Word Count: 3,948
Pairings: Luke/Noah, Luke/Reid, Noah/OMC
Previous Chapters:Chapters 34-35
Disclaimer: Just for fun, not for profit.
Author's Note: Wow, this is the longest break I've ever had between chapters. The chapters are done or at least being tweaked but I just got so caught up with school I didn't even realize a whole week had passed since the last update. Anyway, hope you guys enjoy. There's only two chapters left in Part III and then Part IV, the last part, will be a lot shorter.
Noah slowly placed the few clothing items neatly folded into a pile on the bed, into his carry-on luggage.
It was all done on autopilot with little thought or attention to what he was actually doing. Because once again, his mind was a million miles away, in the same state it had been for the last five days, once he had accepted the truth; that he was for all intents and purposes, likely in love with his ex-boyfriend.
As he pondered on the reality for what felt like the hundredth time and tried to figure out what he was going to do, he felt a pair of strong, masculine hands gently circle him from behind. Smiling slightly, Noah sighed into the soft kiss Adam laid on the back of his neck, before cradling his chin into Noah’s shoulder.
“I wish I could come with you,” he mumbled. “This is such a big moment for you and I hate that I can’t be there for you.”
“It’s okay,” Noah said automatically. They had had the same conversation in the last two days, once Adam realized it was impossible for him to get out of work and that he was most definitely not going to be able to accompany Noah to New York.
“I know how much you wanted to be there and I know you’ll be supporting me the whole time in spirit.”
“I will,” Adam said, cradling even deeper into Noah’s body, nuzzling his face into Noah’s shirt, soaking up his scent. “I’ll call you every single day.”
And as a quick afterthought, he added, “I am so proud of you.”
“Thanks,” Noah said, swallowing against the very heavy lump of guilt lodged deep in his throat. That same guilt that had been weighing him down the last five days to the point that he almost felt weakened and crippled by it.
There was guilt over his feelings for Luke that he still didn’t even know how he was going to handle but most of all, guilt over his feelings of relief over Adam not being able to get time off from work. Noah hated himself the second after Adam told him he couldn’t make the trip and rather than disappointment, he just felt an overwhelming sense of relief.
The truth was he was confused…about a lot of things and he felt like this trip to New York was a godsend. He desperately needed some alone time from everything normal in his life to think about what he was doing, what he really wanted but more importantly, and this one terrified him more than anything else, who he really wanted to be with.
At the moment he had no clear answers. When he thought about telling Adam how he felt about Luke, about possibly losing Adam, the thought scared him. It also tore at his heart, the possibility of hurting Adam in that way.
However, when he thought about cutting Luke out of his life again, something he’d probably have to do considering his feelings for him, especially if he wanted to maintain a solid relationship with Adam; the thought terrified Noah and made him sick with panic. It also made him hate himself a little at just the thought of causing Luke that kind of pain.
So basically he was stuck and as he slowly turned into Adam’s arms, holding onto him tightly, eventually returning the gentle kiss he offered; Noah knew that something had to give and soon, because his problems weren’t going to go away.
Luke had just finished locking up for the night, his grandmother long gone to bed, when he heard the soft knock on the door. By the look of surprise on his face, it was obvious Noah was the last person he was expecting to be standing outside the front door of the farmhouse at 10:30 at night.
“Hi,” Noah said softly, as Luke, quickly recovering from his surprise, rushed to let him in.
“Hi,” Luke replied softly, his confusion at Noah’s presence still evident.
“Do you have a minute?”
“Sure,” Luke said, nodding slightly towards the living room.
“Would you like to sit?”
It was a fairly simple and innocent question but it seemed to throw Noah for a loop. He stared silently at Luke, looking like he’d just been asked one of the most perplexing questions ever.
“Noah, are you okay,” Luke asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
“No, I’m not,” Noah mumbled honestly.
Before Luke had a chance to question what exactly he meant by that, Noah dug his hands deep into his pockets and met Luke’s now very confused and concerned stare, head-on.
“I…I can’t stay long. I just came to tell you that I’m almost done on that film and I’ll get it to you as soon as I get back.”
“Back,” Luke said, “back from where?”
“I’m going to New York for a few days, for the Tribeca Film Festival.”
“Oh,” Luke smiled slightly, “I didn’t know that was going on right now. We always did talk about being able to get tickets and going one year.”
As quickly as the words were out of his mouth, he glanced down nervously and awkwardly at his feet, worried that he’d crossed some line by reminiscing about their past together. But instead of looking annoyed or uncomfortable or trying to change the subject, Noah simply said softly, “I remember.”
