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Not what it seems

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Buck had been making his way from the locker room when he heard them. The team were talking, about someone it seemed. Buck knew it was wrong to listen in on someone’s conversation. But he just had this inkling that they were talking about him. So, he stills behind the wall, and listens.

 

“So, do we really think that Buck can change?” Chimney asks, sounding ever so curious. Buck was right then; they were talking about him.

“Change?” Eddie asks, confusion evident in his voice. Buck could imagine him doing that cute head tilt of his.

“From Buck 1.0” Hen starts, sipping her coffee happily.

“He use to, to put it bluntly, have sex with a lot of girls. Girls we had just saved. Even took the truck out during the day, while on duty, so he could have sex with some girl” Hen explains, sounding amused.

“No way” Eddie gasps. Buck frowns to himself as he listens.

“Yes way. He was nothing short of a man-whore” Chimney shrugs, hands going up in mock surrender at the look the team sent him. Buck falls softly against the wall, a sour taste filling his mouth at the name. Man-whore. Holding back a growl at the name, he continues to listen, not wanting to miss anything.

 

“What? Come on, like you guys didn’t think that” Chimney scoffs, raising an eyebrow as he stares at Hen and Bobby. He smirks at the silence as they look away from him. Buck winces.

“So, he’s trying to change? That’s a good thing, right?”. Thank the stars above for Eddie Diaz. It seemed like someone was on his side.

“Well, yeah. But how long is it gonna last? Is Buck really trying to change?” Chimney asks as he stares at his team members, minus the one he was unintentionally hurting.

“Look at Abby. He really tried with her. Even asked me for advice, and listened” Bobby states with a shrug. Buck smiles, silently thanking Bobby for standing up for him.

“But…” Hen trails off, frowning.

“But?” Eddie questions, his head tilting.

“Abby left” she states with a shrug, not knowing that two simple words had made her friend flinch violently.

“True. I know her mum passed away and she needed a break. But what about Buck? Maybe he didn’t listen to all of your advice Cap. Maybe she was trying to get away from him as well” Chimney shrugs. If he had gotten up, moved a little to the right maybe. He would have seen that Buck had to cover his mouth with his hand to drown out a startled gasp.

“That could be it Chim. I know he liked her, but he was still Buck 1.0 when he met Abby. Could he have really changed?” she questioned. Stop it. Please.

“What do you think Cap?” Chimney questions, staring his Captain. No. please no.

“I honestly don’t know Chim. He could have changed. Abby could have changed him. But maybe he stayed the same” Bobby shrugs. Buck pinches himself. This can’t be real.

“So, he’s a man-whore then?” Eddie questions, frowning. It takes every ounce of Buck’s strength to keep himself from shouting and revealing himself. He wanted to shout, to say that he wasn’t a man-whore. Because he wasn’t. Was he?

“Maybe. Twenty bucks says he’ll stay as Buck 1.0” Chimney bets. Buck wants to cry. His so-called friends, his family, was betting on his, his slutty-ness? Whether he could mature or not?

“Oh, you’re so on” Hen grins. A tear does fall then, but he quickly wipes it away and walks backwards, shaking his arms out and letting himself breath. He didn’t want to hear if Eddie and Bobby had bet on him as well. He couldn’t. It would just break him. So, he tunes them out, calms himself down, and walks in.

 

“Hey guys” he greets his team with a fake grin as he moves to sit at the table.

“What are we talking about?” he asks casually as he ignores the various breakfast foods Bobby had cooked in favour of grabbing an apple. He’s not sure if he could stomach too much food after hearing that conversation. Bobby raises an eyebrow at Buck’s food choice, but ultimately ignores it.

“They’re giving me date ideas as I was thinking of taking Karen on a date this week” Hen lies straight through her teeth. Buck hides his frown. He thought that they would be surprised when he had walked in, that he would catch them off guard. He expected stuttered excuses, but instead gets a perfectly woven lie. It hurts. It hurts so damn much.

 

Playing into her lie, he wanted to give Hen a nice idea. Tell her to take Karen to her favourite restaurant she was always talking about. Order her her favourite wine, and then go to the movie theatre. The cinema was having a throwback week, and this week they were playing the karate kid. Buck knew it was Karen’s favourite movie. It was the perfect response. And it would prove to them that he wasn’t Buck 1.0, that he was changing. But he thinks about what his friends said. Their bets in him. They thought of him as just a man-whore don’t they? So, who is he to not act that way.

