Word Count: 3,396
Pairings: Luke/Noah, Luke/Reid, Noah/OMC
Summary: Luke picks up the pieces of his accident
Previous Chapters: Chapters 22-24
Disclaimer: Don't own the characters; done for fun not for profit.
Author's Notes: Once again I really want to thank everyone who's reading this story and really enjoying it. I am having a lot of fun writing it, trust me.
Luke’s hospital stay lasted three more weeks.
Noah spent almost every day of what was left of his trip at his bedside, answering every question Luke had and sometimes just talking about any and everything.
He eventually told Luke about Adam, who for professional reasons had excused himself from Luke’s case. He had taken it as well as possible. Noah continued to marvel at how seemingly calm and well-adjusted Luke was being about his condition.
He figured it probably had to do with the fact that after running a series of tests, the doctors had all concluded that there didn’t seem to be any permanent damage to Luke’s brain and that it was more than likely that his condition was a temporary one.
The doctors suggested that once he was back in his regular life, experiencing the regular sounds and sights of his daily life, some of his more recent memories would likely come back. Noah, along with Luke’s family, was more than ecstatic about the news as were they about Lucinda’s high-priced lawyers getting Luke a very, very light community service sentence for his drunk driving charge. Noah imagined it couldn’t have been too hard to convince the judge that Luke had learned his lesson, what with the brain trauma he’d suffered.
Despite all the good news, a part of Noah felt incredibly guilty when it was time for him to leave, especially as a small part of him refused to let go of his guilt over Luke’s accident. It felt to him like he was abandoning a friend in his time of need.
No matter how many assurances Luke made to him that he would be fine and that Noah was being silly, Noah still had him promise that he would call him anytime if he needed to talk about anything. Luke rolled his eyes a little but still gave Noah his word that he would, telling him that it would likely be unnecessary as he had his whole family to fuss over him.
And fuss over him they did. It got especially bad when Luke was released from the hospital. He was all set to return to the apartment he shared with Noah, when he was quickly informed by his mom that he didn’t live there anymore and instead lived in an apartment he shared with Reid.
The familiar rush of panic and fear that he’d felt almost every day since waking up to this nightmare, the one he had managed to expertly hide from everyone, immediately threatened to overtake him.
Instead, he’d smiled politely and thanked his mom for letting him know and said he was ready to go home, no matter where that was now. However, Lily wouldn’t hear of it. She thought it was crazy for him to be alone after suffering such a horrific accident and especially, as she politely put it, “in his current fragile mental state”.
She immediately suggested that he come home with her and his father. Luke couldn’t think of a more unappealing option. As much of the previous few years as he couldn’t remember, one thing he did remember was how frustrating and tiresome dealing with his mom and his dad’s never-ending saga of a relationship had become and how excited and thrilled he’d been to move out on his own.
The therapist he was working with on how best to deal with his feelings over his memory loss actually came to his aid, informing his mom that his going back to the place he shared with Reid could be a good thing because it could help jog some of his memories. She reminded Lily that the more Luke experienced the regular parts of his life, the better.
Lily was still stubborn about his going back to the apartment alone but Holden finally talked her down, eventually convincing her that if Luke needed them, he’d let them know. And he was right. Luke lasted a mere three days in the apartment.
***The first two nights were fine…weird but fine. Luke silently looked around; taking in the expensive and modern furniture that he figured had to have been mostly Reid’s choices because none of it really appealed to him. He also thought about his apartment with Noah, could see it clearly in his mind with its mixture of second-hand and quirky furniture pieces they’d found online, at thrift stores and second-hand furniture stores.
He stared at the few pictures of himself and who he assumed was Reid, spread out across the apartment and simply saw himself and a stranger. Nothing about Reid’s face was familiar to him, a fact he found to be a little strange.
This was a man he’d apparently been with for two years, had apparently loved so much that he gave up Noah for him and yet staring at a picture of his face, there was nothing. No hint of recognition, no emotional reaction, no subconscious feelings of love and familiarity. All he saw was a strange man holding him.
