Screen time by character for 9-1-1 on FOX for season 5, episode 5.
season 1 - season 2 - season 3 - season 4 - season 5 - series - all screen time
[Alt id: Bar graph showing screen time by character for 911 s5 ep 5. There is a photo of each character at the bottom of their bar. Buck leads the episode w/ 7:15, then Bobby (5:30), Athena (4:15), Hen (4:15), Eddie (2:30), Chim (0:00), and Maddie (0:00).]
Do not repost my graphics.
This post falls under the “Dispatch Screen Time Complaint Ban”. (This extends to Claudette for as long as the ban exists.)
Commentary under the cut!
Hi y’all! I feel like I am possibly in the minority, but I actually REALLY liked this ep and it just makes me excited for the rest of the season 😊
Comments from me to you!
Excited to announce another character is going to join the regulars: popular opinion was in favor of me adding Ravi to the list, and I had to agree. Just a reminder - regulars’ time doesn’t get posted every week, it’s just going to be one (possibly two) posts a season, and Ravi being added is not bumping anyone off! I’m also going to go back and get Ravi’s times for s4 when I get around to it.
Speaking of regulars, I have to say sorry. I have an extremely busy week this week, and I only have time to get screen time for these 5 mains 😬. So as of the week this ep airs, I don’t have the times for the regulars. I will absolutely be getting them early next week though, so if you’d like to know someone’s time, drop me an ask so I can keep hold of it, and I’ll answer it when I have the times!
I’m excited to say that I think the show is moving in the right direction w/ Buck. While the statistic is still true that we’ve never gotten more than 5 eps into a season without Buck leading an episode, it’s ALSO true that this is the least amount of time he’s ever had as the lead of an episode. This is also by FAR the least amount of total time he’s had by the end of the 5th episode of ANY season. So fingers crossed. Also if you don’t use Chim&Maddie, this is the one of the most balanced episodes he’s ever led. So let’s see if they keep it up!
I think from now on, we’re gonna try a new thing. Some time next week, I’m going to start posting allllllll of the graphics for the entire season again, but this time I’m going to post them all on a graph with the exact same scale for every episode. The way I’m posting them right now, the scale changes so that the lead always fills the left side of the graphic, and everything else adjusts to that. The reason I do that is so that you can *actually* see the differences in characters’ times, but I also want to highlight how little difference there is (which is something people do NOT seem to be getting), so from now on, you’ll be getting two sets of graphics per episode - one that looks like this, and one w/ a standardized scale. Those I’m planning to always be posting in large groups so you won’t see them every week, but they’ll go in the normal tags, so if you’re interested, keep an eye out for those!
We’ve had some good changes in order again within the 118 crew, so I’m excited to see how things stack up over the season!
Okay that’s all I got folks, but as always, pls let me know if you have any questions regarding screen time! 😊 (if it takes me a while to get back to you, its the busy week, so it’s me not you lol!)
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9-1-1 5x05 -> Buck's spot
@eddiesbuckaroo, @ethicalconflictdiaz, @howlinbuckleydiaz, @vampirebuckley, @archerincombat lmk if you want to be added or removed :)
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Buck + sitting on the counter
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could you do tarlos fic w 10 & 25 from the hearbeat list <3 congrats btw - 🩰
Thank you! Have some fluff as a token of my appreciation!
1k Follow Celebration: 10. "Shh, I’m trying to listen to your heart.” & 25. "So how do I use this stethoscope properly?"
beta’d by @silvarafael and @paramedicstrand
1.1k || ao3
Carlos frowned as the sound of a crash echoed from down the hall, followed by a muffled curse. “TK?” he called out, half-rising from his seat at the counter, “Everything okay?”
“Everything’s fine!” TK’s voice replied, echoing from somewhere deeper in the Strand house. “I’ll be out in a second, I just need to find…”
But whatever it was that he needed to find was cut off by the sound of another crash which was more than enough to pull Carlos from where he has been instructed to wait several minutes earlier. He hastened down the hall, heading towards TK’s bedroom and turning into the room only to find TK alive and well surrounded by what looked like the contents of several boxes. He sighed in relief and stopped in the entrance, leaning against the doorframe casually as he spoke: “I think the boxes may be winning.”
TK started at the sound of his voice and nearly dropped the box he was in the process of moving. He turned to throw a glare over his shoulder before turning back to the task at hand, setting the box in his hands down on top of another before digging through it. A moment later he made a triumphant noise and pulled out what looked like a small duffel bag before turning to show it to Carlos.
Carlos smiled at his boyfriend’s obvious enthusiasm but TK’s smile dimmed a moment later, “You have no idea what this is, do you?”
“Absolutely none,” Carlos agreed, entering the room and coming up besides TK and the bag, “but to be fair, you didn’t say much of anything before you came in here to look for it - whatever it is.”
“It’s my medical bag,” TK explained, setting the bag in question down on his bed and unzipping it to examine the contents. “I haven’t had a reason to unpack it since getting here, but now that I’m switching teams it’s suddenly relevant again.”
Carlos raised an eyebrow, “Did NYFD really make you guys buy your own equipment? Seems like that’s the kind of thing they would provide for you.”
TK shrugged as he rifled through the bag, “They do, for the most part, but some things are very specific so most paramedics buy them on their own. I bought a little more than most because some of the standard equipment is pretty hard to use when you’re left-handed, but pretty much everyone buys their own stethoscope at least.”
Carlos hadn’t even considered the fact that the other man was left-handed and how that might have complicated things and was about to say as much when TK made another triumphant noise and pulled a stethoscope out of the bag. Carlos stepped closer and bumped him with his shoulder, “You sure you still know how to use that thing, it’s been a while.”
“I don’t know, should I practice on you?
TK turned to look at him suggestively and Carlos froze, brain short-circuiting. TK raised an eyebrow at him before he nodded and he rolled his eyes before pushing Carlos down onto the edge of the bed and stepping between his legs. He smiled at him as he gently reached over to pull Carlos’s shirt over his head before placing the earpieces into his ears. Carlos sucked in a breath as the cold metal of the stethoscope’s diaphragm came in contact with his chest and TK murmured an apology and rubbed at his shoulder while he shifted the stethoscope into the correct position with a look of concentration on his face.
Carlos watched him, mesmerized by the focus on his face. “I never thought this would be something I found hot,” he blurted out after a minute, “but it turns out I absolutely do.”
TK bit his lip against the laughter Carlos knew was threatening to bubble up but shook his head instead, “Shh, I’m trying to listen to your heart.”
Carlos heeded him, watching in fascination as TK continued, moving the stethoscope across his chest purposefully, pausing at each new location to listen intently. Carlos dutifully waited until he had lowered the stethoscope to speak again, “So, what’s the prognosis?”
“Everything is in perfect working order,” TK announced, leaning down to give Carlos a kiss, “and just like I thought your heart is bigger than most.”
“That sounds medically inaccurate,” Carlos quipped, “but incredibly sweet.”
TK shrugged looping his arms around Carlos’s shoulders, “It’s the only thing that makes sense for someone to be able to love as much as you do.”
A warmth spread through Carlos as he looked at his boyfriend who was smiling down at him. He reached up and pulled TK closer, drawing him into a deep kiss. They started to get lost in each other, TK pushing closer to Carlos and Carlos wanting nothing more to pull him closer and closer, but they were still in TK’s dad’s house, and as tempting as it was Carlos wasn’t willing to take the chance of Captain Strand walking in on them. He forced himself to pull away, chest heaving as he rested his forehead against TK’s. They stood in silence for a few more moments before Carlos leaned back and glanced at the stethoscope TK was still clutching.
“So,” Carlos began as he lightly took the stethoscope from TK’s hands, turning it over in his own, “how do I use this stethoscope properly, Mr. Paramedic?”
TK rolled his eyes but moved so he was sitting opposite of Carlos on the bed, reaching out and placing the earpieces in his ears, “You just point,” he said, lifting up the diaphragm and gesturing to a spot on his own chest as he spoke, “and listen.”
Carlos took the diaphragm from TK’s hands and reached across the space between them, unfastening the first few buttons of his shirt before he placed the metal against TK’s chest in the spot he had indicated. A moment later a steady rhythmic beating filled his ears in a tone he hadn’t expected. The deep lup-dub sound was both surprisingly loud and soothing.
“That’s the pulmonary valve,” TK explained softly so as to not cover the sound traveling through the diaphragm to his ears. “If you move it about an inch to the right you should be able to hear the aortic valve.”
Carlos followed his instructions and found a different tone, similar but a little faster. He followed TK’s instructions to find both the tricuspid and mitral sounds, allowing his boyfriend’s hands to guide his to the correct places. Each and every time the diaphragm rested on TK’s chest a new version of what was becoming Carlos’s favorite sound rushed into his ears. He could listen to this all day, just basking in the knowledge that TK’s heart was beating, but eventually, he pulled the diaphragm away.
“It’s just like I thought,” he told TK as he passed the stethoscope back to him.
TK gave him a curious glance as he took it, “What’s that?”
Carlos continued with a smile, “Your heartbeat might just be my favorite sound of all.”
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Breakdown of screen time for season 2, episode 14 “Dust to Dust”
season 1 data here | season 2 data here
*please do not repost without credit!*
thoughts and analysis below the cut
so obviously, this is the most screen time mateo has had in an episode! his previous record was around 6:15 for 2x10 "a little help from my friends"
additionally, i understand if you're upset that carlos doesn't have a lot, and i'm not saying you shouldn't continue to advocate for him to have more... however, please also keep in mind that mateo also barely has enough screen time this season and last so for him to have the most this episode, the season finale, is a very big deal. also the distribution for this episode is very similar to the 2x08 mid-season finale where carlos did have the most, and mateo had the least.... just please remember that before you use this data to try and back your points because in my opinion, this episode was a win (and as someone whose favorite character is carlos, i'm not even bothered by this because i'm so happy for mateo.)
if you follow my main, you might have heard me talk about my new method... this data was collected using the old method, just because it's what i used for the other episodes this season and it didn't really make sense to just use the new one on one episode. over the hiatus, i do plan to revisit all the episode using the new method (i already completed 2x01) and i will probably hold off on posting the results until i have completed the season. this new method is more accurate, and there is less room for human error (though there still could be some, and some shots are up for interpretation if that character is on screen enough to be considered on screen (aka blurred in the background, from behind, half face, ect)) anyway, i do plan to use that method for season 3 as well, but we'll see because it does take longer....
finally, it's hard to believe this is the last episode! i remember when i was still figuring out the formatting for this season and choosing a color and stuff 🥺it was a lot of fun to work on this week to week and i do hope to continue with season three in january 2022...
but until then! i do plan to do a series of meta posts about the entire season, and comparing it to season 1 - starting with breakdowns character by character (which i think i'm going to go in reverse billing order? unless you guys wanna vote idk, i do like making polls...) and at least one post about the recurring characters, maybe give nancy one of her own since she has been promoted to main for the third season (!!) and then group gwyn and charles... and i'm thinking about maybe doing gabriel and billy since they played a larger role in 2b? lmk your thoughts on that, or any other characters you can think of (i mean i can include andrea too but she wasn't as prominent as gabriel so i don't think her stats will be that interesting...) and then at the end i guess i will pull together some kind of general overview (assuming people still care at that point... idk how long the other posts will take lol)
Season 2 averages:
Owen 8:30 minutes
Tommy 5:15 minutes
Judd 4:45 minutes
TK 3:45 minutes (-15 seconds)
Grace 3:00 minutes (+15 seconds)
Marjan 2:45 minutes
Paul 2:30 minutes
Mateo 2:30 minutes (+30 seconds)
Carlos 2:00 minutes
Owen 9:15 minutes
Tommy 5:15 minutes
Judd 5:00 minutes
TK 4:30 minutes
Marjan 2:45 minutes
Grace 2:45 minutes
Paul 2:45 minutes
Mateo 2:30 minutes (+15 seconds)
Carlos 2 minutes
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9-1-1 season 4 episode 8 • lockscreens 5/?
please reblog if you save
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granite eyes reflect the flames, ‘til the embers start to tire
a 2x10 speculation fic based on the promo <3
title: anson seabra - kerosene
word count: 5k
bthb - choking
When Carlos woke up, he wasn’t sure why. He’d barely made it up the stairs after his shift ran long, all but collapsing into the bed. He wasn’t expecting to wake up until TK slotted himself in beside Carlos the next morning. But the room was still dark and there were no arms wrapped around Carlos’ waist or the familiar rhythm of warm breath on the back of his neck. Stretching one arm across the mattress in front of him confirmed that he was still alone in the bed.
And then he heard it. The incessant high-pitched beeping of the smoke alarm at the entrance to the bedroom.
Carlos pulled the other pillow over his head, trying to muffle the noise and hopefully fall back asleep. After all, the beeping was probably just because he needed to change the batteries, and he didn’t feel like getting out of bed for that.
But that didn’t make sense.
TK had changed them the other week. He was always so strict when it came to checking the smoke alarms in the condo. And the air smelt like TK’s hair used to after shift. The smoke would cling to his skin and hair while TK was still a firefighter, and Carlos loved it. He loved the way that the smoke and traces of soot mixed with TK’s sweat and he could taste it as he trailed his lips and tongue up his boyfriend’s throat, TK’s fingers knotted in his hair.
But he was alone and TK didn’t come home smelling like smoke anymore.
That caused Carlos to shoot up, instantly more awake. Something was burning, if not on fire.
He could see the dark tendrils of smoke creeping along the upstairs corridor. He always left the bedroom door open when he was expecting TK to come home while he slept. Although TK always told him that it was safer to sleep with it shut if there was a fire. He just hated being woken up by the sound of the door creaking when TK snuck into the bedroom.
He needed to get out.
There wasn’t even a moment to think before Carlos was bolting for the door. His blankets tumbled to the ground behind him. He didn’t care, he needed to figure out what was burning.
He could have just left something on the stove from his half-asleep attempt to throw something together to eat before he went to bed. But that was the best-case scenario and Carlos wasn’t going to put too much faith in that possibility.
Unfortunately, Carlos didn’t even get the chance to go downstairs and check. He hit the top of the stairs and immediately recoiled from the heat. Flames crawled up the staircase, consuming each step as the fire licked up at Carlos. It seemed almost alive and hungry as it had clearly devoured most of his home.
This was bad.
The only other possible exit that didn’t involve windows that didn’t open fully enough to let him out, was the balcony. He could probably stand on it until help came, and at the worst, he could probably jump into the bushes below it.
That was of course until he turned back towards the bedroom and stepped inside, just to see the flames had begun eating their way through the floor, a wall of fire blocking his view of the balcony. As Carlos stumbled backwards to get away from the heat, he felt a searing pain across his ankle. The fire was at the top of the stairs now, starting to travel along the upstairs floor.
He’d been burned.
His head was swimming as he tried to figure out where to go, but it seemed that everywhere he turned was being engulfed in flames.
TK had said many times that fire spreads faster than you think. Carlos had never really realised how true that statement was until this very moment. He also didn’t realise how hot it got inside. He of course assumed it would be hot but he wasn’t expecting the sweat to pour off of him by the bucket.
Looking around for any possible place to go, Carlos breathed a small sigh of relief when he spotted the closet. If he was in there with the door closed he could keep the smoke at bay for long enough to call for help.
So he sprinted for the nightstand and grabbed his phone before darting for the closet and he almost collapsed amongst the clothes as he pulled the double doors shut behind him.
He allowed himself to take a few breaths to calm himself before he dug around for his phone, having dropped it a short distance from where he was sitting on the ground. There was fabric all around him, pairs of pants providing comforting weight on either shoulder as he dialled the familiar three numbers and pressed the phone to his ear.
“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”
Carlos had to suppress a sob at the familiar sound of Grace’s voice. He didn’t know that she was back at work already but he was so glad to hear her on the other end of the line.
“Hello?” She said when Carlos didn’t reply.
“Grace-” Carlos couldn’t help the way his voice cracked as he began to cough. The smoke was less apparent in the closet, but he knew he’d already inhaled plenty. TK was always lecturing him on the dangers of smoke inhalation, how it would be the most likely thing he would die of if he was stuck in a burning building.
And now he was stuck in a burning building and every breath felt weirder than the last.
“Who is this?” Grace asked, still keeping her voice professional and even.
“Grace,” Carlos breathed, unable to figure out what he was meant to say next. He’d never had to call 911 before, preferring to not have emergencies in his own life. He really didn’t know what to say first, who he was, where he was or how close he thought the fire was to the closet door?
He heard a soft sigh on Grace’s end of the phone call. “Sir, you have to tell me who you are so I can help you.”
“Grace, it’s Carlos.”
“Carlos?” Grace’s voice was stiffer now, still professional but if Carlos concentrated on it he could almost detect a hint of fear. “Carlos, what’s wrong?”
“It’s on fire, Grace.”
“What’s on fire?”
“My house.” He had no idea why he was whispering, it’s not like the fire could hear him, but he still couldn’t find it in him to raise his voice.
“Is there anyone else in the house with you?”
“No. No, it’s just me. I’m alone.”
“Isn’t TK there?”
Carlos wasn’t sure whether he wished TK was there with him so that he wasn’t alone, or if he was more glad that TK wasn’t at home and was consequently safe. “He’s working.”
“Then be prepared for him to fret over you. Units have been dispatched to the scene and the 126 is en route.”
