Chapter 1: Chapter One
Hershey, Pennsylvania, 2019
Maddie was washing dishes in the kitchen while her husband relaxed with a beer in the living room and watched TV. Today was a good day, she thought. He had been gentle and kind when they had come home together, much like the man she had fallen in love with. She wished he could always be like that. See, Maddie, if you don’t make mistakes, he’s perfect. Deep down, she knew she shouldn’t be blaming herself, but Doug was charming and had made her believe that his violence was always her fault.
“Oh my God!” She heard her husband exclaim in the living room and her heart stops beating for a second, the fear choking her. She doesn’t know what she’s done, maybe she hasn’t cleaned well to his liking, but she can almost feel his hand across her face. But then she relaxes when he calls out for her, “Babe, come here.” She drops the dish cloth on the counter and walks through the door that separates their kitchen from the living room. Her husband was standing as breaking news played on the TV. The screen was dark, but she could see Los Angeles, CA written in bright white capital letters on the top left corner of the screen. She could see hundreds of people gathered around watching what seemed to be a man stuck under a fire truck.
“Apparently, a bomb exploded on one of the fire trucks,” her husband said, a serious look on his face. “This firefighter, one of his legs is stuck under the truck.”
Her heart hurt as she imagined what that man’s family and colleagues were going through. “If they don’t get him out soon, he could lose his leg,” Maddie commented.
“Yeah, I know. The truck must be too heavy to lift. They must be waiting for backup.” The camera zoomed in closer, so that they could see the man’s face.
“Oh my God!” Doug muttered again, this time quietly, as they both recognized the man under the truck.
Maddie began to tremble, tears pouring down her cheeks. “Evan!” She exclaimed.
Doug turned to her, an unreadable expression on his face. He had never liked Evan, mostly because he was the one person who could pull her attention away from him. But now her brother was injured and trapped on live television, and she was thousands of miles away. “It’s going to be okay, babe,” Doug said, pulling her towards him. “He’ll be okay.”
“I-I have to go to L.A. I have to be there for him, Doug.” She can feel his body tense next to him, but right now she doesn’t care about what he wants. All she knows is that her baby brother needs her to be there. He must be so scared, she thought.
“Maddie.” She can sense the warning tone in his voice, telling her not to push him. She pulls back from his hold and looks up at him. She can see the anger starting to show in his eyes, the way it always did when she said something or did something he didn’t like.
“This is not about you, Doug. It’s about Evan. Please let me go.” She saw the wheels turning in his head, figuring out what he could do to make sure she stays in her lane. One thing she knew he could sense was her determination to go to LA.
“Fine,” he said reluctantly. “But I’m coming with you.” Her shoulders relaxed from the tension she was holding, but it returned as he grabbed her jaw tightly. “Don’t even think about this being an opportunity for you to leave me. Remember what I always say: we live together, we grow old together, we die together.”
“N-No, this is only about Evan,” she stammered, her heart pounding. He let her jaw go.
“Go start packing. I’ll call my boss and yours, request an emergency leave. I’ll make some arrangements.”
“Th-thank you, Doug.”
He glared at her. “Don’t make me regret this or you’ll regret it.”
Los Angeles, California, 2019
Bobby’s emotions were raw as he heard Buck’s screams through his radio. He had come to adore the young man like a son, and hearing his pain would haunt him for a while. “Where’s that damn backup?” He yelled.
“It’s coming, Captain Nash.” He was not willing to wait any longer.
“Eddie, Hen, all of you let’s go.” They jogged back to the scene where Buck lay, his leg still under the firetruck. “Let’s try and get him out okay. On 3. 1, 2, 3…..”
He heard the sound of heavy grunting beside him as they struggled to lift the vehicle, to no avail. “Damn it!” He swore.
And then something happened that renewed Bobby’s faith in humanity. The crowd of bystanders stopped watching and started running, almost simultaneously, towards the truck. He realized what was happening almost immediately, and started shouting instructions for the crowd of civilians. “Everyone, try to get a hand in where you can. We need all the strength you can give.” “ON 3! 1, 2, 3!”
The crowd and the firefighters all lifted at the same time, enough to create space where Bobby could drag Buck out. Buck had fallen unconscious by now, the pain overwhelming him, his face pale and his blonde hair stuck to his forehead with sweat. Bobby bent down and felt for a pulse. “Pulse is weak,” he said to a worried Eddie and a distressed Hen. His leg was mangled and out of shape. He was also worried about internal injuries. “Let’s get him to the hospital, ASAP.!
Eddie and Hen ran to get a stretcher and the three of them put their colleague on the stretcher. “Stay with us, Buck!” Bobby said as they placed him in the ambulance.
Bobby’s newly-wedded wife and police sergeant Athena Grant joined them. “Is he gonna be alright?” She asked. Athena had just as much a soft corner for Buck as Bobby did.
He sighed. “He was under there for much longer than I would have liked. Hopefully, it’s nothing too serious. Meet you there?”
“Yeah.” Bobby gave Athena a kiss before going to the passenger’s seat of the ambulance. Eddie was driving, Hen would be in the back with Buck as the best paramedic they had. “Hen, gave Chimney a call would you, so he knows what to expect? I want nothing but the best for Buck.”
“Of course, Cap.” Hen pulled out her phone and dialled Chimney’s number.
Los Angeles General Hospital, LA
An Asian-American man dressed in light-green scrubs chewing gum was walking across the emergency room with a clipboard in his hands when his phone rang. “This is Dr. Han.”
“Chim, it’s me.” The distressed voice of his best friend came through loud and clear. Chimney paused. It had to be something big for Hen to call him while he was in the middle of a 24-hour shift as the Head of the Trauma Department for LA General. They had been best friends for a decade or so, when he had first met her at her paramedic training. Hen had then introduced him to her 118 Family, first Bobby then Buck then Eddie, and now they were all a family.
“Hen, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Buck. He’s hurt really bad.” Hen explained the situation to Chimney, and he wrote some things on his clipboard.
“Okay. We’re going to have to do some scans when you bring him in, so we know what we’re dealing with. His leg injuries may not be life-threatening, but any other internal injuries could be. So that’s going to be a priority.” He paused. “I’m going to take care of him, Hen.”
“Okay.” He could hear a crack in her voice. “Of course, there’s nobody I trust more than you. And I know that you care about Buck as much as I do.”
“Yep. I’m going to hang up now, Hen. I’ll get all the things ready.”
“Thanks, Chim.” Chimney sighed and then turned around, clapping his hands. “Listen up, people. Here’s the deal. The LAFD are bringing in an injured firefighter. He was on board a fire truck that exploded. As a result, he was stuck under that firetruck for more than 40 minutes. I’m worried about crush injuries, internal bleeding and all the complications that result from that. When he comes in, I want him taken straight to CT so we can decide when to operate on him. Let’s get moving.” Chimney cracked his knuckles. It was going to be a long night.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Doug and Maddie reach L.A where they get an update on Buck's condition. They meet Bobby and Chimney.
Maddie & Doug had taken the first early-morning flight from Hershey to L.A. They had obtained emergency leave from their bosses, mostly because Doug had a lot of power now as Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgeon, the second-youngest in the state. They spent most of their flight in silence, mostly because Maddie was tense about how Buck was doing. At one point, he had taken her hand and kissed it, something she appreciated.
When they touched down in L.A and had gotten through customs, Doug rented a car for them that they could drive to L.A General. He had booked a lavish suite in the Four Seasons for them. He never spared any expense when it came to their comfort away from home. She started tapping her foot restlessly, anxious now to see her brother. It had been around 12 hours since she had seen him being freed from under the truck, now wondering what his condition was. She had also spoken to their parents in the meantime, who had asked her to keep them updated, but not saying that they would come to visit.
Maddie knew that Buck would be shocked that she had come to visit. Not that she didn’t have a good excuse, with his injury and all, but he was probably hurt and angry that she had cut off all contact with him three years ago, while he was moving from state to state and even to a different continent to find his place in the world. She hadn’t done that because she was disappointed in him; she had ended contact because she wanted to protect him from the truth about her marriage. She knew when he found out that he would feel immense guilt for not being able to protect her and she didn’t know whether she could ever see that in his eyes.
She was shaken out of her thoughts when Doug parked the car in front of the hospital. “Let’s go,” he said. He came around the corner and took her hand, gripping it tightly like he always did when they were meeting new people, as if to show that she was his. This time, she was able to put aside everything else and just be grateful that he had allowed her to come to L.A to see Evan.
They entered the hospital and they made their way to the reception, the confidence oozing from Doug’s body language. “Hi, which room is for Evan Buckley?”
“Are you family?” The receptionist asked.
“Yes, my wife is his sister,” Doug replied. The receptionist smiled and gave them the room number. Maddie’s heart thudded loudly in her chest as they took the elevator to the third floor, where the private rooms were. She could instantly spot his room, from the firefighters standing outside it, still dressed in their jackets. One of them, a tall, white man with buzz cut black hair who looked authoritative, turned towards them when he spotted Doug and Maddie walking in the direction of Evan’s room.
“Can I help you?” He asked politely.
“I’m Doug Kendall. This is my wife, Maddie. We’re here to see Evan.” Doug squeezed Maddie’s hand, as she smiled at the man. He looked at her, a spark of recognition in his eyes at the mention of Maddie’s name.
“Maddie? You’re Buck’s sister, correct?” He asked, just to confirm. She nodded. “Well, it’s great that you have come. Buck is still sleeping, otherwise I would have asked him to give me his family’s phone number. I’m Captain Bobby Nash, Buck works under my command.”
Doug shook Bobby’s hand. “Can we go in?” Maddie asked.
Bobby nodded. “Yes, of course. I'll let the doctor on Buck's case know so he can give you an update. By the way, he's a good friend of mine, so your brother is in good hands."
"Thank you so much, Captain Nash." Maddie gave him a genuinely bright smile before going in her brother's room, followed by her husband behind her.
Her heart broke seeing her brother in a hospital bed, his right leg in a cast. "Oh, Evan," she said in a sad tone, taking the chair beside him. She caressed his head. "You're going to be just fine, okay? I'm here now."
Maddie and Doug sat in silence, with her just holding Evan's hand while Doug scrolled on his phone. Their silence was interrupted by the arrival of an Asian-American man in a white lab coat alongside Bobby.
"Maddie, Doug, this is Dr. Han. He's the lead attending on Buck's case. Dr. Han, this is Buck's sister, Maddie, and her husband, Doug."
Dr. Han smiled. "Nice to meet you. Your brother came in around 10 PM local time yesterday. We did some scans, and as we expected he suffered broken bones in his legs. We consulted with ortho, and we placed some metal rod in his injured leg. It’s going to be a long recovery for him, but with the right therapy, he should be back on his feet soon.”
“What about internal bleeding?” Maddie asked. “My husband and I saw the whole thing on TV. He must have had some bleeding in his abdomen.”
“Yes, Dr. Han,” Doug said, sensing like he was being talked down to us. “Don’t sugarcoat anything for us. I’m a doctor and my wife is a nurse.”
“Okay. There was some internal bleeding, but there is nothing for you to worry about. His condition is stable now, and there is no threat to his life as of now. We have a really good physical therapist in our hospital, and I’m sure Buck will be on his feet soon.”
“Can he be a firefighter again?” Maddie asked.
Chimney hesitated before moving forward and putting a gentle hand on her shoulder. Maddie tensed, hoping he wouldn’t notice and knowing that Doug wouldn’t like it. “Let’s worry about him walking first before we worry about his career, alright?”
Maddie nodded, unconvincingly, knowing that her brother had struggled for so long before he had found something he loved, something that made him feel like he was doing meaningful work. If this was taken away from him, how would Buck react?
Doug walked over to the two of them, putting his hand on Maddie’s back. Chimney backed off, now able to sense the tension between the couple. “Thank you, Dr. Han. I told my wife he would be just fine, but she insisted that we get here immediately.”
“Well, that’s understandable. He’s still under heavy sedation, so if you’d like to get some rest, I believe Eddie - Firefighter Diaz - is staying here until 6. His friends are taking shifts.”
“Yes, that’s a great idea,” Doug said loudly, not giving Maddie the opportunity to respond. She trembled under his grip, which he could feel.
“P-please, give us a call if he wakes up,” Maddie requested, before turning and giving Buck a kiss on the head. She didn’t want to be alone with Doug right now, given what he thought he saw between her and Dr. Han, but she had no choice. Especially since now Buck could get caught between them.
“Let’s go, Maddie.” Doug gave Dr. Han a charming smile, but she could see the anger in his eyes and the tightness of his grip, as he pulled her along with him. Maddie felt the fear grow as they exited the hospital and were finally alone when they got near their car. He turned to her, not bothering to hide his rage as he slammed her against the car. She bit down on her lip to contain a sob, as he put her hand in her hair and pulled.
“Really, Maddie? I let you come out here to see your injured brother and this is how you repay me? By flirting with his doctor? Did you see the way he looked at you?”
“N-no, that’s not … I didn’t.”
“Are you calling me a liar? I saw what I saw.”
Maddie wanted to protest, but she knew it would only make it worse for her. The only thing she could do was accept her mistake and apologize. At least it would calm things down. “Y-you’re right. I’m sorry.”
He was still angry, but he let go of her hair. “Get in the damn car.” He opened the door for her and basically shoved her inside before going around the front of the car and getting in the driver’s seat. She felt tears pouring down her cheeks.
Yeah, she definitely needed to keep her brother far away from them. She needed to help him get better quickly, so she and Doug could return to Pennsylvania, and Buck could live his life without the burden of the knowledge of what she was going through.
She didn’t know why, but her thoughts turned to the kind doctor with the kind eyes who had been so calm and reassuring. She felt an instant connection with the man, even though she didn’t even know him. Is that what Doug had sensed? She hoped not. Because if he ever sensed that she had feelings for a man who was not him, she’s not sure she’d live.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Buck wakes up. Maddie & Buck have a conversation. Doug is curious about an opportunity in L.A.
When Buck woke up two hours after Maddie had left, he was still groggy and disoriented. He didn't remember what had happened to land him in the hospital until a couple of moments later, when it all came rushing back. Being on the fire truck, the bomb exploding, being crushed underneath the truck for what felt like hours, finally passing out from the pain. He had felt like that was it. He wasn't going to make it. He had internally said his goodbyes to all the people he loved. Bobby, Athena, Chimney, Hen, Eddie, Christopher, Athena's family, his parents and … Maddie.
Tears filled his eyes. Every couple of days, the person he loved the most would pop into his mind and along with it the hurt and anger he felt when she just stopped responding to his messages. He had thought Maddie would never leave him, but she had. She had promised to leave Hershey with him, but she had just sent him away, so that he couldn't ruin her life. He needed her right this minute, and he didn't even have her current phone number. All he had was her home address and her work address, where he sent his Christmas postcards in the hopes that one day she'd come back in his life.
"Hey." The familiar voice of his Captain stopped him from spiraling further with his hurt and anger at Maddie. "How are you feeling?"
"L-like I got crushed under a truck," Buck said wryly, eliciting a smile from Bobby. His smile faded when Buck's did, his eyes on the cast on his leg. He looked up at Bobby with tears in his blue eyes. "Will I ever be able to be a firefighter again?"
Bobby didn't know what to say because his recovery was going to be long. He didn't want to give Buck false hope only for it to be crushed and Buck never being able to trust Bobby again. Neither did he want to be so pessimistic that Buck didn't have the motivation to get better. He was in a bind with that question, especially since Buck meant more to him than just a subordinate. He was family now.
"Look, I'm not going to lie to you, Buck. It's going to be a hard road back for you. But given how much you love this job and how good you are at it, I have no doubt that you'll be back out there. It may not be as fast as you might want it to be, but you'll get there. And we'll all be there to support you in anyway we can."
Buck nodded, a lump in his throat, the respect for his Captain increasing every single day. They heard someone clearing their throat. "Am I interrupting a touchy moment?" Chimney asked with a cheeky smile on his face.
"Please," Bobby said smiling. "Check your patient."
"How are you feeling, Buckaroo?" Chimney asked affectionately, checking Buck's vital signs.
"Better. When will I be back on my feet, Chim?"
"Hey. You just had major surgery 14 hours ago. It's going to be a while, but I'm confident you'll get there, okay?" Chimney reassured, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Buck nodded. Chimney smirked at Bobby. "Are you going to make Buck eat disgusting hospital food or one of your gourmet meals?'
"Are you asking for Buck or for yourself?" Bobby hit back and Chimney put his hands up.
"Guilty." They all laughed. Bobby looked at Buck. "I'll be right back."
Chimney and Bobby stood outside the hospital room. "Are you going to call his sister or should I?" Bobby asked.
"I'll do it. Go home, Bobby, get some rest and bring back some delicious food."
"You should rest too, Chim. You're nearing the end of your 24 hour shift."
"Yeah, I will, once Maddie comes and stays with Buck. Then I'll go home."
Maddie was in the bathroom, arms around her stomach and back against the wall, breathing heavily. His anger had been really bad this time, though he managed not to hit her in the face. He was smart enough to know that Buck's colleagues would notice if she returned with bruises she didn't have hours before. Her body ached and she sobbed. He didn’t believe her when she said that Dr. Han wasn’t flirting with her and she wasn’t flirting with him, that she hadn’t wanted his touch. She remembered the words he had whispered to her, when he had his entire body weight pressed against her tiny frame.
“You know that you only belong to me. If you so much as ever think about another man, I’ll know and it won’t end well for you. Stay away from that Dr. Han. Do you hear me, Maddie?”
“MADDIE!” She jumped when his voice called out for her, standing up and wincing as the pain verberated through her entire body. She opened the bathroom door, terrified that there would be a second round.
“Your phone is ringing. Pick it up.” He ordered, handing her her phone. The display showed an unknown number so she assumed that it would be the hospital.
“H-Hello?” She said into the phone, eyes staring at her husband.
“Maddie? This is Dr. Han from L.A. General, your brother’s doctor.” Maddie’s body tensed up even more as she heard Chimney’s voice.
“Hi, Dr. Han,” she replied, noticing her husband’s body stiffen and his hand going to her hair, gripping it tightly to give her a warning to be on her best behavior. “Is my brother awake?”
“He is. His spirits are a little low, but I imagine he’ll be really excited to see you.”
“Yeah. Thank you for calling, Dr. Han. We’ll be there soon.”
Chimney frowned on the other end of the phone, sensing that something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t pinpoint what. He decided to say, “Great. I’ll see you when you get there.”
When Maddie hung up, she looked at Doug with fear, scared that he would be angry again. Instead he caressed her face softly and whispered, “Remember what I said earlier and we’ll be just fine.”
She nodded in relief, before they grabbed their things and left the hotel room.
Maddie was extremely nervous as her and Doug once again made their way down to Buck’s room. She didn’t know how Evan would react to seeing her. She knew that she had disappointed him when she had not left Hershey with him six years earlier and then when she had cut him off completely, but he didn’t know the complete truth. And, she hoped that he would never have to.
They turned into the room, where Buck was sat up and scrolling on his phone. “Evan,” Maddie breathed.
Evan’s head turned, his blue eyes widening in surprise as they took her in. “Maddie?” He said with uncertainty in his voice, unable to believe that his sister was actually standing in front of him.
“Oh, Evan,” Maddie gasped, taking the last few steps quickly as she pulled her brother into a hug. “I’m so glad you are alright.” Buck savoured the feeling of safety and comfort he had always gotten in her hugs, before remembering that she had disappeared on him for three years. He pulled back from the hug, hurt replacing the happiness in his eyes.
“Where have you been, Maddie? For three years, I have tried to call you, text you, email you and you didn’t respond to any of my messages. 3 years, Maddie. I thought you’d always be there for me, but you weren’t. Not when I needed you as I struggled to find myself. Why, Maddie, why?”
Maddie remained silent, her bottom lip trembling, as she struggled to think of an answer besides the truth that could explain her disappearance. Doug saved her from it by interjecting. “Watch how you speak to your sister. We left our lives early this morning when we saw your incident. The least you could do is show some gratitude.”
Evan turned his head to glare at the tall, dark-haired man he despised for making his sister so unlike the Maddie she had been growing up. “Stay out of our relationship, Doug.” Doug clenched his fists and Maddie winced internally, knowing she’d pay for that later. Doug hated it when anyone disrespected him, and she supposed, especially her little brother.
Doug was about to respond when someone called out his name. “Doug Kendall?”
He turned to see a white man around Doug’s age with sandy blonde hair and brown eyes and a bulky frame walking towards him. “Andy Robinson?” Doug smiled widely, hugging him. “Isn’t this a surprise.”
“Well, I was just about to call you, but I’ll take this as a sign,” Andy replied.
“Why were you about to call me?” Doug asked curiously.
“Because,” Andy paused to tap Doug’s shoulder in excitement, “I hear the Chief has a job offer for you.” The Chief was Andy’s father.
“Yeah, Chief of Cardiothoracic just left to take a research position at one of the top universities. I mentioned your name when Dad asked for recommendations. He was impressed with your resume. Why don’t you come up, I’ll introduce you?”
“Okay,” Doug said, but he had a genuine smile on his face. “Ah, but before I forget, let me introduce you to the woman who has my heart. Maddie?”
Maddie got off from Evan’s side to stand next to her husband, smiling as he shook her hand. “Well, nice to meet you, Mrs. Kendall.”
She wanted to say it was Maddie, but refrained from doing so. “What are you doing anyway?” Andy asked.
“Well, my brother-in-law, the firefighter who got caught under that truck,” Doug motioned to Evan on the bed, who just gave an awkward wave.
“Oh, man, you’re a hero,” Andy said, and Evan smiled tightly, his eyes focused on Maddie, wanting to have a clear conversation with her. “Come on, Doug.”
“Spend some time with your brother, babe. I’ll see you later.” Doug leaned down to give Maddie a kiss, and then he was gone. Maddie took a deep breath of relief knowing she could now talk to her brother in peace.
"Maddie, please, talk to me," Evan begged, so she turned around and went back to the chair next to his bed.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, Evan, but believe me it wasn't what I wanted either."
His anger turned to concern. "Is it Doug? Did he force you to break contact with me?"
She didn't know how to respond to that without revealing the truth of her marriage. He put a hand on her wrist and she couldn't control her wince. "Are you okay?" He asked not waiting for her reply before he rolled up the sleeve of her right arm.
"Oh my god, Maddie," he said, tears in his eyes as he stared at the bruise on her wrist.
"It's not what it looks like. I wasn't looking where I was going, and I banged it against a wall."
"Are you sure about that?" Buck didn't look convinced.
"Yes, of course," she lied, the guilt setting in though she knew it would only make things worse if Buck knew her husband had caused the bruise. He wouldn't be able to control his anger, and she would not put it past her husband to hurt her brother for confronting him. She had to protect her brother. Like she always had.
