There is a pattern in Buck’s life which he doesn’t quite want to think about, and that is the biggest irony in it all, if he says so himself. He is not someone who doesn’t have problems. Actually, he has one in every place he looked, but he has a good way of just not looking. Maddie always faces everything head on, the second she knew there was work to be done, she’d be on it. No matter what, homework, projects, covering a shift at work, Maddie always says that the worst thing to do is putting things off. Buck can all but see her with her pink planner, white Make it a regular habit to overwhelm someone with your kindness banner surrounded by flowers and birds on the front, writing all of her appointments down, color coded and well thought out.
Buck is just not that. He doesn’t even so much as own a planner, the reminders app on his phone stepped up as poor substitute, but as long as it is working why fix it. That is him. Why worry about something now, when you can worry about it tomorrow? There are a lot of things to be found wrong in his logic and he can be the bigger man and admit that, but it works. It works for his appointments and it works for the leaky facet in his kitchen that he is definitely going to repair first thing tomorrow for the past week. It works for the coatrack he is absolutely going to hang onto the wall first thing tomorrow since he’s moved in. And it also works for his problems.
There is nothing wrong with his leg, it just cramps up and hurts, but it is nothing to lose sleep or his job over, until the moment he starts throwing up blood. There is nothing wrong with being haunted by nightmares that crash him underneath the weight of wave after wave of water, blood, darkness, pressing him down and down, until he has lost so much sleep, his team noticed. And there is nothing wrong with knowing that he is always the one who is eventually left behind until yet another door falls shut between him and a person he thought was going to stay.
But most importantly, there is nothing wrong with being the only person without plans on a Friday night, because well, there had to be a person to buy the microwave burritos and watch the trashy evening Tv shows, right? It is what made the world go round, the balance of it all. If everybody was always surrounded by people, who was going to think about keeping up with the Kardashians? Who is going to say yes to the dress?
So, there is no problem.
And there continues to be no problem.
Buck says yes to the second burrito when the sun began to set and is still on the couch by the time sunrise begins. But that is not a problem. He is content and happy. There is always the thought of going back to work in two days and there he will see his family for a whole day, maybe even Christopher is going to visit and really, where could a problem even hide in that.
”Wish I could, man,” Eddie says and walks backwards out of the locker room with an elegance Buck knows he couldn’t have mustered. ”Christopher is hosting his first sleepover tonight.”
Buck knows that. Christopher has asked him for fun sleepover games all week long and Buck put all of his energy into finding the loudest games ever thought of, to give Eddie the deluxe experience, too. He is a good friend like that.
”Tonight’s date night with Karen.” Buck nods at Hen. Karen is alone at home with two kids all day long, it figures that a date night isn’t really something she’d want to change up to going to a dirty bar and wake up hungover to said kids.
”Yeah, I’m sorry Buck but, uh.” Buck knows the Uhs. It’s the sound people make when they try to turn you down as politely as possible but don’t quite have the words for it. It isn’t Bobby’s fault, there aren’t good words to turn a person down, really. ”Athena and I are also having a date night.”
Buck nods again, the second time in 30 seconds. He shakes his head minutely just to not look too suspicious. He really is okay with it, he understands. After a 24 hour shift, it really is good to just go home and spend time with your loved ones. It is a great concept, nothing to be said against it.
It just sucks when there is no loved one to spend time with. Buck frowns and turns to Chimney. He doesn’t even need to ask. He’s seen the pink colored, bold font, double underlined, capitalized Chimney Date - Lasagna, Movie in Maddie’s planner when he’s gone through it a few days ago. Maddie shook her head at him like he was the crazy one, but he just was honestly impressed by how planned through her life was. He put his fingers on the blue Buck - Tell him to cut hair, that was written right on that day. It was like reading a prophesy, like Maddie was somehow psychic.
”No offence.” Absolutely none taken, but Buck feels like he has taken some other kind of damage. There is something knocking in the back of his head, something wants to be let in, but Buck is already housing too many issues and bad thoughts in his head, he really doesn’t feel like listening. ”You are not the Buckley I looked forward to spending my night with.”
”I know,” Buck smiles and puts on his jacket. ”Lasagna.”
Chimney smiles back at him but his eyes look dreamy in a way that show that in thought he is already at home, eating his damn lasagna with a loved one.
And it is okay. There is no problem in being the only one always looking forward to going to work to see his family again while all of them did the exact opposite and just wanted to get back home. As long as he doesn’t connect a bad feeling with all of it, it will just stay exactly what it is. A normality with no sense to overthink.
