The stress of their house burning down and having to move in with Owen and Mateo while trying to search for a new place, deal with the insurance company, and replace everything they owned is catching up to them at a time when TK thought they would finally be able to relax.
They’ve been living in their new house for a few days now. It’s a decent-sized home with a huge kitchen for Carlos to cook in and multiple spare bedrooms for whatever the future holds for them. It’s a bit of a fixer-upper as the last owners had some questionable design choices but it was a project they thought would be fun to tackle together. They should be celebrating, christening every room but instead, they’re at each other’s throats.
It’s like every little thing they’ve kept bottled up is finally coming to head. They’ve been so focused on being strong for each other, pretending to be okay so they can be the person the other can lean on, now that they’re finally getting their lives back together, they’re dropping the facade.
Instead of taking the time to really talk about the trauma they’ve experienced since their house burned down, they’re letting their frustrations out in the form of arguing about every decision that needs to be made. TK didn’t know there could be so many different shades of beige paint or that there was a right way to organize the kitchen cupboards.
It wasn’t like this when TK moved in with Carlos previously. Everything was already there, all they really had to do was hang TK’s hoodies in the closet. This house is a blank slate with a million choices to make.
“TK? Where did you put the cast iron pan?” Carlos’ voice wanders down the hall from where he’s currently making dinner in the kitchen. TK is in the first-floor bathroom trying to finish painting the walls.
“I don’t know. Check next to the fridge by all the other pots and pans.”
“Why would you store pans by the fridge?”
TK sighs. “It was the biggest cabinet! Does it really matter?”
“It just doesn’t make sense. We use the pans on the stove so it’s more efficient to have them over there.” Carlos’ voice is clipped.
TK debates just letting it go but this constant fighting has gone on long enough. He gets off the floor from where he was wedged between the toilet and the shower and makes his way to the kitchen. Carlos is standing at the stove with his back to him, missing pan in hand.
“Do you even want me here?” TK’s tone is quiet, defeated. Carlos whips around at the question, eyes wide and brow furrowed.
“Of course I want you here. Why would you even ask that?”
“It’s like every decision we make ends with us snapping at each other. ”
“We wouldn’t have to argue if you would just put things in a more practical location.” Carlos huffs. TK feels his frustrations building, threatening to boil over. He was trying to make amends, but if that’s how Carlos wants to play it then fine.
“Who cares where the fucking frying pan goes! If my decisions are that unbearable then maybe we shouldn’t be living together.”
Carlos’ expression closes off. “Is that what you want?”
No, that’s the absolute last thing TK wants right now but Carlos isn’t exactly asking him to stay. The kitchen island is a physical barrier between them, separating them into a standoff.
“Maybe I should go stay with my dad for a bit.” A quiet confession that seems out of place after all the shouting. TK leaves the room without giving Carlos a chance to reply.
Carlos stands frozen in the kitchen until a pot boiling over on the stove pulls him out of his thoughts. He turns the burner off. His appetite is gone anyway. He doesn’t understand how this night became such a mess. Sure, they’ve been off lately but he thought they would be fine once everything was settled. He’s completely thrown that TK thinks he would ever regret asking him to move in. Has it really gotten that bad between them without him noticing? He’s been so caught up in working overtime to cover the downpayment on the house that he hasn’t gotten to really be with TK recently. He knows he was being difficult but the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. None of this is TK’s fault yet he can feel himself creating distance.
He wishes more than anything that they could go back to the way they were before. He loves TK. It’s just a rough patch for them. Maybe a day apart would do some good for them.
TK comes back down the stairs and doesn’t spare him a glance as he beelines for the front door.
He’s out the front door before Carlos can finish his sentence. TK doesn’t slam the door behind him and Carlos almost wishes he did. The soft click is a little too final, like he doesn’t see the point in fighting anymore.
It has been five days since Carlos has heard from TK. Five days of unanswered messages and Carlos is starting to lose his mind.
They haven’t been working the same scenes and Carlos knows he could stop by the firehouse or Owen’s house but he doesn’t know if TK would welcome him in. The last time they went this long without talking to each other TK was in a coma. Hell, even when TK was fighting a wildfire they were still texting each other as much as possible. When TK said he was staying with his dad he thought he meant for a day or two but the longer he stays gone the more Carlos starts to worry that he might not be coming back.
He is currently sitting in his patrol car after wrapping up a wellness check and pulls out his phone, the screen lighting up the dark car.
No new messages.
Mitchell glances at him from the passenger seat. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you and your boy but you need to fix it because this kicked puppy look you’ve been sporting is really bringing down my mood,” she teases.
