Title: If I Can’t Have You, I’ll Take The Stars
Characters: Eddie Diaz, Evan Buckley, Christopher Diaz, 9-1-1 Characters, Stargate characters, Magnificent 7 (2016), Original characters
Author’s Note: Alternate Universe, Grammarly is my beta reader.
Summary: Eddie knew he loved Buck, but it wasn’t until after he was shot, Eddie realized how deep that love goes. Problem is, Buck loves Taylor, so unable to bear having Buck push him and Christopher out of his life, the Diazes leave Los Angeles.
Truck and Engine 118, and the two RA units pulled into their designated bays. Bobby led A-shift out to join the fire department higher-ups in the driveway for the official opening of the new fire station. Eddie went out the street door and lost himself among the members of B and C shifts. He recognized a few faces, but it was to be expected after eight years. Pulling his Squad 4 cap low, he kept to the fringe so as to not be recognized until it was time for the big reveal.
“Now to go along with the new equipment and new building, Battalion 40 is going to need a Chief.” The Commissioner paused for effect. “Captain Robert Nash, front and center.” The crowd went silent as Bobby stopped facing the Commissioner. Eddie slipped back into the building and reappeared behind A-shift without them noticing. He was going to tease Buck so much about his situational awareness. “It is with great pleasure that I bestow upon Robert Nash the rank of Battalion Chief.” Cameras flashed as they shook hands and Bobby accepted his new credentials and helmet that proclaimed him Chief of Battalion 40. The Commissioner signaled that the floor was Bobby’s.
“Thank you, Commissioner, Deputy Commission, friends, and family of Station 118. There is one more order of business to be taken care of before we get acquainted with our new home. The 118 has been blessed with three shifts of dedicated professionals that protect the citizens of Los Angeles. As of now, we are short a captain for the A-shift. Believe me, I have hinted, begged, and pleaded for another captain. Barring that I waited patiently for one of my talented Lieutenants to step up, but that’s a work in progress. Since captains were a little thin on the ground with the expansion of the fire department, I started a search to find the A-shift the best captain willing to put up with their antics.” This caused a lot of laughs and nodding heads. “It is with pride and affection that I introduce to you your new captain, who will also be lead on our new Rescue Squad 4 and has been instrumental in getting this firehouse put together for today’s unveiling. This man started his firefighting career at the 118, and it is a happy day when we welcome him back home. I give you A-shift captain, Eddie Diaz.”
Bobby’s smile was wide as Eddie skirted the A-shift crew to grab Bobby’s hand and get pulled into a hug. Buck clapped and whistled while the rest of the shift stood flatfooted.
“You know I hate this part of the captain’s gig. Speeches are the white shirts’ job.” Eddie teased his new Chief.”
“Captain Diaz has a few words he’d like to say.” Bobby gave him a smirk as he stepped away.
“As Bobby said, I started at the 118 straight out of the academy twelve years ago. Though I nearly died twice in the years I was here, the 118 gave me the foundation to make it to where I am today. Eight years ago, I moved to Colorado on the recommendation of my son’s doctor so he could receive cutting edge treatment for his Cerebral Palsy. As Christopher sets out on the next part of his life’s journey as a student at CalTech, we returned to where we started … In Los Angeles … And at the 118. I look forward to serving with the 118 again for the benefit of our new community. Thank you.”
“That concludes the formalities, I invite you all to take a tour. There are refreshments in the common room.” Bobby announced.
While Bobby and Eddie were mobbed by their families, and their children became reacquainted with Christopher, Buck, and the members of A-shift that didn’t know Eddie quickly crossed the driveway to congratulate Bobby and to get introduced to Eddie. Seeing Christopher with their kids finally snapped the core members of the fire family into action.
“Damn. I think Diaz only got hotter since he left.” Lucy turned to Chim because she knew how to get his ire going and she lived for drama. “Didn’t they used to call him eight-pack?”
Hen seeing the red creeping up Chim’s collar threw a little fuel on the fire. “Only good thing about those glass walls. On his first day, we’re coming on shift, and there he was in all his bare-chested glory pulling on a t-shirt. I said it then and I’ll say it now, that is one beautiful man … Wait a minute … That was Chim who said that.” While Lucy, Ravi, and Hen laughed, Chim huffed and walked toward Bobby muttering about friends with memories like elephants.
Eddie leaned against the doorway that led from the common room to his office. His welcome back as A-shift captain had been optimistically tepid in his opinion. The van they hired had taken everyone back to get their vehicles, and it seemed they settled into their lockers and bunks as they wandered through the building. B & C shifts were the first to leave after food and the tour. It warmed his heart to see Denny, Harry and May fold Dina into their group like they’d always known her. Abuela, Pepa, and Paco had made their goodbyes earlier, and since it looked like Athena was getting ready to leave, Eddie decided it was time to get to work.
