All in all, it’s not turning out to be one of his better days.
He blinked his eyes open with a groan and surveyed his surroundings. He was in what looked to be the basement, which was weird because he could have sworn he was on the first floor just a minute ago.
He was still taking stock of his situation when he registered the sound of his radio and his dad’s voice coming from it, calling his name. From the tone, it was unlikely this was the first time he had tried. TK freed an arm from the rubble and used it to grasp his radio, holding down the button and speaking into it, “this is TK, I copy.”
There was a cacophony as everyone tried to speak at once but shortly the rest stopped and it was just his dad’s voice, “What’s your status?”
What was his status? He hadn’t really had time to figure that out yet, but he was pretty sure “good” wasn’t the right answer.
“I’m...in the basement,” he tried instead.
This time it was Paul’s voice coming through the radio, “what do you mean the basement? You were in the kitchen when we split up.”
“I took a shortcut.”
There was silence for a moment before Paul asked, “was that the crash I heard a few minutes ago?”
TK shrugged but broke off with a hiss of pain. That was definitely not right. “Probably,” he managed to answer, voice obviously strained.
He could almost hear his dad’s exasperated and worried look over the radio, “TK don’t move. Ryder? Marwani? Where are you in clearing the upper floor?”
“Nearly done Cap,” came Marjan’s voice.
“When you’re done head down to the basement and help TK out. Stickland and Chavez finish your sweep of the first floor and then get out here and get the hoses ready to go.”
There was a chorus of agreement before the radio fell silent and TK let his hand fall away from it back onto the ground. Usually, he’d take issue with his dad’s instructions to not move, but at the moment he was pretty okay with it. He was in a lot of pain if he was being honest with himself. He was also feeling pretty woozy. He may as well take a nap while he waited for the others, what would be the harm in that?
All too soon there was the feeling of someone tapping on his face. He groaned and blinked his eyes open, ready to scowl at whoever was disturbing his rest. But when his vision cleared it revealed the worried face of Judd hovering above him, his tense expression evident even through his mask.
“Judd?” he asked, “what’s going on?”
“Can you tell me where you are?” the older man asked instead, his eyes roving the rest of TK’s body and his worried gaze doing nothing to dissipate.
“In the basement of that house on Ptarmigan Dr, I think. What happened?”
“You decided to take a shortcut and then a nap on the job, that’s what’s happened,” Judd retorted with forced levity.
TK tried to scowl at him but stopped when he felt gentle fingers running across his scalp. There was a soft curse before Marjan’s voice sounded from behind him, “He has a head wound at the very least,” she announced, entering his field of vision as she wiped her hand on her turnout pants but not succeeding in riding it of blood stubbornly clinging to her fingers.
Judd nodded tightly before returning his full attention to TK, “Alright kid, you know the drill: what hurts? Anything we need to know about before we get you out of here?”
TK ran through the mental checklist. There was an ache through his entire body, but he was fairly certain that would mostly be some pretty colorful bruising come tomorrow. He could move both his hands and feet so spinal damage was out. He was doing pretty well until he tried to pull himself up, He didn’t even manage to get himself more than a few inches off the ground before he fell back again with a hiss of pain, his vision going temporarily white with the sharpness of it.
Both Judd and Marjan reached out to him but halted short of touching him, unsure of what to avoid.
“Talk to me brother,” Judd instructed, “what hurts?”
“Left shoulder,” TK ground out between clenched teeth, “possibly fractured, definitely hurt somehow.”
Marjan studied the joint before giving him a small smile, “Well it doesn’t look like you dislocated it, at least.”
“No,” TK agreed, “I probably just fell 15 feet onto it.”
“No use trying to debate it now,” Judd reminded them curtly, “We gotta get you and us out of here. The smoke’s getting a little too dark for my liking. Think you can make it out if we help you up kid?”
At TK’s nod, they both moved forward to help him, carefully pulling him off the basement floor. They held him as he steadied himself from the room spinning around him. Then, at his slight nod, Judd gently placed TK’s good arm around his shoulders before wrapping an arm tightly around TK’s waist and leading him out of the basement and to the stairs.
“You mean you guys took the stairs?” TK quipped weakly as they navigated upwards, “lame.”
Judd snorted from beside him and he could hear Marjan give a light chuckle. Soon they reached the main floor and were stepping out of the structure and into the dim afternoon sunlight. He heard his dad calling his name even as Judd guided him to the ambulance, easing him onto the gurney. Marjan was giving Tommy a rundown of his injuries but it was all background noise to TK who had shut his eyes against the sudden light of the outdoors.
