Stable Relationship

Levon yawned behind his fist as they drove past the city limits into Houston. They were still a good two hours away from home, even at this time of day. Traffic. Gods, sometimes he wished people still went on foot.

Not just because it would give him an advantage.

He glanced over at Joe, who was driving. They'd switched a ways back, when Levon had first begun to get tired. He'd not spent so much time on all fours and running so much in quite awhile. It had felt damned near perfect, but he was a lot more exhausted than usual, after a weekend.

The Jimmy went right by the turn off for his road and he frowned. "Joe? You lost again?"

"Nah," came the casual reply. "Need to stop by my place first, grab some clean clothes, check my mail, that sort of thing." Joe glanced over at him. "That okay with you?"

"Oh." Levon was taken aback. He shouldn't have been, he realized a moment later. Joe had been at his place the two nights before they'd left. "That's fine." He paused then forced himself to ask what might have been an obvious question. "Um, you spending the night at my place then?" The question had been getting more awkward, and difficult to ask of late.

Joe frowned. "If you'd rather... you can just drop me off at my place, I guess."

"No, I don't... I mean I do want you to stay." He wanted Joe to stay every night, in fact. The problem was how to ask him.

That comment earned him a grin from his lover. "Glad to hear it." Joe paused and then continued in a more serious tone. "Thought you might want some space after the whole weekend together."

"Nah," Levon shook his head. "Don't like space from you."

Joe grinned again, even wider. "Me, neither."

Levon returned the smile. Maybe he could ask, now. Maybe he should ask.

"Joe?"

"Yeah?" Joe turned down the street leading to his apartment, barely glancing over at Levon. Like he didn't have any idea what was coming.

"You ever thought about living together?" Levon said it in a rush, hoping the suggestion wouldn't turn out to be a bad one. Joe was pretty independent, for all he was used to having his family all around him back in Chicago. He might not be ready for this.

But there was another small smile as Joe glanced over at him. "Yeah."

"You think... maybe it'd be a good idea?" Levon tried to control his excited grin. Even if Joe said yes, he might not mean right away, he warned himself. Couldn't move in together until the next weekend at the earliest anyhow.

"That is what married couples do, isn't it? Even centaur ones?"

Levon nodded, though he didn't really know how seriously Joe had taken things. How serious he wanted things to be -- or if he'd just waved it off as a centaur thing and not equivalent to wht humans meant. Levon asked, "You wanna wait?" Wait until Joe was ready to want the sort of commitment Levon was already inside of.

Maybe it was a centaur thing.

Joe glanced over at him again. "Do you?"

He hesitated. He couldn't tell what Joe wanted, and had no idea how he felt about this sort of thing. Granted, they'd been all but living together already. But they did spend several nights a week apart still. But Joe was waiting for an answer. He had to say something, so he opted for simple honesty. "I don't wanna wait."

Joe nodded. "Okay."

"Okay?" Levon blinked.

"Okay. Let's do it."

It was that easy?

Granted, there were still all the logistics to decide on.... But if Joe really wanted to live together, Levon didn't have to worry about them. He gave his partner another smile. "When?"

"Uhm..." Joe fumbled for a moment then asked, "Think we can get everything moved next weekend?"

It seemed a little unreal. Then again, the entire weekend had been more than a little unreal -- taking Joe home, and all. Asking him to marry him.... Levon found that he couldn't stop grinning. "Reckon we can."

Joe nodded again. "I'll give my notice to the landlord, then."

It occured to him that he'd have to spend the entire week shifting just about everything he owned to make room for all of Joe's stuff. Somehow that thought didn't dampen his enthusiasm.

They arrived at Joe's building and Joe pulled the Jimmy into a free spot. Shutting off the engine, he turned to Levon. "You gonna come up?"

Levon nodded and jumped out. He followed his partner into the building, glancing down at the cute butt usually hidden by long suit jackets as they headed inside. Joe gave him a knowing grin as they entered the elevator. Levon reached out and copped a feel as Joe preceded him off the elevator; he gave Joe an innocent look when Joe glanced over his shoulder at him.

"See something you like?" Joe asked just as innocently.

"Reckon I might." Levon followed Joe to his apartment. Suddenly he realised he wasn't feeling as tired as he had earlier.

As soon as they were inside, Joe turned and pulled Levon into his arms. Nuzzling at Levon's neck, Joe casually suggested, "You know we could just spend the night here. Give us more time for sleep and... things."

Levon stiffened slightly. Things, he enjoyed. Preferred, in fact. He swallowed and asked, "Couldn't we go back to my place?"

Joe pulled back and looked at him closely. "What's wrong with here?" He frowned. "Something bothering you?"

Levon took a deep breath. It wasn't any big deal... at least he hoped not. "Don't like sleeping here," he began, then realised that was possibly the worst way to start his explanation.

The frown deepened. "You've never said anything." There was a faint hint of accusation in Joe's voice.

He grabbed onto Joe's sleeve and spoke quickly. "Usually you came over to my place when I ask. I thought... I just...." He stopped. "I'm sorry. I should have said something. It's just too high," he explained.

"Too high?"

"We're on the fourteenth floor, Joe. I can't... sleep well off the ground. Don't like being too far off the ground at all but usually it don't matter. But...I can't sleep here."

Levon felt like a heel, telling his partner this only now -- after so many nights he had already spent lying beside him, in Joe's bed, wide awake and restless all night. Before Joe knew what he was, he couldn't have said a word.

But now he supposed there were a lot of things he had to say.

