“Wait, you want me to do what?” Buck was sitting in Chief Alonzo’s office. Detective Marks was standing off to the side. Buck had been concerned when the Chief had asked him to come see him and his concern had grown when he saw Detective Marks (who already wasn’t a fan of Buck because of the whole ‘stealing Chimney’s phone from an active crime scene’ thing).
And then Chief Alonzo started explaining why Buck was there.
“Chase Mackey has been a thorn in not only the department’s side but the city’s as well,” Chief Alonzo explained. “After that incident with the fire drill you were overseeing, he has several people who he’s angling to sue the department. And you mentioned that he reached out to you.”
“Yeah, but I would never sue the department,” Buck said.
“But that’s exactly what we need you to do, Mr. Buckley,” Detective Marks said. Buck frowned. “We’re under the impression that Mr. Mackey uses nefarious ways to win these lawsuits. And with the amount of people who got injured the other day, he’s angling to get a couple million from the city.”
“Million?” Buck asked, his eyes widening.
“Now, we can’t stop him unless we can prove what he’s up to,” Detective Marks said. “We need someone who Mackey thinks he can trust. Someone who might be disgruntled with the department that he can convince to sue the place.”
“Which is where you come in,” Chief Alonzo said. “We think Mr. Mackey is hoping you’ll sue since you’re a recognizable face after the events of last May.” Buck winced a little at the mention of the truck bombing. “So, we need you to take him up on his offer. We need you to sue the Los Angeles Fire Department.”
“I don’t…” Buck felt his chest tightening. He didn’t like this idea. He loved his job. And maybe having light duty sucked but he was going to do it so that he could eventually get back out into the field. “I can’t…”
“Detective Marks, would you give us a moment?” Chief Alonzo said. Detective Marks nodded and exited the room. “Mr. Buckley, I can sense you’re a little hesitant about this. Please understand, we’re asking you to do this because we trust you. Detective Marks knows you’re an honorable man. And after everything you’ve been through, I know that you are someone we can put our faith in.
“Chief, when I agreed to do light duty,” Buck said, the tightness still present in his chest. “I did it with the hope that you’d eventually clear me to go back to active duty. But if I do this…”
“Then that is a conversation we can have.” Buck’s eyes widened. “Mr. Buckley, if you can successfully help us stop Chase Mackey then we can look out how long you really do need to be doing light duty.” Buck pursed his lips. This whole idea, him suing the department to take down Chase Mackey, it was a terrifying idea. But if it meant he could be back in the field, doing what he loved, with his team, then maybe it was worth it.
“Okay,” Buck said, knowing this was his best shot to get back to active duty. “What do you need me to do?”
Eddie’s hands balled into fists as he made his way towards Buck’s apartment. There was this pit of anger that had been swirling inside of him. He wasn’t sure when it had started. Maybe when his son started having nightmares. Or maybe when he and Buck nearly died in the tsunami. Or maybe when Buck was bleeding out on the street, the team praying that Freddie Costas didn’t blow himself and the whole street to bits. Or maybe it was when Shannon died, right after asking for a divorce. Or maybe all of it led to the swirling anger pulsating through him.
All Eddie knew was that stupid arbitration had that anger bubbling to the surface.
He wanted to, no, needed to know why. Why would Buck sue the department? Why would he make Bobby and the rest of the LAFD out to be the bad guys? Didn’t Buck understand that he wasn’t ready to come back to work? And didn’t Buck understand that the team was scared that he might get hurt again?
If he didn’t understand, he was about to. Eddie didn’t care if he wasn’t supposed to contact Buck during this. His idiot best friend was going to hear him out.
But all of that disappeared when Eddie saw that Buck’s door was wide open.
“Buck!” Eddie tore into the apartment, anger replaced with sickening fear. Buck’s apartment was totally trashed, chairs turned over and items all over the floor. Eddie ran towards the living room, spotting nothing but more destruction. “Buck!” His heart was pounding as he ran up the stairs towards the loft. Once he reached the top of the stairs, he had to slam his lips shut to avoid the pained sound that wanted to burst out.
