His heart was torn to pieces. The two men that he cared for the most in the world were displeased with him. Reid and Noah. Reid, who he had shared a mutual antipathy with until he got to see the real man beneath all those smart-aleck remarks. Noah, who he had known for over four years and had shared a mutual love with. The two men couldn't be more different. Comparing them didn't sit right with Luke, but he did it anyway. He couldn't help it. He contemplated who would need him more in the long-run. And that was Noah.
'I have my sight back. I don't need you.' Those words shook him up like a leaf being blown in a tornado. Luke was all out of sorts after that. Blindly, he went to his closest source of comfort. Reid. Luke knew that it was obtuse of him, but he was desperate. He needed someone to latch onto, someone to pull him back together and guide him, take his hand and assure him that everything was going to be fine. But alas, Reid was smarter than that. Still, despite how much he has opened up to Luke, he maintained his practical side, the one that drew him away from people, from being hurt by anyone. 'Get out.' Those two simple words carried the weight of millions. It struck Luke hard, being rejected by both men. He had nowhere to turn. No one he could possibly run to. Sure, there was his mother, father, his family, his friends, but none of them were totally up-to-date with him. And he didn't want to go through the trouble of telling a long story. Especially since it hurt to even think about how matters in his love life had gotten so out of control.
There was only one familiar place to him. That was his work place. His Foundation, where he was ascertain that he'd actually be able to help people without incident. So he dived right into his work. One night he was making a few calls for another project that he was working on. Luke was asking all different kinds of charities and companies for their support for the funding off all hospitals. He understood the economic situation with health care and wanted to be sure everyone had medical insurance. So that doctors would have a better pay for the assiduous work they do.
"Luke, darling, it's quite late." Lucinda told him, sauntering into his office.
Luke rubbed his eyes, weary from a long day's work. He peered at his watch and his eyes popped out of their sockets. "Wow, I really did lose track of time…" He murmured.
"You shouldn't work these long hours." Lucinda chided. "You're going to work yourself into an early grave at the rate you're going."
As if in a trance, Luke took his watch off. He looked at the engraving on the back. 'Worth the wait.' Tears gathered at the corners of his eyes. Just as fast his vision became blurry. Luke's grip on the watch tightened.
"Luke," Lucinda murmured in empathy. She walked over to her grandson and held out her arms, urging him to let go of the watch. "Come here, darling, come."
Luke chucked the watch onto the desk, the watch that contained the memory of Noah, of both bad times and good. He couldn't allow himself the alleviation of being in his grandmother's embrace. To compensate, he took her hands and looked her in the eyes with the strongest smile that he could muster. "I'm going to be ok. Don't worry."
"Do you even know how much you're worth, darling?" Lucinda asked, softly. Luke shrugged, not getting where she was headed. "Priceless. You, darling, are one of a kind. You're a conscientious young man with a life ahead of you. Why use your melancholy as fuel for your job? You seem to come and go as you please with the Foundation you created. Don't you think you should stick to your guns and dedicate yourself to this?"
Luke smirked, playfully. "What; working myself into an early grave?"
"No." Lucinda responded, dead serious. She waved her hand. "Pacing yourself and making yourself successful. To feel like you could stand on your own. That you don't need to use anybody as a crutch to be the best you can be. I know I don't."
Luke looked down at her in wonderment. For the past week he had been working like there was no tomorrow due to his practically defunct love life. All that time, he spent sulking. The thought never crossed his mind.
"Darling, you don't give yourself enough credit." Lucinda smiled, cupping his face with both hands, making sure he was paying attention to what she was saying. "Before me stands a man with a heart of gold. And I believe it is time for some self exploration if you cannot see the wonderful man I see right now."
"Grandmother…" Luke smiled. Allowing himself to cave, he hugged her. "Thank you…"
Pacing was out of the question, despite his grandmother's advice. Luke, reverting back to a headstrong teenager, continued to make work his top priority. Lucinda was right. He had a duty at the Foundation. He couldn't just abandon it and come back whenever he wanted. Not with how dysfunctional the world was. The world didn't take a hiatus from natural disaster or anything else for that matter. Luke decided that he must too. He must become more in tune with the world.
