Disclaimer: I do not own anything ATWT does.
Notes: Written last year for nuke_anon's Challenge #6, using the prompts "Halloween" and "scared."
"That'll be $3.75, sir."
The cheerful young woman behind the counter accepted Noah's $5 bill, then beamed as usual when he told her to keep the change. He'd been picking up his morning joe at the same coffee shop - just around the corner from his apartment - ever since he got to L.A. The variety wasn't amazing, but he preferred straight black to start his days, anyway.
He didn't even especially enjoy the taste, but that's why he liked it. True; it gave him the caffeine shot he needed for long days on set. But the lack of cream or caramel or any other appealing flavors kept Noah on task.
It reminded him: he was here to work. If it also reminded him he was here, not back at Java sitting across from Luke - so, that was good, too. Some days, he needed that realization to unceremoniously slap him Good Morning, just to start his day with his focus where it needed to be.
Not on what used to be. Not on what might never be again. This was his life now, and the cold comfort of a hot black coffee was his breakfast companion. Often minus the breakfast.
Noah stepped outside, beginning his walk to the studio. Though Monday's forecast had called for rain, he was grateful the sun seemed to be winning the day thus far. Noah took the bus in inclement weather, but busy city transit only ever served to reiterate to Noah where he wasn't. One reminder to start his mornings was sufficient.
As Noah began walking the few blocks to work, he took in the decorative store windows advertising their last-chance Halloween deals. He supposed that anyone who didn't have their costume by now would have to settle, then chuckled as he recalled that exact scenario happening to him and Luke. It had resulted in their Halloween appearance as "The Farmer and The Pirate".
That sounds like a movie title, Noah couldn't help but think. Then, as all thoughts of Luke tended to, this one turned to a much-visited refrain. Too bad the farmer and the pirate couldn't make it work.
And just like that, the festive, sunny morning had turned into every other California morning. The start of yet another day without Luke. That's what they all boiled down to.
As Noah walked, he felt strangely chilled, though the temperature wasn't unseasonably cold. Still, he had a niggling feeling, almost like a sixth sense, that something was amiss. He might have ignored it, had it been the first time, or even the second.
For about a week now, small, strange things had been happening. He'd gotten some hang-up calls at the apartment. At first, he'd assumed the caller had simply been searching for the prior occupant.
After all, Noah barely used the home phone; he gave his mobile out so he wouldn't miss any important calls. That was also the number his friends back home had. Still, the caller to the apartment refused to speak, even when Noah explained he lived there now.
The calls hadn't stopped, either. Weirder still, they'd started coming to his cell phone, as well. So whoever it was, it was definitely Noah they were trying to reach.
Since his work contacts had both numbers, he thought maybe the caller was having problems with their own phone. He asked around on the set, but no one had been trying to get in touch with him. A colleague brought up another possibility, though.
Two weeks ago, things had come to a head with the director of photography on Noah's film. When the man, Royce Givens, was initially hired, Noah was thrilled to have someone with his impressive resume on board. Soon, though, that very wealth of experience proved itself more of a hindrance than a help.
Simply put, the man thought his own vision superior to Noah's. No matter how intently he seemed to listen as Noah laid out what he wanted, the DP would nonetheless make his own, conflicting choices at every turn. When Noah confronted him with the discrepancies in what he'd asked for versus what he'd received, Givens explained that he felt Noah would come around once he saw the footage.
Faced with reshoots and an uncooperative crew member, Noah had no choice but to let the man go. He couldn't lose any further time and expense, or have someone on set who didn't respect the authority of his position as director. Infuriated, Givens verbally threatened Noah in every conceivable fashion, promising he'd spread the word that Noah was a talentless hack with delusions of grandeur.
The man even went so far as to kick over a craft services table, sending its contents flying, and making a general mess of the set. As he was escorted from the premises by security, Givens vowed that he'd make Noah very, very sorry for crossing him. So when his assistant director, Cynthia, suggested that Givens might be responsible for the phone calls, Noah had to concede it was a real possibility.
If Givens' aim had been to freak Noah out, it was working. Several days after the phone calls began, Noah began to get the feeling he was being watched. Naturally, he dismissed it at first as paranoia brought about by the calls.
Yet, the feeling persisted, and only occurred when he was in public. On Saturday, when he sat down to dinner in his favorite greasy pizza joint, he couldn't shake the notion that someone else there was watching his every move. Now, as Noah continued his walk to the studio, he felt almost certain someone was following him.
