Title: Building the Legacy
Spoilers: Through the end of the show
Disclaimer: I don't own ATWT. I'm just borrowing the characters.
Summary: Luke prepares for the dedication of the Reid Oliver Neurology Center.
Author's Note: This is another story focusing on the post-series end. It's been a couple weeks and I'm still ticked they killed Reid. I hope you enjoy.
X X X
"Are you ready?" Dr. Bob Hughes asked, sauntering into Luke Snyder's office in the new neurology wing. Directly behind the former Chief of Staff, his son, Dr. Chris Hughes followed. A year ago, back in what Luke preferred to call the 'dark days,' Chris had taken over as co-Chief of Staff, taking Bob's place. Since neither Chris nor Dr. John Dixon (the other co-Chief of Staff) had wanted to be solely responsible for the job, they shared it.
Both physicians, however, had stepped aside and allowed Bob to hold the reins on the new wing of Memorial Hospital. They knew the newly retired doctor would be in a better position to handle the young man who worked so hard to get the project off the ground and see it through to completion.
So what if it had taken an extra two months? So what if additions had been made and the design modified with an additional pouring of funds into the construction?
No one could look Luke in the eye and tell him to do things differently, without seeing the anguish he felt at the loss of Dr. Reid Oliver. So long as he didn't stray too far from the practical, the oversight committee stayed out of his way.
That was how he found himself with his office in the new wing, overlooking the pediatric playroom. This neurology wing had been Reid's brainchild. His dream. One shared with his young love, who currently stared through the wall of glass in his office and into the room across the hall that held a plethora of colorful toys. This had been just one of those few changes Luke had insisted upon – wanting to be able to see the life of this place every day he worked here. Only vertical blinds provided a layer between the outside world and the primary sponsor of the Reid Oliver Neurological Center.
Even now, nearly a year and a half later, his throat tightened and his face flushed with grief. But today wasn't a day for that, and Reid would be pissed if he caught Luke crying. So he drew in a shaky breath, exhaled slow, and smiled.
"This place… it's a good thing," he said. "Reid would be proud of it."
"I'd like to think he would," Bob concurred. "We should go. The opening is going to begin soon."
Pushing back the sadness that settled into him, Luke smiled at the nurses who nodded their encouragement. All the stations were ready. The neurologist they'd hired to head the center had arrived a few days before. Everyone was eager for the dedication and the planned festivities. It was going to be a hell of a day.
With food. Lots and lots of food.
As the doors to the elevator slowly slide closed, Luke's mind began to drift. He knew, without a doubt, that he would be okay. Over a year ago, he hadn't been so sure.
X X X
It was ironic. They'd never been lovers, although they'd loved – deeply and wholly.
Yet every time Luke closed his eyes, he could taste Reid's lips, smell his unique scent, and feel the neurosurgeon's hand on him. Sure, when they'd been learning each other, becoming aware of how deeply they loved, he'd fantasized. But a month after Reid's death, Luke's nocturnal mind had begun turn to the intimacies between the men, and he'd wake up shaking. Sometimes from the rush of aching desire that would never be satisfied, but more often than not from the agony of knowing they would never have those days. Those years. Those decades.
So he began working himself to the point of exhaustion, afraid to close his eyes. While it might not be healthy, it kept him sane. And since he avoided going home out of fear of his mother noticing, he avoided people.
Until the day he snapped.
It had been the last straw for his parents, Lily and Holden, when he called Thanksgiving evening to inform them he wouldn't be coming. That he needed to work. That had been his plan, along with avoiding spending time with anyone with a pulse for awhile. Luke had hit a wall, and he couldn't handle being around others.
Alarms went off within Lily, and she frantically sent Holden and Jake Snyder to retrieve their missing child, with orders to not return to the farm without him.
Jake hadn't expected it to be an issue, until they arrived at Luke's office. What they found floored him. He'd had no idea his young cousin had sunk so far into the depths of his grief.
They found him reviewing contracts and schedules, circling the table with the scale model of the neuro wing, muttering to himself. Around and around the table, the young blond stalked, weaving from the exhaustion written across his features, and becoming frantic over something he kept looking at in a file.
