‘Eddie! Oh my god, Eddie he isn’t here!’
Bucks panicked voice and words through the tinny speaker of his phone send a jolt of fear through Eddie.
“Okay, Buck I need you to calm down. What do you mean? Who isn’t where?” He asks in what he hopes is a calm voice.
‘Christopher!’ Buck cries and Eddies heart stops. ‘I was waiting for him in our usual spot but he hasn’t come out yet, so I went inside and he’s not there and neither is his teacher and I- I lost him Eddie. Again!’ Buck is outright sobbing at this point and it breaks Eddies heart further.
His son is missing and his best friend is blaming himself for it.
One thing at a time.
“Okay Buck. I’m sure there’s a good reason for this, so why don’t you come to the station and we can start looking together, hm? This isn’t your fault, okay?”
“You told me you stood in our usual spot for him, and didn’t see him, right?’ He waits for a noise of confirmation from Buck. ‘That means wherever he is has nothing to do with you, okay? Just- come to the station, please?”
‘Okay.’ Buck sniffles. ‘I’ll be there in 10.’
“Okay, and Buck? Please drive carefully.”
Buck lets out a wet chuckle that sounds a little strangled. ‘I will.’
Eddie hangs up with a sigh, and then starts panicking himself.
“Eddie? What’s going on?” Bobby asks from behind him.
Eddie spins around and sees his Captain, Hen, Chimney and Martin stood a few yards away, their faces pinched up in concern.
“Buck went to pick Chris up from school but he isn’t there. My son is missing and Buck’s freaking out and honestly, I think I’m starting to too.”
“Okay. Buck’s on his way here, right?” Bobby asks calmly.
“We’ll wait for him to get here and head out in the trucks, alright? We’ll find Christopher, Eddie.”
“Thanks Cap.” Eddie forces himself to breathe calmly.
Buck was borderline hyperventilating on the phone and was already blaming himself for his sons sudden and strange disappearance, it wouldn’t do well for him to show up here and see Eddie on the verge of his own panic attack.
“In the meantime, call around. See if Carla or your Abuela went to pick him up today, maybe one of them got the dates mixed up.” The older man suggests.
Eddie fishes his phone back out from his pocket to do just that, but Hen’s voice stops him.
“I don’t think that’s necessary.”
Everyone looks over at her, but she’s staring at something down in the bay. Well. Not something. Someone.
Christopher is bounding between the trucks towards the stairs, still in his bumble bee halloween costume (it’s his new hyper-fixation, blame Buck) hand in hand with-
“Ana?” Eddie whispers.
“Daddy!” Christopher hollers happily when he catches sight of him.
Eddie thunders down the stairs, the rest of the crew hot on his heels, and crashes to his knees in front of his son. He drags him in for a brief hug, before pulling back to examine him and deducts that, other than being soaking wet from the torrential rain outside, he seems to be okay. Happy, healthy and unharmed. Then what-
“What are you doing here?” Eddie stands to ask Ana.
“Well, you said you was working today, so I took the liberty of bringing Christopher here straight from school.” The woman flushes delicately.
Any other time it would be endearing to Eddie. But today? Not so much.
“Do you realise what you’ve done?” Eddie snaps.
Ana’s eyes go wide, and she opens her mouth to say something, when another voice rings out through the station.
Everyone spins on the spot to see Buck gunning for them, his blue eyes wide and panicked.
“Bucky!” Christopher cheers happily.
Buck reaches the boy and gathers him up in a tight hug, ripping his hand from where it was still being held in Ana’s.
“It’s okay. I got you. I got you.” Buck whispers frantically, kissing Christophers wet hair.
“We need to get out of the water.” Buck states, and Eddie stomach sinks down to his shoes. He knows what’s happening.
“There!’ Buck cuts across Christopher again, seemingly not hearing him in his panic and pointing over at the ladder truck. ‘We can climb up and be safe!”
Then Buck does just that. He hauls Christopher over his shoulder carefully and swiftly climbs up the side of the ladder truck to get to the top. He settles Christopher down as gently as he can before flinging himself down carelessly next to him and gathering the boy as close as humanly possible to him.
“Are you okay, Bucky?” Eddie hears Christopher ask.
“I am now bud. We’re safe. Oh man, your dad is gonna kill me. The one day I take you out, this happens.” Buck chuckles, but it sounds self deprecating.
Even from his spot on the floor, Eddie can see Christophers concerned frown. He goes up on his tip toes and gets his sons attention.
