Technicolor Daze

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twenty-five.

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

"Out of data for the month. What are you having for lunch?" Theo read Noah’s message as he rode the shuttle bus to Macau. He was on his way to Noah’s shop to surprise him.

"Not sure yet. I’ll probably eat at the food court today," Theo lied before sending another message, ”What time’s your lunch break?"

"At 1:30,” Theo checked the time and noticed that it was 12:45. He’d left the office at 12. Luckily for him, it hadn’t been a busy day at work.

"Oh cool, where are you having lunch?" The shuttle bus was almost done crossing the bridge so he would be at the shop in about fifteen minutes.

"Maybe at a restaurant near that noodle place or the char siu fan place."

Theo and Noah had been texting since Noah got up. Noah was feeling particularly tired after a busy week, but he still worked out. Theo admired his persistence and wished he had half as much energy as Noah.

"I love char siu fan. I might have some at the food court. Thank you for the idea ;)" Theo played along. The bus stopped near the Sintra square and Theo got off.

Noah didn’t reply to his message straight away, so Theo assumed that a customer had stepped into the shop and Noah was busy. He took the shortest route to the book shop. He was used to cutting through the slow-walking crowds one could find in that part of the city during the day, so it didn’t take him long to get to the book shop.

A customer had just left the store when he was climbing up the stairs, so he made may for the other lady to go down. Almost as if on cue, his phone vibrated in his pocket. He fished it out and saw a message from Noah.

"Sorry was busy just now. We had a customer."

Theo decided to send Noah a message to leave him confused before surprising him, ”I know. I saw her leave the shop."

He then climbed up the remainder of the flights of stairs. He stepped into the shop and saw Noah standing behind the cashier, typing on his phone with a puzzled expression on his face. He looked up from his phone and was surprised to see Theo standing in front of him.

“Excuse me, I’m looking for a good book. Do you have any recommendations?” Theo asked innocently in a low voice to avoid making a lot of noise in the quiet book store.

“What are you doing here? I thought you were at work!” Noah whispered back.

“I asked my boss for the afternoon off as I have to head to the bank later on, so I decided to drop by to see you and maybe join you for lunch?” Theo offered with a bright grin.

Noah couldn’t help but smile at Theo’s small gesture, “You’re quite cheeky, aren’t you? But yes, I’d love it if you joined me. You just have to wait,” Noah checked the time, “twenty-five minutes before we can go.”

“That’s fine with me,” Theo smiled back before noticing that Noah was alone behind the counter. He asked the brunette, “Are you working here alone?”

“No, one of my colleagues is stacking a few books back there,” he pointed at a woman stacking a few books in the Chinese section, “I can speak enough Cantonese to talk to customers, but I can’t read Chinese so I usually take care of the international section, magazines, and the cashier.”

“Oh, I see,” Theo glanced around the bookstore quickly before turning his gaze back onto Noah and giving the man a teasing smirk, “And I was serious about the book recommendation a moment ago.”

“Oh,” Noah smiled before walking around the counter and heading towards the bookshelf where the international books were displayed, “Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?”

“Fiction,” as Noah browsed through the books, Theo couldn’t help but think that he enjoyed seeing Noah in a completely different setting. Noah seemed calm and serious when working at the book shop.

Noah looked at a few books with a pensive before looking at Theo, “Any particular genre in mind?”

“Surprise me,” Theo was curious to see what kind of book Noah enjoyed.

Noah took one book out of the shelf and handed it to Theo, “Have you ever read this?”

Theo looked at the title of the book. ‘I Am The Messenger’ by Markus Zusak. The name of the writer seemed familiar, but Theo couldn’t pinpoint where he’d heard it, “No, but the writer’s name rings a bell.”

“His most popular book is this,” Noah took another book from the shelf - ‘The Book Thief’, “It’s also really good, but personally I prefer that one.”

“Oh, I’ve read ‘The Book Thief’. It was really good,” Theo’s mom had gifted him that book one Christmas and he’d really enjoyed it.

“Then you should read that one,” Noah said pointing at the book in Theo’s hands. Theo read the blurb on the back cover and had to admit he was intrigued.

The door of the shop opened and a lady walked in. She didn’t seem like a local, as she had blonde hair and blue eyes. “I’ll be right back,” Noah said to Theo.

“Hey, Joanne,” Noah greeted the woman, who was apparently a frequent customer.

