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one hell of a story

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Buck loves kids. That’s no secret to anyone who really knows him. So, it’s no surprise to anyone how close he and Christopher are, but his relationships with the other kids of the 118 grow much more slowly.

It’s easy with Chris because Eddie is his best friend and he sees the kid all the time, but with the others, there’s less reason for him to see them. Because she has Karen, Hen rarely ever needs someone to watch over Denny, and when she does, she calls Chimney because he’s her best friend. With May and Harry, Buck hadn’t even met them until after Athena and Bobby had been together for a while. 

But then there are birthday parties and celebrations. In Buck’s early months on the job, his team is nothing but some close friends, but by the end of his first year at the 118, they’re a family. They hang out when they can and help each other whenever it’s possible, and Buck’s relationship with everyone grows exponentially. 

What really does it for Buck is the Christmas party. Buck makes a group chat consisting of Athena, Maddie, and Karen, and they plan . It takes some finesse and Athena’s organizational skills, but it works. And it’s also how Buck ends up with May’s number. Though small, May plays a pretty significant part in helping set up their Christmas at the station, having been added to the group chat to help relay messages between Athena and them when her mom was too busy to respond herself. 

The first time she texts him for no specific reason, Buck is confused. It’s just after New Years and her name pops up on his screen with a message that reads:

 

1 Attachment.  

 

He opens it and finds a photo of a cat with a firefighter costume on. Another message comes in as Buck is examining the photo.

 

bobby says this is you

May • 5:32 PM

 

Buck stares at the photo again, not understanding.

 

How?

5:33 PM

 

he said you must be a cat bc they have nine lives

May • 5:40 PM

 

Am I supposed to know that he said this?

5:42 PM

 

probably not lol

May • 5:43 PM

 

From there, their friendship only blossoms. It’s different from Christopher because, while May’s a kid, she’s not an actual child. They have conversations about different topics than he and Chris would. On a rare occasion, she even confides in Buck about an issue she’s having with her boyfriend. It’s like how talking to Maddie used to feel when he was younger. The only difference now is that he’s the older one. 

Maddie is caring, loving, annoying, and, every once in a while, even funny. Sure, Buck has had moments when he feels like the older one, when he feels like he needs to protect her, but when it comes down to it, Maddie is the mother hen out of the two of them and she will always be his older sister. She will always be his protector to an extent.

With May, Buck learns what it’s like to be an older sibling, or at least he thinks this is what it feels like. She texts him random tweets that she says are totally him usually related to horoscopes and something about chaotic energy. Sometimes she sends him blackmail material on Bobby, usually consisting of the man falling asleep in a weird position at the house or a video of him being, yet again, confused by a meme or pop culture reference. 

She asks him for help on science and history homework and Buck will fire off with tons of messages in response. He becomes her go-to when she needs a ride somewhere and none of her parents are available, and slowly but surely, Buck finds himself worrying about her.

The one time she gets sick during her final semester of high school, Buck puts together a care package that May admits rivals some of her best friend’s previous birthday presents. And when Athena ends up in the hospital after being attacked, it’s Buck who offers to play chauffeur at the end of her prom night, allowing for her to take extra time to go out to eat at a diner with friends after the fact. 

At their next get together, May’s graduation party, things turn awkward for a split second because May has a friend who apparently has no filter. 

The moment Buck has his back turned to them after being introduced— one second from diving into a conversation with Athena— he can hear her friend whispering.

That’s Buck?” Her friend asks in a quiet and scandalous tone. “May, how haven’t you mentioned that he’s super hot? Are you trying to get at that?”

Buck looks toward Athena and is met with the same wide eyes that he must be sporting. For a second, it looks like the woman is going to intervene, but then May speaks up.

“Ew, Trish,” she hisses. “He’s practically family. Not to mention that age gap.”

“He’s your step dad’s coworker,” her friend responds. “And you’re almost eighteen,” she adds airily.

May makes a gagging sound. “No, no. Close your face,” May promptly says— Buck imagines her sticking her hand into it and waving it dramatically as she’s done to him when he makes a lame joke. 

“One: I’m going to pretend you never suggested that I sleep with a guy nearly twelve years older than me. And two: Not all family is blood.”

The twisted expression on Athena’s face smooths into a pleased smile. She looks between him and the two teens behind him and raises her glass.

And well, that settles in his bones like hot chocolate on a cold winter evening. Buck’s seen his friends as family for a while now, but with his and Athena’s rocky beginning, the Grants have always felt just out of arm’s reach, as if he might always be that punk she met two years ago. But so much has changed in these last six months. It makes Buck feel lighter than he ever has.

 

So, that’s how their relationship continues. When May has something random to say, no matter what time of day or night it is, he’ll get a text. So, really, he’s not all that surprised when his phone lights up with a text on a Friday night, three weeks into the kids’ summer vacation.

He is surprised when the question in the text reads:

 

Are you awake?

May • 11:32 pm

 

He picks up the phone without wasting a single second and calls her. May has never asked if he’s awake before saying whatever it is she has to. If she’s asking, it means she needs him to be.

