Written for the lureficrecourse's AU prompt #2: Reid is a book store clerk, who's helping college boy Luke do literature research for an assignment. Fast friendship occurs, and quickly turns into more.
This does have a huge chunk of exposition dealing with past Luke/Noah. If you can't stand Nuke any more, then you should hit the back button!
Disclaimer: I'm not making any money off this.
As Luke walked into the bookshop he took a deep breath and smiled as he inhaled the scent of old paper and ink. He loved this place, tucked away in downtown Chicago. Most of the students from the university frequented the campus library or the Barnes and Noble a block from the school, but not Luke. He loved the history of this place, the crooked bookshelves and the winding staircase that lead to the second level. And the fact that the new employee was smoking hot didn't hurt either.
Luke glanced at the man behind the counter, leaning against it as he read from a very old-looking book. He looked older than Luke, maybe five or six years and he was certainly the oldest employee he had seen yet. His hair seemed to change from brunette to red as he moved under the lights and Luke wondered what it looked like in sunlight. His warm brown eyes scanned the pages from behind wire-rimmed glasses and his lean form filled out the button-down shirt and slacks well. The shop was such a small place they didn't have uniforms or even name tags yet this new guy was the only one Luke had seen dress up. Mark, the dark-haired student who used to work here, always wore t-shirts and jeans. Luke never met the owner of "The Book Nook" but he liked to imagine it was a wizened old man hidden behind a tower of aging books and who collected every tome in the shop on his many adventures when he was young.
The red-haired man looked up at the tinkle of the bell that announced Luke's arrival and smiled briefly. Luke tried to return the smile but the other man had already returned to the volume in his hands. Trying not to feel put-off, Luke climbed up the staircase to the research section, dreading the project he came here to complete.
Silently Luke roamed the shelves, his fingers dancing along the spines of the newer leather-bound research aides as he searched for the right ones. Rounding the third shelf Luke let out a sigh of frustration. He hated writing, he always had. He understood more from a 300-year-old femur than he ever would from a 300-year-old man's words, but as part of his liberal education he was required to take several literature courses. Why he thought taking a class on the deeper meanings of Shakespeare was a good idea, he'll never know. But if he wanted to graduate he was going to have to suck it up and do his best. After finally finding "Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Works of Shakespeare" by Issac Asimov, one of the references guides his professor had suggested, Luke dropped his things onto the table beside a window, the midday sun filtering through and highlighting the pages as he flipped through them.
After an hour of mindless reading and note-taking, Luke shut the book with more vigor than necessary and all but threw his pencil down as well.
"And what did that book ever do to you?" A voice in the silence made Luke jump violently. He looked up to see the red-haired employee standing in front of him, looking like he was struggling not to grin at Luke's frustration. Luke had forgotten he was there.
"Sorry," he sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. "It's just, I don't understand the point of all this." He waved a hand over the various plays he had pulled out during his research and the papers scattered across the table. "I mean, if he wanted to say "I'm not going to let them bring me down," why not say that? Instead he's got to write…" Luke paused as he flipped through his copy of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and tried to ignore the smile that was growing on the other man's face. "I see their knavery: this is to make an ass of me; to fright me, if they could. But I will not stir from this place, do what they can: I will walk up and down here, and I will sing, that they shall hear I am not afraid."
Luke flung the cover shut and looked up at the man in exasperation, expecting to see sympathy in his face. Instead he saw amusement and the look of someone about to explain something to a child, which made Luke bristle slightly. He may never understand Shakespeare, but he wasn't an idiot.
"But that is what he says," the bookstore employee argued as he sat down across from Luke. "It's just that he used the English they spoke when he was alive." He reached across, turned the Asimov title so he could read it and leaned back. "What's this for anyway?"
"My Shakespeare class," Luke answered as he too leaned back into his chair. "I go to Columbia. And if I want to graduate, I have to learn this stuff. But I hated it in high school and it still confuses me now. Give me a mutilated corpse any day."
The employee made a choked noise and Luke looked up guiltily. He always forgot not everyone found his future career choice as interesting as he did. "Sorry. I'm studying forensic anthropology and I really fail to see the use of my English courses in my life unless the subject comes up at a dinner party or something."
The red-haired man grinned. "Oh, you never know. Maybe you'll need it to woo some girl or impress a future employer."
"The employer thing, possibly. But never the girl excuse." Luke paused, the next words dangling on his tongue. Why was he saying all this anyway? This guy wasn't going to remember him, Luke was sure he had much more important things on his mind. But his mouth never listened to his brain and it sure wasn't going to start now. "I'm gay. And so far all the guys I've met have not wanted to be seduced by Shakespeare."
The other man threw his head back and laughed. Luke found himself grinning, the man's amusement was infectious. "Well, small world then," he said once his laughter died down. The I'm gay too went unneeded but heard. Luke wasn't sure what to do, so he grinned a little. The red-haired man held out his hand. "I'm Reid Oliver."
