Jun. 17th, 2011

marsabi1: (Default)
Title: Anywhere USA
Author: Marsabi
Summary: This is a two part story with multiple chapters.
Part One: Abandoned as a teen, Reid is forced to live on the Snyder farm as a foster kid for a few months, before he heads off on his own, but will a certain child worm his way into Reid’s heart?
Part Two: Reid returns to Oakdale as a favor for Bob, something he planned never to do, and he can’t wait to leave town, until his past slams into him in the form of Luke Snyder and damn if Luke isn’t all grown up.
Warning: Sexual Content in some parts
Rating: PG-NC-17
Thanks to the following friends for their support of this story: shadownyc, traciamc, and Rhiannonhero
Author’s notes: This was bid on by Rhiannon Hero for the Japanese auction. Because I know Rhiannonhero loathes short chapters, these chapters will be long.

Part One:

Anywhere, USA

Chapter Two

His first few days at Memorial, Reid attempted to make himself indispensible. He had no intention of returning to farm labor. But he was off to a rocky start. No one there seemed to like him. The nurses didn’t seem to like it when he diligently reminded them of the doctor’s orders. It sincerely baffled Reid. Why didn’t those nurses want to improve their performance? Why wouldn’t they want to fix their rather glaring inadequacies? Reid would appreciate some constructive criticism; that is, if he ever made a mistake.

The doctors seemed to hate Reid too. They resented his meticulous list of questions. One of them actually tore his list up. Reid, unfazed, made a new copy for that doctor and stapled it to his to do board. The doctor hadn’t been amused. Reid was quickly learning that some doctors, despite graduating from med school, were just idiots. He soon gave up on them. He concentrated on the few good doctors at Memorial. Even the competent ones though, hated Reid, and he tried, he really did. He attempted a minute of small talk. He had it in his notes even, make small talk. Maybe he didn’t listen to the answers about their flea-burdened dogs or timed out offspring, but he tried. It just that small talk was such a huge waste of his time. Finally, when Reid gave up on the pretense of chit chat and merely inquired curiously about the medical choices they were making, the doctors became so defensive.

“Remind me again what medical school you went to? “ Dr. Dixon had snapped at him.

Dr. Stewart had been more polite, but as soon as her shift with Reid was over, she’d gone to the Chief and requested he no longer be allowed in her OR. And he’d even faked listening to Dr. Stewart prattle on and on about her latest divorce.

Reid swallowed the little bit of hurt he felt. Let them all rebuff him. He concluded that their egos were bigger than their skills. He went to the library and took out thick stacks of medical journals. If the staff at Memorial couldn’t teach him, he’d find out the answers alone. Reid spent his next few days at Memorial quietly. But he observed everything like an eager sponge. He wrote down all of his observations and poured over his medical texts at night.

The only doctor who made time for him was Bob. He was always patient. He even allowed Reid to watch his operations, as long as he stayed out of the way. Watching a person being cut open thrilled Reid, he studied every move Bob made. Reid followed Bob around so much, he heard the other doctors teasing Bob about his shadow. Bob only smiled at their jokes. Reid no longer gave a damn what those doctors thought. Reid continued to follow him, eating snacks from the vending machine, and scribbling down things Bob told him in his notebook.

Bob didn’t seem to mind being questioned as much as he minded Reid’s food selection.

“Why don’t I take you down to the cafeteria and buy you lunch,” Bob told him, watching Reid shoving Doritos into his mouth. Reid had been working at Memorial for an entire week.

“No thanks,” Reid said, still chewing. He licked at his fingers. “I’ve seen the cafeteria food. I want to live to sixteen.”

“Even future neurosurgeons need nutrition,” Bob said. “It is still neurosurgery you want to go into?”

Reid nodded. Bob was the only person he’d told that to.

“Cardiology can use bright minds like yours,” Bob mused. “Or what about a pediatrician? There can never be too many good family doctors?”

“No way,” Reid scoffed. “I want to actually practice real medicine.”

“You don’t think children are worthy patients?” Bob countered.

“I don’t think holding the hand of some mother having histrionics over another case of her brat’s sniffles is worthy,” Reid replied.

Bob grinned at him. Reid stared back. He’d been perfectly serious about hating pediatrics, but he clearly was amusing Bob for some unfathomable reason.

“I do find children with brain problems interesting, “ Reid said, pointedly ignoring Bob’s smile. “There was a recent article on children and Autism,” Reid told him. He dug among his notes to find it. “ It offered really pertinent theories about why so many lose their language abilities in those first two years. The studies showed-”

“Reid,” Bob held up his hand. “I’d love to hear it, but don’t you want to head out? It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Don’t you have someplace else to be for the rest of the day?“

Reid shrugged.

“You know,” Bob said gently, “even future doctors are allowed a life. “

“I don’t know what you mean.” Reid shifted his feet back and forth.

“I mean go have some fun,” Bob advised him. “ Life is more than homework and hospitals.”

Reid’s mouth turned down at the corners. “What else matters?”

Bob sighed. “Friends? Family? “

Reid just looked at him.

