I’m with You

Title: I’m with You
Author: Jilly James
Fandom: 9-1-1
Genre: Canon Divergence, Challenge Response, Episode Related, Fix-it
Pairing: Gen, pre-Evan Buckley/Eddie Diaz
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Canon-level angst and situations, Anti-Chim (because Captain Han was pretty much a douchebag, and I decided to explore it a bit)
Inspiration: The title is inspired by I’m with You by Avril Lavigne
Author Note: I don’t consider this Chim bashing; Captain Han, as portrayed in canon, was a whole lot of “what the fuck?!” That said, Chim fans will see things differently, and should hit the back button before we have a major difference of opinion.
Timeline: Occurs at the end of season 2, during the events of episode 18, This Life We Choose. This episode aired in May of 2019, but I usually back up the events by 1-2 months to help it align better with season 3 events. There are no season 3 events referenced, but I mention this here so people don’t feel the need to tell me that I got the dates wrong.
Challenge: Big Moxie, Q1 2022 – Canon Divergence
Beta: I do not know this exotic species called “beta.” This is barely spell checked as I race to get it posted in time.
Word Count: ~9,015
Summary: Buck is really tired of Interim Captain Han, aka Tyrant Han, aka what the actual fuck, Chim. Aside from Chim turning into an overbearing dictator, Buck misses Bobby, misses Eddie on the truck, and just misses feeling like his life made sense. At a pivotal moment, the A-shift engineer, Marcus DeKay, shields Buck from Chim and alters Buck’s path.

~*~

I’m with You

15 April 2019

Buck packed away the last of the hoses they’d needed for the car fire that had occurred during a multi-vehicle accident. They’d been out on this call for at least two hours, and Buck was so ready for this shift to be over even though it was only late afternoon and they were barely a third of the way through it.

The issue with Buck’s general job dissatisfaction was that Chim had turned into a complete tyrant since taking over as interim captain, and even Hen was losing her ability to defend his weird behavior. She never said anything in support of everyone’s bitching, but she’d also stopped saying stuff like, “he’s just finding his feet,” and “he’ll settle in soon.”

It was like he was determined to do everything different from Bobby. Well, everything that he could do differently—some things were department policy, and even Tyrant Han couldn’t alter them.

The one change Chim had made that Buck understood was that he’d had to assign someone else to the ambulance to ride with Hen. Chim couldn’t lave in the ambulance to transport a patient; as acting captain, he had to stay on scene. He also couldn’t get wrapped up with a single part of a rescue when he needed to oversee the whole thing.

Though why their floater wasn’t a paramedic, Buck did not understand. They absolutely needed another paramedic on shift. Instead, Chim had decided that Eddie would do to ride with Hen in the ambo. Buck figured Chim was leaving the paramedic spot un-filled because he anticipated Bobby coming back, but that was looking less likely by the day, and Chim couldn’t keep that slot open indefinitely.

Bobby had always ridden in the truck himself, even though he was entitled to ride in the command truck if he wished to; he just never actually wished it. He preferred to be part of his team. Hen had told Buck that Chim didn’t feel comfortable sitting in Bobby’s seat in the truck, so he’d chosen to ride in the command vehicle instead.

That was some next-level bullshit in Buck’s mind because department policy said if they were on the way to a scene, someone had to be in the passenger seat acting as a safety spotter for the driver. Which meant someone had to ride there. No one wanted to be in Bobby’s spot, least of all Buck, and yet Chim had immediately assigned that seat to Buck, despite Buck’s protest and private request that Chim let him sit in the back of the cab with everyone else, to please let one of the floaters ride up front.

Chim had just responded that he was in charge, not Buck.

It was as if he’d seen that first request a challenge to his authority, and he’d never let up on Buck since.

“Did you roll those hoses right?” Chim asked from behind Buck, gum popping.

“Of course,” Buck said without turning around. “I’ve never disrespected our equipment, Chim.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t see you roll them, so you can re-do it back at the station.”

“Excuse me?” Buck spun around. “Is there a particular reason why you’ve decided that I suddenly can’t roll a hose?” The people most likely to get between Buck and Chim if they were going to argue—Hen and Eddie—were both gone, transporting patients.

“It’s not like I supervised much of your training when you were a probie, so how would I know.”

“No, Bobby supervised my training. And you’ve been at scenes with me for over two years, so if there was a problem with my hose rolling, you’d think you’d have noticed it by now. I guess you think Bobby doesn’t know how to train a probie.”

Chim took a step closer. “You got a problem rolling hoses now?”

“I don’t have a problem doing my job,” Buck snapped. “But I’m not sure what you’re asking for here.” He wondered if he was getting punished for some shit with Maddie. She’d claimed they were waiting to pursue anything romantic while they recovered from the whole Doug fiasco, and that Chim was supportive of her choice, but maybe that was more true on her side than his.

“You’re perilously close to insubordination, Firefighter Buckley. I suggest you suck it up and do what you’re told.”

“Actually,” DeKay’s voice came from off to the side, “Buck’s going to be busy when we get back to the station, Captain Han. If you want him wasting time doing a task multiple times, you’ll have to save it for another shift.” Marcus was leaning against the corner of the truck, contemplating the fingernails of one hand and casually holding his cellphone with the other.

“Excuse me? You don’t make the duty assignments, DeKay!”

“I think you’ll find, Captain Han, that when it comes to the engineering assignments for the shift, that I do make the duty assignments, and said engineering tasks take precedence over inanities like re-rolling rolled hoses.”

“You and Edwards are the shift engineers,” Chim snapped.

“Right, but before his unfortunate suspension, Bobby had put Buck on the engineer track. Buck has the aptitude and some relevant background, and Bobby wanted a backup for A-shift. He’d informed me that when it was approved, Buck would be seconded to me for training when I had bandwidth, and if things went well, Buck could start official classes later.”

Buck knew about that plan, but nothing had been said about it in a while, and Buck figured they were letting it ride until Bobby got back.

A muscle in Chim’s jaw flexed. “You set the assignments if there are engineering tasks on the table. As far as I know, you cleared the decks this morning.”

