Noah picked up the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times and almost spit out his drink when he saw him on the front cover. There he was. Dr. Reid Oliver not smiling back at him in the photograph. His eyes first went to the black and white image and then his eyes drifted to the man standing next to the good doctor. Swallowing hard, he read the caption underneath the photo, "Dr. Reid Oliver and his partner, author Luke Synder, at the ..."
It was the only word that he could focus on. Noah tossed the newspaper to the floor but it just kept staring back at him. Besides, Reid wasn't the only one in that picture. Luke was there too. It had been five years since Noah had really seen Luke. He couldn't bring himself to add Luke on one of the many social networking sites. Every time that his finger would hover over the "Add Friend" button, he'd click away. He didn't want to see Luke's happy status updates or come across pictures of Luke and Reid together. Well, it looked like he didn't have to add him to see it. He just needed to pick up the newspaper to see that Reid had received some prestigious award for some medical breakthrough that will help millions.
Picking up the newspaper, he tore out the little photo, and hastily stuffed it into his pocket.
Hollywood wasn't what he imagined when he first visited the area all those years ago. Apparently, he wasn't the only guy who came here to direct. He ended up working as a production assistant for a television network where he worked his way up to being a producer. The first time that Luke heard about it, he e-mailed him, telling him that he was proud of him, and that he knew he could do it.
It made Noah smile for a second but he realized that he was still angry and instead, he deleted it without responding to it. Yeah, Noah felt guilty about it but then he remembered what he said to Luke. He couldn't be good friends with Luke. He wanted him and Luke didn't want him back, not anymore.
Noah thought that over the years, Luke would realize that Reid wasn't the guy for him, and he would say he wanted a change, come out to LA, and they'd be together again. Noah never really gave up on that dream. But now? Now that he had this tiny little photograph crumpled in his pocket with the word 'partner' on it? He was beginning to think that it was a pretty dumb dream to hold on to.
Checking his cell phone at work, he pressed play, and heard, "Hey, Noah. It's Luke. Uh, we're in LA right now and I just thought if you weren't too busy maybe we could get together for dinner or something? We could catch up and ... well, yeah. So, we're staying at the Marriott in Hollywood. Room 817. Call. I'd like to see you. Okay, bye."
Noah felt really, really guilty about that deleted e-mail years ago and made sure Luke had his contact information. He decided to use it now.
What he really hated most about that message was the use of the word "we". It made things so ... permanent.
"Just see him and then that's it. You don't have to see him again after that," Noah gave himself a little pep talk as he held his cell phone in his hand. Not really wanting to talk to Luke, he sent him a text message instead that read: busy @ work 2day. dinner 2nite? aroma on sunset bvd, 8?
It was a few minutes later when Luke text him back and said: Sure, sounds great. See you there.
Noah returned to work and tried not to think about Luke with that smug jerk, Reid Oliver. Luke could do so much better. If Luke were with someone more appropriate, someone who he knew would treat Luke right, he'd probably be okay with this. But, even after five years, he still wasn't sure of Reid's intentions.
Noah went home to change and arrived at the restaurant on time. Before he could ask the hostess for a table, he spotted Luke, and headed straight for him. No matter what Noah's feelings were, it was really good to see Luke, and he looked good. He was a little older and even more good-looking than he remembered him to be. Hot, definitely. He wore a dark blue button-down, slacks, and his hair was a little longer.
"Noah," Luke said, standing and offering him a warm hug.
"Hey, Luke," Noah spoke in reply and pulled back to give him a good look. "You look great."
"So do you. You're tan," Luke chuckled and took his seat.
Noah followed suit and took his seat, "I am, I am. I love being out on the water. I can see why everyone thinks Californians always go to the beach. It's so hectic here that the water is such a ---"
From the corner of his eye, he saw a shadow fall on their table, and looked up into the eyes of Reid Oliver.
"Mr. Mayer," Reid replied as he took his seat next to Luke.
Same tone, same smug smirk on his face, same Dr. Oliver that Noah remembered.