And as he said it, Luke decided it was time to get the truth. It was obvious something was going on with Noah. The fact that he’d just completely dropped out of his life for the past five days was proof enough but his behavior right now, standing in the middle of Emma’s living room was just odd.
“What’s going on Noah,” Luke said, softly. “Why are you really here?”
“What do you mean,” Noah asked, although it was clear by the nervous shift of his eyes, he knew exactly what Luke was referring to.
“I mean,” Luke said, a serious and direct tone to his voice, “that you didn’t come all the way out here at 10:30 at night just to tell me you’re not done on the film because you could have just as easily done that over the phone and saved money on gas. You also could have told me about your trip over the phone too.”
Taking a tentative step forward, closing the space between their bodies slightly, Luke quietly added, “it’s just, it doesn’t make sense. You spend the last five days basically ignoring me and you know, I get it, I did say we needed boundaries and some space between us but I also meant it when I said I wanted us to be friends but after this week, I was starting to wonder if you even wanted that. But then you show up here and I’m just confused…”
“So am I…” Noah whispered.
“I said I’m also confused,” Noah repeated, this time much more clearly and directly, his eyes locked with Luke’s.
A tentative flicker of hope swelled in Luke’s chest and he hated himself a little for it but that didn’t stop him from taking another hesitant step forward, saying softly, “what are you confused about?”
Noah didn’t move forward to approach Luke but he didn’t step back either, instead remaining still, silently watching Luke move closer and closer towards him.
“A lot of things,” he finally said softly.
“Like what,” Luke pressed, their bodies so close that he could almost feel the slight pounding of Noah’s chest.
Noah said nothing. He simply stared back quietly at Luke, his eyes searching and seeking. Luke stood patiently, waiting for whatever came next.
Noah was the one to take the final step to close the gap between them. Luke silently followed him with his eyes, his breath hitching slightly as Noah slowly raised his hand to gently cradle his cheek.
They stood like this for what felt like forever, eyes locked intensely on each other’s. Luke broke eye contact only once, allowing himself a moment of full indulgence as he closed his eyes, softly cradling into Noah’s strong palm caressing his cheek.
Eventually, Noah broke the spell, tenderly pulling his hand away before saying softly, “I have to go.”
Luke said nothing, simply watching him silently, letting his eyes do all the talking.
Noah hesitated for a few more seconds, obviously still having an internal battle with himself, before finally turning and heading back towards the door. As he got to it, hand on the doorknob, he turned back, eyes boring into Luke’s, a silent exchange of words between them.
Luke remained rooted in his spot as Noah slowly walked out the door and headed into the night. He remained rooted in his spot as he slowly and tenderly placed a palm on the cheek Noah had just caressed so gently. It was still warm.
He remained in that spot until his legs, with a life of its own, led him to the front door, where he locked it once again and led him up the stairs to his room. He went through his nightly routine on autopilot, finally settling down into his bed for the night. His last thought before sleep forced its way through, was that Noah was still in love with him. He fell asleep with a smile on his face.
Luke had simply assumed that Noah was going to the Tribeca Film Festival as a spectator which was certainly not that strange for someone who loved film as much as he did. Once again, Alison was the one to enlighten him to the truth.
He was heading home from one of his last therapy sessions. Dr. Jensen had decided with much of his memories back and his life fairly back to normal that he was doing more than okay. Luke had had to restrain himself from laughing out loud at how completely untrue that was.
However, he’d kept much of his recent feelings and issues with Noah to himself and his journal so he and Dr. Jensen had mainly focused on his past, his dealing with his memory loss and eventually his dealing with his memories coming back.
She had however left her door open to him if he wanted to continue their sessions but Luke wasn’t sure he wanted to take her up on the offer.
He had just stepped off the elevator that led into the parking lot when he ran into Alison just coming on duty. They exchanged small talk for a little while, both in a hurry…Alison to get to work and Luke to get back to work.
And as they were saying their goodbyes, Alison casually stated, “How cool is it about Noah?”
“What do you mean,” Luke asked.
“You know, with the whole film festival deal.”
“The Tribeca festival,” Luke said casually, “yeah I know he’s going.”
Looking a little surprised, Alison said, “How can you look so blasé about this? I’m not even some huge film buff but even I know how huge this is.”
“What are you talking about,” Luke said, acknowledging that there was clearly some big news that he knew nothing about.
“I’m talking about Noah showing at the Tribeca Film Festival silly,” Alison finally said, whacking him playfully in the arm.