He hears the phone pick up and is immediately greeted with the sound of a door slamming shut. A cacophony fades to a dull background, and Buck catches May huffing. 

“Hello?” she asks. Thankfully, she doesn’t sound hurt, just extremely annoyed.

“Are you okay?” he asks anyway. He needs verbal confirmation.

“Yeah,” she sighs. “Just annoyed.”

“Okay,” Buck says slowly. “So, what’s up?”

May is silent for a few seconds before she responds. “Can you pick me up?”

“From where?”

Another silence greets him.

“So, here’s the thing,” she says. “I kind of came to a party that I was told not to go to, but it’s because the friend I was supposed to be hanging out with tonight decided to come and I didn’t want to ditch her, but now she’s just left with one of our guy friends and I have no ride home.”

Buck closes his eyes. “Trish?” he guesses. 

“Yeah.” 

Buck is already getting out of bed and moving to slide on some shoes, but he’s curious so he has to ask.

“Why aren’t you calling someone else? I mean, you have to know that even if I didn’t tell your mom, which you can bet I will, if not tonight, Bobby is going to find out when you arrive home.” 

May mumbles something under her breath that Buck doesn’t quite catch as his phone shifts from where it’s pressed between his shoulder and ear.

“What was that?” he asks.

“I don’t really feel like getting scolded right here in front of everyone,” she admits, “or teased because my parents came to pick me up from what everyone is already calling the coolest party of the summer. It’s a whole graduation bash and it’s already all over Instagram.”

“You probably won’t even see most of those kids after tonight. What do their opinions matter?” Buck questions. 

“They follow me on all of my social media, Buck!”

Buck laughs and tries to understand where she’s coming from. He never cared about keeping in contact with school acquaintances and he didn’t have social media when he graduated, either. 

“How is me picking you up any less embarrassing?” he questions then.

“You’re not my parent, duh.”

Buck can’t help but roll his eyes as he laughs. “Whatever helps you keep your cool points,” Buck says simply. He’s glad that she felt she could reach out to him for this and thankful that she’s smart enough to know she shouldn’t try to get a ride home from a stranger at this time of night. “Text me the address and I’ll give you an ETA once I hit the road.”

May exhales a breath of relief. “Thanks, Buck. You’re awesome. I’ll send it right now. Bye!”

 

Buck can hear the music before he’s even rounded the block that the party is on. Considering that May had been annoyed, he can only imagine the kind of kids that are flooding the place. 

He pulls his jeep over to the curb across the street to send May a text, letting her know that he’s here, and sure enough, the second it says Read , she’s bursting out of the doors. She does a quick glance around and spots him before walking over with a much more relaxed expression on her face. 

“Do boys ever become less annoying?” May opens with as she takes a seat. 

“Someone giving you a problem?” Buck asks. “Don’t forget your seatbelt.”

May shuts the door with a groan. “No, they’re just dumb.” She clicks the seatbelt into place before looking up at Buck. “No offense.”

“None taken,” Buck laughs. “Boys can be dumb. I know I was. Anyway, are you hungry?”

May makes a noise of confusion. “Did you not eat dinner?”

“Yeah,” he shrugs, “but I kind of want a milkshake.”

 

That’s how Buck and May find themselves pulling away from a Jack in the Box ten minutes later, both of them equipped with a shake and fries. May had gotten a Strawberry one while Buck had gone for his usual Oreo. 

With the windows rolled down to let in the summer night’s air, Buck feels at peace. 

Until he glances just a little to the left and sees his gas gauge.

“Aaand, I am low on gas,” Buck frowns. “I might need to make a stop at the gas station, too.”

May munches on a fry and eyes the shake hesitantly. She doesn’t respond.

“Something wrong?” Buck asks. “If you rather I drive you straight home, we should have enough gas.” Though, Buck is honestly a bit unsure how far he’d make it after that.

She shakes her head. “It’s not that. That’s fine. I just feel like I’m being treated for breaking the rules.”

“Well,” he starts slowly, “I was hungry and I wasn’t about to get food and not offer you something,” he explains.

“I still feel bad,” she whispers.

Buck carefully considers her words before responding. He thinks he knows where this is going, but he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions.

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t listen to my mom. She was right that it wasn’t a party I wanted to be at anyway, but I didn’t listen because I felt like she was just being too protective.” Buck nods along as she continues on. “I guess I just feel like sometimes she hovers too much. It can get pretty suffocating.”

“Have you told her that before?”

“Kind of?” she says unsure. “That wasn’t exactly a productive conversation,” she frowns.

“Well, if you’re asking me, I can see where you’re coming from about her being overprotective. She’s a cop, so she’s seen how even the most innocent or normal situations can flip in an instant. As a mom, she probably worries that your friends are driving you around at all. They’re young and less experienced.”

May nods with a smirk on her face like that’s exactly something Athena’s voiced her opinions on before.

“But that’s also why you should treat her words like they carry more weight,” Buck continues. “Maybe she is more protective than she needs to be, but from what I've seen of how she is with you and Harry, at least you’ve got a mom that cares that much.”

