[identity profile] noelleleithe.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] noelleleithefic
Title: Telluride
Author: noelleleithe
Rating: R, maybe NC-17
Pairings: Luke/Noah
Word count: ~4,165
Warnings: A little mild angst… maybe melancholia is a better description?
Disclaimer: I don't own anything here except my own words. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: He wanted to make those eyes sparkle with life, the way they were meant to do.

Author's notes: Another older one I never posted here! Written for [livejournal.com profile] dazzling_icer
for [livejournal.com profile] thehayloft’s 2011 holiday gift exchange. "Telluride" is by Josh Gracin (lyrics slightly edited). Beta by escapes.

~~~~



Telluride, the snow falling down
I was waking up in that sleepy little town


1.

Noah rarely paid much attention when people walked into the bar. Some were loud, in volume or appearance, and some were quiet, but all of them were the same to him: customers. Customers, and a chance to earn a tip—with any luck, ones big enough that he wouldn’t have to scrounge for rent again this month.

This customer was different.

He walked through the door from the ski lodge’s lobby as if he owned the place, which wasn’t unique, but the way he carried himself made it seem as if he wasn’t aware of his own presence. He wore an unzipped coat, jeans, and a sweater, like most of the other people around, but the clothes clung to his body like he was born to wear them. He had clear, pale skin that seemed to emit its own light, and dirty-blond hair cut stylishly short, but with enough length to give it a casual tousled look. If Noah had to guess, he would peg the man for either a model or an actor.

The man glanced his way, then looked over again, the gaze lingering this time. He turned toward the bar, and Noah stood waiting, trying not to stare too hard at the man’s long, rolling strides. He moved like a model, too.

The man pulled off his gloves as he approached, revealing more smooth, creamy skin and long, slim fingers. "Something warm," he said as he stopped in front of Noah and stuffed the gloves into a coat pocket. The request sounded more like a question than an order. "Need to take the chill off."

Noah reached for a glass mug. "Irish coffee?"

Halfway through taking off his coat, the man paused and almost smiled. "Hold the Irish," he said, lifting an eyebrow, and Noah got the message.

He filled the mug from the dispenser behind the bar, bending below to grab the carton of half-and-half. Turning back to the man, he put the coffee in front of him and lifted the cream in silent question. The man nodded, and Noah poured some out into one of the small pitchers they kept on hand. He set it down next to the coffee and moved one of the sweetener dispensers within reach.

"Thanks." The man fell silent after the single word, adding sugar and cream to his coffee while Noah leaned against the counter behind the bar and watched.

Those hands fascinated Noah. The fingers were so long they almost looked like they had extra joints in them, and their movements were graceful but still masculine. The man wrapped both hands around the mug and lifted it slowly to his mouth, and Noah followed the movement with his gaze unconsciously—at least, until the coffee made it to the man’s mouth and their eyes caught.

The man paused before taking the sip he’d been going for, and he set down the mug, never looking away from Noah. "So," he said, and in his peripheral vision Noah could see those fingers playing with the handle of the mug. "How long have you been in Telluride?"

Forever and not long enough, Noah thought. He shrugged one shoulder. "Almost five years," he said. "Left home when I was nineteen and haven’t looked back."

One aristocratic eyebrow lifted. "Where’s home?"

Noah shrugged again before leaning against the bar on one forearm. "All over," he said. "But Missouri back then. I don’t have a real hometown or anything. I was an Army brat."

The man finally broke their gaze, taking another sip of his coffee. He set the mug down and ran a finger along the smooth wood of the bar.

"I’m from Illinois," he said. "I’ve lived in the same small town all my life." He lifted his head and gave a wry grin. "Trust me. Having a real hometown isn’t all it’s cracked up to be."

Noah didn’t ask for details. He’d been behind the bar long enough to know his boundaries. He was surprised, then, when the other man sat up straighter and smiled a little more naturally. "I’m Luke, by the way," he said, holding out a hand.

It wasn’t unheard of for a patron to just introduce himself like that, but it wasn’t the norm, either. Most just talked, maybe bothered to ask Noah’s name, nothing more. Noah lifted his hand to shake, feeling warmth seep into his skin as those long fingers wrapped around his.

