“Good morning, fiancé.”
Carlos turned to TK, walking into the kitchen with the widest smile.
“Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?” he continued, before Carlos had the chance to say anything back to him. And then TK’s lips were on his, and he really couldn’t say anything.
Not that he was complaining. On the contrary, Carlos was already looking forward to kissing that man for the rest of their lives.
“It does,” he eventually managed to get out, wrapping his arms around TK’s shoulders. “Best thing I have ever been called.”
“For now,” his fiancé shot back. “I think the husband is going to be even sweeter.”
“Can’t wait.” He gave him another quick kiss, before turning his attention back to the pancakes.
“Omigod, you’re even making me pancakes,” TK beamed and leaned against Carlos’ back, resting his head on his shoulder. “Seriously, best fiancé ever.”
“Because you’ve had so many I could compare with.”
“Yeah, I guess Alex doesn’t exactly count… Man, to think a proposal brought me here, and another one keeps me here,” he chuckled and, after a kiss to Carlos’ cheek, went to lay the table.
It did almost surprise Carlos how calm TK could joke about that time he overdosed because his proposal was denied. He didn’t have any time to really linger on it, though, since, ever since their engagement party last night, TK was hyper like an over-excited puppy. Fine, so was Carlos, he just internalized it a little better. At least that’s what he talked himself into believing.
“I can’t wait to tell my dad. He’s gonna be so stoked! And you folks, who I hope will also be happy about our news. Oh shit, are your parents like totally traditional about that stuff?”
“Traditional? As in marriage is between a man and a woman only?”
“What? No, I mean, that I didn’t ask their blessing.”
“I don’t think they’ll be mad at you for not asking you before,” Carlos grinned at that meek smile on TK’s face. “But they will be just as happy as your dad.” A plate of pancakes in one hand and the maple syrup in the other, Carlos walked over to the nicely laid table. “Probably not as happy as me though.”
“To be completely honest, that is the one thing that matters to me more than anything else,” TK beamed. “Still, we should tell them asap. How about we invite them over? Preferably tonight, because I kinda wanna shout it from the rooftops.”
“That is the sweetest thing,” Carlos beamed. “But my dad is out of town on a case. He’ll only be back in a few days.”
“Oh.” TK’s face fell a little, and Carlos could see him thinking, as he filled his plate with pancakes. “Right, we should tell all of them at once, that’s the fairest thing to do. I’ll tell the others not to start blabbing when I see them at work later, and we have our folks over the moment your dad is back in town.”
“Deal,” Carlos nodded. He was just as excited to tell his parents. Time really does change everything… A year and a half ago, Carlos had been too scared to tell his parents about his relationship with TK, now he couldn’t wait to tell them about the engagement. Carlos really was the luckiest sonofabitch out there.
The mood at the 126 was at an unusual high. Marjan, Paul and Mateo all were caught in their own little fantasies about being best man, all dressed up and practicing their speeches in their heads. Neither of the three had stopped smiling ever since they figured out why last night’s session of Catan was so special.
“Not sure how it works,” Mateo asked, as they stood around the coffee maker. “Are there gonna be two bachelor parties or just the one?”
“We can plan multiple parties,” Marjan grinned. “I mean, I’ve always wanted to be in a reboot of Hangover.”
“Why does this not surprise me?” Paul shot back and got an elbow to the side in response.
“Ok, and we probably can’t get female strippers either, right?”
“How much are you gonna pay to keep us from telling Nancy about that?” Both Marjan and Paul tried to keep their grins down, as they raised an eyebrow.
“Aw, come on, man,” Mateo grumbled and turned all red.
“But no, Mateo, we cannot get female strippers for a gay bachelor party. I mean we could, but I don’t think that either TK or Carlos would appreciate it.”
“Yeah, that’s fair.”
“If we have two separate parties, we should get cops for TK and paramedics for Carlos, right?”
“Sherlock Strickland, coming in with the genius ideas once again!”
“Why, thank you very much.” Paul took a few exaggerated bows, as Marjan and Mateo applauded him for that idea. “We should probably wait with the proper party planning until Nancy’s here, though,” he continued. “She’ll probably want to join in on the planning fun.”
“Once again, amazing point.”
Not sure who started, they just broke out into laughter. The jovial atmosphere, plus the excitement of bachelor parties was more than enough to turn this cloudy Monday morning into the best day any of them have had in a while.
“Why, aren’t you in a good mood.” Owen walked by them to the coffee maker, getting himself his late-morning beverage. “I don’t think the 126 has been this happy since the reopening.”
“Come now, Cap, you gotta be just as over the moon as the rest of us!”
“Probably more so.”
