Chapter 1: Snyder Farm
"Thanks grandma. Merry Christmas." Luke turned to Emma and gave her a big hug and kiss as he walked out the door. Reid had gotten his arm stuck in his coat, and lagged a few steps behind.
"Dr. Oliver..." began Emma, placing a hand on his arm.
Reid turned on the doorstep and looked at her quizzically. Small talk was never his thing, but he knew he should say something. Luke cast him a sidelong glance so he thought he'd better say it soon. "Everything was great, Mrs. Snyder. Thanks for making me feel at home," he said, awkwardly patting her on the shoulder.
Luke stifled a chuckle.
"Dr. Oliver," began Emma again. "You're welcome any time. And thank you for putting the sparkle back in Luke's eyes." She then leaned forward pinched his cheek, and gave him a big bear hug. While Reid rolled his eyes and gave Luke a "WTF do I do now?" look, Luke didn't bother to hide his smile.
" 'Night, grandma," called Luke, as Reid broke free of Emma's embrace and took his hand.
They walked hand-in-hand down the long driveway to the car, their even gaits matched, step for step. Snow had fallen during the day, and the freezing temperatures created a thin crust over the gravel. Their steps made beat out an even crunch, crunch, crunch rhythm as they walked.
"Thanks for coming," said Luke. "It meant a lot to me."
"Hmm," said Reid, not sure how to respond. "So that was an infamous holiday at Snyder Farm, eh?"
"Yup," replied Luke. "It's too bad you got called down to Dallas for Thanksgiving. At least then you would have been around for..."
"...the Hubbard squash?" asked Reid. "Who the hell makes a tradition out of demolishing a giant gourd? Hasn't Emma ever heard of Libby's?"
"Bite your tongue," said Luke. "My grandmother never uses canned anything...And don't pretend that she doesn't make the best pumpkin pie you've ever had."
"Okay, I'll give you that. She makes good pie. I think your dad had fourths."
"Yeah, well he probably oughta cut back. Ever since he moved back to the farm, she's been baking for him almost every day. He's starting to look like the Pillsbury dough boy!" joked Luke. Reid couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of a little white dough boy with Holden Snyder's face – chef's hat and all.
"Now that Bad Dad's finally out of the picture, do you think your folks'll get back together?"
Luke shrugged. "I dunno. They've been together and apart so many times, I don't think it matters any more. They'll always love each other, but maybe it was finally time for them to move on. Faith hasn't given up, but Ethan and Nathalie think it's normal for mommy and daddy to be apart. I guess modern families are unconventional."
"You know, I think you Snyders might even be more interesting than the Hugheses," shot Reid, trying to lighten things up.
Luke smiled appreciatively.
"All right, hot shot," said Reid, arriving at the car and making his way to the driver's side. "Toss me the keys."
"No way," said Luke. "I'm the one who doesn't drink, remember?"
"Aww, with all that food, who could possibly be drunk?" scowled Reid.
"I'm driving," said Luke. He let go of Reid's hand and made a big show of searching all his pockets for the car keys. Then with a mischievous grin and a sudden surge, tucked his shoulder under, and knocked Reid aside with a rugby-worthy tackle, reaching for the door.
Reid, who wasn't expecting the tackle, fell back laughing. "I'll get you for that!"
"You've gotta catch me first!" shouted Luke as he dodged around the front of the car.
"Why you..." said Reid, and he took off after him. Luke ran around the car twice before stopping by the rear bumper, faking left and right. Reid leaned against the hood trying to gauge, thinking for just a beat too long, though, as Luke grabbed a handful of snow off the back of the car and tossed it right into his chest.
"Oh, now you're really asking for it," said Reid, returning fire. After peppering each other with snowballs for several minutes, Luke finally declared, "Cease fire!"
"Oh, really?" asked Reid, raising an eyebrow. "Don't you remember, I don't give up on the fight." He started towards Luke mock-menacingly.
Luke returned the staredown, and then replied, "In your dreams, doc," as he changed direction and took off again.
Reid knew him well enough to know which way he'd run this time, so he head-faked and then turned, closing the distance between them in double time. Two steps later, the sounds of their footsteps, breathing, and laughter was shattered by a loud "Whooooaaaa!" as Luke lost his footing and slid into Reid, knocking him over on top of him.
"Owwch," declared Reid.
"Oh don't be such a baby," scolded Luke, "At least you had a soft landing!"
"Easy for you to say. Have you poked yourself in the ribs with your elbow lately?"
The two shared a quick smile as they caught their breath. Reid untangled himself from Luke and pushed himself up, then reached down to give Luke a hand up. "C'mon. Let's go home."
"All right, but I'm driving!"