Monday, May 26th, 2014
“Thank you, and once again I apologize for the sudden notice,” Theo said to his boss. He’d called his boss early in the morning to tell her that he’d have to take two days of his annual leave on sudden notice due to a family emergency. Fortunately for him, his boss was understanding. He hung up after bidding his boss a good day and looked at the view from the balcony. It was still pretty early and he’d only slept for a little over two hours.
Noah had slept over at his place after they’d returned from the police station earlier that morning. They’d spent two hours at the police station filing the report, doing a medical forensic examination, and talking to Joel about what had happened. It wasn’t an easy experience for Noah and there were a lot of tears, but with Theo at his side, he was able to do everything necessary to file a rape report.
Joel and Noah exchanged contacts so that Joel could reach Noah about the case. Theo apologized to Joel for the inconvenience, as he knew that Joel had to be up early for work, but his friend just smiled and said, “Hey, I told you I’d be there for you if you ever needed legal help. It’s my job, so don’t worry.”
On their way home, they remained mostly silent. Their only interaction was when Noah briefly confided in Theo that he was worried about the costs of working with Joel. Theo told him not to worry and that he would help him, if necessary. He just wanted Noah to be safe.
They’d gotten home pretty late - the sun was about to rise -, so they collapsed on Theo’s bed after taking a shower. Noah spent more time in the shower crying and trying to scrub the memories off his skin to no avail. As they showered, Theo once again noticed the bruises, scratch marks, and some wounds on Noah’s body. He’d seen them during the medical forensic examination, but seeing them again made him feel angry at the person who had done that to Noah and helpless about not having been able to stop it from happening. Theo eventually had to stop Noah, because he was almost making himself bleed from scrubbing too hard. He comforted Noah as both of them fell asleep.
After hanging up his call, Theo used the bathroom before returning to bed, where Noah slept peacefully, his face relaxed and free of concern. His eye was bruising, darkening after taking a beating the previous night. It had pained Theo to hear what had happened in more detail at the police station. Noah had to give a detailed testimony of what he’d experienced and he’d gripped Theo’s hand tightly the entire time. Just remembering the description Noah had given made Theo sick to his stomach. He couldn’t fathom how someone could be capable of doing something like that. Theo admired Noah’s bravery for having withstood the pain and suffering on his own for so long.
Theo ran his fingers through Noah’s hair, feeling him stir slightly underneath his hand. “You’re not alone anymore. I’ve got you,” he whispered before falling asleep beside his lover.
When he woke up again a few hours later, the bed was already empty. He guessed that Noah was on the balcony smoking. He checked the time and saw that it was already midday, so he got up and left his room. His guess was correct, Noah sat on the balcony smoking a cigarette.
“Hey,” he greeted Noah, “have you been up long?”
“Just got up,” Noah replied expressionlessly. His eyes were swollen and his voice raspy from crying so much in the last twenty-four hours.
“Want me to buy something for lunch?” Theo asked as he grabbed his own pack of cigarettes from the living room to join Noah.
“I’m not really hungry,” Noah didn’t seem to be completely there. His body was, but his mind was elsewhere, “but you can eat something. I don’t mind.”
“I’ll eat something later,” Theo took a seat next to Noah and lit his cigarette up.
Both men sat silently on the balcony smoking their cigarettes. Theo soon finished his and simply sat next to Noah, watching him smoke. Noah reached for another one as soon as he’d finished his. And another one right after. Theo glanced at the ashtray and noticed that Noah had already smoked four cigarettes since he’d gotten up.
Theo headed into the kitchen to grab two glasses of water, one for himself and one for Noah, hoping he’d at least have a glass. He placed the glass on the table on the balcony, “Have some water.”
Noah glanced at the glass and then up at Theo, “Thanks.” He picked the glass up and drank it all in one gulp.
“Did you call your workplace?” Theo asked.
“Yeah, I called as soon as I woke up to apologize for not being able to go today or tomorrow. My boss was a little pissed off because I called pretty late, but it’s the first time I’ve called in sick, so she was forgiving,” Noah said in a monotone voice. That was the most he’d spoken in one go after leaving the police station. He was a shadow of his usual self and understandably so.