Luke didn't even notice their arrival, he was so lost in thought, desperation etching deeper into his face with every turn around and around.
Deep smudges under the young man's eyes and gaunt expression gave Luke a haunted look when he finally realized others were in the room. With one last look at all the figures and schedules, he gave Holden a wobbly smile and his voice had cracked when he rasped, "It's gotta be perfect, Dad."
The changes in his young cousin shocked Jake, and he ached at the pain he saw on Luke's face. He hadn't realized how hard the young man had taken the loss. Then again, he'd not really known Dr. Reid Oliver, neurosurgeon extraordinaire. He'd just heard rumors, and those usually included words like ass and arrogant.
Holden calmly wrapped his arm around Luke, forcing his son to pause; and in a flash, the young man sank against his father.
"He wouldn't want this," Holden calmly said, propping his son up and leading him slowly out of the office. "He wouldn't want you to hurt so bad."
Together, Jake and Holden got Luke buckled into the backseat of the car, and took him home to the farm. Thanksgiving wouldn't happen for Luke that year. It couldn't, with him sinking deeper and deeper into a depressive grief. By the time they arrived at the family gathering, Holden's son had lost the will to move. Propping him up, Holden and Jake guided him into the house.
Had Luke not been in the process of collapsing, he would've seen the look of utter horror on his grandmother's face, and the tears in his mother's eyes. Instead, Holden swept him up like a child, carried him into the recesses of the house, and gently put his son to bed.
For the first time in months, Luke slept.
X X X
The elevator coming to a stop shook Luke from his reverie. He found it hard to believe that had just been over a year ago, when he'd collapsed so completely. Others had stepped up. Stepped in. Helped.
A lot had changed since then.
Inhaling deep, he smiled. For one, they taught him to breathe again. To live again.
Glancing at Bob and Chris, his smile widened and he genuinely said, "I don't think I've thanked you for all you've done."
"We all have a vested interested in this wing," Bob replied. He might've continued, had Chris not laid a hand on his father's shoulder.
"That's not what he's saying," the young physician quietly said, looking at Luke. Of everyone, Chris understood better and more deeply the sacrifices made. When word had spread how deeply the young philanthropist had fallen into grief, it had been Chris who had become his unlikely champion. "And you never have to thank me, Luke."
"I hope you understand that under that enormous ego, Reid liked you," Luke quietly replied, his face softening. "He gave you a pet name, and he only gives those to people he likes."
That got a laugh out of Chris, who looked at Luke incredulously and asked, "Doogie is a name of affection?"
Quirking up one corner of his mouth, Luke thought about the times they'd been making out on the couch, or necking in the car, or just hanging out in an office, and Reid had referred to him as "Blondie." But his favorite would always be the way the doctor's voice would drop, and he'd thickly say, "Mr. Snyder," drawing it out like a caress.
"Uh… yeah," Luke replied, suddenly wanting to escape in embarrassment. He could feel his face flush with the memories bubbling up to the surface and knew, without a doubt, that his heart was hammering.
As soon as the doors swept open, the young man escaped, lost in memory and grinning.
Following sedately behind, Chris marveled at the changes in the younger man. As he headed toward the lobby, his mind drifted back to the previous New Years. Oh yes, a lot had changed, and so much for the better.
X X X
They'd come to talk to him and Katie in the middle of the night. Christmas night.
"Holden! Lily!" Chris happily exclaimed when he answered the door. With his trademark dimpled grin, he opened the door wide and watched with curiosity as the couple made their way into the house.
Awkwardly, they looked at one another, then at Chris, and Katie who'd finally emerged from the bedroom.
"What's wrong with Luke?" she asked. Because unlike Chris, who Luke had been avoiding since that one time he'd gone to see a month after Reid's death, Katie saw the young philanthropist regularly. Of everyone there, she understood his loss. His grief. His despair.
Luke had been there for her when she'd lost her husband. The biggest difference had been that Brad had left behind the greatest gift – their son. A reminder of their life and love. A child to bring up in the memory of his father.