“Yeah, well…” Marcus scratched his chin. “I wasn’t super thrilled with the way the engine sounded as we were en route. Last full inspection fell on C-shift, but that guy’s a lazy ass, and the B-shift guys and I pick up his slack all the damn time. So, when we get back, I’m taking the truck offline while we go over it soup to nuts. Edwards will be ready to roll with the triple if needed. Buck will be with me. When the truck is done, the triple will go offline, and Edwards can roll with the truck if you get a callout.”

Edwards was senior by time with department, but Marcus DeKay had many more certifications, so Bobby had made him lead engineer for the shift. Edwards had never minded. He liked rolling with the triple, where he was more confined to the apparatus, and didn’t particularly want a ton of extra responsibility or the need to train people and do extra paperwork.

“So, you want to do a full inspection of the truck with no notice?”

“I am doing a full inspection of the truck,” DeKay said emphatically. “And this is my notice. I’ve already notified dispatched the truck is going offline for maintenance when we get back.”

“You didn’t clear that with me,” Chim gritted out.

“I’m not actually required to clear emergency maintenance with anyone. I’m required to inform you, and I have. And before you decide that I don’t need my trainee, I do need him if we’re going to minimize downtime; I can offload mundane tasks and speed up the process. So, you’ll have to wait until later to do this weird wasting of people’s time with redundant tasks and lineups thing that you’ve got going on.”

“Now you’re getting close to insubordination.”

“Not really, Captain Han. Clear, open complaints about your abuses of power are not insubordinate. I have Alyssa Calley back at the station on the phone,” he waved his cell, “because I was also informing her that there’d be upcoming maintenance on the triple this evening. You’ve been flinging about the accusation of insubordination at the drop of a hat when anyone disagrees with you, so I thought it prudent to keep her on the line while I relayed the news about the maintenance change. I’m sure if there was actual insubordination, she’ll support the reprimand you’ll be placing in my file. You two can confab back at the house. In the interim, time to saddle up, Buckley. Captain Han has his own ride.”

“Is that going to be offline for maintenance too?”

“Well, no, Captain. As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not a critical piece of a equipment, and when they do breakdown, some captains have been known to ride with their crew.” He knocked the side of the truck with the back of his knuckles. “Seriously, Buckley, saddle up. I want to hear the inspection protocols on the ride back to the house. Alyssa, we’re on our way back. I’ll hang up right before we pull out.”

Everything is duly noted.” Calley’s voice came through the speakerphone.

Chim looked like he was ready to spit nails, and while Buck appreciated the reprieve from Chim’s weird, covert bullying, he was pretty sure he was going to pay for it later.

~*~

“I know the inspection doesn’t start up here,” Buck murmured from their position on top of the ladder truck as he consulted the next item on the list.

“The inspection can start wherever I wish,” Marcus shot back. “I have a set procedure I chose to follow. As long as everything on the checklist is covered, the department doesn’t care what order it goes in.”

“Okay, but you’re a creature of habit when it comes to the rigs, Marcus. Believe me, I’ve noticed. What gives?” Buck looked up, clenching the clipboard tightly. “I can handle Chim.”

“Hardly the point, Buck. You shouldn’t have to. Even Edwards is sick of his high-handed, micromanaging, tyrannical bullshit.” Marcus hesitated. “Not sure why he’s so much worse with you than anyone else, but I’m done sitting back and taking it.” He put his own clipboard in his lap. “Did you know that I almost transferred off of this shift about a year ago? I’d made some inquiries about it, and Bobby was looking for a replacement for me. It’s not as easy for the primary engineer at a station to get a transfer, and he wanted to know why.”

Buck cocked his head. “I guess you’re gonna tell me?” A year ago was right after Marcus joined, so he’d found something he didn’t like right away, apparently.

“I didn’t like Chim. Thought he was a bully, and I didn’t like the way Bobby tolerated his bullshit. Which is why I wouldn’t tell Bobby why I wanted to transfer. Calley had pulled me aside and said Chim didn’t use to be so…caustic, and I asked if there had been a personality change because of the rebar. She said no, that Chim got kind of nuts when you joined.”

“Me?” Buck asked incredulously. “What do I have to do with it?”

“You should talk to Alyssa, man. You know I hate gossip. She has theories, and if she wants to share them, that’s fine. Anyway, I just didn’t want to deal with the supposed second in command being given a pass on being a dick whenever he wanted, so I was gonna get the fuck out. Then Diaz came on board, and Chim mellowed out. I figured we were over the hurdle. Not sure what the Diaz connection was, but I began to like our second-in-command—saw what others who pre-dated you and me at this station saw in him.”

Buck made a face. “Not sure it had anything to do with Eddie.” He sighed. “My sister met him around the same time.”

Marcus’ expression twisted with displeasure. “That’s gross. He started treating you better because he had a boner for your sis?”

“Ugh. Don’t say that. And…I guess so? They claimed to be just friends for a long time, and then they agreed to date, and then…” Buck trailed off and waved his hand.

“I’m not sure what that all-encompassing handwave-of-poor-communication meant.”

“Oh. I just figured with fire station gossip mill being what it is that the rumors would have covered the highlights of that shit show.”

“I know Chim got stabbed… Ah. Sorry, man. I hadn’t put it together. No one told me he was dating your sister, all I knew was that he’d been stabbed by a woman’s ex-husband on his way to their first date.”

Buck nodded.

“And something happened to your sister too, right?”

“The aforementioned ex-husband kidnapped her and tried to kill her.” Buck bit his lip. “He wound up dead instead.”

Marcus blew out a noisy breath. “Well, shit, Buck. Now I wish I let people gossip a bit because I’d have rather been considerate and not make you say that.”

Buck lifted one shoulder. “It’s fine, Marcus. I think a good portion of the station knows.”

“So, are they dating or not?”

“They put a pin in things while they sort themselves out. She needs time to get over what happened, you know?”

“I can only imagine. Well, I guess that explains why he was better with you for a long time. Seems short-sighted to suddenly be shitty with you again if he’s looking to be future-dating your sis, but Howard Han’s emotional regulation issues is not now, nor will it ever be, my problem. And, honestly, it shouldn’t be yours either.”

