Luke runs full tilt into the barn, as fast as his legs can carry him. “Dad Dad Dad Dad Dad Dad Dad!” he yells out with each step.
“Whoa there,” Holden picks him up in mid-yell, swinging him up into the air. “Calm down, kiddo, you don’t want to spook the horses.” He settles Luke on his hip and continues filling a feed bag with the other. “So what’s all the fuss about?”
Luke tries to calm down, he likes the horses and likes when they like him too. “It’s Valentine’s Day.”
“It is?” Holden sets the bag around Babe Ruth’s neck and turns his focus to Luke. “Are you sure?”
“Dad,” he giggles, scolding, swinging his legs a little.
“That’s right, that’s right, I remember.” He hands Luke a few carrots and sets him back down on the ground. “Did you do anything fun in school today?”
Luke goes over to Leonardo, his new favorite horse. Leo’s his favorite because he’s the youngest, like Luke, and his name starts with an L. Like Luke. Also, he has the same name as the Ninja Turtle. Luke and Leo are friends, and Luke secretly thinks that Leo likes him best too.
“Hi Leo,” he whispers, remembering his dad’s rule about speaking quietly to the horses. As Leo nibbles on a carrot out of Luke’s hand, Luke turns back to his dad. “We made Valentines out of paper and glitter and stuff. Miss Clarkson says we’re supposed to give them to people we love, because today is special and they’re special to us.”
“Sounds about right,” Holden finishes up the chores and joins Luke at Leo’s stall. “Who are you giving yours to?”
Luke glances around, making sure they’re alone. Seeing this, Holden crouches down so they’re eye-to-eye. “I don’t know,” Luke admits in a whisper, a little worried. “I love lots of people.”
Holden smiles wide, ruffles Luke’s hair. “That’s good that you love lots of people, Luke. That’s always a good thing, okay? You give your Valentine to whoever you want.”
“But,” Luke wiggles around, giving Leo the last carrot. “Everyone already has a Valentine. You have Mommy. And Jack and Aunt Meg have Valentines, and Aaron already gave one to Grandma,” he pouts, crossing his arms. “Who’s mine?”
Holden picks him up again, so they both can pet Leo’s velvet-soft nose. “How about you and I share? Is that okay?”
Luke thinks about it, weighing his options. He’s never really been a fan of sharing. “I guess.” Then he perks up. “Leo will be my Valentine!”
He’s not sure why Holden laughs, it seems like a perfectly good idea to him. “Sure, kiddo,” Holden says. “This year, Leo can be yours.” They feed Luke’s Valentine an extra apple, and Holden swings Luke up onto his shoulders as they leave the barn. Luke laughs, holding on tight, and listens as his dad tells him that he’ll always have someone love him and be his Valentine.
He just hopes it isn’t a horse every year.
Fort Riley, Kansas
He stands on his tiptoes, peering out over the windowsill to the street outside. There’s a group of kids playing in the yard across from him. Freeze Tag, he thinks. Or maybe Red Light, Green Light. He’s played that one in recess before. He likes it. He’s good at following directions.
One of the kids turns in the direction of his house, and Noah immediately drops back down to his feet, out of sight of the window. He doesn’t want them to think he’s spying. He also doesn’t want them to see him and invite him over. He doesn’t know them, and he’s not allowed to talk to strangers.
They’ve been at this base for just over a week. Noah knows they’re going to move again in the next year, and he’s going to be a ‘new kid’ again. He doesn’t want to, he’s pretty sure he already hates it. He’s not good at talking to new people, he gets too scared of doing the wrong thing, of breaking a rule.
The yelling and laughing gets louder for a second, so Noah moves away. He goes to the middle of the room instead, away from the temptation of any window, and sits on the floor. He pulls his Ninja Turtles backpack onto his lap and digs out the bundle of Valentine’s Day cards they exchanged in class today.
Noah smiles, flips through each one. He likes that they had to bring in enough for each person in the class, so no one gets left out. He separates them into two piles- one with Valentines that kids wrote out themselves, the other of Valentines with the neat, pretty handwriting that can only mean the kid’s mom wrote it out for them. The Mom Pile has way more cards, and Noah’s kinda proud that his would be in the Kid Pile. He’s getting good at doing things himself.
If he tries really hard, he can still hear the kids playing outside. So instead, Noah goes over to the old television, the one they hauled with them from Georgia, the one that has a broken antenna and four channels that work. Noah likes it, because it’s the same no matter where they go. It’s like his version of a security blanket (he’s never really been allowed to have one). He turns it on and curls up in front, knees drawn up, eyes on the screen.
