The smell of home cooking and the sound of Beethoven hit Noah from the moment he opened the door. He smiled softly to himself, relief flooding through him like water after days in the desert. For months he had returned home to the dark and empty apartment, a reflection of what he felt in his heart. Each time the loneliness had inserted itself a little deeper and the small amount of faith he was clinging onto would diminish a little more. The fact was that by the time Luke had finally knocked on the door a month ago, any hope Noah had of ever getting him back was almost gone… all that remained was the shell of a person.
Leaving for LA, leaving Luke and Oakdale behind, had hurt more than anything ever had in his entire lifetime. More than his mother’s neglect, more than his father’s rejection, even more than seeing Luke in Reid’s arms, the two of them locked in a passionate kiss. But he had done it, mostly because he knew it was what Luke needed. He was willing to do just about anything for Luke.
He knew that if it wasn’t for movie making to fill the lonely hours he wouldn’t have held out for as long as he had. Being a Director was all he had ever dreamed of becoming and here he was, working in LA of all places. But despite loving the job, living his dream job, his life was hollow.
He thought back to the day he found himself at the airport with a ticket to Oakdale in his hand. He wasn’t going to contact Luke; he had just wanted to catch a glimpse of him, even if it was from a distance. His heart had ached to see him. The want was so great it felt like it would crush him. But, as he stood in the queue to board the plane, he knew he couldn’t do it. Staying away was what Luke needed from him, and even if Luke didn’t see him in Oakdale, somebody else was bound too! News in such a small town travelled pretty fast and it wouldn’t have taken long for Luke to find out.
So Noah had left the airport, returned to the apartment, and with a frenzied energy searched through all the unpacked boxes, throwing things aside until he found what he was looking for, a neat box of all the letters, e-mails and messages Luke had ever sent him over the years. With tears streaming down his face and his heart burning in his chest, Noah had spent the entire night in the dark, sitting on the floor with his back up against the wall, reading all the words of love by the moonlight spilling through the window. He was like a heroin addict squelching his addiction with methadone. A temporary fix… until the next craving took hold.
But for the past glorious month he had been coming home every night to Luke. Whenever he turned the key in the lock there was still a tinge of fear… that when he opened the door he would find Luke gone again. However the feeling would quickly dissipate as the light and warmth of the place (and the sense of Luke’s undeniable presence) engulfed him.
Closing the door quietly behind him he moved stealthy towards the kitchen so that he could enjoy a few minutes just watching Luke at work. He loved the concentration Luke had whilst cooking and the way he weaved from one side of the kitchen to the other, stretching his body up to the top shelf to lift off a bottle of spice or source that he needed. Noah couldn’t help but think of how proud Emma would be of her Grandson, The Cook!
They had spent their first two days back together in complete radio silence from the outside world. Except for one phone call to their respective work places, the two of them had done nothing but cuddle together, watch movies and reminisce. Basically just getting to know one another again. Eventually they had moved things outside by going for walks in the park or out for meals at the numerous restaurants. Noah would show Luke the sites of LA and Luke would listen with interest as Noah explained the progress of his movie whilst showing him the various location shoots.
It was on one of these walks that they had found a small bookstore not far from the apartment, where Luke had purchased a cooking manual. After two weeks Noah could no longer afford to take any more time off work, and Luke had decided he would use the long daytime hours apart to learn to cook, something he had always wanted to do. It was this book that now held his full attention, brow furrowed, while he stirred at something on the stove.
Noah still couldn’t believe it! It felt like a miracle.
“Are you just going to stand there staring at me, or are you going to come over here and give me proper hello?” Luke said without turning round.
Noah grinned broadly and walked over into Luke’s embrace just as he turned away from the stove, “Hi there!”
Luke smiled and gave him a kiss as they held onto each other.
“Can’t get anything past you, can I?” Noah winked.
“Not a chance Mayer!”
They shared another gentle kiss that quickly increased in intensity until Luke found himself being squeezed up against the counter. They both started to giggle into the kiss as they realised what was happening and broke apart smiling. Luke and Noah had carefully avoided love making since their reunion. Both wanted it. Badly! But they had agreed on day one that they were going to take things slowly. Start again. Whenever they had made love in the past they had been totally and truly committed to each other and the relationship, with no unresolved issues between them. They wanted their new relationship to be the same.
“So?” Noah said arms encircled around Luke’s waist, a slight look of amused confusion on his face, “When did you start listening to classical?”
Noah had meant to tease Luke, but wished he hadn’t said it the moment the words left his lips. Luke’s smile waivered as his eyes took on a brief moment of shock and then sadness before almost guiltily looking at the floor.
“Oh…” Noah sighed, as realisation set in, “Reid.”
