There was a time when he didn't feel so tired. Keith was sure of this, sure that there was a time when he actually slept in his bed instead of rumpling the sheets to keep suspicion at bay. But he couldn't remember those days when every second passed unfelt, when his body didn't ache and his head didn't pound, when he got more than an hour's rest in a week. He couldn't have been born this tired, couldn't have been born so exhausted.

He couldn't remember the last time he slept, the last time he ate. He could only remember the bitter taste of the uppers and the way he had stood in the shower, under the jet of water so cold it made his heart start and stop in a strange, syncopated beat.

He was running on borrowed time, now. He could feel his cells turning on against themselves, feel the way his body consumed itself in order to keep going. Perhaps he should stop taking those sweet, bitter, little pills.

But there was so much to be done. There were reports and repairs and the Princess. Oh how he hated Allura and her midnight jaunts. If she would only stay in her bed, if he could only believe that there could be a night where she wasn't abducted, then perhaps he could get a good night's sleep.

He half believed himself for a moment. Well, his mother did always say he was a damn good liar.

Keith drained the last of his coffee and poured himself another cup. His hands had already calmed, somewhat, and he figured another cup, coupled with one of those uppers, and he'd be as good as if he actually got eight hours of sleep.

Lord what he wouldn't give for a hit of coke.

He was so tired, suddenly, so very tired. He was tired to his bones, beyond his bones, tired in his soul. He didn't want to face the day, to face them, face Lance's concern and Hunk's knowing eyes. All he really wanted was to lie down and sleep forever.

Even the pills didn't numb the dull ache.

His heart skiped a beat as he swallowed pill after pill, pounding against his chest in a frighteningly erratic rhythm. He couldn't breathe for a moment, couldn't see, couldn't hear or feel and then the world came back into sharp focus, but all he wanted was to go back to that strange, dark, comforting place he had just been. It wasn't sleep, but it was probably as good as Keith was ever going to get.

He'd burnt his candle at both ends for so long. And now the wax was dripping and running. His flame flickered. It was only a matter of time before it went out.