Luke: If you could just move your feet maybe two inches to the left, I can get (my papers), get out of here, and get out of your way.
Reid: Yeah. If it helps get rid of you, I’ll even pick it up myself.

— Luke and Reid

FanFic Update | Simple Gifts Chapters 29: Love – Two; Cyncism – Zip (and Chapter 27-29 Author’s Notes)

I’m reposting the links to Chapter 27 and 28 here because the author’s notes below apply to all three chapters.

Chapter 27: Where Does it Hurt?Just a little fluff for a change

Chapter 28: Shreve Crump & LowLuke receives a mysterious package

Chapter 29: Love – Two; Cynicism – ZipWhat’s in the box, Luke?

If you can’t remember which story this is, or where we are in the storyline, a spoiler-filled summary of Chapters 1-28 follows below:

[spoiler]The entire story’s action so far has taken place in December 2010 (starting with Christmas day) and early January 2011. However, there is extensive use of flashbacks to both canon, made-up scenes both pre- and post-Reid, as well as hybrids. It goes off canon roughly in early August. The story begins at Christmas time when Reid gives Luke a trip to a four-week writer’s retreat in Iowa.

Yes, the boys have made love – of COURSE. I think I know when their first time was, but that flashback has not been played out yet. Yes, they have said “I love you” (chapter 12 Tuesday at Al’s). The boys progressed slowly (per canon) through the summer, dated/had a serious relationship in the autumn, and moved in together in November. When Noah called a few days ago, Luke more or less told him to go stuff it.

Noah left for USC film school in July; there was a Mona Cross arc; Reid is NOT Chief of Staff – Chris is (I definitely know why, but this has not been revealed yet), and Chris’s heart is (and always has been and will be) just fine, thank you very much. Barbara and Henry are together, and Chris and Katie are engaged (Reid is to be "maid" of honor). Luke and Reid have been working together on the surgical wing project (not just neuro).

As of Chapter 29, Luke has now been away for just over two weeks. Fate has conspired to keep the boys from speaking now for about 3 days, giving Reid plenty of time to over-react. It probably feels like MUCH longer, though because those three days are embodied by (so far) over 56,000 words and a dozen chapters posted over a period of half a year!

In the last chapter, Shreve, Crump & Low, a box arrived for Luke, which annoying classmate Bradley identified as being from an upscale Boston jeweler.[/spoiler]

And in case you want to start from the beginning, click here….

Simple Gifts: A Luke and Reid Fanfiction

Train? What train. Following their first Christmas together, Luke and Reid embark on journeys of self-discovery. Can two simple gifts lead to a happily ever after?

Enjoy,

-LL

Extended author’s notes follow the break below for anyone who wants to know more about the story behind this mini arc.

Author’s Notes – to be read after reading the accompanying chapters. As always, don’t bother reading if you’re easily bored or nauseated by author’s self-indulgent ramblings!

[spoiler name=A/N:]

The Benefits and Challenges of Looking at the Calendar

One choice I made when I first started writing is to try to stick to a real calendar, so I actually looked at the December 2010/January 2011 calendar for dates when plotting the storyline. At the time, it had been so long since I wrote any fiction that it was kind of an arbitrary choice.

In hindsight, I’m very aware that anchoring on real-life dates puts some stakes in the ground, and creates constraints on the story. But, as I’m also learning, those constraints also create opportunities in a weird way. I’m not sure how to explain it, but because I can’t just make up when things happen, it has forced me to think harder about how things fit together.

Consequently, sometimes, trying to figure out ways to work around the calendar has resulted in some unexpected resolutions. For example, by anchoring on real dates, it gave me a specific period to fill between Christmas (when Reid gives Luke the plane tickets) and the start of the workshop. Also, by listing Reid and Luke’s weekly routines in an early chapter, it’s forced me to think about what Reid or Luke would be doing on each specific day (as in “Tuesday evening”) during their four-week separation.

Sometimes I ended up anchoring on reality and then stretching the truth. For example, as previously mentioned, I loved the concept of “my” Iowa Writers Workshop, so even though IWW only runs informal seminars for the summer, I decided to ignore reality in this case.

But one thing I did pay attention to were the real dates for Sundance (speaking of which, woo hoo for Silent House’s premiere!). When I wrote the whole weekend arc starting from Noah’s call, I did actually look to see when Sundance was – as an aspiring artistic filmmaker (Scorsese, not Spielberg) on the west coast, it seemed like this would be Noah’s dream.