Buck was a crumpled mess on the ground, a pool of blood surrounding him. Eddie nearly tripped over his own feet trying to get to Buck. A choked sob came out of his mouth as he found Buck’s pulse, barely there but still present. As he ran to grab a towel to stop the bleeding, he was already on his phone to 9-1-1.
And as he pressed the towel to Buck’s side, he had to focus on helping Buck, and not losing his mind over what could have possibly happened to him.
The waiting room of the emergency room was eerily quiet. Not a single member of the team had spoken when they filed in. The only sound had been Maddie’s occasional sniffle as Chimney tried to keep her calm. But Eddie understood why she looked so distraught. It felt like everything bad thing that could happen to Buck did. It made Eddie want to scream. He glanced down at his hands. The blood was gone, Eddie having washed it away. But it was like it was still there, mocking Eddie for not getting to Buck sooner, for not holding that damn elevator door open for Buck, for not ignoring his stupid anger.
“‘Thena, everything okay?” Athena had walked back over to them. As Eddie glanced up at her, he could see there was a perturbed look on her face. She sighed as she sat down next to Bobby.
“It seems Detective Marks knows who’s behind the attack,” Athena said. Everyone looked around, confused by that statement. Athena just sighed and looked at Bobby. “He wasn’t suing you or the department.”
“Athena, we were all there,” Bobby said.
“It was all a part of a sting operation,” Athena said. “Seems like Chase Mackey has been a thorn in the city’s side for a while. Marks was trying to stop him. Seems he and Chief Alonzo thought a phony lawsuit might be the thing to do it.”
“So it was all fake?” Chimney asked. “But Mackey knew real things about us that he basically threw in our face.”
“They had to make it realistic.”
“So realistic I didn’t hold the elevator for Buck,” Chimney said, remorse in his voice as he covered his face.
“Athena, is Buck going to be okay?” Eddie asked, finally finding his voice. Everyone else looked over at Athena, thinking the same thing.
“He’s going to be alright,” Athena said. “But we can’t see him.”
“Why?” Maddie asked, standing up suddenly. Eddie could see how upset she was getting. He was feeling the same way. He needed to see that Buck was okay with his own eyes. He needed something to erase that horrible image of Buck lying on the floor of his loft, bleeding out. “He’s my brother!” Athena walked over to Maddie, trying to calm her down. “Athena, I…”
“Maddie, I know,” Athena said. “But for Buck’s safety, he needed to be moved.”
“Moved where?” Hen asked. “‘Thena, what’s going on?” Athena sighed and Eddie could see the exhaustion in how she held her body. It was starting to become clear that maybe she didn’t know everything they wanted to know.
“Marks is worried Mackey will come back and try to finish the job,” Athena said. “So they moved Buck to a place where he will be safe but also secluded.” Maddie went to speak but Athena stopped her. “He wouldn’t tell me where.”
“How long?” Bobby asked and Athena sighed again. “Athena, how long is he going to be there?”
“Until they find Mackey.” Maddie collapsed back down to where she had been sitting, fighting the sobs that were threatening to escape. Chimney just wrapped his arms around her and she buried her face in his neck. Eddie’s hands balled into fists. He wanted to see Buck. He wanted to know that Buck was okay.
But mostly, he wanted to find Chase Mackey and beat the life out of him.
“Dad?” Eddie was sitting on the couch with Christopher, attempting to pay attention to the movie on the screen. His thoughts had drifted, as they had lately, towards Buck.
It had been two weeks since Eddie had found Buck bleeding out on his apartment floor. Two weeks since they had found out that the lawsuit had all been a part of some super secret operation to take down Chase Mackey. And two weeks since Eddie had seen or heard anything about Buck.
“What’s up kid?” Eddie asked, pausing the movie. Christopher watched him, almost like he was studying Eddie.
