tick-tock goes the clock (4/?)
so sorry for the delay in this chapter! it's entirely my fault 😅
ao3 | 1.4k | hospitals, coma, irregular structure
it was dark, everything was so dark
where was he?
he let go.
It didn’t take long to confirm what the doctors already suspected. TK’s heart was too weak to go on for much longer; he would need emergency surgery just to stand a chance at surviving the next twenty-four hours.
And that was only if he survived the surgery, which was far from a given.
Judd had confiscated Carlos’s phone so he couldn’t google anything, heedless of his protests, shouts, and insults.
But he didn’t need to be a medical professional to know that heart surgery was about as dangerous and unpredictable as it could get. Especially when it was performed on someone as weak as TK, who’d already suffered too many near misses in the last couple of days alone. Nightmare didn’t even begin to cover what this felt like, but, truth be told, Carlos had stopped feeling anything some time ago.
He knew he should be scared and freaking out. He was scared, but the idea of losing TK was so…so unthinkable, despite everything, that his mind simply refused to accept it.
Watching them wheel TK away, his body only missing a sheet over his face to declare him gone, it felt like a goodbye. As they waited for hours upon hours, it felt like they were all already mourning him, whilst simultaneously praying to see him one more time.
In those hours, they existed in a grey area, where TK was both alive and dead at the same time.
Schrodinger’s TK, Carlos thought, and he laughed.
He laughed because he could, because the only alternative was crying and he’d long since run out of tears. He laughed until he was gasping for air, his chest and sides aching, and what felt like the entire waiting room was looking at him, hushed whispers of disapproval following their stares.
They must have thought he was going crazy. And—who knew?—maybe he was. It certainly felt like it.
Someone—Carlos didn’t know who—took his arm and pulled him up, almost dragging him from the waiting room. He let himself be led, let himself stumble after whoever had hold of him, and he let himself go.
he was getting used to the darkness.
it was… safe wasn’t the word. there was still pain encompassing all his senses, but tk was getting used to that, too.
it was constant.
and in consistency, there was some kind of comfort.
tk didn’t know what lay beyond the darkness. he knew there was something—there were flashes of it; noises, sensations, images, though these were rare. everything seemed so chaotic, and he could tell, instinctively, that as bad as he felt now, it would be worse if he were out there.
so tk wrapped the darkness around himself like a blanket and turned his back on the rest of the world.
The person who pulled him from the hospital, Carlos discovered, was his father. He deposited Carlos on a bench near the entryway and folded his arms, staring down at him with an unreadable expression.
If Carlos had to guess, he’d say his father was concerned, but clearly he didn’t know him as well as he thought. Not if it was true that both his parents knew about him and TK, and had no problems accepting TK as his boyfriend even without Carlos telling them.
And if that was true, then it was also true that they were okay with who he was, despite all those years of radio silence.
When he felt like he had some tenuous thread of control over himself, Carlos raised his gaze to meet his dad’s.
“Why?” he croaked brokenly.
His dad frowned. “You were creating a scene, mijo. We all understand, but—”
“Not that,” Carlos interrupted. “Why… You knew. You’ve always known, both of you. Why did you never say anything?”
It took a few more moments before something like confused understanding spread across his father’s face. “Is this about you and TK?” he asked. Carlos stayed silent, which seemed to be confirmation enough. “We thought you were still figuring things out, or whatever the kids call it these days. You introduced him as your friend.”
“I was scared!” he burst out, shooting to his feet. He only lasted a couple of seconds before the tremble in his legs forced him back down, but a couple of seconds were enough to shock his father.
“I was scared,” he repeated. “You’ve never… Neither of you, you’ve never acted like this—like I—was something you were okay with. I know you love me, I just wasn’t sure if you loved all of me. I wasn’t sure if you could still love me, if me being gay and having a boyfriend was something real to you.”
“We told you it was okay,” his dad protested, still standing.
“Those are just words, Dad.” Carlos sighed and slumped, unable to keep eye contact any longer. “Words can mean anything. I needed more to—to feel safe. And it wasn’t just about me. I love TK so much, Dad, and I couldn’t risk anything happening to him or to us if you guys reacted badly. He’s already been through enough with his ex, and it was really hard for him to get through it. And I… I don’t think I could stand it if you couldn’t stand me.”
His dad sighed, then slowly walked over to sit next to Carlos. He abandoned his usual posture, everything that made him Major Reyes of the Texas Rangers vanishing, leaving a weary father in its wake.
“You really thought we would?”
“I had no reason to think you wouldn’t.”
His dad nodded and twisted his hands in his lap. “I see. I’m sorry we made you think that. I assure you, Carlitos, loving TK, or any man, doesn’t make you any less in our eyes. Your mother will tell you the same thing. And these aren’t just words anymore; we’ll make sure we show it from now on. How long have you two been together?”
Carlos breathed out shakily and closed his eyes. “Six months, give or take.”
“That’s quite a while.”
“Not long enough.”
“No,” his father agreed, rubbing Carlos’s back. “I’m sorry, son.”
“Dad, if he…” Carlos broke off and shook his head, choosing, for now, to take comfort in his dad’s actions. “If he doesn’t make it through this… I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“You won’t have to find out,” his father said, without enough conviction in his voice that Carlos almost believed him. But he didn’t get a chance to respond either way, as a shadow falling over them indicated someone else’s arrival.
“He’s in recovery,” Paul said, smiling weakly.
Carlos blinked up at him. “He made it?” he whispered.
Paul nodded. “He made it.”
Carlos all but took off running back inside the hospital, but, at the doors, he turned back to his dad.
“You and Mom still want that introduction?”
something had changed. the pain in his chest—or where tk thought his chest would be if he had a body—had dulled, though there was still an ever-present thrum radiating through his being.
and there were voices.
they were muffled, like he was hearing them from underwater, but they were there; three—no, four—of them.
“...might take a while to wake up.”
he didn’t know that voice, but it sounded kind.
“but he will?”
carlos. carlos was there. that was good. carlos was safe, though there was something not right about his voice.
“...remains to be seen…”
“tranquilo, carlitos. todo saldrá bien, ya verás”
andrea reyes? tk didn’t really know carlos’s parents, but he thought that sounded like her.
“your mother is right…”
and that…that was gabriel.
tk frowned, or would have done, at these last two voices. he knew them, he was sure of it, but he couldn’t be certain. carlos’s parents didn’t know about them; they had no reason to be so worried for one of carlos’s colleagues or friends. even so, they made him uneasy and set off a quiet panic inside him.
what had changed? how much time had passed? maybe they were there to support their son in an awful moment.
was he dying?
but it wasn't panic for himself.
for carlos, though tk didn’t know why. for the first time, he yearned for the darkness to lift, so he could see for himself what was wrong.
but it wouldn’t. no matter how much tk tried, he couldn’t escape, and the effort of fighting wore him out and brought all the pain roaring back.
it almost overwhelmed him, almost dragged him even deeper.
but tk didn’t let it, because carlos was out there.
carlos was out there, and tk was going to do whatever it took to get back to him.
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