Dedicated to Jana 'The Pest', and to my Dear Mother. My inspiration and guide. I love you ma.
Unbeta'd, all mistakes are mine and mine alone. No spoilers. - No warnings but the usual. Enjoy.
in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause - there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
"Hamlet", Sir William Shakespeare
Up on the highest branch of the highest tree in the empty park, a light colored robin sang joyfully while he prepared to sleep. Enjoying the late afternoon sky, the robin was flapping his little wings, getting comfortable, when the sound of an approaching car caught his ear.
A few seconds later, a red Jimmy flew by down the near street. Perched on his branch, the robin chirped, watching it disappear in the horizon.
Levon Lundy drove his four by four Jimmy down the quiet streets of Houston, Texas. In the cockpit reigned comfortable silence and peace, night approached with a steady pace as both the driver and his Italian companion finally began to assimilate the day's events.
They had almost been killed.
The light breeze that filled the cool afternoon caressed Joe La Fiamma's attractive Italian face and softly, gradually, helped him to relax his battered muscles as well as his fogged mind. It had been a very difficult and distressing day that had culminated in a wild car chase through a dusty old road and a near fatal crash. Two dead bodies lay in the city morgue and Joe and Levon both knew it could have very well been four.
If that trailer hadn't lost control and blocked their way, sending them spinning, they would have ended up in the bottom of that ravine enveloped in flames too. It had been close. Their borrowed patrol car had turned and flipped, but in the end, they both had come out mostly unharmed.
It had been too close.
Joey La Fiamma closed his tired blue eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath. His heart was finally giving in to the concealed emotions and began to beat strongly but evenly again. The adrenaline rush had kept him going for a long time but now it was fading, the world was coming back in full focus, he was exhausted. The handsome Italian officer let his tired head rest back on the car seat. He knew he had a lot of thanking to do for that day's bunch of miracles, starting with God.
He sat there, unmoving, letting it all sink in, losing himself, beginning to dream.
"You okay, la Fiamma?" Levon's strong Texan accent brought him back to reality.
Joe nodded, "Yeah," he said softly, his eyes still closed. He let the cool air fill him a little bit more before speaking again. "You?" he asked.
The blonde Texan leaned back, terribly tired himself. "I'm fine, I reckon." he replied, his eyes locked on the road. A red light flashed ahead, Levon stepped lightly on the brakes and the car slowed down. "I mean..." he continued, "We're alive, ain't we?"
La Fiamma smiled briefly, his troubled mind finding peace and comfort in those good moments of small talk. "Are we?" he echoed his partner's question, shaking his resting head, "I don't know, Lundy, sometimes is difficult to tell." he chuckled.
Levon let his own head lay back and glanced at his partner. "Yeah!" he agreed. "I know what you mean!" his blue Texan eyes traveling along the far horizon, his mind going back to the past three years. It was amazing. The number of times the two men had overcome danger, peril, death... A wide variety of criminals, the complete catalog of deadly traps, the most terrible situations... the meanest, baddest, ugliest bad guys in the country had crossed paths with Sergeants Levon Lundy and Joe La Fiamma down here in Houston, Texas, and not one of them had been able to finish them.
The two cops seemed invincible. Not untouchable, of course, both of them had the scars to prove their mortality, but they had been incredibly good at their jobs, and unbelievably lucky.
They were both alive.
The sun began it's final descent and quickly the sky was filled with a beautiful myriad of color and light. Red turned to green on the corner and Levon began driving again. Beside him, Joe la Fiamma watched the cloud formations, falling in deep relaxation. Just then a thought crossed his mind. A memory. Something he had put off for a long time and now suddenly resurfaced in full strength. While Levon's thoughts flew trough the events of the day and their lives together, Joe's mind dwelled on something else. His breathing accelerated. An old nightmare came back to haunt him. It was time.
Another red light, Levon stopped. He glanced at his silent partner again and saw the troubled expression on his face. Something wasn't right. 'So, what else is new?' he thought. Joe was attacked by many depressing, sometimes desperate thoughts all the time. It was the cross he had to bear after losing everything he knew and being exiled to the state of Texas. It was a sad thing, but Joe knew he had a friend to count on in those times. Levon was his friend, and because of that friendship Lundy knew that Joe needed to say something but didn't quite know how.
"You sure you're okay, La Fiamma?" Lundy asked his friend.
Joe didn't answer right away. There was indeed something he had been needing to say to Levon for some time now, but it was a difficult subject and Joe hadn't found the right time, or the right words. Now, after today, every ounce of his being had suddenly jumped and urged him to speak up. Speak now, before it's too late.
