“Che-uh...Lance? Buddy? Where are you?”
Lance let out a small groan that fell somewhere between a whine and a whimper.
“Oh. He’s in his pre-investigation freak out.”
“Already? Jeez...I guess we’ll just have to start setup without him.”
“Lance! We’re heading inside. Come find us when you’re ready, okay?”
Lance’s only response was another groan, but he knew that his two friends had understood when he heard the slam of the trunk door and the crunch of gravel as they headed up the drive.
Lance remained alone and curled up in the passenger seat of the old van they used to lug all of their equipment around. His knees were held to his chest, fingers digging into the fabric of his jeans. A soft wind blew through the open window next to him, bringing in the smell of uncut grass and forest dew. He stared wide-eyed out the windshield in front of him, trying to calm himself down enough just to follow Pidge and Hunk up the drive.
The sad part was that he knew exactly how he had gotten into this situation. But it wasn’t like he knew at the start that it would end up like this. At first it had been a one time thing, a spur of the moment idea that had simply gotten bigger than the group could’ve ever possibly imagined.
It had started with Pidge mentioning that their basement was haunted. It had really only come up because Keith had the audacity to say that bigfoot was real, but ghosts definitely weren’t which was a load of bullshit if Lance had anything to say about it. Bigfoot, ghosts, demons. They were all real and all looking forward to ending Lance’s life prematurely. Sure, he had no evidence of their actual motives, but why take the risk?
But of course, like anything having to do with his dysfunctional group of friends, a bet had been made. Pidge said they could prove to Keith that their basement was haunted. Keith said he could prove that their basement wasn’t, in fact, haunted. And so hands were shaken and plans were made. Lance couldn’t remember the terms of the bet - he honestly tried to forget everything that happened that day - but he did remember that he somehow got caught up in the whole fiasco.
He really wished he had just stayed home.
But he didn’t. And so Pidge, Hunk, Keith, and himself had spent one of the longest nights of his life moving from room to room of Pidge’s basement, trying to reach out to the spirits that still lingered there. Pidge and Hunk had recorded the whole night on their phones, saying that having video evidence was better than just claiming they saw a ghost. Keith had spent the night explaining away every little sound they heard by saying it was just a draft or the house settling or something along those lines.
Lance knew better than that, though. He knew that something was lurking in the shadows of Pidge’s basement just waiting for him to get seperated from the group so it could possess him. So could he really be blamed for squealing in terror at every mysterious noise? Was it his fault that he had hid behind Hunk the entire night, extremely willing to use his friend as a human shield if need be? No, it wasn’t his fault. The only thing that was his fault was deciding to become friends with a bunch of reckless lunatics.
He probably should have expected what had come next. A day or two later Pidge had shown the group the video they had edited and posted online of their amature ghost hunt. The audio was pretty shitty but there was one voice that could be heard over everything else. Every yelp. Every high pitched squeal. Every whimper that came out of Lance’s mouth was as clear as day. That’s what he got for standing so close to Hunk’s camera the whole night.
As one might expect, he became the butt of the jokes for the following week. Lancey Lance scaredy pants. That was the ingenious name Pidge came up with for him and the others had rolled with it. But even then, Lance didn’t waver in his resolve that ghosts were real and would take any opportunity to make him go insane and murder everyone he loved.
Lance had no idea that the video would go viral. That kinda stuff didn’t happen to him. At most it would spread around the school and then die off. That’s what he expected, but that’s not what happened. The views had just kept on going up. At first it was only a couple thousand, but soon it was bordering on a million.
Scrolling through the comments, Lance could see that people had mostly watched it for the ‘hilarious over dramatic wimp’. That was him, of course. Some comments claimed he was just faking to get more views and others claimed that he was just trying to annoy his friends. Neither were true, of course, and there were a number of comments that defended him. However, the most frequent comment was for the group to make another video.
Lance had refused at first when Pidge had asked him. No way was he going to spend his time asking to get possessed. But when they had offered to do his math homework for the rest of their highschool life, well how could he say no? That offer was just too good to pass up. So he agreed.
And it was all downhill from there.
It had been four years since that first video came out. Four whole years of going to haunted locations and putting himself at risk just to please people on the internet he had never met. And even though he hadn’t gotten possessed yet, he wasn’t about to start letting his guard down. That’s when they strike.
Their small group had expanded and advanced since that first video, of course. Pidge was always designing new gadgets for them to use. They were convinced that one of their inventions would finally prove to Keith that ghosts were real. Keith would always respond by saying that something designed from science would only ever prove that ghosts weren’t real. That always sparked a debate between the two.
Hunk, their ever-reliable camera man, had purchased them some high quality cameras after about the first year and a half of investigating. Even better, he had gotten them all microphones to wear on their persons which skyrocketed the quality of their videos.
It was always peculiar to Lance that Hunk was afraid of everything else except ghosts. Heights? Drowning? Wild animal attacks? All of them had the lovable giant quaking in fear. But ghosts? He would just shrug and say he just wanted to help them get to a better place.
That had almost made Lance reconsider his stance. Almost.
Keith was still the resident skeptic and a favorite on the show. Their viewers seemed to love his witty remarks and how he completely ignored everything Lance said. Lance would tell him to not provoke the spirits. He would provoke the spirits. Lance would say to not invite the ghosts to possess him. Keith would invite the ghosts to possess him. Lance would say to not mess with the Ouija board, Keith, because it’s not a game and you’re going to get everyone killed!
...Keith would mess with the Ouija board.
Lance wasn’t sure if the ghosts were going to kill him first or if Keith would.
There was also some new members to their team. Shiro, Keith’s older brother, had joined them about two years ago. With the constant bickering between Lance and Keith and Pidge wanting to focus more on designing new gadgets instead of rallying the troops, the group had decided that they were in much need of some leadership. Shiro had been an obvious choice. Everyone was already familiar with him and he was old enough to know not to put up with any of their shit. And while he didn’t necessarily believe in ghosts himself, Lance could see that he had a lot of fun exploring each new location they went to.
Allura was another new member to their team. Apparently, Shiro had met her through a mutual friend. She had been a fan of the show since its early days and had always wanted to try ghost hunting for herself. When Shiro had said they were looking for a new member, she enthusiastically agreed to join. And although she had only been with them for a little less than a year, it seemed like she had been there from the start. She was just that good. She was their coordinator. She found the locations, reached out to the owners, booked the investigation dates, and arranged travel. It was almost scary how good her organizational skills were.
And that’s where they were now. A team of six people who investigated haunted places for a popular web series. And while Lance didn’t want to admit it, it had basically become their careers. Who knew he’d be so successful at the ripe age of twenty-one?
Who knew that at the ripe age of twenty-one he would be cowering in the front seat of a van because he was still trying to build up enough courage to just walk up the drive to the abandoned asylum they were suppose to investigate tonight?
It wasn’t like there was anything keeping him here, he knew that. He knew that if he decided to leave the show his friends would be disappointed, but they would understand. And sure, he was still one of the fan favorites, being right up there with Keith - fans always claimed that his reactions were what made the show extra funny. But he also knew that the show would be just fine without him. The others were loved and had big enough fan bases of their own.
In the end he stayed because of his friends. He stayed because despite what they were doing, he got to work with the people he cared about. He didn’t think he would be happy with any other kind of job after an experience like that. So he would continue to put his life on the line. He thought that was a fair trade-off. It didn’t make him any less nervous, though.
And although he would deny it to his grave, he might also have the tiniest crush on his raven-haired co-star which could be another reason for staying. Just a small one. Almost nonexistent. He just liked the sound of Keith’s laugh whenever Lance would have some totally-not-ridiculous reaction to what was definitely a ghost. That was it though.
...He also liked how Keith’s indigo eyes shined the brightest in the moonlight after a long investigation. Like he could go all night if he had to. But seriously, it was just those two things he liked.
...And how could he not mention how brave Keith was even if it was a bravery born out of skepticism? Where Lance would go hightailing it in the opposite direction of some small noise, Keith would march towards it with an unparalleled determination.
...Lance’s crush might be a little bigger than he originally thought.
But that realization only worked to heighten Lance’s nerves, causing him to rock back and forth slightly in his seat.
He was stuck in a weird place mentally. On one hand he did not for any reason whatsoever want to leave this van. He did not want to walk into that asylum. He did not want to spend an entire night trying to communicate with the dead. Nope. No siree. Not today.
On the other hand, Lance could see the sun setting from his view out the front of the car. He knew that once it went down he would be all alone, sitting outside an asylum, in the dark where anything could be lurking. That was also a major no-no for him. That was the opposite of what he considered a good time. He’d much rather be around his friends.
But creepy asylum…
But alone in the dark…
But creepy asylum…
But alone in the dark…
“Pre-investigation freak out?”
Lance, being so lost in his head, couldn’t help the startled yelp that escaped his lips, his body jumping at least a foot in the air. His hands flew up to guard his face, eyes squeezing shut as adrenaline started to pump through his veins.
A familiar laugh, rich and genuine, drifted towards his ears and Lance peaked an eye open to see Keith standing outside the open window of the van, arms resting against the edge of the door where the window would be if it was rolled up. He had a carefree look on his face, like he wasn’t about to spend the night in a haunted asylum. The setting sun casted shadows across his features, accentuating his elegant cheekbones and firm jawline.
Lance opened both eyes, lowering his arms and trying to slow his rapidly beating heart. “Please don’t scare me like that.” Lance said, his voice still holding a hint of panic. “You know how jumpy I get.”
Keith chuckled, “But it’s so much fun to scare you. Really easy too.”
Lance grumbled incoherently as he crossed his arms over his chest and turned to stare moodily out the front windshield again.
“So let me see if I can guess it this time.” Keith said, blatantly ignoring Lance’s irritation. “You don’t want to go into the not-in-any-way-haunted asylum-”
“How can you look at a place like that and not think it’s haunted!?” Lance cut in, shooting Keith with an angered look.
“But,” Keith continued as if Lance didn’t say anything. “You also don’t want to sit in the van all alone. Did I guess right?”
Lance didn’t want to admit to Keith that he was right on the money because he didn’t owe Keith anything, especially after scaring him like that. So instead Lance just let out an annoyed huff and looked away from Keith once more.
“So predictable.” Keith mused. There was a brief silence before Keith spoke again, “I’ll tell ya what. If you stay out in the van, I’ll tell all the ghosts where to find you.”
Color drained from Lance’s face, horror gripping his insides. “You wouldn’t.” He muttered, looking at Keith with wide eyes.
“I would.” Keith said, his voice issuing a challenge. “In fact, I’ll start right now.”
Before Lance could respond, Keith had pushed himself off the door and started making his way back up the drive towards the asylum.
“Healthy body! Ripe for possession! Right there in that van!” Keith yelled as he walked.
Lance, terror fueling his motions, scrambled out of the van to chase after Keith while screaming, “Shut up, you moron! They’ll hear you!”
“Can’t find a better body to possess than the one in that van!” Keith continued to yell, breaking into a run as Lance neared him, heading straight for the entrance to the asylum.
“He’s wrong! Don’t listen to him!” Lance shouted, only a few steps behind the raven-haired boy. He saw Keith disappear into the entrance, passing by Hunk who was standing in the doorway, camera aimed at Lance.
Lance stopped a foot or so in front of the door, staring up at the ominous building that seemed to loom over him. There was no glass in the windows of the five story-high building. Instead, some of the windows had clear plastic tarps and rattled slightly every time the breeze shifted. Lance could see a few windows where the tarps were ripped, the tears snapping in the wind. Other windows had nothing at all and Lance made a mental note to not go near those. It would be too easy for something to push him out of one. The bricks that made up the outside of the building were faded and crumbling, fallen into disrepair from years of neglect. Graffiti covered the lower sections of the building, the splashes of neon color adding another layer of eeriness to the abandoned asylum.
“Whatcha thinking, Lance?” Hunk asked, camera still pointed at him.
Lance tore his eyes from the building to look at the camera. “I’m thinking this is the worst place we’ve ever gone to.” His voice cracked slightly from fear.
“You say that about every place we go to.” Hunk pointed out.
Lance shook his head. “But I mean it this time. This place is hell.”
“Better than the van though, right?” Hunk commented, a slight laugh to his voice. “After what Keith did.”
Lance couldn’t help the shocked expression that crossed his face, “Did you get all that on camera?”
“Of course I did.” Hunk replied. “But don’t worry. You only looked a little ridiculous.”
Lance glared at his friend. “Whatever. I wasn’t miked or anything. You won’t be able to use it.”