Bob clasped him on his shoulder and laughed. “One day, you’ll get what I mean.”

Reid began to argue with him, when as if on cue, his wife and son interrupted them.

“Darling,” Kim said, coming over and giving Bob a peck on his cheek. “Did you forget about coming to see Chris pitch today?”

Chris stood near his mother in a baseball uniform.

“Oh,” Bob replied. “Sorry, Chris. Let me just finish up here first.”

Kim made a tiny frown of displeasure.

“Oh say,” Bob turned to Reid. “I have an idea. Reid, would you like to come to the ball game with us? See Chris’s team?”

Reid shrugged casually and chewed his chips. He looked at Chris’s hostile gaze.

“Sure. I like baseball. I can calculate all the averages of the team members.”

“Of course you can, “Chris said. “Why would you go to actually just watch?”

Kim pulled Bob aside. She whispered into his ear.

Chris looked at Reid with pure dislike. “You know my dad just feels sorry for you?”

“Actually, I think you’re the one he’s sorry about.”

“Just ‘cause you want to be a doctor,” Chris muttered.

“And you don’t, right?”

“No. I don’t. I’ll never become a doctor,” Chris vowed.

Reid nodded sagely, “Wise of you. Future patients are rejoicing.”

“Freak,” Chris said.

“Really? That’s your best insult? “ Reid shrugged. “Oh well, keep trying. It’s like those scratch off cards in the lottery, eventually even a dope like you might score. ”

Bob and Kim suddenly were whispering loudly to each other. Bob kept glancing over at him.

“I can’t just take back an invitation,” he heard Bob say.

Reid pretended not to notice that remark and busied himself with his notebook. Chris smirked.

Kim ignored Bob’s protest. She walked over to Reid and touched his arm lightly. “Reid, you understand that this is father and son thing, right?” Kim smiled at him frigidly. “We’ll have you join us another time?”

“Kim,” Bob said. His cheeks were slightly red.

“No,” Reid waved a dismissive hand at Bob. “It’s fine.” Reid tapped his papers. “ I wanted to read up on that Autism thing. Oh and there’s another journal covering metopic craniosynostosis.”

“Oh,” Bob’s eyes lit up. “That is a fascinating condition.” He motioned for Chris, who looked sullen and bored. “You should hear about this illness and its treatment.”

“I was reading the newest procedure breaks open the skull to make room for the brain –“

“Yes! “ Bob nodded vigorously, his whole face delighted with Reid. “I read that too!”

“Yeah,” Reid gave a small smile back. “The bones in this one baby’s skull had fused prematurely and –“

“All very interesting,” Kim interrupted, “but the game is going to start. Bob?”

Reluctantly, Bob followed his wife. As he left he turned back once to Reid. “Reid,” Bob called with a smile, “eat a real meal and we’ll discuss all this on Monday.”

Then he was gone, off to be with his family.

Reid stood there a moment, and then went back to eating Doritos alone.

***

The month of May brought more scorching heat, the last of Emma’s brilliant flowers blooming, and Luke’s birthday. The entire Snyder clan was involved in planning the party. As the day approached, they were all running around in excitement. You’d think Luke was about to get married, instead of just turning eight.

The day of Luke’s party seemed to shut down the entire town. Everybody from Oakdale was there, maybe because the kid’s birthday was at Lucinda Walsh’s mansion. It was a formal affair, too. The men were in dark suits and the women were in various dresses. The kids were all looking like future princes and princesses. Luke was in a dark jacket, red tie, dark shorts and knee socks. His hair had been combed and slicked down to one side. Lily and Holden took a “family” picture with their kids; their smiles too wide and too fake for Reid’s taste. As soon as the pictures were over, they took off for different parts of the party.

The party was outside on the patio area of the mansion. Lucinda Walsh had apparently flown in just for Luke’s birthday. A full staff of servants were running around, and there was a live band, and Luke had a literal mountain of expensively wrapped gifts, too. Luke shook all the guest hands as they arrived. He was like the little man of the manor.

Reid did hear Luke ask repeatedly if his other father had called. Apparently, Damian usually called on his birthday, but he hadn’t this year.

“Oh,” Luke’s face looked crestfallen and then he shrugged, “doesn’t matter. I’m sure he’ll call me soon.”

As far as Reid knew, there was no call coming.

The highlight of the party was the moment Holden showed Luke the Shetland pony he’d bought for him. Finally, Luke seemed to be having fun. Holden led him out on it and everybody clapped. Luke waved to everybody with his huge grin. Then Holden helped Luke feed the pony a sugar cube and the animal took the treat with big gums and surprisingly yellowed teeth. Then Luke hugged Lily. He hugged Holden. He even hugged the damn pony.

Reid never had a birthday party as a kid. Angus took him bowling once, when he turned nine. Reid was having trouble fathoming this lavish affair. He was glad for Luke, but the whole event made him uncomfortable. He quickly made a huge plate of lasagna and turkey meat, and then looked for a place to be out of the way. He sat down behind a big tree and began to eat.

“Darling, you need to deal with this now.” Somebody was standing on the other side of the tree. Reid ate another forkful of pasta, and then froze at Lily’s voice.

