Carlos loves to cook. He’s always loved it, ever since he was a child and he’d stand on a chair next to his mother, watching her stir and chop and make something incredible for their family. As he grew older, he started to pick it up more and more, and cooking quickly became something he loved to do. When he’s stressed, his favorite thing to do is create in the kitchen, the soothing motions of cooking slowly relaxing him. To Carlos, cooking was an art, one that he wanted to share with everyone he loved. He’d spend time on a Saturday in the kitchen, making something new for Sunday lunch at Tia Lucy’s to share with his family. He wanted to do the same for TK, to share this love with him, but unfortunately getting TK to actually eat what he makes is harder than it sounds. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Because TK is absolutely hopeless in the kitchen, Carlos is usually the one who would cook when they were able to eat at home, but those meals weren’t anything special. He wants to pull out all the stops for TK and make a romantic meal for the two of them to enjoy, but long shifts, misaligned schedules, and the universe just keep getting in the way.
The first time Carlos attempted to make a meal for TK, he probably should have expected it wasn’t going to end well. TK had been clear from the beginning that this was just a hookup, nothing more but Carlos had the unfortunate problem of allowing himself to feel too deeply. He had met the firefighter on a call, danced with him once, and hooked up with him twice, but he knew he wanted to get to know TK better. He figured the best way for him to do that would be to share his love of cooking, in the hopes that the other man would open up a little bit. Texting TK and inviting him over after both their shifts, Carlos went to the market to pick up the things he would need for that night’s dinner. Deciding to be a little bit simpler for a first meal, he picked up a fresh red snapper fish after his shift, and went home, eager to get in the kitchen and work off some of the nerves he was starting to feel. He turned on some music, hoping that would help, and then got to work prepping the fish and allowing the familiar motions to relax him. Before he knew it, there was a knock on the door. Taking a deep breath, he reached out and turned the doorknob to let TK in.
Carlos flinched as the door slammed shut, TK having just walked out seconds before. He went over the events of the last few minutes in his head, wondering where he went wrong. He had expected that TK would have some question about why Carlos was doing this, but what he wasn’t expecting, was for TK to have one foot out the door the minute he walked in. As soon as he had seen the kitchen, TK had been on guard, reluctantly following Carlos to the table and sitting down. Then Carlos offered him champagne, and things had gone completely downhill from there, until Carlos finally snapped, not understanding why TK was getting so worked up over a meal. Mentioning marriage had been the final straw for TK, who apologized for the misunderstanding, even though Carlos still had no idea what went wrong. The firefighter was a mystery to him, there was no doubt about that, and his walls were clearly very difficult to tear down. But even after the events of tonight, Carlos still couldn’t get him out of his head. Sighing to himself, Carlos packed up the uneaten food and put it in the fridge. There was no way he’d be able to eat it now. He’d take it to work tomorrow and give it to his partner. At least someone would be able to enjoy it.
If there was ever a day that Carlos needed the relaxation of cooking, it was today. His partner was pissed off at him, his dad was investigating him, and he hadn’t been able to talk to his boyfriend all day, other than the quick texts they sent back and forth between calls confirming that TK was coming over for dinner. They were celebrating TK’s sobriety anniversary that evening. Even though he already had the party at his parents’ house, Carlos wanted to do something special, with just the two of them. He couldn’t help it; he was proud of TK and how far he had come in the past year, slowly breaking down the walls he had built up, and allowing himself to let other people in. They were going to celebrate, and Carlos was going to take advantage of the newfound time he had to make homemade spaghetti and salad and hope the lengthy process would help calm himself down before TK got off shift. Taking down his KitchenAid from on top of the fridge, he got to work, mixing the dough, rolling it, and cutting it into strips, before moving on to the sauce.
