Chapter 1: BREAKING POINT
It’s been nearly five months since he “won” his lawsuit.
Four months since he’s been back with the 118. And each day has somehow managed to be worse than the last.
Buck has been shunned by his entire team. They refuse to speak to him, they barely look in his direction, and he’s fully aware of the fact that they talk about him behind his back, on account of all the times he’s walked into a room, only for everyone to stop mid-conversation and switch topics to something mundane, like the weather.
Just last month Bobby had--in front of Buck--given out little invites to a BBQ Athena and he were hosting, to everyone in the team, with the obvious exception of one person. Buck hadn’t even batted an eye, though. He’s gotten so used to being left out.
At first he’d been indignant, then angry, then sad. Now he’s just resigned.
He’s apologized so many times he feels like “sorry” is the only word left in his vocabulary anymore, but each apology has gone to deaf ears, because not one person on the team wants to hear it. It’s been exactly three weeks since Buck finally stopped bothering any of them with his “I’m sorry”s’.
He just doesn’t see the point in it anymore. Getting rejected every day for months on end is exhausting, and he’s stopped believing that there’s even a single ray of hope that they might eventually come around anymore.
He lost that hope the day before Christopher’s birthday.
His birthday had been three weeks ago now.
Buck knew he wouldn’t be invited, and he wasn’t, of course, but he hadn’t expected that the gift he so carefully picked out and wrapped and left in Eddie’s locker (because Eddie can’t even stand to be in the same room as him) would be tossed into the trash later that same day.
Here he was, thinking nothing the team could do to make him feel like the odd man out could phase him anymore. But that? That had done him in completely.
So Buck has officially stopped trying. He keeps his head down and does his work and goes home when it's time. He still loves all of them, even though they clearly don't feel the same, which is why he can't bring himself to request a transfer.
He resigns himself to a miserable and hated existence, instead.
Another month passes in much the same fashion, and Buck finds himself trudging along in silence, staying out of everyone's way, doing all the grunt work Bobby forces upon him without making any fuss, watching everyone go out for beers without him, exclude him from conversations. On the field nobody wants to work with him. So often he’s left to do solo work, or someone is forced to pair up with him and they’re never quiet about the disdain of having to be partners with Buck.
Secretly, somewhere in the back of his mind, Buck still thinks that maybe one day he’ll go into the station and everyone will be able to suddenly stomach his presence again. The problem is that even Buck doesn’t realize, that stupidly he’s holding on to just that very tiny bit of hope. He thinks that’s it, there’s nothing more that can happen, nothing more they can do, for sure this time, to bring him any lower.
But of course he’s wrong.
It’s April now and nothing has changed.
Buck gets up out of bed with the same gloomy disposition he’s had for the past two months now and goes about his morning routine. He runs his usual miles around the neighborhood, stops at his usual cart for a pastry, waves hi to the dog in the window of the house he passes by, who’s always there watching for him around that time, and goes home to get ready for work.
Whereas he normally takes his truck there, today he’s shocked to see Bobby’s truck in front of his block, parked right behind him.
“Um, hey Cap, something wrong?” Buck can feel the dread tingling at his spine, making the fine hairs at the back of his neck stand up. What did he do this time?
Bobby shakes his head. “Nothing, I pass this way to go to work, figured I’d offer to give you a lift. I hear carpooling is good for the environment. Or at least that’s what my step kid keeps telling me.”
Buck could cry. Is this really happening? Is this real? He wants to pinch himself but that would be weird. Instead he silently nods and gets into the car. He has to stop himself from trembling, he’s so anxious. Or maybe it’s excitement stirring in his belly?
Bobby makes small talk on the way to the station. Nothing crazy, just little updates on his life, like how Athena and he are going furniture shopping this weekend. Buck doesn’t say a word. He just nods in all the right places, terrified to speak for fear of ruining everything.
When they get to work Eddie is there with a cup of his favorite morning brew. “Hey man, coffee?” he hands it to him, and Buck can’t help it, he wonders if maybe he’s suffered a stroke, or if the coffee is poisoned. Both are more realistic options than Eddie suddenly not glaring at him for breathing near him anymore.
“Oh, um thanks?” Buck is definitely having a stroke, because Eddie gives him a little half-smile and even a pat on the shoulder.
Hen and Chimney don’t ignore him when he walks into the lounging area. Instead Hen asks if he wants a donut, “Before Chim eats them all.” she jokes. Actually jokes. With him .
Just last week he’d accidentally asked if she could hand him the saltshaker next to her and she’d replied with a cold “Get it yourself--or better yet hire a lawyer to get it for you.”
Maybe he died in his sleep and he’s miraculously made it up to heaven. Because after the last several months, this is his heaven on earth. Getting asked if he wants stale donuts from the break room at work. God, he’s pathetic.
He’s not even hungry, but he’s also not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. He takes the donut silently, muttering a “thank you” as he eats.
The rest of the day is like living in the twilight zone. It’s as if the last few months of his life, the lawsuit, all of it, never happened.
Buck is finally switched on the chore chart--he’s been on “clean toilets” for the last six months. His locker, which has been vandalized almost every week since he got back, has been scrubbed clean (he’d stopped bothering to deal with it two months prior, realizing how futile his efforts were). He’s even invited to eat with the team--he hasn’t been welcome at the table in so long he’s forgotten what Cap’s food tastes like.
Buck shows up to dinner, determined to take advantage of whatever sudden change of heart the team has had. He’s not going to crack any stupid jokes or make any unnecessary comments. He won’t eat like a slob--he’ll use a fork and knife even if what’s for dinner is pizza. He’s just so relieved to be a part of them again, he can barely contain his nervous excitement.
Buck stops dead in his tracks and stares at the ridiculously big banner his team is holding up. April fools is written in giant blocky letters.
Bobby shrugs. “Team bonding exercise.”
Eddie scoffs. “Yeah man, did ya’ really think we were gonna’ forgive and forget that easy?”
Chim grins, snapping a photo of Buck’s face. “That’s going on facebook.”
Hen laughs. “You should’ve seen your face this morning when I gave you that donut.”
All Buck can hear is a rumbling roar. He can feel his face heat up with unbearable humiliation and then hot miserable tears slide down his face before he can do anything to stop them. He’s shaking, even as he turns on his heel and starts to run, he’s shaking so bad.
He hears his name being called out in alarm by multiple people but he doesn’t stop. He can’t stop. Buck runs and runs, out of the station, down the street, into an alleyway, where it’s dark and the smell is atrocious, and he bends over and is immediately violently sick.
After dry heaving for several minutes, Buck finds he has nothing left to vomit. He’s still shaking though, and it’s only now that he realizes Bobby drove him to work, so he doesn’t even have a ride home. His legs buckled under him and he sits there, leaning against brick, trying to get it together, before calling the only person who doesn’t hate him.
“Hey Buck,” Maddie’s voice is like a lifeline. “So? How was the prank? Chim told me they were gonna’ getcha’ good at dinner last night. He promised to take a photo of y--”
Buck throws his cell phone across the alley like it’s on fire. It breaks into several pieces. He starts hyperventilating.
Of course Maddie would know. She and Chimney are dating, of course she would know. But he can’t believe that she would know and not say anything, not even try to warn him…
But then, he also never thought he’d experience such cruelty at the hands of his own team.
Buck puts his head between his knees and tries to catch his breath; he’s so stupid.
“So fucking stupid.” he sobs, voice breaking. God.
“Bucky!” Christopher cries out excitedly, a wide smile curling his lips.
Eddie freezes up, unwilling to believe that what he’s seeing is real.
Because there, in the next aisle up, looking at some grapes, is Evan “Buck” Buckley, in the actual flesh.
By the time he shakes off his stupor, Christopher is already steps ahead of him, tugging at Buck’s oversized flannel shirt.
Buck looks down, at first surprised, and then pleased, his face breaks out into a giant happy grin. “ Christopher ?!” he bends all the way down to give the nine year old a big warm hug. “Oh my god, Christopher! I missed you so much! Look at you! So big now!” he gushes.
Christopher hugs back as tightly as he can, “I missed you too!” he buries his little face into the crook between Bucks neck and shoulder.
They stay like that right up until Eddie decides to walk up and crash the reunion.
“Buck…” he doesn’t know what to say. He thinks he might cry.
Buck looks different now, a bit thinner, but more toned. He’s let his hair grow out, instead of shaving it at the sides, and he’s stopped using gel to style it, so his fringe hangs a little to the side, messy--it makes him look younger.
Or it would, if it weren’t for those hardened cold eyes that stare back at Eddie, when he stands to look at him for the first time in over a year.
Eddie is one hundred percent convinced that the only reason Buck says a curt “Hello,” instead of a well-deserved “Fuck you,” is due to the fact that Christopher is within earshot.
“Hi. I um, I--you’re back?” the link between his brain and mouth is broken, Eddie is sure of it, because he can’t seem to manage a single coherent sentence.
Buck nods, jaw visibly clenched. He opens his mouth to say something when Bobby, Chim and Hen all come around the corner, shopping carts filled to the brim, and bump into them.
“ Buck ?!” Bobby gapes, doing a double take. “Oh my god.”
The others follow suit, staring with wide eyes and gawking in shock.
“Is that your baby?” Christopher asks, before anyone can say anything else, trying to peak his head behind Buck to sneak a look at what’s inside the stroller.
Eddie’s mouth hangs open in utter disbelief. Baby? He hadn’t even noticed the stoller, too distracted by a face he thought he might never see again.
Buck smiles down at Christopher and turns the carriage around to face the boy, revealing not one, but two babies. Identical twins by the look of them. They can’t be older than a handful of months, tops. And they’re the spitting image of Buck; there’s no denying they’re his.
“You wanna say hi? Promise they don’t bite.” he chuckles. “This is Riley, and that is Olive.”
Christopher hovers over the girls and tilts his head. “They’re so tiny.” he marvels, half-whispering.
Olive squeals at the sight of Christopher and kicks her tiny legs up eagerly.
Riley stares in silent curiosity, sucking on her paci.
Buck nods. “Yeah, they really are.”
For however much he had wanted to avoid coming back to LA he’s glad now that he did--if only to have been able to see Christopher again.
Unfortunately he’s running late for work. He only came to the grocery store as a pit stop on his way. “Listen, I need to go, but--”
“Where have you been ?” Chim interrupts, brow furrowed. “Maddie’s been worried sick, you know. We all have!”
Buck doesn’t even give Chimney the time of day, promptly ignoring the man. “Chris, I gotta go, but it was awesome seeing you again.”
“You’re leaving?” Christopher bites his bottom lip and makes a face that looks minutes away from crying. “Am I gonna’ see you again?”
A year later and the kid still has Buck wrapped firmly around his little finger. He can’t say no to Christopher. It’s impossible . He’s tried.
Buck leans down and gets a small piece of paper out from his wallet and a pen. He writes down his name and new number, handing it to Christopher for safekeeping. He’s going to regret this; he just knows it. But the thought of never seeing Christopher again is worse than the thought of having to deal with seeing his old team again.
“There you go bud, that’s my number. If you want to hang out just call me and Carla can bring you over to my place, ok?”
Christopher smiles, pressing the piece of paper to his chest protectively. “Really?”
Buck nods. “Really.” he hugs Christopher one more time before getting up to go.
Eddie finally finds his voice and blurts out, “Bobby’s making a huge dinner tonight--you should come!”
The look Buck gives him makes him regret having said anything at all. “I’m all set on team dinners, thanks.” the words are clipped and devoid of inflection.
The entire team, practically in unison, blanch at the reminder of what they did to Buck that fateful day.
Eddie snaps his mouth shut, cringing at his own idiocy.
After that, Buck walks away as quickly as humanly possible, or as fast as anyone can, pushing a stroller containing twins and enough diapers, milk, and pacifiers to run a small daycare.
His hands are trembling, and it makes him angry, that even after a year his ex-team can still have this kind of effect on him.
“Why the hell did you have to go and talk to him like that?” Eddie argues with Chim, later that night, when they’re back at the station, and Chritopher is playing a game in the other room.
Chim glares. “Me?! You’re the one who invited him to dinner ! Way to bring that shit up five seconds after reuniting!”
“Both of you, enough!” Bobby slams his hand on the table, making everyone jump. “We aren’t gonna get anywhere pointing fingers. We all really messed up. And we have to make it right.”
“How?” Hen puts her head in her hands, dismayed. “I wouldn’t forgive us after the shit we pulled, Bobby. Why did anyone think that was a good idea?”
Chim groans. “We all share like, two collective brain cells and they must have gone on vacation that day, because I sure as hell didn’t have custody.”
“We need to apologize, and we have to try and explain what actually happened.” Bobby sighs. “If we can get him to ever talk to us again.”
“How do we explain that without giving him more ammunition to hate us?” Eddie asks, incredulously. “What are we gonna’ do, just walk up and say, hey listen Buck, we found out that you only went through with that stupid lawsuit because you were trying to protect us from that skeezy ass lawyer and his firm and instead of just groveling for your forgiveness we decided on literally the worst and most cruel prank on the planet--somehow, stupidly, not realizing that would be your last straw and we’d never get to the fucking ‘sike’ part of that godawful prank and never fucking see you again?!” he’s practically seething by the end of his tirade.
Hen shakes her head. “Bobby, Eddie is right. We spent months treating Buck like shit and when we realized exactly how wrong we’d been the entire time, we--” she can’t even finish. “What, I repeat, the actual hell were we thinking?”
“I told you, we weren’t.” Chim sighs. “God, I need to tell Maddie he’s back. She’s gonna’ freak.”
Eddie takes the scrap of paper Buck gave his son out from his pocket and stares at the messy handwriting. “His writing is still chicken scratch.” he mutters fondly, tracing the pen marks with his thumb.
