Buck was just starting to collect the gear on their recent call when his phone started ringing in his breast pocket. Setting the gear down next to the truck, he slips off his helmet and squints down at the caller ID. Owen.
Buck can count on one hand the number of times Owen had called him over the years and he can’t help but feel a sense of dread wash over him as answers it. The last he heard from the family, TK had called him to say that they were moving to Austin.
“Hello, Evan.” Buck leans his back against the truck, tilting his head up to the sky. Damn, Owen only ever called him that when things were serious.
“Owen. It’s been a while. How are you?” He asks the question despite knowing that this wasn’t a social call. He can hear Owen's voice crack as he says the next words, “Buck, something hap- something happened to TK.”
Buck feels like he’s just been sucker-punched. Any breath that he’d been holding escapes him as he squeezes his eyes shut. He swallows around the thick lump formed in his throat before asking, “W-what happened?”
“We were on a job and he-he accidentally got shot in the chest. He’s at the hospital in a coma and we’re not sure when he’s going to wake up.” Buck can hear the unspoken if hanging in the air. Regrettably, he can’t help but feel his chest unclench the tiniest amount, thankful that at least it wasn’t that call.
He startles when he feels a hand on his shoulder. He opens his eyes to finds Hen peering at him in concern. He lets his gaze dart past her, searching out the rest of the team who were packing the gear into the truck, each surreptitiously glancing at him with various degrees of worry painted across their faces.
He gives Hen a tight smile and steps out of her touch and shakes his head slightly before walking a few paces away while keeping his back to them, trying to achieve some semblance of privacy.
“Buck, I know you’ve only been back a couple of months, but I just wanted you to know and thought maybe you--”
Buck cuts him off gently, “Owen it’s alright, you don’t even have to ask, I’ll be there. Just send me the info and I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
He can hear an audible sigh of relief on the other end of the line. “Thank you.”
“Hey, you did the same for me. We’ll get through this together too.”
“I’ll see you soon.” Owen murmurs and throws in another thank you before hanging up. Barely a minute later, Buck’s phone dings with the location of the hospital they were in.
Buck screws up his eyes and harshly takes in a deep breath, holding it and allowing it to calm him before letting it out slowly. He reminds himself that there is no reason to get worked up just yet and settles himself before joining the team back in the truck. They all look at him questioningly, but no one says anything as he puts on his headset and looks out the window, a clear sign that he’s not in the mood to talk. Nonetheless, he feels the touch of Eddie’s knee against his, another grounding force that always seems to settle his nerves, “Hey man, you alright? You don’t look so good.”
“A good friend of mine is in the hospital, he, uh he was badly injured. They’re not sure how bad it is.” He doesn’t say much more than that and he doesn’t have to, Eddie shifts closer offering support and all he can do in return is give him a tight smile in thanks.
When they get back to the station, Buck makes sure all of his jobs are done before he seeks out Bobby who was getting some paperwork done in his office.
“Cap. I-um, I know this is late notice and I haven’t been back on active duty for long, but I need the rest of the week off, maybe more. It’s a-um… it’s a family emergency.”
Bobby shuts the file in front of him and gestures to the seat in front of him. Buck hesitates before sitting down, unsure if Bobby was even going to approve leave, considering that he’s only recently been put back on full active duty.
“Talk to me Buck, tell me what’s going on.”
Buck ducks his head and scrubs his hands through his hair, “Well you were probably listening in the truck but um, TK, one of my friends from the academy, he got shot on the job, it’s bad Cap. The phone call was from his dad and he said the doctors aren’t sure when he’s going to wake up.”
Bobby stays quiet, feeling as though there’s more to the story than that. The silence unsettles Buck and he gets up and starts pacing while rambling.
“I met TK by chance years ago. He was vacationing in South America and we got to know each other for a like a week while I was bartending. We kinda just clicked, you know? In that time, he told me he wanted to be a career firefighter like his dad and I told him how I was planning to be a SEAL. Before he went back home he gave me his details saying if the SEALs didn’t work out to come and find him in New York. And, as you know it didn’t work out, so I got in touch with him; At that point, I had very little money and I just couldn’t go back to my parents.”
Bobby had moved around his desk now, edging closer as if he was being sucked in by Buck’s story.
“A-and he and Owen took me in as if I was just part of the family, no questions asked. TK was preparing to apply to the academy and Owen suggested that I should too, so I did, and I’m so glad that he told me to do it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay either of them for what they did, they became my family when I had no one else to turn to in that time in my life. Now it’s my turn to be there for them like they’ve been there for me.”
Buck finally stops in the middle of Bobby’s office, surprisingly out of breath. Bobby moves in front him and reaches out, grasping both his shoulders to get his full attention. “I get it Buck there is nothing more important than family. I’ll sort out the paperwork, take all the time you need.”
Buck leans forward and buries his face into Bobby’s neck, wrapping him in a grateful hug. “Thank you. Thank you for understanding.”
Some protective Buck moments and a little Owen/Buck reunion
Buck was on the last flight to Austin that same night after Bobby had allowed him to leave early, making him promise to keep him updated. By the time the plane touched down, it was the early hours of the morning.
He sends a quick text to Owen, letting him know he’s arrived and on his way to the hospital. While he waits for a response, he bounces his knee with nervous energy as his anxiety for TK grows with each passing minute.
Buck frowns down at his phone as the Uber pulls up to the hospital. Owen still hasn’t responded, but after looking at the time, he’s not surprised. Thanking the driver, Buck hikes his rucksack high on his shoulder and heads inside.
Dusting off his rusty charm, Buck manages to sweet talk his way up to the TK’s room despite the fact that it was well after visiting hours. He thanks the nurse graciously with a smile and a light touch on the arm before pausing in the doorway and taking in the scene before him.
Owen was passed out with his head resting on the bed next to TK’s hand which he holds firmly in his own. Buck grimaces at the posture, he knows for a fact that Owen is going to wake up aching all over; something he learned the hard way waiting for Maddie and Chim to recover from their own ordeals.
Buck quietly sets his pack down out of the way against the wall and moves over to Owen’s sleeping form. Grabbing the folded blanket that had been placed on the side table, he opens it up and gently drapes it over him. Owen doesn’t even stir, indicating how completely exhausted he must already be waiting for his son to wake.
Which brings Buck’s attention to the man in question. He pulls up a chair to the other side of TK and passes a critical eye over his visible body. Physically, you would barely even know that TK had been injured aside from the edge of gauze peeking out the top of his hospital gown.
Buck leans forward in his chair, resting his elbow on the bed and carefully takes TK’s free hand in his, being careful of the IV tube attached to the back of his hand. He bows his head touching his forehead to TK’s fingers and prays. He prays to the unforgiving universe to spare TK, just like it spared him so many times over in recent years.
Not releasing his hand, Buck settles back in his chair, tapping his finger in time with the heart rate monitor on his knee. He sits unmoving for the next several hours, keeping a silent vigil over his brother while the rest of the hospital continues to sleep.
** ** **
Owen wakes slowly to the quiet sounds of the hospital waking up for the day. He groans as his neck and back protest the position he subjected it to. Straightening up with a yawn, he feels the lightweight of the blanket fall from his shoulders. Frowning in confusion, he wonders where it came from, knowing for sure that it wasn’t there when he fell asleep.
Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he starts to notice the subtle changes that seemed to have appeared while he was sleeping; the half-empty plastic cup of water sitting on the nightstand, the chair on the other side of the bed is in a completely different position, the bag resting against the wall and TK’s other hand had moved to his stomach.
The scuffed sound of boots behind him pulls him from his observations to reveal one rather tired-looking Buck. Owen watches him as his focus goes immediately to TK as he assesses any changes, before eventually noticing that Owen was awake.
“Hey, Owen. I got you some coffee, figured you might need it after sleeping in that chair.” Offering a half-smile, he passes Owen one of the two coffee cups in his hands which Owen accepts only to set it down on the table and pulling Buck in close for a warm hug.
“I’m so glad you’re here.” He pulls back, running an evaluating look over Buck’s face, not liking what he’s seeing. “When did you get here?”
They move back to their chosen seats and sip at their coffee. “The flight landed just after midnight and then I came straight to the hospital.”
“And from the looks of it you’ve probably been awake this whole time, when was the last time you slept?” His concern clear in his voice.
Buck scratches behind his ear in discomfort and looks away, knowing Owen was not going to like his answer. “I had a couple of hours at work which was maybe like nineteen hours ago, but if you’re talking a proper sleep, that would have been before my shift, making it around 30 hours or so.”
Owen's eyes widen in disbelief. “Thirty hours! Jeez Buck, how are you even functioning right now? You flew here after a 24-hour shift only to sit here and watch the two of us sleep. You should have woken me.”
Buck shrugs and shakes his head, “You looked exhausted. I wasn’t going to wake you, knowing that you probably haven’t slept much yourself while watching over him.”
Owen looks over at TK and then at Buck, taking him in completely and seeing his weary posture and bleary eyes. “Alright, let’s go.”
“What! Why?” Buck quietly exclaims.
He moves around the bed and picks up Buck’s pack. “You and I are going home.”
“Owen, it’s alright, you don’t have to. I was just going to get a hotel room.”
Owen waves a dismissive hand at Buck’s words, “No way, no son of mine is going to stay in a hotel room when I have a perfectly good guest room he can stay in. You need sleep and I need a shower and breakfast, it’s a win-win situation here.”
Buck gestures to the sleeping form of TK, “What about TK? I don’t want him to be here alone, what if he wakes up and we’re not here?”
Owen chuckles, “His ‘boyfriend’ Carlos,” he says with air quotations, “said yesterday that he’d stop by before work.”
Seeing movement by the door, Owen smiles. “Speaking of which, perfect timing.”
Said man was hovering in the doorway until Owen beckons him inside, introducing the two of them. He watches as they shake hands, making a brief assessment of each other before smiling in greeting and he can’t help but shake his head at their protective posturing.
Glad that they seem to approve of each other, Owen gestures to Buck that they should head out while saying to Carlos that he’d be back in an hour or so. Buck smirks as they leave, happy to see that TK found someone much more worthy of his respect and TK’s affections than his ex.