“Hi Noah,” she greeted back with a smile.

“How are you today?” Noah asked the lady with a kind smile. Theo had never seen the man working in customer service, so he couldn’t help but watch Noah as he attended to the needs of the customer.

“I’m good, thanks. And you?” The lady seemed to have an Australian accent.

“I’m fine as well. How can I help you today?”

“Have the books I ordered already arrived?” She asked, placing her hands on the counter.

“Let me check in our system,” Noah bent over to type something on the computer behind the counter. After a minute he said, “You’re in luck, they arrived this morning.”

Theo pretended to leaf through the book in his hands as he watched Noah rummaging through some plastic bags behind the counter until he found the one he was looking for. After he handed the bag to the customer and she paid for the books, she thanked him and left the store. Theo checked the time and saw that only five minutes were left before Noah could go on his lunch break.

He walked over to the counter to pay for the book Noah had handed to him, “I’ll take this book.”

Noah processed Theo’s payment as they exchanged the occasional glance and touch. Shortly after paying for his book, Noah said, “I’ll just let my colleague know I’m going for my lunch break. Wait a sec.”

Theo nodded and watched as Noah went over to his colleague and whispered something to her. The colleague just nodded and Noah returned to Theo, “Alright, let’s go.”

Once they’d left the book shop, Theo asked, “How long’s your lunch break?”

“An hour. I gotta be back by 2:30.”

“Okay, so, where’s the char siu fan place you were talking about?”

“Follow me,” Noah led the way through the crowded streets.

Theo followed Noah along the packed streets of the historical city center, navigating up and down streets, going past the Sé Cathedral and the Café Free Bakery. Eventually, as they were going around a corner near the CTM store and Noah gestured at a small dining establishment that came into their sight, “This is the place I mentioned. It’s pretty good, it’s close and we can sit on the benches near Sé Cathedral to eat.”

“Works for me,” Theo smiled at Noah.

The two men had to wait in line for a bit before they finally managed to order and pay for two servings of char siu fan. Afterward, they headed up the street leading to a square with some benches beside the Cathedral. On the way there, they stopped off at Circle K to get some drinks. By the time they got to the square, where a fountain was located at the center, there weren’t many people sitting on the benches, so Noah and Theo managed to find one that was free.

"Guten Appetit," Noah said to Theo.

"Guten Appetit," Theo attempted to replicate the German expression, but his American accent made it sound very different from what Noah had said.

“Your German is improving,” Noah said as he broke off his pair of chopsticks while balancing the styrofoam take-out container on his lap before digging in.

“You’re far too kind. I always seem to butcher it. It always sounds better when you say it,” Theo said as he copied Noah’s actions.

“I don’t lie. You know I’m blunt. And you’re too hard on yourself,” Noah shook his head before having a bite of his food.

“I’m just being honest,” Theo shrugged his shoulders as he looked down at the contents of the container. A bit of roasted pork and some bokchoy on top of a bed of rice. He had a taste and just like Noah had mentioned, it was pretty good and it satisfied his craving for it.

“You were right. This is pretty tasty,” Theo said, pointing at the container on his lap with his chopsticks.

“I know, right? There are better places, but here in this area, I really like this one,” Noah kept chowing down on his food.

“By the way, thank you for dropping by today. I really wasn’t expecting it,” Noah said, giving Theo a small smile.

“I couldn’t really wait another day to see you,” Theo said with an honest glimmer in his eyes, making Noah blush.

“That was cheesy as fuck,” Noah snorted, but Theo could tell that Noah had been happy to hear it.

“It’s the truth though.”

The two men exchanged some words, catching up on the past week. Noah told Theo some weird things he’d seen at D2 the last two nights and Theo told Noah about his dinner with his family. Noah also told Theo that he’d have a couple of dance classes that night, so he couldn’t meet until the next day. Once both of their containers were empty and they’d finished their drinks, they disposed of their trash and made their way back to the book store as Noah’s break was almost over.

“By the way, wanna come over to my place to spend the night tomorrow?” Theo asked, “Alice is staying over at Jamie’s, so we’d have the place to ourselves.”

“Oh?” Noah looked at Theo with a suggestive smirk, “That sounds like a good idea.”

