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Losing our minds, bit by bit

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All Keith could remember was a blur – a fuzzy memory of him driving back home from Garrison on a speeder, then a sudden crash, followed by lots and lots of headaches. Voices he couldn’t recognize and conversations he heard but couldn’t comprehend, a weird feeling of aching numbness, and, again, hellish headaches.

The first time he woke up, he heard the beeps of a heart monitor. He was laying in a bed, of that he was sure. He had no idea how he had gotten there, however, since it definitely wasn’t his bed. Opening his eyes was quite an easy task, but when he tried to sit up, his body just… Wouldn’t move. Keith wasn’t even able to move his head a bit to look around.

After five or so minutes of trying not to fall asleep again, doing his best to keep his eyes open, he could hear someone entering the room and coming closer to him.

“Keith, great, you’re awake! Wait a second, I’ll get the doctor. Your dad is here too, I’m sure you’d like to see him.” The person said in an overly sweet voice as if they were talking to a little child.

But well, at least now he could figure out where he was. Probably a hospital, then, if there were doctors here. Keith had no idea when he got here, though, and he definitely didn’t know what happened to him and why he wasn’t able to move his body.

Minutes later, his father appeared, along with the figure from before and a middle-aged man in a lab coat, who Keith assumed was the doctor. His dad approached him and gave him a weird mix of a hug and a pat on the shoulder. Keith couldn’t explain what it was supposed to be.

“I’m so glad you’re awake, Keith,” Keith’s dad gave him a smile, then turned back to the doctor, and started a conversation with him. Keith couldn’t make out all the words, even though they were standing right beside him, and it frustrated him.

Keith must’ve fallen asleep again, because the next thing he could remember, his dad and the doctor were gone.

The figure from before, a nurse, sat down beside his bed and grabbed a plastic plate from a tray Keith hadn’t even noticed was there. She started feeding him, like one would do with a toddler, shoveling the food into him with a spoon, praising him for every bit he managed to swallow. That wasn’t even that big of a problem, but she talked to him as if he were a dog or a little child, saying things like ‘good boy’ and ‘you’re doing an amazing job sweetie’.

This had been going on for at least a week, nurses and doctors coming and going, feeding him, stretching his muscles, doing daily check-ups, while he just laid there, unable to move, (or to speak, as he discovered – when he tried, he just got groans, vowels that didn’t mean anything, sounding like some caveman trying to learn how to communicate) staring at the ceiling and wondering what the quiznak was even going on.

Of course, he’d figured that he must’ve been in some kind of accident and that he was now paralyzed or something (well, maybe not paralyzed, he had learned how to move parts of his body a bit, although he wasn’t all that good at it yet). His head felt like it was constantly being hit with a brick and the little movement he managed to do was hurting his body like hell. Probably a few broken bones, he guessed. He had heard the word ‘coma’ and ‘TBI’ or ‘traumatic brain injury’ from staff members passing by as well, so he concluded that he had been in a coma for a few weeks before waking up and that he had injured his brain in some way (well, duh).

No matter how much time went by, Keith had been frustrated rather than confused all this time. Everyone acted like he wasn’t there when they were talking about him or his condition; no one talked to him directly, and even if they did, they treated him like a toddler. He just wanted to know what happened to his body, and when this all would be over. Why did they all have to act like he ‘wouldn’t understand it anyway’?

It took the doctors three more days before they finally talked to him. Not even then was it completely directed to him, but at least he was included in the conversation. He had been hanging out with his dad, who was telling him about how much progress he had made and how the doctors said there was a pretty high chance he would almost fully recover when Dr. Iverson entered the room and grabbed a chair before greeting them both.

“So… Keith, you’re doing great. You’re healing faster than anyone else I’ve seen before, I swear. Well, but this also means that you’re eventually going to have to be released from this hospital. Mr. Kogane, we’ve got a few suggestions when it comes to TBI rehabilitation centers, but I highly recommend Voltron. It’s truly an amazing place, and it’s got incredible recoveries, especially teenagers like your son. Keith would be able to learn how to do everyday tasks again in no time...” Dr. Iverson kept rambling about the rehab, but Keith couldn’t force himself to concentrate on that anymore. He was tired of all of this. As much as he wanted to go back to his normal life again, the little therapy he had gotten here already tired him out and got on his nerves. There was no point to try and make him walk, talk, or read again when he wouldn’t be able to do it anyway. He was broken now.

A small sigh escaped his lips and he tried to protest. He opened his mouth and tried to speak, say ‘I don’t want to’, but as always, what came out was ‘Aaaooioo...’ This managed to get the others’ attention, who looked at him, expecting him to say something else, but Keith couldn’t get himself to. His caveman speech was already embarrassing enough, no need to try a second time.

“Anyway, so Mr. Kogane, if you’d like some brochures, feel free to take a few….” Dr. Iverson continued after a few more seconds of silence, then turned back to Keith. “Keith, would you like to say anything?”

Keith turned his head to the left side. Then to the right. To the left again. It was a weak attempt at shaking his head, but it seemed to have worked, as Dr. Iverson stood up and patted his head before turning on his heels and exiting the room, shortly followed by Keith’s dad after he said his goodbyes to Keith.

A week later, it was time to move. Keith’s family had decided on Voltron Rehabilitation Center, the one Dr. Iverson had suggested. Keith was put into a car specially designed to transport paralyzed patients. The drive must’ve taken quite some time, but Keith was asleep for the most part of it, he wouldn’t have known.

Keith had a chance to look at the building while he was taken out of the car. The rehab center was modern looking, big and tall, with four smaller buildings surrounding the biggest, white and blue one in the middle. It almost resembled a spaceship a little bit, but Keith didn’t know if he should find this amusing or just cringe.

A nurse made his way to the car to bring him upstairs to his room. The first time Keith was put into a wheelchair. It was quite a weird experience to sit upright after laying for so long. As he was being pushed through the building, he started to look around. It didn’t resemble the hospital he’d been in at all – everything was way more modern and friendlier looking. There were patients chatting or playing: teens, adults, and the elderly, everyone seemed to have a good time. A few of them glanced up and greeted the nurse or gave Keith a thumbs up as they passed them.

They stopped in front of what was apparently Keith’s new room. The nurse entered slowly and quietly, as if someone were already in there, and pushed Keith to an empty bed.

“Alright. Nice to meet you. My name is Shiro,” he said with a huge smile while effortlessly lifting Keith and placing him into his bed. “Your roommate-” Shiro pointed to the bed next to Keith’s, where a young man was lying motionlessly. “-is Lotor. He’s in a persistent vegetative state, so you should have it pretty peaceful here… Sorry, that was distasteful... Anyway, if you need anything, just press this button, alright? Look, I’ll place it under your hand. I’ll come back in fifteen minutes and explain your therapy schedule, okay?”

Keith nodded, or at least tried to, and gave Shiro a weak smile. The nurse returned the gesture, then left. He was alone now, except for the guy in the neighboring bed, although he doubted he would talk to him.

Great. He would be in rehab for another... - how long? Months? Maybe a year? What if he never got better? Then again, he shouldn’t sink in the self-pity before starting therapy. Who knows, maybe it will be super easy.

Keith took a deep breath and calmed down. At least the view from his window was nice. The building was probably surrounded by a forest because Keith could only see trees and nothing more. He wondered how long it would take for him to get sick of all of this. Less than two weeks, most likely.

Before he knew it, Shiro had appeared again. Were fifteen minutes already over? Huh. Time flew fast here.

“Hi,” the nurse greeted him with his warm smile and started fumbling around at the head of Keith’s bed to make him sit in an upright position. “I’ve got your schedule.” He waved around a piece of paper before placing it into Keith’s lap. Despite his best efforts, Keith couldn’t understand what was written on it. Great, so he forgot how to read now as well?!

He didn’t seem to need to read it, though, as Shiro had already begun to read it aloud to him: “Look, on Monday you’ll start with speech therapy at 10, then occupational therapy at 12, in the afternoon at three, Nyma will take you to physical therapy. Then on Thursday, you’ll…”

The door suddenly burst open and a boy around Keith’s age limped in. He looked around, unmistakably confused. He sighed relieved when his eyes caught Shiro.

“Shiro! I can’t find Hunk, he’s not in our room…” The guy said a bit overdramatically in a panicked voice. He had made a weird first impression on Keith altogether: some blue lion-slippers, pajama pants, a t-shirt along with a brown jacket (the pants and jacket definitely didn’t fit together), accessorized with a small bag, writings on every visible spot on his body, and a large scar at the side of his head, mostly covered by the boy’s short, brown hair.

“Calm down, Lance,” Shiro frowned. “Maybe you just forgot to write down where he went. You should probably look for him in the cafeteria though. I can give you a map if you lost yours.”

The boy, Lance apparently, pulled a notebook out of his bag and quickly breezed through the pages, until he found what he was looking for. “It’s okay, I still have it. This is the second floor, right?”

“Yes,” Shiro said with a small smile. “Next time, ask Allura if you need help. I’m currently a bit busy with our newest patient. His name is Keith. Don’t forget to write it down somewhere.”

Lance nodded and finger gunned Keith. “Alright, welcome Keith. If you’d like, I can show you around after I myself figure this place out. See you until then, I guess.” He winked, and within seconds, he was gone.

Keith looked at Shiro questioningly.

“That was Lance. He’s got anterograde amnesia, he can’t create any new memories, he forgets most stuff every few hours. Have you seen the movie ‘50 first dates’? He’s in a similar situation to the girl in that movie, except that he can remember small bits of information, like my name or that he has amnesia. And he’s still getting better. It’s quite a miracle how fast he’s recovering. Anterograde amnesia usually doesn’t get better… Anyways. I’m sure you could join his group of friends when you get better. He’s quite popular here, you see...” Shiro smiled, then turned back to Keith’s therapy schedule and resumed where they had left off.

Maybe Lance forgot about him, Keith thought. Yes, that was the most logical answer. It was almost time for dinner, and Keith was tired out from the constant visits of doctors and nurses. He was quite disappointed to see that being at a rehab center didn’t equal fewer check-ups and no attention to him at all. Well, but it was for his own good. He would keep getting better and he’ll return to his normal life as soon as possible.

He was contemplating pressing the button and asking Shiro to show him around instead, when the door opened and Lance marched in, pushing an empty wheelchair. He was followed by a young woman with white hair, probably his nurse.

“Well, hello there!” Lance grinned. It was the sort of awkward grin when you actually had no idea what was going on but pretended that everything was fine. Keith wondered if Lance used that grin often. Most likely.

“Hi, Keith… I’m Allura. Would you mind Lance showing you around?” The nurse waited until he gave his approval, then set him into the wheelchair.

Lance steered him out of the room and down the hallway. “This is the second floor,” he began. “It’s where the teenagers’ rooms are. The adults and elders are on the third floor; the common room, cafeteria, and stuff are all on the first floor.”

Allura, who was still following them, chimed in: “Lance, how about you show Keith the common room? Most patients are in the cafeteria at this time, the common room should be empty...”

Lance nodded enthusiastically and went to the elevator at the end of the hallway. The rest of the floor seemed to be empty. Everyone must’ve been at the cafeteria like Allura had said. Keith wondered when he’d be allowed to eat there. This morning, he’d been fed in his room, just like how it had been at the hospital.

As soon as they reached the first floor, they could all hear the shouting coming from the common room. This didn't seem to bother Lance, as he continued to push Keith toward the automatic doors until Allura put a hand on his shoulder.

“Alright, maybe we should bring Keith back to his room, I don’t think he would enjoy all this noise,” Allura said quickly, trying to grab the handles of Keith’s wheelchair.

Keith shook his head, turning it as best as he could to look at Allura. If something was finally happening, he didn’t want to lay in his room instead of witnessing it.

“See, he wants to see what’s going on!” Lance retorted defensively.

“Or he agrees that he, in fact, doesn’t like all this noise.”

Keith tried to signal that he was agreeing with Lance by staring at him. After a few seconds, Allura seemed to get the idea and sighed.

“Fine, but as soon as you start feeling unwell, we’ll go back to your room. It’s almost time for your dinner anyway.”

Lance nodded and entered the common room with Keith.

Allura cleared her throat to get the attention of the girl and the boy fighting about a tablet in the middle of the room. All faces turned to them and everyone got quiet as soon as they saw Allura’s face.

“Pidge and Matt, keep in mind that you aren’t the only ones here. People are trying to get better, but that’s impossible with all the commotion you’re making. If you’re feeling so well, I can inform Dr. Zarkon and suggest that you don’t need to be here anymore.” She crossed her arms, but it was clear that she didn’t mean it.

The girl wheeled herself over to them. “Alright, sorry Allura… Hey, what’s up, Lance? Do we have a newbie?”

Lance looked at Allura with an uncertain expression. She just shrugged, then walked over to the other teen the girl had been fighting with, grabbing the tablet from his hands.

“His name is Keith.” She said casually. “Matt, we have plenty of interesting books in the library, but you aren’t allowed to use tablets yet.”

“My brain can’t get more damaged than it already is, what’s the point?” The guy said jokingly, before grabbing the crutches laying next to his seat and wandering over to Keith and Lance. “Ooh, nice scar. Don’t worry, your hair will grow back in no time, Keith.” He said with a grin, running his fingers across a long scar on Keith’s head. The scar from the surgery. Keith hadn’t even realized he had it, and it wasn’t a big concern for him either.

Keith took a better look at the two he just met. They looked almost exactly the same, besides the obvious height difference and the fact that the girl didn’t have a scar on her head, but was sitting in a wheelchair. They must be siblings.

“Lance, you wanna hang out in the cafeteria tomorrow? If you give me your notebook, I can write it down for you, since you probably don’t even remember us right now. Right?” Pidge rolled her eyes at Lance’s embarrassed face, sticking out her hand until Lance handed her his notebook. She quickly scribbled down something, before giving it back. “You can bring Keith too if Shiro has no problem with it. I don’t think he and Hunk had the pleasure to meet yet.”

Keith nodded gladly. He would be happy to see more of this place than just his bedroom.

Allura, who had been standing in the doorway all this time, tipped Lance’s shoulder. “I should take Keith back, I’m sure he’s hungry. You guys should eat something too.”

Keith wanted to disagree. He wasn’t hungry at all. He’d preferred to stay with the others, but he doubted Allura would’ve supported that idea.

“C’mon, Keith, you have to eat something! You won’t have enough energy for your first ergotherapy tomorrow if you let yourself starve,” Shiro said desperately after his 23rd failed attempt at putting a spoonful food into Keith’s mouth.

Keith rolled his eyes.

“Please…” Shiro muttered one more time before setting down the spoon defeated. “Fine, have it your way… But if you’re not eating here, you’re definitely not ready to visit the cafeteria tomorrow either. I heard from Allura that you got invited by Pidge.”

That just wasn’t fair.

Keith opened his mouth, at last, earning a smile from Shiro who immediately picked up the spoon again and started feeding him. After gulping down five or six bites, Keith turned his head away from Shiro and refused to keep eating.

“Alright. I think it’s time you get some well-deserved sleep. I’ll put the button beside you, just press it if you need anything, like always. Well then, good night, Keith.” Shiro stood up, picked up the remaining food and left after fixing Keith’s pillow.

Keith fell asleep surprisingly fast, sleep came for him as soon as he closed his eyes.

But that doesn’t mean he slept well. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. Because a few hours later, Keith woke up, in the middle of the night.

It took his eyes some time to get used to the darkness, but as soon as they did, Keith noticed a figure standing right above him.

“Hey, there, Keith...” An unfamiliar voice echoed through his head, as he tried and tried to remember where he had seen the figure’s face before.

That’s right. It was his roommate, Lotor. Lotor, who was in a coma. Lotor, who shouldn’t be walking around like he had no care in the world. Lotor, who shouldn’t be walking around at all. Especially not in their room, hovering above Keith, staring at him creepily.

It was at this moment Keith knew, things weren’t going to be fine.

Chapter Text

“Since you’re my new roommate, I decided to make some things clear.” Lotor continued, casually sitting down on Keith’s bed. No signs of brain damage whatsoever. He was moving and talking like any other person.

Was he faking it? Then again, why would someone fake being in a coma? Was that even possible? Keith’s thoughts began to race, thinking about every possibility. After a few seconds of staring at Lotor with wide eyes, Keith’s mind decided that this all must be a dream. Right? There’s no way someone who isn’t even aware of their surroundings in the daytime can walk around and talk to others at night.

Keith tried to move his arm to his thigh to pinch himself, just to make sure this was a dream after all. He managed to do it. It didn’t hurt – he didn’t have strength in his fingers at all – but he did feel it, which must’ve meant that this all was really happening.

All right. Don’t panic, Keith. Maybe it was all just a miraculous recovery overnight. Either way, he had to inform somebody about it.

Lotor seemed to have read his mind. His expression turned more serious, brows furrowed, eyes focused on Keith, hands balled into fists. “You see, I tend to take walks around here. But that shouldn’t concern you since you should be sleeping most of the time I do that. Everything that happens here at this time of the day stays between us two, understood? We don’t need the doctors or nurses to know about all of this.”

Keith strongly disagreed. He had to call someone. But how? Shiro gave him a button before he left, that would work. He felt the button under his arm and moved to try and grab it. The movement under his blanket had been unfortunately noticed by Lotor too, who immediately snatched the small device with the button from Keith.

“Alright, I said it will stay between us. You won’t need your button.”

A simple ‘why’. That’s all what Keith was trying to ask, but what actually came out was nothing close to that. This caused a wide smile to spread across Lotor’s face.

“I see. You speak fluent ‘brain damaged’. That’s great. You surely won’t tell anyone about me this way, then.” Lotor grinned, then stood up and turned away from Keith, seemingly about to leave.

As he opened the door, dim light from the hallway hit Keith’s face. Lotor wouldn’t go unnoticed if he left the room now, that’s for sure.

Keith could just yell. Even if nothing comprehensible can come out of his mouth, a loud noise would still alert anyone who’s awake, right?

So he tried that. His throat hurt, but the scream was loud and clearly audible. It sounded like he was in pain – which he kind of was, but that’s not the point – just how he had intended. That would hopefully get someone’s attention.

It seemed to take Lotor by surprise, who spun around and rushed up to Keith.

“You little...” It almost seemed to amuse Lotor. Keith must’ve looked pathetic: drenched in sweat, heart racing, literally unable to move, staring up and Lotor completely defenseless against him.

“I could just smother you with a pillow, you know...” Lotor hissed with a grin before quickly climbing back into his bed, almost resembling a scared mouse hurrying to hide somewhere before it got discovered. Well if that wasn’t a quick mood change… A second later, he looked just like he did this morning as if nothing had happened. Keith wasn’t even sure if he was just pretending or if he really did fall asleep this fast.

The door opened and Shiro entered hurriedly. He looked so troubled and tired, Keith had to wonder if he wasn’t the first person to cause troubles this night. The sudden light after his nurse turned on the lights in the room blinded him at first, but his eyes got used to it pretty fast.

“What’s wrong, Keith? Did you have a nightmare? That’s not uncommon with people who had accidents like yours...” He went up to Keith’s bed and sighed. “Do you need help with anything, or will you be fine?”

Keith shook his head. No, he did not have a nightmare, and no, he was not gonna be fine. His comatose roommate threatening to kill him was the furthest thing from fine.

“Does something hurt?”

He shook his head again. No.

“Are you uncomfortable then? Should I bring you another pillow?”

No. That’s not what he needed. What he need was someone to stay here so that they could see too what Lotor was doing and reaffirm Keith that he wasn’t going crazy.

“What is it then? Keith, you could’ve just pushed the button instead of yelling, I was worried something happened...”

Yes, something did happen. Keith nodded, a little too fast even, so that he got rewarded by a sudden headache.

“Do you mean something happened?”

He nodded again, then looked at Lotor, who was still laying in his bed. In a weird position, but with even breathing.

“Did something happen to Lotor?” Shiro frowned and stood up. After giving Keith a last questioning look and seeing him nod again, he went over to Keith’s roommate and checked his breathing, eyes, scar, and other stuff.

“Nothing’s off about him. Keith, are you sure you didn’t dream something bad?”

Keith let out an audible sigh, then shrugged, or at least tried to. He didn’t even know at this point.

“Alright. Keith, maybe you were just hallucinating. That happens after a traumatic brain injury sometimes. Look, I’ll check up on you in the morning, and Dr. Trigel will pay you a visit too. Is that okay?”

Keith nodded, a little embarrassed.

Shiro smiled. “Good night, Keith.”

Keith showed an obvious disinterest all morning, unwilling to cooperate with anything Shiro tried to get him to do. He wasn’t sure how acting like this would help his embarrassment. It’s not like refusing to eat was going to make his hallucinations go away. But he simply wasn’t in the mood to endure Shiro’s clearly fake cheerfulness.

“Oh Keith, come on...” Shiro groaned, watching him from the edge of Lotor’s bed while he was feeding Keith’s roommate. Keith almost felt sorry for him- the poor guy looked like he hadn’t slept at all. “You have to eat something. It would speed your progress a lot. Besides, I still have other patients I have to visit.”

After finally giving in and struggling for fifteen minutes, Shiro was satisfied and left, letting Dr. Trigel take his place. She didn’t stick around for long either, though. All she did was ask Keith a few questions: whether or not something was aching, or if he was dizzy, etc. – she asked Keith about hallucinations too, to which he turned away, trying to dodge the question. His answer was obvious though, and Dr. Trigel scribbled something down on her paper before continuing with her next question.

Shortly after that, Keith was taken to ergotherapy. It was with a sweet young woman called Romelle, who seemed to have endless patience. That came in handy since Keith was already about to give up after the fifth time trying to brush his teeth without sticking the toothbrush down his throat.

After half an hour of suffering, Keith decided that ergotherapy was worse than he’d expected. It was just holding a ball, brushing his hair or feeding himself. Normally, that wouldn’t have been anything even slightly tiring. Despite that, Keith felt exhausted after this session. Romelle had assured him that he was doing really good considering this was his first time, which gave him hope. Who knows, maybe the others used to have just as much trouble with all of this when they first started therapy.

“And, how was your first therapy with Romelle?” Allura asked as he got wheeled back into his room.

Keith smiled, assuring the nurse that he was satisfied with himself after this experience. Lying to the nurses about such small things seemed much easier than complaining and letting them think that he was an unthankful and unmotivated jerk.

“That’s nice. You know, you could start participating in group activities in the common room soon. It’s really fun there. You can do arts and crafts, maybe make music, eventually play on the computers, and so on...” She said with a smile while setting him back into his bed and starting to mess his blood pressure.

Arts and crafts, music… How amazing. That really piqued his interest right away. The last time he got excited about such things was in kindergarten. Although he had to admit, watching teens and adults act as kindergarteners would at least be amusing.

