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In Love With The Proper Stranger - Chapter 12
| Title: In Love With The Proper Stranger|
Chapter: Twelve of Twenty-three
Summary: AU - Their's is a love story which happens quite by accident, in the midst of a dangerous whirlwind of mystery and deceit sparked by the death of Luke's mother-in-law
Characters: Luke, Noah, Reid
Genre: AU, Action, Adventure, Romance, Angst
Disclaimer: This site is no way associated with "As the World Turns", CBS, P&G, or Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann. This is not for profit. No copyright infringement is intended. Authors submit and write their own work..
My beautiful grandson
From the moment you arrived on this earth you have been my little ray of sunshine.
The loss of your mother nearly crushed the life out of me. But it was made so much lighter by your presence.
You were a tiny babe, an absolute bundle of happiness, my treasure. Such a good child, who has grown into a handsome young man.
You've been nothing but a pleasure and a pride to me, Sugar. My only regret is that I will not live long enough to see what you make of your life.
But whatever that may be I know you will be successful because you put your whole heart into everything you do.
I know that you don't share a close relationship with Reid.
Indeed, my own relationship with him has grown strained over the years; and I'm sorry to add to that
tension by changing my will and leaving everything to you rather than to him. I know that he would
object body and soul to my plan so I've kept the whole business to myself.
I don't have much, Noah. But what I have might help you to find your place in the world.
Don't cry too long for your old Grams Sweetheart! Although I'm sad to be leaving you I am ready to leave this world.
Who knows? I might just run into Greta Garbo or Judy Garland on the other side.
Your ever loving Grams
PS… I hope someday you find a man to love you the way you deserve to be loved.
Noah had read the letter so many times that the corners and edges were now creased and wrinkled, some of the ink blotched and smudged by his tears.
But despite his sadness the letter made him feel better in so many ways.
His grandmother was content when she died. He could hear her light-hearted voice in his head as he read it and more than that, she knew.
Of course, he shouldn't have been surprised by that.
He looked up and spotted Luke watching him from the doorway as he leaned against the frame in that relaxed way of his.
"Hi." Luke replied with a soft smile, entering the room and sitting next to him on the end of the bed. Noah leaned back into Luke's hand as he rubbed Noah's back, "Thinking about her again?"
"Is it getting easier?"
"Yeah. Having this…" he raised the letter in his hand, "helps a lot. So do you."
Luke kissed Noah's temple. "I'm glad." Changing the subject Luke asked, "So, what are your plans for today? I have to leave for work in a few minutes."
"I need to spend some time at the library in Brooklyn. I have an assignment due at the end of the week. I'll most likely stay there all day. But I'll catch up with you here before I head to the theatre for my shift."
Luke nodded. "Have you thought anymore about what you want to do? With the theatre and the house I mean?"
"I'm not really ready to deal with that yet. It means…"
"Talking to Greg?"
Luke drew Noah into a warm hug and Noah closed his eyes, pressing his lips to Luke's shoulder blade.
"How is Reid?" Luke asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean… with you? What's your relationship like?"
"Indifferent." Noah was quick to answer. "He's never given me the time of day. He'll talk to me if we run into each other or he has to, but nothing more than polite greeting. You know?"
"When I first realized I was gay…?" Noah offered a small sarcastic laugh as he sat back. "I hated it! I didn't want to have one single thing in common with him."
"So it was just you and your grandmother really?"
"Yeah." said Noah blowing out a deep sigh. "You know once there was this weekend school history trip to . I really wanted to go. But I couldn't ask Grams for the money. I knew she didn't have it. But when that Friday morning came, she made me pack a bag. When I got to school I was booked on that trip!"
Luke smiled and Noah returned it, remembering. Then the smile faded.
"She spent every night for three months cleaning a neighbor's house to repay the money they loaned her for the trip. Three Months!" he sniffed, shaking his head. "Just so that I could go on a stupid two-day tour!"
"Noah… she loved you."
Luke suddenly grew nervous, like he had something more to say.
"What is it?" a concerned Noah asked.
"I… I want you to know…"
"Yes?" Noah prompted.
"This is gonna sound crazy but… but I need you to know…" He took Noah's hand in his, watching how their fingers fit together. "I love you too." He lifted his eyes. "I'm in love with you."
Noah's breath caught. Luke had uttered those words before in the height of passion. But never out in the open like this.
"You hardly know me."
Luke smiled. "I told you it would sound crazy!"
Noah laughed even as he sniffed back his remaining tears.
"…but it's true." Luke finished, watching him expectantly.
Noah lifted a palm and ran it down Luke's cheek. It was true for him, too. He knew that. He felt it fluttering around inside his heart every time he looked at Luke, every time they made love. He just wasn't ready to say the words.
He didn't know why or what was holding him back; maybe that small part of him that believed their fledgling relationship too good to be true.
So instead of speaking he leaned over and kissed Luke gently on the lips.
"I've got to get to work. See you later?" Luke asked hopefully as they pulled apart.
"I'll be here."
