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In Love With The Proper Stranger - Chapter 8
| Title: In Love With The Proper Stranger|
Chapter: Eight 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 watched Luke as he slept on his stomach; motionless and peaceful.
Wasn't it funny how an everyday kind of name could suddenly hold such significance?
Periodically he would rub his hand or his cheek over Luke's back, drawing comfort from it, savoring it. Luke made him feel relaxed, secure for the first time in his life.
Noah couldn't help but dwell on just how much Luke, in such a short period of time, had come to mean to him.
He cared. No! He loved Luke. He wanted and needed Luke. He craved him.
He was trying to hold onto the feeling of what it was like to be that physically connected with Luke.
It was fading now, but he wanted to remember it… Just in case.
After another touch of his fingertips to Luke's face, Luke stirred slightly, smiling and stretching in his sleep. The action was so incredibly beautiful that it stole away Noah's breath and stabbed him with sudden fear.
He was afraid. Not of Luke… but of losing him.
Good things like this didn't happen to Noah Mayer!
Everything had come to pass so quickly between them. He had just given himself for the first time to a complete stranger… and a married one at that!
Sure Luke said he was getting divorced. Noah had no reason to doubt him.
But… what kind of man was his husband? What man would let a guy like Luke walk out his life without a fight?
Aside from the car he drove and this apartment, he really didn't know anything about this Luke Snyder. Let alone how Luke's very presence made him weak at the knees.
Noah was relying totally on his own judge of character. But after all that had happened since he first met this guy, how reliable was that?
He realized then that he couldn't stay the night. He needed time to think; something he couldn't do around Luke. Luke made him lose all sense of control. He made Noah almost forget himself.
Somehow when they were together they fused and almost became one person.
Was that even possible?
He felt open around Luke, exposed; and he didn't think he could resist Luke.
It wasn't that he wanted to… far from it!
But he wanted to figure a few things out before he allowed this fixation - whatever it was - to continue.
He needed to be sure it could survive.
He silently crept out of Luke's bed, grimacing once at the pain in his ribs. He grabbed his clothes before tiptoeing out of the room; and softly closing the door behind him.
After getting cleaned up and dressed in the guest bathroom, he couldn't resist taking one last look at the sleeping Luke. Creeping back into the master bedroom, he leaned down to brush away the hair from the man's forehead before kissing him gently.
He covered Luke's naked body with a blanket and, with great mental difficulty, left the apartment.
The long subway ride to Brooklyn left Noah exhausted by the time he reached home.
Seeing no sign of Greg behind the shrubbery, he thought twice about entering the house. But he wanted to check on Juliet. So he pushed past the fear.
The sounds of loud snoring greeted Noah as he walked in the front door. Following the noise, Noah found Greg in a deep sleep on the living room floor.
He sighed with relief. He was safe… at least until morning.
However, as he entered his grandmother's room, what he saw stopped him dead in his tracks.
Life had evaporated from the space. The room had an airless, empty quality; and worse ever it was quiet… dead quiet.
The usual stop and go sigh of the ventilation machine, evidence of her breathing, had ceased. He knew instantly that she was no longer in that room.
His heart skipped as he approached the bed. She looked as though she was sleeping, her grey curls spilling over the pillow.
Only she wasn't.
He stood there for several moments, swallowing back the lumps in his throat. His legs eventually felt weak; and he sat shakily beside her on the bed.
He gingerly lifted her hand, clasping it between both of his own. He uncapped his left hand and traced his fingers over hers, memorizing every line and wrinkle and dip of it; knowing he would soon never see it again.
Small tear drops began to fall as he lifted that lifeless, cold hand to his cheek and kissed her palm and fingers over and over.
"I met somebody…" It was a pained whisper into her fingers, which he kept pressing between his own. "He's really amazing." He closed his eyes and breathed deeply against the ache in his stomach. "You don't mind right?" He moved his head from side to side against her hand. "I hope you don't mind."
Three small squeaks escaped before he could stop them and he bit down hard on his lip.
"Grams… I need you to tell me what to do. I don't know. I don't know if I can trust this." His body dropped over hers and he sobbed into her chest. "Please… Oh God!"
At some point, he fell asleep with his head on her lap. That's where he stayed until Reid shook him awake.
"Hey! Hey you! Moron! How long has she been dead?"
"What?" He was disoriented. He'd dreamed of Luke, of his hands and his voice.
When he jerked awake, he remembered. The pain of it hit him again like being pummeled with bricks.
