Author's Notes: Sorry this has taken so long to post (I can't believe it's been almost a year!). As I teased when I posted the last chapter, I went through a big life change – my family moved back to the US, so getting everyone resettled has been a more-than-full-time job. But I'm finally back to writing again and hope to be posting more frequently over the next few months. Thanks for sticking with me and coming back to check in.
Reid leaned back on the couch, enjoying the feel of sweet-sour-tickly feeling of the champagne trickling down his throat. Champagne was an indulgence he'd gone mostly without since he had started dating Luke – short of enduring an accompanying wedding, that is. He had even allowed himself the start of a self-satisfied smile, pretty pleased at all he'd managed to accomplish – with Katie's assistance.
The lamb was in the oven, stewing away, and filling the house with a rich aroma that screamed "comfort food." A salad was sitting in a wooden serving bowl, adorned with colorful chunks of mandarin orange, pink grapefruit, red onion, and pale green avocado.
A series of small glass prep-bowls, suitable for any Food Network-worthy celebrity chef, sat neatly lined up along the side counter, variously holding the a few pats of unsalted, organic butter ("God, no, Reid! Never salted butter when you're cooking! And definitely none of that fake butter-tasting spread!" Katie explained.), some brown sugar, a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon, and a splash each of banana liqueur and rum.
Reid unconsciously salivated at the bunch of bananas, waiting for their sticky-sweet sauce. He was just imagining how firm, ripe, and sticky-sweet they would be when a knock at the door followed on the heels of the unattended doorbell.
"Who the hell is that?" Reid asked.
"I dunno," said Katie, looking away and hoping Reid couldn't see the self-satisfied grin she was trying to hide.
The knock came again, this time more insistently.
"Are you going to get that?" Katie suggested innocently.
"Nope. Wasn't planning on it. No one I'm expecting, so no one I want to see."
"What if it's Luke coming home for a weekend surprise?"
Though Reid briefly considered the possibility, the momentary loss of sanity quickly passed and he came to his senses. "He has a key. He can let himself in."
"Reid! You're the host."
"Yeah, so what?" Reid protested "I'm the host. You're the guest. You're the only guest. We're both here. So why does it matter that I'm the host?"
"Just go answer the damn door, Reid."
"What stupid moron comes knocking at a person's door unannounced at dinnerti —" Reid cut himself off mid-sentence as he yanked open the door to see who was there.
"Oh," Reid muttered. "Question answered." He tried shutting the door but a hand (attached to a rather irritated owner) reached out to stop the door mid-swing. Unable to forcibly shut the door without causing bodily injury, Reid resorted to barking, "What the hell are you doing here?"
"What do you mean, what the hell am I doing here?" came the reply, "I was invited."
"Okay," said Reid. "Now I know you're a fucking idiot. This is my house and I'm trying to have a nice dinner with Katie. I certainly didn't invite you. So if I didn't invite you, you are clearly delusional as previously diagnosed..." As the last words came out of his mouth, another possibility occurred to him.
Four glaring eyes spied the blonde trying to sneak unnoticed from the couch to the kitchen.
"You didn't tell him I was coming?" Henry asked incredulously.
Katie shrugged innocently.
"You assured me Reid was desperate for dinner guests!" Henry protested.
"You said I was what?" Reid asked.
"That's it," Henry declared, "I'm leaving."
"No-no-no-no!" Katie exclaimed running to the doorway and grabbing onto his arm and pulling him into the living room. "Stay! Reid would love to have you for dinner."
"Yeah," muttered Henry, "Roasted on a spit with half an apple stuffed in my mouth."
"No, I wouldn't!" retorted Reid, "Though I could go for the apple in the mouth if it would finally get you to shut up!"
"Yes, you would!" admonished Katie. "Because you are a great host and you would love to have a second guest here try out everything we've put together today." With one arm, she pushed Henry towards the couch; she used her other arm and shoulder to nudge Reid into the kitchen.
"C'mon, Reid," insisted Katie. "I need your help to get a drink for our lovely guest."
"The only thing I need to get for our guest, Katie, is a one-way ticket to homesville."
Henry was none too pleased with the situation, but he had known Katie long enough to know he would pay for it later if he were to sneak away while she was in the kitchen with Reid.
