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[personal profile] marsabi1
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.


Chapter 12

A third week began, and finally Reid was officially on vacation, free to spend all day and night with Luke. He teased Luke mercilessly about being stinking rich and able to make his own hours, but he was secretly happy to see Luke make time for him. Reid still attempted to downplay the vacation, and didn’t make a big deal out of it to Luke, because Reid wasn’t ready to examine his decision, or admit to himself what it might mean.

He tried to ignore the unexpected gurgle of weird happiness inside of him, whenever Luke smiled or kissed him or just came into the room. He tried to ignore how intoxicated he felt all the time being near him. Instead, Reid focused on each moment separately, refusing to look at it as a whole. The first day, they hung out watching baseball on television, arguing playfully over the better team, and after the game ended, Reid couldn’t resist wrapping his arms around Luke tightly, licking the hollow of his neck, driving him crazy, making Luke thrash and swear, and the unexpected profanity on Luke’s lips drove Reid crazy in return. He practically threw Luke onto the bed, stripped him naked, and began to furiously rim his sweet ass. The sex was fast and frantic and simply fantastic. They ordered pizza and stayed in bed the rest of the day, eating and arguing sports and screwing.

In bed and out, Luke continued to surprise Reid. Luke made the rest of the world seem far away, all his focus was on Reid, and when they were together like that, Reid felt like there was nothing else but them, and he tried not to think about how much he liked feeling that way.

The next day, Luke wanted a real “date.” So they went to a farmer’s market, wandering around with baskets, filling them with fresh fruit and cheese. They had a picnic under a gigantic tree, feeding each other fat, red grapes, and licking the juice off each other’s lips. It should have felt ridiculous, this romantic bull crap that Reid had always despised in romantic comedies and in the stories he overheard about other people's lives; instead it was fun and intimate, and Reid felt almost stupid that he'd never known.

Later, Luke insisted on apple picking, climbing up a tree and tossing apples down at Reid’s head, daring him to catch them all. Reid laughed at Luke’s face as he easily caught all the apples. When Luke climbed down, they shared one, crunching into it, passing it back and forth. After, they spent some time browsing in Old Town, all three stores, and then went to a movie. Reid had no idea what the film was about. Luke started kissing him, the moment the lights went out, and they didn't come up for air until the credits rolled.

The week flew by and each day was different. Time felt meaningless, elusive. It was so unlike Reid, but he hardly ever glanced at the clock or wore his watch the entire week. They made out by the pond for what seemed like hours, just kissing, causing a physical ache, that almost stung, all the way inside of Reid, from the roots of his hair down to his toes. That night, they’d delayed sex for awhile, just talking and laughing together. When they finally did embrace each other, it had been slow and sweet. They both tried to keep their eyes open, watching each other as long as possible, as their bodies moved against each other, connecting. Reid hated to say it, but it had been beautiful. He was sort of afraid it would always be that way, and he didn't know how he felt about that.

So he was relieved when on another night back at the hotel, they were so horny that they never made it to the bed and ended up fucking in a chair. Reid straddled Luke, grabbed at Luke’s chest hair, grinding up and down on him, with Luke’s cock up his ass. They screwed wildly until they both collapsed. As they stumbled from the chair to the bed, Luke immediately pressed his body into Reid’s for comfort, and then he fell into an exhausted sleep, tangled up in Reid’s arms.


***
Reid slept late the next day. He felt Luke nudging him a few times and calling his name, but Reid only swatted his hand away. He turned over and slept more. When he finally woke up, his hand immediately went to the pillow next to him. Luke wasn’t there.

Reid ran his fingers over the indented place where Luke’s head had been, and swallowed hard. He sat up, rubbing his eyes. There was a note propped on the dresser. Reid walked to it, reading Luke’s happy scrawl. He'd gone to the foundation to schedule some meetings for next week and wanted Reid to meet him at Java at nine.

Reid glanced at the clock; it was already 8:35.

Cursing, he hurried into the shower and got dressed. He hopped around on one foot, pulling on a sock, grabbing his jeans and zipping them up quickly, not bothering to do more than brush his teeth, slowing down for that despite his desire to rush. He combed his hair, ignoring the flyaway curls at his neck, and stuffed his wallet in his pocket. Reid felt a happy buzz inside of him at the thought of meeting Luke. He walked to his hotel door, and then winced. Damn it, if the little fucker hadn’t made him good and sore. An almost proud smile lit up Reid’s face, and he headed out.

