It was very early in the morning, almost too early for a run. Levon hadn't slept well the night before, though, so when the first light of dawn had shown itself he'd gotten out of bed and headed outside. Fooler hadn't been ready to wake up yet, so Levon had left breakfast for her and gone out alone. Half an hour later she was ready, calling to him from her stall. He went back and let her out to run.
She tried to entice him to play with her, but Levon had too much on his mind. He ran easily across the pasture, ignoring the mare. He and Joe had been fighting a lot lately. That in itself was nothing unusual, although it used to be that after a day or two they'd calm down and stop arguing. But the past couple of weeks or so, it seemed like they got into a fight every day. Folks at the station were even starting to comment on it.
Yesterday the lieutenant had finally told them to work it out or leave it outside. She'd also talked to Levon, alone, and asked him if there was anything they needed to do -- a reason he was fighting with Joe, which Levon couldn't explain to him. She'd asked him after first week of his and Joe's partnership if he needed to be paired with a woman, or an older man nearly ready to retire and he'd said no. She'd asked again yesterday, and Levon had found himself close to saying yes.
But the thought of it had felt like a betrayal and he'd said no again. He didn't want to leave Joe. While he ran, he thought it over and suddenly realized that was close to the problem. He didn't want his partnership with Joe split up. However, just trying to spend an entire day with him made him angry in ways he couldn't control.
He knew he was attracted to the man. Had been since the second he'd turned around and found an angry human yelling at him for having him paged. It had taken him a few seconds to kick his brain back into gear and by that time he'd already lost the argument. That particular problem had continued to plague him for the next two years. Luckily his partner had never seemed to notice, or if he had, hadn't a clue as to the reason for Levon's blank stare and blank mind.
If he thought having sex with Joe would help, he'd have made a pass at him months ago. But it wouldn't. Levon knew that he'd never be able to stop wanting sex with him, no matter how often he was able to do so. Giving in would make it worse, unless he thought Joe would--
He stopped, both his thoughts and his running. The train of thought he'd been following...he looked at it again. Having sex with Joe was the problem. Rather, not having sex was the problem. Not because he was frustrated -- ok, there was that too -- but because it wasn't exactly what he needed.
Fooler whinnied and came to a stop in front of him. He looked at her. "Fooler, I think I've gone and done something stupid."
She just looked at him, inquisitively. Levon sighed, and explained.
"I've fallen in love with him."
The morning run was cut short that day. He'd tried at first to run hard and fast to get away from the understanding he'd gained. When that didn't work, he had headed back to the barn and gave Fooler a rubdown, trying to focus on chores to distract him. He then went inside for a shower and tried to think about anything other than Joe.
It didn't work. He ended up jerking off in the shower thinking of his partner -- just like he'd done a hundred times before.
When he'd dressed he headed into the kitchen to find something to call breakfast. Given the choice between leftover pizza and oatmeal, he was seriously considering fast food when the doorbell rang. He went to answer it and was shocked to find his partner, looking at him uneasily.
"Hey, Lundy. Can I come in?" he asked when Levon just stared at him.
Levon started. "Sure." He stepped back. Confused, he just looked at Joe. They hadn't said anything about sharing a ride to work, yesterday. The way things had been lately, the less time they spent together, the better. "Something wrong?"
"Yeah, I just...wanted to talk. Before we got off on the wrong foot again."
"You want coffee?" This sounded like it was going to be a long conversation.
"Yeah, thanks." Joe remained in the living room while Levon went and poured a couple mugs of coffee. He added cream to Joe's and left his own black. When he came back and handed it over, LaFiamma took it and said nothing.
"You wanna tell me what's brought you out here?" Levon prodded.
His partner sighed, nodded, then said nothing.
"Joe? We stand here much longer we're just gonna start fighting again." He half-smiled.
"That's why I'm here." Joe looked up at him, obviously worried. "I'm tired of fighting with you all the time, Lundy. But I don't know what to do about it."
Levon shrugged. "Guess we could just try to call a truce." He wasn't sure that would work, given the reason he was fighing. They couldn't agree to avoid certain topics, either, since there was never anything in particular they fought about.
"That won't work," Joe said. "I mean if you were doing something that was pissing me off, I'd just tell you to cut it out. But that's not why we're arguing."
"Then why are we arguing?" Levon felt like kicking himself as soon as he heard what he said. He knew why he was fighting and it wasn't something he could tell Joe.
"I don't know, Lundy." His partner looked away, but his stance and tone was one of guilt. He did know.
After a moment, Joe looked up at him with a defensive expression. "What?"
"Why are we arguing?" If he knew why Joe was fighting, maybe they could deal with that and Levon wouldn't have to do anything about how he was feeling. Love or not, he'd done that once already and wasn't willing to risk it again. Maybe he should ask Joanne for a transfer.
Joe shook his head, angrily. "I just said I didn't know."
"Yeah, and you're lying, too. So talk to me already -- or we will be arguing again."
For a moment Joe's expression remained angry; then grew pained, then resigned. Levon wanted to rush forward and tell him it didn't matter. He didn't, reminding himself that was exactly what he couldn't do.
"I don't want you to get angry... or freaked out or anything. That's why I haven't been trying to say anything. But I guess that isn't working too well."
"Say anything about what?" Levon felt confused.
Joe started to speak, then gave him another measuring look and took a step backwards. Levon watched in surprise, but remained silent. Joe said, "Just trying to get out of reach, in case...."
"LaFiamma, would you spill it already?" Levon interrupted in exasperation.
"You're not exactly making this easy, Lundy."