He didn’t quite get, what they meant with that. Especially the way they all grinned at him, all expectantly, as if there was some big news he should know about. So, he just returned their stares with a shrug.
“You can’t tell us that you’re not happy about getting to plan a wedding!”
“What?” He looked around the group, as three faces dropped. “What wedding?”
“Omigod,” Paul mumbled. “I did not see this coming. How did I not see this coming?”
“Nothing,” Marjan quickly threw in, “we didn’t mean anything by that.”
“I’m not buying that, Marwani.” That whole interaction left only one conclusion. One conclusion, that Owen better be damn sure about. “Who is getting married?”
“Sorry, we didn’t know that you don’t know yet, so we’re not gonna say anything else, because they should get to tell you themselves.”
That was more than enough for Owen to come to his conclusion. His boy was engaged. ENGAGED! “Oh my,” he sighed, as a smile spread from ear to ear. TK had been ready to get married once before, and it had backfired in the worst possible way. Now, with Carlos… Oh, Owen knew it, they’ll have a wonderful future together.
“You cannot tell them that you know.” Marjan’s urging ripped him out of his thoughts. “They would kill us, and then no longer let us plan their bachelor parties.”
“No, of course not,” Owen nodded, trying not to let the tears run wild. “He needs to tell me himself.”
“Right. Why hasn’t he, though?” Mateo asked.
A question, Owen was asking himself as well. “Whatever his reason, he’ll tell me in due time. Until then, I will keep my mouth shut -“ as hard as that might be “- and let you guys get back to planning the perfect bachelor party.” With a wink, Owen turned and headed for his office, where he just tried to stay calm, and not start crying. His boy was engaged. And to a wonderful man like Carlos at that, it just was more than perfect.
At least that part was. The not-having-been-told-yet was a little… well, making him insecure. Why not? Did Carlos’ parents know yet?
Against all his better judgement, he dialled the Reyes’ number. Owen just couldn’t help himself, he couldn’t sit here, not knowing.
“Hello, Andrea Reyes here.”
“Andrea, hello, it’s Owen.”
“Owen, how wonderful of you to call! How are you?”
“I am doing well, and you?”
“Yes, me too. What can I do for you?”
“I was just wondering, have you talked to either of our boys recently?”
“No,” she answered, “not for a few days. Why? Did something happen?”
“Oh, no, no, don’t worry,” he was quick to assure her. “Everything is fine. Was just curious.” Ok, so Owen wasn’t the only one who didn’t know; they hadn’t done the telling-the-parents-thing at all so far.
“This is not like you, Owen. You don’t call about Carlos or TK when there is nothing going on.”
Oh dear Lord, he shouldn’t have called her. He just shouldn’t have! “Everything really is ok, and…”
“No, don’t give me that. What is going on? I can hear it in your voice, something happened. And you will not keep secrets about my own son from me.”
“I don’t think I can tell you…” Now he would blab out the secret? Damnit, what kind of father did that? “It’s nothing bad, on the contrary. But, you know, I’m not supposed to know yet either and I really am not the person you should hear this from.”
It was silent at the other end of the line for a moment. “So, it is good news, about our boys that… Owen, did they do what I think they did?”
And she figured it out, of course she did. That woman was sharp as a tack after all. There was no point in keeping it secret, so he answered: “they did.”
“Oh, dios mio!” She started laughing. “How wonderful!”
“It is, isn’t it? But we shouldn’t know yet! I found out by accident, not because TK told me. So, we should probably pretend that we know nothing, until they tell us.”
“Yes,” Andrea agreed, “that is what we should do.”
“Good, then we are in agreement. I am so sorry that I have spoiled the surprise for you!”
“There is no need to be sorry, I would have called you as well, if I had found out about that.”
“That makes me feel better,” Owen laughed. That smile brightened even more, when he looked out through the window and saw his son coming into work, grinning from ear to ear. He walked in with Nancy, and quickly looked up to the office to wave at him. Owen waved right back and with a wide smile, TK’s attention went back to his partner. “Andrea, I have to get back to work, but I will see you soon.”
After their goodbyes, Owen put the phone down, and watched, as TK walked into the hall, Nancy by his side, both of them grinning from ear to ear. He could almost hear the laughter, when they were joined by Paul, Marjan and Mateo.
Joy, pure and unbridled joy was what Owen witnessed, and felt in his chest. From finding his son on the brink of death after a proposal to seeing him celebrating it… He just wished that Gwyn could be here to see it.
“Good morning, lover boy.” Nancy greeted TK with a wide smile, as they walked up to the fire house.
“And a good morning to you, too,” he grinned back. “How was your weekend?”
“Oh, you know,” she shot back, “uneventful. Nothing worth mentioning. Yours?”
