23 August 2011 @ 07:45 pm
A Stable Heart, Chapter 2  
Title: A Stable Heart
Written By: [info]_alicesprings
Rating: NC-17
Summary: AU. When Luke has to hide out from the Grimaldi family, taking a job as a stable hand in Dallas seems like the perfect solution. It’s too bad Luke’s new “boss” Dr. Reid Oliver is such a jerk.
Author’s Notes: This was written for the wonderful and very patient [info]peggin for her generous donation in the auction to help Japan. I hope it’s everything you wanted! This is my first multi-chaptered fic, and given how difficult it was for me to write, probably my last! I hope you guys enjoy it. :) The fic is complete and I’ll be posting a chapter a day for the next week or so.

Massive amounts of beta love to the incredible [info]rhiannonhero and [info]cindergal!

Previous chapters: 1

When Laura and Annie Judd come back a few days later, Luke offers to show Annie how to brush and groom the horses. She loves it, giggling and chattering nonstop the whole time.

Dr. Oliver’s actually pretty sweet with Annie, which surprises Luke, and when the two of them laugh together, Luke finds himself smiling, too. Dr. Oliver’s pretty handsome when he lightens up. It’s too bad he’s such a jerk.

Luke wonders if Laura Judd knows the real Dr. Oliver, or if he’s just playing nice to fool her into bed. He also wonders what will happen to the horses if the trick doesn't pay off for Dr. Oliver. What if Laura doesn't fall for him, or things end badly? He won’t keep the horses around, Luke’s sure, and that means he’ll probably be out of a job, too.

Luke catches Dr. Oliver staring at him several times during the visit, and he shifts uncomfortably, not sure what the guy’s problem is. Sure, Luke’s still feeling a little pissed that Dr. Oliver seems to have such little interest in the horses — he doesn’t come near the barn beyond the Judds’ visits, but there’s not much Luke can do about it. There’s no shortage of supplies for the horses, and Luke’s been hired to care for them, and so he does. Besides, the horses are probably just as happy here as they would be anywhere else. Luke’s bored though, and he misses his work, and his family, and Noah, terribly. If he could just call and hear his mom or dad’s voice... But he can’t.

Luke’s daydreaming, lost in his thoughts of home, when Dr. Oliver snaps two fingers in front of his face.

Luke starts, blinking and realizing that he’s missed Laura and Annie’s departure. He flushes. “Sorry, I spaced out for a minute there.”

Dr. Oliver raises both eyebrows. “This is what I’m paying you for?”

Luke groans. “Oh, get over it,” he says. “Doctor Oliver.”

Dr. Oliver stares at him for a long moment, his tongue poking between his lips, and amusement in his eyes. Luke can tell he’s trying hard not to smile. “Get back to work, Mister Walsh.”

Luke straightens up and salutes, and Dr. Oliver fails to hide his smile this time, turning away quickly to try and cover his amusement as he leaves the stable. On the way out, he steps in something a little suspicious, and Luke can’t help but grin as Dr. Oliver curses, grumbling as he wipes his shoe on the grass outside.

Luke finishes grooming Sonny, then heads back outside. He hasn’t talked to Victoria in a couple days, and he decides to walk over to the house and say hello. She always smiles and pats his cheek and calls him mijo, and Luke’s feeling just self-pitying enough to seek out a dose of substitute-grandma affection.

She should have arrived at work by now, the Judds left about a half hour ago, and Luke assumes Dr. Oliver’s gone off to the hospital already, so when he steps up to the back porch of the house and hears raised voices through the open screen door, he freezes.

Apparently, Dr. Oliver is still here. Luke can hear him shouting at who he assumes is Victoria.

“I pay you to do a job,” Luke hears. “A simple job. A job any idiot could do, and you’re that idiot!”

Luke winces, hesitating for a second before opening the door and walking inside the house. He heads toward the voices and finds himself in the doorway to the kitchen.

Victoria’s eyes are downcast and Dr. Oliver’s back is to Luke as he continues to berate her.

