Toxic

Title: Toxic
Author: Jilly James
Fandom: 9-1-1
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Episode Related
Pairing: Gen, minor Evan Buckley/Eddie Diaz and references to canon pairings
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Canon-level situations and angst, Ambiguous ending. (Author is salty AF)
Author Note: I think this is Maddie neutral and slightly anti-Chimney, though I don’t consider it bashing in any fashion since his behavior in 5×04 was unacceptable, regardless of how much stress he’d been under. I do try to be compassionate about the mental health issues at play. However, if you don’t like my approach, feel free to hit the X and walk away. This is my exploration of canon and possible consequences; I don’t exist to make anyone happy. Also, this is episode-related and may not make sense if you don’t watch the show, though I tried to make it stand alone and be comprehensible to those who don’t watch the show or who aren’t current on season 5.
Timeline: Takes place after 5×04, and written before 5×05 aired.
Beta: The Grammarly blues. (No, my antecedent wasn’t ever unclear, Grammarly!)
Word Count: 7,520
Summary: Ten weeks after Maddie left, nine weeks after the disastrous punch, Maddie and Chimney return home and find that things are no longer the same.

Toxic

Buck put the last books from the shelf into the moving box and then taped it closed. He was almost done with the packing to prep for the movers who were coming tomorrow. Most of the furnishings were staying other than the mattress itself. When he’d decided to move to be closer to his new station, he’d planned to put the apartment on the market, but then he’d lucked into meeting someone who worked for a company that did corporate rentals. They’d rent his apartment furnished full-time for either visiting execs or possibly interns from out of the country. It was an ideal rental situation because the intermediary paid the rent to Buck whether the apartment was in use or not.

The person he’d been working with liked Buck’s design aesthetic for the loft and offered financial incentives for Buck to leave most of the furniture. Still, they were putting in a new mattress with a particular type of cover that could be changed out between occupants.

Rental rates were sky-high at the moment, so the rental income would more than cover the outstanding mortgage on the apartment and about two-thirds of the payment and insurance on his new house. It wound up being a big financial win for him, but the rental thing had happened so fast that he’d barely entered escrow on the new place. As a result, his stuff was going in a Pod, and he’d be staying with Eddie for a few weeks until he could take possession of his new house.

The new place needed some work, but Buck could take his time with that once he moved in. His top priority was accessibility features throughout and getting Christopher’s room ready. He already had a contractor lined up for that—someone recommended by Michael Grant—for the week after escrow closed.

Buck hated why these changes in his life had come about, but the longer he walked this new path, the more enthused he was about the direction his life was taking.

As if fate were taunting him with the life he’d left behind, his phone rang, flashing a face and number he hadn’t seen on his display in over two months. He actually considered letting it go to voicemail but then immediately felt guilty for the impulse.

He pressed the answer button. “Hey, Maddie. I gather ‘welcome home’ is the appropriate greeting?”

There was a longer pause than would be normal before she said, “Uh, yes. I figured you already knew I was home, but then Howie texted me that you’d transferred out of the 118, which was a little confusing on several levels, Evan. I know Howie’s been keeping everyone updated since he found me. You knew I was coming home….”

“No, I really didn’t. Chimney has only been keeping Hen in the loop, and no one passed on the news to me that you guys were coming back. I’ve been gone from the 118 for about five weeks now.” Three weeks after Chim had taken off to hunt for Maddie with Jee bundled up in a car seat, Buck had gotten the news through Hen that he’d found her in the Bay Area. About a week after she left Los Angels, she’d checked herself into an in-patient facility that specialized in women’s perinatal mental healthcare.

Buck had researched the facility, and it was one of the top three in the country for in-patient care for the types of issues Maddie was struggling with. It was a good choice for her and something that he knew everyone would have supported if they’d been given a chance.

Chim had stayed on FMLA and rented a furnished apartment down the street to stay nearby with Jee for when Maddie was ready for visitors. In total, she’d spent about two months either in-patient or in their partial hospitalization program, which was about eight hours a day at the hospital and nights back home with Chim and Jee.

The silence stretched on. “I didn’t know you and Howie weren’t talking. Is that why you didn’t come to visit?” Her voice was soft and tentative.

“I didn’t know that was an option, Maddie. The last thing I heard from Hen was that Chim didn’t want any contact from anyone unless he initiated it. I don’t even know when you switched from in-patient to partial, I just know that’s part of their step-down program, so I assume that you did.” Buck blew out a breath. “He was furious with me for keeping the secret that you’d called me on your way out of town.”

But…” Maddie sounded confused. “You didn’t really know anything more than what I told him in the video.”

“I know that, and you know that, but he was angry that I didn’t tell him that you’d called.”

I asked you not to.”

“Yeah, well, keeping your secrets backfires on us on the regular, now doesn’t it?”

Buck,” she gasped. “I—”

“Let’s not, Maddie. Not now. But don’t ever ask me to keep a secret from him again.”

Buck, please… I only called you because I wanted you to look out for him and Jee.”

“Yeah, I got that. So, why couldn’t I tell him that you called?” There was nothing he knew that mattered, so the secrecy she’d demanded from him felt like an unnecessary and harmful burden.

I didn’t want him to be hurt that I talked to you in person but left him a video.”

“Yeah, well, he assumed I had some insight into Jee’s hospital visit and your departure and hid it from him. He’s kept me out of the loop ever since.” All Buck had known about Jee was that Maddie had had to take her to the doctor, but that she was fine. He hadn’t even known that there was a hospital visit involved, or he probably would have told Chim regardless of promises to Maddie.

“In retrospect, Mads, I should never have kept that promise. Simply because Chimney needed to know that Jee had been to the doctor. I trusted your evaluation that Jee was fine, but I shouldn’t have because you weren’t in the right frame of mind to evaluate Jee’s health. Of course, I didn’t know how bad your frame of mind was because you and Chim were keeping that to yourselves,” he said with more than a bit of bitterness. “For months.”

Buck…I was ashamed. I didn’t want you to know—”

“Know what, Maddie? That you were depressed? I already knew that; I just didn’t know how bad. And, man, I misread how much you internalized our parents’ disdain for mental healthcare.”

