Title: I will follow you into the dark
After the first two months, all of the major searches for Noah are called off. Of course Jack is still following every lead he comes across, and Lucinda seems to have hired all the reputable (and even a few shady) private investigators in the greater Illinois area, but Luke can feel the momentum fading. And that is just unacceptable.
Everyone is positive that it was Noah’s father who took him. But beyond the fact that Winston Mayer escaped custody en-route to a new federal prison, there is not one shred of proof. Oddly, Noah being with the Colonel gives Luke a discomforting kind of peace, because as awful as he was and continues to be, Luke is sure that he wouldn’t kill his only son.
His family watches him like a hawk these days. He’s been coping with Noah being gone for six months, but everyday his parents still stop by their apartment. For all the times they’ve said that they were just in the neighbourhood, Luke knows what it’s really about. They’re afraid that one day the reality of never seeing Noah again will sink in, and just as easily Luke will sink into a bottle.
But he doesn’t drink. He keeps it together knowing how proud Noah will be when he comes home. He imagines what Noah has been going through all this time, and he refuses to be another burden. No, he will stay strong until they find Noah. And then, and only then, they can fall apart together.
With the Colonel’s trail long cold, Luke can see hope fading in the eyes of everyone he loves. And maybe he’d feel the same way if the same thing had happened to someone else. But this is his Noah, and Luke knows they haven’t had their last moments together. There is so much left of their story to write.
Then the phone rings and everything changes...
Alison is not having a very good day. In the past 5 hours she’s had a huge fight with Casey, gotten chewed out by Dr. Oliver and had her brand new nurses shoes ruined by a seemingly endless stream of vomit. She really needs a moment to clear her head.
Buying new shoes was a great start (as well as new socks and a cute scarf), and she can feel the tension in shoulders gradually letting up. As she heads over to Al’s to grab a soup and a sandwich, she is absolutely shocked at what she stumbles upon.
There sitting on what he and Luke have always called “their bench” is Noah. His body language not giving the slightest indication that he has been missing for half of a year.
“Noah, oh my God! You’re back” she runs towards him, the idea of lunch now forgotten.
As she goes to wrap her arms around him, he grabs her shoulders pushing her back in a gentle but firm manner.
“Sorry, but do I know you?” he asks her curiously.
Upon closer inspection, she can see how confused and unsure Noah seems to be.
“Noah, it’s me. Ali? One of your best friends? You me, Luke, Casey. You know “The Wolf Pack” she makes air quotes and smiles at their ridiculous nickname.
“I-I don’t know you.” He responds cautiously. “Are you some kind of nurse or something? I don’t mean to be rude, I just have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Alison realises that this is so much worse than she first thought. Noah isn’t just disoriented. If she were to guess, she would assume retrograde amnesia. She can’t help but wonder what he’s been through all of this time.
“Yeah I’m a nurse Noah. You know you’re Noah right? Noah Mayer?”
“Of course I know who I am. I just don’t recognize you at all.” He runs his hands through his now shorn hair, clearly frustrated.
Alison pulls out her phone and scrolls through her pictures, showing him her photo album titled “Wolf Pack GRRRR!”. As she clicks through images of better times, she can see Noah focusing so hard, as if he is forcing himself to remember, yet failing miserably.
“Hey Noah, it’s okay, it’s okay” She reassures him. “Why don’t I just take you back to the hospital with me. Have you checked out? We’ll figure out what the problem is, okay?”
“Um, sure I guess. It’s obvious that we’re friends and you are a nurse, so maybe you can help me after all”
As they get up to go, Alison pushes speed dial number 5 in her phone.
“Hey Ali. What’s up?” Luke answers, his voice a now far too familiar monotone.
“I need you to meet me at Memorial now, Noah’s back.”
“What? Oh my God, is he okay?”
Noah shoots Alison a puzzled look, like he’s trying to figure our who she’s talking to.
“Um, he seems alright it’s just-”
“Great!” Luke interrupts.
“Tell him I’m on my way and give him my love.” He says quickly as he hangs up.
Alison smiles at Noah, still concerned, but grateful. “That was Luke. He sounds really excited.”
“Is he my best friend or something?”
