This is a short companion ficlet to Lifeline. You should read that work first.
Carlos looks up from his laptop as the key rattles in the door and it opens. Nick walks in, followed by Adam.
"Hey, dudes. Good morning. Hope work wasn't too overwhelming today. Breakfast is keeping warm in the oven. Give me a second to finish up this claim and I can give you back your bed."
Nick kicks off his shoes before coming up to Carlos on the couch and kissing him, quickly.
"You're too good to us, babe."
Carlos blushes. "It's just some eggs. Muffins are on the counter. I want you to guess the flavor, again."
Nick nods, kissing him again before turning to Adam. "Do you want to shower first?"
Adam shakes his head. "No. You're going to want to snuggle your husband as soon as possible, so you should go first."
Nick nods again, heading toward the bathroom and shutting the door behind him as Adam sits on the couch near Carlos, looking a little lost in thought.
"Everything okay, chico?" Carlos still worries about Adam, despite cases being relatively lower now and the hospital seeming significantly less busy. He wishes Adam could have taken more time off, but by the end of the six weeks, Adam had seemed almost eager to jump back in again and help relieve at least some of the stress on his coworkers.
Adam smiles at him, slightly. "Yeah. Sorry, just... um." He turns toward Carlos, looking a little worried. "I talked to Nick already, but how would you feel if Cass and Emma came over?"
"Chico. You and Cass are making out and having sex and stuff, right?" Carlos doesn't mean to start with that, and Adam blushes, but he thinks it gets the point across. "So we're basically all one big bubble already anyway, and they're probably like two of the safest people in the city right now given how cautious they're being. We're the bigger risk to them, so if they're comfortable coming over, then invite them over."
"It's not just that, dude. The five of us haven't all been together since our picnic in that park, and especially not after Cass and I got together. I want to make sure it's very explicitly okay with you, especially if you'd feel like you had to cook for all of us."
"Well, I like Cass, and I like Emma, and I think it would be nice for all of us to spend some time together. It'd almost feel like things were normal again. And cooking for five isn't that much different than cooking for three, anyway." It kind of is, because he isn't sure his pans are big enough to make servings like that, but he doesn't want to ruin Adam's growing excitement. He also likes the idea of all of them together again, having felt a bit of trepidation as Adam and Cass had started going out, despite what he'd said to her when he'd given his blessing.
"Well, if you're sure, dude."
"I'm sure, chico. Invite them over. I'll make dinner if you tell me what kinds of things they like."
Adam nods, sitting back in the couch again, but still lost in thought. "Also I was thinking I should move back to my apartment, soon. More formally, I mean."
That doesn't surprise Carlos. Adam had been spending more time there recently anyway, after starting to date Cass. His bed being a couch in Carlos and Nick's living room wasn't exactly conducive to privacy, and the fact that they only had one bathroom was sometimes a problem.
"I understand. You just want us out of your hair."
Adam shakes his head. "No, dude. I just... things are calming down enough, at least relatively speaking, that I think I can function on my own again. Especially after the break I had. And I need to stop... imposing. On the two of you. Like this."
Carlos frowns. "Chico. You're never an imposition."
"I know, dude." Adam pats his hand, smiling now. "And I really appreciate everything you've done for me this year, more than I could possibly express. But I still think we need our separate space now, given we both have serious relationships now."
"So this is serious?" He really doesn't need to ask, because he knows it is, but he still needs to hear it. "It's only been a month."
Adam nods. "Yeah. I was worried at first when I started going back to work, because we wouldn't have as much time to spend together anymore, but she's been so much more understanding than I could have expected." He pauses. "It reminds me of you, actually, when we moved here and I was busy with grad school all the time."
Carlos blushes, glad that Adam's being well cared for, at least. "I love you, chico."
Adam smiles at him, softly. "I love you, too, dude. And I'm going to miss having you so close by. It feels a lot like it used to, when were were living together."
"You're moving back into your apartment that's like a block away, chico. And you'll have the key to this place anyway. You make it sound like you're moving to New York or something."
Adam laughs and ruffles his hair. "I don't know. Maybe I'll start dating Wade and move out there for him."
Carlos shakes his head and pats his shoulder. "I really should finish this claim though so you can have your bed back."
Adam nods, sitting back on the couch again and closing his eyes. "Thanks, dude."
Carlos looks up from his pots and pans on the stove at the sound of the key in the door. Nick stops chopping vegetables next to him and slips a hand around his waist instead. Then it opens, and Adam walks through, followed by Cass and Emma.
