The Vortex

~ For tittakv.

Tonight was a slow night, by Vortex standards. Levon was behind the bar, working with Mark and Darrin. He liked working with Darrin -- he paid attention and worked fast, so patrons weren't left sniping at the bartender who came over to cover for someone who'd rather flirt with a customer than work.

Mark wasn't normally too bad, but on slow nights he'd spend more and more time standing at the end of the bar, talking to a pretty face. Levon and Darrin took up the slack because customers tipped the man serving them, not the man assigned to serve them. Trouble was, slow nights for the Vortex meant that they could take a break for five or ten minutes every so often.

Busy nights, they didn't take a break at all. When they were working essentially one bartender short, slow nights didn't feel slow at all. Levon handed over a couple glasses of beer and turned towards the guy who'd just stepped up to the bar.

"Can I--" he stopped, then grinned. "Hey, LaFiamma. What brings you here?"

"The fine wine," LaFiamma said dryly, leaning forward so he wouldn't have to shout above the music blaring over the sound system.

Levon reached under the counter -- a bottle of fancy red, which they kept for the very occassional wine drinker. He brought it out, and laughed at the expression on LaFiamma's face.

"You really have wine?" LaFiamma reached over and pulled the bottle towards himself, reading the label. Levon wasn't surpised by the look
of disgust that followed. "Figures. Gimmie a beer."

"I won't bother asking what's wrong with the wine." Levon had probably heard it before. According to Joe, there wasn't a decent bottle of
Italian wine to be found in the entire South. "Bottle or draft?"

"Bottle."

Levon went and grabbed a bottle of beer, half-tempted to try serving LaFiamma a cheap, watered-down beer just to annoy him. But he had
another customer just stepping up to order, so he gave LaFiamma what he knew he'd want, and nodded at him to let him know he'd be right back.

It took about twenty minutes, but finally Levon went back to where Joe was sitting. "Hey. Saw you turn down a couple nice-looking offers," Levon teased, referring to the guys who'd come up to Joe.

"Didn't come here to dance," LaFiamma retorted.

"That what they were asking?" Levon gave him a surprised look.

LaFiamma gave him a half-sneer. "I didn't come here for that, either."

Levon leaned over the bar, and told him, "Boy, you come to the wrong place if you just wanna sit there and drink."

The Vortex, while not the rowdiest of Ramon's three clubs, wasn't exactly a quiet place to sit and nurse a beer. Men came here for two reasons, only one of which was encouraged on the dancefloor. When LaFiamma had called The Vortex a 'nice place', he'd meant that the club
didn't have back rooms for sex. There was still the bathroom, of course, but generally guys who hooked up left the club to do their business elsewhere.

LaFiamma was smirking at him. "How about if I came here for a drink, and to harrass the bartender?"

"Sounds good to me." Levon turned around. "Hey, Mark! Get over here!" Levon gave LaFiamma a wink, then headed back to work. Mark, looking a little confused, nevertheless was walking over to LaFiamma. As he went past, Levon said in Mark's ear, "Get his phone number."

Not because he didn't have Joe's number -- and certainly not because he was trying to hook Joe up. But Mark deserved a bit of trouble, and
trying to get Joe's phone number off him would do it.