She looks at Noah carefully, wondering how much he knows about his life and how much she should divulge. Deciding to air on the side of caution, she continues.
“Yeah. Best friend in the whole world.”
They head off to the hospital together, in an amicable silence.
Noah may not remember much, but he’s really comforted by the fact that he seems to have some really nice friends. This Alison girl and those guys Luke and Casey seem to be pretty fun. Seeing those pictures was a little unsettling for him though, since he has no recollection of moments that he knows he experienced.
He’s always been more of a loner, so knowing that he has made some great friends makes this whole situation a little less daunting.
Truth be told, he was actually taken aback by some of the pictures he saw. He was never much for hugging and goofing around, but there right before his eyes was proof of it. Him and Luke hugging, Alison sitting on his lap, or Casey trying to stick his tongue in his ear. God, is he ever happy he found his way back here. Now if only he could remember any of it.
As they head to the exam room, Noah can’t help but feel the eyes of strangers following him down the hall. Maybe they thought he was dead. He’s not sure, but it’s incredibly unnerving. He quickens his steps so much Alison has to practically jog to keep up.
Once in the exam room Noah sits on the bed while Alison goes to get a doctor.
“Welcome back to the land of the living Mr. Mayer. We were all sure you have shuffled lose this mortal coil.”
As far as Noah is concerned, this doctor (Dr. Reid Oliver according to his i.d.) either has a pretty strange sense of humour, or is a real asshole. Noah is really trying to wait to reserve judgement, but he’s already leaning towards to latter.
“I can handle this nurse Stewart. Nice to see you weren’t completely useless today. That will be all.”
Alison looks as if she’s about to respond in defiance when the Dr. Oliver reiterates “That will be all. Please leave so I can examine the patient”
Yeah, Noah’s first instinct was right. The guy is an asshole.
“You know, a lot of people have been worried about you Mr. Mayer. Want to share what you’ve been up to the past six months?” Dr. Oliver asks as he shines a light into Noah’s eyes.
“Um, are we friends? Do we confide in each other or something?” Noah asks tentatively.
“Oh God no!” Dr. Oliver bark with laughter. “I’ve just been having a seriously tedious day and was looking for a little gossip. This town really has a terrible effect on people”
“Okay, well if it’s all the same to you, I rather not talk about it right now”
Noah’s always been taught to respect people in positions of authority, but he really doesn’t like this guy enough to care.
“Suit yourself, but I do need you to answer a few questions”
“Sure, I guess”
Dr. Oliver continues Noah’s exam, checking his heartbeat and blood pressure.
“So what’s the last thing you remember?” he sits down on a chair and takes out his notepad.
“I actually remember everything about the last six months. And the stuff that came before that. I just don’t remember anyone from around here. Is it possible that I have selective amnesia?”
Noah really can’t even begin to make sense of why what is obviously a pretty pivotal part of his life seems to be missing from his memory, while so much else remains in tact.
“Well retrograde amnesia is not a one size fits all disorder. So it is possible to lose some memories, but not all of them. We’re going to run a few tests and keep you overnight for observation. But I just want you to try to take it easy. Surround yourself with familiar places and people, but don’t force it. Don’t let them inundate you with stories, because I’m hoping just the exposure to your normal life will fill in all the blanks. Take care Mr. Mayer.
As he leaves, Noah upgrades him from asshole to jerk.
Luke arrives at the hospital in a flurry of excitement. He’s so flustered that when he arrives at the nurse’s station he just blurts out “Where is he?”
Luckily for him Alison passes by in time to deal with her frantic and tightly wound friend.
“Luke, Luke! Calm down. I know you’re excited that Noah is back, we all are. But I need to talk to you.”
Luke’s impatience is all easily discernible, as he shifts his weight from foot to foot, bouncing with anticipation. He’s looking past her, not listening to a word she’s says.
“C’mon” she sighs. “I’ll take you to him”
And while he is technically following her, he is two steps ahead the whole time.
They arrive at the exam room and Luke can see Noah through the window taking to Dr. Oliver.
He’s about to rush in, when Alison places her hand on his chest, holding him back.
“Luke, before you go in there, there is something you need to know. Noah’s, well...different.”
Luke’s eyes narrow as he stares at her accusingly, “What do you mean different? You said he was fine.”
