Chapter 1: If You're Feeling Lonely, You Should Tell Me...
This wasn’t exactly how Buck thought he would start the new year.
“Buck, you guys need to get out of there!”
The consuming inferno that surrounded Buck roared as he tried to respond through his radio.
“I need to find Eddie first! We got separated, but I think I—”
Buck wasn’t able to finish. Another explosion rattled the very unstable floor beneath him, and he was knocked down to the floor. The smoke was overflowing the hallway he was currently in, and his vision was reduced to practically nothing. His heart was pounding out of his chest, but he needed to find Eddie.
“Buck, the building isn’t safe! I know Eddie’s important to the team, but you are, too!” Bobby’s voice came through the crackling static of the radio that fell to the ground. Buck struggled to get back on his feet as he fumbled to grasp the small device.
“Buck, we can’t lose both of you! Either find Eddie fast or get the hell out!”
Buck didn’t have any remark for that. He stumbled on his words, his mouth refusing to move. Bobby was right, but he didn’t want to accept it. To leave Eddie behind… it was basically the same as abandoning a part of himself. Buck couldn’t even imagine that. He wasn’t just important to the team, but he was so much more important to him.
No, he refused to have it end like this. If the universe thought Buck wasn’t going to put up a fight before his Eddie was taken away, then it can go mess with somebody else’s fate.
Right on his feet with heightened determination, Buck hurriedly scoured the area for any sign of his partner. This was the floor he saw Eddie last, so he had to still be here if he hadn’t returned outside. He started fearing the worst, because he wouldn’t take this long unless something happened. Eddie wasn’t reckless, but things do happen sometimes, especially in their line of work. No one knew what they would face with each new emergency, but if he could say anything about the man, it was that he was always careful.
So no doubt did it shock Buck when he saw that the person he was looking for had been pinned under the ceiling rubble.
“Eddie!” He shouted at the top of his smoke-filled lungs, trying to scream above the blazing fire that threatened them both.
“B-Buck! What are you still doing here?!” Eddie cried in pain as he wrestled against the crushing debris.
He wasted no time in hastily running towards the other man. “I was trying to find you! Are you okay?”
Eddie could only grunt in response as he continued his futile attempts at lifting the broken concrete on his own. “It… it hurts like a bitch.”
“Oh god, okay… Let’s get you outta here,” Buck mumbled underneath his breath, getting into a good position to carry the large pieces of rubble off of Eddie’s body.
With their combined strength, they were able to push most of the debris away. But that was when Buck saw it. It was a grisly sight that chilled him to the bone.
A stray rod of rebar had pierced through Eddie’s torso.
“Shit… shit, no…” Buck was left speechless. How the hell was he supposed to react to this? The reinforced steel was stained a deep red, and Eddie’s clothing was darkly colored crimson where the bar had perforated his skin. It hadn’t pierced in a relatively safe area, and he hates to say it, but it’s very likely to have gone through an important organ. Both of their breaths started to rapidly increase, despite the cloud of smoke.
Eddie tried to pull it out, but the thing must be connected to something behind him. He could hear his defeated tone even over the fire. “Fuck…”
“No, no, no…” Buck wasn’t doing much better. “This can’t be happening… Shit, w-we gotta… C’mon, there’s g-gotta be way to—”
“Buck…” Just his voice alone had stopped his panicked rambling. He didn’t like the way Eddie’s voice was all quiet and breathy. “I don’t think I’m gonna make it.”
Buck was sobbing now, desperately holding onto Eddie’s sides. Of course he would make this harder than this needed to be. “No! You can’t say things like that, Eddie! You need to… you need to stay with me!”
Eddie looked right into Buck’s eyes. He stared back, trying to memorize how brown and beautiful they are. If only they weren’t filled with tears, too. He doesn’t know if this would be the last time he would get the chance to see them. “Buck, this place isn’t stable… Even if you pulled me off this goddamn thing, I won’t be able to move fast enough, and I’ll only slow you down… we both can’t die here like this…”
Buck gripped even harder. He was too fucking stubborn to do anything else. “You’re aren’t going to die, Eddie! You… you can’t…”
As he broke down into pure agony, Eddie’s hands went to grip Buck’s arms. Even in his miserable state, Buck noticed how his boyfriend’s hands weren’t holding him tight enough, as if his strength was withering away with each passing second.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Buck… I-I wish it didn’t have to end up this way…”
Buck vehemently shook his head. “Don’t be sorry Eddie. I should be the one apologizing…”
“I-I couldn’t protect you… I couldn’t keep you safe like how I promised…” He had to look away from those eyes. He couldn’t handle the sadness behind them. “I broke the one promise I said I’d never break...”
He felt a warm, tender hand cup the side of his damp cheek. “I… It’s okay, Buck… It’s going to be… okay.”
“I’m so sorry, Eddie…”
“Hey, look at me…” The other man’s voice was too quiet now. The pit in Buck’s stomach grew tenfold. But he willed himself to look back up. He was met with Eddie’s somber expression, but he could see a hint of acceptance. “This isn’t… your fault… You didn’t break anything... But can you promise me… one last thing?”
Eddie continued on, despite his reluctance. “Promise me that you’ll find a way to keep living your life… even if it’s without me.”
“Eddie, don’t make me—”
“Please, Buck… One last promise… between the two of us… You still have so much to live for...”
Buck wanted to argue back. He wanted to say that Eddie also had a lot to live for. That he needed to live for Buck’s sake. Instead, he leaned in close and kissed Eddie with as much passion as he could put in. “I love you, Eddie. I love you so, so much… I swear to my bones that I’ll find a way to keep living…”
Eddie gave one more small smile as he went in for another, just as bittersweet of a kiss. “Thank you… I love you, too, Buck… always…”
The moment was far too short. Another trembling explosion forced the two to separate. Buck looked at Eddie with a deep fear, because he didn’t want to accept that this was going to be the last time he would ever see Eddie. This intelligent, strong, lovely man was going to have his life cut short, and Buck was powerless to do anything to help.
“I love you, Eddie,” Buck quavered.
“I… love you more, Buck.” The tiniest grin appeared on Eddie’s face, and it was enough to give Buck the motivation to get out fast and safe.