“I can’t. I just want it to go away.”

“Ha,” the other woman laughed a little caustically. “That , my dear, is not how life works. Things don’t just go away. You have to face them!”

Lily sniffed loudly.

“Mark my words, that Molly isn’t going anywhere. You need to get rid of her.”

“I’ve tried, mother. I did. I confronted him about Molly and that- that girl. I confronted him about smelling her perfume on his shirt the other day, that cheap junk.”

“I’m sure that she buys her toiletries at Walmart darling, but the point is you need to a plan. Let me help.”

“No, absolutely not.”

“Why? I’m so awful , is that it?” Her tone was scorching now. “You weren’t so easy, you know. Do you think I wanted you to be with Holden? Didn’t I warn you about all of this?”

Lily didn’t answer.

“Put down that drink,” Lucinda ordered.

“I’m fine, Mother. Holden and I will work it out. Molly promised not to make trouble.”

“Darling, don’t insult my intelligence on my own property. “ Reid heard her snort. “And think what all this does to Luke? That poor child!”

“He’s fine.”

“He’s not fine. He’s being damaged.”

At last, Reid thought, brain power being used. He waited for Lily’s reply.

“He’s fine,” Lily’s voice had an edge to it now, and her words sounded slightly slurred. “He’s too young to understand.”

Reid rolled his eyes.

“Let’s hope.” There was a pause.

“Why can’t Holden just be done with her?” Lily was whining at Lucinda now. “I just can’t bear the thought, Mother.”

“Of Holden and Molly?”

“Of being alone,” Lily cried out.

Lucinda sighed in clear annoyance, “Stop riding on this pathetic merry-go-round.”

“If you ever loved a man like I love Holden-“

“Oh, p-shaw. I’ve loved many men. Powerful exciting men! But I’m my own woman, darling.”

Lily started to say more, but Lucinda hushed her.

“Quiet. Look who’s coming. Get yourself together.”

“I can’t.”

“Just do!” Then Lucinda called out. “There he is! My best guy!”

Kissing noises.

“Hiya, Grandmother. Thanks for the great party! Mommy? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Lily said in a small voice.

“Mommy has allergies, my darling. She’ll be fine. Lily, go and look at Luke’s presents.”
Luke and Lily’s voices soon trailed off. Reid waited a moment, and then decided it was all clear, he stood up.

“Are you the boy living out at the farm?”

Reid nearly jumped out of his skin. He should have stayed hidden longer.

Lucinda Walsh tilted her head majestically at him. She looked at his half-eaten food and slightly wrinkled, cheap suit.

Reid stared back at Luke’s grandmother. She was the only woman there in a pantsuit and not a dress.

She had a diamond pendant at her throat. Her eyes were shrewd, her gaze direct.

Reid shrugged. “What gave it away? Is there some hay in my hair?”

“I know this entire town, darling, and I have never seen you.” Lucinda circled him, sizing him up. “Do you like living there? At the Snyder farm?” she persisted.

“Not really,” Reid said sourly.

Lucinda look turned calculatingly. “Interesting. Most would have lied about that. “ She studied him. “Has a woman named Molly been there lately?”

Reid said nothing. His mouth turned down in displeasure. He really wished he’d remained hidden by that tree.

Lucinda smiled at him now with a predatory gleam in her eyes, “I can make it worth your time to answer me.”

“Really? ‘Cause I just came for the food.”

“Well how would you like some money with your dessert? Tell me about the farm and Molly. ”

“You should be more concerned with your daughter,” Reid said crisply. “And I can’t be bought.” Reid made a face. “Why do rich people think everybody is for sale?’

Lucinda shrugged, “Because most people are,” she told him flatly.

“Well I’m not.”

“A stray with a moral compass? “ Lucinda appeared amused and hooked her arm around him. “I may need to rethink my whole strategy now.”

“ Moral and gay,” Red told her pointedly, trying to piss her off. “So get your hands off.”

Lucinda threw back her head and cackled with delight. ”Gay? Oh well, all the best ones are, darling. Don’t worry,” Lucinda grinned wickedly at him, “ straight or gay your honor is safe with me. You have a handsome face, but I like my men with a little more meat on their bones. “ She gave Reid’s ass a friendly pat.

Shocked and trying not to show it, Reid refused to move away.

“And your meat is way past its prime.” Reid slowly moved her hand.

“Ha! Oh, I like you!” Lucinda declared, not the least bit offended. She pointed a finger at Reid’s chest. “Think over my offer, young man. I was told you are headed to Harvard in a few months. That’s not a cheap place.”

“I’m getting a full ride.”

“Including text books? Food? Clothing? “ Lucinda narrowed her eyes. “Just think it over some more, before you refuse me. I could use a smart guy like you keeping an eye on things.”

Reid started to reply, when a strange excitement swept through the crowd.

Molly took that moment to crash the party, dragging a sullen teenage girl with her.

“Holden!” Molly called.

Everybody stopped and stared. Molly walked determinedly up to Luke and Lily.

“Oh damn it all,” Lucinda said, “the cheap entertainment has arrived.”