Business meetings became a diurnal chore for Luke. He attended them and put in his two cents to the best of his ability. He impressed businessmen with his intellect. With how fast he could garner people for a fundraiser. With how devoted he was to philanthropy. He knew he should be honored by their praise of him but he just didn't feel that way. 'Only the pretentious do business in tuxedos, Mr. Snyder.' It was a reminder of a memory he would much rather have forgotten.
People he helped gave him their gratitude personally. And when they did, Luke was beginning to comprehend the meaning of his grandmother's words. He was being appreciated for who he was. Not for who he was with. Noah, in the beginning, had been an inspiration for him. An inspiration to fight for gay rights. But there was more to Luke than being a homosexual. He noticed the jauntiness sparkling in the eyes of countless people that he had helped; from women with cancer to kids with disabilities.
Nevertheless Luke remained in that same work ethic for the next few months. Without taking a break, even for a family occasion. His workplace had become his safe haven, a place where he could only show his strength and stash his weakness under the desk.
Every morning, he would go to Al's for takeout. Sometimes he would skip breakfast and just go to Java for a fix of caffeine to get him through the day. He regretted running into Reid at Al's. The small talk killed him, but at the same time he wanted it. He wanted to know how Reid was doing. He felt lucky to even be able to talk to Reid without getting chewed out for vacillating. Noah, on the other hand, gave him the cold shoulder. Luke had adjusted to the unexpected run-ins and he allowed the agony he felt to intensify in him. The war between duty and heart waged on, duty winning by a landslide, causing the pain he felt to numb.
As much as he thought about Noah, Luke's thoughts of Reid outnumbered them. He even took it upon himself to tally it up on the post-its he kept on his desk at work. Noah: 35. Reid: 100. The numbers weren't accurate. Luke was positive that these two were on his brain at least ten times a day. And he didn't always have post-its handy. Maybe this didn't mean anything.
"What does it matter?" Luke muttered to himself. He had his elbows propped on the desk, chewing the cap of a pen as he stared down the numbers. "They hate me anyway…I can be successful all I want, but that won't change. How I hurt them won't change." Emptiness. Regret. Luke had grown to find these emotions deplorable. His eyes trailed to the clock. It was almost midnight. "Looks like I did it again." He smiled, weakly, recalling his grandmother's advice. Slowly he sat up and stretched, reaching for his keys.
Luke put his keys in the ignition. He began to drive on the dark road, only lit by the streetlights and his car lights. Gradually, everything spun around, slowly at first. Luke's grip on the wheel tightened as he tried his best to concentrate. Then everything spun fast, like he was on one of those spinning tea cups at an amusement park. Impulsively, he turned the wheel to the right, and crashed into something. He couldn't tell what. He could barely keep his eyes open. A black void welcomed him and he fell into it, hearing a familiar shout before he fainted into nothingness.
"Luke," a familiar voice said. "Come on, wake up."
'Everything isn't spinning. I prefer it that way. A chance to relax…'
"You can't stay asleep forever, Luke. There are things you must do. People you must see. Like me…Please, Luke, don't do this to me before we even hit the first date."
'Reid…No, this can't be real…'
"I told you to make a decision. What you've been doing for the past few months wasn't what I had in mind. Do you even know the definition of overkill?"
Luke laughed, wanly, finally able to move his mouth. "I was a writer once. Of course, I know what overkill means." He opened his eyes to peer up at Reid, who was sitting on the edge of his hospital bed, holding his hand. His lips appeared to be glued together and his eyes were shimmering with tears. For the first time in what seemed like forever, Luke felt his cheeks lift as he smiled genuinely at Reid. "I don't think I've ever been so relieved to see you. How have you been?"
Reid's eyes widened and his frown deepened. "Don't talk to me like we're at some tea party. I don't think you realize the reality of your situation, Luke, but what you're lying in is called a 'hospital bed'. And the only reason why you're in it is because of your quixotic behavior. You were lucky enough to emerge from that crash with only a few stitches. What on Earth were you thinking driving in your condition?"
"Reid…" Luke whispered. The worry lingering in Reid's speech and his face made his heart palpitate. To have that feeling back made him immensely happy. He returned the grip of Reid's hand. "I thought that you…"
"That I what? Stopped caring about you just because you distanced yourself from me?" Reid asked, incredulously.
