Hen is maybe a little distracted by a text she’d gotten from Karen on the way over, when the 118 reach the call that had interrupted Thursday’s lunch. It seems like a pretty mild accident, all things considered--one person, swerved off the freeway trying to avoid hitting trash and rammed into the side of a hill. He can talk, hasn’t lost feeling or movement; the scene is secured and surveyed. Hen can’t really help him out until Buck and Eddie get him out of his squashed car, so she’s standing back with Chimney. Physically, Hen is ready to rush forward and examine the guy. Mentally, she’s on the fifth rewrite of the reply text she’s composing.
That’s why Chimney has to nudge her a few times before she notices exactly what is happening in the scene before her.
Buck has managed to saw open the roof of the car, and Eddie’s just gotten it pried open so that Buck can help the guy out of the car. Except that the guy is just standing there, sticking out of the hole in the roof, one hand holding Buck’s, the other cupping his face.
“Evan?” he’s saying, a little breathlessly. Somehow, Hen doesn’t think it’s because of the crash.
Chim agrees with her, leaning in to mutter, “Guess he’s not injured.”
“Oh, he’s been shot by something.” Hen’s eyes flicker to where Eddie is standing back, still holding onto the jaws, grip so tight she could see the whites of his knuckles from sixty feet away. She can see the tension in his jaw, too. “And he’s not the only one.”
Eddie’s been a bit of a short fuse lately, when it comes to Buck. The littlest things about the younger LAFD member seem to set him off. The sinking feeling in her stomach tells Hen this is not going to go well.
Buck manages to get the guy out of the car, ushers him over to Hen and Chimney, who moves to meet them.
“I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe it’s you. I thought we’d never see each other again after--how long have you been in LA? I thought your family was from the East coast?”
“Uh.” Buck clears his throat, avoids the amusement in his teammates’ gazes. “Tucker, this is Hen and Chimney. They’re gonna check you out for injuries.”
“Evan, I’m fine.” The guy--Tucker--doesn’t protest basically being handed off to Chimney, although his eyes never leave Buck’s very red face. It makes it kind of hard to check his vision. “You made sure of that.”
“Uh, no,” Buck shakes his head. “Your airbags took care of keeping you safe, and Eddie did the hard work actually opening the roof of your car. It’s just coincidence that I’m here.”
“Coincidence, or fate?”
Chimney snorts, rolls his eyes. “Alright, pal, I need you to turn those moony eyes over here to me so I can make sure you’re not brain-damaged.”
“He thinks Buck is a hero,” Eddie calls from where he and Bobby have started cleaning up their equipment. “Make sure you check him good.”
Hen doesn’t miss the way Buck flinches slightly.
“Buck is a hero,” Tucker says, adamant. “Not just now. He saved my life before, you know. I almost drowned, and he rescued me.”
“When was this?”
“He was a bartender--”
“Tuck, that’s enough.” Buck’s voice is the firmest Hen has heard it in a long time. He certainly hasn’t had the nerve to talk to Bobby or Eddie like that recently. “They don’t care about all that. It was a long time ago.”
“Not so long--” Tucker protests, trying to pull away from Chimney to go after Buck when he takes a few steps back.
“I think he told you to let it go.” Eddie is there before Hen’s even noticed he left the Captain’s side, getting physically between Buck and Tucker.
For a beat, everyone is still in surprise. Tucker’s eyes flicker between Eddie and Buck--something Hen only notices because hers are doing the same, and catch his briefly.
It’s the first time Eddie has acknowledged Buck outside of working together in a way that wasn’t hostile. Well, Hen amends, hostile towards Buck. She's so stunned it takes her a few seconds before she finds her voice.
“Hey, I think we all just need to calm down. And you, Tucker,” she catches his eyes again, “You need to let my partner and I examine you. You and Buck can catch up later, when he’s off-duty.”
Her words seem to do the trick. Eddie takes a breath, cuts a glare at Buck, storms back towards the fire truck without another word. The situation defuses from there. Tucker, with shoulders slumped, allows Chimney to finish what he’s supposed to be doing.
Buck doesn’t even glance his way again before he’s bolting after Eddie.
The call finishes quickly after that. Buck and Eddie appear from behind the fire truck, Buck looking more like a kicked puppy than ever, Eddie refusing to look at anyone. Once Tucker is packed up for the hospital, they load up their truck. The ride back is silent, and as soon as they reach the station, Buck disappears upstairs. Not even Bobby wants to stop him.
Once they’ve gone through the post-call routine, the team loiters downstairs. Nobody wants to go upstairs and face Buck. For Hen, at least, it’s because she’s not sure how. She finally texts Karen back--those words seem easier now.
After a few pointed glances her direction from Chimney and Bobby, she finally snaps.
“Well.” Chimney shuffles his feet. “Don’t you think you should go...talk to him?”
