He doesn’t know how long they lay on the couch.
TK knows he should probably get up soon. He hasn’t properly showered in too long and the excitement from the day is already starting to take a toll on his still healing body, but he just can’t quite get himself to move yet.
Part of him still feels like he’s dreaming.
It hasn’t felt like that the entire time he’s been awake, between more tests than he could keep track of, multiple uncomfortable sponge baths by nurses who tried not to look at him as if he was a living miracle, and bone deep exhaustion that hadn’t gone away despite the days he spent asleep, he was very keen with his consciousness.
No one on their deathbed dreams of scenarios like that.
They dream of their happiest moments, moments of regret, moments where they should’ve done something different, moments from their childhood. He should know after all, he spent hours wanting to do nothing more than bake cookies with his mom just like when he was a little boy.
Which is why it’s hard to accept that this is real. It’s undoubtedly one of his biggest regrets, all redone and presented to him as a chance to make things right this time. With Carlos smiling at him, a smile he hasn’t seen in months. With all of his things mixed in with Carlos’, exactly in place like they should’ve been from the start, before he panicked.
And maybe this is really it. Maybe amidst all the blood draws and tests to ensure his organs are functioning properly, he slipped back under, and this is his subconscious’ way of giving him one last moment of peace before he’s truly gone.
But time and sensations were different in the dream. It felt like he was in slow motion and his mind wasn’t able to reach out much farther past the moment he was in. His mom was there, but he couldn’t touch her. And he was at home, but a sterile, barren version of it.
That’s nothing like how he feels now. The shelves in their house aren’t empty and it doesn’t feel like his mind is trapped in the present moment. He can remember the day he left, the look on Carlos’ face when he walked out, the unanswered texts. He can remember the feeling of Carlos’ hand in his once again, the feeling of loving and being loved again.
Everything in the moment he’s in is concrete. The rhythmic rise and fall of Carlos’ chest under his head as he breathes, the way the setting sun basks them in a blanket of warmth, the muffled sounds of the city outside their window, the fingers on his head, his back, his arm that can’t seem to settle.
Which means this is real. And accompanying that there’s that part of him that tells him to run again, but with a stronger force he hears his mom’s voice in his head and the promise he made Carlos in the hospital, and he knows he doesn’t have to. Things can be happy, he’s allowed to be happy.
He doesn't think he’s stopped smiling since he stepped foot in here. In their house. The one that he fell in love with the moment he saw the listing and then fell in love with all over again now that it looks like a home. The thought of their future here together sends a shiver through his body.
“Are you cold?” Carlos mumbles into his hair.
His immediate reaction is to say yes. He thinks there’s going to be a chill that won’t leave his body for a long time to come, but right now it’s not pressing. The heat from Carlos’ body more than makes up for the lack in his own.
“Are you sure? Let me go grab a blanket.” Carlos tries to shift out from under him but TK stops him with a hand to his chest and forces him to lay back down.
TK stares at him with an amused look on his face. “Are you going to mother hen me for the foreseeable future?”
Carlos huffs a laugh. “I think it would be justified.”
TK exhales slowly, settling back down as Carlos pulls him in tighter. “Yeah,” he mumbles into Carlos’ sweater. “I-”
“You are not going to apologize for almost dying.” Carlos cuts him off.
“Can I apologize for scaring you?”
“No, because it wasn’t your fault.”
“Still,” TK tries to shrug but it’s a little difficult with the way Carlos’ arm is wrapped tight around his shoulders. “I can’t imagine what you went through.”
Carlos is quiet for a moment, the only sound in the room is their synchronous breathing. “I really thought that was it,” Carlos whispers and TK makes a hurt sound in the back of the throat. “And I’m not saying that to make you feel bad I just…” he clears his throat.
“I’m here,” TK assures him, slipping his thumb under the bottom of Carlos’ sweater to feel the warm skin of his hip.