Bobby needs a drink. He shakes the thought away. During the first six months after Buck quit and up and left from their lives, Bobby had gone to more AA meetings than he had in his life, needing the extra support and encouragement to stop himself from making a mistake--another one, that is.
Chim interrupts his melancholic thoughts, “Also, elephant in the room, but can we talk about the fact that Buck is apparently now a father ? To twins ?”
Eddie has been trying to block that out for the better part of the night. He’s seen the way Buck dotes on Christopher; he’s sure he’s an amazing dad to those girls. He can’t help but wonder who he’s raising them with.
Hen scrubs her face, exhaustion and guilt etched onto her features like a mask. “We’ve missed such a huge chunk of his life. Buck is a dad now and we missed that.”
The big dinner they had planned is canceled shortly thereafter. No one is in the mood to enjoy food and drinks, not when Buck is finally back and not a single one of them can figure out what to do to earn his forgiveness. If that is even on the table.
Eddie sits at home late at night and thinks about that day again.
That horrible day.
He remembers Buck’s face crumpling and then the tears. God, the tears. He hadn’t even made a fucking sound, just stood there, silently crying, the heat of embarrassment clawing its way up his neck and onto his cheeks.
That is the moment Eddie had realized exactly how far was too far.
Why was that the moment?
Why did they have to go and break Buck before coming to the understanding that enough was enough, that they needed to stop and see how badly their behavior was affecting their teammate?
For as long as he lives, Eddie will never forget the look on Buck’s face that day. It haunts him.
They’d yelled out for him, but he hadn’t stopped, had kept running, and if Eddie hadn’t been so stunned by his reaction, or such a fool, he would’ve run after Buck.
If he’d known that would be the last time he would see him for a very long time, he would have gone and chased him.
Instead he’d stuck around with the rest of the team and cleaned up around the station, taking down the colorful streamers and throwing out the stupid giant APRIL FOOLS banner, feeling like absolute shit.
“That was not what I was expecting…” Chimney grimaced. “Buck loves pranks--I thought he would, you know, tell us to go fuck ourselves or something and then we’d turn that damn banner over and--” he sighs. “There’s a special place in hell reserved just for us. I know it.”
Eddie stares at the banner he’s holding. He turns it over in his hands to reveal the other side, which reads: WE LOVE YOU & WE’RE SORRY. THANKS FOR TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM. “Should we keep the banner? It’ll help us explain better tomorrow.”
Hen shoves the cake decorated with a photo of the 118 crew--Hen, Chim, Eddie, Bobby, all gathered around Buck, grinning--into the fridge unceremoniously. “This was a stupid ass idea. Buck is going to be rightfully pissed at us for the next ten years. He looked devastated .”
Bobby lets everyone go after that, and they each head home and think about how they’re going to apologize the next day.
Except the next day Bobby receives Buck’s resignation letter in the form of an email and no one can reach him on his cell. “The phone number you are trying to reach is no longer in service--” is the only answer they get.
They search for him at his apartment, only to learn via Buck’s landlord that he’s paid the last months’ rent in advance and packed up and left. “Ya’ missed the kid by a half hour.” the landlord explains. “He was in a real rush, didn’t even leave a forwarding address for his mail. Sorry.”
And that was that. Not even Maddie knew where Buck could have possibly gone.
Eddie breathes out and covers his face with his hands. He rolls over in his bed and curls up. He regrets everything. Even before he’d learned the truth about why Buck had actually gone through with the lawsuit, Eddie knows he’d been too harsh, knows he should have let go of his grudge months before that sour prank came to fruition.
Seeing Buck today was a bag of mixed emotions.
He’s relieved as all hell to see Buck alive and well, but the guilt, which has been churning in his stomach for a year is overwhelming now, eating at him.
It’s three AM when Eddie decides to call him.
Eddie had been expecting the call to go to voicemail. He doesn’t know what to say. “Um, Buck...hi.”
There’s a silence at the other end of the line for a moment, and Eddie starts to think he’s been hung up on. Finally the pregnant pause is broken. “What do you want?”
Eddie gulps. What does he want? He wants to apologize and grovel, beg for forgiveness, ask him for one more chance, please oh please, just one more. But he doesn’t say that.
“Sorry, I know it’s late, I just--Christopher really wants to see you again. I was wondering if Sunday would be ok?” technically he’s not lying.
Christopher had talked about Buck the entire way home, wondering how soon it would be before they got to hang out.
“Sunday’s good. Is noon ok?”
Eddie feels like he’s making a doctors appointment, the way Buck is speaking to him. “Um, yeah, yes, of course. That’s perfect. Thank you.” he hesitates a moment. “Buck, I’m so sorry about--”
“It’s late. Goodnight.” the dial tone after the click is resounding.
you are all so lovely and im dying of happiness reading all ur comments weibafjhrmkdl;cd THANK YOU!!!!! <3
The rest should be up by sunday/monday at the latest! :)
Buck is at work when he gets Eddie’s phone call. He didn’t expect him to call so soon after, much less at three in the morning.
“Buck, I’m so sorry about--”
About what ? What could he have possibly said to erase the past and magically make everything better again? Nothing.
Buck takes a deep breath and shakes himself off, he’s only been at his new job about a week, he needs to focus and stop letting these things get to him.
Buck picks up a chart and a folder and gets back to work. He doesn’t have time for distractions; he has patients to see.
It’s nearly seven in the morning when Buck walks into the hospital daycare to pick up his girls. Besides the good benefits and the higher pay, Buck’s deciding perk for taking this job in this particular hospital was the 24/7 round the clock free childcare provided to all full time employees.
One of the care-takers--Jamie--greets Buck with a smile. “Hey Dr. Buckley, here to pick up the kids?”
Buck shakes his head. “I told you, just Buck--plus, I’m an NP, not a doctor--”
Jamie waves him off. “Legally, doctor is your title, you know. You’re a Nurse Practitioner which means you do literally everything all these physicians’ do, with the exception that you’re not a giant jerk to the rest of the staff.” she grins.
Buck chuckles. “Thank you?”
Jamie nods. “Anyway, let me go get your little angels. They were great--slept through the night and woke up around five thirty this morning. I fed them a full eight ounces each so they should be ready to go back down for a nap in the next couple of hours, once you get them settled at home.” she comes back with two car seats, one in each hand.
Buck thanks her profusely before strapping the car seats into the adjustable twin stroller and saying his goodbyes to Jamie and the rest of the daycare staff. They’re all very lovely, down to earth people he feels comfortable leaving his tikes with.
Several nurses and a couple of doctors stop him to ooh and awe at the twins on his way out, which Buck doesn’t mind, since they like the attention--Olive especially.
Despite the fact that he and Eddie aren’t friends anymore, Buck can’t help but respect the amount of work that Eddie puts into being a single parent, now that he himself is one. He manages to get them both clipped into the back seat, facing the opposite direction, and folds up the stroller, tucking it into the trunk of his minivan with only a little bit of grunting and pushing.
Once he’s home he has to go through the whole process again, unbuckling the girls, unfolding the carriage, redoing the straps so that the car seats are fastened inside the stroller, and grabbing the giant diaper bag from the passenger seat in the front, before making his way inside his new apartment.
It’s bigger than his old place, and definitely has less of a cool bachelor life vibe, and more of a there are multiple babies living here watch out vibe, what with him having baby proofed the whole house the day he moved in. There are child proof locks on all the drawers, covers for any open outlets, soft rugs on the floors, and all sharp corners have been cushioned with styrofoam pads.
Buck knows his kids will somehow find a way to hurt themselves, regardless. Six month olds just love getting into everything. He misses the 5 month old stage, just before they learned how to crawl. Tummy time has turned into how far can I crawl away before dad has to stop me from bumping my head into furniture? time.
Buck is in the middle of giving Riley a bath, having finished giving a fussy Olive one just minutes ago, when his phone starts ringing. His hands are wet, but his phone is waterproof so he swipes on answer without looking to see who it is, and then puts it on speaker.
“Hello?” Riley splashes him with a wave of water, kicking her tiny legs in the baby tub and giggling at the look on Buck’s face.
“ Buck ? Is that really you?”
Buck pauses what he’s doing and tenses up. “Yeah Maddie, it’s me.” He’d been expecting a call from her, and is only surprised it didn’t come sooner.
“Where have you been? Are you ok? Buck, what the hell? And Chimney tells me you have kids? As in plural? I have nieces?”
Buck sighs. “I’ve been around. I’m fine. And yes, twins. Riley and Olive. I’m giving Riley a bath right now, so if you could call back later that would be better.” he hangs up without waiting for her to answer, and continues to shampoo the little wisps of blonde hair on Riley’s head.
After the twins are dry and in clean onesies Buck puts them down for a nap. Riley’s easy. She loves to sleep. It’s her passion in life.
Olive? Not so much. He has to rock her to sleep for half an hour and even then, the moment he sets her down in her crib she bolts up and screams bloody murder. Getting her to bed is exhausting, especially after a long graveyard shift at the hospital.
Still, he manages to get the job done and as soon as he knows they’re both sound asleep and the baby monitor in their room is charged and powered on, he tiptoes to his room for some much needed sleep of his own. He keeps the other baby monitor on the counter next to his bed, on the loudest setting, in case they wake up before he does and passes out less than a minute later.
Maddie calls again later in the day but Buck stubbornly ignores the call, letting it go to voicemail.
Sunday comes all too soon; Buck is looking forward to seeing Christopher again, but there’s a ball of dread knotting his stomach when he thinks about having to also see Eddie.
He’s got a whole day of fun stuff planned for them to do at the aquarium today and hopes Christopher will have a good time.
Around twelve they arrive.
Christopher’s wearing a giant grin and only waits a half a second after Buck’s opened the front door to crash into him with a hug. “Hey!” Buck wraps his arms around the kid and squeezes tight. “You ready for a fun day out?”
Christopher shouts in excitement, “Yeah! Where are we going?”
“I thought we could take a trip to the aquarium, get some lunch, and then maybe ice cream?”
Christopher looks up at his dad, his enthusiasm both palpable and a little contagious. “You’re coming too, right?”
Eddie looks like a deer caught in headlights, when he tries to explain to his eager son that maybe that isn’t the best idea.
Buck takes pity, but only because wrangling three kids by himself might actually kill him. “Yeah, Chris, your dad’s coming with us.”
“Really?” Eddie gulps.
Buck doesn’t even look at him, just nods and helps Christopher take off his backpack and sit at his kitchen counter while he gets the girls ready to go. “I’ll be right back.”
Eddie listens to Christopher talk about all the fish he wants to see today with a smile on his face, but internally he’s extremely anxious about spending the day together. They used to do these day trips on their days off with Christopher all the time, back then, before the stupid lawsuit and the stupid prank. They’d go to the zoo, to the movies, or just hang out at the park on a nice sunny day like today.
Eddie never thought he’d get to do this again, after what went down, and he’s determined not to screw it up.
Buck walks back into the room wearing a carrier for twins, one baby in each pouch. Olive is facing forward in the front, on his chest and Riley is snuggled up against his spine, her little head tucked against his shoulder blade.
Eddie wasn’t even aware that they made double sided baby carriers. “Do you need any help?” He’s got Christopher’s spiderman backpack on, but it’s not very heavy, and Buck has a pretty big diaper bag on one shoulder. It’s the type of portable bag that can be turned into a backpack, but with a baby on either side of him, that’s not gonna’ happen.
Eddie’s surprised when Buck wordlessly hands him the bag, but he takes it immediately off his hands and throws it over his shoulder. It’s red and black, so it kind of matches Christopher’s backpack.
Once Buck has made sure he’s got milk, snacks, mini water bottles, diapers, wet naps, extra pacifiers, blankets, his keys and his wallet, they’re ready to go.
He picks up one of the car seats by the door and goes to hand one to Eddie, “You mind?” the twins are roughly sixteen pounds each, and it’s not that he’s never carried both kids and the car seats before, but having help is nice since the convertible car seats weigh another forty pounds, together.
Eddie nods, glad to be of some assistance. “Yeah, of course.” he grabs the other seat and they’re off.
Before they reach the car Buck whispers something to Christopher that Eddie doesn’t hear, and Christopher yells out, “Shotgun!” two seconds later, a wide smile on his face.
Eddie makes a face but keeps his mouth shut.
Buck has traded his pickup truck for a more traditional family vehicle, and if they were on better terms, Eddie would tease him about his mom-van.
Eddie hasn’t had to deal with a car seat in a few years now, but he’s still familiar with the general set up, so he doesn’t have much trouble securing each of them. Buck nods his thanks and settles each of the girls inside the car while Eddie lifts Christopher into the front seat, buckling him in.
Eddie doesn’t really mind being in the back with the girls. The minivan is spacious enough that he fits comfortably with the two car seats. It also helps that Olive won’t stop smiling at him, tilting her tiny head to get a better look at him and giggling when he starts playing peek-a-boo.
At a red light, he catches Buck staring at them from the drivers seat, via the mirror. Buck doesn’t say anything, though, just keeps his focus on Christopher, catching up on everything that’s happened to him in the last year.
By the time they reach their destination Riley is soundly asleep. Eddie grimaces. “She fell asleep, should we wait to move her? I don’t mind staying behind to watch her is you wanna’ go ahead with Chris and Olive.” he offers, knowing that moving a sleeping baby is never any fun. He remembers how cranky Christopher used to get at being woken from a nap as a toddler.
Buck actually chuckles, not directly at him, but still, better than the indifference he’s been getting up until now. “Riley could sleep through a category five storm.” He then picks her up and places her inside the little pouch, strapping it to himself like a backpack, all without Riley giving any signs of waking up.
