After Alexander

The room was utterly, completely, deathly silent as the door shut behind Levon. Joe simply sat there for a long moment, staring unseeingly at the closed door. He wasn't sure exactly what had just happened. It wasn't rape -- he'd consented to the act, if not the...intensity. But it hadn't been about love, or even mutual pleasure. It had been about dominance. Joe's lip curled upward humorlessly. A centaur thing.

And that meant, that no matter how he felt about it... chances were, Levon felt the opposite. Or something 60 degrees off. Or anything except what he, himself, felt. If he went to Levon to demand an apology, he might get it, but his husband wouldn't understand what he was apologising for. Not really.

But that knowledge didn't change his own feelings. It didn't stop him from feeling dirty, or used, or wanting to go shower and wash away every trace of what had happened. Except it would take far more than a shower to do that.

He started with the shower, anyhow. Hot, long, and lots of clean unscented soap. It helped with the sore muscles if not with the memories.

Dressed again, Joe went back outside, feeling more exposed than he had in a very long time. He felt like everyone was watching him, that everyone knew what had happened. They probably did to some extent; after all they were all centaurs too.

He didn't have time to worry about it, though, as Laurie came running up to him and grabbed his hand. She didn't seem to have missed him, for all that she was happy to see him, now. More of that centaur-lack of attachment, he supposed.

But her happiness was real enough now and in the face of that he found himself, if not forgetting his own dark thoughts, at least putting them aside for a while.

She kept him entertained, as well as distracted, well into the afternoon. Rosa came over once to join them, keeping Joe thoroughly distracted as he tried to keep up with the two four-legged infants. It was coming up on supper time, and the foals had settled down for a nap when he realized he hadn't seen Levon all day.

He looked around and spotted Joy. She saw him looking, and came over. "I haven't seen Levon recently," he said neutrally, not willing to admit to looking for him. Not with what had happened earlier.

She nodded. "He's gone to the south fields. We buried Alexander down there, with the others." Not, he knew, the other centaurs like Taylor or Levon's mother. Those were buried nearby, though their graves were not marked.

She didn't say anything more, but he had the feeling that she knew. But even if she did, would she understand? Or would his reaction be dismissed as "human" and left at that?

She tilted her side slightly. "Would you like a ride out there? I'm not sure... he probably won't be back soon. He said he wanted to be left alone, but that doesn't really apply to you."

Part of him still wasn't ready to face Levon but he knew it wasn't going to get any easier. If they were going to get past this, they needed to talk about it, even if they were speaking different languages. And despite today's events, Joe was far from wanting to give Levon up. "I would, thank you," he said quietly, taking Joy up on her offer.

She held her hand out, and he pulled himself onto her back. It felt strange to be on someone's back besides Levon's. He'd been riding Fooler, exercising the horse while Levon was out here at the ranch, but riding a horse was totally different from riding a centaur. And riding Levon was different again. Riding a horse or another centaur was only a means to an end, a way of getting from point a to point b. Riding Levon was an end in itself, done for no other reason than to spend time with his lover.

And it had been a long time since they'd gone for a run, simply to run. Levon had been so tied to his herd, lately, that he hadn't wanted to leave them for long enough for he and Joe to really enjoy themselves. Like last night, when he'd-- Joe stopped.

Levon's sudden desire to camp out, his reluctance to lay down, to change out of centaur form...it all took on a new meaning in the light of Alexander's appearance this morning. And it meant something that made Joe's heart go cold.

It meant Levon had known Alexander was coming.

And he hadn't told Joe.

They ran for nearly twenty minutes before coming upon a small expanse inbetween what seemed like walls of thick scrub brush. Levon was standing there, turned away from their approach. He must have heard, but he didn't look over even when Joy came to a halt some yards away.

Joe slid from Joy's back and quietly thanked her before walking towards his husband. He heard Joy leaving, behind him. Apparently she didn't want to risk upsetting Levon when she'd been told not to come out here. Joe had no such qualms.