Then again, maybe Keith just hasn’t gotten used to rehab yet. He had to realize that this all was very different from normal life – everyone here at some kind of temporary disability, mostly brain damage. Including him. At least those partaking in those activities were able to move their body parts how they wanted to. Keith was way more ridiculous than any of them.

“Also, Shiro told me your parents will be visiting you this weekend. That will be fun, don’t you think? You’ll get to show them how much you’ve advanced. Anyways, I have to go now, I’ll come back in half an hour to give you your lunch before bringing you to the cafeteria… Do you want to get back into the wheelchair and look out the window? It’s nice weather outside.”

Keith nodded absent-minded, still processing all the info. His parents were coming here? He wondered how they would react when they saw him. Are they expecting a faster recovery from him? Or will it just be the usual awkwardness and pity they showed him at the hospital? Keith felt sorry for them, yet didn’t feel much self-pity for some twisted reason. Hating the state he was in didn’t count as self-pity, right?

He found himself in the wheelchair again, this time facing the yard of the rehab center. Allura was right, the weather was amazing considering it was just late February. It was February, right? How long had Keith been in a coma? Well, that didn’t matter much anyway. He would sooner or later figure everything out.

The current date was the smallest one of all the mysteries he had to deal with right now.

Two figures in the yard got caught in Keith’s eye. One of them was a boy with brown hair, a slightly darker complexion, walking with a slight limp. Lance. The other person was an older male, with red hair and a majestic mustache. Keith couldn’t recall seeing him before, and he wasn’t even sure if he was a patient. He and Lance were talking and laughing like old friends. Did Lance remember him too, just like he did with Shiro?

A sudden noise on behind him disturbed Keith’s train of thoughts. He turned his head in his usual slow-motion, afraid to see Lotor standing behind him or something. He was greeted by the comforting surprise of Lotor still laying in his bed, completely harmless, but in a strange position, groaning unintelligible stuff.

Keith wondered if he would be capable to wheel himself over to him. He had never tried it before, but he had to admit that the ergotherapy with Romelle that morning helped him a lot. He felt a lot more confident concerning his ability to do such things.

He slowly and carefully moved his arms to the wheels and grabbed them. His grip wasn’t strong at all, but he managed to move backward by pulling his arms back. But when he tried a second time, it didn’t work anymore. Keith automatically kicked with his legs to push himself back. It hurt but seemed to move him. After a few attempts at this, he ended up at the side of Lotor’s bed. Now all he had to do was to turn around. Wouldn’t be much easier. He tried to repeat the same motion he had been doing before, except he only used his right leg. He did turn a bit, although not much. He was still able to see Lotor clearly, so this was enough for him.

Had he really be hallucinating last night? Lotor did look pretty harmless, staring at the ceiling with a blank expression, his left eye slightly squinting. One arm was lamely hanging off the bed, the other twisted in an unnatural position which was definitely not comfortable.

There was no way Lotor could’ve woken up, let alone walked over to Keith and talked to him.

But did Keith really imagine someone threatening to kill him?

Well, nightmares like that were completely plausible, but it felt way too real for it to be all a nightmare. Keith knew very well that his brain couldn’t be trusted in this state, but a feeling in his gut assured him that this time, his mind was right.

He had to find out the truth. And he was going to. Keith wasn’t going to get any sleep that night, but he was going to get the comfort of knowing what was happening here. Because something was definitely off here, he was completely sure of that.

Then again, if he stayed awake, Lotor could threaten him again. Or worse, he could actually try to smother him. Keith would be completely defenseless.

Keith sighed and slowly started to shift his weight by leaning his hands on the armrest of his wheelchair. With some difficulty, he placed his right foot on the ground before him, then, slowly but surely (extra pressure on the ‘slowly part’. Keith was seriously slower than a snail) grabbed the edge of Lotor’s bed with his right hand and tried to pull himself forward.

He expected was to stand. What he did instead was squat there for a few milliseconds with wobbly knees before they gave out under him and he landed on his butt, almost on his back. It hurt a lot more than he had expected it to – he probably didn’t take it into consideration that he had had a few broken bones beside the TBI as well.

Great. He had to be a bit more patient before attempting to stand or walk then, he guessed. Not thinking this whole action through enough only lead to him not being able to get up again, laying on the ground with aching muscles and the knowledge that he was a complete idiot. How was he going to explain this to Allura? When would she be even coming back? It didn’t feel like thirty minutes had already passed.

So he had to wait. Keith had never been good at waiting, especially when he didn’t have anything else to do in the meantime. He sighed, looking up at the white ceiling. Everything in this room was so boring. White walls, a basic looking flower painting next to the entrance, and a TV that Keith wasn’t allowed to use yet. The doctors had to make sure that he wouldn’t get an epileptic seizure from it or something.

The only slightest bit interesting thing here was Keith’s hallucination, but that wasn’t the kind of interesting he had hoped for.

He missed his old life. Going on trips with his parents and their dog, coming home late after afternoons spent hanging out with his friends – Keith had to wonder, had they ever visited him while he was in a coma? - and racing around on his speeder. His speeder, which got him here. Shiro had told him about his accident a bit yesterday – he told Keith that someone else’s vehicle crashed into him because they had a malfunction of some kind. Keith himself had no actual recollection of any of this happening, but judging from how worried his dad was when he first woke up, his injuries must’ve been pretty nasty.

“Keith? Keith! What are you doing there, are you alright?” Allura rushed to his side as soon as she noticed him on the ground.

Keith shrugged as she helped him up and put him back into his chair.

“What’s that supposed to mean? Geez, I can’t leave you alone for twenty minutes without you trying something, huh,” she smiled and ruffled Keith’s hair. He rolled his eyes. “Anyways, here’s your food. Chicken soup and noodles. I hope you like it.” She tied a bib around Keith’s neck, just in case having to drink from a sippy cup wasn’t enough.

Allura sat there patiently and fed him until he had enough. That meant he didn’t eat more than a quarter of the noodles and a few spoonfuls of soup, but it seemed to be enough for his nurse.

“Good job, Keith, I’m proud of you. Now, do you still want to meet the others at the cafeteria?”

Keith nodded enthusiastically. He had been waiting for that all day. Making friends would make his whole stay a lot less boring.

The cafeteria was a bright room with huge windows on two sides. Right next to the entrance was the kitchen-part with the personnel, the rest of the room was filled with tables of many sizes, with pathways between them that were wide enough for wheelchairs to move freely without any problem.

Keith guessed that most of the patients were currently here – almost every table was occupied. Talking and laughter filled the room. People passing by, some slower, some faster, occasionally greeting Allura if they noticed her.

“Keith, is everything alright? Are you okay with so much noise?” Allura asked, a bit louder than usual to still be audible despite all the disturbing sounds of the cafeteria.

Keith nodded slowly, his eyes already searching for the fellow teens he met yesterday.

Allura led him to a big table at the corner of the room, which was surrounded by the familiar faces of Pidge, Matt, and Lance, this time accompanied by a guy wearing a yellow cardigan.

“Keith! Nice to see you again, buddy,” Matt smiled as Allura parked Keith’s wheelchair at the table. He had a vanilla milkshake and a sandwich in front of him, but he didn’t seem to have touched any of it yet.

“Ooh, do we have a newbie?” Lance asked with a grin, glancing at Allura and then at Keith. “I like your scar. It distracts from that malformed mullet. Did they mess your head shave up before the surgery or was that your choice?”

Ouch. Keith didn’t care much about his appearance, but he didn’t think his mullet looked bad.

“Lance, that was mean...” The guy in the yellow cardigan mumbled. He spoke slowly and not really clear, some consonants coming out as something very different than he must’ve intended to.

“Hunk is right, Lance. Besides, you’ve already met him yesterday. You were nice to him then, I don’t see why you would want to start your relationship with him this way.” Allura warned, then leaned down to Keith. “Alright, Matt will help you get Shiro once you guys are done, alright? Just signal him if you want to leave.”

As soon as Allura was gone, Pidge turned to Lance. “At least Keith doesn’t try to drown in the pool while everyone is asleep.”

Keith and Lance both raised their eyebrows confused.

“What, I did that? When?”

“This night. You sleepwalked right into the pool and would’ve drowned if Shiro wouldn’t have heard the splashing and pulled you out. Dr. Trigel was afraid you would react worse, considering you’ve already drowned once. Shiro is still worried you will eventually develop PTSD, he’s been trying to contact your family all day to tell them about it. They’ll probably visit you in a few days.” Pidge explained. The last part, the one with Lance’s family visiting seemed to cause a flash of horror on everyone’s faces. Keith guessed Lance’s family wasn’t exactly pleasant to be around.

Meanwhile, Keith was just confused. Not only had he not known that they had a pool, but he was also surprised that no one reacted differently to the fact that Lance sleepwalked around the building at night. It must’ve been a common occurrence then. And he also didn’t know what Pidge meant with Lance having already drowned once. The guy seemed to be fine, besides the amnesia part, but Keith couldn’t explain to himself how that could have something to do with the drowning-part.

Hunk noticed his confused expression and nudged Matt, pointing at Keith.

“Right, you don’t know yet. A year ago, Lance drowned while surfing at a beach his family often visits. The ambulance managed to revive him, but the damage to his brain had already been done. When we arrived, his memory was even worse,” Matt whispered to him, trying to go unnoticed by Lance.

Keith nodded slowly, still wondering why Lance was allowed to hang out with them just a few hours after his newest incident. Had he recovered so fast or was the whole thing not as bad as the others had described it?

“Well, that’s awesome!” Lance smiled, then proceeded to change the topic to what he should order. He was conflicted if he should eat a salad or a PB&J sandwich.

Hunk laughed and went along with the change of topic. Pidge and Matt exchanged worried glances though, before turning to Keith and starting to ask him about his recovery process so far, probably to get Keith’s mind off the previous topic as well. They were really considerate, only asking yes or no questions as soon as Keith had made clear that he wasn’t able to talk at all.

Their little meet-up ended at around 3 pm, two hours after it began. Keith knew a lot more about the other four now, though, and he enjoyed himself a lot. The Holt siblings – he had learned they were siblings when Matt told him about how they had gotten here (he also told him about their dad, who was stationed on the third floor, but was in a worse condition than them) – promised him they would teach him how to use a computer again as soon as Shiro would let them, and Hunk and Lance offered to visit him tomorrow after his speech therapy.

Shiro got him to physiotherapy (aka physical therapy) fifteen minutes later. The therapist was the man with the mustache whom Keith saw talking to Lance earlier that day. His name was Coran. He was weird but very motivating in a strange way. Keith guessed that it was because he would start telling stories about his past every time Keith decided to take a short break from their work. What was also a positive aspect of it was that Keith wanted to practice his speech, too, as much as possible, in the hopes that he would be able to change the topic once he could form comprehensible sentences.

Keith returned to his room exhausted, unable to form any clear thoughts that didn’t involve Coran and some weird figure from one of his stories. Shiro took mercy on him, not bugging him to eat the whole dinner. He told Keith about why he had been busy all day; stabilizing Lance’s condition and filling out paperwork. After quickly messing Keith’s and Lotor’s fever, blood pressure and such, he wished them a good night and left.

It wasn’t even that late, yet Keith had a hard time not falling asleep. He turned to his side, watching Lotor stare at his nightstand blankly. The poor guy seemed to have no intention to leave the room and explore the rehab center.

Keith rolled his eyes at his own foolishness and let the sleepiness embrace him, finding comfort in the unconsciousness that soon overcame him. He fell asleep almost way too fast, jokingly thinking to himself in the last few seconds being awake about how someone must’ve given him sleep medicine. He must’ve been too tired to realize that it wasn’t his thought that gave him this idea. Heck, how should’ve he known that unfamiliar voices that you aren’t able to recognize talking to you in your mind aren’t a completely normal part of suffering a brain injury?

Chapter Text

It was the second time Keith had woken up on the floor beside his bed. Both times it happened, Keith had no recollection of falling- or climbing out of his bed. What made the whole thing even stranger was that after the first time it had happened, Shiro had put adjustable rails at the side of Keith’s bed to stop him from rolling off. Clearly, that proved to be ineffective.

One of Keith’s initial thoughts had of course been Lotor, but he hadn’t had any incidents including his roommate since his first hallucination a week ago. He had to stop suspecting that poor guy, he had done nothing wrong.

“Seriously Keith, you keep ending up on the floor… We should consider putting you in a safer bed instead,” Shiro laughed softly while carefully lifting Keith back into his bed with Allura’s help.

“Do you do this consciously? I mean, are you trying to stand up or something?” Allura asked, checking out Keith’s scar as soon as he was on his mattress again.

Keith shook his head slightly. That was one time. Seems like Allura would never trust him about this again.

“Good. Keith, you should definitely avoid doing that. We’re here to help you to walk again, but you have to be patient. Your surgery was not that long ago, you could seriously injure yourself,” Shiro said casually. He was already grabbing the sippy cup from the food tray. Probably in hopes of making him feel even more miserable that morning, Keith guessed.

He didn’t need lecturing. He wasn’t doing this intentionally, he wasn’t even aware of how he’d gotten on the ground, and the uncertainty of the whole thing was killing him.

Allura left after making sure his scar from the surgery was fine, and Shiro immediately began to feed him.

“I would’ve asked you to try feeding yourself this time, but with all the chaos this morning... I’ll postpone it to dinner, alright?”

Keith was kind of disappointed – the idea of not feeling like an idiot every time he was eating filled him with relief – but he didn’t protest. He just wanted to get this all over with.

Still, he endured it all without a word. Mainly because his thoughts were completely elsewhere. It didn’t seem like he would be able to think about anything besides his morning incident today.

There just wasn’t a right word to describe how he was feeling. While him waking up on the floor wasn’t a big deal, as there was logical explanation for it – he could’ve gotten past the rails easily, he was clearly capable of that – something didn’t add up, and he had a feeling in his gut that something wasn’t right, that the nurses should’ve been more worried. The rails weren’t knocked down or anything, he couldn’t just have rolled out of bed, right? But if somebody would’ve told Keith that the nurses were involved in this whole mess, he wouldn’t have believed them no matter how desperate for an explanation he was. Just by looking at Shiro, he could tell that the guy would never hurt someone defenseless.

‘Somnambulism.’

The word appeared in his mind suddenly, but so clear, it almost seemed like a disembodied voice was talking to him inside his head. Somnambulism meant sleepwalking, he knew that, although he couldn’t remember where he had heard it before.

‘The word comes from Latin; somnus means sleep, ambulare means to travel or to walk.’

The second time the voice appeared was just as sudden and unexpected as the first time. This whole addition scared Keith a lot more. How did he know that?! He had never learned Latin in school or anything, and he definitely wasn’t much of an etymology-fanatic.

Keith grabbed his head with both hands as if that would make his mind shut up. Was this another hallucination again? Or just a dream? Well, it couldn’t be a dream, everything else felt very real until now. Then again, he shouldn’t take this whole thing seriously. His brain had some crazy stuff going on. This was probably normal.

“Hey, are you alright?” Shiro put the spoon he’d been holding down and gently grabbed Keith’s hands, pulling it back down into his lap.

Keith nodded at first, but then shrugged. He wasn’t exactly alright, but he would’ve exaggerated if he said no.

“Wha- Are you seeing something you feel like you aren't supposed to, again?”

Not exactly. But if hearing unusual things counted too, then this all must’ve been a normal thing here, so there was no need to cause a scene by freaking out. He didn’t need Shiro to ask questions he didn’t know the answer to. There were already too many people who were probably questioning his sanity at this point. And he was one of them.

He just shook his head and gave his nurse a smile to assure him everything was fine. Even if he would’ve wanted to, Keith had no chance to be understood. He couldn’t speak, and he doubted he could hold a pen correctly, let alone write with it. There was no point in trying to explain the situation.

Shiro sighed and let go of his hand. “But just so you know, you can always come to me or the other staff members if you have problems with anything. Keith, hallucinating is not something to be ashamed of.”

Keith didn’t reply. As much as he liked Shiro and the other caretakers, he hated that everyone was so concerned about everything he did, that everyone was acting so professionally. The thought was ridiculous, he knew. He should get used to all of this because if his recovery doesn’t get faster, he’ll have to endure this for a while.

In the meantime, he could figure out what the voice was, or if the others had it too. Also, if the voice was right, as in if he was actually sleepwalking, he should probably inform someone about it before he ends up like Lance.

 

 

“Don’t let yourself get discouraged,” Matt assured him for what felt like the millionth time that day. Keith had been sitting in the yard with him and Pidge after his logotherapy session. They were all wearing huge jackets, with Keith even having a blanket, which in his opinion was a little too much considering it was only a bit chilly outside.

“It’ll all come with time. Our dad isn’t able to speak yet either. But he tries to, and that’s what’s important. With enough practice, you’ll eventually be able to make yourself understood.” Pidge said.

Keith rolled his eyes. He doubted he could get his message through that way.

“On a different topic, Lance’s parents are visiting today. I would hide in my room all day if I were you.” Matt added, with his face pulled into a weird grimace.

Oh, this again. Keith remembered the others mentioning it before. He had experienced a few visits since his arrival, his parents included, and while he may have agreed that parents that spend the whole day pitying their child were annoying, the whole thing wasn’t that bad. His parents, for example, telling Keith about all the relatives and friends sending him get-well messages and such was downright tolerable, even a little comforting.

“Yeah.” Pidge nodded, absentmindedly wheeling herself back and forth in her wheelchair. “Fortunately, I’m at the other end of the hallway, I won’t have to hear it all...”

Keith let out a weird sound that was originally supposed to be ‘why, what’s up with his family?’ but ended up as a combination of random letters as usual. He’d really have to get used to the fact he couldn’t talk.

“Hmm?” Matt must’ve seen Keith’s frown. “You know, Lance’s family… Well… Let’s just say that they’re still not exactly over Lance’s accident. If you know what I mean.”

Oh. That could’ve meant two things; either they were still whining about the future Lance could’ve had that was now gone forever, or they were still carrying the emotional trauma of their son not remembering most things that happened in the past year. Keith reasoned that it must be the latter unless Lance’s parents were a bunch of pricks.

Speak of the devil. Barely a minute later, Lance appeared, carrying one of those walkers elderly people often use. He was wearing a thick blue pullover under his usual brown jacket, which looked uncomfortable, but Keith learned not to question it at this point.

“Hey, Lance! What’s that for?” Matt raised his eyebrows, standing up from the bench with the help of his crutches and taking a few steps in Lance’s direction.

“I managed to get one for Keith! He seems so bored in that wheelchair, maybe he could try taking a few steps for a change,” Lance smiled proudly and set down the walker in front of Keith. “Mmh, what do you say?”

Keith grinned. He would surely be better at it this time, and if not, he still had the others to help him.

“Great. Just tell us if you want to sit down again,” Lance smiled, then guided Keith’s slightly shaky arm to the walker, while Matt and Pidge watched from the side with furrowed eyebrows. They were probably still mentally debating whether or not this was a good idea.

“Keith, what have you been practicing with Coran so far? Have you ever tried walking with his help?” Pidge asked.

No, the most Keith has done at physical therapy so far has been standing up. Even then, he had been clinging to Coran’s arms like his life depended on it. He didn’t want to think about how entertaining that must’ve looked.

He shrugged, reaching for the walker with his other hand as well, trying to keep a tight grip on the handles.

“Lance, I don’t think this is a good idea… Just in case, if he falls and cracks open his skull, tell Shiro that I was against the idea.” Pidge raised her arms defensively before her brother could protest. “I mean, I’m the only one with a brain that’s fully intact… But sure, let’s listen to anyone but me,” she said this all obviously as a joke, but she was partially right, Keith had to admit that.

Well if that wasn’t a bright outlook… Keith brushed it off and set his right foot on the asphalt. Then his left. Meanwhile, Lance was resting a hand on his back, helping him to stay upright.

His legs were shaking, just like they did a week ago, but this time, they didn’t feel like twigs that could break at any moment. However, his arms felt still weak and sore, as if he’d just finished an exhausting training session. Except this time, all he did was lean on a walker.

“Take it slow, Keith,” Matt reminded him. “I don’t think you should try this without Coran’s assistance.”

Keith shook his head, he was going to do this now. He was never going to find out what was going on here if he didn’t, and he couldn’t bear to wait any longer.

Despite his motivation, he had to concentrate hard, focus on every single movement.

Right foot.

Left foot.

Right foot again.

He let out a sigh of exhaustion. Seemingly, more than five steps would push him over the limit.

“Okay, let’s sit down.” Lance guided him to the nearest bench. “I admit that this may have been a bad idea after all…”

Keith smiled and shook his head. At least it was something. He’d be able to go over to Lotor’s bed. Five steps were enough to do that; that would be a good start.

But he wanted to try again. Maybe it would get better after a short rest. He looked over to the bench Matt had been sitting on before Lance arrived. He could make it back again for sure. He pulled himself up with the help of the walker and resumed the whole walking-process again. Right foot, left foot, slightly pushing the walker forward, right foot, left foot.

Lance, who originally wanted to stop him, watched in awe, while still staying close behind him, ready to provide support if necessary, with Matt and Pidge staying on both sides of Keith, doing the same.

“You’re really determined, huh?” Lance chuckled.

Keith didn’t reply. Too busy trying to reach the bench. It seemed a lot farther than he had thought when he was still on the other bench, and his muscles were practically pleading for him to stop.

With Lance holding him and helping him for the last quarter of the way, he managed to do it.

“Good job Keith, you’re doing amazing. Honestly, I wasn’t even half this good when he started.” Matt crossed his arms over his chest after he sat down next to Keith and gave him a pat on the back.

“Shh… Is that an ambulance over there?” Pidge pointed over to the entrance gate, which in fact had an ambulance parked there, lights still on and seemingly in a hurry.

“Oh no. Probably one of the adults.” Matt mumbled and looked at the ground.

Lance sprung up and hurried over to investigate, with Pidge following close behind.

Keith let out a not-so-graceful sound, one where Matt would need a lot of imagination to interpret it as ‘what’. Yet, he seemed to be willing to explain without an intelligible request.

“A lot of adults on the third floor are here because of strokes. Many get better fast, however, in some cases, they get a second stroke and well… The closest hospital is not so far away, hopefully, they’ll get there in time.” Matt didn’t look up, now drawing invisible circles on the asphalt with his foot.

Keith raised his arm and pointed at Matt with a frown.

“...What about me? Wait, do you mean my father? Oh, he didn’t have a stroke. He was in the same car accident as we. there’s no way he’s the one the ambulance is for...”

Keith nodded slowly and looked over to the ambulance. There seemed to be a lot more commotion now. He could see Lance and Pidge talking to a person he didn’t recognize, probably a nurse or some other medical staff.

