Jun. 19th, 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 TWO

Chapter Three

“Miss me?” Reid said.

He pushed open the door. But the office was empty.

Reid shrugged and tossed his bags down. He stretched his arms up over his head. It had been a long flight. He’d forgotten how he loathed the red-eye. He could use some sleep and good food. He sat down in the leather chair and put his feet up on the big desk and wondered if Al’s Diner still made those super greasy onion rings . He could go for those and a chocolate milkshake right now.

Part of Reid couldn’t even fathom that he was back in this town. Oakdale. It was still a dump. He only had to drive through the one main street to the hospital to see that his assessment held true. He’d been fifteen when he’d been here last. He’d walked into the town, trying to pretend he wasn’t scared shitless, and stumbled into an insane, do-gooder, hell.

Reid closed his eyes and remembered it all: the Snyder farm, milking cows, and a comfortable bed that never felt like it was really his. Reid remembered the bumpy drive leading to the farm; it shot off the main road just outside of town. Could anybody still be living out there? Maybe the place was sold by now? He couldn’t imagine Emma ever leaving. He would have to ask Bob. He was curious about Lily, Holden and Emma.

And Luke? Reid’s mind went blank a moment; his neurons refusing to fire, and then an image of Luke flashed in his memory. Luke had been such an innocent kid, with so much promise. He pictured Luke standing on his toes to look Reid in the eye, excitedly demanding his attention, his upturned face, almost obnoxious with its devotion, shining up at him. Stupidly naïve little kid. Reid sighed and wondered what had become of him. Did his parents finally warp him, or break him? Or worse.

Reid hoped Luke had escaped the insane asylum that was Oakdale and was making his way somewhere else in the world, like he had.

At least his time on the farm had been tolerable. They’d treated him well. Considering how rude he’d been to the Snyders, they were pretty decent to him. They were a screwed up family, for sure, but what family wasn’t?

Reid pressed the bridge of his nose and shook his head, trying to shake it all away. Fact was, he’d been taken in like a stray puppy. For years he’d tried to forget how that felt. But now, back in Oakdale, it was closing in around him. How easy it was for the past to merge with the present.

Reid stiffened his shoulders. Maybe he wouldn’t ask Bob about the Snyders, after all. It would be better to leave it alone. Reid would do his job and then try to forget about all of this again. And that’s the way it should be. When he’d left Oakdale the first time, he’d promised himself that nobody would ever jerk him around again.

Unless it was some hot blond doing the jerking. Reid sighed. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d fucked somebody senseless. The last boner he had was all alone in his apartment, looking through a dirty magazine and letting go all over his chest and belly. It wasn’t the same as being with somebody.

God. Why was he even thinking about this? He should be thinking about the case. Usually, he had a one track mind – medicine and only medicine. But he’d been restless lately, and not just for some sex. Reid never took vacations. Since leaving medical school he’d worked every day without fail, but these last few months he hadn’t felt his usual passion for it. His recent patients had all been routine, no excitement in fixing them, and Bob’s phone call had come at the perfect time. Listening to Bob explain the help he needed, hell, just hearing from Bob, had sparked a response in Reid. He’d felt more alive since that call than he had in a long time.

Angus would call him a sap or worse. He’d say Reid was whipped for jumping on a plane the moment Bob called. Normally, Reid refused calls from other doctors begging for his help. He had a waiting list and he stuck to it. He didn’t care if a patient was Mother Teresa or a serial killer – they all had to wait their turn. It was surprising how something so fair could piss so many people off.

And doctors – doctors were the worst. Arrogant pricks, most of them, pressuring him to place their patient’s name higher up than the others. Everybody had a reason, a sob story, for wanting their patient to move to the top spot. Reid didn’t give a damn. Fair was fair, and people would wait their turn.

But Bob was different. Bob had favored him, taught him, accepted him. Reid really didn’t understand why. He would never let some stupid kid follow him around the hospital. But Bob wasn’t like him. Bob had allowed him in the OR. He’d handed him a skull saw. He’d recognized the fire inside of Reid to become a doctor. Bob had been warm and kind and good with people. No, he wasn’t at all like Reid.

The moment Bob called, the warmth he greeted Reid with, even after all these years, had crushed Reid’s defenses. Reid shifted in his chair. That last thought was far from comfortable. Reid sucked in a few deep breathes. Maybe he wasn’t quite so ready for this meeting after all.