Alison takes a deep breath and continues. “I know what I said, and physically he seems alright. But he couldn’t remember me Luke. Couldn’t remember any of us. He knows who he is, and where he is, but that’s about it.”
Amnesia was the last thing Luke was expecting, but come to think of it, it wasn’t so far fetched. He knew Noah would never stay away so long if he had any other choice.
“I don’t care. I need to see him. I will help him remember. He has to remember.”
As Luke continues to plead with Alison, Dr. Oliver finally comes out to join them in the hallway.
“Mr. Snyder, there you are. I expected that you would be foisting yourself upon my patient sooner or later.”
“Not that I have to remind you doctor, but your patient is my boyfriend. I’m not foisting myself on anyone.”
“Yes I’m well aware that he’s your boyfriend Mr. Snyder, the whole town knows of your epic love story. But barring that, you do strike me as a bit of a foister. If I told you to keep your distance from Noah right now I doubt you could.”
Alison steps in between the bickering men, interrupting.
“First of all, can we stop saying the word “foist” it doesn’t even sound like a word anymore, and secondly, Dr. Oliver, can you please just tell us how Noah’s doing? You know Luke has been worried sick.”
Luke looks at Dr. Oliver, eyes pleading. He is obviously in no mood to argue.
“Just tell me how he is.” he asked calmly.
“Physically he seems fine. Maybe a little dehydrated from his journey back here. But overall he’s in good health. Unfortunately he seems to have a case of selective retrograde amnesia. He seems to remember some things, but others are just gone.”
Even though Alison had already told him, having Dr. Oliver confirmation makes Luke’s heart sink.
“Can I see him? Please.” Luke pleads “I won’t agitate him or anything. I just-I just really need to see him.”
Dr. Oliver sighs, obviously a little uncomfortable with such raw emotion.
“Yes, but I need you to listen to me. Noah’s memories need to come back as organically as possible. So don’t go shoving every memory of yours into his head. He needs to do this at his own pace. Answer his questions truthfully, but simply and do whatever it takes NOT to agitate him. Do you think you can handle all that Mr. Snyder?”
Luke grits his teeth, wanting nothing more than to tell the smug doctor to go fuck himself, but he has more pressing matters at hand.
“Yes I can.” he replies, determined to not prove Dr. Oliver right.
As he enters Noah’s room, he has to continue reminding himself that he cannot do and say all the things he wants. He needs to go at a pace he can’t even fathom right now, because all he can see is Noah, alive and well and beautiful as ever.
Noah looks up at him hesitantly, as if he’s searching his memory for Luke’s face. As he sits with his legs hanging off of the hospital bed, it’s obvious he’s found nothing.
“Hey Noah, um- how are you feeling?” Luke’s trepidation is more than apparent as well, he doesn’t remember the last time he was so cautious around Noah.
“Luke right? I’m alright I guess. I mean nothing hurts or anything. I just can’t remember much, which is pretty crappy I guess.”
Luke smiles at Noah’s attempt to downplay the severity of the situation, like he always would.
“Yeah, I was talking to Dr. Oliver and he told me. If you don’t mind me asking, what do you remember?”
Noah moves over tapping a spot on the bed for Luke to sit next to him. The fact that Noah seems comfortable around him makes him feel a little bit better already.
“So you’re my best friend right?” Noah asks as Luke takes a seat beside him
“The very best.” Luke replies. He knows at some point he’ll have to tell Noah the true nature of their relationship, but the timing just feels off.
“Cool. I saw some pictures of us on uh--Alison’s phone and I figured. Um, what exactly do you know about my dad?”
While Luke always knew in his heart that the Colonel was behind this, the confirmation of it still makes his blood boil.
“I know he’s done some pretty nasty stuff to you and to me and to a lot of people we care about. You were with him the whole time weren’t you?”
“Did he hurt you?”
Noah looks as if he’s not sure how to answer the question exactly, and the knowledge that the Colonel must have done something awful breaks Luke’s heart.
“I woke up in a house in Chicago, and my dad was there, along with other military personnel. He told me that they were medical specialists there to watch over me. I told him that I didn’t understand what was going on and couldn’t remember what had happened. That’s when he told me that I had been in an accident and had been in a coma for the past four years.”