I haven’t—”

“Yes, you have,” Buck snapped. “Otherwise, this wouldn’t have been another big, toxic secret. I should have told Chim you took Jee to the doctor, though I had no idea it was to the hospital, so I’m not sure how much that information would have helped him since the only thing he was focused on was finding you.”

I never wanted them uprooting their lives while I was getting my head on straight. I wanted Jee in her home with the people she knows helping take care of her. I wanted her close to you. I didn’t want them living in a bland apartment with no one to support them. That’s why I called you to have you look out for them.”

“Don’t you dare imply that I failed you.” Buck fisted his hand in his hair. “I don’t want to do this, Maddie. I’m glad you got the help you needed. Like, really glad that you’re well enough to come home and be with your family, but you’re not going to make your dissatisfaction with any of this out to be my fault.”

I don’t think that.” There was another long pause. “I’d like to see you, Evan.”

“I don’t think so. Not right now, Mads, and not anytime soon.”

Why? I’ll talk to Howie and straighten everything out. I didn’t know he was so angry, but it’ll be fine.”

“So, after more than two months, you two are going to talk about the mess you left when you both walked away?”

That’s not fair.”

Buck pursed his lips, fighting back all the truly unfair things he wanted to say. “Isn’t it? I get that you were in a bad place, Maddie, and you needed to take care of yourself, but there were points in time when you and Chim both made decisions in a competent frame of mind that made things much worse in the long run. I don’t hold your PPD against you, Sis, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fallout from how this all went. It doesn’t mean things didn’t change. Not just while you were gone but in the months before when you cut me out of your life.

“Things have changed for me—drastically. If you or Jee were in crisis, I’d drop everything to help you, but you’re doing well, you’re back home, you’re taking up the role of mother, which is what I want for you. But none of your success changes what’s going on with me.”

And what is that?”

“I’m not prepared to discuss it right now.”

Really? I can’t even know what’s going on in your life?”

“Why are you suddenly curious now? You could make phone calls and send emails from the hospital, but you chose to only communicate with Chim. That’s your right, of course, but it was still a choice you made. You’re not the only person who was affected by this whole mess. I’m glad you’re doing better, I really am, but I need space now to get my life sorted.”

I don’t even understand, Buck. Why did you leave your team? You worked so hard to be at the 118. The lawsuit and—”

“No,” Buck snapped. “We don’t talk about the lawsuit. You agreed to that, Maddie.” He and Maddie had very different views of the litigation, and in order to preserve the status quo of their relationship, Buck had drawn a firm line that they couldn’t talk about it ever again.

I’m sorry. You’re right. We did agree never to bring it up again.”

Buck leaned back against the kitchen island, wishing he still had beer in the house, but he’d cleaned out his refrigerator yesterday, taking everything consumable over to Eddie’s place. A cleaning company would be coming in after the movers were done to get the place ready for the first rental.

He blew out a breath. “I’m not ready to open up about everything going on, but I decided to switch to Search and Rescue.”

But…why?”

“SAR has recruited me several times, but I’d always chosen to stay under Bobby’s command. It was time for me to move on. I have training every day for the next few weeks, and I’ll be tasked to my unit next month.” He still had to finish Confined Space Rescue, which was the only Urban Search & Rescue certification he didn’t already have. He was a big guy for confined space rescue, which made it a bit of a stressful course, and so this thing with Maddie wasn’t coming at the best time for his own mental health.

He decided not to bring up that he was moving. She’d find out, no doubt soon, and they’d cross that bridge then. He wasn’t planning on giving Maddie his new address right away. Maddie was great about policing her own boundaries but not about respecting his. He was getting better about protecting them himself, but sometimes other obstacles were helpful.

He’d had a difficult time in therapy dealing with the fact that he was allowed to have feelings about the situation with Maddie and how it was all handled—both by her and Chimney. He’d felt for a long time that he needed to push it all down because Maddie was the one struggling with PPD, but Dr. Copeland had made it clear that Maddie could be in a terrible situation but Buck could also be struggling over it. Especially if Maddie had kept secrets or made unreasonable demands. It didn’t take away from her recovery for him to get help with how he felt about the situation and draw some firmer boundaries to prevent this blowback from hitting him ever again.

He touched his eye, feeling the echoes of the pain of a fractured zygomatic bone.

You’re really going to SAR full time?”

“I’ll be at one of the US&R Bureaus, yes.” He opted not to give her more information, not even telling her which bureau. Although, with her contacts in dispatch and the department, she could no doubt easily find out. He doubted she really cared, though. She’d never been overly invested in the details of his work.

I don’t understand, Buck.”

“You missed a lot. I don’t say that to be cruel, but it’s just the truth.” There was more behind Buck’s move to SAR, but he’d decided that truth wouldn’t come from him. It needed to come from Howard Han. “I’m glad you’re doing better, but you can’t just pick me up again because it’s convenient for you.”

It’s not like that; I’ve missed you.”

“You could have called, Maddie.”

There was a long pause. “It was difficult. Just dealing with Howie was sometimes my limit.”

“And I respect that, so I’m going to have to ask that you respect that I’m going through some stuff right now. I don’t need the stress of whatever you and Chim are bringing with you.”

But…can’t I help?”

Buck laughed, and it sounded bitter to his own ears. “I don’t need your help, Maddie. My life’s on a good path, but sometimes even good change is a lot to deal with. I’m asking for space. I gave it to you when you asked; I’d like to think you’ll extend me the same courtesy.”

She made a sputtering noise. “That’s different.”

“Yeah, okay, Maddie. I have to go. This wasn’t a good time for me anyway.”

No, Buck. I’m sorry. It really isn’t different; I just want it to be. I don’t have any business invalidating your needs like that.” She heaved a heavy sigh. “If something is going on in your life, I want to know. I want to help.”

He wanted to tell her that she’d lost the right to ride in and try to fix things when she’d pushed him away because she didn’t want him to see how depressed she was, but he knew that would be cruel. It would be him lashing out because of his own hurt over something she couldn’t easily control. But, then again, Maddie had a habit of pushing people away for what she perceived to be their own good. Then she’d expect them just to get over it when she was ready to be in contact again. After all, her motives were good, right?

