Word Count: 4, 544
Pairings: Luke/Noah, Luke/Reid, Noah/OMC
Previous Chapters: Chapter 25-27
Disclaimer: Only for fun, not for profit.
The celebratory dinner for Noah was well organized.
The food was exquisite and Luke’s family were all warm, open and friendly people who clearly adored Noah and yet, Adam had never felt more uncomfortable and out of place in his life. It really was not the Snyders’ fault or anything they did specifically.
Again they had been more than warm and welcoming to him; Lily Snyder still thanking him for what he’d done for Luke, since he’d been a part of the surgical team. Still, Adam had never wanted to be anywhere else more badly than he did that late spring day in Lily and Holden’s massive dining room.
Because the simple fact was, no matter how nice, open and friendly, these people were still the family of his boyfriend’s ex-boyfriend and Adam knew that no matter how pleasant they were to him, a big part of most of them probably wished that he was not in the picture.
And in a way he almost couldn’t blame them. It was obvious how ingrained in their lives Noah had been, which meant they had probably been just as invested in his and Luke’s relationship. And then there was Luke himself.
He had been pleasant enough…pretty much the way he’d been since waking up from his coma. Frankly, a few times Adam almost missed the obnoxious and more than a little rude part of him. But Adam realized quickly that it was Luke’s way of trying as hard as possible to reconcile with his memory loss and he really did sympathize.
However, he also realized that one of Luke’s other ways of dealing with his situation was by leaning on Noah. He knew they talked fairly often when Noah was away and Noah assured him it was basically Luke calling to ask questions about things he remembered.
But sitting across the crowded table, watching Luke and Noah interact, Adam knew it was so much more than that. Try as he might, Luke couldn’t hide the longing and obvious love he had for Noah in his eyes. And in a way, it made sense.
No matter the actual year, mentally Luke was in a place where he and Noah were still together and happily in love. Adam understood, he really did…but that didn’t stop his blood from boiling slightly at the sight of Noah laughing loudly and happily at something Luke said and his feeling completely invisible.
Almost like Noah could sense his agitation, he suddenly felt a hand sneak slowly into his and squeeze gently. Adam quickly held onto the hand tightly, giving a small, reassuring smile to Noah. But as the latter turned back to speak to Luke’s mom, Adam felt himself slowly disappearing again.
“Are you okay,” Noah asked, the minute they were inside Adam’s car, on their way back to his apartment.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be,” Adam said.
“I don’t know. You just seemed a little tense and uncomfortable the whole time.”
Adam opened his mouth to tell Noah he was imagining things. However, he’d always prided himself on the honesty they shared. Their relationship had started that way and had been built on it.
“It’s nothing that you or the Snyders did wrong and they really did try to make me feel welcome but it’s just…”
“Just what,” Noah asked.
“It was weird okay…” Adam finally said, sighing heavily. “No matter how nice they are, these people are still your ex-boyfriend’s family and I couldn’t help feeling like an interloper in your happy reunion with them.”
“No,” Adam interrupted, “listen, like I said Noah, it was nothing you or they did wrong. This was just my own hang-up and I’ll get over it. And it really is nice that they did that for you because you deserve it.”
“Okay,” Noah said slowly, “if you’re sure you’re okay.”
“Positive,” Adam insisted, adding, “I’ll be fine.”
However, as they slowly pulled away from the Snyders’ residence, he added softly, “by the way, you do realize that Luke is completely in love with you right?”
“No he’s not, he just thinks he is,” Noah said calmly. “He’s confused right now with the memory loss and being mentally stuck in 2009 so he just thinks he’s in love with me. But his memories are coming back and in no time he’ll be all better. Trust me; it’s not a big deal.”
“If you say so,” Adam said, sounding unconvinced. He also decided to not point out Noah’s conveniently ignoring the fact that Luke professed his love for him, weeks before his accident.
It was a pleasant surprise to Noah how much genuine joy he still got every time he walked into Java, even now that it had become a far more common occurrence with his many visits to Oakdale.
No matter how many times he’d been back, he still felt that familiar warmth, sense of belonging and comfort every time he stepped inside the coffee shop; even while most of the original staff that had been there along with him, had long moved on.
As he was marveling and enjoying the familiar sense of comfort, something, or rather someone caught his eye and it brought back an even greater sense of familiarity and warmth to the place. Luke was sitting alone at a table nestled in the back, head bent over some type of notebook, his hand working furiously across the page.