Buck shrugged one shoulder again. “Are we up here so we can talk without anyone overhearing?” Unless someone was in the loft, it was hard to hear anyone on top of the truck unless they were specifically calling out. It was just an oddity of how sound moved in the apparatus bay. No one was in the communal area of the loft, so they could converse fairly easily.

Eddie and Hen still weren’t back with the ambo, and the triple had rolled with half the remaining crew on a small residential kitchen fire about twenty minutes ago. Buck missed Eddie more than he should just from working on different rigs, but Eddie had been distracted a bit since his ex’s death, which Buck totally understood. He just wished there was more he could do to help.

“Yep. Started the inspection up here for just that reason.”

“Is the extra inspection just so we can talk?” Buck pressed.

“Nah. Something really does sound off to me, though I could probably just do a check under the hood for that; don’t need a tip-to-tail go over, but figured I might as well occupy the maximum amount of your time before the captain has you rolling an already properly rolled hose.”

“You don’t know it was properly rolled.”

“You’ve never rolled a hose badly. You came out of the academy with that on lock, unlike some of our probies. You’ve taken on board tips to do it more efficiently, but I’ve never seen you do a shit job of it. Han’s micromanagement is bullshit,” Marcus muttered as he consulted the clipboard again. “And you honestly shouldn’t take it. Whatever you remind him of, or whatever he’s acting out on you, you owe it to the people who come behind you in this house not to put up with it. Now, I’ve said my piece. I’m always willing to talk if you need to, but I’m not gonna harangue you.”

Buck nodded, not meeting Marcus’ gaze. “Thanks.”

“Anytime. Now finish the checklist for up here and then we’ll check the engine before getting you down on the creeper and continue with the undercarriage.”

“Actually, I was just noticing the casing for the hydraulics for the piston rod. Look at this.” Buck pushed at the side of the housing and it moved a bit. “That can’t be from this shift, can it?”

“No…” Marcus looked frustrated. “There was a mechanical report that the ladder was put under extreme weight-bearing stress during an apartment fire for B-shift a couple of weeks ago. The quirks of our schedule is that C-shift caught the inspections this month. Fucking Deiter should have caught that.”

“Can we fix it?”

“No. Repairs to the ladder hydraulics are the purview of the bonded city mechanics. We only do maintenance and inspect them. I’m going to put in a priority request now while you continue the rest of the inspection. But that’s going to take the ladder itself down for at least the rest of this shift. We can’t risk its use while there are potentially faulty hydraulics. They may decide to send us a loaner if the mechanic isn’t available by morning. Good catch.”

~*~

Buck had his head buried into the truck’s engine, checking everything by the numbers, when he heard a faint thump and felt vibration in the truck frame, letting him know someone was nearby.

“I hear you and Chim got into it.” Eddie’s voice was soft.

Buck stood up and grabbed the clipboard, checking off everything he’d reviewed. So far, nothing as egregious as the loose housing on the hydraulics for the aerial ladder. He glanced around to be sure they were alone.

“Everyone is winding down for dinner, so most of them are upstairs,” Eddie offered.

“I wouldn’t say we got into it. More that Marcus stepped in when Chim was going on a tear for whatever dumb reason’s in his head.” The clipboard had a magnet, so he attached it to the truck while he got the shop creeper and kicked it over toward the truck. The last few items on the inspection he’d have to check from underneath. “I don’t know what Chim’s deal is, but I’m really over it.”

Eddie hesitated. “Hen says you probably remind him of the guys who used to bully him when he was first out of the academy.”

Buck looked up sharply. “That’s some next-level bullshit. I kind of liked it better when I thought he was taking out his frustration on me about the lack of relationship progress with Maddie.”

“How is that better?”

“Because that means that he’s always had this issue with me but that he really did clean up his act so he can bang my sister,” Buck gritted out.

Eddie winced. “Hen’s going to talk to him.”

Buck rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”

“Buck.”

“No, Eddie, don’t ‘Buck’ me. I have been patient. I want Bobby back or I want out of this station. I’m not dealing with this shit anymore.”

“Hey. I hear you, and I understand. You know I support you. Just…”

Buck crossed his arms. “What?”

“My badge pinning ceremony is in a couple of weeks.”

Buck frowned, not sure where he was going with that. “I know.”

“I won’t be a probationary firefighter any longer and can transfer with you.”

“Oh.” Buck scuffed his boot against the flooring. “You’d want to go with me?”

“Hell, Buck, working with you is the best time I’ve ever had on the job. I’ve hated being in the ambulance.”

“You hadn’t said anything.”

“I know.” Eddie reached out and squeezed Buck’s arm. “I know I’ve been all up in my head for the last couple of months, but your support has meant the world to me. And I can’t even imagine how Christopher would be without your time and attention. You matter to us. I realize I haven’t known you all that long in the grand scheme of things, but—” Eddie swallowed heavily and straightened his shoulders. “Look, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had in my life. I love being at the 118 and the extended family here, but it doesn’t work for me without you. So, if you transfer, try to find a place that wants a pair of rescue assets, okay?”

Buck couldn’t stop himself from giving Eddie a hug, gratified when it was readily returned. “Thanks, Eds.”

“There’s nothing to thank me for. I’m just ensuring my own job satisfaction.”

Buck huffed out a laugh.

“Okay, break it up you two,” Marcus said with faux disapproval. He was standing a few feet away, arms crossed over his chest. “Eddie does one transport without you, and it’s like you two were separated for a year. Give Eddie your clipboard, Buck, and get on the creeper. Eddie, call out the inspection items from the undercarriage and take notes about what Buck tells you.”

“So, I’m being co-opted too?” Eddie asked with obvious amusement.

“Hell yeah. If you’ve got time to hug my trainee, you’ve got time to take his notes. Buck, having the clipboard under there is really a no-go—it just never works out well—so be sure to have your phone if you need to document anything.”

“Gotcha.” Buck didn’t think he wanted to pursue engineer as a full-time career path in the LAFD since he preferred rescue work, but it was fun to expand his skills, and he’d always been mechanically inclined.

Buck got on the creeper and began to push himself under the truck. “Hit me with it, Eddie.”