When the two finally returned, they seemed to be a lot more serious than they were before. Lance even had one hand folded over his chest while the other was covering his hand in shock.

“So, what’s wrong? It’s not dad, is it, Katie?” Matt asked, unable to mask his concern anymore. Although he had guaranteed Keith that there was little to no chance it could be his father in that ambulance, he didn’t seem that sure anymore.

“It’s Blaytz. I… I just can’t comprehend it. Pidge said he had been in such a good state… Even the doctors don’t know why he’s suddenly...” Lance sighed and sat down, placing his head in his hands.

Pidge placed a hand on Lance’s back and gave him a sympathetic look. “The nurse that cared for him in the last few days is completely done. She says Blaytz’s kidneys just weren’t cooperating anymore.”

Keith had no idea if he should ask what exactly was going on, and if Blaytz was dead or if he could still be saved. Regardless of the fact that Keith had never met him, he still really hoped that it wasn’t the former. Judging by how devastated Lance was, Blaytz must’ve been really close to him.

“I think I’ll go back to Hunk… See you guys later,” Lance sighed. He made his way back into the building without a word, and even when Keith was brought back inside a few minutes later, there was no sight of Lance whatsoever.

 

Keith spent the rest of his free time before lunch in his room, practicing walking by clinging to the tables and beds. He could’ve gone over to Lotor too if he would’ve liked, but at this point, it would’ve been crazy to still be suspicious of that poor guy.

Right after lunch, he decided to try walking with the walker again. Shiro had left it in his room, just in case he felt like he would be able to go to the toilet without assistance. Keith appreciated that; he indeed missed the privacy of going to the restroom.

As soon as he stepped out of his room, he was met with the sight of Hunk, Matt, Pidge, and another girl Keith didn’t remember meeting, all peering out a window at the end of the hallway, excitedly whispering quick and short exchanges between them every two seconds. Keith sighed and begun making his way over to them.

“Keith! Wait, I’ll get you a seat!” Hunk said and left the group for a few seconds to grab a chair from the ones stacked on each other next to the elevator.

“Lance’s family just arrived. There,” The girl, who a few seconds later introduced herself as Shay, pointed to the window. The guest parking lot was clearly visible from there, including the large vehicle which had just parked there. The door to the driver’s seat opened and a middle-aged looking man got out of the car. As everyone was climbing out of the car, Keith realized just how many people they were. At least eight. Did they bring cousins and other relatives too, or what?

“Alright, his grandma isn’t here, neither is his sister-in-law, but they apparently brought his niece and nephew.” Matt listed. “It would be a wise decision to go back to our rooms right now. Lance will probably have a crisis if he sees just how much the kids have grown.”

While Lance’s family headed to the entrance, Pidge turned her wheelchair around at the sound of approaching footsteps and a sheepish smile appeared on her face.

“Hi, Shiro,” she greeted him while said nurse waved quickly and hurried down the steps. “That unlucky man. He’ll have to deal with this whole mess this time, huh?”

“Ooh, but at least they brought garlic knots. This will be interesting.” Hunk muttered under his breath.

“Okay, they’re inside! Bye, guys,” Matt sighed and hurried towards the other end of the hallway, where the boys’ rooms were.

In a matter of seconds, the group that had been standing at the window disbanded and disappeared in their rooms, all, except for Hunk and Keith, who either weren’t that fast or seemed to have no intention of going.

Keith made a gesture with his head towards Hunk, silently asking him why he wasn’t leaving.

“I… Can I go to your room? I don’t want to disturb Lance and his family by my presence...” Hunk asked with his broken speech, flashing Keith a small smile.

Keith nodded hesitantly, then started walking back to his room too, thankful for Hunk helping him along the way.

They hadn’t reached the door yet when Keith noticed the voices coming from the staircase. A few seconds later, he could also see the people the voices belonged to.

Honestly, though, Lance’s family wasn’t hard to notice. Or rather, it was hard not to notice them. While they were by no means disrespectful to the fact that they were in a rehabilitation facility, the laughter and loud talking of the two children did kind of disrupt the quiet atmosphere. Keith could see how happy they were to see Lance again, and he felt kind of sorry for the kids. Who knew if Lance would recognize them. Really depended on how much they’ve changed in the past year.

As soon as they were in his room, Keith crashed down onto his bed and Hunk shut the door. Lotor was still staring at the ceiling, as usual, this time laying more on his right side, revealing the majestic surgical scar on the left side of his head, which complimented his shaved off white hair on that side. Now that Keith thought about it, Lotor looked kind of cool with that half-shaven hairstyle, with the rest of his head still being covered in shoulder-length hair. It gave him a sort of ‘bad boy’-vibe, which would’ve fit his personality perfectly if he was anything like the Lotor in Keith’s hallucinations.

Hunk grabbed the chair the nurses or doctors would usually sit on and sighed. “I really hope Lance doesn’t get that upset this time… Then again, he had already been grieving all day, I feel like this can only get worse. You know, he always freaks out when he realizes how long he’s been here. He wants to go home and see his family more often. It’s heart-wrenching how much he misses them when he’s aware of how long he’s been gone from home. Then they always try to convince him that he’ll get better if he stays here, and that’s followed up by Lance explaining that he won’t get much better anymore, so he might as well suffer through his disability at home...”

Keith grimaced. He wondered what Lance normally thought concerning the length of stay here. As Matt had already mentioned before, it had already been a year, but what did Lance believe? Who knows. He did have a book where he wrote down new information, but Keith didn’t think Lance went over that every few hours when he forgot stuff again.
Maybe to remember a name or something, but not the new information of an entire year.

Lance could be heard from the other side of the wall behind Keith. He sounded happy at first; then paused for a second, before replacing the joy with confusion.

First Shiro’s voice, then a woman’s. Keith couldn’t understand what was being said, but he could hear how the woman’s voice became quieter and more vulnerable, to the point where it couldn’t be heard anymore.

This went on for a while; Keith just listened to the barely audible voices, while Hunk read the notes at the end of Keith’s bed out of boredom.

‘Gray.’

It was that deep voice again that Keith had heard in the morning. He bolted up in surprise, looking around at first to see if Hunk had heard it too. Seemingly not, he didn’t even notice Keith.

What was the voice telling him, though? At least its ramblings made sense this morning, but ‘gray’? What was that supposed to mean? Keith had dismissed any thoughts about this voice until now because he had been too busy with walking and hanging out with the others. But now he had time. Yet he didn’t want to think about it. It was probably just a hallucination again. They made no sense, so they most likely weren’t real. It’s not like he could ask anyone anyway.

Instead, he tried to distract himself by listening to Lance’s voice again. He could barely understand any of it, but at least that was not inside his head.

Chapter Text

Nothing better than waking up at dawn.

In the yard.

With only pajamas on.

Having no idea how you got there.

Especially because you are a TBI patient that can’t even walk more than a few steps without help. Plus you fell asleep in your bed and haven’t woken up since. Yet somehow you’re still outside, meaning you must’ve somehow gotten past the stairs and the entrance which is guarded by the porter.

Sounds… Absurd, right?

Yet that’s exactly what happened to Keith.

Fortunately, a nurse found him and brought him back to his room before alerting the doctors.

He spent the rest of his morning in bed, constant visits from both doctors on the second floor, Dr. Trigel and Dr. Sendak. Dr. Sendak had assured him that sleepwalking -because that’s what he did in their opinion – was a good sign: that meant he was physically capable of traveling such distances.

At least Shiro checked in every ten minutes. Keith didn’t know if the nurse was trying to calm him down or show him that he was on the verge of a mental breakdown.

“I swear, Keith if you wake up anywhere but your bed one more time, I’m going to Dr. Trigel myself and I’ll ask her to get you one of those beds for people with special needs,” Shiro said with a frown while checking if Keith had a fever. The whole staff was afraid Keith would get pneumonia, and there was no way they would let him out of his bed that day.

 

And that’s why Keith was stuck in his room, with nothing to keep him company besides his head. He would expect that at least his head would come up with something fairly interesting, but no.

‘Somnambulism.’

The voice was like a broken record, repeating the same thing over and over again.

‘Why don’t you change things up a little?’, Keith thought, staring up at the ceiling. ‘Like gray. Say gray this time, just like you did yesterday. I already know what somnambulism is, but I have no clue what you mean by gray; nothing in this room is gray. Explain that to me.’

The fact that he was sleepwalking bothered him too, but not as much as the voice in his head. It may have surprised him at first, but it was not a big deal. Normal people sleepwalked too sometimes. It was a rare thing, but sleepwalkers weren’t insane.

A few minutes later, Shiro paid him a visit again, bringing him his medication and his breakfast. It was already 8 am then, Keith guessed.

“There, you can try to do it alone this time. Rosehip tea and ham sandwich. I hope you like it.” He placed the food in front of him with a smile.

Keith eyed the food mistrustfully, asking himself if his motor skills were good enough to actually do this. Sure, he was already trying to walk, but grabbing things was a completely different thing, especially if he had to use his fingers instead of his hands. It’s not like he wanted his nurse to watch as he tried to get the sippy cup full of tea to his mouth, nor was he particularly eager to show off how many tries it took him to grab a small piece of the sandwich from his plate.

But he forced himself to try it, and although some of the sandwich ended up on the floor, Shiro was really proud of him after he finished.

 

“So, I heard you joined the club of the sleepwalkers,” Lance grinned as he entered Keith’s room alongside Pidge and Hunk. He seemed unaffected by yesterday’s happenings now, though Keith suspected that he completely forgot that his parents had visited him or that Blaytz had been taken to a hospital. If Keith remembered correctly, Lance had a complete breakdown last evening, even refusing to eat after his family had left. They had looked just as bad as him, with his mother straight up sobbing on their way out. Everyone was wondering what had gone down inside Lance’s room while his family was here, but Keith wasn’t sure if he really wanted to know.

Keith nodded, although not as fast as usual, slightly averting his gaze. Yeah, he wasn’t that worried about this ‘somnambulism’, but that didn’t mean he was proud.

“Literally half of this floor has done that at one point or another, you don’t have to be ashamed,” Hunk made a dismissing hand gesture. “I’ve done it before, Lance too, and Shay, Ina, Nadia, Ryan… You get what I mean, right?”

Keith didn’t even know who half of these people were, but he got the point. Counting himself, a total of seven people have sleepwalked before. Eight if Keith hadn’t been hallucinating, but Lotor was actually sleepwalking that night. It was a weird concept, but not impossible… Right?

“Anyways,” Pidge interrupted. “Shiro told me his idea of getting you a ‘special-needs bed’. I would stop sleepwalking if I were you, Shiro is usually true to his word… Those special need beds are pretty like adult cribs...” She grabbed the tablet that was laying in her lap and quickly googled what she was talking about so she could show it to Keith.

Those beds really did have some similarities to cribs. But that wasn’t even that important right now. The important thing was that Pidge had a tablet and that tablets had keyboards. Virtual ones, at least, and those were perfectly fine. Keith reached out his hand for the tablet, silently asking Pidge to give it to him.

“Uhm, TBI patients aren’t supposed to use the tablets because-” She was cut off by Lance, who just took the device out of her hands and handed it to Keith.

“Maybe he just wants to look up something really quick.”

Keith nodded and went to the home screen. He was desperately looking for a notebook app of some sorts. It took him several tries to scroll through the apps. Once he finally found it, he tipped it – that also took him more than one try - and opened said app.

“Huh? The notebook app? Are you trying to communicate this way?” Lance asked confused while peering at the tablet over Keith’s shoulder.

Keith tipped on the screen again, causing the keyboard to pop up. What would he try to tell the others? ‘There’s a voice inside my head that tells me some weird stuff.’ would be too long, while ‘I hear voices’ would be too vague.

‘A voice talks to me.’ and then point to his head. That would work.

He just had to find all the letters first.

S. Great. He messed up right at the beginning. He tried to go back but instead pressed enter, causing a line break. That would work. Keith simply couldn’t understand how he was doing so well at walking yesterday but failed to type one letter on a tablet today. TBI seemed more and more like an unbelievable nightmare.

This time he pressed the A after the first try. Pressing space was quite easy after that, that button was way bigger. In the following minute, he messed up quite a few times, but the result was somewhat okay, it wasn’t that hard to figure out what he meant.

‘A vioicce talkstto tp to mre.’

“A… voice? Talks to more-… to me?” Lance tried to decipher what he had written while the others leaned over the tablet with confused faces as well. “What do you mean? What voice?”

Keith pointed his head with slow motions.

“Oh, so you hear voices you aren’t supposed to? Don’t worry about that, it’s just your meds. They can give you some pretty strong stuff at the beginning...” Pidge smiled.

Was that supposed to mean that all this was just his imagination on drugs? Pidge was right most of the time, and it sounded plausible.

“And what does the voice say to you?” Lance seemed a bit worried, almost shaken up.

Keith was about to start typing on the tablet again, but Pidge grabbed it.

“Stop it, Lance, you’ll just make him worry even more.”

“But-” The boy sighed and glanced at Keith just long enough for him to notice.

‘Lance.’

Yeah, weird hallucinogenic drug, that’s Lance, what about him? He did react so strangely, maybe he knew something about the voice? Maybe he had it too, then Keith could just let him explain. But how could he ask Lance, when Keith couldn’t speak and Lance would forget they had this conversation?

 

The rest of the day just went downhill from that. Keith apparently managed to catch a cold or something and had to stay in bed a bit longer than he would’ve liked. At first, it didn’t seem like it was anything serious, but it was just enough to make him fragile and weakened again. He couldn’t even sit up and his grip was weak, to the point where he couldn’t even eat independently. He was back to square one when it came to his recovery.

He laid in his bed all day, facing away from the door and Lotor, pretending to be asleep. This way at least nobody was bugging him, except for the coldness and nausea. He had all the time in the world to sulk about how great he was doing yesterday compared to today’s setbacks.

His hearing, however, was still completely fine, meaning he could hear the whole conversation between the two nurses when they came to check his temperature and blood pressure. The only reason why he didn’t get much of what they said was because he was too confused and tired to concentrate.

“Yeah, Dr. Sendak is worried that it’ll turn into a lung inflammation… He has already informed Professor Zarkon, he might visit us to check on Keith.” From all of the small pieces of the conversation, Keith was absolutely sure he heard this part right. Although vaguely, he did remember a certain Professor Zarkon from the hospital he had stayed at. It was the surgeon who had been in charge of his brain surgery. But why would he visit Keith here?

Soon after that, Keith drifted off to sleep. Still, he was restless, his shivering waking him up every fifteen minutes or so.

It must’ve been around midnight when he turned around to lay on his right side and finally noticed that his roommate was gone.

Lotor’s bed was empty, but unlike last time, Keith didn’t see him anywhere in his field of vision. The door was slightly open however, the light from the hallway peering into the room. It was obvious that Lotor had left and was now wandering around somewhere.

His first impulse was to reach for the button under his hand that would call the nurses. He wasn’t surprised to find that it wasn’t there but disappointed nonetheless.

Despite his headache, he tried to sit up, reaching for the little triangle-shaped thing above his bed to pull himself up. He… He did it without any trouble. This should n’t have been possible, considering that he hadn’t been competent enough to do it this afternoon.

He wasn’t going to question it, though. It worked, that was the only important thing at the moment.

As the covers fell off him, his body started to shiver a little. Black dots danced before Keith’s eyes before his head could get used to sitting upright again. After the sudden nausea had passed, he reached for the rails at the side of his bed and pulled himself to the edge, his feet now dangling off the bed. He tried to find his slippers to put them on, but there was no chance he could spot them in that darkness.

So he went with the only other alternative: walking around in socks. The floor was cold, almost making him miss the warmth of his covers again. He could just stay in his bed…

‘Lotor.’

The sudden appearance of the voice still surprised him. It really needed to get out of his head. But it was right. Find Lotor. That’s what he had to do. Maybe there wouldn’t be a next opportunity to catch Lotor if he didn’t do it now. The least he could do was to show his empty bed to someone.

He set his feet back on the floor and tried to stand up. Big mistake. He immediately stumbled forward, landing on all fours before his arms gave out under him and he was laying flat on his stomach.

That wouldn’t stop him. If he could crawl everywhere when he was six months old, he might as well do it now.

Except that babies were apparently better than him. That was the harsh truth, but Keith didn’t have time to think about that. He did his best to get from his bed to the door.

He clung to any object closest to him and pulled himself up while he pushed himself with his legs, repeating this sluggishly over and over again until he got to the door.

After a few attempts, he pushed the door open and peered into the hallway.

The whole hallway was dimly lit, except for the nurses’ office at the end besides the elevator and the staircase. He could see dark silhouettes walking around in there, but he came to the conclusion that they weren’t going to leave the room anytime soon.

Keith sighed and continued his crawling, this time towards the office.

He wasn’t going to make it far.

Because as long as there was someone who didn’t want him to get there, Keith wouldn’t. There were far fitter patients, and Keith was powerless against them.

A door on his left opened, and a dark figure stepped out. Keith didn’t recognize them, but judging from the broad shoulders and their height, it was a young male.

As he got closer, Keith could see his brown, slicked back hair with one-sided bangs. It was a lot shorter than Lotor’s, maybe even shorter than Keith’s, but darker than Matt’s.

He didn’t speak, he just approached Keith, arms spread out in a weird pose, kind of reaching for Keith as if to pick him up.

Abort mission. Keith pushed himself backward with his hands, attempting to crawl back into his room. The unknown man was faster and got to Keith in a matter of seconds.

All right, this was beginning to resemble a horror movie or something.

“Gray.” The guy said, his voice lacking any emotion.

Keith’s eyes widened in surprise. This again. Did this guy have something to do with the voice? His didn’t resemble the voice in Keith’s head, however. It was more similar to Lotor’s voice.

While Keith was distracted by what he had said, the boy grabbed Keith’s arm and dragged him back inside the room. His grip wasn’t strong at all, but Keith didn’t bother freeing his arm, mainly because he knew he was just as weak.

A few seconds later, Keith was back on his bed. Everything was a mess in his head; his perception sloppy, having no idea what was happening but having no will to actively change something about the situation he was in. It was probably because of his fever. Or this all was just a fever dream.

The guy disappeared out of his field of vision for a few seconds. When he reappeared a few seconds later, he was holding a pillow. Oh no.

Keith still remembered Lotor’s threat. How could he forget, it was a pretty serious one after all. And now he would suffer the consequences of not listening to him after all.

He raised his hands to his face to avoid the pillow, but the brown-haired guy easily slapped his hands away and pressed the fabric against his face. Keith automatically gasped for air, a stupid decision as he was thereby only making it worse for himself.

No matter what he tried, he couldn’t wriggle himself free and he was slowly starting to panic.

There was a weird feeling in his head that he couldn’t describe. It hurt, but it wasn’t like a usual headache. His mind went completely blank, except for one thought: He had to do something or he’ll die.

“Hey! What are you doing here?” A voice seemed to come from somewhere near the door. The pressure on the pillow ceased and Keith found himself gasping and coughing. Whoever had been smothering him disappeared, along with the other person who had – knowingly or unknowingly – saved him. Keith felt like he knew the voice, but he just couldn’t put his finger on who it was.

‘Out of control. Blaytz is dead. They’re out of control.’

Keith didn’t even comprehend what the voice was saying. He was confused, he almost died, and he really needed some rest right now.

 

 

The next day, he felt definitely better. That didn’t mean much, but at least he could get out of bed again. As he discovered, walking still wasn’t as easy as it had been the day before yesterday – not that it was easy then, just a lot easier than it was now – but he was able to feed himself again.

After ergotherapy, Shiro brought him back to his room. That was good. He could ponder about last night’s adventure alone.

Lotor had been there that morning, still unconscious, although moving his head a bit. That was normal though, Keith had nothing to worry about.

Keith still didn’t know who the brunette boy was. Or why he was acting the way he was. It seemed unlikely that he and Lotor were simply both jerks. But even if they were, that wouldn’t have explained why Lotor was awake during the night. Where had he even been?

The only thing that worried Keith even more was the voice. It gave him a headache to think about what was out of control or how Keith’s mind would know that Blaytz had died. All the questions, in general, caused Keith a huge headache, but there was not much he could do about it. He couldn’t ask anyone, speaking was still not working. At all. Of all the therapies Keith had to take, logotherapy had been the worst so far. He couldn’t even say his own name. At least he had small successes with Romelle and Coran, while poor Adam just had to endure all his temper tantrums after he failed at saying some words.

 

Another day had passed, and Keith was finally allowed to hang out with the others again in the common room. Walking was still not an option, so Shiro had to bring him there, though.

The common room was pretty full at this time since most people had finished their therapies for that day. Keith could see some people he hadn’t met yet, none of which was similar to the guy from his last nightly adventure.

Shiro wheeled him to the table where Lance and Matt were sitting.

“Oh, hi, nice to meet you,” Lance smiled at him.

Keith looked over at Matt. “Lance lost his notebook yesterday. He doesn’t remember some of us.” Matt shrugged. “Lance, you already know him, his name is Keith. He can’t speak and had trouble walking in the past few days. Apparently still does.”

Keith pressed his lips together. He didn’t have to be reminded of that. “Lo… Liooo- Liteio...” He realized his attempt at telling the others about Lotor had been a bad idea. Both of them looked at him in confusion.

“Keith?”

“Wait, I think he means Lotor,” Lance slapped his forehead when he finally got it. Keith debated with himself whether or not he should be offended about the fact that Lance remembered Lotor but not him. Either way, he nodded with a smile to signal that his amnesiac friend was right.

“What about him? Poor guy can’t even eat. No one says it aloud, but he’s a hopeless case.” Lance sighed, fidgeting with a single puzzle piece he had found laying around on the table.

“Lance!”

“Sorry...”

Keith nodded slowly, even though he did definitely not think of Lotor as a hopeless case. He was fit enough to leave their room after all. That definitely meant something in that brain of his was still working.

And Keith would find out what was up with him. Sooner or later, but he would not rest until he caught Lotor and showed his empty bed to a nurse or a doctor. Literally. He would stay awake each night as long as he could, waiting till he’s gone before pressing the button that would call Shiro.

“Besides, you should avoid such topics around Ryan.” Matt motioned towards a different table with his head, one occupied by only one guy. He was looking at the table in front of him, seemingly lost in thoughts. “James is getting worse. And Ryan is worried that he will end up like Blaytz.”

“Why, what happened to Blaytz?” Lance asked with a frown. “And who’s James again?”

Keith was still staring at Ryan. Or rather, his eyes were still hung up on him while his mind repeated a single sentence, four words, over and over again.

‘They’re out of control.’