Even at his position at the front door, Noah could see the lines of concentration mixed with some frustration, stretching across Luke’s forehead. It also occurred to him that the fact that Luke would choose one of the tables furthest away from the entrance meant he was likely seeking some sense of solitude and quiet.
Unsure whether or not Luke wanted to be interrupted, even by him, Noah headed for the counter to place his coffee order, debating whether he’d take it to go. He’d only taken a few steps however when Luke, almost like he’d sensed Noah’s presence, suddenly looked up, staring him dead in the eyes.
And then the decision was made for him as Luke immediately graced him with one of the most beautiful and honest smiles, any trace of irritation or anger he’d been wearing mere seconds before, gone. Noah smiled back just as broadly, before indicating he’d be right there as soon as he made his coffee order.
“Hi,” Noah said, less than five minutes later, settling his now steaming cup of coffee down.
“I wasn’t sure if you wanted any company.”
“Why would you think that,” Luke said, as he slowly closed the notebook he’d been furiously scribbling in and placed it aside.
“I don’t know; you just look pretty focused on whatever it was you were writing. Plus, you chose this table which practically hides you away from all the other customers.”
“Good point,” Luke laughed softly. “Yeah, I probably did look a little intense. It’s just; a lot happened today and let’s just say I had a lot of feelings and therefore a lot to say.”
It took Luke a second to realize Noah didn’t fully understand what he was talking about.
“Sorry,” he laughed again, “I’m doing the half-answer thing, like I just expect you to know exactly what’s going on in my life.”
“I guess at one point that wasn’t so crazy…” Noah said easily, not even thinking of the implications of his comment until the words were out.
“Right,” Luke said softly, as Noah nervously took a sip of his coffee, “once upon a time but that’s long over.”
And before the moment could get any more awkward, he quickly grabbed his notebook, stating casually, “it’s actually a journal…my therapist’s idea. She thought it would help me not only work through my feelings from everything that’s going on but could also help jog my memories.”
“Makes sense,” Noah said.
“Yeah,” Luke said. “I’ll admit I was a little hesitant, although I don’t know why since I kept a journal for years when I was younger but I didn’t see how it’d help me deal with something this traumatic but it’s actually helped a lot.”
“I’m glad,” Noah said, adding, “So what about today apparently gave you so much to write about?”
Luke suddenly seemed a little uncomfortable, almost frustrated, before saying, “oh, that…well I sort of lost it at work today.”
“Lost it,” Noah raised his eyebrows in confusion, “how?”
“Well it’s been three weeks since I’ve been back to work at the Foundation,” he began slowly, the frustration already obvious in his voice, “and from day one, I’ve felt like some of the staff members are incredibly dismissive and frankly downright rude.”
Taking a slow calming breath, he added, “My mom brought me up to speed as much as possible and even if I can’t remember every single detail and all the ins and outs of the Foundation, my mind still works just fine and I can still do this job and do it very well…”
“Of course you can,” Noah interrupted.
“Right,” Luke said, voice rising a little with indignation, “but clearly the people who work for me don’t seem to think so and then today, I questioned this one event we have scheduled four months from now and said that I didn’t think it was particularly pressing and maybe it could be placed on the backburner and you would never guess what the head of my committee said…”
Noah was almost afraid to ask but he did anyway.
“He basically lectured me,” Luke said angrily “about how much work had gone into it already, how unfair it would be to everyone involved and then laid all this passive aggressive bullshit on me about how he understood if I was not “thinking” clearly because of my delicate and fragile state and maybe it’s best if I come back fulltime in a few months.”
“Wow,” Noah breathed out slowly, taking a long sip of his coffee. “So what did you say?”
“Well that’s where it sort of got bad,” Luke said, sheepishly staring down at his hands. “I basically reminded them that I own this Foundation and that they all worked for me and that if they had any issue with how I wanted to run my Foundation, they could leave.”
“Good for you,” Noah said casually.
“Really,” Luke said. “You didn’t think I was being a little bratty?”
“Maybe a little,” Noah smiled gently to soften the blow, “but at the same time Luke, you’re right, it is your organization and you have every right to demand respect from the people who work for you. Not to mention that it sounds like they were kind of being assholes to you, especially after what you’ve been through.”