I’m not, Buck eats a handful of Cheetos and munches on them so loudly, he turns the subtitles for Sugar Rush on. He doesn’t add anything else. There is no words that is supposed to be there. He just isn’t. There might be something, somewhere that may describe his way of living but whatever it is, it doesn’t apply to him.
”That’s too much fondant,” he says through his mouthful of Cheetos. ”Zumbo will hate it!” There is no better way to spend the night, right.
”Funny,” Eddie deadpans at him instead of a greeting. Buck shoots him a shit eating grin. Eddie shakes his head and rolls his eyes. ”Really funny.”
Hen walks in after Eddie and looks between them dubiously. Buck figures it was a fair reaction, they are an odd couple, if asked what their conversations are about, it could go either way. Hen hangs her jacket up in silence but then turns around and looks at Eddie. ”What did he do?”
Buck huffs in mock offense. ”Being my hilarious self, obviously.”
”Absolutely hilarious,” Eddie says dry like a desert.
Buck points with his thumbs to himself and wiggles with his eyebrows. ”All of you are so blessed to have me around.”
Hen and Eddie look at him so unimpressed, Buck puts a hand over his chest dramatically. ”You love me.”
”Ten 9 year olds woke me at 1 am this morning.” Eddie turns to Hen instead of answering Buck. ”Guess why.”
Hen looks between him and Eddie again and then nods like she doesn’t even need more of an explanation. Buck hopes she’ll still listen to it because he was actually pretty proud of it. They might not want him around all the time but he can act like they do.
”Buck,” Hen answers and shoots him a look.
”Buck,” Eddie repeats and Buck just stands there, unsure if he should also just say his name or make a joke about how weird this conversation must look in an outside perspective.
”Buck, who is super hilarious,” Buck adds because he is not going to miss a chance to remind them.
Eddie rolls his eyes so hard, Buck swore he could hear it. ”He told Chris that it is tradition to play Electro Music as loud as possible at 1 am.”
”Dunz Dunz Dunz Dunz Duh Eeeeh Eeh Dunz,” Buck adds helpfully as if Hen needed an audible sample of how funny his prank actually was.
”Dunz Dunz,” Eddie mocks and then locks long suffering eyes with Hen. Buck guesses that was fair. ”Next time I insist that you come over too, then you can be the one who puts a litter of 10 year olds back to sleep.”
Buck doesn’t see how spending time with Eddie and Chris could ever be a threat, it is his favourite thing to do after all. He already opens his mouth to tell Eddie just that but then stops himself. It feels too emotional for the easy conversation they have going on here. There was something heavy and real in the subtext and Buck is not going to dig into that just now.
Instead he smiles and raises his hands in a Oh well gesture because he knows causal, he can totally be the normal amount of emotional depended right now.
Hen snickers and thus saves him from actually having to say something that would support his casual demeanour. ”Maybe he finds new friends his age.”
”That’s hilarious,” Buck answers as dry as Eddie has just a few minutes ago and he can’t help but think that he actually learned that tone from his best friend.
Eddie laughs and knocks his shoulder against Buck’s and suddenly, finding a good counter for what Hen’s said is of secondary importance at best.
Buck does a little swirl around the coffee table, swaying his hips to the sound of the intro music of Sugar Rush because he lives alone and doesn’t have to look good and graceful for anyone. He flops down on the couch, balancing his bowl with cornflakes on his chest, spilling some on his shirt and not wasting a single thought over it.
”Toooo much fondant,” he singsongs to himself and then slurps the rest of the milk off his spoon.
I can be my own best company, Buck thinks to himself while he tells his Tv that the cupcakes looked like they are just barely more than a pile of ash. He can be the one to laugh about his own comments. The others might have date nights and family time but he can go to his kitchen and eat the rest of his cereal dry straight out of the box until 4 am, so who is the real winner.
”You know what an annoying plot line is?” Buck kicks Eddie’s leg under the table until the other man looks up at him.
”You know that I can hear you without looking at you?” He asks amusedly and then points to his ear like he actually expects Buck to ask how he is supposed to hear without using his eyes to do so. Buck kicks him again, harder. ”Ass.”
Buck shrugs and digs into his plate of ravioli. Bobby actually made them himself and so unknowingly prevented Buck from finishing his whole 7 days in a row of microwaved food only. Maybe it is more of a saving than preventing. Buck is not going to lose a deeper thought over it. ”So, annoying plot in series, I got 3 ready and loaded.”
Eddie takes a sip of his water and pushes it around his mouth for a few seconds in thought. Buck thinks of how much he would have spilled the water all over himself if he had been the one to do that. ”It has been a while since —”
”You got laid.”