Carlos groaned. He didn’t need TK’s coworkers to see him like this.
“Can you get to the door and get outside?”
“No. The fire is downstairs and I’m upstairs. The stairs were on fire by the time the smoke alarm woke me up.”
“Where are you exactly?”
“In the closet.” Carlos chuckled dryly before dissolving into another fit of coughs. The smoke was getting worse, his chest growing tighter with every breath.
“Is there a window you could try to get to when help arrives?”
“There’s the balcony. I’m not sure if I can get there though.”
“That’s okay. Someone will take the ladder up to the balcony and they’ll have a fire extinguisher. We’ll get you out of there, don’t worry.”
“It’s hard-” Carlos was interrupted by another cough. “It’s hard not to worry. It’s getting very hot in here.”
He could feel the way that the thick sheen of sweat clung to his skin, it was making it difficult to hold his phone without it slipping from his grip. His curls were glued to his skin and he wanted nothing more than a shower. Except maybe to no longer be trapped in a burning building, but he wasn’t going to be fussy.
“Just hang tight for me, okay?”
There were a few more coughs this time, the spasms of his muscles making his chest ache. He was crying now, tears running down his cheeks, from the pain or the smoke, he wasn’t sure. Not that he really cared at that point. “I’ll try.”
“That’s all I can ask of you.”
Carlos rested his free hand on his chest, his open palm resting atop where his heart was thundering under his skin. He was terrified, although he would never admit it, his heart rate would give him away. That was, of course, if anyone arrived in time.
The air was getting thicker and he was begging to see light through the edges of the closet door as the flames drew closer.
He was going to die here. Cramped in a closet and wearing nothing but his boxers. Not the way he thought he’d go but there was probably some cruel humour to find in it. If he made it out of here, in the future he and TK could laugh about it, but right now it was getting too hard to breathe and he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer.
“Don’t fall asleep on me, Carlos.”
“I’m trying not to,” Carlos mumbled as he set his phone down next to him. He barely remembered to put it on speaker. He was losing all of his strength, he really couldn’t even fathom how he would get up and get to the balcony. Maybe Grace could tell the firefighters to just come in and get him.
“Just keep talking to me until I tell you to go to the balcony.”
“Where’s the crew?”
“They’ve pulled up outside. You only have to hold on a little longer, until they can get the ladder up to the balcony. You’re going to be okay, Carlos.”
Carlos laughed as he forced his eyes open. “Aren’t you like, not supposed to tell me that?”
“I make exceptions for my friends.”
“Grace?” Carlos asked, smothering his coughs with his forearm. Every time a cough rocked his body he felt his energy drain. Who knew that the most exhausting part of being trapped in a burning building was the coughing?
“Am I going to die?”
“No. You’re going to run for the balcony in a sec and they’re going to get you safe and to the hospital.” Grace explained, but Carlos could hear the weird edge to her voice.
“TK’s always talking about smoke inhalation and how bad it is. So even if they get me out of here I could still die, couldn’t I?”
“Technically, but you shouldn’t think like that.”
“Can you tell TK I love him?”
“You can tell him yourself in a matter of minutes.”
“No- Grace, if I die I want you to remind TK that it’s not his fault. He’s going to blame himself, I know he will. I need you to tell him that I don’t blame him, that I never will. You need to tell him that I love him and I’ll never stop loving him.”
“Grace,” Carlos said firmly.
Carlos finally felt like he could breathe. “Thank you.”
“Now use that love for TK to run to the balcony and get back to your boy.”
Carlos gathered up all the strength he could muster, and threw the door to his closet open. This was the moment that defined his future more than any shift or life decision ever could. If he didn’t make it to the balcony now, he was going to die here.
He was going to die. In his boxers and not having the chance to tell everyone how much they mean to him. He wanted to take TK out for dinner tomorrow night, he was meeting up with his parents at Tia Lucy’s in three days. He couldn’t give up now.
He would run for the balcony like he’d never run before. Even if he died now, TK would know that he fought until the end. He would always fight to get back to TK.
The bright orange flames clung to everything Carlos had spent building since he moved into this apartment. It made his chest ache to see his home in the throes of destruction. He’d never be able to come back here, to come back to the memories that he had made here.
The memories with TK would always be his favourite. TK’s side of the bed that TK never seemed to actually sleep on, choosing instead to spend the nights completely entangled with Carlos, was covered in fire.
Stumbling to his feet, his fist curled tightly around his phone, Carlos locked his eyes on the door to the balcony where he could see a firefighter standing with a fire extinguisher in hand, and he ran for it.
Flames licked at his exposed skin as he desperately staggered for his destination. He was so close to getting out of here and to fresh air. He just needed to believe that he could do it.
That, of course, was until the ground let out a deafening creak and Carlos locked fearful eyes with the firefighter. The firefighter gestured for him to keep coming closer but Carlos couldn’t get his limbs to cooperate.
He was going to die.
The floor gave way.
When Carlos finally stopped falling he couldn’t see anything and there was a crushing pressure all around him. He couldn’t take a deep breath even if he wanted to, there was something heavy on his chest.
“Grace?” He called out. “Grace, are you there?”
He was met with nothing but silence. It was clear that his phone was long gone. He could almost see Grace’s scared face as she probably called out for him with more desperation than he was crying out for her. He missed her voice. At least when she was on the other end of the phone he didn’t feel so completely alone.
He was going to die alone.
And TK’s team was going to recover his body. He knew they weren’t going to give up on him even if he was dead. They’d pull apart the wreckage until they found his body.
That would destroy TK.
He never wanted to hurt TK but he feared that he may not get a choice in that matter.
After an immeasurable length of time trapped, Carlos could almost swear that he heard his name being called. He wanted to shout back, to tell them that he was here, that he was trapped but he was alive.
He couldn’t take a deep enough breath to do any more than cough pathetically.
There was the light sensation of something falling on his face, maybe some ash or debris. There was the distance scraping and knocking of things being moved. There were people nearby, if only Carlos could stay awake long enough for them to retrieve him, he would be fine.
But his body had other plans. His eyes grew harder and harder to keep open, until eventually he couldn’t anymore.
As his senses dulled, Carlos’ hold on his consciousness slipped.
TK was already suiting up as soon as he tumbled out of the ambulance. The second his boots hit the ground he was retrieving the turnout coat from the ladder truck.
Carlos was trapped in his house that was almost entirely covered in flames. The entire downstairs was burning. He could see the bright orange of fire through all of the windows.
“TK, you should stay with EMS, they might need you,” Owen said as he walked up to his son.
TK shook his head as he finished shoving his boot through the turnout pants. “Tommy said it was fine. She understands.”
“I’m not sure I want you in there. You’re too close to this.”
“He’s been in there too long. You need a medic in there and I have more experience with fires than Tommy and Nancy, if not half of your firefighters.”
He was being harsh. He knew this. But Carlos was in danger and he knew he was the best one for the job. He needed to go in there because everyone else would prioritise their own safety but TK didn’t care about anything other than getting his soulmate out of that house alive.
“Alright. Just wait. Paul’s up on the balcony to get him out. You probably won’t have anything to do other than comfort Carlos on the way to the hospital.”
“If it’s all the same to you. I’m going to wait until Carlos is out of danger before I stop preparing to run in there after him. I know the layout better than anyone, I’m not leaving him there,” TK said as he slung an oxygen tank over his shoulder, his medic kit draped over the other.
“I know, TK.”
“Then let me do my job.”
Owen nodded carefully before turning away from TK. He took a few steps to the side but he knew that TK was still within range to hear the responses over the radio.
As a hand came to rest on TK’s shoulder, he stiffened.
“Just me, kid,” Judd’s familiar voice said from behind him. “You gotta believe that your boy is gonna come back to you, and if anything goes wrong I’ll follow you in there.”
“I’m trying, but he’s all alone in there,” TK said. He couldn’t imagine how scared Carlos was right now and he just wished that he could have been home with Carlos. At least then, Carlos wouldn’t be alone and maybe they could have figured out together how to get out safely.
He couldn’t handle just standing outside and doing nothing while the love of his life could die in an inferno. Carlos was supposed to be sleeping peacefully after a long shift, not fighting for his life.
“He’s in there on the phone with Gracie, if anyone can get him out of there, it’s her.”
Judd stiffened when there was a huge crash from the burning structure and Owen’s radio crackled to life.
“Cap, the bedroom floor gave in,” Paul’s voice said over the radio.
“Can you still get to Carlos?”
The radio crackled again but Paul took a few seconds too long to speak. “Reyes went with the floor, Cap.”
TK didn’t need to hear anything else. He pulled the oxygen mask over his face as he bolted towards the building. There was another set of footsteps pounding on the ground behind him. He didn’t have to look over his shoulder to know that it was Judd.
Without even thinking, TK kicked the door off of it’s hinges. It was second nature as his every thought was consumed with Carlos. He needed to get to Carlos.
He blindly stumbled through the familiar floorplan, headed for the pile of debris in the middle of the room. There wasn’t as much fire on the floor anymore, which was both good and bad. It meant that Carlos was not currently burning alive, but it also meant that everything above them was about to come toppling down at the first wrong move.
But TK didn’t care about that. All he cared about was getting Carlos out of there, or he would die trying. Judd could leave whenever he wanted, but TK would never give up on Carlos.
He started digging before Judd could even catch up. He was grabbing pieces of ceiling and floor and smouldering hunks of furniture, tossing them aside in a desperate panic.
“Carlos!” he screamed. He kept screaming out Carlos’ name, over and over until his throat was raw. And even then he didn’t stop.
Judd fell in place on the other side of the mound, pulling it apart with the same ferocity as TK. He wasn’t as desperate but TK knew that he was giving it everything he had.
TK’s arms were burning with the effort when they were joined. Three other bodies in full turnout gear pulling away the rubble until Judd called out that he had found Carlos’ foot. It was burned and covered in soot but it was there and it was soon followed by another shout of “he’s got a distal pulse!”
Carlos was still alive.
They were all desperate now as they dug.
It only took them a matter of minutes to completely uncover Carlos. He was lying on his back, his eyes closed as he was clearly unconscious. Soot covered his entire- incredibly exposed- body. Blood caked his skin but most of the wound looked superficial, aside from the one on his head that was still bleeding. What was most concerning were the burns. There were large areas of his legs and arms covered in burnt flesh, as well as what looked like the mottled bruising of internal bleeding on Carlos’ chest and abdomen.
TK was already pulling off his turnout gloves and swapping them for the familiar blue latex gloves as he knelt in place near Carlos’ head.
On autopilot he ran his knuckles along Carlos’ sternum, hoping for his boyfriend to wake up and glare at him in response to the pain. But there was nothing.
Everyone else found their place in the scene. TK was vaguely aware of a backboard being laid beside Carlos, ready for TK’s order that it was safe to move him.
“Radio Tommy and get her on standby for when we get him out,” TK said in a voice that was too even and calm for the situation that it startled even him. He was honestly surprised that he was managing to keep his cool at a time like this.
He was mentally running over the steps he needed to take before they could move Carlos and million times before his body kicked into gear.
He checked Carlos’ airway and it was clear, but the amount of soot and burns lining his airway made TK’s panic kick into high-gear.
“Paul, start a line. I’m going to intubate him.”
Now this. This was terrifying.
TK had intubated heaps of patients. Most had been in the back of the ambulance. Some had been in awkward and precarious locations. He’d even intubated a handful of cases of severe smoke inhalation.
But this was going to be the ultimate test. He had to maneuver himself through the rubble to get to a position where he could do this. Carlos’ airway was compromised and he needed to intubate him before there was too much swelling from the smoke to do so.
Carefully, TK tiled Carlos’ head back as little as he could. He wasn’t going to be able to pull this off with a cervical collar on so he needed to be careful. He had his left hand anchoring Carlos’ head in place and his right free to work.
TK’s hand was shaking as he slotted the laryngoscope in Carlos’ mouth. Even with the flashlight on the end of it, he was struggling to get a clear view. It was in a moment like this that he wished Tommy was right next to him and ready to take over, but they didn’t have time for that.
With a few seconds of fiddling he could see his path down Carlos’ throat. It was at this point that it really hit him that this was Carlos and he almost froze. He couldn’t afford to panic so he just held his breath.
It took TK a precious moment or two to gather his bearings and slide the tube in place. He got it in with surprisingly little resistance.
Then it was just a matter of removing the scope, inflating the cuff, and pulling out his stethoscope. There were a few tense seconds where he listened to both sides of Carlos’ chest to determine that he’d placed the tube correctly.
TK felt like he could finally truly breathe once he confirmed that the intubation had gone off without a hitch as he attached the bag and gestured for Paul, Judd and Mateo to help him get Carlos onto the backboard.
The ease at which TK could slip the cervical collar around Carlos’ neck as if it was as simple as breathing was an appreciated change of pace.
Marjan was already radioing that they were getting Carlos ready to bring out when TK carefully scooped his hands under Carlos’ chest.
“On my count,” he instructed.
With the swift count of three they moved Carlos quickly and carefully, like a well oiled machine they got him on the backboard and quickly worked to fasten him in place. TK would never take the mundane tasks of his job for granted ever again, especially because now he could do them without having to think about them, his fear not interfering with his ability to do his job.
In a blur they got Carlos out of the building and onto the gurney that was waiting a matter of feet away from the entrance for them. TK knew he would never be able to fully express his gratitude for his team, but he knew that he would always be there to risk everything for them as they had for Carlos.
Tommy gave TK a nod before she started giving out orders and the gurney was headed towards the ambulance. Carlos was in good hands, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet.
TK meant to follow the gurney but his legs lost their strength as his adrenaline started to wear off, but Paul and Judd were quick to catch him and offer him a short, yet comforting embrace before dragging him towards the ambulance where he climbed in after Carlos.
Carlos’ senses were overwhelming the second he realised they had returned to him. Everything was loud, there was something scratchy against his skin, everything hurt and he was very cold.
The first thing he did, before even opening his eyes, was take a deep breath.
Which proved itself to be a bad idea because almost instantly, his lungs spasmed and he was launched into full consciousness as he coughed until there were tears running down his face.
But the air was clear and there was a comforting hand on his back.
As his hacking ceased, he was being eased back until he was lying down again. Looking around for the first time since waking up, Carlos saw the only thing he could have wanted to see. TK.
TK who was stroking his hair and looking at him with eyes brimming with tears.
Carlos was the one to break the silence between them. “Hey.”
“Hi,” TK whispered with a watery smile as he brought his hands up to cradle Carlos’ face, his thumbs trailing across Carlos’ skin. “You have no idea how glad I am to see you awake.”
“Did-” Carlos’ sentence was interrupted by a few pitiful coughs. “Did you forget the part where you got shot and were in a coma?”
TK shrugged. “The past is in the past.”
“As soon as I get out of this bed I am going to strangle you.”
“I’d like to see you try,” TK said with a mischievous smile curling at the corners of his lips.
The smile didn’t reach TK’s eyes, however. It was all the information that Carlos needed to be sure that this was a serious hospital visit. He didn’t faint on shift because he forgot to eat or pass out because he drank too much. He could see it in TK’s eyes, his boyfriend was terrified.
There was the added layer of the redness and the tear tracks on TK’s cheeks. He’d been crying. Of course he had.
“What happened?” Carlos asked, lifting a hand to cup TK’s cheek in his palm. TK visibly melted into the touch as he closed his eyes and a few tears slipped free.
“There was a fire at the condo, sweetheart.”
“Are you okay?” Carlos asked, now worried as he scanned TK for any sign of injuries.
TK nodded, biting his bottom lip that Carlos now noticed was raw from being anxiously chewed on for probably a few hours. “Yeah. I’m fine. I was at work.”
“Why do you look like someone ran over your cat?”
“You almost died, Carlos. You were on a ventilator for thirteen hours, they took you off of it about an hour ago but you inhaled a lot of smoke,” TK explained. Carlos ignored the way TK’s voice cracked, it had obviously been a rough time for him.
“Where is everyone?”
“You’re in the ICU, so visitors are limited. Your dad was in here with me not too long ago but he decided to give me some time alone with you. He, your mom, and everyone else are out in the waiting room. We’ve all been very worried.”
“Can we just be alone together for a little while? Just before you go out and get them?”
TK smiled softly as he pressed a kiss to Carlos’ forehead. “We can be alone for as long as you need. No one is going anywhere anytime soon.”
“So you’ll stay?”
“You couldn’t get rid of me if you tried.”
TK grinned as he said that, and Carlos could see, for the first time since he’d woken up, an emotion on TK’s face that was raw and genuine and didn’t make him want to cry in sympathy.
“Are you going to tape a smoke alarm to my forehead from now on?”
TK pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows. “Now, I didn’t think of that, but it’s a really good idea.”
“Do not,” Carlos said firmly, as TK pulled out his phone.
With a soft laugh TK poked his tongue out at Carlos. “I’m ordering smoke detectors.”
Carlos groaned. “You’re a menace.”
“You love me.”
“And you’re pushing your luck.”
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all through the night || a tarlos fic
❄️ @911giftexchange fic for @buckieys ❄️
happy holidays, sy! i'm wishing you a wonderful and prosperous new year. i hope this fic helps to usher in 2021 right!
word count: 5.2k || read on ao3
All through the night
I'll be awake and I'll be with you
All through the night
This precious time when time is new
When Carlos envisioned winter in New York, his elaborate fantasies had somehow managed to eclipse the reality of what it might actually entail. He had enjoyed his brief stay, taking in the window displays along Fifth Avenue. It had long since been something he wanted to see for himself and the storefronts had more than delivered. But on the flipside of such a picturesque scene has come the downside of what heavy amounts of snow could mean.