“Good,” Theo smiled back at Noah. He had to admit, he was also having lecherous thoughts about the other man. Noah had reinvigorated his desire to be fucked by someone. It felt strangely new to him, even though he bottomed most of the time during his relationship with Jason. But the power dynamics with Noah were just different and Theo was excited to do more with the other man.

They stopped in front of the stairs going up to the bookshop, “So, I’ll see you tomorrow? I should be there around eight. I’ll just shower at your place if that’s okay.”

“Of course,” Theo smiled at Noah. He wanted to spend more time with the other man, but Noah had to work and he had to go to the bank. He leaned in and gave Noah a peck on his lips. Just a small discreet kiss in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the crowded streets, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Theo then walked away and headed towards the bank, turning around once to see Noah absentmindedly gazing back at him, before turning around and going up the stairs. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. Theo managed to get some answers he needed at the bank about opening a savings account and would think about it before making any decisions. He headed home and decided to go for a run to work out a bit before having dinner at a small hole in the wall noodle place. He kept exchanging messages with Noah, excited about their plans for the weekend. At night, he started reading the book he’d bought. He was enjoying it a lot, he managed to read half of the book in one sitting and ended up sleeping much later than he was used to. He ended up finishing the book on his way to work and during his lunch breaks the next day - Noah had been right, he did prefer it to ‘The Book Thief.’

In the evening, Theo was beaming as he left the office. He almost felt like skipping all the way home, thrilled at the fact that in three hours he’d be with the man he was yearning to see again.

He bought some takeout he knew Noah liked on the way home and took a shower as soon as he arrived. He put on some comfortable clothes to lounge at home and sprayed on some cologne. Noah wasn’t too fussy about colognes, but Theo liked taking care of himself and smelling his best.

He tidied his room up a bit, trying to kill some time before Noah arrived. The looming conversation he wanted to have with Noah was making him feel anxious. He knew he could always back out, but at the same time, not knowing how Noah felt about him was eating at him.

A minute before eight, he got a message from Noah. ”I’m downstairs,” it read.

Theo pressed his buzzer to allow Noah into the building and nervously paced back and forth in the living room while he waited for Noah to ring the doorbell. When Noah finally rang, Theo took a deep breath and muttered to himself, “Just be cool. You’ve been wanting to see him all week. If you can’t talk to him about it this time, there is always a next time. He wouldn’t be spending time with you if he didn’t like you in some way.”

Feeling more reassured, he opened the door and saw a slightly sweaty Noah smiling back at him. “Hey,” he said to Theo.

“Hi there,” all of his nervousness suddenly faded into the background as his immense desire for the man standing before him took over.

“Wow, you look amazing,” Noah said as he stepped in, eyeing Theo’s body. Theo blushed at the compliment and then noticed Noah was carrying a backpack on his shoulders. He’d probably brought along some clothes to change into, “And I’m all sweaty. It’s really hot today.”

“Feel free to take a shower,” Theo said as Noah took his shoes off.

“I will, but first,” Noah gave Theo a short kiss, “Now, I can shower.”

It was little gestures like that kiss and those words that always made Theo feel like Noah felt the same way about him. Those thoughts crossed his mind again as he watched as Noah walked into the bathroom.

The whole time Noah was showering, Theo kept rehearsing different ways of approaching the topic he wanted to discuss with Theo, but none of them seemed right. Why is this so hard? Theo thought as he sat on the couch. He noticed the sound of the water from the shower had already stopped, so he knew he didn’t have much more time to prepare himself

Instead, he just repeated a mantra to himself to avoid being ruled by his anxious thoughts, “You’ve got this.”

It didn’t take long until Noah stepped out of the bathroom, looking fresh and wearing a pair of black shorts and a plain grey t-shirt. He was drying off his hair as he stepped out of the bathroom. “Much better,” he said with a smile. A smile that melted Theo’s heart and made all of his worries vanish for a moment, giving way to intense desire.

Theo stood up and rushed to Noah, not being able to resist his urge to fervently kiss the other man. Noah responded instantly, kissing Theo back with as much yearning and need as Theo.

“Bedroom?” Noah asked between kisses.

“Yes,” Theo said before dragging Noah along to his room and pushing him onto his bed.

Dinner could wait.

A little more than half an hour later, the two men lay panting on Theo’s bed, their thirst quenched, their bodies spent. “Fuck, you’re an amazing fuck,” Theo said, still slightly out of breath, after Noah had his way with him.