“Because...you’re, you know,” Chim gestures at her, “and that guy was Buck’s...ex, or something? And I don’t really know how to talk to him about that.”
“Oh, and I do?”
“Well, you probably have a better idea than the Captain or I do. Or do you want Eddie to go talk to him again?” That last part, Chimney says more quietly, leaning in, his eyebrows jerking towards where the aforementioned Eddie is standing, arms crossed and jaw tight, staring blankly at the fire pole.
It’s probably not a good idea to let Eddie near Buck again, like that. Hen sighs.
“Fine. I’ll do it. But for the record, this is not going to be a thing, and you owe me. I’m not sure what, yet, but you do.” She points at Chimney, and Bobby for good measure, as she stands and moves towards the stairs.
Hen takes them two at a time, but pauses at the top at the sight of Buck on the couch, hunched over and staring at folded hands. He doesn’t look up at her when she approaches him.
She sits down next to Buck, nudging his boot with hers. It gets him to glance up at her, briefly, before going back to staring down at his hands, brow furrowed.
Hen’s still not sure how to start, settles on, “So you and this Tucker guy…”
“We had a thing. A long time ago.”
So Buck had said before, Hen remembers.
“And here I thought you were just a skirt-chaser.” Hen aims for teasing, doesn’t get so much as a twitch at the corners of Buck’s lips. Instead, he curls in on himself slightly, shoulders hunching.
“I told myself when I became a firefighter than I couldn’t hook up with guys anymore. There might have been some over-compensating.” His voice is dry. Sahara dry. Thought about his words too long and can’t make his voice work dry. Hen studies the side of his face.
“Why would you think that? I mean, I get it at first, before you actually started here, but Buck… You know me. I’m a married lesbian. You can’t have thought…”
“Key word is lesbian.” Buck licks his lips, does look at her then. “You’re one thing, Hen. Not to be reductive or anything…” Hen’s eyebrows raise, always a little impressed when Buck sounds smart, “But you’re gay. Attracted to women. End of story. And that’s a lot easier for people to accept than saying you like both.”
Hen’s mouth falls open slightly, her mind scrambling for an argument, but the thing is, she knows Buck is right.
“When you’re bi,” Buck continues, blinking rapidly the way he does when he’s feeling particularly emotional, “when you’re bi, it’s like neither side wants you. You don’t fit in anywhere. You get labeled as disloyal, greedy, slutty, stupid, a mess…”
Hen feels a pang of guilt watching Buck tick each word off on his fingers. She thinks of her ex. Eva is bisexual, and Buck is echoing doubts Hen had had herself, during their relationship. Hen knows now, of course, that it’s the person, not the sexuality, but she couldn’t deny she’d entertained those stereotypes.
Hell, she’d entertained them about Buck, and Hen had known she was being unfair to him even before she knew he was bisexual.
“And then there’s, you know, once I felt like I could, it was like… Everyone already thought I was straight, and they already thought all those things about me. Coming out as bi would have just been… I dunno, proving the negative hype.” As if he’s ashamed, Buck drops his gaze again. Hen sighs, looks down at her own hands. At her wedding ring.
“So you kept quiet.”
“So I kept quiet.”
“And then Eddie came along.” Hen looks at Buck again, expression carefully neutral.
“What? No! Hen, focus. This has nothing to do with Eddie.” Buck is back to looking at her, scowling this time. Hen wants to say that actually, she thinks there’s a lot to do with Eddie here, but maybe the time isn’t right. Maybe that’s a mess she doesn’t actually want to get involved in. She presses her lips together. Buck continues. “I just don’t want even more jokes at my expense, you know? I know you guys do it out of love, but it stings sometimes. Especially right now, when things still aren’t a hundred percent with us.”
“I’m sorry, Buck. I promise you, I’ve got your back on this.”
There’s not really anything else Hen can think to say, and it sounds so inefficient. It does get her a smile, though. Small, barely there, but a genuine Buckley grin.
As Hen grins back, she realizes just how much she’d missed them. The worst part is, it doesn’t last.
“Do, uh, do people hate me again?” The grin falls as he says it, Buck’s expression reverting back to apprehensive.
Hen sighs. “Nobody hates you, Buck. You just got involuntarily outed, I think they all just want to give you some space.”
Buck makes a noise that’s almost a chuckle. “Man, I hate it when they do that.”
“I know, kid.” Hen wraps her arm around his shoulders, ruffles his hair when he leans into her. “I know.”
In a little while, Bobby and Chimney will shuffle upstairs. Bobby will instruct the three of them to clean up while he gets dinner started. Eventually, Eddie will join them, still sullen and silent but sitting next to Buck for the first time in weeks. In that moment, though, it’s just Hen and Buck, and Hen thinking maybe she understands him a little bit better, now.