He opened them again as he heard his dad, closer this time, to see Tommy peering down at him. She smiled at him before reaching around his head to examine the wound Marjan had discovered earlier. Once satisfied with that she moved to his shoulder, gingerly feeling the joint and frowning when he involuntarily pulled away from her touch with a grimace. She nodded at him with another smile before addressing his dad, “He’ll live Captain. The head wound doesn’t seem too major but I want to have it looked at anyways, probable concussion, and I think the shoulder blade may be fractured, but an x-ray will tell us better.”
His dad stepped into his field of vision now, concerned expression peering down at him. “How do you feel, TK?”
“Not great,” he admitted, “next time I recommend the stairs.”
Tommy scoffed from somewhere nearby and his dad shook his head fondly before reaching out to run a gentle hand through his hair, “I’ll make a note of that. We have to wrap up here but I’ll be at the hospital as soon as I can. I call Carlos until then, it’s his day off right?”
TK nodded wearily, loathe to interrupt his boyfriend’s day off but too worn to put up a fight about it. If he was being honest with himself, having Carlos nearby would be nice.
His dad nodded too, “Okay, I’ll call him in just a minute.” He turned his gaze to Tommy, “Take care of my kid, Captain Vega.”
“Always do,” Tommy assured him.
Then with another smile and a reassuring squeeze of his shoulder, his dad was gone and TK was being loaded into the back of the ambulance.
No, he thought to himself as the ambulance pulled away from the now smoldering house, this had not been one of his good days.
TK was getting antsy.
At first, it had been fine. After a day in the hospital, he had been released with a sling and some prescription-strength ibuprofen. He had been hovered over by both his dad and Carlos, and largely in too much pain to focus on too much else. But as the days passed the pain faded to a dull ache and he had encouraged them both to return to their usual schedules, insisting he would be fine on his own.
And he was, really. His boyfriend had left more than enough pre-prepared food in the fridge and everything else he could handle just fine while Carlos was at work each day. He still had one good arm, after all.
The problem had then become boredom. TK wasn’t good at sitting still. The last time he had been off work for this long it had been after he had been shot, and this was different. It lacked the trauma, for one thing, and he had fewer outside distractions. Last time his mom had shown up, walking back into his life for the first time in months and he and Carlos had just been beginning. There had been a lot to occupy his mind that time. Logically, he preferred this. This wasn’t a potentially life or career-ending injury, he and Carlos were steady, and his mom had been a more regular presence in his life over the past year — all good things.
But it left him with nothing to focus on, which was a dangerous thing.
More dangerous than even he had thought, apparently, as a fresh pain ripped through his shoulder causing him to let out a curse and sink to the floor. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes and taking even, measured breaths before he opened his eyes again, looking down to survey the damage. It didn’t look any worse which was a small comfort, at least. But the fresh pain was a clear indicator something was definitely wrong. He closed his eyes again as a new wave of pain overcame him, and cursed himself. If he could have just left well enough alone, it would have been fine, but he wasn’t capable. Now he may have screwed up his shoulder even more and would likely have to extend his medical leave. Plus, he was going to have to call someone. He needed to get it looked at again and even he knew that he couldn’t drive himself to the hospital in this state.
He fumbled in his pocket with his working arm for a moment before coming out with his phone. He unlocked it and paused, thumb hovering over his recent calls. He knew that he needed to call, he really did. That didn’t make it any easier. He gave a weary sigh before he opened his recent calls, tapping the name at the top of the list and holding the phone up to his ear.
“Hey babe,” he greeted in what he hoped was a nonchalant tone, though it was hard to maintain when every few seconds a fresh wave of pain coursed through his body.
“Hey yourself. Is everything okay?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Because you never call me in the middle of a shift, for starters, but also because you sound weird. Are you okay?”
“I may have done something dumb,” he admitted, “and may have possibly hurt my shoulder again.”
“As in the currently in a sling and supposed to be immobilized for 2-3 weeks that you hurt falling through the floor of a house not even 6 days ago shoulder?”
“Yeah, that’s the one,” TK admitted sheepishly.
“Tyler Kennedy, I swear to…”
“Don’t full-name me, Carlos Alberto,” he interrupted indignantly, “I am already in enough pain as it is. Must you add to my suffering?”
“You deserve it,” Carlos insisted, but his voice was softer now, “I’m heading out now, I just cleared it with my captain. I’ll be to you in about 10 minutes, just stay on the phone with me until I get there.”
TK rolled his eyes, even though he knew his boyfriend couldn’t see it, “I’m not going to die, Carlos. I just re-injured my shoulder a bit.”
“For some reason, I have a hard time believing you. Call me paranoid but leaving my injured, danger-magnet boyfriend unsupervised just this moment sounds like a terrible idea. Just stay on the phone so I don’t have to worry, please?”
And TK could never really deny him anything, so he nodded, “Okay.”
“Good, I’m heading out to my car now.”