”— I watched a movie that wasn’t animated or included talking animals or played on Disney Channel Kids.” Eddie finishes his sentence and just then seems to register what Buck has thrown in. Buck shoots him shit eating grin and Eddie just shakes his head. ”There is some saying about glasshouses, but I won’t go there.”
Buck shrugs, he figures that is fair enough. ”We should go and watch a movie together, man. You gotta escape Netflix Kids.”
Eddie sighs, the sound of a father who has seen one lamp stumping on an I too many. ”Please.”
Buck gives him a thumbs up and makes a mental note to look up movie times later. He is a good friends like that.
”So what are annoying tropes?” Eddie asks after a beat. He looks mildly interested and that was all Buck needed.
Buck raises three fingers as if he needed to visualise the really complex concept of three. ”First, a fight based on nothing but the fact that the characters just won’t talk.” Eddie nods. ”When somebody accidentally kills someone and doesn’t call the police but covers it up instead and then Oh!” Buck pulls his face into something overly dramatic as if he walked in on a surprise party he’s already known all about. ”Gets hit by consequences and three,” He wiggles with his last remanding finger extravagantly. ”When somebody is for some reason, like blackmail or dude, I don’t know, demonic possession if you want; a super duper grand A asshole and none of his friends question it.”
Buck finishes with finger guns pointing at Eddie who frowns in thought. ”Weirdly specific,” he supplies but then shrugs and nods. ”Somebody here is not a fan of cheap drama.”
Buck rolls his eyes. ”I want the plot twists. The character development. The tragedy. The tears.”
”You are watching baking shows all day, what do you know about all that.” Eddie’s grin is teasing and breathtakingly beautiful and Buck doesn’t know what makes him feel more taken aback. His thought process or that Eddie for some reason knows what Buck is doing instead of sleeping.
For a second he sees it all in front of his inner eye, the drones in front of his windows and little cameras littered through his apartment, Eddie watching him spending his evenings in his best personalisation of the word pathetic and the color insomniac green. A second later he shakes his head and tells himself No more murder documentaries for you, mister! Because somebody needs to punish him for being completely ridiculous.
”How do you know?” Buck asks, tone not half as suspicious as it could have been, considering his latest absolutely slam dunk of train of thoughts.
Eddie huffs in amusement and taps against his head as if he was trying to ask Buck where his brain is since it’s certainly not here with them. ”We share a Netflix account.”
Buck licks his lips. Yes, that is in fact something they are doing. He is searching for a good answer while his head just goes Du-Duun, the sound that lulled him to sleep every night around 5 am.
”So Angst, Good Writing and Tears, how?” Eddie repeated, tone teasing and easy and Buck felt his shoulders relax and brings his own smile back onto his face.
”Dude,” Buck says and points at his best friend, because apparently he feels the dying need to test how often he could gesture at him before somebody calls him out for being restless. It is the coffee he drank when he got up. And then again when he gets out of the shower. Before he leaves the house. First thing when he gets at work. And then just every chance he gets. Falling asleep at 5 am every day and waking up again at 9 is not something that comes without a price but who is Buck to see this as a problem that needed fixing? It is alright. Coffee tastes good and gives him something to do. There is nothing to be analysed here. ”I’ll let you know that I cried over a baking show, thank you very much.”
Eddie laughs but then nods in agreement. ”Baking shows are brutal, man.”
”Exactly!” Buck exclaims and nearly hits Eddie with the ravioli he has successfully picked up with his fork. ”My favourite baker was absolutely losing her nerves in the kitchen, what was I supposed to do but feel with her?”
She was screwing one thing up and promptly the next as if she was getting payed to try and burn the whole building down. But she was trying so hard and nothing would work and she was crying and so what if Buck also cried a single tear into his pizza grease stained napkin, just out of solidarity.
I’m not, Buck thinks again, later that evening but this time his brain immediately supplies the word Lonely? And Buck shakes his head violently to make it shut up. How is he lonely? He isn’t. He’s spend his entire day with his make shift family. He’s gotten out of his last relationship like yesterday, he is young and can totally just be on his on for a while.
”Oh!” He says and pulls his snuggles tighter around his shoulders. ”A Sugar Rush Christmas Edition!”
And when the red Netflix N turns into techno coloured lines, the thought is already out of his mind as if he’s never thought it to begin with.
Buck looks at the planner Maddie held out to him dubiously. He feels like if he touches it, he will get an electro shock or slowly turn into Maddie or something equally disturbing.
”It won’t bite,” Maddie laughs. Buck shakes his head, he didn’t even think so. His mind is a lot more creative than that.
