Eddie demanded, "Do you know how much Christopher misses you?"
Buck shook his head as he interrupted what looked like a long rant. "He doesn't."
Eddie was floored. He asked, "What?"
"Christopher doesn't miss me," Buck said plainly. "He calls me most nights. I tried to tell you, but you blocked my number. I've told him to tell you, but clearly, he's refusing."
Eddie said, "His nightmares stopped. He told me they stopped. He hasn't woken me up in a few weeks."
Buck shook his head. "Like I said, he's been calling me to talk him through it until he's asleep again. He's still dreaming about not being able to find me in the tsunami."
Bobby said, "You're not supposed to have any contact with the 118."
Buck sneered at him and said, "The last time I checked, Captain Nash, Christopher doesn't work for you. I am not going to let your issues around me returning to work when I am medically cleared to do so stop me helping a traumatized child."
Hen asked, "You're cleared for active duty?"
Buck nodded. "Yep, I have been since before the tsunami. It's just lucky I have my trust fund to fall back on, since my disability stopped when I was cleared to return." He looked at Eddie and said, "Call me when you want the details of the calls for Christopher's therapist. That's the only reason I came down here."
He turned and walked out, having finally said his piece.
Eddie said quietly, "What the fuck?"
As Bobby ordered the crew outside to deal with the road rage incident that had been building in the parking lot, Hen cornered Eddie and said, "I think we need to visit your boy to get the full story."
Eddie nodded. "Yeah. I get the feeling we're missing a lot of information. Christopher is with Abuela tonight, so I've got time for a long chat. If he lets us in." He sighed, "I don't understand why my kid would keep this from me."
As they walked outside, Hen said, "Maybe he knows you're already stressed, and he doesn't want to add to it? We can ask Buck; he probably knows."
Buck opened the door when he heard the knock. He'd been expecting at least Eddie to show up, but he wasn't expecting Hen beside him.
The younger man silently held the door open and gestured for them to enter his loft apartment.
They all stood around awkwardly as Buck walked back to the table he had set up in the kitchen area with his laptop and some files without saying a word.
Hen and Eddie looked at each other; this silence from their teammate wasn't something they were used to. Eventually, Hen asked, "Buck?"
He looked up and asked, "Yes?"
Hen said, "We have a few questions about what happened in the grocery store. I know Eddie has questions about Christopher, but I think we need to know more about the other comment you made about being medically cleared."
Eddie nodded. "We've been told you're not cleared and wouldn't be until you were off the thinners."
Buck snorted before he started going through the files on the table. When he found the right one, he handed it to Hen as he explained, "These are the letters clearing me for active duty from my surgeon, the hematologist he consulted, my physical therapist, and an approved VA therapist. As for Christopher, I would prefer to talk to Eddie alone about that."
Eddie said, "I agree, so we'll table it until we get the other stuff out of the way."
As Hen went through the papers, Eddie asked, "So what's the lawsuit for then? We were told it was because you weren't cleared but still wanted to work."
Buck scowled. "Is that why you all got so angry with me over the questions Jack was asking?" At their confused looks, he explained, "My lawyer."
Eddie and Hen both nodded in agreement.
Buck explained, "The lawsuit was to show that Bobby's actions were discriminatory, that he treats me different to everyone else at the 118. Everything discussed was information the lawyer found in the public records, including the details about Shannon since the 118 attended her accident. The only reason I went to the lawyer was because everyone else was allowed back to work when cleared after a major injury, but I wasn't. Chim had a fucking piece of rebar go through his brain, literally, but he had no issues returning to work."
Hen nodded as she went through the paperwork. She asked, "So the clots weren't caused by overworking your PT?"
Buck looked at her in disbelief. He asked, "Is that seriously what you believe? You know how meticulous I am about my workouts, how careful I am to not overwork since I know how damaging that can be."
Eddie asked, "What?"
Hen chuckled, "Do you remember that firefighter calendar nonsense when you started? It's when we found out the lengths Buck will go to for his workouts. He has a personal trainer at his gym who regulates his workouts, even the ones he does at the station on the weights there. It came out that he won't do anything until it's approved by his trainer."
Buck said, "Ty actually trained as a physical therapist. I've been seeing him since I was discharged from the SEALs. He worked with the surgical team to design me a rehab program which I stuck to religiously."
Eddie asked, "You served?"
Buck nodded once, stiltedly. "I did. Until I was in an accident when my humvee hit an IED. My shoulder and knee needed surgery and rehab. So, I was granted an honorable discharge, and my CO suggested I give the LAFD a chance."
Hen held up one of the pieces of paper and said, "This one says you're due for more surgery."
"Yep," Buck agreed. "I have another surgery scheduled next week to remove the screws, now that my leg is healed enough. The surgeon and the hematologist said my body is reacting to the hardware by throwing clots. As soon as the screws are out, I can go off the blood thinners."
Eddie asked, "So why aren't you back at work? When I asked Bobby before the lawsuit, he said you weren't ready, that you hadn't been cleared to work."
Buck scowled. "Bobby isn't ready for me to return, and that's his damage, not mine. He won't clear me to return to the firehouse. HQ said I have two options, return as a fire marshal, or transfer to a different station."
Hen gestured at the paperwork scattered all over the table and asked, "And all this?"
With a sigh, Buck said, "Transfer offers from various stations around the country, including several stations in LA."
