LaFiamma watched the nurse leave after informing them of Guiterrez's status. "Guarded condition?" He turned and started pacing. "What the hell does that mean?"

"It means sit down and wait," Lundy replied calmly, watching his partner over the top of his cup of coffee.

"Wait for what?" he asked, memories of standing in the ER in Chicago waiting for them to pronounce Szabos dead flashing in his mind. "To lose another partner?"

"Partner?" Lundy echoed, his surprise at LaFiamma's choice of words evident in his voice.

"Yeah. He's a cop, a good cop," LaFiamma admitted. "He was after a killer." He sat down in a chair and slumped forward. "I don't know... it was his uh.. his attitude, coming in here acting like he knows everything y'know?"

"Yeah I know what you mean LaFiamma." Lundy couldn't keep the amusement totally out of his voice. "I gotta put up with that every day." He watched his partner get up and head for the door. "Hey! What do you think you're doing?"

LaFiamma stopped and looked at him. "The same thing I'd do if it was.." Abruptly he bit off the word "you" before it could pass his lips. It wasn't something he wanted to think about, much less voice. "...anybody in there," he finished in a more subdued tone before walking through the door and leaving.

For a moment Lundy didn't move. He'd heard what hadn't been said, and couldn't quite believe it. A second later he couldn't believe he was surprised. If Joe were the one in there... well, suffice it to say that Lundy hadn't realized his partner would care that much for a man he seemed to barely tolerate. Any cop hurt on the job would be worth the concern, but the level of anxiety LaFiamma was showing didn't account for that. Either the man cared more in general than he let himself show... Lundy shook his head. His new partner was more a mystery than he'd realized.

LaFiamma had gotten outside the building before he realized that he didn't have any way to get where he wanted to go, other than walking or calling a cab. They had come in Lundy's vehicle of course. He muttered under his breath. And even if he did have his own wheels, chances were better than even that he'd get lost. God, how he hated this city!

Lundy started moving soon after LaFiamma disappeared through the door. He wasn't sure why he was taking after him, but when he found his partner standing on the sidewalk, looking lost and upset, he stopped. He recognized that look. It was fear -- hidden, and hidden well, but fear all the same. He walked up and stood just outside LaFiamma's space.

Well there was nothing for it, he was going to have to go back inside and phone for a ride. LaFiamma turned and found himself face to face with his partner. "Jesus, Lundy!" he shouted as he jumped back, startled. "Don't sneak up on me like that!"

Reaching out, Lundy steadied the other man with a hand on his arm. "Didn't mean to startle you. Thought you heard me...."

"Yeah, well I suppose I should've," he muttered calming down a bit. "Guess I was a little too lost in my thoughts." He was acutely aware of Lundy's touch and was surprised at how much it steadied him.

Lundy didn't know what to say to that which wouldn't sound awkward. Instead he went for the reason he'd come out here. "He's gonna be all right."

LaFiamma let out his breath in a soft huff of air. "Course he is," he muttered. "He's way too annoying to die." Suddenly he found himself way too close to losing control of his emotions. He pulled his arm from Lundy's hand and tried to get away before he lost it.

Lundy watched him, seeing all too clearly what he knew his partner didn't want him to see. It made him uncomfortable; he didn't want to know this man any better than he had too. LaFiamma was annoying, loud, temperamental, and just plain rubbed him the wrong way.

Didn't explain why he wanted to step closer and take Joe by the arm again, and lead him someplace where they could forget how close Esteban -- or anyone -- had come to dying.

He solved the problem by stepping back. "We better get back inside, see if there's any word." As soon as he said it he wanted to kick himself. He'd just tried to tell LaFiamma he'd be okay, now he reminded him that they didn't really know.

LaFiamma looked quizzedly at Lundy over his shoulder. "Any word..?" he repeated shaking his head to show he didn't understand.

Quickly, Lundy said, "Joanne said she would try to go by and talk to Kathy. Said she might open up to her better than she did to us." He thought of something, and offered it tentatively. "Maybe you could go with her. I think I sorta got her riled last time...."

But LaFiamma was nothing if not tenacious. "Lundy what do you mean by needing to see if there's any word? I thought you said he was going to be okay!"

"Just because we know he'll be all right doesn't tell us when he'll be outta here," Lundy smoothly backpedaled.

"There really hasn't been any news at all has there?" LaFiamma shook his head. "Lundy, sometimes you are just too much. Do you get some perverse pleasure out of yanking my chain?"