She began to walk determinedly in Molly’s direction, but everything was happening too fast. Molly had already reached Lily and Luke.

“Luke, happy birthday, buddy!” Molly sang out. She thrust the girl in front of her. “This is your sister, Abigail.”

The teenage girl looked miserably at Luke. He stared back.

“You!” Lily shouted at Molly. “How dare you?” Her hysteria grew with each syllable.

“What?” Molly chirped up. “I thought they should meet.”

“Molly, “ Holden said, “we agreed this would be done privately.”

“Why? You said you weren’t ashamed of us?”

“You whore.” Lily swayed unsteadily near Molly.

Molly sneered back.

Luke jumped in between them all. “I want my cake now,” Luke said. “Can I please have my cake?”

“Not now, baby,” Lily said, practically pushing Luke aside.

“Yes, now,” Luke tugged at her hand.

“Why shouldn’t Abigail be here? “ Molly said suddenly. “Holden is her father.”

“You have no rights- none!” Lily screamed at Molly. Lily’s color paled, her breathing seemed erratic. She lurched closer to Molly.

“Holden? “ Molly demanded. “Tell her we can stay.”

“Let’s all try and be reasonable,” Holden said, his eyes gleaming with something close to excitement at the two women fighting.

“I want her gone!” Lily shrieked. Her words were slurred and desperate.

“It doesn’t matter what you want, “ Molly yelled right back.

“I’m ready for my cake, “ Luke said in a small whimper. “Please?”

Lily flung her drink in Molly’s face. Molly lunged at Lily. The two of them began to pull each other’s hair and roll around on the lawn. Holden jumped in and pulled them apart. The girl, Abigail, ran off crying. Then Lily’s face went white, she gasped and fainted into Holden’s arms.

Bob ran over and began to help. Lucinda also ran over and shouted for an ambulance to be called. “We have to get her to Memorial and pump her stomach. Right now.”

Bob and Lucinda rode with the ambulance. Everybody around Reid was whispering and motioning to Molly.

Molly was crying now, big gobs of mascara ran down her face. “I’m a mess,” she cried to Holden. Then she tried to smile. “She was drunk; I didn’t hurt her. I do hope Lily will be okay. I really do.”

“She brought this on herself.” Holden said critically.

Molly glanced down at Luke. “I’m sure your mommy didn’t mean to cause a scene,” she told him with a syrupy voice. “I think she’s just a little sick.”

Luke’s face contorted. “Don’t say my mommy’s name!” His small face twisted with rage and grief. He pounded at Molly with his fists. “Don’t talk about her!”

Holden grabbed him. “Luke! Stop.” Holden shook Luke firmly.

The crowd fell silent.

“I know you’re upset about mommy, but…” Holden stared down at Luke. “That’s no excuse! You don’t act this way, understand? Apologize to her.” When Luke was silent, Holden continued to lecture him. “All of our friends have come here for your birthday. And you are letting them down by misbehaving?“

Luke’s big eyes drifted over all of the faces at his party. Guilt flooded his features.

“Sorry,” he said to his guests in a wobbly voice.

Holden released him. He went over to Molly. “Are you okay?”

She clung to him.

“I’m waiting for you to apologize to Molly too, Luke.”

There was another silence.

“Don’t make me ashamed,” Holden said.

Reid took a few steps closer to Luke.

Luke hung his head a moment. “Sorry, Molly,” he whispered.

“That’s okay,” Molly said with false cheer. “No big deal. And I’m sure soon you can meet your new sister!”

Holden shook his head. “Not now.”

“Right,” Molly said, covering up her mouth. “Bad idea.”

“We need to talk, “ Holden told her. She linked her arm in Holden’s and he led Molly away from the crowd.

Luke looked up, his eyes moist, his lip quivering. He pulled at the collar of his starched white shirt. One of his little knee socks had fallen down.

Reid approached him slowly. For the second time today, Reid felt like socking one of Luke’s parents. All these weeks on the farm, Holden acted like a good dad. But now Reid thought he was full of it. Luke didn’t need a lesson in morality, his parents did.

He bent down to Luke’s level. “ Lily’s gonna be fine. Okay?”

Luke looked into his eyes. “ Really? You’re not lying to me?”

“I’m incapable of lying. Takes too much effort and charm.“ Reid lifted the corners of his mouth and took Luke’s hand a moment. “That’s the truth. They’ll pump her stomach, she will feel like crap for a day or two, and then go back to hounding you about baths soon enough.”

Luke gave Reid’s fingers a little squeeze. The poor kid looked devastated.

“If I’d never had my stupid birthday party, “ Luke whispered to him, “none of this would have happened.”

“Luke,” Holden called sharply. He had returned with Emma.

“Go back to the farm with Mama. I’ll go to the hospital.”

Luke let go of Reid’s hand and looked at Holden. “I wanna go to the hospital. Please!”

Holden just shook his head. “For your own good, Luke. Go to the farm. “

“He just wants to see for himself that she’s alright,” Reid protested.

Reid was ignored.

Holden was already walking off.