“Yeah, but Keith was. This isn’t our first rodeo, Lance.” Hunk said. “Also, you were yelling loud enough for the whole state to hear you, so I’m really not too worried.”
Lance sputtered, caught somewhere between embarrassed and offended. “This is betrayal! I’m revoking your best friend card...and giving it to Pidge! They’re my new best friend from now on.”
“I don’t want it!” Pidge chimed in sarcastically, their voice drifting out from the entrance of the asylum.
Lance deflated. “You guys are all so mean…”
Before anyone could reply to him, Shiro’s voice called, “Enough teasing Lance, guys. We need to hurry and get things set up before the sun goes down.”
Hunk lowered the camera, a smile on his face. “C’mon, buddy. Tonight will be fun, you’ll see.” He turned and entered the asylum, leaving Lance standing alone outside.
“The day that ghost hunting becomes fun is the day pigs fly.” Lance called after him before taking a deep breath and entering the building himself.
If Lance thought the outside was bad, the inside was so much worse. Paint was peeling off the walls, leaving the air smelling musty and rotten. The wooden floors, gouged and splintered, creaked with each step Lance took. He could see three long, dark halls that branched out from the entryway, countless open doors lining each of them. Lance didn’t want to think about what could be waiting in those rooms for him. There was a steep staircase on one side of the entryway that he assumed led up to the other floors of the asylum. The stairs looked like they were about to crumble at any moment. Lance felt a shiver go up his spine as he scanned the room, the feeling of a million eyes watching him raising goosebumps on his arms.
“It’s not that bad.” Pidge said from their position in the middle of the room. They were crouched down next to the pile of equipment the team had brought with them. They were untangling a mess of wires, hands working steadily, having performed this task so many times before.
Lance swallowed. “You’re right. It’s not bad. It’s horrible.”
Pidge glanced up at him with an amused look. “That’s the Lancey Lance scaredy pants we all know and love.”
Lance bristled. “I’m not a scaredy pants. I’m just not so keen on being killed by a ghost, thank you very much.”
“Can’t be killed by something that doesn’t exist.” Keith commented as he passed Lance, placing a now empty camera case in the pile of equipment. “Static cam one is up and running, Shiro.”
“Great.” Shiro said from his own spot near the equipment pile. “Hunk just left to work on two. I’m about to go get three set up, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to need more power for everything else.”
“We’ll need to ask Coran if there is any more power first.” Pidge said. “Old buildings like this rarely have a substantial supply.”
“Coran?” Lance asked, tilting his head at the unfamiliar name.
“The manager of the building.” Shiro explained. “I think he’s with Allura right now. Will you go find them, Lance? I believe they went down that way.” Shiro gestured to the hall on Lance’s left.
Lance was sure that his tan skin looked paler than Keith’s as he stared down the seemingly never-ending hallway. “You want me...to go down there...all by myself?” He choked out.
“Lancey Lance scaredy pants…” Pidge muttered in a sing-song voice, not trying to be subtle about it.
“You shut your mouth!” Lance said, pointing at Pidge with an accusatory finger. “I can walk down that hallway, no problem! But when I end up murdered by a ghost you’ll be sorry! You’ll all be sorry!”
Lance didn’t stick around long enough to see Pidge roll their eyes or Shiro give him a very 'done' look. He just puffed up his chest, mustering all of the fake confidence he had, and started marching down the hallway.
Lance kept his eyes trained forward as he made his way towards the other end of the hall. He didn’t dare look in the empty rooms he passed, afraid that he might glimpse something he would rather not want to see. He ignored the rattling of the plastic tarps on the windows that he could hear coming from the rooms, instead choosing to focus on the mutters he was directing towards himself.
“There’s nothing there. Nope. Not a thing. It’s just you and some empty rooms. Nothing to worry about. You got this. Easy-peasy.”
As he moved farther down the hall, he could hear voices coming from around the corner. Normally, hearing voices in buildings such as this one meant he should head in the opposite direction, but this time he only quickened his pace. One of the voices was the familiar melodic tone of Allura, her accent unmistakable. It bounced off the walls around him, the sound out of place in the decaying building. The other voice was also accented, but it was unfamiliar to Lance. He guessed that was the Coran he was supposed to find.
As Lance rounded the corner, the owners of the voices came into view. They were standing about a quarter of the way down the new hallway Lance was in. He noticed dishearteningly that the hallway looked exactly like the one he just left. The whole building was going to be a nightmare. Allura and Coran’s backs were turned towards him, Allura’s white curls bobbing as she nodded along to whatever Coran was saying. Coran’s voice held excitement, his hands moved animatedly as he gestured down the hall. Lance had a feeling that he didn’t want to know what he was talking about.
“Hey, Allura.” Lance said as he approached the pair. The two turned to greet him, Coran stopping mid sentence.
“Lance.” She greeted cheerfully, her eagerness showing clearly on her face. “Good to see you’re out of the van.”
“Not my decision.” Lance replied, a bitterness clipping his words as he pictured Keith’s stupid, pretty face.
Allura only smiled at him. “Oh! Let me introduce you. Lance, this is Coran. He’s the manager of the building. Coran, this is Lance, our resident…” She paused. Lance could see the phrase ‘scaredy pants’ dancing on her tongue.
“I’m the one that reminds everyone that we’re playing with fire...constantly.” Lance said, holding out a hand towards the older man.
The man laughed as he took it, giving it a firm shake. “I’m very familiar with you, Lance. My daughters watch your show all the time. You’re their favorite.”
Lance couldn’t help but smile. Sure, he knew he was a fan favorite, but to hear it basically first hand instead of through a comment on the internet was quite special. It filled him with a warm fuzzy feeling that he didn’t think was possible to get while standing in a place like this.
“I’m glad they enjoy the show.” Lance replied, a bright look still on his face.
“Coran was just telling me about some of the sightings in this hallway.” Allura said.
And suddenly the fuzzy feeling was gone, replaced by a dread that sunk into him slowly.
“Ah, yes.” Coran said. “The apparition of the nurse who-”
“I’m gonna stop you right there.” Lance said, holding up a hand, his voice weak. “I really really really don’t want to know.”
The two let out a laugh. Lance was just so glad that they could find amusement in his fear.
“So what brings you here then?” Allura asked, still slightly chuckling.
“Oh, we need more power but don’t know where to find it.” Lance said.
“Ah, yes. Of course.” Coran replied. “No problem. I’d be happy to show you.”
“Great. Thanks.” Lance replied with a nod.
Coran lead the way back to the entryway, rattling off facts about the history of the building the whole way there. Lance discovered that he liked the place less and less. Asylums were up there on his list of places he hated to investigate - although he hated most investigations. Demon-infested houses, prisons, asylums. Those were his top three. Of course, those were the types of places they went to the most. Fuck him, right?
Reaching the rest of the team who were still working on getting everything set up, Coran took Pidge to show them where they could find more power. Allura had gone off to find Shiro, no doubt relaying what spots they were going to have to investigate. Hunk still hadn’t returned from setting up the static cam it seemed. So that left only him and Keith in the entryway. Keith was checking all of the body cams and replacing the batteries if need be. Lance, deciding to make himself useful, headed over to the case with all the mics in it to check their charges. Having a mic go out in the middle of an investigation was a pain in the ass mostly because it meant they would have to re-shoot some stuff and Lance really didn’t want to spend any extra time in any place that had the title ‘haunted’.
“Glad to see you weren’t murdered by ghosts.” Keith said, a slight taunt to his voice.
“Glad to see you’re still a prick.” Lance retorted, his own voice sharp. Keith only chuckled in response.
Lance lifted open the lid to the mic case, noticing instantly that one was missing. He panicked for a moment, thinking that maybe they had accidentally left one behind, but then he remembered Keith’s totally hilarious and not at all dangerous method of getting him out of the van.
“Hey, I need your mic.” Lance said, looking over his shoulder at Keith. “I need to check the battery.”
“Oh, right.” Keith said, hand going to the small mic that was clipped to the collar of the red flannel he wore. “I forgot I still had it on.” With nimble fingers, he unclipped the mic, letting it dangle for a moment as he reached around and unhooked the small black box from the waistband of his pants. He then pulled the wire of the mic and Lance watched as it slid underneath his black undershirt and re-emerged out the bottom.
Nothing Keith had just done was out of the ordinary. Lance had seen Keith take a mic off a hundred times before and he would probably see Keith do it a hundred more times. But this time…
Maybe it was because it was just the two of them. Maybe it was because he had gotten a glimpse of Keith’s back, pale and just...perfect, when he had lifted up his shirt to unhook the mic box. Maybe it was because he was a horny guy in his twenties. Whatever the case, Lance’s mouth had gone dry and his palms became sweaty. All he could picture was him running his hands up Keith’s sides, lifting the black shirt to expose the chiseled chest that he knew was hiding underneath.
“Lance? You okay?” Keith’s voice ripped Lance from his daydream. Lance blinked up at the guy who he had most certainly not been fantasizing about. Keith was holding out the mic, waiting for Lance to take it with a slightly concerned look on his face.
“What? Yeah! I’m fine! Just...dandy.” Lance stammered out quickly, snatching the mic from Keith and turning back towards the mic case so Keith couldn’t see the flush of his cheeks.
“Okay…?” Keith replied before Lance heard him return to checking the body cams.
‘Get it together, Lance!’ Lance thought to himself angrily. ‘This is definitely not the place you should be having those kind of thoughts about your teammate!’
And it was true. Lance knew that getting distracted could easily lead to him letting his guard down. Letting his guard down meant death by ghost or worse. And nu-uh. He was not going to let that happen. Not today, ghosts!
Lance started to inspect each mic, checking their power levels and making sure they were undamaged. When Hunk got back, the two checked the audio board that Hunk had set up before Lance had even gotten out of the van, testing each mic to make sure it was being picked up properly. By the time they were satisfied that the mics were in perfect condition for the night, the sun had almost completely fallen and the rest of the team were finishing their own set-up tasks.
All the lights in the building had been shut off. The only thing that illuminated their base camp were three low-powered lanterns. They were bright enough to allow the team to move around without running into things or each other, but not so bright as to seep into the adjoined halls.
“Alright, guys.” Shiro said. “Suit up. We’re gonna start recording.”
The team set to work, each member strapping a body cam to themselves and putting on their respective mics. Lance’s hands shook as he attached his mic to his shirt, the anticipation for the night’s events setting off angry butterflies in his stomach. He knew he was going to hate what was to come.
“Here’s the plan for tonight.” Shiro said once they were all geared up. Hunk had one of the large cameras resting on his shoulder, panning sideways to capture the faces of the team. “According to Allura, there’s a handful of active areas that we should cover. This place is pretty big so instead of our usual teams of three, we’ll be going in teams of two. It’s gonna be Hunk with one of the big cams and Lance.” Hunk shot Shiro a thumbs up, Lance only managing a small nod himself. “I’ll take the other big cam. Pidge, you’re with me.”
“Sweet.” Pidge said.
“That leaves Keith and Allura. Keith, make sure to take one of the handhelds.”
“Sure thing.” Keith said.
“Coran has offered to hang around the base camp in case we need any help finding an area of the building or if you have any other questions. Make sure each team takes a walkie just in case you run into a problem. We’re going to meet back here in an hour to switch up the teams. Got it?”
“Great.” Shiro said. “Allura, would you like to tell us about the areas we’re investigating?”
Lance hated this part. He hated hearing about what was waiting for him.
“Of course.” Allura said. “Keith and I will be taking one of the halls on this floor.” She gestured to the hallway that Lance had ventured down earlier. “Apparently there have been reports of a nurse that wanders from room to room. People have also reported feeling chills and being touched on the shoulder.”
“There’s no glass in the windows.” Lance heard Keith mutter to himself. “Of course there’s going to be cold spots.”
If Allura heard him, she made no indication of it. “Shiro and Pidge will take the third floor. People say there’s a young boy named Jimmy that runs around up there. They think he used to be a patient of this facility. He likes to tug on people’s clothing and slam doors.”
“Sounds like fun.” Pidge said, adjusting their glasses.
“And lastly, Lance and Hunk will take the top floor.” Allura continued. “Footsteps are heard often and a shadowy figure has been seen standing at the ends of the halls up there. No one is quite certain who this shadowy figure is. Reports vary from a former patient to one of the doctors that worked here.”
Lance thought he was going to be sick. Why did Allura have to give them the worst area to investigate? It just wasn’t fair.
“You all have your assignments.” Shiro said. “Let’s get this investigation started.”