“Same,” TK answered, though his heart-eyes were bright enough to slowly but surely warrant medical attention.
They both managed to stay sincere for a moment, maybe two, until they burst into laughter.
“In all honesty, though. I am so happy, you got no idea.”
“You and me both, partner.”
TK looked up to his dad’s office. Dad was on the phone, but caught TK’s eye and waved back, as TK greeted him.
“Just between us two. As your partner, I got a right to be your best man. Right?”
“Uhm, honestly, we haven’t really figured that one out yet. But I will remember our special bond, when that decision will be made.”
“I should damn well hope so!”
“Oh, good, you’re here.” Marjan, Mateo and Paul walked over to them, looking just as overjoyed. With ‘you’ they however didn’t seem to mean the both of them, but just Nancy.
“Sorry, TK, but Nancy needs to come with us.”
“Can’t plan the bachelor parties without her.”
“Good point,” she grinned and linked her arm with Marjan.
“Excuse me,” TK threw in, “bachelor parties? As in plural?”
“One for you, one for Carlos,” Mateo shrugged, quite matter-of-factly.
“So you guys can party twice?”
“At least!” they all shot back in unison. “Come on, Nance, we already got some ideas.”
“Good, because so do I.”
“Ok, that is kinda awesome, kinda making me a little nervous, but I know better than to go up against all of you,” TK admitted with a grin. “Just, do me one favour, alright?”
“Keep it on the DL, ok? You’re so far the only ones who know, and I don’t want it getting through to my dad until we tell him.”
“Yeah, of course,” they nodded their agreement. “Now you stay here, we got some planning to do.”The moment they had their backs turned to TK, their faces fell. And as soon as they were out of earshot, Paul mumbled: “Nancy, we screwed up big time.”
“What did you do?”
“We kinda assumed that Owen already knows…” Marjan explained enough, so Nancy could fill out the rest by herself.
“Oh no, you didn’t!”
“We kinda did…”
“Right.” With a sigh, Nancy fell on one of the chairs. “Well, all we can do is shut up about that. And hope that Captain Strand is good enough of an actor that TK will buy his surprise, once they eventually tell him.”
“Anything else you guys want to confess?” she asked, more as a joke than anything else.
“Mateo asked about getting female strippers for the parties!”
“Seriously, dude?” Mateo groaned, before turning to Nancy with a beet-red face. “I didn’t ask because of me. I was just curious how gay stag nights are handled.”
“Right,” she deadpanned. “You’re lucky you’re cute, Chavez.”
“But not as cute as you,” he beamed and skipped over to put a kiss on her cheek.“Good answer,” she beamed. “Right then, what are your ideas?”
The scene was quite a mess. A driver had lost control of his car, crashing it right through the store front of a small-business, drawing no-idea-how-many gawkers from surrounding shops. The APD tried to keep them back, but once the firetruck and the ambulance arrived, people seemed to be even more curious. That store being a bridal boutique, filled with a few hysterical brides-to-be, didn’t help the situation.
“Damn,” TK mumbled, as he pushed though the masses of people, into the store. The store itself was a mess. Dust, rubble and glass was strewn all over, bridal gowns that used to be white were greyish-black and a bunch of shelves had tipped over, when the car crashed into it.
“Good, you’re here.” And there was Carlos, and as professional as they managed to be when running into each other on calls, today TK couldn’t help but beam at him with the widest smile, especially once he smiled back just as widely. That was his fiancé. His FIANCÉ! TK had no idea how to handle all this joy. Beaming like that was maybe quite unprofessional for a call like this, but if he had to contain his joy much more, he’d probably explode.
“The driver needs some looking at, but the worst is back here.” The driver sat on a divan, some cuts on his face, looking rather confused.
“Nancy, look after the driver,” Tommy ordered, and Nancy went straight to action. The rest of the 126 followed Carlos to the end of the room.
“With the impact, the shelves fell like dominoes,” Carlos reported. “It happened too fast for them to react.”
At the back of the room was what probably used to be a fitting area. A few women were gathered that took a few steps back, when the EMTs and firefighters arrived, revealing one woman that had gotten caught under one of the shelves. With the paramedics arriving, a few officers led the other women outside, so they had room to do their job.
“Hello ma’am,” TK smiled, as he and Tommy kneeled down by her side. Her bust was free, but everything below her waist was caught under the heavy shelf. “I’m TK, what’s your name?”
“Melissa,” she answered through tears.
“It’s nice to meet you, Melissa.” She had to be the bride; the uncovered bit of her outfit was a sparkling white fabric that screamed wedding dress.
“We’re gonna make sure that you’re ok, and then Captain Strand and his crew will free you from under there,” Tommy explained, as she took Melissa’s pulse.
