Lundy and LaFiamma walked out of Chicken's, and stopped. "What're you gonna do about your uncle?" Lundy looked over.

After a moment, LaFiamma answered, "None of your business. What are you gonna do about Bobby Wilton?"

After a pause, Lundy gave his partner a slight grin. "None of your business."

With that each man walked away, heading to his vehicle. Lundy climbed into his truck and saw his partner slowly getting into his car. After a moment's thought, he started the truck and drove over, stopping to partially block LaFiamma.

LaFiamma rolled down his window and stuck his head out. "What do you want Lundy?" he asked, in a weary voice.

Not sure exactly what was prompting his offer, he leaned partway out of his window. "You reckon you'll be getting much sleep tonight?"

Pictures ran through LaFiamma's mind that he really did not want to think about. 'Well not now,' he thought to himself. 'Thanks a bunch Lundy.' Aloud he said as casually as he could, "I doubt it. You?"

"Nope." Uneasily, Lundy decided to hell with it and asked. At the least he'd just embarrass himself... in front of the man he'd have to see every day for the next who knew how many years. "You wanna swing by my place? Ain't no law against not serving alcohol after 2 at your own home." He said it quickly, hoping he would only sound causal, only sound like he wanted to give them something to do other than sitting awake all night, alone.

LaFiamma considered. The idea appealed, maybe too much. He probably should refuse, it would be better, safer, if he did so but the hopeful almost pleading look in Lundy's eyes that he couldn't quite disguise wasn't something LaFiamma could ignore.

"Sure, what the hell?" he answered, amply rewarded by the brief flash of pleased relief he saw in the other man's face.

"Great." Lundy hid the grin that threatened to spread wide, instead giving the man a brief nod and pulling the truck out of Chicken's parking lot. He glanced in the rearview mirror to see LaFiamma tailing him.

'Right where I.. dammit, Levon, you are not thinking about that!' Scowling at the early morning traffic, he tried not to think about ways to spend the rest of the night. Seducing his partner was not one of the more intelligent ideas he'd ever had.

LaFiamma followed, pleased to note that he actually knew where he was and where he was going. It was nice not to feel lost all the time anymore, on the roads or in his life in general. His partner had been in a great way responsible for the latter, giving LaFiamma something, someone to hold on to in this new city, new life.

'I do not need to be thinking this, especially not right now, when I'm driving to his house in the middle of the night.' Shaking his head, LaFiamma firmly turned his thoughts to something a little less dangerous.

It wasn't long before Lundy pulled into his drive, LaFiamma still close behind him. Parking the truck out of the way, he waited for LaFiamma to join him before heading for the front door. It was only as his partner was walking up to him that he realized how nervous he was.

"Got beer in the fridge," he heard himself say, thinking he must sound like a teenager on his first date. 'This is not a date, Lundy. Seeing Bobby again's all that's making you feel this way.'

"Sounds good," LaFiamma replied, trying to hide his nervousness. He suddenly realized that this was the first time Lundy had invited him over. All the other times he had invited himself, circumstances not giving Lundy any choice but to accept his presence. A warm feeling flowed through him at the thought that Lundy actually wanted him there and he couldn't totally hide the pleased grin it brought to his face. 'Christ, you've got it bad,' he told himself.

Without giving himself a chance to say anything else, Lundy turned and hurried up to the porch, shaking his keys. He didn't turn around as he unlocked the door, heading inside as he heard LaFiamma behind him.

As the light was snapped on he stopped, and glanced over his shoulder. "Sorry." He still wasn't entirely in the habit of turning the lights on until he needed them.

"Don't worry about it. I could probably find my way around without it if you'd prefer--?"

"Oh, no, it ain't that..." Lundy took a deep breath, and figured it was late enough that if he needed to, tomorrow he could pretend he'd never said a word. Early morning hours were good for that sort of thing. "I just... got used to leavin' the lights off when I was married. Caroline would go to sleep and I'd come home from working late and not want to wake her up," he looked away and admitted what he suspected his partner already knew. "She'd be waking up with a hangover half the time anyway, and the lights bothered her."

LaFiamma wasn't sure what to say in response to that painful honesty. Instead he allowed himself to follow his instincts and reached out and gave his partner's arm a comforting squeeze.

With a small smile he hadn't expected, Lundy looked at his partner. "Anyway, I forget no one but me knows his way around this place in the dark. You want that beer?" He said the last quickly, stepping back. His arm had begun to grow warm, and he'd found himself thinking of how nice it would feel to....

'Funny, though, the look on Joe's face is almost like he's thinking it, too.'

"Huh? Yeah, sure." LaFiamma spent a moment trying to get himself back under control. He had not been prepared for the emotions engendered by that one simple touch. For a second he had almost... Ruthlessly he cut that thought off.

For a second Lundy was tempted to forget the beers, to dive in and ask the question -- one of a dozen questions -- that were demanding attention. 'Too dangerous, he's your partner no matter what ever else he might be he's your partner.' Lundy felt himself calm down a little, and nodded, and headed for the kitchen.

LaFiamma found himself drawn to the wall of pictures, as he was every time he was alone in this room. From Lundy's stories he thought he could recognize some of the people now -- that older woman with the twinkle of humor in her eye had to be Mother Minnie for example. He heard Lundy come back but didn't turn around right away. His feelings were still too close to the surface and the photos were safer to look at.

