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With you, I fall down

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TK shifts his weight from one foot to another. He has never been too good at staying still, but certain calls require it. Especially massive ones like this, the ones that require organized cooperation between different first responder departments.

The abandoned building complex’s parking lot is crowded with ambulances and squad cars, but they are still standing next to their own rig with Carlos and his partner and listening to the captain of Carlos’ precinct give them the newest debrief.

Other teams around them are already being dispatched to some of the countless buildings around them to search the shooter and everything around them is buzzing and it is making TK grow more restless by the minute.

“The suspect has a gunshot wound, but we do not know how seriously he might be injured,” the captain goes on, looking at all of them.

TK fidgets with the strap of the medical equipment bag and tries his best not to smile every time he catches Carlos’ gaze. He can hear Nancy sigh mock-exasperatedly next to him as she notices two of them staring at each other.

“He’s still most likely armed and dangerous, so approach with caution. We do not need more lives at risk. Keep the radio phones with you at all times, so we can keep track of each other’s movements.”

Tommy is carrying a large box and handing them each their own radiophone. The captain is looking at the clipboard he has on his hands and his gaze stays on the paper as he reads aloud. “Gillian with Mitchell and you’ll take building 2A. Strand with Reyes and to the building 2B and Captain Vega and I will take 2C.”

Both Tommy and Nancy give him fond and borderline of amused looks, but none of them actually say anything. TK can spot from the corner of his eye that Carlos is having similar wordless conversation with Mitchell.

“Is he usually this chill with letting people who are getting married tomorrow work together?” TK asks, falling into step beside Carlos, as they walk towards the entrance of 2B.

It’s already dark outside but the lights of the lightbars of the rigs and squad cars keep illuminating the yard and grey concrete walls in bright blue light.

“He probably didn’t make the connection,” Carlos remarks, with a tiniest smile on his lips, as he glances at him.

“We did invite him to the wedding.”

His captain is already approaching retirement quickly and Carlos’ has never been too close with him, and from what TK has gathered from his stories during the years, the captain isn’t exactly keen on knowing much about the personal lives of his subordinates. But apparently it is some sort of custom of the precinct and part of good manners still to invite him to every wedding, even though he rarely ever shows up.

“And he read the invitation,” Carlos retorts, with a huff, “I know ‘cause he said he cannot come because of his granddaughter’s birthday party.”

“Maybe he will make the connection when this says Strand-Reyes,” he deadpans, gesturing towards the name tag of his uniform.

A frown lingers on Carlos’ face for a brief moment. “You really want to take my last name?”

“Yeah,” he says, without missing a beat, but they are already at the door of the building. He pulls it open and holds it open for him. “Maybe we should talk about this later.”

The last name discussion is not the most urgent one, and they are used to keeping up at least a façade of professionality. Besides, it feels like a manhunt for injured and armed shooting suspect should have all of their attention currently.

TK is half-sure they won’t find anything. Abandoned industry area feels like an odd place to escape to and the area is already swarming with half of the Austin’s police department. They would have found something already if there was anything to find.

“Sure.”

Inside of the building is almost eerily quiet. There are no lights on, and every possible surface is covered by thick layer of dust. The walls have started to deteriorate and there are cords hanging out from loose panels of the ceiling. It might have been an office building once, but right now it looks like it is ready for demolition.

Carlos switches his flashlight on. He points it around the large room, but there is no sign of movement. All his light catches is the dust floating through air. Their radiophones crackle with static sounds, but the other teams’ voices come through letting them know that they haven’t found anything either and that they are already examining the second floor of their respective buildings.

TK takes his radiophone from his belt. “We’re heading towards second floor, too,” he says, walking towards a glass door that says staircase in bulky letters. He comes to abrupt stop when he feels Carlos’ hand on his shoulder.

“It’s my job to go first,” he reminds him, an edge of amusement in his voice.

The whole idea of teaming up with the police squads was to make sure that each team would have protection and medical experience. That they would have each other’s backs and complement each other’s skill sets, and that if they came across the suspect they could detain him and give him the proper medical treatment without delays.

It feels just slightly excessive, but TK still has a scar on his forehead to remind him about the last time a paramedic team crossed paths with an armed suspect on a run.

Carlos, however, maybe took little too close to heart the instruction that a police officer should first secure each room before letting the paramedic to follow.

TK just rolls his eyes at him, but he cannot hide the fondness of his expression. Carlos slowly pulls his gun out of his belt and holds it with both hands and the flashlight on top of it. He keeps his arms half-raised and Tk follows him silently, but the hallway ends up being as empty as the first room.

Second floor is in a lot worse shape than the first one. It smells stuffy and there are suspicious looking stains on the walls and ceiling, indicating a water damage somewhere. Still, it is empty, except for a few pushed-together desks in one corner of the room. They check out all of the closets and toilets, but they find nothing.

The third floor, unsurprisingly, is empty, too. One of the windows is broken, letting a breeze enter the large room. There are no abandoned office furniture in this floor, but there are a few pillars that make the room seem smaller than the others.

They look around, and he is staying close to Carlos, following him quietly, and their movement leaves messy shoe prints on the dirty floor. TK cannot help but wonder if all of them are theirs because there are a lot of them, but there is no denying that they are the only people in the room.