Giving a shrill whistle, all heads turned to Eddie. “Party’s over. Time to gear up the trucks and inventory the RAs and the equipment. During that time, I’ll be pulling in the people I’m interested in working with me on Squad for interviews. If I don’t call you for an interview, and you’re interested, see me before the end of shift. B & C shift spots are already filled. Move out.” Eddie picked up his checklists and headed for the apparatus floor.
Everyone dumped their trash and scrambled to follow.
Bobby and Athena watched Eddie take charge of the shift. “This is going to be interesting.” Athena leaned into Bobby’s side.
“He’s a much different Eddie than the one that left eight years ago.”
“That hard shell is a lot thicker than it was when he left. Not sure if it’s because of the military, or the way life’s treated him.”
“Maybe being back here will chip away at some of the layers.”
“I don’t know. Other than Ravi and Buck, the others were a bit cool towards him” Athena observed. “Howard might be a problem.”
“You think?” Bobby frowned. He thought Chim had worked through all that.
“He knew him as a probie and now he outranks him? Might kick up some resentment.”
“Chim’s had every opportunity to take the test. He didn’t want to do the work. Chim likes the action and the recognition, but he can be lazy when it comes to the minutia.” Bobby seemed to be reminding himself as much as commenting to Athena.
“Just saying. Might want to keep a close eye on it for a few weeks. Give everyone a chance to get comfortable … let their guard down.” She reached up and snagged a kiss. “I’ve got to get going. See you at home.”
“Seems like my new schedule is more in synch with yours, now.”
“All part of being the boss.” She teased as she waved over her shoulder.
“Still using turnouts as sex toys, Chief?”
Bobby startled hard as Eddie moved past him on silent feet. “I’m going to put a bell on you, Diaz.” Bobby ground out as tried to slow his heart rate. “How’d you hear about that?”
“I have my ways.” Eddie winked and chuckled as he headed past Bobby to find his first interview.
Walking up behind a whispering Hen and Chim, he waited a bit before he made the sole of his boot squeak on the concrete floor.
“Everything good with the supplies? Do we need to special order anything or can it wait until you go by the hospital?”
The pair startled apart. “What … Uh … No … Supplies are fine … We were just … Checking the units against each other.” Chim stumbled. “Glad to hear it. If there’s a problem make sure the report gets to me, Lieutenant, so I can get it handled.”
“Will do … Uh … Captain.” The paramedics watched as Eddie walked over to the Engine and called Jonna DeSoto’s name.
“Why would he interview her? She’s …” Chim trailed off when Hen backhanded his upper arm. “What!”
Hen’s sigh was exasperated. If not for the steel-toed boots they wore she would have stomped Chim’s foot. “Don’t you start that crap, Howard Han. I thought you went to therapy for that.”
He had the grace to flush at Hen’s reprimand. “Yeah … Sorry. He’s just so different than when he left.”
“Not like you kept in touch or visited.” Hen reminded him. “For that matter, if not for Denny, we probably wouldn’t have either.” She handed him her paperwork. “For your report, Lieutenant.”
“But …” Hen just raised her eyebrows at him before she headed to the common room.
Howie thought his office was going to be a good place to hide from work, but it looked like Eddie wasn’t going to be as mellow as Bobby when it came to paperwork.
Enjoying a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine before going to double check all the trucks had been properly stocked, Eddie was beginning to relax when a familiar body settled next to him. A shoulder bump had him opening his eyes to see Buck handing him an energy bar and bottle of water.
“You know, they don’t know what to do with Captain Diaz?” Buck handed him a sheet of paper when Eddie set his bottle down. “My checklist for Truck.”
“Looks good though I’d recommend extra blades and at least one extra of the tools with handles in case of failure.” He handed the list back to Buck.
“Good idea.” Buck fiddled with the paper for a few minutes while Eddie finished his energy bar.
“How come I’m not on the list for Squad?” Buck practically held his breath waiting for the answer.
“You’re A-shift Lieutenant on Truck. I didn’t think you’d want to give up the lead to move to second position.”
“Oh.” He let his breath out in a whoosh. “So, it’s not because you don’t trust me?”
“What? No. I’d trust you to have my back in the field any day, Evan.”
Buck stopped. Eddie called him Evan. Eddie only called him Evan when he wanted him to pay attention. The words in the field started to loop in his head.
“Have you got replacements in mind for when I poach someone off your crew?”
“What? Replacements? Why would … Oh. Who did you poach?”
