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Not a Place

Finally, it was over. The uniforms led her away, kicking and screaming, and that part of LaFiamma's life was thankfully finished.

Kelly had screwed him over enough to last for a lifetime, thank you very much. He should have seen it, should have realized she'd only played him, how self-satisfied and smug she'd been at pulling the wool over his eyes -- a rich, harmless, spoiled beautiful kid. Right.

But damn, he'd been so terribly lonely here in Houston. The people, the strange dialect, even the clothes -- he didn't have any acquaintances here that didn't come with the job, and even these were just that: acquaintances. Not friends.

A meeting in a pool at night, some small talk, a night of meaningless sex and a pretty smile... yeah, most nights he spent alone in his apartment, cooking, reading or phoning aunt Theresa, desperate for news of the family, desperate for a connection.

Oh, he got along reasonably well with Lundy now, meaning they didn't use their fists on each other anymore since that no-punches-drawn fight at Gilley's. But that was the extend of their partnership. Lundy's tendency to be over-careful still got him going, but LaFiamma had to admit that the cowboy was, actually, a very good cop. And a decent man, he was now willing to bet.

But Lundy's subtle or not-so-subtle digs about how much better it would be if LaFiamma'd stayed in Chicago still hurt. Half a year only, his old captain had told him, back then -- he still remembered the shouting match and the halfhearted reassurances from the brass. But after everything his uncle Mickey had let slip, this assignment in Texas might as well be permanent.

He might never be able to return home.

A horrible thought.

He could still remember his mother's face so clearly, despite her being dead for over ten years now. And he'd never forgotten the day she'd left Chicago -- and his father -- when Joe had been seventeen. She had just calmly packed her belongings, kissed him on the cheek and said he didn't need her anymore. Leaving for Montreal, she had told him in confidence. With her lover, a businessman without a shady past or relations to the mob. Joe still had a small pile of his mom's letter somewhere, letters she had written to him before she had fallen ill. Cancer. And deadly after only a couple of years. He liked to think she'd been happy up there in Canada nonetheless. Happier than here, anyway.

She simply hadn't been able to live in a family where each gift, each dinner invitation to a high-class restaurant meant that a poor shopkeeper had had to pay for 'protection' or a prostitute had been forced to hand over part of her hard-earned income to her pimp. Uncle Mickey had made it a question of pride and personal honor that he would never condone the selling of drugs in his organization, but in how far his cousins lived by that maxim was something Joe didn't know -- the old man might as well turn a blind eye on his later successors' actions.

How many beatings, how many murders his uncle had ordered in his 'career' was something LaFiamma preferred not to think about. His father had died when he'd been eighteen, perversely in a common-day street accident. Anthony LaFiamma had been a lawyer, but Joe had never learned the extend of his involvement with his younger brother's business. Had never wanted to know.

He only remembered the security and warmth of growing up in a large Italian family, quibbling with his cousins, teasing the girls under his grandmother's watchful eyes, enjoying lasagna around the big table in the kitchen, blissfully unaware of his uncle's occupation. That had only changed when he'd started college... The memory still hurt.

But then, the somber, dark-clad 'drivers' and 'employees' should have alerted him to the family's real business a long time ago, but damn, he'd grown up with these bodyguards, called them by their first names. They'd brought him candy, driven him to school on occasion, hell, some had even read bed-time stories to him! He'd been so blind.

His decision to join the police had come as a total shock to all of them. During his whole training, he and uncle Mickey hadn't exchanged a single word, and the atmosphere at home had been icy, to say the least. After they'd appointed him patrolman, Szabo had razzed him the whole time to break all contact with the family, taking the same line his mother had taken all those years ago, asking him how in God's name he could accept presents for his birthday or Christmas, how he could accept anything that had most likely tears or even blood sticking to it... he hadn't had an answer back then, and he still didn't have one now. //But I love them!//, he had screamed at his partner back then, //they are my family!//

And so he'd ruthlessly squashed his conscience in favor of the familiar warmth he needed like air to breathe.

Problem was, he still needed it.

