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“Will you be okay?”

Nancy’s voice is still surprisingly full of concern although for the past four hours she has been mostly teasing and making fun of his growing list of work-related injuries beside his hospital bed, but he saw the real and genuine fear in her eyes when she heard the gunshot and his cursing and saw the dark red blood cover his arm and soak the sleeve of his uniform.

TK loathes the fact that he made her worry even for a second, and again, that she would lose another partner, but he wasn’t going to let their patient to be shot in the back of the rig.

“Yeah, yeah,” he tries to reassure, pinching the bridge of his nose and squeezing his eyes shut for a moment, but the piercing pain in his arm doesn’t disappear. “Carlos is at home, it’s all okay.”

Nancy has already parked her car in front of their house, and he isn’t sure how long they have already sat there. Not for long, that he knows, but she has killed the engine and the headlights, and her question pulled him away from his thoughts and he is pretty sure he zoned out for a moment.

He wants to blame the throbbing pain for that, and not the fact that he might be stalling.

Nancy rolls her eyes, but there is genuine curiosity in her eyes when she looks back at him. “I more referred to the fact that you look nauseated and instead of going home, you seem to be glued to my car’s passenger seat.”

TK wants to go home. He has wanted to go home and forget that this whole day has happened ever since the kid appeared behind the rig’s open doors with a gun in his hand before they had a chance to leave the scene and transport the patient to the hospital.

He exhales deeply and looks down his left arm that is tightly pressed against his side and stomach with a white sling so that he wouldn’t move it and pull his stitches. 

TK tried to refuse the sling when the nurse brought it and started to adjust it, but at the moment he almost thankful for it. It seems to ease the pain a bit, even though the pain is increasing steadily as the effect of the local anaesthesia is starting to fade.

Maybe it makes him look as if he was more badly injured, but then again, he was at the hospital for seven hours and they had to remove the bullet from his arm. Still, the sling seems like a glaring reminder of that he got hurt. No way to pretend that everything is okay when he is wearing it.

He would be able to hide pain, downplay it at least, sling is a whole another story.

“I didn’t tell him I got shot,” TK mumbles, his gaze still on the sling.

Nancy blinks at him, slowly and confusedly.

“What?”

“I just—it felt it’d be easier to tell it in person,” TK tries to explain, quietly, with a vague wave of his good hand. “You know, offer concrete proof that I’m okay.”

Nancy merely stares at him, quietly, until she sighs deeply. “Dude.”

“I know,” he replies, grimacing and involuntarily glances towards his home.

Even without Nancy’s commentary, he knows he messed up. For his defence, he did text Carlos that there were complications at work, and he would be home a little later than usually. Carlos replied to that with thumps-up emoji.

The nurse at the hospital had asked him if he wanted his emergency contact to be informed that he was brought there, but TK had said no. He had thought that it wouldn’t be a big deal. Just cleaning up the wound and a couple of stitches and he would be good to go home.

Instead, taking the bullet out had taken longer than he would have guessed, and they wanted to keep him in for at least six hours for monitoring and to hook him on IV bag to give antibiotics to prevent infection. At that point, he was forced to give some sort of explanation to Carlos why he wasn’t at home yet.

TK missed him and wanted him there, but the idea of Carlos getting yet another phone call that he has been shot felt like too much. Texting that he was shot and at the hospital didn’t feel like a real option, either. He didn’t want to put him through that again and the mere idea of it made his stomach flip unpleasantly with guilt.

Besides, Nancy and Tommy refused to leave, and he figured out it was easier to suffer through the hospital visit without him, instead of making him rush to the hospital again when there was no real emergency. Spare him from fear and worry at least this once.

TK may have spent the last four hours convincing himself that he is just protecting Carlos, and that he did the right decision. It has become harder and harder by the moment, and now he is pretty certain it was the worst decision he could have done.

TK realised his plan had its holes when two officers came to the hospital to take his, Nancy and Tommy’s testimonies of what happened at the scene, but by some miracle, it wasn’t Carlos or anyone from his precinct.

“I’m not kicking you out of my car, but you should really go and explain that to him,” Nancy says, nodding towards the house. “It’s been hours and I’m pretty sure the rumor mill has reached him already.”

His heart almost skips a beat at her words.

She has a point. Gossip spreads like wildfire among first responders, and a paramedic getting shot on a call isn’t that common that it wouldn’t be worth of talking about, and it is entirely possible that Carlos has already heard about it from someone else.

The thought of that makes his heart fall instantly.

The guilt is already almost overpowering the throbbing pain in his arm, but the possibility of that makes him want to sink into his seat and disappear completely. TK knows that he should just get up from the car and go talk to him, go home to him.

Carlos deserves that much.

And his own guilt of making bad decisions isn’t anything compared with that.

Yet, the reluctancy remains. Now that Nancy said it, it is entirely possible that Carlos knows already, and if he does, he is probably pissed at him for shutting him out and keeping him in the dark, and there is no way on this earth, he wouldn’t have worried and feared for him.

His decision of not telling him might have actually made Carlos suffer a lot more than he would have if he had been straight-forward with him from the beginning. And TK loathes that realisation. He doesn’t want to be the source of his unhappiness and suffering.

If Carlos knows, he has to make it up for him and apologize. Usually, TK wouldn’t have any problem with it, but now, he is exhausted and in pain. Staring at the barrel of the gun didn’t bring up any happy memories, and the flashes of his old trauma combined with the overwhelming pain has left him floored.

He isn’t sure if he has it in him to deal with his anger and disappointment.

It’s selfish, he knows that, and Carlos deserves better than avoidance, but he feels so weak and fragile in the moment. All he wanted was to go home and have him to comfort him and tell him that everything is going to be alright, and he still faintly wants that, no matter how selfish it might be.