"How long… has she… been dead?" Reid asked again as if talking to a child.
Noah raised his head, blinking against the bright winter sunlight streaming through the open curtains. He turned his head to stare at her and reached over to run his hand down her cold face. Fresh sobs threatened to overwhelm him again.
She was gone… really gone… and now he was alone.
"Yes hello… Reid Oliver here," Reid was pacing the room while talking on his cell. "I need you to pick up the body… Yes that's right… Juliet Oliver… Yes… Yes, she died last night… Thank you but she was old… Yes… What time?"
Noah stopped listening to him; his eyes were glued to the peaceful face of his grandmother. He was terrified. The thought of the coroner coming and taking
her away when all he wanted to do was hold onto her, keep her near.
"What's all the noise, man? Geez!" Greg wandered into the room, squinting and holding the back of his throbbing head.
Ordinarily, Noah would have enjoyed the sight of Greg suffering. But he was starting to feel numb and he welcomed that.
"What's up with you?" Reid asked, sizing up Greg before checking his iPhone for another number.
"Dunno man! Feels like something knocked my head. Don't remember a thing from last night!" he grinned. "Went for a night out with the guys and..."
He stopped when he saw Juliet. "Hey… she dead?"
"Yeah, yeah." Reid held up his hand to quiet him as he raised his phone back to his ear,
"Hello Mr. Pinker? It's Dr Reid Oliver here. My mother has died… Yes… Yes… Thank you… The family is doing just fine… Can you put things into motion please? I'd like the reading conducted as soon as possible."
Noah shook his head. As Reid hung up, his nephew let him have it.
"Gone only a few hours and that's what you're worried about?" he charged. "Don't you care? She's your mother for Christ's sake!"
"It's the circle of life, kiddo. Trust me! I'm a doctor… I know."
"Don't you feel anything?" Noah couldn't stop the tears from falling again.
Reid turned his head to one side as he studied his mother's body.
"Of course I feel something, stupid! But the world doesn't stop when one person passes! And I need this estate sorted ASAP! Things are a little tight at the moment… which reminds me… I'll be selling the property soon along with the theatre."
"The theatre?" asked a devastated Noah.
"I need the money. I can't afford to wait."
"… and I'll need you out of here today."
"I told you… I'm selling all the furniture and putting the house on the market as soon as possible. You're a grown man. You can sort yourself out, I'm sure."
By noon, Noah was seated amongst his meager possessions on the grass outside the house. Try as he might to plan his next move, he was finding it impossible to get beyond the shock and grief.
Like a zombie he had watched them zip his grandmother into a body bag and cart her away.
Still in shock, he had packed his things; and handed his house key to Reid. Then he'd watched as his uncle locked the front door and drove off in a cab.
He was still sitting there in the cold an hour later, playing with a blade of grass, when Luke drove up.
Noah didn't look up as the footsteps approached him. He couldn't trust himself to keep it together if he did.
"Noah?" Luke's voice was filled with love and concern.
Noah felt instantly guilty for the want he felt; the need to leap up and fall into his arms.
"She's gone," he said simply, still tearing the blade of grass into strips.
"I'm so sorry, Noah. You must really be hurting."
Noah sniffed back the urge to cry, releasing a shuddered breath.
"I want to try and help." Luke continued.
"I don't want to see you anymore. I want you to go, please." Noah literally had to force the words out. He knew how unconvincing he sounded.
"No you don't!"
Noah couldn't help but to look up at him. He was smiling kindly at him.
"It's all my fault."
Luke cocked his head. "Noah, how could this possibly be your fault?"
"I should have been here instead of…" He cut off, shaking his head.
"This could have happened at anytime Noah. You couldn't have been with her every second."
Noah dropped his head down again as Luke spoke. It was easier than looking at his sympathetic eyes.
After another pause Luke asked, "Why are you sitting outside with all this stuff?"
"My uncle kicked me out."
"What?" There was real anger in his voice and it surprised Noah.
"It's okay Luke. I knew he would. I just didn't think he'd do it so quickly."
"Is he still here?" Luke sounded really worried as he glanced around.
"No he left." Noah shook his head, wondering why Luke even cared where his uncle was. "But there's something weird going on."
"How do you mean?"
Noah was once again surprised at how easily he told Luke things. The words just seemed to flow from him before he even thought about it. It was as if Luke held some kind of mystical power over him.
"He said he was short on cash. Funny thing is Reid never had money problems since he got married. Anyway, he wants to sell the house right away along with the…" His voice caught at the thought of losing his safe place.
