Word Count: 4,030
Pairings: Luke/Noah, Luke/Reid, Noah/OMC
Previous Chapters: Chapters 31-33
Disclaimer: Just for fun, not for profit.
Author's Note: I was going to say this was a short update until the word count told me it was 4,030 words so apparently not so short. Enjoy.
Noah didn’t hear from Luke for the next two days.
He really didn’t have a clue what to say to make the situation okay, but he felt like it would make him more of a jerk if he didn’t at least try to call and so he did; ignoring the relief he felt when Luke ignored both calls. The truth was he simply was not ready to face Luke and discuss what happened at the Snyder farm.
It was one thing when he was having a few not so PG-13 thoughts about Luke. Those he could file away as “not a big deal” and pretend everything was fine…that they were just friends and nothing more.
However, practically sucking each other’s faces off right on the porch of the Snyder farm was a lot harder to file in the “not a big deal” box. There was no way to go back to the friend-zone in Noah’s mind.
And that didn’t even include the indescribable guilt he felt every time Adam smiled at him, told him he loved him, told him how happy he was that he was now back in Oakdale fulltime. Hurting either Adam or Luke was one of the last things Noah ever wanted to do.
But it was slowly beginning to dawn on him that sooner or later that was exactly what was going to happen and he knew he would hate himself for it. He had to make some very serious choices but Noah wasn’t sure he was ready to face what those choices were.
However, avoiding Luke suddenly became impossible three days later, as Noah remembered the plans they had made to visit the shelter that Luke was doing his community service at.
At first Noah wasn’t sure whether to simply visit the shelter by himself and film the video without Luke. However he began to question whether Luke even still wanted him on the project considering he was avoiding his calls which obviously meant he was mad at him.
The answer came early that morning. Noah was so stunned when he saw Luke’s name across the screen as his phone began to vibrate that he answered almost instantly.
“Hi,” he said a little tentatively, “are you…what’s up…”
Noah was so nervous, he couldn’t even decide on a simple greeting. Luke on the other hand didn’t seem to have that problem.
“Hi,” he said calmly, almost professionally.
“I was wondering if 10:30 is okay for you, for us to make the trip. It’ll take us about 20 to 30 minutes to get there, depending on traffic and then I don’t know,” he hesitated a little, “is an hour and a half enough time for you to film…”
It took Noah a second to realize Luke was waiting for a response from him.
“What…oh yeah sure, that’s fine. I should get loads of footage in that time.”
“Great,” Luke said calmly. “Well I’ll see you at 10:30.”
“Umm okay,” Noah said confused, finally saying, “listen Luke, I think we should talk.”
“I have a lot of paper work I need to get through before we leave for this trip Noah,” Luke said abruptly. And just as Noah was ready to accept he was getting a very obvious and blunt brush-off, Luke said softly, his tone suddenly far less sure and cold and a lot more nervous; “We’ll have plenty of time to talk in the car.”
“Good point,” Noah said. “Well I’ll see you at 10:30”.
“See you then,” Luke said before quickly hanging up.
Noah sat quietly staring at his half-empty bowl of cereal wondering if he’d figure out what exactly to say to Luke in the next three and a half hours.
***Luke seemed surprisingly calm and even pleasant. His demeanor had completely thrown Noah for a loop when he’d first pulled up to the apartment building where Noah was waiting promptly outside.
“Hi,” Luke smiled politely.
“Hi,” Noah said, unable to muster even a polite smile with the many thoughts swirling around his head. He’d never figured out those perfect words to say to Luke.
“Are you all packed,” Luke asked.
Noah gently patted his equipment bag, “Yup, I have everything I need.”
“Great,” Luke smiled before pulling his sunglasses down over his eyes, putting the car in drive and slowly pulling off the curb and into the street.
They drove for ten minutes before the silence began to drive Noah stir crazy. The longer Luke said nothing about that night and instead coolly and calmly drove the car, humming softly to the music on the radio, the more paranoid, nervous and uncomfortable Noah became.
Just as he felt like he was very, very close to exploding, Luke suddenly reached for the car stereo system and gently turned the radio down. Not taking his eyes off the road for a second he said quietly, with almost no inflection in his voice, “we need to talk.”
“Yes,” Noah said, both relieved and even more tense by the prospect of what was to come.
“Okay let me go first and please don’t interrupt Noah…just listen.”
“Okay,” Noah said.
“First of all, I’m sorry…”
He knew he’d promised to just listen but Noah couldn’t help himself and the second the apology was out of Luke’s mouth he sat up straighter and turned towards Luke, a frown etched on his face.
“Sorry for what, Luke you didn’t do anything…”
“You promised you wouldn’t interrupt…” Luke said calmly, a small smile peaking at the edge of his lips.
