In all of Buck’s time spent with Christopher, he had learned a lot. He found it funny that there were so many simple and fundamental things that people were taught as kids and forgot by the time they were adults— hell, sometimes these things were forgotten by the time they were teens. They were things that made life just a little bit easier.
One of the most interesting things he learned, though, was that people loved drawings. In the days following Buck’s accident, Christopher had given him a lot of them. He’d wanted to ask Eddie about it— he was almost concerned at how many doodles the kid gave him— but nothing ever seemed wrong and they made him feel good .
Every time the boy gave him a drawing, it made him feel loved. They were better presents than any purchased one he’d been given in a long time. When Buck’s birthday rolled around that summer, the boy had hand-drawn a card and Buck had nearly cried over it. That week in physical therapy had been awful and he’d wanted to give up, but his friends didn’t let him, and Christopher was a part of that.
The sudden mood shift in the station had come right after Hen’s return to the team. Make no mistake, it had nothing to do with her, but it was as if the year was finally catching up to them all. With the Christmas season fast approaching, the cheer felt like it was being forced upon them, and it made it all the harder to embrace it and actually feel happy.
It was only made harder on the first call of the week she returned.
It starts out simple, and the situation itself remains something easy to handle. It’s a house fire that had traveled to the neighbor’s as well, but the weather was on their side and they’d put it out fast. What isn’t easy to handle are the people they get stuck helping.
They’re some pompous, rich assholes— that much they can all tell, especially with the way they speak about their expensive furniture getting burned and don’t give a shit about the kids next door who were somewhat injured.
Everyone knows Buck has a soft spot for children, so it takes Eddie physically holding him back when he overhears a nasty comment about one of the kids.
It takes Bobby and Chim to hold back both Buck and Eddie when one of those comments is directed towards Hen. The comment is completely unprovoked and uncalled for. Hen isn’t even assisting the man who’d muttered it under his breath, judging her ability to actually help.
And Hen isn’t even mad. She goes on doing her job with the same eloquence as ever. Buck doesn’t know how she does it.
But that shifts once they’re back in the truck and heading out.
At the station, Bobby tries talking to her, but she’s shut down and won’t listen to what anyone has to say. She’s not quite sad or mad, but she’s down and they want to help. None of them can understand the sexism or racism she faces on the job, though, so their words fall flat before they even reach her. Sure, Eddie and Chimney know about racism, but it barely compared. Bobby and Buck definitely knew nothing about it beyond what they’ve been told or witnessed, and Buck is grateful, but it doesn’t make him any less mad on behalf of her.
Buck just wishes he could say something to make her feel better, but he lacks the words.
And that’s when the idea comes to him. He’s going to make her a good ole doodle.
Sneaking into Bobby’s office for a post-it pad is easy for Buck, and even easier is finding a basic black pen. What isn’t easy is finding a decent colored marker.
Buck isn’t the best at drawing, and usually only good with doodles. He’d had some time to practice when he would watch over Christopher, but what really made his stuff work was the magic of color. It’s only too bad that Buck was spoiled by Christopher’s elegant twenty-colored pack of Crayola Super Tips. All Bobby has is red and blue pens.
He makes do.
It doesn’t take long to think of what to draw. The idea had come to mind while he was searching for the supplies. So, Buck hides out in the locker rooms while everyone else helps set the table for lunch and scribbles away.
It only takes a couple of minutes, and when he’s done, he adds a little note to the backside and sticks it on her locker. He doesn’t bother signing it because he’s pretty sure that it’ll be obvious it’s from him.
Buck turns at the sound of Eddie calling his name from the railing of the loft.
“What’s up?” he calls back.
“Are you going to eat or do you want to lose a seat at the table?”
Buck glances back at the locker room one more time, eyeing his post-it note. He can’t help but smile and hope it makes Hen smile, too.
“Yeah!” he shouts. “On my way up!”
He joins them moments later, and they all sit to enjoy the meal. Fortunately, everyone seems in pretty decent spirits, and Buck can see it working to help his friend as well.
