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What Happened to Bulletproof Weeks in Your Arms

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The fire had been a small one, poorly lit, contained to the outside of the house and taking only a few moments to be extinguished. The situation inside the house, however, had been commandered by a burning temper that still refuses to be put out. And of course Carlos, perfect, gorgeous, heroic to the point of self-sacrifice Carlos, of course TK has to stand there and watch him climb in through the back window, gun drawn.


 "Dad..." TK whispers, and Owen reaches over, squeezing TK's shoulder through his coat, keeping his fingers wrapped tight, as if to both reassure his son, and stop him in his tracks from sprinting after Carlos. But before TK can even attempt a lovestruck and unplanned rescue, the front door of the house flies open, and there Carlos is, gently sheparding the former hostages out, two small children and their mother blinking in the early morning light. Two other officers follow, leading a handcuffed man, still reeking of lighter fluid and unchecked rage.


 Michelle gives Carlos' hand a squeeze before quickly helping the family climb into the back of an ambulance for a preliminary check, the children clinging tightly to their mother. Carlos catches TK's eye, grinning at him in the rush from a job that could have gone into tragedy so quickly, and TK grins back, muscles shaking slightly from the flood of relief, as he finally gets to take a step towards Carlos.


 What happens next seems to move in slow motion, and TK can't get his body to speed up, to throw himself in between Carlos and danger, because he would have if he could have (he can hear Carlos' voice in his head, so clear, murmuring I know, and I'm glad you couldn't). Whichever of those two officers had put the handcuffs on must not have checked them properly, because the man's hand is free and he's grabbing the gun from the nearest officer's holster, and he's firing it straight at Carlos.


 TK screams and screams and screams, and his feet just won't run fast enough, he can't turn off the sounds of his own anguish or get his damn muscles to pick up the pace. Carlos' body is twisting, spinning with the impact of the bullets, slamming into the sidewalk, unmoving, and TK can't breathe, only scream, desperate to get to Carlos.


 Shoving past officers, hard enough he thinks he might have knocked one down, no time for politeness or apologies, no time for anyone who tries to wrench him back or hold him still. He doesn't even notice that the threat is no more, the man tackled hard, knee in his back, handcuffs so tight this time they might be cutting off circulation. All TK sees is Carlos, face down, eyes closed, blood forming a small pool where the sidewalk dips, and-


 Carlos makes a sound, a small pained breath, but it's enough for TK to hold onto, and he throws himself to his knees, not even wincing as bones hit concrete, all his attention on Carlos, waiting desperately for another sound.


 "I'm okay," TK hears Carlos say, a little louder this time, "vest". Carlos tries to raise himself up on one elbow, but cries out in pain, retching, and it is then TK realizes where the blood is coming from, the bullethole straight through Carlos' arm, and TK fights back his own urge to throw up as he manuevers himself carefully behind Carlos and gently eases him back against his chest, giving a quickly-returned Michelle access to Carlos' arm. 


 TK is desperately dotting kisses across any part of Carlos' skin he can without causing more pain, his hands carefully reaching for the straps of Carlos' bulletproof vest, loosening it, and Carlos lets out a soft relieved sigh, his breathing nearing closer to normal rhythm. Michelle pulls a needle out and TK feels Carlos sag in relief against him as the painkillers begin to kick in, not even feeling the tight pressure of the gauze and bandages that serve as a temporary fix. There's a stretcher now, and TK wants so badly to tear to pieces the man who did this to the light of his life, but his hands are needed for a much more precious task as TK so gently lifts Carlos up and onto the stretcher. 


 There's no question that TK follows where Carlos goes, and he perches as close as he can get, stroking back Carlos' sweat soaked hair, smoothing the wrinkles of pain between his eyebrows, murmuring an unending stream of words about Carlos' eyes and how they should go back to that place for ice cream again and maybe Buttercup would want one of those memory foam beds for taking naps at the station and anything he can think of, because every time Carlos hears TK's voice his muscles relax just that little bit more.