”I know that, don’t be ridiculous,” he says and takes it, waiting for a current to run through his veins, maybe. ”That is a planner,” he spells out slowly as if he doubted Maddie knows that.
She rolls her eyes and nods. ”Good eyes you got there, Sherlock!”
Buck looks at the little book. There was a puppy with headphones on the cover and a little speech bubble above his head that read Never be afraid to be wrong. Accept. Learn. Grow. The fond is brown with a forest in the background.
”Wood,” Buck says intelligible, trying not to look like he has to take a second to think about what date it even is.
”Why do you get a quote about kindness and I get one about being wrong?”Maddie shrugs, but there was the little smile on her lips that Buck knows to read for the amusement of her own joke that it was. ”Just accept the gift.”
”The gift and the insult,” Buck laughs and opens the book to May, which he is pretty sure is correct or at least close enough.
”I should have bought one with a quote about gratefulness instead,” Maddie lays one hand on her forehead as if she was about to over dramatically faint at having not thought about it sooner.
”Never be afraid to make mistakes,” Buck supplies, smiling her own smile back at her. ”Maddie, grow.”
”Thank you, Maddie,” she mocks and hugs her arms around herself extravagantly. ”You are the best sister. Oh what, don’t worry about it, Evan, I always try to help where I can.”
”Thank you, Maddie,” he repeats dutifully and flips to the next page. There is a little turtle holding up a sign that read Even the worst day only lasts 24 hours! Buck scoffs and looks up at his sister. ”Wow, this turtle has issues. Is there a motivational animal on every page?”
Maddie huffs and takes the planner out of his hands. ”Don’t be ridiculous.” She flips through the pages and then holds it up for him to see. ”Look, there are fun facts too. You are so ungrateful and that’s why you don’t know that -” she turns the book to face her and raises her eyebrows. ”Texas is the largest of the contiguous states.”
”No!” Buck gapes at his sister in mock surprise. ”You are pulling my leg. Texas? No.”
Maddie rolls her eyes and hands the planner back to him. ”Okay, this might not be the best example, normally these fun facts are actually quite educational.”
”Eddie is from Texas,” Buck says with no real reason or prompting. He smiles at his sister and begins to flip though the pages of his planer again. He doubts he’d really use it but it was a nice gesture.
Buck feels his sister’s gaze on the side of his face and when he looks up, her smile looks a little thoughtful.
”What.” Buck says suspiciously. He knows his sister and he knows better than to trust her thoughtful smiles. He still hear the I totally think that black hair is a good idea for you, really, echo in his head from the last time he’s trusted her expression.
It had not been a good idea. Not at all. Not even a tiny bit. He’s learned his lesson there.
Maddie shrugs innocently and tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear. ”So what is Eddie up to?”
Buck narrows his eyes at her and answers her in slow, calculated words. She’d be able to use any thoughtless syllable against him. ”I’ll go and see him later tonight.”
”Hm,” Maddie hums perfectly innocent. Buck narrows his eyes further. Somehow, he’s opened a can of worms but he didn’t read the tag. He has no idea what is gonna come from this. But he knows better than to trust Maddie humming Hm in that way. It is the sound of the wheels in her head turning. There is no reason for those wheels to move at all right now.
”You are acting weird,” Buck concludes and presses his planner to his chest as if it can protect him from whatever she is cooking up right now. ”Just so you know.”
”I didn’t do anything,” she says but doesn’t sound defensive at all. She just smiles and somehow it convinces Buck all the more that this was going to be a thing from now on.
He shrugs and snips her forehead. ”Maddie, you not overwhelming me with your kindness right now.”
Buck walks out the front door with the renewed awareness that Texas is the largest state, the brown planer in his iron grip and the feeling that he is missing something that nobody can even know yet but Maddie. She always seems to see right through things before they even happened.
”Hey, Chris!” Buck calls and looks at the boy who is stacking legos on the carpet in front of the couch. ”Did you know that Texas is the largest state?”
“It‘s Alaska.“ The look Chris shoots his way is dry and Buck feels like he deserved that. He stays until late in the night, tucking Chris in his bed together with Eddie. It feels familiar and he hopes whatever dark part of his subconscious, the one that has made him feel all weird about having no-one but his team a few days ago, is watching right now. How could he be anything but happy when he has all of this?
”She is evil. I bet she is.” Buck looks deep into Eddie’s eyes as if he is sharing a well guarded family secret that will be vital for the survival of the human race. ”I’m willing to die on this hill.”
”I feel like you are a bit too invested in a series, man,” Eddie says. Chris is long since asleep but the two of them settled on the couch and are nursing beers.