The ambient noises of the precinct and the sounds of Carlos walking filled the air between them. TK pulled the phone down from his ear and put it on speaker instead, resting it on his knee as he leaned his head back against the couch, allowing the abstract noises coming through the phone to distract him from the pain. Eventually, Carlos’s voice sounded again.
“I’m headed to you now, how are you feeling?”
“Not great,” TK admitted, “but I’ll live.”
“What were you even doing? How did you manage to hurt it again?”
TK winced in anticipation of Carlos’s ire before he even began to speak, “I was trying to rearrange the furniture.”
“ What? Why?”
TK groaned and ran his good hand down his face, “I don’t know! I just was sitting here and thought that maybe it would look better another way. So I figured I’d try it, but the couch was harder to move than I anticipated.”
“You tried to rearrange the furniture with one arm in a sling,” Carlos repeated, and TK scowled.
“I tried to rearrange the furniture with one working arm,” he corrected, “I figured that would be all I needed. Clearly, I was wrong.”
“Clearly,” Carlos deadpanned.
TK cursed then, Carlos’s unimpressed tone mixing with his already spiraling thoughts, “God, I am such an idiot. Why the hell did I think that would be a good idea?”
“Hey,” Carlos interrupted firmly, “you’re not an idiot. Sure you’re restless and maybe not making the best choices at this very moment, but you’re not an idiot. You just made a mistake.”
“I guess,” TK allowed, voice low as he ran a hand experimentally against his throbbing shoulder.
“Well I know,” Carlos assured him, “and I don’t like to hear anyone bad mouth my boyfriend, not even you.”
TK smiled, “Thanks Carlos,” he said quietly.
“You’re welcome, Ty. Now sit tight and try not to move any more furniture, I’ll be there in a few.”
After that, he had been extra careful. Having another week tacked onto his recovery was less than ideal and he had made sure to follow all of the doctor’s instructions, really. He even followed all the rules when he got back to work, sticking to the light-duty schedule and not overdoing it. He was determined to have this over as quick as possible, and that unfortunate experience had shown him the best way to do that was to take it slow and steady.
Even that could be too much, it seemed. He really was being careful, but there was an ache in his shoulder that would appear from time to time. Sometimes it was easy to brush aside, but other times it was sharp enough to take his breath away.
He tried to hide it from the others. Multiple x-rays had confirmed that his shoulder was completely healed before he had been declared fit for duty again and it wasn’t as if anything he had done could have refractured it. This seemed more like chronic pain, which is just something that happens when you injure yourself past the age of 25, apparently. So he worked through it: pushing through and keeping up a facade, hiding how bad he felt with humor and a smile.
He can’t fool them all though. He accepted a long time ago that there was never really any keeping anything from Paul, but somehow he hoped that he had managed. That hope was shattered as he sat in the locker room one afternoon, breathing through a wave of pain in his shoulder when a hand offering an ice pack entered his field of vision.
He looked up to see Paul standing before him with a sympathetic smile, “Our joints just don’t heal like they used to, do they?”
TK took the ice pack with a grateful nod and placed it on his shoulder, leaning against the locker behind him as he looked up at Paul, “No, they don’t. Which is ridiculous really, I demand a refund.”
Paul let out a bark of laughter before he settled onto the bench beside him, “Unfortunately I think you’ve exceeded the factory warranty. I’m starting to think 25 is the cut off. Nothing ever really seemed to heal right after then.”
“You might be onto something,” TK agreed.
They sat in companionable silence for a few more moments before TK finally asked the question that had been echoing through his mind, “Are you going to tell Cap about this?”
TK looked at him sharply and Paul shrugged, “Residual pain is pretty normal. You’re not in any danger so I don’t see why anyone else needs to know. The more important question is,” Paul continued even as he twisted on the bench to meet TK’s eyes, “are you okay?”
“Yeah,” TK assured him quickly, “it’s just a little pain, and it usually doesn’t last long.”
Paul studied him for a moment longer before nodding, “Okay, but if it gets worse, at least tell me. We can figure it out from there.”
“Thanks man,” TK told him softly, “really. For everything.”
Paul smiled and gave his good shoulder an affectionate squeeze, “Of course man, I’d do anything for my best friend.”
Okay, this time it may have been his fault.
He should have listened to Judd when he told him to let go, but he really thought he could handle it. All he could think about was the possibility of the horse going on a fear induced rampage and either hurting himself or someone else. That possibility made him cling to the lead rope attached to the halter, even as the horse on the other end expressed his displeasure with the situation — loudly and violently.
If it had just been the noise, it would have been fine. But he was also rearing up, hooves slicing through the air as he tried desperately to get away. Judd shouted at TK to let go, but all TK could think about was the fact that the rest of the team was in the enclosure with them, not to mention some innocent bystanders. He couldn’t risk the possibility of one of them getting hurt, so he hung on.