“Thanks,” Luke said softly, “and nice language Mayer”, he added, chuckling a little. “The thing is, from everything my mom’s told me, they all do amazing work, they really care about the Foundation and I would hate to lose them.”
“If they care so much,” Noah added casually, “they’d be making an effort to maintain harmony and goodwill and being especially sensitive to their boss who just went through a horrible trauma, rather than trying to push his buttons.”
“Thanks Noah,” Luke said warmly, “thanks for listening and supporting me. It means a lot.”
“You’re welcome,” Noah said, as they exchanged an easy smile.
A comfortable silence settled between them as they silently and warmly stared at each other, neither in a hurry to look away. It wasn’t sexual or super intense; just a beautiful and tender moment that left Luke feeling calm and peaceful and filled Noah with a quiet joy.
“So,” Noah said, “what else has been going on?”
“Well,” Luke said, “I remembered something else and this one was particularly mind-blowing.”
“Oh…” Noah asked.
“Yeah,” Luke said, leaning back slightly in his chair. “I remembered my mom and Damian’s aborted wedding. The one where my dad, who everyone apparently assumed was dead, burst in.”
“Oh right,” Noah said, nodding in recollection of that night. “Yeah that was a pretty crazy day for you and your entire family.”
“Yeah, when I told my mom about it, she filled me in on all the details about my dad’s accident and everyone thinking he was dead for months.”
“That was a pretty rough time for you,” Noah said.
“But you were there,” Luke said, “as always.”
“You remember that,” Noah asked.
“Bits and pieces,” Luke said, “but my mom told me how supportive you were and how loving. She also told me that’s when I moved out of our apartment to be with my family, which seems really stupid to me now.”
“I understood,” Noah said. “Your mom was really hurting Luke and with the kids, she needed you.”
“I get that Noah and I’m sure you did understand but…”
“But what,” Noah asked.
“You were my family too, our relationship should have taken priority and I know I can’t remember all the details right now but I just wonder you know…if that decision didn’t play a part in what happened to us.”
“I told you Luke…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Luke interrupted, “our break-up was apparently a long and complicated story.”
“Something like that,” Noah smirked.
“So,” Luke said, suddenly changing the topic entirely, “how’s Adam?”
He sounded pleasant and casual…way too casual and Noah saw right through it. Still, he chose to ignore the slight undertone of discomfort in Luke’s voice at the mention of Adam and answered honestly.
They spent the next few minutes sharing a few pleasantries before Noah asked a question he’d been curious about, the moment Luke mentioned Damian.
“So, did your mom tell you anything about Damian?”
“What,” Luke said, “like how he was once again involved in a series of illegal activities, slept with my Aunt Meg and basically sent her over the deep end and ultimately vanished again?”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Noah said casually before adding, “are you okay?”
“Sure,” Luke shrugged, “why wouldn’t I be?”
And before Noah could answer, he added, “the thing is Noah, as sad as it sounds, when my mom told me the truth about Damian, there wasn’t one part of me that was shocked, sad or even disappointed. If I’m being completely honest, I felt calm, like this was one of the few things in my current crazy life that makes sense. Damian screwing up and failing us is just who he is.”
Noah said nothing, simply nodding along, understanding exactly where Luke was coming from considering his complicated history with his father.
“But can I tell you a secret,” Luke said softly, looking almost a little guilty by whatever he was about to say.
“Sure,” Noah said.
“A very, very small part of me still cares about him. I know it’s really more the fantasy version of who I wish he was but it’s still there. How crazy is that?”
“Not crazy,” Noah stated softly, “Just human I think. I sometimes still feel the same way about the Colonel. And it took a long time and months of therapy to accept that it’s okay for me to feel that way.”
“You went to therapy,” Luke asked in a stunned voice.
“You don’t have to look that surprised,” Noah said, smiling a little.
“I’m sorry,” Luke said, “it’s just, let’s face it Noah, you were never the most forthcoming when it came to talking about your feelings.”
“I know,” Noah said softly, “and it’s actually just one of the many reasons I finally decided to see someone. After I left Oakdale, I was in a pretty emotional place about everything and even I couldn’t ignore my feelings anymore and shut them away.”
“I’m sorry,” Luke said; sounding a little choked up.
“For what,” Noah asked.
“For being the cause of your pain,” Luke said, “let’s face it, you left town because I broke your heart and left you for Reid.”