“It says to start with a visual inspection of the entire undercarriage. You’re looking for any buildup, unexplained water or moisture, corrosion, or exposed wires.”

“Gotcha.” Buck had been under the truck before. They all did pieces of the maintenance—he could change the oil like a boss—but only the engineers did the full inspections that set the maintenance schedule the rest of them helped with, and some tasks had to be done by a certified mechanic, which was Edwards, DeKay, and weirdly, Eddie.

Almost immediately, something odd caught Buck’s eye. It took him longer than it should have to process what he was seeing, and he realized he was frozen and not breathing.

He was pretty damn sure there was a bomb on the undercarriage of the truck.

They’d worked the results of more than one package bomb recently—it’d been haunting his fucking dreams—and now it looked like there was one on the truck.

He took in a shuddery breath and got his phone out. He quickly took pictures from whatever angles he could manage and then recorded a few seconds of video of it. He quickly fired off one of the images to Eddie since Eddie was high on his favorites in his contact list.

Buck: Problem

A second later, there was explosive swearing and then, “DeKay!” At the same time, Buck’s ankle was grabbed and he was summarily pulled out from under the truck, the creeper rolling at speed, stopping only because Buck stopped its momentum.

Marcus hadn’t been far away, and he was already looking at Eddie’s phone, eyes wide. He immediately went for the wall and hit the emergency evacuation alarm. People were supposed to respond to that without question, but most of the remaining shift just came to the loft railing and stared.

“Remember your damn training! Evacuate! Now!” Marcus yelled with more authority than Buck had ever heard from him. He pointed at Chim. “It is your job, Captain, to ensure this station is empty. Everyone out!” He shoved Buck and Eddie toward the bay doors. “Call Calley, tell her to pull over and get a perimeter around the truck. Get dispatch on the phone and get the bomb squad here.”

“Bomb squad?!” one of the floaters, Merkson, yelped as he ran past.

“Evacuate!” Marcus yelled.

“Buck, call Calley. I’ve got the dispatch. Everyone get down to the sidewalk.”

Buck dialed and listened to the phone ring as he stood on the sidewalk and stared at station house 118.

We’re on our way back,” Alyssa Calley said as she answered the call. “Does Chim need me to pick up dinner for the shift again? If so, text it to me.”

“Alyssa, I need you to listen carefully. You need to pull over and evacuate the engine. Get as big a perimeter as you can and wait for the LAPD to arrive.”

Edwards, pull over,” Calley said immediately. “Stop right up there. Buck, what’s going on?”

“We found what looks like an IED on the truck. There could be one on the engine as well.”

What?” she said weakly. “Oh my god. Edwards, get this damn vehicle stopped! Buck, I’ll call you as soon as we’re contained.”

“LAPD has already been notified.” Buck felt Eddie standing at his shoulder, talking into his phone, so he knew Eddie had the engine covered in the information he was relaying to dispatch.

Right. Text me what you can. I’ll keep you posted.”

Buck hung up and dialed Bobby without thinking. Bobby didn’t answer, and it went to voicemail. He tried again.

Bobby answered this time. “Buck, it’s not a great—”

“Bobby! There’s a bomb on the ladder truck. We’ve evacuated, and we’re waiting for the LAPD to arrive, but… It was under where your seat is, Bobby. It was under where you always sit.” Buck realized there was an edge of hysteria in his voice. One of those package bombs had been left for Athena. And now an IED was under where Bobby always sat on the truck. If Bobby hadn’t been suspended, he’d be riding in that seat on every damn call.

After a beat, Bobby softly asked, “Who’s been riding in that spot?”

“I have been,” Buck choked out.

I’m on my way. We know who it is, okay? We know. Keep that under your hat, but we’ve figured out what’s going on, and the police are going to get him. You guys are safe, right?”

“Yeah, we all got out.” Buck took a quick inventory. With over a third of the shift out on the triple engine, it was easy to see everyone was outside. Chim was pacing back and forth, hands laced on top of his head, staring in dismay at the station. Marcus was still on the phone, and so was Eddie. He could hear the sounds of Bobby getting in a car in the background then a police siren.

“The triple is still out,” Buck clarified. “I got in touch with Alyssa to have her pull over and wait for the LAPD. But, Bobby, what if it’s on our cars or—”

Kid, no. Calm down. This guy is specifically after me. You jumped to the right conclusion about the placement of that bomb, okay? Odds are, the engine is fine, but you did the right thing to have them stop and evacuate until the bomb squad can clear it. I’ll be there soon. Just take a deep breath and don’t let anyone do anything until the bomb squad arrives. The LAPD will clear everyone’s vehicles just to be on the safe side.”

“Okay.” Buck glanced over at Chim again, finding him nearly lost in his dismay. “I think you need to call Chim. I don’t think it can wait until you get here; he needs you right now.”

Yeah, all right. I’ll call him. Be careful kid. Stay glued to Eddie, and no crazy stunts.”

“What crazy stunt could I possibly pull right now?”

Bobby laughed. “You always find a way to surprise me. I’ll see you soon.” The line went dead.

Eddie slung an arm around Buck’s shoulders, pulling him in tight. Marcus stood next to him on the other side, and they all watched and waited until the first police car careened to a stop in front of the station. It was barely five minutes later that Bobby and Athena arrived with a couple of detectives following.

Bobby immediately yanked Buck into a quick, hard embrace, and then he went to confer with Chim and the detectives.

“How can this be happening?” Buck murmured softly, staring at one of the first places he’d ever felt truly safe, wondering what would happen now.

~*~

Buck wondered how many more ways he could tell the tale of how he’d found the IED to detectives and the bomb squad captain. He’d sent them the image and the video, and declined to have his phone confiscated, thank you very fucking much.

DeKay finally stomped over, Eddie hot on his heels. The three of them had been the main focus of the police inquiry, and they were being kept away from everyone else, though no one was being allowed to leave. The street had been closed off and the cordon moved back, so they were actually standing across the street from the station now. Despite the police attempts to control the situation, there were onlookers and press on scene, though they were contained beyond the inner perimeter.

