Notes: Written for forest in chat at her request for Keith/Lance, and misunderstandings.

Disclaimer: WEP owns Voltron.  We only have our imaginations.

The Dangers of Gossip

Distantly, Keith made a note to check the oxygen-scrubbers - the air seemed a bit thin. His chest hurt and it was hard to breathe. He could feel a headache starting and his stomach was twisting sourly.  It had to be almost-due oxygen-scrubbers. Couldn’t be because he could see Lance leaning in, laughing, arm draped casually over one of the new recruits.

No, he thought, and though he tried, the sarcasm simply dripped off the words, it couldn’t be because he does this with each new batch of recruits…

He blew his hair out of his face and tried to ignore it in favor of actually doing his duty.

It wasn’t easy, though.  It didn’t matter where he was or what he was doing; he always knew just where Lance was, and Lance’s laugh was like an engraved invitation to just drink him in.

Because Lance was simply gorgeous when he laughed.

And thinking about Lance laughing made him think about Lance doing other things.  And that made parts of his anatomy perk up and take notice, and damn, he wished that the uniforms on this station weren’t so tight and clingy.

Focus, Keith, he told himself, and took a deep breath, still leaning over his console.  Finish this shift first.  Think about Lance later.

Kira couldn’t quite help the lingering look of appreciation – the dark-haired ensign looked to be very occupied by his station.  She managed not to startle when their guide-slash-minder draped his arm over her shoulder with a dirty chuckle.

“That’s Ensign Kogane.  He doesn’t have cadet-duty this time, so you probably won’t see very much of him.”

Kira managed a smile, even as Ensign McClain squeezed just a bit too hard.  Damn.  All the good looking ones were always taken.

When the Ensign McClain let go of her – lingering just a bit too long for her to be truly comfortable – he wandered over to the other ensign, and leaned down to say something to him.  Whatever he said was far too soft to be heard over the bustle in the control room, and though she couldn’t hear the actual words of Ensign Kogane’s response, she definitely heard the tone: sharp and biting, and it made McClain rear back, his face a study in shock.

Kira tried not to stare, but it was very difficult.  She’d earned top honors in all her classes, and there wasn’t much she couldn’t figure out, given the most basic of information and a slide rule.

For this, she didn’t even need the slide rule.

Lance blinked down at Keith, then closed his mouth, his jaw set in its most stubborn position.  The harsh words and even more cutting tone made him flush with anger, and he quickly spun away, hoping that the newbie he was escorting hadn’t seen.

The newbie in question was apparently engrossed in the console on the opposite side of the room, and he breathed a soft sigh of relief before gathering her and the other recruits up to continue the tour.

Keith bent his head and refused to look as Lance left, his gait stiff with angry embarrassment, his voice flatter, the humor leached out of him with just a few biting words.  Keith was not going to feel badly about it; Lance was the one flirting in front of him –

Lance was the one stuck with baby-sitting duty.  Something all of them hated.  Or at least claimed to hate, every time it came up.  And Keith had managed to disrupt one of Lance’s tours.  Again.  (Though, it wouldn’t have been disrupted if Lance hadn’t tried to talk to him… Keith would have just bit Lance’s head off in private, rather than in public.)

Keith shut his eyes for one selfish moment.  He was going to have to apologize. Again.

It wasn’t that he minded apologizing.  It seemed to be something that he and Lance did in equal measure, and was something at which they’d both become quite adept.

Though, Keith had to admit there were times when he suspected that Lance only did half the things he did in order to get to the make-up sex.

Luckily, his shift was ending within the next few minutes, and Lance would be able to set the recruits at liberty for the rest of the day, and he could apologize before Lance built up a really good sulk about what he’d said.

Predictably, when he found Lance, it was in the mess.  The new recruits, most of whom still wore their cadet stripes, were clustered around a couple of tables in the far corner.  Lance himself was – Keith groaned – sulking at a table on the other side of the mess.  With a sigh, knowing sooner was always better than later, he slid into the empty chair and waited for Lance to acknowledge him.