He spoke soothingly to the horse, hoping that he would settle. He may not have nearly as much experience with horses as Cowboy Judd (or any, to be completely honest), but he was familiar with fear and he knew without a doubt that he saw it flashing through the animal’s eyes. He stepped closer in an attempt to place a placating hand on the animal, but instantly regretted it when he reared up again, one of his front hooves striking TK’s shoulder.
He reeled back with a curse, curling in on himself involuntarily in an attempt to shield the injured joint as the lead slipped from his hands and the horse took off, galloping across the pasture, aiming to get as far from the noise and commotion of the emergency vehicles as possible.
Judd was at his side in an instant, speaking in soothing tones as he helped him to straighten up. He let out a curse of his own when he saw that it was the left shoulder again, the same one that had just finished healing from the basement shortcut incident a few short weeks ago.
“Shit kid,” he said with forced levity, “you’ve got some luck.”
“Don’t I know it,” TK groaned through gritted teeth. “How does it look?”
Judd gave a small shrug, “Doesn’t look dislocated, but it definitely needs to be looked at by a medical professional I’d say. Let’s get you over to Tommy, see what she has to say.”
TK allowed himself to be led to the ambulance where Tommy and Nancy were just finishing up with the last of the victims from the tractor pull incident that had brought them out here in the first place. The Paramedic Captain looked up at them with raised eyebrows, taking in TK’s hunched position and Judd’s supporting arm.
“Really Strand, again? Am I going to have to start charging you rent in my ambulance?”
“I’m not a huge fan of this either,” TK informed her drily, and she gave him a small smile in response.
“Careful, with that enthusiasm you might just become my favorite patient. What happened?”
“That spooked horse got in a kick,” Judd informed her as he lowered TK onto the back of the ambulance, “managed to hit the same shoulder he hurt in the house fire a couple of months back.”
“So you really do have all the luck,” Tommy observed as she started to ease his jacket from his shoulder to get a better look at the injured joint.
“You could say that,” TK agreed wearily.
He waited quietly as she poked at his shoulder, biting his lip against the gasp of pain he wanted to give each time she made contact with the joint. When she was done she looked at him with a frown, “It’s definitely injured, but I can’t tell if it’s some deep bruising or another fracture without an x-ray. Normally I’d be more inclined to say bruising, but since you’ve already fractured it once it’s more likely to happen again. Either way, you’re going to need to take a trip to the hospital to get it checked out.”
TK groaned, “Can I at least get someone to drive me and skip the whole ambulance trip?” he pleaded, “It really seems like overkill, and you have better things to do than haul me to the ER for an x-ray.”
Tommy smiled at him, but shook her head, “Sorry Strand, no dice. If it makes you feel any better we already have to transport another victim so you can just come along for the ride. Consider yourself a passenger that I am going to bandage first and not a patient, if it makes you feel better.”
“Besides,” Judd interjected from beside them as Tommy began to immobilize the shoulder, “it’s not like we could leave you unsupervised. Just think of all the trouble you’d manage to find waiting for a ride.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Judd.”
“Anytime brother.” He gave TK a pat on his uninjured shoulder before turning back to Tommy, “Think you can manage the trouble magnet for a bit? With Cap out today I’ve gotta make sure this scene gets cleared before we can move out.”
Tommy snorted as she finished wrapping TK’s shoulder, “Please, you’ve met my girls. Pretty sure I can handle one pouty injured firefighter Juddy, don’t worry about us.”
“I am right here, you know,” TK reminded them, aware that his tone was whinier than he would have liked.
“We know,” Tommy told him, “but you need to be in the back of the ambulance, so get in.”
TK did, standing from his seat on the back of the ambulance and grasping the side with his good arm. Tommy lent a supportive hand as he pulled himself in, and he nodded his thanks before flopping onto the bench. She and Nancy got the gurney with the other patient loaded seconds later and shortly after that they were off, heading towards the hospital with sirens blaring. TK leaned his head against the side of the ambulance and sighed, reaching up again to rub his shoulder.
“It’s not too bad,” Tommy assured him as she looked up from the other patient, “not nearly as bad as the last time. My money’s on bruising to be honest, but either way I don’t think you’ll be out too long.”
“Thanks,” he told her gratefully, “I do appreciate that. I just feel stupid. Judd was telling me to let go, I should have listened to him. I know he was just looking out for me and he is acting Captain. Ignoring him was stupid, and it’s got me here, again.”
Tommy studied him for a moment before she spoke, “Why didn’t you let go?”
“Because I was worried someone else would get hurt if I did.”
“Then I’d say you did the best you could, given the circumstances. There’s nothing wrong with trying to protect others, and I think you and I both know that if the roles had been reversed, Judd would have done the same thing.”
