Jun. 23rd, 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.


a/n: Since I won't be home tonight, I thought I'd post 7 early. Hope you guys don't mind my posting it so fast here.

Chapter 7

Alone, in the operating room, Reid took a moment to breathe. Ameera’s tumor was lodged at the very center of her brain and he’d have to use extreme caution. Reid washed up and put his mask on. His adrenalin was starting now. There was no high like surgery. He waited as they brought Ameera into him, her body was open to his hands, ready for him to work and it made Reid let go of any other thoughts; there was no room for a personal life in the OR.

The operation went perfectly for the first few hours, but at the halfway point in the procedure Ameera’s heart rate became erratic, beating way too rapidly, and the inexperienced staff almost panicked, but Reid calmed them. He knew what to do. His hands never stopped working. His voice was sharp as he threw out orders, but his mind was steady, logically moving through the problem. He was in control and that feeling of power allowed Reid to never hesitate as he did what was necessary.

First, he brought her heart rate down by freezing her. Quickly, efficiently, with a firm belief in his decision, Reid injected the cool saline solution into her veins. The body would slow its metabolism down- preventing further damage. Reid then sent for a cardio specialist to assist and he went back into her brain. Now he worked to find the tumor. It was the size of a small peach pit, but a pit with its tentacles latched on to the nerves endings. Reid cut away at it, one piece at a time. His own thoughts were blank as he moved almost in a rhythm, a dance of sorts, his whole self entranced. There was nothing else but this brain, this moment, this cut.

***

Hours later, Reid stood in front of Noah and the Snyders. They were huddled in the waiting area.

“Well?” Noah rushed up.

Reid pulled down his mask and took a breath. He pinched the bridge of his nose a second. It had been an intense operation. Now that it was over, he could feel his exhaustion coming on.

Reid nodded at Noah. “She had a little trouble during the surgery, but she’s stable right now. The tumor is out - all of it.” Reid allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction.

A cheer went through the group.

Noah attempted to hug him, but Reid held up a hand. “No hugs. And you do need to understand, due to some complications, we had to cool her body down to prevent further brain injury. She’ll need to be in intensive care for awhile.”

Noah nodded eagerly. “Can I see her?”

“In a little while. I need to run some tests and then I’ll have her sent back to the room. We can talk more about it then. “

“But it looks good?” Noah said.

Reid nodded. “For now.” He never liked to be too optimistic.

Luke smiled, coming closer to Noah. “See?“ he said. “It’ll be alright.“ He tentatively put a hand on Noah’s shoulder, looking uncertain.

Reid had an odd feeling that Luke expected Noah to knock his hand away. Reid had almost forgotten how strange their friendship seemed to be. He narrowed his eyes on Luke’s hand and stared a moment at Luke’s uncomfortable face.

“After the tests, you’ll know more?” Noah asked Reid, not acknowledging Luke.

“We won’t know anything for sure until she wakes up,” Reid told Noah. “But as I said, the tumor is gone.“

“Thank you!” Noah said. “You're as amazing as Bob promised.”

“So I've heard,” Reid said. “But things can still go wrong. But, at this time, cautious optimism wouldn’t be going too far. There were some close moments in surgery.”

“Ahh, so you did need good luck.” Luke grinned at him, teasingly.

Reid held his hand up to indicate a half an inch of luck was all he needed.

Luke started to laugh, when Noah turned on him. “Luke! I’m sure the operation is a success due to his skill. Don’t insult him!”

“I wasn’t. I was just joking around -“

Noah bristled. “None of this has been easy. Not for me. I don’t see how making jokes helps at all.”

Luke hung his head a little.

Reid was about to defend Luke and give Noah a piece of his mind, when Holden and Lily came up to congratulate him. He had no choice but to turn to them. Bob was coming up now, too. Reid accepted all the warm wishes and handshakes. He felt caught between what he wanted to do and what he should do.

Apart from Bob, there was only one person he truly wanted to please with this operation’s success, only one person that Reid was eager to see happy. But when he had a second to look for him, Luke was already gone. Resigned, Reid turned back to the gathered group and allowed the praise to continue.

***

After another shower and change of clothes, all Reid wanted was some sleep. He didn’t even have the energy to consider looking for Luke. His eyeballs felt strained, his feet ached again and he could barely form a coherent thought. But he’d promised Noah another report about his wife’s condition, so he headed for her room, rubbing his eyes. Reid stopped at the loud voices coming from her room.

“Luke,” Noah said, “Are you drinking again?”

