The first thing he registers is pain, sharp and throbbing from the top left of his skull. It’s the only injury he can feel, but it’s encompassing. Every small movement— and there are a lot of movements— has it shooting lightning strikes of agony through his head, reaching as far down as his neck.
The second thing he registers is a ringing in his ears. It’s enough to distract him from most of the sounds around him while he tries to gather his bearings.
When he finally opens his eyes, he realizes he’s in the cab of the firetruck. That in itself isn’t weird, but the fact that he’s on the floor with a head wound with no one else around, except whoever is driving, is definitely weird.
A particularly rough turn sends his stomach rolling and him sliding across the small space he’s in, and Buck barely manages to get a hand out to keep his head from smacking into the door of the cab. He groans in pain when his stomach keeps rolling with a mixture of hunger and nausea. They'd managed to eat during their downtime before their call to the garage fire, but Buck would have eaten more if his stomach had the space. One meal hadn't begun to recover the energy they'd used up during their shift. And he wasn’t even sure how long it’d been since then, or how long it’d been since he lost consciousness.
He hears a hissed, “Fuck,” from in front of him, but he can’t match the voice to any of his team members.
“Firefighter Buckley, come in,” Bobby’s voice crackles through his radio.
Buck recognizes the words, but can’t quite process them. Why is Bobby radioing for him? Why was he the only team member here?
Another sharp turn has him sliding back the way he came, and his feet press into the door on the opposite side. He’s so disoriented that his legs practically fold up beside him.
On the other side of the cab, a paper bag topples over the edge of the seat, and wrapped burgers come tumbling out.
“Brian,” Bobby’s voice comes through again. Buck realizes that he can hear it on the low volume of his own radio along with the one in the truck. “Whatever you’ve done to our firefighter—”
“I haven’t done anything!” The stranger’s voice roars back. “I didn’t even know he was in here when I drove off!”
Buck hears a radio click and then waits to hear the response.
“Then where is he?” Bobby asks. “I need to speak to my firefighter. If you’re threatening him—”
“I’m not,” the man stresses. “I- I think he’s unconscious in the back. He fell when I took off.”
He isn’t unconscious anymore.
Buck brings his arm up to his chest, feeling ten times heavier than normal, and clicks his radio. “I’m awake,” Buck groans into it.
The guy in front thanks God under his breath.
“Buck!” Bobby shouts. “Are you okay?”
Buck takes a second to think about it. “I think so…” he says slowly. “I- I think I hit my head pretty hard, Cap.”
“What happened?” Bobby asks.
“You tell—” The truck hits something and Buck’s body jerks, cutting him off mid-sentence. His shoulders smack into the base of the seat and the back of his head follows suit.
He yelps in pain and the man in the front curses.
“Buck?” Bobby calls. “What’s going on?”
“I’m getting thrown around back here,” he practically growls. “What the hell is going on? Where are you?”
Buck can sense the hesitation before Bobby responds.
“You don’t remember?” His captain asks.
“No,” Buck says, exasperation clearly slipping into his tone.
“You remember the burger place?”
“Yeah,” Buck responds, trying to get off the floor of the cab. “I- I remember putting burgers in the truck. I took some off of Chimney so he could help Eddie finish assessing a patient. That’s the last thing.”
“Okay,” Bobby says, then hesitates before adding, “What happened is that someone stole the truck while you were in there.”
Buck’s head snaps up, and he tries to peer around the edge of the seat and console to get a better look at the guy. This was definitely not the turn he saw his evening taking, all jinxes considered.
“I didn’t plan on it!” The man in the driver’s seat shouts, and Buck flinches at the volume.
The truck jerks again and Buck is able to brace himself before he goes sliding or ramming into anything again.
“Dude!” Buck shouts, his own voice ringing in his ears. “Stop the truck! What the hell are you doing?”
“I don’t know! I swear I didn’t plan on this!” The guy yells back as a poor excuse. “And I didn’t know you were here!”
“Well, I am!” Buck yells back. He winces when his efforts cause more throbbing in his temple and down to his neck. He pulls himself up, spreading his arm across one of the seats to try and keep himself from sliding across the floor again.
