May was just hanging up from a call when Linda rolled over to her. The younger woman smiled at her co-worker but the concerned look on her face had May frowning.
“What’s up?” May asked.
“I’ve got a caller who is asking for you by name,” Linda explained and May frowned. “Wouldn’t give me a name but asked for Dispatcher May Grant. Want me to pass the call?”
May nodded and turned back to her computer. When the line connected, she took a calming breath.
“This is Dispatcher Grant,” May said down the line. The person on the other end let out a shaky breath and a watery chuckle. “Can I know who I’m speaking too?”
“Did you know that you are really special May?” The voice said and May would know that voice anywhere. “You were born on a Saturday and that’s the day that the least number of babies are born. Did you know that?”
“Buck? Are you ok?” May asked softly. She typed on her keyboard, trying desperately to find a location on the man she considered an older brother. Something must be seriously wrong if he was calling 911 and asking for her. She heard him take a swallow of something before he let out a harsh laugh.
“Can you tell me what it’s like to be loved by your parents May?” Buck asked and May let out a soft gasp. Her hand shot up and she frantically indicated for Josh to come over.
“Buck, can you tell me where you are?” May asked as Josh sat down beside her and joined her call. Buck let out another harsh breath but didn’t answer. “Buck, are you safe?”
“Not like it matters,” Buck whispered. Josh took over the keyboard so that May could pull out her phone and text her mother.
Mom: Do you know where Buck is??
“Buck, what’s going on?” May asked as Josh tried to lock in a location on the man. “Why didn’t you call my cell?”
“Cause you’re busy. But I just wanted to hear a kind voice,” Buck’s voice was slurred as he spoke and May frowned. “A kind voice one last time.”
“Buck, I need to know if you’ve taken anything? You’re sounding a little slurred,” May asked.
“Did you know that 24 people die every year from champagne corks?” Buck ignored May’s question as he rambled out facts. “Like out of all the stupid shit someone could do, a champagne cork is what gets them.”
“Buck, are you drinking right now?” May asked and Buck made a noise of agreement. May shared a glance with Josh who frowned and May’s phone vibrated on the table. “Buck, how much have you had to drink?”
Mom: No baby, I haven’t spoken to him today. Bobby said they had a rough night last night but Buck seemed ok when he left. Why?
“Dunno,” Buck finally replied. “I think I started with three bottles. But one fell off. And it was full May. That makes me sad.”
“Fell off? Fell off where Buck?” May asked and both her and Josh held their breaths.
“May, why do people think I’m expendable?” Buck murmured, a sob escaping his throat and May’s hand flew up to cover her mouth. Josh took her spare hand in his and squeezed it tightly.
“I don’t think that, Buck. I’d never think that,” May replied urgently. “And I demand you send whoever said that to you straight to me. I’ll set them straight.”
“You’re pretty awesome May,” Buck’s voice was going softer and May tensed. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
“Well, I think I need my big brother around to remind me,” May said firmly, tears now slipping down her cheeks.
“Nah. You don’t need a fuck up like me around. I’ll just mess you up. Like I do everything else in my life,” Buck’s voice was hoarse and May let out a soft sob. “Don’t cry for me May. I’m not worth it.”
“No, you are. You’re my brother Buck and I love you,” May sobbed out. Linda wrapped an arm around the younger girl and May could hear Sue talking on the phone to someone behind her. “Buck, please tell me where you are. Please. I don’t want to lose you.”
“Probably better for everyone if I was gone,” Buck said and May let out a breath.
“No way,” May relied firmly. “Harry and I need our brother, Denny needs his Uncle Buck and Christopher, don’t even get me started on how much he needs his Bucky. And that’s just us kids. I can’t even imagine what the adults will be like. Who will cook with Bobby? God knows no one else is allowed in his kitchen. And mom, someone needs to help me stand up to her. Plus, you gotta be there for dad’s next life crisis - David and I refuse to be alone for it! What about Maddie? You think she wants to deal with Chimney and a new baby alone? God that baby is going to have the best uncle ever but you need to be there to meet them.”
“Why are you trying so hard May?” Buck asked softly, taking another swig of whatever he was drinking. “Just let me go.”
“NO!” May yelled. She knew it was against her training but training be damned. Her brother was thinking the world would be better without him. “No, I won’t just let you go. Because I love you and I damn well don’t want the next time I see you to be at your funeral. I love you Evan James Buckley and nothing, NOTHING, will ever change that. My world is so much richer for having you in it. I refuse to lose you.”