As he entered Java, the place was packed. Of course, there really was only one coffee shop in the lousy town, and the coffee was merely second rate too. Reid scanned the line for Luke. Luke waved at him happily. He was already waiting for their coffee.

Reid felt his heart lift at the sight of him.

“Try to get a table,” Luke called out. “I’ll join you in a minute.”

Reid nodded, fighting off the crowd, and secured a table near the back. He picked up the morning Intruder off of the table, shaking his head over all of Oakdale’s nonsense, but reading it anyway.

“Hi there. We can’t find a table. May we join you?”

Reid glanced at the middle aged blonde in a tight little dress and her friend, a younger version of her.

“No. This table is taken.” Reid went back to the paper.

“It’s so crowded and you’re at a huge table," the women replied and then sat down. Reid’s mouth dropped open at her audacity.

“I said no.” He scowled. "Are you deaf or just stupid?”

They both ignored him, putting their purses on the one empty chair.

“Emily Stewart,“ she introduced herself. “And my sister, Ali.”

“We’re having a girls' morning,” the younger one, Ali, said chirpily.

“Doctor Reid Oliver.” He looked over at Luke, placing their order. “Find your own table.”

Emily scooted closer. “I like doctors just fine, especially handsome ones.”

“I’m gay,” Reid told her flatly.

Emily shrugged. “I’ve had worse challenges.”

“She really has.” Ali agreed. She took a sip of her coffee. “But hands off, Emily.”

“Why?” Emily pouted at her sister.

“He’s Luke’s.”

“Oh,” Emily looked over to Luke, who was paying for their coffees.

Reid frowned. “How did you know that?”

Ali shrugged, waving a hand at him. “Please it’s all over the hospital. I’m a nurse there. Don’t you remember the day I assisted you with that motorcycle accident?”

“Not really. All the nurses’ look alike to me.”

“Well, the nurses all know you. Everybody knows all about you and Luke. Why are you surprised? It's a small town. It’s like when mom hooked up with Bob that time, remember Emily? Everybody at Memorial knew.”

“Your mom?”

“Dr. Susan Stewart. She and Bob had this thing. I mean, it’s ancient history, but they were working the late shift together and-“

“Please,” Reid stopped her. “I can’t hear about your mother and Bob doing the horizontal mambo.”

Emily shrugged. “I thought you’d like to hear the dirt." She waved a hand at the Intruder. “You are reading my newspaper.”

“I’m not reading it,” Reid replied. “I was saving it for my cat’s litter box.” He handed it to Emily. “You should put some real articles into that trash.”

“Like what?”

Reid thought a moment. “Luke’s been wanting to write some articles on Oakdale’s blossoming gay community, how about giving him a shot?”

“What gay community?” Ali laughed.

Emily, however, looked interested. “I could use giving the Intruder some legitimacy; I’ll talk to him about it.”

“Hey!” Luke called out as if on cue, walking to them, balancing the coffees on a cardboard tray. “What are you guys doing here?”

“Just a sisters’ morning out,” Emily said. “And we’re checking out your new boyfriend too.”

Luke startled; he darted his eyes over to Reid.

Reid shrugged and took the coffee from him so that Luke could sit down.

“It’s all over the hospital,“ Ali said again, turning to Luke and stealing a few packets of sugar from Reid’s tray. “Liberty was telling everybody. She’s working there as a candy striper, you know.” Ali dumped two packets of sugar into her already light coffee and stirred.

“Liberty?” Luke said, scratching his ear. “How would she- “ Then his eyes widened. “Oh.” Luke made a face. “She’s my sort of cousin,” he told Reid.

“Of course she is.” Reid snorted. “Isn’t everybody?”

“And she lives with my Uncle Jack,” Luke continued.

“Oh,” Reid nodded, remembering the car incident.

“Yeah,” Luke said, ducking his head.

“Now that you mention it,” Emily said. “I did overhear Lily at Fashions whining about how Luke had a new boyfriend and she would soon be abandoned with no kids left in the nest. She was spending a bundle of cash to cheer herself up.”

“I’m not abandoning her -“ Luke exclaimed.

“Mom said she saw you guys making out at the movies, too,” Ali added. “I hope it was at least R rated.”

Luke and Reid met each other’s stunned faces. They’d been in some kind of dream world the past few weeks, oblivious to anybody but each other, but of course, all of Oakdale knew about them. Reid sighed. The week was coming to an end and he was already struggling with that, now whatever happened between him and Luke would be fodder for the gossiping morons of this one horse town. If this were a normal place, nobody would care about them at all. Why couldn’t they all just watch YouTube porn for kicks like everybody else?