“You can stay here as long as you like,” Theo said.
Noah glanced at him, and though he couldn’t manage a smile, Theo could tell Noah seemed grateful for what he’d said. “I’m going out in a bit to get some food. I’ll buy some for you in case you feel hungry later on,” he said to Noah.
Noah simply nodded before returning his attention to the cigarette in his hand.
Theo brushed his teeth and got dressed before letting Noah know that he’d go out to buy some food. Noah nodded in acknowledgment. Alice was at work, so no one would show up while he was gone.
After leaving the building, he went to a supermarket to buy some things to cook for dinner and breakfast the next day. Afterward, he went to a take-out place he and Noah liked and bought their usual orders before stopping in at a nearby 7-eleven to buy some beers and an extra pack of cigarettes for Noah. He tried not to think too much about the events that had taken place the previous night, using the walk to clear his mind a bit. By the time he got home, he’d only been gone for half an hour.
“I’m back,” he said and noticed that the balcony was empty and that the bathroom door was closed. He heard some vomiting sounds coming from the bathroom, so he knocked on the door, “Noh? Are you okay?”
He heard the sound of the toilet flushing and the tap running before Noah opened the door, “I’m okay,” he didn’t look okay at all, “I just felt a bit nauseous. I think I smoked too many cigarettes.”
“Want something to drink? Some water? Some tea? A smoothie?” Theo offered as he placed the bags he was carrying on the kitchen counter.
“Do you have some coffee?” Noah asked, limping slightly as he followed Theo into the kitchen.
“Yeah, is Nescafé okay?” Theo showed his jar of instant coffee, to which Noah nodded, “You can have a seat in the living room while I prepare it.”
Noah left the kitchen and headed into the kitchen without saying anything else. Theo prepared two cups of coffee, one for himself and one for Noah. As he was preparing Noah’s cup, he peered into the living room and asked, “How do you take your coffee? Do you want some milk? Some sugar?”
“I’ll take it black,” Noah said, still staring blankly through the window.
“Black it is,” he quickly added some milk and sugar to his coffee and brought both cups to the living room, setting them on the coffee table, “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” Noah said, glancing at Theo before reaching for the cup and taking a sip.
“Are you sure you don’t want to eat anything? I bought some fried noodles for you if you get hungry,” Theo said as he made his way to the kitchen to grab his take-out container.
“Maybe later on. I’m not sure I can keep it down if I eat it now,” Noah gave Theo an apologetic look, still feeling too numb to smile.
“That’s fine. I’ll keep it in the fridge and whenever you feel hungry, just let me know and I’ll heat it for you,” Theo smiled at Noah before stepping into the kitchen. He put his take-out order on a plate and kept the rest of the things in the fridge before heading back to the living room. He saw that Noah had headed into the balcony once again and was smoking a cigarette as he drank his coffee.
Theo quickly ate his meal, looking out the window to glance at Noah’s tense back. He wished he could take Noah’s pain away but he knew it would take time. The wound was still too fresh.
When he finished his meal, he joined Noah on the balcony, leaning onto the rail next to the other man and lit up a cigarette. “I bought you an extra pack and some beer by the way if you want some later on.”
“You know me too well,” Noah glanced at Theo, almost a hint of a smile on his lips.
“You are in fact quite the stereotypical German when it comes to beer,” Theo smiled, trying to lighten up the mood.
“Not going to argue with that,” Noah said as he finished his cigarette and stubbed it out on the ashtray, “Thank you by the way.”
“For what? The cigarettes and the beer?” Theo asked before taking a puff.
“For last night. I don’t know what I would’ve done if... if I hadn’t had your help,” tears were pooling on the edges of Noah’s eyes, threatening to spill out and fall down his cheeks.
Theo wrapped his arm around Noah’s shoulders and brought the other man close to him, “You don’t have to thank me. I’m glad you told me and I wish I could’ve helped you sooner.”