He never saw Eddie again.
“Eddie, it doesn’t even hurt that much anymore.”
“Buck, the doctor said you had like, what, five fractures in your arm?”
“It was three, so stop fussing.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter how many. You got hurt, and I think as your boyfriend, I have a right to be worried.”
They were in the hospital, waiting for the doctor to return with the proper paperwork and prescription painkillers. Buck was, admittedly, here because of his own recklessness. It was just a cat in a tree after all, so he thought: ‘Why not do it stylishly?’.
But, the universe had other plans for him. Apparently, ‘stylishly’ meant falling not-so-gracefully off the ladder and landing right on his arm. He remembers quite clearly being able to feel how it bent in a direction it really shouldn’t. At least the cat was safe.
So, here he was, sitting on an examination table, his arm in a brand spanking new cast, and being absolutely coddled by Eddie.
“Oh come on, baby. It really isn’t a big deal. I’ve had my arm in a sling before,” Buck chided.
“Okay, but this is the first time it's happened since getting together, so I think I should be able to help just a bit.” Eddie went to hold onto Buck’s good arm, and the warmth that he felt made him melt.
“But I know how you can get sometimes. You helping ‘just a bit’ is going to turn into you bringing out your inner combat medic.”
“What can I say? I’m good at nursing people back to tip-top shape.”
The doctor stepped in, interrupting the two men’s banter. After a few precautionary rules and telling Buck what he can and can’t do while recovering, she said they were free to go.
They were just outside the hospital and heading for Eddie’s truck when the man spoke up.
“Hey, did you catch what she said, Buck? No more climbing trees for you.”
“I think she said that more as a joke, Eddie.”
He raised his index finger and waved it around. “Ah ah ah, you can’t fool me. I’m not letting you get near another tree for a long while.”
Buck chuckled a little bit, and looked past the parking lot towards a small little park with plenty of trees. “Good luck with that, baby. I can practically hear the trees calling my name.”
Eddie gave a laugh of his own. “Alright you, let’s get that smart ass and broken arm back home. I’ve got a patient to take real good care of.”
Buck hated hospitals.
The pale white walls were practically creeping towards him. It was constricting and claustrophobic. There were the ever present noises of machines beeping, doctors rushing around, and people quietly crying over loved ones.
While the rest of the team took care of extinguishing what was left of the apartment fire, Bobby suggested to Buck that he go to the hospital, along with the rest of the injured survivors. Well, forced was probably a better word for it. Buck had angrily tried to stay around, arguing with the captain that someone needed to go back in for Eddie. But his efforts were for naught, as soon the building collapsed in on itself. He had screamed, yelled, and flailed around as Bobby and Chim tried to hold him back.
Eddie was gone.
And Buck had no idea what the hell to do now.
He sat in the waiting room, being checked out by the doctor about an hour ago. He had informed Maddie of his whereabouts, and she said she would come to pick him up. So as he waited alone, he was left with his painful, consuming thoughts.
His tears had run dry for awhile, but he just couldn’t get rid of the growing hole in his heart. It was a dull ache that was constantly pounding against his chest, and he supposed that it was there to stay, making a nest out of the empty space that was ripped out by the loss of Eddie.
Oh god… Eddie.
The one man that he loved more than anything else in this goddamn fucking world was just… gone.
He would never get another opportunity to see his bright smile, his soft brown eyes, his… everything. All that remained were the pictures and videos he took of them together, but those wouldn’t even compare. They’d just be crushing reminders of what he doesn’t have anymore.
They wouldn’t even have the chance to celebrate one anniversary together. Seven months was all they got, and would ever get. It just wasn’t enough.
Buck had wasted so much time. He spent too long in doubt, wondering if Eddie had liked him back. If only he had gotten his shit together sooner, maybe things would have been different. There was so much he wished he could’ve said to him, and maybe in some other world, he had been able to tell Eddie all the ways he made him feel whole. But now, those words would never get to see the light of day.
Maddie entered through the doors and started to approach him, but he remained still.
“Oh god, Buck, Chim told me what happened,” Maddie breathlessly whispered as she went in for a hug. It just didn’t feel right to Buck. He knows his sister was being supportive, but he longed for something else… or rather, someone else. The arms were too short, and didn’t wrap all the way around Buck’s large frame. The hug wasn’t warm enough, and he didn’t feel the tickle of stubble or smell the pine tar of curly hair.
He couldn’t bring himself to hug back. Not yet.
“Let’s get you home, okay?”
Home. What was his home now without Eddie? He doesn’t have the answer, and he doesn’t want to know it, either. At the very least, he knows he doesn’t want to be here .
So he let Maddie drag him out of the hospital without a word. The only voice that carried through the dark parking lot was his sister’s.
“And Buck? I really am sorry for… y’know… It probably isn’t what you want to hear right now, but I thought I should tell you…”
She was right about that.
He really didn’t want to hear it.
Buck didn’t get nervous that often. In fact, he prided himself on his confidence for most of his life.
So it confused him to no end as to how this one man can make him so fucking nervous.
His hands were fidgety, he was sweating like crazy, and he kept forgetting the speech he had planned for asking Eddie to watch a football game with him. And Maddie, of course.
It wasn’t a date. Well, not exactly. It was just going to be a fun night and a way to destress. A good opportunity for sibling and best friend bonding. Yeah, that sounds better. Not that Buck would be opposed to a date, but he doesn’t have that much courage yet.
Again, see? Fucking perfect Eddie effortlessly toppling his tower of confidence.
He approached the locker room in the early hours of the morning, hoping to get there before anyone else. But lo and behold, he was greeted to an incredible view of Eddie’s shirtless, muscular, toned back. He stopped in his tracks right beyond the doorway.
A sense of déjà vu overcame him, as he recalled pretty much the exact same sight when he first met the guy a few months ago. Only this time, he could indulge in his fantasies just a little bit, instead of fervently hating the man for being so fucking gorgeous.
Buck was rooted in place, contemplating on whether he should just turn around or swallow up his fear. Eddie was quick to notice him, though, so he figures he doesn’t have any other choice now.
“Hey, Buck! What are you doing here so early?” Eddie cheerfully greeted.
