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Lure BB: The Road Home -- Chapters 8 and 9
marsabi




Chapter Eight

They were just outside of Omaha in Pioneer Park, with miles and miles of flat prairie and marshland spread out in front of them, and nobody else on the trail. The only sounds were some birds calling and the crunch of their boots. While it wasn’t too cold, there had been a dusting of snow the week before in Omaha, and it painted the entire ground a vivid white. The air was raw and crisp, and Reid took in a few deep gulps of it. As a bird cawed, he shielded his eyes and gazed up into the bright blue sky. He caught sight of it soaring high above them. Smooch, off his leash, barked happily, bounding ahead.

“Go get ‘em,” Luke laughed.

“Get the bird?”

“Get whatever Smooch can catch—a white-tailed deer, a bison--”

“—A squirrel?”

“Most likely, yeah.” Luke took a drink of his water, wiping his hand across his mouth. “How far in do you think we are?”

“I don’t know. Three miles, maybe?”

They had a trail map in Luke’s backpack and could easily figure out where they were exactly, but he’d rather not look. For once, he was happy to trust the ground below his feet and the sun above his head, and not worry over their exact destination. As if he read his mind, Luke smiled and took Reid’s hand, walking at a strolling pace, clearly in no rush to head back to the car and drive on to Oakdale, either. Breakfast had been a mug of instant coffee and a hard bagel from the hotel lobby, and Reid had eaten it blissfully. The morning light made the snow all around them glitter, and as they hiked, he kept looking over at Luke.

“What?” Luke smiled.“Do I have some dirt on my face?”

Not answering, Reid placed one hand flat on Luke’s chest and leaned in to kiss him. He could see Luke’s brown eyes widen as they read the intention on his face, just before their lips met and held. They breathed heavily. Luke grabbed his hair, and Reid parted Luke’s lips and thrust his tongue inside.

“I want you right here.”

Luke only groaned and then deepened the kiss. His mouth was hot, his lips firm as they moved over Reid’s own. As the kiss ended, Luke rubbed his jaw against Reid’s, their mutual stubble grazing. Luke wrapped his arms around Reid's neck and that was all the invitation he needed, Reid dove back in at his lips, parting Luke’s mouth insistently. He pressed a hand at Luke’s back, moving him closer, and ground his erection at Luke’s hip.

“Wait!” Luke broke away. “We can’t here. Too public. Too darn cold.”

“Who cares?” Reid grabbed the front of Luke’s jacket, and a frustrated growl escaped him. “I knew I hated nature for a reason. Give me a hospital any day---plenty of beds there.”

"Aw, soon. I promise."

Letting him go, Reid sighed. A day would come when he got rid of the last of Luke's inhibitions. Not that Luke had many left, Reid thought smugly, and wait until he got Luke into a warm hotel bed later. He would strip him naked and lick him from his toes to his earlobes. He wouldn't leave an inch of Luke's body unattended. Smiling, Reid bent over to pick up their backpacks, only to feel a hard, firm pinch on his ass.

"Hey! Dirty play!" He whirled around in surprise.

“So what are you going to do about it, Dr. Oliver? If you want me, better catch me,” Luke teased. A wicked look lit up his face and he took off running, laughing as Reid chased him, their feet flying down the trail. Reid ran harder than he ever had in his life. He managed to grab the edge of Luke’s jacket and tug on it, not that Luke was really resisting.

Panting hard, Luke put his hands up. “I surrender. Okay!” He laughed. “But wait, wait. I need to catch my breath.” Stumbling over to a nearby log, he sat down and looked up at Reid, who collapsed down next to him, while Smooch came charging out of the woods, a huge stick in his mouth. The dog sprawled out on the ground, happily chewing.

“You have exactly one minute to recover,” Reid warned.

Luke nodded, smiling.

The wind whistled through the trees and Smooch crunched his stick, but otherwise, there was only silence. The daylight was shadowed by the forest, and there was a noticeable drop in temperature on this part of the trail.

“Are you too cold?” Reid asked.

“Naw.”

Reid put his arm around Luke’s shoulders anyway, letting him burrow closer. They rested their heads together, not needing to speak anymore. Reid thought about the first time he’d ever held Luke in the crook of his arm; the first time he’d ever eased himself into Luke’s body.

“Look,” Luke said, moving suddenly. “Down here. I don’t believe it.” He brushed his hand across the bottom of the log. There, peeking out of the ground, dusted with snow, was a bed of flowers, light purple ones tinged with orange.

