Chapter 29: Love two; cynicism zip

The box's shape – long and slender, about seven inches long, gave away more information about what wasn't inside than what was. Luke gently ran his fingers along the box's smooth, dark wooden finish before carefully opening the hinged top.

Luke found himself staring at the deep blue velvet lining with an odd combination of emotions beginning with surprise and confusion, but then segueing into curiosity, and – if he dared to voice his deepest thoughts – disappointment.

Someone – presumably Reid – had sent him a spoon. A silver one.

Luke reached in, picked it up and turned it over in his hands. On the back was an engraved inscription that he couldn't quite make out. He leaned sideways over onto his bed and turned on the bedside lamp, holding the spoon up under the light to get a better view.

As soon as his eyes adjusted to the bright light, he read the inscription and laughed out loud. Glad you didn't choke. Always, Reid.

Luke smiled: Reid had signed the inscription, "Always." Luke tried to remember whether Reid had ever used that closing before, but realized that most of Reid's communications were emails and Post-It notes, which weren't exactly amenable to great sentiment.

Luke gently set the wooden box down on his bed, but held on tight to the spoon as he made his way back across the room to where he'd deposited his messenger bag. He quickly pulled out his phone and tapped on the menu button to check the date. January 19th, 2011.

Well, I'll be, Luke thought to himself. Not only had Reid remembered (and Luke had to admit, that the significance of the day had gone unrecognized by himself until just now), but he'd memorialized the anniversary of his arrival in Oakdale by making what could debatably be considered a romantic gesture – debatable in choice of presents and message, but unquestionably romantic in sentiment. Luke was starting to suspect that in time, Reid would prove himself to be an even greater marshmallow than even he'd suspected, despite that gruff exterior he'd worked so hard to cultivate.

Luke was still smiling to himself when the whistle of the kettle called out to him. He carefully closed the gift box and placed it on the bedside table. Then he got up to make himself a cup of tea. As it brewed, he grabbed his phone and sent a quick text. A spoon? What were you thinking? Will be in all night and up as late as nec for us to talk live. Call me as soon as you're free? Love, Luke

Luke took his cup of tea over his desk and sat down with his laptop and a notepad, intending to review emails and work on his assignment until Reid called. Instead, he found himself aimlessly doodling and staring out the window. He knew that unless surgery had run late, that Reid would probably be at lunch with Bob, or, if finished.

As he sipped his tea, he turned the spoon over in his hand, the warmth from the cup transferring first to his hands and then to the spoon. Had it really been a year already?

Even after 365 days – though granted they'd been "together" for only about half of that year – it still felt like they never had enough time together. There were so many things he looked forward to sharing with Reid – the Hubbard squash cutting (Reid had yet to be subjected to the traditional hazing of the newest Snyder where the poor new relation is saddled with the task of breaking through the gourd's impenetrable outer shell), the hayloft (and, ahem, breaking it in), the Polish baker at the weekly farmer's market who baked the world's best chocolate zucchini bread, the annual Snyder Easter egg hunt, the secluded walking paths in Bearpatch State Park, bowling at...

Luke stopped mid-thought and picked up the phone to call Lily. He needed her planning assistance. He pulled his phone out again and dialed Lily's number to tap into her connections. After assuring her that nothing was wrong after she answered, alarmed at the second phone call in less than a week, he was finally able to get in a word edgewise to make his request.

As he hung up with Lily, he looked down to find that his randomly doodled shapes had somehow morphed into a string of hearts. It reminded him of one of Faith's brown paper textbook covers. He'd noticed she'd drawn FS&PS 4EVA all over one side of her social studies book.

LS&RO 4EVA, Luke wrote, surrounding it with a big loopy heart. Luke rolled his eyes imagining what Reid's reaction would be. He crumpled up the sheet of paper and tossed it towards the rubbish bin, raising his arms victoriously and mouthing "two points!" as it clattered against the bottom.

The other side of Faith's notebook had been covered with scribbled letters. Natalie, who had seen Luke staring curiously at it, had explained. "You write down your name and the name of the guy you're crushing on. Then you cross out all the letters that are repeated, like this. She took out a pad and demonstrated with Holden and Lily's names:

Lx I Lx Yx / W A Lx Sx Hx

Hx O Lx Dx Ex Nx / Sx Nx Yx Dx Ex R

"Then you count up the remaining letters like this: Love, hate, friendship," said Natalie, pointing one at a time to the remaining letters as she cycled through the four options. "Oh," she said, smiling grimly at her stopping point, "Maybe that's why they can't stay married." Luke gave her a playful nudge with his shoulder.

"How do you know about this?" Luke had asked. "Aren't you a little young?"

"A girl's got her secrets," Natalie smiled back, winking.

Now, as he sat in his cottage, waiting for Reid's call, he couldn't resist taking out a blank sheet of paper, and neatly writing out:

L U K E / S N Y D E R

R E I D / O L I V E R

Then glancing around sheepishly, to make sure no one was watching, in his clearly empty room, he proceeded to cross out the common letters in their names:

Lx U K Ex / S N Y Dx Ex Rx

Rx Ex Ix Dx / O Lx Ix V Ex Rx

Love, hate, friendship, marriage. Love, hate...friendship. Damn. Friendship.