Buck didn’t answer right away, still nervous as hell as to what he was going to say. Not to mention distracted by Eddie’s exposed chest, the light coat of hair that trailed down towards— “I could, uh, say the same to you.”
“Oh, I always try to come here an hour or two before our shift starts. Maybe get a quick workout in, or just enjoy the local newspaper and a cup of coffee.” Eddie went to pull the standard uniform over his head. He put on the shirt, too, and made quick work of the buttons. Well, at least now Buck can focus on the actual conversation now. “It helps relax the mind, y’know?”
“Yeah, that’s, um, nice.”
Eddie could only smile at Buck’s lackluster responses. “Something up, Buck?”
“Uh…” Guess it’s now or never. “Actually, yeah, there is something. Can I ask you a question?”
The other man was now staring intently at him, giving him his full attention. “Of course. Anything.”
“Would you like to, uh, watch the game tonight? My sister and I are big fans of one of the teams that are playing, and I, um, we were wondering if you’d like to join? At my sister’s house?”
Eddie looked like he was thinking about an answer. Probably coming up with a way to turn him down nicely and— “Sure, I’ll come. Sounds like fun.”
What? Did he hear that correctly? Eddie just… agreed to his plans? This wasn’t how Buck imagined this conversation turning out. He was fully prepared to deal with rejection, but this? Now he was really surprised. “Oh! That’s great!”
“I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t had a nice, stress-free night in a long time.”
Yeah, Buck could agree to that. He’s sure it’ll be a nice night. That giddy feeling returned, his heart beating faster just thinking about it.
He wondered if it was too late to uninvite Maddie.
A violent crack of metal took Buck out of his distracted stupor.
The locksmith the team had called in had arrived a few minutes ago. He made quick work of the padlock that guarded Eddie’s locker with that honestly frightening bolt cutter. Buck thought the whole thing was excessive, but since not even he knew the combination, someone had to get it open. And if he felt even the slightest bit of guilt for not having that bit of knowledge, he wouldn’t say it out loud. Guess disappointing people has become a sort of talent for him.
Buck politely thanked the guy, and as fast as he came, he was gone, leaving Buck alone with the task of emptying out the locker.
Some of the others had volunteered to do this job instead, but Buck made it clear that he should probably be the one to do it. He had said it with such conviction, too.
But now that he was faced with the slightly ajar locker, all that sense of duty left without a trace. His breathing picked up, his hands fidgeted at his sides, and drops of sweat formed along his forehead. What the hell was he thinking? He can’t do this…
What was he going to find in there? Sure, probably the typical stuff like deodorant, but how about his casual clothes that he had decided to wear that day? The keys to the truck that was left to rust outside the station? No matter the object, Buck would just be reminded of Eddie, and of the overwhelming reality of the situation.
Eddie wasn’t here anymore.
And fucking everything would be a brutal reminder of that.
Swallowing his fear, Buck went to carefully open the locker. As he slowly pushed the door to the side, he saw through teary eyes the stored contents.
A green hoodie and black tank top that were neatly folded sat atop one of the shelves. He recalled how beautiful he had looked in that outfit. It was always one of his favorites.
There was a backpack that sat near the back. Eddie said he had that bag since college, and he refused to get a new one because it was still in good shape. Buck had laughed, and pointed at the several holes developing along the front.
But one thing caught his eye. Something that he wasn’t expecting. Something that he wasn’t prepared for.
A small leather box was placed beside the backpack, almost hidden. But Buck saw it, and instantly recognized what it was. His heart dropped further down the chasm of misery.
With a shaky hand, he delicately picked it up, scared that if he went too fast the box would simply vanish into thin air. He hooked his thumb under the lid, and lifted the top of it open. His breath hitched and he let out a quiet gasp.
A silver-faced watch lay peacefully inside it’s case, safe from the cruel outside world.
Buck couldn’t even take it out, and he gently placed the box back down in the locker. Both of his hands went to cover his gaping mouth, and he could feel the moisture build up on his cheeks as fresh tears streamed down his face.
The watch that he had given Eddie for Christmas was here… It was so important to the other man that he made sure to always keep it safe during work.
Realizing that sentiment was the last straw for Buck.
He tried so hard not to break down. Not here, where somebody could find him.
But as he stared at the gift that was supposed to represent his dedication to the man that he loved more than anything, he couldn’t do anything about the weakness in his legs.
Buck collapsed crying onto the cold, hard floor, shaking from the bitter and suffocating loneliness of this harsh new life.
The funeral ceremony wasn’t any better for Buck.
Time had passed at a snail’s pace, and the day felt like it was dragging on. He just wanted to leave and be alone.
Not many people even showed up, and Buck wasn’t sure if he should be mad or grateful. Most of Eddie’s family was back in Texas, and they had told Buck that they couldn’t book an early enough flight. Buck believed them, but couldn’t help that feeling of frustration that none of them tried harder to be here for their deceased loved one.
But maybe he shouldn’t berate their lack of effort when he didn’t even have a speech planned for the ceremony.
He just couldn’t get the words he wished to say onto a flimsy piece of paper. There was so much he wanted to tell, but how could he express his love genuinely to this tiny crowd? Chris stood closely between Carla and Shannon. Maddie clutched onto Chim’s arm, the rest of the team close by. Buck recognized Dylan and his daughter, as well as Eddie’s therapist Dr. Grayson. They were all good people, sure, but none of them would ever understand how important Eddie was to him, and still is.
But Eddie himself wouldn’t even be here to listen to his eulogy. His body was burned up in the apartment fire, and anything that was left was probably crushed when the building imploded. So the coffin that was let down into the hole in the earth was empty.
Buck couldn’t even give him a proper burial, and that alone made him feel even more guilty.
At the end of the funeral, he just stood there, unmoving, and watched the workers pour dirt over the empty coffin. Some people were leaving, but not before giving Buck their attempts at support. A pat on the back here, a tight hug there. It was, in a way, comforting to know he had support, but it felt like nothing would be enough to help him.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dr. Grayson approach, a somber expression lining his aged features.
“I truly am sorry for what happened, Mr. Buckley. Even from the few sessions we had, I learned a lot about you from Eddie. He really loved you.”
Buck sniffed and wiped away at the moisture building up in his eyes. “Yeah. I really loved him, too.”