Reid took a sip of his coffee; Luke had remembered to get him caramel flavoring. Reid snuck a glance at Luke and found he was already staring at him, a sweet smile across his face. Reid swallowed more coffee, unable to stop looking at Luke. Watching him, Luke licked his lips and Reid’s body clenched with desire. He stared intensely at Luke’s mouth and then met his eyes again.

“Whew,” Emily pretended to drag her palm across her forehead. “You two are hotter than my latte.”

“Totally steaming." Ali giggled in approval.

“Sorry,” Luke dropped his gaze. “We’re being rude.”

“No worries.” Ali grinned, she stood up and motioned for Emily to get up too. “But that’s our cue to leave.”

“No -“ Luke started," We don’t mind-“

“Yeah, we do. Go ahead and leave anytime,” Reid said to them.

Luke cuffed him on the side of the head. “He doesn’t mean it. Stay.”

Reid shot him an annoyed look. Luke wrinkled up his nose at Reid, trying to appear irritated, but looking amused instead.

“Ever since Casey left me, I’ve been so glad Emily is around,” Ali sighed.

“Well, I remember how devastated I was when he left me,” Emily replied.

“That must have been hard for you.” Luke nodded, his eyes wide and sympathetic, as if it were normal for two sisters to have dated the same guy.

"I'm feeling left out," Reid grumbled. "Everyone at this table has dated Casey but me. And he's pretty cute, if I recall correctly. Though, it was kind of dark out when I met him."

"Reid," Luke muttered, covering his smile with coffee. "He's joking. Forget it."

"Oh, well, you were just pretending to date Casey, Luke. Everyone knew that."

Reid narrowly avoided asking what the point had been of the whole charade then, and instead focused on grumpily drinking his coffee, and watching Luke’s charm bubble out of him easily, and the sisters lapped it up.

Now those two would never go. As if Luke sensed Reid’s mood, he slipped a hand underneath the table and rubbed up and down on Reid’s thigh. Reid turned to him, ignoring the conversation about Casey, and leaning in to nibble Luke’s ear. He gave Luke a hungry look, wanting to bed him right then and there.

“Reid!” Luke admonished, blushing. The hand on Reid’s leg, however, didn’t stop rubbing. Reid kissed the slope of Luke’s neck, letting his lips linger on his musky skin, letting Luke feel the force of his want.

“What?” Reid asked, looking only at Luke’s deep, sweet eyes.

Luke waved a hand toward Ali and Emily.

“Don’t mind us,“ Emily said. “I am all about a bitching make out session.” Emily leered.

“She is.“ Ali nodded. “Ask anybody in town. She’d join you if she could.“

Emily turned to her sister, a hand on her hip. “Oh, don’t act innocent - Miss Cheat on every potential fiancée in Oakdale. You’d grab these two and have a three-way in a minute.”

“At least I wasn’t hooking at the Lakeview,” Ali argued back.

“No, you were just the porn star.”

The two sisters broke into a cat fight, spewing insults for a moment. Reid and Luke just sat there watching. Reid took another sip of coffee, wishing he’d asked Luke for some muffins to go with the drama. Despite himself, he was kind of curious about Ali’s meth habits and Emily’s boy-toy lovers, but the sisters were already making up.

“Sorry, Em,” Ali finally said, giving her sister a hug. “You know I love you.”

“Aww, Ali, me too!” They hugged some more.

“I’ve never been so glad to be an only child,“ Reid mumbled and drank his coffee.

“Well, um,” Luke was clearly disconcerted from their fight. “You guys can stay.”

“Naw. We’re out of here,” Emily said to Luke, tapping his shoulder with a manicured finger. “Oh, and by the way, I want to talk to you about writing some serious pieces for the Intruder.”

“What? Me?”

“Don’t you write? Reid said you did.”

Luke’s mouth gaped, he looked at Reid.

“You haven’t read anything of mine since I was eight.”

“Not true. I peeked at your diary at Lily’s.”

Luke flushed. “He’s joking. I don’t have a diary.”

Reid gave a small smile. Luke so had a diary; he’d have to really search for it now.

“Well, consider sending me some of your thoughts on articles,” Emily said.

“I could do that now…?”

