The Second Proposal
Reid awoke before the alarm and automatically reached over to feel Luke's reassuringly warm body. But his hand just fell upon empty space. Groaning, he sat up and rubbed his eyes. For a moment he had forgotten the argument of the night before. It had been a blazing row. He tried to remember the details but it felt like his mind was working against him. Why had he had so much to drink? Blearily he stumbled out of bed, not bothering to put any clothes on and wandered into the dark kitchen towards his coffee machine. That would jog his memory.
The familiar motions of spooning out the coffee beans and pouring the milk into his mug soothed him slightly. The mug had been a gift from Luke. The caption on the side read: 'just what the doctor ordered' with a cartoon dog wearing a lab coat, drinking coffee. Reid had pretended to find it corny and silly but he had used it every day since so Luke knew he was bluffing. It took Reid a moment to realise that he had put in two spoonfuls of sugar as well- that was how Luke liked it. Suddenly he missed Luke more than he had ever missed anyone in his entire life.
"Argh!" he dropped the mug onto the floor and it smashed into hundreds of pieces. Milky liquid began spreading across the floor as Reid watched, dumbfounded.
"Reid!" called Katie, running in wearing a dressing gown.
"Its okay, Katie I just dropped a cup."
He bent down and began mopping up with a cloth.
"Here, let me help you" said Katie, getting down on her knees and picking up the pieces.
"No, go back to bed"
"I'm up now, I might as well help."
Katie put all of the pieces into a plastic bag as Reid finished clearing the mess.
"Reid… Where's Luke?… I thought…"
"He's gone." said Reid grimly. Saying it out loud made it seem all the more real and terrifying.
"Gone?" whispered Katie. "Did you two have a fight?"
"Yeah" sighed Reid, pinching his fingers between his brow and throwing himself onto the sofa. Katie followed tremulously.
"Well… what happened?"
"He… proposed to me. I turned him down."
"He proposed? Oh my God! And you said no? Why?"
"Because he only did it to soften the blow… He's going away with Noah to work on their film in LA."
"What? Without you?"
"He wants me to come. He's asking me to leave my job, my hospital wing, my home… to sit around being second fiddle to Noah."
"Reid, you're not-"
"-who has he spent almost every waking hour with for the past three months?"
"They work together Reid! And it sounds like Luke's script is really taking off."
"Are you serious? You mean Noah kissed Luke?"
"Yes, but its only a matter of time before… I've seen the way Noah looks at him. He's still in love with him. And sooner or later Luke's going to realise that he doesn't want some boring old man with a steady job… He wants Hollywood."
Katie sat down beside Reid and was silent for a moment. Reid tried very hard not to look at her.
"Well I never thought I'd say this, Reid… but you're underestimating yourself."
"Luke asked you to marry him."
"Yeah, right after he told me about Noah kissing him and moving to LA."
"He did it to reassure you. That no matter how successful their film is… He's with you, forever."
"But…" Reid scratched his head.
He was remembering how happy he had been last night before the argument, finally having Luke to himself for a night, no distractions, no Noah. They had made love in the attic of the farm and ate endless sandwiches in Luke's kitchen, with Reid constantly trying to put Luke off his cooking by kissing his neck and slapping his butt. They had gone swimming in the lake when it got dark and later on, Luke told Reid to close his eyes and count to fifty. When he opened them Luke was beside him, grinning. He was completely naked, beads of water glistening on his chest. Reid had been unable to resist touching him right there and then, out in the open. "Come on Reid," whispered Luke. "No ones here. Just take off your trunks. Are you scared?" he laughed and Reid was reminded of another occasion when he had been goaded by Luke into doing something he'd rather not. Only this time he was more than willing. Smiling, he slipped out of his boxers and Luke threw himself into his arms, kissing him and working his hands up and down his erection.