Chapter Text

Keith's health had improved a lot since yesterday. Professor Zarkon had even told him that he didn't have to worry about getting ill again as long as he didn't spend another night outside. This, of course, relieved the nurses a lot, mainly Shiro. He didn't seem to be able to think about anything else than Keith's health in the last couple of hours, constantly telling him that he needed to take his whole situation more seriously.

Which Keith was doing. In fact, he thought he was taking it more seriously than anyone else. Probably because the others didn't know about all the little... occurrences that have plagued his stay at the Voltron Rehabilitation Center until now. He would've done anything to find out what was going on in his mind and in this place at night. Since there clearly must've been something about the night that let all this strange stuff happen. But that discovery wasn’t much help either. Nothing was helping at all, he had no idea where to start to eventually solve the mystery that was Lotor and his other ‘comatose’ buddies.

Keith had no choice but to concentrate on his healing process. Since, well, he had nothing else that could help him in this situation and… Because that’s what you’re supposed to do at a rehab center.

As Shiro finally let him try walking again - after Professor Zarkon had asked Shiro to just let him do what would, in the long run, affect his healing process in a positive way. Keith had been getting the vibes that Shiro didn't exactly agree with the professor's opinion, but they both knew that there was no way to argue with him.

Professor Zarkon had arrived that morning, and ever since that, the whole rehab center had been filled with chaos. The nurses and the doctors running around, trying to keep the patients in a healthy state and a good mood, which would please Professor Zarkon too; while the patients seemed to be trying their best to avoid any encounters with him.

Keith kind of got what they meant. Zarkon was a serious man, who seemed to have high expectations when it came to everyone's recoveries, to the point where it was getting in the way of the said healing process - that is if what Allura had said was true, and a happy mood did equal a faster recovery. Everyone seemed slightly stressed, either from what Professor Zarkon has been telling them or because all the pressure on the medical staff had ruined their day too.

If Pidge was correct though, Zarkon wasn't even all that influential. It was just the fact that he had been in charge of the surgeries of most patients here, including Keith, and was a friend of Dr. Sendak. He just liked to check on the rehab center once in a while because he wanted to see how all the surgery scars were doing. Matt said that, and Keith was left to wonder if ‘surgery scars’ really meant just the scars on everyone’s head, or if Matt wanted to hint at the fact that Zarkon only saw them as a bunch of successful jobs of his that needed to be taken care of so that they don’t turn out to be unsuccessful after all.

“I don’t know, he seems okay to me,” Lance shrugged, while stirring his milkshake with the straw, bored out of his mind. His notebook was still nowhere to be seen, and Keith had been confronted by the actual badness of his memory’s condition. They all had to start the day off by introducing themselves to Lance and explaining to him how they’ve been friends for a while before they could convince him to accompany them to the cafeteria. It was quite a hard job.

Hunk and Pidge shared a knowing look. “Lance, you hate him.”

“Why would I?” Lance looked up from his shake and raised his eyebrows.

“He hasn’t visited you today yet, huh?” Hunk waited until Lance shook his head before he continued. “He’s a little overenthusiastic about improving your memory, at least in your opinion.”

“Yeah, but there’s some truth in there… He is kind off acting weird when it comes to Lance… Like he’s surprised that his memory isn’t better yet.”

“Hm,” Lance shrugged and turned his attention back to his milkshake. “He should be more concerned about Keith. He’s the one whose level of recovery changes every few hours. At least my memory is constantly bad.” He had a point there. Keith didn’t even remember anyone mentioning that fact to Lance this morning, though.

Everyone’s faces turned to Keith, who had been sitting in the corner, sipping his soda, silently listening to the others’ conversation.

“Oh, right. Then again, he had a cold, maybe it’s all normal. At least he’s better at walking today. Let’s just hope he won’t get sick again.”

Keith rolled his eyes and cracked a smile. It’s not like the cold was his fault.

Shay at the other end of the table spoke up. “Maybe the professor is too busy tending to James. I heard from Ryan that he’s been acting weird.”

“Weird, what does he mean by that?” Matt frowned.

“I’m not sure. Something about behavioral issues or so, but there’s also something wrong with his immune system. His whole body is not acting how it’s supposed to, of course he’s a bit moody.”

Keith bit his lip. It was that James again. The one they had mentioned yesterday.

‘Gray. Out of control.’

Yeah. That too. The voice, still tormenting him with the same stuff.

But at least now he had some context. James could be the one out of control. Then again, the voice did only say that after Shay had informed Keith about all of this, so perhaps it was just Keith’s subconscious playing a trick on him again. Besides, he was kind of getting used to it at this point.

“Poor James,” Hunk sighed. “Is it just me, or is it strange how everyone seems to be getting worse? First Blaytz, then Keith almost getting a lung inflammation, now this...”

“That’s just a coincidence.” Lance shrugged. “At least I hope so.”

 

 

Cold. Seriously way too cold. Keith pulled the covers up to his face and turned onto his side, taking up a fetal position in hopes of keeping himself warm. His cold wasn’t returning, was it? Then again, he had healed way too fast…

He tapped around on his bed blindly, hoping to find the nurse-calling button. After a minute or so, he gave up and opened his eyes just a bit.

That’s when he noticed the window: wide open, the darkness and the wind almost making it look like an endless void.

Which idiot had opened the window? Keith crawled out of his bed in slow motion, gripping the edge of his bedside table to avoid losing his balance. Moving forward seemed surprisingly easy now, almost like it had been before the accident. His muscles weren’t tensed and the movements came naturally. Keith didn’t have to concentrate on the usual ‘left, right, left, right’ like he had to this morning. How weird.

He stumbled over to the window and closed it. The coldness still lingered in the room, though, and Keith decided he would grab one of his hoodies before he returns to his bed.

Either the closet he shared with Lotor wasn’t actually that far away from the window as he’d imagined, or his legs have miraculously improved overnight. He seemed to have no trouble making his way towards it. Even the hunch he usually had when he tried to walk was missing, and he wasn’t in need of a walker. Just the thought of being able to do this would’ve amazed him this morning, but now it was reality – hopefully. It could’ve just been a realistic dream. Really realistic.

He grabbed the first hoodie he could find and put it on with one swift motion. Surprisingly easy, but it was surprising in a good way, of course. Although, now that he thought about it, it was pretty strange. Just like everything else he had witnessed at night in the last few days. The voice, his shifting well-being, Lotor…

Right, Lotor. Keith glanced over at his roommate’s bed. What he saw didn’t surprise him in the slightest.

He sighed and sat down on Lotor’s empty bed.

Just take a deep breath and think about it. Lotor was who knows where, wandering around in the night. Maybe he was right outside the door – or someone else was, someone who had the same intentions as Lotor. Anyways, leaving the room wasn’t worth it, he would just get into trouble again -

‘Go to room 327. It’s on the third floor, at the end of the hallway.’

Oh. Well, that was something new. It was a clear message. An order. At it even disproved Keith’s theory that the voice was just an auditory hallucination. Keith had never heard of room 327 nor had he ever been on the third floor – that’s were the adults and the elderly were staying, and teenagers weren’t really welcome, except maybe for Pidge and Matt.

But what about Lotor? What if he caught him and it would be like last night all over again? Geez, this was starting to sound like some video game where you had to avoid a bot or something, just to make your quest harder.

Keith got up again and headed to the door. He pressed down the door handle as quietly and slowly as possible and peered out into the hallway before stepping out. It was empty, just like yesterday, except that this time, no one was waiting for him around the corner to drag him back to his room and attempt to murder him. At least he hoped so.

He started walking to the end of the hallway with quick and confident steps. Every room he passed was quiet and all the doors were shut. It must’ve been around one or two in the morning. Pidge usually stayed up as long as possible, but the nurses always managed to get her to sleep before midnight.

‘Take the stairs. They’re on the left.’

Alright then, as it turns out, the voice in Keith’s head was a commanding GPS. It did have a point though since the elevator would be heard from the nurses’ office right beside it.

Moving on. The stairs were near, he was almost there. He would only have to get past the office.

Suddenly, his left foot started hurting. It’s as if destiny really didn’t want him to be able to do this. His muscle tensed and he had to grab a hold on the wall to avoid falling, while his movements slowed down and he was back to his regular crawl-tempo. Keith turned away from the office and steered directly towards the staircase. Still, his legs weren’t working any better and he had to plop down on the ground for a second to regain his energy.

As he waited, he got the chance to enjoy listening in on a conversation between Shiro and Adam inside the office. It just motivated him to keep moving. The two were really nice and all, but Shiro’s obliviousness to Adam’s attempts at flirting was really starting to give Keith second-hand embarrassment.

The further away from the nurses’ office he crawled, the easier he could move his legs. After twenty feet or so, his leg was perfectly fine, back to how it had been when he’d left his room.

He finally reached the stairs and started going up; sometimes, when he dared, even taking two steps at once. Maybe the voice wasn’t to be trusted and this was all a trap, or he could be caught by a staff member any minute. Either way, he had to be fast.

Considering that earlier that day, he couldn’t get past one single step, he was doing amazing. But still, he had to wonder whose idea it was to put so many stairs into a building where half of the inhabitants couldn’t even use them.

‘Room 327.’

‘I know...’ Keith muttered in his mind, still racing up the steps. He didn’t waste time to rest at the landing between the two flights of stairs, but turned right away and continued.

Except that there was someone sitting there.

Keith stopped and gaped at the boy in the blue pajamas with a dumbfounded expression.

Said boy looked up from the book he was reading and raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong?”

“Ol- I…Laot...” Keith stammered a series of meaningless sounds. That was Lance. That was most definitely Lance, and he was sitting on the stairs leading to the third floor in the middle of the night, minding his own business. Not to mention the fact that he was reading a big book, and he must’ve been close to finishing it, despite the wide-known fact that Lance was incapable of reading books which took more than six hours to finish since he would forget most of the plot.

“Do you need help? What’s your name, first of all?” Lance gave Keith an encouraging smile as if Keith was the only brain damaged of the two.

He shook his head, then gestured to his throat to tell Lance that he was unable to speak.

“Oh. Well, it’s nice to meet you anyway. I’m Lance.”

Keith sighed. He didn’t know what Lance was doing here, but he needed to go back to his room. If anyone found him outside of his room, he would get in trouble for sure.

After a few seconds of hesitance, Keith pointed at Lance, then at his left wrist, where one would wear a watch, and made a circling motion with his fingers, imitating a clock. He pointed at Lance again, then put his palms together and leaned his head on them: sleeping. You should be sleeping at his time.

“What do you mean? Look, I don’t live here and I don’t think we know each other.” Lance let out a forced laugh.

‘Well yeah, you think that because you’re an amnesiac, Lance.’ Keith rolled his eyes.

“No, I’m not.”

Wait. Did he say that out loud? That couldn’t be, he wasn’t able to speak.

“Lance, you drowned and damaged your brain...” The words came out loud an clear when he tried to speak. That was impossible... He had to tell someone. Adam was right downstairs, he could just go and-

“No. This is just a dream. I don’t even know you,” Lance protested, crossing his arms.

“My name is Keith. I arrived a week ago and I introduced myself to you several times by now. You keep forgetting because you have anterograde amnesia.” Keith explained calmly, while slowly inching back towards the stairs. The whole situation was kind of weird. Lance normally knew he had amnesia.

“That’s... unlikely. Look, I remember this place and everything except for you. If this is not a dream, then... I don’t know what it is. I kind of believe you, since there are blank spaces in my memory where I have no quiznaking clue what I was doing... But I clearly remember what I was doing twelve hours ago.”

“Fine, okay,” Keith ran his hand through his hair frustrated. “But I have to go now, you see...” He turned around and made a run for the stairs. Halfway through, his legs gave out under him and his voice disappeared, leaving him with nothing more than a weak yelp when he tried to get someone’s attention by shouting for Adam or Shiro.

“Buddy, you okay?” Lance looked at him with a frown from the top of the stairs.

Keith nodded and stood up before cautiously trying to take another step towards the nurses’ office. His leg started hurting almost immediately and he was starting to get light headed. When he tried the same thing in Lance’s direction, everything was perfectly fine. That was definitely not natural.

‘Room 327.’

“Right, I know.” Keith hissed and trotted back to Lance.

“What was that about?” Lance seemed to have trouble holding back a chuckle.

“Nevermind. I still have to go, though, so if you’d excuse me...”

“Uh-uh. Not going. Not until you tell me why you’re talking to yourself.” Lance put a hand on Keith's chest to block his way.

“Uhm, well, you see… Alright, Lance, look, I have a voice in my head that constantly tells me stuff that makes no sense. Got it?” Keith sighed and pushed Lance’s hand off of him.

“Not really, but I’ll go with it. And, did the voice tell you to fall down the stairs?”

“Ha-ha. Not really. It has been talking about a certain ‘room 327’ all night. I have a comatose roommate here which keeps disappearing which is also kind of strange, so I figured I could check this out for a change.”

Lance’s eyes widened in surprise for a short second, then he averted his gaze. “Okay. Let’s check that out.”

“You want to come too?” Keith raised his eyebrows.

“Yeah. I know where it is, I’ll help you.”

Lance started running up the stairs closely followed by Keith. The latter was just purely confused about Lance at this point but figured he had no other choice but to go along with his shenanigans.

‘Turn left.’

“Follow me,” Keith grabbed Lance’s arm and pulled him towards the left hallway once they reached the third floor.

“What? Room 327 is that way.” Lance pointed in the other direction.

“The voice told me to go this way, I won’t question it.”

“Oh, so now you have an inbuilt GPS in your head, huh.”

Keith didn’t have time to ask Lance about his sudden hostility, as the voice suddenly told him to ‘duck’ and he pulled Lance down with him.

A dark figure that seemed to be coming from the hallway Lance wanted to go to passed them and went down the stairs. It didn’t take long until Keith’s brain processed who it had been.

“Oh no, Lotor is here.”

“That’s his name?” Lance scratched the back of his head.

“You know him?”

“Well yeah, I see him around quite often, but I don’t remember ever actually talking to him.”

“Oh, alright.” Keith sighed and peered out from their hiding place again. “I think the coast is clear now.”

They got up and headed exactly where Lotor had come from. The hallway looked quite similar to the one on the second floor, except that the nurses’ office here was a bit further away from the stairs.

“This is room 312. 327 is at the end of this hallway.” Lance pointed at a small sign beside the door of the room closest to them. Under the number were two names; the names of the patients, Keith guessed.

Keith nodded and started walking down the hallway with Lance.

“I don’t know why, but my gut tells me that this isn’t a good idea,” Keith muttered, looking around with furrowed eyebrows, worried that something or someone could show up at any moment.

“Well, you wanted to do this, so we’re doing it,” Lance whispered, and grabbed Keith’s arm, forcing him to quicken his pace a little bit. “Just trust me, alright? Even if we get caught, we’re just two vegetables whose brains aren’t working correctly. We don’t know what we’re doing.”

By the time they reached room 321, Keith was practically sneaking on all fours. It was only when they were about to go around the corner when Lance stopped too and knelt down. When Keith glanced over his shoulder to see what was wrong, he quickly yanked Lance back.

“We have a problem. That’s Dr. Sendak and Professor Zarkon, and I doubt we could explain why we’re on the third floor, hiding from them.” He whispered as quiet as possible, almost mouthing the words.

“But they’re in front of 327. What are they doing here in the middle of the night?”

Keith remained quiet for a while, trying to quiet down his breathing and catch a few words exchanged between Sendak and Zarkon. When he finally turned to Lance, he looked mortified, all blood drained from his face.

“Talking about Blaytz and James Griffin, apparently.”

Lance grimaced and shifted a little closer.

“Sendak, they’re out of control. Do you know what consequences it would have if another one would die?”

“I’m sorry, Sir, I’m really trying everything I can. Perhaps we would be able to shift the blame again, then we would have time to-”

“No. Another failure would be unacceptable. You don’t have more time. If this isn’t fixed by tomorrow...”

Keith and Lance both could hear the footsteps coming towards them. They glanced at each other panicked for a millisecond, before Lance’s spontaneous thinking saved them by ushering Keith into the closest room and shutting the door again.

It took Keith a while to calm his quickened heartbeat and his heavy breathing. He leaned against the door, hoping that Lance would be okay.

“Lance McClain... What are you doing here?” The irritated voice of Professor Zarkon was still somewhat audible through the door.

“I’m sorry, Sir… Could you help me? I have no idea how I’ve gotten here. It’s clearly some sort of hospital, but I don’t have any injuries...”

Lance obviously adjusted to his role as an amnesiac pretty fast. While the doctors were talking to him, trying to explain his situation again and convince him to return to his room, Keith had a chance to look around in the room he was currently stranded in.

One of the beds was empty, but the sheets were neatly folded and there seemed to be no belonging lying around, except if the board with all the patient information counts as one. That was still there, letting Keith know that the bed had belonged to Blaytz.

The other bed was inhabited by a man who must’ve been around fifty or so. He had white hair and a white full-beard, with the same brown skin tone as Allura. Now that he had thought about Allura, Keith couldn’t unsee the man’s resemblance to her.

He walked over to the board at the end of his bed.

Professor Alfor, blah blah blah damage to RAS after a blow to the head, blah blah blah comatose, blah blah blah ENB Gen 3.

Keith didn’t understand most of the medical terms, so he just decided to skip over them. He could just ask someone tomorrow if they could explain some of the terms to him. Speaking of that, he should probably check out the board on his bed as well.

When he looked up at the man again, he noticed something on the floor under Blaytz's bed. He knelt down and tried to fish it out from under there.

His lips formed a triumphant smile when he finally got a hold of it and managed to pull it out.

It was a leather-bound notebook with the name ‘Lance Charles McClain’ written on the cover. Keith was sure he didn’t have the right to look through what was practically Lance’s diary, so he didn’t. He would return it to Lance in the morning, but right now, his only desire was to get back to his bedroom without getting caught again. Room 327 would have to wait another night or two.

 

He crawled past the nurses’ office on the second floor, since his legs seemed to have given up again. It seemed to have quieted down in there, but there was clearly someone inside. This would be the perfect opportunity for Keith to tell someone that he could talk again.

“Keith? What are you doing outside of your room? Takashi, your patient is wandering around again!” Adam went to get Shiro after Keith got his attention by knocking on the door.

“He’s your patient too...” Shiro sighed and got up from his seat. “Keith, have you been sleepwalking again? And what’s that under your arm? Don’t tell me you found Lance’s notebook.”

“Sh… Ot...Taoiaa-” His speech, just like his movement, seemed to get a lot worse when he was around nurses. At least know he knew that, and wouldn’t embarrass himself a second time.

“Look, thanks for bringing us the notebook. I’m sure Lance will appreciate it. But now I should bring you back to your room. Come on.”

 

Although this was a very anticlimactic end to his nightly adventure, Keith didn’t mind it at all. He had learned a lot of new information that could possibly help him in the future, plus he gained a new ally. And there was absolutely no way he wouldn’t question Lance about all of this once he woke up.

Chapter Text

When Keith woke up, the blinds on the room’s window were still closed. That meant that it must’ve been around five or six in the morning; the nurses always opened the blinds at half past six and would bring breakfast quarter past seven.

Keith had already learned that a while ago, since he usually had nothing else to do but count the minutes he spent in this damned place, lying in his bed and staring at the clock or at the ceiling. Reading still proved to be a difficulty for him, and watching TV wasn’t allowed either. The only sources of entertainment he had were either his floor-mates inviting him to hang out or him just watching Lotor drool in his sleep. Needless to say, he preferred to do the former.

Well, that is if you didn’t count the little walks he took during the night, of course. Those were fun. He had the freedom to go wherever he wanted or say what had been stuck in his mind for so long. In exchange, he had to live with the knowledge that the life of others and possibly his own were in danger because of… Well, because of what, exactly? Despite how many scattered clues he could think of, he just wasn’t smart enough to figure out a logical explanation or what the cause of this was. Who knew if anyone was smart enough for that.

Keith took a deep breath and pushed himself up into an upright position. His arms didn’t feel as exhausted as usual, which must’ve meant that his sessions with Coran did, in fact, have a purpose and he was making progress.

Ever since the beginning of his stay, he hadn’t really had the chance to collect his thoughts yet. Perhaps everything had been too hectic - or maybe he was just too afraid to think about what was happening here.

Well, first of all, the patients were a lot more active during the night.

Secondly, some of them were surprisingly hostile towards him. Him, specifically, even though he hasn’t done anything wrong as far as he knew.

Then there was the fact that some patients’ health had been getting worse, for unexplainable reasons, and there were dying. Blaytz was gone already. Nobody has told Keith if they knew the cause of it by now, but he guessed that was not the case.

Also, room 327 and that conversation between Dr. Sendak and Professor Zarkon. There was obviously something fishy going on and they were involved. But Keith couldn’t just ask. Not only because he was physically incapable to do so, but because then he would practically confess that he was eavesdropping, while also walking around at night – and on the third floor, to make matters worse.
And how could he forget; the voice. The first sign that he was going crazy. It was almost comical how Keith couldn’t even pinpoint if the voice was a friend or a foe. There had been more than one situation where he would’ve been doomed were it not for the voice. But it was still an unwanted parasite in his head, after all.

‘Thalamus.’

Well, if that wasn’t the right timing… Keith had almost expected the voice to show up as soon as he started thinking about it. And that was just what he had wanted. He had already figured out long ago that the voice was aware of all the current events going on around Keith, but he had started wondering last night whether or not he could interact with the voice as well.

‘What’s thalamus?’ Keith thought, thus in a way asking his own mind a question. The voice should be able to pick up on that, right?

‘Gray.’ The voice still had no emotion and didn’t speak in full sentences. He didn’t want to make things too easy for him, Keith guessed. That wouldn’t have been entertaining enough. But at least now he knew that he could have a conversation with it, which was progress, he guessed.

‘Is thalamus gray?’ He replied, closing his eyes and trying to remember if he had ever heard about something or someone called thalamus before. His memory had been fuzzy since his accident, not to mention that he found it harder to concentrate. Surely that was the reason why his brain couldn’t come up with anything at the moment.

Keith waited a few seconds, staring at the light lines of sunshine on the floor that shone through the blinds. Waiting for the voice to reply. Waiting for ten seconds, then thirty. Maybe the voice wasn’t sure either. Or it just wasn’t willing to cooperate. Again, that would’ve made things too easy.

It would be pointless to wait any longer. The voice wasn’t going to reply. Keith sighed and reached for the nurse-call button on his nightstand. He might as well get up if the voice wasn’t cooperating. He would have time to think about all this stuff while he ate breakfast.

Barely a minute later, appeared at the door. Keith could remember seeing her a few times before, but there was no name he could associate with her.

“Good morning, Keith, do you need anything?” She asked with a smile while she walked up to Keith’s bed and glanced over the notes at the end of his bed.

Keith motioned to his stomach, trying to signal that he was hungry. The nurse nodded understandingly.

