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Rememberance

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It was going to be a strange day – a strange week - at the 118, Bobby muses as he starts roll call at the start of the morning shift. The first thing he notices is the quiet – the complete absence of joy and light brought by one Evan “Buck” Buckley.

The second thing he notices is Hen’s expression; a little lost without her youngest sibling to tease and mother hen over.

Bobby smiles at his team despite the heavy atmosphere. “Hen, Chim, let’s check the ambo stock before we get a call. Robinson, Marshall, the ladder truck. Collins, Jones, the pump truck.”

Yes, he himself was missing Buck, but it was only a week. The boy would be back from his leave soon enough, and they still had a station to run.

As if on cue, his phone starts ringing, and he grins when he sees the familiar name flash up.

“Hey, Buckaroo.”

“Hey Cap.” The boy’s voice is like music to his ears. “I know it’s the start of shift, but I just wanted to check in.”

Bobby can’t help but smile as he heads up to his office. “You know I’ve always got time for you, kid.”

He can almost hear the grin in Buck’s voice. “You miss me already?”

“What gave it away?” He laughs.

“I’ll be back in a week, pops.”

“Yeah, I know.” Bobby puts the phone on speaker so he can start with his paperwork for the day. “You find the 126 okay?”

“Yeah, they showed me around yesterday and I gotta say Bobby… Their coffee machine is better than ours.”

“Is that all?”

“A firehouse is a firehouse, right?” Buck replies with a chuckle. “Except when it’s home.”

“And we’ll be right here waiting for you when you get back.” Bobby replies, warmth in his chest. “Your mom said we have too many leftovers at dinner now.”

“I miss your cooking.” Buck replies and Bobby can actually hear his stomach grumbling. “Tell mom if she freezes them, I’ll happily eat them at the weekend.”

“Is that all you miss?” He grins.

“Nah. No little siblings to throw pillows at here.” Buck laughs. “And of course, I miss you and mom.”

“We miss you too, Buck.” Bobby turns off the speakerphone, putting the handset back to his ear. “Stay safe, and thank Owen for me for taking you in for the week.”

“Will do. You too, Dad.”

The call ends, and Bobby huffs softly, looking to the picture frame on his desk; himself, Athena, Buck, May and Harry. His family.

It’s going to be a long week.

 

Everything hurts.

He’s not sure how he manages to climb from the wreckage of his car, but he does, even as his body screams in protest.

He supposes it was survival instinct, being that the engine was already alight, the flames way too close for comfort – licking his face – as soon as he awoke. He’s a firefighter. He knows what those flames are capable of.

So he’d dragged himself out of the car, legs buckling beneath his battered body, crawling on the tarmac away from the heat and melting leather.

He can’t breathe.

Everything hurts.

He can feel blood dripping down his face from a gash above his eye, but he knows head wounds bleed a lot. His eyes aren’t fuzzy, his vision clear; he thinks he might have escaped without a concussion. But his neck hurts, and his chest, and pretty much everything else.

He fumbles for his phone, but it’s not there, and he knows he can’t go back to the car to search for it; too much of it now alight.

So he stumbles over to the truck that t-boned him, checking the driver. Dead. No cellphone. Nothing.

Buck groans.

They’re on a deserted road just outside of Austin, because of course Buck had to pluck for a cheap hotel, being that this whole trip was his own doing. Of course he couldn’t have just enjoyed a week off in L.A. Of course Mr ants-in-his-pants couldn’t bear the thought of a week without anything to do, so volunteered to go see the brand new station 126, and make friends down in Austin, Texas.

Of course he had to be the victim of an accident he would normally be responding to.

Of course there would be no-one around.

Buck knows he should wait for help – knows moving could aggravate his injuries more – but who knows how long help could be? He’s torn, unsure, and then the car he’d been driving starts to smoke heavily, spitting and crackling, and Buck knows what it means.

He’s moving, dragging himself away as quickly as he can, but it’s not enough. The car explodes, and the force of it knocks him down hard.

He sees stars.

Then nothing.

Everything hurts.

 

Owen Strand worries as soon as the clock passes 6pm and Buck isn’t there.

He may have only known Evan Buckley for a day, but he got the feeling – and knew from the reports his fellow captain had sent over – that Buckley was nothing if not punctual.

So when he didn’t show up for his 5.30 start, Owen got a bad feeling in his gut. 30 minutes later, with roll call done and his normal crew going about technical checks, Owen starts to worry.

“Anyone heard from Buckley?” He calls out, only to receive a chorus of no’s.

Owen liked the kid. He’d been surprised when Captain Nash had called him, explaining that Buck was due a week off, had been forced to take it, but refused to just relax like most others would. He’d said Buck wanted to take the time to see how some of the other stations worked, meet their crews, and basically still do his job. He’d been surprised, but impressed; that certainly was devotion to the job.

So Owen had agreed to take Buck for a week, and show him the brand new 126 and what they could do.

He’d arrived only a day and a half ago, and they’d met the previous afternoon for a tour of the station, and then the whole team went out for drinks. Buck had gotten on quite well with his son, T.K., and his son’s boyfriend, Carlos. All in all, it had been a good night.

But now Buck wasn’t here, and Owen was worried.

The call of the siren distracts him momentarily, racing to the printer to get the details of the call, and then jumping into the truck with his team, but as soon as they’re on their way to the call, Owen’s gut just tightens.

He feels sick, and he isn’t sure why.

He gets his answer when they pull up to the scene of the accident; a truck having T-boned a small mini.

The mini is Buck’s rental car.

He knows because he’d had to register the car registration on the parking log site for the station.

He knows because Buck was the one who gave himself and T.K. a lift home the night before.

He knows because he’d watched it leave his house, Buck waving with a grin.

He feels sick.

“Buck!” T.K. seems to realise too, because then he’s racing to the mini – the rest of the team immediately hosing down what’s left of it – but the majority is nothing more than a charred skeleton. Only the back end seems to have escaped total destruction, license plate still gleaming in the dark. “Buck!”

Owen knows there won’t be a reply.

 

There had been little for them to do beyond recovery and clearing the road, and then the drive back to the station is sombre and heavy.

T.K. has tears in his eyes, grief for his new friend threatening to swallow him, so Owen puts a hand on his son’s knee, and tells him to go call Carlos.

He tells the rest of the team to go home, and calls in for a relief shift.

He knows they can’t go out again tonight.

One day, but Evan Buckley had quickly wormed his way into their hearts.

One day, and now all of them were in pieces.

Owen’s hand is shaking as he picks up the phone.

He feels sick.

“Nash.” The response is too chipper, too light, and Owen’s hand unconsciously tightens on the phone, tears springing back to his eyes.

“Bobby, it’s uh… it’s Owen Strand.”

“Owen.” Bobby sounds confused by his call, though still jovial. “How are things at the 126? Buck doing okay?”

Owen swallows, running a hand over his face. He can’t do this. “Um… That’s… That’s why I’m calling. Bobby… there’s been an accident.”

“What?” He can hear the moment his fellow captain shatters.

A shaky breath escapes him. “About an hour ago, we were called to a collision between a truck and a mini, just outside of Austin. The mini was Buck’s rental car.”

“Are you… Are you sure?”

“I’m afraid so.” He swears then, because the next part… the next part he just doesn’t know how to articulate. “The… The mini… It wasn’t salvageable Bobby… Gas tank exploded and…” He can’t go on.

There’s a choked sob on the other end of the phone, and it breaks Owen’s heart.

 

Edmundo Diaz was enjoying a relaxing weekend with his son on the army base at Austin. He and Christopher were curled up on the couch with a film playing on the TV, bowl of popcorn in his lap.

His son’s laughter echoed through the house, and every second just warmed Eddie’s heart more and more.

Things had been rough since Shannon left them, but they were slowly getting back to normal.

Eddie was now working as a Sergeant trainer for the new recruits, and would not be redeploying. The base had been really accommodating based on Christopher’s needs, and it made him glad that he didn’t have to worry about Chris losing his other parent.

Eddie could be everything his boy needed, and more.

His haze of joy is broken by a noise from outside; the clang of chain linked fencing he’s now associated with drunk teenagers or thieves.

Pausing the movie, he gives Christopher his phone and tells him to be ready to call base security. Then he puts his shoes on, and slides into the back yard on full alert.

Their house is one of the ones to back up against the perimeter of the base, so their back fence is chain linked with barbed wire at its top, to deter people from entering the restricted area. It doesn’t stop thieves from trying though – as if they think soldiers make millions – or deter drunk kids from trying to break in as a dare.

So as he approaches the fence, flashlight in hand, that’s what he expects.

He doesn’t expect the slumped form of a man, a single hand grasping at the fence. Eddie can quickly see that he’s bloody and battered, bone protruding from his arm, face red and burned beneath crusted blood.

Eddie swears, racing back into the house to grab his bolt cutters, telling Chris to call for medics.

Then he’s racing back to the fence, cutting it open and pulling the man into the garden, laying him on his back. Protocol be damned when someone was clearly in need of emergency medical help.

The side of the base Eddie’s fence backs onto is a small back road that no-one uses unless they’re coming to the base, but it leads from a commonly used route into Austin; usually used by those staying just outside of town. Eddie wonders what could have happened for the man to have clearly walked towards the base in this condition.

There’s leaves and sticks in his hair, mud under his fingernails, so Eddie can only assume he was walking the edge of the road when he slipped down the embankment between the road and the base perimeter, landing at Eddie’s fence.

In a way, Eddie’s grateful for that. The entrance to the base was at least another fifty clicks from their position, and the man looked too exhausted and weak to have made it that far.

In a way, the Diaz house might be his saving grace.

Eddie whispers that help is on its way and the man just groans, pained eyes flickering open for a few brief seconds.

They’re the most beautiful blue eyes Eddie has ever seen.

“What’s your name?” He asks softly, a thumb gently caressing the side of the man’s face that isn’t burned, hoping to provide some measure of comfort. “I’m Eddie.”

The man coughs, eyes sliding shut, but Eddie just hears his whisper.

“Evan.”

Chapter Text

Eddie looks over at his sleeping husband and son, and can’t help but smile.

If you’d have asked him two years ago what he imagined his future to be, it wouldn’t be this.

For starters, he wouldn’t have ever thought that he wouldn’t be in the army anymore.

He wouldn’t have expected to have left Texas.

He certainly wouldn’t have expected to be married again.

Yet here he is, married to the best person he’s ever met, with the most amazing eight year old son.

He could not be happier.

The day he’d found Evan – a day he doesn’t think about often, but when he does it brings tears to his eyes – was the day his life was turned upside down. The EMT’s had arrived quickly, taking him to the hospital, and Eddie had bundled Chris into the car without even thinking. Then he’d stayed by Evan’s side through a four day coma, stayed with him through memory tests and diagnostics, through nights of tears and heartbreak when no-one came for him.

Still to this day he doesn’t know what had drawn him to the man’s side, but he hasn’t left him since.

Yes, there was a certain fear within him – a fear that one day Evan would remember someone else – or that someone would find him – but Eddie always quashed it down.

Evan couldn’t live in the past, so Eddie wouldn’t either.

They had their present, and their hopes for the future.

The rest would come a day at a time.

Brushing back both sets of unruly curls, Eddie smiles fondly at his boys. “I love you, so much.” He whispers.

Christopher snuffles, curling closer to Evan, while Evan just holds him tighter.

Eddie’s heart swells.

The move to L.A. hadn’t been planned, but Pepa and Abuela had been wanting to see more of Christopher for a while now, so when Evan – fresh out of fire academy – had received an offer to join the California Smokejumpers, they’d had little reason to say no.

“I feel like I belong there.” Evan had whispered one night as they slept, before he’d officially accepted the offer. Eddie hadn’t asked whether he meant the job or the city, but he hadn’t needed to. Flashes had plagued Evan’s dreams for months, and he was still trying to work out if they were imagined, or parts of his past. It had been the whole reason he’d joined the fire academy in the first place; that, and as a way to heal from his trauma.

Evan was still sensitive about his face, despite the reconstruction having covered the majority of the burns. He still had some scaring on his ear, as well as the surgical marks, but all in all it was the best job they could have hoped for. They say he looks about eighty percent of how he would have done before the accident, and Eddie thinks it’s one of the reasons why Evan doesn’t cry as much anymore about those he might have lost; he figures how could they find him, if he doesn’t quite look the same?

In Eddie’s eyes, his husband is beautiful no matter what, and he takes care to tell him that every night and every morning.

He’s still watching over his boys when the alarm hits 6am, and he quickly silences it before it can wake them. Sliding out from the bed, he lets them have a few extra minutes, going into the kitchen to make pancakes.

Evan had been with the Smokejumpers for about a month and a half now, and while Eddie worried about his husband every day, he too was following down a similar career path. Eddie himself had finished his training here in California, and just this morning was set to start his new job as a probationary firefighter for the 118. To say he was nervous would be an understatement; he was going to be the fifteenth person to pass through their doors in as many months.

Apparently the 118 had been having trouble finding a suitable teammate to fill their open slot, after losing one of their own in a tragic accident. Eddie’s heart went out to them, knowing his own losses while in the army, and could only hope they’d let him help them heal.

Soft footsteps and the sound of crutches toss him from his thoughts.

Evan grins at him as he descends the stairs with Chris, their son beaming from ear to ear. “We got you a present!” Chris shouts, a small wrapped package in hand.

Eddie smiles wide, turning off the stove and plating the last of the pancakes he’d been making, taking them to the table where he’d already laid out bowls of fruit and other toppings. “Oh really?”

“Yep.” Evan is still grinning, popping the ‘p’ in a way that makes Eddie’s knees go weak. “For your first day at work.”

Eddie gingerly takes the parcel that’s offered to him, taking off the paper and then lifting the lid of the small plush box. Inside lies an engraved ring, smiling saint looking up at him, but it’s the writing on the inside that makes Eddie shed tears.

Yours always and forever, Chris and Evan.

“I love it.” He chokes out, sliding it onto his finger; it gleams in the light along with his engagement ring and wedding band.

“It’s Saint Christopher!” Chris gleefully tells him, before starting to pile his pancakes high with fruit and syrup.

“Easy on the sugar buddy.” Evan laughs.

Chris giggles. “Sorry Papi.”

Evan just ruffles his hair, before looking over at Eddie. “He’s the patron saint of travellers. Seeing as we moved here and firefighters do travel a lot, I thought it’d be nice.”

“I love it, Evan, really.” Eddie leans over to kiss his husband softly.

Evan blushes. “Last thing I want is a ladder truck falling on you or something.”

Eddie rolls his eyes. “I’m pretty sure we agreed you’re the danger magnet.”

“That’s true.” Evan just grins, taking a stab of pancakes and strawberries, and shoving it into his mouth.

Eddie just laughs. Moments like this are everything.

 

Evan is the first out the door when the clock hits 7.30am, hugging his husband close and pressing a kiss to his lips, before cuddling their Superman and telling him he’ll be waiting outside the school gates at 4pm.

He slides into his jeep, waving at his family, and then he’s off to the base – located just outside of L.A. – thankful that he’s only on a training shift today.

It means he gets to pick Chris up from school, and be ready for the following morning when Eddie gets back from his first 24 hour shift.

The drive takes him about 45 minutes, and it gives him a long time to think about how they ended up here.

A part of him really wants to remember his past, but there’s also a part of him that doesn’t. What if it had been really ugly? What if there was a reason his brain didn’t want him to know? His therapist had said it was natural to doubt himself, and the reasons why he was where he was now, but that moving on was about focusing on the present, and only what he can control.

So that’s what he does.

He tries not to focus on anything other than what he can tangibly interact with, what he can affect, and pushes down all the worries and fears that keep building up overnight.

He dreams a lot.

He dreams of fire and smoke and ash. He dreams of a man, with a kind smile and a warm heart. He dreams of family and laughter, even if their faces are all obscured.

His dreams are warm, but they leave him cold when he wakes.

What if someone was missing him? What if there was someone out there, who didn’t know he was okay?

It worries him on two fronts. He worries for this person, whoever they could be, but he also worries for himself, and Eddie, and Christopher. He worries for the life he has built now.

When no-one came for him at the hospital, despite them putting his face out there, and his name, it had hurt. A lot.

He knew he looked different, but he tried to accept his scars as part of himself. It was hard though, when you even had to be told your name.

Apparently that was all he’d said to Eddie, when the man had found him; it was all he had to cling to of his old life.

They say time heals all wounds, and Evan knew it was right, to a degree. He had a beautiful family now.

He just wondered what it was he’d left behind.

 

Buckley Michael Nash is the most precious thing in Bobby’s world right now.

His two month old son is blinking up at him, bright blue eyes a constant reminder of the boy Bobby lost. It makes him sad to think of Evan, but he’s also reminded of the good memories, of the boy’s wide grin and jovial presence. He knows Evan lives on in Buckley.

“How we doing today, buddy?” Bobby asks softly, pressing a kiss to his son’s dark curly hair.

He and Athena had decided unanimously on the name as soon as they found out they were having a boy; as was the decision that baby-Buck (as Hen loved to call him) would know all about his older brother. They wouldn’t hide Evan from him, no matter how much it hurt.

That didn’t mean however, that Bobby couldn’t shy away from his feelings now.

It hurt, knowing that Buck had been all alone out there, that his family hadn’t been right beside him.

That was the worst part.

He’d somewhat come to terms with the fact that Buck could get hurt on the job. He didn’t like it – had tried to protect his son so fiercely that at times they had almost come to blows – but he’d accepted it. Deep down he’d known that – were it to happen – he’d be at his son’s side.

He hadn’t been there.

That’s what Bobby could never understand; could never forgive himself for.

No matter how much his therapist had told him that Evan had made the choice to go to Texas – that Bobby couldn’t have known – it didn’t make it any easier.

He missed Evan, every single god damn day, and all he could do was promise that with his every breath, he would not fail Buckley.

He would not fail his son.

Not again.

He couldn’t bear even the thought of it.

Instead, he caresses the baby’s fluffy head, whispering words of love and encouragement, bouncing him in his arms in the nursery.

When Athena comes in a few minutes later, she presses her own kiss to their son’s head and asks. “How’s our baby Buckaroo?”

Bobby looks at his wife, tears in his eyes, and whispers. “He’s perfect.”

Athena just smiles, and holds her husband close.

Chapter Text

Eddie tries not to think about his actions too much as he walks into Station 118. He smiles at those he passes, introducing himself, and heads straight up to the Captain’s office.

Nash is very polite and professional, asking where Eddie had moved from and how he was feeling about joining the 118, but Eddie can see as clear as day that his heart isn’t in it.

He wonders if it’s too presumptuous to ask why the others hadn’t lasted long – what had been so special about the person they’d lost – but he doesn’t. He can see immediately that it isn’t a question to be asked. Instead he says;

“My husband, Evan, got a job with the Smokejumpers, so I finished up my training here.”

He doesn’t miss the notable flinch from the captain when he says his husband’s name, but again, he doesn’t push it.

“I’m very excited to be joining the 118.” He continues with a smile. “I read the reports. You’ve got a great team here.”

It’s only then that Eddie gets a glimpse of a true smile from Bobby. “I’m proud of them, every day.”

Eddie just smiles in return.

“Okay, Firefighter Diaz, let me introduce you to the 118 and then we’ll get you joining in with drills and tech checks.”

Nash introduces him to Henrietta “Hen” Wilson and Howard “Chimney” Han, and Eddie likes them both, but he can see the same undercurrent of sadness in their eyes as the Captain. He wonders if they were all close to the person they lost. The rest of the 118 fare a little better, but Eddie is told he’ll be working more closely with Bobby, Hen and Chim.

A part of him likes the idea of a new challenge, but the other part of him wonders how long he might last, imposing upon their grief.

Every thought is shaken from his head however as the ground begins to tremble, equipment and other things falling to the ground in a caphony of crashes and clattering.

It stops after a minute, and then the alarms are blaring, and they’re quick to change into their turnout gear, jumping into the trucks.

Eddie’s in the engine with Bobby, Hen, Chim and a man named Collins. Collins is driving, Bobby in the front passenger seat talking to dispatch, while the rest of them are in the back.

Bobby’s quick to throw over his shoulder that they’re heading to a hotel across the city, where there’s a major incident. The team frowns, but there’s no further insight into what they might be facing.

With a five minute drive ahead, Eddie takes a moment to pull out his phone, seeing if he can touch base with Evan or Christopher. He swears when he sees the no signal message.

“Who are you trying to contact?” Chim asks, curiously leaning over Eddie’s shoulder.

Eddie briefly looks up. “My son. I’m trying to contact my son.”

“You got a kid?” Hen asks, and her eyes seem to sparkle in a way that tells Eddie she probably has one of her own.

“Yeah, Christopher.” He shows them a picture of Chris, his eight year old beaming at the camera. It was taken only a few weeks ago, outside the school front gate on his first day. “He’s eight.”

“He’s adorable.” Hen coos, showing him her own picture. “My Denny’s seven.”

“Adorable.” Eddie repeats with a grin. “Maybe we can set up a day for them at the park or something?”

Hen gives him a strange little smile, but he’ll take any sort of win he can get. “I’d like that.”

“You guys got any kids?” Eddie then directs at Chim and Cap.

Chim shakes his head, but Bobby had a look on his face that’s pained. Eddie curses to himself, knowing he asked the wrong question.

Hen seems to take pity on him though. “Cap’s got three. May, Harry and – ”

“Buckley.” Bobby offers Eddie a small smile, then shows his own picture of the three. “I just got off paternity.”

“They’re beautiful.” Eddie offers, taking the olive branch.

“They’re my world.” Bobby replies, turning back around, and Eddie nods in agreement.

“Mine too.”

Chim pats his knee. “He at school? They’re probably the safest places to be at this point.”

Eddie nods. “Yeah, he is.” He scrubs a hand over his face. “Guess I should be glad earthquakes don’t cause forest fires. At least my husband should be safe too, and he’ll pick Chris up later.”

Chim’s eyes rise again. “You’re married?”

Eddie nods. “Just over six months. Evan and Christopher… they’re my everything.”

There’s a subtle flinch from both Chim and Hen at Evan’s name again, and it has Eddie frowning. Then they’re pulling up to the scene, and he makes a note to ask about it later.

“Oh my god.” Hen whispers, looking up at the half folded building they’ve just pulled up to, and Eddie can only echo her sentiment.

It’s going to be one hell of a first day…

 

Evan Diaz loves his job.

Their early morning shift starts, of course, with breakfast, cooked by Evan himself. He isn’t entirely sure where his love of cooking – or his kitchen skills – came from, but he doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He puts the skills to use most mornings, ensuring everyone on his team starts their shifts with their mouths watering, and then with full stomachs.

This morning is no exception.

Captain Stark pats him on the shoulder with a grin, and Evan matches his expression before giving his Cap an extra helping of bacon. The rest of the team follow with loud appreciation and jokes about Evan being the ‘house wife’ of the Smokejumpers.

Evan just laughs. “How about you beat my time on the assault course and then we’ll see whose laughing?”

After breakfast they start on their drills and training, beginning with a five mile run. Evan easily sets the pace for his fellow crew members, Hutchins alongside him. The man was probably his best friend on the team, and they easily share jokes and laughter during the run.

Then the ground trembles beneath them, a tree falling up ahead, and they all share a brief, momentarily look. Then they’re running back to base, double time, and jumping into their trucks.

Mostly they’re sent out to tackle wildfires, but in instances like this, they’re just as capable as any other firefighters, and so always report to the nearest station. In this case, it’s the 144.

But dispatch sends them immediately to site; the partial collapse of a church. Captain Stark quickly rendezvous with the incident commander, getting their instructions.

The commander is a little confused by their presence, but Stark just says. “We’re always ready to buck tradition.”

In an instant, Evan isn’t on the street.

 

Fire surrounds him on all sides.

He’s holding a young girl close.

Smoke encroaches them.

A man, the man from his dreams, shouting. “Evan!”

He’s too hot, and then cold, so cold.

The blare of a siren.

The smell of disinfectant.

White.

A hand around his.

“…son…”

 

He shakes his head clear of the images, wondering what could have triggered him this time, and tries to focus on the incident at hand.

There’s a petite woman, dark skinned, evocative eyes, and with a tight expression talking to the both the incident commander and Captain Stark, and Evan feels like he knows her; he just can’t understand why.

Then Hutchins is tugging his shoulder, telling him they’re going in to help with rescue, and Evan shakes off his confusion, putting on his SDBA instead. It’s not necessarily needed for a rescue like this, but he’s had trouble with his chest sometimes since the accident, so always tries to protect his lungs from dust and other debris.

Face covered, he gives the woman one last lingering glance, and then heads off inside.

 

The day ends not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Eddie’s, that is, when he sees his truck all but crushed by a fallen tree. Of course it has to be his, the only one in the whole parking lot, that has been damaged by the 7.1.

“My husband’s gonna kill me.” He groans, before feeling a warm hand on his shoulder.

“Come on, I’ll give you a lift.”

Eddie turns, and he’s surprised to see it’s Captain Nash. “It’s fine, honestly. I can get Ev to – ”

Bobby shakes his head. “Nonsense. You’re on my way.”

Of course he knows where Eddie lives, so he can’t even say that he doesn’t want to take Bobby away from his own family – his newborn son.

He has to admit, he really wants to get back to Evan and Chris, so finds himself smiling softly. “Thanks Cap.”

Cap just shrugs a little, leading the way to his car. “You did good today, Diaz.”

Eddie can’t help but grin. “Today felt… impossible.”

“Sometimes, impossible is what we do.”

Eddie feels inclined to agree. Sometimes, when he thinks about it, his whole life feels impossible. Certainly the circumstances that led him and Evan together do.

They’re quiet for the short drive to the Diaz residence, but it’s a comforting quiet – the knowledge of a job well done and that everyone on the team made it home safe. After everything, he doesn’t feel nervous around his new team anymore. So he smiles at Cap and says;

“Would you like to come in? I can introduce you to Evan and Chris?”

There’s the flinch again, and then Bobby’s shaking his head, a small forced smile on his face. “Thank you, but I better be getting home.”

Eddie can’t argue with that, but the reaction reminds him of the question that bubbled to the surface of his mind as they’d pulled up to the scene. He can’t help but let the words spill from his lips. “Cap, I don’t want to overstep any boundaries, but… I have to ask, is there a reason you all flinch when I say my husband’s name?”

Bobby seems to sigh, then scrubs a hand over his face. He’s clearly weighing the pros and cons of answering such a question, and Eddie immediately regrets asking.

“I mean, I’m sure it’s nothing personal, but…”

Bobby shakes his head, offering another tight smile. “I’m sure you know we’ve had a hard time keeping new recruits, and that’s on me. I… I keep finding it hard, thinking of someone as Evan’s replacement…” He can see Eddie looking a little confused, so adds. “Our Evan.”

Eddie’s eyes widen as realisation dawns on him. “The man you lost.”

“His name was Evan.” Bobby wipes a stray tear away, looking away from Eddie. “Evan Buckley.”

Suddenly everything about their earlier conversation clicks. “Your son…”

Bobby nods, though he still doesn’t look at Eddie. “I named him after Buck.” There’s a swallow, his adam’s apple bobbing, and then he finally looks at Eddie. “But nothing fills the hole he left behind.”

Eddie doesn’t quite know what to say. “I… I’m not… I’m not trying to replace him. I never would.”

“I know.” Bobby replies, but Eddie isn’t sure which part he’s replying to. Then the Captain sobers, giving Eddie a genuine smile. “Get inside. Hug your family. It’s been a long day.”

Eddie literally can’t argue with that, pulling on the door handle. “See you tomorrow, Cap.”

“Call me Bobby.”

Chapter Text

Eddie thinks that after the hellish first shift he’d had, that fate would have seen to look upon him more kindly.

It does not.

They wake to the chime of Evan’s phone, and he lets out a long groan before answering. “Diaz.”

“Mr Diaz, it’s Ellington School.”

Evan sits up, brows creased, mouthing ‘Chris’ school’ to a drowsy Eddie.

“We’re informing all parents that we can’t open today due to a burst water main.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Evan replies. “Do you have any idea when the school might reopen?”

“Hopefully tomorrow.” The receptionist replies. “I’m just sorry it’s last minute for this morning.”

“It’s no trouble.” Evan tells them, already thinking of their options. “We’ll figure something out. I hope it gets fixed.” He says goodbye and hangs up, scrubbing a hand over his face.

Turning to Eddie, he says. “Do you think Nini will be able to take Chris today?”

Eddie gives her a call, but she can only take him from ten, and both of their shifts start at eight.

Evan runs a hand through his hair. “It’s okay. I can call in.”

“No, no.” Eddie shakes his head. “It’s only two hours. I can call Bobby.”

There’s a tug at the back of Evan’s brain, and he frowns. “That’s your Captain?”

“Yeah, he’s got kids. He’ll understand.”

 

“I got you kid.”

“Yeah, but you’re my kid.

 

Evan blinks. “Yeah, okay...”

An hour later, he’s pulling up in front of Station 118, and he can’t shake the feeling that he’s been here before. He can’t shake the feeling that he knows this place. Yet, when Eddie asks if he wants to come in, meet his team, he finds himself shaking his head.

"I think they’ve got enough with two Diaz’s.”

He’s still nervous about his face around new people – still hurt by the stares and the gawking. He can take it if he’s out in public, because who cares what they think, but people like Eddie’s co-workers, people his husband needs to get on with, needs to trust to watch his back, no.

Not yet anyway.

He knows he can’t hide from them forever, but he certainly doesn’t want to deal with them now.

Instead he kisses his husband goodbye, hugs their son, and watches them go into the station. His chest feels heavy though as he drives away, and it leaves him wondering why.

 

Eddie’s thankful that Cap didn’t mind him bringing Christopher in until Nini can come for him. Bobby just smiles after introducing himself to Christopher, saying “Family always takes precedent. You can just be the man behind if we get a call.”

Thankfully, it’s a slow day, even after the earthquake. The two hours are spent showing Christopher around the station, letting him sit in one of the trucks and even helping him down the pole.

Christopher is absolutely loving the excitement and the attention, and by the end of the two hours he’s already calling Bobby “Uncle Bobby”, and the same with Chim and Hen.

Eddie can’t help but grin. There was something about the earthquake that had bonded him with these people, and he didn’t think he could bare only lasting a month. He hoped they’d come to feel the same about him, and their reactions with Christopher only cemented that.

Somehow, in just one shift, they’d become family.

Christopher leaves with Nini at ten, and then the team are sat around the TV and games area upstairs, biding their time until a call came through.

“You’ve got yourself a good kid, Diaz.” Bobby remarks, giving Eddie one of those true rare smiles.

“I’m proud to be his Dad.” Eddie replies, grinning back. “Thanks Cap, for letting him come.”

“Like I said, family comes first.” Bobby replies.

“Speaking of which…” Hen lets her words trail off with her own grin, gesturing over the balcony.

Bobby’s smile turns into a full grown grin as he recognises his wife walking into the station, baby son in her arms. He races down the stairs, pressing a kiss to her lips, and then leads them both up, telling her to take a seat while he gets back to cooking lunch.

“Lemme see baby Buck!” Hen squeals, racing over to take the quiet baby in Athena’s arms. “Oh, there’s my little godson!”

The look in her eyes as she holds the baby is nothing short of pure love, and Eddie’s heart warms at the sight.

“Athena, meet our new recruit, Eddie Diaz.” Bobby says, turning from the kitchen for a brief moment. “Eddie, this is my wife, Athena.”

Eddie shakes her hand, but is surprised when he’s pulled into a hug. Athena smiles. “We’re family around here, Diaz.”

If Eddie’s shocked by the words, he doesn’t show it. Clearly Bobby had spoken to his wife about Eddie’s performance the previous shift. Clearly they were happy to keep him around. So he just smiles back at her. “Pleasure to meet you.”

Athena turns to the baby in Hen’s arms. “And this is our youngest member. Buckley.”

“He’s beautiful.” Eddie remarks, looking down at the two-month old. Creamy tanned skin, whisps of black curls and beautiful blue eyes greet him, and Eddie just melts, especially when Buckley reaches up to take Eddie’s finger in his grasp.

“Evan wants another.” He says softly, without thinking, and sees Athena jerk in the corner of his eye. He smiles apologetically. “Sorry. I mean my husband.”

“You’re married?” Athena says with a raised brow.

Eddie grins. “Six months. Our son, Christopher, is eight. But like I say, Ev wants another.”

“So does Karen.” Hen grins. “Especially after meeting this little prince.”

“May I?” Eddie looks between Hen and Athena, and when the officer nods, gently takes Buckley in his arms.

“Oh, you are so beautiful, aren’t you?” He whispers to the baby, gently rocking his arms. “You’ve got the most beautiful blue eyes too. I usually say my husband does but… I think you’ve got him beat.”

Athena and Bobby can’t help but watch with matching smiles.

Eddie just laughs when Buckley smiles at him, and then carefully hands him back to Hen. “You know what, I think I want another too.”

Hen laughs. “Welcome to club baby.”

The blare of the alarm changes their mood immediately, and Athena quickly tells her husband that she’ll finish the food while they’re out. Then the team are rushing down to the trucks.

The drive is a few minutes, so Hen can’t help but sit next to Eddie in the truck and say. “So you’re thinking about another?”

Eddie just grins back at her. “Yeah. Evan adopted Chris when we married but he never got to be around him when he was that small so, yeah… he wants to try surrogacy.”

“Me and Karen are thinking of the same.” Hen says. “Maybe we could go through it together?”

Eddie smiles. “It would definitely be nice to share the ups and downs with someone else.”

“You got any names in mind?”

“It’s a little early.” Eddie laughs. “But we’ve talked about it, yeah.”

“Us to.” Hen says. “Karen wants a little girl. We’re thinking of Nia or Jacelyn.”

“I think I’d like a girl.” Eddie says fondly, an almost faraway look in his eyes. “But Evan wants a boy. He’s dead set on Robert.”

He doesn’t see Bobby’s head whip around, brows furrowed. “Any reason why?”

Eddie blinks, then shrugs. “Evan’s past is… complicated… but he’s pretty sure Robert was someone he knew, someone who meant a lot to him, so… Robert.”

Their conversation is cut short as they pull up to the scene, but the members of the 118 are left with more questions about their new recruit than they have answers.

 

They pull back into the station three hours later, but thankfully Bobby had thought to prepare something that’s easy to reheat. Within minutes of returning they’re sitting down around the dining table, steaming plates of food in front of them and hungry bellies.

Athena has the day off, so she sits with them to eat. Buckley is asleep in a bassinet beside the table, having already been fed.

The TV is on low on the kitchen counter, but when Eddie sees the all too familiar images of a wildfire, he asks Bobby to turn it up.

“Firefighters from the Alpha Red Watch of California’s Smokejumpers were dispatched to the blaze around eleven am, and so far the blaze appears to be under control, although still reaching close to a hundred and fifty acres.”

“I would not want to be them.” Chim murmurs, but Bobby’s eyes are on Eddie, knowing.

“You okay?”

Eddie nods. “Yeah, yeah. Doesn’t say there’s been casualties.”

Hen shoots him a look. “You know someone there?”

“My husband.” Eddie replies. “Alpha Red Watch is his crew.”

Athena reaches a hand across to touch his elbow. “I’m sure he’s fine.”

Eddie flashes her a smile. “He’s a tough guy. Been through a lot. I just…” He swallows thickly, remembering. “I can’t help but be protective. He already cheated death once, I…”

Athena squeezes softly. “He’ll be okay.”

“Yeah…”

Hen’s looking at him strangely; a mix between concern and intrigue. “You, uh… you mentioned something in the truck. That he had a complicated past, made it sound like he’s got amnesia…”

Eddie runs a hand over his face. “That’s because he does.” They don’t look to be pushing him, but he knows they want the full story. Being that they trusted him with some of the information about Buck, he feels it’s only fair to divulge a little more about his Evan. “He, uh… He was in a bad accident, about sixteen months ago. It’s when we met, actually. I found him, took him to the hospital, and I waited… Four days he was in a coma, and when he woke… he couldn’t remember anything. The only thing he managed to tell me before, was his name. Evan. They say love comes through adversity, and I couldn’t agree more. We’ve been inseparable since, and now… I can’t bear the thought of seeing him lying in a hospital bed again.” He swallows, wipes his tears away, and then forces a smile. “But… let’s not spoil dinner. Like you said, he’ll be fine.”

Hen’s eyes are misted with tears, and she gives Eddie a one armed hug before acquiescing and starting to eat again. The mood feels sombre, but they’re glad Eddie felt he could share with them.

Eddie’s phone pings, and he scrambles to light the screen, grinning when he sees the text from Evan.

‘Fancy fried chicken tonight?’

Eddie balks out a laugh. “Yeah, he’s okay.”

The mood seems to lighten again, the 118 joking around as they pass dishes and enjoy the home cooked meal. Before they know it, they’re all helping to clear away the mess and wash up, like a true family.

Eddie loves every second of it.

They let Bobby off the hook, seeing as he cooked, and the Captain is curled on the sofa with his wife and son. Then his eyes catch something on the floor, and he moves to pick it up.

It’s a photograph of Christopher.

“I think you dropped this.” Bobby shouts to Eddie, but then his eyes linger on a partially obscured figure to Christopher’s left, and he gasps audibly.

Eddie’s at his shoulder in a second. “Oh, it’s Chris’. It’s one of the few pictures of Evan that he didn’t make us delete.”

“Why would he make you delete it?” Hen calls, not having seen the photo. Bobby’s eyes are still glued to it.

Eddie sighs. “Evan got some… burns… in his accident. He gets… worried, about his appearance.” His fingertip caresses over the figure with a smile. “He doesn’t like pictures.” Then his eyes glance to Bobby, frowning at his Captain’s sudden paleness. “You okay Bobby?”

Bobby’s eyes are still glued on the picture, even as Eddie takes it from between numb fingers.

Specifically, his eyes are glued to the only part of the figure they can see; the left side of a face, and the all too familiar birthmarks around the eye.

Chapter Text

Bobby isn’t entirely sure how he gets through the rest of the shift, or how he gets home that night, but the next thing he knows, he’s curled up on his couch, at home. His hand is curled tight around a cup of iced coffee, his eyes glued to the TV screen as it plays reports of the forest fires outside of L.A.