Of course, every time he turned around, Noah could spot no one. At least, not anyone paying attention to him. But was it possible Givens was following Noah?
Was the guy really so unhinged over being fired that he was willing to spend his time trying to spook Noah? That's even if he only wanted to spook Noah. Snapping his head to around again to check behind him, Noah once again found no one.
He would have felt incredibly stupid, except that he didn't, because the feeling was still there. What did Luke used to tell him? Trust your instincts.
Noah's instincts were telling him two things. Number one, he was being followed. And number two, he didn't like it one damn bit.
Making a quick decision, Noah suddenly veered off the sidewalk, hopping onto a departing bus just as the doors were closing. Fuck you, bastard. If Givens was following him, Noah decided he was going to make it as difficult as possible for the lunatic.
He was so jarred by the creepy experience, Noah failed to disembark at the studio. Realizing he'd missed his stop, Noah didn't panic. He always went in much earlier than was required.
Maybe it was good to change things up, and not keep such a stringent schedule. If his disgruntled ex-employee was really stalking Noah, there was no reason he should help the guy by following the same pattern every day. At that thought, Noah realized this situation was potentially more serious than he'd initially realized, and that he probably should talk to the police.
At the same time, what if he really was overreacting? Givens' blowup on set had not only been traumatic, but honestly, embarrassing. In Noah's first-ever go at helming a studio film, his authority had been disregarded, and he couldn't help but feel he'd looked incompetent for failing to control his set.
If Noah called the police now, there would be a report. That meant more gossip and speculation. Noah couldn't afford to have possible employers think he wasn't up to the challenge.
God, he needed to talk to Luke. What would Luke say? There was a time when they knew each other so well, Noah could've guessed, and been completely accurate.
Now? Now, he didn't know. Luke would probably tell him to call the police. Wouldn't he?
Or maybe Luke would call Lucinda and have her send a full security detail to Los Angeles. Or maybe he would demand that Noah come straight home. Yeah, he definitely would've done that.
Luke would've done those things, back then. Back when he loved Noah. But now?
Luke would just tell him to call the police.
Still, Noah wanted to know, for sure. Luke picked up on the second ring. "Noah?"
Only when he registered Luke's voice did Noah realize he'd actually done it. He really called Luke. "Hey."
Crap. What had he been thinking? He and Luke hadn't spoken on the phone in months, and Noah called him for this? What was he supposed to say now?
I know we've kind of been ignoring each other but-
"Hey yourself," Luke responded, his voice containing just a touch of mirth at the no-frills greeting he'd received. It was soNoah. They hadn't talked for months, but Luke didn't expect a soliloquy detailing why.
"How are you?" There, Noah thought to himself. I can do this.
"I'm okay," Luke answered honestly. "Summer went by fast; it always does. But it was great; I'm good."
"Good," Noah parroted, then immediately felt idiotic. "I mean, I'm glad. That you had a good summer. That you're good. I mean, doing good." Holy shit, shut up! Or at least say something besides 'good'!.
"It's good you're glad I'm good," Luke laughed. That easily, Noah relaxed. Luke did know him, still. He knew Noah was nervous, and the teasing was Luke's way of letting him know it was okay.
"Luke, I... about this summer," Noah began.
"I know," Luke answered.
"I didn't mean not to call; I just didn't know what to say."
"Same here," Luke replied. "It's not that I wouldn't have had a great time in L.A. with you-"
"You weren't ready. I get it. I shouldn't have just asked you out of the blue like that to come spend the summer with me. It was just an impulse, and I'm really sorry if you felt pressured; I never meant that."
"I didn't. I swear it, Noah. You didn't pressure me. You asked, and as much as I would have liked to do it, I declined. I just had too much going on here, with getting the new wing up and running this year. I couldn't take that much time away yet."
"Okay," Noah said, hoping it was the truth. Hoping he hadn't scared Luke away for good. "I'm sorry I didn't call this summer. I just didn't want you to feel weird or anything."
"Noah, I didn't call either. Same reason. God, we're a pair." Only after the words left his mouth did Luke realize what he'd said. "I mean, you know..."
"Yeah. I know."
So, this wasn't that bad. Luke wasn't mad at him, anyway. That was good.
