“9-1-1, what is your emergency?”
“Hi, can someone come check on my neighbour, we heard a huge crash come from his place about 10 minutes ago and now he’s not answering the door, he’s been on crutches and his place has a lot of stairs”
It’s an innocuous enough call, but 30 minutes later, Josh still can’t shake the feeling he’s missed something important. Something about the address is familiar. He’s never lived anywhere near there, and he’s pretty sure he’s never dated anyone with that address. Maybe he went there once for something. Oh well, he can always check the log if it’s still bothering him by the end of his shift.
Carla is just about to head home for the night when Eddie’s phone rings.
“Hi, Eddie speaking” Eddie answers.
“Hi, this is Maddison from Mercy King Hospital, I’m calling about Evan Buckley” the voice on the other end replies. Eddie can feel the anxiety rise in his chest, what the hell has Buck done this time.
“Is Buck ok?” Eddie asks, switching his phone to speaker so Carla can hear the reply. The 118 might not be speaking to Buck at the moment, but he knows that Carla still is.
“He’s in a stable condition in ICU, but it’s probably better if we talk in person” Maddison replies. “Are you able to get here?”
Carla nods without hesitation, signalling Eddie to go. “I’ll be there as soon as I can” Eddie replies before hanging up the phone.
“Go” Carla says before he can get a word out. “I’ll stay, call me when you get there, and drive safe, last thing we need is you and Buck in adjoining rooms.”
Eddie arrives at the hospital in record time, he gives his name to the nurse at the desk but before she can stop him, he sees Buck’s room and runs straight in.
Buck is unconscious, wearing an oxygen mask and hooked up to multiple machines. The medic in Eddie notes that Buck’s vitals are within normal range, although all of them are on the low side. Without thinking, Eddie grabs Buck’s hand and squeezes, hoping to get a reaction but Buck doesn’t stir.
“Hi, you must be Eddie” He recognises the voice from the phone and looks up to see a young woman standing by the door. “I’m Maddison, why don’t we talk outside” She must notice the flash of panic that crosses Eddie’s face as he thinks of leaving Buck alone. “Don’t worry, we’re only going outside, you’ll be able to see Evan the whole time”.
“Buck” Eddie states, giving Buck’s hand another squeeze before crossing the room, “He prefers to be called Buck”
Maddison steps aside to allow Eddie to leave the room and then closes the glass door, she takes a moment to compose herself before turning back, giving family members the kind of news she’s about to deliver is never easy. “So, what happened?” Eddie asks when Maddison turns to face him, “Was he in some kind of accident?”
“Why don’t you sit down first” Maddison suggests, guiding Eddie into a chair just behind him. God, she hates this part, he has no idea of what she’s about to tell him. Sometimes it’s easier when the family already knows, when there’s been warning signs and they’ve been expecting it for a while. It’s easier to believe, easier to understand. “Buck’s neighbour called 9-1-1, they heard the crash and couldn’t get inside to check he was ok. When first responders arrived, they had to break down the door and they found Buck, he wasn’t conscious and he hasn’t woken up yet.”
“So you don’t know how this happened?” Eddie asked, maybe this is why they didn’t want to tell him on the phone, they didn’t actually know what happened.
“No, we have a pretty clear understanding of what happened” Maddison replies firmly. “Eddie, has Buck ever attempted suicide before?”
“What!?” Eddie responded on instinct, “Of course not, he’d never do that.”
“Eddie, this wasn’t an accident” Maddison replies. Before she can say anymore, Buck begins to stir and she grabs Eddie’s arm to stop him from getting up. Two other nurses walk into Buck’s room and start making the standard checks. The more conscious Buck becomes, the more distressed he becomes. Two more staff arrive and one of them closes the door on the way in so they can’t hear what Buck is saying. Just the visual is enough, he’s sobbing, huge, violent, ugly sobs that are painful to watch. He looks like he’s pleading with them, Maddison’s done this job long enough to know what he’s saying, and it’s not a good sign. She glances over at Eddie to see how he’s reacting to all of this, the man is crying silently and holding a hand over his mouth. The door to Buck’s room opens and Gabby steps out, she shakes her head and then heads off down the corridor without a word. The open door allows them to hear the sobs, it makes it so much worse. Seconds later, Gabby is back and heads into the room. Within seconds of the medication entering the catheter in Buck’s hands he starts to become calmer. A few minutes later he’s asleep again and the team exit his room. “You can go and sit with him a while if you want, he’ll be asleep for another couple of hours now.”