“No, I‘m not drunk, Noah. I’m just tired of this. Of you.”

Luke’s tone was bitchy, and Reid could picture his face. For some reason, bitchy was a good look on Luke. Really, he had no bad looks, Reid thought, although he would always prefer Luke to look happy.

Reid knew he should knock or leave, but, instead, he stood there with his eyes shut and listened.

“You don’t mean it,“ Noah said dismissively. “Not now. You heard the doctor; Ameera’s chance for recovery is good. It’s over.” Noah’s tone turned placating. “You can’t break up now that the worst is past.”

“I can!” Luke raised his voice. “I’m done. I won’t be treated like this anymore.”

Break up? Reid felt cold, like ice in his veins. Of course. Of course, how had he missed it? The guilt written all over Luke whenever he talked about Ameera, the way he was so solicitous of Noah, like a skittish colt approaching an unpredictable mare, afraid of being kicked, but needing something too. They were lovers. Or they had been? Still were?

“Look,” Reid could hear Noah’s lower, more reasonable voice. “I know I’ve been hard on you, blaming you, but, “ there was a shrug in the sound of the ‘but’ like it wasn’t important.

Blaming Luke. For Ameera. Right, Luke had said he'd been fighting with her when she collapsed, that he'd been saying horrible things to her. And Noah had blamed him. Had she discovered their affair? Was that what they'd been fighting about?

Reid tapped his pen against his leg, some pieces of the puzzle clicking together in his brain, others jamming and refusing to fit. What about Casey? Was Luke was cheating on him too? Or was that a ruse of some kind? It'd make more sense – there had been something not quite right there, some kind of disconnect that Reid had felt but been unable to understand. He'd written it off at the time as jealousy, anger that Luke was involved with someone so dumb, but maybe what he'd felt was something different. Was this all a knot of lies that Luke was afraid that Reid would untangle?

“Who cares now?” Luke said. “When it came to standing together, you chose to stand alone.”

"That's what I had to do, Luke! You know it was the right thing! Her life depended on me!"

"That's what you said. That's what you wanted me to believe, but it was always something, wasn't it, Noah? Always something that kept you from choosing me first."

"You make it sound like it was easy."

"Wasn't it? Easier at least than choosing to be with me?"

Reid couldn’t quite make out Noah’s mumbled reply. He swallowed the bitter taste in his mouth. He felt his whole body clench. What the hell was Luke involved with here? Noah was his cheating on his wife with Luke – that much seemed clear, now or in the past? Was it a current thing, or something that had come up after the fact? Break up – Noah had used the words 'break up' as something that Luke was doing currently, so it was ongoing then. Reid had a death grip on his chart.

Was this what Luke had become? Trapped in this small town with Lily and Holden as his parents? Had he become this kind of man?

Reid thought of Luke's eyes in the moonlight, the earnest, nervous expression in the hall as he'd looked at Reid earlier, and he couldn't reconcile this information, not with the little boy he'd known, and not with the man he wanted to believe existed. Reid shook his head to clear it.

“I asked you weeks ago. I told you all or nothing,“ Luke shouted. “You picked nothing.”

Luke sounded broken, wounded and hurt. It made Reid's stomach ache, and he wanted to make that sound go away.

"I know what I chose, Luke."

Noah had picked nothing? What did that mean – that Noah had ended things, chosen to stay with his wife? And he wanted to start up again now that it looked as though his wife might live? He'd said something about doing it to save her life? Doing what – marrying her? Breaking it off with Luke? But no…weeks ago, Ameera was perfectly healthy. It made no sense. Reid stood there, frozen, his brain frantically trying to connect all the pieces.

“Before she ever got sick, I begged you to end all this with her! To stop the lies!”

“And I told you, I couldn’t just walk away. She needed me. You know that!”

“I needed you,” Luke said. “Or didn’t that matter at all?”

”Ameera had to come first, okay? Back then and now, she had to come first. She’s my wife.”

“Believe me, I haven’t forgotten.” Luke said bitterly. “And I’m glad she’ll recover; I want that more than you know, but I won’t stand here and pretend to be happy about all the rest.”

How could Luke love a man who married somebody else, a woman, and who treated Luke like dirt? And why did Ameera need Noah so much? Clearly, the prick got off on seeing himself as some kind of hero. If it wasn’t about her illness and standing by her through that, what was the other situation that she needed protecting from? Reid rubbed a hand over his head. He felt chilled, like a block of ice was in his gut, solid and hard. Everything he’d ever known about Luke – his goodness, his need to help, his desire to do what was right – made him want to reject what he was hearing now.

