Grace sat down on her workspace after her 15-minute break was over, and turned on the next call, prepared to step fully into work-mode right away. In her kind of job, you have to, or people might die.
"9-1-1 what's your emergency?", she asked. The line had been burned into her brain a long time ago. She's pretty sure she's even saying it in her sleep. Not that her husband would ever notice if she really did, the man snored so loud, you wouldn't hear a drill next to him!
"Hi, yes, I'd like to order a pizza for delivery!?", came a male voice from the other end of the line, sounding slightly unsure.
It sounded a bit weird to Grace and it didn't make sense how someone could accidentally dial 9-1-1 when they want to order a pizza, but it wouldn't be the first time that someone 'accidentally' called the wrong number. It didn't sound like the person was trying to make a prank call, though.
"Pizza? I think you've dialed the wrong number, sir", Grace answered politely.
"I don't think so. Do you still have the cheesy crust?", the man continued, and before Grace had time to consider what might be wrong with him, he continued: "The address? Sure. It's 235 Hayward Street. Apartment 3F."
Grace could hear the shake in his voice and knew that the Pizza call was his way of crying for help. He was in danger. Still, she needed to be sure.
"Sir, are you in danger? Is someone making you fell like you can't speak freely?"
Grace noted it on her computer while continuing in a calm voice: "I understand. My name is Grace, okay? And help is on the way. I need you to tell me, how many people are in the apartment?"
She turned around and waved Elliot over while re-adjusting her headset.
"Would a medium pepperoni pizza be big enough for two people?", the man on the other end said, telling her exactly what she needed to know.
She could hear a pissed-off voice in the background: "What are you doing? I said large!"
A strangled "Oh" came from the victim afterwards, and Grace could hear the fear in his voice. She even felt it deep in her bones. That man was frightened!
"Okay, so there's one other person with you. Is that who I'm hearing?", she continued, concentrating on the background noises. She heard a tv running with what sounded like a sports game playing, and the rough voice mumbling under his breath.
"Yes, that's right."
"Okay, you're doing really great", she praised him. "Can you tell me your name for the order?"
"Um, the name on the card is Tyler Kennedy Strand."
Elliot typed into his tablet to find out about him while Grace put his name into her computer.
"Okay Tyler, and is the person threatening you armed?"
She knew the answer. A grown man would not be this scared by another man if he wasn't armed. But she needed to know what the officers responding to the call had to expect. A knife was one thing, a gun could get dangerous to them.
"Move the puck! Come on!", she heard right after. It indicated that the man was distracted and not trying to hear in on the call.
"Okay, if he's armed with a gun, I want you to ask for extra pepperoni."
"Extra pepperoni would be great."
"And Tyler, is this person known to you?"
"Okay, spouse? Ex-spouse? Just a friend?"
"The second one. How long until you get here?", Tyler asked in a rushed voice.
"We're looking at about eight minutes. Uh, say 'peppers' if there's somewhere safe you can get to."
It was the best she could come up. Those situations weren't just stressful for the victims, she felt herself on the edge of her seat too. But she couldn't have a blackout now. That man needed her help and she wasn't going to let him down.
"No. Definitely no peppers."
The man in the background scoffed and said: "It's a pizza, not a damn salad."
Grace felt so bad for Tyler.
"Uh...", was all he said.
"Hurry up!", the man shouted.
Elliot showed Grace her tablet, saying: "The ex's name is Alexander Smart. Two priors for aggravated assault. Just got out on parole. Tyler Strand has a permanent restraining order against him."
"Okay, so this is his third strike. He's definitely not going peacefully", Grace retorted, turning back to her computer. She kept looking at the call status to make sure that Tyler was still with her. Luckily, it still said 'connected'.
"Be advised, all units. Code 3 at 235 Hayward Street. Unit 3F. Hostage situation. Suspect is armed and dangerous."
The familiar voice of Carlos Reyes responded within a second. "Dispatch, this is 363-H-20 responding."
She knew that Tyler would be in good hands when Carlos responded. In her opinion, he was one of the best police officers Texas had to offer.
Grace turned back to the call with Tyler. "Okay, just confirming, you're on the third floor."
"Yes, that's right", Tyler confirmed.
Grace pulled up the most recent satelite photos of the building. They were made two hours ago. She saw a window of the apartment open and hoped that it still was the case. With a glance to Elliot, he knew what her plan was and went off a few feet to make a call to the nearest fire station.
While that was happening, she heard Alexander in the background, once again yelling: "What the hell is taking so long?"
Tyler defended weakly. "I don't know, they're just really busy today."
"Then call somewhere else! I'm starving."
Grace wished that was true! She didn't have to see the man to know what kind of person he was. And his file said more than enough.
"Listen, I might just have to cancel this order. My boyfriend's getting kind of mad, so..."
"Okay, listen Tyler. I will have officers at your door in under two minutes, okay? I really need you to try and stay on with me."
" 'Kay, I think I can do that."
"Okay, good. Now, I need you to try to move as far away from the door as you can. Can you tell me if he's facing it, the door?"