After about an hour, Carlos was done: spaghetti laid out to dry, sauce in the pot, salad on the counter, and the table set for a romantic meal for two, candles and all. All that was left was for TK to walk through the door, and his day would become infinitely better. However, the universe was out to get him today, so instead, he was sitting at the counter staring at his phone, waiting for TK to text him back. This had never happened before. TK knew what the worries of dating a first responder were, they both did, and so they always made sure to check in with each other throughout the day, especially if they would be late. As the minutes ticked by, dread continued to pool in his gut, until Carlos couldn’t take it anymore, leaping up from the table and grabbing his jacket. He blew out the candles he had just lit and all but ran out the door to the Strand house, dinner forgotten on the stove.
It had been a little bit since TK became a paramedic, but with all the craziness that had surrounded them in the weeks after the change occurred, they never got a chance to properly celebrate. Wanting to correct that immediately, Carlos decided that tonight was going to be a date night, and had told TK as much when the paramedic had stopped by the station earlier that day. Pulling into his driveway after shift, he heard his phone buzz, smiling at the video that Paul had sent him. TK was out spending the day with the 126. Apparently, he and Marjan had made some sort of bet on who could rock climb the fastest, which had then sparked another bet with the rest of the crew, and so they had all decided to settle the bets on their next day off. Judging from Paul’s text, however, it seemed as though no one was winning, as TK and Marjan were neck and neck going up the wall. Chuckling as he got out of the car, Carlos went into the house, groceries in hand. TK thought they were going out, but he intended to surprise the paramedic with dinner at home, having picked up the ingredients for enchiladas.
Walking into the house, he set the bags on the counter, preheated the oven, and turned his speaker on. Music playing, he got to work, heating some oil in a pot. Once that was hot, he put in the spices and tomato paste, adding broth and stirring until his enchilada sauce was ready. Placing that to one side, he got started on the vegetables, cutting and chopping, letting himself get lost in the rhythmic motion of the knife and allowing the stress of the day to fall away. He quickly finished prepping and moved on to actually cooking the veggies, adding beans, cheese, and a little enchilada sauce to the pan to complete the filling. After that was done, he pulled out the tortillas he had made the day before and started assembling the enchiladas and placing them in the baking dish. Drizzling the rest of the sauce on top and sprinkling on some cheese, Carlos put the pan in the oven and then went upstairs to change his clothes. He pulled on a pair of black pants and the green polo that he knew TK loved and headed back downstairs. Music still on, he went over to the cabinet where he kept his fancy dishware and started to set the table.
The music shifted to one of his favorite songs, and Carlos found himself dancing around the kitchen as he put the finishing touches on the table. Catching sight of the timer on the stove, he realized it was about to go off and went to pull the dish out of the oven. Placing it on the stove to cool, he grabbed the lighter from the drawer next to the sink.
“I thought we were going out?"
Carlos jumped at the voice, dropping the lighter and almost knocking the enchiladas off the stove, before realizing who it was.
“Holy shit Ty, how long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to know that you’ve been holding out on me.”
Carlos bent down to pick up the lighter, mainly to hide the blush creeping into his cheeks, “I have to keep you on your toes somehow.”
“Oh yeah? What else have you been holding back?”
Standing up, whatever retort he was about to say died on his lips as he caught sight of his boyfriend. TK had on form-fitting olive green trousers that hugged his boyfriend in all the right places and a white polo, buttons left open. On top of that, he had on a fitted white blazer. His outfit already had Carlos drooling, but what really pushed him over the edge was TK’s earring. He knew his boyfriend had his ear pierced but rarely wore it because of work, which was probably a good thing. Carlos was never able to keep his hands to himself when TK had an earring in, and that would not go over well if they were on a call together. So the piercing itself wasn’t new, but he’d never seen the one that TK had in now. It was small, a simple silver hoop, but it brought out the green in his eyes. Carlos couldn’t help himself, he let out a small moan at the sight. He could hear the smirk in TK’s voice as he came closer, stepping into Carlos’s space as he asked, “See something you like?”
Taking the invitation, Carlos wrapped his fingers around TK’s belt loops, pulling him in for a searing kiss. TK responded with enthusiasm, his arms going around Carlos’s neck, the two of them quickly getting lost in each other. Needing air, Carlos reluctantly pulled back but kept his face close enough to TK's that he could feel his breath.
“You never answered my question.”
“Did that kiss not make the answer clear?”