Eddie tapped the folder with the Department of Defence logo on the outside. He'd noticed it when the medical folder was passed to Hen. He asked, "And this?"
"Classified," Buck said softly. "I couldn't tell you about that one, even if I wanted to. At least, not until I get confirmation of your current security clearance."
Eddie asked, "It's a job offer, though?"
Buck nodded. "Of sorts, yes. But not in LA. That one would require a move to the East Coast."
Hen asked, "You would consider a move that far away from your family?"
"What family?" Buck asked with a sneer. "The family that just accepted Bobby's pronouncement that I wasn't fit to return to work? The family that left me alone to struggle with my rehab? I mean, Eddie and his family helped, and for that, I am so grateful, but the rest of you really dropped the ball. Or do you mean my sister Maddie? Who tells me in every text that I need to stop this nonsense and accept that I will never go back to firefighting, and I need to find a new career. Her last lot of texts were particularly vicious. Apparently, I should not have told my lawyer about Chim and the rebar incident. It was childish and immature, and I need to grow up."
Eddie asked, "Seriously?"
Buck pulled out his phone and pulled up the text conversation with his sister. It was mostly one-sided as he had been ignoring her for a while now. He passed the phone to the two on the other side of the table before he picked up the DoD folders and put them on the chair beside him, out of reach of curious fingers.
Eddie saw that there was more than one folder in the pile and asked, "More than one job offer?"
Buck shrugged. "I had a good reputation as a SEAL. The decision to discharge me was more of a political decision than anyone in my direct chain of command was comfortable with."
As he could see Hen reading through the conversation with Maddie, Eddie asked, "Can I ask what your rank was when you were discharged?"
Buck said, "Senior Chief Special Warfare Officer. I was our team's second in command and our demolitions expert."
Eddie's eyebrows raised, "Wow. Okay, I didn't expect that."
Hen asked, "Expect what?"
Eddie asked, "How old were you when you were promoted to senior chief?"
Buck answered, "25. I joined the SEALs the day I turned 18. The accident that ended my career happened about six months after my promotion."
Eddie explained to Hen, "I was a staff sergeant when I was discharged. I'd been in the Army for 8 years by the time I was discharged between two tours. The rank of staff sergeant is an E-6 rating. If I remember correctly, senior chief special warfare officer, a rank specific to the SEALs, is an E-8 rating, two ranks above staff sergeant and rare for someone so young."
Buck added, "When I was discharged, I was in the process of training to take over the team when my CO retired. I had already done all the leadership and promotion courses; he was just waiting for me to have done my time before I could be promoted again to master chief. He was pissed that I was forcibly discharged, and he pulled strings to push through his retirement."
Hen asked, "Why didn't we know you were a SEAL, Buck?"
Buck said, "Most of what I did was classified. It was easier to let Bobby believe I washed out during hell week than admit I was a cold hard SEAL."
Eddie said, "SEALs are trained to blend, to be what they need to be to fit into any environment. It's what makes them so dangerous. They are supreme undercover operators, and the few Rangers I had in my medical tent only wished they were that good."
Hen grinned. "So we only see the frat boy because you want us to see you as a frat boy. You want to be underestimated?"
Buck shrugged. "Mostly, yeah. I mean, it's bitten my ass a few times when Bobby's prevented me from doing rescues I know I can do, but mostly he just considers me to be reckless, and I get away with it."
Hen asked, "What do you need from us?"
"Now?" Buck asked. "Nothing. Honestly, after today I'm done."
Eddie asked, "Because of me?"
Buck shook his head. "No, because of Bobby. The last straw was him telling me I couldn't stay in touch with Christopher. You're the only one who can decide that, and considering you didn't take away his iPad, I figured you're somewhat okay with it."
Eddie glanced briefly at Hen, who had gone back to the medical folder and said, "You mentioned I had blocked you, but I didn't. I blocked my phone from calling you because I know I have zero self-control when it comes to Christopher's needs, but that shouldn't have blocked you."
Hen looked at him sharply. "What? What do you mean you blocked your phone from calling Buck's?"
Buck said with a chuckle, "Eddie's a bit allergic to technology. Eds, when you block a number on your phone, it stops them calling you, not the other way around."
Eddie pulled out his phone and passed it to Buck, "Can you fix it, please."
Hen checked the time on her watch and said, "I need to go. Just… Buck, can you stay in touch? I know the lawsuit says we shouldn't, but I don't trust Bobby to give us accurate information in regards to you anymore."
Eddie nodded. "She has a point. I was pissed off because I thought you were just fighting the brass because they wouldn't let you return to work when you wanted. Bobby never told us you were medically cleared, and I believed him when he said you weren't ready. I honestly didn't even think to check with you because I trusted him."
Buck said, "I'll keep you informed, Hen, I promise. Go be with your family."
After she'd left, Buck let Eddie read through the medical file as he updated the notes he was making on the various offers he'd received. He'd sent a message through to his contact at the DoD to request Eddie's security clearance rating. Buck was surprised when he got a quick message back to say he had Top Secret clearance and could be read in on the various job offers.
Buck asked, "Why do you have Top Secret clearance?"
Eddie said, "On my second deployment, my unit was often pulled in to support the Rangers on sensitive missions, so my CO put us all through the clearance investigation to save time. I was the only medic to pass, so I was assigned to most of their missions."
