You let your hand caress his face. His eyes soften. “That’s not what I want..”
“Then tell me what you do want.”
He opens his mouth to say something when you’re paged over the speaker system. You stroke his cheek once more. “I gotta go. Think about it…”
When you leave the room you think you see Noah getting back into bed but you can’t be sure.
You see Luke in the hall the next day. “Hi,” he says quietly. “I was just. Off to see Noah.”
“I wouldn’t think you’d be here for any other reason.”
Flash of hurt in his eyes. You refuse to feel bad about that. “Reid… I told you, we’re not back together but I can’t just… ignore him. He needs people around him right now, namely me.”
“What about when you needed that?”
He sighs. “I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m angry with Noah. I didn’t realize how much until he told me he still wants to be with me.”
You try not to react. “And what did you say?”
“I said – I said I don’t feel the same way about him anymore.”
Well, that’s a start. “But you didn’t tell him the whole reason why, did you?”
He looks down at his feet. “I couldn’t.”
Now you’re just plain pissed. You’re too old to be treated like someone’s dirty little secret. “And why’s that, Luke?”
Luke’s eyes grow defiant. “He just had brain surgery, like you said! I don’t want to upset him like that. I don’t want to jeopardize his health in anyway or.. ”
So, now he’s making this about medicine? “Ah. Yeah, I forgot to tell you that little bit of post-op care: ‘Mr. Snyder, if you tell Noah that something happened between us you’ll pretty much be guaranteeing that he will never see again!’”
“Don’t be condescending.”
“Then don’t treat me like I’m an idiot. Telling Noah would hurt one thing only, Luke; his heart. And if you ask me, he’s already hurt yours enough. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go check on other patients’ health besides Noah.”
It felt kind of liberating to walk out on him like that, but it didn’t last long and you soon began to regret it. That is, until you see them again in Noah’s room. You sigh and can’t stop yourself from making your way inside.
When Luke sees you, he doesn’t look angry about what happened earlier, just sad.
You’re not in the mood to pick a fight just out of principle. “Noah, I need to examine you.”
“I’ll just be going.”
“Luke.. can I see you again tomorrow?” You turn towards Luke and notice his hesitation.
The door closes and you start to exam his eyes. “I asked Luke what’s going on between you, you know.”
“Oh did you?” You shine the pen light into his eyes and his reaction is stronger than yesterday.
“Yeah. He said it’s nothing but… I don’t know.”
It hurts to hear aloud. You’re glad he can’t fully see your expression. “He said you’re just trying to make sure everything goes well post-operatively, so you’re a little on edge but… things seem kind of strange, is all.”
You make a non-committal noise and turn the tables. “You two seem to be getting along well.”
He shifts awkwardly as to you test his reflexes. “I don’t know. Today went well, I think. I’m trying to show him... how much he means to me. I really messed up and I need to win back his trust. We talked about the movie and… when things were good. I think maybe we can work things out.”
“That’s just peachy,” you say dryly. “Okay, reflexes are good, your corneas are responding well. Get some rest and we’ll have a physical therapist come in tomorrow.” You leave the room before he can say anything else and switch on your cell phone. He picks up on the first ring. “You and I have to talk.”
He suggests his family’s farm. You’re rather grateful as you doubt there will be any interruptions; although, one can never be too sure when it comes to your luck lately.
He opens the door and looks utterly gorgeous. God, you want him. You quickly say something to break that train of thought. “So, this is another one of your many estates?”
He doesn’t take the bait and his expression is worried. “Is everything okay? You seemed... rather urgent on the phone.”
You decide to launch into attack mode. “I understand you and Noah spent some time reconnecting today.”
He arches an eyebrow. “Um. Yeah.”
“Heard it went well, according to Noah.”
His lip is doing that sad quiver thing. “Reid..”
“I also heard that my behavior is based upon my worry for his post-op care and that explains any sort of tension between us.”
He says nothing.
“I get it, alright?” Your voice begins to lose some of its edge. “You’re confused and you don’t want to hurt anyone. But I’m too old for this back and forth crap, Luke. So, at the risk of sounding like a self-help therapist, I think it’s time we finally talk about how we feel about one another.”