"I thought that you wouldn't want to have anything to do with me after my fall out with Noah." Luke replied, truthfully. "I thought that you hated me."
Reid leaned in close and kissed Luke softly on the lips, tenderly stroking his face. "I could never hate you so eliminate the thought from your mind." He whispered, softly.
"But I used you…I…" Luke's voice quavered. "I don't deserve you…"
"Luke, listen to me…" Reid took a deep breath before saying, "I love you, ok?" The admission made Luke draw in a breath. His chest was warm. His heart that had been tied up rapidly began to break free from its restraints. His eyes were wide, analyzing Reid, searching for any intimation of doubt. But there was none. Reid didn't say anything unless he meant it. "I love you. So I accept you for who you are, warts and all. Hey, look at me, I'm the biggest jerk in town and you kissed me nevertheless. You smiled at me, you laughed with me. It may have taken a while but you've shown me that it's ok to show emotions. That it's better to show emotions instead of putting them on the backburner and solely focusing on my work. Like you have been doing these past few months. You haven't exactly been practicing what you preach." Reid bought Luke into his arms, holding him close to his heart. "You scared me to death, you know that?"
"You were lucky that I just so happened to be driving home from work just then. Otherwise…I don't know what would have happened."
"Reid…" Luke's eyes softened. It may have taken a knock to his head to make him realize it, but he found that he loved Reid too. Somewhere along the way he had fallen for him. He just kept denying it to the point where he couldn't tell. But he was able to tell now.
Then the door burst open. "Luke," came Noah's shout. Reid was about to separate entirely from Luke, but it was too soon. Luke held onto Reid's arms, urging them to keep him steady when he sat up. His head was pounding, but he wanted to face the problem that has been eluded for months. "I heard about what happened. Are you all right?" He did look worried, but he appeared to be more fed up with the fact that Reid has his arms around Luke.
Luke looked up at Reid and smiled. "I'm more than ok."
"Oh so I was right?" Noah asked, his tone full of venom. "You do love him, don't you? Why else would you let him touch you and kiss you?"
"I do love him, Noah. It's taken me a long time to realize it." Luke replied.
"Better late than never." Reid quipped. That small sense of levity made Luke chuckle.
"Stop it!" Noah roared, causing Luke to flinch. "You don't know Luke like I know him. Why would he give up on me so easily after what he told me months ago? He told me that he loved me and wanted to get back together with me. Isn't that right?" He looked to Luke.
Luke's gaze fixated on the ground.
"Maybe the same way you could ask him to get back together with you then dump him the second you find out he has the hots for someone else." Reid sneered.
"Who are you to talk?" Noah sneered back. "You tell me you're going to restore my sight. Why? Just so you could show me how to kiss my boyfriend?"
"I take my profession very seriously, Noah. I didn't intentionally fall in love with Luke."
"Oh so you're in love with him now? You couldn't stand him at first. And he couldn't stand you."
"Things change, Noah, sometimes faster than you want them to." Luke intervened. "I did love you, Noah. It's just that…my feelings have changed."
Noah looked like a fish out of water. "So you're telling me that you fell out of love with me? Is that it?"
Heat rose in Luke's body. He felt light-headed. Luke fell back against Reid's chest, gasping for air.
"Luke!" Reid gasped, lying him back down. He retrieved a wet towel and placed it on Luke's forehead. "I think that's enough talking for now. Let him rest."
Noah looked at Reid as he wiped the sweat off Luke's forehead. The care between them was strange, but it was genuine, which made him grimace. "Dr. Oliver, do you love Luke as much as you say you do?" He asked.
"Yes. I do." Reid answered, confidently. "I don't think I've ever loved anyone or anything as much as I love him." He ran a hand through Luke's hair.
That was how they were the same. They had the same feelings about Luke. They loved him more than anything else in the world. The truth still stung to Noah. He still felt the sting of betrayal, even though he knew that this wasn't done intentionally. It just happened. Like the first kiss that he shared with Luke. Having nothing more to say, Noah stomped out into the night, the cruel truth still sinking in.
When Luke woke up, he expected to see Reid there. Instead he saw Casey and Alison. She was in her nurse's outfit and Luke assumed that she was checking his vitals and all of that and Casey decided to tag along. Their faces lit up once he woke up.