Noah smiled and said, “You were also amazing. I’ve been wanting to do that all week.”

“Me too,” Theo said grinning back at Noah. At that exact moment, Noah’s stomach grumbled, earning a chuckle from both men. Theo got up and stretched his arm out to Noah, “Let’s get you fed. I bought us some takeout on my way home. I’ll just heat it up.”

“Yes, I’m starving,” Noah accepted Theo’s hand and got up. They both went to the bathroom to clean the mess they’d made on their bodies before putting on their briefs. Theo then walked into the kitchen and grabbed two plates from the cupboard and the takeout containers from the counter. He put the contents of the containers onto the plates and heated them up in the microwave.

As he waited for Noah’s food to heat up, he glanced at Noah, who stood in the living room and was typing something on his phone. Noah glanced up from his screen and saw Theo looking at him, “Sorry, my flatmate was asking me if I wanted to go for drinks so I was just telling her I’m with you.”

“Oh,” Theo couldn’t help but experience a warm feeling in his chest at the thought that Noah had talked about him with his flatmate, “is she jealous that I’m hogging all of your free time?”

The microwave beeped, so Theo took the plate with Noah’s food out and put his plate in, as Noah said with a mischievous grin, “She lowkey is, but won’t admit it.”

“I’m glad you’re here though,” Theo said, looking at Noah with a grateful expression on his face.

Noah placed his phone on the dining table and walked towards Theo before placing his hands on Theo’s hips and smiling, “I’m glad I came here too.”

He pecked Theo’s lips lightly before the microwave beeped, signaling that Theo’s food was also warmed through. “Shall we eat?” Theo asked as he took his plate out from the microwave.

“Yes. What did you get for me?” Noah looked at the plate Theo handed to him.

“Some stir-fried noodles from that shop you liked,” Theo grabbed his own plate with some braised pork over rice and some bokchoy.

“Oh yes! These are so good! Thank you,” Noah seemed excited about the food which made Theo smile.

They sat down at the table and ate their food, occasionally touching each other and talking about different songs and TV shows. Theo was always baffled at Noah’s extensive knowledge of DJs, musicians, and bands, some of which he’d never heard of. His music library had increased a lot ever since he’d met Noah. Theo also told Noah that he’d finished reading the book. Noah was surprised at how fast Theo had managed to read the book and they ended up exchanging thoughts on the book and the ending.

After they’d finished eating Noah suggested they could watch It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Theo thought it was a good idea. As they both watched the show, Theo kept stealing glances at Noah, not being able to take his eyes off the man sitting beside him. Watching his every reaction. The way his eyes crinkled when he laughed. The sound of his giggles whenever something funny happened on-screen. The occasional ”Boah!” whenever a character did something particularly offensive. And Theo found it all so very endearing.

After the first episode, Theo remembered that he had a couple of drinks in the kitchen that he could use to make a cocktail. “Hey,” Noah looked at him, “Do you wanna have a cocktail? I could make us one.”

“A cocktail? Fancy,” Noah teased, earning an eye roll from Theo, “Sure, let’s see what you’ve got.”

“Okay, just wait here,” Theo wanted to surprise Noah, so he didn’t want Noah in the kitchen while he prepared the drink.

He grabbed some rum, some honeydew melon juice and limes from the fridge, and some ice. He combined the ingredients and used a shaker Alice had gifted him once, but he’d rarely used, and poured two glasses of the concoction. He then grated some lime zest on top of the drink. He brought the two glasses to the living room to a curious Noah.

“I call this the Encore,” Theo said, as he handed the glass over to Noah. He’d come up with a name as he prepared the drink.

“Encore? Why?” Noah asked looking at the drink in his hand.

“’Cause you’ll want some more once you try it,” Theo winked at Noah, who snorted at the cheesy line before clinking his glass against Theo’s.

"Prost," Noah took a sip.

"Prost,” Theo waited for Noah’s reaction before drinking.

“Oh wow, you weren’t lying! Verdammt ist das lecker!" Noah always seemed to slip into German whenever he got too excited.

“What does that mean?” Theo asked.

“Damn that’s delicious! What did you put in this?” Noah drank some more.

“It’s a secret,” Theo said before taking a sip of his drink, pleased with the way Noah had reacted. It was definitely delicious. He was glad that Alice had bought the honeydew melon juice the previous day as that cocktail was one of his favorite ones

Noah pouted slightly, but rejoiced after taking another sip, “Well, whatever you put in this, it’s amazing!”