As predicted, Noah's assignment on the human existential predicament through the ages was a tough one and finding the information he needed from the millions of books at his disposal was slow going.
Much of the finer detail lay hidden deep within passages from old texts. Some of the books were so ancient they were falling apart and Noah had to ask the librarian to help him.
Other students, he knew, wouldn't bother with the library. All the information could be found with the click of a mouse button; stored somewhere within the vast networks of cyberspace.
But Noah preferred the old-fashioned method. His brain seemed to absorb far more information this way.
Besides… at least his assignment wouldn't sound like the other students, who took the easier way out.
By 4 p.m., Noah started rubbing his eyes, the strain really beginning to show from analyzing all the data from the mountain of books, piles of pages, and from the glare of a computer screen.
He decided it was enough for the day. He could return in the morning to continue his work. He yawned loudly and stretched, feeling a few tight knots click in his back as he did so. He packed up his belongings and saved his work onto a flash drive.
The icy air was refreshing after spending the day inside the stuffy library. He took in a deep breath of it as he started the short walk to the bus stop. But he was brought to a halt when he heard a car horn blow and a man in a black Mercedes beckoned him over.
Noah looked about but he was the only person around.
"Me?" he asked with a frown, pointing up at his own chest.
The man nodded. Noah warily wandered over.
"Noah Mayer?" the driver asked.
"My name is Frank. Mr. Snyder asked me to drive you home."
Home? For a minute his stomach did a jump at that. Was he ready to call Luke's place home? He had already been staying there for longer than he planned. He didn't want to be reliant on Luke. He wanted to look after himself, find a job and get his own place.
Were they really ready to officially live together?
From the start, Luke's voice had resonated with him. It was instant, that deep understanding between them. There was an unspoken connection so comfortable and beautiful and effortless. Noah was completely blown away by the feelings between them, but also overwhelmed by the whole series of events.
There were still so many unanswered questions about Luke. Questions he knew he should ask, but dare not… at least for the moment.
Like why they'd met in that bizarre circumstance in the first place? What had Luke been doing that morning in a strange neighborhood, dressed the way he was? And how was it that he seemed to know everything about Noah?
"Oh." Noah stupidly muttered to the driver and then shook his head. "Okay… um… but I need to stop off somewhere first. Is that okay?"
The man nodded. "Whatever you want, sir."
Sir? Noah expelled a long and nervous breath through his mouth as he climbed into the back seat. Nobody had ever before referred to him as sir.
He directed the driver to the theatre. It seemed a little crazy to go all the way back to Manhattan, just to come all the way back out again.
But Noah really wanted to see Luke before work. He hated being away from him for too long. Besides, if he went to work right away he'd be early and then he'd have to run into Greg. No thank you!
Since his grandmother's death, Maddie had kindly agreed to handle the theatre shift change with Greg every night. That way Noah didn't have to face him.
He dreaded what the man would do to him since Noah now held all the cards as far as his livelihood and living arrangements were concerned. Noah knew he'd have to deal with this issue at some point. He just wasn't ready to think about all of that.
It wasn't the theatre Noah was headed for now anyway, but rather his mailbox at the post office branch across from the theatre. He hadn't checked it since his grandmother's death and he wanted to be sure there hadn't been any assignment changes.
Unlocking the box, he pulled out a light envelope; stuffed it inside his rucksack and swung it over his shoulder. He didn't want to keep the driver waiting.
He had just inserted one leg into the car when his eyes locked with those of his uncle, watching him critically from the theatre entrance across the street. His expression puzzled Noah.
Was it shock? Yes, he thought so, maybe more. A strange mixture of shock and... anger?
Whatever it was, it was definitely more emotion than Noah had ever seen his uncle express. It scared him a little.
Not wanting to hang around and find out, Noah simply bobbed his head toward Reid in acknowledgement and swiftly sat back in the car, closing the door.
"Next stop…" sang the friendly driver. "Mr. Snyder's apartment."
When he got back to Luke's, Noah felt tired. As strange as it had been for him to be escorted by private car, he was grateful to Luke for sending it. He wondered how he was going to get through an entire shift at the theatre.
He dumped his rucksack on the dining table; and before he even removed his coat, riffled through the bag until he found the letter from the school. He slugged back a quick glass of water before tearing the flap open and withdrawing the thin slip of paper inside.
Noah frowned at the receipt in his hand. It was dated a few days before his grandmother's death for $2,150 – paid in full.
Surely it must be an administration error?
Then he noted the credit card details in the bottom right hand corner of the receipt. Mr. Oliver.
Although the card said Mr. instead of Dr., there was only one person it could be. Had Reid paid the bill? How was that even possible? How would Reid even know about his studies?
He'd worked really hard to keep his studies a secret, especially from Greg. And even if Reid did know, why would he care enough to settle the fee? Reid had certainly never shown any such interest in Noah before now.
As a frowning Noah continued to study the receipt, the doorbell rang.
"Hey Luke…" he began as he opened the door. "…did you forget your keycard?"
"What the F*CK kind of game are you playing?" The tone was fierce.
Noah's head jerked up from the slip of paper he was still examining to come face to face with his irate uncle.