His childhood friends, even his cousins had become estranged to him since the academy, only Theresa, his grandmother and the kids -- and finally uncle Mickey -- providing his desperately needed link to the family. But phone calls couldn't take the place of  relaxed evenings amidst family, just like fries, burgers, and beer couldn't replace Grandma Luisa's minestrone.

Damn Lundy for being so oblivious. Joe would have given his right hand to establish a connection with his colleagues, he would even have gladly dealt with McCandless' idiotic remarks, but most of all, he would have liked to get to know Lundy better. Dinner with Carol O'Brien (she'd been amazingly close-lipped about who'd come up with her nickname 'Legs') had been delightful, but without consequences. He'd felt her pity like invisible waves, and the spark of instant attraction just hadn't been there. He would have bet that she'd done it just to get even with Lipscomb for that dig about her not having had a date in at least three months or so... He sneered a little. Wonderful motive for a date. Not.

And she hadn't invited him for the post-case almost-party the next evening. LaFiamma had guessed that the get-together would, inexorably, happen at Chicken's, but hadn't had the courage to show up there unwelcomed...

He would have gladly punched his fist against the dashboard, but although Lundy had been silent for the last couple of miles, he'd been very aware of the covert glances the cowboy'd been shooting in his direction the whole time. He refused to call Lundy out, though, not feeling up to another confrontation right now. This sorry excuse for a vehicle might get a dent, too, and Lundy'd be first furious and then force him to explain his latest bout of self-inflicted pain, and Joe felt like he'd burst into tears the minute he'd open his mouth.

LaFiamma clenched his teeth. And the music was an insult to his ears -- country 'music', they called it, describing the twang of a lonely guitar and a single voice singing mournfully about -- whatever. He refused to listen more closely. He wanted to go back home.

Western shirts. Jeans and cowboy boots. Stetsons, in God's name! And every guy needed a gun to feel like a man. A country full of paranoid cowboy-wannabe's. He smirked disdainfully.

Although the tight jeans and elevated boots accentuated perfectly well Lundy's tight rear... LaFiamma was sufficiently shocked at the turn his own thoughts had taken that his knee slipped from the dashboard. His elbow resting on it also slipped, and he just barely managed not to run his head into the unyielding plastic.

"You all right, LaFiamma?" Lundy looked over. His gaze seemed almost -- worried, Joe wondered. And he'd pronounced his name correctly...

"Yeah, I'm okay, Lundy. Just tired."

"Yesterday evenin' not go all that well, LaFiamma?" Joe was just preparing an angry retort when Lundy added, almost apologetically: "Carol's a nice gal, but she's very careful 'round men, you know? Lost her husband two years ago to a junkie's bullet. Guy was stoned outta his mind. And her husband a patrolman -- didn't even get his gun out 'fore he was shot. Carol, she hasn't had anythin' serious since then."

"Thanks for telling, Lundy." LaFiamma debated for a short instant whether or not he should continue. But he couldn't loose this moment, not when Lundy was finally talking to him about more than just job-related matters, "I already got the impression yesterday that she was just being nice."

"But not more. Shoulda warned you. Sorry."

And Lundy even seemed to mean it. LaFiamma didn't know what to reply, and a short, uncomfortable silence ensued.

"What you doin' tonight, LaFiamma?"

Joe's heart started beating faster. Was this the moment he'd been waiting for -- to build up a connection to these people, to Lundy? Oh God, he couldn't stand a single night alone in his apartment again...

"Nothing," he was finally able to reply with a normal voice.

"No plans, no date?" Lundy grinned, but for the first time, LaFiamma didn't detect any maliciousness or amusement at his expense, just good-natured teasing and the kind of quirky humor that seemed to be Lundy's alone.

"No plans, no date," he confirmed in a mournful tone.

They shared a quick smile, and Joe's heart sang.

"Wanna see the ranch?"

"The ranch?"

"Ranch. Where I live. Place's not big, but it's enough for Fooler'n me."

"Fooler. Let me guess, that's your drunk housekeeper. No -- your cow. Oh, I get it, your horse."

