Word Count: 5,231
Pairings: Luke/Noah, Luke/Reid, Noah/OMC
Previous Chapters: Chapters 28-30
Disclaimer: Only for fun, not for profit.
Author's Note: This is the longest update I've ever posted. Because of this, the next one might not be for a week. This is long enough to keep you guys satisfied for awhile. Told you Part III was going to be the longest part of this story. Almost to the end of it though and the last part is likely to be a lot shorter.
“Happy 4th of July…”
Noah could feel his ears ringing from the loud yells and chants of celebration but it was not enough to dampen his good mood. As he silently stared around at the scene in front of him, he felt his chest expand with joy. He was at the Snyder farm, enjoying the festivities of their big Independence Day bar-b-que.
Adam had joined him until he had to leave for work. Noah had noticed his slight hesitation when he first brought up the invitation from Luke, pointing out that Luke specifically asked Noah to bring Adam along.
Noah, assuming that Adam was still bothered by the celebratory dinner that had been held for him at Lily and Holden’s, quickly informed him that just about everyone in town was going to be at this bar-b-que and so he wouldn’t just be surrounded by the Snyders.
The news did seem to calm Adam a little and he’d appeared to have a good time, complimenting Luke and his family on how beautiful the farm was, joining Noah and others in taking a dip in the lake and talking to Alison and a few other nurses who were in attendance.
Noah was sad to see him go, especially as the fireworks hadn’t gone off yet but he’d long made his peace with the demands of Adam’s career. And if he was completely honest, he was having a great time. It both surprised and thrilled him how easy it had been for him to settle back into the Snyder family.
His conversations with all of them was like no time had passed and despite the nature of his and Luke’s relationship, they all still treated him like a family member, all treated him with the same warmth and love they had before and basically still treated him like they cared.
And for someone like Noah, who had never had that familial love, it meant a lot. It made him truly and finally realize that they weren’t just words, that the Snyders’ love and support really was purely for him and not just because he had been Luke’s boyfriend.
The realization warmed him all over but also made him feel slightly guilty for basically cutting all ties with them when he’d cut ties with Luke. Logically he knew he had to do it and it was what was right for him at the time but he couldn’t help the feeling that he’d hurt them by his actions, even if they would never say so.
Still, as he looked around at all the familiar smiling faces, observed Luke helping Holden at the grill, Lily drying Ethan off, Emma gathering up some plates and so many other familiar faces, the only thing Noah felt was pure, unadulterated joy.
As great as the lake had felt, with the sun beginning to set, a slight chill filled the air. So Noah headed into the house to dry off. He’d just gotten into the kitchen and began wiping down his chest when Luke came barreling in…water dripping off his body.
“Hey,” he smiled, as he noticed Noah’s presence. “You would think the fact that I live here, I’d know to grab a towel before jumping in the lake.”
“Yes, that would have made sense,” Noah gently teased.
“Whatever,” Luke said, smiling as he walked past Noah to a small corner of the kitchen where Emma, anticipating the need for extra towels by the numerous guests, had left a few folded neatly.
Grabbing for one, quickly drying off his chest, he added, “trust me, I didn’t plan on going in but Faith and Natalie had other ideas and you’d be amazed how strong those two can be, especially if they catch you off guard.”
“I bet…” Noah replied distantly. He was trying very hard to focus on Luke’s words and only his words but his traitorous thoughts kept betraying him. He kept getting distracted by the strong and taut muscles of Luke’s back, the light glow of his skin, sun-kissed from being outdoors a lot since moving back to the farm and the way Luke’s shorts, now wet, perfectly hugged his ass.
“What the hell are you doing,” Noah screamed silently to himself. “This is Luke, it’s not like it’s anything you haven’t seen before. He’s just your friend, period…nothing more.”
“Noah, are you okay?”
“Hmm, what…” Noah muttered, stunned out of his very, very awkward thoughts by Luke’s quiet words.
“Are you okay…you look like you were a million miles away.”
“Oh no, I’m fine, just thinking about something…” Noah laughed nervously.
Luke gave him a small smile and said okay but it was clear he was still wondering what was up with him. He needed to think of something fast to change the subject.
“I was just thinking about the first time you and I were in this kitchen like this…”
The second the words were out of his mouth, the voice in his head screamed so loud, it was like a pounding in his brain, “you idiot, how does that help?”
