have dropped an octave or two.

Lance holds a thumb up, and Keith grins at him, black hair falling around his face. “I’ll be back later. Just leave me a note or something if you’re gone before I get back. I’m a little afraid you’ll pass out somewhere and I’d rather not have another heart attack in the hallway.”

“Sure thing, neighbor,” Lance says, and Keith quirks an eyebrow at him before straightening and rummaging around the room. Sleep is already tugging Lance back under, and he barely has the sense of mind to text Pidge that he won’t be in the shop today, can you please cover for me and reschedule my readings? before he falls back asleep on Keith’s couch.

~~~
It’s daylight when he awakes, and Lance is momentarily disoriented. His head pounds like a motherfucker, and he desperately needs water. Joints and bruises protest when he swings his legs over the edge of the couch, feet planted, and eyes closed against the dizziness.

He takes that time to search for his magic, any hint of leftover power. He’s not had to exert it like that since the summer after high school, when people really found out that the bisexual kid wasn’t just weird for liking both guys and girls, he could do magic as well. That was the first night he learned just how deep his well ran when he really needed it.

There’s the faintest glimmer burrowed deep inside of him, and Lance lets out a rush of air. Not all gone. His mama always warned him not to release it all at once; release too much, and you’ll never get it back.

Lance stands, swaying, and surveys the room. It’s set up nearly identical to his own apartment, perhaps a touch more sparsely (Keith did just move in after all), the kitchen easy to find. He feels a little awkward searching through someone else’s cabinets when they’re not here, but he finds a glass and pours some water, drinking greedily.

The clock reads 3:02 pm. Lance leans back against the counter, glass in one hand and phone in the other. Pidge didn’t question the early morning text about the shop, but there’s a few worried texts from Hunk. He explains in their group chat the best he can without freaking either of them out, and only mildly succeeds. Hunk only stops threatening to dash over to his place when Lance says he’s back home and fine (it’s only a tiny lie).

As much as he would like to stay here and wait for the cute neighbor that absolutely rescued him last night, Lance has no idea when he’s going to be back and doesn’t feel comfortable waiting for him. A pen and paper are easy to find, and Lance scrawls out his number and a brief note.

He’s almost a little sorry to leave Keith’s apartment, lingering by the door, wondering if he should in fact wait for him. Logic overrides the hesitation—it would be so weird to wait for the person who you barely know, and you already left a note—and Lance returns to his own apartment, hurting and ready to sleep for days.

~~~

He’s pretty sure he would have slept for days had it not been for Keith. Every few hours, he would get a text checking in, making sure Lance was alive.

The first few times, Lance had responded in short texts informing his hot neighbor that yes, he was still alive, thank you for asking. The magic draining was still taking a toll on him, Lance blearily moving around the apartment as that was all he could do. Pidge and Hunk stop by after they closed the shop up early for him, to which Lance has to explain that yes, he has informed the cops, yes, he is going to live, yes, his hot neighbor just got hotter by the day and Lance is casually falling for him.

Pidge groans at that last part while Hunk practically lights up. “Bud, that’s great!”

“I think you’re forgetting the part where someone tried to kill Lance, and then Lance very nearly gave himself away by teleporting to the middle of his apartment hallway.”

Hunk dismisses Pidge’s claim with a hand wave. “Semantics.”

Lance just sighs at both of them.

It’s now day four post-Clark, and Lance can finally feel his magic start to truly return. He’s able to add little sparks to his morning coffee, bringing it easily down to the perfect temperature. A small smile lights his face, the satisfaction of being able to do the little things warming him.

Keith is locking his door when Lance steps out into the hallway, Keith jumping in surprise when Lance said good morning.

“Oh, hey,” Keith says, using his free hand to tuck a stray lock behind his ear. “Didn’t expect to see you up and moving so soon. You took a hard beating.”

Lance shrugs, feeling the sore muscles and bruises protest. “I feel fast, what can I say?”