"Hey there, buddy." Casey greeted, giving him a friendly slap on the shoulder. "How are you holding up?"
"Pretty well, all things considered." Luke replied, recalling what had occurred before he passed out.
"As if getting into a crash and getting stitches wasn't enough, it looks like you have a fever too." Alison informed him, worriedly. "I heard from Dr. Oliver that you've been working like nuts for a while now. Any reason why you couldn't tell us all about it?" She regarded Casey with a wave of a hand.
"Uh…well…" Luke couldn't think up a reason without it sounding lame so he just ended there.
"Dude, you can't keep everything locked up inside, no matter how crappy things are. Look where it got you."
"Yeah, Luke, you could've called or something. You know I'd always make time for a friend."
Luke grinned at them. They seemed to be on the same page despite their current predicament. "It's nice to see you two agreeing on something."
They blushed in sync.
"Cut it out, dude. You know it's not like that." Casey retorted. Once he caught sight of Alison's sidelong glance at him, he said. "I mean, we're still getting used to being friends…"
"Yeah, friends…" Alison forlornly agreed.
Luke gave them a look. "Guys, how long are you going to keep at this? Tiptoeing around the truth, I mean. I've been doing that for a while now what with my feelings for Reid and everything. It only prolongs the inevitable. Don't you think?" He saw the spark between them, hoping that his encouragement would be enough to rekindle that flame.
"I don't know, Luke." Alison looked unsure. "I don't think our situations are the same."
"Can we not talk about this right now?" Casey asked, exasperatedly running a hand through his hair.
"Sorry for bringing it up. I was just saying." Luke responded.
"It's ok, man. I know you always want what's best for everybody. Just remember that you need to save some of that consideration for yourself. You're not alone."
"He's right. You have us, Noah, your family…so many people willing to support you and whatever you choose to do."
"Thank you, guys, that means a lot." Luke smiled, but then frowned at the thought of Noah being a part of the list Alison made. "I don't think Noah does though…"
"What are you talking about? He loves you through thick and thin." Casey countered.
Luke shook his head. "You don't know, do you? About Reid and I?"
"Reid?" Alison echoed. "You mean Dr. Oliver? That Reid?"
"Is that really such a surprise?" Luke wondered.
"Uh, yeah it kinda is." Casey replied. "Dude, that's just crazy. I thought you hated his guts."
"I thought so too….until I got to see who he really was…"
"You'll have to fill me in, Luke, because that guy gets awfully snarky with me whenever I'm on duty here. He really works us nurses to the bone."
"He's afraid to show who he really is to others, that's why. He doesn't want to feel like the underdog or the school nerd. Reid wants to feel in control with what he could manage and does the best he could every day."
Reid had that quality from the beginning. He had the self-confidence needed for a relationship. The only attribute he lacked was being open-armed. He was quick with witty banter, no matter who it was directed towards. He faked sincerity whenever he wanted something. All in all, how he expressed himself was just plain cold.
As he spent more time with Reid, Luke began to see the older man loosen up. At first, he'd smile but then bite it back, feigning grouchiness. Then he couldn't stop his smiles or his mirth. And Luke loved every minute of it.
So if Reid could be that independent, surely Luke could be too.
Once he was released, Luke started scouring the town for a hotel. Lily offered a room at the Lakeview, but Luke turned down the offer. He thanked her, but told her that he needed space from home. He needed to fly away from his nest.
"My little boy is growing up." Lily sobbed as she embraced her oldest son. She pulled away, beaming at him. "I'm proud of you, sweetie. I'm always proud of you. Remember that." She wagged a finger at him.
"I will, mom. I love you." Luke smiled as he bought her into his arms once more.
"And I love you too. Just be sure to take it easy. I'll be visiting everyday to check up on you." Lily informed him for he was still recovering from the crash.
Luke managed to find an apartment with a decent rent. When Reid caught wind of this current development, he assisted Luke in moving his luggage. To see Reid folding his clothes had Luke smiling. He let out a little laugh at that.
"What's so funny?"
"Oh, nothing, I just think it's cute how you fold clothes."
"No, you find it adorable how I'm folding your clothes for you."