“Real quick!” Pidge chimed in, catching everyone’s attention. “I’ve upgraded the mics on the audio recorders. Everything should still work the same though. So make sure to do lots of EVP sessions, okay? Tonight’s the night Keith relinquishes his skeptic title!”
Keith scoffed. “If you think some fancy new microphones are gonna make me start believing in ghosts, you’ve got another thing coming.”
“Just you wait, Kogane. Just you wait.” Pidge replied before heading over to the supply table. The rest of the team followed. Lance made sure to pick up a flashlight for himself, an audio recorder, some extra batteries that he stuffed into his pocket, and one of the walkie talkies.
“Hey Allura.” Keith said from beside Lance, turning on one of the handheld cameras. “We should try the motion lights.”
“Good idea.” Allura replied. “I’ll make sure to bring them with.”
Keith humed in response, his focus on the camera in his hands.
Lance was about to turn away when Keith spoke again.
“Try not to chicken out too much tonight. There’s an echo so if you scream, everyone is going to hear it.”
Lance glared at him. “Try not to be a dick tonight. Oh wait, too late. You already are one!”
“Wow. What a burn.” Keith replied, sarcasm dripping from his voice. “How will I ever recover?”
“Ya know what? I hope a ghost does possess you. That would serve you right.” Lance fired at him.
“Well, if I get possessed by a ghost, which is impossible by the way because ghosts aren’t real , I’m coming for you first. See ya later, Lance.” Keith said before walking away, heading towards where Allura was waiting for him.
Lance glared after him, questions of how he could have a crush on someone as insufferable as him going through his head. It just didn’t make any sense.
“You ready?” Hunk asked, coming to stand by Lance’s side.
Lance sighed, tearing his eyes away from the retreating figure of Keith. “Let’s just get this over with…”
“That’s the spirit!” Hunk said.
“How many times do I have to tell you that ghost puns only makes them angrier?” Lance chided.
Hunk smiled at him. “But they’re so funny.”
“They won’t be funny when you’re dead…” Lance muttered as he started towards the staircase. The two ascended the stairs, Lance turning on his flashlight so he could see. He liked being teamed up with Hunk. He only laughed occasionally when Lance overreacted to something, unlike the others who laughed almost all of the time. The only downside to investigating with Hunk was that he always had to walk behind Lance, being the camera man and all.
Lance tried to keep his breathing steady as they ascended, but as they approached the fifth floor, it was hard to remain in control. His heart was ramming against the inside of his chest, nerves dancing just below his skin. A shiver went up his spine more than once, goose bumps popping up on his arms.
“How’re ya feeling tonight Lance?” Hunk asked from behind him.
“Spectacular.” Lance replied, voice a little more high pitched than usual.
“Do you think Pidge’s new mics will actually capture some evidence?”
“God, I hope not. What I wouldn’t give for this place to be not haunted.” Lance replied, glancing back at Hunk over his shoulder.
Hunk chuckled. “So what’s the reports from this floor again?”
Lance knew that Hunk was only asking for the audience's sake, but that still didn’t make him want to have to think about what was waiting for them.
“Uh...footsteps.” Lance reluctantly replied. “And some sorta shadowy figure.”
“And what’re you gonna do if we see this shadowy figure?” Hunk asked.
Lance stopped and spun to face his large friend, angling the flashlight down so as not to blind him. “What do you mean what am I going to do? Get the hell out of there, of course! No way am I sticking around if that thing decides to show up.”
“How very brave of you.” Hunk replied.
“Bravery and stupidity often go hand-in-hand.” Lance said, turning back around to continue the climb upward. “I choose to be neither.”
“So what you’re saying is that if you were in a horror movie, you would survive.”
“Hunk, my life is a constant horror movie and I’m not dead yet.”
That brought out a laugh from Hunk. “Fair enough, buddy.”
When the duo finally reached the top of the stairs, Lance thought his legs were going to give out from exhaustion. Allura must secretly hate him for making him climb that many stairs. His breath came out in pants as he scanned the fifth floor with his flashlight. It looked very similar to the first floor, long hallways stretching out in front of him and to his left. Lance briefly noticed that there were less doors than the first floor.
“The rooms up here are bigger.” Lance commented.
“Coran said this floor housed the...more unstable patients.” Hunk said. “They did, like, electroshock therapy on them and stuff up here.”
Lance gave his friend a terrified look. “So you mean to tell me that this shadowy figure could be some extra-crazed psych ward patient?” Lance’s voice was a whisper, not wanting the extra-crazed psych ward patient to hear him.
“Or a doctor.” Hunk said. “Either, or.”
Lance groaned, closing his eyes. “This place is the worst.”
“The sooner we start, the sooner you can leave.” Hunk said. “Let’s go find some place to reach out.”
“Fine.” Lance agreed reluctantly, opening his eyes once more.
Lance led the way down the hall in front of him, the beam of his flashlight being the only source of light on the entire floor. It had been a cloudy day so it was no surprise to him that the moonlight was nowhere to be seen. Their footsteps echoed off the walls around them, the squeaks of the floorboard loud in the otherwise silent hall.
“I can see how it would be easy to hear footsteps.” Hunk commented.
“Maybe the echoes make people think they’re hearing an extra set of footsteps.” Lance said.
“I dunno…” Hunk replied. “Coran mentioned that no one really comes up to this floor after they started seeing the shadowy figure. Most of the reports come from people on the floor below.”
“Of course…” Lance said, a dark feeling settling into him. Every step he took further down the hall made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck more and more. He felt like he was being watched, but he couldn’t tell from where. He was glad that Hunk had his back on this one, his calming nature the only thing keeping Lance moving down the hall.
Reaching the end of the hall, Lance could see another one on his left. To his right was an entrance to a large room, larger than any of the other ones he had seen so far.
“What about in here?” Lance asked, pointing his flashlight into the empty room.
“Looks good.” Hunk said.
“What was it used for? Do you know?”
“I don’t remember Allura or Coran mentioning it.” Hunk replied as the two entered the room.
The ceiling wasn’t very high, but it was more than made up for by the length of the room. Debris was scattered along the floor, chips of paint and dead leaves making up most of it. There was no furniture in the room save one folding chair that was pushed against one of the walls. Lance decided that he did not like the feel of the room. It felt heavy, oppressive, like something was pushing on his chest.
“Set the recorder up over there.” Hunk nodded towards the folding chair. Lance’s only response was heading over to the chair, pulling the recorder out of his jacket pocket. He pressed the button to turn it on and then another to start recording before setting it gently on the chair.
“This is Lance and Hunk.” Lance said, trying to mask the shakiness of his voice. He wasn’t sure how successful he was. “Fifth floor. First EVP session of the night.”
Lance stood a few feet from the chair as he scanned his flashlight around the room. Hunk stood a little ways into the room, panning the camera around the large space. Lance knew that him and Shiro would return the following day to get B-roll, but the more he shot now, the less time he would have to spend here tomorrow. Lance didn’t blame him for that.
Lance took a deep breath, praying that his questions would only be met with silence. “Is there anyone here with us tonight?”
Lance paused, ears straining for even the slightest noise.
“Can you give us a sign that you’re here?” Hunk said, moving closer to where Lance was standing. “Say something or make some sorta noise.”
The two were quiet as they were once again met with silence. Lance was starting to get hopeful that the oppressive feeling he was getting was just all in his head.
“We’re gonna leave soon.” Lance said, a little more confidence to his voice. “And so if you want to say something to us, you better do it now.”
“Tell us your story.” Hunk said. “What happened to you?”
As Lance listened to the silence of the room, he felt a chill drift across his skin. Lance froze, both in the literal sense of the word and the figurative sense. He didn’t have to be told what a sudden drop in temperature meant.
It was one word, crisp and clear in his ear. There was no mistaking it. It sounded nothing like Hunk’s voice and it absolutely wasn’t his own voice. That really only left one option.
“Fuck no!” Lance said before he was bolting for the door, Hunk calling his name after him. If the ghost wanted him to leave than who was he to argue? Goodbye. Adiós. See ya never.
Lance’s heart was threatening to beat right out of his chest, but he didn’t dare stop or even look behind him. The ghost could be chasing him for all he knew and he was not about to let himself be killed. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, fueling his legs to move faster as he sprinted down the hallway and towards the stairs. He would’ve kept going too if it wasn’t for one thought that stopped him in his tracks, halting him with one foot on the top step.
He had left Hunk behind. With the ghost. Oh shit.
Lance turned around slowly, debating whether or not he wanted to go check to see if Hunk was even still alive. Lance was met once more with a dark hallway, his flashlight beam not even reaching halfway down. He knew he should go rescue his friend. Hunk would do the same if the roles were reversed, but fear held him in place. Lance only continued to stare down the hall, eyes straining to see down into the dark.
He knew the power of the brain was dangerous. Shiro had often lectured them on the brain’s ability to make something out of nothing. And so that’s why Lance tried to pay no mind to how the darkness swirled and twisted at the end of the hall. It was just his brain trying to fill the empty space. But the more he stared, the more the shadows seemed to take shape, creating a dark mass that seemed to be moving towards him. Footsteps started echoing towards him, each squeak raising Lance’s fear.
Lance involuntarily let out a squeal, his hands starting to shake as the mass continued it’s approach. It was only a few feet away from the edges of his flashlight beam. His brain screamed at him to run, to get out of there, but his knees had locked up. He could only stare in horror, convinced that this was the end for him.
Hunk stepped into the light, camera still on his shoulder and aimed in Lance’s direction.
“Hunk?” Lance choked out, hand going to his chest as he took deep breaths in and out. “Don’t scare me like that.”
“Sorry, dude, but you took the flashlight with you when you ran. Lucky I had the camera. Without its night vision I don’t think I ever would’ve found you. What happened back there?”
A shiver went down his spine as he recalled the memory. “Did you not hear it?”
“Hear what?” Hunk asked, finally stopping in front of Lance.
“A voice. It whispered right in my ear.” Lance explained.
“Are you sure it wasn’t just the wind or something?” Hunk asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
Lance let out a cynical bark of laughter. “Oh, I’m sure. It got really cold and it was just... so clear, ya know?”
“Well, what’d it say?”
“Leave.” Lance said with a shudder.
“And so you did.” Hunk commented.
“You bet your ass I did...sorry for leaving you behind and all that…” Lance looked away guiltily.
“It was no problem. You did forget this, though.” Hunk dug a hand into his pocket and pulled out the small audio recorder. He handed it to Lance who took it. “Maybe the new mics picked up that voice you heard.”
“Maybe…” Lance said, staring down at the small device.
“Anyway, we’ve got like another half an hour left on this floor. We should probably keep investigating.”
“Yeah, okay.” Lance said. “But I’m not going back to that room.”
“Alright.” Hunk replied. “I’ll tell the others to check it out when they’re up here. Maybe they’ll hear the same thing you did. For now, let’s head down this way.” Hunk pointed the camera in the direction of the hall they hadn’t gone down. “We should try checking out some of the rooms.”
“Okay…” Lance agreed weakly. It wasn’t even an hour into their investigation and Lance was already about as done with this place as he could be.
To his, dare he say, delight, the rest of his time on the fifth floor proved to be uneventful. They had checked out some of the patient rooms which had steel frames of beds screwed to the floor as well as some old looking machinery. They conducted a few EVP sessions but those yielded no results that they could hear. The two were just discussing returning to base camp when the walkie talkie on Lance’s hip started to crackle.
“Pink and Red heading back to base. Over.” Allura’s voice said from the walkie.
As Lance reached to pull the device from where it was clipped to his pants, Pidge’s voice sounded from the speaker. “Green and Black heading that way as well. Over.”
Lance raised the device to his mouth, pressed the button to talk, and said, “Blue and Yellow will be there shortly. Over.”
The codenames had been Pidges idea back when they first started making the show. They held no real purpose, something Keith had pointed out on multiple occasions, but the audience had taken to them quite nicely. And since nobody on the team wanted to disappoint their fans, the names had stuck.
Lance was more than a little happy to leave the fifth floor. He’d be happy if he never had to step foot on this floor ever again. That’s not to say he was excited for the other areas of the asylum, of course. He was not looking forward to finding out everything this place had to offer.
The duo descended the stairs, Lance eager to get back to the safety of their base camp. As they reached the ground level, Lance could see that everyone else was already assembled, checking batteries and replacing them if need be. Lance switched off his flashlight as he approached the supply table, depositing the audio recorder onto it to check its charge.
“Anything good?” Pidge asked from beside him.
“Define good.” Lance replied.
“Lance heard a voice and ran away.” Hunk said, appearing on Lance’s other side.