Buck pulled the folders back onto the table. He said, "If you're interested, you've been cleared to read the offers. My contact thought I might like a sounding board."
Eddie slid them over to himself, but before he opened the one on top, he asked, "Why is Christopher calling you?" He could see Buck shutting down, so he quickly said, "I'm not mad, I'm just trying to understand. I thought the nightmares were over, that he was finally healing."
Buck shook his head. "Look, as far as I can tell, the nightmares have increased, but he's clearly hellbent on not telling you. I tell him to tell you during each call."
Eddie asked, "How is he calling you? I couldn't see anything on my phone, and I'm sure I would realize my phone wasn't where I left it in the mornings."
"His iPad," Buck said quietly. "He uses FaceTime to call me when he wakes up. I asked him why he's not going to you, and he said you were already sad, and he didn't want to make it worse."
Eddie slumped down in his seat and whispered, "Dios. I just can't get it right."
Buck sternly said, "No. This is not on you, he went through something horrific, and you were right, he is missing me. So he found a way to get in touch with me to try and fix it."
The older man shook his head in despair. "And I made it worse by blocking your calls, so you had to stage a confrontation at the grocery store to tell me."
Buck rounded the table, and he pulled Eddie into a hug. He whispered, "It's not your fault. You are doing the best you can with what you know. Chris is just trying to be the best kid for you and not add stress."
Eddie wrapped his arms around Buck's waist and held on tight as he tried to control his emotions. He whispered, "I was arrested the other day. I had to call Lena to bail me out because I wasn't allowed to call you. I didn't call the others because I didn't want Bobby to find out."
Buck said, "I would have bailed you out, Eds, in a heartbeat. Where's Chris tonight?"
Eddie said, "He's staying with Abuela. Carla dropped him off earlier."
Buck took a step back out of Eddie's arms and suggested, "Why don't I make us something quick to eat? Then you can go up and take a nap. I've adjusted my sleep schedule around his nightmares so I can read him back to sleep."
Eddie blinked. "Seriously?"
Buck nodded and said, "I love that kid as if he were my own. I would do anything for him."
The older man looked up at Buck and said, "I'm so sorry. I trusted Bobby and what he said. I should have ignored his announcement about staying away from you."
Buck shrugged as he walked over to the fridge to see what he had to cook. He sighed and said, "You had no reason to not trust him. You had no reason to question it. I mean, I trusted Bobby to tell you all that I was cleared to return. He received copies of all of my documentation."
Eddie had gone back to reading through the medical information as Buck was putting together a quick meal. He read through the clearance letter from his surgeon and scowled. "You were cleared to work, even with the blood thinners?"
Buck nodded. "Yep. Look, you saw me after the tsunami. I had a huge gash in my arm from a piece of debris, and I didn't bleed out. The only suggestion was that there be surgical glue on the trucks, which is a standard part of our first aid kits."
Eddie commented, "And there are plenty of us who can use it at the 118. So it really is Bobby that isn't ready. Do you know what's happening with the lawsuit?"
Buck nodded. "Yeah. It looks like the LAFD are going to settle rather than take it to court. It'll mean a return to the LAFD won't happen. Not easily."
Eddie tapped the DoD folders and asked, "Is anything in this pile of offers from the DoD local?"
Buck shook his head. "The closest offer is for a transfer to Coronado. They want me to take one of the trainer slots on the BUD/s course."
"And the others?" Eddie asked as he glanced at the small pile.
Buck said, "One is an offer to finish my masters at the Naval College in Monterey. There are also offers for me to work at the Pentagon and at Little Creek."
Eddie asked, "Will you let me know when you've made your decision?"
Buck dropped the pasta into the pot and set the timer before he approached Eddie and cupped his face in his hands. He said seriously, "I won't be making any decisions before I've talked to both you and Christopher first."
Eddie pulled him closer and whispered, "Why?"
The younger man smirked and said, "You know why." When he could see that Eddie still looked clueless, he sighed and said, "You have to understand that the only reason I started the lawsuit was to get back to you. I promised you I had your back, and I couldn't do that if I wasn't at work."
Eddie buried his face in the younger man's chest and mumbled, "Why? When I so clearly failed you."
Buck whispered, "You haven't failed me. It's just a small hiccup. Come on, let me finish up so you can take a nap. You look exhausted."
Eddie nodded. "It was a long shift."
Buck had shooed Eddie into his bed early and was sitting beside him, reading on his kindle, as he waited for Christopher's call.
The younger man had warned Eddie earlier that he didn't want him to be seen on the screen, that he didn't want to destroy the trust he’d built up with Christopher. Still, Eddie was welcome to listen in to the call so he would know what was going on with his son.
It wasn't until nearly 3am when the call came through. Buck nudged Eddie to wake him and reminded him to stay out of view of the camera.
When he saw Eddie was awake, he answered the call, "Superman. You have another nightmare?"
Christopher nodded, and with a sniff, he said, "I couldn't find you, Bucky. You were gone."
Buck knew that Christopher was at his abuela's for the night, but Chris didn't know that he knew, so he asked, "Did you think about waking up your dad for a cuddle?"
Christopher shook his head. "No. He's still too sad. He was happy when he thought my nightmares were going away. I'm not telling him." He seemed to think before he admitted, "I'm not dreaming about Mommy anymore."
Buck smiled, "And that's a good thing. Have you told your therapist you're still having nightmares?"