The positive energy is interrupted by the alarm sounding through the station. With a collective groan, the firefighters take their last bites before running for the poles and stairs to get to their gear.
The call is exhausting, to say the least. It runs to what’s practically the end of their shift, and the people on the opposite schedule are already filtering in. Buck feels like his toes are going to fall off by the time they’re back to the station. He pushes through it, though, ready to get cleaned up and headed home.
Unfortunately, it seems that some of the other guys were thinking along the same lines as Buck, so he gets a head start on other stuff. By the time he’s finished his post-call duties, many of them have cleared out, including Hen, and he’s nearly forgotten that he left the post-it note on her locker.
The next person he doodles for is Bobby. No one knows for sure what the man is stressing about, but the fact that he is stressing is obvious. Usually, it wouldn’t be, the man having a poker face that could face off against the toughest. But today, his actions are speaking for him.
“Isn’t this your fourth batch, Cap?”
Buck wants to smack the probie over the head. He’s pretty sure Bobby is about to as well, but when he glances at the man, his eyes are trained to the cookie tray in his hands.
“What’s the occasion?” the guy goes on. Buck’s about to snap at the kid, but Bobby sets the tray down a bit too harshly and mumbles something about paperwork before turning the oven off and leaving the kitchen altogether.
With the captain out of earshot, he rounds on their newest firefighter. He looks confused.
“You’re damn oblivious, man.”
That's all Buck has to say for now. He goes back to finishing his written report, but a plan is already hatching in his head.
The second he’s done with the menial paperwork, he sets out for his locker. After Hen, he’d left a couple of notes for other firefighters in the station, but none had the same effort as Hen’s. However, it had pushed him to get a new stack of his own plain yellow post-it notes, and he’d even invested in a basic ten-pack of colored thin tip markers.
It takes little thought for what he’s going to draw, and he finds the markers gliding across the small surface before he even realizes what he’s doing.
Unfortunately, knowing what you want to draw doesn’t always mean it’s going to come out looking like you want it to. Buck goes through three of the small sheets before he finally perfects his mess of a doodle, and he finishes it by signing it with a little note again.
He leaves it on Bobby’s office door for his friend to find when he exits the room.
“It’s so cute right?” Hen is smiling from one of the kitchen chairs as she glances down at something on the counter. She glances to the side just slightly and jerks her chin towards whatever is in front of Bobby. “They have to be from the same person.”
Bobby smiles and shrugs his shoulders.
“What’s from the same person?” Buck can’t help but ask as he approaches.
Hen snags something off the counter and raises it in front of her. Buck’s brain short circuits for a second. It’s the post-it note.
His confusion must show because Hen laughs and raises Bobby’s as well.
“We both got these cute doodles when we were feeling down recently. We’re thinking they’re from the same person,” she explains.
“You mean you don’t know who left them?” Buck can’t help but question.
Bobby shakes his head in response. “I’ve compared it to most people’s written reports, but no one writes in all caps like this so it’s hard for us to compare.”
“Can I see?” Buck asks.
Hen extends her hand with the papers and Buck steps closer to take them from her. He eyes his drawings and then the notes left on the back. He didn’t realize he’d written in all caps. It was something he did when he was younger, and he usually used his best handwriting for work.
“There a reason you’re trying to figure out who left them?” Buck asks.
Bobby hums. “Just to say thank you, I guess. It’s cute. It made me smile when I had a bad day earlier this week.”
Buck can’t help but smile as pride wells in his chest. His goal had been achieved.
“Drawings are kind of bad, though, no?” He looks over Hen’s doodle— a red cupcake with a smiling face and bent arms and legs to make it look like it’s dancing. The words on the back had been a simple “haters gonna hate” note. He eyes Bobby’s next. There’s a blob of a person with a chef’s hat, and the note reads, “The best cook in the station!”
He can’t help but be critical about his little gifts.
Hen scoffs at Buck’s question. “Not at all. They’re adorable.” She snatches the drawings back. “Don’t yuck my yum.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be used in reference to food?” Buck questions.
Hen waves her hand as if to say it’s whatever, and she sets them back on the counter.
