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Joe woke with a start. Everything seemed normal; he had no idea what had woken him. A gentle tap drew his attention to the window. Shivering as he flung his feet out of bed onto the cold floor, he moved over to the window. It was still dark out but the streetlights outside illuminated his late night visitor. Joe trailed himself down the stairs to the front door, opening it and heading for the kitchen and coffee.

He heard Lucas follow him into the kitchen, heard the scrap of a chair as he sat down and finally joined him, sliding a cup of coffee in front of him as he set his own down.

"I'm sorry," Lucas said quietly.

Joe didn't say anything, nodding, more to himself than Lucas.

"I keep screwing up don't I..." Lucas said, not really a question. "I don't mean too."

Joe smiled softly, almost wryly. "I know."

"Why didn't you fire me?" Lucas asked.

"Why didn't I send you right back to the foster home when you stole that CD, or hell, why didn't I press charges and have you locked up," Joe said rhetorically.

"I don't know," Lucas answered honestly.

"You don't give yourself enough credit Lucas, you... you drive me crazy sometimes, but there is something truly special about you, I've never quite been able to put my finger on what, but one of these days I'll figure it out and hopefully you will too," Joe said.

"Maybe you were wrong," Lucas said, his eyes cast down, staring into his coffee.

Joe sighed. "Then why did you stay? Why not take off, nothing was keeping you here. Not once you turned eighteen anyway."

"You trusted me, no one ever did that before," Lucas said.

"And I still trust you," Joe said.

"Can I stay here tonight?" Lucas asked.

"What's left off it, I'll find you some sheets," Joe said, taking the sudden change of track in his stride, Lucas was clearly thinking about something, with any luck, he'd feel like sharing it when he'd figured it out.

"I remember where they are," Lucas said.

"Okay, night," Joe said, pouring his cold coffee down the sink and leaving Lucas too it. When he was involved in his own mind, it was impossible to get anything out of him.

*~*~*~*~*

Next time Joe woke, dawn was just beginning to cast some light though the curtains, but it was still mostly shadow.

"Can I come in?" Lucas' asked quietly from the door.

"Sure," Joe said, moving back and pushing his covers back, so Lucas could get under them too. Lucas hesitated and Joe was about to ask why, when he gave in and got into the bed. Joe stared, perplexed. It was hardly the first time Lucas had crawled into his bed in the middle of the night. Granted it had been a while, not since Lucas moved into his own place, a couple of years before, but there had never been any hesitation.

"I don't want you to hate me," Lucas said.

"Lucas, I could never hate you, I know I get mad sometimes, but I could never hate you," Joe assured him.

"You might..." Lucas said, biting his lip, looking more scared, more unsure than Joe had ever seen him. Before Joe could even speak, Lucas was suddenly closer, sudden heat against the front of his body and lips on his, because Lucas was kissing him.

Joe jumped back in shock, regretting it when he saw the tears welling in Lucas' eyes.

"See..." Lucas said sadly.

"Lucas... I'm... I don't hate you, this is just... last time I checked you were straight and also half my age," Joe said.

"Not straight and you're not that old. Love doesn't care about age," Lucas said, the look in his eyes daring, daring Joe to contradict him, to argue with Lucas, to try and talk him out of his feelings. After the quiet, almost mouse like Lucas he'd been dealing with earlier, it was a dramatic change. Part of Joe said, back off, but the other part of him insisted he push, insisted he find out what this was really about.

"Okay. But Lucas, maybe you're..."

"I'm not some stupid kid anymore Joe I know what I'm feeling," Lucas said. "That's why I took the money okay, I wanted to save Empire, to make you happy, so you'd be so grateful that you'd love me too!"

Joe reeled mentally, especially as Lucas pressed forward again, kissing him, pushing like he was giving everything he had into the kiss and Joe knew he should stop this, pull away, push Lucas away, but Lucas' hand caught his head, sliding into his hair as his tongue pressed against Joe's lips. Joe gasped involuntarily as Lucas' other hand found his ass, giving Lucas the access he wanted, almost against his will, Joe felt himself respond, felt his tongue sliding against Lucas' felt his shorts tighten uncomfortably around his crotch as he hardened. Just as quickly as it all started, it stopped, Lucas pulled back, but his hand remained caught up in Joe's hair, the other resting on his hip.

"You're too young Lucas, you could do better," Joe said softly.

"There is no one better for me, you're it, you're part of me, this isn't some crush, or misplaced affection. I love you," Lucas said, the last part with such quite conviction, that Joe felt it to his toes.

Joe sighed.

"It's okay Joe, I know you're not interested in me like that, I'm just gonna consider myself lucky you didn't deck me," Lucas said.

"Of course I wouldn't... God but you're infuriating sometimes," Joe said. "I just... this... you did kinda just drop this on my head. Give me a little time here."

Lucas nodded, pulling back fully. "I'll... go," Lucas said quietly. His whole body tightened, his eyes bright with unshed tears. Joe felt his own heart constrict painfully.

"Lucas... are you really sure about this, I mean really sure," Joe asked.

Lucas sighed. "I already..."

"I know, but Lucas this... it's... do you realise, there would be no going back from this," Joe said.

"Going... you'd... you'd want... this?" Lucas asked, shock registering on his face.

"Lucas..." Joe said, exasperated.

"Yes I'm sure, yes I know there would be no going back and I don't care, I don't want to go back, I don't want to... I *love* you, I've been in love with you so long I don't even remember what it's like anymore to not be in love with you," Lucas said.

"You never said, never even hinted..." Joe said.

"I was scared!" Lucas said, his voice raising. "I was scared..." he repeated softer. "I didn't want you to hate me, to send me away... I thought it was better to at least be near you."

"But you took the money, you said yourself, you wanted to make me love you too... so it obviously wasn't enough," Joe said.

"Damn it why can't you just believe me!" Lucas said.

"Because there's something you aren't telling me Lucas," Joe said.

"I can't..." Lucas said.

"Then this can't..." Joe started to say.

"No... please Joe, you... you let me believe, think... you..." tears slid down Lucas' face.

"This needs to be... you need to be honest with me," Joe said, carefully wiping away a few tears. "You need to tell me why you're afraid. You came here tonight, you wanted something, it wasn't just to say sorry, I know there's something more. I know you Lucas."

"I wanted..." Lucas paused.

"Wanted to what Lucas?" Joe asked.

"To say goodbye..." Lucas whispered.

"And now?" Joe asked.

Lucas shook his head. "I never thought... you'd...want..."

"And now?" Joe asked again.

"Can I stay?" Lucas asked quietly.

Joe smiled softly, leaning close, brushing a soft kiss against Lucas' cheek. "This is you're home Lucas, you never have to ask."

"You're my home," Lucas murmured, curling close into Joe's arms.

"Just promise me you'll never do anything so... like that again," Joe said.

"The word you're looking for is stupid," Lucas supplied. "And I promise. If you promise me you won't hide things like that from me anymore."

"I can do that," Joe said, kissing the top of Lucas' head.

"Joe..."

"Yeah?" Joe asked.

"I really am sorry, for taking the money and the million other stupid things I've done," Lucas said.

Joe gave a soft chuckle. "You're allowed a few stupid mistakes at your age."

Lucas nodded against him. "Did you ever..."

"Oh like you wouldn't believe," Joe said, laughing softly. "Did I ever tell you about the time..."


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