The idea of having to deal with anger and cold shoulders might make everything he has tried to hold in crumble instantly, but he is pretty sure he has no other choice. Besides, TK wants to make things right between them, and that want overpowers everything.

“You really aren’t as good as you think you are in giving these pep talks,” TK scoffs, looking at her again.

Amusement is glistering in her eyes, and TK is suddenly grateful she is in his life. She didn’t have to, but she was with him at the hospital for the whole seven hours. Letting him hold her hand when the pain became too much to deal with, tried to distract him with quiz questions and dumb videos she found online and harassed one of the nurses into giving him an extra pillow.

“Who said anything about a pep talk?” she retorts, deadpan. “This was more of a you’re-an-idiot-go-talk-to-your-boyfriend type of a talk.”

TK chuckles quietly and joylessly. He stares at his own thighs. There is a stain of his own blood on his uniform pants, and it is barely noticeable, but the light of the lamppost hits exactly in the right angle it to become clearly visible.

It’s a large stain and looking at it fills him with uneasiness.

“Even if he is probably pretty mad at you?” he asks, turning his head to look at her instead.

Her expression softens as she taps the steering wheel lazily with the fingers of her left hand. She has already changed out of her uniform when she went back to the station to get her car. She is wearing a light blue hoodie, and TK has tried his best not to say anything about the fact that he is absolutely certain that it is actually Marjan’s.

If it isn’t, at least they have matching stains of chili mayo on the left sleeve, the stain has slightly faded out already in the wash.

“Yes,” Nancy says, pointedly, “because he loves you. A lot. And I’m willing to bet that he wants to see you, even if you have been a major dumbass for most of the day.” 

Maybe it truly is that simple.

TK rolls his eyes, but he places his hand on the handle of the door, almost pushing it open already, but he stops, and looks at her.

He huffs quietly and flashes her a feeble smile. “Thank you.”

She returns his smile. “Any time.”

TK finally gets out of the car, closes the door and looks as she drives away. He clumsily fishes his phone out of his pocket with his right hand. He doesn’t know what he expects, but there are no new messages from Carlos.

He puts the phone back into his pocket and searches for the keys, too, only to realise that they are still in his duffel bag that it is still at the firehouse. He sighs deeply as he walks up the few stairs to their door. The sudden moving makes spots appear in his vision for a moment, and he has to take a couple of deep breathes to get rid of them.

It feels odd and discomforting to press the doorbell of his own house.

The doorbell rings, and it seems like it rings forever. TK shifts his weight from one foot to another, anxiously, as he waits. The blood stain is still easily visible on his pants and there is another one on his uniform shirt, right across his stomach, and there is still bandage on the back of his hand where the cannula was still just an hour ago and the bandage on his arm is thick and easily visible because the sling doesn’t cover it.

He isn’t entirely sure why he ever thought that just showing up without telling him about his injury was ever going to go well in under any circumstances.

TK squeezes the hand of his good arm into a fist, repeatively, as he was waits. His nails scratch the skin of his palm. It doesn’t help his nerves at all, and he is almost sure his breath hitches in his throat when he hears the lock of the door turn around.

All he needs is one second glance into Carlos’ eyes to realise that he knows.

His eyes are shining with concern, but it is clear to him that he is upset. There is an edge to his gaze, of hurt and worry, and his eyes immediately find the gunshot wound. Carlos’ gaze lingers there for a long moment, but when he catches his gaze, his expression grows more stoic, almost blank and standoffish.

It shatters his heart, and in that moment, TK hopes he wouldn’t know him that well, because then he could buy into his façade of being nonchalant. But because he knows him, through and through, his eyes give his whole emotional turmoil away.

The agonizing pain in his own arm becomes almost irrelevant at witnessing Carlos’ pain, and TK hates it that it was him who caused it in the first place, and he wants to make it go away instantly. The attempted apology dies on his tongue because Carlos is faster.  

“We really need to talk about your definition of small complications,” he says, simply, but his voice is strained with exhaustion.

Carlos is still resting his hand on the doorknob, and TK feels frozen in place.

“I didn’t want to worry you,” he says quietly, and it sounds dumb to his own ears, too, but it is the best he can offer because it is the genuine truth.

Carlos merely stares at him, wordlessly, and studies him with his gaze. It feels as if there would be an invisible barrier between them, and in that moment, it feels unbreakable and impenetrable. TK wants to reach out to him, but he is almost certain that is the opposite of what Carlos wants.

“Obviously,” he scoffs, but he opens the door further and steps aside to let him in.

TK closes the door behind him with his uninjured hand because Carlos has already stepped further away from him, as if trying to put as much physical distance between them as possible, and TK feels a little helpless.

He knew a fight would be entirely in the realm of possibility, but he is tired, and his brain is foggy with pain and discomfort, and he doesn’t know what to say to make him feel better, and all of it at once is overwhelming in the worst way possible.

All he is able to do is to stare at Carlos.

Usually, just the sight of him would bring him some sort of comfort, but right now, it only causes his guilt to tenfold and wallow in the deepest pits of his stomach.

Carlos’ whole body is tense, and he is clenching his jaw. He is looking for something from the back pocket of his jeans, and it doesn’t take him long for him to pull out his phone. Even when he is staring at his phone, his face being illuminated by the brightness of it, he seems to radiate upset.

The guilt makes way and space to dejectedness in him, because he doesn’t know what to do to make it better. If there even is anything he can do. Maybe it is just one of those things that take time. But he wants to try at least. He loves him too much for not to try.

“I can tell you that getting text messages like these from the people I work with is doing wonders for my blood pressure,” Carlos says, handing his phone over to him.

His voice is sharp, but still quiet and the way he looks at him is almost accusatory and being in the receiving end of that look throws him off his rhythm, and he just takes his phone without saying anything.

