Keith's health had improved a lot since yesterday. Professor Zarkon had even told him that he didn't have to worry about getting ill again as long as he didn't spend another night outside. This, of course, relieved the nurses a lot, mainly Shiro. He didn't seem to be able to think about anything else than Keith's health in the last couple of hours, constantly telling him that he needed to take his whole situation more seriously.
Which Keith was doing. In fact, he thought he was taking it more seriously than anyone else. Probably because the others didn't know about all the little... occurrences that have plagued his stay at the Voltron Rehabilitation Center until now. He would've done anything to find out what was going on in his mind and in this place at night. Since there clearly must've been something about the night that let all this strange stuff happen. But that discovery wasn’t much help either. Nothing was helping at all, he had no idea where to start to eventually solve the mystery that was Lotor and his other ‘comatose’ buddies.
Keith had no choice but to concentrate on his healing process. Since, well, he had nothing else that could help him in this situation and… Because that’s what you’re supposed to do at a rehab center.
As Shiro finally let him try walking again - after Professor Zarkon had asked Shiro to just let him do what would, in the long run, affect his healing process in a positive way. Keith had been getting the vibes that Shiro didn't exactly agree with the professor's opinion, but they both knew that there was no way to argue with him.
Professor Zarkon had arrived that morning, and ever since that, the whole rehab center had been filled with chaos. The nurses and the doctors running around, trying to keep the patients in a healthy state and a good mood, which would please Professor Zarkon too; while the patients seemed to be trying their best to avoid any encounters with him.
Keith kind of got what they meant. Zarkon was a serious man, who seemed to have high expectations when it came to everyone's recoveries, to the point where it was getting in the way of the said healing process - that is if what Allura had said was true, and a happy mood did equal a faster recovery. Everyone seemed slightly stressed, either from what Professor Zarkon has been telling them or because all the pressure on the medical staff had ruined their day too.
If Pidge was correct though, Zarkon wasn't even all that influential. It was just the fact that he had been in charge of the surgeries of most patients here, including Keith, and was a friend of Dr. Sendak. He just liked to check on the rehab center once in a while because he wanted to see how all the surgery scars were doing. Matt said that, and Keith was left to wonder if ‘surgery scars’ really meant just the scars on everyone’s head, or if Matt wanted to hint at the fact that Zarkon only saw them as a bunch of successful jobs of his that needed to be taken care of so that they don’t turn out to be unsuccessful after all.
“I don’t know, he seems okay to me,” Lance shrugged, while stirring his milkshake with the straw, bored out of his mind. His notebook was still nowhere to be seen, and Keith had been confronted by the actual badness of his memory’s condition. They all had to start the day off by introducing themselves to Lance and explaining to him how they’ve been friends for a while before they could convince him to accompany them to the cafeteria. It was quite a hard job.
Hunk and Pidge shared a knowing look. “Lance, you hate him.”
“Why would I?” Lance looked up from his shake and raised his eyebrows.
“He hasn’t visited you today yet, huh?” Hunk waited until Lance shook his head before he continued. “He’s a little overenthusiastic about improving your memory, at least in your opinion.”
“Yeah, but there’s some truth in there… He is kind off acting weird when it comes to Lance… Like he’s surprised that his memory isn’t better yet.”
“Hm,” Lance shrugged and turned his attention back to his milkshake. “He should be more concerned about Keith. He’s the one whose level of recovery changes every few hours. At least my memory is constantly bad.” He had a point there. Keith didn’t even remember anyone mentioning that fact to Lance this morning, though.
Everyone’s faces turned to Keith, who had been sitting in the corner, sipping his soda, silently listening to the others’ conversation.
“Oh, right. Then again, he had a cold, maybe it’s all normal. At least he’s better at walking today. Let’s just hope he won’t get sick again.”
Keith rolled his eyes and cracked a smile. It’s not like the cold was his fault.