The only part that rang true for Reid was the pain in Luke’s voice. Luke was being treated like second best, like crap, and he’d been taking it for a long time, that part Reid believed. Luke always had been so vulnerable that way, allowing people to use him, accepting their justifications.

“Luke, don’t leave like this. We’ll work it out; we always do.”

“No. Not this time. I can see myself now, Noah. I can see us. “

“What do you mean? We’re the same.”

“I just can’t do this anymore,” Luke’s voice dropped. “It’s over. “

Reid could hear a tremor in Luke’s voice. He wasn’t certain if Luke’s voice wavered from doubt or conviction, but Reid simply couldn’t stand there a moment longer. As he pushed open the door, Reid’s felt a twinge of nerves. He still didn’t understand why they were lovers, or how long it had been going on, or where Ameera fit into it all. He still didn’t understand why Luke would do any of this.

Reid stalked into the room, his gaze cold and hostile, and he held the chart to his chest, like protection. He had to see; he had to meet Luke’s eyes. The truth was slippery; it wasn’t like a scraped knee or a broken bone. You couldn’t measure it with a ruler or reason it out like a chess move, but he might see it in Luke’s face.

Noah and Luke both jumped.

“Dr. Oliver!” Noah called with false joviality. He walked over to Reid. “I just want to thank you again for helping Ameera.” Noah had his hand on Reid’s shoulder.

“It’s what I do,” Reid answered, staring over at Luke, glaring. “And I need to examine her. “

Luke wouldn’t look back at him, not even for a second. “Excuse me,” Luke said. Keeping his head down, Luke pushed past both Reid and Noah. Reid tried to catch his eye and failed, and with Luke’s hasty exit, the truth remained elusive.

Reid slowly faced Noah. “I need to examine your wife.”

Reid went over to her bed, and Noah followed him, his face squinted up.

“Dr Oliver, did you just hear any of that? Cause I can explain-“

"I don't know what's going on with you and Mr. Snyder, and I don't want to know, but I will tell you that any sudden stress could damage the already fragile health of my patient."

Reid began his exam, almost pushing Noah away.

"I understand.” Noah watched him begin the exam and then he rushed back up to Reid. “But I’m a really good husband and Ameera came into my life when –“

Reid put his stethoscope to his ears. “I have no time to play your Father Confessor. You’ll have to find someone else on whom to you unburden yourself, Mr. Mayer. I’m not interested in your skills as a husband or a boyfriend, or anything actually. I only care about Ameera’s health.

“My wife’s health should come first,” Noah bobbed his head in agreement.

"I'm sure it does."

"Luke is just --"

"I said I don't want to hear it, Mr. Mayer."

Ignoring Noah, Reid did his job.

Outwardly, he remained calm. He gave Ameera a thorough exam. Inwardly, it was another story; a wave of anger built up inside of Reid, anger he had no right to, but anger that filled him anyway.

Noah meant nothing to him at all, less than nothing. He was an asshole and not worth his brain power. But Luke? Reid wanted to knock him around, grab him by his cheating, idiotic head and thrash him. He was angry that he couldn’t understand the situation. He was angry that Luke had connected with him again, let him sit at his table, break bread, share his thoughts, and made Reid feel like Luke gave a damn about him.

Reid swallowed hard. Why did this hurt him? It wasn’t his concern, right? He was just here to do his job. He didn’t need to get sucked into this, and Luke was a grown man now, so what did it matter to Reid?

Reid continued to check Ameera’s vitals. She was his patient. She was what he needed to concentrate on. If Reid had questions, he needed to focus them on her care. What mess was this girl about to wake up to? Reid curled up his mouth. He hadn't saved her life just to have her wake up and go into some kind of traumatic shock. If Luke came back through that door, and Noah was certainly glancing over at it like he expected Luke any time, then Reid needed to be ready for the emotional impact this might have on Ameera. Reid nodded to himself. Okay, that made it his business. He needed to know, as her doctor of course, what the hell was really going on.

“Your wife is stable.“ Reid narrowed his eyes at Noah. "And when she wakes up, she’ll need your support, not drama.”

“Dr. Oliver,” Noah said, actually touching Reid’s arm. “I promise you that I’m good for Ameera. She’s my main concern. As for Luke, he and I just need a little time to work things out, and everything will be fine. I promise that I have good reasons for it all. I’m doing the right thing for everybody involved. I am."