It was a long while in coming, but finally Lance looked up from pushing the slop around on his tray.  “What?” he ground out.  “I thought…”

“I’m sorry,” Keith said before Lance could go any further and throw his words back in his face.  “I just… I saw you with that recruit, and kind of lost my temper.  Sorry.”  He lowered his gaze to the table, then peeked out from under his heavy bangs, wearing his most winsome expression.

Lance continued to glare at him for a moment longer, then laid down his spork.  “Yeah, all right,” he said, and if his tone was a bit grudging, he could probably be forgiven.  “I was kind of hanging on her, but… you know I don’t mean anything by it.”  His big blue eyes were wide.

Kira flicked a look at Ensigns Kogane and McClain, and couldn’t help but smile.  They did look good together.

“Hey – why’re you looking over there?  That Kogane seemed to be the grumpy sort; you probably don’t want to get his attention.”

Kira snorted.  “Can’t you see it?”

Zoe wrinkled her nose.  “See what?”  She cut her eyes to the table, blinked, and then jumped back to Kira’s face.  “You mean – ?”

Kira nodded.  “Hell, yes.  Can’t you just–”  Kira’s eyes glazed over for a moment before she shook her head, grinning.

Zoe snuck another look, licked her lips, and nodded at Kira. “Figures, though, that they would be taken.”

Kira sighed in agreement.

Murphy stopped chewing as the implications hit him. They couldn’t mean –

But there was only one table in that direction, and, sure, the two of them were a bit closer than human-norm, but –

Ok, so Kogane wasn’t from a culture that would accept people in his personal space (which McClain was in) – but McClain hadn’t seemed to recognize personal space, so that didn’t really mean –

“Hey!” Izzy hissed at him, and it was enough that Murphy started and turned guiltily back.  “Why’re you staring at them?  That Kogane doesn’t take any shit; the last thing we need to do is piss him off.”

Murphy leaned in and muttered softly. “Kira and Zoe think they’re a couple.”

Izzy squinted over at the table.  “Huh.”

Murphy stared, “They are kinda leaning close to each other.”

Izzy shrugged. “Yeah. I think maybe they are.  Doesn’t matter – it’s not like one’s in charge of the other.”

Murphy shuddered, “Bad images, Izzy, bad images.”

Izzy snickered, and stole his dessert.

Keith twitched at the feeling of eyes on his back.  If there was anything he hated, he really hated being watched.  He shot his most fearsome glower over his shoulder, and caught no less than four cadets staring at him.

When they saw that he was looking at them, three of them ducked their heads and started staring at their food instead.  One of them nudged his neighbor, who was still staring blatantly, but the cadet didn’t turn away.  He just kept chewing and staring at them, as if in deep thought.

And that, along with Lance’s earlier flirtation practice with one of the cadets – who, he noted, had also been studying him like something under a microscope – was simply the last straw for his temper.  He jerked up from his seat, sending it scraping loudly across the floor, and stalked across the nearly empty mess to the cadets’ table.

The cadet’s eyes widened when Keith stopped right in front of him.

“Ten-hut!” As one, the recruits scrambled to obey his barked command.  Chairs fell over, shins were slammed against table legs, and the cadets presented a ragged line, some with food still in their mouths.

The cadet in front of him shot a glance to his neighbor, clearly pleading for help, but his neighbor was just as clearly praying to whatever god his religion dictated, and couldn’t spare a moment.

“You.”  Keith pointed at his victim, using the strictest voice he could muster.  “Your name?”

“M-Murphy, Sir,” the cadet stuttered.

“Do you have a problem, Mr. Murphy?” Keith all but growled.

“No, Sir!  You’re a very cute couple, Sir!”

Absolute silence settled over the mess.

Keith stared, completely unable to think of anything to say.  Cadet Murphy, bright red, stumbled awkwardly on. “I meant, you and Ensign McClain are a cute couple–” and then apparently realizing just what it was he said, shut his mouth with an audible click, and managed to look even more mortified.

Suddenly, Keith though almost irrelevantly, it’s very hot in here… And that’s when he realized that his face must be nearly as red as Murphy’s.

This isn’t really happening, is it?  Please tell me this isn’t actually happening!  No matter how much he begged, though, the gods weren’t listening.