“You’d like your breakfast?” A nod. “That’s fine, Keith, I’ll be right back, then.”

While Keith waited, he glanced over at his lovely roommate, Lotor. The guy had his head turned away from Keith, hands gripping the mattress forcefully, almost like he was having a bad dream. Keith wondered if Lotor had been in his bed when he returned to his room yesterday; he couldn’t remember anymore.

The nurse came back and put the food tray in front of Keith, then went to the window to open the blinds. “You’re up pretty early, did you not sleep well?”

Keith shook his head before looking down at today’s breakfast. Tea, as always, along with a cream cheese sandwich and an apple, both cut up in small pieces. At least there was some diversity when it came to the menu, despite everything else here being repetitive and not exactly exciting. Well, it was a rehab center after all.

“Oh well, that’s a relief. Hmm, Dr. Sendak told me that Professor Zarkon would like to pay you a visit today. You know, talk to you about some things and check out your scar. Nothing out of the ordinary, you don’t need to worry.” The nurse came back and sat down on the chair between his and Lotor’s bed. She flashed Keith a smile, then turned to Lotor, immediately contorting her face to a frown. Keith noticed a name tag on her shirt and tried to decipher the letters, which just left him with disappointment and slight frustration. That didn’t get better when it took him six tries to pick up the next piece of his sandwich. Or when he accidentally dropped the sippy cup.

Why does Zarkon want to visit him, though? He hadn’t found out about last night, had he? Maybe Lance wasn’t that believable after all. Or they could’ve simply found his empty bed. But in that case, wouldn’t they have spotted that Lotor was missing, too?

“Hey buddy, watch out,” Keith’s nurse put the small sandwich piece he had dropped on his lap back on the tray. She smiled encouragingly with that overly sweet smile Keith knew all too well by now, then turned to Lotor and started messing his blood pressure and such while talking to him… about his family..? Keith wasn’t sure.

Fifteen minutes later, after Lotor had been fed, the nurse took his empty tray and left. Keith sighed and laid back on his pillow. He had a lot of time before therapy, but he didn’t know how long Professor Zarkon would want to stay. Who knows, maybe he wouldn’t even have therapy today if the odds were in his favor. If there was one thing he absolutely hated about this place, it was speech therapy. Adam kept being so persistent, even though he knew very well that Keith had given up on speaking at this point. He sounded like a caveman every time he tried.

“Good morning, Keith.”

Keith’s head snapped up and his eyes met the ones of Professor Zarkon, who had just entered the room. He nodded as a way to greet the surgeon.

Zarkon sat down and pulled out a clipboard, then looked up at Keith with a smile. It was a typical friendly smile, but somehow, it felt off. Maybe it was just Keith’ imagination after what he had heard last night. Probably. Zarkon was honestly a sympathetic and friendly person who just wanted to help his patients. He didn’t need Keith’s distrust.

“So… Well, first of, how are you? I haven’t seen you in a while. Your surgery was almost a month ago.”

Keith shrugged. What was he supposed to say? There was no right answer. It’s not like he was suffering, but being at rehab after a TBI wasn’t the height of luxury. He had been a lot happier before the accident.

“I know what you mean. It can be hard to adjust to your new life.” Zarkon gave him a pat on the shoulder. Not like that made him relax more. “Actually, that’s part of what I want to talk about today. I don’t think anyone has had a serious talk with you about your life after recovery, right?”

He nodded with a bitter expression. In the past weeks, people hadn’t really bothered talking to him in a way that didn’t make him feel like an idiot.

“Okay. Let’s start with the basics, then. May I take a look at your scar, please?”

Keith bowed his head automatically. He was used to this. His surgical scar was the most important one of all his injuries.

“It’s healing alright. If I’m being honest, I’m kind of surprised. In a good way, of course.” Zarkon flashed his obnoxious smile again and continued with the usual check-up. Blood pressure, shining a light in Keith’s eyes, and other stuff Keith had to endure almost every day. He understood its importance, of course, it was clear to him that he had almost died and that the doctors wanted to make sure he gets the best possible outcome at the end of his recovery.

After a good five minutes, the professor leaned back with a satisfied expression. “Alright, Keith. First of all, I have spoken with Dr. Sendak and decided that you’re fit enough to start doing water aerobics with the other patients here at the rehab center’s pool. Now that that’s discussed, let’s get to the interesting part, shall we? One thing you have to know is that your brain will never be the same after your traumatic brain injury. It’s a disability. Even after you leave Voltron Rehabilitation Center, you will most likely have some sort of learning difficulty. You could have a shorter attention span, difficulty remembering or comprehending new information; the list goes on.”

Keith listened quietly, ironically taking some time for his brain to progress everything the professor was saying. He had realized all of this long ago, but he had never thought about how much it would actually affect his education or his chance of getting a good job. And Professor Zarkon wasn’t making it sound good.

Zarkon must’ve noticed his sour expression, as he quickly continued. “Don’t get discouraged, Keith. Everything I’ve told you so far is only a possibility. Your surgery went great, maybe you’ll surprise us with how fast you’ll recover.” After that sentence, he winked at Keith, which made him extremely uncomfortable. Maybe his gut was right after all and he should not trust this man under any circumstances. “There are offers at some universities for students with TBI or other disabilities. You don’t have to worry.”

After a short hesitation, Keith nodded. The professor seemed to have changed his tone entirely after he noticed how discouraged Keith was, surely he didn’t have high hopes when it came to Keith’s future. Way to motivate your patients, Zarkon, great job.

Zarkon continued, cheering him up right away with assuring him that he could also have reduced social skills and poor judgment. Because who has time to worry about learning difficulties when you can’t even make friends, am I right? Keith suffered through another twenty minutes of the professor offering him advice on programs for people with TBI before Adam grew impatient and visited him to take him to his therapy room himself.

For once, Keith was really, really thankful for Adam.

Said thankfulness didn’t last long, however. Only until he was sitting across from Adam again. Adam would show him a card with a picture of an object on it, and he would have to try saying its name. He was pretty sure those cards were from a memory game meant for little children.

“K- Koia- Or… Wa...” Keith shook his head before laying it on his arms resting on the desk in front of him, hiding his face from Adam. He just couldn’t do it. According to Zarkon, his future was already doomed, why should he bother trying?

“Car. Right?” Adam’s expression didn’t change and he put the card to the pile of other cards. “C’ mon, don’t give up, it’s a normal thing. You’ll get better at it.”

Keith doubted that. His hand-eye coordination and his movement have visibly improved in the last couple of days, but that was not the case when it came to his speech.

“Alright, let’s try something else. How about reading? I’ll help you.”

He watched as Adam pulled out a piece of paper. The words on it were written in a bigger font, maybe something around 24-28, Keith guessed. But despite his best efforts, he still couldn’t read them. Like, he recognized that those were words, but they just didn’t make sense for his brain.

“Okay, let’s start slow. You can do this, Keith.”

Surprisingly, reading was a bit easier than Keith had initially thought. Of course, it was still difficult, but Adam really did take it slow and made him get through each word letter by letter.

Now that he thought about it… Wait. He didn’t remember having any problems with the letters when he had been using Pidge’s tablet or reading the notes at that old man’s bed on the third floor last night, for a matter of fact. Shifting between the ability and inability to read was definitely not a normal thing, right?

Keith shrugged it off for now and concentrated on reading. By the end of their session, he managed to read six sentences. He was almost starting to warm up to logotherapy, though when Adam asked him to read them aloud as well, Keith’s confidence vanished in a matter of minutes.

 

After the therapy, Keith decided to head to the common room in hopes of finding Lance, Pidge, Matt, or the others there. He still had to use his walker, but it was noticeable how much he had improved. While he still practically dragged his legs to move forward, his movements were faster. It felt a bit more natural. He didn’t have to concentrate on every single step.

The room was practically empty when he arrived. It could’ve been because most patients were at therapy or enjoying the good weather outside. Yeah, that was most likely the reason. There was, however, a young woman sitting on one of the couches, that Keith hasn’t seen around before.

“Uhm, hi… I’m waiting for Lance, have you seen him?” The woman asked as soon as Keith entered her field of vision. Now that he could see her face, Keith realized just how much she resembled Lance. She must’ve been a family member of his. From what Keith experienced the last time the McClains visited, he could tell today wasn’t going to be a chill day either. He shook his head after he processed the question and made his way to one of the tables. Grabbing one of the hand-eye coordination games there, he didn’t pay much attention to Lance’s relative anymore.

Until the door opened again and Lance stepped through. Keith looked up, just to see immediately in what bad shape his friend was. His limp seemed way worse than it did most days and he was holding onto the furniture near him as he approached the woman, as if he felt dizzy and could lose his balance any moment.

“Hi, Veronica… Long time no see,” Lance flashed her a smile and sat down next to her. He didn’t seem to have noticed Keith, but Keith didn’t mind at all. He would have time to ask him about last night later.

Veronica frowned and started asking Lance about what had happened to him. Because obviously, something was off, despite Lance denying that fact.

The possibility, that Lance simply didn’t remember popped up in Keith’s mind. Of course, he had kind of expected that already. Nevertheless, his suspicion on what could’ve happened to Lance concerned him. Because he last saw – or rather heard – Lance with Dr. Sendak and Professor Zarkon, and they definitely weren’t talking about anything positive. Keith automatically concluded that they should not be trusted.

‘Room 327.’

Keith waited until the familiar echoing in his head subsided. The voice, good as always at association games, probably reminded him about the room because his thoughts about Zarkon and Sendak.

He shifted in his chair, facing the table again. There was no chance he could go to the third floor right now, in broad daylight. There was no chance he would not get caught.

‘Thalamus. Gray. They’re out of control. Room 327.’

Keith bit his lip. The voice usually didn’t say so much in one go, it must’ve meant this was really important… Then again, why should he trust the voice? He’s still recovering, he shouldn’t take on such a stupid, senseless adventure.

‘Lance.’

“Keith! Hey buddy, thanks for returning my notebook! This is Veronica, my sister, by the way. Veronica, this is Keith, the guy I’ve told you about...” Keith was caught by surprise as Lance turned to him, clearly only noticing him now. His sister waved at Keith with a smile.

The voice was playing games with him now, he was sure. What was ‘Lance’ supposed to mean? Was he involved in this mess too? Or was it supposed to be a technique to manipulate Keith into visiting room 327 again?

The only reason Keith was going to sneak to the third floor now was because if he didn’t, the voice would’ve kept bothering him until he did.

He returned the wave and the smile, then grabbed his walker and started making his way towards the door.

“Leaving so soon? Did I say something wrong?” He could hear Lance’s voice behind him.

Keith glanced back after he came to a halt. It would be too awkward now not to reply. “Uh… uh… L… Mu-L...” He groaned. Why would he try speaking again when he knew very well it wasn’t going to get him anywhere. Oh well, time for the good old pantomime method. He pointed to his stomach and then in the direction of the cafeteria, which was left to the common room if he wasn’t mistaken.

“Do you mean lunch?” Veronica asked with a smile, speaking slowly and clearly, like most of the staff here. She probably had experience with talking to TBI patients, Lance to be exact.

Keith nodded thankfully and resumed walking, muttering his sorry excuse of a ‘bye’.

Once he was outside the common room, he headed to the elevator. Mostly because he couldn’t take the stairs with a walker, but also because it would more likely go unnoticed if he went to the third floor. He could always just blame it on his brain that he pressed the wrong button.

He was more than five feet away from the elevator when that typical ‘cling’ sound could be heard and the doors of the elevator slid open. Keith was about to step aside when he noticed that the elevator was empty.

Uhm… Strange. But okay. It was nothing that much out of the ordinary.

He stepped into the elevator without any second thoughts and pressed the button with the ‘3’ on it. There was something written next to the button, but, well, Keith was obviously unable to read it. It probably said something like ‘adult ward’ or such. It didn’t matter.

There seemed to be a lump forming in Keith’s throat as he waited for the elevator to reach the third floor. He was starting to get goosebumps from the anxiety that was creeping up in his mind and making him imagine the worst possible outcomes. Trying to stay reasonable, he took deep breaths until he calmed down. It was going to be fine. Like Lance had said yesterday: when in doubt, he could still act like he had no idea how he had gotten there.

The elevator stopped moving, and Keith gripped his walker so tight that his knuckles turned white. He couldn’t wait to just step out this thing and hurry down the hallway.

The doors didn’t open. Keith could hear that ‘cling’ sound again that showed that the elevator had reached the right floor, but the doors didn’t open. The doors. Didn’t. Open.

Great, his plan failed before he even started executing it. Only because this damn elevator broke and trapped him here inside.

Keith was about to throw his walker against the doors in frustration when his ears picked up a voice right on the other side of the metal.

“Nyma, I think it broke. We can take the stairs. You can go to your patients, I’ll report the issue to the porter in the meantime.”

That was Shiro’s voice. And they were probably going to leave right away. How convenient.

Keith counted to ten before daring to make a noise again. Shiro and Nyma – a nurse too, probably – must’ve been out of hearing distance by now. He leaned against the wall of the elevator and buried his head in his palms. How was he going to get out of this one? It wouldn’t have been a wise decision to press the alarm button on the elevator, he would only gain more attention with that.

Barely three seconds later, the doors just…opened. Without any help. Had Shiro gotten help so fast?

Surprised and confused, Keith stepped into the hallway. It was a lot brighter than he remembered, for obvious reasons, and it didn’t seem as mysterious. Well, it looked more or less like the second floor, except that the hallway was filled with elderly instead of teens, with a few middle-aged adults here and there. A few glances shifted to Keith, but they didn’t linger long.

Keith gulped and started moving forwards. Being seen by other patients wasn’t that bad – as long as no one from the staff noticed him.

The further he made it down the hall, the lesser people were sitting outside of their rooms. He supposed it was because the comatose patients didn’t need to be close to the elevator anyway, so it was just easier to put them at the end of the hall.

Three more doors, then he would get to the fire door. Which he, by the way, didn’t even remember from last night. He glanced behind him just to make sure once more that he was a, alone, and b, going the right way.

‘Room 327.’ The voice reminded him one more time before he opened the fire door and saw the room of 327 for the second time.

There were no doctors around this time, he could safely sneak in and check out this place. He stepped closer and grabbed the door handle, pressing it down, and-

Well, pressing down and realizing the door was locked. That made sense since this was a staff-only area. As he took a step back, he noticed a small gray square at the wall next to the door, one of those little devices where you had to slide your card into to open the door.

Keith grimaced and accepted that there was no way he could gain entry to the room. Not today, at least. He also had no chance to figure out what the room was for. An important piece of information that for sure would’ve helped him find out what was going on in this rehabilitation hospital.

He did however learn that there was a flight of stairs at this end of the hallway as well, which he hadn’t noticed until now. He wasn’t sure what to do with this information since he couldn’t take the stairs yet.

One thing he knew, however, was that someone was coming up those stairs.

Keith’s eyes widened as he looked around, looking for a hiding place in a panic. Getting his walker through the fire door would be difficult, and he wasn’t sure how much time he had left before the person reached the top of those stairs.

He hurried towards the fire door without his walker, holding himself up by leaning on the walls, stumbling and almost falling quite a few times. After he pushed open the fire door, he automatically made his way to the closest room, 326, the room he hid in last night as well.

The white-haired man was still there, and Blaytz’s former bed was still empty. Everything was like he had left it.

Keith made his way to the empty bed and sat down exhausted. It was kind of disrespectful, he knew, but he was close to collapsing from the stress, and the room seemed to be lacking any chairs. The poor old guy didn’t get a lot of visitors, Keith guessed.

He eventually changed his position into laying after a few minutes. He didn’t dare leave this room again, not after his walker was most likely found. The person who must’ve found it didn’t necessarily know it was his, but it was better to stay here to avoid becoming the main suspect.

 

A soft voice was talking to him, and the owner of that voice was gently shaking his shoulder.

“Keith, it’s time to wake up...”

As he slowly opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was the face of Romelle. What was she doing here? Also, when did he fall asleep?

“Everyone is looking for you. You didn’t show up to therapy and we couldn’t find you anywhere. I’m guessing you sleepwalked again, but how did no one notice you going up the stairs?”

Keith frowned at that last sentence. He had entertained half of the third floor by demonstrating his walker-using skills in front of them. Why didn’t they report seeing him here?

“Come on, I should bring you back to your room. You’d rather sleep in your bed, am I right?” Romelle asked with a bright smile and helped him up from the bed.

 

After they returned Keith to his room and assured everyone that he was fine, Shiro decided it would be best to let him stay in bed for the rest of the day as well. Keith had to admit that he was very thankful for Shiro for making that decision. Wandering around the rehab center at night did also mean that he wasn’t getting enough sleep, and the consequences of these actions were starting to show.

To his disappointment, no one actually knew that he hadn’t had lunch – they all believed, because of Veronica’s retelling of what had happened, that he first ate something at the cafeteria before getting a nap. And no one bothered to ask the staff at the cafeteria apparently.

The dinner was quite delicious though; sage tea, along with a small soup and chicken with rice. It kind of made up for the missed lunch.

Keith’s heavy eyelids were practically begging him to close them. He hadn’t even realized how tired he actually was until he was under the covers and had a full stomach. Shiro was understanding and even encouraged Keith to go to sleep quickly, since ‘getting enough sleep was helping him heal’ and ‘a tired brain won’t recover as fast’.

After receiving the usual ‘good night’, ‘sweet dreams’ and such, Keith was finally left alone, and he hoped, almost prayed, that he would actually sleep through the entire night this time without leaving his bed.

Of course, due to the fact that this was Voltron Rehabilitation Center and that he had the worst luck in the entire universe, Keith wouldn’t get a good night’s rest. Why would he? There was no reason why he would’ve deserved it, right?

Still, it was kind of a surprise when he, sound asleep (and wishing it would stay that way as well), felt a sudden pressure on his chest and heard a quiet but clearly audible whisper.

“Keith. Keith, you have to check this out.”

Chapter Text

The alarms went off in Keith’s head and he opened his eyes immediately, expecting to see Lotor or some other figure leaning above him with a pillow, ready to murder him.

He released the breath he wasn’t aware he was holding as soon as the figure next to his bed turned on the lamp on his bedside table, illuminating the face of none other than Lance.

“Thank god you’re awake. You have to see this.”

Keith sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes with his wrists, trying to figure out what the quiznak was going on. What time was it? Why was Lance here? What was he talking about?

All this question, and only an amnesiac to answer them.

As he looked around the room, he discovered that it was clearly the middle of the night. It should’ve been obvious since everything even mildly exciting in this hospital happened at night.

The night also meant that he was able to speak.

“What is going on? Why did you decide that I’m the best person to bother?”

“You’re the only one here I know, duh.” Lance, who, strangely enough, was wearing at least four layers of shirts and jackets despite the temperature being pretty decent, whispered and pulled on Keith’s arm, probably with the intention of yanking Keith out of his bed.

Oh, right. So he remembered last night. But not today. Weird, but not something Keith wasn’t used to at this point. They could’ve told him Pidge was actually a robot, and that wouldn’t have surprised him.

“Not this again. You don’t remember your sister visiting you today, I suppose?” Keith asked, just to be sure he wasn’t mistaken. Lance’s unsure headshake and his confused expression already answered that for him though.

“Look, I have no clue what you’re talking about… again. But I have other things to worry about. Like the fact that half of the beds, on this floor at least, are empty.”

“Excuse me, what?” Keith first looked at Lance, then at Lotor’s empty bed. If one patient could just leave their room, why wouldn’t the others be able to?

“You heard me right, now come on.” With that, Lance threw a sweatshirt at him and started heading for the door.

Keith climbed out of bed and followed him after a few seconds of staring at the piece of clothing in surprise. He also started putting on Lance’s sweatshirt – he did it automatically without really thinking about it; and besides, there must’ve been a reason Lance gave it to him, or perhaps it was actually from Keith’s closet and there was nothing to it.

While he was stumbling through his room, he kept staring at the empty bed next to his own. That wasn’t anything unusual, Lotor was missing almost every night. Half of the beds on the whole floor being empty, though… It must’ve been chaos outside.

To his surprise though, he was met with the same dimly lit, empty hallway once they left the room. Only the sound of heavy rain outside made tonight different.

“Are you sure, Lance? Maybe it was just a dream?” Keith turned to the brown haired boy with a frown, but Lance’s gaze was determined and sure.

‘Gray.’

The voice was quieter this time, almost as if it didn’t want to disturb Keith and Lance. It still managed to get Keith’s full attention despite that.

‘What’s gray?’ He thought. If he had been able to communicate with the voice during the day, it was guaranteed the same during the night.

‘They’re out of control.’

‘Yeah, but what’s gray? Is the thing that’s out of control also gray?’ Keith was becoming frustrated with the lack of response after that. The voice was doing the same thing it had been doing this morning, getting his hopes up and then completely disappearing.

Keith had only noticed now that Lance had stayed still during his short conversation with the voice; standing in the middle of the hallway, looking at him expectantly. It was creeping him out. He took a step back, but Lance didn’t move. Once he cleared his throat, though, Lance jumped a little as if the noise had completely surprised him.

“What was that?” Keith furrowed his brows, his eyes still fixed on Lance, ready to defend himself at any moment.

“Huh? Sorry, I just got lost in my thoughts for a second.” Lance shook his head and turned on his heels. “Let’s go to my room first, I can show you my roommate’s empty bed.”

Keith sighed and followed Lance. Should he tell him about the voice? He had already tried telling his friends about it at the beginning of his stay, but they had dismissed it. Lance was different, though, he was awake at night too and he had witnessed some strange stuff along with him. Despite that, he had never mentioned a voice and he had been acting kind of weird just a few seconds ago – which slightly reminded him of that one guy’s behavior who had attempted to murder him that one time. Ah, nice memories.

Before he could come to a decision, they had already reached room 207. Lance entered without any hesitation.

Keith was met with the sight of two empty beds and one of the most chaotic rooms he had ever seen. It didn’t look like a hospital room at all.

Half of the room looked decent, though. It had the bedside table with personal belongings, mainly books and snacks, and the hospital bed with the casual light blue sheets.

However, the other half…

The best way to describe it would probably be to just say that the walls were covered in photos, sticky notes, and posters. There was one poster that stuck out the most. It was on the wall across the bed, with big black letters letting the reader know that they had suffered brain injury and were now in Voltron Rehabilitation Center. Keith guessed such posters were in the rooms of every patient with amnesia.

All the sticky notes and photos must’ve been there to help Lance keep track of his and his family’s most important memories in the past year. That way, Lance wouldn’t have to read everything in his notebook every time he forgot about something.