Reid, meanwhile, continued to protest on deaf ears.
"Oh quit being such a baby, Reid," Katie said, "It's just one more for dinner. We made enough for an army."
Reid merely glared in reply. Then spying two lovingly garnished dessert plates in the corner, he tried a different tactic: "But, as you insisted, we have done our beautifully perfect and unfailingly romantic table setting only for two. We couldn't possibly have a mismatched table," he tried.
Katie smiled, "Yeah, well, despite how perfectly romantic it is, you and I aren't getting' it on tonight. So, lucky for you, I brought a spare set of everything." She reached into her Mary Poppins-does-Prada bag and pulled out an extra champagne flute and wine glass, along with a spare set of china and napkin.
"In what universe does that make me lucky?" asked Reid.
"Because it means you will have the pleasure of dining with yours truly, and my dearest friend in the world – present company excepted," she replied.
"I know you have a blind spot where Hank is concerned and for some reason you love the lunatic to death, but why on earth do you seem to think it's actually important to foist him upon me for the next hour?"
"Reid," Katie interrupted, "This is a nice, four-course dinner. It should take at least three hours, not counting delightful after-dinner cocktails and conv.…."
"You're not helping your case, Goldilocks…"
Katie stopped and cut to the chase. "Because I need to talk to my 'besties' about the wedding, and I'm sick of having to repeat myself because I can never tell the two of you anything at the same time. I feel like a freakin' broken record." Katie replied.
Reid opened his mouth to take advantage of the opening Katie had just left, but didn't get a chance to inject any sarcasm before she continued: "Besides, Henry can be your taster. If he keels over dead, you'll know not to serve the same thing to Luke."
"Thanks a lot for the vote of confidence," Reid grumbled.
"Plus, I guarantee you will take everything more seriously if Henry's here," Katie said. "You wouldn't go out of your way to impress me, but there is no way you'd let Henry see you as anything less than Dr. McPerfect. So, if you really want to impress Luke, and make him think you are anything more than the junk-food Neanderthal we both know you are, have been all week, and will be forevermore, you need Henry to be here. Got it?"
"Damn," said Reid in surprise.
"What?" asked Katie.
"That actually made sense," Reid admitted.
"I know," smiled Katie, making her way back out to set an additional place at the table. "Now be a good boy and poor Henry a glass of bubbly."
"Oh, c'mon, Luke," Tessa cajoled. "Just finish it tomorrow."
"Hang on," Luke replied waving a finger to signal he only needed another few minutes. "I'm almost done."
"You've been saying that for the last two hours," Tessa moaned. She had been lying on the bed, propped up by her elbows and reading Luke's latest copy of GQ, for the third time through. She flipped over, arms open wide and hanging her head and shoulders over the bed, looking at Luke from her new upside-down vantage point.
"No, really," Luke said, waving her away. "I mean it this time." He had worked overtime over the last two days, and had planned to be finished so he could spend his last Saturday night and Sunday hanging out with his newfound friends, rather than slaving over his piece.
Luke re-read his piece. Again. He was a pretty-good first draft writer and Alex frequently chastised him for not re-writing to make sure he was an outstanding third, fourth, or fifth draft writer. But fixing grammar, ambiguous antecedents, continuity and inconsistencies were definitely not his favorite part of writing. Pondering optimal word choice – when hot chocolate, late-night chat-fests, and snowball fights beckoned – had felt like a gross mis-prioritization for the last few weeks.
In this case, however, he made an exception. Reid had never read anything he'd written, other than the project memoranda. What if Reid hated it and thought that these four weeks had been a mistake? A waste of money. And an unnecessary imposition on his time. What if it made Reid realize he was a completely vacuous hack?
Luke reread the piece one more time to be safe, while Tessa drummed impatiently on Luke's magazine with her fingers.
Finally, he took a deep breath, attached the piece to a brief cover email, hit Send and followed up with a text alert
"Ready to go?" Luke asked, grabbing his jacket off the bed.
"Yup," Tessa replied, putting her hat and scarf back on. She stopped at the doorway on her way out and looked around, adding, "You know, I'm gonna miss hanging out here."
"Yeah," Luke agreed, turning out the light. "Me too."