“You are,” Carlos confirms, like he can’t quite believe this is real. “You’re home and you’re alive and it just feels a little unreal when not too long ago I was saying goodbye. I had a whole speech and everything,” he confesses.
“I know.” Carlos cranes his neck to look at him. “I heard parts of it, I think. You were mixed in with the whole dream with my mom.”
“Really?” Carlos thought talking to TK’s comatose body was just a way to make himself feel better, a futile attempt at closure that he wasn’t sure was even worth it because TK wasn’t awake to hear it.
“I remember you being mad.” TK says and then after a beat adds, “Rightfully so.”
“TK, you know I’m not anymore. We talked about this, we’re okay.” Carlos pauses before choosing his next words carefully. “And I don’t want you to think that the last words I would’ve said to you wouldn’t have been words of love.”
“I know that, I know you. And just because we’re okay now doesn’t change the fact that I hurt you.”
“We both made mistakes.”
TK just hums. He knows that, they both do. The conversation they had back at the hospital wasn’t for nothing.
“And part of my anger was at the universe for taking away the opportunity to give us a second chance.”
TK exhales shakily, thinking about how truly close he came to losing this for good. “We have one now, and I’m not going to waste it.”
TK shuffles around so he’s more so laying on top of Carlos than in between his body and the back of the couch. Carlos’ hands come to his waist to steady him when he almost topples onto the floor.
“This couch isn’t as big as the last one,” TK says, looking down at Carlos with a smile.
“I think we’ll make do.” Carlos tightens his grip.
TK’s just about to kiss him when he hears the muffled sound of his phone going off.
“I think it’s still in the bag.” Carlos points out.
TK groans, reluctantly pushing himself up and disentangling from Carlos long enough to locate the phone. By the time he gets back to the couch Carlos is already sitting upright.
He sees that it’s a text from Marjan, one final reminder that the 126 is scheduled to be demolished in a few days. He knows he’s partly to blame for the fact that she has to ask everyone to please come, but it still breaks his heart that she would think they wouldn’t be there for it.
Her doubts are justifiable, however. None of them have proved that they still care as much as she has for the past few months.
“What is it?” TK shows him the phone.
“No more big swings to try and stop it?” TK makes a questioning hum. “I arrested her a few times,” Carlos explains.
TK lets out an amused huff before his expression goes forlorn again. “I think it’s really the end this time.”
Carlos kisses his temple. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he tries to keep his voice neutral but his heart’s not in it. “Just because we all don’t work together anymore doesn’t mean we can’t still hangout.”
“We have a brand new space to make that happen,” Carlos points out to lift TK’s spirits and he loves him for it.
He looks around their space and can practically see all the ways they're going to fill this place with their loved ones. “Exactly,” he smiles. “And I have my job at Paragon, which is, you know, good.” He doesn’t know who he’s trying to convince, but he knows he’s not doing a good job either way.
“You hate it.” Carlos says for him.
“I don’t hate it,” TK sighs. “I like that I get to stay with Nancy and Tommy, but…” He goes silent. He shouldn’t complain. It’s a good job with benefits and he knows how highly competitive it is to get a position there. There are so many people who would take his place in a heartbeat.
“But it’s not the same.” Carlos fills in for him.
“It’s not. And going to another station wouldn’t fix that.” TK chews on his bottom lip before looking at Carlos with a soft smile. “Although if I worked for the city again I would probably get to see you more.”
Carlos hums into his hair. “Well then I think I know which one I want you to pick,” he jokes and TK leans back into his side. He does drive a hard bargain. “You’ll figure it out.”
TK squeezes his knee in response, waiting a minute before asking, “Is there any food here?”
Carlos’ laugh is low and subtle, nothing even remotely infectious, but it fills TK with such a sense of home that he finds himself smiling along with him.
“I figured you’d be sick of hospital food. There’s soup in the fridge.”
TK trails after Carlos into the kitchen, a new room that he has yet to see all the subtle little details in. There’s a picture that Izzy and Evie drew stuck to the fridge and when Carlos opens the door, he sees the top shelf stacked full of mineral waters and a bottle of his favorite coffee creamer.
