Reid could honestly say that he had no idea why the hell he was here. He was used to sitting in the kitchen at the Snyder farm by now, for he and Luke had dinner here most nights, but today was different. As he looked around the room he felt his throat tighten uneasily.
There was no Luke to be found amongst the sea of Snyders. No Katie, either. Not even Holden, the one other Snyder that Reid could actually converse with easily, was here. Reid adored Emma and smiled awkwardly at her from across the room as she hummed and kneaded dough on the table, but even his admiration for her had never really turned into a conversational relationship. Lily was practically glaring from her side of the table so he just avoided looking at her all together. Luke's siblings were in and out of the room. Only Faith sat still, though she was more interested in whispering with Parker by the stairs than what was going on with anyone else. Jack and Carly stood awkwardly together off to the side. Reid was half tempted to pinch himself in the arm, for surely this qualified as a nightmare.
"So, Reid," began Jack, clearing his throat. Reid looked up, unsure if he should be thankful or not that the man had broken the god awful awkward silence. "Margo tells me the new wing is coming along nicely." Crickets.
"Yeah, well, it's getting there I guess," Reid answered, shifting in his seat. Jack didn't say anything further. A first Reid was okay with this, until he saw Lily sit up and open her mouth.
"Did Luke tell you that Noah is coming home this weekend?" she asked. Even Faith looked over at this point and Reid saw Emma stop what she was doing and frown at her ex-daughter-in-law. "He has a three day weekend so we're flying him in. I figured he could use a taste of home."
Reid gulped and stared at her, not bothering to hide how annoyed he was. "Actually, he did," Reid began, trying not to smile at the disappointment on Lily's face. "We'll be here Friday for dinner but we're going to be out of town for the weekend after that."
Lily's eyes widened. "What? Luke didn't mention…"
"It was a last minute thing," interrupted Reid. "We figured it would be best all the way around, and we haven't had a weekend off in months. We're just staying in Chicago, seeing a game or two. We'll be back Sunday night." He decided not to point out that Noah's flight left Sunday afternoon.
"Oh, well, sounds like a fun little getaway," said Lily, trying to smile, but everyone could feel the tension.
Silence fell over the group again, until Ethan came running in yelling about how Natalie had stolen something or taken something, Reid couldn't quite understand his little language. Emma expertly helped to calm the child down by pulling over the step stool and letting him help her to cut the cookies. Things quieted again, but Reid actually found himself wishing the kid had kept yelling.
"I don't know what is taking them so long," Jack sighed, pulling out his phone. "I tried calling Holden but he's not answering."
"Oh, you know how those boys can be when they take their little trips. I'm sure they just stopped off somewhere for lunch," said Emma. Reid frowned, hoping that was all it was.
It was late September and Holden and Luke had gone to Kentucky for one of Holden's usual business trips. This was the second time Luke had gone on one of these trips since he and Reid started dating back in June, so Reid was quite alright with the idea of sleeping alone for four days. He wasn't clingy, it wasn't like a few days apart was going to kill him. It did seem to be killing the other Snyders, though. Apparently Emma had decided to throw a big dinner party for their return. The kitchen smelled of food, as most of it was ready to go. Reid tried to ignore the smell; it was making his mouth water. He thought it was a little silly to make such a big deal out of Luke and Holden's return, but at the same time he was all for an excuse to consume Emma's cooking. Still, Luke and Holden should have been home an hour ago. Reid showed up late, as always, figuring he could sneak in, find Luke, and avoid everyone else. When he'd walked in to find the kitchen buzzing with quiet conversation and for his boyfriend to be nowhere in sight, things had gotten awkward very quickly.
"Have you called Luke? Maybe you'll have better luck than I did," said Jack to Reid. Reid glanced up and nodded, pulling out his phone and hitting the redial button. He stared at the patterns in the wood table as the ringing continued, sighing when he got voicemail. He sighed, and Jack knew he hadn't gotten through. "Leave a message," he insisted.
Reid nodded and waited for the beep.
"Hey Luke, it's me. Everyone's already at the farm and all this food is making us hungry, so don't expect us to wait around for you guys too much longer." Click.
Lily looked appalled. Reid looked confused.
"Is that the way you always talk to my son?" she said sharply.