Buck and Owen have bit of a heart to heart. Buck finally gets some sleep
Honestly, not sure how I feel about this chapter. Had a bit of writers block on how to progress to where I wanted to get to. Admittedly I was writing it in between uni assessments so please forgive me if it's not very coherent.
It's a bit of a filler before what's yet to come, so next chapter will be getting a bit more interesting (I hope)
Despite the refreshing appeal of being awake before sunrise, Buck can’t help but feel himself flagging as his waking hours start to catch up to him. Hopping in the car, his eyelids begin to droop as soon as they start moving. Fighting against the pull Buck shakes himself awake, not allowing himself the luxury of sleep until he gets the answers that have been weighing on his mind since he got the call from Owen.
Worrying his lower lip, he looks at Owen trying to decide how best to approach it. “Owen?”
“Yeah, bud.” The man responds, not taking his eyes off the road.
“Tell me. How bad is it?”
Owen purses his lips before answering. “They say it’s a level two coma. The bullet nicked an artery in his shoulder and his lung collapsed. He went into hypovolemic shock and his organs started shutting down.” Owen takes in a shaky breath, “The doctors aren’t sure about his brain until he wakes up but it's possible he could have brain damage.”
Buck nods to himself as he processes the information before turning his full attention back onto Owen. “And you?”
The man stiffens at the question. “What about me?”
Buck rolls his eyes at Owen’s evasiveness. “How are you holding up?”
“I wasn’t the one who got shot,” Owen says defensively, deflecting the question. Owen may not have noticed but Buck could see him imperceptibly relax his hold on the steering wheel.
“Yeah but you are a father who saw his son nearly die from a gunshot wound. I’d be more concerned if it wasn’t affecting you. What was it you said to me ages ago?” he taps his chin in faux contemplation, “It’s okay to not be okay.”
“Using my own words against me now?” Owen lets out a huff, glancing once more at Buck, “But you’re right. I’ve just been trying to stay positive, you know. For his sake.” They pull up to the house but neither makes a move to get out of the car.
Shifting in his seat, Buck stares Owen down, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Eventually, Owen breathes out a long-suffering sigh in defeat and slumps down into his seat and looks up at the roof.
“I’m scared, Buck. You and I both know he’s already had a few close calls in the past but this one’s different. I’m afraid he might not come back this time or if he does he could be permanently brain damaged or he might lose function in his arm or—”
“Hey, hey, hey.” Buck interrupts his spiraling thoughts, “Breathe Owen, TK is strong. You know that, and I know that. He’s going to bounce back from this, same as all the other times.”
“You can’t know that for sure. What if he doesn’t?” Asks Owen, voice thick with tears.
Buck leans over and places a hand on Owen’s shoulder. “We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.” He says stressing the word.
They sit like that for a moment until Owen gives him a watery smile and pats Buck’s hand on his shoulder affectionately in wordless thanks before getting out of the car.
Buck sighs to himself and follows Owen with a slight frown, glad that he was able to get Owen to open up, and yet somehow, he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something else the man wasn’t telling him.
Owen gives him a brief tour of the house and then whips up a quick breakfast for both of them. As soon as Buck’s plate was empty, Owen was pushing him into the guest bedroom with strict instructions to gets some rest for at least a few hours.
Buck doesn’t protest the mother-henning too much especially when the bed looked so very enticing. Without a second thought and not bothering to changes his clothes, Buck falls back onto the bed unceremoniously and kicks off his shoes as an afterthought as he falls asleep to the drumming sound of the shower next door.
** ** **
Hours later he startles awake to the late morning sun streaming down on his face through the crack in the blind. Settling back down, he calms his racing heart while shaking away the afterimages of his dreams and reminds himself of where he is. Where was that again? That’s right, he’s in Austin. He flew in last night and now he’s at Owen and TK’s house. Yeah, he’s safe. He’s safe.
Rubbing the sleep from his eyes Buck reaches for his phone and checks the time. 11.30 am. Okay so he’s been asleep for about 4 hours, that’s long enough. Quickly changing into some fresh clothes, he wanders around the house, ending up in the kitchen to discover a note being weighed down by a set of car keys.
Here are the keys to my truck. If you want to, you can stay at the house but if not, you know where I’ll be.
Nodding to himself, Buck makes his choice without a second thought. But before making a move to head there straight away, Buck can’t help but grimace at the prospect of sub-par lunch options that always seem to be available at the hospital.
Checking the fridge, he pulls out ingredients for some sandwiches and puts together a couple of selections, enough to sustain them for a few hours at least. Then he searches the cupboards and finds some reusable bottles for both of them and fills them up and packs them with the sandwiches.
Gathering the lunch and keys Buck heads to the place where he needs to be.
Buck has a busy day; he gets a call from Bobby and he gets to meet some members of the 126.
They fell into somewhat of a routine for the next couple of days. Owen would sit with TK in the mornings and Buck would join him sometime after lunchtime, bearing various assortments of food. They would stay there together talking to TK and each other about anything and everything.
At night, Buck would coerce Owen into going home and getting some much-needed sleep while he took the graveyard shift. After which it would be Owen’s turn to send him home just after sunrise for his own bed rest and then they would do it all again.
On the morning of the third day, however, he gets a call from Bobby just as he’s pulling up outside the house. Putting on the handbrake he answers it on the third ring. “Hey, Bobby.”
“Buck! I wasn’t sure if you’d pick up. I haven’t heard from you in a while. You promised you’d keep me updated.”
Buck winces as Bobby stresses the word. “I know I know, I’m sorry. I just got caught up with all this stuff with TK and Owen I-I kinda forgot.” He rests his forehead on the steering wheel waiting for the inevitable request for his return.
“Don’t worry about it, kid. You and Chim have given me my fair share of grey hairs waiting in the hospital, I know how stressful it can be. How are you holding up?”
Buck sighs, “I’m alright, just making sure Owen looks after himself while we wait for TK to wake up.”
“Don’t forget to look after yourself too.”
He rolls his eyes at Bobby’s concern. “Yeah, yeah, I will.”
“I mean it, Buck, I know how you can get.”
“I know.” He replies softly.
They both fall quiet, not really knowing what else to say until Bobby clears his throat, “The team says hi by the way and they wanted me to pass on their best to the family.” He chuckles, “They’re already complaining that it's too quiet without you around. “
Buck smirks. “I’m the only thing that keeps the station from falling apart, you know that.”
“Don’t I know it.” Bobby is interrupted by the sound of the alarm. “Listen, I have to go but just promise me this time you’ll keep in touch.”
He shakes his head good-humouredly at Bobby’s request but acquiesces nonetheless “Yeah, okay I’ll send you an update every day. Promise.”
“That’s my boy. I’ll talk to you soon. Gotta go, bye.”
Buck didn’t get a chance to say bye back or to tell him to stay safe even though he knows Bobby is one of the most cautious firefighters he’s met.
He mentally adds message Bobby daily into his schedule and gets out of the car, continuing on with the rest of his morning of having something to eat before heading to bed.
** ** **
One thing Buck enjoyed about the night shift was the peace that went along with it. Most people find that the incessant beeping of monitors is grating on the nerves, but he always seemed to find it soothing.
Maybe it’s because the beeping is a reminder that the person attached to the machine is still alive or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s a constant rhythm. Either way, it’s something he can rely on even when it was him that the monitor was attached to, it reminded him that he was alive.
He said as much to TK, telling him what he thought. And that when he heard it. Probably unnoticed to a normal person but Buck could hear it. There was a slight change in his heart rate and accompanied by it was the tiniest of moans. Nothing worth celebrating about, of course, and yet he can’t help but feel that somewhere deep down in TK’s subconscious he heard him. Buck sure of it at least sure enough to believe that TK will wake soon.
Hours later, after the breakthrough, Buck was interrupted from his deep dive into researching hypovolemic shock by three tired-looking people. Standing in the doorway, the woman cleared her throat delicately startling him enough that he drops his phone, not thinking that anyone would be visiting this late.
Eyeing him with an appropriate amount of suspicion, she leads the trio into the room, stopping at the edge of the bed and looks at him expectantly with one raised eyebrow.
“Uh… hi, I’m Buck.” He says standing and extends his hand in greeting.
The youngest of the three is the one to take his proffered hand after a beat of awkward silence and offers his name along with others. Ah! So, this was some of TK’s new team, that explains why they were here so late. Buck re-takes his seat and gestures for the others to do the same if they so wished while saying that’s he’s heard so much about them from Owen.
Marjan frowns in confusion. “Not meaning to be rude or anything but although you clearly know who we are, we have absolutely no idea who you are.”
“Right… yes. Um. no offense taken. I guess you could say that I’m a friend of the family. TK and I went through the fire academy together.” Buck says quickly, hoping not to delve too deeply into their relationship.
Thankfully, Mateo interrupts that line of potential questions with his own curiosity. “Hey, where is Cap? I would’ve thought he would be here.”
Buck smirks, “Heh, I managed to convince him that he should be getting proper rest outside of a hospital chair. It took a lot of persuasion, but he finally agreed after I swore that I would stay here during the night shift and call him if anything happened.”
“Wow, I’m impressed. I don’t think anyone has been able to do that since they got to the hospital.” Remarks Marjan, surprise clear in her voice.
“Yep, Owen just needed the right kind of push.” And the right person to push him, he adds silently to himself.
They fall into a comfortable silence after that, each just watching TK’s chest rise and fall in a slow, quiet rhythm. After some time though, it’s Paul who finally speaks up looking as though he was piecing together a puzzle.
“Wait. You said your name was Buck?” Buck nods along, not entirely sure where Paul was going with this, “That wouldn’t happen to be a nickname from Buckley, would it? Are you the Evan Buckley, the firefighter who was pinned under a ladder truck?”
Buck shrugged, feigning nonchalance but feeling his stomach drop at the questions. “That’s me.”
