HIPAA versus the Heart
buddie (3.3k) (read it on ao3)
inspired by this post by @free-byrd . thank you for letting me riff off your idea!
Dr. Carolynn Richards is a patient woman, so when her newest client says he’s not ready to talk about the incident that brought him in, she allows it.
“Why don’t you tell me about yourself, instead?” she suggests, and he does.
Eddie Diaz, former Army medic, current firefighter. Single father of the best kid in the world (his words). Best friends with another firefighter, recently recovered from a serious injury, recently out of a not-serious relationship. In Carolynn’s experience, ten months is usually fairly serious; she doesn’t vocalize the thought. She makes a note to ask about the injury.
Eddie holds his arms close to his sides as he speaks, not entirely closed off, but not very open, either. He shifts uncomfortably as Carolynn writes the observation down.
“Tell me,” Carolynn says, watching carefully as Eddie’s posture stiffens, “what’s your favorite thing about your job?”
Eddie relaxes almost immediately. “My team,” he says. “They’re my family.”
A few weeks later, Eddie walks through the door practically vibrating. “You would not believe what Buck did today,” he says, throwing himself into his regular chair.
Carolynn’s eyebrow raises. It’s the most emotion she’s ever seen Eddie share willingly. Perhaps they’re finally making some progress. “Tell me,” she says.
“He tried to transfer stations,” Eddie says flatly. “As if the rest of us wouldn’t care. I don’t know what I have to do to get it through his thick skull that I - that we want him around.”
“Is that your responsibility?” Carolynn asks.
Eddie looks at her like she’s grown a second head. “Of course it is,” he says. “Buck’s one of the most important people in my life, and he’s been through a lot. I’ll tell him as many times as he needs to hear it. I just hope one of these days it really sinks in. My life - all of our lives are better with him in it.”
Carolynn nods. “Why don’t you tell me about him?” she asks.
Eddie smiles softly, an expression she’s only seen before when he’s spoken about his son. “What do you want to know?” he asks.
Carolynn startles, so caught up in the article she was reading that she hadn’t noticed her colleague enter the room.
“Dr. Copeland,” she acknowledges, smiling. “What can I do for you?”
“You’re aware that I’m taking a sabbatical to do research, yes?”
Carolynn nods. “I am.”
“I have a patient that I believe would do well with you. Do you have any open slots? His name is Evan.”
“I think I need to talk about it,” Eddie says quietly. It’s the first thing he’s said since he arrived, aside from a mumbled greeting.
“Talk about what?” Carolynn asks gently.
“I told you I was injured,” Eddie says. It’s not really a question, but Carolynn nods all the same.
“I was shot,” he says, expression carefully blank. “On duty. By a sniper.”
Carolynn knows this story. She’d seen it on the news, just like every other citizen of Los Angeles. “I’m sorry that happened to you,” she says.
Eddie frowns. “I - it didn’t just happen to me, though, did it?”
“The shooter’s other victims-” Carolynn begins, but stops when Eddie shakes his head.
“No. I mean - it did happen to them, too, but that’s not what I’m talking about. My partner, Buck. He was there.”
“Was he hurt?” Carolynn asks, keeping her tone carefully neutral.
“No, not physically at least. He saved me.” Eddie swallows. His eyes are far away.
“What made you want to discuss this today?” Carolynn asks.
“Something happened at work,” Eddie says. “I - I thought I was fine. I thought we both were. About the shooting, at least.”
“A hostage situation. We all made it out, but there was a gun, and-”
“Good afternoon, Mr. Buckley, it’s nice to meet you.”
“You too, Dr. Richards. Call me, uh, call me Evan.”
After discussing it with Evan, Carolynn chooses not to review Dr. Copeland’s notes. She can look at them later, she decides, but for now she’d like to form her own impressions, uninfluenced by her colleague’s. Still, though, she’s tempted. Evan spoke briefly about his sister during their session, and Carolynn suspects there’s a great deal more to their story than he lets on.
“I’m a firefighter,” Evan tells Carolynn proudly when she asks about his job.
“I’m surprised you’re not seeing one of the fire department’s counsellors,” she says.
Evan shakes his head. “I know how to be a firefighter,” he says. “This was never about the job.”
“Tell me what it is about, then.”
“A lot of things,” Evan says. “Me, I guess.”
Eddie makes a noise of frustration. “I want to talk about it, I just-”
“Don’t have the words?” Carolynn suggests when he doesn’t continue.
Eddie blows out a breath. “No, that’s not it. I know what to say, I just… can’t seem to make myself say it out loud.”