“Umm,” Luke said slowly, “that was definitely an interesting day.”
“Sorry,” Noah said, “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, I just…”
“You didn’t,” Luke interrupted, sounding sure and confident. “Memories of you and me together never make me uncomfortable Noah. I guess I was just surprised that you still think about these things.”
They both understood Luke’s meaning.
Laying his towel on the back of a chair with a soft sigh, Noah said, “Just because I’m seeing someone else Luke, doesn’t mean I want to forget everything we shared together. I tried that before. When I first left Oakdale, I was so angry and bitter, that I was convinced I wanted to forget everything that happened between us. But eventually, I realized that no matter how things ended, what we shared was too amazing, too beautiful, even with the bad and I never want to forget any of it.”
Luke stared a little shell-shocked at Noah, almost overcome with emotion, seemingly unsure of what to say. Finally he whispered, “I feel the same…” It was simple but said much, much more.
They stared silently at each other, both lost in their own thoughts. And suddenly there was a shift in the energy of the room, subtle at first, so subtle that someone walking in would hardly notice anything out of the ordinary.
But Luke could feel the loud pounding of his heart practically ringing in his ears as he watched Noah’s eyes darken slightly, clouding with heat. He wasn’t imagining this, Luke was positive. Meanwhile, Noah was fighting to ignore the pure and naked desire reflected on Luke’s face. He needed some air. Just as he thought it, he felt his legs moving slowly but quickly realized that instead of heading towards the door, they seemed to be moving closer to Luke.
“I…” Noah said, swallowing heavily, his throat suddenly incredibly dry.
Whatever he was going to say and whatever Luke’s response would have been was interrupted by the sudden loud explosion of fireworks. Both jumped a little from the sound, the spell they’d been under broken.
Clearing his throat nervously, Luke plastered a smile on his face, saying softly, “the fireworks started, we should go watch.”
“Right,” Noah said, still looking and sounding like he was struggling to get his racing emotions under control.
Luke moved forward first which quickly created another awkward situation as Noah moved to walk to the door at the same time. They collided into each other, both apologizing quickly and nervously moving away from each other. They silently and nervously stood next to each other, a comfortable distance now back between them.
However, deciding they were both being silly, Luke suddenly began to laugh, trying to break the tension, before rolling his eyes at the absurdity of the entire situation. It was obvious, he thought, that they were still attracted to each other but so what, it was only awkward if they made it so.
With that thought firmly in mind, he grabbed a very surprised Noah’s hand, clasped it tightly in his and said, “come on, if we don’t move quickly, we’ll miss the entire show.”
Noah allowed himself to be dragged all the way down to the pond where all the remaining guests and the Snyders were gathered watching the fireworks. He was spared the awkwardness of wondering when to remove his hand in Luke’s as the latter made the decision as soon as they approached the pond, immediately letting go of Noah’s hand.
They remained close to each other however, all throughout the fireworks display, their shoulders brushing against each other’s. And Noah tried desperately to ignore the slow building fire rolling around his stomach at every slight brush of Luke’s shoulder and how hard he had to fight to not sneak glances at Luke’s face as it glowed and lit up by the fireworks.
Noah was avoiding Luke or at least trying to but failing miserably. After the Independence Day bar-b-que at the Snyder farm and his completely inexplicable physical reaction to Luke, he’d decided that maybe putting some distance between them would be best.
Unfortunately, there was no way to do that without either hurting Luke’s feelings when it seemed like he just didn’t want to be around him anymore, or telling him why he didn’t want to be around him and Noah didn’t think that was a conversation they should be having with each other.
His attempts at avoidance came two days after the bar-b-que when his cell phone rang and he knew immediately it was Luke. He stared at the phone for what felt like a lifetime, watching it vibrate practically off the table, until his voicemail picked up. It was only one ignored call but he felt horrible and the feeling only increased after the second call and Noah knew without a shred of doubt, that he couldn’t do this.
His only option was to either be honest with Luke about why he thought they needed some distance or to simply try to ignore what happened at the bar-b-que. He never got the chance to figure out a plan of action as only a day after he’d ignored Luke’s calls; he was reminded about how small this town was, when leaving a downtown department store, he bumped right into Luke.
