Luke heard the distinct sound of the morning garbage collection truck outside the window. God, was it really THAT early? He’d woken up needing the bathroom but on his trip back to the bed was struck by how amazing and peaceful Noah looked in his sleep. His heart had jumped in his chest and instead of climbing back in bed he had pulled up a chair so he could sit for a few minutes just looking at him.
Noah’s hair was all ruffled and tiny black curls kissed his brow. His eyes were shut softly without a hint of tension. Luke wondered what he was dreaming about because at that moment his lips turned up in a slight smile. Luke couldn’t believe the love he had for this guy… couldn't believe how lucky he was to have another chance with him. How many nights after their breakup had he dreamed of doing just this? And now here they were, after months of painful separation, even more together than he had ever thought possible.
He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and place his chin in the palms of both hands. He rubbed his eyes briefly and realised he had shed a few tears. He knew that today he would have to start making arrangements to return back to Oakdale. He had made this decision every night for the past week, but then he would wake up in Noah’s arms each morning and say to himself, "Just one more day."
But now he knew for sure that it could no longer wait. He dreaded leaving Noah. The thought of being parted from him again was killing him. He hadn’t even been able to face the IDEA of it without struggling to breathe and now he had to face the reality. Of cause he was trying to be strong. He knew how scared Noah was of being alone and he didn’t want to let on how badly it was affecting him too. He needed to give Noah confidence that everything would be okay… that they would work something out.
Noah had already suggested he give up his job in LA and return to Oakdale but Luke wasn’t having any of it! He knew how much Noah loved his job and he didn’t want to be the reason Noah gave up on his dream. No way! So he had spent hours going over a hundred different scenarios in his head, trying to find one that would allow him to stay in LA while still sort out his responsibilities in Oakdale. But there really was no solution. He HAD to go back. Noah HAD to stay.
Of cause there were also things in Oakdale that he wanted to go back for. He missed his family for one. Ethan was at that age when changes could be noticed even after just one week and both Faith and Nat were begging to see him. When he’d left for LA it was supposed to be for two days and he had ended up staying for more than a month! There hadn’t been any time for his family to adjust to him being gone. The proper Snyder goodbyes had been bypassed by fate, so to speak. He felt bad about that but he also knew he was no longer a kid. He needed to live his own life… and right now that life was in LA with Noah.
His mom had literally screamed with joy when he had explained his reasons for staying in LA. Any reprimands she had planned for him when she answered the phone, after not hearing from him in a week, dissolved instantly. She loved Noah like a son. They all loved Noah. He had become an important part of the family and they had been almost as devastated by the breakup as Luke.
"I knew it!" she had beamed down the phone, "I always had faith for the two of you baby!"
There was another reason he wanted to go back, a reason he hadn’t been able to talk to Noah about. Noah had been so understanding of the emotions he still harboured for Reid, but Luke couldn’t help but be conscious of Noah’s feelings and there were some things he thought best to keep to himself. Some things were private… were a part of the love he had shared with Reid… like the fact that, after realising he’d forgotten the anniversary of Reid’s death, he had felt this overwhelming need to visit the pond and the site where he had placed half of Reid’s ashes. He wanted to apologise to him properly… to explain… to make peace. He felt he needed to be close to some essence of him to do so. LA made the short time they had spent together seem like a lifetime ago.
He was so wrapped in his thoughts that it took a while before he registered Noah staring at him. He smiled wide, "Busted!"
Noah returned the smile and then pulled the sheet back and patted the empty space in front of him, "Don't get me wrong, you look amazing sitting over there in your underwear but… I kind of prefer it when you’re IN the bed!"
Noah’s cheeky grin was just too hard to resist and Luke was curled up with him in no time, his left cheek pressed up against Noah’s chest.
Noah kissed the top of his head, "You looked like an angel, the light from outside made your hair glow… but…"
"You looked like a SAD angel. What’s up?"
Luke hitched at that and felt the tears starting again.
"Luke?" Noah pushed him back slightly so that he could look in his eyes.
"I’m okay…" and at Noah’s sceptical expression, "Really! It’s just sinking in that I have to leave soon…"
He saw the sadness creep into Noah’s eyes and wished he could have kept the thought to himself, but they had promised to share everything and they both knew this relationship was only stronger for that promise.