"Luke Snyder," the blonde student answered, taking the outstretched limb. They both did their best to ignore the sparks that ignited when they touched. Just as he was about to ask why Reid worked here, the bell rang and Reid sprang up.
"Let me know if you need any help with that, I'm pretty good with English literature."
Luke tried not to scope Reid out as we walked away, but the back of him looked just as good as the front. Grinning to himself Luke turned back to his books. The low rumble of Reid's voice echoed throughout the otherwise silent store and Luke failed to convince himself the little shiver was caused not from the sound but from the cool air seeping through the cracked window.
The next day Luke found himself inside the bookstore once more, though he felt a little foolish. He had turned his paper in already and had no other assignments to complete for any of his classes, a rare treat. But he could barely concentrate to his professors today because he kept thinking of Reid Oliver, his kind eyes and his deep voice. So, naturally Luke came here in the hopes of seeing him again. He felt a little disappointed when he walked in and found the desk unoccupied. When a muffled, "Be right there!" in a familiar tone floated out from a back room, however, Luke brightened.
His fingers danced over book spines again, this time over volumes bursting with anthropological knowledge, his eyes pausing on every once in a while on a familiar title or author. When he saw the newest title from one of his favorite authors, a woman who spent years in the field, was one of fifty anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and has penned several murder mysteries. She was Luke's idol and he wished he would have a career as illustrious as hers, save for the book-writing part. Looking around, he realized Reid still hadn't come out so he found the nearest comfy armchair and cracked open the book.
Immersed in the story, Luke wasn't aware of the time that passed or that Reid had already come out of the storage room, a stack of books in his hands and after shooting the blonde an amused look when he didn't jump at the heavy tomes dropping from his arms to the ground, walked around the empty store shelving the newly arrived product.
The task completed, Reid stared at the college student for a moment, taking in the unguarded pleasure on his face as his eyes scanned the pages. He was different than the frustrated student who sat hunched over book after book on Shakespeare, his brows furrowed in concentration. Now he was relaxed and it made him even more handsome. Woah, wait. This kid was a customer and was more than likely not going to make coming here a habit. He probably needed more studying to do and his being here had nothing to do with Reid. Taking a deep breath to confirm that thought Reid stepped up to the chair and tapped Luke on the shoulder.
"More homework?" He asked and grinned as Luke jumped and twisted in the faux leather seat. The grin returned nearly blinded him but Reid found he didn't mind.
"Actually, I wanted to thank you for helping me and thought I'd treat you to lunch?" Luke stood as he talked, throwing the book on the chair and stuffing his hands in his pockets shyly.
"Oh," Reid stammered. "I would like that, but I can't leave the store unattended." He really hated himself as Luke's bright smile faded.
"Um, okay. Well, what if I went and got something? I'd like-I mean, if you don't mind, I'd like to get to know you better." He tugged at his ear nervously.
But, why? Reid wanted to ask, but he wasn't about to push away the guy he had somehow found himself intrigued with after only a few minutes conversation. "Sure," he said instead. "I'd like that."
And so it continued: Luke would come to the bookstore and spend hours talking to Reid, sometimes bringing food or coffee. Never did they think of going somewhere else and they never talked about what would happen when Luke graduated. Instead they talked about anything else: Luke revealed he had decided on his major after going to a seminar in high school on a whim. Reid eventually told Luke he had worked as a paralegal at a huge Chicago law firm before the police discovered the lawyers were embezzling money. Now he preferred the quiet of the bookstore. They talked about family (Reid marveled at the size of the Snyder clan, as well as the amount of drama that came with it and Luke kept secret his sympathy for Reid's lonely childhood ) and movies and book and everything that resembled private information without actually divulging their secrets.
Finally, one day Luke stormed into the store and he threw himself into an armchair. Reid, who was ringing up a customer, threw a concerned glance before finishing with the purchase. Once the tinkling bell announced they were alone, Reid approached Luke slowly and sank into the chair beside him.
"What is it?" He asked softly. Luke's head jerked up as though he hadn't noticed Reid was there and he sighed heavily.
"I never told you why I decided to transfer to Columbia," he stated with a bit of hesitation.
"Yeah, well I'd want to get out of that hellhole if I were you, too," Reid scoffed. Luke grinned.
"Just wait. I'm going to take you there someday and you are going to love it." He ignored the strange look that flashed across Reid's features and his smile slid off his face as his thoughts returned to his troubles. "Right after I graduated from high school, I interned at the television station there with my friend Maddie. We sorted through tapes, we delivered scripts, all that sort of menial stuff no one wants to do. That's where I met Noah." The reverence in Luke's voice made Reid's stomach twist uncomfortably. "He had just moved there with his father and-You know," Luke abruptly cut himself off. "This is a really long story."
Reid waved a lean hand to the empty shop around them. "I'm not exactly busy, am I?" The hand landed on Luke's resting on the arm of the chair. "Tell me," he asked softly.
