Homecoming

Levon waited anxiously at the gate for Joe's flight to arrive. There weren't many people in Houston Hobby at this hour -- most who flew the red-eyes didn't have friends or family to meet them. Or, more likely, didn't have anyone willing to be up at 3am just to drive out to the airport.

Levon played with his hat, trying to stay calm. He spotted a young woman waiting near the gate as well, and wondered briefly who it was she was waiting for. It suddenly occurred to him that if it were her boyfriend or husband she'd get to greet him openly -- the way he wanted to grab Joe, as soon as he saw him.

That'd have to wait until they got home. Or in the truck.

People were starting to file out now and Levon grew more tense, craning his neck trying to spot his partner. And then, there he was, suit-bag slung over his shoulder, looking tired but determined. His eyes scanned the waiting room, stopping when he spotted Levon. Joe's face lit up into a huge smile as he made his way through the sparse crowd towards him.

Levon remained where he was, letting the other travelers move past him as Joe walked over, his smile matching his partner's. When Joe finally got to him, Levon reached over and took the suit-bag from Joe and slung it over his own shoulder.

Instead of asking the usual, how was your flight or did your family mind, Levon just said, "Thanks."

Joe looked at him for a long moment, then muttered, "The hell with it," and pulled Levon into a tight hug. Right there. In the middle of the airport waiting room. Levon almost dropped the garment bag. Instead he hung onto it, and wrapped his free arm around Joe.

The embrace was held for an endless moment, then Joe slowly pulled back. "Come on," he said, squeezing Levon's arm tightly. "Let's go home."

Nodding, Levon resisted the urge to take his partner's hand as he stepped away. He didn't say a word as they walked through the terminal. When they reached the escalators he asked, "You got any other bags?"

"Nah, just this." He grinned. "Didn't have time to pack the rest. Vinnie said he'd send it."

"Oh." Levon hesitated before heading for the elevators to the parking garage. "Joe you coulda come home Thursday--"

Joe shook his head. "I missed Houston." He glanced over at Levon. "I missed *you*."

Uneasily, Levon realized, "Musta cost a fortune to change flights so sudden. You want I can--"

"Don't worry about it," Joe interrupted. "It didn't cost as much as you might think." His voice dropped down to an intimate tone. "Besides, it was money well spent."

"You're sure?" Levon wanted to hold him again, but they were already blocking traffic to the escalators. He moved forward, absently tugging Joe along to follow.

"Yeah, Lundy, I'm sure," his partner answered patiently. "I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't, okay?"

"Okay." Levon finally nodded. He turned around and located the elevators, and decided to let the matter drop.

Joe followed along silently, seemingly lost in his own thoughts. When they passed the courtesy counter he suddenly grinned. "At least you didn't have me paged this time."

Levon laughed. "Least this time you told me which flight you were on."

"I didn't know you back then to tell you," Joe reminded him.

"Boy, you ever heard of calling the station?" Levon asked the question as they got into the elevator that had been bugging him since he'd first been told to pick up the new guy at the airport.

Joe didn't answer until the elevator stopped at the third floor, and they got off. The Jimmy was parked underneath a light, beside three other cars. The rest of the level was empty. "Okay, so I wasn't exactly courteous," he admitted. "I was being sent somewhere I didn't want to be because people were trying to kill me. You'd be a bit surly too."

Abashed, Levon glanced away as he headed for the truck. He struggled with a way to apologize, but couldn't think of anything that sounded halfway decent. He unlocked the backflap to the camper shell, and set Joe's bag inside carefully. "Come on, I'll take you home."

"Levon." A hand reached out and stopped him. "Being sent here was the best thing that ever happened to me. You know that right?"

"I know..." He stopped, realizing what he'd just said. Joe had never, in so many words, said as much and he certainly hadn't been acting like it once he'd starting going home for visits.

He looked at Joe, wondering just how it was he knew, when six hours ago he'd been convinced otherwise. "I guess I just didn't realize it till now." Dropping everything and flying across country in the middle of the night had to mean something. They were alone in the garage; Levon reached up and touched Joe's face.

"I love you, too."

Joe mirrored the touch, reaching up and laying a hand against Levon's cheek. Then, with a sudden move, he pulled Levon into his arms, hugging him even tighter than he had in the waiting room.

The embrace felt perfect. Levon let himself fall against Joe, most of his weight going against his lover's body. He squeezed his arms tight, letting the hold pull the tension he'd been fighting all day completely out of him.

How long they stood like that he wasn't sure. Finally Joe pulled back just a little, though he didn't let go right away. "Let's go home," he repeated.

"Guess we'd better, before airport security runs us off." Levon smiled a little, and let go.

It didn't take long to get onto the highway; traffic was unsurprisingly light. Levon didn't try to make conversation as he headed into town. Half an hour later he changed lanes, aiming for the exit nearest Joe's apartment.

"Where are you going?"

"You said you wanted to go home?" Levon explained, confused,

"Yeah I did. I meant your house." A pause of a beat or two and then Joe was adding, "If you don't want me to that's okay. I'll --"

Levon immediately halted his swerve for the exit ramp. "I thought… well you said home and you just...." Levon checked his mirrors, belatedly wondering if he'd nearly hit anybody.