Eddie’s sitting in the awful hospital chair, trying to remember how to breath, how to think clearly, to figure out how the hell he missed this. Buck could have died. He looks up when the door slides open, expecting one of the nurses but surprised to see Athena instead.
“One of the officers at the scene recognised Buck” Athena explains in lieu of a greeting, “Ran into him on my way out of the station.” That explains why Athena is alone and not in uniform. “What happened, who did this to him?”
“He did this to himself” Eddie replies, although he still doesn’t really believe the words to be true.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Athena growls back, she and Buck may be having a difference of opinion about his life choices right now but how dare that man speak ill of her child, not while he’s lying in a hospital bed.
“He tried to k-“ Eddie chokes on the word, a fresh round of tear sting his eyes and nausea rises in his gut, “He, he tried to….”
“No” Athena feels like someone punched her in the face, she’s been through this before and she never thought it’d happen again. She rushes over to the bed, taking Buck’s hand and pressing their foreheads together gently, she doesn’t even realise she’s crying. “No, baby, what happened?.”
Eddie watches, helpless. Athena is one of the strongest women he’s ever meet and she’s sobbing over his best friend’s unconscious body in a way that reminds him of Buck’s distress when he regained consciousness. Minutes later, Eddie senses another presence in the room and looks up to see Maddie and Chimney in the doorway. He taps Athena on the shoulder to let her know that they are no longer alone.
“H-Hi” Eddie stutters, not sure what Maddie already knows or what she might suspect. Maddison had promised to call her before leaving Eddie alone in the room, but Eddie had gone straight to Buck before seeing the nurse, he won’t put in past Maddie to do the same.
“We already spoke to Maddison” Maddie says quietly. She’s hovering in the doorway and looking everywhere but at her brother, like if she doesn’t see him in this hospital bed then this is not really happening. Chimney guides her into the room gently and into the chair Eddie had vacated when Athena arrived. The room is quiet. Athena is sobbing gently still holding Buck like she’s scared he’ll vanish into thin air if she lets go. Maddie is staring at the ceiling tiles as the tears roll down her face. Chimney stands behind Maddie, placing a hand on her shoulder before briefly leaning forward to place Maddie’s hand in Buck’s. Eddie hovers by Athena, not sure what his place is here anymore, he’s said something things to Buck recently that he’s not sure he can take back, he’s not sure if Buck would even want him here if he was able to make the choice.
Two gentle raps on the door brings Eddie back from his thoughts, he looks over to see Maddison quietly step into the room and close the door behind her.
“So, Buck is stable for the moment, but he was extremely distressed when he woke up so we had to sedate him to keep him safe” Maddison says quietly, “As far as we know, Buck doesn’t have a history of depression, is there anyone else he might have reached out to?”
“You mean did he leave a note?” Chimney asks sceptically, it’s a myth that everyone leaves a note, because most people who do this sort of thing don’t believe there’s anyone in their life that would take the time to read it.
“Not a note necessary” Maddison doesn’t miss the scepticism, “Sometimes people might put something on social media, or send a message.”
“No, Buck hasn’t posted anything in a while. I would have gotten a notification if he did.” Maddie replies. “He hasn’t messaged me in a few days, but that’s not unusual for Buck, he’s pretty busy.” Chimney and Athena both confirm he hasn’t contacted them either.
“No, he hasn’t spoken to me in weeks” Eddie says when all eyes turn to him, then a thought occurs to him that has him scrambling for his phone, “But maybe, Christopher”
“Christopher?” Athena asks.