“Right, sorry…” Noah said, leaning back on the seat.
“As I was saying, I’m sorry and what I’m sorry for is being responsible for creating a situation that allowed what happened at the farm to happen. My memory loss has been hard Noah, I won’t deny that and you have been amazing and super supportive and the truth is because of that it’s been way too easy for me to lean on you. But you have a boyfriend who you’re happily in love with and I know that and I’ve been incredibly inappropriate calling you at all times of the day and night, leaning on you all the time.”
He couldn’t help it. He didn’t care what he’d promised, he had to say something.
“Luke I kissed you and I could just as easily have ignored your calls and said something if you were being inappropriate…”
“Yes but you’re too good of a person to do that. I was hurting, scared and confused about what was happening to me. It’s not in you to turn someone away when they need you Noah and I knew that. My point is I allowed myself to lean on you, way more than I should have and that night was just a culmination of that. I was upset, emotional and we just let things get a little carried away.”
Noah didn’t know what to say. Luke was basically placing all the blame on himself and giving him a complete out.
“Anyway,” Luke continued calmly, “I decided that the best thing is to start placing some well-needed boundaries between us. Most of my memories are back, I’m doing a lot better so I promise no more late night phone calls and no more calls to just hang out almost every day. You’re my friend Noah and I don’t want to lose that. So I’m sorry for causing the lines to get blurred and disrespecting your relationship…it won’t happen again.”
“Luke,” Noah said slowly, still trying to process how unexpected and completely left field this conversation had taken.
As he was still trying desperately to think of something mildly coherent to say, Luke finally glanced away from the road to give him a small smile.
And that’s when the truth hit Noah. Luke was lying through his teeth. He’d briefly wondered why Luke was even wearing sunglasses since the sun was really not that bright and the car was heavily tinted. But now Noah knew. Luke hadn’t wanted him to see his eyes for his whole speech because he knew Noah would see the truth there.
And now knowing the truth made Noah far more confused than he was a few hours earlier. It was obvious Luke had decided that Noah was probably going to tell him the kiss had been a mistake, that he loved Adam and maybe suggest they put some distance between them.
So he’d taken the weight off of Noah’s shoulders, by placing it all on his, apologizing and suggesting that he put some boundaries between them. Noah should have been happy. Maybe Luke’s idea was for the best. Maybe some distance and better boundaries between them was the best idea. However, Noah hated the idea of Luke taking on the responsibility of everything that had happened between them.
He was the one with the boyfriend, he should have known things were getting out of hand long before they did and put a stop to it. Not to mention, that the greatest source of Noah’s guilt for the past few days was how often he thought about every second of that moment with Luke, the taste of his tongue, his smell, his touches and how little he regretted it.
He could have said all of these things but instead he just stared a little dumbfounded back at Luke before mumbling, “I don’t know what to say…”
“I know, it’s okay,” Luke said, the air of perfect calm he’d been projecting not faltering a bit. “Let’s just focus on this trip and helping these people.”
He should have said no, demanded that they continue talking about their situation but instead, Noah just mumbled “okay” and watched as Luke turned the music back up slightly, fixed his eyes on the road and they continued to drive in silence.
They arrived at the shelter about ten minutes ahead of schedule. The woman who ran the place, Ann Bailey came out to greet them, happy and excited by the work Luke planned to do for the shelter. Luke made a few quick introductions and Ann quickly welcomed them inside.
Noah was pleasantly surprised at how warm and cozy the house was. It was an old three story western style structure which, by breaking down a few walls and transforming the basement, Ann had managed to create five bedrooms, each with four beds. Space was therefore clearly limited. Ann explained to Luke and Noah as they walked first into the kitchen that the house had belonged to her maternal grandparents which she’d inherited from her mother.
Despite the limited space, there was an obvious feeling of warmth and family. As Noah walked around the house, following Ann as she gave him and Luke the full tour he ran into many of the kids who lived there and it was obvious that despite their emotional situations, despite the scarce resources Ann had, they all felt safe and secure and most importantly felt loved. It hit Noah immediately that this was the message he wanted to convey with the film. His mind quickly began racing with the shots he could take, edits he would make and more.
Once the tour was over and Noah had declined Ann’s offer of coffee, he began setting up for his first shot. For the next hour his focus was completely singular. He strategically filmed in parts of the house he knew would best convey the joy and spirit of the home while still delivering the message that help and funding was needed.
Luke spent most of the time he was filming talking to Ann and meeting with a few adults who volunteered at the home a few days a week. Eventually he moved towards interacting with some of the younger kids. It didn’t surprise Noah how comfortable and good Luke was with them because he’d gotten plenty of practice practically helping to raise his siblings.