Carlos turns to look at her and his expression must be the epitome of misery because the grin slips from her face and she turns much more serious. “Is it really that bad?”
Carlos anxiously runs a hand through his hair. “I don’t know. I didn’t think so at first but the longer I go without hearing from him the more worried I get.” He pauses. “I almost don’t want to hear from him now because I’m afraid it’s going to be him saying he wants to end things. At least now I’m in this limbo where I can pretend things are going to be okay.” Carlos looks down at his lap, not wanting to see the pity in her eyes.
Mitchell sighs and is quiet for a moment. “Carlos, that boy loves you. Everybody can see it. Just give him some time but let him know that you’re there if he needs you. He’ll come back to you. He’d be an idiot not to.” Carlos relaxes a fraction. “And if he breaks your heart I’ll kick his ass.”
The corner of his mouth ticks up. For all the ribbing they give each other, she can be surprisingly sweet. “You don’t need to do that. But thank you, seriously. You’re a good friend. Behind all your sarcasm and wit you’re really just a big ole softie.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now let’s go. I want to hit that taco truck on 7th before we get another call.”
Unit 363-H-20, we’ve got a possible OD on the north side of Govalle Park.
Carlos shifts into gear and turns to Mitchell with an apologetic smile on his face. “Guess your tacos will have to wait.”
TK is going through the motions at work. He’s completely focused when he should be, when he has lives to save, but back at the station, he restocks the rig and cleans the supplies in a detached state.
He knows he should text Carlos back, to at least let him know he’s okay.
Alright, maybe okay isn’t the right word but he’s fine. He’s noticed the concerned looks his team members are giving him. He knows their intentions are good but for a brief moment, he wishes they weren’t all as close as they are. He just wants to do his job and not deal with everyone looking at him like he’s going to crumble.
Even Buttercup can sense something’s wrong, choosing to sleep in Marjan’s bunk instead.
He doesn’t know why he threw those words at Carlos, why he accused him of not wanting to live together. He doesn’t really know why he’s still staying at his dad’s.
He misses Carlos.
He isn’t getting much sleep if the bags under his eyes are anything to go by. He tosses and turns without the comforting sound of Carlos breathing beside him.
He’s not even mad at Carlos anymore. Although he worries Carlos may be mad at him still. For the bickering, leaving, and now this radio silence that TK has given him.
Truthfully, he’s scared. Scared that if he goes back too soon that they’ll fall back into the same pattern they were in. They need time, which is the one thing they don’t have right now with their busy schedules. He wants to explain their fighting was just the result of TK taking his stress from the past few months out on the wrong person.
Carlos is it for him, the love of his life.
But he’s scared that Carlos might not think the same thing. He knows he has insecurities and abandonment issues that run a mile high but this seems like more than the thoughts in his head. Carlos’ texts to him have ranged from asking if he was okay and if they could talk to saying he missed him.
But he never asked him to come home.
And that’s what’s making TK hesitant to reach out. He doesn’t know what he would do if Carlos ended things. He’s scared about what he would do if Carlos ended things.
TK is pulled from his thoughts as the speaker crackles to life announcing medical assistance needed for a possible OD.
He pretends not to notice the glance Nancy spares at him when she joins him in the rig.
TK scans the scene when they pull up, noticing Carlos talking to two women. He looks tired. The thought provides him a moment of comfort. Maybe Carlos misses him just as much.
Another officer on the scene meets them on their way over to the patient, briefly running through the incident. Teenage boy. Unconscious. Suspected overdose.
He knows overdoes calls are part of the job and he’s a professional, he can do this. He takes a deep breath before springing into action.
TK checks his pupils. “Patient is unresponsive.” His fingers move to his neck as he lowers his head to listen for a breath. “No respiration. No pulse.”
“TK, start compressions. Nancy, prepare for an intravenous Narcan injection.”
TK positions himself over the boy’s chest and begins pushing down with all the strength he can manage. He cannot lose this patient. This kid is not going to die.
This kid was him. Twice.
TK feels ribs crack under his palms and he keeps pushing until Tommy stops him so she can administer the injection. They all wait for a second, the silence is deafening. Nothing happens.
TK is back, putting everything he has into saving this kid.
Twenty-eight. Twenty-nine. Thirty.
Thirty more compressions, two more rescue breaths, and still nothing.
He moves to go again but Tommy’s hand on his shoulder stops him. “I’m calling it. Nancy, can you confirm?”