Reid picked up a notebook and a pen. Really, he could use some food. He started to write a note, informing Bob that he would come back later, when he froze. He heard Bob’s voice just outside the door and Reid cursed his perfect memory then. Just the sound of that voice combined with the smell of Memorial’s halls brought it all rushing back: walking the corridors with Bob, his scrubs hanging off his skinny frame, as he desperately followed Bob from room to room, attempting to look more confident and self assured than he was. Bragging to Bob about all the medical things he already knew, scribbling things down in that ridiculous notebook he’d carried. Reid could see now that he’d probably never fooled Bob with his bravado. He’d been so eager then, practically stumbling over his own feet to fit in at Memorial. He shuddered slightly.

Last week, Bob had called him and asked for his help. Reid had agreed readily. But now memories of being that ugly teenager made him feel trapped, like Bob’s office had no windows and really poor air circulation. Reid detested that sensation, almost as much as he loathed the fifteen year old kid he’d been, and when he’d told Bob yes, he hadn’t anticipated any of that.

The staff at the Mayo Clinic where he worked now would be shocked to see him wiping at his forehead with his handkerchief, sweaty and unsteady. He was Dr. Oliver, for God’s sake. Nurses cowered in the corner every time he entered the room. Patients looked up to him and feared him. Other doctors despised him with all the hatred inspired by rampant jealousy and respected his every idea. He’d made it. Big time.

So why did hearing Bob’s voice just outside the door make his palms sweat? As a kid, he’d never wanted to please somebody so much.

As Bob entered his office, Reid made a sour face.

“Reid!” Bob smiled. “Thank you so much for coming.”

Reid stood up. Bob looked the same. His hair was gray now and his eyes were lined, but it was still Bob. When Bob moved as if to embrace him, Reid quickly stuck out his hand. They shook solemnly.

Reid picked up Bob’s name plate from off of his desk. “I see you finally made it,” Reid said, tapping on the Chief of Staff title under Bob’s name. ”How many decades did it take you?”

“You know, the moment I saw your frowning face on that website , I knew it was you. But I’d forgotten that charm of yours.”

“I’m just surprised someone as ancient as you can navigate the internet.”

Reid could never remember a single person in Oakdale ever talking to Bob with anything but the utmost respect. The hospital might as well name a wing after him, or erect a statue of Bob in Old Town; he was that much of a central part of Oakdale. Reid suspected that kind of reverence got boring, and deep down, Reid had always sensed that Bob enjoyed their exchanges. Bob took the joke good-naturedly now.

“Even an old guy like me can learn a few tricks,” Bob said with a twinkle in his eye. “But I must admit my grandson helped me. “

Reid wondered for a moment about Bob’s family. Was the grandson Chris’s kid? Now, there was a person who should never have gone forth and multiplied. Reid felt an old, familiar twist in his gut.

As a kid, he’d had no use for the Hughes family, but he valued Bob, and he’d always thought Bob’s sons hadn’t appreciated their father enough. In fact, that gangly, fifteen year old Reid had sometimes imagined with vivid desperation that Bob was his father, and he’d wanted to thump Tom and Chris for having no idea just how great they had it. He could admit that to himself now, standing in front of Bob. It was the first time he’d admitted that to himself since he’d left this ridiculous place.

Bob clasped his arm. “I am very appreciative that you came here to consult on this case. “ Bob looked at him warmly. “My neurosurgeon was way out of her depths.”

“Well if she trained in Oakdale that’s no surprise.”

He was a little uncomfortable with Bob’s sincerity. While it pleased him that Bob recognized his brilliance, discussing Bob’s gratitude unnerved him.

It was a good thing that Bob never needed to know just how far Reid’s daydreams as a teenager had gone. Truth be told, if he’d been Bob’s son, he most likely would have disappointed him anyway, because he was not very good at being a person. Truly belonging was not something Reid could really imagine for himself. The best he could do was to be a fucking fantastic doctor, and he certainly always succeeded there.

People with good families, loving fathers and mothers, just took it all for granted. Chris certainly had, and Reid had seen it many times in the hospital: sons and daughters neglecting their parent’s care. They were burdens suddenly, too much trouble to deal with, even though Reid could see that their folks had given everything to make sure they had gone to the best schools, and they had everything their hearts could desire. Ingrates, all of them, and without any sense of gratitude. It made no sense. It was inexplicable to him. Not that Reid knew anything about the intricate workings of a family.

Reid cleared his throat. “Where is your so-called neurosurgeon anyhow? Did you give her a time out?”

