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Luke finds the letter Noah wrote him on New Year's Eve 2008 and plans a surprise.
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Luke knows he'll need to fight for Noah. He has a few ideas.
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Luke and Noah are about to see each other for the first time since Noah left for LA! Let's see how this goes!
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A single sentence makes Noah question what kind of family he and Luke can make together. An abandoned kitten may just hold the answer.
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Noah arrives home from a tour in the Army a few days before Christmas and sees Luke with another man.

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Luke and Noah find each other four months after Reid's death, and an old man remembers the love he lost...

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Finding a Reason

by SarahSezLove
[Reviews - 13]   Printer
Table of Contents

- Text Size +
Story Notes:
Written for LJs What_Did_You_Do? meme.
Prompt: give me a reason

AN: I found attempting to convey a natural speech impediment to be pretty darned tricky, especially getting the balance of stutter right. There’s definitely a huge difference between saying something and reading someone saying something. I have used two devices to try to show how Luke speaks:
1. M-m-maybe…m-m- portrays a clear stutter over initial consonant sounds
2. Nnnnnoah…nnnn portrays a slightly extended sound where I’m trying to show that, although Luke isn’t clearly stuttering here, he’s still having some difficulty.
Because, honestly – all DJs would be recovering stutterers if stepping into a radio station was an automatic cure.
To the casual observer, the young man seated just inside the café door was just your basic, ordinary, everyday, average, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum American college student. So, okay, maybe he was a little better looking than most. Blonde highlights caught the rays of the morning sun as it shone through the window, and a hint of a dimple appeared as he smiled at something on the screen in front of him; the screen of the latest model AppleMac. Those in the know might recognise the lack of labels on his casual clothes didn’t necessarily mean they were off-the-rack. Quality spoke for itself…if you understood the language.

If you watched him carefully, you might notice how he focused solely on the screen in front of him, rather than people-watching as so many of the other college kids tended to do, even as they chatted and laughed with their companions. He was alone, but it was quite obvious this was not a problem for him. The breakfast rush was in full swing, the door opening and closing with jarring regularity, its discordant bell clanging loudly. Seemingly, he ignored it all as he tapped rhythmically on the keyboard, pausing briefly to read before continuing.

The most observant amongst you, however – those who looked beyond the superficial – might have come to a very different conclusion. You might have noted the way the young man’s body tensed every time someone approached the table on their way to the door, and then almost imperceptibly relaxed as they passed by. You might notice how his eyes under lowered lashes cut quickly to the door every time it opened to admit a new customer. You might notice there was, perhaps, much more to his young man than met the eye. You would be right.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Wendy Miles, the café’s newest employee, made her way through the breakfast throng, a practiced smile and flirty wink accompanying the coffee refills. Smiles meant tips, it was as simple as that, and Wendy had learnt to smile to get what she wanted. Not that much older than the average student, she’d made some very different life choices and now found herself on the fringes of America’s up-and-coming future stars. She was determined to become part of someone’s ascension to the dizzying heights and, honestly, she wasn’t too fussy who she tagged along with, as long as he got her out of here.

Not stopping to do more than refill a cup here and there, Wendy’s destination was clear. Her morning had considerably brightened when the cute guy in the striped tee – designer, she was sure – had seated himself at the table nearest the door. In her quadrant, thank God! That table was often the last to go, most people not liking its proximity to the busy entryway. She quickly ran a hand through her luxuriant auburn curls – her best feature, or so she’d been told – and straightened her apron, pencil and pad at the ready. This guy wouldn’t know what hit him when she turned on the charm. These young college guys were always open to flattery, their already over-inflated egos soaking up the attentions of a slightly older and more worldly-wise woman. Oh, yeah – this could be the one.

Stopping in front of the table, Wendy stood for a moment, very aware of the sunlight coming through the window making her hair shimmer and glow. When the college boy didn’t look up, she frowned slightly, not used to being ignored. Okay, so maybe it was time to turn on her Southern-belle charm; men were a sucker for her low, honeyed drawl, as more than one had told her.