He fastens the other side of the carrier over his chest and holds his arms out for Olive. Eddie unbuckles her and hands her over, watching how easily he gets the baby inside the other pouch, all without breaking a sweat.
Eddie’s suitably impressed.
Buck pays for the entrance tickets to the aquarium. It’s not much, only eight dollars per adult and five for children--and the babies are so young that they get in free, but Eddie still insists on paying for himself and Christopher. Buck hands the lady at the front desk his card, ignoring Eddie’s protests. “You can get the ice cream, later.” he says, as a compromise.
Christopher heads straight for the Touch Exhibit first, his favorite. He gently places one finger in the water, in awe of the stingrays swimming around it. Buck laughs when Christopher jumps in surprise at one of them sliding under the pad of his forefinger. “They’re so soft!”
Buck nods. “There’s a shark touch tank over there.” he points. He knows how cool Christopher thinks they are. But instead of reacting the way he thought Chris would, the nine year old shrinks away.
“He was at a surfing lesson a couple of months ago and the lifeguard made everyone get out of the water after spotting a shark close by--Christopher saw it too, and he’s been a little spooked since.” Eddie explains, ruffling his kids’ bouncy curls.
“Sorry buddy, I didn’t know.” Buck says, sympathetic; he used to be so in tune with the kid, and now there’s a whole years worth of things he doesn’t know. He hates that.
Christopher shakes his head. “It’s ok. Can we go see an octopus?”
Buck nods, leading the way.
After exploring the entirety of the aquarium they stop by the cafeteria for lunch. Buck is starving but he has to feed the girls first. Thankfully Riley has recently gained the ability to hold her own bottle during feedings--a nurse had joked with him the other day that she was probably tired of waiting for her turn, seeing that Buck only had so many arms.
Eddie volunteers to hold Riley while she drinks her bottle so Buck can feed Olive, who’s sitting up against his chest, and eat with his free hand, when he hears Buck’s stomach rumble.
Buck lets him take Riley, who’s noticeably suspicious of this new person, but is more focused on her bottle to really mind being passed to the stranger. “Thanks.”
Christopher tilts his head, curious. “Where’s their mom?”
Eddie looks at Christopher, “Chris, that’s not--”
Buck shrugs. “It’s ok, I don’t mind the question. Their mom wasn’t ready to be a mom just yet, so she’s not really around, but that’s ok.”
Christopher nods sagely, “Like my mom.” he looks at Olive, in Buck’s arms, drinking her milk, and smiles fondly. “They’re like me.”
Buck smiles softly. “Yup. I hope they turn out as awesome as you.”
Christopher grins. “I can teach them!”
Eddie laughs at the uninhibited enthusiasm. He hasn’t seen Christopher this happy in...well, since Buck was driven out of their lives.
Eddie and Buck are burping the babies after their meal, when a random elderly couple walks over and compliments their little “family”. “I do hope we’re not intruding, but we just wanted to say how beautiful your family is. God bless.” one of them says, smiling.
The other woman makes little kissy faces at Olive, who’s bright blue eyes light up. “Have a good day!” she says, and then takes her wife’s hand, “Come on Margaret, the sharks are waiting.”
It makes Buck think back to his first Christmas with the Diaz family, and that elf who’d mistaken them for a couple. He hadn’t minded it then, had even tossed the idea in his head, knowing it would stay his own secret little fantasy. But now the thought makes him ill.
“I’m gonna go change Olive, do you mind?” Buck asks, already standing.
Eddie nods. “Yeah, no problem.”
Christopher has to go, too, so Buck takes him along to the restrooms, leaving Eddie to watch the bags and Riley, who’s fallen asleep again in his lap after finishing her bottle.
Eddie looks down at the baby and can’t help but wonder about Buck’s answer to Christopher’s inquiry about the twins’ mother not being in the picture. Does that mean he’s single? How did he end up raising the twins alone, if so? According to Buck, the twins are only 6 months old, which means their mother got pregnant roughly three months after the lawsuit, and three months before Buck left for good.
He wonders if Buck had been with this woman the entire time--had he taken her with him when he’d left? There are so many questions he wants to ask, but has no right to.
Buck comes out a few minutes later, with the kids, and they visit the gift shop before leaving. Christopher ends up leaving the store with a giant whale Eddie has to tuck under his arm and stuff in the trunk along with his crutches.
They drive downtown after that for some much anticipated ice cream, and this time Olive’s fallen asleep in the car. When Eddie goes to pick her up, Buck grabs a hold of his hand and shakes his head frantically back and forth, in complete silence. He puts his finger up to his lips in a “shush” motion. “She’s a monster when you wake her up from a nap.” he says, once they’re outside of the car.
Eddie chuckles quietly. “Christopher was like that, too, at that age.”
Buck smiles. “Please, Christopher’s an angel.” he wipes the smile off his face when he realizes he’s getting way too comfortable and goes to hand Eddie five bucks for his ice cream.
Eddie shakes his head. “You got the tickets, I’ll get the ice cream. Least I can do. Watermelon misto shake, right?” he asks, remembering Buck’s favorite. Buck nods, and Eddie takes Christopher with him to order at the Rita’s take out window in the middle of the little parking lot so the kid can pick out what he wants.
Buck gets back into the car to wait, after checking on Riley, who’s wide awake now, playing with her feet, making little sounds of contentment, and making sure Olive is still asleep.
Today has been a mixture of exhausting and fun. Fun, because Christopher is never not good company, and hanging out again like old times feels good. Exhausting, because being around Eddie also feels good. And that’s bad. Buck has more self-worth than that. Or at least, he likes to think so.
He’s not going to forgive Eddie after one good day, just because he’s missed him and the bastard remembered his favorite ice cream. That’s not enough, he resolves. He wishes it were, but his heart won’t let him let bygones be bygones. The pain is still there, raw, like an open wound he hasn’t let heal.
They eat their ice cream in the car and Christopher regails them with stories about his friends from school and his favorite teacher, misses Hudson, and about his new art project he’s working on.
Buck wishes he could freeze time to this one moment for a while, but eventually they have to head back, it’s getting late and the kids are tired. Even Christopher ends up falling asleep in the front seat, ice cream on his cheek and nose.
“Buck,” Eddie starts, from the back.
Buck tightens his hands on the steering wheel. “I don’t want to hear it. Next time send Carla instead, please.”
Eddie gulps. It’s not that he hadn’t been expecting the coldness to return, now that the children were all napping, but it still hurts to be dismissed. “I know, Buck, I just, please , I need to say this.”
“You didn’t care about what I needed back then. Why should I care now?”
“Buck, you don’t understand, we know you only went through with that lawsuit to protect us--”
Buck is glad they’re at a long red light, because he can put the car in park and face Eddie. “Congrats? What do you expect me to say to that?” his blood is boiling. He’s whispering harshly, trying not to wake up any of the kids, but he’d love to scream right about now.
Eddie flinches back from Buck’s furious glare. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry I was such a bad friend to you, and that we made you feel so bad--”
“ Bad ?” Buck blinks incredulously. “You guys were supposed to be my friends, my fucking family , I didn’t feel bad, Eddie, I was gutted , I had a goddamn panic attack in the middle of a dirty alleyway that night, went home and thought about just--” Buck stops himself. He’s literally shaking, he’s so fucking livid.
Eddie feels like a rug has been pulled out from under him. “You thought about...about what, Buck?” his heart is pounding, discordant.
Buck turns back around and takes a deep breath to calm himself. “It doesn’t matter. I obviously didn’t go through with it. I’m fine now.” he looks to his side, where Christopher is sleeping soundly, unbothered by their arguing, thankfully. “Look, I love Christopher, you know that, I’m more than happy to keep him in my life, but I don’t need you or the team trying to shove your way in with all these half-assed apologies now, I can’t handle you guys just waltzing back in after what happened. I never want to feel like that again; humiliated, like I’m less than, like I don’t even matter. So please just drop it. Please.”
The horn honks behind them, impatiently, and that startles all the kids awake. Olive starts wailing instantly, which makes Riley cry, and Christopher covers his ears, yelling “Why are they so loud?” over the babies.
Buck flips the guy behind them when Christopher’s not looking and starts driving, while Eddie looks through the diaper bag in the trunk, for pacifiers.
Overall, it’s a pretty awful end to what had been a lovely day to start with.
Just wanted to say thank u to all the love this fic has received, ya'll are the best <3
Chapter 4: BUCK BEGINS AGAIN
Buck walks several miles to his apartment that night.
All he can see in his head is that banner and the teams' grinning faces.
He’s at the door when his keys fall to the floor, because his hands are shaking so bad. Buck chokes on a sob.
By the time he’s inside he’s a mess again, tears and snot running down his face. His chest aches something terrible.
He’s such a fucking idiot. He’s so fucking desperate for them to love him again that he’d let himself believe that they would change their minds, just like that ; sure, the entire day he’d been questioning it, skeptical, but not out loud, never out loud.
He’d been so afraid of asking what was going on, of breaking the illusion.
And how could Maddie not have told him anything? Why?
As angry and miserable as he is, Buck’s stomach also reminds him that he’s hungry, after skipping dinner and walking several miles home on foot.
There’s nothing in his fridge he can heat up instantly to eat. He’s got a piece of chicken, defrosted in there, though. He decides that’ll have to do, for now, if only to quiet the annoying rumbling in his stomach.
He’s in the middle of slicing the chicken in the middle so that it bakes all the way in the oven, when the tears come back, pouring heavily from his eyes, blurring his vision. “Fuck!” he ends up accidentally cutting the palm of his hand with the knife, and blood starts spewing out from the wound in buckets.
It’s a deep cut, one that might require stitches.
Buck grabs a clean dish towel and presses it hard against his hand, putting pressure on it to stop the bleeding. The rag is soaked in less than a minute, and starts dripping onto his kitchen floor.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Of course, this would be the shitty icing on top of the shitty cake that has been his day so far.
Buck lets go of the now dirty towel and lets his bloody hand hang over the sink and bleed freely. His sink starts to look a lot like that elevator scene in that Stephen King movie, he thinks, staring blankly at all the blood as it goes down the drain.
If he died of blood loss right now no one would even care.
The dark thought takes root in his brain and grows from there. He won’t die from a little blood loss. If he’d just cut a little deeper…
The tears return, unbidden, and he starts trembling again. Buck has never in his life felt so alone. So betrayed. He’s got no one--what is the point anymore? He’s tried so hard to make things better, and not a single thing has worked, so what the hell is the point?
Buck picks up the knife at the end of the counter and stares at it for a very long time.
When he’d accidentally cut himself, for just a split second the pulsating pain had been all that he could think about. Thinking about just that physical pain had been so much more bearable than thinking about….
Buck lets out another sob, breath hitching. They fucking hate him. He’s alone and the people he loves most in his life would be better off if he just--
He takes the tip of the knife and drags it across his open wound softly, inhaling sharply at the immediate throbbing. If he just went a little bit deeper, a little harder--he exerts a fraction more force and fresh blood spurts out.
A loud slam startles Buck so much he drops the knife into the sink, his heart in his throat, thumping wildly.
It’s his neighbor. The obnoxious one who makes too much noise and likes to burn incense every weekend to cover up the smell of weed in his apartment.
He really needs to move.
Buck looks down at his sink, at all the blood, at his hand, which is numb now.
He wraps the cut tightly with another dish towel hanging near the oven and stumbles upstairs to his room. He grabs the empty suitcases from his closet and starts packing frantically.
He really needs to move.
He’s got enough gas in his truck and enough money in his bank account to leave.
He can’t do it anymore.
The next morning he’s written and sent his resignation letter, and thinks to hell with a two week notice , because fuck that and fuck them.
He tells his landlord he’s leaving but pays the next months’ rent, for which she’s grateful. She asks him where he’s headed to but he doesn’t have an answer for her.
Within the hour he’s on the open road, without any clue as to where he could possibly be going.
He runs out of gas in a little town on the outskirts of Phoenix several hours later.
He’s at the gas station filling up his truck--because he needs to be much further from Los Angeles, further than a six hour drive, maybe New Mexico--when a very familiar woman in red spots him and says, “Buck? Evan Buckley, is that you?”
Buck looks up, surprised to see a face he recognizes. “Jen? What’re you doing here?”
Jennifer and he had briefly dated--well, more like had a lot of sex and too much breakfast food in bed for a couple of weeks a few months ago. Buck has had sex with a handful of women since the lawsuit came to an end--it’s the only time he’s able to feel close to anyone anymore, if he’s being honest with himself.
“I moved here for work a couple of months ago. It’s crazy running into you.” she laughs.
Jen is pretty thin, so the little bump protruding from under her shirt is pretty noticeable. “Um, is that uh?” he doesn’t even know how to bring it up, but she knows what he’s getting at.
“Oh my god, no, not yours,” she chuckles and rubs her hand over her belly. “I’m only two months along, and the last time we slept together was what, like three and a half months ago?”
Buck nods, relieved. He doesn’t know what he’d do if on top of everything in the mess that is currently his life, Jen dropped that bombshell on him.
They talk for a bit and eventually decide to go grab lunch together. Jen and he don’t have a lot of chemistry, relationship wise, but Buck discovers that they make decent friends. He asks her about her new job, and she happily tells him about how everything is going swimmingly.
She’s even met this great guy at work, and he doesn’t seem phased by the fact that she’s pregnant. “He’s really nice, Buck, I think I might be kind of in love with him. Even though it’s only been two months...that’s way too soon, right?”
Buck shrugs, smiling. “I mean, when you know, you know.” At some point, he thought he’d known, too. But boy, had he been wrong.
They stay in contact after that. She gives him her number, since he still doesn’t have a phone, and he promises to text her when he’s settled down.