Their fingers brush as he takes it, and somehow TK hoped that maybe the barrier would break down when they touched, but it still remains there. He inhales sharply as he looks down on the phone. It takes him a couple moments to realise what he is staring at.

It’s his text message inbox. It doesn’t take him long to notice their text thread but there are at least four other text threads that have been active today. He cannot recognise the first on the list, but he still opens the text.

TK blinks as he reads the short text.

Strand got shot

He looks at the time stamp of the text and it has been sent over seven hours ago. Probably almost immediately after he got shot. He tries to recall if either of the officers who responded to the dispatch call with them was called Thomas, but he honestly cannot remember and the text acts as enough proof that the sender of the text was with them on the scene.

TK bites his lower lip as he selects another text. This one is by Aiden, and TK instantly remembers him being the one who arrived as back-up after he had been shot in the arm. Everything between the gunshot and hospital is kind of hazy because he was trying to focus on not bleeding out, but it didn’t even cross his mind that Aiden could tell Carlos.

Strand stepped in front of a bullet

It has been sent six hours ago. TK cannot help but grimace as he reads it, and he closes it just as quickly as he opened it. It sort of is a truthful version of what happened, but it definitely makes it seem worser than it is, and he doesn’t want to dwell on the idea of Carlos reading that text alone without any idea how he was doing.

The third message is longer and from Essie. TK knows for a fact that she wasn’t at the scene, but that she works at the same precinct, and they have met multiple times on different calls, and she has always seemed kind and friendly.

You probably already heard but some suspect shot your boyfriend, he didn’t seem too badly hurt

TK knows he probably owes a fruit basket to her for that last sentence, especially since it has been sent almost seven hours ago.

The last message is from Mitchell, and it is definitely the longest, but it is also the newest, as the time stamp says it has been sent only four hours ago.

There is no pretty way to say this, but apparently TK got shot at a scene. It didn’t sound too bad, it hit him in the arm, but he was taken into hospital, and now that I type this, I realise that you’re probably already there.

The last sentence is like a sucker punch.

He inhales sharply and pushes the button on the side of Carlos’ phone to make the screen go black. He is glad that Carlos has people who are looking out for him, but something akin to embarrassment, hot and ugly, spreads in his chest because he feels as if he has been caught red handed.

Caught on a lie that he never meant to tell.

His thoughts are scrambled and there are a hundred things he wants to say, to explain, to him, and it is difficult to grab any of them or develop them into any sort of eloquent words. TK is faintly aware that his legs feel surprisingly weak, and he squeezes Carlos’ phone in his hand, attempting to ground himself at least in some way.

“Stepping in front of a bullet is—an exaggeration. I was only trying to protect the patient--,” TK starts, little feebly, but he falls instantly silent when he flashes his eyes back up and sees Carlos’ expression.

His eyes are glistering more than just moment before, but there is something harsher about the way he looks at him, and TK is sure the last thing he wants to hear about is the details of the shooting.

The dispatch had sent them to a scene where a young man had fallen down the stairs. It didn’t take them long to find out that he had been pushed down and he had some shady debt collector after him. It turned out the debt collector was barely an adult and thought a good way to scare him into paying was to threaten him with a gun when he was strapped into a gurney of a parked ambulance.

Unfortunately, the kid didn’t know how to handle the gun, and when TK had tried to de-escalate his threatening, he had accidently fired it right into his arm and subsequently freaked out about shooting someone.

The whole situation was full of chaos, and TK knows it could have ended a lot worse than with a huge scar on his tricep, and that it wasn’t as intense or full of mortal danger as his previous encounters with guns, but he is sensing that defending his own actions might not be the best idea.

Carlos shakes his head as he folds his arms across his chest.  He seems almost eerily calm, as he just studies him with his gaze, but TK knows it doesn’t mean he would be any less upset or hurt. It means the opposite of it.

“You know, for a moment, I wanted to believe Thomas and Aiden meant Owen because I foolishly believed that if it was you, you’d let me know,” Carlos starts, his voice still heavy with emotion. He holds his thumb and index finger almost together. “I was this close to coming to the hospital, but then I realised I didn’t even know which hospital they took you to because you made it pretty clear you didn’t want me there.”

Hearing him say it breaks his heart. He speaks quickly, and it is almost difficult for TK to follow it through his pain, but unfortunately, he understands just how badly he managed to hurt him. The worst thing is that he gets why Carlos has come to that conclusion, even if it is the furthest thing from the truth.

TK opens his mouth, but no words come out.

“I had to call Tommy to make sure you weren’t—" Carlos continues at his silence, but he lets his voice trail off, as if merely finishing the sentence would be too much. Instead, he just shakes his head and exhales.

TK swallows. He gets it. If the roles were reversed, he probably wouldn’t have settled just for a phone call, and he would have gone out of his mind with worry and fear.

Something in his stomach turns, and he tries his best to ignore it. He briefly thinks that sitting down could be a good idea but explaining and apologizing feels more urgent. He wants to get rid of that frown of worry between Carlos’ eyebrows.

He exhales deeply, trying to gather his thoughts.

“It wasn’t like that.”

“It wasn’t?” Carlos repeats, his voice full of disbelief. “You just wanted to be alone in pain and in a place you hate.”

Carlos is perfectly aware of his hatred towards hospitals. Usually, nothing good comes out of having to go to hospitals and visiting them always fills him with vague uneasiness and anxiousness that usually just leads to the worst type of restlessness.

In the beginning of their relationship, TK was bad at asking for him to come over to the hospital if he landed himself on er. Still, he always let him know, and Carlos always showed up. Eventually, he told him all about his dislike of hospitals and how being alone in them was the worst thing he could imagine because when he was younger, he couldn’t always tell his family that he was in one.

“I wasn’t alone,” TK tries to argue, but his voice is weak, as he looks down on his shoes, “Nancy and Tommy were there with me.”

