Nights like this are all too common for him now.
Joe's settled back into the plush cushions of the couch, his feet propped up on the coffee table, ankles crossed, and there's a comic book open across his lap. He's not reading it, not really, only glancing down with a casual sort of half-interest every so often during commercial breaks. There's a new episode of The Walking Dead on tonight. He and David watch the show religiously.
Currently, David is curled into Joe's side, his long, lean legs stretched out over the rest of the couch, feet dangling off the armrest. He has one earphone in; he's listening to some podcast about education policy or revisionist history or something shit like that. The nerd.
His eyes flicker downward to the thick mop of unruly, chocolate curls splayed across his forearm where David's head is resting. Joe's struck with the impulse to run his fingers through the silky mess—so he does. The loose curls thread through his fingers with ease, and he gently scraps his fingernails across David's scalp. His efforts are rewarded with a pleasant hum, and seconds later David reaches behind his head to give Joe's side a loving squeeze.
Then, the show comes back on and their attention resumes its focus on the screen.
The whole affair is terribly domestic. Domestic in a way that two years ago would have made Joe's insides shrivel up and set themselves on fire. Domestic in a way that would have had him so defensive and uncomfortable that he would have lashed out in the angriest, nastiest way, with words meant to slice deep and hurt.
But last summer, there was an accident—David was on his boat alone, fishing and researching for his latest article about marine life migration off the California coast; it was nothing unusual, nothing David hadn't done a dozen times before, but then a storm hit out of nowhere and caught David off guard. What followed was horrifying and had involved a Coast Guard rescue.
That day, David had almost drowned, and it had been the scariest goddamn day of Joe's life.
Suddenly, things like commitment and public displays of genuine affection—not public groping and making out fueled by lust and hormones, but gentle touches, shared glances, and kind words—weren't so scary. Joe and David had moved in to an apartment together shortly after that.
Now, the majority of Joe's nights are spent just like this, lounging in sweatpants and Batman graphic tees drinking a beer with David, watching tv and cooking dinner together, dropping kisses on David's forehead and receiving deep looks of affection from the bluest eyes he's ever seen.
Honestly, Joe's kind of okay with it.