The thought of it was heart-wrenching, especially once Keith discovered one sticky note in the corner letting Lance know that his abuelo had passed away in November. It truly brought it into perspective just how much Lance had missed during his one year in the hospital. And who knows how much longer he’ll have to stay here. Keith could now understand why Lance would freak out every time his parents visited. His family must’ve changed so much.

Keith’s thoughts were interrupted when Lance gave him a gentle push to get closer to Hunk’s bed. “See?”

Right, he didn’t have time to think about Lance right now. The current situation was way more important.

“Who else is missing?” Keith shifted his eyes to Lance, who looked no less worried or confused than he was.

“I haven’t been to every room… But from what I’ve seen, one of the beds is empty in every room. I don’t know them all by names, of course.”

“So... There’s a pattern?”

Lance shrugged. “I guess, yeah. It still makes no sense, though. And I haven’t seen them anywhere. They’re gone. Disappeared into thin air.”

“Well, they have to be somewhere.” Keith crossed his arms and sat down on Hunk’s bed.

“Thanks, captain obvious. It’s just that we have no idea where they actually are, and I don’t wanna go to the nurses’ office about it because the staff here is up to no good, judging from what we saw a few hours ago.”

Keith sighed. Lance was right, they didn’t know who to trust here. Still, it would’ve been so much easier to just go to Shiro or Allura and show them one of the beds. Didn’t they, like, go around at night? After all, Shiro discovered Lance in the pool when he was taking a walk on that floor.

“Let’s go look for them.” Lance breathed out quickly, almost as if he’d kind of hoped it would go unnoticed by Keith.

It took Keith a few seconds to find the right words. He looked surprised, to say the least, and, well, also somewhat impressed, although he wasn’t sure why. Going out there in the middle of the night was basically a death sentence for people like them, considering that not every patient was that benevolent. “Are you sure? Lotor...”

“What else can we do? Would you rather spend the rest of your stay here having no idea what’s going on?”

“...Fine. Let’s go.”

 

“So Matthew, James, Lotor, Shay, Nadia, and two more girls on this floor. Do any of these names ring a bell?” Lance asked, turning to Keith after he closed the door of room 215.

“I’ve met Matt and Shay – and Lotor I guess, but I only heard about James from his roommate. I don’t know the others.” Keith shrugged, then quickly added “Don’t ask me where they could be though, I have absolutely no clue.” as soon as Lance opened his mouth to speak.

“Hm...I suggest we go to the first floor, then. I mean they might’ve sleepwalked to somewhere they know. The cafeteria is on that floor, right?”

Keith nodded and Lance grabbed his arm right away to pull him towards the staircase. His grip wasn’t strong, just enough for Lance to be able to lead Keith, but it was by no means hurting him.

Suddenly, as they were about eight feet from the staircase, Lance stopped abruptly, causing Keith to do the same.

His gaze was fixed on one point in the wall and he didn’t move a muscle. He was acting exactly like before when the voice was talking to Keith.

Before Keith could say anything though, he was back to normal again. Well, except for a deep frown that was on his features now.

“Let’s take the elevator. There’s someone on the stairs.” Lance whispered and steered towards the elevator, which soon started coming to their floor – without anyone pushing the button, Keith noted.

“Are you sure? Did you hear footsteps?”

Lance shrugged. “Yeah. Now come on.” He stepped into the elevator, followed by Keith.

They reached the first floor without any trouble and hurried down the hallway towards the cafeteria.

“We should check all rooms on this floor. I mean, they probably go to the common room just as often, don’t you think?” Keith mumbled.

Lance seemingly didn’t find this question worthy of an answer, and instead jogged up to the cafeteria entrance. The automatic doors didn’t open.

“Hm, would be reasonable to close it when nobody is using it, I guess. But they definitely don’t close off the pool if you had been able to wander in, we should try that next.” While pondering the next room to visit, Keith leaned forward to the glass doors and peered into the darkness, trying to make out the tables or chairs inside.

“No need to. I think I’ve found them.”

That caught Keith’s attention and he jumped up, joining Lance on the bench under the window he was looking out of.

“There, in the yard. Those shadows kinda look like people.” Lance pointed at something through the window. Once Keith finally noticed said shadows, he too, admitted that they resembled people. A small crowd, maybe fifteen, standing in a circle in the middle of the yard. They didn’t seem to be moving a muscle. The whole scene sent chills down Keith’s spine.

“How high are the chances that there’s a secret cult run by some patients here?” Keith asked, trying to make it sound like a joke. He wasn’t afraid of the people in the yard, more like the possibility that he could develop some similar weird habits after trauma.

Lance sighed. “At least we found them. We can go back to our rooms and-”

“No way. I have to figure out what’s going on.” Before Lance could finish his sentence, Keith was already hurrying down the hallway, looking for the closest door leading into the yard. He found it three minutes later across from some kind of therapy rooms.

Keith was super thankful for Lance’s sweater. It was a lot colder outside than he had originally thought.

“So, how close should we get? I mean, I don’t think we’ll be welcomed if we get noticed.” Lance whispered.

Keith sighed and started moving closer to the circle of patients, hiding behind benches, bushes, trees, and trashcans in the process. Lance followed close behind, even though he seemed to be a lot more cynical about the logicality of Keith’s decisions.

They were about five feet away from the others when Keith came to a stop. From there, they would be able to hear what was said and would be able to make out the figures with some effort. One silhouette he recognized right away was none other than Lotor, which didn’t exactly put him at ease.

“It’s the right time for it.” That was the first thing they heard. It wasn’t louder than a whisper, but it had been spoken clear and audibly. Keith turned to Lance, hoping to see a sign that Lance had recognized the voice, but he was met with the same confused expression that must’ve been on his face.

“This is new.” This voice, though, was familiar. He had heard it several times this week and knew that it was unmistakably Matt’s. It sounded monotone and emotionless, though, as if someone had programmed a robot to sound exactly like Matt.

“Better, better, better…” The others echoed that like a chant, just as robot-like as Matt.

Their voices gave Keith shivers. The darkness around him seemed so endless and felt so threatening. He could barely see anything, if Lotor would suddenly show up, he wouldn’t have a chance to escape. Not only Lotor. Apparently, Matt and pretty much half of the second floor were on his side. The memory of being smothered was still vividly in his mind. He didn’t really wish to repeat that experience. Now that he thought about it, his almost-murderer was probably between those people. If he tried to do it once, he surely will try to do it a second time. And if the others join in, there’s no way he would survive the night. Fifteen against two…

Keith didn’t even notice he was breathing heavily until Lance made him aware of that by grabbing his shoulder. He motioned towards the circle in front of them and mouthed something Keith couldn’t understand. When Keith raised his eyebrows, Lance sighed and repeated himself, this time actually speaking. “What are they talking about?”

“Back.” A girl whispered, and the circle began to disband, with each member taking a different route to get back inside. Keith could register some familiar figures passing them, like Hunk or Lotor, but he knew it wasn’t the right time to go up to them. He just had to hope they would go unnoticed.

Ten minutes went by before the two of them dared to leave their hiding spot. None of them had said anything, mainly because they couldn’t formulate a single sentence with the storm of thoughts raging inside their heads. At least that was the case with Keith. Though, Lance most likely shared his confusion. What they’d just witnessed made absolutely no sense. Neither one could figure out the context of the words that had been spoken by the little group. Geez, they didn’t even know how it was possible for some of the patients to be there. Lotor couldn’t even eat independently during the day.

Once inside, they headed towards the staircase. Using the elevator again would’ve made too much noise and it must’ve been around one in the morning or so. If the nurses working night-shift were still awake, they would notice the elevator for sure.

“I told you to mind your own business,” Lotor said, standing on the last step of the staircase, gripping the armrest.
For a moment, both Keith and Lance stared at Lotor with mouths agape, not knowing what to say or what to do. The way to their rooms was blocked, the cafeteria on this floor was closed, so either they could go outside into the frozen cold again or try escaping through the main entrance, risking getting discovered by the porter or the caretaker. Their only possible escape route could’ve been the delivery entrance, but they had no idea where to find that, meaning that that was out of the question too.

Lance reacted first – which wasn’t difficult, considering Keith was practically frozen in place – and pushed Keith in the opposite direction, away from Lotor. They slowly picked up their pace as Keith came out of his shock a, bolting down the hallway as quiet as possible. Keith got ushered through a door by Lance for the second time this week, except that Lance joined him this time and closed the door behind them.

There was a short staircase (wheelchair accessible, of course), leading to a small room with a few doors on the side and a pair of automatic ones in the middle.

“Trust me, I know my way around here.” Lance smiled – the first smile from him Keith has seen this night – and made his way through the small room.

Keith was about to point out that Lance has amnesia and that he highly doubted he knew the place well considering he didn’t even believe he was a patient here when the smell of chlorine reached his nose.

“Lance, is this the pool?” He asked with a frown, questioning why Lance decided the pool would be a good way to escape from Lotor if it had only one exit, the one they just went through right in front of Lotor. Then again, this would explain why Lance ‘knew his way around here’. He almost drowned here a few days ago.

“Exactly. Come on.” Lance led Keith through the automatic doors, which, for whatever reason, weren’t closed at this time of day. So the patients were allowed to go for a quick swim but they couldn’t grab a quick snack in the cafeteria? How unfair, especially considering one of these two had way fewer safety risks. Keith did not consider choking on an apple a serious safety risk.

The pool in front of them wasn’t that deep, probably around three or four feet. It was nothing dangerous for patients with restricted movement abilities if they were being supervised. But there was obviously no one there besides them and maybe Lotor. So no supervision.

Still, that didn’t hold Lance back from slowly going down the ramp into the water. He seemed to be enjoying it, grinning at Keith while taking steps towards the middle of the pool. No signs of trauma whatsoever.

“Is climbing into the pool really necessary? With our clothes on?” Keith asked reluctantly, his eyes constantly shifting between the door and Lance. Lotor could’ve gotten there any moment.

“I don’t think he’ll be looking for us here. Besides, did you see him? He was holding onto that staircase like his life depended on it, he obviously needs assistance to stay upright. He wouldn’t be able to get to the middle of the pool before we have a chance to escape.”

That reasoning was good enough to convince Keith, who hurried into the water right away without even taking Lance’s sweatshirt off. Barely a second later, they could hear the door open and someone step inside.

The water was comfortably luke-warm, but the wet clothes were pulling Keith down. Luckily, it was much easier to move than during the day, and he reached Lance without any difficulties.

“Everything okay?” Lance murmured, with half of his face submerged in water since he was squatting a little. Keith nodded and mimicked his actions after making sure he would still be able to breathe through his nose. He raised an eyebrow as a way to return the question, to make sure Lance was alright too. He was, according to himself, and Keith decided not to worry about it further.

The steps outside indicated that Lotor searched the changing rooms first. This gave Keith some time to calm down and take some deep breaths, though he still couldn’t bring himself to think about all that had happened this night. His brain was in overload and the slight waves that his movements caused just made it worse.

What also made it worse was the slight buzzing in the back of his head that appeared out of nowhere. ‘Get help. They’re out of control.’

Keith’s hand covered his ears automatically, but, of course, that didn’t do anything.

‘Look for help. Get out of here. Quick.’

He was faintly aware of Lance putting a hand on his back and saying something to him, but he didn’t bother to find out what it was. He couldn’t bring himself to care.

‘Thalamus means chamber. Out of control. Get out of here and get help. Storm.’

There was nothing he remembered after that. His vision became blurred first before turning completely black.

Chapter Text

A quiet beeping beside him. A surface under him that definitely wasn’t water, though he couldn’t tell what else he could be laying on. His clothes were wet. Wet and cold.

The aching numbness in his left hand was probably the worst part. He balled it into a fist, but it didn’t make a difference.

Where was he? Did someone fish him out of the pool (-heh-) and bring him back to his room? No, he didn’t remember his bed being so… firm and cold. Unless someone did bring him to his room but forgot to place him on the bed. Maybe they left him on the floor.

Then again, if he was lying on the floor, it didn’t necessarily have to be the floor of his room. Maybe he was dumped into a hallway after he fell asleep because people didn’t want to hear his snoring – not that he was the snoring type, of course.

Groaning, Keith started rubbing his head. It kind of hurt. What had happened? Lance had been with him, and… Not entirely sure what they had been doing. But Lance wasn’t here anymore, that’s for sure. He wouldn’t have let Keith sleep for so long. Granted, Keith had only experienced it once, but he had the impression that Lance had an extraordinary talent of not letting people sleep.

He warily opened his eyes. It was still dark. The floor was wooden if he wasn’t mistaken. Not that it mattered, except for the fact that so far, he had only encountered linoleum floors at the rehabilitation center. Concluding, it was definitely not his room he was in.

After propping himself up and taking a better look around the room, Keith decided that he was still in a room of a patient. Despite the many differences between his and this room, it was still obvious that it wasn’t just some normal guest bedroom or something.

There was only one bed, but it was surrounded by medical equipment. A heart monitor, IV stands – more than one – and a bunch of other stuff Keith didn’t know the function of. Not like it mattered that much, anyway. The TV on the wall across the bed was bigger and more modern looking than the ones on his floor. Several flower pots with exotic looking flowers decorated the room, and there even were two armchairs in the corner with a small coffee table. A huge luxury for a hospital room. Keith wasn’t sure if the flowers weren’t breaking a rule in the hospital etiquette, though. All in all, it wasn’t a hard task to figure out that the relatives of this patient must’ve had a big fortune. Paying for this whole thing was definitely not cheap.

Keith stepped closer to the bed, now shifting his focus on the patient herself. It was a woman in her thirties, probably. Slightly darker complexion and dark hair, a thin white scar starting on her forehead and running across the top of her head.

She looked so peaceful in her sleep. As if she had nothing to worry about. Pretty unusual to see in a hospital of some sorts.

Against his better judgment, Keith reached for the clipboard at the end of the woman’s bed. Surprisingly, he didn’t find much on it. Only her name. That’s all. No description of the injury’s circumstances, no list of weird terms informing the reader of her medical history. Just that. ‘Hana Stark’. The name didn’t ring a bell, and Keith didn’t remember seeing her around.

What was Keith doing here then? How did he get here? And where was Lance? Had he been sleepwalking again, even though he hadn’t even been asleep? Was that even possible?

Keith bit his lip and gently grabbed the woman’s shoulder, shaking it just a bit. Maybe she could tell him where he was. “Hey, excuse me, ma’am…” He whispered and stopped abruptly soon after. Maybe the woman was in a coma. The heart monitor would make a lot more sense then. If so, he was wasting his time trying to wake her up. Even if she were just a heavy sleeper, Keith was a jerk for disturbing her for his own selfish needs like trying to get to his room.

Besides, what was stopping him? There was a white door just behind him. The best way to discover where he was would be by exploring the place.

Being as quiet as possible, he turned around and opened the door. He was met with an empty hallway looking similar to the one on his floor. Only that there was way less stuff laying around on chairs and small tables. Actually, there weren’t even chairs and tables here. Probably meaning that whoever lived on this floor was either able to walk perfectly and didn’t need to sit down for a pause sometimes, or that the patients weren’t able to walk at all, or didn’t leave their rooms. Most likely the latter, unless ‘Hana Stark’ was an exception.

As Keith continued going through the hallway, he came to the realization that most of the rooms here were offices. That made the room of that woman stand out even more.

Now that he was in the long hallway with not much to do besides dragging himself towards the stairs, Keith also started noticing that he was freezing. He blamed it on the wet clothes and the open windows. The reason why he was wet though - he had absolutely no clue, and he probably would never be able to find out.

He glanced through a window he passed and got a glimpse of a yard. A yard he knew. It was the yard the meeting of Lotor and his little friends had taken place in. Keith could still remember that.

The things they had said didn’t make sense in the slightest. Not without any context. ‘It’s the right time’ - for what, exactly? And what was better, the thing that was new? Keith’s question made just as much sense as things the patients had said, and there weren’t even answers.

In the meantime, Keith had reached the staircase and was now slowly going down the stairs. Slower than usual.

 

At least now he knew that he was still at the rehab center. He only had to find the exit leading to the yard and he had finally got out of the side building. Because that’s apparently what it was. Just a second building a little further away from the yard that he had never noticed before.

From that point, his brain turned on autopilot and he was barely aware that he was crossing the yard and heading towards the side entrance. The only thing Keith comprehended was how tired and cold he was. Not even his concern of Lotor finding him again could get in the way.

The first thing he noticed when he stepped inside was Shiro walking down the hallway towards the main entrance, head buried in a stack of papers in his hands and definitely not paying attention to his surroundings. He was probably about to go home for his day off, judging from the casual clothes he was wearing.

But if Keith went up to him, he would surely help him get back to his room and put on some warm clothes…

‘Don’t. Turn right and hide,’ The voice in his head commanded sternly, but Keith had no intention to do what it said. He didn’t want to put up with its absurd shenanigans again.

Suddenly, Keith froze. He tried to get his legs to move forward, but they instead turned and started heading right, towards a room Keith remembered to be a small waiting area for the parents for when they visited. No matter how hard he tried, his body just wouldn’t obey him. Well, he was kind of used to that since he wasn’t able to move his body at all just a few weeks ago, but this was a lot different.

Becoming more and more desperate, he grabbed the wall and tried to stop himself. His arms let go of it almost immediately and he couldn’t move them anymore. When he tried to call for Shiro to help him, it was as if his jaw was stuck in its place, and he simply couldn’t open his mouth. There he was, silently struggling, tears forming in his eyes, as his body was dragging itself towards somewhere he didn’t want to be. All the while he was shivering and about to collapse from exhaustion.

He could only watch as his body did whatever it wanted. Well, technically, his body should’ve been controlled by his brain, but it just didn’t listen. As if someone else was lurking in the back of his mind and messing everything up. Was this what it would’ve been like to be possessed?

To his luck, whatever was controlling his body didn’t expect the door to make such a loud noise when it was opened. Shiro jolted up and hurried over to Keith, who had fallen to the ground just milliseconds ago. Again, not because he wanted to.

Shiro just stared at him with wide eyes for a good ten seconds. Keith didn’t blame him. He must’ve been a sight to see. Laying on the ground in a fetal position and quietly crying, clothes and hair wet as if he’d just fallen into a lake. And it would be worth mentioning that he was still on the first floor, where he definitely didn’t belong. Not at night, or rather, at quarter to four in the morning.

“Keith? What- How-” The nurse knelt beside him and hesitantly ran his hand through Keith’s wet hair, all this while trying to form a sentence. “Are you okay?” Was all that he could manage in the end.

He received a vehement headshake as an answer. No, Keith definitely wasn’t okay. At all. The furthest thing from okay, perhaps.

 

It took two nurses an hour until Keith was back in his bed with warm clothes and dry hair. Shiro, being the angel he is, had stayed as long as it took him to comfort Keith and make sure he was okay. He and Allura had helped their patient into some fresh clothes after a warm bath and ran all sorts of tests on him to ensure he wasn’t going to get sick. They had also tried their best to give emotional support and find out what had happened, but Keith was seemingly too shaken up to even attempt answering their questions.

Keith didn’t particularly care if they held him for a coward or an idiot afterward. Maybe they didn’t even question it, Keith wasn’t in his top form mentally after all. Perhaps they figured he was starting to develop PTSD. That still wouldn’t have explained why he had been soaking wet, though, but as long as he didn’t catch a cold again, that wouldn’t have mattered that much. Keith would be able to explain everything after he calmed down, hopefully.

From now on being able to speak from experience, Keith could swear there was nothing worse than not being able to control his own body. And he had all right to be upset. Who knows when this would happen again. And he couldn’t even explain it to anyone since he wasn’t able to talk or write. Maybe his body will be out of his control the next time Lotor decides it’s time for his little games again, and Keith will have no time to defend himself…

Wait. Out of control. Is that what the voice meant? That his body is out of control?

But what about the voice? How did it know about it all? Was it responsible for all of this? It would make sense, the voice must be in his head as well, somehow the two things could be connected.

Knowing that information would’ve probably made him relieved, except that he still couldn’t do anything about it. His head was a ticking bomb that could decide to lose control again whenever it wanted. And it was all in his brain, there was no chance he could try to solve the problem on his own.

Sometimes, crying was the only option. And Keith hated it. But he hated being helpless even more. Bottling up his emotions wouldn’t work this time. Not when the problems were already overflowing and he had no choice but to sit back and wait, wondering who will die first, and if this will ever stop. So far, it didn’t seem like it would.

Keith bit his lip and buried his head in his pillow. Lotor – who had of course been back in their room when the nurses brought Keith back – might not be able to see him, but Keith still felt as if he was invading his privacy just by being in the room. How dare he just lay there all day and then threaten to murder him at night, still keeping his status as ‘poor helpless young man’ in the eyes of everyone but Keith? Why did he have to be the only one to see what was really going on?

For all he knew, these weren’t even some hallucinations he could take meds for. Meds didn’t make his clothes wet or smother him.

At least, if there was one positive thing about crying, it was that it helped him fall asleep. That didn’t make up for all the negative aspects, of course, but at least his brain was peaceful while he slept.

 

 

‘Get help. Storm.’

Keith sighed and took another bite of his cupcake. The voice was a really untalented meteorologist. The sun was shining bright and there weren’t even any clouds in sight.

In the last few days, the voice’s credibility was in the gutter in general. Keith hadn’t had any sleepwalking episodes and the voice hadn’t stopped talking about some storm and about something gray. Perhaps the meds they had given Keith to calm him down weren’t exactly cooperating with his developing schizophrenia. At least he guessed that’s what he had.

He finished his food and stood up, carefully taking the plate in his hand while his other one held the walker before a staff member hurried up to him and took his plate from him to avoid another one breaking that day. The first one had been Hunk’s... It’s a long story.

After successfully returning everything, he left the cafeteria to head to his therapy session with Romelle. Despite all the stuff that’s been going on, he still had to fight through hours and hours of therapy to repair his brain. Well, putting it that way made it sound better than it actually was.

Pidge almost ran him over when he stepped out of the cafeteria. She and Lance were storming down the hallway and hadn’t noticed Keith until now. After Pidge managed to stop her wheelchair just at the right moment, Lance walked back to them as well, greeting Keith with a bright smile.

“Hey, wanna play some board games in the common room? Allura told Pidge they have bought a new memory game.”

Keith could see Pidge’s amused expression from the corner of his eyes. He shook his head, about to turn on his heels, when someone grabbed his shirt.

“Keith, you have barely hung out with us in the last few days… Are you okay?” The worry in Pidge’s voice was something he had never heard before this time, and he had to say, it genuinely surprised him; he had forgotten to consider that his friends could’ve noticed his rather odd behavior. Might’ve been because he was too busy with overthinking everything to worry about such unimportant stuff as playing snakes and ladders or uno.