“You’re way too nice to me. How do you still like me after what I’ve told you?” Noah asked in a small voice, some tears spilling out.
Theo stubbed his cigarette out before looking Noah in the eyes as he said, “You’re still the same charming, beautiful, caring, and brave man I’m incredibly fond of. That hasn’t changed. You didn’t deserve to be treated like that.”
Noah wordlessly wrapped his arms around Theo, feeling touched after hearing Theo’s words. From his slightly shaking body and Noah’s occasional sniffle, he could tell that the other man was crying into his shoulder. Theo just rubbed his back and whispered in Noah’s ear, “you deserve to be happy. I will be here for you as long as it takes to see you happy again.”
After Noah had calmed down, he asked Theo if they could lay in bed for a bit. Theo agreed, so they headed into Theo’s room and cuddled in bed, facing one another. Noah kept gazing at Theo’s eyes, almost as if reading him.
“Noh?” Theo whispered.
“You can ask me whatever is on your mind. You don’t have to try to read my mind,” Theo gave Noah a playful smile.
“Am I that easy to read?” Noah asked a bit perplexed by what Theo had said.
“Even when you’re silent, your gaze is blunt,” a hint of a smile appeared on Noah’s lips.
“I guess at this point there’s really nothing to hide, is there?” Noah briefly looked away before gazing once again into Theo’s eyes, “You’ve mentioned your abusive ex to me before. How did you... how did you, like, stop feeling like shit after breaking up with him? How did you start feeling okay again?”
Theo was caught slightly off guard by the question. He thought a bit about his answer, thinking back to that point in time.
“Honestly, it took a while and a sassy friend to pick me up,” Noah lightly chuckled at Theo’s mention of Alice, “I was a mess for a while. My ex made me feel like I was worthless whenever I didn’t feel like having sex with him. He’d say that sex was all that I was good at and even that I couldn’t do, that he was the best that I’d ever find because no one else would really get me, that I would end up all alone if he ever left me. After all, I wasn’t easy to get along with...” Theo took a deep breath. Talking about the things Jason used to tell him always got to him, even after all those years and after having moved on.
“I was always quite reserved back in school and only really started becoming more social towards the end of our relationship, when I met Alice. He didn’t like that. He knew that he was losing control over me, so it just got worse, but I was too blind to see it at the time. I really did believe the bullshit he fed me,” Theo bitterly chuckled.
“Alice convinced me to see a therapist that one of her friends recommended. She said that it was worth a shot and she was right. Slowly, as I talked to the therapist, I was able to process what had happened and see things as they really were and I began to resent Jason. I knew I’d done the right thing by leaving him. I haven’t seen him ever since. Last I heard of him, he moved to Hong Kong for work,” Theo explained.
“It took more than a year before I was truly okay and even then I definitely wasn’t ready for another relationship. I’d been in one for so long that I wanted to enjoy being single for a while and experimenting like I hadn’t in my late teens and early 20s. And though I did occasionally have low moments, like the booty call I told you about, I can say that I’m okay. Actually, I’ve been more than okay ever since I met you,” Theo gave Noah a small smile. Noah smiled back, the first genuine smile since the events from the previous night.
“Your ex was wrong. You’d never end up alone. Sex isn’t the only thing you’re good at. You’re an amazing guy and any guy you end up with is definitely lucky,” Noah said as he held on tighter to Theo.
“The same goes for you, Noh,” Theo said, a sincere smile on his face.
The two men gazed silently at each other, many words remaining unspoken. Theo knew that Noah felt the same way about him, but with the situation he was in, it would take time before he’d be ready to want to be with anyone.
Eventually, they ended up dozing off, feeling still a bit tired after the events that had taken place earlier that morning. They woke up when Noah’s phone started ringing around half past six in the afternoon. It was Joel. He was calling to ask Noah if he was available to meet with him at his office on Wednesday morning to discuss his case. Noah eagerly agreed and thanked Joel for his help before hanging up.
Theo checked his phone and saw that he had a text from Alice letting him know that she’d be staying at Jamie’s. “Guess we have the house to ourselves,” Theo said to Noah, just as Noah’s stomach grumbled.