With this revelation, Mateo's eyes widen with excitement and he launches into a round of questioning that Buck normally would never answer except in the presence of a trained professional, knowing what ugly memories and emotions that have been invoked from previous recollections. But in saying that, he also didn’t have the heart to completely dismiss Mateo’s obvious enthusiasm., so he does his best to answer Mateo without going into too much detail of the event.
Paul must have picked up on his poorly concealed discomfort because after the first few questions he interrupts, giving Mateo a pointed look. “Hey, how about we stop accosting the man we just met with questions.”
Mateo looked decidedly sheepish, realising what he was doing. Buck gives him a reassuring smile that there was no harm done and tilts his head in gratitude to Paul, glad to be let off the hook.
The trio stay for another hour or so after that, settling into an easy conversation discussing work and sharing some stories about TK that he’s heard from Owen and some that he didn’t. Sitting back, Buck can’t help but feel a sense of peace at knowing that these people cared about TK as much as he hoped they would.
Okay I'm finally at the point I wanted to get to, so hopefully I'll have the next chapter done and posted over the weekend.
TK wakes up and he and Buck talk about their doubts.
Buck sighs as he walks into the café next to the hospital. Owen was being more stubborn about leaving for the night and so now Buck was on a coffee run with the request that the coffee was made by a real barista and did not come from a sachet, which is what he presumed the hospital coffee was made of. He was not wrong.
While decided on his own order, his phone buzzed in his hand. Looking down at the text message Buck almost dropped his phone for the second time in two days from surprise.
Two words. The best two words that he’s read in a while. Forgetting the coffee, Buck rushes out of the café and sprints back to the hospital before settling his pace to a hurried walk as he makes his way down the hallways, knowing doctors and nurses alike would stop him if he went running through the hospital like a madman.
By the time he made it to TK’s room he was more out of breath that he should be, but it didn’t bother him, not when TK was sitting up and talking to his dad as if he’d just woken up from a nap.
Casually crossing his arms and leaning his shoulder against the doorframe, Buck just watches the father and son as catch up on everything that happened. TK caught his movement out the corner of his eye after he dropped his hand from his face, confusion creasing his forehead. “Buck? What are you doing here?”
He reaches out to him with his good arm and Buck steps in close to give him a gentle one-armed hug, being mindful of his injured shoulder.
“It’s good to see you, little brother,” Buck says with a smirk on his lips as he leans back but stays in TK’s grasp. “Owen called, saying that you got yourself into some trouble.”
TK rolls his eyes in exasperation. “Seriously dude, you’re barely four months older than me.”
“Yeah, and I take my role very seriously.” He lightly ruffles TK’s hair. “Glad to see you’re awake.”
TK swats at Buck’s hand good-humouredly but smiles anyway before settling himself back against the pillow with a yawn. Seeing Buck’s concerned frown, Owen motions Buck close and whispers in his ear telling him that they gave TK methadone for the pain, explaining his sudden sleepiness.
He shares a quick look with Owen who gets up from his spot on the bed and pats TK’s leg. “It’s late, we’ll let you get some rest and we’ll be back in the morning to take you home.”
Peering up at them with heavy-lidded eyes, TK smiles dreamily. “M’kay. Glad you’re here, Ev.”
He was snoring in less than a minute and they leave quietly soon after that, both overjoyed to be heading home no longer feeling stuck in limbo.
** ** **
Falling into one of the armchairs after picking TK up from the hospital, Buck can’t help but laugh to himself watching Owen fussing around TK. “You need another pillow.” “I’m fine.” “You looked uncomfortable.”
TK must have heard him laughing because a deep scowl is sent in his direction before TK turns his attention back to his dad, convincing him to go back to work.
“Yeah Owen, don’t you worry, TK’s got me to keep him company. You just go to work.” Buck chimes in, making up for finding amusement in his brother’s misfortune and earning a grateful look from TK.
Looking between the two of them, Owen puts his hands up in defeat and starts moving towards his bedroom. “Okay, okay I’m going. Rest up alright, and you’ll be back to work in no time.”
“Yeah, we’ll see,” TK responds under his breath, too quiet for Owen to hear but Buck heard it loud and clear. Pursing his lips, he decides not to say anything just yet instead waiting until after Owen had left for work.
Still facing the TV, Buck gives TK a side-eye glance only to see him chewing absentmindedly on a hoodie string. “Alright, what’s with the face?”
TK keeps his eyes trained on the TV not bothering to look at Buck. “What are you talking about?”
“You’ve got that look that you always get when you’re worried about something. And you’re chewing on your hoodie string which means something is on your mind, so spill.”
Muting the TV, TK sighs and turns his body so that his side is flush with the back of the sofa and leans up against the armrest. Buck does the same in the armchair, with his legs hanging over the arm so that they were both facing each other. He watches as TK opens and shuts his mouth multiple times clearly trying to find the right words.
Eventually, he settles on, “Did you have any doubts?”
“You’re going to have to be a little more specific,” Buck responds.
Breaking eye contact, TK changes his focus to his hands. “When your leg got crushed under the ladder truck, did you have any doubts going back to work?”
Buck scrubs at the back of his head and looks away from TK. “Uh, I never told anyone this but yeah, I did.”
Surprised, TK looks up sharply. “Really? Cause whenever we spoke on the phone, you always seemed so focused on getting back to work.”
Fiddling with the zipper on his jacket, Buck lifts one shoulder in a half-shrug. “I had a lot of time alone to think, both in the hospital and at home while I was in the cast. I thought a lot about my job and my life. And in that time, I realised they were basically the same thing. My friends and-”
He gestures at TK, “-my family were all interconnected with my job. If I didn’t go back to that, what would my life even be? For a while, I did try coming up with other potential jobs, in case I wasn’t able to get recertified, but I couldn’t come up with a single one that could even begin to replicate the same feeling of saving lives in the way that we do. Why do you want to know?”
“I just- I don’t know.” says TK with a sigh, “I just wonder if this is what I actually want to do with my life.”
“That’s not something I can tell you, sorry. But, what I can tell you is that it’s not who you are in the uniform, its who you are out of the uniform. It’s something that I learned from my captain and it’s something you have to figure out yourself.”
“How did you figure it out?”
Buck shrugs. “Honestly, I only truly knew a little while ago. I was off duty and it was Halloween; a lady hit a guy who got stuck in her front windscreen and she was just driving around with him like that for a day, while she had a concussion and brain bleed. I was on blood thinners at the time and got a little cut up on the broken glass, but I didn’t notice until the paramedic pointed it out.”
“Damn, so basically you’re saying I have to go save someone in a potentially life or death situation,” TK says with a sigh.
Buck chuckles. “No, but what I am saying is that if you listen to your instincts, you’ll know it in your heart if it feels right.”
TK falls silent after that, looking more contemplative than Buck had ever seen him before. It was a companionable quiet and Buck used the time to finally message Bobby saying that TK was awake and that he’d probably be home by the end of the week.
Actually, TK was quiet for so long, lost in his own little world that Buck actually ended up having an hour-long conversation with Eddie on his day off, and then after lunch, he spent another hour talking to Maddie who wanted an update on her baby brother’s second family. It's been a while since he last talked about them to her.
It was sometime in the afternoon when TK finally broke his silence. He’d gotten changed and looked as though he was on a mission.
“Want to come for a walk to the station? I need to talk to dad.”
Buck, of course, agreed to come wholeheartedly, keen to finally see the station and to meet the last two members of the team.
I really liked Zoe in the show, but having Buck there to talk to instead I didn't feel like TK would need to reach out to her.
Also, side note: I did a lot of research on recovering addicts and hospital medications and methadone is the preferred pain medication for moderate to severe pain (which I think a GSW would be) and for people who have had previous opioid addictions because it doesn't have the same severity in withdrawals as other opioids. In saying that though, I feel like perhaps after TK leaves the hospital he might choose to take non-opioid pain relievers even if they may not be as effective for the pain. But that's just speculation.
Edit: it was brought to my attention that Buck would be a couple of year older than TK but I was just going off fandom wiki and TK was born in 1993 (Referenced in Awakening) and Buck in 1992 (referenced in season 1) so realistically Lone Star season 1 lines up with 9-1-1 season 1 but I’m just going to ignore that for the sake of this fic 😘 hope you don’t mind
TK and Owen have their talk, Buck meets Judd, and Owen has suspicions.
The firehouse was open and airy, and it reminded Buck of the New York station that Owen and TK used to work at, which is unsurprising seeing as Owen was the one who helped design both of them.
TK holds a finger to his lips, signaling to Buck to be quiet as he rounds the corner in a bid to give the team a pleasant surprise. Buttercup is the first to notice them and Buck can’t help but instantly fall in love with the dog especially after he greets TK he moves onto Buck.
Paul brought their presence to the attention of the others as they hover over the food and soon enough the rest of the team were hovering around them looking absolutely delighted to see TK upright again. Buck stays out of the way reveling in the joy of Buttercup’s affection, letting the team have their moment.
It’s the big guy, who Buck assumes is Judd who clears his throat, “So, who’s the guy?”
Owen shakes himself realising that he hasn’t introduced Buck to the team yet. “That’s right! Team, meet Buck, my other son. Buck, this is the team; Marjan, Paul, Mateo, and Judd.”
“It’s good to see you guys again and it’s nice to finally meet you, Judd.” He says, extending out his hand to the tall man who takes it with a nod in return.
“Wait a second, did you say, ‘other son’?” Marjan interjects before turning her attention to Buck, “I thought you said you were a friend of the family.”
“I mean, technically I am a friend of the family, these two knuckleheads unofficially adopted when I lived with them a few years ago and I haven’t been able to get rid of them since,” Bucks says with a grin.
TK turns on Buck and gives him a playful shove, looking scandalised, “Dude, you just wouldn’t go away! Besides, I always wanted a brother and-” he says the next part in a staged whisper, “secretly dad has always wanted a second son too.”
Buck chuckles and, using his height over TK, puts his head into a gentle headlock and messes up his hair while being mindful of his shoulder.
“Get off Buck! If I knew you would be like this when I met you, I would never have agreed to let you live with us!”
“Come on, admit it, you love me. You love having big brother Buck.” He says gleefully.
