He'd been through an Illinois winter once already, but Noah still wasn't used to the snow. He wasn’t used to way it would seep through even his thickest shoes, making his feet cold and numb or how it crunched as he walked through it, sinking a little with each step, soaking the bottom part of his legs. He glanced down, stomping to get the last bit that clung to his boots off. He shoved bare hands into his jacket pockets.
That was another thing he would never get used to: remembering to wear gloves or a scarf. Growing up in places like Fort Hood, and even Fort Bragg, where the sun shone for most of the year, winter was a shock to his system that he hadn’t expected. He picked up his pace, head down against the harsh winter wind that blew in directly from the city. Bitter, cold, unrelenting wind that chilled him all the way down to the bone and he wondered briefly how he had managed to survive his first winter.
Blonde hair and hazel eyes flashed acrossed his mind, and he closed his own eyes against the sudden ache just thinking about Luke brought him. He wondered if that would ever go away. If one day thinking of him would bring a smile and lift his heart, instead of make him feel utterly alone.
He shivered inside his too thin for this weather jacket and he could almost hear Luke threatening to send Emma after him if he didn’t start wearing his winter things. That had been his mantra the previous year.
Luke would roll his eyes whenever Noah started to complain about the cold, usually grabbing hold of the lapels of Noah’s jacket and glaring at him while he warmed Noah’s face with his hands, wrapping his scarf around Noah’s neck. Sometimes, he’d grin up at him and that smile alone, the one that was just for Noah, would heat him through all the way to his toes.
It was probably why Noah had always managed to forget to wear the scarf or gloves or the right coat.
He pushed the door to Java open with his shoulder, sniffing a little as he entered, and waved at Jeff as he rounded the counter. He pulled back the drawer, searching through the envelopes for his check. He had some Christmas shopping to get done.
“Dude, is that you’re wearing? It’s freezing out there, man.” Jeff made a passing motion at Noah, making his friend smile a little.
“I hail from the warm weather, my man. Sue me.”
“Yeah, but you were here last year. Didn’t you buy a coat?”
“He doesn’t like to wear it. Never did.”
Noah’s fingers paused in their search, and he took a deep breath, preparing for the assault on his senses whenever he was near Luke. He wondered if someday that would be different, too.
He hoped not.
He met warm eyes, felt all the rush of everything that he couldn't say and already had swirl around him and when it was just a small glow inside his stomach, he smiled at Luke. “Hey, I told you, it was itchy.”
Luke rolled his eyes but Noah could see the quirk of his lips. “Fine, but when you get sick, no complaining to me.”
It was so casual. Something he would have said before elections, and Kevins, and alcohol and stubbornness and doubt had entered their lives.
Jeff cleared his throat, pointing at Noah. “Ditto for me,” then walked to serve the only other customer his drink.
Luke placed his empty cup on the counter, waiting for Noah to finish what he was doing. “You really should probably wear it.”
It was soft, almost a whisper between them.
Noah glanced up, smiling his thanks and nodding. “I promise.”
Luke’s face brightened some and Noah ached for the smile, that smile, the one that was his. “Good.” He waved quickly, and Noah watched him walk away again. Noah seemed to be watching him to do that a lot.
He fished his check out from the pile finally and when he glanced up, Jeff was leaning against the counter, head canted to one side. He opened his mouth but Noah stopped him.
“I know. I’m an idiot.”
His friend made a thoughtful face for a moment and then nodded, “That’s about right.”
Noah stuck his tongue out and Jeff laughed, shooing him out of the coffeehouse. “It’s your day off, dude. Get a life.”
When he walked outside, Luke was hovering near the entrance and Noah almost bumped into him. They froze, staring at each other for a long moment and then Luke moved. His hands pulling at his own neck, and by the time Noah realized what was happening, Luke’s scarf was already wrapped around his neck.
By the time he had regained any sense, Luke was walking away, down the street and out of sight.
And Noah was left alone…with Luke's scarf around his neck and Luke’s scent surrounding him. He tugged at the material, wrapping it once more around him, and walked in the opposite direction.
Jeff was right. He was an idiot.