"Noah," he said. "Nice to meet you, Luke from Illinois."

Another fleeting almost-smile, and Luke drew his hand back, turning his attention back to his coffee. He took another sip and wrapped both hands around the mug.

"Have you ever been sledding?" he asked, not waiting for an answer. "I’ve been going sledding in the winter back at the farm as long as I can remember. First it was my dad and some other older relatives taking me, and then eventually it was my turn to take the younger kids. It’s always a blast, flying down the side of the hill, the wind in your face, laughing like idiots even when you all get thrown off into the snow."

He deflated like a burst balloon. "Funny how it doesn’t feel like that when it’s your life that’s careening out of control."

Noah could relate. He’d been up and down that hill in his own life more times than he cared to remember. But he wasn’t going to talk about that. That wasn’t how the bartender-customer relationship worked. Even if the drinks were alcohol-free, the rules remained the same: he listened, commiserated, maybe offered some clichéd advice if it came down to it. But he himself should remain as blank a slate as possible.

"Know the feeling, man." He slapped himself mentally for breaking every rule in every book, but he kept talking anyway. "Love it here, but one thing it isn’t is cheap. I’ve been pinching pennies since day one. Should probably get out or something, I guess, but…."

He trailed off, but Luke nodded in understanding, though he still didn’t look up. "Change is hard," he said. "Doesn’t matter if you choose it or get pushed into it. Even if you know things will be better, it’s tough making the move."

Silence fell between them, but companionable, not awkward. Noah ran a cloth across the polish-shined surface of the bar, and Luke sipped his coffee. The soft strains of easy-listening holiday music drifted from the speakers in the corners, sounds Noah rarely heard over the noise from of customers in the bar and ski-bunnies in the halls. But a rare quiet had settled, since at mid-afternoon on a gorgeous day, nearly all the lodge’s visitors were out on the slopes.

Which made Noah wonder again why Luke was here instead.

Maybe Luke had a touch of psychic in him, because he answered Noah’s unasked question. "I came out with some friends from back home," he said, his voice barely audible over the low tones of an unidentified crooner wishing them a happy holiday. "They’re all out there now, skiing or snowboarding or whatever they decided to do today. But I needed a break." He looked up, catching Noah’s gaze. "The problem with faking a smile is that eventually, it starts to show cracks. And then, so do you."

Noah didn’t know what made him say it, but once it was out, he couldn’t exactly take it back. "I’m off in thirty, if you’d like some low-pressure company."

Luke’s response came some quickly, Noah would’ve thought he’d been expecting the offer. "Make another cup of coffee as good as that one, and you’re on."

That surprised a short laugh out of Noah. "One more awesome cup of coffee, coming right up," he replied, watching the smile that Luke gave him. Short, yet, but he’d bet a week of tips it was at least real.


2.

A few other customers had drifted in right at the end of Noah’s shift, and he’d hung around a few extra minutes to help get things transferred over to his relief behind the bar. He more than half expected Luke to be gone once he emerged from the back room, but the other man stood leaning against the opening into the hallway, hands in his pockets, coat slung over one arm. He seemed miles away, though, his gaze turned out the window but lacking focus.

"So, any big plans?" Noah asked as he stopped next to Luke. "Or will this be a busy couple of hours staring into space?"

Luke almost smiled again. Noah knew it was probably bad that he was keeping count of half-smiles versus smiles.

"I was thinking of staring into a fireplace, actually," Luke said, pushing off the wall and nodding toward the elevators. "My suite has a nice one."

Normally, nothing in the world would have made Noah even consider going back to the room of a guest, much less one he’d just met. Business and pleasure just did not mix. Still, he followed Luke down the hallway in silence. Something about the other man drew him in like no other he’d met before. Not that he had a wealth of experience in that arena, but considering it’s what got him kicked out of his father’s house, he’d had to run a few experiments to be sure, right?

Never a customer, though—well, not ones he’d known were customers, though a couple had turned up ordering over the bar later. And acting as if they’d never met, as back room hookups were wont to do. One of the many reasons Noah hadn’t gone that route in a while.