“Just stay with Buck, okay? I’ll explain everything soon, just stay up there and keep him calm. Can you do that for me?” He asks gently. Buck doesn’t even notice him.
“Yeah daddy, I can do it.” Christopher nods seriously, before curling up in Bucks shaking arms.
“What… is going on?” Ana asks slowly, and Eddies attention snaps back to her.
“What’s going on is that you have caused Buck to have a flashback episode.” Eddie all but growls.
Ana holds her hands up placatingly and takes half a step backwards. “What-“
“You have singlehandedly undone a year of hard work in one afternoon, congratulations.” Hen snaps.
Even Eddie blinks in surprise at the woman. He’s never heard her loose her cool like that.
“I don’t understand.” Ana mumbles.
“You kidnapped my kid.” Eddie states.
“What? No I-“
“You took him off of school property without asking or informing me. You kidnapped him.”
“I-I didn’t mean to, I just thought-“
“Well you thought wrong.’ Chimney huffs. ‘You took Christopher away from school grounds on the day Buck was supposed to pick him up, causing him to-“
“-have an anxiety attack over the phone because he thought he’d lost my son.’ Eddie spits. ‘Then, he shows up here at the station and sees you with Chris-“
“-who’s wearing a yellow and black striped t shirt, the same thing he was wearing on the day Buck lost him in the tsunami.’ Hen clarifies. ‘And he’s soaking wet from the storm outside-“
“-which brought Buck back to the tsunami. You have, however unwillingly, thrown Buck back into the headspace he was in that day. He’s now in fight or flight mode and his only thought is to keep Christopher safe from the water.” Bobby sums it up for Ana.
“As Hen said, we have all worked tirelessly for a year to help Buck through his anxiety and panic attacks over that day, we’ve all worked to get him to a point where he doesn’t have flashbacks just from the sight or feel of water. And you’ve ruined it all. For what? So you can get some brownie points with my kid?” Eddies hands are shaking from anger.
“I tried to do something nice.” Ana looks close to tears.
“Well don’t.” Eddie snaps.
“Okay, we need to focus on Buck right now.’ Bobby says, bringing all the attention back to him as he begins delegating orders. ‘Hen; radio dispatch and get them to take us off call for the time being. We don’t need Buck or Christopher to freak out if the alarms go off. Chim; you get Maddie on the phone, she’s the one who can talk him down easiest. Eddie; help me try to keep them both calm for now.”
With one last scathing look directed at Ana, Hen rushes off with her radio pressed to her mouth, Chimney gets his phone out to dial Maddie and Eddie and Bobby move over to the edge of the truck.
“How you holding up, bud?” Eddie asks his son softly.
“I’m okay. What’s wrong with Bucky, dad?” Christopher whispers back, sounding so concerned.
Buck is now crouching and moving up and down the ladder truck, his wide and fearful eyes looking for something that isn’t there. His gaze flickers back over to Christopher every few seconds, but he doesn’t seem to see Eddie or Bobby at all.
“Remember how you had nightmares during the day after the tsunami?’ Eddie asks and Christopher nods. ‘That’s what’s happening to Buck right now. He’s having what we call a day-terror. So I need you to stay up there with him until he feels better and isn’t scared anymore.”
“Bucky’s scared? But he’s a superhero!” Christopher cries.
“Even superhero’s get scared, Christopher.’ Bobby tells him gently. ‘And Bucky is scared for you right now, because he thinks he’s back in the tsunami with you and he want to get you safe.”
“Just like he did last time?” Christopher implores.
“Yeah bud. Just like he did last time.” Eddie smiles.
Chimney and Hen rejoin them, with the former holding his phone out on speaker.
“Okay Maddie. He should be in hearing distance now.” The man says.
‘Buck? Buck can you hear me?’ Maddie’s calm, soothing voice carries out in the deadly silent firehouse.
The rest of their shift is gathered around and watching with wide eyes. It never occurred to Eddie that some of them don’t really know the extent of what Buck and Christopher went through that day. Some just knew he was there, and some didn’t know at all.
“Maddie? Maddie is that you?’ Buck calls out and looks around, his panic rising visibly when he doesn’t catch sight of his sister. ‘Maddie where are you?”
‘I’m at home Buck.’
“But-but I can hear you and you don’t live anywhere near Santa Monica!” Buck stresses.
‘You’re right, I don’t. But you’re not there either.’