Instead, he opted for a different kind of truth. “Brutally honest here, Mads: I don’t want your help. And I don’t want to talk about this any further. Not right now. Probably not without a therapist.”

I just want things to get back to normal.”

“Things change. It’s not about right or wrong, but there are consequences for the choices you made. I’m not even talking about me here. But when it comes to our relationship, you aren’t the only one who gets to set the boundaries. I’m in this too, and I’m telling you that I need more time.”

But I’ve already been gone more than two months.”

“Yeah, Maddie, two months where I was hard-core more cut out of your life than before you left!” Buck couldn’t help but snap back. How could she possibly think that being ignored and left mostly in the dark for that nine weeks was in any way healing for Buck? Was she that fucking clueless? Or was she just that self-centered?

He voiced none of that, however.

I’m sorry, Buck. I’ll talk to Howie and find out what happened.

“Don’t push this all off on Chim. You made these choices too. Again, it’s not about right or wrong. I think everyone was trying to keep their head above water. But even choices we make out of desperation have a fucking ripple effect; they have consequences. You don’t get to decide when everything gets back to normal for everyone else just because you’re all better now and want it back the way it was.”

I know. I hear you, and I know what you’re saying logically makes sense, but I keep wondering how I’m supposed to get back to normal if everything has changed? I can’t even get my job back. At least, not like it was. They only have an opening at a different dispatch center. It’d be like starting all over with new people, and it’s not clear that they’ll accommodate the part-time hours I had before.” She blew out a shuddery breath. “And then Howie said you weren’t at work today, and I just… I just want everything to go back to how it was before it all got so messed up.”

“It’s a nice fantasy,” he said gently, “but it doesn’t work that way. You ultimately did the right thing for yourself when you checked into one of the best treatment centers in the country. And, god, Mads, I can’t think of a better use for that money you hated than getting you the mental and physical help you needed to really heal. And now you’re ready to be what I know you wanted most—Jee-Yun’s mom. You’re going to rock that, Sis; I’ve always had faith in you when it comes to your ability as a mother because I have first-hand experience with that.”

Evan…” she whispered.

“But you can’t make everyone else work at your desired speed just because you’re feeling better now. I don’t want to foist my issues on you when you’re doing so well and just getting your feet back under you. I’m working through it; I’ve got my support system, and I’m getting therapy. You deserve to get on with your life, but you’re going to have to accept the parts that are now different.”

Like not getting to see you?”

“Not right now. I need more time to get my own life sorted out.”

Buck…” She took a deep breath. “Is this about me…or Howie?”

“Honestly, it’s about both of you. And that’s as far as I’m going to go with this discussion. If you or Jee really need me, you know you only have to call, but I’m not up for social hour.”

Okay. I wish…” She made a raspberry sound. “I guess there’s no point in wishing. Wishes just wind up being another source of frustration.”

“You’re still in therapy, right?”

Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to be, but the hospital stressed how important it is that a professional be keeping an eye out for warning signs of returning depression and intrusive thoughts. They were adamant that it be a neutral party outside the home because Howie and I are both too close to the situation.”

“Fair point.” Plus, Chim seemed to just do whatever Maddie said, regardless of whether it was in Maddie’s best interest. At least, until Maddie walked out and left him behind. At that point, Chim stopped caring what Maddie wanted. “Is Chim getting help?” He almost didn’t want to know.

Yes. He was more reluctant than me, but my doctors pointed out that PPD can affect him too, and I insisted that he start counseling while we were still up in the Bay Area. He hasn’t synced up with his new therapist here yet, but I’ve met mine already via video call before we even left Mountain View.”

“I’m glad, Maddie. No matter how much has changed or what changes are still to come, more than anything, I wanted you and Jee to be okay.”

There was another pause. “But not Howie?”

Buck hesitated. “Of course I want Chimney to be all right, but he was never going to listen to me. I’m not sure he respects my opinion at all. I also came to believe that he was more than willing to keep me away from Jee if you weren’t there to force the issue. So, no, I’m not as invested in whether he’s okay.”

Buck, no…”

“Maddie, you’re not aware of everything that happened, so don’t tell me how I feel, okay? I want all of you to be okay, but my concern, what I’ll put myself out there for, is you and Jee. Chim has made his position clear when it comes to me. If it wasn’t clear before he left, certainly the radio silence while he was gone did the trick.”

It’s just a misunderstanding, Buck. And most of it is my fault anyway.”

“No, it wasn’t a misunderstanding; it was spite. And this is the cost of those secrets you like. It’s not even about assigning blame, but actions have consequences, and there are hurt feelings about secrets that never seem to get resolved. I’m just done with it. No more.”

I never meant for this to happen.”

“Which is sort of irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. If you’d done it maliciously, it’d certainly be worse, but the consequences are what they are, and it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t your intent. We all have to move on.”

I’m still going to talk to Howard; I’m going to make sure he understands that the only reason I called you was that I wanted you to look out for him.”

“I’m not going to police your interactions with your partner, Maddie. Do what you want.”

She sighed. “Just don’t call you?”

“If you have an emergency, by all means, call. But I’m not interested in Chimney’s epiphany. Otherwise, I think we should stick to text messages for a while.”

I want to argue, but I know I shouldn’t. I should give you the space you’re asking for. I just… How will I know you’re okay?”

“How have you known I was okay for the last six months.”

I relied on Howie to tell me….” She trailed off. “But he wouldn’t tell me anything that would have stressed me out, would he?”

“Of course he wouldn’t, and he still won’t.” And Buck seriously doubted Chimney would pass on any information about him in any fashion. Other than the fact that Buck has transferred out of the 118.

“I checked out of your life, didn’t I? But I didn’t mean to.”

“I know you didn’t mean to, Maddie, but it is what it is. We can’t escape consequences just because we didn’t anticipate the outcome.”

After another hesitation, she asked, “Are you okay? Truly? I just need to know that much.”

He honestly found her concern frustrating and upsetting, but he bit back his response. “I’m fine. I wasn’t sure about this new path at first, but now I’m excited about it.”