As Luke sits there dumbfounded, he can’t help but wonder why this surprises him at all. Nothing Winston Mayer does ever should.
“So, uh-he said that I was on my way out of Branson and heading for a military recruiting office in Chicago. And that I ended up in a car wreck that left me unresponsive for almost half a decade. Considering I couldn’t remember a thing, everything he said made sense at the time. But things just got weirder as time went on.”
Luke can’t believe what he is hearing, the Colonel seems to have tried to erase Luke completely from the story of Noah’s life.
“What else did he tell you?” Luke presses on.
“Um, that at the time of my accident I had a girlfriend named Laura. Apparently she waited over a year for me to wake up, but gave up soon after that. She came to visit me a couple times, and it was really awkward. I mean, I remembered her, but I didn’t know her you know?”
Though Luke understands the words coming from Noah he can’t understand how any of this is true. He scrubs his hands over his face, searching for calm and finally responds.
“Noah, you have no idea how wrong all of that is.”
Noah shoots him a desperate look; a mixture of confusion and relief.
“I don’t understand Luke. If everything my father said wasn’t true, how come I can remember it? How come I don’t remember you? What is going on?”
As Noah becomes noticeably agitated, Luke scrambles to find a way to explain things without upsetting Noah further, even though he has no idea what’s going on himself.
“What were your last memories before you woke up?” Luke asks, full well knowing he isn’t going to like what he hears.
“I was getting in my truck. It was all packed up and I was leaving, heading to the recruitment office. My dad had thrown me a big going away dinner the night before, he was so proud of me and I was happy. At least I think I was. And Laura was there to see me off. We kissed and I drove off. And that’s the last thing I remember.”
Luke sighs, his concern causing Noah to frown.
“I don’t want to burden you with too much too soon Noah, I really don’t. But you need to know that nothing you just told me ever happened. None of it is true.”
At least my life isn’t as boring as I thought it was, Noah thinks to himself glumly.
Since Luke had come to see him, a flurry of never ending excitement overwhelmed Noah’s life. He’d been subjected to a battery of tests, including a CT scan, PET scan and MRI. At least he now knows for sure that he isn’t claustrophobic, and he’s decided to take any new discovery about himself as a small victory.
What he doesn’t understand is how to reconcile the memories he has, memories that coincide with his father’s stories, with the life he apparently led that was nothing like it. He really wants to just take some time to himself, to sift through his thoughts and try to make sense of things, but apparently the very inquisitive denizens of Oakdale have other plans.
He had a steady stream of guests stop by, most he doesn’t know from a hole in the wall. He did recognizes Casey from Alison’s cell phone pictures, though the pictures don’t prepare him for the massive bear hug he receives. Unfortunately, he draws a blank when it comes to everyone else.
He also notices that the majority of visitors seem to somehow be related to Luke. They all seem mighty invested in him, which while really sweet, is also incredibly intimidating. He tries his best to place faces to names, but fails every time, instead deciding to start from scratch.
First there are Luke’s far too attractive parents, his adorable younger siblings that look straight out of central casting, and his grandmothers who given his way Noah would have cast as the new odd couple. One, a down home motherly type who has already promised more food than Noah can fathom, while the other is a no nonsense corporate type, who makes just as many phone calls as threats in the quest for justice for Noah.
Noah also finds that he is making many mental references to television and movies in his head. They come so naturally, even though he can’t remember having ever expressed an interest in the entertainment industry. As the day goes on his confusion continues to grow along with his list of visitors.
Soon all the relatives, friends and well wishers are ushered out as a police detective (who is unsurprisingly another relative of Luke’s) comes to get Noah’s story.
And even though he can’t remember Luke, he feels as if he somehow knows him, so Noah asks him to stay while he speaks to Detective Snyder. Something tells Noah that it’s as important for Luke as it is for Noah that he be near by.
Noah tells Detective (“Call me Jack”) Snyder everything he already told Luke, and Jack’s reaction is a mixture of confusion and what Noah really hopes isn’t pity.
“While I was with my father I would notice people leaving as I woke up. I was never introduced to them, and when I would ask the Colonel about it he would just tell me that they were his colleagues. That’s when I went from just being confused to being suspicious.”