“Good for you, but I have other patients to see.”

Removing Noah’s hand, Reid stepped back. Noah’s words gave him a strange pang. Holden always talked that way too. He never was wrong, even at Luke’s birthday, when he’d allowed Molly to wreck the party, Holden had seen himself as perfect. Reid stared at Noah thinking of Luke.

The boy he’d known hated his parents’ lies and his father’s cheating. The boy Reid remembered cried over it and had blamed himself for it, crawling into Reid’s bed for comfort. Reid might not get people, he might be slow to understand human emotions, but he couldn’t accept that what he’d heard in this room added up. Luke just couldn’t be this much of a prick.

The boy he’d known would never cheat with a married man on some helpless girl. Just today, when Holden had that phone call from his girlfriend, Luke’s face had been full of pain. Noah sounded so damn reasonable now and it chilled him that Luke’s boyfriend had the same tone of voice as Luke’s father. Reid remembered that Holden had been so nice when he was cheating on his family: his exterior had been calm and he’d dripped sincerity as he’d placed the blame at Lily’s feet and ran off into the night.

Suddenly, Reid felt the desire to find Luke. Lily had waited for Holden to return to her and he’d come back, only to hurt her again, and neither of his parents ever acknowledged the damage they did to Luke. He’d been a sensitive kid, not like Reid; Luke hadn’t a tough bone in his entire body, but he’d had a huge heart, and that just didn’t disappear, not unless it was ripped out.

Reid turned away from Noah, moving to the door, to Luke. He wanted to hear Luke’s side; Reid wanted to give the boy he knew a chance to still redeem himself. If he was wrong, if Luke truly had changed, well, Reid wanted to face that too. At the very least, he needed to make Luke aware of Ameera’s frail state and warn him to stay away from her. If he was planning to run back to Noah, the way Lily ran back to Holden, maybe Reid could help him see it. Maybe Luke was just stumbling around blindly making his parents mistakes? Reid wasn’t certain of anything. But, as he left the room, Reid hoped that once he had all the pieces to the puzzle, it would all at least make sense.

Luke was not in the hallway or by the elevator. He checked the break room, but Luke wasn’t there either. Then Reid went up the stairs, following his intuition.

Luke was on the roof. Reid approached him slowly, seeing the tears on Luke’s face.

When Reid was orphaned and living with Angus, he’d felt separated from the world. Reid might as well have been made of glass, for all Angus saw him. Reid did everything independently. Even as a young kid, he knew that that no one really wanted him. Until Luke. That first time Luke had smiled at him and called Reid his friend, his entire body had reacted. He’d reeled back stunned, heat flooding his skin, his knees nearly buckling. He’d gazed in Luke’s eyes, focused on him with such intensity, and a wave of relief had overtaken Reid. When Luke had looked at him, Reid wasn’t invisible after all.

Reid tentatively raised his hand up and held his fingers to Luke’s damp cheek. Reid would be damned if he’d allow Luke to be alone. He wanted Luke to know that he was here. He might not know what to say or do exactly, but he was here. Reid saw him.

“When we were kids, we were always honest with each other,” Reid said softly, “right?”

Luke nodded.

“Well then?” Reid said. “Can’t you be honest with me now?”

Luke shook his head. “It’s a long, crazy story. Are you sure you want to hear it?”

Reid hesitated. He knew the conversation was bound to make him uncomfortable; he’d spent his adulthood wrapped up in his own affairs, keeping his life focused on his career. Reid was a surgeon and nothing more. He wasn’t at all sure he would know how to help Luke with his troubles; he wasn’t at all sure that listening wouldn’t completely destroy his ideas of who Luke was as a person.

Gently, Reid stroked his thumb over another of Luke’s tears.

“Tell me,” Reid said, pushing his doubts aside.

Luke nodded. He drew in a shaky breath and began to talk.

***

“So let me get this right,” Reid paced the roof, a little while later. Luke was just sitting on the ground now, his face dry, knees pulled to his chest. “You and Noah were boyfriends, but Ameera was about to be deported and he married her.”

“Yes.” Luke shifted uneasily. “It sounds bad when you say it.”

Reid came over to Luke. He bent down by him, so that their faces were close. “And you approved? You agreed?”

“I wanted to help. And Noah said-“

Reid reached behind Luke’s left ear and flicked.

“Hey!” Luke said.

“That’s it, right? “ Reid said. “The switch for your brain? Obviously nobody has turned it on since I left.”