His mom, who had insisted on making sure he was properly settled, had silently observed him as he took everything in.
“Do you remember anything about this place?”
“Not really,” Luke whispered, gently picking up a framed picture of him and Reid, from the top of the mantel.
“Is that him,” he asked his mom, “Reid?”
“Yes,” Lily said softly.
“Hmm,” Luke replied, slowly placing the picture back in place.
“He’s a lot older than me isn’t he?”
“Yes,” Lily said.
“And is that his regular facial expression,” Luke asked.
“I guess,” Lily said, sounding a little confused. “Why?”
“I don’t know; he just looks like he hates the entire universe.”
A stunned laugh burst out of Lily, before she forced it back down, trying to be as serious as possible and stated, “He is a bit of a grouch, yes. But I think that was part of his charm for you.”
Luke’s only response was a quiet, withdrawn, “right…”
Despite the weirdness of being in a strange apartment he’d apparently shared with a man he couldn’t remember at all, Luke settled in as best as he could. He was unable however, to avoid his rapidly racing mind especially at nights when he was in bed alone, thinking about Noah and the reality that who he thought he was and who he thought he and Noah were, no longer existed.
That realization was incredibly hard because no matter how much his brain tried to accept what he was being told, that it was actually 2013, that he and Noah were no more…his heart was a different story.
When he closed his eyes, he still saw him and Noah in their apartment, laughing over their horrible attempt to make dinner that first night alone and eventually giving up and ordering Chinese. He still saw Noah’s sleep rumpled hair and his adorable half smile when he turned to face him in bed in the early morning. Still saw them curled on the couch watching their favorite shows or one of Noah’s favorite classic movies.
And of course he saw the intimacy. Saw their bodies intertwined, connecting, becoming one. Saw the moments when the world seemed to stop and all that existed were the two of them, owning each other body, mind and soul. He saw it all, so vividly, so real and that’s what made the reality of his situation so hard to bear.
But he was determined to persevere and not let anyone know how much he was struggling. He knew they were all worried enough. Noah especially had felt guilty about having to go back to his life and Luke knew he’d probably feel more so if he knew how hard everything was for him. So instead, he put on a brave face, appeared calm and seemingly at peace and shared his fears with the person who was basically paid to listen to them, his therapist.
That was, until the night he got his first full blown memory which had shaken him to the core and convinced him that he could no longer stay in this apartment.
It had been a particularly chilly night, even for March. And even with the heat turned on and buried underneath a comforter, Luke still felt cold. So he’d gotten up and searched around the apartment until he found the closet which held extra blankets, sheets and comforters.
He grabbed for one blanket and the second he held it in his hand, something about it felt incredibly strange to him. He stared curiously at it for a long time, finally bringing it up slowly to his face and as he softly inhaled the scent off of it, a memory developed slowly in his mind.
It began as a series of interspersed images until they all seemed to blend together bit by bit to create one perfectly clear story, or in this case memory. Luke shivered slightly, less from the cold at this point, he was certain, as the memory ground itself in his mind.
***It took seven months before Luke and Reid had sex for the first time. Reid expressed his impatience a few times but Luke kept reassuring him that he just wanted their first time to be perfect. He even convinced himself that’s all it was, that it was about wanting to take things slow and perfectly with Reid.
Their first time was amazing. Reid had actually planned a beautiful night for them at one of the most expensive restaurants in Oakdale and had been the perfect gentleman throughout their dinner. He was charming, attentive, funny and sexy, making it clear how much he wanted to be with Luke and Luke had loved the feeling of being so desired. He was ready…they were ready.
And Reid clearly knew what he was doing. Every touch, stroke, kiss seemed to hit every one of Luke’s erogenous zones. Reid had him almost panting with desire by the time he’d finally slowly slid inside him and Luke had eventually come hard, incredibly satisfied and sated.