When I saw that the actual Sundance dates (January 20-30, 2011) matched almost perfectly with the dates I needed for the story (a week after Luke’s return), I had to make up a post-festival showing (which, to me, had the added benefit of a little more realism than Noah’s first real film actually making the festival) – sorry, Noah!

There are a few other plot points that will eventually tie into Luke’s inability to go to Noah’s premiere a week after his return, but you’ll have to wait for awhile before that will become clear.

Where Does It Hurt?

Very early on, I realized that the anniversary of Reid’s on-air debut would occur mid-workshop. I knew I couldn’t let that go recognized in the story (more on that below). So January 19th became a significant date. As it turns out, 19th January 2011 is the 3rd Wednesday of the retreat. Storyline-wise, this also fit in pretty well with what I wanted to get done in the 4-week retreat, so it’s been something I’ve been working towards.

The Katie dress-shopping scene (Feisty) also came to mind very early on. I knew it had to be occur on a weekend since Katie never would have been able to get Reid to a shop during the week). The first weekend was too early; there are things that still need to happen in the final two weeks of the retreat, so it had to be that middle weekend.

I also needed the Noah phone call to occur that weekend because it precipitated the whole Oakdale Now story arc which had to occur on a weekday, and logically would be the soonest weekday after Reid freaks out.

With telecommunications the way they are these days (between texting, callerID, and email), it took me awhile to come up with a (hopefully) plausible reason why Noah could not reach Luke directly because I needed Reid to be the messenger.  But once I finally figured that out (Luke’s cell phone died) the rest of Luke’s weekend plotted itself (shopping with Tessa, loading the new iPod).

And once I stopped ROTFL at the concept of Reid freaking out at hearing Tessa on the phone, Reid’s weekend wrote itself, too (if Reid was going to have a bad weekend, why not make it really awful – TO, Tom Terrific, Tofutti – the fact that Chris worked in Pittsburgh, Oakdale is near Chicago, and Reid had lived in Dallas and Boston helped anchor the teams chosen).

So, with Saturday (Katie/Reid dress shopping), Sunday (Noah’s message/Tessa setting up the phone/Reid at Tom and Margo’s), and Monday (Noah’s call/Reid flipping out/Oakdale Now) planned, that left an unplotted Tuesday before Luke could receive his mysterious gift.

Consequently, Where Does It Hurt? is pretty much 100% filler. The last several chapters had been wordy angst (with a little humor, I hope), but it had been a few chapters since the last intimate flashback, so it also seemed needed pace-wise.

The tennis vignette popped to mind months ago (much like the Diet Coke in the movie theatre and getting shoved in the pond scenes). Both were conceived almost like drabbles/one-shots in isolation, and part of the challenge was figuring out how they fit into the main storyline.

Given Reid’s washboard abs, and his wicked golf swing, I liked the idea of young stud Luke having to work to keep up with him! 🙂

Are They Ever Going to Talk Again?

One piece of feedback I’ve gotten a lot of is that it’s been a LOOOONNNNGGGG time since the boys have talked. Some examples from LRO:

From Stonehouse – Why are you doing this to our boys!?! Did JP or CG get a hold of your script? Don’t keep our boys apart! *cries* Why did they have to be apart for so long? I know that Luke is away at some writing thing, but I meant keep them away from talking to each other. It’s painful.

From Cherimola – Not that I’ve been counting, but you do realize they’ve been apart now since, what, May? Ohh, I know. I’m just sayin’ the talking separation thing isn’t being made any less painful for me by the length of the overall separation. Though the flashbacks are helping.

In storyline time, it’s only been just over 3 story-days since they talked (and 2-1/2 weeks since Luke left Oakdale). They talked Saturday evening at the end of Feisty (ring and dress shopping). The mystery box arrived on Wednesday morning, so their wires were only crossed on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. As of Wednesday morning, they’ve traded a few texts and Monday night, Luke left Reid a bunch of messages Monday trying to reach him.

OTOH, in real life terms, Feisty was posted on June 14th (over six months ago! yikes!) and according to the FanFiction.net stats, the chapters since then (17-29) have included over 58,500 words (holy @#&$!). So I can see why people are impatient!

I am totally conscious of the fact that the outcome of the Luke-Noah phone conversation was/is a huge elephant in the room, and I am as eager for our heroes to have a heart-to-heart as everyone else. I have debated having them talk at various points in just about every intermittent chapter, but ultimately, decided that the arrival of the mysterious gift would have more of an impact if the boys had NOT resolved the Noah issue or had a routine chat beforehand.

