“Alright, we’ve got two victims; Katelyn Raymond and her son, Dylan,” Bobby instructed. He started to say more, but Eddie chimed in before he could so much as start the next sentence.
“How old?” Buck reached for Eddie’s hand and squeezed reassuringly. It always hurt more when it involved kids.
“He’s sixteen,” Bobby obliged. “Dispatch reported a convertible hanging off the ledge, teetering on a tree just below.” He turned to Buck and Albert. “You two will go down and assess the damage. Eddie’s got Buck’s line, Chim, you have Albert’s. Hen will be waiting to treat the victims.” They all nodded as Bobby leaned over the edge to take in the scene below him.
“What are we looking at, Cap?” Buck asked, clapping his hand on Bobby’s shoulder when he leaned over a little too far.
“Kid took the brunt of the impact. Looks like his legs are trapped under the steering wheel. Mom got real lucky, but from the sounds of it, she’s not leaving without her son,” Bobby instructed. The look he shot Buck told him that it was his job to convince her otherwise. He didn’t much like that.
“Albert, you ready to go?” Buck asked as Eddie clipped the harness in place, tugging at it to ensure it was secure. He trailed his hands up Buck’s chest before cupping the back of his neck with his hand and leaning their foreheads together softly as they took simultaneous breaths.
Buck had waited years to start his relationship with Eddie and it was worth every second, but they were partners first on a call, and Eddie was about to lower Buck directly into danger. They had done it countless times before that moment, but it was different with everything out in the open. Eddie wasn’t only lowering his coworker down, he was lowering his boyfriend . Buck was entrusting him with not only his safety but his heart each and every day. It intensified every experience they had together.
But Buck couldn’t let his focus stray. He nodded his head against Eddie’s and cupped his cheek softly, stroking a gentle thumb over his cheekbone. It wasn’t nearly enough—nothing ever was—but Buck heard Bobby shout for him and he knew he had to switch back to the task at hand. They sent each other one last nod and the silent agreement was that Eddie would pull him back up to safety just as he always had and Buck had no qualms that Eddie would do exactly that.
As he propelled down the side of the cliff, he heard, “Please, help us! Please!”
“We’re coming. You have to remain calm, okay? Do not move,” Buck ordered. One wrong move and Buck knew they were gone without giving either him or Albert the chance to save them. Buck was all about chances.
“Are you ready, Albert?” Buck asked because he could see the nerves building up in his friend. There was sweat dripping down his forehead, easily confused by the sweltering heat of the day, but Buck recognized it for what it was. “Shake it off, buddy. We’re almost there and we have to look like the ones that know what we’re doing,” Buck reminded him. Albert huffed out a laugh and it was as much of an understanding as Buck figured he would get.
“Please, you have to help my son. My son, he’s—” Buck propelled himself directly next to where the mother was bracing herself against the dashboard.
“Mom, let them do their job, okay?” The kid said, sending a desperate glance at Albert who had settled on his side of the car. “She’s such a worrywart, you know? I told her that we’re going to be fine but she—” He was cut off by an angry creak of the metal, reminding Buck of the time constraint they were on. Buck peeked forward just as the stump pulled a little further from the cliffside.
“Katelyn, right?” Buck asked as he reached over to assess her for injury. The seatbelt embedded into her chest and her hands on the dashboard were the only things holding her in place and Buck had to scour his brain for a way to get her out.
“Dylan,” she corrected, but Buck knew better than to feed into it.
“Interesting name for a pretty woman like yourself,” he flirted easily, hoping to ease her in any way he could. The actual Dylan let out a pained laugh from his side of the car and when Buck glanced over, Albert’s hand was attempting to release his legs from where they were pinned.
“My son’s name is Dylan and you’re going to get him out of here first,” she said sternly. Buck glanced at Albert who shook his head solemnly after he noted Katelyn wasn’t looking. Buck made a mental reminder to praise him for that later.
“Here’s the thing, Katelyn; once we get you outta here, there’s a much smaller chance this car will fall with both of you in it,” Buck tried to reason with her. Even Dylan knew it was pointless.
“She’s not gonna leave. I’ve been trying to convince her since I realized I was stuck,” Dylan said. Even through the obvious hurt and panting breaths, Buck heard his childlike fear and he knew that Katelyn would, too.
“Dylan, my friend, Albert, is gonna try to see if we can get you unstuck, okay?” Buck said, nodding at Albert to radio up to the team. He listened in to make sure Albert asked for everything they needed and then turned his focus back to Katelyn. “So, your mom is pretty stubborn, huh?”
“Really?” Katelyn asked, sending Buck a glare. He shook her off and kept his attention on Dylan as Albert grabbed onto the jaws of life the team had lowered down.