“Thank you,” Noah smiled at Theo, “By the way, wanna go for a smoke?”

“Oh yes, let me just get my cigarettes. Oh, I also brought a J, if you wanna smoke.”

“Ooh, that definitely sounds more exciting. I’ll have a ciggie first but we can smoke it after?”

“Good idea.”

Both men grabbed their cigarette packets and headed onto the balcony, where they sat on the chairs. Noah played some music from his phone on shuffle to have some sound in the background. Theo was similar to Noah in that sense - they both enjoyed listening to music when they smoked.

As they smoked the cigarettes and slowly drank the cocktails, Theo told Noah about one crazy night in Shenzhen, when he and his friends had booked a suite at a five-star hotel for a weekend and went out for some drinks. They met a few expats who told them about an illegal rave near the IKEA store, so they all got into a taxi and headed there.

“Oh man, it was a crazy night. We were all pretty drunk and managed to score some weed. We ended up having an after party at the suite and invited the expats we met. It was crazy. After partying all night, Ivy fell asleep in the bathtub, Eric and Yoyo shared a bed, and Alice and I were too buzzed to sleep so we went out for a walk with the expats and went to a park where we smoked a J under the statue of Deng Xiaoping before having breakfast,” Theo chuckled as he recalled that memory.

Noah was surprised by the whole story. His jaw was slack with shock, ”Boah, krass!"

“Yeah, we ended up sleeping the rest of our stay at the hotel after that. I think that was definitely the craziest party experience I’ve ever had. We never saw those expats again. For some reason, we forgot to exchange WeChat contacts,” Noah extinguished his cigarette on the ashtray.

“Oh wow. Yeah, I’ve been to some illegal raves in Hong Kong with my friend who lives there and many crazy parties in Berlin, but smoking a J under a Deng Xiaoping statue is pretty badass,” Noah blew out a smoke cloud.

“We were paying tribute to the man who opened China to the world,” Noah laughed at Theo’s remark before stubbing out his cigarette on the ashtray.

There was a brief lull in the conversation, a Thai song playing in the background. Noah started humming along to it and Theo was enjoying the sound of it. Suddenly, a thought popped into his mind. He turned to Noah and asked, “By the way, are you out to your family?”

Noah nodded, “Yeah. Well, I’m out to my mom, but my dad and I don’t really have heart to heart conversations, so I’ve never told him, but I suspect he knows. I mean, my mom’s probably told him by now.”

“How’d your mom react when you told her?”

“At first she was shocked, but she never made me feel like she didn’t accept me. She just wasn’t expecting it. To be fair, I did just blurt it out one afternoon when we were FaceTiming. I’d just moved to Berlin and I told her I’d just gotten back from a date. She asked me if my date was pretty and I told her ‘Yeah, he was hot.’ So I guess it wasn’t surprising that she was shocked,” Noach chuckled.

“Oh wow, I knew you were blunt, but even when coming out you were blunt!”

“Yeah, my mom is a bit blunt though, so I guess I get it from her. My dad is surprisingly not as blunt, even though Germans tend to be blunt,” Noah shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, “How about you? Are you out to your family?”

Theo nodded his head, “Yeah. I told my sister first when I started crushing on my ex. She helped me come to terms with it and then when I started dating, my ex came home with me and I came out to my parents with his help. They were pretty accepting. So accepting in fact, that my mom proceeded to embarrass me by giving us a lecture on safe sex.”

Noah burst out laughing, “Oh wow! I think I’ll love your mom!”

Theo smiled and said, “She’s pretty amazing. I’m pretty grateful for having amazing parents.”

“Well, they also have an amazing son,” Noah gave Theo a small smile before getting a hold of the joint on the table, “Shall we light this one up?”

“Sure,” Theo answered, still blushing from the compliment Noah had thrown at him.

“Did you know there is a German verb for smoking weed?” Noah asked as he lit the joint up.

“Really? What verb?” Theo laughed.

"Kiffen,” Noah explained after exhaling his first puff.

"Kiffen?” Noah nodded, coughing a little bit before handing the joint to Theo, “How do I say ‘we are smoking weed’?”

"Wir kiffen," Noah said, looking amusedly at Theo.

"Wir kiffen?" Theo asked before taking a puff.

