It was the second time Keith had woken up on the floor beside his bed. Both times it happened, Keith had no recollection of falling- or climbing out of his bed. What made the whole thing even stranger was that after the first time it had happened, Shiro had put adjustable rails at the side of Keith’s bed to stop him from rolling off. Clearly, that proved to be ineffective.
One of Keith’s initial thoughts had of course been Lotor, but he hadn’t had any incidents including his roommate since his first hallucination a week ago. He had to stop suspecting that poor guy, he had done nothing wrong.
“Seriously Keith, you keep ending up on the floor… We should consider putting you in a safer bed instead,” Shiro laughed softly while carefully lifting Keith back into his bed with Allura’s help.
“Do you do this consciously? I mean, are you trying to stand up or something?” Allura asked, checking out Keith’s scar as soon as he was on his mattress again.
Keith shook his head slightly. That was one time. Seems like Allura would never trust him about this again.
“Good. Keith, you should definitely avoid doing that. We’re here to help you to walk again, but you have to be patient. Your surgery was not that long ago, you could seriously injure yourself,” Shiro said casually. He was already grabbing the sippy cup from the food tray. Probably in hopes of making him feel even more miserable that morning, Keith guessed.
He didn’t need lecturing. He wasn’t doing this intentionally, he wasn’t even aware of how he’d gotten on the ground, and the uncertainty of the whole thing was killing him.
Allura left after making sure his scar from the surgery was fine, and Shiro immediately began to feed him.
“I would’ve asked you to try feeding yourself this time, but with all the chaos this morning... I’ll postpone it to dinner, alright?”
Keith was kind of disappointed – the idea of not feeling like an idiot every time he was eating filled him with relief – but he didn’t protest. He just wanted to get this all over with.
Still, he endured it all without a word. Mainly because his thoughts were completely elsewhere. It didn’t seem like he would be able to think about anything besides his morning incident today.
There just wasn’t a right word to describe how he was feeling. While him waking up on the floor wasn’t a big deal, as there was logical explanation for it – he could’ve gotten past the rails easily, he was clearly capable of that – something didn’t add up, and he had a feeling in his gut that something wasn’t right, that the nurses should’ve been more worried. The rails weren’t knocked down or anything, he couldn’t just have rolled out of bed, right? But if somebody would’ve told Keith that the nurses were involved in this whole mess, he wouldn’t have believed them no matter how desperate for an explanation he was. Just by looking at Shiro, he could tell that the guy would never hurt someone defenseless.
The word appeared in his mind suddenly, but so clear, it almost seemed like a disembodied voice was talking to him inside his head. Somnambulism meant sleepwalking, he knew that, although he couldn’t remember where he had heard it before.
‘The word comes from Latin; somnus means sleep, ambulare means to travel or to walk.’
The second time the voice appeared was just as sudden and unexpected as the first time. This whole addition scared Keith a lot more. How did he know that?! He had never learned Latin in school or anything, and he definitely wasn’t much of an etymology-fanatic.
Keith grabbed his head with both hands as if that would make his mind shut up. Was this another hallucination again? Or just a dream? Well, it couldn’t be a dream, everything else felt very real until now. Then again, he shouldn’t take this whole thing seriously. His brain had some crazy stuff going on. This was probably normal.
“Hey, are you alright?” Shiro put the spoon he’d been holding down and gently grabbed Keith’s hands, pulling it back down into his lap.
Keith nodded at first, but then shrugged. He wasn’t exactly alright, but he would’ve exaggerated if he said no.
“Wha- Are you seeing something you feel like you aren't supposed to, again?”
Not exactly. But if hearing unusual things counted too, then this all must’ve been a normal thing here, so there was no need to cause a scene by freaking out. He didn’t need Shiro to ask questions he didn’t know the answer to. There were already too many people who were probably questioning his sanity at this point. And he was one of them.
He just shook his head and gave his nurse a smile to assure him everything was fine. Even if he would’ve wanted to, Keith had no chance to be understood. He couldn’t speak, and he doubted he could hold a pen correctly, let alone write with it. There was no point in trying to explain the situation.
Shiro sighed and let go of his hand. “But just so you know, you can always come to me or the other staff members if you have problems with anything. Keith, hallucinating is not something to be ashamed of.”
Keith didn’t reply. As much as he liked Shiro and the other caretakers, he hated that everyone was so concerned about everything he did, that everyone was acting so professionally. The thought was ridiculous, he knew. He should get used to all of this because if his recovery doesn’t get faster, he’ll have to endure this for a while.