Then I’m happy for you.”

It was hard for him to find any enthusiasm for her happiness on his behalf. “I have to go, Maddie. Again, I’m glad things are working out for you.” He pressed the END button before anything else could be said.

– – – –

The shift came to an end with the last two hours being quiet and allowing them to eat a good breakfast and get things thoroughly prepped for C-shift. They had twenty-four hours off, then another shift, then a four-day stretch off-duty. Part of Eddie’s day off today would be helping supervise Buck’s movers. Not that Buck needed help supervising professional movers, but Eddie was pretty sure Buck needed supervision, and Eddie just liked keeping an eye on him.

Eddie booked it to the locker room and gathered his stuff the minute 8:00 rolled around. He wasn’t surprised when Chimney caught up with him as he was closing his locker door, duffel bag slung over his shoulder.

“Eddie, you got a minute?”

Eddie pressed his lips into a thin line. He hadn’t had to interact much with Chimney the whole shift, and he didn’t want to start now, but he couldn’t say he was surprised at the request. “Sure. Let’s take it outside.” Eddie had continued to partner with Hen, and Chim had been tasked with Ravi’s ongoing training.

Chimney’s expression twisted a bit, but he nodded. “I’ll grab my stuff and be right there.”

As Eddie strode out of the station, he was aware of Bobby and Hen watching from the balcony. He had a feeling they’d all been grateful that the last shift had been so busy other than the final few hours. He tossed his duffel in the back of the truck and then waited with his arms crossed for Chimney to appear.

A minute later, Chimney exited the station and moved to stand a few feet from Eddie. He looked uncomfortable and out of place, which was how he’d looked all shift when they weren’t in the middle of a callout. “First shift back was weird. Everything feels so…foreign.”

“You’ve been gone a while,” Eddie replied, tone noncommittal.

“Yeah, except I don’t think that’s it.” He sighed. “Maddie’s been texting; she’s fretting about Buck. She says there was a lot of misunderstanding about what happened when she left, and she’s upset that it caused friction between him and me.”

Eddie couldn’t help but throw back his head and laugh. “Friction? That’s an understatement, don’t you think? I mean, did you tell her that you cold-cocked her baby brother? And then you froze him out the entire time you were gone, refusing to let him know anything about his sister or his niece?”

Chim glanced away, expression filled with something Eddie thought was probably shame. “I was angry.”

“Who gives a shit!” Eddie snarled. “I sure the hell don’t. I mean, my sympathies were with you, Chim, right up until you unleashed your temper in a violent act against a member of your own family. Don’t you dare stand there and expect sympathy from me because your girlfriend is belatedly worried.”

Chimney’s jaw muscles jumped and then released. “I figured he and I would talk about it when I got back. I needed to focus on Maddie while I was away.”

“What a load of bullshit. I happen to know there was exactly one hour of visiting time a day, assuming Maddie was even willing to see you on any given day. Don’t pretend like you were focused on Maddie twenty-three hours a day when she was behind the locked doors that were keeping her safe. You chose to pursue Maddie rather than wait here for her to come home. You chose to take Jee away from her support system. You chose to hit Buck because you were mad. And then you chose to cut him out of his sister’s recovery because you were spiteful. Stop dressing it up as something else. You made a lot of choices, Chimney, and there’s fallout from your shitty decision making.”

“I didn’t choose to hit Buck.” Chimney shook his head firmly in denial. “I was completely out of control; I reacted. You don’t know what it was like, Eddie.”

“Now, see, Chimney, it’s in your best interests if I don’t believe you.”

Chimney jerked back, expression confused. “What do you mean?”

“You see, Buck and I talked about it, and neither of us believes for a second that you’d have lashed out at Hen that way if she were the keeper of Maddie’s unfortunate secret.”

Chimney looked appalled. “Of course not.”

“Then you weren’t completely out of control, now were you? You made a choice. Either that it was okay to hit him because he was a man or just because it was Buck. And it’s a good thing we accept that it was your fucked up toxic masculinity or some messed-up thing about Buck himself. Otherwise, Buck would have given a police report and had your ass arrested so you’d never get within a hundred yards of his sister. If he truly thought you were out of control and the sort to resort to violence as a result of emotional upheaval, he’d have made sure you never saw Maddie again.”

Chimney looked appalled and more than a little freaked out.

Eddie kept going because he had a lot to say, and he’d been sitting on it for nine weeks. “See, I personally think you felt safe hitting Buck, and only Buck, because you were confident, on some level, that there wouldn’t be consequences. I thought about how compromised you might have been. I have no doubt you were under a great deal of stress and very emotional, but I wondered if you’d have taken the same action if Athena had been in the room. What about Bobby? Or even me?

“You need to ask yourself those questions and honestly decide if any of those circumstances would have stayed your hand. Would the threat to your freedom have stopped you? Would jeopardizing your job have stopped you? Would a threat to your own personal safety have been enough to keep your hands to yourself? Because I promise you that if you’d hit Buck in my presence that you’d still be eating through a straw.” He delivered the back-handed threat calmly and without inflection.

Eddie crossed one ankle over the other, slouching more against the truck. “I honestly believe you wouldn’t have hit him if there’d been a witness who could have given you any kind of consequence that would have gotten between you and Maddie. So let’s stop with the bullshit narrative that you were out of your mind and out of control.”

“You don’t understand, Eddie. Things were—”

“I don’t care!” Eddie snapped. “I used to. I wanted to help you, help Maddie. I really felt for you, Chim. Your girlfriend ran away and left you and your kid behind. How could I not relate, even if the circumstances were wildly different? And then I got a call from my best friend, freaked out about what had happened and struggling to deal with a member of his family being violent with him. I stopped caring about your perspective when I was waiting with him to get the results of his x-ray.”

Chim’s brow furrowed. “X-ray?”

“You gave him a fracture of the zygomatic bone, you fucking asshole.”

Chim flinched back like he was the one who’d been struck.

“He’s just now getting over the headaches your little act of aggression caused. So excuse me if I’m not sympathetic to your plight anymore. Buck, however, set things up so you could come home and slot back into your life like you hadn’t tried to destroy everything on the way out the door.”