Something about being upright is more disorienting than laying across the floor, though, and Buck presses his forehead to the cool material of the seat to try and calm the sudden dizziness.
He drags his other arm up to his radio again. “Cap,” he practically whines, “M’not feeling too hot back here.”
“Talk to me, kid.”
“PULL OVER NOW!” is the command that comes from outside— a voice through a loudspeaker that sounds suspiciously like Athena’s. When Buck looks up, he sees a mix of red and blue lights creating a glow against the ceiling of the truck. It starts to fill the cab as the sirens grow louder.
A police car must be pulling up beside them.
“Crap, crap, crap,” the man says from the front seat.
The squealing of tires clues Buck in that he needs to hold on. His grip is weak, but it does the job as his world tilts with the sharp right turn that the guy throws the truck into.
“Whoa!” the man yells, and Buck has to agree.
They crash into something bigger this time, and a small explosion rocks the truck.
“Dude!” Buck yells again. “Just pull over!”
The man doesn’t listen, and the truck rocks with the force in which it plows through whatever they’re hitting. Buck figures they’re cars, and he only hopes there’s no one in them.
The combination of crunching and scraping metal combined with the police sirens behind them worsens the ringing in his ears. He presses one hand over his ear and tucks the other side of his head into his shoulder to try and muffle the sounds.
“Buck?” Bobby shouts through his radio.
Buck reluctantly removes the hand from his ear to use his radio.
“Things are kinda bumpy right now, Cap.” He releases the button and moans through the pain of more bumps.
“You said you weren’t feeling good. What symptoms are you experiencing?” Bobby asks.
“Everything, Cap,” he says to keep it short. “I think I’ve got a concussion.”
“DRIVER!” Athena’s voice rings out from the police cars following them. “STOP THE VEHICLE!”
“Please!” Buck tacks on, squeezing his eyes shut. “I swear, I’m gonna fucking hurl all—”
“Brian,” Bobby’s voice comes through the radio. “My man is injured. He needs medical attention.”
“I can’t!” Brian shoots back, shaking his head desperately. “I was just trying to help people. If I stop then I get caught and there’s no going back!” Then, off the radio, he glances backward over his shoulder. “And don’t think about trying anything to stop me!” He shouts at Buck. “You won’t like what happens!”
Buck’s quip dies in his throat before it’s even formed.
“Are you threatening me?” he asks, a mix of anger and fear taking over his previous annoyance. “Is this some joke? You know you might get charged with kidnapping on top of everything else you’re already going to get slammed with. Do you want to add threatening a first responder on top of that?”
“I didn’t kidnap you!” Brian shouts indignantly.
“You sure as hell haven’t let me go,” Buck snaps, despite the pain in his head begging him to relax. “Come to think of it, maybe they’ll charge you for holding me hostage. Trust me, I am not a fun hostage. Try something with me and you’ll regret it.”
His words are confident, but Buck’s honestly not sure he could follow through on that promise. He sure as hell doesn’t plan on trying to body his way into the front seat, knowing he’ll do more harm than good and likely cause them to crash, but he’s also not sure if he could defend himself if the guy were to do anything to him.
The truck takes another turn and Buck loses his grip on the chair, sliding from his upright position and ending up sprawled across the floor on his stomach. He doesn’t hit his head again, but the shift in gravity is more than enough to do some damage.
His nausea hits him like a wave of cold, raising goosebumps across his skin, even under his turnout gear. Buck brings a hand up to his mouth in an attempt to quell it and squeezes his eyes shut.
When the truck completes its turn, he opens his eyes and sees more red and blue lights coming through the front windshield of the truck.
“PULL OVER AND TURN THE ENGINE OFF!” a new voice shouts, a man this time.
Buck’s heart leaps in his chest as the truck comes to a near-sudden stop.
“COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!” Athena speaks up again. “WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED!”
“Buck?” Bobby calls, concern evident in his voice. “What’s going on?”
“We stopped,” Buck responds, trying to sit up. “Somehow my head still thinks things are moving, though,” he murmurs.
“Don’t!” Brian demands. “ Don’t you dare —”
“Just let me get out of here,” Buck tries to negotiate, already stretching uncomfortably to reach for the handle. His hands tremble from the pain and nausea, but he doesn’t give up.