 

“I got it, strip-club” he grins, like it was the most brilliant idea. Because that’s what Buck 1.0 would say, and that’s what Buck 1.0 would think. If Hen could provide a perfectly woven lie, then why couldn’t he? They think of him as a man-whore. They talk about him behind his back. They don’t realise how much their words hurt him. And that was on them. It was on them for thinking those things, for not knowing who he really was. If they couldn’t see behind his fake smile, then that was on them.

 

Hen scoffs, he’s not surprised by that reaction, but he is slightly happy when he sees that Hen and the rest of the team look amused at his answer.

 

***

 

Buck 1.0 is back in action. And if the team can’t see that it’s an act, then either Buck was a fantastic actor, or his friends really didn’t know him, like at all.

 

Bringing back Buck 1.0 is somewhat simple. He doesn’t take the truck to have sex with girls, he does what he is trained to do. But he flirts, because that was one big thing Buck 1.0 was all about.

 

He flirts with the Beauty influencer who had an allergic reaction to shea-butter, having not known that she was allergic. He starts off innocent enough, complimenting her.

 

“You should get an allergy test done. Wouldn’t want to hurt your pretty, delicate skin the next time you use makeup. Not that you need make up of course”. The young women, Bella, blushes as she stares into his baby blues. He smiles softly, ignoring Chim who had muttered ‘see?’ to the rest of the team. If there was a hint of huskiness to his voice when complimenting her, no one said anything.

 

 

The team aren’t surprised by his actions. And it hurts, it does. Not that he would tell them that. What does surprise them, is that the next person he flirts with is a guy.

 

 

Buck finds himself grinning at a handsome young man, who had been staring at him shyly. The handsome man, Noah, had been in a car crash. Though he was lucky he had escaped with just a bit of whiplash and a couple of scrapes and bruises.

“Well Noah, that cut is gonna leave a scar, but it’ll heal. And don’t worry, girls like scars” he grins, hiding a smirk as he feels his team’s eyes on him. They were in for a surprise.

“Guys too”. He purposely lowers his voice, smirking at the huskiness that fell upon his own ears. He winks at a blushing Noah, and wants to cackle at his team’s reactions. Chimney was spluttering, Hen was gaping at him. Bobby’s eyes were wide, and Eddie. Ooh, what was this? He was staring intently at Buck, pupils dilated. Now that was an interesting reaction.

 

 ***

 

Buck 1.0 would be smirking right now. He’d look himself up and down in the mirror, turning this way and that, admiring his outfit. The way his muscles made his fitted grey shirt stretch, the way his ass looked in his tight, black jeans. He knew how he looked. And he looked damn good. Buck something point who knows what, is different. Don’t get him wrong. He knew he looked good. And that was ok. He wasn’t cocky, he was allowed to know that he looked good. It’s just, he wasn’t feeling all that confident right now.

 

He had kept up is act for two weeks, and it was exhausting. His team really thought that he was Buck 1.0 again. He had heard the names, the accusations. Man-whore. Slut. And it hurt. It really hurt. His so-called friends, people he thought to be his family. Hell, his actual family. It was all a sucky situation at the end of the day, but they saw him a certain way, and he just helped them fulfil that image of him.

 

He wasn’t actually having sex with anyone. Not that his team or sister knew. He was just keeping up the act, flirting, telling stories of one-night stands that didn’t exist. It did the job well enough, clearly.

 

And it sucked. It made him feel like crap. It made him feel icky. The only benefit he got was a memory that will forever amuse him, and a new best friend.

 

Buck walks back to his table with a smirk on his face, and a beer in his hand.

“What’s got you so smug Buck?” Chimney asks, sounding curious. He already had his assumptions of course. And they wouldn’t be, entirely wrong.

“Well, I’m pretty sure I helped someone discover their newly found daddy kink” he lies. Chewy spits his drink out. Maddie’s eyes are wide. Bobby’s blushing. Karen’s cackling. Hen is gaping at him. Eddie looks like he was ready to have sex with him right then and there. Buck had to go outside for a few minutes, where he proceeded to laugh until he cried. A young woman who had been smoking stares at him in surprise before chucking in amusement.

“Oh, I have to know the story” she grins.

 

Her name was Jonah, and she was fucking cool. Black leather jeans and a blood-red crop top. Miles of tattoos. Piercings. Split red and black hair. Buck likes her instantly, and just gets this feeling that he could trust her. So, he tells her the story, and grins when she bursts into laughter.