Shay at the other end of the table spoke up. “Maybe the professor is too busy tending to James. I heard from Ryan that he’s been acting weird.”
“Weird, what does he mean by that?” Matt frowned.
“I’m not sure. Something about behavioral issues or so, but there’s also something wrong with his immune system. His whole body is not acting how it’s supposed to, of course he’s a bit moody.”
Keith bit his lip. It was that James again. The one they had mentioned yesterday.
‘Gray. Out of control.’
Yeah. That too. The voice, still tormenting him with the same stuff.
But at least now he had some context. James could be the one out of control. Then again, the voice did only say that after Shay had informed Keith about all of this, so perhaps it was just Keith’s subconscious playing a trick on him again. Besides, he was kind of getting used to it at this point.
“Poor James,” Hunk sighed. “Is it just me, or is it strange how everyone seems to be getting worse? First Blaytz, then Keith almost getting a lung inflammation, now this...”
“That’s just a coincidence.” Lance shrugged. “At least I hope so.”
Cold. Seriously way too cold. Keith pulled the covers up to his face and turned onto his side, taking up a fetal position in hopes of keeping himself warm. His cold wasn’t returning, was it? Then again, he had healed way too fast…
He tapped around on his bed blindly, hoping to find the nurse-calling button. After a minute or so, he gave up and opened his eyes just a bit.
That’s when he noticed the window: wide open, the darkness and the wind almost making it look like an endless void.
Which idiot had opened the window? Keith crawled out of his bed in slow motion, gripping the edge of his bedside table to avoid losing his balance. Moving forward seemed surprisingly easy now, almost like it had been before the accident. His muscles weren’t tensed and the movements came naturally. Keith didn’t have to concentrate on the usual ‘left, right, left, right’ like he had to this morning. How weird.
He stumbled over to the window and closed it. The coldness still lingered in the room, though, and Keith decided he would grab one of his hoodies before he returns to his bed.
Either the closet he shared with Lotor wasn’t actually that far away from the window as he’d imagined, or his legs have miraculously improved overnight. He seemed to have no trouble making his way towards it. Even the hunch he usually had when he tried to walk was missing, and he wasn’t in need of a walker. Just the thought of being able to do this would’ve amazed him this morning, but now it was reality – hopefully. It could’ve just been a realistic dream. Really realistic.
He grabbed the first hoodie he could find and put it on with one swift motion. Surprisingly easy, but it was surprising in a good way, of course. Although, now that he thought about it, it was pretty strange. Just like everything else he had witnessed at night in the last few days. The voice, his shifting well-being, Lotor…
Right, Lotor. Keith glanced over at his roommate’s bed. What he saw didn’t surprise him in the slightest.
He sighed and sat down on Lotor’s empty bed.
Just take a deep breath and think about it. Lotor was who knows where, wandering around in the night. Maybe he was right outside the door – or someone else was, someone who had the same intentions as Lotor. Anyways, leaving the room wasn’t worth it, he would just get into trouble again -
‘Go to room 327. It’s on the third floor, at the end of the hallway.’
Oh. Well, that was something new. It was a clear message. An order. At it even disproved Keith’s theory that the voice was just an auditory hallucination. Keith had never heard of room 327 nor had he ever been on the third floor – that’s were the adults and the elderly were staying, and teenagers weren’t really welcome, except maybe for Pidge and Matt.
But what about Lotor? What if he caught him and it would be like last night all over again? Geez, this was starting to sound like some video game where you had to avoid a bot or something, just to make your quest harder.
Keith got up again and headed to the door. He pressed down the door handle as quietly and slowly as possible and peered out into the hallway before stepping out. It was empty, just like yesterday, except that this time, no one was waiting for him around the corner to drag him back to his room and attempt to murder him. At least he hoped so.
He started walking to the end of the hallway with quick and confident steps. Every room he passed was quiet and all the doors were shut. It must’ve been around one or two in the morning. Pidge usually stayed up as long as possible, but the nurses always managed to get her to sleep before midnight.