“Can you tell me where it hurts?”
“The worst is on the foot and thighs and there’s something poking into my stomach.”
“Alright, do you know if it went through the skin or is it just some heavy pressure?”
Bit for bit they continued, until they were sure that there were no spinal injuries, no deeper wounds and that the shelf could be moved without endangering her further. In the meantime, the 126 had coordinated their rescue, starting with the shelves in the front of the store, working their way back towards Melissa.
“I think I should congratulate you,” TK eventually smiled, trying to get her to relax. “For getting married.”
“Thank you,” she sobbed, close to hyperventilating. That wouldn’t do.
“Who is the lucky one?”
“His name is Patrick.” At that, she almost smiled.
“Tell me about him!”
“We met at work. We’re working at the same legal firm, and there was an instant attraction. And then, with seeing each other at work all the time, well, Patrick says it was inevitable.” Bit by bit she calmed, as she continued talking about her fiancé. “To be honest, I was a little hesitant at first, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. But man, am I glad I gave him and us a chance. He makes me so happy, I can’t even put it into words.
Well, that story rang eerily familiar… TK turned, just for a moment towards Carlos, who had the same smile on his face, clearly thinking the exact same thing.
“I get that, more than you might think. And Patrick sound like a wonderful man.”
“You smile like you have someone like that as well,” Melissa observed, and TK could just chuckle.
“I do,” he nodded. “Same story as you and Patrick; we run into each other at work all the time. And I was the one who pulled back. A lot. Now, though… I don’t think I’ve ever thanked him for not giving up on me.”
He could feel Carlos’ stare burning into the back of his head, but his job at the moment was Melissa, his fiancé could wait until after work.
“Wedding bells ringing in your future as well?”
“Yeah,” he beamed, forgetting for a moment that that wasn’t public knowledge yet.
“Wait, what?” Tommy froze in her movements, staring at TK, then looking over at Carlos, before locking eyes with TK again. “Are you…?”
Well, fuck. “Ok, you’re gonna need to keep it down,” he hissed at his Captain, “because Dad doesn’t know yet.”
“But that means that you are?” The widest smile spread over Cap’s face. “That is so great, congratulations you two.”
“Thanks,” Carlos grinned, before shooting TK a look. “What was it about waiting till my dad is back in town?”
“Is that him?” Melissa asked, unable to turn enough to look at him.
“Yeah, that’s him,” TK beamed in pride and joy and all these other positive feelings that fluttered through his chest whenever Carlos was close. “Babe, say hi.”
He shook his head, blushing a little for being paraded around like that, but walked into Melissa’s line of sight. “Hi, I’m Carlos.”
“Hi,” she smiled, as much as her pain let her, before turning back to TK. “Nice pull, he’s cute.”
“Yeah,” TK agreed and smirked at Carlos, who blushed even more. “The cutest.”
“TK Strand.” Tommy had gone back to tending to Melissa, and barely looked up at him. “As your boss, I need to ask you…”
“…to get back to work, yeah, sorry,” he apologized.
“No,” she shook her head, “I need to ask you when that happened.” Now she looked over, shooting him a look that clearly communicated that it might have been phrased as a question but was most certainly an order.
“Sunday, at 3.18am,” Carlos answered, and took his stance a little further back. “He asked, in case that’s your next question.”
“Ok, since it happened only yesterday, I’m not too mad that I didn’t know yet,” Cap grinned. “Still within the acceptable parameter of being told.”
“Are you sure?” TK shot back, “don’t you think that 33 hours is pushing it a little?”
Melissa squeezed TK’s hand. “Seriously, congratulations. To both of you,” she added, nodding slightly in Carlos’ direction. She smiled, but that faded quickly. “AAH!” she cried out, before either TK or Carlos could thank her.
“DAD, STOP!” TK called out, having seen what had happened. The removing of some of the shelves had shifted their position, including where they impacted on Melissa.
“Where does it hurt?”
“Hips,” she whimpered, clawing into TK’s hand.
“What happened?” Owen walked up to them, looking from TK to Tommy.
“We need to secure this shelf, so it doesn’t shift while you move the others,” TK explained, as Tommy tried to pat down her torso.
“Thank you, Captain Strand,” Owen shot back at his son, who didn’t pay him anymore attention. Fine, TK was being a little bossy right now, but he felt a kinship to Melissa, and making sure she would be well for her wedding day was his top priority. Mostly, because even though he had only been engaged for like two days, he felt that urgency. That longing.
So, he stayed right there, as Mateo and Paul secured the shelf, as they went back to removing the others, as he tried to distract Melissa by asking about her wedding planning.