TK shook his head, grinning, “Yes, but I wasn’t talking about that question you dork, I meant the other one.”
“Oh, right. I had the time since you were out, so I decided to cook instead. Figured you might be tired trying to keep up with Marjan. Heard you had some trouble winning your bet?”
“Paul was biased, I held my own just fine thank you very much.”
“I’m sure you did. How was the place?”
“It was fun, we should go some time.” TK paused and looked up at Carlos, who could see a familiar gleam in the paramedic’s eyes, before he continued, “But I can think of something much more fun I’d rather climb right now.”
He leaned in then, covering Carlos’s mouth with his own for another deep kiss before Carlos pulled back, albeit reluctantly.
“TK, eat first, then bedroom.” Even he could hear the absolute lack of conviction in his voice. He was more than happy to leave dinner on the table and go show his boyfriend how much he loved the new earring.
“Carlos, the microwave was invented for a reason, now come on.” Giving Carlos another kiss, he leaned back just enough to whisper, “If you come up now, I’ll show you the other new ring I just got for a certain other piercing.” With that, he turned and walked upstairs, leaving Carlos standing dumbfounded in the kitchen.
Turning off the lights Carlos raced up the stairs behind him, dinner forgotten on the counter. TK was right, the microwave was invented for a reason.
Most of the time, when TK and Carlos were both on shift, they were usually off within a couple of hours of each other. This allowed them to keep some semblance of a routine, though they didn’t have a typical 9 to 5 job, they were still able to go home and decompress together, exhausted but glad to be in each other’s company. However, the past few weeks had been rough for both of them. Their shifts had barely lined up, and when they did, their minimal time together was spent sleeping. They had seen each other on a couple of calls throughout the weeks, unable to do much more than exchange a few words and steal a quick kiss, but they were finally about to have two rare days off. TK was going to go straight to Carlos’s after shift, and the two of them were finally going to be able to spend some much-needed quality time together. Wanting to forget the stress of the last couple of weeks, Carlos decided he was going to start their time off by making the two of them a nice meal. He wanted to be relaxed by the time TK got back, and he figured the paramedic would be hungry, so really it was a win-win situation for them both.
Walking into the kitchen, Carlos looked in the fridge to see what he could create- there wasn’t much in there, since he’d been too busy to get groceries, but he did have what he needed to make mushroom risotto and roasted vegetables. He looked at the clock and decided he would have just enough time before TK came back to have everything ready. Pulling out the necessary supplies and ingredients, he turned on some music and got to work.
A little while later, the risotto was done, the vegetables were in the oven, along with a focaccia bread that Carlos had the time to make, and he was placing the finishing touches on the table setting. Glancing at the clock again, Carlos realized it was later than he thought it was and TK should’ve been back by now. Remembering the last time this had happened, Carlos grabbed his phone in a panic. His fears were quickly alleviated, however, as he looked at his phone and realized he had missed a couple of texts from his boyfriend.
Hey babe- got called out 10 minutes before shift ended :( will probably be there a little later than planned- can’t wait to see you <3
Then a few minutes after,
Figured I’d check in again after last time- we’re at the call, there are other units here, it seems to be normal. I’ll be there as soon as I can!
Sighing in relief, Carlos replied back
Thanks, was getting worried- I’ll be here, see you soon and stay safe <3
The response was immediate
Always am. Love you.
Love you too.
Putting his phone down, Carlos looked around, wondering how he was going to pass the time. Wandering over to the living room, he turned on the TV, found an episode of Modern Family, and settled down to watch and wait for TK. However, the dimness of the mood lighting he had set combined with the exhaustion of the last few weeks meant that within a few minutes he was drifting off to sleep.
He awoke a few hours later to a gentle kiss on his forehead and opened his eyes to find green ones staring back at him. Smiling, he leaned up, closing the distance between the two of them and resting their foreheads together.
TK pulled back, clearly not expecting that, and it took everything in Carlos not to laugh at the indignant look on his face.
“Well excuse me for not wanting to keep my boyfriend waiting to eat what looks like a very delicious meal any longer than he had to.”
