Chapter 1: Caught Up In A Lie
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.”
Chapter 2: Cruel Words Over A Phone Call
Buck talks to Lena on the phone.
It goes about as well as you expect.
Not. Well. At. All.
Hi, everyone! Happy Holidays! I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season.
Consider this brand new chapter as my holiday gift to you.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“You want to talk to me? Color me surprised.”
Buck could feel the beginnings of a headache forming under his skull just by hearing the woman’s voice.
He started, “Listen-“
Buck gritted his teeth when Bosko cut him off, only to give him a sarcastic remark of her own, “Listen to you? The entitled brat that had absolutely no problem throwing his entire team under the bus because he didn’t get his way?”
Suddenly, the pain that was blossoming in Buck’s mind doubled in intensity and agony. Buck rubbed his agonizing temples with two fingers and tried to speak once again in a calm composure that Buck was fighting with all his power to keep.
“Bosko, can you just-“
In an instant, the sarcasm that Bosko held in her voice was gone. When she spoke again, the sheer hatred in her voice made chills go up and down Buck’s spine.
“No. I don’t have to do anything for you. We’re not friends, and even if we were, our friendship would be over after what he did....just like your friendships with the 118 should be over, especially the one you have with Eddie.”
The threads of calm composure that Buck was desperately trying to hold onto threatened to snap with each vicious word that came out of Bosko’s mouth.
“You don’t deserve it. You don’t deserve any of it: your job, your place on the team, Eddie’s forgiveness and l-“
“SHUT UP!”, Buck roared, making the woman’s cruel comments come to a crashing halt.
Who did Bosko think she was?
The woman didn’t know Buck and she barely knew the 118. She may have worked with them for a couple of weeks, but she wasn’t friends with them like Buck was. She wasn’t family like Buck was.
And the things she said about Eddie.....acting like she knew more....understood him more than Buck did. The things Bosko knew about Eddie paled in comparison to the knowledge that Buck possessed. Bosko may have known small details about Eddie, but Buck knew the whole picture. Eddie only started hanging out with her to fill the void that Buck’s absence had created in his life.
In fact, the only reason she even entered their lives was to temporarily fill his spot while he recovered and find a place of work until she could go back to her original team. And once he returned, she would be back on her own team.
That’s all she was.
She was just a stranger passing through, nothing more and nothing less.
And Buck definitely didn’t have to take this self-righteous, holier than thou attitude from a rank stranger.
He opened his mouth to yell at the infuriating woman who had tested his patience for the last time....to let her know that she wasn’t as important to the 118....to Eddie as she clearly believed.
But, the small, frightened voice of a child broke through his train furious, angry, vengeful thoughts.
“Can I talk to Daddy?”
Hearing Christopher’s voice.....remembering the reason why he was talking to Bosko made Buck close his eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths.
Bosko didn’t matter. Her opinion didn’t matter. None of it mattered. What mattered most.....was Christopher. And helping Christopher mattered the most to Buck.
With a clear mind and a regained sense of calmness, the blue-eyed, brunette stated,
“I didn’t call you to get your judgment. I called you to ask if you know where Eddie is.”
“What makes you think I know where he is?”
“Because, I know you two still hang out.”
“What me and Eddie do outside of work is none of your business. If Eddie wanted to tell you where he went, he would’ve. But, since he didn’t, maybe that means you two aren’t back to being “best friends” like you thought.
“But you know where he is, don’t you?”
“Maybe I do, but there’s no way I’m going to tell you. Eddie trusts me. Get that? He trusts me. And, unlike you, I don’t plan on breaking his trust.”
The sneer that Buck detected in her tone made his blood boil.
Mentally, he issued a command to himself, “Keep it together, Buck.”
“I’m not asking for me. I’m asking for Christopher.”, he responded.
There was a moment of silence on the phone before Bosko spoke again. Instead of anger or condescension, Buck only heard astonishment coming from her.
“Yes. His son that woke up scared because of a nightmare and the one person he wanted to talk to....the one person he needed more than anyone is nowhere to be found. So, if you don’t want to help me, fine. But, at least, have some basic human decency and help a scared little boy get back to his father.”
He didn’t mean to add that last past, but the blonde’s earlier comments still stung him. Also, a part of him hoped that hearing Christopher’s troubles would motivate Bosko to cooperate with Buck instead of trying to fight against him.
But, that hope died when Buck heard Bosko’s next comment.
“Buck, I swear to God.....if you’re lying to me....”
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!”, Buck screamed at the top of his lungs.
If Bosko wanted to say anything, Buck didn’t give her the chance to speak. He ranted,
“Why would I lie about something like this?! Huh?! Why?! I know me and Eddie have issues, but I would never lie about his kid and I would never use his kid to manipulate him into talking to me! Never. And the fact that you think I actually would is......”
He trailed off into silence and just stood in the middle of the living room, fuming. He was offended, beyond furious, and honestly, completely done. It was obvious that this woman was going to be no help. And the longer Buck went back and forth with her, the longer Christopher was going to go too scared to go back to sleep.
“I-“, Bosko started,but Buck wasn’t willing to hear another word that she had to say.
“You know what? Forget it. I was dumb to think I could actually turn to you for help.”, he snapped before smashing the red button glowing on his screen.
He would just have to find Eddie himself.
In a span of ten minutes, Buck was sitting in his car while he turned the key in the ignition. Buck tapped anxious fingers on the steering wheel as the car began to warm up.
Where should he even begin to start looking?
His phone screen lit up a second later, but when Buck saw Bosko’s name staring back at him, Buck rolled his eyes.
His first mindset was to dismiss the text notification, but his instincts were telling him to do the exact opposite.
He opened up the text and expected to find harsh words in its content, but much to his surprise, it was an address.
Buck couldn’t believe it. Bosko actually came through for him.
He was about to send many texts of gratitude until he saw the text Bosko sent right after the first one.
Do yourself a favor when you find Eddie. Don’t judge him. You’re the reason he turned to doing this.
“I’m the reason? What’s that supposed to mean?”, Buck mumbled to himself as he pulled out the driveway and sped off into the night.
Jeez, Lena....does Buck really deserve all of those harsh words of yours?
See you next time!