Taking a deep breath, Luke began. "Noah, he was an Army brat. His dad was a big name colonel and put a lot of pressure on Noah to be a 'real man' so when he first arrived, he and Maddie got together almost instantly." Luke decided not to go into Maddie and Casey's history, it would just make this already long and painful story even worse. "But I knew from the moment I met him there was something special about him. I had just gotten over a disastrous crush on my straight best friend and I was determined not to make the same mistake again." Reid's hand tightened on Luke's, but he said nothing. "But it was like there was a magnetic pull, or something. I just couldn't stay away from him, but for Maddie's sake I did my best to ignore my feelings. There had been a few moments, though, that made me hope he felt the same way and then one day he came to the station to meet Maddie for dinner with his father and he couldn't get his tie right so I offered to help him...and, we kissed."
The smile on Luke's face made the knot in Reid's stomach tighter and he finally pulled his hand away.
"Sounds like the perfect beginning to a romance." He tried (and failed) to keep sarcasm out of his voice.
"I thought so too," Luke said sadly as his eyes focused back on the present. "Noah insisted it was nothing, a joke, and continued to hide behind the lie his father forced on him. I felt bad for him, I knew what it was like to hate who you were, so I tried to help him. Eventually I wore him down," he chuckled slightly. "And he finally admitted to himself, and his dad that he was gay."
"And how did Captain America take it?" Reid asked, dread filling the back of his throat though he didn't know why.
"We thought he took it well, he even invited us to go camping with him so we could all get to know each other better. We thought he was a father who had finally accepted his son for who he was." He shook his head. "Turned out Col. Mayer was a homophobic with a gun."
The dread filled Reid's mouth and he almost choked on it. Luke took his hand, sat on the edge of the chair and placed his hand on the skin of his lower back. Reid could feel a knot of tissue. "Shit," he breathed as Luke dragged the hand to follow the scar that striped up his back. He tried very hard not to gulp at the sensation of Luke's skin beneath his fingertips.
"I thought I would never walk again," Luke said softly, his breath warm on Reid's cheek. He leaned back yet kept a grip on Reid's hand. "But with Noah's help I could, and I did by Thanksgiving. His father went to jail, of course, and it tore Noah apart. But I never blamed him, I couldn't. It wasn't his fault. I loved him."
Reid squeezed Luke's hand slightly and the blonde man returned it before continuing. "About a month or so later a woman shows up saying she knew Noah's father, that when he was in the Middle East he befriended her mother and helped her family in every way he could. Said she was like the father she never had and that he had made it possible for her to come to America. Only she hadn't heard from him since she arrived because by that time he was locked up. Ameera said he had told her to find Noah if she couldn't find him and needed help."
"What did she want?"
"Her green card was expiring and she needed a way to stay in the country. Her student visa was being processed but ICE was coming down on her and she didn't know what to do. So, Noah offered to marry her."
"I'm sorry, what?"
Luke flashed a grim smile. "He figured he owed her for taking his father from her so he decided to marry her to keep her in the country until her student visa went through. And, because ICE was watching her like a hawk, it meant he and I were going to have to hide our relationship. At least, that's what he wanted but I had spent too long helping him out of the closet just to be shoved back in. And to be honest, I still worried he was going to wake up one day and realize he wasn't gay and return to his old life. So, I protected myself and broke up with him. Told him I wasn't going to stand by and watch him marry someone else, even if he didn't believe in it. It broke my heart, but I knew it would have been worse had I stayed. So, I used my grandmother's connections and got myself the fastest transfer in all educational history," he laughed bitterly.
Reid sat back, releasing Luke's hand, mulling over the story for a moment. "Well," he finally said, "I would say I'm sorry but if you hadn't left him we never would have met." Luke blushed. "But that doesn't explain why you came in here in a huff," Reid finished.
The blonde student leaned forward and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. "Noah sent me an email letting me know Ameera was actually working with his father to break us up and that she and the colonel lured him to New York before almost getting him kidnapped. Luckily he had called in a favor from a general who had stood up for us in front of the colonel and got him to bring some special ops. They captured both the colonel and Ameera and took them to have a trial conducted by the Army. Noah wants to get back together," he finished quietly.
The knot that never left Reid's stomach twisted so hard he might be sick. He had come to treasure Luke's friendship and knew he wanted it to be something more. After hearing all this, however, he had no doubt Luke was going to run back to the man he loved. "Do you want that?" He heard someone ask before realizing it was him.
Luke stared at him steadily. "No," he said eventually, firmly. "There's someone else in my life now I'd rather be with."
Reid thought he might actually throw up. Luke had met someone else? Had been with someone else when he walked out those doors? "Oh? Who is it?" He hoped he only sounded pathetic to his own ears.
Luke gave him an incredulous look before laughing. "You!" He cried. "It's you." He leaned forward and Reid was unable to stop himself from doing the same. "I want to be with you," Luke whispered before covering Reid's mouth with his own and within the safety of the silent books and dust floating lazily in the sunlight, they fell in love.
Let me know what you think!