Christopher shook his head. "No. Daddy can see the sessions through the window."
Buck said, "Okay, little man, you know the deal, tell me about your nightmare."
Christopher sighed, "I was on the fire truck, and you jumped in to save someone else, but you didn't come back. I tried to find you, but you weren't there."
Buck soothed, "I'm here now. You're okay, kiddo. How about you put your iPad up on your bedside table and lie down, and I'll read you some more Percy Jackson." He reached over to his bedside table and grabbed his kindle where he had downloaded the Percy Jackson series of books for this reason. He also grabbed the notebook and pen he had sitting there, so he could make a note of the nightmare after the call.
Eventually, Christopher fell asleep after nearly two chapters of the book, and Buck finally ended the FaceTime call.
Buck put his kindle back on the bedside table and grabbed the notebook as Eddie moved to sit up beside him on the headboard.
Eddie asked, "What's the notebook for?"
As he wrote down the details of the dream, and added a note about Shannon not being in Christopher's dreams anymore, he explained, "It's basically the kid's dream diary. I've been keeping notes since his first call for his therapist. Dates and any specific details about the dream.
When Buck was finished writing, he passed the notebook to Eddie before he slid down, so he was lying down in the bed. As the older man was reading, Buck said, "He started calling me a few days after I filed the lawsuit. I guess you told him I wouldn't be around or something. I've pushed him in every call to tell you, to tell his therapist, but he is a stubborn little shit."
Eddie chuckled. "He takes after his dad… In more ways than one." He put the notebook down on the other bedside table and slid down the bed so he could wrap his arms around Buck. He snuggled into the younger man and whispered, "Lena took me to a fight club. One of those illegal junkyard clubs."
Buck pulled him in tighter, as if he could protect him, and asked, "Why?"
The older man shrugged as much as he could while being hugged within an inch of his life. He whispered, "I am just so damn angry. Angry at Shannon for dying on me the day after she asked for a divorce, angry at Bobby for leaving you out in the cold, and I guess part of it was I was angry at you, as misguided as it was, for leaving me. I lashed out at the guy in the parking lot, he was bitching about Chris not being disabled enough for a disabled park, and he said he had more right to it because of some bullshit reason. I stopped listening and just punched him. At that fight club, it was just so tempting to get in the ring and lash out more.”
Buck leaned back so he could look at the other man, and he cupped his cheek as he said earnestly, "I was fighting my hardest to come back to you. I hated that it meant I couldn't call you, but I thought it would be worth it." He leaned forward to rest his forehead on Eddie's and murmured, "I was wrong, so wrong. I lost you in the process, and for that, the cost was too high."
Eddie shook his head. "Not lost, just adrift a bit." He considered the man beside him before he asked, "Whatever you decide, take us with you?"
Buck asked quietly, "You'd do that for me? Uproot your entire lives?"
"In a heartbeat," Eddie confirmed. "These last two months without you have been hell. I love you, Evan, and I don't want to be separated from you again."
Buck gave Eddie a hopeful look before he leaned forward the last few inches to gently kiss him. He pulled back to gauge the other man's reaction, but before he could think, Eddie surged forward and pulled him into a hard kiss that turned hot and heavy quickly.
Eventually, Buck pulled back to stop Eddie leaving hickeys on display down his neck as he commented, "As much as I love this. I'm still on the blood thinners." When he saw the evil grin on his partner's face, he said, "Not today, corazón. I have a meeting with the lawyer in a few days, and I bruise like a bloody peach."
Eddie said petulantly, "Fine."
Buck asked hesitantly, "So we're really going to try this? Being together, I mean."
With a nod, Eddie said, "Definitely. I've wanted to be with you for so long, but I wasn't sure if you wanted me, and I didn't want to destroy the best friendship I've ever had."
Buck asked, "So if you're both coming with me, do you have any preferences for the jobs you saw downstairs?"
"Coronado," Eddie said decisively. "You're a good teacher, and I think San Diego would be a good choice for Christopher. Both of my sisters live there, well… Adriana lives there, and Sophia uses it as a base when she's not on deployment with the Navy."
Buck asked, "Do you want me to reach out to my contact and see if there is anything there that would be a good fit for you? You're already on their radar since I requested an update on your security clearance."
Eddie nodded. "Sure. I can't think there'll be anything I could be good at, given how hard it was for me to find something in the civilian world when I got back."
The younger man smirked as he said, "Coronado is a huge base. There is bound to be something. Hell, if the LAFD decides to settle, you can become a man of leisure or even go to college. Whatever floats your boat."
Eddie snickered, "Yeah, I don't think I could become a man of leisure. I'd drive you insane within a week. I'll wait and see what your contact comes back with. Either way, I'm going to resign tomorrow."
Buck asked, "Why? Why not wait and see what's going to happen with the lawsuit first?"
As the older man snuggled into his partner's side, he said, "I can't. I can't work for someone I can't trust."
The following day Buck printed out copies of all of Buck's clearance letters, so Eddie could confront Bobby with them. Hen had already agreed to be his backup if needed.
Eddie wasn't due at work until after lunch, so he suggested, "Why don't you come home with me. Christopher would love to see you in person, and you can hang out with him and Carla while I'm at work."
Buck nodded. "Let me pack up my DoD files. I'll need to get hold of Patrick to let him know I am going to take the Coronado posting… with a few conditions."
