“I can't believe I let you talk me into this!” Luke whined for the hundredth time since they'd left their apartment.
“What?!” Noah had to shout to barely be heard above the powerful throbbing of the twin-engine, turbine powered jump plane. He had to twist round on the bench seat to try and face Luke so he could hear him better. Although, from the pouty look on his face, Noah didn't even have to hear his boyfriend to know that he was complaining again.
“I can't believe I let you talk me into this!” Luke yelled, leaning as close to Noah as he could, his hot breath tickling the side of Noah's face.
Luke felt sick to the stomach and he wasn't sure what was louder; the sound of the engines or the sound of his heart beating wildly in his chest as fear and adrenaline pumped through his body.
It wasn't that Luke didn't like flying. In fact, he loved flying, especially when it involved the pampered luxury of Lucinda's private jet and he enjoyed it even more when he and Noah got to spend some ‘alone time’ whilst flying high. But this flying tin can was definitely not Lucinda's jet, Luke thought to himself as he cast a distasteful eye around the basic and cramped conditions of the Beech 99.
But no, it wasn't the cramped or basic conditions or the flying that was bothering Luke. No! It was the thought of actually jumping out of the plane that was bothering Luke.
When Noah had originally suggested the idea of a charity parachute jump to raise funds for the foundation, Luke had thought that it was a great idea. He remembered Noah's words perfectly:
“Come on, Luke! It's something I've always wanted to do. It'll be great and just think how much it will raise the foundation’s profile. We could film it and everything!”
Luke had been carried along by Noah's enthusiasm.
When Luke had made the long overdue but equally terrifying journey of discovery to follow Noah to LA, so many questions had gone through his mind. Did Noah still love him? Had he waited for him? Was there still a chance for them? When he found out that yes, Noah did still love him, yes, he’d waited for him and yes… yes… YES!... there was still a chance for them, they had slowly begun to re-sew the tattered threads of their relationship.
Luke had vowed to himself that he would do anything to make Noah happy. Anything that would work toward replacing the hurt that he’d witnessed in those incredibly expressive and beautiful crystal blue eyes, when he’d told Noah that they weren't right for each other. And, if jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet, strapped to an instructor in a tandem skydive was something that made Noah happy, then he'd do it!
But that was when they were safely on the ground and before they got in the air. The closer Luke got to the drop zone the more he desperately wished that they had chosen something more… sedate… to raise funds.
“Noah,” Luke shouted over the noise in the cabin. “Couldn't we do something… I don't know… closer to the ground and less dangerous to raise funds! Something like a… cake bake or yard sale!” Luke was clutching at straws and he knew it.
“A cake bake?!” Noah shouted back, a broad smile stretching across his face. “Less dangerous? Have you seen how competitive those cake bakes can be? It’s like a Mexican standoff over the baking powder!”
“You’re not chickening out on me are you, Snyder?”
Luke swallowed hard and shook his head slowly. “No,” he managed to croak out.
Noah's wide smile faltered a little and he leaned in closer when he saw Luke's pale face was tinged with a subtle shade of green. “Are you okay? We don't have to do this you know. Not if you don't want to,” Noah soothed as he rested his hand on Luke's thigh and squeezed gently.
“No, I'm good.” He could do this, he knew he could. For Noah and for the foundation he could.
He felt Noah squeeze his leg again and he looked down to where his boyfriend's hand rested on his upper thigh. Noah's touch would normally do either one of two things to Luke; soothe him or make him as horny as hell. But this time it did neither because, as he looked down, he was acutely reminded by the green jump suits they both wore that they were about to throw themselves out of an airplane at 15,000 feet.
And green?! Seriously?! It wasn't that deep shade of green that reminded Luke of lush summer meadows or the deep shade of green that always looked SO good on Noah.
No! This was a lurid shade of green that reminded Luke that, actually, he was this close to throwing up. Green! Ugh! Why couldn't their jumpsuits have been the cool orange and black ones that the instructors were wearing? Which reminded him of another thing! He hadn't liked the way Noah’s instructor had looked at his boyfriend throughout the whole pre-flight safety lesson and he certainly wasn't thrilled with how close the instructor was going to get to Noah during the tandem jump. No-one but him should be able to get that close to Noah's ass!
Luke shook his head. Stop it, Luke! he thought himself. This really isn't helping.
Noah was just about to ask his boyfriend for the second time if he was really sure that he wanted to do this. But he was interrupted by the instructor beginning to unbuckle his seat belt. “Come on guys. We're about to reach the drop zone,” he shouted above the whine of the engines.
Luke fumbled helplessly with his seat belt. He was relieved when he felt Noah's strong fingers covering his; moving them out of the way and effortlessly flipping open in the catch and releasing him.
He smiled his thanks and stood on shaking legs.
When Frank, Luke's instructor, beckoned to him that they were going to be the first to follow the cameraman out of the open door, Noah stepped up and signalled that he would go first. He hoped to put Luke at ease by showing him just how easy it could be.
