"Darling Little Kit"
Keith sighed as he sat on the bench in the Galra prison cell. How did he end up here again? Oh yeah. He didn't make it to the pod before the departure time, and Ilun and Vrek didn't have any issues leaving him behind. His pack was not going to be happy about that. He knew they would stage a rescue, maybe even with the Paladins, but the question was what was going to happen in the meantime. He was worried, because he had seen druids in the corridor outside his cell door. There was no telling what they had planned. Whatever it was couldn't be good. That was something Keith was sure about.
The druids were surprised the first time they encountered the alien in red armor. They rendered him unconscious and drew blood for them to analyze. They threw him back in the cell while they waited for the results. What his DNA showed determined what they could do to him. The results gave them pause. He was a Galran kit. The druids were under strict orders from their High Priestess not to do harm to any Galran kits. This kit was unusual though. Not only did he not look Galran, he looked older than his age suggested. Surely they couldn't be faulted for fixing that little issue.
Keith was nervous when the druids entered his cell. They approached him, one had a syringe in his claws. Keith started backing away, but his escape was stopped when he was grabbed by two others. The one holding the syringe forced Keith's head to the side and injected him with the modified quintessence. It would not only make him look his age but also bring out some Galran features, so no one would mistake him for anything but a Galran kit. The tick the modified quintessence hit his bloodstream, the kit lost consciousness. The druids holding him laid him down on the cot in the cell and vanished. The one who injected him sent out a distress signal before he too vanished, hoping someone would find the kit soon.
Lance flinched as the Galra behind his seat growled again. He understood that she was Keith's mother, but did she have to growl so menacingly?
Krolia barely registered the Paladin's flinch. She was much more concerned with her missing kit. Each adult member of the pack was with a Paladin. Kolivan was riding with Shiro, Antok was riding with Hunk, Thace was riding with Allura, and Ulaz was riding with Pidge. Regris reluctantly had to stay behind at the castle ship where they had convened and came up with a plan. It was during this meeting that they received a distress call from a Galran cruiser. Pidge was able to hack into the ship remotely and confirm that there were no sentries or commanders on board. In fact, she only detected one life sign, though she couldn't tell who it was; just that they were alive. The pack and Paladins suited up and left immediately, all thinking the same thing. It had to be Keith.
That was the same cruiser he, Ilun, and Vrek were assigned to infiltrate. The two Blades were given a dressing down for leaving the leaders' kit on a mission where there were rumored to be druids around. Kolivan had to hold his mate back from seriously injuring the two operatives. Thace hid in the med bay, where his mate was currently hiding as well. Krolia had curled around Regris in the familial nest, both of them whining. Regris had tugged Krolia to the nest when she had expressed her intent to murder the Blades that dared to put her kit in harm's way.
The Paladins landed the lions on the cruiser's hull, and the pack left the lions before the Paladins could even stand up from their seats. Krolia led the Blades into the cruiser, her ears picking up the distressed whines of a kit. The whines sounded too high pitched to be Keith, but it was still a kit in distress. The Blades rushed to the only occupied cell in the ship. Krolia peered into the little window in the door and gasped. Inside was a small kit with black hair, fluffy purple Galran ears, a thin purple tail, purple cheek stripes, and pale skin, wearing an oversized black shirt. His purple irised eyes were red around the edges as tears coursed down his pale cheeks. Whines escaped his throat, which tugged at the entire pack's hearts. It was obviously Keith, and he had been de-aged. Antok dug his claws into the door and wrenched it off its hinges. The tick the door was off its hinges, Krolia rushed in and rumbled to her kit.
Keith opened his eyes. Where was he? Where was his pack? Where was his Mama? Whines left his throat, tears pricking his eyes. He wanted his pack to find him. His tears fell down his cheeks as his whines got louder.
Suddenly, he heard metal being rended and then felt familiar arms and heard familiar rumbles. He visibly relaxed. His Mama had found him. "Mama!"
Krolia was surprised that Keith called her 'mama,' but she was just so happy that he was back in her arms. He buried his face in her neck, taking comfort in her scent. She nosed his headfur. His scent was the same, just stronger.
The rest of the pack entered the cell, catching Keith's attention. He lifted his head and chirped, locking eyes with each one as he addressed them. "Father, Dad, Daddy, Papa! You're here! Where's Regris?"
The rest of the Blades were surprised at what their kit called them. He hadn't called them that before to their knowledge. Unbeknownest to them, Keith had always called them that in his head. They didn't let it show and surrounded their kit, rumbling to him. Keith refused to leave his Mama's arms but still nuzzled each of his Dads.