“No,” Reid interrupted. "You can’t.” He’d be damned if Intruder chatter would interrupt more of his time with Luke. “Please excuse us, as you pointed out earlier, we have the hots for each other and I need to do something about that right now.”

“Reid,” Luke bopped him on the shoulder. “Stop joking.”

“Stop trying to beat me up in public, save your S& M tendencies for the privacy of my hotel room,” Reid replied, enjoying Luke’s crimson face. “And you’ll know when I’m joking. “

He cupped Luke’s face and went in for a kiss. Luke flailed a moment and then opened his mouth. He let his mouth move on Luke’s slowly.

Reid knew Ali and Emily had gotten up and were headed out, but he still kissed Luke's mouth; the rest of the world could gossip about them or just go away. Reid didn’t care. Luke kissed him back, his hands circling Reid’s neck.

“That was rude,” Luke scolded in a husky voice, after the sisters left and the kiss ended. He held a finger to his swollen mouth a moment.

Reid shrugged. “You liked it.” Luke didn’t reply to that, he merely pursed his lips together, but his eyes sparkled. Reid leaned in closer to Luke, staring at him, “And I want to be alone with you.”

“You were alone with me all night.” Luke gave him a grin and he reached for Reid’s fingers.

A warmth uncoiled in Reid’s gut. He needed the day to be special for them both; they had so little time left. Maybe a trip out to the farm and a picnic at the pond again? More sex outside? Or maybe, a romantic night that Luke would appreciate? Reid pictured some future sex by that great fireplace at the farm on some really cold night. Where had that thought come from? Reid scowled- there would be no sex by a fireplace. What was wrong with him? This was almost over. His vacation time was almost up and then…. Luke was playing with his fingers, raising them up and kissing them one-by-one. He was looking at Reid like he was the only person in the room, and Reid felt that clawing inside his guts because he wanted to be here on some cold night to warm Luke’s chilled skin, kiss his lips, make a fire for them, drink hot chocolate with Luke, and then fuck him all night long on Emma’s giant rug.

“Luke.” Reid savored the taste of his name in his mouth.

He just kept staring at Luke, not at all certain of what he wanted to tell him. His brown eyes were so warm, lit up with joy, and part of Reid wanted to do or say anything to keep Luke looking at him that way, but another part of him wanted to run. Reid wanted to do the right thing, but he wasn’t sure what the right thing was anymore.

A few more days, Reid thought. After that, he’d explain that he needed to return to the Mayo Clinic. He’d be logical and lay it all out for Luke. Luke wouldn’t like it. Luke didn’t exactly run on logic. Reid didn’t want to be a selfish jerk, though, and now, with the whole town now in their business, leaving Luke would be even harder for him. Everyone would talk. Maybe he could extend his time? Maybe he should? God, he had no idea anymore; all of these conflicting feeling were battling inside of him and he couldn’t seem to control any of them.

“I know what you’re doing.”

Reid stiffened at the voice. Luke froze for a second too.

Noah towered over them, his face pinched, his hands curled into fists.

Reid let out an audible sigh. This day just kept going downhill fast.

“I know why you’re here with him, Luke. You can just quit it now.”

“Quit what? I’m with Reid,” Luke said quietly.

Noah’s head bopped up and down. “Yeah, that’s what I heard. It’s all over town. But you can stop the charade now Luke, okay? You have my attention.”

Reid’s jaw clenched. He forced himself to appear unconcerned. He sipped his coffee.

“I’m with Reid,” Luke said again. Luke glanced at him and his face softened.

“Please!” Noah scoffed. “You're just trying to make me jealous. It's not working."

"Noah, I'm not."

"Sure you are. You know that, in the end, we always get back together. “

“That was true in the past, but-“

Noah put a heavy hand on Luke’s shoulder. He squinted at him, his eyes beady and small. He shot Reid a hostile glare too. "You're just saying that to try to hurt me. Besides, you don't even know this guy, Luke. He’s been in town for what? Three weeks? And you expect me to believe you're leaving me for him?”

“Noah-“

“I know you. I know what you're like. I’m your first love, right? I’m your first kiss. And a guy can’t just forget his first kiss.”

Luke and Reid looked at each other then, remembering that innocent kiss so long ago. They smiled, with a look of heat that even a guy as thickheaded as Noah probably could comprehend.