Bob sighed. “No. I’m afraid Dr. Richards left in quite a huff over this matter. “

“She didn’t want another surgeon playing in her sandbox, huh?”

It didn’t displease Reid to learn of Dr. Richards’ departure. If he took on a patient, he wanted complete control. It was messy to work with other, always inferior doctors, so he was pleased that he would be doing the operation solo. Dr. Richards’ petulance allowed him to escape the pretense of inclusion. Reid nearly sighed with relief at not having to pretend to ‘play well’ with others.

Bob ignored his quip and handed him a file. “Here’s the case. She’s a young woman with quite an interesting story-”

Reid opened the file. “Right. I don’t really care about all that. Just so long as the case is challenging, like you promised. Just give me her name and a synopsis of her medical history.”

“Still think compassion is for the nurses, do you?” Bob shook his head. “I know you’re a serious surgeon, Reid, but the really gifted surgeons care about every aspect of a case. “

Reid was surprised that Bob remembered his remarks as a teenager. He certainly had liked to shoot his mouth off. And Bob always was a bleeding heart.

Reid preferred to keep a healthy distance with his patients. If anybody else had lectured him about compassion, Reid would have smirked at them with a mixture of scorn and enjoyment of their stupidity. The few times he had attempted to reach out to a patient, when he’d been young and foolish, Reid had gotten burned. One had sued him for malpractice when the surgery, successful in every other way, left a scar that was larger than the patient deemed necessary. It had been all the confirmation Reid needed that he’d been right not to trust the human race. After that, Reid pulled back and remained strictly professional.

“Her name is Ameera Mayer,” Bob continued. “Her preliminary CT scan was serious; the tumor is located in a rare and dangerous place. The bleed is contained right now, but has the possibility of a massive eruption at any second. You should see the brain scans - the swelling.”

“Oh, Bob,” Reid drawled. “Now you’re just sweet talking me.”

Bob laughed. “Let’s go meet the Mayers, shall we?”

***

Ameera Mayer was in her last year of college, young and seemingly healthy, when she collapsed with a violent seizure. A friend had quickly phoned 911, but Ameera had already slipped into a deep coma. Her CT scan revealed a massive tumor in her brain, deep in the center of her head.

As Reid listened to Bob go over the medical facts, he looked at Ameera. She was a pretty woman, though obviously very ill. Her face was pale and her body looked tiny in the hospital bed, especially with her husband, Noah, standing like a giant over her. His face was scrunched up, as if begging Reid for some understanding.

“Are you the specialist?,” he said the moment Reid walked in. “Please, you have to save my wife.”

Reid pressed his lips together, avoiding the hundred or so sarcastic remarks he longed to make. Reid was careful about every word he uttered either patients or family members. Discussing a case with the family was like unfolding a map; you had to be cautious of every crease or they read it completely wrong.

“You’re in excellent hands with Dr. Oliver,” Bob told him. He patted Noah on the back and Noah nodded his head up and down. “I called him in because I believe Dr. Oliver is truly the best man for the job.” Bob met Reid’s eyes. “I have every confidence in him.”

“Thank you, Dr. Hughes. Dr. Oliver.“ Noah smiled at them.

“Don’t thank us yet,” Reid said dryly. “One step at a time.”

Noah bent over his wife, stroking her hand. “Don’t worry,” he said to his wife. “I won’t leave you for a moment. I’ll be here night and day. “

Terrific, Reid thought, just what he needed.

Noah looked at Reid. “I made her a promise, when she came to this country. I swore to take care of her.”

Noah paused then, like he expected Reid to praise him or something. Reid just looked at him. Wasn’t that what husbands and wives did, take care of each other? Noah said it like it made him special.

His chest puffed out a little. “I rescued my wife.” His face changed slightly. “And then this happened.”

“We’ll do everything possible to help her,” Bob assured him warmly. “She’s lucky to have you.”

Noah seemed satisfied by that and nodded in agreement.

Bob signaled Reid to join him at the door. “I trust you want to examine her now?”

“Examine her? “ Reid’s mouth lifted. “Nah, I thought I’d go right for the skull saw. Just do it right here in this room. Figure it out as I cut.”

“I’d forgotten your rather colorful sense of humor.” Bob sighed. “Seriously, Reid, do you need any further assistance from me? I’d be happy to stay for awhile. “

“I got it, Bobo.” Reid’s brow lifted. He glanced at Noah. “Unless you can get rid of him for me?”