"Someday I'm gonna replace those with pictures of foreign politicians just to see if anyone notices." Lundy laughed. He remembered the times he'd watched his and Caroline's friends looking at pictures of strangers they'd never know, never meet. Why would anyone care so much to see their faces? And yet every time someone new was invited over, it never failed. Drawn like moths, they'd wander over and look. It was a mark of distinction when they stopped looking -- indicating a change from causal friend to closer friend. That thought reminded him of something else -- the best friends never stopped.

"I was thinking it was nice to finally be able to put some faces to those stories you've been telling me." LaFiamma pointed to one picture. "That's got to be Mother Minnie."

"Yeah," Lundy walked over and handed Joe the beer. He took a drink of his own and pointed. "That's my mother there with her. I was about fifteen when it was taken."

LaFiamma looked closer. "She's very pretty. You look a lot like her."

"Comments like that will get you dinner." It was out before he realized he'd said it. For a second he was frozen, then he took another drink of his beer. 'Pretend it didn't mean anything, and it won't.' Lundy looked at the photo. "She died about six months after that."

'I didn't just say that, did I? And he didn't just... Damn. I'm in serious trouble here.' LaFiamma took a swig of his beer as he tried to gather his scattered thoughts. An awkward silence fell between them.

Casting around for something to break it, LaFiamma's eyes lit on a certain picture. "That you and Bobby?" he asked.

"Yeah. Junior year of college." He pointed to another, smaller photo. "This one was taken... that summer I told you about."

Looking at the photo, Lundy couldn't help but remember. Bobby had been everything to him, once upon a time.

The photo was of two boys, arms around each other's shoulders, grinning for the camera. They were in shorts, drenched from the lake visible behind them. The connection between the two boys was almost visible. LaFiamma felt a sudden irrational stab of jealousy. Bobby had had this, had been that close to Lundy and then had thrown it away. LaFiamma's opinion of the man went even lower.

"Tell me about that summer," he found himself asking, suddenly wanting to live it, even if only vicariously.

Lundy sighed. "Man, there was so much going on that year..." 'And how much do I want to tell you?' He stepped away from the wall, walked over to the couch and sat down on one end.

LaFiamma followed, sitting down beside him. "I can imagine," he said. "That was the first summer after your mom died wasn't it?"

"Yeah. We'd moved back out the year before..." he stopped, and started again, realizing his partner knew almost nothing about his life. "When I was six my dad started being gone a lot, working out of town and all. Momma and I lived with her parents for a few years until he came back, acted like he was gonna stay for good.

"So we moved out, weren't a few months before he started leaving town again. He came back when she died..." Levon shook his head. He'd nearly forgotten what it was he was supposed to be talking about.

"Anyhow, she was gone and my dad and I kept fighting. When he caught me with Lee he threw me outta the house. Never was sure if it was just an excuse or not to be rid 'a me."

"Man that's rough," LaFiamma said shaking his head. A lot of things Lundy hadn't said when he'd talk about his past suddenly made sense. Then he frowned. "Lee?"

'Oh hell, I didn't say that, did I?' He thought it over for nearly three seconds then decided -- he'd never been particularly closeted with his partners once he'd gotten out of uniform and had some semblance of job security.

Regardless, he would have preferred to plan this a little better. 'No help for it now.' "Lee was a kid I knew in high school. Uh... a boy I knew. Dad didn't take too kindly to finding out his son went both ways." He felt the flush on his face and hoped he hadn't just made a huge mistake. He knew LaFiamma wasn't homophobic, not after the night he'd walked into the Cowgirl -- one of Houston's lesbian bars -- searching for information. But that didn't mean he was ready to hear this about the man he had to work with.

To say that LaFiamma was stunned by the admission would have been an understatement. 'He- I- We-' He took a deep breath and tried to get his brain to complete a thought.

When it finally did he was a bit surprised at what it was. 'He had more courage than I ever did.'

Lundy risked a glance over at his partner and wasn't surprised to see the shock on his face. There didn't seem to be any hint of anger, or disgust, however.

LaFiamma realized that Lundy was probably waiting for his reaction and kicked himself for keeping the man hanging. And maybe Lundy's courage would help him find a little of his own.

"It's hard to choose sometimes between being yourself and being who your family expects you to be," he said quietly, looking down at his hands.

"Ain't it the truth." Lundy gave LaFiamma a careful look, and wondered what exactly the other man's family had expected him to be. Not part of the Outfit, like his uncle. Joe had said often enough that his mother and Aunt Teresa had worked hard to keep him clear of it.

"That was one thing I.. one thing Bobby did for me. Didn't make me choose between being myself and being his friend. When my dad threw me out I spent a few weeks wandering around. Sleeping on the school grounds, most nights. He wanted to go give my dad hell for it but I wouldn't let him." He smiled, remembering how hotheaded Bobby had been. How protective.

"Were you and he-?" LaFiamma bit off the question. It was none of his business.

"Yeah, we were. Just for the summer, though. Halfway through our sophomore year of college he decided it had been a mistake -- pretended it never even happened." Lundy wasn't surprised by the bitterness in his tone.

"Nearly four weeks I stayed at his place, sharing a room with him. You know what it's like, that age. Every night we were doing something new... Man, shoulda been a dream come true." He hesitated, thinking back, trying to separate his memories from the man he'd met again the other day. "I guess back then it was."