And if it didn't, Levon could yell at Joe, and that would be fun, too.

~~~~~

Levon's feet were sore when he finally left the Vortex and headed for the back parking lot, givng Darrin a wave as the other man walked down the street with someone -- Greg? Gary? on his arm. Neither of those things was unusual -- Darrin said he'd either get used to being on his feet for eight hours, or he'd buy a pair of sneakers. Levon had laughed at him when he'd said it, but now he was seriously considering
getting a pair.

The work itself wasn't all that hard, and he rather liked spending his evenings at the Vortex -- even as an employee, and not a customer. The mood was always good, and the crowds didn't get ugly or mean. According to Darrin, who'd been working there for three years, the worst thing to happen was a drunken brawl and no one to go home with at the end of the shift.

Levon had only been tending bar at the Vortex for a few weeks, and so far he'd only seen a few altercations. And going home with someone... well, picking up a stranger for the night wasn't a concern.

He grinned when he caught sight of Joey's Cobra parked on the other side of Levon's truck. It was completely hidden from view of the
street, and Levon wondered just how intentional that had been. He walked around the back of his truck and up to the driver's door. LaFiamma had his chin down -- asleep.

He knocked on the side panel. "Gonna have to move out. Closin' time."

With a mild start, LaFiamma looked up at him, confused. Levon repeated his words, and LaFiamma shook his head. "They can't throw me out of a parking lot, Lundy."

"No, put they might call the cops. Don't wanna get arrested for patronising a gay bar." He smiled as he said it, but there was still the stab of bitterness. Dammit, he'd loved being a cop. What he'd done that had gotten him fired hadn't been all that unusual -- nothing kinky, or weird, or immoral -- just sex with another man. His bad luck it got caught on camera, was all.

"I could tell them I'm on a stakeout," came LaFiamma's reply. "There's a bartender here that I suspect of being a bad cook."

"Yeah?" Levon stepped back, and gave LaFiamma a 'who are you messing with?' look. "I guess you're not looking to get invited to breakfast."

LaFiamma grinned, but it died too soon and he shook his head. "I have to go home and get some sleep. Have to be at Johnson's Marina at six."

He had his mouth open to ask what the was case. But he stopped himself and just nodded. He forced himself to ask, in a teasing tone, "You
aren't just saying that because Mark got your phone number?"

LaFiamma sneered at him. "I'm gonna get you for that, Lundy. He didn't leave me alone all night."

"But did he get your phone number?"

LaFiamma winked. "A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell."

Sometimes he made it too easy. "I ain't asking no gentleman." As expected, LaFiamma just gave him another sneer. Levon asked, "If you've got to get home, why are you sitting here? Bar closed an hour ago; we've just been cleaning up."

"Because I didn't get a chance to talk to you." LaFiamma shrugged, like it was nothing. But he'd sat out here for an hour, for what? Not for a long conversation, because he'd just said he had to get home soon.

"Sorry about Mark," Levon offered. "But I wouldn't have had a chance to talk anyway. Wednesday nights are slow; you should come in then." And why did it feel awkward, all of a sudden? They'd been partners for two years, lived in each other's proverbial back pockets. Hell, they'd even already had their first kiss.

There hadn't been a second one, though. And maybe that was why. Neither of them had mentioned it, and despite everything they were doing Levon had no idea what the status of their relationship was. Friends? Dating? Ex-partners who didn't know what to do with each other?

"Thanks. I'll remember that." LaFiamme looked entirely too serious.

"Should hope so. There's only seven of 'em." Levon grinned. For a man who had to be at work in three hours, LaFiamma didn't seem to be in any hurry.

"Seven?"

"Days. In the week?"

LaFiamma rolled his eyes and didn't say anything.

"You better go on, if you mean to get any sleep," Levon told him, wishing they could stay here but knowing Joe would seriously be miserable if he didn't get at least a couple more hours' sleep.

"Yeah. I'll... I might be busy this weekend -- work, not Mark. Don't look at me like that, Lundy. But I'll call you. Or something. Maybe... I'll try to drop in next Wednesday."

Levon nodded. He wasn't the only one nervous, and it seemed he wasn't the only one who didn't have a clue what they were doing. Levon took a chance, and as LaFiamma started his car, Levon leaned down and gave him a kiss.

LaFiamma stared at him for a long time after Levon moved away -- which would have worried him, if it hadn't been for the smile on Joe's face.

"See you Wednesday," Levon said, giving him a nod and heading for his truck. He didn't look back, and as he climbed in he heard LaFiamma
drive away.

~~~~~

On Sunday afternoon, Levon woke up to the sound of someone banging on his front door. He rolled over and looked at the clock: 2:30pm. He had to shake his head a bit to wake up, wondering if he'd been expecting someone.

He couldn't think of anyone, but he crawled out of bed and grabbed his robe, slipping it on as he headed for the door.

Levon grinned when he opened the door and found Joey standing there.

LaFiamma gave him a startled look. "I wake you up?"

Nodding, Levon stepped back and waved LaFiamma inside. "Got to bed around seven. It's all right, I woulda been getting up soon, anyway."

"Uh..." LaFiamma glanced over his shoulder towards the barn, as he stepped inside. "Don't you have to get up early to feed Fooler?"

"Stay up," Levon corrected. He headed towards the kitchen to start some coffee and LaFiamma followed him, still looking a little confused. Levon elaborated. "I get home around three or four in the morning, depending on how much clean up there is. It's easier to stay up til dawn and take care of Fooler then, than it is to go to sleep and wake up, then go back to sleep."