“And said boyfriend appreciates that, but he would appreciate it a lot more if you got in the shower.”
TK frowned, but Carlos could see the glint in his eyes as he responded.
“Just for that, I’m not going to ask you to join me.”
At that, Carlos did let out a laugh, leaning up to give TK a kiss. “As much as I would love to, you look like you’re about to collapse- go and get cleaned up so we can eat.” And with that, he pushed TK towards the stairs and went to the kitchen to start reheating dinner.
The shower had turned off a little while ago, but TK still hadn’t come back downstairs. Turning off the burner on the stove, Carlos walked upstairs, calling out to TK as he approached the bedroom. Receiving no response, he pushed open the bedroom door, only to be greeted by the sight of TK sprawled out on top of the bed, clad in sweatpants only, and using the wet towel as a blanket.
He should have known TK wouldn’t have lasted long; the man had looked absolutely exhausted when he walked in, and the shower would’ve relaxed him enough to fall asleep the minute he sat down. Shaking his head fondly at yet another dinner gone uneaten, he kissed TK on the forehead and grabbed a blanket from the closet, intent on curling up next to his boyfriend. There was always tomorrow.
Usually, when they had the day off, plans were made to have the 126 over for at least some part of the day. Even though he wasn’t a part of the crew, they had still welcomed Carlos with open arms, asserting that he was just as much a part of the “firehouse family,” as TK had dubbed it. He didn’t mind though, he loved them all, and he especially loved that his boyfriend had found the support system that he was missing back in New York. Today, however, there were none of those plans. He and TK had spent the entire day alone together, allowing themselves to sleep in and then spending the rest of the day just being with each other. They had played Uno, which TK won since he was a dangerous combination of both very competitive and very good at that game, before attempting to play Scrabble. That one didn’t last very long, since Carlos kept getting distracted by the way TK bit his lip in concentration, and they had ended up tangled on the couch, game forgotten on the table. Except to put their clothes back on, they hadn’t moved from the couch after that. Carlos was sitting upright, back against the armrest, book in one hand, while TK was laying on top of his chest. His other arm was wrapped around a sleeping TK, fingers absentmindedly running through his boyfriend’s hair.
“What do you want to do for dinner?”
Carlos startled at the question, book dropping from his hand to the floor, as he looked down at a now awake TK, a sheepish look on his face.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”
“No, you’re fine. I thought you were asleep?”
“I was,” he said, reaching up to kiss Carlos’s cheek, “since someone wore me out, but now I’m awake and hungry.”
Chuckling, Carlos pecked TK on the lips, then gently pushed him off, swinging his legs to the floor and standing up.
“It’s your own fault for being so irresistible. Now come on, I’ll make us something to eat.”
“You don’t have to, I was thinking we could just order takeout.”
“No, I want to cook you dinner. We’ve been living on takeout and firehouse food for the last two weeks. Now let’s go, off the couch.”
With that, Carlos grabbed TK’s hand, pulling him off the couch and leading the other man towards the kitchen, before leaving him at the barstools with a kiss on the head and moving towards the fridge.
“Can I help you make it?”
Not even sparing TK a glance as he continued looking in the fridge, Carlos laughed as he answered.
“TK, I know you miss being a firefighter sometimes, but my kitchen is not the place to keep your skills fresh. Take that one up with your dad and Tommy.”
Carlos didn’t have to turn around to see the pout on TK’s face.
After a beat, he continued, “And bold of you to assume my firefighting skills need a refresher.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry- you are still an amazing firefighter, but all the same, I don’t need you proving that in my kitchen.”
“Still slightly rude, but I’ll let it slide.”
There was a pause, and then, “But Carlos, I’m serious, I want to help you make dinner.”
Taking out a few ingredients, Carlos closed the fridge and finally turned to face his boyfriend. He softened at the sight, instead of the mischief he was expecting, TK’s face only held sincerity and earnestness as he continued.
“I know cooking is something you love to do, and even though I know I’m hopeless at it, I want to learn so that maybe we could do it together properly at some point.”