Buck waves him off. ”I know but that doesn’t matter. She has got to be evil. Mark my words.”
Eddie shakes his head and laughs in that little private way he sometimes does that makes Buck want to record the sound and just listen to on a bad day. It sounds so pure and happy as if it had the power to lighten up the entire world. All of which is obviously also not a thing he should examine further and think about. Why make it a problem when it feels this right, right?
I died on the hill, Buck texts Eddie while the happy ending scene is still playing on Tv, the woman and her boyfriend driving into the metaphorical sunset, happily.
Eddie doesn’t answer until the next morning because Eddie is an adult who actually has a grip on life, Look at your choices, Buck!, so what.
Haha! Eddie texts back and adds nothing else and well, thank you for nothing. Buck sighs and lays his head back onto the headrest. He has nothing to do.
He is bored. Bored and something else that claws away underneath his skin and makes him want to turn the Tv on, just so something would fill the complete silence around him. He feels restless and exhausted all at the same time, he wants to get up and run a few miles but also find his softest blanket and roll himself up into it until there is no more confusion. Until the silence stops feeling like it is suffocating him slowly.
Buck looks around his apartment. Huh. He is all alone.
There has to be word that can explain what he feels right now because conflicted doesn’t seem to cut it. He just doesn’t get it. He was fine an hour ago. He was laughing with Eddie and with Chris but when the door of his apartment fell shut behind him, suddenly, there is a black hole opening up in his chest, threatening to swallow him whole.
He feels fine at work the next day.
Coming home to 48 hours of free time has no business feeling like it was a punishment. Sure it feels like a prison, just sometimes, but whose apartment doesn’t, right?
Going to work feels like he is finally able to take a breath again. 24 hours go over way too quickly when he doesn’t spent them constantly thinking about where all of his friends went. Or when exactly all of his friends had found someone to settle down with and he has nobody but judges of Sugar Rush and a couple numbers in his phone that he can’t just keep calling when he felt like that, because they all needed time to spend in peace with their families.
It takes another 48 hours and the finishing of that last episode of Sugar Rush for Buck to see it all for what it was. The credits are rolling down the screen and Buck is reaching for the remote to look for the next show to binge watch, when he stops.
He blinks at his reflection in the black screen. Lonely.
He is all alone. Everybody he considers his closest friends and family are just that until they can go home to their actual families but he doesn’t have that. He just has them.
Buck blinks again and looks around his apartment. There are his things. His shoes by the door, his dirty plates in the sink, his food in the fridge. There is one indent in the couch from where he always sits, there are his favourite chips stored in the cabinets. There is one glas and one plate on the coffee table.
There is nobody but him. And it is okay and more okay and is still okay, until it just isn’t anymore.
Buck picks up the remote and presses play on the first thing he sees. DunDun echos through his living room as he settles back into his couch pillows. All of those thoughts seem like the perfect case of what he doesn’t think about can’t hurt him.
If there is anything Evan Buckley can do, it‘s ignoring issues so hard and consequently, they just go away on their own. Some things are better left not thought about.
Problem is, if he was to think about it, which he isn’t because why, there is nothing wrong. Nothing wrong at all. Everybody does an hour long research about when the next season of Sugar Rush is going to be released, fewer or later, so what. But if he is to think about it, there might be a problem that just doesn’t want to be ignored. It is like the one C-List celebrity that you suddenly see everywhere and just hate for literally no reason at all.
The problem, if Buck dared to name it, is that loneliness is sneaky. He is doing fine while he is at work. And he is just great while talking to his sister on the phone. He is his best self hanging out with Chris and Eddie. At work, he isn’t even losing a thought about it.
But then, his door closes behind him, he makes his food, one portion for one person because what else would he do. And then he settles down, watches Netflix, kills hours on his phone, flips through the pages of the planner Maddie got him. And he is okay.
And then he reads one Did You Know that Many People Viewed The Loss of Hong Kong as the Final End Of The British Empire, and suddenly the only thing in his head was “I wanna talk to somebody.” It is a thought that hits him out of the blue and doesn’t leave him alone afterwards.
He calls Eddie and it the thought passes. But then it comes again. And again. He lies in bed in the evening and it’s just something that is always working in the back of his mind, like a tab on the internet browser you don’t wanna close just yet but also really don’t wanna look at. A little reminder notification just popping up, at the most random of times. A glaring neon sign right there, impossible to overlook.