“Oh dear, “ Emma said, hugging Luke to her ample bosom. “Let’s just go home.”

***

As they reached the farmhouse, Emma left them to go and settle Faith down for a nap.
Luke had been pretty quiet on the ride. Usually, he chattered away.

Reid gave him a small nudge.

“Hey, don’t you want to go in and open your gazillion presents?” Reid asked him now.

“Not really.”

They climbed out of the truck and just stood there.

“When can I see her?” Luke asked him.

“Lily?”

“Yeah.”

Reid was quiet, unsure of what to say to him. Luke seemed to sadly accept his silence. He kicked at the ground with his shoe.

“You know what, Reid? “

“What?”

“That Molly is a- “ he hesitated a second and glanced around, clearly nervous to be caught saying anything. Reid pretended to glance around too, even though he knew they were alone, and he gave Luke the thumbs up. Luke nodded. Then his features scrunched up in an angry, pouty face, “She’s a dummy.” His eyes widened as if he’d just said the worst profanity on the planet. Reid had to smother his smile.

“No arguments from me. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody dropped her on the head as a baby, maybe left her back a few grades in school.”

Luke nodded emphatically a moment. Then he caught his lip with his teeth. “Don’t tell, okay? That I said that?”

Reid crossed his heart with a finger and nodded. “Don’t worry, Luke. I got your back.”

Luke smiled trustingly at him.

“My birthday wasn’t so good, right? ” Luke went on confessing his feelings, “I mean, I didn’t even get to eat my cake or give out my goody bags. They were Spiderman goody bags too.”

“That isn’t fair,” Reid agreed, “especially the cake part. “

Luke put his hands on his small waist. He let out an almost grownup sigh.

“Being eight really stinks.”

Reid couldn’t help it. He laughed at that.

“Try fifteen,” Reid said dryly. Then he studied Luke. His hair was blowing in the hot wind, his mouth had a small stain of Kool-Aid or something around it, and his dress shoes were once again untied. Luke felt his gaze and gave him a beautiful smile, full of simple warmth. Reid felt a clenching at his heart and looked away a moment. Despite everything that had happened at his birthday, Luke was still so full of simple goodness. His crazy family and this stupid town hadn’t beaten it out of him yet .

Reid reached into his jeans pocket.

“Here.” He thrust the gift at him.

“What this?”

“I’m a little late,” Reid shrugged, “but happy stinking birthday.” “

Luke examined the gleaming white queen in stunned silence.

“Thanks,” Luke said. He turned the chess piece around and around in his hands.

Reid shrugged self-consciously. “Just learn to play right, will you?”

“Happy stinking birthday,” Luke repeated and then he giggled.

It was the first time Reid heard his laugh since the fight between Molly and Lily. Reid would miss carrying around the white queen- it’d been his lucky piece- but hearing Luke’s laughter made it suddenly worth it.

“Come on, pest,” he told Luke, hooking an arm around him. “Let’s go raid Emma’s fridge. There might not be cake, but we can find something good.”

Luke slipped his hand into Reid’s. Together, they went into the house.

***

A few days later, the events at the Snyders’ had settled down. Lily was at Lucinda’s , but she visited and appeared well. Holden told Reid they’d found pills mixed with alcohol in her system, and she was getting some outpatient rehab. She and Holden had some kind of temporary truce, and Molly was keeping away from the farm. The weeks went by and soon it was June. Remarkably, Holden and Lily were still getting along. Reid felt relieved about it, since he had to work at Memorial and didn’t see Luke much. Everything appeared to be better for the moment.

Best of all, Luke was happy again. Just that morning, he’d snatched up a pair of clean underwear that Emma had laid out for him and put it on his head. Luke ran around the kitchen, pretending to fly and shouting ‘I’m an underwear superhero!’ Emma had been appalled that underwear, even a clean pair, was on her grandson’s head. Holden had tried to catch him and make him get dressed. Reid had found it hilarious. His sides ached even now from all that laughing. Who knew little kids were so funny? Or maybe it was just Luke.

Reid was still thinking about the underwear incident while he shadowed Bob on his morning rounds. Although he would never tell him, Reid had to admit that Bob was amazing with his patients. He knew their names, their spouses, the names of their pets for god’s sake. When Bob entered the room, all the patients straightened up. Even the cantankerous lady in 3A, who did nothing but spit ice chips at the nurses, loved Bob. By the end of the visit, she was giving him her wrinkled hand to hold and flirting with him.

“Remember, Reid, “ Bob told him as they left the room, “even the worst of the whiners, even the mean ones, are really just frightened. Remember, the doctor has all the power, too.”

“The power?”

“Think about it, “Bob said, “ these poor patients have been poked and prodded and tested. They might have sores in their mouths from the chemo or unbearable pain that no meds can fully take away. In the end, they need us to help them. Hopefully, save them. That’s a great power, “ Bob told him, waving his finger in the air like Merlin brandishing a magic wand. “ A great responsibility.”

“Touching.” Reid rolled his eyes. “But when can I get to observe another operation?”

Bob sighed.

“Aren’t you scheduled for a surgery?’ Reid asked persistently, although he knew Bob was due in the OR. He had Bob’s schedule memorized.