“Just callin’ it like I see it,” Buck defended, shooting Dylan a subtle wink.
“I’m not stubborn because I—”
“You are the most stubborn person I’ve ever met, mom. Even this complete and total stranger called it,” Dylan interrupted weakly. Katelyn reached over and grabbed Dylan’s hand in hers tightly, both of them wincing but neither of them caring about the pain.
“I’m stubborn? Which one of us just had to prove to dad that the convertible was ready to drive, huh?” Katelyn tossed back.
“I know it might not seem like it,” Dylan directed at Buck who had leaned over enough to hold the top of the steering wheel as Albert moved it into place, “but I was right. She drove like a dream.”
Buck took a second to look over the car and noted, “Cadillac?” Dylan nodded through his wincing.
“2005. My parents got it the year I was born for me to drive on my sixteenth birthday,” Dylan said sadly and Buck’s heart dropped at what he was inferring.
“Sixteen, huh? That’s a pretty solid milestone in life. I gotta say, Katelyn, you don’t look old enough to have a son in his late teens,” Buck teased, earning a laugh through the open channel his radio was on. He recognized it immediately and an instant smile crossed his face.
“This is how you relax people? Hit on them?” Katelyn asked, the nerves shaking her voice just enough for Buck to notice.
“It’s what he’s best at,” Eddie said through the radio and Buck couldn’t hold back his chuckle.
“Mom, you’re a catch. Let the man hit on you,” Dylan chimed in before he took a desperate gulp of air. The steering wheel snapped off into Buck’s hand and he slowly raised it, discarding it and trying his hardest not to listen to it clamor down the cliff.
The stump gave again at the small movements and neither Albert nor Buck shoved back as they should have even as Katelyn and Dylan shrieked in fear. They didn’t have much more time and the mother and son were still trapped at the odd downward angle with only their seatbelts holding them into place. Buck knew they would need two hands for each of them and tried one last time to convince Katelyn to go first. It would take much longer to free Dylan due to his injury and the uncertainty of what would happen when they did move him was too in the air for Buck to give up on Katelyn quite yet.
When Albert was at his side, Buck said sternly, “Katelyn, it’s going to take a lot longer to get Dylan out, we need to come with us—”
“Do you have kids?” She asked abruptly.
“No,” Albert said, almost slightly relieved. Katelyn glanced at Buck who—should’ve said the same thing.
Wasn’t it funny how one piece of paper could change everything?
“I—“ Buck hesitated and when he glanced over at the driver’s side, all he could see was Christopher. “I don’t—“ Why couldn’t he just answer her? He didn’t have a son, not like Dylan was to her, but the words were caught in his throat. If it was a choice between him and Christopher, Buck knew he wouldn’t hesitate.
“He might as well have,” Albert answered for him, patting his shoulder as if understanding Buck’s hesitation. “That doesn’t make our decision any less true, Katelyn. Each moment we spend waiting is another that this car could fall with you in it.” Katelyn’s hand was still gripping onto Dylan’s tightly as he nodded in and out of consciousness.
“If this car falls when I’m out of it and Dylan isn’t? It won’t matter. Please, just—” Her eyes met Buck’s, wide and pleading. “Save my son.”
She was putting her trust in Buck and he would be a hypocrite not to listen to her. He gestured for Albert to move back around to the other side of the car just as Bobby lowered down the backboard and tourniquet they would need to secure Dylan. Buck could see the blood spreading on the fabric of his jeans and knew one wrong move meant even more blood loss than the kid could probably handle.
“Dylan, hey, you still with me?” Buck asked. He wrapped the c-collar around his neck before he maneuvered the harness around him, securing it as best he could with the seatbelt still in the way. Dylan moaned a painful sound that had Katelyn letting out a choked sob beside them.
“Baby, you gotta stay awake, okay? They’re gonna get you outta here safe and sound,” Katelyn reassured, bringing Dylan’s hand up to her mouth and kissing gently. Buck tied off the top of Dylan’s thigh the best he could at the awkward angle and then pressed his arm over Dylan’s chest as he cut the seatbelt.
The second Dylan slumped over, Buck shouted for Bobby to pull, freeing him from his seat enough for Buck and Albert to work together to get him strapped to Albert’s chest. He held on tightly, pressing some gauze into the wound on his leg as Chim and Bobby pulled them up. Buck felt the relief the instant they were out of sight and he climbed over to Katelyn’s side with a grin on his face.
“He’s up there. He’s safe, okay? We’ve got our best medics working on him and now it’s your turn,” He promised her and she let out a sob of relief, reaching out to hold Buck’s hand in hers.