Buck stays focused on the road, but he feels her eyes on the side of his face. For how close they’ve grown over time, they’ve never actually had any conversations like this. May talked about her friends, boyfriend, and school, but never her parents. Ultimately, they were Buck’s friends first, which was probably why she’d been hesitant to bring it up at all.

May opens her mouth to respond, but her phone cuts her off as it lights up. 

“Do you have a charger?” she asks. “My phone’s at twenty percent and Trish finally messaged me back.”

“Yeah. I’ll get it at the next stop.”

Neither of them speak as Buck drives. Before they hit the next light, though, Buck’s headlights catch a detour sign that directs him to go through a residential area and away from the main road. 

Sure enough, up ahead, Buck can see construction setting up for a night shift. 

“There’s a detour sign,” he mutters as he takes the turn.

May barely acknowledges him, choosing to focus on her furious typing. It makes Buck laugh.

She must be pissed based on the speed of her rapid tapping and the huff she lets out as a new message rolls in.

“Hey, May,” he tries, “if Bobby’s not up to see you arrive home, I won’t say anything.” It’s far from true because even May knows that Buck can’t let her get away with going to a party she was explicitly told not to go to, but she doesn’t even rise to the bait, too distracted.

“If you can guess my favorite color, I’ll give you twenty bucks,” he says next.

She sticks her hand out without removing her eyes from the screen and promptly says, “Red.” 

Buck sputters and shoves her hand away from his space. “How did you even know that?” he asks as he slows to a stop.

“Chris,” she answers. “He’s like a Bucklopedia or something.” Buck snorts at the word and shakes his head.

“I’m not giving you twenty bucks,” he admits, “but I will get my charger. Here.” He shifts in his seat to open the compartment under his right arm. He only has to move a couple of things around before he finds the familiar white chord.

“And here you go Miss Gr—”

The cold press of metal against his turned neck halts him in his movement. All the warmth of the night is gone in an instant, and a chill runs up his spine, freezing him completely.

In front of him, he sees the moment that May understands what’s going on, having looked up from her phone at Buck’s halted action. Her fingers stop gliding across the keyboard and she eyes the person behind him.

“Buck,” she says uneasily, voice filled with terror.

“Don’t speak! Throw the phone out the window!” a man interrupts her. “Driver,” he addresses Buck then, “put both hands in the air.” Buck faces the front of the vehicle again and raises his hands awkwardly above the steering wheel as May follows the instructions without hesitation. The man adjusts the gun, and presses it against his temple, making Buck tilt his head at an uncomfortable angle. Buck doesn’t speak but does his best to remain as calm as possible, for both his sake and May’s. 

For a split second, he casts his gaze toward the younger girl, having to strain his eyes to get a decent view of her without turning his head. She seems calm, too, with a determined look settling over her face. 

He tentatively glances back to the man to try and see what he looks like, but everything below his eyes is hidden by a bandana. In the night, he can’t even catch the man’s eye color.

A beat later, the gunman reaches in through the window to unlock the jeep, and the door behind May opens. A second person settles into the backseat.

Buck’s muscles twitch as he holds himself back from turning to see who the new person is.

“Now, put the car in park,” the gunman directs. 

Buck moves to do so, but May’s breathing hitches, and he turns to her, no longer caring about the gunman’s orders. 

The person in the seat behind her, dressed similarly to the one at his side, is sitting forward, hanging over the back of the passenger seat with one hand reaching out to run up her arm. May is leaning forward as much as possible to get out of reach of the man, but it doesn’t do much against the seatbelt. 

He’s caressing her, and her eyes are cast down, but Buck can see the tears she holds at bay and the slight tremble in her shoulders.

“Don’t touch her,” Buck snaps. 

The gunman growls behind him and curls his fingers into Buck’s hair. 

Buck knows what’s about to happen before it does, but it doesn’t stop the yelp from escaping his lips as the man tugs, or the groan that he lets out as his face meets the steering wheel. He tries to sit back, but the man tugs again, making the round handle press against his left eye socket uncomfortably. 

At his side, May whines, and Buck tries to see what’s happening, but the gunman doesn’t let up on his grip. No longer able to hold his hands up, he finds them pressed against the dashboard,  curling into fists. 

The man in the back shushes May the same way that a parent would shush a crying child. It sets him on edge, sending a blinding rage through him. 

“I’ll break your fucking fingers,” Buck growls through gritted teeth. 

From what Buck saw, the man isn’t even touching her in any sexual manner, but the fact that he’s touching her at all makes Buck’s jaw clench painfully. 

The man huffs in response to Buck and grabs hold of May’s hair, making her movements still, at the same time that the gunman shifts. 

Buck’s heart plummets — falls so far into his stomach that he swears it stops beating because he can’t breathe and the world comes to a halt.

Having the gun aimed at him was one thing, but knowing it was now aimed at May… 

The fight leaves his body in an instant. 

“Don’t—” His voice cracks on the words, unable to complete the sentence. He can’t even fathom the possibility. 

