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I Heard You've Been Missing Me

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The noises of the food cooking on the stove, mixed with the soft tunes of music wafting through the air, covered what little warning Carlos usually got when TK was nearby. As it was, the arms sneaking around his middle came out of nowhere, and still, his hand went up on its own accord, covering one of TK’s that had found its way onto his chest.

“Hey, babe,” he greeted softly, leaning back into the embrace.

When there was no reply, he waited a moment longer – realizing quickly that this wasn’t one of TK’s normal hugs. Nothing quick or playful, nothing to distract Carlos or to tease him. No, this one was the kind of hug that told him TK was a little bit needy. Not in the sexual kind of way, but rather the affectionate one. The one where he simply needed to be close, to feel Carlos’ warmth and his touch, and to bury himself into Carlos’ embrace – or his back, as it was the case right now. 

Gently rubbing along the forearm over his chest, Carlos went back to their dinner for a short moment. When TK’s hold on him didn’t ease up, he switched off the stove, saving their dinner from burning, before giving his full attention to his boyfriend. Lifting his arm in a clear invitation, he began to turn. Right away, TK ducked under and around and snuggled into him for real, the pair coming to rest with Carlos pressed back against the counter, TK clinging to him. 

“What’s wrong, babe?” Carlos whispered into his hair, peppering a few soft kisses wherever his lips could reach.

At first, TK simply shrugged his shoulders, nose nuzzling deeper into the crook of Carlos’ neck. After a while though, he mumbled, “Nothing really, just…” He took a deep breath and leaned back, just enough so the two of them could look at each other. “Have I ever told you that you're the best thing that's ever happened to me?”

Carlos chuckled softly. “You might have mentioned it once or twice, yes,” he replied with a grin, pressing a soft kiss onto the tip of TK’s nose. “But I still love to hear it.”

TK scrunched up his nose in that adorable way of his before leaning back in, resting his cheek on Carlos’ shoulder, tightening the hold around him. Closing his eyes, Carlos soaked up the warmth himself, basking in their love. After a while, he began to gently rub TK’s back, which had the man hum in appreciation as he snuggled even closer – not that that was really possible, there was absolutely no space left between them as it was.

“This is the second year we can’t celebrate pride together.”

Ah, now that explained the gloomy mood.

“I know, babe,” Carlos replied in a soft whisper. “I know, and it sucks, but–” Gently, he coaxed TK to lean back again and look at him, cupping his face in one hand. “It’s not fully true, now is it? I know the Pride Parade is again canceled this year,” he emphasized, “but the two of us? We can still celebrate together, and that’s what counts, right?” 

A small smile flicked across TK’s lips and right away, he leaned in, pressing their lips together in a soft kiss. The smile was still there when he leaned back. “True. And it’s definitely better this year than last, of course. I mean, for one, we’re official this time. And two, with the whole 126 and most of your co-workers fully vaccinated, at least we can throw that party at the station tomorrow without anyone complaining–”

“Or my own co-workers having to break up the party,” Carlos interrupted, eliciting a first real chuckle from his man.

“So yeah, of course it’s already better than 2020,” TK went on, his smile dimming a bit. “It’s just… this whole thing going around Insta right now… don’t know, guess it just makes me nostalgic.”

“Mhh, sorry to hear that, babe.”

“Don’t apologize. I mean, it’s not really important. But everyone sharing all these pictures of old Pride Parades? Yeah, I know it’s amazing and lots of good memories and I love that people came up with this idea and the internet is full of Pride right now. But…”

“But you only get tagged in old pictures from Pride in New York,” Carlos finally concluded for him. 

TK nodded. “I mean, it’s great, really. And kinda funny, how suddenly some people from back in New York seem to remember me. And believe me, Marj is having a field day. That woman practically lives on Insta these days. I mean, more than usual.”

“What’s she doing?”

“Going through all the pics I’ve been tagged in, making fun of ‘baby TK’ and telling me how cute I used to be,” TK replied with a chuckle that Carlos joined in.

“Remind me to correct her,” he told him, cupping TK’s cheek once more. “You’re still cute.”

Playfully, TK rolled his eyes. “Anyway,” he continued. “So yeah, all that is great… but it also reminds me that you and I hadn’t had a chance yet to go to a Pride Parade and it kinda sucks. I want pictures of us in the middle of a sea of rainbow flags, damnit,” TK finished on a pout that Carlos couldn’t help but kiss away.

“Me too, babe,” he finally agreed. “One day soon, we will. And not just one. I promise we will collect so many pictures of different Pride Parades all over the country and over many, many years that one day, no one will remember your old pictures from New York. Okay?”

TK’s grin had turned wider and wider the more Carlos spoke and in the end, he nodded. “That sounds like the best deal ever. Especially because it includes ‘many, many years’ with you.”

The kiss that followed was tender and slow and it ended with TK nuzzling into his embrace once more, before finally sighing, apparently ready to leave their little bubble.

“Thanks, babe. For talking me out of my bad mood.”

“Anytime,” Carlos promised with one more quick kiss. “Oh, and for the record, you're the best thing that's ever happened to me, too.” 

At last, TK’s smile was back in full, lighting up his face and his whole demeanor as he stole a few more kisses and then stepped aside, hopping up onto the counter. Carlos gave him a fond smile as he turned back to the stove and finally went on with their dinner preparations.

 

~*~*~*~

 

The message came out of nowhere. 