“Look, if you need someone to talk to…” The therapist pulled out a small card from his jacket pocket. He held it between two fingers and held it to Buck. “My office is always open.”
With a little hesitation, Buck took the piece of paper. He looked down, and saw it was the man’s business card. ‘Connor Grayson M.D., Psychiatrist’.
“Um, thanks Dr. Grayson. I’ll consider it.”
And with one more nod from the doctor, he was gone. As he tucked away the card into his own suit pocket, Buck was just about to make his departure, but somebody else stopped him.
“Already getting other men’s numbers?”
Of course she would see his exchange with the therapist. She probably wasn’t aware that the man was a doctor at all. As far as Buck knew, she wasn’t one of the people who knew about Eddie’s therapy. He internally grinned at the thought.
“This isn’t the place for that, Shannon. If there’s something you want, just spit it out.”
“Okay, then I’ll get straight to it,” the woman said, crossing her arms and staring right at him. He willed himself to stare back, undeterred. “I’ll be taking custody of Christopher. I’ll come by the end of the week to pick him up.”
Now that took Buck by surprise. “Excuse me?”
“Well, I am his mother after all. Someone has to take care of him, and I think the best person to do that is his mom, especially with the loss of someone close to the both of us.”
It took all of Buck’s strength not to get in Shannon’s space. His face probably showed his intentions, though, and he could swear he saw the woman took a step back.
“That’s a load of bull, and you know it,” He spitefully whispered, not wanting anyone else hear their conversation. “You didn’t bother to stay here for Chris before, and now that Eddie’s gone, you suddenly feel the need to ‘take care’ of the kid?”
Shannon had the audacity to give him a regretful look. “I know I haven’t been in Chris’ life nearly as much as I should have. But Buck, you have to realize that I honestly do want to help Chris through this.”
“He’s got plenty of help here,” Buck made known.
“But he’ll have more support with the rest of his family in Texas.”
Buck reeled back a bit, and scowled at her. “You’re taking him back to Texas?”
“Of course, he’ll be living with me and my relatives for the time being.”
“And how long are planning on having him there?”
Shannon looked away and put a finger to her chin. “Well, if he agrees, then most likely permanently.”
Buck took a step forward now, not caring anymore about his temper. “Permanently?! You can’t do that.”
Shannon turned to face his once again, this time a sort of smugness behind her eyes. “Yes, Buck, I can. I’m his mother, and I have the right to take custody of my child. And don’t embarrass yourself by saying you could have him. You have no legal ties to Chris, so you wouldn’t stand a chance against me in domestic court.”
Buck was fuming now, but he had no witty retort for that. Dammit, she really thought this through.
Taking his lack of response as confirmation, she started once more. “Nothing else to say? Then I guess we’re done here.” Shannon turned around and walked away, but not before she spoke one last thing. “Remember, I’ll pick him up by the end of the week. I’ll let you guys enjoy the time together. Goodbye, Buck.”
After a few moments, Buck went down to the parking lot, still outraged by what Shannon had just revealed to him. He was so angry that he almost missed Chris waving at him from beside his truck.
“Hey little guy, what are you still doing here?” He asked as he hid his loathing behind the playful voice he reserved for Christopher.
Carla was the one who spoke up as the kid just hugged him. “He said he wanted to spend the day with you. Something about pizza and ice cream?”
“Oh, yeah for sure! We could go out for some food together. Wanna come with, Carla?”
“Nah, I’m good. You two have fun together alright?”
As soon as he got Chris set in his seat and closed the car door, he heard Carla speak up again, albeit quieter. “I think he just wants to be alone with you right now. He’s still a bit… shaken up.”
Buck’s smile faltered. “Yeah, I get what he’s feeling, but it must be even tougher for a child to lose their dad…”
Carla closed the distance between them and gave him a hug. “Oh honey, it must be hard for you, too. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Buck could only sigh into the embrace. “Thank you, Carla. It means a lot to hear you say that.”
“If you need anything, and I mean anything, don’t be afraid to call.”
They let go of the hug, and soon went their separate ways. Buck climbed into the driver’s side and was greeted with a grinning Chris. Although the sadness was apparent in his eyes, he made sure to keep their spirits high. As they drove off, occasionally laughing at a joke, Buck could almost feel happy.
Almost. Nothing he did could help him escape the grief of losing Eddie, but Shannon’s words were now echoing in his mind.
A week. One more week was all he had left with Chris until he lost him, too.
He vowed to make their last moments as memorable as they could be.
“That was fun, Bucky! Can we go again?”
Buck laughed as he saw his boyfriend pull his head back and heave a hefty sigh.
“Maybe next time, kiddo. I think your dad might pass out if you swing that high again.”
The three of them were having a little family outing at the park. The sun was shining, not a cloud was in sight, and there was a breeze that kept them cool. Buck had saw this modest playground the last time he was here with Eddie. It wasn’t that far from the gazebo, too.
Chris seemed to be having a lot of fun. He played with the various activities scattered about the place, and Buck accompanied him with each one. As both of them giggled and chortled, Buck could swear he was happy. Genuinely happy, which wasn’t something he could say just a few months ago. Getting to see Chris smile that huge toothy grin of his always made his heart soar.
On top of all that, he got to call the wonderful man who stood beside him his boyfriend. His amazing, awesome boyfriend.
And said boyfriend was taking deep breaths as he witnessed Buck push him on the swing what he considered ‘outrageously high’. Last time he checked, four feet from the ground wasn’t very high. He even made sure to keep a hand on the swing at all times, so he wasn’t sure what Eddie was getting worked up over.
Nonetheless, he patted him on the shoulder as he calmed down while rubbing circles along his muscular back. Chris and Buck were still laughing, and Eddie, too, couldn’t help but join in.
They decided to take a little break, and walked under the shade of the tree-covered gazebo. Of course, Buck made sure to pack some snacks for a situation like this. As they all sat down on one of the benches that lined the inside, Buck passed Chris a bag of apple slices while Eddie and he shared some mini cheese sandwiches.
It was relatively quiet amongst them, the sounds of other families in the distance filling the silence. As Chris was engrossed in his apples, Eddie had leaned in close and spoke in a low voice.