Despite his overly gruff persona, Reid had actually been interested in cuddling, had wanted to stay in the moment and enjoy their first time together. Unfortunately his beeper had gone off. A call from the hospital immediately followed, informing him that one of his patients needed him.
He apologized profusely, promising to make it up to Luke but Luke had just hand-waved his concern, telling him it was fine and to go save lives and he’d be right there when he got back. Reid had kissed him deep and hard before leaving.
Luke stayed in the bed for a little while, eventually slowly getting up to take a shower. He spent almost twenty minutes in, enjoying the heat of the water before walking back into the room and taking in the sight of the very rumpled sheets.
As the memories of every second of his and Reid’s lovemaking flashed into his mind, the most unexpected thing happened. Rather than smile and reach for the blankets to inhale the gorgeous scent of what he and Reid had just shared, Luke slowly sat at the edge of the bed, reached for the sheets and began to cry.
He cried slowly and softly at first, just his tears falling silently and almost dignified. But as his emotions grew in intensity, his heart feeling like it would burst out of his chest, his tears became loud, hacking sobs that filled the silence of the room. Luke cried like every inch of his heart was breaking and he knew it was; because what he’d just shared with Reid was the final act in his break-up with Noah.
Up until that moment, he had only shared that part of himself with Noah, only allowed himself to be so intimate and naked and raw with Noah. It was almost like he was saying goodbye to Noah all over again and it was killing him. On the night that he should have been happy and excited, savoring the new intimacy he’d found with Reid, he was curled on the bed they’d just shared, crying over the loss of his ex-boyfriend.
“What?” Noah had picked up the phone quickly, recognizing Luke’s number instantly.
“I remembered something last night,” Luke said, wasting no time with small talk and pleasantries.
“It was brief,” he added, “but you and I were at Java and we were discussing someone named Mason who by the way, according to my memory I called a pretentious, scarf-wearing in the summertime blow-hard”.
Noah tried desperately to hold back the laughter that was bubbling in his chest at the memory of that conversation.
“I’m guessing,” Luke continued, “that I was not a fan.”
“No, you weren’t,” Noah said, adding, “Mason was Professor Mason Jarvis, my senior project advisor.”
“That’s it,” Luke said, sounding surprised, a little bit of disbelief in his voice.
“He was just your teacher? Judging by my obvious animosity towards him, I just assumed he was some guy who was interested in you.”
“He was,” Noah said calmly.
“Yeah, he wasn’t too subtle about it and it drove you nuts but I just wanted to complete my final project and I needed his approval. Plus, at the time, I figured that since I had no interest in him it wasn’t that big of a deal. You wanted me to report him and get a new advisor and frankly, I probably should have listened to you. It might have saved us a lot of issues.”
“Like what,” Luke asked.
“Just a lot arguments and hurt,” Noah answered vaguely.
“Judging by that vague response, I’m guessing there’s more to the story,” Luke said calmly, “but let me guess, it’s one of those issues where you think it’s better we don’t get into it now because of my fragile mental state.”
Noah smiled through the phone at the obvious irritation in Luke’s voice and how perfectly he had read him and his response.
“Well look at it this way,” he said, “your memories have been coming back fairly quickly, so in a month or two, I’m sure it’ll eventually come back to you.”
“Sure,” Luke said, dryly.
And the truth was, his memories had been returning, albeit a bit scattered and disjointed, but they were returning. After that night in the apartment he’d shared with Reid and the memory of their first night together had shaken him to the core, he’d moved to his family ranch, to stay with his Grandmother Emma.
She was getting along in years and while still fairly active, was a bit slower around the house and appreciated the company. Plus, his dad still came to the ranch 2-3 times a week to check on the horses and their maintenance which comforted his mom because it meant he could check on Luke while he was there. It was a compromise that worked for everyone.
The first few days had been uneventful but slowly, flashes of moments, events and people started coming back to him. Many of them still involved Noah and every time it happened, he would call Noah immediately where they spent time talking about whatever he’d remembered.
