This is one-shot but part of Raf’s story.

Noah paced the length of his room relentlessly as he waited for Nadine to pick up the phone. The incessant buzzing of the phone on the counter was driving him crazy. He could almost hear them saying, “Who are you? Who are you?”.

Noah wasn’t sure of the answer. He thought he knew who he was – Noah Cartwright, scrum-half, pineapple on pizza apologist, ladies’ man. He was always that person, not a stressed first year trying to figure out why a peck with his friend’s sister’s ex-partner during a drunken game of Spin the Bottle turned out to be the best kiss of his life.

“Hey, Noah, what’s up?” Nadine’s voice burst out of the phone at an alarming volume.

“Nadine! Where have you been? I’ve been calling you for an hour.”

“I’m doing great Noah, thanks for asking.”

“Nadine-”

“So sorry I didn’t pick up the phone when you called out of the blue. Sorry, my life got in the way of your phone call.”

“Nadine!”

Noah heard a sigh emit from the speaker. “I’m sorry, Noah. I just had a phone call with Nell. You know how I get after those.”

Noah knew all too well about his sisters’ tense relationship. Nell and Nadine were very similar – too similar. They loved each other but every conversation seemed to end with a fight.

“It’s okay, Nadine, but I need to talk to you about something.”

It was all quiet from Nadine’s end. There had been pots and pans clanging in the background – Nadine always cooked when she got tense – but now everything was silent.

“Okay…”

Noah took a deep breath before launching into a full tirade about Raf. He’d been writing down what he wanted to say since he’d decided to call his twin but now that had all gone out the window. He was ad-libbing everything and had probably mentioned Raf’s intense stare and their awkward conversation 5 times already.

“… so I don’t know what to think or what to do because I feel drawn to them, like we’re magnets, and I can’t stop thinking about them, and… What I’m trying to ask, Nadine, is… What does that make me?” Nadine was still silent so Noah kept talking, “Who am I, Nadine? Come on, you know me better than anyone else, who am I? All my life, people have called me a ladies’ man or said I’ll be a heartbreaker and all the girls will be after me when I grow up. There’s always been this assumption that I’ll end up with a girl and so far, its one I made too. But now there’s Raf and I don’t know what to think… What do I think, Nadine?” Noah barely got out the last few words, his throat completely clogged with tears.

“Take a deep breath, Noah.” Nadine’s voice was calming. “I’m going to change this to a video call. Is that okay?”

Noah just about managed a “Yes” between deep breaths and tears. His eyes had stopped welling up when Nadine called back but upon seeing her face, the floodgates opened again.

“Okay, Noah, I’m giving you a second to calm down and then I have a question.” Nadine had always been a tough love person. She had no time for rubbing backs and sympathy, only for solutions and logic. Her bluntness was alienating to some but soothing to Noah. He nodded and wiped his face. Nadine took a breath and then jumped right in, “Do you like Raf because they can pass for female? Does that come anywhere into the attraction?”

The answer was immediate, “No. Raf isn’t a girl to me. Or a boy. Or anything. They’re Raf. I’ve never thought about them as anything other than Raf. I can’t explain it, gender just doesn’t fit when it comes to them.”

Nadine nodded, “Okay. Noah, you are the exact same person you’ve always been, you’ve just realised what you thought was one thing is actually something else. All of us do that all the time. It doesn’t change who we are at our core. You are a good, kind person and who you love doesn’t change anything. I don’t care, and neither does anyone else who matters.”

“And what if I don’t know who I love?”

“I understand it’s a process and it will take a while for you to be sure, but Noah, gender has never seemed to matter to you. Yeah, you’ve only dated women before but I never got the impression that it was because they were women. Was it?”

Noah thought about it for a second, “I don’t think so. I don’t think I ever really thought about them being women before. If I think about it now… Well, it’s not like Raf, I know my exes are women, the label fits them. But it doesn’t make the list of why I liked them.”

“Well, there you go then.” Nadine smiled, “I love you, Noah, no matter what. You know that, right?”

“Yeah,” Noah smiled as well, “I love you too.”

♡❆♡❆

Raf’s Instagram was easy to find. Noah and Raf had been texting using the app for a little while. Nothing overly interesting, just more random Christmas facts. To be perfectly honest, Noah liked Raf but wasn’t sure there was anything deeper than initial attraction. But, then again, Noah still felt drawn to Raf, like he needed to talk to them for some reason.

Deciding to bite the bullet, Noah asked Raf if they could meet up for a chat. That was yesterday. There hadn’t been a response. The app said Raf had read the message, so Noah could only assume they were ignoring him. It just made the urge to talk to Raf even stronger. But how? And about what? Walking into the kitchen, Noah talks to the one person who might have an idea.

“Raf will definitely be at the Snow Ball. You can talk to them then. Raf is great at avoiding conflict but they’re not rude, so if you go up to them at Snow Ball, they’ll talk.” Aaron said through a mouthful of food.

A little spark of hope lit in Noah’s chest.

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