“Park. The. Car.” The man tells him again.

“Okay,” Buck readily agrees, nodding against the wheel. He ignores the small twinge that accompanies the movement. “It’s gonna— My foot’s on the brake. When I release it, it’s going to jerk forward like an inch,” he breathes out heavily. “I’m not driving off, okay?”

The man grunts, and Buck figures it’s acknowledgment enough. He reaches blindly for the gear shift and puts the jeep into park. 

He eases his foot off of the brake, and sure enough, the jeep settles, barely moving forward, but it makes Buck feel another step closer to their demise.

The hand on his head releases and Buck feels the gun pull away for all of a second. He never stopped breathing, but he feels like an invisible grip around his chest has been released. 

Unfortunately, there’s no time for him to even think of taking action before his door gets yanked open and the gun is trained on him again.

“Get out.”

May moves quickly, releasing her seatbelt, and Buck follows suit, already feeling a tug on his shirt, forceful and stretching his collar to the point that it’s pulling at his neck.

“Not you, sweetheart,” the man in the back says, grabbing onto her shoulder again. But with her seatbelt off, it’s easier for her to lean away this time. She swats at his hand, calling him a name that Buck doesn’t quite catch and reaches for the door. 

But the gunman at Buck’s side is quick, locking the door with the driver’s side controls. Before she can reach for her own lock, the sound of the gun cocking freezes her and Buck. 

The gunman speaks again. “You first, big guy.”

Buck’s eyes catch May’s for the first time since she entered the vehicle. 

He knows what May’s asking, knows the conflict she’s feeling— he can see it in the way her eyes glisten. It wouldn’t take more than a second to open the door anyway and get herself out of harm’s way, but Buck’s life hangs in the balance. On the other hand, if Buck gets out first, there’s nothing stopping the guys from taking off with her still in the vehicle. And something tells Buck that they want to. The thought makes him nauseous.

Neither of them wins in either scenario.

“No,” Buck snarls.

“You might want to rethink that answer,” the man says slowly. He pulls at Buck’s shirt again, but the collar doesn’t add enough pressure to cut off his air supply. Buck resists the pull with ease and locks eyes with the man. 

“No,” he says again, voice hard as steel. “She gets out first.” Buck would rather die where he sits than allow May to be in any more danger than she already was.

The man sighs. “We couldn’t do this the easy way, huh?”

Buck hits the guy’s hand at the same time that the gun goes off and, from what he can tell, narrowly dodges the bullet. He hears a sharp shattering sound but doesn’t look to see if it hit the car or something outside.

But May’s suddenly sobbing, tears flowing freely down her face as she yells at the man. Buck doesn’t register what she’s saying. His eyes roam over her, looking for some kind of injury but finds nothing. He’d ask what’s wrong, but another shot rings out too close to his face and this time May presses into her seat, bringing her arms over her head. 

Sharp ringing erupts in Buck’s ear and suddenly everything is blurry as a set of hands latch onto him and pull yet again. This time, the collar stretches so far that he feels air hit an exposed shoulder. The man lets go and grabs his arm instead.

He reaches behind him to latch onto something with his free hand but is surprised when he’s met with May’s wrist. She latches onto him, too, hand clamping onto his own wrist with a grip that rivals a mother giving birth, and he finds her pushing off of her chair and into his space, climbing across the seats.

Even with the tears streaming down her face, she looks furious. Her mouth is open in a yell, and she throws a fist at the man behind her trying to grab hold.

“Get her, Matt!” 

It’s the only sound that breaks through Buck’s awareness.

It’s too late for them, though. Buck pulls May after him, throwing all his weight out the door. It startles the gunman, who stumbles backward and to the ground as the man in the back seat grunts. 

Another shot is fired, but Buck doesn’t hear it hit anything. 

May is hopping out of the jeep a second later. Two more succinct shots sound off as the man gets back to his feet, making Buck’s entire body jerk with the expectation of being hit. One shatters the windshield of the jeep.

He’s barely near the tail light of his car when the world starts spinning. May shouts again and jerks them to the side as another pop sounds off in the night. Buck looks up and sees the man readying for a sixth shot.

This time, he pulls May. At this range, and with nowhere and no time to run, there’s no doubt the bullet will make contact. 

Before he can second guess the move, he turns his back to the guy, bringing May’s head to his chest in an attempt to shield her from the damage. 

 

The gun clicks

 

“Just get in! We got the car!” The man from the back yells. “We can find someone else to have some fun with!”

Behind Buck, the car door slams shut without another word, and in front of him, May squeezes her arms tighter around his torso.

A couple of porch lights turn on as the jeep disappears behind him on the street, but Buck doesn’t blame anyone for not coming out— can’t when they’re in this area of LA. 

It’s not until another moment has passed that Buck fully registers what just happened. 

The gun clicked . The man ran out of bullets. 

There’s little Buck can do but be in complete awe of their luck.

Then he remembers the first gunshot and May’s tears. He pulls her away from himself, but before he can speak, his vision wavers again, and he has to sidestep to keep from toppling over.