“I think they are Crocus flowers,” Luke said. “I’ve heard of them blooming into the winter, but I’ve never seen it.” He gently stroked a petal with his finger. “They’re so beautiful, aren’t they? They look fragile, but they must be strong.” He took Reid’s hand in his own. “Thanks for coming out here with me. I couldn’t ask for a better morning.”

Reid took in a breath. “Me, either.”

“Thanks for chasing me, too,” Luke added, grinning.

In answer, Reid kissed him once more. Their mouths pressed together, tongues touching, lips making loud smacking noises.

“Chased and caught.” Reid declared. “What are you going to do now?”

“Hmmm….?” Luke looked dazed, his face flushed from their kiss. “Let you keep me, I guess?”

“Oh, I’m keeping you, Mr. Snyder.” Reid ran the pad of his thumb over Luke’s mouth. “Count on it.”

“Good.”

“I love you,” Reid said, his voice rough. He met Luke’s eyes and held them. “You know that.”

“I know.” Luke squeezed his fingers tightly. “I love you, too.”


***

After leaving the trail, they’d mutually decided to have one more night in a hotel room, extending their trip by an extra day. And what a night--- it had been a fantastic night of mind blowing sex. Reid smiled, shrugging off the sheets, and he gave Luke a solid kiss, waking him up.

“Hey,” Luke flashed a bright smile. “What time is it?”

“Early.” Reid strolled over to the small kitchenette, not bothering with his clothes. “We could have instant coffee, Lipton tea, or hot chocolate.”

“No brainer. Hot chocolate.”

Reid tore open the paper mix and heated up some water in the coffee pot. He dumped equal amounts into two small mugs. After giving each a stir, he quickly went back to Luke, extending out one of the mugs.

“Careful.” Luke frowned as he came closer. “Don’t burn yourself.”

“No chance of that.”

“'Cause I’m kind of fond of your body parts.” Luke grinned like a goofball at him, and Reid’s gut tightened in response.

“You’re not too shabby, either.” Reid climbed into the bed. “Let’s drink to it.”

They clinked mugs.

“Hmmm, it’s not terrible for instant,” Reid commented.

“Chocolate can never be terrible,” Luke said. “Nobody’s is as good as Granma Emma’s back home, though.”

“How about we don’t go back.” The words tumbled out before he could stop them.

“Hers is always rich and creamy… What?”

“I don’t see why we need to,” Reid hedged. “Not yet. We could spend the whole afternoon here in bed, order in a pizza, watch some bad reality television, and keep on drinking this hot chocolate.“ He put his mug on the nightstand and framed Luke’s face with his hands. “Just a little longer here, Luke. What do you say?”

“I say…” Luke searched his eyes a moment. “Sure. Why not? If that’s what you want.”

“It is.”

Reid lowered his mouth to Luke’s in a kiss, sliding his tongue in. He could taste the chocolate on Luke’s lips. They didn’t leave the hotel bed for a long, long time.


But next day, Reid knew they had to get on the road. No more excuses. He had work looming, and Luke had the foundation. They both were coming home to a pile of emails, errands, responsibilities. Still, each time he spotted a sign for the state line, a big part of him wanted to bolt. He said nothing, however, to Luke. They drove, talking now and again, but mostly listening to music. Reid stopped at a mini market and loaded up on snacks. He clutched the bag of chips to him like it held the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle inside, but he just didn’t feel like opening it up.

Outside of the Illinois border, they stopped for some lunch.

“Mexican or Chinese?”

“Mexican,” Reid said. “Once we are past Chicago there are no decent places for tacos.”

“You like Al’s chili,” Luke argued.

“I tolerate Al’s chili, and chili is not Mexican.”

“What? All these years you gobble it down?”

“That’s hunger, not necessarily pleasure.”

Luke looked unconvinced.

They found a small table near the back, where the restaurant showed off their tortilla-making machine. Sadly though, Reid found Iowa Mexican food as bad as Oakdale’s, but he ordered three more tacos anyhow.

“We should have driven the Southern route and gone through Arizona,” he sighed.

“Yeah, clearly you’re suffering.” Luke shook his head, bemused. “Let me guess, this is still your pure hunger doing the eating, you’re getting no happiness from it.” He sipped his lemonade.

Reid licked at his fingers. “That’s right.”

When their waiter came by, Luke ordered an extra enchilada. He shoved the plate at Reid and watched him eat it that up, too.

“You have hot sauce on your mouth.”

“Do I?” Reid said, chewing some more of the enchilada. “Don’t really care.”

“Charming.”