Keith gives him a dubious look. “I mean, alright.” He finishes locking his door and steps back, shoving both of his hands into his pockets. “So what are you doing out? Figured you would still be in bed.”

“Someone’s gotta run the shop. I’ve already had a bunch of angry emails from clients rescheduled, so I can’t exactly take any more time off.”

Keith cocks his head. “Clients?”
Ah, fuck.

Here’s the part where he explains to his hot neighbor that he is absolutely into that he runs a witchy store downtown where he gives love readings, selling potions to those who want luck in love or liquid courage to finally ask that special someone out. Here’s the part where Keith raises his eyebrows, gives him that not-at-all-subtle, “well that’s an interesting job”, and then quietly excuses himself and never speaks to Lance again. Here’s the part where Lance ruins it all, yet again, for a gift he once was so proud to have.

“I um,” Lance starts, “I run Altea’s?”
Confusion clouds Keith’s face, quickly followed by realization, and Lance feels that sinking horror once more in his stomach.

“Wait, you’re that Lance? Like, locally famous Lance McClain? Love guru?”

“Yup,” Lance says, trying to bite back his grimace (he doesn’t succeed).

“That’s actually really cool,” Keith says, the barest traces of a smile on his face, but Lance thinks—hopes—it might actually be genuine.

“Yup.”

They stand there, neither saying anything, Lance examining the carpet and his well-worn Converse, Keith examining his front door.

“Well uh—”

“—I should probably—”

“—Go.” They say together.