When he gets pointed to the direction of the bowls, he finds them stacked next to his mugs. They’re not the dull, aesthetic ones that Owen keeps on display in his house, but ones with character that were hidden deep in the cupboard and that tells TK that Carlos really took the time to pack every last thing for him, to make sure this was just as much his home as it is Carlos’.
He watches Carlos seamlessly float through the room, grabbing a pot and flipping on the burner. He selfishly wonders how many times Carlos cooked in this kitchen alone wishing TK were there with him.
But he’s here now so he crosses the room, leaning against the counter next to the stove as he watches Carlos dump the soup out of the container and into the pot. “When did you have time to cook?”
“My mom dropped it off when I was unpacking your stuff.”
TK lights up. “Really?”
Carlos squints at him. “Wow, you weren’t that excited when you thought I was the one who made it.”
TK rolls his eyes. “I don’t get to eat your mom’s cooking as much as I get to eat yours.” As soon as the words are out of his mouth he pauses, realizing that hasn’t exactly been true lately. “I did miss your cooking a lot,” he says softly.
The look Carlos gives him is one he’s been seeing a lot lately, like TK can physically see another piece of his heart get put back together by TK’s words. “We can make dinner together tomorrow night,” Carlos suggests.
Carlos squeezes his hip as he moves past him to put the rest of the container back in the fridge. That’s one of the things TK missed the most, the little things. Small brushes of fingertips, the moment their eyes would always meet when they were at the same call, kisses dropped on his head when Carlos thought he was asleep, bumping knees or feet whenever they were seated together in public.
“Speaking of your mom,” TK says. “Was she at the hospital? I know I was a little out of it but I swear I saw her.”
“She was there,” Carlos confirms. “And she’s glad you’re okay.”
“That was nice of her.” Nice might be a bit of an understatement. TK knows he can’t be high on her list of favorite people but he’s so glad Carlos had her there to help him through it.
“Yeah. She would’ve stayed to say hi, but you had so many visitors, so.” Carlos doesn’t meet his eyes as he says it and TK grabs his hand, forcing him to come to a stop in front of him.
“Really?” TK says with one eyebrow raised. As if TK doesn’t know Carlos well enough to figure out that he’s leaving out a detail or two.
Carlos lasts all of two seconds before his resolve breaks. “Okay, fine. She wants to have a conversation with you, but I politely asked if maybe she wouldn’t do it when you were in a hospital bed. Which reminds me, as soon as you feel up to it I’m supposed to bring you over for dinner.”
“Of course I’ll come to dinner.” TK squeezes his hand. “And by conversation you mean…”
“She’s going to go a little mama bear on you,” Carlos winces.
TK tries to keep his expression neutral, but he has to look away from Carlos. “Yeah, I probably deserve that.”
“She loves you, nothing about that has changed.”
“She just doesn’t love what I did to you,” TK fills in and Carlos frowns at him. “It’s okay, really. She’s just protective over you, I get it. I’m glad you have people to stick up for you.”
“And I promise I’ll stick up for you.” TK starts to chuckle but Carlos cups his face and when he looks at him, there’s no trace of humor. “I mean it. I know enough not to argue with her when she sets her mind to something, but we're a team. You’ll always have me on your side.”
TK kisses him and savors every moment as he does so. The way his hands splay out across his back, the way he smells, or the way his hair tickles his forehead are all details TK has committed to memory, replaying them countless times as a poor substitute for the real thing. And now that he has the real thing, he’s never going to take a moment for granted.
“I’m on your side, too. Always.”
There isn't anything significant about the rest of the evening. After finishing dinner they load the dishwasher and Carlos excitedly shows him all the cool features, they fall back onto the couch only to last halfway through a movie before TK is nodding off, and finally they crawl into a bed that has never had more than one occupant.
It's nothing monumental, yet TK doesn't think he's ever been happier.