"You knew," he said with no preliminaries. Better, easier to deal with that omission than to deal with what had happened that morning.

Levon looked over at him, and Joe couldn't read anything on his face. "Knew what?" he asked in a measured, steady tone. As if dealing with one of his herd.

That made Joe even angrier. "Don't," he warned. "Don't treat me like an idiot -- or your submissive."

Levon took a step back, looking at him with a little surprise. Then he glared back. "Dammit, Joe, there's a half a dozen things you might be angry with me for. I'd like to know which one we're arguing about!"

Joe was caught up short for a moment, as he was indeed angry over more than one thing. "Alexander," he finally ground out. The other things they'd deal with after.

Levon simply nodded. "I knew. Joanne called and said he was out." There didn't appear to be any hint of regret or apology in Levon's voice. Just facts.

"And you didn't think this was something you should mention?" Joe asked, the words biting with sarcasm that hid the hurt underneath.

With that, Levon looked away. "I didn't wanna see the look in your eyes when you knew I was planning to kill him."

That brought Joe up short for a second time. "You think I'd blame you for that?" he finally asked, anger dimming, hurt and weariness coming to the fore.

"Not blame me. Not so much... judge me." His voice died as he whispered the last two words.

Would he? Had he? He searched his feelings, how he felt about Levon killing Alexander. Planning to kill him.

Nothing. No blame, no judging, not the way Levon met anyway. "Alexander was a rabid dog. There wasn't anything else you could have done." When Levon looked at him, Joe could see pained realisation in his eyes. "I'm your partner, Levon," he said quietly meeting that pain-filled gaze with his own. "I'm supposed to back you up. But you have to trust me to do that."

"I didn't want you to have to take that responsibility. For murdering my brother." Joe knew that phrase didn't describe how Levon saw it, but rather how he expected Joe to.

But Joe shook his head. "He hasn't been your brother for years. If he ever was."

"That makes it OK to kill him?" Levon asked, not quite doubtfully. Rather he sounded as if he needed to hear Joe say it again, to make sure he meant it.

"No. But him threatening your herd, your family... You did what you had to do. I won't judge you for that."

Levon bowed his head. "Thank you."

Joe nodded. He didn't reach out to touch him though. The spectre of what had happened this morning was still too strong. Too unresolved. His husband seemed to understand, at least that there was more. He didn't move, but waited patiently. Neither did he try to look at Joe again.

They needed to talk about it. That's why he'd come out here in the first place after all. "This morning," he said quietly, his voice holding the roughness of his emotions. He saw Levon's jaw clenching, but still he didn't look up. Levon's entire body was quivering in barely held-tension, Joe realised.

"I'm sorry," Levon whispered, and it sounded as if the words had been dredged from the very pit of hell. Levon knew what he'd done.

He wished it was as easy as that to fix. "I'm not your submissive, Levon. That's not me. I can't--" His voice cracked and he broke off.

"It wasn't about your being submissive," Levon replied, in a nearly wavering voice. "I just needed it. It didn't even occur to me at first to go to someone else, first. Who wouldn't... mind, the way I was."

Without moving, Levon seemed to be backing away from him. Joe couldn't stand that, wouldn't stand it. He reached out and laid a hand along Levon's back.

"Joe, I didn't mean to hurt--" He broke off. "Did I hurt you?"

He shrugged. "Nothing that won't heal."

Levon crossed his arms over his chest, bowing his head again. "I hate this," he whispered. "I hated it when I needed to mate because they weren't you. I hate it now because it is you. I hate this." He raised his head, looking out, away from Joe. "I'm sorry I can't control myself." There was an oddly distant tone in his voice as he spoke those last.

An image of Levon standing before him, practically vibrating with his need yet still holding back flashed through Joe's mind. "Can't you?" he murmured, idly stroking Levon's coat as he spoke.

Levon didn't answer.

Joe continued, choosing his words carefully, trying to understand his feelings enough to explain them. "It wasn't rough sex that bothered me. It was...it could've been anyone. I was just convenient. You didn't see me."