Joe's thoughts seemed to be paralleling his. "We've stayed the night here before," he said, then paused. "Now that I think about it, you always were awake before me."

Somewhat ashamed, Levon glanced down and said, "Usually hadn't ever fallen asleep."

"You could've said something." Joe's voice was free of even the faintest accusation as he slipped a hand under Levon's chin and forced him to look up to meet a gaze full of acceptance. There was bewilderment there too, and irritation, but none of that outshone the total acceptance and love that Joe was showing him.

"I know. I... I couldn't. Before you knew what I was. I mean, that's why. No centaur likes being above ground more'n a single flight."

Joe was silent for a moment, absorbing this. "Guess there aren't that many centaur pilots, huh?"

Slowly Levon smiled. "Won't matter, though, after this weekend."

Living together. Levon found he was looking forward to this more than he had anything ever before. Except, perhaps, learning to drive when he was twelve.

Joe returned the smile with one just as bright. "So you had an ulterior motive to asking me, huh?" he teased.

"Of course," Levon admitted in a tone that said it was the deciding factor. He leaned forward and got a kiss from his partner.

Then Joe was pulling away and heading up the stairs. "I just need to grab a few things. Won't be long," he tossed over his shoulder.

Levon watched that cute butt disappear up the stairs. He wondered if he could get Joe to start wearing jeans more often. Tight jeans.

Hell, no jeans. He could feel his eyes starting to glaze over and grinned at himself.

It seemed like it was just a couple of minutes later that Joe came running back down the stairs again. Levon glanced at his watch. It was just a couple of minutes. And now that he looked more closely he could see Joe's movements were harried and slightly frenzied. Like he was the one heights bothered all of a sudden.

He gave his partner a curious look. "You got what you need?" Heck, standing here for ten minutes wasn't gonna bother him.

"Yeah, I think so. If not I can manage." He grinned at Levon. "Just borrow off of you. We can go." He started towards the door, stopping only when Levon didn't follow.

"Joe... I ain't gonna fall apart if you take time to get what you want. Hell, I spend eight hours sometimes at work when we're stuck at our desks." Levon frowned at his partner. Inside, though, he felt warmed at the exaggerated show of concern.

Joe hesitated. "You sure?"

Rolling his eyes, Levon gave him a reassuring grin. Joe looked adorable when he had that particular expression on his face. Hopeful, but not banking on getting whatever it was he wanted.

"You'd let me know if you're uncomfortable, right?" Joe asked, eyes suddenly narrowing in suspicion.

"Yes, Joe."

Maybe someday he'd have to tell Joe about that too.

Not today. He'd already dumped enough new information on Joe today.

Giving Levon one last hard look, Joe went back up the stairs. This time he was up there what Levon had come to accept as a normal length of time for his partner to pick out clothes. He grinned, shaking his head fondly. Man was such a clotheshorse. No pun intended.

Finally Joe came back down with a bag, all re-packed. Levon gave him a fond smile. "You sure, this time?"

"Yeah. We can go."

Levon gave him another kiss, then took Joe's bag. "Hope there aren't any pants in here," he said as Joe began locking up the apartment again.

"What?" Joe asked, laughter making his voice shake.

"Won't be needing them, will you?"

"I think the Lieutenant might object to me coming in to work half naked, cowboy," Joe pointed out, grinning at him.

"Who said anything about letting you go to work?"

"I'm sure she'll notice if we're not there."

"Nah. I'll just call us in, tell her we're investigating a case." Levon looked his lover up and down. "Or I could tell her you got tied up." He grinned.

Joe grinned back. "Literally?"

"Yeah. I got plenty of rope," Levon nodded.

Joe's grin widened. "Just remember," he said as they stepped onto the elevator, "turnabout is fairplay."

"Only if I untie you," Levon replied.

Slipping his arms around Levon's waist, Joe asked in a husky whisper, "You think you could handle me?"

Levon moved closer, melding his body against Joe's. He shivered, and leaned even closer, aiming for Joe's mouth with his own. The ding of the elevator doors opening was not a welcome distraction, but he was willing to ignore it. However, the "ahem" jolted his partner to his senses, and Levon was left holding air.

Before Levon could get his brain fully in gear, Joe was brushing by the shocked couple waiting to get on the elevator and heading outside. Not having much choice, Levon followed.

He caught up to Joe at the Jimmy; his partner was leaning against the side of the truck, head thrown back and eyes closed. "Joe?" he asked softly.

Joe opened his eyes and looked at Levon rather shamefaced. "Sorry."

That surprised him. If anything, he would have expected to be the one to need to apologize. He had been the one to initiate the kiss, after all. "For what?" he asked.

"For..." Joe waved his hand at the building, "what happened in there."

"You don't have to apologize, Joe. I know you don't care for folks knowing. Maybe we should just head on home?"

"I-" Joe sighed, almost sounding defeated. "Yeah. Sure."

Levon reached out for his partner, still concerned. "Joe?"

He reacted by pulling Levon into a tight embrace. "I don't want you to think I'm ashamed of you, of us," he whispered fiercely in Levon's ear. "Never want you to think that."

"I don't, Joe. Believe me, I know what it's like. I don't need everybody in Houston to know I love you. Long as you know, that's fine by me." He felt Joe's muscles start to relax at that, felt the tension slowly begin to drain out of him.

"Love you too," Joe whispered.

Levon stepped back before his brain shut off again and he began kissing Joe on the sidewalk. "Home?"

Joe nodded. "Yeah. Home." He smiled.

Levon returned it. 'Home' was going to mean something totally new, from now on.


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