He trailed off then, and Carlos caught a flash of insecurity in his expression. Warmth pooling in his gut, he crossed the kitchen, reached out over the counter, and grabbed TK’s hand, tugging him forward so that their lips met in a soft but loving kiss. Pulling back, he grinned at TK.
“I would love that.”
He handed TK the vegetables he had just pulled out of the fridge, still smiling as he said, “Let’s do Indian, start cutting these into small pieces, you’ll want to use the knife with the green handle, and then make sure you- ”
He cut himself off, noticing TK looking at him, a small smile on his face.
“Nothing, you’re cute when you ramble.”
“Says the man who filibustered a solid six minutes on boba, after doing a set about Billie Eilish, the Cowboys, and Benjamin Button.”
“I still maintain that Brad is magic.”
“And I maintain that you’re a dork.”
“You love it.”
TK rose from the counter, coming around to stand in front of Carlos. Pressing their foreheads together, he gave Carlos another kiss.
“Love you too.” Another pause and then, “I’m going to get started on these vegetables now because I am hungry. You go and do whatever it is you need to do.”
Carlos laughed, shaking his head at TK as he moved to do exactly that. Pulling a pot out from the cabinet and placing it on the stove, he added oil, tomato paste, and chickpeas, along with a variety of spices. The two of them worked in silence for a little bit until TK broke it again.
“Okay, I’m done with these, now what?”
“Bring them here, and toss them in the pot”
As TK came over to the stove, Carlos realized they were going to need rice as well. He walked towards the pantry, but he remembered that the chickpeas would need to be seasoned once TK put the vegetables in.
“Hey Ty, can you put two spoons of cumin into the pot?”
“Carlos, I don’t know what the hell cumin is.”
“It’s the brown powder in the glass bottle in the cabinet.”
Taking the lack of response as a confirmation he understood, Carlos got the rice and turned around only to see TK pulling a spoon out of the wrong bottle.
“No TK not that one! The other one!”
“You said the brown powder! They’re all fucking brown! I just picked one!”
Maybe he shouldn’t have taken the lack of response as a confirmation. Taking a deep breath, he gave TK a wry smile.
“Good point, that one’s on me. How much have you put in already?”
“Um, like a spoon and a half? Is that bad? What is this?”
“It’s nutmeg- it’s not bad, but it’s not great either- it’s not going to taste right”
TK’s face fell.
“Ah shit, I’m sorry Carlos. I know you wanted to eat something home-cooked tonight.”
Quickly closing the distance between the two of them, Carlos covered TK’s hands with his own.
“Nah, everything I wanted today is right here in front of me.”
TK smiled, kissing Carlos on the cheek, before resting his head on Carlos’s chest.
“Sap. Still, I am sorry.”
Carlos kissed the top of TK’s head.
“Hey, no it’s okay, it’s really not a big deal, mistakes happen. One time I was cooking with my mom and I thought I would be helpful and combine two jars together, thinking they were both sugar. It turns out one was salt and one was sugar- my mom was not happy with me when she went looking for the salt.”
TK let out a loud snort, pulling back to look up at Carlos, “Oh my god, she must’ve given you an earful.”
“Oh yeah, went on and on about how I should pay more attention to my surroundings. I didn’t hear the end of it for weeks.”
“Okay, I don’t feel as bad now. At least I can tell the difference between salt and sugar.”
Carlos gave TK a playful shove towards the living room.
“Shut up and go sit on the couch while I order takeout.”
If you were to ask Carlos how long he and TK had been together, he’d have to think about it for a minute. Not because he didn’t remember, but because there were multiple moments that he could start counting from. Sure, the most obvious answer would be the night of the solar storm, which was the date they became official. They were lying on the hood of the Camero looking up at the green and blue in the night sky and decided together that they were going to become a pretty great team. However, Carlos didn’t consider that the beginning. He knew he was done for on the night of the first call he had with the 126, where the car had hydroplaned off the road and the baby got stuck in the tree. There was a connection, the moment their eyes met in the rain, and his brief interaction with TK had stuck in his mind for the rest of the night. He was very grateful to Michelle for telling him to come to the bar where the 126 was celebrating a successful first shift. Mustering up all the courage he had, he asked TK to dance, which very quickly turned into one hookup, which became two very soon after. The first time they kissed, he felt something special, and he thought TK had too, until he was standing in the kitchen, shirt half unbuttoned, watching TK run out the door. Luckily for him, that hadn’t been the end, and even though it had taken getting arrested and, a few weeks later, shot for TK to open up and give them a chance, Carlos was glad he could finally call TK his.