“I think I’ll take you up on the food offer now,” Noah shyly said.
“I think your stomach would appreciate it,” Theo teased, “I’m going to cook something for dinner as well.”
“Are you sure? Is the house going to remain intact afterward?” Noah teased him.
“Ha ha, very funny. I can cook a thing or two. I’m not as bad as Alice,” Theo said as he got up before helping Noah up. Even though he’d responded sarcastically, he was glad that Noah seemed to be feeling a bit better.
“What are you making?” Noah asked as he followed Theo into the kitchen.
“I’m making a salad and some steak for me and I’ll reheat the fried noodles for you,” Theo said.
“Could I also try some of your salad and steak? You’ve left me curious?” Noah asked, leaning on the counter as he watched Theo grabbing things from the fridge.
“Sure, you can taste some of mine,” Theo smiled at Noah, feeling happier that Noah once again had an appetite. He knew that Noah was still far from being okay, but at that moment, he seemed hopeful that he could one day be okay and to Theo, that was already a small victory.
They engaged in some light banter, avoiding heavy topics, as Theo prepared the food. It didn’t take him long to prepare his salad or grill the steak. When the steak was resting, he transferred the stir-fried noodles from the container onto a plate and put it in the microwave to heat it. When everything was ready, Theo handed Noah some chopsticks and grabbed a fork and knife for himself before carrying both plates and placing them on the dining table.
“And voilá, dinner is served,” Theo said as he gestured to the two plates.
“I gotta say, the steak and salad don’t look too bad. You were exaggerating when you said you couldn’t cook. I’m impressed,” Noah said with a small smirk on his face.
“We’ll see after you taste it. By the way, what do you wanna drink? Water? Beer?” Theo said as he headed into the kitchen to get two glasses.
“I’ll have water for now. We can have some beer after dinner,” Noah said. Theo poured some water into both glasses before returning to Noah’s side and placing them on the table.
“Have a seat,” Theo said to Noah, gesturing to the seat beside his. Noah flinched slightly as he sat down. “Are you okay?”
“I’m... okay,” Theo could tell Noah was lying by the pained look on his face, but he adjusted his sitting position to minimize the pain and his face relaxed a bit.
“If you want, I can grab you a pillow...” Theo was about to get up to grab a pillow when Noah grabbed his wrist.
“It’s okay. Let’s eat,” and like that, he changed the subject of the conversation, “Thank you for the food.”
From the look on his face, Theo could tell it wasn’t just for the food. He knew it was for being with him all day, for keeping his mind away from dark thoughts, for being there for him when he’d hit rock bottom.
“Don’t mention it. Hau rein," Theo remembered the expression Noah had used once.
“Hey, you remember it!” Noah’s face lit up when he heard Theo speaking in German.
“I always remember things you say...” Theo said shyly as he dug into the food. He cut off a bit of his steak and put some salad on his fork along with the small cut of beef and said to Noah, “here, have a taste.”
He noticed that Noah was just gazing at him with an unreadable expression before opening his mouth and accepting Theo’s forkful. He chewed on it a bit before reacting with an, “Mmmm, that’s not too bad actually! I prefer my steak a bit more on the rare side, but the seasoning is spot on. The salad is nicely seasoned as well.”
“Steak and salad are the only things I can cook,” Theo gave Noah a playful grin.
“After trying your food, I’m sure you’re just exaggerating. I’ll need to try some more stuff to be the judge of that,” Noah said.
Noah quickly gobbled up his plate of noodles, feeling hungry after not having eaten the whole day. Theo wasn’t even sure if Noah had eaten the previous day, but he didn’t want to ask.
“That was good, but I’m still hungry,” Noah said as he placed his chopsticks on top of his empty plate.
“I can order a pizza if you want,” Theo offered.
“Yes, please. If you don’t mind, of course,” Noah’s face lit up at the prospect of more food.
Theo ordered a large pizza from Pizza Hut to be safe, as he didn’t know exactly how hungry Noah was. He could always keep the leftovers in the fridge anyway. They went to the balcony to smoke some cigarettes and have a beer while they waited for the pizza to arrive.