“It’s not a difficult job,” he’s saying. “It’s not like, oh say, brain surgery, but if you find it so difficult to perform your duties properly, then by all means, get out of here. Your husband too. Comprende?”

Luke’s mouth drops open in shock at Dr. Oliver’s cruel words, but Victoria just says, “Yes, Dr. Oliver.”

He nods once before turning to pick his briefcase up off the kitchen bench.

“Great,” he says when he spots Luke. “Another idiot on my payroll. Quit gawking, the show’s over.”

Dr. Oliver stalks past Luke and heads out of the kitchen. A moment later they hear the front door slam, and after that the sound of his car taking off.

“Are you all right?” Luke asks Victoria. She looks upset, and shaken up, and Luke feels incredibly angry on her behalf. “He has no right to talk to you like that.”

“He has a temper, but I did make a mistake,” she says.

“What did you do?”

Victoria sighs. “Dr. Oliver likes things done a certain way,” she says, pointing at the ajar door of the pantry. Luke glances inside and sees that it’s meticulously organized, with dozens of cans arranged by height, and assorted Tupperware containers all labeled and dated lined up along the shelves. “He likes to have the cans facing the same way, and I was distracted, some of them were wrong.”

“That’s it?” Luke asks, incredulous. “He was yelling at you about some cans?”

Victoria chuckles and pats his cheek, and Luke feels like he’s missing something, but he doesn’t know what exactly.

“It’s okay, mijo,” she says. “You don’t know him like I do.”

Luke’s not sure what else there is to know, he’s seen enough of Dr. Oliver’s behavior by now to know that the man’s rude, and cold, arrogant as hell, short-tempered, and he also apparently gets off on on tormenting his servants with ludicrous demands and threats.

“You don’t have to put up with it, you know,” Luke says, thinking that he’d never stick around if Dr. Oliver ever spoke to him that way. Luke doesn’t have to stay here, he has money and resources and he could go on hiding out somewhere else if he has to, but Victoria and Juan probably don’t have that option.

Victoria just smiles gently, and says, “Yes, mijo, I do.”

Luke makes a frustrated sound, torn between wanting to come clean and confess his true identity and promising to help Victoria with money if she needs it, and maintaining his cover to keep his family safe.

Victoria just pats his cheek again and says, “Don’t you worry, Luke. I’m all right. I was just upset about Annie, and distracted, and Dr. Oliver, he got a call from the hospital with bad news about one of his patients. We were both upset.”

Luke frowns. “You were upset about Annie? Annie who? Annie Judd?”

“Yes, mijo,” Victoria says. “She’s my granddaughter. I thought you knew?”

“No,” Luke shakes his head. “I didn’t know that. I thought Dr. Oliver was... seeing Laura Judd.”

Victoria laughs. “No, mijo, my daughter Laura is married. Annie is Dr. Oliver’s patient.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Luke asks, then flushes. “Sorry,” he says. “That’s none of my business.”

“It’s all right, Luke,” Victoria says. “She has cancer in the brain. Dr. Oliver diagnosed her a few weeks ago. She is having radiation now to shrink the tumors before he operates.”

“I’m so sorry,” Luke says. “That’s awful. I have a little sister about her age. I can’t even imagine...”

“Dr. Oliver, he’s arrogant, but it’s because he’s the best,” Victoria says. “Annie will be okay with him, you’ll see.”

“Of course she will!” Luke says optimistically, and Victoria smiles at him.

“I know Dr. Oliver seems like a difficult man,” she says.

Luke snorts. “Tell me about it!”

Victoria smiles. “I know how he seems, but I’ve known him for a while now. His work is difficult, and sometimes he loses his temper with me, but I don’t mind,” she says, then winks at him. “He doesn’t scare me.”

Victoria grins and Luke bites his lip, studying her face for a long moment. His mind is swirling through a dozen different thoughts, but the one it settles on is: Dr. Oliver’s not trying to get into Laura Judd’s pants after all.

“Why did Dr. Oliver buy those horses, Victoria?”

“He bought them for my Annie,” she says, and Luke frowns, still not getting it.