“Yeah, I can be a real prince.”

“A frog, more likely.”

“Well, you’re the one who’s been kissing me all these years,” Reid shrugged, “so you ought to know.”

“Still such a frog.” A grin spread across Luke’s face. “But you’re my frog.” He took Reid’s hand in his own and played with his fingers, while Reid finished the enchilada and downed his soda.

“And you’re a spoiled prince. But you know being with royalty has its appeal.”

“All my money and free time?” Luke suggested wryly.

“More about the way you issue certain commands,” Reid smiled, his eyebrows lifting suggestively and Luke laughed. When the waiter checked on them, neither of them made a move to release their linked hands.

“Bring us that fried ice cream, please,” Luke said. “My husband’s still hungry.”

***

Driving past Chicago with Smooch in the back of the car, Reid didn’t object when Luke decided to take the longer, more scenic route. Logically, he knew that being in Oakdale was where they needed to go, and he was less panicked about everything than before, but he still wished getting back together came with an instructor's manual. Some guidebook that he could flip through and master.

Near the turn for Bay City, they spotted a car edged to the side of the road. The engine was smoking, and some young, red-haired woman stood over it, fanning it with her hand, while her two kids hovered near her. The little girl was wearing rainbow-colored leggings, a hat with sequins glued on, and a hot-pink jacket. She was spinning in circles, while her older brother was giving the finger to every car that flew past them. A big billow of darker smoke began to rise up, forcing the young mom to leap backwards. It was chilly out, too.

Luke looked at Reid. “Should we pull over? Maybe look at their car?”

“Look at their car? My hands are meant for surgery, not for Jiffy Lube.”

“Your hands are multi-talented.” Luke grinned over at him.

“True.” Reid nodded. “Go ahead. Check on them.”

“I was already going to,” Luke laughed.

The mom practically jumped for joy at seeing them and hurried right over.

“Thanks, thanks! My phone is dead. I thought I charged it last night, but I guess not, and this morning I just tossed it into my purse.”

“You can use mine,” Luke said. He and Reid got out of the car.

“Oh. Thanks.” She glanced back at her kids, chewing her lip.

“Don’t you have Triple-A?” Reid asked.

“Uh--sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“Reid.” Luke nudged him.

“I’ve been meaning to renew my policy with them,” she said, blowing some hair out of her eyes. “I’m sure the letter is sitting back home on my desk.”

“We could give you all a lift? If you don’t mind the cramming in with our dog.” Luke smiled at the little girl, who’d come up to them. She had dark eyes and dark hair, with several mismatched barrettes holding some of the pieces back. “Are you heading somewhere in Oakdale or are you heading on to Bay City?”

“Bay City,” the mom answered. “I’ve never heard of Oakdale.”

“Consider yourself lucky,” Reid said.

“We shouldn’t go with them,” the little girl whispered. “We don’t know them.”

“I’m sure it’s fine, Sweetie.”

“No.” She cast a worried glance at Luke and Reid.

“Don’t be a baby,” her brother declared.

“I’m not a baby. We had a talk about stranger danger in school.”

“Baby.”

“Am not!”

“Are too!”

“Guys, knock it off.” The mom gave a weak smile. “We’re all a bit grimy and tired. We’d appreciate the ride.”

Luke bent down. “Here.”

“What’s that?” the little girl asked.

“My driver’s license. You can see my name and my picture. That way, we’re not strangers. Okay?”

She studied him a long moment, as if making up her mind about something far greater than a ride, staring into his eyes.

“Okay.” She smiled, revealing a missing front tooth. She twirled a couple times, happy to accept them as friends, before heading over to their car. “Owww. Jesse, come see! They have a big dog!”

“So what?” Jesse folded his arms at his chest and didn’t budge. Up close, Reid could see he had two big earrings that covered half his earlobes up and his tongue was pierced, too. He should have guessed that. The teenager spoke with a small lisp. He was barely a teenager, more like a sullen boy, and why the mom had let him mutilate himself was beyond Reid’s understanding. Of course, the mom looked like she was must have had him at twelve herself.

Smooch gave a welcoming bark. He licked their faces greedily. Luke gave his collar a firm tug and Smooch went obediently down to the floor, allowing the mom and her kids to pile in around him.

“Hope I don’t get car sick,” the little girl volunteered from the backseat. “’Member how I threw up my slurpy on that one trip?”

“Shut up, Sophie.”

“What?”

“Kids, please.” Their mom sighed. “I’m Amy, by the way.”

