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BRAND NEW! "Hazard Pay - Chapter 30"

Posted on 2013.11.17 at 21:31
Title: Hazard Pay – Chapter Thirty

Pairing: Noah/OMC

Rating: M

Prompt: Action!Noah in action ripped from the headlines!

Disclaimer: Don’t own ‘em. Don’t make no money.


The next day, Noah desperately longed to pace the floor to work off his nervous energy, but his leg hurt too much. Come to think of it, his back hurt, too, and his head. Hell, his eyeballs hurt.

Noah groaned as he shifted on the pillow.

It was his own fault for going out and getting shit-faced with Casey last night.

Now it was less than an hour before Jeff’s interview, and Noah was a nervous wreck. He thought about taking his pain meds, but wanted to be alert rather than drowsy. Jeff had texted to let Noah know he’d arrived safely in New York, but Noah hadn’t heard a word from him since. Now Noah’s stomach churned with anxiety. What if something had gone wrong? What if Jeff had changed his mind about the interview? What if he’d changed his mind about Noah?

A polite knock interrupted his misery.

“May I come in?”

“Oh,” Noah said, tearing up. “It’s you.”

“Hi, sweetie,” Lily said warmly, then stepped forward and swept him into a hug. Noah clung to her, breathing in her familiar fragrance.

After a few moments, they pulled back. Lily framed Noah’s face with her hands.

“There’s my handsome boy.”

“I missed you so much,” he said.

Lily’s eyes grew misty. “You too.”

“I’m sorry I never called,” Noah said. “I’ve been so fucked up for so long.”

Lily patted his hair. “I understand, honey. You’ve had a lot to deal with.” She sat in the chair next to his bed and took his hand.

“I guess...” Noah ducked his head. “I guess you heard that Luke and I aren’t getting back together.”

Lily nodded calmly. “Luke and I had a long talk this morning.”

“Is he okay?”

Lily squeezed his hand. “You let me worry about Luke. I’m his mom. That’s my job.”

“I’m sorry,” Noah said miserably. “I never meant to hurt him and it’s not that I don’t still care about him--"

“Noah.” Lily squeezed his hand more firmly “Luke broke your heart. And more than that, he broke your trust.” She sighed. “And the truth is, sometimes even love can’t fix that.”

Noah stared at her. “Nobody else seems to understand.”

Lily grimaced. “It’s something I’ve had to learn the hard way. And now Luke has, too.”

Noah shook his head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be putting you in the middle of this. Luke’s your son.”

“And so are you,” Lily said firmly. “Isn’t that right, Holden?” She turned to the doorway.

“That’s right.” Holden entered, carrying a tin. “Mind if I join you?” he asked. “I heard there was a big interview on TV tonight, and I don’t want to miss it.”

“Please do.” Lily arranged herself comfortably in her chair, still holding Noah’s hand. Holden sat in the chair on the other side of the bed, and if their fingertips brushed when reaching for the cookie tin, Noah didn’t point it out.

Ninety Minutes began and the interview came on--after an initial segment on violence in professional sports, a second one on oil fracking, and endless shots of the ticking clock that made Noah want to rip his hair out in handfuls.

At first Noah was so nervous he couldn’t hear anything. But after a few minutes, he was able to focus, mostly because Jeff appeared as calm and confident as always on screen.

The opening shots were of Jeff and Pippa strolling in Central Park. The introduction juxtaposed candid street scenes of them in New York with some of the more famous clips of Jeff reporting. Finally, the show moved to the Ninety Minutes set, where the weekly live interview was held. Pippa was warm and charming, telling the audience about her long friendship with Jeff.

“He’s one of the few people who actually knows how old I am,” she said.

Jeff laughed. “And she’s one of the few people who’s actually seen me with dark hair.”

“I think we have some pictures...” Pippa turned to the screen behind her. Sure enough, the screen lit up with photos from Pippa and Jeff’s college years. Pippa shrieked with laughter

“Check out my big Jersey hair!”

The photos shifted to early shots of a young Jeff reporting overseas. As always, he was shown listening intently, whether to soldiers and civilians in war zones and or victims in the wake of natural disasters.

“Since the very beginning of his career,” Pippa explained, “Jeff has gravitated toward some of the most dangerous places on earth.” She turned to him. “Why is that?”

