"Surrounded By Love"
Keith entered the lounge after taking a shower. He had been on the training deck for most of the morning, and, even though he missed lunch, he was wanting someone to hug him, to hold him. His eyes took in the scene in the room before him in dismay. Shiro and Lance were wrapped around each other with no room in between them for Keith to wiggle into. Coran was brushing Allura's hair while she entertained the mice. Pidge was typing away on her laptop, once in awhile stopping to assist Hunk with a piece of tech they were trying to figure out. Oh well. At least there was a place for him to sit. He would be fine. He lasted a year in the desert alone without someone to hug him. He would be just fine. Unconsciously, he wrapped his arms around himself, but unfortunately, it looked like his arms were crossed to anyone who looked at Keith.
Lance sighed contentedly into Shiro's chest. He loved spending time with his boyfriend, especially when there was time to cuddle. The door opening caught his attention, and he was surprised to see Keith. He was sure the Red Paladin would have been still on the training deck, especially since he seemed to live there. Keith seemed to pause at the door for longer than usual before he sat down on the edge of one of the couches and crossed his arms like he was being forced to be there. Lance suppressed the urge to huff and simply snuggled into Shiro's chest as if he was trying to bury himself into Shiro's vest.
Shiro had his face buried in Lance's hair but was still able to see Keith walk into the room. The other Paladin's black hair was still wet from his shower as his violet eyes roved over everyone there. After what seemed to be an over exaggerated amount of time, Keith settled himself on the edge of the couch nearest him and Lance. Shiro's attention was drawn back to Lance as his boyfriend snuggled further into his chest.
The two Alteans didn't really take notice of Keith's entrance. Everyone else had gathered in the lounge, so who else was left on the ship to enter the room except Keith? It also escaped their notice that his posture wasn't the same closed off attitude he usually displayed.
Pidge knew Keith was headed their way. He had messaged her and asked where everyone was at. She shot a message back stating that everyone was in the lounge and that she and Hunk were making a little headway decoding the alien tech that they had been working on for weeks. So, when Keith entered, Pidge didn't even lift her gaze from her lap top. She continued to work on decoding the piece of tech.
Hunk had noticed Pidge's message from Keith and had accidentally read it and Pidge's response, which he simultaneously regretted and didn't regret. So, he also knew that Keith had entered the lounge. He was pleased that the entire team was together, even though they were engaged in different activities.
Keith wrapped his arms around himself tighter. He had been thinking about why he was able to spend a year in the desert by himself without falling apart but wasn't able to last a week out here and had figured it out. In the desert, he had had this feeling of comfort, even though he had been alone. The feeling emanated from the Blue Lion. She had apparently felt his loneliness and wanted to comfort him, even though he wasn't her Paladin. That comfort came through the temporary bond he had with her and filled him with comfort like he was being hugged. So, he had been getting hugged while in the desert.
Since no one seemed to acknowledge his presence, Keith figured he might as well go see Red. He knew she'd never ignore him. He stood up but only made it a couple steps from the couch before he collapsed, a soft cry escaping him before he fell unconscious.
Several things happened at once when Keith collapsed on the floor. Lance shot out of Shiro's grasp as if he had been shocked, Allura gasped, Shiro gripped his head as if in pain, and three roars resounded in the castle. Once the pain subsided in Shiro's head, he walked over to Keith and picked him up. He carried him out the door, Allura and Lance on his heels.
Black Lion, Blue Lion, and Red Lion all felt Keith's emotions. Their Paladin was hurting. Even though he didn't pilot her, Blue still considered him hers. So when he fell unconscious, all three lions were outraged and roared through their bonds with their other Paladins, Black ordering her primary Paladin to bring Keith to them.
The three lions had gathered in Black's hangar and waited for Keith to be brought to them. When Shiro carried Keith into the hangar, they focused their quintessence and transformed into their real lioness forms. Black approached her Paladins and growled. "Give me the boy."
Shiro laid the unconscious Paladin down on the floor, and Black gently maneuvered him onto her back and carried him over to the two other lionesses. Black laid down, allowing her secondary Paladin to slide off her back. Once Keith was settled against her back, Red and Blue curled around him, protecting him.
Shiro, Lance, and Allura stared at the trio of lions encircling the Red Paladin. Lance approached Blue, who growled at him, her tail lashing. "Stay back, Paladin."
"He was hurting. He needs a hug."
"Yes. He wanted someone to hold him, but you all were too busy."
"He didn't say anything," Allura mentioned.
"He shouldn't have had to say anything!" Red growled. Keith whimpered in his unconscious state. Red laid her head in his lap and purred to him, soothing him. Blue nuzzled Keith's arm, and Black licked his hair.
A purr worked itself out of Keith's throat at the attention he was receiving from his lions. His eyes fluttered open and landed on the trio of lions curled around him. "Red?"
"It's okay, cub. We're here for you."
"I don't understand."
"It's okay, cub." Blue nuzzled Keith. "We'll take care of you."
Black Lion continued to lick his hair, eliciting a louder purr from Keith. Red purred to her Paladin, her head still in his lap. Blue nuzzled Keith's side. Keith didn't know Shiro, Lance, and Allura were there or when they left. He loved the attention he was getting from the lionesses but was getting tired. His eyes started sliding closed, but he wrenched them back open, only for them to slide back down.
"It's all right, cub. You can go to sleep, my dear Paladin. We will stay here with you." Red purred to Keith as he fell asleep. He knew the lions would keep him safe, because he was surrounded by love.