It’s why he finds himself now planted in a too hard seat at JFK Airport, wondering how he’ll possibly fill his time now that his flight has been delayed until morning. Outside the blizzard rages on with no real end in sight and Carlos mulls over the merits of his decision to leave Texas in the New Year and make this city his home. This is a far cry from Austin. He’d once thought winter temperatures there could be bad but it’s been nothing compared to the arctic blast in the North.
He tries to keep busy with a book but his attention is split between the words before him and the cute guy across from him frantically digging inside his backpack, a phone teetering dangerously on his knee.
“God, where is that stupid thing,” the man mumbles to himself. “Come on charger, where are you?”
Carlos looks away, burying his head in his book to hide the smile that breaks out on his face. The guy is obviously peeved but Carlos can’t help but to find his muttering endearing. After another moment of fruitless searching on the stranger’s end, Carlos takes mercy on him.
“Here, you can borrow mine,” he says, unzipping his own backpack and fishing out his charger.
The man sighs in relief. “Thank you. I really appreciate it,” he replies, reaching over and taking the cord from Carlos.
He settles back and plugs it into the wall, the screen lighting up a moment later. Carlos smiles politely and gets back to reading, only to be interrupted.
“So, I take it you’re heading down to visit family before the new year comes, huh?” the stranger says.
Carlos looks up from his book, head tilting slightly. It hadn’t been expecting the man to strike up a conversation.
“Sorry, awkward small talk. I’ll let you get back to it,” he says, face scrunching as he gestures to the book in Carlos’ hands.
Carlos waves him off, bookmarking his page and closing it.
“No worries. We’re here all night so...plenty of time for that.” He licks his lips and drums his fingers against the front. “To answer your question though, no. Austin is actually my home so I’m just heading back.”
“Oh, cool. I’m going to see my dad. I thought he’d want to do the whole white Christmas, New York for the New Year thing but ever since he moved down to Austin last year, I think he’s gotten spoiled by the warmer weather.”
The man looks out of the window where the snow is swirling so heavily it’s hard to even see the sky or planes sitting idly on the tarmac.
“Guess I can’t exactly blame him.”
Carlos laughs. “It’s disgustingly cold here and all of that,” he says, gesturing to the storm, “doesn’t help. I don’t know how you guys manage.”
“You get used to it. I’ve only ever grown up with it so while I like to complain about the snow at times, I can’t picture this time of year without it. It’s been a few years since it’s been this bad though, I’ll admit.”
Carlos smiles a bit, looking out of the window briefly. “This is actually my first time experiencing snow. And the city was gracious enough to give me a blizzard to commemorate.”
The man smiles at this thoughtfully. He sits up, stretching his hand out across the aisle towards Carlos.
“I’m TK, by the way.”
Carlos touches his fingertips to his forehead before shaking TK’s hand.
“God, my mother would be so ashamed of my manners right now,” he laughs. “I’m Carlos. It’s nice to meet you.”
He lets go, his palm feeling extremely warm from TK’s touch. TK smiles at him, a slow grin that ultimately reveals his teeth. This man is very good looking, there’s no denying that. He’s got an easy way about him that makes Carlos feel comfortable in his presence as if they’re old friends catching up and not perfectly good strangers meeting for the first time.
TK’s phone buzzes, stealing his attention and Carlos is all too grateful for it. TK types something on the device for a few seconds before pausing.
“Sorry, excuse me for a second,” he says, putting his phone to his ear.
Carlos nods and gestures for him to go for it.
“Hey, Dad. I—,” TK starts out but stops short as his father speaks. “I bet it’s all over the news but I’m alright. Not looking forward to being stuck here overnight but,” he continues, his eyes landing on Carlos and away so quickly Carlos is sure he’s imagined it. “I guess there are worse ways to be trapped for a few hours.”
Carlos looks away then, cracking open his book again to keep himself occupied while TK chats with his father. He tries not to dwell heavily on TK’s look or what the implications of that glance could mean. It could’ve been a coincidence and nothing more. All the same, it doesn’t make his heart race any less to think that TK feels a spark too.
TK ends the call with a sigh, stretching out his legs before bouncing one of them. The gesture is distracting but endearing. For the second time, Carlos closes his book, this time putting it back into his bag for good as TK speaks to him again.
“Are you hungry? I could go for a bite.”
“I could eat,” Carlos says. He rises from his seat as TK does, both men dragging their carry-ons along with them.
They follow the winding path down from their gate, Carlos taking notice of all the fellow flyers now forced to wait out the storm. Some have taken to stretching out on the ground, laying on top of jackets like makeshift sleeping bags, others keeping busy with phones and tablets, hunched over in chairs.
Carlos isn’t looking forward to the uncomfortable sleep he’ll have tonight but as he looks over at TK, he wonders just how much rest he’ll actually manage to get. The guy is already proving himself to be a good way to pass the time and Carlos can’t say he wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to keep chatting with him.
As they approach the cluster of food stands, TK groans and it’s easy to see why. Many of the shops are already closed, no doubt the employees hurrying home before the worst of the storm kicked in. All that’s available now is Cinnabon but Carlos supposes that can suffice as dinner.
TK orders a hot chocolate and a classic roll while Carlos opts for a cold brew in addition to a roll as well. TK eyes the drink with raised brows.
“I’m fully committing to the cause of being awake until we board, apparently,” Carlos muses, pushing his straw through the lid and taking a sip. “Worth it.”
The two head to a nearby empty table, settling into their elevated seats before unloading their food. The scent coming off the baked goods is incredible and Carlos’ stomach suddenly feels desperate for a bite.
“So, Carlos, since we’ve nominated each other for the buddy system while we wait this storm out,” he jokes, “Why don’t you tell me more about yourself?”
Carlos drums his fingers on the tabletop as he tries to decide what to share.
“Well, you already know that Austin is where I’m from but the whole reason I’m even here now is because I’m going to be moving to New York soon. I’ll be transferring next month.”
TK’s brows raise. “Seriously? That’s awesome. Do you mind if I ask what you do?”
“I’m a police officer. I’ve been with the Austin Police Department for a few years but I’ve been considering leaving Texas for a little while now and I’ve been exploring my options. For some reason my mind kept coming back to the idea of New York and I figured I should just take the chance and see what happens.”
TK laughs and shakes his head. “Oh man, well, we have something in common, more or less. I’m with the NYFD myself.”
Carlos holds up a hand. “Wait, wait, wait. You’re a firefighter?” he laughs.
TK puffs out his chest jokingly and nods with a grin on his face. “That’s right. Ladder 252.”
Carlos does his best to push the image of TK in uniform from mind but the picture is an appealing one. He can see it so clearly, the way he’d look in suspenders, not to mention full gear. It’s almost unfair just how much hotter the man becomes as if Carlos hasn’t spent this whole time finding him attractive. He picks up his drink again for something to do with his hands, swirling the straw inside of the cup.
“Small world. Outside of my own little bubble, I can’t say I casually meet many people who are first responders. We seem to be a pretty special breed to get into this line of work.”
TK laughs. “I fell into this because of my dad. He’s been a firefighter for years. He, uh, actually was on site during 9/11. I always thought he was incredible but knowing the full scope of what he and so many others did that day and for people in times of crisis, big and small in general, it just made me want to be like him.”
Carlos frowns, unsure of what to even say or think. “Your dad’s a hero.”
“I like to think so.” TK draws in a breath, squaring his shoulders. “Anyway, now he’s kicking ass down in Texas so, even though I miss him as my captain, I know he’s doing great work with his crew down there.”
Curiosity gets the better of Carlos as he asks, “What station is he with?”
“The 126,” TK replies, taking a sip of his hot chocolate.
Carlos’ eyes widen. “Captain Owen Strand is your father?”
It makes sense the longer he looks at TK. Captain Strand is an attractive older guy and TK clearly got handed some solid genes. Still, it throws him for a loop to realize they have a legitimate connection to each other.
TK tilts his head to the side. “You know him? Shit, okay, wow, small world just got a whole hell of a lot smaller.”
“Unbelievable,” Carlos laughs in disbelief. “I don’t know him that well but we work together sometimes on calls. He’s amazing in the field and he’s really turned that station around.”
TK practically beams. “Guess this means we’ll be seeing each other again soon once we finally make it to Austin then.”
“Uh, yeah. I guess so. Assuming you don’t get sick of me before this night is through, that is.”
TK holds Carlos’ gaze for a moment and if it were anyone else, it would be unnerving but something in TK’s stare just sends a thrill through Carlos, excites him in a way no stranger has ever really gotten under his skin.
“I don’t see that happening,” he says plainly, as if this is an irrefutable fact and not something that’s truly subject to change.
Carlos doesn’t argue the point. He merely enjoys the next few hours, seeing just how easily TK’s theory pans out.
The contrast in weather between New York and Austin is one of the first things Carlos’ remarks on as he steps outside of Austin-Bergstrom. He’s never been more grateful for a forty degree afternoon. He’s kept Michelle updated about his new set time and he waits patiently outside of arrivals. Beside him now, TK types out a message on his phone before smiling over at him.
Carlos has had hours to get used to that look on TK’s face and yet he’s still brought up short. Last night and the early morning hours were spent talking to TK about everything imaginable, trading stories about crazy calls they’ve been on and even touching on personal things like their families. When they grew tired of talking, they watched movies on TK’s laptop, fighting off the urge to sleep for the mere sake of hanging out.
It isn’t rare for Carlos to become friendly with a person but this connection to TK feels different in a way he can’t quite parse.
By the time their flight boarded, Carlos knocked out for the entire length of the trip but it had been worth it in his eyes to stay up and take advantage of the uninterrupted time that stretched before him with TK. It was safe to say a bit of a crush had formed, as absurd as Carlos felt for it. TK was going to be in town for the next few days and that prospect was both thrilling and terrifying. If he could feel this close to TK in one night, there’s no telling what could happen in a few days.
Before he can get lost in that thought, Carlos sees Michelle as she pulls up to the curb, the trunk popping open.
“Are you good out here?”
“My dad’s coming in just a minute. I’ll be just fine,” TK muses as Carlos puts his carry-on inside and slams the trunk shut.
“Alright, well. You have my number now so text me whenever you’re free. I’ll show you a few places while you’re here.”
Carlos extends his hand but TK rolls his eyes jokingly and pulls him into a half hug instead.
“We’ve spent the night together, Carlos. I think we’re past handshakes now.”
Carlos’ face burns with TK’s wording but the man merely laughs.
“See you soon?”
Carlos just nods and finds the wherewithal to get inside of Michelle’s car. He waves after he buckles himself in, TK lifting a hand in response.
“Okay, who is that?” Michelle asks immediately, head turned to take in the sight of TK.
Carlos tips his head back against the seat. “You won’t believe the night I’ve had.”
Carlos has spent two days showing TK some of his favorite stomping grounds. TK relished in all that Austin had to offer and Carlos has been happy to see that their closeness from the unexpected overnight at the airport hadn’t been a fluke. If anything, these outings have only made Carlos feel closer to TK.
Michelle has been relentless in her teasing, finding it all too amusing that Carlos managed to cross paths with Captain Strand’s son of all people. She’d clung to his every word during the ride home from the airport as he filled her in on how he waited out the storm.
The 126 meets at their usual bar and Carlos is glad for this post-work gathering. It’s the perfect time to show TK what a real honky-tonk is like, further immersing him in the culture of the state his father now resides.
TK sits next to him at the table, the large group so packed in that his leg presses against Carlos’. It’s light but it’s enough to make the point of contact all Carlos can focus on even as everyone else at the table engages in conversations that overlap, laughing amongst themselves. He does his best to ignore it but it’s difficult not to take notice of each shift TK makes. Michelle keeps looking at him and Carlos, to the best of his abilities, avoids her gaze knowing that it’ll make it just that much more difficult to act as if he isn’t freaking out internally.
“I’m gonna get another. You want anything?” Carlos asks TK.
TK shakes his head. “No, I’m alright but thank you though.”
Carlos nods once and gets up, finding it much easier to breathe already now that he’s no longer sitting beside TK. Michelle catches his eye as he leaves from the table and he can hear her shoes as she follows behind him to the bar. She rests against the counter facing the room at large as Carlos gets the attention of the bartender and asks for another beer.
“You sure know how to pick them,” Michelle laughs at his side.
“Chelle,” he groans, shaking his head.
She merely laughs again, bumping her hip against his. “When did your life become a romantic comedy?”
“I must’ve missed the memo myself because this sure snuck up on me.”
The bartender sets a bottle down in front of him but Carlos doesn’t move. This little reprieve away from everyone but Michelle right now is welcome.
“I like him. He’s nice. Really cute too.”
“Oh, so you’ve noticed?” he deadpans, looking over his shoulder at TK.
He looks so at home here, hanging out and laughing with these people he’s, up until now, only known secondhand from his father’s work stories. TK is personable as ever, Carlos knows all too well. Had he not been swept away after one night in the man’s company?
“I think this is so great.”
“Funny, I think it’s the universe trying to mess with me.”
Michelle scoffs, finally turning to face the bar like him. “There are worse things in the world than a seemingly perfect guy practically falling into your lap. We should all be so lucky.”
Carlos casts the mental image aside, taking a sip of his drink. “The timing though. I can’t think about guys right now. I need to be figuring out my next set of moves for New York.”
“If those plans just so happen to include an attractive new friend…,” she trails off with a grin.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to screw this up because yeah, he is a new friend and we get along well, it’s a good feeling.”
“Do you like him?”
Carlos falters. “I barely even know the guy.”
“That’s not even remotely close to what I asked you.”
Carlos scratches at his forehead before letting out a sigh. “I do. Which hardly makes any sense at all. It’s only been a few days and yet I can’t stop thinking about him. That’s strange, isn’t it?”
Michelle shakes her head. “No, actually. I don’t think so. You guys had such a cute introduction to each other and you clearly hit it off. Some people just click and are meant to meet. The fact that you two had a connection to each other beforehand without even knowing it? I think there’s something to be said for that.”
“What, you think it’s fate or something?”
Michelle shrugs. “I wouldn’t rule it out. Your flight could have been a day earlier or even a few hours before his. On a plane filled with hundreds, you connected with him, Captain Strand’s son who just so happens to live in the city you’re about to move to. I think it’s worth seeing just how far it could go. If you ask me, you’ll wind up with a boyfriend in no time.”
Carlos mulls it over for a moment. He can admit he is in fact curious. It’s been a while since he’s felt this drawn to someone and with TK, it’s been as natural as breathing since they first met. The timing is less than ideal but it’s been so long since Carlos has felt this urge to get close to someone, since he’s felt safe enough to even open his mind and heart up to the possibility.
“Maybe you’re onto something.”
“One of these days you’ll learn to just accept my brilliance, no questions asked. But this will do for now.”
Carlos rolls his eyes but drapes an arm over her shoulder, pulling her into his side and kissing her temple.
“I’m going moments like this with you,” he says.
Michelle sighs and pats his back. “I will too but we still have time on the clock, right? Let’s not think about that now.”
Carlos sighs, knowing she’s right. It just feels as if these moments are slipping through his fingers, the new year and all its changes lurking just around the corner.
As customary, the Ryder house is the staple for parties among the team and New Year’s Eve is no different. Carlos has lost track of how many times he’s sat on their couch or been treated for Grace’s incredible home-cooking. It’s always been a source of comfort for him, being surrounded by these colleagues who have become an extended family to him.
This time next year, he’ll be in another time zone, familiarized with a new group of people. Carlos knows he’s jumping the gun. There’s no doubt in his mind that he’ll be able to visit back home and that this collection of people will still love him as they do now.
Carlos looks around the living room, taking stock: Marjan blowing into a noise maker in Mateo’s face and bursting into laughter, Paul shaking his head and dropping his face into his palm. Over by the kitchen he sees Grace and Judd swaying to the music playing as Captain Strand takes Michelle’s hand and begins dancing alongside the other couple. It warms Carlos’ heart and breaks it too, seeing this all for what will be the last time with this city being home.
Suddenly the room feels too small and he finds himself heading for the door, grabbing his jacket off of the coat rack. It’s cold out but Carlos remembers just how bitter the weather in New York was. This is nothing compared to that. And it’s this thought that twists at his heart a bit more, one more reminder of how much his life is set to change sooner than he thinks he’s ready for.
The new year is biting at his heels and time is just slipping by. Logically he knows that he shouldn’t be outside now, that he would be wise to savor these memories with his Austin crew while they’re here rather than lament later. But it all feels like too much and the last thing he wants is to let his pensive mood be a dark cloud over a celebratory and joyous time.
Carlos keeps walking until he reaches the park nearby the Ryder household. Naturally it’s abandoned as everyone is tucked away inside their homes either enjoying a quiet night in or throwing parties like the Ryders. Carlos draws in a breath and takes a seat on one of the swings, his fingers clutching on to the links. He quickly stands up the second he hears footsteps approaching, a figure walking towards him.
“It’s just me,” comes TK’s voice and sure enough the man’s features come into focus the closer he gets until he’s settling into the swing beside Carlos.