“Should we head down--,” TK starts, but he never gets the chance to finish his sentence, because he is cut off by a rapid but faint beeping sound.

Too many things happen at once for him to even fully register and comprehend them. He is still pondering the source of the beeping when Carlos’ face falls and he gets pale. There is pure panic in his eyes and next thing TK knows is that Carlos has his arms around him, almost as if he was hugging him from behind, and that he sends them tumbling to the ground.

Impossibly loud bang follows and echoes in the room, and he can hear the windows shatter and he feels the shaking of the floor underneath him. He has a faint idea that they should move and get out, but he has no chance to do anything because deafeningly loud rumbling starts and pieces of the ceiling start to fall on top of them and for a moment, he feels weightless when the floor caves in underneath them.

For one disorientating moment, TK doesn’t know where he is. His whole body feels sore, and his ears are ringing. He coughs and all he can taste is the dust in his mouth. TK opens his eyes, but all he can see is concrete and small pieces of other debris.

His mind is little foggy, but it takes only few seconds for him to realise that he can still feel weight Carlos’ arm on his back and that their legs are entangled.

TK is still lying on his stomach, but he pulls himself into a sitting position faster than he thought was possible. His mind is a broken record and all he can think about, frantically, is Carlos and if he is alright.

Carlos groans faintly next to him and rolls onto his back.

TK almost shakes with relief hearing his voice and seeing that he is still moving. His black uniform is covered in dust stains, but his breathing is laboured, and TK’s stomach falls at the sight of the pool of blood on the ground.

“Hey, hey,” he mumbles, crawling even closer to him, and immediately cups Carlos’ face with his hands. His skin feels slightly cold against his palms and he frantically starts to scan him for injuries because the blood is coming from somewhere and he is ninety percent sure it is Carlos who is bleeding and not him. “Are you okay?”

Carlos opens his eyes and TK lets him take a deeper breath. His eyes are glimmering with pain, but he considers it to be a good sign that he managed to open his eyes in the first place.  

“Probably not” he croaks out, “my leg feels—wet.”

His uniform pants have ripped and expose a deep and big wound on his right thigh. TK cannot tell what has caused the wound because he cannot see anything else except dark blood and it is soaking his shredded pants.

“You’re bleeding,” he says, stating the obvious.

He frantically tries to find the equipment bag he had before the explosion and he sends a silent thanks to any higher force that is listening because it is still lying nearby. They are buried underneath the rubble, but there is a thick and large piece of concrete wedged above them, creating almost a bubble for both of them, but there is not much space to move and it would be impossible for him to stand up.  

As he swiftly reaches for the bag, he spots a sharp-edged metal bar sticking out a small piece of concrete debris. The bar is partly covered in blood and he feels almost sick as he realises it’s Carlos’ blood.

He pulls out some gauze out of the bag and presses it against the wound with force.

“That explains it,” Carlos grunts as TK applies more pressure to the wound.  

The gauze is thick, but the dark red stains keep growing quickly. TK tears his gaze away from the wound and looks him in the eyes. “Does it hurt anywhere else?”

His own voice sounds a bit frantic to his own ears, too, but the adrenaline is taking over and he feels like he is already running out of time and his mind is only focused on making sure that Carlos is alright.

It is difficult to assess how badly he has been injured because the bleeding wound is taking most of his attention, and he hopes it is the worst of his injuries because there is very little that he can do with the limited equipment he has with him and he cannot see a way out of the ruins of the building.

“My side,” Carlos admits, almost breathlessly. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he mutters, but he cannot stop staring at Carlos’ left wrist. It’s slightly swollen and it lies in an unnatural angle.

“You’re bleeding, too,” he points out, vaguely and lazily tries to lift his other hand to gesture his forehead.

“Just a scratch,” TK replies, but he can feel the drop of hot blood falling down against his cheek and neck. He doesn’t wipe it away because he doesn’t dare to move his hands from his wound.

His radio phone crackles with lot of static sound and the signal is not good, but he can make out Tommy’s voice in the other end of it. “—are you okay?”

Carlos reaches with his uninjured hand to pick up the radio phone from TK’s belt. The small movement obviously takes a lot of effort from him. The phone is in rough shape, there are dents on both sides of it and it is no wonder it has difficulties relaying the voice.

“We’re alive,” Carlos says, before he holds the radio phone closer to TK’s face.

“Ca—Officer Reyes is injured. Deep wound on his left thigh and possible broken wrist,” he says, suddenly sounding surprisingly calm to his own ears. Carlos glances at his own wrist, perplexedly, as if he were not aware of it. TK hopes his adrenaline rush lasts a bit longer to keep his pain at bay. “I’m not ruling out internal bleeding either. I haven’t had the time to do a full check-up.”

“Is it the artery?” Tommy eventually asks, her voice full of concern.

“I don’t think so,” TK replies, biting his lower lip. The only thing he can think of that there would be a lot more blood if the bar had scratched the artery. “It still bleeds heavily.”

The gauze is already soaked, and he can feel the warmth of his blood, but he tries his best not to think about.

“You’ve your equipment bag there, right? Use whatever you find to make a tourniquet.”

Tommy’s voice is clear and almost commanding, as always on the calls, and it is surprisingly calming and grounding. It helps a little to get his mind back to into work mode and push his wallowing and growing worry aside for a moment.