“Well, good mornin’ there, sugar. What can I get you today? Coffee? Tea?” The unspoken ‘me’ hung heavy in the air as she waited expectantly, eager to see the appreciation in this kid’s eyes when he looked up at her. God, men were so damn easy.

The moment stretched, and would have been uncomfortable if not for the high level of background noise all around them. Ready to raise her voice, she halted as the young man lifted his head to look at her. The first thing she noticed was the blush staining his oh-so gorgeous cheeks. Well, hell! He was a shy boy. Just perfect. The opportunistic waitress smiled appreciatively, already planning how best to seduce this young guy with no experience, just ripe for the picking and exploiting.

“I’m w-waiting f-for a f-f-friend.” His voice was so quiet, she had to lean forward to hear him. “I-I’ll order w-when she g-gets here, if th-that’s o-k-kay.” The boy looked away, his gaze shifting from hers and back to the screen in front of him, the colour on his cheeks even more pronounced.

Well, for fucks sake! How the hell was she supposed to seduce someone who couldn’t string a fucking sentence together? Talk about her bad luck. Why the hell did nothing ever go her way? Stuffing her pencil and pad back into her apron pocket, Wendy turned, her face no longer attractive as she flung back,

“Sure. Whatever!”

By the time she was half way across the room, the opportunistic waitress was already scanning for new prospects, the kid with the freaky stutter instantly forgotten as she moved on.

Wendy was not one of the observant ones.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke Snyder breathed an inward sigh of relief as the redheaded waitress in the too-tight uniform walked away, his shoulders relaxing as the tension drained from them. He’d sensed her standing at the table, although the aroma of her cheap perfume had been hard to miss, and knew he couldn’t avoid talking to her. He was definitely getting better at handling social situations, but it didn’t mean he liked them. Even just a year ago, he’d never have purposely put himself in a position where he might need to speak to a stranger – not if he could help it – but he was finally beginning to take control of his life, and he was determined to beat the affliction he’d suffered from for so many years.

Generally, Luke was used to two kinds of reactions to his speech impediment; people either looked at him like he had some kind of mental deficiency, jumping in to help him ‘finish’ his sentences or they looked at him like he had some kind of mental deficiency – yeah, that part never changed – before giving up and walking away. It had taken a long time for him to realise the so-called deficiency wasn’t him - it was them - and his confidence in himself was beginning to grow. He just wished the blushing part of his problem would also go away.

Luke felt as though some things in his life were finally coming together. It wasn't perfect by any means. There were still gaping holes, not least of which was the part of him that ached for a partner; someone who accepted him as he was; someone who didn't look at him with pity; someone who wasn't embarrassed to be with him; someone who, at the very least, didn't try to finish his goddamn sentences for him.

However, if he ignored this, life was pretty good. College was going well, his writing really maturing, as he was encouraged to experiment and take risks. Luke was determined to succeed in order to prove wrong all those people in his past who'd thought a stutter made you somehow mentally deficient; people who'd ridiculed him, making his younger life a misery and pushing him into a self-protective shell he was only now beginning to break free of. Thank God he'd always had such a close and supportive family.

When his biological father had left him with his mother, back when he was seven years old, Luke had spoken very little English. The words he did know were heavily accented and he found it difficult to form some of the sounds everyone else took for granted. His family had eased the transition as much as possible, and in the cocoon of farm life, he'd begun to blossom, finally finding a loving home where their only expectation was his happiness.

It was a much more confident boy who started at the local school, having spent the summer acclimatising to everything about his new life and practising his ever-increasing vocabulary. By the time first recess came round, however, Luke's confidence had taken a huge nosedive, as some of the other kids made fun of the new kid's accent and his lack of understanding. Unfortunately, he didn't need to understand what was being said to know he was being laughed at and made fun of. It didn't stop there, either, as it seemed every time he attempted to speak, someone was there to interrupt and make him feel like he was doing it wrong. Before long, his hesitation over trying new words had developed into a full-blown phobia of speaking in front of others. His stutter was born.