Joe just looked at him for a long moment. "We have to talk," he said quietly.

Levon had no idea what to say to that, so he just drove to his place. Joe remained silent, as well, for the rest of the drive.

When they arrived, Joe got out of the truck, closed his eyes and just breathed for a moment. "I really missed this place, y'know?" he said with a contented smile.

Levon gave him a sidelong glance. "That wasn't what you said the last time I woke you up at four-thirty to help me with Fooler."

"What did you expect? We only fell asleep two hours before. I was tired." He headed for the front door.

"Nice to know what your limits are, partner." Levon teased calmly. Inside, he was wondering what exactly Joe was setting him up for.

Joe shot him a truly evil grin. "You haven't even begun to find my limits cowboy."

Heading for the front door, Levon left Joe's bag in the truck. He fumbled with his keys for a bit before finding the right one and unlocking the door. He was tired, but knew he was too wound up to sleep.

Joe followed him inside, moving past him into the living room and flopping down on the couch with a contented sigh.

"You want anything to drink?"

Joe shook his head. "It's too late. Or too early. Too something at any rate."

Moving past his partner, Levon headed for the kitchen. Having been on midnight flights before, he knew what they were like. He came back with a bottle of water and handed it silently to Joe.

"Thanks," Joe said, smiling broadly as he took it.

Now at a loss, Levon went over to the chair and sat down. He tried to prevent his leg from bouncing nervously, and wished it weren't too something to have a beer, himself.

Joe regarded him for a long moment and then asked, "Is there some reason you're sitting over there?"

Levon slowly smiled. "Too tired to think clearly?" he offered, pushing himself out of the chair and going over to the couch. Joe held out a hand and when he took it, his lover pulled him down partway across his lap.

Joe let out another contented sigh, wrapping his arms around Levon. "It's good to be home."

"Good to have you here, Joe." Levon rested his head against Joe's.

"You mean that?" The words were softly spoken.

"Course I do!" Levon raised his head, surprised at Joe's words. "Why wouldn't I?"

Joe wouldn't meet his eyes. "You've spent an awful lot of time lately pushing me away."

"Pushing you?" Levon leaned back, out of Joe's arms. "I never pushed you...."

"Yes you have," Joe countered, hands tightening on Levon's arms and pulling him back. "Ever since this whole Chicago thing started you've been sharing less and less with me. Keeping me at arm's length."

"I didn't," Levon protested. He let Joe pull him back but looked away.

"Yeah you did. You hardly talked to me about anything but work. You'd sit and brood for hours and when I asked you what's up you'd say nothing. A blind man could see it wasn't nothing Levon."

"I wasn't pushing you away," he repeated. "I was just... Hell, I thought you were leaving. I didn't want to hear it. I hated seeing how happy you were when you'd get back from Chicago, and then every time you'd start getting depressed like you'd realized you were still here." Levon still couldn't raise his eyes to look at Joe. After this morning, he had no call to think Joe didn't want to be here.

"I was happy when I got back because I *was* back. Here, with you. And hell yeah, I got depressed after a while. You kept shutting me out Levon and that hurt. I didn't know what I had done that you weren't talking to me about the important stuff anymore."

When he heard that, Levon's contentment to have Joe back plummeted. He tried to stand up, getting out of Joe's embrace.

Joe wouldn't let him go though. "Stop running away from me!" Then in a softer tone, "Please..."

"Joe, I'm sorry...." He whispered. Apparently he made them both miserable for weeks, just because he'd misunderstood.

"I know. So am I. I should've realized that me going back to Chicago was bugging you so much. Some detective I am."

"It wasn't you going back," Levon said quickly. "I wouldn't want you to not go see your family, not after thinking you'd never get to again. I just... hell, Joe, you never said you didn't want to stay there!"

Joe sighed, holding Levon closer. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "I thought you already knew."

"I didn't." Levon finally leaned his head back against Joe's shoulder.

"I'd figured that out." Joe was silent for a moment then said clearly. "I don't want to go back to Chicago to stay."

In reply Levon just squeezed Joe tight. He needed to apologize again but right now he just wanted to feel this -- what he'd missed for too many weeks.

But Joe wasn't quite finished yet. "I want to stay here -- right here. With you."

"Okay… too late to take you home, anyhow." Levon agreed. He felt more relaxed, now; maybe he'd be able to sleep for a couple hours before going into work at seven.

Joe shook his head. "I don't mean just right now. I'm talking about long term."

Levon raised his head and stared at Joe. "You wanna say that again?"

"I'm asking if I can move in." Levon could feel his lover's muscles tense as he waited for an answer.

Staring now open-mouthed, Levon realized Joe was serious. He didn't try to stifle the huge grin that cracked his face in two. He leaned down and kissed his lover, hard.

"I take it that's a yes?" Joe asked, when he was able to speak again.

"Yes." Then Levon kissed him again.

"Good." Joe returned the kiss enthusiastically.

"Welcome home, lover." Levon settled himself quietly into Joe's embrace.


Previous Story: Homesick