hold me steady
1.2k || ao3
When his co-workers share the news that the drunk driver responsible for the accident is in the hospital, Carlos knows that Judd hears too. So he keeps an eye on him, follows when he wanders away, and catches him before he falls.
A 2x09 Coda (that really didn’t need one but a little more Carlos never hurts)
Carlos Reyes wasn’t a stupid man, and he wasn’t blind either.
He saw the look that had come over Judd’s face at the news that a drunk driver — the drunk driver — was in the hospital as well, with minor injuries to boot. He appreciated being in the know but he couldn’t help but wish that his co-workers had had more discretion, that they hadn’t dropped that bomb in the middle of the waiting room; outside the room where Grace Ryder lay in critical condition.
But what was done was done and Judd knew now, so Carlos kept an eye on him. On a typical day, Judd Ryder was a reasonable and stable force. Judd Ryder facing the possibility of losing his wife was another person entirely. He had once joked that Grace was 99% of his impulse control, but Carlos had a feeling that was more true than anyone wanted to let on.
So when Judd slipped from the edges of the 126 crowd in the middle of the waiting room, Carlos followed.
He watched as Judd let himself into another hospital room, coming up and hovering outside the door. At first, it seemed that he was just talking, so Carlos almost let him be. There was nothing he could say to this man that he didn’t deserve and Carlos wasn’t about to be the one to tell him otherwise.
But then Judd’s hands were on the other man and Carlos cursed and rushed inside, reaching out to pull Judd away.
“Leave him be Judd,” he called out as he approached, reaching out a firm hand to grab the firefighter’s arm, “he’s not worth it.”
He was caught momentarily by surprise when Judd lashed out, turning away from the man in the bed and striking out at Carlos, but only for a moment. In the next moment his instincts took over and he reached out and caught the fist flying towards him. He pushed it down and gave Judd an unimpressed look, “Maybe if you weren’t about to fall over this would be a fair fight. What the hell do you think you’re doing, Judd?”
“This sonofabitch needs to pay for what he did to Grace,” Judd spat out. “He’s nothing but a waste of space and she…”
He trailed off with a harsh sob and Carlos felt whatever anger he was feeling towards the older man fade. He stepped forward, putting himself between Judd and the figure in the bed and placed a hand on Judd’s arm, cautiously this time.
“She’s not dead Judd,” he reminded him gently. “But you would be if she knew what you were doing. Do you really think this is what she would want?”
“Yeah well, thanks to this lowlife we might never know what she would want.”
Carlos raised an eyebrow, “Are you really counting your wife out so quick? She’s tougher than that and you know it. Besides,” he continued when Judd showed no signs of swaying, “wouldn’t she be the first to say that it’s not up to us to decide who deserves a second chance? And that the best thing we can do is forgive?”
There was silence, for a moment. The panicked breathing of the man in the bed and the beeps of the machines surrounding him were the only sounds as Judd processed his words. Carlos was studying him, hand still tight on his arm as he tried to think of anything else he could say; any other argument that would make Judd see sense and prevent him from having to arrest his friend for aggravated assault. He was saved the trouble by Judd wilting, folding in on himself as the tears came again.
“I don’t want to forgive him,” he confided. “I just want my wife back.”
Carlos swallowed and squeezed his arm, unsure what else to say. He had felt that pain before, when he had almost lost TK. Back then they had just been starting, just starting to fall in love but the fear and grief of possibly losing him had still almost toppled Carlos. He couldn’t even imagine being in Judd’s shoes; facing the possibility of losing the person you loved the most after so many years.
“Hurting him is not going to make that happen any faster Judd,” he told him eventually. “All that is going to do is bring you more trouble that you don’t need right now. Let the law handle him; I’ll make sure that he doesn’t get away with anything. I promise, okay?”
Judd nodded and Carlos heaved a sigh, releasing his grip on Judd’s arm. He was about to suggest they head back when the door swung open and a frantic looking Owen and Mr. Williams rushed in. They froze, taking in the scene before them, eyes landing on Carlos standing between Judd and the man in the bed.
“Grace is awake son,” Mr. Williams said after a moment, “and she’s asking for you.”
Judd nodded and swiped a hand across his face. Carlos offered him a small smile and a light shove in the direction of the door, “Don’t keep her waiting, Judd,” he instructed, getting a razor-thin smile in return. Then, with another deep breath and a glance over Carlos’s shoulder to the man still laying panicked in the bed, Judd was gone.
Mr. Williams followed immediately, but Owen paused.
“Thank you, Carlos,” he said quietly. “If you hadn’t been here…”
“Of course,” Carlos replied, cutting off Owen’s implication. “He’s family, right? Anything for them.”
The smile Owen gave him was warm and wide, before he too spared a glance at the man in the bed and left with a scowl on his face.
Carlos was about to follow when a voice stopped him.
“Thank you,” the man said, voice wavering. “If you hadn’t been here, I think he might have killed me.”
Carlos froze, turning on his heel to face the man.
“Make no mistake,” he told him coldly, “I meant what I told my friend. I will do my best to make sure that you are punished to the full extent of the law. You may have gotten lucky this time because nobody died, but I do not intend to leave any room for there to be a next time. I don’t necessarily disagree with his approach, but I don’t want to see him go down with you. I didn’t do this for you — I did it for him.”
With that he turned, striding out of the room and back to the gathered group in the waiting room. He plastered a smile on his face as he entered their fold, sliding into his seat beside TK without a word. The others carried on as usual, but TK shot him a curious look.
“Judd needed to let off some steam,” he said with a shrug, “but he’s okay.”
TK nodded and gave him a smile, reaching out to take his hand in his own. Carlos squeezed it, winding their fingers together as he let the familiar sounds and presence of this family wash over him. And when Judd reappeared twenty minutes later, beaming through the tears to share the good news, he spared a glance for Carlos as they separated from the group hug. There was a silent thank you in his eyes and all Carlos could do was smile.
He had meant what he said to Owen, after all. This was his family and he would do whatever he needed to do for each and every one of them, no matter what.