It was only when I started writing the scenes where Luke is thinking about what’s in the box that I re-read the previous chapters. For me, the chapter with their last conversation was posted on June 14th, so when I started writing, a big part of me was thinking the sentence would be something like “the last time they talked the subject was the wallpaper in the surgical wing” so that the arrival of a ring would be out of the blue.

So, when I read backwards through the chapters, as I imagine Luke would have rewound the last few days, I was actually surprised to find that indeed their last phone conversation was the one at the end of Chapter 16 (Feisty) when they talked about RING SHOPPING. My real-life response was probably very much like I imagine Luke’s would be. My mouth actually dropped open as I thought “Ohmygod!” at the happy coincidence.

While I knew I wanted Luke to freak out a bit imagining what was in the box, the fact that their last conversation happened to be about ring shopping sent me into a little happy dance, making the rest of that scene just that much more fun to write! 🙂

As for why this has all dragged on so much, a core reason to separate them was for Luke to figure out what he wanted to do with his life – both careerwise, and romantically. The second big reason can basically be summed up as “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I wanted them to really think about their relationship, something that most of us will recognize is hard to do sometimes when embroiled in the daily routine of laundry, dishes, work, and electrical bills. The fact that Luke and Reid also work together makes it just that much harder for them to step back and objectively evaluate how they feel about each other.

And as said previously, I felt that “my” Luke is completely over Noah, but would be oblivious to how traumatized Reid has been these last two days as he’s assuming everything was cleared up when they had their to-do when he moved in. I needed Reid to figure convince himself that Luke has chosen him, not to just have Luke reassure him he’s over Noah.

At the same time, I don’t think either of them were ready to think about marriage in September (at the end of ATWT). I don’t even think it was realistic in my universe, much less in the ATWT canon. As much as I would have loved to see it play out on air, I don’t think TPTB had enough time in the nine months Reid aired to realistically play out the triangle and also get to a point where they would believably be getting married.

But by January, I think the thoughts could realistically cross their minds, and I loved the idea of them exploring their own thoughts and their perceptions of the other’s thoughts. I didn’t mean for it to go on for 12 chapters and 50,000 words, but by delaying the phone conversation it gave both of them LOTS of time to think things out, which to me had its advantages. You can let me know if you disagree.

The Gift

Once I determined that the anniversary of January 19th should be significant, the next question was how to recognize it. I didn’t want it to be too stereotypically romantic and sentimental because I didn’t think that was where they were in their relationship yet. Roses were too insignificant and I still didn’t think they were ready for a ring.

So, I think I was actually watching the January 19th episode (probably making either the “Want To” or “When Did Reid Fall” fanvids) when the silver spoon came to mind as the obvious choice.

One reason I have been desperately avoiding other fanfics is that every time I come up with an idea that I fall in love with, like this or wedding dress shopping with Katie, (which, once it comes to mind seems like it is so obvious!) I have this fear that it’s so obvious, it must have already been done (and done  much better) in another story (like the Hubbard squashcutting ritual which Cathy from Facebook suggested in a post). I desperately don’t want to repeat ideas and I really don’t want to copy ideas; but  it’s SO hard when reading other fics because Luke and Reid are so vividly and wonderfully drawn. I spend all my time thinking “Oh, I wish I’d thought of that!” and find it harder to remember my own rendition of them.

So for any of you other fanfic authors – I’m sorry I haven’t read your stories yet. Some day, when you least expect it (could be years from now at this rate – LOL), feedback will start showing up from me…:) And if I reused your idea, I’m sorry about that, too, but it was unintentional!

Once the spoon came to mind, I had a brief debate about who would be the sender and who would be the recipient. To me, it seemed more in-character (unromantic romanticism – like “I’m always going to forget your birthday and work through Christmas”) and more significant for it to come from Reid. It was originally conceived as a random act of romantic-ness. It wasn’t really clear to me when in the storyline he would have ordered it (originally, he sent it shortly after Luke left, and it wasn’t a big deal).

But then as I was writing One New Message (Chapter 26), where Reid thinks through how far they’ve both come from their initial dislike for each other (and Luke’s devotion to Noah), for me at least, that, to me, felt like a believable and compelling motivation for Reid’s purchase. Did you catch it? Reid recalls telling Luke to choke on that “big fat silver spoon” and pauses to go get his laptop? Too subtle? Oh well. I tried!