Lundy took a step back as LaFiamma's voice rose. He started to apologize then realized he had done nothing wrong. He hadn't lied to LaFiamma about Guiterrez, and the implication that he had was too much. Angry that his attempts to helphis partner were brushed off so cruelly, he snapped, "That's right, LaFiamma, I thought I'd come out here and lie to you while they were gettin' ready to wheel Esteban down to the morgue. I really get off on making jokes about cops dyin'." With a fierce glare he spun, and walked back towards the hospital door.

LaFiamma watched him go silently. He took a few steps after him before he could stop himself. Upset, angry, and frustrated he spun around and punched the wall.

Lundy was so glad to get Farnham out of his truck... out of his state, out of his country. He knew that Guiterrez would find a nice, hospitable place for the man. The Mexican jails were lovely this time of year.

He almost smiled when he realized that the lawyer's presence had kept he and his partner quiet. Now, though, with a long drive home ahead of them there was nothing to give them the excuse. He glanced sideways and saw LaFiamma staring out the side window. Damn the man, anyway. He'd just been trying to help back at the hospital, and his efforts had been slapped down. Maybe he shouldn't have expected anything more.

LaFiamma stared out at the passing scenery, acutely aware of the heavy silence that hung between he and his partner. Now that Guiterrez was recovered and back home in Mexico and Farnham had gotten what was coming to him the only thing left over from the case was this tension between them.

A tension he knew, that was mostly his fault. This case had resurrected a lot of demons for him, demons that had been barely laid to rest in the first place. And Lundy had got caught in the crossfire of his struggle to deal with them.

He had two choices now: pretend that everything was all right and let this uncomfortable silence continue between them or apologize to the man and hope that he would understand. LaFiamma sighed deeply, and leaned his head against the cool glass of the window. Not much choice there.

He cleared his throat. "Hey Lundy," he began, his discomfort evident in his voice, "about what happened at the hospital..."

"Yeah?" Lundy kept his voice neutral. He suspected his partner was about to try to pass off a casual apology for the real thing; while he'd be willing to accept what he got, he'd rather have the real thing. It didn't have to be truth, at least not completely, just something to make him feel as if the next time something like this happened he wouldn't have to wonder what would come of it. Right now he wasn't entirely sure when the other man would fly off the handle -- and whether LaFiamma'd calm down afterwards. It made him uncomfortable. How far could he trust his partner off the job?

"I'm sorry okay? I know I overreacted. It's just..." Joe sighed heavily forcing himself to continue. "The whole thing reminded me of losing my partner back in Chicago."

"Figured as much." Lundy said when his partner fell silent again. He wasn't going to give him anything, though. If LaFiamma wanted to apologize he was going to have to do it all himself.

"The last time I was in a hospital waiting room was when Szabos was shot." LaFiamma swallowed hard as the memories rushed back. "The doctors tried to bring him back but he was dead when they brought him in." He stopped before the lump in his throat could choke his words off.

As soon as Levon heard the words he felt badly -- ashamed, really -- of his stubbornness. He knew what LaFiamma had been remembering, back at the hospital. It hadn't been that long ago and he shouldn't have expected LaFiamma to have everything worked out so soon.

"I understand, Joe," he said quietly. "Ain't never lost a partner but I know what's it like losing someone..." He stopped, and started again. This wasn't about him, or Caroline. "Consider the apology accepted if you want."

LaFiamma thought back to the glimpses he had had of Lundy's grief for his wife. Maybe the man did understand. "Thanks," he said quietly.

Lundy said nothing for several miles. The tension that had filled the cab had dissipated and he was glad to see LaFiamma slouching, obviously more relaxed now than he had been since... well, since they'd first met Esteban. Lundy grinned. It had been pretty amusing watching the two cops bristle whenever they got near each other. The two were just too much alike to get along.

LaFiamma glanced over and saw the smile on his partner's face. "What's so funny?"

For a second he thought he'd angered the man after finally calming him down. Instead he turned to share his grin, and said, "Was just thinking it might be fun to put you and Esteban on stakeout together. Eight hours in a car...."

"Yeah, right," LaFiamma snorted. "That guy wouldn't last more than eight minutes on a stakeout. Then he'd be out of the car and shoving his gun in the suspect's face demanding a confession."

"And the difference between you and him would be...?"

"You saying I don't have any patience?" LaFiamma challenged, then seemed to consider. "Though after eight hours of sitting in a car with you and your so-called music would be enough to make anybody lose their patience."

As Lundy started in on the expected defense of country music, LaFiamma felt the last of the tension between them evaporate. He sat back and listened to his partner, stifling a grin. Everything was back to normal between them.

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