Victoria sighs. “Annie’s father, my daughter’s husband, he’s... a difficult man, too.” Victoria hefts herself onto a kitchen stool and gestures for Luke to do the same.

“Dennis, that’s his name, he works a lot,” Victoria says. “He doesn’t spend much time with his family, he never has. When Dr. Oliver diagnosed Annie, he was very angry, upset.”

“That’s understandable,” Luke says, and Victoria nods.

“Yes, of course, mijo. We were all upset, Laura was devastated. But Dr. Oliver was so confident, he’s so sure he can fix her, and Annie, she’s not upset at all!” Victoria smiles. “She loves Dr. Oliver, she thinks he’s magic,” Victoria chuckles. “He’s so good with her. She goes in for her treatment and she gets so tired, and so sick sometimes, but she’s always smiling.”

Luke smiles. “She’s got a good attitude.”

Victoria nods. “Dennis, he doesn’t like Dr. Oliver so much. He thinks he’s too arrogant. I know what Dr. Oliver’s like,” she says. “I know people don’t like how he talks to them. But Dennis, he’s arrogant, too. He wants to be the big man in the family, you know, mijo? He doesn’t like listening to other people much, either. He doesn’t like Dr. Oliver, so he usually stays away from the hospital. It’s not right,” she says, then bites her lip, obviously not wanting to air all her family’s dirty laundry in front of Luke.

“My Annie, she loves horses,” Victoria goes on. “Laura and Dennis were saving to get her riding lessons, but now all their money is getting eaten up with Annie in the hospital. Laura had to stop working to look after Annie. She has radiation three times a week, and she’s too sick to be in school, so Laura stays with her all day.”

“That must be difficult,” Luke says, thinking of the sick children his Foundation works with, and how heartbreaking some of their stories are.

“Dennis, he never goes to the hospital for Annie’s treatments, but last week, for some reason, he decided to go. Laura told me he picked a fight with Dr. Oliver, was questioning everything he did, all his medical decisions, and he threatened to take Annie to a different doctor. Annie got upset about that, she doesn’t want a different doctor, but Dennis didn’t like that either. Annie kept talking about how she couldn’t wait until Dr. Reid fixed her so she could finally go riding, and Dennis started getting mad about money, and jealous about Dr. Oliver, and raising his voice. Poor Annie was getting upset. Laura said Dr. Oliver told Annie, ‘You know what, Miss Judd? I have some horses of my own that you can visit anytime you want. How would you like to come see them tomorrow?’”

And just like that, the pieces click into place. Dr. Oliver didn’t buy the horses just to throw his money around, he bought them to make a sick kid happy. And probably to piss off Mr. Judd, too. Luke can’t help but smile at that.

“It all happened so fast Juan and I didn’t even know they were for Annie until later, after Laura told us,” Victoria said. “Dr. Oliver just called up one day and told me to get your place ready, and then you were here the same day!”

Luke smiles, and Victoria goes on. “Dennis, he didn’t like that at all, but Annie was so excited about getting to see the horses, he couldn’t tell her no. She hasn’t stopped talking about them ever since she saw them.”

Luke smiles. “She’s good with them,” he says. “She’ll be up and riding in no time.” Luke doesn’t let himself think about Annie not getting better, or worse, dying.

“I hope so, mijo,” Victoria smiles and stands up. “Now, I better get back to my chores.”

Luke stands up too and impulsively hugs Victoria close for a moment. “I hope Annie gets better really soon,” he tells her, before heading back to his quarters, his brain swirling with all the new information.

Luke sits at the desk and boots up his laptop, deciding to lose himself for a while in a world where sweet little girls who remind him of Natalie don’t have cancer, and boys named Noah have never met men named Mason.


Lukas was surreptitiously watching Noah at work from his position by the blacksmith’s workshop door. It had been several days since he and Noah had spent time alone together. Noah had been unable to sneak away the few times Lukas had asked him, and Lukas missed him. He watched as Noah raised the sledge hammer and delivered the heavy blows where Winston indicated.

