“Ladies and gentlemen, we will shortly be commencing our decent, please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelt. If you haven’t already done so, please stow your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin…”
Noah leaned around with his right hand to gently tickle Luke on his chin. Luke’s nose twitched and he lifted his hand to scratch the spot where Noah had touched him before sleepily lifting his head from Noah’s shoulder.
“We’re here…” Noah said.
“Mmm… that was quick!”
Noah smiled at how adorable he was, “That will be because you slept the whole flight!”
“Well, maybe I wouldn’t have been so tired if SOMEBODY hadn’t kept me awake most of the night!”
Noah gave him a naughty smile, “I didn’t hear you complaining!”
Luke laughed and leaned over the armrest to kiss him.
They were returning to Oakdale together. The idea had come to him after Noah had brought up the Thanksgiving he spent with Maddie. Luke decided that the brief but unavoidable separation might be made more bearable if he were to wait until the holiday to return to Oakdale, and that way Noah could fly with him. Of course Noah would have to return alone to LA in four days, but they felt it might be easier for them to part this way, at least as easy as was possible under the circumstances.
Holden met them at the arrival gate and Luke tried to think whether he had ever seen a bigger grin on his father’s face. The man was positively glowing with happiness as he grabbed hold of each of the boys and they shared a group hug. “You look good!” He said surveying them, “Much better then the last time I saw you! That’s for sure! You boys have no idea how much you scared your mother!”
Both Luke and Noah smiled internally, knowing that Holden always transferred his own true feelings and fears onto Lilly. That way he could maintain his mucho “I’m always calm and in control” demeanour.
They chatted amicably as Holden drove them in the pickup through the streets of Oakdale. Noah watched as the familiar and much loved landmarks past by the window. He really hadn’t expected to feel the overwhelming sense of nostalgia that engulfed him. But then he shouldn’t have been surprised… Oakdale was the place where his life had changed forever! Where he had been handed a blessing in the form of the amazing person riding alongside him, his hand squeezing his knee…
He knew it was silly but he felt a little nervous about seeing the Snyders after all this time. He wasn’t sure how they all felt about his reappearance in Luke’s life. He had hurt Luke badly after all, and he could understand if some of them still harboured resentment towards him.
Just as they started to drive the dirt road towards the farmhouse, Luke seemed to sense his fears because he turned to face him and mouthed, “I love you.” Noah smiled and tightened the arm he held around Luke’s shoulder.
Emma was just returning from the chicken coup with a basket of eggs, when she saw the truck appear from between the line of trees. Her heart leapt with joy! Finally, her boys had arrived!
“Oh my, oh may! But aren’t the two of you a sight for sore eyes!” She placed the basket on the back of the truck and brought both boys into her to share a warm hug. Pushing them away she scrutinised them carefully, “Let me get a good look at you! Especially YOU!” And she turned to take hold of both of Noah’s shoulders, “Do you have any idea how much I’ve missed you?” And she couldn’t help but pat his cheeks before drawing the embarrassed but smiling boy back into her embrace.
Then she turned to Luke and tearing slightly said, “When I think of how we almost lost you again!” And then looking from one to the other, “Both of you!”
“Those prayers you sent us must have been pretty powerful, Grandma!” And Luke winked at her.
“Yes.” She replied. She quickly wiped the tears from her eyes and said, “Okay, well! There are a lot of people up at the house dying to see the two of you so let’s get a move on! I’ve still got a load of cooking to do and you boys are just in time to cut the Hubbard squash…”
After just a few minutes Noah couldn’t think what he had been so worried about. From the moment they entered the house they were received with nothing but hugs and kisses, full blown with love, the atmosphere festive, joyful and inviting. Most if not all of the Snyders expressed their delight that the two of them had found their way back to each other.
“Where they belong!” Lucinda announced loudly.
“Thank you so much for arranging the hospital room for us, Lucinda.” Noah said after approaching her privately just before they sat for down for dinner. “I can’t tell you what it meant… to have Luke there. I’m not sure we would have healed as fast otherwise.”
“It’s my very great pleasure Noah!” she smiled and patted him fondly on the shoulder. “We are just so relieved that both of you managed to survive. It must have been terrible for you … truly terrible!”
As always, Emma had simply outdone herself. The turkey was deliciously golden bronze, juicy and tender looking; the vegetables on offer looked scrumptious and delectable. Noah couldn’t wait to get stuck into Emma’s amazing sweet potatoes that positively steamed in the platter, surreptitiously placed right in front of him.
“I wonder who put those there?” Luke sarcastically whispered over to him. Noah simply smiled innocently with a “Who me?” expression on his face.
After prayers, when it came to Noah’s turn to express what he was thankful for he said, “I know you all expect me to say that I’m thankful to have Luke back in my life, and…” he turned to his right so he could look Luke in the eyes and speak directly to him, “I couldn’t even begin to express how thankful I am for that!” And then he turned back to look around the table, “But I’d also like to say that I’m so thankful for all of you! That you’ve accepted me back into your family after everything…” His voice dropped away.
