Phones Calls at Night

Levon Lundy sat, waiting by the phone. There was no one to see him so Lundy didn't bother trying to pretend. He was waiting -- sitting in the chair right next to the phone. He didn't know if it would ring. It wasn't like he had anything else to do, anything else better than waiting. So he waited.

He'd been sitting here since he got home. He'd eaten at Chicken's, partly to avoid trying to feed himself at home and partly to delay getting home. He'd known, all day, that he'd spend the evening here. Waiting.

Joe called him this morning at the station. Lundy had been wading half-heartedly through paperwork when the phone had rung and his partner's happy voice had come over the line. He hadn't been expecting the call but had been pleased to get it. They'd talked for only a few minutes, Lundy reassuring LaFiamma that he wasn't out on the streets doing anything dangerous. LaFiamma mentioned briefly the half a dozen things he'd be doing that day. They'd both said something like 'I miss you' then Joe had said good-bye.

It hadn't been good-bye, exactly. He'd said 'talk to you later, Levon'. That wasn't why Levon was now waiting by the phone. Well, it wasn't the only reason. Truth be told he was worried, and it was only when Joe was actually talking to him that he believed he was still safe. Alive, at least.

Joe had gone home to Chicago. Gilia had been killed several months ago and, in a twisted series of events Lundy didn't pretend to understand, the family responsible for the contract on Joe LaFiamma had found itself owing Mikey LaFiamma a rather large favour. He'd called it in almost immediately, asking that his nephew be allowed to return home. The request was granted and one week later Joe and Levon were up North, testing the veracity of the Uncle Mikey's claim that it was safe to do so. They'd stayed a week, with Joe introducing Levon to his family and his city. Since then Joe had gone home for birthdays, weddings, and twice for holidays.

Each time he'd returned to Houston happier. Levon had been noticing that within a week that happiness would have faded, fading a little more with each return. He knew it was a matter of time before his lover decided to move back North.

Lundy didn't pretend to think LaFiamma would ask him to go as well. When they'd visited, Joe had been excruciatingly careful to not let anyone see or hear anything indicative of their real relationship. Lundy had not been invited back to Chicago since the first trip, and as far as he knew Joe's relatives only occasionally asked about him.

Mother Minnie said it was shameful, but she understood Joe's fears. They'd told her nearly as soon as they'd told each other -- she'd responded by setting up the guest room for their visits, letting them use the double bed rather than Levon's old bunks. Beyond that not much had changed. She still treated both as her errant boys, calling after them weekly and nagging after them to visit again sometime soon.

Lundy hadn't told her about all of Joe's frequent trips home, knowing as soon as he did she'd be on him to confess how worried he was. He was worried, and that was why he was sitting by the phone. Every time Joe called him he was reassured that the hit in fact had stayed off, that it wasn't a trick to lure him home to be killed. Every time he called Levon heard how delighted Joe was to be home. Levon simply waited for the call when Joe would say he was coming back.

Waited for the one which said he wouldn't be.

The night was getting older, not yet past time when a man visiting the windy city would be turning in for the night but still, getting late and Lundy would have to go to bed soon. It was, however, late enough to wonder if Joe was going to call.

He hadn't said when. He'd only said later.

Lundy didn't know what he could do, what he could offer his lover to stay. Home and family long estranged were so much more than one lover who argued with him as often as they made love. Joe never complained, never said there was anything lacking. In fact he'd never said aloud that he wanted to move home. Levon had to understand the looks in his eyes, the tone of his voice, and the way he stopped spending every night sleeping in Levon's bed.

He never sounded anything but pleased, when he called from Chicago. Lundy knew he had nothing to compare. He knew there was nothing he could do, or say, that would convince his lover that Houston should be his home forever. There was, of course, the possibility that Levon could move to Chicago. He held no illusions that things would work out -- with Joe hiding his lover from half a continent away, there was no way he'd be able to carry on a relationship with Levon in the same city. Once Joe moved home his relatives would start on him to marry, have kids, settle down and pass on the family name. A male lover would have no place in his life.