“I saw you take off. I just wanted to check that you were okay.”
Carlos smiles a bit. “I appreciate it. I’m okay. I’m just...thinking about a lot right now.”
TK sways on his swing, letting a comfortable silence fall between them before he speaks.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Carlos’ heart and thoughts feel so heavy now, such a contrast to how lighthearted and hopeful this holiday is meant to be. But TK looks at him with such genuine care that he finds himself almost desperate to unburden himself a bit.
“Sometimes I wish I could just stop time, you know? But hell, it’s New Year’s Eve. What more proof do I need that life is always moving forward?”
Carlos sighs and rocks slightly back and forth.
“I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be a downer. You should head on back inside, have fun with the others.”
TK is silent beside him, long enough for Carlos to pull his gaze toward the other man. TK is eyeing him thoughtfully.
“You’re scared about what comes next. That’s totally normal. Moving away, starting a new life somewhere else, it’s a big step. A huge change.”
Carlos frowns as he nods. “I wish I could see the end, you know? I wish I could see if it’s all worth it, that I’m making the right choice.”
TK hums in thought. “Well, the best way out is through, right?”
“So you don’t think it’s a mistake to move out to New York?”
TK shrugs. “I don’t know you well enough to say one way or the other for sure. But no, I don’t think it is. I think the fact that you’re even considering it at all should tell you something about how you feel about where you are now.”
Carlos grows quiet, considering the man’s words. But TK isn’t done dishing out his opinion.
“You’ve got an amazing team here, there’s no denying that. It’s a real family, not to mention your actual family is here too. But—and mind you I’m super biased here— New York is an amazing place to be, to live. If you’re feeling restless in Austin, I think New York is the perfect alternative.”
Carlos laughs at this. “So, so biased,” he muses.
TK jokingly puffs up his chest. “Hey, it’s not my fault people have written songs about it and flock to it from all corners of the world,” he jokes. “And all of them, like you would, find home.”
A soft sigh escapes Carlos’ lips as he grips the chain link of the swing.
“That does actually sound pretty nice. I’d miss everyone here like crazy but maybe it’s time for something new? I don’t know. I keep waiting for something extraordinary to happen but nothing ever really changes around here. And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course. I just—“
“You’ve outgrown it,” TK says simply. “And there’s nothing wrong with that either.”
Carlos smiles at him and nods. “I suppose not, no.”
“At least you’ll come to the city knowing someone; you won’t be alone or completely starting from scratch.”
“You? You would take that on?”
TK rolls his eyes. “Of course me. You think I’d leave you high and dry? Damn, I know New Yorkers have a bit of a rep but jeez,” he teases.
Carlos laughs. “I only meant...you barely even know me. You don’t owe me anything.”
“Maybe so but I’d like to get to know you better. And if we’re gonna be calling the same city home, it’s kind of perfect. You get a new job, a new city, a new friend. Pretty sweet package, if you ask me.”
“You’ll be my tour guide then? You can take me to all the hot spots, Central Park and Times Square for starters.”
TK shakes his head in dismay. “God, Times Square,” he groans. “Hell on earth but sure, just for you I’d make the exception.”
“I’m honored,” Carlos says, placing a hand over his heart.
“As you should be. There aren’t many reasons I’d willingly go there so you should be patting yourself on the back right now.”
Carlos raises a brow. “But you’re thinking I’d be worth it?”
TK’s face grows serious. “In a lot of ways I’m thinking you would be, yes.”
Carlos' face flushes a bit and he looks away, down at his feet as he begins to kick out in earnest to start swinging.
Not for the first time since meeting TK he isn’t sure if there’s more to his words just below the surface, if he’s flirting or just being naturally charismatic. It shouldn’t matter either way, Carlos tells himself. Starting up a new relationship when so much in his life is already about to change doesn’t seem smart.
And yet it’s difficult to bear that in mind when he looks over and sees that TK is still watching him. The man smiles softly and follows Carlos' lead, swinging a bit.
In the distance Carlos can hear the rise in voices from houses where everyone is celebrating, just waiting to usher in the new year.
“One minute to go,” TK says, looking at the time on his watch and digging his feet into the ground to stop himself.
Carlos keeps going, breathing in the last dregs of this year before it’s gone with the tick of the clock. He looks up at the pinpricks of stars above, almost glistening in the clear sky. He closes his eyes, soaks in the moment, the last few seconds of this year winding down.
The New Years party goers can be heard shouting their countdown and beside him, TK joins in quietly as well.
Carlos opens his eyes once more and holds his breath as he upward, counting down the last few seconds in his head. This year is going, going...
He exhales as shouts from the neighboring houses rent the air. He stops swinging then, digging his feet into the hard earth beneath him as he looks over at TK. Beside him the man’s face is flushed, the tip of his nose pink from the cold but his gaze is unrelenting as he leans forward.
Carlos’ body seems to move on its own accord, closing the distance between them as well. He doesn’t think about anything other than what TK’s lips will feel like and before he realizes it, he’s getting his answer.
It’s a chaste kiss, truly just a meeting of mouths in a gentle press but it warms Carlos from the center all the way through his entire body. TK’s lips are soft and warm despite the cold.
“Happy New Year, Carlos,” TK says softly.
Carlos doesn’t have the slightest clue of what the road ahead will look like exactly but it’s enough to know that in some capacity, TK is going to be a part of it. Be it as a friend or something more, it makes Carlos hopeful to see how life will unfold, what other surprises it may have in store.
Carlos stares at him for a moment and it seems as if TK and the whole world is holding its breath as they sit in silence together. This feeling in his chest is so unlike anything Carlos has experienced before. He likes to think things through, to anticipate at least three steps ahead but his future is such a blank slate that it’s truly anyone’s guess as to what will happen next. All he can do is control this present moment and as Carlos sees it, kissing TK is the only thing on his agenda for right now.
He leans in again and kisses the man once more, deeply this time, hand cradling the back of TK’s neck.
Maybe this is risky, maybe this will only complicate his life further when he settles in New York and has to figure out what this all means. But in this moment, that all feels like a lifetime away, a page from a chapter that hasn’t been written yet. There’s only the here and now with this beautiful man that fills him with possibilities.
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Since my new job is evening shifts, that's all you can get when you start unfortunately, I won't have a life for the foreseeable future and won't be able to do many of the things I enjoyed about life, like watching shows live or participating in zooms with friends. But hopefully it'll be worth it in the long run.
I won't be able to watch 911 or 911 Lone Star live starting this week. Feel free to tag me #userac in your gifsets, edits and fanarts of any scenes, characters, canon relationships or f/f ship if you want to make sure I see them once I've seen the eps.
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OG 911 Character Details from Canon Pt 1
Hi folks! Welcome to my post of character details for fic writers or really anyone who wants to know! All of these details come directly from the show - they’re just things I picked up on watching the show on intense repeat for screen time, so the details are about as canon as they can get. Some of them, like addresses, come from an specific episode, while others are trends I’ve picked up on. If you want a “citation” for a fact let me know and I can provide one if it exists!
I tried to include a good range of information between the 7 main characters, so that it was available for anyone.
I’m going to keep making these posts every time I get enough details collected so you can find them all under “911 canon character details” in the future! I’m committed to rewatching the whole series again for the regulars’ screen time, so I’ll be making more of these posts throughout the summer. If there’s something in particular you’d like to know, let me know and I can keep an eye out for it.
Things I noticed that might be interesting character details, part 1:
Athena and Bobby live at 1810 Fallsgrove St.
Eddie lives at 4995 S Bedford St Apt 403 (Julia made this fantastic post of the layout of Eddie’s house, and I’ve spent my own significant amount of time trying to work it out, so when I say this layout is spot on, I really mean it). (I believe this is more of a duplex situation - ie he has other neighbors attached to his outside walls, but no downstairs or upstairs neighbors.)
(These two locations are 8 minutes apart, which I personally thought was vvvvvv useful if you wanted to have someone rush from one place to another - also makes me think the 118 would be close to that neighborhood.)
Chim and Maddie live in apartment 2B. It’s a one-bedroom apartment, so currently Jee-Yun is sleeping in their room with them. I’ll be curious to know if they move as she gets older or if they magically spring up a bedroom for her - I just know there isn’t one at the moment bc Albert slept on their couch first, and then when he was injured, THEY slept on the couch.
Buck has two bathrooms! There’s one immediately to the left as you walk in his front door, and then one up in the loft, off the platform. Which I thought was a large number of bathrooms for a loft since it’s such a small space, but useful for when Christopher is visiting I suppose...
The hospital they go to for personal stuff is First Presbyterian. They’ve only started featuring its name prominently this season, but it’s the same waiting room and ER they’ve been using since s2, so I’d assume it’s also in the same neighborhood, since it’s fictional.) It’s on Altamont Street.
Given that you can see the Cecil Hotel from Michael’s apartment, I’d assume he either lives on S Spring St or S Los Angeles St. Either way he’s about twice as far from Athena and Bobby as Eddie is, and in the opposite direction.
Alcohol preferences - Athena prefers white wine, but will also drink rose and red, Hen drinks red and beer but doesn’t do it socially as much as everyone else, Chim is p much strictly beer unless it’s a fancy dinner (or tequila if he really wants to get drunk), Maddie prefers white wine, Buck drinks beer or white wine, and Eddie is a beer dude, red wine if it’s a fancy occasion (this is what they choose if they have a choice like at a bar, or if they’re hosting - eg when Athena hosts, EVERYONE drinks white because that’s what she’d choose.)
Eddie does not have the Hildy coffee maker on his kitchen counter - he still has an older model that only makes coffee.
He also likes to decorate in the color turquoise! (Maybe Shannon liked turquoise so that’s what he tends to buy?? That’s your decision, there’s just a lot of it in his kitchen. Also, his laptop case is turquoise!)
Hen gets a new pair of glasses every year. (Which means she’s doing better than me, I only get a new pair when I lose the old ones 😂)
Athena has two big diamond rings, and she wears one on each of her ring fingers (Bobby has good taste). She does not wear her rings while working.
Bobby has a gold wedding band for home, and wears a black silicone ring at work.
Hen wears her wedding ring all the time, and it’s a plain silver band.
Eddie had a gold wedding band while he was married to Shannon, and he wore it while on active duty in the Army (even during the helicopter crash). He is wearing it after Shannon leaves, but he takes it off before he comes to LA. His St. Christopher’s medal is silver with a navy border, hanging on a silver chain.
Chim prefers the short sleeve uniform. He really never wears the long sleeved one.
Eddie likes soft jazz, and will play it in the background during dinner. Idk if it’s his favorite type of music, but he likes it enough to put it on.
Buck has a picture of the ocean (I think? it’s definitely some sort of landscape) in his work locker - no other photos currently. Eddie has also been seen using this same locker.
Everyone has an iPhone and if they have a computer, it’s a Mac (this one is just bc capitalism - the show is sponsored by Apple). Hen has a red phone case, and Maddie has a navy one with gold trim, everyone else’s is super boring black/navy.
Maddie’s contact for Chim is “Howie” in her phone.
In Eddie’s phone, his contact for Buck is just “Buck”.
Bobby is just “Bobby” in Buck’s phone.
Christopher’s current interests are space and dinosaurs. And gaming!
In addition to Eddie and Albert, Chim also seems to like baseball, going off the jersey on his wall.
Every time we’ve seen Buck and Eddie drive somewhere together, Buck has driven and Eddie took the passenger seat.
Both Eddie and the Wilsons have a fireplace in their living room with framed photos of their kids at various ages.
Karen is a doctor! It’s a PhD, so she couldn’t join the team as a medic, but it does make them the future Drs Wilson. Her specialization is something to do w/ physics or chemistry etc, b/c she worked on a project for JPL on Mars, so you can run with that.
Michael is an architect, and David is a neurosurgeon who can help with emergency medicine.
Work masks: Bobby, Maddie and Athena prefer masks with a loop over each ear, while Eddie, Chim, Buck and Hen use the ones with two straps behind the head. Everyone uses the two ear loop ones for personal time.
Buck sleeps with socks on.
I hope the start to this list met up to your expectations, but if you’re looking for more then it will be on the way soon! I just wanted to get this first set out (plus it was looking a little long in my drafts 😂)
Lots of love!
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9-1-1 5x05 -> Buck on the phone
tags: @eddiesbuckaroo, @ethicalconflictdiaz, @howlinbuckleydiaz, @vampirebuckley, @archerincombat lmk if you want to be added or removed :)
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(12 minutes ago) for @buckleys-diaz
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Ronen Rubinstein as TK Strand in 911 Lone Star “Slow Burn”
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Congrats on the 1k, Jillian! 🎉🎉
If it strikes your fancy, from the heartbeat prompt list.
13. “I know my heart is racing, but yours is too.”
Thank you, Stef! May I offer you a little proposal fic as a token of my appreciation?
1k Follow Celebration: "I know my heart is racing, but yours is too."
964 words || ao3
The words drop into the kitchen like a bomb: arriving suddenly and leaving shockwaves in their wake. Carlos looks up from the counter where he is slicing vegetables to TK standing at the stove, spoon frozen mid-stir as he processes what he just said. His eyes grow wide as the words and their implications land and Carlos can see the panic about to set in. He takes a step forward the same moment TK begins to speak, words harried and rushed.
“I’m sorry,” he says, turning his eyes back to the pot on the stove before him. “That was stupid. I don’t know why I did that. I had this whole plan, the ring is upstairs; I don’t know why I just did that. Here we are just trying to make dinner and I screwed it up. You deserve something more special than this, forget I even…”
But he trails off as he notices that Carlos isn’t even looking at him. Instead he has turned away from him; to the cabinet above the sink where he has pulled the wine glasses down and is rummaging for something behind them. TK frowns in confusion and is about to ask what exactly Carlos is doing when he makes a triumphant noise and turns back to TK, something clearly clasped into his closed fist.
“It’s not stupid,” he said after a beat, his words falling out quickly. “It’s not stupid at all TK; nothing you say to me ever could be, but especially not this.”
TK feels some of the dread fall away but doesn’t say anything, now feeling his own breath catch at the sight of Carlos before him, visibly anxious as his hand clutches tightly to whatever is closed within it.
“I was just surprised, and maybe a little frustrated.”
TK frowns now but before he can say anything else Carlos simply opens his hand and places the item he had been clutching on the counter between them: a small velvet box.
“But only because you beat me to it.”
TK’s breath leaves his lungs and everything feels like it is moving in slow motion as he reaches out to pick up the box with shaking hands, carefully opening it to reveal a simple yet elegant gold band nestled between the smooth back interior.
He’s not sure how long he stands there, staring at the ring glittering back at him in the warm light of their kitchen. He only comes to himself again when he feels Carlos’s arms wind around him from behind, pressing him against his chest.
“Your heart is racing,” he says quietly into TK’s ear and TK takes another moment before he twists in Carlos’s embrace to face him. He places a hand on Carlos’s chest for a moment before he looks up and meets his eyes.
“I know my heart is racing,” he agrees, voice equally as soft, “but yours is too.”
“Is that a good thing?”
TK looks at him for a long moment. He takes in the warm brown eyes and the dimple at the side of his mouth that never truly disappears. He takes in every line and curve and every detail that makes Carlos Carlos. Then he looks back down at the box in his hand before he reaches up with the other to place it gently on Carlos’s cheek. The other man leans into his touch and TK smiles, rubbing his thumb lightly against his face.
“It’s the best thing,” he nearly whispers after a moment, his voice thick with emotion. “You are the best thing, Carlos. I love you so much.”
And Carlos beams at him before pulling TK closer and into a deep kiss. They stay that way for a while, savoring the warmth and taste of the other before they pull apart, each gasping for air as their chests heave, still flush with each other.
“So,” Carlos asks after a moment once they have caught their breath again, “is that a yes?”
“That depends,” TK says coyly.
Carlos raises an eyebrow, “On what?”
“On whether or not you are going to let me do so I can go upstairs and get your ring. Technically I asked first, you know.”
Carlos chuckled and the vibration of it rippled through TK, nearly making him melt on the spot.
“And yet I was the first one to get my ring. I think that means I get an answer first, Strand.”
“Are you calling this on a technicality?” TK demands, but his radiant smile betrays him. They’re beaming at each other even as they banter and TK can’t think of a single time he has ever felt so complete.
“I think,” Carlos says evenly, still grinning, “that this is all a technicality. Since I’m pretty sure we both already know the answer.”
“Is that so?”
“Mhm,” Carlos confirms lightly, reaching down and plucking the ring out of the box in TK’s hand. He waits a moment for TK to drop the box, and as it clatters to the counter beneath them he slides the ring onto TK’s finger.
“I think the fact that we both have rings,” he continues as TK studies the gold against his skin, savoring the comfort of this new weight on his finger, “says yes pretty clearly.”
TK pulls his eyes from the gold band to meet Carlos’s, not at all surprised to see the same shimmer he could feel gathering in his own.
“Then I suppose I need to give you yours then,” TK replies. “I can’t have you wondering for a second about my answer.”
“Does that mean it’s a yes?”
“Anything that involves you is always a yes, babe.” TK tells him matter of factly, wrapping both his arms around his waist. “Why would forever be any different?”