Today marked one year since that first call and subsequent dance, and even though Carlos was sure TK didn’t remember the actual date of the event, he still wanted to mark the occasion. As a stroke of luck, he had the day off, and TK would be done with his shift at a reasonable hour, so they would be able to eat dinner together, hopefully without any interference from the universe.
He decided that he was going to attempt to make the red snapper fish again, in the hopes that tonight would end differently than the last time he made it. He was pretty sure TK wouldn’t run again, they had long ago made a promise to talk things out with each other, but that night was not a good memory for either of them. At least this time, he wouldn’t be offering TK any champagne. Shaking himself from his recollection, he gathered everything he needed and got to work.
A couple of hours later, Carlos was putting the finishing touches on the salad, when he heard the door open. He turned around to see TK, in his signature hoodie and jeans, enter the house and bend down to take his shoes off, not yet having noticed the way the table was set up. Staying silent, Carlos watched as TK straightened up and turned around, face unreadable as he took in the scene before him. After a few beats, neither of them saying anything, Carlos opened his mouth, ready to apologize, sure he had upset TK, but before he could do so, his boyfriend looked at the table and broke the silence.
“Did the guy at the market assure you that the red snapper was fresh?”
Carlos startled, not expecting that to be the first thing his boyfriend led with, but he answered anyway.
“As a matter of fact, he did. Only the best for you.”
TK’s eyes flashed to him, giving Carlos a small smile before schooling his features back into an unreadable mask and looking back at the ice bucket.
“That’s not champagne again, is it?”
Carlos knew that TK knew there was rarely alcohol in the house now, the 126 choosing to bring it with them when they came over instead, but he answered anyway.
“No, of course not, you know I wouldn’t do that. It’s sparkling cider.”
TK’s face softened as he looked back at Carlos. “I know you wouldn’t, I was just teasing.”
Carlos let out a sigh of relief. TK seemed okay so far, but he still needed to make sure.
“So, you’re not upset?”
“Well, I seem to recall that the last time we did this, you greeted me at the door, and I still haven’t gotten that greeting, so I would say I’m a little upset.” His voice was playful, and when he looked up, Carlos saw that glint in his eye that meant he was up to no good.
“As a matter of fact, I seem to recall that you were the one who greeted me at the door. All I did was open it.”
At that, TK let out a chuckle, closing the distance between them as he walked towards Carlos. “What can I say, you were irresistible.”
With that, he reached out and pulled Carlos closer to him, capturing his lips in a deep kiss. Carlos went willingly, allowing TK to take control, but then pulled away. Smiling at the pout that followed, he put his hands on either side of TK’s face.
TK laughed. “I haven’t heard you say that since that night.”
“Yeah, well you were particularly eager, didn’t even let me get a word in.”
Giving TK another kiss, Carlos grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the table. The nerves from that night rushed back as he sat TK down in the chair, pushed it in, and kissed his hair, before going to the kitchen to get the food.
“I wasn’t expecting to be taken on a trip down memory lane today.”
Though his tone was light, Carlos could hear the underlying question in his words.
“Well, today's a special day.”
“Okay, I know I’m not the greatest with dates, but I do know that our anniversary is definitely not for another couple months, so it's not that.”
Carlos turned plates in hand, affection shining on his face.
“You’re right, it’s not. It’s the anniversary of the day we met.”
He watched as TK’s expression morphed from confusion to understanding.
“The baby in the tree. Wow, I can’t believe you remember the exact date.”
"Well, it was an unforgettable day; your dad was pretty impressive.” Waiting another minute, he continued teasingly, “You were okay too."