“Look,” Maddie continued. “I know we don’t live in the same city, but I promise, from now on whenever you need me I’ll be there. It won’t be like the last three years.”
“Okay,” he relented, “because I need my favorite person to be in my life. You know, when I was under that truck, I didn’t think I would see you ever again.”
Now the tears fell from Maddie’s eyes. “But you did. You survived and I’m so proud of you. I’m so proud of what you have become, Buck. I always knew you would find something that would make you proud of yourself.”
“Thanks, Mads.” He extended his pinky and Maddie wrapped hers around his. “To always be there for each other.”
“To always be there for each other.”
Her husband would just have to deal with the fact that her brother was a major part of her life and she couldn’t cut him out anymore. He would still be protected from the truth, but they could still be in each other’s lives.
“I still think your husband is a jerk,” Buck pointed out, breaking the poignant moment.
Maddie laughed. “Well, he doesn’t like you either, so it’s mutual for the both of you. Now, tell me all the crazy stories I’ve been missing out on.”
The Buckley siblings shared their stories, Maddie from her work as an ER nurse and Buck as a firefighter. It felt like no time had passed. Her heart was full from the fact that she had her brother back in her life.
Buck and Maddie were talking and laughing, when Doug returned with a grin on his face. Maddie tensed up immediately, not knowing what to expect. “Babe, I’ve got some news for us. I think it’s going to make Evan here pretty happy.”
“What is it?” She asked.
“The Chief of Surgery has offered me the position of Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery here. So I guess we are moving to L.A.”
Buck’s eyes lit up. “Really?” He turned to look at Maddie, who didn’t look as enthusiastic. In fact, the wheels in her mind turned. Being in LA meant more opportunities to interact with Evan and his friends, sure, but it also meant more of a chance for them to learn what she was going through. And if anybody else found out, she didn’t want to see Doug’s rage then. Especially on her little brother.
She forced a smile on her face. She was happy for her husband. She had to be right? She was the proud wife of a hugely successful husband, who was going to be chief of cardiothoracics at one of the country’s busiest hospitals. She was happy. Yeah.
“There’s more,” Doug said. “I spoke to him about you, and how you are an excellent nurse. He says he is willing to offer you a nursing position here as well, on the surgical floor. So, you can continue doing what you love.”
Maddie smiled, and walked over to him. She touched his face, knowing that he loved it when she did that. “Thank you, babe. And yeah, being closer to my brother is a huge positive.”
His arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her close to him. “I’m so happy, Mads. I get to see you more. I guess being crushed by a fire truck has its silver linings.”
She let go of her husband and walked back over to him. She squeezed his hand. “Don’t say that, Evan. I’m sure you’ll be back out there in no time.”
Evan looked unsure, but Maddie was confident so he was inclined to believe her. “It’s a long recovery.”
“And I’ll be there for you every step of the way,” she reassured him. “Just don’t give up hope, okay? It’s important that you stay hopeful.”
Doug piped up. “I’m going to go make some arrangements. Find a place to stay. Call Hershey, let them know we won’t be coming back. We’ll have to go back and get our stuff here. All that kinds of stuff.”
“Okay, babe, sure. I’ll be right here.”
“I’ll see you in a bit.” He said and he left again.
Chimney was getting off his shift when he got a text message. It was from his ex-girlfriend, Amanda. They had dated a couple of months before they realized they had wanted different things. It was an amicable breakup, as Chimney, in this stage of his life, was looking for a long-term relationship, while Amanda was happy with her life as is and didn't want to make a serious commitment.
He frowned. Why would Amanda be calling him? Unless she was hurt and needed help. He opened the message. It was cryptic. " Need to talk to you. Tonight. Usual place."
The concern didn't go away. What could be so urgent that she needed to talk to him right away? He couldn't think of anything, so he shrugged his shoulders and continued walking.
Later that night, Chimney sat at the bar where he had met Amanda, glancing at his watch. "Howard," Amanda called. He turned to see his blonde ex-girlfriend coming towards him gently, her hand on her abdomen. He smiled, standing up. "Let's get a booth," she suggested.
"Sure," Chimney smiled.
They sat across from each other, in a quieter part of the bar, so they could hear each other speak. "How have you been, Amanda?" He asked politely, wanting to get straight to the point but being polite first.
"I've been fine. Thank you for asking. Howard, I have to tell you something," she blurted.
"What is it?" He asked with a kind smile on his face.
"I'm pregnant." Chimney jerked back in shock, unable to believe what he's just heard. Not that too much time has passed for the baby to not be his. Him and Amanda had barely broken up six weeks ago. So the baby could definitely be his.
"It's yours," she said with certainty. "I haven't been with anyone else since we broke up."
He wasn't going to question that. If she was saying the baby was his, then the baby was his. He had grown to like Amanda, even if they had broken up. He could think of no reason for her to lie to him. "Wow. I, I - uh, certainly didn't see that coming. We were careful."
"Yeah, we were, but this is real. Look, Howard, whether you want to be involved in raising this baby or not is totally up to you. I earn enough that if I were to do this alone, I could manage it. I don't want to put pressure on you, but I wanted you to have a choice. You deserved to know."
"I certainly appreciate that, Amanda." Chimney was conflicted. He had always wanted children, but he had never had a relationship long enough to get to that point. But he couldn't give up this opportunity, could he? If he did, his kid would always hate him, like he hated his father for never being present and for never giving him the attention he deserved. He knew if his mother was alive, that she'd want him to be involved in his child's life. He was going to be a father, and yes, it might not be happening in the way he had imagined, but he had to take it. He had to.
"I want to be involved, Amanda. In every step of the way. If that's alright with you."
She smiled. "Of course, Howard. It's your kid, too." She opened a purse and took out a picture, passing it to Chimney. She pointed at a little peanut on the photo. "That is our baby. 10 weeks."
"Wow," he said, a smile coming on his face. How could he feel so much love for a being that didn't even exist yet? "Thank you. If you need anything, I'm just a phone call away."
Even though he had told Amanda he was going to be involved, Chimney needed to talk about what this meant and how he felt about it. He wasn't prepared for this. He had no idea what kind of father he was going to be and he had a really bad example from his own. At least he knew what not to do. He needed to talk to Hen. Hen would calm him down.
He pulled out his phone and dialled Hen's number. "Hey, Chim," Hen's voice came through. "Sorry, I can't talk right now. Denny is down with something. Is it urgent?"
"No, no. It's fine. You take care of Denny and tell him Uncle Chim told him to get better soon."
"Okay, thanks. Hold your thought, okay? We'll talk tomorrow for sure."
"Done. Bye, Hen."
Chimney still felt anxious as hell, and he knew he had to talk to someone. He knew it would be late for Eddie, as it was Christopher's bedtime, but Bobby & Athena should be free. He texted Bobby.
Chim: Hey Bobby, are you guys free? I have some news and I need to talk about it.
Bobby: Sure, Chim. Come on over. The kids are at their Dad's so it's just me and Athena. We're waiting for you.
20 minutes later, Chimney was entering Bobby & Athena's place, the place warm, inviting and comforting. There was food on the table and a bottle of wine and glasses.
"Thanks guys for agreeing to this. I know this was last minute."
"Nonsense," Athena waved her hand casually. "You're family. We make time for each other."
"She's right, as always. What's on your mind, Chim?" Bobby asked, as they sat down on the sofas.
"Well, you remember my ex-girlfriend, Amanda?"
"Sure," both of them said.
"Well, she called me to a bar tonight and told me she's pregnant." Both of their eyes widened, as they glanced at each other. "Yeah, that was my reaction too."
"And what else did she say?" Athena asked.
"She wanted me to have the choice whether I wanted to be involved or not. She's not putting any pressure on me."
"So what's the problem? You don't want to be involved?"
"No. I already told her I was going to be involved."
"Then what's the problem, Chim?" Bobby asked as Chimney stood up to pace.
"I'm not sure whether I'll be a good dad," his voice cracked. "And I grew up with a really bad dad and I know how much pain that caused me. I don't want to do that to my kid. I'll try, of course I'll try, but I'm not sure I'll succeed."
"Chim," Bobby said softly. "You are not going to be like your father. You know why? Your father caused you so much pain because he didn't bother to be present. But you? You are going to be present in your kids life from day one, before he or she is even born. Chimney, you go to great lengths to save our victims every single day. You're going to be a great father. Why? Because you will always make the effort to be there. And that's what every good parent does. They try. That's the key. Trying."
"I second that," Athena agreed. "When I was pregnant with May, I was so scared that I'd screw up, that I wouldn't be able to raise a beautiful, independent, intelligent child. I thought my job would be a barrier between me and my kids. But I overcome that fear and I tried the best I could to be the best mother I could be."
"You did an amazing job," Chimney said, and it was true. May and Harry were good, kind, empathetic kids.
"And so will you," Bobby put his hand on Chimney's shoulder. "And we'll all be there for you as you become a new parents. Hen, Eddie, me, Athena … we all have been through this self-doubt phase. We can teach Buck how to change diapers." They cracked a smile at that. "What you're feeling is completely natural. And you'll get through this and you'll be an amazing dad."
Bobby paused. "You remember when you told me that you felt stuck? Like your life hadn't changed after rebar? Well, your life is changing big time now, Chim. This is your chance now. Grab it and don't let it go."
Chimney smiled, tears in his eyes. "Thanks, guys. I feel better now. Not all the way confident, but I'll get there."
"Yes, you will." Athena said confidently.
Preview of Chapter 5
Sue called over a brown-haired man in scrubs. "This is Josh Russo. You both will be working together a lot in the ER. Josh, this is Maddie "
"Nice to meet you, Maddie. As you may be aware, we work a lot with the trauma attendings." Josh spotted Chimney walking past. "Oh, Dr. Han. I think you've already met our head of Trauma."
Maddie stiffened. She could still hear Doug whispering at her to stay away from Chimney.
So a Chimney centric chapter ... Hope you guys liked it and the sneak peek at the end of the chapter!
A couple of weeks had passed since Doug had accepted the offer to move to Los Angeles to become the Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at LA General. Maddie and Doug had returned to Hershey in the meanwhile to wrap everything up, including putting their house up for rent and quitting their jobs after serving the required notice, and to start their lives in LA, with Doug looking for houses in suburbs that weren’t too far from the hospital. Buck was continuing to recover from his surgery, and he was about to reach the phase where he could start physical therapy.
“Okay Buck,” Chimney said, walking into Buck’s hospital room, where Maddie stood next to him holding his hand and smiling encouragingly at him. “I think I can officially discharge you today.”
“Finally,” Buck said, shaking his head. “I can’t get out of here soon enough.”
Chimney smiled with amusement, turning his head to look at Maddie. “And how are you? Getting settled in LA?”
She smiled nervously, rubbing her fingers together. “Yeah, we just moved into our new place two days ago, so getting used to the new city and the new place. But hopefully we can have you guys over sometime for housewarming.”
“That would be great,” he smiled shyly. Then added in a sly tone, “It would be nice to hang out with the nicer Buckley.”
“Hey!” Evan said indignantly as Maddie laughed, and Chimney thought randomly that there was not a more beautiful sound in the world, then he shook himself, reminding himself that she was happily married. The wedding band on her finger was a reminder that another man was lucky enough to have found her first.
“Anyway,” Chimney continued, “you still need to rest a lot, but if your progress continues this way, you can start mild physical therapy next week.”
“And I can work again right?” Buck asked, anxiously. Maddie looked at Chimney with wide eyes, hoping that the answer was positive, because she couldn’t stand to see her baby brother upset.
“If there are no additional complications, yes,” Chimney was always careful about what he promised his patients, and he was even more careful with Buck because he was a friend. He didn’t want to do or say anything that gave Buck false hope if the situation suddenly changed and his recovery was delayed.
Soon, Maddie was starting her first day as an emergency room nurse at LA General, and Doug as the new chief of cardiothoracics. It was exciting, and she felt more alive than she had in years. It was not only that she was now closer to her brother, and she’d get to see him more. She was now away from people who looked at her sympathetically and with judgment with regards to her marriage. They didn’t know anything about how complicated it was, because there was love for him there, and sometimes fear and terror overcame that love. All of those emotions formed a mix which made it very difficult for Maddie to imagine a life without Doug. And he wouldn’t let her imagine it anyway. It was not a possibility.
She stood in front of the mirror, admiring the new green scrubs on her. The color suited her, and even she had to admit it. Then her husband came behind her, hugging her from behind and kissing her neck. “What’s this for?” She giggled.
“For being the best wife ever,” he said genuinely, meeting her eyes through the mirror before taking something out of his pocket. It was a jewelry box and he opened it to replace a diamond pendant with the letters M&D.
“Oh my God, Doug, that’s gorgeous.” She touched the necklace with her fingers, with tears in her eyes.
“Not as beautiful as you,” he whispered, putting the necklace on her. “Perfect.”
Soon, Maddie and Doug were walking into the hospital, hand-in-hand, her in green scrubs and him in dark blue ones. Heads turned, and they made for an attractive and confident couple as they walked down the hallway to the Chief of Surgery’s office. “Dr. Kendall.” The man with thinning gray hair and electric blue eyes that appeared to be younger than his age boomed. “Welcome to your first day.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Mrs. Kendall,” the man nodded.
“Maddie is fine, sir.”
“Well, come with me, the both of you. I’ll give you a tour, and I’ll introduce you to your new colleagues, Maddie.”
First, the chief introduced all the attendings to Doug, and she could see a hint of respect and admiration for her husband in their eyes, which gave her a sense of pride. He had worked hard to reach the level he had, and she had seen and bore the brunt of his stress for years. She shook her head. Now was not the time to reflect on her marriage. Then they headed to the emergency room, so Maddie could meet her new colleagues.
“This is Sue Blevins,” the chief motioned to an older woman with red hair, blue eyes and a kind smile as she headed over to shake Doug and then Maddie’s hands. "Sue, this is your newest nurse, Maddie Kendall, and our new head of cardio, Dr. Doug Kendall."
"It's nice to meet you both," Sue smiled. "I'm looking forward to working with you, Maddie. I think you'll fit right in our emergency room. I’ve heard only good things about you, Dr. Kendall."
Doug smiled. “Well, that’s certainly good to hear.”
"Thanks," Maddie added. "I can't wait to get started."
Sue called over a brown-haired man in green scrubs, who was around Maddie’s age. "This is Josh Russo. You both will be working together a lot in the ER. Josh, this is Maddie."
"Nice to meet you, Maddie. As you may be aware, we work a lot with the trauma attendings." Josh spotted Chimney walking past. "Oh, Dr. Han. I think you've already met our head of Trauma."
Maddie stiffened, and she could feel Doug’s grip around her waist tightening. He hadn’t forgotten about her “flirting” with Chimney, and she hadn’t forgotten about his reaction afterwards. But how was she supposed to obey his words to stay away from Chimney and work with him at the same time? As a trauma attending, he was always in the emergency room, unless he was in surgery. And her job placed her in the ER at all times, catering to everybody who walked in there with an emergency. There was no way to avoid him, not if she wanted to do her job properly. And Doug knew that.
Chimney stopped walking and changed direction to come towards them, a grin on his face as he nodded at Doug. “Welcome to LA General, Dr. Kendall. Maddie.”
“I was just telling her that you’ll be working closely together,” Josh added, as Maddie fought the urge to grimace, Doug’s fingernails digging into her skin as a form of warning to be on her best behavior.
“Yes, we will be,” Chimney agreed.
“Come, Dr. Kendall. I’ll introduce you to our head of neuro. I think she’s the last important person you need to meet before you can get started. We’ll leave Maddie here to begin, if that’s okay with you?” The chief looked at her and she nodded, glad that she would be away from her husband’s overbearing presence during the day, though she was aware that he could be called to the ER at any time, and thus she always had to be on guard.
“Remember what I said, Maddie,” he leaned down and whispered, before giving her a peck on the cheek.
Her husband walked away, and Maddie turned to Sue, Josh and Chimney. “Let’s get to work.”
During the day, Maddie got an up and close look at how Chimney worked. And she was incredibly impressed. She had rarely seen a doctor show as much compassion and attention as he did in every patient interaction, and she considered LA General lucky to have him as the Head of Trauma. They had just finished resuscitating a patient with crush injuries when a picture fell out of his pocket.
She bent down and picked it up, seeing that it was a sonogram. "Oh," she remarked. "Is this baby yours?"
He blushed slightly as he took the picture from her. “Yeah, it is.”
Maddie was surprised, because she didn’t see a wedding band on Chimney’s finger, but then again it was possible to have a child without being married. In fact, it was a growing trend. “Well, congratulations. You must be really excited.”
“I am, actually,” Chimney said softly. “I didn’t know how much I wanted to be a dad, until my ex-girlfriend told me she was pregnant. I’ve always wanted a family of my own, but I’ve never been in a relationship long enough to have one. So I guess I should just take this as a sign and embrace it.”
“Yeah, you should,” Maddie said wistfully. She had always wanted kids, always wanted to be a mother. She had a natural maternal instinct, one that had been nurtured even more by the fact that she had stepped up as Buck’s parent when she was only 9. She’d thought Doug was on the same page as her about wanting kids when they had gotten married, but then he’d turned around and changed his mind, and she had never brought up the subject again, for fear of angering him. Besides, she wasn’t sure it was the best idea to raise a child in a household where his or her father’s mood could change in a heartbeat. It was a struggle, sometimes, for Maddie to defend herself. It would be much harder if there was a child in between.
“You never had kids?” Chimney asked, leaning against a wall as Maddie stepped to a computer and filled out some details regarding their latest case. Maddie shook her head sadly, her heart aching for a child of her own.
“I’ve always wanted one, but you know we both work pretty long hours, and it has never seemed feasible,” Maddie said. It was a reasonable explanation, yet one that didn’t cover the reality of the situation.
“That’s true,” Chimney nodded, a thoughtful look on his face. “I’m not sure how I’ll balance it all.”
“You’ll find a way,” Maddie quickly reassured him. “Besides, his/her mother is not a doctor, is she?”
“No,” he smirked. “But she is a lawyer.”
“Oh, God!” Maddie jerked her head back and laughed. “Same long hours.” Chimney was once again struck by how beautiful she looked when she laughed, her whole face lighting up, her eyes shining.
Maddie rushed around the house, her dress fitting her perfectly, making sure that everything was arranged perfectly. It had to be perfect. Tonight meant a lot to her husband, and she was determined not to ruin it in any way. They were hosting a housewarming party for their colleagues - the attendings that Doug worked with, including Chimney, Maddie’s fellow nurses like Sue and Josh, and she had insisted on inviting Buck and his work friends too. Doug hadn’t been too happy, but had relented once she had pointed out that it would be odd not inviting her brother to her house.
The food was prepared, the dinner table was set with the nice plates, and there were chairs set up around the living room for people to sit, eat and chat with each other. They would all enjoy the party, but Maddie would be stressed until the last person walked out of the house, on edge that something would go wrong, that a mistake would be pointed out. They were new to LA, new to the hospital, and it was important to make a good first impression, which could go a long way to developing good working relationships, a matter of life and death in a hospital.
“Maddie!” Her husband called out, and she jumped. She wrapped her arms around herself in an effort to stop herself from shaking, and went up the stairs to their bedroom, where Doug was getting dressed. He looked at her, eyes scanning her from top to bottom, before she saw approval and a hint of desire in his eyes “I can’t find my tie to go with your dress.” Color-coordinated, they always had to be color-coordinated.
Doug wore a crisp black suit with a white shirt, while Maddie’s dress was red with a hint of black. She looked through the closet before she found a tie that matched the shade of red of her dress. She wrapped the tie around his neck, and he put his hands on her waist, pulling her closer. “You look gorgeous,” he muttered, voice thick with attraction and she blushed, putting her hands on his chest.
“Can’t get too busy with that, babe. The guests will be here soon,” she pointed out.
“Right. Let’s get this party started.”
The first guests to arrive from the hospital were their co-workers, and Maddie & Doug welcomed them politely, serving them drinks and appetizers Maddie had prepared. The house was full, with Buck and the 118 being the last to arrive. Maddie led Buck to a recliner chair in the living room that she had set up so that he could put his leg up.
“You didn’t have to do this, Mads,” he said.
“Of course, I did. I’m your big sister. I have to look out for you.” She looked at all of them - Bobby, Athena, Hen, Karen, Eddie, and Chimney. “Please make yourselves comfortable and feel free to take any of the drinks set out on the counter. If you need anything, just let me know.”
“Maddie,” her husband motioned for her, his arm extended.
“Excuse me.” She went and he wrapped his arm around her, gripping her tightly as he always did when they were in front of other people, the need to show everyone that she was his only. She clung to Doug’s side for a while, as he introduced her to everyone she hadn’t met, before separating herself and warming up the dinner.
Chimney excused himself from his friends and entered the kitchen, where Maddie stood alone. “Hey.” She looked up, surprised to see him, biting down on her bottom lip as she looked out into the living room to make sure Doug wasn’t watching. She forced a gentle smile on her face, which wasn’t that hard to do around Chimney. He made her feel at ease.
“Hi. Do you need something?”
“No, no, everything’s great,” he said quickly. “Just wanted to tell you that you’ve done a great job. If I ever need a party, I’ll know who to call.”
She blushed, looking down. “Thanks, Dr. Han,” she said.
“Chimney. Please call me Chimney. All my friends do.”
“Right,” she smirked. “Am I ever going to hear how you got that nickname?”
“I don’t know you that well yet,” he retorted, and they laughed before Maddie froze, seeing her husband lurking in the doorway.
“Dr. Han.” Doug said, his voice cool, but a hint of rage lurking underneath which Maddie could notice, but Chimney couldn’t. She shivered, imagining what he would do after there were no extra eyes in the house. He would interpret this innocent moment as something more, even after she had continuously reassured him that she would never leave him.
“Dr. Kendall.” Chimney responded politely, not sensing the tension that hung between the couple that the two of them could sense, as Maddie avoided her eye contact. “You have a beautiful home. I was just telling Maddie that.”
“Thank you. We appreciate that.” He walked in and around the counter to stand behind Maddie, putting his hands on his hips. She shook slightly, trying to maintain the smile on her face, as she turned off the stove and put the food into the food warmers. “Dinner should be served soon, right babe?”
“Yeah,” she replied. Chimney got the hint and left, thinking that Doug was awkward with him, but maybe that was just his personality.
Once he was out, Doug growled in her ear. “You never do learn, do you, Maddie?”