The only saving grace of his school life had been Maddie Coleman. When Mrs Taylor asked for a volunteer buddy to help Luke through his first few days, a girl with bouncing curls and two missing front teeth had literally hurled herself up out of her seat and to his side. Seemed like she hadn’t left since. It was Maddie’s innocent and uncomplicated friendship that had made his school life even the least bit bearable. From the very first day, she’d been patient and kind, helping him when he needed it, stepping back when he didn’t. She was his best friend – and he was hers. Luke never envisioned a life without Maddie in it.

More recently, his speech therapist, Dr Stephanie - ‘just call me Steph’ - Michaels had made a dramatic impact on his life. Unlike previous therapists, she put Luke’s stutter firmly on to his shoulders and made him believe he was the only one who could truly conquer his fears. She pushed him into situations he found uncomfortable, forcing him to at least try to face his fears, rather than run from them. And, yeah, some of those situations had been downright ridiculous, that’s for sure. Luke had honestly laughed when Steph first suggested taking him to the local radio station. Surely she was deluded if she thought it would be anything but a disaster? What the hell would he be able to do in front of a mic, for God’s sake? He’d gone along, purely to prove her wrong – and thank goodness he had. The anonymity of the studio had been a revelation, and before he knew it, he was ensconced in a recording booth, his stutter becoming less and less pronounced, the more he spoke. Listening back to himself on the recording had boosted him like nothing else, and he was eager to spend as much time at the radio station as possible.

The time spent at the radio station really paid off as, after several months of visits, where he’d also begun to learn the technical side and spend time with some of the DJs, Luke was offered a night slot – not the most popular for any of the existing staff. The midnight to 4 a.m. hours were the least liked, many of the guys not happy to open up the phone lines and talk to people about random subjects. Although nervous to begin with, however, Luke had blossomed, his confidence growing with each show. Maddie teased him, convinced the ‘great Luciano’ would be poached by one of the national stations one of these days, but Luke was just happy he finally had a reason to feel like he was as good as everyone else.

++++++++++

Luke looked at his watch for what seemed like the thousandth time. He’d long given up expecting Maddie to be on time - which was why he always brought something along to keep him occupied - but she was really outdoing herself today. At this rate, he was going to start charging her by the minute. If that didn’t sort her out, nothing would.

His laptop dinged quietly and Luke looked at the message popping up on his Facebook chat. Since persuading Grandma Emma to join the 21st century, they’d pretty much kept up a constant stream of chatter and she was currently trying to scan in and upload every photo she’d ever taken. It was a long and arduous process, but he knew she wouldn’t give up. It’s why he loved her so much; that and her raisin oatmeal cookies. As he began to type a reply, the seat opposite him was pulled out with a screech and Maddie dropped into it with a melodramatic groan.

“Coffee! I need coffee right now, goddammit!” Looking around, she motioned to the waitress across the room and had their drinks ordered before she’d even taken her dark glasses off. Luke ignored her, letting his Grandma know he’d talk to her later. Shutting the lid of his AppleMac, he finally spoke.

“You look like sh-shit. I-I’ve been up mmmost of the nnnight and I look w-way better than you.” Luke grinned slyly, knowing Maddie wouldn’t take too kindly to aspersions on her looks. Too bad, sister. That’s what you got for leaving your best friend to be pounced on by cougar waitresses with an over-inflated ego and no gaydar. He continued to grin as Maddie’s eyes narrowed in challenge.

“You take that back, or I swear I’ll…I’ll…Damn! I can’t think of anything heinous enough to do to you right now.” Maddie dropped her chin into her hand as she leant on the table and sighed dramatically. “I will, though. Don’t think I’ll forget. I’m just too damn tired right now to come up with a suitable punishment.” She yawned widely.