He pulls one of his hand away from the wound and rummages through the equipment back with one hand. He finds more gauze and swaps the blood-soaked one for the clean one. “Hey, can you press this as hard as you can? I need both of my hands for a moment.”

Carlos nods slightly and TK takes the radio phone away from his hand. He places it on the ground next to them and guides his uninjured hand on top of the wound. Carlos grimaces again, but he dutifully applies a lot of pressure to it.

“Good,” he whispers, and starts to unbuckle the belt of his uniform. He slips it underneath his thigh quickly, but he pauses for a moment before fasting it around his thigh. “Babe, this is going to hurt.”

“It’s okay,” Carlos reassures, with a meek smile, “do whatever you need to do.”

He tightens it tightly around his thigh and makes a knot to keep it in place. Tiny whimper escapes Carlos’ lips and the sound of it shatters TK’s heart, even though he knows that he is only helping him. Still, it is overwhelming, in the worst way, to witness his pain.

The radio phone makes noises on the ground and TK gives it back to Carlos and continues to press the wound by himself. He is already looking through the bag for more gauze and dressing and wondering the best way to temporarily wrap the wound up.

“There—was a bomb on the third floor,” Carlos explains, “I think our movement triggered it.”

It makes sense. The bomb went off almost immediately they reached the last floor. TK cannot understand why someone would want to boobytrap an empty and water damaged floor, but there is no denying that someone had placed a bomb there.

“Yeah, and we’re not making out of here without help,” TK laughs, joylessly, as he looks around. It is dark and all he can see is huge chunks of concrete and dry wall around them. “I think we’re on the second floor.”

The floor beneath them feels solid and in his opinion, they didn’t fall that high. It is difficult to estimate their location, but any clues about where they might be trapped are useful for the team that has to find them and pull them out of the rubble.

“They are already working on it,” Tommy promises, “and you got this. Just hang on.”

The radio phone goes silent, and TK takes slightly shaky breath, as he tries to gather his thoughts, but it is almost automatic as he starts to wrap up his wound. It is a little make-shift bandage, but it is the best he can do, and it gives him a chance to finish his check-up.

He checks his pupils with a tiny flashlight, takes his blood pressure and pulse with the sphygmomanometer, and leaves the pressure cuff around his arm. He makes a mental note of buying a fruit basket to Nancy who is the one who stocked the carry-on med equipment bags the last time, because he has almost everything he needs.

TK unbuttons Carlos’ uniform shirt and lifts his under-shirt. His stomach is soft, but there is ugly bruising forming on his right side, but TK cannot shake of the fear of internal bleeding. It is sneaky and he has no way of knowing the severity of the wounds he has sustained without any scans, but he sincerely hopes it is only a few broken ribs and a large bruise.

“Does your back hurt?” TK asks, gently, when he is already finishing up the initial examination. He lets his fingertips brush against Carlos’ cheek.

“No.”

“Can you feel this?” He asks, poking his ankle with his index finger. He lets his fingers linger there, curling them around his ankle.

“Yeah.”

“Try to move your toes.”

It seems that he has no trouble to wiggle his toes, and it eases up some of his worry. A spinal injury would be impossible to treat in the ruins and he doesn’t have anything to support his spine. Still, the worry is almost crushing and slowly spreading in his chest.

He exhales deeply. “Try to stay as still as possible, I don’t have the cervical collar with me.”

“I don’t think I could move even if I wanted to,” Carlos chuckles, weakly. His forehead is covered in sweat and he looks paler than before.

“How are you feeling?” He asks, wiping some of the sweat drops away. It is not much but he is feeling strangely helpless, and it calms his nerves to do at least something. “And tell me the truth, like I’d be just any paramedic.”

He hasn’t missed the worried glances that Carlos kept shooting at him when he did his check-up, and he would gladly try and stop thinking about the severity of his injuries and his pain, but he needs to have all the facts to keep him alive.

“It hurts. A lot. And I feel a bit dizzy and nauseated,” Carlos says, and there is ruefulness in the way he looks at him. “That’s probably not a good sign.”

“It’s the blood loss,” he says, quietly. The wound on his thigh hasn’t soaked through his bandage yet, but the fact that his general state is slowly deteriorating probably means he is bleeding internally, too. There is a lump in his throat, and he tries to swallow it away. “But it could be worse. There’s a bag of saline and some painkillers here, it could make you feel better.”

He doesn’t even realise that his hands are shaking until he picks up the cannula packet. He tries to open it, but his fingers are trembling too much. He sighs frustratedly, but Carlos rubs his forearm with his thumb.

“Ty, it’s okay,” he murmurs, “take your time.”

He almost wants to laugh at that. The one thing that both of his careers have drilled into his head is that time is always of the essence and that hesitation and freezing up might cost lives. Trembling hands and all-consuming worry are things that do not have space or place in the rig.

He squeezes his hand into a fist and lets it relax again. He repeats it a couple of times while he tries to exhale deeply. There is a sharp pain in his side, but he doesn’t have time to focus on it. He feels even more useless and helpless than before because he knows it is not a matter of life-or-death how quickly he gets the cannula in, but he also knows that it will help Carlos and it’s frustrating that he cannot even manage to do it.

