Piece By Piece

This fic follows on Falling Into Place, and both contains spoilers for and will not make sense without that work. You should read that work first.

Warning: Sexual References

Tuesday March 15, 2013

Carlos feels like he's floating through the entire celebratory dinner, surrounded by Adam's parents and Nick's parents and his best friend and his boyfriend -- fiancee! -- and smothered in love and affection. He keeps staring at the ring on his finger, almost unable to believe it's real.

The conversation is comfortable, and casual, and by the time dessert comes, he's starting to feel a slight buzz from the wine.

Nick's dad stands, and waits as everyone notices and calms down. "I'd like to propose a toast."

Nick slings his arm over Carlos' shoulders. Carlos leans against him and finds the hand on his shoulder with his own hand as he finds his wineglass with the other.

"To my brilliant son, Nicholas." Carlos doesn't miss the way Nick cringes beside him. "And his best friend Adam." Oh. Carlos likes the sound of that. "And our soon-to-be son-in-law Carlos." He really likes the sound of that. "Congratulations on all of your accomplishments, which are all well-deserved for the hard work and dedication that all of you have put in. May all of you continue to find success and happiness together, no matter where life may take you."

He raises his glass, and there's general murmured agreement around the table. It's a short toast, fitting for what he knows of his father. He clinks his glass with Nick's, smiling at the look in his eyes. They both drink, and Nick's hand shifts slightly, moving on top of his and running its fingers over the ring on his finger.

He really likes the way that feels.

"So, Nick." Adam's mother is smiling at the two of them. "Adam won't tell us what his number two school was, and we're curious where we could have lost him to. What was your second choice?"

"Bold of you to assume UCSF was number one." It seems to be an automatic reaction, because Nick immediately flushes when he remembers he's not talking to Carlos, or Adam. "Sorry. Um. We actually did the couples match, so we had the same list. So there's not really a my second choice, because it was our second choice."

Carlos' ears suddenly feel hot. "Dude... you two... did that for me?"

Adam laughs and slaps a hand on his back. "Well, we also..."

"No, we also..." Nick starts at the same time. They both stop and Nick chuckles. "It wasn't just for you, babe. I think Adam and I also hit it off so well that we wanted to make sure we stayed together."

Adam's hand pats his back before he pulls it away. "It was actually Nick's idea. I actually had mostly missed that it was even an option, but he pointed it out, and we both immediately decided it was the right choice." Carlos likes how Adam uses 'we' for that, feeling slightly less guilty about it. "Um, and then we also ranked them by region, because we wanted to make sure Carlos wouldn't have to change too much with his job. So uh... UC Fresno was number two. Then Kern."

Carlos can't quite believe how much they'd done for him. He shrugs Nick's hand off, grabbing it with his other hand instead so he can squeeze it under the table. He resists the urge to kiss him, for now.

"So you were always staying around this part of the country, sweetheart?" There's no bitterness or malveolence in Nick's mother's question, although Carlos still flinches somehow at it.

"My life is here, mom." And by the way Nick looks at Carlos, he knows he's talking about him. "It's just always felt more right here to me than anywhere else I've been, so I thought I didn't want to change that, as much as I could."

"Well, we're both just so happy for you. We're all so happy for all of you."

Nick kisses his cheek again. "I'm happy for us, too."

"Are you sure you don't need us to get you back to the hotel?" Carlos stuffs his hands in his pockets, finding the weather slightly cooler than he'd prefer tonight, but immediately feeling better when Nick wraps an arm around him and pulls him closer.

"Nonsense. The uber is on its way, and we can find our way around the city. We'll just see you tomorrow for breakfast."

Nick nods and lets him go, hugging his father and then his mother. "That sounds good."

"Congratulations again, sweetheart. On both the residency and the engagement."

"We're looking forward to having you in our family, Carlos," his dad says, holding out his hand before thinking better of it and instead pulling him into a hug.

"Thank you. I... I promise I'll always do right by him, Mr. Price."

"Hey, I told you last time. It's Jon." He pats his back. "And I know you will. You are the kindest, most generous man I know, and I will be proud to call you my son-in-law."

"Oh." Carlos holds back tears as they separate, and he's pulled into a hug with Nick's mother, instead. "Thank you. That... means a lot."

"And it's Helen, sweetheart. Or 'mom'."

"Helen," he repeats, still finding it foreign. Despite himself, he still calls Adam's parents Mr. and Mrs. Prewitt, and he resolves to try harder with that too. "Thank you."

She pulls away, putting her hands on his cheeks instead, and they're surprisingly warm. "Thank you, Carlos."

"Car's here, honey."

She pats his cheeks tenderly, and kisses one of them. "We'll see you both tomorrow."

He watches them get into the car, and watches it drive away, his hand firmly in his fiancee's.

"That was really nice," Carlos says, feeling content.

Nick nods and kisses him, quickly. "It was."

"Can I ask you something?" He feels a little brave, maybe lingering from the wine at dinner.

"You can always ask me anything, babe." The hand squeezes his.

"Can I take your last name?"

Nick seems surprised by that, and looks at him with what he takes as affection mixed with concern. "Babe. You don't have to do that for me."

"I know, but I... I want to. Um." He struggles to explain. "I'm not that person anymore, Nick, and not just because I'm older and more comfortable with myself and more... responsible." He isn't sure he likes the sound of that, and he must cringe, because Nick chuckles and kisses him.