“What,” Luke said softly.
“You didn’t know,” Alison said, now looking completely stunned.
“No,” Luke said, “he told me he was going to New York for the festival but I just assumed he was going to watch the films. I know how much he always wanted to before.”
“Well he didn’t tell me either,” Alison hurried to add; almost like she worried that Luke would feel bad that she knew and he didn’t.
“Dr. Stevens told me about it. He was practically beaming with pride. Anyway, apparently the festival had this short-film competition open only to film students, including recent graduates and the top 3 picked got to have their film screened at the festival. Noah was one of the ones chosen.”
“Oh my god,” Luke said.
“I know right,” Alison, smiled. “And it’s so like him to not even make a big fuss about it.”
“Yeah, that’s Noah,” Luke said softly.
“We should get him something, a small present or something that we can give to him when he gets back.”
Luke mumbled his agreement, barely listening to Alison at this point, the wheels in his brain turning rapidly.
It was a crazy idea, a crazy and very, very stupid idea. He should just get right back on a flight to Oakdale as soon as he landed in New York City. Luke sat quietly in his first class seat, a nervous energy running through his body. What had he been thinking?
After finding out the real reason Noah was at the Festival, Luke had gone back to his office and began brainstorming all the possible ideas for a gift, but nothing seemed exactly right. Eventually it slowly dawned on him that Noah was likely at the festival alone. He knew Adam wasn’t with him because Luke had seen Adam, though Adam hadn’t seen him, at the hospital.
And as was often the case with Noah, there were no parents, grandparents, cousins and more to be there for him. And just as soon as he thought this, Luke found himself telling Lydia to cancel all his appointments for the next two days because he had to make a short trip to New York.
He called his grandmother, so she wouldn’t worry when he didn’t come home that night, giving a very vague excuse about some Foundation issue for why he had to rush off to New York. He had checked the Festival’s website, which detailed all the different screenings and times and he quickly noted that the screening of the film student contest winners was that night. It gave him only a few hours to be there.
It had seemed like the perfect idea at the time. He’d go and support Noah, let him know that he wasn’t alone, that he had someone in the crowd rooting for him, supporting him, who loved him. But as the pilot made the announcement to prepare for landing, Luke’s nervous fidgeting increased and he started to seriously second guess his plan.
Yes, he and Noah had shared an intense moment before Noah left for New York and it was obvious there was still something there between them. But Noah still had a boyfriend who he’d certainly said nothing about breaking up with. Hell he hadn’t even said he wanted to be with Luke. And here he was, flying to New York like a madman, barely two weeks after giving his big dramatic speech about respecting Noah’s relationship and setting boundaries between them.
“I’m officially losing my mind,” Luke mumbled to himself.
Still the plane was descending and he could see the skylines of New York City coming into full view. He was already here, Luke decided, so he might as well go to the Festival. He’d just find a seat in the back, which shouldn’t be too difficult since the screening was likely to be packed and then leave as soon it was done. Noah would never have to know he was there and he could simply mention it to him when he got back to Oakdale.
Satisfied with his plan of action, Luke tightened his seatbelt, pulled his seat forward and prepared for landing.
He’d been right about the theater being packed. Because the screening was for films by unknown film students and didn’t really have any famous names as a draw, it was scheduled at one of the Festival’s smaller theaters.
Still, Luke was pleasantly surprised by the number of people and what seemed to be genuine excitement and interest for the films. He was even certain he’d seen a few very well-known Indie actors mixed in with the crowd. But he was so nervous and excited for Noah that he really couldn’t focus on any of that.
Squeezing into the crowd, he found a seat all the way in the back; nestled right next to the exit…it was perfect. He craned his neck around, searching desperately for a glimpse of Noah amidst all the chaos of media representatives running around, organizers getting everything in place and friends and families running up to their relatives to give hugs of support.
And then he saw him, seated up front in a row of three with who Luke assumed were the other two contest winners. He looked perfect. Even from his distance, Luke could tell that Noah was slightly nervous. He kept tugging gently at his right ear, something he always did almost unconsciously when he was nervous and he kept lightly tapping the program sheet against his thigh.
But still, he looked perfect. His hair that he’d recently trimmed, curled in just the right places and his crisp black oxford shirt hugged all the right lines of his chest just perfectly. But more than that, he looked so unbelievably excited and happy.
Yes there were the nervous tics but the look of sheer pride and joy on Noah’s face was unmistakable and Luke didn’t think he’d ever looked more beautiful.