Buck decides to stay in the small town. It’s a relatively cheap place to live, which he’ll need, until he can find another job, and he’s already made a friend. He could use as many of those as humanly possible right now.
It doesn’t take him long to find a place and move in. But it does take him nearly a month to find work. The reason being that he doesn’t think he can go back to being a firefighter again. It won’t be the same, and the thought of stepping into another station threatens to give him a panic attack. It’s too soon. He can’t do it.
Eventually--mainly due to the fact that he needs to start making money in order to pay rent--he decides to dust off his old college degree.
Originally, at eighteen, he hadn’t really known what he wanted to do, just that he wanted to help others. Maddie had kindly suggested he follow in her footsteps and get a nursing degree. The thought of being a male nurse surrounded by hot female nurses definitely appealed to a very young Evan Buckley, so that’s what he’d done.
He hadn’t expected to like the classes as much as he did, and after getting his bachelors he’d decided to go for more schooling, earning a masters to be a Nurse Practitioner a couple of years later. His education had been mostly free--paid by federal grants and a work-study job offered on campus.
If it hadn’t been for that he doubts he’d have ever gone to school at all, seeing that as hard as Maddie had been working at the time at her new job as a nurse, she wouldn’t have been able to pay for Buck to go to school all by herself. Their parents had been out of the picture for years by the time Buck was ready for college.
Buck had only worked at a hospital for a handful of days before resigning to become a firefighter. It’s not that he’d hated the job, he’d just been focused on getting his degrees for so long that he hadn’t considered any other options.
Not until seeing the LA fire department in action, that is. The crew had brought a man with a piece of rebar stuck in his head, who still had all functionality in tact, talking, complaining, sitting up, the works! Buck had been in the lounge area taking his break at the time and two of the firefighters had stopped for coffee. Hearing them talk about the things they’d seen and the things they’d done, Buck felt inspired.
He already had a medical background, all he had to do was get into shape and pass the exam. So he’d trained and studied, applied, and eventually gotten assigned to the 118.
Thinking about his team hurts, still, even though it’s been a month since he’s seen or heard from them. Hell, thinking about Maddie hurt, too. She’d practically raised him after their parents had abandoned ship, and now…
Buck shakes the bad thoughts away and decides to apply to a few nearby hospitals, to take his mind off everything.
After a round of interviews, Buck gets a job at a free, walk in clinic, where he learns the ropes.
He makes a few friends working there. The secretary is always tired, but he’s friendly, and open to hearing hot celebrity gossip every morning. The doctors--two of them on staff--are older, one is in his late sixties and the other in his early forties. Buck goes out for drinks with them occasionally, but the main people he hangs out with are two nurses who have been best friends for years but are constantly bickering.
They ask about him sometimes, about his family, where he came from, his old job, but he always managed to deflect, asking if anyone else wants another round, or excusing himself with a “Oh, sorry, I think my patient just got here.” even though they don’t do appointments, really.
Months go by like this.
Buck feels bad, because he wants to be friends with the new people in his life, but it’s too hard to open himself up to that kind of heartache again. So even though he hangs out with these people on occasion, he doesn’t let himself be vulnerable with them or share any parts about his life with anyone.
He keeps to himself and he’s fine like that, just fine.
Until Jen knocks on his door one day, and she’s crying and she says she’s got newborns in the car, and Buck freaks out for her, because it is hot today, and did she just say she left newborns alone in a car in this heat? Shit.
After getting the babies out of the car and into his house, he makes Jen some tea and has her explain what the hell is going on. They talk every now and again via text but he hasn’t seen her in the last three months or so. He hadn’t even known she’d given birth. And to twins, no less!
“Ryan broke up with me.” she sobs, head in her hands, shoulders shaking. “We found out it was twins, and I freaked out, because twins? I can’t deal with two accidents , Buck, I just can’t do it. And Ryan, he was so supportive, he said we’d be together, that together we could do anything, and I’m a fucking idiot, so I believed him and--” she hiccups. “And then last month, two weeks before my due date, he said it was too much, that he realized he’s too young for this--I can’t, I didn’t know where else to go. I can’t do this. You have to take them.”
Buck gawks at her. “Wait, what?”
Jen looks up, tears streaming down her face. “They’re yours. I lied when I said I was only two months along.” she admits. “I thought about giving them up, but I don’t want them in the foster system, Buck, what if no one wants them?”
Buck blinks, shocked. “I’m sorry, what?” he knows he’s repeating himself but he can’t help it.
Jen wipes away her tears and then from her bag she takes out a walgreens tote with four different paternity tests. “I knew you’d probably never believe me, so I got these. You can swab your cheek and theirs, and you’ll see in a few days that I’m not lying.”
Buck takes the tests but doesn’t do anything, just stares at her. “Jen, I--I don’t know what to say.”
Jen lets out another shaky sob. “I’m sorry, can I use your bathroom?”
Buck nods, pointing her in the right direction, wordlessly. He looks at the car seats holding two identical looking infants and thinks he might actually pass out. This is entirely too overwhelming. Today is his day off, he had been planning to mope around the house in his pajamas, not suddenly find out he’s a father.
He hears the car parked in his driveway back up and pull away, and starts. “What the…” he runs to his door, swings it open, and watches Jens’ car fly down the road at hyper speed.
Buck checks his bathroom and sees that it’s empty, the double door window open all the way. “Why the fuck are these windows so wide…” Buck groans into his hands. “Fuck, fuck, fuuuuuck!”
What the hell is he supposed to do now?
The answer is: tend to the crying newborns in his living room.
He doesn’t even know their names. Or how old they are. They’re so tiny. Buck remembers that Jen left her bag on his couch and decides to search it, for any clues.
Thankfully--or unfortunately, in his case--Jen had been prepared to leave the babies in his care, because she’s left him with all of their information, including their birth certificates. According to that, they’re not even four weeks old yet, and because they’re twins, they’re smaller than the average infant at that age. So so small.
Olivia and Riley Hawthorne.
Buck is pretty sure they’re tiny enough that he could juggle them, one in each hand, and they’d fit perfectly. Not that he would juggle a baby…
Inside of her bag is also a few diapers, wet naps, pacis, and few hundred dollar bills attached to a messily scribbled note that simply reads: I’m sorry.
Buck takes every single paternity test in Jens’ bag and mails them out for testing. And in the infamous words of Maury Povich, Buck is the father.
The first month is absolute hell.
They’re on completely different sleeping schedules and for a pair of twins they couldn’t be more different. He googles everything there is to know about infants, he takes them to a pediatrician at his clinic and has him do a full checkup, whatever he can’t find online he asks one of the two nurses on staff--seeing as she’s a mother of three, and has the experience.
Buck doesn’t sleep.
When one baby is asleep, the other one is up and crying for a diaper change, for food, or just out of general crankiness--Buck doesn’t know, all he knows is that he is exhausted.
He’s been looking for Jen for over a month without any luck. It’s like she’s disappeared off the face of the planet, never to be seen again. Eventually he gives up.
He can’t bring himself to even contemplate giving the twins up for adoption. He’s all they’ve got in this world, and Buck desperately wants to do his best by them, despite the insane adjustments he has to make in his life.
Day cares in his area won’t take the infants until they’re at least six months of age, and they’re barely two, now, so he has to interview nanny after nanny for the position over the weekend--his boss at the clinic has been extremely understanding in the last month, letting Buck bring the babies with him to work, but he knows he can’t continue to take advantage of that kindness forever.
A good, experienced nanny is expensive --especially for twins--he learns.
Still, he hires Judith, a kind woman in her forties with nearly two decades of babysitting under her belt.
She’s a godsend, helping him get the twins on the same sleep schedule, telling him which brand of milk is best to get--especially for Olive, who’s got kind of a sensitive stomach--and showing him where to get all the bargain baby supplies in town.
He’s eternally grateful.
Another month passes and he finally feels like he’s getting a hang of dad life.
Sometimes when Olive smiles up at him, all wide eyed and full of wonder, she reminds him of Christopher, and his heart feels like it’s being squeezed too hard.
Riley makes him laugh because even though she’s so very tiny her reactions are often adult-like.
One time, around five in the morning, still half asleep and not thinking straight, Buck takes the twins’ bottles out from the boiling water with his bare hands, immediately drops them to the floor, spilling half the contents, and instead of giggling like Olive, Riley just gives him this look, like she’s wondering how he’s survived so long without any common sense.
At some point Buck stops thinking of them as “the twins” and as “my kids” instead, which is odd, but not bad.
He wakes up one day and realizes he might love those little dumplings more than he could have ever imagined loving anybody in the whole wide world, and it actually makes him cry in the middle of his kitchen like a fucking weirdo.
Thankfully Riley and Olive are only four months old and hopefully won’t remember any of it.
He trades his truck for a sensible car, which hurts just a bit, since the truck has been his baby for years now, but he’s got human babies to think of now, and sadly minivans are both roomy and safe, especially for all the things he has to travel with now, every time he leaves the house with them. Two car seats, a double stroller, a diaper bag, his own backpack, toys, blankies, extra clothes--both for his daughters and for him--and other miscellaneous things he might need to get through the day, just in case.
After a lot of thought and consideration, Buck decides, when they’re close to turning six months old, that he needs a new job. He likes the clinic, but they can’t really afford to raise his pay, and raising kids is extremely costly.
He posts his resume online, and gets a few responses right off the bat. None of them are as good an offer as LA Medical--the numerous benefits outweigh the negatives; the negatives being returning to Los Angeles and facing those he’s managed to completely distance himself from, for close to a year now.
Reluctantly, Buck accepts.
Los Angeles is by no means a small place.
So really, what are the chances that he should have a run in with any of his old team?
One in four million.
Chapter 5: THE BIG BANG
Thanks for ur patience with updates! This week is jam packed so i haven't had time to sit and write. The last chapter will be posted by Sunday (for sure this time lmao)
Please enjoy! :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s late--half past four in the morning late--when Buck gets woken up by the sound of frantic banging on his door.
The noise wakes up the twins, who start wailing in their cribs. Buck curses under his breath. Who the hell could it be at this time? He stops by his daughters’ room, picking one up in each arm and trying to calm them down before checking through his peep hole to see who’s causing the disturbance.
It’s Maddie. She’s standing there, crying silent tears. God, Buck could never stand to see her cry.
After some serious maneuvering with the girls, Buck opens the door.
Maddie stifles a sob when she sees him. “You’re really back.” she whispers, holding herself delicately.
Buck nods, but doesn’t say anything or offer to let her come inside.
“Buck, I didn’t know about the prank, I swear to you.” she shakes her head, looking angry, but not with him. “Chim didn’t tell me any details, or I promise I would have stopped it, Buck, I need you to believe me when I say I would never knowingly let anyone do that to you.”
Buck’s heart stutters. Of course he wants to believe her. But it’s hard. Instead, he quietly invites her in for coffee. He needs at least one hand free to work his kuerig, and he knows that as cranky as his kids are, being woken abruptly, and a whole half hour before their usual getting up time, they’ll both cry bloody murder if he sets either down.
Buck clears his throat. “You mind?”
Maddie shakes her head, holding out her arms for one of the girls, eyes wide.
Buck gives her Olive, since Olive is least picky when it comes to strangers, compared to her sister. Maddie takes her like she’s made of glass, holding her close to her chest.
Olive immediately grabs on to the collar of Maddie’s shirt with her chubby fingers and yawns, resting her head against her bosom, using her as a pillow.
Riley, on the other hand, is wide awake, and not very happy about it. She’s pouting, with upset tears making her eyes water. Buck rocks her gently and murmurs words of comfort while he puts the k-cups into the machine. “It’s ok jelly bean, you’re ok.”
Maddie looks down at baby Olive, who’s nearly asleep again, in awe. “I’m sorry, I know it’s late...or early. You’ve been ignoring my calls for days now--which, I understand. But I couldn’t stand being in the same city and not seeing you.” she sniffles.
Buck sighs. He places a hot mug in front of her on his table and sits down across from her, with his own coffee in hand. “You really didn’t know?” he finally asks.
Maddie shakes her head, fresh tears rolling down her cheeks. “Buck, I had no idea. Chimney told me that over the weekend they were playing pool when they ran into that skeevy lawyer of yours--he was drunk and spilled the beans. He said they were lucky you saved the departments’ ass. He said the lawsuit you made them file on your behalf and then dropped, losing his firm millions of dollars, deterred them from going after the LAFD for what happened during that drill at the highrise.
“He said you were playing dumb all along, but that he recently found out you’d gone to the commissioner behind his back to tell him what was going on and you two had hatched the lawsuit as a front to protect the 118 from being under fire.”
Buck gulps. So they did know. He hadn’t been sure if Eddie had known the extent of the truth or a shortened version of it.
Maddie looks at him. “Buck, why didn’t you say anything?”
“I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep my mouth shut about everything. Me suing the department and the city was way more profitable--and had a better chance of winning--we knew his law firm would want to sink their teeth into that and drop the bullshit drill incident. After I turned down the money and dropped the suit, the commissioner decided to give me my job back, with the condition of that non-disclosure agreement in place. He didn’t want the public to find out we’d avoided a lawsuit by filing one ourselves.” he explains.
Maddie bites her lip, dismayed that her baby brother had gone through so much all alone, and for so long. “Buck, what you did was really noble, and you didn’t deserve what you got. I’m sorry. I really had no idea they’d do that. Chimney only told me that they were going to surprise you with a giant banner, and a cake--he mentioned that they were planning a prank, since it was the first of April, and they thought maybe after months of being at odds with you it would lighten the mood.
“But he didn’t tell me what they were actually planning. Not until it fell through.” Maddie shakes her head. “Buck, if I’d known I wouldn’t have let them go through with it. What they did was cruel. I don’t know what the hell they were thinking.”