Eddie helped him pack everything up as he asked, "What sort of conditions?"
The younger man grinned. "Coverage for Christopher on my medical insurance, and a guarantee that my employment is purely for training, no overseas deployments. I know better than to stick to any verbal agreements after my discharge."
Buck ran upstairs to grab his kindle and the notebook so he could talk to Christopher about giving it to his therapist. He also wanted to speak to the kid about his nightmares. He had a feeling his staying away was making them worse.
When they arrived at the Diaz house, Abuela was waiting on the front step for them. She saw their entwined hands as they approached and sighed. "About time, mi nietos. Christopher is waiting inside. He's just watching his cartoons." She looked at Eddie with a severe expression. "He had another nightmare last night. I heard him on his iPad again."
Buck nodded. "He's been calling me, and I've been talking him through it. It's why Eddie was at my place last night. I finally forced him to speak to me so I could tell him."
She reached up and cupped his cheek as she said, "Next time he's being a bullheaded idiota, you come to me. Okay?"
"Sure," Buck agreed.
She left then to drive home as the boys entered the house to surprise Christopher.
Eddie called out, "Christopher, I've got a surprise for you."
When they heard his footsteps approaching, Buck put his laptop bag on the ground out of the way, and he prepared to be hugged within an inch of his life. He knelt on the floor so it would be easier to embrace the young boy.
"BUCK!" Christopher screamed when he saw his best friend waiting for him in the entryway. He barrelled into Buck and squeezed him into as tight a hug as he could. With a few tears falling, Christopher whispered, "I missed seeing you, Bucky."
As he stood, Buck picked Christopher up and carried him through to the sofa in the living room. Eddie followed behind with Buck's laptop bag before he sat beside them.
Christopher looked between his dad and his Bucky and asked, "Are you not mad at each other anymore?"
Eddie looked at his son with a sad look on his face. He said, "I was never mad at Bucky, and he was never mad at me. Something happened that meant we weren't supposed to talk to each other. Then I accidentally made my phone not work for him, and it all got a bit messy."
Buck added, "But I love you guys too much to stay away, so I forced your dad into talking to me so we could help you with your nightmares together."
Christopher asked, "You love us, both of us?"
Eddie grinned, "Yes, mijo, I finally fessed up. We still need to talk about it, but we've decided we want to try a relationship together."
"YAY!" Christopher squealed loud enough to burst eardrums.
Buck tried to calm him down before he said, "It does mean we'll probably be moving. I've been offered a few jobs outside of LA with the Navy. I still need to talk to Patrick about your dad, but we'll likely be moving to San Diego."
Christopher asked, "You'll take us with you?"
"Of course!" Buck agreed instantly. "I wouldn't want to move without my favorite Diaz boys. And Coronado is only a two-hour drive away, so we can still come back and visit Abuela, Pepa, and your friends."
They spent the rest of the morning just chilling out and relaxing. Eddie was nervous about quitting his job without having another job lined up.
Buck said, "Look, if it worries you that much, I have a trust fund. I don't mind supporting you while you figure out what you want to do."
Eddie scowled. "I shouldn't need help. I should have a buffer."
Buck said, "In a perfect world, you would. In that same perfect world, you wouldn't be a struggling single dad who got fuck all support from his wife before she died. I don't mind, and I have enough to keep us both afloat for a while."
Eddie nodded a reluctant agreement. "Okay. But I want to talk to your contact about my options."
Buck suggested, "How about I get him to investigate, then he can come and discuss them with us together. Well, one of his underlings will investigate. He's based in Coronado, and he won't mind the short flight to see us."
He thought about the wording Buck used, and with suspicion lacing his voice, Eddie asked, "Just who is Patrick?"
Looking sheepish, Buck admitted, "Rear Admiral Patrick Conway. He's the current NSWC commander. Patrick took over from the asshole who forced through my discharge. When I started, he was the captain who commanded our team. He was pissed about my discharge but wasn't a high enough rank to fight it. Until now."
Eddie's eyes widened. "Wow, okay. So he's someone with the power to negotiate? Good to know."
Buck said, "He also has the clearance to pull your full, unredacted file."
Eddie asked, "Was it just my security clearance that got me on his radar?"
With a smirk, Buck shook his head. "Nope. We've been friends for a long time, and he's been trying to recruit me since he took over command of NSWC. I think he worked out just how gone I was on you before I did. I talked about you a lot."
Christopher snarked, "The only people who didn't know you loved each other were you two. Auntie Hen and Uncle Chim have been joking about it for ages."
Buck snorted. "That doesn't surprise me. But you gotta understand, we knew, but neither of us wanted to ruin our friendship if the other didn't feel the same way. Your dad had to be super brave to tell me since I wasn't brave enough to tell him first."
Eddie shrugged. "It wasn't bravery; it was panic. I didn't want to lose you."
Buck kissed him gently and murmured, "And you won't. Not now, not ever." He pulled back and said, "You need to start getting ready for work."
Eddie asked, "Can you let Carla know what's going on when she gets here? See if she has contacts in San Diego."
Buck nodded. "Sure, I'll find out about schools too. If she's not sure, we can ask Principal Summers at Durand. She's bound to have some contacts."