In the week that they’ve been here, Noah’s learned that channel 4 plays movie right up until the 6 o’clock news. Which is perfect, because that’s when his dad gets home. He smiles wide as the black-and-white screen fizzles and shakes for a second before becoming clear again. He really likes movies.
Noah shoves the cards back into his backpack, never taking his eyes off the screen as a man in a suit pulls out a gun and starts running after another man. He can’t hear the kids outside anymore, and he can’t see the Mom Pile anymore. This is better.
But he can’t help but wonder what city and state he’ll be in for Valentine’s Day next year.
Luke climbs out of his bedroom window, settling onto the roof covering the floor below. He leans back in for just a second, just enough time to grab the bottle of vodka he’d stashed on his desk earlier. Then back into the cool night air. At the end of the driveway, he sees the taillights of Aaron’s car turn onto the road and fade away, heading towards town. Towards his date.
It’s Valentine’s Day. Yay.
Luke holds up the bottle, toasts to no one, and takes a drink. He isn’t wearing a jacket, and that’s just fine. It just means he’ll get numb faster. Through the open window and cracked-open door, he can hear his parents getting ready to go out for dinner. He remembers Maddie and Casey at lunch today planning their night out.
If the bottle weren’t mostly full, he’d throw it right now. Just to hear the smash.
He can’t believe it hurts this much, being alone. On this stupid night of all nights. All his friends going out with the girlfriends, or boyfriends. And Luke can’t. Despite Kevin’s attempts to set him up with someone, he doesn’t feeling like taking some random girl out. He doesn’t feeling like taking some random anyone out. And he definitely doesn’t want to listen to that quiet, tiny, insistent voice in his head that taunts him about not wanting a girl.
Maddie and Casey. His parents. Will and Gwen. Kevin and every blonde girl ever. Those are couples that are happy and together and they can go out as couples and people don’t care.
Luke can’t do that. He can’t tell anyone who he is, and he definitely can’t go out . With a guy . And be happy.
He take another drink, chugging this time, until his throat burns and his chest burns and his eyes burn. He wishes he could just stay here, right here, on the roof, in a vodka bottle, until college. And he wishes he could get the courage to go to some college in a big city- New York, Los Angeles, Paris, somewhere- and find people like him. People who got him and what he was.
But that was probably never going to happen. Definitely not tonight.
There’s some pain in his stomach, or just below his stomach, Luke’s not sure. So he drinks some more to drown it out. Just a few more hours, he tells himself. Just a few more hours and it’ll be midnight and this day and all its stupid feelings will be over.
Tomorrow will be like every other day.
Luke takes another drink.
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
He sits at one of the tables in the middle of the library. It’s the best place to hide- eyes usually go to the front or back. He can disappear in the middle. Blend in. He learned a long time ago that it was for the best, if no one notices you. If they ignore you, they can’t find out your defects, your faults, your-
Noah shakes his head a little, taking a quick glance around to make sure no one saw how ridiculous that probably looked. He goes back to his book, The Top 100 Universities, 2005 Edition . He bookmarks and highlights any school that has the word ‘film’ in their list of majors, double-highlights any college not in Missouri or near an Army base. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago...
He triple-highlights Northwestern. That’s where his neighbor Grant is going next year; he already got accepted. Noah tries not to think about that, about having to be alone again next year, and he definitely doesn’t think about the stupid Valentine’s Day card he has in his backpack. The one he bought, signed, sealed, but is absolutely never ever actually giving to Grant. What guy their age gives another guy a Valentine’s Day card?
Voices off in a far corner distract Noah from thoughts he doesn’t want to think. It’s that obnoxious group of jocks from third period English. (He’s not even sure if they actually are jocks, but they definitely act like it.) Right now they’re gathered around a back table, taunting some poor marching band kid, closing in on him more and more.
Noah wants to sigh. The guy picked one of the farthest back tables, of course the jocks would notice him. If he knew the guy, if he was friends with him, maybe he would’ve warned him. But Noah’s not. Noah doesn’t really do friends. It’s a jinx- the second he makes one, either they go away or he does. Grant is proof of that, right?
And it’s not like Grant and he are that close, anyway. It’s not like Grant got him a card for-
He shuts himself up again. Guys don’t do that. He should know better. Just like the marching band nerd- they’re setting themselves up for punishment when they make mistakes like that, showing their weaknesses.
There’s a crash as books get knocked to the floor, followed by laughter and words Noah pretends he doesn’t hear. He can’t get involved. It’s not his fight.