“Hey! Shove over.” The boy, Jesse, elbowed his sister’s ribs, as they fought in the backseat for some room.

She stuck her tongue out and he elbowed her harder. Sophie was a little chunky, baby-fat still clung to her cheeks and thighs. Jesse, on the other hand, was so thin that Reid could easily see his ribs sticking out underneath his threadbare T-shirt now that he’d taken off his hat and jacket.

As Luke started to drive again, Reid looked down at the food they’d bought. “Want some chips?” he asked the kids, making Luke shoot him a giant smile that Reid ignored.

“Sure!”

“Yeah, okay.”

Reid handed the bag to Jesse and watched them dig into it.

“So what do you guys do?” Amy asked.

“I’m a businessman, kind of a jack of all trades,” Luke smiled. “And Reid’s the Chief of Staff and the head neurosurgeon at our hospital back home. A brain doctor,” he added.

“That’s what I want to be!” Sophie exclaimed. She crunched on a chip. “A doctor. Not for brains, though. I want to fix everybody’s heart.”

“You have to be smart for that, dummy.”

“I’m smart.”

“Jesse.” His mom frowned.

“Alright, she’s smart. Okay? Whatever. We switch schools so often who can tell how smart or dumb she is?” His mom ignored that remark and Jesse shifted in his seat. “This car is like riding in a tomb. How about some music?” His tone was the typical snotty sound of a teenager, but Reid noticed Jesse was biting his nails and that all of them were chewed down to tiny nubs.

“Neil Diamond or Barry Manilow?” Reid asked.

“For real?” Jesse gasped at him. “Like, just how old are you?”

“He’s joking with you,” Luke assured him, turning on a rock station.

“Not really.” Reid shrugged. “I always liked Sweet Caroline at the Boston Red Sox games.”

***

“---And my best friend, Erin, told my other best friend, Jenna, that I was a good dancer and our teacher Mrs. Pierce said I had a graceful pirouette. And then I hugged them, Erin and Jenna, not Mrs. Pierce, she’s kinda strict, anyway after I hugged them we all got up on the stage…”

Boy, this kid could talk. Reid fought the urge to cover his ears as she went on and on. Luke, though, was clearly enjoying Sophie’s stories, asking her question after question. Reid supposed the little girl did tell her tales with an enthusiasm that bordered on sweet. Besides, they were coming up to Bay City anyway, and soon, they’d all go their separate ways, so Reid guessed he could tolerate it for a little longer. Sophie leaned forward in the car and tugged at Reid’s coat. She had crumbs on her upper lip from devouring all his chips. Jesse had eaten a bunch too, and he was staring out the car window, looking slightly less pissed-off.

“I was wondering, you being a doctor and all. What do brains look like?”

“I can actually answer this. Like alien grey spaghetti,” Luke laughed.

“Ewww, really?”

“Hearts aren’t all perfect and pretty either,” Reid informed her.

“I hate doctors,” Jesse said. His hooded gaze met Reid’s. “They only care about having rich patients. If you’re poor, they make you sit in the damn waiting room forever, and they don’t give a shit if you’re in pain.”

“Doctors are trained to take the most critical patients in first,” Reid retorted, careful to keep his tone flat and reasonable. “End of story.”

Jesse grunted rudely, but he didn’t challenge Reid further about it.

They drove on in silence after that. Before long, Luke pulled off at Bay City, following Amy’s directions to a youth center, where they’d been heading before Amy’s car had broken down.

“Thanks so much!”

“Do you need anything else? “ Luke asked her. “What about your car?”

“I’ll get it tomorrow or the day after. Who would want it?” Amy asked. “It’s a gas guzzling, broken-down wreck,” she shrugged. “I keep trying to save up for something better, but…” She turned to Jesse and Sophie. “Guys, how about thanking Mr. Luke and Mr. Reid for--”

“Thanks!” Jesse said quickly, dashing out of the car like cops were chasing him. He ran into the building.

Sophie leaned into the front seat. She threw her arms around them both and hugged. “Thank you Mr. Luke! Thank you, Mr. Reid! I love you!”

“Oh!” Reid saw Luke flush with pleasure. Before he could fully answer her though, Sophie ran off after her brother.

“That’s Sophie,” Amy chuckled. “She falls in love with everybody at a super-fast rate.” Amy grabbed their stuff and climbed out of the car. She leaned down to the window. “I can’t thank you guys enough.” She glanced at the youth center. “Sorry about Jesse. We’re working on his manners.”

“No problem. They were a lot of fun. Weren’t they, Reid?”