“He has this app so he can message family back in El Paso” Eddie explains as he searches for the icon, “He talks to Buck on it too, and I have access to all the messages.” He finally finds the icon and pulls up the chain between Christopher and Buck. “He messaged Chris this afternoon.”
“What did it say?” Maddie asks quietly, not really believing Buck would send anything this serious to an eight-year old boy. She sees Eddie becoming overwhelmed, his free hand balls into a fist and covers his mouth, tears spring to his eyes as he holds the phone out to Maddie.
Christopher: I miss you Bucky.
Christopher: Can you come watch movies with me and Dad tonight?
Buck: I miss you too kiddo.
Buck: Can you remember something for me?
Buck: No matter what anyone says, I love you more than anything in this world.
Buck: I’ll always be watching out for you kiddo, okay?
Buck: I’ll always be your Bucky.
Christopher: I love you too.
“He said goodbye to Christopher” Eddie supplies for the rest of the room as Maddie reads.
“No, no, no” Maddie sobs. He had planned this, Buck had said goodbye to the most important person in his life, he knew what he was doing.
“Ok” Maddison says, getting the attention of the room. “Buck is going to be asleep for the rest of the night, why don’t you all head home, try to get some sleep and come back to see him in the morning.” It’s said as a suggestion but they’re all familiar with the tone, Chimney helps Maddie to her feet as Eddie grabs his keys and his wallet from the table by Buck’s bed. “Well take good care of him and we’ll call if anything changes”
They all shuffle down the corridor to the elevator without saying a word. When they get to the parking garage they all hug silently before heading off in separate directions.
The next morning, Eddie arrives at the hospital first thing in the morning, right as visiting hours begin. He gives his name to the nurse at the desk who frowns in return.
“I’m sorry, Mr Buckley is refusing all visitors” The nurse replies coldly.
“Are you sure, could you check with him?” Eddie pleads, “I was here last night, I’m his emergency contact, is Maddison still here.” He can hear the desperation in his voice but Eddie can’t bring himself to be embarrassed for begging a complete stranger to let him see his best friend.
“I’ll see what I can do” The nurse replies before walking away, the doors separating him from Buck remain firmly closed in front of him. Eddie turns around to see the ICU waiting room and finds a familiar face.
“He won’t see me either” Hen whispers to Eddie as she sits between her and Maddie, “Or Maddie, we both tried but Nurse Ratchet will not be swayed.”
They sit in an awkward silence, none of them sure what to do or what to say. Eddie can’t really blame Buck for not wanting to see him, but he didn’t expect him not to want to see Maddie. Minutes later Athena rushes in with May following close behind her, before any of them can warn her she’s speaking to the nurse, “Athena Grant, I’m here to see Evan Buckley” they all recognise the tone, it’s her Sargent Grant voice.
Nurse Ratchet doesn’t even flinch, “Mr Buckley is not seeing visitors at this time”.
“I’m his mother” Athena replies, her Sargent Grant voice slips and the anguish is clear in her tone. “I need to see him”.
“You can wait with the rest of your family” Nurse Ratchet replies, waving towards the rest of them dismissively. May tugs her mother away from the desk before she can make a scene, pulling her towards the rest of them.
May gently pushes her mother into a seat beside Chimney. Hen slides over, making space between her and Eddie. May slips in between them, sitting down and drawing her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. Eddie moves his arm around the back of May’s chair, not sure if he should try and comfort the young girl or not. He knows that May and Buck are close, they talk all the time, mostly online but they catch up every couple of weeks for what they jokingly call their sibling bonding night. A few minutes later May leans into Eddie’s side and he doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arm around her. Maddie might be Buck’s only sister by blood, but May is his sister in every other way that counts.
A few minutes later another familiar face walks past and straight up to the desk. “Hi, I’m Carla Price, here to see Evan Buckley” Carla states. They all hold their breath, waiting for Carla to be turned away like the rest of them.
“You can go in, he’s expecting you” Nurse Ratchet replies.