Chim frowned. “I don’t understand what you mean. He’s not even here. He left.”

“Which you’d have known about more than a month ago if you’d ever bothered to inquire after your darling love’s little brother,” he said snidely.

“Hey!”

“You’re not the wounded one here, Han. Your situation may have been tough, but you contributed to it more than anyone else. You let Maddie twist you up with a toxic promise not to tell anyone about the severity of her PPD, and then you have the fucking nerve to get violent with her brother over simply keeping a phone call to himself.”

“He knew Jee had been to the hospital!”

“No, he didn’t! Maddie told him Jee had been seen by a doctor and that she was okay, but that Maddie was afraid Jee was no longer safe with her. Buck assumed it was the PPD, not anything real. You and Maddie keeping secrets contributed to that. Buck won’t outright blame you two for how messed up everything got, but you’re not going to blame him either.”

Chim fisted his hands in his hair, looking pissed off, frustrated, and almost like he wanted to cry. “I just need to fix things, okay? We have to get everything back to normal. Maddie is upset that Buck is off doing whatever the hell he’s doing—which no one will tell me about—and he won’t see her. What the hell, Eddie? She’s his sister.”

“Well, that’s a convenient fucking time for you two to remember that.”

“That’s low. You know Maddie was in the hospital.”

“Then it was on you to keep in touch with her family, wasn’t it? But you were too wrapped up in your bruised feelings to do the right thing by her. So, spare me your victim routine. I’m not buying what you’re selling, and I’m not Buck; I’ve never been that nice in my entire life.”

“I thought we were friends, man.”

“Wow.” Eddie gave a mirthless laugh. “We were. We might be again one day. But, right now, you can kiss my ass. Buck is my priority.”

“And where the hell is he? Hiding?”

“He transferred, Chim. Permanently. What the hell did you think would happen after you got violent with someone you work with?”

“He’s really gone?”

“Yeah.” Eddie shook his head. “He’s gonna forgive you—even though you don’t deserve it—for the sake of his sister and his niece. But he’s not the forgetting sort, nor should he be. Should he ever start to forget, I’ll be sure to remind him. The issue is that Evan Buckley fundamentally doesn’t trust you when it comes to his own personal safety anymore. Not in a professional or personal capacity. Choke on those consequences, Chimney, because the rest of the team has had to even if they don’t all know why.”

Chim looked gutted. “He didn’t think he could count on me?” Chim frowned. “Wait. No one knows?”

“I know. Cap knows, but only unofficially. Buck started looking for a transfer about ten days after you left. Bobby wanted to know why. He’s too instrumental in Buck being able to transfer, so Buck said he’d tell Bobby, but not his captain. Bobby swore to keep it out of the station. If Bobby had been informed as the captain, he’d have suspended your ass, I hope you know that. Sympathy for your situation or not, you can’t assault your coworkers.”

Chimney shook his head, looking pained. “None of you understand.”

“Keep up the tired refrain, Chim. None of us have been under stress. None of us have ever lost anyone. None of us have ever had struggles. None of us could possibly understand the nuance of your situation.” Eddie gave him a profoundly unimpressed look. “Cap wanted to transfer you to C-shift because he’s pretty pissed at you, but Buck wanted to be sure as little changed for you as possible. So, Buck took one of the many offers he’s gotten to go to one of the SAR units. He removed himself from the situation so that you could come back to things pretty much the way they were. He managed the situation with Bobby so that you’d be okay and made sure no one else on the team knew. You should be fucking thankful.”

Chim’s jaw muscles jumped again. “He should have stayed and worked it out.”

“Why? He doesn’t owe you a damn thing, and he no longer trusts you. Get that through your thick skull. And he doesn’t have to trust you. You brought violence into Buck’s life within the walls of his own home from someone he’d trusted to have his back. So, fuck you, Chim.”

“Are you the messenger boy because Buck doesn’t want to face me?”

“Buck is more than willing to have a sit down with you. In public, with others present to witness. No, I wanted to have this moment to explain. Because Buck would be way too nice about this. He wants Maddie and Jee to be happy, and he believes you’re part of that formula, so he’s doing what he can to make sure he supports you guys. From a distance where he doesn’t have to put his life in your hands or get within striking distance.”

Chim’s eyes were wet. “I’d never let anything happen to him.”

“That’s a nice sentiment, but you can’t just wish away the consequences of your bad behavior. Also, I’m pretty sure Athena figured out what happened even if neither Buck nor Bobby told her directly. She’s been watchful and, I promise you, she’ll make your life a living hell if you ever lose control of your temper again.”

“I wouldn’t!”

“Yeah, I know. Because I firmly believe, just like Buck does, that there was a lot of choice in what you did to him.” Eddie fished the keys out of his pocket. “That’s about all I’ve got to say.”

“It’s not going to be the same here…without Buck.”

“And me,” Eddie supplied.

What?”

“I’m following him to SAR. The classes I need to finish my certs start next week. Buck was further along the certification path than I was. Tomorrow is my last shift with the 118. Bobby couldn’t let Buck and I go at the same time; he had to find replacements.”

“Eddie, come on….”

“It’s done, Chim. People make choices, there are consequences, things change. Buck set you up to get away with your little outburst.” Eddie smiled, but he knew it was a mean little smile. “Because we all know that you didn’t tell Maddie that you battered her baby brother.”

Chim flinched.

“That secret’s going to start to feel like it’s choking you, and I don’t have a lot of sympathy for how suffocating your life is about to feel.” He pointed at Chim. “But you guys are all about toxic secrets, so have fun with that.” Eddie walked away from Chim’s devastated expression, feeling like this was probably the most spiteful moment of his life, and he regretted nothing.

– – – –

Eddie carded his fingers through Buck’s hair, feeling Buck’s deep, even breaths ghosting over his chest as Buck relaxed into sleep. Christopher was so excited that Buck was with them every night now that he’d been bouncing off the walls all evening until he crashed a full thirty minutes before his usual bedtime. Eddie had had no luck explaining the nuance of Buck only staying with them until the new place was ready, especially since Chris would have his own room at the new house.