LaFiamma was silent for a moment, finally understanding Lundy's furious loyalty. It was as much or more to his memories than it was to Wilton.

It made what Wilton had said to Lundy all the worse, because it wasn't just an attack on Lundy himself but on what was obviously a very precious piece of his past. Again LaFiamma found himself reaching out and offering comfort through his touch.

Startled, Lundy looked over at his partner. It wasn't that he hadn't remembered the man was sitting there -- perhaps it was just the unexpected reassurance that he hadn't changed things between them with his revelations.

He tried to remember what else he had been planning to say, and couldn't find his train of thought. It had ended with Bobby, 17 years old, giving him one last kiss before the first day of school. 'We can't be this way anymore, Levon. But you'll always be my best friend.'

The silence stretched out between them as LaFiamma watched the emotions flow across his partner's face, as Lundy was lost in his memories. He felt another irrational surge of jealousy, and anger at Wilton. How could the man throw away Lundy's affection like that?

"I understand now why you've been defending him Lundy, but it doesn't make me like him any better. Just the opposite. If it had been me I'd never--"

'Whoa... where the hell had that come from?'

'If it had been you?' Lundy didn't say a word, letting that out-of-the-blue comment bounce off him. He tried to focus on something easier -- or just safer. "I suppose maybe you're right." He heard his words and spoke again, quickly. "Bobby isn't the same kid I knew back then... much as I hate to admit it, he might know more than he's saying."

Lundy looked away, reviewing the things his partner had said, things Bobby had done. He found he didn't really have to look all that hard.

It was over.

LaFiamma wasn't sure what they had managed to accomplish on this case; Bobby Wilton had still wound up dead. And LaFiamma's uncle had cut him off. It was just another tie to Chicago and his old life that had been severed.

Lundy stood by the Jimmy, waiting for his partner to catch up. The paperwork was done and the case was closed. He wasn't sure when he'd been so glad to see the end of something.

It was barely four o'clock in the afternoon -- their reward, going home early. Some reward. He glanced at LaFiamma. "You want me to just drop you off at home?" Lundy was too tired to think of doing anything else. Tired and just a little shocked at seeing Bobby lying dead on the floor.

LaFiamma thought about going back to his apartment and spending the rest of the day alone. He thought about Lundy going home to his empty house with all the pictures on the wall, pictures that surely today would seem more like ghosts. "Why don't you come up for a while when we get there?" he found himself asking. "I owe you a few drinks anyway."

"Sounds like a good idea." Lundy gave his partner an innocent grin. "Not that I'm keeping track, but you owe me five beers."

"Four," LaFiamma immediately corrected. "I never drank that one the first night at your place." He immediately felt like kicking himself for bringing up yet another painful ending to a case.

Lundy laughed. "Long as we ain't keeping count." With that he climbed into the truck.

LaFiamma breathed a sigh of relief that the potential conversation grenade hadn't gone off in his face. He climbed into the passenger's side and leaned back in his seat closing his eyes as Lundy started the engine and drove out of the parking garage.

A click of the radio and the sounds of country music filled the cab. LaFiamma smiled slightly; he still hated the stuff but at the moment it was a reminder that despite his uncle's words he wasn't alone.

He supposed he should make a crack about the music, as he always did but he just didn't feel like it. So he sat back with his eyes closed and listened.

The ride to Joe's place was a quiet one. Lundy didn't feel inclined to talk, despite his brief good mood -- due to LaFiamma's offer, he knew. It should have been strange, that for all their fighting and antagonism at work that either of them should seek out each other's company after hours.

But here he was, heading off to drink some beers he did not want just for the excuse to spend the time. It wasn't just the need to keep from seeing Bobby's face -- smiling at him at the fishing pond, glaring at him in disgust, stunned in death. Lundy shuddered.

Beside him, LaFiamma sensed his partner's sudden tension. Opening his eyes, he turned his head and looked at Lundy for a long moment. He wasn't sure he liked what he saw. "You all right?" he asked finally.

"Fine. Traffic's a bit crazy tonight." He kept his gaze focused on the road ahead of him. Bobby had called him a loser, told him he'd wasted his life. Later he'd said he had meant those words for himself. He wanted to believe that his former best friend hadn't turned so far against him... which time had Bobby been lying? The first lover he'd ever had was lying in the city morgue, shot mere hours ago. Lord, how many was that now?

LaFiamma watched his partner, his concern growing in leaps and bounds at what he saw. He knew Lundy was going to need to talk about all this but here and now, in the middle of rush hour traffic was definitely not the right time or place. So LaFiamma decided to do what he could to help his partner hold it together at least until they got to his place.

Reaching out, he started to turn the radio dial, intent on changing the station. "Do we really have to listen to this stuff? If I have to hear one more cowboy singing about how his pickup truck broke down..."

"And if I have to listen to the electronic noise you call music I think I'll drive into oncoming traffic!" Lundy snapped at his partner, surprising himself a little at the anger he felt. He tried to cover for it, since it wasn't his partner he was angry at. "Leave it alone, LaFiamma, or I'll make you walk home."

LaFiamma backed off quickly, holding his hands up as he did so. "Okay," he said in a calming voice. "Sorry. I was just trying..." He trailed off, letting Lundy draw his own conclusions. 'Can't very well say I was trying to distract you from Bobby's murder, after all, can I?'