When Eddie arrived at the 118, he was nervous. He had copies of Buck's medical clearances printed out. And he had typed up a resignation letter to go with it. The clearance letters showed that Bobby had been CC'ed in on all the letters sent by the surgical team, so it really was just Bobby that was keeping Buck from working.
Hen pulled Eddie assigned when she saw him and whispered, "Well?"
Eddie silently held up his resignation letter, and she gave him an incredulous look. She quietly demanded, "Seriously?"
Eddie agreed, "Deadly. Buck and I had a long talk last night about the various job offers, and he's going to talk to his old CO about a job in San Diego. He's going to negotiate, so there are no overseas deployments for him. They've apparently been trying to recruit him since well before the accident."
Hen asked, "So even if he wins the lawsuit, he's not coming back, is he?"
Eddie shook his head. "Yesterday was the final straw. For both of us. We'll be meeting with Rear Admiral Conway at some point in the next few days to go over our options."
Hen asked, "What are the rest of the papers you have there?"
"Buck's medical clearance letters," Eddie explained. "I want them handy as evidence for when I confront Bobby."
Hen gestured toward the stairs. She said, "Cap's up there making breakfast for the shift. Do you want to confront him straight away, or wait until after the breakfast rush?"
They turned and saw their battalion chief walk across the garage. Eddie turned to his friend and said, "I think now would be a good time."
They followed the battalion chief up the stairs. She didn't visit the station often, but given the confrontation the day before, and the lawsuit currently in progress, the pair expected fireworks.
When they reached the top of the stairs, they could see the captain and the battalion chief talking in angry hushed tones in the kitchen. Hen hung back, just watching, as Eddie approached the captain.
Eddie held out his resignation letter to Bobby, folded in half, and he said, "Sorry to interrupt, I just want to give this to the captain before the start of the shift."
Bobby turned off the burners before he opened the letter up. He demanded, "What's this?"
Eddie glanced at the battalion chief, who'd taken the letter from his captain, as he said, "It's my resignation. I've decided to leave the LAFD."
Bobby asked, "Why?"
Eddie countered his question with one of his own. "What's the one thing I asked for when I agreed to work here?" When he saw Bobby hesitate, he continued, "Honesty. I warned you that if you lied to me, I'd be gone."
Bobby asked, "When have I lied?"
Eddie threw the clearance letters on the counter. "Buck was cleared to work on active duty. You were sent copies of the letters from his medical team and the VA Psychologist who cleared him. Yet when I asked when Buck was coming back to work, you lied and said he wasn't cleared. With that simple statement, you destroyed any trust I had in you, Captain Nash."
Bobby implored, "Think of your son. How will you support him?"
Eddie tapped on the letters he had thrown on the counter, and heedless of the crowd that was growing behind him, he said, "I have all the support I need from my partner. I can trust him to be there for us, no matter what. Even though he was barred from contacting us, he supported my son through his nightmares and found a way to make me aware when he noticed they were escalating. It's irrelevant really, regardless of what happens with the lawsuit, Buck's leaving LA, and we'll be going with him."
Chim, who was in the crowd behind him, yelled, "What?"
Battalion Chief Williams said, "Firefighter Diaz, I'll make sure your resignation is processed for you. We may require an exit interview, but we'll contact you directly if that's the case." She turned to Bobby and said quietly, “Captain Nash, as I said earlier, I’ll be following you to HQ, where we have an urgent meeting with Chief Alonzo. Captain Mehta from the 133 will be coming in to cover for you."
Eddie said, "Thank you, Chief Williams. It's appreciated."
As he was gathering up the paperwork he'd thrown on the bench, the battalion chief murmured, "Can you tell him I'm sorry for what happened?"
Eddie nodded. "Sure. Look, I know it's not his preference to leave, but any trust either of us had in the LAFD is gone. He's been fending off offers from his last employers, and he's finally decided to take them up on it."
She asked, "Will you really be okay? I know you've got that adorable son of yours to support."
Eddie smiled. "We'll be fine. Buck has offered to support both of us until I find something. He's also talking to the guy who's recruiting him about finding something for me with my experience."
She had an inkling as to where Buck was going to go, so she murmured, "I wish you both the best of luck. I'll see what I can do about using your vacation days instead of working out your notice."
"Thanks," Eddie said gratefully.
When she and Bobby were both gone, Chim approached and said, "What the hell was that."
Eddie sighed. "That was me choosing not to cross the line I declared when I took the job."
Chim asked, "What?"
The younger man explained, "When I took the job here, I asked for one thing, honesty. Bobby lied when he said Buck wasn't cleared to work."
Hen nodded. "We both talked to Buck last night to get his side of the story. And honestly, between all of us ignoring him, his sister's frankly deplorable treatment of him, and Bobby's lies, I'm not surprised he's leaving."
Chim said, "Buck hasn't spoken to her in weeks."
Eddie scoffed, "Why would he. She's been a vicious bitch to him in texts. She straight up told him that the lawsuit was childish and immature, that he had no right to pass on information about your past injuries. Which for the record, he didn't. His lawyer had access to all of our publicly accessible after-action reports as part of the discovery process."
Martin asked, "I thought the lawsuit was because he wanted to come back even though he wasn't cleared? That's what Bobby told us."
Eddie shook his head. "Nope. It was to prove discrimination. That Bobby treats Buck differently to everyone else at the 118. Chim had rebar go through his brain, and then a year later he was stabbed by Maddie's ex-husband, yet as soon as he was medically cleared, he was able to return to work."