"Urgh…" Reid groaned. There was nothing in the world better than a hand job from Luke Snyder… Unless it was a blowjob… As if on command Luke bent down on his knees in the shallow water and began sucking on Reid, his blonde head bobbing up and down as Reid bit on his tongue to stop himself from crying out too loudly. The strange thrill of being outdoors and having Luke all to himself was almost too much pleasure to bear and he came violently, his hands in Luke's hair as Luke swallowed. Luke got up slowly and whispered into his ear. "I love you, Reid"
This is it thought Reid. The apex of my existence.
Reid cradled Luke against his chest. "I love you too." he said. They stood there like that for a while, enjoying each others love until Luke said suddenly: "wait there!"
Reid waited, watching Luke run back to the farm, wondering what he could possibly be doing. Whatever it was, he didn't think anything could top the visual treat of a naked, glistening Luke in the moonlight.
When Luke arrived back Reid was disappointed to see that he was now clothed. He had been hoping to return the favour. But Luke was calling for him from across the water and he came back to dry land, pulling on his clothes as Luke watched him. He seemed to be giddy with excitement but that wasn't unusual. It was one of the things Reid loved most about him.
"Okay, come on Reid." Luke took him by the hand and led him into the house. The living room was filled with what seemed to be dozens of candles, giving everything a shimmery sense of unreality. Luke poured a glass of champagne for him and some coke for himself and pulled Reid onto the couch.
"Do you like it?" he asked, gesturing around the room.
"Its incredible… But why?"
"Reid…" he said. "I know I've been spending a lot of time with Noah. And I know how much its bothered you… So I just need you to know that… well- the other night- it was late and I think Noah had had a bit too much to drink and…"
Reid took a gulp of champagne. He didn't like the direction this conversation had gone at all.
"…Well, he kissed me."
"That fucking-" began Reid, standing up suddenly.
"The bastard told me himself he was over you. He said I had nothing to worry about. Those were his exact words, the lying little-"
"Yeah, well it doesn't matter-"
"-Like hell it doesn't, just wait till I see him again-"
"-Because… Noah kissing me… Once upon a time it would have made me feel so… elated. Being wanted by him. Him initiating it."
"For Gods sake Luke, I don't want to hear it."
"No, listen. I felt nothing. Because he's not you. Because I'm not in love with him… So I realised… I'm going to do it, Reid. I'm following my dreams like you told me. I'm going to LA to work on the film"
Reid sat, motionless, feeling as though the wind had dropped out of his sails.
Luke took Reid's hands in his own, facing him and said:
"And… I'd like you to come with me."
"No, wait, let me do this Reid… I love you… so much. I cant imagine not spending the rest of my life with you."
Reid's eyes widened as Luke got down on one knee and pulled a small box from his pocket. He opened it and inside was a simple silver ring, glistening in the candlelight.
"Reid, will you marry me?"
"I want us to be together… forever."
"I want us to be partners. I want it in writing. I thought… I thought that's what you wanted?"
Luke's bottom lip was beginning to tremble. Oh God thought Reid I cant handle this.
His head was pounding and he was beginning to feel sick. This night had gone spectacularly wrong.
"You thought that's what I wanted? To get married? So you're only doing this to make me feel better, is that it? Poor old jealous Reid! Give him a ring and go off to Hollywood with your ex, that'll shut him up."
"That isn't it at all! I want to marry you!" Luke had gone red and was visibly shaking with rage.
"And you expect me to give up my job, my life just like that, do you?"
"You know I'd do the same for you!"
"Well that's just it, Luke. I wouldn't ask you to!"
"So the answer's no?"
"The answer's never! When have I ever talked about marriage? What's the point? Why do we need to validate our relationship in front of a bunch of heterosexual morons?"
"Okay" Luke put the ring back into his pocket and started blowing out the candles.
"Oh, Luke, come on, I'm sorry."
"No, I'm sorry Reid. I'm sorry the idea is so silly to you. I'm sorry I ever thought of wanting a ceremony to commit myself to you forever."
"Luke, please, I didn't mean it like that-"
"-I'm sorry I thought you'd want to help me achieve what I want to do in life.."