TK had pulled out his phone and was reading some of the comments Marjan and some of their other friends had left on old Pride pictures of him, both of them laughing about it. Now and then, he even showed Carlos some of the pictures. Talking about it all with Carlos eased the pain more and more – because in the end, his man was right. It didn’t matter that they couldn’t go to any Pride Parades the second year in a row. It only mattered that they could celebrate together. 

But with all the pictures of his past suddenly resurfacing, TK probably should’ve been prepared. It wasn’t just his past, after all. It was also their past, so maybe it had been wrong of him to forget or simply ignore the possibility. Though, how could he have ever known that the guy would reach out to him again? After all, he had made it clear that things between them were over; that TK wasn’t the one for him and that he didn’t want him anymore.

So when the message notification appeared out of nowhere… it blindsided TK, to be honest. It caused his laughter to die slowly as he opened his Insta direct messages.

How long he had been staring at the words in front of him, TK had no idea.

It was only thanks to Carlos that he was finally pulled out of the shock. “Why are you frowning at your phone like that? Is one of the pictures not to your liking?”

TK didn’t even look up, still staring at the screen as he shook his head and answered his boyfriend. “No. My– my ex is texting me.”

“Which one?” Carlos asked, voice neutral yet intrigued.

Right away, TK held the phone so Carlos would be able to see the message. “Alex,” he still explained. “He just sent me a DM on Insta.”

Carlos’ eyes went wide for a second. “You never blocked him?” There was no accusation behind the question, simply astonishment – which, in hindsight, TK had to agree with.

“No,” he replied, amazed at the realization. “Honestly? It never crossed my mind. He was never big on social media. All I did was delete our pictures and unfollow him and some mutual friends and that was that. Got a new number anyway and of course never shared it with him and somehow, that was the end for me when it came to my old life.” Biting his lip, TK shook his head at himself. “God, it sounds so stupid now, doesn’t it?”

“Not really. You wanted to forget about him,” Carlos said while he took the last of the pans from the stove and then stepped over to him. “I mean, it’s kind of a good sign that you didn’t even think about having to block the guy.”

“Yeah, but now this,” TK grumbled out, once again turning the phone so Carlos could easily see and read the text.

 

the_alex_ny: Hey, TK. I know we haven’t heard from each other in a while but I’ve thought about you a lot lately. Imagine my relief when I saw that you never blocked me here. I recently got a new number and I thought I’ll leave it with you in case you tried calling me and wondered why you couldn’t reach me. Why don’t you text me your new number as well? Or just reply here, that’s cool too. Whatever you prefer. Hope we can get in touch again 😉

 

“Wow,” Carlos breathed out, his eyes so long on the phone, TK was sure he read the message twice.

“Right?!” he replied, only letting the phone sink when Carlos looked back up at him. “I mean, what the heck, right? Carlos, how– how do I… how do I even reply to that?”

“Do you want to reply to it?” Carlos asked and TK could’ve kissed him for the calmness he still maintained. Once again, there was no accusation in the question. It was asked with the clear intention of helping TK navigate through his own feelings and TK couldn’t have been more grateful. As always, Carlos was his rock; he was here and he would help him figure this out.

TK bit his lip again, gnawing on it while he mulled over the question. “I don’t know?” he finally admitted. “I mean, I could just block him, right? I mean, I should’ve done that back then, so I should do it now, right?”

“If that’s what you want,” Carlos stated. “Or you could use this chance. He just opened a door, you get to decide what to do about it.”

“A chance? For what?” TK asked, baffled by the suggestion.

Carlos rolled his eyes, a smile playing around his lips. “Not a second chance for him, you doofus–”

Hey.”

“What I meant is, a chance to maybe clear some things up. Talk about stuff that still bothers you.”

“You mean like, ask him why he cheated on me?” TK replied, eyebrows raised in question.

Carlos shrugged his shoulders. “If that’s something you feel like you never got closure on, then yes, sure.”

Continuously gnawing his bottom lip, TK looked back down onto his phone, reading the message once more. “What’s with that stupid emoji? And what does he even mean, ‘get in touch again’? And ‘in case you tried calling me’? What the actual fuck?” he questioned out loud, slowly getting angry at the wording. “He makes it sound like I’ve been waiting for a message like this for over a year now! Like I’ve been pining for him or constantly trying to call him; and now he’s so merciful to reach out to me again. Why would I ever wanna get in touch with him again?! If I had wanted that, I’d have done it a long time ago. Just because he–”

“Babe, babe, hey,” Carlos interrupted, stepping closer and in between his legs now, cupping his cheek. “Calm down. No reason to get all worked up about that, okay?” He nodded down to TK’s phone where the message was still clear to see. “I know, the wording is… fishy at best. But maybe we’re reading too much into this. Might all be harmless in the end. Maybe it’s just as he says here; he thought about you lately, then got a new number and thought you might wanna know.”

“Yeah, but… babe, this doesn’t sound harmless.”

“Okay, then maybe something changed in his life and it made him want to reach out to you again, we don’t know.”

That had TK frowning at him. “‘Something changed’? What, you mean like… he got dumped and now he’s trying to reconnect?”

“As I said, we don’t know,” Carlos answered, still rock steady in all of this. “It’s all a possibility.”

After a moment of thinking and TK’s mood dropping further and further, he finally whined out. “Why would he even think about me again?”

“Well, for one, you’re hard to forget,” Carlos quipped, chuckling when TK rolled his eyes and playfully tried to push his smirking face away. Not that TK succeeded. Or wanted to succeed. “And two,” Carlos went on, swaying back into his space as TK pulled at his shirt to keep him close. “My best guess right now is that he has seen all those old pictures on Insta as well. I mean, he is in some of them, right?”