Hen said, "His disability payments stopped as soon as he was cleared. Buck was just fighting to return to work like everyone else who's ever been injured while working here."
As Eddie left the group to put the papers back in his truck, where they would be safe, he murmured to Chim, "Tell Maddie not to text unless she can be civil. If she doesn't stop, he'll probably change his number, and she won't find him a second time."
Chim nodded. "I'll pass it on. And for what it's worth, tell him I'm sorry. I had no idea."
When Eddie got home the following day after what had been a long shift, he found Carla waiting for him with Buck. They were going through some resumes that Carla had been sent by her boss for freelance home care aides that worked out of San Diego. They were narrowing down the pool as she'd been sent nearly 20 resumes.
Carla pulled Eddie into a hug and said, "I'll miss you guys when you leave, but I understand why you're going."
Eddie squeezed her tight as he said, "We'll be back often for visits. Abuela and Pepa will be here, and we'll want to stay in touch with our friends."
Christopher came in from his bedroom to give his dad a hug. He asked, "How did it go? Did you give Bobby your letter?"
Recalling the text Eddie had sent him, Buck said, "Yeah, spill Eds, you said it was explosive."
Eddie took a seat at the table, and he contemplated where to start. "Well, Hen pulled me aside to make sure everything was okay after she left last night. As we were talking, we saw Battalion Chief Williams walk up to the loft, so of course, we followed her. When I gave Bobby my resignation, she promised it would be processed, and she's going to see if some of my vacation days can be used in lieu of my notice period."
Buck said, "Jack called just before you got home. The LAFD lawyer has requested you come with me to the meeting tomorrow morning. You probably have a message in your email. I think they've made a decision about the lawsuit and want to lay out the options."
Eddie pulled out his phone to check his emails. He found the email from Chief Williams, and he confirmed, "Yep. They've got a floater covering my shift."
Buck added, "Rear Admiral Conway will be in town tomorrow afternoon to talk to us. He's going to meet us in town at a steakhouse he loves. He said he's found some options for you, but he wants to talk to you about them directly."
Eddie nodded. "So it's going to be a busy day tomorrow?"
Carla said, "Don't you worry about things at this end. I'm already scheduled for the school pickup tomorrow, so I'll take care of Christopher until you both get home. For now, though, I'm going to head home to my husband before he orders take out again."
After she left, Buck got Christopher set up in his room with his lego. He explained that he wanted to talk about adult stuff with his dad, and he'd come and get him when dinner was ready.
When he returned to the kitchen, Buck could see Eddie was still sitting at the table, looking a bit overwhelmed. So draped his arms around his shoulders and asked, "You okay?"
Eddie nodded. "Yeah. It's just, it's all happening so fast."
Buck agreed, "It is. Faster than I expected to be honest. We can try and slow it down a bit, though, if that makes you more comfortable?"
With a shake of the head, Eddie said, "No, no. Fast is okay; it's just overwhelming, is all." He chuckled, "I should call my parents and tell them I resigned. The fallout would be hilarious."
Buck said, "No babe, no trolling your parents. They'll think we're moving to El Paso."
Eddie sighed, "You're right. And when they find out we're not, they'll start nagging me to do it anyway. So what's the meeting tomorrow about? You think the LAFD are going to settle?"
The younger man said, "Jack said they are offering a settlement to make the case go away. I think there is going to be hell to pay for several people. Especially considering I went to the union, and they did nothing."
Eddie's eyes widened, "Dios Mio. Seriously?"
The meeting with the LAFD went as they both expected. Eddie's resignation was processed effective immediately. Buck was offered a large settlement to resign from the LAFD and not pursue the discrimination case. Something he accepted readily, as he had no interest in returning to the organization that effectively screwed him over.
The fact that the union had failed to act in several cases had come to light, and it was being investigated at the highest level. Something Buck was grateful for.
Bobby was suspended for a week for his actions, but he had the union's backing, so he wasn't demoted. Much to his surprise. When Buck and Eddie turned up to drop off their uniforms and empty their lockers, Bobby was there to offer them both a sincere apology.
As for the meeting with Rear Admiral Conway, they met at Cut, a Michelin Star restaurant in Beverly Hills. Buck did the introductions, and after he secured an agreement between the three of them that they left their ranks at the door for the meeting, he asked, "What's with the fancy restaurant?"
Patrick grinned. "This is the Admiralty's idea of wooing. They really want you back, kid. I finally got that bastard fired, and his vendetta with you was exposed."
Buck snarked, "Hence the recruitment campaign over the last year?”
With a nod, Patrick confirmed, "Bingo. It's also why all the stipulations you emailed me have been met, including adding Christopher to your health insurance. It's unconventional, but it'll be done." He turned to Eddie and said, "As for Staff Sergeant Diaz, sorry, Eddie, we'd like to offer you a transfer to the Navy, and we have a couple of options for you within the BUD/s training facility. The role we'd really like you to take is as the primary medic trainer, you have an exemplary record from both of your deployments, and your last CO said you were his go-to trainer for any newbie medics he was assigned."
Eddie said, "I'm not qualified to teach, though."
Patrick grinned. "Not yet. We have a course we do for new trainers, both you and Buck would do this course together. Once you graduate, Buck will be promoted to Master Chief, and Eddie, you'll be promoted to Chief Petty Officer. The course is run locally in San Diego, so there will be little disruption to Christopher once you all get settled. The next course is due to start in the new year, and it's a six-month course."
