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#it took me two weeks to write 550 words of a proposal for my thesis and I just did these 650 words in ten mins
mellaithwen · a month ago
I didn't want to hijack @extasiswings 's post but I also started thinking about Eddie not being around when that man's being dug out, aaand I couldn't stop... [ edit: on ao3 ]
Eddie looks down at his phone in surprise.
Buck’s calling him. His caller ID is grinning up at him from the screen; the picture of carefree moment in the park on a sunny day from a few weeks ago, with Christopher draped over Buck’s shoulders mid-piggy-back, frozen, mid-reach as they tried to drag Eddie towards them. They’d been laughing so loudly that Eddie can practically hear the sound of his kid’s laughter through the photograph.
But Eddie frowns. He might not be working this Halloween, but Buck’s certainly supposed to be, and if he was just bored in the station house he'd normally FaceTime, or send Eddie a litany of texts about his latest internet deep-dive (the great Canadian maple syrup heist was his current obsession; “3,000 tonnes, Eddie, they stole 3,000 tonnes of Maple syrup!”) —but a phone call?
“Hey man, what's up?”
Buck doesn't immediately respond to the greeting, but Eddie hears the shuddering inhale down the line all the same, and now he's really concerned.
“Buck?” Eddie calls out, just as he notices his son looking over to him from across the room. He gives Christopher a reassuring smile while he waits for an answer from Buck, and he nods to his aunt that he's stepping out for a moment—gesturing over to the front door when he still doesn't get a reply.
“Buck?” he tries again, closing the door behind him with a soft click, and trying not to shiver at the change in temperature now that he’s outside. “Buck, come on, I'm here, okay? What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
“I just…” Buck starts, and stops, his voice faltering for a moment. He clears his throat. Takes another second. “I just needed to hear your voice.”
Buck sounds... shattered, honestly. Haunted by something so much deeper than just exhaustion, and the hairs on the back of Eddie's neck stand on end.
“Talk to me. Did something happen on a call? Are you hurt?” He wonders if he should text one of the others; ask Bobby or Hen if everything’s alright because his nerves can’t handle the aching chasm that stretches out between Buck’s quiet admissions.
“No—we're fine,” Buck says finally. “I'm fine,” he insists, but his voice is still barely above a whisper and Eddie's not convinced.
Eddie waits.
Buck sighs.
“There was... we got a call that this man was.... Eddie, he was buried alive—”
This time when Eddie shivers it’s got nothing to do with the weather.
“—and dispatch tracked his phone but they couldn't get a precise location, and we were searching and calling out his name, and then by the time we started to dig things weren't looking good—”
Buck's voice is shaking, but now that he's started speaking he can't seem to stop, and his words are like an avalanche, gaining fervour as he goes on. Eddie can feel his own grip on his phone getting tighter and tighter until finally he has to sit himself down on the steps of the front porch just to try and catch his breath. He knows where Buck's head is at—he can't help but go there too.
“—a-a-and I just...I couldn't stop thinking about the well collapse, and dispatch said the guy wasn't answering and I started thinking about how we were trying to get a hold of you on the radio but all we got was static, and suddenly I wasn't looking for the vic anymore, I was looking for you. I was back there in the rain and I was clawing at the ground, and it felt like there was this vice around my chest and—”
—there’s a rumbling like thunder overhead. The ground shakes and Eddie tries to grab a hold of the rocky wall at his side but he can’t. He can’t get a good hold as the tunnel collapses all around him. The shaft’s filling up with wet earth and debris, and every breath he takes feels like it’s coated with dirt and mud as he suffocates under the onslaught—
“Breathe, Buck,” Eddie interrupts a little desperately at the memories echoing around in his own mind in response to the fear in Buck's voice.
“Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth,” he says as he tries to follow his own advice. “Take a deep breath, come on, do it with me; in for four, hold it—and breathe out for eight, and again…”
For a little while there's nothing but a stream of huffed breaths down the phone from the two of them, until finally a long steady exhale is followed by a stuttered apology; “I‘m sorry, I shouldn't have—”
“No, don’t be stupid, you can always—”
The siren rings out loud and shrill down the other end of the phone as it interrupts their conversation, and Eddie jumps to his feet out of habit before he remembers that he's not actually on shift.
“I've gotta go,” Buck mumbles, a little reluctantly to Eddie’s ears, and he can hear the rustling movements as the other firefighter hurries over to the trucks. He still hasn’t ended the call, seemingly unwilling to break the connection just yet.
“Yeah of course,” Eddie says, though he makes no move to end the call either—feeling a similar urge to stay present, to remain tethered to Buck for as long as possible. He starts talking again before his brain has a chance to second guess himself. “Come over after your shift in the morning, we can go out for breakfast with Chris.”
There's another exhale down the phone, but this one sounds lighter, happier, like it's being chased by a smile, and Eddie feels his own tight chest loosen considerably at the image he's just conjured in his mind.
“Yeah, that'd be great.” Buck says, “I'll see you then.”
“Perfect. It's a date.” Eddie replies, before hanging up.
(His own words don't register for another thirty minutes, but by then Buck's already sent a smiley-face emoji over text, and Eddie can't find it within himself to regret anything.)
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