“Well,” Bobby claps his hands together, “it doesn’t matter who it’s from. It was just what I needed.”
Buck glances at him and his eyelids flutter as he blinks in astonishment. He’d hoped for them to be little mood boosters, but he didn’t expect this.
“Yeah?” he practically whispers.
Bobby raises an eyebrow at him. “Yeah,” he responds.
A little known fact about Chimney is that the man is pretty strong. He may not be able to press or squat as much as Buck can, but he can carry a man out of a burning building if he has to. He’s also one of the smartest on the team, his observational skills rivaling Hen’s— as long as there aren’t any reptiles around— and he can think quick on his feet.
Logically, he knows that this is why he’s usually the one manning the winch. Their teams need his brains over brawns sometimes and he gets that. It doesn’t quite stop some of their fellow firefighters from teasing him about it from time to time, though, especially after he does get put into play.
“Who knew the wench could even carry a guy that big.”
The comment comes from one of the older guys that hasn’t been phased out of the station just yet. He’s got enough experience to stay and hasn’t racked up enough complaints to be transferred or fired. He’s a good firefighter, just not that great of a person.
Their core group doesn’t usually see the guy much because he works different shifts, but today he’d switched with a friend and everyone has been treated to his underhanded comments.
“Wench?” Buck questions, looking to Eddie. “I thought it was winch?”
Eddie shakes his head in response while leveling a glare at the guy and the person he’s talking to.
“It is winch,” Chimney mutters.
Hen turns, ready to say something, but Chimney raises his hand and twists his mouth.
“It’s not worth it,” he says. “I’m well used to people thinking I’m not strong enough to be working this job. I’m over it.”
He’s walking away before anyone can say anything different, and Buck already knows what he’s got to do.
The drawing he makes for Chimney is a little more intricate than the others’ notes. Atop a very wonky looking cliff is a blocky humanoid figure with exaggerated muscles, and in each of his hands is a rope (represented by thick black lines) that connects to two people on the side of the cliff. To finish it off, Buck adds a little red dot where he knows Chim’s scar is, unable to actually make it look accurate on such a small drawing.
His note on the back reads: You’re one of the strongest people I know.
He leaves it on the fridge this time, rushing to place it and dash back over to the couch in time to look like he’s been there the whole time. There’s a post-it above the drawing with “CHIM” written in fat bubble letters to avoid confusion, too.
When people start to trickle up into the loft, he pretends to be asleep. In fact, he pretends so well that he actually does fall asleep, not realizing it until he’s being shaken awake.
“You know we got bunks for this, kiddo.” Buck takes a second to gather his bearings and blink away the blurriness. When he finally looks up with clear eyes, he realizes that the sun has set, and by the looks of it, a while ago.
He looks around and finds the loft empty again.
“Everyone’s asleep,” Bobby says, “taking advantage of, you know, actual beds.”
Buck smiles sheepishly at him then glances at the fridge. The post-it note is gone.
He can only hope his friend got to it before that bitter man did.
“Yeah, you missed dinner,” the captain sighs, oblivious to the reason behind Buck’s gaze into the kitchen. “But I managed to save you a plate. It’s probably less than will fill you, but it’s a meal.”
Buck smiles up at Bobby and moves to sit up, taking his time so as not to make himself dizzy. If there is one thing he hates about blood thinners, it’s their ability to make even standing up when he’s been laying down an ordeal. As it is, he’s pretty fortunate that they haven’t acted up during their more physically taxing emergency calls.
“C’mon,” Bobby says. “I’ll sit with you.”
Buck doesn’t mean for it to, but suddenly the post-it note doodles are a thing , like an “everybody in the station knows about this” kind of thing. After his first drawing for Hen, he was sure that she would’ve known it was him. The cupcake drawing and note had been based on what she told him when he finally returned to work at the end of October. But based on the guessing game going around the station and the fact that everyone was popping into rooms without knocking these days, no one had any idea. And he wasn’t sure he wanted to ruin the fun by coming out and telling them the truth.