“Oh my god!” she managed to get out through smoke-filled gasps.

“You are now my best friend Evan Buckley” she states with a grin.

“And if that so-called fire-fam hurts you, I won’t hesitate to smack a bitch”.

 

With false confidence, Buck sits at a booth, surrounded by the 118, Karen, Maddie and Athena. After a good week of work, they all decided to go for drinks. He keeps up his act. Winking at a girl with wavey blonde hair and icy eyes that had caught his eyes. Smirking at a guy with died black and purple hair. He doesn’t like doing it though. He doesn’t like leading people on, making people think they had a chance with him. He felt gross enough already with this long-winded act. Leading people on just made him feel down right horrible.

 

He really didn’t want one-night stands. Not anymore. Not after Abby. He wanted to meet people, go on dates and get to know them. He wanted to go into something, knowing it didn’t have to end in sex. He wanted something real. He wanted a relationship.

 

Sighing, and needing a break from his act, he decides to head to the bar, where he orders another beer. Knowing his, friends, wouldn’t see him, he allows himself to be, well, himself. He smiles at the girl in front of him, a real, genuine smile. She almost cries when he gives her a fifty-dollar tip.

“Are you sure?” she gasps, holding the note in her hand like it was a delicate cup, that would break any minute.

“Of course. I could see that you were getting annoyed at some of the guys before that were being dicks. And I could see that you were stressed and exhausted. I hope this helps” he smiles softly, eyes kind. 

“I’ve seen the way you were acting all night, but then you walk over here and you’re completely different. I’m guessing there’s a real interesting story somewhere?”. Her name is Meg, a pretty brunette with kind eyes, a nice smile, and a tattoo sleeve.

“There is definitely a story” he nods, smiling when she chuckles, watching as she moves to grab a piece of paper and a pen.

“Here, maybe we can grab a coffee and you can tell me your story. Think of it as a friend date” she smiles, handing him the piece paper.

“I’d love that, thank you” he smiles.

 

They walk for a few minutes before she has to go back to customers, so he walks back to his booth, yelping when someone grabs his ass. He bristles at the ‘Nice ass’ comment and turns, ready to yell at the person, but stops short at the sight of Jonah.

“Jonah!” he grins, pulling her into a tight hug. She chuckles, happily hugging him back. They had known each other for a month now, and although that would be considered a small length of time, they really saw each other as best friends. They texted almost daily, and had hour long phone conversations. They’d facetime each other when they could sleep, had sleepovers. Hung out all the time. They were the best things that could have happed to each other really.

 

“So Buck, who’s your, friend?” Chimney questions. He immediately assumes that she’s a one-night stand. They all do really. But then Athena thinks about the delighted way he said her name, the way he pulled her into a tight hug, and she has to think, that maybe she wasn’t a one-night stand. Oh, who was she kidding. It wasn’t a maybe situation, she genuinely didn’t think that this girl was a one-night stand. Hell, she didn’t think that Buck was a, man-whore, as Chimney so rudely called him. she knew Buck. She knows Buck. She knows that this is an act. Knows that he isn’t actually having sex. She knows that he had heard the names, and knew that they wounded him. and she felt so damn sorry for the boy. It was about damn time she showed that boy, her boy, that she was there for him.

 

“This is your best friend, right? You told me about her last week” Athena speaks up, smiling softly. Buck looks at her in surprise, eyes wide. He hadn’t told Athena about Jonah; he hadn’t told anyone about her. No one had the right to know what was going on in his life really, and who he was and wasn’t becoming friends with.

 

He looks at her, and just sees this, look, in her eyes, sees the smile she sends him. And he just breaths in relief and smiles back, internally grateful.

“Yeah, this is Jonah. Jonah, this is the 118. Chimney, Hen and Bobby. Bobby is the captain. There’s Karen, Hen’s wife. My sister, and Chimney’s girlfriend Maddie. And Athena, Bobby’s wife, and finest cop around”. Athena smiles at the compliment and holds out her had for Jonah to shake.

“It’s nice to meet you Jonah” Athena states. Jonah can tell. She can tell that Athena is a good one. That she was there for Buck. So, she smiles back, and happily shakes her hand.

 

***

 

Buck’s act ends shortly after it began.