“Luke, I’ve told you and yes you can roll your eyes as much as you want, our break-up was a lot more complicated than you just leaving me for someone else. And my needing therapy was also about a lot more than just that.”
“Fine,” Luke said. “I still hate myself a little bit for it.”
“Don’t,” Noah said in a stern voice.
“Okay,” Luke said, before taking a small sip of his mostly deserted coffee. “I guess that explains it though,” he suddenly added.
“Why you seem so different,” Luke said slowly. “You’re still you for the most part, but you seem calmer, more at peace, like that emotional wall you always surrounded yourself with is finally gone.”
As he curiously waited for Noah’s reaction to his comment, Luke added, “I kind of assumed it was because of Adam.”
“Actually,” Noah finally said, “that’s something else I learned from my therapist. That no one could help me find happiness and peace with myself no matter how in love we were or how happy we seemed. Basically, I had to figure that stuff out for myself and that’s something I didn’t realize when we were together which is why I keep telling you that what happened between us wasn’t solely your fault or mine.”
Luke acknowledged Noah’s words with a slight tilt of his head before saying, almost with a whisper, “I’m really glad you’re here, Noah.”
“So am I,” Noah said and without thinking about it, without considering what it could mean or how it could look to outsiders watching, he tentatively reached for Luke’s hand, squeezing it gently but tightly in his.
Noah was anxious for Adam to get home so he could share his big news with him. He’d been pondering the idea for a few weeks now, ever since his graduation and had finally made a decision. He couldn’t wait to tell Adam, knowing how excited and thrilled he’d be too.
The second Noah heard the sound of Adam’s key in the lock, he rushed ahead to welcome him in.
“Hi,” he said happily, grabbing an unsuspecting Adam for a quick and deep kiss before he’d even had a second to get his bearings.
“Hi,” Adam said, once he was able to catch his breath, “this is a pleasant surprise.”
Placing his coat in the closet and dropping his messenger bag on the floor, he turned to Noah as they moved into the living room.
“What’s going on, you look like you’re about to jump out of your skin in excitement.”
“I’ve made a decision, something big I’ve been thinking about and I can’t wait to share it with you,” Noah said, excitement radiating off his face.
“Okay,” Adam said, smiling at Noah’s obvious joy, “well don’t keep me in suspense, tell me already.”
Reaching for Adam’s hand, intertwining their fingers together, Noah said, “I’ve decided to move back to Oakdale for a year.”
And then he waited for Adam’s reaction…unfortunately, it wasn’t what he’d expected.
Adam stared silently at Noah; seconds ticking by and the longer the silence lasted, the more the tension built.
Noah’s smile dropped slowly until it all but disappeared.
“Adam, say something.”
“I…” Adam began, “I’m not sure what to say.”
“I don’t know,” Noah said, an undertone of hurt and irritation starting to creep into his voice, “I’m so happy, I love you so much, now we can be together for longer than a few days or weeks, something…”
“I guess I’m just confused why you’re really doing this,” Adam said.
“What do you mean,” Noah said, the exasperation in his voice loud and clear at this point. “I’m doing this to be with you. I’ve graduated so I can afford to leave California and I’m not saying I’m going to move back permanently, just for a year.”
“But what about your job Noah…”
“Adam, I work at a restaurant, it’s not like I can’t find work doing the same thing here,” Noah said, confusion by Adam’s response written clear across his face. “Plus, the cost of living here is a lot cheaper than California and now that I’ve graduated, I no longer get a stipend from the University.”
“Okay,” Adam said, “but what about the studio. Yes it was unpaid work and just some hours of grunt work but you yourself talked about all the connections you could make there and what a great opportunity it was.”
Adam was of course talking about Noah’s unpaid internship at Universal Studios. It was basically just grunt work but it had allowed him to meet some fairly important people, albeit briefly.
“It’s just an unpaid internship Adam, one that I’ve been doing for five months. Trust me, there will be other ones.”
Having said that, he reached for Adam’s hand, pulling him down slowly onto the couch before saying, “come on; tell me the truth. What is this really about?”
“Truth,” Adam said, sounding a little tentative.
“Of course,” Noah said.
“I don’t think you’re doing this for me Noah, at least not just for me. I think on some level you probably do believe that’s why you’re doing this but I don’t think it is.”
“What are you talking about, of course…,” Noah began but Adam interrupted, speaking right over him and dropping a bombshell.