“Yep, right now. “ He tossed Reid some scrubs. “Okay, come watch, but stay out of the way, alright?”

“Right!” Reid’s heart beat frantically. He hadn’t expected Bob to agree. He pulled the scrubs on. They were way too big for his thin frame. The scrub top could easily have been wrapped around him several times and should be pinned, and the bottoms fell below his feet. He cuffed them up quickly, not caring.

Reid watched fascinated as Bob cut into the man’s abdomen, he could see the flesh and muscles being opened. Reid leaned closer to see the organs inside. He felt like the mysteries of the universe were suddenly being exposed. His pulse raced. He felt a rush of adrenaline flood his body as Bob cut away a massive tumor. It was a high like nothing imaginable. Reid’s fingers flexed. He couldn’t wait for his first surgery, his first cut.

Afterward, as Bob changed, Reid couldn’t stop asking him questions.

“Okay, Reid okay. I’ll answer everything. While I admire your dedication, son, and I intend to answer all those questions, calm down. I intend to have my lunch first, and I expect you to join me.”

“What is it? Bypass surgery? A brain aneurism?”

Bob laughed and was about offer more, when Chris and Kim arrived.

“Here he is,” Kim said with a smile.

Reid felt a stab of irritation at their unexpected arrival. They often showed up to take Bob out, but it was still early. Reid had been hoping for more time.

“Are you excited?” Bob asked his son.

“I am,” Chris gave Bob a big grin. “I can’t wait.”

Reid sighed. Maybe Chris had a big golf tournament or had finally passed basic Geometry or something. He waited for them to go.

Bob turned to Reid. “I have some good news. Christopher wanted to join us today. His classes are pretty much done for the summer now. Just this morning, Chris informed his mother and me that he wants to be a doctor.” Bob beamed at Chris proudly. “Isn’t that right, son?”

“That’s right, Dad. Just like my old man.”

Reid stared at Chris.

Kim waved her hand at him. “Oh, dear. I need to make a call for a moment. I forgot my interview is coming in to the station by three. Bob? Let me into your office a moment, darling?”

“Sure. Wait here, boys.”

As soon as Bob and Kim went into the office, Reid turned to Chris accusingly.

“I thought you didn’t want to be a doctor?”

“Funny thing,” Chris smiled charmingly, “I changed my mind. “ He clapped his hands together. “And after Dad gives me the tour today, I might even suggest I get a job here for the summer. “ Chris continued to smile at him. “Course the job you do is about the only one I’m qualified for.”

Reid didn’t reply. He felt his heart just stop.

“Aww Reid, what’s wrong?” Chris asked mockingly. “Not feeling so superior now?”

Bob and Kim came out of his office. At the same moment, the elevator opened and Luke and Lily got out.

“Reid!” Luke called cheerfully. “We came to take you to lunch.”

“Why don’t we all go to Al’s?” Bob suggested, “After lunch, Reid and Chris can do afternoon rounds with me.”

“Great!” Lily said.

“Fantastic,” Chris added. “I can’t wait for the afternoon, Dad. “

***

Outside of Al’s, Reid just waited for the others to be done. He had gobbled down the food, appreciating the milkshakes and burgers, but now he felt slightly sick.

Luke came outside to join him. “Hi,” he called.

Reid said nothing.

“You had some fries left over,” Luke told him.

“So what?” Reid shrugged.

Luke frowned at him and tilted his head. “What’s a matter?”

“Nothing.”

“Reid-“

“Chris is about to take away my job, damn him.” Reid spoke almost to himself more than to Luke. “ He doesn’t even want it!” Reid rubbed his hands over his face. He sat down on the nearby bench and tried to take deep breaths.

“But,” Luke said baffled, sitting down next to Reid, “it’s your job, right? Finders keepers, right? He can’t just take it away.” Luke patted Reid’s shoulder lovingly.

Reid shook his head, feeling miserable. “He can. He’s Bob’s son. “ Reid sniffed loudly. “And I’m nothing.”

“Don’t say that, you’re- “

“Just stop,” Reid jumped away from Luke, off the bench. “What do you know? You’re just a kid, an entitled brat. Like all the rest of them.”

Reid hurried away, headed for the bus stop. He’d find his own way back to the hospital. He needed to just be alone.

He refused to look back at Luke, and he refused to allow the stinging behind his own eyes to fall into tears.

***
It took Reid awhile to find the right bus back to Memorial. He dreaded seeing the smug look on Chris’s face or the pitying one on Bob’s. That would be the worst of it. Having to listen to Bob explain why his job now would belong to Chris.