This route was new. Past the elevator, which surprised him. He’d figured Luke for the view from the top floor, but instead, he led the way to the end of the hall and around the corner to the end unit. A little larger than a regular lodge room, with a small sitting area and the promised fireplace, both sitting just feet from the king-sized bed and its pile of down pillows and comforters.

Noah averted his eyes and waved a hand toward the bathroom instead. "Mind if I…?"

Luke glanced over. "Help yourself," he said. "I’m going to order up something. Hot chocolate maybe. Too early for dinner."

Noah shrugged. "Be right out."

He closed the door and lowered his forehead against it. What the fuck was he doing? Okay, that much he knew, but why now? Why this guy? What happened to the self-control that had kept him on the gay-but-narrow for so long?

He knew the answer already. It was the eyes. Smooth caramel dipped in rick dark chocolate, soft and open, but older than the mountains outside and so world-weary it made Noah tired just to look at him.

He wanted to make those eyes sparkle with life, the way they were meant to do.

Opening his eyes, he pushed away from the door and, since he was there anyway, made use of the toilet and washed his hands. A small bottle of mouthwash caught his eye, but he resisted the urge to use it. He’d rather taste coffee and chocolate than minty freshness.

When he stepped back into the main room, it took him a second to find Luke. He’d stretched out on the floor in front of the fireplace, jacket and shoes discarded, head on a pillow and bare toes pointing toward the flames that jumped and flickered behind the screen. He turned his head up and back and gave Noah another of those not-quite smiles.

"Saved you a spot," he said, nodding toward the pillow sitting a couple of feet away from him. Noah toed off his shoes and sank into the soft carpet, following Luke’s lead and lying on his back, hands folded across his stomach.

For a few minutes, they just breathed. Finally Luke broke the silence. "I ordered hot chocolate in an hour," he said. "I figure that should be enough time."

Noah didn’t need to ask for what. Luke was already moving, rolling toward Noah and onto all fours, then to straddle Noah’s hips. Noah’s hands came up to Luke’s waist automatically, and when Luke braced both hands on the floor and leaned down, Noah lifted his mouth to meet Luke’s kiss.

Things weren’t rough or rushed between them. Passionate, yes, with deep kisses and moans and whispered encouragement. But they took their time undressing each other, kissing and touching newly exposed skin, moving with urgency but not desperation. Noah didn’t have a chance to ask what Luke wanted, or if they needed protection. Once they were naked, Luke settled against him, wrapped his long fingers around both their cocks, and kissed Noah deeply while he stroked them off.

It shouldn’t have felt like they’d been together forever. Like every touch was just as familiar as it was new. Noah shouldn’t have had to bite back words he couldn’t possibly mean when his orgasm overtook him.

Nothing and no one in his life had ever felt so right as this man coming apart in his arms.


3.

Afterward, they lay curled together, heedless of the mess cooling on their skin, just kissing with soft, open mouths. Noah pushed sweat-dampened hair back from Luke’s forehead so he could look into his eyes, shining in the firelight. "Where did you come from?" he wondered aloud.

Luke smiled, slow and lazy. "I’m beginning to wonder if it wasn’t an alternate universe," he said, turning his head to kiss Noah’s palm. "It sure doesn’t feel much like reality right now."

Noah grinned and kissed him again. "Why don’t we get cleaned up before room service gets here? I hear these fancy suites have really nice robes and slippers for guests to use."

"They do," Luke replied, pushing back to sit on his heels. "Thick and soft, and big enough to drown in." His eyes roved up and down Noah’s naked body. "I think they might be a little short on you, though. You are one long drink of water, I have to say."

Noah chuckled as he rolled into a squat and then stood, holding a hand out to Luke. "Guess we’ll find out."

The shower had a huge showerhead that poured hot water over them like a tropical rainfall, and Noah enjoyed exploring Luke’s body as much as he enjoyed having Luke explore his. They didn’t talk much, letting their hands and lips carry the conversation for them.

Clean and dry, they slipped into the robes and slippers, finding that Luke was right: Noah’s robe barely reached his knees. He stared down at his bare, skinny calves as Luke snickered.

"It’s okay," Luke said through his laughter, taking Noah’s hand and pressing a kiss into the back of it. "I like the view. And if your legs get cold, well, I’ll just have to warm you up."