Levon gave him a quick, almost-hard look. "If that were true I'd have stayed with Julia."

He nodded, accepting the truth of that. "That's what it felt like though," he said softly. "It felt -- I felt -- like I was invisible."

"Like all that's needed is the body. No matter the person inside." Levon paused. "How it felt during mating season. Dirty, and--" He looked at Joe, anguish returning to his face. "I didn't mean to make you feel that bad."

"I know." And Joe did. That was something he'd never doubted.

"I guess I just couldn't help it."

Joe wasn't sure if he bought that, but he held his tongue. They stood there in silence for a minute. Levon appeared to be thinking something over. "I can't--"

"Stop being a centaur? I know. I can't stop being human."

"Can't promise I'll stop hurting you," Levon corrected. "Every time I've hurt you, it's been because of the way I am...." Levon sighed, still gazing out at the horizon.

"Don't be an idiot," Joe said, exasperated. "Even if you weren't a centaur, we'd have disagreements."

"This ain't like disagreeing." Levon turned and faced him, squarely. "This is about me not being able to be what you need. And you not being able to be what I need. Not without hurting each other."

Joe narrowed his eyes. "What are you trying to say?"

Levon shook his head slowly. "I don't wanna hurt you, Joe. Destroys me, every time I realise what I've done to you."

"You're about to say something stupid, aren't you?"

Startled, Levon started to, then tried to fight, a grin. "Me, say something stupid?" But he reached out towards Joe, finally.

"Yeah." Joe stepped forward into his arms.

Levon held him tightly, as if afraid Joe might move away, and vanish. A moment later he changed forms, and tucked his head onto Joe's shoulder.

"I love you," he whispered against the blond head.

What he got in return was, "I'm sorry."

"You're sorry I love you?"

"Because I hurt you."

"Then make it up to me," Joe challenged.

Levon raised his head, eyes narrowing slightly in confusion. "How?"

Joe smiled at him. "You're a bright centaur. I'm sure you'll think of something."

With a hopeful expression, Levon asked, "Buy you a truck?" The humour didn't quite fill his eyes.

"Try again."

With a serious look, he asked, "What do you want?"

Joe looked into his husband's brown eyes, then gave the only possible answer. "You," he said softly, then leaned forward and kissed him gently.

There was a long pause, as Levon stood very still. He didn't return the kiss, but when Joe leaned back and looked at him, Levon moved his hands against Joe's back, holding him with a near-caress. Joe smiled encouragingly and kissed him again. This time he returned it. Joe ignored the hesitancy that was still there.

"It's okay," he breathed between kisses, reassuring them both.

"What... what do you want?"

Joe spent a moment just looking at him. "Whatever you can give me," he finally said, reaching up and touching Levon's cheek.

Levon said nothing, and Joe could see doubt shadowed in his eyes. But then Levon reached up and cupped his cheek, and smiled. "Could give you a truck," he teased.

"What is it with you and trucks?" Joe asked, letting the exasperation he knew Levon was expecting show in his voice.

"Pair of ostrich skin boots?" he offered.

"With or without feathers?" Joe teased.

"However you want 'em," Levon replied, a note of seriousness yet in his voice. He changed his grip on Joe, tightening his hands briefly. He looked like he wanted to say something, but he didn't.

Joe leaned in and kissed him again. "All I need is you," he said softly.

Levon moved into his embrace, once again resting his head on Joe's shoulder and wrapping his arms around Joe's waist. "I love you," he whispered. A moment later he asked softly, but with a laugh hidden in his voice, "You gonna get more frustrated if I apologise, again?"

"Do you need to?"

In a small voice he said, "If I say it again, I might not stop."

Joe didn't know what to say to that. They ended up simply standing there, for several minutes. Holding each other close, but saying nothing at all. It was nice, felt reassuring and loving; yet all the same Joe was still disturbed. He kissed Levon again, hoping to somehow get them both through this awkwardness.