A single tear fell down Luke’s cheek. Noah’s right hand was holding Luke’s so he briefly released his left hand from Natalie’s so that he could reach up and catch the tear. Luke smiled gently at him.
“Noah, baby…” Lilly said from the other side of the table, “You have always been a part of this family. That never changed. You will always be a Snyder in our eyes.” And her smile was so full of love that Noah had to catch his breath.
And Faith, seeing his expression, stood up so that she could hug him and was quickly joined by Natalie. He kissed both girls and they sat back down, Natalie taking hold of his hand once more.
“S**t!” Exclaimed Luke, as he tried to warm his frozen feet under Noah’s reluctant legs. “Has Oakdale ALWAYS been this cold?” And he pulled the comforter up to his ears.
Noah laughed. “Has somebody acclimatised a little too much to the sunshine?”
“Looks like it! Guess I’ll have to go back! What do you think?”
Noah pulled him in closer, cold feet and all, kissed the top of his head and said, “It couldn’t happen fast enough!”
“Can you believe how big the kids have gotten?”
“Right? Especially Ethan! He’s quite the little talker! Kind of reminds me of somebody I know…”
“Hmm, mmm? And who might that be?”
“I just can’t think… I’m sure it will come to me though!” Noah held his index finger on his mouth taking on a contemplative stance.
They laughed together for a minute.
“Actually it is unusually cold for this time of year. Grandma says the pond is already frozen over, can you believe that? God but I’m freezing!”
“I can think of a way to heat you up…”
“Oh yeah?” Luke asked expectantly.
And Noah turned to lay right on top of him, placing both hands on the sides of Luke’s face and moving in for an exploitative kiss.
Then, laying there like that, Luke said, “I almost called you, you know?”
“Last Thanksgiving… when you didn’t come…”
“You thought about me last Thanksgiving?” Noah was amazed.
“Yes... I thought about you Noah. I thought about you every day last year. Even when I didn’t want to… I guess my subconscious mind was trying to tell my stubborn conscious mind something!”
“I love you Luke.”
“I love you too Noah.”
And at that, Noah kissed him with such a deep passion; Luke almost felt he would drown in it.
It happened later that night. Luke woke up when Noah bashed and kicked him in his sleep.
“No, stop! Stop!”
“Noah?” Luke reached out to hold his shoulders all the while thinking “Not again!”
The sheets were wet with sweat, despite the cold, and Noah’s features contorted with terror, his entire body seemed to shiver uncontrollably. “Please! Don’t! I don’t want to…”
And just then he let out an agonising scream and suddenly his eyes were open but it was as if he didn’t know where he was and he didn’t see Luke.
“Noah! Wake up!” Luke said loudly. “Come on baby! Wake up!” And he sat up against the headboard, fighting to move Noah’s body between his legs so that he could hug Noah’s head into his chest, trying to sooth him by lightly stroking his hair. “Sh… Sh… come back to me Noah… Noah baby… come back…” And slowly he felt as Noah’s awareness returned to the room and his breathing calmed.
A few minutes passed like that until Noah whispered, “Sorry…”
“It’s okay… There’s nothing to be sorry about. But Noah… they seem to be getting worse.”
“I know. I don’t get it either… Consciously I feel like I’ve dealt with what happened. I mean I’m at peace with it. So… I just don’t know…”
Luke kissed the top of his head and whispered, “Don’t worry about it now… Just try to go back to sleep.”
As Noah drifted off, Luke couldn’t help but think, for the one hundreth time, that something about this wasn’t quite right.
“Hi Reid. Happy Thanksgiving. I know… I know… you don’t do holidays excreta, excreta, but… I still wanted to come and say it to you.” He sat down on the cold ground and stared out over the pond, the frozen water glittered in the winter sun. He picked a blade of dry grass and played with it in his hands as he spoke. “So… I guess you know by now that I’m back with Noah… and… I know in my heart that you are okay with it. I’m so in love with him Reid and… being with him, especially now… after everything that’s happened, it feels so right! We’re so much more right for each other then we ever were before! And I think a lot of that is because of you. So… thank you… I guess… I wanted to say thank you. You taught me so much… you taught both of us so much.”
Feeling the icy wind on his face he wrapped his arms around his knees to keep warm. He sat listening to the early morning sounds of the farm, marvelling at how much he loved the place.
“And, Reid? I’m so sorry I forgot. But… you must know that I didn’t forget YOU! I could never forget you… It’s just… I wasn’t paying attention to the dates! I know you were never one for being sentimental so I’m sure you forgave me the moment it happened, but… I wanted to let you know that I do miss you… I love you.
Just then he heard the crunch of feet and when he turned Noah was standing behind him.
“Hi babe.” Luke smiled.
“Hey. Do you want some company or…” And Noah pointed back behind him at the way he had arrived.
“Come here…” and Luke stretched out his left arm in invitation for Noah to sit down next to him.
As soon as he was seated, Luke drew the arm around him and, heads touching, they sat in silence, enjoying the warmth from each other’s bodies and the astounding view of the pond.