 

He had found himself distancing himself from the team and his sister. Part of that was him, part of it was the others. He’s feeling even worse. Feeling more gross than ever. They’re not talking to him as much. They’re looking at him in disgust. And Buck hates it. He hates it so much. He wants to yell at them. He wants to blame them. He wants to tell them that it was all their fault. But he doesn’t. he doesn’t talk to them unless it was necessary. Doesn’t even say hello. He doesn’t eat, and his sleep is rough. He grows more tired every day. Weaker. He doesn’t know how much longer he can keep this up for.

 

He sticks to Jonah, Meg, and Athena. They’re his lifelines. They ground him, remind him that he’s there, that he’s human. He’s touched starved. Three months of acting like a man-whore and he’s actually touched starved. So, they hug him, pat his shoulder, hold his hand, play with his hair, kiss his cheek. They make sure he’s eating. They make sure he’s ok.

 

Jonah is worried about his best friend. He’s broken. And it breaks her heart. Meg is sad. Her Buck, her best friend. He’s so kind. So soft. So sad. Athena is sacred. Her boy, her son. He was sad, alone, broken. She’s worries everyday she works. Her stomach drops every time she gets one of these calls. Suicide. She worries that one day, one of those calls will be for one Evan ‘Buck’ Buckley. 

 

***

 

The team stays at the station that night, sleeping on the bunks. They had a hard day. They couldn’t save them. Two girls. A couple. They tried to kill themselves. They succeeded. The team tried, they tried so damn hard. But the girls just couldn’t hold on. It hit everyone like a ton of bricks. Bobby requests the team to stay at the station, to stay near each other. The team agrees.

 

It wasn’t that late. Eight o’clock. Bobby was cooking, to keep his mind off of things. Hen and Chim sat at the table. Hen was reading a book, Chim was doing a puzzle. Buck was alone, sitting in the locker room after a long shower. Eddie, Eddie was drunk.

 

After his hot shower, Buck decides to stay in the locker room for a while. He wasn’t ready for bed, despite feeling exhausted, and he didn’t want to face his team, didn’t want to be somewhere he wasn’t wanted. So, he hides out in the locker room, where he allows himself to just relax for once. As hard as that is, with the way he has been feeling. He tries meditation, and it does actually work. Until he’s interrupted by footsteps and a slamming door.

 

Startling at the slamming door, Buck looks up, and is surprised to see Eddie.

“Eddie!” he smiles as he gets up.

“What’s up?” You ok?” he questions, worried for his, friend. They were once best friends. Hell, he and the 118 were once family. But things were different.

 

Eddie ignores his words, walking forward quietly. Eyebrows furrowing, Buck starts to back up as Eddie gets closer.

“Eddie?” he questions, confused. He yelps when Eddie darts forwards, lips attaching to his neck. He wants to moan; he wants to be able to enjoy this. He wants to think, to believe that his crush actually liked him back. But he was so fucking scared. 

“Eddie, please stop” Buck whispers. He wants to beg. He wants to scream and cry, but he is so genuinely scared. And he can’t seem to make himself talk past a whisper. Eddie pulls back with a scoff, and Buck can smell the alcohol on his breath.

“What? You’re happy to sleep around with anyone who even looks at you. You’re probably fucking that tattooed chick. You’re nothing but a cock hungry slut. Like you don’t want this” Eddie smirks before diving for Bucks neck once again. Buck’s crying. He finds it hard to breath. He doesn’t want to be here anymore. He wants Meg. He wants Jonah. He wants Athena.

“STOP!”. His shout echoes around the fire station. It startles Eddie away, not enough, but he’s not sucking hickies onto his neck. It even startles Buck.

 

With Eddie’s lips finally off of him, he can finally breath again. He hears the footsteps, and he thinks everything is going to be ok.

 

He’s wrong. He’s so damn wrong.

 

The team is there. Eyes wide and looking worried. But then they see the position Eddie and Buck were in, and they’re not worried. Why weren’t they worried?

 

“Oh. It’s just Eddie and Buck” Hen sighs. What?

“About damn time” Chimney mutters. Buck feels dizzy. He wants to sob. This can’t be real.

 

“I quit”.

“What?”.

 

He wanted to cry, to break. He wanted to scream, to hurt. He wants to panic, to die. He doesn’t do any of that though. Instead, he glares. He glares at the person that used to be his best friend; he glares at the people who were meant to be his family. The people that were meant to be there for him, to protect him.

 

“I’m done. I quit. I’m leaving”. His words are like ice, and the 118 finds themselves freezing as they watch Buck leave.