"I do… I just…"
Luke blew the last candle out and they sat in the darkness. Reid was glad Luke couldn't see his face. He wanted to put his arms around Luke and hold onto him, tell him not to leave him. Not ever. But instead he sat in silence.
"I'm leaving tomorrow. Nine thirty… Reid? Reid, say something. Please."
"I… I need to go…"
He had swept out of the darkened room before he could catch a glimpse of Luke's face. That would only make it harder. Then he had walked to the only late-night bar in Oakdale and proceeded to drink himself into oblivion. He vaguely remembered getting into a taxi in the small hours of the morning.
And now he could hear his alarm ringing from his bedroom. Nine o' clock, that was the time he set it for on weekends.
"Oh my God." he whispered. He dashed into his room and pulled on some pants and a shirt. Then he collected his wallet and phone, before running out again, heading towards the door.
"Reid! Where are you going?"
"Oakdale airport. See you later."
Katie couldn't help smiling slightly and she watched him run off. She had a feeling he was going to figure this one out on his own.
Reid kept one eye on his phone and the other on the road. He had called Luke's number half a dozen times but so far there was no answer. And now he was stuck in a traffic jam. Typical. He drummed his fingers against the dashboard and thought for a moment about dumping his car altogether and making a run for it. But no, that would most likely take even longer.
"Come on, come on."
When they eventually started moving again Reid realised that he only had ten minutes left to reach Luke. And that was if Luke hadn't already boarded the plane.
Parking his car in the nearest spot, fines be damned, Reid began sprinting through the terminal, his eyes scanning the notices until he found a flight bound for LA.
"Please, let me through!" he gasped as he reached the desk where a sniffy blonde woman was looking at him with suspicion. "I need to speak to someone! Its urgent."
"Sir, we cant let you through unless you have a boarding pass."
"Fine, give me one. I'll pay whatever, just hurry up."
"And what flight would that be, sir?"
It took all of Reid's efforts not to swear at the woman as he said, through gritted teeth:
"The flight from Oakdale to LA, nine thirty boarding time."
The blonde woman smiled.
"I'm very sorry sir, I'm afraid that flight has already left."
"No, no it cant leave, not yet."
"It's up in the air as we speak, there's nothing I can do… Sir?"
But Reid had already started walking away. He felt as though he had been punched in the guts. Luke had done it, he had actually gone.
He went back to his car to find that he hadn't gotten a ticket but it barely even registered with him now. He started driving back home, only it wasn't home, it was nowhere. He still had his job as chief of staff, and his own newly designed hospital wing. It was everything he'd ever wanted… Or as least, it had been. Now everything he'd ever wanted was thousands of miles up in the air, flying away from him. What would life be like, without Luke? He supposed it would go back to the way it had been before. Microwave dinners at night, meaningless one night stands whenever he could fit them in, going back to an empty bed after a long hard shift…
He had gotten used to coming home and finding Luke in his bed. They didn't live together yet, technically but Luke was practically a lodger. He had a knack of knowing exactly what Reid wanted after a day of work: a sandwich some days or just to sit in silence on others. Mostly when he came home late Reid would be careful not to make any noise that would disturb Luke as he got undressed. Then he would slip beneath the sheets and wrap his arms around Luke's warm body. Luke would always sigh in contentment and pull him closer and they would both drift off into a happy, safe sleep.
How could he have taken that for granted?
He absent mindedly parked his car outside Java. It was where he and Luke liked to go on Saturday mornings, to get a cup of frothy, milky coffee with all the trimmings. Without knowing quite why he was doing it, he walked in and then stopped in his tracks as he saw who was sitting there.
Luke. He was sitting alone in the middle of the café, nursing a cup and looking apprehensive as he stared at Reid. He half wanted to run over and sweep him into his arms but he restrained himself and instead walked calmly over to take the seat opposite.
"So… You didn't go?… I mean, obviously you didn't go, otherwise why would you be here, but you didn't miss your flight or anything? You decided to stay, right?"