“So what did you do with those suspicions Noah? How did you end up back here if you don’t remember being here in the first place?” Jack asks while taking notes swiftly.
Well, the more I tried to remember things, the more I found that there were so many details missing. I had plenty of images in my head, but they played out like scenes in a movie. Once they were done they were done, and I didn’t remember anything that came before or after, kind of like a fade to black.”
Noah notices Luke’s smile at his film reference, but doesn’t quite know what to make of it.
“There were also times when the ‘colleagues’ of my dads would be carrying a silver briefcase with them, and while normally that wouldn’t have caught my attention I later found the same type of briefcase in my father’s study. It was thicker and flashier than anything I had ever seen him use, and after he caught me looking at it, I never saw it again.”
Luke and Jack continue listening intently, their full attention directed at Noah. He feels a little on the spot, but he’s willing to endure the discomfort if it gets him closer to the truth.
“I also found myself, I don’t know if you would call it daydreaming, but it seemed really real at the time. The images that would come to me weren’t anything like my memories or anything like my father’s stories. Just random flashes of places and voices. The only thing I could make out clearly was the city sign saying ‘Oakdale, Illinois’. And as hazy as the images were, they seemed more real than anything I could actually remember. So I packed up the few things that I could fit on my back, took some money from my dad’s emergency stash and I took the first bus here. Then Alison found me.”
Jack puts his note pad away and runs his hands through his hair, Noah can tell he wants to say something, but seems reluctant.
“I’m sure the doctor told you that the best way for your memories to return is naturally, so I’m not sure how much about your past I should divulge. We all want you to get better as soon as possible buddy, but there are a few things you need to know.”
Luke puts his hand on Noah’s shoulder as Noah tenses, worried about what he is about to find out.
“Your dad is no longer the decorated vet that you remember, he’s actually a fugitive and has been for quite some time now. I won’t go into the details right now, but you need to believe me when I say that Winston Mayer cannot be trusted. I know this is hard to hear, but you need to know this just in case he comes back. He’s not above messing with your mind Noah, so who’s to say what else he could do.”
In his heart Noah could tell that Jack was telling the truth, but the idea of his father betraying him was crushing him like a ton of bricks. How was it possible that everything he thought he knew was a lie?
“Jack?” Luke interrupts. “Can we talk outside for a minute?” he asks as he gestures towards the door.
“Uh, sure thing Luke. Noah, we’re going to get in touch with the feds and they’ll start the search for your father. If there’s anything else don’t hesitate to call. We’re really glad to have you back.”
“Thanks Detec--uh, Jack. I’ll be in touch” Noah says quietly.
As Luke and Jack leave Noah alone for what felt like the first time in forever, he lays back on his hospital bed and sighs. Even with all the new information he has acquired, nothing makes any sort of sense. And the one thing that confuses him more than he expected is Luke. For not really knowing a thing about the man, Noah knows he needs him close by, and that he trusts him implicitly. Even though he didn’t even know that he existed a day ago.
Noah closes his eyes in a vain attempt to get some sleep, and as his thoughts wander he can’t keep himself from trying to figure out how and when everything went so wrong, and how he can get his life back.
He has no damn idea.
For the first time in a long time Luke is speechless. As he sits in the hospital waiting area with his head cradled in his hands, he has no idea what to do next.
Noah had been in with Dr. Oliver going over his test results, and while Noah had said that Luke could stay, he declined, needing some time to get his thoughts in order.
As Dr. Oliver exits the exam room, Luke stands and approaches him cautiously, hoping that the test results revealed something, anything that could reveal what the Colonel had done.
“Mr. Snyder, as you know Mr. Mayer has given me permission to share any and all details pertaining to his case with you. And unfortunately the test results came back and have shed no light on Noah’s memory loss at all.”
Devastated, Luke feels himself losing hope. If a world renowned specialist like Dr. Oliver can’t help Noah, who the hell can?
Apparently sensing Luke’s dismay, Dr. Oliver continues. “Before you get ahead of yourself and start calling in specialists the world over I have a few things I’d like to talk to you about.”
They head down to the cafeteria and grab a sad excuse for a cup of coffee, before sitting down to talk.