Eventually, the 126 had worked their way all the way back, and together, they could pull Melissa out. Once free, Tommy did a quick assessment of her torso and legs, as Melissa locked eyes with TK. “Thank you,” she sighed, “for getting me through this.”
“Of course,” he smiled back. “And besides.” He leaned in close enough, so only she would hear, “you’ve given me a few ideas for my own wedding. So, consider us even.”
“Ok, we’re ready to move her, lift on my count, three, two, one and go,” Tommy ordered, and, once she was on the gurney, things were a lot calmer. Calm enough, that TK dared to take a few looks around the boutique. Most of the clothes were damaged, but there were a few quite nice-looking tuxedos in between all the rubble, and TK couldn’t help but imagine himself in one of those. A dark green one looked, at least from afar, quite good to him. Catching Carlos’ eye, he gave a gentle nod towards the outfit he had discovered and, after following his gestures, a wide grin spread over his face. He turned back to face TK with a smirk, giving a small nod. So Carlos agreed, TK would look particularly good in that one. Something to keep in the back of his mind for when the day to actually go tuxedo shopping came.
Keeping this secret was almost an impossibility. Owen just wanted to hug TK, tell him he knew, tell him how happy and proud he was, but no. He wasn’t supposed to know yet, so he had to stay quiet. Even after a case like this! Of course the first call they would get that day was to a damn bridal shop. And of course Carlos would be there as well. And as sly and as underhanded those two thought all their stolen glances at nice tuxedos and each other to be, they weren’t. To no one. Especially not once TK started to chat with their survivor about wedding planning.
TK was a man of many talents, but subtlety was not his forte.
And if things continued like this, Owen was not sure he would be able to keep his mouth shut until those two were finally ready to announce it all.
“Hey TK, got a question for you.” Nancy jumped out of the rig, after finishing inventory.
“Shoot,” he nodded, wiping down the chassis.
“Yeah, maybe not here…” she mumbled. “It’s about… you know…” Nancy motioned at her ring finger, trying to hide it from Tommy.
“Oh, it’s alright,” he shrugged, “Cap knows.”
“What?” Nancy looked between TK and Tommy. “So, you basically told everybody but your dad?”
“Why?” Tommy looked up from her clipboard, just as curious as Nancy.
“Because Carlos’ dad is out on a case.” TK moved along the rig, as he continued cleaning it, the two women following right behind. “We want to tell our parents together, and we would have done it right away, but until Mr Reyes is back in town, we gotta keep it to ourselves. That’s why they don’t know yet.”
Why Carlos’ parents don’t know yet, Nancy thought, knowing full well that Owen already practiced his toast and imagined himself walking TK down the aisle. Captain Strand was doing an alright job of pretending he didn’t know what was going on. It probably helped that TK was no longer a firefighter, and they didn’t see each other that much. Although, earlier at that bridal boutique Owen looked as if he was one laced veil away from blurting it all out.
“And how come you know?” She turned to their Captain.
“Because in trying to keep our victim calm, TK bonded over getting married.”
“Yeah, that’ll do it,” Nancy shrugged, and with a chuckle leaned against the already cleaned bits of the ambulance. “Get any good ideas?”
“Already eyed the tuxedos.”
“I know,” Cap snorted. “You and Carlos weren’t exactly sly about that one.”
“Can’t blame them, Cap, not when the first call after getting engaged is to a damn bridal shop.”
“Who’s engaged?” From behind the rig, Judd hobbled over on his crutches, looking from Cap to Nancy, to TK, all of whom blushed in different shades and intensities of red. “I’m gonna assume that it’s not Nancy and Mateo.”
“You’re seeing Mateo?” Tommy stared at Nancy, who looked at Judd with wide eyes.
“How do you know about that?”
“I have those things called eyes,” he grinned and sat on the bumper of the rig. “Well, TK, congrats.” He shot him the widest smile. “Marriage is a wonderful thing, and with Carlos you’ve found a wonderful guy.”
“Really appreciate that,” TK smiled back and sat next to him, leaning against his side.
“Ok, not to keep score, but now really everyone but your parents know.”
“Oh shit, really?”
“We have not announced it once,” TK recalled with a sigh. “We wanted to tell you guys, but you figured it out before Carlos could do his heartfelt speech, and you both,” he pointed at Cap and Judd, “overheard. So please, just let us at least announce it to our parents.”
Man, Nancy really felt sorry for those two. A little bit at least. They were engaged after all, but getting to tell others was part of the fun. Or so she imagined.
“Question,” Judd threw in. “Bachelor party.”
“Ask Nancy,” TK shrugged. “From what I’ve gathered there are enough ideas for multiple parties.”
“There are, mostly because Marjan wants to re-enact the Hangover movies.”