Reid scanned Luke's face for any sign of forgiveness.
"Yes. I'm staying."
"Oh. Good. Because I… I got up and remembered what I'd said last night and wanted you to know that I was wrong."
Luke narrowed his eyes.
"Admit it, Reid. You meant what you said. You don't want to marry me and your career will always be the most important thing to you."
"I didn't say that. I would never say that."
"But it's true."
"So why did you stay?"
"Because…" Luke sighed, swirling his coffee with a spoon. "Because I realised I was chasing Noah's dream, not mine."
"Oh. I would've come with you, you know."
"Reid, please don't insult my intelligence. You turned me down, okay."
"Well you sprung quite a lot on me last night!"
"Yeah and I hoped it would be a nice surprise, not one that would have you running away to drown your sorrows."
Luke looked so thoroughly miserable that Reid decided to swallow his pride.
"I drove to the airport this morning."
"What?" asked Luke, looking up.
"Yeah… I was hoping to catch you… And when they said the flight had already taken off I…"
"You what, Reid?"
Reid reached under the table to find Luke's hand.
"I realised I had made the biggest mistake of my life… Yeah, my work is my life. But so are you."
On a sudden inspiration Reid got off his chair and bent down on one knee."
"Reid, what are you-"
"-Which is why, Luke Snyder, I'm asking you to marry me."
"Reid get up! You're not serious, are you? You were dead set against marriage last night"
"I'm deadly serious. Times have changed since last night. Here!"
Reid held his thumb and forefinger together up to Luke, who was beginning to laugh.
"You're giving me an imaginary ring? Reid sit down, people are staring at you."
"Not until you answer me, Snyder, will you marry me?"
"Reid!" at least Luke had cheered up, he was doubled over with hysterics and people were peering round at them, trying to work out what was going on. From the sympathetic looks Reid was receiving he was sure they thought he was being rejected in the most humiliating way.
"I'm sorry but I cant believe you're actually proposing, and here of all places."
"Well get used to the idea Luke and tell me your goddamn-"
Reid's pager suddenly beeped and he quickly got up to look at it.
"Yep, I've got to go, sorry."
"You want me to come with you?"
"No, it's a major accident, lots of casualties. I'll likely be at least ten hours… Think about it, Luke. I wasn't kidding."
Reid turned to go but Luke stopped him, grabbing him by the shoulders. He kissed him hard on the mouth and then whispered: "see you later" into his ear. Reid wrenched himself reluctantly away from Luke and started running to his car, He certainly was getting a lot of exercise today that was for sure.
There had been a five car pile up on the Oakdale motorway and the hospital was swarming with new patients. All the staff were called to action and Reid began treating those who needed the most urgent attention. By mid-afternoon, he had treated five major head- wounds, stitching the skin back together carefully and bandaging up the scull. It was the kind of work which made you forget about everything else and focus on the task at hand- there was no time for anything else.
By nine o' clock that evening most of the patients were resting, the danger zone over, they just had to give their wounds time to heal. But as Reid was washing his hands and getting ready to call it a day, Chris came rushing into his office, his face ashen.
"Dr Oliver! You've got to come quickly. One of the patients… we think she's having a brain aneurysm."
Reid pulled his lab coat on as he rushed back to the operating room. The woman lay on the table, just her face visible as the blue sheets covered the rest of her body. She looked bizarrely peaceful as the nurses rushed around her in a panic and her vitals on the screen beside her bleeped menacingly.
"Alright then." said Reid, pulling on is gloves. "I'm making an incision."
"Reid, you cant, she'll go into shock. She might have permanent brain damage." said Chris, shaking his head.
"Chris she's got internal bleeding by the looks of things. We've got no other choice. We leave her like this and she wont last the night."
Chris hesitated, beads of sweat dripping from his forehead then he nodded.
