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In Love With The Proper Stranger - Chapter 23
| Title: In Love With The Proper Stranger|
Chapter: Twenty-three 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.
Noah had never seen a place more beautiful than Snyder Farm in Oakdale, Illinois.
The old white farmhouse with dark green shutters sat on a ridge overlooking an immense snow-covered field that dropped low and swept forward before vanishing under a sparking pond; now frozen solid.
At the back of the house, quaint wooden fences formed the paddocks for the horses Luke had so eagerly introduced one by one to Noah; promising that they would find a moment to go riding. Noah had never ridden a horse. But he loved the idea of mimicking the cowboys in the western movies of his childhood.
"I'm sure you'll make for a convincing John Wayne. Maybe I shoulda got you a Stetson for Christmas?" Luke had teased, ruffling his hair in a way that immediately led to a quick romp in the hay; creating a memory destined to always bring a smile to Noah's face.
The interior of the farmhouse was just as fantastic. A warm and welcoming home beautifully decorated with old rustic furniture and cross-stitched cushions, framed by shelves stocked with canned fruit and vegetables and vintage appliances in its heart – the kitchen.
It was exactly as a person would imagine a farm should be. Exactly the right place to spend Christmas with the person you love.
The house was decorated in every way for Christmas. Large old-fashioned holiday bulbs adorned outdoor trees while mini-lights blanketed indoor plants. Christmas ornaments festooned every available surface; and candles flickered and roaring log fires burned day and night. The smell of cinnamon flavoring Christmas cookies, sweet potatoes and apple pies seemed to reach every corner of the home.
But by far the most amazing thing about Snyder Farm were the people connected to the land and to each other. Luke's family was incredible. There seemed to be a continual stream of them and every person welcomed Noah with open arms; like he was a long lost relative.
How was he ever going to remember all their names? But he sure as hell was going to make an effort to try.
Up until that Christmas, Noah had known such intense family love only from his grandmother. Never before had he been surrounded by so much of it, so freely given to being almost overwhelming.
"Okay, Bubby?" Luke asked him now, as Noah stood out in the front yard watching the fading afternoon sunlight play on the icy pond. Noah turned to see Luke arrive from inside the house, where his little brother, Ethan, had for a while monopolized his attention.
"Why did you ever move to New York?"
Luke grinned widely. "So you like it here, do ya?"
Noah smiled shyly. "I never even knew places like this existed! I thought a place like this only existed in movies or on TV or in come Currier and Ives painting. But this farm… and your family…"
Whatever he had said seemed to mean a lot to Luke as Noah's words brought tears to his eyes.
"I'm glad you love it here."
Noah reached over and hooked his arm around Luke's neck, pulling him closer so that they were warmed by each other's bodies under a canopy of snow flakes. They stayed that way for some time until the sound of someone clearing his throat caused them to look back at the house.
"Hey you two." It was Holden Snyder.
Luke smiled at his father. "Need something, Dad?"
"No, no. Sorry to disturb your quiet moment there. I know how rare those can be around here."
Noah laughed. Luke's father was so funny and easy going.
"We're about to hang the ornaments."
"Great!" Luke's face lit up.
"What?" asked Noah.
"Come on! It's a family tradition."
"Another one?" Noah teased, loving it all.
"Shut up!" Luke laughed, pushing Noah's shoulder so that he stumbled slightly.
Noah took Luke's hand and allowed Luke to lead him through the kitchen, where Luke's Grandma Emma was peering into the oven.
"Coming Gram?" Luke asked her as he and Noah paused in the doorway leading to the parlor.
She looked up and smiled. "Yes. I'll be there in a moment, Love. I'm just checking on the turkey!"
"It smells amazing, Mrs. Snyder." Noah told her.
"Why thank you my boy. You'll be getting an extra couple of sweet potatoes just for that!"
She winked at him, warming Noah's heart even more. He hadn't felt that way since before his own grandmother passed away.
Emma seemed to notice the sudden sadness. Dropping the pot holder in her hand onto the table, she quickly walked over to the pair and placed a hand on Noah's arm.
"Luke told me you recently lost your grandmother."
Noah nodded while struggling to keep his emotions in check.
"I'm very sorry to hear that, Noah. But you are so very welcome in this home and in this family. I hope you know that?"
"Thank you." He whispered, sniffing back a tear. "I do."
Luke took hold of Noah's elbow and began dragging him into the parlor.
"Come on softy!" he laughed. "We don't want to miss the start!"
The Snyders' tradition of hanging ornaments was not to be missed. Each decoration, hung on the large Christmas tree in the parlor, symbolized characteristics of different family members.
Luke handed a rocking horse ornament to his father. The ornament represented Holden's work as a horse breeder.
Noah and the others watched as Faith, the older of Luke's two younger sisters, hung an ornament depicting Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, one of Noah's most favorite movies.