“Shit! Buck—”

Buck nearly falls then, and May curses loudly. Once again, her hand finds him, and she pulls him to the side of the road. 

“C’mon,” she mutters at him with a frustrated tone. “Buck, sit down before you fall down.”

He flops to the sidewalk unceremoniously and looks up at May in confusion. 

“What’s—”

He cuts himself off as a piercing throb shoots through his head. He brings his hand up to the source of the pain, only to have May smack his hand away. 

“Don’t touch it!” she screeches. “Shit, shit, shit—”

“Language,” he mutters before he can stop himself.

“I have the right!” she snaps back harshly, voice cracking at the tail end of her words. “You got shot!”

New tears start falling down her face again as Buck runs himself through the last few minutes. 

“When?” he asks, bringing his hand to his head again. She smacks it away like before then looks up and down the street. 

She must see something because she disappears for a moment before coming right back with something in her hands.

Buck finds a crudely cracked iPhone.

“Fuck,” she cries out. “I can’t dial.”

“Try Siri,” Buck suggests, leaning heavily onto his knees in an attempt to stay upright. 

She shakes her head and pockets the phone.

“Fuck it,” she says. “If someone didn’t already call 911, I’m suing this entire street for lack of humanity.”

Without warning, she’s pulling her shirt over her head. Underneath the blouse, she’s wearing is a thin spaghetti strap and she rubs absently at her arms before sitting beside Buck.

As gently as she can, May lifts her hand to press the clothing to the bleeding wound. Buck flinches at the initial contact, but she doesn’t pay that any mind.

“We gotta maintain pressure,” she whispers, then sniffles.

Buck hums in acknowledgment. 

“‘M gettin’ dizzy,” he supplies a moment later. 

He presses one hand to the concrete behind him to keep himself upright. 

“Okay,” May mumbles. She looks around again, but Buck can’t tell what she’s looking for. “Okay,” she says again. “Just— just lean on me, yeah?”

Buck snorts. 

“Hey, I’m strong, okay?” She defends herself. “I can take it.” 

Buck has no doubt. May is evidently one of the strongest people he’s ever had the pleasure of meeting— and brave if what just went down was anything to go by.

Without waiting for a response, May shifts on the ground next to him. She’s so small compared to him that it’s a little awkward to lean on her, but Buck can’t do much else but let it all happen. 

“Y’ur one of the strongest p’pl I know, lil’ Grant.”

May goes silent as she readjusts her grip on the material.

He blinks slowly then. It’s the first time he notices that his eyelids feel so heavy. 

Fuck. 

“May—”

“I hear sirens!” she cuts him off. “Buck— Oh my God, Buck, there’s—!” Her movement jolts his head and he hisses at the sharp movement, the ringing making itself known once again. 

“Sorry, sorry,” she apologizes quickly. “But Buck, there are sirens. They’re getting closer!”

“Gonna have to…” Buck trails off, his hand reaching up to take the shirt from hers. “Gonna have to flag them down. Won’t know we’re here.” In the dark of the night, two people sitting on the sidewalk aren’t going to be easy to spot, and the nearest street lamp is at the next intersection.

“Yeah,” she replies. “Okay, okay. You better stay awake, or I’ll kill you,” she threatens him without any malice, moving to a kneeling position. May hugs him tight around the shoulders again before she stands up. “Stay sitting up!” she shouts. “Stay awake!”

 

A moment later, Buck sees May turn to look at him. The lights of approaching first responders illuminate the street, creating more shadows in the night, but his eyes zero in on how they look reflecting off of the tears on her face, shimmering blue on a face glowing red. She smiles at him in relief. 

It’s the last thing he sees before the color fades away entirely, and Buck falls back into oblivion.

 

          

 

“—think he’s coming back to us,” an unknown voice says. 

Buck feels a hand squeeze his own, and he squeezes back. A groan escapes his lips as the throbbing takes over his head again.

“We’ve got the bleeding under control, May. Your brother’s going to be fine.”

Brother

It’s a title he never thought anyone but Maddie (or maybe Hen) would ever refer to him by.

Buck slips back under. 

 

          

 

His whole world jerks back to life as he feels himself fall.

“—ley. Twenty-eight-year-old male. Gunshot graze to—”

“May,” he gasps out, cutting off the unknown voice. He opens his eyes and looks at the person above him. “Where’s—”

“Right beside you,” the voice responds. “We’re at the hospital now, Mr. Buckley. Can you try and stay awake?”

Buck looks around, and sure enough, she’s at his side. 

He stays awake this time.

 

          

 

Athena Grant doesn’t make it a habit of answering her phone while she’s on duty, so it’s not until she’s in the car after her shift is over that she takes a look at her phone that’s been on ‘do not disturb.’ 

There’s a missed call from just a couple of minutes ago. It’s a number she doesn’t recognize. It could easily be a spam call— she gets them all the time now— so she decides to leave it be.

Which is why it surprises her that the phone rings a moment later, the same number as the missed call flashing across her screen.

She answers with hesitation. 

“Hello?” she greets.