“Would it help if I asked you some direct questions?”
“I - maybe?”
“Alright then. Let’s give it a try. Did the shooting remind you of your time in the Army?”
“I just want Maddie to be okay, you know? She’s made it through so much - I know she can make it through this, too. And Chim... I just wish he’d talk to me.”
“You speak about your sister the same way many people speak about their parents. Is there a reason for that?” Carolynn asks gently.
Evan’s expression shutters slightly. “Yeah, uh, Maddie… She did most of the heavy lifting growing up. Our parents were pretty distant most of the time.”
“I see. Have you considered that you might not have the same understanding of your sister that her partner has? That you might each know her in different ways?”
Evan shakes his head but smiles a little. “Somebody else told me the exact same thing.”
“Did I ever tell you about Ana?” Eddie asks.
Carolynn very nearly jumps in surprise. “No,” she says, I don’t believe you have.” With some prodding, Eddie will talk about the shooting. He’ll talk about Afghanistan, his job, his son, his friends, sometimes even his deceased wife. Eddie will not, however, talk about his most recent relationship. Not until now, at least.
“She was perfect,” Eddie says. “Everything I should want in a partner. Pretty, nice, my kid loved her. At least, I thought he did.”
“What was missing?” Carolynn asks.
“Nothing. Everything, I guess. She was perfect and I didn’t feel anything for her.”
Carolynn waits a moment, and Eddie chuckles darkly. “Well, that’s not quite true.”
“What does that mean?”
I had a panic attack.” Eddie grimaces, like it pains him to say the words. “I had a panic attack,” he repeats, “because someone thought she was Christopher’s mother and I couldn’t… I didn’t… I didn’t want that.”
“It sounds like ending the relationship was the right choice,” Carolynn says carefully.
“I just… why didn’t I want that? She was everything I’m supposed to be looking for, and most days I couldn’t even bring myself to kiss her. What’s wrong with me?”
The anguish in Eddie’s eyes and voice nearly breaks Carolynn’s heart. For a moment she thinks of her own son, how if he said such a thing she’d pull him against her chest and stroke his hair and tell him that he’s perfect just as he is. She wonders if Eddie’s mother ever told him that. She doesn’t ask.
“We can choose how we express our emotions, but rarely can we choose our emotions themselves,” Carolynn says instead.
Eddie shakes his head.
“Have you spoken to anyone about this? Buck, perhaps?”
Eddie snorts. “No, Buck’s the last person I want to talk about this with.”
“Why is that? He’s your best friend, isn’t he?”
Eddie’s eyes widen.
“What do you want, Eddie?”
“My best friend got shot six months ago and he won’t talk to me about it,” Evan says one day. “He - I can still taste his blood,” he whispers.
“I think I might be gay. Or - or bi, or something,” Eddie says in their next session. He’s tense, like he’s bracing for Carolynn’s judgement.
“I’m glad you’re considering that,” Carolynn says softly.
Eddie leans back in surprise. “Why?”
“In our last session, you mentioned several times what you ‘should’ want. I suspect this means you’re thinking about what you want for yourself, not just what other people want from you.”
“So what do I do?” Eddie asks.
“You don’t have to do anything, not if you don’t want to,” Carolynn says warmly. “But is there anyone in your life you’d like to tell?”
“I… yeah. There is.”
“Eddie’s been acting weird and he won’t talk to me about it,” Evan says.
“Eddie?” Carolynn asks.
“Yeah, my best friend? I’ve told you about him, he’s the one that got shot. He’s been acting weird ever since I broke up with Taylor.”
Oh. Oh. Oh no. Surely it’s a coincidence. There has to be more than one Eddie who’s been shot in LA.
“Do you and Eddie work together?” Carolynn asks
“Yeah, we’re partners. Most of the time, anyway. Right now he’s working with Hen, just until Chimney gets back.”
Ah. This is not ideal.
It’s not illegal. That’s the first thing Carolynn triple checks. Usually she has a rule against treating the close relations of her patients, but it’s not actually breaking any laws to do so. Still, she’s not sure it’s a good idea. After all, Evan and Eddie frequently discuss each other with her. She’s sure she knows things about both of them that they didn’t choose to share on their own.
Maybe she should send them both to different therapists. Eddie though… she’s made so much progress gaining his trust. She’s not sure he’ll be willing to go through that again with another therapist. And Evan will be back with Dr. Copeland in January, not even two months from now.
It’s fine, Carolynn decides. It’ll be fine.
It is, decidedly, not fine.