"I stand corrected."
"You're not standing. You're lying down on the bed that I so graciously put the sheets and comforter on."
"My bad. I lye corrected then." Luke joked, chuckling.
"Aren't you just the cutest?"
"No, you are."
Reid's face scrunched up at the retort. "Do I look five to you?"
"Come on, Reid, take a compliment."
"I think of myself as many things. Cute is not one of them."
"Maybe not, but I bet prestigious is one of them. And precocious, indestructible….loving….an all-around good guy…." Luke added his opinion to the list at the end, staring at Reid with stars in his eyes. Reid looked at him and made his way over to the bed. Sitting beside Luke, holding his hand, Reid licked his lips.
"You know, Luke, I think that I should stay with you."
"I think so too, Reid."
"No, I didn't mean that. I meant that I think I should live with you. If you'll let me, that is."
This was an inquiry Luke had wanted to ask Reid ever since he went looking for an apartment. But he was too afraid to ask. His heart practically stopped beating when he heard his prayers being answered. And to think that he had spent all that time worrying about whether or not Reid would agree to it.
"I would love to live with you, Reid."
"Good. I'm glad you said that, Luke. So glad."
Reid brought a hand to Luke's face, caressing it like he would a dear treasure. He could hardly take it anymore, being alone with Luke and not touching him. "So what do you say? Are you up for it?"
"Up for what?"
"Christening these sheets?"
Luke stared at Reid, not believing that he was in that moment. It was too good to be true. He touched Reid's face and found that he wasn't dreaming. This was real. "I am." He relished the feel of Reid's finger trailing his forehead where his stitches were. The true essence of care radiated from Reid's gentle touch.
"I'll be gentle. I wouldn't want you going back to the hospital." Reid murmured.
"That'd be real inconvenient, wouldn't it?" Luke grinned, purring from underneath Reid. He pulled Reid closer to kiss him. "I love you." He could just drown in those blue eyes.
"And I love you too." Reid's stare ensured that he wouldn't ever tire of gazing into those hazel eyes.
Slowly, their lips were brought together. Their fomented bodies moved against each other, granting them entry into a world where only love and pleasure existed.
In the morning, Reid was the first to awaken from his peaceful slumber. He lay on his side, entranced by Luke's sleeping form. He looked relaxed and confined in a sweet dream. Reid smiled. "You're a sight for sore eyes, you know that?" He stroked Luke's arm, lightly, learning that he was a light sleeper.
"Reid…" Luke stared at him like he couldn't believe that they were lying together. Naked. In bed. In their own apartment.
"Why do you look so shell-shocked? Does your head hurt?"
"No, but I…I just…"
"What? Just spit it out."
"It's stupid. Forget it."
"If it's bothering you, Luke, then it's not stupid. Tell me or else I'm going to start to think that you have doubts."
"Ok…well…us being together is wonderful and everything. It's almost too perfect, you know? I fear that this might all crumple and we'll fall at the seams. Like…"
"You and Noah." Reid finished. Luke nodded, sullenly. He didn't expect Reid to kiss him. "Tell me, do you like it when I kiss you?"
"I love it…"
"Will you ever get tired of it?"
"No, definitely not."
"So? What's there to worry about? Seriously, Luke, sometimes you make the biggest deals out of the smallest things. Just because you and Noah didn't work out doesn't mean that we're destined to fail."
Luke cuddled Reid then, kissing his neck. "You're so good to me….I really appreciate you sticking through all the hard stuff what with Noah and I breaking up and everything. I'm sure that it wasn't easy for you."
"No, it was hell. But it was well worth it. Look where I am now. I just got laid by a hot rich boy. Not only am I the smartest, but the luckiest."
"I thought you weren't one to believe in luck."
"I wasn't, but I am now. We met by chance under pretty harsh circumstances, but we've found love in each other nonetheless. Science can't hold up a candle to that kind of magic."
"So the great Dr. Reid Oliver admits that I'm better than science? That makes me feel so loved."
The doorbell rang, which practically made the naked couple jump out of their skin. They sank against the pillow, despising the bad timing. "I'll get it." Luke offered, getting up.
"I think I'm going to hold a seminar one of these days. About calling before you go over someone's house." Reid mumbled as he began gathering his clothing with Luke.