Athena is beside him, eyes boring into him with worry.

He’s not sure what he’s waiting for.

A glimpse of Buck maybe? An interview where he can hear his boy’s voice; realise – for certain – that it is him?

He knows he’s possibly jumping the gun a little. Birthmarks are common, and there can only be a finite number of places to have them. It could have easily been someone else.

But his heart tells him that it’s Buck.

His son.

Alive.

Bobby can scarcely believe it.

Athena’s voice is soft at his shoulder, hand warm and comforting on his knee. “Bobby… Are you sure?”

He doesn’t remember telling her his suspicions, but it must have been on the way home, the words spilling from his lips without thought;

“I think Eddie’s husband is Buck.”

Bobby doesn’t tear his eyes from the TV screen. “They never found his body.” He murmurs, and maybe on some level he’s still trying to convince himself. “The facts make sense.”

“Do they?” Athena says, and he can tell she’s shifted to her ‘cop voice’ – the one she uses to talk people down. “Or are you making them make sense?”

Bobby finally turns to look at his wife. “’Thena, it was the same birthmarks. Eddie’s from El Paso, but sixteen months ago, he was stationed at barracks two miles from Buck’s hotel. You want to think it’s coincidence? Or is our kid still alive?”

“Bobby…” Athena takes her husband’s hands in hers, squeezing gently. “I know you want it to be true. God, I do too. But you have to be sure. You can’t throw this out there and not expect it to explode.”

“I’m not saying that, I just… We meet him. We get a blood test. There are ways – ”

“And what about Evan?” Her brow rises, shaking her head. “Whether he is Evan Buckley, or Evan Diaz, or whoever, what about him? Imagine being in his position, unable to remember anything about your life. Now he has Eddie, and a son… You can’t go and turn that upside down without thinking about him.”

“I know…” Bobby sighs. “I know…”

“I want him back as much as you do, but what if you’re wrong? What if you put this out there, and then in months, years maybe, you realise you made a mistake?” She’s swiping away her own tears then, swallowing against the thickness in her throat. “How could you then take that from him? How could you get back what you gave?”

Bobby’s breaking in front of her eyes, face red and splotchy, tears dripping onto his shirt. “Eddie said… He said Evan wants another kid. Robert.” His voice cracks on the same. “He said Robert was someone special to Evan, but he can’t remember who…” He shudders, leaning into his wife’s embrace. “It has to be him, Athena… It has to be. If it isn’t, then God’s playing the cruellest of tricks on me that I don’t think I deserve.”

Athena just holds her husband close, both pairs of eyes eventually sliding shut, but Bobby falls into a restless sleep.

 

He dreams of Buck; the car mangled, his body broken, reaching out with cries of “Dad…”

He dreams of Evan, brows crinkled and mouth turned into a frown, staring at Bobby with a complete lack of comprehension. “I have no idea who you are.”

He dreams of Buckley, growing up in the spitting image of Buck, of losing him too, of accusing glances and sharp words.

“You couldn’t protect me” His son’s grin is dark and malicious. “Just like you couldn’t protect Buck.”

 

He wakes in a sweat, breathing heavily. It’s 4am, Athena still dozing beside him. He slides from the couch, padding straight into his son’s nursery without thought.

There, he sits awake, just staring at his baby boy’s rhythmic breathing.

He’s fine.

He’s safe.

He didn’t fail him.

 

The next few shifts go by in a blur. Any time that Bobby isn’t working, he’s actively trying to get more information on Evan from Eddie, without being too suspicious.

The deciding moment is when Eddie lets slip that he found Evan on November 3rd 2018 – the same day Buck died – only an hour or so after Bobby had received that dreaded call from Owen Strand.

There was too much coincidence for it to not be his son.

His son.

Alive.

Bobby has to stop himself from breaking down in the middle of the station.

He speaks to Athena again that evening, and he can see this last fact is breaking down the resolve in his wife. Eventually, she nods, accompanied by a soft sigh.

“I just don’t want to lose him again.” She whispers, and this time it’s her tears falling with soft plinks. “I don’t think I could take it, Bobby.”

“I know.” He hugs her close, as she had done for him.

They decide that the best way would be through a gathering. It allows them to watch Evan, to make sure before they say anything, without being too obvious. Athena does mention that so many new people could be a problem for him though, so they decide to have it in their own backyard – a welcome to the 118 barbeque for Eddie. There’s plenty space, so he won’t feel overwhelmed, and holding it in Eddie’s honour might also make him more relaxed.

Bobby checks in with Hen and Chim first on the date, and then goes to speak to Eddie.

Eddie, whose smile is soft but sharp. “I really appreciate it Cap, but I don’t think Evan would be comfortable.”

“I promise it’ll only be us and our families.” Bobby holds his hands up in placation. “Completely relaxed, and he can stay for as short or long as he wants.”

Eddie fidgets, because he wants to say yes – of course he wants to get to know them better – but Evan means more than that; his wellbeing is more important. “I… I’ll ask him.”

“Great.” Bobby grins. “Saturday at four.”

 

He asks the others to come at three.

By some miracle, Eddie texted him later to say that Evan was agreeable, and also that his husband says thanks for making Eddie feel so welcome. He follows it with a second message, saying that Evan will likely be nervous and shy, so please don’t push him.

Bobby promised him that they won’t.

Which is why he meets the others first. The last thing they want is for everyone to gawp as soon as he walks through the door.

“What’s going on Bobby?” Hen asks when she arrives with Karen and Denny.

Chim is frowning. “Yeah, where’s the guest of honour?”

“They’ll be here shortly.” Bobby says, as Athena ushers Denny outside to play with Harry, watched over by May. “I wanted to talk to you first.”

“We did.” Athena says, taking her place beside her husband.

Bobby takes a breath, and then starts to tell them about the picture, the birthmarks, and the other facts Eddie’s mentioned that have Bobby believing that Evan is actually Buck. “I know it sounds crazy, but…” His expression is completely open and vulnerable as he looks at them. “I need to know.”

“Which is why you set this up.” Hen’s expression is unreadable, and Bobby knows she took Buck’s death extremely hard.

“Yes…” Bobby sighs. “I think we can all agree Eddie’s the right fit for the team – regardless of all of this – and I want to celebrate that. But yes, I thought it would be a good way to get a look at him. To make sure.”

“This is gonna blow up in our faces, you know that right?” Chim says with a raised brow.

“Let’s not think like that.” Karen says, rubbing her wife’s back. “He could show up and it’s a completely different person.” Hen just looks up and gives her a look that says ‘really?’

“Just be natural.” Bobby says, before they all move outside to get started on the barbeque food. Within a few minutes though, it’s pretty obvious that they’re all waiting to hear the doorbell.

Finally, as the minute hand finally reaches the hour, the doorbell chimes.

Athena is the first to move, striding to the front door. As soon as her hand touches the handle though, she hesitates.

What if it isn’t him?

What if it is?

She almost doesn’t want to know.

Almost.

With a deep breath, she opens the door, and what she finds takes her breath away.

Eddie stands on the threshold, smiling widely and with a hand on Christopher’s shoulder. The young boy is beaming, arms resting upon two crutches, with a small gift bag in hand. Just behind them however, is another man, and regardless of the deep red burns on his left ear, the surgical marks on the left side of his face, his nose and forehead, she recognises him instantly.

The man is, without a shadow of a doubt, Evan Buckley.

Her son.

Chapter Text

Somehow Athena manages to hang onto a shred of clarity and stop herself from ambushing the man right there and then. Instead she smiles politely and says. “So glad you could make it Eddie. This must be Christopher and Evan.”

Eddie smiles in return, and she can see in his expression that he’s thankful she isn’t making this difficult for Evan. “Yeah, my husband Evan, and our son, Christopher. Guys, this is Sergeant Athena Grant.”

Evan’s smile is tight, but she knows it’s nothing to do with them specifically, and so tries not to take it personally. “It’s nice to meet you.”

His voice is quiet, gruff, but it’s also so familiar. She has to stop herself from shedding tears, swallowing against the lump that has formed in her throat. “And you. Come on, everyone’s in the garden.”

As she starts to lead them through, Christopher pipes up. “This is for you and Uncle Bobby!” Then he’s pressing the small bag into her hands.

She stops, kneeling down to his level with a wide smile. “That’s so lovely of you, sweetie.” Then she gives him a little hug.

Eddie chuckles. “He wanted to make you all some pictures, and we stuck some chocolate in there too.”

“Kid’s an artist.” Evan says, and Athena can see the love sparkling in her eyes. It hurts, knowing they’ve missed such an important part of his life.

“How about we go show Bobby?” Athena says to Christopher, trying not to glance back up at Evan, and the boy beams in return. They head outside, Christopher immediately racing toward Bobby on his crutches, yelling “Uncle Bobby!”

Evan chuckles. “He’s taken to your team quickly.”

Eddie wraps an arm around his husband, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “They’re a good crew. I think you’ll like them.”

Athena can’t help but overhear Evan’s murmur of “Yeah, I just hope they like me,” and all she wants to do then is wrap him in a tight hug and refuse to let go.

She doesn’t.

They reach the outside patio, and immediately all eyes are on them. Evan swallows, but manages a small wave. “Hi.”

Eddie’s hold tightens just a fraction. “Thanks for having us.”

There’s a split second of silence, and then Hen’s in front of them; the others forcing themselves to look away.

“Hey, I’m Henrietta. I work with your boy.” She’s smiling at Evan, but Athena can see the tears in her eyes. It’s clear there’s no doubt in her mind either about who he really is.

“It’s nice to meet you.” Evan smiles, reaching out to shake her hand. “I’m Evan. Eddie’s husband.”

Hen’s smile seems to fade a little, but she reaches out and takes his hand, shaking softly. She can’t help but linger on the white scar that peeks out under his rolled up shirt sleeves, trailing down to his wrist.

Evan sees her gaze and chuckles nervously. “I uh… had an accident… a while back. I’m sure Eddie’s mentioned.”

“Only briefly, carino.” Eddie murmurs, running a hand along Evan’s back. He seems to relax a little at the touch.

“Compound fracture?” Hen asks softly.

“Y-yeah.” Evan swallows. He doesn’t really like thinking about it. “Radius. Took a couple of months of PT to get full use again.”

“Hen’s a medic.” Eddie fills in, trying to keep his husband at ease; it’s the only reason he can think why Hen would be asking.

“Oh.” Evan’s smile returns a little. “I bet you see that sort of thing a lot?”

“You could say that.” Hen replies, looking up into Evan’s eyes. They’re just as she remembered, and it breaks her heart to see no recognition in them at all. “Eddie tells us you’re with the Smokejumpers. I bet that’s exciting?”

“I love it.” Evan replies, and finally she sees a glimmer of that Buckley sparkle in his eyes. “It’s exhilarating and I… I feel like I belong there, you know? It’s hard when you don’t remember anything about yourself, but… it sounds crazy…” He trails off, gaze trailing to his fingers, tapping against his side.

“What does?” Hen watches him carefully.

“The flames.” Evan murmurs. “They’re one of the few things that’s familiar…”

Hen takes his hand then, unable to see the sadness filling up his eyes, and squeezes. “Hey. I don’t know what you’re going through, but it’ll be okay. You’re alive. That’s what matters.”

“She’s right.” Eddie presses another kiss to his cheek. “You’re okay, carino.”

Evan’s breath hitches. “Y-yeah.”

He looks like he might say more – Hen’s mouth starts to move – and then the cry of a baby erupts from the monitor at Athena’s hip.

“Oooo!” Hen squeals, momentarily forgetting the weirdness of the situation. “Baby Buck’s awake!”

“He’s adorable,” Eddie whispers to his husband as Athena goes inside for her son, “and you said you want another.”

Evan can’t hear him. His husband’s voice sounds like it’s underwater. All Evan can hear is Henrietta’s voice, replaying on a loop.

Buck

Buck

Buck

It’s the name that has haunted his dreams for months. The name he hasn’t dared to look up; hasn’t even dared to mention to Eddie.

In an instant, he’s no longer in the backyard.

 

The flames are rising higher.

The little girl is still in his arms.

“Evan!” The man is still shouting for him, but this time it’s through a radio, and he can hear other voices joining it; a chorus of pleas.

“Buck!”

“Buck, you need to get out of there, now!”

“Captain 118 to Buckley, report!”

The floorboards creak beneath his feet.

He shifts his feet slowly, testing the boards.

They crack.

He’s falling.

 

He comes to on his ass; wet seeping through the denim.

Eddie’s face hovers in his vision, worry, concern and fear all rolled into one. Beside him is the man whom Chris called Bobby, and his expression is also clouded with worry.

“Evan? You okay?”

He accepts his husband’s hand, and curls into the shorter man’s chest. “F-Flashback…” He whispers, shivering in Eddie’s hold.

Eddie curses, rubbing Evan’s back with long, firm strokes. “You’re okay. I’ve got you. You’re okay.”

It takes a few moments for Evan to calm down. Eddie can see the others watching with concern and interest in his peripheral vision, but his husband is his priority. Once Evan has stopped shaking, Eddie gently pulls back to look at him. “What was the trigger?”

Evan shudders again, but Eddie’s hands are still firm on his shoulders, grounding him. “B-Buck…”

“What?” Eddie frowns, because that makes no sense to him. “Evan, I don’t…”

“I do.”

Eddie whips around to face Bobby. His Captain is standing a pace away, looking upset and resigned. It’s a strange expression, one that Eddie understands about as much as the trigger-word, that doesn’t quite befit his Captain.

Bobby sighs, keying into his phone for a moment, and then looking up to Evan and Eddie.

“On November 3rd, 2018, one of my firefighters was involved in an auto accident, just outside of San Antonio, Texas. I… I was told he didn’t make it, that there was no way he could have escaped. His car had exploded, but… there was no body. A week later, he was confirmed missing, presumed dead. We held a memorial, and time moved on…” Bobby stops, his own body shaking as he looks around at the family they had gathered. “But we never did. He left behind… a hole.” Swiping at his own tears, Bobby turns the phone to face them both. “His name… was Evan Buckley. Buck.”

Evan is shaking again before the film even starts to play, because how can this man – whom he has never, to his knowledge, met before – know the name that has plagued his mind for months?

The man on the screen – him, his mind supplements, though his face is brighter and without flaw – is grinning. His voice drifts through the garden, happy and melodic.

“Hey Cap. I’m just about to board the plane to Texas but I wanted to check in. Hope you’re okay. I promise the week will fly by and I’ll bring you back a souvenir. Love to you and mom, and all of the 118. Bye, pop.”

Evan can’t breathe.

He wants it all – needs it – to be a dream, because he’s not sure what it means if it isn’t.

It’s all too much.

Behind the man on the screen, a large clock reads ‘November 1st, 2018’, and it just… it all makes too much sense for Evan to deny.

It’s the reason no-one came for him.

It’s the reason he’d been alone.

It’s the reason no-one replied to the pictures circulated of him.

No-one there had known him.

They’d thought he was dead.

The realisation rings through his mind as he looks around at the people in the garden. Their emotions are all mixed, but the overwhelming commonality between them is grief and love.

It’s too much.

He sinks out of Eddie’s hold like a bag of concrete, hitting the floor on his knees. Sobs wrack his body, hands reaching to his head and pulling hard.

Eddie’s hands are on him in a second, reassuring, weighty, comforting, and his voice is whispering in Evan’s ear, but it’s not enough.

He can’t breathe.

His vision whirls, and he slams his eyes shut against the onslaught of grey that threatens to take over, but the warm blanket of unconsciousness is too heavy and too familiar, and he can’t help but surrender.

The last thing he hears is his son’s voice “Papi!” and then he collapses completely.

 

Evan comes to in a bedroom.

The first thing he feels is the soft warmth of the sheets, the comforting weight of the duvet.

The first thing he sees is his husband; tired eyes heavy with worry.

“Eds…” He croaks, and then his husband’s hand is carding through his hair.

“Hey…” Eddie sniffs, swiping away tears. “You gave me a scare.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No.” Eddie shakes his head, mouth pressed tight. “This is on me. I shouldn’t have brought you here.”

So they’re still at the party. Suddenly the warmth isn’t all that comforting, and Evan sits up, gaze trailing around the room they’re in. “You didn’t know.”

“Exactly.”

Evan swivels his head to look at his husband, and he can see the barely restrained anger there. “You mad?”

“Damn right, I’m mad.” Eddie swallows, fists clenched in his lap. “They had no right to do this.”

“Eddie…”

“No, Evan. They ambushed you!” Eddie’s on his feet in an instant, pacing the room. “I didn’t tell them much but they knew you’d been through hell and they still did this!”

He’s right. Evan knows he is, but there’s a small part of him that sees it from the others’ side. If they’d thought him dead, he can only imagine what they’re feeling now.

‘If it is you.’ The traitorous part of his mind whispers to him, and a part of him wants to agree. He also knows that the evidence is insurmountable. His gaze wanders the room again, this time lingering on a picture frame on one of the side tables.

It’s the 118 team, he assumes by their uniform, but obviously without Eddie. Instead, wedged between Bobby and Henrietta, is himself. Again he looks younger, unmarred by his trauma, and is wearing the brightest smile imaginable. He looks happy. They all do.

He swallows thickly, still staring at the picture – at his hand on Bobby’s shoulder – when the door creaks open.

“You okay?” It’s Athena’s voice, calm and motherly, and a part of Evan reaches for it; suddenly familiar, it seems.

In the corner of his eye, he can see Eddie about to snap, but he reaches for his husband’s hand, squeezing softly. Eddie’s mouth clicks shut.

Evan is still looking at the picture when he speaks. “Is Bobby short for Robert?” His voice cracks on the second name, thinking of all the discussions he’d had with Eddie about a second child – his insistence on the name, despite not knowing why.

“Yes.” Athena says. “Robert Nash.”

The sound that escapes Evan then wounds both Athena and Eddie, and then Evan is grasping at his husband’s arm, tearing his eyes from the picture.

“I want to go home.”

Chapter Text

Eddie’s arm is quick to slide around his husband’s waist, helping him from the bed. Evan’s legs are shaky for a moment, and then he smiles, nods, and Eddie lowers his arm, letting their fingers slot together instead.

They walk slowly to the door and Athena is wise enough to let them pass without comment. She knows now that for all their good intentions, they went about this entirely the wrong way.

Eddie tells Evan to wait by the front door, then jogs back to the patio, where he can see the kids are still playing outside. At the very least, he’s glad Christopher is okay after Evan’s panic attack. He shouts for his son, and Chris is quick to say goodbye to his new friends. He looks up at his father with an expression too solemn for his age. “Is Papi okay?”

“He’s fine, buddy.” Eddie smiles, because how did they end up with such a good kid? “But we’re going home now.”

Chris makes his way over to his Papi, hugging him tight, and Eddie pauses a moment to look at the rest of the 118 gathered. They’re all watching him, and Eddie can see the words on Hen’s lips before she speaks. He shakes his head. “Don’t.” A huff escapes him, lips twitching, but he’s determined not to make a scene. He still has to work with them. “I’m taking Evan home.”

He turns on his heel, making his way over to his boys, but whirls when he hears boots rushing up behind him.

Bobby.

Of course.

“Don’t.” Eddie repeats, looking back at his Captain. His eyes are still ablaze with fury, even if he’s forcing the rest of himself to calm.

“Eddie… We didn’t mean for this to happen.” Bobby at least has the decency to look abashed. “We just wanted to see him… Buck – ”

“He’s not Buck.” Eddie snaps, nails digging into his palms. “He’s not – ” He stops himself before he can say any more. Instead, he just looks at his Captain, expression loudly betraying his disappointment and anger. Then he turns again, picking Chris up and taking Evan’s hand.

He doesn’t stop until they’re at the car, settling Chris into the back and helping Evan into the passenger seat. His own door slams shut with a resounding thwack, hands tight around the steering wheel as he pulls away from the house.

He’s wise to take Chris to his Abuela’s for the night, knowing he’ll be better off there for the time being. He only needs to tell her that Evan had a flashback for her to understand. They kiss and hug their son goodbye for the night – though Evan is still too quiet for Eddie’s liking – and then they’re home, wrapped up in each other’s embrace on the couch.

Evan doesn’t speak, just clings to Eddie like a lifeline. His arms are tight around his husband’s waist, and were the situation lighter, Eddie might have made a joke about Evan being a spider monkey in a past life. Instead, they sit in silence; all Eddie can hear is Evan’s hitched breathing.

His hand cards through Evan’s hair slowly, and as the night wears on Evan eventually falls to sleep. Eddie just watches him for the longest time, sending a prayer up to any deity who might listen that they’ll be okay, before he succumbs to sleep himself.

 

Eddie wakes alone.

There are no arms around his waist, no hair tickling his chin, and the cushions beside him are cold. Evan’s scent lingers in the air – lime shampoo and spicy aftershave – but he’s gone.

His rational brain thinks for a moment that Evan’s gone to bed and didn’t wake him – Eddie knows he can sleep through a hurricane – but a quick check of the bedroom shows the covers undisturbed. The bathroom is quiet. Silence, in fact, permeates the whole house.

Evan isn’t there.

Eddie panics.

His hand scrambles quickly for his phone, dialling Evan’s number, but things are never that simple for the pair. Evan’s phone blares out from where it sits beneath the coffee table, Eddie’s name flashing on the vibrating screen.

Eddie curses, but none of it is directed at his husband. They’ve had episodes like this before – only twice, but nonetheless a result of Evan’s subconscious. His actions are never purposeful, including forgetting his phone.

No, Eddie’s anger is immediately directed at the 118, for causing the flashback in the first place, for putting Evan in the position where he’s now considering the possibility of two existences.

He’s also angry at himself; for falling asleep, for not locking the doors maybe, for not doing everything he can to help his husband through this.

He’s angry at the world, for taking their little bubble and trying to pry it open.

He grabs his keys, and both their phones, and jumps into the car, thankful that Christopher is elsewhere.

As he takes the jeep around L.A., he curses himself for not knowing more about the city. He doesn’t know where Evan would go here. He doesn’t know where these memories – if they are in fact memories of L.A. because lord knows Eddie doesn’t entirely believe that life could be this cruel – would lead him.

Then he stops – not literally because that would of course cause an accident, but his mind stops – and realises there’s only one place Evan could go.

 

He isn’t sure how he got here.

One minute he’s curled up with his husband, and the next minute he’s staring up at the large red building like it holds the key to the universe.

In some ways, he supposes it does.

It holds the key to his universe; his old one, anyway.

There must be some luck on his side because all the trucks are out, and no-one seems to be around. He walks the ghostly hallways, the bunks and the truck bay, observes the break room and the kitchen, fingertips trailing along everything he can reach.

He’s willing the memories to return, but his mind remains blank.

All he can hear is echoes of a past that eludes him. A past he isn’t even sure he wants to remember.

“Buck!”

“Come on kid, I’ll teach you.”

The blare of alarms, and the bubbling excitement in his stomach.

“Buckley here has a date.”

“Her name’s Abby.”

He jerks, blinking rapidly as a cold washes over him.

Abby.

Was that someone he’d left behind? Maybe even someone he’d loved?

He all but stumbles back down the stairs, rapidly trying to find his way back outside. This was a bad idea; such a very bad idea and he wasn’t even awake when it came to mind. His subconscious had brought him here, but his current state of consciousness very much wanted out.

Somehow he instead finds himself at a memorial wall, the face of Evan Buckley staring back at him.

His face.

It almost transfixes him, and he isn’t sure how long he’s stood there before he feels a hand settle on his shoulder. He doesn’t move though. He’d know that touch anywhere. “I’m sorry.” He croaks instead.

There’s a soft sigh from Eddie, and then a kiss to his cheek. “As long as you’re okay, carino.”

“I’m not.” He sounds weak, even to his own ears, curling into his husband’s embrace.

“I’ve got you.” Eddie whispers, though his own eyes are glued to the frame on the wall, unsure how he’d not seen it the whole past week.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Eddie tears his gaze away, meeting his husband’s wet eyes. “You don’t have to do anything. It might not even be you.” He needs Evan to know that it’s his choice; that they don’t have to accept this.

Evan shakes his head though, looking completely distraught, and Eddie’s heart breaks. “It is.”

Those two words jerk Eddie though, and he can’t help but pull back a little, expression questioning.

Evan lets out a little breath, shaky and uneven. “I’ve been having dreams. About a fire. About other things.” He swallows thickly, licking dry lips. “They call me Buckley.”

Eddie jerks again, and this time his hands fall completely from Evan. It’s the first he’s heard of it, and he can’t help but feel a small thrum of betrayal. “How long?” His own voice is hoarse, and when Evan refuses to meet his gaze, silent, his hackles rise. “How long, Evan?”

His husband flinches, and it makes Eddie feel awful but after today – after everything – the last thing he’d thought was that he’d been keeping secrets from him.

A soft sob escapes Evan, slowly bringing his eyes back to Eddie. He looks like a kicked puppy. “About five months.” When he sees the rising anger in his husband’s eyes, he reaches out, hand curling around Eddie’s arm, pleading. “We’d just gotten married. I didn’t want to ruin everything.”

Eddie’s eyes are teary, disbelieving. He shakes his head. “So you lied to me?”

“I didn’t lie.” Evan chokes. “I just didn’t tell you.”

“It’s as good as.” Eddie scoffs.

“Eddie…” He can feel his shirt wetting now as his tears fall unbidden, but all he can focus on is the betrayed look on his husband’s face; a pain he caused. He had his reasons for not saying anything, but it doesn’t make it any better. “You would have looked it up. You would have searched. You would have done everything to find them.” He knows he would have, because that’s Eddie Diaz all over. Caring and compassionate, he knows his husband would have moved heaven and earth to find Evan’s family if he’d given the surname. He would have let him go. “And I didn’t want you to.”

Maybe it was selfish of him, to want to keep the man who had stayed by his side ever since he could remember. Maybe it was selfish of him to think nothing ever had to change. But if it meant keeping Eddie and Chris and the little bubble they’d built – safe from all the horrors of the world, the scathing looks and the blank spaces whenever Evan thought too hard – then he was going to be selfish.

Eddie’s expression changes then, a mix of relief and concern intermingled still with threads of hurt. Slowly, he reaches out, drawing Evan back to his chest.

“I was scared, okay?” Evan whispers into his shirt, still crying. Sobs rattle his chest, breathing sharply. “I didn’t want to…” He chokes on the words, hugging Eddie tighter, praying the man doesn’t let go. “I don’t want to lose everything.”

If anything, Eddie hugs him tighter too. “I’m here. I’m always here.” The warmth of a kiss pressed to his head soothes Evan, and he relaxes a fraction, content in the embrace. “As long as you need me.”

He gets Evan into the car, stopping off for his husband’s favourite ice cream, and then they’re back on the couch, blanket wrapped tight around them. Evan is snuggled into his side, bowl of ice cream in his lap, while the TV plays in the background. It could have been a nice evening, but the day’s events weigh heavy on Eddie. Even as Evan manages to fall asleep once more, Eddie finds himself just staring at the ceiling.

There’s so much more he needs to say.

Chapter Text

The front door slams shut with a resounding clatter, Bobby’s arm still outstretched. Athena sighs and gently guides her husband back outside. Hen too looks distraught, Karen’s arm around her. Only the children remain oblivious to the sudden tension in the air, though May’s watching them all discretely, mouth pursed and looking too much like her mother.

“Well that went well.”

All eyes dart towards Chimney, who’s looking the most relaxed out of all of them, and – dare they say – a little smug.

“Now’s not the time.” Athena says, shooting him a look.

If looks could kill, Chim would definitely be on the floor, but as they can’t he settles for a shrug. “I told you it was gonna blow up in our faces, but did anyone listen to the voice of reason? No.”

“We had to try.” Hen murmurs, wiping a hand over her face. “It’s Buck.”

“But he doesn’t know he’s Buck.” Chim retorts, shaking his head. “Look, you planned this with good intentions, but you all know better than most that brain injuries don’t just disappear.”

Bobby frowns. “So you’re saying we shouldn’t bother trying to get him back?”

“I’m saying you know as well as I do… We might not get him back.”

The mood shifts in an instant. Hen’s shaking her head, watery eyes boring into Chim. “No. He’s our Buck.”

Chimney sighs, but he doesn’t say what’s on his tongue.

No. He’s Eddie’s Evan.

He can just imagine the reaction that would get him. Instead he says, “And did you think about him, when you cooked this up?” He looks at Bobby and Athena, then to Hen. “When you went over and started casually prying about the accident? Okay, none of us knew a word could have such an effect on him but… Did any of you even think?”

“Chim…”

He whirls to meet Bobby’s eyes. “No. I’m saying this as a friend, not your colleague. You’re not my Captain in this, so you’re gonna listen.”

It looks like it takes all his willpower, but Bobby nods. In his haste wanting his son back, he knows they’ve messed up. Evan’s reaction was not at all what he’d wanted – what he’d even imagined – and it had broken what was left of his heart to see his boy so… distraught.

“I’m sure you’re all looking at it like this – he gets another family, and we get him back – and what could be the downside to that?” Chim continues. “But think about Evan,” and he stresses the name to prove his point that they are, in a lot of ways, two entirely different people, “who must have woken up in that hospital, scared and confused, and wondered why no-one was there for him. Wondered, all these months, why no-one came. Sure, we had reasons, but do you think they’re going to make sense to him? Do you think it will help? You’ve turned his world on its head. How does he deal with that now?”

Looking around at them, he can see they’re taking his words to heart. Each one of them, even Karen who had little to do with it all, has tears streaming down their faces. But he’s not done. There’s one person – one very important individual – that they all seem to have not thought about in the slightest.

“And what about Eddie? Not only did you do this under the guise of welcoming him to the firehouse – because sure, the 118’s gonna feel like home to him now, right? – but you didn’t think about him, in any of this.”

“Chim.” Hen says, her voice soft but raw. “It’s not like any of us were in a relationship with Buck. He was – is – our family. Eddie doesn’t need to feel threatened – ”

Chim cuts her off with a hand, shaking his head. “You don’t get it. That’s not…” He scrubs a hand over his face, because he can’t bring himself to say any more. He can’t speak for what Eddie or Evan might be feeling, can’t explain this. He just hopes they’ll think on it – that they’ll realise. “Just do them a favour, and apologise to Eddie at the start of shift tomorrow.”

Then he too is walking out of the Grant-Nash household, throwing over his shoulder. “If he shows up, that is.”

God, he needs a drink.

 

Eddie does show up for shift the next day, because he sure as hell isn’t the type of person to run away from his responsibilities, even if he knows the 12 hour shift is going to be completely awkward.

Evan drops him off at the corner though, refusing to go within even ten foot of the firehouse. “I c-can’t…” He whispers, when Eddie looks at him with a cocked head and raised brows. They’re parked on the pavement, the firehouse in the distance, and Evan shuts the engine off.

He realises in an instant, and presses a kiss to his husband’s forehead, smiling softly. “Whatever you need, Ev.”

Evan gives him a shaky smile. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” He kisses him softly, and then slides from the jeep. “Mario’s for dinner?”

“Sounds perfect.”

Eddie watches him drive away, a smile on his lips, but it does nothing to soothe the heaviness in his heart, or the ache of anger in his chest.

Walking the road up to the station allows him to clear his head a fraction. He knows he still needs to work with the team, despite yesterday’s events, and in this job it can kill to not trust those you work with. He needs to be focused and at ease, despite his husband keeping secrets from him. It’s harder to maintain though once he steps into the firehouse and sees Hen.

“Eddie…” She’s over at his side in an instant, her eyes glistening. He knows before she says it that she’s sorry, but it doesn’t do anything for the swirl of emotions he has buried inside him. “I’m so sorry. I never meant for any of yesterday to happen. Are you okay?”

He wants to snap, wants to tell her that it’s none of her business, but he doesn’t. He simply grinds his teeth and pushes out. “I’m fine.”

Hen raises a brow. “You don’t sound fine.”

Eddie is trying really hard not to blow up, chest heaving with the exertion of staying calm. “Henrietta, if I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.” Then he stalks straight to the gym, determined to use the extra steam for a good purpose.

“Is he okay?” She asks softly to his back, and he isn’t oblivious to the fact that she doesn’t say his name.

“No.” He turns back to her for a brief moment. “Evan isn’t okay.” He watches her face crumple, and there’s some strange satisfaction he feels in knowing that he isn’t the only one breaking. So he adds, a touch venomously. “But did you really expect he would be?”

He turns away again, and this time she says nothing. He’s almost to the gym when another voice calls out instead though, gruff and laced with warning. “Diaz!”

Eddie has to stop himself from rolling his eyes, but moves to look at Bobby, who’s leaning over the railing. The Captain’s expression is unreadable.

“My office.”

Eddie reluctantly complies, and if he shuts the door behind him with a little too much force, Bobby doesn’t say anything.

“Firstly I wanted to apologise for yesterday.” Bobby starts, but raises his hand when he can see Eddie moving to retort. “However, that does not excuse the way you just spoke to your colleague. You can be pissed at us. We handled the situation wrong, and we get that. But here, in this station, we work as a team, and nothing gets between that. Nothing can get between that.”

Eddie hears the warning, and the rational part of his brain knows it makes sense. They have to be able to trust each other in the field. Yet every part of his rational brain is being overtaken by anger – by images of his husband panicking, of waking up alone, of finding Evan in the station and being told that Evan hadn’t been truthful about everything. His entire world was spinning on its axis far too quickly for Eddie to comprehend, so surely he could be excused for being a little snappish at those who’d caused it.

“And is that what you were thinking,” Eddie replies, hands balled at his sides, “when you ambushed my husband, under the pretence of a party? When you triggered a panic attack so bad he almost ripped his hair out?” He shakes his head, expression betraying pure disbelief. “You can act all high and mighty, Captain, but you’re the ones who fucked up.”

“That’s enough.” Bobby’s voice is firm, hand gripping his desk. It’s clear he wants to give Eddie some leeway, but there’s only so much he can allow.

“No… No.” Eddie’s hands rake through his hair as he paces the small space. “It was enough when Evan was shaking after the flashback, but you had to go and explain it to him without even thinking about anyone but yourself. It was enough when he passed out in your backyard, but you still had to try and chase after him when all he wanted was to get out of there!” He stops, breathing heavily, like a raging bull, nails making crescents in his palms. “I am sorry that you lost Buck, but that does not give you the right to mess with my family.”

Bobby’s eyes are pained as they look up at Eddie. “He’s our family too.”

The rational part of Eddie is screaming for him to stop, but the wild part of him is thriving on the rage. “Then where were you when he was clinging to life in a hospital bed? When he couldn’t remember a damn thing, but didn’t understand why he was alone? If you’re his family, then where the hell were you?!

That’s enough!” Bobby bellows, and maybe it’s the shock of being yelled back at, or the sudden realisation that they are in the workplace, that has Eddie mellowing considerably. “Go home, Diaz. Come back tomorrow when you can talk rationally.”

Eddie stands there for a minute, eyes still smouldering and fists still clenched, but his body lax, energy depleted. Then he breaks his gaze from Bobby, turns on his heel, and leaves.

 

Evan finds him slumped on their couch, a beer bottle in hand, with two more tipped over on the table. Christopher is thankfully still with Abuela, but Evan’s nose still wrinkles in distaste at the smell of beer and sweat that permeates the air.

“What the hell happened?” He asks, moving into Eddie’s view. His husband is still dressed for work, but looks like he hasn’t moved for hours. Not to mention the fact that he shouldn’t actually be home at just gone 6pm anyway.

Eddie’s jaw clenches, but he doesn’t say anything, just takes another swig from the bottle.

Evan frowns, worry overriding everything else now. “Eddie? What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” Eddie grumbles, and he won’t meet Evan’s eyes.

Panic flares in Evan’s chest, mixed with hurt and worry. He’s pretty certain whatever it is has to do with the previous day’s events, and while he doesn’t really want to think about it himself, there’s only two things he can think that are bothering his husband; the team, or Evan himself.

“Did I do something wrong?”

Perhaps it’s the slight whimper that escapes with his words, but Eddie finally looks up, his expression softening.

“Oh, Carino…” He pats the seat next to him, and Evan quickly melts into his husband’s side. “I’m sorry.”

Evan looks up at him, eyes watery. “You can talk to me.”

God does Eddie want to, but he can’t let go of the hurt, the tightness in his chest, and the alcohol certainly isn’t helping. There are too many emotions swirling around inside him to simply bury his head into the crook of Evan’s neck and let it all out, like he’s done so many times before.

This situation is all too different.

For one, it’s Evan who’s hurt him too.

He doesn’t want to hold onto it – knows they need to move past it – but he can’t comply at that moment. The hurt is too sharp, too fresh, and all he can think when Evan says those words is ‘can I?’

Evan hadn’t come to him about ‘Buckley’. What else could he be keeping?

Not to mention the fact that Eddie knows if he lays it all out on the table, what he said to Hen and Bobby, that Evan won’t quite understand why. He won’t be angry, but he’ll be disappointed. He’ll be upset, and Eddie just can’t deal with that right now.

So instead he just stands, going into the kitchen for another beer.

“Eddie?” His husband is quick to follow, but with his efforts focused on the fridge, Eddie doesn’t notice how Evan’s legs shake as he stands, moving slowly over.

“It’s fine, Evan, just leave it.” He pulls a bottle out, reaching for the opener.

“Ed-” Evan gasps, pained, and when Eddie turns he sees Evan doubled over against one of the breakfast bar stools, head resting on his palm, a light sheen of sweat on his skin.

Eddie rushes to his side, concern overtaking everything else. “Flashback?” He asks, because he’s all too familiar with the position when Evan’s head is being split in two by a memory.

“N-No…” Evan shakes his head, taking in a gasp of air.

The word shakes Eddie, and he finds the anger rising again. Why else would he be in pain like that? Which means he’s keeping more secrets. “Don’t lie to me.” He snaps, hand falling from where it had been rubbing circles on Evan’s back.

Evan glances up, confusion mixing with pain. “I-I’m not…”

“I said don’t lie to me.” Eddie growls. “Not again. Not ever.”

“Eddie…” Evan’s shaking his head, pushing himself up to stand. “It wasn’t a flashback. I promise.”

