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it was real enough

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Ever since Maddie’s kidnapping, Buck cannot, for the life of him, sleep well. His subconscious is gripped in a muted fear, keeping him trapped in interrupted, light slumbers. Maddie and everyone at the 118 pester him regularly about it, giving him various options to help with sleep, but he’s afraid of the foggy mind that comes with over-the-counter medication, so he convinces himself he can run on low fumes, boosting with caffeine as needed because a tired mind is still a clear mind, albeit a little slower.

When his phone rings at 2:07 a.m., Buck jerks awake, mind previously edging the line of a dream, and he fumbles blindly for his phone, squinting at the light to see “Eddie Diaz” flashing across his screen.

His stomach bottoms out, and he presses answer and swings his legs over the bed, feeling cold with fear. “Eddie? What’s wrong?” He can hear crying on the other end, and he balances the phone between his ear and shoulder as he kicks around in the dark for his abandons shorts. “Eddie!”

“Hey, sorry. One sec.”

Eddie sounds panicked, Buck thinks, taking the steps down to the first floor two at a time. He can hear Eddie trying to reassure Christopher that everything’s going to be okay in the background, and he pauses, briefly gripped in a paralyzing fear, briefly brought back to the tsunami, to losing Christopher.

“Look, I’m sorry for calling so late. Chris has been sick since the end of my shift, and I just can’t get his fever down. With his CP... I’m taking him to the ER.”

Buck’s half out the door, shoes barely on his feet, when he realizes he’s still shirtless. He snags an LAFD zip-up off the back of a chair and stumbles back to the door, arms sliding into the jacket. “What hospital?”

“I... I didn’t even ask. You’ll come?”

“Of course I’ll come,” Buck spits out, already out the door and taking the steps out of his apartment building two at a time. “What hospital?” He repeats as he runs out of the building and all but rips his jeep door open. He nods absently when Eddie rattles off the details, mentally mapping out the quickest route.

“I’ll be there in ten.”

“Be careful.”

Buck rolls his eyes because of course Eddie is going to still worry for his well-being, and he ends the call and peels out of his parking spot.

***

“Hi,” Buck starts, breathless, heart trying to catch up to the rest of him, “my name is Evan Buckley, and I’m looking for a young kid. Christopher-”

“Buck.”

Buck whips around from the receptionist desk to see Eddie slipping out a set of large double doors, and for a moment, he doesn’t move, he only assesses. Eddie’s pale, which, Buck thinks, is to be expected if he’s been up in a near-constant state of worry after a 16-hour shift. His cheeks are red, and Buck’s quick to peg it on exertion, on Eddie racing into the hospital with Christopher, his own heart also working to match the rest of him. And, he’s shaking, and Buck knows cold nerves all too well, still feeling chilled himself.

His eyes fall to Eddie’s, and then he crosses the room to him quickly and gathers him in his arms tightly. Eddie slumps against his chest, and Buck tightens his arms around him.

“How’s Chris?”

Eddie lingers for a moment, clinging to Buck, before he pulls away with a low sigh. “He’s okay. Just a persistent virus.”

Buck nods, a frown playing at his lips. Without Eddie’s body flush against him, he feels colder than normal, and on instinct, he smooths the back of his hand to Eddie’s forehead, lingering there before moving to cup Eddie’s neck.

“You sure he’s the only one with a virus? You’re really warm.”

“I...” Eddie sighs, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I’ve been feeling a little off, but Chris...”

“Right, where is he?”

Eddie leads Buck to Christopher’s room, and as soon as he steps in, Christopher’s face lights up in such a way that Buck’s steps falter.

“Buck!”

Though sounding a little weak, the contagious energy is still centerfold, and Buck leans toward it, finding his footing and matching Christopher’s smile with his own.

“Hey, buddy! Heard you aren’t feeling so hot.” Buck eases himself onto the edge of the hospital bed, staring at Christopher’s vitals for an extended moment before turning toward him, assessing the same way he assessed Eddie.

“Yeah, I feel bad.”

A sympathetic frown pulling at his lips, Buck spares a glance to see Eddie flopping down onto a chair pulled to Christopher’s bedside. “I bet you do, but you’re going to feel better in no time. You’ve got the Diaz genes.”

“And daddy will feel better too?”

Buck finds Eddie’s eyes, and he opens his mouth to speak, stopping when Eddie shoots him a very clear look that all but screams “don’t.”

“I’m sure your dad will feel a lot better when you’re better.”

“That’s good,” Christopher mumbles, and Buck nods, patting Christopher’s leg.

