He doesn’t know I watch him; doesn’t notice that I can‘t take my eyes off him. I’m drawn to him like a moth to a flame and his image is burned into my retinas, staying with me long after he’s walked away.
He doesn’t know that my dreams are a tumble of images; all of him; a kaleidoscope of fragments, constantly moving, sliding against each other as I dream of his body sliding against mine.
He doesn’t see me at all.
Yet, when I see him, he is all I see.
Early mornings were Noah Mayer’s favourite time of day. He loved the solitude of his quiet walk to work, especially now, during the autumn months, when the leaves fell with whispering voices that spoke of long-forgotten summer dreams. The quickening breezes rustled through dry branches and he sometimes found himself wishing he could be picked up and carried along, a will-o’-the-wisp who never landed, always in motion.
Noah didn’t really know whether he was solitary by nature, or whether this was a result of his upbringing; the result of a cold and forbidding army father who picked him up and deposited him wherever he happened to be called; a father who never once stopped to wonder how his lifestyle might affect a developing child; a father who never noticed that his son had no friends; a father who provided no sense of family. So here he was, a young man with no real idea of how to interact with people. He wanted to - God, how he wanted to - but he just didn’t know how. He’d never acquired the skills that other people seemed to take for granted. And it was far too late now. He’d resigned himself to his life long ago, on that fateful night when his father had finally shown him that he was truly alone. If family couldn’t love you, then surely you weren’t worth loving?
So Noah did the next best thing; he watched. He took in a world around him through eyes that had seen too much intolerance and hatred, much of it directed at him. He listened through ears that heard the subtle nuances that so many people tried to hide. And through it all, he remained true to himself, untainted by the poison that seeped from so many of the people he came into contact with. He became adept at reading people, saw the truth behind their eyes and heard it in the things they didn’t say, far more telling than those they did. It didn’t always make for comfortable knowledge, but it allowed him to avoid those who could cause him trouble or harm. More importantly, perhaps, it gave him the chance to be near those who meant what they said, who were honest and straightforward, and who affirmed his somewhat jaded faith in human nature. All in all, whilst Noah’s life might not be everything he wanted for himself, he was as contented as he ever expected to be. He lived in a small, friendly town that was so much better than some of the places he’d found himself in, and he had a job he enjoyed, working for a man who seemed to understand him. What more was there?
Noah loved his job in the busy coffee shop. It wasn’t exactly the kind of place he’d ever envisioned himself being happy in because, as he’d be the first to point out if anyone actually asked, he wasn’t exactly a people person. Ironically, however, it was just this trait that had appealed to the manager who’d interviewed him for the position. Jeff had seen his share of flighty workers who obviously felt that being friendly was what they were getting paid for; those who saw working in the coffee shop as an extension of their busy social lives. In Noah, the quietly serious young man who’d sat nervously in front of him, he’d met someone who would give his all to the job. He’d never had cause to regret his decision. Yes, Noah was an enigma; he was quiet and applied himself diligently to every task he undertook; he wasn’t friendly, as such, but everybody liked him, staff and customers alike. And Jeff could see that he was slowly beginning to change. He doubted Noah was aware of this himself, but he was beginning to open up, to meet people’s eyes and even to voice a comment once in a while. Noah wasn’t as invisible as he liked to believe – and Jeff had definitely seen someone else noticing.
Luke Snyder spent far too much of his time sitting in the coffee shop staring at the gorgeous guy who worked the tables on the other side of the room. He knew this; knew that he should really do something about it, but he just couldn’t decide what to do. His indecisiveness annoyed the hell out of him, actually. He wasn’t like that, for God’s sake. He was used to getting exactly what he wanted with a minimum of effort. The original silver spoon had been cast with Luke Snyder’s initials on it, after all. But there was something about this guy - a fragility hidden behind his quiet strength, maybe? Or was it the other way round? Luke wasn’t sure. He just knew that, the more he looked, the more he wanted to see. And what he really wanted to see was the guy looking back at him, a hint in his eyes that his attention might be welcome. It’s what kept him on the other side of the room, afraid that actually looking into those eyes would shatter the hope that he was holding close. He dreamed about the guy – Noah – for fuck’s sake. And he didn’t think he’d be able to bear it if the dream couldn’t become reality. So he stayed where he was, content for the moment to watch, wait and hope. For now, at least.