"You've always been responsible, babe."

"Okay, but you didn't know me in undergrad. But um... my name is also the last thing tying me to my family." He pauses, realizing the anger toward the people that raised him is replaced now with indifference, and he thinks it's an improvement. "Well, to the people who aren't my family anymore, who I don't want to be my family anymore, if that makes sense. And I want... I want a clean start. And I know it's maybe not fair to ask you to give that to me, but I just... it's something I'd like to do. But only if it's okay with you."

The concern seems to be gone from Nick's face now, and he takes that as a good sign.

"Babe, of course it's okay. I just don't want you to feel like you have to do that for me. I'm... I'd be overjoyed though if it's something you want to do for you, because you feel like it'd help."

"It would." His chest feels lighter, and he feels comfortable enough again to crack a joke. "So how do we feel about Prewitt-Price?"

Nick laughs, full in his chest, and Carlos loves what that does to him. "Why does Adam's name come first? Why not Price-Prewitt?"

"Because that doesn't sound as good, baby. And also it sounds like some bad Fisher Price knockoff toy."

"Prewitt-Price sounds like a law firm."

"Hm. I'll have to go back to school and become an attorney. Then we can be Prewitt-Price, Price, and Prewitt."

Nick shakes his head, smiling. "Medical law, I hope."

Carlos kisses him. "Of course."

"Were you still wanting to spend the night?" Nick is serious again, but his eyes betray the need they're both feeling.

"What, the dinner wasn't enough to celebrate our engagement?"

"The dinner was to celebrate our residencies, babe. We haven't celebrated our engagement, yet."

"Ah. I stand corrected." Carlos kisses him again. "Then maybe you should take me home, Dr. Price, and we can see if we can't fix that oversight."

"I think we should." They start walking in the direction of Nick's apartment, a bit faster than usual, both feeling the urgency, now.

"Carlos Rodrigo Price." He tries it out, liking the sound of it already, despite it feeling slightly awkward. "Maybe I should change my middle name, too."

"You can have mine. I hate it."

"I'm not sure I'm really an 'Edward'." He thinks for a second. "Carlos Nicholas Price," he tries, and Nick cringes.

"That's not that much better."

"Maybe I'll think more about that one."

"Well, whatever you decide, Mr. Price-Prewitt, I hope you always know how much I love you, regardless of whatever monstrosity your name may be."

He looks into Nick's eyes, shining with promises and visions of a future that he knows will continue to make him unbearably happy, and he grins. "I know. I love you, too."

Tuesday March 26, 2013

"Shush. It's starting, babe."

Carlos starts to complain about how boring it is to listen to an audio stream instead of watching something on TV, or how Nick could listen to it later if it was available on the internet anyway, especially given how early it was. But he stops when he sees the expression on Nick's face: hopeful but filled with worry. He wishes he could do something to fix the latter part.

So he shuts his mouth and snuggles up next to his fiancee on Nick's bed, sharing a pair of earbuds with him and trying to understand the arguments being laid out in the biggest courtroom in the country, thousands of miles away, that would still have a very direct impact on his life over the next few months.

It's a bit shorter than he expected, and when it's over, he looks up at the clock, finding that only about 80 minutes have passed.

"What do you think?" He isn't sure he was following it enough, or understood enough about how the legal system and judges worked, to really know what to expect.

"I don't know, babe." Nick's brow is furrowed. "I haven't tried to listen to any oral arguments before, and I don't really follow the court, so I don't know."

Then this was a waste of time, he thinks, but he realizes this was important to Nick, so it should also be important to him. He kisses Nick's temple, instead.

"So what. We'll know next week?"

Nick laughs at that, before looking apologetic, but Carlos doesn't take offense. "No, babe. It'll... take a few months. They usually hear a bunch of these and then issue rulings on all of them at once."

"Oh." He'd been hoping for quicker resolution so he could figure out whether he should really be looking at wedding planning in earnest. "What if... it's bad?"

Nick shrugs, turning and kissing him on the lips. "We can still have a wedding. And get married in New York or something."

"I thought you said that wouldn't work because California wouldn't recognize that or something."

Nick shrugs again, but looks frustrated now. "That's true. I don't know. I guess we just have to hope that it's not bad."

"Well, things are moving a lot faster here than back home." He stops himself, realizing that he didn't really think of it as home, anymore, but the words had come automatically anyway. "Back in Costa Rica, I mean. It'll probably be another decade there, so at least we're going the right direction here, right? Faster?"

Nick sighs, leaning back against the headboard. "Yeah. I just... sometimes it's easy to forget that outside of this... bubble that we're kind of in, and especially outside of this city, or this state, or this country, it's still not so simple. I don't understand why it isn't that simple. I love you. You love me. Why can't we get married?"

He doesn't think he's particularly good at philosophy, so he turns to more practical matters instead. "If this goes well, what does that mean for, um... immigration?"

"Right. I... meant to look that up. It probably depends a bit on what exactly they decide, too, so I'm not sure if whatever I find there will even be accurate."

Carlos doesn't understand the nuance, so he just pulls Nick closer and kisses his temple again. That, at least, he understands. "I'm sorry this is so frustrating for you."