Eddie watches him for a moment, swallowing thickly, then whispers. “How can I believe you?”

Evan stumbles, another gasp of pain escaping him, tears in his eyes. “Eddie…”

And Eddie can’t take the way Evan’s looking at him – can’t take the hurt there – and finds himself moving to the front door, hand shaking as he reaches for the doorknob. It’s all too much. He doesn’t know which way is up right now, and he just needs to get out of there. He needs to think.

The door is halfway open when Evan calls his name again, but Eddie just shakes his head, “I need air,” and lets the door click shut behind him.

 

For all he’d defended the man, Chimney can’t help but curse Eddie’s name as he makes it to hour four in his second twelve hour shift. They’d been a man down on their original shift, with Eddie leaving, and so Bobby had to call in Perkins from the second shift. That left the second shift with one down, and Chim had stupidly agreed to pull a double. He did need the money but… the slow day was proving to be torture.

Then he sees an all too familiar figure stumbling up the firehouse driveway, and wonders if it was fate that needed him here.

Evan Diaz is pale and shaking, and as Chim approaches his heart all but breaks.

“I didn’t know where else to go…”

Chapter Text

Chim notices several things at once.

Evan is pale, standing on shaky legs, holding his left side, and his eyes are red like he’s been crying.

His mind immediately thinks the worst, as a first responder, but in the week he’s known Eddie Diaz, and seeing the protectiveness he has of Evan, he knows it’s the wrong road to go down. Instead, he guides Evan to the back of the ambo – already open from doing stock checks – and makes him sit on the bed.

“I’m f-fine…” Evan murmurs, but his heart isn’t in it, and Chim knows injuries when he sees them.

“I’m sure you are.” Chim says with ease – and for a moment it’s like speaking to Buck instead of Evan. “But you come to the firehouse shaking like a leaf in winter, I’m gonna be worried. So, let me take a peek at your side.”

Evan flinches as Chim moves his hand from where it was gripped in his shirt, but doesn’t stop him from lifting the white cotton. “T-took a hit on a c-call…” His teeth are chattering, biting the words into pieces. “Didn’t th-think it was that b-bad…”

Chim winces at the mottled colours decorating Evan’s side, prodding gently. Evan hisses, jerking slightly. “I’m just gonna check your vitals.” Chim says, letting the shirt drop. He busies himself setting up a heart monitor and BP cuff, then studies the readouts on the tablet. “But I don’t think you came here just for a check-up.” He glances up at Evan, watching the way the younger man’s expression shifts from pain to worry.

Evan swallows, jerking again at another touch to his side, then says. “Eddie’s gone.”

Chim’s head snaps up from where he’d been looking at the vitals display again. “What?”

“We had a fight.” Evan croaks, rubbing a hand over his face. “I… I made a mistake, and he… he got upset… he left.” He’s still shaking as he meets Chim’s eyes. “But it’s been six hours. He never does this.”

“Have you tried calling him?” Chim asks as he disconnects the two machines from Evan, and tidies them away.

“He didn’t answer. He always answers.” Evan’s shaking his head now, running both hands through his hair. “I tried looking for him, but I… I don’t know the city…”

A frown creases Chim’s face as he appraises Evan, taking in the dampness of his pants and shirt, the lack of a coat. “Did you walk here?” He doesn’t know where they live, but he knows it’s far enough that Bobby had to give Eddie a lift after the earthquake, and that Evan has dropped him off since.

“I wasn’t thinking.” Evan shrugs. “I just… It got close to midnight and he still hadn’t responded, and I… I panicked.”

“So you came here?” Chim asks, and he can’t hide the disbelief in his voice. The station can’t be a good place for Evan right now, considering everything that has come to light.

Evan’s eyes are on the floor of the ambo, thumbs wrestling with each other. “I didn’t know where else to go.” He repeats, barely a whisper.

“Okay…” Chim takes a breath, mind whirling, then nods decisively. “Your ribs aren’t broken and your vitals are good, so I think you’ve just got some bad bruising. Arnica should help, and I can bring you some other home remedies in the morning.” He jumps down from the ambo, extending his hand to Evan. “As for Eddie, let me go check upstairs, but I’ll help you find him.”

“You will?” Evan’s eyes are teary again, and Chim wonders why he might have thought that he wouldn’t. Sure the barbeque didn’t go well, but they were still Eddie’s team-mates, if nothing else.

He squeezes the younger man’s hand with a smile, helping him down from the ambo. “Of course. Just wait here.”

He’s quick up to the Captain’s office, letting the shift lieutenant know he has a family emergency and needs to go, and grabbing something from the corner, and then jogs quickly into the locker room for his bag and a pot of Arnica from his locker. Coming back to Evan’s side, he passes him the pot with the comment “I always keep some on me, just in case,” and then leads the younger man out to his car.

He tells Evan to get in the front passenger seat, passing him the item he’d picked up from Bobby’s office, saying “This’ll keep you warm,” and then he’s jumping into the driver’s seat and pealing out of the parking lot.

The first few minutes of the drive are quiet, both their eyes scanning the streets of L.A. for any sign of Eddie, and then Evan must realise what Chim passed him because he says “Should you have taken this?”

Chim gives a sigh, eyes still scanning the roads. “It hasn’t been used in over a year.”

“Oh…” He sees the moment that Evan looks down and realises that it’s not just any old turnout coat, fingers tracing over the letters B U C K L E Y.

“I told them exactly what I thought about yesterday’s events, but…” Chim risks a quick glance over at Evan. “they did it because they miss him.”

“I can’t imagine… what it was like…” Evan says softly, fingers still playing with the reflective letters. “You thought I was dead.”

Chim does note the use of ‘I’, brow furrowing slightly. “And they didn’t think about what it had been like for you.”

“I was okay.” Evan shrugs. “I had Eddie and Christopher.”

At that, Chim smiles. “I’m glad you did.” He lets a few moments pass, both of them scanning the roads still. “So you believe us?”

Evan is quiet for a long moment, just watching the roads and the passing of each street lamp. “I’ve been having dreams…” His voice is barely a whisper, but in the quiet of the car Chim can hear each word, echoing in his ears like a foghorn. “Blurry faces and fire and… they called me Buckley…” He cuts off, a sob escaping. “I didn’t tell Eddie…”

Half of Chim is shocked, but the other half – the medic half – is intrigued by the notion of subconscious repressed memories, so he just hums a noise of understanding.

Evan swallows. “Honestly, I didn’t want to know.”

Chim’s eyes glance back at him. “Is that what you fought about?”

“Lucky guess.” Evan chuckles, but it’s wet and hollow. “He has every right to be mad at me.”

“No he doesn’t. You’re going through a lot.”

Evan’s eyes jerk up to look at him. “And he isn’t?”

Chim can’t really argue with him there. “So why did you come to the firehouse?” Honestly, if he were in Evan’s position, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere near them right now.

“Because he’s more important.” Evan replies firmly, then he gives Chim a soft smile. “I’m glad it was you though.”

“Yeah?” He can’t help but be surprised.

“You’re the only one who didn’t look at me like I’m a ghost.”

Chim isn’t even sure how he’s supposed to respond to that, so he just says. “Try Eddie again?”

Evan sighs softly, but complies, putting the phone to his ear. His shock shows on his face when Eddie actually picks up.

“What?” Comes the gruff, slurred voice of his husband.

“Eddie, where are you?” Evan asks, trying to calm the panic in his voice. He puts it on loudspeaker for Chim to hear, and there’s a strange noise in the background, like wailing, only more melodic.

“Another.” Eddie replies, and Evan frowns.

“What?”

The call cuts out, and Evan quickly tries to dial back, only to get voicemail. He swears, hand hitting the dashboard. The warm air pumping through the car, and the weight of the turnout coat on his lower half, has made him feel more human now, and all he can feel beside panic is an annoyance at his husband for being so stupid. “Now what?”

Chim’s already pulling left, a determined look on his face now. “I know where he is.”

Evan looks at him in disbelief. “How?”

“Because there’s only one place in L.A. that has karaoke on a Thursday.”

 

The bar is, in actual fact, only twenty minutes walk from their house. Evan isn’t sure why he hadn’t thought of it, but then the firehouse was in the other direction, and perhaps his subconscious knew to go there before he actually thought it. Still, he’s quick to spot his husband as soon as they walk in.

Mainly because he’s being held back by someone while another guy raises a fist to him.

“Hey!” Chim yells, noticing as soon as Evan does, and racing forward. He can see already that Eddie’s nose is bloody. “That’s enough!”

The man swears, but lowers his fist. “He yours?”

Chim glances back at Eddie, and resists the urge to groan. “He’s a friend.”

“Then you can pay his bar tab.” The man growls. “Asshole tried to walk out.”

This time Chim does sigh, pulling out his wallet. “Man, he’s passed it. How much does he owe?”

“Fifty Two, Seventy.”

Chim reluctantly hands over the cash, then turns to Eddie. “Really? Did you drink the whole bar?”

Eddie somehow has the wherewithal to mumble. “Not for lack of trying…” His words are slurred but slow. He stumbles when the other man lets him go, and Chim is quick to put an arm around Eddie, keeping him on his feet.

“Right, come on.” He glances to Evan, who’s still stood in shock, staring at Eddie like he doesn’t even recognise him. “Evan? You okay?”

Evan blinks, wiping away his tears, and nods. “Let’s just get him home.”

They manage to get Eddie into the back of the car, Chim tending to his nose with a comment of “It’s not broken, but you’re gonna be sore,” but the drive to the Diaz’s is charged with tension. Evan refuses to look at his husband, who’s pawing at his shoulder with one hand.

“Evvvvvaaaannnnn.”

Chim can see Evan’s heart breaking with every passing moment, and puts a hand on his shoulder. “He’ll sleep it off and be worse for it in the morning.”

“Yeah…” Evan whispers, but Eddie’s staring at Chim’s hand like it’s the devil.

“Dooon’t t-touch hiiiim.” He wacks his forearm against Chim’s uncoordinatedly, and that’s the breaking point for Evan, who whirls around in his chair.

“Stop it. Now.” Evan growls.

Eddie sits back, chastised, and pouts. “Mine…”

“Edmundo Diaz, I swear to god, if you say one more thing…”

Somehow, Eddie listens, and the rest of the drive is unnaturally silent. When they finally pull up, Chim helps Evan get Eddie into the house, and then to the bedroom, depositing him on the bed in a heap. Chim looks at Eddie sadly, and then turns to Evan. “Call if you need anything, otherwise I’ll come around in the morning with some more stuff for your side.”

“Thank you.”

“That’s what friends are for.”

Then he’s gone, and Evan is left with a half conscious husband on the bed. “Go to sleep.” He says, before moving to grab one of the pillows. Eddie’s lying awkwardly, but Evan knows he can’t move him.

Eddie groans and reaches for him, but Evan just steps away. “I’m sleeping on the couch.” It’ll be hell for his side, but he just can’t be in the same room with him at that moment.

The door clicks shut, and then Evan sinks down onto the couch and cries.

 

Eddie wakes in the morning to a dry mouth, his tongue heavy like lead, and a pounding headache the size of mount Everest. He can barely remember the previous night, and certainly has no idea how he actually ended up back home. What he does, fortunately or unfortunately, remember though is the look on Evan’s face before he walked out the door.

That realisation has him pawing at the bed for his husband, finding only cold sheets. Bleary eyes open to show that he’s actually lying on the corner of the bed, still fully clothed, and that he’s alone.

Shit.

He’s immediately filled with remorse and anguish, berating himself for letting his anger get so out of control. He owes his husband the biggest apology.

“Evan?” He groans, looking at the alarm clock on the bedside table.

8:53am

He’s surprised it’s so early, and simultaneously thankful that he’s on a late shift. Pushing himself off the bed, ignoring the roll of his stomach, he stumbles through the house, calling softly for his husband.

His heart breaks when he finds him.

Evan is curled up on the couch, blanket held tight around him by clenched fists, and his face is red and puffy. It’s quite obvious he cried himself to sleep.

“Oh, carino…” Eddie murmurs, self-deprecating emotions growing by the second.

Padding into the kitchen, he sets about making coffee and pancakes; Evan’s favourite breakfast. He can’t cook much – usually the kitchen is Evan’s space – but his pancakes are beloved by both his boys, and it at least starts his very lengthy apology.

He’s just pouring the batter into the pan for the first batch, when Evan’s breath hitches, and his eyes flicker open. He seems to gaze at the back of the couch for a moment, before his nose wrinkles, smelling the coffee. “Eddie?”

Eddie gently moves over, cautious. “Hey…”

Evan blinks, looking between him and the kitchen. “Pancakes?”

“The start of a very big apology.”

Evan flinches, but says nothing. In all honesty, he’s not sure what he can say. He wants to say that it’s okay, but he knows it isn’t, not really? They clearly have a lot to work through, and it was never going to be as simple as one conversation. Instead he stretches, flinching at the pain that lances through his side, then grabs the tub of Arnica from where he’d placed it on the table, and heads into the bathroom.

Lifting his shirt gently, he grimaces at the mottled blue and purple bruises, and starts to apply the ointment. He can hear the pad of Eddie’s feet come closer, but it’s too late to lock the bathroom door now.

He hears his husband gasp before he sees him, slowly lifting his gaze. “It’s not as bad as it looks.” He finishes with the cream and drops his shirt, putting the tub onto the shelf and reminding himself to thank Chim for it later.

“Wh-What…?” Eddie’s gaping at him, pale, and Evan sighs.

“I took a hit on a call yesterday. That’s what I was trying to tell you before you left.”

Eddie blinks. “But you were on training?”

“I was.” Evan slips past him, back into the living room. The stove is off, a single plate of pancakes on the side, but he’s not hungry. He takes two Tylenol from the bottle on the table, downing them with the leftover juice he’d had in a glass. “Until dispatch got two separate calls, ten minutes apart, about injured hikers on the terrain nearby. Both our units were out when the second came through, so Alpha Red took it. I was on rescue with Vi.”

“They didn’t make you go to the ER?” Eddie asks, coming to sit on the other side of the couch.

Evan’s glad he’s wise enough to realise he needs space, then shakes his head. “It didn’t look that bad at the time. My line got snagged and I just hit a rock at an angle.”

“I’m sorry.” Eddie sighs, reaching out to take Evan’s hand. A little part of Evan wants to deny him the contact, but he also doesn’t want to get into another fight; he’s had enough for the month, at the very least. “I’m an idiot.”

“Leaving the house for hours and not telling me where you are, then getting into a bar fight? Yes, you are.” Evan runs a hand through his hair, then reaches out and takes Eddie’s hand, squeezing softly. “But you’re my idiot.”

Eddie brightens a little at that, squeezing back. “I don’t even remember much after leaving… But I am sorry, Evan. I’m so damn sorry.”

“I’m not gonna say it’s okay.” Evan says softly, meeting his husband’s gaze. “Because it’s not. But I shouldn’t have kept something from you. I should have told you everything.”

“I understand why you did.” Eddie replies, shifting a little closer. “You’re right. I would have moved heaven and earth to find them for you. I’d do anything for you.”

“I know you would. But all I need, is you and Christopher.”

Eddie sighs, pulling Evan closer and pressing a kiss to his temple. “I’m so sorry, Carino.”

“Me too.” Evan replies, slowly letting himself relax into the touch. “I promise, it was the only thing I didn’t tell you. There’s nothing else.”

“No more secrets?” Eddie murmurs.

“No more secrets.”

Their peace is short-lived by the doorbell ringing, and Evan groans as he pushes himself up off the couch. “That’ll be Chim.”

Eddie frowns, eyes following him to the door. “What?”

Evan doesn’t reply, greeting Chimney with a smile as he opens the door. “Hey.”

“You sound better.” Chim says in leiu of a greeting, and then his gaze drifts to Eddie. “And you look better.”

“Th-Thanks?” Eddie feels utterly bewildered.

Chim has a brown paper bag in his arms, moving past Evan into the kitchen. “I brought Pineapple, spinach, strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkin seeds.” He says to Evan. “All high in bromelain, vitamin K or zinc, and all great for bruising. I also got you plenty ice.”

Evan all but grins at him. “You’re an angel, Chim.”

“Can’t have you on the bench when there are trees to be saved!” Chim laughs, putting it all in the fridge/freezer, directed by Evan.

Eddie just watches the interaction, brows drawn low and lips pursed. ‘Since when did this happen?’ his brain asks.

“Oh.” Evan turns, moving out of the kitchen. “I’ll just get the coat.”

“You don’t – ” Chim starts, and then seems to think better of it, closing the fridge.

Evan is back a few seconds later, handing him a turnout coat, and hell if that doesn’t confuse Eddie even more.

“You okay?” Chim asks, and Evan looks between him and Eddie with a smile.

“We’re okay.” He gives Chim a quick hug, thanks him for the food and then says, “I got to get ready for my shift,” and is gone.

That leaves Eddie still befuddled, blinking at Chim. “What was that about?”

Chim shifts, then shrugs. “He needed help finding you last night.”

“You were there?”

Chim nods. “He came to the firehouse, injured and panicked. Of course I came to find you.”

He came to the firehouse.

He went to them.

He’d been so worried about Evan pushing him away, keeping secrets, that he’d only gone and pushed Evan away instead.

Chim must take his silence as dismissal, because he turns and is out the door. The last thing Eddie sees before it clicks shut is the lettering on the turnout coat he’s holding.

B U C K L E Y

 

Things seem to ease between himself and Evan as the day progresses, feeling more normal, but Eddie can’t get the image of the turnout, or Chim’s words, out of his mind.

By the time it comes to his shift, he’s definitely a lot calmer than he was the day before. His emotions are still rattling away, his brain ticking on overtime, but he at least feels a little more able to cope with it.

That said, as much as he’d expected it, being called into Bobby’s office first thing does little for the grey cloud still hanging over him.

“How are you doing?” Bobby asks.

Eddie sighs. “Better.” He really doesn’t want to hash things out, because he knows he’ll still be quick to anger. “And I’m sorry, for my reaction yesterday. It was uncalled for.”

“It was.” Bobby nods. “But we were in the wrong too.”

“I just didn’t understand, why you didn’t talk to me.” Eddie says, and he can hear his voice crack a little. That’s what it comes down to really, at the end of it all. He understands that if Evan really is Buck, they’d want to get back into his life, and that’s fine, mostly. What hurt was the feeling of betrayal; that they had gone behind his back and made things worse for them in the process. They hadn’t thought about him or Evan. They’d just done what was best for them.

“I should have, and I’m sorry I didn’t.” Bobby says, offering a hand. “But I’m hoping we can work passed it.”

Eddie’s jaw ticks for a moment, and then he takes Bobby’s hand.

“I can try.”

Chapter Text

True to his word, Eddie does try. Inside the firehouse he’s professional and courteous and works well with the team. There’s no animosity between them, no broiling anger, or snarled wit. They’re a team.

But that’s all they are.

One night Hen confides in Karen, saying it’s almost worse than when they didn’t know Buck was alive. They’re grateful, of course. Even just knowing he’s okay, even if he never wants to see them, is better than the alternative. But that doesn’t make it any easier. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt.

The 118 isn’t a family anymore, and they all know it.

Outside the firehouse, Eddie doesn’t speak to them. They don’t see him, or Christopher, or Evan. Even a glance involves one or both of them going in a completely different direction.

Worse, Chim does get to see them. Neither Hen or Bobby have been able to ascertain why, but Chim seems to have developed a fledgeling friendship with Evan, and while it’s clear that Eddie isn’t overly fond of the development, he hasn’t stopped it.

So Chim will be on shift, and get a call from Evan, or will facetime with Christopher, or will just be texting with a smile, and it makes for tension between himself and Hen and Bobby.

Eddie will share a few friendly words with the medic too, more than he gives Bobby and Hen, but it too is strained with Eddie’s own issues; his own fears.

Which only goes on to affect his relationship with Evan.

Neither have addressed it, but things have changed since the night they had to bring Eddie home, drunk. Sure they’ve moved past the initial problems, the fight, and Eddie doesn’t think Evan’s keeping secrets from him again but… it’s still far from normal.

So begins another day at Station 118, with the morning shift just rolling in. Eddie’s been there for three weeks now, and has – despite the circumstances – managed to get into some sort of a routine.

His truck is fixed now, so he takes himself to the station after saying goodbye to Evan and Chris, and gets there at least thirty minutes early, if not more. He heads into the gym, starting with the weights, then the punching bag, and then the running machine if he has time. He cleans up, gets a shower, and changes into uniform in time for morning line up and breakfast.

He makes small talk with the team over whatever Bobby has cooked, and has a somewhat friendly conversation with Chim. Then they get to work on drills and tech checks.

This particular morning has him working on stocking the ambo with Hen, and they manage to get through a good fifteen minutes before she’s looking at him like she wants to say something.

He sighs. “What?”

“I just…” She shakes her head, seeming to think better of it, but he’s both annoyed and intrigued now.

“No, go on.”

She huffs, takes a moment, then; “When do you celebrate his birthday?”

He’s actually taken aback by the question. It wasn’t what he’d been expecting. “Um… honestly? November 12th. The day he got out of hospital.”

“Oh…” She doesn’t meet his gaze as she says. “It’s May 4th. He’d be twenty eight this year.”

At this Eddie can’t help but chuckle. “Figures. He’s a big Star Wars nerd.”

“That’s what I wanted to ask.” Hen’s eyes are wet as they look at him. “Whether he’d mind us getting him a gift and… and what he might want…”

Eddie sighs. “You’d have to ask him.”

“You’d let us?”

“It’s not up to me, Hen.”

She doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t either. They continue working in silence, and Eddie wonders when exactly fate decided to make his life so damn complicated.

 

Evan knows things have been a bit tense between him and Eddie. He knows that one or two conversations aren’t going to magically fix things. Yes his husband had forgiven him for keeping quiet about some of his dreams, and he too had forgiven Eddie for his reactions, both sober and drunk.

It still didn’t make everything automatically better.

They were tiptoeing around each other too much, afraid to say something that might upset the other. Evan knew he was starting to overshare every little detail he dreamt about, just in case it might be a memory, just in case it might mean something later on.

“I dreamt about otters last night.” He’d said that morning.

Eddie had just huffed and snapped. “Unless you’ve been an otter wrangler, I don’t think it matters.”

Evan had turned away after that, and Eddie has excused himself to make breakfast. He couldn’t remember the last time they’d stayed in bed for an hour, just enjoying the early morning sun streaming through the blinds and the warmth of each others arms. He barely remembered feeling his husband’s touch bar the occasional brush or touch by accident or necessity.

Still, the last thing he’d expected when packing Christopher’s lunch for school was for his young son to say;

“Are you and D-Dad getting a d-divorce?”

The small voice wobbled, on the verge of tears, and Evan had barely time to register the words themselves before he was wrapping Chris up in the tightest hug.

“No.” He croaks eventually, when his brain starts to function. “No, buddy, why would you think that?”

Christopher hiccups, clinging onto his Papi. “You keep fighting… and sometimes you sleep on the couch… and when Matty’s parents did that he said they g-got a d-divorce…”

Evan curses both himself and Eddie then for being too transparent in their issues. Christopher is a smart kid, and of course would notice that things weren’t quite right. Still…

“No.” He repeats, hugging his kid close. He doesn’t even want to think of trying to navigate life without either of them. “Not going to happen, buddy, I promise you that.”

Christopher just sniffles.

“Hey.” Evan pulls back, tilting Chris’ chin. “I promise, okay? Me and your Dad… we love each other, and you, so very much. Marriage is… it’s work, and sometimes there are bad days, or bad weeks, and that’s all this is, okay. I don’t want you worrying about this, kiddo.”

Chris throws his arms around Evan, hugging him tightly. “I love you too.” Then it’s his hand on Evan’s cheek, smiling softly. “You’re gonna be okay, kid.”

Evan vows to have a talk with Eddie after the latter’s shift, to talk this whole thing out, but for that moment, a tiny ounce of fear gnaws at his chest, and he just hopes Christopher is right.

 

The flames encase the building like a giant, deadly hug, and Bobby’s eyes narrow, taking in the thick black smoke. He shakes his head, knowing it’s time to call it, despite the missing person still inside.

“Captain 118 to all units. Evacuate the building.” He says into his radio, voice deep and commanding. “I repeat, evacuate the building.”

This is the point where Buck’s voice always fills his mind – cocky, self-assured, but loyal to a fault and with his heart on his sleeve. “I can get ‘em, Cap!” He’d yell, followed by some hair-brained scheme that he’s already acting out even as he tells Bobby his plan. More often than not, Bobby had referred to his judgement, even if it left his heart in his mouth.

Now there was just silence where Evan Buckley used to be.

Except, Eddie’s voice is in his ear, telling him he can see the last person. That he can get them out of the window if they put an airbag on the floor.

“Eddie, I said get out of there!” He yells into his radio, even as his hands motion for Vasquez and Cooper to get the airbag. Knowing Eddie and who he’s married to, he’s pretty sure he isn’t going to be listened to.

“I can do it, Cap! I can save them!” Eddie yells back, and maybe it’s too similar to the words Buck would have used, but Bobby finds himself shaking his head, tears in his eyes.

“I said – ”

Eddie cuts him off. “God dammit, I said I can get them!” The latino’s voice is gruff from smoke, but beneath it all, angry.

All it does however is bring to the surface Bobby’s own fury – his fear. “I am not losing someone else, Diaz! Not today, not ever!”

Silence, and then a biting remark.

“I’m not Buck.”

Bobby reels, watching almost dazedly as the air bag is set up, Eddie’s body appearing at a window six stories above with a woman strapped to him. Watches, tears in his eyes, as the rope snags on the window frame, flames licking at its bonds as Eddie gets lower.

No, he’s not Buck, but it doesn’t matter.

Bobby will not lose someone else again.

He’s running, yelling for EMT’s on standby, yelling for them to increase pressure into the air bag, to get it up faster. Just yelling as the rope crackles and snaps, windows exploding, sending both bodies plummeting down.

Bobby’s heart freezes.

The woman is fine, Vasquez and Cooper helping her off the airbag, but Eddie isn’t moving.

“Chim! Hen!” Bobby calls, voice betraying his own fear. They’re quick to move, professional training taking over as they assess Eddie.

“Pupils are light reactive but dialated!” Hen calls. “Definitely got a concussion, but he’s just knocked out.”

“I need trauma dressing!” Chim yells, fingers pressing down around a piece of glass embedded in Eddie’s chest.

Other medics are assisting, passing Chim the equipment he needs, handing Hen an oxygen mask and bag when Eddie starts wheezing. They secure a c-collar around his neck, get him onto the backboard, and then Bobby’s left watching them load him into the ambo.

“He gonna be okay?” He manages to ask Hen, who nods stiffly.

“Should be fine, Cap.”

He can see his own fear reflected in her eyes.

As the ambulance pulls away, Bobby’s hand reaches shakily for his phone, pushing for speed-dial 3. He’s lost for words, and all he can think is;

‘Stay with us, Eddie.’

Chapter Text

The last thing Evan Diaz was expecting that evening was a call from Bobby Nash.

He hadn’t spoken to the man since the party-gone-wrong, and honestly was never intending to do so again. Nothing against the guy, and Evan knew deep down that he’d once been a big part of his life, but it was just too much, too soon, if at all.

He had Eddie and Christopher to think about first, especially considering their son’s fears over how the two of them had been acting.

He’d found a good friend in Chimney, and that he could handle. Like he’d said, he was the only one who didn’t treat him like a ghost.

Point being, as soon as he sees the screen light up with ‘Capt. Nash’, he knows it’s going to be something bad. His heart freezes in his chest, fingers trembling, and it takes him three tries to hit the ‘answer’ button.

“Hello?”

There’s a breath on the other end, though Evan can’t tell if it’s relief or disappointment. “Evan, it’s Bobby… uh, Captain Nash.”

“Is Eddie okay?” His hand is gripped around the phone, still trembling. He knew this day would come, but he hadn’t expected it to be so soon, and with everything else…

“He’s gonna be fine.” Bobby tells him, and Evan releases a breath, almost keeling over where he stands. “But he took a hit on a call. They’re taking him to L.A. General.”

Part of Evan wants to start crying, but the rational part – the part of him who is also a firefighter – remains calm. “What happened?”

“He was rappelling down a building when fire caught the line. We had an air bag, but he’s got a concussion and took a piece of glass to the chest.”

Evan swallows, nodding as he grabs his keys and jumps into the car, hooking the phone up to the hands free system. Christopher was with Abuela, thankfully. “How bad?”

Another sigh. “Punctured his lung, but Hen says his breathing was okay on the O2.”

He pulls out of the driveway, heads towards L.A. General, thanking whoever is listening for keeping Eddie relatively safe. “Okay… Okay, thanks. I’m on my way.”

There’s a moment where Evan thinks Bobby wants to say something more, but all he hears is “Stay safe” and then the call ends.

Evan lets out a shaky breath and calls Abuela.

It’s going to be a long night.

 

By the time he makes it to L.A. General, the rest of the 118 are already in the waiting room. Hen looks tired, her face pale, and she’s just staring at the ceiling like it holds all the answers to the universe. Bobby is sat beside her, looking much the same. Chim is pacing, running a hand through his hair, but when he sees Evan a small smile graces his lips.

“Hey.” He pulls the other man into a short hug. “He’s gonna be fine.”

Evan pulls back, looking into Chim’s eyes for any hint of a lie. “The docs tell you that?”

Chim shakes his head. “No, but I know. He’s strong, and it wasn’t too bad.” There’s a look in his eyes then that says ‘I’ve seen worse’.

It comforts Evan, even only just. He sighs, slumping down into one of the hard plastic chairs, head in his hands. He can feel Bobby’s eyes on him, and slowly raises his head to meet him.

Bobby offers a small smile. “You okay?”

Evan chuckles, but it’s without mirth. “I knew it would happen eventually. Just didn’t think it would be so soon.”

“I told him to get out.” Bobby says with a sigh. “But he’s stubborn. Too much like someone else I knew.”

Evan watches him, the way Bobby’s face ticks as he speaks, and he knows immediately who the older man is referring to. He sighs, “Don’t,” and lowers his head back to his hands.

“Don’t what?”

“You know what.” He grumbles, forcing himself to stay calm. This was the whole reason he’d been avoiding them. Lord knew they were going to try and pry their way in eventually.

“I’m not saying we have to talk about it – ” Bobby starts, and then Evan can feel Chim’s hand on his back, can imagine the shake of his head.

“Then why bring it up?”

“I was just making an observation.”

“You were trying to get a reaction.” Evan’s head snaps up, anger and hurt in his eyes. “Looks like you got one.”

“Evan...” Bobby’s looking at him sadly, but Evan can’t think straight.

“Not the name you want to say is it?”

A sigh. “I know this has been hard for you, but it’s been hard for us too.”

Evan swallows, his anger dissipating slightly. “I know. I can’t imagine what you went through. But you also don’t know what I went through. You don’t know how many times I wished…” He shakes his head, knowing that it does him no good to draw on the past; in some ways, it’s the whole reason they’re in this mess. He thinks back to the party, to finding Eddie in that bar. ‘Buck’ has brought him nothing but ill, and he is not him. His anger simmers, boiling again beneath the surface. “But it doesn’t matter now. What matters is that my husband is in the hospital. What matters is that we can’t even be in the same room as each other sometimes. What matters is that my eight year old son asked me if we were getting a divorce! So excuse me, Captain Nash, if I’m not particularly interested in making you feel better right now!”

“Evan…” Chim’s hand is tight on his shoulder; part comfort and part warning. Whatever he was going to say is cut off however by the appearance of a doctor.

“Family of Eddie Diaz.”

Evan jumps to his feet. “I’m his husband.”

The doctor smiles. “He’s going to be fine. He had to undergo light surgery to repair his lung, and he has a concussion, but we’re going to keep him in a few days for observation and antibiotics, then he’ll be discharged.”

“Thank you.” Evan finally breathes a true sigh of relief, and almost wants to hug the doctor. Almost. “Thank you.”

“Would you like to see him?”

 

Eddie’s awake when Evan reaches his room, pale but smiling against the white sheets. He’s hooked up to a few monitors, a gauze patch on his head, but Evan knows it could have been a lot worse.

“Hey.” Eddie takes his hand, squeezing softly.

Evan smiles, eyes watering. “Dios, Eddie. You call me the danger magnet.”

“I’m fine, carino.”

He lets out a sob, squeezing Eddie’s hand back just as tight. “You almost weren’t…”

“But I am.” Eddie’s eyes are drooping already, likely an effect of the pain meds, but he touches Evan’s cheek softly.

Evan leans into the touch, blinking back tears. “I can’t lose you.”

“You’re not going to lose me…” Eddie’s words are broken by a yawn, and then his eyes droop closed completely, breathing evening out into a light snore.

Evan thinks of the past weeks, of all the words spoken and all the words left unsaid. He thinks about Chris, the tears that had streamed down his face as he put words to his fear; how his son clung to him, and how Evan couldn’t imagine life without them.

“Are you sure?”

 

Two days into Eddie’s hospital stay, and Evan still didn’t know the answer to his own question. His husband had been snappy towards the doctors and nurses, expressing his wishes to get out of there, but moreover he’d been snappy towards the team, and Evan, when they visited.

The only person he seemed genuinely pleased to see was Christopher.

Much as Evan knew Eddie had been struggling with everything, and that the presence of the 118 – concerned and compassionate – was likely not helping Eddie’s mindset, Evan was about at breaking point.

Whether he let them in or not, Eddie needed to realise that the 118 were not his enemy, and that Evan was completely loyal to his vows; to Eddie. There was nothing his husband needed to fear, even if Evan still feared the 118 himself.

“Chim’s bringing Chris round after school.” Evan says as he fluffs Eddie’s pillows, smiling softly. “That way I get to stay with you ‘til visiting hours are over.”

“You don’t need to.” Eddie mumbles, eyes dark at the mention of Chimney. “I’m sure you’ve better places to be.”

Evan’s eyes narrow. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.” He moves, handing Eddie the pot of jello and spoon that he’d gotten from the cafeteria.

“I’m not hungry.” Eddie turns away with a sigh.

“Okay. I’m done.” Evan all but slams the pot back down. “You are going to tell me what the hell is going on in that brain of yours, Edmundo Diaz, or so help me…”

“What?” Eddie snarls, turning back. “You gonna call Chim? Bobby? Athena?”

Evan jerks back, eyes filling with hurt. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Nothing.” Eddie grumbles, snatching the pot and playing with the lid. “Everything’s fine.”

“Bullshit.”

They stare at each other for a long moment, Evan’s jaw taut and eyes swimming.

“I just…” Eddie sighs. “I can’t deal with it, okay. This fact that you had some whole other life – ”

“And you don’t have a past?”

“My past is dead.”

They don’t mention Shannon anymore.

“So what, you want proof I didn’t leave someone behind? You want proof I’m not going to walk away, is that it?” Evan can feel his anger rising. It’s like he’s fighting a losing battle; he doesn’t even know which way is up, let alone how to win. Instead he just throws his hand up. “Does this ring mean nothing anymore?”

“Not if you had one before it.”

Evan reels again, because god if Eddie isn’t hitting him exactly where it hurts; lightning strikes and venomous blows that are wearing down everything Evan had left. “I don’t know what I can do, to prove how much I love you.”

“You…” Eddie sighs, turning away again. “It’s just something I have to deal with.”

Evan shakes his head, hands clenches so tightly that he can feel his nails digging into his palms. “So that’s it? I just… wait? Hope you become okay with this?” He scoffs, fury in his eyes. Eddie can play the martyr all he wants, but it’s not just his life being messed with, and he wasn’t the one there when Christopher was crying. “Yeah, it sucks, and I am sorry. But when you can’t act like the man I married – when our kid is asking me if we’re getting a divorce,” Eddie’s eyes snap to him at that, “then maybe we need to actually talk this through.”

Eddie’s silent for a moment, eyes slipping back down towards the bed. “Well maybe I’m not the man you married…” His own tears are falling now, silently wetting the white sheets. “Maybe you’re not the man I married either…”

Evan pales, a sob crawling up his throat and screeching through clenched teeth. Tears track down his face, eyes falling to the platinum ring on his finger. Shaking, he twists it off, placing it in Eddie’s palm. His husband’s eyes flick to it, then up at Evan, but Evan can’t look at him, his entire body shaking with the force of the sobs he’s burying down. “Then maybe you give me that back, when you realise I still am.”

He turns and leaves, ignoring the call of his name that follows. He walks until he doesn’t know where he is, before sliding down the wall and letting the sobs loose.

By some twist of fate, Bobby finds him, immediately concerned.

“Evan?” He kneels down beside the boy, reaching out in comfort. He’s surprised when Evan latches onto him, still sobbing. “What’s wrong? Is Eddie okay?”

Evan coughs, sobs subsiding, and shakes his head. “No. I’m not either.”

“You want to talk about it?”

He shakes his head again. He can’t even think of what just happened, let alone tell someone else.

“You want to get a coffee?”

He feels sick, and in any other instant he would be running as far away from the 118 captain as he could get, but he recognises the olive branch, and this time – his heart shattered in his chest – he’s thankful for it.

“Yeah. That’d be nice.” He offers Bobby a small smile, glad when it’s returned.

The Captain helps him to his feet, warm arm around his back as Evan wipes his face on his sleeve. They walk in silence towards the cafeteria, and then Evan’s mind is whirling, thinking, realising what he needs to do.

So he looks up at Bobby and says. “Tell me about him?”

Bobby doesn’t even need to ask.

“We called him Buck…”

Chapter Text

Evan has a plan.

He knows it’s a stupid plan, but it’s all he has.

The whole situation has gotten out of control, has been spiralling for too long, and only once his tears had dried could he see that.

He and Eddie were both hurting, lashing out without thought or reason because neither of them knows how to deal with this whole thing. It’s not as if the local store has a manual called ‘How to fix your marital problems when one of you has amnesia,’ or ‘Why emotional constipation hurts everyone’. They were drowning in water so deep they could barely see the bottom.

He knew he had to do something if he wanted to save his marriage.

Even as Bobby speaks, telling him about Buck from across the table, his eyes drift to his now bare finger, pain filling his chest.

Wasn’t that just the stupidest move he’d ever made?