Scrunching up his nose, TK nodded. He hadn’t pointed him out to Carlos, but yes, of course Alex was in some of those pictures. 

“Okay, see?” Carlos went on. “He probably saw them and it brought back some memories. Just like it did for you. Any of this could’ve been a reason to reach out to you again, no harm done. It’s nothing more or less than that he gave you an option. It’s up to you now if you ‘want to get in touch again’ or not.”

TK sighed deeply, leaning into Carlos’ warmth. “God, you’re so right. Why are you always right?”

Carlos shrugged but a grin was on his lips as he replied. “I’m just used to keeping a clear head in crazy situations. I’m a cop, remember?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re used to crazy.” Looking back at his phone, TK shook his head at himself. “Still, this really annoys me.”

“Well, don’t let it,” Carlos ordered with a soft smile, pulling TK’s phone out of his hand. “Dinner is ready anyway and getting cold as we speak. Let’s set the table and then eat. You can deal with all this once it has settled a bit, okay?”

“Dinner?” TK replied with a little pout. “Can’t I get a few kisses first? You know, to distract me and lift my mood?”

Carlos shook his head in clear amusement, smile growing wider as he leaned back into TK’s space and caught his lips in a deep kiss. TK was able to keep him right there for at least a few minutes – before his boyfriend seemed to remember that the food was in fact getting cold. When Carlos stepped away, TK let himself be pulled down from the countertop before Carlos gently shoved him in the direction of the cupboards.

TK tried to get lost in the task as he got out the plates and glasses and silverware. But try as he might, the message was still on his mind and while he set the table he mulled over what to do and what to reply.

“Stop thinking about it, Ty,” came the clear order as Carlos brought over the first dish that smelled like heaven in a big bowl. “It’s only putting you in a bad mood but not getting you anywhere right now.”

Sighing, TK made a decision as he turned towards his man. “You know what? You’re right.”

“I thought we’d already established that,” Carlos replied with a wink before moving back to the kitchen to get the other bowls.

“We did, yes,” TK agreed as he finished with the last touches of setting the table and then lit the candles. Once it was all done, he stepped over and picked up the phone that Carlos had put on the counter. “What I meant is that I won’t let any of this ruin our evening. Not some old pictures or former friends and certainly not my asshole ex. I’ll switch off my phone for now and we’ll enjoy dinner, just as you said. And only once we’re both ready, we’ll think about what to do with all this. Sounds good?”

Carlos looked at him questioningly. “We?”

“Of course,” TK replied as he switched off his phone and then caught Carlos in an embrace when his boyfriend made his way back to the table with the last of their food. “I don’t wanna do this alone. Is that okay for you?”

“Anything you need, babe,” Carlos promised, sealing it with a kiss before they both finally sat down to enjoy their dinner.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Alright, here’s the plan,” TK began as he flopped down onto the couch and in between Carlos’ spread legs, snuggling his back against Carlos’ chest. Right away, Carlos made more room for him to settle, then wound his arms around TK’s middle, pulling his man closer as he rested his cheek against the side of TK’s head. He knew his boyfriend needed his full support and he was here for that, ready to face the storm with him as he looked down at the phone in TK’s hand. “I’ll send him one reply, telling him that there is not one part of me that is still interested in any contact with him. Then I’ll wish him a good life and after that, I’ll block him completely and be done with him.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Carlos replied, momentarily getting distracted by the smell of freshly showered TK in his arms. 

After dinner, they hadn’t settled down right away, no. First, they had ‘celebrated’ Pride in their own way, which had led to a long shower together before they’d finally been ready to settle on the couch. Now they quickly wanted to deal with TK’s ex and then enjoy a few more episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier before going to bed. But TK smelled so damn good, Carlos had a hard time remembering that plan. Instead, he let his nose wander along the soft skin of TK’s neck, huffing a little chuckle when he could feel a shiver run through his man. 

“Babe,” TK whined and right away, Carlos took mercy on him.

He knew TK would rather drag him up and into their bed to ‘celebrate’ some more – but they both knew he had to face this whole thing first so he could finally be able to fully let it go. 

So, being a good boyfriend, he pressed a quick kiss behind TK’s ear – not letting the last of those damp strands distract him again – and then hooked his chin over TK’s shoulder for a better view at the phone. TK switched it back on and then waited as it came back to life. He didn’t open the app right away, probably giving it a second for the notifications to come in. 

And Carlos certainly wasn’t prepared for the onslaught that came almost immediately, the phone pinging and vibrating like crazy; he was sure TK was just as unprepared.

“What the hell?” his boyfriend whispered and instinctively, Carlos tightened his hold around him. Wordlessly reminding him that he was here, that he had his back, no matter what.

As it seemed, most notifications came from Instagram and TK swiped through them. There were more notes of him being tagged in pictures, some notes about their friends commenting on them, and also some more DM’s. What caught Carlos’ eye the most was who had tagged TK this time.

“Does that say Alex tagged you?” he wondered out loud, unable to keep all the irritation out of his voice.

TK simply nodded, still just checking his phone’s notifications rather than clicking into the app. While he was at it, Carlos counted how often he saw the name the_alex_ny. The guy had tagged TK in four pictures and sent him two more direct messages.

Swallowing, Carlos concentrated on something positive rather than the anger beginning to bubble up inside of him. “Seems like some more of our friends commented on these pics, not just Marj.” 