"I'm surprised it isn't more frustrating for you," Nick says, and Carlos worries that he means something by it. "I wish I could go with the flow more on this, like you do. It would make it less stressful." Carlos decides it wasn't intended as a criticism, after all.

"You don't want to be as laid back as I am, dude. If Adam hadn't kept me on track, instead of graduating a year late, I wouldn't have graduated at all. And then where would we be?"

Nick smiles, his hand finding Carlos' cheek, kissing him gently. "Well, thank god for Adam, then."

Carlos already does, every day, and he knows Nick feels the same way, but it still brings a warm feeling to his chest.

"Besides, we don't need the government to tell us, or your parents, how we feel about each other, right?"

Nick frowns, as if he wants to disagree, but just shakes his head. "No, we don't."

Carlos kisses him again. "So then maybe we'll see what happens, and start making some general plans that don't require any commitment yet, and go from there."

"That sounds sensible, babe." Nick kisses him again before maneuvering out of his arms and standing. "And I think we should have a bit of a late breakfast before you have to head in to work."

"Do I have to?"

Nick shakes his head. "Until we're legally married and we can get you your green card, yes. Now come and start the arduous process of pouring cereal into a bowl for us. I'm not sure my kitchen skills are up to the task."

Carlos climbs out of bed after him, wrapping his arms around him from behind and loving the way Nick pulls them both toward the kitchen anyway. "Didn't you burn water once?"

"I accidentally left a pot boiling on the stove when Wade decided dinner time was a good time for spontaneous sex, babe. That's not exactly burning water."

"So what you're saying is that I shouldn't blow you while you're pouring the cereal, or you'll fill the entire apartment with cornflakes."

Nick stops, turning around in his arms, and kissing him. "Uh huh. If you find me that magical box of cornflakes, we'll be rich enough that we don't have to worry about all of this job stuff. Now let me go and let's eat so you're actually not late."

"So no blowjob?"

Nick blushes, and Carlos know he's actually considering it. "I think that really wouldn't be a good idea right now."

Carlos kisses his forehead and lets him go. "Fine. But you're making it up to me tonight."

Nick smiles, kissing him before grabbing bowls from the dishrack. "I look forward to it."

Saturday April 13, 2013

"Hey, chico," Carlos says, leaning against the open door to Adam's room.

Adam puts down his book and smiles at him. "What's up, dude?"

"I know it's a little early to talk about, but what were your housing plans for next year? Were you thinking we'd just keep the apartment?"

Adam shrugs. "I was, but I assume you're bringing this up because you're thinking of moving in with Nick?"

Carlos feels a bit guilty about it, but nods. "Yeah. Um... now that we're engaged, and since we're clearly staying here, and our lease is up at the end of June, and his is up at the end of July, it seemed like a good time if we were going to do it."

Adam grins and stands, and Carlos tries not to stare at an Adam in his underwear as he walks up to him. "Dude. That's great." He slaps Carlos' shoulder.

"Are you sure this is okay with you though, chico? It feels... unfair to you somehow."

"Well, the prodigal son has to leave home sometime, right? But of course it's okay, dude. I'm happy I've had you for this long, but of course it makes sense for you to move in with your eventual husband."

Carlos nods, but still feels a bit uneasy. "We were actually thinking of maybe buying a condo. I have some money saved up, and his parents have said they're willing to chip in for a down payment, but if that makes things harder for you... like if you wanted to live in the same building or something... we could always rent a place."

Adam smiles, but seems to think. "Well, I'm not in a particularly good financial position to buy right now, given I'm basically just finishing school and have a ton of loans still, but you shouldn't let that stop the two of you. I'll try and find a studio or something in a building nearby."

"You're really sure this is okay?"

Adam puts both hands on Carlos' shoulders and looks into his eyes. "Carlos. I'm sure. I'm really, truly happy for you that you have Nick and that you two are starting your lives together."

"Okay. But you have to come by a lot. Especially for meals." He thinks he's really going to miss cooking for Adam, even if for the past few years it's been for Adam and Nick most of the time.

"I will never turn down a patented Carlos meal. Thanks, dude."

Carlos nods. "Want to look at places with us? And have us help you look for one?"

Adam pats Carlos' shoulder again before climbing back into his bed. "That sounds like fun. It'll be like when we first moved here all over again, but maybe with a little less time urgency, so we'll be able to enjoy it more."

"Great. And um... I love you, chico."

"I love you too, dude. And congratulations."

Saturday June 22, 2013


"Hm?" Adam looks up from his textbook at Carlos, sitting at the dining table with wedding vendor pamphlets spread out in front of him.

"Would it be weird to ask your dad to walk me down the aisle?"

Adam sits up straight, smiling as he puts the book down and stares at Carlos more properly. "Dude. I don't think that's weird at all."

"It's just... he's the closest thing I have to a father, and Nick wants his dad to give him away, so..." He shakes his head.

"Dude. I think he would honored if you asked him. I know they think of you as son, anyway."

That brings a tear to his eye, even though it's not the first time he'd heard it. "Okay."

"I love you, dude." Adam's looking at him wish such affection that he has to turn away.

"Yeah, yeah, chico. I love you too, and all that."

Wednesday June 26, 2013

"Congratulations, Carlos!"