"La Fiamma?" repeated Levon, slightly worried. In that moment the light turned green and the Texan drove the Jimmy down the Avenue, glancing briefly at Joe from time to time.
Joey adjusted his sunglasses, increasingly useless now, as the afternoon turned into night. The handsome Italian mentally searched the entire English language for the words to voice his thoughts. Only one came to mind.
"Lundy." he started.
"Yeah?" Levon answered, a faint bad feeling playing in the back of his mind.
Joey kept searching.
"What is it, partner?" Lundy tried to give his friend a reassuring feeling. He knew how hard it was for La Fiamma to open up.
"I..." Joe started. It was quite hard. He took another deep breath. "Listen, " he tried again, picking his words carefully. "One of these days..." he paused.
Levon waited patiently. He knew his friend well enough to give him space.
Joey shook his head, frustrated. He took his sunglasses off and kept watching the sky. Another red light and he finally made up his mind.
"About what happened today," he started once more.
"Yeah?" Levon let him know he was listening.
"One of these days, our luck is gonna run out!" he said, not looking at his friend.
Lundy frowned, where exactly was Joey going with this?
"I know," the Texan answered. "I've thought about it quite a lot, especially since I met you!"
The Italian smiled briefly, in a moment he felt more relaxed. Friendly teasing was like vitamins to his relationship with his partner. Maybe this wouldn't be so hard after all.
"Yeah, well..." he continued, a bit more secure. "I wanted to tell you... ASK you..." he paused, watching the road. The sun was midway down now. "Oh, Hell!" he exclaimed with a soft voice.
Levon couldn't help but smile at his friend's trouble. What could be so important that had Joey so entangled in his own ideas?
"You gonna propose?" Levon smiled.
No answer. Joe shook his head and closed his eyes.
Levon frowned. "Take your time, man!" he assured his partner. "We ain't in any rush."
Joe felt stupid. He had to come out and say it, once and for all. The only thing that stopped him was the fact that Lundy tended to get so emotional...
"Okay! Here it is, Lundy: What I want to say is, one of these days, one of us is going to die. I think it's going to be me!"
A kick from a mule wouldn't have felt so bad. Levon felt the hit right on his stomach but he kept his face straight. Joe wasn't fooled.
"Wait, what makes you say that just now, La Fiamma?" he managed to ask, trying to sound cool. "I think you just got the jibbies about today, partner."
"Listen to me, Lundy." Joe tried again. "We have to talk about this sooner or later, and after today, I think it's best if we do it sooner."
Levon felt a huge shadow creep upon his heart. "All right, what is it you wanna talk about, La Fiamma?" he slightly raised his voice, nervously clenching his jaw.
Joe sighed. Levon was reacting exactly as Joey knew he would. "Take it easy, partner." he looked at his friend for the first time. "I don't mean to sound all grim or somber or anything, it's just that I think... I need to tell you something, just in case..."
"Just in case..." Levon echoed. Damn! Why was this so hard?
"Yeah." Joe raised his gaze to watch the last pink clouds again. "Anything is possible, I mean, we never know when it's gonna happen, you know?"
"Yeah, I know." Lundy answered, his eyes back on the road, his heart sinking with every word. He was going to say something but Joe spoke first.
"When I die, " Joe started again, his words causing Levon to flinch. "I... I don't want to be buried in Chicago."
"What?" Now, Levon was really surprised. This he didn't expect. "Why not?" he asked without thinking.
"I don't feel... well, so much has happened, you know? I mean, the place has so many memories, so many things about me... but I've been thrown out form there. I don't think it would ever be the same, even if I COULD go back. I would go through eternity with a bad feeling, bad vibes, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah!" Levon knew. He'd felt it too. Somewhere down the line Joey had truly lost his home, both physically and mentally. It was not the same, it hadn't been the same for some time.
"My grandmother is buried in Connecticut." Joey continued, his eyes elsewhere. "Maybe the family would let you bury me there beside her."
Levon felt another twinge of pain at the idea of HIM burying his best friend. Outliving Joe. He really didn't want to think about that, but Joey needed this right now. He would oblige.
"Maybe." was all he could say.
"But if they don't..." Joey briefly glanced at his partner again, a bit unsure. "I... I was wondering..."
"What?" Levon felt so strange talking about this.
"I'd like it if you chose the place."
Levon fell silent. His throat closed by a big lump, his eyes unfocused. He really didn't want to talk about this now. Another red light and he stopped, suddenly tired of driving.