A knock at the door signaled the arrival of room service, and Noah ducked out of sight as best he could while Luke handled it. The resort had no written rules against fraternization between staff and guests, but Noah wasn’t taking any chances. If nothing else, word would get around the staff, and he didn’t relish the idea of being teased by his co-workers for the next few months.

Door closed and locked, Luke looked around for Noah, who stepped up to his side. "Extra whipped cream and everything," Luke said, flashing Noah a hot look. "Should’ve asked them to leave the can."

Noah chuckled as Luke handed him one of the big mugs. "There’s always dessert with dinner," he teased, but Luke seemed to take the suggestion seriously—well, half-seriously, at least.

"Duly noted," Luke said, nodding back toward their little nest of blankets in front of the crackling fire. "Have a seat. We can maybe talk a little?"

He sounded as uncertain as Noah had heard at that last question. "Talk," Noah said, following Luke over and sinking onto the floor next to him. "What do you want to talk about?"

Luke shrugged one shoulder and sipped at his hot chocolate. "Life. The universe. Everything." He shot Noah that almost-smile. "What kind of holiday magic brought you into my life."

The note of teasing in his voice couldn’t quite mask the longing. Noah knew the last thing he needed was to get involved more deeply than a one-night stand with someone who was just passing through, but something about Luke drew him in and wouldn’t let him go.

"I grew up an Army brat," Noah started, and before he knew it, the whole story had spilled out of him. Growing up with a domineering, militaristic father. Figuring out at 16 that he was gay, when he fell for his best friend. Fighting to keep it hidden from his father, enlisting right out of high school, and then, barely two years later, getting drummed out under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell when he was caught with his hands down the wrong pair of pants. He couldn’t go home, and all he had was an old, beat-up truck and the few thousand dollars he’d managed to save out of his meager pay. One of his platoon mates had been from Colorado’s ski country and had said seasonal jobs were easy to come by, so that’s where Noah headed. He’d struggled ever since to make ends meet, but…

"It’s worth it?" Luke interjected, the first time he’d said more than encouraging syllables during Noah’s story. "To have your freedom? Make your own decisions and not have anyone looking over your shoulder and saying you’re doing it wrong?"

Noah paused, studying Luke’s face. He’d assumed Luke had the same kind of freedom, albeit on a much higher income level, but those questions made him wonder if he hadn’t jumped to conclusions.

"Yeah," Noah said, watching Luke carefully. "Only what you expect from yourself, not what other people expect from you."

Luke just looked at him for a few long moments. Their mugs were long empty, set aside on the hearth, but when Luke leaned forward to kiss him, he still tasted of chocolate and cream.

The flavor lingered on Noah’s tongue, even as his mouth moved from Luke’s to explore skin bared as the robe slipped away, burnished golden by the firelight. Noah didn’t know when Luke had slid a handful of condoms and a bottle of lube into his pocket, but when he handed them over, laid back, and spread his legs in invitation, Noah’s body throbbed with want.

He didn’t know how long they spent there together. He didn’t know if he could call it making love when they’d only just met, but that’s what it felt like. They fit together in so many ways, and Luke felt just as good inside Noah as he’d felt around him.

It was after eight before Luke’s rumbling stomach set them off into laughter and a call to room service. They showered together, washing away the evidence of their activities before slipping back into their robes to eat their dinner. Noah didn’t hide this time, not really caring any more what might happen. This night was worth it.



4.

Noah watched as Luke dug into his meal, letting him get half his burger down before speaking.

"So," Noah said, several bites into his own sandwich. "You know how I ended up here. How about you?"

Luke stopped moving, even stopped chewing for a few seconds, before finishing up his bite and swallowing. He washed it down with a long sip of water, set down the glass, and carefully didn’t meet Noah’s eyes.

"I was born into money," he said, sounding apologetic about it as he fiddled with his fries. "And I mean, lots of money. Parents, stepparents, grandparents, you name it. And every one of them was miserable in some way. They could buy and sell anything and almost anything they wanted, but they were never happy. And it didn’t take me all that long to figure it out. Even as a kid, I could tell."