Lundy gave his partner a brief but piercing glance. "You were just trying to give me a headache?" This time his tone was normal -- normal for their usual arguments. Lundy hoped LaFiamma wouldn't think he was angry at him; he didn't feel up to trying to find an apology, much less an explanation. He didn't want to think about why.

"Forget it," LaFiamma said, shaking his head. He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. God, he was tired. And if he felt this bad what could Lundy possibly be feeling?

With a sigh, Lundy let it drop. He tried to focus on the traffic again, the tones of Alabama now filling the truck, and his mind. He wanted to go home and... No. He didn't want to go home. There was someplace much better for what he needed.

A beer or two at LaFiamma's, then he'd go out for the evening. The backrooms at the Venture would be just the thing.

LaFiamma could almost feel the tension rolling off the man seated beside him. Opening his eyes, he saw with relief that they were now only a few blocks away from his apartment. Once there he was going to get Lundy to talk to him and he wasn't going to let the other man leave until....

Well until he was sure his partner was going to be all right. That was what he had been thinking, wasn't it?

A few minutes later Lundy pulled into the guest parking spot for Joe's apartment. It was still early -- way too early to go to the bar. But perhaps once he left here, he could stop and get supper then go.... Then if all went well he'd wake up late tomorrow without ever having thought twice about-- "You got real beer up there, LaFiamma?"

LaFiamma flashed him a challenging grin. "Guess you'll have to come up and see, won't you?" He got out of the Jimmy and started for the door, looking over his shoulder to see if Lundy was following.

Lundy grinned, and shook his head. 'One day, boy, they're gonna get you for that smile and I ain't gonna be the one to stop 'em. Might just be me leading the way.' He kept quiet as he followed LaFiamma up to his door.

Once inside, LaFiamma gestured to the couch and walked over to the fridge to pull out two beers. He was silent; now that he had Lundy here he wasn't sure what to say to help.

Beer in hand, Lundy looked around. Wasn't much to the place. He took a sip of his beer; he didn't feel like making small talk, anyway. He glanced at LaFiamma, and noticed the man was awfully quiet.

"Hey, Joe."

"Yeah, Lundy?" LaFiamma asked looking at his partner over the top of his beer bottle.

"Your uncle... when he said you weren't to call anymore. That was just for asking for favors, wasn't it? It wasn't about personal stuff?" He felt damned awkward asking, but the thought had just occurred to him and he needed to know.

LaFiamma shook his head wearily. "I don't know. I'd like to think that he'll still accept my phone calls for family reasons but... You were right Lundy; me phoning him, it looks bad for both of us. Doesn't matter the reason."

Lundy didn't like the tone of defeat he heard, and said carefully, "I just wondered... I mean it ain't like you've been cut off from your family, is it? You got lots of relatives up there--" He broke off, realizing he might just be making things worse. LaFiamma might not want to be reminded he was so far away from his entire family.

"Yeah, I do. But Uncle Mikey, he's special y'know?" He shook his head. "Doesn't matter. I know how he feels about me and he knows how I feel about him, that should be enough. If it was a matter of life or death I know Uncle Mikey would be there, no matter how it looked."

'Was a time when Bobby woulda--' Lundy took a long drink from the bottle of beer, and found himself wishing he'd gone home instead. A shot or two of whiskey before dinner, then a taxi to the Venture. 'What the hell am I doing here?'

"I'm sorry about what happened to Bobby," LaFiamma said quietly, his concerned gaze never leaving his partner's face.

Lundy froze, a second before he would have hurled the bottle across the room. Couldn't do that here, not in his partner's place. Too hard to clean up for one. His jaw clenched, and he stared at the far wall. "Yeah."

LaFiamma groped unsuccessfully for something, anything to say. He was a lot better at pissing his partner off than in getting the man to open up to him. So, as was becoming his habit when words failed him with Lundy, he reached out and laid a comforting hand on his friend's arm. Trying to impart through touch what he couldn't say in words.

Without thinking Lundy jerked his arm back. After a second he knew he ought to apologize, ought to say something. He knew LaFiamma was just trying to help. But what he really wanted -- needed -- right now was to get himself royally and literally fucked, and being touched by his gorgeous, concerned, hell-of-a-partner partner wasn't what he needed.

"Sorry." LaFiamma jumped up from the couch as if burned and moved away from his partner. He kept his face averted, not wanting Lundy to see how much the rejection had hurt. Trying to cover he started talking, babbling really, praying his partner wouldn't hear the underlying desperation in his voice. "You want another beer? Or I could fix something to eat... I promised you a home cooked Italian meal. I know it's not the best time but we're here and we have to eat so..."

Lundy set his beer down on the end table and then rubbed his hand over his face. "I didn't mean..." This was not going to go well. He should just leave. Leave now, get some food and head over to the bar. He looked up at his partner. "Joe, I don't...." He felt miserable. The worst day he'd had in months -- he wanted it over.

The misery in Lundy's voice broke through LaFiamma's hurt. He turned and looked at his partner, his expression for once totally open and unguarded. "What do you want me to say Levon? What can I do to help? I want to, I just seem to make things worse every time I try."

"I don't wanna talk about, it, Joe!" He half-yelled it before he could think of what he needed to say. He looked at his partner, saw something in his face he didn't need to see -- something that made him want to rush over and hide himself in this man's arms. Forgetting everything, just like he wanted. "I just need to stop thinking about it."

"What would it take?" LaFiamma asked. At the look of incomprehension on Lundy's face he elaborated. "To make you stop thinking about it."