“We allow our immediate family members to stay.” Bob gave him a stern look. “We try and work with our families and offer them some comfort.”

“Well, there’s your first mistake.”

Bob crossed his arms over his chest. “Our rule here is to practice sound medicine with a compassionate heart.”

“Sure, let’s all join hands and sing ‘It’s a Small World’.” Reid leaned forward. “Medicine is about results.”

Bob shrugged. “Well, Dr. Oliver, when you run a hospital of your own, you can make the rules.”

Reid gave a bark of laughter. “Me? Run a hospital? I’d rather be tied up, gagged to a chair and forced to watch soap operas all day, than listen all day long to the histrionics of the nurses and interns.”

Bob shook his head at him. “After you’re done, meet me on the second floor, room 201. I’d like to hear your evaluation of the case and go over it with you.”

Reid felt slightly annoyed at the way Bob was ordering him around. At the Mayo Clinic, he had free reign. Nobody questioned him or wanted to meet with him every second. He’d forgotten how Memorial worked. This place was so old-fashioned. They probably still accepted chickens instead of cash as payment.

Besides, Bob had called him, hadn’t he? Reid might need to remind Bob of that fact. But this wasn’t the right moment. When they were alone, Reid would remind Bob of that he wasn’t a boy of 15 anymore. He didn’t need a babysitter.

Bob left the room and Reid went over to begin his exam. He was hoping Noah would just be quiet and let him work. Noah, however, had other ideas. It was almost as if he couldn’t stand the silence. He’d swallow, and burst out with strangled comments, going on and on about his wife, her background in Iraq, and a bunch of other insignificant nonsense that had nothing to do with the upcoming operation.

Reid didn’t listen. The case was difficult, but clear cut enough to know that nothing in her history or environment led to the tumor. Reid sighed, examining Ameera’s reflexes.

“…And she’s a great person, doctor. She’s an honor student and has a job at a fashion store, and she-“

Blah, blah, blah. Reid pinched the bridge of his nose in irritation and tried to shut out the noise.

Noah went on now about how his wife didn’t deserve her illness. That it was unfair. Reid tried not to roll his eyes in response. He tried to nod sympathetically. If a doctor learned to fake a good nod, he might be able to escape small talk.

While Noah strangled out sentences, Reid focused on his patient. He intently looked her over, careful not to miss a thing. Reid gave her cold fingers a soft squeeze; he hoped this fragile girl had the strength for her battle ahead.

“Well,” Reid interrupted finally, straightening up, “I really need to study her case file.”

“Thank you, Doctor Oliver, thank you so –“

Reid waved a hand to stop his gushing. “Again, don’t thank me until I’ve done my job, all right? Here. Look over these consent forms carefully. I’ll be back soon.”

He picked up the other file of her scans and exited the room quickly. He really didn’t want to hear Noah prattle on any further about the unfairness of life-as if life ever balanced on a scale of justice. Reid had seen a baby born with half a brain. He’d witnessed children dying of cancer, taking a final breath in their mothers’ arms. Suffering was never given out in equal measure.

Reid felt lucky to escape the room. He hoped to get this operation done quickly. He considered transferring Ameera back to the Mayo Clinic. The trip down memory lane had already been anything but comfortable, and Memorial was a tiny hospital in the middle of the sticks; the chances that it had upgraded its O.R. to rival the state-of-the-art facilities he was accustomed to was unlikely, but, from everything Bob had said, Ameera was far too delicate for that. She might not survive the trip. Reid frowned grumpily; he was trapped here for now and being trapped sucked.

Just then, a body slammed into Reid, causing his scans to go flying.

“Watch out!”

“Sorry!”

The young man bent to pick them up. Reid had a nice view of a firm ass. It was exactly the way Reid liked it-- high and tight.

“I’m so sorry,” the guy was saying, “totally my fault.”

“Just move aside, “ Reid said impatient and suddenly horny again all at the same time. “I’ll get them myself.”

“No, no. I insist.” The young man glanced at him, his gaze lingering on Reid’s features with curiosity a second, and then he bent back down once more.

A jolt of recognition shot through Reid. He knew that face. But, no, it couldn’t be. What were the chances? Well, okay, given that it was Oakdale, a town the size of a postage stamp, the chances were pretty good.

Reid narrowed his eyes. “Luke?”

The man glanced up questioningly.

It was him. It had to be. Same brown eyes. Same expressions.

“Luke,” Reid repeated and, for the first time that day, broke into a real smile.

“Do I know you?” Luke answered, tilting his head.