“Don’t move!” Buck hears, this time from an officer just outside of the truck. “Keep your hands where we can see them!”
Brian runs a nervous hand through his hair as he checks the side view mirrors, and Buck figures it’s now or never.
With more effort than it should take, Buck grabs the handle of the truck and swings it open, his shoulders and head peeking out of the door.
“Movement at the back door!” An officer reports with a shout.
“Firefighter Buckley!” Buck yells back to identify himself.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Brian rages, shifting the firetruck’s gears.
“Buck?!” Athena calls over the cacophony of everything else.
“Athena!” Buck calls back, trying to drag his body up and out.
He manages to get his leg under him, pushing up onto a knee. If he can just get his foot onto the step—
The truck lurches, and the door handle slips from his grip, swaying with the movement of the vehicle. Buck grunts as he falls into the floor again and he finds himself with part of his upper body hanging out of the doorway and his hands grasping the door frame with a white-knuckled grip.
He turns and sees Athena shift from her steady stance as Brian keeps backing up.
“Buck!” Athena yells. “Hold on!”
Buck sees her reach for her radio, and she says something into it before jumping back into her cruiser.
“Brian! You don’t have to do this!” Buck presses, yelling over his shoulder. “Just stop the truck!”
Brian doesn’t respond. He speeds up instead, and for a second, Buck debates jumping out of the truck. They’re moving at a slow enough speed that it’s a jump he would feel confident in landing under any other circumstances, but he doesn’t feel stable enough to do it right now.
Buck curses and pulls himself back into the cab, the exertion making him feel his heartbeat all over his body.
“Damn it, Brian!” Buck yells.
“Shut the hell up!” Brian yells back. He smacks his hands against the wheel as he backs up past the cruisers, and the door beside Buck slams shut with the force of the truck stopping. Brian doesn’t waste time as he switches into drive again.
“DON’T DO THIS,” Athena’s voice comes through her loudspeaker again. “DON’T MAKE IT HARDER THAN IT HAS TO BE.”
Brian doesn’t listen, speeding off again before Buck can get a grip on anything again.
“Cap, we’re moving again,” Buck reports breathlessly. “I couldn’t get out.”
“Okay, just hold—”
“Stop talking to him,” Brian says into the radio, and Buck isn’t sure if he’s speaking to him or Bobby. “Everyone, just stop. I need to think !”
Buck falls quiet and focuses on securing himself for yet another bumpy ride. It’s a miracle he hasn’t puked up what little food he’s managed to eat today.
A dispatcher’s voice is next to join in on the party. “All available units, report to 539 North Hill Street. Five-alarm fire.”
Brian spares a glance at the radio, removing his eyes from the road for a second. When he looks back up, he jerks the wheel to avoid swerving into the opposing traffic lane.
“I repeat,” the dispatcher says, “all available units, report to 539 Hill Street.”
This time when Buck groans, it’s in annoyance. Now, not only has a truck been stolen, with him concussed and stuck in it, but his team is also without their gear, and the responding stations will be without necessary backup. It might be too long before the next nearest station responds. Anything could happen between now and then.
“Brian,” a new voice sounds over the radio— and Buck would know this one anywhere. “It’s Eddie… Diaz.”
Buck’s ears perk up at the sound of his boyfriend’s voice, but he remains silent. Eddie obviously has a plan if Bobby’s no longer the one speaking.
“I just wanted to say thank you,” Eddie continues when Brian doesn’t respond, “for helping us out at the garage fire.” Pieces start to fall into place as Eddie’s words register in Buck’s head. Eddie had told him and Bobby about the impersonator earlier that evening.
Buck had no idea why he’d steal the firetruck, though.
“I needed your help,” Eddie says, sounding sincere. “We needed your help. You were there.”
There are a few tense moments as Buck and anyone else listening in wait to see if Brian responds. Buck takes the distraction as an opportunity to finally heave himself into a seat, and buckle himself in. Brian either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.
It’s a relief to finally be in a stable position, but it doesn’t help with the ringing in his ears or the dizziness. Luckily, both have lessened since he first woke up, but the nausea and throbbing remain as strong as ever.
“That’s it,” Brian says, grabbing Buck’s attention again. “All I ever wanted was to help people.”