“I thought you’d be compassionate,” Luke protested, rubbing gingerly at the spot behind his ear.

Reid sat down next to him. “That is me being compassionate,” he replied.

“What should I’ve done?” Luke said defensively. “I’ve been with him for years. He wanted me to do this. He came to me, pleaded for Ameera, and-“

“Oh I don’t know,” Reid interrupted, “hired lawyers? Fought in court? Use your big bucks to make it all go away? But no, you let your boyfriend marry her instead. Smart.”

“When you put it like that,” Luke moaned and then hid his face behind his hands. “Maybe my brain has been turned off all these years.”

Reid snorted in agreement. “Well, we could just blame this town. I have a theory it turns everybody a little crazy.” Reid looked at him. “So Casey was just pretense.”

“Yeah. It was Noah’s idea. Casey was cool enough to agree. I – the whole thing got more and more messed up. I wasn’t happy. I fought with Noah, with Ameera. I hated it.” Luke sighed deeply. “I tried to reason with them. I did. But Noah has a way of making me feel just awful if I go against him-“

“I’ve noticed.”

Luke let out a shaky laugh, and Reid’s mouth hitched slightly up.

“He had me feeling bad all the time. Blaming me for being difficult about the marriage and not trusting him, and then really blaming me for her seizure the day we fought…. I just let him hurt me over and over.“ Luke looked at him with bottomless pain in his eyes. “Is love supposed to hurt like that?”

Anxiety fluttered in Reid’s stomach as he tried to answer; he opened his mouth, struggling to address the question of love, but no sound came out.

“I wouldn’t know,“ Reid finally replied. “Ask me something easier like all the elements in the periodic table.”

“It isn’t Noah’s fault, I guess. Everybody likes him. He’s so good.” Luke sounded like he was parroting someone’s words. “He’s a good person, and he married Ameera because it was the right thing to do.” Luke said nothing more, his face fallen.

“Sounds boring,” Reid snorted. “Being so righteous all the time. And I don’t like him.”

“You don’t like anybody,” Luke said, exasperated.

“I like you.” Reid said with a glimmer of a smile, his eyes focused on Luke’s face.

Startled, Luke mouth dropped open.

“Don’t look so surprised.”

Luke bit his lip, for a moment he couldn’t speak. “But you haven’t been around me, not really in a long time.”

“So?”

“So… You don’t know how I can be about love, be about Noah. “ Luke’s face looked agonized, the mere mention of Noah’s name on his lips made Luke’s eyes almost start out of his head with remembered pain; his face darkened by a red flush . “He says that I hover and that I pressure him. I-I do that. He’s right. I don’t know when to stop.”

Reid looked at Luke’s tense expression, his trembling lip. He felt his whole body gravitate toward Luke then, as if to offer some shelter. Reid leaned in, so that their thighs pressed together. He took Luke’s face in his hands.

“ You have a generous heart, Luke. Never apologize for it. “

Luke inhaled sharply, and then a joyous smile came over his face.

Until he saw it, Reid hadn’t realized just how much he’d wanted to bring out that smile, how much Luke’s happiness caused a tenderness to swell up inside of Reid’s chest, the force of it nearly knocking him back.

“Thank you,” Luke said, still smiling at him.

Reid abruptly released Luke and gave a sulky shrug. “No big deal,” he told Luke. “Let’s not get sappy.”

“Okay,” Luke nodded, his eyes looking moist. “No sappy stuff.”

Reid looked away and spoke slowly. “I don’t know crap about love, Luke. I could tell you about the brain chemicals. How mysterious it all is. I could tell you that each brain is unique, so maybe love is unique every time too. That’s about all I can tell you.“ Reid was aware that he was babbling, but couldn’t seem to stop it. When he glanced back at Luke, however, Luke was listening, his head tilted near Reid’s own.

“Maybe I don’t know crap about love either. “ Luke sighed.

Reid nearly laughed at that. Luke was the most loving person he’d ever known; it came as easily to him as breathing.

“I wish I’d ended it with Noah sooner,” Luke continued. “Why did I just stay so long?”

Reid gave Luke an awkward pat on the back. “Well, maybe because he’s your first. First lover and first love, right? That’s hard to lose.”

Luke didn’t answer. He bit his lip harder and chewed it. “Actually” Luke said, ducking his head, “he was my first love, I guess. But not my first…you know.”

“Oh. So there were others.” Reid nodded and suddenly wanted the conversation to end. Bad enough he had been talking to Luke about love and mooning over the brain to him. At this point, he didn’t really need to hear about all the men Luke had slept with.

