“Wake up. Wake up,” his daughter chanted, waking him up out of his slumber.
His eyes were bleary as he looked at the clock. It was ten minutes after five. Last night he had made sure she knew that he would not be getting up before five. He knew it was Christmas, but he didn’t want to get up before the sun. His daughter have proved year after year that she needed presents to live. He blamed his sisters for her attitude on that.
Being a young father had its pros and cons. When she was up all-night crying because she was teething, it gave him time to do homework. The drawback there was his work was usually incoherent from lack of sleep. Pro, he played blocks with her on the floor for as long as she wanted, mostly because he still really liked blocks. When he found out Anna…Zoe, was pregnant, he was scared but never once thought about turning his back on her or the baby. It never set well with him having men deny the children they fathered. It took awhile for him to actually be friends with Casey because of that. He found he couldn’t stay mad because while he had his daughter, for better or worse, Casey wouldn’t ever get to make up for what he did. It was why when things went wrong between Will and Casey, Luke picked Will.
Now he was friends with both of them, though he was closer to Casey. Will’s daughter and JC were not friends, no matter how much his grandmother tried to make them. They just rubbed each other the wrong way. He suspected JC’s major issue was jealousy, she didn’t like sharing her Uncle Ethan with anyone. He tried to stay out of it, hoping they would grow out of it.
“Wake up,” his daughter whined from the foot of his bed.
He had gotten lost in his thoughts. He blamed it on lack of sleep. He was up last night putting training wheels on her new bike, putting together the train and tracks Ethan asked Santa for, putting together two dollhouses, and setting up two laptops. His parents had given him all the things they had got for his siblings and asked him to set everything up. They knew he would be up for JC and like they said, they weren’t spring chickens anymore.
He really didn’t mind but sometimes he would like to feel like he was still their child. They only seemed to remember when they asked something of him or wanted to control his life.
“Sorry, baby. Is everyone else awake yet?”
“Just me and Ethan, he’s trying to wake Grandma and Grandpa.”
He was sure they were loving that; his mother was not a morning person. Which was funny because his dad was usually up before the sun was out to start his work. His mom always said it was because of the differences in the way they were raised, his dad working at an early age and his mother the pampered princess. Although his father only said such things when they were arguing. He just hoped whoever he ended up with wouldn’t say such things in the heat of an argument, it wasn’t like he could help being born with money. He had the best of both worlds; he was raised not wanting for anything…at least that money could buy. But he was raised with an excellent work ethic and pretty down to earth, if he did say so himself. That’s not to say that he’s completely no frills, he likes what money can get him. It helps make sure his daughter is always taken care of.
“Don’t forget your sweater,” JC said before leaving his room.
He tried not to groan; he didn’t want her to think he didn’t like it. He, of course, hated it. She had picked it out at a small boutique in New York when they went for Thanksgiving. It was the ugliest thing he had ever seen; it was brown with gold tinsel and a stuffed moose head with a knit cap and scarf. He hated it so much but for his daughter he would grin and bear it. He put on jeans, a white undershirt then the sweater that nightmares were made from. He just hoped no one took a picture of him.
When he got downstairs there were three children looking at the presents longingly.
“I’m glad you’re finally down here, I wasn’t sure how long I could hold them back,” his dad said. He didn’t know why but it rubbed him the wrong way, he was up all night setting up and wrapping presents for not only his daughter but his siblings, parents and every other family member that would be gracing them with their presence today.
“Sorry,” he muttered before taking a seat on a chair near the tree.
“So should we wait until after breakfast before we open gifts?” his grandma asked.
Three whines sounded from his younger sister, brother and daughter, and a snort from his sister Faith. It was a joke his grandma made every Christmas morning.
“Alright, but you know the rules,” his dad said.
The day went by, presents opened, giggles and laughter filled the room. Luke let his mind wonder about what his future would hold. Would one day he have his own house and JC would be opening gifts there. Maybe he would have a boyfriend or maybe even a husband. Christmas Eve and Christmas day was always here at the farm after he had JC. Even when he had his own apartment his family would guilt him into staying the night. He wished he could just stand up to them. They weren’t bad but he knew they took advantage; he didn’t need Casey and Noah telling him that. He wrapped up a plate for Reid and his grandma sent him with a pie. The man was working the whole holiday, he needed some cheer.
Christmas came and went, no real difference for him. He had no family to speak of so there was no reason for him to be off on those days. It wasn’t happy families he saw during his shifts on those days. They were sad that they had to be there or upset that it could possibly be the last Christmas they spend with their loved ones.
By the time Christmas was over, he took a much-needed weekend off. Working had kept his mind from thinking about the lack of communication from Luke. Ever since he told the younger man how he felt, it had been radio silence. With as happy as Luke seemed at the time, he thought something might happen but then…nothing. He tried not to let it hurt but it did.