Reid had filled an extra glass and was dragging his feet as he made his way back into the living room to "welcome" Henry when he felt the familiar buzz of his cell phone in his pocket (Katie had insisted he put it on mute for realisms's sake since he certainly wouldn't want to be interrupted on the night of Luke's return!).
Just sent you a little something to read. Heading out w/friends. TTYL. Love, Luke
Reid momentarily forgot about the annoyance in the living room and felt a brief giddy warmth – Luke finally trusts me enough to read his work.
His glee was followed by an equally cold wave of dread, which quickly doused his good cheer. What if it stinks?
Reid backpedalled and sat down at the kitchen table, putting down the bottle of champagne and glass he was carrying, and staring blankly at the refrigerator door.
He took a sip from the champagne glass he was holding, momentarily forgetting that he had poured it for Henry. The bubbly was still cold and tingly, but suddenly seemed much more tart than he recalled a few minutes ago.
Reid thought back to Katie's engagement party, when Maddie Coleman had waxed on (and on and on) – rapturously – about Luke's writing. Given the way Maddie had described Luke's writing, and knowing Noah's penchant for melodrama, Reid wondered if he should've kept his mouth shut about wanting to see Luke's work. What if it's some drippy bodice-ripper about unrequited love and star-crossed lovers. On the other hand, if it were a steamy leather-chaps-ripper, now that could have some potential….
Or what if he's been writing pretentious existential bullshit like the brown-nosers in college lit? Or, even worse… poetry.
What if Luke was all excited about what he'd written and it just plain sucked? "Crap," he muttered out loud. I'm screwed.
The night Katie had abruptly announced her engagement (and her plans for Luke and Reid's imminent living arrangements), Henry had turned up – fashionably late – with one Madeline Coleman in tow.
In the early days of Luke and Reid's relationship, Maddie's name had come up a handful of times, but Reid had yet to learn much about her, as Luke's history with Maddie invariably ended up intertwined with his history with Noah. Reid's reflexive anti-Noah-gag reflex inevitably kicked in every time her name came up as well. So, without any discussion, Luke quickly learned to talk less about Maddie and more about safer, neutral topics – at first abruptly and awkwardly, and eventually without skipping a beat – as one swerves around a pothole on a familiar road.
After Luke had helped Katie set out drinks, he bumped into Henry on his way out of the kitchen and ended up giving him an update on how his inheritance was being put to good use on the Snyder Pavilion project. Faced with a choice between helping Katie (and enduring watching Katie and Chris making goo-goo eyes at each other while they checked on dinner), listening to Luke and Henry talk each other's ears off, or letting Maddie blather on, Reid had decided Maddie would be the least painful among the three pretty miserable options.
"…so there we were at Al's," she was saying as Reid was silently counting the paisley's on Katie's sofa cushions. "…And oh my God, you could not believe how Liv was going on and on and on about how awesome prom was going to be. Just between you and me – she was a total B-I-T-C-H. And she was all up in Luke's face because he was totally stuck on this jerk…"
At the mention of Luke's name, Reid perked up and realized he hadn't been paying any attention to the story, though he could tell exactly how many paisleys adorned each of the three cushions on the couch.
"Jerk? What was that about Noah?" he managed to ask, trying to tame the "I just tasted something disgusting" look that overcame his face as the name passed through his lips.
"Not Noah, you dope," replied Maddie playfully, "Kevin." She paused a beat as she noted the blank (but oddly relieved look on his face). "You haven't been listening to anything I've been saying, have you?" she added, mock-accusingly.
A brief moment of guilt flashed through Reid's mind before he asked, "Who's Kevin? I thought Luke and I – and what's his name – were the only gay guys in Oakdale."
"You probably are," Maddie laughed. "Kevin's not gay." Maddie raised her eyebrow as if Reid were a little slow.
Reid, who was unaccustomed to being on the receiving end of said expression continued, "I thought you said Luke was stuck — "
Maddie crossed her arms and opened her mouth to reply before Reid finally caught on. "Oh."
"Yeah," she nodded. "Now you got it."
Reid found himself wondering about the straight jerk his boyfriend had pined for. Was he hot? Was he another tall, blue-eyed brunette who looked like an underwear model? Did he suffer from sexual orientation confusion? Bi tendencies?