So Levon wouldn't even consider the chance he'd be asked. He just didn't want to hear Joe say it. //I'm moving. I'll see you around.//

The phone rang. Lundy almost didn't answer it but on the second ring he grabbed the receiver. "Lundy."

"Hey, partner."

Lundy smiled and leaned back in his chair. "How're you doin', boy?" With the back of one hand he wiped at his eyes.

"I'm doing great, cowboy. You wouldn't believe this--" Lundy heard him stop, speak to someone in the room, then a moment later his lover's voice came back to him. "I miss you, Levon."

//Alone at last.// "I miss you, too." He didn't ask how long until Thursday. LaFiamma's scheduled flight back. "Sounds like you're still enjoying yourself, though."

"Yeah, I am. Spent the day with a some friends I hadn't seen in five years. It was a real blast."

"Glad to hear it." //Please don't tell me anymore about it.//

"So tell me why I'm thinking of changing my plane ticket?"

Lundy felt his stomach hit the floor. Why the hell did LaFiamma sound so cheerful, so... lonely? He tried to answer the teased question but couldn't at first get his voice to work. How had it happened so quickly?

"Levon? You still there?"

"Yeah. I'm still...." He heard his voice, not at all cracked and broken like he felt. He closed his eyes and asked, "So you're staying up there for awhile?"

For a moment there was no reply. Lundy wanted to slam down the phone but he owed it to Joe to hear him out. Finally a quiet, somewhat stunned voice asked, "Staying? I don't wanna stay... I want to come back early because I miss you. I wanna see you."

The words didn't make sense. Lundy opened his eyes and leaned forward as if he could get closer to Joe and hear him better. "You're coming back?"

He heard a quick breath and then, "Of course I'm coming back! Levon, you didn't think I was staying here, did you?" Lundy didn't answer, after a pause he didn't have to. "Geez, no wonder you always get so glum whenever I talk about flying up here again. You think one of these days I was coming up here and not coming back?"

Lundy tried to find his voice, stunned and not sure he understood. "You're not planning on staying there?"

When he heard the reply it was like Joe had stepped up behind him and wrapped him in an embrace. "No, I'm not staying here. I never thought about it -- not seriously, anyway. There's no way we could stay together with my relatives hanging around. I'm sorry about that, Levon. I'd like to be able to bring you with me, but they really wouldn't be OK with it."

"S'all right," he answered, telling himself he was hearing any of this. "I reckoned that's why you weren't telling me you wanted to go home, because you couldn't ask me to go with you."

"Did you really think I'd do that? Leave you just to live in Chicago?"

"I didn't reckon I had much to argue with." He felt exhausted. Joe sounded shocked, but better than that he sounded sincere.

"That's it. I'm coming home tonight. You pick me up at the airport? I'll call from O'Hare and let you know when I'll be in. You're OK to drive, aren't you? You haven't been drinking?"

"No, I haven't been...." He was feeling stunned again. "You're flying back tonight?" Levon sat up straight, suddenly. Had he said 'coming home'? "Joe...?"

"I'm gonna go pack, and let Aunt Teresa know I'm leaving. I'll call you in a couple hours, and then I'll see you soon."

"You don't have to do this, Joe. You've still got a couple of days--"

"I don't need 'em. I do need to be with you. From the sound of it, I need to be there pretty badly."

"I don't mean...." Lundy fell silent. He did want Joe home, guilty as he felt bringing him home early, he knew he wanted Joe home. "Thank you."

"I love you, Levon. Don't forget that. I'll see you in a few hours, OK?"

"OK." He heard Joe move the receiver away and he called out, "Joe?"

"Yeah?" His lover's voice was worried, and full of love.

"I love you, too."

This time he heard Joe's smile. "I'll be home soon." Then he hung up.

Lundy sat, waiting by the phone. There was no one to see him, smiling in the darkness.

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