In the meantime, he could figure out what the voice was, or if the others had it too. Also, if the voice was right, as in if he was actually sleepwalking, he should probably inform someone about it before he ends up like Lance.
“Don’t let yourself get discouraged,” Matt assured him for what felt like the millionth time that day. Keith had been sitting in the yard with him and Pidge after his logotherapy session. They were all wearing huge jackets, with Keith even having a blanket, which in his opinion was a little too much considering it was only a bit chilly outside.
“It’ll all come with time. Our dad isn’t able to speak yet either. But he tries to, and that’s what’s important. With enough practice, you’ll eventually be able to make yourself understood.” Pidge said.
Keith rolled his eyes. He doubted he could get his message through that way.
“On a different topic, Lance’s parents are visiting today. I would hide in my room all day if I were you.” Matt added, with his face pulled into a weird grimace.
Oh, this again. Keith remembered the others mentioning it before. He had experienced a few visits since his arrival, his parents included, and while he may have agreed that parents that spend the whole day pitying their child were annoying, the whole thing wasn’t that bad. His parents, for example, telling Keith about all the relatives and friends sending him get-well messages and such was downright tolerable, even a little comforting.
“Yeah.” Pidge nodded, absentmindedly wheeling herself back and forth in her wheelchair. “Fortunately, I’m at the other end of the hallway, I won’t have to hear it all...”
Keith let out a weird sound that was originally supposed to be ‘why, what’s up with his family?’ but ended up as a combination of random letters as usual. He’d really have to get used to the fact he couldn’t talk.
“Hmm?” Matt must’ve seen Keith’s frown. “You know, Lance’s family… Well… Let’s just say that they’re still not exactly over Lance’s accident. If you know what I mean.”
Oh. That could’ve meant two things; either they were still whining about the future Lance could’ve had that was now gone forever, or they were still carrying the emotional trauma of their son not remembering most things that happened in the past year. Keith reasoned that it must be the latter unless Lance’s parents were a bunch of pricks.
Speak of the devil. Barely a minute later, Lance appeared, carrying one of those walkers elderly people often use. He was wearing a thick blue pullover under his usual brown jacket, which looked uncomfortable, but Keith learned not to question it at this point.
“Hey, Lance! What’s that for?” Matt raised his eyebrows, standing up from the bench with the help of his crutches and taking a few steps in Lance’s direction.
“I managed to get one for Keith! He seems so bored in that wheelchair, maybe he could try taking a few steps for a change,” Lance smiled proudly and set down the walker in front of Keith. “Mmh, what do you say?”
Keith grinned. He would surely be better at it this time, and if not, he still had the others to help him.
“Great. Just tell us if you want to sit down again,” Lance smiled, then guided Keith’s slightly shaky arm to the walker, while Matt and Pidge watched from the side with furrowed eyebrows. They were probably still mentally debating whether or not this was a good idea.
“Keith, what have you been practicing with Coran so far? Have you ever tried walking with his help?” Pidge asked.
No, the most Keith has done at physical therapy so far has been standing up. Even then, he had been clinging to Coran’s arms like his life depended on it. He didn’t want to think about how entertaining that must’ve looked.
He shrugged, reaching for the walker with his other hand as well, trying to keep a tight grip on the handles.
“Lance, I don’t think this is a good idea… Just in case, if he falls and cracks open his skull, tell Shiro that I was against the idea.” Pidge raised her arms defensively before her brother could protest. “I mean, I’m the only one with a brain that’s fully intact… But sure, let’s listen to anyone but me,” she said this all obviously as a joke, but she was partially right, Keith had to admit that.
Well if that wasn’t a bright outlook… Keith brushed it off and set his right foot on the asphalt. Then his left. Meanwhile, Lance was resting a hand on his back, helping him to stay upright.
His legs were shaking, just like they did a week ago, but this time, they didn’t feel like twigs that could break at any moment. However, his arms felt still weak and sore, as if he’d just finished an exhausting training session. Except this time, all he did was lean on a walker.
“Take it slow, Keith,” Matt reminded him. “I don’t think you should try this without Coran’s assistance.”
Keith shook his head, he was going to do this now. He was never going to find out what was going on here if he didn’t, and he couldn’t bear to wait any longer.
Despite his motivation, he had to concentrate hard, focus on every single movement.
Right foot again.
He let out a sigh of exhaustion. Seemingly, more than five steps would push him over the limit.