FYI, when this story was first conceived (back when I thought it might be only 6-8 chapters, LOL!) Reid was going to send something MUCH more significant….as in a ring…to the retreat. There was an elaborate mini-plot to have it sent disguised as some medical something-or-another from the hospital in Dallas, addressed to Reid, c/o Luke on the last day of the retreat; and then for Luke to carry it home unopened, and for Reid to casually ask Luke to open it for him…cue happy ending.

As the story started to develop, though, it seemed premature, and not remotely as interesting (not to mention so convoluted it made my head spin); Reid’s excuse about why he couldn’t have it sent directly to Memorial was just so lame, even I didn’t even believe it.

So, as several reviewers have pointed out, Reid would not propose by mail (at least “my” Reid wouldn’t – so, thank you reviewers, for agreeing). I didn’t believe Luke would expect Reid to propose at all, much less by mail. But what I was aiming for was to plant just enough of a seed of doubt in Luke’s mind (and the reader’s, hopefully) – enter Bradley, stage left.

But then again, how WOULD Reid propose…..?

Shreve, Crump & Low

Shortly after the spoon came to mind, Shreve, Crump & Low came to mind as an obvious supplier. The fact that Bradley is a brown-nosing snob from Boston, who happens to have an antagonist thing for Luke was just too much fun to pass up.

Initially, the spoon arc was going to be a little vignette (like tennis or Diet Code). It was only when I made the connection to the post-Feisty phone conversation (and that Reid had just been ring-shopping with Katie), that I realized this was an opportunity for a much deeper exploration of Luke’s feelings about marriage (and his perception of Reid’s).

Edwin Arlington Robinson and Helen Vendler

Speaking of Bradley, I can’t remember at this point if I thought about the potentially interesting interconnections that could result by giving him Reid’s alma mater. Initially, the main reason I put Bradley at Harvard was for the Ivy League snootiness factor (and the fact that Reid specifically did NOT want to send Luke to anything that he would perceive as “pretentious” – not that Harvard’s writing program is such, but Reid does have a thing against the Establishment, and Harvard is all over the “old boy” network and the Establishment).

Bradley’s first mention was posted before the Babbling episode – and at the time (again back when it was a 6-8 chapter short fanfic!) I was just trying to fill the class with people of varied backgrounds. I don’t think I recognized his potential as a catalyst at the time, so this has been a fascinating learning experience for me in the craft of writing!

But back to Bradley: being the brown-nose that he is, I could easily see him being a name-dropper, and Seamus Heaney and Helen Vendler are two of the big names in Harvard’s English lit department. At the time I described Bradley in May, I didn’t really expect it to ever come up again.

I don’t recall what inspired the truck stop scene after Luke and Reid’s pre-CarJack wedding awkward discussion, but I do very clearly remember wanting Ethan to bring up “marrying mommy.” This was the key thought that drove the rest of this vignette.

My kids (approximately Natalie and Ethan’s age and genders) had just a few days prior, had a very similar argument about rhyming, with my daughter telling my toddler in no uncertain terms that his alliterated terms definitely didn’t rhyme (complete with a “does not” / “does too” argument).

After realizing that my original phrase, “marry mommy” actually DID rhyme, I had to come up with an alternative phrase – hence “marry mom on Monday morning. But then I completely fell in love with the idea that it would be Reid to bring this up.

We know that Reid is a brilliant surgeon, but I also got the feeling that he was one of those annoying kids who was god at all his subjects in school (without really trying all that hard – grr….), so I put him at Harvard as an undergrad (I’m not sure if canon puts him at Harvard Medical School or undergrad, but it’s hazy since we know he knew Chris from med school and I don’t think Doogie went to Harvard!).

So I became fascinated with the idea that Reid might have a favorite poet. And I’ll admit it – Edwin (NOT Edward, as commonly referenced) Arlington Robinson is definitely my favorite poet. And I do own an ancient, not-quite-first-edition faded green hardcover purchased at a used book store. I don’t remember when I discovered Robinson, but it was definitely when studying poets in some junior high or high school English class – probably 11th grade – though the teacher was inpsired mostly by Mrs. Darbus (yes, I admit this, too – I’ve seen High School Musical too many times to count). And one of the things I loved about him was that he was so dark and morbid.

It had been many years since I thought about Robinson, and probably several years since I’d pulled the book off my shelf, so it was fun to re-read the poems that I enjoyed so many years ago, and to read up via Google on the man behind the writing.