He hadn’t thought, too upset from Eddie’s words, too blinded by the pain caused by them. His husband had known exactly where to hit, playing Evan’s fears that his life has changed irrevocably without his consent; that he himself had changed. No, it had dug deeper than that, claws digging into the edges of his mind, whispering that he wasn’t good enough, that Eddie had never loved him – their entire marriage some reverse version of a hero complex – and that Evan wasn’t worth fighting for. Whispering that Eddie was just looking for a way out; a reason to let Evan go.

So he’d done what he thought Eddie wanted. He was giving him space, letting him work through it. Letting him come to Evan when he was ready – if he was ready. Letting Eddie decide if he was worth fighting for.

But it wasn’t that. He knows that now his mind is clearer.

It was Eddie pulling away to protect himself.

His husband has always had lingering fears of being abandoned ever since Shannon left, ever since she died, and as much as his words – his actions – pushed and pulled on Evan’s own fears of abandonment, Evan knew it wasn’t purposeful.

Eddie was terrified Evan was going to leave.

Evan didn’t know how to show him that he never would.

But he couldn’t go back to that room now, and try and take his actions back. No. He’d hurt them both irrevocably, and there was only one thing he could do to fix things now.

He had to prove to Eddie that there was no-one else. He had to tie off every loose end Evan Buckley might have left.

Then he had to show Eddie, past or no past, that the Diaz family was his future.

So he had a plan, even if it was the most stupidly irresponsible plan in the history of the entire world (Okay, maybe not that bad, but bad enough, even with Bobby sat opposite him telling him just how stupid and irresponsible Buck once was).

Wet eyes lift from the rim of his coffee cup, looking up at Bobby through clumped lashes. “Did he have anyone?”

Bobby seems startled by the question. “What?”

“Buck… Was there… Was there anyone?”

Bobby blinks, a frown forming on his face. “Is this to do with Eddie?”

“Just… answer the question.”

“Not that we knew of.” Bobby sighs. “He hooked up a lot his first year or so at the station – got into trouble for it too – but nothing serious. Then there was Abby…”

Abby.

The other name that had haunted him since that night at the station.

He swallows, choking out. “Who was she?”

“He loved her.” Bobby says softly, eyes clouded with emotion. “She was probably his first love – came to me so many times for advice about it – but in the end… she left him… It pretty much broke him too…”

Evan shudders, realising now where his own fears of abandonment have come from. “Did he… Did he ever get closure?”

“No.” Bobby runs a hand through his hair, then takes another sip of sludgy coffee. “She left about two months before he went to Texas. He was still living in her apartment.”

“You know where she is now?”

Bobby’s eyes are hard as they stare at him, and Evan can feel the judgement. “Evan…”

“I need to know.” He whispers, not looking up past the chipped porcelain of his cup. “I have to, Bobby.”

Another sigh, and then Bobby’s sliding a tablet in front of him. “This was his… Yours… We look at it from time to time for the pictures but… we never touched anything else…”

Evan takes it gingerly, pressing the power button and watching as the screen flickers to life with a picture of the 118 from years ago. He looks happy, but even without knowing his past he can see the ghosts haunting his own eyes; he’s not nearly as happy looking as he is in the picture on his phone, from his wedding day.

He swallows thickly, holding back tears. That’s why he’s doing this.

For Eddie.

For Christopher.

Everything since the accident has always been for them.

“Was there anyone else?” He looks back up at Bobby, glassy eyes hardening with determination.

“Not that we knew. He was still pretty hung on Abby, like I said, when he went to Texas.”

“Why there?”

“He wanted to see how the new 126 worked. Was always easy going, friendly with everyone. The… the last time he called me… he mentioned a new friend. T.K.”

Evan nods, tucking the tablet under his arm. “Okay.”

“Evan…” Bobby’s looking at him now with concern, brows furrowed. “Don’t do something you can’t take back.”

He shakes his head, a grimace marring his features. “I’m doing what I have to.” He stands, abandoning the coffee and moving to leave the canteen. Then he glances over his shoulder at Bobby. “They said Eddie’s going to be released in the morning. Look after him?”

He doesn’t wait for the answer, walking until he’s outside the hospital doors, rain pelting down on him.

He has to do this. For Eddie. For Christopher. For himself.

He has to leave.

 

Eddie doesn’t have a plan.

He knows he’s messed up, letting his own fears of abandonment taint his marriage. He knows he’s let the hurt build up for too long, and that instead of talking about it, he’s just lashed out at everyone around him.

He knows he’s gone about this all wrong.

But while hindsight is 20/20 vision, it’s also just a slap in the face when you’re holding your husband’s still warm wedding ring, tears streaming down your face.

Evan never asked for any of this, Eddie knows that. He knows his husband would have happily stayed in their little bubble forever, if he could. Eddie knows it’s fate that has played them both, and yet he can’t get the thought out of his head that when Eddie reacted badly, when he hurt Evan, the people Evan went to were those he’d left behind.

He can’t get the thought out of his head that, when push came to shove, they were who he turned to.

From then, all he could do was keep Evan at arms length; try to protect himself in case the day came when Evan decided that he and Christopher just weren’t enough.

But in doing so he only pushed Evan further away, and now it feels like there’s a gaping chasm between them that can never be filled, and Eddie doesn’t know what to do.

He knows every word was a blow, a vicious sting, and he just couldn’t stop himself; couldn’t stop his own hurt from bleeding into every second of that conversation.

If you can even call it a conversation.

He shouldn’t have said what he did – knew that as soon as the words left his lips.

Of course Evan was the man he married; none of this changed him, deep down. It was Eddie’s own worries that were changing things, not Evan himself. Yet he couldn’t stop himself, and the look of pure hurt in his husband’s eyes is something he will never forget.

The ring digs into his palm, and Eddie lets out a loud, heartbreaking sob.

It’s over.

That’s all he can think; spinning around in his head like a thousand stretches of barbed wire, pricking at his every waking moment.

It’s over.

He’s pretty sure he sits there for over an hour, eyes blinking but unseeing through the tears, palm curled around the metal so tightly, his heart breaking where it sits in his shredded chest.

Except, is it?

Part of the reason he’d been so angry with Bobby was because no-one had thought to even talk to him before confronting Evan, and now… now Evan hadn’t given him a say in this either.

Yes Eddie had been wrong to say what he did, but they had been words driven by hurt, not by truth, and it wasn’t over until they both said so.

Eddie was not giving his marriage up – giving Evan up – without a fight, regardless of the worries and fears his mind chose to whisper every night.

If someone else wanted Evan, they would have to fight Eddie Diaz first.

Like the toss of a coin, he feels his hurt solidify into determination. This is what he’d not considered. He’d thought himself merely a passenger in his own life – that if Evan’s past showed up he could do nothing more than step aside – but that wasn’t true. Regardless of the past, Evan had chosen him – had chosen them – and they had chosen him too.

That didn’t just mean nothing.

Reaching for his phone from the bedside, he presses speed dial 1, waiting with baited breath as the phone rings.

“Eddie…”

“Evan… Carino, I’m sorry.” Eddie swallows, brushing more tears from his eyes. “I didn’t mean any of it. You have to know that.”

There’s a pause before Evan replies, “I do,” and Eddie isn’t quite sure how true those words are.

“You don’t sound sure.”

Another pause. “I think you believe you didn’t mean it, but deep down part of you does.” Eddie shakes his head, mouth parted to speak, but Evan continues. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry too. I don’t think I realised how deep this went. But I’m gonna fix it.” His voice is steely, determined. “I’m gonna fix it, Eddie.”

It’s only then that Eddie can hear another voice in the background, though it’s somewhat robotic.

‘All departures to New York City now leaving through terminal 3.’

Eddie freezes, heart beating loudly in his chest. “Evan?”

“You’re worth fighting for, Eddie Diaz, so that’s what I’m doing. I just hope you want to fight for me too.” Evan’s voice is quiet now, a choked sob echoing down the phone. “I’m coming back, I promise. But I need to do this. I need to prove to you that the only door open, the only one I want to step through, is the one labelled Diaz. The one where I have you and Chris by my side.”

“We’re here, Evan.” Eddie chokes, his own face streaming with tears. “We’re here.”

“I’m coming back.” Evan repeats. “I love you, mi Corazon. Always and forever. Come what may.”

The line clicks off, but Evan’s last words throw Eddie back to seventeen months ago, to that fateful first morning where blue eyes captured his heart.

 

“Where do I go from here?” Evan is looking at him from the hospital bed, small and pale, with tears in his eyes. They’d just been told it was unlikely he’d ever regain his memory. Some, maybe, but likely not all.

“Wherever you want to. You’ve got every path open.” Eddie smiles at him, trying to inject some positive energy. “You can choose anything.”

“What if I choose you?” Evan grins then, all blue eyes and winking lashes.

Eddie stares. “Are you really flirting with me from a hospital bed?”

“Only if you want me to be flirting with you from a hospital bed.”

Eddie knows it’s a distraction tactic, for the most part – Evan pulling away from his tattered emotions – and yet Eddie can’t help but blush. He certainly is a charmer.

‘I will love you, until my dying day. Oh, come what may!’ The radio blares out from above them, and Evan rolls his eyes.

“Such a cheery song for a hospital.”

“Moulin Rouge is a classic!” Eddie defends.

Evan raises a brow. “You like musicals?”

“What can I say, I’m a sucker for romance.”

 

They had gotten together a few weeks later, and it had become their song ever since. For Evan to use those words, Eddie knew it meant he still loved him, even if they had a long way to go.

“I’m always going to fight for you, Carino.” Eddie whispers, more to himself than anyone, his hand reaching for the nurse call button.

He just has to get out of this damn hospital first.

Chapter Text

The plane ride was both too long and too short. Too long for Evan to not think, multiple times, that this was the worst idea he’d ever had.

Sure, the best way to save his marriage – to help his husband who was suffering from fears of abandonment – was to hop on a plane across country.

Well done, Buckley.

He shakes his head, stopping the thought before it begins. That’s why he’s doing this. He needs to separate himself from Evan Buckley; needs to close it all behind him.

He is not Buck.

The plane ride was also, however, too short for him to fully organise his thoughts and so he ends up standing outside Station 126 wondering how the hell he can even begin.

Hey, who is T.K. and did we have a thing?

Yeah, probably not the best way to go.

The decision is taken from his hands when a young woman approaches from inside the truck bay, eyes widening when she takes him in. “Oh my god…”

His heart thunders in his chest as she takes a shaky step forward, then stops and yells out, “Cap! T.K.!”

“Marjan! What…” A middle aged man jogs to her side, uniform reading ‘Capt. Strand.’ He follows her gaze to Evan, his own eyes widening.

“Buck…”

In seconds Evan finds himself wrapped in the tightest hug, but his arms stay limply at his sides. “I… uh…” He gently tries to prise himself free, only succeeding when a second voice echoes from behind the captain.

“Dad?”

Evan sees a young man around his age, similar in looks to the Captain, who is also gaping at him, eyes brimming with tears. “Buck?” The man whispers, and Evan can see his uniform reads T.K. Strand.

He has to admit, it would be his type.

Yet no feelings come to pass, nor do any memories jump to mind.

The hard way it is, then.

“I think we need to talk.”

 

“So you don’t remember anything then?” Judd asks later, as they’re all sat around the dinner table.

Evan pushes around the food on his plate, smiling uncomfortably. “I get flashes of things, but… nothing concrete.”

“Damn…”

“Have you tried hypnotherapy?” Michelle asks, ever the paramedic, and she reminds Evan of Chim.

“Honestly, I’m not sure I want to remember.” Evan admits, lowering his gaze back to his cooling chicken and potatoes. “But, I suppose that’s why I’m here…”

“Go on, son.” Owen encourages.

Evan flashes him a grateful smile. “From what Bobby told me, you were the ones who got called to the crash site so I… I did want to let you know I’m… okay.”

Perhaps it’s the way he hesitates before using ‘okay’ – after all, he isn’t really – but he sees T.K.’s eyes narrow, sat on his father’s other side.

“You didn’t fly out here, all this way, just for that.”

Evan sighs. “No, I didn’t.”

So he tells them about Eddie, glosses over their issues but says what he needs to, even as tears blur his vision. “I messed up. Big time. All I can think to do to make it right is to close all the doors that were left open.”

Owen gives him a look that’s too much like the one Bobby gave him in the cafeteria. “You can’t run from your past, Evan.”

“I’m not.” He shakes his head with a sigh. “I’m putting a lid on it.”

“So what?” Marjan raises a brow. “You wanted to make sure you hadn’t been in love with any of us? Hate to break it to you champ, but two days is too insta-love for any of us.”

Evan laughs softly. “I know that now.” The first thing they’d spoken of was how devastated they’d been to lose him, even after such a short time. “Bobby just said I’d talked about T.K. a lot.”

T.K. grins. “I should think so. We got on like a house on fire. No pun intended. But…” He holds out his hand, a silver band catching in the light, single diamond sparkling. “I’m spoken for sleeping beauty.”

Evan can’t help but grin, even if the sight reminds him painfully of his own bare finger. “I’m happy for you.”

“We all are.” Owen pats his son on the back, proud.

“Now that’s out of the way.” T.K. is still grinning, eyes boring into Evan. “Tell me about this son of yours. I keep trying to convince Carlos we need one.”

“They’re not a puppy!”

“That’s something else I want.”

Marjan rolls her eyes. “You want everything T.K.”

“And Carlos promised me the world. I just have to convince him of everything that entails!”

The conversation is sweet, tugging at Evan’s heartstrings, even as he thinks of Eddie, swiping away tears.

The buzz of his phone cuts through the air, and he grabs for it, thinking it’s Eddie.

“Hey…”

“Buck?”

He freezes. The voice is distinctly female, older, tone a mix of disbelief and awe. “Abby?”

“I got your email.”

“I wasn’t sure if you would.”

It had been a longshot, using the email account that had still been logged into his tablet and finding the one contact labelled Abby.

He’s glad she got it though. It makes things easier.

“Can we talk? In person, I mean.”

“I’m not…” She sighs. “I’m not sure it’s a good idea, Buck.”

“I’m not looking for anything.” He says, ignoring the way the 126 are watching him. “I have someone, I just… It’s really complicated… please?”

“Okay.” Soft breaths echo down the phone. “I’m in Philly now. I’ll text you my address?”

He nods, thankful. “I’ll be there in the morning.”

“Okay.”

He closes the phone and rakes a hand through his hair before finally looking up and around the table.

T.K.’s brows are raised. “Another loose end?”

“Another loose end.”

 

It takes him way too long to be released from hospital, the doctor tutting at him disapprovingly when he says he doesn’t have a ride home.

Eventually however, he finds himself stood outside the hospital doors, trying to find a free taxi.

“Eddie?”

He turns, finding Bobby staring at him with a raised brow.

Eddie sighs. “Evan’s gone, and I have to find him.”

Bobby startles briefly. “What?”

“We messed up. I messed up.” Eddie runs a hand through his hair. “He… He said he’s trying to fix things but I… I’m honestly not sure what he’s thinking.”

“He asked me about Buck.” Bobby says. “Specifically he was asking about people he’d loved…”

Eddie sucks in a breath, hands shaking as he grasps Evan’s ring; now hanging from the chain around his neck.

“I think he’s trying to bury his past.” Bobby continues. “I… I know we did wrong, to both of you, but he does love you Eddie. You’re his everything.”

“I know.” Eddie whispers, even as the metal cuts still into his hand. His gaze rises, meeting Bobby’s eyes. “I have to find him.”

“You just got out of the hospital.”

“I don’t care.” Eddie’s voice is steely. “He’s my husband.”

Bobby sighs softly, then nods. “Chim’s getting Chris now, we’ll keep him until you get back.”

“Thank you.”

Bobby gives him a lift back to the house, and once there it doesn’t take Eddie long to access their joint account and find out that Evan had just booked a plane from San Antonio to Philly for the following morning.

The first flight Eddie can get lands him there an hour after Evan, but it’ll do.

Whatever he’s planned, Eddie won’t let him face it alone.

Til death do us part, Carino. I’m not breaking that vow.

 

Evan isn’t quite sure what to expect when it comes to meeting Abby, but he knows he needs closure on her – on Buck – if he and Eddie are ever going to move forward. His heart is thundering in his chest and yet as he rounds the corner, sees the red head from the pictures smiling back at him, he feels instantly calm.

There’s no burst of fireworks. Nothing.

Whatever feelings Buck may have had, Evan does not share them.

“Hey.” He smiles, taking a seat opposite her in the café.

“Hey.” She smiles back, and then her eyes drift to his scars, and he flinches. “What happened?”

“It’s a long story.” He murmurs. “It’s… uh… it’s actually why I wanted to see you.”

So he tells her everything, and when he’s done, when she’s asked her own questions, he says. “I need to know what happened between us.”

So she talks, and the more she tells him, the more he can see it would never have worked out. Yes it was love, but for Buck it has been a first love.

It was nothing compared to what he and Eddie shared, even now.

“I do owe you an apology.” She says finally, smile taut. “For how I left things.”

Evan shrugs. “Consider it forgotten.” A cheeky smile tugs at his lips.

She can’t help but laugh. “I’m glad you found someone worthy of your love.”

“It’s me who needs to be worthy of him.” His smile dims for a moment. “What about you?”

“Fiancé.” Her smile widens, pointing to a man a few tables over. “Sam. He wanted to make sure you weren’t a creepy stalker who hacked into Buck’s emails.”

“I mean, I kinda did.”

“Under the circumstances, I think you’re allowed.”

Closure found, she calls him over to introduce the two of them while they drain their coffees.

He’s a sweet guy, and it’s clear he cares for her. “I’m glad you’re happy, Abby.”

It makes his heart ache though, but then an all too familiar voice calls out. “Evan.”

He turns, taking in the sight of his husband a few steps away. He looks tired and pale, but he’s smiling, and Evan’s heart leaps.

He still loves me.

“Eddie.” He springs to his feet, hugging the other man tight before his rational brain catches up with him. “You should still be in the hospital.”

Eddie kisses him softly. “My place is wherever you are.”

“I’m so sorry.” Evan whispers, brushing Eddie’s hair back. “I never wanted to hurt you.”

“I know. Me too.”

He glances over Evan’s shoulder. “Who is she?”

Evan turns with a smile. “Eddie Diaz, meet Abby Clarke. Buck’s first love, now very much engaged to Sam.” He nods to them both. “Meet Eddie, my husband.”

They exchange pleasantries, but it’s a little tenser than it had been. Evan clocks the time and smiles at Abby. “We better go, but… thank you.”

“Stay safe, Evan.”

“You too.”

He feels lighter as they leave the café, his hand warm and clammy in Eddie’s. But then his husband pulls away slightly, sad eyes turning to him.

“Don’t ever do that again.”’

Evan opens his mouth to speak, but Eddie shakes his head. “Marriage is a two way street, Evan. I know I fucked up with how I handled things but you don’t just run off to chase your past!”

Evan sighs. “I was trying to close the door.”

“I don’t care how good your intentions were. You left. You did the one thing I was petrified of.”

“I know, okay? I know.” He takes Eddie’s arms tightly. “I never said it was a good plan, but it was all I had. The longer we didn’t know, the longer you were gonna keep pushing me away.”

“And you know now?”

“I know that the man you found had no-one besides the 118. I know the man you found always got left behind.” He sobs, knees buckling.

Eddie grabs at him, holding him close. “I’m never going to do that.”

“You might have done.” Evan sobs. “You were so angry with me, for something I had no control over.”

“Never.” Eddie says, his own tears wetting Evan’s shoulder. “But you don’t get to leave either.”

Evan kisses him softly. “Never.”

 

They get the train back to L.A. A plane would have been quicker, but Evan had already booked a seat, thinking he would need the time to think things through.

He and Eddie have a table and four chairs to utilise, the train not crowded, sat on either side of each other. Evan is on his phone, while Eddie has his head in a book.

To the untrained eye they might look like strangers, but they’re subconsciously playing footsie under the table.

They still have a long way to go, but they’re healing, slowly. Eddie had even mentioned about them going to counselling, on their way to the train station. Things weren’t perfect, but they were going to work through it.

They’re maybe thirty minutes from L.A. Central Station when the train judders and squeals, brakes slamming on. Evan, travelling forwards, hits the table with some force, phone falling from his grip and sliding down the carriage.

A bloodcurdling scream splits the air, followed by an almighty bang. Everything tilts, sways, then goes black.

Chapter Text

Eddie wakes to white hot pain radiating through his shoulder and leg. It’s too dark to see but his mind is clear, and he immediately knows something bad has happened.

He remembers the squeal of brakes, the scream and the crunch.

‘Did we crash?’

He remembers Evan being thrown forwards, chest hitting the table.

“Evan!” He calls out for his husband, tears building amongst the grit in his eyes when he gets no response. “Evan!”

Still nothing.

He quickly triages his own situation, letting his medic training take over. Curling his toes sends a sharp electric current up his leg, drawing a cry from his lips, while his right hand reaches gently for his left shoulder, feeling the shift and crunch of bone and the wetness of blood. He can’t see much, but he can definitely feel a thick metal girder pressed up against him, evidently the culprit of his shoulder injury.

So, broken leg, collarbone and scapula. Definite chunk missing from his upper arm. Blood loss is his worst enemy then, but he doesn’t feel woozy, and it’s likely that the girder is holding off any serious bleeding.

He’s okay, for now.

Reaching into his pocket with his good hand, he manages to pull out his phone, thankfully undamaged.

The light emitted shows him that he’s trapped under the seats, pressed up between the steel girder and the side of the train.

Not good.

Swallowing back the bile rising in his throat, Eddie presses the emergency dial button.

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

“I think our train crashed.”

“Sir?”

“L.A. arrival, 10.27, central station. From New Orleans.” Eddie says, pain intensifying in his shoulder as the carriage judders. “I can’t move.”

“Okay sir, do you know how far out from L.A. you were?”

“’bout thirty minutes. Can’t hear my husband…”

“I need you to stay calm, sir. Help is on its way.” The dispatcher’s voice is kind, calm. “I’m Josh, and I’m gonna stay on the line with you, okay?”

“Ed-Eddie…”

“Okay, Eddie. Just hang in there.”

“Evan?” He tries calling for his husband again, and then – barely visible but for the light of the phone – he sees a foot; Evan’s favourite blue sneakers like a beacon. “Evan?”

He can hear Josh asking him something, but his focus is on Evan now, reaching as best he can for his husband. His shoulder screams in protest, warm and wet, but Eddie needs to know he’s okay.

“Stay still Eddie.” The phone says, but Eddie has a grip on Evan now, reaching still for the distal pulse.

Weak, but its there.

He lets out a cry, slumping back.

The phone cuts out, screen going black, and Eddie curses, trying frantically to bring back Josh’s calming voice.

It’s dead, and with it goes his sight of Evan.

By some miracle though, perhaps even by Eddie’s touch, Evan groans.

“Evan?” Eddie calls out, as strong as he can muster. “Baby, you with me?”

“mmnph…” Evan moans, hurt evident in his voice, weak as it is. “Wha…?”

“You know where you are?” Pushing aside his worry, he tries to assess Evan’s state, even if he can’t see him.

“Ngh… Can’t…” Evan groans again, breathing laboured. “C’n’t ‘memb’r.”

Panic flares in the front of Eddie’s mind. ‘Please let it be the blood loss’ he prays to anyone who will listen, even without knowing whether Evan is in fact bleeding or not. He just can’t have it be a brain injury again.

He’s not sure if he’d survive Evan forgetting them.

“Ev… Evan… Are you hurt?”

More laboured breaths. “Chest… Who…?”

Eddie holds back a sob. “It’s Eddie… You with me?”

“Wh… Mmph…” Evan’s voice sounds so far away, and Eddie longs to just hold him. “…die?”

The train jerks.

Eddie screams.

Everything goes black again.

 

Bobby’s team at the 118 were two hours into their shift when the bells ring out. The Captain grabs the printout from the machine before racing to the front of the truck, shucking on his turnout gear and jumping into his usual seat.

“Aren’t Evan and Eddie due back today?” Chim asks, idly staring out of the window as they pull away from the station.

“Should have pulled in now.” Bobby says, distracted as he reads about the job they’re heading to.

“I just don’t get why they didn’t take a plane.”

“Evan was off duty. Eddie said he’d originally wanted to ruminate on everything before he got back. I mean, if Eddie hadn’t gone after him, I’m sure he would’a been pissed or upset, so… I don’t blame Evan for wanting time to think about what he was gonna say.”

“But Eddie did go after him.” Chim points out. “He said they were doing okay.”

“In which case why wouldn’t they want a three day, child free trip on one of the most beautiful trains our country has to offer?” Hen raises a brow. “Eddie is still on Med leave.”

Chim pulls a face. “Okay, I don’t want to think about them like that.” He pulls out his phone, frowning. “Evan said he’d text me when they’re back though. What time was their train due in?”

“10.27” Bobby whispers, eyes wide and face pale.

“Bobby?” Hen looks over, concerned, while Chim mumbles that they should be off by now and why hasn’t Evan texted him.

There’s a split second where Bobby says nothing, and then he’s turning to them, face set with determination. “Okay. The job we’re heading to is a train derailment just outside of L.A. The New Orleans to L.A. train, due in at 10.27 has derailed and hit a motor home park. We have known injuries and people trapped. Multiple call ins from site.”

Both Hen and Chim can hear loudly what he isn’t saying. The air in the truck shifts, sombre with unspoken prayers that their boys are okay. As soon as they arrive and take in the carnage, their eyes widen, hearts thundering in their chests.

Mobile homes are toppled, train carriages littering the area like dropped legos. Worse, one carriage is stood on its end, held up only by another and a bank of trees, looking ready to topple at any moment.

Bobby’s lips purse, eyes narrowing as he assesses the damage. Speaking with the incident commander has him telling Hen to help out with triage, before instructing Chim to come with him.

They’re going inside the upturned carriage.

They prise open the door at the bottom, slipping inside with two of their strongest tools, and various other equipment. They don’t know what they’ll need but they’re pretty sure people are trapped, and in the case of this specific carriage, they don’t have time to waste.

Bobby goes first, starting to scale the chairs, while Chim waits below for a few moments to give Cap enough room and distance. His eyes catch a light, the feint buzz of vibrations reaching his ears beneath his helmet.

A phone.

He blinks down at the cracked screen, the buzz a phone call from someone called ‘Abby’. His mind flickers briefly to Evan, worried, and then his heart freezes completely in his chest as the call ends, and he sees the lit up lockscreen.

Multiple missed calls from ‘Abby’ but also, two behind, is Chim’s own text, sent not twenty minutes prior. The lock screen picture shows Evan and Eddie with Christopher, all three grinning.

“Cap!”

Bobby turns, Chim quickly scaling the distance between them. “Evan’s in here. Maybe Eddie too.”

Bobby doesn’t ask how, just nods, grim, and carries on scaling the carriage. It’s mostly empty, and the two people they do find are sadly beyond help. If there was anyone else in the carriage, it seems they may have escaped on their own. They only have maybe a third of the carriage left when they hear a distinct groan of pain.

Bobby swings his flashlight upwards, climbing another two rows, and illuminates a very familiar face. “Evan!”

Crumpled like an accordion, he’s pinned between his seat and the end of a thick steel girder, limbs limp and pale. His eyes are closed, chin flecked with blood.

“No, no, no…” Bobby murmurs, pressing two fingers hard against Evan’s neck, breathing with relief when he feels the faintest flutter. “Chim! I need triage assessment for Buck!”

Chim wedges himself against one of the seats, pulling a small portable BP monitor from his bag and hooking it up to Evan. His own fingers press against the pulse in his neck, before expert eyes glance over the way the beam is pinning him. “Beam hasn’t gone through, thankfully, but that doesn’t rule out internal injuries. BP’s too low for my liking, so I’m thinking he’s got bleeding somewhere.” Shaking his head, he presses a stethoscope to Evan’s chest. “Breathing is shallow and strained. I think he’s got a punctured lung from the blunt force trauma, maybe escalated by broken ribs too. This thing is crushing him every time the train shifts.”

Bobby nods, swallowing his own fears. “I’ll get the jaws.” He moves back down a few seats to where he’d put them.

“Evan.” Chim taps his cheek, and when that fails tries to rub his sternum. “Evan, can you hear me?” Evan groans, but doesn’t move. Chim sighs and straps a C-Collar around his neck, just to be safe. “Evan?” He tries again.

Finally eyelids flutter, revealing dull and pained blue eyes. “Ch…Ch’m?”

“Hey.” Chim smiles. “That’s right, buddy. How we doing?”

“H’rts…”

“Yeah it will do. I need you to take nice slow breaths for me, okay?”

“’kay.” Evan’s wheezing with every breath, and it worries Chim how little air he seems to be taking in. “Cap, we need to get him out now.”

“Got it.” Bobby presses the jaws against the right spot on the girder, activating them, but it does nothing. He sighs. “Let’s try the Hydraulic Ram.”

Chim grabs the Ram from behind himself, passing it to Bobby. “On three.”

“One, Two, Three.” The Ram activates, beginning to prise the beam away. At the same time, a pained scream echoes from beneath them. Bobby shuts the machine off quickly, checking for the source.

He blinks, finding another familiar figure crumpled beneath the seats, pinned to the wall by the same beam. “Eddie?”

Another set of tired, pained eyes meet his, though Eddie manages a smile. “Kn…Knew you’d c-come…”

Chim bends down, frowning. “Where’s your pain Eddie?”

Eddie swallows. “Broken leg. Not serious. Beam’s cut into my shoulder. Br-Broken clavicle, scapula.” He coughs against the dust in the carriage, sucking in a breath. “N-Not too bad. Wh-Where’s Evan?”

“We’ve got him right here.” Chim forces a smile, then stands, motioning for Bobby to move a little further down the carriage, shaking his head. “They’re pinned by the same beam.”

Bobby nods, running a hand over his face. In several seconds, he’s aged, gaunt and pale. “We move Buck and we’re crushing Eddie. Same the other way.” He swallows thickly. “Who’s got the best chance?”

Chim’s brow furrows, looking at Bobby intently. “They’ve got different injuries but… what are you saying, Cap?”

Bobby’s eyes are wet. “I’m saying I don’t think we can save them both.”

“No…” Chim shakes his head, fists clenching, but it’s only for a moment before they hear Evan call out.

“-die?”

“’m here, Ev…”

“Y-You h…hurt?”

A pause. “P-pinned by a b-beam but ‘m ‘kay. B-Bobby and Chim ‘r gonna get us out…”

The two active members of the 118 reach Evan’s side then, watching as a moment of clarity brightens those blue eyes. Slowly, Evan takes in the sight of the beam pinning him, and how it slices through the table between the seats he and Eddie had been in, slipping beneath the plush seats opposite. His eyes widen a fraction, tear slipping down his cheek, and then he nods, gaze drifting up to Bobby.

“Save him.”

Bobby blinks, grasping Evan’s cold hand. Evan still stares up at him, hard.

“Save him.”

“We can save you both.” Chim says firmly.

Evan’s eyes drift over to him. “Y-you’re a b-bad liar… ‘n ‘m good at m’ job…”

Of course Evan would understand the predicament they were in, without either of them saying a thing.

Unfortunately, Eddie can’t see Evan, and doesn’t have the same awareness. “Evan? What?”

Bobby swallows, bending down to see Eddie again. “Just hold tight, Eddie.”

Perhaps it’s the way Bobby’s eyes are shining with tears under the headlamp, but suddenly Eddie understands, and he’s shaking his head vehemently. “Don’t you dare! Don’t you… Evan!”

Evan swallows back a sob at his husband’s call. “Save him.” He repeats again, staring at Chimney.

“No!” Eddie yells, having heard the request that time. “You said you wouldn’t leave! Dammit, Evan! You said you wouldn’t!”

This time the sob does escape. “D-don’t h-have a ch-choice, Eds…”

“Yes you do.” Bobby’s voice is suddenly impossibly hard and determined. “Hang in there, both of you.” Then he’s moving off back down the train.

Chimney is frowning, calling after him. “Cap! What are you…”

“I have a plan!” Bobby calls back over his shoulder. “It’s a stupid plan, a Buck plan, but I have a plan! I am not losing either of them!”

 

The next thing Eddie can hear beside Evan’s laboured breathing and Chim’s reassurances, is the sound of metal cutting through metal. Chim had told him to pull as far away from the train wall as he could, even throwing a jacket over him to protect him. Then the wall beside him is being pulled away, Bobby’s face appearing instead.

“I got you Eddie.” He says, and then he’s hefting up a backboard and C-Collar into the small space, strapping Eddie down and then lifting him into the basket that’s swinging beside him.

In minutes, Eddie’s free of the train, and then he hears the sound of Chim and the other firefighter who had joined him using the Ram on the beam, to free Evan. The ground is quick to meet them, Bobby unloading him from the basket with help of an EMT, loading him onto a stretcher.

“Evan...” Eddie groans, as pressure is placed on his now rapidly bleeding shoulder. His vision is greying, and he feels altogether too sleepy than can be good. “Ev’n…”

“Stay with us, Eddie.” Bobby says from his right, but Eddie can’t keep his eyes open any longer, lids too heavy to keep up.

Then the sounds of chaos reach his ears; the wheel of a second stretcher, hurried across the ground, and the shouts of multiple EMT’s, Chim included.

“BP’s dropping fast!”

“He’s crashing!”

“Hang another bag of saline!”

“Girder must have been putting pressure on a severed artery!”

“He’s not breathing!”

Eddie’s eyes slam open. “EVAN!”

Chapter Text

Eddie feels numb.

“No pulse!”

“Starting compressions!”

He can only watch for a few long moments as Chim’s hands press down hard on Evan’s chest, another paramedic busy pumping air into his lungs, before he’s loaded into an ambulance.

The doors clang shut, cutting off his view, but Eddie can’t move, can’t speak.

He wants to yell, scream, cry.

He wants to demand they take him back to his husband’s side.

Yet as they peel away, sirens blaring, Eddie just feels numb.

His mind’s eye can only see Evan’s limp body, pale and lifeless. He can only hear Evan’s demand of “save him.”

He’s dead.

Eddie has lost him, for all he feared and fought against it.

In the end, he was powerless to do anything but watch.

He never even said that he loved him, one last time.

A sob tears from Eddie’s throat, followed by another, the weight of Evan’s ring too heavy on his chest, and then he’s breaking down in the back of the ambulance, and there’s nothing the EMT can do to stop it.

 

They got him back.

Bobby’s relief is palpable the second the EMT shouts “we’ve got a pulse!”, and then a split second later they’re loading Evan into another ambulance. He sends Chim with Evan, watching with wet eyes as they peel off after Eddie’s rig. He just prays they’re both going to be okay.

Somehow he manages to pull himself together, to stumble back to the incident commander and keep on working to help more people.

It takes a few more hours to get the crash site fully under control, and by the time he’s able to pull his firefighters from the site, it’s gone 3am.

Hen has headed off to the hospital with another patient, so Bobby sends the rest of the 118 back to the station in the engine and truck, calling in for a relief Captain. Then he’s hopping in front of one of the other ambos heading to L.A. General, continuing to pray that his boys are going to live to see another day.

Bobby doesn’t think he’ll be able to take it if he loses either one.

It’s 3.24am when Bobby all but stumbles into the ER waiting room. A nurse is at his side in a moment, trying to assess him, but Bobby shakes her off.

“Evan Diaz. Eddie Diaz.” He fixes her with his gaze. “Where are they?”

“Sir?” She seems confused, and then she takes in his attire – the dusty turnout still clearly reading LAFD Captain – and then nods in understanding. “Take a seat, sir. Let me find out for you.”

She’s off in a flash, and Bobby just slumps into one of the chairs, head in his hands. The 118 captain simply starts crying.

He isn’t sure how long he sits there for before the nurse comes back, telling him that they’re both in surgery and that she can take him up to the OR waiting room, where one of his paramedics already is.

He hopes it’s Hen. He’s not sure how to break it to her otherwise.

 

Chim has counted the ceiling tiles four times since he got to the hospital. All he’s been told about Eddie is that he’s in surgery, but it’s not Eddie’s face that haunts him – pale and gaunt – every time he closes his eyes.

Evan.

Chim has never been so scared as he was the moment Evan’s heart stopped beating.

In an instant, the world went grey, and while his training had taken over, everything was on autopilot. Consciously he’d been completely fixated on Evan’s limp body, the crack of ribs under his hands, eyelids closed, maybe forever.

They’d survived losing him once, if only barely, but that was different. They hadn’t been there. They hadn’t been the ones responding. Evan’s blood hadn’t coated his hands.

The fact they had all once hated – that they weren’t there in Texas – was suddenly a lifeline no longer in reach.

This time, they were aware of the loss tugging at the corner of their lives. It wasn’t going to be a sharp severance now. No. They were in it for the long haul. They were waiting for the splinter – the break – the shatter – yet praying it would not come today.

Chim sighs, shaky hands scrubbing over his face, before he stands, intending to try and find some half decent coffee.

The door cracks open, and Chim jerks – ‘It’s too soon for news. Too soon, unless…’ – but it’s only Bobby, wearing a matching expression of fear and despair.

He seems to slump further on seeing Chim, who just draws his captain into the tightest hug. “They’ll be okay.” He tries to murmur reassuringly, though he could also just be speaking to himself, really.

Bobby just releases a gut wrenching sob in response.

They stand there for several long moments, and then Chim’s phone is buzzing, abandoned beside the chair he’d been sitting in, lighting up with Hen’s name.

Breaking away from Bobby, Chim sighs and hits accept. “Hen?”

“Hey, are you and Bobby at the hospital?” Hen’s voice is too bright – even laced with her own post-call exhaustion and worry – and Chim winces. “One of the nurses said a captain was here. Did you find Evan and Eddie?”

Chim tries to keep his voice as calm as possible. He is not doing this over the phone. “We’re in the fourth floor surgical waiting room. You should be here.”

There’s a pained noise from Hen as she understands what he isn’t saying, but she says she’ll be there in five. When she does arrive, the door slams open, and she stands there looking breathless.

“Wh-What…?”

“Sit down Hen.” Chim says softly, his eyes still focused on Bobby, who has barely moved save for slumping down into one of the chairs.