Everyone seemed to be in better moods since he started leaving the notes. Decorations for the holidays had started going up around the station. No one really seemed keen on doing a Christmas dinner, but talks of celebrating with a meal at all had started up. It was progress, and Buck didn’t want to spoil that cheer by telling everyone the traitor was leaving them the notes.
Because Buck hadn’t just been leaving notes for his immediate friend group. He was leaving them for the whole station now, or at least anyone who seemed that they needed the small pick-me-up. And while Bobby and his team were well past the lawsuit, it’d forever altered some of the other firefighter's views on him. Buck didn’t blame them.
Looking back on it, he could see how it might look. It wasn’t his fault that they didn’t have the whole story. As much as he regrets taking steps as big as that, a lot of people don’t know that it was Bobby’s fears keeping him from letting Buck back. Buck didn’t hold it against the man, though, at least not anymore.
Nonetheless, some people he’d given notes to had been less than kind to him since his return, but that didn’t stop him from sharing the small joys. He didn’t need the credit for them anyway— it’s not what he had started doing it for. He did it to make people feel better, and there was no time for feeling bitter, so that meant everyone got a little gift if they needed it.
By the end of the second week of the month, Buck has given notes to most of his friends and at least fifteen others in the station. He’s gone through two post-it note pads with all his screw-ups and his thin tip markers are fraying at the edges from pressing down too hard with them. None of it stops him, though.
He’s a man on a mission.
Up until the last couple of weeks, Eddie had seemed unshakable. There had been obvious times when he was far from okay, like after Shannon had died. But he’d never seemed as agitated as he did now, pacing around the room. With her, he’d been down, and it was obvious he was still mourning through the summer as well, but right now he seemed truly disgruntled. It was clear as day. Even odder was the fact that he didn’t seem to be trying to hide it.
Then he asked their friends to gather near the couches in the loft after a call. It was obvious that he was going to tell them whatever was on his mind, so Bobby quickly assigned some tasks out for the other firefighters and the five of them moved up to the lounging area.
“You doing okay?” Hen cautions.
“No,” Eddie immediately spits. “Well, yes, I am, but I'm also not.”
No one says anything else, just waiting for Eddie to be ready.
Eddie shakes his hands and wipes them across his pants.
He’s nervous, they all begin to realize.
“Eddie,” Buck begins softly, “you know that whatever it is bugging you, we can help you with it. We’ve always got your back.”
Shakey laughter bubbles from his friend’s lips. “It’s not something I need help with,” he says. “It’s just… I’ve been lying to you guys.”
“About?” Bobby prompts.
“Me,” Eddie says. “Who I am.”
Chimney’s eyebrows shoot up instantly and Hen’s lips purse with the hint of a smile on the edges. Even Buck feels his mouth hanging open with an unasked question, but fortunately, Bobby keeps a steady face.
“Is that all?” Bobby asks calmly.
“All?” Eddie nearly shouts. “I’ve been lying to you guys.”
Hen leans forward in her seat and beckons Eddie closer. He steps forward without a thought and she reaches for his hand.
“Eddie, just because you didn’t tell us this, doesn’t mean you’ve been lying to us.” Her words are soft and true.
“No buts,” Hen says sharply. “I’m happy you trust us with this, but I refuse to let you think that keeping it to yourself makes you a liar. And I’m pretty sure Bobby can agree when I say that it’s not a problem.” Bobby nods at this. “Unless it’s been affecting your work in some way…?”
Eddie shakes his head. “No, it hasn’t. I guess once I realized it, it just felt like I was lying. It was this huge weight on my chest, and I wanted to tell you guys because admitting it to myself without actually telling someone made me feel…” Eddie’s words trail off.
“Less real?” Buck asks tentatively. “Fake?”
For the first time since they all gathered up here, Eddie’s eyes meet his.
“Yeah,” his friend whispers.
“Well, you’re not,” Buck states. “You were born that way, man, whether you realize it sooner or later in life.”
Eddie bites at his lip and nods.
The tension leaves his shoulders then as the conversation turns into a genuine curiosity. How long has he known? How did he realize? Would he be public with others about it? Eddie answers them each with a bit of shyness.