Luke didn't want to be with Noah, either. That wasn't so good.
Still, Noah would take what he could get. Being unable to call Luke had totally sucked. At least now they could resume the friendship that had been placed on unintentional hiatus.
Noah quashed the next logical thought; that someday their friendship could lead to more. He needed to accept the truth. That ship had sailed, and it wasn't coming back to port.
"What are you doing right now?"
Noah mulled the question, decided how much would be too much to share with just a friend. "Um, taking the bus to work," he answered.
"I thought you lived near the studio," Luke replied.
"I do. I just felt like taking the bus today. It'll broaden my horizons. You meet all kinds of interesting people on the bus. Maybe I'll make a movie about the people on this bus," Noah joked, attempting to cut short his rambling.
Luke chuckled, in that adorkable way that he did when he was confused about what Noah was saying. "Ohhhhkay, then. You do that. I promise to buy the first ticket for 'Bus Stop Love'."
"Hey, I never said it would be a love story. I have a better idea. It could be an action film! A madman has strapped a bomb to the bottom of the bus, and the people inside will only stay alive-"
"If the bus stays over 50 miles an hour," Luke finished, laughing. "I'm pretty sure that movie was already made, and that youwatched it with me on Movie Night."
"Oh, damn. Well there go my dreams of my first blockbuster."
For both of them, the conversation felt good. They had missed this. Joking and teasing and just being them together. Noah decided, if this is all they could ever have, it was still a damn sight better than nothing.
"So, what's really going on?"
Oh, damn. Whether or not Noah knew Luke as well as he once had, Luke definitely still had his number. He took a deep breath, mostly as a stalling tactic. Noah wanted to think of a way to talk about this without freaking Luke out.
"You know how it's Halloween?"
Noah swore he could see the scrunch of Luke's face through the phone; that unique what the hell does that have to do with anything? look that only Luke could produce.
"Yes, it's Halloween. You didn't call to wish me Happy Halloween. Were you calling to get me to wear the pirate costume for you?"
Noah did a double-take, looking at his phone. Was Luke flirting with him? No. Of course not. He was only kidding.
"Um, no. But I mean, go for it. If you want," Noah added, then kicked himself for the epic fail in pseudo-flirting back.
Luke snorted at the awkward not-quite-comeback. "That's okay. I think I've retired that for now. The pirate would look weird without the farmer."
Noah didn't know what to make of that. Luke's voice almost sounded wistful; like he wished the pirate and the farmer were together. But no, that couldn't be it.
Luke had a standing invite to join Noah whenever he was ready. The reality was, that wouldn't be happening. Luke had moved on from them as a couple, and Noah knew he wasn't interested in going back.
"Anyway, we got a real-life horror movie for Halloween on set." Noah relayed the story of Royce Givens and the temper tantrum to end all tantrums. He shared his concerns with Luke about being taken seriously as a director.
Noah purposely omitted the hang-up calls and possible stalking from the tale. He wanted to share things with Luke, but at the same time, he didn't want to worry him. No, it was better this way.
"Oh my God," Luke responded when Noah finished. "I'm so sorry you had to deal with that crap! You know I'm not speaking to him, but I could always call Damian. I'll bet he has a thug or two on the outside who could teach Mr. Givens some manners."
They both laughed. Of course Luke wasn't serious, but Noah was heartened he'd even joked about it. He knew it was Luke's way of showing his concern.
"Listen, my stop's coming up, so I'll have to hang up. We're cramming a lot in today to be done by 6, so people can take their kids trick-or-treating."
"Aww, that's sweet. Keep that up and you will get a reputation as a softie, but only in the best way."
Noah could hear Luke's smile on the phone, and suspected Luke could hear his own just as well.
"Hey, tell the kids to have fun tonight. Take pictures of Ethan and Natalie - I wanna see their costumes!"
"Don't worry. Natalie will have them in her Facebook before the night's even finished."
"It still scares me that she has a Facebook."
"Me, too! At least Mom has the password, so Nat knows she checks it. That should keep her out of trouble."
"Good. Tell your mom and dad I said hi."
"I will. Thanks for calling. Really. This was great."
"Yeah, it was. Bye, Luke."
The day on set went surprisingly well for a Monday. Everyone seemed to bring their A-game. Noah credited Halloween. Almost every crew member had plans to celebrate in the evening.