“Sue,” a new voice joined the conversation. Alice had rolled over, her hand covering her headset mouthpiece. “I’ve got a caller in Topanga State Park who says they are standing behind a male sitting on the edge of a cliff. He appears to be drinking and they are concerned for his wellbeing.”
“Buck, can you tell me what you’re wearing right now?” May asked, knowing what Sue was going to ask for next.
“You’re weird,” Buck teased before movement was heard over the phone. “Um, grey sweats, a black t shirt and trainers. Why?”
“Just worried about you bro,” May said as Alice got the description of the man from her caller. “It’s going to get cool tonight and I just need to know you’re wearing appropriate clothes.”
“It matches,” Alice said and Sue nodded. She was dispatching both LAPD and LAFD to the scene but she was growing more and more concerned that they wouldn’t make it in time.
“May, can you tell Mads I love her,” Buck said and May let out a choked sob. “Tell her I don’t blame her. For any of it.”
“Buck, you can tell her yourself,” May sobbed out.
“Don’t cry for me May,” Buck said softly, his tone almost soothing. It was a tone she knew he used whenever one of the kids had a nightmare or needed a Buck hug. It was the tone he used on calls with kids to soothe them. And now he was trying to use it on her before he went over a cliff. “I’m just sad I won’t get to see you all grow up. Will you tell Chris, tell him Bucky loves him? And I’m sorry I couldn’t be stronger.”
“Buck please,” May sobbed. “Please stay. I don’t want to be the one to call mom and tell her that her eldest son has died. Please Buck.”
“Tell mama and pops I love them. They are so much better than the Buckleys,” Buck said. It sounded like he has started to move and that thought had May panicking. “Wish they were my actual parents.”
“They can be,” May said, thinking quickly. “There’s a thing called adult adoption. We can talk to them about it together. I’ll get the forms and everything for you. It would be so cool to watch mom’s face as she opened adoption papers with your name on them.”
“But they wouldn’t want that, would they?” Buck asked and May heard him stop moving. “Why would anyone want a fuck up like me?”
“Cause you’re awesome,” May repeated. “Mom and Bobby would be over the moon if you asked them to adopt you. Please Buck. Please let me help you.”
“May, I’m scared,” Buck whispered and May sobbed.
“I know Buck. I know,” May said. She was speaking frantically to the emergency crews and soon, May could hear sirens over the line. “Buck, first responders are arriving. Can you go with them, please? I promise I’ll be there as soon as possible. But I want you to go with them.”
“I’m just so tired May,” Buck’s voice was getting weaker and May had no doubt he was beginning to succumb to the alcohol in his system. “Jus. Jus’ wanna sleep.”
“Hi Buck, my name is Henry,” a new voice joined the fray and May held her breath. “I’m a firefighter from Station 69. I know, laugh it up. We all do.”
“Buck, listen to him. I’m going to come to you ok,” May said.
“Alright May. Love you,” Buck said. The phone call ended and May pulled the headset from her ear.
“Dispatch, this is engine 69 on site with one male,” the captain’s voice came over the radio and May dropped back into her seat, Josh and Linda wrapping their arms around her. “Male has been moved away from the cliff edge. Paramedics beginning assessment now.”
“Copy Engine 69. Please advise destination,” Sue said, her hand squeezing May’s shoulder.
“We will transport to UCLA Santa Monica Medical Centre,” the man replied. Sue relayed her confirmation before disconnecting the call.
“I have to go to him,” May said, looking wildly up at Sue. “Oh god, I need to call everyone.”
“May, breathe,” Sue said and May accepted the cup of water from Alice.
“You’re in no state to drive,” Josh commented before looking up at Sue. Sue nodded and Josh turned back to the younger dispatcher. “I’ll take you. Let’s go.”
“I’ll call in some covers for you,” Sue said as May began to awkwardly fumble for her bag. “Give Firefighter Buckley our love.”
Josh led May down to his car and helped her into the passenger seat. She was fumbling with her phone but she couldn’t get her hands to stop shaking. Pressing on the first number in her contacts that she found, she put the phone on speaker.
“Hey May,” Bobby’s soothing voice echoed down the line. “How’s your shift going?”
When May let out a sob, she heard movement down the line. May could hear both her parents and David in the background as Bobby tried to soothe her.
“May sweetie, what’s going on? Are you hurt?” Bobby’s voice was steady but that just made May sob harder.
“Bobby, this is Josh Russo,” Josh said loudly as he drove towards Santa Monica. “May and I are heading to UCLA Santa Monica Medical Centre. It’s for the best if you meet us there.”
“Josh, what is going on?” Bobby demanded and Josh could hear movement down the line as the group began to gather their things.