“He sent two more messages,” TK commented instead, his voice sounding unnaturally detached, making Carlos ache for him. 

More than anything, he wished he could shield his boyfriend from all this. Carlos’ might not have such a dramatic past with any of his exes, but he had no idea how he himself would feel if one of them would suddenly reach out and very clearly try to reconnect with him. If not more. He couldn’t even imagine how TK must feel now and he wished he could do more than simply be his silent support. 

In the end, TK decided to start with the messages, opening Insta for both of them to read.

 

I see you saw my message 😏 surprised? Hope you’ll reply soon, I can’t wait to catch up with you. I’ve missed you.

Btw found some old pics of us and thought I would share them again – such good memories, aren’t they? Read the comments from our friends; I think they would like to see us back together… and I think I have to agree with them...

 

“And I think I’m going to throw up,” TK mumbled, disgust clear in his voice. 

But it wasn’t the only emotion Carlos detected. There was also bitterness and anger, all emotions Carlos could feel reflected in himself. If it were solely up to him, he would have a few choice words for this guy. Hadn’t the guy hurt TK enough? Did he really have to come back into his life now, and like this? As if TK was just dying to be with him again?

As if it wasn’t a question if but when he would reply.

As if TK had long forgiven him and was ready to run back to him the moment Alex snapped his fingers.

… as if TK had absolutely no self-worth or life away from this ass.

When TK squirmed in his arms, Carlos shoved his own anger at the guy aside, fully concentrating on his boyfriend instead. Once again, he tightened his hold and lifted his head to press a kiss to his neck. TK buried deeper into his embrace and Carlos could feel some of the tension drain out of him but certainly not all. Still, it was probably the best he could hope for in this situation.

TK took a deep breath and then clicked on Alex’ profile, probably deeming it best to check out what photos the guy was talking about.

The moment the side popped open, Carlos clenched his jaw, trying hard not to react to what he saw. God, he wanted to find that guy and kill him.

All four pictures were clearly taken the same day and during a Pride Parade. Two of them showed a group of friends that Carlos had already seen in some pictures from earlier – only this time, there was no question about who TK’s ex was. Carlos had wondered before, yes, but not enough to ask. Now, he saw TK in the arms of a tall and dark man and while they all looked into the camera in the first, the second showed TK smiling at the guy instead.

A smile that Carlos thought he should know… but that somehow was so different from the ones that were reserved for himself. He couldn’t even describe it. He could see that the TK in those pictures loved the man next to him – but it still wasn’t the gaze Carlos was so well acquainted with.

The third picture showed just the two of them, smiling at each other, and again, Carlos couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t the smile he himself knew from his boyfriend.

It was the fourth picture that really got his attention though – the picture in which the two men shared a kiss.

Carlos would be lying if he said it didn’t irk him at least a little bit to see this. Of course it did; after all, he was currently staring at a picture of the love of his life kissing another man and while his rational side knew that it was way in the past, that it was over and that TK had absolutely no feelings for Alex anymore, there was still his emotional side. And that side was pissed at what it saw. It brought out the territorial side in him, the one that wanted to make sure the world knew that TK was his boyfriend now; that they belonged together, and that no other guy had the right to share intimate moments like that with him.

His own war with his feelings occupied him for a moment too long and it wasn’t until he noticed the phone vibrate that he realized TK’s hand was actually shaking.

“Babe?” he asked, his voice laced with concern.

The phone dropped so suddenly, Carlos needed a moment to realize what was going on when in one fluid motion, TK turned and buried his face in the crook of Carlos’ neck. He was breathing heavily and Carlos didn’t hesitate, quickly engulfing him fully, pulling him even closer.

It wasn’t until TK’s breathing had slowed down again that Carlos spoke up. “Babe? Wanna tell me what’s in your head?”

“I don’t know– I can’t– I don’t–”

“Shhh, shh, it’s okay. It’s okay, babe. One step at a time,” he soothed him, rubbing his back as he pressed a kiss into his hair. He didn’t know yet what all these pictures had done to his boyfriend, but one thing he knew for sure.

Alex was a dead man if ever they would cross paths.

“I was so stupid.”

TK’s whispered admission caught Carlos by surprise. “What? What’re you talking about?”

“Back then,” TK murmured into his neck before leaning up a little bit. Enough for Carlos to see his face, relief washing over him to see those beautiful eyes were still dry. “Back with him. God, Carlos, I was so stupid.”

“Ty–”

“No. No, Carlos, seriously. I really was. I mean… look at this,” he added, waking up his phone again and scrolling to the picture where Alex and TK were gazing at each other. “This was taken in 2019, over half a year before we broke up. I’ve told you, I– I knew he was pulling away from me and… I could actually see it in his eyes. You can see it in this damn picture, for God's sake. He never really– he never–” TK swallowed hard, not finishing the sentence. 

He didn’t have to because now that he had pointed it out, Carlos could see it as well. There was certainly affection in the man’s eyes – but it was a far cry from the love that TK deserved to be looked at with.

“I think I– I was just so used to people leaving me, I ignored all the signs. I was so scared he would be the next that I made this stupid plan… I was just– I was so stupid.”

Carlos really couldn’t argue with that. He wanted to but he also hadn’t known TK back then so there was no way for him to judge what all had happened or how obvious it had been that Alex was cheating on him. He also had a feeling that he didn’t need to say anything. TK simply needed to talk and get it all off his chest.