Tears burnt her eyes, and she struggled to hold them back, not wanting them to ruin her makeup, not wanting that to be another reason Doug would be angry with her. She could already imagine the conversation afterwards, with her trying to defend herself and him not hearing any of it, because he’d already warned her once. But what was she supposed to do? Ignore her brother’s friend and her co-worker when he tried to make normal conversation with her because her husband thought Chimney was interested in her? She was stuck in between a rock and a hard place, between allaying her husband’s concerns and trying to be a polite friend and co-worker.
She couldn’t wait for this night to be over, because now her body was embraced for what would come after.
Tw: domestic violence, tw: injury because ugh Doug
Maddie awoke the next day with a pounding headache, a bruise already forming on her cheekbone and her wrist aching like hell. She figured it wasn’t broken, but it needed to be wrapped so it could heal.
Doug grunted as she prepared breakfast, reading the news on his phone. “Don’t forget to cover that up. We don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea now, do we?” His tone made it clear it wasn’t a request as she nodded timidly. What wrong idea? She thought bitterly. And how had it gotten to this point where his fist was being used when he was angry? Did she even love him anymore or was it just fear and terror that was making her stay, the fear of what he would do if she attempted to leave? And now her brother was in the crossfire, the obvious target if he needed to retaliate and she wouldn’t put it past him. He had made it clear on more than one occasion that he’d rather kill her than have her leave him, and he meant it.
So many years making excuses for him, blaming herself for his anger. She supposed that it had taken her a long time to get to this point, where the fog was starting to lift somewhat. Maybe it was the new place and meeting her brother after such a long time that was giving her some clarity. That this wasn’t how love was supposed to manifest, that this wasn’t how couples resolved their issues. She had thought that it was normal, that this was how he showed his love. But it wasn’t. And it shouldn’t be her normal. But what was she supposed to do with this clarity? Leave him, divorce him? That seemed like a stretch because they worked at the same place now. Where would she run? Her parents had cut her off, he would easily find out where Buck lived and she couldn’t put him in danger. The safest option, in her mind, still seemed to be to stay and hope to avoid triggering his rage, to avoid dragging anyone else between them.
She grimaced as she applied the makeup to her face, the bruise on her cheekbone still fresh. She remembered the backhand to her face as she stumbled back, him shivering with rage after everyone had left. He had grabbed her and slammed her against the wall. “You’re mine, don’t ever forget that,” he had whispered. That’s when he had turned her around and grabbed her left wrist, twisting it in such a way that she had screamed slightly. Their place was detached enough that she could get killed in this house and no one would hear her screams. And then his fist had struck her face, which was the cause for the bruise.
Then she had been shoved to the ground and kicked in the ribs a couple of times, the evidence of which she could see at the moment, lifting her shirt and seeing bruises form. She touched her ribs gently and they ached. He had walked away after that as she had sobbed, unable to understand how she could explain to him that it wasn’t her fault that he thought Chimney was interested in her. “I told you to stay away from him, I warned you,” he yelled while she cowered against the wall, afraid that he would come back for a second round. “Didn’t I warn you, Maddie?” He asked, brown eyes locked on hers and she nodded, not wanting to enrage him further.
“I-I’m so-sorry,” she trembled. “W-won’t happen again.” Her fault. It was always her fault whenever they had a fight. Saying anything different would only prolong the pain caused.
His eyes had softened and he bent down in front of her, Maddie flinching when he caressed her face softly. “I just love you so much, Maddie, and I’m scared of losing you. You understand that, don’t you?”
She had nodded and had let him pull her into a hug, ignoring the screaming from her ribs and the throbbing of her face. Was it love? She thought. Or power and control, confident that she was too scared to leave now? Finally, she was starting to realize that this was wrong, that their marriage was broken. She should fix it, right? After all, she loved him and he claimed to love her. But what if he took this as a sign that she wanted to end it? What if he went too far? Maddie’s heart thudded faster as she thought of that, shaking her head. It was too dangerous to do anything but stay.
What she could do and should do, to protect both herself and him, was to stay away from Chimney. She should limit her interactions with him to work only, and even in the hospital, limit their conversations to their patients and nothing else. Maybe that would convince Doug that there was nothing there, nothing for him to worry about, and he would stop suspecting her. It was important for Chimney’s safety too that Doug realized that, because Maddie was afraid of what he could do to Chimney if he thought the man had actual feelings for her.
Chimney watched Doug and Maddie walked into the hospital, the man leaning down to whisper something in her ear before giving her a long kiss, gripping her tightly. He frowned. There was something dark in that kiss, but he didn't know what. He let go of Maddie and went up the stairs, leaving her standing there a little dazed. He then noticed that she was holding her left wrist against her abdomen. He put his chart down and approached her, wary of startling her. "Maddie?"
She jumped. "Sorry," she whispered, embarrassed.
"Are you okay?" He asked, his gaze on that wrist.
"Oh this?" She laughed nervously. There was no way to pretend that she wasn't hurt. He was a doctor; he could clearly see it. But he could never know that her husband was responsible. Doug already hated him because he thought Chimney had feelings for her. And if Chimney learned that Doug could be violent and confronted him, then she didn't want to witness the aftermath of that. She couldn't put Chimney in danger. And worse, if she told Chimney and he told Buck, she could not see that ending well. Her brother was too emotional and he wouldn't be able to hold back from going after Doug. She had to protect him from the truth. Evan could never know. Chimney was looking at her expectantly, still waiting for an answer. "I tripped over something and landed on my wrist. Think I bruised my ribs too," the lie came so easily to her lips from years of experience of making excuses, hoping next time she could avoid his rage.
"Hmm," Chim frowned. "May I?" He asked gently extending his hands towards her wrist so he could examine it. Maddie fidgeted slightly.
"This is really below your pay grade, Chimney. I'm fine. I can wrap it myself. " The words I've done it before were on the tip of her tongue, but she controlled herself from saying them.
"I'm not taking no for an answer. You're my friend and colleague, Maddie. Wrapping your wrist is the least I can do."
"Fine," she mumbled, getting the sense that the man wouldn't budge until she relented. And she wanted to get away from the emergency room while he did this, lest her husband come and see. He gently took her elbow and led her to one of the beds, pulling the curtain around to give them some privacy.
Both were silent as Chimney gently took her wrist again, concentration and focus clear in his eyes. Her eyes teared up when he touched her sprained wrist again, and he looked up and mouthed ‘sorry’. His touch was such a contrast to the way her husband had touched her last night, his compassion versus Doug’s roughness and rage. He started wrapping her wrist with bandages, and Maddie looked away, starting to feel something for this kind and generous man. But she couldn’t. Not only was it dangerous for her to feel anything but friendship for this man - and apparently she was not even allowed to be friends with Chimney according to her jealous husband - it was dangerous for Chimney. And it wasn’t just him to think about. He was going to be a father soon, and his unborn baby deserved the chance to get to know his or her father, not have him be murdered in a jealous fury by a friend’s husband.
He finished wrapping her wrist and let her go. “Keep it light for a few days, okay? And if you need some painkillers, I can prescribe them for you.”
“That’d be great, thanks.” Painkillers were a regular part of her life, unfortunately.
“Now, can you please pull up your shirt so I can examine your ribs?” A blush played on Chimney’s cheeks, though it was not an unusual request for him to make at all, given the injury she had described. But this was Buck’s sister and somebody he was developing a very inappropriate crush on.
Maddie’s eyes widened, and her heart started beating faster, her fear increasing that Doug would choose this moment to come, and he would certainly overreact more than he had the previous night. But she put her fingers on the bottom of her shirt and pulled it up anyway, sensing that the stubborn doctor in front of her wouldn’t let her go without an examination. She winced when he pressed his fingers on two of her ribs. “Yeah, I’m sensing that these are just bruised. I’ll put some bandages on these as well.”
Maddie closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, tears overwhelming to fall. If Chimney knew how and why she had gotten hurt, he would never be able to forgive himself. He was a good man, and she was lucky to be able to work with him.
“There. That’s done.” He smiled encouragingly at her before taking out a pad from his pocket and writing a prescription for some pain killers. “If you need to take the day off, I can speak to Sue.”
“No, it’s okay. I can work, I promise.” Working would take her mind off of the events of last night.
He promised himself that he would keep an eye on her for the rest of the day, whenever he was not in surgery. As a friend, of course.
A few weeks had passed, and Chimney had begun to notice a disturbing pattern with Maddie. Every couple of days, she would come in with a new injury even whilst her old ones healed. A cut on the cheek, a bruise on the side of her head, and a sprained ankle. He had felt nauseous as a disturbing conclusion was starting to form in his mind. She tried her best to hide her injuries with a smile and makeup, but sometimes the bruises were bad enough that even makeup couldn’t cover them up. He knew that there could be innocent explanations for all of them, but how many times could a person fall? There were way too many injuries for them to all be coincidences.
He didn’t want to believe that Doug was hurting Maddie, but he couldn’t ignore the evidence in front of his eyes. He was struggling internally about what to do about it. Should he tell Buck? She was his sister, after all. But Chimney also knew that, as much as the young man had matured over the two years since he had met him, he wouldn’t be able to control his emotions. This was a very delicate situation, one that Chimney had seen many times over his long career, but never with a friend involved. He had seen domestic violence cases so bad that the victim didn’t survive minutes after arriving at the hospital with life-threatening injuries. He had seen instances where the victim had willingly gone back to her abusive partner, because the alternative was much more frightening. He had also seen some cases where the survivor had finally gathered the courage to report her abuser to the police, but then the case was dropped and she had no protection against the partner.
He didn’t know what to do. Did Maddie realize that what was happening to her was wrong? Or was she internalizing all of the violence as her fault? It hurt his heart to think that she would blame herself for his abuse. He wanted to tell Buck, but he also needed to protect Maddie, and telling her brother might not be the best way to do that, especially since he would most likely demand she leave her husband, and maybe she wasn’t in the place to do that. If her husband found out that other people knew, that could put Maddie in an extremely dangerous and volatile situation. He might even go too far.
He needed to talk to her, to let her know that she had a friend who cared about her. He was afraid of pushing her away, so he decided to be calm and not push for her to leave him, although his gut screamed at him to do just that. He hoped that once she realized she had someone to go to for help, she’d come to that conclusion herself. He would try and help her understand that she deserved much better than what she was getting.
An opportunity arose one day when Maddie walked in, with a cut on the side of her face. Doug had once again blown into a fury over a broken plate, one of their nicer ones, and her head had hit the corner of a table, and hence the cut. Without speaking a word, because they had fallen into a disturbing routine where she’d walk in with an injury and he would fix her up, he led her to a bed and closed the curtain. Usually, he would only ask her about her injuries and that’s it, but today he had decided to speak up.
“Maddie,” he said softly, touching her arm. She had grown familiar enough to his touch that she didn’t flinch anymore when they were in private. “Maddie, he’s hurting you.” He said it as a statement of fact because there was no question in his mind anymore.
Maddie looked at him with wide and horrified eyes, her mouth falling open, but no words coming out. She shook her head instead, shaking his grasp from her arm. “No. You’re mistaken,” she said, trembling.
“Am I?” He asked boldly. “Maddie, how many injuries have you had since you came to LA? I’ve lost track, honestly.”
“You’re mistaken,” she repeated again, looking around the room and not making eye contact with him. His heart sank, as he realized that she was still in denial or she was too terrified to admit the truth to anyone. “I’m just very clumsy.”
“Maddie…”, a hint of desperation entered his tone. “Please. Just hear me out, okay? He’s going to go too far one day, okay? I’ve seen too many cases of this. And it is devastating to think that you could be one of many. Look, I’m not telling you to get out today, but start to figure out a plan to leave.”
“If you want to be a friend, you’ll drop this. For your own good.” Maddie jumped off the bed. She was so tempted to just listen to him, but it was too dangerous. And she had no way out without endangering somebody else, which she couldn’t accept on her conscience. “And please,” her bottom trembled, looking in his eyes and seeing genuine pain, “please don’t say a word to Buck.” She had essentially confirmed his conclusion without saying it, and yet she was asking him to drop it.
“I won’t.” He needed to have her trust, and telling Buck would be a sure way of breaking it. He hoped that one day when she did leave - God, he hoped when - she’d come to him and he would find a way to protect him. He would just have to hope that the younger Buckley would not hate him for hiding the truth and believe that he had done what he had thought was in Maddie’s best interest. He took out a piece of paper and wrote down his address. “Look, I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. But take this, please. If you ever need a safe place to stay, I’m always available.”
“Thank you. Truly.” She walked away from him, before she broke down in front of him, holding onto the paper like it was a lifeline.
Chimney watched her walk away from him, clenching his fist to stop himself from picking her up and taking her so far away from the man who was hurting her. He hoped he was doing the right thing.
So Chimney has figured it out. I hope I've articulated the dilemma he's facing well, because he doesn't want to push her away. And that's why he can't tell Buck. Not yet. We all want Maddie to leave, but it's not that simple and there is a gradual build up to that moment.
Maddie chewed on her bottom lip nervously, as she thought about how to ask Doug for permission to go to a get-together that was being held at Bobby & Athena’s place. She already felt guilty about the years of no-contact that she had had with her brother and felt an obligation to make it up to him. Buck had called her and begged her to attend. In the months since they had settled in LA, she had made time to spend time with her brother, usually on the days when Buck was off his shift and so was she, while Doug worked. But she was rarely able to attend these types of gatherings, as Doug preferred for them to hang out with his friends and colleagues, and not her brother’s and his.
She was also dreading having to hang out with Chimney after work. It had been awkward between the two in the few weeks since he had confronted her about her injuries. Thankfully, she had avoided getting hurt in that time, so he didn’t have to patch up anything for her. She was glad that he had agreed to let it go, although she could feel his gaze scanning her up and down every time she walked through the doors to the emergency room.
She stood outside of Doug’s office, where he sat working on some reports. He looked up and smiled when he saw her there. “Maddie, why are you standing there? Come in.” She gave him a small smile as she entered and closed the door. He got up and walked towards her, with her back against the door. He raised his hand to caress her face softly. “You need something?”
“Yeah,” she said, her chest tight with tension, staring into the brown eyes that she had once fallen for so fast. “Um, Buck invited me - invited us - to a party at his Captain’s friend. I-I told him we would come.” His eyes darkened and the smile fell off, and Maddie felt like her heart would burst through her chest. Here it came.
“Damn it, Maddie,” he whispered, his fist slamming against the door. If they were at home, that’s not where it would have landed, and she knew it. His hand went to the back of her head and pulled, and she gasped. “I barely see you enough as it is, and you go and do this? I deserve to come home after a long day’s work and spend it at work.”
“Doug, please,” tears filled her eyes. “Buck is insisting.”
“I don’t care about your brother,” he let go of her hair. “Let him down with whatever excuse you want. I better see you at home after shift.”
He was being so unreasonable, she thought, when he walked away and headed back to his desk, the conversation over after he had made his wishes known. And he had every reason to think that she would comply, because he knew that she was terrified of the consequences. The last two weeks had been happy and safe, and that was coming to an end.
She made up her mind. She deserved to do the things that she wanted to do as well. A marriage couldn’t work if it was only one person who made demands and the other person complied. She deserved to go to that party. Her brother needed his sister in his life, and she wanted Buck in hers. Consequences be damned. It wasn’t like she was doing anything wrong. He’d understand that, later, wouldn’t he?
When she got back to the emergency room, shaking slightly, she saw Chimney staring at his phone, pale and frozen in shock. She wondered what it could be about and gathered the courage to go to him, forgetting about the awkwardness between them, because she genuinely cared about this man. “Chimney, what’s wrong?”
He looked at her, and she was saddened to see the tears pouring down his cheeks. “Amanda … the mother of my child. I … Buck just called to tell me that she slipped in the shower and hurt herself. I - she’s not conscious.”
“Oh my God,” Maddie whispered, looking around before doing something bold. She listened to her heart for once and not her brain, which was always alert and attentive and was even right now cautioning her that this was against her safety. She grabbed his wrist, surprising him, and took him into one of the on-call rooms, so that no one could see them. She shocked him even more by wrapping her arms around him.
“It’s going to be okay, Chim,” she caressed his back softly. “You can let it out now because you have to be strong for her and for your baby.”
He broke down. “I can’t lose her or the baby. I’m so excited to be a dad. It ca-can’t be taken away from me. Not after everything I’ve lost already.”
“You won’t” she pulled back and he saw a determined, confident look in her eyes. “She’ll be fine. I can’t guarantee it, but I have a feeling.”
“Okay,” he sniffed, wiping his tears with the back of his hand.
“I’ll page the heads of neuro and general. As a precaution.”
“Thanks, Maddie.” And Chimney’s crush on her deepened and he couldn’t fathom how Doug could hurt such a beautiful, compassionate woman. It also struck him what a risk she had taken to comfort him, and it both touched and broke his heart. It shouldn’t be a risk for her to do the normal human thing. Yet it was, and she had done it anyway.
They headed back and waited anxiously for the ambulance to arrive, standing at the entrance when the 118 pulled up, Buck and Hen jumping out with Amanda on the stretcher, wearing a neck brace. Chimney went to her side, taking her hand. “You’ll be just fine, I promise.”
“Howard?” She mumbled weakly, and he almost cried with relief as he saw her eyes open slightly.
“Yeah, it’s me. You’re at the hospital and everything is going to be okay.” They took her inside where one of the trauma attendings who worked under Chimney put a hand on his shoulder.
“I’ve got it from here, Dr. Han. I promise to keep you updated.” Chimney wanted to break all the rules and protocols that said that you couldn’t operate on the people closest to you. The baby growing inside Amanda officially made her his family. Maddie put her hand on his back, before following the trauma attending inside, which he appreciated, because he trusted her.
Buck came up to stand beside him, putting his hand on Chimney’s shoulder. “Be strong, Chim. She’ll get through it.”
Every minute seemed to pass like an hour, as the head of neuro came and went. Finally, the trauma attending and Maddie came out, and the smile on Maddie’s face told him it was good news. “Well?” He asked, his heart beating fast.
“Looks like she avoided a brain bleed, Dr. Han. A serious concussion, but nothing that can’t be fixed with rest.”
“And the baby?”
“A strong heartbeat was detected,” Maddie said. “Your baby is fine, Chimney.”
“Thank God,” his chest deflated with relief, before he pulled the surprised trauma attending into a hug. “Thank you.”
“Just doing my job, like you taught me,” the man said. “We’ll keep her for 24 hours for observation, as is protocol, but she should be able to go home tomorrow.”
“See, Chim?” Buck punched his shoulder gently. “She’ll be fine.”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “I’m going to stay with her after my shift. I’m sorry, Buck, I know how much you wanted us all together tonight, but I need to stay with Amanda.”
“Hey, man, don’t apologize. Of course, I understand. Baby comes first.” Chimney and Buck smiled, and he considered himself lucky to have the Buckley siblings in his life. Buck gave Maddie a side hug. “You’re coming though, right?”
Maddie nodded, gulping slightly as she remembered the conversation with Doug earlier. “Wouldn’t miss it,” she forced a smile on her face. She knew exactly what she was risking, but tonight was important to her brother. He had just returned back to work and Bobby & Athena were hosting a party to celebrate him and his recovery, and she had to be there. She had already disappointed her little brother enough, and she would deal with Doug's anger afterwards.
“Great. See you later.”
When Doug got home later that evening, he was stunned to find it empty. No Maddie. He clenched his jaw as he realized that she had disobeyed him and gone to that party. After he had explicitly warned her not to. He shook his head in anger and turned around, going back to his car. He drove fast and with anger, and soon, he was pulling up in front of Bobby & Athena’s.
Inside, Maddie laughed as she drank a glass of wine, feeling her body relax with every minute that she spent with the awesome people who were her brother’s family. The distress that she had felt from Chimney that day had passed once they learned Amanda would be okay, and she had put Doug’s warning to her in the back of her mind, something to deal with once the moment came. Well, the moment soon came, bursting Maddie’s happiness.
The knock on the door broke the conversation, with Bobby going to open the door to reveal Doug standing there, putting a charming smile on his face. Maddie stood up, putting the glass on the table next to her, shaking slightly. He was here and he was furious. “Dr. Kendall. Good to see you,” Bobby said politely, shaking the other man’s hand.
“You too, Captain Nash. Doug’s fine.” He stepped inside, his eyes immediately seeking his wife, and the smile didn’t fool her. Instead it sent shivers down her spine. “I’m just here to pick Maddie up.”
“Why don’t you stay?” Athena asked politely. “We were just about to have some post-dinner snacks.”
“Thank you for the offer, but I’m exhausted. Long couple of surgeries today.” Everyone nodded because they all understood the exhaustion after a long day’s work. “I hope you had fun today, Maddie.” He extended his hand for her to join him.
Maddie turned to Athena. “Thank you for hosting us today. I had a wonderful time.”
“Not a problem. You’re always welcome here,” Athena responded kindly. “Besides, we all enjoyed hearing Buck’s childhood shenanigans.”
“I did not,” Buck pointed out. He hugged his sister. “See you soon, Mads.”
She really didn’t want to go with her husband, yet she had no choice. His hand gripped hers tightly as he led her out of the house, away from safety, away from people who cared about her, especially her brother. He basically shoved her towards the car, not bothering to hide his fury now. “I warned you, Maddie. I told you you couldn’t come and yet you went, forcing me to waste time to come here. Whatever happens now is your fault.”
Maddie whimpered as he forced her into the car, dreading to enter the house. Yet somehow she didn’t regret it, because she spent time with her brother today, and he seemed to be back to his old self. It had been three months since his accident, and he was back on the job, although he was taking it gently, not doing the daredevil stunts he was doing before his injury. He’d get there eventually, Chimney had reassured her, but it was best to stick to the easier calls for now. Buck wanted to know that she was back in his life for good, and today was a way to reassure him of that, no matter what Doug would do.
The drive ended far too soon for her liking, and she felt the tight grip on her arm as he practically dragged her through the door. The slamming of the door meant there was no one to save her now. “D-Doug, I’m sorry,” she apologized, though she knew that meant nothing when he had that look in his eyes. The backhand came swiftly, and she fell onto the stairs.
“Why do you make me do this, Maddie?” He asked, kicks coming swiftly on her back as she dragged herself up the stairs, but not quickly enough. At the top of the stairs, he pulled her up by her hair and threw her onto the floor of their bedroom.
“Please,” she begged, arms covering her face, but his kicks were relentless. She tried dragging herself up holding onto the wall, stumbling back outside. His rage was not dissipating, and her insides felt like they were on fire.
“This is your fault, Maddie. If you would just listen, but you never do? Your brother is more important than me?” He asked, both of them now standing right in front of the stairs.
“No, that's’ not…”
“That’s exactly it…” he roared, and Maddie took another step back, except this time she was sent back tumbling down the stairs, her head hitting the ground hard. Her last thought before it all went black was maybe this was it. Her life would end, and the pain would be over.
