Disclaimer: I own nothing, but my words and the order in which I put them. Don't sue, cause I don't want to give you my cat.
Characters/Pairings: Luke/Noah, Luke/Reid
Word Count: 21 500 for all 8 parts
Warnings: Angst, Adultery, Alison (she's not really a warning, I just like alliteration)
Spoilers: None unless you haven't watched in the last few months. No future spoilers.
Summary: Following the events of the past six months this is the story of how three men Luke Snyder, Noah Mayer and Reid Oliver found themselves at the mercy of love, friendship and betrayal.
Reid has been standing outside the hospital inhaling secondhand smoke since his meeting with Bob. As a doctor he knows it's an unwise choice, but as a recently dumped newly unemployed stressed out former smoker, he doesn't really care.
He hadn't seen Noah since the night at his apartment, and had taken painstaking care to avoid him around town. At this point he'd rather drink the swill known as hospital coffee than come face to face with what an awful friend he had been. He just thought that for once he could have it all, a great career, great friends and a great man to love. But in the end he was left with nothing but the odd comfort of filling his lungs with the noxious recycled air of others.
And as if things couldn't get any worse, there was Noah exiting through the doors heading out of the hospital. If this was going to be the last they saw each other, he figured he at least owed it to the friendship they once had to try and make things right.
"Um, Noah wait up," he says nervously as the other man heads towards the parking lot. "I know I'm probably the last person on earth you want to talk to."
"Don't flatter yourself," Noah responds, "considering the fact that my crazy killer father is still alive, as well as the guy who kidnapped and shot me, you actually don't rank at the top of my 'don't want to talk' to list. You're just a shitty friend who fucked my boyfriend for a few weeks, I've been through worse."
Reid can tell that Noah's putting up a front, just the look on Noah's face as he mentions Luke is impossible to overlook or ignore.
"And you know what the worst part is, I didn't even have to explain who those other people were to you, since you already knew. I fucking confided in you Reid, about everything. I really thought that, you were my friend. Someone I could trust, someone I could talk to. After all the drama I had been through I thought that maybe a new best friend was the world's way of paying me back for all the shit it put me through, but instead, you just brought more pain to my life than I could have imagined. I fucking hope it was worth it."
Reid knew that Noah liked him, but he never thought he could have possibly held him up to any sort of best friend standard. The thought of that compounded with what he did made him feel sick to his stomach. Maybe he didn't deserve a friend like Noah. From the looks of it, it seems as if he may just end up all alone anyway.
"Did you ever even really like me? I mean, was it just all about Luke? I think you owe me the truth here Reid." And Noah's not even angry anymore, he just looks so resigned to the idea that hurting him was just a means to an end for Reid.
"Noah, I don't know what you want me to say, but I can tell you this. This thing with Luke, was never about you. I-I just, fell for the wrong guy, and I know that now. But what sucks just as much is that I hurt you in the process. Next to Katie you are the closest thing I had to a best friend too, but my greed and my arrogance and sorry to say, my love for Luke just took over and turned me into someone I'm really not, someone I never ever wanted to be. I am so sorry, Noah. You don't have to believe anything I say, but please believe that I'm sorry for all the pain I've caused you."
Noah considers Reid's words for a moment."So you quit your job?"
"I just figured there may be bigger and better adventures out there for me, in bigger cities, with actual single men. I owe myself a chance at happiness and I owe you and Luke that too. I'm sure seeing me around all the time wouldn't help you guys at all."
Just the thought of Luke and Noah being back together and Reid being alone is a lot for him to handle, but he knows it's the right thing and that they are right for each other. Luke never loved him, he just loved the thrill of being wanted. Reid now knows he was just a way for Luke to satisfy that need, nothing more. It's a sad and shitty realization, but it also made Reid's decision to go back to Texas that much easier.
"And as much as I'm gonna miss Katie and Jacob, they don't need me. Not really. I honestly think it's just best for everyone if I go. I know it will be hard for this town to stay afloat without my rare brand of genius, but you survived for years before me, so you'll make do after me."
Noah cracks a small smile at Reid's well known bravado and it gives Reid a small semblance of hope that everything isn't irrevocably damaged.
"So what happens if I hit my head on a cupboard door and re-blind myself? Who's gonna fix me then, huh?" And for a moment it almost seems as if Noah's is genuinely hinting for Reid to stay, but he knows he can't.
"Well, how about this, if due to your enviable stature you do bump your head and re-blind yourself, not only will I put you to the top of my list in Dallas, I'll also give you a coupon."