"Regris had to wait at the castle," Thace answered.
Keith looked up at Thace. "What castle, Daddy?"
Thace paused, unsure of why Keith wouldn't know what castle. "The Castle of Lions of Altea, kit. The same one-"
Thace didn't get to finish his explanation as the Paladins located them. Keith's eyes widened as five aliens entered the cell. The one wearing black and white armor stepped forward. "Kolivan, who's that? Where's Keith?"
"This is Keith."
Shiro smiled and approached Krolia and Keith but stopped when the kit let out an extremely loud and distressed whine. Shiro backed up, causing the kit to relax and cease whining. His smile faltered. "Keith, what's wrong?"
Keith hid his face in Krolia's Blade uniform and refused to look up. Krolia stroked his hair and addressed Shiro. "Keith doesn't seem to remember anything or anyone that isn't related to the Blade of Marmora."
Lance stepped forward. "What? Mullet doesn't remember us?"
"No. This is apparently the work of the druids that captured him post mission. There may be a way to return him to him proper age but not any way to return his memories," Ulaz answered.
"What are you saying?" Allura asked.
"We are going to take him back to headquarters and raise him the way he should have been raised...with his pack and his mother," Antok half growled. Keith gave a confused trill at Antok's tone. The large Blade immediately turned around and rumbled comfortingly to the little kit.
"We are going to collect Regris and then return to headquarters. You will have to come to terms that the Keith you knew is no longer here," Krolia stated.
The Paladins all sputtered at her blunt statement. Their Keith was gone?! Tears collected in Hunk's eyes, which spilled down his cheeks and pooled at the bottom of his helmet. Shiro was right on his heels. His tears remained in his eyes, but they were close to falling down his cheeks.
Allura took a deep, steadying breath. "Let's get back to the castle, so your little one can relax in a friendlier environment."
Krolia nodded, and the group of eleven made their way to where the lions were parked. Keith lifted his head when he was in the same vicinity as the Red Lion. Keith cocked his head but let out a trill. Krolia paused. "What is it, kit?"
"The red kitty is purring to me."
"Do you want to ride in her?"
Keith's eyes widened in happiness. "Can we?"
Krolia smiled. "Of course, kit." She turned to Lance. "Red Paladin, my kit and I are riding with you."
Lance stumbled slightly when he was addressed by Krolia. "Of-of course."
Krolia boarded the lion and watched Keith, smiling when he started purring too. All of a sudden, Keith's purr quieted. He leaned closer to his Mama and whispered, "Mama, I had an accident."
Krolia smiled gently at her kit. "That's okay, kit. That happens. We'll get it cleaned up at the castle. If you need to go again, just do it. It's not good for little kits to hold it in."
Lance was glad that Red was okay with flying without an attentive Paladin, because he kept glancing back at Krolia and baby Keith. He couldn't believe that the Keith he knew and fought with and alongside was gone. However, this Keith was here, and Lance thought that maybe he could start on a better foot. He turned to Krolia and asked, "Krolia, could you introduce me to your kit? Maybe he'd be less afraid of us Paladins if you introduced us?"
Krolia looked at Lance in slight annoyance. "Weren't you listening? This is not the same Keith you remember."
"I know that. That's why I said introduce me, not reacquaint him with me."
Krolia looked down at her kit. "Keith, would you like to meet the person who flies the Red Lion?"
Keith's eyes widened. "Someone flies the red kitty?"
"Yes, my kit. Do you want to meet him?"
Keith shrank against his Mama's chest. "Is he mad that the red kitty is purring to me?"
"No, kit. He's happy that the lion is purring to you." Krolia carried Keith over to the pilot's seat. "This is Lance. He flies the Red Lion."
Lance flashed a genuine smile. "Hi, Keith. I heard Red was purring to you. That's great! She only does that to people she likes!"
"She likes me?"
"She sure does, bud."
Keith grinned. "How fast can she go?"
"Incredibly fast, but I shouldn't demonstrate it, because it could hurt you, being so small and not buckled into a seat."
Keith's smile fell. "Oh."
Lance frantically tried to think of something that could brighten the baby's mood. "Your mom said Regris was at our castle. Do you want to tell me about Regris?"
Keith's eyes brightened at the mention of his brother figure in his pack. As Keith chattered on about Regris, Lance flew Red a little faster in order to get to the castle sooner. He had a feeling Regris would be waiting for them.