Noah’s arms were strong, the muscles well developed from his long days in the blacksmith’s shop. Lukas loved to touch him there, to feel his strength, and inhale his manly scent after a day’s exertions. It made Lukas grow hard, but Noah was sometimes uncomfortable with his own body’s reaction to Lukas. Their couplings were over quickly, his object being to seek release swiftly, and then he would steal away back to his cot with the other strikers and farriers.

Lukas sighed. He longed to make their couplings less urgent, to strip them both of all their clothing, something they had yet to do, and to take his time exploring all of Noah’s masculine body and secret places, to run his hands along the hard muscles, and feel the hair on his arms and legs, and surrounding his lovely cock. Lukas longed for that freedom, to spend hours exploring his man’s body, but he knew it would probably never be. He also wanted to kiss Noah’s cock, to take it inside his mouth and suck until Noah climaxed. He had never done such a thing, only heard about it, in whispered gossip among the men he had grown up around. Just three years earlier one of the molly houses in London had been raided, and six men were strung up and hung while the crowd threw stones and rotten fruit at them, shouting and condemning them to hell for their crimes.

The stories scared Lukas, but despite the danger, he knew he would never love a woman. It was men he craved, and Noah he wanted. Although they had done little with each other physically, Lukas longed to go further, to do those things which other men were hung for, to take Noah’s cock inside his body and make love with him. Lukas put his own fingers inside himself, sometimes, when he was in private, and imagined it was Noah there. But Noah was not yet ready, he had told Lukas many times, and though he longed for it, Lukas was patient, he would wait until Noah was ready for them to couple in the act which he craved.

Lukas sighed once more, then returned to his work.


A few days later, Lukas was still missing Noah terribly. Lukas hadn’t caught a glimpse of him all day. Holden had sent Lukas up to the hayloft in the morning, and he’d been kept occupied with tasks there all day, scarcely pausing to eat a quick meal of bread and cold mutton at midday.

Now, the men were eating dinner, and Lukas slipped from the dining hall, hoping to find Noah and spend some time alone, just the two of them. He wasn’t in the dining hall, nor in his quarters, and Lukas began to walk toward their secret place by the Oak trees, hoping that Noah would be waiting for him there.

As Lukas approached, he heard strange sounds. It sounded like the rustle of fabric, but he did not know who could possibly be out there at this hour. Lukas’s forehead creased in a frown, and he walked closer, staying as quiet as possible. If the strange sounds were a fox, or some such creature, Lukas did not wish to startle it.

The closer Lukas got to their special place, the louder the sounds became, and as Lukas made his final approach, and peered into the dark grove, he saw a sight which shocked him to the core.

Lit only by a dim lamp, Lukas saw two bodies moving together. There was a woman, her skirts hitched up as she leaned against a tree, a man in front of her, his face buried in her neck as they rutted together. Lukas recognized her as Madeleine, one of the young scullery maids who had been at Oakdale Hall for little more than a month. She was moaning pleasurably as the man pumped into her, and Lukas had to stifle his surprised gasp with a palm against his mouth. He’d never seen anything like this before, and he was frozen in shock. Just as he was about to retreat quietly, the man lifted his head from where it was hidden in Madeleine’s neck, and the sight made Lukas’s blood run cold.

“Yes,” Madeleine moaned. “Oh, yes, Noah.”

Lukas gasped out loud, and the pair looked over and saw Lukas watching them.

“Oh!” Madeleine cried, attempting to push her skirts down and push Noah away. “Oh, it’s just one of the stable lads,” she said. “Get rid of him, Noah.”

Noah turned slightly, and busied his hands at his trousers, obviously tucking his penis away, and then turned to Lukas.

Lukas fled. He stumbled blindly along the uneven ground as he ran back towards the stable block, tears stinging at his eyes. He wiped at them furiously, ignoring Noah’s cries as he ran after Lukas.

Noah was taller than Lukas, however, and soon caught up, his longer legs covering ground faster than Lukas was able.

“Lukas!” Noah cried again, gripping his shoulder and spinning him around. “Stop, Lukas, let me explain.”

“Explain what?” Lukas said furiously. “Explain how you could betray me! And with a woman! A lowly scullery maid, at that! A bit o’muslin!”