She smiled at him and he returned it, feeling some of the tension leach from his body. They rode the rest of the way in silence and when they arrived at the hospital he did what he could to help the paramedics with unloading their other patient before he gingerly slid out himself. He assured them that he would be fine on his own, and to tell the others not to worry before he headed into the Emergency waiting room and up to the desk. He had just finished giving his information to the charge nurse and was turning to find an empty seat when he heard his name called from across the room. He looked towards the door to find Carlos striding towards him, sporting an anxious look as he closed the distance between them.
When he reached TK’s side he gave him a soft kiss before looking him over. When he met TK’s eyes, his expression was a mix of exasperation and worry.
“Getting kicked by a horse? Really? And on the same shoulder too.”
“It’s not like the horse gave me a choice and I told him to hit the left one,” TK grumbled. “That’s just how it happened. How’d you know anyways?”
“Judd called me.”
“Of course he did,” TK muttered, but he couldn’t say that he was terribly upset. Being stuck in the waiting room with Carlos was a far better alternative to being in the waiting room alone.
“I like to know when my trouble-magnet boyfriend gets himself into a situation,” Carlos said mildly, “sue me.”
TK rolled his eyes, but couldn’t quite manage to keep the smile off his face, “Sap.”
Carlos shook his head at him as they located a pair of empty seats, “Any idea what the prognosis is?”
TK shook his head, “We won’t know for sure until x-rays, but Captain Vega thinks it’s just badly bruised which would be much better than another fracture.”
“I second that,” Carlos agreed, rubbing a soothing hand on TK’s good arm, “Either way, it looks like you’re going to be off work for at least a little while.”
“Most likely,” TK agreed. “Any chance you want to use some of that saved vacation time? I think I have a few ideas of what we could do with some time to ourselves.”
“And I think none of the ideas you have would be conducive to a shoulder injury.”
“You don’t know that.”
“No, I think I do,” Carlos disagreed with a grin, “because I know you, Tyler Kennedy.”
“We so have to set some boundaries on the whole first name thing because I think you are overusing your privileges.”
“Stop getting hurt so often and I’ll stop using it,” Carlos countered lightly and TK scowled at him. “Besides,” he continued, “while I have no objection to taking some time off and lounging around the house with you, I’d much rather we both use some vacation time when you are not injured and we can actually do those things I know you’re thinking.”
“Is that so?” TK asked with a raised eyebrow and a grin.
“It is,” Carlos confirmed, “but I’m happy to spend time with you anyways. Wherever and however I can. Even if you only have one working arm,” he added as an afterthought.
TK rolled his eyes but leaned over, resting his head on Carlos’s shoulder as he settled in to wait. Hurting his shoulder again had been nowhere near his top 5 things to do this week, but having Carlos by his side made it all the more tolerable.
This time it was definitely not his fault.
Which was a small comfort, given everything, but he’d take the win.
It was likely going to be the only one he got, he thought to himself as he blinked open his eyes and got his first look at the situation. There were no other positives he could see and even when his vision cleared he was pretty sure he would be unlikely to find one.
He blinked again in an effort to do just that without much success. He wasn’t sure if it was due to his blurred vision (probable head injury, his mind provided) or the smoke but his surroundings were only revealed to him in bits and pieces. He knew he was in a car, he knew that he had been driving. He knew that now he wasn’t, but he wasn’t sure what had happened between now and then.
His right hand was free, and he reached around to try and open his door, only to find that it was wedged shut by the hood of another car. He shifted in his seat experimentally but stopped abruptly when pain washed over him, nearly leaving him breathless. For a moment there was only white noise before sound returned to him: the din of a blaring horn in the background, distant shouts of bystanders, and the sound of sirens approaching.
He tried to piece together what had happened. He knew he had taken the day off to prep for Carlos’s birthday dinner that he was determined to cook. He had just been on his way to the store to pick up the groceries he would need when whatever had happened happened, apparently. It was all a blur in his head right now which he knew wasn’t the best sign. He tried to get a look at his situation but before he could do much of anything a ladder truck rolled to a stop and he took in the familiar number with dread. Of course it was them, because it wasn’t bad enough he had managed to get into a car accident on his day off/his boyfriend’s birthday. No, he had to have his entire team witness it too.
He braced himself for their concern, focusing on that rather than the pain he was becoming increasingly aware of. The more the haze in his mind lifted and the more lucid he became, the more pain made itself known. He watched as they took in the scene and splintered into groups, Judd and his dad heading to the other vehicle while Paul, Marjan, and Mateo headed towards him. He could see the moment they realized —first Paul and then the other two —and tried for a smile when he made eye contact with his friends, “Hey guys, fancy meeting you here.”