When Eddie had arrived home, Buck had been a little tense about his conversation the day before with Maddie, but he was doing this best to ignore the elephant in the room and focus on finalizing his move. Eddie had just stayed close, offering support in whatever way Buck needed.

The change from best friends to lovers had been nearly seamless and unexpected for all that it also…wasn’t. They’d gotten together over an ice pack and mutual worry about how their chosen family was falling apart. Eddie had intended to put the fresh ice pack on Buck’s face but had wound up kissing him instead.

He’d immediately apologized because Buck was still with Taylor, but Buck had kissed him again and revealed that he and Taylor had broken up right after Maddie had left. Buck had been internalizing everything, including the end of his romantic relationship, not asking for help from anyone. The first time he’d reached out to Eddie had been over the punch.

The progression of the relationship had been slow at first. They’d talked about their buried feelings in between bouts of ice packs, x-rays, and talking about Maddie. They’d started sleeping together more nights than not, and Christopher was the happiest Eddie had ever seen him, despite a little sadness at Ana’s recent departure.

Buck was being assigned to one of the West Bureaus for SAR, and Eddie would join him in about four more weeks. The new place was only a few blocks from the new station. Durand wasn’t quite as close to the new house as to Eddie’s, but it was only a couple of miles farther away. However, the house was closer to Carla, so it worked out in many ways.

They hadn’t intended to plan to live together too quickly, but everything with Buck’s apartment going up for rent happened fast, and Buck needed to live with him for nearly a month. Then Eddie’s lease was up two months after that, so Buck wanted him to just plan to move in.

Eddie’s hesitation wasn’t about Buck, but about his own control issues. Something he was working on because Buck mattered that much to him. If he wasn’t quite there in three months when the lease was up, he knew Buck would understand, and Eddie was pretty sure his landlord would accept a short, month-to-month situation.

They’d both gone back to therapy for several reasons, but most specifically about how to handle the situation with Chimney and Maddie so that it was constructive for the future for all of them. Buck was more forgiving than Eddie ever would be. Eddie could almost let go of the punch if Chimney had done anything afterward other than act obsessive about Maddie and continue to cut Buck out as if he were irrelevant to their little family unit.

Also, Eddie put up a good front of believing in Buck’s plan for only Bobby and Eddie to know the real truth about Buck’s transfer, but Eddie knew damn well that others had guessed. Also, he’d been conspiring with Athena and Hen about how to handle Chimney’s return.

Eddie knew he wasn’t the right person to decide what Maddie Buckley had a right to know. He also knew Buck wasn’t the right person either. Buck would always try to shield Maddie from the fallout of the situation if he could, no matter how frustrated he was with the secrets and the poor decision-making.

Hen, Karen, and Athena, however… Their counsel he trusted. They were the ones to come up with the plan, but Eddie was the one who had to apply most of the pressure, and his window to apply that pressure had been short.

His phone vibrated gently, and he grabbed it from the nightstand without disturbing Buck.

Hen: Chim came clean to Maddie. He gave in faster than I thought. Should have trusted Athena’s judgment.
Hen: She kicked him out. He’s a wreck. Bunking on our sofa for now.

Eddie pursed his lips. Then swiped out a reply with his thumb.

Eddie: Good. They can’t move forward if everyone is protecting Maddie from the truth. She had a right to know.

Hen: I know. It’s just hard to see him this messed up.

Eddie: I get it. You’ll be there for him. I’m here for Buck. It’s going to hurt them both having this out there. But they didn’t have the right to keep this from her.

Hen: Agreed. Doesn’t make it any easier.

Eddie: No it doesn’t.

Hen: He said she already agreed to talk to him in therapy.

Eddie sighed and stared at the ceiling.

Eddie: Glad they’ll get the help they need.

That was as diplomatic as he was capable of being to Chimney’s best friend.

Hen: I’ll take good care of him. You take good care of yours.

Eddie: Always.

Buck stirred and cuddled closer to Eddie. “What’s going on?”

He thought about waiting until morning, but he made a policy not to lie to Buck. “Hen texted. Chimney told Maddie about hitting you.”

Buck stiffened in his arms. “What?” He looked up and met Eddie’s gaze. “Why would he do that? They should have been able to get back to normal now.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to live with that secret hanging over my head, would you? Chim probably couldn’t either. She’s back on stable ground now, and it was the right time to tell her.”

“What happened?”

“She made him leave. He’s staying with Hen for the time being.”

Buck frowned and let his head rest back on Eddie’s chest. Eddie went back to carding his fingers through Buck’s loose curls. “She’ll take him back,” Buck said softly.

“Yeah.” He hesitated. “They’re already planning to start couple’s counseling.”

“Good,” Buck eventually managed. “They love each other.”

Eddie made a vague affirmative noise, feeling the hurt Buck was dealing with like it was his own. Whether Maddie took Chimney back or not, either outcome was going to cause Buck pain. It was just the nature of a genuinely fucked-up situation. But Buck’s inherent goodness would have him supporting the outcome that made his sister the happiest.

Eddie believed that Evan Buckley was too good and too loving for the kind of family dynamics he was continually thrust into. The Buckleys needed professional help long before Buck even came along, and they’d certainly fucked Maddie up too. He resolved that he and Christopher would be a force to balance out the scales and give Buck something back.

He pressed a kiss to Buck’s forehead. “I love you.”

Buck gave a watery chuckle. “Yeah, you do. Crazy man. I love you so damn much.”

They were going to be okay.

The End

 

47 Comments:

  1. God I am ALL ABOUT your therapy-informed approach to 9-1-1 fic. It’s so refreshing, and you’re so flipping good at it. The show’s approach to mental health and boundaries was always sus, but Chim hitting Buck was just. It winded me. This was so deeply satisfying: Buck and Eddie’s (relative) calm and kindness while holding the line truly nourished me. Thank you for writing!

  2. Consequences are cathartic. Consequences where I don’t have to strain my sense of logic and reality? REALLY cathartic!

    And I had not even contemplated what underlying damage could have been done with a punch to the face under the bruise! FFS, Chimney.