Pidge snorted. “Classic Lancey Lance scaredy pants.”
“It told me to leave !” Lance defended himself. “So I left !”
“Yeah, with your tail between your legs.” Pidge said smugly.
“It was probably just the wind.” Keith chimed in from the other side of the table, placing the handheld down on it. “Or maybe you were just so scared you started hearing things.”
Lance crossed his arms with a huff. “I know what a voice sounds like. It was definitely a ghost.”
“Whatever you say.” Keith replied, clearly not convinced.
“What about you guys?” Pidge asked Keith. “Find anything good?”
Keith shook his head. “Nope. We set up motion sensors to see if we could catch that nurse moving from room to room but nothing.”
“Maybe she’s shy.” Hunk said.
“I don’t think she’s much of anything to be honest with you.” Keith replied. “How ‘bout on your end Pidge? Catch anything that’s going to convince me to change my mind?”
Pidge only shrugged. “We heard a couple of noises here and there that we couldn’t explain, but nothing more than that. We even tried to get Jimmy to play with us but he wasn’t taking the bait. But the night’s still young.”
“Very true.” Shiro said, setting the large camera down on the table. “We should get out there again real soon.”
“Ready to go whenever you are.” Keith said.
“Speak for yourself.” Lance muttered, causing Keith to shoot him a dirty look.
“What’s the team assignments?” Allura asked after taking a swig from her water bottle.
“Allura, it’s you and me.” Shiro said. “Hunk and Pidge. Lance and Keith.”
Both Lance and Keith groaned. Keith was Lance’s least favorite person to investigate with. They clashed so often that it was more like fighting than actually investigating.
“Suck it up, guys.” Shiro said, his voice unapologetic. “We have to give the fans what they want. And if they want more interactions between you two, well that’s what they’re going to get."
“They like to torture us.” Lance said. “That’s what it is. Torture.”
“Even so.” Shiro said, giving them both a stern look.
Neither responded, instead choosing to look anywhere but at the other.
On the surface level, Lance was not all all excited to investigate with Keith. He had a habit of leaving Lance alone a lot, sometimes on accident but mostly on purpose. He said he found it funny to watch Lance think himself into some sorta meltdown. Lance didn’t find that funny one bit. In fact, he was pretty sure that his lifespan shortened by a couple of years every time Keith did it.
But if Lance was being truly honest with himself, the thought of being near Keith, even if it was in a creepy asylum, was enough to send his heart fluttering. Sure, they would probably bicker the whole time, but at least Lance got to stare at his pretty face while they did. That was enough for him.
“Where are we headed to?” Pidge asked.
“Um…” Allura said, setting down her water bottle and picking up her notebook that had all of the plans written out. “Okay so, Shiro and I are going to be heading to the infirmary. It’s on the second floor. There are reports of things being flung across the room. Should be interesting. Hunk and Pidge should take the kitchen. It’s on this floor. Down that way.” Allura pointed to one of the halls. “Lots of noise can be heard coming from there apparently. Pots and pans banging, utensils rattling, stuff like that.”
“Haunted kitchen? Cool.” Hunk said and high-fived Pidge.
“Lance and Keith…” Allura said, flipping the page. “You’ve got the morgue.”
“I’m sorry, the what?!” Lance said, voice raising slightly.
“The morgue.” Keith said, his voice flat.
“Uh-ha-ha no thanks. I’ll pass.” Lance said, holding his hands up in front of him and shaking his head.
“What’s so bad about the morgue?” Pidge asked.
“Everyone knows that morgues are the most haunted places.” Lance said.
“Says who?” Keith asked, rolling his eyes.
“People.” Lance replied, an edge to his tone.
“Guys.” Shiro cut in. “We’re wasting time. Lance, I know you don’t want to go to the morgue and none of us can make you. But if you don’t go, Keith is going down there alone.”
Lance bit his lip in thought, “But if he goes down there all by himself…”
“I don’t want to lay blame here,” Pidge said, suppressing a smirk, “But it would basically be your fault if he gets possessed.”
Lance didn’t want that. He really didn’t want that. If Keith went there alone, he’d for sure go chasing off after something he shouldn’t and wind up in a heap of trouble. No, he needed Lance there to keep his recklessness in check.
“Fine. I’ll go.” Lance finally said, giving in.
“Joy.” Keith said sarcastically.
“I’m saving your life so you better be grateful.” Lance shot at him.
“I am grateful. This is my grateful voice.”
Lance might end up killing him himself.
“Allura what can they expect to find down there?” Shiro asked.
“Down there?” Lance cocked his head to the side in confusion.
“The morgue’s in the basement.” Allura explained.
Lance’s soul might as well have ascended to heaven right then and there. A morgue was always bad. A basement was always bad. A morgue in a basement was the worst.
“Shadow people is the most common report from down there. Figures moving around, footsteps, voices. It’s really the works. Think you can handle it?”
“No…” Lance said, his voice sounding like a sob.
“Definitely.” Keith said and he actually sounded excited.
“Coran said he’ll show you the way to the basement when you guys are ready.” Allura said. Coran, hearing his name, stood up from the chair he’d been sitting in along one of the walls in the room, closing the book he’d been reading. Lance had a feeling that he was used to dealing with ghost hunting teams. A place as active as this probably got a lot of visitors.
“Whenever you’re ready, boys.” Coran said, his voice cheerful.
“Let’s get moving then.” Shiro said. “Meet back here in two hours for another change up.”
“You know nothing’s gonna happen down there, right?” Keith said from Lance’s side as the two were grabbing equipment. His voice didn’t have the usual teasing tone to it. He sounded...sincere.
“You can’t know that.” Lance replied, not really caring if Keith heard the terror in his tone.
“I can.” Keith said. “Because ghosts aren’t real.”
“That lie may work for you, but it doesn’t for me.”
“Lance, I want to believe ghosts are real. I really do. I would love to actually see one or capture one on camera. But we’ve been doing this for four years and not one bit of supposed evidence has ever convinced me. That’s not gonna change just because we’re in a morgue. I know nothing is going to happen because nothing is all that’s ever happened.”
Lance scoffed, “This must be a pretty boring gig for you then.”
“Well, there are a few reasons to stick around.” Keith said, a certain tone to his voice that Lance couldn’t place. Whatever it was, it made his stomach do a little flip. “Grab the camera. We should get moving.”
Keith walked away, leaving Lance standing alone at the table trying to get himself back under control. What the hell had just happened? Had Keith tried to comfort him? That was new. And what was with that whole ‘reasons to stay’ thing? What did that mean? Was Lance just reading too much into it?
“Hurry up!” Keith called to him, breaking his train of thought.
Lance shook his head, trying to refocus. He could think about Keith after the morgue. He grabbed one of the unused handhelds off the tables and then went to join Keith and Coran who were waiting by one of the halls.
“All set?” Coran asked, eyes shifting between the two.
“Seems like it.” Keith said with a nod.
“Fantastic! Let’s go!” Coran led the way down the hall, switching on a flashlight so the trio could see. Lance had turned on the camera, maneuvering towards the back of the party so as to get both Keith and Coran in the shot. He knew that Coran wasn’t miked, but he thought his daughters might like it if they saw their dad on camera. He’d have to remember to mention that to Pidge when they cut the video together.
“So what kinda stuff went on in this morgue?” Keith asked, his own flashlight on and pointed in front of him.
“Oh, lots of stuff.” Coran replied. “Patients were treated rather harshly here and often died from their treatments, if you can even call them that. Most of the people who were admitted left through the morgue.”
“That’s horrible.” Lance said.
“Quite.” Coran said with a nod. “It’s believed that some patients were even brought down to the morgue before they were dead.”
“Awful.” Keith said, a certain anger to his voice. Lance could understand that.
“The records from that time are spotty at best, but from what we can gather, about a thousand bodies were housed in that morgue from the time the facility opened until it closed.”
“So that’s why it’s so active.” Lance said.
“One can assume.” Coran agreed.
“Have you had any first hand encounters down there?” Keith asked.
“Me? No. I’ve only been down there once. Gave me a funny feeling, that place did. In fact, most of the staff refuse to go down there.”
“Can’t really blame them.” Lance said.
“Here we are.” Coran said, stopping at a door near the end of the hall. He pulled out a set of keys and unlocked it. “I’ll leave the door unlocked for you. Good luck. Hope you catch something good.”
“I don’t.” Lance said, his voice very close to a whine.
“Thanks Coran.” Keith said, reaching out and pushing the door open. The creak of the heavy door sent a shiver down Lance’s spine. He had a really bad feeling about this place. The door now open, Lance could see a staircase that descended into darkness. And while that had been exactly what he expected, it was still so much worse than he ever could have possibly imagined.
“After you.” Lance said quietly.
“How generous.” Keith said before shining his light down the staircase and slowly starting to descend. Lance, not wanting to lose Keith, followed closely behind him, trying to keep the camera as steady as he could despite his shaky hands. He could feel the steps bend beneath his weight and Lance silently prayed at they wouldn’t break and leave them trapped in the morgue.
“Shit, dude…” Keith said as he reached the bottom, moving the flashlight around the room.
Lance joined him at the bottom, shining his own flashlight around the room. It was a large, open room. The floors and walls were both made of tiles which were chipped and cracked. Every twenty or so feet there was a drain that led to who-knows-where. A line of rusted metal gurneys stood against the far wall and Lance shuddered at the thought of how many bodies had been on top of them. Along another wall were tall shelves made from rotting wood. Now they stood empty, but Lance imagined that’s where all of the crude mortuary equipment was kept. On the wall opposite of that was a large iron door, rusted and singed.
“Is that…?” Lance said, pointing his flashlight beam and camera at the door.
“Yeah…” Keith said, pointing his own flashlight at the door. “Probably used it for cremation.”
A sick feeling started to churn in Lance’s stomach. “I really don’t like this place.”
“I’m right there with ya.” Keith said. “Some real shady shit went down here.”
Lance panned the camera around the room once more, eventually landing on Keith who had moved farther in, inspecting the gurneys. “Think we should do an EVP session?”
Keith nodded. “Yeah.” He pulled an audio recorder out from his pocket and pressed a few buttons before laying it on one of the metal gurneys. “This is Keith and Lance. First EVP session in the morgue. If there’s anyone with us tonight, my name is Keith, this is my friend Lance. Can you tell us your name? ”
Lance zoomed in on Keith’s face as he talked, finding some comfort in the sureness of his expression.
“If you’re here, can you give us a sign?” Lance said, stepping closer to Keith.
- ting ting -
Lance spun towards the sound which had come from his right, the wall with the incinerator. “Did you…?” He didn’t want to finish the question, terror already gripping his insides.
“Sounded like something knocked on the door.” Keith said, moving towards the iron door. “I’m gonna test it.”
Lance wanted to tell Keith to not go over there but he knew that Keith would go anyway, so he just kept his mouth shut. Keith reached out and rapped his knuckle on the door.
- ting ting -
It sounded exactly the same. “Fuck…” Lance breathed out.
“Can you make that sound for us again?” Keith asked, still standing near the door.
The two stood in silence. Lance could feel his heart in this throat, the pulsing overpowering all his other senses.
“You ask, Lance. It responded to you before.” Keith said quietly.
Lance didn’t want to. He really really really didn’t want to. But Keith was looking at him with those eyes, so expectant and hungry for answers and Lance just...fell apart.
“Ifthatwasyoucanyoubangonthedooragain?” Lance’s voice was the opposite of composed, his words slurring together.
“Breathe, Lance.” Keith said, his voice low. “Nothing is down here.”
Lance sucked in a breath before trying again, “If that was you, can you please bang on the door again?”
There was about three seconds of silence before it was broken.
- ting ting -
“Ho-ly shit!” Lance said, his muscles tensing up. “Please try to explain that away. That’s not nothing!”
“It is nothing.” Keith insisted. “It’s old and rusted. The hinges are probably just tearing from years of neglect. Coran said no one ever really comes down here.”
“Whatever, man. Something’s responding to me and you know it.” Lance said.
Keith just shook his head. “You’re overreacting. Like you always do.”
“Am not!” Lance said, voice bouncing off the tiled walls.
“Let’s just continue with the EVP session.” Keith said, his own voice sounding a little irritated.
“Sure.” Lance said, still feeling peeved.
Keith walked back towards the recorder. “Did you die in this place? Or were you one of the workers here?”
Lance held his breath as the silence stretched on.
“My friend here is really scared of you.” Keith said.
“What are you doing?” Lance hissed at him. “They don’t need to know that.”