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Breakdown of screen time for season 2, episode 9 “Saving Grace”
season 1 data here | season 2 data here
*please do not repost without credit!*
thoughts and analysis below the cut
so so happy for how much screen time judd got!! he has beaten the record for more screen time for a one a character in an episode, previously held by owen for the pilot episode (around 21 minutes)
speaking of... this is the least amount of screen time owen has ever gotten
also the least amount for tk, marjan, and paul, as well as for carlos and mateo who tied their previous lowest record.
and it's the most grace as ever gotten!
there's really not much to say, the results kind of speak for themselves lmao
Season 2 averages:
Owen 7:30 minutes (-45 seconds), Judd 5 minutes (+2:15 minutes), Tommy 4:30 minutes (-15 seconds), TK 4:15 minutes (-30 seconds), Grace 3 minutes (+45 seconds), Marjan 2:45 minutes (-15 seconds), Paul 2:45 minutes (-15 seconds), Carlos 2 minutes (-15 seconds), Mateo 2 minutes (-15 seconds)
Owen 9 minutes (-30 seconds), Judd 5 minutes (+1 minute), TK 4:45 minutes (-15 seconds), Tommy 4:30 minutes (-15 seconds), Paul 2:45 minutes (-15 seconds), Marjan 2:45 minutes (-15 seconds), Grace 2:45 minutes (+30 seconds), Mateo 2 minutes (n/a), Carlos 2 minutes (n/a)
feel free to send any asks with thoughts and questions! i love discussing the data more :)
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I got scared, I'm so sorry.
I'm scared too.
So, let's be scared together.
9-1-1 Season 4 Episode 2: Alone Together
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i'm in over my head
an incredibly belated birthday present for my love @silvarafael !! thank u jamie i love you so so so much and i'm so grateful to be your friend!!
title from: the palace - father john misty
word count: 9.6k
beta'd by: @marjansmarwani
bthb - seizures
“Here’s your uniform. It’s ready to go when you are,” Carlos declared as he wandered back into the bedroom. He had a soft smile on his face as he set the folded uniform down on the corner of the bed.
“Thanks, babe,” TK said as he dragged a hand down his face. It took him a little longer to gather up the energy he needed than usual. It was probably courtesy of the month he’d spent on medical leave while recovering from his concussion. He wasn’t used to surfacing before noon anymore, aside from when Carlos would press a kiss to his forehead before leaving for his morning shifts.
In reality, he was excited to get back to work after so much time spent at home recovering. He had been going stir-crazy since he was well enough to get down Carlos’ stairs by himself and it’d been three weeks since then. As much as he liked spending all of Carlos’ time off curled up together and without a shortage of affection, he was going to lose his mind if he spent any more time cooped up.
Carlos stepped closer to TK and brought a hand up to cup his boyfriend’s jaw as he connected their lips in a soft kiss. “How’re you feeling?”
Being met with worried brown eyes pulling apart every detail of his demeanour was something TK had come to expect in his daily life and those looks had only become more frequent over the past month.
“Are you sure? How’s your head?” Carlos asked, running his hand through TK’s hair until it came to rest on the back of his neck and he began running his thumb over TK’s skin. It had become a comforting gesture they often shared when TK was plagued by the most horrific headaches during his recovery. It never soothed the pain but it made him feel less alone.
He’d gotten used to the constant low-level pain behind his eyes, it was nothing to worry about at this point, so he omitted mentioning that to Carlos. It would only serve to make his boyfriend worry when he really didn’t need to.
TK was fine. He was on the road to fully recovering from his concussion, he was finally going to get his life back.
Even though he was only scheduled for a six-hour shift today. It was incredibly short, pitifully so, but he had to take it easy.
Carlos didn’t even have a shift today, he was just spending lunch with his family at his Tia Lucy’s and would be able to pick TK up the second he was done at the firestation. It wasn’t like he was immediately being thrown into the deep end with a 24-hour shift, Carlos really didn’t need to worry so much.
“You know I love this shirt on you,” TK said as he smoothed down Carlos’ collar and trailed his fingers down the seam along Carlos’ shoulder.
Carlos leant forward to share another kiss with TK. He spoke as they parted, “you love every shirt on me.”
“I also love every shirt off of you,” TK whispered, following the kiss as Carlos drew backwards.
“I know you do, but you have to get dressed.” Carlos stood up from the bed and intercepted TK’s needy grab to draw him back into the bed with a firm poke of TK’s nose. “You have work.”
“I could call in and say that my head hurts, then you could spend the day in bed with me. Your Tia Lucy loves me, she’ll forgive you.”
“No, she’ll forgive you. You’re her favourite,” Carlos clarified with an accusatory point in TK’s direction. “You also say that as if your father wouldn’t order a wellness check and call me every fifteen minutes to make sure you’re not dying.”
“Ugh. He’s the worst.”
“I know sweetheart,” Carlos said, giving TK another chaste kiss before he quickly snuck away. “I’m going to sort out some breakfast so you can get changed.”
“You’re the worst,” TK protested with a pout.
Carlos poked his head back through the door and shot TK a smile. “You love me anyway.”
TK tossed a pillow at Carlos but it collided with the doorframe as Carlos disappeared down the hallway. “That’s debatable!”
He watched as Carlos disappeared through the door and down the stairs before he took a deep breath and glanced at his waiting uniform. It was just clothing, it should feel like a big deal.
And yet it did.
Grabbing the folded shirt on the end of the bed and pulling it into his lap, TK couldn’t help the overwhelming feeling of anxiety in his chest as he ran his thumb over the patch with his name on the front.
This was his job, he loved it, he lived to help, but that didn’t keep him from feeling nervous about getting back in the game after a month. It didn’t help that his last shift ended with being held hostage on the wrong end of a gun and given a concussion.
He could do this. He just needed to be thrown back in the deep end.
Shrugging off one of Carlos’ old hoodies that he liked to sleep in, TK took a careful breath and mentally prepared himself for the shift ahead. He didn’t know why he was so nervous but something about the familiar weight of his uniform draped over his shoulders somehow made it feel more official.
The buttons seemed to be smaller and more stubborn than he remembered. He fumbled with them but just couldn’t seem to get his fingers to work properly. Never before had it been this difficult to dress himself. How many times had he done this exact thing without a second thought?
Tears of frustration welled up in his eyes. He just wanted things to go back to normal, but he couldn’t even put on his own shirt. Fuck.
He clutched at the material of his shirt, bunching the edges up in his trembling, useless hands as he stared down at the offending buttons through tearfilled eyes. He was so focused on the indignity and frustration of it all that he didn’t hear the footsteps outside the door until Carlos’s voice drifted in.
“Hey, food’s ready- what’s wrong?” Carlos asked. TK didn’t look up but Carlos’ hands were holding his in a matter of seconds.
“I can’t do it.”
Carlos squeezed TK’s hands softly in a way that was meant to be reassuring. “What can’t you do, sweetheart?”
“These stupid buttons!” TK huffed, unable to stop the fresh round of hot tears running down his face.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Carlos said, already moving to do up TK’s buttons in a matter of seconds. He smoothed down TK’s uniform, before carefully tilting his boyfriend’s head up to meet his gaze. “You know you don’t have to work today if you’re not ready. No one is going to judge you for taking a little more time off.”
“No offense, but if I’m stuck here for even one more day I am going to start climbing the walls.”
“None taken. Do you want something to eat?”
“Actually, can I just take it with me?”
Carlos’ eyebrows knit together at that as he eyed TK cautiously. He was clearly worried. “Sure. Are you nauseous? Do you want to take another day off?”
TK waved away his concern. “I’m fine. I just don’t want to be late.”
“Okay…” Carlos didn’t look convinced but he gave TK a quick kiss. It was just a second or two but it took all of TK’s strength to not seize Carlos by his collar and pull him down onto the bed.
Carlos knew this, of course, and smiled at TK before pulling away. “Finish getting dressed and we’ll get on our way soon. I’m sure you can manage that, but just call out if you need me.”
“I always need you.”
“You’re such a dork,” Carlos chuckled as he stepped out of their bedroom, blowing TK a kiss as he left.
TK lifted his hand to catch the kiss, gingerly curling his fingers into his palm. He turned back to his uniform and took a few seconds to let go of his anxiety. He could do this. The buttons were just a minor setback.
Truly, the buttons appeared to be the hardest thing. Not that TK was entirely sure why, but getting dressed the rest of the way proved itself to be a lot easier.
He’d even managed to brush his teeth and make his way halfway down the stairs before Carlos called out to him.
“Who’s this handsome paramedic in my house? I don’t remember calling 911.”
TK just rolled his eyes as he hopped down the rest of the staircase. As soon as his feet hit the floor he stood there with his arms open, giving Carlos a pointed look.
He tapped his foot impatiently as Carlos wandered over and wrapped his arms around TK’s waist, picking him up and walking towards the door.
“This is not what I had in mind!” TK grumbled until Carlos set him down. Slung over Carlos’ shoulder was TK’s duffle bag that plonked heavily on the ground at the same time as TK’s socked feet reconnected.
Before TK could say anything, Carlos was kneeling down and grabbing TK’s boots.
“I can put my own shoes on,” TK protested as Carlos manhandled his feet into the boots.
“You can’t even tie your laces properly, you still do the double-loop. It’ll go faster if I do it.”
TK knew it was a ploy to make sure he didn’t have to deal with the fiddly task of tying his laces. But he’d never tell Carlos that he had caught on.
I only took Carlos a few seconds before he was standing up again and pushing the front door open with a lovesick grin on his face. “You ready to go?”
“Definitely,” TK said with a nod.
TK froze as he stepped out of the front door. The sun was definitely brighter this morning than he was expecting, and a little more than his head was prepared for. But he could handle it.
“You good, babe?” Carlos asked. TK opened his eyes to see Carlos worriedly looking over the top of the car door instead of climbing into the driver’s seat. He really was going to worry about TK all day, wasn’t he?
TK nodded, “Yeah, I’m good.”
Taking a deep breath, TK gave Carlos a smile. “It’ll be fine, Carlos.”
Walking into the firehouse felt like coming home after a long day. He wasn’t aware he could miss his workplace so much, at least until he spent a month basically confined to Carlos’ condo.
No one was around when TK wandered in, which he could probably chalk up to the missing ladder truck. That was until he spotted the one, the only, Nancy Gillian. She had her legs draped over the arm of the couch and her phone glued to her face, the blue light from the screen reflecting on her skin.
“He’s alive!” Nancy cheered as she looked up from her phone, all but throwing it aside as she kicked her legs up and in a few short strides, wrapped TK up in a bone-crushing hug.
This was definitely weird. TK had never even been hugged by Tommy, let alone the paramedic with whom he had not had the smoothest sailings with in terms of their relationship.
“I missed you, jerk.”
It took TK a few seconds before he was returning her embrace. “I missed you too.”
Almost instantly, Nancy let TK go and turned her back to him. “Did you hear that, Tommy? I told you I could get him to be sappy within five minutes!”
Tommy stepped into view and clicked the button on her stopwatch, making it beep. “2.38. That’s got to be a record.”
“I wasn’t aware there was a record. Or that you were both scheming against me on my first day back,” TK said, his gaze shifting between his fellow paramedics.
“C’mon, it was the perfect scheming opportunity. Marjan and Paul helped with the plan,” Nancy explained.
TK rolled his eyes. “Of course they did. I wouldn’t expect anything less from them.”
Nancy looked around before crossing her arms across her chest, looking somewhere between disappointed and bored. “They had hoped that they were gonna be here to witness it though.”
“Speaking of, why aren’t you guys on the call with them?”
“Medical wasn’t needed, so we’ve just been waiting for you to show up. They’ll be back soon, though,” Tommy said with a shrug.
“And Judd will probably never put you down again in your lifetime,” Nancy chipped in.
TK couldn’t help but to chuckle at the mental image of Judd carting him around for the rest of his life. He certainly wouldn’t put it past him.
Judd was, after all, always threatening to wrap TK up in bubble wrap or never let him do anything unsupervised ever again. TK definitely considered it to be an overreaction and a tad over-protective but everyone else seemed to disagree with him every time he brought it up.
He followed Nancy back to the couch where they both sat down and TK prepared for the onslaught of questions about his well being.
Nancy turned her calculating gaze on TK. “How’s your head?”
“Sensitivity to light?”
“I told you, Nancy, I’m fine. Just happy to be back at work.”
“She’ll never admit it, but she missed you,” Tommy said.
“I did not,” Nancy hissed, shooting a glare in Tommy’s direction.
“She’s lying. We all missed you.”
TK turned to see Paul standing behind him. Paul smiled and ruffled TK’s hair. “How are you doing?”
“If one more person asks me that I’m going to smack them.”
“Don’t hit me,” Paul said, raising his hands with his palms towards TK in surrender.
“Give me one good reason,” TK said, raising his hand in an empty threat.
Paul eyed him carefully. “You need someone to protect you from Judd when he realises that you’re here.”
“True,” TK said, lowering his hand so that it rested in his lap. Judd’s big brother role that he had adopted was definitely a lot to deal with at times, but TK enjoyed the affection.
“Strand!” Judd’s distinct voice called, followed by the sound of hurried footsteps.
Paul mouthed him a quick ‘good luck’ before TK was wrapped up in a tight embrace.
Pitifully trying to shove away Judd’s arms, TK struggled to wriggle out of his hold. “I need to breathe, Judd.”
As soon as his boots hit the ground, TK rolled his shoulders back and shook out his arms as he bounced on his feet. It was good to be back.
It’d been a good day, mostly minor calls so far, a fainting, a typical rest home visit, and a compound fracture from an unfortunate shortcut down two flights of stairs. But this was exciting, he was back in the heat of it now.
“Look less excited to be at a car accident, Strand,” Nancy scolded as she jabbed her elbow into TK’s ribs.
“It’s not my fault. I’ve been on house arrest for a month, I’ve missed this.”
“And we’ve missed you, but make sure to listen to your body and not push your limits today. You’re supposed to be being eased back into this,” Tommy said carefully as she placed her hands on TK’s shoulders to hold him still.
TK nodded. “Got it. Take it easy, tap out if there’s any issues. I got it.”
Tommy offered him a satisfied smile before she turned to the scene. “Alright, TK, you take the kid that got flung, Nancy and I will check on the driver.”
“On it, Cap,” TK said with a sharp nod, adjusting the strap of his medical bag on his shoulder.
He could do this, he could see the kid sprawled on the road with a few firefighters by his side. This was straightforward, just TK and no hassle of waiting for the team to free his patient.
It was simple, something he couldn’t mess up on his first day back. He knew that this was Tommy’s way of including him without potentially jeopardizing anything.
“What have we got here?” TK asked as he knelt down on the opposite side of the patient, meeting Paul’s gaze briefly.
“Kid got thrown, don’t think he lost consciousness but he doesn’t seem to be in a chatty mood,” Paul offered.
“That’s alright, I got it from here. Why don’t you go do firefighter-y things?”
“Ooh, he’s a paramedic and now he’s too good for us firefighters,” Paul mocked as he gave TK’s shoulder a firm shove.
“Blah, blah, blah. Screw you, Strickland.”
“Let me know when you’re free!” Paul called with his hands cupped around his mouth as he jogged backwards towards the rest of the team.
TK couldn’t help the smile on his face as he shook his head. It was good to be back. He’d certainly missed everyone more than he cared to admit. He turned his attention back to his patient. As far as TK could tell, Paul had gotten as far as a cervical collar and not much else.
“Hey, I’m TK. I’m a paramedic. Can you tell me your name?”
“Andy,” the kid groaned, his face scrunched up in what TK assumed was pain. There was road rash visible on Andy’s face, blood from his nose and a laceration on his forehead sticking his long black hair to his skin.
“Hi Andy. I’m going to help you as best I can. Can you tell me what happened?”
“I’m-” Andy paused, seeming to need a moment to think about it. “I’m not sure.”
TK tensed for a moment before shaking out any visual reaction to the information he was gathering. He had to be professional, and being professional meant keeping his patient calm at all costs. “That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
“Do you know if you lost consciousness at any point?”
“I don’t think so?”
TK pulled the edge of his bottom lip between his teeth, gnawing on it to ease his nerves. This wasn’t good. “Do you know where you are?”
“The middle of the road.” Well, he wasn’t wrong.
“Do you know what day it is?”
TK shook his head. “It’s Saturday.”
“Nice.” Andy cracked a small smile. “I love the weekend.”
TK fished his penlight out of his pocket and turned it on in one fluid motion. It was muscle memory, but it felt good to be back. He ran it over Andy’s eyes, his mind whirling as he processed what he was seeing.
Tensing up a little as he realised the severity of the seemingly insignificant head wound. “Pupils are irregular and response is delayed.”
“That’s bad isn’t it?” Andy asked, his voice climbing in pitch with what was undoubtedly fear. It was always fear.
“Don’t worry about that right now.” TK clicked off the light and held his penlight parallel with Andy’s face. “Can you follow my light?”
He watched Andy’s eyes trailing the sideways movement of the light carefully.
Clicking his tongue, TK slipped the penlight back into his pocket. “I can’t make a diagnosis here but you might have a concussion.”
“How bad is that?”
“Oh, it’s not gonna be pleasant. I just spent a month on medical leave for a concussion of my own. Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
TK nodded, suppressing a grimace as he tried to ignore the stabbing pain making itself known behind his right eye. Now really wasn’t the best time for a headache. “Ouch.”
“I’m going to slide my hands under you to check for any bleeding that I can’t see. Is that okay with you?”
