It was the crick in his neck that finally brought Noah back to himself. He arched his back, wincing at both the pain and cracking sound that echoed sharply in his silent apartment. His knees had been tucked up against his chest, so he straightened out his legs as far as they’d go – which wasn’t far in the small window seat – and flexed his sleeping toes against the wall. He wasn’t yet ready to move, however, so relaxed as best he could in the confined space, before squinting at his watch.
His apartment lay in darkness behind him, but Noah could still make out the time from the glow of the lights bathing him from outside. It was one of the – many – things he found irritating about life in LA. It was never dark. If he hadn’t already sat out under a blanket of stars, the swathe of the milky way stretching out into eternal blackness, he’d never even know they were there above the permanent orange hue that never seemed to leave the sky when the sun went down over the city. That damn orange light that reminded him of winter sunsets over Snyder pond – sunsets he’d spent wrapped in the arms of the only man he’d ever loved – would ever love – before the sun set proper, and the stars made their nightly appearance. Cold nights where they’d wrapped themselves in a blanket, their breath mingling as they talked and laughed, kissed and planned.
Noah had never planned for this, never planned to be so totally alone, and his heart hurt from it. Now here he was, an hour into a new year – his first without Luke – and already sinking under the crushing weight of isolation that had marked every day of his life since leaving Oakdale. He’d been so sure Luke would at least call – he ignored that small, yet insistent, voice reminding him he hadn’t been brave enough to pick up the phone – and, when midnight had come and gone, that tiny spark of hope Noah had been nurturing had gone out, leaving a pain so sharp, he could barely breathe. Right now, he didn’t think he’d ever truly breathe again.
Noah continued to stare out into the orange tinted night, his thumb unconsciously rubbing over the smooth glass face of his watch in a habit he didn’t even realise he had. The sound of laughing voices and music drifted from somewhere close by, possibly even from within his apartment building, but Noah ignored it, his thoughts focused inwards and quiet. He had some decisions to make, he determined. He couldn’t go on in this state of mind and expect to survive, that was for sure. It was time to take back some control – that’s what New Year was about, after all – but not tonight. Tonight, Noah needed to remember and, just maybe, dream a little about what might have been before he stepped fully into what actually was.
Noah began to move carefully, aware of the myriad aches and pains sitting in the window had left him with. He groaned softly as he placed one foot tentatively on to the floor and tested whether his legs had gone completely numb. Before he brought himself to his feet however, his attention was drawn to movement down on the street below. A person stepped out from around the corner and stopped, head turning as they surveyed the buildings on both sides. Noah watched, wondering if there was going to be trouble of some kind. This was a pretty quiet neighbourhood, not one of the more affluent by any means, but people kept themselves to themselves and Noah had never known any problems in the months he’d been here.
The guy – Noah was sure it was a he, judging by the build and the way he moved – stepped under one of the street lights and pulled what looked like a piece of paper from his pocket. For an endless moment, Noah’s breath stuttered in his throat as the street light highlighted familiar blond hair. Luke? His palms flattened against the window pane as he leant forward and squinted through the gloom, trying to make out the features. The thought was barely formed before Noah was shaking his head in denial, however. Of course it wasn’t his Luke. Why would it be? He continued to watch for a few moments as the guy crossed to Noah’s side of the street and disappeared from view.
Feeling totally exhausted, now – both emotionally and physically – Noah shuffled through his small apartment to the bathroom to clean his teeth. Minutes later, he was pulling on sleep pants and an old Oakdale tee that had seen way better days, before sliding under the single sheet laying on his bed. He laid there, body rigid with tension, his eyes wide open and fixed on the cracks he couldn’t quite make out in the ceiling. Dammit! He’d never get to sleep if he couldn’t at least relax, no matter how tired he was. He tried to concentrate on his breathing, willing everything else to fade away as he focused on the fall and rise of his chest, and the air going in and out of his lungs.
Noah could finally feel himself relaxing, feel the tautness of his muscles begin to unclench, when he suddenly realised he could hear a noise coming from the hallway outside his apartment. Was that a voice? Voices, maybe? He couldn’t be sure as he listened, his body twitching involuntarily as a knock sounded loudly on his door. What the hell could Cassie want at this time of night, for god’s sake? His neighbour was always locking herself out or needing some kind of assistance from him. She was a sweet girl, but Noah wasn’t really in the mood to be helpful right now. He jumped from his bed, catching his toe on the bedside cabinet and swearing under his breath as he marched to his door, pulling back the locks and yanking it open.
“What the fuck time d’you call this, Cass…?” Noah’s voice trailed off to silence as he realised it wasn’t Cassie standing in the hallway outside his door. For what seemed an eternity, yet he knew was mere seconds, he stared wide-eyed, unable to say anything at all as he felt the blood drain from his face in shock.
“Luke?” Even to his own ears, Noah’s plea – for that’s what it was, a desperate need for this not to be an hallucination – was barely audible, and he took a shuddering breath before speaking again. “Luke? Oh my god! Is it really you?” It was a stupid question, Noah knew that and felt a surge of embarrassment at his inanity, but he felt like his brain had disengaged from his mouth.
“Noah. Can I come in?” Luke’s face was serious, his longer-than-normal hair falling into his eyes and making Noah want to reach forward to brush it away. The solemnity of Luke’s voice, however, had him stepping back, suddenly wary, although he couldn’t drag his gaze away from the intense look in Luke’s eyes. Whatever Luke was doing here, Noah could tell it was serious. He just hoped Luke was here for him.
“Of course you can. I’m sorry, I’m just so shocked to see you.” Noah closed the door to his apartment and flicked the light switch, quickly dimming it to a level his eyes didn’t balk at. “Can I get you anything? Coffee, maybe?”
Luke was standing in the middle of the room, now, his attention fixed solely on Noah, even though Noah was positive he hadn’t heard the offer of a drink. Then, suddenly, he was speaking, his words seeming to trip over themselves in their haste to be out there.
“I just had to see you. I know I haven’t been in touch, I…” Luke agitatedly ran his fingers through his hair, “…I just wasn’t ready. Things fell apart so badly.”
“I know.” Noah stepped forward, desperately wanting to offer reassurance.
“I was so confused with everything that happened, Noah. You. Reid. I just couldn’t think straight. And when you left…”
“I know. I’m so sorry, I…” Noah tried to speak but was interrupted almost immediately.
“And I know things can’t just be put back the way they were.”
“Luke – of course they can’t, we…”
“These things take time. It’s not like we can…” Luke paused, obviously searching for the right words, “... can just have coffee and everything will be back to the way things were.”
“Of course they can’t, but surely we can…”
“There's just so much to work through. Trust has to be built again on both sides. You have to learn if…if you’re even the same people you were; if you can fit in each other’s lives again. It’s…” Luke paused then, his gaze locked with Noah’s, his breathing loud in the stillness of the room. Silent now, Noah waited for Luke to finish what he’d come here to say. Whatever it was – whether this turned out to be Luke’s need for closure – Noah would allow him that. Luke continued,
“…it's a long and important process, I know, but…can we just skip it? C-Can you just be kissing me now?”
Noah wasn’t sure he’d heard right, but that didn’t stop him stepping forward and gently cupping Luke’s face with his hands.
His name was a sigh, breathed out as their gazes locked and held, the truth of Luke’s words plainly there for Noah to see. And then they were kissing, their lips meeting and remembering, worshipping and adoring. The feel of that silky hair running through his fingers, that body pressed against his, was like heaven to Noah’s senses and, for the first time in what felt like forever, he breathed.
And then breathed again.
Comments are always appreciated.
Happy Nuke Year, guys :-)