It was the small things about Eddie that made red flags go off in Buck’s mind.
First, it was the bruises that Eddie claimed he received from roughhousing with Christopher during the time that Eddie ignored him.
Then, it was the new truck that he bought on a whim, despite the fact that Buck knew that Eddie’s salary wasn’t exactly flexible enough to afford a brand, new vehicle…especially one as expensive as that.
Lastly, it was the black sunglasses that Eddie occasionally sported on a job, even if it wasn’t even bright enough to warrant wearing a pair.
There were so many times where Buck just wanted to pull Eddie to the side, away from the team and any prying eyes, just to ask him what was up with him. Deep down in his heart and soul, Buck knew that Eddie was keeping secrets from him and the thought of what exactly those secrets were kept the younger firefighter up at night.
What was wrong with Eddie?
What was Eddie hiding?
Was Eddie in some kind of trouble?
Was there any way he could help Eddie?
Would Eddie even accept his help if he offered it?
Even now, as he laid awake in his bed because the recurring thoughts of Eddie had robbed him of any chance of sleeping for the third night in the row, those questions plagued his exhausted mind. He reached towards his nightstand for his phone and once he felt the cool metal surface of the mobile device, he picked it up and held it over his face.
Nimble fingers pressed a few buttons until Buck’s blue eyes were staring at Eddie’s contact information. His finger hovered over the light green Call button, but doubt made him hesitate in pressing the button.
He just got Eddie back.
He just got his best friend back.
Eddie was letting him back into his life again.
Buck almost lost his friendship with Eddie over the lawsuit. What if poking his nose where it didn’t belong made him lose Eddie for good?
Suddenly, the sound of his ringtone jolted Buck out of his thoughts.
Blinking in confusion, Buck stared at his phone to see a picture of Christopher staring him right in the face. It was half-past midnight. Normally, Christopher would be sound asleep around nine o’clock. Why was he calling him so late?
Suddenly, a sickening thought entered Buck’s mind.
What if something happened to Eddie?
He accepted the call , put his phone to his ear, and tried to hide the rising panic he was feeling with a calm voice.
“W-What are still doing up? You know your dad doesn’t like it when you stay up too la-“
“Can I talk to Daddy?”
Alarm bells rang in Buck’s brain as the one question made the blue-eyed, blond more alert and aware than he had ever been the entire night.
Why did Christopher think Eddie was with him? If Christopher wasn’t with him now, he was he staying with? More importantly, if Eddie wasn’t with Christopher at this moment, where in the world was he?
“Buck, are you still there?”, the eight year old inquired, bringing Buck back to reality.
“Y-Yeah. I’m still here.”, Buck answered back. “Well, you see…..your dad can’t come to the phone right now.”
“Oh, okay…”, Christopher asked in a voice so full of disappointment that it made Buck’s heart break. Then, he spoke back up again, “Daddy must be busy with all the late work he has to do now to pay for the new truck…”
Hearing those words made seeds of anger begin to take root within Buck, but he couldn’t let Christopher know how he was feeling. He had to remain calm.
“Buddy, I can pass your message along if you want me too, but it might take a while for your dad to call you back. Can you talk to Carla in the meantime?”
“I’m not with Carla.”
If Buck’s panic was bad before, those four little words just made the feeling of dread that Buck was experiencing a thousand times worse.
“Abuelita is asleep right now and I don’t want to wake her up. I’ve already scared her by telling her about my nightmares before I just want to talk to my daddy.”
Buck breathed a sigh of relief at the news. At least, Christopher was being looked after by someone he knew, trusted, and loved. But that feeling of security was clouded by a storm of anger when reality hit Buck like a slap in the face.
Eddie had been, not only lying to his son for days on end, but he had dragged Buck into his web of lies. On top of that, Eddie was vanishing without a trace to do who knows what. But, worst of all, Christopher needed his father and his father wasn’t there.
His little boy had a nightmare and was probably scared out of his mind, and Eddie. Wasn’t. There.
Buck could let a lot of things slide, but this situation was not one of them.
“Hey, listen, buddy…I gotta go. I’ll call you back later. Okay?”
As soon as the phone call was over, Buck’s fingers pressed against the phone screen in a rapid pace as he was trying to get a hold of Eddie. The phone relayed the sound of a dial tone as Buck’s anxious fingers tapped against his knee.
The longer the phone went unanswered, the more and more frustrated Buck had become.
“Come on, Eddie! Answer the phone!”, he mumbled.
When he heart the sound of Eddie’s voice, his heart nearly leapt out of his chest. Yet, before a single word could leave Buck’s lips, the firefighter’s mouth twisted into a grimace as an automated message created by his best friend entered his ears.
“Hey, this is Eddie Diaz. I can’t come to the phone right now, but leave me a message and I’ll call you when I can.”
Buck ended the call, redialed the number, and almost threw his mobile device at the wall when the voicemail message played once again.
Buck didn’t know what was worse: the thought of Eddie being away from his phone or the possibility that Eddie was avoiding his phone calls.
Either way, one thing was for sure. Buck had to find Eddie, under any means necessary.
The problem was…where did he start?
If Eddie was keeping secrets, there was no way anyone else at the 118 would know about it. While everyone in the 118 were close enough to be a family, Eddie was closest to Buck.
At least, he was, before Buck stupidly got the idea to sue everyone because he had lost his job….
Buck ran his hand down his face.
Eddie used to confide in him whole-heartedly. Buck knew every single one of Eddie’s secrets, but now, there was something important that Buck didn’t know about him and that a huge problem.
Besides him, who did Eddie talk to? Who did he start hanging out with when Buck was no longer an option?
Images of Eddie standing next to a light-skinned, blonde woman with fiery brown eyes played before him like snapshots of a camera. Suddenly, the anger that he had towards Eddie morphed into cruel, ugly jealousy as Bosko began to invade his thoughts.
He had almost forgotten about her….how she walked around the 118 like she owned the place….how she just slid into the empty spot on the team that Buck usually filled so easily and no one else on the team had a problem with it….how she was always standing next to Eddie as if she belonged with him….
No. Now was not the time for Buck to give into feelings on envy and insecurity. What was most important was getting to Eddie, making sure he was okay, and telling him that his son needed him.
And, as much as Buck hated to admit it, Bosko was his best shot at finding out where Eddie was.
So, Buck repressed all of his resentment, gathered all the resolve he could muster, and grabbed a phone book.
Five minutes later, he was on the phone once again, listening to the repetitive sound of a dial tone. But this time, someone answered the phone.
“Hey, Bosko. It’s Buck. I need to talk to you.”