“I saw it in his eyes, you know?” he repeated, and Carlos squinted at him, wondering what he wanted to emphasize here. “That he never loved me all that much. And in hindsight, I think I was guilty of that as well. I thought I loved him. But now I think it was more the feeling of not being alone anymore, you know? Of belonging to someone – even when that someone didn’t want me back.”

That was the moment Carlos realized why the TK in those pictures looked different from what Carlos was used to seeing in those green eyes.

What he saw right now, as TK smiled at him. 

“But knowing you now, babe… knowing how love can feel– how love should feel…” TK left the words hanging in the air as he gave Carlos one of those gazes full of love. The gaze Carlos knew was reserved only for him.

Him alone.

“And,” TK went on before Carlos had a chance to pull him into a kiss. “I also see the way you look at me – and that is something I’ve never seen before.”

Carlos smiled at him, even though the mere thought of other people not giving TK all the love he deserved was incomprehensible for him. How could anyone not love this man? Still, TK’s words truly touched him and this time, he interrupted whatever else his boyfriend had to say because he simply needed another kiss.

Once he leaned back up, TK brushed his fingers along his cheek, gazing at him. “I love you so damn much, Carlos. And I have never felt so safe in a relationship and in the knowledge that my partner loves me too.” After yet another quick peck on the lips, he added, “Thanks for loving me, babe,” before turning back around, snuggling into Carlos’ arms the same way he had before.

Chuckling, Carlos peppered his neck and the side of his face with many more little kisses. “Always,” he whispered, catching TK’s earlobe with his lips and pressing a kiss right there before finally resting his chin on TK’s shoulder once again.

It was such a huge relief, seeing how TK had calmed down and was smiling again. In fact, the whole atmosphere appeared to be lighter all of a sudden. There was no tension in TK anymore when he opened his phone, the picture still glaring back at them.

“Do you know why I hardly use Insta anymore? Why I’m not sharing pictures of us like I did with Alex?”

“Why?” Carlos asked, intrigued more than anything. He had never questioned it, never had been all that much into social media himself. The most that happened on his account was Marjan tagging him in pictures or the occasional reblog of important topics, like queer-related topics or posts about awareness of all kinds of things. He wondered if there was even one picture on his profile of TK and him that he had posted himself instead of just getting tagged in them by one of their friends.

“Because this?” TK said, lifting his phone a little bit to indicate what he was talking about. “This is nothing more than fake. These pictures are actually ones that used to be on my profile. Back in New York, back when I was with Alex… nothing seemed to be real unless the world could see it on social media. Unless all your friends saw that you were oh so happy and ‘in love’.” He craned his head back, placing a kiss on Carlos’ cheek. “Needless to say, that’s not the case now. We’re real and we both know it and we don’t need any likes for it.”

“No, we don’t,” Carlos agreed, his heart overflowing with all the emotions at hearing those words. “I love you, TK.”

TK gave him another kiss, this one to the corner of Carlos’ lips, before turning back to his phone. “Alright. Now let’s see people’s comments on these…”

TK clicked on the two group pictures first and it was mostly the usual stuff as it had been on other pics. Of how great the time had been, of how much they missed hanging out, how much they wished to go to the Pride Parade again next year.

Nothing unusual. 

And then he moved on to the pictures of just Alex and TK.

 

lizzy_lin God, you two were such a cute couple! Why aren’t you together anymore!!

clara_93 So sweet!! You two should get back together!

heart_eyes_92 Damn, I forgot how good you two looked together. Any chance at a reconciliation?

 

It went on and on like that and Carlos waited for TK to get angry over it. But he couldn’t sense any tension returning. Not even when they saw Alex’ first comment in reply to others.

 

the_alex_ny I actually dm’d him 😏 who knows, maybe old flames can be ignited 🔥

 

“Wow, the heck? Is he really that delusional?” TK mumbled, sounding somewhat annoyed but mostly amused.

 

clara_93 I really hope so!! Would love to see you back together.

romantic_chic Yay to second chances. So sad you two ended.

big_benji Maybe it will bring TK back to New York! He left because you two were over, right? So he might come back once he sees he has a chance with you again.

the_alex_ny Let’s not jump ahead of things 😇 let me catch up with him first… and then we can see where things are going… 

 

“Holy crap,” Carlos couldn’t help but swear, still keeping his voice calm. “I can’t decide if this is mostly sad or just funny.”

“Add a bit of crazy to it and I think we have a good description for this,” TK murmured back, still scrolling through the comments that all continued like this, more and more people chiming in; with Alex occasionally throwing in his two cents, adding fuel to the fire.

Carlos was about to tell TK that they should probably just stop before it would make them angry or moody again – when he caught sight of a very familiar username.

“There!” he pointed out, TK already nodding, indicating that he saw.

 

the_alex_ny Love all the support this gets 💙 you’re all so right, TK and I were perfect. I should’ve never let him go #biggestmistakeofmylife. Keep your fingers crossed that he’ll accept my apology and come back home.

firefox And why the fuck would he EVER do that?

the_alex_ny Excuse me?

heart_eyes_92 Who are you?

big_benji Why so aggressive, @firefox? Do you even know @the_alex_ny?

firefox No, thankfully I don’t!

lizzy_lin So why do you attack him like that?

nancenance Because we know TK – and the last thing he would ever do is go back to this cheating bastard.

lizzy_lin What?

heart_eyes_92 Wait, what?

big_benji The heck?

chris_90 Holy crap, what?

clara_93 What are you even talking about??

paul_on_fire Your friend never told you, did he? Guess he never wanted you to know what kind of asshole he is!

romantic_chic @the_alex_ny is this true?????? Did you cheat on TK?

heart_eyes_92 Oh my GOD!!! Is THAT the reason he left NY???