“Luke!” Noah demanded. “What’s wrong with you?“

When Luke seemed unable to answer, Noah turned to Reid. “He doesn’t know you and you don’t him. Did Luke tell you he’s an alcoholic? That he got kicked out of school and- “

“Noah,” Luke interrupted, his cheeks flushed. “Please don’t-“

“I’m just saying that I know you and forgave you for all of that. But Dr. Oliver doesn’t know anything about you, and if he did –“

“Listen,” Reid said. That was it. He stood up to take Noah on, ready to blister the skin off of Noah’s pompous ass with some choice words.

Luke’s hand on his stopped him.

“No,” Luke said simply, looking at Noah, and slowly getting to his feet.

“I do know, Reid. Noah, you are so wrong about that. I know him very well.“ Luke paused to give Reid a look.

“You can’t just expect me to believe that you’re over me so fast?” Noah exclaimed. “You wouldn’t be with somebody else so easily.”

Luke nodded at Noah slowly. “That might be true if this were just some guy. But this is Reid.” Luke glanced at Reid. “I don’t expect you to understand this, Noah. But it’s Reid. “ Luke sighed deeply. “It’s always been Reid.”

At Luke’s words and his face, all the blood rushed to Reid’s head. What the hell did that mean?

“Luke-“ Noah whined.

“All you need to get here, Noah, is that we’re over.” Luke said. He spoke calmly, with no anger in his voice. In fact, Luke’s voice almost held a slight hint of compassion. “We’re over. The truth is that the moment Reid came to town - the moment I saw him- “ Luke almost smiled gently at Noah. “I couldn’t break up with you fast enough.”

Noah’s mouth dropped open like a fish. He gasped.

Reid jumped too. His stomach fell to his knees at Luke’s soft words.

“I don’t want to hurt you, but I have real feelings for Reid. I do. ” Luke swallowed hard. He paused a moment, clearing his throat, shaking his head a little, a small smile touching his face. Luke looked at Noah once more. “Noah, I think you should just go now.”

“You can’t mean- you don’t really- “ Noah sputtered, and he looked at Reid.

Noah stood there, looking like he might turn violent. Reid could see in Noah’s eyes that he wanted to punch him. Luke must have seen it too. He stepped a little in front of Reid.

“Seriously, just go, Noah.” Luke repeated, his voice less gentle now. “I don't want to see you embarrass yourself.”

Without another word, Noah stomped away.

Luke sat back down. Reid sat down too, more than a little shocked. He stared at Luke.

“You almost had me convinced there, too.”

Luke gazed deeply into Reid’s eyes. He was quiet a second and then Luke took a huge breath. “I hope you’re convinced because that was the truth. It’s how I feel.“ Luke leaned in toward him, his face set and determined. “Reid , I love you.”

For a moment Reid couldn’t react. Then he swallowed hard, his heart accelerating.

“No, you don’t. It’s just sex, Luke. You’re grateful to me. You like fucking me.”

Luke inhaled sharply. “You think that’s all this is?” His face was pained. He tried to take Reid’s hand. “I’m in love with you. We belong –“

Reid pulled his hand away.

“A month ago you loved Noah. You don’t know anything. It’s sex, not love. We’re having sex, Luke, not running off to get married.”

“It’s so much more than that,” Luke said softly. ”I love you, Reid, and I know you. You’re rude and egotistical and rude," Luke smile grew wobbly. “And you hide your feeling with jokes. But underneath that you're honest and sweet and make me feel like I can do anything.” Luke bit his lip. “I know it seems fast on the outside, but inside- my heart just knows yours. And I feel like I was just sleepwalking through my life until you came back into it, and now I’m awake and alive…and I love you. I’m in love with you. I am.”

Reid wanted to sink down and draw his knees up to his chest. He wanted to stop his heart from leaping crazily at Luke’s words. Love doesn’t happen for him. He was the one who could do it all alone. Love couldn’t happen, not now. He’d been wrong to think this situation could be contained, that he could control it. The whole room swayed, and Reid put his hand to his forehead. He had to get out of here now.

“That’s a pretty speech.” Reid deliberately made his voice cold.

Luke flinched. “It’s the truth. How can I make you believe me?”

“You can’t.” He stood up and tossed some money on the table. Making Luke flinch, hurting him, was like a knife in his own guts. Reid pressed a hand to his abdomen, almost expecting blood.

Luke opened his mouth to speak again, but then abruptly closed it.

Reid started to flee, stumbling over his feet, a sick film of sweat breaking out all over his body. He felt physically ill, like he was about to crawl out of his skin

“You were wrong,” Luke called out suddenly, a new heat in his voice. His jaw quivered for a moment, but then he controlled it, his face determined.