Tommy was in and out of the room, letting the dispatch know that they were out of the game for a while, and apparently, she had enough time to take Carlos’ call, even though she didn’t mention anything about it, and she brought them coffee and sandwiches from the cafeteria.

“Good that someone’s company was good enough for you,” Carlos huffs, quietly, but his gaze doesn’t stay on him. He seems look at somewhere above their front door, almost absentmindedly fixated on the creamy white wall they have meant to paint for the past year.  

TK stubbornly looks at him. He kicks himself mentally for not realising earlier how much damage hiding the truth could cause, and that it would be play right into the things that could hurt Carlos the most. He knows he messed up, and he wishes things could have gone differently, but after the disaster of the day that he has had, he isn’t surprised he cannot even keep the best thing in his life on right track.

“It wasn’t like that,” he repeats again, little defeatedly and helplessly. He almost forgets that he is still holding Carlos’ phone in his hand until he almost drops it. He curls his fingers more tightly around it. He takes one step closer to him.  “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“I don’t even know,” Carlos mutters, shrugging and finally his gaze lands back on him. “Maybe you should know it. You’re the one who usually gets epiphanies after almost dying.”

TK bites his lower lip. He has changed something about his life every time has come little too close with death. Lately, all of those life decisions have only solidified his relationship with Carlos, and he isn’t sure if this afternoon gave him any epiphanies.

He can feel his own annoyance and frustration rise in his chest, but he tries to swallow it down. It’s the last thing Carlos deserves, and he doesn’t want to fight with him. Now or never, and if he gives into those feelings, he knows they will have a full-blown fight in their hands.

TK doesn’t want to think the fact that they are already arguing and that he loathes the situation, but it still feels salvageable. At least no one is yelling or has stormed off yet, which seems like a good thing. Besides, it’s almost comforting to know that this argument won’t be anything that would break them apart indefinitely. That no matter what, he can probably fix this. Somehow. That their love can survive one fight.  He suddenly realises with a startle that he hasn’t even apologized yet.

“I’m aware,” TK says, simply, as he tries to figure out where to start with his apology, but he suddenly feels a shiver go through his body, and he tries his best to hide the shudder that follows.

He thinks he might succeed because instead of checking if he is alright, Carlos sighs deeply. There is no doubt that it is entirely fuelled by exasperation, and he knows that he is majorly testing his patience. It’s not a nice realisation to come to.

Nausea wallows in his stomach threateningly and his whole arm aches. All he wants to do is to collapse on the bed and preferably sleep around the clock, but he doesn’t want to ignore Carlos or his feelings. He is a lot further up on his priority list than sleep is, no matter what.

But TK is hitting a wall of what he can put up within a day. He has feared for his life today, he is still wearing clothes that are covered in his own dried blood, he is in agony and the pain isn’t easy to ignore, he is exhausted enough not to know if he can stand up without collapsing, he fears if he moves too quickly, he might throw up, and the one person who he loves the most in this world is standing within feet away from him, but the distance between them feels uncrossable. 

“I know you’re mad, but can you keep the yelling for tomorrow? I really need a hug.”

TK doesn’t even think about saying it, but the words just tumble out of his mouth. He knows he can usually ask anything from him, but right now he wants to blame the slight blood loss and exhaustion for messing up his brain for asking something that selfish.

It might be selfish, but it is also the truth, and in a way, he doesn’t regret saying it. He places Carlos’ phone on top of the drawer that is nearby the door and just waits.

Carlos merely stares at him, and a few moments pass in complete silence, and he just waits for him to say something or just walk away. Carlos takes a deep breath, and it seems as if most of the tension of his body just evaporates as he exhales and the way he holds his body becomes more defeated.  

“C’me here,” Carlos murmurs, almost softly, and TK is sure that despite his words, Carlos is the one who crosses the distance between them in a few and swift steps.

And he hugs him.

Carlos is careful not to touch his injured arm, but he immediately wraps his right hand around his waist and his left-hand rests on his left shoulder. It’s a tight and proper hug, and he isn’t hugging him just because he asked to.

TK knows he is sagging against him, and that Carlos might hold him up, but is impossible not to melt in his arms because he feels safe for the first time since seeing the gun and everything, every fear and worry, he has tried to hold in threatens to overflow just because he can finally just be and breathe little easier.

He instantly hugs him back with his good hand, letting it rest on the small of his back. He brushes his back slowly with his thumb.

Their height difference is almost non-existent, but it still gives him a perfect chance to burrow his face into Carlos’ shoulder, and he does so, and just breathes deeply. The way his black t-shirt smells is so familiar that it is almost hurts.

It is too easy to get caught up on the feeling of safety and home, and TK actively tries to remember that Carlos is still upset with him, and he needs to do something about it, but is difficult when he is exhausted, and he holds him like he is worthy of something.

Carlos turns his head slightly, and for a moment TK worries that he might be pulling away, but instead, he just presses a soft kiss above his ear.

“I should’ve led with this one,” he whispers, “are you okay?”

TK wants to say yes. But it would be a lie of all sorts, and he has had enough of well-intended lies that don’t protect anyone involved.

“No,” he admits quietly, clenching his jaw as the pain flashes, hot and fast, in his wound, “it hurts and—it has been a long day.”

It is the easiest and simplest version of what happened. Dealing with pain is never easy but feeling that icy terror in his veins when for a moment he thought that he might be dying left only fatigue and emptiness behind. He still hasn’t been able to shake that fear completely off. It still lingers in the background.

Explaining to the doctor and at least three nurses why he is declining painkillers didn’t exactly make it any easier, and he is tired of feeling like he cannot do anything right.

Carlos’ hand is up in his neck, and he is caressing the base of his skull, slowly but tenderly.   