“You might want to look away,” he says, softly, when he finally gets the packing open, and the trembling seems to have stopped. Carlos has never been fan of needles and inserting the cannula rarely ever is a pleasant experience, but it always feels little worse when one is in pain.

“I might want to look at you,” Carlos mutters, and TK doesn’t need to look at him to know that he is smiling. It is little beyond him how he manages to do it through all of the pain, but he is glad for it, because it creates some illusion of normality.

“Eyes on me then,” he whispers, as he takes his right hand into his.

He has memorized the way Carlos’ hand fits against his. He has kissed his knuckles, fingertips and back of his hand countless times. Gently and graspingly. He has cradled them in between his own hands, and he knows every little scar and wrinkle on them.

It feels wrong to be looking for a vein there. He keeps tapping the back of his hand with his index and middle finger until he spots a vein that could be suitable for the cannula. Carlos hisses when the needle goes through his skin, but luckily, he gets the cannula in place on the first try.

“I’m okay,” TK says, almost offhandedly, as he injects a syringeful of painkiller through his cannula, “you can stop looking at me like that.”

Carlos snorts. “Your face is covered in blood and—dust. And I know this cannot be easy.”

TK hooks the IV bag of saline to the cannula and squeezes the bag in his hand to make the liquid pass through the tube more quickly. There is no scaffold to place the bag into, so he improvises and places the bag on top of the highest piece of dry wall rubble.

“It’s my job,” he says, quietly. He has been sitting on his knees for the whole time and his legs are going numb. He shifts around a little and ends up sitting cross-legged next to him. “And I’d do anything for you. You know that:”

“I know,” he replies, and there is no hesitation in the way he says it, but he exhales deeply and shakily. “This might just be the—one thing I hoped you’d never have to do.”

“You and me both.”

TK is perfectly aware why there are regulations and rules about conflict of interest. It messes with one’s head to have their loved one’s life in their hands. It is too emotional, messy and complicated, and the weight of responsibility is crushing.

He tastes the bile in his mouth every time he sees his own hands because they are covered in his half-dried blood.

“You’re stable for now,” he declares as he presses the start button on the blood pressure machine again, “but tell me if there’s anything I can do.”

Carlos very clumsily takes his hand into his. TK manoeuvres their hands so that he is the one who holds Carlos’ hand in his and he tries his best not to touch the cannula. He briefly wonders if he should do some sort of splint for his other wrist.

“I think you’re doing enough already,” Carlos says when the pressure gulf around his arm loosens up again. His frown deepens and his face almost shines with regret. “This was not how I wanted to spend the night before my wedding.”

To be honest, the wedding has kind of slipped his mind in the amidst of everything. Worry and anxiety have pushed everything else out of his mind and right now just the idea of a wedding seems so distant, like a dream.

“If it’s any consolation, I don’t think we’re getting married tomorrow,” he remarks, gently. It sounds a lot more morbid than it did in his head, but even if they get out of the ruins of the office building, there is no way on earth that Carlos would be in any shape to walk down the aisle tomorrow.

TK tries to grin at him. It might be just a shadow of the brightness of his normal one, and there is not much to joke about, but he thinks he will fall into a bottomless pit of despair if he doesn’t even try. “But I for one, always thought I’d spent the night trying my best not to let you bleed out in ruins of desolated building.”

Something akin to a smile appears on his lips for a moment, but it disappears just as quickly as it appeared. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he rushes to reassure. “I couldn’t care less about anything else except that you’re okay. Everything else is irrelevant.”

Sure, they have been looking forward to getting married, but a wedding is easily postponed. He doesn’t even feel that upset about it when the other possible alternative is sending funeral invitations instead of a new bunch of wedding invitations.  

“Yeah.”

“Keep talking if you can,” TK says, lifting up the hem of his shirt again. He keeps pressing his stomach, but luckily it is still soft. The bruise is still there, and it has grown darker.

“About anything?”

“Whatever is on your mind.”

He is quite convinced he doesn’t have a concussion, but it is easier to moderate his general state if he talks and talking forces him to breathe through pain. Carlos is a calm and steady person, but he can see that panic and worry is creeping up on him, too, and he cannot blame him, but talking might just calm both of them.

“Do you really want to take-- my last name?”

TK sputters a meek but surprised laugh. “We are talking about this now?”

“You said—anything and later,” Carlos points out.

Both of those are true and talking about future, and things that are waiting them outside the prison of rubble and debris, is surprisingly comforting thought. It is at least better than dwelling on the constant worry and fear.

“Yeah, I do.”

Carlos looks almost thoughtful as he studies his face with his gaze. “Why?”

It is with a startle that he realises that they have never had a real discussion about it. Sure, they have joked about it a little, but for him it has always been clear that he would want to hyphenate, no matter who he would marry.

“I always assumed I’d do it,” he explains with a tiny shrug, “I think there’s something sentimental about it, that our love creates something completely new.”

He has always thought of it as a beautiful idea. Creating a new surname with the hyphen, connecting their two families, and becoming a family of their own. It is also about the idea of love changing him and his life enough to change something concrete about his identity, and that Carlos, and his love, are part of him, and that he wants it to be permanent.

“I don’t have to do it if it bothers you,” TK points out. He feels slightly bad for never considering the possibility of it, but Carlos shakes his head ever so slightly.

“Of course, it doesn’t. It’s yours to have but--,” he murmurs, but he lets his voice trail off.