"Huh?" Carlos looks up from the form he's reviewing at Robin, his coworker. "For what?"

"Didn't you hear? Hollingsworth and Perry came out today."

Carlos tries to remember why those names sound familiar. "Sorry. I... I feel like I should know them, but I don't. Congrats to them for coming out?"

Robin shakes her head and smiles, patting his shoulder. "No, it's the Supreme Court marriage case. You and Nick can get married, now. So, congratulations!"

She walks off toward the breakroom, and Carlos stares after her.

Suddenly the end of the day can't come soon enough.

Carlos bursts into their apartment, and both Adam and Nick look up from Smash at him, in surprise.

"Baby! We can get married!" He's a bit more excited than he thinks he should be, but the congratulations he'd kept getting at work today had built up joy inside him over the hours.

Adam laughs and pauses the game, and Nick stands, walking over to kiss him. "It's not quite over yet, babe."

Carlos looks at him, confused. "What? I thought the ruling was that it was allowed."

"The ruling was something about standing, which I think means it's going to be allowed, but some other court has to allow it first? I'm not exactly sure." Nick looks about as confused as he is.

"I think the ruling was that the appeal beyond the Ninth Circuit was improper, so it's returned to the Ninth Circuit to say that their ruling now applies, which was to overturn prop 8?" Adam stands as well, shaking his head. "I don't know. I don't exactly understand this stuff either."

Carlos feels unreasonably disappointed by the explanation. "Chico. What does that mean? Is it going to be another three months?"

Nick shakes his head, kissing him reassuringly. "I don't think so. This part should be pretty quick, so we can probably start confirming some of those venues or vendors we were looking at. It'd be good to lock in a date, too, so Adam and I can make sure we work our residencies around it."

Carlos briefly remembers that Nick and Adam will be busy again in just about a week, and that's enough to dampen the rest of his enthusiasm, despite the prospect of making solid wedding plans. "Oh. Right."

Adam walks up behind Nick and ruffles Carlos' hair. "You know, we should go out and celebrate tonight, anyway. It's still a big ruling, even if it's not quite effective yet."

"We could hit The Edge," Carlos says, mostly teasing, because he'd love to see how awkward Adam is at a gay bar, remembering Chris' stories of dragging Adam to Q&A and remembering when Adam had accompanied Carlos to a pride parade. "It's two-for-one drinks night, and musical night."

Nick laughs, but Adam just shrugs, not getting the joke. "Maybe not a bar? How about dinner?"

"Fine, chico. Delancey?"

Adam grins. "You just want that sundae."

"If we're celebrating, why not celebrate the right way, with ice cream and delicious gooeyness?"

Nick's smirking and Carlos kisses him before he can say it.

Adam, smiles. "Sure, dude. Let's go celebrate with gooeyness." Then he blushes when Nick's breath explodes in a laugh against Carlos' lips. "I mean caramel, dude. Ice cream and caramel."

"Of course you did, Adam," Nick pats his shoulder.

"I don't know, chico. If you're wanting us to celebrate with gooeyness, maybe the three of us need to talk about the parameters of our relationship."

Adam turns redder and moves to shut off the Wii U. "Let's just go, dude."

Thursday June 27, 2013

"Okay, so. Big or small?" Carlos fans out the printouts and informational packets they'd collected over the past few months on the dining room table. They'd tried to take advantage of the lull in Nick's responsibilities between graduation and residency to tour as many places as they could, even as they weren't sure yet what they wanted.

Nick shrugs and kisses his cheek. "I told you, babe. Anything is fine with me."

"Yeah, but you're the one with family actually coming."

"You're the one with more friends. Seriously, babe. It's up to you."

Carlos scans over the papers in front of him. "Maybe something smaller? I never really understood the desire to throw a ton of money at a party, even though I do love a good party. And we have all of your student loans to deal with."

"My parents said they'd help pay, babe. Pick what you want and we can see if it makes sense."

Carlos shakes his head, not wanting to take advantage of Nick's parents' generosity. "No. Let's do smaller. I kind of like the idea of a small outdoor ceremony and maybe a reception at some decently nice restaurant. It feels more intimate than a larger hall or some extravagant blowout thing."

"Sounds fine to me too. At the end of the day, all I want is to be married to you. It doesn't matter how we get there."

Carlos grins. "Okay. Elvis impersonator officiant and required Ru Paul-inspired dress code it is."

Nick smirks. "Mmm. You don't want me to attempt drag, babe. That can only end in tears. Probably yours. But if you want to try to..."

Carlos kisses him to shut him up, then sorts through the packets, pulling out some for outdoor locations. "Presidio? Then we can find a restaurant around there."

"Works for me. Let's just make sure we get a tent, in case it rains."

"Right." Carlos pulls out the printout for the Presidio park and makes a note. "That was... remarkably easy."

Nick shrugs. "I told you. I'm easy."

Carlos grins, his hand finding Nick's thigh and squeezing. "Oh, you definitely are, baby."

Nick smirks. "Only for you, babe."

Carlos puts most of the papers for the larger venues aside. "What about wedding party?" He tries to think who he'd ask in addition to Adam. He's not sure he's close enough to any of his clubbing friends or coworkers to ask them to be in the wedding party.

"If we're going with a smaller thing, then maybe we keep that small too? I assume you'll ask Adam, and I should probably ask David."