 

“I can’t believe your friends didn’t know. You never told them?”

“I… no?” TK replied, sounding confused by the fact himself. Or at realizing it. “No, I didn’t. I mean, at first, I couldn’t stand talking about it with anyone and then I– I think I just left my old life in such a hurry, it simply slipped my mind.” TK was gnawing on his bottom lip again, scrolling through more shocked exclamations. “I never thought… I never even considered that Alex would lie about it,” he whispered. “I mean, of course I noticed that no one ever reached out to me… but I just assumed they didn’t care. And honestly, after all that I had been through, I think I was relieved about it. To not have to deal with anything or anyone from my past. I simply wanted to forget. Start over.”

There wasn’t much he could say in reply, so Carlos simply hummed and once again tightened his hold on his man as they went back to reading. 

 

the_alex_ny Whoever you guys are, stop blowing this all up! Yes, there were some bumps in the road at the end of our relationship – but nothing that cannot be fixed, Jesus.

firefox How delusional are you? ‘Some bumps in the road’? More like an entire trainwreck!!

the_alex_ny You know NOTHING about TK and me! What we had was special and TK knows that. He’ll answer soon and then we can put that terrible memory behind us.

paul_on_fire Yeah, don’t hold your breath on that

nancenance On second thought, please do!

 

“God, I love our friends,” Carlos whispered with a grin, relieved when he sensed TK’s smile as well.

“Yeah, me too. Though I wonder when they’ll start mentioning you.”

“They don’t need to,” Carlos replied, watching as TK stopped the scrolling, clearly surprised by his words. So he was quick to explain. “Babe, this isn’t about me, or even us. This is about the fact that you wouldn’t ever go back to Alex. Even if I weren’t in the picture.”

TK seemed to think about it for a second before shrugging. “Okay, I see your point and it’s certainly true. But knowing our friends, they’ll totally bring you up sooner or later. Let’s see.”

It was hard to disagree with that, so Carlos read along as TK kept scrolling through many more shocked reactions from nameless people in New York, Alex trying to calm it all down and justify his actions, and their friends sprinkling more and more details about how Alex had wronged TK into the conversation.

“Oh, look,” TK pointed out a bit further down. “There’s some of your coworkers joining in. That’s Mitchell, right?”

Carlos looked at the names that came up and nodded before reading what his partner had to say.

 

lady_justice Holy crap 😂 @the_alex_ny, whatever you do, please never come to Austin

the_alex_ny @lady_justice why?

cop_carter Cause we don’t wanna have to arrest the whole 126 😂

banksy_with_handcuffs Yeah, exactly that 

the_alex_ny @cop_carter what’s that supposed to mean?

firefox 😂 as if you guys wouldn’t join us!!

firefox And @the_alex_ny, it means TK has friends here who would kill for him – even within the police department… 

banksy_with_handcuffs Don’t know what you’re talking about, @firefox 😇 We’re all law-abiding cops here – we would do no such thing...

cop_carter Yeah, we would never 😏

paul_on_fire Sure, let’s all pretend like we believe you… 

nancenance You would totally help us, and we all know it 😂

lady_justice You mean protecting our future Reyes? Hell yeah we would 😂

 

“Ha! There it is,” TK exclaimed, now sounding positively giddy.

 

the_alex_ny Future WHAT NOW?

buckeroo Chiming in to say @the_alex_ny you better not come to LA either!

ediaz_11 That’s right, no love here for anyone who hurt TK!

the_alex_ny WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU PEOPLE??

 

“Oh my God, even Buck and Eddie?” Carlos breathed out a soft laugh. “This is getting better and better.”

TK nodded. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Alex use all caps. Sounds like he’s about to lose it.”

 

the_alex_ny Listen, I have no idea who you all are or what you’re talking about, but please stay away from my pictures!

ediaz_11 You mean some old pictures you probably shared without TK’s consent? @lady_justice, @cop_carter, @banksy_with_handcuffs, isn’t there a law against that?

buckeroo Good thing TK’s boyfriend’s a cop 😁 I’m sure he can look into it for his man

chris_90 Wait, what? TK has a new guy?

big_benji TK’s with a cop now? In Texas??

heart_eyes_92 How did we miss that? Oh my God!

lizzy_lin Why did he never share on Insta?

the_alex_ny Exactly! There’s no picture of him with a new guy on his profile, so what the hell are you all talking about?

nancenance Dude, you do know that sounds like you’ve been stalking him, right? #obsessivemuch?

 

“It really does sound like he’s been stalking my profile,” TK whispered, much more subdued now to Carlos’ dismay.

Hugging him closer again, Carlos murmured, “Babe, you don’t start to regret that you aren’t as obsessed with Insta anymore as you used to be, right?”

“No, not really. But I can’t help thinking… if we’d at least posted some pics, then maybe this whole thing here wouldn’t have happened.”

“What, you mean, us getting to witness how our friends come together to rip into your ex?”

TK gently moved his head and leaned back so he could look at him. “Babe, are you enjoying this?” he asked, sounding equally amused and amazed.

Carlos could feel heat creeping up his neck but he still tried to appear nonchalant as he shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe a little bit. Aren’t you?”

TK laughed out loud before pressing another kiss to his cheek. “Oh, I definitely am. This is golden.”