“I know that’s what you had planned when you put on that uniform,” Eddie says next, choosing his words carefully. “Things don’t always turn out the way we planned. Sucks. I know.” Eddie pauses. “Right now, you’ve endangered people—”
“I didn’t mean to!” Brian insists. “I didn’t want any of this to happen! I just didn’t want to get caught and be stopped from helping people!”
“If you want to help someone, you can start by helping my boyfriend. You’ve got him with you.”
Buck finds himself holding his breath as he waits to see how Brian reacts. Los Angeles in general is a very diverse city with a lot of out and proud people, but it doesn’t mean everyone is accepting.
“This guy with me is your boyfriend?” Brian asks.
“Yes,” Eddie responds. “But he’s not just that. He’s my partner, and I’d give my life to save him. That’s how firefighters work, Brian. We’re a family, and we don’t hurt our own. When they are hurt, we do everything we can to help with that pain.”
Brian glances over his shoulder at Buck before fiddling with the radio.
“I don’t know what to do,” Brian cries.
“I know you feel stuck,” Eddie says, voice as steady as ever. “But all you can do now is let go, move on. Sounds scary, but I know you can do it. You can fix this wrong.”
Brian sniffles and shakes his head. “No!” he cries through the radio. “I- I’m not brave… I want to be, but I’m not a hero like you.”
“You wanna be a hero?” Eddie asks. “There’s a five-alarm fire right now. Take Buck there so we can help him, and so that you can help us. We need you.”
Buck finds Brian nodding along to Eddie’s words, and Buck’s breathing hitches as he realizes that it’s working.
“People’s lives depend on you,” Eddie adds.
Buck can see hope fill Brian as he replies. “No one’s ever given me the chance.”
“Here’s your chance,” Eddie states.
Buck watches as Brian starts taking deeper breaths. He nods before setting down the radio and gripping the wheel with both of his hands.
The next turn he takes is more steady, and Buck eyes the street sign through the window as they round the corner.
“Suspect is turning onto Hill,” the dispatcher reports. “He’s turning onto Hill.”
Buck breathes a sigh of relief as Brian stays on track for the location. Brian’s driving is more steady now that he has a purpose.
No longer needing to put up a fight, Buck leans his head back and tries to stay awake as the pounding in his head threatens to send him into darkness.
The second that Brian steps out of the truck, Athena chases after him, wondering where the hell he plans on going. To her luck, the idiot trips over a firehose, and she and a couple of officers are able to catch up to him.
The second they have him cuffed, Athena runs for the 118 fire truck. The rest of the 118 pulls up as she throws the door open.
“Buck!” she calls.
The man in question hisses and raises his hand as he tilts his head away from her. There’s no missing the trail of blood that’s started to dry on the side of his face. She wonders if he ever realized he was bleeding.
“Please, no yelling,” he pleads.
The door on the other side gets pulled open and Eddie climbs in, kneeling in front of Buck. Chimney is hot on his heels, his paramedic bag in hand. Hen is right behind them, but she remains outside of the truck, not wanting to crowd the cab.
“Buck,” Eddie says softly, cradling his jaw.
Buck peers at him through heavy-lidded eyes and smiles. “Hey, Eds,” he whispers.
“Hey, Buckaroo,” Chimney says next, shining a light in his eyes. Buck flinches but manages to keep his eyes open.
“Why don’t you tell me the year, Buck?” Eddie suggests, grabbing hold of his hand.
“Pupils are equal and responsive,” Chim reports. “That’s a good sign.”
“2020,” Buck grumbles. “And what a fucking year it’s been.”
“Can you tell me what day it is?” Eddie asks then.
“Must be a Monday,” Buck gripes. Eddie smiles and leans up to press a kiss to Buck’s forehead.
Bobby chooses that moment to come up beside Athena and watch the events unfold.
“You know he almost got out?” Athena says over her shoulder to him. “That man started driving with Buck hanging out of the vehicle.”
“Hell,” Bobby mutters.
“Alrighty, Buck. We’re going to move you out of here so we can dress your head wound,” Chimney says. “We’ll help you to the floor and slide you forward and out.”
Buck laughs, though no one is sure what’s funny.
“You good?” Athena asks.