As he lounged on Katie’s sofa, someone started to knock on the door. Katie was out with her sister and Reid had no plans to entertain anyone. When whoever it was knocking didn’t stop, he gave up.
Opening the door, he glared at the bewildered face of one Luke Snyder.
“Can I help you?” he asked shortly.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been around; Christmas is always so hectic. Did you get my gift?”
Luke looked nervous all of the sudden. Ducking his head, he muttered something.
“What was that?”
“I brought you Christmas dinner to the hospital, left it in the staff breakroom with your name on it.”
“And I was supposed to guess this how?” He was annoyed, mostly because he hadn’t gotten to eat it and didn’t know it existed. He would have loved to have Christmas dinner instead of the microwave meal he had.
“I told that…um…Dr. Keegan. He was to let you know; I even left a whole apple pie for you. I know it’s not really much of a present but you’re a world-class neurosurgeon, you could buy anything you wanted. But I know you have a soft spot for food and didn’t think you’d be able to get any decent food for Christmas. I would have given it to you myself, but you were in with a patient, and I didn’t know how long you’d be.”
Reid stopped paying attention to Luke’s rambling, all that Reid heard was Dr. Keegan was going to die. He would deal with the food stealing otolaryngologist when he got back to hospital.
“I guess it’s the thought that counts” Reid said, wondering where he could hide Keegan’s body.
“Still sucks. I was wondering, would you like to go to dinner tonight?”
That made Reid start to pay attention to Luke again. “What are you on about?” Reid was having trouble following what they were talking about, his mind had been completely on that rat bastard Keegan.
Luke shuffled his feet and Reid suddenly felt bad. “Oh, nothing,” Luke said, looking embarrassed.
“Dinner you say. I guess you do owe me one. Is it just us or is your daughter going to be joining us?” He wanted to know how much of a date this would be.
“My cousin Jade is in town; they are having a girls’ night.”
“So just us,” Reid said, his mind going to all the dirty things they could get up to.
“Just us,” Luke said with a smile.
After leaving Reid’s, Luke called Noah and asked him to meet him at Java. He wouldn’t be able to move forward with Reid until he had answers about the night he couldn’t remember. He knew now that he hadn’t done anything with Brian except the older man kissing him. While that was icky, it wasn’t close to what he had thought had happened. Now that he remembered he was with Noah that night too, he had to question the man. He couldn’t see Noah taking advantage of him in that state. While he owned his part in being off his head drunk, whoever slept with him had to know that he wasn’t in any state for that.
Noah was already at Java when he arrived. Luke ordered a green tea, hoping his stomach would settle, he was all nerves. What would Noah tell him about that night?
“Didn’t think I’d hear from you until after the new year,” Noah said, smiling at him.
“Yeah, well, I just needed to speak with you, and I didn’t think it could wait.” Looking around he noticed how exposed they were but luckily there were only three people there.
“Alright, I’m getting worried now.”
Luke and Noah used to be close, for a while it seemed they would get together. That was until Noah decided he couldn’t come out of the closet. Luke understood though he felt bad for Maddie. It was why he wasn’t close to either of them anymore, he couldn’t keep the lying.
“Earlier in the year, I had a relapse.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“Well, that’s the problem, I don’t. I do remember some things and I’m trying to make sense of them. Brian found me drunk on the side of the road and took me to the farm. But the thing is, I know I had sex that night, I just don’t know who with. The other day I had a flash of a memory, he had picked me up after I had seen Brian. Do you have any idea what happened?”
“I don’t know what you want me to say. I picked you up, got you in my car and took you to your mom’s because you didn’t want to go back to the farm. But I left you there and went home.”
“Wait, you took me to Mom’s?”
“Yeah, you said you didn’t want to go back to the farm, don’t know why. I asked but you were kind of all over the place.”
“Was anyone home?”
“No, but I was worried about you, so I called Rolf to come check on you.” A look of horror flashed across Noah’s face. “He wouldn’t have…”
The tea turned sour in his stomach. “I guess I’ll have to talk to him too.” It wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have. He had been so close to Rolf until JC got sick. He had to put her in front of everything else, including his friendships.
Noah’s face went from horror to sadness. “Luke, Rolf died the night you disappeared. He ran his car into a tree. I thought you knew, I’m sorry.”
“I need to think. Don’t tell anyone what we talk about.”
“Alright. Please Luke, don’t drink again,” Noah pleaded as Luke rushed out of Java. He thought about cancelling his date with Reid, but he knew if he did, he would just spend all night thinking and probably end up with a bottle of vodka in his hand.