'Oh hell you don't wanna know,' Lundy thought. For a second he thought he might have done it. If Joe had been standing just a few steps closer.... He shook his head. "I don't know." He wasn't sure he sounded convincing.

Later, LaFiamma could never figure out what led him to do what he did next. All he knew was that it had felt right at the time. He really didn't remember even making a conscious decision about it; all he knew was that one minute he was looking at the miserable expression on Lundy's face, the next he had walked across the room and pulled the man into a tight embrace.

'Oh lord, give me....' Then for a moment all thought stopped. LaFiamma was holding him tight, holding him close, and for a moment everything else had vanished. Lundy grabbed on tight and closed his eyes. A moment passed, and then he rested his head on Joe's shoulder. 'Don't let me go, don't ever--'

In that moment when all thought had gone he raised his head again and looked at his partner. Looked into his eyes and then he moved.

LaFiamma had hugged his partner in an effort to comfort but when the other man had returned the embrace the only thing he could think of was how right it felt. Then Lundy lifted his head and their gazes met and suddenly Lundy was kissing him and that felt even more right...

Lundy held the man close, pressing his mouth against warm, suddenly and unexpectedly inviting lips. He felt the press of Joe's body up and down his own and in that instant all the anger, all the fear, all the frustration vanished. Replacing it was simple urgency, and need. He opened his mouth and inhaled.

'Oh god...' That was the only thing LaFiamma could think as he felt Lundy's lips open under his, and he tentatively darted his tongue in, deepening the kiss even more. 'This can't be happening...' but it was and it felt too good, too right, to stop.

When the questing tongue touched his, Lundy gave it an encouraging stroke. Rubbing softly along the underside of Joe's tongue, he gave him room to explore. With one hand on the small of Joe's back, Lundy held his partner close, rubbing hard through the layers of cloth, trying to reach the heat he felt. He wanted to rip the man's clothes off him and throw him down, the pressure of his erection straining as he shoved his hips harder against Joe.

LaFiamma felt his partner's hard length push against him and froze, realizing suddenly exactly what he -- they! -- were doing.

Lundy felt the other man suddenly stop moving, and slowly he disengaged himself and leaned back, letting his hands remain very -- very -- loosely at LaFiamma's hips. He saw the panicked look in his partner's eyes and felt himself flush.

LaFiamma cursed himself when Lundy pulled back and he saw the expression on the other man's face. "No," he said quickly, grabbing onto Lundy's arms when he tried to withdraw from him totally. "Stay. It's just I've never..."

Lundy couldn't stop the quick grin, but he managed to pull it back into an inoffensive smile. "Never kissed a guy before?" He wasn't sure why he suddenly felt so happy. Maybe it was the word 'stay'.

It was LaFiamma's turn to flush. "Yeah," he said, avoiding meeting his partner's eyes.

Lundy wasn't sure what to say next -- most of his partners tended to be experienced, if not a little adventurous. But it was obvious that Joe was interested.... He cocked his head slightly, trying to gauge his partner's conviction. "Joe?"

"It's not that I haven't thought about it before," LaFiamma said, still avoiding Lundy's gaze. "It's just- I couldn't- The Family-" He stopped and took a deep breath. "I'm not making much sense am I?" he asked ruefully, finally shyly looking up.

"Actually I'd say you're making sense for the first time since I met you," Lundy teased.

"Thanks a lot," LaFiamma replied trying to sound annoyed and not succeeding.

This time Lundy didn't try to hide his grin. It died on its own, though, as he realized what he needed to ask. "You really wanna do this?"

There was a few seconds' hesitation before LaFiamma nodded. "Yeah," he said, meeting Lundy's gaze clearly. A fleeting smile twitched his lips upward. "Long as you remember I'm figuring this out as we go along."

Lundy laughed. "Been doin' that since you got here." Before Joe could take real offense at his words, Lundy leaned forward again and kissed him lightly on the lips.

LaFiamma closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around his partner again. This time it was he that deepened the kiss, lips parting under Lundy's, a shy invitation.

'Lord have mercy on me,' Lundy thought as he accepted.

'I'm really going to go through with this!' LaFiamma thought with a heady mixture of excitement and apprehension, fear and desire. He had been thinking about it ever since Lundy had come out to him, had been thinking about it, truth be told, even before then. Part of him kept expecting for his alarm to wake him up any second.

Lundy felt his partner's shaking, noticeable only because of the way his body was -- again, now -- pressed up against his own. He slipped one hand around to his back, wanting to hold LaFiamma close but not make him feel trapped.

Otherwise he didn't move, letting his partner make the first moves for now, letting him decide what he could do and what he wasn't yet ready for. That thought led to another, and he realized the couch was nowhere near big enough for them both.

LaFiamma took the arm around his back as permission to wrap his own arms around his partner even tighter. He tried to avoid clutching frantically at Lundy, like a drowning man after a life preserver, even though in some ways that's exactly how he felt. He hadn't felt this awkward and nervous since he was a teenager, making out in the back seat and suddenly realizing that his date was going to let him go all the way.

A half-hysterical laugh bubbled up inside him. It was a pretty apt comparison after all.

The pressure of LaFiamma's arms around him made Lundy want to push forward, grab onto the man and throw him to the floor. He'd done that before, way too many times, so he waited for LaFiamma to break the kiss so he could move them upstairs.