“Hi…” Luke said, looking and sounding a little breathless and surprised.
“Hi,” Noah said, sounding just as breathless but more nervous and uncomfortable than surprised.
An awkward silence settled between them, the warm and happy smile that had been on Luke’s face seconds before, faltering a little.
“So what’s up,” Noah said softly, trying to ease the tension.
“Oh I was just leaving a business lunch meeting,” Luke said, gesturing towards the elegant and very high-priced restaurant a few feet away from the department store.
Turning back towards Noah, he stared down at the large bag in his hand, smiling slightly before stating; “Doing a little afternoon shopping?”
“What,” Noah said, still clearly distracted by his thoughts, before remembering the bag he was clutching tightly in his hands, “oh right, the bag…yeah, Adam’s birthday is in about two weeks so I was getting a head start on his birthday present.”
“Oh, that sounds nice,” Luke said. The smile on his face clearly didn’t reach his eyes.
“I’m sorry I missed your calls,” Noah said, suddenly switching topics. In the short moment he stood sharing awkward small talk with Luke, he knew what he had to do.
Noah quickly rationalized that what happened at the Snyder farm was nothing more than a momentary lapse in judgment and there was no reason to make a bigger deal out of it and make the situation worse which would certainly happen if he kept avoiding Luke’s calls and acting weird like he was doing right now.
“I was really busy with the move and other stuff that I just got really distracted,” he added, trying to not feel too guilty about the blatant lie.
“It’s okay,” Luke stated simply.
“So are you okay or was it just a friendly, “let’s catch up” kind of call”.
“Actually,” Luke said slowly, “I did have a favor to ask you but if you’re busy, it’s okay, we can talk about it later.”
“No,” Noah said a little desperately, wanting so much to make up for his stupid behavior, “I have time.”
And noticing the small Starbucks across the street, he quickly added, “I know you just came out of a lunch meeting but you think you have some room left for a cup of coffee? We can sit, talk a little and you can tell me all about this favor.”
Finally looking as relaxed as he’d seemed when first bumping into Noah, Luke smiled brightly and said, “I’d love that.”
They crossed the street silently; both a little lost in their own thoughts for a few seconds and unaware how similar those thoughts were…that just being near each other felt so good.
“So what’s up?” Noah asked, as he and Luke settled at a small table with three chairs, which allowed him to place his shopping bag down.
“Well,” Luke said, taking a small sip of his drink, “I need a videographer for something I’m working on and I couldn’t think of anyone more qualified.”
“Thank you for the compliment,” Noah smiled. Still, as any decent filmmaker would, he knew he had to find out all the details first.
“What exactly is this project about?”
“It’s not a project so much,” Luke said slowly, looking slightly uncomfortable. Noah couldn’t figure out why, until Luke added, “it’s actually part of my community service.”
Noah knew how uncomfortable talking about his community service and by that token the fact that he’d been drinking, made Luke feel. Although he couldn’t remember all the details of why he’d made such a stupid decision, Luke admitted that it still made him angry at himself and more than a little disappointed that after all this time; his answer to dealing with emotional issues in his life was to risk his health.
They spent hours on the phone one night talking about it and Noah had tried desperately to make Luke stop being so hard on himself. He’d succeeded a little but clearly, judging by Luke’s obvious discomfort, it was still a sore subject for him.
“Basically,” Luke stated, “I had a choice. I could either go pick up trash for a few hours or volunteer at some type of shelter, half-way house or home. Honestly, I wasn’t too proud to pick up trash,” he added quickly, almost like he thought Noah might judge him for taking the easier option. Noah was a little hurt by that…Luke should have known him better than that.
“But,” Luke continued, “It occurred to me that I could be far more useful and make a much greater contribution by helping out some type of shelter and using the Foundation resources as well.”
“Makes sense,” Noah said, still wondering where he came in.
“Anyway, I found this small home about three or four miles out of town for children whose parents are in jail. The woman who runs it was raised with both of her parents in jail and obviously funding is really limited. I want to get people’s attention about it and more importantly some of our donors’ attention and that’s where you come in. I was hoping you could maybe film a short documentary about the place that I could use as part of my pitch for funding from the donors. You’d be paid of course…”
“Luke,” Noah said, as Luke seemed ready to continue his sales pitch. “Of course I'll help and you don’t have to pay me.”