  3. This was really well written and you’ve helped me work through my feelings about the current season of 911 with this story. It was the perfect level of salty. I really enjoyed it.

  4. Holy shit! You made me cry! Consequences are a bitch! Btw thank you for introducing me to the 911 show and fandom!

  5. Got this on my way home from hockey. After my team win this was just the cherry on top of a perfect bit of cream. You did wonderful with this. Definitely gonna read this again later.

  6. Dude.

    Wow. That… bit. Hard. Well done

  7. My poor Whipping Boy Evan “Buck” Buckley. I wish the writers would give him a break! Everything bad ends up happening to him, it seems.

    Anyway, I loved this. Thank you for sharing. This was fun to read, exactly what I wish would happen on the show. Thank you again.

  8. Beautifully articulate about real life consequences. Also, I also like your therapy positive stories. Well done and thanks for sharing.

  9. Nice to see people policing their inter-personal relationships, which is extremely complicated when you combined a high-stress job like firefighting and the entanglement with the relationships that arise from that work. Of course, it’s easy for me to say that on the outside looking in. I can only hope I would be as supportive as you’ve written the characters if any of this had happened to someone I was close to, friend or family. Amazing job of making the characters real for us.

  10. This was lovely. Painful, but lovely. I love the boundaries the Buck set up and kept to.

    Buck and Eddie at the end was a lovely landing for such a wrought fic…needed and wonderful to see but tough conversations/emotions to go through – though very cathartic too.

    I adored it.

    Thank you for sharing,
    ~ Sibyl

  11. I think one of the biggest flaws in canon is the lack of personal consequences. We often see them making fucked up decisions and never really having to deal with it- oh, except for Buck. Buck always has to get consequences in the face.

    It’s nice to see Chim deal with some himself considering the shit he’s done and said in canon that he never had to deal with.

  12. This floored me. I was upset and dissatisfied with the episode. It’s like they always white wash Buck’s pain. ‘Oh, it’s just Buck. Whatever’ It kills me.
    Eddie being so completely on Buck’s side, and giving Chim what for. I could read that every day.
    Thank you

  13. This was exactly what I needed after that episode. Acts have consequences and Maddie and Chim really need to learn it.
    Thank your for writing and sharing this !

  14. Love, love, love this so very much! I love how Eddie is standing up for Buck and supporting him. The changes in their lives are so organic and exciting I would love to see that play out. Thanks for dealing with the consequences of Chim and Maddie’s actions. All the therapy is so wonderful.

  15. Great Story

  16. Awesome!

  17. It’s always wonderful to read a therapy positive story when most shows never go into what actual healing needs. I don’t watch 9-1-1, but your stories make me want to start. So glad for Evan and Eddie that they are putting their mental health needs first, and each other. Thank you so much for sharing!

  18. I can only imagine how the actual show has dealt with this situation. I won’t ever be watching it, not only because the relationships won’t be “right” but because it’s clear from the stuff you have to fix for us that the writers are really f***ing up!
    I enjoyed reading this although it obviously springs from a difficult situation for the characters. As usual your writing really resonates. I feel like I’m picking up tips for the next time I have to have a difficult conversation with someone too!
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. I love this story. I am a firm believer in therapy and in fact I’m returning to it myself very soon. You nuanced this so carefully and beautifully. Sometimes it seems the universe drops things on us at just the right time. Thank you for helping the universe provide this for me. Love you lady.

    BarbG

  20. Thank you so much for this! You showed realistic consequences in a true-to-the-characters way. I love how all your characters are adulting all the time (except for Jee and Chris)!

  21. Oh my god, if only you could be writing for the show. You know they won’t deal with any of the fallout in a good way even if they purport to be supporting mental health – I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF THIS AND I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED IT SO BADLY. Having you, the writer who brought me into watching 9-1-1 in the first place, be the one to deal with the punch and the leaving in this way… it made me feel so vindicated for my feelings watching that episode. I was even a little pissed at the way Hen and Eddie were portrayed as reacting to it all. Anyway.
    THANK YOU. You are amazing and marvelous and I adore this and you. xxx

  22. TV shows are a lot less likely to show casual violence by “good guys” against each other (“boys will be boys”) than they used to, so that hit was a big surprise, and, within the story, unacceptable. If they shrug it off, and it looks like they might, I will be really pissed. I really liked the Chim character, but his relationship with Maddie was a total ugly mess from day one. But then I disliked Maddie the first minute she was on the screen, so there is that.

  23. Wonderfully written! I love the way you explore the consequence of Chim and Maddie’s actions.

  24. This was heartbreaking but lovely. It is so good to see the consequences as they should happen in real adult relationships and workplaces. Poor Buck but I loved seeing Eddie supporting him. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  25. 9-1-1 is shown here in Ireland on a channel I don’t have, so I’ve never seen it. That, however, doesn’t really matter for this story because with your and Keira’s stories (and a bit of Wikipedia), I know enough background and history to appreciate and enjoy the story, and I did, very much.😀

  26. Wow. This was so well written. Loved that there are consequences. I adore how you write this fandom. That you for sharing this.

  27. I love your approach to all the therapy and that actions have consequences whether it was intentional or not. I love Eddie standing by Buck and helping support him. The shows approach to mental health is difficult for me because of how toxic the boundaries are. Thank you for sharing this.

  28. You’ve once again managed to deftly explore ripples and consequences that the show writers seem intent on ignoring. This was such an ugly situation and you address that head on in a great way. Sometimes people make bad choices that can’t be walked back and all the people involved can do is try to find a way forward. You show that really well in this story. Thank you. <3 <3 <3

  29. Beautiful exploration of consequences. Toxic is a perfect title. Maddie has a history of asking others to keep a toxic secret that causes more harm than any truth. Choices have consequences and you wonderfully showed that Maddie/Chim’s inability to respect Buck – his agency/boundaries or feelings – has repercussions. Too bad canon can’t show as much care Buck – or the consequence of toxic messaging – as you do. I’m so grateful for you and all the other fic writers who eloquently fix canon’s broken.