For a second, she doesn't hear anything, until she heard a low grunt, followed by Alexander's voice, now speaking right into the speaker.
"Nice try, bitch."
Grace stood up from her seat, a motion she always made when situations turned critical. She still remained her calm voice, a talent which made he so fitting for this job.
"Alexander, where's Tyler?"
"He's right here. Say 'hey' to your friend."
Tyler let out a choked "Please" and Grace knew that Alexander held him by his throat.
"Okay, listen Alexander. The police are already on the way, so how this ends is gonna be up to you."
Grace grabbed paper and pen and messily wrote a message to Elliot, saying 'tell me when we're set'.
"This only ends one way."
"No, that's not true. There's gonna be a transcript of this call. And it's either gonna show that you were cooperative, and that you did the right thing, or it's gonna show that you deserve to go away for the rest of your life", Grace reasoned.
"Please", it came from Tyler again and Grace guessed he was running out of oxygen.
"Shut up. Shut up!"
"Hey. What's going on, Alexander? Talk to me."
"He ruined it. He always ruins it", Alexander answered, and he sounded hurt. The man really had the decency to sound hurt?
"Nothing is ruined, okay? Now, we can fix this, but you've gotta let me help you."
"My grandmother always says that when God closes a door, he opens a window. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith."
Grace desperately hoped that Tyler understood what she was trying to say. For a moment, she only heard quickened breaths on the other side of the line.
Then, she heard grunting, Alexander crying out in pain, Tyler screaming.
"No!", Alex shouted and let the phone fall down. Grace could hear it landing on the floor. She could also hear Alexander reaching out to Tyler, and from the sounds of it, the man caught him before he could reach the window and jump. Her plan didn't work. The firefighters on the street couldn't help him escape either. She just hoped police would arrive before Alexander got the chance to grab the gun and shoot him.
"No, please!", Tyler was still pleading, now full-on crying. Grace started praying.
Carlos Reyes sprinted up the stairs, taking three steps at a time, trying to reach the apartment as fast as possible. He knew that time was running out. Two of his colleagues were right behind him, equally eager to reach the top.
He saw the sign: 3F
Without waisting another second, he kicked his foot against the door, breaking it open.
"Get on the ground! Get on the ground right now!", Carlos shouted as he walked into the apartment, gun raised at a 20-something man who was trying to reach for his own gun on the coffee table while having a sobbing man in his strong grip.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!", Alex said, letting go of the man to raise his hands. The other man backed into the nearest wall, allowing Carlos to approach the abuser.
"On the ground! On the ground!", he ordered as he pulled out his handcuffs.
The man did as he was asked, and Carlos came up behind him, pushed his hand down without mercy and put the cuffs around his wrists.
His colleague took him to get him out of the complex, and Carlos responded to Dispatch.
"363-H-20. Suspect in custody."
He loved saying this line. It filled him with pride, knowing he made the streets of Austin a little safer again.
"Thank you, Officer Reyes", came the sweet voice of Grace Ryder a few seconds later, and Carlos smiled.
Back at the precinct, Carlos took over the victim. He sat him down on the stool next to his workspace and handed him a cup of tea and an icepack for his beat-up face.
Even though the man in front of him looked defeated and hurt, Carlos couldn't miss but notice how beautiful he was. He couldn't imagine who possibly would be able to hurt someone like that.
"I am Officer Reyes. If you don't feel up to talking yet, I understand that. You can also talk to one of our psychologists first, if you want that."
"No, I- I want to get this behind me."
"Okay Tyler. How long have you known Alexander?"
The man in question winced. "Just call me T.K. please. I don't really go with my full name. And I have known Alex for five years. We were married for one, I forced him to the divorce and filed the restraining order."
"Has he always been abusive?"
T.K. let out a dry laugh. "Yes. But I was too caught up to realize it. I just- always thought I deserved it. He made me feel that way. I was even the one stupid enough to ask him to marry me. Guess I deserved the pain for that amount of stupidity."
"You weren't being stupid. Love can go weird ways. Important is that you had the strength to get out when it mattered. And that call you made definitely proves that you are not stupid. Don't let him get to you any more, okay?"
"Okay. Thank you."
The man smiled at him and Carlos knew he could get lost in that smile immediately. What was wrong with him? This was a victim, he couldn't be thinking like that. It was unprofessional. Yet, he couldn't stop.
They talked another 20 minutes, Carlos making notes and listening very carefully to every little detail T.K. felt comfortable sharing.
It broke Carlos' heart hearing what T.K. had to go through those last years. He just wanted to wrap him up in a hug and never let go. But, of course, he couldn't just do that.
"Is there someone I can call for you?"
"No, I, uh, I already called my dad on the way here. He should show up any minute."
Carlos nodded and studied the man watching around the bullpen anxiously.
"Hey. Are you sure you don't wanna talk to a therapist?", Carlos asked in a calm voice.
"No. I have my own therapist and a meeting with her tomorrow anyway. I'm okay for now. I just want to go home."