Buck looks away and holds Riley closer. “Doesn’t really matter now. I’m done with them.”
Maddie doesn’t argue with him. She’d been furious after finding out. She still hasn’t completely forgiven Chim, keeping him at arms length since. “Are you planning on sticking around, do you think?” she desperately wants to wrap her arms around him and beg him to stay. She’s missed him so much.
Buck nods. “I think I am.” he says. He gives her a small smile, soft and hesitant, but there. “It’s about time Olive and Riley met their aunt Maddie.”
Maddie tears up, a wobbly smile on her face. “I can’t believe you have kids now. They’re way too cute to be yours.” she teases. “Tell me everything.”
Buck and Maddie sit at the kitchen table for a long time, filling each other in on the last year of their lives.
The next time Buck sees anyone from the 118 he’s at work.
He’s just at the end of his shift. One more patient--suture up a laceration on the upper arm, sustained during an incident at work, according to the guy’s chart. Buck is so tired he skips the name at the top of the chart, skimming the details instead, so that when he walks into the curtained off area, he’s greeted by the unexpected sight of his ex-team.
Bobby’s sitting on the hospital bed, looking put upon, as Hen holds a bloody gauze against his shoulder. Chimney’s telling the captain not to be so grumpy, “If any one of us got injured like this you’d make sure we went to the hospital, too, so stop it with that face.”
Eddie nods. “He’s right Cap--”
They all turn to look as the doctor steps inside and closes the curtain behind him.
“Ok, so it says here--” Buck pauses, freezing in place when he sees everyone.
Why is God punishing him?
“ Buck? ” Bobby blinks in surprise. “You’re--? You work here now?”
Buck clears his throat and looks down at the chart. “Says here this was a work-related incident. Let me take a look, and we’ll see if you need stitches.”
Bobby grimaces, but nods at Hen to stop the steady pressure she’s been keeping on his arm, so that Buck can see the full extent of the damage.
Buck examines the open wound. It’s deep and long, so he’ll definitely need stitches. But first he needs to clean it out, so he silently sets about doing so.
Bobby grunts in discomfort, and tries to start up a conversation again. “So, you decided to put that degree of yours to use?”
Buck exhales slowly. He’s at work. He can’t tell a patient to fuck off, so once he’s done cleaning the laceration he excuses himself to get the suturing kit and if these stupid curtains were doors, he would have slammed them on his way out.
Chim looks at Bobby. “What degree?”
“Buck has a Master of Science in Nursing. Before coming to us, he worked as a nurse practitioner. During his interview I asked him if he was sure he wanted to throw away all those years of schooling to run around putting out fires with my crew.”
“What did he say?”
Bobby grins at the memory of an impulsive young man sitting across from him at his desk that day, eager to be a part of something more. “He said, ‘Oh yeah, just give me a chance Cap, you won’t regret it’. And I never did.”
From right outside the curtain Buck listens to his former Captain speak fondly of him.
He stands there for too long. Trying to get his shit together, trying to stop the stupid tremors in his hands, trying to get his stupid heart to calm down already. It’s all torture.
Buck pulls back the curtain and puts on a pair of gloves, staunchly ignoring all the looks he’s getting from the 118. He numbs the area before starting to suture. He wants to half-ass the stitches so this can be over and done with and he can go pick up his kids and try his best to avoid all the people in this tiny space for the remainder of his life. But he takes his job seriously, so he’s careful and neat, precise.
“Buck, please, you have to talk to us at some po--”
Buck stops mid-stitch and his head snaps up. “I don’t have to do anything.” he spits out.
Bobby is taken aback by the venom in his voice, but pushes on. “Buck, we acted like morons, hurtful, thoughtless morons, and trust me when I say we’ve regretted that day ever since. We never meant for it to go so far. It was a really stupid joke, made in poor taste.”
Buck puts down the thread and needle. If he tries to continue he might actually stab Bobby. “The stupid joke was me, for ever thinking any of you gave a shit about me!” he’s infuriated. “I get that you guys were pissed about the lawsuit--”
“We were, but that lawyer, he told us the truth, Buck--”
“ I don’t care ! It’s not about that! This is about how you all treated me when you thought I fucked up, even when I apologized, time and time and time again, I begged you guys to give me another chance, I tried so hard to make it up to everyone, only to be shut down and mocked and treated like an outsider for months! And then you think so little of me that when you find out I only filed that lawsuit to help, you decide to go and plan some elaborate fucking prank instead of I don’t fucking know, apologizing ? None of you bothered to consider my dumb feelings because I don’t fucking matter enough!” he’s screaming by the time he’s done ranting, his chest heaving.
The only good part of all this is that tonight is Friday, which means the emergency room is full of screaming people, so no one peaks their head in to ask what all the yelling is about.
Bobby is stunned, the pained expression on his face having nothing to do with the injury on his arm. “Buck…” he’s speechless and heartbroken.
Buck takes off his gloves and throws them in the trash, before walking away.
He stumbles into a doctor and asks if he wouldn’t mind finishing up his patient in the ER. “I don’t feel good.” he says, wishing it were a lie. He wants to throw up.
The doctor takes sympathy on him--the kid looks pale as a ghost--and agrees to take over for him. “Feel better, man.”
Buck nods his thanks and rushes to the staff restroom in the lounge area to vomit. It takes him a while to compose himself again, and even longer to stop shaking.
Maddie comes over with take out from his favorite Chinese place, and lots of hugs.
The twins are asleep, so Buck is quiet when Maddie wraps him in her arms and he starts bawling into her shoulder. “Oh, it’s ok, it’s ok, let it out, I’m here.” she mumbles into his hair, soothingly.
An hour later Maddie’s phone buzzes. She looks at it and says, “Wait here, I have someone that might cheer you up a little.” she gets up and goes to the door.
Buck groans. If anyone from the team is standing on the other side of that door he won’t be held responsible for his actions.
Instead, Carla is standing there, and she’s got wine. Buck could kiss her.
They embrace for a long time and when they pull away Carla flicks him on the forehead. “That’s for worrying me this whole last year.”
Buck ducks his head. “Sorry.”
“You can apologize by getting me some glasses; this box of wine isn’t gonna’ drink itself, you know.”
Buck laughs. “I can’t believe you drink boxed wine.”
Carla gives him a look. “Did I stutter?”
Maddie grabs them all wine glasses from Bucks’ cupboard, and they sit on his couch and watch reruns of The Office while drinking wine that tastes more like juice than anything.
As much as Buck wants to put this whole miserable day behind him and drown his sorrows, he only has two glasses the whole night--if Riley or Olive wake up he’d rather be sober. He’s not going to let a bad day affect his parenting.
Carla and Maddie don’t have the same issue, so he watches them get as tipsy as possible. Buck starts to think maybe he should have cut them off when Carla starts talking about Eddie, though.
“He really misses you Buckaroo.” she says, taking another sip of her wine. “That boy’s got it real bad for you.”
Buck feels his face heat up. “No he doesn’t.”
Maddie almost chokes on her wine because she snorts so hard. “What? Buck, c’mon. Be serious.”
Buck looks at her incredulously, “I am!” he squawks. “Eddie’s not into me...like that. We’re just friends.” he looks down at his hands. “Or, I mean. Were friends.” Best friends. He hates that he misses him so much, even now.
Maddie pulls him into another hug, and rests the top of her head over his. “It’s ok, don’t worry, everything is gonna’ get better, just watch.”
He really wants to believe that.
He's got another play date a week later with Christopher, and he's expecting Carla to tag along but when he opens the door Bobby is standing there instead, much to Buck's displeasure.
"Bucky!" Christopher comes around from behind the older firefighters legs and leans into Buck, careful to balance himself on his crutches.
"Hey superman!" He greets him with enough enthusiasm that he thinks it hides his annoyance at his unexpected visitor. He leads Christopher into the apartment and turns to Bobby. "Where's Carla?"
"She had to take off today for her sisters birthday and Eddie has errands to run and I'm free all day so he asked if I wouldn't mind--"
Buck cuts him off with a glare. "Fine. Change of plans then. You can stay here with the twins while I take Chris to the amusement park. You know, since you've apparently got nothing else to do today."
Bobby hesitates, "Um, are you sure? We can all go. You and Chris can go on rides and I'll watch the twins and maybe we'll all get something to eat after?" He had really been looking forward to spending the day together. He thought they might finally be able to talk if they were alone.
"Nah, I'd prefer they stay at home. The amusement park is gonna be too hectic." Buck picks Christopher up in one quick swoop, making him laugh in surprise, and takes the crutches and his backpack in the other hand. "Alright, say bye Bobby."
"Bye Bobby!" Christopher waves as they head for the door.
"They're asleep right now. Should be up in the next hour. I'll text you instructions from the car." Buck says, not looking back.
And then the door is closed and Bobby's alone.
Or he would be, if not for the twins.
Buck might not be on good terms with Bobby at the moment--or ever again--but he knows deep down he can trust the man with his daughters for a day without worrying.
Originally he'd planned to make it a fun day in, watch a movie on Netflix, make popcorn, order pizza and soda for everyone. Build some legos he got Christopher while the twins took a nap, catch up with Carla some more, etcetera.
Buck finds though, that he doesn't mind having to have changed plans so last minute due to Bobby's presence. It's been too long since he got to spend the day with just Christopher, and he's looking forward to it.
Once they're buckled in, Buck texts Bobby, who's number he never did manage to forget.
Its buck, bottles are on the top left shelf above the stove, formula is in the pantry, when they wake up pls give them each 8oz and burp them when they're done. Diapers and wet naps in their diaper bag by the door in the third compartment if they need a change. If u need anything pls call me. Thanks.
He sends the text and starts the car. "Alright, ready?"
Christopher nods eagerly. "Yeah!"
Buck grins. Today's gonna be fun.
"Shh shh shh I know, I know, someone's cranky after their nap, huh?" He rocks Riley back and forth in his arms as she wails.
Waking up and seeing his unfamiliar face first thing had startled her. Olive had no such qualms. She sat in her bouncy seat in the living room floor quietly trying to eat her own foot.
Bobby's glad Buck had their names in blocky decorative letters over each crib on the wall or he never would've been able to tell the girls apart. They're completely identical.
It's harder to prepare the bottles for feeding time with one baby practically glued to his side, but not impossible, and soon enough Riley's calmed down enough, bottle in her tiny hands. She holds it up herself so that Bobby can feed Olive with his free hand.
After they're fed, burped and changed into fresh diapers, Bobby sets them down in their play pen. Riley is happy to entertain herself but Olive starts to cry immediately, raising her little arms in the air.
Bobby picks her up and lets her cling. She's an extremely affectionate baby. She reminds him very much of Buck, who used to look at him with those same happy and hopeful eyes. It makes his heart hurt, thinking of those eyes, which are now cold and distant when directed at him.
Olive, sensing his mood turning sour, puts both hands at either side of his face and puckers her lips. Bobby laughs, instantly cheered up by the silly antics. She must have learned how to do that face from her dad, he thinks, fondly, hugging her to his chest.
Eddie calls Bobby a few hours later to ask how everyone's doing.
"Buck bolted the moment he saw me." Bobby sighs. "He took Christopher to the amusement park and left me in his apartment with the twins on babysitting duty."
Eddie feels bad, he knows Bobby had jumped to volunteer specifically so that he could finally get the chance to talk to Buck. "Sorry, that stinks. But, on the bright side he still trusts you enough to leave his kids in your care? That's something."
Bobby knows that's true. "You're right. I just wish he would speak to me, or even just look me in the eye. He didn't even look in my direction before running off with Christopher."
"Trust me, I know how you feel. The only reason he even talked to my that day we went to the aquarium is because he knows how perceptive Chris can be when it comes to these things." Eddie replies. "Hey, listen, I gotta go but text me if anything. I'll check up again later."
They say their goodbyes and Bobby hangs up the phone, a little encouraged by their conversation. He needs to stop pushing the kid before he drives him any further away.
Some time in the afternoon, at last, he wins a grumpy Riley over with his funny faces. She cracks up and kicks her legs out, thrilled.
He's in the middle of playing peek a boo with the twins when he hears a loud resounding BANG! in the distance, through the open living room window.
Both babies startle badly and start to cry, grabbing onto Bobby for dear life. "It's ok, it's ok, we're ok." He comforts, holding on tight.
What the hell was that? It was too loud to be construction. He carefully peeks his head out of the window to try and see the cause. In the far distance there's a giant alarming cloud of black smoke, getting bigger and worse by the second. Alarmed, he turns on the television, he's planning on changing the channel to the news when the current programming is cut short for breaking local news.
An anchor woman sits at her desk with a grim face. "Mere minutes ago there was an explosion at an amusement park--Menlow Park, located down town--unfortunately we haven't been able to get anyone on ground at the scene. We do have helicopter footage, live, however, and will keep you up to date on--"
Bobby stops listening, staring in shock at the live footage on the screen. It's far away grainy film, but he can see the fire-- huge and terrifying--and what looks like civilians scattering like ants.
Menlow Park. It clicks in his head that that's where Buck took Christopher today. " Oh God ." He calls Buck's number, balancing it between his neck and shoulder, while still holding the girls firmly. "C'mon, pick up...pick up…" he mutters, panic clawing at his insides.
"Hey, this is Evan Buckley, ya' know what to do. BEEP!"
Damn voicemail. Damn it. Bobby calls Eddie.
"Hey, what's up? Everything ok? I was just about to call. I'm at the grocery store and there was this crazy loud bang--"
"There's been an explosion at Melow Park, Eddie. I don't know anything more, but that's where Buck took Christopher. And I just called. Straight to voicemail."