It seemed, however, that Joe was perfectly content to breathe through his nose and continue kissing him for the next three hours. Lundy gave the man's tongue a flick with his own.

LaFiamma's breath caught slightly as he felt Lundy's tongue caress his own. Suddenly needing more oxygen than he could get through his nose he pulled back, reluctantly breaking off the kiss.

Lundy brought his other hand up to LaFiamma's waist, holding him close before he asked, "You wanna head upstairs before we get to the point that we don't care where we are?"

The question brought on another wave of excited apprehension as the reality struck home once again. LaFiamma nodded, thinking, 'Bed's definitely better than the backseat of a car,' and fighting back another hysterical laugh.

Instead of letting go and heading for the stairs, Lundy looked at his partner's face. He looked nervous; who wouldn't be? Was there something else? "Joe, you know you can say no--"

"No!" LaFiamma interrupted in automatic protest. "I mean yes, I mean..." He broke off, running a hand through his hair with a frustrated sigh. Taking a deep breath he tried again. "I know I can say no, Levon but I don't want to. I told you, I want to do this. I'm just--" a self-deprecating shrug, "--a bit nervous. Well a lot nervous. But I don't want to stop."

"Well, then why don't we head up," he nodded towards the stairs, "and pretend you've done this before? You have made love to women before, right? It ain't that much different."

He traced his finger down LaFiamma's cheek, wondering how in the world he had ended up here. Had he planned this?

LaFiamma automatically leaned into the caress watching his partner's eyes. Lundy was starting to think again, he could see it. Afraid that if the other man thought too hard about this he'd change his mind, LaFiamma did his best to distract him. Leaning in he captured Lundy's lips in another kiss, nothing shy or hesitant this time.

Lundy allowed the kiss for only a moment -- well, three -- before he leaned away again. "Dammit, LaFiamma, you keep doing that and I won't care if you end up with rugburn."

"Better continue this upstairs then," LaFiamma replied with a grin, his nerves fading a bit in the face of what affect he was having on his partner. Maybe this wasn't so different after all.

"Right," Lundy nodded, grabbed a hold of LaFiamma's arm, and headed for the spiral staircase.

LaFiamma couldn't totally restrain a chuckle at his partner's eagerness but, feeling just as eager himself, he didn't tease the other man.

Once up in his bedroom though some of his earlier nervousness returned. He hesitated staring at the bed.

The last person he had had up here had been Dani; he had stopped that before anything had happened because it just hadn't felt right. He looked over at Lundy consideringly. This was different. This felt right. He knew he wouldn't be calling a halt to the proceedings this time.

Lundy watched as his partner went through all the usual hesitations. Standing here by the bed, it was suddenly more real than it had been, even downstairs just now. Kisses could be discounted, forgotten; undressing and lying on a bed would be something entirely different. If LaFiamma were going to back out of this, it would either be now or later, when they were together, touching each other.

"If you're gonna change your mind, LaFiamma, I'd appreciate it if you didn't wait too long to let me know." He kept his tone calm; he didn't want to scare the other man off but neither did he want LaFiamma to think he wasn't taking this seriously.

In response LaFiamma wrapped his arms around his partner, pulling his close again. "I'm not changing my mind," he said before initiating another passionate kiss.

When he was finally released, Lundy whispered, "Good. If'n you do at the wrong time I'm kicking you back down those stairs." Then he went back in and began exploring his new lover. He began by kissing the neck, loosening Joe 's tie and undoing the top two buttons.

LaFiamma's breath caught and he tilted his head, giving Lundy better access to his neck. His own hands stroked restlessly up and down the other man's back.

Taking the motion as permission to continue, Lundy unbuttoned the remaining buttons and pulled the shirt free. Sliding his hands inside, he touched LaFiamma's skin for the first time.

The touch was like electricity. LaFiamma gasped aloud, his hands clutching at Lundy's shirt. He found himself trembling; if a simple touch could affect him like that, what was the rest of it going to feel like?

The sound of Joe's reaction pulled Lundy in, he felt himself beginning to need, and need very badly. His body had been ready for this long before, and now he was tired of waiting. He pulled LaFiamma in for another kiss, fiercer this time as he tried to devour him an inch at a time.

'God!' was the only thought LaFiamma had as he met Lundy's hunger with his own, just as demanding. Hands still grasping the back of his partner's shirt he managed to pull it up enough to slip one hand underneath, stroking lightly across the smooth skin on Lundy's back.

The fingers were like ice, like fire -- his shivered where LaFiamma touched him and he needed more, so much more. He pulled back and nearly ripped his shirt trying to open it. His hands automatically went to unbuckle the holster at his arm, undressing himself as quickly as he could without moving too far away.

LaFiamma just stood and watched for a few seconds, then his brain kicked into gear and he also reached up and shrugged out of his shoulder holsters, stepping by Lundy to lay them carefully on the night stand. His shirt was already undone and it was a simple matter to slip it off.

Lundy handed his holster out to let LaFiamma set it with the others. He smiled, then laughed. He'd shared this ritual with a lot of people before, but never with someone better armed than he was.

Looking down at the pile of armament LaFiamma smiled back, his eyes alight with humor and affection, looking almost boyish.

Shaking his head, Lundy removed his shirt and dropped it on the floor. He was watching LaFiamma, saw the look in the man's eyes which no doubt mirrored his own.