“No.” She shakes her head, tears already forming in her eyes. “Tell me.”

So he does, his heart breaking with every wounded noise Hen makes, until they’re holding each other close, both sobbing.

“I c-can’t… c-can’t lose him ag-again…” Hen’s shuddering in Chim’s arms, but he can’t say anything to make it better; anything to make it right. All he can do is hold her as they wait, and pray that she won’t have to.

 

Bobby goes to the chapel.

He’s not entirely sure what leads him there at first, but the lure of solitude and reflection tugs at his shattered body and ragged emotions. The pew is cold beneath him, but he can barely feel it, eyes gazing upwards at the figure mounted above the altar.

“Don’t take them from me.” He murmurs, pleas falling on the ears of both no-one and everyone. “Please, god, don’t take them from me.” He scrubs a hand over his face, biting back a sob. “Eddie has a son. He has a whole life ahead of him. He’s family.”

His only response is silence, and it echoes all too loudly in his ears, oppressive in its weight, threatening to drown him.

“I… I only just got Evan back… Don’t…” Tears spill down his cheeks, wetting the floor with rhythmic plinks. “Don’t take him from me again… please… please, don’t…”

A warm breeze ruffles his shoulders, skin pimpling, and Bobby can only hope it’s a sign that someone is watching over his boys.

 

Eddie wakes to hushed voices, eyelids slowly flickering open, accompanied by a long, drawn out groan.

“Eddie?”

He can’t discern the voice at first, and then Bobby’s face enters his vision, and Eddie can’t help but smile.

“Hey… Welcome back…”

That’s Hen, seated at his left, Chim beside her.

For a long moment, Eddie feels calm and content, the morphine relieving him of any and all pain. Then his memory catches up with him, and he finds himself jerking suddenly, eyes wide and panicked.

“Evan! Where’s Evan!”

Hen shushes him softly, her hand on his chest gently pressing him back into the bedsheets. “Eddie, you need to calm down, or you’re gonna pull your stitches.”

Watery eyes meet her own. Eddie shakes his head. “Where’s Evan?”

“He’s still in surgery.” Bobby sighs, and Eddie whips his gaze around.

“How long?” When Bobby doesn’t reply, he tries sitting up again. “Bobby, how long?”

He can see Bobby’s adam’s apple moving as he swallows. “About five hours, so far.”

Eddie curses in spanish, rubbing his right hand over his face. His left is plastered from elbow to shoulder, and he knows without asking that he shouldn’t move it.

“You were in for three yourself.” Chim says, smiling softly, but Eddie can see it’s strained with worry. “You’ve been out of it a little longer still.”

“But it’s good to see those pretty eyes of yours again.” Hen smiles, squeezing his left leg gently.

Eddie tries for a smile, but he’s pretty sure it comes out like a grimace. “Any word on Evan?”

“He’s still holding his own.” Chim replies, his own tears building. “But that’s all they’ve told us.”

“So he’s alive?” Eddie chokes, remembering the last glimpses of his husband.

Bobby nods. “They got him back at the scene.”

Eddie shudders, eyes slamming shut against the onslaught of tears that are building. Ragged breaths push passed his lips.

“He’s strong.” Hen says, squeezing again. “He won’t give up without a fight, Eddie.”

‘But he did’ Eddie’s mind whispers, vicious poison circling his consciousness. ‘He chose you over himself.’

Eddie pushes the thoughts back with a hard shove, even as his mind tries to replay those moments on the train. The ring is still heavy on his chest, and finally a sob breaks through clenched teeth.

The rest of the 118 don’t say anything; simply laying a hand each on a part of Eddie’s body, a silent reassurance that they’re there.

When the sobs stop racking his body, Eddie tries to pull himself together, to focus, and brings his gaze up to Bobby. “Thank you… for not giving up on him.”

“Never.” Bobby’s voice is firm, and for the first time since they met, Eddie finds his chest warming with a newfound respect and understanding for the captain.

Then the momentary silence is broken by the squeak of a door, and every pair of eyes watches the doctor who steps through. Her face is blank, lips drawn to a thin line; giving nothing away.

Eddie swallows, voicing the thought running through each of their minds.

“Is my husband alive?”

Chapter Text

A small smile graces the doctor’s lips. “Evan got out of surgery about thirty minutes ago. He’s resting comfortably, and I expect a full recovery.”

“Oh, thank god.” That’s Bobby, eyes gazing up to the heavens. Chim and Hen both let out sobs of relief.

Eddie just stares, overwhelmed. Of all the scenarios that had ran through his head, he hadn’t expected the reality to be so simple. A few moments pass, and he can distantly hear someone ask if he’s alright, before he shudders, a sob coming loose. “Thank you… Thank you…”

The doctor pats his foot gently. “Your husband is a fighter.”

Bobby just grins. “That boy is stubborn as hell. No way he’s giving up his boys.”

Christopher.

Eddie shivers with relief at the realisation that he isn’t going to have to tell his son how he’s lost another parent; relief that they can make themselves a family again.

He glances at Bobby, unspoken question in his eyes, and the older man smiles.

“He’s still with your Abuela. It’s not even morning yet, Eddie.”

Eddie nods, further relief filling him, before he looks back at the doctor. “Can we see him?”

“He’s in the OR recovery at the moment, but then we’re going to have him brought down here with you.” Her lips thin out for a moment, and Eddie’s heart clenches. “I do have to say that we’ve placed him in a medically induced coma, for now, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. We just want to give his body the best chance to heal. We’ve got him on fluids, blood and o2, again to help him recover. It might sound or look scary, but it’s just to help him.”

Eddie nods, even as a shaky breath escapes him.

The doctor just smiles, patting his foot again. “We’ll take him out of it in a few days.” They thank her, and she excuses herself to tend to other patients.

“He’s gonna be okay.” Eddie whispers, looking around at the team.

They all smile back, but it’s Hen who repeats his words, her own eyes leaking tears. “He’s gonna be okay.”

 

They bring Evan down to their now shared room within the hour, and though the doctor was right in that the machines attached to him look intimidating, Eddie is glad simply to see the rise and fall of his husband’s chest. They’re close enough together that he can see how prominent Evan’s birth mark is against the palor of his skin, and it gives Eddie a sharp reminder of how close to death his husband actually was.

The surgeon who accompanied Evan tells them that he sustained a punctured lung and severed artery from the impact, which was both prolonged by the girder and – in the case of the artery – helped him not to bleed out. Once he was removed from the train it had been a race into the ER, but they’d been able to successfully repair all the damage. He also had several broken ribs, both from the impact and from CPR, but those too had been set during surgery. All in all, he’d been very lucky.

He also walks Eddie through his own injuries, after checking his chart. Broken leg, clavicle and scapula, as Eddie has suspected, but none as bad as they could have been. The worst injury had been to his shoulder, which had had a chunk ripped out by the girder. Again it had helped to stem bleeding until he was removed however, and they’d been able to repair the damage with help of a skin graft from his lower arm.

They would both need to be off work for at least a month, with regular PT and check ups, but they were both indeed very lucky to be alive, or not have more serious injuries. The surgeon didn’t see any long term problems for them, and they would still be able to work once cleared.

It was the best news Eddie could have hoped for.

He knew Evan would struggle with not being at work for a while, but together with Christopher, he knew they would get through it.

Eddie can’t move from his bed, so the 118 decide to take turns sitting with Evan, while the other two sit with Eddie.

Bobby, of course, goes first.

He smiles shakily back at Eddie as he sits in the plastic white chair beside Evan’s bed, gingerly taking the boy’s hand, wary of the pulse ox meter clipped to one finger.

A glance to the monitor at the head of the bed shows good vital signs, and Bobby smiles softly before letting his gaze drift back to the patient in question. Evan’s eyes are closed, but unlike in the train he seems peaceful, content. His birth mark is indeed stark against his skin, but Bobby can see he looks healthier than he was; more colour, if only just. One line runs into his left arm, delivering saline and pain meds, while another runs into his right, delivering blood. A few more wires and tubes snake under the covers; BP, heart monitor, catheter. An oxygen mask is strapped over his face, misting slowly.

Bobby sighs, gently rubbing his thumb in circles on the palm of Evan’s upturned hand. “You gave us a scare, kiddo.” He’s well aware of the people on the other side of the room, Eddie especially, but for a moment he pretends its just them. Evan had been avoiding him – avoiding the firehouse – since the party, and even if he might not be able to hear Bobby, the older man needs to get everything off his chest. “I don’t think I could have coped with losing you again, not unless it was your choice, anyhow. I know we messed up, pushed you, and I’m so sorry.” He swallows thickly, running a hand over his face, but it does nothing to stem the tears falling down his cheeks. “If… If you don’t need us in your life anymore… I can accept that. I just want you safe and happy… But Eddie and Chris need you. All of you.”

He sits with Evan for a few more minutes, until his face is red and puffy and his throat is too clogged to say anything more. Then he stands, nods to Hen and whispers. “I need to call Athena.”

Eddie watches him go, his own tears clinging to his lashes.

Hen shuffles over, taking his seat. She too takes Evan’s hand, making patterns with her thumb.

“Hey, Buckaroo.” Her breath hitches almost immediately. “I know I probably shouldn’t call you that but… you’ll always be Buckaroo to me. That said…” Forcing back a sob with a cough, she tries to speak strongly. “I agree with Bobby. If you don’t need us anymore, I can accept that. But you need to wake up and be okay, for Eddie, for Christopher. Screw the past. What you have… that’s special, one of a kind, love. So don’t let it go.” A sob makes it past her lips, followed by another. “You’ll always be my little brother, Buckaroo, and I will always do right by you. Even… Even if it means letting you go.” She swipes at her tears, squeezing his hand gently. “But you need to wake up, okay?” Leaning over the bed, she presses a soft kiss to his forehead. “We love you.”

On shaky legs she walks back over to Eddie’s side, slumping down into the chair she’d previously occupied. Eddie’s tear filled eyes watch her. “Hen…”

She shakes her head, forcing a smile. “I meant every word.”

Chim sighs and squeezes her hand, before going to take the chair himself. Unlike the others, he doesn’t speak, simply taking Evan’s hand and resting his head on the edge of the bed. Whatever he’s thinking, or praying, he stays silent. Even when he does move, a few minutes later, he just takes vigil over Evan, watching the rise and fall of his chest like it’s gold.

Eddie watches him all the same, heart thumping wildly in his chest, emotions askew.

Eventually exhaustion takes them all. As Eddie’s eyes stutter closed, the 118 take their leave, telling him they’ll look after Chris with his Abuela until he’s out of the hospital, and that they’ll bring him over the following afternoon.

Eddie just nods, letting himself drift away.

 

Three days pass quickly.

The 118 are still on shift, but every spare moment is spent at the hospital between Evan and Eddie, and the elder can’t be more thankful. He himself is itching to get out of the hospital, but more specifically, he’s itching to see his husband’s warm blue eyes again.

Christopher stays for a few hours each day. At first he was upset to see both of his fathers laid up, but a few words from Bobby helped, and now he mostly sits and tells them about his day, or reads them stories. When Eddie’s asleep, he sits with Bobby or Hen or Chim and colours a multitude of get well pictures. There’s even a large teddy bear sat on one of the chairs, curtesy of him wrapping Hen around his pinky finger.

Cards and flowers also fill the room, curtesy of the 118 and Alpha Red Watch. Some of Evan’s friends from the Smokejumpers visit, wishing them both well.

It’s like they have a giant extended family, and Eddie finds the team’s words from that first night revolving around in his head on a loop.

On the third night, allowed from his bed into a wheelchair, he finds himself holding his husband’s hand for the first time in too long, smiling softly. “You know, we looked at L.A. as a fresh start, until things got complicated.” He whispers, other hand reaching to brush Evan’s curls from his eyes. His husband really needed a haircut, but Eddie loved the curls too dearly to let them go. “But we’ve spent too long running away from the past; mine, and then yours. We’ve spent too long fearing things we should embrace.” He sighs, running a hand through his own hair. “I’m not going to apologise, for feeling how I did, but… I should have trusted in you more. Trusted in us. That’s what I am sorry for. All I ever need is you and Chris.”

Echoes of Bobby and Hen ring in his ears.

‘I don’t think I could have coped with losing you again’

‘I just want you safe and happy’

‘You’ll always be my little brother’

“You said Buck always got left behind, but he didn’t. Evan didn’t. You have so many people who love you. You have more than just us.”

Eddie presses a kiss to Evan’s lips, smiling, eyes sparkling.

We have more than just us.”

For a second, the heart monitor picks up, and Eddie watches it with a grin; knowing his husband can hear him. The doctor had been happy with Evan’s results so far, and was hopeful that they could wake him the next day.

Eddie was practically singing with anticipation.

Pressing one last kiss to his husband’s lips, Eddie rolls himself back to his own bed and picks up his phone.

“Bobby? I need a favour.”

 

The next morning sees Eddie by Evan’s beside once more, fingers intertwined with Evan’s, smile already playing on his lips. The doctor had been in an hour before to reduce the medication that was keeping Evan unconscious, and said he could wake up anywhere between an hour and a day.

Eddie was hoping it would be the latter.

So he tells Evan about multiple things, from what Chris has been doing, to the 118, to what some of Evan’s colleagues had spoken about. He even tells him about the backstory Christopher made for the bear from Hen, and that her name is Hen Junior.

Perhaps it’s the nonsensical nature of his ramblings as to why Evan’s eyes blink slowly open, the first words from parched, cracked lips being “you ever going to let me sleep?”

Eddie just grins, squeezing his hand tighter. “You’ve slept long enough, carino.”

“Doesn’t feel like it.” Evan groans.

“You’re gonna feel sore for a while.” Eddie softens, hitting the call button for the doctor. “You were in pretty bad shape.”

Medical staff come quickly, the doctor brightening when she sees Evan awake and talking. They get Evan some ice chips to suck, and then perform various tests and analysis’s. When they’re done, Eddie is thankful to hear the words “doing fine” and “just lots of rest” from the doctor.

Then they’re alone again, with Evan looking somewhat brighter and more awake, even if his eyes are pinched. “Why do doctors have so many tests?” He mumbles, still sucking on another ice chip.

“Because they care.” Eddie chuckles. “Why? You feeling all poked and prodded?”

“And prodded some more…” Evan smiles, reaching for Eddie’s hand. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Eddie’s jaw slackens just slightly. “I’m not the one who was in a coma, Evan. I’m glad you’re okay.”

“It’s not a competition.” Evan rolls his eyes playfully. “But fine, I’m glad we’re both okay.”

“You almost weren’t.” Eddie can’t help but whisper, hiccupping softly. “I almost lost you.”

“You didn’t.”

“But almost…” Eddie shakes his head, looking into the blue eyes he’s missed so much. “Why did you tell them to save me?”

Evan swallows, wincing at the rawness of his throat. “All I’ve ever done is tried to protect you.”

The implications of the words, things Eddie had already known or suspected, settles heavy in his stomach. “And don’t you think that’s my job too?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t.”

Evan shakes his head. “Not just for that… I screwed everything up. If I had been honest – ”

“Like you said.” Eddie cuts him off, pressing a kiss to his lips. “You were trying to protect me.”

Evan captures the fleeting brush, teeth grazing Eddie’s lower lip. “Always.”

They settle back, fingers intertwined once more.

“I can’t ever lose you, Evan.” Eddie says softly.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Evan replies. “And I’m sorry if you thought I ever would.” His eyes drift to his still bare finger. “I was stupid to ever take off my ring. I’ll never forgive myself for doing that to you.”

“I was stupid to say what I did.” Eddie says with a sigh. “I won’t forgive myself for that either.”

“We’re a pair of idiots.” Evan laughs softly. “But you’re my idiot.”

“And you’re mine.”

Evan looks up then, hopeful. “That mean I can get it back?”

“No.”

Shock dulls Evan’s eyes then, gaze falling. It’s only then that he notices the absence of Eddie’s own wedding ring, yet confusion hits when he sees Eddie’s engagement ring still there.

“It’s tainted now.” Eddie continues. “They both are.” His eyes drift to the side table, and when Evan follows his gaze, he sees both bands sat together, resting on a thick silver chain. His heart starts to break, but he forces himself to look up at Eddie, knowing he only has himself to blame.

Eddie is still smiling however, and that only serves to aid his confusion.

“Those rings were about two men, broken men, who found each other. What we are now? We’re two men who saved each other. They were running from the past. We’re going to embrace it.” He shakes his head, hand moving to cup Evan’s cheek. “We’re not those men anymore.”

Evan just swallows. He can’t trust himself to speak.

“It’s stupid how it took nearly losing you, to realise how blinded I’d been by the fear of losing you. You fought your way back to me, to us. I never should have doubted you.” Tears are streaming down both of their cheeks now, as Eddie presses his lips to Evan’s once more.

“Every day since we’ve been here, Bobby, Hen and Chim have barely left our sides, except to work. They’ve been beside themselves with worry, and it made me realise how much we have here. How much we haven’t been willing or ready to accept.” Eddie’s hand drops, sliding back to the side table, but Evan can’t draw his gaze away from his husband’s shining eyes. “I’m ready now, if you are? Your past might be the present, but they’re also our future.”

It isn’t easy for him to slip from the wheelchair, casted leg stretched out behind him, but he manages to sink to one knee, raising the box he’d picked up with his good arm. He flicks the latch, allowing the box to pop open, revealing a stunning platinum ring with a single stone – Evan’s birthstone – embedded within. The design is three thin strands interwoven in a braid, the birthstone shining in the light.

Evan James Buckley.” He pronounces every word of the name carefully and purposefully, grin stretching his lips. “Will you do the honour, of marrying me?”

Evan nods vigorously, a sob breaking through his lips. “Yes.”

Eddie grins wider, slipping the ring onto Evan’s finger and then catching his lips in a passionate kiss.

“I love you.” He whispers when they break away.

“I love you too.” Evan whispers back, grinning like a mad man who was just given a giraffe for Christmas. “Proper wedding this time?”

“Anything you want.”

“We’ve got a big family to invite.”

“That we do.”

“We’ll need cake.”

Eddie laughs. “You can have as much cake as you want, carino.”

“I really love cake.”

“I really love you.”

“I really love you too.” Evan responds, mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “But also cake.”

Chapter Text

You would think that two people who just got engaged – even if it’s for the second time – would spend the next hour or so, at the very least, loved up and happy in each other’s arms, but when have Eddie and Evan ever done anything like anyone else?

Instead Eddie finds himself wheeling himself back from the cafeteria with several different types of cake, at Evan’s behest. Who knew proposing would be the catalyst for his husband – fiancé? What did they actually call themselves now? – spending the next hour discussing, mostly with himself, the best merits of every type of cake known to man.

Never let it be forgotten or dissuaded that Evan Buckley loved cake.

Honestly, Eddie wasn’t entirely sure whether Evan actually did love him more than cake, but he supposed if he had to come second to something, cake was the something he could live with.

Eddie quite liked cake himself.

So, with three boxes sat in his lap, Eddie wheeled himself down the hospital corridors back to their room. He was pretty sure he was getting some strange looks from people but hey, he was allowed out of their room, and the cafeteria staff hadn’t minded, so…

The things Eddie did for the love of his life.

Pushing the door back open, he greets his grinning husband with a kiss, then settles the boxes in his lap.

“Chocolate, strawberry, and cookies and crème.”

Evan’s eyes practically sparkle. “You sure know how to treat a guy who just woke up from a coma, after being nearly crushed by a train.”

Eddie shudders, but tries to pass it off with an eye roll. “Let’s just make sure it’s the only thing you’re ever crushed by, okay?”

Evan gives a mock salute. “Aye, aye, Captain.” He then proceeds to tuck into all three cakes at once, to Eddie’s chagrin.

“I’m not dealing with your sugar rush!”

A cake spattered smile is all he gets in response.

Chest warm and tingling, Eddie smiles and pulls out his phone, calling Bobby on video.

The Captain’s face is laced with tension when he picks up, though he seems to settle slightly on seeing Eddie’s smiling face. “Everything okay, Eddie?”

“Perfect.” Eddie grins, turning the camera around to face Evan, still shovelling cake into his mouth like it’s going to be banned tomorrow. “Look who’s awake.”

There’s a sound from Bobby that Eddie can’t put a name to – a mix of relief and laughter maybe – before the Captain is echoing Eddie’s own words. “I am not dealing with his sugar rush later!”

“Eddie said the same thing!” Evan grins, waving at the phone.

Eddie’s glad to see that Evan has warmed to the team a little more, but wonders what the catalyst might be. Had he actually heard them when he was sleeping?

“And what did you say?” Bobby grins, having been the one to buy and bring Eddie the ring.

Evan looks confused, but Eddie just laughs. “He said yes!”

Bright blue eyes widen, then Evan grins again, and raises his hand. The engagement ring sparkles, even in the dim light.

“Of course he did.” Bobby’s voice booms through the phone. “Congratulations guys.”

“Thanks Bobby.” Both boys echo, grinning at each other now.

In the space of a few days, everything suddenly feels normal, peaceful.

“We’ll come over now, if that’s okay?” There’s a slight hesitation in Bobby’s voice though, and it reminds Eddie that they still have a little bit to go. The team may have said their pieces when Evan was asleep, and Evan didn’t disagree when Eddie said about moving forward with his past – he even joked about them having a big family to invite – but Evan and the team still hadn’t actually spoken about everything.

Eddie had a feeling that there would be more tears shed before the day was over.

Evan, to his credit, just smiles. “That’d be lovely.”

Bobby smiles in return. “Okay. See you soon.”

The call ends, and Eddie sits himself back beside Evan’s bed, taking his partner’s hand. “You okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Evan’s brow furrows.

“I mean with them coming here? With… everything?”

Evan smiles, pecking his lips briefly. “It’s strange how nearly dying puts things into perspective but… I’m okay. I don’t like how they did it, but I’ve always understood why. I can’t imagine what they went through, thinking I was dead, and… I hope I never do, but… the one thing that kept me going in that train, besides you and Chris, was that they were there.” He swallows, resting his forehead against Eddie’s. “I can’t explain it, but I just felt this sense of peace. First, that they would get me out and then… then when I realised you were there, when I realised the choice Bobby had to make, that they would get you out… I still don’t remember much but when I look at them, I feel content. I just didn’t want to accept it before.”

He presses another kiss to Eddie’s lips. “Like you said, I’m ready now.” He glances down at the new ring on his finger, smiling. “I didn’t just say yes to you. I said yes to it all.”

“I love you, Carino.”

“I love you too, mi Corazon.”

 

It takes approximately 22 minutes for the team to arrive, and the first thing they do is crowd around Evan’s bed, teary eyed and hugging him tight.

Eddie, who had returned to his own bed, mock pouted. “Looks like I know who the favourite is.”

Evan, the devil, just grins and pulls his tongue out at his husband.

Hen smirks at Eddie. “The boy also has cake.”

“See, I share!” Evan lifts up one of the boxes, and Eddie can’t help but roll his eyes.

“It’s really good cake, Daddy!” Christopher, snuggled up to Evan’s good side, also grins.

“I think you should get the deciding vote, buddy.” Evan smiles down at his son. “What cake should we get for mine and Dad’s wedding?”

Before Christopher can answer, Hen gasps and Chim’s eyes go wide. “Wedding?”

Eddie almost – almost – smacks his own face. “Uh, carino… they didn’t know.”

“Oh.” Evan looks sheepish. “But Bobby did.”

“Who do you think got me the ring?”

“Oh…”

Hen’s eyes snap to Bobby. “You didn’t tell us!”

Bobby has no excuse, so he just shrugs.

Hen’s eyes glance back to Evan. “Oh, can I help? Please, please, please? I love weddings!”

Evan smiles at her, taking Hen’s hand. “Henrietta, I know we haven’t yet spent a lot of time together, but you’re the closest thing I have to a sister. I’d love nothing more.”

Hen, overflowing with tears, just hugs him tightly.

“Is no-one else gonna ask why they’re having a second wedding?” Chim queries, brow raised.

“Because they want to.” Chris answers, simply.

Evan looks over at Eddie, before turning back to their newly extended family. “And because this time, we have a lot more people to invite.”

This promptly makes Chim and Bobby cry too, and they all end up smushed together on the bed until Christopher complains he’s too hot.

Resettled in chairs dotted around the bed, each member of the 118 looks happy beyond measure.

“Thank you.” Bobby says, squeezing Evan’s hand. “For giving us a chance.”

Evan smiles. “Experiences like that change you. We both realised we’d been running for too long, and it’s time I embrace my past, instead of fearing it.” He looks around at them all. “I want you in my life. Our life.” Then over at Eddie. “We both do.”

Eddie grins. “Firefam forever.”

“I feel like this calls for a group chat name.”

 

2 Weeks Later

 

It was a fairly normal day at Station 118. Eddie was still out on medical leave, attending regular PT with Evan, and spending lots of family time together with Christopher. The ‘firefam’ as they were now dubbed (and there was indeed a group chat, curated by Evan, complete with emojis) spent most of their time off with the Diaz’s, as did their respective family members.

Athena, Hen and Karen were the self-assigned Wedding planners, though Christopher had already decided on strawberry cake.

Everything was going pretty perfectly, if they were honest. Bobby was even going to take the Diaz’s, Harry and Denny camping the following weekend.

After everything they’d been through in the past two years, things were finally looking up, for good.

Of course, even smooth sailing paths are subject to changing tides and buffeting winds, and the first time the weather changes is that very day.

The firehouse is unusually quiet, and so the sound of high heels on the floor of the truck bay echoes around eerily. Chimney is the first to poke his head over the balcony of the loft, watching as a young brunette woman walks between the trucks, looking around with a face of confusion.

“Can I help you?” He’s quickly down the stairs, charming smile on his face.

The woman squints at him, before offering a small smile. “Hi. I’m looking for Evan? Evan Buckley?”

Chapter Text

“Who’s asking?” The gruff voice of Bobby Nash follows over Chimney’s shoulder, diminishing the charming smile on the younger man’s face.

“Uh, Bobby…” Chim frowns at his Captain.

Bobby shakes his head, eyeing Chim. “I think they’ve been through enough for us to vet anyone who comes asking for them.”

Chim sighs, knowing his Captain is right. As beautiful as the woman is, she could be a reporter or anything. He turns back to her sheepishly. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I used to be an ER nurse, so I get it.” She smiles softly at them both. “I’m Maddie. I’m his sister.”

Both men’s eyes widen slightly at that. “Buck never mentioned a sister.” Even before the accident.

This time it’s Maddie who sighs and looks sheepish. “We haven’t spoken in a long while, but I…”

They can both see a look in her eyes that they’ve seen all too often; haunted, far away gazes that speak of trauma and hurt.

Bobby nods, taking control. “Let me just give him a call.” If they haven’t spoken since before the accident, she’s not going to have any clue of what she’s walking into. He needs to speak to Evan first before they say any more. He might not remember her, but only he can decide if he wants to see her.

Slipping away from the truck bay into the locker room, he dials the familiar number.

“Diaz.” It’s Eddie who picks up, and Bobby can’t help but roll his eyes.

“Evan got a personal cell service now?”

“What can I say?” He can hear the grin in Eddie’s voice. “He’s got me wrapped around his finger.”

Bobby chuckles, before sobering. “So, a woman’s just come into the station looking for Evan. Says she’s his sister.” He makes sure not to pause; he doesn’t want to give Eddie anything he can latch onto and panic about. “Obviously Evan isn’t going to know her, but… I wanted to check in with him before we say anything at all.”

“Oh…” Eddie’s voice thankfully doesn’t change, and Bobby can’t help but feel relieved. “Um… let me go get him. He’s outside with Chris.”

There’s a pause, followed by murmured voices, and then it’s Evan’s voice in his ear. “Bobby?”

“Hey kid.”

“I have a sister?”

“Apparently.” Bobby smiles, trying to inject some humour into the strange situation. “Looks like Hen’s gonna have to vie for position after all.”

“Never.” He can hear the grin in Evan’s voice, and he’s glad the new change – if true – isn’t affecting him as much as it might have done before the train crash. “Although I’m never gonna say no to Chris having another aunt.”

“Well, she’s asking for you. You wanna come here, or?”

“Yeah, that sounds good. Uh… neutral ground or whatever. Tell her we’ll be there soon?”

Bobby nods. “Do you want us to tell her anything?”

Evan hesitates for a moment, tongue clicking, then says. “Just the basics? I just don’t want to be suddenly hugged by a complete stranger, you know, but the rest should come from me.”

“Okay. See you soon.”

“Okay.” Bobby moves to hang up, but then Evan’s voice is yelling through the speaker. “Oh, Bobby! You got any more of those homemade churros left?”

Bobby can’t help but grin. “For you, I’ll whip up another batch.”

“You’re the best!”

Even as he hangs up, Bobby lets the warmth just spread through his entire being before he turns and moves back to where Chimney and Maddie are waiting.

The two seem to be getting on okay, and Maddie is actually laughing hard at something Chimney was saying, when Bobby approaches.

“He’ll be here soon.” He says, in lieu of another greeting. “But, uh… there’s something you need to know first.”

“Okay.” She nods, lips pressed together in a thin line. Clearly she knows she isn’t going to like what she has to say.

“Maddie was just showing me some of Evan’s baby pictures.” Chim says, by way of explanation; a silent nod that he believes she is who she says she is.

“Oh really?” Bobby raises a brow.

“He was the cutest.” Maddie says, holding her phone up for Bobby to see. Indeed there is a tiny Evan Buckley there, identifiable by the clear birth mark above his eye. She swipes through a few, before landing on one that is clearly much later, and is unmistakably Evan and Maddie together.

Definitely his sister then, otherwise a weird stalker with good knowledge of photoshop.

Bobby likes their chances though, and knows it’s up to Evan to decide anyway.

They go upstairs to the loft, thankful the bell hasn’t rang, and sit down at the lunch table.

“Evan wants to talk to you himself, but,” Bobby starts, looking suddenly nervous, “he also doesn’t want to be ambushed.”

Maddie raises a brow. “He’s a serial cuddler.”

Bobby doesn’t comment on that. “Maddie, there was an accident, about 18 months ago.”

“Oh my god.” Maddie gasps, already imagining the worst. “But you said he’s coming, so he’s okay, right?”

“He is.” Bobby nods. “But he suffered a bad blow to his head and as a result… he has amnesia. Everything before that point, he doesn’t really remember.”

Maddie’s hands fly to her mouth. “So he… he won’t know me?” Her voice is shaky, and Chimney puts a comforting hand on her back.

“I’m afraid so.” Bobby sighs softly. “Now, he’s been through a lot the past few months, but he’s opened up to his past and… he’s happy to meet you. You just need to let him go at his pace, okay?”

“Yeah… sure…” Maddie’s pale, but smiles softly.

Bobby decides to leave her with Chim for now, with the two of them seemingly getting along, while he starts on the batch of churros Evan had requested.

Chim looks over about fifteen minutes in, when the wafts of cinnamon and sugar become too much. “Any of that for us, Cap?”

“Not today, Chim.” Bobby grins back at the other man’s pout. “Evan requested these, so they’re for Diaz’s only.”

Chim rolls his eyes. “It’s a good job I love those boys.”

“Don’t we all?”

Maddie watches the two of them, but if she picked up on the way that Evan was referred to as a Diaz, she doesn’t comment.

Eventually they hear the familiar rumble of Evan’s Jeep – despite having suffered worse injuries in the train crash, he was the only one able to drive – and Bobby smiles over at Maddie. “That’ll be him now.”

Sure enough, the three Diaz’s enter the firehouse with smiles. Christopher, as always, runs up ahead with a shout of “Uncle Bobby!”, the sound of his crutches filling the air.

Bobby’s quick to hit the stairs, meeting Chris at the bottom and pulling him into a big hug. “How are you buddy?”

“Good!” Chris beams. “Me and Daddy and Papa were gonna get ice cream!”

“Ice cream sounds amazing!” Bobby grins back, setting the boy down, before smiling over at the fiancé-husbands. “You get here okay?” He can’t help but be worried.

Evan rolls his eyes. “I was cleared to drive, you know.”

“Let an old man care, will you?”

“Fine.” Evan grins, sniffing the air. “Are those my churros?”

“Diaz churros.” Bobby corrects. “No getting fat while you’re off duty.”

“Yes, Cap.” Chastised, Evan toes the floor, hiding a smirk. Eddie just whacks his partner on the shoulder, sporting his own grin.

“Evan?” Maddie’s stood on the top of the stairs then, looking down at them with tears in her eyes.

Evan glances up at the woman, and all of a sudden his brain is assaulted with a flurry of images and sounds.

 

“It’s okay baby brother. I’m here.”

A young brunette girl, pulling him along by the hand.

The same girl, nursing his grazed knee.

“Maddie, don’t go!”

“I’ll always love you, Ev.”

 

Once again he comes to on his bottom, hands pressed against the cool concrete floor, tears in his eyes. Eddie is knelt in front of him, whispering softly. Evan just shudders. “F-Flashback…”

Eddie holds him close.

A few moments pass in silence before Evan gathers himself; Eddie helping him to stand. Maddie’s on the truck bay floor now, watching nervously. Evan watches her for a few seconds, tears still building in his eyes. “Maddie.” He tests her name, feeling its familiarity on his tongue.

“Hey baby brother.” She whispers, her own tears leaking out.

Evan takes two steps forward and pulls her into a hug.

“I don’t remember much, but I know I’ve missed you.”

Maddie all but sobs. “I missed you too.”

The rest of them take some measured steps away, allowing the siblings some privacy. After a very long hug, Evan pulls back and smiles at her. “I don’t know what brought you here, but I’m glad.”

He wipes the tears from his eyes, clears his throat, and then moves to make a proper introduction. “Maddie, welcome to station 118. This is Captain Bobby Nash, Howard Han, and Eddie Diaz. Eddie’s my partner,” He grins, intertwining his and Eddie’s fingers as the other moves forward with Chris, “and our son, Christopher.”

“Maddie Kendall.” She smiles at them all. “Soon to be back to Buckley.”

Evan raises a brow. “Sounds like you have just as much a story to tell as I do.”

“How about we trade over ice cream?” Eddie says, looking between Evan and Maddie. The others are still on shift. “We promised Chris, and you’re welcome to join us.”

Maddie looks hesitant, but Evan just smiles at her, then kneels beside Chris. “What do you say buddy? Can Aunt Maddie come get ice cream with us?”

Chris nods vigorously, followed by a whoop and a grin at Maddie, whose hesitance melts along with her heart.

Evan stands and looks over at Bobby and Chim. “You okay for Maddie to join us at the barbeque tomorrow to meet everyone else?”

Bobby nods, smiling. “The more the merrier.”

Evan then looks over at Maddie, cheeky grin on his lips. “Maybe the girls will let you join in the wedding planning?”

Maddie’s eyes widen, and Evan just holds up his hand in response, engagement ring sparkling in the light. “OH MY GOD, EVAN!”

Evan just grins, while Eddie laughs.

“You love doing that way too much, Carino.”

A laugh slips from Evan’s lips. “Maybe a little.”

“You do remember we are already married.”

“Technically that was just Evan. Evan Buckley however…”

Eddie smacks him, turning to Maddie. “Ignore this doofus.”

“I’m your doofus!” Evan protests.

Maddie just laughs, shock having evaporated at their banter. “I feel like this is going to be a long story.”

“How long have you got?”

“Well… I was hoping to stay for good.” Maddie replies with a small shrug.

Evan glances at her for a moment, then to Eddie, who meets his gaze and nods. “You can stay with us.”

Maddie’s shock reappears. “What?”

“We’ve got a guest room.”

“But… technically you’ve only just met me.” Maddie stutters.

Evan shrugs. “Part of me feels like I’ve known you my whole life.”

Tears spring back to Maddie’s eyes, and she launches herself at her brother. “I love you Evan.”

Evan doesn’t even hesitate. “I love you too Mads.”

He’s tried running from his past, and it made everything worse. Now, he’s determined to embrace every change that comes his way; to find the positives in everything. He can’t see any negative associated with having his sister in his life; in their lives. The words just slip from his lips easily.

Eddie watches on with a smile.

“Come on.” Evan grins, pulling away and taking his sister’s arm. “Your nephew wants ice cream.”

And damn if Maddie doesn’t just beam at that.

 

Ice cream had ended up being the perfect bonding activity. Not only had both sides caught up and told their respective tales, but Maddie and Christopher had bonded over their love of the same unique flavour – chocolate peanut butter crunch – and then over Chris’ race car set when it came to burning off the sugar back at home.

Maddie was the perfect aunt, and she took to the role like a fish to water.

She’d even pulled Evan aside and told him how proud of him she was.

Evan had never felt happier.

True to their word, they got to Bobby’s the following day for a team barbeque and wedding planning afternoon, introducing Maddie to Hen – who had been off – and the respective partners and kids of the 118.

The girls, of course, inducted Maddie into their group, and they were all currently squealing over the Pinterest wedding boards Hen and Karen had been making.

“Why do I feel like we’re going to end up wearing something completely ridiculous?” Evan whispers to Eddie conspiratorially.

Eddie just grins. “Like what? Giant bear suits?”

“Knowing Hen, I don’t know.” Evan chuckles, taking a sip of his beer. “But I’m glad they’ve accepted Maddie.”

“You’ve taken to her quick.” Eddie comments casually.

“Like you said, we’ve spent too much time running, and I’m tired.” Evan smiles. “I know her, even if I don’t. I know that probably makes no sense.”

“It makes Evan sense.”

Evan grins. “Besides, she needs a fresh start, and we know what that’s like.”

“Yeah we do.”

“What’s the worst that could happen?” Evan laughs, still grinning. “Besides her spoiling Christopher.”

As if on cue, Maddie breaks away from the girls to go spend time with her nephew, hugging him tightly. Chris laughs and latches onto her like an orangutan, resulting in Maddie giving him a piggy back ride around the garden.

“Yeah.” Eddie agrees, matching smile on his lips. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Chapter Text

May 15th – 8.22pm

Laughter fills the Diaz home; a family games night once again turning into fits of giggles over the choice of games, and maybe a slight amount of cheating.

Evan pretends not to be using his fingers to move the food into the hippo’s mouth when the others aren’t looking.

Christopher, grinning, just imitates his papa.