It’s not that he’s scared, he’s just being cautious. Smart. Besides, it’s not like anyone would stick up for him if he was bullied around, right?
He keeps his head down, focused on the book. He highlights Northwestern one more time as the taunting behind him gets louder.
One more year. He really can’t wait to graduate and get away from all of this.
Luke taps his pencil fast, fast, faster against his notebook. God, he feels like he’s in grade school again, waiting for the last bell to ring so he can run home. That’s all he wants to do now, and it’s not even a “home” he’s trying to run to. It’s Noah’s dorm.
He (hopefully) hides his grin-and-blush combo. Noah’s roommate is staying at his girlfriend’s tonight. Which means Noah’s room will be all theirs. And since he’s apparently in charge of Valentine’s this year, pretty much all of his plans are riding on that.
He clears his throat, definitely not thinking about riding. No. Definitely not. Definitely not thinking about Noah’s hands. Or the arms they’re attached to. Or that smile on his face last time he saw him in Java, the way he had grabbed Luke’s jacket and not let go-
Somebody else clears their throat. Oops. “Yeah, Mom?” he keeps his voice light, casual.
She raises and eyebrow, smiling in a way that’s both loving and exasperated. “Do I want to know where your head’s at right now?”
No. “What? What are you talking about? I’m...” he glances down at his notes. “I’m really thinking about this proposal to help fund a homeless shelter. You know, even if we approve the proposal, we’ll only be able to fund about-”
“-About 65 percent of the budget, yes.” Lily is still smiling. “I said that fifteen minutes ago.”
He stops. “Oh. Um.” He flashes his best ‘I’m so pretty, gotta love me’’ smiles. “Sorry?”
Lily laughs, shaking her head. “It’s 5:35. I guess we can wrap things up for the day. Since I’m guessing you have plans.”
He makes a bunch of noncommittal noises as he lunges for his bag, throwing the pencil and (empty) notebook inside. “Come on, Mom. We didn’t do much for Valentine’s Day last year, so this is, like, the first real Valentine’s Day Noah’s ever celebrated. I have to make it special, don’t I?”
He’s not above this, not really. Noah unknowingly has this ‘poor little orphan boy’ thing to him that Lily and Emma have completely succumbed to. Even now, Lily gets that soft, motherly look on her face. “Okay, okay, go ahead. Have fun tonight,” she waves him away.
He manages to not look her in the eye as he hurries out, not wanting to give away what kind of fun he’ll be having. He’s halfway to the car by the time he manages to get his phone out and dialed, not surprised when he gets Noah’s voicemail. He manages not to roll his eyes. Noah’s outgoing message is so formal compared to Luke’s “Hey, not here, leave a message” throwaway. It always makes him laugh.
“Hey, Mayer. I got done with the foundation meeting a little bit early, so I’m gonna run a few errands, and then I’ll be waiting for you at your place,” he makes sure to sing-song that a little bit, just in case Noah doesn’t know what he plans on doing back at ‘his place.’ “See you soon. Love you.”
His first stop is Yo’s, to finalize plans for Casey’s surprise party the next night. Then he stops to pick up some DVDs (including Here to Eternity , just to be a smartass), and dinner. He wants a lavish, home-cooked meal, but he also doesn’t want to accidentally poison his boyfriend. So, Emma to the rescue.
It’s not cheating. Because once she heard of his plan, and the whole Noah’s-First-Valentine’s thing, Emma insisted on cooking for them. Who was he to go against his grandmother’s wishes?
Noah had given him his keys earlier today, so Luke lets himself into the dorm room, setting the food on Noah’s desk, the DVDs on the television, and himself on the bed. Everything’s where it’s supposed to be.
Luke is where he’s supposed to be.
Noah has, admittedly, had better days. Two tests to get through (and, okay, it’s not a real holiday, but who schedules a test on Valentine’s Day? Why?), and he’d forgotten his notes for his Cinema Verite class, and the espresso machine broke down half through his shift at Java...
Noah’s tired. He wants to sit down, he wants to eat something, and he wants to hug Luke.
Not necessarily in that order.
Luckily Brian arrives to take the rest of his shift just as he’s about to unleash some rage on the espresso machine (or pout heavily at it). Noah’s never clocked out and run out faster in his life.
When he gets to his room, the door’s unlocked, thank God. And there’s Luke, sitting on the edge of his bed. Normally, when he steps into his room, Noah hangs up his jacket behind the door, drapes his messenger bag over his desk chair, and turns on his TV.