"Third guess's right." Lundy raised his eyebrows under the Stetson, "You know how ta ride, LaFiamma?"

Joe saw in a overwhelming, extremely detailed vision, two writhing bodies on a bedspread in front of a mirror, and blushed furiously. The shock was even bigger this time. He must look like a fool to Lundy, a detached part of his mind noted, while he tried to swallow with a desert dry throat, his hands icy cold. Where the hell did this come from?! He'd never thought about a man this way, never. Not in high school, not in his few years in college, not at the academy. He liked girls. Although there was something horribly attractive about the cowboy's lean, slender but strong body that...

He pinched the bridge of his nose, hard. Tried to bring his vivid imagination back under control. His voice came out muffled: "Sorry, Lundy. It's just a headache."

Lundy's look seemed even more concerned now, but Joe's thoughts were so muddled he couldn't even appreciate the sudden caring. "You never been on a horse, am I right, LaFiamma?"

"No. Chicago has a serious lack of horses, you know?" Joe tried to smile, but even his lips seemed frozen.

"Think I still have some pain-killers you can use, LaFiamma. Food'll also help."

"Chicken again?" LaFiamma tried to sound marginally enthusiastic, but failed.

"No, I'll cook."

"You can cook?", Joe boggled at his partner, "You, the king of take-out, the master of fried food?" And he immediately wished he'd have kept his mouth shut -- Szabo might have been used to his kind of friendly teasing, but the cowboy was still an unknown quantity, and he didn't want to return to the icy silences and furious disagreements like during their first case.

But Lundy seemed to be in an exceptionally good mood and just grinned, unrepentant, "I can cook, LaFiamma. Just don't do it very often. Cookin' fer one person's kinda sad..." His voice trailed off, and Joe could have kicked himself. Of course the man didn't want to cook alone, most likely remembering his wife there all the time...

Lundy swallowed and the crease between his brows seemed to become deeper for a moment, but the cowboy shook away quickly his sudden bleak mood. The ever-present Stetson shielded his eyes enough to disguise all further signs of distress from Joe's regard.

"I'm sorry, Lundy. I didn't mean to raise any unpleasant memories."

Lundy looked over to him, fast. His throat worked a little, but his voice was steady when he replied: "Hey, you already said you're sorry for her death" -- Joe didn't have to ask who he meant with 'her' -- "an' she'd have liked me ta eat more healthy, too. So yeah, I'm even gonna cook somethin' with vegetables, you know." His lips lifted in a self-depreciating little smile.

"Just for me? What have I done to deserve that?" Joe wondered aloud, trying to get them back into their light banter.

"Well, you haven't irritated me today 'nough ta make me hit you." Lundy grinned back openly.

Joe sucked in a deep breath at the sudden uncurling warmth in his stomach. God, the cowboy was beautiful when he smiled like this... He dug his fingernails into his palms and endured the rest of the drive, doing his best just to bask in Lundy's easy camaraderie without giving way to these strange new feelings.

He was just lonely. That was it.

Nothing more.


The farm -- no, ranch -- wasn't at all what he had expected. Not big and deserted, but also without a farmhand, housekeeper or anyone else besides Lundy to look after the horse. And the red mare was the only animal Lundy kept there.

"Dad sold most'a the land when I was still little. Needed the money, he said." Lundy's voice sounded sarcastic, but Joe opted not to ask. If Lundy wanted, he'd tell him. Better to just nod now. "Just kept the barn an' the land 'round the house. Didn't grow up here, though. Was raised by my grandma."

Lundy petted the horse a last time on her warm, red-brown neck (Joe had touched her briefly, but then kept his distance) and led them back to the house, "'S just as well. Couldn't have kept the land an' become a cop at the same time, anyway."

"What did you do for a living before you became a cop, anyway?" LaFiamma asked, curious.

"How d'you know I wasn't a cop since school, LaFiamma?" Lundy's expression was guarded, wary.

"I -- I read your file." Joe stammered a little, suddenly uncomfortable. //I should have kept my mouth shut. Damn.//

"Oh, so Joanne let you have a look as well?", Lundy smirked suddenly, "that gal's crafty."