Luke broke quickly away from the embrace to turn around and continue stirring the pot. For a moment if felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room.
“I’m sorry.” His voice was haunted.
“Luke,” Noah carefully turned Luke around to face him again. He placed his hand under Luke’s chin to lift his head and make eye contact, “It’s okay you know? There’s nothing for you to be sorry about. I told you before… I understand.”
“It’s… I didn’t even realise the connection until you mentioned it. I mean… I guess… I never… I never realised that some things from my time with him kind of… I don’t know… stuck?”
“Pretty normal don’t you think?” Noah shrugged, trying with all his might to sound nonchalant. It did hurt. It did hurt to think of Luke loving another man, but Noah really had come to accept it. Luke had so much love to give and it stood to reason that he would look to give his love to somebody else once Noah pushed him away. But Noah knew that it didn’t mean Luke had come to love him any less because of it. He had simply shared a different kind of love with Reid. The scary thing was that if it hadn’t been for a cruel twist of fate, Noah knew how close he had come to possibly losing Luke forever.
Noah had felt betrayed by Reid, but despite the anger he had for him at the time, he would never have wished Reid harm. He felt terrible for what had happened and he hated what it had done to Luke. He knew he owed Reid something special, something as precious as the ability to see, and Noah had come to realise that in some way he could repay Reid by looking out for Luke. He felt sure that, despite everything, Reid would have wanted Luke to be happy. At least the two of them had had THAT in common.
“I just don’t want to hurt you because of it.” Luke replied as he leaned into Noah’s hand and brought his fingers up to meet his. “We’ve done enough to hurt each other already.”
By some unspoken agreement, they had carefully avoided the general subject of their breakup and Reid, both preferring to live in a protective bubble of their own making. Their new found relationship still felt fragile and they had needed a place where, at least for a little while, they could leave all the pain behind and just focus purely on loving each other. But both knew that the bubble was only temporary and that at some point they were going to have to face the real world. Luke had already taken a full month off from Grimaldi Shipping and his Foundation, both of which were clamouring for his attention. In a few days he would have to leave Noah in LA and return to Oakdale. The thought made Noah feel sick and terrified.
“Luke, you feel what you feel, okay? I don’t expect you to keep avoiding the subject just because you’re scared of how it will affect me. We said we would share everything from now on… remember?” He pulled Luke in close again and smoothed his blond locks from out of his face, “Even if it hurts.”
“Yes,” Luke replied, “We do need to talk,” he searched Noah’s eyes tentatively; “we can’t put it off any longer.”
Noah nodded and tried not to let the fear show in his face.
Luke and Noah walked slowly hand in hand into the dim lit lounge after sharing a contemplative dinner in the kitchen. They had talked about Noah’s day at work but it was strained. Not strained from conflict or anger of any kind, but rather from the fear of where their inevitable conversation would take them. Both knew what they wanted. They knew they belonged together. Everything that had happened over the years had proved that. But the fear was still there. Noah feared being left alone. Luke feared being hurt.
Luke turned to take hold of Noah’s other hand. He locked his gaze with him and gave him a small reassuring smile. A silent communication, “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Noah smiled back and nodded nervously, trembling slightly.
“I love you so much.” Luke said simply.
“I love you too.”
Some time passed.
“Okay, Baby? The first thing I need is…” Luke paused to take a deep breath, “I guess I need to understand.”
“Understand?” Noah asked the question but he knew where this was going.
“I need you to make me understand WHY…. Why you pushed me away?”
He saw Noah take a deep breath, wait a few moments and then let it go in a shudder. Luke squeezed both his hands to help anchor him… to give him strength.
“The thing is,” Luke continued softly, “usually when people love each other they need each other. I mean… they need each other to help get them through the bad times. But you… you pushed me out of your life… and… and I need to know WHY. I need to know why you stopped needing me.”
He nodded once to encourage Noah to begin speaking.
Noah broke eye contact and looked away. “Noah…no… no Noah…” Luke gripped Noah’s hands tightly and waited for Noah to turn his sad eyes back to him. “No running... remember? Right here… just stay right here… with me.”
Noah nodded. God this was hard!
“Luke I…” he had to fight back the desire to cry, crying would make what he had to say harder, and he knew he had to get it out. He had to get it all out. They had to resolve these issues if they were going to move on together. Otherwise the months apart would all have been for nothing.
Luke knew how difficult this was for Noah. It went against his natural instincts and Luke could see the war going on in Noah’s eyes. He knew how hard Noah was trying and he loved him a little more because of it.
