Title: The Tin Man's Heart
Rating: T (mild language)
Spoilers: Through the end of the show
Disclaimer: I do not own As The World Turns. I'm just borrowing the characters to fix what the writers messed up.
Summary: This fills in some major gaps at the end of the Luke/Reid storyline.
Author's Notes: I was unsatisfied with the way Reid's death was handled. Actually, I'm pretty ticked they killed off my favorite character. There was only one week left on the show. Was it too much to ask that TPTB not kill anyone else?
X X X
Letting out a shuddering breath, Luke Snyder tried to place the DVD in the player, only to find he trembled so hard that the disk slipped from his hand. He barely heard Dr. Bob Hughes, chief of medicine at Memorial Hospital come up from behind, and bend to retrieve the disk from where it landed. Stunned, shaking with grief, and finally moving beyond days of perpetual numb into a future filled with horrific pain, the young philanthropist didn't move until Bob gently gripped his elbow and guided him back to a chair.
"Sit, Luke," he gently said. The young man sank down as the white haired physician slid the disk into the player and turned on the television.
Luke didn't so much as glance up, instead hanging his head and staring at the floor. It didn't register when Bob took the seat next to him. Nor did he even recognize the existence of the group of people around him, huddled in attorney Tom Hughes' office, although he knew they were there. It seemed everyone was in the lawyer's office, from Luke's parents to Bob and Kim Hughes to Katie Snyder. Chris Hughes wasn't there, though.
No, Chris wouldn't be there because he was in a room in another part of the hospital, recovering from the heart transplant. The heart…
It shouldn't have been a surprise when the middle-aged attorney had handed Luke a disk and told him it was his boyfriend's last will and testament. Yet it did, so much so that Luke found himself paralyzed. One more proof of death.
Proof that Dr. Reid Oliver, arrogant ass, brilliant neurosurgeon, and love of his life would never again walk through the door with a frown or a grin or a roll of his eyes. Proof that he'd never get to hear another intern or nurse mutter something about the "heartless Boy Wonder."
The lump rising in Luke's throat threatened to choke him; but as the humming in his brain receded, he became more aware of his mother's gaze on his back. The last thing he wanted to do was deal with her right now, so he dare not make a sound. In fact, he didn't want to be around anyone, and they didn't seem to get it. That every damn time one of them asked him if he was okay, he wanted to rail against them and yell, "What the hell do you think?"
So he held in the threatening tears. Until he heard the whir of the DVD player. And then that voice… that beautiful voice.
The quick sob escaped and Luke's head snapped up, so that he stared into sea blue eyes and a smirk.
"Well, damn, looks like I'm dead," Reid said from his stool on the television. Grinning wryly, he added, "I hope to hell I went out with a bang and not like an idiot. It wouldn't do to have a certified genius like me die in a pathetic manner."
Luke couldn't help the quick grin at the man he missed so very much. Even recorded, his essence came across loud and clear.
Then Luke recognized the shirt and slacks the doctor wore and frowned. Reid had worn those clothes just a couple days before the accident. The disk must've been made that day; and from the backdrop, probably in the corner of this very office. At the sound of Reid's voice, though, Luke shook away the morbidity of the timing and focused on Reid's face.
"So, Tom told me this was totally legal, and if I'm going to go out, I want to do it with a little style and less boring than a piece of paper. That said, this is my last will and testament," he announced, sitting up straight and looking serious. "What I bequeath on here is legal and binding."
He ruined the serious moment by absent-mindedly pulling a small bag of candy out of his pocket, ripping it open, and popping a piece in his mouth without ever taking his eyes off the camera.
As he chewed, he began, "The long and the short of it is that I don't have a lot. Finally got the medical school loans paid off a few years back, and I've been investing my money. Since no one I care about actually needs the money, I think I'm going to give it to Memorial."
With his trademark half-grin, Reid snorted and said, "Don't go spending it just yet, though. I want it to go to a pediatrics station in the new neuro wing."
Luke took a moment to glance over at the aging chief of staff. Pride swelled in the young man's chest when Bob nodded wordlessly, openly accepting of Reid's terms. Those two may have had their ups and downs, but the foundation of respect always remained firm. Even now. Especially now, after Reid's sacrifice had saved the life of Bob's son, Chris.
"There are a couple of things I want to give to individuals, though," Reid continued, popping another piece of candy in his mouth. At this point, however, the doctor had had enough of the formality and slumped a little, popping one candy after another.
"Katie, I have some books from when I was a little boy. I'd like Jacob to have them," Reid said, referring to the young widow's baby son. "They were handed down in my family. Treasure Island was always my favorite."
Sniffling, Katie leaned back in her chair and softly said, "I can't imagine Reid ever reading an adventurer's tale."
Luke only needed to close his eyes, though, in order to see Reid doing just that. In his mind's eye, he could see a boy without the wall of defenses. He could see the child that longed for adventure as every boy does, whether he seeks it in life or through words. Then again, he was one of the few who ever truly saw the loneliness in the man, and the hurt child beneath it all.
Crumpling the empty candy wrapper, after tossing back the last couple pieces, Reid stuffed it back in his pocket, and continued, "Bob, I have an extensive collection of medical texts. They'd be a good addition to the hospital library." He paused for effect before sighing and adding, "I suppose, if Doogie ever learns to read big words, he'll be able to use them, too."