It was while Luke was playing with three nine year olds on the lawn in the tiny backyard that served as a play area, that a sudden realization hit Noah. He had set up his equipment to film the small area that provided some fresh air and freedom from the close quarters of the house. A few moments later, he leaned in and stared into the camera and observed everything with his keen director’s eye, before moving the camera slightly where he captured an unexpected moment.
Luke was sitting on the grass, his shirt a little loose, playing some game which as far as Noah could tell, mostly included him rolling around with the kids. Noah adjusted the camera’s focus and zoomed closer, capturing every inch of Luke’s face perfectly. And what he saw there was such a perfect mixture of joy and calm. Luke’s eyes shone brightly with happiness and the smile on his face was utterly breathtaking.
Noah continued to stare into the lens, watching how the sun glowed across Luke’s hair, how the gentle breeze slowly swayed the edges of his shirt and he knew. It should have stunned him a lot more, he expected to be freaking out or trying to deny the truth to himself but he did none of those things. Noah remained relatively calm as he accepted the truth that he was falling in love with his ex-boyfriend.
Luke’s hand moved rapidly across the page. He could feel a slight ache in his palm from writing nonstop for the last half-hour but he had so many emotions racing inside him that he knew he had to let it out somewhere.
His mom and dad had tried desperately to sway him into joining them out by the lake but while he’d eventually promised to join them later; he’d mostly remained inside, settled at the kitchen table, trying to put it into words his rollercoaster of emotions from the past week.
As he wrote about everything that was going on, he tried to ignore the emotions, most notably the sadness and hurt, it stirred in him. He hadn’t heard from Noah in five days, not since the day they’d driven to the shelter.
It should not have surprised Luke. After all, he was the one who’d given his big speech about setting boundaries between them and not wanting to disrespect Noah’s relationship. And to his credit, he’d stuck to that line, not calling Noah once in the five days.
However - and he silently rolled his eyes at himself for the thought - the naïve, hopelessly in love with Noah part of him secretly believed that the time apart would actually convince Noah of his feelings for Luke. Convince him that they should be together.
But judging by Noah’s disappearing act, Luke accepted the hope for the fool’s wish that it was. And again, it should not have been a surprise at all. He knew, moments after heading back into his room after that amazing moment with Noah, the truth about where Noah’s heart lay.
He saw it in Noah’s eyes and his reaction once he was no longer blinded by lust. Noah was in love with Adam. Adam was who he wanted to be with, not Luke and Luke was just going to have to accept that.
However he also knew Noah well enough and knew that no matter how much time had passed between them, Noah was still the guy who never wanted to hurt anyone, including him. And so Luke had made it very easy for him by taking on all the responsibility for what happened between them on the porch and promising to create a significant distance between them. And judging by Noah’s lack of argument, Luke figured that his instincts had been right.
Still, he had meant it when he said that he didn’t want to lose their friendship because as hard as it was to accept that he and Noah really were once and for all done and that Noah was completely in love with someone else, Luke couldn’t imagine his life without him in it.
He’d had many memories of that two-year period where they were effectively cut off from each other’s lives and the truth, he realized, was that he’d never been okay with it. Noah had always been on his mind in those two years; even during the times he’d almost fully convinced himself he was completely happy with Reid.
Even then, he always thought about how Noah was doing, wondered if he was happy, if he was successful at school, if he’d made friends, had a good job but most of all, he had missed Noah’s presence in his life, missed his laughter, his dorky sense of humor, his endearingly bad dancing, his smile, the way his eyes lit up with passion for his craft, his generosity, his kindness, his beauty…he had just missed Noah.
Recalling those moments, placing himself back in that time frame had helped Luke establish a truth he’d long realized but had maybe not fully articulated. That no matter what, Noah was essential to his very being and for that reason; he couldn’t lose him completely.
But clearly Noah didn’t feel the same, Luke thought. While he hadn’t been very responsive when Luke first mentioned their need to put boundaries between them and respecting his relationship, Noah had still seemed friendly and open. However, something changed between the time they got to the shelter and the time they were ready to leave.
Noah had become distant and withdrawn, lost deep in thought and the few times Luke tried to engage him in conversation, he seemed ready to jump out of the car and put as much space between them as possible. The second they got to his apartment building, he mumbled something about having a lot of work to do on a project but that he would get the video of the shelter to Luke as soon as possible.
Luke had simply stared at him in silent confusion before saying softly, “it’s okay, there’s no immediate rush.”
“Well the quicker I get it to you, the faster you can make your pitch and try to get them the funding they desperately need, right?”