‘Take the stairs. They’re on the left.’
Alright then, as it turns out, the voice in Keith’s head was a commanding GPS. It did have a point though since the elevator would be heard from the nurses’ office right beside it.
Moving on. The stairs were near, he was almost there. He would only have to get past the office.
Suddenly, his left foot started hurting. It’s as if destiny really didn’t want him to be able to do this. His muscle tensed and he had to grab a hold on the wall to avoid falling, while his movements slowed down and he was back to his regular crawl-tempo. Keith turned away from the office and steered directly towards the staircase. Still, his legs weren’t working any better and he had to plop down on the ground for a second to regain his energy.
As he waited, he got the chance to enjoy listening in on a conversation between Shiro and Adam inside the office. It just motivated him to keep moving. The two were really nice and all, but Shiro’s obliviousness to Adam’s attempts at flirting was really starting to give Keith second-hand embarrassment.
The further away from the nurses’ office he crawled, the easier he could move his legs. After twenty feet or so, his leg was perfectly fine, back to how it had been when he’d left his room.
He finally reached the stairs and started going up; sometimes, when he dared, even taking two steps at once. Maybe the voice wasn’t to be trusted and this was all a trap, or he could be caught by a staff member any minute. Either way, he had to be fast.
Considering that earlier that day, he couldn’t get past one single step, he was doing amazing. But still, he had to wonder whose idea it was to put so many stairs into a building where half of the inhabitants couldn’t even use them.
‘I know...’ Keith muttered in his mind, still racing up the steps. He didn’t waste time to rest at the landing between the two flights of stairs, but turned right away and continued.
Except that there was someone sitting there.
Keith stopped and gaped at the boy in the blue pajamas with a dumbfounded expression.
Said boy looked up from the book he was reading and raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong?”
“Ol- I…Laot...” Keith stammered a series of meaningless sounds. That was Lance. That was most definitely Lance, and he was sitting on the stairs leading to the third floor in the middle of the night, minding his own business. Not to mention the fact that he was reading a big book, and he must’ve been close to finishing it, despite the wide-known fact that Lance was incapable of reading books which took more than six hours to finish since he would forget most of the plot.
“Do you need help? What’s your name, first of all?” Lance gave Keith an encouraging smile as if Keith was the only brain damaged of the two.
He shook his head, then gestured to his throat to tell Lance that he was unable to speak.
“Oh. Well, it’s nice to meet you anyway. I’m Lance.”
Keith sighed. He didn’t know what Lance was doing here, but he needed to go back to his room. If anyone found him outside of his room, he would get in trouble for sure.
After a few seconds of hesitance, Keith pointed at Lance, then at his left wrist, where one would wear a watch, and made a circling motion with his fingers, imitating a clock. He pointed at Lance again, then put his palms together and leaned his head on them: sleeping. You should be sleeping at his time.
“What do you mean? Look, I don’t live here and I don’t think we know each other.” Lance let out a forced laugh.
‘Well yeah, you think that because you’re an amnesiac, Lance.’ Keith rolled his eyes.
“No, I’m not.”
Wait. Did he say that out loud? That couldn’t be, he wasn’t able to speak.
“Lance, you drowned and damaged your brain...” The words came out loud an clear when he tried to speak. That was impossible... He had to tell someone. Adam was right downstairs, he could just go and-
“No. This is just a dream. I don’t even know you,” Lance protested, crossing his arms.
“My name is Keith. I arrived a week ago and I introduced myself to you several times by now. You keep forgetting because you have anterograde amnesia.” Keith explained calmly, while slowly inching back towards the stairs. The whole situation was kind of weird. Lance normally knew he had amnesia.
“That’s... unlikely. Look, I remember this place and everything except for you. If this is not a dream, then... I don’t know what it is. I kind of believe you, since there are blank spaces in my memory where I have no quiznaking clue what I was doing... But I clearly remember what I was doing twelve hours ago.”