Then he recalled Natalie explaining that you can always try nicknames and middle names if you don't get the result you like, so he turned over his piece of paper and began again:

Lx Ux C Ix Ax Nx Ox / Ex Dx Ux Ax Rx Dx Ox / S Nx Y Dx Ex Rx

Rx Ex Ix Dx / Ex Rx Ix Cx / Ox Lx Ix V Ex Rx

Love hate friendship...marriage. That's better. Luke laughed at his own silliness, but was startled when the phone on his table started rattling. Embarrassed, he quickly scribbled out his doodles – despite knowing that the person on the other end of the call couldn't see what he was up to – before picking up his phone to see who was calling. "Not Reid," Luke sighed, resigning himself to dealing with the latest issues at Grimaldi Shipping.

Reid was just starting rounds when he noticed Luke's text. A spoon? What were you thinking?

Reid tried to interpolate Luke's response but had a hard time thanks to the expressionless medium of text messaging. Amused? Annoyed? Ambivalent? Katie's response hadn't exactly reassured him that sending the spoon had been a good idea.

Katie had stopped by Reid's office early Tuesday afternoon, ostensibly to see how well Reid had survived after leaving the studio on Monday evening. In reality, Chris had a meeting later in the afternoon with a major donor and had managed to forget his jacket and tie, so Katie had brought it in to the hospital. When Reid raised an eyebrow and asked when she had added "courier service" to her list of job skills, Katie had scowled at him and muttered something about needing to have Jacob's cough checked out.

"And," Katie offered, "If you promise not to make any more snide remarks about Chris, I'll buy you coffee."

"I'm not being snide, I'm simply making an observation," Reid said. "Besides, Jacob's obviously fine."

"And when did you become Dr. Sears?" asked Katie.

"I don't need to be a rugrat-wearing quack to know that the baby I shared a house with for nearly a year has nothing worse than a case of the sniffles," Reid retorted.

"He was coughing up a storm this morning," said Katie, defensively. "Better safe than sorry."

"Right," said Reid. "And we just won't mention that your little jaunt to the hospital conveniently saved Chris from having to take responsibility for the fact that the bonehead forgot that the Webbs are coming in this afternoon to discuss their donation and you bailed him out."

"I'm so glad we're not discussing it," Katie said. "Otherwise I might have to tell you to butt out and mind your own business."

As Katie became more agitated, her voice rose noticeably in pitch. Jacob, who'd been sitting quietly in his stroller, watching the exchange between Reid and Katie caught wind of the change in Katie's tone of voice and suddenly started wailing in protest.

"Jacob!" Katie admonished.

Reid, expecting her usual "Aw Jacob, honey, tell mommy what's wrong," was surprised by the unfamiliar frustration in her voice, and bit back the urge to remind Katie that he was not butting in her business as in fact, she had stopped by his office and volunteered why she was wandering around the hospital.

"Oh, Jacob, honey," Katie was saying, unstrapping him from the safety harness. "Mommy's sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you, sweetie. Don't cry, baby."

Reid sat back in his office chair and watched as Katie picked up Jacob and walked him over to the couch and sat down, rubbed Jacob's back and sang a comforting lullaby.

After a few minutes, Jacob stopped crying and gently sniffled as Katie played a game of peekaboo, and a few more minutes later he was giggling happily in her lap as Katie playfully covered her face with her hands. Reid smiled in spite of himself.

Reid gave Katie a few minutes of peace as she determinedly avoided eye contact, seemingly absorbed by the game of peekaboo, before he finally interjected.

"All right, Katie," he said. "Out with it. Why are you acting like you're me? It can't be that time of month – your ankles look too normal."

Katie made a face at him.

"And it's not just because I'm making fun of Doogie for making you his errand lackey. Why are you here?"

"To see how you survived the night," Katie covered.

"Fine," Reid said. "Luke left me a nice voicemail and I forgave him."

"You forgave him?" asked Katie incredulously. "For what? For getting a message from Noah? For having a life without you? Get over yourself, Reid."

"Okay, Katie," Reid said. "You don't have to jump all over me. Maybe 'forgive' isn't the right word. But I tried to make it up to him."

"What do you mean?" Katie asked.

"Well, I might have gotten him a little something," Reid mumbled.

"What was that?" asked Katie, perking up. She stood up with Jacob and walked over and sat on the corner of Reid's desk. "I don't think I heard you right. It sounded like you said you bought him something! Spill!"

"Forget I said anything," Reid said, wishing he'd kept his mouth shut.

"No way, buster," Katie said, beaming. "You bought Luke something without my elbowing you in the ribs to remind you and I want to know what it is!"

"None of your business," Reid said.

"Enh!" Katie said, making the universal "wrong answer" noise. "Try again, Dr. Oliver."

Reid sighed and rolled his eyes.

"We're waiting," Katie sing-songed impatiently, holding Jacob up for emphasis. "C'mon Jacob, help me out here. Give Uncle Reidy the evil eye!" Reid knew that look in Katie's eyes – she was relentless and would hound him until Luke returned from Iowa at this rate. Plus it had been a couple of hours since lunch and Katie had promised him coffee.

