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The Nature of Pain

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Buck had never felt pain like this in his entire life. Flames dance around his blurred visions, he tried to blink the tears and blood out of his eyes. His ears ringing, head pounding, he saw a figure approaching. Buck tried to focus, to see who it was. It was then he noticed the vest and detonator. It was the bomber.

“You’re new,” the bomber said as he eyed the pinned firefighter.

Buck focus was fading in and out as he heard the man shouting. It wasn’t until the felt a hand on his collar that he became painfully aware that the man had returned to him.

“I want the captain!” The man shouted, before slamming Buck’s head into the ground. Black spots danced around the firefighters vision and he groaned. The man repeated his command, lifting Buck again. The firefighter felt a blinding pain through his skull and he choked back the bile rising in his throat. He heard Chimney voice but couldn’t make out what he was saying. The man was shouting again. The only thing he understood was hearing their true captain’s name, Nash. Buck tried to focus again hands going to his head only for his arm to be pulled violently, tearing a scream from his lungs. His vision blurred around the edges as someone approached them. It was then Buck heard Bobby’s voice. Buck tried to focus.

“Freddie,” Bobby called out to the bomber.

“I thought you’d be on the truck.” Freddie, that was apparently the bomber’s name, said, dropping Buck’s arm as he stood up, the firefighter groaning from pain in his shoulder. Buck could hear them speaking but the pain made it hard to focus. He forced himself to listen closer when just barely saw Bobby gesturing at him.

 “He’s got parents, a sister, a girlfriend,” Buck felt a new fear grip his Bobby spoke. Ali, Maddie, the team, he may never get to see them again. He looked over to where he knew the rest of the team was waiting, just waiting for a chance to get to him. Bobby continued, “And he never did anything to you. He wasn’t even a firefighter when your father burned down that restaurant.”

 “You care about him, don’t you? Well how do you like it?” Freddie kicked the pinned firefighter in the ribs. “How does it feel to watch someone you care about kicked while they’re down?” He kicked the injured firefighter again. Buck’s body curling around itself as much as it could with the way he was pinned. Freddie pulled him up by the collar again, turning to speak to Buck. “How does it feel to be Collateral damage?” Freddie shook him when he didn’t get an answer from the injured man. Buck groaned at the burning pain in his chest.

“Is that how you see yourself?” Bobby asked, trying to get Freddie’s attention back on him. “An unintended victim in all this?”

“Stop.” Freddie held the detonator out. “One more step and we all go boom.”

Buck gave up trying to listen. He didn’t want to die like this. He’d just got his sister back in his life. He had people who cared about him. He didn’t want to be another loss added to an already grieving team. Eddie’d just lost his wife. Now his best friend might have to bury him. And Bobby, oh Buck just hoped Bobby’d be able to come back from all this. Buck didn’t want to be the one thing that pushed Bobby back over the edge. They’d fought so hard to get Bobby back to a good place. Buck hated to be the one that would ruin that progress. He just hope Athena’d be able to pull him back

The next thing Buck knew, there were hands on him. He felt hands at his neck and terror gripped him. The feeling of Freddie smashing his head repeatedly was still fresh in his aching mind. He tried to fight them. All the fight he had vanished as he heard his best friend’s voice in his ear, telling him it was okay, and that they had him. When the injured man stopped fighting they immediately started asking him question and checking his vitals. They asked him how he was, and he honestly didn’t know.

“Head hurts,” Buck managed to say, his speech somewhat slurred. He started to fade out, the voices around him becoming unintelligible until a hand on his head brought him back.

“Hang on, Buck.” Eddie’s voice was in his ear, latching on to his best friend’s hand like it was his life line. He weakly squeezed the older man’s hand to let him know he was trying. He really was trying, but everything hurt. He could hear Chim calls for help moving the truck and to clear a path to the nearest trauma center.

They scrambled to try and lift the truck off. Buck screaming in agony as they tried and failed, Hen and Eddie telling him to hang in there. He wasn’t sure he could take it. Hen kept telling them to lift higher. He heard his best friend’s voice beside him saying something about leverage but he wasn’t sure what. It was then people started breaking through the police barrier to help. The crowd managed to lift the truck enough for Hen and Eddie to pull Buck free of the truck. Buck’s agonizing scream only fading when the movements stilled and they said he was clear. Buck was eerily silent as the loaded onto the backboard and again onto the stretcher. He could hear a jumbled mess of voices but he couldn’t fight the darkness that was dimming the world around him until it was gone.

Buck woke up to the sound of beeping and hushed voices. He tried to turn his head towards the voices but groaned in pain as he did. He heard a gasp.