For a long moment all LaFiamma did was stand there and look at the other man; it wasn't the first time he'd seen him undressed --- he'd seen him with less on than this even -- but this was different.

Lundy stayed where he was for one long second, letting them both have the chance to look. Then he stepped forward and grabbed LaFiamma and pushed him backwards onto the bed.

He pulled off his boots, and then crawled on.

LaFiamma had a few seconds of surprise as he suddenly found himself on his back on the bed but then Lundy's body was covering his own and suddenly it wasn't his brain that was doing his thinking.

Lundy held him down, lying entirely on LaFiamma's body. It let him feel every move his partner made, more importantly it let him press his hips into Joe's, feeling their identical reactions.

LaFiamma moaned, as he felt Lundy's erection press against his own. He arched up, pressing himself even closer, arms wrapping around Lundy again, holding him tightly.

Lundy pushed again, then realized they were still both wearing too much clothing. He scooted back and reached for the LaFiamma's pants. He stopped, hand halfway there, and looked at his partner's face.

Never changing expression or looking away, LaFiamma reached down and grabbed Lundy's hand, pulling it to the button on his pants.

Carefully Lundy began opening Joe's clothing. He let his fingers brush the erection, through underwear, still safe -- still half waiting for LaFiamma to say stop.

A shiver ran through LaFiamma's frame at the touch and he arched up, mutely asking for more. At the same time, he reached out and fumbled with the fastenings on Lundy's jeans.

Giving his partner free access to his own jeans, Lundy continued with his own task. He tried to ignore how it felt, LaFiamma's hands touching him, teasing him, threatening him with more.

He had to move back to pull LaFiamma's pants down, leaving the underwear in place for now.

LaFiamma lifted his hips as Lundy removed his pants then reached again for Lundy's jeans, finishing working the zipper down carefully, his fingers brushing lightly over Lundy's erection as he did so.

Lundy hissed, and pushed himself against LaFiamma's hand. He lay down on the bed, against LaFiamma's side, brain quickly reducing to a single thought.

Encouraged by Lundy's reaction, LaFiamma deliberately ran a finger down the hard length again.

Rolling onto his back, Lundy hoped that finger would start doing something more than just touch. Something more than just one finger. He heard himself moan in frustration.

LaFiamma grinned at the sound and repeated the motion deliberately.

Lundy felt himself arching upwards, trying to encourage more. One hand was gripping the bedspread tight, with the other he pulled Joe closer. He realized his eyes were closed and tried to open them and focus.

Some part of LaFiamma's mind was busy being amazed he was actually doing this but he did his best to ignore it. He continued teasing his partner with one hand and wrapped the other behind Lundy's neck pulling him close enough for another nuclear kiss.

Lundy propped himself up on an elbow to better reach his partner's mouth. As he tried to inhale LaFiamma's tongue, Lundy moved his hand down to his jeans, trying to jerk them down, hoping that the loss of clothes would convince LaFiamma to do more than just tease.

LaFiamma moved to help Lundy get rid of his jeans, moaning himself as the Texan's squirming brought him into contact with LaFiamma's own erection.

Hearing the moan, Lundy grinned, looking down at LaFiamma's face. The other man was not quite as caught up in the sex as he could be -- probably still worrying some. But otherwise the expression was one Lundy was amazed to see, one he decided he'd love to see again. And again. The look of arousal was clear, shining in his eyes which were wide open, showing everything a man could hope to see.

The lust faltered for just a moment, overcome by another emotion. Lundy leaned down and kissed him, gentle and slow, then kicked his jeans onto the floor and pulled his lover closer. 'Lover... oh god, let me wake up and find this has been real....'

LaFiamma watched the emotions play over his partner's face; he watched as the wicked grin and eyes shining with arousal suddenly softened and were replaced by something he'd glimpsed before that made his heart skip a beat. When Lundy pulled him closer, LaFiamma found he could only hold on to him tight, as his own emotions threatened to get away from him.

Holding LaFiamma tightly, Lundy wrapped one leg around his lover's, holding on as if to keep himself from falling. Rocking ever so slightly back and forth, he tried to push himself inside, wrap LaFiamma totally around his body until he disappeared. His motions became more urgent, more frantic as he tried to get closer and found himself still too far away.

LaFiamma tried to calm the other's desperation, stroking Lundy's back soothingly and whispering comfort in his ear. He felt a little unsure about what exactly was happening; all he knew was that suddenly this wasn't about sex anymore.

Dimly Lundy heard his partner's voice, but he ignored it, digging his fingers into the man's arm and back as he tried to get in. He felt himself shaking, and knew that he had waited too long. Let himself get aroused, let himself think he would be free for the night and then he'd gone and seduced someone he cared for and had to take his time, make it right... "Dammit!" He reached out again.

LaFiamma was beginning to feel more and more out of his depth. "What should I do?" he asked, not even aware he'd done so out loud, still holding onto his partner and running his fingers over the other man's skin.

'This isn't what I need right now,'Lundy thought, trying to stop those very thoughts and refocus on why he was here -- in bed with LaFiamma, about to have something he had been wanting for weeks. Why was he shaking, now? Why did his brain have to betray him like this? He looked at his partner and saw uncertainly had replaced the eager lust.

"Make me stop thinking, Joe, please," he whispered, not sure if his partner could give him what he needed.