He actually looks a little relieved. “Okay. Uh, I’ll start. You’re right. About everything you’ve said to me about Noah. I just haven’t wanted to listen to you. Oddly enough, I guess it took him getting his sight back for me to finally see the way he’d been treating me. He said he still loved me, Reid, and I said who cares. I mean.”
He shakes his head, basically to himself, and takes a breath. “My feelings for him have definitely changed but I still feel like I have to support him, take care of him. He’s trying so hard to fix things with me that he seems more helpless now than when he was blind and. I guess I’m not like him; he hurt me a lot, sometimes it seemed he was just looking for ways to hurt me, to punish me for his accident but I can’t treat someone that way. So, no, I don’t want to hurt him and I can’t just stay away. Today he wanted to focus on better times and I’ll admit, it was nice to talk about our past without it being painful. I know he’s trying to show me how good things were at one point and that they can be again. And if you weren’t in the picture, maybe we’d be back together right now. But. You’re here and you want me and... I want you, too.”
It’s nice to hear, finally, but you need more than that admission. “Want me how, Luke? Just physically? Because let me tell you, while that’s a large part of my feelings for you I wouldn’t be going through this much trouble just for sex. I’ve had plenty of sex but I’ve only had a handful of actual relationships and only one that latest over the year mark. You found the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with when you were a teenager and I’m 35 and not sure if I ever felt that…”
You can tell he’s surprised by your words, but you’re not exactly sure which parts. “It’s... it’s more than just physical. I want to get to know you more, I want to spend time with you... Look, you gotta understand, Noah and I had drama right from the start. I mean, he didn’t even realize he was gay and refused to admit it. He dated a girl even though he had feelings for me and he lied about it all to his father and to her. And then his father tried to kill me and I was paralyzed for a while and..”
You guess your internal reaction must have shown on your face because he busts out into sardonic laughter. “I know, right? Kinda doesn’t even sound real to me… anyway, to say things were tough from the start would be an understatement. The one thing I knew was that I loved him but he could never say it, or even really show it… it took him a while and it’s just… really nice, with you. You tell me how you feel even if I don’t always want to hear it and… I know how you feel about me.”
That’s interesting. “Do you? How do I feel?”
You love making him feel awkward. “Well. I mean. I know you have feelings for me and… and you want to date me. Right?”
Why must he be so goddamn adorable? “Yeah, I guess I do. Doesn’t seem like you’ve really gotten a chance to do that. And, I’m rather rusty at it myself.”
He smiles. “We can both learn together, I guess.”
You shake your head, sobering. Time to face reality again. “It’s just not that easy. I want to be your lover and learn all there is to know about you, Luke. I haven’t wanted to be with anyone for more than one night in at least 10 years. So, yeah, there’s no drama here. I’m being upfront and straightforward, telling you exactly what I want. But Noah’s still around and I don’t see any way of us starting something unless he knows the full story. I don’t need anyone else to know about us; I may not be in the closet but I’m a private person. But I do need him to. And until he does, we’re going to keep going in circles and I’m not sure how much longer I can tolerate my own jealousy.”
He looks pained. “I don’t know how to tell him...”
You can feel your frustration level build. You’re just not getting anywhere here. “Wasn’t he on a date? Before we left for Dallas?”
“Yeah, I mean. He tried to play it off that it wasn’t but. Yeah. And he refused to be sorry about it.”
“So, what’s the difference, Luke? Why must you be the one feeling sorry?”
He stares straight at you. “Because… I have feelings for you. Noah and that guy... doesn’t seem like it was all that serious, not if he wants me back. You’re not someone I want to go on just one date with, and that scares me. I haven’t wanted to be with anyone else but Noah since before he even officially became my boyfriend. And now that I do, I don’t know how to tell him that…”
You’re silent for a few minutes as you absorb his words. You feel comfort in the fact that he wants something more serious with you but at the same time you can’t keep hoping for something that isn’t going to happen right now. You say the words you’d hoped you wouldn’t have to. “Then I don’t know how to be with you. And that’s all I want. I guess something as simple as that isn’t, in your world.”
You make your way to the door.
“Reid, please.” His voice is desperate.
You turn back to him. “I’m not going anywhere, Luke. You know where I am… and I’ll be there when you’re ready for me. You’re worth the wait, but I just don’t have a fight in me anymore.”
When you step outside, you start to shiver. You tell yourself it’s the cool night and proximity to the pond, but you’re not sure if you believe it.