"It was a silver spoon," Reid muttered.

The big smile on Katie's face fell away. "You bought him what?" she asked.

"I had a silver spoon sent to him," Reid repeated quietly, realizing that it sounded a lot more eccentric than it had seemed late the night before.

"Why the hell would you do that?" Katie asked.

Reid raised his eyebrows at her, and gestured towards Jacob, hoping to deflect attention.

"Heck," she corrected herself, "Why the heck would you do that?"

"Well, the first time I met Luke, I might have said something about hoping he choked on the silver spoon in his mouth," Reid admitted.

"Awww, you sent him an anniversary gift. Reid, I almost thought there was hope for you after all, Katie exclaimed. "But a silvers spoon? What were you thinking?"

"It's a nice spoon," Reid said. "And it's not like I got it from Amazon! It comes from a jeweler my med school roommate swore by."

"Wait a minute," Katie paused. "So Luke is getting a package from a jeweler?"

"Yeah," Reid said. "Where else would you get a silver spoon?"

"Just how nice a spoon is it," asked Katie, sounding wary.

"Nice, I guess," Reid replied, bewildered. "What difference does it make?"

"It makes all the difference in the world," Katie exclaimed, looking at Reid as if he were a few watts dimmer than a nightlight. "What jeweler?"

"A place called Shreve, Crump & Low," Reid replied. "Why?"

"Why?" Katie yelped, shaking her head in dismay. "Oh! You are so exasperating!"

Reid was thoroughly confused. "What's wrong with getting it from a nice Boston jeweler? It's a classy place. I would have thought you'd approve!"

"Well, yeah, if you'd gotten him jewelry I would be jumping up and down, cheering and sending up fireworks!" Katie said.

"So what's the problem?" asked Reid.

"The problem is you got him a spoon!" Katie groaned. "The poor boy is going to get a box from a fancy high-class Boston jeweler. Don't you think he's going to be expecting to find something else inside?"

"Something else?" Reid asked. "Like what?"

"Like what?" Katie repeated. "Are you sure you're a genius?"

"I'll have you know that my IQ –" Reid started, before Katie cut him off.

"It's not your IQ I'm worried about!" Katie replied. "Don't you think he might be expecting a piece of jewelry when he sees a box from a jeweler?

"Jewelry?" Reid asked. "Why? Luke doesn't wear jewelry."

Katie turned to face Jacob, who had started to giggle at the funny expressions he was seeing on the faces of both the adults. "Jacob, pay close attention to this. Whatever you do, do not take gift buying advice from your Uncle Reid."

"What'd I do?" Reid asked.

"Don't you think Luke might think you sent him a ring?" she asked, jiggling her engagement ring for emphasis.

"A ring?" Reid asked, "Why would I –" He stopped himself mid-sentence as the meaning of Katie's words finally hit home.

Katie nodded knowingly.

"No," Reid said, "No way. Why would Luke jump to that conclusion?"

"Well, for starters, because you're sending him a box from a fancy schmancy jeweler."

"They're from Boston," Reid said. "He won't even know it's from a jeweler."

"For starters," Katie said, "They're not just any Boston jeweler. We ran a story on them two years ago. Luke's family's loaded. They know about this kind of thing."

"Luke's family may be well off," Reid said, "But Luke's not like that. He's not into all those pretentious trappings of wealth."

"Why Reid," Katie said, "Are you admitting that Luke's not the spoiled princess you once thought he was?"

"No," Reid said, "He's definitely a spoiled princess." Then added with a reflexive smile, "But he's my spoiled princess."

Katie returned the smile. "Exactly my point," Katie said, softening. "Don't you think that's exactly why he might be expecting something a little smaller...and rounder?"

Reid shook his head vigorously – despite the seed of doubt Katie had planted – and said with more confidence than he felt, "No way. Luke knows how I feel about marriage."

"Feel?" Katie asked, "Or used to feel?"

"It's the same thing," Reid said.

"Are you sure?" Katie prodded. "Aren't you the same guy who thought that Luke threw his money around, that love was overrated, and that living together meant getting on each other's nerves and growing to resent each other?"

Reid squirmed under Katie's laser-intense gaze.

"How do you feel about marriage?" Katie asked, point blank. "Now? Today?"

"Katie," Reid said. "Don't take this the wrong way, but, given the number of times you've been married, why do you even have to ask?"

Katie's expression turned dark.

"Aw, c'mon. Don't pretend that the reason you're yelling at Jacob has nothing to do with the fact that you brought up Brad's picture last night and it didn't go over well with Doogie," Reid continued.

Katie folded her arms, defiantly, refusing to let him know he was right. "We were talking about you, not me."

"Oh, it's okay for you to ask me how I feel about marriage, but it's not okay for ask about your marrying someone who doesn't get Brad's place in Jacob's life – and who expects you to fetch his laundry?"

"You wanted me to do your laundry," Katie retorted.

"Yeah," Reid said, "But the difference is, you never would have done it for me!"

"I'm not in love with you," Katie replied.

"Ouch," Reid said, miming pulling a knife out of his heart. "Are you sure you're in love with Chris enough to marry him?"

"Are you sure you're not in love with Luke enough to marry him?"