“Bobby, the simplest explanation I can give is that May is fine but Buck is not. I’m going to need you to contact Maddie and probably the others on your team and meet us at the hospital,” Josh said in his firm, yet calm dispatcher tone. “May and I are about half an hour away so we will probably arrive just before you but suffice it to say, you need to get there.”
“We are on our way. About 60 minutes out,” Bobby replied firmly before hanging up the phone. May placed her phone on her lap and Josh took her hand as she started to sob.
“Josh, why would he do this?” May sobbed and Josh sighed.
“I don’t know May. I’ve got no answers for you,” Josh replied.
The rest of their drive was silent except for May’s sobs. She had placed her phone back in her bag and was ignoring the constant vibration as she rested her head on the window and squeezed Josh’s hand rhythmically.
When they arrived at the hospital, Josh dropped May at the Emergency room doors while he went to park the car. May burst into the room and made her way straight to the nurse’s desk.
“Excuse me,” she said frantically and the nurse looked up at her kindly. “My brother was just brought in by paramedics. Um, Evan Buckley. Please, is he alright?”
“Give me a second love,” the nurse said as she typed on her screen. May began to tap her foot anxiously as she waited for the woman’s response. “Ok, so I can’t tell you much given that you aren’t his emergency contact or next of kin, but I can tell you that he is being checked out now by our emergency team.”
“Where can I wait? The rest of our family are on their way too,” May asked and the nurse nodded. She led May down to a private waiting area and squeezed her shoulder gently. May dropped into one of the cold, plastic chairs and dropped her head into her hands. After a few minutes, Josh joined her and wrapped an arm around May’s shoulder.
The first of the 118 family to arrive were Karen, Hen, and Denny. The trio had been at the reopened Santa Monica Pier enjoying the sites when Athena had called and told them they needed to get to the hospital.
“May!” Hen called as they burst into the room. May jumped to her feet and Hen pulled the younger woman into a tight hug. “Oh, May honey. What happened?”
“It’s… Buck…” May sobbed out and Hen and Karen shared a glance. Denny moved over to May and took her hand in his and squeezed.
“What happened sweetheart?” Karen asked but May just shook her head as the tears fell. Before she could answer, the door opened again and Eddie burst into the room, looking frantic. His eyes fell on May and the young woman let out an anguished sound.
“May, cariño,” Eddie said as May moved away from Hen and into his arms. He looked up at the others in concern but they all shook their heads. Josh was going to wait until everyone arrived before he told the story. There was no point in telling it more than once. “Come on May. Sit down.”
Eddie moved May over to a chair and sat down with her still in his arms. Denny sat beside them and took May’s hand in his, patting it and rubbing her arm soothingly. Karen and Hen took up seats in the room to await to arrival of the rest of the team.
A further 30 minutes passed before rushing footsteps were heard coming down the hall. May looked up from where she was still seated in Eddie’s lap and watched as her mom burst through the waiting room doors, followed closely by Bobby, Michael, David, Chimney, Albert, and a heavily pregnant Maddie. Athena’s gaze locked onto May and she approached her daughter swiftly.
“May baby?” Athena said before May launched herself at her mother. Bobby helped to usher his two favourite women to a chair before turning to Eddie.
“I’ve got nothing Cap,” Eddie said in response to his silent question. Josh stood up, drawing attention to himself as he approached Maddie.
“Mads, you should sit down for this,” Josh said. Maddie looked between May and him in confusion but did as he suggested. Josh sat down beside her and took her hand in his. He took a deep breath and addressed the room. “Ok, so what I’m about to tell you is all we know. May received a call today from someone requesting her specifically. It was Buck.”
“Why did Buck call 911?” Eddie jumped in but shut his mouth quickly when Josh shot him a look.
“He was sitting on a cliff in Topanga State Park,” Josh said quickly and a collective gasp ripped through the room. Maddie and Karen both began to tear up and Eddie and Bobby both paled rapidly. “He had been drinking and from what he was saying, he was preparing to take his own life.”
“Dios mío,” Eddie whispered, tears welling up in his eyes.
“No, Buck wouldn’t do that,” Albert said, dropping into a seat beside Eddie.
“He wouldn’t.” “Is he… did he?” Maddie gasped out before letting out a gut wrenching sob. Chimney pulled her into his arms and she sobbed into his neck.
“No, the paramedics and rescue team from Station 69 arrived and thanks to them and May, Buck didn’t jump,” Josh said. “But we don’t know anything yet. I assume that they wouldn’t tell May anything because she isn’t his emergency contact or anything.”