Maddie continued on, oblivious to Reid's concerned daydreaming. "So, yeah, Luke was totally hung up on Kevin, who was like a massive dick-wad. And since I was dating Casey, who was still serving out his sentence, Luke — "
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Reid interjected. "Back up the pony, sister. Casey, as in Casey Hughes, grandson of Saint Bob, was doing time in the pokey?"
"Well, yeah, but it wasn't like he was a criminal or anything!" Maddie protested.
"So he landed in the slammer for baking too many chocolate chip cookies for the poor?"
"No, of course not," said Maddie. "He got two months for skipping bail – and a most inconvenient two months it happened to be as we were finally getting serious and it was prom season."
"And prom is, of course, like, the most important thing in the world," Reid replied, "So the judge, who was undoubtedly another one of Saint Bob's golf buddies, should have taken that into consideration when sentencing his grandson?"
"Hey!" Maddie protested. "What is your problem? I'm just trying to be friendly 'cause I know you're Luke's new guy and he's crazy about you. All I'm trying to do is tell you a story about how great Luke is, and all you're doing is staring at the couch and bad-mouthing Casey and Bob – who, by the way, I hear, treats you like a son."
Suitably chastised, Reid was unusually and momentarily stunned speechless. "Um, uh, um…"
Maddie's tone softened. "'I'm sorry, go on,' would be acceptable."
"Yeah, um, I guess so," Reid replied. "I'm sorry. Go on."
Maddie smiled in a comforting way. "So…" she continued, without missing a beat. "So Luke, being one of my nearest and dearest friends, and the incredibly wonderful gentleman that we both know he is, offered to be my prom date, and…"
Gentleman? Date? Prom? Maddie had caught Reid's attention again. "Did he look as good in a tux as he does now?"
"Mmm hmm! I think even Kevin had second thoughts when he and Liv-the-bimbo-of-Oakdale stopped by our table afterwards, do you know what Luke says to me?"
Reid raised his eyebrows clearly having no idea what Luke might say in such a situation.
Maddie leaned forward conspiratorially, simultaneously lowering her voice and invading Reid's space. "So, Luke says to me, 'I just wish I had what they have. You know, someone I can feel close to; a guy that gets me the way that Casey gets you."
Reid paused to process Maddie's last whisper.
"Can you believe that? I mean, here is a guy who's so sweet he took me to prom so that I wouldn't sit home feeling sorry for myself. And meanwhile, he can't find the love of his life either…until Noah comes into the picture."
"Okay," Reid interrupted. "Stop there. Is there a 'kick me' or 'tell me stories about my boyfriend and his ex' sticky stuck to my forehead or something? What makes you think I want to hear anything about Luke and Mr. Spielberg-wannabe?"
"Huh?" Maddie asked. "Luke hasn't told you all this, like, a million times?"
"Like, um, no."
"Why not? It's part of who he is."
Reid scowled, skeptically, fighting a wave of nausea.
"You need to hear this," Maddie challenged, folding her arms. "I'm not going to go into graphic details. Besides, I don't know why you've got your boxers tied up in a knot." Reid briefly wondered if Maddie's reference was a lucky guess or if Luke had discussed his underwear preferences with anyone else in addition to Maddie.
"Luke and Noah will always share something because they were each other's firsts." Maddie explained.
Reid's wave threatened to turn into a tsunami. He coughed uncomfortably.
"But they've both moved on. Luke's got you, obviously. And Noah's out in LA where he really belongs. He's making movies, he's meeting people in the Business. And he's back on the horse, if you get my drift."
"Do I have to spell it out for you?" Maddie asked, exasperated. "He's dating. There, I said it. Is that clear enough for you? He's gone out with a bunch of guys and a few of them sound pretty promising. A couple of actors, of course. Gorgeous, no doubt. A sound editor, and an aspiring cinematographer."
Luke never said anything about new boyfriends, Reid thought to himself, conveniently forgetting that he tended to shut down anytime Noah's name was mentioned. "And you know all this, how?" he asked.
"Well, we only talk, like, every week," she replied.
