Disclaimer: As the World Turns and its characters do not belong to me. I make no profit from writing this.

Notes: Just another sappy Nuke fic! Hope you enjoy. I had a lot of fun writing this one!

The Passing of the Storm

I awoke to the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance.

I blinked sleepily and looked up, taking in my surroundings. My room was still dark, my blinds still drawn closed. My blanket was draped across my waist, and I was lying on my left side, holding onto my pillow, facing my windows. My bed was warm and comfortable, my bedroom an even temperature. The fan set on low in the corner of my room slowly oscillated towards me. The breeze wafted slowly over my form.

The thunder rumbled again, closer, louder. Lightning illuminated the outline of the windows in front of me. I sighed deeply through my nose and shifted my pillow under my cheek, preparing to fall back asleep. The rain started falling outside, gently pattering against the glass of my windows. First thunderstorm of the summer.

I smiled to myself and nuzzled my pillow, my eyes dropping closed. There had been many years that I had done just this; just lay in bed listening to the storms that had passed over my grandmother's farm each summer. Some nights Natalie or Faith had crept in, when the thunder had been especially tenacious and the lightning just as frightening, and they would snuggle with me to calm their fears. I'd loved those nights; how soothing the storms were, how safe I'd felt tucked into bed. I'd savored every moment, relishing how calm and protected the storms made me feel.

Thunder crackled again, this time even louder, sounding above the house. The lightning flashed again in response as the rain started to pick up. The trees outside swayed, their branches lightly tapping against the outside of my wall.

I had almost drifted back to sleep when I my doorknob quietly turned. I opened my eyes at the noise, but I didn't move as the door opened and closed. I listened for the sound of multiple footfalls on the carpet, but none came. It had been at least a year since Faith or Natalie had joined me on a night like this; they simply were too old to be afraid anymore.

I turned inquisitively then, to seek out the identity of my nighttime intruder. I blinked in the darkness of the room, my back twisted awkwardly, and only when the lightning flashed did I recognize the tall silhouette standing reservedly in front of my closed door.

I rubbed my right eye with my right hand, and with astonishment, asked softly, "Noah?" My eye caught my clock, which was sitting on the nightstand closest to him. 2:42 a.m.

Quickly, I ran through the events of our day in my mind. We'd had breakfast early with the family, mucked out the stalls mid-afternoon, gone grocery shopping for Mom and Dad afterwards, had dinner, and then skirted away from the farm for a quick date at Java with a relaxing cup of hot coffee for dessert. Usually when Noah snuck into my room at night, we'd dropped each other hints of the forthcoming situation during the day, so as not to catch each other off guard later, and also to build the anticipation of the event, because mostly those nights had entailed activities in which neither of us had any use for our clothes.

But I couldn't remember any hints from Noah from earlier today. It had been quite the opposite, in fact. We had spent a lovely day together, laughing, grunting with the labor-intensive farm work, holding hands in the supermarket, and sitting so close to him I had practically been in his lap at Java. Definitely no clues - no breathy comments to each other when no one else was listening, no sultry squeezing of any body parts when no one was looking. Had I stopped being able to read him so well?

I focused on him then, as the thunder reverberated harshly overhead. The storm was gaining power, the rain now pouring in sheets outside, the lightning flashing with tenacity. Noah didn't move, and I couldn't see his face in the darkness.

I flipped my blanket up behind me, on the part of the bed that was closest to him, inviting him in. Then I lay back down on my left side in wait for him to join me.

He did so quickly, his footsteps light on the carpet, the mattress groaning slightly beneath his weight. His heat hit my back and soaked through my cotton T-shirt as he sidled up behind me, his right arm coming across my waist. He tucked his fingers underneath my left hip as his nose pressed into my shoulder blade. Thunder crashed outside, the leaves of the trees crying in the wind and rain.

I sighed contentedly, feeling the rise and fall of his breathing behind me. He nuzzled my shoulder then and gave me a gentle squeeze, and I closed my eyes to sleep.