"You read my file?!" Joe didn't know whether he should be amused or outraged. //Busted.//

"Sure. Needed ta know who's my partner." Lundy sounded a bit smug.

"The lieutenant surely knows how to play her hand, doesn't she?" LaFiamma smiled tentatively and was relieved when Lundy returned it.

They were in the living room, leaving the remains of the amazing dinner on the dining room table for later clean up, when Lundy answered Joe's original question he'd already forgotten about: "You already know 'bout Bobby and me playin' football. Did that as a trainer for four years, an' tried working with horses in Mayberry. Very much grew up at my grandma's, an' like it there. Couldn't accept that my football career was over fer good. Mother Minnie finally brought me to my senses an' stopped me just wastin' my time. Her stories 'bout Grandpa got me to enlist at the academy."

"Mother Minnie? Is that your grandmother?"

"Yeah. She raised me. Dad was almost never home, and that was fer the better."

"I broke off college because becoming a lawyer like my dad... wasn't something I wanted to become any longer. For the guys at college I was just the guy with the mob background, and their reactions made me realize some... unpleasant facts about my family." LaFiamma tried to smile. "Enlisting at the academy sounded like a good way to fulfill the demands of my teenage rebellion phase. I didn't think it would turn into a vocation."

He hadn't wanted his thoughts to go there, but it was too late now. He bit his lips so hard it hurt. Continuing was like drawing blood: "Perhaps it's for the better that I had to leave Chicago. My boss there made sure that my partner and I never got assigned to any mob-related cases. He felt like he couldn't trust my loyalty where my family's concerned."

Lundy's compassionate light touch at his shoulder brought him close to tears. The cowboy's voice was a bit questioning when he murmured, "Yer whole family, LaFiamma? Not just yer uncle?"

"Pretty much all of them." //Jesus, was that a sob? I'm losing control, oh no, I can't, not here, Lundy will think...// The next words tumbled out of him in a rush: "Christ, Lundy, I miss them so much, and they've started to become strangers since the academy, and now I'm losing them entirely, and how can I go on feeling so -- lost, how can I --"

The tears still surprised him when they came. "I hate it here! Can't you see that, cowboy?! I didn't ask to be sent into this fucking back-up area, I can't deal with this fucking country, the fucking heat, the food -- everything! I wish I could go back home! I know you and the other guys are laughing behind my back, I know you wish me to hell or back to Chicago, I know you don't want me here, you'd rather work alone, and, Lundy, I fucking hate you, too, for..."

The punch took him by surprise. His head reeled back, his cheek hurt, and his fists automatically went up into a boxer's stance. "You hit me, cowboy, again, you don't dare to do it again...", he taunted, adrenaline flooding his tired body, banishing tears and sorrow. Oh yeah, he needed a good fight, Lundy would see...

He blocked the next punch, barely. The cowboy was as good with his left as with his right, but that was something Joe had already learned during that fight in the alley behind Gilley's bar, and got a good one in in return. The black Stetson sailed from Lundy's head on the hardboard floor, and LaFiamma smirked. Not in humor this time, but rather the baring of teeth from a wolf.

His body sang and he lost himself in the beauty of the fight. Time seemed to slow, the clarity of his perceptions and quickness of his reactions fueled by both anger and suppressed desire... oh, Lundy was beautiful like this. The blond, wavy hair became sweat-matted and clung to his temples, even the bloody cut over his right eye was a thing of beauty, the red liquid gleaming in the light of the room. And God, Lundy was fast, like a cat -- he grunted at the impact of Lundy's left fist (damn, caught again -- Lundy was ambidextrous, and he'd better remember that) and stumbled a little.

Lundy's face was strained, but strangely detached -- he couldn't see the anger he was used to, but even without it, the cowboy was a formidable opponent. They traded punches and feints, evenly matched, until, once again, they were too exhausted to continue.

"What, no bottle this time, boy?" Lundy taunted in a breathless voice as they both sank to their knees on the floor, too exhausted to remain standing in the end.