There's silence for a moment and then a series of "shit shit shit shit" from the other end of the line, followed by, "Ok, ok, I'm gonna go over there. Um, just, just keep calling Buck, please call me if he picks up."
"I'm gonna see if the 118 knows anything. And I will. Eddie, be careful." They end the call quickly and Bobby tries Buck's phone two more times without any success before calling his team.
Chimney picks up. "Hey Cap, can't really talk right now. We're headed to that crazy explosion in--"
"Menlow Park, I know. It's all over the news. Chim, Buck took Christopher there earlier today and now he's not picking up his phone. Eddie's on his way over right now."
"Oh shit, fuck. Ok. Uh, what about you?"
"I'm at Buck's place with the twins. I can't risk taking them anywhere near that mess."
"Understood. Alright Cap, we'll keep you updated. Don't worry. We'll find them."
Bobby gulps. "Please do."
He calls Athena next but after ringing a few times her phone goes to voicemail. She's probably in the thick of things, and that's both comforting and concerning. He knows she can more than adequately handle herself.
Being stuck at home during an emergency, knowing the people he cares about most are all out there without him, Bobby feels completely helpless.
He keeps calling Buck, keeps hoping this will be the time he finally picks up the phone.
"Wooh! Nice one, Superman!" Buck cheers.
Christopher grins. "I did it!"
The employee at the counter smiles at them when they come by with a giant armfull of tickets to trade for prizes.
Buck is pretty sure whatever they get won't be worth half the amount of money he spent on the coins for the games they've been playing all day, but the look on Christopher's face is most definitely worth it.
Christopher's about to pick his prize when there's a deafening bang.
Buck wraps himself around Christopher automatically, just in time to take the brunt of the blast as all the windows in the arcade shatter from the intense pressure.
There's chaos everywhere, with people screaming and crying and panicking .
Buck's ears are ringing like mad. He can't hear a single thing except the sound of his own hard breathing. He looks down at his Christopher, who's looking back at him, he's saying something but it falls on deaf ears.
"Chris, I'm sorry, I can't really hear you. But we gotta get somewhere safe." He knows he's yelling from the expression on Christopher's face but can't really help it. Buck opens his arms and Christopher takes that as cue to crawl into them. Buck picks him up, not expecting the severe vertigo that hits him.
He nearly drops the nine year old. "Shit, sorry."
Christopher grabs his face so that they're making eye contact and slowly mouths the words "it's ok" at him.
Buck sighs and squeezes Christopher closer to him. This all feels like dejavu to him. Why is it every time he tries to have a fun day at an amusement park the world is against them?
This time he's determined not to lose Christopher in the midst of chaos. He still feels incredibly guilty about losing him during the tsunami.
There are people running and shoving each other out of the way. He needs to find somewhere to hide until things calm down or help arrives. Outside is a literal stampede. He's not risking Christopher out there.
Instead he gets behind the now empty counter and ignores the staff only sign, walking into the room. There's no one inside. It's small, a little claustrophobic even, but beats being out there.
Buck sets Christopher and his crutches down in a chair next to a tiny table near a vending machine. He sits down on the floor in front of him and concentrates on getting his shit together. His ears are still ringing and his back is killing him. He needs to figure out what the hell is going on. He takes his phone out only to discover that it's busted from the blast. It won't even turn on. He sighs, frustrated.
Christopher tugs on the sleeve of his shirt to get Buck's attention. "You're bleeding." He says. When he realizes Buck is having trouble trying to make out his words, Christopher shows him, swiping gently at the blood coming from his ears.
Buck startles at the red on the tips of Christopher's fingers. "Oh…" He touches the same spot, his fingers coming away bloody, too. "I'll be fine." He says, trying his best to keep his voice level, so that he's not shouting directly into Christopher's face.
Christopher doesn't look very convinced, but also doesn't say anything, he simply places one hand on Buck's shoulder and pats comfortingly.
After catching his breath, maybe fifteen minutes later, Buck gets up; his balance is shit. He has to hold onto the table so that he doesn't fall over. When the dizziness subsides a bit Buck starts exploring the small room, looking for anything that might help them out of this mess.
After several minutes he finds a landline hidden in one of the drawers and sighs in relief. He's not going to phone 9-1-1, he's sure several hundred people have called already, and are probably tying up the lines at the moment.
He calls Eddie, but belatedly realizes he still can't hear. He grabs Christopher's seat and pulls it towards him, pointing at the phone he's got on speaker. "I need your help."
Christopher nods dutifully, his face serious.
"Hello? Who is this?"
"Dad!" Christopher exclaims, nodding at Buck to talk.
"Eddie, we're at the amusement park, something happened. I'm not really sure--"
Christopher signals Buck to stop when his dad interrupts.
"God, are you guys ok? I'm on my way, Bobby called me and told me there was some kind of explosion at the park? Traffic is insane. I had to go on foot--"
"Daddy you need to slow down. Buck can't hear you. I'm helping but you're going too fast." He explains.
"He can't hear ? What happened, how close were you two from the explosion?"
"I don't know. Buck grabbed me when we heard a really loud noise and then all the windows broke. His ears are bleeding."
"Eddie, did you hear from Bobby?" Buck asks.
"Chris, let Buck know Bobby and the girls are ok. As far as I know the incident is isolated to the park."
"Everyone is ok." Christopher says, turning to Buck and over enunciating his words.
Buck nods. "Thanks. Listen, Eddie, Christopher's safe. We're holed up in the arcade staff lounge behind the counter. It's crazy outside. I figured it's safer to stay in one place."
" That's good. Really goods. You two stay put. Bobby's watching the news live and he said they're not letting anyone in or out til they figure out what exactly is going on. They just started letting first responders into the park. The 118 should be there soon. And I'm not far behind so--"
There's another loud bang and then everything is scarily quiet for a second before the line goes dead.
"Christopher? Christopher?! Buck?! Buck!" Eddie calls out. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Eddie dials Chimney but his phone rings and rings and eventually he gets the mans voicemail. He shoves his cell into his pocket and keeps running, frantically dashing past all the cars stuck on the road, chest heaving.
Please be alive. Please, god, please be alive.
i almost forgot to add that lmao my reason for "buck sues as a front for something to protect the 118" is awful lmaooo i am aware, but i also couldnt for the life of me think of anything more plausible? my b.
thanks for reading!!!
Chapter 6: Time
sooooooooo after way too much editing and rewriting i realized i will never be exactly happy with this last chapter bc it's more of an open-ended ending than a happy one, but i guess that just means i'll hafta' make this a series AU bc i am certainly not done with it.
thank u everyone for ur comments/likes/patience with this story.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It hurts. Everything hurts.
Buck wants to cry out in pain but he can’t find his voice.
That’s Christopher and he sounds frightened, and that’s no good, Buck is supposed to be protecting him. “Chris?” it’s a raspy, barely there whisper, but immediately he feels Christopher’s small hand curl around his face.
Buck blinks down at him. It’s so dark he can’t really see much beyond the outline of his face. “Are you ok?” one moment they’d been on the phone with Eddie---with help---and the next the whole place had started to quake a second time and Buck hadn’t thought twice before throwing himself on top of the kid to keep him safe.
He can hear again, he realizes with a start, though not very well. But still, a vast improvement.
“I’m o-ok. You’re bleeding. A lot.” his hand moves slowly from the side of his face to the top of his skull. His touch is extremely gentle but it still stings like hell.
Buck winces, inhaling sharply. He must have taken a bad hit to the head during the second blast. “I’ll be fine.” he assures Christopher, even though he’s not sure that’s entirely true. They’re trapped beneath a mound of rubble and debri, with only his back and shoulders to support the enormous weight crushing them, and his arms are shaking badly.
If help doesn’t get to them soon he’s not sure how much longer his body will be able to hold out. He’s concussed for sure, which is bad, since he can’t seem to focus on any one thing for too long, zoning in and out of the here and now.
The pounding in his head is killing him.
Eddie. That’s Eddie, of course. He’d recognize that voice anywhere.
He’s too loud.
All he wants to do is sleep, but Eddie’s so damn loud. Why?
Buck groans into the covers. It’s too early.
His blankets are unceremoniously tossed aside and Buck whines. “G’way.”
“Breakfast is ready and we’re gonna be late for work, numbnuts.” Eddie’s face suddenly appears in front of his, brown eyes staring at him expectantly.
Buck stretches up so that their lips meet, laughing when Eddie pushes him back onto the bed and complains about his morning breath. “Go brush your teeth and get dressed, dormilon. I made bacon.”
“Ugh.” Buck buries his head back into his pillow. “M’on strike til you let real bacon back into this household.”
Eddie rolls his eyes. “It is the exact same thing you big baby. Now hurry up before I send the twins up here.”
That makes Buck sit up in a flash. “Ok ok, no need for nuclear threats, I’m going.”
He showers and goes about his morning routine; he’s exhausted, and maybe he’s been working too hard at the hospital lately because he aches all over, and not even a nice hot steamy shower is able to help the stiffness in his back muscles.
Buck doesn’t let himself dwell on it too much, he’s got a busy day ahead of him.
After he’s dressed in a clean pair of scrubs he makes his way to the kitchen, where everyone is gathered. “G’morning.” he bends down to kiss Christopher’s forehead and ruffle his hair.
“Good morning dad.” the eleven year old playfully swats at the hand in his messy hair.
The toddlers, from their high chairs, reach out for him, making little babbling noises to get Buck’s attention. Buck grins at the them. They’ve gotten so big in such a short time span, it’s crazy.
Buck jumps up and looks up at Eddie, who’s serving him a plate. “Did you call me?”
Eddie gives him a funny look. “No weirdo. Now eat, or we’re all gonna’ be late.”
Buck nods absently. They eat and Christopher tells them about a new project he’s working on for the science fair, while the twins feed each other pieces of scrambled eggs.
Eddie helps Buck pack everyone into his minivan before saying goodbye and getting into his own car parked in the driveway. “Love you, see you for lunch?”
Eddie nods, smiling. “One o’clock.”
Buck drops Christopher off at school, and then heads off to work, where he can leave the girls at daycare before starting his shift.
“Buck just hold on!”
Buck turns around, but there’s no one there.
He presses the palms of his hands to his eyes tightly. Maybe he just needs more sleep. He’s been working extremely long shifts all month, it feels like. He shakes himself off and starts his rounds, checking on patients and ignoring how sore he is.
The day passes by quickly; he and Eddie both end up canceling lunch due to emergencies, which isn’t unexpected considering their line of work, but promise to catch up at dinner later that night.
Buck ends his shift at a little half past seven o’clock, picks the twins up from daycare and says bye to Jamie. As he sets them up in the back with the carseats his shoulder twinges, “ Shit .” Buck hisses, holding a hand up to where the pain is radiating.
“Shit!” Riley repeats, tilting her little head to the side.
Buck’s eyes go wide. “Woah, hey, no, bad word.”
“Shit!” Olive giggles. “Shit!”
“Oh God.” Buck rests his forehead against the car door. Eddie’s never gonna’ let him hear the end of this one.
He’s too tired to deal with this right now. He just wants to get home and sleep for the next twenty four hours, minimum. He starts the car and puts on some kid friendly music to distract the girls from their newly learned vocabulary word.
By the time he pulls into the driveway Buck has a pounding headache--whether from his tiresome shift or the fact that he’s had Baby Shark on loop to appease the kids this entire time, is anybody’s guess.
He can leave the carseats and the stroller in the car for tonight, but he’s got their diaper bag in the front seat next to him, plus some paperwork he’s got to catch up on, on his day off tomorrow, both things he needs to bring inside. Buck texts Eddie from the car and asks him for help bringing everything in if he’s not busy.
Two minutes later Eddie’s outside, getting the twins out of the car. “Hey, how was your day? You look beat.”
Buck sighs, throwing the diaper bag over his good shoulder and gathering his things. “Yeah, today was a lot, I might just skip dinner and go to bed when we get inside.”
“Might wanna rethink that.” Eddie says, but before Buck can question the statement, Eddie and the twins have disappeared inside.
"Ed?" Buck opens the door.
“ SURPRISE !”
Buck jumps back, so jolted he drops all of his paperwork on the floor. “What?”
Everyone is there.
Bobby, Athena, Hen, Karen, Chim and Maddie. All of the kids, too, including Christopher.
And they’re all holding a giant banner.
It reads, in big capital letters: APRIL FOOLS!
Buck gulps, looking to Eddie for answers. “Wha--I don’t, I don’t get it.”
Athena scoffs. “Nobody expects you to get it, Buck.” Beside her, Bobby chuckles.
Eddie shrugs. “I mean, c’mon Evan, did ya’ really think any of this was real?”
Buck shakes his head. “No, that’s not--me and you, we’re--”
“We’re nothing .”
Hen laughs. “Buck, look at Eddie, why would he settle for you?”
“No.” Buck’s breath quickens. This isn’t happening. This isn’t real. Not again.
What was once a headache has now turned into a full blown migraine.
“Please, I don’t--” he can’t see straight. He wants to run but his legs are cemented in place, his hands are shaking so bad his car keys fall on the floor with a clatter.
He drops to his knees without warning, gasping for air. “ Please .”
“Buck?” Eddie’s face comes into view. Why does he sound so concerned? “Buck! Buck, I’m here. Hold on.”
None of this makes sense. “What?”
Hen walks over and rests a hand on his shoulder. “We’re almost there Buckaroo, just hold on. You got this.”
Next to her, Chimney nods. “You’re gonna’ be ok bud.”
“Buck, just hold on!”
Buck is surrounded by fallen debri on all sides. He’s crouched protectively over Christopher’s small form, trying to keep him from breathing in all the dust.