“Shit dude,” Marjan observed as her eyes roved his predicament and Mateo called out for his dad, “you really are a danger magnet aren’t you?”
“Or cursed,” TK countered drily, “I’m starting to think that’s a possibility too.”
Her reply was interrupted by the arrival of his dad, whose face went pale at the sight of his son in the driver’s seat of the crushed vehicle. “TK! Are you hurt?”
He nodded, quickly followed by a grimace as he tried to shift, “I’m not sure exactly what is hurt, but I’m pretty sure I’m pinned in here.”
“You are,” Paul informed him as he gestured to the car beside him, “witnesses are saying that this guy ran the red light and plowed into you as you were crossing the intersection. He hit your door pretty squarely, so we’re not going to be able to get you out until we get him and his truck clear of you. You good until then?”
TK nodded, knowing that there wasn’t much of an option anyway, “Yeah, of course. Take your time, I’m not going anywhere.”
“You sure you’re not going to bleed out on us or anything?” Paul asked with a raised eyebrow, and TK rolled his eyes at his friend.
“Not that I’m aware of,” he told him, “I’m not sure exactly what’s hurt, but I haven’t felt any blood. I should be fine until you guys get to me.”
“That may be, but I’m still going to send either Nancy or Tommy over as soon as they are free,” his dad announced, his eyes already roving the scene in search of the two paramedics.
“Was anyone hurt badly?” TK asked, trying to get a better look at the scene surrounding him.
Owen shook his head, “Mostly superficial wounds, you’re our big case of the morning. So try and keep still and not aggravate anything until we can get you out.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he assured his dad who nodded in response and gave him a quick smile before disappearing back into the controlled chaos of the scene. The others followed suit with words of encouragement until it was just Marjan left standing outside his window.
He raised an eyebrow at her, “Did you pull the short straw and get stuck with babysitting duty?”
“I volunteered,” she corrected, “you should be honored.”
“I am,” he told her sincerely, “thank you.”
She smiled at him and he turned his attention back to the rest of the scene, “How many other cars were involved?”
“Not counting you and your friend who disagrees with red lights, two more. But that was just a fender bender, one car rear ended the other when it stopped suddenly after you were hit.”
“How’s the other driver?”
“Barely a scratch on him. He’s mostly just mortified, and very apologetic. He hasn’t said how it happened but I would put my money on him checking his phone at the wrong time. You were the real lottery winner here today.”
“I feel honored,” he deadpanned.
She smirked but any retort she could have given was interrupted by the arrival of Tommy, who pulled open the passenger side door and climbed in. She gave him an unimpressed look as she started her exam, “You really can’t stay out of trouble, can you Strand?”
“Believe me when I say I wish I could,” he told her drily. “This is not the ideal way to spend a day off.”
“I was wondering where you were this morning,” she said lightly as she continued her exam calmly, “any special occasion?”
“Carlos’s birthday,” he said through gritted teeth as her hands landed on something injured and pain shot through his body, “he’s still at home, I just left to get some stuff for the dinner I was planning on making tonight. I think that plan may be out though.”
“You may want to consider takeout,” she agreed as she sat back. “I don’t see anything too serious, definitely some cuts and bruises, but I don’t have a good feeling about that shoulder. I won’t be able to get a good look at it until we get you out of here though.”
TK followed her pointed finger down to his left shoulder, which was largely concealed by the warped metal of the car door. “Oh come on,” he groaned, “not again!”
Marjan winced in sympathy, “You know, I think there might be something to that cursed thing you were saying earlier.”
“It is starting to feel a lot like Groundhog Day,” he agreed grimly. “I can’t believe this.”
“You know what they say,” Tommy reminded him, “once it’s injured—”
“I didn’t think that meant it was supposed to become a magnet for accidents,” TK countered.
“No,” Marjan agreed helpfully, “I think that is just your natural luck.”
TK groaned and leaned his head back against the headrest. He had never really been sure he believed in the concept of luck, but he might just have to start. At this point the evidence was kind of overwhelming: luck existed, and his was terrible.
“I don’t know about that,” Tommy countered, “there’s something to be said for getting involved in so many accidents and still being able to walk away. That sounds like awfully good luck to me.”
He gave her a grateful smile as a voice shouted from beyond his peripherals and Marjan nodded. “They’ve got the other car ready to move now,” she told him, “once that’s out of the way you’re up next.”
He nodded his thanks as she turned to walk away, clearing the area for them to work. Familiar shouts and instructions rang through the air as his team functioned as the well oil machine they were. The car at his side was gone in no time and barely another second had passed before Judd and Mateo appeared at the window, arms laden with equipment.
“Shit kid,” Judd observed as he got his first look at TK’s situation, “you never do anything halfway do you.”
“I’d like to point out that I no way asked for this to happen,” TK reminded him tersely. “I was just driving.”