Joe just hyperventilated, but his body went cold, only the sore spots and his split lip hot and throbbing. He'd blown it again. Finally, he and Lundy had gotten along pretty well, all things considering, and now of all times when Lundy had only tried to help him, he'd lost it... He still shuddered at the hateful words he'd thrown at the other man.

So he was even more surprised when he once again felt a hand on his shoulder, pressing just a little to show him it was there. He looked up into Lundy's bruised, cut face, and the instant remorse at the sight made his heart constrict painfully in his chest. "Lundy, I'm -- sorry," he croaked. Like in a dream, he reached out and touched the cowboy's temple, feeling the warm wetness of blood on his fingers.

"No need ta feel sorry, Joe." LaFiamma only blinked slowly at the unaccustomed use of his first name, "if anythin', I should feel sorry fer hittin' you, but I figured you needed it, needed a good fight. An' I don't laugh behind yer back, an' I don't want you back in Chicago, partner."

Lundy's eyes were intent on his, willing him to believe, and what else could he do but nod, the cold weight in his stomach lifting and finally letting him breathe again... "I'm sorry I said I hate you, Lundy. So sorry. Believe me, I don't, but this whole situation just makes me so... mad, so... hollow, so..."


The openness in Lundy's gaze unsettled him. "Yes."

Almost of its own volition, his hand reached out again, tangling in Lundy's sweaty hair. He didn't dare to breathe as Lundy's hand lifted from his shoulder, almost flinching, expecting another punch, and this time in rightful anger. The emptiness in his heart gave way to a sudden lurch of an intense feeling, hot and stimulating like whiskey. Desire.

For this man.

But the expected punch didn't come. Joe was sure that he looked like a dumb idiot with wide, panicked eyes when Lundy's hand settled instead on his own cheek, light as a whisper. All former violence was wiped from his mind when the cowboy leaned nearer and brushed his split lip with his mouth.

Lundy's eyes were a warm sherry brown, Joe noticed dimly, and the blood on his brow had started to dry...

He still sat there, unmoving, unblinking, when Lundy leaned back again and regarded him with a stunned, equally overwhelmed gaze.

LaFiamma drew in air in a sharp intake of breath. Oh Lord, it was attraction. To a man.

And it wasn't one-sided.


"You ever done this before?" Lundy's soft voice drew him out of his reverie. He mindlessly reached for that hot, delicious mouth again. His skin prickled.

They had landed in an uncoordinated tumble on Lundy's bed, awkward like teenagers, strangely driven by an urgency they couldn't understand. LaFiamma was naked to the waist, bare-foot, and Lundy's shirt was hanging open, the buttons of his jeans undone. To Joe, he was immensely handsome like this, smooth, pale golden skin, dark eyes, smelling of sweat, blood, hay and the spices from their dinner, a lifetime ago.

"Sex with a man, you mean? No. Never wanted to. Until now." LaFiamma's heart suddenly raced inside his chest. He'd always had his suspicions about the extend of Lundy's friendship with Robert Wilton -- what if Lundy didn't want sex with a novice, didn't want to...

The stroking of callused fingers on his face reassured him as much as the calm, thoughtful voice, "Neither have I. Wanted to, though. 'S what drove Bobby an' me apart. Almost kicked my nose in when I tried to touch him..."

"And there was no-one else you've ever wanted to try it with?"

"Nope. Married Caroline, just like I'd always wanted -- highschool sweethearts." Lundy's expression was tender and a little lost, but his touch, familiarizing himself with the contours of LaFiamma's face, was deft and sure. "Not 'till I met a cocky, overdressed, arrogant cop from Chicago, hissin' at me to never put out a call fer him ever again."

"Love on first sight, Lundy?"

"Don't know what this here is, Joe. I'm jus' not sure yet." Lundy's face was haunted, unsecure, a little desperate, "I care fer you. Don't you ever doubt that."

"A truce, then? I won't hit you when you don't hit me?", LaFiamma offered in a light tone. He wasn't willing to push the other man, not now. //He admitted he cares for me! He wants me to stay!// Joy and relief mixed with the barely controlled desire he was feeling for this man, a desire he hadn't experienced for another man until he'd found his eyes drawn again and again to the firm, round outline of Lundy's ass in those skin-tight jeans of his.