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault,” TK retorts, immediately, “and I’m the one who is sorry.”

It’s not an apology, he knows that, but it feels urgent to get that out, nevertheless. Carlos hums softly, and almost sympathetically.

“Anything else you need?” he asks, gently.

It is enough to bring him back to reality of that they are only doing this because he asked, and he guesses it was sort of a low blow since Carlos is rarely able to deny him something if he asks, especially when he can imagine that he looks like crap and he has worried about him for hours.

He seems to want and need the hug almost as much as he does, but that doesn’t mean they would be magically and instantly okay.

“Is hoping for you not to be mad too much to ask?” TK mutters, half against his shoulder, and he isn’t even sure if Carlos can make out his words.

TK cannot, right in that moment, do anything about the burning pain in his arm, and he cannot make all of his death related trauma disappear, and while those might be the things he needs, but most of all, he just needs him to forgive him.

It’s the only issue TK can concretely do something about.

“It’s not,” he huffs, softly, “but I’ve to ask something.”

“Okay.”

“Have I done something to make you think that you couldn’t tell me that you got hurt?” Carlos asks, quietly and sincerely, as if it is something he has given a lot of thought to.

“No, you haven’t,” TK reassures immediately. He raises his head and rests his chin on his shoulder because he wants Carlos to get a proper explanation and apology instead of half-assed one that is mumbled against the fabric of his t-shirt.

“And I didn’t choose them over you. I wanted you there, of course I did, and I didn’t want you to stay away, but I just wanted to spare you from yet another visit to the hospital and from worrying too much. But that obviously didn’t work out.”

He feels almost breathless after saying that, but his nausea is easing up as he doesn’t have to hold himself up completely on his own. He tries his best not to think about the pain.

Carlos chuckles almost joylessly. “No.”

TK hugs him little tighter with one hand and presses a lingering kiss right above the collar of his t-shirt. His skin feels warm against his lips.

“If I had been badly hurt, I’d have let you know. I’d have not taken that away from you.”

If there is anything he knows about Carlos, it is that he shows up. That is just one of the ways he shows his love. He wants to be there for the people he loves, and have their backs and take care of them, and not to be absent figure in their lives.

And TK is grateful for that. He even showed up for that intervention he staged for his dad after he refused the second surgery and that was the last place he would have needed to be, but he still offered to come, without any hesitation, because he wanted to be there for him and be supportive.

He knew all of this when he told the nurse not to call him. Carlos has always come to the hospital for him, even when they weren’t dating yet, and TK cannot imagine it would be easy and he has put him through that multiple times. It cannot be without its baggage to always see him in a hospital bed.

“That’s not a scratch,” Carlos points out, matter-of-factly.

Maybe getting shot belongs to the category of badly hurt, but as soon as he realised that the bullet dodged all of the major veins and arteries, it started to feel less important, like a minor injury that would eventually heal.

And he was never not going to tell about the wound. He just wanted to skip the part with the excessive worry and rushing to the hospital.

“Okay, I’d have let you know if I had been actually in danger.”

“You know that this isn’t just about that,” Carlos sighs, tracing the hairline in his neck with a few of his fingers, “everything that happens to you, happens to me, too. And you don’t have to be on death’s door for me to come and see you. Nobody likes hospitals and I hate seeing you hurt, but neither of those things matter if you’re hurt because I want to be there for you. Whether it is a sprained finger, or a bullet wound.”

TK blinks, suddenly realising that there are tears slowly forming in the corner of his eyes, and he just doesn’t know what to do with all that he is feeling. He feels still light-headed with fatigue and pain, but now it is love that threatens overflow and drown him with it.

It is possibly more than anyone has ever offered for him.

He knows that the love he feels for Carlos is different, stronger and more vibrant, than anything else he has ever felt for someone, but he has received his fair share of complaining about hospital visits from his parents, too.

Especially when he was younger and got hurt in work, mostly out of lack of experience and need to prove that he was worth of something and good at his job, and one particular time involving an alcohol poisoning and three broken fingers.

He isn’t asking to get hurt any more, and he is considerably better at his job, but sometimes it is difficult not to hear the echoes of his parents’ voice complaining about the worry and fear he has been put them through.

And he wouldn’t blame Carlos if he felt the same way about it, but it is a lot, in the best way possible, to hear him say that he will be there for him. It does intensify his guilt for trying to get him an out of today’s visit without even asking about it first. 

“Okay,” he whispers, his voice laced with gratitude. “And I’m not pulling out the pain card just so that you wouldn’t be mad. You can definitely be angry with me later.”

TK wants him to know that he isn’t playing that dirty with him, and that he can definitely deal with his upset later. Even if they are hitting the pause button on the fighting.

“Oh, when the hug ends?” Carlos chuckles, softly and quietly, almost right into his ear, as he lets his hand fall to his shoulders and between his shoulder blades.

“Maybe,” TK agrees, again muttering against his shoulder and hugging him little tighter. Maybe that makes him greedy, but he doesn’t really care. Hugging him is the only thing that has made him feel even relatively better.

“Ty, I’m not gonna yell at you,” he says, after a beat, and more gently than he thought possible under the circumstances, “I’m not really even angry.”

The last bit sounds like a lie, and TK knows him well enough to know that he was angry when he first opened the door, but emotions are complicated things, running deep, and sometimes only revealing and shining parts of them truly visible to others.

“You seemed to be,” TK mumbles, “you’ve every right to be.”

He messed up, it’s simple as that. He can admit that and deal with the consequences of it, and the last thing he wants is Carlos to downplay his feelings just because he is hurt and wants to make up.

“Maybe I was,” he admits, slowly, “but that was completely fuelled by worry, fear and frustration.”

It makes sense, and it is terrible to realise that by not telling Carlos, he made him go through all the things he wanted to avoid. Regret has sat heavily on his heart for a while now, but it just solidifies it.  