“Fine, okay,” Keith ran his hand through his hair frustrated. “But I have to go now, you see...” He turned around and made a run for the stairs. Halfway through, his legs gave out under him and his voice disappeared, leaving him with nothing more than a weak yelp when he tried to get someone’s attention by shouting for Adam or Shiro.
“Buddy, you okay?” Lance looked at him with a frown from the top of the stairs.
Keith nodded and stood up before cautiously trying to take another step towards the nurses’ office. His leg started hurting almost immediately and he was starting to get light headed. When he tried the same thing in Lance’s direction, everything was perfectly fine. That was definitely not natural.
“Right, I know.” Keith hissed and trotted back to Lance.
“What was that about?” Lance seemed to have trouble holding back a chuckle.
“Nevermind. I still have to go, though, so if you’d excuse me...”
“Uh-uh. Not going. Not until you tell me why you’re talking to yourself.” Lance put a hand on Keith's chest to block his way.
“Uhm, well, you see… Alright, Lance, look, I have a voice in my head that constantly tells me stuff that makes no sense. Got it?” Keith sighed and pushed Lance’s hand off of him.
“Not really, but I’ll go with it. And, did the voice tell you to fall down the stairs?”
“Ha-ha. Not really. It has been talking about a certain ‘room 327’ all night. I have a comatose roommate here which keeps disappearing which is also kind of strange, so I figured I could check this out for a change.”
Lance’s eyes widened in surprise for a short second, then he averted his gaze. “Okay. Let’s check that out.”
“You want to come too?” Keith raised his eyebrows.
“Yeah. I know where it is, I’ll help you.”
Lance started running up the stairs closely followed by Keith. The latter was just purely confused about Lance at this point but figured he had no other choice but to go along with his shenanigans.
“Follow me,” Keith grabbed Lance’s arm and pulled him towards the left hallway once they reached the third floor.
“What? Room 327 is that way.” Lance pointed in the other direction.
“The voice told me to go this way, I won’t question it.”
“Oh, so now you have an inbuilt GPS in your head, huh.”
Keith didn’t have time to ask Lance about his sudden hostility, as the voice suddenly told him to ‘duck’ and he pulled Lance down with him.
A dark figure that seemed to be coming from the hallway Lance wanted to go to passed them and went down the stairs. It didn’t take long until Keith’s brain processed who it had been.
“Oh no, Lotor is here.”
“That’s his name?” Lance scratched the back of his head.
“You know him?”
“Well yeah, I see him around quite often, but I don’t remember ever actually talking to him.”
“Oh, alright.” Keith sighed and peered out from their hiding place again. “I think the coast is clear now.”
They got up and headed exactly where Lotor had come from. The hallway looked quite similar to the one on the second floor, except that the nurses’ office here was a bit further away from the stairs.
“This is room 312. 327 is at the end of this hallway.” Lance pointed at a small sign beside the door of the room closest to them. Under the number were two names; the names of the patients, Keith guessed.
Keith nodded and started walking down the hallway with Lance.
“I don’t know why, but my gut tells me that this isn’t a good idea,” Keith muttered, looking around with furrowed eyebrows, worried that something or someone could show up at any moment.
“Well, you wanted to do this, so we’re doing it,” Lance whispered, and grabbed Keith’s arm, forcing him to quicken his pace a little bit. “Just trust me, alright? Even if we get caught, we’re just two vegetables whose brains aren’t working correctly. We don’t know what we’re doing.”
By the time they reached room 321, Keith was practically sneaking on all fours. It was only when they were about to go around the corner when Lance stopped too and knelt down. When Keith glanced over his shoulder to see what was wrong, he quickly yanked Lance back.
“We have a problem. That’s Dr. Sendak and Professor Zarkon, and I doubt we could explain why we’re on the third floor, hiding from them.” He whispered as quiet as possible, almost mouthing the words.