Everyone except Noah. When filming wrapped for the day, Noah looked forward to a quiet evening at home. While he liked to go out with his colleagues occasionally, he wasn't into the party scene.
Handing out candy was enough Halloween excitement for him. Plus, it reminded him of Oakdale. He and Luke had been the official Snyder Farm candy dispensers one year.
It was a position that rotated within the Snyder household, both so that everyone could have a turn, and so no one was stuck doing it year after year. When it was Luke's turn, he hadn't been thrilled, but Noah secretly looked forward to it. Luke noticed, and when he asked why, Noah told him that the Colonel hadn't allowed them to give out Halloween candy to the kids on base, so it was something he'd never had the chance to do.
After that, Noah watched as Luke's attitude toward their task took a 180. His previous complaints disappeared, and he took Noah along to pick out the candy for the trick-or-treaters. Noah realized Luke was trying to make the memory special for his sake, and knowing that made him fall for Luke all the more.
Now, as Noah poured several bags of candy into a large pumpkin bowl, he realized he'd subconsciously made the same selections as when he'd done this with Luke. Just another reminder of Luke, then. They seemed to come especially fast and furious today, even though he hardly needed them.
He still thought of Luke every day. Noah pretty much accepted that he always would. The trick would be finding a way to move on, like Luke had.
The one person who'd best know how was the only person he could never ask.
How the hell do I get over you?
For a conversation between just friends, that would be crossing a line. Noah wasn't willing to do that again. He'd already mucked up royally by inviting Luke to spend the summer with him.
That had resulted in months of radio silence, on both their parts. Now that they were talking again, Noah wasn't about to blow it a second time. He would either have to figure out how to move on, or stay stuck like this for the rest of his life.
Forever wanting a man he could never have.
Not enjoying this particular trail of thought, Noah was relieved when the first hobgoblins darkened his doorstep. They were followed in quick succession by hordes of creatures, celebrity impersonators, and superheroes. Noah laughed when Buzz Lightyear arrived, accompanied by a pint-sized... Charlie Sheen?
Hot on their heels came Cinderella, who seemed to have traded up - switching her evil stepsisters for Snooki. Or maybe Snooki was supposed to be her evil stepsister? Noah wondered how many of these kids had been dressed by their Hollywood parents, and had no idea what their own costume was. When his final trick-or-treaters - Ironman, accompanied by his good friend Dog the Bounty Hunter - cleaned out the last of his candy, Noah was ready to call it a night.
He was nearly fast asleep when he heard the noise. Noah sat up in bed. Had he left the television on?
No. He hadn't watched television tonight. His sugar-crazed visitors had been entertainment enough.
When he didn't hear anything else for a good minute, Noah laid back down. He must have been having one of those weird dreams you have when you're almost asleep. Where you feel like you've fallen and wake with a start, or think you've heard a voice, but awaken to find nothing.
He would've slipped back to sleep if another sound didn't suddenly emerge. A door was being opened. A door in his apartment was being opened.
Oh shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. The first noise must have been someone picking the lock. And the second was that same person entering the apartment.
Noah cursed himself for being so concerned with his damn career, he didn't call the police earlier. He was damn sure going to call them now, though. He reached to grab his mobile off the end table, only to find - it wasn't there.
Double shit! He'd set it on the kitchen counter when he was pouring the candy, and never retrieved it before going to bed. And the apartment phone was in the living room.
Both of those locations were now virtually inaccessible. The intruder was probably still in the living room, and you couldn't get to the kitchen without crossing through there. Assessing the situation, Noah understood he was totally fucked.
No. No. I am not gonna die in this goddamned apartment in this goddamned town before I see Luke again.
Suddenly, Noah's fear, though still very much present, grew into something more. Something more like resolve. Something more like - fury.
I am not gonna let this freak murder me before I tell Luke I love him even if he never loves me back. I am not dying tonight, dammit!
Having nothing resembling a weapon at his disposal, Noah picked up the only solid object light enough to carry, and hard enough to injure - his laptop. Wielding it, he slowly turned the knob on his bedroom door, as soundlessly as possible. Maybe Givens thought he was asleep, and Noah could use the element of surprise against the psychopath.
He moved stealthily down the hallway, noting that the man hadn't turned on any additional lights. Noah had left the stove light on in the kitchen, as he always did to ease the occasional late-night snack run. He couldn't see well enough to detect whether anyone was in the living room, but from the rummaging sounds in the kitchen, Noah knew Givens must be there.