“Thank you,” Luke smiled widely, “and for the record, you will get paid and” he added, as Noah looked ready to interject, “I don’t want to hear a word about it. Noah, the Foundation would pay any other videographer hired for this project. I’m not going to not pay you just because we have a personal relationship.”
“Okay fine,” Noah said.
“Good…” Luke said, as they both settled in to enjoy their coffee.
“So, any big plans for Adam’s birthday,” Luke asked a few moments later.
It was obvious to Noah that talking about Adam was a struggle for Luke but he was making the effort because he was determined to have Noah in his life and Adam was clearly a part of Noah’s life. Noah both appreciated it and hated it.
He appreciated that Luke was willing to make this much of an effort to maintain a relationship with him, no matter if it was just friendship, but he hated that it so obviously caused Luke pain.
Of course he would never admit it and so Noah chose to play along and pretend that he didn’t realize how Luke’s voice lowered slightly or how his eyes filled with a hint of sadness every time he mentioned Adam’s name.
“Not that big,” Noah said, “but his parents are coming for a visit to help him celebrate.”
Noah was certain he’d kept his voice as neutral as possible. He was wrong.
“Hmm,” Luke said around the mouth of his coffee cup.
“What,” Noah said, noting the slight eyebrow raise from Luke.
“Nothing,” Luke said softly, “it’s just, not for nothing, you sounded a little less than thrilled about his parents coming for a visit.”
“I was that obvious,” Noah asked, with an almost resigned sigh.
“Nah,” Luke said, with a small smile, “I wouldn’t say you were that obvious. I just know you very well. So what’s the story,” he added, “not a fan?”
“No, that’s not it exactly,” Noah said, sounding a little hesitant. He wasn’t sure if badmouthing his boyfriend’s parents to his ex-boyfriend was the best idea but Luke was not just his ex-boyfriend, he was his friend as well and he didn’t have that many of those to begin with, not very close ones anyway.
And friends talked about stuff like that. But more than anything, he knew that Luke, more than anyone else would probably understand his feelings best because he knew him better than most.
“They’re not bad people, let me just say that. His mom is actually a sweetheart and they are both super supportive about Adam’s sexuality and have never treated me with anything but utmost respect and kindness…”
“But…” Luke said, knowing that there was clearly a “but” in there.
“But I just get this feeling that they don’t think I’m right for Adam, especially his dad. I don’t think he hates me or anything but I don’t think he’s impressed with the whole director dream. Not surprising being that they’re all academics and it makes things kind of awkward at times.”
“Hmm,” Luke said slowly, before tentatively adding, “Am I allowed to give an opinion?”
“Of course you can,” Noah laughed, rolling his eyes a little.
“Thanks,” Luke said smiling, “well first of all, it is possible you’re imagining this since like you said they’ve always been nothing but pleasant to you. Maybe being around a group of academics makes you feel self-conscious and you’re sort of projecting that onto Adam’s parents.”
“That’s a good point,” Noah said, “and I would be inclined to consider it if his dad didn’t spend much of the first few times we met grilling me on whether or not I had a “fallback” plan and discussing stats and odds of how many people actually become successful directors.”
“Fair enough,” Luke said. “Okay, well I’ll say this…who cares what they think? You and Adam are happy and it doesn’t seem like he’s putting much weight on what his parents think. Plus like you’ve said, they’re not hateful or openly hostile, they accept Adam’s sexuality…I guess my point is that while it might not be the most comfortable situation, it’s not the worst. I mean with Adam out here, how much time do you have to spend with them anyway?”
“Good point,” Noah laughed.
“Noah, speaking as one who dated a guy whose father hated me enough to try to kill me, I say quit whining…you have it easy.”
“Touché,” Noah said, “and I’m glad that you can make jokes about that now since it still hurts me that I almost got you killed.”
“Seriously,” Luke said, sounding exasperated. “You didn’t almost get me killed Noah, that was all your father.” And as an afterthought, he added, “I thought you went to therapy, didn’t they cover the “no more feeling guilty about your father’s actions” portion?”
“He did but let’s just say I’m still a work in progress.”
“Aren’t we all,” Luke said with a gentle smile, “aren’t we all.”