Hope you guys like it! Sorry about the cliffhanger lol but we are inching closer slowly to the day Maddie realizes she deserves better. This chapter was meant to highlight Madney's growing bond so I hope I did that justice.
Doug paled when he saw Maddie unmoving at the bottom of the stairs, blood pooling under her head. For a moment, he thought he had lost her. “Maddie!” He called, his heart in his throat as he bent down beside her, head on his lap, as he checked her pulse. “Come on, baby. Wake up.” Pulse was there but weak.
He picked her up, her lifeless body in his arms, rushing out to the car and putting her in the backseat. Doug drove rashly to the hospital, hoping that she hung on. He didn’t mean for this to happen. It was an accident. She had just lost her balance. Nothing more, nothing less. Arriving at the hospital, Doug hurried through the doors, an unconscious Maddie still in her arms, her blood on Doug’s shirt.
Chimney was sitting by Amanda’s bedside when he suddenly got a really bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He didn’t know what it was, but he didn’t want to ignore it. Maddie . His heart sunk at the thought that she was hurt and wasn’t getting help, but he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t call her. What if her husband saw it and used that as an excuse to hurt her?
Then he heard a familiar voice calling out for help, and his feeling was validated. “Someone help, please! Help my wife.” Chimney got off the chair and the sight he saw made his knees buckle. Maddie lay lifelessly in her husband’s arms, his wild eyes darting around as nurses led him to put her on the bed, the white sheets turning red as her head continued to bleed. Chimney teared up, and he wondered if it was all his fault that Maddie was now in this state. If he had pushed her to leave, if he had told Buck, would she be here in the hospital, in this state?
He shook his head, making the guilty thoughts disappear. He couldn’t focus on them now. Maddie needed him to be Dr. Han, not her friend. She needed him to save her life, not focus on blaming himself for her state. If there was a person to blame, it was Doug.
He shifted into doctor mode, instructing another nurse to stay by Amanda’s side as he motioned Sue and Josh over, the distress clear in their faces. Maddie had quickly become well-liked among her fellow nurses and had formed a close bond with Josh, giving him dating advice and both of them exchanging stories about their lives. “Page neuro STAT,” Chimney ordered, wearing a gown and putting on gloves. “We need to get her a head CT immediately.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that,” Josh nodded. Chimney pushed the curtain aside, where Maddie was now connected to an IV drip, a bandage around her head to stop the bleeding. Doug stood there, her blood on his hands, and he had never loathed another human being more. “Dr. Kendall.” He struggled to keep the disdain out of his voice, trying to treat this like any other case, but it was not. “You can’t be here. You know the rules.” The protocols that he had hated just hours before, he was glad for them now. At least Doug would be away from Maddie for a few hours.
Doug looked at him, and it occurred to Chimney that the man was in shock. “She just fell ….” he muttered, looking back down at Maddie’s still body.
Fell or was pushed? Chimney thought, but didn’t say. “I’ll take good care of her,” he promised, because that was what she deserved. “Please let us do our work.” He certainly wouldn’t be able to concentrate with Doug hovering over them, for multiple reasons. Doug agreed and left Maddie’s bedside, after kissing her hand.
“Please be alright, baby.”
“Russo, please contact Evan Buckley. His number’s in my phone.” He had hidden Maddie’s other injuries from Buck, but he couldn’t hide this. This was much more serious. Buck deserved to know about this.
Buck and the rest of the 118 were still at Bobby and Athena's. They had the next day off and so they had decided to stay up late, talking, chatting and eating. They played games and mocked Buck's inability to make a poker face, which everyone enjoyed, especially when Athena was able to fool him into going all in.
The phone rang, disturbing their fun and echoing throughout the house. He frowned when he saw Chimney's number. Why would he be calling him now? He picked it up. "Hey, Chim."
"Evan Buckley?" A familiar voice, though one he could not place at the moment, asked and Buck's heart sank. Why was someone who was not Chimney calling him from his phone? Was Chimney hurt?
"Yes, it's Buck speaking, who is this?" He asked, his mouth going completely dry. Everyone turned to look at him, their smiles falling off and turning to concern when they noticed how Buck had paled.
"My name is Josh Russo. I'm calling from LA General." Now Buck recognized the voice, as one of the people who worked with his sister and who was there to take care of the patients they dropped off at the hospital. His heart beat faster. Why was he calling him?
"Is Chimney alright?" He asked.
"Dr. Han? Oh yes, he is. I'm sorry I wasn't clear. I'm calling you because of your sister." Now Buck's stomach turned again for a whole different reason, tasting bile in his mouth as he took a deep breath. "Maddie was brought in an hour ago by her husband with a head injury. Buck…" Josh hesitated and that killed Buck even more. "it's bad, man. You should get over here."
Buck teared up. He couldn't believe it. She had been here just an hour ago, laughing and smiling, and now she was in the hospital fighting for her life. He felt nauseous. It had only been a couple of months since she had moved to LA and come back in his life, and yet he didn't want to go back. His life was fuller and brighter with Maddie in it, and he felt lost now that he had learned that her life was in danger. He didn't know what he would do if something happened to his big sister.
"Buck?" Josh asked worriedly. He turned his head to see Maddie being wheeled away to be taken for a head CT.
"Y-yeah, I'll be right there." He hung up the phone, his hands trembling, face pale as he slowly stood up, dazed.
"Buck, is everything alright?" Bobby asked, not liking the look on the young man's face, clearly having received some bad news.
He looked at his Captain, wet tears falling down his face. "My sister… she's had an accident."
"What?" Bobby asked, putting his arm around the younger man.
"We'll drive you," Athena said matter-of-factly. "You're in no condition to drive."
Buck mumbled a weak thank you as the three of them rushed out of the house and into the car. Throughout the drive to the hospital, Buck remained quiet, worst case scenarios running through his head. His sister had been the one constant in his life, except for the unexplained non-contact for three years, and he didn't know how to handle this. He wanted to be strong for her, but he was finding it difficult to do so.
Bobby parked the car in the hospital parking lot, and the three rushed through the doors, spotting a shaken Doug with dried blood on his hands and a haunted look in his eyes. Maddie's blood, Buck thought with a pang in his heart, because Doug didn't seem to be injured anywhere. Buck approached Maddie's husband, his voice hoarse. "Where is she?"
The man looked up, a shell of the usual confident and arrogant man that he didn't like. "They - they just took her for a head CT."
Buck took a seat next to him, still shaking. "How the hell did this happen, Doug?"
"She … she lost her balance and fell down the stairs." Doug shook his head, like he wanted to remove the sight from his mind. What he said was technically accurate because he hadn't pushed Maddie, but removed important context about how it had happened, that he had been yelling and hitting her for disobeying him. If Buck knew the context, he would never be able to forgive Doug.
"What happens now?" Buck asked, his voice weak.
Doug shrugged. "They decide whether her injury is serious enough to require surgery. I … the head of neuro is on her case. She'll get the best care."
Silence overcame the group as they waited for updates on Maddie's condition. Bobby paced while Athena leaned against the wall.
Finally, they saw an exhausted Chimney and a female doctor walking towards them, a clipboard in her hand, heads nodding as they discussed. Chimney turned to look at them, and his eyes softened when they landed on the man who was like a little brother to him. He knew how much it would hurt Buck to see Maddie in the condition she was in right now. It had hurt him like hell to see her lifeless in Doug's arms, and she was just his friend. Or so he told himself.
Doug and Buck stood up, both of them exuding anxious energy. "Dr. Han, how is Maddie?" Doug asked and Chimney had to use all of his self-control to not snap at her husband. He had promised Maddie to keep her trust until she was ready to do something about it, and he wasn't going to break it now. But he was going to have another talk with her once she recovered. Once. Not if. Maddie had to make it. She just had to.
He deferred to the head of neuro standing next to him, whom Doug knew well. "Dr. Kendall, Maddie has a brain bleed, so we need to operate right away. You are well aware of the sensitivity with head injuries."
"But she'll be fine, right?" Buck asked desperately, looking at his friend for reassurance.
"Dr. Adams is the best, Buck," Chimney put his hand on Buck's shoulder, the younger man crying silently. "And your sister is strong." God, she had gone through enough pain to last a lifetime. She didn't deserve this.
She handed Doug the clipboard to sign his consent for her surgery, which he gave with shaking hands. "Save her, please."
The night turned into early morning, and Bobby & Athena had headed home, after making Buck and Chimney promise to keep them updated. The two of them weren’t going anywhere, with Chimney assisting in Maddie’s surgery while also keeping an eye on Amanda, and Buck not able to go anywhere with his sister’s life hanging in the balance. Him and Doug now sat in the waiting room, as Maddie was being shifted to a private room to recover. Chimney had come and informed them that the surgery had been successful, but it was crucial that Maddie woke up. Her recovery depended on it.
Buck froze at the entrance to the hospital room, not remembering the last time his sister had looked so weak, so vulnerable and so small as she did in that hospital bed, the machines being the only thing that told him she was alive. Her head was covered with a bandage, and she was completely still. Doug went forward and took one of Maddie’s hands, giving it a kiss. “Come on, babe, please wake up,” he pleaded.
Buck slowly stepped into the room, forcing himself to be strong, as he went to Maddie’s other side and took her other hand. “Hey, Mads,” his voice cracked. “You really gave us all a big scare there, huh?” Her eyes remained closed, while his vision blurred with the tears that continued to fall. “You have to wake up, alright? You have to. I-I can’t do this without my big sister.” He caressed the bandaged part of her head.
Chimney, on the other hand, stood at the entrance, now allowing himself to feel the guilt that he had ignored while he had been in Maddie’s surgery. He blamed himself, utterly blamed himself for Maddie being in this condition. He didn’t know what had happened, but he knew in his gut that this was no mere accident. Doug had caused this one way or another, and Maddie had almost died. If she had, Chimney would never have been able to live with himself, knowing what he did and doing nothing about it. Yes, Maddie had asked him not to say anything about it, but there was a point where he should have acted. He should have pushed her to leave Doug, then maybe this wouldn’t have happened.
Or something worse could have happened, he surmised. It was very complicated, and intellectually he knew he shouldn’t be blaming himself. Maddie hadn’t been ready to leave Doug, and by forcing her to do so, she would have just ended contact. And then she would be completely and utterly alone, as he was the only one who had put the truth together. He sighed loudly. He was a mess internally and confused on what to do. It would be so easy to open his mouth and tell Buck everything, but then what? Maddie still had to make the choice to accept their help. They could do nothing unless she chose to leave. Until she made the decision, all Chimney could do was stand by and wait for her to come to him, as much as it pained him to do so.
His hands were tied. He couldn’t force her to do anything, but he could have another talk with her, reminding her that tonight could have ended very differently. It was his duty as a friend and doctor to remind her that he was there. But first, she had to wake up.
Two days passed before Maddie began to stir, the men at her bedside having fallen asleep in their chairs. She opened her eyes to stare at a familiar white ceiling, her mind foggy as she struggled to remember what had happened to land her in a hospital bed. The memories soon came flooding back - her argument with Doug, him hitting her, dragging herself to the hallway and stepping back and falling down the stairs, her head hitting the floor hard. Her eyes teared up and she jerked her right hand back, causing Doug to stir. He lifted his head up and was pleasantly surprised to see that his wife had opened her eyes.
“Maddie. Oh babe.” She turned her head to meet his eyes, seeing no hint of the rage that had sent her careening down the steps, only love and relief. But she also knew how quickly that could change. She chose to relish the moment and put that aside for now, because it hurt her injured head to think about her marriage and its complexities. He leaned forward to give her a kiss, her hand coming up to touch the back of his head. “I’m so glad you’re alright. I was really worried.”
Doug’s voice made Buck stir. “W-what…” he asked, exhaustion evident in his voice before his breath hitched when he saw Maddie giving him a small smile. “Mads.” He exhaled properly for the first time since he had heard the news that she had hit her head. “Oh, Mads.” He broke down sobbing, burying his face in her left hand.
“B-Buck,” she said weakly, her hand rubbing his head softly with as much energy as she had at the moment. “I-it’s okay. I-I’m okay.”
"I-i thought I'd lost you," he said, making Maddie's chest hurt and she squeezed his hand to let him know that she was very much alive.
"I'm not going anywhere, I promise." She smiled softly to reassure her baby brother that she would recover and be back on her feet in no time. It hadn't been long since the situations were reversed, and Maddie would do anything to remove the look of anguish on her brother's face.
Then her eyes landed on the door, and she stiffened. Chimney stood at the doorway, glaring at Doug, though thankfully her husband was too busy looking at her to notice. A knot formed in the pit of her stomach, and she knew what Chimney was thinking. Any reasonable person would have jumped to the conclusion he had, and even though he was wrong in believing that Doug had pushed her down the stairs, he wasn't that far off from the truth. She wouldn't have stumbled and fallen down the stairs if Doug hadn't been hitting her and screaming at her.
She could also see hints of guilt in the eyes of the kind-hearted and generous man that she had gotten to know over the past couple of months. She wanted to tell him that this wasn't his fault; that there wasn't anything he could have done to prevent this. She just hoped that he wasn't judging her or thinking her stupid for staying in a bad marriage. Nobody knew the thoughts that ran through her mind every time she sweeped away her husband's damage or cleaned up the blood or bruises on her face and body. She was figuring it out; she just needed more time before Chimney said anything to Buck or Doug. It had taken her a long time to accept that she needed to leave, once in 2012 and once now. The question was how and how to do so safely. And was she ready to take that big step, remembering how it had gone the last time?
"Why don't you guys go home?" Chimney suggested, entering the room while Maddie turned her head, not wanting to meet Chimney's eyes. They were compelling and every time Maddie looked at him, it seemed like his eyes could see right inside her and see her for who she was and the pain she was in. She had never met anyone who had looked at her the way Chimney did, and she didn't know what to make of it. He stood next to Buck and put a gentle hand on Buck's shoulder. "Buckaroo, you're a mess. Go home, sleep in your own bed and take a shower." He pushed down his hatred for Doug and addressed him. "Same with you. You still have her blood on your shirt. Look, Maddie's not going to feel comfortable with you guys looking like this."
"Maybe you're right," Doug admitted grudgingly.
Chimney stepped up to her bedside and used his penlight to shine on Maddie's pupils. "Pupils look good. Alert and responsive. Follow my finger please." He was happy as her eye followed his moving finger.
"Do you remember what year it is?" Chimney asked, running through the checklist they did after a patient woke up from a brain surgery.
Maddie nodded. "2019." Chimney exhaled in relief as she answered other questions correctly, such as where she was, her job, and her home address. He looked at the two men still standing there. "Initial check looks good. But we'll keep her in for a few more days and have her get a head CT again, just to be safe."
"Thanks, Chim." Buck hugged his friend, the emotions of the last two days having run him ragged. He looked like an absolute mess, and he had barely eaten or slept since Maddie's accident.
"Go home, Buck. Your sister is exhausted already." He could see Maddie's eyes drooping, the little speaking and listening she had done draining all of the little energy she had, which was not unusual after a major surgery. In fact, it was completely normal.
Doug leaned down to kiss Maddie's forehead. "I'll be back soon, babe. You rest."
Buck squeezed Maddie's hand, receiving a small smile in return before both men left, leaving Chimney alone with Maddie. He smiled sympathetically at the woman he had come to consider a good friend, and she surprised him by asking, "Aman…" she trailed off.
"Amanda?" Chimney asked, touched that she was thinking about him and his baby when she'd just hurt herself so badly. She nodded slightly, wincing at the pain.
"She's fine," Chimney said taking a seat at her bedside and taking her hand. "She was discharged yesterday and she's been ordered to rest. Which is not easy believe me."
Maddie smiled, before frowning. "D-don't ha-hate me."
Chimney was confused. "Why would I hate you?"
"Ca-cause haven't left yet." The remaining pieces of Chimney's heart shattered looking at the broken woman in front of him. And he felt guilty for even questioning why she wouldn't leave, not thinking about the fact that she would be dealing with that shame every single day.
"Listen to me, Maddie. I could never hate you, got it? I'm so proud and amazed at the strength you've shown. You are a survivor and I'm lucky to count you as a friend. I know you'll get through this. Don't think about the future now, okay? Just focus on your recovery and remember that I'm always here for you."
"M'kay," she yawned. "Tired."
He smiled softly. "Then sleep. You deserve it."
One month later, Maddie was making good progress. She was resting at home, and her husband was treating her like a queen. They both knew that he was trying to assuage the guilt he had from the accident, as it was his fault that she had tumbled down the stairs. It was the first month in a long time that Maddie could remember not being hit or grabbed tightly. And she felt grateful, for being lucky enough to have survived, for continuing to live her life.
Doug had returned to work a few days after she had been dispatched, but Buck or Chimney, sometimes Athena or Hen, would pop over to keep her company after their shifts had ended. She usually tried to get them out of the house before Doug came home, because she didn't want to push her luck too much, and she had to be cautious about injuring herself too soon after a major brain surgery.
She enjoyed the moments with her brother, reminiscing about their childhood and watching some of their favorite kid movies. She would do anything to keep that smile on his face, and she was once again grateful that he was back to work and no complications had hindered his recovery. She was so damn proud of him and what he had become. She still remembered when he had come to her, cuts on his faces and a broken arm from a motorcycle accident, begging her to help him get away from their parents. She had believed in him that he would become something and he had proven her right.
While the conversations with her brother were light and free of tension, the talks with Chimney were deeper and held more depth because he knew the truth. When they were alone - she would never let Doug know that he'd come over while there was no one else around - he'd broach the subject gently. The first time, he had tears in his eyes as he stared at the small bandage that remained on the back of her head where her skull had been cut into.
"M-maddie, I…" he choked back a sob. "When I saw you in his arms, I though…"
She felt awful for putting him through that. "Hey. It's not your fault for what happened. It was an accident, Chim."
"I'm not so sure." He stared at her, compelling her to elaborate.
"He didn't push me," she clarified. "But we were arguing when it happened."
Chimney understood what she was trying to say without saying the actual words. The words he was beating me were nearly impossible for her to say. Using euphemisms seemed safer somehow, as if it would blunt the horrible reality.
"You could've died, Maddie. If he hadn't brought you in when he did."
"I know," she chewed on her bottom lip. "He's been great this past month, but it feels like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Once I go back to work and things become normal again. Except our normal is not one I want to return to."
“What are you saying?” Chimney asked, his heart thudding quickly.
“I’m saying that I think I’ve reached the point where I can think about leaving. But I’m still scared, Chimney. 16 years. Almost half of my life I’ve been with him. It’s hard. It’s really hard to imagine a life after Doug. The last time I thought about leaving …” her gaze became haunted, her mind going back to the past as Chimney listened, patiently and silently.
“Yeah, let’s get the hell out of here.” Maddie said the words with a smile, a similar one lighting up her brother’s eyes as they stood on the side of the road, her car keys in her brother’s hands. He had come to her earlier in the day with a broken hand and bruised face begging for a way out of his parents’ house. She knew better than anyone else how toxic their home was, and she had found a way to escape years ago when she had moved to Boston with Doug. Except she had only exchanged one toxic household and relationship for another.
Maddie still loved Doug, but terror and fear overcame that. She was tired of feeling like a punching bag, on whom he could take out his stress on. She was tired of being afraid of making tiny mistakes, of being afraid of the man she loved whenever he took a step towards her with that look in his eyes. She wanted to leave, to get out, and be her own person, not the beaten down and lonely person she had become being married to Doug. She was exhausted at having to walk around on eggshells, judging her husband’s moods, whether he would be sweet and loving or furious and violent.
The words had been easier to say, but harder to implement. Buck dropped her off at her place, with the promise to pick her up from the hospital tomorrow. She would pack up her things tonight and take them with her to work tomorrow, and the Buckley siblings would leave behind Hershey forever. At least, that was the plan.
Maddie had been packing the few possessions she needed, when Doug came home early. It didn’t take him long to put two and two together, and the next thing she knew she was on the ground sobbing, begging him to stop as he threw punch after punch, kick after kick. He only stopped after she vowed not to leave. To never leave.
Los Angeles, 2019
“That was the first time he threatened to kill me if I ever left,” Maddie’s bottom lip trembled, and she could see Chimney’s body shaking on the couch next to her. “If I do leave, what kind of life will I be living, Chim? Will I have to give up my job and go into hiding? Am I putting Buck at risk? I have to think about all of these things.”
“You need to put yourself first,” he said firmly. “If Buck knew the truth, he’d say the same. I know him that much and I’ve seen how much he loves you. And one day, Maddie, you might not wake up. And I’m not saying this to scare you, because you’re terrified enough, but it’s just a cold, hard fact from the experiences I’ve had.”
“I don’t know when I stopped loving him. The only thing I feel for him now is fear and terror,” Maddie confessed, joining her palms together. “But I think it’s time for me to stop living in that fear and to start living for myself. I don’t want to have to ask permission to spend time with my brother or go out for a party or to apologize for coming home five minutes late. I’ve lived enough of that life. I’m ready to get out, Chim.”
He exhaled sharply. “I’m glad to hear you say it, Maddie. But I know the hard part is just getting started. Whatever you need, I’m here for you. Are you ready to tell Buck yet? We can bring Athena too. She’s one of the most fiercely loyal and protective women I know and she’s an amazing cop too.”
She shook her head. “Not yet. I need some time to plan, to find a place, to put some money away. I also need to finish recovering before I get out. I need to think about what I’m going to do about work, look into my legal options.”
“Okay,” he put his hand on hers. “I’m just happy you’re at the place where you’re ready to leave.”
“Thank you, Howie. You didn’t push me, you didn’t force me. I don’t know how difficult it was for you, but I appreciate it all the same. I’ve been thinking about getting out for a while, but I was letting my fear convince me that the best option was staying. Now, I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe the next time I won’t be so lucky.”
Chimney just smiled in appreciation. He visited her four times during the month, all the times when his shift didn’t overlap with Doug’s. Spending time with Maddie made him feel warm and content. They didn’t always talk about her situation; after that first time, Chimney had decided to let her take her time and let him know the day she was ready to get out of that house. After that, they talked about Amanda, some of the crazy cases he had seen, workplace gossip and watched romantic comedy movies that Maddie liked.
Today was the day, Maddie gulped. It had been almost two months since her discharge from the hospital and she was finally feeling like she had returned to herself pre-accident. It had taken her a lot of physical therapy and counselling to get to this point, to finally be able to do most things without anyone's help. Her long-term memory was fine, but sometimes her mind would fog up and she'd lose concentration or forget a task that she had to complete or something someone had said.
It was totally normal though for her brain to take time to return to 100% function after a traumatic brain injury and surgery as a result. She knew that she was extremely lucky to have not suffered permanent brain damage, and she has to make this second chance at life count. Today was the day that she would walk out of this house and leave Doug.