Buck smirked. “Yeah, baby?”
“Thanks for the day out. If it were up to me, we’d still be laying in bed.”
“Oh? And what exactly would we be doing in that bed?”
Eddie playfully jabbed at his side. “There are kids around, stupid.”
“Uh oh, daddy said a bad word!”
Buck and Chris laughed in unison as Eddie’s face flushed. “Sorry, Chris!” He turned back around to Buck and glared.
Buck could only hold his hands up innocently. “You said it, not me.”
Eddie’s glare made way for another smile and a soft chuckle. “Okay, but in all seriousness, I’m really thankful for the plans you had set up for us.”
“Ah, it was nothing. Spending the day with my two favorite boys is thanks enough.”
Eddie swooped in for a quick kiss, catching him off guard. “Love you, Buck.”
He stared back with wide eyes. “But that’s good, too. I believe kisses are reasonable payment for my services.”
Eddie was really laughing now, and gave another fleeting peck on his cheek. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
The shrill sound of a doorbell made Buck jump.
Damn, at least the woman was punctual. Wouldn’t even give Buck the luxury of a few extra minutes with the kid. He knew better than to keep that false hope.
He just finished helping Chris pack his things. They had to use two bags, one with the necessities like clothes, and the other with as many toys as could fit in there. Chris’ room was nearly empty now, and the air itself felt heavy around them. He let Chris pick the last couple of games he wanted to bring as he went over to the front door.
Right outside was none other than Shannon. “Is he ready to go?”
“Good morning to you, too, Shannon,” Buck deadpanned.
“Right.” She put on what he could only presume to be a fake smile. “Good morning, Buck.”
“Just, um, wait here. We’re nearly done packing. I’m gonna go check on him.”
He closed the door slightly and turned before she could say anything in response.
As he walked back into Chris’ room, he saw that he was sitting at the foot of the bed, tears in his eyes.
“Hey, kiddo, what’s the matter?”
Chris took a moment before he could speak. He wiped his eyes on his long sleeves and sniffled. “Do I really gotta go?”
Buck didn’t think his heart could get broken even more. He knelt down and held Chris’ face in his hands, wiping his cheeks as the tears kept falling. “I know it’s going to be hard, leaving L.A. so soon. But your mother promised to take care of you, and you don’t want to make her sad, right?”
“But what about you, Bucky? Who’s gonna take care of you if daddy’s not around? I don’t wanna make you sad, either…”
Buck could feel his own tears pooling in his eyes. He couldn’t break down, not right now. Not when Chris needed him to be strong. He needed to know that he could do this.
“I’ll be just fine, Chris, don’t you worry. I have plenty of people here to take care of me, just like you’ll have in Texas.”
Chris nodded his head, his sniffles coming more often now. “Okay…”
Buck let go of Chris momentarily before he wrapped him in as comforting a hug as he could give. He let a tear or two shed as the kid couldn’t see him. He heard Chris whisper after some seconds passed.
“I’m gonna miss you, Bucky.”
“I’m going to miss you, too, Chris.”
He let the hug last a little bit longer, grateful that Shannon hadn’t interrupted them as she waited outside. Guess she still had some decency in her.
Then, an idea struck him. “Hey, Chris, before you go, there’s something I want to give you.”
Buck let go of Chris slowly as he gave another nod. Quickly, he sprinted into the living room, and saw what he was looking for on the coffee table. The fancy leather box sat there peacefully, starkly contrasting with the mess of pillows and blankets and empty beer bottles. He swiftly picked it up, and ran back to Chris.
The kid looked up as he heard him enter the room again, and immediately looked at the object Buck held in his hands.
“This was a gift I gave to your dad. It was to show how much I love him, so I think you deserve to have it, too.”
Buck opened the case up so Chris could see what was inside. “Wow, Bucky, it’s pretty!”
“Yup. I know you can’t wear it yet, but one day, you will.”
“I’ll keep it forever, Bucky! Thanks!”
He carefully placed the box inside the bag with Chris’ clothes, and then lifted both of them over each of his shoulders.
“Alright, kiddo. You ready to go?”
As he waved goodbye to Chris, rooted in place just outside the front door, another wave of agony took over him. The farther and farther Chris’ silhouette became as Shannon’s car drove away, the deeper and deeper he sank into his own abyss.
Buck reentered the house he once shared with Eddie and Chris, and was suddenly faced the overwhelming silence. Without anyone around, Buck finally allowed himself to fall to the floor and sob until he was too tired to cry any more.
Buck was completely and utterly alone now.
No more Eddie.
And now, no more Chris.
He was about to admit that Shannon had gotten the last laugh after all, but he doesn’t think anyone was laughing.
“Boom! Another strike! Haha, beat that Buck!”
Well then, Eddie sure was enjoying himself. When he had thought of the idea of bowling for their first date, Buck though he was being a cool boyfriend. It was a game that wasn’t too hard to get into, and he thought that they would both get to have a fun time.
That’s what he thought at least, until he realized how much faster of a learner Eddie was.
The guy was getting strikes and spares left and right, while Buck was struggling to get the pins near the center of the lane. And that made him feel like… a totally not-cool boyfriend.
He glanced up at the scoreboard, and saw that Eddie was over fifty points ahead of him. Guess he was really eating his overconfident words now, huh?
“Hey, are you, like, cheating or something? ‘Cause I don’t think it’s possible to get this many strikes in a row!”
Eddie was walking back towards their table now, a smug grin still lining his face. “Nope, I’m just a natural. Maybe I should join the major bowling league.”
“Oh come on, Buck, lighten up!” Eddie nudged his arm with his elbow as he took a seat beside him. “This was your idea, remember?”
Buck tried to maintain his frown. “Well, I’m kinda regretting it now.”
He couldn’t help the shock he felt as Eddie went right into Buck’s space and gave a wet kiss to his cheek. “Hey, if it makes you feel any better, I’m having a lot of fun.”
Buck’s scowl went away at that. It was replaced with a small grin. “Good.”
They shared another, more tender and sweet kiss, before Buck spoke once more.
“Now, how about we take a break from the whole bowling thing and enjoy some greasy finger food?”
Buck doesn’t know why Maddie even invited him out tonight.