Not today. He drops everything to the floor even before the door shuts behind him and heads right to the bed. Luke opens his mouth, about to stand up to greet him, but Noah keeps going, slow-tackling Luke onto the blankets, landing on top of him and closing his eyes, his head resting against Luke’s stomach.
Luke laughs, runs his fingers through Noah’s hair. “Long day?”
He nods into Luke’s shirt, wrapping his arms tight around Luke’s waist and holding on. The muscles in his neck and back finally loosening up as Luke’s fingers keep working their magic, carding through his hair, down the back of his neck to rub his shoulders. He’s half-asleep when a smell- a very specific, very awesome smell- reaches his brain. “Sweet potatoes?”
“Yes, dumpling?” he can feel Luke smiling, teasing.
He lifts his head, finally, mock-glaring. “I smell sweet potatoes,” he clarifies.
Luke nods, pulling his hands away and reaching for the basket (it’s a real honest-to-God picnic basket, Noah had no idea those actually existed) on Noah’s desk. “Valentine’s Feast courtesy of one Emma Snyder.”
Noah sits up eagerly, tiredness forgotten. Between the dining hall and Java, homemade food was worth more than pure gold. Emma’s homemade food, even better. “OhmygodIloveyou,” he says in one breath, pulling Luke- and the basket- closer to him.
Luke laughs again, settling next to him and arranging their dinner on their laps. They sit all the way on the bed, backs against the wall, shoulder to shoulder. Eating off each other’s plates, play-fighting with their forks, feeding each other, until the food is gone.
They end up lying down together, Noah curled around Luke, as they watch a movie. At some point, when Noah’s pretty sure Luke is asleep, he’s surprised when Luke turns around in his arms to look at him seriously. “What?”
“Is this okay?” Luke asks, face scrunched up a little on one side.
Noah’s hand immediately comes up to smooth the worry wrinkles away. “Is what okay?”
“All this,” Luke gestures around for a second before throwing his arm back over Noah’s hip. “Dinner I didn’t make or buy, some movies you’ve already seen a dozen times, your room. No candles or chocolates or roses or...” He stops, starts again. “It’s, you know, not the most romantic thing we could’ve done. Or traditional-”
Noah leans in, kisses Luke slowly. “Tell me something,” he says softly, pulling back just a centimeter, maybe less.
“What?” Luke’s voice is just as quiet, a little breathless.
“You love me?” he asks. His hands play with the buttons at the neck of Luke’s polo shirt.
Luke opens his eyes, locks them with Noah’s. “I love you,” he says it so firmly, so surely. “More than anything.”
It’s Noah’s turn to close his eyes, because damn he never gets tired of hearing that, feeling that. Then he smiles at Luke. “Luke, that’s what I need. You, saying that? Is the most romantic thing I’ve ever had in my life.”
Luke leans in this time, kissing him strongly, pressing his body up against Noah’s. They lose themselves in it for a little while, movie forgotten. Luke rolls Noah onto his back, sliding on top of him, and then it’s like the world is forgotten. Noah only needs this.
He knows it then, so clearly- this is how he wants to spend the rest of his life.
Luke signs a form, another form, another form. It’s the last few in a stack of about thirty, so he guesses he should just be happy it’s almost over. His leg bounces up and down under the table. He wants this to be done .
“Well then, darling.” Lucinda adjusts her scarf as he dots the last ‘i’ and crosses the last ‘t’. “I guess it’s officially official.”
“Congratulations, Grandmother,” he stands quickly, kisses her cheek. “You’ve just adopted a shipping company. Good luck.”
“Very funny, Luciano,” she eyes him over the rim of her glasses as he gathers his things. “So you’re really leaving tonight.”
“Yes,” he says firmly. “T minus thirty minutes.”
“And you still don’t have a plan.”
“I have a plan,” he replies indignantly. “It’s just not very... detailed.” He bounces to his feet. He’s had an overabundance of energy this week, he can’t help it. After more than a year of floundering, being in a weird state of limbo, he finally has an idea. A plan. It’s a rush, a little bit euphoric, a little bit manic. Now that he knows what he wants (finally), he wants to do it. T minus twenty-five minutes.
He’s been so lonely lately. Not the lonely he used to be in high school, seeing everyone else have what he’s never had. No, this was a lonely of missing something. Feeling that emptiness in his heart that used to be filled by...
By someone. There’s nothing in Oakdale to fill that void anymore, so he has togo.
“As far as I’m aware, it just entails driving out of town,” she huffs as she gathers the papers, standing up from the couch.
