Title: "Absolution" 2/2
Author: monimala
Fandom: Julie Garwood/Heartbreaker
Rating/Classification: AC, language, slash, het, Noah/Tom, Noah/OFC, sexual situations, language, humor.
Disclaimer: Nope...I don't own these characters, but I still maintain Julie made them gay!
Summary: A loose sequel to "Mortal Sin" (http://ats.malisita.com/heartbreaker.html), this takes place after the novels "Heartbreaker" and "Mercy". Noah Clayborne lost love once...can he get it right this time or will history repeat itself? While it helps to have read the books, since these are secondary characters, the story can probably stand alone.
Dedication: To Lex, of course, for helping me keep the Noah/Tom flame alive.

There were very few situations that he had never pictured himself being in and somehow wound up a part of anyway. Most of them had occurred after his first visit to Holy Oaks. Stumbling drunk onto the lawn of Assumption Abbey, lugging a stereo, and attempting to pull a "Say Anything" at 2 in the morning ...it probably beat all.

It had been Theo's idea. Theo, squinting at him over his eighth Heineken, had told him that he looked like a blond John Cusack. And then Nick had asked if he and Tommy had a "song." He'd promptly punched Nick in the eye and he hoped Laurant had enough cover-up to hide the shiner for church in the morning.

No, he and Tom had not had a "song." Tom did, however, have a strange weakness for the Truckin' Bozo Show and had always had that on the radio while driving somewhere late at night. Really twangy, old, hick music. Not Streisand. "So...fuck you, Nick...!" Noah knew it was stupid. "Sshtupid," he slurred, aloud, into the darkness as he stumbled over a tree root. Forget romantic gestures... what he needed to do was just grab Tommy and screw him blind. That had always worked before.

Somewhere along the way to the kitchen door, he dropped the stereo. And he sincerely hoped that there were no psycho killers hiding in the bushes because there was no way in Hell he was going to be able to shoot straight.

It had been the shots of Jagermeister after the beer...dumb! So dumb! They were not in college anymore...as Laurant and Mike had been shouting to the tune of husbandly puking when he left the house. Mei...Mei hadn't shouted. She'd just driven and dropped him off at his destination. He...at least...could hold his liquor. No throwing up. No sirree. Just working the lock and hearing it click and slipping...whoops...stumbling...into the abbey's kitchen.

Where the lights were on, bright, and Tommy sat at the table, waiting.

There went the element of shurp...surprise.

There were dark circles beneath his eyes and the gray t-shirt looked as though it had just been tugged on because his hair was sticking up in unruly tufts and the collar was stretched out of proportion. "Laurant called," he said, voice still scratchy with sleep, as Noah grabbed the back of a chair for support. "She wanted to make sure you didn't fall into the lake on your way here."

"Not wet," he pointed out, proud of himself for managing to get that observation out while trying to stand up straight and look sexy and dangerous all at the same time. And, slowly, with the lights and the stern exhaustion on Tommy's face, he felt the Jager fog began to disperse. He shook his head, hands closing more firmly around the top rungs of the wooden chair. "'Sides...I didn't walk. Mei drove me."

Tom sighed, rubbing at his temples as if he had a headache. "Why are you here?" And then he blinked. As if he'd just caught the last part of Noah's mumbled words. "Mei *drove* you? Why would she drive you here?"

"Big Gay Passion." He grimaced. "Absolution." Kicked at the table leg. "And because I'm a blond John Cusack who likes to wear pink and talk about his feelings."

The sputtering noise of the coffeemaker drew Tommy's attention and he rose, sighing like a disappointed mother as he reached for a mug and poured a cup, strong and black. "You're drunk and not making any sense."

"Well, yes." Noah was glad to know that he wasn't the only Captain Obvious in Holy Oaks. He accepted the coffee gratefully, although common sense dictated it was just going to make him feel worse. "Mei Siu...my darling fiancee...has caught on to the fact that I still have a thing for my ex," he clarified. "So now she's the Grace to my Will...the Doris Day to my Rock Hudson ...an' she wants me to fight for you."

He couldn't tell if it was amusement or shock filtering into Priest's eyes. "And breaking into the Abbey at 2 a.m. is your idea of fighting for me?"

Now, he thought, was not a good time to admit he'd planned on music and sex. "Heineken. Jagermeister. And fuckin' *Theo*, Man," he muttered, sheepishly, instead.

Tommy slumped against the counter, looking thoroughly wiped out, and Noah had to wonder if maybe Laurant *hadn't* woken him up. Maybe he hadn't been asleep at all. "So, you're not marrying Mei," he clarified, wearily, "and you're here to...to what...make some sweeping romantic gesture to win me over?"

"No." He put the untouched coffee aside and crossed over to where the other man stood, speaking before he could even register the words were spilling from his beer-thickened tongue. "I'm here to tell you how I feel." He instinctively wrapped an arm around Tom's waist, as if he could hold him up and fight the fatigue for him. "And where the Hell do you get off not sleeping, huh? You can't do that to yourself."