Noah actually laughs at that. And the sad aching in Reid's heart lightens just a little.
"You have coupons for brain surgery in Texas?" he asks, unconvinced.
"Of course not, my hospital's not in a Wal-Mart. But we do have great barbecue and THAT takes coupons."
"So you're offering me brain surgery and a bucket of chicken?" Noah asks, fully laughing now.
"Pretty much," Reid replies. "I don't think you'll find a better better deal than world class neurology and 11 herbs and spices."
As both men laugh, they share a look. A look of mourning a once promising friendship, a look that Reid cannot abide by.
"Um, Noah? Before you go." Reid is nervous, one friendly moment does note equal forgiveness. "I was just wondering if sometime down the road I could, I don't know shoot you an email or something. You are after all my star patient, and I would like to keep up with your progress."
The smile once on Noah's face vanishes as he clears his throat. "Uh, I guess? Um, maybe down the road or something. You did after all give me my life back. And no matter what happened afterwards, I am grateful for what you did for me."
Reid clears his throat too, as if he may be getting a little choked up (which he definitely IS NOT), and he extends his hand. "No need to thank me Noah, I was just doing my job."
Noah takes Reid's hand and shakes it. They'll probably never be great friends again, but it's better than nothing.
It's been a couple of weeks since Luke has seen Noah, purposefully giving them both some space. He really didn't need to cause Noah any more trouble anyway. So he's thrown himself wholeheartedly into finding himself an apartment and getting his life on track. Once his family found out that he and Noah were no longer together and the reason why, things had become pretty tense at home. Between the looks of disapproval his mother kept shooting him and Natalie and Ethan's constant questions about why Noah wasn't coming over anymore, Luke knows that moving out was the right choice.
The day of the move is a hectic one, but thanks to his foresight in hiring actual movers instead of depending on family and friends, it all goes pretty smoothly. So Luke sits alone is his brand new, extremely cluttered apartment trying to figure out where to start. As he begins to unpack a random box that says 'miscellaneous' in his mother's writing he realizes that it's a box of Noah's things. He sits on the floor, slowly sorting through Noah's stuff, delicately and carefully as if they were priceless heirlooms and not just dvds, books and a few t-shirts. He fails to resist the urge to smell a shirt, holds it close to his face, breathing in deeply, and for a moment it's as if Noah was never gone. As he puts the shirt down he realizes that it's damp. It takes him only a moment to notice that he's actually crying. As much as he's told himself he doesn't have the right to be sad since he brought this all on himself, he finally gives in. He lays down on the floor of his empty apartment and for the first time in two weeks lets it all out and cries.
The next day Luke decides that there will not be a repeat performance of the night before, so he heads out into town. As he walks around absentmindedly, music from his ipod dulling his senses, he doesn't realize that he's about to walk straight into someone else until it's too late.
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry," Luke says, and as he goes to pick up the other person's bag he stops dead in his tracks. He knows this bag, because he bought this bag. "Noah?" he says without looking up.
"Uh, hey Luke," Noah says, as their eyes meet for the first time in 15 days, 2 hours and 26 minutes (not that they've been counting).
"How are you?" Luke asks. He knows he has no right, but it's been so long since they've spoken and he'd love some reassurance that Noah's at least doing all right.
"I'm doing okay. I uh, just got off work and I'm heading home to make dinner for Ali. She's had a rough week."
Luke can't help but love Noah a little more just hearing how much he cares for Allison. The really do take great care of each other.
"Yeah, Frank was nice enough to give me my job back at Java, I just finished my first week, and look," he shows Luke his hands, "no burns."
"That's great Noah. That's really, really great." And Luke means it too. As silly as it sounds, working at Java was a pretty big part of Noah's life and Luke's happy to see him getting back on track.
They soon fall into an awkward silence. The kind of silence where you're not sure if you're supposed to keep talking or just make a polite excuse and walk away. But Luke has never been very good at walking away from Noah.
"I got a new place." It's all he can think of to share, that isn't I love you, I need you, I miss you, please come back to me.
"Really? That's great." And Noah seems genuinely pleased for Luke, which isn't surprising since he has always wanted what was best for Luke. Even when Luke may have not wanted it for himself.
"Yeah, I'm thinking of having a housewarming in a couple of weeks after I get all unpacked. Would it be okay if maybe I invited you?"
Noah considers the offer for a moment, maybe thinking it's too soon to try the friends thing. And maybe it is, but Luke still wants to try.