Whatever had incensed Reid had achieved the seemingly impossible; somehow cracking the carefully-guarded calm and collected shell that usually characterized his uncle.
"Is this some kind of joke, you little sh*t?" Reid yelled. "How long have you been planning this? How long have you planned on stealing my life?"
Noah stood utterly flabbergasted. His mouth gaped open as he shook his head.
Reid was royally pissed off, putting Noah completely on edge. He had never seen Reid so devoid of his cool.
"What's the matter?" Noah innocently asked.
"What's the matter? WHAT'S. THE. MATTER?" Reid's grey eyes shot daggers at him, and then to his shock, his uncle used both hands to push him backward into the apartment. "You're riding around in HIS corporate car?"
Another hard push.
"You're living in HIS place?"
"And you ask ME, what's the matter?"
"I... I don't understand. Why are you here? How did you find me?"
Noah felt completely lost. His uncle was furious at him; and he had no idea why.
"Why are you so angry?" Then fingering the slip of paper in his hand caused Noah to change course. "Wait… can I ask you… why did you pay for my courses?"
Noah held up the receipt for Reid to see.
There was a moment when Reid simply looked at him blankly and he was just about to speak again when Luke walked in on them.
The expression on Luke's face at the spectacle of Reid and Noah standing together in his apartment was one Noah would never forget. Luke temporarily froze, looking just like a kid caught with his hands in the cookie jar.
He also looked absolutely devastated and Noah felt an urge to comfort him. But for what?
"Luke…" Noah began; horrified that Luke should be drawn into a family dispute right in the middle of his living room floor. "I'm so sorry. My uncle followed me here."
Noah looked between Luke and Reid before settling on Luke, whose hazel eyes were welling up with tears.
The longest moment passed before a pale Luke turned to Reid, "What are you doing here? How did you even get up here?"
''I followed him.'' Reid nodded toward Noah. "It wasn't that hard to convince security of my identity!"
"Luke?" a worried Noah interrupted. "What is it? Are you okay?"
He was so focused on Luke that it took Noah a moment before he really noticed Reid's demeanor.
A look of comprehension was building and crossing Reid's features. His uncle's head moved back and forth between the two of them.
Then suddenly Reid smirked, as he always did whenever he knew he was right. A realization now adorned his features, and although the anger was still evident, it simmered to be replaced by smugness.
"Oh… I see…"
"Reid…" It was more than a whisper from Luke; rather it was a wounded plea.
Noah locked questioning eyes with Luke and read a profound sense of fretfulness there. He felt large stones forming in the pit of his stomach.
Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. Luke swallowed small gulps of air as he returned Noah's mystified gaze.
"Oh…" Reid continued, laughing to himself. "I get it now. The kid doesn't know, does he?"
''Doesn't know what?" Noah asked.
"Please…" Luke begged, shaking his head as he turned it back to Reid. Tears started to fall, forming glistening paths down his cheeks.
Reid cocked his head at Luke before turning to saunter over to where a confused Noah stood. He snatched the receipt out of Noah's hands and examined it closely.
Another smile crept over his lips as he again locked eyes with Luke.
Agonized, Luke shook his head at Reid once more. "No…"
But Noah could see Luke was resigned to the inevitable. Whatever that was.
Noah sensed something strange going on between the two men; something he wasn't privy to. It made him nervous… very nervous. He had an unbelievably strong urge to flee; wrestling with wanting to know what lay between his uncle and Luke and not knowing.
"I didn't pay your college expenses, nephew," Reid said matter-of-factly, enjoying himself as he waltzed over to where Luke stood.
The eye contact Luke held with Reid broke as his brown orbs were focused… begging back on Noah.
An ice cold snake curled its way around Noah's neck and a shiver ran down his spine.
This was it… that moment when the picture of perfection they had created together shattered into so many broken shards of glass.
"No," Reid continued, his voice laced in acrimony. "I didn't pay it."
He slammed the slip of paper and his hand flat against Luke's chest, so hard as to send the blonde back a step. ''Your uncle did!''
A wrecked Luke stood there with both hands up to his breast; the receipt crumpled inside them.
It took Noah only a moment. None of it made any sense at all until he saw the truth, clear as day, in Luke's dark eyes. The force struck like a bomb exploding in his head.
Terror gripped him as the pieces fell cruelly into place like the colored squares of a Rubix Cube.
He'd been duped! He'd been used!
He took a step back from Luke.
"No!" Luke yelped desperately. But Noah was already moving toward his backpack.
He grabbed it quickly and headed for the door.
"No, no, no… Please! Wait!"
Luke's frantic pleas faded as Noah slammed the apartment door and took off down the corridor toward the elevator; his vision clouded by an avalanche of tears.
He repeatedly pressed the down arrow button as if firing a rapid-fire machine gun. "Come on! Come on!" he cried, hearing an apartment door open.
Desperate to get out of the building, Noah saw the exit sign for the nearby stairwell and ran to it. He flew down the steps two at a time while choking back the emotional pain.
Thanks so much for reading...
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