He wants to joke that he should ask Aditya instead, but it doesn't feel like an appropriate time. "Does your brother's wife also need to be in the party?" he asks, instead. "Is that a thing?"

"It's a thing if we want it to be a thing, babe. But no, I think traditionally it's just siblings and not their spouses."

Carlos suddenly finds himself thinking about his brothers, and he wonders how they're doing.

He really misses them.

"Babe. I'm sorry." Nick's hand is on his back, and he realizes he's crying. "Do you want me to try and reach out, somehow? See if we can get a hold of your brothers?" He's as perceptive about Carlos' emotions as always, and he loves him all the more for it.

He shakes his head. "Yeah, that'd be a conversation. 'Hi! I'm your brother's gay fiancee and we're getting married. Want to come?' I don't even know how we'd contact them."

"If it's important to you, I want to try."

Carlos shakes his head. "No. I talked about a fresh start, and I think this is part of it. I need to stop dwelling on the past, and I need to let them go. Even if it's not their fault."

Nick doesn't look convinced, and Carlos isn't sure he is, himself, but Nick nods. "Okay. So just Adam and David?"

Carlos wipes his nose, wanting to move off the topic. "Yeah, yeah. That sounds good. Let's talk about food."

Nick chuckles, and kisses him again, and somehow the pain feels more bearable.

Saturday July 12, 2014

"And please welcome the best men, Jonathan David Price and Adam James Prewitt!"

David glares at Nick before he and Adam disappear out the door into the restaurant as the DJ announces their names. Carlos looks over at Nick, confused. Nick seems to be smirking, and Carlos suddenly realizes why he'd insisted the DJ use full names for the wedding party, but not for Carlos and himself.

"'Jonathan'?" Carlos realizes he'd never known Nick's brother's full name, and had always assumed his first name was David. Apparently both he and Nick had a thing about their first names. "Isn't that your dad?"

Nick chuckles. "Yeah. That's why we all just call him David. It was less confusing for my mom, growing up."

"I bet you ten dollars that he managed to finangle something and the DJ introduces you as Nicholas." Carlos is grinning now, even as he takes his fiancee's -- husband's! -- arm and hooks it around his.

Nick cringes. "Babe, we're married now, so that's technically already my money."

"Well, half, or something. So twenty dollars, then."

Nick shakes his head. "I bet you me feeding you your own cum tonight that he didn't."

Carlos simultaneously blushes and frowns. "What, if I win you do?"

"And if I win, I don't."

"So what's in it for me then?"

"Your cum." Nick pats his arm, smirking again.

Carlos shakes his head. "No deal, mister. I expect husbandly duties to be performed tonight regardless of your brother's ability to smooth-talk a DJ."

Nick chuckles again, and opens his mouth to respond, but the DJ starts up again. Instead, he kisses Carlos quickly before they turn to the doorway.

"And now, please welcome the newly married Mr. and Mr. Nicholas and Carlos Price!"

Carlos feels a smug sense of satisfaction at it, and Nick briefly frowns before plastering his smile back on. Carlos makes a note to ask David when he even managed it, before they walk out into the restaurant.

He looks around the room as they make their way to the front, taking in the faces that he knows, along with a few new ones. Nick had insisted he have half of the guest list, even though Nick clearly had more people he wanted to invite. Even though he'd theoretically already seen everyone at the ceremony, he'd been a little more distracted at the time, so he takes the time now to really take them in.

His eyes pass over Joey, Robert, Aditya, and his other clubbing friends, and notes that their requisite cosmopolitans are already mostly empty, and Aditya is already looking a little green. He finds himself glad that Aditya was someone else's problem tonight, and briefly thinks of Tom, from college. He idly wonders how he's doing, and if he and Eva remained good friends after graduation. He thinks to himself that he wouldn't have expected himself and Tom to fall out of touch almost immediately after graduating, given how close they'd once been and how he knew he'd never lose touch with Adam, but he supposes they didn't have much tying them together other than the house's formal brother system, especially as they neared the end. Even as Tom had grown more understanding, and pushed back at homophobia at the house, he'd still never really been comfortable with the fact that Carlos was gay, especially when he'd more openly started seeing men.

His eyes meet Nate's, sitting at the next table. Nate nods at him, as Jake blushes next to him, and Dan grins next to them. He hadn't been sure about etiquette for inviting your ex-dom-esque sexual speed dial to your wedding. But Nick, always understanding and somehow never jealous even when the situation clearly would have warranted it, had insisted, knowing how important Dan and Nate had been to his journey in college, even if they didn't talk as often anymore. He notes the stack of books and a sharpie next to Dan, and shakes his head at the thought that Dan would be promoting his new book, even now. He's pretty sure any wedding gift from Dan is just going to be a signed set.

Next to them is Chris and James, holding hands on the table, and he thinks to himself that real-life James somehow looks even better than the one he'd seen sporadically on screen over the past few years. James smiles at him the way that had always made him melt, but now, it just makes him feel pleasantly happy. He focuses on the feeling of Nick's arm on his, and realizes that he'd found something better than his adolescent crush, and someone who was truly made for him, and instead he can feel his heart melt at that.