“You know I do, now would you let go!” responds TK without any heat to his words, enjoying the banter.
“Oh, dear lord, there are two of them,” Judd says and looks up to the ceiling in mock prayer.
Finally releasing TK, Buck gives him a nudge in his dad’s direction while simultaneously keeping the team’s attention to allow the two to disappear upstairs to talk.
Buck laughs, “Don’t worry Judd, I swear me being here is only temporary, I just came over from LA to support Owen while TK was in the hospital, but now that he’s walking and talking again I’ll be heading back to my own station soon.”
The five of them gravitate back over to the food and start setting the table for dinner. “So, you’re firefighter as well?” asks Judd.
“Yep, graduated in the same class as TK,” Buck replies, taking a seat.
“Oh, wait! If you’re from LA, you might know the firefighter who got a piece of rebar through his head. Judd mentioned it the other day.” asks Mateo.
Paul interrupts before Buck has the chance to answer. “Dude, just because he’s from LA, doesn’t mean that he knows all the other firefighters in the city.” Owen and TK join them at the table then, distracting him momentarily from his answer as he gets a small smile from TK.
“Ah, actually in this case I do… Chim, well Howard, is from my station.” Bucks says scratching behind his ear.
“What kind of name is Chim?” “Oh man, that’s crazy!”
“Chim is short for Chimney, a nickname that I still haven’t learned the story to yet, and crazy doesn’t even being to cover the things that have happened in LA…” his thoughts drift for a second before he shakes himself from that line of thinking, “but we’re not the only ones, I saw on the news you guys had tornados not long ago.”
He catches Owen narrowing his gaze at him and winces internally, knowing that the man had picked up on his lapse. Thankfully no one else seemed to notice, so Buck turns his focus back to the table and listens to Mateo energetic retelling of the events of that day.
Forgetting about his momentary slip-up, Buck lets the easy-going chatter wash over him. He takes it all in and smiles to himself, pleased that the energy of the table felt just like it does at the 118. He leans back in his seat, yeah, they did a good job at finding a family here.
** ** **
Something has been bothering Owen all night and that something has to do with Buck. He’s been worried about the kid since he got to Austin. Something about him just seemed off somehow. I mean, sure, he was still the same empathetic, heart of gold kid he met back in New York but now there’s this shadow of pain in his eyes that most people wouldn’t even realise was there. But Owen could see it.
He already had his suspicions that Buck wasn’t sleeping properly. In the mornings when he was sitting by TK’s bedside, he’d calculated that maximum amount of sleep Buck could possibly get, factoring in the time Buck left to travel to and from the house and the time that he returned, and at best the kid would be getting max 6 hours of sleep.
Realistically, it’s more likely closer to 5 hours, judging by the shadows under his eyes, but he just wanted to be optimistic. And that’s not including the fact that when he got to Austin he’d been awake for 30 hours not including a nap, so who’s to say what Buck’s sleeping pattern is actually like when he’s on shift and has an even less regular sleep routine. Let’s just say Owen is worried, to say the least.
In saying all this, though, not once had the kid complained or mention anything that was bothering him in the times that they sat together. But what really cemented his concern that something even was amiss, was the hesitation, the pause in what he was going to say at dinner. It bothered Owen to no end all through his shift and on the drive home.
It was mid-morning by the time he pulled into the driveway and he yawns as he gets out of the car. What he did not expect to discover upon entering his house was seeing Buck cooking in the kitchen nor seeing TK sitting at the island bench chopping up fruit bemoaning about his relationship with Carlos.
“Dude, you should just call him,” Buck says from the stove, flipping a pancake.
“What, am I supposed to say ‘oh hey Carlos, guess what? I’m awake, wanna go on a date?’”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying! To quote the Dalai Lama – Take into account that great love and great achievement involve great risk.” Buck says with a flourish of the spatula before adding the last pancake onto the pile.
“When did you get to be so wise?” asks Owen finally making his presence known as TK scrapes the last of the fruit into a bowl ready to be served. Buck slides a plate and cutlery in front of the two Strands, now sitting side by side, while he himself opted to stand opposite to them.
“Let’s just say a few too many near-death experiences gave me perspective.” He says it far too casually while stacking some pancakes to his plate. Without looking up he adds, “Dig in Owen, I made sure it was all organic.”
Owen for his part was no longer thinking about the food. “What do you mean too many-near death experiences?! The only one you told us about was the ladder truck!”
Buck freezes in his movement, looking like a dear caught in headlights before backpedaling with a very unconvincing recovery. “Did I say that? What I meant to say was that I have a very wise sister.”
“Buck.” TK draws out warningly.
The blonde man sighs in defeat and slumps forward onto the bench, leaning on his forearms. With his eyes downturned but darting, Buck begins to pick at his fingernails. “Uh, so I-um might have had a-um, a pulmonary embolism just after I got recertified.”
Owen opens his mouth, about to speak but it seemed Buck has more to say. “And I-uh might have been at Santa Monica Pier… when the tsunami hit.” He says the last part with a grimace.
TK and Owen's reaction to Buck's admission. TK and Owen go have their visit with Colt while Buck keeps himself occupied in a way he would not have predicted
I've been trying to finish this chapter for days now and whew, did this one got away from me a bit. Hope you enjoy it 💖
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Owen is at a loss for word, frozen to the spot in amazement that Buck was even standing here right now. TK, on the other hand, had moved so quickly that Owen barely even realised he moved, barrelling into Buck’s chest and pulling him in with his good arm while tucking his face in the crook of Buck’s neck.
Buck didn’t even hesitate before bringing his arms around TK in a loose circle, taking care not to jostle his shoulder and buries his face into TK’s hair, seemingly taking comfort in the contact.
Owen needed to handle this situation delicately; knowing that, growing up, Buck never really had his parents show and interest or care in anything important in his life and if they did, it was more often than not a negative experience. With this thought in mind, Owen moves from his spot, stepping round to the other side of the counter and envelops them both in his arms.
Eventually, TK is the first to untangle himself from Buck and steps back with a sniffle. Owen does the same, deciding it was best not to overcrowd. He stands there waiting for Buck to say something, but the young man was staring intently countertop, unwilling to look either of them in the eye.
Unable to take the silence, he exclaims, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell us!” More out of shock than anything, but he sees Buck wince at the words, nonetheless.
TK shoots him an incredulous look and a small shake of the head. Realising what his outburst must have sounded like, Owen cups Buck’s cheek and gently guides his face up to look at him. “Why didn’t you call?” he asks quietly.
Buck looks away shamefaced, dislodging Owen’s hand from his face. “I… uh, I don’t know, I just didn’t want you to worry about me. Again. You already did so much after the ladder truck. I didn’t want to make a big deal about this too.”
“Hey now, nothing is ever going to be too much,” Owen says softly, doing his best to get through to the young man that he’s come to love like his own.
“And of course, this is a big deal; we could have lost you and we wouldn’t have even known.”
Buck’s eyes widen at that thought, “I know, and I’m sorry I forgot to call you when they happened; and then by the time I realised, it seemed like so long ago I didn’t see the point in scaring you for nothing when everything is fine now.”
Owen cups his face in both hands for a moment, “I’m just glad that you’re alright.” He brings him back into a hug, “And there’s no need to apologise, just so long as you know that we’re here for you, even if it’s just to talk.”
Buck touches his forehead to Owen’s shoulder for a moment before breaking out of the hug. “Thanks, didn’t realise how much I needed that.” He says wiping away a stray tear with a chuckle.
They stand in silence for a moment before TK, sensing the need for a change in subject, claps and rubs his hands together with a smile. “Okay, so pancakes! They still look good even if they’re cold.” He catches both Owen and Buck’s eye and moves back around to his spot to pile his plated pancakes high with fruit and syrup.
Owen watches as Buck follows suit, falling back into a light-hearted conversation about TK and his potential relationship with a certain cop as if nothing had even happened. He himself moves back to his plate and marvels at Buck’s deliciously fluffy pancakes happy to see the blonde man smiling again and yet still feeling as though their conversation was just the tip of the iceberg of what really going on with him. They’ve laid the groundwork, all he had to do now is wait for Buck to come to him.
** ** **
TK and Buck’s banter is interrupted by Owen clearing his throat. “Much as I’d like to hang around, I got a hold of Colt’s parents last night and they said they were free this morning to see him and Judd said he’d only hold down the fort for me for a couple of hours before I have to head back.”
Buck watched as TK’s eyes widen in surprise before moving in a flurry of activity to get dressed into some more presentable clothes. Buck, however, stays in his spot and slowly tidies up from breakfast, moving all the dishes to the sink to be washed.
TK pauses as he put on shoes, realising that Buck had made no move to leave the kitchen. “You know you can come with us, right?”
Buck shakes his head with a small smile. “Nah man, this is something you guys need to do together.” He says the next part with a half shrug, “Besides, I was actually thinking of going for a walk to clear my head.”
“You sure?” asks Owen, stepping in close to Buck and placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Yeah, of course, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.” Buck says with a reassuring smile, “You guys do your thing.” And not ten minutes later they were out the door.
He sags against the island bench and lets out a rush of air before shaking away the heavy emotions threatening to overwhelm his thoughts. He wasn’t lying to Owen, going for walks really do help and that’s what he’s going to do. Quickly changing out of his pajamas, Buck heads out, turning left at the driveway and starts walking.
Buck loses track of time, lost in his thoughts wandering the streets of Austin when he happens to turn the corner to discover a woman shrieking at her house with a familiar-looking figure holding her back. He quickly runs up to assess the situation, coming to a stop next to the pair.
There was thick smoke coming from one side of the structure and Buck could see the flames through one of the windows. He listens to the man on the phone, clearly talking to dispatch and overhears that there were still two people inside; a man and a young boy.
“Buck?” Carlos had finally noticed his presence and he could see clear confusion on the man’s face at his sudden appearance.
Buck, fully focused on the structure, had no time for pleasantries. “How long has it been?”
“What?!” “How long has it been since the fire started?” he repeats, in no mood to explain.