“Hey, Noah. I’m thinking you need a change of scenery, man, so I’m swapping you to section D as of today.” Jeff smiled brightly as he clapped Noah on the shoulder, ignoring the slight stiffening beneath his hand. He was pretty sure his hardest worker would do what he wanted, even if he didn’t really want to. Catching the almost instantly gone flash of panic in Noah’s eyes before he answered, Jeff’s grin widened. The guy might be an observer, but there were some things he was really way too blind to see.
“Uh…sure thing, Boss. Is there a problem on my section?” Noah’s slightly worried frown was not what Jeff wanted to see and he was quick to offer reassurance.
“Nah, man. I just thought it was about time you looked at things from a different angle. I’m moving everyone around, anyway, ‘kay?” Squeezing Noah’s shoulder reassuringly, he moved away, not giving his employee the chance to say anything else. He whistled tunelessly all the way to his office.
Noah continued filling the sugar dispensers, his economical movements belying the undercurrent of turmoil that ran beneath his calm surface. Section D? Why the hell couldn’t it have been one of the others, for God’s sake? He sat in D, the guy with the hair that glowed gold when the sun shone through the window; the guy who, more often than not, was surrounded by friends and laughter and who would never look twice at a guy like him. More and more, Noah felt himself drawn towards this stranger, wanting to bridge the gap he purposely left between himself and everyone else around him. But he held back, watching from afar, wanting desperately to move closer, yet worried that one look into those eyes would shatter his fragile dreams. The eyes couldn’t lie, and Noah didn’t think his heart could take it if the truth was less than he wanted it to be. For the first time in what seemed like forever, Noah’s inner peace and contentment with his life was in serious danger of being shattered.
Several long hours later, Noah had never been more grateful for his break. The coffee shop heaved all morning, customers coming and going, and he barely had time to breathe, let alone think. He’d served with his usual unflappable calm, taking orders and ensuring customer satisfaction – no different from any other day. Underneath it all, however, his nerves stretched like taught piano wire, each ring of the bell above the door striking a discordant note as he glanced up, fighting his flight instinct. By the time his break can round, he just wanted it over with. Where the hell was he, for God’s sake?
Luke Snyder spent the whole morning arguing with himself, and most of the afternoon, too – and he wasn’t winning. He’d gone to bed the previous night absolutely determined for today to be the day he made his stand. He couldn’t go on like this, unable to sleep properly or concentrate on anything else but Noah frickin’ Mayer. Another dream-filled night, tossing and turning, periodically waking and untangling himself from sweat-soaked sheets had not left him in a positive mood, however, and he now stood uncertainly just down the block from the coffee shop. He checked his watch and knew that Noah would be on his last break of the day. How sad was that, for fuck’s sake? He knew the guy’s schedule but he’d never got close enough to look into his eyes or even speak to him. This had to stop. Now. With sudden resolve, he squared his shoulders and marched purposefully towards his destiny.
Jeff looked up again as the bell over the door tinkled merrily. At this rate, he’d be claiming for repetitive strain injury on his medical insurance, not to mention the strain on his heart. If he had a dollar for every time he’d looked up so far today, he’d be able to retire somewhere warm and stress-free. At last, he thought with a sigh of relief as the blond-haired guy walked in through the door. He was beginning to wonder whether he’d ever show up today. Jeff had been watching these two obliviously watching each other for weeks now, and finally realised that neither of them were going to make the first move without his help. Yep! Just call me Cupid. He grinned to himself, then watched in utter disbelief as his most frequent customer stopped just inside the doorway and then turned from his usual corner, making his way over to the opposite side of the room. He groaned audibly, his hand coming up to cover his eyes as he shook his head,
“You have got to be kidding me. I mean, seriously?” He didn’t realise he’d spoken out loud until the elderly lady at the table nearest him glanced enquiringly up at him. Murmuring something suitable, he moved swiftly across the room, hoping to get to the blond before he actually sat down and made this even more difficult. Honestly, he despaired, for God’s sake! Now the guy grows a backbone and decides to do something for himself? Talk about bad timing. How the hell was he going to get out of this without looking like a complete dork? And Noah’s break was about to end. Talk about the best-laid plans.