“A few months after the accident, I started having to admit to myself that… that the likelihood was I would never see again. And you were right… I did blame you at first. Deep down I knew it wasn’t your fault but… there HAD to be a reason, right? I mean I HAD to know that I wasn’t just blind by some CHANCE! I just needed something to blame it on and be angry at… and I guess… I guess you were just there. And with our history… you know… the way we would sometimes disagree because you can be so compulsive. Like, sometimes you don’t really think before you act even though I know you think you’re doing the right thing.”
Luke nodded but didn’t say anything. Noah tried to read his thoughts but all he saw on the blonde’s face was a deep kind of concentration, like he was really trying hard to understand.
“I actually forgave you the whole Mason thing way sooner then I think you know, but when I realised that my sight wasn’t coming back and that it may NEVER come back, it was easier to keep you at a distance.”
“Easier?” Luke asked.
“Luke you know me, right?”
“Better than anybody.” Luke nodded.
Noah continued, “So…so you will know that I had our life all planned out. And it was going to be so amazing, Luke! So perfect! And I was going to do everything to make you happy. To give you the life you deserved after everything you had given me.” Luke smiled sadly and Noah returned the smile briefly before a shadow passed over his face, “And then just like that I was blind! I was a cripple! And I needed help for EVERYTHING! Walking, eating, tying my shoelaces!”
“I wanted to help you with all that Noah,” Luke whispered.
“I know… I know you would have done anything and everything… and I love you for it… and… and… that’s just it! Don’t you get it?”
Noah sighed again looking down at their entwined hands, “It wasn’t the life I planned for you! It wasn’t what I wanted for you! For US!” He looked back up into Luke’s eyes, “I love you Luke! How could I condemn you to a life like THAT?”
“Oh Noah…” A tear fell down Luke’s cheek.
“So I was desperate. I was desperate to find a way as quickly as possible to get my sight back, if that was even an option! Because I knew… I knew there was only so long that I could keep you at arms length and there was only one way I could see us staying together. I knew I was hurting you and it killed me. And I DID need you Luke, it took everything I had not to cling onto you, but I thought if it came down to me being blind forever… if Reid couldn’t fix me… then it would be easier to let you go. I could let you go and live a normal life. The life I wanted for you. A happy life. Because I know you too Luke… I know that if you knew I didn’t blame you… if you knew the real reason for keeping you away, then you would stay. No matter what I said.”
Noah’s words were like a dagger in Luke’s gut. How did he never see this? If he knew Noah so well then he should have seen this, right? It all made sense now… the reason Noah felt he had to learn to live alone… because he never intended on having a life with Luke if he was blind. In his own misguided way, Noah was willing to sacrifice his own happiness for the sake of Luke’s.
“God!” And he drew Noah into him. Noah pressed his face into the small of Luke’s neck and sobbed silently.
When they pulled apart again Noah said, “I knew there was a risk that you would start to date other men. I guess… the things is…” he stumbled.
“It’s okay, go on…”
“I guess I never considered you might actually fall in love with any of them. At least not so quickly… I thought for sure that by the time I’d had the surgery and knew where things stood one way or the other… that you would just still be there. I realise now that it was naive of me… or vain…”
“No, Noah. The thing with Reid, it was as much of a shock to me as it was to you. I never expected or wanted it. I wasn’t looking for it. It just kind of happened.”
“That day, the day I got all my sight back. I wanted to surprise you so I had Richard drive me to your house. And I was so happy Luke! So relieved! Because you had been there during the surgery… the whole time! And I thought… I thought…”
Luke made a small vocal sob as the tears fell, “I know. And then the first time you see me I’m kissing Reid… I’m so sorry! I’m sorry Noah. When you didn’t call me to pick you up from the hospital I thought it was because you didn’t need me. And I knew Richard was there… So I guess, I guess I needed some… comfort… and Reid was....” He had been such an idiot! Why couldn’t he have just waited a little while longer? Why didn’t he have more faith? “I was always going to tell you about Reid. You have to believe that! I would never have kept it from you, but I never wanted you to find out like THAT! I would never intentionally hurt you like that! Okay?”
Noah kissed him then and leaned forward so that their foreheads were touching, “I know Luke… I know. And I’m sorry too. For everything!”
Throughout the conversation they had not once pulled their hands apart. They had held on steadfastly. But now they broke the connection so that they could throw their arms around each other in a deep hug. Noah’s right hand rested on Luke’s head and played softly with his hair. Luke rubbed small circles on Noah’s back. The only sound was the ticking of the clock. And they let an indefinable amount of time pass. Standing together like that. For as long as they both needed.
And suddenly it felt like some huge weight had been lifted. It felt like they were breathing a little easier.
Finally Luke spoke into the folds of Noah’s shirt, “I think we’re going to be okay.”