Katie paused and waited for an answer. It was Reid's turn to avoid eye contact. After several beats, Jacob started making "I'm hungry" noises.

"I'd better get some food into this little guy before his nap, or he's going to turn into a bear," Katie laughed weakly.

"He's not the only one," Reid agreed, "I only had time for a quick bite with Bob before I had to get back to see a referral. Should we get going so you can continue to avoid talking about Doogie?"

Jacob babbled his approval, so Katie conveniently avoided answering the question, put Jacob back in his stroller and turned on her heels towards the door.

Reid and Katie sipped their coffee in relative silence, each immersed in their own thoughts. Katie pretended to devote all her attention to Jacob, who was happily munching on a piece of toast, oblivious to the awkward silence between his dining companions.

Katie's question rang in Reid's ears as he downed his oversized grilled ham and cheese panini. "How do you feel about marriage?"

Reid had never stopped to consider that his opinion on the matter might have changed. He had always hated the pomp and circumstance associated with weddings: the formality, the churches, the vows that seemed to be shackles just asking to be broken. Casey and Alison's and Holden and Molly's interrupted nuptials had done nothing to dissuade him of his point of view.

But when he stopped to think about it, Carly and Jack's wedding had been different. It certainly hadn't started off well. After Luke dropped the bomb about only getting married once, it had become clear to Reid for the first time that Luke really envisioned himself married, which would make him – Reid Oliver, bachelor curmudgeon – the most likely candidate for the role of Luke Snyder's husband. It was, in fact, probably the first and only time he'd even thought the word "husband" in a sentence that also involved himself.

Reid couldn't remember the last time he had thought about marriage, though he suspected it may have been many years back in a conversation with his grandmother when he was just a teenager.

Prior to the wedding, Reid had crossed paths with Jack a few times at Snyder family functions, and was starting to see why Holden was so fond of his "cuz."

At the Labor Day picnic, Luke and Reid had found themselves going head-to-head against Carly and Jack in several events. Both couples had done a much better job than their younger counterparts at mastering the coordination required, with Luke and Reid taking the three-legged race, and Carly and Jack exacting revenge a few minutes later by taking the egg and spoon relay (which was run using new potatoes in place of the fragile eggs).

The four of them had collapsed, laughing in the end zone and calling a draw in the debate to see which losers should buy the drinks. Reid looked at Carly and Jack, piled in a heap, laughing, oblivious to the dozens of others milling about. It occurred to him that they looked not unlike he felt, silly, giddy, and carefree; he impulsively gave Luke's hand a tug and planted a playful kiss on his lips. Luke smiled in surprise, but happily.

In the end, Luke sprang for lemonades for himself and Carly, while Jack went in search of a couple of beers for himself and Reid. Together, they sat on the sidelines, armchair quarterbacking the wheelbarrow race, laughing while Parker and Faith took on Casey and Ali, Gabriel and Liberty, Sage and JJ, Will and Gwen, Ethan and Nathalie, and Henry and Barbara (who were more than holding their own against the younger set).

Jack sat with his legs slightly straddled, and Carly leaned back against him, their left hands intertwined, their right hands free to juggle their drinks.

"Let's hope no one has to rely on Dr. McGenius here if they sprain an ankle," Carly muttered, watching the race. Three pairs of eyes turned to her in surprise.

"Well, he was, like Oakdale's sorriest excuse for a doctor when I hurt my ankle at Molly's wedding," Carly protested.

"That's only 'cause I was being asked to treat the lamest excuse for a sprained ankle I'd ever seen," Reid retorted.

"Oh, ho! Touché!" laughed Jack, heartily, fully appreciating someone who could give it to Carly as good as they got.

Luke gently punched Reid in the shoulder, but smiled cheerfully at Reid doing something that seemed suspiciously like bonding.

"Yeah, well, let's hope no one sprains any ankles at our wedding," Jack smiled.

"They wouldn't dare!" Carly warned.

"How goes the wedding planning, anyways?" Luke asked.

"So far, so good," Carly said. "You're coming, right?"

"Wouldn't miss it," Luke smiled.

"You too, right, Reid, you're coming, aren't you?" Carly asked.

"Me?" Reid's face reflected an expression that almost looked like fear.

"Don't worry," Luke replied for him. "He's coming." He gave Luke a stern look.

"But –" Reid started.

"We wouldn't miss it for the world," Luke smiled.

"We'd better get going," Jack nodded towards the field. "Sage and JJ look like they're trying to hail us."

"I'm so glad you're coming," Carly said, giving Luke a hug and a kiss on each cheek, and then repeating the procedure on Reid who stared at her dumbfounded – first at the kisses on the cheeks, and second at the fact that she actually sounded sincere.

"C'mon old lady," Jack called. He gestured towards his back.

"Sure you can handle it, old man?" Carly asked.

"Try me," Jack smiled.

Carly smiled back as Jack squatted a few inches down to allow Carly easy access to his back. She cautiously circled her arms around his neck and gave a little hop to climb on.

"Oof!" Jack laughed, then called out to Luke and Reid "See you in a couple of weeks!" as he started off towards Sage and JJ at a light jog.