“It is. Now go on, I wanna see what happens.”

 

firefox Guys, I just realized something 😂 TK really doesn’t have any real new pics on his Insta. These people don’t even know!!!

nancenance That’s amazing 😂 he’s too busy ACTUALLY being in love and being happy and with his man, there’s no time for Insta!!

paul_on_fire So true!! Better living it for real than just pretending on social media

 

“See,” Carlos whispered. “Our friends get us. And once again, they’re setting the record straight.”

 

nancenance That’s also so like TK 😂 

the_alex_ny No, it’s not! When we were together, he posted about it all the time!

buckeroo Guess you didn’t keep him busy enough… 

firefox OH MY GOD, BUCK 😂 EPIC BURN!!

paul_on_fire And also so true – I don’t think I’ve ever seen them occupied with their phones when they’re together. Too busy making mooneyes at each other. 

nancenance And when Carlos isn’t there, TK’s busy daydreaming about his man. How’s he supposed to fit Insta in there?

lady_justice Oh my God, @nancenance, Reyes is totally the same!! Being on patrol with him is hell 😂

banksy_with_handcuffs Urgh, truer words have never been spoken, @lady_justice!!!! Any idea when their honeymoon phase will finally be over?

paul_on_fire Probably never

cop_carter Never

firefox I vote never

nancenance Yeah, never!

lady_justice Let’s give them time, it’s only been, what? A year?

firefox Little over a year, yup. Met in April, the very first day the new 126 was on the job. 

the_alex_ny Little over a year?!? See now I know you’re LYING! TK and I ended in February and you wanna tell me he met a new guy not even two months later???

nancenance @the_alex_ny that’s exactly what happened. And they’re still as disgustingly sweet as they were right from the start.

paul_on_fire Looks like you weren’t as special to him as you thought… 

 

“Are they purposefully omitting our rocky start here?” TK wondered out loud, eliciting a grin from Carlos.

“I believe so,” he murmured back. “No need for your asshole ex to know that we weren’t official right from the start.”

“True,” TK replied, a grin clear in his voice, before going back to scrolling.

 

buckeroo @ediaz_11 and I are just sitting here, amused about how the 126 and APD has hijacked a post from TK’s shitty ex to gush all over the true love he found now with his new boyfriend 😂

ediaz_11 Truly epic! Especially because all the NY ‘friends’ seem to have gone quiet…

banksy_with_handcuffs Probably searching their profiles for all the pics Reyes and Future Reyes got tagged in instead of just scrolling through the ones TK posted 

cop_carter Or stalking all of our profiles to see if Reyes and Future Reyes are somewhere but didn’t get tagged 😂

paul_on_fire Okay, for one, @the_alex_ny and all the other ‘friends’ from NY, best go to @firefox’s profile. She has the most pics by far!

paul_on_fire And two, we seriously need to talk about the name, guys!! Who says Carlos isn’t becoming a future Strand?

lady_justice Are you crazy? 😱 that would mean a Strand in almost all the departments!!

buckeroo You should totally find a nice lady dispatcher that could marry TK’s dad – then it would be all four departments, just saying…

 

With that, they had finally caught up to the end of the comments and while Carlos was sure there was more to come, he was surprised when TK closed Instagram and opened his camera app instead.

“Babe, I still stand by what I said about not feeling any need for us to show off our love but–”

“Oh heck, yes,” Carlos interrupted once he caught onto what TK wanted to do. “Wanna post a picture or a story?”

“Both?” TK asked softly, obviously unsure if maybe that would overdo it.

Carlos nodded. “Okay, whatever you feel up to, I’m game,” he assured him with another kiss on his cheek. It was time to show New York that TK was very happily taken.

TK switched to video mode first and as soon as Carlos could see them both looking back from the screen, he was unable to tame his smile. They still looked a little flushed and while TK’s hair was dry by now, it was positively tousled; Carlos’ own curls untamed and wild on his head. With the angle at which TK held his phone, there wasn’t much more to see besides their faces next to each other and TK’s chest – covered not only by Carlos’ arm but also by a shirt that actually read Reyes because it was from his old high school. He had kept it at his parent’s ranch so the fire didn’t take it away from them. The moment TK had found it in Carlos’ old bedroom, he had claimed it as his own.

What a beautiful coincidence that he was wearing it tonight.

“Ready?”

“Ready when you are,” Carlos whispered back.

The camera came to life.

“Hey guys. So, Carlos and I just wanted to quickly thank y’all. We kinda got distracted earlier… you know, ‘celebrating’ pride and all–”

“Oh my God, babe,” Carlos huffed out with a little laugh, but otherwise not deterring his boyfriend from whatever he wanted to say.

“What? It’s true – and it’s not like our friends wouldn’t be able to tell–”

“Anyway!” Carlos exclaimed, joining into TK’s laugh, before leading him back on the right path. “We just now opened Insta again.”

“Yep, and we’re kinda blown away by all the love and support from all of you. I mean, not that we ever doubted it…”

“But it’s sweet to read it all.”

“Yeah, that,” TK agreed. “Also, we’re really looking forward to the party tomorrow and celebrating with all of you. It might not be a Pride Parade, but at least we have most of our friends together. Right, babe?”

“Yeah, exactly. Buck, Eddie, it’s too bad you can’t join. But TK and I have already decided to go to LA for the Pride Parade in 2022.”

“Oh, yes! We did,” TK agreed, face lighting up even more. “I meant to message you, but I guess this works too. So be prepared for a reunion!! June 2022 at the latest.”