“I do not know what you guys are looking for,” DeKay said with a glare, “but nothing out of the ordinary from a procedure perspective happened. Normally, it’d probably be me doing the visual inspection, but Buck is my trainee, and I know he’s competent to do it. Quit asking the same thing five different ways.”

“And he just happened to conveniently have his cellphone?” the detective said in a snotty tone.

“It’s standard procedure because it’s hard to take notes when you’re on your back inspecting the undercarriage. We take pictures of anything we see to remind us what to document in our paperwork. Or we use the voice memo feature to record notes. What would be weird is if he went under there without his phone. I’d probably give his dumb ass a verbal warning for wasting his own valuable time. Now, we have done nothing wrong. Buck and I are the people who sit on top of that damn bomb, so it’d be great if you’d stop treating us all like suspects. But since you’re clearly not going to, my lawyer is on her way down here.”

“Is there a particular reason why you feel you need a lawyer, Mr. DeKay?” the detective said leadingly.

“It’s Firefighter Engineer DeKay, Detective Bradley. I’m a civil servant with a title just like you. I’m also a black man in proximity to a crime being questioned by a white cop. Yeah, of course I need a damn lawyer. Because my entire damn station could have been killed, I extended you all the damn courtesy of answering questions so far without a lawyer present, but that time is at an end.” DeKay looked to Buck and Eddie. “You two want to keep answering the same dumb questions and treated like a suspect? Marigold would be pleased to add both of you to her client list.”

Buck exchanged a wide-eyed look with Eddie when a deeper voice said from behind him, “No need to bring the ever delightful Ms. Bettencourt all the way down here.” The new arrival extended a card to DeKay. “Lieutenant Detective Lou Ransone. That’s my card. We have no further questions at this time, and we thank all three of you for your time and cooperation.”

Cards were offered to Eddie and Buck as well. “My cellphone is on the back. If you need to speak with me, feel free to call. Your vehicles have all been cleared, however, they’re too close to the station to let the vehicles be removed at this time. Everyone except Mr. Buckley can leave if you wish. An officer can take you home, or you can arrange an Uber to pick you up outside the cordon at the end of the block.”

“Why do I have to stay?” Buck felt like he had a lead weight in his stomach. Bobby was about forty feet away with another detective and Athena. Chim and Hen were with them as well. Bobby’s gaze kept flicking to the their group, but they’d been kept separate from everyone else, so there’d be no contact outside of that first hug.

“You’re not in any kind of trouble, but you did find the device, and it was under your seat. So, I’d prefer you stay here.”

“But that’s not my usual seat. Well, it has been for a while now, but only because—”

“I know, Firefighter Buckley,” Ransone said gently. “Bobby explained the situation. But we still can’t rule out that you’re a target, even if that’s unlikely. Also, Bobby asked me to convey to you that the engine was found to be free of explosive devices and was taken to station 133 until the situation here is resolved. The rest of the shift were dismissed by the battalion chief. The ambulance is also clear, but the bomb squad doesn’t want to move it out of the apparatus bay quite yet.”

“I assume,” Marcus said firmly, “that Eddie and I can wait with Buck. We don’t have to leave just because we can leave?”

“No, you’re welcome to stay provided you remain behind the very visible yellow tape.” He nodded to all three of them. “Gentlemen.” He turned and jogged across the street.

The three of them were left barely outside the inner perimeter, but the outer cordon was like a half a block out, closing off the area to thru traffic. They were in a section designated for incident command, so at least the press wasn’t able to get to them yet.

“Marcus, you’re a life saver.” He clapped DeKay on the shoulder.

“Like a floaty thing or a piece of candy?”

Buck snorted a laugh, almost against his will. “Oh, you’re definitely a floaty.”

Marcus wiggled his eyebrows.

“I’m gonna go pull up a section of curb.” Buck sobered. “Seriously, you guys don’t have to stay.”

“Be serious, Buck,” Eddie chided, and Marcus just nodded.

“Thanks. Both of you.”

He picked a spot to go sit and contemplate the coming adrenaline crash. In theory, the reporters could get to them now but they were far enough away that hopefully he’d notice before they got there. Mentally, he put together a checklist of things to do, starting with calling Maddie; he hadn’t exactly been able to make phone calls once the police were on scene.

“Buck!” Bobby’s voice carried from back behind him.

He turned with a smile, grateful to spend any time with his captain today, only to find Bobby’s expression twisting with horror.

“Freddy!”

A bare second later, an arm closed around Buck’s throat, so tight that it instantly felt suffocating. “So, you’re the one who spoiled my little surprise for the dear captain, hmm?”

Buck could only gurgle around the tight squeeze constricting his throat. He clutched at the forearm.

“Buck!” Eddie was lunging for them, but he pulled himself up short, eyes going wide as Freddy’s hand came up.

“Uh-uh-uh, fireboy.” There was some sort of trigger in Freddy’s hand. “You and the driver stay right over there where I can see you.”

Suddenly there was a brutal kick to Buck’s left leg. He felt the bone snap, and it folded under him as Freddy let go of his neck. Buck screamed as he hit the ground with a bone-jarring crash. Then he was yanked up by his hair.

“Can’t have you going anywhere, now can we?” Freddy held his other hand out with the trigger in it and projected his voice. “Now, behave, Captain, or this one pays the price.”

Buck’s vision was swimming and his world was lit up with pain, but he could make out Eddie being pulled back by Ransone, and Bobby standing directly across the street from him and Freddy.

“Come on, Freddy, what are you doing?” Bobby said pleadingly. “You don’t want to hurt him. He wasn’t even in the department when your father was investigated.”

“I had that little surprise arranged for you, Captain, and this one had to go and ruin everything, so he stays just in case all the C4 I have strapped to my chest isn’t enough of an inducement to ensure your cooperation. It’s about ten times the amount as I’d left in that little gift under your seat on the truck. You can ask the bomb squad how bad this explosion will go for everyone if I drop this trigger. And, by the way, I could have detonated that bomb in the truck at any time once I realized the truck had been taken offline, hoping to get you in the crossfire, but I didn’t because I wanted to be sure I got you.”

Freddy made a tsking noise. “Of course, how could I know you weren’t even at work with the rest of your shift. How utterly disappointing you’ve turned out to be. Still, this is why we have backup plans.”