Reid grunted, then, realizing he sounded a lot like Jesse, he added, “Yeah, it was fine.”

“And you seem like a really good mom,” Luke added.

“Oh, no.” Amy’s eyes widened and she shook her head. “They’re not mine. I’m only their big sister, you know, from Big Brothers and Big Sisters that my church group sponsors? Actually, I’ll have to quit soon when I go off to graduate school in San Francisco.” She laughed. “Would you believe I’ll actually miss those two? They bicker nonstop and are always hungry, but I think they’re good kids deep down.” Even though the kids were out of earshot, Amy lowered her voice. “Truthfully, they have had it rough. Jesse and Sophie’s mom died of a drug overdose. Jesse’s view of doctors might be tainted, Reid, due to all the bad facilities he’s seen his mom in and out of, before her final overdose. And poor Sophie has some learning disabilities because her mother gave birth to her when she was high.”

“And their dad?”

“Two different dads. Jesse’s is in jail, not sure for what, and Sophie’s split. Nobody knows where he is. Sad, huh? They’ve bounced around a lot in the foster care system, mainly because of Jesse. I hope they find a new Big Sister or Big Brother. It’s not much, but I come and take them on these little outings. We were visiting a dairy farm today before my car issues, but they will go home tonight to their foster house.”

“Oh. Well, I think it’s great,” Luke said, “that you volunteered to be with them.”

“Yeah? Thanks!” Amy beamed.

“Look, please take my business card.” Luke pressed it into her hand. “I’d really like it if you let me know how the kids are doing and everything. It has my email and cell phone. I run a charitable foundation and, I don’t know, maybe I can do something for Jesse and Sophie down the line.”

“Really? Awesome!” She gave him a giant smile. “Sure! I don’t leave for a few more months. I’ll keep you posted.” With that, she climbed out of the car and disappeared inside the building.

“Remind me never to complain about my childhood again,” Luke said. He started the car, turning it toward the road that would soon lead them back to home.

“You never complain about it, anyway.”

“Well, I’m right not to. Those poor, poor kids.” He sighed, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. Luke’s face pinched up in frustration. “I wish life wasn’t so hard sometimes.”

Reid was silent a long moment. “Yeah.”

“What?” Luke asked, looking at him quickly.

“Nothing.” Reid shrugged. He stared out the window, seeing a sign for Oakdale. Turning, he forced his eyes to meet Luke’s. “I just...I’m glad you gave her your card. I think you should keep in touch with them.”

“Really?”

“Sure.” Reid gave him a slow smile.

Luke smiled back.

“Now, let’s go eat.”

“Reid! You can’t be hungry again!”

“What can I say? All this Good Samaritan crap builds up my appetite. And those two ate up all my chips.”

“Fine. But after we eat, you drive the rest of the way, okay?”

“Deal.”

***
Oakdale.

True to his promise, Reid had taken over the driving and now they were a mere few miles from the town exit. Why the hell had he decided to be responsible? Screw their work. This was a bad idea. They should have gone from Bay City to Chicago, and they could have seen the sights—Hyde Park, the Sears Tower--- and then had another hot night in some fancy hotel. Like the Avenue Crowne Plaza. Did they allow dogs? Why hadn’t he suggested this to Luke? He should have gone to Chicago to that hotel and chained Luke to the bed. He should have fucked him five ways to Sunday. Maybe it wasn’t too late to turn around? As Reid turned onto the small ramp, he stopped the car on the side of the road and kept his eyes straight ahead, ready to ask Luke to take one last detour.

“It’s good to be back,” Luke yawned, and Reid knew it was too late to suggest Chicago. There would be no delaying it this time.

They were at the crossroads. There were several small options —left to Memorial, right to the farm, or straight to their house.

“Where to exactly?” he asked. “Do you need to go to Lily’s or the farm?”

“No,” Luke shook his head. “Why are you asking me that?”

“It seems a reasonable thing to ask. You might need to collect some of your stuff from there,” Reid babbled, his hands gripping the wheel. He felt like his heart was made of ink, revealing a dark, leaking stain on the front of his shirt. It only made him talk faster, “You left some clothes, but you might want your laptop for work or your warmer clothes or maybe--”

“Reid, look at me.”

He drew a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose. When he finally looked, there was so much understanding in Luke’s eyes that Reid couldn’t look away.

“I don’t need to go anywhere but home with you. Okay?”

Reid smiled, nodding quickly. He didn’t like Chicago anyhow. Too big, too crowded, too windy. He liked his own bed just fine, as long as Luke was there. Reid inhaled sharply. What a moron he was being.