He felt bad about taking his anger out on Luke. He knew he owed him an apology. Whatever. Luke probably wouldn’t understand, but Reid did feel sorry about it. Reid had to dig for enough money to pay the fare and the bus driver gave him a suspicious look, as if he didn’t think that Reid belonged. Reid got on and quickly slid down into a plastic seat. Reid gazed at his own reflection in the glass; he looked thin and anxious. He frowned at himself. The bus lurched forward and the people riding were all quiet. Some were dressed carefully, headed to their jobs. Others looked defeated, like they were only riding to the next bad thing. Every stop, the bus driver with the mean, pinched face hurried the people off or on. The bus went through Old Town and then headed for Memorial. By the time his stop arrived, Reid was ready. He straightened up his shoulders determinedly. He no longer cared about a-holes like Chris who though the world should be handed to them on a plate. Reid had to fight for everything. So what? That wasn’t news. He’d just have to go in there and fight as hard as he could. He’d remind Bob that one day he’d be the best neurosurgeon on the planet.

When he finally arrived at Bob’s office, he was startled to see that Bob was with only Luke. They appeared to be waiting for him. Luke gave him a smile and Reid looked down at his shoes a moment. Then Reid glanced around for Lily and for Kim. In confusion, he looked around for Chris. Reid was ready to fight Chris for his position, but he was dumbfounded now. Maybe Chris was already doing his job?

“Sit down, Reid,” Bob said.

“But I-“ Reid stood, scowling.

“Sit.” Bob’s voice was firm. Reid sat.

“Seems you have a little champion,” Bob told him.

“Champion?” Reid repeated.

“You took a long time to return. In that time, Luke here has been giving me quite an earful of all your good qualities. He seems to think I’d be rather foolish to let you go.” Bob turned to Reid. “I told Luke I was surprised, since I have no intentions of firing you.”

Reid stared at Bob. “You – you don’t?”

Bob shook his head.

“But I thought…” Reid trailed off, baffled. “But Chris?”

“Can apply for this job next year,” Bob answered smoothly.

“He’s your son.” Reid said.

“Who can apply like everybody else. You’re one of the finest young minds I’ve ever encountered, Reid, “ Bob said frankly. “You deserve this job.”

Reid felt his whole body grow warm.

“Lily is waiting in her car outside,” Bob informed him crisply, sensing his embarrassment. “ I told her you and Luke might want to talk for a moment. “

Bob went over to Reid and patted his back. “Now I have some other hospital business to see about. “ Then Bob smiled down at Luke, “and you should be a lawyer, young man. You are quite persistent.”

Luke flashed his dimples at Bob.

Smiling back, Bob closed the door behind him. He left Reid with Luke.

“I- I was obnoxious before,” Reid said haltingly.

“Yeah, “ Luke agreed.

Reid frowned, perplexed. Luke sounded fine, not at all upset. “I was a jerk,” Reid said slowly, “yet you…you still pleaded my case with Bob?”

Luke smiled. He got up and went to him. “I know you were just scared. “

Reid snorted at that. ”Was not.”

He gazed into Luke’ eyes. Luke gazed back. How could a little kid see him better than any adult ever had? Reid swallowed hard for a moment. He glanced away. He hated admitting to fear. It was a wasted emotion.

“Reid,” Luke said softly. He looked back to see Luke chewing on his lower lip. “ I told Bob to keep you? Is that okay?”

Reid cleared his throat. He just nodded.

Luke beamed at him. “I’m glad you’re not mad at me. Ms. Hughes seemed mad. And Chris,” Luke shrugged at that.

“I would have loved to have seen their faces, “ Reid shot him a smile.

Luke giggled. “They looked like this.” He made his cheeks blow out and eyes grow big. Then he pretended to choke and stuck out his tongue.

“That’s good, Luke,” Reid laughed. “You look like Chris.”

Luke giggled some more. Then his face grew more serious.

“I kind of tattled on Chris,” Luke admitted sheepishly.

“Yeah, I see that big old tail coming out of your butt.”

“There’s nothing in my butt,” Luke said indignantly. Then he laughed hysterically.

Reid just shook his head. “Why am conversing with a kid? “ He looked skywards as if the answer would be written on Bob’s office ceiling.

“Thanks for not being mad at my tattling, “ Luke said, once he’d stopped laughing.

Reid shrugged. “Well, in this case, you were just helping me out, true?”

Luke nodded.

“So, I don’t think it’s wrong then. In fact, I- I should be the one thanking you.” Reid felt heat coming to his cheeks. He did feel grateful to Luke. He had done his a favor, and he’d stuck up for him, no one, big or small, had ever done that.

Luke stared at him a second. He gave Reid a dazzling smile.

“No big whoop,” Luke said generously. “ Forget it.”

“Yeah, well I intend to forget it,” Reid teased.

But he wouldn’t forget it. Not ever.

“It’s like you said,” Luke added, running his small hand down Reid’s cheek. “We got each other’s back. “

“Yeah,” Reid nodded simply. “We sure do.”

“I know!” Luke’s eyes lit up, ”We need a secret handshake!”

“A what?” Reid made a face.

“A secret handshake,” Luke repeated patiently. “That only we know, see? And that way, we never forget.”

Reid just sighed.

“Okay,” Reid grumbled.

“Hmm,” Luke put a finger in his mouth and concentrated. “What should it be like?” He looked deep in thought. Then Luke grabbed Reid’s hand.

“I got it!” His whole face beamed with sudden joy, “we fist bump- like this. Twice okay? Hook thumbs. Yes, right. And now…" Luke thought a moment. “We grab each other on the shoulder.”

