Months after being reinstated to the 118, Buck still feels like a goddamn pariah.
It’s made very clear he’s not welcome back to the team.
Buck tries to apologize for the lawsuit, he tries to explain his side of things, tell them how much this place means to him--how much they mean to him--but it’s all in vain. All of his attempts are met with more disdain and cold shoulders.
He even goes into Bobby’s office one day and asks to talk in private, but the Captain ignores him, only lifting his head from the paperwork on his desk to ask him to shut the door on his way out.
The message is clear: Evan Buckley is not wanted.
Discouraged, he decides to start keeping to himself. If he’s quiet and stops bothering the others they might eventually come around, he hopes.
He’s terribly alone after that--he can’t talk to anyone at the 118, Eddie won’t let him see Christopher, Athena glares at him anytime she stops by for a visit at the station, and Maddie has been so busy with work she never answers her phone anymore, and only rarely replies to his texts. Everything sucks.
The days pass by and he stops speaking completely, only nodding to orders barked at him on the field--he stops apologizing and trying to get back in good with the team. Buck simply works without complaint.
Even during an emergency.
They’re in the middle of treating a victim and the attacker gets loose from police custody for a few horrible moments, undoing his cuffs. He manages to slug Buck, who’s doing CPR on the woman he nearly killed, right in the face, knocking him back onto the ground, and Buck doesn’t make a sound.
“Buck, jesus, are you alright?” Bobby rushes towards him, extending a hand to help him get back up.
Buck just nods, wiping the blood from his mouth. It’s not that bad, the knuckles of his fist only grazed him, he’ll be fine.
Chim and Eddie take over helping the woman after that.
Bobby makes Hen check him over, and Buck doesn’t fool himself, thinking that it means he cares or anything--he’s the Captain, he has to make sure they’re ok when they’re on duty, he’s merely a responsibility.
It’s determined he doesn’t have a concussion, just a sore cheek and a split lip, which isn’t reason for concern, and that’s that.
Later that same night, while he’s sitting at home, with an ice cold beer on his cheek to soothe the ache, Buck finally gets a call from Maddie.
She sounds off, she blurts out an address and tells him she needs him, and quick, and then the line is dead.
Alarmed, Buck throws on a hoodie, grabs his keys from the counter and dashes to his car. He calls Maddie on his way there, but she doesn’t pick up. Her phone goes straight to voicemail, again and again, until Buck can feel his heart thundering in his chest erratically. Please be ok.
The address is a quaint house in the suburbs, with a nice red convertible parked in the driveway. He’s at the entrance when he sees someone scream bloody murder from inside. Buck doesn’t hesitate to kick down the door.
Buck rushes in and is shocked by the scene. There's a woman cowering in the corner of the living room, sobbing, and a man is hovering over his sister, who's on the floor, unmoving.
He turns around and charges at Buck like a maniac, yelling unintelligible obscenities.
Buck is able to hold his own, dodging blows and giving back as good as he gets, grappling with the man on the floor, and at last, subduing him into unconsciousness with a hard knock to the back of the skull.
His adrenaline is pumping and his breathing is labored as he crawls over to Maddies prone body. She's got a pulse, but it's weak and there's so much blood, too much blood, pooling under her head.
He dials 9-1-1 in a complete panic. He doesn't have Eddie or Chim or Hen here to help stabilize her, Bobby's not here to tell him what to do and what to prioritize. He's on his own.
The woman in the corner is no help; she's still crying hysterically, inconsolable.
Buck does what he can for Maddie, until the paramedics arrive, and then he lets them take over.
"Is that blood yours, sir?" One of them asks him, pointing to his midsection.
Buck looks down, numb and blinks at the red spreading down his abdomen. How had he not noticed that before? "Um, yeah?"
The paramedic carefully cuts his shirt down the middle to take a better look. He's been stabbed, which is new. He hadn't felt it happen, but it must have, during the scuffle, because there's a jagged slash across his stomach. It's deep.
He barely feels it when the paramedic puts pressure on the wound and tells him he's going to need stitches once they get to the hospital. "H-how's Maddie?" He asks, trying to stop the trembling.
"She's stable. We're taking you both to the ER, sir. You've lost a lot of blood. You might be in shock."
The emergency room is crowded and loud and too bright. Doctors surround him and Maddie and soon enough they're separated from one another, despite his protests.
It's not until hours later, after x rays and stitches and a blood transfusion that Buck is finally allowed to see Maddie again.