“About what?” Bile rose up in Reid’s throat, his palms itched and his head swam; he could barely hear Luke through the wave of nausea hitting him.

Luke smiled, but his eyes mirrored his pain. “About that first time. Back when we were kids, you left and told me that we’d never see each other again, remember?“ Luke gave a hard laugh. “And you were wrong then, and you’re wrong now. We do love each other.” Luke stood up, jamming his hands into his pockets. “Right?”

Of course he loved Luke. Luke was the only person in the world he’d ever loved.

His stomach clutched and Reid’s head whirled. Luke waited, his eyes huge, his face brave. Reid felt like he was crumpling. Luke only thought he loved Reid; he was blinded by the sex. It wouldn’t last. Luke would end up breaking it off, gently like he had with Noah, trying not to hurt Reid’s feelings because Luke would never want to hurt anybody, but Reid wasn’t going to do it; he wasn’t going to wait around for that day to happen and for Luke to toss him aside like trash. He couldn't be that person again.

“Reid, please? Don't lie to me. We've never lied to each other.” Luke said. He stood there, full of life and hope and vitality.

Reid backed away, shaking his head. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve, feeling the bile creeping up again.

“I just can’t do this with you,” Reid said, and he walked out.


***

Reid found himself knocking on Bob’s office door. He couldn’t even remember driving to Memorial; it was like his brain had switched onto automatic and there he was at the hospital. Luke’s face was all Reid could see right now. That face. Luke. Reid closed his eyes.

He should never had stayed so long. He should have left Luke after that first night. What had he done now? To both of them? Reid inhaled big gulps of air, the smell of antiseptics and sickness calming him a little, though his heart still pounded too quickly. He was leaving. Today. He would jump on the first flight back to Minnesota. He was leaving and he wouldn’t look back. He knocked again, louder, wanting in. He heard Bob's voice, worn and yet patient, telling him to enter. He swung it open and found Bob on the phone; within moments Reid knew it was a conversation with some big shot drug company, and when Bob motioned for Reid to take a chair, he did, listening impatiently to Bob talk. He rolled his eyes at Bob as the suit at the company tried to give Bob the run-around. He took deep breaths and listened to Bob's paternal, easy tone as he didn't back down. It was easier to listen to Bob's conversation and think about hospital bullshit than to think about what had just happened at Java

“I don’t like the hospital politics any more than you do, Reid, “ Bob said as he hung up. “But it is necessary sometimes, so that I can do the real work of the hospital, the work I do believe in. “ Bob cocked an eyebrow at him. “It’s like anything you care about, really. You have to work hard at it. Whether it's a job or a relationship; there’s work involved.”

Reid scowled. Bob could babble all he wanted about home, family, and relationships; he had that privilege. When he'd been abandoned by the side of the road and sent to live with an insane family on a farm, then Reid would consider whether or not Bob had any authority to tell Reid about the work of life. At the moment, he was glad for the nonsense, though, it kept his mind away from wondering where Luke was and how he was doing. The thought of Luke's face when Reid had told him that he couldn't do whatever they'd been doing anymore made him feel like throwing up again. He wiped a hand at the back of his neck, sweating profusely.

“Well, enough talk about Memorial,“ Bob said. “I heard your news.”

“About Ameera Mayor’s rehabilitation?” Reid took out a handkerchief and mopped at his face.

“Well, that, and thank you for finding her such an excellent facility.” Bob looked at him a second. "But actually, I was referring to the news about you and Luke?”

Reid jumped up out of his seat. “Never pegged you as one for wallowing in the gossip troughs, Bob,” he snapped. Reid felt like something inside of him was unraveling. He tried to school his features into an indifferent mask.

“Casey was visiting me earlier and he told me about you and Luke. I’m happy you found some love in your life, son. It is good news.“ Bob narrowed his eyes. “Isn’t it?”

“Love?” Reid sputtered, he’d heard enough of that word today. “Wh- what…Luke and I are not in love.”

Even as he denied it to Bob, Reid felt all the air squeezing out of his lungs. Reid drew in a shaky breath; he felt incredibly sick. He was in love, God help him, yes, he absolutely was in love - but Luke…Luke was just confused.

“He cooked for me, and we played some chess,” Reid crossed his arms at his chest. "And we spent some time together.” Reid felt like he’d just tossed a breakable object into the air and his hands twitched waiting for it to hit ground and smash everywhere.