Just because she was taking this big step didn't mean that she had overcome her fear. It was the opposite. Her fear of being killed or having others killed, particularly Buck or Howie, was at the peak. The last time she had left, Doug had not let go of his tight grip around her throat until she had promised that she would never leave. She shuddered as she remembered his words from that night.
"You leaving me can never happen. You know why? Because we're meant to be together. To live together, to grow old together, and to die together. That's how this story ends, Maddie. And if you try to craft a different ending, well, you would not live to see that through."
That night, Maddie had come to believe that he would rather she die than live a life without him. He couldn't comprehend the fact that she would even try after that threat. But she had to, and this was her only chance to do so. If she failed, it was over. It was done. If he dragged her back, he would take her far away from everyone who cared about her and she'd be isolated again. And she'd live in pain until the day he killed her. That's the path they were on if she stayed. She believed she would die at his hands, whether she stayed or left. If she left, maybe there was a chance for a better life, for happiness, for peace. Maybe she'd come out the other side free. There was no chance of that if she gave into her fear and stayed.
She'd made a plan. She would quit her job, because there was no way she could work in the same place as Doug and expect him to leave her alone. Sue would understand, hopefully, but she would only tell her. She didn't need the gossip to spread and make Doug even angrier. Chimney would still be working there, and she wanted to protect him as much as possible, even if he insisted it wasn't necessary. She would lay low at Buck's place, even though it wouldn't be difficult for her husband to figure out where her brother lived. In an emergency, she had Chimney or Hen's place as a backup, once she let her know of her situation. Chimney had assured her there was no way his best friend would refuse to take her in.
She wanted to file for divorce, but again she had decided to wait on that. Let some time pass, hope that Doug cooled down. Besides, she wasn't ready to go through the legal process just yet and fight him in court, because there was no way in hell he would just sign the papers easily. She needed some time away from him before she could face him again, this time hopefully with the support of her brother and his family.
Tonight, she would summon the strength to walk away from him. He had told her the night before that he would be out for drinks, and she wasn't expecting him until later. She had packed up the few things she needed to take with her and was ready to call for an Uber to take her to a safe place.
Buck muttered under his breath, his hair sticking out from his head, as he had been rudely woken up from a deep and relaxing sleep after a long 24 hour shift by a loud knocking on the door. "I'm coming," he called out, the person clearly impatient as he put on a shirt to become decent. He swung the door open, and he immediately went from extremely tired to completely alert when he saw who was standing in front of him.
"Evan," she sobbed, falling forward into his arms, him having just enough time to wrap his arms around her, the action forcing both of them to their knees. He had a lump in his throat while he caressed her back, so many questions in his mind, her suitcase in front of him. "I-I got out. I got out."
He pulled back to take a good look at her, feeling nauseous as he saw the bruising on her face and the way she held her abdomen. "Maddie, what the hell happened?"
Maddie whimpered in her brother's arms, though she knew instinctively that he could never hurt her. Especially in the way her husband had for so many years. Yet even as she sat in Buck's apartment, she wondered if this was a mistake. Whether she should just accept her fate and live the rest of her life with Doug, however long that may be. She had told Chimney that she wanted to leave, that she wanted to be her own person, but now she was wondering whether she'd live to see that through.
And if she died, if her husband made good on his promise of what would happen if she ever left, what kind of anguish would that put Buck through? Would he ever recover? She knew the pain of losing a sibling, and she had tried her best to protect Evan from learning about Daniel. She never wanted him to go through that same pain, and yet there was a real chance he would.
"Maddie," Buck said softly, still kneeling on the ground in front of the apartment door. "Can you tell me what happened? Who did this to you?"
He could tell that he wasn't going to like whatever she revealed, but he needed to know. He needed to know what was so horrible that his sister had shown up at his place in the middle of the night, with a bruised face and ribs, and God knows what other injuries she was hiding, shaking and trembling, with a terrified look in her eye. He had almost lost her a few months back for good, and now he vowed to protect her from ever getting hurt again.
"D-Doug. It was Doug." Maddie finally whispered, gripping her brother's right hand tightly as his other one formed into a fist. He pushed down his anger and listened patiently as she sniffed and winced when her hand touched the black eye starting to form. "It was not the first time." His heart clenched as his sister sobbed, the words coming out incomprehensibly and he pulled her against him, tears falling down his own cheeks.
"Get up," he said gently, helping Maddie stand up and limp over to the sofa. He closed the door and sat next to her, taking her hand as she continued to cry.
"How long?" He asked, eyes staring off into the distance, as he wondered why he hadn't seen it. His sister had been getting abused by her husband, a man who he didn't even like, and he was blind to it. Could Buck ever forgive himself? He didn't know. All this time, he had been focused on himself, his injury, his recovery and Maddie had been there for him, while she had been in so much pain and fear and terror.
"A couple of years," she confessed, looking down at her hands as fear turned to shame and embarrassment. Intellectually, she knew it wasn't her shame to carry, it was his. Yet she carried it anyway, and it was the stigma of domestic violence that made it so commonplace around the country. She had seen it so many times as a nurse, helping guide her patients, while not applying that same advice to her own situation because it was too scary to leave.
She didn't want to tell Buck how long it had been happening exactly because then he would be able to put together why she hadn't left Hershey with him. She didn't want to put that burden on her little brother. No one deserves that on their shoulders.
"It happened so gradually then all at once," Maddie said and Buck let her speak and get it all out before he said anything. It allowed him to suppress his own rage, which was the last thing Maddie needed. After so many years of her taking care of him, patching up his various injuries, believing in him when no one else has, it was his turn. He hated that it was in these circumstances, but he was prepared to stand in front of her and do anything to prevent her husband from getting to her.
"I thought I'd found somebody amazing, someone who loved me for who I am. And the first few years were great, Buck, but during that time he isolated me completely. My world began to revolve around him and his needs, and I saw nothing wrong with that. I saw nothing wrong with him holding me tightly and possessively whenever we were in public. I thought it showed his love and concern. Same for when he would call me multiple times asking me for my location." Buck remembered that and said something about it, and Maddie dismissed it. He wished he had pushed harder, but he was just a kid and he could have never imagined this.
"Then he asked me to marry him and I was ecstatic. Finally, I'd get to build a home and a family that was nothing like the one we had grown up in. And then we got married, and everything started to change. His need for power and control over me grew, and he strived for perfection. The image we presented had to be perfect, or there would be hell to pay. The first time he slapped me, I couldn't believe it. It was like a nightmare. He apologized and promised it wouldn't happen again, then made me believe it was my fault. He's always been good at that: blaming me."
Buck's chin trembled listening to his sister tell her story through her sobs, just wanting to wrap her in a bubble of joy and happiness. She had been through so much and he had had no clue at all. "After the first time he hit me, everytime I made a mistake or came home late or did something without permission, I'd get hit. And how hurt I got depended on his rage. It wasn't always bad. When he's happy with me, he showers me with gifts and hugs and kisses and when he's not…" Maddie shuddered. "Maybe that's also how he made me stay. Maybe I wanted to believe that he could change, that I could fix us by being a better wife."
"It's not your fault. You can't blame yourself for his violence," Buck interjected, needing Maddie to believe that. She looked at him skeptically, still struggling with that herself.
"I tried to leave once before," Maddie revealed. "And he threatened to kill me if I ever left. And so I stayed, even as his rage grew worse over time, even as the bad days started to outnumber the good ones, and my love for him was replaced by fear and terror."
"I … Maddie, I'm so sorry. But you've finally got yourself out and I'm so proud of you. You have to know that, okay?" Buck faced her, holding her face between his hands, staring her in the eyes so she knew he was sincere.
Maddie nodded hesitantly. Her brother continued, "We'll figure something out so that monster gets nowhere near you, okay? I'll speak to Chimney and he'll cover for you with Sue."
"He knows," Maddie whispered and Buck's head jerked back, hurt replacing the determination in his eyes. Chimney knew? Before him? Maddie quickly realized what he was thinking and added, "He figured it out by himself and confronted me about it. He was patching up all my injuries."
"Why didn't you tell me? You've been here for months, Maddie. I could have helped."
"I wanted to protect you, Buck. I never wanted to bring you into my messy marriage, but now I had no choice. You knowing the truth now puts you in Doug's warpath, and he'll go through anyone and anything to get to me."
"I don't care," Buck said firmly. "If he comes here, I'll be ready for him. Anything to protect you now." He leaned forward. "Can you tell me what happened tonight?"
She flinched. "Ever since I got out of the hospital, I've been thinking about doing it. About getting out and living my own life, the way I want to. He didn't push me down the stairs, Buck, but he was the cause of it. I could have died that night." Buck winced, not wanting to remember how close he had come to losing her. "And I realized that there's no more time to waste. I'm sick and tired of living my life on eggshells, wondering what mood my husband's going to be in. For however long J get to live, at least I'll get to experience what life without Doug is like."
"You'll live a long and happy life, Maddie. Please don't give up now."
She shook her head with a small, sad smile. "You don't know him the way I do. He's relentless and when he sees that I've left him… his rage is going to be unlike anything I've seen before." She shivered. That night in Hershey had been horrific, but this time she had actually left. And after he had specifically warned her not to. She didn't want to imagine what he would do once he got his hands on her.
"I decided to get out tonight, before he came home from drinks with his friends. I had my bags packed, my phone in my hand ready to call an Uber. Chimney wanted to pick me up, but I didn't want to risk it. And now I'm glad I didn't." Maddie's breath hitched and she inhaled deeply, the tension in her chest rising as she thought about the events of a few hours ago.
"Can I get you some water?" Buck asked softly, realizing that his sister was reluctant to tell him what her husband had done today.
"Please," Maddie gave him a small, trembling smile while her hands shook from dear. There was no going back now. She had done what he had explicitly warned her not to do, warnings that had been yelled at her a few hours back. She shuddered as she remembered the feeling of the knife against her throat, how easy it would have been for him to end it all right then and there.
Buck returned a second later, handing her the glass of water. She finished it quickly, not realizing how dry her throat had become from all the crying and the talking. Buck sat beside her and took her hand again, not pressing her to talk, just waiting until she was ready.
“He-he came home early,” Maddie sniffed. “Said he had a feeling that something was wrong.” Maddie remembered stepping back at the look on his face, so similar to the one he had that night in Hershey, and she knew it would be bad. She had thought that she wouldn’t get to leave him, that her new life would end before it even had the chance to begin. “Before I knew it, I was on the ground and he was on top of me, punching and yelling at the same time.”
You ungrateful bitch! After everything I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me? You don’t get to leave me, Maddie! How have you forgotten that?
She recalled crawling away from him, the pain pulsating in her body as he switched to kicking her in the back and her ribs. She heard his footsteps walking away and felt a momentary relief before he was back and he was pulling her to her knees with his hand in her hair. She gasped, freezing completely at the feel of the cold metal knife against her throat. She was completely helpless, kneeling on the ground in front of him, her husband’s tight grasp on her hair.
Buck buried his face in her shoulder, just grateful that she was there with him and talking, and not bleeding out on the floor of her own home, murdered by a man she had once loved.
I could end it right now, he had growled. Is that what you want, Maddie? Because you should know by now that you don’t get to live a life without me.
“I apologized and blamed myself and just said anything I could to get that knife away from my throat,” Maddie confessed. “Because I wasn’t ready to die and I didn’t know what else to do. He made me clean up the mess in the living room, and then he dragged me up to bed. He fell asleep, but I couldn’t. He was fast asleep when I snuck out of bed and grabbed my bags. It took me thirty minutes to get out of the house, because I was so afraid of making a noise. I called an Uber, and I was going to Chimney’s but I couldn’t remember his address at the top of my head, so I came here.”
“And I’m so glad you did,” Buck said softly, wiping the tears on her face. “Even after everything that happened tonight, you gathered the courage and you left. You did that, Maddie. You are so incredibly brave and strong. I’m so proud of you.”
Maddie yawned, just utterly exhausted, the adrenaline of leaving her house in the middle of the night and coming to Buck’s running out. “Hey, no,” Buck touched her gently, jerking her awake. “You can’t fall asleep until I make sure you don’t have a concussion.”
Buck pulled out his phone, dialling the number of the only other man that Maddie trusted with her situation. “It’s late,” Maddie protested.
“I don’t think he’ll mind,” Buck said, pressing the phone to his ear. He wanted to be angry at Chimney for not telling him, but after listening to Maddie’s reasoning, he knew that the other man had only been complying to her wishes. And he was glad that Chimney had listened to her and had given her a person to trust when she had been completely alone. He didn’t know how he could ever repay Chimney for helping Maddie when nobody else could.
“Hey, Chim. Sorry for waking you up at 1 o’clock in the morning, but it’s an emergency. It’s Maddie.”
Chimney had struggled to fall asleep that night, twisting and turning in his bed as his stomach turned over what was happening in the Kendall house. Maddie was leaving tonight. She had confirmed that to him earlier in the day when he had called. They rarely texted, not wanting there to be any evidence of their conversations in case Doug got a hold of her phone somehow. He wanted to believe that she'd get out safely, that she would live the life she deserved. But Chimney had seen bad things happen to good people way too often, so he was a little skeptical of the world by now
He eventually fell into a disturbed sleep, having flashes and images of what he imagined Doug did to Maddie in all their years of marriage. He felt something more for her, he was sure of that now. He was connected to her that he hadn't been with any woman ever. Her smile made his heart flutter, he could listen to her talk about anything all day and if he didn't control himself he could get lost in her soulful brown eyes that held more pain than she deserved to. Yet it was more than her physical beauty that attracted him to her. She was gorgeous, no doubt about it, but it was her compassion, her kindness, her ability to put others before herself that impressed him. Sometimes, he thinks that she needs to be a little more selfish, just for self-preservation reasons.
He was woken up by the ringing of his phone, which he had put on loud in case Maddie needed him. His heart sank when he noticed her brother calling, which he associated with bad news. “Hello?” He rubbed his hand over his face, trying to jolt himself awake.
“Hey Chim. Sorry for waking you up at 1 o’clock in the morning, but it’s an emergency. It’s Maddie.”
Chimney jolted forwards, throwing his blanket off of himself and heading towards the bathroom to wash his face. “Is she okay?” He asked, feeling sick to his stomach. He imagined Buck telling him that Maddie had been hurt or - God forbid, worse - because her husband had caught her leaving. Would that be his fault, too, because he had pushed her into leaving? No, he hadn’t pushed her, he had allowed her to make her own decision. He knew that, and still he braced himself for the guilt that would come.
“She - uh …” Buck hesitated, and Chimney’s body stiffened as he leaned his arms on the bathroom sink. “She’s at my place. She’s pretty shaken up, and …” Buck’s voice cracked, though Chim could tell he was trying to be strong. “She’s beaten up.” There it was, the news Chimney had been dreading. “But she made it,” Buck continued trying to be optimistic. “And she told me everything.”
“Oh.” The news was bad, but not that bad. “What do you need?”
“Can you come over here and check her for a concussion? I know both of us have a shift in a few hours, so maybe you can bring your stuff and just sleep here for the night. I owe you a lot, Chim. Not just for tonight but everything you’ve done for Maddie.”
“Please, Buck, I did what any friend would do,” Chimney acknowledged the gratitude which touched him. “I’ll be at your place as soon as I can.”
Buck opened his apartment door to an exhausted Chimney standing there, with a first aid-kid and a small suitcase. “Once again, I really appreciate this,” Buck said as he ushered the man inside, the doctor’s eyes immediately landing on the woman on the sofa, who was barely able to keep her eyes open. “I told her not to sleep, until you could check her out.”
“You did good, Buck,” Chimney said softly as he sat down on the table in front of the sofa, and hesitated before touching Maddie’s shoulder gently, not wanting to startle her. She turned her head and gave her a small smile, although it pained him to see the bruising once again on her face - the black eye, the cut lip, the bruising on her temple. It wasn’t the first time, but God he hoped it was the last, now that she was finally away from that disgrace of a human being and husband.
"I'm going to take a look, okay?" Maddie put her legs on the ground and sat up so that Chimney could examine her. "Doesn't look like you have a concussion, which is very good news with your head injury. I'll just wrap your ribs, okay?" He hung his head, and it struck him that he'd used these words a lot since he'd learned the truth about her marriage and it saddened him. At least now he wouldn't have to hide his disdain for Doug Kendall.
Buck folded his arms and watched as Chimney gently wrapped Maddie's ribs and applied ointment on the bruises on her arms. He then noticed that she had pulled up her shirt to cover her neck. "Maddie," Chimney sighed, knowing what he would find underneath that shirt. "Please."
Maddie relented, looking away because she didn't want to see the looks on their faces. Chimney gently pulled the shirt down from her neck and struggled to control his gasp when he saw the bruising and the finger marks around her neck. Buck gripped the sofa tightly, biting down on his own lip to stop himself from screaming at the evidence of his sister's suffering.
"You're okay," Chimney says softly, pulling the woman into a gentle hug, careful not to hurt her further as she cried in his arms. "You made it, Maddie. You got out."
"I'm scared," she gripped his shirt tightly and he sighed. He knew she was and so was he. Doug was capable of anything, he had learned that much from talking to Maddie.
"Buck and I won't let anything happen to you, okay? I'll speak to Sue tomorrow and hand in your resignation and you can lay low for a while, just like we planned."
“Why don’t you lie down in my guest bedroom, Mads? We can talk more in the morning.”
She nodded, and Chimney helped her up, wrapping an arm around her waist and he let her go as she limped to the bedroom. He wanted to see the smile that lit up her face and hear the laugh that made his heart skip a beat, not the sorrow and anguish and terror he saw right now. He wanted to protect her and hold her and keep her safe from everything bad in the world, but especially her husband.
“What are we going to do, Chim? She’s out of the house but she’s not out of danger yet,” Buck frowned.
“I know, that’s what I’ve been struggling with, but my main focus was getting her to leave in the first place. Now we think ahead.”
“I have a shift in the morning and so do you. How can we leave her alone like this?”
“Take her to the station with you. It’s not the perfect solution, but she can rest there and there will always be people around,” Chimney suggested.
“Good idea. We need to bring Athena in. She might be able to give us tips on how we can protect Maddie.”
“Yeah, we’ll discuss it with her tomorrow.”
Chimney yawned. “We should both sleep too,” Buck finally said, the exhaustion hitting him like bricks. He slapped Chim on the shoulder gently. “Come on. You’ll sleep in my room.”
The next day, Maddie and Buck went to the station together. She was hesitant to go, because there was no way to cover up her injuries, but Buck was insistent on not letting her be alone. Doug would have woken up by now and discovered that she wasn’t in the house, and Buck’s apartment would be the first place he looked for her. He didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Maddie had also reluctantly agreed to bring the 118 family into the loop on her situation, and Buck had reassured her that they would all be very understanding and willing to help in anyway they can.
"Hey guys," Buck clapped his hands, and the smiles on his team's faces fell off when they noticed Maddie's condition..
"Maddie? What happened?" Bobby asked, putting the plate he was washing on the side as he looked at the young woman with concern.
"Take a seat. We have something serious to discuss." Buck and Maddie sat down, the female Buckley looking down at her hands, unable to meet their eyes as Buck began to tell her story, in lesser detail, but enough so they got the idea of how dangerous Doug was. They listened patiently and with kind and sympathetic smiles, Hen reaching over to squeeze Maddie's hand, which she responded to with a small smile of gratitude.
"So what's the plan?" Bobby asked, looking at the two siblings.
"We want to bring Athena in. She could help, couldn't she?"
"Of course. Athena will do anything she can, but I'm assuming Maddie's not ready to file charges?" Both siblings shook their heads no. "That's what I thought. Domestic violence cases are hard to win anyway, and you'd have to face him for months while the case is fought. Athena will have better advice, I'm sure."
"Of course. And if you need to stay with us, Maddie, you are welcome anytime. I know he knows where we live, but you'll be safe there."
Maddie leaned against Buck, his arm around her, both pairs of eyes wet with tears of gratitude, counting themselves lucky to have this extraordinary group of people.
Chimney had walked away from the main emergency room and was going towards the supply closet when he felt his presence. He had been on edge ever since he had started his shift and knew that Doug was on at the same time. By now, the man would have figured out that Maddie left him and he would be seething with rage trying to find her. They wouldn't let that happen, because all of them believed that if he got his hands on her again, she wouldn't survive.
Chimney couldn't do much but feel his body go cold when he felt a hand grab him by the collar and shove him inside the storage closet. He felt his body slamming against the wall, the man's elbow pressed against his neck. He looked up at him, and he thought that he had never seen such dark rage pulsating through a person. He could understand how Maddie would be so intimidated by him, as he struggled to gasp for breath. He could never completely know and feel what she went through, but maybe he had some idea now.
"Where is my wife, Howard?" Doug spat, absolutely shaking with rage as he stared Chimney in the eyes.
Tw: choking, mentions of domestic violence, injury
Chimney struggled for breath as Doug continued to press his elbow against his throat, and he was starting to see black spots in his visions. The image of Maddie's bruised neck flashed in his mind, and if the pain wasn't enough to bring tears to his eyes, that was. "Tell me where she is! Or it won't end well for you."
"Never," he struggled to say, but hoped to convey his commitment to protecting his friend. He would never give Maddie up to this monster, especially after she had summoned up so much strength to leave him. He knew her though, and when she learned about this, she would feel immense guilt, even though she bore no blame. That rested solely on the man trying to kill him in a storage closet in the hospital.
Doug let go, because even he knew that he couldn't kill or severely injure Chimney in a hospital filled with their colleagues and patients, and if anyone walked in right now, his career and life as he knew it would be over. Chimney fell to the ground gasping, sucking in all the oxygen that had been deprived from him. Doug kicked him for good measure, sucking that air out as quickly as it had come in.
"This isn't over," Doug growled, pulling Chimney up by the collar, so the other man knew be meant business. "I am going to find her. And she'll regret ever walking out of the house, despite all the warnings I gave her. When you see her," he smiled dangerously, "tell her that I'll be with her soon."
He let go again, turning around and walking towards the door. "You are a disgrace of a human being, a husband and a doctor. She deserves much better than you and she's finally realized that. If you want to get to her, you'll have to go through all of the people who love her."
"You think I'm stupid and blind, Howard?" Doug turned around, fists clenched and took a step towards him, and Chimney was almost sure that if they were anywhere else, he would have been hit by now. "I've seen the way you look at her. You want her, you're attracted to her. Well, if you like living," Doug threatened, "you'll stay away from Maddie. She belongs to me. And it's better that you understand that sooner rather than later."