‘Evan, baby brother, you’re having an episode.’ Maddie tells him gently.
“An episode? What?”
‘You’re not really at the pier, and there isn’t a tsunami. I want you to look around your surroundings, really look, and tell me five things you can see.’ Maddie urges.
Bucks blue blue eyes sweep over the room and his eyebrows scrunch up in confusion.
“I can see Christopher. The ladder truck that we’re sat on. An ambulance. Eddie.’ Bucks eyes widen in terror and fill with tears. ‘Oh my god, Eddie’s here, Maddie! How do I tell my best friend that I lost his son?” He sobs out.
Eddies heart has been barely hanging on since the moment Buck phoned him, but to hear those words echoed from that night? That shatters it. Of course, he hadn’t heard them from Buck himself, Maddie had been the one to tell him about her conversation with her brother just before Eddie spotted him, looking half dead in that field hospital. And to hear them from him now, and sounding so broken and defeated and scared does something weird to Eddies chest. He hates seeing Buck so upset and not being able to help in some way.
‘You just told me that you can see Christopher.’ Maddie states calmly. ‘He’s with you, remember? He isn’t lost.’
“Okay. Okay, I can see him, he isn’t lost.” Buck breathes deeply, his eyes never leaving Christopher, who is smiling up at him reassuringly.
‘Tell me one thing more that you can see.’
Eddie can see how reluctant Buck is to look away from Christopher for even a second and his breath catches. The amount of love the man has for his son is amazing, and every time he’s reminded of it, his heart gives a little squeeze in his chest.
“The firehouse gym?” Buck states, but it comes out as more of a question.
‘That’s right. Now, tell me four things you can touch.’ Maddie instructs.
“The firehose. Christopher's leg. Uhh… the ladder. And- oh! The brownie in my pocket!” Buck states as he reaches his hand out to graze his fingertips over each item.
Maddie lets out a little laugh. ‘Good. You’re doing great Evan. Now, tell me three things you can hear. Remember, my voice doesn’t count.’
“The rain outside. The cars passing by. The air conditioning unit.” Buck lists off.
‘That’s great, you’re doing so well.’ Maddie praises. Eddie can see Buck coming down from his panic, can see that his eyes are getting clearer. ‘Name two things you can smell.’
“The oil of the ladder trucks engine. The wax we use to polish it.”
‘And lastly tell me one thing you can taste.’
“The brownie I ate earlier.” Buck cracks a small smile.
‘Excellent. Are you back with us now baby brother?’
“Yeah. I’m back, Mads. On top of the ladder truck at work and embarrassed as hell. But I’m back.” Bucks face flushes bright red.
Everyone gathered lets out relieved sighs. Bobby closes his eyes in his relief. Hen looks ready to keel over and coiled up to fight all at once. Chimney scrubs a hand down his weary face and Eddie feels like he could cry.
‘I’m glad. And I’m very proud of you baby brother.’ Maddie says gently.
“Why?” Buck asks like she’s lost her mind.
‘Because you came back to us so fast this time. That takes a lot of strength.’
“Thanks big sister.” Buck mumbles, looking pleased yet bashful. It’s endearing as hell.
‘You’re welcome. Now I’m going to let you go, but I’ll see you tomorrow for breakfast, okay?’
“Yeah, see you tomorrow Maddie. And thanks for dragging me back.”
‘You don’t have to thank me for that. It’s what big sister does. Love you Buck’
“Love you too Mads.”
With that, Maddie ends the call and its silent in the firehouse once more.
“You good, kid?” Bobby is the first to speak.
“Yeah, I’m good, pops. I’m so sorry Bo-“
“Nope. Don’t you dare be sorry.’ Bobby cuts Buck off right away. ‘You can get off the top of the truck, though.” He deadpans playfully and Buck blushes again.
“Right. Yes. Getting off.”
He shuffles over to a grinning Christopher and gives him a grin back.
“I’m sorry if I scared you, buddy.” He says gently, and genuinely.
“You didn’t. I know I’m always safe with you.” Christopher chirps and Eddie’s pretty sure his repaired heart grows three sizes at his words and the soft, loving look Buck gives him.
“I love you kid.” Buck sniffles as he hugs the boy.
“I love you too Bucky.” Christopher’s reply is instantaneous. He doesn’t even have to think about it.
“God you two are adorable.’ Hen coos wetly, echoing Eddies thoughts perfectly. ‘Now get your butt down here so I can hug he hell out of you, Evan Buckley.” She demands.