Reid sighed and got to work, only speaking to ask the nurses to hand him his scalpels. This was the critical moment, what he had trained for his entire adult life. This woman's life depended on his hands and his vast knowledge of the brain. He always saw this network of nerves and tissue as a landscape, an actual place. One false snip and the her entire sense of self could be taken away, one snip in the right direction and she would live to tell this tale as an anecdote at dinner parties when she was old.
"Did I ever tell you about the time I almost died?" He imagined her saying. She was a pretty woman, he could see that even now with her head cut open, dark lashes and full lips, her skin a beautiful shade of brown against the blue sheets with the fleshy red exposed at the head.
"Its going to be alright" he thought, as though she could hear it. He was making the final incision and her heart was still beating, she had survived all of that prodding around and she was still alive. "You're tough, lady." he thought. And the human body was seriously incredible.
Perspiring slightly, he twisted and took out his scalpel, asking the nurse to help him stitch her up. But the constant beep of the monitor suddenly changed to a loud drone.
"Reid… We've lost her."
Reid didn't look up. He kept looking at the woman, half expecting her to open her eyes. Se still looked so peaceful. Today when she had gotten into her car, to drive to work, or perhaps to go and see her boyfriend she had had no idea that this would be the day she died.
Reid felt a hand upon his shoulder. Chris.
"She's gone, Reid. You did the best you could."
"Yes… Let's cover her up."
This was always the strangest part of his job. He had shared a weird kind of intimacy with this total stranger. He had seen her last moments on earth, he had battled with nature to let her live, and he didn't even know her name. He could count on both hands the number of times this had happened in his career and it never hurt any less. Her family would grieve for her and reminisce and keep her possessions to remember her by. It would take months, years even, for their lives to go back to normal. Reid would be back at work on Monday as usual. It was all part of the job. Life and death. One day he could be in the same position. Or Luke. He shuddered and started walking out of the room, nodding at Chris as he left.
"You did good, Reid. You cant save everyone."
Numbly he went through the familiar motions of washing his hands and putting his things away. He left his office as some nurses were wheeling a hospital bed away down a corridor. The body. He watched it until they turned a corner out of sight. Feeling suddenly on the verge of tears he put his head in his hands and rubbed his face, trying to pull himself together.
He dropped his hands to see Luke, standing in front of him, holding a plastic lunchbox filled with sandwiches. He set it down on the floor and opened his arms out to Reid, who gladly fell into them, squeezing Luke tightly, relishing his warmth and his heartbeat and his life. Luke didn't say anything for a long time, he just rubbed Reid's back and stroked his hair. He knew what had happened. He could always tell by the look in Reid's eyes.
"My answer's yes by the way." he muttered.
Reid stopped squeezing him and held him at arms length, looking into his eyes to see if he was teasing. He was smiling but there was no hint of mischief in them.
"Yes, I'll marry you."
Reid went back to hugging him tightly.
"You know, for someone who didn't do hugs until recently you certainly seem to have gotten the hang of them."
Reid kissed Luke twice on his smooth cheek and once on the mouth.
"Well it all depends on who I'm hugging."
"Ah, I see, well I'm honoured, Dr Oliver."
"You should be, Mr Snyder, or should I say, the future Mr Oliver."
"Mr Oliver? What about Dr Snyder?"
"Hmm, no, we'll have to see about that, it doesn't really have the same ring to it."
Reid put an arm around Luke and they started walking down the corridor towards the exit. Various passing nurses smiled indulgently at them and Reid scowled back at them.
"Wait till everyone hears we're getting married." grinned Luke as they walked through the car park.
"They'll think you've lost your mind."
Luke got into the drivers seat of the car.
"You haven't really changed at all, have you Reid?"
"Hey what do you mean? I've been working really hard on my people skills!"
Luke laughed and rolled his eyes.
"No, I mean… Oakdale's full of horrible people trying to pretend they're really good. And you're the complete opposite."
Reid sighed and leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes.
"Yes, well done Luke. Your inquisitive writer's brain has me all figured out."