"Oh." LaFiamma paused, then smiled sheepishly. "Makes sense. Sorry; it didn't occur to me you'd be asleep."

Levon shrugged it off, and pulled out a mug. "You want some coffee?"

"No, thanks." LaFiamma leaned against the counter and watched him, as Levon proceeded to make his own cup. Halfway through doing so, the familiarity of it struck him. Not precisely this situation -- Levon had never slept til afternoon unless he was sick, until he started working nights. But just having Joe hanging around without any sort of reason for it was familiar.

It occured to him that he ought to be trying to carry a conversation, but the only question that came to mind was asking how work was. Levon wasn't sure he wanted to hear about it.

"You liking it there?" LaFiamma suddenly asked, as though he'd heard Levon's thoughts.

"Yeah, it's all right." Levon did enjoy working there -- but it wasn't what he'd wanted to do. It wasn't being a cop.

"But it isn't the same, is it?" LaFiamma looked like he understood. Maybe he did. Being a cop in Houston wasn't what Joe had wanted, either.

"I'm not likely to get fired for having sex with another man," Levon said, and he didn't realise he'd sound so bitter. He didn't try to cover for it.

"Yeah." LaFiama looked away, and Levon could see there was something troubling him.

Probably the idea that *he* could still get fired for having sex with another man. Suddenly the easy familiarity didn't feel quite so comfortable.

"Ramon's a good boss," Levon said quickly, to fill in the silence before either of them could say something he didn't want to think about. "Darrin's good to work with, and despite what you saw, Mark isn't all that bad neither. He just gets a little distracted when there's somebody cute to talk to. Which is just about every night, come to think of it."

He was relieved to see LaFiamma laugh at that. "I don't have to ask why *he* likes his job."

"Darrin says it's because he doesn't like waking up before noon."

LaFiamma's smile dimmed. "Sorry about that--"

"Don't apologise. I told you, I was getting up soon anyway."

LaFiamma shrugged, and the brief moment of levity was gone again. The look on LaFiamma's face was one of a man about to say he was sorry for a lot more than waking him up. Levon braced himself, knowing there was really no way to keep him from saying it.

"Levon... I don't know how good I'm going to be at this." LaFiamma stopped, and Levon waited. Finally LaFiamma looked him in the eye. Levon could see regret, there, and his mouth went dry. But Joe said, "I don't know how eager you are to stay in the closet, but I don't wanna risk losing my job, too. So we're gonna have to be real careful."

Surprised, Levon didn't answer right off. Very slowly, he smiled, and all he could think of to say, was, "Who has to know?"

All the regret and concern seemed to vanish from Joe's face, and he stepped closer to Levon. Right up close, and Levon was very aware of
the fact he was wearing only a robe -- with nothing on underneath it.