“Oh.”

TK wants to say something more eloquent, but another wave of nausea hits and he tries to fight it off and try his best not to grunt out of pain when he accidently moves his arm too much.

Carlos seems to sense it somehow, because he slowly pulls away, and the concern is still shining in his eyes as he looks at him.

“Maybe you should sit down,” he suggests, nodding towards the living room.

 “That’s not a bad idea,” TK mumbles back, feeling suddenly a lot more light-headed than before. The distance between the door and the couch isn’t long, but it feels like walking there lasts longer than it should, and Carlos is walking right next to him, watching him like a hawk, ready to catch him in case he collapses.

He doesn’t feel that weak, but he appreciates the concern, even though normally it would drive him up the wall when people don’t believe he is capable of doing things on his own. Right now, it makes him feel cared for and loved, and those just feelings just intensify when Carlos throws a blanket on top of his legs before disappearing into the kitchen and returning with a water bottle.

The bottle feels pleasantly cool against his palm, and he takes a few tentative sips. It doesn’t make him feel any worse instantly, so he keeps the bottle in his hand and flashes a tiny smile at him. Carlos returns it and reaches to push a strand of his hair away from his forehead as he sits down next to him.

“I know I’m still on edge when it comes to you getting hurt after the fire, but it isn’t fair to take it out on you,” Carlos explains, looking more down at his own hands instead of him, but he does flash him a rueful smile.

TK blinks, feeling the urge to argue that he didn’t take anything out on him, but he remains quiet. The fire happened a little over year ago, and TK is certain that not a day goes by without them thinking about it, in one way or another.

Losing their first home casted long shadows on their lives, and healing has been gradual and not always linear. There have been good days, and bad days where it has felt like they have taken baby steps towards getting better and on some days they have leaped backwards.

Occasional nightmares plague both of their dreams, and there are certain fears they haven’t been able to shake off completely, even though both of them are still in therapy because of it. But there is no denying that they became little glued to each other in the first few weeks after the fire and that they grew more protective of each other, and TK isn’t sure if that protectiveness has disappeared anywhere.

The fear of losing the other was always real, given the daily basis they risked their lives on the job, but the fire proved just how easily and quickly it could go, and some of their fears of reared their ugly heads and they were hard to put down.

TK briefly wonders if that is the underlying reason why he felt reluctance to tell him about the shooting. He knows exactly how hard and deep the fire hit Carlos, and back then, they both survived without a scratch and with only slight smoke inhalation.

That is slightly different than a gunshot wound. 

“I didn’t even think about that,” TK admits, abashedly.

“I haven’t exactly talked about it to you,” he says, sombrely, as he shakes his head. “I didn’t want to add yet another burden onto you when you got back to work.”

They have talked about it plenty of times, the fact that they cannot be thinking of each other when doing their jobs, but only use each other as something to always come back to, and fight for that. Being a first responder is stressful enough but dating another one creates a whole another level of stress, and TK is pretty sure they went past that level when they tried to get back to work after the fire.

The amount of are you okay and how are you doing texts they sent to each other during the first weeks of being back at work was nearing ridiculous, but it was the only thing that truly helped to calm his nerves, and nothing about it was easy.

TK turns a little to cup his face with his good hand. He runs his thumb over his cheekbone, slowly and carefully. “I get that, but nothing you feel could ever be a burden to me.”

The corner of Carlos’ mouth twitches. Just a little, but it almost resembles a smile. His gaze softens furthermore as he looks at him and touches TK’s knee briefly.

“It does help a little that you aren’t running into burning buildings anymore. Being a paramedic is supposedly safer.”

“Supposedly,” he repeats, with a ghost of a smile on his lips before it grows to resemble more of a grin, “does that mean you don’t miss seeing me in my turnover gear?”

The turnover gear might be the least flattering pieces of clothing on earth, and he definitely doesn’t miss the weight of it and the amount of sweating just wearing it caused, but the hug seemed to defuse most of the tension between them, and while he cannot instantly fix his fears or make everything completely right between them but making him smile is something he might be able to achieve.

Carlos sputters out a tiny and surprised laughter, and just hearing it makes his heart soar despite everything.

“If anything, I miss seeing your helmet hair,” he quips, looking at his hair that is probably a mess of its own right now too, before he drops his gaze, letting it wander along his body, “and you look pretty good in this one, too.”

TK bites down an affectionate smile as he lets his hand drop away from his cheek. Instead, he picks up Carlos’ hand in his and interlocks their fingers slowly and little clumsily. “Is there anything I can do to make you feel better? Come with you to the therapy? Wrap myself in bubble wrap?”

Almost joyless and dim smile appears on Carlos’ lips for a moment, but it doesn’t linger, and he keeps looking at their intertwined hands. 

“Just—talk to me?” he suggests, quietly and almost tentatively. “Let me know when you’re hurt. I know I can be a little bit overbearing—"

“You’re not,” TK says, decisively and effectively cutting him off. He raises their hands and presses a kiss on Carlos’ wrist, near his pulse point. “And that’s not why I didn’t tell you. I always want you there with me.”

Carlos blinks, slowly, but his voice is soft as he speaks. “And maybe let me be there for you?”

“Gladly,” TK murmurs, still against his skin but he almost lets Carlos’ hand fall just because the pain flashes sharply in his arm and he has to inhale and exhale slowly. He knows Carlos notices it, but he doesn’t say anything, and he is grateful.

All Carlos does is brush the back of his hand with his thumb and give him the space to deal with his pain on his own. It takes a moment, but the worst of the ache fades again, even though it still feels like his wound has a pulse of its own.

“Aren’t you gonna ask me not to get hurt again?” TK retorts, slightly breathlessly when he feels like talking without grunting is possible.