When he looked into his husband's eyes after breaking off the kiss, he found less of the worry, and less of the fear. In fact, he could almost see....

"Can... I make love to you here, or do you want to go somewhere indoors?" Levon asked.

Joe smiled at him. "Here," he said, kissing him again.

Levon fingered his shirt lightly, shooting him a querying look before undoing the first button. He stopped, then and kissed Joe's neck soft and slow.

"Nice," he said rather inadequately, reaching up to twine his fingers in Levon's blond hair.

It seemed to encourage his husband, though, for Levon continued unbuttoning his shirt and kissing a trail down along the exposed skin. Joe closed his eyes and tilted his head back, giving Levon more access.

He felt Levon's hands brushing across his chest, pushing his shirt completely open. Then Levon moved in, arms sliding beneath Joe's shirt, and wrapping around him. He held himself there, and Joe could feel the warmth of his body against his own.

"Love you," he said in a husky whisper, wrapping his arms around his lover tightly.

"I'm--" Levon cut himself off, then said, "I love you, too, Joe."

"That's all that matters," he said, almost believing it himself at that moment.

He felt Levon kiss him again, a spot just over his collarbone where the skin was especially sensitive. Joe gasped and swallowed a moan. Levon sucked the spot very gently, then even as Joe was reacting, Levon moved down to kneel before him. He pressed his face briefly against Joe's hip, then looked up at him.

Unable to speak, Joe reached down and laid a hand again Levon's cheek. Levon leaned into it ever so slightly, still looking up at him wordlessly. Then he moved his hands to the backs of Joe's legs, and grinned widely. "You wanna lie down, or you gonna keep to your feet?" He glanced downwards. "Seeing as you've only the two...."

Joe grinned cheekily. "I'll grab onto you to keep my balance."

"Pull my hair and I'll buck you," he returned, a distinctly mischievous glint in his eyes. But he began opening Joe's pants, anyhow.

Joe started breathing faster. Very, very slowly Levon pulled Joe's fly open, then equally slowly he drew one finger up the length of Joe's hardening erection. Joe closed his eyes, reaching for Levon's shoulders to brace himself.

He felt Levon's face press against him, hot breath cascading over his groin even through the cotton of his underwear. Joe shivered at the sensation, knowing it was only going to get better.

And it did. Two fingers slid under the waistband, and pulled. The hot breath was on his skin, now. He held his breath waiting for that first touch.

When it came, a single flick of the tongue, he shivered. Levon's hands held him tightly, holding him upright despite his earlier teasing. His mouth touched him ever so lightly. He gasped in a lungful of air and gasped again as Levon's mouth closed around him.

At first only the head was engulfed -- it was enough to send his senses spinning. Levon pressed his tongue against the tip, then slid his mouth slowly farther down. Joe groaned, making an effort to hold his hips still. Levon was so good at that...

He was making it difficult to stand still, however. With each movement of Levon's mouth and tongue, Joe groaned again and had to hold onto himself even tighter to remain standing. He was having to hold tighter to Levon as well, his grip on his husband's shoulders so tight he wouldn't be surprised to see bruises.

But it wasn't slowing Levon down. If anything, the tighter he gripped -- or perhaps it was the louder he groaned -- the more Levon was giving him. Tongue and sucking until Joe could nearly see stars. He knew he wasn't going to last much longer and forced his eyes open to look down at Levon as he felt himself ready to come.

The sight was such a contrast from that morning that it alone nearly threw him off the edge. The love in Levon's eyes, the near-worship... it was the image that stayed with him when he climaxed a moment later.

Something caught him, and it was only then that he realised he'd fallen. Levon carried him to the ground, holding him close. For long moments Joe didn't move, didn't speak, just basking in his husband's touch and love.

Levon kissed him, then, and it was as if everything that had happened before, had vanished. There was only they two, lying there together, seeing only each other. Gradually Joe noticed the delight in his husband's eyes. "What?" he asked, smiling back even if he wasn't exactly sure what he was smiling at.