This was supposed her wedding pre-party, or whatever the hell she called it. He was only going to bring the mood down ten notches. He wasn’t exactly in the partying mood, after all.
But she insisted he come, since he hadn’t come out of Eddie’s house since Chris left. When she came to visit one day, and saw the sorry state he had turned the living room into, she had decided to step in for an intervention.
And someway, somehow, she had thought that bowling of all things, with her and Chim, would be what he needed as an intervention.
And if his lack of interest in playing and the tremendous gap between his score and theirs was any indication of how good of a plan this was, well it’s safe to say this wasn’t a very good plan at all. It was downright terrible.
Not to mention what a sore fucking spot she hit with bowling . As if he needed more reminders of—
“Hey, Buck! It’s your turn!” Chim called out over the mind-pounding music that was playing in the building. Seriously, was it like this the last time he was here? If it was, at least before he had something to distract himself with. Or he supposes, someone.
“S-Sorry, I— I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can do this.”
He stood up, but Maddie was quick to stop him as she rounded the table. “W-Wait, Buck! What’s wrong?”
It took everything in Buck not to roll his eyes. “You know what’s wrong, Maddie.”
“I didn’t mean it like that, Buck, okay? I’m sorry.”
Buck looked away. “I just… I just can’t get him out of my mind, Mads… I wish he… he could be here with us...”
“I guess we aren’t having enough fun to distract you, huh?”
“Look, I really appreciate what you tried to do for me tonight, but… no matter what I seem to do, I’m constantly reminded of what I had. Of what I lost…” The tears were coming back, and he pushed past Maddie as he walked out of the bowling alley entirely. He didn’t look back as she yelled out his name, and kept walking and walking until he was outside. He couldn’t let them see him cry. He couldn’t let anyone see him break down into an absolute sobbing mess.
So he had briskly walked along the city’s sidewalk, illuminated by the street lights, until he could calm down. He had a vague idea of where he was going, but didn’t exactly pay full attention to where he was going.
When he finally looked up, his cheeks still a little wet, he was surprised to find himself near a bar. Of course his subconscious would lead him to a place designed for unhealthy coping.
He stood outside for a moment, trying to decide if it would be wise to go inside. But the strike of lightning, accompanied by the rumble of thunder, made that decision for him.
He entered the building, and saw that it was just like any other typical bar. It was dimly lit, but he could still see okay. There were the traditional dark wood and leather furniture. Several frames containing grayscale and sepia pictures of jazz musicians covered the brick veneer.
Despite it being nearly eight o’clock at night, the place didn’t seem too busy. There were a couple patrons sitting at various tables, and even fewer were sat at the stools near the actual bar.
He chose the seat farthest away from anybody, and leaned on the wall as he asked the bartender for something strong, but not too strong. Sure, he really desperately wanted to take the pain away, but wasn’t exactly sure drinking was the way to do it.
A couple of shots into the hour, Buck noticed another man had taken the seat beside him. The guy was a little taller than him, about the same build, had black hair and fair skin. He could admit that the dude was pretty attractive, but that’s as far as he was willing to go.
It wasn’t too long until the stranger spoke up to him and held out a hand to shake. “Steven.”
He figures he should at least be polite. “Buck.”
“So, Buck, I don’t believe I’ve seen you here before. What’s brings you ‘round to a modest place like this?”
He didn’t like the underlying seductive tone in this guy’s voice. But the alcohol in him stopped him from shutting up.
“I’m just, uh, pretty fucking sad, y’know. And of course I would want to distract myself with drinks.”
“Ah, I see,” Steven waved to the bartender for two more cups. “I’m going through a rough patch of my own. I always found this place to be oddly comforting, somehow, so I thought, why the hell not?”
The guy didn’t seem that bad, and the more they talked the more he seemed to relax. Steven’s deep and husky voice just had that kind of effect.
They cheered another round of drinks, and Buck figures it was their third or fourth shared one before he really felt the effects getting the best of him.
He couldn’t really think straight, and Steven just looked more delicious with each passing second.
Buck had to excuse himself to the restroom, but once he exited and opened the stall door, Steven was there in his face. He looked up into those piercing blue eyes of his, trailing down to his plush lips, perfect for—
Wait, what the hell was he thinking? He couldn’t think this way about another guy… someone who wasn’t—
Buck’s eyes went wide as those very same plush lips he was just gazing at crashed into his. The kiss was messy, made worse by both their inhibited states. Steven’s tongue poked at him, desperately wanting entry. The slightest part of his lips allowed Steven to break right in.
This wasn’t right at all. It was disgusting having this man be in a place that was allowed only to—
They spun around, limbs tangling together, and soon enough Buck was pinned against the wall. Steven’s hands were already traveling down his shirt, undoing each button with deft skill. Buck was lucky that he decided to wear an undershirt, but even that didn’t stop Steven from placing hot, calloused fingers across his abdomen.
Buck, what the in the fuck are doing?! Are you really going to let this creep touch you in ways only he did?
It was when he felt his belt unbuckle that he finally built up the strength to push Steven away.
“W-Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Seemed like you were enjoying it. Come on, I give great—”
“No!” Buck escaped the other man’s grasp, and quickly re-buttoned up his shirt. He almost made out the restroom when he heard Steven’s stupid voice again.
“I know you want to, Buck. Why’d you stop?”
He turned around to face the guy, and was met with eyes that were no longer friendly to him.
Because I am in love with Eddie. And I always will be.
“Because… I’m still in love with someone else…”
Steven tilted his head, and then stepped back. “Ah, I see. So I’m just the rebound then, huh?”
“What? No… Look, I’m sorry. I never meant for things to go this far and—”
Buck wasn’t prepared for the clenched fist that Steven had swung right at him. It collided with his left eye violently, and the wall behind him was the only thing that stopped him from falling flat onto the ground.
“Next time you get your heart broken, try not to toy with other people’s hearts, too, bud.”
And with that, Steven left the room, leaving a Buck writhing in pain and guilt.
How could he let him do that to himself?
How could betray his love for Eddie like that?
He’s not sure if he’ll ever be able to forgive himself for this.
Buck honestly thought going to Maddie and Chim’s wedding would be a good idea.