What she’s least expecting is for the responding voice to be her daughter, calling out with a timid, “Mom?” 

“May?” she wonders. “Whose number is this?”

“I— I borrowed it from a nurse,” she explains. “Their lines are all busy with something going on downtown, and I was getting too anxious to wait.”

“A nurse?” Athena questions. “Where are you? What happened?”

May’s breathing hitches, and Athena can hear the sadness and fear in her voice when she responds, “I’m at the hospital.” 

Athena’s mind immediately races in at least ten different directions, trying to think of what could have gone wrong at May’s sleepover for this to happen. 

“What—” 

“It’s my fault mom,” she cries then, speaking louder than before. “I didn’t—” she hiccups, “I didn’t listen to you and I got us in this stupid mess.”

A strong voice in the background says something, but Athena can’t hear it clearly. 

“May, sweetie, just talk to me,” Athena tries again. “What happened? You said us . Who’s with you?”

“I’m so sorry!” she cries. “I’m—”

This time, a man’s voice cuts her off. 

“—me the phone,” the man says gently. “It’s okay, May. Let me talk to her.” 

The voice sounds familiar, but the rustling makes it unclear. 

“Athena?” The man says, and Jesus Christ on a cracker , that’s Evan Buckley she’s hearing. 

In the background, she can still hear May crying. 

Buck? ” she can’t help but exclaim in shock. 

“Yeah. Athena, I’m— I’m so sorry. May’s not hurt—”

“What in the hell happened ?” Athena demands. 

Buck sighs heavily, the same kind of sigh that she or Bobby will let out after a day that they both know is going to stick with them. 

“Look, May’s okay,” he explains. “She’s just here with me, but she hasn’t been admitted. She’s not injured or hurt.”

“And you are?” 

Buck sucks in a sharp breath. 

“Yeah,” he whispers. “I’m okay, but it… it was a close call, ‘Thena. I can explain when you get here.” 

Athena has seen many different sides of Buck, but never has he sounded so defeated , not even after the ladder truck crushed him and nearly any chance he had of ever being a firefighter again. 

“What hospital are you at?” she asks.

Buck repeats the question to someone near him, and Athena catches the response, just loud enough for the phone to pick it up. She places her call on speaker and starts typing the name into her Maps app. 

“You get that?” Buck asks. 

“You’re fifteen minutes away,” she states. “I’ll be there in ten.”

They hang up.

 

Once Athena’s on the road, she immediately dials her husband.

Bobby picks up on the third ring, probably having been woken up from his sleep. It’s already late and she knows he goes in for a twenty-four-hour shift in the morning.

“‘Lo?” he answers.

“Bobby,” she exhales. “I’m sorry to wake you, hun. I need you to sit up and listen.” She hears some rustling. “Are you awake?”

“Yeah,” he responds more clearly than before. “I know that tone. What’s going on?”

“I honestly don’t know,” she says, “but May is at the hospital and—”

“Oh my God.”

“—Buck is with her.”

Athena hears the audible snap of Bobby’s mouth shutting.

“Wait— No that—” Bobby falters as he tries to form a thought. “What?”

“I don’t have the full story, but Buck was awake and talking to me,” Athena explains. “May is okay, but it sounded to me like Buck is hurt. He uh…” She hesitates for a moment, wondering if she should drop this on him like right now. “He’s okay, but he said it was a close call.”

“Buck doesn’t even consider barely making it out of a crumbling building a close call,” he states matter of factly. “Are you sure he said that?”

Athena nods harshly. “Yeah,” she says. “I’m already on my way there.”

“Should I wake Harry and come? Or I can call Michael—”

“No,” she cuts him off, but not rudely. “He sounded shaken but otherwise okay. Let’s not get everyone worried about something that may not even be big. I just don’t even know how May ended up with Buck.”

The thought hangs in the air. As far as either of them knew, she’d been at a sleepover.

“I’ll call you with an update as soon as I can,” Athena offers. “I know you’re worried, but I’ll be with both of them in a few minutes.”

“I’m going to—” Bobby grunts. There isn’t much he can do. “I’m going to go make something,” he mutters.

“Don’t start any crazy dishes,” she laughs lightly. “Love you, Bobby. I’ll call you soon.”

 

          

 

Athena’s not sure what she was expecting to see as she walks up to Buck’s hospital room.

The blinds on the window of the room are shut, but Athena can see a light on inside, and a figure on the bed— Buck, she figures. 

A close call, Buck had said.

The words haunt her— make her think of the worst case scenario as any mother and police officer would. She prepares herself for the grievous injury that Buck will be sporting so as not to react too harshly. 

She knocks once before twisting the knob, and at last, she gets to see May and Buck with her own two eyes. 

As Buck said on the phone, May seems physically unharmed, and her head is rested on the mattress beside his crossed leg, pillowed in her own arms. Her shoulders move ever so slightly, but she makes no attempt to sit up. She’s asleep.