“No, that’d be pointless,” Carlos shoots, deadpan, and his grin scrunches his nose, and some sort of amusement glisters in the corner of his eyes.

TK huffs, with mock exasperation, and swats his arm slightly and lightly.

“Rude.”

Carlos shrugs half-innocently, but his grin does fade out slowly, a bit by bit.

“I know you’re not asking to get hurt and today, you just tried to save someone else. And that’s brave and selfless, and that’s just who you’re and I’m not going to ask you to change. Especially when I’d have done the same choice as you did. And I love you the way you’re.”

It feels more than he deserves, because all he tried to do was his job, and in some ways, he feels like he failed. Mostly because the general directive of any call is to save patients and not to get hurt, and now his team is one paramedic down, and all he is caused was worried and inconvenience.

Yet, it’s incredibly comforting to hear him say that, and he is little in awe that Carlos manages to view all of that in that light, and the strength of his love always blows him away, but at the moment it feels like it knocks him off his feet.

“I love you, too,” he murmurs, quietly, as he reaches to press a kiss on his shoulder. “And I’m sorry I kept you in the dark. I was trying to protect you, in my own way, which sounds like the lamest excuse in the world, but I never meant to make you feel—unwanted or unappreciated.”

TK knows the worst thing he could is to take him for granted, and while one fight couldn’t be strong enough to make them fall, he doesn’t still want to lull himself into believing that nothing could ruin them. All relationships require work, and he is ready to do everything to make sure how much he loves him and how much he appreciates that Carlos is in his life and that he has stuck around this long.

“It’s all forgiven,” Carlos says, slowly, after a beat, but his brow furrows and the concern returns in his eyes, “you okay?”

TK tries to nod, but it feels like an impossible task. The room suddenly swung to the left and the dizziness refuses to leave him, and he feels more exhausted than before, his limbs feel like they would be made out of lead, and he leans furthermore into the cushions of the couch.

He is pretty sure he isn’t getting up from there without help, and he could easily just sink into the soft cushions, but his heart keeps hammering in his chest, and the nausea doesn’t disappear, and he is painfully aware of the moment instead of peacefully falling asleep.

“Just a little dizzy,” he breathes out.

 “Have you eaten anything?”

“Tommy made me eat this disgusting sandwich at the hospital, but other than that, no.”

The food in the hospital cafeteria has never been a gourmet experience, but the sandwich she had brought him was massive and covered with ridiculous amount of sliced cucumbers and the bread has soaked in all of the wetness of the cucumbers into it like a sponge.

Carlos brushes his knee again, gently and slowly. “You can go and lie down, I’ll make something for you.”

Carlos is almost up already, but TK fumbles for his hand and manages to loosely grab his wrist. Carlos immediately stops and looks at him over his shoulder with puzzlement in his expression.

“I’d—maybe later? I feel like I could puke, and I don’t want to be alone right now,” he admits, slowly and quietly.

He knows Carlos would never ridicule him, but it still feels almost difficult to admit that aloud. It feels ridiculous but seeing the gun in the kid’s shaky hands and hearing the echoing bang of it being fired ripped all of his old scars about guns open and now they are raw and achy, and he doesn’t want to be alone.

If he is alone, he has too much space to think and his thoughts will spiral with fear and death, and Carlos’ presence feels like something concrete to prove himself that he is safe and alright.

“Okay,” he whispers, quietly and softly, but he still remains standing up, “food can wait, but I’ll disappear to get you clean clothes.”

“Yeah,” he agrees with a soft huff.

TK wants to get out of the uniform, and while he has no energy to do anything about it and it is not on something that would be on top of his priority list, but he doesn’t want to stop him. Asking him to stare the blood stains on his clothes feels like too much.

He expects Carlos to head upstairs, but instead he heads towards the laundry room behind the kitchen. He closes his eyes for a moment, and once he opens them again, Carlos is already standing in front of him and holding his sweatpants and a black hoodie in his hands.

The hoodie is unmistakably Carlos’ and TK’s heart melts at the sight of it. It’s warm and definitely loose on him, and he has always had a specific soft spot for that particular hoodie.

“Here,” Carlos says, placing the pile of clothes on his lap.

TK instinctively places his hands on top of the pile and to his surprise, the clothes are warm, as if they would have come straight out of the dryer. He shoots a surprised look at him, and he just shrugs with a half-smile.

“I knew you’d be coming home eventually.”

“You—” TK starts, but he doesn’t know how to end that sentence.

It feels significant and profound that even he was mad at him, he still took time to figure out what could make him feel better and did it despite everything he put him through. He bites his lower lip and just stares at the clothes and tries his best to swallow the lump in his throat.

Words don’t feel adequate, and tidal wave of love washes over him, and he just lets him feel that for a moment, and it is hard to focus on anything else expect that, especially when Carlos is already squatting next to the couch and untying his uniform boots.

Usually, he hates feeling helpless and he loathes if someone tries to help him too much, making him feel incapable, and not getting his own shoes off by himself should totally fall into that category, but he doesn’t feel the familiar annoyance when Carlos finally finishes with the ties and gently yanks them off.

He manages, clumsily and with too much effort, to undo his belt with one hand, but Carlos ends up helping him to get his pants off and put the sweatpants on instead.

It feels strangely intimate, but in a good way, to be undressed by him. It’s nowhere near the first time he has done it, and he has helped him many times with dressing and undressing with wounds, but it has been a while since either of them has gotten hurt, and their relationship has only grown closer and stronger by each day, and it simply feels different.

He is nothing but gentle as he helps his sling off, and gently kisses his forehead when TK involuntarily hisses out of pain when the sling isn’t there to support his arm and he moves it a bit too much. He unbuttons his uniform shirt carefully and getting it off isn’t at all that difficult as he imagined.