“Tell us beforehand which one that is, I would want to skip that one.”
“Yeah,” TK agreed with Judd, “can that be a party for Carlos? I’ve had my fair share of Hangovers, don’t need to repeat that.”
“As your best man, I can make that happen.”
“Self-appointed,” TK made clear, but Nancy decided not to hear that.
“Either way, best man.”
“Sounds like you and Carlos gotta figure that one out pretty soon, or we’ll have a bloodbath on our hands.”
“I want front row seats for that prize fight,” Judd laughed. “My money is on the ladies. Strickland won’t fight anyone, and I think you and Marjan can take Mateo.”
“Oh, Nancy can take Mateo alright,” TK chuckled and dodged the cloth that flew his way.
“Appreciate the faith,” she said pointedly to Judd and not TK. “Also appreciate that the choice will be completely taken away from the happy couple.”
“Maybe Judd’s an option, d’you think about that?” TK threw in with a smirk. “In my head it’s a redneck, cowboy bachelor party, with rodeo and line dancing.”
“You’re beat for beat describing his bachelor party from back in the day,” Tommy laughed. “Was a good night.”
“Yeah, it was,” he agreed and put an arm around TK’s shoulder. “I appreciate being an option, if only a hypothetical one to tease your self-appointed best man. Still, title or no title, if you want a good old-fashioned party with rodeo, line dance and Stetsons, you know who to call.”
“Honey, I’m home!” Carlos called out as he walked into the apartment.
“Hey babe.” TK was in the kitchen, cutting up the salad for dinner. “Perfect timing, I’m almost done.”
“Damn.” Carlos walked over, and wrapped his arms around TK’s waist, resting his head on his shoulder. “He’s hot and knows his way around a kitchen… Total husband material.”
“Right?” TK turned his head enough to put a kiss on Carlos’ cheek. “Whatever guy snatches me up really won the jackpot.”
“Lucky him,” Carlos mumbled in that deep, raspy voice that sent shivers down TK’s spine and made him want to skip dinner entirely.
“Pretty sure I’m the lucky one,” TK shot back. “Melissa, from the call earlier today, she was right, you’re a nice pull.”
“Aw,” Carlos deadpanned, “that makes me feel so special. But you were also right.” He sat up on the kitchen counter, shooting TK a smirk. “You never did thank me for not giving up on you.”
TK put the knife down, taking his stance by Carlos, wrapping his arms around him, leaning their foreheads together. “Thank you, and I mean it. I will spend the rest of our lives trying to show you how grateful I am.”
“That was a good thank-you,” Carlos chuckled, brushing his hand through TK’s hair. “To be honest, though, I would have also accepted a hand-written note.”
“I can do that. I just had something else in mind to show my gratitude.” TK let his hand trail down Carlos’ side, resting it on his hips, drawing circles with his thumb.
“That is also acceptable.” Carlos closed the last bit of space between their lips, losing himself in the gentleness. “However…” He leaned back just enough. “I’d prefer dinner first.”
“That can be arranged.” TK walked back to his dinner preparation and put the cucumbers into the salad. “Sit down, ready to serve.”
And in no time at all, they sat over their dinner. “I should probably tell you that Judd knows.”
“I’m not even surprised anymore,” Carlos sighed. “How?”
“Nancy, Cap and I were talking about it, and he overheard it. Came by to pick up Tommy, that’s why he walked right over to our side of the building. Offered to throw us a nice cowboy-style bachelor party. And is very happy for us.”
“That’s sweet. So, I guess our parents really are the only ones that don’t know yet, huh?”
“Yeah… Really killed me earlier,” TK admitted. “During that call at the bridal store, I just… I just wanna tell my dad.”
“I get that. You know what?” Carlos grabbed his phone from his pocket.
“What are you doing?”
“Just, hang on a moment… Hi Mum!”
“Carlitos! So nice of you to call! How are you, mijo?”
“I’m doing good, and you?”
“Great. Listen, I wanted to ask when Dad is back, because, well, TK and I thought it’d be nice to have a family dinner.”
“Oh, that is a wonderful idea! It has been a while since the last time we did that. Your father will be back on Wednesday.”
“In two days, alright. You want to come over right that evening? It’s just, you know TK has a lot of late shifts coming up.” Well, that was a lie. But that way they could get them over as soon as possible.
“I’m sure your father won’t mind, on the contrary. Just, mijo, don’t forget the limes this time.”
“Yes, Mama, I won’t forget. But great, we can’t wait!”
“Neither can I. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Alright.” Carlos put his phone away, and grinned at TK. “We only have to keep it secret till Wednesday.”
“Alright.” Now TK got his phone out and dialled his dad.