"Ack!" Carly yelped and then giggled as she hung on for dear life.

Luke smiled at Reid, took his hand and lifted it to his lips, giving it a quick kiss before wrapping an arm around Reid's waist as they watched Jack - with Carly perched precariously on his back - waddling off into the distance.

After a brief pit stop, they had found the open meadow that had been set up for the wedding. As soon as Ethan caught sight of the wedding party, he dropped Luke's hand and sprinted up to give hugs to Uncle Jack and a young man Reid didn't recognize.

The sun was shining brightly, taking the edge off the early afternoon coolness that had come with the first days of autumn. The temperature was unseasonably comfortable, and even the mosquitoes seemed to have received the memo telling them not to disturb the wedding. The wedding party seemingly glowed, and Reid silently wondered if they would all be smiling so brightly had Mother Nature chosen not to bless them with such glorious sunshine.

Jack was pacing at the make-shift altar, while Holden chatted with the handsome young man. Luke slowed up until Reid caught up with him, and he took his hand, gently dragging him towards the altar.

"Hey, long time no see," Holden laughed.

Luke smiled at the lame attempt at humor. "Where did you find this guy, anyways," he asked the young man.

"I dunno, I think he came as part of a package deal – you know, rent-a-best-man?" the young man responded, giving Luke a big hug and a pat on the back.

Luke, noticing Reid watching the exchange with curiosity, smiled and added, "Reid, this is my brother Aaron. Aaron, Reid Oliver."

"Nice to meet you," Reid muttered.

"Pleasure's all mine," Aaron smiled broadly, giving Reid a solid handshake. "I've heard a lot about you."

Reid found that he again found something attractive – both handsome and honest – in Aaron's eyes; something that the Snyder men seemed to share.

"Luke," a voice came from behind them.

"Grandma!" Luke exclaimed smiling, and giving her a big bear hug. "When did you get back?"

"Just yesterday," Emma smiled.

"So good to see you again, too, Dr. Oliver," Emma smiled, wrapping an embracing arm around Reid's shoulder.

"Aw grandma, you can call him Reid," Luke called.

Reid grimaced as Emma hugged him tighter.

"How's Meg?" Luke asked.

"She's all right," Emma sighed. "Better now that she's far away from that good-for-nothing ..."

"Now mom," Holden warned. "This is Jack and Carly's day. I'm sure Meg would want the focus to stay on their happiness."

"Of course, you're right, dear," Emma replied, gently patting Holden on the cheek. She turned to Jack and added, "Dear Jack, give me a hug."

"It's so good to have you here," Jack said, wrapping his arms around her and lifting her off the ground.

"Brad would be so happy for you, Jack," Emma said. "So would Bert."

"Thanks, Emma," Jack replied. "I think so, too."

"Hello, handsome," drawled an older blonde, sauntering into Reid's space. "I haven't seen you at any of these Snyder shindigs before. How'd I miss you?" Reid's eyebrows flew up, he took a big step backwards and he looked towards Luke for help.

The woman looked familiar to Luke, but he couldn't quite put his finger on her identity.

"Back off, Dee," Emma scolded. "He's out of your league."

"Ma," Jack protested, "You promised you'd behave yourself if you were invited."

"Oh, Jackie, don't be such a party-pooper. I am behaving myself," she smiled, sidling up to Reid. "But I'd misbehave with you any time."

"Aunt Dolores," Luke laughed, giving her a kiss on the cheek. After their earlier exchange, Luke briefly contemplated letting Reid swing in the wind for a few more minutes at Dolores Snyder Pierce's mercy. But then he took a second look at Reid's shellshocked face and took pity on him. "Aunt Dolores," he repeated, "This is my..." Luke briefly stumbled over the next word before trying again, "This is Dr. Reid Oliver. He's my date." Luke grabbed Reid's hand and pulled him out of Dolores's orbit.

Reid shrugged at Dolores and resisted the urge to kiss Luke's socks off just to make things perfectly clear. Luke later explained that his Great Aunt Dolores insisted that she be referred to as merely "Aunt," prompting Reid to wonder how sensible Jack Snyder could possibly share DNA with the cougar who'd accosted him earlier.

"Told ya," Emma smirked.

"Ma," Jack groaned. "Back off."

"Why, Luke, my dear," Dolores added, smiling approvingly at Luke, "Since when did you develop such glorious taste in men? Or should it be 'taste in glorious men'?" Dolores gave Reid a once-over and looked at him approvingly.

Reid quickly made his way back up the aisle, tugging Luke along, and taking a seat in the very back row.

Luke was always amused when people (men or women) picked up on Reid's good looks since Reid frequently seemed oblivious to his own attractiveness. Luke looked over at Reid, who had pulled out his cell phone and had suddenly found an urgent need to check his emails as he determinedly avoided eye contact with the many Snyders mingling about in the front section.

Katie waved to them a few minutes later as she and Chris made their way up the aisle, sitting down behind Tom and Margo. Henry and Barbara followed shortly afterwards and took seats next to Katie and Chris.

Luke dropped Reid's hand to give Abigail a hug as she arrived. "Abigail, you remember Reid, right?" Luke joked.

"You're never gonna let me live that one down, are you, Luke?" she asked.