Andy nodded slightly, his movement restricted by the collar. Clearly his probable concussion protested the attempted motion as Andy quickly let out a groan, squeezing his eyes shut.
“Yeah, that won’t be a good idea for a while,” TK hummed as he began sliding his gloved hands under Andy, watching carefully for the familiar smear of red that would let him figure out why Andy was getting so pale.
But there was no blood.
In any other instance, TK would be relieved to find no evidence of bleeding, but with the growing lack of colour in Andy’s skin and the way that TK confirmed with a single touch that his skin was also colder than it should be, there was no relief from the lack of a visible bleed. It was almost definitely internal and there wasn’t a lot that TK could do about that.
Sucking his teeth, TK mentally ran over his course of action. It didn’t involve a lot of steps so he could handle it on his own. There was no need to bring in the cavalry.
“Okay, I’m going to give you an IV,” TK said as he dug around in his med kit. “It won’t solve anything but it’ll make you feel a whole of a lot better.”
“That sounds good.”
TK had the bag of saline, the needle—he even triple-checked the gauge—, the catheter and a few alcohol pads laid out before him. This was an IV, he’d done it a million times, he could do it in his sleep.
That was until he tried to open the alcohol pad and couldn’t seem to get his fingers to cooperate. It was the button fiasco all over again. TK was starting to get really sick of this.
Brushing it off and deciding to blame the alcohol pad as faulty, TK quickly tried another. And another. And another.
The alcohol pads weren’t faulty, he was.
Taking a breath as he closed his eyes, TK willed his hands to stop shaking. This wasn’t the end of the world, he could handle it.
“Hey, Gillian, can you give me a hand?” TK called over his shoulder and tried to ignore how unsure his voice sounded.
“Sure!” She called back. It was only a few seconds before Nancy was kneeling on the other side of Andy, her own med kit with her. “What do you need?”
With a careful inhale, TK asked the question he knew was only going to raise a million more. “Can you run a line for me?”
Nancy looked like she wanted to ask, but she stayed silent and set up the IV with quick ease.
“Don’t worry about it,” Nancy said. TK could tell that she was trying to seem casual, but her voice was firm. This was going to find it’s way back to Tommy and she was going to bench him. So much for a good first say back. “I’m gonna go see if there’s an available gurney.”
“That'd be great, thanks Nancy,” TK said with an uneasy smile. He was grateful but he knew that once this interaction was over, he was going to be benched. Carlos would be called to come and pick him up from the station and he’d be back on medical leave for the foreseeable future.
Nancy left and TK turned back to Andy who was eyeing him curiously, his brown eyes seeming to trail after TK’s every movement.
“Are you alright?” TK asked, scanning Andy for any sign of an injury that he may have missed.
“Did you know that you’re really pretty?”
TK froze for a second, he probably looked like he was buffering. Concussed teenagers are one thing. Apparently concussed teens flirting with him were the same thing. TK had to consciously remind himself to reply to Andy instead of just kneeling there looking like a stunned mullet. “It has been said.”
“No, I mean like, so pretty.”
TK rocked back on his heels slightly, lifting his head to look in the direction of the rest of the crew. Silently begging Nancy to return. “Andy, I’m flattered, but you’re like twelve.”
“I’m fifteen,” Andy said.
“I rest my case. You’re a minor and I already have a boyfriend.”
“It’s not my lucky day, I guess.”
TK could help a smile as he shook his head, ignoring the low-level pounding in his making itself known. “No. No, it is not.”
As soon as Andy was unloaded from the ambulance and Nancy and Tommy followed his gurney inside the hospital, TK climbed into the passenger’s seat of the ambulance to wait for them.
His body was so heavy, he really couldn’t fathom staying on his feet any longer. He wasn’t used to all this work. Maybe diving back into the deep end wasn’t the best plan.
If he was still a firefighter, he’d have been put on light duty. He’d be working reception, checking inventory or cleaning all day but he’d be doing something. Light duty wasn’t much of a function when he was a paramedic.
This was the closest he could get, he didn’t get to drive or work on anything that wasn’t minor. And still, he was feeling the toll.
Curling in on himself, TK massaged his temples. Of course his head had to hurt.
TK could feel the pressure in his head climbing. The little sharp pains morphed into a constant throbbing as it got harder and harder to bear having his eyes open. It was only going to get worse from here.
But he just needed to hold it together for the rest of the day. Or until they could get back to the station.
If they got back he could sleep off the worst of it, or look pitiful enough for Tommy to send him home. He didn’t want to go home but he wanted to stop feeling like he couldn’t do his job.
He could hear the distinct sound of doors opening and closing as Tommy and Nancy returned but he didn’t look at them.
“Good work out there, team. It’s been too empty just as the two of us, it’s good to have you back, TK,” Tommy said as TK felt the ambulance start up with the familiar hum of the engine.
“It’s good to be back.”
Nancy had pulled out of the hospital and back onto the road by the time Tommy spoke again.
“Do you want to talk about the IV, TK?”
“Not really,” TK said. He knew what Tommy was going to say, he was bound to be benched.
“Just say the word and you can go home. No one is mad, or disappointed, or anything. If you need more time off, that’s okay.”
“No, no. I’m good.”
“The offer is always there if you feel the need to take it.”
TK let out a short laugh. It sounded kind of like he was being strangled. “I won’t, but okay.”
They lapsed into silence, the atmosphere suddenly having become so much more awkward.
After a few minutes and most of their journey back to the station the pressure in TK’s head decided to spike and suddenly everything was making a fresh wave of pain hit him.
Groaning softy, TK pinched the bridge of his nose and scrunched his eyes shut to block out the light. He really needed the throbbing in his head to ease up or at least not get worse before they got back to the station and he could down a few advil to take the edge off.
Over his recovery period he had gotten used to the pattern of his migraines, the way the pain would linger for an hour or two and steadily get worse until it skyrocketed and Carlos had to hold him while he sobbed and tried to ride out the pain. By that point there wasn’t much either of them could do except to make their way up to the bedroom and hope that TK could sleep it off.
He couldn’t begin to even imagine how many hours Carlos had spent sitting on the bed next to him in the dark, rubbing his hand soothingly across TK’s back, silently begging for the pain to stop. TK knew how much it killed Carlos to see him hurting, as well as how he’d kept quiet about it but he could never really hide these things from his boyfriend. Carlos’ eyes were so full of emotion, they were a dead giveaway every time.
It’d been almost a week and a half since he’d had a migraine, his neurologist even said it was a good indicator that he was on the tail end of his recovery. However, in usual TK Strand style, good things never lasted.
As he opened his eyes, TK had to suppress his urge to curse. Everything was like he was looking through an out of focus camera, the haziness only slight in the centre of his vision but his peripheral vision was barely decipherable.
The taillights of the car in front of them seemed to pulse in time with his heartbeat and the midday sun was making the simple act of keeping his eyes open borderline-unbearable as pain laced its way through his skull.
This was bad.
He closed his eyes and leant his head back until it collided softly with the seat. At least he was expecting the dizziness and nausea as they washed over him.
“You alright, Strand?” Nancy asked, undoubtedly having given him a quick once-over when he got quiet.
TK nodded, biting his tongue as he felt like he was going to regret having lunch. He tried to laugh it off, but the sound came out very weak and not at all as casual as he had hoped. “Yeah, just tired. I’m not used to being awake for so long without taking a nap.”
“Feel free to lie down for a bit when we get back to the station. I don’t want you overdoing it, you hear me?” Tommy chimed from her seat in the back.
“I’ll be fine, Cap. Just need to readjust to working life.”
TK could hear Tommy shift in her seat, probably so she was sure that he was listening to her. “You sustained a traumatic brain injury after getting kidnapped on the job, I think you’re entitled to as many naps on the clock as you can take.”
“I’ll be fine. I just want you to treat me like you would any other day. You guys got kidnapped too, I don’t need any special treatment.”
“You’re not special, we just don’t want to waste half an hour giving you a ride up to the ER because you overdid it and didn’t tell anyone,” Nancy said.
“I wouldn’t do that,” TK objected, not even bothering to open his eyes and give Nancy a displeased look.
He didn’t even have the energy to roll his eyes as his coworkers laughed.
Tommy was the first to speak, “sure, kid. Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
The laughter dissolved after a short while, Nancy and Tommy making amicable conversation as TK tried to hold himself together around every turn and slightly too-abrupt brake.
Eventually, he couldn’t take it anymore. It seemed like the fire station was further away than it had ever been before, he wasn’t going to make it until then.
Taking a deep breath, in through his nose and out through his mouth, he couldn’t quell the nausea.
“Nancy, pull over,” he groaned.
“I’m not going to pull over, TK. We’re almost at the station.”
“Nancy Gillian, I swear to god, pull this ambulance over.”
Nancy gave in, probably noticing the serious edge to TK’s voice or probably the fact that he had undoubtedly gone very pale in the passenger’s seat. “Okay, okay. Pulling over now.”
TK couldn’t fly out the door any faster once the ambulance came to a halt. He knew that Nancy and Tommy had a million questions that he wasn’t answering, but he was too preoccupied sinking to his knees and throwing up in the gutter.
This wasn’t going to go down in history as one of TK Strand’s finest moments, that’s for sure.
He didn’t notice anything aside from the throbbing in his head and the sting of bile in his throat until there was a hand rubbing his back. It was Nancy, he knew that without her even saying anything. Her cherry scented shampoo, although usually pleasant, made his stomach twist.
“‘M sorry,” TK whined as he took a moment to catch his breath before the nausea came back with a vengeance and he was once again emptying his guts.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I don’t feel good.”
“No, I bet you don’t.” That was Tommy. She had a very soothing energy that would usually make him feel better but he was too preoccupied retching and only now noticing how much he was shaking.
“I’m-” TK drew in a trembling breath. “I’m fine.”
“Sure you are.”
“It’s just,” TK waved a hand in the vague direction of his head, “concussion.”
Tommy was running her hand through his hair now, like his mother always used to do when he was sick as a kid, it was a very comforting gesture. He was going to die with the secret that her comfort made him want to cry, ignoring the fact that he definitely already wanted to cry. “Yeah, I think you’re gonna need some more time off.”
He could almost hear Nancy rolling her eyes. “Yeah, Bud, I don’t think you have a choice in the matter.”
“If this stays between us I don’t have to go back on medical leave.”
Nancy scoffed. “This can stay between us if you can stand up and walk back to the ambulance on your own.”
“That’s easy. I can do that.”
“Go for gold, kid,” Tommy said as she retracted her steadying hold on him. TK didn’t quite realise how little of a part he was playing in keeping himself upright until that moment.
Steeling himself with a deep breath and wiping his sweaty palms on his pants, TK rocked back onto his heels, ready to push himself onto his feet.
And careened backwards almost instantly, a head rush rolling over him.
TK would never be able to express his gratitude for Tommy and Nancy catching him in that moment. He leant heavily on Tommy as he closed his eyes willing everything to stop spinning. The earth wasn’t supposed to tilt like this.
Nancy gave TK a gentle pat on his back. “Yeah, you’re going back on medical leave.”
She was just met with a groan, TK couldn’t find the energy to argue, and he was almost certain that if he opened his mouth he’d be sick again.
“Do you want to ride in the gurney back to the station?” Tommy asked softly, brushing his sweaty hair away from where it clung to his forehead.
“Please, no,” he whimpered, resting his head fully on Tommy’s shoulder. He was never going to live this down.
“Hey, champ. Just sit tight and we’ll give you a hand.”
TK waved her off. “No- No, I’m good.”
Ignoring how much he fumbled, TK eventually managed to wrestle his way out of his seatbelt and opened the door. He ended up bracing himself almost entirely on the doorframe as he struggled to his feet and tried to step down.
His foot missed its purchase and he was falling for a moment or two, his brain didn’t even realise it was happening until Tommy and Nancy appeared seemingly out of nowhere to catch him.
“Easy there,” Tommy said as TK relinquished his part in holding himself up. His legs felt like the bones had been stripped from them at this point, he had no hope of bearing his own weight.
TK couldn’t help the whine he let out at the sound of Judd’s voice. “Whoa, what happened?”
“Can you guys help get him to the couch?” Tommy asked, dodging the question as she slung one of TK’s arms over her shoulders.
Judd’s arm looped around TK’s torso should have made him feel better and more supporter but he could only let out a pitiful groan as every slight shift made the room spin.
“Don’t worry, we gotcha.”
“I don’t,” TK grumbled as he let himself be dragged around until he was settled down onto something soft. He knew that it was a long enough walk from the ambulance bay to the common area or the bunk room for TK to know they had definitely gained the attention of most of the firehouse at this point.
“You’re looking very green, kid.”
As much as TK appreciated Judd’s concern and assistance getting to wherever he was currently situated - he couldn’t find the will to open his eyes to the bright lights of the station - but the signature deep Southern drawl was grating against his eardrums.
“He looked greener when he abandoned his guts in the middle of the street,” Nancy chimed. It was a very snarky statement but her words had no bite. TK imagined that this was probably how she had spoken to him on the night of the kidnapping when he was freshly concussed. He honestly couldn’t recall anything more than a few flashes from that night.
“He’s shakin’ like a leaf.”
“Yeah.” That was Paul’s voice now, coming from somewhere behind or to the side of TK. He wasn’t entirely sure anymore. “Shouldn’t he go to the hospital? This doesn’t look good at all.”
TK could almost see Tommy shrug. “If he doesn’t improve with some rest, or gets worse, there’s a ride to the ER with his name on it.”
“No,” TK groaned. “No hospitals.”
“Bud, I love ya, but this looks pretty bad.”
The voices were beginning to get harder to tell apart, everyone’s words blending together into one big indecipherable mess by the time they reached TK’s ears but he knew that was Judd.
TK stiffened as his stomach lurched. He opened his mouth to speak but a small trash can was swiftly shoved into his arms just in time for him to throw up yet again. He whimpered between heaves of what was just bile at this point, his insides cramping painfully.
“Carlos is on his way.”
Was everyone here? TK assumed his dad would be there considering he was puking his guts out on his first day back, but there were already too many other people seeing him in his current state. The idea of Carlos coming, however, made TK feel a lot better.
He’d probably feel bad about interrupting Carlos’ time with his family later but right now, all TK cared about was having Carlos next to him again.
He didn’t even realise he was crying until someone was wiping his tears away. It was that gesture that prompted TK to open his eyes. To near-complete darkness.
It only took him a few seconds to piece together that he was in the bunk room surrounded by his colleagues while he held onto a rubbish bin with a white-knuckle grip. As if on cue, he folded over the edge of the bin again and retched while someone continued rubbing his back.
The hand was definitely bigger than Tommy or Nancy’s, so maybe it was Judd? Or Paul? TK didn’t particularly care at this point. He was just glad that he wasn’t alone.
Every time he managed to lift his head for more than a minute at a time, Tommy was right there with a glass of water, trying to coerce him into drinking some of it.
“You need to drink something,” Tommy said firmly as she once again put the glass in his face.
Even the idea of drinking water made TK’s insides twist, he didn’t particularly feel like throwing up cold water anytime soon. “No thanks.”
“I wasn’t asking. You’re going to drink this water or you’re going to get an IV.”
“An IV sounds great.”
“Drink the water, TK.”
He didn’t have the energy to fight her so he slowly sipped the water while Tommy held the edge of the glass to his lips.
The feeling of cold water on his irritated throat was better than he’d ever admit, but he only got a few seconds of relief before he pushed the glass away and the water came back up.
“Yeah, this has ‘hospital’ written all over it,” Tommy said.
“No hospital,” TK groaned, trying to glare at Tommy through the tears gathered in his eyes. “Need Carlos.”
“I’m here.” There were hurried footsteps and a familiar presence slotting in next to TK as arms wrapped around him. TK could cry. He buried his face in Carlos’ shoulder while Carlos ran his hand between TK’s shoulder blades. “I’m here, baby.”
TK couldn’t help the fresh wave of tears that soaked into Carlos’ shirt. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too. How are you feeling?”
“Bad. Awful. I left the thesaurus at home.”
“You’re doing great.”
“Sorry for ruining lunch,” TK mumbled into Carlos’ shoulder, his voice muffled by the fabric.
Carlos brought a hand up to play with TK’s hair at that. “Shh, no. You didn’t ruin anything. We’re all just very worried about you and want you to feel better.”
“I wanna feel better.”
“I know, baby.”
“You have nothing to apologise for. Everyone understands,” Carlos said as he pressed a kiss to the top of TK’s head. “Are you going to let Tommy take you to the hospital now?”
TK just whined and clung tighter to Carlos. He didn’t want to let go.
“I’m not gonna leave. I’m going to be right next to you the entire time,” Carlos promised, pressing a few more soft kisses to TK’s hair.
“Is that my cue to get the gurney?”
TK wasn’t entirely sure who spoke but he just sighed and nodded into Carlos’ shirt.
“Yeah, that’d be great.” TK could only imagine the smile Carlos was giving, he could hear it in his boyfriend’s voice.
Being with Carlos brought him comfort and he was so exhausted from the toll this episode had taken on his body that he was content to just rest his entire weight against Carlos.
Carlos accepted his presence entirely. He ran his palm along TK’s spine in a comforting gesture. TK could almost fall asleep there if he didn’t feel so awful.