He would get to be there for his sister and one of his close friends, see them profess their love, and be unified for the rest of their lives.
Maybe in hindsight, the signs were obvious, but he wanted to believe that this one event could finally bring him some semblance of happiness.
But it didn’t. His chest felt like it was constricting, and he found it hard to breath as his eyes became wet for the thousandth time. He couldn’t help but feel incredibly guilty for having to step outside the building after the ceremony itself.
He needed the air, though, and he took deep breaths as he stood in the middle of some courtyard or garden or whatever it was.
“Buck?” It was a voice he wasn’t expecting to hear.
He spun around and was met with his sister’s concerned expression. It didn’t look right on her right now, especially with her intricately designed wedding gown and her braided hair.
“Maddie!” He swiped at his eyes to get rid of any traces, but was careful not to aggravate his still-healing bruise. “W-What are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be in there with your… husband?”
Maddie came closer to him, and motioned for a nearby fountain for them to sit at. “Well, I saw how you left in quite a hurry as we walked down the aisle together. I figured you needed someone around.”
“But what about Chim?”
“Don’t worry about him, he understands, too. Or at least, I made him understand.”
Buck huffed and sniffed, still shaken from his unexpected reaction.
“So, do you want to tell me what’s bothering you?” Maddie went to place a soft hand atop his own, and she gave a reassuring squeeze.
“I’m… I’m so sorry, Maddie, that I walked out like that. It’s just…” Buck was struggling to put his spiraling thoughts into words. But Maddie patiently waited for him, never looking away and never letting go of her grip.
“I... I couldn’t help but look at you two up there and think… I was supposed to have that, too...” He paused to run a hand across his face, still able to feel how damp his cheeks were. “...With Eddie.”
Both of them were silent for what felt like hours. Buck dared to look at Maddie, and he saw that she looked surprised at what he had just said.
“Buck, what do you mean you were going to have the same thing with Eddie? Were you going to…” She trailed off, but Buck picked it back up.
“I wasn’t going to do it soon, but someday, yes, I was gonna propose to him.”
“Oh, Buck, I’m so sorry…” Maddie leaned in and did her best to give a comforting embrace. He hugged back tightly as he sighed into her shoulder.
They stayed like that for a moment longer. Buck really didn’t have anything else to say, and he started to feel exhausted.
He was able to hear Maddie whisper into his ear, though. “It’s… going to be okay, Buck. I know it probably doesn’t feel like it now, but I promise it will get better. And hey, who knows, maybe you’ll find someone else you love enough to marry.”
Buck carefully considered her suggestion. He wasn’t completely opposed to it, but she was right in that even the concept of loving someone else didn’t feel right at all. But he supposes he should just be thankful for any support from her at all. Especially on her wedding day, of all things.
“Thanks, Mads… you really know what to say to make me feel a little better, huh?”
“Hey, like I always say, what are big sisters for, right? Now come on, there’s a wedding cake that I’m sure you’ll absolutely love.”
“Um… Hey, Eddie.”
Buck was laying on his back under the rooftop of the gazebo. It was nearing dusk, so most of the families had already left the park hours ago. He didn’t want other people hearing this conversation. It was meant for Eddie and him, and them alone.
“I was, um, going to visit your grave, but the cemetery closes way too early. But, y’know, you aren’t even buried there, so I would just be talking to… nothing.”
The next best place Buck thought about was, of course, here in this park. This was where it all really began for them. Under this very structure, they had confessed their love and went on to spend the best seven months Buck’s ever had in his life.
“I just feel like I have a... better connection to you here, y’know?”
He was fiddling with an object in his pocket, and pulled it out. It was something wrapped in a newspaper.
“They finally caught the bastards…” Buck frowned as he remembered the terrible fire that had taken away the man that he loved. “Turns out they were a bunch of low-life juveniles. They had gotten their hands on some fireworks and were dumb enough to set them off indoors.”
Buck sighed as he continued to rub the newspaper-wrapped item.
“I really, really miss you, Eddie. And Chris, too… Shannon took him away from here, but we sometimes talk over the phone, and I… I think he’d doing okay over there… Y’know, I gave him that watch that I gave you, so at least he’ll always have a reminder of us...”
The sun was almost completely gone, but Buck didn’t move from his position. The park’s street lamps were bright enough, he thought.
“Hey, and I want to apologize to you for, um, kissing another guy… I didn’t feel anything for him and it wasn’t right and I felt awful about it immediately after… I even got a black eye for it, but I guess I deserved that…”
The crinkling of the newspaper was the only other sound that echoed through the quiet night. He couldn’t even hear the noises of those annoying bugs.
“Um, Maddie and Chim got married, too. So, that’s pretty exciting. I hear they might even have a kid of their own one day…”
Buck took in a deep breath, and then let it out slowly.
“I don’t know if we ever talked about this, or if you figured it out, but I was… um, going to propose to you one day. And, uh, knowing me, I wasn’t gonna do it out in like Paris or Venice or some foreign city… I was gonna do it in a place that was really important to us… like right here, under this gazebo. I think it would have been a nice place to… propose.”
His fidgeting stopped, and suddenly it went silent, besides Buck’s heavy breathing and the rustle of the trees in the cold breeze of the night.
“I… I can’t do it anymore, Eddie… I can’t…”
More crinkling from the newspaper. Buck unwrapped the object in his hands.
“No matter what I do, I just can’t forget you… and I keep having these breakdowns and I even started going to Dr. Grayson for help… but nothing seems to help…”
With a shaky hand, Buck lifted the object up, and let the newspaper be at the mercy of the wind.
“I… I know I made a promise to you… that I would find a way to live my life without you… but I don’t think that I can…”
The object was raised up, across his chest, and finally touched underneath his chin. The cold, icy bite of steel spread across his skin. In a way, it was oddly calming.
“I’m so sorry, Eddie, that I broke my promise to protect you. And now... I don’t know if I could even apologize for breaking our last promise…”
He was doing this for Eddie. If Buck were to take the easy way out, then he’d just let him down once again. But what was another failure to add to the list of countless others? He didn’t just fail Eddie, but also Chris, Maddie, and everyone else who cared about him.
His finger lightly traced the lines of the trigger.