"No way," Luke smiled.

"Good to see you again, Reid," Abigail said, walking behind Reid to give him a friendly peck on the cheek.

"Likewise," Reid muttered without expression.

Abigail looked a little worried at the brusque reception, but Luke leaned over and whispered, "Don't worry – he's always crabby at family gatherings."

Abigail smiled, "Right, gotcha," and continued up the aisle to give Aaron a hug.

The guests finished filing in and the string trio began playing a pre-processional pieces as a hush came over the gathered friends and family. A few moments later, the familiar strains of Pachelbel's "Canon in D" began playing, followed by the traditional wedding march. Sage was the first down the aisle, followed by Gwen and then Rosanna.

Reid leaned over to Luke and whispered, "Who's she?"

"Rosanna Cabot," Luke explained. "She's Carly's sister."

"As in Cabot Motors?" Reid asked.

"That's the one," Luke replied.

"Carly's sister?" Reid asked.

"Long story. Shh..." Luke chastized, as Molly made her way up the aisle.

At the end of the mercifully short procession, Carly entered, escorted by Parker, who said to Jack, just barely audibly to the back row, "She's all yours. Take care of her."

As Carly took her place by Molly's side. Molly beamed at Carly, and, thought Reid, looking much more comfortable in her own skin than she had at her own non-wedding with Holden.

"Nothing's forever in this world...things change, people move on," he'd told her, thinking of Luke and Noah. But looking at Holden, who surreptitiously shifted his glance between Molly and Lily who sat in the second row, Reid wondered if he and Luke would someday change and move on.

Reid looked over to Luke, who usually wore his emotions very visibly on his sleeve. But his face was relatively inscrutable that afternoon. Not pouty as he would have anticipated, given their earlier discussion, no hidden prodding or hinting. Rather peaceful, almost serene.

Reid turned his gaze towards Jack, who did look particularly handsome in a light charcoal suit. Reid easily imagined Luke standing in front of all the guests, as he envisioned Luke himself had imagined many times himself. Based on their experience with the new surgical wing, Reid was sure Luke would have attended to all the details from the flowers in the boutonnieres, to seating assignments, to the musical selections played by the string trio.

As Jack turned to look up the aisle, smiling proudly at all his guests, Reid could easily imagine Luke similarly beaming at his many loved ones. As Jack turned to face Carly, and before he could stop himself, Reid wondered if, when Luke imagined himself getting married these days, Luke pictured Reid at his side, or whether he thought about it more abstractly. And in spite of himself, he found himself disturbed by the thought of Luke taking part in a fantasy wedding with anyone other than himself standing at his side.

Reid reflexively held Luke's hand tighter to his lap and he shook his head to clear the image. Luke, surprised by the combination of actions, gave Reid a somewhat curious, but surprised smile.

"Will you take this man to be your husband –" the minister began.

"Yes!" Carly jumped in and both she and Jack giggled like schoolkids when the minister added, "There's more." The gathered guests laughed along with them, and a smile escaped Reid's mouth unchecked at their unbridled giddiness.

"We've been through better and worse, so I know I can do that," Carly volunteered. Again, their family and friends laughed easily at her unpretentious confidence.

"Foresaking all others, will you be faithful to him for as long as you both shall live?"

"He's mine; I'm his. That's that," Carly beamed.

While most of the audience beamed back at her, Reid couldn't resist leaning over to Luke and whispering, "Notice she didn't answer the question!"

"Buzzkill," Luke whispered back.

The minister turned to Jack and began, "Will you Jack –"

"What? Make a covenant there? I her, comfort her, honor her, keep her? Absolutely. As far as being faithful, she's mine and that's that."

Reid raised his eyebrows and turned to point out that Jack didn't answer the question, either, but Luke silently elbowed him in admonishment.

When Molly read an Anne Bradstreet poem, Reid rolled his eyes. Luke rolled his eyes at Reid rolling his eyes and the two shared a silent laugh.

Reid then listened as Carly delivered her vows. "I didn't intend to love you," she began, and Reid quietly guffawed to himself in recognition of that familiar feeling. She went on to say, "I will never again forget that the truest, pureset part of me is you. My true north. My soul mate. My best friend."

Reid looked over at Luke and thought about how he'd never thought he had a soul mate. Though he'd never thought the words "soul mate," he did regularly marvel at how well matched he and Luke were - how they sparred toe to toe when each had an opinion; how easily they were able to read each other's moods; how they challenged each other; how they shared a fondness for walks in the park and quiet dinners for two; how perfectly they fit together when they made love.

Luke, who was smiling as he watched Jack and Carly, mesmerized by the ceremony, sensed that he was being watched. He turned questioningly to Reid who quickly returned his gaze to the happy couple. Luke frowned to himself and turned back as well.

Then it was Jack's turn: "Everybody here knows that the future is very uncertain and that things change." There's that change again, Reid thought.

"And that things that we never imagined could end do and, in fact, come to an end. None of us know where we're gonna be in a year," Jack continued. Reid thought about how much had changed in a mere eight months since he'd arrived in Oakdale, and he briefly allowed himself to wonder where he might be in a year...where Luke might be.