Lance laughs, and Keith grins at him, and they each walk off, Lance no longer needing just the return of his powers to feel light.

~~~
He’s given three more readings this morning than he had scheduled, trying to make sure everyone is addressed in a proper time manner. One girl is about to get married and needed last minute reassurance, one guy had just broken up with someone and he was having regrets, and a teenager who was hopelessly in love with the best friend who was never going to love her back.

Lance is leaning against the counter, both forearms braced as he tried to will away the headache he was steadily developing. It’s been busier than normal, but Lance can’t say he was annoyed at the foot traffic. Business is business, and a profit is always helpful when it comes to paying rent.

The bell chimes and Lance lifts his head, mentally prepping himself.

He catches a flash of dark hair before the customer disappears into an aisle, and Lance busies himself with straightening what was on the counter, taking stock of what he could from back here, recounting the—

“Hey.”

Lance turns his head a tad bit too quickly, dizziness making itself known as he tries to subtly settle himself. “Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to startle you,” says the same voice, and when Lance’s vision finally focuses, he finds the familiar violet eyes of Keith staring back at him, a nervous half smile on his face.

“Oh, hey, fancy seeing you here,” Lance replies, hating the way his voice cracks like a teenager’s.

“I was on my lunch break, figured I’d stop by, see what all the buzz was about.”

Lance pretends not to feel disappointed that Keith isn’t here to see him, nodding with a forced half-smile on his own face.

“Anything catch your fancy?”

Keith glances up from where he’s examining one of the balms up front, charmed to cure even the worst case of dry hands with just one use. His cheeks tint pink, and he looks back down, toying with the ribbon tied along the rim.

“Oh um,” Keith seems to steel himself, “I was hoping you had something that would help with courage?”

Lance cocks his head, all business now. “Can I ask what for?” Possibilities run through his mind, different serums with different purposes, trying to figure out which would best fit Keith.

What Keith said is the only one Lance wasn’t considering. “I kind of like someone, but I’m scared to ask them out. I’m worried it’s a little too soon but everything with them…” Keith trails off, a small, genuine smile on his face. “Everything with them just feels so right. I just don’t want to fuck it up and I don’t think I can do it without my nerves getting in my way.”

Lance feels his stomach sinking lower and lower with each passing word while his heart simultaneously soars. There’s no way Keith is talking about him, right? The hope and the disappointment are fighting valiantly against each other, but Lance’s magic hums at the idea, and that’s the desire that wins out.

“Well, in order to sell you something like that, I have to do a reading.”

Keith looks up sharply. “Why?”

“Well, if you’re using it to ask someone out, I’ve got a policy about not selling someone something that’s going to go against the natural order of like fate and love and all that drama,” Lance explains. “It’s like a personal thing. I just don’t feel comfortable selling someone a love potion or even just something to help with romance if it’s going to end badly or be abusive or something like that.” Lance’s feet fidget beneath the counter, the lack of expression on Keith’s suddenly closed-off face making him worried.

Keith bites his lip, looking at anything but Lance. “Do you have anything that I can get without the reading?”

Oh gods, he knows I’m into him and he’s scared of hurting my feelings when I realize it’s not me he’s into. The horror of the dawning realization hits him nearly as hard as Clark did, and Lance swallows thickly.

“If you’re worried about me finding out who it is, I can’t see the person you’re seeking to know about. I just get their energies, impressions almost. And I specifically ask that people don’t tell me their S.O.’s names.”

Keith’s face remains that impassive mask. Lance’s feet are practically doing a tap dance with all the nervous energy he’s accumulated, when Keith finally nods. “Yeah, alright.”

“Awesome,” Lance practically breathes. “Since you’re only looking for a liquid courage vial, this won’t take very long. I just need to see enough to make sure it’s something I feel comfortable selling you.” Lance clears away the items on the register so that they have a place to join hands. “Now, give me your hand.”

Keith places his right hand in Lance’s, and Lance traces his thumb over the love line. His is longer than most, and while palm reading isn’t something Lance really puts trust in, it does occasionally mean something. This time, Lance hopes it means nothing.

Closing his eyes, he searches for the energies that indicate love.

He finds them with ease. For one, he sees a swirling red, full of passion and love, reserved pinks tingeing the line every now and then. He feels the sheer adoration Keith will come to have for this person, the hope and truth and sheer joy that’ll he’ll experience because of his love.

Lance can see the fights, the heartbreak and pain that comes along with it.

He sees a love line that doesn’t end.

But try as he might, he only gets the barest impressions of who’s on the other side, a glimmer here and there, a feeling, but no color.

Lance pulls back, trembling.

“Yeah,” he says, clearing his throat as he comes back to the real world. “I’ll sell you it.”

Keith grins. “That’s great.” They nod at each other, Keith’s grin dissolving into a shy smile. “Can I ask how you did that?”

Lance looks up at him from where he had been ringing up the purchase. His mouth acts faster than his brain.

“I’m a witch.”

Ah, shit.

Keith’s eyebrows shoot up, and Lance freezes, ice filling his veins.

He really just said that, didn’t he?

Fuck.

“Well damn,” Keith says. “Alrighty.”

Lance blinks at him. “You’re not going to freak out?”

Keith shrugs. “You always had something a little…more, about you. And to be honest, that’s genuinely not the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. I think I met someone once who was a legitimate vampire.”

Lance blinks at him again, attempting to process. “Oh—okay.”

Keith nods. “Yup.”

“Well I’m just going to ring up your purchase and then you’ll be all good to go on your merry way!” Lance says in one breath, trying to fight the rising nausea.

It takes him less than a minute to find the proper potion, thirty seconds to infuse it, and thirty more seconds to complete the purchase. He hands it to Keith in a little baggie, and Keith is nearly out of the shop when he turns around.

“Is there any way you can tell me what you saw?”

Lance hesitates, and then shakes his head firmly. “Sorry, I’m not supposed to disclose.”

Keith looks like he wants to press him for more, before he finally nods once, conceding. “See ya, Lance.”

“Bye, Keith,” Lance says faintly, Keith already out of the shop.

His hands are shaking as he pulls out his phone, pressing Hunk’s number.

It rings twice before Hunk picks up.

“Keith just came into the shop, and I read his love line, and he met his soulmate,” Lance says in a rush. He has to whisper the next part, afraid of saying it too loudly. “And I don’t think it’s me.”