"Oh, calm down, Lily," said Carly with a sigh. Reid knew he'd always liked that woman. Lily slouched like a child and huffed a loud sighed.
"We're going outside," declared Faith, standing up. The parents nodded and she and Parker bolted. Reid was envious.
"You know what, I brought some sparkling cider for tonight and I think I left it in the car. Reid, do you want to help me?" Reid looked up to see Carly smiling at him.
"Er, sure?" he answered unsure. Everyone was watching them as they headed out the door. They walked silently toward the cars, at least until they were out of ear shot.
"Not how you were planning to spend your evening, huh?"
"You could say that," he said in a grumpy voice. Carly laughed. There was something almost wicked about her smile and her laugh that Reid couldn't help but admire.
"You get use to it," Carly winked.
"What? To awkward silences and death glares?" he asked. Again Carly laughed.
"Something like that," she grinned. "I just mean that this is an intense family. They're the most loving people you'll ever meet, but they're insanely protective, too."
"So I've noticed," said Reid, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Just don't let it keep you down. I've been here through a lot of the chaos in Luke's life. He's like a nephew to me, and I've never seen him so in control of his own life, so confident in himself, as he's been since you came around."
"I mean it, Reid. Even before you two got together, there was something about you that brought out the best in him. I remember what I first met you, after Dusty got shot,"
"Oh yeah, Mr. Fake Amnesia," Reid grinned. Carly ignored him.
"And you were so cold and such a jerk, that when I heard about you and Luke was I surprised. But then I thought about it more, and watched you two together, and I realized something."
Reid took the bait. "What did you realize?"
"That Luke has finally grown up. And it's because of you."
"Luke was grown up long before me," Reid insisted.
"Maybe," shrugged Carly, opening the trunk. "But I don't think he realized that or believed it about himself. I think you forced him to grow up, and it was hard for him, but in the end it was the best thing for him."
Reid was silent, staring at nothing as Carly handed him the brown bag with three bottles of cider. They returned to the house in silence, Carly stopping him just before they went back in.
"Lily likes you more than she lets on," she said suddenly. Reid stared at him like she were crazy. Carly laughed quietly. "I mean it. I can understand where she's coming from. Being Luke's mother is no easy task and she's doing the best she can, understanding everything in his life. Just give her some time, she'll come around."
They walked inside and Reid sat the bottles on the counter. Lily was helping Ethan cut a few more cookies and Jack was talking with Emma. Natalie was coloring. He stood off to the side, watching as Carly went up to Jack and kissed him on the cheek. Seeing this family, even the members that didn't seem to like him all that much, and just watching them interact brought a small smile to Reid's lips.
Just then they heard the sound of the porch door winging open. Reid stepped back and looked out the door to see Holden walking up with his jacket over his shoulder.
"Hey everyone, sorry we're late," he said happily as he walked in the door. Emma came over and they exchanged kisses on the cheek. Reid looked outside again to see Luke carrying two boxes under his arms. Without a word he slipped outside.
"Need help with that?" he asked, already reaching for one of the boxes.
"Sure, thanks," smiled Luke. They closed the short distance to the porch and Luke instructed Reid on where to sit the boxes. They stood out there for a moment, watching the rest of the family through the window.
"How was your trip?" asked Reid.
"It was good," replied Luke evenly. "Though I'm definitely glad to be home," he added, smiling at Reid. Reid grinned as well, stepping close and taking both of Luke's hands.
"Next time you are going to be late, warn me," he said, kissing Luke softly.
Luke laughed. "Have you been here long?"
"Long enough," sighed Reid. Luke smiled and kissed Reid on the corner of the mouth.
"That's enough, you two," came a voice. They looked up to see Carly in the doorway. "C'mon, we've been waiting long enough for this food."
She and Reid shared a knowing smile, though Luke didn't seem to notice. He and Reid walked into the kitchen, hand in hand. Lily just smiled and welcomed Luke back, apparently dropping any negativity toward Reid, at least for now. The women set up the table while the men did the heavy lifting and started bringing the mountains of food out onto the counter. It wasn't long before they had all been seated, grace had been said, food was being passed around from plate to plate and friendly chatter filled the air. Reid cast a grin at Luke, taking his hand and holding it on top of the table. Luke smiled, red in the cheeks, only letting go when he was passed the mashed potatoes and they were drawn back into the festivities.