"More than a truce, don't you think? 'Cause there's also this..." And Lundy leaned down and kissed him again, hot and wet, hard, aggressive. LaFiamma felt the rasp of beard stubble against his swollen lip and moaned involuntarily, opening his mouth wider, hungry for more. //Oh Christ, this feels so good, never knew it'd feel so good...//

Lundy had to prop himself up on his arms to kiss Joe, but Joe didn't have the same hindrance. The cotton sheets felt cool against his back as he reached up to slide his hands under Lundy's partially open shirt, finding slick warm skin over lean  muscles and a nipple that tightened under his questing fingers. The other man broke the kiss with a quiet moan and sat up to shrug out of his shirt. His nipples were a warm copper, tight and erect, and Joe saw goosebumps march over his sweat-slicked skin.

From there it was only a matter of time until they Joe divested himself from his pants and Lundy wriggled out of his jeans. LaFiamma's hot eyes followed every movement. The passion of the moment made his breath quicken, his skin flush and banished the lingering coldness from his heart. To feel -- connected like this to another human being, and not only for a night...

"Is this a one-night stand, Lundy? Tell me, I've got to know." All arousal fled and the cold returned. He suddenly felt ridiculous in his briefs, almost naked, his hair in disarray, his clothes crumbled on the floor.

"Not if I have anythin' to say in it, Joe." How could Lundy always make these leaps of faith, and he himself couldn't even put into words what he was dreaming of? He nodded shortly, jerkily.

Lundy was naked now, and helped him out of his briefs. The long, elegant hands touched his cheek again and traveled downwards from there, trailing the tendons in his neck and outlining the muscles in his chest, rubbing the place where his ribs ended. Skirting the edges of his navel. Touching the first dark hairs on the way to his groin...

Joe tore his gaze away from the path of Lundy's hands, concentrating instead on the expression of rapture on the face above him. The brown iris had almost disappeared, swallowed by the black of Lundy's dilated pupils, and the passion and abandonment he saw there made him catch his breath. How long had it been for Lundy? He didn't dare ask. Instead, he stared at the shadowed features, catching the gleam of white in the panting mouth, the distinct form of the nose, the soft lines under the eyes, the firm shape of his upper lip, and felt overwhelmed with feelings raging in his chest.

The next touch of Lundy's hand overwhelmed all of them and brought pure need to the surface. Warm, slightly hesitant fingers drew a line from the tip of his cock to the base, then closed around him tentatively.

He couldn't get over how good it felt.

His hissed "Yessss." was almost soundless. Lundy's cock was also erect, straining against his belly. He could smell the musk of both of them, a heady tang that made his head spin and raised his arousal another notch. He reached out with his right hand, intending to touch. Lundy deflected his grip with a slight turning of his body.

"No, Joey, don't. Can't... it's too much." Lundy's voice was strained, was pure sex. And the slender fingers never released their tight, knowing grip of his own hot flesh. LaFiamma shuddered.

"Not fair." His own voice was also breathless, a mere whisper, "I also want to touch."

"Later." Lundy's soft voice transformed the single word into an intimate promise. LaFiamma trembled again and let his hand fall away, soon making fists around handfuls of sheets. Thoughts he'd never dared to acknowledge now flooded his brain. How would Lundy feel in his hand, how would he taste in his mouth, how would it feel if...

Lundy's hold of his cock was slick now, wet with his precum, and Lord, it felt so good, just a little bit more and...

"No." This time it was his hand that stopped Lundy's fingers moving over his flesh. He trembled in reaction, his resolve weakening. But the absence of sensation also made the hollowness in his heart return to the forefront, and he knew that he'd need more to banish this deeply instilled feeling of hurt, of loss, of absence. "Levon. Please."

"What?" Lundy's voice sounded exasperated, but with the newfound understanding between them, LaFiamma could easily detect the concern underneath. He stroked Lundy's flank a little, just because he could, just because he needed the contact.