Reluctantly, Reid held out his fist, bumped it twice with Luke’s, hooked thumbs together for a moment, and then released it and clasped Luke by his small shoulder. Luke held Reid’s shoulder too. He had to stand on his tip-toes to reach it. Reid bent down a little to help him, putting his face close to Luke’s.

“Let’s use it whenever we need each other again? Okay?” Luke said.

“Okay,” Reid answered.

“Now we belong to each other,” Luke told him happily.

***

The summer flew the last months. Luke was in camp and Reid was at Memorial. Before he knew it, August came. Harvard sent Reid his housing information. He was off to begin his real life. Finally.

Reid requested a single room. He didn’t want a roommate bothering him. He secured a work-study job. He packed up his few things. Holden and Lily were back together now. Molly and Abigail had left town. Luke was over the moon with joy about his parents. Reid personally had doubts about them staying together, but he said nothing. Emma was planning him a farewell meal on his last night. Reid even got to pick the menu. He’d miss Emma.

Meanwhile, it was his very last day at Memorial. He knocked at Bob’s door and waited. Reid might have just left; he hated goodbyes, but he knew Bob would just show up at the farm or something. Better to get it over with now.

“Come in,” Bob called. He was sitting at his desk, surrounded by case files.

He smiled at Reid warmly.

“Off to Harvard in another day, right?”

“Yep.”

“So 4 years of college and then right to med school?”

“Four years? “ Reid scoffed. “I don’t think so…two tops. I plan to be n the accelerated track just like high school.”

Bob shook his head ruefully, “Still not slowing down to find a life, huh?” Bob walked over to him. “When you get to be my age, son, you’ll see that the important parts are what happens outside of work.”

“When I get to be your age,” Reid countered, “I’ll be drooling in some nursing home.”

“You should learn to speak to your elders with respect,” Bob gently scolded.

“And you should go after that Chief of Staff job already,” Reid advised. Then he gave Bob a shy, fast smile. “You’d be ten times better at it than anybody else here.”

“I don’t suppose you ever want to come back here and work for me?”

Reid let out a fast, incredulous laugh. “Here? “ He shook his head. “Never.”

“Never say never.”

“Right, “ Reid said, “that will be my new mantra.”

“Dr. Oliver,” Bob laughed, “and I can call you that before anybody else does…Wherever life takes you, you will make a fine surgeon.“ Bob gazed at him steadily.

For once in his life, Reid found he could not reply. He nodded curtly. Bob offered his hand and they shook.

Then Reid hurried away. Gathering up his things, Reid left Memorial and headed to the farm.

***

Emma’s dinner was over and Reid thought his stomach might explode. The only down note was that Luke had run off somewhere before dessert. He had to endure the rest of them insincerely prattling on about how they would miss him. If there hadn’t been ice cream and pie, Reid might have run out too.

Finally, the meal was over and Reid searched Luke out. He was easy to find; Luke would make a lousy criminal. The light from the barn was clearly on. Reid went over to the barn quietly, trying to figure out exactly what to say.

He pushed open the barn door and nodded at Luke.

“Hey,” Reid said, ”you missed pie.”

Luke shrugged, “I get pie every week.”

“Lucky you,” Reid answered

Luke didn’t respond. He had his hands jammed in his pockets and his mouth was twisted up. Reid was praying Luke wouldn’t start to cry or something.

“You’re leaving.”

‘Obviously’, Reid almost said, but, as he looked into Luke’s unhappy face, he quickly bit back the sarcasm.

“Yeah,” Reid glanced away from him. Then he took a deep breath. “But Boston’s not that far,” Reid offered. “And you’re loaded. You can visit. Hop on your grandmother’s jet.”

“No.”

“Yeah, we can write or call each other –“

“Don’t lie to me,” Luke said, suddenly angry. “You’re the only one who doesn’t lie to me.”

Reid fell silent. He looked into Luke’s eyes.

“It’s not gonna be like that,” Luke said. “My daddy Damian said stuff like that, “ he sniffed. “And it’s not true.”

Luke took his hands out of his pockets and wiped at his eyes.

“You’re right, “ Reid replied after a long moment. “You and I have always been honest with each other.”

Bending down to Luke’s level, Reid wiped a stray tear away. Then he reached out uncertainly and cupped Luke’s small face in his hand.

“We probably won’t see each other ever again,” Reid admitted.

He held his hand at Luke’s cheek and stroked it a moment.

“I love you,” Luke said.

Reid swallowed hard. He could feel a muscle twitch in his cheek.

Without saying anything, Reid pulled Luke’s body to him. He rocked him a moment in his arms.

“Me too,” Reid whispered into Luke’s ear. His voice was rusty sounding and trembled slightly.

Quickly, Reid pushed Luke away from him and stumbled for the door. He blinked hard several times, refusing to let his own tears fall.

“Bye, Reid,” Luke called softly.

An ache in his chest, Reid just stood there a second. He looked back at Luke and gave him a sad, slow smile.

“Bye, Luke.”

Then Reid left.

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December 2011

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