“I don’t know, a couple of minutes? I was just driving past,” replies Carlos, still struggling to hold onto the woman. Buck starts moving towards the house.
“What are you doing!?”
“There’s no time. A house has 5 minutes at best before its completely on fire! I’m going in.” He says before running headfirst through the front door, just managing to catch the woman calling out to him that they were upstairs. Carlos just stares after him incredulously.
Moving as swiftly as possible up the stairs, Buck has no time to spare, feeling the flames lick at his trousers on his way up. He wastes no time peering into each open door, sputtering as the thick smoke invades his lungs. He finds the man in the second room he checked, lying prone in front of a closet.
Opening said closet, Buck is not surprised to find the young boy huddled in the bottom and for the briefest of moments, all he sees is Christopher on the day of the tsunami, same glasses, and the same striped yellow shirt. The boy wails up at him in fear, cutting through his memory.
Shaking himself from his sense of déjà vu, Buck ducks his head out the bedroom door only to see the flames burning on the stairs, confirming what he already knew. He was out of time. With sweat pouring out of every inch of his body and feeling as though he was hacking up a lung, Buck kicks out the glass of the bedroom window thankful that it was easily big enough to climb through.
Coaxing the kid out of the closet, he lifts him up on to his hip whispering reassurances in his ear before carefully passing him through the shattered window and onto a flat section of the roof.
He starts to move away but the kid tearfully clings to his arm, begging for him to stay. “Kiddo, you gotta let go. I have to get your dad, but I promise I’ll be right back.” whimpering, the boy reluctantly lets go.
Buck rushes to the man, hearing the protesting groans of the house as it threatens to collapse in on itself, and hooks his arms under the man’s armpits and drags him to the window. Climbing back out, he strips off his jacket and lays it on the jagged glass to protect the unconscious father as he pulls him through.
Grinning to himself as he hears the sirens of the firetrucks as they pull up, he doesn’t even notice the scratches he gets from the glass as he lies halfway through the window to lift and drag the man unceremoniously onto the roof. Hefting him up on his shoulders in a fireman’s hold, Buck moves quickly along the roof tiles towards the front of the house with the young boy keeping a tight hold on the back of his shirt.
Slipping a couple of times, they make it to the front of the house where the ladder extension of the truck was set up. Catching a glimpse of the truck Buck could clearly see the bold lettering of the numbers 126 on the roof, and he can’t help but groan in relief at seeing Paul nearing the end of the ladder. He sends the kid first, using his free arm to guide the kid to Paul who then helps the kid climb down to a waiting Marjan only a few rungs down.
Buck had just managed to pass the unconscious man from his shoulders to Paul when he lost his footing on a loose tile and he barely catches Paul’s panicked expression just before he goes sliding down the angled rooftop.
He scrabbles against the tiling in an attempt to slow his descent and he manages to catch hold of the gutter with his fingertips and he goes over the edge but it only for a moment before he loses his grip and comes crashing to the ground in a heap.
Stunned from being winded by the landing, all Buck can do is gape at the inferno gasping for air until he feels himself being dragged along the grass away from the flames by two sets of hands. He tries to bat away the hands of the paramedic who was giving him a cursory once over before pressing an oxygen mask to his face.
He’s barely able to register what she’s saying because he’s suddenly being hauled up by his shirt to come face to face with a furious looking Carlos. “Are you fucking insane!? Who the hell do you think you are, running into a burning building like that?”
Not sure when I'll have the next chapter done. I've got a lot of assignments due at the end of this week, so I'm not going to have the time to focus on this for a bit. Fingers crossed I might have something done sometime next week.
Buck goes to the hospital and we get a little Carlos POV
Okay, so I finally got this one finished. I'm not sure how I feel about the way it flows but maybe that's just because I've been writing it in between assignments and my brain is all over the place, but hopefully you still enjoy it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Buck stares up at Carlos, confused as to why this near-stranger was yelling at him and was about to answer his question when the paramedic swats at Carlos’ hands, “Carlos! Let the man go.” She exclaims, forcing him to release his shirt so she can work on his wounds.
Judd appeared in his field of view, peering down at him in confusion before realisation dawns across his face. “Cap! You should come over here! Your boy Buck was the person crazy enough to go inside without any gear.”
He couldn’t hear Owen’s response over the paramedic muttering to herself about all the numerous cuts on his body as she attempts to stop them from bleeding. Maybe it was the blood loss or the lack of oxygen, but it takes Buck longer than it should have to get the paramedic’s attention to give her an important detail. Fumbling with the oxygen mask and leaving a smear of blood on the plastic, he manages to say, “I’m on- I’m on blood thinners.”
Buck watches her eyes widen in alarm before settling into a calm sense of urgency over this new information and she reaches for her radio intending to call for another RA unit. Before she even utters a word, Buck stops her. “That guy looks like he needs the one that’s already here as much as I do. Just wrap what you can and put me in the seat, then you can watch both of us.”
“Alright then, we’ve gotta go now.” Quickly wrapping a bandage along each arm, she carefully helps him to his feet just as Owen joins them, immediately tucking his shoulder under Buck’s other arm, causing him to hiss slightly.
“You okay?” He asks, concern clear in his voice.
Buck can help but smirk through the sting, “Yep no worries, I’ll be fine. Just need to get these wounds sealed and I’ll be good as new.”
“If you’re sure,” Owen says hesitantly as they settle him into the ambulance. “I’ll send TK to keep you company at the hospital.” Buck looks down at the blood already seeping through the bandage, but then throws on a reassuring smile to Owen and gives him a one-fingered salute as they close the doors.
Admittedly, by the time they rolled into the hospital he was feeling a little lightheaded, and when Michelle, as he learned her name was, gives him a no-nonsense look when they wheel up a second gurney to the ambulance for him, he doesn't argue knowing there was no point, and graciously accepts help onto it as he fights a wave of dizziness.
As it turns out, the doctor was less than impressed by his apparent lack of self-preservation, especially when she discovers that he had two deep, freely bleeding lacerations; one on the underside of his arm and the other high up on the side of his chest. He guessed that he must have gotten them pulling the man through the window. It would definitely explain why he was feeling so tired.
She had just finished stitching up the second wound and was moving onto sealing the nuisance cuts on his arms when TK found him. “Dude, seriously, we leave you for a couple of hours and this is what you manage to do!” He says this in exasperation, but Buck could hear a hint of fondness in there too.
TK takes a seat beside him and waits in comfortable silence as the doctor dresses the wounds, and then informs them both that they’ll keep him for a few hours of observation to ensure there were no other complications from the smoke inhalation or the wounds.
After she leaves Buck immediately turns to TK, in a bid to distract him from the situation. “So, guess who I saw today.” He then proceeds to tell TK all about his encounter with Carlos at the scene and how he was none too pleased with his daring rescue.
“I can see why you like him. He has that fierce protector vibe, a quality might I add that your ex did not have and something that I think could do you some good.” TK blushes, and lightly punches him in the arm claiming that he didn’t need Buck’s approval, which Buck agreed, he didn’t.
After further discussion on the topic, Buck manages to convince TK to call Carlos and set up a date. What he did not expect however was for TK to include him in said date to go to the movies.
“So, what you’re saying is that I’ll be third-wheeling.”
“Come on Buck, baby steps, I don’t even know what our relationship is yet. Besides I want you to properly meet Carlos before you go home.” Buck, of course, relents to put TK at ease under the guise of reluctance but secretly he did want to get to know TK’s new man.
** ** **
Carlos has had a day. It's his day off and yet somehow, he still manages to be working in some capacity. In this case, its responding and calling dispatch about a house fire while keeping a distraught wife and mother from re-entering the house and being a third potential casualty instead of two.
And then out of nowhere, this guy, the one that he met briefly in TK’s hospital room starts questioning him like he’s the reason the house was burning. As soon as the guy got the answers he was apparently looking for, he was running towards the flames. What normal person does that? Does this guy have a death wish? Like sure, as a cop, Carlos was used to running towards danger, but he was trained for that sort of thing. Who was this Buck guy to do just that?
Conflicting emotions bubbled deep in his belly as he keeps the woman company while they wait with bated breath for some sign that Buck managed to pull off the rescue. Mostly, he was angry at this civilian who recklessly went into a burning house to play hero and frustrated at his inability to help besides calling for help is at the forefront. Surprisingly, fear was also swirling around in there.
Fear that this guy, Buck, a friend to both TK and Captain Strand, who he’s never seen before, had willingly put himself in danger and might not make it out safely. And then Carlos will have to be the one to tell the two Strands that their friend had put his life above two strangers and paid for it. He prays that by some miracle that Buck manages to save the father and son.
And then all at once, the 126 was at the scene, and Buck had emerged soot-covered, carrying the father on his shoulders along the rooftop with the child clinging to him. Carlos can’t help but cheer internally only to watch the man slip and land heavily in a deathly still heap on the ground.
He’s ashamed to say that he uncharacteristically let his fear and frustration control his actions and finds himself yelling in the poor man’s face. Michelle rightfully put him in his place and he moved off, going instead to give his statement to one of his colleagues before heading home to change out of his smoke scented clothes.
What he did not expect barely an hour later is to get a call from TK saying that he was out of the hospital and wanted to go out for a movie and possibly dinner afterward. In light of the morning he just had, it was a welcome surprise and he agrees to pick up him and this friend that TK wanted him to meet.
The afternoon came quickly enough and before he knew it, Carlos was at TK’s house and TK was opening the door and dragging him inside only to discover--
The man in question had just rounded the corner, pulling on a jacket and looking as if the morning didn’t even happen. Out of the corner of his eye, Carlos could see TK looking between them questioningly before stepping back and grabbing Buck by the wrist and bringing him up to stand in front of Carlos.
He’s not normally the type to feel threatened by another guy being close to someone he wants to be in a relationship with, but he can’t help but feel a twinge of insecurity at seeing the closeness between Buck and TK as they stand side by side with their shoulder brushing. He can’t help it, especially when Buck is this beautiful and muscular guy, a total catch.