"Well I'm sorry," Levon snapped. "If you'd just tell me why we're doing this we could get over it!"
Joe looked away again. "I don't think I can get over it. If that makes you want a new partner, I've already talked to Beaumont--"
"New partner?" Levon felt a stab of anxiety. "Why would I want a new partner?"
"Because your current partner is in love with you." Joe never looked at him.
Levon stared. "Say that again?"
Joe didn't repeat himself. Levon watched him for another moment, telling himself he'd really heard what he'd heard. This was not going to make things easier. They might stop fighting, but it would not make anything easier.
Perhaps, he realized, it would for Joe. If he knew how Levon felt, he could stop worrying about his own feelings and being rejected for them. Joe could relax and they'd stop fighting so often. The problems Levon would still have wouldn't have to matter. It wasn't like he could stop how he felt or get rid of the things that frightened him. Levon stepped forward until he was standing right in front of LaFiamma. His partner turned towards him, surprise clearly on his face.
Levon tried to think of a good way to explain, but Joe's expression suddenly changed. He smiled. "Levon?"
"Yeah?" Levon felt confused, again. Why was Joe looking so relieved? He hadn't said anything yet. But Joe was smiling widely, now, and he looked absolutely beautiful. Levon found himself reaching up and caressing Joe's face.
"Does that mean I can kiss you without getting my nose broken?"
"Reckon you ain't that clumsy." Levon felt a little stunned. What had he done? He couldn't tell. He ran his finger along Joe's lips and he felt that familiar tightening in his groin. He looked up into Joe's eyes, saw the love in them. Then Joe leaned forward and kissed him.
Several centuries later, Joe leaned back, breaking the kiss. Levon stared, wide-eyed, and stepped closer until he was pressed up against Joe's body. His partner laughed, once, with delight.
"What?" Levon managed.
"Are you going to say it?" Joe asked, and Levon heard the note of doubt.
He smiled, and as he leaned in for another mind-blowing kiss, he said, "I love you, too." Then he happily let his mind shut down.
They were an hour late for work. Joe had had to stop by his apartment to change into fresh clothes, and they hadn't exactly left Levon's house on time in the first place. Levon would have gladly spent the day at home, in bed, and had even argued that Joanne would probably not care if it meant they'd stop fighting all the time.
Joe had just propelled him out of bed and towards the shower -- which ended up delaying them another twenty minutes. Finally, however, they arrived at work. Joe was apparently trying to hide his joyful grin, but Levon couldn't even try. He figured only one of them had to pretend they hadn't been up to something in order to prevent suspicions.
As they got closer to their department, the grin began to fade on its own. All of the things he hadn't been worrying about for the last two hours were beginning to creep back in. By the time they walked into the bullpen, Levon felt nearly as irritable as he had the previous two weeks. There was one difference, however.
Every time he looked at his partner that irritation got painted over with love.
They only managed to work at their desks until just before lunch, then Joe suggested they head out to follow up on some leads in person. From his expression, Levon figured his partner was having trouble maintaining the air of disinterest and was about to go nuts. About time, too, Levon thought as he followed his partner out.
He noticed, but didn't mention, the relieved and mystified looks they got from the other detectives as they left. He and Joe had just spent more time without arguing in a single morning, than they had all week. Levon smiled, grateful all that misdirected passion was being taken care of.
That distracted him until Joe nudged him and asked if he wanted Joe to drive. Levon handed over the keys, and spent the next half hour staring happily at his partner. When they stopped for lunch Joe gave him fond glare. "You gonna do that all day?"
"If I can."
Joe grinned. "Just don't get us into trouble, huh, cowboy?"
"Me?" Levon looked at him, all innocence.
"Doesn't work on you, Lundy. You outta know that."
Levon only smiled.
That afternoon, right before they headed out, Joanne called Levon into her office. He went, feeling suddenly and unaccountably guilty. She asked him to close the door, and then looked at him appraisingly from behind her desk. He shifted from one foot to the other, nervously.
Finally she asked, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
He looked at her in surprise. "What gave it away?" Dismayed, he wondered if the rest of the station was already gossiping.
"Relax, Levon. It's only because I know you. There's only one way to get you to stop butting heads with LaFiamma so...thoroughly. Besides which, you've been taking turns acting smug, all day." She gave him a smile.
"Oh." He tried not to grin, back.
"Are you sure it's a good idea, Levon?" She asked again.
He nodded. "It's what we were fighting about, actually. Both of us wanting it and neither of us doing anything about it. Reckon it was making us both a little high-strung."
"High-strung? That's one word for it." She gave him another measuring look. "Are you going to tell him?"
This time he shook his head. "I can't. Given what happened last time...."
"I'm sorry, Levon. I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."
"It's all right. I've already been thinking about them. Thinking about her."
They were silent for a moment. Then Joanne stood up and came around the desk. "You know you can talk to me, if you need to."
He nodded. "Thanks, Joanne. I reckon things'll be fine."
"Fine?" she repeated, doubtfully.
"Well, as fine as they're gonna get." He glanced back and saw Joe waiting for him, out by his desk. LaFiamma was pretending to finish up paperwork but Levon could tell he was just looking busy. "I'd better get going. Was there anything else?"
"No. I just don't want to see you get hurt."
Levon gave her half a smile. "Nor do I, believe me." He turned, then, and left, collecting his partner with a smile. By the time they'd gotten downstairs to the garage, Levon had shut his doubts and worries away. He'd copped a feel, twice. The look Joe gave him the second time made him hand the keys over again, as his brain shut down.
For the rest of the stories, go here: Horses of Different Colours series