Jeff scratched his ear. “Well, that’s usually where the news is happening.”

The audience laughed.

“And the other reason?” Pippa prompted. Noah could see why she was the perfect interviewer. She had Jeff’s gift for putting the subject at ease while never letting them off the hook with the tough questions.

Jeff hesitated. “I guess it probably had something to do with my parents.”

Pippa turned to the audience. “Most of you have probably heard of Jeff’s parents, Win and Maria Carter, and their tragic death.”

A montage of newspaper headlines appeared on the screen: Storied Couple Murdered!, Carter Heir and Wife Killed in Burglary; Only Son Spared, and Death Comes to the Vineyard: Shocking Deaths of Popular Couple Shakes Vacation Paradise.

Pippa turned back to Jeff. “How did losing your parents at such a young age affect you?”

“When they died...” Jeff hesitated. “I felt like my world had been blown apart. I remember being in Manhattan when they were cleaning out my mother’s apartment.” His expression grew distant. “I was standing at the window, watching people walk by on the street, and I realized that, for those people, their lives were going on like normal, while mine felt like it had come to a complete stop. It seemed so bizarre that both things could be true at the same time.”

Jeff’s voice grew stronger, and he sat up a little straighter. “I think that’s why I’m drawn to such extreme situations. On the one hand, there are people whose lives have truly been blown apart—who haven’t just suffered the loss of family members, like I did, but who have have lived through a war or an earthquake or a bombing. Everything has stopped, their homes are in ruins, and yet life continues to go on.”

The pictures on the screen switched to scenes of Jeff in a refugee camp, playing soccer with a group of smiling children. Jeff pointed to the screen. “This was taken in the Sudan. The refugees in this camp built a one-room school out of mud-brick, because even in the midst of war and devastation, they wanted their children to get an education. The students had to write their numbers on the dirt floor because they didn’t have paper or pencils or even a chalkboard. And yet, they were just normal kids who loved to run around and play. I think that says something about the human spirit. And those are the stories I want to tell.”

“We’ll be right back,” Pippa murmured to the camera. As the audience applauded, she leaned over and patted Jeff’s arm. Noah could see him let out a nervous breath. He realized he was unconsciously gripping Lily’s hand tighter.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Don’t be, sweetie.” She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. “Jeff seems like a very fine young man.”

“He is,” Noah said fervently.

Holden held out the tin. “Cookie?”

“Oh God, no,” Noah said. “I’d barf.”

“Hmmm...” Holden bit into a cookie, savoring the taste. “Serves you right for going out with Casey last night.”

Noah stared at him. “How did you know about that?”

“I ran into Alison in the hallway. She’s pretty pissed at you.”

“Oh, crap,” Noah said. “She’s supposed to have today off.”

“She got called in to cover for someone else.”


“Yeah, and apparently she didn’t get much sleep last night. Something about Casey getting in at three in the morning?”

“Oh, crap,” Noah said again. “I’m dead.”

Holden nodded toward the TV. “Show’s back on.”

The screen behind the interview set was now showing pictures of Jeff’s parents, including their wedding photos. They were surprisingly casual—Jeff’s father wore an open-necked jacket, while his mother had flowers in her hair. Both were laughing. Nothing could have been farther from the one photo Noah had seen of his own parents’ wedding: His father looked stiff and stern in his uniform; his mother, even then, had shadows in her eyes.

Noah realized that Jeff was speaking, and turned his attention back to the interview.

Jeff frowned. “I’m not famous,” he was saying in reply to something Pippa had asked. “My parents were famous.”

Pippa demurred. “You’re a little famous.”

Jeff shifted impatiently. “I never wanted to be.”

“For those viewers who aren’t familiar with his background,” Pippa said to the audience, “Jeff is a direct descendant of New York publishing magnate Winston Carter, founder of The New York Review, Haute, and Hamptons magazines, not to mention more than a dozen newspapers.”

As Pippa spoke, the screen showed a montage of Jeff’s ancestors. The photos of a stiff-looking man in a high-collared suit gave way to images of a large family posed in front of a palatial summer home, followed by pictures of an equally stiff-looking young lady who gradually morphed into an elderly woman without ever losing her impeccable posture and regal bearing.