Reid swallowed a sudden jab of hurt. Of course, Luke had been a kid and –

“Wait. Reid?” Luke’s mouth dropped open. He stood up, his eyes moving up and down Reid’s frame, the CT scans left on the floor. Luke ran his tongue over his lips and asked, “Seriously? Is it you?”

“It’s me.” Reid nodded. “Have I changed that much?”

“No- I mean- you do look different.“Luke flushed. “I don’t think I would have recognized you now,” Luke went on. “You’re so- so filled out.“ He flushed again. Then he chewed his lip. “Not that you looked bad before-“

“I was a nightmare,” Reid laughed slightly, not offended. “Puberty isn’t anybody’s best look.” Reid studied Luke’s features slowly. “I’d have recognized you,” Reid said, “you have the same face you had at seven.”

“Oh,” Luke answered, clearly unsure if that was a good thing or not.

Their eyes locked on each other.

Reid remembered the way Luke had always scurried to catch up to him, looking at him with that open and eager face, and he knew they could be meeting on the other side of the world and Reid would know him. He would recognize Luke.

Luke chewed his lip now, making Reid smile. He’d always done that as a kid too. Reid half-expected him to have ruined those lips with that habit. But no, his lips weren’t scarred at all. They were full and lush- a generous mouth.

Reid realized he was staring at Luke’s lips. He forced himself to look away.

“What are you doing here?” Luke asked finally, breaking an awkward silence.

Reid liked that Luke asked that instead of the more asinine “How are you?” or “How’s life treating you?,” Luke’s question had a clear cut response, and Reid had an actual answer to it.

“I’m working on a case. Bob tracked me down and asked me. The internet is a dangerous thing.”

Luke laughed, and Reid felt oddly pleased . When Luke laughed, his whole face expressed joy. Unlike most people who laughed with their hands at their mouths or with only a polite chuckle, Luke laughed openly. He laughed in a way that made Reid want to laugh too.

“I’m not surprised you’re sought after. I always knew you’d be at the top of your field.”

“And I am.”

“Still modest, too, I see.” Luke smiled.

“Modesty is overrated. “

Luke rolled his eyes, but seemed amused more than anything. “What’s your specialty?”

“Neurology, of course.“

Surely Luke remembered Reid at the dinner table sketching the Frontal and Central Lobes on all those napkins, while Luke’s family babbled on and on, and he waited for Emma’s food?

“Well, I guess you always were doodling those pictures of the brain,” Luke said, as if reading his mind, although Reid took a slight offense at the word doodling. Those drawings had been accurate renderings. He started to correct Luke about that, when Luke added “ And Bob found you on the computer?”

“Yeah,” Reid nodded, “Who knew the old dinosaur could work a mouse?”

Luke started to laugh again and then stopped. “Wait. Neurology? Are you- it’s not Ameera’s case, is it?” Luke didn’t wait for him to answer. “What am I thinking? Of course, you’re the specialist Bob promised Noah. That’s you. Wow.”

“You know her?”

Luke’s eyebrows shot up underneath his hair. “Sort of…I mean, yeah.”

Why was he surprised? Of course, Luke knew her. The Snyders knew everybody in this town. All Oakdale residents were either tied by blood, marriage or a weird combination of the two. That’s probably what made ‘em crazy.

“She’s not your wife and stepsister too, is she?” Reid joked.

“What? No,” Luke tugged nervously at his ear. “She’s just a friend.” But he looked guilty. His eyes darted to the side.

Reid cocked his head. Interesting. The woman was married, of course, but in a town like Oakdale where infidelity was as pervasive as opinions, that didn’t mean a damn thing.

“Is she really so bad?” Luke folded his arms across his body. He slumped his shoulders in protectively. “I mean, she can be fixed, right?”

Reid stared at him. He wasn’t going to discuss a patient with Luke, but something about Luke’s eyes made Reid think of the many nights when Luke, frightened of his nightmares, had crawled into his bed for comfort.

“That’s privileged information,” Reid simply said. But he said it almost gently.

“Oh! Of course it would be. Sorry!” Luke straightened up and flashed his dimples at him. “Anyway, it’s terrific that she has you on board now. I’m sure you’re a great doctor. “

“I told you. The best.”

Luke grinned. “Right. The best.“ Amusement and something warm lit up his face. “It’s really good to see you!” Luke came at him with open arms.

Reid didn’t hug. Ever.

But as Luke reached him, Reid automatically opened his arms to tolerate the coming embrace.