“That’s it. Soon you’ll be able to talk to me in German,” Noah said as Theo coughed from the first hit.

“That will take a while and wow, this is some good shit,” Theo said before taking another puff and handing the joint back to Noah.

“Can I ask you a somewhat serious question?” Noah asked Theo as he took a puff from the joint.

“Sure,” Theo wondered what Noah was going to ask.

“You mentioned when we talked on the phone on Wednesday that you were feeling like shit about yourself when you met Liam. Why’s that?” Noah glanced curiously at Theo as he handed him the joint.

Theo sighed, not really knowing how to answer that question. He took a hit from the joint and decided to start from the beginning, “So, before I met either of you, I had a friend who was kind of like a booty call for a whole year. I didn’t have feelings for him or anything but sex was good and he was always up for it when I texted him. He also happened to have feelings for me and I kind of led him on.”

Theo paused, not really wanting to reveal his demons to Noah, but he also knew that if he were to have a relationship with Noah, he would eventually have to learn about his past. He also knew he would be putting himself in a vulnerable position by admitting the real reason he acted like an asshole, “So, one night I went to D2 hoping I’d see you again, but you didn’t dance that night so I hit him up in my drunk and frustrated state and went to his place. As you can probably imagine, it wasn’t my wisest decision and was a bit of an asshole to him.”

“What did you do?” Noah asked as Theo handed the joint back to him.

“I couldn’t come because of the alcohol and pulled out and told him to finish himself off. I felt like shit as soon as I said it. He told me to leave and that he didn’t want to see me again. And I get it. I’d have done the same.”

“Why did you do that?” Noah’s tone was merely inquisitive, bare of any judgment, which reassured Theo.

“I kind of wanted to punish myself for not being good enough. Deep down, I still sometimes believe that was the reason my first relationship failed. And when I saw you at D2 that first time... I don’t know... Sounds weird saying it out loud, but I felt there was something there. So when I didn’t see you or get a reply from you on Grindr, I thought that maybe I wasn’t good enough... And I know it sounds ridiculous. We didn’t even know each other. You were a stranger. I tried to convince myself it was just lust, but once I started talking to you when we met the second time, I knew my gut feeling was right.”

Noah’s gaze met Theo’s. Even though the brunette dared not utter any words, Theo could see in the same emotions he had voiced echoed in Noah’s velvety chocolate eyes. He then said, “It’s not weird at all. I was drawn to you from that first night onwards too and when we started talking, I found it hard to stop.”

Theo didn’t know how to reply to that. He hadn’t been in a relationship in so long that he didn’t know how to go about approaching the topic of defining the relationship. However, before he could think any more about it, Noah asked a question that caught him off guard, “You mentioned the first time I came over that you didn’t really bottom much anymore. What made you change your mind?”

By the look on his face, Noah seemed to have been thinking about that question for a while. Theo knew that his answer would make his feelings for Noah even clearer. He knew that once he answered that question, there was no going back. And yet, he wanted to answer it, “I’ve been thinking about it since our second date, to be honest. Before I invited you over, I didn’t really know if you were a top or a bottom and for some reason, I was fine with that. But then you started being very dominant a few weeks ago and after seeing you dance at D2 again, the idea of bottoming for you turned me on so much. So, I wanted to give it another shot and I trust you. And...,” he paused, bracing himself for the words he was about to utter, before looking at Noah in the eyes, “I really like you.”

Noah’s gaze didn’t falter or look away. His eyes remained on Theo’s, almost as if trying to gauge whether Theo’s words were honest or not, as he asked two follow-up questions, “Why do you like me? Why do you trust me?”

Theo didn’t really know why he liked Noah so much. He knew his feelings and his attraction were strong. Did he have to have reasons? Instead of thinking about it for too long, he just voiced the thoughts that were popping in his mind, “I liked your confidence when you danced on stage. Your enthusiasm when you talk about movies, music, your dreams. I think it’s beautiful how you chase after your dream... I wish I could have that kind of drive. I like when you say random words in German and in Thai. I like your blunt nature and your sense of humor. I just... I feel a spark with you that I never thought I could feel towards someone.”

Theo looked away after his declaration, feeling vulnerable after laying his heart on a platter for Noah to see. He braved a glance at Noah after both of them had stayed silent for a minute and noticed Noah was teary and his cheeks were flushed.