“Excuse me, sir. I’m afraid some of the tables in this section have been reserved this afternoon. We have a lovely table available by the window, if you’d like to come this way,” and Jeff had hold of Luke’s arm and was literally turning him before a protest could even be formed.
“What the….?” Luke’s response froze in his throat as he turned, catching sight of Noah on the other side of the room - his side of the room – his back to him as he took an order. Luke turned enquiring eyes to the man who still held on to his arm.
“I think you’ll be much better served over there, sir,” Jeff said, keeping his voice low. He suddenly grinned and winked cheekily, “at your usual table,” and he gave a suddenly blushing Luke a gentle push in the right direction.
Noah returned from his break with a renewed sense of determination. He’d given himself a stern talking to, reiterating all the reasons why he was happy with his solitary life and the choices he’d made, and was resolved to continue in the same vein. He’d just do his job as he always did, treat every customer the same, and get through the rest of this day, which, mercifully, was nearly over. Then he’d ask Jeff to put him back on his normal section tomorrow and everything would return to normal.
A quick glance towards the window seat showed Noah that he still had nothing to worry about. He didn’t realise that his shoulders fell in defeat, even as he sighed with relief. Reaching into his apron pocket, he removed his notepad ready to take his next order and get on with his job. This was his life and he liked it that way just fine repeated over and over again in his head. He didn't listen to the vioce that called him a liar.
Luke walked slowly across the nearly empty coffee shop, his heart beating a deafening rhythm in his chest. He had no idea what had just happened with the guy who’d told him to move, but it was surely fate that today, the day he’d decided to take charge of his destiny, Noah had changed his section. He slid into his normal seat, watching as the dark-haired man took his latest order to the kitchen. Luke took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself for what he knew was about to come. This was it.
Noah froze, his eyes widening almost comically. He’d known this moment was coming all day, yet now it was here, it seemed to suck the air out of his lungs in a gush of surprise. He recovered quickly, straightening his spine and lifting his head. He could do this – had to do this. He walked slowly forward, his gaze unwavering.
Luke couldn’t take his eyes away from Noah’s, brown locking with blue. Everything he’d suspected about this beautiful man was there for him to see and his heart was singing in response. Without conscious thought he rose, his body aching to be nearer. Noah’s eyes were unblinking, drinking in the warmth that reached out and enveloped his every sense. He knew the eyes never lied and he desperately wanted to accept without question the truths that flowed between them, wanted it so goddamn much. Within moments, they stood face-to-face, unblinking, both afraid to break the connection that had formed. Yet both sensed the almost audible click of a kaleidoscope, as the tumbled fragments of their past lives slipped across each other and settled into place, a perfect image forming. They slowly blinked…and smiled.
Watching from his position across the room, Jeff knew the exact moment his favourite employee spotted the waiting customer. He noted the way the shoulders he’d seen droop only moments before squared off; saw his chin raise in determination and could just imagine the fire that flashed in his eyes. This was the Noah he’d come to respect; a fighter who just didn’t realise his own worth; a quiet, thoughtful man who saw so much more than those around him; a man who deserved every good thing that life had to offer; a man who expected nothing. Jeff didn’t usually get involved in his employees’ lives. Hell, he had enough trouble keeping his own on track most days, but he’d have to have been blind not to notice the longing coming off these two. And honestly, it was either this, or give them both a swift kick up the arse and ban the blond guy from the shop which, considering the money he spent, was not a viable option. He’d gone with playing cupid – looked like maybe he’d found a new career. For now, he tied on a clean apron and went to take over Noah’s shift – it was the least he could do.