“Trust me, cutting off contact with everyone isn’t the right choice. We understand if you find it hard to deal with what has happened to you, but this is not the correct way to do it. You’re going to stay here for a while, might as well have fun during that time.” Lance chimed in, giving Keith the brightest smile he could manage.

Keith returned the smile and made a dismissive hand motion, then tapped his wrist twice and started pantomiming brushing his teeth.

“Oh, it’s time for your ergotherapy? Sorry to bother you then. But you’re still welcomed to join us after you’re finished.”

He nodded, then turned around once more and set off towards the therapy rooms on the other side of the building.

Lance, of course, still didn’t remember anything from their adventures together. Just like before, he was acting as normal as ever. Chaotic, sure, but cheerful, friendly, and seemingly lacking any of the confusion and concern Keith’s head was filled with. And to make matters worse, there wasn’t even any evidence that Lance had been with Keith when he witnessed the ‘nightly meeting’ of Lotor and others on his floor. He had had dry clothes on and had been lying in his bed when the nurses woke him up the morning after. Only Keith’s memories could serve as proof, but those were meanwhile just as untrustworthy as Lance’s. The fact that Matt didn’t remember leaving his room that night didn’t help much either.

 

The therapy session with Romelle was far from over, but no one in the room was doing anything useful. Keith was fully aware of why he hadn’t been productive at all, but at least Romelle didn’t blame him for it this time. They both spent the entire twenty minutes so far staring at each other awkwardly, trying to tune out the voices of four other staff members clearly talking about Keith in the other room.

Romelle had tried to ignore it and motivate Keith to do the same. She really did. But honestly, how was she supposed to convince him to try tying shoes when there was something going on that was way more interesting concerning him and his health?

After five or so minutes, she had enough of watching Keith’s confused face and started to explain. “They’re talking about last Tuesday. You do remember Tuesday, right?”

Keith frowned. What day was it today?

“Three days ago. Shiro and Allura finding you on the first floor, you do remember that, right?”

Finally, something he understood. A nod.

“Good. Well, they’re talking about what could have happened. Are you sure you don’t know about it yourself?” Romelle tried to hint at the soaking wet clothes.

He hesitated shortly, before shaking his head again. Better avoid possible trouble by not admitting that he climbed into the pool voluntarily and then went outside again. Being awake at that time was already bad enough for his health.

“Okay. To sum it up, Rolo and Shiro are considering to ask Dr. Trigel if it wouldn’t be wiser to just give you some extra medication to help you sleep through the night. Allura, Adam, and Nyma are arguing that the side effects wouldn’t speed up your healing process either and that the somnambulism is to be expected, considering your hypothalamus was damaged in the accident as well. The hypothalamus is partially responsible for sleep. Did that explain it to you?”

Keith nodded again, he understood most of it. So the nurses were basically just trying to find out what was wrong with him. That was nice. The words ‘hypothalamus’ and ‘somnambulism’ had also shown up in Romelle’s explanation, two words Keith now knew the meaning of, thanks to the little medical dictionary in his head in the form of the voice.

“You have nothing to worry about though, the nurses here constantly discuss such things about the patients. Though I have to admit that I’ve been wondering about the recent ‘popularity’ of sleepwalking too. Almost every patient in the last two years has done it at least once. In comparison, we’ve barely had similar cases before that. I guess times are changing, after all, VRC isn’t the only one experiencing this.” Romelle seemed to have given up on having a normal ergotherapy session with Keith today. Instead, she leaned back in her chair and started rambling about how strange this ‘sleepwalking trend’ was.

At the end of the session, Keith may have not been better at tying shoes, but he certainly had some information that may come handy later. He was perfectly satisfied with that and exited the room after saying ‘gooooied’ to Romelle. Nonetheless, she was glad he at least attempted it.

He jumped a little when Lance stepped out from behind the door once he was outside.

“So, how was therapy? Do you wanna play some Jenga?” Lance chirped nonchalantly and was already taking some steps backward while still waiting for Keith’s reply.

Keith shook his head, not only because he knew full well that Lance would beat him in any hand-eye coordination game, but also because he had more important things to do.

Passing Lance, he instead walked towards the fire door that separated the therapy rooms from the patients’ bedrooms.

“Aww, you can’t be serious Keith! Please dude, you’d be missing out on so much!” It didn’t take Lance long to be trotting behind Keith annoyed, reminding him that it was only like two in the afternoon and that it was definitely too early to take a nap.

And that hadn’t been Keith’s intention either. He slowly made his way to room 215 – he still couldn’t go that much faster with his walker – and knocked on the door. No one answered, and he figured that meant no one was there or if yes, they were asleep and wouldn’t mind him checking something out really quick.

When the two boys entered, Lance had to try his best to suppress a laugh. “You are aware that this is a girl’s room, right?” After saying that, his eyes flew over a short note scribbled on his arm with a sharpie. “Our rooms are on the other side of the hallway. Mine at least.”

Keith rolled his eyes and walked over to the bed near the window. Both beds were empty, so he didn’t have to worry about disturbing anyone. Lifting up the clipboard with patient’s information at the end of the bed caused him some difficulties – grabbing things with his whole hand was easy, now, however, he only needed to use his fingers, which was a much more complicated task – but once he managed it, he proceeded to point at it and then look at Lance hopeful. Even though he had worked on his reading a bit with Adam, it still didn’t go as unproblematic as he would’ve liked.

“What do you want with that?” Lance inquired with furrowed brows.

Three more tries. That’s how many it took to get the message across to Lance. Keith was doubting his pantomiming abilities by the second try already.

“Uh, sure. Kind of a weird request, but why not.” Shrugging, Lance took the clipboard from Keith’s hand and looked at it for a few seconds. “Hmm… Nadia Rizavi, 16, tumor in the partial lobe...” He listed the parts of the brain affected by the tumor and a bunch of other medical terms. “...ENB Gen 2.”

Keith gave him a thumbs up as a thanks, then stepped over to the next bed and pointed at the clipboard at the end of that bed.

“Geez, another? You really like learning about other’s private stuff, don’t you?”

He knew it was a joke, but Keith couldn’t help but roll his eyes. He just wanted to find out what was really going on.

“Oh well, fine.” Lance began to read the medical history of Nadia’s roommate, Ina as well. As soon as he was done, Keith led him into the next currently empty room and would ask him to read that. And so on, until they had read the information of about eight or nine people.

Much to Keith’s disappointment, there was nothing the patients had in common besides some basic stuff. He had to face it, no brain injury was the same.

He gave up after Lance had read his own medical info aloud to him. It was just like the nurses had said, damaged thalamus and hypothalamus, his Broca's area was a mess, etc. Neither he nor Lance understood even half of these terms or what they meant, but it gave him a vague idea of his situation. Which was basically that he was just really, really messed up in the head.

“Can we finally go to the common room? Keith, I don’t have the faintest idea what you’re trying to achieve, but we’ve wasted our time for at least half an hour at this point. Who knows when I’ll forget what I was doing. You won’t be able to tell me and I’ll just continue reading everyone’s private stuff to you...” Lance sighed. “Besides, Pidge probably already gave up on waiting for us in the common room. That’s an opportunity wasted, I could’ve finally won a game against her…”

He had a point. Keith agreed and stood up from his bed, reaching for his walker again.

There was barely a soul in the hallways. Every patient was either at therapy or enjoying their free time. Or they were in a coma, but that’s not the point.

Lance kept giving Keith apologetic looks from time to time, maybe even giving him a pat on the back once or twice.

“Look, I get what you feel. You’ve got nothing to do, you’re curious – I get it, really. I promise I’ll get Dr. Sendak to answer any of your questions after dinner, deal?”

‘Stop. Hide. Get help. Get out of here. Storm.’

Keith did as the voice told him to do – as in he stopped moving. He had not been expecting the voice to show up so suddenly. Probably thinking it was something he had said, Lance imitated his movements and refrained from walking any further.

“Keith?”

There were footsteps coming from the stairs. This was nothing unusual of course, but it had caught Keith’s attention right away. Maybe it was a feeling in his gut, or just because he had become so used to being alarmed because of the walks he took through the building at night.

Said footsteps came to an end. The people those footsteps belonged to probably stopped two or three steps before reaching the second floor since Keith could hear them clearly without any echo and also because he could see one of the figures. It was none other thank Professor Zendak.

“You will have to try harder.” That voice belonged to Zendak, for sure. “It would be unacceptable to let it happen again.”

“Look, Sir, there’s nothing I can do! We have no contact to him anymore. Good news, though: I heard the relatives have decided on cremation.” Keith didn’t instantly recognize the voice, but guessing from the way it was talking to Zendak, his best guess was Sendak. “We’ll just have to keep a close eye on the others. We can’t let them get out of control.”

Out of control. This again. Also, what were they talking about? About Blaytz, possibly? Why would they be so worried? They couldn’t get sued for him dying, they had tried everything, didn’t they?

“Of course. Being careful and keeping them in control is the least you can do, Dr. Sendak.”

Bingo. Keith was right.

“Well, we have found the mistake. Besides, we’ve dealt with more complicated situations before, this won’t be that much harder.” Sendak retorted, but with a hint of hesitance in his voice.

Mistake? Did a mistake in the machines cause Blaytz’s death? Perhaps the treatment had a mistake or the medication they were giving patients here. That would explain a lot of things, including Keith’s hallucinations.

“Yes, but back then we had help! And...”

“’But!’ ‘But!’ Stop with this nonsense, Professor Zarkon. I have everything on shutdown until every problem is solved. We can’t underestimate them.”

Zarkon’s voice turned into something barely louder than a whisper. “Don’t be a fool. They’re learning. They’re becoming smarter and more independent.”

“Yeah, and-”

“Intelligence is welcome, independence isn’t. I don’t want it to escalate until we have to consider our last resort. Control it. This cannot happen again.” With that, he resumed going up the stairs and stormed away towards the third floor. Fortunately, he was in too much of a hurry to notice Keith and Lance standing there, with completely different facial expressions.

Dr. Sendak seemed to have changed direction, as he never appeared at the top of the stairs. Only a few seconds after Keith was sure they wouldn’t get caught listening in on the conversation between the two doctors did he turn to face Lance. His expression was one of determination, contrasting Lance’s bewildered features.

Now Lance had seen it too. And he could tell the others about it. Keith finally wasn’t completely alone in this.

Chapter Text

He motioned towards the stairs with raised eyebrows. ‘What do you think?’

“I...” Lance stammered. “I don’t know what they were talking about. Maybe we’re misunderstanding it because we don’t know the context-”

Keith sighed. There were no double meanings there. At least it didn’t seem like that. Professor Zarkon, along with Dr. Sendak, knew what had happened to Blaytz. And they were afraid it could happen to the others too – when Keith put it that way, it sounded harmless, except that the reality was much darker. The two doctors weren’t completely in control of the situation.

But they had found the mistake. And they would try to fix it. Surely, the patients had nothing to worry about. Whether it was their medication or an untreated issue, the voice would shut up soon and Keith wouldn’t have to fear for his life every night anymore.

Lance shook his head hastily and smiled at Keith. “I should ask Pidge about what has happened, maybe then this all would make more sense for me… Besides, I still want to beat her at Jenga. You coming?”

Great. Lance didn’t take this seriously, he should’ve expected that. But what could he do? During the day, not so much.

He trotted behind Lance, not paying any attention to the sudden pressure at the back of his head. It didn’t feel uncomfortable, just a sort of prickling sensation running down his spine. Worrying about it wouldn’t have changed anything, though, so Keith decided to stick with thinking about more important problems right now, and relax a bit from all the recent stress by playing a few rounds of Jenga.

 

All week, Lance kept acting rather… odd. Pidge theorized that he just remembered how much stuff he missed since his accident a year ago and was feeling a bit down because of it. Nothing unusual. That theory soon got disproved when Shiro had tried to talk to him about it. It turned out that Lance was still clueless regarding all the events since his injury. Thus, the guessing continued, since even the nurses couldn’t figure out what the matter actually was.

He wasn’t socializing, nor eating enough, and Hunk reported that his roommate also seemed clumsier and more unfocused than usual. It was easier to blame it on a relapse, though, than find out if it had another reason. But they had to face it: it most likely was a relapse, meaning they had nothing to worry about.

Still, playing board games without Lance made the whole thing a lot less fun. At least in Keith’s experience. There was no one to roll his eyes at, no one whose jokes were simply so terrible that he couldn’t help but laugh.

The day everything had officially started going downhill, though, was on Sunday.

Keith's parents were visiting him since they both had the day off, and the three of them sat in the cafeteria, his mom talking about how his school dealt with him missing for such a long period of time. Them kicking him out sooner or later was quite frankly what he was expecting, which didn't fuel his motivation at all. Not only was it pending if he would be able to go to university in the future, but now his current education was also on the line. Awesome.

He angrily stabbed his piece of cake with a fork, with as much force as he could manage. Which wasn't a lot, but that didn't make a difference.

To balance all this frustration out, at least he slept through the night the last few days. No homicidal roommates, no secret cult meeting between sleepwalking patients, and no reckless amnesiacs. Keith almost couldn’t believe he had a few days of peace and unbothered recovery.

After a few minutes, Pidge came over to their table and introduced herself to Keith's parents before getting into a conversation with them about how things were here at VRC. Keith couldn't tell them much himself, after all.

Incredibly thankful for a break from talking about his education, Keith leaned back in his chair and looked around the cafeteria, hoping to spot something or someone who could entertain him. He had no luck. Most cafeteria visitors at this time in the day were elderly, and it wasn't very exciting to watch them solve crosswords.

However, soon after that thought crossed his mind, none other than Matt Holt entered the cafeteria, grinning as if he had just won the lottery or something. He noticed Keith looking at him from across the room and winked. Then, using his crutches, he made his way towards the salad bar with a speed Keith could only dream of achieving with his walker.

Figuring his parents would be fine with him leaving for a second or two, he stood up and excused himself from the table to go over to Matt. His curious side couldn't wait to find out what the hell was making his friend so damn happy.

“Hey, guess what.” Matt shoveled a bunch of salad and feta-cheese onto his plate before turning to Keith. “My dad is doing a lot better. Allura said he’ll probably wake up in a few days... It’s absolutely amazing. At first, we weren’t even sure he would ever wake up, and now – this! I have to tell Katie. Would you mind helping me carry my stuff?”

Keith just stood there a few seconds before comprehending everything Matt has said. Then, he finally took the plate from him and started heading back to his table, holding the walker with his other hand. There was no way Matt could’ve carried such a huge plate of food that far while also using crutches, so Keith didn’t mind helping him while he rambled about his dad.

“Shiro said he would be able to talk and probably also walk right away. It’s truly unbelievable. I can’t wait to talk to him again, we-” Matt didn’t get to finish his sentence. He suddenly slumped forwards and landed face-down on the floor with a loud thump.

With a moment’s delay, the light in the cafeteria also vanished – not completely, there was some daylight coming through the window, although Keith couldn’t see clearly anymore with that. As if someone just turned off the light switch.

Everything had happened so fast, he didn’t even have time to react. There was no visible cause to the sudden fall or the blackout. No sign that it was going to happen, but it couldn’t have been a coincidence that the two things happened at the same time.

“Matt!” Pidge hurried over to them, closely followed by others, while Keith just gawked at Matt’s motionless body in shock. “What happened?” This question was clearly meant for him, but he couldn’t answer. He didn’t know either. Matt had fallen forward and the light had gone out. That’s all.

In the meantime, the kitchen staff tried to help Matt by putting him into a better position, and someone left to call a nurse.

Other voices around them started expressing their confusion as well as everyone slowly got closer to find out what all the commotion was about. “Had he pushed him?”, “Shouldn’t we call a doctor?”, and simply “Why is it so dark all of a sudden?” were among the crowd’s favorite lines.

Keith’s parents made their way through as well.

“Keith? What’s going on?” His father went up to them and put a hand on his shoulder. His expression was one of confusion, but his son could tell he was willing to comfort him, Pidge, or anyone who needed it. He seemed to want to be in control of the situation, mostly because that’s what he was used to. But this wasn’t a situation he was familiar with, he was still getting used to Keith being here, and so there was no way that would’ve worked out.

Without missing a beat, Keith shook his head. No idea. All he knew was that the sensation of knowing that a couple dozen eyes were fixated on him made him want to throw up.

Finally, he turned to Pidge and held up one finger to get her attention. He imitated falling forward before shrugging. That’s all he had witnessed.

 

A minute later, Shiro and Adam appeared at the door along with a server who must’ve been the one to alert them. The two ran to Matt and knelt down beside him.

“Matthew? Can you hear me? Guys, would you please give us some space?” Adam seemed just as worried as Shiro. That was new. He was usually the more levelheaded one of the two.

After they went through basic first aid procedures, the nurses carried Matt off to bring him to his room and to have a doctor examine him as well.

And so, the rest of the cafeteria was left to stand around in the dark room and wonder what had just happened. After a few seconds of silence, people started going back to their seats of course, but there was still this inexplicable tension left in the room.

“But why did the lights just turn off?” Pidge voiced the question they all had, asking no one in particular.

“Perhaps a power blackout? Or just some smaller problem with the electricity. I’ll report it to the porter, he’ll have a look at it.” One of the servers gave Pidge a pat on the back before turning and walking off as well.

“Well, it was weird, that’s for sure. Keith, are you sure you had nothing to do with it?” His dad asked with a deep frown.

Keith nodded. It was a lie, to be honest, but it’s what his father wanted to hear. Not like he would’ve believed him anyway.

“But did he really just collapse? Out of nowhere? What if it’s like Blaytz? I mean the circumstances are kind of similar...” Pidge mumbled under her breath, staring at her lap with glassy eyes.

“I’m sure he’ll be alright. The doctors here seem to know what they’re doing.” Keith’s mom assured her, giving her a sympathetic look.

Keith, though, wasn’t so sure about that.

 

Once his parents left, he went up to his room and sat down at the end of his bed.

‘Did I do it?’

Despite how long he waited, the voice kept quiet.

Keith sighed and looked at the lamp over his nightstand.

‘On.’

The lamp, of course, didn’t light up. Keith bit his lip and tried again. Just like before, no success.

But the fact that the lights just went out when he had thought about it was too bizarre and surreal to be a coincidence.

Was he dreaming? Could this be a low-budget superhero dream? Head trauma wouldn’t make a solid backstory though, his head wasn’t exactly creative on that part. It had probably been used a million times before, to the point it was kind of cliché.

Still, he was pretty sure he was not dreaming. It could still be just an electrical mishap with the right timing. He had just been surprised by Matt and a bunch of thoughts had filled his head at once because he slightly had been slightly panicking. He had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing more and nothing less.

He reached for the clipboard at the end of his bed absentmindedly.

His reading ability had majorly improved in the span of a few days, Keith noted. The fact that it went from almost zero to one-hundred in a span of a few days was nearly inhumane.

Eyes scanning over the sheet of paper, he was disappointed to not see any remarks about possible superpowers. Of course, it had just been for fun, but now that he already had it in his hands, he became interested in his medical stuff, and he didn’t put down the clipboard.

TBI after an accident with speeder. That one was clear. Cerebral edema. He had no clue what that meant, but it didn’t sound promising. Then a list of damaged parts of his brain, which he already knew from Romelle’s explanation. That, followed by a bunch of broken ribs, a broken leg and some damage to his shoulder – weird, he didn’t even know about the rib part. And last but not least, ENB Gen 3. Now that he thought about it, that little remark seemed to be on almost every clipboard here.

With shaky legs, he stood up and climbed over to Lotor’s bed.

Basically traumatic brain injury after an assault, 20 years old… And there. ENB Gen 2.

What was the difference between Gen 2 and Gen 3? And what did that even mean? He should probably not disturb the nurses, they already had to deal with poor Matt. His not existing knowledge of medical terms wasn’t more important than that, not even close.

But the fact that Lotor got his injuries from a fight…. Well, Keith wasn’t sure if that surprised him. Who was he kidding, it didn’t surprise him at all. He didn’t have the chance to talk to Lotor yet, but from his experience with him… Well, he didn’t exactly seem like a peaceful personality.

Keith was about to return to his bed when the company he had been waiting for finally arrived.

‘Get help. Storm.’ It seemed very much like the voice had found a new favorite word. He had repeated it at least a hundred times this week.

‘That’s nice. Have you heard about my new ability to turn off lights? At least I suspect I can do it, can you support my claim?’ Keith thought, changing the subject nonchalantly.

‘Beware Lotor. He’s becoming unpredictable.’

Becoming? Surely that’s a bit of an understatement. Lotor has been unpredictable ever since Keith arrived here. But at least the voice was starting to say something new – don’t mind the fact that Keith might as well have used a magic 8 ball to get such random responses.

What it was saying definitely wasn’t a good thing, though. If Lotor was becoming even more unpredictable… Well, Keith didn’t know what to expect, but it was definitely nothing good.

 

Since Keith didn’t enjoy the company of Lotor and his own madness, he chose to instead check on how Matt was doing. Anything was better than an aggressive comatose guy and a voice telling you that said comatose guy has it out for you.

Apparently, he wasn’t the only one wanting to pay their friend a visit. Pidge had apparently been there for almost an hour, Hunk and Ryan had visited him before, and now even Lance had decided to crawl out of his voluntary solitude to wish Matt Holt to get well soon.

When Keith stepped into the room, everyone looked up. Lance was sitting on Matt’s roommate’s bed, Pidge, well, in her wheelchair parked next to Matt’s, and his roommate, the only one not paying attention, was busy playing with his tablet.

“Oh, hey Keith. Sorry if I caused you trouble earlier. The whole thing was really unexpected… Apparently, my legs decided to give up and with my luck, I hit my head on the floor. As compensation, I got this nice bandage on my head though, so I’d say it was all worth it.” Matt jokingly explained with a smile, as if the whole thing wasn’t happening to him but an acquaintance. “Guess the universe can’t handle three Holts roaming through the hospital at the same time and decided to send me back to my room.”

He patted a spot on his mattress to basically suggest Keith to sit down, which Keith appreciated and did right away. His legs were still not quite used to walking so much.

While walking to the bed, Keith dared to steal a glance at Matt’s medical information. It took him a few seconds to decipher the letters from the distance – it must’ve been awkward for the other to watch Keith squinting at the edge of the bed for a few seconds – but he could make out that there was the same remark at the end of his stuff as well. ENB Gen 2.

To not make things even weirder, Keith pointed to Lance with a questioning expression. That would make for a good conversation.

“Oh, Lance is doing okay too. Slight numbness in his right hand and a bit moody, but he’s not on the verge of death.” Pidge brushed it off. “He’s not really in the mood to talk though, he only came because it was an emergency.”

Lance averted his gaze, nervously fidgeting, pinching his right hand with his left and massaging it. It was clear as day that the numbness was bothering him a lot.