Tiny fingers brush against his cheek. “We’re gonna’ be ok.” Christopher assures him. “Daddy’s here.”
Buck nods absently, he's been out of it for too long; he wishes he could string an actual sentence together but his brain is mush, a throbbing piece of mush. His throat hurts, his back hurts, his limbs hurt--everything hurts, parts still unknown to Buck hurt so much he just wants to curl up and pass out.
But he can’t do that, he can’t check out again. He has to make sure Christopher gets out of this safe. Just a little longer, he has to stay strong, he tells himself.
There’s a horrible jarring noise from behind him and then a too bright light shining down directly into his vision, making the pounding in his skull that much more unbearable.
There’s so much commotion after that that Buck can’t keep up.
There are arms pulling at him and Eddie’s there picking Christopher up and crying between bouts of thanking god they’re both alive and in one piece.
Hen is saying something too but Buck can’t be bothered to listen---abruptly, blessedly, everything goes dark.
Buck sits up with a start, gasping. “Christopher! Where--where is he?!” he’s in a hospital room, but he can’t remember how he got here--the last thing he remembers is being in the back of the arcade with Christopher and calling Eddie for help.
“Hey, hey, everything’s ok, you gotta’ calm down.” Chim tries to get him to lay back down. “Christopher’s fine. He got off pretty much unscathed, except for a few bruises. You don’t remember the rescue op?”
Buck shakes his head, then realizes something. “I can hear again.” he goes to touch his ears, only to come into contact with square gauze patches taped over them.
“Yeah, you said that on the scene when we came to dig you two out of the building after that second explosion.” Chim explains. “You threw yourself over Christopher when it happened--you got a concussion, which makes sense, since you were pretty out of it by the time we were able to find you guys.
“The good news is that the ear damage wasn’t permanent; it should heal fine within the next couple of days. The concussion isn’t too severe, thankfully. Now for the bad news: you broke your left shoulder blade, so you’re stuck wearing that sling for the next six weeks, at least.”
Buck must be high on whatever pain meds they’re pumping in through the IV because he doesn’t feel a thing. “They ever figure out what happened?”
“At first we thought it had to be an attack, we figured multiple bombs set on a timer, but it turns out both explosions were caused by out of date faulty equipment getting overheated because the damn park owner didn’t wanna’ shell out to get new parts--one explosion caused the other, kinda like a domino effect. No fatalities, thank god, but a lot of pissed off injured people--some pretty severely.”
Buck remembers bits and pieces but nothing concrete. Just fleeting moments. Choking on dust, calling out for help, the crushing weight on his back, aching muscles, and Christopher’s frightened face underneath him.
“Can I see him?”
“Who, Christopher? Yeah, of course. Everyone’s downstairs at the cafeteria. We’ve been taking turns on watch duty. I’ll call ‘em now.”
Buck blinks, confused; everyone ?
Chim, cell in hand, pauses. “Um, sorry, I’m sure you don’t want everyone crowding you right now. I’ll just have Eddie come up with Christopher and the twins, if that’s ok?”
“My kids are here?”
“Bobby was too worried to stay at your place.”
Buck sighs. At some point Bobby had been listed as his emergency contact--and each time he’d needed him, the man had shown up without fail. The fact that he’s here now makes Buck want to cry. “Oh. Ok.”
“Listen, Buck, I know you don’t want to hear it, but I am--and always will be--really freaking sorry for what we did to you that day. The word ‘brainless’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. And even before that I was a complete dick. Even if the lawsuit hadn’t been a front for anything you’re family, man; you didn’t deserve that shit.”
Buck frowns. “No, I didn’t. But thank you for the apology.” He’s not just going to forgive him and let bygones be bygones--maybe old Buck would have, but not the person he is now, he can’t.
Chim excuses himself out when Eddie walks into the room, wheeling a tired looking Christopher inside.
“Christopher!” Buck reaches out for him, “Are you ok?”
Christopher nods, smiling. “You kept me safe.”
“We kept each other safe; you were really helpful back there, Superman.” Buck grins, beyond happy to see the kid.
Bobby comes in holding the twins, a couple of minutes later. “Sorry, I know you don’t want to see me right now, but Eddie needed both his hands and I forgot to bring the stroller.” he explains sheepishly.
The girls squeal when they see their dad.
Buck shakes his head. “It’s ok.”
Bobby removes the twins from their carseats and gently places both babies on his right side so as not to disturb Buck’s bad shoulder. “I’m glad you’re going to be alright.”
“Yeah, uh, thank you, for taking care of them for me.”
“Anytime.” Bobby replies automatically.
“I’m fine now, so you don’t have to stay.”
Bobby’s face falls. “Of course.” he goes to reach out for a split second but thinks better of it. “Feel better Buck.” He knew this was a possibility, but it still stings to be dismissed.
Once he’s gone Eddie steps up to Buck’s bedside. “Thank you, for keeping Christopher safe. If you need anything---anything at all, you just let me know.”
Buck is finding it very hard to look Eddie in the eye; not after his stupid concussed brain apparently decided to imagine an entire future scenerio in which they’re happily wed in sweet domestic bliss.
“You know you don’t have to thank me for that, but I’ll um, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Good.” Eddie stands there awkwardly for a moment. “I’m sure you want to get some rest, we should get goin--”
“I don’t wanna’ leave.” Christopher insists, grabbing onto the sheets on Buck’s bed.
Buck looks up. “Would it be ok? If he stayed for tonight? There’s plenty of room on my bed. You could stay, too, of course.” he nods to the couch by the windowsill.
Eddie’s pretty good at saying no to his kid---he’s got years of practice. The person he can’t say no to at the moment is Buck, who’s staring at him with those ridiculously doey hopeful eyes of his. “Yeah, that’s fine.” he concedes, smiling when Christopher cheers.
"Thanks. There's a daycare downstairs, if you could do me the favor of dropping the girls off?" He's not getting discharged until tomorrow sometime in the afternoon and he'd rather the twins not stay in the ER tonight. "Also my arm's gone numb."
Olive and Riley are both sound asleep on top of him, and though endearing, it’s also uncomfortable, since he’s pretty sure he’s bruised to high hell on nearly the entire surface area of his body.
“Absolutely, here,” Eddie carefully picks up each child in one arm, miraculously not waking either up, and straps them into their carseats. Once they're secured he picks Christopher up and lays him down next to Buck.
Buck tucks the blanket around Christopher and pulls him in. "Thank you."
Eddie nods, already picking up the carseats. "I'll be right back, be good."
Buck watches him go with a mixture of sadness and longing.
The whole thing feels a lot like his dumb concussion fantasy---except that they’re not actually one big happy family---and that….that really sucks.
It turns out that only having use of one arm, while everything else aches terribly, is not ideal for taking care of six month old twins by oneself.
Maddie volunteers to house the three of them until he can use his left arm again, but the idea is quickly dismissed, on a count of the fact that she works very odd hours and would rarely be home to help Buck.
Eddie's house is the best option, because even when he's not around Carla will be. Buck isn't exactly happy about the development but he's not ungrateful either; he's fully aware of his lack of options. Plus, this accommodation just means he gets to see Christopher more.
"Sorry, I know the guestroom is kinda small." Eddie apologizes, as sets up the playpen, stacking a mattress over it for when the girls are ready to sleep later. He wouldn't have minded bringing in the two cribs instead, if they had fit, but his apartment isn't that big, unfortunately.
Buck waves it off. "They usually prefer to fall asleep in there anyway."
"Christopher used to do that all the time when he was a toddler. The minute I set him down in his actual bed he'd freak out and wake up the whole neighborhood." Eddie recalls in exasperated fondness.
Buck smiles. "That's rough. Um, hey listen, I just wanted to say thanks for all this. You really didn't have to."
"You uh, you really don't have to thank me. I'm not doing this out of just the kindness of my heart, Buck. I know you hate me, but I've missed you so fucking much it's driving me crazy." Eddie confesses, making that sad puppy dog face Buck is all too familiar with.
"I don't hate you Eddie." Buck sits precariously on the edge of the bed and looks him right in the eye. "You think I enjoy being mad at you? You're my best friend , what I hate is that everytime I look at you--any of you--all I can picture is that stupid banner, mocking me. It’s been a year and I’m still hurt and angry as hell, and a part of me wishes I could just accept all of your apologies and let it go and just move on already, because of course I miss you-- us . But doing that would make me feel stupider than I already am.”
“You’re not stupid.”
Buck scoffs, rolling his eyes. “You don’t have to do that. I know I’m not exactly the brightest bulb in the bunch.”
Eddie frowns, "Buck," his steps are slow and measured, as though he's waiting for the younger man to tell him to stop any moment now. But Buck doesn't say anything. Finally, Eddie sits down next to him, only inches away. "If you were a lightbulb, there's no way I wouldn't choose you to brighten up my life."
Buck lets out a startled laugh he doesn't mean to. "I forgot how cheesy you are." He looks at Eddie and sighs profoundly. "Forgot how easy it is… being able to just talk to you, I mean."
Eddie turns fully so they're face to face. "I know I'm being selfish but I need you in my life, Evan. I know I've said it before and I know it doesn't mean shit to you, but I am so fucking sorry for what we did--for my part in everything--I keep trying to think of ways I can make it up to you, what I could say, what I could do, but nothing's good enough. I fucked up and I lost you and I don't know how to make this better. Please tell me how I can make this better."
"I want to forgive you, Eddie. But I don't know if there's anything you or anyone else can do to fix this."
Eddie grimaces, ashamed. "I'm sorry, I feel like I'm pressuring you into this. You don't have to forgive me or anyone, ever, if you don't want to. What we did, how we made you feel--not just that day, but for months before that--was awful.
"Remember at the hospital, when you told us we hadn't bothered considering your feelings? You were right. When we planned that idiotic prank we were only thinking about making ourselves feel better after the way we'd wronged you.
"We were going for playfully mean and Buck, we missed that by at least a goddamn mile. You don't know how many nights I lay awake wondering why the fuck I didn't follow you out when you left." Eddie shakes his head.
"We were gonna flip the stupid banner around and it was gonna read: thanks for taking one for the team, we love you. But that's when," he gulps, "that's when you started crying and we all realized our mistake. By then it was too late."
Buck makes a face. "The more I find out the more I'm convinced Chim's dumb theory he mentioned over dinner a couple of years back--you know, the one about the team sharing one brain cell?--is actually true."
Eddie fights back a smile. "Actually. It's two. And yeah. Me too."
Buck clears his throat. "I'm not being pressured or anything, by the way. I really do want to forgive you. All of you. Eventually. I just need some time."
“Yeah, of course, whatever you need. I get that.”
Christopher’s at school for another four hours and the girls are with Maddie and Athena at the mall for a while still. So they have time enough to move Buck’s things into the guest bedroom he and the twins will be occupying for the next few weeks. Or rather, so Eddie has enough time--seeing as he’s refusing to let Buck lift a single injured finger to help.
Eddie coughs. “Alright, well, I should go bring in the rest of your stuff from the hall, do you need anything from the kitchen? Something to drink maybe?”
Buck’s not really sure when they got so close--physically, that is--during their conversation. Their thighs are pressed together and their faces aren’t far enough apart and Eddie is so warm. It reminds Buck of that same little thrill that would shoot up his spine whenever they were hanging out and their shoulders just so happened to brush.
Buck almost leans in, every muscle in his body is telling him to do it. He stops himself at the last possible second, though, “Um, no, I’m good.” he plucks a loose string from the neck of Eddie’s pullover. “Sorry, you had a thing, uh, on your sweater.” Buck excuses, showing him the little string as he pulls back.
Eddie nods, face flushed. “Thanks. I’m gonna’--I’ll uh, go get the stuff. To bring them here. To this room.”
As soon as Eddie’s practically run out of the room, Buck groans into the palm of his hand. He’s such an idiot.
Living with Eddie and Christopher is not strange or even awkward the way Buck thought it might be. It’s comfortable and familiar in a way it probably shouldn’t be.
It’s easy, and they quickly fall into a routine.
Buck being injured means he can’t go into work for at least four weeks while he heals; not that he minds too much. Although admittedly, with Eddie at work, Christopher at school, and the babies in daycare, he’s left to suffer daytime tv all by himself since his first few days at the Diaz household consist mostly of bed rest unless he has to get up to go to the restroom.
Eventually though Buck feels good enough to move about. This means a lot of pinterest cooking projects are brought to life--much to Christopher’s amusement, and Eddie’s subsequent horror. Buck doesn’t think his creations are that bad, but then again, he also refuses to try any of them, using a very willing Eddie as his guinea pig when it comes to tasting, instead.
Most days though, if he’s not too sore, Buck does make actually edible lunch or dinner for the Diaz family. Eddie insists he doesn’t have to, but Buck insists otherwise. Eddie has been amazing, helping him in his recovery, especially with the twins; a home cooked meal is the least he can do to show his appreciation.
Two weeks into his stay Christopher catches a cold and has to stay home from school. Thankfully Carla is free--Buck would happily watch Christopher on his own, but one handed and bruised to high hell, he knows helping a sick Christopher to and from the bathroom isn’t going to be an easy task.
Somehow Christopher ends up in the guestroom with Buck, tucked up against his side, while they wait for Carla to make some nice hot soup.
Buck gently rubs his back up and down with his good hand. The poor kid is congested and achy and miserable. “Bucky?”
“Are you still mad at my dad?”
Buck gulps. He’s not sure how to answer that question. “Um, it’s complicated.” He’s not exactly angry--not anymore--hurt perhaps is a better way to put it.
“Daddy said he messed up and that’s why you left for so long.”
Buck nods slightly, “Sort of. I was upset and...and hurting. So I ran away. Which I realize now probably wasn’t the best way to deal with everything.”