“Are you okay?” Eddie bit back a sigh. He was trying to put on a brave face about this whole thing, at least for Christopher. But it was getting harder as time went on. “You seem really sad lately.” Eddie just pulled Christopher closer to him. The eight-year-old wrapped his arms around Eddie’s stomach, hugging him.
“I am a little sad, mijo.” There was no point in lying to Christopher. Clearly, he had picked up on Eddie’s mood. Everyone else had. Carla had noticed it right away. His Abuela and Pepa had asked why he was sulking the last time he had seen them. The team also had noticed it, but they were just as miserable as him without the presence of one Evan Buckley.
“Are you sad because Buck hasn’t visited?” Christopher asked. “Because I miss him too.”
“Yeah mijo,” Eddie said, pressing a kiss to the top of Christopher’s head. “I’m sad because I miss Buck.”
“Did something happen to him?” Christopher asked. “Because Buck is always here. Did he hurt his leg again?” Eddie sighed. “Is this an adult thing? Carla says sometimes there are adult things that I don’t get to know about yet.”
“Yeah it’s an adult thing,” Eddie said and Christopher nodded. “But as soon as Buck can come see you, I’ll make sure of it, okay? Because I know how much you love Buck.”
“You love him too dad,” Christopher said. Eddie’s mouth dropped open a little, shock running through him. “That’s why you’re sad, because Buck’s not here and you love him.” Eddie swallowed, a million thoughts running through his head. He was about to respond when there was a knock at the door.
“I have to get that mijo,” Eddie said, glad for the distraction. “You keep watching the movie.” Christopher nodded, eagerly going back to the movie like he hadn’t dropped a bombshell on Eddie. Eddie tried to shake the thoughts away, not needing to look like he had been shaken to his core when he answered the door.
He was a little surprised to see Athena standing on the other side.
“Athena, hi.” She smiled as Eddie let him in. “Is, uh, is everything alright?”
“As well as they can be,” Athena said and Eddie knew she was talking about the Buck situation. “Marks and his team are still searching. But while they do, they’re allowing some communication.”
“From Buck?” Eddie asked, his heart beating a little faster. “What? How?” Athena held up an envelope.
“The old fashioned way,” Athena said. “He said they can deliver a response if you want.” Eddie just nodded, taking the envelope from Athena. “You can give it to Bobby on your next shift. I’ll let you read that alone.”
“Thank you.” Athena nodded and then left. Eddie stared at the envelope, his hand shaking slightly. It wasn’t enough, but it was going to have to do. So, with shaking hands, Eddie opened the envelope. He took a long breath before starting to read.
I wish I could’ve told you what was really going on. When Chief Alonzo approached me about this, I was terrified. I didn’t want to do something that would impact my job because I do love my job. But he made good points and Mackey really, truly is a scumbag.
It would’ve been easier if I could’ve told you what was going on. There were so many times when I just wanted to drive over to your house and just tell you, so that I felt like I had someone on my side, so I wasn’t alone. But I knew I couldn’t, that I shouldn’t. But it was so hard.
One of the officers told me that you were the one who found me in my apartment, that you probably saved me. Thank you. After everything I had to tell that scumbag, I don’t know if I deserved that. But you did it anyways. Because you have a good heart and you’re always looking out of me. Whether it’s on the job or when I’m too depressed to get out of bed, you’ve always been there for me. You’ve always had my back.
I have a lot of time to think while I’m here. I spend a lot of nights staring at the ceiling just thinking about everything. About the station, about the team, about Maddie, about you and Christopher. Actually, I think about you guys a lot. I hope you’re both okay. I know what goes on in my head when I think about the tsunami, so I hope Chris is doing okay. I wish I could just see his smile and give him a hug. That cures almost anything.
And then there’s you. I miss you so much Eddie. I know we’ve only been friends for a year but you’ve become an important part of my life. And the thought of going an undetermined amount of time without seeing you, without hearing your voice? It fills me with something I haven’t felt in a long time.