He almost wants to laugh because Carlos looks so focused on what he is doing, but he remains quiet because he appreciates it more than he can tell. Getting the t-shirt off is a bit more challenging, but he lets him move his arms as he wants and sees best and, in the end, it hurts surprisingly little, and putting the slightly too big hoodie on is easy compared to that.

TK feels instantly more comfortable in the clean and warm clothes and some of the tension of his body seems to disappear as he exhales.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Carlos reminds him, softly, as he fastens the sling behind his neck and his fingertips brush the nape of his neck.

They are standing close, only few inches between them, and while he still feels weak and slightly unsure on his own feet, the fact that he burrows his face back into his neck and shoulder has nothing to do with the weakness.  

“Thank you,” TK murmurs.

Carlos’ hand is instantly going up and down on his back, almost soothingly. “That’s not something you’ve to thank me for,” he points out, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

TK just shake his head against his shoulder, because it is far from obvious. Or at least it is for him. “I’m grateful and you don’t have to do this, any of it, so it is.”

He straightens up and catches a glimpse of the fond and affectionate smile on his face for a second, and that alone is enough to feel like a blessing.

His head starts to feel heavier, and he less than gracefully sits back on the couch. His whole arm is still sore, and the ache goes agonizingly deep, and he is thankful when Carlos sits on the side of his good arm, raising his own arm a little so that he can just press himself against him.

“I took tomorrow off, and I’ve the weekend off too,” Carlos tells him, quietly, as he runs his fingers softly through his hair, “so we don’t have anywhere to be.”

Having the weekend for themselves would sound good under any other circumstances, and he feels the pang of guilt for forcing him to use his overtime hours and ruining his free weekend, but on the other hand, he knows he needs the rest and help.

There is no way he is getting up and about normally within the next few days and being a left-handed with a left hand out of the game means he needs help with most things, even if it is difficult to admit. Besides, despite the exhaustion he knows he won’t be able to sleep that easily and some extremely familiar nightmares will likely return.

The idea of company, especially his, is nice, and he thinks he owes to him after tonight not to even try and push him away. In all honestly, he doesn’t even want to try.

“Your tia Lucy might disagree,” TK mumbles, turning his head into a better position on the space between his neck and shoulder.

Carlos’ standing invitation for Sunday dinners nowadays covers him too, and he loves spending time with all of his extended family, and those dinners have become one of his favourite moments of the week, just because it’s fun to be surrounded by that much love and laughter.

“I’m pretty sure she will understand once she hears you got shot,” Carlos retorts, nearly amusedly, but he slowly stops the movement of his fingers against his scalp. “Do you want to talk about it?”

He wants to talk about it. He knows for a fact that he will feel better, lighter almost, as soon as he gets a chance to get it all off from his chest and it is always easy to talk to Carlos. He listens to him, and always pays attention to what he is saying and gives him time to gather his thoughts.

And as painful as talking about his deepest fears and traumas might be, he wants to do that with him. But talking about it is tough. Just the thought of going through all of that is daunting and draining and it is probably the last thing he has energy for today.

“Later?”

“Sure,” he says easily without any sort of hesitation, “but just so you know, I left my gun at the precinct, so you don’t have to worry about that.”

Carlos’ tone doesn’t change, he mentions it casually, almost offhandedly, but TK’s heart still skips a beat at that.

He has never liked guns, he has seen multiple times on the job the destruction they leave behind, and after being shot and hit with one, his feelings towards them didn’t really change for the better. He mentioned ages ago that guns fill him with uneasiness he cannot completely shake, no matter who is holding the gun.

Carlos obviously took that to the heart, and TK cannot even remember the last time he would have seen his gun off-duty, even though he knows he has kept it sometimes at home.

Maybe it is a small thing, but everything he has done, all the consideration he has put into making him feel comfortable and good, feels immense. It’s little difficult to sometimes to wrap his head around the fact that someone can love him that much.

TK once read that kindness is love.

At that time, he didn’t completely get what was meant by it, but right now, he thinks he understands it completely.   

He turns his head slightly to look at him properly. The movement doesn’t help with the dizziness, but he is willing to deal with it.

“You didn’t have to do that,” TK says, quietly, but he presses the tiniest of kisses against his jawline.

Carlos hums softly, and he never stops running his fingers through his hair, and the sensation of his fingertips against his scalp and in his hair is calming and compared to the constant throbbing in his arm, it is nice to feel something else than plain pain.

Carlos has pressed his lips together, and he is looking in the direction of their kitchen, but his whole expression softens when he eventually glances at him.

“I wanted you to feel safe.”

“I don’t—” TK starts, but his voice trails off. He sighs frustratedly, but the frustration is only directed at himself for not finding the words when it matters the most.  “I don’t just feel safe, I know I am. And that has more to do with you than anything else.”

It is the truth, and he wants Carlos to know it, too.

“Good,” Carlos whispers, pressing a kiss on the side of his head, “and I got you.”

And that he believes without a doubt, and while he cannot say he would be feeling good, he still feels more serene and better than just moments before, and he is glad that they got to talk, but he isn’t entirely sure if everything between them is completely fine.

He fidgets with the sleeve of his hoodie before exhaling deeply and slowly. “Are we okay?”

“Yeah,” Carlos breathes out, after a beat.

There is still an edge to his tone, and TK can practically hear him think, and it isn’t difficult to come to the conclusion that there is something more he wants to say.

“But?”

“But,” Carlos echoes, softly, “it wouldn’t hurt if you promised not to do this again.”

There is graveness in his voice, and he instantly knows that he isn’t talking about getting hurt, he is talking about lying and keeping him away. It isn’t surprise to TK that not all of his upset have evaporated in the thin air immediately and maybe there are still some making up to do, but he doesn’t mind.

Carlos is worth all of that and any promise he is able to make to him.

“I promise.”

“Then we’re okay.”