Eddie comes out to the rest of the station as seamlessly as he had joined them all just over a year ago. Some of the women are talking about a new movie that they all saw and how hot the male lead was. Eddie’s agreement with them takes them all off guard, and a couple of the guys shoot questioning glances at each other as if to ask, “Did you hear that right?” Luckily, no one says anything, and soon enough it’s back to business as usual.
Buck leaves a post-it note that has a bisexual pride flag waving in the wind with a little stick-figure man underneath. He doesn’t add any note, but he hopes that Eddie gets the message.
The week before Christmas is uneventful, though Buck does find his doodling ideas dwindling. How Christopher was ever able to create so many works of art he could never tell. It’s been easier for his friends because he knows them well, but in the past couple of notes he’s left, only one has actually had a drawing.
That’s why as their shift comes to an end, the note that Buck is readying to place is simply that— a note. It has no drawing, but it has a quote he can remember from some time ago.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
The words have always resonated with him in a way that some words hadn’t, though he couldn’t remember who said it if his life depended on it. It’s not like he was a big “quote” guy, but to him, it felt like the world was telling him that the little things he did made the difference. It was what he needed at a time before the Navy Seals and joining the LAFDi, when he was twenty-four and spent endless nights alone in his apartment, not knowing what the hell he was going to do with his life. It’d been a little bit of hope in a hopeless time for him.
He only hopes that the person he was leaving it for would feel something akin to that feeling as well.
“Something got you down, Buckaroo?”
Buck jumps and turns to Chimney who’s standing at the doorway of the locker room.
“What?” he asks.
Chim’s eyes flicker down toward the post-it note he’d left on his bag. He was just finishing changing back into his civies before taking off for the night. He was going to place that in the turnout gear cubbies for Firefighter Hank before he left.
“Those tend to get left for us when something’s up,” he says. “Did we miss something going on with you?”
The realization hits Buck.
Chim wasn’t teasing him for catching him. He thought the note was for him.
“Nah,” he admits. “But I’m not one to shy away from a little pick me up. I actually really like that quote.”
Chim steps forward and extends his hand. “May I?”
Buck nods his head, and the man picks up the note to look at it. He prepares for some kind of laughter or playful remark, but it doesn’t come.
“No drawing,” Chim comments, turning it over a couple of times as if it’d appear out of thin air. “That’s too bad.”
“You know, I got one the other day,” Chim says as he hands it back to Buck.
“Why do you say that like it’s a secret?” Buck questions.
“It kind of is, I guess.”
Buck can’t help but stare in confusion.
“I didn’t really tell anyone,” Chim admits. “I don’t know if anyone saw it before I did, but I kind of just wanted to keep it to myself. It was uh… it was really thoughtful and I just didn’t want any outside opinions that might put it down.”
Buck’s chest swells with that same pride he felt when he first heard Bobby and Hen talking about the notes.
“Want to see it?” Chimney asks before he can work up a response.
“Yeah,” Buck answers. He’s seen it before, but he’s not exactly about to tell that to the man.
Chimney shifts and reaches into his pocket, pulling out his wallet.
“You keep it in your wallet?” Buck asks.
Chim freezes and looks at him with wide eyes. “Is that weird?”
“No, no, no,” he assures him. “I’m just surprised, I guess. I never really thought about what everyone would do with their notes. I mean, mine might go onto my fridge for a week before the stick wears out and I throw it away.”
Chimney shakes his head in laughter. “To each their own, kid. But I don’t want to throw this away.”
Finally, Chim pulls the post-it note out of the wallet from where it was tucked neatly behind a photo of him and Maddie. It’s folded perfectly in half, and the edges don’t even look slightly curled.
He unfolds it and shows Buck the drawing.
“Sometimes it’s these little things that keep us going, Buck.”
Christmas Day is something of a miracle. Looking around the station, Eddie can hardly believe that his best friend organized all of this with Athena. He’s not surprised, though. He recalls Buck being the only one to protest take out over a home-cooked meal for Christmas dinner, and he’d been almost as sad as Eddie was about telling Christopher he couldn’t spend the holiday with him.