Luke was here right now.

He felt the tension leaving his face. Luke was here, beside him, and Reid needed to trust in that.


Without another word, he drove them home.







Chapter Nine


Back in Oakdale, the rest of November flew by, they were both pretty busy. Luke finished his plans for the pediatric wing at Memorial, and Reid helped a patient facing an advanced case of brain cancer. Some days, the best they could do were quick lunches together, but they touched and kissed each other constantly, and that helped. Reid also made a point of taking a day off once his patient had gone home to spend his last days with his family, and Luke appreciated the gesture. He knew Reid had other patients and problems waiting back at the hospital, and it felt good to be put first, even for just a day. For his part, Luke had tried to reassure Reid that he wasn’t going anywhere, that he would never leave him again. He realized this would take time, but Reid seemed to be relaxing in slow increments as time passed. Nothing was perfect. Luke didn’t want or expect perfection, but they were on the right track.

Now it was already the end of December, and they were coming up to Christmas at the Snyder farm. On one hand, Luke was looking forward to it. He loved seeing his grandma’s house all decorated, and he loved singing carols around her piano and eating her Christmas pies. On the other hand, alcoholics and holidays always were a difficult mix, especially a children’s holiday, so he’d phoned Reid a few hours ago that he’d be late and he’d gone to a meeting. He left feeling, well, not exactly better, but certainly more centered. He was glad that Reid would be by his side at the farm.

“Hello?” Luke called, entering their house. He wiped his boots on the welcome mat and hung up his coat. “Sorry that I’m so late. I’m all ready to go. Reid?”

He stepped into the living room and froze.

Reid stood near their Christmas tree, watching him. Luke went over to the tree and stared at the small photographs, there were tons of little hanging frames, all neatly hung among the rows of colored lights. And they were all of Charlie: Charlie drinking her bottle, in her bath, in her stroller, in Luke’s arms.

He touched the side of her tiny mouth.

“I took the pictures from our baby album and some others off your phone,” Reid said. “I thought, last year, we were too devastated to even acknowledge it, but this year I hoped it would …God, this was a dumb idea,” he said, as Luke remained silent. “I should take them down. I’ll take them down.” He turned and Luke caught his arm.

“No,” Luke said. “Leave them up. They’re perfect.” He wiped his free hand across his eyes. “You’re perfect.”

I’m perfect?”

Reid put a hand to Luke’s forehead.

Luke grinned suddenly through his tears, “Cut it out.”

“Not that you’re wrong.” Reid smiled back, his own eyes looking suspiciously moist, “I am perfect - a perfect surgeon, perfect sandwich-maker, perfect in bed--”

“Perfect husband,” Luke added, causing Reid to fall silent. He stared at Luke, his throat swallowing convulsively. “At least, perfect for me . You know me so well, inside and out. You know my strengths and my flaws and you love me as I am.” He cupped the side of Reid’s face, gently stroking his skin. “And this is just what I needed today. For us to remember her, honor her.”

He let his hand move down the side of Reid’s neck to his shirt. Slowly, Luke unbuttoned it, kissing the exposed parts of his skin, caressing his stomach and then the front of his thighs. Reid seemed frozen as Luke dropped to his knees and slid his belt off. Sliding his thumb, Luke teasingly pulled the band of Reid’s underwear. He tugged his underwear lower, cupped the weight of him in one hand, and then Luke looked up and met Reid’s eyes, which were looking back at him with unguarded reverence. Luke felt a bright burn of joy blur his vision. He touched his lips to Reid’s cock, sucking him fiercely. It was a miracle that they’d found their way back to each other, more miracle than he deserved, but one for which he would be forever grateful.

Reid cried out, pushing his hips forward, his taste filling Luke’s mouth. After a moment, they both sank down beneath the Christmas tree, stripping off the rest of their clothes. Once they were naked, Reid gathered Luke close and framed his face with his hands.

“You’re amazing.” He leaned in until their foreheads touched. Luke shivered as they both moved forward, wrapping their limbs together, and getting lost in one long, hot kiss after another.

A hungry noise came from deep inside of Luke as Reid touched him everywhere; no part of his body was left unmarked. He could feel the edge of Reid’s teeth along his back, down his spine, to his backside. At the same time, Reid’s fingers expertly played with his cock, using all his knowledge to make Luke harden even more, but it was the intense gaze of Reid’s eyes as they traveled over his body that made Luke truly aroused. He looked at Luke like he was worthy, equal, everything.