“No. Just let me keep going.” TK’s voice is desperate, borderline hysterical.
Tommy speaks low and soothingly. “TK, he’s gone.”
TK stands. The fast movement combined with the lack of sleep makes his head rush. Hands are on him and voices are talking to him but it’s like TK is in a tunnel. He shoves off whoever is trying to comfort him and heads deeper into the park. Tears are clouding his vision and his chest is tight. He can feel the beginning of a panic attack setting in but he ignores it, his legs unconsciously taking him farther from the scene.
Why? He couldn’t have been older than 16 and he’s dead from one mistake. TK has made so many of those but he’s still here. It doesn’t make sense.
Carlos watches him go from where he’s taking the statements of the two women who found the kid. He wants to chase after him so badly. He will, as soon as he’s done here. He just needs to know that TK is okay. He finishes up with the women and turns to take off in TK’s direction but Mitchell’s voice stops him before he takes a step.
“Reyes, we need to move out. Another call.”
Shit. Carlos spares another glance in TK’s direction. He’s going to be okay, he tells himself. He’s with his family. They’ve got him. They’ll take care of him.
With his heart heavy, he gets back in the car and leaves the scene and TK behind.
Carlos’ shift wraps up an hour later. He’s just about to leave the station when his phone vibrates with a new message. He reaches for it immediately and tries not to be disappointed when it’s not a text from TK, but one from Paul.
Look, I don’t know what’s going on between you and TK but he needs you man.
He shoves the rest of his things in his bag and takes off toward the door. He dials TK’s number but gets sent straight to voicemail. Okay, no need to panic it’s probably just dead. Or maybe TK’s asleep. Carlos knows TK’s shift was supposed to end before his. The overdose call was likely his last one for the night. He has to be at Owen’s house. Knowing Owen, he probably didn’t let TK leave the station by himself.
He makes it to his car and violates a few traffic laws on his way to the Strand house. He’s knocking at the front door before he knows it, his mind too preoccupied with worrying about his boyfriend.
Owen opens the door and looks relieved. That’s a good sign. At least Carlos didn’t fuck up badly enough for TK’s father to be against him.
Owen gestures for him to come inside. “He’s in the guest room.”
Carlos nods appreciatively and heads up the stairs, his need to see TK is too overpowering to make any kind of small talk with Owen.
As he cracks the door open, light from the hall spills into the otherwise dark bedroom illuminating TK wrapped in blankets and Carlos’ APD hoodie. His back is to the door.
TK hasn’t noticed his presence yet so he tiptoes to the edge of the bed, hesitantly sitting down. The movement of the mattress causes TK to crank his head back to see who the intruder is and Carlos’ chest gets tight at the sight. TK’s eyes are red and puffy and tears are streaming down his face.
“What are you doing here?” His voice is scratchy but not uninviting. The question coming from a place of confusion and a bit of hope, not anger.
Carlos shifts closer to him, bringing his legs onto the mattress and leaning against the headboard. TK sits up with him and doesn’t shy away from the closeness so he takes it as a good sign.
“I was at the scene tonight. I wanted to make sure you were okay but I had another call to get to. Paul might’ve told me that you maybe weren’t so okay.” TK looks down at his lap, his fingers anxiously picking at the sleeve of his sweatshirt. Taking a gamble, Carlos covers TK’s hands with his own. TK immediately flips his over to lace their fingers together.
“It never gets easier. I know I have to look at the scene professionally and not personally but it’s so hard not to think of my own life when I see a kid lying there. I mean he was so young. And I can’t help but feel a little guilty. I have been in that exact position and taken more pills in my life than I am proud to admit. I made a lot of bad decisions before you knew me, Carlos, and this kid makes one bad decision and pays for it with his life.”
Carlos puts his arm around the other man’s shoulder and pulls him closer, pressing his lips to his temple briefly. “I wish there were some magic words that I could say to make it better but losing someone on a call is always going to be difficult. I know this situation is so much harder for you. I would do anything to take some of that pain away.” Carlos squeezes him a little tighter when he hears TK sniffle. “But TK you have no reason to feel guilty. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know why bad things happen to good people but TK you’re a good person too. One of the best. You save lives every single day. You care so much about the people around you. You have the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. And yeah you’ve made a few bad choices but so has everyone. That doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of being saved.”
TK nods. Carlos knows he believes him but he also knows this is something TK will always live with and a few words won’t make it go away.
“Thank you,” TK whispers. “For being here for me, for always knowing the right words to say.”
Carlos wipes the tears still tracking down TK’s cheeks. “Always. You can always come to me, you know that right?”