“Goddammit, Mmmads. I don’t nnneed to see your t-t-tonsils, you know. What the hell h-happened to you lllast night?”

“Sorry. I’m just totally…” Maddie yawned widely again, this time covering her mouth delicately, although it didn’t quite cover the sound of her jaw cracking. “Oh, thank god,” she moaned appreciatively, snapping her mouth shut as the waitress placed two steaming coffee cups on to the table before moving away. Inhaling deeply, Maddie picked up the closest one and closed her eyes in bliss. Luke watched as she took her first sip, wincing slightly at the heat, yet taking another immediately before sighing again.

“I g-guess you needed th-that, huh?” He stirred a sugar into his own cup before taking a careful sip. Damn, the coffee here was good. Placing the cup back on to the table, Luke looked carefully at his best friend, suddenly concerned at how truly tired she looked. All joking aside, Maddie always looked fabulous and he knew it was pretty effortless on her part. She just had this natural vitality that made her hair shine and eyes sparkle, no matter how much she burnt the candle at both ends. And she did, sometimes. Luke knew how important her studies were to her but, likewise, he also knew she liked to party and enjoy herself. That was without the times she stayed up listening to his radio shows on the nights she was home. She’d always made time for him, no matter what else might be going on in her life.

“Ssseriously, Maddie. Wh-what the hell’s wr-wrong?” Luke spoke softly, sombre now as he looked at her intently, noticing the dark smudges beneath her unusually dulled eyes. Maddie took a slow draught of her coffee before looking up to meet his gaze.

“I spent the night in the emergency room,” she said blandly, just as if it was a regular Monday night occurrence and she hadn’t just said something out of the ordinary.

“What?” Luke didn’t realise his normally quiet voice had risen quite so much until he felt the attention of the people around him focused on their table. He reddened, embarrassed at having drawn notice he was usually desperate to avoid. Maddie grinned, obviously enjoying Luke’s momentary discomfort. She was always making jokes about how she’d had to develop super hearing over the years of their friendship.

“Mads?” The seriousness of Luke’s face instantly wiped the smile from Maddie’s, and she reached out and covered one of his hands with her own, knowing he’d narrowed what he really wanted to ask down to one all-encompassing word.

“I’m okay, Luke. Honestly.” She smiled again, a mere up-turn to the corners of her lips, yet it was enough to reassure him and he sagged forward slightly, unaware he’d been holding himself quite so rigidly. “My mom…” she stopped abruptly, and Luke turned his hand over in hers and linked their fingers, squeezing gently, silently offering strength. Maddie squeezed back gratefully, acknowledging all he didn’t say, before taking another gulp of rapidly cooling coffee. She grimaced slightly before continuing, “I can’t…I can’t really talk about it, okay?” Her eyes begged him not to ask, not to make her tell him what he knew was most likely a story he’d already heard many times before. Mrs Coleman was a recovering alcoholic who periodically fell off the wagon, usually in some spectacular way that resulted in either jail or hospitalisation. This time – the first in nearly two years - had obviously been no different, although Luke knew Maddie had finally begun to believe her mom was going to make it. No wonder this time had hit so hard. It was up to Luke to be the friend, now, and take Maddie’s mind away from her problems. He grasped the first thing that came to mind.

“Ssso…I g-guess you missed mmmy awesome show last n-night, then, huh?” Luke watched the taut lines of Maddie’s face slowly relax, the deep sigh, raised eyes and shaking of her head almost comical in their over-the-top delivery.

“Oh, God! You’re not gonna bore me with tales from the creepy midnight callers, are you? I definitely need more coffee for this.” She signalled the waitress for refills and then turned to Luke expectantly, gratitude evident in the look she gave him.