“Yes ma’am.” Buck chuckles.
He picks Christopher up under the armpits and lowers him down enough for Eddie to take safely. And if Eddie brushes his fingers against Bucks own and keeps them there for a few seconds longer than necessary, that’s his own business. Buck flushes again and looks at Eddie through his lashes and oh.
It hits Eddie then.
He’s in love with his best friend.
Well. This is… unexpected.
‘But is it really?’ A voice whispers in the back of Eddie’s mind.
Buck climbs down and, before he can fully turn away from the truck, he has an armful of Bobby, Hen and Chimney. The Captain and paramedics cuddle up to Buck and whisper comforting things in his ears that Eddie can’t hear. Instead of joining them and overwhelming Buck, Eddie simply cradles Christopher close to his chest and kisses his forehead.
“I’m proud of you for staying so calm, Mijo.” He praises.
“Thanks dad. Bucky always makes me feel calm.” Christopher grins back up at him.
“Yeah, I know he does kid.” Eddie smiles down at his son lovingly.
“Eddie?” Ana’s voice calls and, honestly, Eddie had forgotten that she was still there for a hot minute.
He turns to face the woman with a frown. He transfers Christopher to Martins waiting arms, and the man wastes no time in carrying him up the stairs and out of the way, no doubt to play pinball.
“Yeah?” Eddie crosses his arms over his chest.
“Look, I’m really sorry for all the trouble I caused. I didn’t think.” Ana starts.
“I know you’re sorry, but Buck could’ve gotten seriously hurt because of your actions.”
“I know.” Ana ducks her head.
“Why did you bring Chris here, anyway?”
“I knew you was working.”
“So you thought that you would just bring him here, even though I had someone scheduled to collect him?”
“I-I wanted to see you.”
“There are better ways at seeing me than kidnapping my kid. I’m in half a mind to report you this.”
“Ed’s, come on.’ Buck says as he joins their conversation. ‘There’s no need for that. It was all a big misunderstanding.”
“A big misunderstanding that could’ve gone a lot worse. What if you had crashed your car on the way here? ‘Cause I know for a fact that you didn’t drive safe like I asked because you was too panicked. What if your flashback had happened outside and we had no way of knowing? What if-“
“You can’t stay hung up on the ‘what if’s’ Eddie. I learned that the hard way.’ Buck smiles wryly. ‘Everything worked out, it’s okay.”
“It’s not okay.’ Eddie stresses. ‘You had you first flashback in months, and we both know there’s more to follow. God only knows how long it’s going to take for you to feel safe in the shower again.”
Buck ducks his head. “I’m sorry.”
Eddie steps forward and cups Bucks left cheek with his hand, runs his thumb over his birthmark. “None of this is your fault, you don’t get to be sorry.” He says gently.
Buck leans into his touch with a content sigh. “I still am because we both know the only thing that calms me down is-“
“Christopher.’ Eddie nods. ‘So you will be staying with us for the foreseeable future.’ He states as he pulls his hand away again. Buck opens his mouth to, no doubt, object, but Eddie stops him. ‘It’s not a suggestion, nor is it up for debate.” He crosses his arms and uses his eyebrows to dare Buck to argue with him.
“Fine.” Buck huffs, but he’s fighting a smile.
Eddie turns back to Ana. “I’m sorry, but after today, I don’t think I can continue seeing you. You caused a lot of pain and panic for your own selfish reasons. And I know this wasn’t what you planned, I know that. But it could’ve all been avoided if you’d have just phoned or texted me.”
Ana looks down and blinks away the tears in her eyes. “I understand.’ She sniffles. ‘And I’m really sorry. To both of you, I didn’t mean to cause your flashback Buck.”
“No, I know you didn’t. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned recently, is that acting on impulse is not always a good thing.” Buck tells her.
“Look at you, sounding like an actual adult.” Eddie teases him.
“Shut up.” Buck grins and nudges him in the ribs.
Ana quickly slips away without another word and Eddie at least has the decency to walk her out and see her to her car.
“You should tell him, you know.” She says quietly when they reach the doors.
“Buck. You should tell him that you love him.”
She leans in and kisses his cheek and then, she’s gone. Eddie stands there, mouth working opened and closed rapidly like a fish as he watches her run to her car and slip inside. He’s only just figured it out himself, how the hell does Ana know?
