Disclaimer: Characters belong to Stan Berkowitz. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: My Houston Knights stories are not new. This is the first time, however, that I will be able to archive all of my stories (over different fandoms) in one place. I'd still love feedback. So drop me a line and tell me what you think!
In. Out. In. Out. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
I could feel the sweat trickle down my back as my muscles bunched and tightened. Inhaling again, I let my breath whoosh out of my mouth as I continued to bench press. I was testing the limits, pushing myself as far as I could go. It didn't matter that my body was screaming. It felt good. And it was exactly what I needed.
As I continued to punish my body with good old-fashioned exercise, I let my thoughts wander. It had been a hard two months. Since moving to Houston, my life has been one giant rubberband, stretched to the limit. Stress and tension had become my whole world. To be able to find physical release was a small blessing, one that didn't work to well very often.
For a few minutes, I concentrated on the routine action of the exercise. My muscles strained and pulled as they took the weight of the barbells. I could feel my t-shirt become wetter and wetter as my body compensated for the extra heat it was producing. I reveled in it.
All too soon, though, I was reminded of why I was bench pressing on this Saturday morning. It's not like something I could forget. My life had been turned upside down when my partner in Chicago had been killed and I was forced to move to Houston for my own protection. I hate running from an enemy. It's just not my style. I prefer meeting a challenge head on. Get to the heart of the matter, take no prisoners. That's my motto. Which brings me to my second problem. The one that causes more tension than anything else.
My new partner.
Yeah, I know it's hard to believe that one person can cause me so much grief, but it's true. Like I said, I'm a take charge kind of guy. Levon Lundy seems to be just the opposite. In fact, we seem to be opposites in everything. And it was obvious from the moment I landed in this city where it's too damn hot and the traffic is insane.
I sat the weights back on their stand and lied back on the bench. Gazing at the ceiling, letting the sweat cool on my body, I remembered.
I hated him even before I had met him. He had the nerve to page me over the intercom at the airport. If it's one thing I can't stand is broadcasting my presence for everyone to know. So I told him in no uncertain terms how I felt. I could tell he wasn't too pleased, but I didn't care. In fact, at the time, I wasn't even aware that he would be my partner. That surprise was a little later.
Our differences became even more apparent when we stepped out into the bright, Texas sun and got into his jeep. Here I was, dressed to the nines, and what was he wearing? Blue jeans and a cowboy hat. Lundy only seemed to reinforce the stereotype when we actually got on the road and country music blared from the speakers.
That type of music grates on my nerves. Just like Lundy was doing. I mean, he could have at least tried to pronounce my name right. And when I tried to correct him, he came back with something about tugging my ear...like I was some type of fruitcake.
I couldn't stand him. The more time I spent with him, the more serious I thought about hopping a plane back to Chicago and taking my chances with the hitman. The only thing that held me back was the promise that I wouldn't be in Lundy's presence for long.
Man, was I wrong. Things got worse. We were made partners at the scene of a crime. I really wished I'd followed my instincts and booked a flight home.
I love my job. It gives me a thrill to put the bad guys away, to make the streets safer for citizens to walk. This new case was the perfect ticket to getting my mind off my current predicament.
But that's not how it turned out.
I do things one way and Lundy does them another. That much I could tell from the very start. I didn't like it and I didn't understand it. So, naturally, we argued over the approach to what turned out to be my very first case in Houston.
When they'd fished Mike Hale's car out of the water and Levon had expected me to just sit back and wait for the others to examine it. The memory lingered as I grabbed a towel and patted my face. I just don't work that way. I can't sit on the sidelines and wait for something to happen. Apparently, Lundy could and it bugged the hell out of me.
At first, I believed his quiet, laid back responses were just examples of how slow and lazy he was. That irritating drawl--as if the words had to roll around in his mouth before he spit them out--only seemed to confirm my theory. It was though as if he were willing to let things happen. He just didn't seem to care.
With a sigh, I sat up and dried the back of my neck. Barbells forgotten, I stood and went to the refridgerator for some water. As I poured myself a glass of the cool liquid, I continued to think about my new partner. Early on, I had thought him lazy, slow. I wouldn't go as far as to say dim-witted, but I was close.
I couldn't believe how wrong I was.
Ever hear that saying don't judge a book by it's cover? It applies. Not only did I misjudge him; I was totally seeing something else. That's to his credit. I'd like to consider myself a good detective, but it took me quite a while to catch on. In all my years as a cop--in all my life--I've never been so completely wrong about anyone. I was totally deceived by Lundy. Behind that straw-chewing country hick mask, lies a mind as sharp as a tack.