“Fair point,” Luke mumbled, distracted by Noah’s obvious discomfort.
And that was it. A quick goodbye followed before Noah was gone and Luke hadn’t heard from him since. He felt the ache rising in his chest, felt the tears forming and silently berated himself, “no, stop it. I will not cry.”
As he was giving himself a silent lecture against bursting into tears, his mom walked in, looking happy and bronzed. With summer in full swing, she and his dad, along with his siblings had taken to making weekly weekend trips to the farm. Luke had to admit that he usually loved the company.
“Hi, honey,” Lily smiled as she headed for the fridge. “I can’t believe you are ignoring us to write in a notebook.”
“It’s a journal,” Luke corrected her, a small smile on his face.
“Whatever, I still say you should close it and come join us. It’s a gorgeous day.”
“I will in a minute, I promise, I just have a lot on my mind.”
“Everything okay,” she asked, motherly concern already clear in her voice.
“Yeah, it’s fine, I’m fine…” Luke said.
However, as he watched her grab for a few bottles of water and prepared to head back out, he said softly, “actually mom, if you have a second, can we talk a little?”
“Of course honey,” Lily said, immediately laying the bottles of water on the counter and joining Luke at the table.
“What’s up,” she asked.
Luke wasn’t ready to talk about the Noah situation. He figured his mom would either lecture him about Noah’s having a boyfriend or push for a reunion between them which would be even worse and awkward since Noah very clearly didn’t feel the same about him as he did.
However, there had been some other issues he’d been struggling with as more and more of his memories returned and the pieces of the last four years of his life began fitting into place.
“Well,” he started slowly. “You know that a lot of my memories have been coming back and in the last few weeks, I’ve had a lot about Reid and specifically our relationship and our life together.”
“Okay,” Lily said softly, listening intently.
A slight sardonic smile peeking at the corners of his lips, Luke said, “You never liked him very much did you?”
Lily seemed more than a little stunned by the question. However, noting the slight amusement in Luke’s eyes, she said softly, “truthfully…no, I never did.”
“Yeah I caught that with a couple of memories. Did you ever say anything to me about it?”
“No,” Lily said.
“How come,” Luke asked, confused.
“Well, a few reasons,” Lily said calmly. “First of all, I don’t know if you’ve ever actually met my son Luke Snyder, but he’s kind of stubborn and very pig-headed at times,” she smiled, “and I knew that if you were determined to be with Reid, nothing I said would make a difference. Two, you’re an adult and capable of making your own choices. It’s not like Reid was some evil monster. Whatever my feelings about him were, I figured if you were really truly happy with him, then it wasn’t my place to come between that.”
“Thanks,” Luke said.
“You’re welcome,” Lily said, before adding, “but for the record, I didn’t really think you were that happy with him.”
Luke stared silently at her for a few moments before stating the truth, “I wasn’t.”
“Yeah I figured,” Lily said. “The truth is, you’re my son Luke and I know you better than most people and I knew that you two were not right for each other. I knew you cared about him and that you probably did want it to work but I just didn’t think it would.”
Drawing his knees up to his chin and wrapping his arms around them, Luke stated softly, almost wistfully, “looking back at everything, seeing it with I guess fresh eyes, I see so much stuff so differently and honestly, so much clearer.”
“Like what,” Lily said.
“Like my whole reason for even getting involved with Reid in the first place. When I met Reid, I think I was emotionally tired. More tired than I’d ever been in my life. Noah and I had been through so much that I was just exhausted. And honestly, I don’t want to speak for him but I think a part of him felt the same way too. And I think that more than anything was what caused me to make the stupid choice to be with Reid instead of going to LA with Noah. I convinced myself that Noah and I had just worn each other out and that for both our sakes, both of our happiness, we needed to move on.”
“I understand that,” Lily mumbled. “Your father and I hit many of these types of walls. Hell that’s how I met and married Damian.”
“I know,” Luke said.
“For the record though, no matter how many evil things he’s done and all the bad he’s brought in so many of our lives, I will never regret meeting Damian because it gave me you.”
“Thanks Mom,” Luke smiled tenderly, before focusing once again on his thoughts about his relationship with Reid.
“Looking back on it now, I think I knew pretty early in my relationship with Reid that I’d made the wrong choice but then I don’t know, I think stubbornness, pride, guilt and a whole bunch of other things made me determined to stick it out.”
“I know,” Lily said, “but it’s all over now and you can move on and honey, I know that there is someone perfect out there for you, who will give you the happiness you deserve.”
Luke stared at his mom, trying hard to ignore the perfect image of Noah that popped into his head as she talked about his finding his perfect someone.
Instead he simply smiled and said, “Thanks mom, I hope so."