Buck arms around his shoulders brings him back, and he looks up into the face of his best friend. His everything. Eddies own arms slide around Bucks waist of their own accord.
“I’m sorry I lost you your girlfriend Eddie.” Buck whispers into the small space between their faces.
“She wasn’t my girlfriend, but I’m not too mad. I recently realised that I never really liked her like that anyway.”
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?” Buck cocks an eyebrow, but he looks amused.
Had he figured it out too? Was it written in a neon sign above Eddies head, loudly stating ‘I love Evan Buckley!’ or something?
Fuck it, Eddie thinks to himself.
“Because. My heart already belongs to someone else.” He whispers as his thumbs rub soothing circles into the skin of Buck’s waist, where his wet t-shirt has ridden up a little.
“Really? Anyone I know?” Buck teases.
“Stop that.’ Eddie rolls his eyes. ‘You know exactly who I’m on about.”
“Yeah, I do.’ Buck smiles softly. ‘I was wondering how long it would take you to notice.”
“Does this mean you-“
“Am I in love with you too? Yeah. Head over heels for a little while, actually.”
“Wow.” Eddie breathes.
“Yeah. I was just waiting for you to catch up.”
“Well I’m all caught up now.” Eddie smiles flirtatiously.
Bucks blinding grin is the last thing Eddie sees before his eyes close and his lips meet Bucks. There are no fireworks, no earth shattering revelations and no butterflies. Just the sense of right and home and love and safe.
Bucks lips open against his, and Eddies own tongue darts forwards to dance with the taller mans. Their movements are lazy, loving. They’ve got all the time in the world now. When the need for air becomes too strong, Eddie pulls away with a smile that he knows looks lovesick as hell, one that matches Bucks own. Buck rests their foreheads together and just exists with him for a moment, lets their breath tangle together.
And then, the sound of cheering and catcalling and whistling comes from their family surrounding them. With a fond eye roll, Eddie pulls way from the warmth of Bucks arms to face them.
Christopher is back and he and Chimney are making exaggerated gagging motions and sounds around their grins, Bobby is beaming proudly at them, everyone else is clapping and Hen is doing the rounds and collecting money from them all with a grin that would put the Cheshire Cat to shame.
“Of course they had a bet.” Buck mutters fondly.
“And of course Hen won.” Eddie snorts.
“Of course. She has a sixth sense about these kinda things.”
Eddie rolls his eyes and pecks Bucks lips once more before pulling him over to Chris. The two of them drag him into a family hug, and he goes with a giggle. He presses a wet kiss to first Bucks, then Eddies cheek.
“Can we go home and eat candy now?” Christopher asks, oh so innocently.
Eddie looks up at Bobby, who nods with a soft smile. “Take care of your boys. I’ll see you both tomorrow afternoon for your shifts.”
“Thanks Bobby.” He and Buck chorus, and Hen snorts.
“And I thought the pining stage was bad.” She jokes. Buck flips her off with a laugh.
Eddie makes quick work of getting changed out of his uniform and drives home, with Buck and Christopher following in the car behind him, his heart full and a smile on his lips, one that he’s certain is permanent.
At the house, they huddle together under the porch to stay out of the pouring rain as Eddie scrambles with his keys. Once inside, they all strip off and get comfy in their pyjamas for Christopher and sweatpants and old tee’s for Buck and Eddie. Then, they collapse on the sofa, click on a movie and eat the warmed up pizza from last night and too much halloween candy for dinner.
Christopher is the first to fall asleep, as always, sandwiched between Buck and Eddie and Buck offers to put him to bed while Eddie clears up. With a nod and a quick kiss, Eddie sets about throwing the wrappers and pizza box in the trash, refolding the couch blanket and switching off the tv. He joins Buck in the hallway just as he creeps out of Christophers room and tangles their fingers together to lead him to his bedroom.
The door closes with a soft click behind them and Eddie sighs in content as he and Buck curl up under the duvet together. Eddie ends up wrapped around Buck, with the blondes back pressed firmly against his chest while Eddies arms curl around his torso and his face pressed against the crook of Bucks neck.
“Hmm.’ Buck sighs happily. ‘G’night Ed’s. I love you.”
“Goodnight Buck. Te amo.” Eddie hums as his eyelids droop and he plants a soft kiss to Bucks neck.
Buck kissing his arm is the last thing Eddie remembers.
Buck does wake up with a nightmare that night, and the following night, but with Eddie and Christophers help, he can face anything life throws at him.