[identity profile] noelleleithe.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] noelleleithefic
Title: Need You Now
Author: [livejournal.com profile] noelleleithe
Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Luke/Noah, implied Luke/Reid
Warnings: Vague references to end-of-show spoilers
Word count: ~1,515
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything here except my own words. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: There was no pattern to how often the calls came.

Author's notes: Moey and Keri were singing at each other over Twitter. So this is their fault. Unbetaed, so errors are mine.

~~~~

A phone ringing at a quarter after one in the morning rarely carries good news with it. Even still mostly asleep, eyes open only a bare slit, Noah recognized that truth as he rolled over to answer it.

“Hello?”

Silence greeted him. He started to say hello again but realized it wasn’t just silence he was hearing. Someone was there, breathing softly.

He glanced at the display, which showed a number he didn’t recognize but an area code he knew. Central Illinois. Oakdale.

Luke.

His hand shook only slightly as he lifted the phone back to his ear. He couldn’t make out any noises other than the sound of Luke’s breathing, slowly in, slowly out. It reminded him of the breathing exercises they’d had him do in rehab after he went blind, teaching him ways to manage his anger at the world. He’d never learned all that well, not until he left Oakdale six weeks earlier for California, where there were no reminders except the ones inside his own head.

Gradually, he let his own breathing slow, until it matched Luke’s. They breathed in tandem, and Noah had to fight himself not to say anything, not to hang up. Not to do anything to threaten the gossamer-fine thread connecting them across half a continent.

He woke up the next morning with the phone still in his hand, the beeping of the low battery warning serving as his alarm.

~~~~

The next night, he lay awake for hours, his phone in his hand, trying not to expect a call that never came.

Nor the next.

~~~~

The fourth night, exhaustion caught up with him and he fell asleep before ten, dreaming of fire and infinite darkness, cut through with an ambulance siren, which his mind finally understood was the ringing of his phone. He jerked awake, scrambling to answer before his voicemail picked up, breathing hard by the time he got the phone to his ear.

Luke’s breath gasped out of him, as if he couldn’t get enough air, and Noah struggled to regulate his own, projecting calm and comfort without words. Eventually, after much longer than the first time, Luke’s breathing slowed, and again they were in sync.

Noah didn’t want to fall asleep this time. He didn’t care if Luke did; whatever Luke needed right now was okay with Noah. He just didn’t want to lose that connection. He knew it was probably pathetic of him, hanging onto any scrap he could get, but he hadn’t given up. He thought he understood Luke better than even Luke did, and he was pretty sure he knew what had been happening over the past few months.

He tried to keep his eyes open, but his body betrayed him, and he woke up alone.

~~~~

There was no pattern to how often the calls came. They always fell around the same time at night, but Luke would call three nights in a row, skip two, call twice, skip one, call one. Noah didn’t know why things happened that way, and he didn’t ask. He didn’t speak. Neither of them did.

Three weeks into their growing web of interconnected silence, as they lay breathing together, Luke finally spoke.

“I’m sorry.”

For the first time, he hung up before Noah fell asleep.

~~~~

He didn’t call again for nearly a week.

~~~~

When he finally did, Noah picked up the phone only to hear Luke crying. His heart clenched in his chest, and he wanted nothing more than to crawl through the phone and ride the airwaves back to Oakdale so he could take Luke in his arms.

Instead, he made a soft shushing sound, then took several deep breaths, in and out. After a few moments, he heard Luke doing the same. Gradually, the shakiness subsided, and Luke’s breathing evened out, and soon Noah could tell he’d fallen asleep.

~~~~

The worst moment of Noah’s life, worse than when his dad had shot at Luke, or when he’d woken up blind, or anything else from the long list of terrible things that had happened to him, was when Luke had told him he was in love with Reid. Noah hadn’t really heard anything Luke said after that, and instead of going home that night, he’d gone to a dive bar on the edge of town and drowned himself in all the liquor they’d serve him. He woke the next morning--actually, early the next afternoon--with a king-sized hangover and a sudden sense of clarity.

He knew what Luke was doing. He just didn’t know if he could do anything about it.

Luke had always fallen hard and fast, whether for a friend or a family member or a lover. He didn’t know how to do things halfway. He could no more carry on a relationship with Reid without falling in love with him than he could take off and fly. (Although Noah wouldn’t put the flying past him.)

But the dark side of Luke’s incredible capacity to love was his incredibly capacity to be hurt. Noah’s misguided actions while he was blind had cut Luke deeply, scars slicing through his psyche, leaving Luke unable to see past the throbbing ache when he was around Noah. As long as Noah stayed in Oakdale, Luke would never be able to heal fully unless he build up new defenses. And while Noah had no doubt that Luke genuinely cared about Reid, he’d realized that Luke was using the relationship as a buffer. He was surrounding himself with Reid, wrapping layer upon layer around himself, cocooning them together and blocking out the cause of his pain: Noah.

He needed time, Noah decided. If being with Reid would help Luke heal, Noah didn’t care what happened at the end. He’d gladly give Luke the time.

And then time ended.

~~~~

Noah didn’t really know what was going on in Luke’s life by this point. He and Luke had emailed every few days after he’d moved, but since Luke’s first nocturnal call, the emails had stopped. Noah had nearly emailed him the morning after Luke had cried himself to sleep, but he’d decided to wait to see what happened next.

His phone rang the next night at the usual time, a little after one, and Noah answered without speaking, expecting to hear Luke breathing, or crying. He didn’t expect Luke to start talking.

“I fucked everything up, Noah,” Luke said, voice like shattered glass. “I’m such a fucking idiot. Is it bad that I wish I could say I lied, that I didn’t love Reid? Because I did, and part of me still does, but now I don’t know if it’s real. I don’t know what’s real any more, Noah, except that you’re there and I’m here and I don’t know what to do.”

His voice broke off, and Noah said the first thing that came to mind.

“Just breathe.”

He breathed, slow and steady, listening closely until Luke settled down, until their breathing matched up. When he spoke again, he kept his voice low.

“I’m here, and you’re there,” he said. “And that’s okay. It’s okay until you decide it’s not okay any more. I’m not going anywhere. I can be pretty stubborn when I put my mind to it.”

Luke made a soft sound somewhere between a sob and a laugh, and for the first time since the calls started, Noah smiled into the phone.

~~~~

Luke kept calling erratically, sometimes talking, sometimes just breathing, and Noah kept answering. He’d shifted his sleep schedule around to accommodate an hour away in the middle of the night as needed, going out for a run if he woke up too early after a night with no call. He never initiated a call, but he did start emailing again, keeping things casual, and to his relief, Luke responded in kind.

Another three weeks passed after Luke started talking before the pattern changed. Instead of a phone call in the middle of the night, Noah was startled to hear a knock at his door.

Padding across his small apartment to the door, his clothes from the day before hastily pulled back on, Noah tried not to let himself hope, but he couldn’t really help it. He’d made friends since he moved, but only a couple had even been by his apartment, and none of them would show up unannounced over an hour past midnight. The only person who came into his apartment this late was Luke, filling every room even when he was simply a silent presence at the other end of a phone call.

Noah paused, hand on the doorknob. A year and a lifetime had passed since he’d last felt such a rush of anticipation, setting his nerves on end and his mind whirling with the prospect of what might wait for him just outside. He could swear he heard Luke breathing, even above the low roar in his ears.

Closing his eyes for just a moment, he said a silent prayer to a god he wasn’t even sure existed, and with one last deep, steadying breath, he opened the door to his future.
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July 2014

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