Noah seemed a bit lost in thought, staring at the view from Theo’s balcony with a furrowed brow and pensive look on his face. Almost as if he was having a mental discussion, trying to decide on something.
“I think I want to tell my parents about this. Just in case. I’d rather they find out about this through me... I don’t know if he... if he’ll send the videos to them, so I want them to know about it from me,” he blurted out suddenly. He looked at Theo for reassurance.
Theo extinguished his cigarette and reached his hand out to place it on top of Noah’s on the rail of the balcony, “I think they will support you no matter what and I’m sure they will help you if you ask.”
Noah gave Theo a nervous smile before taking a puff and saying as he exhaled, “I’m afraid of telling them. I’m afraid that they’ll see me differently... I haven’t even told my dad I’m gay and now I’m going to tell him this-”
“Hey,” Theo interrupted as he gave Noah’s hand a reassuring squeeze, “You said it yourself - even though you haven’t told him, he probably knows. I’m sure they will be worried about you, but you’re still their son. And if you want, I can be there for you when you decide to tell them.”
When Noah heard Theo’s last statement, he appeared to visibly relax. He took a deep breath and exhaled before looking at Theo, some tears lingering on the corners of his eyes, and saying, “Yeah, I’d like that.”
Theo gave his hand another reassuring squeeze and a small smile. Before they could say another word, the doorbell rang. “And that must be the pizza,” Theo said, “I’ll get that.”
Noah finished his cigarette as Theo answered the door. He paid for the pizza and placed the box on the coffee table just as Noah stepped into the living room.
They sat down next to each other on the couch and Theo simply watched as Noah devoured the pizza. Noah glanced at Theo who had an amused expression on his face. “What?” He asked, “Do I have something on my face?”
Theo shook his head, “Nah, I just like looking at you.” I like seeing you feeling better and with an appetite again, Theo kept that thought to himself, not wanting to remind Noah of the previous day.
“Are you sure you don’t want some?” Noah evaded the compliment that left him blushing and offered a slice to Theo.
“Nah, I’m good. If you can’t finish, we can keep the leftovers for tomorrow or later,” Theo said, still smiling at Noah.
“If there are leftovers. I was really famished,” Noah said with a small grin.
“Eat up then. It’s all yours.”
Noah asked Theo questions about his job and his university days, trying to avoid talking about himself. Theo knew he wanted something to distract him from the darker thoughts so he obliged. He shared some stories of his university days that didn’t involve Jason. He told Noah how he met Alice and the rest of the gang. He told him about the boring details of his job. And Noah couldn’t get enough. He kept smiling and asking more questions. He didn’t want silence. He wanted to keep the conversation flowing as much as he could.
The conversation continued on the balcony over some beers after the pizza was long gone. It carried on deep into the night as both of them got pleasantly tipsy, before heading back into Theo’s room and collapsing on the bed, still tired from the events that had taken place earlier that morning.
Theo was careful to be respectful of Noah and not touch him without his consent, knowing that Noah was still not fully okay despite his change in demeanor. He always asked Noah if it was okay to get closer to him, to wrap his arms around him. Noah accepted his warm hugs without reluctance, longing to be comforted by his lover.
A thought occurred to Theo and he had to ask Noah, “Noh?”
“Mmm?” Noah’s eyes were closed as the two men cuddled.
“Have you thought about seeking some professional help? Someone to talk to about this?” He asked, looking down at Noah.
Noah opened his eyes and looked at Theo as he shook his head, “Until last night, I hadn’t told anyone about this. Not even my friends. I didn’t even consider seeking help...”
“It’s okay to seek help. Everyone needs help sometimes,” Theo whispered.
Noah closed his eyes and buried his head deeper into Theo’s chest, “I’ll think about it.”
Theo could tell Noah was about to fall asleep, emotionally tired from events that had taken place in the last forty-eight hours, so he rubbed Theo’s back and said, “Good night, Noh.”
“Good night, Theo.”