“Buck? Buck, can you hear me?” It took him a second to realize it was Ali’s voice.

“Squeeze my hand if you can hear us, Buckaroo.” Buck recognized Carla’s voice and did as his friend asked. “That’s good Buckaroo. I’m going to go get a nurse.” Carla said, giving Buck’s hand a gentle squeeze before she left.

Buck tried to speak but Ali stopped him. “No, Buck, sweetie, you wont be able to say anything until they take the tube out.” He blinked up at her. “It’s okay.” She reached up and put a hand on his cheek. “Just relax, you’ve been through a lot.” Buck had so many question he wanted to ask but just thinking about them hurt his head. He let himself relax into the pillows. He was almost asleep when a nurse and a doctor entered the room. He tried to focus as the doctor explained what had happened. He felt like he was going to cough up a lung when the removed the breathing tube. The nurse helped him take a drink. When the doctors left and Carla returned Ali excused herself to make some phone calls.

“A week?” Buck asked.

“Mmhmm,” Carla nodded.

Chapter Text

Bobby watched as flames in the street. He could see some of his firefighter on the ground. When Athena had gotten details from the officer in charge Bobby’s became truly terrified. Evan Buckley, the youngest of his team and the one Bobby had cared for like a son, was pinned under the ladder truck with Freddie Costas standing over him with a bomb strapped to his chest. Bobby hadn’t felt this helpless or useless in a very long time. He could hear Freddie shouting. He knew what the kid wanted. He wanted Bobby to pay for what had happened to Freddie’s family. And from the looks of it he’d been more than happy to hurt Bobby’s family in the process. Bobby watched in horror as Freddie slammed Buck against the ground. After watching Chim fail to talk any sense into the kid, Bobby knew what he needed to do. He couldn’t just stand there and watch Buck die. He’d never forgive himself if that happened. He couldn’t lose another kid, especially not when Buck had fought so hard to change for the better. It was an easy choice he’d die for Buck if he had too. So he told Athena he loved her and headed towards the chaos. His hands in the air as he slowly approached Freddie, his chest tightened and his heart raced as he got a better look at Buck. He was in bad shape, face covered in blood and impossibly pinned. He had to find a way to get Buck out of there, but first he needed Freddie to leave him alone.

“Freddie,” Bobby called out to the bomber.

“I thought you’d be on the truck.” Freddie said, dropping Buck’s arm as he stood up. Bobby had to fight the urge to rush to the fallen firefighter as he groaned in pain, that would get them all killed.

“I’m here now.” Bobby said as he continued to approach them. “What’s next? It’s what you wanted”

“I wanted you dead.” Freddie told him, voice cold.

“I get that, what about them? What about him?” Bobby gestures to Buck.  “He’s got parents, a sister, a girlfriend, and he never did anything to you. He wasn’t even a firefighter when your father burned down that restaurant.”

Something seemed to shift in Freddie’s eyes. “You care about him, don’t you? Well how do you like it?” Freddie kicked the pinned firefighter in the ribs. Bobby physically flinched. He wasn’t sure how much more abuse Buck could take, but Freddie continued, “How does it feel to watch someone you care about kicked while they’re down?” He kicked Buck again. Bobby felt tears forming in his eyes as he watched Buck weakly curl in on himself on for Freddie to pull him up by the collar again, and speak directly to the injured firefighter. “How does it feel to be Collateral damage?” Freddie shook him when he didn’t get an answer from the injured man. Buck groaned.

Bobby blinked back his tears. He needed to keep his head about him. If Freddie knew how much watching Buck suffer hurt Bobby, then he’d just keep abusing the injured man until one of them ended up dead. Bobby couldn’t let that happen.

“Is that how you see yourself?” Bobby asked, trying to get Freddie’s attention back on him. “An unintended victim in all this?” It got the reaction he was hoping for. Freddie turned his full attention to Bobby, stepping away from Buck.

“Stop.” Freddie held up the detonator. “One more step and we all go boom.”

“Freddie, you got dealt a bad hand and I am sorry about that,” Bobby just needed to buy them a little more time, he just hoped Buck could hang on. “But what you did with it, that’s a choice. You stopped being a victim the moment you left that first bomb.”

“That lawyer,“ Freddie tried to argue.

“She did her job.” Bobby had cut his argument off. “We were all doing our jobs.”

“Destroying my family, my mom and I lost everything.” Freddie was angry again, but his anger was now squarely directed at Bobby. “She was in so much pain.”

Bobby noticed movement near the police line. “You want to make it worse? You want to make her watch you die?” He gestured for Freddie to look behind him, the young bomber turning to see his mother being escorted towards them.