“There weren’t others,“ Luke mumbled, tugging at his ear.

Reid’s brows came down in concentration. “What?”

“I’m not a prude,” Luke said suddenly. “I wanted to! I –I imagined I’d like sex.”

Images flashed at rapid speed through Reid’s mind – Luke on his back with his knees to his chest, open and eager, Luke on all fours, groaning for it, Luke’s mouth open and sucking Reid’s cock -- and he had to shut his eyes to push them away.

“Noah never felt it was the right time, “ Luke explained. “And to be fair, we always had one bad thing after another happening. I tried to get past the stuff and be with him. But Noah always wanted a break up when things fell apart. So we’d split…. We’d get back together, talk about maybe doing it-“

“Talk about doing it?” Reid echoed.

“We’d come close,” Luke flushed, “sort of. And then more problems. More breaks.“ Luke looked away. “Now I feel like the world’s biggest idiot for waiting. I feel like that will never happen for me now.” He rubbed his hands over his eyes a moment. “Anyhow. All that stuff aside. You want to know the worst part?”

Reid nodded, but his mind was still processing the fact that Luke was a virgin.

Luke took a deep breath. “The worst part was that right before he met Ameera, I realized that I didn’t fit with Noah anymore, not in a long time, maybe for months. I realized that I needed to get out for good. But then Ameera happened and he needed me, and I keep trying to stand by him, to fix us anyway. Even though I finally saw that we didn’t work. I just keep taking it, like some habit I just couldn’t stop.”

“Sounds like you need a Noah-detox treatment,” Reid suggested wryly.

Luke laughed at that. He met Reid’s gaze with soft eyes. His mouth curved still. Reid felt a thrumming start inside of his heart and he couldn’t help but to reach out for Luke’s hand.

Then Luke bolted up. “You know - that’s it!”

“What?” Reid asked, watching as Luke became animated, feeling both relieved and disappointed that Luke had gotten up.

“I do need a detox from him.“ Luke looked at Reid. “You’re joking, but you’re not wrong. I was kind of addicted.“ Luke’s face grew thoughtful. “And now I want to move on with my life, detox Noah from it.” Luke gazed at Reid again. Suddenly, Luke came a few steps toward him, with a determined look and a suggestive smile on his lips. “Maybe I know the right doctor to give me the treatment?”

Reid stood up nervously. “I don’t follow.” Only he did know what Luke wanted; Reid could see it in his eyes. “I don’t know what you mean,” he repeated stiffly, trying to reject the plea in Luke’s expression, the desire on his face.

Luke’s look of bravado crumpled. “This- this virginity thing?“ Luke blushed. “It’s embarrassing! I’m twenty and I haven’t, you know. How can I go forward to another relationship with this thing hanging over me?” He came closer to Reid. “I need somebody to - to – relieve me of it, so I can really move on.”

“Luke,” Reid said in a low voice. “Don’t ask me. “ Reid could feel his strength draining away at the longing in Luke’s gaze.

Luke paused a second, and then, as if his feelings just couldn’t be contained, he shrugged helplessly. “Why not? Why not ask you? I saw you when I massaged your leg. I saw.”

“I- I - you’re like a brother or something.”

Luke gave him a look. “Really? Honesty, remember?”

Reid’s jaw clenched. “Okay, maybe I don’t see you like a brother exactly.”

Eagerly, Luke started towards him.

“Wait.” Reid said, quickly. “Listen,” he backed a few inches away, “I don’t do relationships. I don’t fall in love. “

“But that’s perfect!” Luke declared enthusiastically to Reid’s utter shock. “I’m not asking you to fall in love with me,” Luke exclaimed. “I’m not ready to fall in love again. I just want you to be with me. You can help me out as a friend- no strings- and we can both go on to our lives.”

“That’s insane,” Reid replied, even as his whole body started to sweat.

“I need somebody I can trust with this. Somebody who understands that it’ll just be a sex thing. I tried waiting for love. And I will try and love again…someday. But right now, I need this to just happen.“ Luke stepped closer. “Please, Reid? Please? You’re the only person in the world I can ask this of.”

“No. It’s insanity,” Reid repeated firmly. The sweat was dripping down his back now.

“No,” Luke argued stubbornly. “Insanity would be my picking up some stranger. Do you think that’s a better plan?”

“Of course not! Don’t be a moron!” Terror ripped through him at the thought of Luke being stupid enough to go home with a stranger, someone who might be too rough, or hurt him, or not use a condom.