“Like I said, the scans and tests we conducted show that Noah’s brain is functioning well with no signs of damage. While he is suffering from a rare case of retrograde amnesia, there is no apparent cause for the creation of new memories he seems to have.”
Dr. Oliver’s normally sarcastic and superior demeanor is gone, which tells Luke that he is as baffled as the rest of them.
Luke fills Dr. Oliver in on his and Noah’s recent past with the Colonel, from his homophobia, to his attempts on Luke’s and his mother’s ex-boyfriend’s life. He also brings him up to speed on the fact that Noah was aware that the Colonel killed his mother, but that truth seems to be gone along with everything else. By the time he has gone through Winston Mayer’s entire rap sheet Dr. Oliver is stunned into an abnormal silence.
“Jesus Snyder, I didn’t know the guy was actually insane. I wouldn’t put it past someone like that to actually try and brainwash their kid.”
“Do you think that--is that even possible?” Luke inquires, obviously worried.
“I don’t know really.” the doctor replies as he gets up to go “before today I would have said no, but with the Colonel’s track record and military connections, anything is possible. Um, let me look into some things and I’ll get back to you soon okay?”
And Luke is left sitting in the hospital cafeteria nursing a cold cup of bad coffee, more confused than ever before.
As he heads back to Noah’s room, he can’t help but replay Dr. Oliver’s words in his head. Could Noah have actually been brainwashed? Was that even possible?.
He has no fucking clue.
Noah wakes to the sun streaming through the slits of the blinds covering the window. He recalls that he is still in the hospital, but still can’t remember anything else. Anything real.
He’s impatient and itching to leave, he’s not sure if he hated hospitals before all of this started, but he sure does now.
Though he can’t help but remind himself, that leaving isn’t really an option when you don’t know where you’re supposed to go. He must have an apartment in town right? He needs to talk to Alison or better yet, Luke.
As luck would have it Alison knocks on his door softly, checking up on him. He invites her in, wishing he could remember her at all. She seems like a really good friend.
“Hey Alison. How much longer do I have to stay here?” He can’t imagine they’d keep him for another day. Besides his memory (or lack thereof) he seems perfectly healthy.
“Actually,” she replies. “I was just coming to see if you were up, because I have your discharge papers right here.”
She smiles sweetly at him as she climbs up to sit next to him on the bed. He fills out the information with her help and he realizes how lucky he is to have someone like her in his life. What he can’t understand however, is why his father would ever want to take this all away from him. It doesn’t make any sense.
“Thanks Ali.” he says quickly. She smiles brightly as he realizes how easily he used (what he assumes is) her nickname.
“So, now that you’re good to go you just to know a couple of things. According to Dr. Oliver you need to keep a journal, and anytime you remember anything you write it down. No matter how small or insignificant okay?”
“And you’re going to be staying with Luke’s parents for now. I know they all seem like strangers right now, but believe me, they are your family. You can trust them.”
“But what about my own place? I don’t actually live at Luke’s parents house do I?”
Alison gives him a reassuring look and takes his hand in hers.
“No you don’t but since we still don’t know what we’re dealing with here Dr. Oliver thought that it would be best for you to not be alone.”
Something about her words ring hollow, but Noah goes along with it. He’s pretty sure that he understandably needs to work on his trust issues.
“I’ve been calling Luke all morning, but I haven’t been able to get a hold of him, so Holden is going to come and get you. He should be here any minute.”
She hops off the bed and stands in front of Noah.
“I’m just gonna go file you’re paper work now, and give you a couple of minutes to get ready.”
Then before Noah knows what’s happening, she’s hurling herself at him in a bone crushing hug. She may be small, but she is really strong.
“I’m so glad you’re back Noah. Whatever it takes, we’ll figure this out.”
He hugs her back, feeling comfortable and safe as she kisses him on the cheek just before she leaves.
Luke is sitting in the Lakeview dining room waiting for Dr. Oliver to meet him. He’s not exactly sure why he called, but he said it was urgent and that was all Luke needed to comply.
As he sips on his orange juice, Casey and his brother Adam also enter the dining room and sit down at his table.