Bobby stood in the middle of the street. “What is it that you want, Freddy.”

“I want you.”

“Here I am, but I need you to stop hurting my firefighter.”

“No.” Freddy yanked harder on Buck’s hair, pulling him backward into an uncomfortable bow of his spine, jarring his broken leg and getting a yelp of pain. “My father suffered in prison, and it was your fault.”

“Your father committed a crime. We’re not allowed to just let that go.”

“It wasn’t a crime that would have hurt anyone!”

“It could have. Firefighters die every year putting out arson fires that are set for the purposes of insurance money. What he was doing wasn’t right.”

Freddy jerked his fist at Bobby—the one with the detonator. “They were drowning in a failing business! You don’t understand, and you killed him.”

Bobby took a few steps closer. “And what are you doing now? Innocent people are getting hurt in your revenge plans. Is that what your father wanted?”

“Don’t talk to me about my dad! You know nothing!”

“I just want to know what it’s going to take to get you to let my firefighter go.” Bobby continued to inch closer, a step or two at a time, and Buck kept his focus solely on his mentor, needing the touchstone. “You’re hurting him, and he’s innocent in all of this.”

“No one is innocent,” Freddy snarled.

Suddenly Bobby was there, and then Buck was crashing face-first into the ground, screaming again as something impacted his leg. He couldn’t parse the cacophony of sounds as his brain whited out from the pain.

He flinched away from hands on him, but a familiar voice settled him.

“Hey, hey. It’s me, Buck, it’s me.” Eddie’s voice was like a lifeline and Buck sank into the comfort of it. “I’m going to roll you over.”

“I got it,” Buck slurred.

“You most definitely don’t got it,” Marcus said sharply. “Hen is running over as we speak. Let us help or she’ll kick our asses so hard when she gets here.”

Then Buck was blinking up into the night sky a moment before Eddie’s face swam into view. “Hey, Eds.”

Eddie cupped his face, giving a huff of laughter. “Hey, Buck. So, how do you feel about some morphine and a trip to the hospital.”

Buck blew out a shaky breath, not wanting to acknowledge the tears gathering in his eyes. “Sounds like the best part of my day.” He grimaced in pain. “Bobby?”

“He got Freddy.”

“I’m right here, kid. It’s a bit crowded around you. Hen and Chim are working on your leg, Marcus and Eddie are handling vitals, but I’ll meet you at the hospital. You did good.”

Buck just nodded into Eddie’s hands.

Eddie swiped his thumb against the corner of Buck’s eye. “You got through the hard part, Evan,” he whispered. “I’m with you all the way.”

~*~

Buck glared mutinously at his cast. Then even more mutinously at his room. He’d wanted to go home, but the doctors had felt he needed a night of observation. Weirdly, it wasn’t even for the leg. It was for the strangulation injury. Freddy had gone hard on Buck’s throat, and the doctor was concerned about the amount of swelling and bruising, so they were monitoring it overnight.

There was a tap on the door, and then Bobby stuck his head in. “Hey, kid… You up for some company.”

“Hey, Bobby.” Buck smiled brightly, ignoring the way Bobby winced at Buck’s raspy voice. “Come in.”

Bobby pulled up the chair by the bed. “I saw Maddie down in the lobby with Chim. She’s on her way out?”

“Yeah. I kicked her out for the night. She’s a little bit much when she’s worried. She’ll be back tomorrow.”

“She cares, but I know how overbearing care can feel sometimes.” Bobby stared at his hands. “I’m so sorry, Buck.”

“For what? You didn’t do this, Bobby.” He reached out and grabbed Bobby’s hand. “You. Did. Not. Do. This.”

Bobby’s smile was wan. At best. “I just hate to see you hurt.”

Buck wasn’t sure how to respond to that. “Still wasn’t your fault.”

Bobby gestured to all of Buck. “How’d you make out?”

“Clean break, no surgery needed. Six to eight weeks in the cast. At least a month of rehab.” Buck scowled.

“Kid, you coulda died. Let’s take the win.” Bobby squeezed his hand then sat back in his chair. “What else?”

“They’re keeping me here to monitor the swelling.” He pointed to his throat. “And they’re going to do the x-rays on my head again in the morning because the doc was worried I might have a small fractures of the cheekbone that can’t be seen yet.” That was from when his face crashed into the concrete.

Bobby nodded slowly. “You gonna be okay in that loft while you’re recovering? Should we head over and move your bed downstairs.”

“Oh.” Buck rubbed the back of his neck. “I wound up passing on the loft.”

Bobby’s eyebrows shot up. “Thought you loved the place and your offer had been accepted. Next thing I heard was that you were moving, and you gave the address of that building.”

“Yeah, I, uh… I wanted to get some clarity about my relationship with Ali because I felt like the pick was a little out of my price range but it was the one she really wanted more than what I wanted. I guess I needed to be sure she was going to be around, you know?”

“Seems reasonable.”

“I think I was more into it than she was.” Buck waved the details away. “Anyway, we broke up. I like the building, but the lofts are a lot more expensive. They had a standard two-one available on a lower floor for eighty-grand less. More room, less money.” Buck shrugged. “And one less girlfriend.”

“You never said anything.”

Buck shrugged. “There’s been a lot going on.” He also didn’t want to deal with the comments from his coworkers.

“Mm.” Bobby gave him a contemplative look. “Eddie went home to see Chris and then he was headed back.”

Buck already knew that, so it felt like an odd segue to something.

“While we were waiting earlier, I decided to ask if he planned to stay with the 118 after his badge pinning. Other captains have taken note of him, so he’d easily be able to move if he wants to. But I assumed he’d want to stay with the 118 since he’s meshed well, and he feels like part of the family. He hesitated about giving me an answer, and when I asked him why, he said I should talk to you first.” Bobby cocked his head to the side. “Want to tell me what that’s about.”

“Come on, Bobby…” At the persistent, unrelenting stare, Buck sighed and added, “I’d told Eddie I was thinking about transferring.”

Bobby sucked in a sharp breath.

“Eddie said he’d go with me if I did and asked if I’d wait until after his badge pinning so we could see who’d want us as partners.”