After their re-introduction, the three of them head to the cinema which wasn’t far away by car. It didn’t take them long to decide on a rom-com and Buck shooed TK and Carlos off to wait somewhere more comfortable while he waited in line, insisting on being the one to pay for the tickets.
Almost as soon as they were seated, TK rounds on him.
“What’s going on with you? You’ve been acting weird since you knew it was Buck that was coming with us.”
“What’s the deal between you two?” TK’s thinly veiled concern morphed into amusement and he laughs at the question.
“That’s what this is about?” TK gently takes his hand in his own and presses it to his lips, “Oh Carlos, first off, I promise you there’s nothing going on between me and Buck. I mean yeah, he’s a pretty guy but its never been like that. Buck is more of a brother than anything and I’m pretty sure I’m not his type.”
At hearing this, Carlos groans and lets his head drop onto TK’s uninjured shoulder, burying his face into TK’s jacket in embarrassment. “I’m an idiot, aren’t I?” He mumbles into the fabric.
TK lightly pats his knee comfortingly. “You’re a cute idiot but don’t worry about it, it’s not the first time someone has thought that. We just got really close when he lived with us and we went through the fire academy together.”
“He probably thinks I’m an asshole.” Says Carlos lifting his head from TK’s shoulder, feeling guilty for the way he’s been acting. TK hums in response before patting his knee once more and gets up as Buck starts making his way over from the ticket booth.
“I’m sure he doesn’t but if you want to clear the air or whatever you can talk to him while I go to the bathroom, okay?” somewhat relieved in not having to ask, Carlos gives TK a quick nod and then TK was walking away, giving Buck a playful elbow bump as he passes him on the way to the bathroom.
Buck took TK’s spot and passes Carlos his ticket, looking away with a slight frown before he turns back to Carlos, and then they’re both speaking at once.
“Look, man, I’m sorry about this morning—” “Buck I’m sorry about how--”
Carlos stops talking abruptly and gestures for Buck to continue, “It's just- I’ve had experience with showing up too late to a fire, and knowing that I had a chance to save them, well, I had to take that risk. So, I’m sorry if I came across as a dick.”
He shakes his head. “Buck, I don’t even know why you're apologising when I was the one who was yelling at you for saving two people. I think you scared me more than anything, this civilian who I know is friends with TK and his dad just went into a burning house. I was afraid of what I might have to tell them if you didn’t make it out.”
Buck for his part, nodded along with his explanation, realisation dawning across his face at what he was implying, and Carlos couldn’t help but wonder if the guy had even considered that fact. From the looks of it, he wasn’t sure that he had, which was kind of concerning, to say the least.
Buck then scrunched up his face in confusion. “Wait, so why were you apologising?”
“Honestly, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I thought there was something going on between you and TK, and I kind of felt threatened with whatever relationship we seem to have. But I am also really sorry about getting in your face this morning, that was shit of me especially considering you were injured.”
“Oh. Well, apology accepted. And I swear there is nothing going on between us.” He grins, “besides TK isn’t really my type.”
Carlos laughed at that, “Yeah, TK pretty much said the same thing.”
“So, we’re cool?” Buck puts his hand out for him to shake and Carlos takes it gladly, happy to put the misunderstanding behind them. “Yeah, we’re cool.”
TK came back after that, smiling at the two of them before gesturing towards the concession stand eager to get popcorn and candy before the movie started. Conversation flowed much easier for the rest of the evening and Carlos can't help but feel the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.
I have a lot of uni to catch up on and I have exams in a few weeks, so I'll do my best but I can't guarantee when I'll have the next chapter done.
TK, Buck and Carlos have an evening together before everything comes to a head with Buck, who has reached his breaking point. His secret comes out, and so does Owen’s. (This chapter gets pretty sad and angsty pretty quickly in the form of one very bad nightmare, be warned)
Okayyyy, after what feels like an eternity, I have finally returned with an update!!!
Uni exams kicked me in the butt, but I managed to survive.
Thank you for you patience and I hope you enjoy the chapter 💕💕
The tension that Buck had been sensing from Carlos since he picked them up had dissolved after they cleared up their misunderstanding and now he was finally getting to know who Carlos really was. Immediately, Buck liked his personality; he was charming, funny, and genuine. Basically, the complete opposite of TK’s ex Alex.
He couldn’t help but be pleased by that fact, because in the years that he’s known TK, Buck is pretty sure he’s never seen him as happy and comfortable than when he’s around Carlos, even if TK doesn’t realise it himself.
Halfway through the movie, Buck had briefly glanced over at TK and Carlos and caught sight of their hands joined together resting on TK’s leg with their fingers intertwined. And then by the end of it, Carlos had his head on TK’s shoulder. Really, he couldn’t help but smile at the cuteness of it all.
The hand holding continued even after the movie had ended and they started walking the streets to find a relatively quiet place to have dinner. As they slowly traversed the streets, Buck learned that Carlos was a cop, which he found made so much sense.
They eventually stopped at a small Italian restaurant and found themselves a table in a corner near the window. Almost as soon as they take a seat, TK, clearly thinking about romance because of the movie and his relationship with Carlos, gives Buck a sly smile which immediately puts him on guard, “Sooo, how’re things with Eddie?”
Buck could feel a blush warming his cheeks and he brings the menu up to conceal his face, feigning nonchalance, “Eddie is fine.”
“Who’s Eddie?” Carlos asks, looking between them, confused.
“Oh, just someone that Buck works with, who he can never seem to shut up about, or his son for that matter.” Replies TK teasingly.
“I don’t know what you're talking about, Eddie and I are just friends.”
Oh come on dude, you’ve been on the phone with him every day since you’ve been here from what I’ve seen and from what dad tells me. You can’t tell me there’s nothing going on.” Buck shoots him a look but before he can respond, a waiter appears beside their table asking them if they were ready to order.
Buck looks up quickly and seizes the opportunity to change the subject by announcing that, yes, they were ready to order. He deliberates, before deciding on a salad which earns him an intensely concerned look from TK. Carlos, bless him, was not one for making things awkward when he noticed the exchange and ordered himself a seafood dish before ordering a carbonara for TK.
In no time the waiter was gone and with the teasing now forgotten TK changes the subject, wanting answers. “Dude, you okay? You’ve barely eaten at all today; only a couple pancakes for breakfast and then you missed lunch cause you were in the hospital and you barely had any popcorn at the movies either.”
TK wasn’t wrong. He had barely eaten anything today.
Honestly, he hasn’t really had a true appetite for quite some time. Not since the tsunami really. And it's not from the lack of trying, he does eat, mostly out of obligation more than anything because he knows that he can’t not eat in his line of work. But the thing was that he just wasn’t hungry, and he’s acutely aware that it’s because of the nightmares that plague his dreams and leave him nauseous when he wakes.
Looking between TK and Carlos before settling back on TK, he shrugs not wanting to elaborate on those thoughts in this moment, deciding instead on an equally plausible and simpler answer.
“I’m okay,” liar “I’m just not feeling 100% from the cuts and the smoke inhalation, but I’ll be fine.”
“If you’re sure…” TK says hesitantly while looking at him with narrowed eyes.
“I’m positive, don’t worry about it.” TK gives him another long, considering look before deciding to trust him and drops the matter.
Carlos, who Buck is liking more and more as he has gotten to know him, breaks the awkward silence with a change in conversation and tells a story from his first day on the force. After that, with the concern now forgotten, everything became light-hearted once again and soon enough their food had made its way to their table and into their stomachs.
Sure enough, the roiling in Buck’s stomach settled somewhat with dinner, but as he said to TK, he wasn’t feeling all that great especially with the amount of blood he lost. Really, he felt as if he’d just donated blood that day, except in this case it was much more pronounced.
His energy levels were flagging by they had all finished eating, so when he excused himself for a moment to use the bathroom, Buck also stops by the counter to pay the bill while also adding a couple of desserts to be sent out for TK and Carlos to enjoy. Upon returning, he leaned on his chair rather than sitting back down knowing it would take too much energy to get back up again, and announces that he was headed home for the night but that the two lovebirds should stay and have their dessert.
He couldn’t help but grin just a little bit at their confusion about the dessert before saying he’s already ordered something for them. He then ruffles TK’s hair and shakes Carlos’ hand before leaving. “I doubt I’ll see you again before I leave tomorrow but it was really great meeting you, Carlos.” He gives him a look, “Just don’t go breaking my boy’s heart.”
Carlos gives him an earnest smile in return. “Likewise, and don’t you worry, I’m not planning on it.”
Buck gives them both a nod and a wave before heading out the door and waits for the Uber he ordered. The car pulls up promptly and in no time at all, it was pulling up at the Strand house.
Thanking the driver, he yawns widely as he makes his way inside and quickly gets ready for bed before turning off the light and making himself comfortable under the covers. Feeling so exhausted from the day, he hopes that maybe for once it will be a dreamless sleep as he instantly feels the pull of sleep dragging him down into nothingness.
** ** **
Of course, it was never going to be a dreamless sleep, especially after the day he’s had.
Buck dreams of the tsunami. Lately, that’s all he’s been dreaming of. Of being tossed and spun around in the water, unable to tell which way was up. Like always, it feels like an eternity before he’s able to breach the surface, finally able to take in that breath that his lungs had been screaming for. Immediately his first thought is to find Christopher and he starts paddling to where he’s found him every other time only to find him missing. This is new. He calls out for him, swimming in a circle before he spots the fire engine and strikes out towards it only to find it empty as well.
Feeling despair welling up, he lets the wave drag him with it as the water recedes and finds himself being tossed back underwater before the it swells again and washes him up onto the footpath of a vaguely familiar street. Feeling the pavement scrape at his already raw skin, he drags himself up onto his hands and knees, panting, and looks ahead. It’s that house. The one from before with the father and son. Except this time, he can hear Christopher now. Coming from that house.
Picking himself up he gets to his feet only to immediately topple over. Looking down, Buck starts to hyperventilate, his leg from the knee down is gone. Missing. Amputated. Nonononono this can’t be happening, this has never happened like this. But before he has the chance to properly panic, Christopher’s voice breaks through to him, spurring him forward. He has to save him. He can’t let him down again.