He remembers Nick remarking on his 'star-studded' half of the guest list, and wonders to himself how a place had existed that churned out such personal and professional success stories, but likes how much he considers himself one of them. Despite not being rich or famous in the traditional sense, Adam and then Nick have always made him feel like the richest and luckiest man in the world.

His mind switches briefly to Elliot, and how they hadn't talked in years. He feels a bit of regret at that, and wonders if he should have just pushed through his discomfort and admitted his crush to him anyway at some point before their weekly emails turned more sporadic and then stopped altogether by the end of his junior (or really, third) year. He's pretty sure Elliot was gay, and pretty sure that he'd felt the same way back then, and he kicks himself for not having had the courage to do anything about it, even though if he had, he might not be here today. He wonders how he's doing, and tells himself to reach out again when he gets a chance, to catch up. He wonders if he should have invited Elliot to the wedding, anyway.

Adam's parents, sister, her boyfriend, and an empty seat for Adam are next. They're all beaming at him like they're watching their own son walk in with his husband, and he supposes in a way they are. Ever since the Christmas trip in 2009, they'd really taken him in and made it their personal mission to fill the family-shaped hole in his heart. And they'd succeeded, beyond any expectations he could have had for either them or himself. He smiles back at them, his heart somehow fuller than before at the sight of them.

The last table on his side is a bunch of friends from work, and he remembers how excited they'd all been for him when the case's result had been announced, and he remembers discussing wedding plans with them over breakroom coffee or a donut. He thinks to himself that he should make more of an effort to hang out with them outside of work, especially now that Adam and Nick were both busy again, feeling like he's wanting to more directly embrace a social circle that didn't revolve around clubbing and drinking. As nice as those things were, and as much as he really still enjoyed them, he feels like he's started to desire more understated activites a bit more over the past year or two.

The other side of the room is filled with Nick's med school friends, a smattering of undergrad friends he'd never met, and family: his parents and his brother's wife, of course, but also his aunts and uncles and cousins and a couple grandparents. He remembers meeting most of these people over the years, at Christmas events or on other rare trips home with Nick, but he doesn't think he's seen them all in one place before, and he feels a bit teary at how supportive and happy they all look for the two of them, and at the thought of how far some of them had travelled to be here.

He remembers telling Nick that Wade should be there before Nick had even asked, and he remembers how upset Nick had been when Wade had a work conflict that meant he couldn't make it. He wonders why there's no jealousy anymore when he thinks about it, or him, and he realizes it's because Nick has proven to him, and continues to prove to him every day, that Carlos is the only one he has eyes for anymore. A tear does fall at that, and as he quickly kisses Nick's cheek next to him, he makes a note to invite Wade to visit again so the three of them can catch up.

They make it to the front of the room where Adam and David are standing and waiting for them, and he takes the mic the DJ holds out, trying to pull himself together and wiping his eyes with his sleeve, fancy suit rental be damned. Nick kisses his cheek and unhooks their arms, instead putting his arm around his back and pulling Carlos against him.

"Thank you everyone for being here today." He'd rehearsed this, quite a few times, but still feels his nerves getting to him now that a room full of people are staring at him. "Nick and I are overjoyed and flattered that all of you made it out here on our behalf, and we'd like to also send our thanks to those who couldn't make it but have supported us on our journey over the years."

"Kiss him!" It's Dan, he notes, and he watches Nate frown and make a movement like he's hitting Dan under the table.

Carlos does anyway, quickly, even though he's not sure humoring Dan is the best idea, and Nick blushes.

"I think all of you know the story of how we met by now, but suffice to say, I was afraid, at first. Not because of Nick, but because of my past. I didn't have a very easy time growing up, or in college. I probably wouldn't have made it through college if not for Adam here, and I don't just mean academically." He turns to Adam, who blushes. "He was the first person in my life who really accepted me for who I was, and who showed me love not despite but because of who I was. He's more than my best friend. He's more like a brother to me than any of the brothers I ever had, and I love him even more fiercely."

He thinks back to his coming out to Adam, and how terrified he'd been. He laughs to himself now about how utterly misplaced his worry had been, and turns back to the room.

"So when I met Nick, and it seemed like it could be the second thing in my life that had the potential to be that serious, I was scared. Because maybe it meant losing some of what Adam and I had. But then Nick somehow managed to wipe away all of that fear and worry in the way that he does. And I know all of you know the way that he does."

There's nodding around the room.

"And even from our very first kiss, it never felt like I was losing anything. Instead, it felt like I was gaining something I never knew I was missing. Nick has lovingly plastered over every hole and fear and insecurity I never even knew I had, and made me all the more stronger for it. He made me feel that same love I have for Adam, again, in a way that feels like it's piling on instead of competing. And it doesn't hurt that he's also brilliant and illegally handsome."

There's laughter around the room at that, and Nick blushes again.

"When I was growing up, I never dared to imagine a life with another man. But now, and over the past few years, I haven't been able to imagine a life without one. Without Nick. And all thanks to not only him, but to all of you."

"Kiss him ag... Ow, Nathan!" Dan says, and Carlos doesn't humor him, this time.

"So I'd like to toast..." He realizes he forgot to grab his glass, but then Adam's holding one out for him, and Nick grabs his from the table. "...to family. Especially found family, because all of you are in some way our family. To the love and support that I never thought I'd have when I was a scared queer boy growing up thousands of miles from here but that all of you have shown both of us, in so many ways, over so many years. And to all of you for making Nick and I the people we are today."