“Almost anyone,” Bobby admitted. “You two are a very dynamic rescue team, and many captains have noticed. You already know we’re slated to backup two of the six SAR-ready bureaus when we have the right assets on shift. You two have been so successful, the chief has been contemplating doing some shuffling, getting more people into certification training, and making the 118 the seventh SAR-ready bureau in LA. You two did that, and you’re both relatively new. Can you imagine what you’ll be like in five years?”

Buck felt his face heat. “Bobby.”

“Tell me why you want to leave my house, kid.”

“It’s not your house right now, Bobby, and it’s just not the same.”

“Is this about change in general, or about Chim?”

“The way you ask the question tells me you know the answer already.”

“That’s true, I do. I’d already gotten an earful from Calley, Logan, and Edwards, but then DeKay gave it to me until my ears were bleeding. By the way, it is my house again.”

Buck looked up sharply. “What?”

“Yeah, they reinstated me. Turns out when you foolishly wrestle with a suicide bomber to save one of your own men on national TV that the brass thinks keeping you on the bench is bad PR. Who knew?”

Buck had instant conflicting emotions. “National TV?”

“Oh, definitely. It’s been on CNN twice.”

“Oh god.”

“Don’t think about it, but avoid the news for a few days.”

Buck nodded, considering the other thing Bobby had said. “I’m really glad you’re back, but I’m not sure it’s going to really fix the issue. This exposed something that I think has been there for a while. I love my job, and I don’t want to dread coming to work. A lot of the reason I didn’t tell anyone about Ali was because I didn’t want to deal with Chim’s commentary. I know we’re all up in each other’s business, probably in ways that aren’t even healthy sometimes, but—”

“You don’t have to explain, Buck; I understand.” Bobby rubbed his hand over his face. “I’ve let some stuff go with him, and that’s on me. It was a little bit making up for the shit the last captain pulled, a little bit that he’s very good at his job, and also that I don’t think he does the worst of it in front of me. I will work on it with him, and if it can’t get better, he’ll have to transfer.”

Buck frowned in confusion.

“Chim hurt himself with the brass with his whole tyrant captain routine he had going on. Everyone knows that new captains want to put their stamp on things, but he had a record number of complaints to the union for such a short time period. The union finally escalated it to the battalion chief. If they hadn’t decided to reinstate me, Calley would have been likely been offered the permanent captaincy of A-shift. At least in the near term, Chim shot himself in the foot in his chances for captaincy of any station.”

“Oh.”

“So, you’ll give this a chance? Let us sort ourselves out and be better?”

“Yeah, Bobby, of course.” He gestured to his leg. “I mean, I’ve got at least two and a half months of twiddling my thumbs, but then I’d much rather come back home.”

“Good.” Bobby got to his feet and stared down at Buck. “I’d planned to stay until Eddie got back, but DeKay is out there waiting to, and I quote, ‘give you hell for being a dramatic white boy.’”

Buck gave a weak laugh. “Thanks, Bobby.”

“You have absolutely nothing to thank me for, Buck.” Bobby leaned down and pressed a kiss to Buck’s head. “If you’re going to do something rash and impulsive, the best time to do it is while you’re already at the hospital, so let her rip for the next twelve hours, kid.”

Buck’s laugh was heartier as he accepted the goodbye hug from Bobby and watched his mentor walk out the door.

DeKay came in a few seconds later. He immediately slouched down in the visitor chair and propped his feet on Buck’s bed. “This is one hell of a way to get out of doing an undercarriage inspection.”

Grinning, Buck shot back, “I’ll have you know that was a very thorough inspection.”

“Yeah.” DeKay scratched his chin. “I guess you saw the things that weren’t supposed to be there. I’ll give you an A for effort.” He reached out and squeezed Buck’s forearm. “And good job with that. We found out that his plan was to make a fake call and detonate the device while we were en route. You and I would have been toast, man.”

“Wow, that’s fucked up.”

“Preach.” He took a deep breath. “So, when you’re off the pain meds, we’ll get an Uber, go out, and get blindingly drunk. And we’ll wax all lyrical and shit about the day we were nearly blown up save for an out-of-cycle inspection.”

“Thanks for that, by the way. That wound up being quite the save, Marcus. Thanks for having my back today. I mean that from before the bomb.”

“I know Bobby likes to make a big deal about how we’re a family and all that jazz, but I’ve got a great family, and I’ve never been looking for another one. I don’t mind new friends though. But today? That was about us being a team. I’ve got your back because you have more than earned it, Buck, by virtue of the fact that you come to work every day and do your best and treat everyone well. If we’re friends outside of that, I welcome it, but you never need to worry about me having your back on the job, you get me?”

Buck liked the clear, unambiguous way Marcus laid that out. “Thanks, Marcus.”

“Anytime.” He got up and poked at Buck’s food tray. “Now, how could you leave this Jello to be lonely and unloved?”

“It’s green.”

“Your head is a sad, sad place.”

Buck laughed. “Eat my Jello, then. I’m calling for morphine.”

“Wow, one of us got the better end of that deal.”

~*~

Buck woke to find Eddie reading in a soft light in the guest chair. “Hey, Eds.” His voice was even raspier than it had been earlier.

Eddie glanced up sharply. “Hey. Hold on, let me get you some water.”

Once Buck’s throat was feeling less parched, he gave Eddie a thorough once over. “You doing okay?”

“Me? Dios, Buck. That scared the hell out of me.” He lowered the bed rail and scooted closer, closing his hand over Buck’s forearm. “I am not prepared to lose you.”

“I’d say I’ll be more careful, but I don’t really think I did any—”

“No, Buck. You did absolutely everything right, and this had nothing to do with our jobs. Just an angry person set on revenge who nearly broke us all wide open.”

Buck knew Eddie didn’t mean that in a literal way, but it seemed a bit of an exaggeration. Still, he wasn’t going to call his best friend on it. “I’m okay, Eddie,” he whispered.

Eddie gave him a quick head-to-toe glance. “You will be.” His smiled was a little strained. “Chris was very vexed that he didn’t get to see you tonight, so he expects to see you tomorrow.”