When Joe kissed him, and their bodies touched, he reckoned that was probably a good thing.

~~~~~

Standing in the middle of the kitchen wasn't the place Levon had ever thought he'd kiss Joe. The frozen wasteland of Hell was more likely, he'd thought. Never imagined his partner -- ex-partner -- would have any interest in it, and for a long time he never thought LaFiamma even
liked him well enough to consider *him* as a target even if he was so inclined.

Somewhere along the way they'd become friends, and somewhere along the way Levon had given up trying to casually let Joe know which way the wind blew. He'd gone back to casual sex, going home with guys he barely knew and visiting a club that should have been safe.

He'd given up getting what he wanted, then he'd lost even the one thing he still had. Now, no longer a cop and no longer in the closet, he had Joe kissing him in the middle of his kitchen.

He wished it was a fair trade.

Joe broke off the kiss and looked at him, mouth starting to break into that one-sided grin of his that initially made Levon want to smack it off of him. Later, it made him want to lean back and just stare -- which he could, now, so he did.

After a moment, Joe quirked an eyebrow at him. "What? I better not have lipstick smeared on my face." He glowered, briefly.

Levon just shook his head. He watched as Joe opened his mouth to make some new retort, when his eyes flickered downward. Levon's robe had fallen open, and there was no mistaking where Joe's eyes were fixed.

Joe pulled his shirt off, and made things a bit more fair. Levon started to move forward and Joe held him off with one raised hand, which he then used to push the edges of the robe back farther.

Levon's cock was standing erect, practically up against his body, now. Joe was still staring as he placed one hand on Levon's stomach and the other curled around his side. Levon waited to see if Joe wanted to pull him close or just keep staring. He did notice that Joe's gaze finally moved away from his cock, moving upwards to where his hands rested.

It was hard to stand still with Joe's hands on him -- their warmth not as hot as the look in Joe's eyes when he finally met Levon's. He should have been nervous, standing nearly naked while Joe did nothing but look. But all he felt was aroused -- Joe was touching him, hands now moving just a little bit, moving across his chest. Levon shivered.

Joe was touching him. Obviously wanted to do more. Levon tilted his head and ducked forward, taking Joe's mouth in a hard kiss. Joe slid his hands onto Levon's back and held him close, and Levon could feel Joe's bare skin on his own.

He could feel the fabric of Joe's pants rubbing against his cock, and damn if he wasn't going to come like a sixteen year old boy -- hard and fast, just seconds after the first touch. His hips jerked forward, rubbing his cock against Joe. He had no plans, no ideas, just wanting to feel it and wanting to have everything while Joe was standing here, kissing him.

"You want--" Joe started to ask, and Levon shook his head.

"Anything. Don't care, as long as you don't decide you got somewhere else to be."

Joe laughed. "I think I'd shoot *myself* if I tried to leave now." His voice had gone husky, and the sound of it made Levon even more aroused. He bumped back up against Joe, went in to kiss him again. He felt Joe's lips open and Joe's tongue slipped in between his own lips,
pushing against the tip of Levon's tongue.

Levon groaned, a flash of sensation as he thought of Joe's tongue on the head of his cock. He pressed his tongue lightly against Joe's, moving it back and forth as he imagined doing the same to the cock pressed hard against his hip.

He fumbled for the waistband of Joe's pants, intending to get them open, if not all the way off. Joe moved away from him, and Levon tried to grab on before he got out of reach. But Joe was tearing his pants off, ripping the buttons open and shoving them down along with his underwear.

There was a moment when Levon had to try not to laugh, as Joe found he'd left his shoes on. Joe gave him a dirty look as he grabbed onto the counter for balance as he kicked them off.

When he was completely naked, Levon figured he'd return the favor and dropped his robe to the floor. He stared at Joe, not shy about looking at his cock for a good while. Joe stood there patiently, unselfconscious at first.

Then he moved, shifting from one foot to the other. "You want me to pose, or can I get back to what I was doing?"

Levon started to give him permission to get back over here. Then he smiled, and leant back. Took his cock in his hand and was gratified as Joe's eyes went wide.

He started jerking himself off, slow and easy. Joe made a sort of strangled sound. His gaze was riveted on Levon's hand, on his cock. Levon teased them both -- touching himself lightly, moving his hand even more slowly. Spread his legs just a bit, since he was pretty sure he wouldn't be steady on his feet for very much longer.

"You wanna go back to what you were doing?" Levon asked.

Joe shook his head, not even glancing up. Then he moved forward, sinking to his knees, and Levon bit back a gasp as Joe placed on hand on his thigh and his other hand wrapped around his cock. Levon let his head fall back against the cupboard as Joe took the tip of his cock into his mouth.

Joe's tongue rubbed his cock, in exactly the same almost-hesitant motion as he'd first done to Levon's tongue. Levon didn't try to hold back his groans, and as he gripped the edge of the counter tighter, Joe started licking his way down the shaft.

Eyes closed, Levon tried to keep still, though his hips kept trying to jerk forward. Then his cock was swallowed, and he choked back a cry. His hands gripped the edge of the counter, desperately trying to keep himself still and upright. In and out, his cock was pulled into Joe's mouth. He'd done this before, Levon had brain cells enough to think. It was a relief to know they wouldn't be playing any first-time, virgin games. He tried to focus on breathing, instead.

Joe moved his hand up and down along the part of Levon's cock that wasn't in his mouth. He moved his other hand off Levon's thigh and Levon felt his balls being tugged, then moved around, rolling against the palm of Joe's hand. He pressed his head harder against the wooden door of the cupboard.

"Oh, god," slipped out, and he kept trying to breathe. Maybe not sixteen anymore, but damned if he wasn't going to come soon. Sooner than he might have wanted if he'd thought about all the things he wanted to do. But Joe was sucking him, and touching him; Levon opened his eyes and looked down and saw Joe kneeling in front of him.

Joe glanced up and their eyes met. He didn't slow down either hand, didn't pull away from Levon's cock. His eyes crinkled around the edges -- grinning if his mouth had had the room.

"I'm gonna--" Levon began, and Joe was on his feet. Cock still in his hand, jerking Levon off as he pulled Levon close, holding onto him as he came.

Levon held on, legs shaking as he came in Joe's hand. He dropped his head onto Joe's shoulder, arms tight around Joe to keep himself from falling. He heard Joe's chuckle in his ear, and he thought telling him off. Too much like work, just now, and Levon just let himself collapse against Joe and let his partner hold him up.

Ex-partner. Lover.

He turned his head and kissed him, pressing him way in so neither of them could say a word. He felt Joe's hand on his head, trying to grab onto hair that was almost too short. He got enough that Levon felt he wasn't going anywhere just yet, without an argument.

That was fine. Wasn't anyplace else he'd rather be.

Except maybe in the bed. He gave Joe a grin. "What was it you were gonna say?"

Joe blinked, confused.

"You were gonna make me an offer, I believe," Levon reminded him.

Joe grinned. "At this point, cowboy, I'll take anything. As long as you don't have someplace else to be."

Levon ran a finger down the shaft of Joe's erection. "That a fact?"

"That's a fact," Joe replied, voice quivering only a little.

"Then you wouldn't mind if I ask you to fuck me?"

It took Joe a moment to get the words out, and though he'd nodded as soon as Levon had asked, he still stammered, "I think that can be
arranged."

Levon dropped his hand, interlacing his fingers with Joe's. "How about we head for the bedroom?" He started to walk away, and Joe didn't
hesitate to follow him.