"But I know one true and steadfast thing, Carly – that I will always care for you and love you and honor you, as fiercely and passionately and tenderly as I know you love me."

Luke's contented smile remained fixed on his face as he glanced over at Reid, who instinctively mouthed, "I love you." Luke's smile broadened even wider as he silently replied, "I love you, too."

After the exchange of rings, and Jack's eager "Can I please?" request to kiss his bride, the gathered crowd applauded enthusiastically for the newly (re)married couple, who quickly disappeared for a few private moments in a nearby gazebo.

Luke turned to Reid and asked, "Now that wasn't so bad, was it?"

"That's 20 minutes I'll never get back," Reid quipped.

Luke pulled at Reid's hand to get him out of his seat. "C'mon," Luke smiled mischievously. "Let's go mingle."

"Oh, goody," deadpanned Reid, "If you wanted to torture me, why don't you just break out the whips and chains...speaking of which..."

Luke laughed comfortably, and linked his elbow inside Reid's, steering him towards the nearest champagne tray. "Here you go," he offered. "That oughta make things go a little better."

They walked around together, with Luke laughing easily with the many happy Snyders and friends. He made a point of introducing Reid to Will and Gwen, whom they'd only glanced briefly at the Labor Day picnic before the young couple made an early exit for the drive back to Carbondale.

Luke had long ago relayed to Reid how close he and Will had been as teenagers, and that Will had been the first person he'd ever come out to. Even before they'd met, Reid had a soft spot for the guy whose acceptance had helped give Luke the strength to acknowledge his sexuality and to embrace it.

They both hushed up when Molly took her turn to make a toast: "I don't think there's a person here who would argue that Carly and Jack were destined to be together. And when the history and love between two people is so strong, anyone who imagines that he or she could come between them should have his or her head examined. You can't fight destiny."

Reid watched as Molly glanced at Holden, who stood beside Faith and Lily, adding, "So why try?"

As those within earshot applauded and clinked glasses, Reid thought that Molly looked like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders...from dropping her fight against destiny. A brief flash of anxiety crossed his mind and was reflected in his face.

Luke recognized that familiar look and leaned in close to whisper in Reid's ear, so that his voice tickled against the sensitive flesh below his ear, "Sometimes history is trumped by an even stronger love. That's destiny."

Reid turned his eyes to meet Luke's as he gently touched Reid's cheek and followed with a featherlight kiss. Reid smiled uncertainly back.

All heads turned as Craig stood up, clanged his glass and declared, "May I have your attention, please?"

Margo rolled her eyes and groaned, "Oh, I knew he was gonna do something stupid."

Reid took advantage of the opportunity to change the subject and smiled at Luke, saying, "Oh now it's going to get good!"

Katie sidled up to Craig and whispered in his ear, "You realize you're jeopardizing your future ability to have children here?"

As Rosanna tried to cut off the toasts, and Margo suggested that it might be time for everyone to make their way to the food tent, Jack muttered, "I should have gotten rid of him earlier."

But after a few moments of hubbub, Craig concluded with: "If Carly and Jack can turn over a new leaf, so can I. Here are three words I thought I would never say - you belong together. You do. I doubted it. But I'm sure of it now. I wish you every happiness."

"Aww, see, true love wins out," Luke smiled smugly.

"Aww," Reid countered, "Where's the fun in that?"

At dinner, Reid found himself seated between Luke and Katie, unbeknownst to him, thanks to a little behind-the-scenes advanced lobbying by Luke. They were joined by Chris, Henry and Barbara, Aaron and Abigail.

Luke was happily catching up with Aaron and Abigail, so Reid turned to Katie and asked, "Isn't it weird to see your ex-husband married to someone else?"

"No, it was obvious that anyone fighting for Jack's heart would never have a chance," Katie replied.

"So you just gave up?" Reid asked.

"If we were meant to be, we would have survived," Katie said matter-of-factly. "Some things just aren't meant to be." She took a bite of Israeli couscous. "Besides, if I had stayed married to Jack, I never would have married Brad, and I wouldn't have Jacob."

Chris overheard the word "Brad" and frowned as he emphatically stabbed his Chilean sea bass, prompting Katie to quickly change the subject.

After dinner, Luke could tell Reid was nearing the limits of his socializing capacity, so he took his hand and they went for a stroll around the grounds. The sun was setting in the distance, turning the sky a delicate shade of pink and purple.

"Thanks for coming," Luke said.

"Did I have a choice," Reid asked.

"No," Luke laughed. "But you didn't fight quite so hard this time."

"I'm realizing it's part of the job description," Reid added.

"Job description?" asked Luke, confused.

"Luke Snyder's significant other," Reid replied.

"I see," Luke smiled seductively, "I'll have to reward you for fulfilling that part of your job at your next performance review."

They sat down on a tall flight of stone steps to watch the sunset. Reid put an arm around Luke's shoulder as he leaned his head against Reid's. They were sitting in silence when Parker and Liberty wandered by talking about his mysterious plans. When Carly and Jack wandered by and Carly asked, "What plans?" Reid turned to Luke and said, "Maybe today's not a total loss after all."