LaFiamma was incapable of ignoring the whispered plea, even if he wasn't exactly sure how to carry it out. But he would do his best. "Tell me if I do something wrong," he said, then slid a hand down Lundy's back, slipping it inside the briefs and wrapping it tightly around the still hard erection he found there.

Lundy gasped, pushed himself into the hand that had grabbed him. With the hand still digging into LaFiamma's arm he pulled, bringing LaFiamma closer so he could hang on to something... something solid. "Just like you would yourself," he managed, trying to give instructions when he just wanted to be taken, pushed over the edge and left falling.

LaFiamma stroked Lundy, listening closely to the man's breathing and soft moans to figure out what touches had the most effect. The entire situation felt a bit surreal to him; on one hand what he was doing was very familiar, much like what he did to himself, as Lundy had said. On the other... this was Lundy he was stroking, Lundy who was moaning at his touch. That thought sent a rush of tingling heat down to his own groin.

The hand grasping him was warm, firm, and unfamiliar. Lundy pushed himself against the motion on his cock, trying to drive the speed. The body beside his shifted, and he remembered through the growing haze that he was with someone who might be wanting him as badly. He turned slightly, facing his bedmate, and reached down. The touch of silk guided his fingers until he heard a sudden gasp.

'God!' LaFiamma wasn't sure if he meant that as a curse or a prayer as Lundy's hand closed over him. He pushed forward into the hand that now held him, needing more of the touch. Somehow he managed to keep up the rhythm off his hand on Lundy's cock, even though his ability to think was rapidly disappearing.

Quickly finding the rhythm he wanted, Lundy rubbed his lover near-automatically. The hand on his own cock continued, faltering once then resuming -- Lundy ducked his head into the space between head and mattress and searched for a place to suck.

He wondered if it would be okay to bite, and the thought shot him back into awareness again.

The hand stroking him suddenly stopped and LaFiamma could feel his partner tense up again. Acting solely on instinct he grabbed the back of Lundy's head with his free hand and pulled him into a bruising kiss, as he sped up the rhythm of his other hand.

"Oh god," Lundy breathed, set on fire as his mind finally, willingly, shut off. He matched the speed with his own hand, feeling his lover tensing beside him. He heard someone moaning.

Thought had temporarily left LaFiamma as well. He gasped and moaned, tensing as he felt himself reaching the point of no return, struggling to maintain his movements as he toppled over the edge.

With a soft groan Lundy's mind went blank. His body seemed to explode from every corner, trembling and shaking. Everything around him vanished, for a moment, before the world crept back in.

Joe was lying draped across his chest; he pulled the man closer and kissed his forehead, smiling as he released him again.

The dazed state of LaFiamma's mind finally began lifting. He turned his head to look at his lover -- the thought brought an involuntary grin to his face -- relaxing when he saw him smiling.

"You still breathing over there?" Lundy asked, lazily. He felt somewhat like just closing his eyes and falling asleep. He felt more like lying here and watching LaFiamma.

"Barely. You?" LaFiamma's tone made it clear he was asking more that about just breathing.

Lundy looked away, briefly. His body was shutting down, content to lie here -- sideways, he realized, sideways and wearing sticky shorts -- despite anything else. "Yeah, I'm breathing." He squeezed his eyes tightly closed. Others weren't.

Mutely LaFiamma reached out and touched Lundy's cheek.

He moved his head away from the touch as the images began to assault him. 'Didn't last long,' he thought. Forgetting only for the few short minutes. He couldn't get rid of the sight of Bobby lying on the floor, dead... and some friend he was, commemorating his friend's life by jumping into bed with someone.

He started to pull his arm out from under LaFiamma, intent on finding his clothes and getting the hell out of there. He stopped, when he couldn't think of anyplace to go.

LaFiamma froze, dismayed, when Lundy jerked away from his touch. Fear began to unfold itself in his gut. Had he just ruined everything by doing-- He couldn't complete the thought. Closing his eyes, he shivered, not sure he could take another rejection today, on top on his uncle's.

"I'm sorry," Lundy said.

LaFiamma didn't respond right away, unsure if Lundy was apologizing for pulling away or for what they'd done before. If it was the latter he didn't want to know.

Lundy rolled closer, knowing he didn't want to leave but knowing, as well, he couldn't simply close his eyes and go to sleep.

Feeling the other man move nearer, LaFiamma tentatively reached out and touched him again, dismayed to realize his hand was trembling.

Startled, Lundy looked at his partner. He recognized the expression the other man was trying to hide. Leaning close, he gave him a kiss. "Ain't you I'm sorry for, LaFiamma."

All the tension left LaFiamma's body at once at those words and he found himself perilously close to tears. Not trusting himself to speak just yet, he pulled his partner into his arms and embraced him tightly, even as he told himself he was acting like a fool.

Lundy went into the embrace gratefully, glad he had at least not turned this into a mistake. Maybe, it occurred to him, he could sleep, sleep here in his partner's arms.

They'd have to clean up, first, and they ought to do it soon. Not yet, though, and he burrowed closer against the hot, sticky skin against his. Not yet....

LaFiamma held Lundy and felt the tension slowly drain out of his body as he listened to his partner's breathing even out into the deeper rhythms of sleep. It wasn't long before he followed.

Slowly each man tumbled into sleep, wrapped in each other's arms. Outside the evening traffic began to swell as workers headed home. The noise did not quite reach the apartment, did not disturb them in their tangle. And each one, as he slept, did not dream.

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