All the shifting light around him is confusing. Keith thinks he remembers flashes of blue, yellow, green and red, and some kind of red that set off alarms. But when he tries to recall it, the memory is replaced by a void and a spear of pain. It makes him nauseous.
The noises makes him nauseous too. A sheer grinding noise, like metal being torn apart. The ground he’s lying on shudders with it. Keith does too, involuntarily. He blacks out.
Shiro walks in on Keith’s body convulsing with a seizure.
Everything’s worse when awareness returns. Less coherent, more foggy. There’s a blur of white and grey in front of him. He tries to focus on, but his eyes refuse. He can’t see colour, just shadow and that figure of white and grey leaning over him. Is the world greyscale now?
The figure leans closer, enough so that he can make out a pair of weird unsteady lines running down the person’s face. The person is speaking to him, but their voice sounds distant. Maybe the helmet wrapped around his head is what’s making their voice hard to hear?
He blinks. The light has shifted. It’s bright now, too bright.
The person is speaking.
The thing around his head is removed, but his mind feels no less foggy. The pain in his head, in his body, flares as he’s moved. His throat hurts with a cry he can’t hear.
Something presses onto his face, around his nose and mouth.
Someone asks his name before that. He can’t remember it.
He can’t remember anything after that.
Shiro’s forced to withdraw from Keith’s side when Keith is taken in for emergency medical care. He’s kept in ICU. Shiro’s kept in meeting rooms.
When finally Keith’s moved into a general recovery room, Shiro’s moved into the rank of Admiral. Keith hasn’t woken since Shiro last saw him. Shiro hasn’t been able to see him since then either.
The exhaustion gets to him, and it gets to a point where Shiro can’t hold in his frustration anymore. Questions about schedules, policies, interplanetary relations and recovery are directed at him, but all Shiro can do is stand there and pretend there aren’t tears slipping from the corners of his eyes. He doesn’t even have the energy to shield his face from view.
A hand on his shoulder. Iverson sends him off for uninterrupted rest.
Shiro makes a beeline for the couch he’s been collapsing on after each day, then stops. No. At this rate he’ll never get to go see how the others are doing.
He visits them all, one by one, ignoring how concerned they are by what his face looks like. Keith’s the only one who doesn’t comment.
Keith’s the only one who can’t.
Broken bones. Internal bleeding. Head injury.
Keith’s brought out of the induced coma after his body heals, but his brain doesn’t register it. The coma is no longer classified as induced.
It’s only after Shiro pilots Black – in order to sit her down in formation with the other Lions, in preparation for the speech – that Keith shows any sign of waking.
It takes a few days after that for Keith’s body to catch up with the fact that his quintessence has been safely restored to it.
“I couldn’t find you,” Keith says when he’s awake enough to speak. His voice is hoarse from disuse.
Shiro swallows. “What do you mean?” He already knows what Keith means.
“Black. Couldn’t find you. S-she said you were find…fine…but you weren’t there.”
“I am fine, Keith. I wasn’t there because you saved me, remember?”
Keith’s expression contorts. His eyes glaze over, but not with loss of focus. “You weren’t there ‘cause I failed. You weren’t there ‘cause you were gone, for good. Because – ” A choked cry cuts him off. “’cause you died. You said you died. S-so…”
“And then you saved me,” Shiro murmurs.
“I couldn’t remember that.”
Ah, is all Shiro can manage.
“Black wanted to make me leave, but I wouldn’t let her. Said I had to find you.” Keith sniffs. “I think she let me stay because I was upset. I think she thought it wouldn’t be good for my recovering if she sent be back with that extra stress.”
The memory of Keith’s seizure comes to the front of Shiro’s mind. Shiro wonders if it’s prompted by Black.
“Maybe that was a good thing. When I first woke up, Krolia and Kolivan were here. The doctor says I shouldn’t watch TV yet, so we couldn’t watch your speech. I thought you’d be here when I woke, but you weren’t, and you weren’t in Black either, and I thought… I thought you really gone, and I started believing I’d have to live through that same awful grief all over again – for a third time...”
Fresh tears follow the same old tracks. “I’m sorry, Keith.”
(Those tears stain as well.)