Judd gave him a tight smile as he and Mateo finished setting up the jaws, “Fair enough, brother. Just hang tight for another minute now and we’ll have you out of there real quick.”
“Take your time guys, it’s not like I’m going anywhere,” he quipped, hoping to lighten the mood. It at least pulled a smile out of Mateo, so he took it as a success. True to Judd’s word though they had the door off in a manner of minutes and it was only one more before the pair eased him out of his seat and onto the gurney Nancy had brought over.
Tommy was at his side a moment later, closely examining everything she hadn’t been able to reach while he was trapped. There was tense silence from the team as they worked quietly around her, waiting for her prognosis. Eventually she straightened up and looked down at him with a raised eyebrow.
“At the risk of sounding like a broken record,” she began, “you’re going to need some scans on your shoulder. Again.”
He groaned, using his good arm to cover his eyes and shield himself from the sympathetic gazes of his friends.
“The good news,” she continued, “is that other than a few minor cuts and bruises there’s not too much else I can see to worry about. Your side is going to hurt like hell for a few days as it took quite a beating and I’m going to recommend they do some scans to check for any organ damage as well, but all in all you’re lucky. If I were a betting woman I’d say you’ll be all healed up within a few weeks, a month tops.”
There was a collective sigh of relief from the rest of the team and TK shifted his arm to meet Tommy’s gaze.
“Thanks Captain Vega,” he said sincerely, “really.”
She smiled kindly at him before lightly patting his good shoulder before she looked up, “Captain Strand,” she called out, “we’re heading out. I want to get him in for a more thorough examination.”
He heard noises to the side and looked over to see his dad jogging over, pausing at his side and nodding at Tommy, “Thank you,” he told Tommy before looking down at TK, “I’ll be there as soon as I can, I promise.”
“Don’t worry about it dad, I’m sure I’ll be busy for quite some time. I wouldn’t worry about rushing.”
“Still,” his dad insisted, “I’m going to be there as soon as I can.” Then with an affectionate squeeze to his good shoulder and a nod to Tommy, the gurney was moving as Judd and Paul helped to load it into the back of the ambulance.
“Try not to die before we get there,” Paul instructed him, “if you can.”
“I’ve made it this far, haven’t I?”
“Yeah well, we’d like to see you make it a lot farther, so listen to Strickland,” Judd admonished.
TK nodded and Judd’s expression softened and he clapped a hand onto TK’s leg before he released the gurney, “We’ll see you in a bit kid.”
Then they stepped back, allowing Tommy to climb in as Nancy crossed to the driver’s seat. They spent the ride in companionable silence, Tommy using the time to clean and treat the lacerations scattered across his face and upper body. In no time they reached the hospital and with a reassuring smile from Tommy, TK was wheeled away to get processed and examined.
The exam passed in a bit of a blur (and TK was forced to concede that maybe his head injury might be slightly more serious than he had thought because keeping track of all the activity was proving to be more difficult than it probably should be) and eventually he was left alone in an exam room to await the numerous scans that had been ordered.
He lay on the stretcher, staring at the ceiling as he lamented his horrible luck once again. It was Carlos’s birthday and he had just wanted to do something nice for him. Carlos had said he hadn’t wanted a fuss or a party so TK had settled on an entire day with just the two of them at home with a dinner that Carlos wouldn’t have to cook. His trip to the grocery store was meant to only be a short one, a quick interruption to that plan in order to see it to fruition. Instead it had brought the day to a screeching halt, turning what should have been a footnote into a focal point. There was a lot of validity in what Tommy had said: he had been very lucky. Given how things had gone down he could have ended up with much worse injuries, he knew that.
He still hated the idea that he had ruined Carlos’s birthday though, however unintentionally.
He was still contemplating his bad luck and wondering if maybe there was something to be said for a trip to the Curandera Carlos had talked about when he heard the sound of footsteps outside his room. They paused in his doorway and a familiar voice sounded before TK could even begin the process of turning to face the doorway.
“You know, if you didn’t want to cook tonight, you could have just said something. There was no need to be dramatic about it.”
TK finally managed to turn to see Carlos hovering at the door, face a mask of worry despite his teasing words. TK mustered a smile and lifted up his right hand towards him and Carlos was at his side in an instant, pressing a kiss to his hairline, just above one of the cuts secured with a butterfly bandage. He took TK’s hand as he ran his eyes over the rest of the rest of him, anxiously looking for any signs of other injuries.
“I’m okay, Carlos,” he assured him, “nothing too major.”
Carlos took in a long shaky breath, “I drove by the accident scene on my way here. I saw what your car looked like. I thought…” he broke off and TK squeezed his hand.