“Under the guidance of Winston’s daughter Edith Carter Noyes,” Pippa continued, “the Carter empire grew. It now encompasses massive global holdings, including media giants such as CBN, the Now Network, and Wolf News.” Pippa turned to Jeff. “If you wanted to work in the news business, why didn’t you just ask your family for a job?”

Jeff shifted again. “It didn’t seem right,” he said finally.

“Is that why you used your mother’s maiden name on your early press passes?” Pippa pressed. “To hide your identity?”

Jeff nodded. “Yeah. But also, like most journalists, I’m not interested in being part of the story. I want to get out of the way as much as possible and let people tell their own stories.”

“But somewhere along the line,” Pippa said, “you earned a reputation, even if you didn’t want to.” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively as the screen showed the now-iconic photo of Jeff in the Iraqi desert. “As in ‘America’s Sexiest Reporter’?”

“Oh, Lord.” Jeff blushed while the audience giggled. “That’s so embarrassing.”

“All kidding aside,” Pippa continued, “you do have a reputation for honest reporting—and high ratings.”

Pippa nodded toward the screen, where a clip unreeled: A TNN promo showing Jeff in a variety of exciting settings, including a helicopter and a speedboat . As the camera zeroed in on his face, the booming voice of TNN’s famed announcer Jonah James Earle intoned, “Tune in tonight as Jefferson Carter brings you an in-depth report, direct from the front lines of global conflict. THIS…IS…TNN.”

“You’re almost a brand name for your network,” Pippa observed shrewdly. “When you’re on, ratings go up.”

Jeff winced. “I just try to uncover the facts and provide accurate reports,” he said. “As long as I can continue to do work that I’m proud of, that’s all that matters to me. If some people are more likely to watch a news story because it has my name attached...” He shrugged. “So be it.”

Pippa leaned forward. “But now you’re in the news. Whether you want to be or not.”

Jeff looked grim. “Yes, I am.”

Pippa turned to the audience. “Earlier this weekend, Jeff was featured on the popular DMZ website and TV show. The story immediately went viral.”

Now the screen began showing headlines from various gossip sites: TNN’s Carter in Bizarre Gay Love Triangle!, America’s Heartthrob Outed!, and Silver Fox Caught—But Not in the Chicken Coop!.

Next was a clip from a TV show—a group of people laughing and making comments as they passed around the photo of Jeff and Noah.

Noah felt his stomach turn over.

“Breathe, honey,” Lily advised.

Noah tried to take a breath, but couldn’t. Black dots started to swim at the edges of his vision, and he clutched at Lily’s hand.

“How did that make you feel?” Pippa asked. To Noah’s ears, her voice sounded distorted.

“Angry,” Jeff replied. “My private life is my own business.”

“If that’s the case, why did you agree to this interview?”

“Because I wanted to set the record straight.”

“And what did you want to say?” Pippa asked quietly.

“I wanted to say...” Jeff hesitated.

Noah held his breath. The studio audience was dead silent.

Jeff leaned forward.

“I’m gay,” he said clearly.

“And who’s the lucky fellow?” Pippa asked quietly.

For the first time, Jeff’s face broke out in a genuine smile.

“His name is Noah Mayer,” he said. “And I love him.”


For a moment, there was silence as the show went to commercial. For the second time in an hour, Noah’s eyes filled with tears. Lily squealed with joy and hugged him. Holden nodded calmly.

“Atta boy,” he said.

Noah’s phone, sitting on the nightstand, began buzzing insistently. Noah picked it up and stared at it while text after text appeared on the screen.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” he said helplessly.

“Let me see.” Lily deftly took the phone from his hands. “Everyone’s sending congratulations.”

“Everyone?” Noah asked.

“Of course, honey. Everybody’s watching.” Lily scrolled through the texts and laughed. “My mother says ‘Why are the good ones always gay?’”

“Your mother sent me a text message?” Noah asked faintly.

“Show’s back on,” Holden said. Noah turned back to the TV, gnawing nervously on his thumbnail.

“When did you first realize you were gay?” Pippa was asking Jeff.

Jeff didn’t blink. “When did you first realize you were straight?”