“Freddie…” The boy’s mother called his name.

“Mom.” Freddie focusing on his mother gave Bobby the chance he needed. He grabbed Freddie, struggling until he managed to get a good grip on him and keep the boy’s thumb on the trigger as the police rush in, taking the detonator and Freddie with him. Bobby made sure that the police had taken him far enough away to not be a threat before turning back to Buck. The team was already there. Bobby wanted nothing more than to drop down beside Buck and take care of him, but he knew that wouldn’t do much good. He knew that they had to focus on getting Buck out of there. So as the other first responders rushed to help them try to lift the truck, Bobby and Chim both giving orders. They tried to lift the truck, Buck’s scream piercing Bobby’s heart as they struggled to even budge the truck. They tried again but it still would barely move.

“She’s too heavy.” Bobby shook his head. He wanted to scream.

“We got anything on the truck we can use for leverage?” Eddie asked.

“No, we need more people.” Bobby said as he turned to see if there was anyone else they could get to help them. Chim had just started to radio dispatch when they notice bystanders were pushing past the police line and rushing to help them. The told the people to do what they could to get a hand on the truck. Bobby counted off and they managed to lift the truck. They got it just high enough that Eddie and Hen had a chance to get Buck out. It was a small victory, but Bobby didn’t let that distract him. He moved to help get Buck on the backboard and onto the stretcher. He was keeping pace with it as they loaded him into the ambulance. Only letting himself feel relieved when he when the ambulance was pulling away. Athena joined him and they along with the rest of the 118 followed the ambulance to the hospital.

Hours passed as the team waited in the surgical waiting room. Bobby praying constantly for Buck to live, to not lose his leg, to just let him keep the one son he had left, tears flowing freely now. When an exhausted surgeon approached them Bobby held his breath. He listened as the doctor told Maddie that they had managed to save Buck’s leg, that they’d had to place a rod to do so, but they were optimistic. They were sure that Buck would walk again, but only if and when the swelling went down in his brain. They had to remove a piece of his skull to relieve the pressure. They wouldn’t know the true damage until Buck woke up, but for now they were keeping him in a medically induced coma to let his body heal. Bobby nearly threw up. He collapsed back into the chair. Buck was alive, but he’d never be the same.  Athena rushed to his side. He could hear her voice but nothing really made it past the words that just kept repeating in Bobby’s mind. This is my fault. It should have been me. This is my fault. He buried his head in his hands and sobbed. He could feel his fiancée trying to comfort him, but he didn’t really think he deserved it. If he had been a little faster, if he hadn’t been removed from duty, if he had figured it out sooner, Buck wouldn’t be in a medically induced coma.

They had to practically pry Bobby away from Buck’s bedside once they had finally let them see him. The captain was an absolute wreck. Athena did her best to make sure he took care of himself but it was only when Athena, Maddie, and Hen forced him to go home and sleep did they realize how bad it really was. Only agreeing to leave once they’ve established a schedule to make sure that Buck was never truly alone.  

Athena had managed to get him to sleep but when she checked on him an hour later he was sitting on the edge of the bed, head in his hands.

“Bobby…” She sighed. “You need to sleep.”

“I can’t.” He shook his head. “I close my eyes and I see him just lying there and-“

“I know.” She sat down beside him and wrapped her arms around him. “But you can’t do anything to help him if you’re too exhausted to function. When he wakes up he’s going to need all our help to get through this, you know that. So, try again, okay?”

Bobby nodded and silently laid back down. Athena deciding it was probably just easier to stay with him while he slept. Michael had taken the kids, so she could focus on taking care of her fiancé.

 

Days passed and they all had to return to the 118. The team is slowly trying to get back into the swing of things, but not having the youngest firefighter there was hanging over the crew like a dark cloud. A week after the bombing, they had just returned from a call when Eddie’s phone rang. It was Carla. Eddie panicked momentarily, thinking that something was wrong with his son, when he remembered that Christopher was with his Abuela. The relief didn’t last when he remembered why.

He rushed to answer his phone. “Hey Carla, is he okay?”

“He’s awake,” Carla didn’t hesitate to answer.

“What?” Eddie asks, almost unable to believe what she’d said.

“Buck’s awake. Ali is in with him now. Maddie is on her way here. You guys should be on your way too.”

“We’ll be there soon. Thanks Carla.”

Eddie hung up the phone and ran back to the team. “We gotta go!” Eddie shouted as he reached them. “He’s awake. Buck’s awake.”

“How is he?” Bobby asked.

“I don’t know. Carla just said that Ali was with him, Maddie was on her way, and that we should get down there.”