“Just know that... I will always love you…”
Buck wasn’t able to hear the gun go off.
Chapter 2: ...Before This Ends Up as Another Memory
A harsh gasp escaped Buck as he jolted upwards in bed. He felt his body was all sweaty, the blanket over him slightly sticking to his muscles. His heart rate was extremely elevated, and he was having trouble calming down from his panicked state.
The room was barely lit, so he wasn’t sure exactly where he was. How did he get here? Buck was then startled by the sudden movement to his side.
Did he… sleep with someone else? Oh fuck, he would never forgive himself if he disgraced Eddie’s memory once again—
“Buck? Baby, what’s wrong?”
He could recognize that voice from a mile away. It couldn’t be, though…
His usual deep breathings weren’t calming him down. Why wasn’t he calming down?
“Hey, hey, it’s okay, Evan,” the man gently whispered into his ear. Buck felt two strong arms embrace him. Two arms that wrapped entirely around his figure. The hug was comfortingly warm. His neck was tickled by stubble. He could smell the scent of pine tar in the curly hair.
It really was him.
It was his Eddie.
“E-Eddie?” Buck rasped out as he trembled in his grasp.
“Yes, baby, it’s me. It was just a bad nightmare, okay? I’m right here, I promise.
Buck released a shaky sigh, and found himself curling up into Eddie’s arms.
He was alive… It was all a terrible dream and the man that he loved was right here, hugging and kissing him like he was the most important thing in the world.
“Do you want to go back to sleep?”
Buck buried his face deeper into Eddie’s chest. “I… I’m not sure that I can…”
He could feel Eddie’s warm hands rub circles along his back. He felt an intense feeling of bliss, knowing that his boyfriend was okay. He was fine, alive, and absolutely amazing.
“That’s fine, Evan. It’s almost morning anyway.” Eddie pressed a kiss atop Buck’s head. “Are you okay to talk about it?”
Buck took a moment to think. Was he really ready to tell Eddie about his dream, and how unbelievably real it felt? Maybe he wasn’t, but at the same time, having to experience such a reality made him realize a lot of things. Things that, he thinks, can’t be held back any more.
“Um, yeah… I think so… But can we talk, um, at the park? Under the gazebo?”
Eddie softly chuckled, and it was oh so a sound he dearly missed, even if, in actuality, it had only been less than twelve hours since he last heard him laugh. “Of course, we can, Evan. Do you need help getting changed?”
Buck shook his head as he separated from Eddie’s arms. “No, I’m okay. You can use the bathroom first, though.”
He looked at him and met his eyes. Those beautiful brown eyes that he adored. “Okay. I won’t be long.”
With one more kiss, Eddie made way for the bathroom. As he was getting ready, Buck himself was changing into his jeans and shirt, pulling on a coat as well. It was still only after New Year’s, so the air even in their house was chilly.
Not to mention the coat gave him extra space to tuck away a small box before they left for the park.
They arrived relatively quickly, and sat down on the bench close together. Eddie never once let go of Buck’s hand.
“So, you ready to talk about it?”
Buck nodded, and so he did. He was able to recall how real the whole dream felt, to the point of remembering how it felt to go so long with his love. He told Eddie of the apartment fire that had killed him—to which Eddie appropriate was surprised at—and the aftermath that followed. He spoke of how Chris was taken away by Shannon, and how he predicted Maddie and Chim would get married. Then, with much consideration, admitted to how his dream had ended.
By the end of his long winded explanation, Eddie seemed to be just as exhausted and Buck. But he made sure to listen to every word he spoke, because that’s just what they promised to do whenever they had bad dreams.
It began back when Eddie first started therapy and was dealing with his night terrors. Dr. Grayson suggested that he speak of his dreams in order to face them, and they’ve just gotten into the habit of doing so, no matter how bad the dream was.
“Wow… that was one hell of a dream, huh?”
“Yeah… I still can’t believe how real it felt. I actually thought you had… y’know.”
Eddie nodded and then held both of Buck’s hands in his. “I’m sorry you had to go through all that, but just know I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. I love you, Buck.”
“I love you, too, Eddie…” Buck leaned in for a sweet, passionate kiss. Then, he remembered what he wanted to do when the moment presented itself. He pulled back, and then stood. He made sure Eddie stayed seated, but he kept both of their hands entwined.
“Eddie, we’ve been through a lot in such a short amount of time. We face danger nearly everyday with our line of work, and we’ve dealt with some crazy shit.”
Eddie laughed, his eyes crinkling ever so beautifully.
“But after every job, after every stress-filled day, I get to go home with you, the man that I find myself loving more and more after each passing second. Even though we’ve only been together for seven months, it feels like I’ve known you for a lifetime. Because you’ve given me a new way of living life. A life that I’m able to genuinely enjoy and love. So…”
Buck went down onto one knee, and Eddie’s breath caught as tears started to form for both men.
“There is no doubt left in me to deny that you are the person that I want to have by my side for the rest of my life. I love you, Eddie Diaz.”
Buck pulled out the box from his coat pocket, and opened it to present the other man with a simple, yet stunning, silver ring.
“Will you marry me?”
It didn’t take too long for Eddie to jump from the bench and into Buck’s arms. “Are you sure?”
“I know it’s sudden, but we don’t have to get married right away. We can have like a really long engagement or—”
Eddie kissed Buck deeply to stop him from rambling any further.
“Yes, Evan Buckley. I will marry you. I love you so much.”
Buck’s smile could not get any bigger as he slipped the band onto Eddie’s finger. It looked perfect where it was at, as if it was always meant to be there.
They shared another kiss before settling back onto the gazebo bench. They sat in content silence, still enjoying the pure bliss from becoming fiancés. Eddie was the first to speak up after some minutes passed by.
“What exactly are we starting, Buck? I mean, we’re engaged now.”
“If I’m being honest, Eddie, I have no idea. I know I’m the one who proposed to you, but somehow, I feel like I’ll still let you down.”
“Hey, I’m all free for the taking, okay? I want this with you. I really, really want this with you.”
“Yeah… I’m ready to see this through. Glad to know that you are, too.”
“But, you know this is going to change a lot, right?”
“I don’t care if our life is gonna change. As long as I get to spend the rest of it with you, I’m happy.”