Pippa thought for a minute. “Kindergarten. When I made my Bridal Barbie kiss Ken on the lips.”

Jeff nodded calmly. “Substitute G.I. Joe for Barbie, and you’ve got it.”

Pippa smiled, and there were a few murmurs of laughter from the crowd.

“Aw, shit,” Noah muttered, as the now-too-familiar image of him with his camera appeared on the screen.

Pippa nodded toward the picture.

“Oh, hey,” she said cheerfully. “There’s your fella.”

Jeff turned to look, and his stern face softened into a fond smile. “Yeah,” he said softly. “That’s my guy,”

“Aww,” Lily murmured, and Noah felt his face burn with mingled joy and embarrassment. His heart thumped in his chest, and he made himself take a few deep breaths to calm down.

“—did you two meet?” Pippa was asking.

“Noah’s my cameraman,” Jeff said easily. The screen scrolled through shots of Noah and Jeff working together, including one of them filming in Iraq. In the photo, Jeff crouched behind a stone wall while Noah knelt in the roadway before him, filming as black smoke rolled overhead.

“I remember that,” Noah murmured. He could almost hear the gunfire and explosions in the distance and smell the stench of burning oil. He shivered at the memory.

“So, office romance?” Pippa asked.

“Pretty much,” Jeff admitted. “Not my usual thing, but I couldn’t resist.”

“Mmm-hmm.” Pippa crossed her legs and leaned closer. “And what sparked the attraction?”

Now it was Jeff’s turn to blush. “Aw, hell,” he said, his accent deepening.

“Enquiring minds want to know,” Pippa teased.

“Come on, Green. I’m a WASP. You know we don’t talk about stuff like that.”

“Indulge me,” Pippa purred. “Let’s start at the shallow end of the pool.”

“Uh, okay.” Jeff gestured toward the picture of Noah, which had reappeared. “How about tall, dark, and handsome?”

“G.I. Joe all over again?” Pippa asked.

Jeff laughed. “Pretty much.”

Noah put his head in his hands. “This is so embarrassing.”

“Shhh!” Lily scolded him. “I want to hear.”

Noah squeezed his eyes shut and covered his ears, but Lily pulled his hands away, so Jeff’s next words came through loud and clear.

“Noah is creative and talented and passionate about his work.”

“Passion is a great quality,” Pippa said. “It’s so much more attractive than being jaded.”

“I agree,” Jeff said. “Cynicism is ugly.”

“And what else?” Pippa asked.

“He’s resilient,” Jeff said. “Fierce. Fearless. But he’s also kind and tender-hearted. Most of all, he’s a good man, and I love him for it.”

“You getting all this, Noah?” Holden asked, poking him in the side

Noah groaned and pulled the pillow over his head. His chest felt warm from pleasure. At the same time, he wanted to die.

“How much more?” he asked.

Holden glanced at his watch. “Ten minutes.”

“Shit.” Noah’s phone started buzzing again. Lily picked it up and scrolled through the texts. She laughed. Noah didn’t raise his head.

“Let me guess--everyone’s giving me shit,” he said.

“‘G.I. Joe, you’re my hero!” Lily read from the phone. “That’s from Maddie. Casey says ‘GO JOE!’”

Noah groaned. “I’ m never gonna hear the end of this, am I?”

“Nope,” Holden said cheerfully, looking at his own phone. “Jack says to tell you the Oakdale P.D. is hiring action heroes, if you’re interested.”

“Ha ha,” Noah muttered. The sound of helicopter blades made him look up. Pippa was talking about Noah’s injury while footage from the scene played in the background.

The flashback was short but brutal.

He could hear voices, barely audible over the roar of chopper blades. In the distance, someone was screaming.

“Noah, can you hear me? Stay with us, buddy, stay with us.”

“Noah. Hang in there, God dammit. Don’t you fucking leave me, Solo. Hang in there!”

A helicopter hovered over him like a bird of prey, like an angel of death, the bellow of its blades louder than the loudest thunder. His leg felt like it was on fire, and with a sudden start, Noah realized he was the one who was screaming.

“Noah?” Holden peered into his eyes. “Hang on. Lily went to get the doctor.”

Noah shook his head. “I’m fine,” he gasped, even though his teeth were chattering and his hands felt like ice.