“I also really like you,” Noah admitted in a small voice, “I’m just afraid you won’t like me anymore once you know more of me.”

Theo recalled the secret Noah was hiding from him, “I know you have some skeletons in your closet, but just know that I won’t run away. You won’t scare me away with your past. You just heard about me at my lowest and you’re still here. So whenever you’re ready to talk about it, just know that I’m here.”

Theo gave Noah a reassuring smile, before grasping his hand and giving it a comforting squeeze. Noah gave Theo a small smile back and leaned his head on Theo’s shoulder before re-lighting the joint that had been briefly forgotten by both men and taking a puff from it.

“Thank you,” Noah uttered before blowing out a smoke cloud.

Theo felt better knowing where Noah stood, even though they hadn’t decided to date officially. He knew Noah felt the same way and he knew he just had to be patient for Noah to open up to him.

The two men smoked silently for a few minutes, just basking in the high and in each other’s company. Once the joint had finished, Noah asked Theo a question as he gazed at the buildings in the distance, “What would be a dating dealbreaker for you?”

Theo was stumped by the question. He hadn’t expected that question at all, but after thinking about it a bit longer, he could understand where Noah was coming from. He was asking that question out of fear. Out of insecurity.

“I guess if a guy were ever abusive to me again, I wouldn’t date him. Then again, I wouldn’t know if the guy is abusive or not before dating him, would I?” He tried to laugh to lighten up the mood, but thinking of his past was always a bit painful. Noah gave Theo’s hand a comforting squeeze.

“Your ex was an asshole,” Noah said in his typically blunt fashion.

Theo chuckled, “That he was. And I was too blind to see it, but it’s already in the past. I can’t let him affect me anymore.”

“It’s hard to see abuse when it’s happening, I suppose.”

“Yeah, I never understood how hard it was to leave an abusive relationship until I was in that situation and then later on with therapy.”

“Did therapy help?” Noah glanced up at Theo.

“Definitely. So much. Before therapy, I was a mess.”

Before they could continue their serious conversation, an old t.A.T.u. song started playing on Noah’s phone. “Oh my god! I forgot I had that song on my phone!”

Theo laughed but began to sing along. He had to admit that the song was catchy and reminded him of his teen years at school. Noah followed Theo’s lead and soon both of them were singing the words together, possibly pissing some of Theo’s neighbors off with their out of tune voices attempting to sing at a higher pitch.

Malchik gay, malchik gay

I can be all you need

Won’t you please stay with me?

Malchik gay, malchik gay

Apologies, might-have-been’s

Malchik gay, malchik gay

Can’t erase what I feel

Malchik gay, gay

Malchik gay, malchik gay

Suddenly, the song paused for a second to notify Noah that he’d received a message. Noah reached for his phone to see the message, still singing along, but he stopped as soon as he read the content of the message. His childlike smile had morphed into a frown.

“What’s wrong?” Theo asked, concerned about the sudden shift in Noah’s mood.

Noah shook his head as he typed a short answer to the text message and said, “Nothing.” He then locked his screen and placed the phone facedown on the table. Silence fell between the two guys as Noah reached for the remainder of his cocktail and he just finished it in one swig.

Theo could see that Noah’s hands were trembling a bit as he drank. He wanted to ask Noah what had happened, but before he can even ask the question, Noah asked, “Hey, I know this is a bit random, but do you wanna go to Hong Kong tomorrow? It’s my day off and all and I haven’t been to Hong Kong in a while.”

The grey-eyed man couldn’t help but think that the brown eyes gazing back at him were just seeking a distraction for whatever he’d just read in the message, trying to drown out the fear and pain that Theo could see swimming in Noah’s eyes.

“Sure, but is something wrong?”

Noah looked away, unable to look Theo in the eyes as he answered, “No, I just have some things on my mind and a trip with great company would help me take my mind off of things.”

After saying that, Noah glanced back at Theo and attempted to smile, but his smile wasn’t fooling Theo. He knew something was wrong and he wanted to pry some more information out of Noah. But Noah could sense that and decided to distract Theo to evade any questions he had on his mind. He placed his hand on Theo’s thighs, dragging it up to Theo’s crotch, teasing him, effectively distracting him.

Noah knew exactly what to do to stop Theo from pursuing his interrogation any further.

And just like that, the serious conversation was swept aside and briefly forgotten, just like their clothes on the bedroom floor.

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