Horror overtook him as it dawned on Noah that the man was probably looking for a knife to kill him with. Noah wondered if he could get to the front door without notice, and inched ever-so-slowly in that direction. He squinted, trying to make out the door, and to his horror saw that the chain lock had been fastened.
There was no way Noah could undo it quickly enough to escape before drawing the intruder's attention. Still, he had to try. Maybe if he at least got the door opened... then what? The neighbors would at least hear his screams as he was murdered?
Frozen in indecision, Noah suddenly had to decide when the intruder stopped rummaging, obviously finding his weapon of choice. The man's footsteps neared until they ceased. Noah knew the man hadn't stopped walking. Instead, he had crossed into the living room.
Directly across from Noah.
Noah couldn't see anything but a vague, moving form, but it was enough. Driven by terror and desperation, Noah raised his laptop, and swung for all he was worth. On target, it would seem by the cracking sound of the impact.
Immediately, Noah raced to the door, pulling off the chain, then undoing the key lock. He threw the door open to make good on his escape. He had one foot into the hall when he heard it.
The word was small, and soft, but undeniable.
"Oh, God! Oh my God!" Noah switched on the lights, wanting to deny what he already knew he knew. "Shit, Luke! Oh my God, I'm so sorry!"
Noah dropped to the ground beside his fallen ex-boyfriend, wanting to take Luke in his arms, but not wanting to further injure him. Oh, shit. I hit Luke!
"I'm so, so sorry," Noah continued rambling, disbelieving the horrific turn of events. "Where are you hurt? Hang on, you'll be okay. I'm calling 911."
Noah then remembered, his damn phone was still in the damn kitchen. He swore to himself he'd have the thing surgically attached from now on. As he moved to stand, Luke halted him by grabbing his arm.
"I just got here. Are you kicking me out already?"
Noah looked at Luke like he was insane. He briefly wondered if Luke's brain had been scrambled by the blow. Noticing Luke's smirk, though, Noah realized Luke was actually goading him.
"Oh my God," Noah repeated - this time, quietly awed. "Only you could be doubled over on the floor and still make fun of me!"
"I'm talented like that," Luke quipped. "And while you do have a nice floor... could you maybe help me up?"
"I don't think you're supposed to be moved. Isn't that part of First-Aid? When someone's idiot ex-boyfriend hits them over the head with a laptop, you're supposed to keep the patient still?"
"HEY. Don't talk about my ex like that, or you'll have to answer to me. And by the way, you kinda missed - you only got my shoulder." With that, Luke sat up, holding his arm close to minimize moving the injured area. Understanding that Luke was getting up with or without his help, Noah gave it, and guided Luke to sit on his couch.
"I'll be right back," Noah told him once Luke was settled.
He sprinted into his kitchen, grabbing his mobile, an ice pack, and a bottled water before returning to the living room. He handed Luke the last two items, while flipping open his phone to dial as he sat next to Luke on the couch.
"Noah, stop. This is a huge city. I'm sure they have actual emergencies. You know - domestic disputes where couples are actually fighting and stuff. Let them take care of that instead, okay?"
"But Luke, you're hurt! I can't believe I hit you," Noah trailed off, despondent.
"Neither can I," snorted Luke. "So much for my killer surprise!"
"What? Oh, God. Don't even say that. That's why I hit you," Noah explained.
"Huh? What's why?" There it was. The scrunched-up face of confusion. If he hadn't just struck its owner, Noah would've smiled at seeing it in person.
"I thought you were here to kill me!"
If possible, the scrunch became even more scrunched.
"I mean - that guy I told you about. The one I fired. He didn't just cuss me out and kick stuff. He threatened me. Like, that he would end my career, and me. I didn't take it seriously at first. I thought he was just lashing out. But then the stalking started, and it got really bizarre, and when I heard someone break in and dig around in my kitchen for a knife to kill me with-"
"Oh my God, Noah! You've been getting stalked? For how long? Did you call the police? You didn't, did you? SHIT. I can't believe you've just been dealing with this by yourself. At least I'm here now - even if my visit isn't quite the kind of surprise I was going for. And I was looking for scissors, not a knife. And not to kill you with, for the record. I needed to cut the tag off the sunglasses I just bought."