One of the things I always liked about Robinson was his use of traditional, very structured rhyming forms. He also wrote free verse, but I always liked the challenge of predictable structures – like sestinas and sonnets (remember, erstwhile mathematician here) – where the art of the poetry is constrained by a fixed rhythm, meter length, and rhyming pattern. So, I unquestionably projected my own feelings on geeky science nerd Reid here.

It was only when I started reading some biographical articles about Robinson that it made me wonder about his sexuality. While I didn’t find anything that convinced me that he was gay, I did find interesting speculation about Richard Cory, arguably his most famous poem, and it made me all the more convinced that Robinson might have appealed to Reid.

When I dug a little further, I found that Helen Vendler, whose specialty is poetry, was a chemistry major (at least according to her Wiki). This was just too cool to me, and I loved the idea of her finding a kindred spirit in Reid. That she also was also in real-life the subject matter expert for a TV series on great American poets – from which she excluded the two-time Pulitzer prize winner – was another factoid too cool to pass up.

Last, the link back to Bradley, and the box that set off Luke on this path of flashbacks, tied up the whole chapter for me in a nice neat bow.

Incidentally, I don’t mean to pick on poor Professor Vendler – I doubt she would actually get into an argument with a student in a public place resulting in their stalking out, but Reid was so socially inept pre-Luke that I could see it being in character for him! Sorry, Helen.

I also loved the idea of brilliant Reid (who was only taking poetry because he had to) getting one up on wannabe Bradley. Again, don’t know how this played out for all of you, but this was a fun journey for me where I rediscovered Robinson and found something unexpected about Reid that I found endearing (and assumed Luke would, too!).

Carly and Jack’s Wedding

I wanted both Luke and Reid to reflect on a shared wedding experience, and Holden and Molly’s non-wedding did not seem to fit the bill. Carly and Jack’s wedding, on the other hand, was ideal timing-wise.

I watched just the wedding episode awhile back when I wrote Luke’s flashbacks, and rewatched both the pre-wedding and wedding episodes again when writing Reid’s flashback. I did not re-watch the Reid/Katie scenes at Casey and Ali’s wedding, but I’m sure I was channeling it when writing this chapter.

I LOVED the potential of Reid observing the wedding in snarky outsider mode and actually wrote several thousand words more of observations that I ended up chopping because they seemed way too far off-topic (might make for a fun one-shot someday, though!).

In my real-life experience, family weddings always seem to involve a full cast of first cousins, second cousins and in-laws. And with the many tentacles of the Snyder families (not to mention the myriad of ex’es running around) it seemed that the wedding should be populated with wedding guests. One of the controversial soap columnists (will have to go back and find the article to cite it here) rewrote the wedding the way she envisioned it, with everyone in town attending, and highlighted by Luke and Reid bursting in to say they had eloped to Iowa!

While I thought it would premature for LuRe to elope, like said columnist, I did lament the wussy, thrown-together wedding. I mean, really? TPTB had nine months to prepare for this and we’re expected to believe that Molly and Holden didn’t realize they were best man and maid of honor until the morning of the wedding? And the bride and groom share their first dance before anyone has anything to eat? And no Emma? Really? What kind of wedding was this?!

So, without the limitations of a casting budget, I really wanted to bring back all the people that should have been there, with Emma being at the top of the list. And thanks to SoapCentral’s awesome bio section, I was very surprised to find that Jack’s mom was alive. I was even more surprised to find a 1999 transcript that included her (and I can so see Great Aunt Dolores insisting her family call her “Aunt” – that’s what my great aunts and uncles in-law insist on!).

Though a laundry list of Oakdalians, past and present, wasn’t really appropriate for Simple Gifts, I did find myself lamenting the sparse attendance at the wedding. I remember the good old days when a classic soap wedding went on for multiple episodes and invariably, someone dropped an enormous bombshell dropped mid-wedding (the groom slept with the bride’s sister, the bride was pregnant with her believed-dead ex-husband’s baby, the best man is shot, etc). And somehow this bombshell affects virtually everyone present – either they were in on the secret or are otherwise devastated by it.

If you are new to ATWT and find it hard to believe that such a show could pull something like this off, take a look at clips of John Dixon’s non-wedding to Lisa Miller Grimaldi. Here is part 1, courtesy of patc2000:

YouTube responded to TubePress with an HTTP 410 - No longer available

As always, thanks for the feedback and thanks for reading! Happy New Year, everyone!

-LL

[/spoiler]

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