“It is not like that!” Noah cried. “We are in love!”

Lukas froze. “You are in love?” he choked out. “What about us? I thought you loved me? I love you, Noah!”

Noah’s face was pinched, his eyes narrowed into slits. “It’s not right, Lukas,” he said. “Two men loving each other. I don’t want that life. I want to marry, and have children. I want to do things in the natural order.”

“You... you want to marry,” Lukas said. “You want to marry Madeleine?”

Noah closed his eyes briefly, then reopened them, looking at Lukas directly. “Yes,” he said. “Madeleine and I will soon be husband and wife.”

Lukas could not speak, the words stuck in his throat. “I— I...” Lukas shook his head, and turned to make his escape, angry tears stinging his eyes.

“I am sorry!” Noah shouted from behind him, but Lukas ignored him, wanting nothing more than to run, to flee, and try to escape from the unbearable pain clawing at his heart.


Lukas slipped away from the stable block the next morning, wishing to avoid Noah. He did not know what he would do if he saw him, but he feared he would be unable to control his temper, so he fled to the gardens at the opposite end of the estate.

Lukas had not gotten a wink of sleep all night. He kept replaying the horrifying images of Noah and Madeleine together in his mind, and then his conversation with Noah afterwards. The betrayal felt like a hot poker burning in his gut. Lukas wiped angrily at the tears which fell from his eyes, causing his vision to blur as he stumbled onto a gravel pathway.

Suddenly, Lukas heard footsteps up ahead, and paused, hastily wiping his eyes dry with his sleeve. Several yards up the path was Jude Lovell, his hands jammed into the pockets of his greatcoat and the ever present frown on his face.

They stared at one another for a moment. Mr. Lovell seemed ready to reprimand Lukas, to demand to know what he was doing here, in the family’s private gardens, but then he seemed to sense Lukas’s upset, his eyes flickering around Lukas’s wet, red-rimmed eyes, and his face softened.

Lukas swallowed, and inclined his head slightly. Beg your forgiveness, Sir.

Mr. Lovell nodded once, then jutted his chin to the side, signalling for Lukas to leave the garden. Lukas nodded in return, and returned from whence he came, grateful for Mr. Lovell’s small gesture of kindness.


Luke’s got lasagna cooking in the oven that night when there’s a knock on the door, and Luke’s more than a little surprised to find Dr. Oliver on the other side, holding a briefcase in one hand.

“Was there something you needed, Dr. Oliver?” Luke asks professionally.

Dr. Oliver tugs at his ear, then clears his throat. “Look,” he says. “About earlier today.”

Luke raises his eyebrows, waiting.

“I wanted to apologize for that scene.”

“You should be apologizing to Victoria,” Luke says.

Dr. Oliver nods. “I will, the next time I see her.”

“Okay, well, good,” Luke says. “She doesn’t deserve that kind of crap.”

Dr. Oliver looks surprised at Luke’s tone, but he’s done playing nice, and Doctor Oliver can just get used to it.

“She doesn’t,” Dr. Oliver agrees. “But she puts up with it anyway. We have an... understanding.”

“Well, she’s more understanding than I would be.”

“So, you're not one to roll over easily. Good to know. This could be interesting, Mr. Walsh.”

Luke narrows his eyes at Dr. Oliver, curious about the innuendo. Dr. Oliver’s eyes narrow too, and dance with mirth, and Luke once again finds himself thinking that he’s a good looking guy when he lightens up. Luke looks away then, and clears his throat.

Dr. Oliver straightens, and says, “I should go.”

Luke nods and is about to say goodbye when the oven timer dings, and right on cue, Dr. Oliver’s stomach growls loudly.

“Do you want to stay for dinner?” Luke surprises himself by asking.

“What’s cooking?” Dr. Oliver asks, not disinterestedly.

“Lasagna,” Luke says. “I made it myself.”

Dr. Oliver growls low in his throat, and pushes inside past Luke. “I’ll stay,” he says. “I’m physically incapable of turning down free food.”

Luke snorts, and closes the door behind him. “Your manners are appalling,” he says.