Still, I was loathe to admit that. Especially to him. He still had his drawbacks.
There was that trip to Gilley's. To give him the benefit, he was trying to make me feel at home. But, I'm sorry, Gilley's? No way. Could there be anything more insane? More country music than anyone has a right to have to listen to. It was pure torture. To make matters even worse, Lundy took it upon himself to warn me away from Liutenant McClaren. She's a cop. She can take care of herself. But try telling that to Lundy. At the time, I resisted the urge to look for a white horse. Of course, I didn't know it, but Levon did have a horse. Not white, but a horse nonetheless. The image of a knight fits my partner.
In fact, it makes me smile.
He really isn't all that bad. That streak of chivalry in him is one of his more admirable qualities. Anyone who has that much respect for women is okay in my book. Unfortunately, he had to question my motives. Something I'm not used to and didn't like. We actually came to blows over it. I'll tell you right now, a fist hitting a fist is painful. But we ended up laughing anyway.
Back at my place later that night, we cleaned up and I threw together some spaghetti and French bread. He didn't say, but I could tell he liked it. Another point in my new partner's favor.
It's amazing. Good exercise not only strengthens muscles, it rids the body of nasty toxins. It can also clear the mind.
I was seeing things in a whole new light. I had jumped to conclusions about my new partner and now I know I was wrong.
He may be laid back, looks like he'd be more at home on a ranch, and has an annoying habit of saying things like "over yonder" and "lets mosey on over to the station", but that's all part of the package.
Like I said before, he's sharp and shrewd. Those brown eyes see more than they're telling. Half the time I don't know what he's even thinking, although that's changing. I'm beginning to understand Lundy a little better. And I think others are starting to see it, too. Down at the station, we're known as Lundy and LaFiamma. Joey and Levon. As I've begun to notice, when you deal with one, you deal with the other.
And that's something else Levon has. Loyalty. We argue all of the time. Lock horns over any little thing. It was our way...and it's between us. The minute someone else tries anything we become a united front. I hadn't really given it much thought until now. I've seen Levon defend me against collegues he's worked with for years. Not that I've ever really needed anyone's help. At least, that's what I'd like to think, but I have been known to kid myself.
I sighed again before draining my glass of water and setting it in the sink. I was pleasantly tired. The feeling only a good workout can give you. I'd come a long way in my thinking since this morning. Maybe I wasn't so much fighting Levon as myself. No one really likes change. Moving from Chicago, getting used to a whole new city, meeting new people, breaking in a new partner...needless to say, I've been resistant to the idea.
I think that's been my problem all along.
I've been too busy fighting the idea of settling in Houston that I've been creating phantom problems to deal with. Fighting with Levon is just another excuse to want to leave.
It hasn't been easy. Not for me. Not for Lundy. I know I've made things difficult. He's probably sick and tired of hearing me complain. Probably can't wait for me to get the hell away...go back to Chicago.
I'll have to change that. Because, you see, I've just realized something. Levon Lundy is a good man. I think I've always known that, but was too busy denying it. After Szabo was killed, a part of me shut down. I didn't want to go through that type of loss again. I think I instinctively knew that Lundy could be an even better partner than Szabo was.
Hell, I don't know. It's something I'll have to think about.
I headed upstairs to shower. All of a sudden I wanted to see Levon. It was time I started acting like a real partner. After all, the man did save my life. A fact I so conveniently forgot. Like I said, he's a good man. Maybe he'll see passed my insecurities and be my friend.
I liked the sound of that.
Smiling, I was grabbing a change of clothes when there was a knock at the door. I made my way downstairs again, wondering who it was. I really didn't have time for salesmen. If I could hurry up and get ready, maybe I could convince Levon to join me for lunch.
I opened the door, ready to send the person on his way.
"Hey, partner," Levon said rather gruffly. "You like seafood?"
"Sure, Lundy." I grinned. "What do you have in mind?"
He jerked a thumb in the direction of the Jimmy. "Caught some fish this mornin'. Thought we could grill it for lunch."
"Can do," I replied. "Why don't you grab the fish and make yourself at home. I'm just gonna run up and take a quick shower."
"Yeah, you do that, LaFiamma." The Texan wrinkled his nose, but I caught the smile. "I don't know what smells worse. You or the fish."
I laughed outright as he turned and went to get our lunch.
Things were going to get better. I just knew it.