“Right.“ Bob studied him. “You look flushed, Reid. Have some water.“

“And maybe there was some more to it,” Reid added, shutting his eyes. “Some feelings, but it was a mistake. “ Reid’s eyes opened and he looked into Bob’s steady gaze.

Bob came over to him and patted his shoulder. “Don’t look so stricken, son.” Bob smiled at him fondly. “I’m sure Luke feels the same way. It was meant to be from the time you were boys, even.”

Reid felt his heart knock against his ribs. “I’m not some damsel in distress. I'm not stricken. I just don't…do love. That's all.“ Reid cleared his throat noisily.

Bob gently handed him a glass of water.

Reid gulped it down, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He looked at Bob. “I’m leaving town. Immediately. I just came to tell you goodbye.”

Bob frowned in disapproval. “Reid, normally I don’t give people unsolicited advice. “ Bob ignored Reid’s snort. “But I feel compelled to try with you here. If Luke does love you and you love him, then don’t turn your back on that. Don’t run away because it’s uncomfortable for you.”

“Uncomfortable? That sounds like what we tell patents before inserting a large needle into their chests. This will be uncomfortable; you might feel a little pressure.“ And then we jab a needle into their hearts.” Reid shook his head. “No. I refuse. And for the record?” Reid swallowed, and said quickly. “I’m leaving, not running. I’m going back to my job.”

“I notice you didn’t say back to where you belong. “ Bob examined Reid a moment. "I believe that people can’t ignore their true feelings, not really, but it seems to me that you’ve made a habit out it. I remember the day you started working here-“

“I don’t need a trip down memory lane-“ Reid motioned to go. “Spare me this Father Knows Best lecture.”

Bob shook his head at him. “I think perhaps you do. As a young man, you were already one of the smartest people I’d ever encountered, your mind was so inquisitive. I was confident that you’d make a fine surgeon. And I was right.” Bob put a hand on his shoulder. “But emotionally? You were so wounded. I watched you that summer build up your walls. You pushed everybody away.“

“It’s called a defense mechanism, Bob. It worked for me.”

“Really? Is it working for you now?” Bob raised his eyebrows at him

Reid didn’t answer.

Bob was about to say more, when Nurse Gretchen opened the office door. "Pardon me, Gretchen, but we’re in the middle of something-“ Bob began to tell her.

“Sorry, Dr. Hughes,” she said. “But they’re all waiting for you.”

“Waiting for me?” Bob said blankly.

“The meeting?” Gretchen scrunched up her nose at him. “Don’t you remember? It was your idea this morning to meet with the pediatric staff?”

Bob blinked at her, and then stroked his chin a moment.

“Ahh, yes. I took some notes on it earlier and I have some valuable ideas to share with them.” Bob made a point of rummaging around at his desk. He tried to appear like he was contemplating something about the staff or the meeting, but Reid could tell he was faking it. Bob wasn’t contemplating anything; Bob was bewildered.

“Excuse me, Dr. Oliver.“ Bob nodded to Gretchen. “I need to go.”

Reid frowned. Something here was just not right. Bob had been annoyingly fine a moment ago, dissecting Reid’s life, but now he seemed harried, discombobulated, and unsure. He’d clearly forgotten his meeting and was unnerved by it.

Reid stared after Bob, a sinking feeling in his gut. He’d seen that confused look on patients' faces, like they were coming out of a deep fog. He thought back over his stay in Oakdale, and how Bob was always exhausted, how he stayed at work so much. Was he covering up little mistakes? Reid remembered how for a second Bob had mixed up his motorcycle victim with Ameera Mayer.

There was a knock on the door, and another doctor came in. “Oh, hello there. I was just looking for Bob.” The doctor pulled at his white jacket. “Have you seen him?”

Reid nodded absently. He remembered him. Dr. Stevens - he was the doctor who’d stopped Bob in the hallway the other day, the doctor who couldn’t seem to take a leak without asking Bob to hold his hand.

"I have an open heart in an hour,” Dr. Stevens told Reid, "I wanted to discuss the case with the Chief.”

“You’re the cardio surgeon?” Reid frowned at his nod. “Where’s John Dixon?”

“Dixon?“ Dr. Stevens said “Never heard of him.”

Reid's blood ran cold. He swallowed hard, and snapped, "Well Bob’s not here. Why don’t you go handle things by yourself? That's what they pay you to do, you realize.“

“No need to be snotty,” Dr. Stevens huffed. “You can’t have Bob to yourself all the time.”