As far as Buck is concerned, watching Say Yes To The Dress re runs alone on his couch at 2 in the morning while eating cold pizza left overs, should not make him feel lonely. It should make happy that he is an adult and can do that and yes, mom, his feet are in the coffee table he hasn’t cleaned dust of off in 3 months because who is gonna fight he on it.
And there it is again.
I am lonely, Buck thinks to himself cautiously as if he just needs to be quiet enough about it and he may fool himself into ignoring it again.
”Lonely,” he says out loud to no one at all because there is no one at all. ”Huh.”
Buck feels like a detective in a series who connects blurry pictures of about 15 dead bodies with red string to a picture of a potential murderer. There is a reason why he is lonely and why he hasn’t been before. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. In his mind he is standing in front of his white board, trying to see how every piece of evidence is connected so that he can point to the most obvious outcome and say He has been right under our noses this entire time!
There isn’t that much evidence, though. There is still a logical explanation. He hasn’t been lonely when he was with Abby.
Buck taps on his chin and hums. She didn’t like to watch baking shows with him but when he was with her, he didn’t feel like they were the only source of happiness he’s had in his apartment.
Eddie does not like Abby and since he has not actually met her yet, Buck knows the blame is on him and him only. His best friend with the hot temper and loyalty so unwavering, it is practically part of his DNA, of course he doesn’t like her.
Because yes Buck had supported Abby. He drove her to the airport himself like her personal little Sandman bringing her to her dreams. He said goodbye and he didn’t even hold a grudge or anything, he really understood it.
And he understood it.
And understood it.
And then, once his love for her faded, when yet another call was unanswered, another letter not returned, another Facetime call cancelled, he came to see everything a little more objectively. He saw how sometimes, she was taking him for granted. How he has always been the one to put in the double work, crossing oceans for their relationships while she barely grazed the waters of the bare minimum with her little toe. He saw that maybe a big part of her just dated him because he excited her and not for love.
Okay, so he was bitter and who could blame him.
After the rosa red tainted love filter fainted, the world just looked a little differently. And maybe, just maybe, he has ranted about it.
Buck can also see now how every But Abby Said and Live Laugh Love and She Cancelled Again added another nail into the coffin Eddie always looked a little ready to bury Abby in if only she showed her face here again.
And Buck appreciates that. Sometimes the best way to get over a heartbreak is the knowledge that you best friend is willing to go down for murder if it came to it. But now, the frustration faded just like the rosa red love glasses had.
He’s gotten used to it and in the loneliness of his apartment, suddenly it all doesn’t seem so wrong anymore. Maybe what she did wasn’t that wrong and unforgivable? Buck looks at his own reflection in the black screen of his Tv. Sometimes, you just had to fly to Europe and get to know new cultures, new foods and new peoples’ genitals, really, Buck’s totally been there, emotionally. And well, now that the frustration is gone, he feels like there is a lot more he would be willing to forgive.
He nods at his reflection, giving himself a thumbs up because look at him handling his problems like an adult instead of pushing all thoughts of them to the side.
I’m lonely, he thinks and smiles at himself because all of his is a breakdown waiting to happen so better start practicing his happy face sooner rather than later. But just because I miss Abby.
Ironically, it isn’t Abby who is on his mind when he falls asleep. It’s not her who he imagines laughing about his jokes while watching baking shows either. It’s also not her number he dials the next morning to ask to hang out, but all of those things are totally not connected to anything going on in his life. He’s already figured out what his problem is, there is no reason to add to it.
”So,” Bucks starts the conversation and looks at his sister who is stirring creamer into her coffee. He’s been thinking about a casual way to bring it up for hours but the only thing he came up with was to say Hey, you sometimes miss your Exes? And even though everybody may think that he doesn’t have tact and finesse, even he can see all the issues with that sentence. He pulls a face at the mere thought of Doug. ”So, I’ve been thinking.”
Easy and casual. Vague. It is perfect in the way in which it says nothing at all. He can still just retreat if this conversation becomes more than his mental stress scale can take.
Maddie raises an eyebrow at him and takes a sip of her coffee. Something about her posture makes another bell go off in Buck’s mind. Somehow, she already knows what he is doing and thinking - and also maybe even what he is not thinking - about right now. ”Oh?”
Her answer is also easy and casual. Vague. Buck narrows his eyes at his sister, she is using his own methods against him. ”I think I want to be in a relationship again.”
Not quite all of it but enough to open a serious discussion about it. Maddie smiles at him, something little and generally happy for him because she thinks the biggest step towards a goal is to admit that there is a goal. She is absolutely committed to Where There Is A Will There Is a Way and Buck can totally see the why it’s great way of thinking. Not for him, personally, because the way he sees it, a way isn’t enough in most cases, but who is he to be all negative here in Maddie’s kitchen with the tasteful motivational posters, framed and hung up, because there has to be a Buckley who has there life figured out and it sure isn’t Buck, on every wall.