For the second time in the evening, Reid was stunned. "Really?" he asked, genuinely incredulously. He'd always thought Luke was pathologically naïve in his desire to remain friends with Noah. His own past relationships had always been superficial, so it had never really occurred to him that remaining friendly with exes might actually be within two standard deviations of normal behavior.
"Well, duh!" Maddie replied. "Of course! He's my ex-boyfriend, not my mortal enemy. I know he and Luke had their problems..."
Reid rolled his eyes.
"…but he's really not a bad guy. Just sometimes a little misguided," she rationalized. "We broke up on good terms, so, yeah, we still talk all the time. We have the best time comparing notes on the newest films, music, our love lives. He's the only one I've ever met who gets my obsession with old movies. Sometimes we'll even do a live-watch on Netflix– we'll each pull up the same film and make some popcorn – it's almost like he never moved!"
"Okay, that's enough information. You might not mind hearing about your own ex-boyfriend's new boy-toys, but I already know about a million and six times more about Noah Mayer's love life than I ever wanted to know," Reid declared.
"Well then, geez, Reid, you're missing out on a big part of what makes Luke, Luke. Like it or not, part of what made Luke and still influences him today was Noah. It's because of Noah – and me, I guess – that Luke started writing his webisodes for WOAK, and they were amazing. Everything he wrote, from his outlines to the final scripts – they were complete awesomesauce. I mean, really amazing. Luke totally gets what it feels like to fall in love and how relationships work."
"Noah and you?" Reid asked.
"Yeah," Maddie replied. "Luke kept his own feelings hidden inside while Noah tried to convince himself that he could make things work with me. Even with the way he felt, he didn't want to break us up. I think Noah hoped that if he spent more time with me, he'd 'stay' straight." Maddie used air-quotes to punctuate the last part. "We were even planning on moving in together."
Reid was furiously searching through his memories trying to remember how much of this Luke had previously tried to tell him and how much he had prevented himself from hearing. Noah and Maddie. Moving in together. WOAK…
"But it was only thanks to the dearest big brother in the world," Maddie swept her arm out to point across the room at Henry, "that I figured out what a big mistake I was making."
"Henry?" Reid asked incredulously.
Henry, had been surprised to see that Reid and Maddie had been talking for almost 20 minutes – well, Maddie appeared to be doing most of the talking, but at least Reid hadn't run off screaming, nor had he tried to lock her in a closet or any other small confined space. After watching Maddie pointing at him and smiling, Henry headed across the room to eavesdrop, while Luke went into the kitchen to refill his drink.
"Hey, Sweetie," Henry said to Maddie. "If Dr. No here is bothering you, I can —"
"No, Henry," Maddie laughed. "Reid and I are just having a good time getting to know each other."
"Seriously?" Henry asked.
"Yes, dear brother," Maddie said, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I was just telling Reid about how Noah and I were planning to get an apartment together."
"Oh yeah," Henry said. "Talk about a bad idea to top all bad ideas. Vienna and I had finally figured out a way we could use the diner as collateral so we could take out to send you to Wesleyan," Henry said, "Then this fiasco came along." Reid felt momentarily more impressed by Henry.
"Wesleyan?" Reid asked, impressed.
"Yeah," Maddie had admitted. "It was always my dream school. And I'm only there now because Casey secretly sent in my application. But when Noah asked me to move in with him, I deferred my acceptance."
"He did what?" Reid asked. "Noah asked an intelligent young woman to ditch one of the finest American liberal arts colleges to go to OU?"
"Why, thank you," Maddie smiled broadly. Henry put a hand on Reid's forehead to make sure he was feeling all right, and Reid flinched out of his reach.
"So, Henry tried to talk me out of it," Maddie continued, "but I had made up my mind. So being the awesome and supportive brother that he is, he co-signed the lease for us, since of course, neither Noah nor I had any money." Henry nodded in the background. "But then," she said conspiratorially, "he goes behind my back to see….."
"…Colonel Winston Mayer," Henry inserted, "who's just a few slices short of a loaf, if you catch my drift…"
"And he tries to see if the two of them can gang up on us to change our minds," Maddie finished.
"How sweet," Reid said curtly.
"I knew something was weird about Col. Mayer the first time I saw him with Noah and Luke together," Henry recalled. "I was planning a bridal shower for Katie." He stopped himself and turned to Maddie. "Who was the groom that time?