Getting back onto his one foot, Buck starts hopping towards the house, and as he gets closer he can see Eddie being held back by Carlos, straining to break free to save his son. He hops once more towards the house only to nearly fall over in pain, feeling a lancing pain across his midsection. Looking down he can see blood seeping through his shirt.
With each hop, comes a new cut and by the time he makes it anywhere near the house he’s dizzy with blood loss and comes crashing down to his knees, too weak to be able to stand, screaming Christopher’s name. At some point Eddie’s voice cuts through his own, pleading for him to save his son. That it’s his fault. That he failed him. That he failed Christopher.
Rolling onto his back, all Buck can do is look up at the sky and heave in panicked breath after panicked breath, listening to Eddie telling what he’s always thought and ends up repeating Christopher’s name over and over again between breaths until another, different voice breaks through the haze. A warm, firm touch against his face from an unseen force, startles him awake and he tearfully comes face to face with Owen peering down at him in concern, ashen face full of worry.
He can’t catch a breath, fighting against Owen's hold and looking around for Christopher and calling his name. Vaguely, through his panic, he can hear Owen talking to someone before a phone is being pressed up against his ear.
“Buck? What’s happening.”
“Eddie.” He manages to gasp out. “Tell me again.”
“You saved Christopher. He’s safely sleeping in his bed. What happened was not your fault, you couldn't have know a natural disaster would happen.” Eddie says calm and evenly, repeating a well-rehearsed set of sentences that they learned calmed him best.
Hearing the words was like a balm to his panicked heart and he leans forward bonelessly against Owen who was still sitting on the edge of his bed. Letting his breath slow, he looks down at his arm and sees the bandages, reminding him of the cuts in his dream and leading him to remember his leg. He takes in a sharp breath as he reaches down to feel the part of his leg that was missing and sighs, reassured to find it where it should be.
“Buck? You still there?”
“Yeah,” he replies softly, “I’m still here.”
“Are you good? Did you need me to…?” The question goes unasked, but Buck knew what he was offering.
“No that’s okay Eddie I don’t think I need to see him tonight. You go back to sleep.”
“Alright. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Thanks Eds, see you.”
“Anytime Buck.” And then he was gone, leaving Buck to bring his attention back to Owen who was watching him carefully.
He waits for him to say something, ask him what all that was, but Owen doesn’t, instead, he shifts closer and opens his arms. And that’s all it takes to turn him into a sobbing mess, falling against his warm chest and buries his face into Owen’s shoulder. Through heaving breaths, he can hear Owen murmuring into his hair as he holds him tight and that’s when all his resolve goes out the window and he tells him everything.
“I lost him…. I lost Christopher, Eddie’s son in the tsunami. I had him and then he was gone. I looked everywhere for him, found his glasses but I couldn’t find him. And that’s all I dream about. It used to be the bombing or losing Maddie but ever since the tsunami, all I dream about is losing him over and over again. Every time I close my eyes, I’m back there, reliving that moment.” He pulls back from Owen’s embrace and wipes at his eyes.
“Tonight’s one was so much worse. The house fire from earlier, the kid, he reminded me so much of Chris. This time I couldn’t find him anywhere like I normally did and then I’m back at that house and Chris is calling for me and Eddie was there yelling at me to save him and I couldn’t do anything because my leg had been amputated and I got all these cuts all over my body. Owen, it was horrible.”
Owen pulls him back into a bracing hug, and Buck can’t help but fist his hands into the back of his shirt while pressing his face into his neck. Only then does Owen begin to speak.
“Eddie knows about the nightmares?”
Buck nods into his shirt before mumbling, “Only because I called him so many times after some really bad ones in a panic asking for Chris. He doesn’t know how often or what they’re about, but he’s got an idea.”
“This is why you barely sleep, isn’t it? You have nightmares every night.” Buck doesn’t say anything to that, instead nodding once again into Owen’s shoulder.
Owen sighs and pulls away, taking Buck's face into his hands. “I presume you haven’t told anyone else about this either.” Buck can’t bring himself to meet Owen’s gaze, confirming what the man already guessed. “Just promise me you’ll consider talking to someone about all of it. I hate seeing you like this. I just want you to be happy.”
Not one to be able to reject such a sincere request from someone he loves, Buck meets his gaze with a small nod, “Yeah, okay. When I get home, I’ll go see someone. I promise.”
Owen thumbs away a stray tear from his cheek and gives him a gentle smile, “That’s all I could ever wish for.”
Now that he’s had the time to calm down, Buck refocuses on Owen, taking in his haggard and pale appearance. Grasping Owen’s wrist and bringing his hand down into both of his, Buck finally voices his concerns.
“Owen, what’s been going on with you? I know something has been up with you since we had that talk in the car.” Buck gestures to his appearance, “Frankly, you look awful. Like you’ve been sick.”
Owen leans back and looks away, passing his free hand over his face as he does so. “That’s because I was throwing up in the bathroom before I heard you having a nightmare.”
“Buck, there’s no easy way of telling you this… but I’ve got lung cancer. I’ve known for a while, since we left New York actually. The chemo I’ve been getting has been making me feel nauseous lately, hence the throwing up.”
Buck sits there dumbfounded by the news but finds that he’s not as surprised by it as he thought he would be, mostly because he’d done a whole lot of research on 9/11 and its survivors some years back. Really, all he needed to know was two things.
“Does TK know?”
Owen rubs the back of his neck and looks away in discomfort, “Yeah, I told him a month or so ago now.”
Buck firmly takes Owen’s wrist in his hand and moves his head to catch Owen’s eye, “And you? How are you holding up?”
Owen huffs at his insistence but doesn’t complain, “The treatment is rough, but the doctor I’m seeing is hopeful and so am I.”
Buck nods, satisfied with the answer, and lightly claps his hand against Owen’s shoulder, holding it there, “We’re going to be alright.” It’s a statement, hopeful for what the future brings.
Owen gently pats Buck’s cheek fondly. “Yeah, we will be kid.”
And with that, he gets up with a groan, presses a kiss to Buck’s forehead, and heads out before pausing at the door, “Try to get some sleep.” He says over his shoulder before quietly shutting the door as he leaves.
Buck goes home and finally addresses some things that he's been neglecting for far too long.
Exhausted, Buck falls back against his pillows and rolls over to check the time on his phone to see how long he had to wait before it was acceptable to be awake. 12:47am. Damn, he’d only been asleep for what? Some 3 hours? It felt like he’d be sleeping for much longer than that.
Settling back onto his back, Buck shuts his eyes with a heavy sigh knowing that It’ll be unlikely for him to sleep, especially not after a nightmare like that. Sometimes if he’s lucky, he’s able to get a few hours of shut-eye if the nightmare is just a memory on repeat, but the ones that send him reeling and in desperate need to call Eddie, well he can expect the rest of his night to be a sleepless one.
He couldn’t have been lying there for more than 20 minutes when he hears the door creak open with TK whispering, “Buck, you still awake?”
Instead of answering or opening his eyes, he pats the untouched side of the bed, beckoning TK to join him. There’s a pause before he hears the soft padding of footsteps on the carpet and then he feels the bed dip underneath TK’s weight.
They lie there quietly, listening to each other breathe until Buck can’t take the silence anymore and turns his head to look at TK curiously.
“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”
TK blushed at the question. “Uh, I just got in from dinner actually,” He shakes his head, “but that’s not why I’m here. Are you okay?”
Buck rolls over onto his side and props up on his elbow, looking down at TK. “Am I okay? I feel like I should be asking you that.”
TK turns his head to the side to look back at him. “Buck, I heard you and dad. You just had a freaking nightmare, and you’re asking me if I’m okay?”
Buck gives him a look. “I mean, I’m not the one who woke up two days ago from a coma after being shot, nor does my dad have cancer.”
Buck knew he was deflecting the question because he didn’t have an answer for TK, and clearly TK had no response either judging by how quiet he became after that. With nothing left to say, he flops back onto his back and wedges a hand under his head. And they lie there like that, for some time after that, neither really knowing what to say until TK’s softly speaks up again.
“It’s not weird to be afraid to go back to work, right? I mean I got shot, if that can happen on the job, what else is could happen?"
“I know exactly what you mean,” he replies, matching TK’s quiet tone. “And no, I don’t think it’s weird at all, but then again I’m probably not the best person to talk to about this considering my track record...”
TK reaches down and takes hold of his wrist. “Buck, out of anyone, you’re probably the best person to talk about this because you know what it’s like. Would you tell me what it was like for you?”
Buck sighs deeply. “I’m not going to pretend it was easy because it wasn’t, even with how much as I wanted to be back at work. When I first got back, getting into the truck was the worst part for a long time, I had this constant feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach that something bad was going to happen. I’m still waiting for that feeling to go away.” He says the last part under his breath, but TK still heard him.
He continues on, “And, well, you know about the nightmares; actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if that feeling contributes to them honestly.” He sighs again, “Tonight’s wasn’t the first nightmare I’ve had relating to what happened, but it certainly was one of the worst. That’s not to say any of this will be the same for you though, I had a lot of other things happen before I was actually back at work which I’m sure made things worse.”
There was a long, drawn-out pause before TK finally says somewhat jokingly, “Ah, that explains why you look like crap.” Unsure of what else to say, choosing instead to lighten the mood; and Buck can’t help but roll his eyes in amusement and throws a pillow at him in response.
“But seriously though, dad was worried that you weren’t sleeping, I’m guessing that’s why?”
“Yeah,” Buck says softly.
Then with an air of levity, he speaks up again with a light chuckle, “Between you, me and Chim, we should start a little support group for firefighters who’ve had near-death experiences.”
He’s one of the guys I work with; the man has been stabbed and he’s survived a piece of rebar in his head.”
TK looks at him in surprise, “Wow, okay, wasn’t expecting that.” His voice takes on a considering tone. “Maybe we should.”