I miss you so much. I hope they find that scumbag so I can see you and Christopher soon. But until then, I hope you write back. But at the very least, I hope you forgive me for not telling you what was really going on.
Eddie sniffed, trying to fight the tears that were threatening to escape. It broke something in him knowing Buck wanted to come to him, to tell him what was going on, and he couldn’t. It made him feel so damn helpless. And it made him yearn for Buck in a way that truly knocked him off his feet.
He loved Buck.
His very observant eight-year-old had seen it before he had. He loved Buck. And realizing that hurt even more because he didn’t know when he’d see Buck next. He didn’t know if he’d ever be able to tell Buck that. And that thought alone had the first tears escaping.
“Dad?” Christopher had left the living room, probably looking for him because he had been gone so long. Eddie just crossed to his son, stooping down to hug Christopher. “Dad?” Eddie let go of him, trying to wipe subtly at his eyes.
“Sorry mijo,” Eddie said, sitting down on the floor. Christopher leaned against him, his hand wiping away a few tears. “Athena just dropped off a letter from Buck.”
“And it made you sad?”
“Yeah it did,” Eddie said with a nod. “Because he said he misses us. Both of us.”
“Can we write him back?” Christopher asked. Eddie looked at the letter and then at his son. Buck had asked him to write him back. And Eddie had so much to say. Maybe all of it didn’t deserve to go in a letter, but he could work his way up to that.
“Yeah mijo, we can.” Christopher beamed and wrapped his arms around his dad. Eddie just hugged his son tightly. He didn’t know how long this would last, Buck being isolated from them. But for now, maybe letters could do.
It would have to be enough, at least for now.
Eddie sighed as he shouldered his bag. Another shift had ended and all Eddie could think about was how Buck wasn’t there. It had been a month and half since Athena had told them what was going on. And Eddie missed Buck more and more as the days wore on.
“You look the way I feel,” Chimney said as the two of them walked out of the locker room. “Sometimes I think those letters are a blessing and a curse.”
“Maddie having a hard time with them?” Eddie asked as they headed out of the station.
“She cries every time,” Chimney said. “Even if there’s nothing emotional, she just breaks down at the idea of how much longer we might go without seeing Buck.” Eddie just nodded because he understood that. He and Christopher had responded to Buck’s letter and then it had been letters back and forth. With Christopher’s, the letters were filled with fun facts Buck was learning and promises to take Christopher to the zoo, or the Griffith observatory, or just for ice cream.
With Eddie’s letters, there was a lot more there. Buck told him about how he struggled to sleep sometimes, wishing he wasn’t alone. Buck wrote about wanting to come back to work, less for the job at this point (though he did miss being out in the field) and more for the people. He wrote about missing Bobby’s food and Chimney’s ribbing. He wrote about missing Hen’s advice. And of course he wrote about missing Eddie. He wrote about just missing being around Eddie, being around someone that had his back no matter what. He wrote that it didn’t matter if there were armed officers keeping him safe because they weren’t Eddie.
And all of it, the letters, the honesty, working hard to bring a smile to Christopher’s face, all of that made Eddie realize how much he loved Buck. He couldn’t write that in a letter, but he hoped that what he wrote back was enough for Buck to know how important he was in Eddie and Christopher’s life.
“I just hope they catch the bastard,” Eddie said. “Because I just feel so empty.”
“I think we all do,” Chimney said, patting Eddie’s arm. “Buckaroo sure is something, huh?” Chimney nodded to Eddie before heading to his car. Eddie let out a long sigh, adjusting his bag.
“Yeah, yeah he is,” Eddie said to no one in particular. Because Buck was an enigma. He was someone the team needed and missed. He was someone that Eddie and Christopher needed.
Buck was his missing piece. And Eddie didn’t know how much longer he could go without him.