 When they arrive at the hospital, TK runs alongside the stretcher until Carlos is taken out of his sight. He turns to find Owen and the rest of the team have appeared, right there behind him, and TK falls into his father's arms, body shaking violently as he finally lets himself break down, Owen's hands rubbing reassuring circles up and down TK's back. 


 TK cries for what feels like hours, leaving his body exhausted, like he's just run thirty miles in all his gear. Owen guides him to a seat, and TK takes a deep breath before pulling out his cell phone. He knows Carlos' mother and sisters are out of town at a baby shower for a family friend, and he's already calculating how fast a plane can get them here as he taps on Carlotta's name in his contacts.


 He can barely get the words out, he apologizes, he should be comforting her, and just like always, even through her tears, Carlos' mother's voice is a warm weighted blanket around his shoulders. She says it over and over, Our boy will be fine, until TK can say it with her, and she has plane tickets bought and a promise from Owen to hug TK until she can get there to take her turn.


 Family of Carlos Strand-Reyes finally, finally breaks through the stillness of the waiting room, and TK raises his head from where it had been pressed against Owen's shoulder, cheek creased, eyes aching and red, and practically runs to meet the doctor. 


 It's when he's standing at the entryway to his husband's hospital room that TK can finally feel the truth of the doctor's words. A broken arm and some bruising. Carlos was shot four times, the vest stopped three, the fourth missed every vein and artery and nicked the bone enough that when the force of the bullets took Carlos down, the impact on the sidewalk fractured the bone the rest of the way.


 They've left Carlos' shirt off, monitoring the bruising to make sure there's no extra swelling, but the chances of that are slim to none the doctors have assured TK, and he has texted all this to Carlotta, full of typos and no punctuation as he hurried to Carlos' room. And there Carlos is, turning to face TK, and it's the first time their eyes have met since those matching grins, before everything went to hell, and TK absolutely loses it. 


 "Baby, come here," Carlos begs, face taunt with anxiety at the way TK is dishelved and shaking, face cried raw, and TK collapses into the chair next to Carlos' bed, burying his face into the curve where his husband's neck meets his shoulder, mouthing I love you I love you so much against the smooth skin. He feels Carlos' uninjured arm raise, hand rest at the nape of TK's neck, fingers lightly playing with the ends of TK's hair, and he raises his head, enough to meet Carlos' worried eyes.


 "Pretty sure I'm supposed to be the one taking care of you," TK chokes out, voice shaky, and suddenly he can hear his own voice, coming from the TV hung in the corner of the room. It's a news report, some shaky phone footage, and TK sees Carlos, sees the bullets and the fall and the blood, overlaid by TK's endless screams. He fumbles desperately for the remote, knows where it should be from when a bullet landed him in this same hospital, and manages to click the TV off while reburying his face in Carlos' shoulder.


 "Oh, baby," Carlos whispers into TK's hair, pressing a kiss to his temple, and TK turns, finds his husband's lips with his own, and it feels like finally, finally coming home after being lost in the wilderness. He kisses every one of Carlos' fingertips that poke out above the cast, held tight to his body by a light blue sling, and he kisses his way so carefully and gently across every one of the three deep bruises dotting Carlos' chest and stomach.


 "I'm going to erect a fucking statue to whoever invented the bulletproof vest," TK mumbles against Carlos' hip, and he doesn't know if it's that he's said something funny or just that the movement tickled Carlos, but either way Carlos lets out a laugh and TK lets out the deepest sigh, feels his shoulders finally drop down and his muscles unclench.


 "Careful, don't hurt yourself," TK says, carefully watching Carlos' face for any wince or struggle, but all he sees is exhaustion and absolute love. He kisses Carlos again, cupping his cheek in his hand, and Carlos leans gratefully into his safe and gentle touch. 


 "I love you so much," TK says, and then he says it again, "I love you so much," and he thinks he could say it forever, and he has the chance to now, the chance to carefully climb into Carlos' bed and place an arm where there are no bruises, and kiss Carlos soft and slow because there is time now, they still have time.