"We don't know what to do anymore," Lily said, fear and anxiety written across her face.
When she opened her mouth to speak again, no words came out. She wrapped her arm around Holden's and buried her face in his shoulder, who continued in her stead.
"He won't talk," he explains. "He goes about his day, constantly smiling. He's kind, he's compassionate, he's everything you expect him to be."
"So?" Chris asks, confused. Why would they worry if their son seemed to be adjusting?
"He shouldn't be," Katie quietly said, her eyes misting. "He should be falling apart. The holidays are so hard alone. It's so much harder when you've lost the one person you really want to spend them with."
"Want me to talk to him?" Chris asked Holden, whose face visibly relaxed.
"We'd appreciate it."
X X X
"Earth to Chris," Luke said, waving his hand in front of the doctor, and breaking him away from the memory. "You looked a million miles away."
Wryly, he replied, "I was. I was thinking about last year, when I tracked you down on New Years Eve."
The physician had to laugh when Luke's face turned pink with embarrassment. Sure, they could laugh about it now. It hadn't been so funny then, though.
"I still can't believe I kissed you," Luke muttered, looking down. He reminded Chris of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Bob, standing off to the side, turned to face the two men and listen with interest. It had been after the New Years Eve party at Memorial that Luke had begun to change; that he'd begun to shed his grief.
"Hey, I can't believe you punched me," Chris retorted, making Bob's brows shoot up in surprise. When Luke didn't reply, Chris laid a hand on his friend's shoulder and quietly said, "I never realized how angry you were. Or how angry I was."
"Some days it still bubbles up," Luke admitted. "Some days, when I least expect it, I'm so angry at him for playing Doctor Perfect. Some days I'm angry with you for making him feel so responsible. And then some days, I'm angry with myself for wasting so much of the time we had."
Seeing Luke's mood begin to slip, Chris squeezed Luke's shoulder, snorted a laugh, and said, "Still can't believe you kissed me."
Grinning, the younger man replied, "Hey, you're the one that told me to do to you what I wanted to do to Reid." Shrugging, he mildly said, "So I punched you. Then I kissed you."
And he had. When Chris had goaded him for nearly an hour to do something, pushing Luke harder and harder to stop being so damn fake, the young man had snapped. The final straw had come when Chris had sneered, "If you really wanna show Reid what you're feeling, then use me. Pretend I'm that bastard and just use me."
One second, Luke had been vibrating with anger. The next, his knuckles stung from where he'd slammed his fist into Chris's shoulders. With his eyes closed, the smaller man had pulled the physician up off the ground, and given in to the raw need to feel that had been eating at him like a virus. He'd gripped Chris's shirt tightly in both fists and kissed him. For just a second, he pretended it was Reid, and he lost himself. It only lasted a moment, with Luke weeping as Chris wrapped him up in his arms. But he'd been able to do the one thing he'd not had enough time to do the day of the accident. That day existed as a blur even now. It had all been too fast.
"I got to really say goodbye," Luke said, smiling at the memory. Feeling just a little impish, though, he waggled his eyebrows at Chris and said, "Besides, you didn't seem to mind."
"Probably because I went into shock," Chris muttered with a pout, although his eyes twinkled with humor.
The trio of men had just entered the expansive, two-story lobby of the neurology wing. At the sight, Luke sucked in a surprised breath, stopping in his tracks. He hadn't been down here in days, primarily opting to take the elevator closer to his office. The lobby's finishing touches hadn't been done.
"Are you okay?" Bob quietly asked, coming up to flank the young man.
Was he? Luke wondered. Most of the time, he got along just fine, although he still slipped now and again. The past year had been full of revelations, mostly about himself. It turned out he was stronger than anybody thought. Funny, Reid had seen that in him. Had even told him so. That night, after shoving Chris hard against the wall, he'd let loose the rage he'd held so close.
Who knew pretty boy Luke Snyder had such unexpected depths?
"Yeah, Bob, I'm good," he honestly replied. Looking around, he noticed the people who began to pour in through the doors, walk up the aisles, and find their seats. Taking a glance at his watch, he got hit with a sudden case of nerves. Ten minutes until the dedication.