~~~

They’re sitting around Hunk and Pidge’s coffee table, Hunk with his fingers steepled and his forehead resting against them, Pidge sitting sideways in a normal chair, Lance alternating between sitting and pacing.

“So, why don’t you think it’s you? Everything you told me points to him being into you.”
“Because!” Lance shouts. “It just—aghh!”
“English, please,” Pidge quips.

“Okay, so,” Lance says, sitting back down. “There are two rules to my love readings. Rule number one: I will never be able to see my own love line, and no one will ever be able to read my love line. It’s the curse of being a witch—they don’t want us having too much power. Rule number two: the purer a love gets, the less visible the person on the other end gets. For soulmates? The other person is practically non-existent, sometimes only one or two dashes of color.”

“Have you ever gotten one without any color?” Pidge asks.

Lance swallows thickly. “Yeah.”

Hunk frowns. “So, you got no color with Keith?”
“None but his.”

Hunk frowns harder. “And there’s literally no way to tell if it was yours with his?”

Lance looks at him, dubious but also on the verge of tears. “Why would he come to my shop asking me to help set him up with someone if he was into me?”

Now even Pidge looks downcast.

It’s quiet as they consider.

“How would soon do you think he’ll use it?” Hunk asks.

Lance shrugs. “It’s charmed so that the user can take it at any time, and it won’t have lost its potency. He could use it at any time, really, even 30 or 40 years from now.”

“So we have nothing to do but wait,” Pidge says plainly. “Cool. I’m going back to my project.”

And with that, the conversation is over, Lance not at all consoled.

~~~

He sees Keith in the hallways, nothing more than a quick “oh hey,” as one of them leaves while the other arrives. They chat over text, but the conversations that could have lasted late into the night now fizzle out in thirty minutes as Lance pulls further and further back.

It’s been a short time—he knows that—but he really thought there was something more there. Something that could have been his own little magic.

But not with Keith, not with Keith’s apparent soulmate, not now. The quick hellos in the hallway slowly fade from greetings to barely anything at all. Nods if he’s lucky, a quick flick of the eyes if he’s not.

Lance is in hell, essentially.

Because living right next door to him is a gorgeous boy with violet eyes and a perfect smile who took care of him when he randomly showed up on the edge of death, who came by the shop and wasn’t freaked out when Lance said he was a witch, who takes care of cats in his free time and works with taking care of people in the day time.

But most of all, Keith is a boy who will never be his.

Yeah, Lance is most definitely in hell.

~~~

A week passes since Keith’s reading in the shop, and business is steady. Lance fills his days with reading love lines, selling balms and chap sticks to help gossip girls stop spilling secrets (apparently there was a scandal at the local high school—that one is in heavy demand presently).

It’s a Friday afternoon when a dark head of hair pops into his shop and Lance’s heart skips a beat. Long hair flashes over the tops of shelves, shaggy in a way Lance knows all too well.

Keith wanders around the shop, as if purposely avoiding the front counter, and Lance pretends to be productive at the register.

Eventually, another customer enters, and Lance doesn’t have to pretend to be busy. He helps them find something to ease the ache of loss, and he relays the care instructions as he rings them up.

Keith leans against the closest shelf, eyes roving over the shelves positioned behind Lance’s head, every now and then violet flicking to meet blue.

It’s casually driving him insane.

He waves goodbye to his customer, watching her walk all the way out the door before finally turning his attention to Keith.

Lance scowls.

Keith grins back at him.

“Do you understand how distracting you are?” Lance asks, feeling his ears heat up as he attempts to keep his face neutral.

“What?” Keith asks, all perfect innocence. “Am I not allowed to visit my neighbor at his place of work?”
It’s a little weird, Lance thinks but doesn’t say. Especially given that you have someone you’re destined to fall in love with at your fingertips, someone that isn’t me.

“I won’t object to you visiting me.”

Keith is quiet as Lance straightens up his shelves, Lance fumbling with his jars the entire time.