TK looked up sharply, unamused at the smirk on Carlos's face.
"You should be nicer to me if you want me to eat the fish this time.”
Crossing the kitchen, Carlos placed the plates down on the table, then came around behind TK, arms wrapping around his shoulder, and pressed a kiss to his head. Pulling back, he rested his chin on the paramedic’s shoulder, “You’re not getting out of eating my fish twice, Tyler Kennedy.”
“And you think calling me that is going to help your case?”
Kissing his cheek, Carlos straightened and went to sit back down.
“Eat the fish, Ty.”
Doing just that, TK put a bite in his mouth, and his eyes lit up.
“Holy shit babe, this is really good!”
Blushing, Carlos picked up his own fork and started to eat, relishing in the fact that TK was eating, and enjoying, something he made.
“Thanks, I’m glad you like it.”
They ate in relative silence for a while, exchanging small talk about their days, before TK cleared his throat and put his fork down.
“So, are you going to tell me why you’re recreating our failed dinner?”
“I already told you, because I wanted to do something special to celebrate the day we met.”
“Yes, which is why you made dinner. I’m asking why you decided to make this meal specifically, because I know I hurt you that day and I didn’t think you would want the reminder.”
Pushing his food around his plate, Carlos looked down, unable to meet TK’s gaze.
“Well, as you said, the last time ended with you walking out the door, and I was hurt and confused because I had no idea why I was feeling strong feelings for someone I barely knew.”
He could sense TK watching him, could imagine the look on the other man’s face, but he still couldn’t bring himself to look TK in the eye.
“And that night, I threw out an uneaten meal because the person I wanted to share it with had left. So, tonight, I remade that meal, in the hopes that this time you would want to stay.”
TK reached across the table, covering Carlos’s hand with his own.
“Carlos, of course I’m going to stay. There is nowhere else I’d rather be, no one else I’d rather be with. And I am so sorry for that night, and for making you feel that way.”
“I know, and it’s okay, we’re past that now. I wasn’t talking about staying in my life, although this does have something to do with it, I meant-” He took a deep breath, “I meant, would you want to stay here, permanently.”
He heard TK’s sharp breath and chanced a glance up. A myriad of expressions flitted across his boyfriend’s face before he schooled his features into that same unreadable mask from earlier. Worried that he had completely ruined things, Carlos rushed to explain himself.
“With our jobs, it’s difficult to find the time to be with each other, so we should make the most of every moment we can. You already have a key, and so much of your stuff here, and most of the time, I’m driving you to shift from here. But most importantly, I love you TK, and I want to be around you as much as I can. I want your face to be the first one I see when I wake up and the last one before I go to sleep. Move in with me?”
There was silence. Without saying a word, TK got up, taking Carlos’s hand, and led the two of them to the couch, sitting down so that they were facing each other. Carlos could see tears pooling in TK’s eyes, and he wanted nothing more than to lean in and kiss them away. Before he could do so, however, TK beat him to it, leaning in and pressing their lips together with such intensity that Carlos fell backward, bringing his boyfriend down with him, hands flying to his back to keep him close. The force of their collision was bruising, enough to knock the breath out of Carlos. TK had his hands tangled in Carlos’s hair, and he rolled them over onto the floor, oddly reminiscent of the first time they had done this. Pulling back, he looked down at TK and was met with an overwhelming amount of joy, passion, and love in the other man’s eyes.
“Is that a yes?”
“Of course it’s a yes, you dork. I love you too.”
Realizing where they had ended up, TK looked up at Carlos and laughed, the sound filling Carlos with delight. He couldn’t hold it in anymore, and then he was laughing too, hands still tangled around his boyfriend, as he pressed their foreheads together, laughing and kissing, and smiling again as they just held each other, struggling to contain the euphoria they felt.
Eventually, they would get off the floor, eventually, they would clean up the remains of dinner, and go up to their bed, but for now, Carlos had everything he needed in his arms, and he was content to remain there for just a little while longer.
Sure, Carlos didn’t get to cook much for TK, but this one? This one was his favorite meal yet.