“Yeah yeah,” Dr. Oliver says impatiently. “Gimme gimme.”

Luke hides his smile and goes over to the oven as Dr. Oliver tosses his briefcase on the couch and pulls up a chair at the table, looking around the room and checking everything out. “So, you’re all settled in?” he asks Luke.

“Sure,” Luke says. “It’s a nice place.”

Dr. Oliver just nods.

“Um, do you want something to drink,” Luke offers, opening the fridge. “I have soda, juice, water…”

“You got a beer?”

“Um, no, sorry,” Luke says. “I don’t drink.”

Dr. Oliver shrugs. “Okay, water’s fine.”

Luke gets him a bottle of water, then goes to check on the lasagna. It’s done, and Luke busies himself dishing up two servings.

Luke slides a plate in front of Dr. Oliver. “Dig in.”

Dr. Oliver picks up his knife and fork and takes a huge bite of lasagna, moaning appreciatively at the taste.

Luke laughs. “It’s good?”

Dr. Oliver nods rapidly, his mouth full. “So good,” he says when he’s swallowed. “You made this?”

Luke nods. “My grandma taught me a few things. She’s a great cook.”

Dr. Oliver shovels in another forkful. “You’re a great cook, too.”

Luke’s cheeks warm a little at the compliment. “Thanks,” he says, and takes a bite for himself. He never seems to do much cooking in Oakdale. He usually just grabs take-out or his mom or grandma cook for him, but he’s had too much free time on his hands here, so he’s been cooking more. Luke’s discovering that he really enjoys it, and judging from the way Dr. Oliver’s eating with such gusto, Luke must be pretty decent at it. It’s kinda fun to have someone enjoy something he’s made. He never really got a chance to cook for Noah. He burned a grilled cheese once, and after that Noah was convinced Luke was useless in the kitchen.

Dr. Oliver’s already cleared half his plate, and Luke’s barely started. He wonders where he puts it all. As far as Luke can tell, he’s in pretty good shape. He always wears these tight jeans that don’t leave much to the imagination, and he has this one black sweater that show off his tight, wiry muscles and...

Luke clears his throat. “So, uh, I know about Annie,” he says. “That she’s Victoria’s granddaughter. She told me Annie’s your patient, and that she has brain cancer.”

“I see the hired help gossip mill’s been running at full steam,” Dr. Oliver says. “I knew the TV shows hadn’t been lying to me all these years.”

Luke narrows his eyes. “The hired help respect your privacy, Doctor Oliver. We weren’t gossiping. I was just trying to comfort Victoria after you yelled at her this morning, and she told me she was upset because Annie wasn’t doing too well. I was confused, I didn’t realize she was related to Annie. I thought you and Laura were… seeing each other.”

Dr. Oliver snorts, then wipes his mouth on a napkin. “I’m not seeing Laura Judd,” he says. “She’s married.”

Luke shrugs. “I know that now,” he says. “But I’d assumed…”

“I’m gay, Mr. Walsh,” Dr. Oliver says, his blue eyes sharp. “Do you have a problem with that?”

Luke thinks back to his first day here, and the cautious way Juan had answered Luke’s questions about Dr. Oliver. Juan’s hesitancy makes sense now, and it’s obvious that Juan knew Dr. Oliver was gay but didn’t feel it was his place to tell Luke.

“Of course not,” Luke says, taking a quick drink of water. "Why would I care? I'm gay, too.”

Dr. Oliver’s eyes take on a strange glint then, and Luke changes the subject, slightly unnerved. “So, Annie likes horses, huh?” Lame, Luke.

Dr. Oliver rolls his eyes. “What gave it away, Mr. Walsh?”

Luke chuckles, ignoring the insult. He’s starting to think Dr. Oliver’s jerk act is mostly just that — an act.

Luke eats some more lasagna, and tries to tamp down the strange, nervous feeling in his stomach at the news that Dr. Oliver is gay. He thinks back to his dream the other night, and wonders if on some unconscious level he’d already known, and he shifts in his chair.

The silence is becoming uncomfortable when Dr. Oliver speaks.