A laugh. "I never sleep when you're around, Noah." And Tommy leaned into him, accepting his offer of strength, reaching up to brush a few strands of his hair back from his forehead. "How DO you feel?" he wondered, quietly.

"Don't you know? How could you not know?" The gentle pressure of fingers on his skin made him want to rub against it like a puppy, begging for more stroking. But he resisted the urge, giving into a deeper one instead, and their mouths met. Soft, familiar, nothing like the frenzy that had been guiding him earlier in the day. Maybe his senses were drunk, too, or maybe he just wanted this easy connection as he lifted the stereo over his head and said it. "I'm in love with you. I've always been in love with you."

"You haven't always known me," Tommy reminded, chuckling shakily even as they kissed again and again and again, like they were making up for two years apart and, oh...wait...they were.

"You're an idiot," he gasped.

"So I've been told."

"Don't you love me, Tom? Not even a little?"

"Now who's the idiot?" A fierce kiss. One so hard, so breathtaking, that Noah was holding onto Tommy for dear life, hands sinking into the soft flesh of his hips beneath his sweatpants. "I fell in love with you the first time I saw you. And you *knew* it. You knew it, you bastard."

"No...no I didn't..." He was moaning like a teenager in the throes of his first orgasm...simply from wanting to touch him, to be touched, to strip Tom down naked...all the basics of connection that he'd missed so much. "Couldn't know...couldn't guess...love you..." They stumbled, together, hitting the counter again, the chair, the table...slamming against the doorframe as they moved... and the bedroom was far, so damn far...he didn't think he was going to make it. Heineken and Jager and two years without this...he was going to lose it before he even got his jeans off. "Love you...love you...love you..." he breathed, ragged, to the rhythm of Tom's knee against his groin.

His back connected hard with the mattress when they finally reached it and the jagged pain was nothing...nothing as he ripped Tommy's t-shirt and found the heated skin underneath, teasingly tugging at the silver-edged whorls of hair as Tom's steadily worked the buttons and zipper on his jeans.

"You're so damn pretty," Tommy laughed, huskily, staring down at him once he was sprawled fully naked on top of the sheets. "I have no idea what you want with an old man like me."

"Fairy tales." He wrapped a hand around Tom's wrist, pulling him down, off balance, between his legs. "I want fairy tales. Can you manage that?"

***

When he awoke, his mouth tasted like something had died in it and his head felt stuffed full of steel wool. Whoever compared it to cotton was a fucking liar. He rolled over, blindly, reaching out for the soft...no *hard* ...shoulder he'd fallen asleep against and his fingers closed around air.

He forced his eyes to open a crack, and then wider, gloriously relieved when no glaring sunlight greeted him. Tom still remembered how much of a morning person he wasn't.

And Tom was already showered and dressed.

And Tom was wearing black. And holding the small white collar in his hands, rubbing it with the pad of his thumb.

*"Come with me."*

*"You know I can't. Stay a little longer."*

*"You know I can't. Not like this...pretending we're 'just friends'."*

*"Then I guess this is good-bye, Noah."*

He lurched upwards, feeling all the nausea zip through his body like lightning as he shook his head, violently. "Fuck. No." Deja vu. No. No. No. "P-priest...?" he asked, and his voice sounded so small and young to his own ears.

"Noah." A smile broke apart the look of serious concentration. "You're awake. I... I was just getting ready for the christening."

He nodded, not trusting himself to speak until both feet were firmly on the ground and he could let the sheets go. "I'll...I'll just get dressed and go."

Tommy shook his head, gesturing for him to stay where he was. "You don't have to do that. I can have Laurant bring over your clothes."

"No..." He dragged the back of his hand across his mouth, "I...I have to go," he assured as he reached for his socks, his boxers and wondered how the Hell his jeans had gotten under the bed.

Tommy crossed the room, then, grasping his shoulders and shaking him still. "Noah...wait. What are you doing?" And as he did so, the telltale white collar slipped from his fingers and fluttered to the hardwood floor. Noah couldn't help but follow the small strip's progress with his eyes and the sharp intake of his breath was like a gunshot exploding the early morning calm.

When he raised his eyes, Priest was staring at him with such an indescribable look on his face...something so sad and happy and angry and confused...that it made him gasp all over again.

"Oh, you stupid, stupid asshole," Tom said, softly, kissing him, hard, on the mouth. "I have to officiate at mass and at the christening. I promised. Father Nielsen won't be back until Tuesday."

"And...and what happens on Tuesday?" Noah swallowed hard, even as he kissed Tom again, again, and willed himself to believe that the taste of him was real and solid and permanent.

One palm brushed gently against the stubble on his jaw. "I'm leaving the priesthood. Like you wanted."

"Do *you* want it?" he asked, suddenly unable to look into the sea green eyes that had been his damnation right from the first time he'd drowned in them.

"Shut up," Tommy told him, breathlessly. "Ever since I met you, Noah Clayborne, you're the only thing...the *only* thing I've ever wanted for myself. Do you really think I'm going to let you walk away from me again?"