The next two weeks went by fairly normal. Luke and Noah still had their multiple phone calls a day, although after noting Adam’s less than enthusiastic response when one of those calls came on a night that he was actually off from the hospital, Noah tried to minimize them to times when Adam was not around. He ignored the part of him that felt like it was cheating somehow.
Adam’s birthday came and went with little issue and while Noah continued to feel slightly uncomfortable and judged by Adam’s dad, their visit wasn’t entirely unpleasant. Adam loved Noah’s gift and as they spent the night wrapped in each other, Noah decided that they were in a good place despite whatever feelings Adam had about Luke’s presence in his life or whatever confused thoughts Noah had about Luke.
That was until a few nights after Adam’s birthday, when Noah lay alone in bed with Adam on a three day shift at the hospital. It was two in the morning and it was the sound of a strange buzzing somewhere deep in Noah’s subconscious that woke him up.
It took him a few moments to shake the sleep out his eyes and focus on where the sound was coming from. He quickly realized that it was his cell-phone and saw Luke’s name blinking at him. Grabbing the phone, just as it was about to go to voicemail, he touched the talk button on the screen.
“Luke, are you okay?”
“Noah,” Luke whispered, his voice sounding shaky and wobbly. He was clearly crying. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
“What are you talking about,” Noah said, suddenly alert and wide awake. “Luke, just calm down and tell me what’s going on.”
“I remember,” Luke blubbered, the sound of his tears now practically wails, “I remember your accident…it was my fault, all my fault. You lost your sight because of me.”
“Luke that is not what…” Noah started to say but the loud, heartbreaking sobs coming through his phone made him acutely aware that not a lot was going to get through to Luke.
“Okay, I assume you’re home,” Noah finally said.
“Yes,” Luke mumbled.
“I’m coming over.”
Noah was at the farm in less than half an hour. Luke met him on the porch, curled up on one of the chairs. As Noah approached, he could see the streaks of tears, now dried out on Luke’s cheeks, the puffiness and redness of his eyes.
He’d thrown a light spring sweater over his t-shirt and left his pajama bottoms on. Watching Luke curled up in the massive chair which practically swallowed him up; he looked so small and frail, even vulnerable, to Noah.
“Hi,” Noah said softly, a little tentatively, moving forward to take a seat next to him.
“Hi,” Luke said. It was so soft, Noah almost didn’t hear him.
“So,” Noah said slowly, “what’s going on? What’s got you so upset?”
“I caused your accident,” Luke mumbled, still curled up in himself. “I remember that day, I remember it clearly. We were arguing because I told Damian about Mason and he reported him and got him fired. You were angry because the University shut down your final project because of it and then you went on the roof and I…”
He couldn’t finish, fresh tears starting to flow.
“Luke,” Noah said.
“No,” Luke said through his tears, suddenly sitting up and moving towards Noah. “I caused this. I caused all of this and ruined your life and our relationship and then what do I do, I go fall for the guy hired to help you get your sight back. Who does that?”
He was almost hysterical at this point.
“How do you not completely hate me, Noah? How can you even stand to be around me?”
Suddenly grabbing fiercely for Luke’s face, Noah’s applied a tender pressure to his cheeks, forcing him to look up at him.
“Stop it,” Noah said; anger at Luke for beating himself up over something that was long over making him sound harsher than he intended.
“My accident was not your fault Luke,” he said and then he repeated it a lot louder as Luke continued to bawl, rejecting Noah’s words.
“It wasn’t. My accident was just that…an accident. I knew better, I had no business going on that roof and handling those wires that I knew nothing about. You went to Damian because you were upset and concerned about your relationship and needed someone to talk to. There was nothing wrong with that. You didn’t know he was going to talk to the Dean and even if he did, he wasn’t wrong for that either. Mason was inappropriate and I knew it but I chose to ignore it. What happened to me on that roof Luke was no one’s fault…it was just one of those tragedies in life that happens.”
“But then I broke up with you…” Luke said.
“Luke, by the time you met Reid, you and I were barely functioning. I can tell you now that my accident was not your fault but a part of me, back then, did blame you and I was angry and scared…so scared. And the more scared and angry I was, the more I pushed you away no matter how much you begged and pleaded for me to let you in.”