Eddie pretends not to notice, because it’s easier than calling them out.

Maddie, new to the Diaz dynamics, allows her eyes to widen in mock shock when she catches them. “They’ll bite your fingers if you’re not careful!” She laughs, though it’s mostly aimed at Evan.

Who promptly removes his fingers from the board and pretends to be picking up a cheese puff. “I have no idea what you’re talking about Madeline!”

“Don’t full name me, Evan!” Maddie grins, launching herself at her brother and proceeding to tickle him mercilessly.

“Agh! I give! I give!” Evan cries, falling back to the floor with a flop and trying to push Maddie’s hands away. Christopher squeals and proceeds to attack Maddie, trying to help his Papa.

Eddie just grins and allows his hippo to hoover up the rest of the food before yelling “I win!”

No-one pays him the slightest bit of attention, to which Eddie pouts.

When Evan is finally released from Maddie’s grasp, he sidles over to Eddie and kisses the pout. “Sorry mi Corazon. Blame Maddie.”

Eddie grins. “I believe you’re the one who cheated.”

“And you won as a result.” Evan grins back, shrugging his shoulders.

Eddie just kisses his partner softly.

“You two are way too adorable.”

They pull back to find Maddie grinning at them, Christopher sat in her lap, giggling.

Evan just blushes.

“Did you and the girls get any further on wedding planning?” Eddie asks, wrapping an arm around Evan.

Maddie simply beams in response. “Oh you guys are going to love what Hen and Karen have been doing!”

“Are we allowed to actually see any of it?”

“Maybe.” She purses her lips, hiding a smirk.

Evan groans. “I’m not letting you put us in pink frills or something.”

“Why on earth would we do that?”

“To torture us? I don’t know.”

Maddie reaches over and takes her brother’s hand. “Trust us. We’re going to make this day so special for you all.”

“Fine.” Evan grins. “As long as there’s cake.”

“Strawberry cake!” Chris pipes up.

Maddie grins back. “Oh, you just wait.”

There’s a ping from the kitchen that has Evan jumping up from Eddie’s loose embrace, all but skipping into the open plan area with glee. “Food’s ready!” Slipping on his oven mitts, he pull out a piping hot lasagne and tray of garlic bread from the oven.

The house’s other three occupants find their mouths all but watering.

A gleeful Evan carefully places everything out on the pre-set dinner table, filling three glasses with wine and one with juice.

“Dinner is served!”

The next thirty minutes are spent mostly with eating and enjoyable murmurs about how good it is. Finally placing her knife and fork down, Maddie smiles at her brother. “That was amazing Evan.”

He beams. “Thanks!”

“You really didn’t need to cook on our last night though.” Eddie says with a smile, squeezing Evan’s hand.

“I wanted to make it special.”

“Well it is.”

Maddie takes a sip of wine, then addresses both of them. “Are you ready to go back to work tomorrow?”

It had now been just over a month since the train crash, and both firefighters had received full clean bills of health.

Eddie nods. “I’m excited to get back out there. Work with the team again.”

“Same.” Evan grins. “If only so Sanchez will stop texting me about getting too much beauty sleep. Apparently he’s worried I’m going to make people faint as soon as we pull up at a call if I’m not careful.”

“He does realise he’s a six foot two surfer with long blonde hair and multiple tattoos?” Eddie balks. “I think he’s doing that job himself.”

“I know, right?” Evan chuckles. “But it’ll be nice to be back with them. I’ve missed it.”

“I’m glad.” Maddie smiles. “You guys have been through way too much.”

“If only the cosmos agrees.” Evan says softly.

“I think we’ve more than paid our dues.” Eddie says, moving to clear up the plates.

“I actually think the cosmos owes us rent.”

 

May 16th – 6.30am

When the alarm goes off, for the first time in weeks, Eddie all but bounds out of bed, pressing a kiss to the cheek of a sleepy Evan, before practically skipping into the bathroom.

His whole body is abuzz with energy, eager to get back to the station; to feel the adrenaline rush of the bell sounding.

It takes him 20 minutes to shower, clean and get dressed, and then he’s bounding downstairs to a groggy Evan, still in his pyjamas, who is cooking breakfast.

“Morning, mi amor.” Eddie grins, pressing another kiss to Evan’s cheek.

“Mmnph.” Evan replies, mid yawn, before turning back to the stove to flip pancakes.

Eddie can’t help but laugh. “Good job you don’t have an early shift today.”

“I’m on a night, Eddie.” Evan says softly, yawning again. “It’s the whole reason I’m trying to stay sleepy.”

Eddie softens a little, wrapping an arm around his waist. “You didn’t have to get up to make breakfast. I could have – ”

Evan just raises a brow. “In that case I wouldn’t have had to go to work, because work would have been here.”

“Are you saying –”

“And you know it’s true.”

Eddie would be offended, but he knows Evan’s right. Instead he grabs the pancake toppings and sets them down on the breakfast bar. “You want me to wake Maddie and Chris?”

“Nah.” Evan waves him away. “I’ll make a second batch later.”

“What’s the plan for today then?” Eddie says, grinning when Evan passes him a plate of perfect pancakes. “I’m pretty certain you aren’t just going to sleep all day?”

“Nah.” Evan sets down another plate for himself, and slides onto a chair opposite Eddie, reaching for the maple syrup and strawberries. Eddie goes for chocolate and nuts himself. “I don’t know really. I was thinking of hitting the gym for a bit, but I think Chris wants to do something fun seeing as he’s not at school this week.”

“And Maddie?”

“Job hunting.”

Eddie raises a brow. “Really?”

“I told her to take her time, but apparently she doesn’t want to overstay her welcome.”

“She does know she’s family, right?”

“Yeah.” Evan sighs, stabbing a pancake and lifting it to his mouth. “But she’s stubborn.”

“Hmm, I wonder who else is.”

“Shut up.” Evan throws the maple syrup at him. It misses and clatters harmlessly to the ground.

“Now what did the maple syrup ever do to you?”

Evan rolls his eyes. “Don’t make me throw the raspberry too.”

“Syrup murderer.” Eddie grins through a bite of pancake.

“You’re ridiculous.”

“You knew this before you married me.”

“Can I change my answer now?”

“Oh, you shut up.”

The bottle of raspberry sauce also clatters to the ground.

 

May 16th – 12.43pm

Eddie is feeling on top form. They’re into hour five of their shift and have already responded to a pile up on a bridge and a house fire. Eddie’s been back in the harness both times, rappelling over the edge of the bridge, and then hanging from the aerial ladder to rescue a woman trapped on the roof of the burning house.

He feels like he’s never been away, and it’s the best feeling in the world.

“3, 4, 5.” He’s just restocking the ambo with Chim when Cap comes over. The smile on his face means it’s not anything to worry about, so Eddie continues counting the ACE wraps until he’s finished, noting down on his clipboard.

Then he smiles back at Cap, joy lighting his eyes. “Hey Cap. What’s up?”

“I just wanted to check in with you about the two calls this morning. Make sure you’re still feeling okay?”

Eddie knows it’s protocol. Still, he grins, bouncing on his feet. “I feel perfect Cap. Much as I hate that they happened, they were the perfect scenarios to throw me back in, you know?”

“Always off the deep end, Diaz.”

“Don’t you know it.”

Bobby smiles. “And how’s Evan?”

“Fine.” Eddie says as he replenishes the missing ACE wraps. “He’s on night shift though, so he gets an extra afternoon with Chris, which is nice.”

“I’m sure they’ll have a lot of fun.”

“Knowing Chris, Evan’ll be worn out before his shift even starts.”

Bobby laughs, the sound ringing out through the truck bay. “I’m sure his Captain’ll love that.”

“Oh, I bet.” Eddie grins.

Then the bells drown out everything else.

 

Water.

Surrounding. Drowning.

Thrashing. Fighting.

Surviving.

Break the surface.

Deep breaths, gulping air greedily.

Ignore the pain, the burning throb; shoulder, hip, leg.

Push on. Push through.

“Christopher!”

Help will come.

Help will come.

Help isn’t coming.

“CHRISTOPHER!”

Chapter Text

May 16th – 12.43pm

 

“Christopher!”

Help will come.

Help will come.

Help isn’t coming.

“CHRISTOPHER!”

 

May 16th – 9.56am

 

After seeing Eddie off to work, Evan did catch another hour or so in bed, but it wasn’t the same without his husband’s warmth beside him. So instead of dozing any longer, he set about making breakfast again for Maddie and Chris, who were stirring.

No school holiday was complete without his papa’s pancakes, according to Chris.

He purposefully keeps the hallway door open, allowing the smell to waft down into the bedrooms. Sure enough, he’s just finishing plating up when the sound of crutches greets his ears.

“Pancakes!” Chris shouts as he enters, in lieu of a greeting.

Evan pretends to pout. “Pancakes better than papa?”

Chris just grins, hugging Evan’s legs tightly. “Never.”

Lifting up his son and securing him at the breakfast bar, Evan grins back. “Glad to hear it.”

“But pancakes are also pancakes.” Chris says, happily covering his plate in sauce (No, the bottles weren’t on the floor anymore) and tucking into the stack.

“That is also true.” Evan laughs, just as Maddie comes into the kitchen, smiling at her brother and nephew.

“Did I hear there’s pancakes?”

“Indeed.” Evan places another stack in front of her, then takes a seat to Christopher’s right. “Eddie agrees with me by the way.”

“About what?” Maddie questions with a raised brow and a mouth full of pancake.

Evan tries not to laugh. “Job hunting. You’ve only been here a couple of weeks Maddie.”

“I know.” She sighs softly, putting her fork down. “But I’m not going to impinge on you all more than I need to.”

“You’re not doing.” Evan assures. “We want you here, Maddie.”

“Yeah Aunt Maddie!” Chris pipes up, grinning. “I love having you here!”

“See.” Evan grins, pressing a kiss to Chris’ temple. “Our little man here won’t let you leave.”

“Nope!” Chris stabs another pancake.

Maddie just laughs. “You two are too much.”

“We mean it.”

“I know.” Her smile dims just a fraction. “But I need some sense of normalcy, you know? I’m not saying I’m gonna leave tomorrow, but… I do need to work, Ev.”

“So what are you thinking?”

“That,” She sighs, “is the problem. I don’t want to go back to the ER and keep looking over my shoulder every five minutes, but I also want to do something meaningful.”

“I’m sure you’ll find your calling.” He squeezes her hand softly. “And if Doug comes anywhere near this family, he’s going to find a lot of people fighting in your corner.”

“Thank you Evan.”

“Anytime.”

“So what are you going to do today?” Maddie asks after a moment, tucking back into her pancakes.

“I’m not sure.” Evan says, swirling around his mug of coffee before taking a slurp. “I kind of want to get some more reps in at the gym before my shift, but… this little man wants to do something fun.” He ruffles Chris’ hair fondly.

Chris grins, squirming away. “I want to go to the pier!”

 

May 16th – 1.12pm

 

Eddie can’t quite comprehend the state of the city in that moment.

The 118 had arrived at the furthest point they could safely drive to, before the road gave way and submerged beneath miles of water. Parking at the rendezvous point, they’re quick to grab their gear and make their way to the incident commander, to be given instructions.

Yet even as Chief Lorens briefs Bobby and the rest of the 118 on the situation, Eddie can’t help but let his mind wander.

The water is calm, almost serene, as if it doesn’t understand – can’t even comprehend – the destruction and death it has wrought upon the city Eddie calls home. Yet if he looks passed the surface, deeper into the city, he can already see the piles of debris, overturned cars, and the bodies… too many to count…

Eventually the water will recede, but beneath its murky surface will be even more death and carnage.

The city will never be the same, even when the days – now and to come – are over.

Eddie shudders.

The one thing he’s glad of is that, with exception of the 118, whose backs he has and they his, his loved ones are safe away from it all.

He glances back to Bobby just in time to catch their orders. “Moving out through the west side, tagging as we go, until we reach the pier. We save as many as we can.”

Then they’re in the boats, water choppy at their tail, speeding through the flooded buildings and too many signs of lost life and livelihoods. Pictures and scraps of paper, teddy bears and children’s toys – so much wreckage that they can’t even begin to think of how many lives in total will be forever altered by such a force of nature.

Water – the one thing we cannot live without – is also that which has so much power to destroy.

It’s a sobering thought for humanity.

An hour passes when they trundle by – of all things – a half flooded firetruck. There’s some equipment floating within the backseat compartment, but they don’t have the time or need to grab it, and it’s most likely too waterlogged for use. Instead, Chim anchors one of the tags to the side mirror; it could be salvageable later on.

Little they knew that an hour further on, that fire truck would become a safety net for people close to their hearts.

 

May 16th – 12:55pm

 

The phone rings.

Captain Stark of Alpha Red snatches it up in seconds, eyes tearing away from the TV screen, from the scenes of devastation not far from him at all.

“Stark.”

“Captain, I assume you’ve seen the news.”

“Correct.” He pulls his attention back to the TV for a moment, watching scenes of other firefighters and first responders dragging through the immense stretches of water and rubble. “You need us?”

“You’re being pulled in, yes.” Their Chief replies. “For the long haul.”

“Understood.” Stark replies. “I’ll call my team.”

“You’re meeting up with Bravo Green, who are already on their way to the scene. Despatch point is the southside bridge.”

“Affirmative.” The call ends with a click, and then he’s quickly pressing a couple of buttons to dial his team on a group call.

Suddenly the volume in his ears is three times louder, multiple voices vying for attention.

“Are we going out, Cap?”

“We need to get out there.”

I’m going out there, regardless.”

“We have a duty – ”

This is our duty.”

“He’s right. The people are our duty.”

“Hey.” Stark raises a hand, even if they can’t see him. “We are going out there. Chief just called. We’re being pulled in for the long haul.”

“Yes!”

“I’m already in the car.”

“Hope you’re using hands free.”

“I’m not an idiot.”

“You’re some kind of idiot.”

“But a damn good firefighter.”

“That’s what matters.”

“I’m on my way too.”

“What do we do about kit?”

“Me and Ryder are closest to base, so we’ll pick up our truck and everything we need. The rest of you head over. Meet up at the Southside Bridge. We’ll be coordinated from there. Bravo Green are already on their way.”

“I can pick up gear and head straight over. I’ll join with BG.”

Stark pauses a moment, then nods. “Okay. Brannen is off, so you’ll be most senior there.”

“Affirmative.”

“Let’s go team.”

 

May 16th – 2.48pm

 

Eddie scrubs a hand over his face, sighing softly and letting his eyes flutter closed. This was going to be a day they remembered for a long time, if not forever, and it was already taking a massive toll on Eddie’s mental state.

Every person he saw was quickly morphing into someone he loved, and it was only through the force of his mind that he could remind himself – could remember – that they weren’t here.

It was just him and the 118, and he could see them all with his own eyes.

So he forced himself to focus on his job, eyes snapping open to take more tags from Chim, before leaning over the side of the boat to tag another bunch of unfortunate victims.

“Oh my god.” Hen’s gasp draws Eddie away from the water and towards the front of the boat, and his own jaw drops at what he sees.

The pier has been completely taken out by the tsunami, and all they can see beyond semi-submerged storefronts and the sad half-blinking lights of what was an arcade is the top half of the Ferris Wheel, far in the distance, multiple people clinging onto the spokes.

There’s already three boats in the area, manned by crews of four firefighters, so their two make it up to five. A sixth boat sits in the middle of the large area, a single man stood in its centre. The red vest they’re wearing indicates them as someone in a position of command, so Bobby directs both boats to head over to them.

As they get closer, Eddie can see a radio raised to their lips, clearly directing the different crews.

“Buck?”

The name is barely a whisper from Bobby, but it startles Eddie in the way he’s switched to the previous iteration of Evan’s name. Not since that fateful day when the truth came out had Bobby referred to Evan as Buck, so the fact he does now shocks Eddie to his core.

Bobby’s face is a little paler, eyes widened a fraction, and for a long moment Eddie fears that if he looks – if he follows Bobby’s gaze – he will see nothing more than his husband face down in the water; nine lives stretched too thin.

“Cap?” His voice is hesitant as he calls out.

Bobby blinks, as if dispelling a mirage, but then a smile graces his lips. “Evan!”

Eddie slowly follows Bobby’s gaze, back to the single man in the boat, and only then does he realise Bobby’s confusion.

Sure enough his husband is the man in the boat, red vest stark against his skin yet bringing out his birthmark more clearly, but the turnout coat he’s wearing reads ‘BUCKLEY’.

Eddie frowns. “Evan?”

As they get closer, Evan turns to them, eyes brightening a fraction, though Eddie feels immediate concern over how dark they look. “I was wondering when I’d see you! You’ve got perfect timing.”

“76 to Sector Commander Buckley.”

Evan raises a hand, answering the call. “SC Buckley. Go ahead 76.”

“We’ve released several passengers from the ferris wheel but the boat’s full.”

“Acknowledged 76. Head to refuge point at the VA hospital. 118 is taking over the ferris wheel.”

“Copy that.”

Turning back to the 118, Evan offers them a soft smile. “Sorry about that. If you could take over from 76 on the ferris wheel, it’d be appreciated. There’s a few more people hanging on, and 76’s boat is full.”

“Not a problem.” Bobby says.

Hen’s eyes twinkle as she looks up at Evan. “Command suits you.”

Evan blushes. “I wasn’t going to sit at home and it was easier for me to come straight here and join another team, than wait for my own. Somehow I ended up most senior, so…”

Bobby raises a brow, but says nothing.

Evan smiles sheepishly. “I just hope you don’t mind me stopping by the 118 for my old gear.”

“It’s yours, kid.” Bobby smiles. “Now I’m extra glad we kept it.”

“Me too.” Evan smiles.

“This mean I get to call you Buckaroo again?” Hen grins.

“Whatever you want, Hen.”

The radio crackles again, so Bobby directs their two boats to head straight to the ferris wheel. It’s a good minute on the boat though, so of course Bobby turns his raised brow to Eddie. “You want to elaborate?”

“On which part?” Eddie’s own mind is whirling. Their being off for a month had given them time to sort out Evan’s legal life; bringing him back from the dead essentially. His old and new lives merged, he was legally Evan James Buckley-Diaz until they got married again. So it wouldn’t be completely left field for him to use Buckley professionally. Eddie just hadn’t realised his husband was yet comfortable enough to do so. Then again, with Eddie on the same call, who of course went by Diaz, maybe it was just for ease; along with it being quicker for him to grab the gear from the 118.

Yet something niggled at him – the dark look in Evan’s eyes more than just stress from assumed command.

“He got made lieutenant a little before the train crash.”

Bobby’s brow raises higher. “That’s awfully quick.”

“He’s always excelled at the job. It’s why he finished academy before me, when we were still in Texas.” Eddie shrugs. “Guess a lot of it he knows subconsciously, from before.” He glances over at Evan’s receding figure, still on the radio. “If his crew got here first, it makes sense for him to be SC.”

“I’m not doubting him.” Bobby assures. “I was just surprised.”

“Me too.” Eddie murmurs. “Never expected him to wear that name again, I guess.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah…” Eddie turns back, shrugging. “We filed all the paperwork when we were off; bringing him back from the dead, so to speak. Officially he’s Buckley-Diaz until the wedding so… it’s not weird.”

“You sound like it’s weird.”

“Guess he’s just a Diaz to me.”

“Eddie.” Bobby’s eyes bore into him, a weight on his shoulders. “He is a Diaz.”

“You’re right. You’re right.” Eddie trains his eyes on the looming ferris wheel instead. “He still goes by Diaz at work, and all his gear’s kitted that way. Suppose it makes sense if he got the gear from the 118.”

“Exactly. It was a rapid response to a natural disaster.” Bobby’s hand is warm on his shoulder. “Remember Eddie. Don’t doubt.”

He’s right, Eddie thinks, it’s not personal.

Then he forces himself to focus on rescuing the people still trapped on the ferris wheel. It takes them around forty minutes, but eventually their boats are full, luckily with no critical patients. Bobby directs the boats back to Evan to confirm the location of the nearest drop off, and as they approach Eddie just manages to catch the tail end of Evan’s conversation on the radio.

“Dispatch, this is SC Buckley at the Pier.”

“Go ahead SC Buckley.”

“All victims now secured for transport, and on their way to nearest drop off locals. DOA still being tagged.”

“Confirmed and recorded.”

“Any word on my people?”

“No confirmed sightings yet of anyone matching those descriptions, Buckley. Confirm all alert for 38 year old brunette female and 8 year old blonde male.”

“Thank you dispatch.”

He can hear the raw pain in Evan’s voice, and the defeated way he lowers the radio, blinking back tears.

“Evan?” Eddie can’t not call out as they approach, and there must be a look on his face that tells Evan he heard everything because his husband just sighs, standing there shaking.

“Maddie…” He croaks, unable to look at Eddie directly. Instead he focuses his gaze on Bobby, trying to inject some sort of strength into his words, as if making them a briefing, rather than a delivery.

“Maddie took Chris to the Pier”

Chapter Text

May 16th – 12:02pm

 

The blare of lights and mishmash of sounds are the first things the members of the Buckley-Diaz family find on arriving at the pier.

Christopher beams at the sights and sounds, gleefully cheering as he and Maddie enter the fray.

“Okay, little nephew.” Maddie grins. “What do you want to do first?”

“Games!” Chris points to a long row of game booths stretched across and down the pier area.

Maddie grins, taking his elbow. “Games it is!”

The next thirty minutes are spent playing a multitude of games, winning several prizes of different sizes, and resulting in a lot of laughter from both aunt and nephew.

Every minute draws warmth and happiness into Maddie’s chest, and she almost can’t believe how lucky she’s gotten after leaving Doug. She’d expected her brother, not an entire cast of adopted family members, a brother-in-law and a nephew. In some ways, she’s never been better.

Her grin is stretched wide across her face, hefting a large teddy bear under one arm and still cradling Chris’ elbow in her other.

They stop at a bench at the end of the pier for ice cream. Maddie has the teddy bear on one side and Christopher stood on the other. Her ice cream free hand is pressed against Chris’ chest, keeping him steady on the bench. He’s watching the lap of waves against the shore, eyes glistening with joy, ice cream smushed to his lips.

Of course they both went for chocolate peanut butter crunch.

As much as she’d been wanting to spend the day job hunting, an afternoon like this with Chris was something to cherish, and it was actually providing her with insight into what she might like to do.

Sat there, hand warm against Christopher’s chest, listening to him laugh and giggle, she wonders whether childcare might be an option. Then again, she shudders at the thought, she’d never want Doug anywhere near someone so innocent.

What she needs is an office job, somewhere safe and protected, but at the same time she wants to be able to help people. She just needs to figure out what that is.

She almost asks for a sign, but knows better than to wager her decisions on something so foolish.

“Aunt Maddie?”

She looks up, noting the confusion on Chris’ face, and frowns. “Yeah, bud?”

“Where did all the water go?”

 

May 16th – 3.43pm

 

By some miracle they’d found a firetruck, wedged amongst the wreckage; its roof safe from the cascading water. Maddie had used every ounce of her remaining strength to lift Christopher up on top to safety, and then pull herself up after him.

They’d been there now for over an hour, and Christopher was beginning to shiver in his wet clothes.

“You’re okay… You’re okay…” Maddie kept whispering to him, her arms wrapped tight around him, his head buried into the crook of her neck.

She could hear yells from other people, had seen many bodies floating by, but she couldn’t do anything to help. She wasn’t a firefighter like her brother and Eddie. She didn’t have the knowledge or skills to do anything other than protect Christopher and pray that rescue would find them in time.

Every part of her body ached, shivering to her bones, but she would not let sleep lure her. She’d been a nurse. She knew what she was facing.

She knew that if she slept, she likely wouldn’t wake.

Her back had been bleeding steadily since she’d surfaced the first time, after the hit, screaming for Christopher with everything she’d had. She must have caught it on something, though she doesn’t know what, and without the ability to press down on it, she knew she was losing too much. It had, thankfully, slowed now, but she wasn’t entirely sure whether it was a good thing, or whether it meant she’d already lost so much that there just wasn’t much left to lose.

She wasn’t keen to find out.

Beside this electric throb that rested somewhere between her hip and spine, her leg and shoulder also ached fiercely, though she was sure they were nothing more than bruising and a dislocation.

What worried her more was the fever that Christopher was now sporting, his breaths soft and shallow.

They needed help, and fast.

Shifting Christopher slightly, she tells him to stay put on the truck, and somehow – adrenaline or will or internal fortitude – slides herself off the side, back into the water. She keeps a tight hold on the truck’s edge, then pulls herself through the broken window, into the cabin.

Thankfully there’s no current inside, and it of course has a floor, so she manages to hold herself steady against one of the head rests, fishing into the water with her other hand.

There has to be something left behind that they can use.

She only comes across a left behind turnout jacket, but at the very least it can be used to warm Christopher.

Once she’s safely back on the roof, she settles herself back down with Chris, feeling the last embers of her strength give way. Laying the jacket over them, she hopes help arrives soon.

Then, by some miracle, the feint trill of a phone reaches her ears. Eyes wide, she scrambles in the jacket – thankfully water tight – and removes a still working phone, bright screen blinking up at her.

The caller has disconnected, but it doesn’t matter. She knows exactly which number to call, pressing the phone to her ear and praying with everything she has.

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

 

May 16th – 3.35pm

 

“What?” Eddie gasps, unable to comprehend what he’s hearing. Maddie had taken Chris to the pier? His son and his sister-in-law were somehow in the middle of this, and no-one knew if they were okay?

Evan finally meets his eyes. “I’ve got other SC’s on it, and dispatch. We’ll find them Eddie. We’ll find them.”

Eddie feels himself shaking. “Why didn’t you tell me when we first arrived?”

“I…”

“We could have been looking for them all this time!” He can feel his anger rising to the surface, fists clenching. “Why didn’t you just – ”

“We have a job to do!” Evan cuts in, and the ferocity in his eyes almost blinds Eddie. “Of course I want to find them, want to make sure they’re okay, but there are hundreds of other people who need our help too!”

“Christopher – ”

“Maddie will keep him safe.” Evan says, expression set with determination. “But we have a duty to all the people. I didn’t tell you not because I didn’t want to, but because you needed to do your job first. Now you take these people back to the VA and you can check there, where we have few eyes on the ground.”

“I’m his father.” Eddie says without thinking. He means that Chris is the most important thing – him and Maddie – not anyone else. It’s an emphasis on ‘his’; he’s Christopher’s father, not anyone else’s. He knows it’s selfish, but the bright eyed boy is one of the few good things Eddie has; he’s his light. He can see how the words hit Evan though – the miscommunication they always seem to be good at – taking the emphasis on ‘I’m’ instead.

Eddie doesn’t necessarily think Evan made the wrong choice. He’s just panicked; the thoughts he’d been comforting himself with since this began are suddenly all lies. His world has been irrevocably changed.

Eddie doesn’t think when he’s panicked.

Evan flinches visibly, though it’s clear he’s trying to keep his own emotions buried beneath the veneer of the commander.

Bobby sighs softly. “Eddie… He’s right. Professional has to take president over personal in this instant.”

Eddie knows he’s right, he just can’t admit it, fists curling further in response.

“Okay…” Evan sighs, his voice much softer. “Bobby, Eddie, with me. The rest of the 118, take the boats to the VA and drop off your passengers.” He purposefully avoids the word ‘victims’, especially in front of them. He feels somewhat embarrassed too by Eddie’s response, when he’s trying to keep an air of authority and safety. “When you’re there, check the VA for Maddie and Chris.” He looks to Hen and Chim at that. “The three of us will start searching from here once the other teams have finished tagging the bodies.”

Eddie wants to argue, to push for them to start searching now, but a touch from Bobby has him sagging.

“Fine.”

It’s maybe twenty minutes later, the last of the bodies having been tagged, with Evan just having informed those on his radio channel to head to the VA, when a call from dispatch comes through.

“Dispatch to SC Buckley.”

“SC Buckley responding.” Evan replies. His voice is still quiet, exhausted, and it sends a pang through Eddie’s chest. He wants to apologise, but the panic in his chest hasn’t lessened, and it won’t let anything past his lips.

“We’ve received contact from Madeline Kendall. Confirmed herself and young boy, Christopher Diaz, as having found safety atop a firetruck, stationed at the intersection of Fourth and Lincoln.”

Evan lets out a shaky breath. “Affirmative dispatch. Status?”

“Reported as injured but stable.”

“Copy that. Section 7 now cleared. All DOA tagged. Remaining teams heading out to VA for drop off. Confirmed myself and two members of the 118 heading for rescue of Kendall and Diaz.”

“Affirmative. Operator is still on line to them.”

“Tell them we’ll be there soon.”

 

May 16th – 4.01pm

 

“Hey Maddie?”

“I’m still here, Josh.” Maddie says softly, breath wheezing now. “Thanks for keeping us company.”

“It’s my pleasure.” Josh’s voice is warm and soothing. “I’ve got good news for you. Rescue’s on its way.”

“Oh, good…” Maddie smiles, looking down at Christopher. Her eyes are heavy, vision greying. “Hear that bud?”

Christopher manages a grin. “I bet it’s Daddy and Papa!”

“It is indeed.” Josh says, hearing them. “They’re on their way to you now. ETA about five minutes, so I need you to keep talking.”

“I can… can do that…” Maddie whispers, phone slipping from her grip. The darkness is reaching out to her now, its grip sweet and intoxicating, and she can’t pull away any longer. But Chris will be okay. Evan and Eddie are coming. She just hopes her brother doesn’t blame himself when he finds her. He just hopes they’re okay. Her eyes slide closed, and she can’t hear Josh anymore.

“Josh?!” Christopher pushes at Maddie’s head, tears building in her eyes when she won’t wake up. “Aunt Maddie fell asleep!”

“Can you wake her up buddy?”

“No!” Chris is crying now, pushing futilely at her. “Aunt Maddie, wake up!”

“Christopher, is she breathing?”

Chris gently lays his head on Maddie’s chest, but he doesn’t know. He’s shaking, tears streaming down his face. “I… I don’t know…”

“Okay. Don’t worry. Your dads are almost there.”

 

May 16th – 4.04pm

 

“Dispatch to SC Buckley. Status update.”

“Go for update.”

“Kendall has deteriorated. Operator is still on to Christopher. Possible resuscitation required.”

Evan swears, tears building in his eyes, and pushes the boat to go further. “I’m coming, Mads.”

Eddie shivers, resting a hand on his husband’s shoulder, but Evan doesn’t respond, eyes narrowed to focus on the water and the water alone.

Bobby swallows thickly, rustling through the med bags for the equipment they might need, specifically the portable oxygen.

They arrive at the truck in just over a minute, the engine spluttering, and Evan is out of the boat without a second thought, hefting himself up onto the truck. He allows himself a brief second to hug Chris tight, feeling the boy’s warmth, before passing him down to Eddie with a shout of “check him over.” Then he’s at Maddie’s side, fingers pressed to her neck with a prayer.

“I’ve got a pulse!” He cries out. It’s weak, but there. “But she’s not breathing.” He grabs the oxygen mask from Bobby, strapping it around Maddie’s face and squeezing the bagged end rhythmically. “Breathe Maddie. Breathe for me.”

He’s sending up every prayer imaginable, hands skimming her chest for any probable cause as to why she won’t just breathe, but he can’t see anything. Internal then. He sends up more prayers to anyone listening that it’s something the VA can fix easily, as he passes her down to Bobby and Eddie, then jumps in after them.

Bobby guns the engine, heading off to the VA with a call of “3 minutes!”

Its three minutes too much for Evan, who loses Maddie’s pulse quickly and spends the majority of the journey leant over his sister’s body performing CPR, tears streaming down his face amidst cries of “Breathe Maddie! Just breathe!”

The VA itself is swarming with people, but Evan cuts through the noise easily with a scream of “I need a doctor!” He’s still pushing down hard on Maddie’s chest, ignoring the shift of ribs beneath his hands.

“Come on big sister. Come back to me.” He whispers, a choked sob escaping him as a swarm of medical personnel extract her from him and onto a gurney, wheeling her inside.

He can feel himself swaying, eyes trained on her even as the doors close.

Then his vision greys, and he hits the floor.

 

May 16th – 4.23pm

 

Evan wakes with a gasp, eyes fluttering frantically open, arms flailing to the shout of “Maddie!” from his lips.

Eddie’s arms are tight around him, lips pressed to his ear, whispering soft words of reassurance.

His face is wet, even as he buries it into Eddie’s shoulder. “She… She…”

Eddie doesn’t know what to say, so he just holds his partner tighter.

“You were right.” Evan whispers, more sobs escaping him. “I should have found them sooner… I should have…”

“No carino.” Eddie murmurs, kicking himself internally now that his own panic had subsided; Christopher mostly okay beyond some scratches and a fever. “I wasn’t.”

“If I’d have gotten there sooner…”

“Then someone else might have died. Many more might have.” Eddie says, brushing back Evan’s damp hair and pressing a kiss to his forehead. “You made the right call, carino.”

Evan looks up at him, eyes watery and wobbling. “How do you know?”

“I just do.” Eddie whispers. “I’m sorry I ever doubted that.”

Evan shakes his head. “You were worried.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Eddie sighs. “I should have trusted your judgement. I’m sorry, Evan.”

“It’s okay.” Evan whispers, snuggling back into his husband’s chest. “Christopher?”

“Being checked out now, but he seems okay beyond a fever. Bobby’s with him.” Eddie replies. “Might have a hell of a case of the flu but… you were right… she kept him safe.”

“Yeah…”

“You okay?” Eddie’s frowning at him then. “Doc checked you because you passed out. Said it was just stress and exhaustion.”

Evan’s breath hitches, but he nods. “Yeah… Just been one hell of a day…”

“Yeah, I think the cosmos really owes us rent now.”

“You’re telling me.”

 

May 16th – 5.12pm

 

Christopher was back with them now, snuggled up against both his dads, fast asleep. The doctor in charge of him had given them a prescription for antibiotics for him, to counteract whatever he’d picked up in the water, but said he should be fine in a few days, with lots of rest.

Evan and Eddie were of course relieved, but they both knew they’d be making a new set of therapy appointments now; for all of them.

Eddie’s eyes were slowly slipping with each passing minute, but Evan’s were wide awake, trained on the doors ahead.

Bobby was sat beside him, fatherly hand resting on his back to provide comfort, occasionally speaking reassuring words or offering a simple hug.

Evan was immensely glad he was there.

Finally, after a long hour that felt like several, a doctor approached them.

“Family of Madeline Kendall?”

Chapter Text

4 Weeks Later/Now

 

“The clouds look like pillows!” Christopher exclaims, bright eyes peering through the window, staring out into the blue expanse around them.

“Or marshmallows.” A hungry Eddie says with a grin.

Evan, sat on the aisle, doesn’t draw his eyes from his book, but holds out an ill gotten pack of smores to Eddie.

Eddie’s grin widens, pressing a kiss to Evan’s cheek as he takes one. Breaking it in half, trying not to lose any of the goo, he passes one to Christopher.

Chris happily munches on it, still staring out the window. “That one looks like a dog!”

It wasn’t the 8 year old’s first trip in the sky, but it was definitely his longest, and his first out of the country. Eddie was a little apprehensive, even if the whole thing had been his and Evan’s idea in the first place.

The front row of the plane is filled with the firefighters and their families. Evan, Eddie and Chris have the right side, with the Wilson’s on the left side, and the Grant-Nash family in the middle four. Buckley is strapped into a cot in front of Bobby and Athena, mounted onto the wall. Chim and Maddie are sat behind the Diaz family.

Evan’s eyes keep glancing to his sister, but she’s more than content with her head resting on Chimney’s shoulder, eyes closed in sleep. He smiles.

“They’re cute, right?” Eddie says, noticing his glances.

“I don’t think they realise how cute.” Evan whispers back, mindful of the sleeping duo. He’s pretty sure they wouldn’t appreciate being woken up, only to find people staring at them.

“They know they’re in their own villa yet?”

“Nope.” Evan grins, appreciating himself how sneaky his plan was. The two had been tiptoeing around each other ever since Maddie got out from the hospital; Chim sneaking round with baked good and flowers and other things, because “she needed cheering up.” Evan was pretty sure three weeks of such gestures went beyond ‘cheering up’. His friend clearly had a crush on his sister, and Maddie definitely needed a happier relationship after what she’d told them about Doug. Evan was more than happy to oblige.

“She may kill you, you know?” Eddie grins.

“Nah.” Evan waves him off. “She needs it.”

Eddie’s smile sombers slightly. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” Evan turns his smile to his husband, taking Eddie’s hand. “We all need this.”

“Yeah, we do.”

The sound of a whimper reaches their ears then, and Evan’s out of his seat in a shot, heading over to the crib on the other side of the aisle. Unharnessing and scooping up Buckley, he flashes a smile to a groggy Athena, woken by her child’s cries. Bobby was already half out of his own seat. “I’ll take him for a walk around.”

“You don’t have to do that, Evan.” Bobby tries, but Evan already has Buckley snuggled onto his chest, one hand around his back and supporting his neck, the other supporting lower.

“I don’t mind.” Evan grins, and then he’s off down the aisle, shushing and bouncing the grumpy three and a half month old.

Athena blinks at her husband. “I think our baby-Buck has been stolen by big-Buck.”

“I think Evan’s had his heart stolen.” Bobby grins, glancing over to Eddie, who just shrugs.

“I told you he wants another.”

“Have you given any thought to that yet?” Athena raises a brow. Even Bobby looks intrigued, yet amused.

“With everything that’s been going on? No, not yet.” Eddie laughs softly. “But I can tell he’s still thinking about it. Buckley has him wrapped around his finger.”

“That he does.” Athena glances behind her, watching Evan rocking and bouncing her son as he walks up and down the aisle.

“I feel like we might actually get some time to ourselves on this holiday.” Bobby says to his wife, who smirks in response.

“That’s the plan.” Eddie says to them, shifting a little to stretch his legs in Evan’s empty space. “No-one’s on kid duty all the time, and they have plenty clubs and things for them. I know Buckley’s too young for them, but Evan’s more than happy to have his sidekick.”

“Buck and Baby-Buck, the fantastic duo.” Bobby muses with a grin.

“118 Superhero Squad.” Eddie laughs.