It’s only Buck who notices her entering, and despite him being the worst off, he looks relatively okay. He’s clearly hurt— his face is clear of any blood, but evidence of a wound remains in the stark white gauze on the left side of his forehead— but he’s okay in a way that Athena didn’t expect him to be. The amount of what dried blood is left on his skin still raises some red flags. It runs down his neck and past his shirt collar, leaving a brown stain on his heather grey shirt. 

The shirt itself is in a state of dishevel. The collar has been stretched wide, and it leaves a part of Buck’s collar bone and the edge of his shoulder exposed. It makes her check May again, and she realizes that the top her daughter is wearing isn’t one of her blouses, but a scrub top, matching the color of the one she saw on the nurse down the hall. 

What happened to her shirt?

“Your clothes…” Athena begins, voice barely above a whisper. “What happened to your guys’ clothes?” 

It’s not the first thing she meant to ask, but it’s all that’s in her head because Buck looks like someone tried to tear his clothes from his body and her daughter is missing her own shirt. 

Buck’s eyebrows furrow at the question before looking between himself and May. Recognition sparks in his eyes, and his mouth drops open in horror as he realizes where Athena’s line of thinking had gone. 

“This isn’t— No, she has a spaghetti strap shirt underneath that,” Buck explains, “but she’d used her shirt to help stop the bleeding. It’s— That shirt’s a goner.” 

Athena’s next breath comes to her much easier, and she takes a second to compose herself as she sits in a chair on Buck’s free side. 

She moves slowly, but Buck still watches her like a scared puppy would— one who’s been hurt a few too many times and expects the rest of the world to act the same. 

“Why don’t you tell me what happened then, Buckaroo?”

Buck closes his eyes and takes a few calming breaths. 

 

“May texted me sometime before midnight…” he begins. 

And he continues to recount the rest of what happened. He mentions where he went to pick her up from, and why May hadn’t called one of her parents. He brings up stopping for takeout, and the detour sign that led him through a neighborhood he wasn’t familiar with. 

He explains how he started digging through the center compartment for a charger when— 

Buck’s breathing hitches and he glances down to May. 

“A guy walked up to my side of the jeep. I— I didn’t even remember that I had the windows rolled down. He had a—” Athena sees Buck’s hand twist into the sheet below him. “He had a gun,” Buck whispers. 

Athena gasps with a new understanding of the fear that’s consuming Buck. 

“Oh… Buck —”

Buck shakes his head quickly as if to tell her not to continue with her sentence. 

“What did he want?” Athena asks then. “Money?” 

Buck shakes his head again, and tears roll down his cheeks as he squeezes his eyes shut. 

“No,” he admits, inhaling sharply. “There were two of them. One got in the backseat. They wanted the—” he hiccups, “They got my Jeep. I already reported it stolen. My phone and wallet were in there too, though.” 

Athena’s shoulders fall as Buck’s begin to shake. 

“Oh, baby,” she sighs. “C’mere.” 

Athena moves to Buck’s side, squeezing into what space she can on the edge of the hospital bed and pulling him into her arms. He goes willingly and presses his face into her neck as she runs a hand up his arm.

When he eventually pulls his face away, he continues on. “I was so scared, Athena. I— I did everything they asked, but they still …”

Buck looks down to May again, and he reaches out to brush a strand of hair away from her turned face. If she were open her eyes right now, she’d be staring right at them. 

“I think they saw an opportunity,” Buck starts again, his tone turning dark. “They wanted me to get out of the vehicle before May.”

Athena’s hand stills against his arm. 

“They didn’t even—” Buck cuts himself off, looking for a way to describe what May had experienced. “They were—” He lets out a frustrated groan, not having the right words for it. 

Athena looks down at her daughter, then back to Buck.

“What did they do to my daughter?” she questions harshly.

“They didn’t do anything like that . They— The one in the back touched her arm. He— he held her by the hair when the guy was pointing the gun but they didn’t… touch her.”

Athena can’t do much more than nod at that, but a fire burns her insides at the thought of anyone touching her daughter in any way. By the look on Buck’s face, he feels the same. 

“They didn’t like that I wouldn’t get out without May,” Buck adds after a moment. 

“Is that why they hit you?” she asks, nodding to the bandage. 

Buck turns to her with red and tired eyes. 

“They shot me,” he states flatly. He turns away again and groans, completely missing Athena’s gasp. “I managed to push his hand when I saw it coming. Still grazed me. I didn’t even realize it’d happened at first, but then May was screaming and the guy was pulling me out of the car. I tried to stay inside but then—” 

Buck pauses, letting out a huff of laughter. 

“May was climbing over the seats. She wasn’t going down without a fight, Athena. I’ve never seen her like that.”

Pride swells in Athena’s chest as she looks down at her baby. May’s a young woman now, but she’ll never stop being her baby, and to know that she fought like that, for herself and Buck, reminds her of just how strong she is. 

“When we got out,” Buck continues, “the guy was still firing off some shots. God, there’s no way we shouldn’t have been hit. One of the last shots he made wasn’t even aimed. May pulled me out of the way, but I think he just threw his hand up. And then the last one…” 

Buck sighs. 

“I thought, this is it. There was no way he could miss a point-blank shot like that. I got between him and May, and then the gun clicked .”