Luke grasped him and hugged tightly. He leaned a moment into Reid’s neck, and Reid took a deep breath. Luke smelled good, like fresh laundry soap. His body felt warm and strong, and nothing at all like the little kid he’d known.

The hug ended abruptly. Luke stepped back, tugging at his ear again, suddenly interested in what the nurses across the way were doing. Luke brushed a hand over his hair, tidying it. Reid swallowed. He felt a little off balance, too.

“So did you come alone?” Luke inquired suddenly.

“Of course,” Reid said, puzzled at the lack of segue. “I’m hoping it will only take a few days.”

Luke nodded, focusing on Reid intently. “And then back to?” Luke asked curiously.

“Minnesota.”

Luke nodded, and Reid saw that he looked a tired and sad. Of course, Reid hadn’t seen him in years. But it was there all the same. Reid never was good at reading people, but he knew he wasn’t wrong about reading Luke.

“The Mayo Clinic?”

Reid nodded. Was it the girl? Or something else? He wasn’t sure, but Luke was not happy. That much he knew for sure.

“Wow,” Luke said. “So, how long will you be here?”

“A few days, tops.”

Luke looked genuinely disappointed, and he sighed. “That’s too bad.”

Reid shrugged. “Three days of second-rate sushi and freaky hotel room sheets? I’d say that’s more than enough time for me.”

Luke bent over the x-ray films again, moving with what seemed like incredible slowness. Reid remained still, watching Luke as he moved, admiring the shape of him.

“Here,” Luke said, rising.

“Thanks.”

Gazing at each other, Reid felt like the air had suddenly grown hot and he was breathing too hard. So was Luke. Reid folded his arms. He had a strange burning inside of his chest, a pressure almost, like a tight valve was about to be released. He cleared his throat and took the scans from Luke. Their fingers brushed.

Luke quickly pulled his hand away from Reid’s.

Reid backed away, forcing images into his mind of small Luke giggling and making him sandwiches, with gobs of mayo on crusty bread, layering the meat and cheese for Reid to eat. Reid breathed out slowly, calming down.

“Well,” Luke said in a high voice. “I was headed to Ameera’s room . Are you?”

“No, I need to look these over now. “

He should shake hands and go. But he stood and looked at Luke instead. He couldn’t seem to stop looking. He had an urge to touch Luke on the arm, as if to make certain he was real.

Luke smiled softly. “But you don’t work tonight, right? Want to come out to the farm for dinner? Grandma Emma can still cook up a storm.”

“I was just thinking about her pie,“ Reid licked his lips.

Luke’s eyes darkened a moment; he ducked his head away. When he looked back, Reid could almost swear that Luke was giving him a coy look, his eyelashes fluttering up and down.

Reid rubbed a hand over his eyes, clearing his head. His weird reaction to seeing a grown-up Luke was crossing his wires all wrong. He needed food. A nap. To get laid. Something.

At that moment, a nurse rushed by, pushing a heavy cart, and they were forced to take a step away from each other.

Luke cleared his throat. “Anyhow, my mom and all the kids –I have three younger siblings now- Faith, Natalie and Ethan- they’ll be at the farm tonight. You should come. Eat with us.”

Reid bit back a snarky comment about the respective parentage of each of the new siblings and said, “I don’t want to intrude on family dinner time.”

Reid wanted to accept Luke’s offer. He hardly ever ate a home cooked meal. Most of his dinners, were around the television, eating plastic covered crap from the microwave. On the other hand, he’d always sucked at dinner chitchat, and the Snyders were a mushy bunch. Reid knew they liked to sit around and ask about each other’s day and all of that. It had always twisted his guts up. He’d never felt relaxed with it all. It was probably a really bad idea. Reid massaged his temples; he had a headache coming on.

“Reid,” Luke murmured, and Reid felt an odd ache at his name on Luke’s lips. ”You were family once...“ He walked closer to him, until their shoulders almost rubbed together. Luke searched his eyes.

“And I’d hate for you to leave town without getting to see you again. Please come.” Luke smiled. “Please?”

It had always been difficult to refuse Luke anything. Like the time that Luke had managed to drag him out of bed before dawn to see the sunrise over the pond. Luke had sworn to him that it would be a great adventure. First, Reid had tripped on a cow patty and had to wash his foot off in the stinking cold water of the pond, and then after a rather disappointing sunrise, red ants crawled onto his towel and bit him; he’d ended up needing calamine lotion on his face, neck and back. He’d vowed never to do anything Luke suggested ever again.