“I swear, everyone is getting worse here. At least I’m spared, but that’s also only because I can’t get any worse anyway.” Pidge let out a sort of pained laugh as she took off her glasses to clean them. Perhaps she wasn’t dealing with her paralyzed state as well as Keith had thought.

“Okay, enough with all the negativity here. Why don’t we talk about dad instead? He’s improving.” Matt stepped in, and the Holt siblings started discussing it right away. Not that it bothered Keith, of course. He was always just a spectator in conversations lately – and he didn’t mind it actually. Considering he had to save that minimal self-pity he had for more important stuff, like, for example, feeling like a marionette in his own body.

He looked at Lance, then followed his gaze towards the window. The sky was slightly darker than the past days, and there were small rain clouds forming in the distance.

‘Get help. Storm. Get out of here. Thalamus means chamber. It’s going wrong. They’re learning. Not many seconds are left.’

Keith almost jumped up as he heard the voice speak again. And it had even said so much at once. Yet nothing made sense. Who was running out of time? And what did the voice mean by ‘they’? He couldn’t understand how the recovery of the patients was a problem. Wait, wasn’t that also what Zarkon had talked about? No, Zarkon couldn’t be in his head. That would be scientifically impossible.

Not aware that he had let out a surprised ‘yelp’, he shifted his attention to the others now, all looking at him with worried expressions on their faces. Lance could’ve even been described as panicked.

“Keith? Are you feeling unwell too?” Pidge rolled a bit closer to him.

Matt’s roommate, who was only now minding them, spoke up as well. “He looks unnaturally pale, don’t you think? I think we should alert someone.”

There was no response Keith could give to that. If they called a nurse, they’d bring him to his room, sure, but what then? Nobody would believe him if he told them about the voice, and it obviously wouldn’t just go away.

Instead, he pointed at the roommate’s tablet. “K- Key… Caaaan…? Ai- A. Iiiiii.” Well, that wasn’t going well. Perhaps speaking more would’ve helped, but despite that, there should’ve already been visible improvements to his speech from the weeks he had spent here nonetheless. The speech therapy couldn’t have been for nothing.

“Uhm...” Matt’s roommate clearly wasn’t used to caveman speech.

“You want him to lend the tablet to you?” Lance guessed, his suddenly hoarse voice barely audible.

Keith nodded and looked at the others with such a pleading expression one could’ve thought it was a life or death situation.

“Look, I… I don’t want to offend you, but I don’t like giving my tablet to others… They have a tendency to not give it back, or break it, since, you know…” He shakily knocked on his own head with his right hand.

“Dude, we talked about this. We’re not any stupider just because our brains aren’t fully intact. I’m sure Keith will give it back to you in a minute, right Keith?”

Right. Of course.

The guy finally gave in and handed the device to Keith, holding on to it just a bit longer than necessary to send the right message to Keith – he still didn’t trust him.

Considering he was lacking time, he went straight to google instead of putting up with the trouble of finding a notebook app. It would do just fine.

Okay, let’s do this one more time.

The sentence he produced wasn’t completely correct, grammar-, and spelling-wise. But it was comprehensible, and that would be enough.

“What do you mean Professor Zarkon wants to hurt us?” Pidge looked at Keith with the most pitiful expression, as if she was sure Keith was just a tiny bit crazy. “I think you’re misunderstanding something. Zarkon isn’t the one responsible for Matt getting worse. He has absolutely no control over that. It’s simply a relapse.”

Keith shook his head. Zarkon wouldn’t be talking about concerns like that if he wasn’t planning something. The patients were learning, they were becoming more independent, that’s what he had said. That wouldn’t be a problem in a normal situation.

“Okay, calm down. Can I have my tablet back?” The roommate leaned over and tried to grab his prized possession. Keith didn’t let him. He would not let it go until the others believed him.

He erased everything he wrote so far with a bit of difficulty and started typing anew.

How could he convince everyone that Zarkon wasn’t just a doctor trying his best? No matter what he said, his friends would write it off as hallucinations as long as he didn’t give a proper explanation – and well, he didn’t have one.

‘NMadtt’… He already messed up, that’s for sure. But he couldn’t stop, not if he wanted to get his message through.

The next word, ‘sleepwalks’, turned into ‘slewepwaalkas’. That didn’t make any more sense than the first one, and this time the others were starting to look over his shoulder to see what he was so busy with.

“Look, Keith, you said you would give it back… Google won’t understand your garbled messes anyways.” That was pretty rude from Matt’s roommate, but Keith had learned not to mind it. Just keep on writing.

‘Nmadtt slewepwaalks. lotpor to. Theyr g retting worrrsie cuz of Thalia moose thalamus.’ Apparently, even autocorrect wasn’t on his side. At least, for whatever reason, he suddenly knew how to spell ‘thalamus’ even though he had only heard it in his head before.

“What’s the first word?” Matt questioned, then after Keith pointed at him, he added: “And thalamus? Do you mean the hypothalamus?”

Since Keith didn’t know for sure if it actually was what Matt guessed, he shrugged and kept motioning towards what he wrote, as if that would get the others to understand.

“I’m not sure what you’re trying to communicate here, but if ‘lotpor’ is supposed to be Lotor… Trust me, that guy is as good as dead. We all know that he won’t wake up. He’s not going anywhere.” Matt’s roommate gritted his teeth and gave Keith a bitter pat on the back before gently taking the tablet from him. This time, Keith didn’t resist.

“Also, Keith, my thalamus isn’t even damaged. That isn’t why I’m getting worse. Besides, relapse is a normal thing. I’ll be back on my feet in no time, don’t worry.” Matt assured him as well.

Grabbing his walker, he nodded and stood up, promptly waving and setting off towards the door, making the others question if they had offended him in any way. They didn’t of course, Keith was just disappointed and desperate.

Before he left, though, he took one quick glance at the clipboard of Matt’s roommate, looking for the same ENB Gen 2 or 3 that was seemingly in everyone else’s medical info. To his surprise, there was nothing. There wasn’t even that much information on the reason he was here, only something about paraplegia.

Keith sighed and exited the room quickly, preventing the others from protesting. He could see Pidge starting to roll after him, but he raised his hand to tell her to stop.

There would be no point in bringing the others into this. He was facing this whole mystery alone, and he had to learn to accept that.

But there was nothing holding him back from investigating alone.

He sucked in a breath as soon as he was out of the room, the abandoned elevator being the first thing that he spotted. There was no one in sight, as everyone was busy at this time, cleaning up after the lunch break or tending the patients.

Finding out what was happening to the patients was the top priority. And there would be no easier solution to that problem than talking to none other than the guy responsible for all of this himself.

It was time to confront Zarkon.

Chapter Text

Keith went straight to the elevator. Its doors didn’t seem to have any difficulties opening this time, which sent a wave of relief through him. Getting trapped in there once more would’ve been the last straw.

When he finally arrived on the third floor, he practically jumped out into the hallway – if one can call stumbling into his walker and almost falling a jump.

The patients on this floor seemed to be less friendly today. Barely anyone was chatting or reading outside their rooms, and there was no small crowd around the elevator like there usually was during the days Keith visited this floor.

Anyway, there was no time to be wasted thinking about the other patients. It was a doctor he was looking for.

He started making his way down the hallway towards the offices of Dr. Trigel and Dr. Sendak, which were right behind the fire door if he remembered correctly.

Walking wasn’t quite as easy as it was during the night, but Keith still noticed that he had improved a lot in the last few days. Using the walker felt almost natural to him at this point. Now that he didn’t have to concentrate on every step, he had time to look around and observe his surroundings.

This also led to him noticing the not-so-promising, ominous gray clouds outside. It would start to rain sooner or later this afternoon, that was for sure. He was by no means a meteorologist, but even he could tell it was going to be one hell of a weather for the next few days. The clouds’ appearance was a bit surprising though, it had been so sudden. He didn’t remember any of the staff talking about an oncoming storm being announced in a weather forecast either.

Well, there was someone who had mentioned it. Or rather, something – It didn’t matter what the voice exactly was, after all. Not for now, at least. The voice predicting a storm, though… First of all, now Keith could assume the voice really did mean a literal storm. Sure, it still didn’t explain why it was crucial for him to know about it or why the voice
knew that it was coming a week prior.

His thoughts were interrupted by a gentle hand on his back. He jolted back, turning his head towards the person behind him with an expression that could’ve been surely described as resembling a deer in headlights.

“Oh, I’m sorry I scared you, Keith. I just wanted to let you know that you’re on the wrong floor.” Shiro spoke slowly, and after seeing the look of confusion on Keith’s face, he added: “This is the adult ward.”

Keith sighed. So that’s what he meant. He had almost thought Shiro had figured out his intention so fast. A feeling of guilt and bad conscience settled in his chest, even though it was clear he had done nothing wrong yet. But how could he explain to Shiro what he was trying to do? It’s not like he could just announce who he was looking for, there was no logical reason the other doctors wouldn’t be able to help him with whatever he would come up with as an excuse.

“You forgot which floor your room was on, didn’t you? That happens sometimes, don’t worry. I’ll take you back to your floor, then-”

“D… Doi…” Keith’s tongue just didn’t seem to cooperate with his jaw when he was attempting to form a ‘k’. It was as if someone had put weights in his mouth, forcing his tongue to stay down and thus resulting in a weird, gurgling ‘ch’ sound. He sounded like a hissing cat mixed with a gorgon. That description may sound weird, but that’s the only thing he could compare it to at the moment.

At least Shiro didn’t show any doubt concerning Keith’s sanity after that pathetic attempt. Instead, he smiled and tried to encourage him with the typical nurse pep-talk Keith hated. “Just try again, it’s okay. You’re doing great, getting better at it.”

Keith sighed and started over, this time giving up on saying ‘doctor’ though. ‘Zarkon’ would be enough. “S-z-zzz… Sa. Zoa...” No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t figure out the right order of the letters in the word and messed up over and over again. Except during his very last attempt, where he didn’t even have to think about all the letters or pronunciation of ‘Zarkon’. He said it without any difficulty. “Zarkon.” That’s it. Perfect. No slip ups, no stuttering. Nothing.

“Good job... That sounded great. Are you looking for Professor Zarkon? Is that what you mean?” Shiro asked, actually sounding a bit surprised, probably regarding the immaculate pronunciation his patient had managed. To be honest, Keith was even more surprised.

He nodded and watched as his nurse turned and made his way towards one of the rooms on the opposite end of the hallway. A few seconds later, Shiro returned, this time followed by none other than Professor Zarkon. A deep frown rested on the man’s face, but his lips were still twisted into his usual, confident and charismatic smirk.

“Ah, Keith Kogane! I heard you were looking for me. What can I help you with?” Zarkon inquired, coming to a stop a few feet from Keith and taking a good look at him as if he was trying to figure out what his patient wanted just by looking at him.

Keith knew it would be impossible to communicate his request through his usual signing. He would have to speak and hope for the best. “T-t-t… Ta- Wal...” After a minute or so, he could finally get the message through, though he couldn’t comprehend how the two men were able to understand what he was saying. What left his mouth sounded nothing like ‘talk’.

“Would you like to discuss something with me?” Zarkon asked, just to make sure. “I suggest we go back to your room then, I wanted to go through a few questions with you anyway.”

“Professor, what about Mr. Holt?” Shiro spoke up, motioning towards the room Zarkon had exited just a few minutes ago.

“Just let Dr. Trigel continue. I doubt I’m the only one capable of doing such tests, Shirogane.” Professor Zarkon flashed Shiro a smile, then placed a hand on Keith’s back and aided him towards the elevator.

 

Keith sat on his bed in awkward silence while Zarkon grabbed the only chair in the room from the side of Lotor’s bed and scooted closer to Keith’s. His roommate was still staring at the closet between their beds with glassy, unfocused eyes

“So… What did you want to talk about? Do you mind if we start with the tests first? I want to get this over with.”

Keith agreed, and Zarkon began going over questions. Whether or not he felt dizzy, or if he had a hard time following conversations. Such stuff.

Then, finally, as the Professor was running out of questions to ask him, he voiced the one question that grabbed Keith’s attention. “Do you sometimes have hallucinations? Spiders crawling on your bed or flying cups, something like that. Auditory hallucinations included. Like hearing a voice when no one around you is talking.”

This would be his chance to find out what was wrong. Zarkon would be able to help. Then again, the main reason he was here now was that Keith wanted to confront him about the conversations with Sendak. The two were not to be trusted. Despite that, the Professor was still a doctor, he would have to let someone know…

‘Don’t tell him.’

Keith shuddered at the voice suddenly reappearing. Just an auditory hallucination, as Zarkon would explain it. How much could he trust a hallucination telling him to not admit to hallucinating? Gosh, this was confusing.

At last, he shook his head and scooted over to the clipboard at the end of the bed. He waited until he had eye contact with Zarkon, who was curiously leaning over the clipboard now, then pointed at three letters on the sheet of paper. NBI.

Zarkon sighed and let out a laugh. “Oh, so that’s what you wanted to ask me? I thought it was something more serious. And to answer your question, NBI Generation 3 just refers to the surgery equipment. That’s the newest model. We doctors simply like to note such details on the medical papers of the patients, just to see which equipment is more effective. Any more questions?”

Oh, that explained it. Though it didn’t further his knowledge when it came to figuring out the foul play in this place. But, would it be reasonable to just tell Zarkon the truth? That he had overheard his chat with Dr. Sendak and knew that they were planning something?

A second later, the voice cut in again, making him forget about all of his thoughts from just a second ago and leaving nothing but static silence in his mind. ‘He’s lying.’

Why would Zarkon lie about that? What use would that have? If NBI was something they had to hide from the patients, why would they write it on the clipboards presenting their medical issues?

“Keith? Can I go then?” Zarkon had stood up and was now eyeing Keith with an unreadable expression.

“N… I-” Keith had begun, but was interrupted by his vision becoming out of focus, as if he was watching the scene before him through a bad VR headset. He saw Zarkon double for a second, although he wasn’t aware of squinting, and the next second following that, he couldn’t see anything. Only darkness.

When his vision cleared again, everything went back to normal. Except for a weird sensation in his head and in his throat. Kind of as if someone was pressing their hands against those two spots, in a way that it didn’t hurt, but still felt uncomfortable.

“Zarkon.” He couldn’t feel his face muscles moving, but the voice clearly belonged to him, despite being a bit deeper than his usual tone. But he wasn’t trying to speak at the moment, at least not Zarkon’s name. Why was he doing it then?

“Yes? Your speech, it’s-” Professor Zarkon stuttered with wide eyes, stepping closer to Keith.

“They’re becoming independent. You’re losing control over them.” Keith said coldly, immediately followed by a loud gasp, from him as well. This was like that one night when Shiro had found him, except this was much, much worse. Now he couldn’t even control his own mouth, or rather his brain, what he was saying.

“Excuse me, what?” The professor murmured.

“You know. Gray.”

“I- Keith… Wha- Keith, this is fantastic! Your speech is absolutely fluent!” He was now grabbing Keith by the shoulders, grinning like a madman – fortunately, or at least Keith hoped it was fortunate, the grinning was most likely caused by the sudden euphoria the doctor was clearly experiencing.

Keith’s expression, however, was the exact opposite of that. Panicking, utterly confused and afraid of what was controlling him. He was sweating heavily and at this point, he had clasped both hands on his mouth to stop himself from talking again. That wasn’t the slightest bit working. And yet the voice, his voice, which he didn’t even want, stayed emotionless, or even judgmental.“Your fault.”

“What is my fault? Keith, I-”

“I am not Keith.”

That left both of them speechless. Keith, now that the discomfort and whatever that had been had stopped, didn’t take his eyes off his bed sheet before him as he was panting heavily, fighting to return his breathing to normal. Professor Zarkon stayed collected through this whole experience and was still looking at Keith with narrowed eyes.

“Yes, you are. You’re Keith Kogane, remember?” He sighed and leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest. “First of all, take deep breaths. Good. I will get you a psychiatric appointment at the hospital once I get back, most likely this evening or tomorrow morning. Then, it will take approximately a week to ten days before we can drive you there. Your stay would be two days, we’ll drive there, you’ll get some sleep, next day you’ll get examined and get driven back here right after. How does that sound?”

Still not looking Professor Zarkon in the eye, Keith nodded. It was about time that someone figured out what’s wrong with him, and if it took a psychiatrist to do that, then so be it. The only thing he didn’t like about this is the fact that he’d have to wait so long.

 

The rest of the evening was mostly uneventful for Keith. He stayed in his room while Zarkon left to talk to his colleagues and to call the hospital and let them know when he’ll be arriving. Meanwhile, Keith pretended to be asleep and had the chance to hear about the newest rumors about him that the nurses who brought him his dinner talked about.

Even Adam visited at one point. He figured out that Keith wasn’t sleeping the moment he entered and asked about his speech. As it turned out, his speech had gone back to the way it was. That meant that he was incapable of expressing himself once again. Yay, awesome.

Well, that was still better than not being able to choose what to say. On the flip side, though, he had kind of confronted Zarkon. In an indirect way. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t him but whatever had been controlling him. Still, he had shown Zarkon that he seemingly knew about his little chats with Sendak. The professor knowing that would be enough for now. He could achieve the rest another day.

 

Lotor was in bed this time. Leg dangling off the side, muttering incoherent sentences. Not fully asleep, but in his bed. Meaning he wouldn’t chase down his roommate.

Keith climbed out of bed and went straight to his closet to put on a jacket.

He didn’t expect a sleeping Matt in front of it, to be honest. Sleepwalking, maybe? That was most likely the case, but even if it was something else, he had to take Matt back to his room.

Taking one glance back at his nightstand, he could tell that the nurse-calling-button was missing again. Despite him clearly remembering that he put it there before he went to sleep.

“Hey, Matt. Wake up. You should go back to your room.” He whispered, this time actually controlling what he was saying.

His friend slightly raised his head. “I just want to help him,” Matt muttered before he relaxed his muscles again and let his head drop into Keith’s lap.

“Help whom?”

“I’m not sure. I…” Matt’s voice was getting quieter with every word he said, to the point Keith could only guess what he was saying.

He lifted Matt up, or at least tried to, and wrapped one of Matt’s arms around his own shoulders to support his weight. After somehow making it to the door, he pushed it open with his elbow and peered into the hallway, just to see if it would be safe to come out.

There was a shadow at the end of the hallway by the stairs. The shadow of a boy. Lance McClain, probably.

As Keith stepped out into the open, the figure’s head shot up and they were soon hurrying towards them.

Once the faint ceiling lights shone on the boy, Keith couldn’t help but flash a smile.

“Hey, I was waiting for you!” Lance stopped abruptly and looked at Matt. “Who’s that? Wasn’t he present at that meeting in the yard a while ago?”

Keith glanced at Matt. Lance was right, he had really been there that one night. But he didn’t show similar intentions to Lotor and he was their friend. Not to mention he was so weak Keith was afraid he could collapse any minute.

“I guess, yeah. Help me take him back to his room please.”

“What was he doing in your room, anyway?” Lance frowned but went to support Matt from the other side, mirroring Keith.

“My guess is sleepwalking. Matt, are you alright?” They were practically dragging him at his point, and Matt didn’t even try to assist.

“My head hurts… Feels like it’s full and about to explode from the pressure.”

Lance gulped and glanced at Keith with a puzzled look.

This wasn’t good.

 

They placed Matt on his mattress and Keith pulled the covers over him. “We should call a nurse, can you see the button anywhere?”

Lance reached for a small device in the corner of the bed. “Here.” He pushed the button with a small smile. “Now, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about. It’s urgent- Keith are you okay?”

When Keith took a step back, it felt like someone had kicked him in the back of the knee. He stumbled and fell, though his leg hurt more than his back.

“Yeah. I’m alright. Let’s go, we don’t want the nurses questioning why we’re here.”

Lance helped him up and they both hurriedly left the room. Still afraid of being discovered, the only stopped once they reached Keith’s room again. Despite all that, Keith felt like he wasn’t as stressed during such adventures as he used to be. Maybe he was getting used to it, or maybe Lance being there helped. Perhaps both.

He stumbled onto his bed and looked at Lance, expecting him to do the same. However, his friend remained standing by the door.

‘Storm.’ Gosh, this was the last thing he needed right now.

“So, what did you want to talk about?” Keith questioned, glaring up at Lance.

“Two things.” Lance began. His expression and body language seemed to be full of contradictions. His head turned to Keith but the rest of his body towards the door, as if he would leave any second now, paired with an expression of both determination and uncertainty. “We both know there’s something wrong here. And that’s why we have to leave.”

A few, long seconds of complete silence, followed by quiet word muttered by Keith: “...What? What do you mean? Why?”

“We know Zarkon is planning something, yet if we would tell that to anyone else here, they would never believe us. We’re mentally damaged and have no evidence. But perhaps outside this rehab center, we would have some credibility. They wouldn’t necessarily know we’re… you know, and even if, if we had enough dedication to escape, there really must be something going on.”

“But what about your memory…?”

Lance smiled at that. “Actually, it’s getting better. And… Okay, you must think I’m crazy right now, but… My brain… It’s… Well, my subconscious is kind of telling me stuff. More like words, but… Well, so far it has talked about some chamber thing in my brain, that your Broca’s area is damaged, and such. It also told me to get out of here. I don’t know about you, but I trust my brain.”

“Wait, you have that too? Have we been receiving the same messages? What about the others?” Keith’s eyes widened, and he grabbed his head with both hands in disbelief. This would explain so many things. And this meant he wasn’t alone.

Lance’s smile turned into a slightly obnoxious grin now. “Oh, so you have it too? That’s awesome! If we both have, like, super brains or whatever you’d call it, it would basically count as a superpower, right? We could be a superhero team!”

“Don’t get distracted. Regarding the escape… According to the voice, there’s a storm coming. How could we sneak out and make our way to the nearest town out there during a storm? Voltron rehab is surrounded by forests.”

“We’ll figure something out. Look, I’ll write it on my arm, that way I’ll remember it tomorrow. If I don’t come up to you, just remind me of it, okay?” With that, Lance grabbed a ballpoint pen from Lotor’s nightstand and scribbled something on the palm of his left hand. “There. Don’t forget about it either.”

 

Keith faintly remembered Lance leaving and him going back to sleep after that. He had been planning to wake up early the next morning and go over to Lance’s room right away.

At least he managed to wake up early. However, Allura was to blame for that. She rushed into the room around five in the morning and made so much noise by her unnaturally clumsy movements that even the soundest sleeper would’ve woken up. Keith, being the exact opposite of a deep sleeper, was up in no time.

When Allura noticed that as well, she had tried to hide the panic and desperation written in her face. She failed.

The very same expression soon took over Keith’s features as well, though, after she muttered a reply to Keith’s unspoken question.

“It’s Lance. He’s… He’s gone.”