"Jack?" Maddie asked.
"Right, Jack," Henry agreed and continued. "So, anyway, where was I?"
"Something about someone a few slices short of a loaf," Reid said, nodding at Henry.
"Right, Mayer," Henry said. "So damn if I wasn't floored that the son of a gun couldn't wait for the two of them to move in together. I mean, these kids were barely out of their teens and they'd known each other for only a few months. That lunatic actually told me he could think of nothing better! Something was seriously wrong with that man."
Maddie nodded in agreement, while Reid questioned Henry's ability to judge anyone else's sanity.
"So then I started paying more attention, and my anti-gaydar started going haywire," Henry said.
"Anti-gaydar?" Reid asked.
"Yeah. Mayer was a serious right-wing whack job homophobe. He freaked out any time Luke's name was even mentioned and just couldn't seem to get his head around the fact that Bubbles is my very best friend in the world," Henry continued. "He seemed to think that any man with a woman for a best friend had to be a complete flamer."
"Have you taken at your wardrobe lately, Hank?" Reid injected.
"He even paid for all the furniture in our new apartment," Maddie added. "What kind of father does that? I was totally the queen of De Nile."
"So, it was clear Mayer thought something was going on between Luke and Noah, and that Maddie was the solution." Henry said. "What I couldn't tell is whether he was just a paranoid nutcase, or whether something really was going on. But either way, I had to break the news to Maddie." He looked at her, still somewhat apologetically.
Maddie turned to Henry and said, "You told me you'd never wished more to be wrong about anything….though you weren't."
"I know, honey," Henry said. "And it killed me to be the one who had to tell you."
"It wasn't your fault," Maddie consoled him. "It's like the time you got stuck telling me my hamster died."
"Chuckles!" they both exclaimed together. Then remembering a long-repeated ritual, they folded their hands prayer-like, bowed their heads, and chanted, "May he rest in peace."
"So," Maddie picked up where she left off, "I cornered Luke and asked him if there was anything going on with him and Noah, and he told me I had to ask Noah. It was pretty clear that Noah had sworn him to secrecy, but once the flood gates were open, thanks to Luke, Noah finally realized he had to be true to himself, not his dad."
"Yeah, so Mayer acts like he's all hunky-dory with Noah," Henry concluded, "but, then, we all know how that turned out, right?"
Reid stared blankly back at both of them.
Maddie gasped in surprise and looked at Reid reproachfully. "You don't know?"
Reid shook his head barely perceptibly.
"Well, you should thank Maddie, because it's on account of her that Luke is standing here today," Henry explained proudly. "She didn't trust Mayer and was the one who tipped off Holden."
"Yeah," Maddie agreed. "And it's a good thing Holden took me seriously. If he hadn't stepped in when he did, we wouldn't be standing here talking to either of you today." She looked soberly at Luke and Reid. Reid silently said a prayer of thanks to Holden Snyder. "And it's a good thing Noah eventually found his way back to Luke, because he's the one who helped Luke walk again."
"And they lived happily ever after," Reid snarked.
Maddie crossed her arms critically, and Henry rolled his eyes.
"Hey, you know what they say about frogs, right?" she asked him.
"Frogs?" Reid asked.
Maddie smiled at him. "You gotta kiss a lot of them before you find your Prince Charming."
Reid scowled back.
"Lucky for Luke it looks like he's done with amphibians," Maddie winked at Reid. "You just better remember, though, Princey, if you break Luke's heart, you'll have me to answer to."
Henry nodded in support.
"I wonder if I'll ever find my Prince Charming," Maddie wondered out loud.
"Maddie, you're young, you're beautiful, and you're smart. The right guy for you is out there somewhere. Look at me."
Reid nodded. "I can't believe I'm agreeing with him, but he's right. If he can find someone, you should have no problem." Henry shot a glare at him.
"I have a terrible love life, but a pretty cool brother," Maddie said smiling. She wrapped her arms around Henry's waist in a big hug.
"Don't you worry, Sweetie. Two is not a history," Henry consoled, putting a protective arm around her shoulder. "Eight, on the other hand…" He and Reid both glanced over at Chris and Katie who were putting the finishing touches on the table.