Maddie squeezes his arm excitedly and consequently causes him to lose his count of all the arrows on the You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take picture surrounded by those and targets.
”Evan,” she says and squeezes his arm again. ”That’s so great. I bet they are closer than you may think.”
Well, that is ironic since the answer is something along the lines of 4.882 miles.
Maddie has always been optimistic like that. His constant annoyance about everything when he was a teenager was just a phase. His little one room apartment was just temporary. He would find out who he was supposed to be in no time. He would not always feel like everything he did, he did wrong. And she’d certainly say his loneliness was just the start of something. Always the ‘bad times are just a sign that there are better times ahead’ kind of mentality that Buck never quite got down, no matter how hard he tries. His glass is just so determined to be half empty. And yes, maybe it isn’t even about perspective anymore.
”I don’t just want anybody,” he continues because he knows that this is the actual part of the conversation that he needs to get out in the open. He knows Eddie isn’t the only one who isn’t completely fond of Abby but Maddie is a clear fighter for the Benefit Of The Doubt because Treat Others The Way You’d Wanna Be Treated, Buck! is exactly her kind of deal.
”Oh?” She says again but it isn’t easy and casual. It’s not vague, for some reason. Buck doesn’t know how she managed to say so much with Oh. There is something underneath it, something swings in between the letters and it suddenly feels like he is being asked by a teacher about the reading he should have done but he had consequently ignored so hard, it was pushed out of his brain completely until he was asked about it. He is missing something. A novel’s worth of something.
He narrows his eyes and tries to find out what Maddie is getting at. She just looks at him silently for a moment longer. Buck doesn’t trust that look even for a second. He doesn’t know what exactly but whatever he did is the equivalent of a drop of blood in the water in which Maddie is a hungry shark. She’s smelled it, she knows there is somebody here to get and was ready to attack.
“That’s lovely,” she says like she is a British housewife instead of a predator to secrets Buck doesn’t even know he keeps, yet. ”Who is it?”
She frowns shortly and then raises her eyebrows. She looks like she is trying to test out different surprised faces for when he reveals what he’s been thinking, which she apparently already knows more about than him.
Somehow, Buck doubts it. This feels like a misunderstanding. There just couldn’t be any way in which she would also think of Abby and not look at him with an expression of a mixture of biting into a lemon and Always be friendly, always be kind, like the most beautiful flower that you can find.
”I uhm —” Buck rubs the back of his head. Maddie won’t be happy about this, he can already tell. There is being kind and then there is being kind to a person who left her brother standing around like unwanted leftovers. She would call him an idiot and she’d probably be right but as far as Buck could tell, that is a small price to pay to finally not be alone anymore. Abby is what he needs. He is all alone now and he has been before he’d met her, even if he didn’t know it back then.
”Who?” Maddie says, her eyes narrowed suspiciously now. Yeah, she caught on that she wouldn’t get the answer she’s expecting. Buck wonders who it is that is on her mind. It seems like that question would lead to waters too dangerous to explore.
”Abby,” Buck says loud and clear. The look of absolute incredulity on Maddie’s face seemed like an insult all in itself. Well, Buck called that one.
”Abby?” She repeats in a voice that might as well have belonged to a definitely demonic child in a horror movie. Buck swears he can hear it echo in his ears.
”Yes,” he nods matter of factly because, well, yes.
”Live, Laugh, Love?” She all but spits out like it personally offended her as if she doesn’t have the same exact quote in bold pink letters on a piece of wood shaped like a cloud right in her bathroom next to the mirror. Buck can picture her standing in front of it every morning, reading it out lout, take a deep breath and then start into her day. ”That Abby?” She asks as if she was honestly hoping he’d just have a whole pack of Abbies, like Oh no, not that Abby, it’s the Laugh Often, Live Well, Love Much - Abby, oh, not that one either? How about the Die, Cry, Hate - Abby?
Buck frowns at his sister. ”Yes, that Abby.”
”Is she back here?” Maddie looks over her shoulder quickly as if she is expecting Abby to just sit here in her apartment for some reason. Like Buck is just gonna pull her out of between the couch cushion like Ta-Da.
”No,” Buck sighs and ignores the way Maddie blows a breath out. Like that isn’t an absolute over reaction. ”But I mean— Generally. Maybe I’ll write her again. Catch up. See how she’s doing?”