"I know you've never tried it, and I haven't, I mean, I haven't even thought about it until today, and even then, I didn't think about it more than, you know, just kind of dream, and..." He moaned audibly at Lundy's smirk and tried again, "Lundy -- Levon, I -- I want you to... take me." Out in a rush. Not it was time for the embarrassment to follow, and boy, did it follow... His face felt hot, and he couldn't meet Lundy's eyes. "I -- I've got condoms in my wallet."

"Joe, I told you this ain't just a one-night stand fer me. So why the rush? Isn't like we couldn't take it slow."

"Will you just... stop contradicting me, cowboy? Give me the courtesy of knowing what I want, okay? I -- I just need it, Lundy." With an angry motion, LaFiamma gripped Lundy's wrist and tore his hand away from his erection, mourning the loss of contact and quickly feeling anger replace it. He felt his shoulders lock and the familiar aggression come to the surface. Dear God, why was it always easier to fight with Lundy than to get close to him? He suppressed the desire to lash out with words or fists and took several deep, calming breaths. The fury abated.

Lundy's face was contrite and oddly vulnerable in the dim light, and Joe allowed the touch on his cheek that was quickly becoming familiar. "Sure, I'd like ta, wanted since that first week you drove me crazy, LaFiamma, but that ain't something I got whole lotta experience with, you know? Don't wanna hurt you."

"I want you to do it. Just like I told you -- I need it, Levon." Only pride made him not add the second 'please' that seemed to be stuck in his throat. He felt his heartbeat resonating in his hard-on, a light sweat breaking out on his back. Anticipation, fear and determination warring with each other.

Thank God his partner stopped asking and just got up silently to get LaFiamma's jacket. Lundy threw it unceremoniously on the bed, smiling a little: "Here. Figured you'd find it faster than me. Didn't know there was anythin' in there apart from yer credit card."

Joe had a laugh startled out of him and took out the thin foil packet. He tried to hide the sudden slight trembling of his fingers. "Do you know how to...", he broke of, blushing furiously. He'd spent some time with Vice, back in Chicago, but hearing about something and actually trying it were two totally different things.

"Yeah." Levon's voice was husky, intimate. "Read all 'bout it I could, back in college -- I was young, horny an' desperate, if you know what I mean? An' with a pretty good imagination, too." The long fingers grabbed his in a short, reassuring squeeze.

A wave of heat washed over him.

Oh yes, he trusted the cowboy to do it right.


He would have preferred face to face, but Lundy was right -- the first time, they'd better play it safe. //I want this//, he told himself firmly, trying to still the nervous fluttering in his stomach. Still the first slick, awkward stroke over his sensitive flesh came as a surprise. He shuddered and tried to relax. His erection had wilted somewhat. Where Lundy's self-control came from was something he didn't know.

The next stroke didn't startle him as much. Lundy's warm, calming touch on his hip helped a little. The fingers teased him, promising more, then returning with more slickness. Skin lotion, Levon had said. For rough skin after manual work or too much sun. He gulped in air when the first finger breached him. The muscles in his thighs locked, and he had to fight the urge to escape.

Unfamiliar, but nice. The strange sensations continued. Lundy slipped the finger in deeper with relative ease, rotating it a little. Joe held his breath to concentrate on the feeling inside of him. Lundy returned with two fingers, unexpectedly pressing a kiss on the small of LaFiamma's back.

This time it was harder to relax. He only managed it when Levon started to stroke his cock in counterpoint to the shallow little thrusts inside of him. He felt the cowboy hook his finger a little and drew in a shocked breath, almost a moan, when he felt a flame ignite inside of him.

"D'you like that, Joey?" The whisper was even more intimate than the fingers invading him, now returning as three. He barely noticed the initial discomfort, angling his body towards the incredible sensation he'd experienced before.

Fire along his spine.

He bit back a scream and rocked against the fingers, hard, taking them as far as he could. God, if he'd known it could feel like this... "Please, Levon, do me, now, now, please, sweet Maria..."