Regris's tail swished back and forth as he waited for the lions to land. He and Coran had been informed of the situation by Ulaz. Regris desperately wanted to see his little brother again, especially after being separated for a few quintants, bordering on a movement. When the Red Lion landed, Krolia came out, holding a tiny kit with fuzzy purple Galran ears, purple cheek stripes, and a thin purple tail. The kit's eyes were looking all around until they locked on to him. "Regris!"
Regris rushed over and nuzzled him, nosing his headfur. "I missed you."
"Missed you," Keith echoed, rubbing his head against Regris's neck as the other lions landed.
Krolia smiled at the reunion until she felt a hand on her shoulder. Looking over, she saw it was Shiro. "I know this isn't our Keith, but would we be permitted to visit him and get to know him?"
Krolia looked at Shiro and saw nothing but good intent. When she didn't say anything, Shiro continued, "He has been such a large part of my life, and I couldn't imagine my life without him, even if he's different."
Krolia looked at Keith, who was nuzzling Regris still, before looking back at Shiro. Her face softened. "If he chooses. He is such a young kit now though."
"I understand." Shiro nodded.
"Ulaz, Keith needs a change of clothes and a diaper," Krolia said.
"I know where some are." Ulaz left and quickly returned with a sleeper and a diaper, giving them to Krolia.
Krolia turned away from everyone and quickly changed Keith. She scooped her kit back up and faced her pack and the Paladins. Her kit was dressed in a purple sleeper and snuggled into his Mama's arms, who turned her attention to the rest of the adults of her pack. "Please go pack up our kit's room. Take anything you think he may want."
"Maybe he would like to come and see if there's anything he may especially want," Ulaz suggested.
"Kit, do you want to go with one of your Dads for a little?" Krolia asked.
Keith chirped and held his hands out to Antok. "Dad!"
Antok scooped up the little kit, who almost immediately reached over Antok's shoulder. Antok turned his head to see what his kit was reaching for. The only thing back there...was his tail. Antok brought his tail forward and placed it in the kit's grip. Keith was happy to hold onto Antok's tail while they walked into what used to be Keith's room. Thace pulled out a bag and started pulling things out of drawers and putting them into the bag. Antok walked around letting Keith look at everything. The kit didn't seem interested in anything in the room until he laid eyes on the red and white crop jacket. Keith released Antok's tail and reached for the jacket. Antok snagged the jacket and handed it to the kit, who snuggled it, purring. Antok continued walking around the room, but it soon became apparent that Keith had fallen asleep. Antok cradled the kit securely and stood in a corner of the room, so as to stay out of Thace's way. Ulaz had left early on to collect a fair amount of diapers and other baby supplies for the trip back to the base.
Once Keith's room was packed up (the Blades were dismayed at how little there was), they returned to the hangar, where Krolia, Regris, and a recently returned Ulaz stood with the Paladins. Upon seeing Keith asleep nestled in his old jacket, Allura cooed softly. "He's so adorable! I'm glad we get to see this side of him."
Pidge approached the group, holding out a data pad. "This is for Keith. It has pictures of all of us, certain rooms of the castle, and places we've visited. I made sure the older Keith doesn't appear in any of the pictures, so you won't have to come up with any explanation."
Kolivan accepted the data pad. "Thank you, Pidge. I'm sure he will appreciate this."
Hunk started sniffling, trying to not cry, because he might end up waking up Keith, and the Marmorans would not be happy about that. "I'm going to miss Keith."
Shiro put an arm around Hunk. "We all will, but look on the bright side. We might be able to visit this Keith and get to know him."
Lance looped an arm around the other side of Hunk's shoulders. "Maybe Keith will end up less emo this time around with his Mom, Dads, and brother raising him."
"We look forward to hearing from you guys soon. Even if Keith doesn't want to meet us soon, could you guys let us know how he's doing?" Allura inquired.
"That is quite possible, Paladins," Thace replied. "However, we need to leave, so we can make it to headquarters soon, and get Keith settled into his new home."
The Blades entered the pod they originally arrived in and set about arranging themselves. Antok carefully passed Keith back to Krolia, who carried him to the small nest in the back of the pod, and Regris followed her. She carefully laid her little kit down, making sure the jacket was still cushioning him as his whole body fit in the jacket when he was curled up. Krolia curled around him with Regris on the other side. Krolia rumbled to her still sleeping kit, assuring him all was well. The pod started up and flew out of the castle ship. As they flew back to headquarters, Krolia knew her kit would have a better childhood than he did when he was growing up on Earth. He had his pack (including her) and, most importantly, love.