Reid snorted. Dr. Stevens sound like Chris. Bob always did baby people too much.

Dr. Stevens left the office and Reid hurried over to Bob’s desk. Reid sat down at the computer and typed into the staff records. He sat back with a heavy heart. John Dixon had left town years ago.

Reid sucked in a breath. For the first time in his medical career, Reid fervently hoped to be wrong.

***
Despite Reid's proclamation to Bob that he was leaving immediately, Reid didn’t go. He stumbled his way to the roof of Memorial, gasping for some air. He felt like he was in the middle of a disaster and didn’t know who to save first. He never felt like that. He thrived on emergencies. He was Reid fucking Oliver, best neurosurgeon in the whole damn country, just as he’d always bragged he would be. Reid gazed at the space between the buildings, gulping in air. The roof was deserted, and Reid felt a sudden stab of loneliness hit him and he sank down to his knees. A blast of cold wind swept over his body, making him shake. Below him, he could hear the insistent rush of cars and he nearly covered his ears to block out that noise. That noise only reminded him of the past and that day that had led him down the road and into this town, where everything changed. Reid felt like the world wanted to rip off his skin. He looked at the door, waiting for Luke, not sure what he’d do or say if Luke appeared. But nobody came. Luke was probably at his home with his family, surrounded by their love. He didn’t need Reid. Reid wanted to follow through with his plan and get the hell out of town. Instead, he rubbed his hand at his chest and sat there. Bob. Shutting his eyes a moment, Reid exhaled. Luke. Slowly, he stood up, turned and went back inside.

He spent the rest of the day hiding out in his tiny office, researching everything he could on dementia and making phone calls to experts in the field. He didn’t want to voice his suspicions until he was certain, but the more Reid researched, the more it made sense.

Why hadn’t he seen it before? Reid shook his head, opening up his hotel door. He dumped his research and his snacks on the bed, and sank down onto it, cradling his head. He always thought he knew everything, but he had almost left town and missed this completely.

Reid could almost hear Bob’s lecture: “Doctors aren’t infallible, Reid. We assess the situation the best that we can and proceed cautiously from there.“

Reid ran a hand over his eyes, beyond exhausted. Between the morning with Luke and the afternoon concerned about Bob, he felt like somebody had kicked the shit out of him.

He should shower and shave. He picked up the papers and his chips instead. There must be a treatment he was overlooking, something. Why couldn’t he concentrate? Reid pinched the bridge of his nose, and he tried to keep reading, but his head throbbed. He rubbed at his temples. He wished he could talk to Luke about it because he’d know how to handle telling Bob; Luke was so good with people and their feelings, both of which Reid sucked at.

Reid’s heart lurched painfully. He’d put Luke out of his mind for the last few hours, worrying about Bob. But now, being in his hotel room, it wasn’t so easy. Reid threw the papers down on his dresser and then he threw the bag of chips down too; he wasn’t hungry at all.

Reid went over to the bed and ran his hand along the sheets. He picked up Luke’s pillow and brought it to his face; inhaling deeply. Reid stared at the bed, remembering Luke naked and gazing up at him with a bashful smile as he held out his arms for Reid. He shuddered and tried to shake the image from his mind. He needed to stop being a complete idiot.

Reid inhaled the pillow again, inhaling the scent, pressing the pillow to his chest. He curled up on the bed. And then Reid noticed Luke’s things were still scattered around the room.

For a moment, his heart jumped to his throat, and he got up and peeked into the bathroom to see if Luke was there. Of course, he wasn’t. Either Luke had simply forgotten his stuff or he didn’t want to chance seeing Reid again. Reid looked at Luke’s robe hanging on the bathroom hook, and Luke’s razor, and Luke’s toothbrush. He walked over to it and gently ran his finger across the bristles; it was still a little damp. He could return the stuff, bring it over to Lily’s; that would be the mature thing to do. Reid tightened his hold on the toothbrush. Luke’s mouth. Luke’s smile. Carefully, Reid put Luke’s toothbrush back into its designated slot, on the right side, next to Reid’s own.

A muscle pulsed in Reid’s cheek. He turned abruptly from the bathroom. He had to get back to his research and Bob. In the morning, he would need to convince Bob that he should get some tests done. He didn’t expect Bob to react well to it, but it had to be done. And Reid was the one who had to do it.

He nodded firmly, and told himself that Bob was the only reason he was still in town.
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December 2011

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