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[personal profile] marsabi1
Rtruffles and I once discussed this idea and some drabble happened for it


Here is what you know: the neurons are supported by the glia, but in this case, plague is strangling the neurons and reducing their power to convey information. The plague will spread, leaving the cells hungry and confused. Memory will be destroyed, eradicated. The end. But... Here is what you don’t know: how to tell Luke. You've no clue how to do this at all. In your family, unpleasant things were not discussed,and pain was kept quiet. Luke's family doesn't work this way. They work in loud, crazy ways you can't begin to fathom. You sit on the edge of the bed, watching Luke's face as he sleeps peacefully. Cursing softly, you wait for him.

But when Luke wakes up, you allow Luke to be happy, prattling on about the upcoming holidays. Luke makes the coffee and pours the cereal into your matching bowls. Sure, Luke knows that Emma burned that batch of Christmas cookies last week and forgot the name of Ethan’s friend who was visiting the farm, but Luke dismissed it. They all dismissed it, except for Emma. She came to you at Memorial and quietly told you that her memories were fading. You felt a jolt of pain at her soft words, more than you expected, and you held her hand, feeling the paper-thin skin and fragile bones.

Luke asks you to make some toast and it’s a relief to leave the breakfast table and do something. You open up the bag and take out some slices of bread, slathering on the butter. You wish with all of your heart that Emma has a simple intracranial aneurysm or tumor in her anterior lobe-something you could do surgery on, something you could fix. What’s the use of having this secret she’s asked you to keep, if you’re helpless as a damn baby? Besides, you never keep secrets from Luke. It’s better to get the truth out. Unsettled, you burn the toast, setting off the fire alarm, and Luke leaps up to open some windows. He gets on a chair and and waves a dishtowel at the alarm, laughing at you.

Surgeries are easier than words. Words are imprecise. When you cut open the brain, you escape into a world of beautiful symmetry. You love the look of the cerebellum, the fourteen billion cells. There used to be nothing better, no greater a rush than operating. But now there is Luke. You study him beneath your eyelashes as he sits back down to eat. The way a brain process emotions, the limbic seat, is still a mystery. Neurosurgeons may never know all the answers to how and why it works. You often imagine the inside of Luke’s brain, his limbic seat, would be larger and more beautiful than any other brain you’ve ever cut into.

Luke is talking about making waffles for you, on Sunday, when you both have more time. You take a long drag of breath. Tell him.

You tell.

After that, you drive Luke over and hand-in hand, you walk into Emma’s house. Emma has the kettle on and it’s hissing. Holden is there, spooning sugar into some oatmeal. Otherwise, the house is quiet. Alzheimer’s destroys the brain’s structure. It alters the logical patterns. When that happens, it can’t be fixed. It’s like trying to catch sand in a sieve. Luke bravely smiles at his dad and grandma. He talks horse flesh with Holden, waiting for him to leave. Holden is fooled. You wouldn’t be. Luke is now the language you speak, the body you recognize. You see his jaw is tight, his smile too broad, his eyes glittering, and your own body responds, your chest aching, head throbbing. You and Luke are so close, you feel conjoined.

When Holden finally leaves, Luke turns to Emma. In the car ride over, Luke had planned to beg her to tell the rest of the family. He’s planned to pressure her to be honest. Luke stands, wavering slightly. His walk to Emma is unsteady and you rise to your feet as if to catch him. But you give him time. You wait to see what Luke will do or say. Luke says nothing. His eyes fill and he takes his grandmother into a fierce hug. Emma is startled, looking over Luke’s shoulder at you. Then she understands.

Her eyes are forgiving and a wave of relief washes over you. She doesn’t blame you for giving her away. She pats Luke’s shoulder, cradling him to her bosom. None of you speak. Emma finally releases Luke. She brings over a plate of cookies and some tea. These cookies are not burned. They're fat with frosting and perfect-looking.

The three of you link hands. You sit at the table and listen to Emma say grace. You’ve always been agnostic. But today, for Emma, for Luke, you pray. Emma hands you a cookie and you eat it. You tell her it’s the best you’ve ever tasted and that’s the truth. The future looms over the table like a shadow, but you pretend not to see it. You're not just a doctor here. You're Luke’s partner.

You and Luke head to the pond, where Luke throws tiny pebbles into the water. He has a decent arm, and the pebbles skip pretty far. Story after story comes pouring out of Luke’s mouth. He begins with his first memories of Emma-all the birthdays, holidays, time at the farm. You’re quiet, listening, rubbing the space between his shoulder blades. Luke talks until his voice is raw, and finally falls silent.

“She has right now,” you say. “She has this Christmas, this New Year’s, this day.” You make your voice as controlled and firm as possible, but even you can hear a small quiver on the last word.
Luke’s eyes are full of grief, but he nods.

“I love you,” you add, feeling inadequate.

Luke face contorts and he lets out a choked cry, wrapping his arms around you. Your mind scrambles to recall every experimental treatment for Alzheimer’s that you’ve ever read. You hug Luke back, thinking, thinking.

Slowly, you lower Luke down. Eyes holding each other, you stare at him, stroking his cheek. Already you see Luke gathering his endless supply of inner strength to deal with his latest family crisis.

“Reid,” Luke sighs. He welcomes your kiss. Later, you’ll try and find some answers, but for now-

You strip off his clothes and love him, offering him the comfort of your body inside of his, and the world narrows to a place without time.

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December 2011

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