Before either man could say anything else, Doug's pager went off. "This isn't over," the man vowed. "Maddie will soon be back where she belongs."
Chimney was left shaken after his encounter with Doug, spending multiple minutes after the cardio surgeon left to control his breathing. He would never give Maddie up, but now he panicked that they could do everything right and he'd still find her. She had voiced her concern to him on multiple occasions that her husband would never let her go. He believed that she was right. Doug was not going to give up.
He pulled his phone out, fumbling with it for a moment before pressing it to his ear, rubbing his throat gently from where Doug had choked him "Hey, Buck. Yeah, we've got a problem."
Buck and the rest of the 118 were returning from a call when his phone rang. He was happy to see some color return to Maddie's face while they had been at the station waiting for the next call. His fire family had quickly changed the topic to take her attention away from Doug and her abusive marriage, with Eddie telling her adorable stories about Christopher (which Maddie loved and wanted to hear more of), Hen talking about Denny and telling her some embarrassing things Chimney had said when he was drunk (Maddie had blushed at Chimney’s name multiple times getting a eyebrow raise from Hen who had looked at Buck with interest in her eyes), and Bobby making her some delicious breakfast pancakes.
As they were heading back into the station to rejoin Maddie at the table, Buck’s phone rang. “Hey, Chim.”
“Hey, Buck. Yeah, we’ve got a problem,” his friend was breathless, which concerned him. Chimney told Buck about Doug shoving him into the storage locker, choking him and the threat he had made against Maddie. “He’s very dangerous, Buck. Maddie’s right. I don’t see him letting go of her unless he’s arrested or …”
Buck finished the thought in his head. One of them is dead . “I’m so sorry, Chim, that he attacked you. Are you sure you don’t want to report this to the cops?”
“It would be a temporary solution. He has the money to fight the charge easily, and I don’t want to risk making him angrier. Maddie’s the one that has the real case, and she is justifiably not ready to proceed.”
"Ugh. I hate that man so much." Buck clenched his shirt with his palm and took a deep breath to calm down.
"Me too. We have to figure this out somehow, and as much as I hate to, you need to tell her about this. She needs to be aware of how careful she needs to be." Chimney sighed. Again, he thought of the rage in Doug's eyes and what would happen if he found her and that rage was directed at her.
"She's aware, she's more aware than either of us, but I'll tell her. You talk to Sue yet?"
"Yes, she knows the truth and I handed in Maddie's resignation. She promised to talk to your sister soon. I have to go, Buck. Take care of her."
Bobby glanced at Buck sympathetically, as did the rest of his team as they climbed the stairs to the second floor. "You'll get through this, I know you will."
"God, I hope…" Buck trailed off when he spotted Maddie in the corner, her eyes dazed and her knees against her chest, muttering softly to herself. She looked like she was having a panic attack and she seemed to have tuned around the world, eyes darting up and down and across the room, her face wet with tears. Buck glanced at his team, who all had worried looks on their faces.
Hen put a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Go to her, Buck. We're right here."
He nodded in gratitude, his hands suddenly feeling clammy and his feet as heavy as bricks. He had been so happy the previous night when he had realized what a horrific situation his sister had managed to survive and escape from, but it was just starting to sink in how much trauma she had endured - more than anyone should have to - and how her battle was just getting started. Doug was hell bent on terrorizing her to come back and if not, he could take his sister away from him forever.
He bent down in front of Maddie, and he hated seeing her so vulnerable like this, because he had always seen her as his strong, composed and and loving older sister. Now he realized that she had been strong for too long, alone for too long, and she deserved to have someone hold her and tell her that everything would be alright.
"Mads," his voice cracked and he reached out to touch her but she flinched, trying to get away from him. "Maddie, it's me. It's Buck. Evan. Please look at me."
Her eyes were wide and she seemed to be looking everywhere but at him, her chest tightening and her breaths coming shallower. "Maddie," Hen bent down beside him, her voice gentle like it always was when they were dealing with someone hurt or in danger or needed help. She touched Maddie's thigh, and this time she didn't flinch. "You're having a panic attack. I need you to look at me."
Maddie turned her head and looked at the other woman who smiled gently, taking her hand. "Take a deep breath and exhale slowly," Hen instructed while Buck observed, glad that someone was there to help him calm her down. Maddie complied, taking three long breaths before the pressure in her chest started to relax and she felt like she could breathe again. "There we go. That's good," Hen praised with a soft smile.
"I-I'm sorry," Maddie apologized, her eyes starting to clear as she realized where she was and how she had broken down in her brother's workplace.
"You have nothing to be sorry about," Bobby interjected firmly. "We all understand what you're going through, so no apologies are necessary."
"What happened, Maddie?" Buck asked taking his sister in his arms, and he hated how cold she felt and he hated that she had lost so much weight from the stress. She had been feeling lighter this morning, and he had felt better about taking care of her, and it had all been ruined.
"He-he called me. A few minutes ago."
Maddie roamed around the kitchen, bored out of her mind now that her brother and his co-workers were out in the field. She missed the hospital and her fellow nurses, her patients and listening to their daily struggles and taking care of them. She didn't know if she would ever be a nurse again and she hated Doug for it. He had taken one more thing from her and she could never forgive him for it. Being at work had been the one time that she could be her own person - she could be Nurse Maddie instead of Mrs. Kendall - and it had always made her feel empowered. Now, she just felt like a burden on her brother and Chimney.
Chimney. That man had gone above and beyond for her, a person who had been just a total stranger to him a few months back. They had become fast friends through their work, and she felt lucky to count him as a close friend, although sometimes she could see a hint of more and he'd always fight back. He understood and she knew that she was in no place to start anything with anyone else, even with someone as kind and loving and sweet as Chimney Han. And she also thought he deserved better than someone as damaged and traumatized as her, whose husband was hell bent on taking her back or killing her. She had started to feel something for Chimney, ignited by their work together and reinforced by his care towards her, and then their time spent together after she was recovering from her surgery. She wished they could be more, but she would take being friends for now.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the phone ringing and she saw the caller ID as LA General. She smiled slightly, thinking it was Sue that was calling. She had quickly become close with all of her nurses, but especially Sue and Josh, Sue being like a motherly figure she had craved most of her life and Josh like a best friend she hadn't had in so long. It hurt her to know that she couldn't work with them anymore, that she had no choice in the matter, but she also knew they'd understand.
"Sue?" She asked, pressing her phone to her ear.
"No, it's not your boss." But it wasn't Sue. No, the voice that came through the phone belonged to the man who had terrorized her for years, who had stolen away her confidence and self-belief by breaking her down over their marriage and who had made promises about what would happen if she ever dared to leave. She shuddered, her body completely freezing at the sound of his voice. "And apparently she's not your boss anymore, because you quit."
Maddie closed her eyes, sheer and utter panic filling her even though she knew the instant she stepped out of that house that this moment would come. That he'd call her and threaten her to come back, because he got to make all the decisions and she had no right to threaten his control. His feelings and his needs were more important than hers ever could be. "Where are you, Maddie?" His tone was calm, but she knew him well enough to know that the rage following a calm tone was the worst. When his voice went low and dangerous like it was now, that's when she could tell that there would be hell to pay.
She hadn’t planned this out for weeks, no months, to just go back to him the moment he called, no matter how much her gut screamed at her to do so to avoid dragging her brother and Chimney and the rest into her mess, no matter how many times her brain told her that he would kill her. She was done living that life and she wanted to fight for a new kind of life now, despite the challenges that lay ahead. If this new life was short-lived, if Doug eventually found her and killed her, she would die knowing that she had tried to leave, that she had tried to fight. She’d die with no regrets. She had no doubt that he’d find her eventually, they were in the same city after all, and it was just a matter of time.
“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we’re done.” She had longed to say these words for so long, so long that she had suppressed them inside her for years, even when she had wanted to leave but was too afraid to do so. Being in LA, meeting her brother and Chimney, and falling down the stairs had all changed things for her, and she knew she had nothing to lose from trying. Her voice sounded stronger than she felt, looking around the station, waiting for him to walk up and drag her away from a place that felt safe for now. Her bottom lip trembled as she struggled to hold her tears at bay.
“You don’t get to decide that we’re done. I decide!” Ah, there it was, the anger that she knew he had been controlling but now burst out. “Tell me where you are!” He demanded. “Maddie, you’re smart enough to know that I’ll find you. Do the smart thing and come back to me, and I’ll be gentle.”
She wanted to scoff. Gentle was a word that wasn’t in his vocabulary, especially when she did something that defied him, and leaving was at the top of her list of “sins”. “Then I’m going to have to come and find you, and you better hope that when I do, I’m in a better mood.” The threat was clear, and they both knew it.
The phone fell from her hands, and she lost the strength to remain standing, crawling into the corner where she felt herself breaking down into sobs, and that’s how Buck found her when he returned.
“He’s going to kill me, Buck. He’s going to kill me because I won’t go back to him. And he’ll kill you, and he’ll kill Howie, and anyone who gets in his way.” She cried, her tears falling on Buck’s shirt, as he never felt so helpless in his entire adult life.
“Maddie, ssh. It’s okay, we’ll figure it out,” he met his team’s eyes and he realized he sounded unconvincing to them, and to Maddie as well, but he didn’t know what else to say. He didn’t know what he could do to protect her.
“Why don’t you take her home?” Bobby suggested. Buck looked at his Captain and smiled gratefully. He didn’t know how he got so lucky to get such an accepting and supportive team, but he’d always remember this.
Later that evening, Maddie was resting on the sofa, or at least trying to, but she couldn’t stop replaying Doug’s words from earlier that day and all the threats he had made throughout their marriage. Her hands kept going to her throat, where she could still feel the pressure from the night before and the marks were still there, a reminder of what she had endured in order to escape. What she had, in fact, escaped from.
Chimney was supposed to meet them at Buck’s apartment, but he got dragged into an emergency surgery right as his shift was ending, and of course they didn’t object to that. He was already doing more than he needed to be doing, and both Buckley siblings had expressed their gratitude multiple times, and the trauma surgeon had always dismissed it as just being a good friend. Buck hadn’t told her yet about what Doug had done to Howie, but he figured she’d learn when she saw Chimney’s neck. Besides, she was still traumatized from the phone call, and he didn’t want to burden her with too much, lest she have another panic attack.
Buck came out of his room and collapsed on the sofa, his hand on her leg, scrolling through Netflix as he tried to find something light and comedic to take the edge off the both of them. Maddie’s eyes were still red and he could feel the stiffness of his own body, ready for whatever was to come next. He wouldn’t get complacent, not when her safety depended on it. If he had to be alert 24 hours a day, 7 days a week forever then he would be, but he had to do his best to prevent her husband from touching a hair on her head again.
They were interrupted by the sound of knocking on the door, and Maddie knew immediately who it was. She shook, glancing at Buck, before the realization fell on his face. It was here, the time had come to stand his ground and protect Maddie.
“Maddie!” A familiar voice called out, the same voice that had sent her into the panic attack earlier that day. She dropped the blanket over her body and stood up, her body on alert, but she couldn’t run anywhere. The door was the only thing preventing him from coming inside and hurting her and her brother.
Buck stood up too, his palm forming into a fist, while his mind churned, thinking about what to do to protect her. As much as he would love to beat Doug into a pulp, he knew he couldn’t get arrested and leave her defenseless.
“Maddie!” He called out again, the knocking increasing in pace as the two siblings continued to look at each other. “You’re only making this worse for yourself.”
Doug was here and looking for Maddie, and time was running out for the Buckley siblings to protect themselves and each other.
Tw: domestic violence, blood, injury, stabbing
"Maddie, hide," Buck hissed quickly, trying to cover up any hints of her presence in his apartment. He shoved her shoes under the sofa, put her phone in his pocket and basically pushed Maddie in the direction of the guest bedroom. She resisted, not wanting him to be so near to her husband, who would be at the peak of his anger. Doug knew that Maddie felt a duty and obligation to protect her little brother, and he would not hesitate about using Buck against her.
"But…" she protested, eyes darting to the door as the knocking continued. Would he break down the door? When he was out of control like this, all bets were off.
"No buts," Buck said firmly pushing her inside the bedroom and meeting her panicked eyes. "He wants to kill you, Maddie. I'm not going to let that happen." He closed the door before she could say anything to change his mind. He knew her and he knew she would be willing to sacrifice herself in order to protect him. Well, she had been protecting him from the truth for a long time and now it was his turn protect his sister from a threat that had been brewing for a long time.
Buck stood behind the door, and steadied himself with a deep breath, before putting his hand on the door handle and pulling the door open. He came face to face with the enraged face of his brother-in-law, eyes wide and fists clenched, looking past Buck and into the apartment, clearly scanning it for Maddie. "What the hell are you doing here?" Buck asked in a strong tone, arms folded
"Where is she?" Doug asked, blunt and straight to the point, his eyes staring daggers at the younger man. Buck tried not to be intimidated, but it was hard not to be, especially after the knowledge of what this man was capable of. He pushed his terror aside and thought about Maddie, and how she needed him to be strong.
"She's not here," Buck lied, feeling nauseous as he returned the man's angry stared. "And even if she was, what makes you think I'd just hand her over to you?"
"I'm her husband!" Doug raised his voice.
"Not anymore. She left you because you are an abusive monster." Buck spat. "And thank God she did. She's already suffered enough."
"I know she's here. You're lying to me. Just like your sister when she promised to never leave me. Well, she's about to learn that I keep my promises," Doug threatened, and his fist came to collide with Buck's face, sending him stumbling back as the pain shot up his jaw. Buck returned with a punch, a fire in his eyes, before Doug slammed the door shut behind him and followed up with a kick to his stomach, getting a cry of help from Buck as he fell to the ground. The taller man towered over him, and Buck felt guilty about making promises he couldn't keep, especially when he took out a knife.
"Maddie! This is your final warning. Come out now or your brother dies."
"SHE'S NOT HERE!" Buck yelled loudly, in an effort to communicate to Maddie that it was okay, and that she should stay inside, but he knew the likelihood of that was low. He received another slap to the face.
"I'm not stupid, Buck. She used my Uber account. I know the car dropped her off here." Buck's stomach sank when he realized that the man wasn't going to leave unless he got what he came from and the knife prevented him from tackling him, lest he get stabbed. His phone was too far away, and he had put Maddie's in his pocket, which he mentally scolded himself for. He prayed for any way out of this, where he and his sister came out unscathed. "Maddie, I'm not going to ask again."
Buck's heart stopped beating for a second when he heard the sound of the guest bedroom door unlocking and a second later he heard the sound of footsteps behind him. He closed his eyes, dread filling him at the realization that his sister was about to give up her life to save his.
He looked up at Doug, and saw the smirk on his face. He heard Maddie say, with a shaking voice which sounded so meek, "I'm here. It's me you want. P-please, Doug, I'm ready to come with you. Just let him go."
"You made the biggest mistake of your life when you decided you could walk out on me," Doug growled and Maddie flinched. Her eyes met Buck's who was on his knees in front of Doug, and she hated herself for dragging him in this mess. All she had ever wanted to do was protect her baby brother, and look how she had gotten him into an extremely dangerous and volatile situation. She recognized the look in her husband's eyes as one where no matter how much she apologized he would not care. He would do what he did best, which was hurting other people. It was an easy decision to sacrifice herself for him, to do anything she could to save Buck, because he had a whole life to live. Hers was now inextricably linked with Doug's; she was ready to accept her fate but not before saving Buck.
"I'm sorry," Maddie apologized, tears streaming down her face. But she wasn't looking at Doug, she was looking at Buck. "This is not what I wanted; to put you in danger."
Buck shook his head, completely powerless by the knife being held against his throat. "It's not your fault." He stared at her, wanting her to believe that she had no fault in this, but he could see the guilt setting in for her. He wanted to scream that this was unfair, they both deserved so much better than this. Maddie had finally decided to live for herself and hadn't even gotten two full days out before he had come.
She shook her head with a sad smile. "But it is. I was stupid to walk out on you, Doug. I'm sorry." She took slow steps towards her husband, not wanting to startle him and cause that knife to slit her brother's throat. She could hear her heart beating loudly in her chest when she stood right in front of him. "I'm ready to come back to you."
"It's too late, Maddie. You're too late." Doug removed the knife from Buck's throat and extended his arm back as a horrified Maddie realized what he was about to do.
"Buck, No!" She cried and Buck turned around just in time for the knife to enter his stomach. Once. Twice. And a third time before Doug let him fall to the ground, blood already pooling beneath his body. "No…" Maddie cried, falling to her knees sobbing before she crawled over to Buck, pressing her hands against his wound. "You-you're going to be alright, okay? You are my strong little brother and I love you, no matter what happens. I need you to always remember that."
Buck could feel the energy draining out of him as he stared up at the tear-stained face of his sister, memorizing it in case he survived and she didn't. Because Doug was going to kill her. There was no doubt in his mind. "Just hold on, Buck," she pleaded, caressing his head softly, the way she had when he used to be sick.
"That's enough," Doug said with disdain, gripping Maddie by the arm and pulling her up, the sounds of her sobs filling the entire apartment, her hands covered with her brother's blood. He couldn't control himself and punched Maddie across her face, his grip being the only thing that kept her standing. "Let's go."
Buck could do nothing as he heard the door open and Doug dragging his sister away from him, even as his vision blurred and he knew he was dying. He would die before anyone realized what had happened.
In the parking garage, Doug slammed her against the car, his hand going straight into her hair, like he always loved to do. He pressed his body against hers, his frame overpowering hers as he grabbed zip ties and tied her hands tightly, while she continued to sob, her mind still focused on her brother bleeding out in the apartment. He then shoved her in the passenger seat, and when he got in he couldn't help himself, his fist colliding with the side of her head, hitting the window. She almost welcomed the darkness because as long as she was unconscious she didn't have to be in pain.
"9-1-1, what's your emergency?"
The panicked voice of Chimney came through loud and clear. "This is Howard Han. I'm a surgeon at LA General. I have a 28 year old male with profuse bleeding from his abdomen. Looks like he has been stabbed multiple times."
"Okay, sir. I'm dispatching police and RA units to your location. Do you know what happened? How long has he been down?"
"I don't know. I just got here. But judging by the amount of blood, I would say minutes not hours." Chimney ran his hand through his hair, before he heard Buck mumbling.
"Buck, it's Chimney. You're going to be alright," he reassured though he didn't know if that was actually true.
"He took her. Doug…" and Chimney's blood ran cold. Their worst nightmare had happened, with Buck on the verge of dying and Maddie nowhere to be found. He stood up and ran through the apartment screaming Maddie's name. When he saw all of her things still in the bedroom and her phone on the floor next to Buck, he knew that Doug had taken what he had come for. He put the phone next to his ear, his hand shaking as he realized that he might never see Maddie again and Buck could die knowing his sister was in danger.
“Sir?” The concerned voice of the 911 operator asked.
“She’s not here. Maddie’s not here.”
“Who’s Maddie?” The dispatcher asked, and he could hear the sound of fingers typing on a keyboard.
“She’s gone.” Chimney had been set to meet both Buckley siblings at their apartment, and then the three of them would go over to Bobby & Athena’s, once Athena was off her shift. If he hadn’t been in surgery … no, he couldn’t blame himself because he had saved a life. But now both Maddie and Buck were in danger, and he couldn’t do anything to turn back the clock and make sure he was here when Doug came, because maybe then the two of them could have subdued the man and turned him over to the police. Maybe Maddie would still be here in front of his eyes, shaken and terrified, but definitely alive.
When he had arrived at the apartment and had seen the door left open, he knew that something horrible had gone wrong. Entering and seeing Buck on the floor, bleeding, had brought back bad memories, of the people he had loved and lost. Losing his mother had been the reason that had forced him into medical school, so that he could devote his life with the mission that another son didn’t have to lose their parents. He was determined to make sure that Buck survived. He was family now and he could not lose another member of his family.
“Sir, stay with me. Paramedics and police are two minutes out.” He bent down beside his friend, seeing his face grow paler as he continued to lose blood.
“Stay with me, Buck. Help is on the way.” Buck nodded gently, shock setting in as the pain turned to numbness and he began to lose consciousness. If he was unconscious, he wouldn’t feel the guilt about letting Doug take Maddie, he wouldn’t feel the sorrow over losing his big sister because he knew the odds of her coming back to him were slim. After all the Buckley siblings had survived, was this the way their story would end? He hoped not, but he had a feeling their luck had run out.
Athena was already in the area when she got the call from dispatch. At first, she didn’t realize that the address she had been given was Buck’s. But then she got another call, from Chimney. “Hey, Chimney, I’m on the way to a call. Is it urgent?”
“Yes,” Chimney replied. “It’s Buck. He’s been stabbed. The paramedics just arrived, he’s being taken to LA General.”
“Wait.” Athena looked at the address on her phone and realized that she was on her way to Buck’s apartment. “I got the notice on that. It’s Buck?” Athena pressed her foot down on the accelerator, the urgency in her mind increasing, at the thought that someone had hurt a person she cared deeply about. When she first met Buck, she would have never imagined that he would grow so close to her heart, but he had. But the young man had matured considerably over the past two years, and he had shown himself to be a funny, kind and incredibly loyal and resilient firefighter that she was proud to know.
“There’s more,” Chimney inhaled sharply. “Maddie’s gone. Before Buck lost consciousness, he mentioned that he took her.”
“Her husband.” Athena’s grip on her steering wheel tightened, fury and worry filling her insides as she took the final turn that would lead to Buck’s apartment.
“Yeah. Bobby filled you in, I’m assuming? Buck mentioned Doug by name.”
“We’ll find her, Chim,” Athena said confidently, although she did realize that in these situations time was extremely valuable and Doug already had a head start. “I’m hanging up now. I’m right outside the apartment.”
“Okay. I’ll call Bobby, let him know.”
In the car, Doug smacked her again as she started to regain consciousness, returning to a world of pain and fear as she remembered what had happened just over an hour ago. A quiet, relaxing evening with her brother had turned into the worst day of her life. She could remember hearing the cry of help from her brother and her husband’s voice yelling for her to come out, and she knew then that it was over. Her little attempt to make a new life separate from him would never work out. She would never get the chance to just be Maddie again, Maddie after Doug, because he would never let that happen.
We’re meant to be together. To live together, to grow old together, to die together.
“Damn it, Maddie!” Doug yelled, as she tried to cower away from him. “This is all your fault. I told you what would happen if you left, I warned you!”
“Is he dead?” she asked, sobs escaping her mouth as the image of her brother’s prone body flashed in her mind, and the image of her husband stabbing him continuing to replay over and over and over, something she thought she’d never get over, no matter how this ended. Maybe she wouldn’t even live long enough to live with the guilt that she had gotten Buck stabbed and cut his promising life short. He would never get to be a husband or a father, or to build a family of his own that he craved for. And it was all her fault. She knew the risk of leaving and she left. She came to her brother, when she shouldn’t have.