Natalie, Luke's youngest sister, fingered the antlers of her reindeer ornament while she searched for just the right branch. The ornament symbolized her love
of animals and the outdoors.
Next was Lucinda Walsh, Luke's maternal grandmother, who Noah had already learned was a formidable force within the Snyder clan. She stood to hang her ornament – a royal crown. Noah laughed when he saw it and Luke thumped him to behave.
But when Noah looked over at him, he too was laughing.
Luke's ornament was a miniature piece of parchment and quill. It represented an aspect of Luke's character unknown to Noah until now. Luke dabbled in writing during his teen-age years before the responsibilities associated with work and marriage took over his life.
Noah itched to read something by the amateur author.
After the remaining members of the Snyder clan hung their ornaments, people started to disperse until Luke yelled out.
"Hang on! There's more!"
He bent over and foraged under the heavily-decorated tree until he found a small red box. He approached Noah and handed the box to him.
Noah frowned in confusion.
"Luke," he asked. "I thought we already exchanged gifts?"
"Yeah, but this is something else."
Noah lifted the lid and gasped. Inside was a beautifully detailed and glitter-sparkling miniature of his grandmother's movie theatre.
For a moment, the rest of the family seemed to vanish in a haze and the only two people in the room were Luke and Noah.
"Luke." he whispered, feeling his throat constrict.
"I know we haven't been together for long," Luke said. "But so much has happened and… and this is my way of showing you just how certain I am of our love."
Noah lifted his gaze from the ornament to meet something even more stunning - Luke's golden brown eyes.
"Noah, in finding you I found myself. I'm never letting you go. So… with this… I'm asking you to join my family. I'm asking you to stay with me… forever…"
Unable to speak through the immense emotion filling up his heart, Noah stood instead. He approached the tree; and finding a space on a high branch, hung his ornament there.
Luke grinned widely and jumped at Noah, gripping him in a tight hug that left both of them giggling.
"All right already!" an annoyed voice called out. "How about we can the PDA long enough to eat? I'm starving over here!"
Reid had been quiet up until now. The entire family sighed and disapprovingly shook heads as they walked past him stretched out on a couch at the back of the parlor.
He was still recovering from the stab wound inflicted by Greg. As it turned out, Reid had almost caused his own death by withdrawing the knife in his side so he could use it on Greg. The knife had been keeping the wound in check.
As a doctor, Reid was well aware of the gamble. But his action saved Noah's life for which both Noah and Luke were deeply grateful.
"But we're not finished yet," said Luke walking toward the sofa. "We haven't hung your ornament, Reid."
"Yeah well," Reid sniffed, shifting his body upward slightly. "I'm no longer a part of this family. So…"
Luke looked over at Noah who nodded before picking up the ornament box.
"Once a Snyder always a Snyder." Luke told Reid. "You can't get away from us that easily!"
Something passed between the two men and finally Reid nodded.
"Come on," Luke said, "I'll help you up so you can hang it yourself."
Reid wrapped his arm around Luke's shoulder as Luke lifted him carefully to his feet and guided him over to Noah, standing by the tree.
Noah reached deep into the box and pulled out Reid's ornament – a pair of specs to signify sight. Noah examined it for a moment and then handed it to his uncle.
A speechless Reid took the ornament by the attached ribbon and hung it on an empty branch.
The three of them stood there for a moment admiring the tree before Reid spoke up, surprising Luke and Noah.
"We were close you know?" Reid's gaze remained fixed on his ornament.
"Sorry?" Noah asked.
"Charlene and me."
Noah froze at hearing Reid utter his mother's name.
"Growing up… we were… we were real close."
"Sometimes you get this look…" Reid searched Noah's face for a sense of understanding, "and I see Charlene."
Perhaps for the first time Noah realized how much the loss of his sister contributed to Reid developing his distant personality.
"I'm sorry," Noah told him.
Reid looked back as the glass part of his ornament caught the glow of a twinkling light. "Funny the way life goes, huh?" He said, his legs beginning to sag from standing too long. Luke helped him back onto the coach.
"I have something for you, too." Noah said. "Hang on."
A surprised Reid watched Noah disappear upstairs.
"I always thought you hated coming here." Luke said, as they waited together.
"I did." Reid replied.
"Did?" Luke cocked his head at his ex-husband. "Am I sensing a change? Are you warming to the idea of family?"
Reid didn't answer. But Luke did notice a slight curl at the side of his mouth.
Holding a large envelope, Noah came back down the front stairs and into the parlor.
"So," Noah told Luke and Reid. "I went by the house just before we flew out here and there was a message from Mr. Pinter, Grams' lawyer. He asked me to come by the office to get this and give it to you."
He handed the envelope to Reid.
A confused Reid opened it and pulled out a document. As he began to read the first page, his eyes widened.
"What is it?" a curious Luke asked.
"Turns out Reid's dad took out a life insurance policy," Noah explained. "It paid out when Gra… when Reid's mother passed away."