Luke remembered something then. "Is that why you called me? Because you needed to talk about this?"
"Yes. I mean, sort of. I was getting hang-ups, and being followed, and I was just kinda freaked out. I needed to hear your voice, you know?"
Luke must've taken the question as rhetorical, because he didn't reply. At least, that's what Noah assumed. Up until he observed the look of horror slowly descend upon Luke's face.
"Oh, Noah. I am so sorry. Like, so, so sorry."
"What? Why? I'm the one who hit you, remember?"
"Yeah. About that."
Noah couldn't help but notice the familiarity of Luke's expression. The one that said I fucked up big-time and don't remotely know how to tell you. With a knot of dread in his stomach, Noah asked.
"Just tell me, Luke. Whatever it is. I promise not to get mad."
Luke laughed then, but the sound was slightly hysterical. "All right. But just remember the part where I am so, so sorry, okay?"
Noah nodded. "Okay." He became extremely concerned when Luke started to tear up. Just like the day he told Noah they couldn't be more than friends.
Noah suddenly grasped Luke's hands. He didn't know what was coming, but he wanted to make it clear that he wouldn't bail. If Luke was going to finally tell him to stop waiting, because there was no point - Noah would hear him out.
Then, he would tell Luke the truth. That he couldn't stop waiting, because he didn't know how, and he probably never would. That he hoped Luke could just accept it and stay in his life, anyway, because their months of silence were something he couldn't stand to repeat.
That loving Luke was just who Noah was, and if Luke needed him to stop, then he was asking him to become someone else.
"I'm your stalker," Luke blurted out, almost in gibberish, but the words were formed just enough so that Noah caught them.
"So much for not getting mad," Luke taunted, then looked immediately repentant. "Sorry. Not appropriate. I know this isn't funny."
Noah could see the next words Luke kept to himself, as surely as if he'd said them aloud. Not yet.
"Okay," Noah began, speaking more calmly than he felt so Luke would continue. "Explain."
"Okay," Luke mimicked. "I got to L.A. last week-"
"Last week? Why didn't you... sorry. I'm supposed to be quiet and not mad and letting you talk. Go ahead."
"I didn't tell you because... I don't know. We hadn't talked for months! Since you called me on my birthday and invited me to spend the summer with you, and I said no even though I wanted to say yes...," Luke dropped off, unsure whether he had said too much. Whether the sentiment would be welcome anymore.
"You wanted to say yes?" They both could hear it in his voice. Noah's question sounded equal parts hopeful and skeptical. Though Luke chose to think maybe just a little more hopeful.
"Of course I did! But I needed to finish the neuro wing. I needed to make sure it was everything it was supposed to be. Everything..."
"He wanted. I get it. You loved him." Noah said the words without resentment, though that reality did hurt. Still, it wouldn't have mattered who it was; Luke loving anyone else would always cut. Noah didn't feel much acrimony towards the man himself, anymore; it was tough to stay angry with a dead guy.
"Yes. But it wasn't just that. I needed to say goodbye, in a way that felt right. That day in the hospital - that didn't. But finishing this project? That felt right to me. I don't know if this makes sense-"
"It does. I understand."
"You always did. Understand me, I mean," Luke said softly.
"Not completely. So how are you my stalker?"
"Oh. Yeah. When I got to town, I wanted to call you, but I kept chickening out. I would call, and then you'd pick up, and I wanted so badly to say, 'It's me; I'm here.' Then I would psyche myself out when I heard your voice. Tell myself that you wouldn't want to talk to me. So I hung up."
"It was a private number."
"Well, I kinda thought, just in case I did chicken out..."
"That I'd never know it was you," Noah finished.
"I never meant for it to get so out of hand. I just wanted to try every day, knowing I was working up the courage to actually say hello."
"Well, you didn't know about Givens. I guess that whole episode did make me paranoid. I really did think I was being followed. Like, I could sense someone watching me," Noah broke off as he observed the guilt-stricken look overtake Luke once more. "You followed me?"
"Yes. No! Okay, kind of." Luke knew he sounded like a total creeper, but he didn't know how to explain his erratic behavior. "I thought maybe it would be easier than calling. That if you just saw me, I'd be able to tell from the look on your face if you were happy to see me. But then, you actually started looking, like you knew I was there. It freaked me out! I wanted you to see me, but when you turned around I hid. I was afraid, that you'd think I was crazy for just showing up after we hadn't spoken for months. That you'd think I was some pathetic loser."