"Hey! Welcome. Please make yourselves at home. There's some wine and glasses on the table." He feels like he should do something to be more actively welcoming, but he doesn't want to leave the browning garlic alone at the moment.
Cass smiles, or at least seems to, behind her mask, and looks around. Then she grins. "Thank you, Eddy! This is a really nice place you two have."
Nick stifles a laugh, and Carlos tries his best to look offended even though he thinks he finds the nickname affectionate, now. "Okay, so we're only having four for dinner tonight, Nick. Adjust accordingly."
Emma holds out her fist in his direction, despite them being in the same enclosed space. He grins and holds his own out and they fist bump the air. He notices her other hand is holding a bottle of wine.
"It is really nice though," Cass says, looking a little apologetic.
"Well, I'm sure you're used to Adam's place, so your expectations are just artificially low."
Adam throws an arm over his shoulders. "I'll have you know, dude, that my clothes are not all over the floor anymore."
"Only because you'd been living here for a while, instead. You just haven't had enough time to accumulate floor clothing back there, yet."
"Well..." Adam looks like he wants to disagree, but can't.
"Um. Do you want our masks on, or...?" Emma seems reluctant to remove hers, even though Carlos and Nick aren't wearing theirs and Adam's already pulling his off.
"You're welcome to keep yours on if you're more comfortable, but like I told Adam, we're basically all a bubble now, anyway. It's fine." He turns back to his pans, stirring the pasta. "But it might be a little hard to eat through it."
Cass laughs, pulling her mask off. "Are you saying your food is so bad that we'll need the mask as a filter so we don't get food poisoning?"
"Hey!" Nick's voice is sharp, but Carlos knows he's feigning outrage. "What are you saying about my husband's cooking?"
Cass and Emma both look a little taken aback, but Adam laughs and gently rubs Cass' shoulder. "That was a joke."
"Ah." Emma laughs, nervously, pulling her mask off as well, and Nick's arm stiffens on Carlos' back. Carlos pats his shoulder with his free hand, reassuringly.
"So the seating situation might be a little interesting." Carlos wants to break the tension. "We're not really set up for five, so two people will have to sit at the couch and use the coffee table."
"Oh! It's like the kids' table at Thanksgiving!" Cass seems way too excited at the prospect. "I volunteer!" Then she looks over at Adam and seems suddenly guilty. "Although Adam would probably be a lot more comfortable at the dining room table."
"I think that's probably us, babe." Nick removes his arm and starts chopping again. "Emma and Cass should probably sit together, and Adam and Cass should definitely sit together."
Carlos nods. "That probably makes sense."
"We brought some wine," Emma says, setting the bottle on the counter. "Adam said you were making chicken and pasta, so that seemed like probably a white wine?"
"Honestly, I can't really tell the difference with different foods. Nick gets offended that I keep our opened bottles of red in the fridge, but it's all just wine to me."
Nick makes a frustrated noise. "Reds are supposed to be served at room temperature, babe. Many whites, but not all, should be chilled."
Carlos kisses him. "Since when did I marry a wine snob? I thought I was getting Mr. Vodka-and-Soda over here."
"Well, the bottle isn't cold, but we could put it in the freezer," Emma starts, but Carlos shakes his head.
"Yeah, Nick doesn't get to opine on wine temperatures because he guessed my muffins wrong yesterday. It's fine. Thank you for bringing it."
Cass looks at him, smirking. "Is that some innuendo? Because it sounds like innuendo. Adam, should you be guessing my muffins?"
"I wish." Nick finishes chopping the tomato and sets the knife down as Adam blushes. "Somebody didn't consider 'orange' a good enough guess for 'tangerine'."
"Somebody doesn't know the difference between their fruits." Carlos stirs the garlic, satisfied with it, taking the tomatoes from Nick and adding them to the pan.
Nick shakes his head, swatting Carlos' butt before slipping behind him and out of the kitchen. "Let me pour you some of the properly chilled white we have sitting on the table."
"Okay, down to three for dinner. Chico, come help me in the kitchen. I hope you and Emma are extra hungry."
Adam ruffles his hair, and moves to sit on the couch. "I don't know, dude. I think I'm morally bound to join Cass' band. She and Nick and I can just get some Taco Bell or something. I'm sure their value menu is about as good as your cooking."
Carlos laughs, and as he pulls the chicken from the oven, and the five of them fall into comfortable conversation, he thinks about how, just like Adam hadn't been afraid of losing him to Nick, he's no longer afraid of losing Adam to Cass. Instead, he thinks Cass and Emma are starting to feel like another piece in his life that he'd never realized before that he was missing.
And he feels content.