***

Buck’s carefully quiet as Eddie putters around his house, watching as Eddie measures out Christopher’s medicine, as he hovers over Christopher until he falls asleep, and he only intervenes when he’s sure Eddie can breathe deeply without the fear that Christopher is going to take a turn for the worse.

“He’s finally asleep,” Eddie mutters, coughing into his fist. “All dosed up, fever’s finally down. I’ll contact his school in a few hours before my shift; see if Carla can take him for a the full day.”

“You aren’t going in.”

Eddie stops around a yawn. “What?”

“I texted Bobby. He’s pulling coverage for the next few days so you can rest.” Buck can pinpoint every emotion that flicks across Eddie’s face: confusion, frustration, exhaustion. He’s seen them all, sometimes daily.

“Buck-”

“Eddie, you have a fever. You’re exhausted, and you are only going to get worse if you go on three hours of sleep.”

“Since when did you become the responsible one?” Eddie sighs lowly, and Buck laughs, rubbing at the back of his neck.

“It’s my week to be responsible. You had it last week.”

Eddie hums around a small smile and rubs at the ache on his forehead. “I really appreciate you coming, Buck. I don’t think... I just... It was really nice to have you there.”

Buck gets to his feet, and, for the second time that night, crosses the room and pulls Eddie right to his chest, hoping that he can ease some of the worrying pressure, even if just for a moment.

Eddie snuggles into him, frowning as he thumbs Buck’s bare chest, exposed where his zipper’s slipped down a little.

“Where’s your shirt?”

“Ah, I kinda forgot one when I rushed out.” Buck smiles sheepishly when Eddie pulls back, and he cups a hand to Eddie’s cheek, too warm for his liking.

“Okay, Diaz, it’s your turn.”

“My turn for what?”

Buck snags Eddie’s hand and guides him to the bedroom, ignoring Eddie’s questions the whole way. He makes easy work of tugging Eddie’s jacket and jeans off, and he urges him into the bed in nothing but a short sleeve under shirt and boxers.

“Buck-”

Buck disappears into the bathroom, still promptly ignoring Eddie, and he comes back with a glass of water, a bottle of ibuprofen, and a thermometer.

“Buck, I’m fine.”

“Mmhmm, sure. Open.” Buck waves the thermometer in front of Eddie’s face until Eddie sighs and opens his mouth wide enough for Buck to slip the thermometer under his tongue. While waiting, he presses two fingers to Eddie’s neck, counting the flutter of heartbeats beneath his finger prints until the thermometer beeps.

“101.7,” Buck reads aloud, frowning. “Heartbeat’s a little fast. Any other symptoms?”

Eddie gives him a knowing look, but Buck doesn’t back down, matching Eddie’s narrow gaze until Eddie caves.

“My head and throat hurt. I’m freezing, and I’m tired.”

Nodding, Buck tugs at the blankets until they are covering Eddie up to his chest. He shakes a couple of pills into his hand, offering them to Eddie with the water.

“Seems like you definitely got Christopher’s virus.”

“Perks of parenting,” Eddie mutters around a wince, the pills grating against his throat. He hands off the cup, sighing contentedly when Buck smooths a cool palm to his forehead.

“You should save yourself. This thing apparently moves fast.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

Eddie grabs Buck’s wrist and pulls his hand away, a tight frown on his lips.

“Buck, you have a shift in a few hours. You need-”

“Bobby took me off the schedule, too. At least for today. I’ve been instructed to call him later to update him on how you and Christopher are.”

“And you agreed?”

“Someone has to make sure you and Chris are okay,” Buck says as if it’s the most obvious thing and the world and equally the easiest decision he’s ever made, and Eddie shakes his head.

“No, Buck, you really don’t have to... What are you doing?”

Buck’s just kicked his shorts off across the room, and he’s setting an alarm on his phone as he crawls into the empty side of the bed.

“Okay, I’ve got an alarm set for 6 to check Christopher’s temperature, and I’ll wake you at 7 to check you over.”

“Buck-”

Ignoring Eddie, Buck drops his phone on the night stand and cuts out the light, snuggling into the bed with a low sigh.

“Evan.”

“Shh,” Buck shushes, patting blindly until his palm cups over Eddie’s mouth. “I’m sleeping.”

“You’ll get sick.” Eddie mumbles, slapping Buck’s hand away. 

“Okay? I don’t know if you remember, but I got a clean bill of health from the hospital, so bring it.”

“You’re so dumb,” Eddie sighs, and Buck laughs, blindly reaching around to pat Eddie’s too-warm cheek.

“Sleep, loser.”