“So,” he begins, in a painfully awkward attempt at small talk. “Have you been in this line of work long?”

“Not too long,” Luke says. “I grew up around horses though. I know what I’m doing.”

“That’s not what I— I wasn’t trying to imply—”

“It’s fine,” Luke says, cutting him off.

They eat in silence for a few moments, then Dr. Oliver tries again. “So where are you from? You don’t sound like a native.”

“Around,” Luke says, cautiously, not wanting to give anything away that could blow his cover. “I, uh, moved a lot. What about you?”

“The South when I was a kid, then we went up North. I’ve moved around a lot too, but I’ve been in Dallas a couple years now.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, the house seems kinda big for one person…”

Dr. Oliver shrugs. “The hospital found it for me when I moved here,” he says. “I suppose I could have looked for something else once I got settled but it doesn’t take me long to get to the hospital, which was my main criteria, and I didn’t have the time or inclination to look for something else. Besides, Juan and Victoria do all the work.”

“It’s nice,” Luke says. “I mean, from the outside. I haven’t seen inside except for the uh, kitchen,” Luke says, laughing nervously.

“You want a tour?” Dr. Oliver asks.

“Of your house?” Luke asks, surprised. “Sure. I mean, yes. But I don’t want to impose or anything,” Luke says, thinking back to their first conversation when Dr. Oliver had told him in no uncertain terms that they weren’t going to be friends.

“There’s not much to see, really, but if you’re curious.” Dr. Oliver shrugs. “I have some ice cream in the freezer. How about I spring for dessert since you shared your dinner with me.”

“Well, who knew?” Luke murmurs.

“Who knew what?” Dr. Oliver says.

“Nothing,” Luke says, shaking his head.

Dr. Oliver narrows his eyes. “No. Tell me.”

“Fine,” Luke says. “It’s just, who knew you could be nice? You've been so busy being a jerk to me, and to Victoria, and probably Juan too, that I'm not sure what to make of you right now.”

“Victoria likes it when I yell at her.”

“Oh yeah, I bet,” Luke scoffs.

Dr. Oliver stares at him for a long moment, and Luke shifts uncomfortably in his chair under the scrutiny. He wonders if he’s about to get fired, but Dr. Oliver just blinks, and clears his throat. “You want that tour now?”

“Yes,” Luke says, surprised at how much he does want that, and follows Dr. Oliver over to the main house, pausing while he fishes keys out of his pocket and unlocks the back door.

Dr. Oliver flicks on some lights and leads Luke into a cozy living room. There’s a comfortable looking couch and a coffee table, and a huge flatscreen TV, as well as a desk piled high with journals and papers, and a laptop and printer. Everything’s immaculately clean, and the polished timber floors are shining.

The kitchen is huge, and a mix of old and new. Luke takes it all in carefully this time. There are tons of country-style cupboards and a timber butcher’s block, plus a huge gleaming stainless steel double fridge and freezer, and a gorgeous marble bench top. It would be way easier to cook in here than in the tiny kitchenette in his quarters, Luke notes. It has a nice feel. Luke likes it a lot.

Dr. Oliver shows him a larger living room, but it’s mostly empty, there are a few bookshelves with a lot of heavy books on the shelves but not much else. There’s a bathroom, and a separate laundry, and down a long hallway are a bunch of rooms Dr. Oliver points at but doesn’t open.

“There’s five bedrooms and a study,” he says. “But there’s no furniture, except in my room, so there’s not much to see.”

Luke smiles. “It’s a great house,” he says. It really is, Luke’s actually kind of jealous. “Too bad you don’t use it all.”

Dr. Oliver shrugs, and Luke asks, “Doesn’t your family ever come to visit?”

Dr. Oliver snorts. “No, Mr. Walsh,” he says. “They do not.”

Luke winces, hating the lie. “Just call me Luke, please,” he says.

Dr. Oliver looks at him for a long moment. “You ready for that ice cream now?”