It wasn’t long before they were in an unrestrained, savage rhythm, leaving them dazed and complete. Luke’s arms closed around Reid. He licked at his sweat-soaked shoulder and buried his face in the crook of Reid’s neck. Afterward, staring up at the beautiful tree, Luke talked about Charlie, while Reid listened. Luke had almost forgotten how good it could be to curl up next to him and confess his every thought and know that he would be heard. Being a good listener was one of Reid’s secret gifts, so Luke allowed himself to pour out his memories of the baby, and occasionally, with some prodding, Reid added a few memories of his own with a wistful smile. It still hurt, it would always hurt, it would always be a stabbing pain beyond mere words like “death” and “loss”, but now they were sharing the pain together and now they could remember the joy together, too.

***

At Emma’s, Luke snuck Smooch some ham as the kids raced around. The fireplace was blazing, and the mantle was piled high with pictures and greeting cards. The men all wore holiday sweaters, the women had on their best dresses, and Christmas music played softly in the background. Luke exchanged a smile with Reid, watching him devour the plate of food his grandma had faithfully made.

His dad and mom began to argue about her frequent trips to France, Natalie’s girlfriend, Ethan’s slipping grades, and how much interest Craig was showing in Lily again. Luke glanced over to Reid, who had paused from shoveling in some more pie, to roll his eyes at Luke in a way that made him smile.

“Want to hear about my latest surgery?” Reid asked, effectively breaking up Luke’s parents fight, with his tales of guts and gore. As Reid described sawing open some poor guy’s skull, the little ones ran for cover under the piano.

“I appreciate the help,” Luke whispered to him, “but can’t you think of something less horrific to distract them with?”

“Like what?” Reid asked. “Should I tell everybody the story of when you blackmailed me to come to this waste of a town instead?”

“Ha-ha.”

“What? Don’t you want everybody to hear about what a schemer you can be? How you go after something or someone, like a brilliant neurosurgeon, with all your money and power, and throw it all around?”

“Turning yourself on?”

“Absolutely.”

Luke laughed.

Even though it was late, the doorbell still rang continuously, and visiting neighbors piled inside the house, bringing presents or food or both. A few people ate Emma’s famous spiced rum cake, while others drank some eggnog. Stories that had been told for years were told again. As Luke listened, his phone buzzed once, a text from Amy, sharing a picture of Jesse and Sophie in their Christmas best. Sophie had a giant grin on her face; Jesse looked bored, but Luke noticed he had an arm around his sister’s shoulders. Although nothing had been officially decided, Luke and Reid were talking about driving up to Bay City soon.

“My recipes,” Grandma Emma said, interrupting Luke’s thoughts, as she stuffed some papers into his front pocket.

“Why are you giving me these? I don’t cook?”

“He’s starving at your house.” She pointed at Reid. “Look at him. Skin and bones. Feed him more.”

He glanced at Reid, who was chewing a fistful of cookies as he helped Ethan with some chess moves, and shaking his head as Natalie still won the game.

“Then he’ll have to learn to cook these,” Luke grinned. It was kind of adorable how Reid managed to convince his entire family that he needed constant nourishment. Even Lucinda had her staff ready with milkshakes and gourmet burgers whenever they visited. Smiling, Luke went over to Reid and leaned back against his frame, content to have him pressed close. Reid wrapped a casual arm around him, his eyes still on Ethan, groaning at Luke’s brother’s losing technique and then giving quick thumbs up to a delighted Natalie. Reid had taught her to play, too.

Smooch sat in the center of the younger children, a dopey canine grin on his face. They were hugging and kissing him, and decorating him with big floppy reindeer ears. Friendly arguments broke out about who had the best Hubbard squash at this past Thanksgiving (Holden, of course, thought his was the biggest) and who was the worst town gossip (Emily or Lisa, depending how old the voters were), and who was destined to be a crack-shot lawyer (Sage), and who was destined to be a future doctor (any of Casey’s kids). Emma played a few carols on her piano, and Lucinda cackled out a song or two in a loud voice, with Bob occasionally adding his baritone to the singing. In short, the entire town was there—happy, laughing, slightly drunk, and full of good food and good cheer.

“Kiss, kiss, kiss.”

Luke looked over to see that Ethan was holding a piece of mistletoe over their heads.

“Good timing, kid. You must be psychic.”

Reid high-fived Ethan, and leaned in to smack Luke on the lips. When they pulled away, Reid’s eyes glimmered with promise.