“With these bruises on my face?” Buck’s fingers fluttered over his cheekbone.

“He doesn’t care. He just wants to be around you.” Eddie hesitated. “Same as me.”

Buck swallowed heavily.

“Bobby told me you and Ali broke up.” Eddie looked uncertain.

Buck nodded, uncertain where Eddie might be going with that.

“Can I ask a favor?”

“Of course.”

“I know I’ve been all up in my head since Shan died. There was a lot unresolved when she passed, and it’s been difficult, but I don’t know what I’d have done without you there for me and Chris. Honestly, before Shannon’s accident, you were making our family work better than it ever has.” Eddie shook his head. “Which has increased the dissonance in my head, honestly.”

“I don’t follow…”

“I know. Look.” Eddie cleared his throat. “If I’m not reading us wrong, will you wait? Don’t move on to whatever’s after Ali. I know that’s obnoxious to ask—I know that—but I feel like I need to put it out there: please wait for me until I’m ready.” Eddie wasn’t meeting Buck’s gaze.

“You’re not reading us wrong,” Buck whispered and swallowed against the surge of emotions that were trying to overwhelm him. “You can have my forever, Eddie. If you need part of it to be waiting, then I’ll wait.”

Eddie scrubbed a hand over his face and then finally met Buck’s eyes. “How do you manage to be that eloquent on morphine?” He took Buck’s hand, holding tightly, and Buck could see the sheen of tears. “Losing you…” Eddie shook his head. “I can’t fathom it.”

Buck squeezed Eddie’s hand. “We’re gonna be okay.”

Eddie’s smile was perfect. “Of course we are.”

The End

31 Comments:

  1. This was amazing! I love reading different versions of canon events. You did a really good job!

  2. Damn I wish you wrote for the show!!!

  3. This was lovely. A perfect end to the March Big Moxie.

  4. Squeezed in the nick of time, and so worth the wait, thank you for sharing!

  5. Oh. I love this. How do you find these amazing places to just tear up my heart. Thank you for calling out Chim’s unreasonable actions. Love DeKay. He’s cool as hell.
    Thank you

  6. I started reading this and immediately fell a lot more in love with DeKay. Seriously, you have crafted one professional and honorable firefighter (who tends to look like DB Woodside in my head, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard who you fancast for Marcus? If I’m wrong, my sincerest apologies!).

    Also, I got to the part with Ransone thinking “Oh maybe Jilly won’t do it…”

    You did it.

    You did it beautifully and had me so on-edge, I had to look away several times to keep from skipping paragraphs, I was that into it.

    Another superb work, oh great and wonderful Jilly. I am both flailing dramatically and giving you the biggest heart eyes of TRUE LOVE.

  7. This was awesome. I like how one switch of one thing changed everything. Thank you for sharing your talent.

  8. I saw the email early this morning and almost didn’t go back to sleep. 🙂 I really love your fix-it fics for this fandom. They’ve ruined me for almost anything else out there.

  9. That is twice in one day you’ve had me tearing up. I love the way you write.

  10. Omg I loved this so much. Thank you for sharing it! ❤️❤️❤️

  11. DeKay is awesome and I love how one small change rippled out. This was just such a satisfying read. <3 <3 <3

  12. A well done different take.

  13. What an awesome way to start a day off! Waking up to a new story from you is the best!

  14. First of all… The “all encompassing hand wave of poor communication“ is going down as one of my favorite descriptions ever. And moreover this is just lovely and works perfectly and makes my heart happy. It was the first one I picked to read. Love you lady thanks for everything.

    Xoxo
    twi/BarbG

  15. Holy shit! DeKay was a real star here. This was an excellent fix for the truck bombing and Acting Captain Han.

  16. You have such a way with words, you bring more depth and fullness to these characters, and I adore everything. THANK YOU so much for sharing. Wish you could write for the show! xxx

  17. Omgosh I’ll never understand how you manage to pack so much into a one shot. This was action packed and that emotional sucker punch at the end was perfection. Thanks for sharing this!

  18. DeKay is Awesome and a True hero!

  19. Very good story

  20. This was awesome. Thank you for sharing

  21. Oh I’m so glad that you wrote this! It’s the first that I’ve found with this particular plot! I love how you changed that event!

  22. This was great. I loved it. The ending made me sigh with happiness. Also I’m with Buck no green jello.

  23. Wonderful story. Thank you.

  24. I think I’ve mentioned before that I have never seen the show, because I don’t have the channel it’s broadcast on here in Ireland, but my sister turns out to be a fan, so I saw a bit of one episode while visiting her recently. It didn’t particularly make me want to catch up on the show, but this story is making me reconsider, just to get familiar with the ‘minor’ cast members like DeKay and Calley. Which is a long-winded way of saying that I love this :).

    • Thanks! DeKay and Calley are both OCs, and I’m always flattered when people like my OCs. DeKay I’ve fancast as played by Aldis Hodge and Calley as Jamie Lee Curtis from the early 00’s. There did wind up being a male firefighter no-first-name Calley, but that was an unfortunate coincidence, and the guy in canon is a throwaway character in like 2 episodes I don’t think even had lines. Ah well. Sometimes you pick a bad name!

  25. Oh my god. This was amazing! Better than the show, and I like the show. I think my favorite part is DeKay. He’s got this whole no-bullshit thing going on that’s… frankly, amazing is the only word for it. Bravo!

  26. I love this! ❤️ I keep coming back to reread this one specifically and all your 9-1-1 fics in general. I even started watching the show because of you! I am dying over the one line in particular “I know that’s obnoxious to ask—I know that” it’s just so perfect, the absolute raw honest and reflection while still being heartfelt and pleading. Just *chefs kiss*

  27. This was an amazing story. It is good to see Marcus stand up for Buck and it makes all the difference. 🙂
    The ending scenes were also very touching and I hope Buck has a better healing experience.

  28. Great story and great to see people includng the bosses react to captan Han. Also very sweet ending!

  29. Oh, Jilly. I resisted for so long, but I have finally fallen into another fandom– because I know if you write it, it’s good.

    “You can have my forever, Eddie. If you need part of it to be waiting, then I’ll wait.”

    That? That’s gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing!

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