He follows her to the door with a shrug. “Pretty much. I’ll figure it out as I go, I guess.”
Lucinda pauses in the doorway, studying him, as though she can’t figure out which thing she wants to lecture him on first. “Luke.”
“Grandmother,” he smiles. “I’m already packed. I’ve said my goodbyes to everyone. I just sold Grimaldi Shipping to you and Worldwide. The neurology wing is up and running and doesn’t need me. And I don’t need it anymore.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Darling, you are aware that I have several private investigators on my payroll, aren’t you?”
“...Yes,” he says uncertainly.
“Then you know that I have the ability to track credit card receipts or hotel room bookings or car rentals or whatever else you may run into.” She pats his cheek, then pulls both his hands into hers. “So I can and possibly will be checking up on you if we don’t hear from you soon.”
She shakes her head. “You don’t have to tell me where you’re going, Luke. Just take care of yourself. Let your family know how you are. And if you need anything, we’ll be here. Understand?”
Luke nods, smiles. He can feel his car keys on his back pocket, and his fingers itch to get them out and go. He squeezes his Lucinda’s hands and lets them go. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Grandmother.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Luke,” she finally smiles back. Like she knows. “Good luck.”
Los Angeles, California
He sits at a table in the middle of the coffee shop, because no one sees you when you sit there. Noah ignores them right back, determinedly not looking at the happy couples around him, focusing instead on this final scene on his laptop. They’re filming it tomorrow, and something in the script’s still not working.
He sighs, fights the urge to bring up Minesweeper and play a few games. No. He needs to get this done. This is his second film, which means it has to be better than his last one. Which means he has to work harder than he did on the last one.
So far, he thinks he’s accomplishing that. He gets up early every day, works with his crew until night, then goes back to his apartment and works some more. He goes to bed when his eyes get dry and blurry (it doesn’t freak him out anymore, it doesn’t), then wakes up early and does it again.
Weekends he pitches in at a local farmer’s market run by one of his neighbors. It’s kinda comforting, even if all he’s doing is sitting and listening to some of the old ladies in his neighborhood talk, tell him stories.
He doesn’t like to think about why it’s comforting.
The coffee shop is getting louder, too loud for him to think. He shuts down, puts away his laptop and heads to the counter.
“Refill, Noah?” the guy behind the counter grins at him when he approaches.
He nods. “To go, please.” The guy’s face seems to fall as he turns away, but Noah can’t think of a reason why. He shrugs to himself, fiddling with the strap of his messenger bag until his coffee’s ready to go.
Two minutes later he’s out the door with another bland smile, holding it open politely for the couple walking in. Even though he wants to roll his eyes. A coffee shop date on Valentine’s Day? How cliche can these people get? They’re even wearing pinks and reds. And carrying flowers. And probably planning dinner with candles and chocolates and all that traditional stupid romance-
He stops himself. He’s getting dangerously close to thinking the wrong things again. Things he doesn’t let himself think about. Because it’d be torture if he did.
So he doesn’t think about it at all.
His phone buzzes as he walks the long way back to his apartment building. It’s Ameera, the third call today, and he knows he can’t ignore three calls in a row. Ameera gets... scary, when he ignores three calls in a row.
He answers with what he hopes doesn’t sound like a sigh. “Hi.”
“You could at least smile when you answer the phone,” she says.
He drags a smile out of the recesses of his brain. It feels weird on his face. “Hi Ameera. How can I help you?”
Her silence is just as disapproving. “Just checking in. What are you doing tonight?”
He turns the last corner onto his block. “Work.” Then, remembering that Ameera badgers and pesters if he gives one-word answers, he continues, “The scene we’re filming tomorrow doesn’t feel right yet. I need to get it fixed tonight.”
She’s silent again. “That’s your plan for...? Come on, Noah. Take the night off. Do something fun. You can come over here! Or-”
“‘Meera,” he cuts her off. “I have work to do. It’s fine.”
“When was the last time you didn’t spend your whole night working on your film?” she demands, not letting up. “When was the last time you spent time with people outside of work, me not included?”
“Last week,” he says defensively, starting to fish for his keys. “I went out with some of the crew. We went to a bar.” Which is blatantly untrue. But if it keeps Ameera from pestering him, from worrying, he’ll lie. He’s gotten okay with lying. Truth is he had been in his apartment, in his bed, eyes glued to his laptop and his work. But he’s okay with that.