"I'm right there with you, Reid." Luke said upon getting fully dressed. He jogged to the door to see… "Noah," Luke addressed.
Noah seemed out of sorts at how mussed up Luke's hair was. He has seen it that way before. The morning after they made love. "So….you two moved in together?" Noah asked in antipathy.
Like he always did when he was nervous, Luke put his hands in his pockets. He gave Noah an anxious smile. "Yeah, it turned out that way."
"Where is Dr. Oliver?"
"He's in the…"
"Bedroom rushing to get dressed," Noah finished, dryly. "I see."
"Noah, I don't know what you want me to say."
"I can't believe I really blew it. I remained ignorant to your suffering and it took me long enough to realize that it was wrong of me. When I heard about your accident, I…"
"Noah, please, I get it, ok? It's just that…I can't go back to how things were when we were happy together. I don't think either of us can at this point. All we do is hurt each other. Our relationship wasn't exactly healthy."
"That maybe true, but I learned, Luke."
"I'm sure that our time together has taught you a lot, Noah. It's taught me a lot too. At first, I thought I was the one doing everything wrong. It seemed like that to me. Before you, I wasn't so selfish. But when I'm with you, I felt selfish and to me I didn't think that was right. How I wanted Ameera to go back to her own country, not caring what happened to her, wanting you to spend more time with me when you were working on getting through school….man, I still can't forget how much that longing killed me. I learned from my mistakes. And surely you must've learned from yours."
That was when Reid walked in on the scene. "You wanted to talk to me, Noah?" He implored, folding his arms as he stood beside Luke.
"Yeah, actually, listen…Luke is a very good person." Noah started. "I couldn't treat him right. I don't want him diving headfirst into another relationship just to be hurt again. I'll personally smack you if you let that happen."
"Good advice. Now here is mine: don't smack people out of personal grievances. That's called assault, which you could serve jail time for. And trust me; you don't want to deal with the cops here. Unless you're a masochist."
"Do you rehearse this stuff or do you secretly do stand-up comedy?"
"Neither. It's a natural talent. Just like what I did when I stopped the blood clot in your brain. And the time when I got you your sight back, got you a place to live…"
"All right, I'm sorry for getting nasty with you, ok?" Noah interrupted. "That's part of the reason why I came here. I know that's pretty ungrateful of me, especially since you were the one who gave me my life back."
Reid's face scrunched up at those words. "Don't be so melodramatic. You had your life. You just chose to live it wallowing in self pity."
Before the tension could get any thicker, Luke stepped in between of them. "OK, ok. That's all in the past now. Let's all just move on." He urged, wishing those glares would dissipate.
"I see you already have." Noah stated, woefully. "And that's good. I think I'm starting to. I'm going back to school, trying my best to make up for lost time. It is pretty hard though, considering everything that happened."
"Let me tell you right now, living with this guy isn't exactly a walk in the park either." Luke joked, aspiring for some levity. "He doesn't know how to work a dishwasher. Just left the dinner on the table for me to pick up. I swear, he can't clean up after himself."
"It's tedious, washing all those dishes."
"It's not tedious. You're just too lazy to wash them yourself."
"And that's what I'm talking about. You two really are in love." Noah intervened. "I do hope that it all works out."
"Me too." Luke beamed at Reid.
"I'll go now. I have classes. Just thought that I'd stop by and settle things. I'll see you around." Then he left.
Reid looked at Luke to see that he was looking up at him. "What is it?" Luke asked.
"No, I just…I thought that you'd be upset with him leaving like that." Reid replied, a bit embarrassed at the admission of his concern.
"I am, just a little bit, but I can't always crack down under the pressure. Besides, I've got you. I'm sure Noah will find his inspiration again too and get back on track."
"So I'm your inspiration now?"
"You sure are. It'll give you something else to brag about. You know, aside from you being a genius and all of that."
Reid smiled when Luke laughed. Ever since the whole love triangle fiasco began, he didn't think that he'd have this back. He didn't think that he'd be able to be with Luke. As a lover. It made him feel foolish for deeming love to be this banal emotion that was nothing but rubbish. For now he was a believer. And he believed that he and Luke would make it through anything together.
They both did.