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The Pain of Recovery

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Carlos glances towards the stairs when he hears TK stepping down and dropping his bag next to the door with a thud. He’d heard the movement upstairs and had been hoping it wasn’t TK getting ready for work, but if the past week had taught him anything, TK was stubborn and going to do whatever he wanted. He tries to breathe through the anxiety that hasn’t seemed to ease since TK has gone back to work a week prior and looks back to the cake in front of him, his latest effort to try and distract his mind.

“Looks good” TK comments as he slides in next to him and reaches over to put his finger into the icing that Carlos has only just made perfect enough for his standards.

“The icing is made for the cake, not to eat directly” Carlos replies, rolling his eyes when TK just grins in reply and proceeds to lick the icing off his finger.

“Tastes good too” TK says with a laugh and then moves behind him to open the fridge

“You’re going to work?” Carlos asks, keeping his voice deliberately light.

“My head is fine. It was just a headache. Can we not do this again?” TK grumbles and collects the bottle of water on the table, taking a quick drink, replacing the lid before coming to lean against the counter next to Carlos.

“I don’t want to fight with you, I’m just worried” TK sighs next to him before reaching over to grip his waist and pull until he complies and turns so his back is against the counter and TK can stand right in front of him.

“We’re not fighting” Carlos raises his brow at him and TK lets out a laugh “Okay, maybe we’re arguing a little, but I don’t know what to do to convince you that I’m fine so you will stop worrying” Carlos reaches up to cup his boyfriend’s chin and ignores the need to soothe and comfort in favour of saying what he knows will annoy, but he can’t stop the ever present thought that there’s something wrong.

“You could go see the concussion specialist” TK takes a step back and Carlos lets his hand fall to his side.

“Carlos, stop”

“You’ve had a headache every day this week and I know you’re lying when you say you aren’t dizzy every time I ask”

“I don’t have a concussion anymore. I’ve been cleared by doctors; I’ve worked the whole week just fine. Let it go” TK snaps and Carlos really doesn’t want to constantly be at odds with him, so he just nods in reply and stays silent like he has every time this conversation has been revisited over the past week. “I have to go. I’ll see you tomorrow.” TK says and steps forward to give him a quick kiss on the cheek before moving across the room towards the door.

“TK. Be safe” Carlos calls to him, when he has his bag over his shoulder, door open in front of him. TK looks back at him and gives him a small smile before closing the door behind him with a soft click.

Carlos looks back down at the cake in front of him, noticing the stray bit of icing dripping down the side and quickly uses the knife to stop its descent and wishes everything could be so easily fixed.

 

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Carlos wakes all too sudden as the familiar sound of his phone’s ringtone fills the room. He squints his eyes over the bedside table, groans when he sees it is only 2am and reaches across until his hand hits the solid shape of his phone and he is bringing it in front of his face blinking against the way too bright light. He manages to slide his finger across the screen and accept the call, not even giving himself the chance to see the caller before he does it.

“’llo?”

“Hey babe” the sound of his boyfriends voice makes him jolt and he wishes, not for the first time that he had TK’s ability to go from sound asleep to awake in seconds.

“TK?” he replies, scrubbing his hand does his face to try and incite his brain to be more alert.

“Yeah, it’s me” TK says and Carlos’s brain is working enough to detect how quiet and subdued his voice is which is so unlike his boyfriend that it acts like a hit of caffeine and he feels himself instantly more aware. Their fight from the afternoon rings through his head and his thoughts drift to reasons of why he would be calling in the middle of the night while on shift.

“Are you okay?” is his first question and when TK doesn’t answer straight away and all he can hear is a ragged breath that rattles through the phone his level of worry starts to rise. There’s a strange sound in the background that he can’t place that makes him frown “Are you still at work?”

“Not exactly” TK stutters out “promise you won’t freak out?”

“You saying that makes me think that it’s something worth freaking out over”

“Well, it’s not. Not really” TK says and Carlos pushes himself into a sitting position, unconvinced.

“TK. What’s going on?”

“I may be at the hospital”

“The hospital” Carlos replies in disbelief “Again?”

“I wouldn’t even be here if Tommy didn’t worry so much. I’m okay”

“The being at hospital bit negates the okay comment just so you know” he hears TK sigh on the other end and tells himself to calm down as he gets up from bed and moves across the room to find some clothes.

“I know you have an early shift, but can you come get me?” TK asks before sniffling like he is trying to keep tears at bay

“Of course I will” Carlos soothes “Is your head okay?”

“Yes, yes. I’m really fine, they’re letting me go home. If it was bad I wouldn’t be the one calling you” TK says and Carlos wants to quiz him further, tell him that he knows he is lying but the image of TK last time he was in a hospital fills Carlos’s mind and he swallows any further questions down and instead concerns himself with heading downstairs to find his keys and wallet before doubling back to find some spare clothes, just in case.

“I’m nearly out the door and I’ll be on the way. Is someone there with you?”

“No. It’s been a busy shift, I told them to go.” Carlos swears under his breath as he imagines his boyfriend all alone in a hospital bed and hurries his footsteps as he heads towards his car.