Luke smiled sweetly. “Well then?”

“Did it even occur to you that I’m a stranger too? We haven’t really seen each other in all these years.“ Reid shook his head. “We don’t really know each other anymore.”

Then Reid froze at the visible grief in Luke’s eyes.

“Yeah, we do.” Luke walked over to Reid, pressing his body close, searching his face.

“You can’t look at me,” Luke said, his voice thick with pain, “and tell me you don’t know me.”

At his words, Reid felt time slipping away, back to their boyhood. He pictured Luke with him in the barn, explaining how to milk a cow; Luke making up stories with Reid as the villain and Luke the hero; Luke sneaking him food, telling him knock-knock jokes, picking him over time with other kids. He saw Luke riding on a pony, all dressed up for his birthday; Luke sobbing over his parents; Luke defending him to Chris; Luke saying that he loved him. Reid’s eyes pinched closed a moment, seeing it all.

He opened his eyes slowly and simply nodded at Luke.

Luke smiled and touched his arm gently. Everything between them now seemed dangerously alive, even the air sizzled.

“Look,” Reid scowled at him, still trying to argue, “even if we do know each other, it might not matter. I’m still seven years older than you. Don’t you think this might be a problem?”

“No, not really,“ Luke smiled. “I think that’s great! I mean, you’ll know what you’re doing.“ Luke hesitated. “Wait. You do know what you’re doing, right?”

“Of course!” Reid huffed. “I’ve had no complaints!”

Luke grinned. “So it’s perfect.” Luke started to touch him again, but Reid pushed him away.

“Don’t go taking off your chastity belt just yet,“ Reid said sharply.

Luke drew back and his grin faded. “Are you making fun of me?” Hurt spread across on Luke’s face.

With a groan, Reid shook his head. “No, but I think you’re overreacting.” He gently took Luke’s hand and squeezed. “A lot of guys won’t mind being your first, Luke. Maybe just wait.”

“I’ve been waiting! I’m sick of waiting,” Luke began to get upset again. He began to pace in front of Reid. ” And a lot of other guys would think I’m ridiculous.” Luke’s cheeks were flushed; his voice began to crack a little. “What if I make a fool of myself in bed? What if I freeze up or something? What if he gets impatient with me and I –“

“Then he isn’t the right guy,” Reid replied firmly.

Luke just shook his head stubbornly. “What if I’m too needy ‘cause it’s my first time? I want to be confident, you know? And right now I’m this stupid mess. I have all these doubts about myself now, after Noah. And I just know I’ll be so nervous with a new guy. I’ll be a wreck trying to be with him without any experience and then - “

“Okay, okay.” Reid interrupted. He shushed Luke. “Calm down. Just, slow down a moment. You’re all emotional.” Reid paused. His own voice sounded less than calm. He drew in a deep breath.

Reid couldn’t disagree that the world was full of predatory men; men who would be impatient or worse, rough with Luke. Some men got off on causing virgins’ pain, tearing apart their assholes without any lube or preparation or care, and Luke with his air of sweetness would be like a lamb being led to the slaughterhouse. Reid’s body jerked back at the thought.

“Maybe you do need to do this, but I still think it’s too soon. You just broke up with your boyfriend like five minutes ago-“

“But I’ve been trying to break it off for months. I just wasn’t strong enough before. I don’t want him back.”

“Good to know.” Reid smiled slightly. “But it’s still fast, and I’m not sure you’re thinking straight.”

“I am! I want to experience passion, sex. Everybody acts like I’m some throwback to the Victorian age already, but I’m not. I’m a person with needs, like anybody else. Please? Please Reid?”

Jesus fucking Christ. Luke was begging to have sex with him, to be deflowered or whatever. Reid felt like his brain was about to explode. He held his hand over his face a moment. He searched his normally logical mind for some more arguments, but it was like a bomb was going off in his head. Even knowing that this was a mistake, even knowing that Luke wasn’t being rational, even knowing that he was not staying in Oakdale and there was no future in it, even knowing that he shouldn’t touch Luke or he’d never want to stop, Reid just stood there wanting it.

A long moment went by and Reid couldn’t seem to collect himself.

“So,” Luke said with a twist of his lips. “I’m not hearing a no.” He grinned at Reid and waggled his eyebrows hopefully.

Reid hesitated. He was uncertain what to do. Reid wished Luke were an operation that came with instructions. He wished he could see the results clearly in his mind. The last thing he wanted was to choose wrong here and hurt him.