"Fucking Hell...I hope not." He laughed, weakly, insanely relieved and dizzy and wondering if he could use Tom's toothpaste and have some Advil now that his fears had been assuaged and the steel wool was scraping the inside of his head again. Either that or sleep. More sleep was always good.

He was never drinking Jagermeister again.

But, then again, he wouldn't need to. Not after this.

He could settle for getting drunk on Tommy Madden for the next twenty or thirty years. Maybe fifty. Maybe a lifetime.

***

Noelle's christening was scheduled for after morning mass and Communion and the usual shebang. Being raised Protestant and growing up as atheist as all get out, Noah wasn't much for all the psalm-ing and praying and standing and sitting...but even he had to admit that Tom's face lit up when he was at the pulpit. And maybe he stared too hard, too long, from his sprawled place in the first pew...because it was enough to set people to whispering.

"See...that FBI man is back. I always thought there was something funny going on..."

"Shut up...didn't you hear he's going to be Laurant's baby's godfather ...?"

"Fairy godfather, don't you mean...?"

"Harold! Hush now!"

There was a buzz in the congregation after mass...one that Tommy quieted down with the waving of his hands...calming the speculation enough to tell them exactly what they'd all suspected...that he loved his parish, loved serving God and the community, but that he loved someone else more and would be officially resigning from the priesthood as soon as Father Nielsen returned. Bessie Jean turned to Viola and, loudly, whispered, "See...I told you they were queer like those pretty boys on that show you watch on Sundays!" while Lorna Hamburg's poison pen was out and flashing across a notepad in a heartbeat.

Noah knew that their Big Gay Passion was going to be all over the next day's society column courtesy of the bitchy wanna-be reporter. And he didn't give a fuck. When the service was over and Tommy stepped from the altar, already beginning to prepare for the family ceremony, he found himself striding past Theo and Mike, past the old ladies and men who were lining up to cry woe over the loss of Father Madden, moving up the aisle with a few short steps and pulling him into a hug.

"You've got balls, Priest," he murmured, hoping his voice conveyed all his admiration better than the brief, chaste, embrace.

Tommy's eyes were shining. Not a single ounce of regret in them. Just relief. "You're going to have to find another nickname, you know."

"Not a chance." He grinned, poking at the formal white cassock. "Can you keep these so we can play 'Father Madden and the Naughty Catholic School Boy'?"

"Noah!" The scandalized gasp came from Laurant, followed by a half-hearted proxy smack to the back of his head courtesy of Mei since Nick's hands were full of a fussy, christening gown clad, Noelle.

He couldn't even pretend to be contrite and chastised. The stupid grin on his face refused to disappear. He met Tom's gaze over the baptismal font and laughed. Laughed and laughed as Tom mouthed, "You're impossible" over the sounds of half their family making altogether too realistic retching noises and the other half sighing and cooing.

He wasn't impossible. Nothing was impossible. Just blessed.

Two years.

He'd waited two years to come back home where he belonged.

***

Mei turned one last time at the gate...lifting her hand and waving. Noah stood back behind the barrier, one arm slung around Tom's shoulders, and he waved back cheerfully. Even from this distance, Mei could see the delirious shine in his eyes. The sparkle she'd teasingly told him would lead to commitment ceremonies in Vermont and a golden retriever.

"No way!" he'd laughed, looking mortified.

But she knew it was "yes way" and possible and bright for him, for Tommy. She had fallen and fallen hard for someone who would never be hers. Someone who *couldn't* be. And she'd had no choice but to let him go.

She just had to learn to stay away from gay men. Fine tune her gaydar. No more men who were desperately, secretly, in love with their friends. No more. It was bad for her.

As she moved down the walkway, still glancing back at the gorgeously unattainable Noah Clayborne...who hated mornings and loved blow jobs...she stumbled...one high heel snagging on the incline, and collided with the passenger directly ahead of her.

She pitched forward into arms that were swift and sudden and found herself tripping once again into the depths of ocean blue eyes. Blue eyes... mmmm...it had to be a fetish of some kind.

"Forgive me, I'm so sorry!" she gasped.

"No problem," the man assured, lips breaking into a smile that bordered on being pretty...the feline slash of it was startling...second only to the crown of his smooth, shaven, skull. "Are you all right?"

"F-fine," she managed to stammer.

Upon closer inspection, she realized the suave manner, the crisp suit, the eyes, and the bald head were surface things that made him seem older. He was young...self-assured, but young. A college student, perhaps. A very polished and handsome college student. "I'm Mei," she heard herself say before she could stop it. "Mei Siu."

He smiled and slid his arm through hers, offering escort to the door of the plane...all the way to first class. "Pleased to meet you, Mei. I'm Lex. Lex Luthor."

In the back of her mind, a distant warning bell began to go off...but she ignored it as the flight attendant brought them each a complimentary glass of champagne. After all, it was long flight back to Langley...and she needed a little absolution.

--end--

February 8, 2003.



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