Eddie asked, "I thought all the trainers on the BUD/s program had to be SEALs themselves?"
Patrick and Buck both shook their heads. Patrick said, "Most are, but there are some parts of the course where specialists like yourself are brought in." He handed over a folder as he said, "This has all the details for the training we'd like you to do for us. Our current medic trainer is also former Army, and he'd like to retire, so you'll train under him for a year, then it's all yours."
Eddie asked, "Do you mind if I flick through this while you two chat?"
Patrick nodded. "Please do. I'd like to get a tentative answer from you both before I leave today."
As Eddie flicked through the file, Buck and Patrick reminisced about old missions where they often got each other into trouble. When Eddie eventually closed the folder, Buck asked, "Well?"
Eddie smirked, "You know I'm going to say yes. Like I said after we pulled the grenade out of Charlie's leg, I've got your back." He tapped the folder, "This is just the icing on the cake." He turned to Patrick and said, "I'd like to talk to Buck and Chris before I sign, but I'm pretty sure it's a done deal."
Patrick nodded. "Good to hear. Now eat up. Your steak is going cold."
They made small talk for the rest of the meal, and as they were drinking coffee at the end of the meal, Patrick said, "I'll send a bird to pick you both up on Friday. We'll go over the fine print and details, and I'll give you both a tour of the base."
Buck smiled, "That sounds great. It'll be good to see the place again. Lots of memories."
As Eddie drove them home, Buck went through the details in the folder Patrick had given Eddie. He commented, "This is a good offer. Basically, once Hicks leaves, you'll be promoted again to Senior Chief to be on the same level as the other trainers. It looks like they are offering us base housing which will be good if we can find a school close by."
Eddie said, "If we can't, Adriana can help us find a place off base to live."
Buck asked hopefully, "So we're really doing this?"
Eddie reached over and squeezed his thigh. "Where you go, I go, Evan Buckley. Let's go raise hell in Coronado."
2 Months Later
Buck waited impatiently for Eddie to come out of the changing room. They were picking up their formal uniforms, their last bit of kit, before they started training on Monday.
When Eddie walked out, Buck had to resist pushing him up against the changing room door and kissing him senselessly.
Eddie grinned. “Down, boy.” He checked them both out in the tailor’s mirror before he decided they were good to go. “Come on, we have a family to troll.”
They had talked to Patrick about their plan, and after making sure both of their Instagram accounts were locked down to just family, he’d agreed.
They walked to the building they would be working in once they passed their training, and they asked a passing corpsman to take a photo of them by the sign dressed to the nines in their formal blues.
He got a great shot of them together with Buck kissing Eddie’s cheek and Eddie looking so happy. They thanked him profusely for the perfect photo before they headed back to the truck. When they got home, the new Carla, a woman named Tiffany, took a photo of the two of them kissing Christopher’s cheeks. He was in his room finishing his homework with her help.
Buck posted the two photos to both of their Instagram accounts with the caption: #newjob #newbeginning #happyfamily
The replies came in pretty fast from their various friends and family.
@HenWil5on: Looking great, boys. Miss you heaps.
@DispatcherMay: Wow! @Buckaroo is that a trident? You’re a SEAL?
@AthenaGrant: @DispatcherMay shouldn’t you be working. You boys look great! Can’t wait to hear more.
@SophiaDiaz: @EddieHatesTech What the hell, big brother. Since when are you a squid?
@ParamedicChimney: Makes our uniforms look lame. Miss you guys.
@AwesomeNursey: Love the uniforms, looking forward to your next visit. Christopher, you look so proud of your dads!
@PepaMartinez: So exciting. I am so proud of you both!
The replies kept coming, but Eddie was distracted by his phone ringing with a FaceTime request from his little sister.
He and Buck had both hung up their uniform jacket as soon as the photos were posted. They didn’t want to accidentally get their uniforms dirty before they needed them. So when Sophia’s call came in, they were chilling on the sofa in their uniform shirts.
Eddie grinned at his little sister, who was clearly at work, and he asked, “What’s up, baby sister?”
Sophia demanded, “Why did you post a photo of the main SEAL training building?”
Eddie laughed. “Because in six months, once we finish our training, that’s where we’ll be working.”
Buck waved from his seat beside Eddie. “Hi, Sophia.”
Sophia was trying to get a look at the rank insignia on their shirts. She asked, “So your new job came with a promotion?”
Eddie said, “Technically two. I got a promotion when I took the job, and when I take over from the current medic trainer in 18 months, I’ll be promoted again. They really wanted Buck to come and teach, and we’re a package deal.”
Sophia said, “Mom and Dad are going to be pissed.”
Eddie asked, “Why? We had it written in our contracts that we are not to be deployed due to Christopher. If they try to deploy us, it voids the contracts we both signed, and we get a substantial payout for them to break it.”
Buck added, “We also found a great pediatrician here in San Diego that specializes in CP. Christopher loves him, and we even found a new rock climbing gym for Christopher to continue his lessons. He will thrive here just as much as he did in LA.”
She said, “I have to go; my boss needs me. Before I go, I have to ask, are you happy?”
Eddie looked up at Buck and saw the love in his eyes, so he nodded. “Yeah. We really are.”