“I’ll be there really soon, I’m in the car right now” Carlos tells him as he starts the engine and pulls out of his driveway to start the trek across town.

“Okay” TK mumbles and Carlos can’t figure out if TK is being so quiet because he is more hurt than he wants to let on or if there is something else going on but it only makes him want to get by his side quicker.

“Why did Tommy think you needed to be in hospital?” he asks gently.

“Can we talk when you get here?” TK asks after a pause and Carlos squeezes the steering wheel to prevent him from arguing.

“Yeah, sure. Do you want to keep talking?”

“No, no. I’m sorry. I feel bad that you have to come here at this hour”

“Don’t apologise, TK. It’s really okay”

“Okay, well I’ll see you soon” TK says and Carlos returns the sentiment before hanging up and takes a deep breath as he relaxes his grip on the wheel, pausing at a red light. By the time he gets to the hospital 15 minutes later and finds a thankfully close carpark, he’s worked himself up to a low panic that TK is worse than he had let on. The nurse at the front desk looks frazzled, but allows him to go through. He turns the corner as instructed and sees TK lying down on the bed still dressed in his uniform with his eyes closed. On first glance he sees nothing amiss, but confusion turns to worry as TK groans, eyes squeezed shut making it obvious he isn’t sleeping at all. He walks towards the bed, putting the bag he had packed on the chair nearby and watches as TK blinks his eyes open.

“Hey you” he gives him a small smile as TK drowsily looks up at him.

“You’re here” Tk replies, and through half open eyes he reaches a hand towards him.

“You look…undamaged?” Carlos asks, searching up and down for any sign of injury, holding TK’s hand.

“I told you I was fine” TK replies and Carlos tilts his head at him as he watches TK push himself into a sitting position, breathing heavily as he does.

“Yet you can’t sit up?”

“I’m just tired, not used to the full shifts yet”

“Tommy wouldn’t force you into hospital over you being tired”

“Well, that’s exactly what she did” TK replies angrily and drops Carlos’s hand, slinging his legs over the side of the bed. Carlos is about to question him further when a doctor comes around the corner.

“Looks like you found someone to come and get you?” she asks giving Carlos an easy smile.

“Carlos, my boyfriend” TK says, motioning towards him and the doctor gives him a nod in greeting, reaching across to shake his hand.

“I’m Dr Larkin” She says before looking back at TK handing him a card which TK looks at cautiously before scowling and holding up back at her.

“I don’t need that. I told you” He says and when she doesn’t take it back from him TK squeezes it into his palm and throws it on the bed next to him.

“You want to work again, you will need that” she remarks and TK clenches his hands together, anger radiating off of him.

“I’m sorry, what’s going on?” Carlos asks and TK moves his glance between him and the doctor and Carlos can see the gears turning in his head before his shoulders slump.

“You can tell him” TK mumbles to her

“I’m concerned that TK has post-concussion syndrome, I’ll let him tell you about what happened today, but I think it’s best that he doesn’t work right now”

“I got a little dizzy at work” Tk interrupts, voice still lined with annoyance “and I just couldn’t remember one thing, which I think is perfectly reasonable when I haven’t been at work for a few weeks” Carlos stays silent at TK’s words even as there’s a rising relief that what he has been worrying about has been warranted. Rather than quizzing him further he gets up to sit next to TK on the bed, moving his right hand to cover TK’s left leg causing him to stop it from nervously bouncing.

“Did you tell her about all the other stuff?” Carlos asks quietly and TK freezes just for a moment and Carlos waits for the denial, but it doesn’t come and instead he shakes his head and Carlos feels the first tug of anxiety leave his body when he realises TK isn’t going to fight him anymore before looking at the doctor, still standing in front of them.

“He’s been having headaches all week. Probably worse than what he lets on to me, I’m guessing. He also nearly fell in the bathroom a couple of days ago which he thinks I didn’t see, but I did”

“I’m sorry” TK whispers and lets his head fall onto Carlos’s shoulder “I just need to work, I can’t sit for days with nothing to concentrate on”

“I know” Carlos says, stroking his thigh in response

“Knowing that, I’m confident in saying you do have post-concussion syndrome. The symptoms may last another day or a few more weeks, or months but you simply can’t have these symptoms and work. Especially when you’re in charge of helping other people, I’m sorry. I’m taking away the clearance and you need to go see the specialist” she looks across at Carlos, then “I’m assuming you already have the contact details?”

“Yeah, we’re good” Carlos confirms and TK huffs next to him

“Okay, I’ll get those discharge papers going and you’ll be set to go” Carlos gives her a smile in thanks and watches her go, squeezing TK’s leg to get his attention.

“You falling asleep on me?” Carlos asks when they sit in silence for a few minutes.

“No” TK replies quietly, voice low and wobbly.