  30. I love this so much!!

  31. This is what this episode needed! I get why Chim was mad, but violence is never the answer. I love the way you write 9-1-1. Your characterization is spot-on. I really am looking forward to whatever else you have planned for Eddie and Buck!

  32. Consequences are a thing and the show’s writers need to figure out a balance of drama and consequences like this story! This was the perfect blend of salty and standing up for himself that I fear we’ll never see from Buck on the show. It makes me happy that I’m not the only one upset by this mess and looking for real consequences rather than hand waving over the issues. Love the way you write these boys and I think your take on Hen and Athena is pretty accurate as well. Thanks so much for sharing!

  33. Yes, actions do have consequences and violence uis NEVER the answer.

    Excellent story.

  34. Thank you sooooo much!
    That was incredible! And fitting – so fitting!

  35. I do love consequence/ comeuppance fics and this was brilliant, thank you. And just to confirm, it can be followed if you’ve not seen the relevant (or any) episodes. I didn’t come in completely blind, I’ve read all of your and Keira Marcos’ 9-1-1 fics so far, I’ve read a synopsis of the tsunami episodes only and Facebook occasionally throws a clip at me, so I’d seen the clip of Chimny loading the baby into the car and getting interrupted in calling Hen, by Hen. I knew from that clip and the comments that Maddie was suffering from PPD and had taken off, although I didn’t know she’d sought the relevant help or anything else really. Your story was clear enough for me to follow, without feeling so heavy on the details that you’d be bogged down if you were already familiar. I’m sure that some of the subtleties passed me right on by but I enjoyed it immensely regardless and don’t feel as if I’m missing anything major.

    And wow, that was an awful lot of words to say; story was fantastic and author’s note was spot on, thank you.

  36. Thank you for writing this so well! God , i have sooooo any feelings abou 911 tnis season I’ve almost stop watching a few times because I hated what they did with Maddy/Buck/Chi plus the whole Eddie/Ana/Chris thing. It’s great to see some of the issues I couldn’t handle on tv being handled like sane healthy ways.

  37. I haven’t seen the episode but i think you did a really good job of exploring what happened and explaining why it happen.
    Really good story, i enjoyed reading it.

  38. I truly hope the show deals with things somewhat like this (even if I’d much rather prefer Chimney leaves or being moved to a different shift than Eddie or Buck). Him hitting Buck was.. not acceptable in any way, shape or form; never mind that I agree that he wouldn’t hit anyone else (as hypocritical as that is). And that I also agree that Buck would forgive (and even keep it from his sister).. unfortunately. And also that I doubt he’d report it.. unfortunately.

    I do love that Maddie actually sought proper help in your story though and that she got some actual consequences to her actions and choices.. and that she reacted to Chimney’s actions and choices when she learned of them. But its a bit.. I can’t imagine her dealing with this easily. Given her history with Doug the fact that her boyfriend actually chose to ignore her wishes and also stalked her (and brought her daughter along for the ride instead of leaving her with Hen or similar to ensure she was kept safe). And that Chimney actually allowed himself to be physically violent at all; never mind that her own brother was the victim!.. Is.. (I get that he was terrified for Maddie and what was going on with her but allowing himself to release that fear and frustration on an actual person like that instead of dealing with it or even just hitting an object like a boxing bag is… Just no).

    I do hope the show deals with it in a decent way (and as someone else commented here; doesn’t just hand wave it away (and even less so what he did to Buck!!!..)…. but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. If nothing else your story does a good job of dealing with it and also suggesting that this wasn’t the end of the well deserved consequences coming Chimneys way.. but just the start. Which is also brilliant. 🙂 (You got me into this fandom .. and the show. So thanks for that 🙂 .. I do hope Chimney manages to redeems himself somehow in canon.. but it would and should take a lot!.. ).

    🙂 Can’t wait to read whatever else you are inspired to write 🙂

  39. They really do need all the therapy. I love the way you approached the problems they have here. Thank you for sharing. <3

  40. I love a fic where mental health is respected and everyone gets the therapy they need!

  41. THIS WAS SO FUCKING SATISFYING!!

  42. Wow your fic spoiled me 4 season 5, that shit is so not cool. I may have to live in fanfic now. Thanks for your sane approach to it all.

  43. This was brilliant as always Jilly, I adore Buck standing up for his own boundaries but still understanding the things that impacted Maddies decisions.

    You handle the nuance of the situation perfectly, thanks for sharing it with us.

  44. This was phenomenal! I loved it!

  45. This was interesting. Like, I hate that word, because it can mean so many things? But fallout from drama is so often handwaved in canon. And while it’s not quite how I read it, the points you raise are kind of like… turning a kaleidoscope, seeing a different pattern. I never thought, for example, to equate Maddie’s secret-keeping about her PPD etc. with the secret-keeping about Daniel, but you’re right: it’s part of that whole deal where the highest priority is to look “normal.” And it didn’t occur to me to see Chim’s punch in the context of Maddie’s relationship with Doug. That hit hard, but it’s so true: Buck WOULDN’T hurt Chim, but Maddie COULDN’T, and there are few things more terrifying than realizing you’re back in the same shitty relationship AGAIN.

    I don’t know how clear it is in canon what the various characters know about Fight Club, but having Eddie do the talking, knowing he is speaking from experience, was gold.

    • I know what you mean about the word “interesting.” It can be a weasel word, but sometimes you read something and you legit go “huh. Interesting.” There’s a story about the fall-out of the Dr. Wells thing that I think I read three times going “interesting.”

      I do think the secret-keeping about Daniel is a bit different than any of the other secrets, because I kind of see kid!Maddie as almost being brainwashed into keeping that secret. But there is this whole issue with toxic secrets and her wanting to unburden herself while expecting the people in her life to compromise their relationships (potentially) to keep her secrets. Her not wanting anyone to know about her PPD, and Chim indulging her in that, set them both up to not notice when she was getting worse. Canonically speaking, I’m not even sure the situation was about blame… until Chim got violent. Either he can’t be trusted under extreme emotions or he made a choice to hit Buck. Neither are great options unfortunately as far as the character is concerned. 🙁 Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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