“—you don’t want to take mine,” he fills in for him, gently.

“Yeah, and I don’t—want you to think that—that I’d not love you as much or anything like that,” Carlos rambles.

“Hey, I don’t mind,” TK cuts him off, “we’ll still end up sharing a name, even if you keep just yours, and I know you love me. I didn’t miss your little human shield trick back there.”

His memories about the few brief moments before the explosion are little hazy, but in retrospect, it is clear what Carlos did. He noticed the bomb before him, just a little before it went off, and all he ended up doing was to protect him, shield him with his own body.

It is impossible to say if his injuries are because of it, but TK thinks there might be at least a reason that he only ended up with a throbbing pain on his shoulder and sore spot near his ribcage. Carlos might have taken most of the brunt of their fall through the floor.

He doesn’t know what to do with the emotional turmoil that it stirs up. That with a split-second decision he was ready to put his life on the line to make sure he would be safe. Partly, it makes him feel loved. Incredibly so. It truly showcases the unconditionality of his love, but it also makes him feel more guilty than possibly ever before.

Because TK also has the similar need and want to protect him. To make sure he is safe and sound. He knows they are both injured because a damn building fell on top of them, and there is no way to say whether Carlos would have been less severely hurt if he hadn’t tried to protect him, but it still feels like it is at least partly his fault.

“We didn’t get to the vows part yet, but that doesn’t mean I’d not try to keep them already,” Carlos tells him. He groans faintly before he continues to speak. “And it’s not like I had time to think about it, it was an instinct. I didn’t think the building would-- collapse.”

TK gives him a grateful half-smile and he rubs his upper arm above the cuff slowly with his other hand. “You still tried to protect me, so thank you.”

Honestly, he sort of wants to shout at him for risking his life, and that it isn’t any better that he tried to shield him from whatever debris he thought that would be in the home-made bomb, and that his life is just as important as his and that the best way to prove his love would be to stay alive.

Still, he doesn’t want to do that. It is the last thing he wants to do. Because Carlos is still obviously in pain and he is hurt, and TK just wants to be there for him. To comfort him and make him feel even the tiniest bit better.

He still cannot hear the rescue party, and while he is still clinging onto hope that they will get out of there soon and that they get Carlos into hospital in time, he cannot help but fear that these might be the last moments they have together, and he doesn’t want yelling to be any part of those moments.

The worst part is that he gets why he did it. TK would have done the same thing in heartbeat if the roles were reversed.

“Who are you and what have you done to my fiancé,” Carlos jokes, but his voice is slightly strained.

TK just rolls his eyes as a response.

“Do you want to tell me how bad it really is?”

Carlos’s eyes are on him, but his breathing starts to sound more uneven than before, and he is clenching his jaw.

“What?”

“You’re not lecturing me about risking my life willingly and you do that thing with your eyebrows when you’re worried,” he clarifies, squeezing his hand.

The training of a paramedic emphasizes keeping the patient calm at all times and reassuring them that everything will be alright even when the situation looks grim and hopeless. It is to help the patient through any fear and panic they may feel, or at least to make their last moments a little more calm and hopeful. However, sometimes it is just better to tell the truth, and he has never been able to lie to Carlos.

“It’s not good,” he says, under his breath. “You’re bleeding a lot and there’s—nothing I can do about the internal bleeding.”

It feels like his heart is bursting with worry and anxiety at any given moment.

“Oh.”

Carlos purses his lips and blinks few times. TK can imagine that he is already feeling a bit light-headed and dizzy with all the blood-loss, but his words seem to hit him quickly, and his expression is unreadable.

“How long?”

It might be the worst question he has ever heard in his life. It is not something he likes to estimate or count, no matter who the patient is, but especially now. Besides, there are too many moving pieces about it. Too much he doesn’t know or cannot control. It might be that his internal bleeding isn’t that bad, or he might crash on him at any given moment.

“Impossible to say,” he tells him, in slightly wobbly voice but truthfully, even though he would like nothing more than reassure him that everything will be alright and that they are already out of the woods. “The faster we get out of here the better.”

The radio phone is still there, and he is almost tempted to ask how the rescue party is doing, but he isn’t sure if he wants to hear the news if it is sounds that they will take their time. It is better to live in hope than hopelessness.

And hope is becoming a sacred and rare thing in their little death-trap bubble.

“Okay.”

“You’re still stable,” TK rushes to say, stroking his jawline with his thumb. “That’s a good sign.”

Carlos nods, quietly, but he is looking up at the massive piece of concrete that is wedged above them.

“And I’m not going anywhere,” he continues. It sounds dumb given the fact that they trapped and stuck in an enclosed space, but he wants him to know that he is and will be there for him. No matter what happens. “I’ll do everything in my power to keep you—alive.”

The last word gets stuck in his throat. There is a part of his mind that actively keeps refusing to think about the possibility of his death, but reality keeps weighing on him.

“There’s something you could do,” Carlos says, suddenly, after a few moments of heavy silence.

“Anything.”

“If I don’t make it--,” he starts, but his voice cracks. “If I don’t make it, promise me that you won’t blame yourself. None of this is your fault and you’ve done everything you can.”