"Oh, and you can bring Ali," Luke adds. "I mean if she doesn't still hate me."
"She doesn't hate you Luke, she just." Noah's voice trails off.
"She just loves you."
"Yeah," Noah responds, sadness in his voice.
"But she really does care about you, too. I think she just feels like she has to pick sides or something. I told her she could be friends with both of us the way Casey is, but she's just really protective of me."
"Well, you deserve someone who will look out for your best interests. I really wish that person had been me, but we both know how terribly I failed at that."
Noah looks pained at the comment, like he really didn't expect to talk about it.
"Luke. It's over. There really isn't any reason to beat yourself up about it, at least not to me. It doesn't make me feel any better know that you're sad too."
The fact that Noah still cares about Luke's feelings warms Luke's heart and causes him to not want their conversation to end. He's fully aware that there is a difference between Noah not wanting him to be sad and still wanting to be together again. But the fact that Noah doesn't seem to hate him anymore, is good enough.
"I know you have to make dinner, but I was wondering if we could maybe a grab a coffee first. I mean, as friends. If you want."
Noah looks unsure about the offer, and Luke doesn't blame him. Maybe it's too soon, maybe it will always be too soon. He can't even imagine how he'd feel if the tables were turned.
"Um, maybe another time?" Noah offers.
And sure it's not exactly the yes that Luke wants to hear, but it's not a flat out no either.
"Sure," Luke responds, desperately not trying to sound as dejected as he feels.
As Noah walks away, he looks over his shoulder saying, "I'll call you Luke, okay?"
And for the first time in 15 days, 2 hours and 32 minutes. Luke smiles.
Much to his own surprise, Noah does end up calling Luke. Not right away, mind you, because he's still really really hurt. But a week after they run into each other in Old Town, he calls Luke up to take him up on his offer for coffee, as friends. He can at least try to do the friends thing.
Luke comes into Java just as Noah is finishing his shift. He figured it would be a good place to meet so they could keep it as informal as possible. Only it seems to have the opposite effect. Watching Luke walk into a place where they shared so many good times (and a few bad) is like an overwhelming, not entirely wanted trip down memory lane. Suddenly he's bombarded with images of hugs, kisses and conversations that feel like a lifetime ago. Suddenly he doesn't know if this is such a good idea.
But there's no backing out now as Luke waves at him and takes his seat, sitting patiently, if not a little awkwardly waiting for Noah to join him. So Noah arms himself with a couple of lattes and heads on over.
"Um, hey Luke. Glad you could make it," Noah says as he sits down. He's not sure quite how to be friends with Luke, not when he still loves him so much it aches.
"Yeah, of course. I'm glad you called."
"I guess I should-"
"Can I just-"
Both men laugh uncomfortably at them speaking at the same time.
"You go first," Luke says, and Noah takes a deep breath and starts.
"Well, I was just going to say that I should tell you that I would like try and do the friends thing. I don't know how easy it will be, actually, I figure it won't be easy at all. But I'm pretty sure the only thing harder than trying to be friends with you is living my life without you in it at all. What were you going to say?"
Luke seems a little taken aback by Noah's admission. It's not easy to admit that you still want the man who broke your heart to be a part of your life. But Noah means every word, as hard as it may be. Luke leans forward in his seat, his eyes pleading for understanding, and for the first time in a long time Noah feels like he maybe ready to listen.
"I just want to say that I am still so fucking sorry for what I did. Sometimes I still can't believe that I was capable of something like that. Something so shitty and dishonest and cruel. I would be honoured if you would consider being my friend again. I sure as hell don't deserve it, but if you're offering, I accept."
Noah is at a loss for words. Luke must know that bringing up his affair with Reid may not have been the best idea, but if they are going to be friends, real friends, they can't sweep things under the rug and pretend they never happened. They have to face their problems head on. And the thought of not always being so frustrated and sad and hurt is a very appealing one.
"Well, I am offering. But, that's all. I can't even wrap my head around anything more right now," Noah lies. He wants Luke so badly, wants to take him back and kiss him till all the sadness and the pain goes away. But if this is going to happen it's got to happen slowly. He can't give Luke false hope.
"I understand, and I respect that, just the fact that we can talk again is amazing to me. Everything and anything else is up to you."
They stare at each other across the table and smile for a moment. It's may not be everything, but it's a hell of a lot more than nothing.
Part 8: la-fours.livejournal.com/5313.html#cutid