“Hey guys.” Luke says, surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“Not quite sure actually.” Casey responds. “Got a call from the evil doctor saying we needed to meet you down here asap.”
Luke’s eyes shift questioningly to Adam who shrugs.
“Your guess is as good as mine man. But I’m pretty curious now.”
Casey nods and takes a sip of Luke’s orange juice.
“Hey! I’m pretty sure I was drinking that Case.”
“Yeah yeah yeah. Your mom owns this place. I’m pretty sure they can get the heir apparent another glass of juice.”
Luke shoots Casey a glare that holds no heat at all.
And before Luke can reply a condescending voice interrupts.
“Nice to see that I didn’t overestimate the maturity level of this town’s future leaders. How about we leave the playground name-calling outside, okay boys?”
Casey and Luke both roll their eyes and Adam chuckles quietly as he orders himself a coffee and another juice for Luke.
“So Dr. Grownup. What’s going on? You call us down here for insults? Cause I’m pretty sure we could do that just as easily at the hospital.”
“Actually Mr. Hughes, I do have something very important to discuss with all of you. So if you could stop wasting my time that would be great.”
Casey smirks while gesturing with his hand that Dr. Oliver has the floor.
“I was thinking over Noah’s case last night and based on everything that he and Luke told me about his confinement and his father I started digging around. Mr. Munson. How familiar are you with Project Somnacin?”
Adam’s face all but loses it’s colour at Dr. Oliver’s question. He clears his throat, now visibly uncomfortable.
“I’m not sure what you’re asking Dr. Oliver.”
“Call me Reid. And I do believe you know exactly what I’m asking Adam.”
Luke looks over at Casey who is obviously just as baffled as he is. Is Reid implying that Noah was involved in some sort of military project?
Adam rings his hands nervously, while looking over his shoulder. Luke can’t help but get a little angry that things are being kept from him.
“What is he talking about Adam? What’s this Project Som-something?”
“Somnacin” Reid interjects. “And if you won’t tell him Mr. Munson, I can do my best to fill him in.”
With all eyes on Adam, he finally starts.
“Project Somnacin was a military initiative that investigated dreaming and the possibility that dreams could be shared.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Casey asks incredulously. “How can people share dreams? And why would they want to?”
“It was originally intended as a military tactic where soldiers could experience realistic forms of warfare, from combat to even death, without any real-life consequences.”
Luke is stunned, not understanding what any of this really means.
“What does this have to do with Noah and his memory?”
Adam sighs heavily, obviously uneasy divulging classified information.
“The technology eventually became more widely available. Not in a common way, but if you had black market military connections, you could get access to it. Beyond the training aspects there were two other purposes for dream sharing, which eventually became used for corporate espionage.”
Luke looked Adam in the eye, his juice long forgotten.
“And what does any of that have to do with Noah?”
“I don’t know!” Adam exclaimed. “All I know is that dream sharing eventually led to extractions, which were a form of mind heists. You could go into someone’s mind and steal information. You know, secrets, plans-”
“Or memories?” Reid asks.
“Yeah I guess memories too. But as far as I knew you could only access the information, not remove it permanently.”
“And what about all of these new memories Noah has? All of those things that never happened?”
Adam is quiet for a moment as he mulls over Luke’s question.
“Theoretically, if you could remove information, you could plant information as well. It was referred to as inception. But I only heard about it in hypotheticals. I didn’t even think it was possible. How do you know about any of this anyway Reid? “ he asks Reid accusingly “You don’t strike me as ex-military.”
Reid sniggers at the perceived insult.
“I’m not, but I worked with some for Doctor’s Without Borders and boy, when you military boys get drunk, you can’t keep a secret to save your lives. I guess all of those years of repression and secrecy had to come out sometime.”
“So what you’re saying is, that Noah may have legitimately been brainwashed by his father?”
Luke winces at Casey’s words, hating the reality of the situation.
“What I’m saying” Adam continues “is that it is possible that Colonel Mayer had access to the tools and the people capable of doing this, yes.”
“What’s in the silver briefcase?” Luke asks, recognition reaching his eyes.
Adam looks at Luke quizzically.
“Noah mentioned that his father and his colleagues both had matching heavy duty silver briefcases. Could that somehow be connected?”