“But they’re in front of 327. What are they doing here in the middle of the night?”
Keith remained quiet for a while, trying to quiet down his breathing and catch a few words exchanged between Sendak and Zarkon. When he finally turned to Lance, he looked mortified, all blood drained from his face.
“Talking about Blaytz and James Griffin, apparently.”
Lance grimaced and shifted a little closer.
“Sendak, they’re out of control. Do you know what consequences it would have if another one would die?”
“I’m sorry, Sir, I’m really trying everything I can. Perhaps we would be able to shift the blame again, then we would have time to-”
“No. Another failure would be unacceptable. You don’t have more time. If this isn’t fixed by tomorrow...”
Keith and Lance both could hear the footsteps coming towards them. They glanced at each other panicked for a millisecond, before Lance’s spontaneous thinking saved them by ushering Keith into the closest room and shutting the door again.
It took Keith a while to calm his quickened heartbeat and his heavy breathing. He leaned against the door, hoping that Lance would be okay.
“Lance McClain... What are you doing here?” The irritated voice of Professor Zarkon was still somewhat audible through the door.
“I’m sorry, Sir… Could you help me? I have no idea how I’ve gotten here. It’s clearly some sort of hospital, but I don’t have any injuries...”
Lance obviously adjusted to his role as an amnesiac pretty fast. While the doctors were talking to him, trying to explain his situation again and convince him to return to his room, Keith had a chance to look around in the room he was currently stranded in.
One of the beds was empty, but the sheets were neatly folded and there seemed to be no belonging lying around, except if the board with all the patient information counts as one. That was still there, letting Keith know that the bed had belonged to Blaytz.
The other bed was inhabited by a man who must’ve been around fifty or so. He had white hair and a white full-beard, with the same brown skin tone as Allura. Now that he had thought about Allura, Keith couldn’t unsee the man’s resemblance to her.
He walked over to the board at the end of his bed.
Professor Alfor, blah blah blah damage to RAS after a blow to the head, blah blah blah comatose, blah blah blah ENB Gen 3.
Keith didn’t understand most of the medical terms, so he just decided to skip over them. He could just ask someone tomorrow if they could explain some of the terms to him. Speaking of that, he should probably check out the board on his bed as well.
When he looked up at the man again, he noticed something on the floor under Blaytz's bed. He knelt down and tried to fish it out from under there.
His lips formed a triumphant smile when he finally got a hold of it and managed to pull it out.
It was a leather-bound notebook with the name ‘Lance Charles McClain’ written on the cover. Keith was sure he didn’t have the right to look through what was practically Lance’s diary, so he didn’t. He would return it to Lance in the morning, but right now, his only desire was to get back to his bedroom without getting caught again. Room 327 would have to wait another night or two.
He crawled past the nurses’ office on the second floor, since his legs seemed to have given up again. It seemed to have quieted down in there, but there was clearly someone inside. This would be the perfect opportunity for Keith to tell someone that he could talk again.
“Keith? What are you doing outside of your room? Takashi, your patient is wandering around again!” Adam went to get Shiro after Keith got his attention by knocking on the door.
“He’s your patient too...” Shiro sighed and got up from his seat. “Keith, have you been sleepwalking again? And what’s that under your arm? Don’t tell me you found Lance’s notebook.”
“Sh… Ot...Taoiaa-” His speech, just like his movement, seemed to get a lot worse when he was around nurses. At least know he knew that, and wouldn’t embarrass himself a second time.
“Look, thanks for bringing us the notebook. I’m sure Lance will appreciate it. But now I should bring you back to your room. Come on.”
Although this was a very anticlimactic end to his nightly adventure, Keith didn’t mind it at all. He had learned a lot of new information that could possibly help him in the future, plus he gained a new ally. And there was absolutely no way he wouldn’t question Lance about all of this once he woke up.