"Hey, Dr. Frankenchef," Henry's voice crashed into Reid's thoughts. "What're you doing in there? Stomping the grapes?"
Hearing Henry's prompt, Reid looked down to find he had drained the glass he was holding. Shit, he muttered to himself, as he quickly rinsed off the glass in the sink and refilled the glass.
Henry had made himself comfortable on the couch and had guessed (incorrectly), at random, which glass was Katie's, and helped himself to a few swigs.
Reid emerged to find Henry sitting, on his side of the couch, drinking champagne from his glass, with his arm protectively wrapped around Katie's shoulders, just as he'd done with Maddie at the engagement dinner a few months before.
Henry looked up and finally got a good look at Reid's apron, which he hadn't noticed while the two were bickering in the doorway. Henry stood up, stammering and tripping over the couch as he backed his way towards the door. "Oh, no, no, no. Bubbles, I love you, but this is asking too much. I can't do this…"
"What the hell is wrong with you, Hank?" Reid, who had completely forgotten about the apron. "What?" Reid demanded. Then, following Henry's eyes, he looked down and saw the offending apron. Kiss me, I cooked your dinner.
"Damn it, Katie! This is all your fault."
Katie could barely stifle her laughter, seeing Reid come about as close to being flustered as she'd ever seen him. "Be grateful I didn't buy you the one that reads, 'Will cook for sex' or 'I may have a bad mouth but I can do great things with it.' Or —"
Henry had put his fingers in his ears and shouted to compensate for his dampened hearing, "La-la-la-la-la, Katie, I'm not listening to you!" He continued humming in a loud monotone.
Katie was clearly enjoying herself, "Oh yeah, and of course, there was the one that said, 'Don't make me poison your dinner.'"
"Oh, no, Bubbles," Henry looked at her like a disappointed nanny. "Don't you give him any ideas. That quack put me in solitary!"
By now, though, even Reid was starting to be amused. "Relax, Hank. How about a drink?" He offered the glass he was carrying.
"No way. With all that time you spent in the kitchen, you could have brewed your own poison. No, thanks. I brought my own." Henry pulled out the two bottles of wine from the shopping bag he'd left at the side of the couch. I wouldn't put it past Dr. Kill-dare here to do me in now that he has a chance."
"You know, Hank," Reid offered, standing up and walking towards his medical bag. "I didn't even know you were coming. But now that you mention it, there were a few other ingredients that I should probably add to the dinner —"
Katie reached over and grabbed him by the leg and pushed him back into the chair. "Don't you dare, buster. And stop teasing Henry."
Henry gave Reid a "so there!" look while Reid replied innocently, "Who's teasing?"
"Now that I have both of your attention," Katie announced, I have some wedding plans to go over."
Both men found common ground as they looked at each other with a shared look of panic and resignation…
A/N: I had the most fun shopping for aprons for Reid (and Luke, whose apron will make an appearance in the next chapter or so). Among the ones I rejected for Reid were, "Damn I'm good," "If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong," "I never make mistakes – I thought I did once, but I was mistaken," "I kiss better than I cook," "Eat Me," "Easily annoyed…you've been warned!?" And yes, they really do sell a "World's Sexiest Neurosurgeon" apron at Zazzle.
My personal favorite, though. was the one that read, "Marriage is a relationship where one person is right and the other is the husband." :)
In the meantime, I try not to self-pimp too much, but I recently did some poking around and discovered (I think) is that this fic is the most-faved single-ship story across all daytime soap fandoms! And it's only three follows short of being the most followed (yes, I'm a data geek, but if you've seen my blog, or read my posts at LRO, you already knew that).
If you do decide to stick around for whatever comes next, I really feel the best is still yet to come – including the "first time" flashback (finally!), Luke's return to Oakdale, and what happens further down the line (yeah, we can all guess where this will end up, but it's how they get there that's the fun – right?). I just reviewed my story notes and found ideas I can't wait to write about. The hard part is stringing it together so it hangs as a serial, rather than a bunch of one-shots thrown together. That part is definitely work, but as always, a labor of love.
In the meantime, I'm back to writing again, though I'm admittedly a little distracted these days by a new fandom-crush. But coming back to this story is like going home – everything is so familiar and comfortable.
As always, thanks again for reading!