“Did the luck potion work?” Lance asks before reasoning can counteract the thought, and he grimaces the moment it leaves his tongue.

He can practically feel the air between them shift. Keith clears his throat. “Oh, um, I actually haven’t used it yet.”

A glance over his shoulder shows Keith stuffing his hands into his pockets, shoulders scrunched. “Oh?”
“I just haven’t found the right time,” Keith mutters, and Lance turns his head back around, nodding against the thickness in his throat. “He keeps disappearing every time I try to get the courage to ask.”

Lance chuckles. “That’s why you bought the potion though, right?” He turns in time to see Keith cock his head. “So you didn’t need your own courage?”

Dark eyebrows dart up. “Oh. Yeah. Right.”

Well this feels weird.

The bell rings as someone new enters, and Keith and Lance both turn to the sound. “I better uh—I should probably go,” Keith says.

“See you around?” Lance offers.

Keith throws him a smile over his shoulder as he walks away, and Lance wishes that there was a way he could see that smile every day, just for him.

But he knows it’s not going to happen, not with Keith’s soulmate out there somewhere, not with what Lance saw on his love line.

So he watches Keith go, and paints a smile on his face as he tells another person about the long love they are bound to have.

~~~
Keith shows up the following Friday. Sure, they see each other in the hallways and Keith tries to text, but it’s not like this.

Keith’s smiling as he takes his sweet time walking up to the front, and Lance leans over the counter, elbows braced, propping his face up.

“How’re the bruises?”

Lance’s eyebrows quirk up. That wasn’t a question he had been expecting. “They’re actually better,” he says, stretching out an arm, looking at the way they’ve nearly faded. “Barely hurt anymore.”

“That’s good.” Keith is staring down at him, looking like he’s trying to ask a hard question. “Can I look over them?”

Can you do what now?

“Oh—I—sure,” Lance blurts, holding his arm out and internally grimacing. Keith makes him feel like an awkward teenager all over again.

Keith’s fingers skate lightly over the ones around his wrist, pressing gently as Lance winces. “Still hurts?”

“A little.”

He nods. “That’s to be expected. It was a pretty brutal beating.”

“Don’t worry, he got what he deserved.”

Keith smirks at him. “I have no doubt.”

“So, are you like, training to be a doctor or something?”

“Nurse, actually.”

“Oh, that’s really cool.”

A flash of a self-conscious smile. “Thanks.”

Keith finally lets his hand drop but not until Lance feels like he’s going to combust. “Any specific reason you’re here?”

“Am I not allowed to see my favorite neighbor?”

“Have you met any of our other neighbors?”
“…no.”

Lance snorts. “I mean, yeah, you can always visit me, I was just wondering if there was something else to it.”

There’s that hesitation again—like the question is on the tip of Keith’s tongue but he can’t find a way to say it. “Nah,” he says at last.

Lance pretends not to feel disappointed. “So I’m guessing you still haven’t used the luck potion to ask that certain someone out?”

Pink dusts pale skin. “I… not yet.” He coughs. “I thought he was into me, but now I’m not so sure.”

Here’s where Lance should tell him that Keith met his soulmate. Here’s where Lance should tell him the good news and cheer Keith up and give him the happiness he deserves. Here’s where Lance should do the kind thing.

Instead, something selfish inside of him, something that wants to keep Keith close as long as he can, says “Well I’m not sure how anyone isn’t into you, but it’s okay, you don’t have to do anything about it.”

Sharp violet look at him, and Lance has a fleeting thought about what it would be like to drown in them. Keith doesn’t say anything, just nods and crosses his arms.

The bell rings; someone new is here.

That’s Keith’s cue to leave, and Lance can’t help but feel like he missed something important.

~~~

Keith starts popping in more and more frequently, never buying anything new, just—talking. Talking. With Lance.

Lance learns more about Keith in these little snippets of time than he thought he would ever get. They feel like stolen moments, things that don’t belong to him, not when Keith is someone else’s.