“I’m in love with Buck,” Eddie says, wide eyed and disbelieving. “I don’t know how I didn’t see it before. I - he’s practically co-parenting my child.” He laughs, almost hysterically. “What am I supposed to do?”
“You could tell him,” Carolynn suggests gently. She likes to think she knows Evan well enough to know that, even if he doesn’t reciprocate Eddie’s feelings, he won’t do anything to hurt him intentionally.
“Absolutely not,” Eddie shakes his head. “I can’t lose him. Not over this.”
“I just wish he would talk to me, you know?” Evan says. “I can tell something’s eating at him, but he won’t let me help.”
“Maybe it’s something you can’t help with. Maybe you need to let him come to you?”
“You sound like Taylor,” Evan grouses.
“You never told me why the two of you broke up,” Carolynn prompts.
“I need a partner, and I want a family. She was never going to give me either of those.”
“When you imagine those things, what does it look like?”
“Buck’s being weird. Or maybe I am?” Eddie says. “Do you think he knows?”
“Well that depends,” Carolynn says. “Have you told him?”
Eddie snorts. “I told you, I’m not going to do that. Why would I risk messing up what we already have? Whatever he’s willing to give me, that’s enough. He’s enough.”
“What if he’s willing to give you more?”
“I’m in love with Eddie,” Evan says, wide eyed and scared. “What am I going to do?”
Carolynn wants to laugh, or maybe cry. “You could tell him,” she suggests gently.
“No, no I - just, no.”
No. It certainly couldn’t have been that easy.
She’s done something to anger the universe, Carolynn’s sure of it. Because every week she listens to Eddie wax poetic about Evan’s smile, and Evan bemoan his surely unreciprocated feelings for Eddie. And she. Can’t. Do. Anything.
“Would it be so bad,” she asks Evan, the first week of December, “if Eddie found out how you feel about him?”
“Yes!” Evan exclaims. “He’s my person. Him and Chris… they’re my family. I can’t risk that.”
Carolynn wants to bang her head against the wall. “If you’re not going to tell him… are you going to try to find someone else?”
Evan shakes his head and smiles sadly. “There’s never going to be anyone else. Not after him.”
“Evan,” Carolynn says softly, “you should tell him. It’s hurting you not to.”
“Better me than him.”
The office decorates for a few weeks leading up to Christmas - lights and a tree in the waiting room, mistletoe hanging over the door that leads to the offices. It’s not much, but it brings some cheer into the space. It’s something many of Carolynn’s clients appreciate, either because it reminds them of their families, or because it helps them replace traumatic memories with healing ones.
It seems to make Evan, in particular, smile when he comes in.
“You seem happy today,” Carolynn observes.
“Maddie’s back,” he says simply.
“That’s wonderful news, I’m so glad to hear it. How is she?”
“She’s doing a lot better. Excited for Jee’s first Christmas. She spent some time in an in-patient facility. I think it really helped.”
“I’m so glad,” Carolynn says, and she means it. Both Evan and Eddie have told her about Maddie, and from what she’s heard, she seems like a wonderful woman who’s been through a great deal of trauma.
“I think… I think I might tell Eddie,” Evan says. “Maddie says I’ll regret it if I never do, and I think she might be right.”
“That’s good, Evan,” Carolynn says. “You deserve to be happy.”
Evan’s face twists, and he sniffs. “Do you think he’ll hate me?” he asks.
Carolynn bites her lip. She wants to shake his shoulders and tell him exactly how Eddie feels, tell him that there’s nothing he could ever do to make Eddie love him any less. After all, Eddie’s said it to her himself. It’s not her place, though.
“Buck, if he’s anything like the person you’ve described to me, he won’t hold your feelings against you.”
Buck stiffens and his brow furrows. “I didn’t think I ever told you that name.”
Fuck. Fuck! Carolynn keeps her expression as neutral as possible. “No? Maybe it was Dr. Copeland that mentioned it. I apologize if it made you uncomfortable, I’ll stick to Evan in the future.”
“It’s, uh. It’s fine,” Evan says, still sounding wary.
The rest of the session is stilted and awkward. Carolynn’s sure Evan isn’t aware that she’s seeing Eddie as well, but she’s just as certain he didn’t buy her excuse about Dr. Copeland. She should have done something as soon as she’d discovered the problem. Who knows what kind of irreparable damage she might have done? To both of them! She probably won’t lose her license over this, but god, maybe she should.
“Hey, uh, Doc?” Evan says. “Are you okay?”