The instructor shrugged and stepped back so Noah and his instructor, Simon, who were now harnessed together, could take the lead.
Noah and Simon edged toward the open door to follow the cameraman. Noah’s ears filled with the rush of air and he could feel the exhilaration and adrenaline building to a crescendo in his body.
He paused just before he reached the edge. Turning his head, he gave Luke one last bright and encouraging smile. Then he was gone.
God! This was amazing! Noah had never experienced such an adrenaline rush in his life. Simon had said that they would experience speeds of 120 miles an hour and Noah could well believe it. His breath literally caught in his throat as they began their free fall. He couldn’t wait to share this with Luke.
“Fuuuuuck!” Luke screamed as he and Frank tumbled out of the plane. The end of the word was lost; carried with the wind as they somersaulted over and over until they righted themselves.
For several seconds Luke couldn't open his eyes, it was enough to stop himself from being sick as the strong air current battered his face and his stomach lurched at the unsettling feeling of freefalling.
When he’d eventually stopped screaming and his lungs were crying out for air, he breathed in and opened his eyes to be greeted by one of the most amazing sights he had ever seen. The view from up here was breathtaking; there was simply no other word to describe it.
Noah and Simon had worked their way through the air currents toward them and his boyfriend had the biggest grin Luke had ever seen plastered across that handsome face of his.
Luke's instructor manoeuvred them nearer, closing the gap between the four of them until Luke could reach out and hold Noah's outstretched hands. And they stayed like that, turning slowly almost as if they were performing a majestic dance across the beautiful blue sky while they continued to freefall for nearly a minute.
Reluctantly they had to let go when their instructors signalled that it was time to pull the cords of their parachutes. Their fingers slipped through each others and Luke couldn’t wait to get onto the ground to pull Noah into a hug and kiss him senseless to thank him for such a wonderful idea. After the fear of anticipation and the initial shock of being buffeted by the wind, Luke was amazed at how good this felt and he couldn’t wait to do it again.
When Frank pulled the cord and the large canopy of the parachute opened above them, Luke felt the immediate deceleration and he was overwhelmed by the sheer tranquillity as they almost floated on toward the ground. He had time to take in the beautiful scenery and the slower speed of descent meant he could even talk to his instructor.
Luke looked around for Noah to see how he was doing and if he was enjoying this amazing experience as much as he was.
Puzzlingly Noah wasn’t where Luke expected him to be and it wasn’t until he looked down that he realised in heart stopping horror that Noah and Simon were still hurtling in freefall toward the ground. Their parachute was a single ball of useless cloth that trailed behind them, making them twist and turn in the air stream.
“Noooaaaaaaaaaah!” Luke felt sick to the stomach with fear and his world spun erratically on its axis as he watched helplessly while the love of his life plummeted on.
“Don't panic, Luke,” Frank tried to reassure him. “They still have time to deploy their reserve chute. They're still well above 1000 feet.”
Luke couldn't believe it as he watched Simon struggling with the main parachute cutaway handle. He couldn't believe that the fickle finger of fate was pointing at him and Noah again. Images of when Noah's seemingly lifeless body fell to the ground after the fireworks exploded in his face came back to haunt him. This simply couldn't be happening again… not to them. It wasn't fair. He couldn't lose Noah. Not now… not after everything they'd been through.
Luke Snyder did the only thing he could. He prayed. He prayed harder than he'd ever done in his life. Prayed with every fibre of his being. He prayed that just this once that fate would leave them alone and pass them by… just this once.
And it seemed that fate had other plans for them that day as Simon finally managed to operate the main chute cutaway and deploy the reserve chute.
Luke sighed in relief with all the breath in his body as he watched Noah and Simon descend safely to terra firma.
He couldn't get back on the ground quick enough and he was struggling to get up on his feet the moment he and Frank had landed. If Frank hadn't been quick enough to release Luke from the tandem harness, he swore that Luke would've probably dragged him with him in his eagerness to get to Noah.
Noah was still sat on the ground with his head in his hands, recovering from the shock, when Luke reached him. He wasn’t sure what had him more breathless; the way Luke’s momentum almost knocked them both flat to the ground or the way his obviously relieved boyfriend was pressing little butterfly kisses to his lips and face, all the while checking him over to prove to himself that Noah really wasn't hurt.
“Noah! Noah! Thank God! Are you sure you're OK?” Luke said breathlessly between kisses.
“I'm OK. I'm OK,” Noah murmured again and again, not sure who he was reassuring more; him or Luke. “But next time…” he began as he pulled back in Luke's embrace just far enough to look him in the eye and give him a relieved lopsided smile, “… when I suggest ideas for fundraising, I think I'll come up with something that involves having both feet on the ground at all times. Or maybe something more horizontal!”
“I hear ya! I think I like the last idea best,” Luke agreed readily and kissed Noah again just because he could.