He looks over at Adam's parents, and his mom seems to be crying. He tears his gaze away before it can affect him.

"To family." He raises his glass.

There's a murmuring of agreement around the room, and the clanking of glasses, but as he sips his champagne, all he can do is stare at Nick, standing next to him.

And it seems all Nick can do is stare back at him, too, a soft smile on his face and his eyes wet for what Carlos thinks is the first time ever.

"Dude. 'Nicholas'?" Carlos makes David his first stop after he and Nick finish eating, and they start their rounds of the room. Nick had suggested doing them separately, for efficiency, even though it'd felt a bit unfair to Carlos to give people a bit with only one of them.

It still feels a little unfair to him, but he tells himself what Nick did: That it was only the first, formal part, intended to make sure no one accidentally got left out, and that it was a small wedding anyway, so there'd be plenty of time to talk to everyone together afterward.

David laughs, and pats him on the back. "Congratulations again. And yeah. I'm glad I managed it, because apparently Nick had already set up his own fiendish scheme."

Carlos resists the urge to call him 'Jonathan'. "When did you even manage it?"

"Oh. I caught the DJ when we came by earlier to double-check the restaurant setup, and I convinced him that a sufficiently formal event like a wedding required sufficiently formal introductions." He grins. "Also I may have slipped him a $20."

"If I had known the cost for such antics was so low, I would've done something, myself." He wonders if he could've convinced the DJ to use their full names, too.

David laughs again. "There's still time, tonight. Now go socialize with people you don't see as often, and finish up quickly so you can meet back up with my brother. I can't stand the way he keeps giving you heart eyes across the room."

Carlos glances over at where Nick is chatting with one of his aunts, but with an eye on him. Nick blushes and turns away, and Carlos can feel his face turning red, as well.

"Welcome again to the family, sweetheart," Nick's mom says from next to David, grabbing his arm and squeezing. "But he's right. Go talk to people you don't see as much. We're just your family."

There's no just about it, he thinks, but he acquiesces, thanking Jon, Helen, and David's wife Eileen before moving along.

He skips the table where Adam is chatting with some of their med school friends. He knows Adam would understand, and he's sure Nick will talk to them soon anyway, and he's not sure he really knows any of them -- or any med school knowledge -- well enough to engage in any useful conversation.

"Oh, Carlos." Adam's mom, Denise, stands as he approaches and pulls him into a hug. "That was beautiful."

"I meant it. Especially you and Scott and Emily and Dimitri." He rubs her back before she pulls away.

"We know, son," Adam's dad, says, also standing and hugging him next. "We're just glad we could help support you. You've done so much for Adam."

"He's done so much more for me." Carlos is getting teary again.

"Carlos. You both have done so much for each other." It's Emily's turn to hug him now, and she pulls him tighter than Scott or Denise had. Dimitri, next to her, pats his shoulder.

"Well, thank you."

"But move along, now. We'll be here all night, and you haven't seen some of these people in years." Denise squeezes his arm, and pulls Emily away from him.

"Thank you. For everything."

He's remarkably nervous walking up to the table with Dan, but it's James who stands first, smiling as he holds out his hand. "Congratulations, Carlos. That was a beautiful speech, and a beautiful wedding. It's easy to see how happy you two are together."

He's momentarily surprised by how verbose James is being, and shakes his hand. Even though he'd seen James speak on screen, of course, his memory of James from more casual situations was that he'd always been a man of few words.

"Thank you. I really have to thank you..." He looks around the table, and Dan winks at him. "...all of you, for everything. All of you supported me in coming out and finding myself in ways that I'm not sure I ever properly thanked you for."

"He means sex. In the butt," Dan says, standing and grinning, and Carlos blushes despite himself. Nate hits him again, but it doesn't work this time. "Maybe a bit of in the mouth, too. And tied to the bed."

"Be quiet, Dan." He doesn't think he's heard that tone from James before, but he appreciates it anyway. Dan, too, seems a little taken aback, shutting his mouth but still staring suggestively at Carlos.

"Congratulations," Chris and Jake both say at the same time. Chris smiles and Jake blushes at it.

"Thanks, dude. I, um... didn't realize you two lived in the city, Nate and Jake. I think I probably should have."

"I think the last time you asked, I was still in New York," Nate says, pulling Jake close to his side. "I just forgot to let you know I'd moved here. I don't know how it slipped my mind. I apologize for the oversight."

"We should get lunch sometime. It'll be nice to catch up more properly."

Nate nods. "It would. I'd like that." He looks at Jake, who smiles and nods. "We'd like that."

"I'll come! I'm going to be here a lot to promote my book, anyway. And also because there are some interesting bondage clubs here that..."

"You're not invited, Dan," Nate says, pushing Dan back down into his seat as Jake turns red. "And put those books away. It's rude."

"I'm glad that Adam still has you," Chris says. Then he blushes. "I mean, of course he does. I never would have expected otherwise. But every time we talk, he's always been so busy, so I'm glad he's had you to take care of him."

"He's been taking care of me, too." This reminds him of the conversation with Adam's family.

"I'm glad you two have each other, then." He smiles. "And that you have Nick too, of course," he adds, hastily.