Keith ignored him and kept talking. “I think it would be pretty funny to see him freak out, don’t you?”
“Shut your mouth, Keith.” Lance said, his voice coming out more like a plea than a demand.
“So why don’t you tug on his jacket a little? Give him a good scare.” Keith shot Lance with a mischievous smirk.
“No, please don’t do that.” Lance said, hysteria building in him. “Tug on Keith’s shirt, not mine.”
The two stood in silence as they waited for something to happen. Lance was hyper aware of the clothes hanging off of him, bracing himself to run at the slightest shift in fabric.
“Nothing.” Keith said triumphantly. “Absolutely nothing.”
Lance didn’t respond. He was too busy trying to pick up the last remaining shred of his courage.
“I’m gonna get some EMF readings.” Keith said. “You brought it with, yeah?”
Lance nodded, placing his flashlight in his mouth so he could retrieve the device from his pocket.
“Gross. You realize that we share those, right? No one wants to touch your spit.” Keith gave him a disgusted look.
Lance just shrugged as he pulled out the EMF and handed it to Keith. Keith only looked at it, not attempting to take it out of Lance’s hand. “Did you lick this too?”
Lance only rolled his eyes and shoved the device into Keith’s chest, forcing him to take it. After, he pulled the flashlight out of his mouth. “And you say I’m the dramatic one. Do you think I just go around licking all of the equipment?”
Keith only huffed in response as he turned the device in his hands on. “I’m gonna get some baseline readings.” Keith started moving around the perimeter of the room, Lance following his movements with the camera. “Point four...point five…”
“Pretty average readings.” Lance commented as Keith continued to move around the room.
“Seems like it.” Keith paused, looking like a thought occurred to him. “I wanna try something. You can’t freak out.”
“You are not leaving me in here by myself.” Lance said, his voice slightly panicked.
“Nothing like that.” Keith said quickly. “You thought that a ghost was responding to you, right?”
“I don’t think. I know.” Lance said
“Sure.” Keith said, rolling his eyes. “So I’m wondering if…” Keith trailed off as he approached Lance, eyes falling back down to the device. Lance was silent as he watched Keith move around him, sweat building on his forehead as he waited impatiently for Keith to say something.
“What’s weird? Keith?”
“The baseline for the room is like point four, but right here,” Keith moved so he was standing on Lance’s right. “The readings are like eight point something or nine point something.”
“T-That’s probably just the camera, right?” Lance stuttered out.
“Normally, I’d agree with you.” Keith said, still looking at the device. “But why is this the only spot near you that’s affected. Plus, you’re holding the camera with your left hand. If anything, that means your left side should have the higher reading.”
“So what are you saying?” Lance was staring at Keith wide-eyed.
“Hmm...try walking somewhere else.” Keith said.
Keith was way too calm for Lance’s liking. Way way way way way too calm. It took everything in Lance’s power to not run back up the stairs to safety, but Keith was acting as if he was commenting on the weather. Keith’s ability to over-rationalize things like this away was almost unnatural and, frankly, a little concerning.
Still, Lance did as Keith asked. He took five steps backwards, moving closer to the stairs just in case he needed to make a quick getaway. Keith remained where he was, slowly moving the EMF up and down.
“Well?” Lance asked impatiently.
“It’s back down to point five.” Keith said and Lance thought he was going to cry. Keith backed up to Lance’s side in a couple steps. “Aaaaaaaand eight point six.”
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!” Lance’s mind raced as he tried to think of a logical explanation because the alternative was just too much for his overworked heart to handle. “It must be my mic! Yeah, that has to be it! Or my body cam!” Lance was grasping at straws and he knew it. It seemed Keith knew it too.
“They’ve never given off readings like that.” Keith said matter-of-factly.
“Then what is your explanation for it mister skeptic?” Lance begged.
Keith looked at him, an almost indifferent expression on his face. “I dunno. It’s just weird.”
Game over. Fatality. K.O.
“Oooookay, I’ve reached my limit. That’s enough for one night. Time to go.” Lance handed the camera to Keith who took it, amusement dancing in his eyes. “You can stay here if you want, but I’m heading back to base camp where I’m going to stay for the rest of the night.”
“Oh, c’mon. You’re going to quit because of one weird EMF reading?” Keith asked.
“No, I’m quitting because a ghost told me to leave earlier and now one is following me around. And I don’t know about you, but I really don’t feel like dying tonight.” Lance turned his back on Keith, heading towards the stairs.
“You heard it here first, folks. Lance has beaten his own record for quickest give up!
Lance looked over his shoulder at Keith who had the small camera pointed at himself. Lance found that he had never wanted to smack a smirk off someone’s face as much as he did in that moment. He knew that he should just turn back around, walk up the stairs, and deal with Keith’s teasing later. That was the safest course of action. Step one: leave haunted morgue and not die. Step two: find something to hold over Keith’s head so he wouldn’t have to live through days of being made fun of.
But Lance didn’t do that. He didn’t do that because he had been on edge the entire night. He didn’t do that because he was the only sane person on his entire team and the fact that no one ever listened to his warnings was equal parts exhausting and frustrating. He didn’t do that because his life was a constant battle between wanting to grab Keith and kiss him and wanting to grab Keith and punch him.
Instead, Lance chose the far less mature route and he knew that he would come to regret it later, but he didn’t care. Right now he had a lesson to teach.
“You think this is me giving up? I’ve never given up!” Lance’s tone was sharp as he turned to face Keith again, glaring daggers at him.
“Then please explain to me what you’re doing.” Keith asked, turning the camera to face Lance again. He still had that stupid smirk on his face.
“I’m retreating to safety.” Lance said, emphasizing each each word mockingly.
“And that’s not giving up because…?”
Lance clicked his tongue in irritation. “Giving up would be if I never came back. Like at all. But there’s no way I’d let you guys investigate on your own. You’d all be killed in the first hour.”
“Ah, yes.” Keith replied, not even trying to hide the sarcasm in his voice. “We’d all be six feet under if you weren’t around to scare the ghosts away with your terrified squealing.”
“I do not squeal!” Lance shot at him, fuming.
“I’m sorry, high pitched screaming is what I meant.”
“I don’t do that either!”
“Would you prefer banshee wailing?”
“How about incessant shrieking?”
“Oh, that’s a new one. Frustrated yelling.”
“This is why no one fucking likes you!” Lance yelled, throwing his hands up in exasperation, flashlight beam dancing across the ceiling.
Keith didn’t even flinch at the insult which Lance found incredibly infuriating. “Ask the fans and I think you’ll find it’s actually the opposite.”
Lance was about point three seconds away from blowing another gasket. He decided right then and there that it didn’t matter how pretty Keith’s face was; no amount of physical attraction could make up for the rottenness of his personality. And Lance was having no part of that. Not now. Not ever. Lance turned around and started heading towards the stairs. “I can’t fucking stand you. I’m outta here.”
“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Keith called to him sweetly. Sweetly. The audacity of the guy.
Lance didn’t bother to turn back around to flip him off, but he knew Keith got the message when he heard that awful, wonderful chuckle echo softly off the walls.
Lance ascended the steps, flashlight held in front of him so he didn’t trip. There was still a fire in his eyes, rage still sizzling in his brain. No one could get under Lance’s skin like Keith could. It was almost impressive.
As Lance reached the top, he reached for the handle of the door, trying to control himself enough not to yank the rusted knob off completely. A thought fluttered through his mind briefly; he had left the door open. Maybe Coran had closed it.
It didn’t turn. It didn’t even slightly turn. It was like the knob was welded into place.
Lance furrowed his eyebrows and tried again, pulling the knob a little harder, twisting his wrist in an effort to try to get it to move. Nothing. The knob remained unturned and, by extension, the door remained shut.
All rage drained from his body as fear set in, making his mouth go dry and his stomach sick. He knew he shouldn’t jump to conclusions, but the door had been working perfectly fine just a little bit ago. “Uh...Keith?” Lance called, his voice wobbly and strained. “I can’t get the door to open.”
Lance heard an irritated sigh come from the bottom of the steps and a moment later he saw a beam of a flashlight out of the corner of his eyes. He looked over his shoulder, hand still pulling at the knob, and saw Keith standing at the bottom of the steps, camera pointing up at Lance.
“Just pull it open.” Keith said unhelpfully.
“Do I look stupid? I am pulling.” Lance replied, tugging on the knob once more. It remained stationary.
“Pull harder then. Coran said he’d leave it unlocked.”
“Oh for the love of-I’m pulling as hard as I can.” Lance said, fear escalating with every unsuccessful attempt to open the door. “I’m telling you that it’s not opening.”
“For fuck’s sake.” Keith said, walking up the stairs. “Let me try.”
“Be my guest.” Lance replied, reaching out to take the camera from Keith as he neared the top of the steps. Lance retreated down a few steps to give Keith enough room. He hoped with his entire being that Keith could get it open.
Keith grabbed the knob, tugging on it lightly just as Lance had, probably not wanting to break it.
It didn’t move.
He saw Keith grip it tighter, squaring his shoulders before pulling the knob with more force.
Still it didn’t move. Lance’s heart sank through the floor.
“What the fuck…?” Keith muttered as he grasped the knob with both hands and pulled back, using all of his weight to try to get the door to budge.
The door remained closed.
“It’s gotta be jammed or something.” Keith said, releasing the knob with a huff.
“I dunno…” Lance said weakly. “If it was jammed we should at least be able to move it a little bit.”
“True.” Keith said in thought. “Well, it doesn’t matter much what it is. Someone’ll just have to open it from the other side. Radio Shiro to let him know to come let us out.”
“Oh, right! The walkie.” Lance felt a surge of relief flow through him as he tucked his flashlight under the arm holding the camera and then pulled the walkie from his hip, raising it to his mouth. “Black, this is Blue and Red. Please come in. Over.”
The walkie crackled as the two waited for a response, the white noise filling the small stairwell. Lance gave Shiro a minute to respond, but when nothing came through he tried again.
“Black, this is Blue and Red. Are you there? Over.” The walkie crackled again, Lance glancing nervously at Keith who was now facing him.
Lance almost dropped the device as the sound of interference came through, causing his ears to ring. He could only wince as he waited for it to pass, briefly noticing that Keith had covered his ears completely. The sound faded in and out for a few moments, reverberating off the walls. Only when the sounds was dying off did Lance finally here a voice responding to him.
Except it wasn’t Shiro’s voice.
Except it wasn’t any voice that he recognized.
“Ha. Ha. Very funny guys.” Lance said desperately into the walkie. “Mess with the freaked out guy. Please cut it out.”
There was no response, only white noise.
Lance looked at Keith, terror in his eyes and his grip on the walkie iron tight. “Please tell me this is you?”
Keith’s expression was calm as he shook his head. “Nope. Not me. But we’re probably just out of range.”
“Then what about that voice we just heard?” Lance asked frantically.
“Someone’s probably just using the same frequency that we are.” Keith said, his voice collected and rational.
“But you just said we are out of range!” Lance replied. “How can we be out of range but also be picking up someone else’s radio? Not to mention that we are like in the middle of nowhere. Who would be using walkie talkies except for us?”
“How should I know? I’m not an expert on walkie talkies.” Keith replied, a salty tone to his voice. “What I do know is that this isn’t paranormal. No one’s here but us.”
“How many weird things have to happen before you open your eyes and see that we are not alone down here?” Lance asked, eyes glancing around in panic.
“You know, you’re right, Lance.” Keith said. “How could I forget the spiders? How cruel of me.”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it!” Lance replied.
“Whatever.” Keith replied. “Why don’t we try calling them? You have your phone on you, right?”
“Uh, yeah.” Lance said. “But I don’t get any service out here.” Stupid, Lance. He should’ve known that going with the cheap phone plan would come back to bite him in the ass someday.
“Of course not.” Keith said, sighing as he fished his own phone out of his pocket. Lance saw the screen light up followed by an irritated look on Keith’s face. “No service here either.”
Lance felt like he was about to cry. “We’re gonna die down here!”
“We are not gonna die, you moron. We’ll just have to wait until someone notices that we haven’t made it back to base camp and comes looking for us.”
“But that’s not for at least another hour!”
“You got any better ideas?”
“What if he just try screaming and pounding on the door?” Lance suggested, more than willing to do exactly that.
“Yeah, I don’t think that’ll help.” Keith said doubtfully, rapping his knuckles against the wooden door a few times. A muted bang could be heard but it died quickly. “This door is really thick. Any noise we make isn’t going to be loud enough for anyone to hear it.”
Lance let out a small whimper. “I can’t believe I’m trapped in a haunted morgue with a ghost that wants to kill me and you, of all people.”