Bobby nodded and left the room, aiming to find out more information from the nursing staff. Athena was attempting to soothe May while Hen was trying to keep Denny calm as well. Eddie was running his hands through his hair, pulling at the ends every so often. Bobby returned after a few minutes and indicated for Eddie to join him in the hall.
“What did they say? Is he ok?” Eddie fired off once the door was closed behind them.
“They are pumping his stomach now. He had apparently ingested almost 2 full bottles of Everclear. He had a seizure in transit,” Bobby explained and Eddie let out a sob. “They are planning on putting him in a medically induced coma so that they can monitor him. Apparently he also had a few injuries including two broken ribs, a sprained wrist and some torn muscles in his back.”
“The call yesterday?” Eddie questioned and Bobby nodded. The day before the 118 crew had been called to a fire at a daycare centre along with the 136. They had arrived and as they started working to put out the fire, they were informed that a carer and 5 children were still unaccounted for. While the 136 worked on the flames, Eddie, Buck, Hen, and Chimeny had suited up and walked into the building to search for them. Eddie and Buck were the first to find the group and after passing off the kids, Buck brought up the rear with the carer in his arms. They were almost at the exit when the ceiling caved in, separating Buck and the others. Eddie had wanted to stay and help his partner but Buck had yelled at him to leave.
Eddie, Chim, and Hen got the kids out and just as Eddie turned to go back in and help Buck, a huge fireball exploded from the doorway. The entire team had let out a cry as the building further collapsed but Buck didn’t emerge. Bobby had to physically hold Eddie back as the younger man tried to make a run for the building to rescue his partner.
Eddie had just dropped to his knees when Bosko let out a call and Buck emerged from the alleyway to the left of the daycare. He’d found a broken window on the ground floor and managed to climb out of it with the woman. After administering care to the unconscious woman and loading her up into the 136’s ambulance, Hen and Chimney turned their attention to Buck. He only accepted a cursory look over and grudgingly had accepted the oxygen treatment but claimed no other injuries. Eddie had hung close to Buck after that.
It had been a relatively good call despite all the obstacles. No one died, the kids all returned home safely and the hospital had provided them with an update that the carer was being released from care after suffering only minor smoke inhalation and a broken ankle. Buck hadn’t complained once about an injury.
“Wait, did you say 2 bottles of Everclear?” Eddie backtracked and Bobby nodded. “Shit Bobby. That crap is at least 190 proof.”
“Which is why he seized and why the doctors are putting him in a coma. There’s no telling what damage Buck has done to himself,” Bobby said, his voice and shoulders heavy. “Eddie, they also found cuts on his stomach and legs. They think self-inflicted.”
“Por favor, Dios no,” Eddie said softly. The door to the room behind them opened and Athena joined them silently. She took in Eddie’s broken expression and instantly wrapped her arms around him. The tears flowed freely as Eddie sobbed into Athena’s shoulder, repeating the phrase “dios no” over and over.
Athena nudged Eddie back into the room and into Hen’s waiting arms before turning to her husband. “What happened to my boy?” Athena demanded. Bobby led her to a seat across the hallway and much like Eddie had done, rested his head on his wife’s shoulder and let his tears fall. As he relayed what the nurses had told him, he felt Athena growing more and more tense. By the time he had finished speaking, his normally stoic and strong wife was crying silent tears. “Buckaroo.”
Karen stepped out of the room with Denny in tow and made eye contact with Athena.
“I’m going to take Denny to Eddie’s. He’s just spoken to Carla and she has offered to watch Chris, Harry, and Denny for the night while we wait here. I’ve also got the keys to Buck’s loft. I’m going to grab him some clothes. I’ll be back as soon as I can. Call me if anything changes,” Karen explained and Athena nodded. She had never been more grateful that her youngest son was having a playdate with Christopher that day. Karen and Denny left the hospital with heavy hearts and Athena turned back to her husband.
“Why didn’t he come to me?” Bobby sobbed out softly and Athena attempted to shush him. She had a suspicion as to why Buck hadn’t spoken to them and if her suspicion was true, she would be having words with that boy. For all intents and purposes, Buck was Athena’s son and now, for the second time in her life, one of her children had tried to end their own life. That thought alone sent Athena spiraling.
No one acknowledged it but everyone knew that Buck was the heart of the 118. The station would never be the same if something serious happened to him. And each member of the team was beating themselves up at the thought that Buck had been in pain and had never told them.
As Eddie held May tight, he prayed to God that Buck would wake up. He had so much to confess to him and Eddie was terrified that he’d lost his chance. And quite honestly, a world without Buck was a world that Eddie didn’t want to think about.