“Thank you, I can’t tell you what—”
Buck barely registered the way her nails dug into his skin before the stump gave way and the car became a minuscule blip below him. He screamed, shouting her name desperately as if that would be enough to save her. He couldn’t save her anymore, not as the car crashed to the ground, the sound resonating through his ears like a bomb. He vaguely heard Eddie screaming his name, barely felt the sting of the cliffside digging into his back as his partner pulled him to safety. There was nothing but the sound of Katelyn’s fear like a ringing in his ears that he would never be able to erase.
He felt hands around his harness, pulling him back to safety where he had promised to come back to, but nothing about it felt right. He stared at the sun beaming down on them, Katelyn’s screams morphing into the gut-wrenching sobs of her son as he realized what had happened. He was going to be okay, Eddie reminded him over and over, but Buck knew he wouldn’t. He would never come back from that day and as much as Buck tried not to blame himself, he also couldn’t stop.
Later, when he’d rinsed off the day and found himself in Eddie’s bed, he let himself replay every moment. ‘Do you have any kids?’ She had asked and it froze him. It was as if ice had struck through his heart and then melted into a solid warmth around it. Nothing he could’ve said would have convinced her to let Buck save her life first. There was nothing he could have done differently to save her life. The moment her son sat in that driver’s seat and Katelyn sat in the other, their fate had been out of Buck’s still trembling hands.
“You did everything you could, Buck. She wouldn’t—couldn’t listen,” Eddie stuttered to remind Buck after he had slid into the space beside him.
“I know, Eds, I—I know.” Eddie stared at him with wide, sympathetic eyes, brows pulled to the center of his forehead in confusion.
“You know?” He asked and Buck nodded, burrowing himself as far into Eddie as he could. He would have climbed inside of the comfort his boyfriend provided him if he could.
“I looked over at Dylan and he was bleeding out. He was stuck underneath the wheel and getting paler with each second and he was joking. ” Buck let out a wet huff of laughter. “He sat there in pain, called his mother stubborn, and told her to let me hit on her and all I could think about was fucking Christopher. ”
“I heard…” Eddie trailed off like he was just making sure Buck knew he was listening.
“When you—” Buck cleared the emotion from his throat, “When I was taking care of Christopher after… He did the same thing for me. He told me it was going to be okay and made fun of my snoring, of all things, just to make me feel better. I was supposed to be the one making him feel better and he—” Buck shook his head.
“You don’t snore,” Eddie commented and of course Buck didn’t. That was apparently just another way Christopher made sure they kept their spirits up and just when he thought all of his tears dried out, Buck wanted to cry again.
“I realized that I would’ve done the same thing if I were Katelyn,” Buck admitted. Eddie pulled him tighter, his fingertips digging into the skin of Buck’s back securely.
“If it meant Christopher was safe, I would do anything, Eddie,” he began, tilting his head back enough to make sure he could look into his boyfriend’s eyes. “I’ve known since the minute I met Christopher that I would walk through hell for that kid, but I never thought I’d be allowed. That’s your job, you know? I never wanted to take that away from you, being the person who loves Christopher the most.”
“I know you love him,” Eddie started, but Buck needed to finish. He pressed their lips together softly to calm his own racing heart and to make sure Eddie couldn’t say anything else.
“I know you know that, but I guess I didn’t realize how much I already considered him my own son until you told me about that piece of fucking paper.” Buck let out another laugh and pressed his forehead to Eddie’s. “One piece of paper shouldn’t have meant so much, but—Fuck, Eddie, Katelyn asked me if I had any kids and my first instinct was to say yes.”
“You are allowed—”
“He’s not my—”
“Evan,” Eddie breathed out in an eerily similar way to those few months ago when he told Buck about that life-changing piece of paper in question. “He is your son in every single way that matters and I know that you would sacrifice everything for him, just like Katelyn did.” He stared into Buck’s eyes, gripping onto him as if he couldn’t possibly think of letting go.
“That terrifies me, Eddie,” Buck whispered, closing his eyes as the exhaustion of the day seemed to finally catch up to him. “He means so much to me, you both mean everything to me and I—”
“You need to get some sleep. We’re okay. We don’t need you to make any life or death decisions for us right now and we can only hope that’ll never be the case… again.” Eddie laughed softly and Buck had to laugh along with him.
“I choose you both, in case that wasn’t clear. I would put you two before the world and myself. I never really understood how true that was until today,” Buck said, pressing another delicate kiss to Eddie’s lips to punctuate the weight behind his words.
“I’d choose you two in a heartbeat, too.” Eddie wrapped his arm around Buck, pulling his boyfriend impossibly closer. “Now sleep, Buck, because Christopher is going to barge in here in a little under five hours.” Buck groaned. “He’s your son, too, remember,” Eddie teased, kissing Buck’s head before tucking it into his chest.
And wasn’t that the most amazing thing Buck had ever heard?