“He ran out of bullets?” Athena asks in shock. 

“Just like that,” Buck says. 

“Just like that…” Athena agrees, still stuck on how Buck said he placed himself between her daughter and the bullet.

“Anyway,” Buck powers forward, clearly not wanting to dwell on the moment too long. “May used her shirt to help slow the bleeding, but you know how head wounds are. I passed out from blood loss. Woke up again as we got here. My hearing is a little funny from the first gunshots going off right next to me, but it’s already better. I’m going to be fine.” 

“And May definitely wasn’t hurt?” Athena asks again. She knows Buck wouldn’t lie to her, and she hardly doubts that any doctor would just let May sit here in a chair if she were injured, but the need to double-check will always be there. Triple, quadruple, quintuple check because she will always worry over May. 

“No. Not even a scratch,” he says, relief evident in his voice. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if one of those guys had hurt her, Athena, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am that she had to—”

“Okay, no,” Athena interrupts him. “Don’t even finish that thought, Evan Buckley. I understand that leaving the windows down may not have been the smartest, but you think that just invited them in? You don’t think they would have shot the window out and then done all of that?”

Buck can only muster up a shrug. 

“Buck, I trust you with my children for a reason. One mistake is not what led to this all happening. It was chance. Wrong place, wrong time.”

Buck groans and leans back against the pillows. 

“Wrong place, wrong time seems to be my middle name,” he mutters pitifully. He brings a hand up to his face to rub at his eyes. “I can’t help but feel like one of these days I really am going to bring someone down with me.

Buck’s never really been one for religion, but he thanks God that it wasn’t today. 

In the moment, still taking all of this in, Athena can’t think of anything to say to that. Sometimes there are no nice words for a moment like this. But she hopes that in the days to come, she can help support him in any way he needs, even if it means she’ll need to keep reminding him that this wasn’t his fault, much like she feels she’ll need to do for May.

 

May wakes up soon after their conversation comes to an end and immediately dives into her mother’s arms, crying and apologizing for the things outside of her control. 

When Athena shushes her crying, attempting to soothe her, both May and Buck flinch. The woman shoots a look at Buck who shakes his head in return. That’s not something he knows how to explain— something he knows if May is even comfortable with reliving right now. 

Athena seems to understand that it’s something she should talk to her about later, and they’re all saved from the awkward silence when the doctor comes in, ready to release Buck now that someone can drive him. He hands Buck some papers with care instructions for his graze, and a prescription for some pain medication— optional depending on how much he experiences. 

As the doctor goes to leave, he turns to Athena with a small smile. 

“Your daughter and son are two strong people. I wish you all a safe drive home. Have a good night.”

He nods at them all, but Buck can feel himself blushing all the way down to his chest. 

“I have a second son now?” Athena asks playfully, once the door clicks shut. 

May rolls her eyes. “I think you’ve had one since you married Bobby if we’re being honest, mom.” 

It startles a laugh out of all of them, and Buck feels the tension leave his body. 

“But I had to say something so that I could stay at Buck’s side,” May explains. “I was scared they wouldn’t let me stay with him or update me if I wasn't an immediate family member.” 

Athena nods in understanding. 

And a memory hits Buck. 

May had called him her brother back in the ambulance. He remembers the paramedic speaking to her and referring to him as such. 

He keeps that to himself, though. Treasuring the moment for what it is. 

They’re all okay. There isn’t much else he could ask for. 

“Now, I think it’s time we all head home,” Athena announces. “I called Bobby after I hung up with Buck, so he should have some kind of food waiting at home.” 

Okay, maybe there was one thing.

 

          

 

It’s over a bowl of macaroni and cheese that Athena gets a call. At this point, it’s getting closer to three in the morning, so Buck, Bobby, and May all raise their eyebrows in question. 

Athena steps away to answer the phone. 

Buck sets the spoon in his bowl, knowing what the call has to be about. The anxiety nearly tears him apart as he waits to hear about their findings— or rather, lack of. 

“Seriously?” Athena exclaims a bit loudly. 

Everyone turns to look to where she’d walked off. 

“Well, ain’t that one hell of a story,” she adds on a moment later. Then, “Well, thank you for letting me know. When do you think it’ll be ready?”

What would be ready? 

“Okay, that’s good. I’ll call tomorrow afternoon and check in. Thank you again, officer.”

The call ends, and Athena walks up to them with a small smile on her face. 

“Good news, Buckaroo. They got your car.”

Buck nearly spits out the tiny bits of pasta in his mouth. 

“Okay. Take it easy,” Bobby laughs, handing him a napkin. 

“How?” Buck asks. But everyone is curious. 

“They ran out of gas. One of the guys tried to rob the convenience store at the gas station they went to, but it turned sideways for him when the owner pulled a gun, too. One of them—”

May does spit out her food. 

“Wait, they ran out of gas?!” she practically shouts, eyes twinkling with amusement. 

She looks at Buck. He can’t help but smile back. 

What was that Athena said? 

Ain't that one hell of a story.