He had no idea how much time had elapsed by the time something changed. Everyone was pretty silent for the most part, aside from the occasional clicking of the door opening and closing as people came and went.
And then he felt the shift. Like a tectonic plate moving underfoot, the exhaustion morphed into a sensation he was all too familiar with.
Something bad was about to happen.
TK rested his palm on his chest, right over where he could feel his heart racing as it got harder to draw in a deep breath. That wasn’t a usual symptom when his head was acting up. “Ooh, I feel weird.”
Carlos stiffened under him at that. “What do you mean?”
He looked over at where Marjan and Paul were pretending not to be looking over at him every few seconds, only to realise he couldn’t really see them all that clearly. “I kinda feel like I’m about to have a panic attack, but my vision is going weird. That doesn’t usually happen.
“Are you okay? Do I need to get Captain Vega?”
“I think-” TK’s sentence was cut off as he paused to take a breath, willing away the dizziness that had made a spectacular comeback. “I need to lie down.”
“Alright, okay,” Carlo said, helping to ease TK down until he was lying on his side and Carlos could run a hand through his hair. “Just hang tight and we’ll see what Captain Vega says, okay?” Carlos asked in a soft voice, running his hand through TK’s hair.
TK nodded, “Okay.”
As quickly as things had gotten weird, they got weirder. There was another wave of dizziness and a weird taste in his mouth as his body seemed to have a mind of its own. There were a couple involuntary jerks of his hands and legs, as much as TK tried to hold his limbs still it just seemed to get worse.
“Tommy!” Carlos called, his voice cracking.
“Go get Tommy,” someone said before there was another set of hands touching him and the sound of panicked footsteps moving further away. When they spoke again TK could identify the voice as being his father’s. “TK? TK, can you hear me?”
TK wanted to nod, to confirm that he could hear them, that he didn’t know what was happening.
He was scared.
TK could feel himself slipping as the jerking got worse. He wanted to tell Carlos not to worry but he wasn’t in control anymore. His jaw clenched firm as his head jolted back a few times. He was shaking now, like he’d been electrocuted, and Carlos was looking more and more scared with each passing second.
“Shit.” Tommy’s voice reached his ears ripe with alarm as TK felt even more hands on him. “He’s seizing!”
And TK slipped.
The darkness was only brief, in what seemed like just a few moments he was blinking up at Carlos again. As if he’d fallen asleep for a minute or two.
“Hey there,” Carlos said with a soft smile. Looking up at his boyfriend, TK could clearly see the tears gathered in Carlos’ wide, worried eyes.
“Hi,” TK breathed as he pieced together all he could remember. There was a gap between lying down and talking to Carlos and waking up in the same place that he wasn’t entirely sure of. It was a void. All he knew was that his head definitely hurt more now, but everyone aside from Tommy and Carlos had cleared the room. “What happened?”
“You had a seizure.” That was definitely Tommy speaking, even though TK couldn’t see her. She was somewhere out of his line of sight and he was too preoccupied with studying Carlos’ worried expression to look away. It definitely made a lot more sense now why Carlos downright terrified.
It also made sense why no one else was around. Tommy would have known that he didn’t want anyone gawking at him when he came to. “Thanks.”
“For?” Tommy asked.
“Sending everyone out.”
“Don’t worry about it. I figured you didn’t need anyone other than me or your boy right now.” Tommy gave TK’s thigh a pat before leaving his side. “I’m going to go see if Nancy’s got the gurney sorted, okay?”
TK just hummed as Tommy walked away. He didn’t particularly care much about what was going on, he just reached out for Carlos until he could curl his finger around his boyfriend’s wrist.
“Are you okay?” he asked in a soft voice, not failing to notice the way Carlos jumped a little.
“What do you mean?” Carlos’ eyebrows knit together in confusion as he visibly tried to decode those three words, as if he was going to come up with a reason he could understand for why TK would ask him that. “I’m fine. I should be asking you that.”
“You’re scared, I can tell.”
“Of course I’m scared. You don’t have to worry about me, though.”
“I’m still going to worry, I care about you.”
“Care about yourself for once. You just had a seizure!” Carlos’ voice cracked on the last word as he covered his mouth with his free hand. He was crying. TK couldn’t see it but he knew. He could feel the way Carlos trembled and hear how his breaths were rough and staggered as he tried to swallow his sobs.
“I know. But I’m gonna go to the hospital and they’re gonna fix me up, you don’t have to worry. I don’t even feel that bad anymore, I’m just really tired and my head hurts. I just wanna make sure you’re okay, ‘Los.”
He heard Carlos take another deep, steadying breath before a familiar hand found its way into his hair. “TK-” he started, voice moderately steadier than before, but he was interrupted by the arrival of TK’s team and the gurney.
“Up you go, Strand,” Tommy instructed lightly as Carlos shifted gears, pulling the hand out of his hair and instead reaching around to help him up.
“I don’t need help,” TK objected as he slowly eased himself to his feet, bracing his entire weight on Carlos as his boyfriend helped to lift him.
“Yeah, you do. It’s okay,” Tommy said as she grabbed his legs and moved them so that they were on the gurney with him. “No one is mad at you.”
“I never said that.”
Carlos pressed a careful kiss to TK’s temple before brushing a hand through his boyfriend’s sweaty hair as he placed the other on TK’s side. “You were thinking it.”
“I’m getting déjà vu,” TK groaned. This situation of his worried boyfriend hovering over him while his head was unbearably painful was beginning to be a recurring event in his life.
“I think they call that nausea and dehydration,” Carlos offered, a small smile curling up the corner of his lips.
TK closed his eyes and sighed. “I hate you.”
“Why? I’m lovely.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” TK mumbled as he tried to suppress a groan at the jostling motion the gurney made as he was loaded into the ambulance. Carlos was quick to follow him though, eagerly scooping up TK’s hand in his own.
"I'm dying," TK grumbled, his face buried in his pillow. He’d been trying to fall asleep for the past however many hours he’d been cooped up in the ER. But everything was too bright, too loud, and his head hurt so badly. Every squeak of sneakers or beep from his IV pump seemed to serve only to exacerbate his pain. He was even cooped up under a spare blanket and Carlos’ jacket as his sweat was just making him colder in the frigid hospital air.
TK could tell by Carlos’ silence that he was trying to suppress a laugh before he said anything. "You're not dying, babe."
"If I'm not dying, why does my head hurt so bad?"
"Because you're an idiot who doesn’t tell anyone when he’s struggling."
TK just groaned in response. "I don't think this level of pain should be legal."
"Unfortunately, I don't think I can arrest your brain."
"Then what's the point of having a cop boyfriend?”
“I’m not sure. Personally, I choose to date endearing idiots who are determined to give me grey hair.”
TK just huffed and shot his boyfriend a glare. “You suck.”
Their banter dissolved into silence. TK knew Carlos was trying to stay as quiet as possible, that any sound would aggravate TK’s pain, and he was grateful for that.
"My head hurts," TK whimpered, reaching out clumsily until his fingers connected with Carlos' arm. His grip wasn't firm, but he pulled Carlos closer anyways, as if his boyfriend wasn't mere inches away at most times and always eager to be closer.
Carlos ran his fingers through TK's hair, carefully so as to not jostle his head. "I know sweetheart, I'm sorry."
In a flash, the nausea came rolling back with a vengeance and TK only had a few seconds to prop himself up on his elbows.
Carlos was quick to shove an emesis bag under TK’s face as he shuddered under the force of his body dry heaving until he had to taste his own bile for what seemed like the millionth time that day.
When TK finally rolled back onto the bed, panting from the toll the day had taken on his body, Carlos gagged. “That’s disgusting. You’re lucky you’re cute.”
“Give me a break.” TK grumbled, rubbing his eye with the heel of his palm. He was exhausted and he just wanted everything to be over. “I’m in the hospital.”
“This chain of events was entirely your fault, you don’t get pity.”
“I deserve pity.”
“Maybe you do.”
“I want to take a shower, I’m all sweaty and gross.”
“You can when we get home.” Carlos said, taking TK’s hand in his own, careful not to mess with the IV as he pressed a few short kisses to TK’s knuckles. “Unfortunately that’s going to be a little while away. They’re probably going to want to do a bunch of scans.”
TK groaned, rolling towards Carlos until his face was buried in the thin hospital pillow. “I hate scans.”
“I know, baby.” Carlos tapped his fingers on the railing of the bed a few times before he spoke again. “You know they’re necessary though.”
“I don’t care. They suck.”
“Just try and get some sleep, okay? I’ll wake you up when the doctor gets here.”
TK went to nod but thought better of it. Instead he sighed and sank further into the pillow, “I’m sorry.”
Though TK couldn’t see him he could practically hear the frown in Carlos’s voice. “Sorry?” he asked, “For what?”
“For worrying you,” TK started, “for not being able to make it through a day at work. For not being able to do anything. For being useless.”
“Hey,” Carlos responded firmly, “You are not useless. You are hurt and still recovering. None of this is your fault TK, none of it.”
“Still,” TK pressed on, “you shouldn’t have to deal with this.”
“And niether should you, but here we are. We’re in this together babe, no matter what.”
TK lifted his head off of the pillow to look at Carlos who was giving him a soft smile. He looked so hopeful TK could hardly stand it, but he appreciated it all the same. “I think I love you,” he said wearily before plopping his head back into the pillow, the sounds of Carlos’s fond chuckle chasing him.
“Well I know I love you,” Carlos assured him, rubbing a comforting hand down his back. “And I’m not going anywhere.”
The resident tapped the end of his pen on his clipboard before looking back up at TK. "This could just be post-concussion syndrome but I'm going to page your neurologist given your medical history to see how she thinks your treatment should go."
Carlos looked confused as he turned to the doctor. "What would his medical history have to do with it?"
TK sighed. He’d had this conversation with his neurologist a month ago. The risk of this concussion exacerbating any symptoms from previous injuries that could have had an affect on his brain. "Overdoses. Getting shot. They're worried about permanent brain damage."
“That sounds serious. Why haven’t you brought that up before?”
TK shrugged. “I thought we’d cross that bridge if and when we got to it. No use worrying you about something that no one can control.”
“I’m going to order a CT scan and see whether or not your neurologist wants more tests when she gets here,” the doctor explained before heading back into the main body of the ER.
One CT scan became an MRI, and many more tests and scans. After many hours it was determined that no, TK’s condition hadn’t worsened. It just hadn’t gotten better.
His neurologist had determined that it was likely post-concussion syndrome and discharged him with a few referrals and a prescription for a bunch of new medication that would hopefully ease his symptoms.
Carlos offered him a soft and reassuring smile as he pulled a hoodie over TK’s head.
TK didn’t even bother to put his arms in the sleeves as he gave Carlos a pout. “I want to go home.”
TK was used to Carlos’ sixth sense at this point. He should have expected that Carlos would hear him sniffle from all the way downstairs and race up to check on him.
Before TK could even get his thoughts in order, his face was sandwiched between Carlos’ hands as thumbs wiped the tears from his cheeks. He loved Carlos’ eyes, he loved getting lost in their depth, but he didn’t love the way they only ever seemed to look at him with worry nowadays.
“What’s wrong? What hurts?” Carlos asked in a soft voice. He was worried. He always was.
TK closed his eyes and let a few more tears slip free as he drew in a shaky breath. “My head.”
“Get back in bed, sweetheart.”
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“Do what, TK?”
“This,” TK said, gesturing towards his head. “It’s been five months and it’s not getting any better. I’m sick of being in pain all the time, I’m sick of not being able to work, I’m sick of being a burden on you.”
“Hey,” Carlos breathed, tilting TK’s head up so they were looking at each other. “You’re not a burden. You’re never a burden.”
“I keep making you cancel plans to take care of me. We don’t do anything anymore, you just look at me like I’m going to fall apart if there’s a loud noise or if i go from a dark room into a bright one. Just because my life is ruined, it doesn’t mean that yours has to be too.”
“I’m sorry that I’ve made you feel like this, but I promise you that I’m never going to want to be anywhere as much as I always want to be by your side. I love you, TK. I don’t care how long this recovery process takes, I’m not going to love you any less.”
“Maybe you should.”
“Never,” Carlos said firmly. “I’m always going to be here to love you. I’m gonna go downstairs and bring up your meds and something to eat, then we can spend the day in bed and try the date tomorrow if you’re up to it.”
TK nodded. “Tomorrow.”
Carlos pressed a kiss to TK’s temple before disappearing back downstairs.
When he returned, Carlos handed TK a handful of assorted pills and a smoothie before sliding under the covers and wrapping his arm around TK’s waist.
“You know I love you, right?”
“You mean the world to me and I’ll never let you forget that.”
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look after you || a buddie fic
❄️ @911giftexchange fic for @bombera
hey, tori! i'm wishing you the happiest of holidays! this year has truly been one for the books so i hope this fic will help to end 2020 on a good note for you! it kinda ran away from me but i hope you’ll enjoy! ❄️
word count: 4.7k || read on ao3
You've begun to feel like home, yeah
What's mine is yours to leave or take
What's mine is yours to make your own
Infamously December is known to be a hectic month but now, with just a little over two weeks until Christmas, Eddie is feeling the pressure. His work schedule leaves little to no time for him to prepare for the holiday season, time slipping through his fingers with such ease that it had come as a surprise to see just how close he and the rest of the world were getting to the big day.
His concern was bad enough but this last week his mind has been additionally preoccupied with worrying over his son who is the latest person to come down with the bug that’s running rampant. If he isn’t at work, he’s right by Chris’ side, doting over him and doing his best to insure his comfort.
Throughout it all he has had Buck, his best friend and confidant, a man he can share virtually any thought with. All, really, but one. Eddie groans internally. His unspoken feelings for Buck are the last thing he needs to dwell on now. But the thought is far easier to think than put into practice with Buck sharing this space with him. Even on his day off Buck opts to spend time at the Diaz house, an additional set of hands that Eddie is beyond grateful for at such a time. Buck has long since been a staple in his home and now, more than ever, he’s grateful for his companionship and help to keep him from going under. Buck seems to understand him in ways very few can, sensing his needs and thoughts without a single word uttered.
He can feel Buck’s eyes on him as he pops two slices of bread into the toaster but he focuses on his task, doing his best to keep his head on straight though his mind is a riot of thoughts.
Eddie massages the back of his neck to relieve some tension, stretching it a bit as he draws in a breath.
“Alright, what’s going with you?” Buck asks.
Eddie turns back to face him and shrugs. “It’s nothing. I’m just trying to figure out a game plan. I still have to finish holiday shopping but you’ve seen our schedule for the next two weeks. We’re practically going to be living at the station.”
“But we have today off and it’s only noon. That’s plenty of time for you to head out there while I stay here with little man. See? Simple solution.”
“It’s your day off. I couldn’t do that.”
“I can watch him, it’s not a problem,” Buck insists.
Eddie hesitates. It’s a great offer, one that would quickly remedy his dilemma. “I don’t know, Buck. It’s a big ask. It’s short notice and he’s sick.”
“It’s not a big ask. It’s not even an ask at all; I’m volunteering. And besides,” Buck says, puffing up his chest. “Buckleys don’t catch colds.”
Eddie’s mouth twists to one side in thought. Today really is the one true window of time he’ll have and it’ll certainly be easier to stealthily buy Chris’ presents without his observant son being able to see what he’s purchasing. Resigned, Eddie nods slowly, knowing this is the best offer he could possibly have.
“Alright, yeah, okay. I’ll try and hurry back but still, I know it’ll be a few hours until I’ll be back home.”
Buck rolls his eyes. “Would you relax? Take all the time you need, seriously. Chris and I always have a blast together. We’ll be just fine. I promise.”
“No, I know he’s good with you. I just…”
“Suck at accepting help, yes, I know,” Buck teases, patting him on the shoulder with one hand and gesturing towards the front of the house with the other.
“Go. I’m officially kicking you out. Don’t forget to get me something nice, yeah?”
Eddie returns home with a trunk full of presents after a very successful trip to the mall. He’s managed to get for everyone on his list and the relief he feels in having this task officially scratched off his to-do list is a major weight off his shoulders. He carries a few bags in with him to the house. From the moment he steps inside he can hear the raucous laughter of Christopher and Buck coming from the living room, his son breaking into a small coughing fit afterwards.
Eddie stashes his purchases into the closet, hiding the bags under his jacket in a feeble attempt to bury it for the time being. Buck and Chris carry on chatting and Eddie is certain that neither of them realizes he’s gotten back, so wrapped up they are in their conversation.
“Maybe we could go to New York like Kevin next year for Christmas? Me, you, and Dad.”
Eddie feels his body tense and he stays in place, curious as to what Buck’s response will be.
Eddie could easily picture it, the three of them taking on the city. The images that flood his mind teem with warmth and joy and sincerely, Eddie would love nothing more than to wrap himself in that. But a trip that elaborate wouldn’t be a casual thing between friends, at least not for him. It’s one thing to have Buck over at his place or for them to go on outings around LA with Chris on weekends. A Christmas getaway would carry far more weight. It’s something that families do. Something twinges a bit in Eddie’s chest at the thought. Somewhere along the way, without Eddie even fully realizing it had solidified itself, that’s precisely what Buck has become to him, and apparently Chris too.
“Now there’s an idea. I would love to go with you guys. Sure you wouldn’t mind me tagging along?”