 A logical and professional part of him agrees. He is doing everything he can with the limited supplies in a crappy situation, but there is also a part of him that screams that he should be doing something more, anything really, to figure out a way to keep him alive and safe.

“Okay.”

His whole body goes numb just at the thought of him dying in his arms and that he would be powerless to prevent it. He bites his lower lip so hard that it starts to throb with pain.  

“Promise me,” Carlos repeats, more pointedly.

“I promise,” he whispers, and his voice is thick with emotion. He reaches to kiss his forehead. “Can we now stop talking about dying?”

“Soon,” he agrees with a breathless chuckle, “just-- that I love you.”

The back of his eyes starts to sting, and TK is certain it is not the dust that is making his eyes tear up.  “I love you too. So damn much.”

He sighs, and even though the only source of light is their flashlight, he can see the glimmering tears that start to fall from the corner of his eyes. They leave a clear path in his dust covered cheek.

“Hey, you’re allowed to be scared or whatever it is that you’re feeling,” TK reassures.

They have always been honest with each other, trusting and baring the most intimate and weakest parts of themselves to the other, and TK doesn’t see why it would have to change now. Sure, avoidance might be his go-to coping mechanism, and he would rather think anything else except death, but if talking about it makes him feel better, he will obviously do it.

“I’m--,” he starts, but his voice fades away, “terrified.” Carlos lets out brief laugh, but it sounds wet and hollow, and it might be the most heart-breaking sound TK has ever heard. He squeezes his hand tighter in his.

“I’m sorry,” he continues, hoarsely, “I don’t want to make this—more difficult for you.”

“You aren’t making anything more difficult, you hear me? I wanted to promise you for better or worse, and this just happens to be the worse part,” TK says, but he cups his face with his free hand. He caresses his cheek and jawline.

He hates everything about the situation they got thrown in. He loathes it. But in the strangest way, he is almost thankful that he gets to be there with him, because it would be ultimately worse if he couldn’t do even this to help him.

Gratefulness shines in his eyes, but his pain overshadows it, and the tears are still gleaming in the corner of his eyes.

“If this is how it ends—I’d have still chosen to spend my last moments with you,” Carlos says, defeatedly, but his voice is still impossibly soft and laced with love.

His heart shatters, all over again, and there is an actual physical ache in his chest and the feeling of dread is making his breath hitch in throat. He rapidly tries to blink his own tears away.

“Me too, but I was thinking more in the lines of when we’re grey and at least hundred years old,” he jokes, lightly, but even the remaining humor vanishes from his voice, when Carlos grimaces and hisses out of pain. “Are you okay?”

“Breathing—is bit challenging,” he says through gritted teeth.

TK’s heart falls at that. It could be any number of things. Shortness of breath from the blood loss, just pain from the broken ribs or it could be a symptom of something more severe. Lung collapsing or general organ failure. He reaches to pull a stethoscope out of the bag.

He places it on his ears and carefully listens to his chest. He can pick up faint sound of rhonchus from his right side, but otherwise it sounds a lot better than he would have expected.

“It’s okay, I know it feels terrible,” he murmurs, hopefully reassuringly, as he puts the stethoscope away.

It looks like Carlos is biting the inside of his cheek and just managing through the pain. The tears keep falling out of his eyes, but his crying is silent.

He wants to do something to help him, to comfort him, but there isn’t much anything else he can do. Medically, at least. He glances at his thigh wound, but the bandage is still white, and no blood has soaked through.

He still has his hand in his, firmly and gently, but it feels too small of a touch to be truly reassuring. TK has always showed affection through handholding, and they have always been tactile with each other. Touching each other whenever they could. Bumping their knees together when sitting close. Hand on a shoulder just as a sign of silent reassurance of support. Cuddling, having their legs and arms entangled in some way.

They are like a unit, moving in sync, and always being aware of each other’s presence and anticipating the other’s movements and needs.

“Do you want me to hold you?” TK asks, suddenly, but gently.

It might not be the most professional thing to do, but he feels like professionality flew out of the window when he had to tell the love of his life that he might die trapped in the ruins of an exploded building. He hasn’t shown any signs of spinal injury, and TK feels just so helpless looking at him.

He is in pain, hurt and terrified and there is nothing he can do to fix it. And while he cannot fix it, he can still offer him all of his love and hopefully some comfort.

“I—yeah,” he breathes out.

He drags himself closer to his head and gently and carefully guides it to his lap. He lifts him a little, to make him lean more against his body, but tries his best not to move him much as he places his own legs on both sides of his body and wraps his arms around him, loosely. He feels heavy, the weakness of the blood loss making him limp and weak.

TK places his hand into his hair, softly massaging his scalp and playing with his hair. His fingertips are still crimson stained with his blood. His skin feels cold and clammy against his own, and TK presses the start button of the blood pressure meter again.

“This doesn’t mean we’re giving up,” he whispers, gently, as the machine whirs.

“Of course not,” Carlos replies, but he is slurring just slightly, and he seems to relax against him.

The machine beeps, and his blood pressure has dropped slightly. TK decides not to say anything, and Carlos doesn’t ask about it, but just continues to play with his hair and to stroke his arm with his thumb. They continue to talk in hushed voices, and Carlos starts to talk about their unfinished grocery shopping list that they left on the kitchen table in the morning.