“Why do I have a feeling that Evan’s going to be at our door come Halloween, with costumes already prepared?” Athena asks, but Bobby’s looking at Eddie with a strange look on his face.

“Evan’s not 118.” He murmurs. Eddie frowns, but says nothing, filing it away for later.

Athena smiles at Eddie. “We’re just thankful you two sprung this whole thing on everyone.”

Eddie’s smile returns, a blush speckling his cheeks.

 

2 Weeks Ago

 

The 118 was having an unusually quiet shift, not that anyone would say it out loud. They were into hour 8 of a 12 hour shift, and they’d only had two calls, involving someone stuck in a metal fence, and a minor car accident mostly involving a broken hydrant. After the Tsunami and the following days of clean-up, everyone was silently glad for an easy day.

Eddie had texted Evan, who has a day off, to come round for lunch, and the jeep had just pulled up.

Evan was quick to greet his husband with a kiss, Christopher on his hip.

“Something smells good.” He comments with a grin, glancing up into the loft where Bobby was no doubt whipping up something for lunch.

“We ordered pizza.” Eddie deadpans.

Evan smacks him softly. “Do not joke about food.”

They head upstairs into the loft, with Evan immediately plopping Chris down next to Hen, who was playing a video game, and heading over to Bobby. “Bobbbbbyyyyy.” He draws out the name, grinning.

“Evan.” Bobby grins at him, lifting a spoon for him to taste.

Evan’s eyes widen at the explosion of flavour. “Perfect.”

“I’m glad you think so. It’s a family recipe.”

“Will you teach me?” Evan’s puppy dog eyes are impossible to resist.

“I’d love to.”

Eddie watches them both with fondness. It had taken time, but Evan had really warmed up to the captain in a way that the others at the 118 associated with their previous relationship. Eddie could see how much the interactions warmed Bobby, and was so thankful that Evan was clearly happier than he had been when they first moved to L.A.

The 118 had become their family, and they were never more grateful.

“Is Athena coming?” Evan asks.

Hen grins over from the couch. “She’s just changing Buckley.”

If possible, Evan’s smile widens further. “There’s a baby here?”

“Uh-oh.” Hen turns her grin to Eddie. “Someone has baby fever.”

As soon as Athena appears, Evan is over by her side, cooing over Buckley with the widest smile and sparkling eyes. Somehow he gets Athena to give up her baby boy, meaning that Evan spends the next ten minutes or so walking around the loft with Buckley in his arms, singing and talking softly.

“Oh you are just so cute, aren’t you?” Evan’s bouncing him up and down now, delighting at the squeals Buckley elicits. “Yes you are. Yes you are.”

Eddie’s heart practically melts.

When Bobby calls lunch, Evan reluctantly hands Buckley back to his mother, and sits down to eat beside Eddie and Chris.

When the plates have finally been scraped clean amongst satisfied murmurs and wide grins, Eddie smiles round at the table. Beside Karen, Maddie, and the rest of the kids, all of the 118 family was here.

“So, there’s actually a reason I asked Evan and Chris over for lunch.”

“Although Bobby’s cooking is always a treat.” Evan grins.

Eddie tries not to roll his eyes at the interruption. “You all know about the train crash and… I’m not going to go over anything, but… basically the train company was found at fault for flaunting regs so we got a payout.”

Everyone starts to say something, but Eddie holds his hand up. Evan just grins, “He’s not done.”

“Considering everything this family has been through recently, we decided to use the money for a family vacation. All of us. Italy. One week, paid in full.”

Evan’s still grinning. “Now he’s done.”

The table erupts in a flurry of excited voices and chatter.

 

Now

 

Evan and Eddie had purposefully told no-one about the resort they were going to, taking joy in the lit up faces as the airport transfer coach approaches.

“It has a theme park, and quad bikes, and an aquarium and everything!” Evan is grinning as he walks the family towards their lodgings, having picked up the keys from the reception. “And best of all!” He unlocks a gate, leading the group inside.

The first thing they see is a massive private pool complete with deck chairs and umbrellas, its own slide, and a little shed filled with floatie toys. In each corner sits a villa, four in total, complete with their own locked gates to the pool, and small garden. The villas are beautifully decorated, and the firefam can’t help but stare with wide eyes and loose jaws.

“This is all for us?” Hen gawps.

“Yep.” Evan grins wider, popping the ‘p’. He tosses each family a set of keys as he speaks. “Grant-Nash family. Wilson family. And Maddie and Chim.”

Chim splutters at the prospect, eyes widening further. Maddie just sends her little brother a knowing and dangerous look.

Evan shrugs. “You’re the only single ones.”

Maddie finishes glaring at her brother, then looks to Chim, who’s still spluttering. “Do you have a problem with it, Howard?”

Chim just looks at her.

Maddie shrugs, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “Then I’m going to look inside.”

Chim goes as red as beetroot, and scuttles after her.

Evan grins at the other families, explaining more about the resort and having everyone agree to meet back by the pool in two hours for food, once they’d recovered from the plane ride.

Every member of the firefam is grinning from ear to ear, while the kids are already begging to be allowed to go in the pool.

Then a loud screech of “EVAN!” comes from one of the villas, and Evan ducks instinctively, hands fumbling for the Diaz families keys, and trying to unlock their own gate.

“That would be Maddie finding out there’s only one bed, so I’m gonna go hide.”

 

By the time they meet back up for food, Maddie’s hand is securely wrapped in Chimneys. Evan gives her a smirk, and she just smacks his arm, hard.

“That’s for being a know it all.”

Chim grins. “Meanwhile I’m buying you a beer for not being upset that I like your sister.”

Evan laughs. “I’ll take it.”

The now four couples/families chat happily as they walk down back towards the main area of the resort, away from all the lodgings, to where a strip of restaurants are. As the kids haven’t burnt off much energy and have in fact been cooped up all day, they opt for the family friendly place that has an inbuilt play area inside.

The food is brilliant, even with Evan’s caveat of “not as good as Bobby’s though” which earns a blush from his pseudo-father (not that either has entirely voiced those thoughts yet). The children are then let loose in the play area, shrieks echoing around them. The adults sit and chat, drinks in hand, but after an hour Eddie finds himself unaware of his husband’s location.

“Anyone seen Evan?” He queries the group.

Athena just gives him a look. “Where do you think he is?”

Eddie doesn’t know what she means by that, so he takes a wander around.

It doesn’t take him long to find him.

To the far side of the play area is a small ball pool with soft blocks and toys, intended for tiny children too young for the actual play area as a whole. Evan is sat within, balls pooling over his legs and up to his waist, with Buckley in his lap.

The baby is munching on the end of a teething toy, all gums and saliva, with one hand, the other absently patting a yellow ball. Evan’s eyes are focused solely on Buckley, and Eddie can see his mouth moving.

“Your Daddy’s a hero, you know that? He saved me from a big evil train, and he saves people every day.” His voice is not much more than a whisper, but Eddie can hear the emotion piled within every word.

“He’s one of the best people in the world. We’re so lucky to have him, right baby brother?” Evan chuckles. “Although we’ll keep that little bit to ourselves for now. I think it might make me too much like Buck, and I don’t know if he’s ready for that yet.”

A hand absentmindedly brushes the baby’s curls, soft smile forming on Evan’s lips. “He named you after me though, after Buck, so maybe one day, huh?”

Buckley’s eyes are drooping now, so Evan shifts him to his shoulder and stands. “Let’s get you back to mama, shall we?”

Eddie moves before he’s seen, eyes wet.

 

Its three days later when they finally have enough time alone for Eddie to broach the two subjects that have been playing on his mind since the plane. The vacation was supposed to be relaxing, all in all, and Eddie definitely felt better and more refreshed, but he couldn’t stop the swirling thoughts all the time, especially late at night.

Christopher was at one of the musical shows with Hen, Karen, Denny and Harry, so the fiancé-husbands had taken the night to go stargazing. The resort had a beautiful area set up especially for it; complete with blankets, pillows and even telescopes.

Eddie had his hands tucked behind his head, while Evan was snuggled into his side, head resting on his chest. Eddie felt, despite his thoughts, completely content.

“Hey Carino?” Eddie says softly, not quite tearing his eyes away from the twinkling stars above.

“Yeah?” Evan murmurs.

“Have you ever thought about coming to the 118?”

Evan shifts, rolling onto his stomach to look at Eddie. “Why do you ask?”

“I just… I heard you with Buckley, that first night.” Eddie admits, tearing his eyes from the stars to look at his partner. “And you’re so comfortable there, you love the team now and… it might even make our schedules easier?” It was no secret that childcare was getting to be a bit of a pain, especially when Evan was away for days on end fighting large scale bush fires.

The look on Evan’s face is not what Eddie had been expecting. He’d thought that maybe Evan would be worried that Eddie wouldn’t want it, especially considering all his initial hesitation and problems concerning Evan’s past. Instead his partner looks conflicted.

“I don’t know.” Evan admits. “I haven’t really made a decision yet.”

“But you’ve thought about it?”

“Yeah, I suppose.” He sighs. “It’s complicated.”

“Because you’re not Buck?” It’s the only reason he can think of for why his partner looks pained when he says ‘complicated.’

“Because I’m not Buck.”

Eddie lets it go, hand snaking around Evan to pull him back closer. “Okay.”

Evan’s eyes are watching him now though. “Something else on your mind?”

Damn his facial expressions. Eddie presses a kiss to Evan’s lips, sinking into the sensation. Then, “Do you still want another kid?”

“Yes.”

That answer comes with no hesitation, and Eddie grins.

“You think we’re ready?”

“Yes.” Again, no hesitation. “You still want to try surrogacy?”

“I want nothing more than a kid with your DNA.” Eddie says softly, pressing another kiss to his partner’s lips. “Bobby and Athena have Baby Buck. Let’s have Baby Evan.”

“We’re not naming him Evan.”

“Robert.” Eddie smiles, remembering, but there’s a shadow over Evan’s eyes as he speaks.

“It might be a girl.” Evan murmurs.

Eddie sighs, squeezing his hand softly. “Think about it?”

Evan meets his eyes. He knows they’re not talking about the baby then. “I will.” A moment passes, and then he smiles. “So, we’re having a baby?”

“We’re having a baby.”

Chapter Text

Screams of laughter and excitement echo through the air, accompanied by the whizz and clank of a multitude of mechanical rides.

Bobby and Eddie are on kid duty that afternoon; Denny, Harry and Christopher hand in hand with each other, an adult on each end. The Firefam conga, as Harry had dubbed it, were going from ride to ride; massive smiles on each of their faces.

The two adults were of course accompanying the kids on most of the rides, but there were a few of the smaller or less intensive ones that they were letting the kids go on themselves.

The Go-Karts were one of them.

Sat at the edge of the track, watching the three of them speed around with giant smiles on their faces – Christopher and Harry in a dual kart, Denny in the other – Eddie and Bobby allow themselves to take a breath.

“I don’t know how you do it.” Eddie says to Bobby with a smile. “Three at once is tough.”

“We’re lucky that May’s older, that’s for sure.” Bobby replies.

“If only she’d wanted to help us today.” Eddie laughs. “I’m exhausted.”

“At least you only have one most of the time.”

At this, Eddie grins. “For now.”

Bobby raises an eyebrow, smile growing wider. “You know something I don’t?”

“We agreed last night.” Eddie replies, almost bouncing in his seat. “We’re trying surrogacy.”

“Eddie that’s amazing.” Bobby pats him on the shoulder.

“Thanks.” Eddie beams. “I know we’ve been through a lot lately but… it feels right, to take that step.”

“Have you thought about it in detail?” Bobby queries. “How you’re going to manage with two intense jobs?”

Eddie sighs. “I talked to Evan, about coming to the 118.”

“And?”

“He was… apprehensive…”

Bobby frowns at this, even as he tries to keep his judgement neutral; it isn’t about his own wants, but the Diaz’s needs. “Why?”

Eddie sighs again, not looking at Bobby. “Because he’s not Buck.”

“Oh.”

“He’s thinking about it though… I mean, it’d make it easier on our schedules and… he wouldn’t be gone for so long…”

“It’s a logical choice.” Bobby can’t help it; he wants Evan with them more than anything.

“Yeah…”

“Well, just keep us in the loop? When the time comes, I’ll make sure you get paternity and everything.”

“Thanks Bobby.”

They’re silent for a long moment, and then Bobby smiles. “It explains why he didn’t want to come with us then.”

 

“That boy is stealing my son.” Athena Grant sighs, despite the smile gracing her lips. Hazel eyes watch with fondness as Evan Buckley-Diaz dances through the palm tree shaped fountain, baby strapped to his chest.

“That boy is your son.” Hen grins, also watching the two. “Even if he doesn’t want to admit it yet.”

Athena throws her a glance that says ‘we don’t talk about that’ but she knows she can’t deny it. Buck had been their son since he’d first walked into station 118, and a bunch of missing memories was not going to change that. Things were just different now; it was unspoken, lingering.

She hadn’t gotten to spend quite as much time with him as Bobby, but their bond was still there, even if it was a little frayed. Her heart yearned for the relationship they’d had – for Sunday dinners and waking up to him in the guest room (pretty much Buck’s room, even now) after a gruelling shift – but she’d take what she could get.

Seeing him with Buckley… that was more than enough.

May chuckles. “He can’t tear himself away from big brother duties.”

Athena turns her gaze to her daughter then, who just shrugs as if to say ‘come on, that’s your eldest and youngest, and you know it.’

Athena sighs again and draws her gaze back to the two in question.

Evan has stopped prancing through the falling water now, instead sat beneath it in the small cm deep water. He’s unstrapped Buckley, sitting him on his thigh with his head and neck supported by his stomach. The baby’s feet are in the water, and Evan’s using his free hand to make them dance and splash. Buckley is grinning gummily, laughter echoing through the water park.

“Oh, my heart…” Hen whispers, clutching her chest.

None of them are sure how much time has elapsed when Evan starts making their way back over to them, Buckley tucked in his arms, eyes closed.

“Looks like you tuckered him out.” Athena comments with a grin, taking back her baby.

Evan grins back, a twinkle in his eye. “I’m just getting some practice in.”

Athena’s jaw drops. May squeals. Hen’s eyes widen.

“W-What?”

Evan is still grinning, practically dancing in his seat. “We’re trying surrogacy. We agreed last night.”

“Oh my god!” Hen practically squeezes Evan. “You’re gonna be such a good daddy! I mean, you already are, but…”

“I know what you mean.” Evan laughs. “Thanks Hen.”

“I’m getting a niece or nephew?” May is practically beaming at Evan.

Evan’s look is indecipherable then, but he smiles at May and nods. “Yeah, I guess you are.”

Athena’s heart – if it hadn’t already melted – does then.

“I’m so proud of you.” She says, squeezing his hand tight.

Evan’s eyes well with tears. “Thanks ‘thena.”

It’s not Mom, but she’s not complaining.

Much.

 

The last day of their holiday passes far too quickly for anyone’s liking, but they’re determined to enjoy their last evening, so grab takeout from the resort’s pizzeria, and bring several boxes back to the villas.

The kids, sans Buckley, are splashing about in the pool with squeals and shouts of joy; the area more floatie than water by this point.

The adults, plus Buckley, are sat around the various dining tables and chairs they’d dragged from each garden, eating the last vestiges of their food.

Buckley, of course, is sat on Evan’s lap.

They’re actually discussing the fiancé-husbands’ plans, being that both had let the cat out of the bag earlier.

“I can’t believe we’re gonna have another member of the 118 firefam!” Hen gushes.

“Two, if you and Karen go for it.” Eddie says, remembering their conversation from that first day. “You should.”

Karen looks at her wife. “We definitely should.”

“Although, we haven’t even started the process.” Eddie continues. “We might not even get one for a while.”

“You will.” Maddie grins. “You both deserve it.”

“Somehow I don’t think biology works that way, Maddie.” Eddie laughs. “But thanks.”

Maddie still grins at him. “Have you thought about names?”

“We discussed it a little, last night. But not really…” He glances over at his husband, who’s looking surprisingly teary eyed.

“Robert.” Evan chokes, barely a whisper. “If it’s a boy… He’ll be Robert.”

Bobby’s eyes snap to Evan, mouth parted, eyes glassy. “Evan…”

“Can I talk to you?” Evan whispers, glancing over at Bobby. “Alone?”

Bobby eyes him for a moment, confused, then nods, leading them both into the Grant-Nash villa; leaving Buckley sat with May. They take a seat on one of the plush couches, and Bobby just waits for Evan to speak.

“I, um… I know things have been… weird… between us, at first anyway. But lately…”

“Things have been good.” Bobby supplies.

“Yeah… Really good.” Evan’s voice is still quiet, choked by tears. “I know a lot about Buck, from what Hen’s told me, and you… and I know… I know he was like your son…”

“Evan…”

“Let me finish. Please.” Evan wrings his hands in his lap, looking everywhere but Bobby. “You and Athena… I feel safe with you, you know? Ever since the train… I just… I’ve been having a lot of feelings and I… I don’t want to run from things anymore. It didn’t help, so… and Maddie told me about our parents… I can see why he went to you.”

Swallowing thickly and wiping away the tears, Evan takes a breath. “I mean… I wasn’t going to say anything. Not ‘cause I didn’t want to, I just… I didn’t want to upset you, I guess. If you didn’t… didn’t think of me like him.”

Bobby takes his hand then, squeezing softly. “You are him. He’s you. My feelings have never changed. Not once.”

At this Evan smiles, finally looking up at Bobby. “May said something today, about mine and Eddie’s kid being her niece or nephew, and I just… I wanted to know.”

“We’re here for you, Evan. Always.”

Evan’s arms snake around Bobby’s neck, pressing his head to the fire captain’s chest. “Thanks you.”

Bobby can’t help but smile, eyes shining, as he hugs his son back.

“I was wondering…” Evan says, pulling back after a moment with a smile. “Hoping…”

“Go on, son.”

Evan’s smile widens. “At my wedding, would you give me away?”

Bobby all but bursts into tears. “I’d be more than honoured.”

They return outside a good ten minutes later, but no-one questions the way both their eyes are rimmed red, or the huge smiles on both their faces. Nor do they question the way Evan immediately gravitates back to May and Buckley, hugging them tight, and then dancing to the low thrum of music with the baby.

For the 118 firefam, everything is right in the world.

 

Of course, fate always has other plans, especially for Evan Buckley-Diaz.

The day after they return back, Evan and Eddie find a surrogacy agency, and start the process of welcoming a new member to their family. They’re quick to agree that Evan would be the one to donate, being that Chris is biologically Eddie’s. That, and Eddie would love a kid with Evan’s hair and adorable birthmark.

They move to fast track their application, being that their schedules are often hectic, though they assure the agency that they’re working on changes that would allow them to raise another child.

Evan, actually, is the one to say so, and Eddie doesn’t question it; simply watching him with a smile, as if he knows something has changed. Evan hadn’t told him everything he and Bobby had spoken of; simply coming to bed that night with a grin and the statement of “he’s giving me away.”

The date of their first ‘meet-and-greet’ is scheduled for Friday, but the hectic schedules mentioned puts that date in contention almost immediately.

On Tuesday, Evan is called out with Alpha Red, to a large scale forest fire in a more northern part of California. It’s Thursday before Eddie can even reach him via phone.

“-die…” The connection is unstable, Evan’s voice coming in and out of audible range. “g’na be l’te h’me”

“Carino…” Eddie tries not to huff at the terrible quality. “Carino, I can’t hear you.”

“L’ve y- -d’s.” Evan’s voice cracks and breaks. “Tell Chr’s… love h’m t-”

“Will do.” Eddie says back, smiling softly. “Love you too, Evan. Stay safe.”

The call ends shortly after, and finally Eddie huffs, running a hand through his hair. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” He groans to Bobby as he makes his way back upstairs at the firehouse. They were thankfully between calls when Evan had called.

“He thought any more about coming here?” Bobby questions as he plates up food.

“I think so.” Eddie shrugs. “We’ve been so focused on the baby stuff since we got back but… he made a comment to the agency that made me think he wanted to.”

“He’ll be fine, Eddie.” Bobby pats his shoulder, smiling softly. “He’s Evan.”

Unfortunately, Evan was also Buck, and everyone knew his tendency to get into trouble. He’d thankfully never been seriously injured during his time at the 118, emergency tracheotomy aside, but there had been plenty of close calls and stupid moments, especially in the early days.

So perhaps Bobby shouldn’t have tempted fate, or perhaps fate already had other plans.

Eddie cancels the meet-and-greet.

By Friday, Evan still isn’t home, but Eddie had managed to speak to him more clearly the night before, to which Evan had said that the fire was almost out, and his crew would be heading home the following morning.

Eddie was on a 12 hour shift from 8am on Friday. He hadn’t thought much of it when he didn’t receive a call from Evan in the first few hours, to say he was heading home. Depending on where their base camp had been set, it could have taken them some time to get into a cell signal range again with normal telephones, as opposed to the satellite ones they used on duty.

He tells himself everything’s fine, even if the churning in his stomach puts him off lunch. He can see Bobby watching him with a frown, but his captain doesn’t comment.

Everything changes come 5pm, when Eddie’s phone is still unnervingly silent.

Then it trills, vibrations on the table cutting through the station’s tense atmosphere (because once Eddie was worried, everyone was worried).

“Evan!” He picks it up without a second through.

“No, sorry Mr Diaz.” The caller says.

Eddie sighs. “Sorry Nini. I was expecting him.”

“Uh… that’s why I’m calling actually…” She sounds nervous, and Eddie’s heart picks up rapidly. “Chris was asking about his Papa, and then something came on the news and now he won’t stop crying.”

Eddie’s heart breaks at that, and he wants nothing more than to run home. Still, he can tell she’s not done. “What was it?”

“Channel 23.” She replies, and Eddie’s moving over to the TV in a split second.

Channel 23 shows the news, like always at this time, but the scenes of wildfire are like an arrow through his chest.

Illegal Loggers Cause Trouble For Smokejumpers – The tagline reads.

But below it:

Two missing in blaze – Lieutenant and Officer still unaccounted for.

“No…” Eddie’s mind is whirling, thinking every possible combination of events that could have happened. There’s no names, nothing to even indicate that Evan is the Lieutenant in question, but something in Eddie’s gut just knows. “No…”

He can feel the team stood behind him – hears Hen’s gasp – but Eddie can’t tear himself from the TV.

“… blaze was almost out when a truck owned by illegal loggers was caught by embers. The fuel tank exploded, setting further acres ablaze. Alpha Red team was drafted back in to fight the new inferno, when two team members unfortunately lost radio communication…”

Eddie can’t hear anything beyond the anchor’s words – not Nini, not Bobby, nothing.

His legs shake, giving way beneath him, and he falls to his knees, hands grasping each side of the screen as if he could pull Evan through it. Tears spill from his eyes, just one word, one name, on his lips.

“Evan…”

 

Evan Buckley-Diaz will not give up.

The smoke is acrid in his lungs, despite his mask. He knows he ran out of air ten minutes ago, and the mask is only acting as a rebreather right now. Still, it’s better than nothing.

The rhythmic whoosh of air from behind him is what keeps him going, arms burning with the effort of pulling another body behind himself on the makeshift stretcher.

He’s given Fletch his secondary tank, ensured the other man has at least an hour of oxygen to go.

An hour.

That’s what he has to get out of this.

Beyond that, he’s not sure Fletch will survive.

Beyond that, he’s not sure his lungs will cope.

The compass is cold but reassuring in his hand when he stops to check their direction, nodding to himself. With their equipment out of commission, they’re having to skirt the edges of the blaze, but Evan just needs to find someone – anyone – with a radio.

Then Fletch can get an Evac and Evan… Evan can rest… or fight… whichever his lungs allow him to do.

He just needs to keep going. Just for a little bit longer.

Evan Buckley-Diaz will not give up.

Chapter Text

“Eddie…”

“Eddie…”

Bobby’s face wavers in front of the younger man, concern palpable in his expression, along with his own fear. “Eddie? You with us?”

Eddie blinks, once, twice, dark eyes refocusing on everything that isn’t the news report. “B-Bobby?” He croaks, a part of him wondering if this is all just some nightmare he can’t wake up from.

“I’m here, Eddie.” Bobby’s hand is firm on his shoulder, but Eddie’s hypersensitive and he can still detect the captain’s own shake.

They’re all worried.

Eddie looks dazed and confused, tears spilling down his cheeks. For a long moment, Bobby just holds him close. Then he says “Go home to your son,” and nods to Hen to take him.

Eddie doesn’t protest.

 

He’s struggling to breathe now.

Only the thought of his family spurs him forward still, inch by inch over the unforgiving ground, arms nothing more than a static burn now.

Then finally, like the light at the end of an underground tunnel, the surface breaking, he hears the unmistakeable sound of pulsating water.

“Mayday!” He calls out, voice gruff and hoarse with smoke. He can taste it in his mouth, just like he can feel the burn of the residual heat on every part of his skin. They’ve been skirting the blaze, but he still had to stay close enough to not miss any potential help. Sweat drips down from his forehead, pooling above his lips and around his nose, even wearing his mask.

He coughs, pulling the mask away for a moment to allow his voice to carry farther and louder. “Mayday!”

At last there’s a figure in the distance – no, two figures, maybe even three. Evan’s eyes are blurring as he struggles to inhale, focusing every effort on gaining their attention. “May-” He breaks with a cough, hands slipping from the stretcher, bending over as his lungs all but rattle beneath his ribs.

But two of the figures are running now, the third situated with a hose, still battling the blaze.

“Lieutenant!” One shouts, branches and ash lumps cracking beneath their shoes as they race forward.

Evan’s knees give way beneath him, body shaking as the two finally reach his side.

“We’ve been looking everywhere for you.” One says, a relieved smile beneath their mask. Evan vaguely recognises him from Bravo Green Team.

“R-Radio’s br-broke.” Evan coughs, slumping onto his butt as he’s passed a medical oxygen mask. Like a balm to his lungs, Evan can finally breathe.

“Yeah, we figured.” The first says, as he looks over Fletcher, wincing at the amount of bloodied gauze that layers the man’s abdomen. “What happened, Lieutenant?”

“Tree fell.” Evan says softly, beneath the mask. His eyes are closed, focusing solely on his breathing. “Hit Fletch dead on. I tr-tried to push him out… out of the way… Broke the radios and his tank.”

“And you gave him your second.” The second man, Leon, states. It’s not a question, though the raised brow tells Evan what he thinks.

Evan shrugs. “I st-still had my f-first…”

Leon’s brow rises higher, but he doesn’t say anything in response, simply pulling his radio from where it sits atop his chest, and calling in. “Base Camp Charlie Vector Zero, this is Officer Leon of Bravo Green. Come in.”

“Copy Leon. Go ahead.”

“We’ve found Lieutenant Diaz and Officer Fletcher.” He says into the radio. “Severe smoke inhalation and abdominal trauma. Requesting Med-Evac to Vector Seven.” He rattles off the co-ordinates on his sat phone.”

“Acknowledged, Leon. Med-Evac on its way to you. Fifteen minutes out.”

“Copy that. Oxygen being given to both patients. Both seem stable.”

“Copy. Over.”

“Over and out.”

Replacing his radio, Leon looks to his partner. “He okay?”

The second man, De La Cruz, nods. “Looks like Lieutenant Diaz did some hefty field surgery. Wound’s open but the artery’s been cauterised. He’s stable for now.”

“How the hell did you do that?” Leon looks to Evan with wide eyes.

Despite everything, Evan manages a grin, pulling a small metal lighter from one of his turnout pockets. “N-never know wh-when you might n-need one.” He coughs again, chest aching, struggling to draw in a breath. “C-can’t…”

Leon turns up the oxygen on the tank. “You’re at full sat now. Just take slow breaths, Lieutenant. You’ll be out of here in no time.”

Evan tries, he really does, but his body is so exhausted. “S-someone… c-call… hus-husband…”

“They will, Lieutenant.” Leon says, but Evan’s eyes slide shut, and he hears nothing more.

 

Eddie can’t think, can’t breathe, can’t do anything except hold his son close and let Chris’ tears soak his shirt.

He’s tried to reassure the boy that his Papa’s going to be okay – that Evan will always come home to them – but he knows, sees the look on Hen’s face that tells him his tone is nothing short of weak. He doesn’t even believe it himself.

Then the car pulls up.

To anyone else it might not seem like much – there aren’t even any flags or symbols or anything to indicate who it belongs to – but Eddie was in the army.

He’s seen enough of those cars.

He knows what it means, and everything in him shatters.

Somehow he has the strength to pass Chris over to Hen, to tell the older woman to take him to his room; to stay there until Eddie comes back.

Hen’s watery eyes watch him as she nods, leading Chris away.

Then Eddie shakily approaches the door, opening it before the knock even comes.

The officer on the other side looks surprised, but beyond that, Eddie can’t make out any sort of expression.

“Eduardo Diaz?” He asks softly.

Eddie somehow manages to nod, croaking. “Yes… My husband?”

There’s a slight pause, and Eddie feels like his heart is going to burst out of his chest, then; “Lieutenant Diaz has been taken to California North Medical Facility for treatment for severe smoke inhalation, but the doctors expect a full recovery within the week.” The man finally gives Eddie a smile. “I’ve been sent to take you and your son there.”

Eddie’s knees actually give out on him, and he has to grab the door frame for support. “Oh thank god…”

The man is still smiling. “I’m glad I was able to give you good news, sir.”

Eddie manages a weak smile in return. “The best.” He takes a moment to finally breathe, to let his tension release, then nods to the officer. “Let me just go get my son and a bag.”

“Of course.” The man nods. “I’ll wait in the car.”

The door clicks softly shut, and Eddie leans back against it for a moment, sobbing.

He hears Hen’s footsteps, soft and unsure, before he sees her, and she immediately takes in his heaving sobs and gasps, eyes tearing up. “No…”

Eddie quickly shakes his head, long strides moving over to hug her tight. “No, Hen, no. He’s okay.” He smiles at her. “He’s okay.”

“Oh thank god.” Hen echoes his own words, shaky hand running over her face. “That boy is gonna turn me grey.”

“Me too.” Eddie mutters, squeezing her hands. “We’re gonna go see him. The car’s taking us to Cali North. Can you let the team know?”

She nods, smiling. “Of course. Go get your boy.”

Eddie doesn’t think he’s ever felt such relief as in that moment, racing into Christopher’s room with a call of, “Papa’s fine, buddy. He’s fine.”

Christopher cries again, but this time with happy tears, hugging his Dad tightly.

“We’re gonna go see him buddy, okay? He’s fine.”

Neither have ever been out the door as quick in their entire lives.

 

The ride to the hospital takes two hours, and Chris falls asleep part way, yet as soon as they pull up at the hospital, Eddie’s out of the car in a flash, a suddenly awake Christopher beaming against his Dad’s shoulder. With a quick thank you to Officer Lincoln, they’re inside, Eddie most likely scaring the receptionist with how quickly he shouts his husband’s name.

“R-Room 243.” She says, and then he’s off again, bursting into the room without any thought.

Three pairs of eyes meet his.

Evan’s sat up in the hospital bed, oxygen tubes running up into his nose, looking red and weary, but otherwise okay. Beside him are two officers, still in Smokejumper logo’d attire.

“Eddie.” Evan manages a smile, but Eddie can see his joy in the way dull eyes practically light up like firecrackers. “Chris.”

“Hey, Carino.” Eddie smiles back, racing over to kiss him softly. The two officers make aww’ing noises, but Eddie pays them no mind, focused entirely on his husband.

“Papa!” Chris reaches for Evan, so Eddie sets him on the bed. Chris quickly curls into Evan’s side, holding tight. “I was so scared…”

“Me too, buddy.” Evan whispers, holding him just as tightly.

Eddie takes the empty seat on the opposite side to the officers, then extends his hand over Evan’s legs. “Eddie Diaz.”

“Tam”

“Sy.”

They both shake his hands in turn. Eddie recognises the names; two of Evan’s closest friends on Alpha Red.

“Thanks for looking after him.” Eddie says, but the two shake their head.

“Your boy got himself out, man.”

“Strongest man I’ve ever known.”

Evan probably would have blushed were his skin not already pink and puffy. “You two…”

“We’ll give you some privacy, boss.” Tam says, standing.

“Yeah, get well soon, D.” Sy adds, and then the two leave the room.

Eddie sighs, taking Evan’s hand. “I thought I’d lost you.”

“Never.” Evan says softly. “I’ll always fight my way back to you.”

“You shouldn’t have to.” Eddie says. “I should have your back. Always.”

Evan doesn’t reply at first, gaze drifting across the room to the now two empty chairs. He sighs.

“I know.”

 

Evan spends a week in the hospital, with Eddie and Chris staying at a local hotel, curtesy of the service. He’s back home for all of a day before Athena and Bobby are inviting everyone around to theirs for a party.

“Death defiance deserves a celebration.” Chim says when Eddie questions it, during a video call with the station. He raises a brow in response, but doesn’t ask.

“And cake!” Hen adds with a grin.

And so, the following Saturday, everyone arrives at the Grant-Nash household to celebrate Evan being okay and home again.

“I heard you did some pretty impressive field surgery with nothing more than a lighter.” Chim says with a grin, while they’re stood in the back garden with cake in hand. Evan is sat on one of the plastic chairs, his body still a little weaker than normal, but he throws his husband an exasperated glance. There’s only one person he could have heard that from, and Eddie certainly had heard it from Tam.

“It was do or die.” Evan replies with a shrug. “For my team-mate anyway.”

“But he’s okay because of you.” Chim says. “That’s got to feel good.”

“Yeah…” Evan gives him a smile. “I suppose it does.”

“You ever think about working as a medic?”

A brief flit of surprise glosses over Evan’s face, and then he shrugs again. “Maybe. If firefighting didn’t work out. I like saving people.”

“And you’re damn good at it.” Eddie grins.

The minutes tick into hours, everyone having a good time and enjoying being surrounded by their large family. Towards the end Evan feels himself tiring, so he goes into the living room for a comfier seat, intending to rest his eyes for just a moment.

He’s been sat there maybe three minutes when he feels the cushion dip beside him. “You okay, sweetie?”

Athena.

Evan lets himself sink into her side, her comforting scent and warmth relaxing him further. “Just needed a minute.” He murmurs.

Her arm slips around him, holding tight. “You take all the time you need baby.”

“Thanks.” Evan says softly, a smile on his lips as he glances up at her. “For the party. ‘s nice.”

“We were worried about you.” She says, brushing a curl from his eyes. “Just don’t make a habit of it, okay?”

“’kay mom.” Evan says with a smirk, but the words are soft enough for Athena to know he means them, despite the obvious sarcasm.

Her heart bursts.

For the longest time they just sit there, mother and son, until Evan’s breathing evens out, and his eyes slide closed. Athena carefully extracts herself, placing a blanket atop him, and presses a kiss to his cheek. “Sleep well baby.”

When she goes outside and Bobby glances at her, she just smiles. “Our son is taking a well-deserved nap.”

Bobby smiles right back, and all is well once more.

 

It takes just over another week for Evan to be cleared for duty, and Eddie feels nothing but nerves and panic and fear when Evan walks out the door, pressing a kiss to his husband’s cheek and telling him he’ll see him later.

Eddie knows he’s being irrational, but he can’t help it.

Even Christopher makes Evan promise to send text updates to Eddie and Nini.

Still, he tries to focus on one moment at a time, heading off to the firehouse for his shift.

He gets there half an hour early, as always, and heads straight to the gym, working off his steam on the punching bag. Then he heads to the locker room to put on his uniform, and heads out into the truck bay for roll call.

Bobby is already waiting, watching everyone line up, and then he frowns. “Okay, we’re just missing one person.”

Eddie frowns, looking down the line. “Cap, everyone’s here.”

Bobby’s expression changes, grin forming. “Oh, I forgot to say we’ve got someone new joining us today.”

Eddie’s frown deepens; that was the first he’d heard of it. The expressions of his team-mates tell him that they’re just as confused.

There’s clink from the stairs leading up to the kitchen, and everyone’s gaze swivels to the source, just as Bobby continues “Well, I say new…”

Eddie’s entire body freezes.

Evan Buckley-Diaz grins down at all of them. “Room for one more?”

He’s dressed exactly as Eddie is, just with turnout pants already on, secured with braces. Under one arm is a helmet with the words ‘Station 118 Lieutenant’ printed on them, while the other arm has a turnout coat slung over it, the words ‘118’ and ‘Buckley-Diaz’ clearly visible.

Eddie gapes, swivelling his gaze back to Cap for a moment, and then to Evan. Then his legs move him forward at pace, hugging his husband tight with disbelief. “Wh-What?”

“It’s like you said, Eds. You should always have my back.” Evan grins. “Just like I should always have yours.”

The alarm blares.

“Starting now.” Evan takes his hand, pulling him towards the truck.

Eddie works without thought, putting his own gear on and hopping in. His eyes are quick to find Bobby, still gaping. “You planned this?”

Bobby just grins.

Evan laughs, settling in his seat. “It’s good to be home.”

Chapter Text

Flames lick the sky, soot turning the once clear night murky. A window bursts outwards, hot pressure whistling out with a bang. Three engines pull up out front, sirens cutting through the night air.

Several doors thunk open, boots hitting the warm tarmac.

Captain Nash surveys the building with a deep frown, wrinkles marring his eyes. At his side, Lieutenant Buckley-Diaz also surveys the situation, though his eyes are wide with possibility.

“Four storeys, twenty-six rooms, forty-seven residents.” Buck says.

Cap nods. “Forty-two accounted for.”

“Fourth floor’s un-swept by the 121.” Buck points to an empty window, on the other side of the flames. “We can take an aerial ladder up, sweep and get anyone else out.”

Cap nods. “Who would you put in?”

Buck’s answer is instant. “Robbins and Diaz.”

Cap raises a brow, but nods. “Okay. Good call.” He’d always known Buck was cut out for command, even if he’d started off reckless and stupid. Seeing him now, Bobby couldn’t be prouder.

Buck just smiles. Maybe in another life he would have craved such praise, but he knows he’s good at his job; he knows he’s making the right decisions.

Cap steps back, letting Buck take the floor; the younger officer calling out to the firefighters in question and relaying his plan.