“Yes” Adam replies, now understanding. “if this is all true that was more than likely a PASIV--sorry, a Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous Device. It’s what is used to put someone in a dream state.”
Luke stands up from the table having heard enough.
“Adam, Dr--Reid. Thank you for the information, but if you don’t mind I’ll take it from here. Dealing with the Colonel is a living nightmare and the more people spared the better. Case, I’ll talk to you later.”
As Luke walks away fishing his phone out of his pocket, Reid calls out to him.
“Luke! What are you planning? This isn’t something you can just buy your way out of.”
As he turns to respond, he comes face to face with Adam who hands him a cocktail napkin with a number scrawled across the bottom.
“Call this number. If anyone can help you with this, it’s them. But understand that this is some dangerous shit and they don’t come cheap.”
Luke takes the napkin from Adam and smiles.
“Getting Noah back is worth more than all the money in the world to me. I will pay whatever they ask. Thanks Adam.”
He pats him on the shoulder, nods over to Casey and Reid at the table and leaves the Lakeview.
He’s got a lead now, he just hopes to God that it can help.
The Snyder house is big. Mansion big. As Holden gives Noah the grand tour, he marvels at the fact that the house just keeps going. He wonders if Luke’s family even knows that there’s a recession going on.
“And that’s all of it.” Holden says. Luke’s father has been nothing but patient and kind this whole time. Noah can tell that Holden is fond of him, and it makes him proud that a man like that sees something good in him.
They stand outside Luke’s old bedroom, which is now Noah’s for the time being. Holden had at first suggested he stay in one of the guest rooms, but he feels like this is a better choice. If Luke is his best friend he must have spent time in this room over the years. Maybe being close to the familiar would shake something loose.
Unfortunately, he still has no recollection of this town, or the people, but he also feels more comfortable with them than he has ever felt with his father. That’s got to mean something.
“Take your time Noah, there’s no rush.” Holden says, his hand squeezing Noah’s shoulder reassuringly. “Maybe being in Luke’s room will help. But remember, if you feel overwhelmed you come to me okay. The guest room is yours if you need it.”
Noah smiles at Luke’s dad and is suddenly struck with a pang of jealousy. He can’t understand how he could possibly feel so much closer to this stranger than he ever did with the Colonel.
“That won’t be necessary sir. I’m sure Luke’s room will be just fine.”
Holden chuckles, “It’s Holden Noah, just Holden.I know you don’t remember this, but it took you ages to stop calling me ‘sir’ or ‘Mr. Snyder’, hopefully it’ll be faster this time.”
“Sorry sir-Holden. I’ll work on it.” He replies sheepishly, through a yawn.
“Looks like you’re pretty wiped there Noah. How about you go and lie down for a while? The kids are at mama’s so the house should be pretty quiet. Holler if you need anything okay?”
“Sure thing s-Holden.” Noah says, catching himself. “Thanks, for everything. For all of this.”
As Holden pulls Noah into an unexpected hug, he says “You’re family. And we take care of our own. We will make this right somehow. Luke won’t rest until you’re back to 100 percent. And I’m pretty sure he won’t let any of us rest either.”
Noah laughs and hugs back. It feels right.
They separate and stare at each other for a moment unsure of what to say. Holden manfully pats Noah on the back.
“A lot of your things are in there, so go and take a look. I’ll be in the living room if you need me.” And he heads back down the stairs.
Noah enters Luke’s room and sits on the bed, he’s not sure whether he should look around or just take a nap. All the excitement of the past couples days seems to finally be catching up to him.
He sees a cell phone sitting on the side table and reaches for it. He looks at the display picture on the main screen, it’s of him and Luke, side by side, arm in arm. He realises that this must be his phone. And he looks happier than he’s ever remembered feeling.
He browses through the icons until he finds his photo album. While there are pictures of his friends and the Snyders, more than anything there are pictures of Luke. Laughing, smiling, sleeping? He is suddenly a little more than curious and more than a little surprised.
As he scrolls through the images, he begins to realise that Luke is not simply his best friend. He’s his boyfriend. And while it makes Holden’s acceptance even more meaningful, it shakes him to the core.
He’s gay, and he didn’t even know it till now. This changes everything.