Christopher sits up a little and looks up at him, his glasses tilted at the bridge of his nose. “I missed you a lot.”
“I missed you too, Superman.” Buck squeezes him closer.
Christopher wraps an arm over his stomach and buries his head into Buck’s chest. In a voice so tiny Buck’s not quite sure he hears him right, he says, “Thought you wouldn’t wanna’ hang out with me anymore.”
Buck blinks, surprised. “Wha--why would you think that?”
Christopher sniffles, his small shoulders shaking. “You came back with the babies. I thought you wouldn’t wanna’ play with me anymore ‘cause you got a new family.” he admits.
Buck feels his whole heart shatter to pieces. “Christopher, baby, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong. No matter where I am or how many kids I have, I will never ever stop loving you. I missed you like crazy this past year. And I’m so sorry for leaving you like that. No matter what was going on between me and your dad I should have kept in contact with you somehow.” Buck holds him tight. “Christopher I love you so so much, that’s never gonna’ change.”
Christopher looks up again, teary eyed. “Really?”
Buck nods with all the conviction he’s got. “I promise.”
From the doorway, Carla clears her throat. She’s holding a tray with two bowls of soup and some bread. “Not to interrupt this lovely family moment, but the soup's getting cold.” she smiles warmly at the pair.
Later that night, when the kids are all asleep, and Buck is leaning against the kitchen counter helping put away the dishes as Eddie washes and dries them, he asks Eddie exactly what it is he told Christopher when he left.
Eddie is clearly startled by the question. “Well, uh, I just told him the truth, really. That I--we, the team--had fucked up--not in those exact words,” he says, when Buck gives him a look. “And that was why you left. Kid gave me the silent treatment for a whole week after I explained everything.”
Buck sighs. “I shouldn’t have left him like that. I owed him more than that.”
“He knows you didn’t leave because of him.” Eddie reassures him. “I made sure he knew that.”
“Still, I should have tried harder to be there, but I was so depressed and ansty and then the twins came along out of literally nowhere and I was so caught up in everything--” Buck sighs again, looking down at his feet. “I stalked you on facebook for updates on Christopher but you seriously suck at using social media, just FYI.”
Eddie cracks a smile. “Sorry for my lack of tech savviness.”
Buck smiles too. “You’re pardoned. For now.”
“‘Pardoned’? Oof, didn’t realize I was talking to the Queen of England.” Eddie very gently, playfully shoves him, well aware of all of his injuries.
Buck shoves him right back, grinning. “Well now you know, so watch it.”
Buck frowns. “Hi. What are you doing here?”
“Well, I know Eddie’s busy, and Carla’s off today, I thought you might need help.” Bobby says, standing awkwardly at the door.
Buck shakes his head. “Christopher’s at school on a field trip until five and Eddie took the minivan today so he could drop Olive and Riley off at Maddie’s--who’s out with Hen and Chim at some Wiggles event. So uh, yeah, I’m all good here, but thanks for checking in.”
“Did you take your pain killers this morning?”
The answer is no.
It is way harder to open a pill bottle with only one available arm, than he thought, and he forgot to ask his pharmacy to fill his script with the caps that easily snap off. But he’s not going to admit that.
Not to Bobby, at least.
It’s only been three weeks since he got out of the hospital and his shoulder--not to mention the rest of him--is still sore as all hell. But Buck is nothing if not stubborn; he’ll wait for Eddie to get home, thank you very much.
“Of course I did.”
Bobby gives him a very skeptical look but doesn’t contradict the statement. He holds up a hefty paper bag instead. “How about I join you for lunch then?”
“Are you...bribing me? With food?”
Bobby sighs. “That depends. Is it working?”
Buck leans against the doorframe. “What’d ya’ bring?”
“Bon chon.” Bobby knows how much Buck used to love their soy garlic wings with the spicy mayo.
“In that case, you can come in.” Buck leads them into the kitchen, where he sits down near the counter with a huff. “Plates are in the third cupboard.”
“Thanks.” Bobby takes down a couple of plates and two cups--filling them with soda from the fridge.
They eat from across each other quietly. Bobby’s so used to Buck being the life of a conversation that the silence on his part is unnerving.
“I know you’re still upset--” he starts.
“Good.” Buck interrupts, not even looking up from his plate.
But Bobby plows on. “And I am aware that more than anyone on the team, I messed up. I’m supposed to be Captain of this team and lead by example; it’s partly my fault they kept their grudges up for so long after the lawsuit, Buck. I let my worry over you returning to work before I thought you were ready cloud my vision, I turned into this overbearing monster, thinking that if I made you odd man out you’d come to your senses--but I’m the one who needed to come to my senses Buck.
“You have to know, when the team found out the lawsuit had been bogus the whole time--don’t get me wrong, I was proud of you for doing what you did for the team, but I was still worried that having you out there on the field with us would be your undoing.
"Honestly, it was never about that stupid lawsuit, I couldn’t give a damn about that. This was about you, about keeping you safe and out of harms’ way.”
Bobby takes a deep breath and tenses up. What he’s about to say next is not going to be easy. “Buck, I knew that prank they were planning was cruel, and I knew it would hurt you just enough that maybe you’d finally get your head on straight and realize you didn’t belong with us at the 118 anymore.”
Buck stops eating.
He thinks he might throw up. “W-what? You um, you knew?" He stutters out. "You let them go through with it, knowing it would hurt me?”
Bobby can’t even look at him. “I did. I knew it was a stupid prank, I knew it would backfire, but when they asked me what I thought I didn’t say any of that, I told them I thought you would think it was hilarious, that it was your kind of prank.”
Buck should have known. Chim and Eddie--much like himself--can sometimes be immature and thoughtless when it comes to these things--and Hen, she can sometimes get dragged right into things if the Captain approves of an idea. But Bobby? Of course Bobby would have thought things through and realized the prank was a no go.
Bobby had actually considered his feelings and then gone through with it specifically because he knew it would hurt Buck.
It had been his intention all along.
"I didn't mean for it to go so far, Buck. The moment you left I knew. I knew I'd been dead wrong the whole time, that I was so scared of losing you I pushed you away before that could happen, that--"
"Stop, just stop." Buck gets up. "I don't wanna hear anymore. Get out."
"Please what? Bobby how could you? I--I trusted you, more than anyone in my life I trusted you because I thought you wanted what's best for me and because I thought you cared about me!" He yells.
"Buck I do! Why can't you see that? I went about it the wrong way. I never should have hurt you like that, but look at you now! You have a family and a good, safe job. It worked out!" Bobby yells right back.
"Uh, congrats, I guess? Your plan worked out, that doesn't make this better, Bobby! You know what, this is my own fault for putting you on a pedestal all this time, I should have known better."
"You can't-- don't call me that." Buck's throat is tight. He doesn't want to cry in front of Bobby. "Just go!"
"Buck. Please ." Bobby begs.
"Leave! I'm serious, get the fuck out!" Buck winces, his shoulder moving awkwardly in his anger.
"Buck, just let me--" Bobby reaches out to help, freezing up when Buck actually finches away from his touch. It's only at that moment that Bobby gives in. "I--I'm going. I'm sorry." He's not even sure what he's apologizing for anymore--but he does know he’s got a lot to be sorry about.
Bobby leaves quietly, the door barely makes a sound when he closes it behind him.
The throbbing in his shoulder gets worse after Bobby finally departs. But Buck can’t be bothered to deal with it. He’s so fucking angry. But more than that, despondent.
He’s always (perhaps not so subtly) looked up to Captain Nash--as a father figure of sorts, seeing that ultimately, he had to make due without. And now...now what? He had only just begun to make peace with the fact that none of the 118 had gone through with the prank out of some kind of malicious intent.
In the back of his mind Buck had already decided to forgive everyone--in time. He misses his family, so bad. Most of all Bobby--if he’s being entirely honest with himself.
The door opens, and Buck swivels around, ready to tell Bobby not to bother, but it’s Eddie at the entryway instead.
“What are you doing home so early?” It’s only half past noon; Eddie’s not supposed to be back until after four, with the kids.
Eddie presses his lips together in concern. “Bobby called. He said you two had it out? Are you okay?”
Buck nods, swallowing hard. “Yeah. I uh, I’m good.”
“I would buy that more if you didn’t look like someone just shot your dog.” Eddie sits down on the couch next to him.
“I’m fine.” he tries again, adamantly.
“Do you wanna’ tell me what happened?”
Buck shakes his head. He’s sure if he said anything Eddie would be furious with Bobby--and that’s not what Buck wants, to create a rift between the team and their Captain. “I’d rather not.”
“Ok, do you want to watch some really bad daytime telenovelas?”
“Can we watch the one with that crazy lady?”
Eddie grins. “Very specific.” but he knows exactly the one he’s talking about. “Maria La Del Barrio it is.” he turns the tv on and finds an old episode on his DVR.
Buck has been picking up a surprising amount of spanish from the soaps in the last couple of weeks, Eddie’s noticed--though he’s not entirely sure if that’s a good thing. The other day Buck stubbed his toe and yelled out “Maldita mesa!” and Eddie nearly had an infarction because he couldn’t stop laughing so hard.
Buck must be feeling terrible, because only a few minutes into the episode he puts his head on Eddie’s shoulder without uttering a word. Buck has always been a very tactile person--most especially when something is upsetting him.
Eddie doesn’t try to push him into telling him what’s wrong. He stays perfectly still under Buck’s weight, relieved that he’s seeking comfort in him again, refusing to move, just in case it breaks the spell.
It’s not until nearly the end of the telenovela that Eddie hears Buck’s breath hitch.
“Buck?” he looks down.
Buck buries his face further into Eddie’s shoulder, hiding. “Sorry.” he mumbles, voice cracking. “S’been a long day.”
Eddie holds Buck close. “Let it out, it’s gonna’ be ok.” he says, even though he doesn’t know for sure if that’s true, given that he has no idea why Buck is crying in the first place.
A while later Buck sits up with a wince, his face blotchy red from crying so much.
“Wait here, I’ll get your pain meds.”
Eddie comes back with a tall glass of water and two pills. “You forgot to take these in the morning, didn’t ya?”
Buck coughs. “More like, couldn’t open the cap with one hand…”
“ Shit , you’re right, I totally forgot. I’m sorry, I was in such a rush this morning I didn’t even--”
“Hey, breathe, it’s fine, Eddie. I’d forget too if I was suddenly taking care of three kids and my insanely attractive ex-co-worker.”
Eddie relaxes, laughing. “‘Insanely attractive’ huh? Where?”
Buck holds a hand up to his chest in fake indignance. “I’m a whole snack Eddie--a group of nurses at the hospital said so at my last checkup.”
“I’m pretty sure I heard them call me ‘an entire damn meal’ so.” he shrugs cockily, grinning broadly.
Buck squawks. “They did not. You’re making that up.”
Buck rolls his eyes, trying to hold back a smile. "Shaddup."
Eddie sticks his tongue out. "Make me."
Buck pauses, staring at the line between Eddie’s lips. The thought is tantalizing, to just lean in those last few inches between them.
But he doesn’t.
Instead he ducks his head and clears his throat. “Thanks for...you know.”
Eddie nods. “Anytime.” he places a hand on Buck’s knee, “I mean that, by the way. It’s not just me trying to make it up to you or anything like that--I mean, it is, but also, I always want to be there for you. No matter what. You’re--” he stops, pursing his lips. He’s never been good at properly expressing his feelings. “You are so important to me. You have no idea.”
Buck looks down, nervously fiddling with a loose string on his hoodie. “You mean that?”
Eddie wipes his sweaty palms across his pants. “Buck, I’m…”
“What?” Buck asks, when the silence stretches on for far too long.
“I love you.”
Buck blinks, tilting his head in confusion. “Well, yeah. I love you too. You and Christopher. I never stopped, just because I left.”
Eddie shakes his head vehemently. “Buck, no, listen, I ... I am in love with you . I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want you and me and Christopher and Olive and Riley to be a family . I am so stupid in love with you. I have been for longer than I care to admit, if I’m being completely honest, and it took you walking out of my life for me to finally realize it and I’m so fucking sorry for that. Buck, I love you. I always have. I always will.”
Eddie sighs. “I’m sorry, I know I’m springing this up on you out of nowhere and I absolutely don’t expect you to even respond, not after what I--”
Buck cuts him off with an incredibly soft kiss. It’s so gentle and so brief Eddie thinks for a moment that he’s imagined the moment, because as soon as it occurs it’s over.
“Sorry.” Buck stares at him, wide eyed. “I didn’t know how else to stop the spiraling.”
Eddie looks crestfallen. “Oh.”
“No, that’s not--Eddie, I’m sorry. I still need time. If this had been a year ago--but not now, I can’t. I just…” Buck turns away. “I just need time. I’m sorry.”
Eddie shakes his head again. “Buck, you don’t need to apologize. You already told me that you needed time, and I’m the one being a dumbass and trying to rush you. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I didn’t mean to let all that out. I’m always going to be here for you, no matter what. That’s all I meant to say.”
Buck’s heart is going a mile a seconds in his chest cavity. In reality he wants to follow his heart and damn the past to hell. He so badly wants to take Eddie’s face in his hands and pull him in and kiss him senseless and soundless, and god, he wants to tell him how madly in love with him he is--has always been.
Instead Buck takes Eddie’s hand in his and squeezes gently. “Thank you.”
Neither of them mention how Buck’s voice cracks on those two words.
He just needs time .
Time heals all wounds.
Isn’t that the saying?
thank u for reading. after working on other works/prompts in my queue i will get around to writing a part two to resolve a lot of the open endedness on this fic that will hopefully not just satisfy me but also all of u loyal readers out there :)
thank you !