“Yeah, well you’re not exactly my first pick either, but we’re here now so I guess we’ll just have to deal.”
“Easy for you to say…” Lance muttered.
Keith ignored him, instead saying, “Let’s head back down. I’m not waiting in this cramped little space.”
Although Lance wasn’t jazzed about the thought of heading back into the morgue, he had to agree with Keith. The air was stuffy and hot on the small staircase while the morgue was cooler, almost damp feeling. The two made their way back down the stairs and into the morgue, the very familiar feeling of dread coming to rest on Lance’s shoulders as he did. He could see the audio recorder and EMF sitting on one of the metal gurneys; Keith must’ve left them there when he came to help Lance. Everything else, though, looked exactly the same as when he left.
“I take it I’m not going to convince you to keep investigating while we wait.” Keith said as he went to go sit on one of the gurneys, having to jump slightly in order to give himself enough leverage to make it all the way up. He pulled his legs up so he was sitting criss-cross. He placed the flashlight next to him, balancing it so the beam was shining on the ceiling, filling the surrounding area with a muted yellow glow. He then leaned back on his hands, eyes moving to meet Lance’s.
“Not a chance.” Lance replied. “No way am I going to talk to any ghosts without an escape route.” Lance moved to sit on the gurney next to Keith’s, setting down the camera, the walkie, and his flashlight momentarily so he could shrug off his jacket and lay it across the rusting metal surface. No way was he going to sit on something that countless dead bodies had touched.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought you’d say.” Keith replied as Lance hopped up onto the gurney, leaving his legs to dangle over the side. After briefly adjusting himself, he picked the camera back up, glancing down at the small screen to check the battery. It was about half full. That should be enough to last them, but he had brought an extra battery just in case. “How’re you so sure ghosts are real? Have you seen one before?”
Lance looked back up at the raven-haired boy sitting across from him. “Well, kinda.” A shiver went up his spine as he recalled the memory.
“How do you kinda see a ghost? You either see one or you don’t.” Keith replied, a skeptical look on his face.
Lance sighed. “Are you really gonna make me tell you the whole story while we’re trapped in a creepy-ass haunted morgue?”
“Yes, I really am.” Keith replied, a slight smirk on his face. “Besides, it’s not like we have anything better to do.”
“Okay, fine. I’ll tell you. But you aren’t allowed to make fun of me, got it?”
“Cross my heart and hope to die.” Keith said, an amused look in his eyes.
“It happened when I was thirteen.” Lance said, hoping that Keith couldn’t hear the slight tremble in his voice. “Before that I didn’t really believe in ghosts. I mean, there was never any proof and all of the tv shows about them seemed so cheesy.” Lance stopped, clearing his throat slightly in order to give himself time to straighten out his thoughts. “Because I have a big family, I had to share my room with my younger brother. Most of the room was filled with his stuff, but I did have this small telescope that would sit by the window. I liked to look at the stars and imagine what it would be like to go to space.” A small smile formed on Lance’s face as he recalled the fond memories. “But out of nowhere, I became afraid of the telescope in a way. It was like every time I looked at it, I would just get the feeling that I was being watched. It was creepy and it just...sucked.”
“You didn’t feel safe in your own room?” Keith asked, tilting his head to the side slightly, bangs falling in front of his right eye.
“Exactly!” Lance said with a nod. “But I thought it was all in my head. So, when I started to be able to describe who was watching me, I thought I was just making it up in order to make myself feel better. It wasn’t like I could physically see them or anything, I just knew.”
“So who was watching you?” Keith asked, his tone genuinely curious.
“It was two people, actually.” Lance replied. “An older, middle-aged man and a teenager. The man had really dark hair and a hat on. He had these really bright blue eyes and wore this old fashioned looking suit. The teenager was shorter than him. Green eyes, brown hair, also in a suit, but instead of a hat he had a suitcase.” Lance shuddered as he recalled the haunting figures.
“That’s pretty specific.”
“I know. That’s why I thought I made it all up. But no matter how many times I told myself that, they didn’t go away. They just watched me. Always standing next to my telescope. You can imagine how that would freak anybody out.” Keith only nodded in response so Lance continued. “For a couple of weeks I didn’t tell anyone about them, not even my brother. I knew it would just freak him out. But I wasn’t getting any sleep and I was skittish all the time so eventually my mom sat me down and demanded to know what was wrong with me. Said she wouldn’t let me leave til I spilled the beans.”
“Sounds like something your mother would do.” Keith commented with a small laugh.
Lance couldn’t help but chuckle too. “I know, right? Anyway, I told her everything. Spared no detail and all that.”
“Did she think you were crazy?” Keith asked.
Lance shook his head. “Not even for a moment. She just called for my brother to join us...when he did…” Lance paused, the memory causing a chill to seep into him.
“What happened?” Keith asked softly, clearly invested in the story.
“Uh…” Lance took a moment to collect himself before saying, “My mom asked him if there were people in our room. He just looked at her with the biggest smile on his face and said, ‘Of course! There are two men by the telescope who like to watch Lance!’”
“Damn…” Keith breathed out. “And you hadn’t mentioned anything to your brother beforehand?”
“Nope.” Lance replied. “Never said a word.”
“That sounds like something out of a horror movie.” Keith said. “What’d your mom do?”
Lance shrugged. “She called our priest over to bless the room. Pretty sure it worked because I never saw them again.” Lance paused, eyeing Keith. “Is this the part where you spout out a bajillion reasons why it wasn’t paranormal?”
Keith shook his head. “I wasn’t there, man. No way could I actually make a compelling argument.”
While Lance knew that Keith was in no way saying that his story had real paranormal events, he could appreciated Keith’s effort to not discredit it. He could probably see how important it was to Lance. Maybe he wasn’t so rotten after all…
A silence fell between the two, something that Lance did not like. It wasn’t that it was uncomfortable or anything, but rather he was forced to remember that they were trapped in a morgue, helpless until someone came to rescue them. He needed a distraction and he needed it now. So, Lance asked the first thing that popped into his head.
“What are your reasons for staying?”
Keith looked startled at the sudden question, but his features quickly morphed into confusion. “What?”
“Before, at base camp you said that there were a few reasons for you to stick around. I was just wondering what they were…” Lance’s voice trailed off, sheepish eyes looking anywhere but at Keith.
Keith laughed suddenly, causing Lance’s eyes to snap back to his face. “Oh that? Let’s see...having a fairly steady income isn’t too bad.”
Duh. Lance should have guessed that. Now he felt stupid for asking such an obvious question. “R-Right…” Lance said, a nervous laugh escaping him.
“And I get to work with my brother and my friends. That’s another reason.” Keith continued.
Another obvious answer. His stomach dropped unexpectedly, causing Lance to have to cover up his discomfort with a fake cough. Why did that happen? What was he expecting Keith to say? That he only stuck around for Lance? That would just be dumb. Plus, Lance didn’t even like Keith like that anymore, remember? He was too much of a jerk for Lance to want to go anywhere near him...right?
“And I have to admit it’s pretty entertaining watching you get yourself worked up.”
...Not what Lance had in mind by him being the reason for Keith to stick around. “Yes, we get it. You find me trying to keep everyone alive so hilarious.” Lance deadpanned.
“Hold that thought for a moment.” Keith said, grabbing his flashlight and hopping off the gurney while looking over Lance’s shoulder.
“What’s up?” Lance asked, following Keith’s lead by also standing up, grabbing his flashlight as he did. Keith was walking slowly towards where the empty shelves stood at the far end of the room, flashlight pointed in front of him.
“Something caught my eye.” Keith said. “I don’t remember seeing it before.”
Lance gulped as he followed behind Keith, hands starting to sweat. “What thing?”
“There.” Keith said, pointing with his flashlight to the empty space of one of the shelves. The two were about five feet away from the shelves, Lance standing slightly behind Keith, camera pointed over his shoulder at the area Keith’s flashlight was illuminating.
It looked like someone had written something on one of the walls with blood, clearly still fresh from the way small streaks of red ran down and dripped onto the wood of the shelves. The handwriting was crude, messy in an almost illegible way. Lance took a hesitant step closer, eyes squinting as he read the tiny script.
‘i aM hEre’
The sound that came out of Lance’s throat was inhuman. It was high-pitched. It was terror-filled. It was horrified. It was all of his worst fears manifesting into one, cacophonous sound that was ripped from his throat by his fight or flight response. His actions weren’t his own as he dropped his flashlight and jumped behind Keith, catching his arm in a death grip with his now free hand. Lance buried his face into Keith’s shoulder blade, squeezing his eyes shut tight so he didn’t have to look at the horrifying writing again.
“We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die…” Lance mumbled the phrase over and over again, voice muffled by Keith’s shirt.
“Will you please stop saying that?” Keith said, not making any attempt to pull himself away from Lance.
“But it’s true!” Lance insisted, face still pressed against Keith.
“It’s not.” Keith replied. “It’s probably just Pidge trying to make me say ghosts are real. Probably asked Coran if they could pull this little stunt.”
“But how did they know you were going to be assigned to the morgue?” Lance asked.
“Probably just a lucky guess. Or maybe they did this all over and this is just the first one I’ve seen.”
“But you said you didn’t see it earlier.” Lance didn’t remember seeing it either.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.” Keith replied smoothly. “Look, no way is this a ghost. Trust me.”
“It was a warning...” Lance mumbled.
“I was told to leave earlier. Something was trying to warn me. A-And then the voice on the radio said ‘He’s coming’. And now whoever this ‘he’ is here and has trapped us in this morgue and he’s going to kill us.” Lance’s voice was soft, desperate.
“That’s ridiculous.” Keith said, finally pulling away from Lance, turning so he could grip Lance’s shoulders. “Look at me.”
Lance opened his eyes, indigo ones coming into focus. Keith’s expression was firm, jaw tight and eyes fierce.
“Let’s say for argument’s sake that there is a ghost that’s hunting us and did, in fact, trap us in this shitty basement.” Keith’s voice was stern, leaving Lance hanging on the end of every word. “Let’s say that it is screwing with us by writing cryptic messages. Let’s even say that it’s coming to kill us. If you think for one second that I’m going to let it touch one hair on that pretty little head of yours, you are sorely mistaken and, quite frankly, a little dumb.”
Lance’s eyes were wide, water building on the edges of his vision as he processed what Keith just said. His voice was shaky as he spoke. “Y-You would...protect me?”
“Of course I would.” Keith replied, eyes not leaving Lance’s for a moment. “You can be irritating and annoying and a real shit sometimes, but if you weren’t around. Well, I wouldn’t know what I’d do.” Keith’s voice softened as he finished, filling Lance with a warmth that spreads throughout his chest.
‘Oh, I get it.’ Lance thought to himself. ‘This is why I like him. Can’t believe I didn’t see it before.’
It was true that Keith could be an ass sometimes. It was true that he teased Lance whenever he could. It was true that they bickered the most out of everyone else on the team. All of those things were true and so many more.
But it was also true that they completed each other the best. Where Keith would go to any length to prove that something wasn’t a ghost, Lance would be there to reel him back, stop the charge of the skeptic. Where Lance would have a meltdown, seconds away from throwing in the towel for good, Keith would be there to stand in for his missing voice of reason, becoming the backbone that Lance didn’t have. It was messy sometimes and they clashed more often than not, but in the end it worked.
The moment was broken by the sound of beeping which was coming from the small camera Lance still held in his hand. The two look down just as the small screen turned dark.
“It died.” Keith said.
“Weird. I just looked at the charge a little bit ago. It had enough battery to last for at least another hour or so.”
Keith released Lance’s shoulders, taking a step away from him. “Well, maybe it’s a bad battery. You brought extras, right?”
“Yeah.” Lance replied, reaching into his pants pocket and pulling one out. “Shine your light over here for me.” Keith did and Lance set to work taking out the old battery and putting in the new one. It didn’t take him long, but it didn’t help that his fingers were slightly trembling. He would be lying if he said he still wasn’t a little shaken from the message on the wall. Lance pressed the on button and waited for the screen to turn on.
It never did.
“Did you grab a dead battery?” Keith asked, tone sounding unamused.
“I don’t think so.” Lance replied. “It was in the charged batteries pile.”
“Is the camera broken then?”
“Maybe. But we only got these like a month ago.”
“Hopefully Hunk got a warranty or else he’s gonna be pissed.” Keith said matter-of-factly.
“That’s your big concern right now?” Lance looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
Keith just shrugged.
“Unbelievable.” Lance muttered, flipping the camera screen closed.