TK moves to wrap his arm around Carlos’ waist, hugging him tightly. “I know.” They’re quiet for a moment, enjoying the closeness that they both so desperately needed. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too. We can talk about it more in the morning. Right now I just want to hold you.” How could TK turn down an offer like that?
They get situated, Carlos on his back with TK laying practically on top of him, his face pressed into his neck. TK finds himself halfway asleep already. He manages to mumble out a barely coherent “love you”.
A kiss on his forehead and a quiet, “I love you, too” is the last thing he’s aware of before he drifts off.
The way the sun slips through the blinds tells Carlos it’s still early. Too early for him to be awake. Yet he can’t seem to take his eyes off the man sleeping beside him.
“You’re staring.” Carlos’ eyes dart up to find TK’s narrowly open, not realizing the other man was awake.
“Can’t help it. You know I love seeing you in my clothes like this.” TK rolls closer, tangling their legs together. Carlos basks in the intimacy before taking a breath. “We still need to talk.”
TK stiffens just the slightest bit but Carlos catches it. “I know. I really am sorry, Carlos. I shouldn’t have left like that and I shouldn’t have ignored your messages.”
“I’m sorry, too. I know I was snappy and petty and you didn’t deserve that. I’m sorry for making you feel like you had to leave.” TK squeezes his waist.
“You didn’t, not really. I was just frustrated because we weren’t getting along because that’s not us. With all the craziness of these past weeks, I think we just need to spend some time together. Away from work and our families and everything.” Carlos rubs TK’s back while he thinks about the proposal.
“I think that’s a great idea, TK. And I know I have a tendency to act like everything’s fine but I’m working on not pretending I’m okay all of the time. I didn’t want to fall apart on you more than I already did and keeping all that inside me caused me to take my frustrations out on you, and that wasn’t okay.”
“You don’t have to be strong for me all the time, baby. I’ll always be here when you need me like I know you will for me. Can we agree to talk to each other next time? Let me know when something’s bothering you and I’ll do the same instead of keeping things bottled up.”
“Seal it with a kiss?” Carlos chuckles but obliges, meeting TK halfway to softly press their lips together before TK lays his head back down on his chest.
“I was scared when you went silent on me that you weren't coming back,” Carlos confesses quietly. He hears TK’s sharp intake of breath.
“I was always planning on coming back. No matter what.” He pauses. “I kind of had the same fear, that maybe you didn’t want me to come back.”
Carlos has to laugh a little at that. “So turns out we’re both idiots who sat there thinking something that would absolutely never happen.” TK laughs with him.
“Yeah, I guess so. Glad we’ve discovered that even when we’re fighting we’re still kind of on the same page.” Carlos finds comfort in the fact they both stayed away not because they were mad but because neither of them could imagine losing this relationship.
TK props himself up, looking down into those brown eyes he loves so much. “You know what the best part of fighting is?” Carlos hums. Judging by the way TK is pressed up against him he thinks he has a pretty good idea. TK leans forward to whisper in his ear, “making up.”
Carlos smiles, he couldn’t agree more.
TK repositions himself so he’s straddling his boyfriend’s hips. His eyes are still a little puffy, his hair is an absolute mess, and Carlos thinks he’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.
His eyes slip shut as TK’s lips brush against his just barely. Once. Twice. And then he’s really kissing him, teeth, tongue, and all. Carlos lets TK take control of the kiss, providing whatever the other man needs. Carlos’ hands tighten on his waist pulling him down as TK gasps into his mouth. He takes advantage of TK’s distractedness to flip them over, TK on his back with his legs wrapped around Carlos. Carlos pulls back to look at TK, he’s got that playful smirk that Carlos loves that says exactly how he feels about being manhandled by his boyfriend.
He turns serious for a second, needing TK to hear this. “Never think I don’t want you around. You’re my best friend and the love of my life, Tyler Kennedy.” TK’s nose scrunches adorably at the use of his full name. “And I promise I will do everything I can to make you as happy as you make me.”
TK softens, staring back at him with adoration in his eyes. “Ditto.”
Carlos huffs a laugh. “Eloquent.”
TK tightens the grip he has on his back and smiles. “Sorry babe but the blood flow isn’t exactly going to my brain right now.” Carlos laughs as TK rests their foreheads together. “You already make me the happiest man alive.”
Carlos kisses him. “Now, where were we?” The words whispered against TK's lips. TK pulls Carlos impossibly closer, not an inch of space between them, and the worries about the past and the future become the farthest things from their minds.