The theatre was his escape, the movies and the characters therein his friends. Worse than that, the theatre was his grandmother's pride and joy. She would be so heartbroken.
Before he could protest, Luke was seated beside him; drawing Noah's head against his chest. Luke's arms were strong and firm and exactly what he needed. He gave up trying to fight and took what comfort he could.
"Can you help me with something?" Noah asked.
"I need to break into the house. My grandmother left me something. I didn't want to try getting it while my uncle and Greg were here."
"What is it?" Luke asked interested.
"I don't know. But she told me it would secure my future."
Luke looked back at the house. "Where is Greg?"
"He's gone to work. He works at the theatre during the day."
"Okay. How do you want to do this? Break a window?"
"No need. I left my bedroom window off the latch. When I was younger, I used to sneak in that way all the time to avoid Greg."
Luke grinned at him. "Good thinking Batman!"
Noah couldn't help laughing, "Be careful… calling me Batman kind of makes you Robin!"
"So long as I get to be by your side… I don't care!"
Their eyes fiercely locked as they silently communicated their feelings.
Noah felt his heart start to hammer in that same nervousness he'd felt the night before.
It was Luke who broke the spell.
"Come on! Let's get this over with and then you're coming home with me."
Noah was about to protest.
Noah shook his head. "You're very bossy. But okay. Just for now… until I find my own place."
Luke smiled. "Sure."
They helped each other over the back fence and found Noah's window. Noah used a tree branch expertly to stick through the crack he'd left open and fully flip the latch.
He watched Luke's back muscles flex as he used both arms to lift himself through the window and tried to keep his mind on the task at hand.
Luke helped to pull Noah up through the window and then followed him through the house.
Noah paused as his hand fell on the doorknob to Juliet's room. He started to tremble as the loss hit him once more.
It was only after Luke placed a warm hand on his shoulder that he found the strength to enter.
The bed where Juliet spent the last years of her life was still unmade. The coroner had removed all the rented respiratory equipment making the room look much bigger.
Noah was suddenly rooted to the floor.
"Hey…" Luke whispered gently, "Take all the time you need."
"I can't believe she's gone. What am I going to do?"
He felt Luke's arms wrap around his waist from behind and Luke laid his head on his back, swaying slightly.
"I can't imagine what it's like for you," Luke whispered.
Noah found himself leaning back into him. He couldn't help but appreciate his presence. It definitely made things a lot easier.
"Can you help me with the bed?" he asked.
Noah pulled up the railing on one side of Juliet's hospital bed, while Luke moved quickly to do the same on the other. Together they pulled it away from the
Noah knelt on the floor and felt along it with his fingertips. He couldn't remember the exact location. But eventually one of the floorboards shifted under his fingers.
He looked around trying to find something to use as leverage.
"Can you pass me that nail file over there?"
Luke looked behind him and spotted the shiny object on the dressing table. He handed it to Noah and Noah used it to lift the board; revealing a hidden space underneath.
Noah had to slip his whole arm inside and move his hand around to find it. But eventually he felt a slip of plastic.
"Think I got it," he said, pulling out a large zippered plastic bag.
"What is it?" asked Luke.
Noah shrugged as he gently laid the hidden treasure on the dressing table. Then with Luke's help, they moved the bed back into place. Soon the room appeared like it had when they first entered.
Taking the discovery from the dressing table, Noah sat on the edge of the bed; unzipped the bag and removed the contents.
He gasped. "Last Will and Testament of Juliet Anne Wilson Oliver (nee Cosgrove)"
It was dated just two days after his grandmother's second and most crippling stroke.
"I don't get it…" Noah whispered as Luke sat beside him. "I thought her lawyer already had her will. Why would she keep a copy here… hidden under the floor boards?"
Luke shook his head perplexed. "Is it possible she changed her will without telling anybody?"
"No idea." His hands had started to shake. All the talk was firing up his grief.
"Here," said Luke softly. "Let me take that for you and let's get out of here for now. We can worry about all this later once you've had a rest. You've got to be exhausted. You were up for most of the night!"
Noah nodded and allowed Luke to lead him back out the house the way they had entered; careful to secure the window.
They loaded all of Noah's belongings into Luke's car and drove back to his apartment.
Noah still wasn't sure whether it was a good idea staying with Luke. But he was way too tired to argue the point that night.
He just wanted to hide away in a darkened room and sleep.
Link to Chapter 9
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, Sep 11 2011, 5:50 AM EDT
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