She's much too pale and she's hooked up to all of these machines and her head is wrapped in white gauze. The doctor calmly tells him that she suffered a very serious blow to her temporal lobe, and that in order to help with the swelling of the brain they had no choice but to put her into a medically induced coma.
Buck takes it all in, overwhelmed and terrified that she might never wake up, all because he hadn't been fast enough, not good enough.
Against medical advice, he checks out of the hospital and sits at Maddies bedside. He holds her hand, squeezes, willing her to open her eyes soon. He doesn't know what he would do without her. Doesn't want to imagine a life without his big sister in the world.
It's nearly five in the morning, no change or improvement in her condition, when Buck remembers he has work in less than two hours. He takes his phone out and texts Bobby that he won't be able to come in today, that he's sorry.
He gets a reply nearly an hour later asking why he can't be bothered to show up to his shift. He texts back a vague: medical reasons. .
The response he gets is a curt: never stopped you before.
That stings but it's not like he hadn't been expecting the attitude. He puts his phone away and lays his head down next to Maddies shoulder. He's so fucking tired.
“Where’s Buck?” Eddie wonders out loud, when the blonde is nowhere to be seen.
Bobby sighs. “He called out this morning. It was so last minute I couldn’t even get anyone to cover for him, so we’re stuck one man down today.”
Chim scoffs. “Great.”
“Why’d he call out?” Eddie asks.
“Didn’t really explain. He said medical reasons? I assume it’s got something to do with that guy who pushed him down yesterday. He seemed fine though, so.” Bobby shrugs haplessly.
Hen rolls her eyes. “Can’t believe he called out for that.”
Eddie purses his lips. “Buck never calls out, though…”
Chimney can’t disagree. “And you know what’s weird? Yesterday when that guy came swinging at him I don’t think I heard Buck make any noise?”
Hen looks at him funny. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, that now that I think about it, when was the last time Buck tried to initiate a conversation with any of you?”
Eddie gulps. “I can’t. It feels like I haven’t even heard his voice in weeks.”
Bobby realizes in dismay that it’s been almost a whole month since the youngest member of his crew came to talk to him directly. He’d walked into his office, head down, asking if they could please speak, and Bobby had told him in not so many words not to let the door hit him on his way out.
Hen starts to worry, concern churning in her gut.
Before any of them can say anymore Bobby gets a call from his wife. “Hey, what’s going on? Everything alright?”
“That’s what I should be asking you. How are the Buckleys?”
Bobby blinks. “What?” he puts her on speaker so the rest of the 118 can listen.
“Maddie and Buck? Look, I know Buck isn’t your favorite person right now, and I get that, but the kid is still family, Bobby, and after last night I think he really needs some support from the team.”
“Athena, what are you talking about? Something happened last night?”
“Lord, you don’t know. One of the rookies this morning told me about an arrest he made in Cherry Hill last night. Apparently Buck and Maddie were involved. He’s not really sure how, just knows that they were both taken to the hospital last night. Maddie’s in bad shape, Bobby.”
Eddie gawks. He knew something about Buck calling out so suddenly didn’t sit right with him. “What hospital?” he asks, urgently.
Athena gives them all the info she’s got and they’re off.
Buck has been sitting, crouched over Maddie’s bed for so many consecutive hours that when he finally feels the need to stretch his entire body screams out in agony. Especially the sight of the sutures on his abdomen. He winces, wrapping an arm around himself and trying to breath through his nose.
That’s how the 118 find him two seconds later.
“Buck!?” Eddie’s the first to enter the room, rushing to Buck’s side.
“What happened?” Chimney’s frozen at the door, staring at Maddie--who looks so fragile, on that bed.
Buck waves Eddie’s concerns for his well-being away. Of course they’re here. For Maddie. He’s fine. “I don’t really know the full story. Just that she called me and told her to meet her at Cherry Hill, saying she needed help with something. By the time I got there it was too late.” he gulps, holding himself stiffly.
“Are you ok?” Bobby asks, brows furrowed.
Buck starts to say that he’s fine, but instead he chokes up and bursts into tears, hiding his face in the palms of his hands.
“Aw, Buck, c’mere.” Bobby pulls him in gently and wraps his arms around the firefighter. “We’re here for you.”
Buck burrows his head between the crook of the Captains’ neck and shoulder, shuddering. He feels safe in his arms.
Hen rubs one hand up and down his back, “Buckaroo, why didn’t you tell us? We would’ve been here last night, so you wouldn’t have had to go through all this alone.”
Eddie sighs miserably. “Did you think we wouldn’t care?”
Buck doesn’t say anything, just nods in confirmation. Of course he thought they wouldn’t care. He’s been nothing but a burden on them since the lawsuit.