Maddie shakes her head in distaste like all of his is somehow ruining the 10 year plan she no doubt has for him, structured to the minute. ”What does Eddie have to say about that?”
”I have the signature of my legal guardian, no worries,” Buck answers her sugary sweet because if she doesn’t have to really answer anything helpful, neither does he.
Maddie rolls her eyes again and just stares at him before he grumbles and shrugs. ”I haven’t talked to him about it yet.”
”You haven’t talked to Eddie about that yet?” Maddie says and then smiles at him, sweet but there was also a smug undertone to it. Buck sighs before she adds: ”I knew I mean more to you than your best friend. Aw, Buck, you do care.”
”Don’t gloat.” Buck waves her off. She and Eddie both meant so much to him there just is no way for him to pick but neither of them had to know that. He is the cool guy. He doesn’t have soft spots, damnit. ”It’s just my self preservation instinct, Eddie doesn’t like Abby, he would think I am going crazy.”
”Well, I agree with him,” Maddie says and looks at him with wide eyes. Well, somebody was ready to live, laugh, kill Abby for sure. ”Why would you want to reconnect with her? What you need is closure, maybe, you give your plan a whole 180 degree turn, Evan.”
Buck takes a breath and contemplated if it would do more damage than good if he told her that he just wanted to stop being so alone. She doesn’t get it, she has Chimney and her own friends and his friends and him. In the end of the day, he is the one who sits around all alone and has to face the fact that he isn’t happy.
”I feel like good could come from this,” Buck says and looks down to his hands. ”I was happy with her, you know?”
This is turning in a far more serious direction than he wanted it to. This is a heavy conversation and he doesn’t have those.
”She doesn’t deserve your time of day, Buck. She led you on for months, never bothering to call. It’s one thing to fulfill ones dreams, I understand that. But she was using you and kept on using you and still would be, if you didn’t snap out of it. She is a manipulative, narcissistic,” she frowns and narrows her eyes, ”Deviant.” She finishes because she is Maddie and that is the worst insult she can think of.
Buck smiles softly at his sister and shrugs again because what shows better how lost he is than shrugging before everyhing he says. ”Well, somebody is not killing them with kindness right now.”
Maddie grins, the wrinkle between her eyebrows disappearing. ”Buck,” she says through her little smile. ”I’m serious.”
”So am I.”
”No,” she says and squeezes his arm for the third time. Well, he must really look like he needs all the comfort in the world right now to make her do it so often. Well. ”You are doing the thing again where you search for the easy out but I assure you, this is not the thing you should find a short cut for.” She pauses and then frowns again as if she just noticed that he doesn’t quite has a plan for anything per se, he just knows where he hopes to somehow arrive at. ”Also, this is not an easy way at all. Abby could be anywhere.”
”She’s in Germany,” he says and oh yes, that was two beats too fast. Well, at least he isn’t fooling anyone into thinking that he isn’t desperate.
”Which state?” Maddie asks, generously not mentioning that he should not have answered this quickly.
Buck rubs over the back of his head. ”Bavaria,” he answers obediently as if it mattered.
”Evan,” Maddie says and Buck pulls his arm back before she can squeeze it for the fourth time. He isn’t upset enough for 4 squeezes. He can’t be, he is figuring his life out right now.
”Don’t worry, I’m not about to go to Bayern,” he says in what he can only guess was one of the worst attempts to pronounce the German word he only knew because his planner always provides him with the funniest fun facts of them all.
”Yeah, I would hope not.” Maddie looks at him like she is now finally fully convinced he has gone insane and well, he guesses that is fair.
”But calling her wouldn’t hurt,” he says with childish deviancy. ”She made me happy.”
Well, since this has turned into a much more honest conversation than he wanted it to, he might as well embrace it. Maybe he can somehow sell that he is owning it.
”There are people right here, who can make you happier than you ever thought possible,” she says softly and maybe a tat too casual. There is something she has in mind but Buck knows better than to ask. ”They are closer than you think, Evan. I can guarantee to you, your happiness is not exploring Bavaria right now.”
Buck takes a deep breath and opens his mouth to explain to his sister that his happiness is also not here either. So wherever it is, here or in Germany or in China, Russia, it is not here and he just has to try and find it before he actually loses his mind.
”You don’t know that,” he says emphatically, because maybe if he got her to believe it too it would be like having won half the battle. Probably not, but who is he to start analysing his problems and their solutions rationally now. ”You can’t know that.”
Maddie looks at him with something that’s maybe sadness or maybe just pitying because there is something obvious to her but not to him. ”Talk to Eddie,” she says finally.
Buck sighs but nods, yeah, that sounds stupid and logical all at the same time.