“Hey,” he said gently, tugging on Carlos's hand so he would meet his eyes, “I’m okay. There are still some scans they want to do, but I’ve been examined by doctors and Captain Vega already, nobody seems to think there’s anything life threatening. It’s okay, Carlos.”
Carlos nodded, reaching out a hand to run through TK’s hair, “I believe you,” he insisted, “but when I got the call and then saw the accident, I couldn’t help but…”
He trailed off, but TK had a feeling he knew what he was going to say next. He lifted their joined hands up to Carlos’s face, brushing away a tear that had slipped down his cheek, “It didn’t happen,” he told him firmly, “and I’m going to be fine. Don’t go there Carlos, not today.”
Carlos swallowed and nodded, using his free hand to comb through TK’s hair again. He forced a smile on as he looked down at TK and TK felt the familiar tug of guilt in his gut.
“I’m sorry,” he told Carlos, “I ruined your birthday.”
Carlos’s response was immediate, “Hey, no you didn’t. You walking away from a car wreck like that with no life-threatening injuries? Best gift I could have asked for, nothing else even comes close.”
“What about it not happening in the first place?”
“Well, yeah,” Carlos admitted with a chuckle, “but given that it did, I’m more than happy to take this outcome.”
Carlos was smiling at him now, his expression sincere as he looked down at TK with nothing but love and relief in his eyes. TK wanted to smile back, but he still couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt.
“I just hate always making you worry,” he admitted quietly.
The smile Carlos gave him in response was soft and warm. He leaned forward to press another gentle kiss to his forehead before running a hand through his hair. “That’s okay,” he assured him softly, “you’re worth it.”
Carlos went to stand up from the couch but TK was standing in front of him in an instant, eyebrows raised, “And just where do you think you are going Carlos Reyes?”
“To get some water?” Carlos responding, brows furrowed in confusion.
“No you are not,” TK corrected, “you are going to sit back down and let me get your water, while you get the rest the doctor prescribed for you.”
“This is ridiculous,” Calros griped as he leaned back into the couch, “I’m fine.”
“The sling and the separated shoulder say otherwise,” TK fired back from the kitchen.
“Still,” Carlos tried again, “you don’t have to do everything for me. I still have…”
“One good arm?” TK finished for him as he approached with a glass of water, “Now where have I heard that one before?”
“This is different.”
“How?” Carlos didn’t respond and TK sat on the coffee table in front of him, meeting his eyes, “Please Carlos, tell me how this is different. Because it feels pretty similar to me.”
“I just…” Carlos started before breaking off with a sigh, “I just don’t like being the one that’s getting taken care of.”
TK’s expression softened and he slid to the edge of the coffee table, closing the distance between himself and Carlos and reaching out to take the hand not enclosed in a sling in his own. “You like to be the caretaker,” he agreed, “and you’re so good at it babe. But sometimes you need to be taken care of too, and that’s okay. There’s no shame in it and I’m happy to do it. You know why?”
When Carlos shook his head TK smiled and squeezed his hand before speaking, “I’m happy to do it because I love you, and because you deserve to be taken care of just like you try to take care of everyone else — especially me. You deserve all the love and good things in the world, Carlos Reyes, and I intend to give them to you.”
There was silence in the wake of his words and TK held Carlos’s gaze intently, daring him to try to argue. He meant every word he said and he would say them as many times as he needed before his boyfriend believed it. To his moderate surprise, Carlos didn’t try to argue. Instead he leaned forwards, using his functional arm to pull TK closer, capturing his lips in a kiss that sent shockwaves through his body.
When they pulled apart for air Carlos’s warm eyes found his own, “Have I told you today that I love you?”
TK grinned, reaching out to adjust the strap of Carlos’s sling, “You may have, but it never hurts to do it again, just to be sure.”
“I love you, Tyler Kennedy Strand.”
And even the use of his full name couldn’t stop the smile that spread across his face, “And I love you, Carlos Alberto Reyes,” he said lightly, “which is why I am going to take care of you while you heal up. Just think, you have an expert in the field here to take care of you. Who knows shoulder injuries better than me?”
Carlos shook his head, but he was grinning. “My boyfriend is a dork,” he announced and TK snorted, standing up from the coffee table and offering Carlos a hand to help him up from the couch.
“Please, you love it.”
“I do,” Carlos agreed easily as he took the offered hand, “it’s just one of your many attractive qualities.”
“Oh there are many of them, huh?”
“Mhm,” Carlos agreed, “and one of them is that you know when to stop talking so I can kiss you. Which, since that is one of the few of my normal activities I can still do with this sling on, I intend to do a lot of.”
TK let out a burst of laughter as Carlos raised his eyebrows suggestively at him before leaning in for the promised kiss. All things considered maybe his luck wasn’t all that bad after all, he mused. After all, he had Carlos, and he couldn’t think of anything luckier.