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.
Granted, that gave 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 -- running so much -- in quite awhile.
The Jimmy went right by the turn off for his road and he frowned.
"Joe?" he began carefully. "You lost again?" He grinned.
"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, "Um, you comin' out to my place then?" The question had been getting more and more awkward, and difficult to ask of late.
"I could drop you off at your place and take a cab home," Joe offered tentatively. "If you'd rather I didn't stay tonight..."
"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... maybe he *should* ask.
"Yeah?" Joe turned down the street leading to his apartment.
"You ever thought about living together?" He 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.
Another small smile. "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. "You wanna wait, then? Until we can...."
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. "I don't wanna wait."
Joe nodded. "Okay."
"Okay?" Levon blinked.
"Okay. Let's do it."
It was that easy?
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 and Levon had a brief flash of insecurity that he really *didn't* want to, but then Joe said, "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.... He couldn't stop grinning. "Reckon so."
Joe nodded again. "I'll give my notice to the landlord then."
Definitely couldn't stop grinning. He stopped trying to stop grinning, and leaned back in the seat.
Hell, he'd have to shift just about everything *he* owned to make room for all of Joe's stuff. Somehow that thought didn't dampen his enthusiasm.
They'd arrived at Joe's building by now and Joe pulled the Jimmy into a free spot. Shutting off the engine he turned to Levon. "You wanna 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. The quick trip up to Joe's apartment suddenly seemed unlikely to be so quick.
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 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 his neck he 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. He wondered if Joe would even *understand*.
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," Joe repeated obviously not understanding.
"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 this time 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, along with a good dose of concern and worry and even a little guilt, 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 then huh?" he finally said.
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 12.
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?"
Levon rolled his eyes, smiling. Joe looked adorable when he had that particular expression on his face. Hopeful, but not banking on getting whatever it was he wanted.
"You *would* let me know if you're uncomfortable, right?" Joe asked, eyes suddenly narrowing in suspicion.
Maybe someday he'd have to tell Joe about *that* too.
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 lover 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 cowboy," 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.
He was willing to ignore it. However, the "ahem" jolted his lover 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.