Bobby holds onto him just a fraction tighter, his heart breaking. He thinks back to just this morning, and wants to kick himself for being stubborn. Buck had called out due to “medical reasons”, and Bobby had quipped back instead of asking if everything was alright--like he normally would have. He’s not surprised Buck didn’t tell him what happened.
“Buck I’m sorry, I’ve been treating you unfairly; you don’t deserve that.” Bobby rests his chin atop Buck’s head and squeezes. “I’m so sorry we let it get this far. You should never be afraid to come to me for anything.”
Eventually, Chimney and Hen volunteer to stay by Maddie’s side and and call with any news if her condition changes.
Buck is hesitant to leave, but it’s been a full twenty-four hours since he last slept--maybe more--and at least sixteen since his last meal. He knows that he can leave Maddie in Chim and Hens’ capable hands for at least a couple of hours. He needs to recharge.
Instead of dropping him off at his apartment, Bobby takes them to Eddie’s place.
As soon as they’re inside Bobby makes a beeline for the kitchen to prepare something for Buck to eat--he’s noticed of course, but stupidly hasn’t said anything about the amount of weight the kid has been steadily losing over the past few months. He needs to be fed, badly.
Eddie leads Buck to his own room, and makes him lay down on his bed, despite his protests about being ok with sleeping on the couch. “Abuela would kill me if she found out I made you sleep on the couch.”
Eddie sits on the side of the bed and looks down at Buck, whose eyes are already drooping. He looks bone-tired. “Buck...I’m really sorry, I’ve been a jerk to you since everything with the lawsuit. I should’ve let it go a long time ago but I just couldn’t bring myself to see your side. All I wanted was to be able to talk to you again, and when I wasn’t allowed. I just, I lost it.”
Buck, who’s struggling to keep his eyes open, reaches out to touch Eddie’s hand. “Missed you.” he murmurs softly, before drifting to sleep, eyes fluttering shut, his breath evening out.
Eddie runs his fingers through the blonde mess that is Buck’s hair, smiling when he leans into the touch, humming contently. “Me too, Buck.”
Two hours later Buck wakes up abruptly to Bobby’s startled “He was stabbed ?!” all the way from the living room.
Eddie, who’s been at his side for the past couple of hours, looks up in alarm when Bobby storms into the room with a distraught look on his face. “Who got stabbed?”
Bobby doesn’t answer, just goes straight to Buck and asks him to lift his shirt up.
Buck, still half-asleep from his nap, does so without complaint, confusion maring his features.
Eddie gasps. “What the hell!”
There’s a giant gauze pad over his belly, with a reddish brown stain, starkly showing. Buck blinks down at the injury. “Oh yeah,” he remembers. “That guy shanked me when I ran into the house last night. It’s not that bad, though. I didn’t even feel it at first.”
Bobby fumes. “Buck, you signed out against medical advice! You know better!”
Buck winces as he sits up, with Eddie’s help.
“They wouldn’t let me stay in the same room as Maddie. I couldn’t leave her alone.”
Bobby takes a deep breath to calm himself. Last night must have been traumatic, and to top it all off Buck found himself alone having to face it all, he needs to stop automatically blaming him for making impulse decisions in chaotic situations; he can’t say he wouldn’t have done the same.
“I’m sorry, I just--I worry about you kid.” Bobby sighs, “Do you mind if Eddie changes that gauze?”
Buck shakes his head. “Yeah, that’s fine.”
Eddie gets his first aid kit from the bathroom and comes back a minute later. Bobby is sitting on Buck’s other side, giving him updates on his sisters’ condition. “The doctor says the swelling is going down. It’s good news, Buck.”
Buck swallows, “So she could wake up again?”
Bobby nods reassuringly. Buck leans against Bobby’s shoulder while Eddie removes the gauze, revealing the long line of stitches across his stomach. There’s a little blood but nothing crazy, so Eddie cleans it up before placing a new bandage over it.
Buck flinches away a little--because shit, that stings like hell--and Eddie frowns in sympathy. “Sorry Buck, almost done.”
When that’s over with, Bobby delicately moves Buck so that he’s resting on top of Eddie instead, “I’m gonna’ fetch the soup I made you earlier. You need to eat something. I’ll get you a couple of tylenol for the pain, too.”
Buck nods. “Thanks.” he curls up further into Eddie’s warmth, like a kitten.
Buck doesn’t know if this is a comfort just friends provide, but he does know he’s not complaining when Eddie puts a strong arm around him and tucks him into his side. It feels good to belong again.