“Okay, let’s sit down.” Lance guided him to the nearest bench. “I admit that this may have been a bad idea after all…”
Keith smiled and shook his head. At least it was something. He’d be able to go over to Lotor’s bed. Five steps were enough to do that; that would be a good start.
But he wanted to try again. Maybe it would get better after a short rest. He looked over to the bench Matt had been sitting on before Lance arrived. He could make it back again for sure. He pulled himself up with the help of the walker and resumed the whole walking-process again. Right foot, left foot, slightly pushing the walker forward, right foot, left foot.
Lance, who originally wanted to stop him, watched in awe, while still staying close behind him, ready to provide support if necessary, with Matt and Pidge staying on both sides of Keith, doing the same.
“You’re really determined, huh?” Lance chuckled.
Keith didn’t reply. Too busy trying to reach the bench. It seemed a lot farther than he had thought when he was still on the other bench, and his muscles were practically pleading for him to stop.
With Lance holding him and helping him for the last quarter of the way, he managed to do it.
“Good job Keith, you’re doing amazing. Honestly, I wasn’t even half this good when he started.” Matt crossed his arms over his chest after he sat down next to Keith and gave him a pat on the back.
“Shh… Is that an ambulance over there?” Pidge pointed over to the entrance gate, which in fact had an ambulance parked there, lights still on and seemingly in a hurry.
“Oh no. Probably one of the adults.” Matt mumbled and looked at the ground.
Lance sprung up and hurried over to investigate, with Pidge following close behind.
Keith let out a not-so-graceful sound, one where Matt would need a lot of imagination to interpret it as ‘what’. Yet, he seemed to be willing to explain without an intelligible request.
“A lot of adults on the third floor are here because of strokes. Many get better fast, however, in some cases, they get a second stroke and well… The closest hospital is not so far away, hopefully, they’ll get there in time.” Matt didn’t look up, now drawing invisible circles on the asphalt with his foot.
Keith raised his arm and pointed at Matt with a frown.
“...What about me? Wait, do you mean my father? Oh, he didn’t have a stroke. He was in the same car accident as we. there’s no way he’s the one the ambulance is for...”
Keith nodded slowly and looked over to the ambulance. There seemed to be a lot more commotion now. He could see Lance and Pidge talking to a person he didn’t recognize, probably a nurse or some other medical staff.
When the two finally returned, they seemed to be a lot more serious than they were before. Lance even had one hand folded over his chest while the other was covering his hand in shock.
“So, what’s wrong? It’s not dad, is it, Katie?” Matt asked, unable to mask his concern anymore. Although he had guaranteed Keith that there was little to no chance it could be his father in that ambulance, he didn’t seem that sure anymore.
“It’s Blaytz. I… I just can’t comprehend it. Pidge said he had been in such a good state… Even the doctors don’t know why he’s suddenly...” Lance sighed and sat down, placing his head in his hands.
Pidge placed a hand on Lance’s back and gave him a sympathetic look. “The nurse that cared for him in the last few days is completely done. She says Blaytz’s kidneys just weren’t cooperating anymore.”
Keith had no idea if he should ask what exactly was going on, and if Blaytz was dead or if he could still be saved. Regardless of the fact that Keith had never met him, he still really hoped that it wasn’t the former. Judging by how devastated Lance was, Blaytz must’ve been really close to him.
“I think I’ll go back to Hunk… See you guys later,” Lance sighed. He made his way back into the building without a word, and even when Keith was brought back inside a few minutes later, there was no sight of Lance whatsoever.
Keith spent the rest of his free time before lunch in his room, practicing walking by clinging to the tables and beds. He could’ve gone over to Lotor too if he would’ve liked, but at this point, it would’ve been crazy to still be suspicious of that poor guy.
Right after lunch, he decided to try walking with the walker again. Shiro had left it in his room, just in case he felt like he would be able to go to the toilet without assistance. Keith appreciated that; he indeed missed the privacy of going to the restroom.
As soon as he stepped out of his room, he was met with the sight of Hunk, Matt, Pidge, and another girl Keith didn’t remember meeting, all peering out a window at the end of the hallway, excitedly whispering quick and short exchanges between them every two seconds. Keith sighed and begun making his way over to them.
“Keith! Wait, I’ll get you a seat!” Hunk said and left the group for a few seconds to grab a chair from the ones stacked on each other next to the elevator.
“Lance’s family just arrived. There,” The girl, who a few seconds later introduced herself as Shay, pointed to the window. The guest parking lot was clearly visible from there, including the large vehicle which had just parked there. The door to the driver’s seat opened and a middle-aged looking man got out of the car. As everyone was climbing out of the car, Keith realized just how many people they were. At least eight. Did they bring cousins and other relatives too, or what?