Luke nods and follows him back to the kitchen, pulling up a stool as Dr. Oliver dishes up two bowls of chocolate ice cream. The house is charming, and Luke’s already half in love with it. He’d always hoped he and Noah would buy something similar together one day, but that seems like an impossibility at the moment, so Luke puts the thought out of his mind.

“So, where do you work?” Luke asks. “I don’t really know Dallas too well. I just came for the job.”

“I was at Baylor,” Dr. Oliver says. “Still am, I suppose, though I run my own clinic from there now.”

“Wow,” Luke says. “That must be challenging.”

“I’m the best,” Dr. Oliver says arrogantly. “People wait up to a year to see me, and I only deal with the cases that interest me.”

“So, all the little people, they don't matter so much?”

Dr. Oliver smiles ghoulishly. “If they have something interesting wrong in their heads, they do. Then they can be the star of my universe for a few beautiful hours under the bright lights of the OR.”

“You must get punched a lot,” Luke says.

Dr. Oliver barks out a laugh at the non sequitur. “I do, actually,” he says. “How did you know?”

“Because I kinda want to punch you myself right now.”

Dr. Oliver smirks. “Being me seems to do that,” he says. “But I don’t play rough on the first date.”

“What?” Luke splutters, flushing as Dr. Oliver laughs at him.

“Um, so what is there to do in Dallas?” Luke changes the subject as Dr. Oliver slides a bowl and spoon over. “For fun.”

Dr. Oliver shrugs and eats a gigantic spoonful of ice cream.

Luke frowns. “You’ve lived here for two years?”

Dr. Oliver just shrugs again.

“Well, do you have a favorite restaurant?”

“Nah,” he says. “I do takeout, and Victoria keeps me in frozen dinners.”

“Favorite bar?” Luke tries. “Club? Lounge?”

Dr. Oliver stares at him blankly.

“Ice-skating rink? Bowling alley?”

“I went bowling once,” he says. “I was nine years old.”

Luke snorts out a laugh.

“Look, I work hard,” Dr. Oliver says. “And I’m the best at what I do. I don’t have time for a pointless personal life.”

“A pointless personal life?” Luke repeats. “What, you mean doing things like having fun and hanging out with friends?”

Dr. Oliver smirks. “Overrated.”

Luke shakes his sadly. “Pathetic,” he says, and Dr. Oliver grins widely, shoving another huge spoonful of ice cream in his mouth.

Luke rolls his eyes and concentrates on finishing up the last of his ice cream, licking the spoon clean.

Dr. Oliver stares at Luke’s mouth when he does it, and his own tongue darts out to moisten his lips. It’s disconcerting.

“Um, I should probably get back,” Luke says, dropping his spoon back into the bowl with a loud clatter. “Thank you for the ice cream.”

“Thank you for the lasagna,” Dr. Oliver says. “It really was good.”

Luke flushes with pleasure. “Thank you! You don’t cook?”

Dr. Oliver chuckles. “I reheat what Victoria puts in the freezer,” he says. “I’m pretty good with a microwave.”

“Pa-thetic,” Luke teases again with a smile. “You should come over for dinner again tomorrow,” Luke says, without really thinking about it. Dr. Oliver looks startled, and Luke immediately backtracks. “You don’t have to,” he says. “I mean, I wasn’t—”

“Another one of your grandma’s recipes?”

“Sure,” Luke says.

“Well I can’t say no to that,” Dr. Oliver says. “Like I said, I’m physically incapable of turning down a good meal.”

Luke grins, pleased with the compliment.

Dr. Oliver’s eyes flash with heat, then, and he very deliberately drops his eyes down to Luke’s mouth, then back up again. Luke is not imagining that, right?

“Okay,” Luke says, suddenly feeling a little sweaty. He trips over the legs of the stool as he gets up, and flushes. “Around seven again is fine.”

Dr. Oliver nods and gestures toward the back door, and Luke smiles a weak goodbye, heading down the hallway to the back door. When he gets back to his quarters, he closes the door behind himself and sags against it, closing his eyes and picturing that look on Dr. Oliver’s face. Luke feels a surge of heat in his gut, and his dick twitches inside his jeans. Luke takes a deep breath, and thinks of Noah.