A few seconds later, he said: "Oh, my dad's here. Am I free to go?"
"You were never not free, T.K.! Thank you for taking the time. I will reach out to you if I need more information, but for now, I wish you a good night."
"Thank you. Good night, Officer Reyes."
With that, he stood up, took his jacket from the chair and left.
Carlos was certain that he would not be able get this boy out of his head so fast.
Two weeks went by, and Carlos still had to think about the beautiful green-eyed boy. Michelle probably hated him guts for his ability to lead every single conversation to T.K. Strand magically.
That night, however, Michelle told him to meet her at their usual bar since she had exciting news for him.
Why she couldn't tell him over text, or even give him a hint, he didn't know. So he did the only thing left to do and met up with her.
Not that he didn't want to. He loved spending time with his best friend, and they went to that bar every week. He just worried that she would tell him about yet another 'hint' she found about her missing sister Iris while doing her own investigations. Carlos just wanted to stop arresting her.
Carlos stood at the bar, half-empty beer bottle in his hand as he waited for Michelle to arrive. She was 15 minutes late already and he wondered if her exciting news really were that exciting if it took her so long.
After yet another five minutes, Carlos turned around and checked out the room. The bar was pretty filled, something that wasn't unusual for the honky tonk on a Friday night, but he saw more unknown faces than usual.
And in the middle of them, was Michelle. What the heck? He had been waiting for that woman for 20 minutes and she had been there all the time, talking to those strangers.
Carlos remembered. It had been the first day of the new 126, they had had their first emergency today. Carlos heard from colleagues that they were a pretty promising team.
He looked at all of them, but his glace soon fixated on one person. He only saw the back of him, but he knew who it was. T.K. Strand.
Now it all made sense. Owen Strand, former captain from NYFD, had moved to Austin with his son to re-build the 126. It had been big in the news. Everyone knew about it. And his son was T.K., who Carlos had saved from a domestic abuse just two weeks ago.
A country song came up and the whole team of the 126, same as Michelle, got up from their seats and made their way to the dance floor. Everyone, except of the green-eyed beauty Carlos so shamelessly fell for.
It had been his chance. Now or never.
Carefully, he approached the man, who was watching his father dance while smiling.
"Oh, Hi Officer Reyes."
"Please, I'm not the job. Just call me Carlos. So Captain Strand is your father. I should have come to that conclusion a long time ago."
"Yeah he is. We came here just a few months ago. Some stuff happened back in New York and then he got the offer, so we moved straight away. And, of course, Alex followed." His voice got bitter at the end, the mention of his ex-spouse still hard on him.
"How have you been doing?"
"Good. Really. I've been busy with the firestation. And the team is really great. You should meet them. And my dad is really wonderful and always checks that I'm okay, so I'm doing really good."
"I'm glad to hear that. I heard your dad made some big changes at the firehouse."
"Yeah. He really did."
The song ended and a slower song came on. Captain Strand invited Michelle to dance, and she accepted with a smile.
"Do you wanna dance?", Carlos finally had the courage to ask.
T.K.'s gaze wandered from his father to Carlos, his smile grew bigger and he said: "Yeah."
Without thinking too much of it, Carlos grabbed his hand and lead him to the dance floor. He then wrapped his hands around the smaller man's waist and started swaying to the slow song.
"You really are my hero, you know? Without you, I'd probably be dead now."
"I'm pretty sure you can make up for it some day", Carlos hummed back, making T.K. smile once more.
"I'd be happy to. So, Carlos", T.K. started and Carlos loved the way his name sounded when he spoke, "any chance a local like you can show me around the city some time? I'm really having trouble finding my way here."
"Of course. I can show you some of my favorite places."
T.K. went silent, and Carlos found him staring at him.
"What is it?"
T.K. didn't answer. Instead, he launched forward and kissed Carlos. It had just been a peck. As soon as it started, it was over, and T.K. pulled away, cheeks flushing red.
"I'm so sorry, that was- I didn't-"
Carlos smiled. Just when he thought that the boy in front of him couldn't get any more adorable.
He took T.K.'s chin, tilting his head up, and smashed his lips onto his. They melted into a passionate kiss, both becoming unaware of the people around them. The world was still spinning, the people still dancing, the music still playing. But for them, everything was still. Quiet. The only thing that mattered was them. Together. Wrapped around each other as they spoke through their kiss.
When they eventually pulled apart, they both had flushed cheeks and big smiles.
T.K. soon pulled him into a hug, resting his head on his shoulder as he breathed in his scent. He felt comfortable, safe. Like he never wanted to move out of his arms again. This was the new beginning he wanted, and now was his chance.
Carlos noticed Michelle staring at him from a fair distance, still dancing with the Fire Captain. When their gazes met, she smirked at him, winking. So that had been her 'exciting news': she found his lost love. She could have texted him that! He would have been prepared. But right in that moment, there was nothing that could destroy the moment. He had the beautiful boy he once saved in his arms and he didn't plan on letting go anytime soon.