"I know it's a lot to ask," Joe continued, finally able to say what his heart had been pleading to him all this time. "But you've been a cowboy brat all your life. You know most of the state like the back of your hand and I know you'd find a nice spot for me, you know? With a decent view? Low traffic? Good soil?
"Room service?" Levon added, closing his eyes.
Joe laughed. "Yeah." he said, shaking his head.
"Aaaaaaha!" Levon agreed in a strong Texan way. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Joey wanted to remain in Texas? For good?
"And a cute girl delivering flowers." Joey added.
"Yeah! I want my grave to be covered with flowers all the time. I may have shallow tastes and infantile responses now, I know, but I'm a romantic at heart, Lundy!"
Levon couldn't stop the laughter from coming out. How could Joe be so easy going about this?
Joe smiled. He'd accomplished his goal, Levon was more relaxed.
"So?" Joey asked again. "What do you say?"
The shadow in Lundy's heart still lingered. Something else bothered him and he intended to stop it before it tore at him. "Why do you think you'll die first, La Fiamma?" he asked. "We're always into the same kind of trouble, you and me!"
Joey sighed. He should have seen it coming. "I don't know, Lundy, it's just a feeling." he really didn't know. "I just know you're going to be here for a long time, man, and I... well I'm not sure. I don't belong here anyway." he quickly continued before Lundy could say anything. "But you... I can see your future... you're destined to be married... and divorced and married again..." he smiled mischievously, "and someday you'll be old and gray, sitting on a rocking chair, constantly boring your grandchildren with stories about your dashing Italian partner and our adventures in your ancient police officer days!"
Lundy couldn't help it as the images of happiness and joy flooded his head. He'd often thought about it himself but ever since he'd met the cocky Chicago native that was his partner, he'd never imagined his future without Joe La Fiamma around. It was not meant to be like that and Levon felt it, as sure as the sky was blue.
"I..." Levon started, "I don't think your feelin' is correct, La Fiamma!"
Joe shook his head. "It is." he stated.
"Well," he frowned irritated, "I got a feelin' too, and mine is one hundred percent right on the money, I know it!"
"You're gonna be annoyin' my head off for the rest of my natural life. It's my dark destiny and there's nothin' you can say to change my mind!"
It was Joe's turn to laugh now. The sentences had flown from Levon's lips with the strength of a hurricane. Loud, decisive, strong... like a prayer.
"Well, what makes you think that?" the Italian asked.
"I just know, it's punishment from Heaven. I did something wrong in my other life and God sent me... you."
Joe smiled. "Well, that's what you get for misbehaving!" he teased dryly. "And, you think you'd learn in this life, but look at you... still being a pain!"
Levon couldn't miss the hint of sadness in Joey's voice. The man truly believed in his dark, hopeless feelings and that fact sent waves of pain to Levon's heart. To think his best friend didn't expect much of his own future, it was almost tragic.
"Listen, la Fiamma. I'm serious now." he turned to fully look at his partner in the eye, forgetting about the red light now green. "It's all wrong! You can't really believe what you're saying!" he scrutinized Joe's blue gaze, trying to make his words sink. "I know you'll be around for a long time, and it's wrong... it's unsafe for both of us that you believe otherwise!"
"That's not the point, Levon!"
"Yes it is!" Lundy didn't miss the sudden use of his first name. Joe only did that when his feelings were taking control of him. When he was helpless and he felt the need for reassurance. Lundy spoke with more fire. "I don't want you to take risks, to get careless, to stop fighting for your life... just because you have a bad feeling!"
"I won't do that!"
"How do you know?" Levon was in full character now. His heart urged him to shove that shadow off. "If you stop trusting your future... if you stop believing... your guardian angel's gonna take a vacation, Joe, and you'll be left all alone, unprotected."
'You can't take a vacation!' Joe thought without meaning to.
"I don't want you to lose your life because you didn't... because you lost hope, La Fiamma. It'd be a stupid way to die, and I'd be really mad at you for it!"
Joey sighed, His partner wasn't big with words, but he always knew what to say to reach Joey's very core, his deepest feelings. Levon was the only person in the world who could change Joe's mind for good in any matter, but he didn't know it. And Joey would be an idiot to tell him.
"Okay." Joey finally said. "I get it!"
"I'm not sure you do!"
"Trust me!" he said. "I'll give it some thought.
"Some thought, La Fiamma?"
"A lot of thought, okay?"
"Okay." Joey lowered his head, losing himself in thought once again.
Silence fell on both of them as the last rays of sunlight disappeared. Levon turned the Jimmy's headlights on and resumed his driving. There was something unfinished and they both knew it.