During his own teenage years, Reid had avoided relationships by hiding in his text books. When he’d finally emerged enough to look around, he was already 18 and in his third year at Harvard. It had been agony, wondering how to know if a guy liked him or not. Reid had stumbled his way through a few relationships, and then had simply decided to keep his emotions in check. He could understand what Luke was saying. Relationships were messy and Luke had been hurt. Sex was easy. It was a basic human function.

Luke was asking for his help.

On the other hand -- oh, fuck - there was no other hand. This was wrong. This was foolish, wrong and ridiculous.

Reid gathered his words together. He’d have to let Luke down gently. Try to make him see why it was a lousy idea.

Then Luke wetted his lips nervously.

Desire shot through Reid’s body like a blast from a gun. He’d never felt desire so strongly before. He had yet to touch Luke, but his whole body was already a shaking mess. A strange, almost animal sound escaped Reid’s throat and a tremor passed through him.

Missing Reid’s reaction, Luke wrung his hands together. “I mean, unless...I know you don’t think of me as a brother, but if you’re not attracted enough to me to be interested,“ Luke stammered out. “I mean, I know I’m not all that . I-“

Blindly, with an instinctive grunt, Reid pulled Luke’s body against him abruptly stopping Luke’s words. He couldn’t stand it anymore. He had to touch Luke’s moist lips, taste him. Just once.

Reid let their mouths press together, but then he wanted more. He thrust his tongue into Luke’s mouth, teased his way deeper inside. The taste was intoxicating, and Reid felt his body responding. As their lips clung, he wrapped his hand firmly at Luke’s waist, boldly tightening his arms around Luke. The kiss went on, lingering, exploring. Reid traced Luke’s lips and then pushed back inside. Luke was moaning softly, his mouth desperately locked on Reid’s own. Reid felt like he couldn’t breathe without Luke, he needed to keep on kissing him, holding him.

Reid pushed him away.

“What the hell am I doing? “ Reid muttered. Luke didn’t answer; he was gasping for air. Luke trembled and rocked his body closer. Reid stared at him a second, and he went right back for Luke’s lips.

He drew Luke’s tongue back into his mouth, suckling it. His pulse was pounding. He could feel it throbbing in his neck. Reid nibbled Luke’s delicate lips in teasing strokes and then thrust again at his tongue. Luke was so responsive. He was thrashing his body around in Reid’s arms, trying to squirm closer. Luke’s mouth hung on his own. Reid shuddered. His hands were gentle now, caressing Luke’s back. Their tongues circled. Their bodies tangled, arms like ropes now, chest against chest, hip to hip. They seemed rooted together.

Reid held Luke’s head in his hands. His mouth never wanting to let Luke’s lips go. The contact was almost unbearable, heat searing his mouth. Reid’s eyes opened a moment and all he could see was Luke’s skin tinged pink. He could see the delicate curve of his earlobe and sunlit hair. He inhaled and closed his eyes again, continuing the kiss. He tasted so amazing. It wasn’t something Reid would ever be able to put into logical words. Luke just tasted perfect. It was like his mouth fit the shape of Reid’s the way a last puzzle piece fit, and his taste was every craving Reid longed for, and Luke’s body was incredibly warm and true. Reid teased him a moment longer with his tongue. He let his lips noisily find Luke’s in a few last tender touches.

Reid finally pulled his head away. Luke’s eyes were still closed. Gently, Reid placed the pad of his thumb on his lower lip and then touched the corner’s of Luke’s mouth.

Luke smiled, his eyes flying open.

Reid didn’t smile. He let his thumb and finger rest lightly still on those lips and then moved them away.

“I want it to be you.” Luke’s voice was strained. “You’ll take care of me. You have my back, remember?”

“If we do this,” Reid said, “I’m going to have more than your back.”

Luke blushed, but he laughed too. Reid smiled in response. He just stood there smiling, unable to help it. He gazed at Luke’s swollen lips and happy face, and Reid smiled again. “All I’m going to say tonight is go home. Rest. “

“Sleep on it?”

“Yes.”

“And,“ Luke said huskily. “If I’m still sure in the morning?” Luke took Reid’s hand and laced their fingers together. “I’m not changing my mind,” Luke said insistently, and with his words, Reid felt something twisting inside of him, an emotion he refused to examine too closely.

“Sleep on it.” Reid’s tone was gruff now.

He released Luke’s hands, and left Luke standing on the rooftop.

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December 2011

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