“You’re going to be fine, okay?” Carlos soothes and when he hears TK sniff he moves his hand to wrap around his shoulder and hugs him against his side.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so horrible”

“It’s okay, I can take it”

“You shouldn’t have to” TK sighs and moves so he is sitting upright again and Carlos lets his hand fall until it is wrapped around his side “I knew I wasn’t okay, I just hoped it would go away, you know? I can’t keep sitting at home all alone and doing nothing”

“You can’t be working though, TK. You know you can’t”

“It’s been weeks, what if it doesn’t go away?” Carlos wants to tell him it won’t happen, but he’s spent enough time this week researching symptoms that he’s not certain it would be the truth.

“Don’t worry about that right now. You need to go to the specialist and see what they say. You can be as stubborn as you want but I’m not going anywhere. Let me help you, okay?” TK nods slightly and then grimaces before shutting his eyes again. “Dizzy?” Carlos asks and when TK mumbles out a ‘yeah’ under his breath he starts to stroke TK’s side offering whatever comfort he can. Thankfully, a nurse comes in only moments later holding out a clipboard with a form ready for TK to sign. He opens his eyes long enough to scribble a version of his name before squeezing them shut again.

“You need any help getting out of here?” the nurse asks and before Carlos even has a chance to answer her TK is interrupting, defiance in his voice.

“No. I can walk” he insists and Carlos takes one look at how miserable he is and is inclined to let him have his way.

“If you’re still feeling dizzy, it might be best not to try walking out of here” the nurse tells him and TK stubbornly grips the bed and pushes himself to his feet, wobbling for just a second before he rights himself and the nurse looks amused at his actions but shrugs at him seemingly convinced.

“Alright then, Doctor Larkin said she talked about the anti-nausea medication with you earlier?” she waits for TK to acknowledge her before handing over a prescription which TK straight away holds out to Carlos. “Okay, you’re all set then. No more visits to us for a while, yeah?” she smiles at them both and leaves them alone. Carlos is about to ask if he should go fill the prescription now or if it’s okay to wait when TK lets out a low moan and drops back down to the bed.

“TK?”

“Just give me a second” TK mutters out and Carlos rises to stand in front of him and watches as he takes slow deep breaths, a technique he remembers a nurse teaching him in hospital mere weeks ago to work through pain and nausea. TK eventually lifts his head up again and Carlos can see he is clearly tired and there’s the ghost of pain sticking in his expression, but he holds his arms out and grabs the front of Carlos’s tee, pulling him closer and leaning his head against his stomach.

“When does your dad finish work?” Carlos asks, breaking the silence.

“8 I think. He said he’d come straight home when I talked to him earlier. He wasn’t impressed with me either”

“You do make us worry. Can you text him to come to my place? I think I’ll take today off” TK moves his head so he can look up at him.

“Are you sure? You don’t have to take off work for me”

“Yes. I’m sure. I’ll just be worried about you anyway” Carlos admits and when TK still doesn’t look convinced, he leans down and presses his lips to his “Don’t. I want to do this. Come on, let’s get you out of here. Sure you don’t need any help?”

“I’m not going out of here in a wheelchair” TK tells him, sure of himself and Carlos lets out an amused laugh before stepping away from him and opening the bag, pulling out a hoodie and holding it out.

“You bought me clothes?” TK asks, staring at the clothing in wonder

“It was literally on the floor of my bedroom, not too hard to find. Put it on, it’s cool out” TK reaches over to grab his hand as he zips the bag back up and Carlos lets him pull him back towards him.

“You’re too good to me, you know”

“I love you” Carlos replies simply, and he relishes in the knowledge that it is getting less and less difficult for him to say the words out loud, knowing that the risk of it being thrown back in his face is steadily disappearing.

“I love you too” TK says back and holding both of Carlos’s hands, he gets to his feet again waiting for a moment as he does and Carlos returns his smile when he seems to be able to stand without too much trouble.

“Good?” Carlos asks, reaching across to sling the bag over his shoulder, still holding one of TK’s hands in his.

“Good” TK agrees, fatigue starting to cloud over him and Carlos hovers next to him as he pulls the hoodie over his head.

“Can we make this the last hospital visit for at least a month?” Carlos teases and TK rolls his eyes at him. Carlos slips his arm around him as they start to slowly make their way out, giving a nod in the direction of the nurse as they walk past.

“I didn’t even want to be here today” TK reminds him

“You shouldn’t have been at work in the first place, don’t blame Tommy” Carlos says directing TK towards his car as they exit.

“Yeah, yeah” TK murmurs

“You’ll get back to work, okay? You just need some more time” Carlos assures him and TK gives him a small smile as they reach his car and Carlos throws the bag into the back. “Besides, I get more time with you, I can’t complain about that”

“Either can I” TK agrees, lowering himself into the car “I’m not going to lie, I feel like I haven’t slept for days” he adds once Carlos has entered from the drivers side

“Then, let’s go home and sleep” Carlos says and then immediately freezes as he registers what he has said. His hand is poised on the gear stick, and he glances across to see TK’s reaction.

“What? What’s wrong?” TK asks and Carlos realises that TK has either not heard what he’d said or doesn’t find anything amiss about it and quickly relaxes. It’s a thought for another day when they aren’t sitting in a hospital car park, but the idea of TK and home rushes over him so comfortably that he can’t help but reach across and grab TK’s hand for a moment.

“I’m good”