Holden frowned. “Are you sure? You went pretty far away, there.”

“I’m fine. I don’t want anyone fussing over me. Please?”

Holden hesitated.

“I need to see the rest of this.” Noah gestured toward the TV.

“Lily’s taping it on her DVR-thingie.”

“I need to see it now. Please?”

Holden sighed. “Okay. I’ll go tell Lily. I’ll only be gone a minute, okay? If you need anything, holler.”

Noah nodded, and Holden quickly left the room. Noah turned back to the TV, which showed a picture of Jeff sitting by Noah’s bedside on a medical transport plane. His head was in his hands, his helmet dangling from his grasp. Noah wondered who took the photo and why it hadn’t surfaced until now.

Because you weren’t famous until now, he thought grimly.

He pulled the blanket closer around himself, shivering, and tried to focus on the interview.

“—recovering?” Pippa asked.

“Yes,” Jeff answered. “Noah’s got a long road ahead of him, but he’ll make it.”

“And this photo? The one that started it all?”

The shot of Jeff and Noah kissing appeared on the screen. Jeff grimaced. “That was taken at the hospital where Noah’s going through rehab.”

“And how did you feel when it went viral?”

Jeff hesitated, frowning. “I realize, looking back, how much my parents shielded me from the media. It’s a million times worse now, of course, with the Internet. But even with their protection, there was always a certain amount of gossip. It only got worse during the custody battle.”

“Following his parents’ death, Jeff was the subject of a lengthy and expensive custody fight between his father’s family, the Carters, and his mother’s, the Randolphs,” Pippa explained to the audience. “I remember reading about you in People magazine when I was a girl,” she told Jeff. “We were the same age, but I thought your life was much more glamorous and dramatic than mine.”

“I could have used a little less drama,” Jeff said dryly.

A picture from People magazine flashed onscreen: Jeff, around age 13, looking miserable in a stiff dark suit. He was glancing back over his shoulder at the photographer, his eyes haunted, as armed bodyguards escorted him toward a courthouse. The headline read Poor Little Rich Boy: Orphaned Carter Heir Fights To Stay with Beloved Grandmother.

“The Carters used the press to their advantage,” Pippa said. “Or tried to.”

Jeff nodded. “The idea was to try the case in the court of public opinion before it ever got to trial. They said...” His voice cracked. “They said my mother had been negligent.” He cleared his throat and scowled at Pippa. “And don’t you dare ask how that made me feel.”

“I won’t,” Pippa said softly. “How long did the dispute last?”

“Five years,” Jeff said. “Until I sued to become emancipated.”

“And even then the press coverage was relentless,” Pippa pointed out. “I remember paparazzi sneaking into dances at Yale to see who you were dating. I always wondered how you managed to handle that kind of scrutiny.”

Jeff shrugged. “You learn to ignore it,” he said. “Or it kills you.”

“And now? What’s it like being back in the spotlight?”

Jeff paused, clearly choosing his words with care.

“It’s not being outed that bothers me,” he said finally. “Frankly, I should have come out years ago. I’m proud of who I am. But they hurt Noah. They hurt my family. And this time I’m not just going to sit by and let it happen.”

Pippa blinked in surprise. “You’re thinking of suing DMZ?”

“My attorney has advised me not to say anything,” Jeff said smoothly. “But those bastards might want to double-check who owns their network.”

Pippa smothered a grin. “What about the anonymous person who took the photo?”

“He’s not anonymous.” Jeff looked grim. “And I’ll deal with him, too.”

“Oh, crap,” Noah said.

Pippa turned to the camera. “We’ll be right back with our final segment, including candid questions from our live studio audience.”

“Oh, CRAP.” Noah said.

To be continued...


myalterego1 at 2013-11-18 14:58 (UTC) (Link)
YAYAYAYAY scurries to read
willwork4dean at 2013-11-20 03:46 (UTC) (Link)
Hoping to have the next (last?) chapter done soon, followed by a schmoopy epilogue.
pirl at 2013-11-19 03:24 (UTC) (Link)

I can totally see Noah squirming in embarrassed agony. Having so much of his private life out there must be the worst kind of torture. I'm sure Jeff will do his best to make him feel better about the whole thing. ;)

And Lily and Holden being there to feed him cookies and watch the show with him???? ALKSJLDKJSDOIGNSDOFIHENIUNIFUSDNFUIHFN!!!!!!!! I love eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!

