It's not a cold sweat that wakes you from your dreams, but a quiet ache, that dull void in your chest that you know at one point was full of something sweet, something beautiful and each night you wake up wondering how you got here and what you're missing you study the scars. You trace them; you feel the rough edges on your fingertips. You have asked how you got them but they barely acknowledge you. You know that this is not normal. You were not made for this place. It's a slow moving place that seems to drag on forever. You try to find answers but you get so tired and before you know it, you are exhausted and you crawl into your makeshift bed that you constructed your first night in this godforsaken place.
It's not enough that this place is cold, dark, and lonely, but you can see them. They are fuzzy and off in the distance and you long for that place. You see warmth, light, and people singing and laughing and dancing and you know that miss it. You must have been there at one point in your life. You must have known what it felt like to dance, otherwise how could you miss it?
It's the same routine day after day and you always see him. You don't even know why you're drawn to him. You watch him laugh and most of all cry. He sits at a pond and cries and you feel drawn to him. You hate seeing him so sad, but you don't understand why. It makes you uncomfortable and feel weak and stupid. Maybe you knew him; maybe he is whom you're missing. But then there is always someone else who comes to find him. Someone else who takes him in his arms and dries his tears and you feel uncontrollable rage and it frightens you. You don't even know this man, what right do you have to want to control this man?
You watch a young boy playing chess in a park and you are drawn to this scene as well. For some reason you know the plays the boy will play before he actually moves his pieces and a bit of his memory slips into place. You played chess when you lived there he thinks. Maybe you just really liked it. Trying to force something into your brain space makes you tired and you sleep again.
You don't know how long you fell asleep this time but the next time your eyes open, you are standing in front of a moving picture. This time the young man is talking to a man in a white coat. This all seems familiar and as the other man smiles and pulls a metal contraption out of his pocket. He knows what that is. The word stethoscope flashes by. The man places the stethoscope on his heart and allows the man to listen. You can hear the steady heartbeat as it pounds louder and louder. You feel strangely comforted.
You look down to look at your own heart and you feel the scars again. Your heart doesn't beat like the men in the picture. Your chest is cold and ragged and red and you know. Your heart is beating in that man. You don't know exactly how you know, you just do. You know the young man must have been close to you because he smiles through tears and thanks him.
He goes back to the pond and cries and you want to reach out and brush them off. You know you can't. The void between where you are and his land is much too far, but that ache and dull void grow larger and larger as he cries. You feel a burning sensation start in your stomach and it rises. It lifts up out of you in a wail and mighty groan. You feel as if you are bursting apart at the seams. You have seen this before with the others that are stuck here. They get so agitated watching their loved ones that all the memories, feelings, and emotions come flooding back from when they were alive and they explode into a shimmering ball of light. And for one brief moment in that forgotten place, it's illuminated and beautiful and then the moment is gone.
You remember that word now. Alive. You were once alive. You once lived in the body you are looking down at. You once breathed and talked and walked and most of all loved a beautiful man. The man sitting at the pond crying. You realize he's crying over you and you decide that you want to experience that overwhelming love and emotion that the others have experienced. You were afraid to move into the light, because you were afraid of leaving the man alone. But you can see that each day that passes by, Luke (yes that was his name) is getting stronger and will be okay. Luke doesn't need you to stay in limbo anymore. You go to the memory keeper and tells him that you're ready. The feelings, thoughts, and emotions rush back. You remember the train, the heartfelt pleas, the I Love You's, the kisses, and the moment you fell in love with Luke. You allow the emotions to sweep over him and you feel himself being lifted up. It's not painful like you thought, it's peaceful and calm and it's warm and bright. You open your eyes again and you hear a beeping sound. You're confused. You look around in confusion and you feel real, actual physical pain for the first time since you were hit by a train. You are in a hospital bed. You are hooked up to needles and machines and you can't figure out why. You touch your heart. It's whole. No scars just smooth skin. You look at your hands, they are different than before. You no longer have the hands of a skilled surgeon. You want to get up and find someone who can explain why you're here instead of in the light.
The door opens and in walks Bob Hughes and Larry Dixon. You are relieved to see people you remember and recognize. But then their words make no sense. They ask you who you are what your name is and you feel a headache coming on. How is it possible for no one to remember you? Were you really in limbo that long? You want to answer that you're Reid Oliver and that Bob Hughes must be going senile, but they truly seem to not know who you are. You ask for a mirror and you are stunned. Staring back at you is someone different. It is definitely you; at least as much, you as you can be in someone else's body. You want to know why the memory keeper sent you back to earth instead of letting you move on, but you just want to see Luke.
You tell them you have no idea who you are. You can't remember anything, which is partially true. You really have no idea who this body is that you are now the commander of. Larry and Bob tell you that they will ask the police about missing persons and you are left alone in the room again. You want to know how Luke is and almost as if reflex, you dial his cell phone number.
He answers with a breathless laugh and your breath is taken away. He asks again who it is and you choke out an "I'm sorry" and hurriedly hang up. You wish that if was still your body, but know that it was impossible because your old you suit was missing a heart. You chuckle out loud at that. Luke would have teased you about missing a literal and figurative heart and both are hurting you right now.
You stay in the hospital for a week recovering from some sort of massive injury your body sustained. You wonder who the former owner of this body was and if he's happy where he is now. Bob finally comes in with the bad news. His body's former owner was sort of a terrible person. He was a conman from Arizona who stole money from little old women. You feel as if this must be some cosmic joke. You are forever stuck in a body that houses a jerk. Or maybe your soul was just fitted for people of that moral fiber and quality.
You watch television as you wait for the police to come arrest you and make you stand trial for bilking old women out of their fortunes. Instead, no one seems to give a crap about you or your life. You get out of the hospital and after a sighting of Luke sitting at Javas having coffee with Noah; you realize you have a lot of work to do to get Luke to recognize the soul inside the big meaty layer of asswad.