It took me a few minutes to realize that Noah's grip had not slackened in preparation for sleep, but in fact was still squeezing, his arm pressing solidly into my stomach. I tried to take a deep breath but couldn't, his strong muscles restricting my movement.

I whispered into the darkness as the lightning flashed outside. "Noah?"

His answer seemed forced, too loud in the bedroom even with the thunder crashing above. "Hmm?"

"Are you okay?"

He nodded into my shoulder, his nose pressing into the cotton of my shirt. "Mm-hmm." He squeezed a bit harder as another round of lightning flashed.

I clamped down on the smile that was forming around my mouth. "Baby…I can't breathe."

"Oh!" Noah immediately let go of my waist, his right arm retracting quickly. I turned with his movements, over to my right side to face him, to study him, intent on seeing if my hunch was correct. Another wave of thunder crackled over the house as I focused on his eyes. They were wide as they stared back at me, the cobalt hue drawing me in even through the darkness.

I placed both my hands on his face and smoothed my thumbs over his cheeks as he blinked back at me. He took a deep breath in as I smiled at him, and as a bang of thunder shook the roof above us, Noah twitched in my hands.

His hair was sticking out in all directions from recent slumber, and his face was still warm. I reached my left hand up to smooth his dark locks, then leaned in and pressed my lips gently to his. He kissed back sweetly but absentmindedly, and that was all I needed to confirm my suspicion.

"Noah?" I coaxed softly, looking into his eyes. "Do you want to tell me about it?"

He blinked again, looking so young with his face cradled within my fingers. He took a deep breath, his vision falling momentarily from mine, then locked his gaze on me.

"I hate thunderstorms," he replied, hushed. I felt his cheeks burn slightly beneath my palms, and I smiled at him encouragingly, my thumbs brushing against his smooth skin. "I've hated them since I was a child."

I reached my left hand up to smooth his hair again, hoping it would soothe him somewhat. "Baby…"

Noah placed his right hand on top of my left, where it came to rest against his cheek once more. "We lived in a condo, me and Dad," he began. "On the base. It wasn't the biggest condo in the neighborhood, but for just me and Dad, it was pretty spacious. And since I was just a little kid, it felt like a castle to me."

The thunder broke through his words and I saw the child-like fear pass through his eyes. I scooted closer to him, our stomachs pressing together.

"I had a big room," Noah continued, an intent expression crossing his face. His eyelids dropped at the memory. "It was the rule of the house to sleep alone; it was what a man did, no matter what. No glasses of water, no stories before bedtime, certainly no being tucked in. And I was always okay with this." His eyes opened wide again, connecting with mine. "I understood my father's rules. But it was hard to follow them when the thunder showed up."

On cue, it rumbled above us and the lightning flickered outside. His hair momentarily shone in the light, that beautiful dark chocolate tone meshing so well against my light blue pillowcase.

I kissed his forehead as he dropped his right hand from mine and settled it against my left hip. He pulled me tighter to him, our torsos pressed fully against each other. I rubbed my left thumb over his cheek, wanting him to continue.

"One night," he whispered, his lids dropping again, "something strange happened. My Dad was on leave from duty. I had been in bed for hours. But the storm showed up and for some reason, I couldn't make myself stay in bed and just wait it out. Instead, I got up and forced myself to go downstairs, even though I was scared to death to move. I found my Dad on the couch in the living room. His dog tags were hanging out of his shirt."

Noah blinked hard then, trapped within his memory. As his brow wrinkled in thought, I realized that this was the first time he had spoken openly about his father since the Colonel had died in New York, the first Noah had mentioned him without prompt or prodding. And he was trying very hard to contain his feelings in the process.