“Wwwwell…”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke always turned up at W-OAKdale at least thirty minutes before his show was due to start. This gave him the chance to look over the playlist, check the advertising slots were lined up and generally reacquaint himself with the whole process. If he were totally honest, he might admit to being afraid – every single damn time – he’d lost the ability to talk without becoming a stuttering mess. So far, it hadn’t happened, but although each successful show raised his self-esteem just that little higher, the fear remained the same. It was something he was still trying to work through with Doctor Steph. He knew he’d get there, no matter how long it took.

On this particular Monday night, Luke got into the station to find the format of his usual thrice weekly show – ‘Listen with Luciano’ - would have to change. Aimee, the second year grad student who worked the phone lines and took all incoming calls before the callers went on air, had called in sick, and there was nobody available to help Luke out. Luckily, this wasn’t the first time, so he was able to reorganise the schedule with a minimum of fuss. Quickly pulling out some old compilations of back-to-back music, Luke set himself up so he could take requests directly, answering the phone when other music was playing and then lining up those requests to play in the open slots. It was standard procedure not to put callers straight through without having some idea of what the topic matter might be, and Luke’s show generally consisted of people calling in to discuss whatever the hell they felt like. He’d always loved the fact he had little control over what was said and was constantly amazed by the wide range of things people wanted to talk about in the middle of the night. Better than anything was the knowledge he was able to talk to an ever-widening range of people without freezing or making a complete fool of himself. Now, if he could just translate that into his everyday life, things would be pretty near perfect.

++++++++++

Luke’s show was coming to an end, the four hours whizzing by as they always did, and he was setting up the last batch of back-to-back tunes that would allow him to take the final requests.

“Okay, guys. I’ve only got three mmmore fabulous songs before the last of our requests. We’ve had some really great dedications tonight, so keep ‘em coming. Don’t forget, it’s just little ol’ mmme here tonight, so if you can’t get through, try again or catch me on Wednesday, same time, ssame place. Here we go with some classic back-to-back Madonna. See you on the other side.”

Luke hit the button to start the music and then leaned back in his seat for a moment, before taking a deep breath and switching the phone line to open. Although he’d enjoyed his show – he always did – he’d actually be quite grateful for tonight to be over. Talking to people on the ‘phone was still something Luke found incredibly nerve-racking, and he could feel the tenseness in his shoulders and back, a sharp ache radiating outwards. Only fifteen minutes to go and he’d be able to relax.

Waiting for his next call, Luke doodled on the pad in front of him, filling in some of the letters and making googly eyes of others. Each name was a record of tonight’s dedications; from Gary’s ‘it’s my mom’s birthday. She won’t be up but I’m recording this to play tomorrow’ to Sookie’s (and Luke seriously doubted this was her real name but the double o now sported cross eyes and extra long lashes) ‘it’s my two week anniversary and I want to tell Wayne how much I love him’; from Wesley’s ‘I don’t have anyone to dedicate to, so how about playing something just for me’ to Barbara’s ‘my daughter just gave me my first grandchild and I want to tell her how much I love her.’

Every single reason for wanting a song played was valid as far as Luke was concerned, and he loved how it gave him a little insight into random strangers’ lives, people he never would have had the chance to speak to in his everyday life. His stutter had always kept him isolated, shut off from the things normal people did. Even the shortest of interactions could be tortuous for Luke, and although he had a loving, supportive family and a phenomenal best friend, he’d never wanted them to speak for him. Of course, this meant he didn’t speak at all if he didn’t have to. It wasn’t until Doctor Steph forced him from his comfort zone he’d realised he had as much to say as everybody else – and as much right to be heard - even if people did have to listen a little more carefully.

As Luke sat doodling, his mind wandering, the ‘phone beeped and flashed red. Taking a deep, steadying breath, he pressed the answer button and spoke cheerfully.