Luke caught his eye and hit him with another warm smile.

Reid sighed. “What time’s dinner?”

“Six!” Luke’s smile turned goofy. Weirdly, Luke seemed genuinely happy at the thought of Reid’s company. That never happened to Reid. Most people couldn’t stand him. When he entered the room, the nurses all busied themselves or ran into the bathroom. Other doctors only ate lunch with him if they had need of a consult. Reid pretended not to notice, not to care.

“And don’t be late,” Luke added.

“I’m never late for food,” Reid replied.

“Good to see some things never change.” Luke grinned widely at him.

Reid’s mouth lifted slightly. He couldn’t help smiling back at Luke. “I’ll see you out at the farm.”

“See ya then!” Luke said cheerfully.

Reid watched Luke head toward Ameera Mayer’s room.

***

Bob opened the door of room 201. It was a small office, with a square-shaped desk, an old laptop, and a phone.

“For you Dr. Oliver,” Bob said graciously.”For as long as you’re here.”

Reid walked into the room, taking in the nearly ancient computer. Oh, well, he supposed it would do just fine for checking email from Mayo. His eyes fell on the phone.

“Is this a rotary?” Reid made a face. He was still annoyed at Bob for all of the hand holding.

“I’m afraid the hospital hasn’t updated a lot of things.”

Reid looked at the old fashioned clock on the wall and the flowered wallpaper. “I swear Oakdale is the town that time forgot,” he muttered.

‘Well,” Bob said, and smiled. “Feel free to make it your own space.” He put a friendly hand on Reid’s shoulder. “I really want you to feel comfortable.”

Reid felt his annoyance fading. As usual, he had misunderstood the social situation. Bob wasn’t mistrusting him; Bob was attempting to be generous. At the Mayo Clinic, the doctors worked like it was a giant factory. There were no personal touches, no visits from the boss. Bob wasn’t like that, had never been like that. Everything about Bob, Memorial, and Oakdale was personal.

Bob stood looking at him, waiting. Reid knew he should say thanks or something.

“I’ll be here two days, Bob. Three tops. But I’ll be happy to decorate it with candy wrappers and Coke cans.”

“I remember when I used to travel for the occasional consult—“

“In the dark ages?”

“I’m not as old as I look. I used to like to bring a picture of Kim and Christopher. I’d put it out wherever I was, and I always felt at home.”

“Still got the sermons on home and family, I see.”

“Still got the loner chip on your shoulder.”

“No chip. Just pragmatic acceptance of reality and an appreciation for having everything I want exactly how I want it.”

Bob just smiled at him. “Why don’t we move on to the lab?”

“Finally! Maybe we could actually focus on what I came here to do.”

“All right,” Bob agreed. “In that case, I’ll confide in you that this case has me a bit anxious.”

“Losing your nerve in your age old man? Sure it’s a difficult case, but it’s far from beyond me—“

“No, Dr. Oliver. That’s not the problem. Unfortunately, there is something we need to discuss about Ameera.” He hesitated. “Have you by any chance seen any unusual activity around her room?”

“UFO sightings? Paranormal activity? You’ll have to be more specific, Bob.”

They left the office and headed for the lab.

“INS. There appears to be some concern over her citizenship.”

“I haven’t seen them and don’t really care,” Reid shrugged, “As long as they stay out of my way.”

Bob started to reply, when a nurse stopped them.

“Good morning, Dr. Hughes. Thanks again for the pep talk last night.”

“You’re welcome, Gretchen. You have the makings of an excellent nurse. Just remember to keep your chin up.”

The nurse gave him a wobbly smile and moved on. Three other nurses passed by and each of them also had the need to thank Bob or ask his opinion on a matter. Their questions struck Reid as rather idiotic and he’d have happily told them where to stick them; Bob, however, patiently answered them all.

At this rate, Ameera Mayer would die before Reid had a chance to examine her scans.

“By the way,” Bob glanced at Reid, as they started toward the lab again. “ Dr. Richards informed me this morning that she’s taking some personal time . There is a serious question about her returning to Memorial. As you can imagine, her rather abrupt decision is a problem for the hospital. Can I count on your help for any emergency neurological cases?”

Reid was about to ask just how many neurological cases a small town like this had, when another doctor grabbed at Bob.

“I must speak with you,” he said, practically tugging on Bob’s white coat.