“Hi Dad, are you free on Wednesday?”
“I got the early shift, but besides that, yeah. What’s the idea?”
“Strand-Reyes family dinner at our place.”
“That sounds fantastic, yeah, I’ll be there. Should I bring anything?”
“Nah, let Carlos and me worry about that, we got it.”
“Of course you do, you two are such an amazing team. Anyways, I… No, Buttercup, that is not for you, I… Oh god, Buttercup found my hair products, I gotta go. Love you son, bye!”
And before TK could say anything to his dad, he had hung up.
“Oh, drama…” he giggled. “Buttercup found my dad’s stash of hair products. But my dad will be here.”
“Yeah, sounded really excited about it.”
“My mum as well. Really looking forward.”
“Probably not as much as us, though,” TK beamed. “And I don’t know about you, but I think doing the dishes can wait. I still got that show of gratitude I owe you…” And with that, TK pulled Carlos to his feet and to the bedroom.
When Carlos woke up, it was still dark out. 2 am. He turned, hoping he hadn’t woken up TK, but the bed was empty. The door was ajar, a bit of light shone through. Carlos rolled out of bed and walked towards the living room, where TK was sitting on the couch, leafing through a book.
TK looked up, smiling, though it wasn’t exactly happy. “Sorry, did I wake you?”
“Nah, don’t worry.” Carlos walked over, and sidled up to TK. “Your Mum.” The book TK looked through was a photo album, filled with pictured of TK and his parents. It was opened on a picture of Gwyn hugging an approximately 14-year-old TK.
“I’m so happy. I’m so happy with you, with where out life is going. I’m so happy that I get to marry you. I just want to tell her. Tell her how happy I am. Talk floral arrangements, and tuxedos, and whether TK Reyes or Carlos Strand sounds better.”
At that TK chuckled a little, and Carlos couldn’t help but giggle along. He put an arm around TK’s shoulder, and he leaned in, tracing a finger over his Mum’s picture.
“All I really know,” Carlos eventually said, “is that she loves you, and is so proud of you. And I think she knows that you’re happy. I mean, I know that that’s not the same as actually hearing her say it, but it still stands. But I do think that your Mum would be the one to introduce the possibility of TK and Carlos Strand-Reyes. Or Reyes-Strand.”
Just like Carlos hoped, TK started to laugh. “You’re right,” he chuckled. “But I think that Tyler Kennedy Reyes-Strand is a bit of a mouthful…”
“Maybe just a tad,” Carlos smiled and gently stroked over TK’s arm. “I can’t even begin to understand how all this feels. But I do know that she will still be there, because, and I know this sounds cheesy, but she’s right here.” He put a hand over TK’s heart. “I’ve seen it the very first time I met her, and I saw you and her together. There is so much of her in you, the way you hold yourself, your determination…”
“Dad calls that stubbornness,” TK threw in.
“Yeah, I didn’t want to be mean, so I went with determined,” Carlos admitted, earning him a snorted laugh. “But the point still stands. Her spirit is going to be right there.”
“Wait…” TK turned a little in the embrace and looked up at Carlos. “Are you Rafiki-ing me right now?”
“Is it working?” he shot back and wiped a tear off TK’s cheek.
“I shall neither confirm nor deny,” he made clear, as he scooted a little closer into the embrace again. That was answer enough; The Lion King always worked.
“But you do feel compelled to belt out Circle Of Life, don’t you?”
“Damn,” TK sighed, “you know me so well.”
After being on the road this last week, helping out on a case out west, a wonderful evening with the family was just the right thing for Gabriel to relax. But for some reason, this family dinner at Carlos and TK’s didn’t feel quite like the calm and cozy get-together, Gabriel had been hoping for. He did expect some curious questions about the case, listen to some outrageous and borderline dangerous stories about a case of theirs from the last few days. But instead, he was met with TK and Carlos, all cozy, stolen glances, communicating apparently through looks alone. And on top of that, Andrea’s full attention was on Owen, as they tried themselves at nonverbal communication. Which had started the moment, they walked into the apartment.
“Ok, what is going on here?” Gabriel demanded to know, once he couldn’t take all of that anymore.
“I don’t think I know what you mean,” Andrea shrugged, though the blush on her cheeks betrayed her.
“I might be a little tired and a little overworked, but I’m no idiot,” Gabriel made clear. “You two,” he pointed at TK and Carlos, “have been conspiring all evening long, and so have the two of you.” He turned to his wife and Owen.
“Now, Gabriel, I don’t think I agree with you. I’m not conspiring with Andrea; we’re just having a wonderful conversation about nothing or no one in particular.”
Well that was bullshit. But, before he could call Owen out on that, TK admitted: “you’re not wrong, we have something to tell you.”