The fingers withdrew, and he groaned loud, his hips snapping backwards, the sudden feeling of emptiness confusing. "Take it easy, Joey, we're almost..." Lundy's voice sounded breathless and just as short from losing control as he felt. Finally. That restraint hadn't been normal, he thought dimly, before he didn't think anything at all, just losing himself in the pain/pleasure of Lundy's entry.

Soon, their sweat-slicked bodies were pressed flush against each other, Lundy's fast, shallow panting in his ear, a sleek arm locking around his chest in an iron grip making it difficult to breathe. He moved tentatively, rocking a little, almost sobbing at the delicious friction inside. His biceps muscles stood out in sharp relief as he lunged backwards, taking Lundy by surprise. The hoarse cry in his ear was gratifying, he thought, feeling his balls draw up. The arm around his middle unlocked and the hand strayed downwards to close clumsily around his cock. He moaned at the dual sensation, but Lundy still didn't move.

"Damn, Lundy, move! Come on, cowboy, come on, make me feel, make me feel!" He shoved backwards again, almost sobbing in frustration, but the man finally got it. A hard shift of Lundy's hips, and he began thrusting in and out of LaFiamma's ass, harder and deeper, Joe urging him on vocally and with his body.

Harder, harder, deeper. Harder. Oh Lord.

Joe chanted, "Make me feel, make me feel, make me feel..." in an endless litany, choked with emotion. Each trust in its brutal intensity opened his heart wider, made the shadows disappear, chopped away a piece of the brittle, sharp-edged loneliness, made him home, here, in this strange, faraway country, in the arms of this man... He came, just a second before Lundy did, and the pure bliss almost made him black out.

Before he fell sideways when his arms gave out, he grabbed for Lundy's arm and kept it pressed against his stomach. Close to his body where the sweat started to cool slowly, sending goosebumps over his skin. He felt so sensitized that he could have counted in time with Lundy's pulse that beat steadily in his wrist.

"Joey." Lundy sounded rusty, tentative.

He turned his head with a monumental effort. Lundy's eyes had returned to their normal sherry brown, but were so warm they appeared almost golden. The cowboy ducked his chin and refused to meet LaFiamma's eyes. Joe was acutely aware of the dried tear tracks under his own blue eyes.

"Levon." Lundy looked up, a strand of hair sticking to his still bloody brow. "Thank you for..." Joe hesitated, "welcoming me home."

The slow, dazzling smile transformed Lundy's face entirely, and Joe promised himself that he'd do all he could to see it more often.

They'd fought their last fight. It was time to make peace. With Texas, Houston, the HPD, but most importantly, with this man.

"Houston Knights" story by allaire mikháil, 6.103 words, Levon Lundy/Joe LaFiamma, LaFiamma POV, first time, Joe angst, rated NC-17. Set after the first season's episode "Bad Girl".

First time. Sex. Fist fights. Emotional hiccups. Some mush. Not necessarily in that order.
Wow, this is my first first-time story... I never thought I'd actually get that done. Never thought my muse would return like this -- written in one rush from 10.15 p.m. to 05.45 a.m. (ok, I'm a night owl, ok, I'm slow, so what?! <g>). The title refers to Lois McMaster Bujold, Aral Vorkosigan and his words that 'Home is not a place, it's people.' (Go read "Shards of Honor" and "Barrayar", shoo!)
If anything, this whole story is Levon's fault. I'd eat that man if I could! Those jeans are a national health hazard. And that mouth... Oh my.
This story wouldn't have ever been written without ljgwendolen -- she lent me the tapes. She made it happen. Thank you *so* much. I also want to thank James Walkswithwind for taking the time to read and beta this story -- she caught one or two things I would have been eternally embarrassed about, helped with canon and dialect, and made me confident enough to post this. A further thank-you goes to the guys on [Hokns] -- canon is canon, but it sucks sometimes.

I don't own the characters (wish I did, though) and don't get any money off this, either. The respective rights belong to Michael Butler, Jay Bernstein, and various other people. If they were mine, we'd have had at least three other seasons. And Jamie would have left for good. Unfortunately, none of this is the case, so I can only point out that this story belongs to me.

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