Joe was reluctant to say any more. Lundy realized the effort it had taken Joe to ask. It wouldn't be easy but they were friends, and right now Levon had to give his friend some reassurance.
"Fine." he started, "We have that out of the way, right?"
"Right." Joey answered, his voice a little bit distant.
They kept riding in silence, their destination getting closer. They were going to get some dinner at Chicken's. After the day's events, they sure deserved it.
Levon cleared his throat before starting again. "There's... there's a nice place back home, near my grandparent's house" he glanced briefly at Joey to see if he was listening, "I... my grandpa's buried there. I made arrangements for me and Mother Minnie to be buried there beside him... there's still some room..." his voice betrayed what his words didn't want to show. "It's a nice place... up in a hill, tall trees, consecrated ground mind you, I saw to that... flowers everywhere... pretty decent view..." he stopped right there, confronted by a sudden surge of emotion.
A long pause came before Joey could speak. He hadn't known, when he had first asked, how relieved those words would make him feel. The feeling was almost too strong to bear and he realized, he finally felt he'd found the home he'd been looking for. It was overwhelming... it was a really good feeling. It was like magic. Hope flooded his soul and gracefully made way to his Italian heart again.
"Room service?" he asked, his voice faltering for a fraction of a second.
"Yeah!" Levon smiled. "You bet!" he felt that shadow lifting. It was a good feeling too.
"Cool!" Joey said, closing his eyes. For the first time in too many years, he felt alive.
Chicken's bar and grill could be seen up ahead, they were arriving. Joey felt hungry all of a sudden and almost fell backwards at the realization that he was craving for some ribs. This was not good! Houston was swallowing him. He needed some fettuccine Alfredo... but not tonight.
The red Jimmy stopped. Levon killed the engine and adjusted his hat.
"We're here." he informed Joey, preparing to get out of the car.
Joe still had something to say. "Levon!" He exclaimed, grabbing his partner's arm.
"Thank you!" his eyes were shining, he smiled at his Texan friend.
"No problem, boy!" Lundy's heart nearly melted and he smiled back at his eerie Italian counterpart. Life sure was an adventure with THIS dude by his side and Levon knew for sure... he wouldn't have it any other way.
They got out of the truck and headed for the restaurant. The food smelled great.
Lundy looked at his best friend, he seemed better. A remaining small doubt surfaced and Lundy spoke without meaning to. "You believe in the afterlife, La Fiamma?"
Joey raised his eyebrows in surprise and stopped. That was a very good question. "Well," he thought about it starting towards the bar again. His face lighted up, his thinking was done. "Of course I do, Lundy! Do you think I would have been hanging around you all this time if I didn't?"
Levon laughed again. His friend was better. Joe was going to be fine. They both were. "I know just what you mean!" he said cheerfully.
Joe gazed at the stars, his heart was beating steadily and becoming joyful.
They walked slowly, enjoying the beauty of the night. "So, I'll be old and gray on a rockin' chair, right?" Levon asked, smiling.
"Yeah, you will," Joe walked with his hands in his pockets. "Married and unmercifully populating the earth with tiny little Levons in tiny little hats riding tiny horses."
Lundy laughed out loud at the sudden images. Joey laughed too.
"Yeah?" Levon said between chuckles, "Well, I want to see how YOU manage tiny little Joes in tiny Armani suits riding tiny go-carts all over your tiny apartment."
"You wish!" Joey kept laughing.
"And when they grow up, La Fiamma, you'll see how hell looks from here 'cause they'll all be exactly like their ol' dad! You!"
"Now, there's where you're wrong!"
"Yeah, God wouldn't do that to me!"
Levon chuckled again and kept laughing all the way to the bar.
"I'm only going to have girls!" Joe continued. "Only girls!"
"Aaaha" replied the happy Texan, "And THEN you'll know the INSIDE of hell! Just imagine when they bring their boyfriends home!"
"As long as they are not little Levons!"
They arrived still laughing, dinner awaited.
The night breeze carried the two friend's chattering voices to the trees, the clouds and the starry skies. It was a good time to be alive and they both knew it. Nothing else was important, no matter what the future held they knew they'd have each other to bitch about it, even after death.
The EndNo small, light colored robins were harmed during the production of this piece of fiction.
Story copyrighted by Killash, September 17, 1999, in spite of the TOS. Disclaimer: The characters don't belong to me. (Wish they did!) No profit has been made from this. I write for love and fun, not money. Save the planet... Soon. Feedback is our daily bread, don't starve the author please.