“Hi there. You’re through to Llluciano on W-OAKdale. What can I play for you tonight?” Luke was met with a faint crackle on the line, but no answering voice. “Hello caller.” Again there was no reply. This happened sometimes, usually someone playing a prank by saying something totally outrageous. Aimee had definitely blushed a time or two. Looking at the number flashing on the small screen, Luke quickly jotted it down in case this call turned out to be something he might need to report. He listened for several moments more before deciding to end the call, but as he went to press the cancel button, a low sound – the catching of someone’s breath, maybe - caught his attention, and he suddenly had an overwhelming desire to make sure this person spoke to him.

“Hey, caller. I’m still here. Is there something you want to sssay?” Now Luke could hear someone breathing, quickened as if the person were trying to get their words out but couldn’t. As Luke was intimately aware of how that felt, he waited, his quiet “take your time” hanging there, creating the chance to speak and to be heard. For some reason, Luke was sure this person had something important to say.

At least a minute passed before the almost silence was broken.

“Hello?” The voice was quiet, the man softly spoken with a slight quaver in the question. Luke smiled in relief, glad he’d been patient and waited it out. There was something about that voice; something he couldn’t name; something that tightened his gut before fully relaxing; something that continued to tingle.

“Hi there.” Luke’s reply was just as hushed. He didn’t want to scare this man away, the feeling this was somehow important getting stronger. “Do you wwwant to talk? Want to make a dedication?”

“Yeah. I…I want to make a dedication to someone. To a…a friend…”

“Well, that’s what I’m here for. I just need to know some stuff, okay?” Luke sat poised to jot down the relevant details whilst, at the same time, quickly checking the minutes left on the Madonna tracks. He was pleased to note the second song had only just started. It was weird how he felt like this call had gone on far longer than it actually had.

“Firstly, can you tell me your name and the song you want played so I can check the computer listing to make sure we have it?” Luke had made that mistake the first time he’d taken calls himself, writing down all the details carefully, only to find the track was so obscure it wasn’t in the archives. It was far better to let the caller know straight away so they could either decide on another song or not bother at all. There were more moments of silence but, again, Luke waited patiently. He almost felt like he was coaxing a shy animal to eat from his hand.

“I’m Noah.” There was another stillness, as if this guy – Noah – was weighing every single word before committing himself. “ Um…the song I want played is ‘Somewhere I Belong’ by Linkin Park. Do you have it?”

Luke quickly typed the title into the computer and was relieved to see it listed. He added it to the playlist as he gave confirmation.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been asked for that one before. I’m looking ffforward to hearing it.” Although Noah didn’t reply to that, Luke was sure he heard an exhalation of deep-held breath - a sigh of relief, maybe. He waited a moment before continuing.

“Do you want to tell me who this is dedicated to and why?” Luke didn’t expect Noah to answer straight away, so was pleased when his voice came back sounding slightly stronger and surer of himself than before.

“It’s for Gabe.”

“And is it for some kind of special occccasion? A birthday or…?” Luke knew he’d said something wrong almost as soon as the question was asked. There was a sharp intake of breath before what sounded suspiciously like a sob coming from Noah. Luke felt terrible and rushed to reassure the distressed guy on the other end of the ‘phone.

“I’m sorry. You don’t have to give any mmore details. I can j-just play the song for Gabe. You don’t have to tell me anything else.” Luke could feel his agitation rising as he heard the first hint of an actual stutter coming through in his voice. Oh God! He couldn’t fall to pieces now, not when somebody might actually need him. He took a steadying breath, then another, determined to maintain control, at least to the end of this conversation. The trouble was, he didn’t know what to say now; didn’t know how to make this right. He was stunned, then, when Noah started speaking, his words tumbling out as if he couldn’t control them.

“Gabe was killed three years ago today and I…I miss him so goddamned much. He…” Here Noah stopped, unable to continue as he obviously struggled for control. Luke wished there was some way to actually reach out through the phone wires and physically offer comfort. But there wasn’t. All he could do was stay silent and allow Noah to continue. Thankfully, he did.