"Two legs. Told ya you shoulda laid down."

"I am now."

"Uh-huh." Levon just continued grinning at him.

Joe grinned back. "I love you."

In a clear, and almost careful tone, Levon replied, "I love you, too." Then he gave Joe a kiss.

"Let's go for a ride," Joe said when Levon pulled back. Something normal. Well, normal for them anyway.

Levon nodded, and stood up, holding onto Joe's hands and pulling him up, as well. He changed quickly, watching as Joe got his clothing back together.

It didn't take long and then he was reaching out and bracing himself against Levon's hand to boost himself astride his husband's back. Levon didn't take off immediately; he stood still, waiting for what, Joe didn't know. But he didn't care -- he let Levon take his time, saying nothing as he finally began to move.

Soon they were racing across the field, wind in their faces and worries left, if not behind, then at least forgotten.

################################

The sun was going down by the time they finally returned to the house. The herd was scattered about, as usual, tending to chores and the children. Joe noticed that each centaur glanced their way, not quite surreptitiously but obviously wanting to determine their herd stallion's state of mind.

Joe wondered that himself. Levon had grown increasingly quiet the closer they got to the house. Some of the bolder centaurs watched more openly as they came closer. Some flicked their gazes to Joe, as if checking his state of mind as a gauge for Levon's. He suddenly realised that none of the children had approached them -- something that he had never seen happen before. It was as if they were, to varying degrees, afraid of Levon.

But it was in a casual voice that Levon asked him, "Think if I said 'boo' they'd scatter?"

"They might," Joe said softly, more disquieted by all this than he wanted to admit.

Looking over his shoulder, Levon had a devilish grin on his face. "You could reassure 'em, and give me a brushing."

Joe heard someone stifle a laugh. "I think that can be arranged," Joe replied, letting his voice go husky as he ran a hand down Levon's spine.

"Oh, good," they heard Marta stage-whisper. Levon gave her a grin -- and that seemed to break the tension.

For the centaurs anyway. Joe wasn't able to let it go quite as easily. "Where to?"

"Anywhere you wanna go," Levon said.

"The barn."

"Barn it is." Levon headed that direction. He seemed to be relaxing, if the reactions of the centaurs they passed were anything to go by. Or perhaps he was simply falling asleep at the mere thought of being brushed.

"We haven't done this in a while."

"Five weeks," Levon replied. "Four days, ten hours, and...."

That surprised a laugh out of Joe. "Missed it have you?"

"Yeah. Missed you." He turned around, reaching back with one hand.

Joe caught it, squeezing tightly. They went into the barn, and Joe jumped down. As he started over for the brushes, Levon caught at his shoulder. When he stopped and looked back, Levon stepped up and leant down, and kissed him lightly. There was a myriad of unspoken thoughts in his eyes.

"You okay?" Joe asked softly, knowing it was a stupid question even as he asked it.

Levon started to smile, but shook his head. Not sure what he could say to help, Joe slipped his arms around Levon's waist and hugged him tightly. After a moment his husband sighed, rubbing his face. "Sometimes... I just wish I could go back. Things had to have been simpler when...." he trailed off, thinking.

"I don't think things have ever been simple for us."

"Maybe not. But they were easier. Back when we were just in love and nobody else was involved."

"Maybe," Joe said, though he didn't think so, not really.

Levon nodded. "Yeah. It was never easy. Maybe... I should just think about giving the herd to Stuart. Forty fewer responsibilities might help." He didn't sound totally convinced, however.

Joe didn't know what he should say to that. A large part of him had just been waiting for Levon to do just that, to have his husband to himself again. Well, himself and the kids. "That's something you have to decide for yourself."

"But there's no way he'd have been able to--"

"Deal with Alexander," Joe finished.

Levon nodded. "And he won't be, for a while yet. Not any stallion older'n twenty or so." Levon looked concerned, but somehow he didn't look as worried about it.

"Are there many out there that are serious threats?" Joe asked.