TK isn’t sure if he is already delirious, but grocery list feels oddly comforting and familiar to talk what they should add on it. It’s ridiculous and dumb, but there is not much else to talk about and it helps just to hear his voice.

It’s a concrete proof that he is still alive although he is slouching against him with all of his weight.

Carlos’ speech is becoming slower, and it obviously takes him effort to get the words out of his mouth. At one point he stops even trying, and just faintly hums as a response as TK keeps talking. His eyelids seem heavy, and his eyes keep rolling backwards occasionally, but Carlos is obviously trying his best to stay awake.

TK wants to scream and cry, but instead he just holds him, gently, and keeps repeating the same mantra over and over again. The words seem to lose their meaning, but he doesn’t know what else to do. He thinks he might fall apart at any given moment and that someone would be carving his heart out of his chest.

“I’m here. It’s going to be alright. You’re doing so well,” he whispers into his hair, repeatedly, while trying to hold back his own sobs.

It is his turn to try and shield Carlos with his body when more dust falls down on top of them somewhere as one of the biggest chunks of concrete starts to move and TK is half-convinced that he can hear Judd’s voice barking commands on the other side of it.

Carlos is somewhere near being unconscious, but he still occasionally grunts and groans, out of pain most likely, and TK presses a soft kiss on the crown of his head and tells him that he loves him.

***

It is closer to four am when Carlos finally stirs awake in his hospital bed. TK has already dragged his own plastic chair as close to the bed as possible and he immediately takes his hand in his as he notices the fluttering of his eyelids.

“Hey,” he says, softly but borderline frantically, when his eyes are fully open, and he looks at him.

It is the most beautiful sight to see his gorgeous brown eyes again, and something inside his chest seems to crumble.

“Hey.”

His voice is still hoarse and quiet, but it is still the best sound TK has heard all day. He is already pulling his phone from the front pocket of his hoodie and starts to scroll through his text threads. “Sorry, I promised to your parents I’d let them know when you wake up.”

He quickly types the text and shoves the phone back into the pocket. His fingers brush against something cold and small inside his hoodie and it is with a startle that he realises that he still has Carlos’ engagement ring stored in his pocket because it had to be taken away for the surgery and a friendly nurse gave it back to him for safe keeping.

TK fishes it out of his pocket and lets it rest against his palm. He shoots a questioning look at him but ends up smiling warmly. “You still wanna marry me?”

“Obviously,” he murmurs, fondly.

His left hand is covered by the cast for his broken wrist and TK is already holding his right hand, so he slips the ring on his right ring finger instead of the left one. His finger is slightly swollen, but it still fits well.  “How are you feeling?”

“Like a building collapsed on me,” he jokes weakly. “I didn’t die.”

“You didn’t,” he agrees with an amused huff.

He doesn’t want to think how close to it came. He is just going to count his blessings and not to dwell on the things that didn’t happen. He is aware that he probably needs to deal with all the emotions their entrapment caused, but right now, the pure relief is strong enough to drown everything else under it.

“How—how long was I out?”

“You were in surgery for four hours and you got out of there few hours ago, so not long,” he tells him, gently. “You didn’t pull a coma on us.”

It felt like forever, but he also knows it could have been lot worse. Still, it has been some of the worst and most nerve-wracking hours of his life.

“Are you okay?” Carlos asks next, stroking the back of his hand with a thumb.

There is genuine worry in his voice, and it audibly shines through it, and TK almost wants to laugh because it definitely isn’t Carlos who should be asking that question.

“I’m not the one who is in a hospital bed, so yeah.”

He is exhausted. He barely hold it together while waiting for him to get out of surgery. Just waiting, helplessly, was the worst kind of torment. He has been pacing around the corridors of the hospital and kept nodding off in the waiting room with Andrea and Gabriel.

He hasn’t even been in the hospital for the whole time, even though he wanted to be, but rest of the 126 dragged him back to the station, after he got checked out for his injuries in the same hospital, for a shower and a meal, but he raced right back with still-wet hair and the food stuffed in a plastic container.

Carlos gives him a pointed glare, but TK just stares back at him. “They had to remove your spleen. You also broke your wrist, three ribs and a clavicle. They had to surgically patch up your thigh. I’m only matching you with broken ribs.”

It turned out that his bleeding cut on his forehead needed stitches, but otherwise he survived with just scratches and bruises.

“I assumed you’d have my list of injuries memorized,” Carlos replies, fondly, “but are you okay?”

He knows exactly what he is implying with his repetition, but the last thing Carlos should be doing is to worry about him.

“I’ve had better days,” he says, with a shrug, and he looks at their intertwined fingers.

It feels an understatement. The day he has had easily ranks at the top of the worst days ever, but somehow the fact that they are both okay and breathing makes up a little for all the horrors they had to go through. It’s hard to even start to describe a fraction of the whirlpool of emotion that he has in his heart, and he doesn’t want to dump all of that on Carlos right now.

“You don’t have to put up a brave face for me,” he remarks, as if he could read his mind.

Maybe he can. TK wouldn’t put it completely past him. Carlos is almost infuriatingly perceptive person, and it is like he has a sixth sense for knowing when something is bothering him and if he tries to hide it. He just knows him, in and out.

“Have I told you that it’s annoying when you do that?” TK laughs weakly.

“Do what?”