Taking a deep and heavy sigh, emotional over having to relieve the painful memories of that very difficult time, Noah said softly, “You didn’t leave me for Reid Luke…we were already broken.”
His tears had finally stopped but Luke still looked like an emotional wreck.
“I’m still so sorry…”
“You don’t have to be,” Noah whispered.
“I just hate even the thought that I might have caused you that much pain,” Luke whispered.
“I know,” Noah whispered back, “but it’s over, it’s all in the past.”
“Okay,” Luke sniffled a little before adding, “I’m sorry for waking you up this late.”
“It’s okay,” Noah smiled, tenderly stroking a few locks that had fallen over Luke’s eyes, away from his face.
Luke smiled tenderly up at him, closing his eyes for a second and sighing into the touch.
“Feel better,” Noah said.
It suddenly occurred to him that they were both still whispering.
“A little,” Luke said, “thanks again for being here.” And then he spontaneously leaned in to place a chaste kiss on Noah’s cheek.
He pulled back almost immediately; ready to apologize, feeling like he’d clearly gone too far but his apology quickly died in his throat as he took in the look in Noah’s eyes.
The second Luke placed his lips to Noah’s cheek; it was like something inside of him exploded. Whatever that force inside him that had allowed him to keep any romantic feelings for Luke at bay and allow him to strictly “friend-zone” him, vanished.
He didn’t think, he didn’t consider what his actions would mean, what the ramifications would be, he decided to just feel. It took Luke a second to realize what was happening before Noah tentatively placed his lips on his.
A stunned sigh escaped Luke’s lips and he breathed it into Noah’s mouth, not hesitating for a second to open his mouth and welcome Noah in. Noah accepted the invitation, slowly slipping his tongue in and quickly deepening the kiss.
It was like an exploration but a revisit to a very familiar place all in one. Luke sucked in hungrily the deep moan that escaped from Noah, moving his body closer to soak in the heat radiating off Noah’s chest and the tiny bit of exposed skin at his neck.
The move made Noah release another deep, satisfied moan as he snaked his hand up Luke’s back, his neck and finally into his hair where he clutched a fistful tightly. Luke responded by moving even closer into Noah’s body, one leg hitching over Noah’s. He was practically in his lap by this point and still the kiss continued.
Their tongues were furiously battling each other, exploring every inch of each other’s mouths and sucking in each other’s very essence. Luke wrapped his arms around Noah’s neck tightly, moving closer still, wanting to mold his body into Noah’s, and never wanting the moment to end.
Noah kept not thinking, ignoring the voice trying desperately to sneak in. He wanted to just feel…to feel Luke’s strong yet delicate arms wrapped tightly around his neck, his leg wrapped in Noah’s and practically around his waist and his tongue, oh god, his tongue doing the most unbelievably glorious things.
Time ceased to exist and the heat between them continued to build until Luke carefully reached for the buttons on Noah’s shirt and pulled away from Noah’s mouth, needing to suck in some oxygen and proceeded to lick and suck on Noah’s neck.
That voice Noah was trying so desperately to ignore suddenly broke through loud and clear. This had gotten way out of hand. Not wanting to hurt Luke’s feelings by abruptly pulling away, Noah leaned back slightly, moving his neck away from a very turned on Luke who was practically feasting on it.
And then he pulled his hands away and slowly pulled his leg which was trapped beneath Luke’s away, effectively putting some distance between them.
“What’s wrong,” Luke said; eyes still dark with passion and now some confusion and hurt.
Noah felt horrible. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt Luke or confuse him. He wanted to kick himself, angry that he allowed himself to get caught up in his own desires and not even consider how Luke would feel.
“For what,” Luke said tenderly. “We both wanted this to happen.”
“No Luke, I can’t, you know that and this was a mistake and I just…”
Noah observed the dramatic shift in Luke’s expression; the passion slowly fading as the cold realization of what Noah was saying hit him.
“It’s fine, Noah,” Luke said, sounding stiff. “You don’t have to apologize. I was upset and things just got a little emotional and confusing.”
Noah tried to say something but Luke interrupted, adding, “You should probably go home now, it’s late. Thanks again for coming over. I feel a lot better now.”
And before Noah could think of a single thing to add, Luke quickly got up, added a soft good night and headed inside. There was nothing left for Noah to do but head to his car and try not to hate himself over the mess he'd just created.