Noah took a breath to steady himself. "I don't know what possessed me to do it; it must have been the storm fueling me but…I climbed onto the couch with my Dad." Noah looked up at me. "I spent the night there with him, through the storm. I fell asleep before the storm ended, so I don't really know what actually happened on his part, but…"

I took a breath in anticipation, trying not to squeeze his face too hard. What had the Colonel done to him that night? If Noah told me now that Winston had physically abused him in some way back then, I wouldn't know how to handle it. The mere thought of it caused my body to feel like it had been set on fire.

"Luke…" Noah whispered then. His voice was on the verge of shaking.

I moved even closer to him, conscious of my grip on his face, and smiled gently through the darkness, shoving my thoughts away. "I'm here," I assured him.

Noah took a noticeably ragged breath, his stomach pushing against me. His eyes dropped from mine, his brow still wrinkled, his expression beginning to crumple.

"That night," he forced out, his eyes squeezed shut, "was the only night in my life that I can remember my Dad actually staying with me. He was there, Luke." Noah opened his eyes quickly and caught my face; I could see the tears shining back at me. "He didn't make me go back to my room even though I'm sure he woke up before I did. He was still there with me. On the couch." Noah blinked unconsciously, sending a lone tear absently rolling down his cheek, which I immediately brushed away with my thumb. "No lecture. No punishment. No mention of me being where I shouldn't have been." Noah sighed shakily through his nose. "That's probably the best memory I have of my Dad."

My heart fluttered at his recollection and at his reaction of it. Noah was so strong; he had been raised by the Colonel to stand so tall, to be so polite in his words and so deliberate in his actions, but he was so easily hurt by the Colonel as well. His father had given him one day's worth of affection that had been awarded by other dads in years to those far less deserving of it, myself included. Noah had been isolated growing up and yet he was stronger because of it; he had been alone for so long that he yearned for everything opposite, and only now did he possess the tools to make his life happen the way he truly wanted it, because of what his childhood had lacked.

I dropped my hands from his face and pulled him to me then, cradling him to my chest, feeling overwhelmingly relieved that my initial assumption of his memory had been dead wrong. Noah sniffed hard, his nose pressed into my shirt, and he wrapped his right arm around my torso. He nuzzled me, his forehead buried into my chest.

I held him for a long while, till his breathing slowed to match mine. The rain had begun to lighten outside, the lightning almost slowing to a complete stop. The thunder rumbled in the distance again, signaling the passing of the storm. I stroked Noah's hair, sifting the silky tendrils through my fingers.

"Storm's almost done," I whispered then, combing through the back of his hair.

He spoke into my shirt. "How do you know?"

The lightning flashed, and I counted under my breath. "One-mississippi…two-mississippi…three-mississippi…" The thunder rumbled at five-mississippi, and I stopped counting. "Five miles," I told him, peering down at the top of his head. "It's way past here now."

Noah brought his hand up to my chest and fisted my shirt, angling his face up towards mine. I smiled at him, brushing his hair from his forehead. His eyes were completely dry now, though my shirt still held a few damp spots.

Noah gazed evenly at me, then shifted his weight to his left elbow, propping himself up with his right arm, which he dropped to the mattress over my left side. He slid his body up, half over me, and then lowered his mouth till it connected with mine. His kiss was slow and gentle, warm and soft. A silent, loving thank you. I kissed him back, echoing his motions. He was very much welcome.

That night we spent in my room was the first where our clothes didn't need to be collected from the floor in the morning; after our kiss, we cuddled in bed instead, his right arm holding my back to his front, both of us snuggled into my pillow, with me able to breathe and move comfortably this time. My eye caught the clock before we settled in to sleep – it was almost four in the morning, yet somehow Noah managed to wake up a few hours later before everyone else, kiss me good morning, and then slip back down to the den without any notice. He held my hand under the table at breakfast that morning, our fingers interlaced, and even though we hadn't fooled around, I felt closer to him, as if last night had strengthened our bond beyond what even we could fully understand.

And even though I didn't want anything to cause him any more pain, somewhere deep down inside I silently prayed for more thunderstorms to come during the remainder of the summer.