Carolynn flushes. “I’m fine, yes, I apologize. Could you repeat the last thing you said?”
Evan looks at her with furrowed brows. “It’s okay if you read Dr. Copeland’s notes, you know,” he says finally.
“I know we said at the beginning you wouldn’t but I gave her permission to send them to you for a reason. It’s fine if you looked at them.”
It’s an out. It’s an out and she should take it but she just can’t bring herself to lie. But she also can’t violate Eddie’s confidentiality and tell the truth. She was only seeing Evan for another two weeks, then Dr. Copeland would be back.
Two weeks, Carolynn tells herself. It’ll be fine.
“Thank you,” she says noncommittally.
The week of Christmas, Carolynn’s booked solid. Between the shortened week and the many clients who struggle during this time of year, Carolynn’s fairly certain she doesn’t have more than five minutes to herself until Friday.
She doesn’t realize the problem until it’s too late to solve it. She glances at her schedule as Eddie walks in, only to realize that, this week, Evan has the appointment directly after his. The odds that they don’t run into each other are astronomically low. The jig is up, as it were.
“I invited Buck over for Christmas,” Eddie says. “I think I’m going to tell him.”
“That’s wonderful news, Eddie,” Carolynn says. “What changed your mind?”
“Chimney, actually,” Eddie says with a rueful smile. “He gave me my own advice.”
“And what was that?”
“It was about Maddie. I told him that tomorrow wasn’t promised, so if he loved her, he should tell her.”
“That sounds like very good advice, Eddie.”
She follows Eddie out of her office, hoping she can somehow prevent him from running into Evan. Eddie beats her to the waiting room door, though, and standing on the other side is Evan, already reaching for the door handle.
“Buck?” Eddie asks.
Carolynn dives behind a fake plant. It’s not her proudest moment.
“Eddie? What are you doing here?” Buck asks.
Through the leaves, Carolynn sees Eddie shrug. “I, uh… therapy. I was going to tell you.”
“You didn’t have to, Eds,” Buck says softly. “But I’m proud of you.”
Eddie looks up at him, smiling brilliantly. “You are?”
“Always,” Buck says.
The way they look at each other… Carolynn wonders how they don’t see it. Too blinded by their own love, she supposes, to see it reflected back.
“You’re still coming on Friday, right?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Buck says, ducking his head and smiling.
“And you’ll stay?” Eddie asks quietly.
Buck’s head snaps up. “Eddie,” he whispers.
“You know,” Eddie says slowly. “I was going to wait until Friday to say anything.”
“But?” Buck asks, breathless.
“But we are standing under mistletoe,” Eddie says, looking up.
Buck follows his gaze. “We are,” he confirms.
Eddie takes Buck’s hand and weaves their fingers together. There’s an entire waiting room of people beyond the door’s threshold, and an overly invested doctor hiding behind a nearby plant, but they might as well be the only two people on the planet if the way their eyes never waver is any indication.
“Do you know what I told my therapist, just now?” Eddie asks.
Buck shakes his head.
“I told her that I was going to tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
“I’m in love with you,” Eddie says in a rush of air. “You walked into my life and made every single thing better, just by being you. And Evan, I just - I love you. I need you. I always want you to stay.”
Buck’s eyes are wide and shiny. “Do you know what my therapist asked me?” he says after a moment.
Eddie shakes his head. The corners of his lips are turned up in a small smile, like the fact that Buck’s hand is still in his hasn’t escaped his attention.
“She asked me what I pictured when I thought about the future. About having a partner and a family. And Eds, it’s you. It’s always been you. I’m in love with you.”
Eddie breaks into a wide smile and curls his free hand around Buck’s jaw. “I’m going to kiss you now, okay?” he murmurs.
In lieu of an answer, Buck surges forward, pressing his lips against Eddie’s.
The waiting room bursts into cheers - apparently Carolynn hasn’t been the only one watching.
Buck and Eddie break apart slowly, cheeks pink and grinning widely.
“Let’s go home,” Eddie murmurs.
“Yeah,” Buck agrees. “Oh, I, uh, I should let my therapist know,” he says.
“Pretty sure she already knows,” Eddie says, tipping his head towards the plant Carolynn’s hiding behind.
Carolynn hits the ground, cheeks flaming. She’s definitely going to lose her license over this.
To her surprise, Buck laughs, loudly. “I think it’s time for me to go back to Dr. Copeland,” he says.
“I’m sure Dr. Richards will understand,” Eddie says warmly. “Now, home?”
“Yeah,” Buck says, “Home.”
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