“Dr. Stevens. This is Dr. Oliver-“

“Nice to meet you,” Dr. Stevens said without looking at Reid. “Please, Bob. Five minutes.”

Bob looked at Reid. He almost sighed. “Can you find your way, Dr. Oliver?”

Reid nodded.

It seemed like everybody in the hospital wanted a piece of Bob. Reid wondered if Bob ever felt like he was surrounded by a bunch of hungry vultures. Probably not, what with Bob being Bob and all.

“About those Neuro emergencies?” Bob turned to him, removing the other doctor’s hand from his coat.

“Sure, why not.” Reid would probably be gone before a single problem came up in the ER.

“Fantastic.” Bob smiled widely, his eyes gleaming. “I’ll meet you in the lab.”

He hurried away with Dr. Stevens. Reid stood there for a moment, his eyes narrowed. Bob had given him a smile like Reid had offered up his first born. Why did he feel like he had just been tricked?

***
Sighing, Reid went on to the lab. He began to unload his papers and x-rays.

Moments later, Bob joined him. He handed Reid a cup of coffee. “It’s still awful and burnt, but here.”

Reid accepted the cup.

“I read your background,“ Bob said suddenly, as he slowly sipped his drink. “I was impressed with your work at Hopkins.”

“Of course you were.”

Bob smiled. “Dr. Oliver, I see that has ego stayed with you all these years.” Bob handed him a scan. “I actually think I might have missed it. Or maybe I’m just missing my own sons lately.”

“Oh?” Reid put the scan up to the machine and pointed at the tumor.

Bob nodded at it. “Tom’s very busy, and now Chris is off.”

Bob looked at Reid. “I guess it’s natural. All young men want to go out there and see the world.”

“I just want to see an OR,” Reid replied grumpily. “Sometime in the next day or so, preferably before Mrs. Mayer dies.”

Bob shook his head. “You make a valid point, Dr. Oliver.”

“Thank you.”

He and Bob studied the test results . As they reviewed them, Bob listened and asked him pertinent questions. Time didn’t matter, only medicine, only the pursuit of the right treatment. Reid felt his adrenaline kick in; a good medical talk always gave him a high.

Reid appreciated that Bob worked swiftly and was professional. They discussed the prognosis, trouble shooting different scenarios for how to deal with possible complications during the operation. It felt oddly good to go back and forth with Bob. When Reid had been a teenager, he would have been in heaven for five minutes of Bob treating him like an equal.

“Let me tell you what I have in mind for the first part of the operation.” Reid tapped at the x-ray. “See here? That is where we take out part of the skull-“

Bob nodded his agreement, and a flush of pleasure went through Reid’s body. Usually, Reid kept his Chief of Staff at a great distance, answering only direct questions, avoiding meetings. Most Chiefs lived to shove paperwork down your throat and Reid never wanted to waste time with any of them.

“And here is where I can remove the tissue and still not damage the cortex. Do you see?”

Bob made an appreciative sound. “Impressive.”

Reid couldn’t quite hold back his smile.

Finally, they reached the last scan. Reid drummed his fingers on the chart. He waited for Bob to finish examining the picture.

“So? “Bob said. “As bad as I thought? Right?”

Reid nodded. A surge of excitement went through him; this was a case he could really sink his teeth into and it’d been a long time since he’d faced a true challenge of his skills. Reid’s hand eagerly twitched at his side for a scalpel.

“You know I was right to call you,” Bob said, “I always knew you’d be the best. But your ideas are just amazing, cutting edge.”

“Well, don’t give yourself a medal.” Reid rolled his eyes. “Any competent Chief of Staff would know to call me.”

“But nobody else could have gotten you to come,” Bob replied, amused. Then his expression sobered. “Have you explained all this to Noah? Her husband will need to know the full scope of the operation. It’s a risky procedure.”

Reid nodded grimly. “He has the waivers and disclosure information already. Once he signs, we’ll be good to go.”

“Dr. Oliver, I want you to take some time with him. Make sure he understands all the facts.”

Reid had his doubts that Mr. Mayer was capable of understanding even a few of the facts, much less all of them, but he said, “Will do.”

Reid started to leave.

“Oh, and one more thing.” Bob held up a hand, asking him to wait.

Reid sighed impatiently.

“Is it feeling like home here again?” Bob gave him a big, hopeful smile.

Reid grunted. “It never felt like home before .”

He walked off, drinking the horrible coffee, and hoping that Memorial’s cafeteria wouldn’t give him too serious a case of food poisoning.

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December 2011

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