“Let’s go.” Bobby said, already ushering them towards the truck.

When they reached Buck’s room, Eddie went over to quietly talk to Carla. Bobby moved to the open door and knocked. Maddie came out from around the curtain, a sad smile on her face.

“How is he?” Bobby asked.

“He’s awake, he’s happier now that the tube is out and he can breathe on his own.”

“But he’s talking?”

“Yeah,” Maddie nodded. “His speech is still a bit slurred but they hope it’ll return to normal once the rest of the swelling goes down.”

“Does he remember anything?” Bobby knew he sounded desperate.

“Not much, bits and pieces. He remembers the truck crushing his leg, but the rest of it is a bit of a blur.”

“Are we considering that a good thing or a bad thing?” Chim asked as he joined them.

“Not sure yet, it means he doesn’t remember being in such terrible pain.”

“But it also means he could have lost more than just what happened.” Bobby spoke.

Maddie nodded. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Can we see him?” Eddie asked as he moved to stand beside them.

“Yeah,” Maddie led them into the room and drawing the curtain back. Ali stood up from where she had been sitting on the edge of bed.

“Hey guys.” Buck said, his voice gravely from having been intubated for so long.

“I’m going to grab a cup of coffee,” Ali said, she gave Buck a quick kiss before leaving.

No one seemed to know what to say. It was Hen who finally broke the silence.

“Hey Buckaroo,” Hen smiled. “You gave us one hell of a scare.”

“So I hear.” Buck said frowning. “Ali showed me the news clip.”

Bobby flinched.

“Nah, ‘s okay,” Buck said, “Doc said ‘m gonna be fine, didn’t they Mads?” He slowly turned to look at his sister. Maddie nodded, a tightlipped smile on her face. “See, Cap, ‘sall good.” Buck gave him a lopsided smile and shrugged, an action that had his hissing in pain. Bobby rushed to his side.

“Not quite.” Bobby said, “But you’re going to be okay, we’ll make sure of it.”

Buck nodded. It was silent for a minute before Eddie spoke. “Chris drew you a bunch of pictures to try to cheer you up. I’m sure he’ll want to drop them off himself.”

A bright smile returned to the injured firefighter’s face at the mention of Christopher. “He’s too sweet.”

“He really is,” Eddie smiled fondly. He knew how much his best friend meant to his son. “I’ll have to bring him by tomorrow.”

“Yeah, do that.” Buck nodded, winching slightly as the motion hurt his head.

“I will.” Eddie assure him.

They all talked for a little bit before Maddie and most of the team excused themselves. They all left until it was just Bobby in the room with Buck.

“Cap, ‘s not your fault. K?” Buck said, patting Bobby’s arm.

“Buck…” Bobby started to correct him but it was waved off by Buck’s uninjured arm.

“Not like you slammed my head ‘gainst the ground.” Buck said matter of factly. Bobby winced at the bluntness of it.

“You’re like me,” Buck grinned. “You think ‘s always your fault. Tha’ if you had done this or whatever, you coulda fixed it, but I don’ think you coulda fixed this.” Buck gestured wildly with his uninjured arm. Bobby caught Buck’s hand in his and held it. He didn’t need the kid accidently hurting himself because he was on pain killers with a head injury.

“I’m sorry, Buck. I really am.” Bobby gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “He was after me and you got caught in the crosshairs.” Bobby blinked back tears. “You’re in here because he wanted me to suffer and hurting my family was the easiest way to do that.”

“I’m your family?” Buck asked his eyes filled with what Bobby could only describe as hope.

Bobby put the hand that wasn’t already holding the kid’s hand on his shoulder. “Buck, you are very much a part of my family, you’re…” Bobby decided to just come out and say it. “You’re like a son to me.” Bobby saw a few tears fall from the younger man’s eyes and for a moment Bobby was worried, but the worry subsided when Buck smiled up at him.

“You’re the best dad I ever had.” Buck admitted. Bobby could feel his own tears now. He couldn’t speak around the lump in his throat, so he settled for gently pulling the younger man into a hug.

They both looked up when they heard someone clear their throat by the door. “Sorry to interrupt.” A nurse spoke, “I need to check Mr. Buckley’s vital and change his IV.”

“Yeah, of course.” Bobby stepped aside to let the nurse work. He was joined by Maddie and Ali soon after. The pain meds the nurse added to Buck’s IV clearly taking hold as the firefighter quickly drifted off to sleep.

“We should probably head back to the station.” Bobby said.

“We’ll let him know you said goodbye.” Maddie said, Ali nodding in agreement as she took a seat beside her now sleeping boyfriend. “I’ll walk you guys out.” Maddie smiled.