"If he's not, he will be. He's not our problem anymore." Fury surged inside Maddie as Doug callously dismissed her brother's death. He was meant to be more than a casualty of their volatile relationship, and yet that’s all he was now, because of him. Did he really think that Maddie could forget all that and start over?
“Why would you do that?” She asked, her tone desperate, as her sorrow and grief and guilt overwhelmed her rage at Doug. “I was going to come with you anyway. You didn’t have to do that.”
“Of course I did. He stood between me and you, and that cannot be allowed to happen. You know that.”
“You’re delusional if you think I can ever forgive you for killing my brother and that we can get back to whatever it was we had before. That’s never happening,” Maddie spat, and she didn’t know where she got this sudden burst of courage from, but now she had nothing to lose, because the person she loved the most in this world had been ripped away from her by a man who should protect her not hurt her.
He turned to her, his jaw clenched, and she knew what was coming, but she didn't regret saying those words because she had accepted her fate and now was the time to get her true feelings out. If she was going to die, she wanted to go with no regrets and she didn't want there to be any regret about saying what she truly felt in her last moments alive. She despised her husband at the moment, for what he had done over the last ten years of their marriage, and for taking away her favorite person in the world, and he needed to know that. She needed to know that he knew that.
Athena entered Buck's apartment, which was already covered in crime scene tape. She saw the blood on the floor, which made her feel nauseous imaging what Chimney had seen when he had walked in through the door. Officers were already there, collecting evidence and putting markers, anything that could be used later to convict the attacker and kidnapper, although they all knew who was responsible.
Chimney paced, trying to avoid ruining anything, but the stress and anxiety was plain on his face. Athena approached him, putting a gentle hand, and his eyes landed on hers, tears pooling in them. "It's bad, Athena. You didn't see him, but God. He was so pale I thought he was dead."
"But he isn't," Athena said as another detective joined them. "Buck has survived a lot and he's going to get through this too. I have a strong feeling."
"And Maddie? Doug took her. What is he doing to her right now?" Chimney asked, his eyes darting from left to right, heart racing.
"Don't think about that right now," Athena advised, and she knew it was easier said than done because she had been wondering that herself. Was she still alive? "We have to focus on finding her. Detective Marks, we know who did this. Now we have to find him and his wife."
"Doug Kendall," Chimney spat his name with absolute hatred and he's never hated anyone in his life as much as he justifiably does Doug. "Buck mentioned his name before he passed out and there's no one else who could do this."
"We'll issue a BOLO and an APB for their vehicle," Marks said, writing something in his notebook.
Bobby joined them, squeezing Athena's shoulder gently as he stood next to her. "We have to find her," Chimney insisted. "We have to find her alive." He looked down at his hands and his shirt, covered with Buck's blood and grimaced. "Can I change this shirt? I want to go to the hospital and see Buck."
"Okay, but don't touch anything else." Chimney walked away and Marks sighed with frustration. "Athena, we have to prepare him."
"We're not there yet," Athena replied, though her brain knew that the detective was right.
"You don't think you're going to find her alive," Bobby caught on quickly. His heart clenched at the idea of telling Buck when he woke up that his sister was dead or being there for Chimney when he realized that. Chimney might not know it yet, but the man loved Maddie, and it would absolutely devastate him if she were killed. He'd seen the way his eyes lit up whenever he talked about her or how he had reacted when she'd been injured. It was more than you do for a friend. He hoped, for the sake of two people he considered to be family and for her own sake because she deserved to survive, Maddie made it. That she hung on long enough to be found.
"The most dangerous time for a woman in her situation: when she leaves. Maddie knew that, that's why she was trying to lay low." Athena turned to Marks again. "But since it is him …"
"These sorts of situations usually don't result in happy endings," the detective sighed.
Chimney returned, looking haunted. "Let's go."
"I'll drive him," Bobby told Athena, as they both noted that he was in no shape to drive.
Eddie walked into the hospital, his body tight with tension as he noted Hen was already there, along with some of their other friends. "Hey," he nodded at Karen who sat with Denny. "Is he in surgery?" All Hen had told him after she had received the call from Bobby was that Buck had been stabbed and Maddie was missing.
"No, he lost too much blood. They're giving him a transfusion and waiting for him to get stable before they take him up."
"Well, we know who'd do this."
Hen's face hardened. "Yeah, there's only one son of a bitch who's capable of this."
Chimney, his sleeves rolled up and his eyes wet, entered Buck's hospital room where there was a breathing tube and he was getting a transfusion. He took a deep breath and took Buck's hand. "You have to make it alright? You just have to. When Maddie is found - she will be found, Buck, please count on that - she needs to see her little brother alive. Okay?"
Hen knocked on the door gently, as a nurse came to monitor Buck. "Chim, I … I don't know what to say."
"There's nothing to say," Chimney shook his head sadly. He had come to the late realization that he had made a huge mistake by not telling Maddie his feelings for her and now he might never get to. He was in love with Maddie and she will never know. He will never know if the feelings are mutual or not. He might never see that sparkle in her eyes as she smiled or hear the wonderful sound of her laughter which always made his heart skip a beat. He would not have the chance to hold her close and tell her how much she meant to him and how she deserved better than what she got.
And Hen could see that in his eyes.
"Don't lose hope, Chim. You will see her again," Hen tried to reassure him, but no one could know that. The odds were against them, and they all knew it.
Before Chimney could reply, a nurse called out with alarm, “Sir, the patient’s pressure is dropping.”
When Chimney turned around, the monitor showed a flatline and the sound of it echoed throughout the room. Buck’s heart had stopped beating.
Tw: gun, gunshot, blood, injury, domestic violence
“Just do it already,” Maddie said, her voice devoid of any tone or emotion, and she began to feel numbness filling her entire body, as she realized that she wasn’t getting out of this one alive. Her brother was already dead, and soon she would join him. The silver lining was that she wouldn’t have to live with the guilt of killing her baby brother, who she had held in her arms the day he had been born and had vowed to love him through thick and thin. She can still remember his little hand wrapping around hers, the beginning of the Buckley pinky promises that they used whenever they wanted to show the other that they were serious. And she had failed so badly. Her worst nightmare had literally come to life in front of her, her brother’s body falling in front of her as her brain had frozen, unable to believe what had just happened.
“Do what?” Doug asked, feigning a confused look on his face, as if he didn’t remember all the promises he had made to her, whispered as his body pressed against hers while his hand was in her hair or yelled at her as she lay broken and bruised on their living room floor. His charm had always fooled everybody, hidden the reality of who he was beneath his good looks and his intelligent brain. She had been no different, falling for his smile at 19 years old and moving to Boston the next year, believing she had met the person she would spend the rest of her life with. And maybe she had, because she would die before she could try and live a life after Doug.
"Kill me. That's your plan, right? Kill Buck, kill me, hopefully do the world a favor and kill yourself when this is all over." She turned to look at him, wishing that she could turn back time and walk away the moment she had met him. Maybe then, Buck would have the rest of his life ahead of him instead of bleeding out on the floor of his apartment.
"Why would I kill you, Maddie? I love you. I can't imagine my life without you. You're all I have." He turned to look at her, trying to seem as sincere as he could. She didn't know if he was delusional or just a great actor, because he couldn't possibly believe that they could forget everything that just happened and start over. He couldn't possibly think that she'd just "get over" him murdering her brother right in front of her.
She looked at him and put as much disdain as she could into her whispered voice when she said, “You don’t have me.”
He didn’t say anything as the fuel meter of the car beeped, showing that the car was running out of fuel. Fortunately, they pulled up into a gas station with Doug muttering that there was always hope and to never give up.
“Damn it, Buck!” Chimney swore as Hen gasped, tears coming to her eyes when she realized that Buck would be dead unless Chimney was able to revive him. “Starting CPR. Get the paddles charged and ready. NOW!”
“You’re not dying okay?” Chimney said. “I told you you can’t die,” he said firmly as he put his hands over each other and started compressions on the younger man’s chest. He thought of Maddie and how scared she was, and how devastated and guilty she’d feel if she came back alive and learned of Buck’s death. Or did she already think he was dead? Chimney didn’t want to accept that as true, because then would Maddie have anything to fight for? If she thought Buck was dead, would she just give up and not fight back, so she didn’t have to deal with that horrible and soul-crushing guilt? Chimney wished more than anything that he’d told her how he felt about her, so that she’d have one more thing to hold onto, so she knew that there were other people who loved her and who needed her to survive.
“Give me the paddles,” Chimney demanded, a bead of sweat on his forehead from the stress and the tension as well as the force of pressing down hard on Buck’s chest. Hen had her hand covering her mouth, her heart drumming in her chest, eyes anxiously remaining on the monitors hoping for a rhythm, something that told them that Buck was still with them and that he was fighting to stay alive.
“Clear!” One of the nurses said and Chimney pressed them to Buck’s chest, the electric charge shocking the body so that it jerked upwards and then back down a second later. Chimney glanced at the monitor, waiting a few seconds. Still no heartbeat. Desperation filled him on the inside, to not lose another person close to him, to not lose Buck because could he live with that? If he had just shown up sooner, Buck’s condition might be better, or he could have prevented Maddie from being taken by her monster of a husband.
“Charge to 300.” Chimney ordered and waited before repeating the action and hoping for a different outcome. “Come on, Buck. Don’t do it for me, do it for your sister. Do it for yourself. You know you don’t deserve to die like this, not right now.”
Chimney waited with bated breath before the heart monitor showed a rhythm, getting an exhale from Chimney as he put the paddles down and bent over, his hands on his knees, his chest tight with tension. Buck was still alive. He wasn’t out of danger yet, but he was fighting, and that was all that mattered. Hen came over and wrapped her arms around Chimney, as he collapsed into them, the toll of the last few hours really bearing down on him. “It’s okay,” she said softly. “You saved him.” Did he? Or was it just temporary? He bit down on his tongue to force the negative thoughts away.
He pulled back from Hen’s warm embrace. “Call Dr. Rogers. He cannot wait any longer to take him into surgery.”
Hen looked at him alarmed. “You’re not going to operate on him, Chim? You’re the best trauma surgeon there is. He deserves the best.”
“Yes, he does,” Chimney agreed and then showed her his shaking hands. “These hands, the tools that I use to perform my surgeries, need to be perfectly still and in control when I hold someone’s life in my hands. Do these look perfectly still to you, the hands that should be in a surgery?” Hen shook her head sadly. “Yeah, I didn’t think so. Besides I can’t sit still. I have to look for Maddie.”
“Yeah, when her brother wakes up, I need to be able to tell him that I did everything in my power to find her and bring her back. And I made a promise to her too to protect her to the best of my ability, and I need to make good on that promise.”
“Are you sure about this, Chim?” She asked as the other doctor came and stopped Chimney, who informed them that they needed to operate on Buck right away as his heart had just stopped. Dr. Rogers nodded and clapped Chimney on the shoulder, reassuring him that he’d take care of him and make sure he made it through.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Chimney nodded as he and Hen stood outside of Buck’s room, while he was wheeled away to be taken up to surgery. “I need to do this. I don’t think I’ll be able to justify not doing it if I don’t.”
They headed back to the waiting room, where Athena and the detective had arrived, with the female sergeant looking tired and furious at the same time. Bobby had his arms folded, head tilted while he listened to his fiance give them an update. Chimney and Hen increased their pace, so they could join them. “Any update on Doug and Maddie?” He asked, his hands gripping his pants, holding his breath while he hoped and prayed for good news.
Athena shook her head in frustration. “Every cop in this city has a photo of Doug and Maddie, together and separately, and to be on the lookout for a couple in a dark sedan. We’re following up on all leads, but it hurts us that he’s using his own vehicle and there’s nothing to track that.”
“What about his phone?” Chimney asked. “Maddie had to leave hers, but can’t you track his?”
Athena’s eyes lit up. “Yes, we’ve thought of that, but we’d need a warrant for the cell phone provider to be able to provide us with that data.” Chimney’s chest deflated.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Marks assured them. But would it be enough? Chimney thought to himself. Would they find her alive? Was she alive right now?
“Don’t move,” Doug growled when they pulled up at the gas station, the gas on one side and a small convenience store on the other. She wondered where she would even go with her hands tied in zip ties, which were beginning to chafe on her skin, in the middle of nowhere, in the darkness of the night. Doug got out of the car, when his phone beeped with an abduction alert.
Abduction Alert: Maddie Kendall
The alert gave a description of Maddie - 5’3, brown hair, caucasian - and warned the public to consider him armed and dangerous, which he was. If anybody got in between him and his Maddie, they would pay the ultimate price. He kicked one of the walls hard, sending a container cratering. Maddie turned her head to see Doug stomping on the ground angrily before he walked away, realizing that he needed to dispose of his phone. Maddie looked around, a sudden realization sinking in that she shouldn’t be giving in this soon. She had walked away from that house and from her husband for a reason. Because she had wanted to live. Giving in now would be saying that all of that courage and strength was for waste, because she had given in the moment Doug had come for her.
Besides, wouldn’t that be wasting her brother’s life if she gave up now? He would want her to fight, she knew he would. She had to fight back for the both of them now, and take her life back from the man who had controlled her for far too long. She would probably still die, but maybe she could take Doug with her, the promise of living together, dying together and growing old together echoing in her mind. The world would be a safer place if he was not around. If she died trying, if she died fighting, because she would never be able to pretend that they were back to normal, able to put Buck’s death behind her, no matter what Doug thought, at least the people who were Buck’s family and who had become close to her would know she had fought back. She had been brave. Chimney would know that she had fought.
Her heart hurt when she thought of the sweet, caring and kind trauma surgeon that she had worked with the last couple of months. She didn’t know when or how, but she had started feeling something more than friendship for him, something she never thought she’d feel again, ever since the love for Doug had faded into fear and terror and she believed that he’d never let her live to be with another man. But she had, and it had been for the man who was one of her brother’s closest friends. He was the kind of man she wished she had fallen for in the first place, a man who was devoted to healing others and protecting his own. The complete opposite of Doug. Spending time with him had been the highlight of her last few months, partially because she didn’t have to hide anything from him. He was patient and gentle with her, never judgmental, and she appreciated it more than he could ever know. She wished she could go back and say all of this to him, and see that shy smile on his face and the blush he got whenever someone complimented him. He was going to be a great father, and she was sad that she’d never get to see him hold his baby or hug him or talk to him ever again.
Maddie opened the car door, her tied hands still in front of her as she got out of the car and looked around, eyes desperately searching for anyone that could help her, that could save her from the torture she would experience at her husband’s hands. “Hey, where are you going?” Doug’s voice came through and she turned around her, heart beating loudly in her chest, palms sweaty.
She pretended like she had to pee, shaking her body to make it more believable, as he stood in front of her, his dark eyes dissecting her skeptically. “Oh, I was just looking for you. I have to pee.”
“Oh, yeah? You sure that’s it?”
“Yeah, well, look around, Doug. Where am I gonna go?” He looked her up and down for a second before taking out a pocket knife and cutting her zip ties loose. He brought his hand up to her face, and she instinctively flinched. He brought the strands of her hair to cover her face, where there was already a rapidly forming bruise on her right cheekbone and dried blood on her nose from when he had punched her before.
“Keep your head down,” he ordered, pushing her in front of him.
Maddie was able to go to the bathroom, while her husband waited at the counter with the cashier, who didn’t seem to note anything odd about the couple. Inside, she looked around before finding a window that she struggled to get open with a wrench. During that time, Doug must have noticed that she was taking too long, but it was too late to back out now, given what he would do if she came out now. Eventually, she fell through the tiny window out onto a garbage container and then onto the ground, grunting as she took a hard fall. She got up, and before she could run, she heard her voice being called out furiously. “Maddie!”
“No…” she whimpered when his hands held her arms and she felt his body behind hers.
“Aren’t you tired of running by now? I sure am tired of chasing you.” She heard the anger in his tone and she was just so tired and exhausted and in pain, struggling to live, struggling to fight.
“Let me go! Just let me go.!” She pounded her feet on the ground and resisted against his grasp, which didn’t work because he was much taller and stronger than her.
And then things took a turn for the worse, when the cashier pointed a gun at them and Doug was unable to convince him to look away and mind his own business. Maddie yelped when Doug threw her to the ground and fought the cashier for the gun, watching with bated breath as he slammed the man against the wall and a gunshot went off. For one second, she wished and prayed that it would be Doug that fell to the ground and bled and felt the pain that he had put Buck through. Then maybe she would live and she could go back and recover and grieve her brother properly. But her hopes were dashed when the cashier fell to the ground, his stomach quickly turning red, as Doug stepped back, his breathing heavy.
Maddie rushed over, her guilt intense that she had dragged another innocent person into her mess. “You’re going to be alright, okay? We’re going to call 9-1-1 and we’re going to get you some help.” The man looked at her, wanting to tell her to run, but only blood came out of his mouth as he coughed. Any hope that he could survive was ended by the sound of another gunshot and the spraying of blood across her face, as the man went limp and he stopped breathing. “Oh my God,” she cried, absolutely in shock. She didn’t resist when her husband pulled her arm and dragged her along with him, back to the car and back to a completely hopeless situation.
“Nobody’s saving anybody now.”
A few hours had passed, and Chimney and Athena were now on the road, driving towards the location that Doug’s phone had been pinged at. They had begged one of the dispatchers to request a manual location using the number they had gotten for Doug from the hospital and had conveyed the information to Detective Marks who would meet them there. Now, together, they had been awake the entire night and were driving to the location. Chimney looked haggard, and he wore a haunted look on his face.
“You’re very quiet there, Chimney,” Athena noted, giving her fiance's friend a concerned look.
“When we get there, what - what do you think we’re gonna find? I mean, he-he threatened to kill her, you know. Almost did kill Buck - what if, what if he….” Chimney had heard Maddie recite his threats on more than one occasion and it had always sent a chill down his spine, because she had utterly and truly believed that he could follow through on it. The thought had bothered him the entire night, wondering what he was doing to her, how he was hurting her. She was alone, and that killed him. “
“No.” Athena said firmly, putting a finger up. “My gut is telling me not to count Maddie out just yet. She gathered the strength to leave him, and she knew it was a risk, but she took it anyway. I have a feeling that she’s going to fight as hard as she can to start the new life that she had looked so forward to.”
Chimney sighed and nodded, hoping that Athena was right, that they would find Maddie, maybe bruised and injured and hurt, but alive. Alive they could deal with. The alternative was too scary to think about.
Buck’s surgery had been over hours ago and now his friends were waiting for him to wake up. Bobby was consistently looking down at his phone, hoping to receive an update, because he knew what Buck would ask the moment he woke up. He had asked Hen what they would tell him about his sister and she had just nodded sadly and said the truth. Whatever it was. Bobby knew how much his youngest firefighter adored his sister, and he realized that her loss could truly devastate the young man beyond any idea they all might have.
Buck moaned and turned his head, eyes opening slightly to a darkened room, seeing Christopher at his side. “Hi, Buck.”
“Hey,” he said, his voice coming out hoarse. His mind was completely blank and he couldn’t remember what had happened to land him in the hospital room this time. All he knew was something was wrong.
Bobby walked in. “Hey. You’re awake. Looks like you got your first visitor.” He looked at Chris and smiled. “Does your dad know you’re in here?”
Eddie came rushing, whispering his son’s name before noticing that Buck was awake. Eddie smiled widely. “Welcome back, man. We were worried about you.”
Eddie and Christopher left, after warning Buck about the meatloaf and wishing him a good rest. The pain was starting to set in for Buck, and the memories come flashing back. Opening the door for Doug, sending Maddie to her room to hide, trying to convince the man that she wasn’t there, getting punched in the face and held at knifepoint, Maddie coming out and crying and willing to give herself up for him, and then the overwhelming pain in his midsection as he fell to the ground and heard his sister’s scream. He could hear her cry of pain when Doug’s fist connected with her face and could only listen as she screamed out his name while being dragged out of the apartment. The guilt quickly set in for Buck, when he remembered how he had promised to keep her safe and he had failed miserably. Doug had taken Maddie and he might never see her alive again.
Memories started to flash before his eyes of Maddie throughout his entire life, her comforting smile and loving eyes being constant throughout. Wrapping her pinky around his to promise that he wouldn’t get in trouble or cuddling with him when he had a nightmare or patching up his various injuries. Buck didn’t know whether he would have survived until today if Maddie hadn’t pushed him to get out of Hershey. His sister had always protected him and he had made the same vow and he had failed. His sister would die or was already dead and it was all his fault.
Tears pooling in his eyes, the emotional pain overwhelming the physical one, Buck looked up at a man he admired so much and asked the most difficult question of his entire life, one he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer of. “Where’s Maddie?”
Tw: violence, domestic violence, injury, gun, gun shot
The sun had been up for a while, and it felt like Maddie and Doug had been driving forever. She was still in shock and numb from the events of the previous night, from Doug showing up and killing her brother to watching a stranger die in front of her, and it was all her fault. Two people were dead because of her, and she didn’t know how to deal with that. Throughout the tense silence that had fallen between them since their gas station stop, Maddie had been struggling to control her emotions, because she didn’t want to show any vulnerability to Doug. Not anymore. He had seen enough.
The silence is broken by the sound of a police siren behind them, and they both tense for different reasons. Maddie is hopeful and terrified at the same time, because maybe this is how she can be saved and escape her husband’s tight grasp on her, this could be how she finally became free of him. On the other hand, she could see the gun her husband was holding tightly in his hand, and she knew what would happen if the police car were to pull over and the officer was to approach him. Another person would be dead, and it would be on Maddie’s conscience, which was already burdened with two deaths and with the knowledge of her own coming soon.
Their eyes turned to look through the driver’s side window as the police car sped past them, eliciting a sigh of relief from Doug. Maddie’s hopes were dashed and yet she felt relieved at the same time. If Doug was going to hurt another person, it would only be her, not anyone else. It was just him and her, and she had to make sure that no one else would be dragged in between them.
“We have to get off this road,” she said, breaking the silence, her eyes wet and her mouth trembling.
“Just shut up!” Her husband yelled, and she jumped, which was not something she wanted to do, but it was an involuntary reaction from years of abuse, with his yelling linked to her getting hit by him over and over again.
“There were cameras there, Doug. When they find that guy…” Maddie trailed off, her voice hard because she had nothing more to lose. She had nothing to lose by showing her absolute hatred for him and for what their marriage had become. If he wanted to kill her, if that was his eventual endgame, then he should go ahead and do it, but she wasn’t going to go without fighting like hell and she wasn’t going to allow him to hurt anyone else. If she was going to get away, her best chance would be to stop somewhere and hope for him to make a mistake that would allow her to get help.