Eddie grins at him, never happier than seeing his fiancé-husband at work. Robbins just nods and starts getting on his breathing apparatus.

Minutes pass, and then they’re inside.

Bobby and Buck watch with bated breath as civilians are pulled out from the fourth floor. Callaghan is monitoring the oxygen levels, and nods to Buck when the two firefighters are running low.

Buck reaches for his radio. “Robbins, Diaz, you need to get out now.” As he waits for the response, he signals to Petrov and Deeks to start gearing up, holding up a single finger to let them know how many people are left inside.

“Affirmative.” Comes Eddie’s reply, but Robbins doesn’t answer.

“Diaz, do you have eyes on Robbins?” Buck calls.

There’s a crackle, then, “He says he can see hear someone.”

Buck shakes his head, logic and reason winning out over his desire to rush in there himself. “I said get out, both of you. Petrov and Deeks will get them.”

“I can find her!” Robbins shouts, and Buck almost stumbles at the force of the other man’s conviction. Bobby frowns, but says nothing. He wants to know how Buck will respond.

The Lieutenant takes it in his stride though. “That’s an order, Robbins!”

“Lieuten-.” There’s a sharp crack that echoes through the radio, smoke and dust suddenly blooming from the building in front of them as it literally cracks down one side.

“Mayday! Mayday!” Eddie’s voice is suddenly hoarse through his own radio, and Buck’s entire body freezes. “Floor collapsed. Robbins is down!”

Even though some of the cold leaves him, Buck heart still seizes in his chest, even if only for a moment. Then he’s moving, shouting for the crew to set up a new aerial to the third floor and reaching for a breathing apparatus set. “Diaz, get out of there now! Robbins, status?”

A cough, then. “I’m good Lieutenant, but my arm’s caught under a beam. I can see the victim though, female in her mid 20’s, unconscious. Flames aren’t that bad right now but the smoke’s thick.”

Buck nods. “I’m coming for you both.”

In an instant he’s rushing up the ladder, pick breaking through the window just as Eddie appears from one floor above. Eddie meets Buck’s eyes, nods, trusting his partner, but the look says everything.

Be safe. Come home.

Buck nods, and then he’s inside. The smoke is thick and black, immediately obscuring his vision, and Buck knows he doesn’t have much time. But this is what he’s been trained to do, twice no less, and he knows he can make it. “Robbins, call out!” He keeps low, and can just make out the sound of a PASS alarm.

He follows the noise.

Robbins thankfully is still awake, though trying his best to breathe slowly through a cracked mask. If his oxygen was low before…

Buck makes quick work of the wooden beam, freeing Robbins, and then the other man is directing him to their last victim, who Buck hoists over his shoulder in a practiced carry. Directing Robbins to the window, he leads the man out first, then passes him the woman briefly, before climbing out himself and taking her back.

Robbins climbs down first, instructing the firefighter at the controls to pull back the ladder to make it easier for Buck to descend with the woman.

Moments later, all three touch solid ground.

Buck throws his mask off with a deep breath, passing the woman over to Hen and Chim for them to look over her. He allows himself a brief respite, and then his gaze swivels to the rest of the crew, yelling for them to get the hose reels on the building, now that everyone’s out.

“Let’s put her out!”

Bobby’s hand claps him on the shoulder, his pseudo-father smiling widely. “You did good kid.”

Buck can’t help but beam.

 

The past three months have been some of the best of Eddie’s life in L.A. For once, nothing has been coming at them, endangering them, changing them, or worrying them.

For once, everything is working out perfectly.

Evan’s at the 118, and is thriving, and Eddie feels better being able to watch his back, and have Evan watch his. Sometimes they’re a team, running into fires together, and sometimes Evan takes an officer role, with Bobby gently guiding and watching.

Eddie’s pretty sure he’s building Evan up to take over as Captain, someday.

He couldn’t be prouder.

The firefam have finished planning for their wedding, and they actually only have two days left until the big day itself. Eddie can scarcely believe it’s almost here, after everything, but he cannot wait until they’re officially the Diaz’s again. Evan’s still going to go by Buckley at work, for ease, but Eddie feels like they need to come full circle. Things have changed so much since they’d moved here, and being the Diaz’s again, just with a much larger extended family, feels like they’re finally putting the dark days behind them for good.

Hopefully with a new addition as well.

The merging of their schedules had allowed the two to finally attend the surrogacy meet and greet appointments, where they’d met a lovely woman called Michelle, who’d agreed to be their surrogate. The IVF process had begun two months ago, and now it was just a waiting game.

Eddie was practically tingling with anticipation.

As if fate is reading his mind, the moment they pull into the station he can see Athena talking with Michelle. The blonde Californian is practically glowing, and Eddie doesn’t want to hope prematurely, yet…

They jump down from the trucks, and Buck is quick to pull her into a hug, grinning madly. “Are you hungry? I’ll cook you up an enchilada, or omelette, or… what do you fancy?”

Eddie smothers a laugh. Since Bobby had started cooking with him, Evan was like a mother hen with food.

“I’m good.” Michelle says with a bright smile, passing a small box into Evan’s hands. “I just wanted to give you this.”

“Wha…?” Evan’s eyes are wide, and Eddie’s match as he sidles up to his partner. “Is this…?”

Michelle grins. “Open it.”

Sure enough, a positive pregnancy test lies nestled within crushed velvet. On the lid of the wooden box, the word Daddies is engraved.

Evan starts to cry. “Oh my god.”

This time it’s Eddie who wraps Michelle up into a hug. “We can never thank you enough.”

Michelle just laughs. “You deserve this more than anyone.”

Eddie can’t disagree, after everything, but he smiles. “Still, thank you.”

“Call it your wedding present.” She grins.

“Now you have to stay for lunch.” Evan is insistent, leading her up the loft where the rest of the crew have already started preparing. He takes no preamble to warn anyone before shouting, “We’re having a baby!”

Introductions are made and congratulations given. Bobby somehow manages to procure a cake, and they’re more than lucky that the alarm doesn’t go off again by the end of their shift.

This, Eddie thinks, is the cosmos finally giving back to us.

 

The next day, Athena is called to the site of a mail bomb.

Chapter Text

With their last shift finished and the wedding taking place the next day, Buck and Eddie reluctantly kiss goodbye and enter their separate vehicles. Eddie heads off to his Abuela, who’s also looking after Christopher, while Buck heads off to Maddie’s new apartment.

His older sister had moved out around the time Michelle’s IVF started, citing the expanding family needing the room for themselves. Eddie and Buck had told her to stay, but the newfound independence she’d gained in her new job at the 9-1-1 dispatch centre had her leaving regardless, and Buck did understand.

He missed her, but the bright side was that it meant he had somewhere to go the night before the wedding.

She meets him at the door, grinning madly and holding a bag of Chinese takeout.

Buck grins. “Have I mentioned you’re my favourite sister?”

Maddie laughs loudly, ushering him inside. “Chinese and face masks!”

“Oh, aren’t I a lucky groom?”

He quickly takes his bags to the guest room and has a shower, then joins Maddie in the living room/kitchen.

“You nervous?” Maddie asks, as they sit down to eat. “I mean, I know you’re already married, but…”

“I know what you mean,” Buck smiles, “but no. I’ve never been more sure about anything in my entire life.”

“I’ve never seen you this happy.” Maddie admits. “I’m so proud of you, baby brother, and you deserve the world.”

“Thank you, Mads.” Buck grins. “I’m proud of you too.”

“I know you don’t remember them,” Maddie says, sobering a little as she reaches across for his hand, squeezing softly, “but I’m glad our parents… I’m glad they never put that light out.”

Buck squeezes her hand in return. “Buckley siblings forever.”

“Always.”

 

Christopher is practically bounding with anticipation as soon as Eddie enters the house. He hugs his Dad tightly, telling him all about the final things he and Abuela had gotten from the store today.

Abuela has tears in her eyes as she hugs Eddie, telling him how proud she is, and wishing him the world. Eddie can practically feel his eyes watering.

They settle down to a homecooked meal (by Abuela, of course) and a movie, before taking themselves to bed early.

Yet as Abuela and Chris sleep soundly, Eddie’s eyes are wide open as he lies on the couch, stomach fluttering with love and pride.

He missed Buck already.

He wishes it was morning.

His thoughts of his beloved are broken by the cry of his phone, and one quick look at the clock – 1am – has him scrambling for it in a haze of panic.

“Diaz.” He didn’t even check the caller ID.

“Mr Diaz, it’s May Grant.”

Eddie sits up straighter. “May?” His worry seeps into his tone without thinking. “What’s wrong, are you okay?”

“We’re okay.” She says, but the shake of her voice doesn’t instil much confidence. “Bobby asked me to call you. He and Mom are just talking to the police.”

“Woah, May, rewind a second.” Eddie lets out a breath, panic building. “What happened?”

“We were having dinner when this van pulled up outside and dropped off a package.” May’s breath hitches, and Eddie can tell she’s holding back tears. “Harry went to get it, but Mom stopped him at the last minute.” A pause, a quiet sob, then, “It was one of those bombs. This case Mom’s working on.”

“Are you all okay?” Eddie’s already pulling his pants on and grabbing his car keys. “Do you need me to come over?”

“We’re fine.” May takes a breath, her voice strengthening, if only a little. “Bomb squad came and deactivated it but… they’re having to sweep our whole house and Bobby’s old apartment, just in case.”

“Are you at the police station?” Eddie asks, to which he gets an affirmative. “I’m on my way. You guys can stay at mine and Evan’s while it’s empty.”

“Thanks.”

“Did you call Evan too?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay. I’ll be there soon.” Eddie says, heading to his Abuela’s room. “Hang tight.”

 

He gets to the station maybe 15 minutes later, and finds himself with an armful of May Grant in an instant. He hugs the girl tight, telling her that everything’s okay. They’re quickly joined by Harry, before Bobby appears around the corner, ushering Eddie forward.

Eddie doesn’t take his arms away from the kids, quickly pressing his house keys into Bobby’s palm. “You know when you’re getting out of here?”

“Athena’s just finishing up her statement with the police chief. They think it’s a targeted attack on law enforcement.”

“The first one?”

“Lawyer.”

Eddie sighs softly. “What if…”

Bobby shakes his head. “Don’t go there.” He puts his hand on Eddie’s shoulder, squeezing softly. “We’re all okay, and the wedding will go ahead as planned. The whole precinct is on this, and they’re checking out both our places.”

“I just…” Eddie looks up at his Captain, brown eyes dark with worry. “I have a bad feeling I can’t shake…”

 

Eddie can’t sleep at all that night, and finds himself having to down several cups of coffee the next morning just to function. Somehow he gets himself and his family to the church on time, and only ends up putting his shirt on backwards once.

He’s stood in the dressing room he’s been assigned, helping Christopher with his tux, when Bobby peeks his head in.

“How you feeling?”

Eddie gives him a soft smile. “Better, I think.” He shakes his head as he finished Chris’ bow tie. “I guess I’m so used to bad things following us that I…”

“I know.” Bobby smiles. “But this is your day.”

Eddie shakes his head, smile widening. “Our day.”

“Welcome to the family.”

 

Evan’s hands are shaking with excitement as he heads down the aisle. His eyes are focused intensely on Eddie, already by the altar, and how beautiful his fiancé-husband (soon to be husband only) is.

They’re both wearing dark blue suits, but where Eddie’s is trimmed in silver, Evan’s is trimmed in gold. Maddie stands to his side of the church, his maid of honour, in a golden tuille dress, as does Hen, his grooms-maid.

Christopher is wearing a tux that matches his Dad’s, and is grinning madly at Evan as he and Bobby make their way down the aisle.

Bobby’s also wearing the same tux as Evan, marking him for everyone to see as his Dad, and can’t stop beaming. Despite the uncertainty and fear of last night, everything and everyone in the church is simply overflowing with love and pride.

If Evan sheds tears throughout the entire ceremony, no-one bats an eyelid. If anything, there’s barely a dry eye in the house.

When they’re pronounced husbands, in front of everyone they love, and leave the church to find a fire truck parked outside, complete with ‘just married’ banner hung from the ladder, Evan outright bursts into tears.

This job has always meant so much to him, but now… now it means family and forever and everything he’s ever wanted.

Now, it means home.

Bobby pulls him into the tightest hug, telling his son how proud he is, as does Athena, and then they’re inside the truck, heading off to the reception.

The truck is trailed by three smart silver cars, holding the rest of the family. Inside the first with Athena and the kids, Bobby is beaming with pride.

“I don’t want to know how you pulled that off.” Athena comments with a grin. “But boy did I love the look on Evan’s face.”

Bobby just shrugs, still beaming. “Pulled some strings. They deserve a day to remember.”

“I…”

Athena stops as Bobby’s phone begins blaring out from the dashboard, precinct number flashing up like a red danger signal. She frowns, hitting the accept button. “Hello?”

“Sergeant Grant?”

“Sergeant Nally.” She responds, recognising the voice as the lead of the mail bomb investigation. “Have you cleared our house yet?”

“That’s why I’m calling.” Nally’s voice is soft, testing the water. “Is your husband with you?”

“I’m here.” Bobby responds.

“Captain Nash, do you know the name Freddie Costas?”

Bobby freezes, hands suddenly gripping the steering wheel. “He’s a kid. Dad was convicted of insurance fraud by committing arson on his restaurant.” Every atom in his body goes cold. “She was the lawyer.”

“Costas’ print was found on the package delivered to your house. We think he’s taking revenge on those involved in the case.”

“And I wrote the report that got his father arrested.”

“Indeed.”

Bobby tries breathing through his nose, thoughts suddenly jumbled with panic. If Freddie was going after him, who know who he would target, who he would…

Bobby’s eyes widen.

“You checked the wrong house.”

He acts on instinct, foot slamming down on the pedal, moving to overtake the truck in front of them. If Freddie had been watching him, watching them…

The truck had been parked outside all through the ceremony, unwatched, unguarded…

They hadn’t thought they’d needed to.

Bobby had thought they were safe.

The truck rounds a bend, and explodes.

Chapter Text

There’s a squeal and a thud as the truck is lifted off its wheels for a brief moment before it lands back down on the tarmac, tipping to one side and then skidding for a metre or two.

A silence rocks the air, dust motes awakened, smoke plumeing, and Bobby’s mind is just blank.

All at once they’re moving, shouting orders, checking the people strewn across the junction, forcibly ejected from the vehicle.

All at once they’re no longer the wedding party but off duty firefighters at the scene of something so horrific none of them could have imagined it.

All at once they’re filled with panic and horror.

“Daddy! Papa!”

Bobby sends up every prayer to every god that they put Chris in a car with his Abuela, as he rushes over to Eddie’s still form. His eyes rake over the man, thankful to see emerald eyes looking confused and maybe concussed but nevertheless awake and moving. Eddie groans, holding his arm close to his chest, and Bobby can tell immediately that it’s a bad break.

“Eddie, where else are you hurt?”

But Eddie’s eyes aren’t on Bobby anymore, wide with horror instead at the overturned truck, specifically the figure pinned beneath it.

“EVAN!”

Bobby’s own gaze shifts, heart in his mouth, but then Freddie is stepping out from behind the truck, black vest around his waist blinking ominously, and Bobby’s mind blanks once more. He acts on instinct, pulling Eddie back behind one of the other cars, leaving him in the care of Chim and Hen, before walking back out to face the boy who caused all of this.

The next moments pass in a blur, half of him focused on Freddie, on disarming him, and the other half locked in on the too still and too pale figure of Evan Diaz. He doesn’t recall the cruisers and the bomb squad arriving, doesn’t remember Costas being taken from his grip and marched away.

All he can see is Evan, pale and cold beneath his trembling fingertips as he searches desperately for a pulse.

It’s weak and thready but it’s there, and he lets out a breath of relief before screaming for the paramedics, screaming for someone to help get this god damned truck off his son’s legs.

“Shock…”

“Setting up a line for fluids.”

“BP’s 80 over 40. He’s going bradycardic.”

“We can’t do anything until we can move him.”

A c-collar is being fitted around his neck, needles slipping into his arm, and yet Evan still doesn’t stir. Bobby’s heart races under his ribcage, praying for some sort of movement, anything, but the heaviness of the truck is obvious, the potential internal trauma, the blood staining the pavement.

Then his eyes catch the glistening ruby stain matting golden locks, and all he can think is;

‘Not another head injury, please, god.’

He doesn’t think he could take it if Evan forgot about them again.

He can’t move, even as Chim is pulling at him to help lift the rig, even as people from all walks of life are rushing over to help them, even as Evan is freed and transferred to a backboard and a stretcher, loaded into the ambulance.

All he can see is that stain of crimson, and the havoc it might have once again wrought on his family.

 

Athena sits, a staccato rhythm of tapping feet, in one of the hard plastic chairs of the hospital waiting room for the third time in as many years, wondering if this would be the time she lost one of her babies for good.

The only comfort they’d had when they thought they lost Evan before was that there was no waiting; it just was. As hard as that had been in its own right, the waiting was always torture. Her mind conjures so many images that could be happening behind closed doors and she has to force herself to push them down and away from her conscious mind.

Her arm grips tighter around the crying form of Christopher Diaz, absently rubbing his back and whispering soothing words.

She knows it won’t help until he sees his parents are okay.

She won’t be okay until she sees his parents are okay.

Her eyes slip around the room, around the various members of the 118 whose grief and worry echoes her own, and then back down to Christopher, whose cries have subsided somewhat, leaving him in a restless exhausted sleep.

Then the doctor comes in, and they’re all on their feet. None of them can say how long they’ve been sat there, and whether this means good news or bad, for either of their boys.

All they know is that its news, and each trembles with waiting and panic.

“Family of Eddie Diaz?”

Bobby, unsteady, steps forward, hand reaching out to Athena for support. “We’re here for him and his husband, Evan Diaz.”

The doctor nods, then gives them a small but reassuring smile. “Evan is still in surgery, last I checked, but he’s holding his own. I’m the primary physician for Eddie and I’m happy to say that he’s stable and awake. Beyond some minor contusions and a bad break in his arm that required surgical intervention and antibiotics, and a severe concussion, he’s fine. We’ll be monitoring the concussion for a few days, to make sure there’s nothing adverse, but he should be fine to go home by the weekend.”

There’s a collective breath released in the room, even if some panic is reserved still for Evan, once again under a surgeon’s knife.

“Can we see him?” Hen asks softly, and then they’re being led down one of the corridors, a groggy Christopher in Athena’s arms.

Eddie still looks pale, swathed in blankets and amidst beeping machines, but he wears a soft smile upon seeing the team, seeing his son, and reaches his un-casted arm out for Christopher.

Athena gently deposits the boy on the bed, smiling when Chris wakes for a moment, snuggling deeper into Eddie’s embrace. “Dad…”

Eddie watches as Chris settles back into an uneasy slumber, and then his gaze is seeking out Bobby’s, eyes watery and dark with confusion. “Evan?”

“No word yet.” Bobby replies, swallowing thickly. He takes a seat beside Eddie, grasping his son in law’s hand tight. “But he’ll be okay. We know how strong he is.”

Eddie just nods.

“I’m so sorry Eddie. I should have…”

“How could you have known?” Athena cuts in, shaking her head at her husband. “This is on Freddie and no-one else.” Her tone balks no room for argument.

Bobby swallows again, nodding softly, and then the seven of them are sat in silence; Hen on Eddie’s other side beside Athena, Maddie and Chim wrapped up in the other’s embrace.

Then it’s a waiting game once more.

 

They come for him around three hours later, sombre faces telling him too much before words are even spoken. “Mr Nash? Evan has you listed as his emergency contact beside his husband.”

Bobby nods, panic and bile rising as one up his throat. “What’s wrong?”

“If we can talk in private?”

Bobby risks a glance back at a now asleep Eddie, then at his wife, and nods once. “Okay…”

The walk down to the doctor’s office feels like it takes forever, the corridor extending down and down in front of him like it’s leading to hell. For all Bobby knows, maybe it does.

He doesn’t know if he could survive losing Evan again.

Then they’re sat opposite each other, and its almost as if neither wants to break the silence first.

Eventually, Bobby does. “Just… Just tell me he’s alive… please.”

“He’s alive.” The doctor nods, looking down at the charts in his hands. “Evan suffered a severe crush injury to the left knee and lower leg, crushing his fibula, tibia, and fracturing his patella. Several hours of surgery have stabilised his vitals, and reconstructed his leg with use of metal rods and titanium bolts. With time and physiotherapy, he will likely regain full use of the limb.”

“I sense a but…” Bobby says softly as images of Buck’s leg swirl in his mind. He knows how much the job means to him.

“I’m going to be blunt, Mr Nash. As bad as his leg was, I’ve seen several similar situations where the outcome was indeed positive. I have no doubt from seeing his medical history and occupation that he’d put in the hours and make a full recovery. My concern is with the head injury he sustained as a result of being thrown from the truck.”

And there it is. The two words Bobby had feared.

Head.

Injury.

He jerks, bile filling his throat, and the doctor thankfully reacts quick enough to hand him an emesis bowl. Several moments later, a bottle of water shakily reaching his lips, Bobby shudders to put words to his fears.

“How bad? Are we…” He pauses, takes another drink, pushes the bile back down. “Are we talking a brain injury?”

The doctor sighs, and Bobby doesn’t take it as good. “I’ve read his medical history. I understand the possible implications of your question, but at this point, I can’t answer that. There is swelling in his brain, and his intercranial pressure is high. Right now he’s an 8 on the Glasgow coma scale. Brain activity seems normal, but he’s not responding to any of our tests at present. This can be simply a result of the pressure and the trauma. His body is – in effect – processing what has happened and diverting everything into healing. But I never like to be too optimistic when it comes to the brain, Mr Nash. I’d rather have miracles than the opposite, to be frank. If he wakes up, we’ll know more then.”

The bile returns with a vengeance, as does the bowl, and then Bobby is shakily repeating that one word that seems lodged in his brain.

“If?”

And that’s how he finds himself sat at Evan’s beside, hand clutching his boy’s for dear life, gaze flickering between the white plastic shunt poking out from the bandages around his head, and the green lights of the surrounding monitors and the numbers he’s been told how to watch.

That’s how he finds himself for three days, praying to any god that is listening that his boy wakes up.

That he’s okay.

That they’re okay.

The beeping on one of the monitors picks up, heart rate increasing a fraction, and while he’s been told its normal, a part of him hopes and prays with everything he has left.

Evan’s eyes slide open, and for a long moment Bobby lets himself cry out with relief, whispering his son’s name like a prayer.

But those expressive blue eyes are dull and static, staring at the ceiling for long moments between blinks.

“Evan?”

Nothing.

He presses the call button.

Chapter Text

He’s quickly ushered out of the room, and faced once again with the bleakness of the hallway, of not knowing, his legs give way beneath him. Sliding down against the wall, head in his hands, Robert Nash cries.

He cries for everything they’ve been through so far.

He cries for the day that was supposed to mean everything to their family and ended in tragedy.

He cries for his son; for Eddie and Christopher.

He cries for it all.

And that’s how Athena finds him, rushing straight over and kneeling next to him. “Bobby?”

He wants to answer her, especially when the instant panic on her face tells him she’s thinking of the worst, but he can’t control himself. The sobs come harder and faster, pressing his head into his wife’s shoulder, body juddering.

He can’t breathe.

“Bobby, you need to calm down.” Athena coaxes him softly, hand rubbing gently on his back. “You need to breathe, baby.”

Slowly, her voice brings him back, allowing him to settle his breathing and lean back against the wall. His eyes are red rimmed and bloodshot, and Athena’s concern is then two fold as she asks, “What happened?”

Bobby swallows thickly, trying to put words to his thoughts. “He… He opened his eyes, but…” He shakes his head, looking back at his wife, expression belaying complete brokenness. “It… It was like he wasn’t there…”

He can see the moment that the words hit her, but she’s always been the strongest out of the two of them, and squeezes his hand tight. “Our boy is strong. He’ll come back to us.”

Bobby prays she’s right.

 

When Evan opens his eyes the first thing he can see is a grey shaded ceiling, shadows nipping at the edges. Slowly he sits up, surprised when pain doesn’t lace through him. The last thing he remembers is the truck exploding, being thrown through the window, a searing pain in his leg and then nothing but numbness.

“Eddie?!” He jerks, looking around the room for any sign of his partner; his family. “Christopher?!”

There’s nothing but grey.

The room he’s in is plain, almost empty bar the bed he’s perched upon. Shadows fill the corners, and there’s a single door in front of him.

It feels like a dream, a nightmare, and yet Evan wonders intensely why, and what’s behind the door.

“Is this some sort of mid heaven?” He asks absentmindedly, hand reaching for the handle.

It swings open before he gets there, and all he can see on the other side is bright white light. It fills up everything, sears his eyes, and yet it looks so beautiful, so peaceful, that he can’t help but move a step closer.

“I wouldn’t do that just yet.” A voice calls, and Evan whirls back around.

The door clangs shut behind him.

The corners of the room, what he thought were shadows, are actually people. Dark garbed and barely visible, more like silhouettes than solid outlines.

Evan’s eyes narrow, discerning a thin, pale face and kind eyes behind one of the hoods. “Who are you?”

They pull the hood away, revealing deep red hair that shines like a beacon in the otherwise greyscale room. “We are the guardians of the afterlife.”

“We seek to show you.”

“Truth.”

“Love.”

“Honor.”

“Life.”

“And give you a choice… Evan.”

The last voice is so soft that he barely hears it, yet the call of his name sends a jolt through him.

“How do you…?” This feels too weird to be real and yet he pinches his arm, feels the tingle of pain, and realises that maybe it is.

“We know everything about you, youngling.”

“And we know it’s not your time.”

“Unless you choose it.”

Evan’s brow furrows intensely. “So… I can go to heaven? Or go back?” He shakes his head. “That’s no choice. I choose my family. I choose life.”

The red haired woman steps forward, smiling gently. “Do not be so quick to move your piece. We have not yet shown you what you need to see.”

“I don’t… I need my family, that’s it.”

“If you are so sure, then humour us at least.” She says, touching his arm. It’s like a feather brushing against his skin. All at once the room melts away and they’re simply floating in the grey gloom. “Let us show you… you.”

 

Athena almost takes him back to Eddie’s room, but she knows that Christopher and Abuela are there, and the last thing they want to do is scare them with something before they even know what’s going on.

So they stay in the hallway for what feels like forever before the doctor finally comes out to see them, dark kohl eyes regarding them for a moment before beginning to speak. “I wish I could tell you what’s happening but…” He sighs, running a hand through long locks of russet hair. “I honestly have no idea.”

Athena blinks at him. “Surely there’s something…?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” He replies. “Coma patients have opened their eyes before while still remaining in a coma, that’s not unusual. It’s… his vitals that have me worried.”

“Is he…?”

“He’s stable, for now.” He flicks his eyes down to the chart in his hands, flicking through the papers. “I was in there just over a half hour. In that time his vitals fluctuated rapidly. Lower, then higher, lower again. His brain activity is showing the same fluctuations, almost in time with the vitals. Professionally, I can’t explain it, though I’ve sent off several tests to check for infections or other issues.”

“And personally?” Athena asks, because she knows there’s something on the man’s mind.

“Personally?” He runs a hand through his hair again. “I’d say he’s fighting against his own mind. Stay, or go. He’s fighting to live.”

 

He’s surrounded by memories on all sides, drowning him in everything that once made Evan Buckley and threatening to swallow him whole.

He sees the good and the bad.

The hard and the easy.

The love and the hate.

He sees it all at once, and he doesn’t quite know how to process it all.

“You have a choice here, Evan.” The woman tells him, still holding his arm. The touch feels heavier now, this strange power showing him everything he thought was lost. “Your road so far has been long and hard. You have known more pain than most, and this journey is not yet over unless you choose it. I cannot promise anything. All we can see for you is more of the same. Love and pain. Family and loss. You have much still to overcome, to face. But it can end here.”

She waves her hand, two doorways opening in front of him. One is filled with the bright light he saw earlier, warm and comforting and safe. The other is dark and unyielding. He can see nothing through it, but feels a bitter chill as he looks over, combined with the familiar sounds of his family, with the feeling of love.

He takes a step forward.

“Know this, youngling. Any path chosen may come with regret, but if you chose the path to life, if we meet here again, the next choice will not be yours.”

It doesn’t matter, because he knows now.

He knows everything he lost, but also everything he gained.

He knows those who wish him ill, but also those who love him unconditionally.

He knows what he has, and he knows not to waste it.

They offer him a choice, but there is no choice.

Eddie.

Christopher.

Bobby.

Athena.

Harry.

May.

Buckley.

Jay.

Michael.

Hen.

Karen.

Denny.

Maddie.

Chim.

T.K.

Owen.

Michelle.

Their baby.

There is no choice.

He steps through a door.

 

He wakes.

Evan blinks, eyes shifting to the drowsy figure of Bobby beside him. The elder man has his head propped on one hand, eyelids low, breathing even. He looks somewhat peaceful, even if Evan is sure he’s been nothing but worried.

“Pop?” He whispers softly, reaching a weak arm out to touch Bobby’s other hand that rests on the bedsheets. “Pop?”

Bobby’s eyes blink open, widening immediately when he sees Evan awake, when he hears the name called. “E-Evan?”

Evan just smiles. “I remember…”

Chapter Text

There’s a moment where Bobby simply sits blinking at Evan, uncomprehending almost of the situation at hand. Then a smile spreads across his features, eyes bright and sparkling, as he whispers. “You remember?”

Evan nods, soft but sure, his own smile pulling at his lips. “Everything, pop. I remember everything.”

A choked cry escapes Bobby then, and he all but launches himself at Evan, pulling him into the tightest hug. A moment passes, then another, before the Captain whispers. “You’re awake. That’s what matters.”

“I’m sorry.” Evan whispers then, hugging Bobby back just as tightly.

“For what?” Bobby chokes. “I’m the one who should be apologising Evan. I should have known Freddie wo-“

Evan blinks up at him, because of course – Bobby remembers – he doesn’t know what happened to the truck. He doesn’t know that it was Bobby’s fault.

The elder sighs. “He was after me.”

“Then I’m glad you weren’t in there with us.” Evan says, brushing a tear from his dad’s cheeks before a look of panic takes over his expression. “Eddie! Is Eddie okay?”

Bobby shushes his son with a soft hand on his cheek. “He’s fine. Broken arm and a concussion, but he’s resting with Christopher.”

All the energy seems to drain out of Evan at once, slumping into his father’s embrace. “Thank god.” He doesn’t know what he would have done if he’d woken up only to be told he’d lost his husband; after everything they’d been through, after fighting to walk through that doorway…

He couldn’t lose them.

Not now. Not ever.

“Do you want me to see if he can come in?” Bobby asks softly, rubbing circles on his son’s back.

There’s a stuttered breath from Evan as thoughts of Eddie and Christopher, of his life now, clash with the onslaught of memories once forgotten.

‘Any path chosen may come with regret.’

The Guardian’s words come back to him, and he realises now what they meant. They hadn’t meant life as such, but that choosing to wake meant choosing to remember, and with it came the knowledge of things he wishes he could have changed.

He presses his face into the crook of Bobby’s neck, whispers “not yet,” and just lets himself relax in the presence of the man who taught him more about life than the person he shared blood with. “I’m sorry.” He repeats again, softer still. “Not for going to Texas but…” He can’t ever regret that; not when it brought him Eddie and Chris. “But for everything that came after.”

“We got you back.” Bobby whispers, shaking his head. “The rest was meant to be.” He presses a kiss to the side of the boy’s head. “I love you kid. That has never changed.”

He’d said once before that Buck and Evan were the same person – that it didn’t matter if Evan didn’t have Buck’s memories – and he’d meant every word. The reverse applied now. It didn’t matter if he remembered everything or nothing; the boy was his son. That would never change.

A sob shudders the body in his arms, and Bobby just pulls Evan tighter against him, whispering love and assurances. Yet, as he catches Evan’s reflection in the mirror on the wall beside them, sees the way the boy’s gaze seems haunted, he wonders if there were some things Evan was already regretting remembering.

 

He heads for the nurses station shortly after, informing them that Evan was awake and asking if his husband could come visit. The blond nurse at the desk informs him that Evan’s doctor was currently attending to an emergency in the ER, but that he would be up soon. In the meantime, she would arrange to bring Eddie into Evan’s room.

“Ten minutes.” She warns the latino softly as they approach, having already reminded him that he needs his own rest.

Eddie just beams up at her. There had been little better feeling than being told his husband was awake and okay; that the head trauma had not done what they had feared and had in fact given Evan back what he had lost.

Where that fact might have scared Eddie months previously, now he knew it simply meant getting to know even more of Evan; it meant putting all the bad behind them.

They were okay. Freddie was in custody. They had a baby on the way.

There was nothing that could get in the way of their happiness now.

So while ten minutes was not as much as Eddie would have hoped for, it was more than he had previously worried he would get. As the door swings open, as he glimpses the face of his husband, blue eyes open and sparkling, he can’t hold back the sob that escapes him. He wills the chair he’s in to move faster, and then he’s at Evan’s side, grasping every part he can reach and holding him tight.

“Evan.”

“Eddie.”

Evan’s voice is rough and tired, but it’s music to Eddie’s ears, and he just beams wider, pressing a kiss to Evan’s lips.

“I thought I’d lost you.”

Evan just smiles. “Never.”

The nurse leaves them alone, door softly clicking shut behind her, and then Eddie’s out of the wheelchair and moving to lay on the edge of the bed beside Evan. He knows he shouldn’t, and it’s hardly the most comfortable with Evan’s leg in a cast, but he needs nothing else in that moment but to hold his husband in his arms, to feel the warmth of his skin, the beat of his heart, and know – truly – that he’s okay.

Evan sighs softly, cheek pressed against Eddie’s hair where the other man has lain his head on Evan’s chest. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“You too.” Eddie whispers, listening to the steady thump of Evan’s heart. Moments pass before he makes himself shift and look up at Evan, smiling softly. “Bobby said you remember?”

“Yeah…” Evan whispers, but Eddie knows his husband well enough to see the lines of pain that crease his eyes, and the way the smile on his lips doesn’t quite look right.

“Why do I feel like you’re not happy about that?” Eddie queries, fingertips tracing a light pattern on Evan’s arm.

Evan shakes his head, sighs, then simply pulls Eddie closer, pressing a kiss to the mop of unruly hair. “You know that I love you more than anything?”

Of course Eddie knows that, and he gets the feeling that the only reason Evan would say it aloud is if there was something Eddie wasn’t going to be happy about; clearly something that he remembered. A frown tugs at his lips. “Something you wanna share?”

There’s a moment before Evan shakes his head. “Nothing important. I just… I never thought I had to remember, but I did think that… that if I did… it’d be easier, you know? I thought it would be gaining back little things like… inside jokes or special memories… things that might make them forget I was ever gone.”

“Them?”

“The 118.” He presses another kiss to Eddie’s head. “Don’t get me wrong, everything’s fine the way it was, I just… sometimes they’d forget, for just a second, that I wasn’t quite him. Hen’d make some joke that I would have gotten then but now… I didn’t remember the punch line. Then they’d get this distant look in their eyes, sad, but only for a second. I mean, it was something I could live with but… I thought that’s what I’d get back. I thought it’d just make things easier.”

“And it doesn’t?” Eddie raises a brow, confused. “You haven’t really seen them yet?”

“I…” Evan sighs, shaking his head, like he doesn’t know how to really explain it. “It’s not about them… I just mean I thought it wouldn’t be a big thing. I… I thought I’d be happy about it but… there’s also things I regret… things I know I should have fixed…” His voice wobbles, just a little. “People I left behind.”

At this Eddie’s head snaps up, confusion and wariness in his gaze. “Do I have to worry about any more field trips?”

At the very least a small laugh escapes Evan at that, even if it’s a little sad. He shakes his head. “Those doors are beyond closed. It just… It hurts…”

Eddie blinks, silent for a moment, then presses his lips to Evan’s; soft and sweet and loving. “We’ll get through it. Together.” Then he lays back down against his husband, and they stay clung to each other, silent, until the nurse returns.

 

Bobby sits with him for a further half hour until the doctor appears, weary expression morphing into a small smile as he lays eyes on Evan. “Good to see you awake, Mr Diaz.”

He shakes Bobby’s hand, glad to be meeting on a happier note this time, and apologises for not being there sooner. “Never know what’s going to happen in this place.” He says with a short laugh.

Bobby chuckles, understanding (the firehouse isn’t much different in that respect), but grimaces slightly when he realises he never asked for (or simply forgot) the doctor’s name.

The other man simply laughs. “Easily done. I think you’ve all had enough on your plates these past few days. I’m Dr Halstead, Trauma Attending, but you can just call me Will.” He smiles broadly at them both. “I find it easier to be on a more familial level with my patients. Easier to ask questions, allay fears, things like that.” There’s a moment where Bobby sees the man’s eyes darken just slightly as he adds “good friend of mine taught me that” but then the broad smile returns and he turns to Evan, who’s looking at him with slightly wide eyes.

“Okay, Mr Diaz, we’re going to start with just checking your vitals and everything, though the fact that you’re awake and talking is a very good sign, and then I’m going to take your down to the MRI.”

Evan just nods, leaving Bobby to move over and squeeze his hand softly.

“You’ll be fine, kid. I’ll be right here waiting when you get back.”

Evan just nods again, still staring at the doctor, and though Bobby doesn’t know what’s wrong, he makes sure to say to Will “Take good care of him please” before leaving the room.

Will just smiles and nods, before looking back to Evan as the door closes. “You’re lucky to have someone who cares about you so much.”

Evan swallows, nods. “Yeah.” He croaks. “I am.”

The examination starts in silence mostly, beyond Will’s own murmuring as he notes things on Evan’s chart. It’s only when they’re down in the MRI room, as Evan stares at the white plastic roof above him, Will on the other end of the communications system, that he forces himself to ask the question that had been whirling in his mind since the man’s introduction.

“Do you have a brother, in Chicago?”

He doesn’t see the way Will blinks at him in confusion before the man’s answer echoes through the chamber. “Yeah, I do. How’d you know that?”

Evan swallows, gaze unmoving from the expanse of white. “Lucky guess.”