Buck hums in response, feeling the pull of sleep tugging at his consciousness and feeling surprisingly comfortable and more relaxed than he’s ever felt so soon after a nightmare. Even if he doesn’t sleep, it still usually it takes him a couple of hours for his body and mind to settle after an intense dream, but this time, after talking with Owen and having TK lying next to him, it didn’t seem quite so bad.
He feels TK shift on the bed and releases his wrist as he fights to keep his eyes open. But before TK could move far, Buck reaches out and takes hold of his wrist stalling him in his movements.
“Would you stay?”
The request was a familiar one, except this time their roles were reversed, which is why TK doesn’t hesitate, he just pulls the covers back and settles into the bed, shuffling in close. Comforted by TK’s presence, Buck finally lets his eyes fall shut.
He feels TK gently brush away a curl from his forehead as he whispers, “You can sleep now Buck.”
And he does.
** ** **
Buck flew out later that morning feeling more rested for the first time since he’d come to Austin. Owen luckily had the morning off before work and insisted that he and TK would drive him to the airport to see him off.
Their farewell was a quick affair with Owen stopping in the departures zone, leaving the car idling and giving him an awkwardly positioned hug over the console between them and making him promise to keep in touch.
TK, on the other hand, got out of the car with him and pulled him in for a hug and whispers familiar words in his ear, “Remember great love involves great risk, maybe you should heed your own advice.”
Buck looks at him in surprise but nods nonetheless before TK climbs back into the car and raises his hand in a wave as they pull away. Hiking his bag up on his shoulder Buck heads to the terminal, with TK’s words still lingering in his thoughts.
The flight went by quickly and Buck landed back in LA just after lunchtime. Distracted by his stomach grumbling as he scrolls through his phone to pull up a rideshare app, he almost misses his name being called out.
Startled, Buck slows his steps as he looks around, searching for where the voice came from until his eyes eventually land on Eddie. The man smiling in front of him was wearing his LAFD shirt, fresh off a shift no doubt, and holding up a brown paper bag that Buck is certain was containing some form of bakery goods.
“What are you doing here?” He asks as he approaches Eddie, surprised to see him, having forgotten that Eddie had said he would see him tomorrow in their call last night.
“Well you told me the other day when you were getting in, so I figured I’d pick you up, so you wouldn’t have to pay the absurd costs of an Uber to get to your place.” Eddie lightly shakes the paper bag, “and I figured you’d be hungry. Your favourite, the double choc chip muffins from that vegan bakery you like.”
“Eddie I- thank you.” He ends up saying gratefully, at a loss for words.
If Buck wasn’t already feeling that he might be in love with Eddie, he certainly was now. He probably would have denied such claims up until this moment, with this simple gesture sending him jumping off into the deep end. No one has ever done something like this for him just because they wanted to.
As they walk to Eddie’s truck in the parking lot, Buck makes the conscious decision to walk close enough that their arms brushed almost constantly. With this close proximity, he tentatively knocks his hand against Eddie’s and waits to see if Eddie pulls away, putting some distance between them. He doesn’t.
Encouraged by the lack of a negative response, Buck knocks his hand once again against Eddie’s before gently taking his hand in his own and laces their fingers together. Trying not to make a big deal out of it, he doesn’t look directly at Eddie, allowing him to accept or reject the action without it being a thing.
He sees out of the corner of his eye Eddie looking down at their joined hands before he looks away and brings Buck’s hand up to his mouth and presses a tender kiss to the back of his hand, making it clear to Buck that the feeling was mutual.
He must have let out an audible sigh of relief as they arrive at the truck, because Eddie turns to him, claiming all of his attention with a soft smile.
“I wondered when you were finally going to make a move.”
“Well I guess this was a long time coming, wasn’t it? And all it took to send me over the edge was for you to bring me muffins at the airport.” Buck says, grinning back at Eddie.
Eddie lightly presses the bag of muffins into Buck’s chest and gives his hand a little squeeze before letting go to move to the driver’s side of the truck. Buck smiles to himself before getting in, thinking that yeah, maybe the Dalai Lama was onto something.
** ** **
No matter how good his day could be, Buck can never predict what his night would bring. Tonight, it ended up being another nearly sleepless night and although it was nowhere near as bad as his last night in Austin, it still left him exhausted all the same.
When he pulls into work that morning, the parking spaces were only half full, with both Eddie and Bobby having arrived before him. And just like every other day that he’s had a nightmare beforehand, Buck throws on what he hopes is a cheerful expression and walks between the trucks like he hasn’t a care in the world.
Eddie was still in the locker room tying his shoes when he arrived and as he looks up to return his greeting, Eddie’s smile quickly turned into a small frown.
“What? Do I have something on my face?” Buck asks, wiping away at non-existent crumbs that he thought might have been stuck around his lips from his quick breakfast.
Buck could see the concern brewing in Eddie’s eyes, “You had another nightmare last night, didn’t you?”
Not wanting to lie to Eddie Buck sighs and nods, letting his mask fall away, what was the point in hiding it if Eddie knew the truth anyway. At his answer, Eddie gets up off of the bench seat and steps in close to Buck.
“I’m worried about you Buck, I thought they had gone away months ago but then you called me the other night and…” Eddie trails off, truly looking at Buck with fresh eyes and lets out a barely audible gasp, “They never stopped, did they?” Buck presses his lips together and reluctantly nods again.
“Buck, I’m sorry I didn’t notice it before.”
Buck shakes his head at Eddie, “It’s not your fault, Eddie. I tried to keep it all to myself,” He takes in a deep breath, “but I’ve realised, with some help, that I should actually talk to someone about it properly.”
“Good,” Eddie breathes out, “I’m glad.”
They stand there practically chest to chest until Eddie’s eyes widen slightly, having just noticed their close proximity, causing Buck to suppress a chuckle. They had agreed to keep whatever their relationship was under wraps until they were ready, meaning that included keeping things professional at work which of course they would do regardless of their relationship status.
Buck turns away with a smirk and quickly changes into his uniform before going to seek out Bobby, who he of course finds in the kitchen.
“Buck! Good to see you back! I take it everything is okay now?”
“Yeah but honestly, I don’t know if the trip ended up being more beneficial for them or for me. There was a lot we apparently hadn’t talked about. Actually, that’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
Bobby pauses minutely before continuing with making them each a mug of coffee, “Oh?”
“I- uh, I was wondering if you could me give Frank’s number again, I can’t remember where I put the last card you gave me.”
Bobby slides Buck’s mug to him and takes a sip of his own. “Of course. Is this something I need to know about?”
Buck scratches behind his ear, “I- yes- no- probably? I’ve been having nightmares for a while now,” he admits with a grimace, might as well get it all out there, “since the ladder truck really.”
Bobby’s eyebrows shot up in surprise at that answer and he sets down his mug carefully. “I had no idea.”
Buck shrugs. “I hid it well. Not your fault.”
“Well, I’m glad you came to me. Come on, let's go to my office and I’ll get you one of his cards.”
Bobby gives him a look as he rifles through his desk drawers, “Actually, I thought this was going to be about a curious report I got from Captain Strand detailing an off duty 118 firefighter, who happened to do a rescue without any gear and got himself injured enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that?”
Buck surges forward, “Bobby, I swear it’s not as bad as it sounds, I just got caught on some glass and had to get some stitches. I wouldn’t be here if it was a problem.”
Bobby gives him an assessing look as he hands him Frank’s card. “I trust you, Buck. But if I have to, I will put you on light duty just until the cuts have healed enough.” He ends up saying softly.
Nodding Buck takes the card, accepting the conditions without protest while feeling lighter with the knowledge that Bobby finally knows everything and trusts him enough to allow him to keep working.
** ** **
~ Epilogue ~
It was a few days later and Buck was just leaving his first appointment with Frank, feeling as though things might actually turn out alright when his phone rings. Surprised to see TK’s caller ID so soon, he quickly accepts the call.
“Hey TK, how’s it going? I heard you had an insane solar storm yesterday.” He says as he pushes his way through the building’s front door. His eyes seek out Eddie who had promised him to drive him to his appointment in moral support in case it didn't go well.
“Yeah Buck, I’m good. That’s actually why I’m calling.”
Seeing Eddie leaning against the side of his truck as he walks up, Buck gives him a smile before pointing to the phone and mouthing “TK” to him. “Oh yeah?”
“You were right. There was this accident and I let my instincts take over and I just reacted, helping this lady trapped in an overturned bus during the storm. Firefighting is what I want to be doing.”
“I’m happy you’ve figured it out, I knew you would.”
“And Carlos and I are finally boyfriends too, I wanted to thank you for giving me that little push.”
Buck chuckles, “That’s so great to hear!” He looks at Eddie who was watching him fondly with his warm brown eyes, “And you know what, I should be thanking you too for throwing my advice back in my face.”
“So, you finally took the risk with Eddie, huh?”
He smiles to himself and scuffs his shoe on the asphalt, “Yeah, and it was the best choice I could’ve made.”
“I’m glad to hear it, Buck. Things seem to be looking up for us.”
“Looks like it.” Buck looks down at his watch. “Hey listen, I’ve got to go, but talk soon yeah? And tell Owen I said hi.”
“Yeah, of course. Talk soon Buck.”
Buck finally hangs up the phone and gives his full attention to Eddie who had been waiting patiently for him to finish the call. He leans down and softly presses a kiss to his lips.
“Hey,” he says with a smile.
“Hey yourself,” replies Eddie, “How’d it go?” he asks as they get into the truck.
“It went surprisingly well, I think. There’s a lot of stuff for us to unpack, but I know it’ll be worth it in the long run.”
“That’s good to hear. Now, what’s say you to coming with me to pick Chris up from school?”
“I’d love to, as long as we stop to get ice cream after.” Eddie gives him a look, “What? It’s an ice cream sort of day.”
Eddie rolls his eyes at him with a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “Now how could I say no to that.”
Buck watches Eddie contentedly as he drives. Yeah, things were looking up alright, and he can’t wait to see where they go from here.
~ Fin ~
Oh gosh! We finally made it!
Thank you for those of you who followed with reading this story to its end and I hope you liked it!! And thank you for all your comments, I really appreciate them and I want you to know that they kept me motivated to get this finished 💖