"I thought that dinner was about catching up." Noah tried to keep the annoyance and anger out of his voice but he wasn't sure he succeeded.
"It is," Luke insisted.
"Don't mind me, I'll just ..." Reid made a motion of zipping his lips shut and Luke laughed.
"Yeah, we'll see."
"Come on, Noah. Let's all just have dinner. Tell us everything you've been up to. We've been watching the shows you produce."
"You watch them," Reid reminded him.
Luke rolled his eyes and turned to glare at Reid. "I thought you were going to keep your mouth shut." Reid held up his hands in surrender. "They're great."
"Uh, thanks." The whole situation made Noah uncomfortable, wanting nothing to do with the Luke and Reid show.
Thankfully, the waitress came to interrupt them, took their drink orders, and then left again.
Luke and Noah continued to talk to each other and Reid tried to keep up his end of the deal. But, it obviously wasn't easy. Noah tried to grin and bear it but at Reid's last comment about a movie he happened to love, he had to excuse himself to use the bathroom.
"Reid!" was the last thing he heard before walking away from the table.
Noah went straight for the sink and held the edges before taking in a deep breath and looking at himself in the mirror. Noah was a successful producer with plenty of credits to his name and from time to time he had great sex with a friend that was maybe slowly turning into something more. He had nothing to be jealous about when it concerned Reid Oliver. Reid would inevitably do something to screw up their relationship. That was Reid's personality and it didn't suit Luke at all. They couldn't even not argue at the table. That's their relationship.
Content by his second pep talk of the day, Noah left the restroom to go back to the table, and he stopped where he stood.
Reid's arm was around Luke and they were sitting close, their heads close together, and Reid's fingers came up to Luke's chin. He held him there and then they kissed. They were kissing at the restaurant, in public, in front of everyone. Reid said something to make Luke laugh and then he lifted his head, his eyes connecting to Noah's.
Noah tried to smile back at him but he didn't, he couldn't because of what he had just seen.
He walked back to the table and stood there in front of them. "I can't do this, Luke. I tried but I can't. I said that we couldn't be friends. We can't."
"No, let him go," Reid looked up at him, a scowl on his face.
"Of course you'd say that."
Reid stood up and faced him and Luke stood with him. Noah and Reid stared at each other, both unmoving.
"Reid," Luke said to him, placing his hand on his arm.
"No, I'm done with this. I did this for you," he said to Luke. "He wanted to be there for you, Noah. For the, who knows how many times it's been, you pushed him away again." Noah tried not to flinch but he did, regret in his eyes. "He wanted to see you, to talk to you because you wouldn't answer his calls or return his e-mails. How selfish are you?"
"Selfish --" Noah tried to interject.
"No, you didn't even consider how he would feel about that. You only thought about how it would make you feel. I was there during the surgery and even then it was about you and getting your needs met while not even thinking about his. He did everything for you then and you still wanted him out of the way because it was what you needed." Luke moved his hand from Reid's arm to his shoulder, silently signaling that that was enough. Reid briefly turned his head and nodded. "So, we're here now and you're not getting what you want again so you want to bolt."
"Our relationship has nothing to do with you. You shouldn't be here," Noah kept his voice steady but there was always that underlying anger.
"You're wrong, Noah," Luke took a small step forward and pressed his chest to Reid's back. "Reid has every right to be here. I needed him here and I wanted him to be here. We're partners and if you were going to accept me then you accept him. But, if you can't do that then ..." Luke gave a helpless shrug.
"I can't do that," Noah confirmed for Luke. "Not him."
Noah walked away from their table and out the door, Luke and Reid's eyes following him as he left. Reid turned to Luke then, making sure that he was okay. "I just needed to give it a shot," Luke shrugged again, a sad smile on his face.
"I know you did," Reid took his hand and gave it a squeeze. "Now, you know."
"Yeah, yeah, I do." Luke leaned forward for a kiss and sat down again. Reid sat beside him and held his hand.
Noah stood outside, watching the entire exchange through the glass windows, and gave himself one more pep talk, "Goodbye, Luke."