"Thanks, dude. We should talk more often. You were... inspirational to me, in a lot of ways."

Chris blushes again at the words. "I'd like that."

Carlos looks around the room. "But I should probably go socialize with the other tables."

James nods. "Of course. Thank you for having us here tonight."

He resists the urge to pat James' shoulder, pretty sure he wouldn't appreciate it. "Thanks, dude."

The tables with his dance friends and coworkers are quicker. He sees these people every day, or at least a few times a month, anyway, so he just thanks them for coming before he heads back up to the table at the front. Nick seems to finish up around the same time, and joins him shortly afterward.

"It's amazing to see all of these people again."

"It is," Nick agrees. "You haven't met my grandparents yet, right?"

"I haven't." He remembers that they were supposed to drive out to see them from Nick's parents' last Christmas, but the weather had prevented it.

Nick takes his hand and pulls him to his feet. "Come on."

Nick pulls him to a table with some aunts and uncles he recognizes, and an older man and woman. They start to stand as they approach, but Nick shakes his head.

"Oh no you don't. Sit down or you're not getting introduced."

"That's no way to treat an elder, Nicholas," the woman says, but she's smiling, and Nick flinches.

"Um. This is Grandma Price and Grandpa Francis. Um... my dad's mom, and my mom's dad, respectively."

"It is very nice to finally meet you, Carlos," she says, holding out her hand, and pulling him down for what turns out to be a hug when he takes it. She's stronger than he would have expected. "Nicholas bagged a cute one."

Carlos blushes, holding back a laugh as Nick sighs next to him. "It's 'Nick', grandma."

"Nonsense. You were named after your great-grandfather Nicholas Price. It's Nicholas."

Carlos wonders if he needs to intervene, but Grandpa Francis stands, despite Nick's protests. "Congratulations, Carlos."

Grandma Price finally lets him go, and he moves over next to him and shakes his hand. "Thank you. It's, um... very nice to finally meet the two of you. I'm sorry we couldn't make it out last Christmas."

"Oh, is that what happened?" Grandma Price looks confused. "I didn't realize you'd stayed here last Christmas."

"No, Grandma," Nick shakes his head. "We were going to make a surprise trip to see you, from my parents', but the snow was coming down too quickly for it to be safe."

"Well, that just means when you do make it out, I'll have to spoil you double to make up for it."

They talk for a while, and Carlos thinks he finally understands the conversation he and Nick had had years ago, where Nick had been adamant about being a part of any boyfriend's family's lives. He can't imagine trying to hide his love for his husband over the holidays, or if they happened to randomly run into some relative while they were out.

It makes him worry, and when they're sitting back at their table, sipping champagne and watching everyone else finish eating before the dances, he decides he has to address it.

"I'm sorry my family's not here." It's a way to start, at least, and easier than saying 'the people who birthed me and raised me', even though he doesn't really consider them his family, anymore.

Nick looks at him, more sympathetic than anything. "Okay? But that's exactly 0% your fault. I'm sorry your family isn't here, because you shouldn't have had to deal with all of that, growing up."

"No, I mean... when we were first together, and you thought I wasn't out to my parents, and you were upset about it."

Nick seems to think before remembering the conversation. "Right. I remember that."

"I didn't understand why it was important to you, then. But now, knowing your family and seeing everyone here for us... I do. And I'm sorry that you can't have that, from me."

"Hey. No. Stop that." Nick puts both hands on his biceps and turns him toward him. "Carlos. I said it then too, and I still mean it. That is not something you have to apologize for, because it's not something that's your fault. If anything, I should still be apologizing to you for bringing it up."

"I just... wish I could introduce you to my mother. She would laugh and stuff you full of fried plantains until you begged for mercy. And Antonio would drag you out to the beach so he should show y..." He trails off, his throat suddenly feeling tight, all of the hopes and imagined scenes he'd once had for showing his eventual spouse around his home coming back to him at once.

Nick pulls him into a hug as the tears fall. "Shhh. Babe. I'm so sorry that you can't have those things. But please never blame yourself."

"You're being... too.... understanding, again." He really thinks Nick should be more upset about it, despite knowing there's nothing either of them could do about it.

"I always want to be understanding with you, Carlos."

He inhales shakily. "I... I know. I... don't deserve you... sometimes."

"Hey, hey. You stop that right now. You're my husband, and it's our wedding night, and there's nothing more we deserve tonight, and every night, than each other." He rubs Carlos' back. "And maybe some of that cake, because I never knew cake could taste so good."

Carlos laughs, despite himself. "Yeah. And it cost more than the park permit, so it'd better be good."

"Want me to get you some now?"

Carlos feels scandalized. "Nicholas Edward Price! We are not cutting the cake before it's time!"

Nick just smirks at him. "For that, maybe I will."

Carlos wipes his eyes and kisses Nick, gently, apologetically. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For you."

Nick just smiles at him, soft again, and doesn't say anything, but he doesn't have to.

Carlos knows he's thankful for him, too.

Title from 'Piece by Piece' by Kelly Clarkson.

Piece by piece he collected me up / Off the ground where you abandoned things, yeah / Piece by piece he filled the holes / That you burned in me at six years old and you know / He never walks away / He never asks for money / He takes care of me / 'Cause he loves me / Piece by piece he restored my faith