“Your body cam is dead too.” Keith pointed out, nodding at the small camera. Lance looked down to see that the red light that indicated that it was on was nowhere to be seen. Lance moved his eyes over to Keith’s.
“So is yours.”
“Well...shit.” Keith said, looking down.
“Now,” Keith said, snatching the dead camera from Lance and heading back towards their previous spots on the gurneys. “We’re back to waiting.”
“What about the message?” Lance asked, not daring to look over his shoulder at it.
“What about it?” Keith said as he set the camera down next to their other equipment and then undid the straps of his body cam, shrugging out of it and then laying it next to the other dead camera. He then retook his position on the gurney. “You can rub it off, I guess. But I’d advise against that. Sticky paint and all that.”
“Paint? That’s obviously blood.” Lance still hadn’t moved from his position.
“I know Pidge can be edgy sometimes but they’re not that edgy.” Keith replied. “But if you want to prove me wrong, be my guest. Taste it or something.”
“Are you insane?! I’m not just gonna stick some random red liquid in my mouth that's probably blood! Especially after it’s been on the walls of a haunted morgue !” Disgust filled Lance’s voice.
“Then stop worrying about it.” Keith said.
Lance let out a sigh of irritation and crossed his arms. “Of all the people to be stuck down here with.”
“Maybe later. Don’t know about you, but a dirty morgue in the basement of an asylum doesn’t really put me in the mood, ya know?”
Lance sputtered, face turning red. That was not the response he expected. He really didn’t know how to respond to that, so he said nothing, instead turning away partly to hide his blushing face and partly to locate the flashlight he dropped. He sincerely hoped that Keith hadn’t noticed his embarrassment but with the luck he was having tonight, he probably did.
Lance’s heart might as well have stopped beating in his chest right then and there. He spotted his flashlight. Oh man, did he spot his flashlight. It had rolled under the exact shelf that had that stupid message written on it. No way in hell was Lance going anywhere near that thing. He was smarter than that.
“You okay?” He heard Keith ask.
“My flashlight…” Was all Lance gave in response.
“Yeah...what about it?”
Lance stepped to the side so Keith could see past him and pointed.
“It just rolled under the shelf. Just grab it.”
Lance turned towards Keith, expression slightly scared. “I shouldn’t have to explain to you why I can’t do that.”
Keith sighed. “Well I’m not gonna grab it for you.”
“Why not?” Lance asked in a whine.
“Because it was in your mouth earlier, remember? That’s gross.”
Lance physically deflated. “Then I guess we’re down to one flashlight.”
“Seems so.” Keith replied.
Lance trudged back over to the where his jacket still sat atop the gurney. He took a few moments to take his body cam off before he was sitting back down in his previous spot. He felt drained, tired, and more than anything, he just really wanted to go home. He never should have gotten out of the van.
“Shouldn’t be too much longer.” Keith said as Lance sat back down.
“Not soon enough.” Lance replied.
Keith only hummed in response, picking at the rubber of his shoe. Lance’s own fingers twisted the hem of his white t-shirt nervously, teeth biting at the insides of his cheeks. He knew there wasn’t much he could do but be patient, but patience was hard when he wasn’t sure what the outcome of this situation would be. Either the team would rescue them and all would end happily or he would find out who this ‘he’ was. He really hoped it was the former option he was being patient for.
“You should spend the night.” Keith’s voice broke the silence.
“What?” Lance asked, confused.
“After we get outta here and the investigation ends, I mean.” Keith explains. “When we get back to the hotel. You should spend the night.”
Lance’s face turned redder than it ever had before. “I-If this is about that ‘fuck you’ thing, you should know that’s not what I meant by it. Although, I mean, I’m flattered and all that really…” Lance continued to ramble as Keith gave him a confused look, his eyes brightening when realization hit him.
“Oh my god, no!” Keith cut Lance’s rambling off. “That’s not what I meant at all, trust me. Jesus, Lance…”
Lance’s blush deepened and he couldn’t help but look away, instead deciding to stare at the ground in between the two gurneys.
“What I meant was that whenever there’s an investigation that’s extra weird, you never end up getting any sleep. You look like a zombie the next day.”
Lance had to admit he was right. How could he sleep after coming face to face with ghosts? But he hadn’t thought anyone had noticed that.
“Well,” Keith continued. “Tonight’s about as weird as it gets. So what I’m saying is that I’ll stay up with you. We could get a bunch of junk food from the twenty-four hour convenience store I saw on our way in and watch a bunch of those romantic comedies that you love for some reason.”
Lance was speechless, blue eyes glancing up to see a soft expression, a gentleness in Keith’s eyes that he’d never seen before. Holy shit was Keith just about as perfect as they come. Who gave him the right?
“I mean, only if you want to.” Keith finished, a warmth to his voice.
Lance’s chest swelled, a broad smile forming on his face. All thoughts of the terrible situation they were in gone from his mind for the moment. “Yes, definitely. That would be amazing.” Lance’s voice was bright, a lightness to it that it hadn’t had since they’d gotten trapped.
“Really? O-Okay.” Keith said, surprised.
Lance opened his mouth to respond but didn’t get a chance when the flashlights suddenly went out. Both of them. At the same time. While neither of them were even holding one. Lance’s was still underneath the shelf and Keith’s was sitting next to him on the gurney. They were surrounded by pitch black.
“More dead batteries?” Keith asked.
“What are the chances of both of the batteries dying at the same time?” Lance asked, his voice in a hushed whisper more out of fear than anything else.
“Pretty small, I would think. Good news is that I brought spares.” Keith replied.
“Oh, thank god.” Lance said, letting out a long exhale in relief.
“Just a sec…” Keith said and Lance heard the sound of Keith unscrewing the flashlight, dumping the old batteries onto the metal gurney and sliding the new ones in. “Aaaaaaaand here we go.”
Lance heard the sound of a button clicking, but they remained in darkness. He heard another click. And then another.
“Keith?” Lance asked in a whimper.
“So it turns out the spares are dead.”
Lance’s only response was a weak groan.
“And also my phone is dead.”
“Don’t you dare say it.” Keith cut him off. “Check your phone.”
Lance did as he was told because it was better than doing nothing. Pulling his phone out of his pocket, Lance hit the button to turn the screen on a few times. It remained dark.
“Dead…” Lance managed to choke out before putting it back in his pocket. “Everything’s dead and soon we’re gonna be.”
“You’re optimism is infectious.” Keith said sarcastically.
“I’m just being realistic.”
“No, you’re being dramatic.” Keith replied. “Okay, don’t freak out-”
“Too late.” Lance said, moments away from hyperventilating.
“Don’t freak out anymore than you already are. ” Keith amended, voiced sounding peeved. “I’m going to come over to you. If you feel something touch you, it’s just me, okay?”
There was the distinct sound of fabric sliding against metal and then the sound of Keith’s shoes hitting the tiled floor. A moment or so later Lance felt a hand touch his knee and he couldn’t help but jump a little.
“Just me, remember?” Keith said, his voice a lot closer to Lance than it had been before. “Now, I want you to stand up.”
“Why?” Lance asked.
“Please just trust me.” Keith replied, his voice calm. Low. Safe.
Lance slid forward until his feet were resting on the ground and then stood up. He felt a hand touch his arm, but he didn’t flinch this time. He knew it was just Keith trying to keep track of where Lance was.
“Great.” Keith said. “Now, give me your hand.” Keith’s hand slid down his arm until it found his hand, grasping it tightly. Keith’s hand was warm in his. He could feel Keith’s pulse, his heart rate much faster than his calm voice was letting on. “Now walk this way.”
Lance felt Keith pull his hand in the direction of the wall. Lance only hesitated for a moment before moving his feet. He trusted Keith and since Keith seemed to be the only one with a plan at the moment, he would do what Keith wanted.
Lance only took a step and a half before Keith stopped, his voice muttering “Found it.”
“Found what?” Lance asked weakly.
“The wall.” Keith replied. “C’mere.” Keith pulled Lance towards him, letting go of his hand and gripping his shoulders when he was close enough. He guided Lance until his back was pressed against the wall. “Now sit.”
“On the ground? Why?”
“Because you’re one tiny noise away from losing your mind and I’d really like to avoid that if at all possible. Now shut up and sit.”
Lance really couldn’t argue with that. He slid down the wall until he was seated on the ground, the leg of the gurney next to him pressing into his side. He pulled his knees up to his chest, gripping his pants tightly in hopes that it would relieve some of the fear that was clawing away at his mind. It didn’t help.
“Don’t move.” Keith instructed and once again Lance did as he was told. He heard some shuffling and then a warm body was fitting into the space next to him. It was a tight fit, two men in their twenties squished together in between two gurneys, but Lance didn’t mind. In fact, he found that he took comfort in the feeling of Keith being so close to him. He felt safe, protected.
“Thank you…” Lance mumbled into the darkness. He knew that Keith didn’t have to worry about him. He didn’t have to go through all this trouble to make sure Lance didn’t end up a quivering mess. But he did and that meant more to Lance than he could properly vocalize.
“Don’t mention it.” Keith replied. “Having something solid behind me always made me feel safer when I was a kid. Thought it might help you.”
There was a momentary silence before Lance broke it. “This is so not how tonight was supposed to turn out.”
“If I knew this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have made you get out of the van.” Keith sounded regretful, apologetic.
“S’not your fault.” Lance replied.
“Still…” Keith said, voice soft.
Lance, in a brief moment of something - he didn’t know what - loosened his grip on his pants, moving his arm through the darkness until he felt the fabric of Keith’s pants. Lance noticed briefly that Keith didn’t flinch from his sudden touch, a fact that he was grateful for. He didn’t want to freak Keith out, after all. He continued moving his hand until he found what he was looking for.
Keith’s skin was soft as Lance’s fingertips traced lightly across the back of his hand. It only took one little tug from Lance for Keith to flip his hand over, allowing Lance to lace their fingers together.
Lance wasn’t sure if his heart was pounding in his chest from the fear of dying or from Keith’s hand grasped gently in his own. It was probably a bit of both if he was honest. But if Lance was going to die, murdered by some crazy ghost, at least he got to do it while holding Keith’s hand.
“I never told you the last reason.” Keith said, voice almost a whisper.
“What?” Lance asked, voice just as soft.
He felt Keith squeeze his hand as he replied, “I never told you the last reason for me sticking around. It’s probably the most important one.”
“Oh…” Lance said. “Well, you can tell me now. If you want, I mean.”
Keith was silent, the only sound in the dark morgue being their breathing. Lance thought for a moment that Keith wasn’t going to continue, but then he heard, “I stick around because of you.”
Lance felt his breath catch, butterflies crashing into the walls of his stomach. “Me?” He asked, voice still quiet.
“Yeah.” Keith replied. “You.”
Keith let out a breathy chuckle. “What do you mean ‘how’? How could you not? You’re always so stupidly happy and cheerful...when we’re not investigating, that is. You care way more than any person has a right to. Hell, you willingly face the thing you’re the most afraid of over and over again just to make sure you’re friends are safe. I don’t think I could do that…”
Lance shifted slightly, but didn’t say anything. He didn’t think Keith was finished yet.
“You don’t put up with anyone’s shit, especially mine. And you’re about as stubborn as they come. And quite honestly, I’m scared out of my mind right now and the only thing keeping me thinking like a sane and rational person is this.” Keith squeezed Lance’s hand tightly. “And that’s really only because it’s you and no one else.”
Lance was sure that he was dreaming. No way would Keith just say stuff like that. Either he was possessed by a ghost or just that scared. And Lance had never seen Keith scared. Not even once. Not even when Pidge designed a haunted house with the explicit purpose to scare Keith, complete with special effects and some kick-ass monster make-up. Keith hadn’t even flinched once during that whole fiasco.
“You’re scared…?” Lance asked, hoping that Keith didn’t become defensive.
“Mhm.” Keith replied. “I’m scared because I can’t explain what’s going on...and if I don’t know what’s going on, I can’t control it. And that means anything could happen. To me. To you. And that’s scary to me.”
Lance understood. Not knowing what was coming next, unsure if everything was going to turn out okay. He’d felt like that plenty of times in his life, tonight more so than ever. “Well,” Lance said, trying to make his voice more firm. He wasn’t that successful. “I’m scared too.”
He heard Keith chuckle again, “Yeah, I figured that out already.”
“No, what I mean is that being scared with somebody is a lot better than being scared by yourself. So...I’m just really glad you’re here…”
Silence fell between them again. Lance knew there was something else that he wanted to say. He also knew that if he didn’t say it now, he probably never would.