“I think you’re really doing this because of Luke.”
“What,” Noah asked, sounding more than a little incredulous. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Just hear me out,” Adam said calmly. “Luke is going through something really traumatic and emotional. Yes he’s getting better but I know this must be so tough for him and I know he’s been leaning on you a lot.”
“We just talk...” Noah interrupted.
“It’s not an accusation, Noah,” Adam said, sounding a little frustrated. “I just feel like this is who you are and what you do. Someone needs you and you drop everything to be there for them and especially when that someone is Luke. You two have a complicated history and I just think without even noticing it, you’re making your whole life about him and his needs.”
Noah stared silently at Adam for a few seconds, slowly absorbing everything he’d said. Adam held his breath, not sure how Noah would respond. When he finally spoke, there was no anger but it was clear he did not agree with Adam.
“You’re wrong,” he said softly. “I’m not some naïve little 18 year old kid blindly in love with Luke Snyder anymore. We’re friends and yes I care about him, yes I want to support him and be there for him but that’s all it is. I love you and I just thought it would be nice if we could have what he had when we first got together, now that I’m no longer burdened with school but obviously you don’t feel the same so don’t worry, I’ll happily stay put in California if that’s what you want.”
And with that he got up and walked out of the room. Adam sat silently, watching him walk away before sinking down into the couch, wanting desperately to have it swallow him up and settle him into a place where he didn’t have to deal with his relationship issues. He fantasized about being brought to a place less than a year ago, when he was still in California and things between him and Noah were perfect and ideal.
But as Adam wrapped his hands tightly around one of the cushions on the couch, he knew that utopia of their relationship was gone. He knew Noah loved him. He never doubted that for a second and he knew on one level Noah really did want to move to Oakdale to be with him. But he also knew - call it intuition or just a gut feeling - that a bigger part of his decision had to do with Luke.
It wouldn’t surprise him if Noah truly didn’t even realize it on a conscious level but Adam had observed him since Luke’s accident, watched his boyfriend slowly wrap himself into his ex-boyfriend’s life, his troubles, fears, and concerns and finally realized the truth; that Noah was slowly imbedding himself in Luke’s life and his being in Oakdale fulltime was only going to make it worse. And then, Adam thought, taking a heavy, frightened breath, how soon before Noah was in love with Luke again.
***Noah furiously searched through the drawer Adam had given him months before when his visits became more frequent, trying desperately to stamp down the hurt he felt at Adam’s less than enthusiastic response to his plan to move back to Oakdale for a year.
He shook his head as he grabbed for a t-shirt and boxer briefs, his confusion increasing at Adam’s reasons. Noah had no idea where that stuff about Luke was coming from. Yes, he would admit he and Luke spent a lot of time talking and hanging out when he was Oakdale; that was no secret.
And yes, he was concerned about Luke’s health and how he was dealing with the memory loss but it was as a friend. He was only doing what a good friend would do and nothing more. And so what if part of his decision did have something to do with Luke and wanting to be there for him. Again, that’s what friends did for each other and Adam had always seemed more than okay and supportive of his friendship with Luke, or so Noah had thought.
The fact was, he thought as he walked into the bathroom, looking forward to a hot shower to clear his mind, Luke was his friend and he cared about him and wanted to support him. Meanwhile, Adam was his boyfriend and he loved him. So what was so wrong in wanting to move to a place where he could be there for both of them? In fact, shouldn’t that be a great thing?
And it didn’t matter that Luke believed himself in love with him, Noah thought, or that their calls were far more frequent and longer recently and were becoming less about helping Luke understand the things he’d forgotten and more about reminiscing about the things they had shared or that more and more, when Noah spent time with him, it became harder not to see Luke as the bright, passionate and kind boy he’d loved so desperately and less as someone from his past.
None of that mattered Noah told himself because at the end of the day it didn’t mean anything. He loved Adam; Luke was just a friend…period. And he repeated the mantra all during his shower, repeated it when Adam eventually joined him, apologizing for how he’d acted and letting him know how much he wanted nothing more than to have Noah in Oakdale with him.
Noah repeated the mantra in his head all through dinner, all through their slow and tender love-making and into the night where they held each other tightly in bed. And he told himself it meant nothing that his pulse quickened, his heart skipped a beat and something tender and fierce moved across his chest at the look of joy and excitement on Luke’s face when he told him he was moving back to Oakdale for a little while.