So you go to Arizona. You go to "your" penthouse suite and find most of the money hidden throughout. You give it all back. You realize you still have money from "Reid's" estate and you forge his/your signature to make you the executor of his will and you give it all to the old women.
You go back to Oakdale. You strike out repeatedly trying to talk to Luke. He brushes you off as the asswad who stole old women money and only gave it back because you were caught and then had the audacity to spend all of Reid's inheritance on your own selfish needs.
You want to grab him and kiss him just like you did in Dallas, but that would not go over well at all, so instead you take it. You realize rather amusedly a few nights later how the roles have been reversed and Luke is "Reid" this time around and you are Luke just trying to prove yourself.
So you show up wherever he is, you weasel your way into his life. You almost stalk him, legally of course, and you ingratiate yourself to him at every opportunity. You show up at board meetings, at hospital functions just to get Luke to recognize your soul, your spirit. He barely acknowledges you until one day when you ask him if he'd like to play chess. He stares at you for a minute and then agrees.
You choose a table in the park and set it up. You beat him eleven times in a row and with each time, he is increasingly annoyed and impressed. He says the words, "You know the only other person that I knew who could beat me at chess like this was Reid."
Your ears perk up and you ask who Reid is. He tears up and looks away and you want to punch yourself in the stomach for making Luke cry over you. You thought your feelings in purgatory were bad but this is much, much worse. He finally says how much you meant to him. How he loved you and you were taken away in a tragic accident and how he's living in limbo waiting for something, anything to make him feel alive again.
You know why you're there now. You get it. You grab his hand and it's immediately sparks and tingling and everything. It's just like the first time they ever touched and Luke looks at him like his eyes are finally waking up after being dead inside for so long.
He simply shakes his head and says, "Why does this feel so familiar?"
You want to tell him who you are, what you're feeling and that you're sorry for leaving.
But you hold back. You woo him softly and gently. You take notes from your past relationship. You tell him what he means to you, how much you like being with him and thanking him for giving you a chance. It's so different playing this role, but it's nice, especially when you see that look on his face. The one that tells you that you just did everything right and he is happy that you are in his life.
You are hopeful for your future until Noah comes back into Luke's life. He tells Luke he's moving too fast, that he needs to be single for a while until he's ready to date again. Luke doesn't call you for a while and you get petulant and whiny and needy and you realize you are in the same place you were the summer before it all ended. You wasted so much time being insecure about Noah back then and you weren't going to let that brunette headed pain in the ass dictate your life. You show up with flowers and a promise for a better relationship than the last one.
Luke looks at you with confusion. He reminds you that this is your first relationship and then he tells you he needs time. You don't see him again for a month and you know that he listened to Noah. You can't help but want to go back in time and botch his surgery, but you simply nod and smile whenever you see either of them. You are walking through Old Town when it happens. A man falls over and gasps his chest. You know immediately what is wrong. The doctor that is still part of you is alive and well and he wants to save the man's life. You fall to your knees and get to work. You use the pen you find and some alcohol and perform a tracheotomy right there on the street. When you are done and the man is in the ambulance, you look up to wipe the sweat off your brow and see Luke staring at you in disbelief.
You get up and walk away as he watches you. You don't see him again until two weeks later when you stop at Al's to get food. He is telling Noah about a trip to Dallas he wants to take and wonders out loud what the name of the bar was where he had gone with Reid and you can't help but say, "Bull by the Horns." He again stares at you in disbelief and you walk away with his stare on your back.
The tipping point came a month after that. You had finally found an apartment you liked and were just making a gigantic sandwich using your favorite mustard in anybody form you've been in when you hear a knock at the door. You open it with your giant sandwich and wave him in. He goes to the kitchen and stares at the bread and the mustard. He turns slowly and looks at you and says, "Reid?"
You instinctively and without much thought say, "Yes?"
You drop the sandwich on the counter and say, "Shit."
Luke looks about ready to pass out or yell at you and wish he'd do the latter.
"How is this even…? I mean you're dead. I saw you die."
"I don't know."
"No. You aren't Reid. You're just a lot like him."
"I'm me, Luke. I'm just in a different body now."
"But you can't be Reid. Reid doesn't woo. Reid doesn't give space and give flowers."
"I took a hint from your playbook, Luke. Remember that conversation we had a few years ago when good dad almost married that Molly chick? You told me you'd give me encouragement and I'd give you candlelight and romance."
Luke really did start crying then, "How is this possible?"
"I don't know. I was in purgatory. I know I was. I saw you every day. It killed me seeing you cry and knowing that I couldn't reach out and hold you and comfort you. I finally couldn't take seeing you in so much pain anymore. I knew that if I stayed around, it would be harder, so I asked the memory keeper to give me all my memories and let me go into the light. But instead, I got sent back here. I think I was sent back here to right the wrongs of my past and clearly this former body's past."
"You came back for me? From purgatory because you loved me too much to watch me suffer? And you claim that you're not romantic. Reid or whatever the hell your name is, I love any version of you that you choose to be. I would love you no matter whose body you were in, because you are you and I am me and we are."
"So does that mean we're back together?"
"You bet your ass we are. I'm not giving you up again and just so you know you are never to be around a train again."
You laugh out loud at that and your heart is full and light and for the first time since before the last time you are happy. He asks you if are intent on finishing the sandwich and you ask why.
He says that you have waited too long and his regret was never making love to you. He wants all of you now and he's not willing to wait for candlelight or roses or any of the romantic crap, because you coming back for him is the most romantic thing he's ever heard of.
So what if you have a new name? So what if you have a new body? You are still you and he is still him and together you are.