Again Levon nodded. "Enough. None that'll be coming around so long as I'm here -- don't reckon there are more'n a handful that would consider me beatable. But Stuart... he'd be open to practically any stallion looking for a herd. Any grown centaur could beat a young kid like him, just from sheer size and weight."

"So you don't have a choice." Years of having to share Levon with the herd seemed to suddenly loom out ahead of him.

"Not for a year or so, unless we just don't tell anyone."

"What?"

"Think it'd work?" Levon asked, half-serious, half-joking. "If I just sneak back home?" There was a desperation deep in his eyes.

"I... It might." The whole idea was crazy, so crazy it could work. The big question remained though. Would Levon be able to let go?

Levon looked briefly excited by the idea, but then he said, "Hate to play games with Stuart's life, though. But maybe... just after mating season I--" and he stopped again, looking away.

Joe reached out and touched his face. "Can you handle that again?" he asked softly, remembering what Levon had said earlier that day about how it had made him feel.

"I can. Stuart might be ready for that, but I can't hand the herd over until he's ready for everything else." Levon began to grin, slightly. "I can handle a few more kids. It'll be easier, now, that I've had a year to be in charge. Instead of running in for stud-service." He gave Joe a suddenly cute look. "You want another one? We can talk to Zeus again."

"You're trying to change the subject." But in spite of himself Joe felt a smile curl his lips upward.

"Would I do that?" Levon frowned, then. "Weren't you supposed to be doing something?"

Joe heard Levon's rear foot hit the floor, sounding exactly like Fooler when she was waiting for someone to stop kissing, and get over here with her feedbucket. "Somebody stopped me." He grinned at his husband. "Wonder who that could be."

"You can't talk and brush at the same time?"

"Can't go get the brush with you holding onto me."

Instead of letting go, however, Levon just grinned. The grinning stare turned into something else: something warm, and loving without the sparkle of teasing that he'd been using earlier to cover the seriousness of his words. Then he let go of Joe's shoulder.

In the face of that look it took Joe a few seconds to remember what it was he was supposed to be doing.

"Brushes?" Levon prompted.

"Right." Shaking off the bemusement, if not the feeling of being loved, Joe headed across the barn to pick up the requested brushes. He didn't hear a thing, which is why he yelped and dropped the brushes when he turned and found Levon right behind him. "What are you -- stealth centaur?" Levon gave him a innocent look. "You did that on purpose."

"Does that mean you're not gonna brush me?" Levon managed to look disappointed, and very put-upon.

Joe rolled his eyes. "Centaurs," he muttered, stooping to retrieve the fallen brushes.

After that, the actual brushing went fairly smoothly. Levon stood still, and after Joe had brushed for a few seconds, he'd been rendered unable to give Joe a hard time about anything. Or even able to do more than breathe.

"I missed this," Joe said conversationally, losing himself in the simple movements almost as much as Levon.

"Mm-hm." Levon had his eyes closed. But in a somewhat clear voice he said, "Me, too. Remind me to wait on you hand and foot for a week, to pay you back for this."

"I'd settle for just having you home," Joe responded, unthinking.

"I know," his husband said quietly.

Both of them fell silent at that. Not that that was surprising. What could either of them say that hadn't been said a million times before? Joe continued the brushing, and soon Levon's silence was again attributable to his state of relaxation. A slight sound from the door made Joe look up.

Four pair of wide, unblinking eyes stared back. Three pair of brown, one pair of vivid blue, all looking up with equal expressions of wonder. "Levon," he said softly, even as he felt his mouth curl up into a smile.

Levon pried his eyes open, and looked. The smile that broke out matched his own. The four foals just stayed in the doorway, watching. Rosa had a thumb in her mouth and a slightly perplexed expression on her face.

Joe reached out, beckoning to the foals. Laurie immediately ran to him, the others following with a bit more hesitation. When Levon beckoned, they hurried over as well -- and immediately glommed onto their legs.

"Velcro," Joe said, laughing.

Levon grinned, and at the doorway, Carrie burst into laughter. "Oh, you six look adorable like that."