He finally lifted his eyes to meet Noah’s. "I came out when I was sixteen. My mom was pregnant, and she didn’t get it. My dad did. I mean, my stepdad." He shook his head. "Long story. Anyway, it was a shitty year, and it hasn’t gotten a whole lot better since then."

Noah reached out to cover Luke’s fingers where they were tearing a French fry into tiny little bits, stilling them.

"Okay," he said, keeping his voice steady and calm. "What do you want to do?"

Luke’s gaze flew up to meet his, and Noah got the distinct sensation no one had ever asked him that—or, at least, not anyone that didn’t have an expectation on the answer.

"I want to write." The words seemed to come from his soul. "I have all these stories in my head, and I can’t get them down fast enough. But I can’t…. I never get the chance. I’m running my biodad’s company and helping my family and trying to get a hospital wing built—"

Noah cut him off with a kiss, not pulling back until Luke’s mouth had gone soft and open under his.

"I didn’t ask what everyone else wants," he whispered against Luke’s lips. "I asked what you want."

It had taken Noah a long time to figure out the difference for himself, years of working hard to keep himself fed, clothed, and living indoors. Luke hadn’t had to fight for anything so basic as being who he was. The cool, confident man who’d walked into Noah’s life earlier that afternoon was an illusion that Noah was just starting to get a glimpse behind, and he’d bet the few dollars in his bank account that he was the first who ever had.

Luke’s hands came up to cup Noah’s head, and those beautiful eyes met Noah’s. "I don’t know," he admitted, followed by a slow smile. "But I think maybe I’m ready to find out."

This time, when Luke kissed Noah, he took control immediately, leading Noah first into a soul-deep kiss and then, slowly, to the bed. He slid Noah’s robe away and touched every inch of his skin, and Noah followed his lead. Luke didn’t speak again until he was buried deep inside, stretched out across Noah’s body. He kissed Noah gently and looked into his eyes.

"You’re the first thing in years I’ve been sure I wanted just for me," he whispered, and Noah couldn’t look away while Luke made love to him.

Afterward, cleaned up and bare under the covers, Luke curved into Noah’s side, head resting over his heart. "Thank you," he murmured.

Noah skated his fingers down Luke’s back. "What for?"

"Listening." Luke kissed Noah’s chest. "Letting me be the screwed-up mess I am and not expecting anything."

Noah laughed softly. "We’re all screwed-up messes, just in different ways. You’ll figure things out."

He felt Luke’s smile against his skin. "Maybe I will," he said. "If I do, you’ll be at the top of my list for thank-you cards."

Noah could not, would not, let himself think about what that meant. Luke had a home and a life to go back to, crazy as it might be. He wouldn’t stay in Telluride just because Noah had gone and gotten himself attached too quickly again.

Noah sighed softly as Luke relaxed under his touch, clearly drifting off to sleep. It doesn’t matter, he told himself. You’ve got him now, and you’ll always have the memory of this.

He told himself again that it didn’t matter when Luke kissed him goodbye two days later.

Maybe someday he’d believe it.


5.

"Hey, Mayer!"

Noah lifted his head and tried to smile at his boss. "Yeah?"

"Got a call for you."

What the…? Noah didn’t have that many friends, but none of them would call him here unless something was seriously wrong. Noah was at the door of the small office in three strides and steeled himself for bad news when he took the phone.

"Hello?"

"Hey, hot stuff." Noah’s heart jumped and beat faster at the familiar, warm tones. "There’s this hotel lounge in town that just lost its head bartender, and they’re looking for someone with experience. Comes with a room on-site. Know anyone who might be interested?"

Noah couldn’t breathe for a few seconds. "I…." He cleared his throat. "I just might, at that."

"Good." Noah could tell just from the sound how wide Luke’s smile was. "Have him give me a call as soon as he figures out how soon he can get here. We’ll be waiting."

Noah’s head spun from the suddenness of it all. "We?"

"Yeah." Luke’s voice dropped several registers, low enough to hit Noah below the belt. "The job, and me. If you want both of us, that is."

Noah smiled, a road of endless possibilities opening up before him. "Oh, I want."

"Good," Luke replied. "Because so do I."


In his eyes my world came so alive
I never will forget the moment he arrived
In Telluride

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