Noah didn’t say anything, just gave Luke a quick kiss and drew him tightly against him, holding him like that until it was time to get up for work.
Gustav was freaking out, "Where the hell is he?"
He reached out a hand and grabbed hold of Roberto’s jacket as the Construction Manager made his way through the busy set, "Hey, you seen Ken anywhere?"
"Not for over an hour, sorry. What’s up?"
"A damn spot’s out up there and shooting is in ten minutes! The guy’s gone AWOL again! God I’ll kill him this time for sure!"
"Well can’t you fix it yourself? It’s just a bulb change after all…"
Gustav looked up the ladder to the high studio roofing above and shuddered at the thought! However it was his neck on the line if things weren’t perfect for the take. He grabbed a bulb, chucked it in his duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder. Gingerly he started climbing the first few rungs of the ladder but stopped short when he felt a strong hand around his right ankle and heard a stern voice yell, "What the hell do you think you’re doing?"
He looked down and almost fell when he saw who it was, "Yeah, um sorry… I can’t find Ken and a spots out…"
"It’s Ken’s job to change the spots not yours! He’s the electrician! Now get down from there before you kill yourself!"
"You know? You should listen to him…"an amused voice said from the side. Gustav watched as all annoyance in the director’s eyes literally melted away in seconds and the blue in them seemed to light up and sparkle. He released Gustav’s ankle immediately, turned with a sly smile on his face, and opened his arms out to the grinning blonde man who had spoken, "…he knows what he’s talking about!"
"Luke!" Noah laughed, pulling the man into a close hug that made Gustav (and by the looks of things Roberto too) more than a little uncomfortable, "Best surprise ever!"
"Hi babe," the blonde replied, brushing Noah’s hair back with one hand whilst holding him with the other, "I was missing you so…"
Just then Ken decided to show his useless face and Gustav angrily sent him up the ladder to repair the problem. As he turned he heard this Luke person say, "Did I come at a bad time?"
"It’s never a bad time to see you." Noah gushed, "Actually it’s perfect timing, we’re shooting in about five minutes! Oh Melanie," he called off to the side and drew the attention of the petite red head who headed right over, "Melanie, this is my boyfriend Luke. Luke, this is Melanie."
"Hi Luke, nice to meet you."
"Melanie," Noah began, "Luke would like to watch the shoot. Could you take care of him for me while I finish up?"
"Of cause Noah," and then to Luke, "Please follow me."
Noah gave Luke a deep, passionate kiss, started to walk away but then turned back and repeated the kiss before saying, "Bye lover."
"Bye, good luck." Luke whispered back and Noah walked off towards his station, grinning from ear to ear.
Gustav stood staring after him with his mouth agape. It wasn’t the fact that they were gay that had embarrassed him… it was the level of intimacy between them. The way they held and looked at each other as though they were alone in a small room instead of standing in the middle of a bustling movie set. He continued watching after Noah until he heard, "Okay, Rudimentary, take 2 and five, four, three…"
He quickly scurried out of the way.
Watching Noah work just solidified the fact that LA was where he belonged. Luke was amazed at how his sweet and shy Noah was able to control a whole set of stagehands and actors with absolute confidence and authority. It was a side to Noah that he rarely saw outside of this environment. It was like watching the conductor at a symphony, waving his hands around and getting just the right responses from the actors, lighting crew and cameramen. Luke couldn’t contain the pride he felt at that moment! He hated that he was going to have to spoil tonight by telling Noah he was leaving in just two days time. It was done. Everything was arranged and he would be back in Oakdale bright and early Monday morning.
After the shot ended Luke watched as various people scuttled around Noah, getting instructions, asking for advise and occasionally Noah would read and then sign a piece of paper that was passed under his nose. Just then a dark Italian looking man approached the group. He said something to Noah with a smile on his face and it made Noah laugh out loud.
There was something about this man’s mannerism that bothered Luke almost instantly. Maybe it was the way he stood just a little too close to Noah and leaned into him as he spoke. Or the way his hand would intermittently squeeze Noah’s shoulder…
Luke felt his shackles start to rise and he couldn’t help but wonder at the strange energy between Noah and this other man. Finally the Italian left the group and walked over the floor and past Luke. He seemed to notice Luke but he didn’t stop, just carried on walking past to stand somewhere behind him. Then Luke heard him say, "Who’s the blonde?"