Each film lasted just a little over an hour and while they were all pretty incredible and it was obvious why they’d been chosen, Luke was pretty certain Noah’s was the best and he didn’t think that just because he was in love with him.
Luke had always known Noah was incredibly talented, had always believed in his abilities and knew he would one day do great things in film but even he was stunned by the utter brilliance of Noah’s work.
It began as a fairly simple story about three families living in a perfect Suburban neighborhood in 1950 Chicago. Until the layers of each family was slowly peeled back to reveal the truth behind their perfect smiles, perfect houses, perfect outfits and seemingly perfect lives.
Luke was particularly moved by the one family where the wife had secretly been in love with the son of her family’s maid since they were kids, but due to racial issues, had married someone else. And he was particularly moved by the two husbands who lived next door to each other and were the best of friends to the outside world but in reality deeply in love with each other.
He also especially loved how there were no resolutions at the end of the film and instead the final shot was a view of the street at night, quiet and silent with all the families locked in behind their doors, settling down for the night to their seemingly perfect lives.
It took Luke a few seconds to realize he was crying as he watched the end credits roll and enthusiastically joined in with the rest of the crowd in delivering a thunderous applause for Noah. As the applause finally died down, just as the other contestants had done, he stood up and delivered a few words of thanks for the people who had helped and supported his film.
Luke was pleasantly surprised to realize he’d been wrong and that while he had no family, Noah did have some people in his corner. His Graduate advisor, who apparently had been a big supporter during his making of the film, had made the trip as well as a few of the theatre students who starred in the film.
And as Luke quietly watched them giving happy and supportive hugs to Noah as everyone got ready to head out of the theater, he was once again convinced that it was best for him to leave. He felt a little foolish not least due to his slight arrogance at assuming that Noah would have no one else in his life to be there for him.
Luke suddenly realized that even though most of his memories were back, in some small way he was determined to remain in 2009 where he was the most important thing in Noah’s life. And it was finally dawning on him that that was simply not true.
Noah had Adam and he clearly had people who while they may not have been his best friends, clearly cared about and supported him on some level. He really didn’t need Luke. And with that final thought, Luke quickly turned and headed out the exit.
He’d only taken a few steps, desperately searching the street for a cab, when he heard his name being called. At first it sounded faint and so distant that he wondered if it was just the wind playing tricks on him. But then the sound grew and he became positive that he wasn’t imagining things.
Turning around, he squinted a little, trying to make out the source through the crowd of people still spilling out of the theater and the early evening darkness. He nervously shifted around and then he saw the figure pushing through a small group of people, moving towards him with long, quick strides. By the time he got closer, Noah was practically jogging a little.
And then he stopped, catching his breath, a myriad of emotions playing across his face.
“It was you,” Noah finally said.
Luke just nervously stared back, unsure what to say.
“Hi,” Noah said.
“Hi,” Luke whispered.
“I thought I was imagining things,” Noah said. “I looked up and there you were, almost out of nowhere but then the next time I turned around, you were just gone.”
Luke was still struggling to find his voice.
“What are you doing here,” Noah asked. He didn’t sound angry or upset in any way…merely curious.
But it reminded Luke why this was a mistake and suddenly he found his voice again.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“I know I shouldn’t have come. It’s just I ran into Alison and she told me you were not just visiting the festival but that you were showing and the next thing I knew I was boarding a plane to be here. I know now how stupid that was, especially after telling you that I would respect boundaries between us and…”
“Luke,” Noah softly tried to interrupt but Luke kept going, determined in what he had to say.
“It’s just,” he finally said, his voice suddenly getting choked up as he tried desperately to fight the tears about to fall.
“I am so proud of you Noah and so happy for you. No one deserves this more than you and I just…I had to see you have that moment. I had to see you stand there and get tons of applause and praise and be told how amazingly talented and brilliant you are because you are and you deserve to hear that.”
The tears were falling openly and unrestrained at this point.
“I know how hard you’ve worked for this, how much it means to you, how much you dreamed about it especially when it was the only thing that got you through your horrible relationship with your dad and I just…I had to see you have that moment,” Luke repeated. “I just…”
He never finished the sentence because Noah’s hands were suddenly grabbing roughly for his face as his lips quickly came down to hungrily devour Luke’s. Luke’s surprise lasted only a few seconds before he recovered quickly enough to match Noah’s intensity, kissing him back with all the love and passion in his heart.
Time came to a standstill, the world ceased to exist and everything faded to nothing as they stood on a busy sidewalk of New York City wrapped in each other’s arms.