“I stick around for you too.”
Lance waited for a response, but all he got was the slight shifting of fabric and then a weight resting on his shoulder. Silky hairs brushed against his collarbone and along his jawline, the scent of lavender shampoo drifting towards him, settling his nerves. He could hear each breath Keith took, soft and low; the cadence working to keep Lance grounded.
Despite the whole situation, Lance was grateful that Keith couldn’t see how red his cheeks had become. It wasn’t because he was embarrassed. No, the time for that had long passed. It was simply because he was unable to fully grasp that all this time he had been so sure that he was stuck in a one-sided attraction when in reality, they had both just been too stupid and stubborn to realize that the feelings were mutual. What’s more, it took being locked up in a haunted morgue for either of them to actually sit down and have a conversation about it. Lance decided the whole thing was ridiculous. It sounded more like a plot to one of his rom-coms than his actual life.
Lance wasn’t sure how long the two sat like that, waiting. Every minute that dragged by seemed like a year. The darkness pressed in on them, becoming more and more suffocating. He could feel himself losing hope that their friends were ever going to come rescue them. It seemed like he was going to be stuck in the dark for the rest of his life which could very well be the case if ‘he’ ever decided to show up. The feeling of Keith’s hand in his own and his head on Lance’s shoulder kept Lance present. It was a small relief but it was enough.
It had been quiet for so long that both him and Keith jumped when a sudden and very loud bang came from somewhere in the room. Lance could feel every hair on his body stand straight up, his breathing turning rapid once more.
“That sounded like that iron door.” Keith whispered, lifting his head from Lance’s shoulder.
“Please no…” Lance said, his voice barely audible.
Another bang, louder, more forceful.
Lance had Keith’s hand in a death grip but it didn’t matter because Keith’s was gripping just as tightly. Lance could feel himself start to tremble, eyes searching the darkness for any sign of movement but it was useless; he wouldn’t even be able to see his hand if it was in front of his face.
Then rattling, slow and quiet at first, but it quickly increased in both volume and pace. Lance only realized it was the gurneys when the one next to him started to shake violently. Lance couldn’t help the small shriek that he let out, shying away from the unnaturally moving gurney.
Before Lance could even register anything else, the warmth of Keith’s body disappeared from his side only to reappear practically on top of him. Lance felt one hand snake around the back of his head and pull him into Keith’s chest. The other remained firmly clasped in his own. Lance squeezed his eyes shut, his free hand grabbing onto Keith’s shirt, holding on as if his life depended on it.
The noise grew louder, the banging of the door occurring more and more frequently. The gurneys continued to shake, the rattle of the rusted metal deafening. He could hear the equipment that they had left on the gurneys clatter to the ground near them.
“Please, please, please, please, please…” Lance repeated, talking to no one in particular.
A wind started to pick up, cold and forceful. It swirled around them, stinging their skin and stealing their breath. It howled in Lance’s ears, the sounds of wailing anguish being pulled along, filling up the already too loud room. An iciness ran from his fingertips down to his toes, burrowing into him deep. It was a lifeless cold. A dead cold.
He felt Keith’s arms tighten around him even more, his voice right next to his ear saying, “I won’t let you go.”
A phantom electricity shot through his veins, twisting inside him, but it didn’t hurt. The sensation was there, but his nerves weren’t registering the pain. He could hear a scream in a voice that wasn’t his own in his head, suffering beyond any he had experienced before. It tore through his mind, over stimulating his senses. Water spilled from his eyes, tears shed not for himself, but for the screaming in his head.
He couldn’t deal, not like this. It was too much. He just wanted it to end. It was too much suffering. Too much pain. He needed to find a way to make everything quiet again. To stop the doctors from hooking him up to that machine. To stop the nurses from looking at him like he was nothing. To stop the buzzing, the constant, constant buzzing in his brain.
And then everything did stop.
Not gradually, but all at once. Warmth flooded his body as the chill left him, the room going deadly silent. Only the two’s panting could be heard now.
“Guys? You down there?” A familiar voice called down to them. Lance opened his eyes as Keith released him, pulling away enough so Lance could see a beam of light shining down the stairs. Squinting against the harsh light, Lance felt a wave of thankfulness flow through him. “Guys?”
“Pidge!” Lance called, his voice dry and shaking. Tears still fell down his face. “Oh my god! Pidge!”
He heard Keith breathe a sigh of relief as he stood, hauling Lance to his feet as well. Neither one of them hesitated, practically running up the steps and bursting into the hallway, Pidge moving aside just in time.
Lance collapsed against the wall of the hall, finally letting go of Keith’s hand. He wiped the back of his hand across his face, his eyes feeling swollen and puffy. He sucked in deep breaths, letting the musty air fill his lungs. He was alive. They both were alive. They both were alive and out of that basement. They were going to be okay. Everything was going to be okay.
“What the hell happened to you guys?” Pidge asked, voice filled with confusion and concern. Lance glanced up to see Pidge, Coran, and Shiro, all expressions twisted into some form of concern. Shiro had one of the big cams on his shoulder, but it was half lowered, forgotten in his concern for his teammates. Unlike Lance, Keith had remained standing, hands running through his hair as he paced back and forth, clearly shaken.
“Trapped down there…” Lance said, his brain short circuiting as he tried to explain. “Nothing worked...Equipment dead. Crazy ghost.”
Even with Lance only able to stutter out a few short phrases, the others seemed to get the gist of it. Pidge exchanged a shocked expression with Shiro and Lance could see the silent agreement between the two to not ask anymore questions until him and Keith had calmed down some.
“Let’s get everyone back to base camp.” Shiro said, voice worried but still strong. “I think we’re done for tonight.”
Lance nodded, more than happy to leave this asylum and never come back. He stood on shaky legs, using the wall for support. Once standing, confident that he wasn’t going to collapse, he looked over at Keith who was in turn looking at Lance. There was still fear in his eyes but there was also something softer.
As the group started to move down the hall, Coran in the lead and Shiro bringing up the rear, Lance fell in beside Keith, glancing over at him. He looked pale, paler than normal, and there was an exhaustion on his face that Lance had never seen before. It Lance had to guess, he didn’t look too much better himself. He couldn’t get the sound of those screams out of his head.
“You okay?” Lance asked him quietly.
“I’ve been better.” Keith replied. “I just really want to get out of this place.”
“Same.” Lance said, eyes shifting to the walls of the hallway they were in. Compared to the morgue, they didn’t seem quite as terrifying, but they still had an eeriness to them that sent a shiver down his spine. “I think I need a break from ghost hunting for awhile.”
Keith nodded. “Yeah. A long one.”
The two fell silent, Lance momentarily tuning in to Pidge and Coran’s conversation. Pidge was asking if it was okay if they leave their equipment set up until tomorrow. There was a hint of worry in their voice which warmed Lance’s heart. Behind that snarky exterior, Pidge cared deeply for their friends.
“Did you hear it?” Keith asked softly. “The screaming?”
“It was awful…” Lance replied, sorrow filling his voice. “So much pain.”
Keith didn’t respond, but he felt the back of Keith’s hand gently brush his. There was no hesitation as Lance reached out to take the raven-haired boy’s hand, fingers intertwining loosely. Despite everything he had just been through, a smile formed on Lance’s face and as he glanced over at Keith, he could see that Keith’s expression mirrored his own.
Reaching the base camp, Shiro quickly explained that they were going to end the night early, Pidge chiming in that Coran had agreed to let them leave their equipment until tomorrow. Hunk and Allura seemed confused, but didn’t argue when they saw the state he and Keith were in. As the team got ready to leave, mics and body cams being taken off and put safely away, Lance tried to ignore the worried glances that he could feel sent his way. He knew that come tomorrow he and Keith would have a lot of questions to answer. He knew that he would have to sort through the footage captured with Pidge and listen to the EVP sessions. But right now all he wanted to do was curl up in the plump hotel comforter and watch movies until his brain was too fried to think about anything.
The hour drive back to the hotel was quiet. There was an unusual intensity that hung in the air, but no one broke it. Lance didn’t care though. They were safe. They were alive. That’s all he could really ask for.
Few words were spoken as the team dispersed, retiring to their own rooms for the night. Lance only went to his room to change out of his dirty, stale smelling clothes and into some fresh sweats and an old high school t-shirt. He didn’t even bother to put on his shoes before he left his room.
The muffled pads of his socked feet was the only sound in the hallway as Lance made his way to Keith’s room which was only a few doors down. Even with the calm atmosphere of the hotel, Lance felt more awake than ever. His eyes shifted from side to side as he walked as if he was expecting something to jump out at him. Every shadow caught his eye and sent small bursts of adrenaline through his veins. He had to keep reminding himself that he was far away from the asylum. Far away from that morgue.
Lance knocked lightly on Keith’s door, not wanting to wake the other guests of the hotel. He hoped that it was still okay for him to come over. Sure, Keith had invited him, but that had been before...
Maybe Keith just wanted to be left alone. But Lance didn’t want to be alone so his feet remained planted in front of Keith’s door.
As the door opened, Lance was greeted by Keith who was dressed very similarly to himself aside from the red zip up sweatshirt that hung loosely from his shoulders. He looked drained, exhausted, but his eyes were alive, too aware. Lance recognized that look. Keith wouldn’t be sleeping tonight either.
“You came.” His voice was light.
“Well, I mean, I said I would.” Lance replied, wringing his hands nervously. “But I can leave if you want…”
He saw Keith roll his eyes. “Get in here, you dork.” He said a moment before reaching out and grabbing Lance’s wrists, pulling him into the room, door shutting behind him.
“I’m not a dork.” Lance said, voice a slight whine.
“No, you are.” Keith said, moving past Lance to sit on his bed. “The biggest one.”
Lance remained were he was, crossing his arms. “Well I’m sorry that not everyone can be some stupidly pretty, irritating prick like you.”
“Careful, I think part of that was a compliment.” Keith replied, chuckling.
“You wish.” Lance said, words clipped from irritation.
“Hmm, maybe.” Keith said. “But if it wasn’t, you aren’t allowed on the bed.”
“What?!” Lance sputtered. “That’s bullshit!”
“My room, my rules.” Keith said with a shrug. “Just admit that it was a compliment and I’ll let you on the bed.”
“No way.” Lance said, shaking his head. “I won’t give you the satisfaction.”
“That’s fine.” Keith said, a smirk on his face. “I’m sure the floor is comfortable. I’ll even throw you a pillow.”
Lance glared at Keith, a fire dancing in his eyes. Keith ignored it, just giving him an innocent smile. “You’re really gonna make me say it.” Lance said. It wasn’t a question.
“I really am.” Keith replied smugly.
Lance debated the options in his head. The floor was carpeted so it probably wasn’t that uncomfortable, but the bed looked so soft and he was so sore from sitting against that wall for so long. Could he afford to damage his pride a little? He sure as hell didn’t want to, but sometimes sacrifices had to be made.
Lance’s shoulders slumped in defeat, arms falling to his sides. “Yeah, okay. It was a compliment. You are stupidly pretty and it isn’t fair. Happy now?”
Keith laughed, the sound causing Lance’s heart to race. He really loved Keith’s laugh.
“Yeah, I’m happy.” Keith said, opening his arms wide, inviting Lance over. Lance slinked forward, feeling like he had lost all control in the situation. He practically fell into Keith’s arms, wrapping his own around Keith’s muscular frame. The two fell backwards onto the bed, Lance nuzzling his face into Keith’s neck. He could smell the fresh laundry detergent still clinging to Keith’s clothes, the scent reminding him that they weren’t anywhere near that asylum. They were okay. Everything was fine.
“...thank you…” Lance mumbled, his grip on Keith’s sweatshirt tightening.
“For what?” Keith asked, voice curious.
“For protecting me...ya know, right at the end there.” Lance replied.
“Oh.” Keith said. “Well I said I would.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t have to.” Lance pointed out.
“True.” Keith admitted. “But I wanted to and I would do it again.”
Lance hummed in response, closing his eyes. He felt gentle fingers start to run through his hair in a soothing pattern. His body felt heavy, lethargic. His perpetual fear often left him in a state of exhaustion for at least a day after an investigation. This time was no different it seemed. He felt safe in Keith’s arms, protected from whatever was waiting for him in the shadows.
Lance never slept after any investigation that had a lot of ghost activity, but as he listened to Keith’s soft breathing and felt Keith’s pulse resonate within him, Lance found himself drifting closer and closer to the edge of sleep. He didn’t try to fight it, instead welcoming it like an old friend, letting it drag him under until he was lost.