"Noah’s boyfriend." He heard Melanie reply; "Now we know why he’s been in such a good mood lately! AND why production is two weeks behind schedule!"
Luke’s heart stopped…
"Don’t pull that face Oliver! Noah’s way out of your league! Always was!"
At that Luke couldn’t help but turn and immediately made eye contact with the stranger. The look of jealousy and resentment that past between them left Luke in no further doubt that his instincts had been correct.
He felt a hand on his shoulder that made him jump and the connection with the man was ended.
"Sorry," Noah laughed, "Didn’t mean to scare you!"
"No… no…" Luke stuttered, "You didn’t."
Just then Melanie walked over, "Hey Noah! I know you usually walk home but it’s raining pretty heavy out there tonight so I ordered you a cab. It should be parked right outside."
"Thanks Melanie!" Noah replied, "What would I do without you?"
"Looks like you’re managing just fine if you ask me!" She said with a wink and then walked off towards the set.
"Ready?" Noah asked putting his arm around Luke’s shoulder and steering them towards the exit.
Luke didn’t know if he was.
It was absolutely pouring outside. Sheets of rain mixed with darkness making it difficult to see out into the parking lot, but Noah spotted the cab and they ran over to it.
"You’re quiet all of a sudden?" Noah said as they slid, dripping, into the waiting cab. "Um, the studio gave my address right?" He said to the driver who nodded and turned on the engine.
Luke was looking out of the window towards the studio door as the cab pulled away from the lot and joined the busy home time traffic. His thoughts were running at a million miles per minute and all sorts of images flashed through his head… mostly of Noah in some passionate position with this person. He didn’t know it was possible to hate a complete stranger but at that moment hate was all he could feel for him. He felt like he would explode at any moment.
"Luke?" he heard Noah say in that teasing voice that he usually loved, but which now just irritated him. "Anybody home?"
Luke looked directly at him and saw Noah visibly jump at the expression that must have been on his face.
"Luke? What’s wrong?"
Luke glared at him for a moment, "Who’s Oliver?"
The swish of the window wipers suddenly sounded much louder as both of them held their breath. It was obvious that he had caught Noah completely off guard because all he said was, "Wh... What?" A frown crinkled his forehead.
"I’m just wondering what THIS is when you’ve been carrying on with somebody from work?"
Noah paused for just a second, a look of shock on his face before his eyes burned into Luke’s and he yelled, "Stop the car!" The driver was taken aback but complied immediately when Noah, still locking eyes with Luke, sternly repeated, "Stop the damn car! Now!"
Once at a standstill Noah flung open his door and started to get out. Luke shouted, "Where are you going? It’s torrential out there!" But Noah ignored him and stormed off into the park. "Shit!" Luke quickly paid the cab driver and ran after Noah, sneakers squelching on the grass.
"Stop…. Stop will you?" Luke caught up and grabbed Noah’s elbow to spin him around. "Where are you going?"
"I had to get out before I punched you! Noah said with frustration, "I can’t believe you’re doing this AGAIN! I can’t believe you!"
"You? You can’t believe ME?" Luke quickly replied. "You’re the one cheating here Noah! Not me!"
"Urg!" Noah exclaimed loudly, kicking the ground with his foot.
"I don’t see why you’re the one upset?" Luke stated.
"Oh really?" Sheets of water poured down Noah’s face and he had to speak louder for Luke to hear him over the rain, "None of this seems at all familiar to you then?" The condescension in that statement was obvious.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
That shook Luke for a second before he said, with less conviction, "This is NOTHING like Mason!"
"You never SLEPT with Mason!" He saw utter pain enter Noah’s eyes at that and a small part of his soul broke at the sight, but he was way past the point of anger and it was too late to go back. "You did SLEEP with Oliver didn’t you?"
Noah looked at him with sadness.
"DIDN’T you!" Luke yelled again.
"Yes", he said quietly, "Yes… once..."
The rain pelted them both but they couldn’t have cared less. They could have been anywhere. Right now all that remained was this massive mountain they knew they had to climb. It couldn’t be ignored this time. If they left it, if they chose to walk away then that would be it. The end of a relationship, the end of a love both of them wanted and needed more than life itself.