Lance relishes in them. And despite himself, he can’t help but fall deeper for Keith, with his strong baritone and careful hands and the way he seems to genuinely care about Lance.

The smile Keith gives him every time he leaves is something that Lance thinks is better than oxygen, and there’s one day where Pidge is the one to enter and cut their conversation short, and she pretends to gag when she looks at Lance’s face.

“Just ask him out already,” she whines.

“He’s not into me,” he whines back.

Pidge leaves.

It’s been a month and twelve days since Keith first came into Lance’s shop, and Lance is slowly starting to go insane from having Keith so close but so far.

Today is his breaking point.

He hasn’t brought up the luck potion since that second Friday, and Keith hasn’t mentioned it either. But he can’t keep doing this, as much as he would love to.

“So, did it work?”

Keith starts, the shelf upon which he was leaning on rattling dangerously. “Did what work?”

“The luck potion. You know, to ask that person out?”

Keith’s face shutters closed. “Oh, yeah, that. Haven’t used it yet.”

“Why not?”

Keith glares at him. “I just haven’t alright? Drop it.”

“Nope. I wanna know. It’s my business as a business owner.”

“It’s really not.”

“Mm, but I’m asking anyways.”

“Just drop it.”

“No.”

Lance.”

Keith.”

They glare at each other, and Keith is the one to break first. “I want to be able to ask him out on my own, okay? Without the help of anything else.”
“Then why haven’t you?” He’s pushing it, he knows he is, but impulse control has never been a strong suit for Lance.

“Because I don’t think he’s into me!” Keith practically shouts.

This is it. This is where Lance is supposed to do the right thing, tell Keith what he saw, make it easier on him.

But making it easier on Keith is so very hard for Lance.

“I’m not supposed…” Lance swallows thickly, fighting back emotion. “I’m not supposed to tell you what I saw that day.”

Keith doesn’t say anything.

“But they’re your soulmate.” It’s a near whisper. “Whoever you had in mind that day is your soulmate.”

Keith watches him, mouth open. Lance stares back, feet fidgeting under the counter, squirming under the intensity of Keith’s gaze.

“And you didn’t tell me?” Keith asks, voice in perfect control.

And here’s the really hard part. “I don’t see who it is, in readings. I get impressions, colors and feelings, but nothing more than that. I saw your strong red, but I felt whoever it was on the other side, and I knew. Knew that it was going to be a forever thing.”

Here’s the hardest part of all. Because Lance can’t keep doing this to himself, he knows that. “And I stupidly wished it was me, which I’m pretty sure it isn’t because I’m not allowed to read my own love line, but you never said anything, so I stopped wishing. You kept showing up here and it’s selfish I know, but I wanted you around.”

Lance is staring down at the cracks in the old wooden counter, the places where the wood split or singed when he lost control of his magic. Looks at the carved history, runs his thumb over it. Does anything but look at Keith.

“Lance.”

He just keeps looking at the cracks, feeling himself splinter inside.

“Lance, look at me.”

He does. Has he ever been able to say no to Keith?

Keith is standing closer than he’s ever, nearly pressed against the counter, nearly nose-to-nose with Lance. His breathing is even but every now and then Lance hears it catch in his chest.

“So you can’t read your own love line?” His voice is a whisper, intimate.

Lance shakes his head.

“You really had no idea that it’s been you this entire time?”

The air leaves his lungs in a rush and Lance feels like Clark hit him over the head again.

What?”

“Ever since that first day in the hallway, helping me clean up and not asking for anything in return. I’ve known since then,” Keith breathes.

Lance’s mind is still struggling to process.

“So that must mean you’re my soulmate,” Keith says gently, and yeah, wow, that might definitely be true.

Well damn.

“So, Lance, on my own volition minus liquid courage, will you go out with me?”

“Absolutely,” Lance murmurs, and the distance between them closes, and Lance is pretty sure sparks are flying as Keith’s mouth meets his.

Their own kind of magic.