"Yeah, we're starting a new fashion trend."

"I can see that," she nodded. "It'll be all the rage." She turned her attention to Levon. "You have a phonecall, Levon. From Blair."

Joe exchanged glances with his husband. "Trouble?"

Carrie was grinning, though, as she shook her head. "He didn't say why he was calling, but from the sound of his voice... I'd say he won the lottery or something."

"That's a change," Joe muttered. "A phonecall that's good news."

Levon shot him a look, but began trying to extricate himself so he could head to the house. It was proving difficult, however, even when Carrie came over and picked Cordelia up. "Having problems?"

Levon grinned. "Seem to be." He picked Taylor up, which left him with Rosa, still clinging. Why he didn't just tell them to let go, Joe wasn't sure.

"I can take her," Joe offered. "If I can reach her," he added dryly, Laurie clinging to him just as tenaciously.

Levon sighed, and looked down at Rosa. He opened his mouth, then stopped. No doubt because of the tiny, adorable face looking up at him. But then he said, "Rosa, go over to Joe."

The filly frowned at him in disappointment, but let go and toddled over to Joe, grabbing onto his leg as soon as he was within reach. "Go on, cowboy. I'll follow...eventually."

Levon laughed. "Bet you'll still be out here when I'm done." He was heading for the barn door, though, Taylor still in his arms.

"No bet," Joe laughed, looking down at the two foals attached tightly to his legs. They looked up at him, and Rosa laughed. "Glad you're finding this amusing, kid."

She gripped his leg tighter, in response.

"Just try to leave some circulation, okay?"

He finally made it inside after two of the mares came in after the foals. He found Levon sitting in his office, feet up on his desk, and a huge smile on his face. He was still talking to Blair, though he was only saying "Yeah" and "Of course."

'What?' Joe mouthed, leaning a hip against the edge of the desk.

Levon grinned at him, and mouthed 'hold your horses.' "Sure, Blair, we can do that. You gonna tell Joy, or should I break the news?"

Taking Levon at his word, Joe groped his lap. Levon jumped, gave him a not-so-fierce glare, and didn't move Joe's hand.

"We will," he was saying. "Just let us know."

Joe gave Levon his best innocent look even while he continued groping. Levon shifted in his chair, not doing a very good job of escaping Joe's hand -- if that's what he was trying to do. "Will do, Blair. Give my best to Jim, and Naomi." Then he was hanging up and turning a 'two seconds away from glazed over' expression on Joe.

"What did Blair want?"

"Wants to get married." Levon shifted again, giving Joe better access to more than just his lap, if Joe so chose.

Taking him up on the invitation, Joe let his fingers wander further afield. "He and Jim have been engaged for years. Thought they would've tied the knot by now."

"Well, they had, sorta." Levon's eyes were glazing, and his speech was starting to sound slurred. "Never had the wedding, though."

Joe grinned. "Now that sounds familiar."

"Yeah, they wanna...." Levon's eyes started to roll back. "Have...."

"They wanna have...?" Joe repeated.

Levon just nodded. Then he groaned softly.

Joe sighed. Apparently he'd overdid the groping. When he'd stopped for a few seconds, Levon raised his head and looked at him, accusingly.

"They wanna have...?" Joe tried again.

"A wedding." Levon looked slightly confused, as if thinking he'd already explained.

"I got that part. Why they phoning us?"

Levon blinked. "Here."

It took Joe a moment to decipher that. "They want to get married here?"

"Yeah. Asked me if I'd officiate." There was more awareness in his eyes as he said that, obviously pleased by the request.

"Guess that means you're sticking around as head stallion for a while, huh?"

"Least until May. Naomi wants it sooner, but Jim might not be able to get the time off. Blair's gonna call back in a few days when they've a date set. I'll warn Joy, so she can start planning and are you gonna go back to what you were doing?" he ended, plaintively.

"You mean this?" Joe resumed groping.

Levon just groaned happily.

The End