Tears had started to fall down Noah’s cheeks, mingling with the rain and he began to speak through his teeth, tension making it difficult. He was resigned to whatever fate this story brought to him. "I spent my first month in LA losing myself in work… I would work through the night sometimes! And on the weekends? I’d walk for miles looking for location shoots or I’d shop for furniture, go to the cinema… ANYTHING… anything to stop me from thinking or dreaming!"
They exchanged soulful looks.
"And then one day… just like THAT… I found myself standing in the middle of the apartment. I don’t know how long I stood there for but I couldn’t hold it back anymore… everything was just collapsing on top of me. I was exhausted… I was drowning! And for the first time EVER?" He chocked as the tears blended with the rain and he struggled to whisper, "I wished I’d never met you!"
It was like a slap across Luke’s face. He was raging inside and could no longer control the streams of jealousy flowing through his blood. He started to walk away, but stopped dead when Noah yelled, "No running!"
He turned around and was struck by the fiery passion and determination written in Noah’s expression.
"Do you want to know why I slept with him?"
Luke said nothing, just stood shivering in this t-shirt, his face broody and pensive.
"I slept with him because I didn’t care anymore! I was DYING inside Luke! Because every single day that went past I was being forced to take a step back from YOU! And there was nothing I could do to stop it!" He paused to allow a few sobs to pass, "And you would call me… you would talk to me on the phone like everything was okay… everything was normal! And I thought… I thought… he’s moved on… he doesn’t want me anymore! And I HATED myself!" He took another deep and shaky breath, "So I ended up at a bar, I got drunk and I went home with Oliver! I don’t even REMEMBER it!"
Slowly Luke felt the anger and jealousy dying and melting away as his heart broke for Noah. He hung his head in shame. He was such a fool! Noah loved him! It was obvious and here he was once AGAIN, letting some unimportant person come between them. After EVERYTHING!
"When I woke up and realised what had happened, I left his place and went home! I’ve never even spoken to him about it. I know he’s still interested but he’s never pressed the issue… so…" He shrugged, breathing heavily.
They stood in the rain. How could this be happening? How were they losing control? Everything had been just perfect only a few minutes ago but now a deep chasm had opened up between them and neither knew how to cross it. Both felt a surge of dread hit them. Were they strong enough this time? Could they fight through this?
Finally Noah deflated and sighed, "Why don’t you believe me? Why don't you believe how much I love you? What do I have to do Luke? I don’t want to go down this road again! This is a dark road!" He shook his head back and forth, over and over and as he burst into a fit of sobs Luke could no longer hold himself back.
He moved quickly forward and began to put his arms around Noah, but Noah placed his hands on Luke’s chest and pushed him back. Both stumbled slightly but Luke was not giving in this time, he grabbed Noah, both arms held firmly around him. Noah struggled and cried but eventually had no more energy to fight and they fell to their knees onto the sodden earth, drenched so that their shirts clung to their skin.
"I’m an idiot!" Luke shouted above the sound of the rain. "I do believe you! I do!" He pushed Noah back, a hand on each shoulder and, eye to eye, he said, "I trust you Noah! I’m sorry! I get it, okay? I swear to you I do!"
They stared at each other for a moment until Noah suddenly grabbed him tightly, his hand on the back of Luke’s head, feeling him, touching him all over as though making sure he was still there… that he was real. Then, "I’m going to live my life Luke." Noah said firmly. "And… sometimes… sometimes you might not like people who are in my life. But that’s MY choice! Okay? But I love you, I waited months for YOU! There is and will never be anyone else. Please?" he begged. "You have to accept that or we can’t go on. Don’t you see that?"
Luke leaned in through the rain and kissed Noah hard on the lips before saying, "I see it! I totally get it now, okay?" He kissed him again. "You’re right! Please forgive me! I love you! I’m so sorry."
"Okay." Noah stated softly.
They held onto each other for a few more minutes, until they calmed and both their heartbeats returned to a natural rhythm.
"Right then…" Luke said as he stood up and pulled Noah up to meet him in a hug. "Let’s go home… I’m freezing by butt off over here!"
And that made Noah relax and he laughed shaking with relief, "Same here!"