Other people, however, were.  The rest of the cadet line was either trying not to laugh or throwing baleful looks at Cadet Murphy and his big mouth.  Luckily, there were no more superior officers in the mess.

Unluckily, one of his and Lance’s classmates was.  Keith had noticed Cliff when he’d entered the mess, but once he’d seen Lance sitting by himself, he hadn’t given the other ensign any further thought until this instant.  He flicked his eyes over toward where he remembered Cliff sitting.

Cliff’s pale skin was flushed, and he had one fist clenched on the table, while the other was pressed against his mouth.  Tears were streaming from his eyes, and he was nearly convulsing with the effort of not laughing out loud.

Doomed, Keith thought, gloom settling over him and muting his anger.  There’s no way in the hundred hells we’re going to be able to live this down…

Only his training kept him from jumping when he felt a hand settle on his shoulder.

“Well,” Lance drawled lazily, “whether we are or not isn’t any of your business, is it?”  Then Keith could practically hear the grin in his voice as he went on, “But Ensign Kogane and I are still your superior officers, and, just in case I didn’t give you fair warning… Ensign Kogane doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.”

Figures.  I get to be the heavy…  Mustering a glare – pretty effective, since Murphy managed to shrink down and away without moving a muscle – Keith dropped his voice to a soft and menacing hiss.  “I think all of you some where else to be… right?”

Every one of them snapped to attention. “Yes, sir!”

Keith let out a breath of pure annoyance.  “Then, move it!”


A loud clatter and a scramble, and the mess was abruptly, blissfully emptier.

Except for the muffled howling and pounding coming from behind.  Keith rubbed his forehead.  Damnit.

Lance squeezed his shoulder.  “I suppose it’s my turn to be sorry?”

Keith sighed.  “I don’t know.  I think it’s both our faults this time.”

The cackling was getting on his nerves, and he stiffened again.  When he turned around, Lance was wearing his best sympathetic face, and Cliff was laying face down on his table, banging his fists against the top and laughing his head off.

“But I know someone who’s going to be sorry if he doesn’t stop laughing like a hyena!” Keith threatened, using the voice that had worked so well on the cadets.

Cliff just howled louder in response, before he managed – sort of – to stop cackling.  Wiping the tears from his eyes, he slumped back into his chair.  “Oh?  What are you going to do to me?”  Snickering, he bit his lips and then took an unsteady breath to help choke back the laughter.  “Drown me with the ‘sugar’?”

Lance couldn’t swallow the giggle in time, and when Keith swiveled to turn his blackest glare on him, he could only hold up his hands.  “Oh, come on, Keith,” he said, grinning hugely.  “It’s so ridiculous, you’ve just gotta laugh at it.”

Keith managed to hold the glare long enough that both Cliff and Lance started to look uneasy, their grins slipping into uncertain smiles (Cliff was even shifting in his chair – guess the way that Sven nodded warily at him after being roommates had cemented his reputation – good.) before he gave it up, and snorted, lips curling in reluctant amusement.  “Yeah, well.  We’re never going to hear the end of it.  At least you get to be one to deal with those damn recruits tomorrow.”

Lance just rolled his eyes at that.  “Damage control.  Right.  That’s my middle name these days.”

Cliff broke into snickers again, tried to hold them back at Keith’s sour look and collected his tray.  “Oh, goodness, look at the time!  My shift starts in 6 hours!”  He left the mess as quickly as possible, but they could still hear him laughing his way down the corridor.

Before Keith could open his mouth, Lance held up one hand.  “Lesson learned.  Believe me.  No more flirting with the cadets.” He made an “X” motion over his chest.

Keith sighed, muttering as he turned away to collect and dispose of their trays. “Sure, I’ll believe that when it happens.”

Then Lance grabbed Keith from behind and licked his ear.  “Promise,” he whispered breathily, and Keith shuddered against him.

The trays clattered down into the recycler, and Keith turned in Lance’s embrace.  “I seem to recall I have something to make up to you.  Race you back to your bunk?”

Lance just grinned at him, blue eyes sparkling.  “You’re on.”

September 30, 2007