“See right through me,” he clarifies, with a ghost of a smile on his lips. “I’m tired and overwhelmed, but I’m holding up. It might be worse when things really catch up on me.”

He might collapse when his mind finally comprehends that they are out of the danger and all of his stress unravels. Adrenaline and pure fear kept him going in the ruins and while waiting for him to wake up. Now, he is still riding the high of relief and gratefulness mixed with strong happiness, but when it all passes there will be just quiet and hollowness to deal with.

“It comes with loving you,” Carlos points out, easily, but his eyes are gleaming. “You know, you can go home to sleep, if you want.”

His dad already tried to make him go to home for a night, especially after the doctors told him that Carlos would pull through, but he refused, and his dad gave up quite quickly. The few times he has managed to nod off, the only thing he has seen is his own hands covered in Carlos’ blood.

He cannot shake off that image any time soon, and his hands are red and dry from all the repeated washing and rinsing he had to do to make the stains of blood to disappear.

“No,” he says, under his breath, as he shakes his head, “it’s easier to be here.”

It is easier to convince himself that they are okay and that they survived when he has him in the direct line of sight. He likes having the concrete proofs that he is alive and breathing. The steady beeping of the heart monitor next to him. The warmth of his skin. The gleam in his brown eyes.

“Okay,” Carlos says, without any traces of judgement or resistance in his voice, but his frown deepens. “I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” he reminds him. Everything that happened was just due to bad luck and chance. If there is anyone to blame it is the shooter who had apparently planted the bomb as a distraction. “I’m just really glad you’re okay.”

“Me too,” he breathes out, but his smile is sweet and disarming, “and thank you.”

TK glances down at his own lap and fidgets with the hem of his dark grey hoodie. “I didn’t do much.”

To be honest, he has never felt more helpless and useless. Everything he did seemed to be too little and too late. All he did was just to sustain and make him feel slightly more comfortable. Anything concrete he could do was to wrap up his wound and give him so fluids and meds to manage his pain.

“You saved me,” Carlos says, and the sincerity in his voice is so strong it makes his heart almost skip a beat.  He seems to fully believe it.

“That feels bit of an exaggeration,” he mutters, his eyes flashing back up to him.

All his gaze finds is the softness in his eyes and the determined shake of his head.

“You made me feel safe,” he admits, in a hushed tone. He holds his gaze and squeezes his hand more tightly.

The thing is, TK knows him, too. He can read him like an open book and usually see through any pretences he might put up, and currently he knows that Carlos means his words from the bottom of his heart and that there is nothing but gratefulness and pure affection in the way he looks at him.   

“I—,” he starts, but his voice cracks, “that’s good.”

His words, almost inexplicably, make him feel like crying again. It is overwhelming to know he could do at least something for him, and to know that he could give him a piece of safety in the middle of his fear, makes his heart flutter and fill with something that resembles hope and delight.

“That’s a lot,” Carlos concludes. He presses his lips together, and he seems to be deep in his thoughts before he flashes him a feeble smile. “I feel like I’m not getting out of here anytime, soon.”

He looks considerably better than he did back in the ruins. He isn’t nearly as pale as he was, but there are dark shadows under his eyes and it doesn’t escape TK’s attention that he is barely moving.

“You’re stuck here for at least few days.”

“Great,” he murmurs, glancing up towards the ceiling.

Carlos doesn’t like hospitals, TK knows that, and he has long recovery process ahead of him. He feels bad for him because he gets the uneasiness and restlessness that hospitals awake in him, and recovering is slow and frustrating.  

“You’re not getting rid of me either,” he tells him, squeezing his hand, but he carefully raises it and kisses his knuckles. “It’s now our joint honeymoon-turned-into-sick-leave.”

They were supposed to have a week off after their wedding, but he ended up with three-week sick leave or at least until his ribs heal enough for him to be able to work. He doesn’t want to even guess the length of Carlos’ sick leave.

They are both atrocious dealing with sick leaves, growing frustrated by the day about the feeling of usefulness and not being able to work, but he is little glad that they are in the same boat, and that he doesn’t have to leave him alone immediately.

“That’s depressing,” he says with a deep exhale.

“We might have gone little too hard on the whole in sickness and health aspect,” TK deadpans, but he strokes his leg gently.

“Maybe,” he agrees, but he cannot bite down the growing smile.  “Next time we attempt to get married, we’ll both take the day before off.”

TK laughs quietly, but it ends up abruptly as he grimaces. He instinctively holds his left side. “I think anything else would be just tempting fate at this point.”

Carlos just hums quietly, studying him with his gaze. There is exhaustion lingering in his eyes, but there is also so much love and affection in the way he looks at him, and maybe for the first time since walking into that damned building, TK’s stomach flips in a good way.

He stands up and sits on the edge of his hospital bed instead. “Can I kiss you?”

The last thing he wants to do is to hurt him, and while he looks content lying in the bed, he still isn’t exactly sure how he is feeling.

“I’d have kissed you already if I could move without pulling any stitches,” Carlos admits, his voice laced with amusement.

TK chuckles quietly, but he cups his face with both hands. He slowly and carefully leans in and Carlos’ is still smiling widely when their lips crash together. His lips taste faintly of sweat and they keep kissing each other tenderly and slowly, as if they would have all the time in the world, and TK sort of wants to hope and believe that they would have.