“Alright, his grandma isn’t here, neither is his sister-in-law, but they apparently brought his niece and nephew.” Matt listed. “It would be a wise decision to go back to our rooms right now. Lance will probably have a crisis if he sees just how much the kids have grown.”
While Lance’s family headed to the entrance, Pidge turned her wheelchair around at the sound of approaching footsteps and a sheepish smile appeared on her face.
“Hi, Shiro,” she greeted him while said nurse waved quickly and hurried down the steps. “That unlucky man. He’ll have to deal with this whole mess this time, huh?”
“Ooh, but at least they brought garlic knots. This will be interesting.” Hunk muttered under his breath.
“Okay, they’re inside! Bye, guys,” Matt sighed and hurried towards the other end of the hallway, where the boys’ rooms were.
In a matter of seconds, the group that had been standing at the window disbanded and disappeared in their rooms, all, except for Hunk and Keith, who either weren’t that fast or seemed to have no intention of going.
Keith made a gesture with his head towards Hunk, silently asking him why he wasn’t leaving.
“I… Can I go to your room? I don’t want to disturb Lance and his family by my presence...” Hunk asked with his broken speech, flashing Keith a small smile.
Keith nodded hesitantly, then started walking back to his room too, thankful for Hunk helping him along the way.
They hadn’t reached the door yet when Keith noticed the voices coming from the staircase. A few seconds later, he could also see the people the voices belonged to.
Honestly, though, Lance’s family wasn’t hard to notice. Or rather, it was hard not to notice them. While they were by no means disrespectful to the fact that they were in a rehabilitation facility, the laughter and loud talking of the two children did kind of disrupt the quiet atmosphere. Keith could see how happy they were to see Lance again, and he felt kind of sorry for the kids. Who knew if Lance would recognize them. Really depended on how much they’ve changed in the past year.
As soon as they were in his room, Keith crashed down onto his bed and Hunk shut the door. Lotor was still staring at the ceiling, as usual, this time laying more on his right side, revealing the majestic surgical scar on the left side of his head, which complimented his shaved off white hair on that side. Now that Keith thought about it, Lotor looked kind of cool with that half-shaven hairstyle, with the rest of his head still being covered in shoulder-length hair. It gave him a sort of ‘bad boy’-vibe, which would’ve fit his personality perfectly if he was anything like the Lotor in Keith’s hallucinations.
Hunk grabbed the chair the nurses or doctors would usually sit on and sighed. “I really hope Lance doesn’t get that upset this time… Then again, he had already been grieving all day, I feel like this can only get worse. You know, he always freaks out when he realizes how long he’s been here. He wants to go home and see his family more often. It’s heart-wrenching how much he misses them when he’s aware of how long he’s been gone from home. Then they always try to convince him that he’ll get better if he stays here, and that’s followed up by Lance explaining that he won’t get much better anymore, so he might as well suffer through his disability at home...”
Keith grimaced. He wondered what Lance normally thought concerning the length of stay here. As Matt had already mentioned before, it had already been a year, but what did Lance believe? Who knows. He did have a book where he wrote down new information, but Keith didn’t think Lance went over that every few hours when he forgot stuff again.
Maybe to remember a name or something, but not the new information of an entire year.
Lance could be heard from the other side of the wall behind Keith. He sounded happy at first; then paused for a second, before replacing the joy with confusion.
First Shiro’s voice, then a woman’s. Keith couldn’t understand what was being said, but he could hear how the woman’s voice became quieter and more vulnerable, to the point where it couldn’t be heard anymore.
This went on for a while; Keith just listened to the barely audible voices, while Hunk read the notes at the end of Keith’s bed out of boredom.
It was that deep voice again that Keith had heard in the morning. He bolted up in surprise, looking around at first to see if Hunk had heard it too. Seemingly not, he didn’t even notice Keith.
What was the voice telling him, though? At least its ramblings made sense this morning, but ‘gray’? What was that supposed to mean? Keith had dismissed any thoughts about this voice until now because he had been too busy with walking and hanging out with the others. But now he had time. Yet he didn’t want to think about it. It was probably just a hallucination again. They made no sense, so they most likely weren’t real. It’s not like he could ask anyone anyway.
Instead, he tried to distract himself by listening to Lance’s voice again. He could barely understand any of it, but at least that was not inside his head.