Luke turned the keys in the ignition but he didn't start driving.
"I was never really going to go you know. To LA."
"Oh and that's why you rushed off in a blind panic this morning-"
"-How did you?" began Reid, opening his eyes.
"Katie told me. I spoke to her when you were at the hospital. I told her everything. She's really happy for us by the way."
Reid shook his head.
"That gossiping woman…"
"And she and Jacob are staying at a friend's tonight, to give us some space."
"That wonderful woman…"
"Right. Let's go home then. You look like you could use some sleep."
"Amongst other things" smirked Reid, giving Luke a sideways glance as they started driving.
By the time they got back to the apartment it was almost midnight and as much as Reid wanted to spend some quality time with Luke, his eyelids were drooping and his stomach was rumbling.
"Its okay, Reid. Here, eat these." Luke held out his box of sandwiches. They were a mixture of beef, pastrami, mustard and lettuce on whole wheat baguette- a speciality of Luke's and Reid's new favourite sandwich.
Luke watched him eating and swilling down beer with a mixture of affection and disgust.
"Reid, what do you prefer, me or food?"
"Hmm?" he said with his mouthful. "Oh come on, I'm marrying you aren't I? Not this sandwich."
"Well I wouldn't put it past you. If it was legal."
"They've only just made it legal for two consenting adults of the same sex to marry. I think it'll take another few millennia for the man and food nuptials legislation to be passed in congress."
After Reid had finished eating his sandwich and waxing lyrical about the idea of committing himself to it forever he put his hands on Luke's waist and pulled him close.
"I can think of something else I'd like to eat now." he murmured. He got up, dragging Luke with him and pushed him onto the bed.
"Just as long as you don't bite it right off- oh!"
Reid had managed to remove Luke's jeans and underpants with one enormous tug, revealing his erection.
"But its so delicious," Reid whispered before mounting him and removing his shirt. Then he kissed Luke on his open mouth, sucking on his lips, tasting him and feeling him respond with enthusiasm. But then Luke stopped suddenly and broke it off.
"Reid, you don't have to do this."
"I know you've had a hard day. You're tired."
"I am tired" agreed Reid. "But I hope I'm never too tired to fuck my fiancée."
Luke beamed at him.
"Okay then." he sighed, arching his back and pressing his body into Reid's who was removing his own clothes at top speed.
Luke never got tired of the reveal of Reid's chest. He was so lean that it was always a surprise to see those defined muscles, those strong arms and the rest of him… Well, people might say that Reid was the lucky one, to get Luke but if they had any idea…
"You're gorgeous." he said, knowing it would annoy Reid rather than flatter him. To Luke's surprise, Reid said nothing but then he became aware that it was because he had his head down between Luke's legs and was licking every inch of skin he could find. Luke shivered pleasurably as Reid's tongue found his engorged cock and he worked his way up and down it. He was going incredibly slowly, deliberately drawing out Luke's pleasure for as long as he could. Luke clutched at he bedclothes, gasping:
"Oh God, Reid… Oh God…"
Now Reid took his entire cock in his mouth and started moving very very fast.
"Oh God" said Luke, as his body was rocked by Reid's rhythm. Finally he came with a tremendous shudder, a white hot jolt of pleasure surging all over his body. Reid licked him clean as he tried to get his breathing back to normal, his body still tingling from his orgasm. Reid took a moment to look at him, legs splayed, cheeks flushed before crawling back up to kiss him and lie down next to him.
"Wow… that was… wow…" said Luke, feeling stupid. It was impossible to express how good Reid was at making him feel good but he wanted to try.
"I've just never… felt so… like it's never been so intense before, you know… I don't know how you… Reid?"
Reid sighed deeply and Luke knew he was asleep. He watched his chest rise and fall for a few moments before pulling the bed sheets over them both and snuggling next to him.
"Poor Reid. We never even got a chance to fuck before you fell asleep."
But there's always tomorrow. Thought Luke happily. And the rest of our lives.