Luke and Reid remained on the steps, watching the scene play out before them, as the truth came out about Parker wanting to join the police force. A growing crowd gathered, variously in on the secret, or in the dark. Reid watched in amusement as sides were revealed, with Margo and Tom, Liberty, and Will chiming in to support Parker's decision, while Carly and Jack, Faith and Gwen stood gaping in surprise.

"This is better than cable," Reid whispered gleefully to Luke, who rolled his eyes. "But is the kid's nuts, throwing away his chance for a college education."

Luke flinched reflexively at the reference.

Jack sighed and said, "No offense to anybody. I just wanted so much more for you. I - I wanted you to go to M.I.T., Harvard."

Reid turned to Luke, "I knew Jack Snyder was a smart guy."

Parker replied, "But I wouldn't have been happy, because that's not what I want. I want to stay right here. And maybe - maybe if things work out, I'll end up just like you," prompting a group hug from Carly and Jack.

Luke turned triumphantly to Reid and gloated, "That's love, two; cynicism, nil."

Reid made a face back at him He spent the rest of the evening refusing to get out on the dance floor, and chatting with Holden, Jack, Katie, and even on occasion Henry, when the latter wasn't out burning a hole in the dance floor with Barbara.

Luke spent the car ride home explaining some of the intricacies of Oakdale's family trees. Reid was particularly curious about Hal Munson, whose name he hadn't heard previously. Luke explained that Parker was the product of Carly's marriage to Hal, and that Hal had a second son - Adam - with Margo. He added that Hal had been married to Barbara and Emily (who, by the way, had also been married to Casey and Holden).

"You know, Luke," Reid said, unlocking the front door. "You're not exactly making a case for love everlasting."

"What I know, " said Luke, "Is that we just spent a really nice day watching a lot of people I care about being really happy. And I know you didn't have such an awful time as you'd like me to believe, because you didn't ask to leave early even once."

Reid was surprised to recognize that Luke was indeed right. Though the wedding wasn't among the list of top 200 ways he would have chosen to spend the day, it probably wasn't on the bottom 200 either.

"So, Dr. Oliver," Luke continued, "I'm just going to embrace love in the here and now...With hope for love everlasting. And with that happy thought, I'm going to sleep. Unless you'd like to give me something else to embrace." Luke smiled suggestively and tossed his jacket and tie on the living room couch as he headed to the bedroom.

Later that evening, long after Luke had dozed off, with Reid's arms wrapped around him, Reid finally fell asleep to the sound of Luke's voice in his head: That's love two; cynicism zip. I'm just going to embrace love in the here and now...With hope for love everlasting. Reid's dreams were filled with visions of Luke in a light charcoal gray suit, standing in front of family and friends, the sunlight reflecting off his summer-lightened blonde hair. Dream-Luke turned to take Reid's hands with a smile, but then Dream-Reid's face blurred into that of a faceless stranger and a disembodied Reid watched as Luke began to speak his vows to the unnamed other man.

Reid awoke in the dark, his arms still around Luke's sleeping body. As he listened to the quiet rhythm of Luke's breathing, Reid heard Luke's voice echoing in his head: I'm only getting married once and when I do, it's gonna stick.

A slice of toast, herbal tea, caramel latte and jumbo cranberry muffin later, and Katie was on her way home to put Jacob down for his nap. Reid responded to Katie's parting words, "I hope Luke's not disappointed" with "He knows I'm not the marrying type!" though he was certainly feeling less certain than he had the previous evening.

Since he couldn't retract the engraved gift order, the best he could do was wait to see how Luke responded.

When Luke texted Tuesday evening that he was headed out to the movies, Reid was grateful for the various meetings he had that night to keep his mind preoccupied, and not thinking about Luke's potential reaction.

Wednesday morning went glacially slowly, with routine paperwork and a morning staff meeting occupying his time, though the routine discussions barely making inroads in terms of mindshare. By lunchtime Reid was nervously awaiting word about whether his gift had arrived, and if so Luke's reaction.

"What were you thinking?" wasn't exactly the response he was going for, though in hindsight, Reid wasn't sure what he expected Luke to think.

His conversation with Katie weighed heavily on his mind as he alternately dreaded and looked forward to returning Luke's call. When he finally finished rounds a few hours later, he pulled out a bag of Oreos, downed several while chugging a pint of milk, and gave himself a brief pep-talk before picking up the phone to call.

Reid drummed his fingers on his desk as the phone rang and rang. After four rings, Reid worried he'd have to leave a voicemail, but another ring-and-a-half later, a familiar voice came on the line.

"Hey, stranger!" Luke answered, sounding cheerful, Reid thought.

A/N: Okay, seriously. How many of you really believed it was a ring? (I know many of us wanted it to be one!)

With apologies to Cathy on Reid Oliver FB – I swear I'd written the Hubbard Squash hazing scene before I read it on FB. I also had actually had in my notes for this chapter that Luke would be trying out name variations – Luke and Reid Snyder? Luke and Reid Oliver Snyder? Luke and Reid Oliver? Luke and Reid Snyder Oliver? – but then THAT scenario came up on Facebook as well! Arghhh! This is why I don't read fanfics! (If someone else has already written about a silver spoon, I apologize - I swear I didn't steal that idea!)