“Noah,” Ameera has that tone again, that tone he used to hear in a different place, that tone that was usually accompanied with words like ‘you’re getting too skinny’ or ‘that coffee shop works you too much’ or something. “Are you sure you want to be alone tonight?”
No , he wants to yell. It’s not that I want to be. It’s just that I am. “It’s fine,” he says instead, heading up the stairs to his third floor apartment. “I have too much stuff to do.”
“You always do,” she says quieter. She sounds kinda sad, and Noah wants to comfort her, but he doesn’t know why or how and isn’t really motivated enough to figure it all out. “Will you call me tonight, if you need to take a break then? Or if you want to talk about anything?”
“Sure,” he assures her, struggling to balance the phone, his coffee cup, and the keys he’s fitting into the door.
“Okay, hon. Love you,” she says as she hangs up.
He can’t say it back, because it’s not the same. It doesn’t feel the same. “Bye.” He shuts the door behind him, flips on the light, turns to the living room, and freezes.
Luke is sitting on his couch.
Los Angeles, California
He opens the side door slowly, almost silently, but the stealth effect is ruined by Merlin darting through his legs and back inside, toe nails like little mini snare drums against the linoleum tiles. Luke rolls his eyes and lets the dog run ahead to the kitchen and his food bowl. He hears the telltale hiss of a cat getting disturbed from his own meal, and has to laugh. Arthur always gets really prissy when Merlin tries to steal his food.
Bypassing the kitchen, he heads to the living room instead, where he’d left Noah and Amelia an hour ago. “Okay, dog is walked, legs are stretched, let’s get back to...” he trails off in the doorway.
Over the last fifteen years that he’s known Noah, this has become a familiar sight. He can’t count the number of times he’s come home to find Noah passed out asleep on the couch. Sometimes while waiting up for Luke, sometimes from staying up too late the night before. Sometimes with a book or his laptop resting on his chest, glasses crooked on his nose. Or the TV on. Or one of the pets curled up at his knee.
But this, this still gets to him. Amelia’s still in the napping stage, and Luke insists on it. No way does he want to deal with a cranky three-year-old. And, okay, maybe sometimes he insists on Noah napping too, because his husband works so damn hard it’s stupid. In Luke’s opinion.
Luke takes a few steps closer, perching on the arm of the couch. Noah is sprawled across it, on his back, fast asleep. Amelia is splayed out across his chest and under his arm, tucked right under his chin, tiny hand clutching his shirt. It’s perfect and beautiful and Luke has to remind himself about that need to breathe thing after a few seconds.
Their makeshift Valentine’s Day cards are still only half done, discarded on the coffee table. Luke finds he doesn’t really care. He moves around to front of the couch and sits on the floor by Noah’s head, kisses him softly.
Noah hums, his eyes opening slowly. “Hey,” he murmurs, careful not to wake their daughter. “She’s asleep, right?” He doesn’t look down at her, like he’s afraid to move his head.
“Yeah,” Luke grins, runs his hand softly over her curls, rests it on her back. Noah’s hand joins him there after a few seconds. “I was only gone for an hour, how did you get her down so fast?”
Noah’s blush is still there and still perfect, even after all these years. “I think it was probably the other way around,” he admits, sheepish.
Luke laughs softly, kisses both Amelia and Noah on their noses. Noah takes a deep breath and slowly, carefully, sits upright on the couch, keeping Amelia against his chest. She babbles something in her sleep, turns her head to the other side, but doesn’t wake up. They both breathe sighs of relief.
“So you didn’t get very far on the Valentines, huh?” Luke crawls up onto the couch next to them, leaning into Noah’s shoulder.
“We got Emma’s done, and started Lily’s,” Noah lays his forehead against Luke’s, rubbing Amelia’s back. “That’s about all I remember.”
Luke hooks his arm around Noah’s shoulders, his hand coming around to play with Amelia’s curls some more. His other hand settled on Noah’s leg, and he inches closer until the three of them are a jumbled mess on the couch. Noah gives another sigh, this one of contentment, dropping a kiss onto Luke’s shoulder before leaning his head onto it. “Love you,” he murmurs.
Luke smiles, kisses the top of his head in return. He looks at the glittered Valentines on the table and thinks back to making them with Miss Clarkson, because the people we love are “special.” He thinks about the years before Noah, the years with him, apart from him, with him again. Buying this house on the beach. Getting a dog, adopting the stray cat that kept showing up in their backyard. Getting married. Amelia. “Love you too.” All the moments leading them to right here on their lumpy old couch.
And Luke decides that this moment, this day, is pretty perfect.