"Geez," Luke muttered under his breath. Even dead, Reid found a way to insult Chris Hughes, his friendly arch-nemesis. Doogie Hughes. The barbs and insults had only gotten worse over time, as Chris had begun dating Katie, Reid's best friend.
"Okay, I suppose that brings me to the only other person I really wanna leave anything to," Reid said with a nonchalant shrug.
Staring up into Reid's eyes, Luke's breath hitched as sea deepened to sapphire. For the slightest moment, he wanted to reach up and run his fingers across the cheek of the man on the screen, whether he was real or not. But he found himself immobilized; held in place by the piercing gaze.
"Luke," Reid murmured, his lips turning up and his angular face softening.
And there, in that smile, Luke found the man he loved; the man who would babble uncontrollably when nervous or turn shy in the face of insecurities. The real Reid Oliver.
"Luke, most wouldn't consider it much, but I guess what I'm giving you is… me," he said, his small, genuine smile giving proof to his happiness – a rare sight. "I finally understood everything at two o'clock this morning, as I lay awake thinking of you. Us. It may be corny, but I'm a better man because of you."
Feeling his chest begin to burn with grief, Luke rubbed away the moisture obscuring his view.
"I never thought anyone would want me the way you do. Never really thought I was all that loveable," Reid added with a self-deprecating grimace, and giving voice to his fears. "To most, I guess I'm not. I know I don't do well with people. They don't do well with me. So I keep 'em far far away. Then you came along. Can't say no to you. Not now, not ever."
The intensity in Reid's eyes increased, as he continued to stare seemingly right into Luke. "I never knew loving someone could feel like this, either. But then again, I've never really been in love before. Bet you never thought you'd hear me say that, huh?"
Under his breath, he muttered, "Now I gotta stop being a coward and tell you in real life."
With a shrug, Reid smiled wide, sat up straight, and barked a laugh before saying, "I'm such a sap."
Then, as abruptly as Reid appeared on screen, he disappeared and the video just stopped.
The dam that had held back the worst of the grief broke, and Luke finally understood why his parents were there. Leaning forward, he braced his arms on his legs, bowed his head, and wept.
Sobs racked his body over and over, and his parents wrapped their arms comfortingly around him, leaning over and rocking with him.
X X X
A couple of years later, Luke smiled as he watched Jacob run by in all his naked glory. The three-year-old had once again escaped the clutches of his mother, stripped bare, and gone darting out the door before anyone could stop him. Streaking. Again.
Chuckling, Luke threw out an arm and swept the child up, depositing the kid on his lap. From his place at the base of an apple tree, he waited. He knew a frantic Katie would be soon to follow, and she was, looking harried and tired. Like a new, sleepless mother, holding a newborn in her arms.
"Take him," she muttered, swooping a giggly child up with one arm as she deposited the baby with the other, leaving a speechless Luke staring unbelievably at her retreating form. "I'll be back once I get this one dressed."
With that hassled statement, she rolled her eyes and headed into the house with a squealing and squirming child trying to escape.
It surprised Luke when Chris sank down and settled next to him in the shade. He hadn't heard the physician approach.
"You look like crap," Luke said, grinning at Katie's husband. "You should rest."
It had taken the young blond over a month to bring himself to see the recipient of Reid's heart. He hadn't been able to so much as visit Katie's home in all that time, because memories would flood back and he'd feel that cold steel blade in his belly. Finally, though, he'd forced himself to make that trip, and he'd stood hesitantly on her doorstep. Then Katie had opened the door and Luke had stepped through.
The first of many steps in healing.
Just as his mind had wandered away, Luke's thoughts snapped back and his breath hitched when he asked Chris, "Is it your heart? Is there something wrong?"
Katie's husband laid a hand on Luke's shoulder, smiling gently and hating that the young man worried so much. "No. The heart's fine. It's just that between the baby and the cold I've been nursing, I'm feeling run down."
At Luke's skeptical look, he added, "I even had my cardiologist check me over this morning, just in case."
The furrowing of Luke's brow faded and he smiled easily, as he always had and always would. Glancing down, he watched the baby in his arms shift a little, raising a hand and staring unblinkingly.
"He's so beautiful," he murmured, tipping his head to kiss the downy head.
"Yeah, he is," Chris agreed with an air of pride and a hint of hesitation. When Luke looked up at the baby's father questioningly, Chris laid a hand on his shoulder and said, "I want to ask you to do something for me. I want you to be the baby's godfather."
Surprised, Luke smiled, feeling confused at the turn of events, and when he didn't say anything, Chris glanced up to see Katie approach and crouch down in front of them.
With one hand on Luke, he held out a hand to his wife, and turned his gaze back to Luke.
"We want to name you his godfather next week, when we christen him Reid Oliver Hughes," he clarified.
Luke couldn't find the words, as his eyes misted and then formed droplets that slid down his cheeks. A couple months ago, he would have never thought he could be this happy. Gazing down into the face of the newest generation, though, he grinned, before looking up at Katie's smile.
"Yeah, I could do that," he finally conceded, his grin widening. Dropping his voice, he bent his head and gently said, "Hello, Reid. I'm Luke."
Closing his eyes, he thought of blue eyes and curly hair, and smiled. This little one wouldn't be here if not for his namesake. Inhaling the smell of baby powder, he whispered, "I have a tale to tell you, Reid. It has romance and intrigue, adventure and drama. It's the most amazing story of them all."
Glancing up, he caught Katie's misty grin and said, "It's the story of the Tin Man's heart."