There was one thing he really needed to do first.
"I'll be right back," he said, excusing himself. He wasn't going far, though, and could feel the eyes of those arriving on him as he made his way over to the corner of the lobby.
Surrounded by glass, he looked back, caught the eyes of his family, and smiled. Then he faced the corner where six-inch glass cubes were stacked from floor to ceiling of the two-story room. Lights from below and above mixed with the light from outside, making the blocks swirl with light, and Luke smiled.
"It turned out great, Reid," he murmured, reaching out to touch a block at shoulder height. It had taken him a long time to decide not to place a plaque or etch anything into it. In some ways it made it all the more intimate; because only those who knew the man would know in which cube Reid's last remaining ashes had been placed.
"It's beautiful," Lily murmured, standing behind her son as she watched him run his fingertips reverently over the glass. "Reid would be proud."
Groaning, Luke turned his head, and said, "No, he'd be puffed up and berating everyone for their idiocy and ineptitude."
"Well, true," she replied, chuckling. "But he'd be sneaking glances at you the entire time."
As a comfortable silence descended amidst the general hum of the room, Luke felt his mother wrap her arms around his waist, hug him from behind, and murmur, "I'm going to go sit with your father. You take your time."
When Lily drew away, Luke knew how hard it was for her to do so. It seemed like the first six months after Reid had died, all the woman had done was fret, and often rightly so. He'd never been a good one for handling grief, pain, and fear. Her solution in the past would have been to have Noah talk to him. Not once since he'd left had she mentioned Noah's name, though. It was as if she'd been afraid to push her son away even farther.
It would probably surprise her to know how much help Noah had given when Luke had needed that last little push to move on. The young film director couldn't make it to the dedication, although he'd called Luke to wish him the best.
Thinking of his friend, Luke let his mind drift in these last few minutes. Funny, but the last time he and Noah had seen each other had been right here.
X X X
"Your mom told me I might be able to find you here," Noah said as he walked through the steel framing of the lobby. Temporary plastic sheets hang from the massive two-story face, keeping out the spring rains that evening.
"The upper floors are being wired. A few changes are being implemented. I wanted to check on the lobby," Luke explained. Giving his friend a tired smile, he wryly added, "I may have been the cause of many of those last minute changes." Then the blond switched gears, as he was apt to do, and asked, "How are things going with your film?"
"Good," Noah replied. "We're nearly done with the editing."
Not knowing what to say, an uncomfortable silence settled, at least on Noah's part, until he asked, "Are you healing?"
In that question, both men knew there lay another question: Are you ready to be with me?
Sighing, Luke turned around, sank down and sat Indian-style, and laid his hand between two thin support beams that ran from floor to ceiling, with a gap in between. He tried to think of what he wanted – no, needed – to say to Noah. And he waited for his former lover to join him, both of them facing the corner with the massive lobby behind them.
"Part of Reid's ashes were placed here," Luke quietly explained, patting the ground where he'd personally laid them down. Smiling sadly, he looked at Noah and continued, "A few months ago, part of me wanted to be buried with him under all this steel."
His face softened, though, as he thought of the strides he'd taken in finding himself amongst the chaotic grief. So much had changed. So many boundaries pushed.
"The holidays were hard on me," he added. "They brought out feelings even I wasn't aware I'd buried. I hadn't realized how deep I'd gone into that pit, until I had to claw my way out. Luckily, I had a hell of a lot of help."
Pausing, he tried to find the words to explain what had finally lifted the perpetual shroud of grief. Rubbing his hand on the concrete, he thought of the progress he'd made in his healing and said, "I was working late down here with an engineer, arguing about the placement of one of the electrical panels, when it suddenly occurred to me… Reid would be supremely ticked off with me."
"I don't understand. Why?" Noah asked, genuinely curious.
"Because for all his faults – his inability to be civil, his arrogance – he cared about people. He loved me," Luke explained. "He'd call me an idiot for letting myself drown in my feelings."
"A true paradox," Noah replied. At Luke's baffled expression, he explained, "Because I have no doubt Reid loved your passion. I certainly do."