(Done flipping out now.)

willwork4dean at 2013-11-20 03:45 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you liked having Lily and Holden there! One of the things that upset me most about how the show ended was having Lily and Holden be on Team Not!Noah instead of Team Noah.

And Noah's just going to have to get used to Jeff telling everyone how awesome he is! <3

Another chapter soon!
txljnewbie at 2013-11-19 12:05 (UTC) (Link)
This chapter finally did it for me. I've been torn through out this entire series with whether I wanted Noah to end up with Jeff or Luke. But now, I'm totally ok with Noah and Jeff being together. You've accomplished the nearly impossible (IMO) job of making me see that perhaps it is better that Luke move on with someone else and let Noah do the same (and I still like all of them!!!). This has been an amazing series, thank you so much for sharing the gift of your wonderful talent with all of us.
willwork4dean at 2013-11-20 03:41 (UTC) (Link)
OMG I'm so pleased to hear you say that! Seriously, I'm flailing here. I never ever thought I'd ever write anything except Nuke, but I kinda fell in love with Jeff - or rather, I fell in love with him falling in love with Noah. So I decided to let the story go where it wanted to go, rather than forcing a particular ending. My only goal was to try to be fair to all the characters and not write anyone as a cardboard villain.

I still have plenty of Nuke stories to finish, but I will say that writing this one helped purge some of the leftover bad feelings from the way the show ended. So thanks for your kind comments and for waiting so patiently for updates. There will be at least one more chapter and then an epilogue.
BOOM! goes the dynamite!
mslauren2930 at 2013-11-19 17:48 (UTC) (Link)
Woo! #TeamJeff
willwork4dean at 2013-11-20 03:41 (UTC) (Link)
That means a lot coming from Team Manning! :-)
seajellybaby at 2013-12-01 20:53 (UTC) (Link)
OMG!!! So in had my baby on the 17th and as a result didn't do my daily check for a new chapter!! Was so excited when I saw this!!

Amazing chapter!!! My heart swooned over Jeff's words and Noah's cute reactions! Topped with the support he's getting from Luke's parents!

I've loved this story so much and will be sad to see the end! But looking forward to more Angel's lie too!! Thanks so much!
willwork4dean at 2013-12-06 21:10 (UTC) (Link)
Omigosh! Congrats on your little baby!

I'm working on the next chapter - hoping to have it up next week. It'll be extra-swoony, I promise.
random_nic at 2013-12-02 01:52 (UTC) (Link)
Love how Jeff sees all of Noah, and how proud he is to talk about his guy on national television. And I can totally see Noah being flattered and feeling loved yet being so, so uncomfortable with the praise of himself.
willwork4dean at 2013-12-06 21:19 (UTC) (Link)
Maybe it's just the Silbermann effect, but I always saw Noah as a pretty complicated guy, for all his "aw-shucks" demeanor. There are a lot of layers there, but most people don't see them. And part of the fun of the story has been figuring out how two extremely guarded people fall in love. With Nuke, Luke was always the impulsive, out-there one, which I liked for their opposites attract relationship, whereas Jeff and Noah, being more similar, kind of circled each other for a while. Anyway, I'm glad you like them together.
wheelie47 at 2013-12-02 18:25 (UTC) (Link)
Yay! Great to see an update of this excellent fic! But sorry to hear that it's nearly all over!

I never thought I'd ship anything other than a nuke ending. But you've developed Jeff into such a likeable 3 dimensional character that I'm happy for these guys. I hope Luke has his happy ending too.

Great choice to have Lily and Holden watching with Noah. Loved Jeff's words and Noah's reaction.

But, uh oh, wonder what Jeff has planned??
willwork4dean at 2013-12-06 21:09 (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm...he has a surprise for Noah planned! :-)
myalterego1 at 2013-12-06 19:31 (UTC) (Link)

More please!

So want my ending.... Loving this.
willwork4dean at 2013-12-06 21:22 (UTC) (Link)

Re: More please!

Already working on the next chapter - hope to have it up on Monday
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