Luke considered the new development for a moment.
"So that means…?"
"It means…" said Noah, "that Reid's dad apparently believed in forward thinking. He wanted to make sure that Reid would be taken care of. It's a substantial sum."
A stunned Reid stared at the check and cover letter.
"I don't think Gram knew about the policy." Noah added. "Mr. Pinter told me he only discovered it while closing your parents' file. Apparently, it was purchased before Mr. Pinter even joined the law firm.
"Who would have thought?" Reid muttered. "All this time…"
"Well…" said Luke. "Now you don't have to worry about money. At least for a while."
"Seems like it." Reid agreed. "And Noah can have the house back."
"Oh, I'm giving the house to Maddie." Noah announced. "She has a huge family that's packed in like sardines in that tiny two-bedroom apartment, while the house is paid off and going empty."
"Wow, Noah. Are you sure?" Luke asked. "I mean it's your grandmother's house?"
A shadow passed over Noah's face.
"I loved my grandmother. But I hate that house. The theatre means more to me."
Mindful of the white elephant – Greg Chilton's ghost – in the room, Reid turned away.
"It's an amazing gesture." Luke said, rubbing Noah's arm.
Then changing the subject, Luke turned to Reid.
"I also have something else for you."
Luke dug into his pocket and withdrew a set of keys.
"My car!" Reid exclaimed with pleasure, snatching at the ring.
"I think you earned its return." Luke smiled. "When you're ready, you'll find your precious Lexus in the garage at my apartment building."
"Cheers!" Reid smugly exclaimed, looking like he'd just won a major coup. He raised one eyebrow and eyed them from the side, "And my golf clubs?"
Luke grimaced. "Um… they're in the trunk…"
"Great!" a pleased Reid grinned from ear to ear as he played with his car keys.
Luke looked over at Noah who shrugged.
"Yes… but… I kinda lost one…"
The look of horror on Reid's face was comical and Noah coughed in his attempt to prevent a laugh escaping.
"WHAT? How? You don't even play golf?"
Luke smiled shyly and wrapped an arm around Noah's waist. "It's a long story. I'm really sorry. I'll buy you a replacement, okay?"
"It's not that easy…" Reid huffed.
"What do you mean?"
"Luke," he began, as though the blonde knew nothing about anything, "It's a special relationship between a golfer and his irons and woods."
That did it for Noah; he could no longer hold off the sniggers and burst out laughing.
But before Reid could lay on the admonishments, Lily arrived from the kitchen to distract him with the promise of food.
"Come on you guys!" Lily called, sticking her head around the door. "We're waiting for you so we can say grace."
Luke and Noah each took one of Reid's arms to help him up into the kitchen for Christmas dinner.
Later that night, Luke lay beside Noah in bed, sliding his hand down the long length of his back and down inside the bottom of his boxers; coming to rest on his buttocks.
Noah turned to Luke and, unable to look at him without touching him, his hand reached out to settle on Luke's upper arm.
"What are you thinking?" Luke asked, resisting an impulse to slip a finger in Noah's mouth and have him suck at it; and at other things. "Why do you look so serious?"
"I'm just sad we have to go back to New York. I feel so alive out here."
Noah's hand had moved to start grazing Luke's back, making Luke shiver.
"Let's move here then." Luke said impulsively.
"What?" Noah asked, jerking back slightly.
"Why not, Noah? World Wide has offices here, so that's not an issue; and Oakdale has a great university which boasts a renowned film department. Didn't you say you wanted to be a director?"
"But what about the theatre back in Brooklyn?"
"We can hire someone to run it. In fact I know someone who would be perfect for the job!"
Noah looked down at his hand as it smoothed up and down Luke's waist.
"Noah, from the first moment I saw you, I wanted you. Somehow, I've known that all my life. I live with the picture of you in my head. And now everything I do is done for you."
Noah let his body relax, his hand closing around Luke's.
"I lost everything for a moment there." Noah whispered, lifting his eyes to meet Luke's.
"I'll never leave you. Not ever." Luke smiled at him. "I've always had this dream. Do you want to hear it?"
"Since I was young, I dreamed of building a house here… on the farm, and raising a family there. But the dream needs the family, right?"
"We're a family?" Noah asked, searching his eyes.
"I love you. Do you love me?"
Luke ducked down his head and kissed him. "Then we are already a family, albeit a small one and we can add to it. And, besides, our extended family is massive as well as…"
"…awesome." Noah finished with a smile. He ran a hand down Luke's cheek.
Luke broke out into a massive grin.
"What?" Noah asked.
"I was just thinking how things have kinda turned out like the title of that Natalie Wood movie you were telling me about…"
"Yeah? How do you mean?"
"Well I met you and… found love with the proper stranger."
I really hope you have enjoyed this story. Please let me know if you have. Thanks ;-)
Latest page update: made by Seajellybaby
, Sep 30 2011, 9:33 AM EDT
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