Smiling, he tilted his head at Reid and let his eyes travel up and down Reid’s body with a promise of his own. He kissed Reid back, tasting his grandma’s apple pie on his lips and a familiar, amazing taste that was all Reid. Luke poured his heart into the kiss, not stopping until everybody around them whistled and applauded, and he released a flushed, startled-looking Reid. With a mock salute, Luke flashed everybody around him a wicked, happy grin.

It was Luke’s town, and now Reid’s town, too. Looking at all the loving faces around them, Luke knew that, regardless of what else the future held, they belonged here, surrounded by their friends and family. They belonged together, and really, despite what Reid sometimes said, Oakdale wasn’t so bad.


THE END




That was great! Even though it was hard to read about the loss of Charlie, and how it tore then apart, I'm glad they found their way back to together! Thank you soooo much!

Thank you! I truly appreciate your taking time to comment. So glad that you enjoyed it!

This was wonderful! It had everything.
Some parts had me worried, some parts made me smile, other parts caused a big lump in my throat and some parts had me laughing out loud. It's definitely a re-read. Thank you!

Thanks so much! Hearing it will be a "re-read" is the best compliment ever!

This was lovely, and never made Luke and Reid's tragedy feel cheap. Thank you for sharing it!

Oh, thanks so much! I really wanted to handle it right, and I am thrilled with your comment! Yay!

just detected it ...off to read! so excited!

wonderful story. Just a great read

I truly appreciate the comment! Thanks!!!

This was a truly beautiful, beautiful and deeply moving story. I LOVED IT!!!

HOORAY! It thrills me that you liked it!

What a joy to read your story. Loss can tear at the strongest of bonds. I'm glad they found their way back to each other. This story touched on every emotion. I give you a standing ovation.

*bows*

You made my night with that! LOL! Thanks so much!

It is a really beautiful story in so many ways. The love that never dies, even when part of your heart is taken from you unexpectedly. It also screams sequel. These two have so much love to give.

I shed some tears for what was lost and what was found because it was never truly lost.

This BB has started out so great. Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us.


Their love can never die!

Thanks so much for your sweet words! I appreciate it!

What a beautiful, heartwarming story! I loved it!

Thanks so much! *Happy Twirl*

I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks for telling me!

Fabulous! I really felt like I took this journey with them. I love that they adopted Charlie and rescued Smooch--two of my favorite causes. I also love that you gave us the reassurance that even if they decided to not have more children of their own that they would have a rich life with each other and their extended family. Thanks for the road trip!

Thanks so much, Smittle! That was one of my goals actually-- to not decide on the future 100% with kids, but to leave that door open...I did not want to lessen their loss, either. You know? Honoring her was important to me.

What I did really want to express is that they will be together and happy whatever choices they make...I'm so glad you felt reassured that this is where they were headed! Yay!

Thanks so much!

Marsabi, you took us on a bitterSWEET, wonderful journey. Bitter - because of their pain and struggle, SWEET because their love was curled around each and every letter, we could see and feel it!
The ending: Perfect: It's promise but not tidied up and older kids don't die from SIDS.

I loved your other stories too - but this is an especially perfect one!
Thank you!

Oh, that is so great to hear! *Blushes*

Thanks so much!I wanted you to feel the longing/love the whole way through!

I really wanted to not make it all perfect and "tidied up" --- so yay! --I'm so glad it seemed that way to you. I went back and forth (like a crazy person, lol) about even having Jesse and Sophie there at all in the fic...In the end, I wanted to honor Charlie most of all,and show that she will never be far from their minds, even while still giving them hope of a future...You know? Sorry to babble on, but you hit on something that I truly tried to be sensitive about...

Thanks again! I'm thrilled!

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Thanks for taking me on this beautiful journey. I enjoyed it very much.xxx

Oh, I'm truly glad you liked it! Thanks!

I really enjoyed this fic. It was so sad and so sweet at the same time. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Thanks so much! I am happy to know that you enjoyed it, and sad/sweet was just what I was going for...I truly appreciate that you took time to comment here!

This story was everything. It was amazing, heart breaking, fun, lighthearted, sad, etc. I loved every second of it. The story of Charlie took me by surprise, which is great, and completely broke my heart. It was also great to fast forward through that pain and suffering and get to the part where they are getting back on track. :) Thanks so much for this wonderful story.

Oh, that thrills me to hear, hopperl! Sorry for the heartache (it was , for sure, my most angst-filled fic). I wanted to explore the idea of their love never stopping, but an event really testing them too...

Thanks so much for the support and kind words!