Chris is quick to respond, casting away any trace of doubt. “Nope, the trip wouldn’t be the same without you.”
Eddie can hear Buck sigh. It’s clear just how touched his best friend is by Chris’ sentiment and Eddie would have to agree with his son. Any trip, any facet of life really, is so much better when Buck is thrown into the mix. He’s so interwoven into the fabric of their life, it’d be hard to picture any moment, big or small, without him there experiencing it with them.
“See, this is why you’re my favorite Diaz. Don’t tell your dad I said that though. It may break his old man heart,” Buck laughs, Chris joining in.
This melody is Eddie’s favorite sound, the lightheartedness of his two favorite guys sharing a private joke. It’s the little things like this that light him up, that fill him with a warmth so vibrant and strong that it takes every ounce of strength in him not to sit Buck down one day and have a serious conversation. But Eddie has never been good with words and in a case like this, for a topic this important, he knows a talk like that would be best handled with care. Whenever, or rather if ever, that day comes, Eddie hopes he’ll be prepared to handle it. Instead he’ll stick to this, to cloaking his feelings for the sake of keeping the scales balanced.
“With laughs that big I’m guessing someone is feeling better?” he says aloud, essentially announcing his presence.
He steps into the living room and sees the space has been transformed. A giant fort is set up in the center of the room and at the mouth of it is Buck and Chris stretched out side by side on pillows from the couch and Chris’ bed. It looks like the coziest of setups and Eddie isn’t at all surprised to see that Buck got creative in trying to make Chris as comfortable as possible.
Chris slaps on an innocent smile but Buck apparently has a harder time schooling his features.
“Eddie, you’re back. I didn’t even hear you come in,” he says, picking up the remote.
The end credits for Home Alone 2 flit by on screen. Buck hits pause as Chris reaches for the DVD of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
“Can we watch this one next?” he asks Buck who’s already nodding.
“Oh, definitely. This is one of my all-time favorites. How about I get you another bowl of soup and then we can fire this one up. Sound good?”
Chris gives him a two thumbs up and flops back against the pillows, plucking a tissue out of the box and wiping at his nose. Eddie frowns seeing his son so sick but the best he can do is continue supplying him with medicine and fluids to help him through it.
Buck carefully climbs out of the fort and walks over to Eddie, the two of them going into the kitchen.
“How’d your shopping go?” Buck asks as he opens the fridge and takes out a container.
“Really well. I managed to get stuff for everyone on my list, including a certain pest I know,” he jokes the second Buck opens his mouth, no doubt to check about the status of his own gift.
“Well, I’m glad you have your priorities in order then, thank you.”
A comfortable silence falls between them as Buck moves around the kitchen and Eddie is struck, not for the first time since befriending Buck, at how comfortable his friend is inside of his home. That’s all Eddie could have ever wanted. Buck moves with such assurance taking a bowl down from the cupboard, pulling a spoon out of a drawer, knowing exactly where everything is without hesitation or having to ask. It warms his heart to see this, to know that Buck must feel comfortable here, that this could somehow be home.
“Thanks again for watching Chris for me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it,” he says as Buck pops the now filled bowl into the microwave.
“Don’t mention it. I love hanging out with him and if I can help you in any way, I will. Always.”
Buck holds his gaze and for a moment, Eddie thinks he’ll say more. There’s something in his expression that looks as if he’s trying to communicate something wordlessly but far too soon, the moment passes and shortly after the microwave beeping breaks the silence between them. Buck smiles softly before turning away but Eddie keeps his eyes trained on his back, getting lost in his thoughts.
Maybe this is all in his head or perhaps an unhealthy amount of wishful thinking is at play but lately something has felt different between them, as if there’s something going unspoken.
Buck gets a tray and puts the bowl on top of it, carefully picking it up from the countertop.
“I can bring it to him,” Eddie says, gesturing to take the tray. “You can get out of here, if you want. You should enjoy what’s left of your day off.”
Buck rolls his eyes as he side steps and laughs. “That’s exactly what I’m doing now. Didn’t you hear? It’s Charlie Brown time. No way in hell am I missing him or that tree.”
Eddie smiles softly and shakes his head. He opens his mouth to say something but falls short on words. Buck seems to understand regardless as he smiles back and nods.
“I know,” he says simply. Eddie wants so desperately to ask what exactly it is that Buck knows, what he feels but he lets the matter go for now.
This right here is more than enough, he reasons. To have Buck look at him and comprehend even a fraction of his gratitude.
Eddie knows he worries too much but watching Buck throughout their busy morning and early afternoon with back to back calls, he can’t help but to feel a little troubled over Buck’s slower pace and quieter nature. Usually he could be counted on to be the most energized and talkative during calls but today he’s so much more subdued and it feels like a real cause for concern.
“You okay?” Eddie asks, searching Buck’s face as they wash their hands in the bathroom to prep for lunch.
“Yeah, I just need some food in me and I’ll be good to go.”
Buck smiles reassuringly but Eddie isn’t convinced. Nonetheless he follows Buck up to the loft where the rest of the crew is already gathered around the table. Eddie takes a seat beside Hen who sits across from Chimney, the two already engaged in conversation.
This leaves Eddie the coveted spot of sitting opposite Buck.
Buck settles in at the table beside Chimney, placing a hand against his throat as he clears it before he reaches to the center of the table to start fixing his plate. Eddie watches him curiously as he’s done all day, noting the way Buck seems to be moving a bit slower than usual, the man’s eyes trained in focus on the simple task of putting food on his plate.
Eddie wonders if he’s reading too much into Buck’s body language but given how well he knows his friend, he feels safe in his assumption that Buck is off today because he’s sick and putting forth his best efforts to disguise this fact. Out in the field it was easy to attribute Buck’s pace to the amount of work the team had to put into their calls but now, with everyone finally able to unwind and catch their breath, Buck still looks put out.
“Buck, you’re really hot,” Chimney says as Buck’s arm grazes his. Eddie purses his lips, his suspicion confirmed easily.
Buck flashes a smile and a wink. “Tell me something I don’t know. But I don’t think Maddie would take it well to know you’re hitting on her brother.”
Chim smacks his hand against his forehead and shakes his head.
“You’re no match for your sister, I can tell you that right now, but that’s not what I meant. Seriously, don’t you feel warm?”
Buck shakes his head. “No. It’s actually kind of cold in here, isn’t it?”
Hen pushes back from the table across from him, putting a hand over her mouth and nose.
“Nope, you’ve got to go. Cap, this bug is making the rounds quick. I swear half of Denny’s class is out with it.”
Bobby rises from his seat and walks over to Buck, placing a hand on his forehead. Buck looks like a grumpy child as his bottom lip pokes out slightly.
“Jeez, Buck. You’re like a furnace. I’m afraid I have to send you home.”
“But, Cap!” Buck tries to protest but Bobby shakes his head and holds up a hand to stop any more objections.
“That’s an order. And here are some more for you: drink lots of fluids, get in bed, and stay there. Be sure to get a ton of rest until this fever breaks. I know you want to stay on and help but you’re going to sideline the whole team if we don’t do this. Sorry, Buck.”
Buck sighs defeatedly and pushes back in his seat, rising to his feet. The crew murmurs their get well soon wishes to Buck as he heads toward the stairs and Eddie’s heart sinks to the pit of his stomach knowing how and why Buck is sick in the first place. He rises from his seat, quickly wiping at his mouth with a napkin before following him to the locker room.
Eddie stays quiet at the door as Buck gets his locker open and takes out his bag.
“So much for Buckleys don’t get sick, huh?” Buck says with a sigh, sitting down on the bench.
Eddie steps further into the room and sits beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder and giving it a light squeeze. He’s surprised when Buck’s hand comes to rest over his. Buck’s hand is warm and Eddie relishes in his touch but too soon, the feeling is gone; Buck quickly lets go and clears his throat, shifting his attention to his bag. Eddie’s hand falls limply into his lap.
“This one’s on me. I’ll stop by after work and check on you, okay?” he ventures.
“You don’t have to. I’ll be alright.”
“Maybe so but I’d feel a hell of a lot better seeing that for myself. I can drop you home now, if you want. I’m sure Bobby would let me run off for a bit.”
Buck smiles softly and shakes his head. “You’re a good friend, Eddie, but I can manage the trip home. I promise I’ll follow Dr. Nash’s orders to the letter. I’ll be back on my feet in no time, just you wait and see.”
It’s been two days and Buck’s fever has been making its presence known; it’s Chris’ symptoms all over again but Eddie is ready for it, already having placed a call to his grandmother for even more of her miracle soup. Eddie’s been anxious at work, keeping his phone within reach at all times just waiting to get replies from Buck when he checks in. Some messages are more coherent than others but overall it seems as if Buck is hanging in there as much as can be expected.
Eddie’s certain that what his friend needs now is his grandmother’s home-cooking to really send Buck’s ailment packing. It’s to her house he heads straight to after his shift, his thoughts resting heavily on Buck’s recovery.
“Abuela?” Eddie calls out as he locks back the front door of her home.
Eddie follows her voice to the kitchen where he finds his grandmother ladling her soup into Tupperware, the remnants of vegetables and spices on the counter.
He greets her with a kiss on each cheek, taking a set back so she can continue filling the container she’s halfway done with.
“Thanks for doing this...again,” he muses. “One day I swear I’ll learn how to make this stuff.”
She gives him a doubtful look but smiles. “I don’t mind making it for you and your boys.”
Eddie eyes her for a moment, taking note of the implication of her wording. Unsure of how or even if he should call attention to it, Eddie switches gears a bit.
“I’m sure Buck is going to appreciate it. This soup was practically magic for Chris. Buck is chomping at the bit to get back to the station. This is just the thing to get him there again soon.”
His grandmother sets the ladle down and secures the lid on the container, double checking that it’s properly sealed.
“And I’m sure you’re eager for him to get back, too.”
Eddie is brought up short by this, his brows furrowing in thought. Isabel Diaz is as formidable a woman as ever and is always far too good at reading things that weren’t spoken with Eddie. In a case like this, it only makes him feel on edge rather than comforted.
“What are you getting at?”
Isabel shrugs her shoulders but despite how nonchalant the gesture is, Eddie knows there must be more to her thoughts than she’s letting on just then.
“Nothing. Nothing at all. Buck is your best friend, no? I would think it’d make sense that you’d want your partner back.”
Eddie can feel heat rising in his face and quickly turns to the pantry, opening the door to it and taking a tote bag off one of the shelves, taking advantage of the brief moment of reprieve to pull himself together.
Eddie returns to her side and begins packing away the various containers. His grandmother is nothing if not efficient and thorough. These batches will be enough to get Buck through the week.
Eddie stays quiet while he works but just as he’s putting away the last container, she places a hand on his arm, stilling him.
He turns his head slightly to look at her, not quite meeting her eye. She takes it as the invitation it is to say whatever is on her mind.
“He’s lucky to have a friend like you,” she says softly, as if in thought.
“I’m the lucky one here, believe me. Buck’s always a huge help. At work, around the house, with Chris. This is the least I could do.”
It’s only then that Eddie looks at his grandmother fully and the knowing smile on her face is so comforting that Eddie feels the tension in his body melt away.
“People like that are hard to find in life. Be sure to hold on the good ones for however long you can.”
Visits to Buck’s after work have become the norm all week and with each trip, Eddie feels more assured that Buck will be better in no time. Today’s check in brings on a sense of déjà vu. In Buck’s living room now is a replica of the fort he and Chris constructed at Eddie’s place a week and a half prior.
“What’s your obsession with forts anyway?” he asks as he climbs inside, surrounded by plush pillows and blankets.
“Maddie used to make them for me all the time when I was little,” Buck says. “Building one with Chris has me kinda nostalgic, I guess.”
Eddie smiles to himself at the mental image of Buck as a kid. It isn’t too hard to picture what he must have looked like back then as he looks at him now, a blanket draped over his head and shoulders sitting cross-legged in front of the laptop, a movie already playing.
“What are you watching?” Eddie asks, settling in.
Eddie laughs and shakes his head. “I didn’t take you for a romcom lover but I guess that somehow makes sense now that I think about it.”
“What’s not to love about them? The build up, the will-they-won’t-they but you know they totally will, the big sweeping declaration at the end? That’s what everyone roots for. Who doesn’t like seeing people in love live happily ever after? It’s the dream,” Buck concludes.
Eddie doesn’t argue the point. How could he possibly when that’s all he’s been hoping to have himself?
“That’s really your dream?” he asks tentatively.
Buck shrugs. “I definitely wouldn’t say no if it were to happen. But in order for all of that, someone would actually have to fall head over heels for me,” he laughs wryly.
“You make it sound like such an impossibility. Like you’re somehow difficult to love.”
Buck’s head tilts to the side a bit. “You don’t think that I am?”
It’s such a loaded question, a dangerous one really but still, the words fall effortlessly from Eddie’s lips as he replies.
“I would think that falling for you is one of the easiest things a person could do.”
Eddie realizes this conversation is veering off course and Buck probably isn’t thinking very clearly given the state of things. For all Eddie knows, Buck is hopped up on cold medicine and doesn’t realize he’s asking leading questions. Eddie falls silent then, laying back and staring up the blanket overhead as the movie continues to play on screen. The seconds stretch tauntingly and Eddie knows he’s said too much, gone too far over the line they’ve been treating as a tightrope.
He hears the tap of the keyboard and the movie pauses. Eddie keeps his eyes trained above him, hoping they can avoid delving deeper into this. But he’s kicked open the gate, ushered in this line of conversation he’s been terrified to have.
“Eddie, I—,” Buck starts but Eddie isn’t so sure he wants, or is even ready, to hear what Buck has to say in response.
“You should get some sleep.”
“But I want to talk to you. I missed you today. I always miss you when you’re away.”
Eddie freezes, unsure of if this an open statement Buck would be making if he wasn’t sick or possibly feeling awkward given Eddie’s last comment but he’d be lying to himself if he said it isn’t something that makes his chest warm right in the center.
“I’m here now and I’m not going anywhere all night,” he assures.
“All night? What about Chris?”
“He’s probably on his way to a sugar coma at my grandmother’s right about now. She’s baking tonight and Chris, of course, volunteered to help. I know he’s just in for the leftover frosting and taste testing.”
This seems to be a good enough distraction. Buck laughs softly and grows quiet, pressing the laptop again and Eddie is certain he’s never been more grateful to hear a bunch of British people in conversation with each other. He opts to just listen to rather than watch the movie; his focus is completely shot.
After a few minutes, Buck sighs and burrows in against Eddie’s side. Instinctively Eddie wraps an arm around his friend. Before he can undo it or reprimand himself for getting too familiar with Buck, the man buries his face against the side of Eddie’s neck.
He’s all too aware of each breath Buck takes, his skin tickling with every exhale. There’s nothing casual or platonic about this and Eddie’s heart aches so painfully in his chest that it takes every ounce of willpower he has to keep breathing. But still, before he can allow himself to truly accept what Buck getting this close to him means, he needs to hear it from the man himself.
“You didn’t give me a chance to say anything before so I figured I’d show you where my head and heart are instead.”
Eddie sits up slowly, Buck moving with him. Eddie takes in his expression and sees a real clarity in Buck’s eyes that leaves no room for uncertainty that he’s serious. Eddie has spent so long feeling terrified of being presented with this moment but he takes comfort in realizing this isn’t one-sided like he’s feared.
“Is this the part with the big sweeping declaration?” he jokes lamely to work out his nerves.
“I sure hope so. That tends to always be the best part.”
“You’re a lot better at this than me,” he says, rubbing his palm against the front of his jeans.
“To be fair, I watch a lot of romantic comedies in my downtime.”
Eddie can’t help but to laugh at this, grateful for the levity Buck brings to this moment. He cups the man’s cheek and strokes his face lightly with his thumb as he stares into his eyes.
“I’ve never been too good with this sort of stuff but you make me want to figure out a way how to be. Maybe in time I’ll be able to get the words out but, if nothing else, just know that I feel a lot for you, Buck. With you, I feel everything.”
Eddie leans forward and kisses Buck’s forehead, his eyes drifting closed as he lingers for a moment. Buck sighs contentedly, one hand settling on Eddie’s knee. Eddie pulls away then, resting his forehead against Buck’s, his fingers carding gently through his hair at the back of his head. Buck bumps his nose softly to Eddie’s who smiles at the move.
“Crap, sorry,” Buck says, pulling away. “What if you get sick next?”
“I survived Chris’ fever. I think I’ll be fine with yours too. If not, then I’ll just have to commission Abuela to make more soup,” he laughs. “Speaking of which, I should get some for you. Or tea or—”
“No,” Buck interjects, holding on to his wrist gently, keeping him in place. “Please, just...stay here for a little while longer with me?”
Eddie looks at him, takes in that soft pleading look and nods. “Whatever you want.”
Buck smiles at this and lays down on his side. Eddie doesn’t hesitate in spooning him, his arm securing snugly across Buck’s hip. His face burrows in the crook of the man’s neck, chin propped against his shoulder.
“Now will you get some sleep?” he asks quietly.
Buck laughs, light and carefree. “I don’t see how I can be expected to now after all of this,” he replies just as quietly, playing with Eddie’s fingers.
“This feels like Christmas morning as a kid. All that excitement, wondering what’s in store. No,” he continues, shaking his head. “ I couldn’t possibly sleep now. I don’t want to miss a second of what comes next.”
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