“Oh, you do?” Andrea asked with wide eyes, comically wide in fact. She was hiding something, and that not very well.
Neither was Owen. “You have news for us?”
Oh, they knew exactly what the boys were about to announce. Which the boys themselves seemed to figure out now as well.
“Oh god, you know.” TK and Carlos faces fell at pretty much the same time, as they stared at their parents.
“I don’t think we know anything,” Andrea continued.
“Aw man, you do know,” Carlos groaned and fell against TK’s side. “I’m starting to believe that the heartfelt speech just isn’t in the cards for us.”
“Tell me about it,” TK sighed and turned to his father. “How’d you find out?”
“I…” Owen hesitated a moment, debating with himself whether to be truthful or continue pretending he had no idea what TK was talking about. He settled on the truth. “Marjan, Paul and Mateo. Monday morning, just before you came in.”
“Of course,” TK rolled his eyes, and fell back into the cushions.
“And how do you know?” Carlos asked his mother.
“Well…” she shrugged and nodded in Owen’ direction. “Monday morning as well, maybe fifteen minutes later.”
“For reals, Dad? You told her?”
“By accident. I really am so sorry, I was just so insecure, because you hadn’t said anything.”
“Yeah, because Mr Reyes wasn’t here!” he cried out. “We wanted to tell all of you together!”
“I can’t believe this,” Carlos sighed, leaning against TK. “This is so not going how I expected.”
“Tell me about it… I can’t believe you guys know.”
“KNOW WHAT?” Gabriel cried out in frustration. “Would anyone, please, for the love of everything that is good and holy in this world, tell me what is going on?”
“Right.” Now they remembered that he was still there, and all of a sudden, Carlos and TK were all smiles again. “We do get to tell one person after all!”
“You want to tell him?”
“No, he’s your dad. You do it.”
The way they beamed and blushed, the way Owen and Andrea looked somewhere between emotional and proud, the kind of announcement they had was not hard to guess. Gabriel just braced himself for becoming emotional.
“Right.” Carlos squeezed TK’s hand, and locked eyes with his father. “TK asked me to marry him. And I said yes.”
And there go the tears. And the hugs. And the well-wishes. And it didn’t even matter who found out in what way, all that mattered was the joy and happiness that their announcement brought with it.
“For three days I’ve been planning out my speech,” Owen sighed, as he had his arms wrapped tightly around TK. “You know, what I would say to you, once officially being told. And now… I just know I’m so proud of you. And so is your Mum. And we both love you, so much.”
“Thanks, Dad,” TK mumbled and buried his head in the crook of his father’s neck. “I love you, too.”
“So, it sounds to me like I was literally the last person to find out,” Gabriel remarked, when things were a little less emotional.
“Actually, you’re the only person we’ve told outright,” TK snorted. “We wanted to tell Marjan, Paul, Nancy and Mateo, but they figured it out before we really could say
anything. Cap and Judd overheard wedding talks.”
“Wait, they know, too?"
"Yeah,” Carlos nodded, “and I can easily say that it’s because of TK.”
“Ok,” he defended himself, “honest mistake, alright?”
“Judge for yourselves,” Carlos continued and turned to their parents. “It was at the bridal store the other day.”
“Yeah, the two of you were particularly sly about all that…”
“Anyways, our survivor is soon to be married. So, to keep her calm, TK and Captain Vega asked about her fiancé, her upcoming wedding, all that, until he brings me into this, and well.”
“Ok, but we would have told Cap soon anyways,” TK tried defending himself. “And Judd, he overheard as Nancy updated me on the bachelor-parties-situation.”
“Excuse me,” Carlos interrupted with wide eyes. “Bachelor parties? As in multiple?”
“Oh yeah,” Owen nodded, “the 126 planned all of that already; apparently Marjan wants to recreate the Hangover films.”
“And I already told Nancy that they should do that during your stag night,” TK admitted, “because I don’t wanna do that.”
“Right… Do I have to attend my bachelor party?”
“I think not showing up is frowned upon…”
“Maybe we should go with Judd and his hoe down,” he grinned.
“How about before we start celebrating the wedding, we celebrate the engagement,” Andrea suggested.
“That is a wonderful idea.” Gabriel raised his glass. “A toast. A toast to Carlos, to TK, to the wonderful love you two share and to your future. May your life be blessed with laughter, prosperity and peace. And may you not wait too long with the grandchildren.”
That had everybody laughing.
“To our boys and their wonderful life together.”
“To our boys,” Owen and Andrea repeated, raising their glasses.
TK locked eyes with Carlos, who beamed back with the widest smile, and a few tears glinting in his beautiful eyes.