"As opposed to being the creeper who followed me and crank-called my phone. Yeah. I can see how that's better."
Luke nearly objected, until he realized Noah was teasing him. Instead, he reached out with his good arm to slap Noah's shoulder.
Noah affected mock outrage. "Oww!"
"Hey, I owed you one!"
"This is true," Noah conceded. "So, you wanted to see me. Is my doorbell broken?"
"What? I don't know. I used the key."
Noah knew Luke was pulling his 'play dumb' act. "Where did you get the key?"
Luke's mouth twisted as he tried to contain the grin. "Mrs. Marsten."
Noah sighed. When Luke didn't want to come clean, it was like pulling splinters from a finger. "And how do you know Mrs. Marsten?"
Luke gave up the struggle, and smiled widely. "We had tea. She likes you a lot."
"She's a good landlord. And usually safeguards her tenants' privacy. How'd you get her to give you a key?"
"I told her I was your brother," Luke explained.
Noah scoffed. "And she just gave you the key?"
"Yep! She said she hopes I enjoy my visit."
Confused, Noah tried to piece together what had transpired. "Wait. Did you tell her your name?"
"Of course! Noah's brother would have a name, wouldn't I?"
Noah dissolved into laughter then.
"What?" Luke didn't understand what Noah found so funny. "I didn't make up a name or anything - I just used Luke."
"I figured. She knows you're not my brother."
"What - how? I think you're wrong. If she didn't believe me, why would she give me the key? Unless - did you tell her you're an only child?"
"No," Noah replied. Luke was about to claim victory in his subterfuge, until Noah finished, "I told her I missed my ex-boyfriend Luke."
"Oh." Oh. At that admission, Luke started to think maybe he'd made the right call, after all. With the visiting - not the stalking. "I wish I would've known that. I would've told her I miss my ex-boyfriend, Noah."
Noah tried - really, he did - not to read too much into Luke's words. Of course Luke missed him. They were each other's go-to person for years. It was perfectly natural-
"Yes. I missed you... like that." Luke wanted to make sure there were no more misunderstandings on this point. "I miss you, like that. I don't know if you're still waiting, but if you are - I'm here. I'm here, and I love you, and I'm sorry I scared the crap out of you and didn't get here sooner and accidentally kind of stalked you-"
"Say it again," Noah cut in.
"I'm sorry I accidentally kind of stalked you?" Luke couldn't help but joke, because he was thrilled and petrified and elated that he thought he knew exactly what Noah was really asking.
"Not that," Noah answered, playing along.
"Hmm. I'm sorry I scared the crap out of you? Also, my shoulder's sorry about that, too. Really sorry. You have no idea."
"Poor baby," Noah consoled. Not breaking eye contact with Luke, he lowered his head to Luke's shoulder, pressing a light kiss there. "Better?"
Luke's breath hitched at the contact, even through his shirt. "Yyyes."
Noah smiled, then pressed on. "But not that - the other thing."
"Let's see," Luke pretended to consider, ticking items off on his fingers. "Sorry I scared the crap outta you, sorry about that whole stalking thing, sorry I didn't get here sooner, I really missed you... oh." Luke raised his hand to Noah's face, wanting to insure that in a week full of fuck-ups, he didn't fuck this up. "And... I love you. I love you. I want to be with you.
If you even still want-"
Luke's insecurity in sentence form was cut short by the rapid press of Noah's lips to his own. Judging by the kiss, Noah definitely still wanted that. Luke kissed him back with all the pent-up frustration, yearning, and love he'd been carrying around with no outlet since they'd broken up.
Even finding someone new had only been a stopgap. All his feelings for Noah could only go to Noah. He was relieved beyond belief that Noah still wanted them; still wanted him.
Breaking the kiss, Noah gave Luke his answer - not that he needed to. "I never stopped waiting for you. I was gonna tell you that I never could. I never stopped loving you; I hope you know that."
"I do. I do. And it's okay. Know why?"
Noah thought because you're here now was too obvious an answer, and could sense Luke was playing with him. He willingly took the bait. "Ok. Why?"
"Because," Luke began, a wickedly impish smile forming across his face, as he leaned into Noah's body with his own. "I did bring the pirate costume..."