“Gabe wasn’t just my best friend. He was my…my boyfriend.” Here Noah let out an audible breath before continuing, his voice shaky. “I’ve never told that to anybody before. Never been brave enough to even say it out loud.” He paused again, and Luke honestly didn’t know what to say; didn’t know whether he should say anything at all. However, it appeared Noah didn’t need Luke to answer, as he continued to speak, his words tumbling out faster and faster, no stopping them now they were finally being said.

“When he died – he was knocked off his bike on the way home from my house – I didn’t even know for two whole days. Nobody really knew we were friends, let alone anything else, so…so I never got the chance to say goodbye; to tell him how I really felt. He thought…” Noah stopped, fighting for control. Luke could barely listen without wanting to step in and offer comfort, but he knew enough from his own experiences not to hand out empty platitudes. All he needed to do was listen.

Luke suddenly realised he’d almost forgotten where he was, but a quick glance at the timer told him he still had more than a couple of minutes before the Madonna tracks finished. Not wanting to stop Noah from talking, he pressed the button linking in a string of advertisements from the station’s sponsors. This would still give him time to get Noah’s request in before wrapping up his show.

“…he thought I didn’t really want to be with him. He was out and I couldn’t tell my dad I was gay. Fuck, he’d have killed me. Gabe thought I was making excuses, stringing him along, but I wasn’t. I swear I wasn’t. If you saw what my dad could do, you’d know I wasn’t lying. I…”

“Nnnoah?” Luke couldn’t stop himself from responding to the plea in Noah’s voice, and he was on the verge of tears himself, his heart literally aching in response to the pain he could hear. “I believe you. You don’t have to put yourself through this, honestly. You don’t need to …”

“But I do! I have to! I have to get this out because it’s killing me. The guilt I feel – for not being there for Gabe when he most needed me; for not standing up and being brave for him – it’s eating me up from the inside, and I can’t go on like this. I just can’t go on without some kind of reason, and there…there just isn’t any.” This last was said on a whisper Luke could barely hear, but the defeat in his voice was palpable; an almost physical thing reaching out and catching Luke in its vice-like grip. So much pain, he could barely stand it. And then he realised the silence was absolute. Noah was gone.

++++++++++

“I’m going to end tonight’s show with a very special dedication. The song is ‘Somewhere I Belong’ - by the always wwwonderful Linkin Park - and this is for Gabe; always remembered by Noah.”

Luke sat and listened to the song – something he didn’t usually do – before switching over to the pre-recorded music that followed his show. The words swam round his head as he locked up the station and drove home. There’d be no sleep tonight.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

“So he just ended the call? And you don’t even know if he listened to the dedication? Oh my god, Luke. I don’t know what to say. ” Maddie’s eyes brimmed with sympathy as she watched Luke struggle for control. He’d held it together up to now – the lack of sleep was certainly beginning to take its toll – but the retelling of it had brought back all the pain he’d heard in Noah’s voice; pain Luke hadn’t been able to do anything about.

“Well…” Maddie paused as if trying to come up with exactly the right thing to say to make Luke feel better. There wasn’t really anything she could think of that didn’t sound trite, though, so she simply reached across and took his hand in hers. She was surprised when he reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper, pushing it across the table towards her.

“What’s this?” She read it quickly, “Noah Mayer? Is that…?” Luke nodded slowly, taking the paper back and carefully folding it.

“ I c-called Uncle Jack f-first thing this mmmorning. He traced Noah’s cell number for me when I t-t-told him how wwworried I was.”

Maddie could see the determination on Luke’s face and knew there was no dissuading him from this course of action. She had to at least try, though. He could be setting himself up for a world of hurt.

“Do you think it’s wise to…?” He interrupted her, something he never usually did.

“I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s wise.” Luke was resolute. “I’m going to find Noah and, if I can, I’m going to give him a reason.”

Chapter End Notes:
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