“Do you think this was my fault?” He asked harshly, taking her back to all the times that he had asked her the same question, after he had decided that she needed to be punished for what others would consider an ordinary mistake and what he considered to be unacceptable in his strive for perfection as the perfect couple.
“No, no it was my fault,” and she really did believe it this time, though her tone had become void of emotion again, as she remembered the many different instances where she had admitted defeat and accepted his blame for something that was out of her control or was just so small in the grand scheme of things. Was it her fault that he had interpreted her just interacting with another man as flirting? Yes, according to Doug. Was it her fault that she had come home fifteen minutes later than she said she would, because she had been distracted by an emergency situation? Yes, according to Doug. It had been easier to accept his blame and get the punishment, instead of doing the difficult thing (at least in her mind) and confronting him and throwing that blame back in his face. She had finally done it, gotten sick of it, and left him, and yet here she was, trapped in a car with him.
“That’s right. That’s what happens when you try to run away from me, Maddie. People get hurt.” He scolded, and she looked down, the feeling of helplessness overcoming her once more. But she couldn’t give up now, could she? It was much harder for her to be stronger than she felt and continue fighting and to continue looking for a way out, and yet that’s what she owed herself. She owed herself that chance, no matter how it ended.
“You must think I’m an idiot.”
“I think you’re a monster. I don’t think you’re an…” Maddie didn’t bother holding back, and the words came out of her mouth before she could stop and think. He grabbed her by the neck and she tensed, before he let go.
“That was honest anyway.”
“I mean it. I can’t stand the idea of one more person dying, so I’m … not gonna run, Doug. You’ve got me. But we have to get off this road.” As much as it sickened her to say it, he had to believe that she wasn’t going to run, though when she said she had to protect other people from him, she absolutely meant it. And the only way to do that was to get them away from where other people could find them and could get in the way.
What followed was an exchange where she suggested that they head over to Big Bear, with empty vacation homes due to the winter. She had realized that he didn’t have a plan, that he had come to get her without any idea of what would follow once the police started chasing them and started looking for her. He was clearly lost and not thinking straight, and he had acted impulsively, which he was prone to do when he was in a rage, as she knew all too well. However, she could still think properly and her mind told her that this would meet both of her objectives. They would be alone, so the risk of anyone else getting hurt would be at a minimum, and maybe, she could find a way to run.
“I failed her,” Buck mumbled, his eyes staring at the ceiling, as tears rolled down his face. Why had he survived? From what the doctor told him, his odds hadn’t been good, yet he was here, awake, with his fire family surrounding him with the most sympathetic looks on their faces, which he hated, because it reminded him of the circumstances in which he found himself in a hospital bed again. He didn’t want sympathy, because he hated himself. He had told Maddie that he would keep her safe, he had reassured her over and over that she should worry about herself. And what had happened? She had seen him getting stabbed by her husband multiple times, and then she had been taken by him, all because he couldn’t keep his word.
“No, Buck, no,” Bobby said gently, although he knew it would be hard to convince the young man that he wasn’t to blame for his sister’s abduction and possible murder. There was only one person to blame and it was Doug. But Buck was in the middle of a grieving process, trying to accept that she was gone forever, because even Detective Marks and Athena had told Bobby that there was a slim chance that Maddie would return alive.
Bobby hadn't wanted to say it, but Buck had pushed him to tell him everything he knew. He couldn't hold back, because he believed Buck needed to be prepared for all possibilities, even though it hadn't been easy to see the young man's head falling back on the pillow and the color fading from his face. "You can't blame yourself. You did everything you could."
"But it wasn't enough," Buck whispered in a pained tone, eyes flicking back to the ceiling. "And I'm going to have to live with this guilt for the rest of my life. For not seeing the many years of pain and suffering she went through at his hands and then when she finally had the strength to leave not being able to keep her safe."
"Look, there's still hope. You can't give up yet," Hen said softly, rubbing Buck's arms. "Chimney and Athena are doing everything they can go bring Maddie home safe and alive."
"That's right," Bobby added. "You know how relentless Athena is. She won't stop until she brings your sister home." Dead or alive was left unsaid, but everyone in the room could hear it, including Buck, as he squeezed Bobby's hand and hoped that if his sister was still alive she could hang on for as long as she could. He realized that she probably thought he was dead, and he needed her to come back and see with her own eyes that he wasn't. He needed to hold her again, to touch her face, to see that small smile on her face. He needed Maddie back.
"Damn it," Chimney swore, slamming his palm on the trunk of Athena's car as their lead on Doug's phone turned out to be a bust. Tracking it had led to an innocent and confused truck driver who had revealed that he had stopped at a gas station and they figured that's where Doug had disposed of his cell phone. They were running out of time, and they all knew it.
"He knew that we could track his phone," Athena pointed out, grimly shaking her head.
"So they could be anywhere by now," Chimney continued, a knot forming in his stomach, flashes in his mind of Maddie's previous injuries and knowing that whatever was happening would be worse than those.
"Yeah, and Doug is way ahead of us."
They got back on the road, heading for the gas station, hoping that could offer up some clues, but all they found was a dead cashier and video footage of Maddie heading to the restroom while Doug waited. They found an open window and surmised that Maddie had tried to escape, but she'd been caught and the cashier had tried to intervene, much to his bad luck. Chimney's heart sunk as he imagined the trauma Maddie would have gone through seeing a man shot to death hours after she had seen her brother get stabbed. If she came back to them, would she ever be the same? Or would she be a shell of the woman he loved?
They were heading back to the car when they got a break. Detective Marks turned to them with excitement and hope in his voice. "Athena, we just received a message from a state trooper. He is reporting that he spotted a car with our license plate near Big Bear."
"Is he sure?" Athena asked, not wanting to get her hopes up, because if this was true, then this was the lead they needed.
"Then let's not waste any time and get going."
Chimney finally felt a semblance of hope, as they got in the car and Athena sped in the direction of their destination, hoping that they weren't too late, that they'd find Maddie alive, that her life wouldn't end in horrific tragedy, getting added to the list of women who died at the hands of partners or ex-partners every single year. She would become a statistic, though she was so much more than that.
Please, Chimney pleaded, his fingers crossed. Be fair for once and let Maddie live. Let her live.
Her hand covered her stomach, vision blurring as she stumbled through the snow, knowing that it wouldn't be long before she passed out and if no one found her died. Her injuries were severe enough that she needed immediate medical care for hopes of survival. She was still breathing and her heart was still beating, as hard as it was to believe given everything that has just happened in the last hour or so. She had made it so far and she was going to do her best to continue looking for help. Then she could finally close her eyes and rest, as tempting as it was to do so.
Doug gripped her arm tightly as he kicked in the door to the cabin, quickly pushing her inside before closing the door. She commented that she was glad they were no alarms and he said that that's why the phone lines were cut. He ordered her to sit on the couch and not do anything, not wanting her anywhere near the knives because despite her saying that she wouldn't run, he didn't quite believe her.
She was taken back to her past, remembering the kind words of the officer who had responded to her house after a neighbor had called in a noise complaint. But unlike the many other officers who had responded and who had noticed immediately that something was wrong - it wasn't hard to tell with her jitteriness and the turtleneck covering her neck on a warm summer night - he had taken the time to whisper some words of advice after Doug had vanished from the doorsteps, convinced that Maddie wouldn't ask for the help she desperately needed. "Don't be afraid to run, be afraid to stay."
And it had taken her a while to digest those words, eventually coming to believe that he was right and Doug would go too far if she continued to stay and take his abuse. And she believed she had done the right thing, even if in the end the outcome was the same.
Unbeknownst to Maddie, Athena and Chimney had arrived at Big Bear driving around trying to find the vehicle and hopefully Doug and Maddie. They had other officers from the local sheriff's department helping them, because it was too large of an area for three people to cover on their own. "We found the suspect's vehicle," they heard the radio call and found an empty vacation home where the door had barbed in.
"They were here," Athena noted, "and they left in a hurry."
They stood there for a second before they heard another officer call our, "We've got blood over here."
And with his heart in his throat, Chimney ran out of there and into the snow, screaming Maddie’s name. “Maddie! Maddie!” He hoped that she could hear him, if she was out there, lying in the snow, about to fall unconscious or … No, he wouldn’t go there. She had to be alive. He looked down and saw two sets of footprints, one much bigger than the other, and knew they had to be Doug’s in pursuit of her. She had managed to get away, and he hoped she had managed to keep herself safe.
Maddie’s knees were going weak, but she forced herself to carry on, even as she continued to lose blood every second, her body being pushed to the limit. She needed to find someone who could get her to the hospital.
“We can start over, become new people. Not just to the world, but to each other. And you’ll love me again and forgive me. I just know it.” Doug had kneeled in front of her with a soft look in his eyes, the act he played whenever he had thought that Maddie was close to her breaking point, and in the past it had been enough to change her mind. Not this time though. It had taken her years to accept that his abuse was not her fault and she deserved much better than him. What he gave her was not love, and she should get the chance to experience real, true love with someone else. She wasn’t going to go backwards and tie herself with him again, because she knew deep down that a man like Doug could never change. His need for power and control was too strong, and inevitably they would be back in the same situation they had been even if they were able to start anew.
Maddie stood up, walking over to the door where there was a group of fire pokers and she turned around her hand wrapping around one of them. “Yeah, I always managed to find a way to forgive you.”
Doug stood up, actually believing that she would accept his act. “So let’s start over. Let’s start right now.”
Doug got his response in the form of Maddie swinging the stick against his face, covering half of his face in blood as she yelped and ran out the door. “MADDIE!” He yelled, taking out his gun and firing two shots as she dodged and evaded them, knowing that this was the moment of truth that had been building up since he had abducted her.
Maddie trekked through the snow, her body functioning on pure adrenaline, when she realized that he could easily track her through her footprints. “MADDIE! You can’t keep running. You can’t run forever!” She could hear her husband’s distraught and furious voice calling, as he could sense that his plan was falling apart.
She gripped the stick in her hand tightly, as her mind came to the conclusion that she couldn’t run anymore. She needed to fight the threat face on, which meant fighting the same man that had hurt her for more than 10 years.
Maddie startled as she could see a blurry figure running towards her, a familiar voice calling out her name. “Maddie!” Except this voice didn’t make her flinch with the yell of her name. It was a voice she associated with softness and kindness and patience.
“Chim?” She asked, her composure wavering as she saw the man run towards her, relief and agony on his face as he took in her condition, the bruises and the cuts on her face, her arm hanging limply with her other hand pressed against her abdomen.
She fell to her knees, the strength going out of her body as Chimney caught her, pulling her against his chest, never so glad to have another person in his arms. “I-I didn’t give up,” Maddie cried in his arms.
“You did so good,” he praised, rubbing her back, tears in his own eyes. “You did so good.”
And then Maddie allowed herself to rest, her eyes falling to a close, while Chimney felt her go limp, pulling back to see that Maddie had fallen unconscious, which he knew wasn’t a good sign. He looked down at the blood on her hands, and looked up to see the trail of blood that he associated with her footsteps. If she had lost that much blood already, they didn’t have much time.
He picked her up in his arms, running back in the direction of which they had come. Athena could go and search for Doug, he didn’t give a damn about the man right now. His main priority was saving Maddie’s life.
tw: injury, death
Chimney ran through the snow, as fast as he could, although the depth of the snow made it as difficult as it could be, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the person unconscious in his arms, who had fought tooth and nail to survive, and he would be damned if he let her down now. It didn’t matter that his lungs were screaming at him to slow down and take a breath; it mattered that he get her into an ambulance and to a hospital as soon as possible because her chances of survival depended on how quickly she got medical treatment.
He was terrified. He had been terrified that they would get there too late, that Maddie would be gone and they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. She was alive and she was fighting, and that was amazing and he hoped that she would continue to do so, but she wasn’t out of danger yet. As someone who loved her, he wanted to believe that she would make it, that she would open her eyes and smile at him again, but as a doctor with years of experience with traumatic injuries like hers, including stab wounds, he knew that it would be a challenge, difficult but not impossible. But if anyone could do it, it was her. Athena, Detective Marks, and him had all thought that she would be dead when they got there, and she wasn’t. She had proved them wrong once, and she could prove them wrong again, by staying alive even when the odds weren’t in her favor.
He exhaled in relief when he spotted Athena and the ambulance behind her. She spotted him and Maddie in his arms, and her eyes widened, jogging over and asking, “Is she…”
“Alive, she’s alive,” he breathed out, the woman suddenly feeling heavy in his arms as the exertion took a toll on him, and he couldn’t even imagine how far she had run and how she had done it in the midst of immense danger, and she didn’t cease to surprise him. Athena’s chest deflated with a similar relief that he felt, her hand on his arm as they both sprinted to the ambulance parked on the road, the doors opening and a paramedic jumping out.
“From a cursory glance, I can see two stab wounds on her abdomen, a head injury, multiple bruises and lacerations, and a broken arm. She’s also lost a lot of blood.” Chimney briefed the paramedics placing a pale Maddie on the stretcher as the EMTs got to work, connecting her to a screen to monitor her heart rate and blood pressure, and putting an oxygen mask on her. “I’m hearing decreased breath sounds on the right,” one of them said, and Chimney’s heart sank. A punctured lung. “Let’s get moving. We have no time to waste.”
Athena turned to Chimney, the man starting to cry as the adrenaline started to wear off and the reality of the situation hung in the balance. “You go with her. I have to do my job and wrap this scene up and find the man who did this to her.”
“Thank you, Athena. For everything.” Chimney said, gratitude in his voice as he jumped into the ambulance, taking Maddie’s hand and noting just how cold it was.
"Just doing my duty as a friend, Chim. Will you call Bobby and let him know? Buck has been going out of his mind with worry.” She fixed him with one of her classic Athena glares, the no-nonsense look that told the person receiving it that she was not going to accept any excuse. “Get something to eat or drink, okay? You look horrible.”
“Will do.” The doors to the ambulance closed and they pulled away, the sounds of the sirens breaking through the eerie quiet of Big Bear, as Chimney held Maddie’s hand and caressed her head, the beeping of the heart monitor the only thing that told him that she was alive.
“You … you are the strongest person I know,” he whispered into her hand, letting his tears fall, emotions that he had held onto ever since he had walked into Buck’s apartment and had found him almost dead and her missing. “You fought and you fought and you didn’t give up and I’m so damn proud of you, Maddie Buckley. So just keep holding on, okay? Because this can’t be it. You can’t have made it through all that and let your story end here. You’re so much more than what he has done to you. You are beautiful, compassionate, kind, an amazing nurse, a wonderful sister and one of the best people I’ve ever met.”
He looked at her unconscious face, and she looked so much at peace, and he remembered her sobs and the tremendous pain on her face when she had fallen into his arms. He wanted nothing more than for her to wake up and realize that she was still alive and to be proud of herself for what she’d overcome because he was extremely proud. “Wake up so I can tell you this and you can hear me. Wake up so that Buck can know that his sister didn’t leave him. Wake up so that you can continue shining in this world. You’re gonna wake up. I have to believe that.”
Meanwhile, as Chimney and Maddie made their way to the hospital, Athena and the detective trekked through the snow, following the trail of blood that Maddie had left behind, and they were both amazed at how she was still alive. Eventually, they reached the scene where the major fight had taken place, and they spotted the still, long body of Doug Kendall, and knew instantly that he was dead. Athena bent down beside him, half of his face covered in blood, the knife that had killed him lying a few feet away, and checked for a pulse. She found nothing.
“He’s dead.” She stood up and she definitely would not shed a tear for the abusive husband who had terrorized his wife for years, who had made her believe that she had nothing and nobody in this world besides him, and that her life revolved around his needs and his priorities. She wouldn’t shed a tear for a man who had killed an innocent cashier trying to do the right thing, who had almost done the same to Buck and to Maddie. So much carnage left behind for one man, and the task of cleaning it up and recovering from it would be a long one. But Buck and Maddie would be alive to see it through, and Doug wouldn’t. That seemed to be a form of justice that Athena was okay with.
“It’s a miracle that she made it out of here alive,” Marks commented, observing the amount of blood that had been spilled and definitely noticing the difference in size and strength between the woman who was alive and the man who was dead. He was amazed and relieved to have a domestic violence case that didn’t end in the victim’s death, and while he knew that this couldn’t necessarily be classified as completely a happy ending, it was a good scenario in that an abusive man was dead and couldn’t harm anyone else. He was glad that Maddie Kendall would not be added to the list of women who lost their lives each year to intimate partner violence.
“No, no miracle here,” Athena said firmly, standing back up as two crime scene techs approached with a body bag. “That woman fought like hell.” She could not see any issue with Maddie being in any legal trouble, because it was clear as daylight that this was self-defense, and if she knew anything about Buck’s sister, it was that this was going to stick with her for the rest of her life. Even though he had tormented her, she had killed someone that she used to be in love with, and Athena knew that would take a lot of healing, but vowed to be there for her with anything she needed. It was the least she deserved.
Bobby was sitting by Buck’s bedside, the younger man having closed his eyes, trying and failing to rest, because his mind wouldn’t shut up. His phone rang, disturbing the silence that had filled the room, and Buck's eyes snapped open, glancing at Bobby with a wary and scared look on his face, not wanting to hear whatever the news would be from the other end of the phone, but knowing he needed to hear it anyway.
"Hello?" Bobby said, even though his caller ID indicated it was Chimney and that could mean only one thing. He was calling with an update on Maddie. His eyes remained fixed on the other Buckley, who was gripping his sheets tightly, as if bracing himself for bad news. "Chim, slow down and speak calmly, okay? Take a deep breath for me."
Buck's gut turned and he stared up at the ceiling, wanting to scream at Bobby and Chim to hurry up and get it over with, to break the news that his sister was dead and he would never see her again and the world was a darker place without Maddie in it. He was done and exhausted with them trying to protect him, and he just needed the bandaid to be ripped off and the truth to be spoken. There was nothing good about avoiding the inevitable anyway because it had already happened and he couldn't change anything.
"Okay," Bobby said, eyes looking ahead instead of at Buck, as he concentrated on hearing Chimney. "Okay. Thanks, Chim. I'll let him know. Yeah, keep us posted." Bobby hung up the phone and sighed loudly.
"Do it, Bobby," Buck said in a deadpan, blue eyes filled with tears as he looked at a man he respected way more than his own father. "Tell me what I already know to be true. Say the words."
"Buck, no, you're misunderstanding here," Bobby started gently taking his hand and squeezing it. "Chimney didn't call to say your sister's dead. He called to say that your sister has been found alive."
Buck's heart soared, and for a moment he couldn't believe what he was hearing. It seemed too good to be true, because he'd already accepted that she'd be dead, and now Bobby was telling him that wasn't the case. He felt like everything had changed, and the darkness inside him started to subside, as his sorrow turned to joy and relief. Relief that Maddie was still alive and he didn't have to live with that guilt of not being able to save her. Joy that his sister would get a second chance at a life without fear and terror.
"Really?" He asked in a squeaky voice, needing Bobby to affirm and give him more details.
"Yeah. She's not out of the woods yet," Bobby cautioned, needing Buck to know all of the facts so he could prepare himself and feel whatever he needed to feel. "She's sustained some pretty serious injuries, so she's been taken to emergency surgery right away. She lost a lot of blood, but thankfully Chim found her before it was too late." Before Maddie died, Buck thought in his head, and some of his elation subsided as he realized that she could still die.
'What did he do to her?" Buck asked. Bobby got a pained expression on his face and began to shake his head, but Buck insisted. “Bobby, I need to know. She’s my sister.”
“I don’t know if it’s everything, but a couple of stab wounds, a pretty hard hit to the head, bruises on her face, and a broken arm, but there could be more,” Bobby said honestly. “Look, Buck, the important thing is she’s alive and you can’t think about what has happened to her, not yet. You have to focus on the fact that she’s fighting and when she wakes up she’ll need you to be strong, okay?”
“Okay,” he whispered hoarsely, trying to picture in his mind his bruised and terrified sister, and it hurt him to his core, and he could feel the rage fueling in his veins at the man who did this to her. Speaking of whom, “what about Doug?” There was not enough disdain in the world for him to capture in his voice.
“Athena texted. He’s dead.” Some of the stress and tension left Buck’s body, as he processed the fact that the man who had tormented Maddie for so long and had almost killed both of them was gone. He was gone, and they could live their lives without having to go through the legal process, having to relive everything, having to look him in the eye as he watched them testify, without looking over their shoulder waiting for him to come finish his work. Maddie didn’t have to live in that fear anymore; for the first time in a long time, she could breathe free. It occurred to him that Maddie had to kill her husband, and he hated that she had to do it, not because Doug deserved to live (he definitely didn't), but because she was a good and kind person and she would have to live with this trauma and all of the accumulated trauma from her marriage for the rest of her life. He was glad that she had made it, but he hated that this had happened to her, that he had failed to keep her safe and had forced her hand.
Hours passed slowly for Chimney as he awaited news on Maddie's condition after she had been taken into emergency surgery to heal the wounds on her abdomen. As a trauma surgeon, he had never felt more helpless than when he had when her hand had slipped from his and she had been taken inside, the doctors reassuring him that they would do the best they could to save her.
He collapsed into one of the chairs, running his hands through his hair, as his mind raced with thoughts of what he would do if Maddie didn't make it, if he never got to tell her that he loved her and he needed her with him. He glanced down at his hands, her dried blood on them, and it sickened him that she had lost so much of her life and her freedom to that man, but now she deserved to be alive and live as she deserved to.
He talked to Bobby in the meantime, letting him know of what happened so he could inform Maddie's brother. As much as he was terrified and felt helpless, he could imagine the feeling was even more acute for Buck, having to lie in that hospital bed and just wait for the news, not being able to be here and see her open her eyes after surgery. He prayed that he could give him good news when the doctors came out.
Finally, the doctors emerged and he held his breath as their words washed over him, his mind focusing only on the words she’s alive. He felt tears of relief pour down his cheeks, as they clapped him on the back, letting him know that Maddie would be shifted into a private room soon, and he could see her once that had happened. It had been touch-and-go, they had emphasized, due to the depth of the wounds and the amount of blood she had lost, and if she hadn’t been brought in when she had, the outcome could have been very different. He found himself beaming with gratitude as he sat by her bedside, holding her hand, the machines letting him know that she was very much alive.
“You made it. You made it, Maddie. I’m so proud of you.” He kissed her hand and caressed her face. “Now wake up and open those beautiful eyes of yours. I’m waiting for you, and so is your brother.”
Chimney had fallen into an exhausted sleep, when Maddie began to stir, her eyes flickering open, her mind blank as to what had happened to land her in a hospital bed that was not in her own hospital.