~~~~~

Waking up with someone wrapped around him wasn't unexpected. Levon had done it for years -- and despite the years since and the few enough lovers he'd had in the meanwhile, his body still remembered the warmth and comfort of a body cuddled up beside him.

For some reason, his mind knew exactly who it was even before he came fully awake. Levon lay there for a moment, waiting to see if any part of him wanted to sneak a look to check and make sure it was really him. But he knew it was. Could tell even with his eyes closed and body too exhausted to shift an inch. The feel of Joe's arm across his middle was somehow completely familiar, despite the fact he couldn't recall many times at all that Joe ever touched him.

That was gonna change. Levon smiled. They'd have to have a talk -- Joe was still a cop, and had to be careful. But it wasn't likely that anyone would wonder at his keeping his friendship with his old partner. The HPD might be homophobic, but Joe himself never had been. No one would think twice about him not turning his back on a friend just because he'd been found out.

Levon corrected himself. He'd rather enjoy it if Joe turned his back on him. Let him give Joe as good a fucking as the one he'd gotten. They'd have plenty of chances for more of both, though. Unless Joe was a strict top, in which case Levon reckoned he'd survive.

With a smile, he started to roll over, trying not to shift Joe away from his hold on him.

He found Joe wide awake and looking at him.

"You been waiting for me very long?" Levon asked.

"Nah. Just woke up a little while ago. I--" He stopped, and looked away, embarrassed.

"This some mushy romantic Italian stuff?" Levon asked.

Joe glared at him. "Yes," he said, defiantly.

It made Levon want to kiss him, but first he gave Joe a solemn nod, and said, "I reckon you're allowed."

"Thanks so much, Lundy."

Levon grinned. "Boy, you better get into the habit of calling me 'Levon'. I ain't sleeping with someone who calls me by my last name."

"And you better get out of the habit of calling me 'boy', *cowboy*."

"If you say so, LaFiamma."

There was a pause, then Joe made a face. "I see what you mean. 'Levon' it is."

Levon laughed, and gave him a kiss. It took awhile before he felt like he'd done it well enough, then he pulled back and said, "I'm still waiting."

Joe rolled his eyes. "Never mind." He moved back a little, as though he was thinking of getting out of bed. Levon hung onto him, and kept
him in place.

"You staying the night?" Levon had no idea what time it was, but the sun was still up so it couldn't be very late. Post-sex naps didn't usually take very long, anyhow.

Joe started to nod, then said, "I need a change of clothes. I... didn't exactly come prepared. You... you wanna go with me, stay at my place
tonight?"

"Sounds good to me. Between our work schedules, I'm not sure when we'll see each other again before next weekend..."

There was a flash of something in Joe's eyes, that Levon reckoned he understood. But neither of them said anything. "I can come by the Vortex -- on a slow night," he added, smiling. "And, you know... weekends are good."

Levon just nodded. It wasn't perfect. They both knew it.

But it was beginning to look like it might be pretty damned good.


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