If he’s being honest with himself, Eddie hadn’t been feeling the Christmas spirit. Just last year, he’d been reintroducing Shannon back into Christopher’s life, and now it was half a year after her death. All of his sadness and grief left his body the moment he saw the smile on his son’s face.
And Buck is the reason behind it.
He’s also the reason that there’s now hot chocolate dripping down his shirt.
“Oh shi–itake mushrooms!” Buck barely manages to correct himself as Eddie stares down at drink dripping down his uniform. “I am so sorry, dude.”
For a man whose job it was to be a strong and near unstoppable force, Buck was sure clumsy as hell off the clock.
Buck reaches for a napkin on the table and goes to press it to Eddie’s shirt, but he waves him off.
“That napkin is no use, but it’s fine. Do you have a spare shirt?” Eddie asks. “I was in a rush out of the house today and I got nothing in my locker.”
“Buck, sweetheart!” Athena’s voice calls from across the loft. “Could you help me with something?”
Buck turns back to Eddie like a deer caught in headlights.
“I got a shirt in my duffle,” he says quickly, already stepping away. “You good to grab it on your own?”
“Yeah,” Eddie responds, though Buck is already out of earshot and talking animatedly with Athena.
With Christopher preoccupied with May and his Abuela in a conversation with Maddie, Eddie doesn’t bother letting anyone know he’s stepping away. He works his way through the small clusters of people and down the stairs.
Finding Buck’s duffle bag is a breeze, and finding the spare shirt is even easier considering it’s the only one there. What confuses him is the worn down box of thin tip markers that looks more like it belongs in Christopher’s school bag.
He pulls the markers out to look at them, wondering if maybe Chris left them at Buck’s and the man had been meaning to return them, but the brand isn’t Crayola— something his kid is pretty particular about using.
Not wanting to waste too much time, Eddie sets the box back in the bag and pulls the shirt out. With the shirt comes a few crumpled pieces of paper.
With curiosity getting the better of him, he unravels one and finds a blobby person with something on its head. He can’t tell if it’s bad hair or supposed to be some kind of hat because it has aggressive scribbles through it as if the artist had messed up while drawing it.
Without thinking too much on it, he tosses it back in Buck’s bag along with the other crumpled pieces that fell out.
It’s not until he grabs one that’s showing bright familiar colors that it clicks.
It’s almost a week before Eddie confronts Buck, needing to work up the courage to do so. He goes through ten different plans in his head before deciding on the best way to do it.
It’s at the New Year’s Eve party that Hen and Karen host. Everyone’s rushing to gather in front of the TV as the countdown for the Ball Drop reaches one minute. Christopher is on a couch two feet to his left shouting with the other kids, and Buck has just come rushing in with a couple of champagne glasses for them.
“Looks like I made it just in time!” Buck cheers. He passes a flute over to Eddie, and he takes it while scrambling for the piece of paper in his pocket.
“I have something for you, too,” he tells Buck. “It’s not as nice as it could be, but…” He pulls the sticky note out as someone shouts about forty seconds left.
Buck reads the line for what feels like ages, and for a second, Eddie is sure he’s fucked up.
I like you , the note reads.
The new year will begin with wrecking his own life.
And then Buck scrambles for his own pocket. He clumsily unfolds a piece of paper.
“I’ve been carrying this one around since you came out to us,” he rushes out.
I think I like you - Buck , the note reads with a smiley face drawn underneath. Eddie knows now how Buck felt when he read the note. Staring down at the words similar to his own, he’s left speechless.
“I think I want to go out with you,” Eddie finally says as the final ten seconds flash on the TV.
“I think I can arrange that,” Buck shouts over the cacophony of the room.
“I’d also really like to kiss you in two seconds!” Eddie yells back. Buck smirks cockily.
“I think I can also arrange—”
Buck doesn’t get to finish as a general roar of “Happy New Year!” fills the room. Somewhere in the background, he can hear Christopher’s shouts of glee, and if he listens carefully he can even hear his friends catching on to what he's doing, but all he can focus on is Buck’s lips on his.
It's a happy new year indeed.