“Yeah. Just spent a lot of time on that floor already.” Buck says. “I’m fine.”
“You’re trembling,” Eddie counters as they unbuckle him. “It’s okay if this freaked you out.”
They get him settled on his butt on the floor and Chimney backs out first, as Eddie helps him scoot forward. Hen takes off, likely going to grab the gurney from the ambulance.
“Slower,” Buck requests as he moves. After a moment, he adds, “The trembling is the hunger and nausea. A terrible mix.” Buck scoots forward and Eddie helps him get his feet on the ground.
By the time Athena thinks to go around the side of the truck, she sees that Bobby is already over there, coming up on Buck’s free side.
“Besides, his threats weren’t very scary,” Buck adds. “Pissed me off more than anything.”
His team’s movements stop and Athena’s eyebrows raise. “Threats?” she asks. “What threats?”
Buck’s eyes widen. He didn’t realize that the team hadn’t heard that part.
“Uh… did I say threats?” Buck asks.
“Yes, you did,” Athena says. “Don’t mess around Buck, what did he say to you?”
“Coming through!” Hen calls from behind them.
Buck lets Bobby and Chim help him get settled on the gurney as he explains what happened to Athena.
“He just said to not try and stop him,” Buck says, then winces as Hen wipes around his cut.
“Let’s finish getting this cleaned and bandaged so we can get him to the hospital,” Hen says to Chim on the side. She turns to Buck then. “You’re gonna need a CT scan for that head of yours. You still nauseous?”
Buck grimaces but nods.
“And that’s all?” Athena asks, steering him back on topic.
Buck shrugs. “I mean, he added that I wouldn’t like what happens if I did do something.”
Eddie mutters something under his breath.
“That sounds like a threat to me,” Athena huffs. “It’s kinda hard to believe he didn’t want to hurt anyone when he continuously exhibited hostile behavior.”
“Truth is that even if Buck hadn’t ended up in the crossfire, anyone impersonating a firefighter like that isn’t thinking straight and will endanger people regardless of their intentions,” Bobby explains. “Just him putting the ice pack on someone’s burn could’ve done more harm than good. It kind of came off like he was tracing the thrill and recognition.”
Athena hums in response. “You didn’t sustain any other injuries, did you?” She asks.
“No,” Buck says, playing with Eddie’s hand in his lap. “I got tossed around a bit back there. I- I was really dizzy,” Buck admits, his brave face slipping. “I couldn’t get myself up with all that jerking around and all those turns. I kept toppling over.”
Athena nods as Eddie rubs a hand up and down Buck’s arm. He leans over, pressing another kiss to his head.
“You’re all set,” Chim announces. “We gotta get going.”
Buck sighs but nods.
“I’ll send an officer your way for an official statement,” Athena says. “Don’t try to downplay anything that happened, either. Just tell it like it is.”
Buck nods again, lacking the energy to talk much more.
“Hen, you take Buck and then meet us back at the station. Chim, help her load up but come back with me. We need to regroup and I need to contact the chief about this.”
“What about the fire?” Eddie asks, looking toward the building.
“Additional units are already en route. We’re in no state to help,” Bobby sighs. “Now, get going before he pukes on you guys.”
Hen and Chimney start rolling Buck toward the ambulance and Chimney asks, “You wouldn’t puke on us, would you?”
“I’ve had a night,” Buck mutters, barely audible as they get further away. “Anything can happen.”
Eddie watches them for a few seconds before turning to his captain.
“You can go with Buck,” Bobby assures him. “Wouldn’t have it any other way. I expect a call with an update, though.”
“Of course,” Eddie promises before jogging to catch up with his boyfriend.
Bobby and Athena watch on.
“So, how many grey hairs do you have now?” Athena asks, bringing a hand up to flick through his hair.
“One for every minute I couldn’t see him,” Bobby replies, bringing his arm around her shoulders. “Five for each minute he was unconscious.”
Athena sighs and turns her attention back to the departing ambulance. Chim is already walking back toward the truck.
“But he’s okay,” she says. Bobby turns to her and they share a quick kiss. “Remember that. I’ll see you in the morning, Captain.”
Bobby smiles. “I’ll be seeing you, Sergeant.”