“Or, you know. Just come on down to Austin. Now that TK and I have a bigger house, there’s always room for you.”

“Yep, always. Anyway, that's all we wanted to say– oh, no, wait,” TK interrupted himself, sounding even more excited now. “One more thing. Paul, just so you know, I love when Carlos’ colleagues call me Future Reyes, so no need to have a talk with them.”

That caught Carlos’ attention and for the first time, he looked away from the camera and turned his head as best as he could to look at TK for real. “You do?”

TK looked at him as if he’d just asked a stupid question – which, probably, he had. “Of course, I do, you know that.”

“No, I mean… you wanna take my name when we get married?”

That pulled TK’s attention away from the camera for real, their gazes catching. For a second, TK just looked at him, eyes soft and so full of love it had Carlos smile without a second thought.

“Course I do. Wait, did you want to take my name?”

“Honestly? I always thought we’d hyphenate.”

TK seemed to think about it for a moment, probably letting the names run through his mind, before looking back at Carlos. “How would we do it? Would we both stick with our names and add the other to it? Or would we decide on one order?”

“No idea, guess it’s up to us?”

“So… Reyes-Strand? Strand-Reyes?”

“It both certainly has a ring to it.”

“Yeah but so does TK Reyes.”

Carlos had to close his eyes for a second, the sound of hearing TK say his name like that sending butterflies all through his body. “Fuck, that sounds amazing,” he murmured as he pressed a kiss to TK’s temple, his heart dancing with TK’s soft chuckle.

“What about Carlos Strand?” TK asked, voice back to being playful and instantly, Carlos was back in a joking mood as well.

“I mean… it would be funny to have a fire captain, a paramedic, and a cop with that name.”

“Now if only we can find a lady dispatcher for my dad…” TK quipped, pulling a laugh from Carlos.

But there was an idea… “Oh, how about this,” and turning back to the camera, he grinned. “Owen, here’s a little challenge for you. If you wanna keep the name of Strand going, you better find yourself a dispatcher to marry. If you succeed, I’ll become a Strand. If not, TK becomes a Reyes.”

TK’s laugh shook them both so much the camera was momentarily completely out of focus. “Oh my God, babe! Don’t do that.”

“Why not?” Carlos huffed in amusement, helping TK right the phone and get the focus back on them.

“Because my dad will totally take that challenge.”

“So? Then I’ll become a Strand and be the luckiest man on earth,” he replied, honesty in his voice despite his wide grin. Once again, TK affectionately rolled his eyes but only ended with pressing a kiss to the corner of Carlos’ mouth. But Carlos didn’t let it distract him, speaking into the camera again. “But you better hurry, Owen. Clock’s ticking.”

“Oh, is it now?”

Turning back to look at TK, Carlos raised one eyebrow. “What? You think I’m gonna wait all that much longer to ask you to marry me?”

TK gasped in shock, thoroughly taken by surprise this time and obviously unable to mask it for the camera. Within a heartbeat though, the shocked gaze morphed into one of adoration and love and affection, tears welling up in his eyes as he leaned in to catch Carlos’ lips in a deep kiss. All too quickly, he seemed to come to his senses, remembering that they were taking a video to put on Insta.

Turning back to the camera, his boyfriend grinned like a madman. “Anyway, once you see this story, it’s safe to say that our phones are switched off again. We love you all and can’t wait to see you tomorrow – but for now, it’s back to ‘celebrating’ by ourselves.”

“Oh my God, Ty,” Carlos exclaimed once again, head thrown back in a laugh. He didn’t even notice when or how TK ended the video but a moment later, his boyfriend turned in his lap and caught his lips, dragging him into a deep and heated kiss.

“Wait,” TK interrupted them after only a short while, “I wanna post this first. I want our friends to see that you practically proposed to me on Insta.”

“Babe, that was not my proposal.”

“I know,” TK told him with a shit-eating grin. “But it was close enough and our friends will have a field day with this.”

Rolling his eyes affectionately, he pulled TK back against his chest and once again watched over his shoulder as his man set up the video in his story. It had turned out way longer than they had intended to and had to be split up in many, many little segments, but neither of them cared. Once he was done, TK also took a quick selfie of them – Carlos’ curls now even wilder and their lips definitely kiss-swollen – and uploaded it with the hashtags #pride2021 #celebrating #truelove.

Once it was done, TK didn’t hesitate for even a second before switching off his phone and tossing it aside. “Now, where were we?” he asked, already turning around in Carlos’ arms again.

And Carlos all too happily showed him exactly where they had been and where they wanted to go.

 

~*~*~*~

 

When TK switched his phone back on the next morning, he was once again bombarded with notifications from Instagram. Snuggling up against Carlos while his man prepared their breakfast, he checked who all had seen their story – and yes, he was sardonically satisfied when he read Alex’ name – before checking their picture.

It was blown up with comments, not only from their friends – and his dad, accepting Carlos’ challenge! – but also from many people back in New York. All wishing him well and telling him that he looked happier than they had ever seen him. And TK couldn’t agree with them more.

After sending a quick DM to Alex after all, stating practically what he had told Carlos he would do the night before, he finally blocked the man for real, before silencing his phone once more. Putting it aside, he snuggled closer into Carlos’ embrace, not caring one bit that his boyfriend was hardly able to prepare their breakfast this way as he kept soaking up his warmth.

Knowing without a shadow of a doubt that this was the best Pride celebration he had ever had.