"Well, that's when I snapped out of it, I guess," Luke said, trying to figure out how to handle Noah's last statement. Then it came to him. He hadn't really snapped out of it. He'd grown. In the last year and a half, he'd shed the remnants of boyhood; a process he'd begun when he first met Reid.
"When you and I were together, I couldn't imagine ever being apart," he said, gazing at his ex-boyfriend. "You were the first boy I really loved. Not just a crush. Love. And that's not something I'll ever forget."
"I hear a 'but' in there," Noah replied, giving Luke a sad, but encouraging smile to continue.
"But when I met Reid… it was like my world opened up," Luke murmured. And it had. In the months he'd known and eventually loved the neurologist, he'd changed. Instead of seeing the world revolving around himself, his family, and his town, he'd been drawn into a world outside of his own. He'd found himself yearning to go beyond the borders of his small city, even following Reid to Dallas when needed.
"I would've followed him anywhere," Luke said, feeling the absolute truth of that statement reverberate through his marrow. His heart swelled, though, when he added, "But he would have never dreamed of taking me away from here – taking me away from my family."
"Unlike me," Noah said, as slow realization sank in. Even now, he wanted to gather Luke up and take him home to L.A.
"Don't ever doubt that I'll always love you," Luke said, standing, reaching down, and pulling Noah to his feet. With their hands intertwined, he smiled at the dark-haired man who would always hold a special place in his heart.
X X X
The screeching sound of the microphone coming to life brought Luke back to the present. Running his fingertips across the glass cube once again, he smiled, turned, and realized he must have really been lost in the past. The room, which had just barely begun to fill moments before overflowed with people. Standing room only.
Sauntering over, he climbed the steps of the small, temporary platform to stand beside Chris, and Chris's co-Chief of Staff, Dr. John Dixon. It had been agreed upon that John would open the ceremony, and Luke would give the dedication.
From his seat, he listened as John began. "Ladies and gentlemen, we at Memorial Hospital would like to thank you for coming…"
Luke stopped listening to John about ten words into the speech. In his mind, he could see Reid rolling his eyes and getting fidgety. In fact, he had no problem visualizing the man he loved stalking off the stage in search of a snack, or just hauling out a bag of popcorn and treating the whole affair like entertainment.
Just as John's bland speech ended to a smattering of applause and murmurs from the audience, Luke began to rise, only to find Chris's hand on his shoulder, holding him down. Much to his surprise, the doctor smiled and said, "There's been a change in plans. I'll be taking it from here."
Chris approached the podium, leaving a bewildered Luke to watch, too stunned to contradict. All he could do was listen.
"Two years ago, not even the dream of this place existed," the doctor said as the room silenced. In the quiet, he continued, "One year ago, this place not only existed in our dreams, but was coming to fruition. Not because of one man, but two. Luke Snyder and Reid Oliver."
To his surprise, Luke watched Chris pick up the microphone from its holder on the podium and turn sideways, so he half faced both him and the audience.
"Luke, while you have dedicated so much of yourself to this building in Reid's memory, I don't ever want you to forget just how much he will always mean to all of us," Chris explained. Then the doctor pulled a piece of paper out of his suit pocket.
"Sarah Cohen," he read, and Luke watched in confusion as a young woman rose and approached the front of the stage. "Alexander Drake." A middle-aged man too approached.
On the third name, Luke suddenly realized what Chris had done. What they all had done. Because looking into the face of a teenage boy, he saw Reid's eyes.
As tears poured down his face, he listened to Chris's names and watched the recipients of Reid's organs approach, one after another, as applause began to thunder through the room. Then the doctor stuffed the paper back in his pocket, gave Luke a watery smile, and announced one last name, "Christopher 'Doogie' Hughes."
Luke barked a laugh at Reid's nickname for Chris and wiped the tears away with the back of his hand. He might as well not have bothered, though, because Chris brought them all back in a flash. Into the microphone, the doctor made one last statement, ignoring the standing ovation behind him.
The recipients all turned to face Luke and applaud the man on the stage when he said, "This building isn't Reid's legacy. We are."