The first time, Luke had apologized, especially as it was midnight in California but Noah had told him he didn’t have to apologize and it was fine to call anytime…so he did. He called when he remembered silly things like the argument they’d once had over who drank the last of the orange juice and was therefore responsible for going to the grocery store and more emotional incidents such as Noah’s first Thanksgiving after losing his sight.
“I sat outside the room the entire time you were eating,” he’d said softly to Noah when telling him about his memory from that day.
Although his memories were all over the place and in no particular order, they were at least coming and for that Luke was grateful. Every call to Noah turned into a thirty minute to an hour and sometimes more, conversation. Noah would answer every question Luke had as honestly as possible while not so subtly avoiding anything he thought was too emotional for him.
Luke would call even if he had a memory that had nothing to do with Noah. These were usually; he quickly figured out, events that happened after Noah had left Oakdale. Some of which Noah had no clue about. Such as the time Emma had had a very mild stroke and the family had all gathered in the hospital.
His parents were at odds again at the time but they’d all pulled together and gotten through it as a family. Luke even remembered Reid being supportive and concerned. It was one of the first memories he’d had of him and Reid being happy together and a unit.
When they were done discussing whatever Luke had remembered and Noah answered any questions about the past few years Luke had, the conversation would switch to the present and they would find themselves discussing their day, what they were up to and everything in between.
More than once Luke wondered how Adam would feel about their phone calls, for example those which lasted deep into the night/early morning but he would simply tell himself that if it was a problem, Noah would put a stop it. And the truth was the selfish part of him didn’t want to give up their calls.
Yes, he’d accepted, or tried to anyway, that he and Noah were no more but he needed him. Despite everything, Noah was still the person to help calm him better than anyone else, especially after he’d finally confessed his genuine fear and panic over his situation. There was nothing sexual or suggestive about their calls. It was something much deeper than that. It was Luke, in one of the scariest and most unsure times in his life, reaching out and holding onto the person who after all this time, still knew him like no one else.
***“So,” Luke said, the Mason question answered, “what are you up to?”
“Just filling out my graduation paperwork,” Noah said.
“You’re graduating,” Luke said, sounding surprised, “when?”
“Umm, in about a week,” Noah said distractedly, filling out the last few lines of the form.
“What,” Luke yelled, “we’ve talked every day for the last three weeks. Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Luke, it’s not a big deal,” Noah laughed.
“Of course it’s a big deal, Noah,” Luke adamantly stated. “You’re graduating from Grad School, from USC for crying out loud. That is a big achievement.”
“No guessing, it is and I’m so proud of you.”
“Thank you,” Noah said sincerely.
“So what are you doing to celebrate?”
“Nothing,” Noah shrugged. “I mean it’s not like anyone’s going to be there anyway. Adam really tried to get the time off but it’s a no go and it’s not like I have any real family to speak of. Some of the people in my program are throwing a house party later, after they’re done celebrating with their parents so I might go to that.”
“My mom’s going to be there,” Luke said calmly.
“What,” Noah said, convinced he’d heard wrong.
“My mom, I know if I tell her you’re graduating, she’d gladly come to support you.”
“Noah, this is a big day and I hate that you’re not going to have anyone there who cares about you. I would happily come but that might not be the most appropriate and I wouldn’t want to offend your boyfriend.”
“Luke thanks for the concern but honestly, it’s okay. I don’t need to see faces in the crowd to know I have people supporting me.”
“Okay fine but whenever you get back to Oakdale, we’re having a celebratory dinner for you at the ranch or my parents’ place.”
“No arguments. Just let me know when you’re getting back and my mom and I will put it together. You deserve this Noah, especially after everything you’ve done for me since my accident. We’re friends and friends do stuff like this for each other.”
Noah decided to not argue and simply accept the gesture for what it was.
“Thank you Luke, that means a lot,” he said softly, swallowing the tiny lump in his throat.