As he put the car in park and turned it off, Eddie let out another sigh. He needed to get his sighs out now. As much as Christopher knew he was sad about Buck not being around, Eddie still tried to put a brave face on for his kid. After all, Christopher didn’t deserve anymore tragedy in his life. He got out of the car, grabbing his bag as he did. He was thinking about how to seem like he was in an okay mood for Christopher, how to distract his son from the overwhelming pit of sadness rising and falling in him, like the tides.
Maybe if he had been more focused, he would’ve noticed that Carla’s car wasn’t in the driveway. But his head was in other places that he didn’t notice the absence of her car or the presence of another one.
“Hey, I’m home,” Eddie called as he entered the house. He set about his normal routine when he got home. He took off his jacket and hung it up. He set his bag and keys down against one of the walls, so it was out of Christopher’s way. He checked the mail, separating the junk from the important items. But as he did all of that, he heard something.
Christopher was giggling. Which wasn’t an unusual occurrence. Even with everything going on, his kid was pretty happy-go-lucky. But there was something about the way his son was giggling, something that he hadn’t heard in awhile.
Only one person could make Christopher giggle like that.
He nearly stumbled into the dining room, his heart thumping in his chest. There was dinner on the table and a grinning eight-year-old waiting for him.
“Hi dad!” Christopher said, beaming up at him. “We made you dinner.”
“We?” Eddie asked, feeling a little breathless. It was just Christopher in the room. And after so long, it seemed like it was too good to be true.
“Yeah, we.” He spun around, only the thumping of his heart in his ears. A choked sound escaped his lips as he saw Buck standing there.
“Buck?” The blonde just smiled and nodded, as if he expected the shock from Eddie. Eddie swallowed trying to not completely break down. But seeing Buck standing there, a soft smile on his face, Eddie could feel the tears already escaping. He nearly ran over to Buck, pulling him into a hug and burying his face in the crook of Buck’s neck. “H-how? When?”
“Today,” Buck whispered, just loud enough for Eddie to hear as he wound his long arms around Eddie. “They caught him and let me leave. I saw Maddie quickly and then came right here.” Eddie pulled away, staring into those perfectly blue eyes. The fact that Buck was there, after being away for so long, that he had chosen to come to Eddie’s house, it just reminded Eddie of everything emotion that had been building in him.
“Hey Superman?” Buck pulled away and looked over at Christopher. “I forgot something in the kitchen and your dad’s going to help me, okay?”
“Okay! But if you’re not back in two minutes, I’m eating without you.” Buck chuckled and then tugged on Eddie’s arm pulling him into the kitchen.
“Eds, I…” Buck started to speak as soon as they were alone, but Eddie cut him off. He hauled Buck towards him, colliding their lips together. Buck melted forward, his arms finding home at Eddie’s waist. The kiss was full of fervor, something so long overdue and yet so right. It was everything Eddie had hoped it would be and more.
“Your letters,” Buck said breathlessly when he pulled away. “I hoped but I wasn’t sure…”
“I love you,” Eddie said, his forehead resting against Buck’s. “I love you so much and I’m so glad you’re home.”
“Home, huh?” Buck asked, a sweet smile crossing his face.
“If you think I’m ever letting you out of my sight again, you’re crazy.” Buck chuckled before pressing a soft kiss to Eddie’s lips. Eddie’s hands came up to Buck’s neck, deepening the kiss. Eddie was sure he would’ve gotten lost in the moment, had it not been for a shout from the next room.
“Dad! Buck! I’m eating without you!” Eddie pulled away, slightly dazed and joy crashing through him. Buck just smiled at him as he stepped away but took Eddie’s hand.
“We should probably get in there,” Buck said. “After all, I made a pretty great dinner. In fact, I got really good at cooking during...you know.”
“You’ll have to tell me all about it,” Eddie said, squeezing Buck’s hand. “After all, we have all the time in the world.” Buck just grinned at him before tugging Eddie towards the dining room. And Eddie followed, an adoring smile on his face and happiness surging through him.