Luke strolls into Java, whistling an unknown tune. "Isn't it a beautiful day?" His change jingles into the tip jar. The employee glances over Luke's shoulder. She shrugs, afraid to contradict the high tipper. It's about to thunderstorm and the Oakdale residents are scurrying about. Business must be finished before the rain paralyzes everyone. The town is so much quieter during a storm. Everyone huddles together and waits for the pitterpatter of rain to quiet. Only a few of the brave venture through the streets.
Luke strokes his coffee mug, waiting for it to cool. Steam coils upward and around his fingers. Ten minutes go by. He takes a sip of coffee and it scalds his tongue. With nothing in front of him to distract him, Java becomes overwhelmingly small. People crowd into booths and some shout out orders. Luke almost wishes he were at home watching the Cubs. He scans the crowd repeatedly. Thirty more minutes have passed and his coffee has now cooled completely. He can't bear to look at his watch any longer. Luke stuffs it in his back pocket, but the ticking metal still haunts him.
An employee passes by, plopping down a muffin in front of Luke. "On the house, kid. So many people in here we've run out of the specialty blend. Sorry I can't refill your order."
He thanks her and waves her away. A lone figure is barely visible, trekking toward Java. Every so often a violent wind slams rain into him. He wields a white umbrella engulfed in the tackiest floral print Luke has ever seen. Lime green roses have never looked so cheap.
Doctor Reid Oliver marches into Java, trying to retain his dignity as he brushes off small puddles of water on his clothing. He ditches the flowery umbrella and sidles pas the mobbed tables to Luke, who sits at his favorite spot by the window. "Hello," he blurts out. "I couldn't find my beeper, and then Jacob started crying, so I couldn't just—"
Luke stands and Reid freezes mid-sentence. "I—oh—I'm sorry." He looks down at the crumbled napkins. Several muffins have fallen victim to Luke's whining stomach by now.
"It's fine. You made it. That's all that matters." Luke buries him in a hug. "Oh, geez, you're soaked. That silly umbrella didn't help much, huh?" He stifles a laugh. "Stylish. I guess they don't lecture on fashion sense at med school."
Reid smiles sheepishly. "That atrocious umbrella is Katie's. I couldn't find mine, and I didn't want to be late…."
"Failed on both accounts. Wet and late. Well, we can fix the first one. Want to come back to my place?"
"A less crowded place would be nice. But isn't your grandmother still living with you?"
"She's going to visit family in Pennsylvania all this week with my mother." It doesn't take any more convincing for Reid to don his coat again. The two crowd under the flimsy umbrella during the mad dash to Reid's car.
After the fiasco at the hospital, Reid had a hard time convincing any rental company in Oakdale to let him drive a shiny new car. The only one they could spare was a teensy VW Bug—not even big enough for Reid's ego. The rusting hippie car sputters along the streets, which are quickly looking more and more like a disaster zone.
Reid pulls into the Snyder's driveway and tosses the umbrellas over to Luke. "Better make a run for it." Why couldn't the Snyders be like most arrogant rich people and have a garage? At least then they wouldn't be sopping wet. He yanks the keys out of the ignition and sprints to the porch awning before Luke can protest. Luke hops out of the car and hustles over, and then they're inside. For a moment, it is just the two of them in the dark, with the rain pouring down outside. The living room is hushed and all the furniture colors are muted from the lack of light. Luke can see Reid clearly, though he doesn't need to. By now he has stroked his curly hair and traced his lips so many times he practically has Reid memorized. He wonders if Reid has done the same. He wonders if his own image is imprinted in Reid's mind the along with all the neurological facts.
And then Reid flicks on the lights and the quiet moment is over. The rain starts coming indoors, so the two men trek inside and escape the torrential rain.
"If I'd wanted all this rain, I would have moved to Seattle," Reid grumbles.
"Want something to eat? I've got some cold cuts left over from a fundraiser."
"You know, I didn't think you'd serve turkey cold cuts at a fundraiser. I thought it would be more like…caviar and fancy bits."
"We just had Al's cater it. It's the most popular around here, and supporting local business isn't bad either." Luke shrugs and places the leftover containers on the counter. He shuts the fridge with his hip. Reid's mouth twitches in a smile—the move looks like an 80s party gone wrong.
Reid grabs some knives and a loaf of bread and begins concocting a towering monstrosity of a sandwich. He slathers on the mayo, the turkey, the ketchup, pickles, olives, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, mustard….By the time he's finished, not a single condiment in the kitchen goes unused. "Want a bite?"
Luke eyes the behemoth of a sandwich. "I…I think I'll just have cheese with mine. Can you seriously fit that thing in your mouth?"
Reid gobbles it down. "Mmmm, proof that God exists."
Luke goes to flick on the tv, but Reid puts his hand over his, over the remote. "Let's just sit. It's kind of nice in this quiet."
Luke grins. "Cubs are going to lose, anyway."
"Don't bash my favorite team," Reid says. He moves over to the kitchen table. "Just because they're terrible doesn't mean they aren't awesome."
"True. They do have some redeeming qualities. They're awfully attractive. Makes up for that huge ego. And they're good at what they do."
"Sure you're talking about the Cubs now?" Reid says. He drags over the chess board from the other side of the table. "How about a rematch? We never did finish the other time."
Luke flashes back to several months ago. After Gabriel had gone missing, Reid came over to "help." It was just an excuse to see Luke, but Luke didn't know it at the time. (Okay, maybe he did just a little. What other excuse did he have to let the doctor into his home?) Their chess game—and passionate embrace—was interrupted by Noah. Oh, Noah. Luke still treasured his past friendship with Noah, though he didn't seem to feel the same way. Noah decided to transfer to the University of Southern California to study filmmaking, and Luke was happy for him. Noah had a great future ahead of him doing what made him happy.
Pretty soon, Reid has Luke in check for the fourth time. "I give up," Luke groans. "You're too hard to beat." He stalks off to the kitchen for another drink. Reid follows him, dumping the chess pieces back in the box.
"My socks are still wet from the storm." Luke heads towards his bedroom to change. Reid follows him—he's only been in Luke's room once before, back when he was in search of some real food, not that microwaveable disgusting stuff that kept him fed through med school.
Reid flops on the bed while Luke rummages through his drawers. After finding the elusive socks, Luke hops onto the bed next to him.
"There's nothing that screams romance like wet-dog-smelling feet," Reid says.
"I hear they bottle it up and sell it at Macy's as a one day special for V-Day."
"Who would fall for that crap? Eau de Doggy? Not me. I'd do something special. Romantic. Memorable." The dreaded Valentine's Day was coming up this week, and Reid didn't want to sell himself short—but he didn't want to excite Luke too much, either. "Well, you'll see what I mean when the time comes."
"Really? Wow, I can't wait to see what you have in store."
"It's going to be fantastic. Nothing could be more important." Reid lets himself imagine a perfect evening out with Luke. It's been a while since Memorial has been understaffed and he's worked late hours. A quiet evening out would be perfect. But only hours later, his words would haunt him.