“Ravi. Just looking at his file, he’s shaped himself into a heck of a firefighter.”
“Yeah. He usually asks me what certs he should take.”
“You did good as the guy’s mentor, Buck.”
“I did? I mean, I did didn’t I?” He grinned at Eddie. Buck looked at his watch. “I better go get started on dinner and get Brooks to put those extras on the Truck.”
“Thanks for the snack.” Eddie got up to review all the rigs before his next interview.
By the time Buck reminded him to come to eat, Eddie had three people picked for Squad 4. He was contemplating Ravi as his second. He’d scheduled drills at the academy after shift tomorrow to run his choices through their paces. He wanted to pick up a schedule of upcoming classes while he was there, too.
Buck had set dinner up buffet style, so Eddie and Buck filled their plates and sat at the end of the table.
“Decided who you want to replace Ravi?”
“I’ve got a floater coming tomorrow. We’ll see how we mesh. If it goes well, I might keep them.”
“Don’t feel bad, Engine has to find a replacement for DeSoto. I’ve got Gage from B-shift, and Lemus from C coming by in a half hour. I’m taking them to the academy tomorrow after shift for some drills. We’ve got a real sharp learning curve.”
“You got around today, Diaz.”
“That’s my job, Han. By the way, still waiting for the report I asked for. I don’t get reports, you don’t get supplies for the RAs.”
Eddie gave him a dead-eyed stare that made Chim feel like he was being hunted. Hen quickly pulled him away to his new office. It made Buck wonder what Eddie had been doing for the Army.
“Take a walk with me, Buckley.” They started at the bunkroom and worked their way to the apparatus bay. “Tell me what you saw?”
“It looks like people are starting to settle in. They’ve picked their bunks and lockers and are beginning to return to their schedules. A few are still poking around like curious cats, and each crew is hanging a little closer than usual, especially since Captain Diaz is upsetting the status quo. They hoped they’re picked but are afraid they’re going to be.”
“Thanks, Buck. SQUAD 4! WITH ME!” The whole room jumped as Panikkar and DeSoto dropped what they were doing and headed toward Eddie. “Familiarize yourself with where things are on the Squad. I don’t want to lose time on a scene because you’re looking for a piece of equipment.”
“On it, Cap.” The two headed over to the Squad.
At the same time, two people entered the station that Buck recognized from working with B and C shifts.
“Gage … Lemus, thanks for coming by. My office is this way.” They left Buck standing by the turnout storage.
Thinking about what Eddie said about time, Buck decided to check the Truck and make sure everything was in its place. He closed the last door and turned to head to the common room, and almost ran over Whitt Gage.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”
“It’s okay, I was looking for you anyway.”
“Oh. Why?” Buck liked Gage, he was a good firefighter. His dad had been one of the first paramedics when Los Angeles instituted the program in the 70’s.
“He thought I’d be better suited to Truck than Squad, and I’ve been trying to get on A-shift, but you have to wait for someone to retire for that to happen.
“Let’s go to my office and talk where it’s quiet.” Buck led Gage to an office close by Eddie’s.
“Is it weird having him back?” Gage nodded toward Eddie’s office.
“We’re still getting re-acquainted. Most of us have changed in eight years. To quote Eddie, we have a steep learning curve. He’d only been a firefighter/paramedic for four years when he left. We had seniority on him. Now, he’s our Captain.” Buck shrugged as he waved toward the extra chair in his office. “So, tell me what you have to offer Truck.”
A-shift was heading for the locker room to change into their civilian clothes when Eddie and the three new members of his crew headed to Academy.
“Who knew Diaz would become such a hard ass?” Chim complained as he changed out of his uniform.
“You could have been captain if you wanted to do the work.” Buck reminded him.
“I didn’t have time. With Jee-Yun, keeping my paramedic certs up to date, Maddie, and the house, there’s not enough hours in the day.”
Buck and Hen rolled their eyes. “You keep telling yourself whatever gets you through the day.” Buck grabbed his duffle and keys. “See you tomorrow.”
Expert eyes assessed the scene, then the two piles of crumbled metal before he began barking orders. Ravi, Jonna, and three volunteers, who had been at the academy while rehabbing from injuries scrambled to obey. The ‘victims’ in the cars and several instructors made notes as they watched the new Rescue Squad captain from the 118 assess his crew.
As the only person on the ‘scene’ with a paramedic certification, Eddie was the one squirming in and out of crushed cars to assess the ‘patients’. By the time the ‘victims’ were rescued and laid out on backboards, the Squad team started to relax. Seeing this Eddie gave a slight nod to one of the instructors. Flames and sparks flew as the simulation of an electric car battery exploding flared to life.
When the lead instructor called, “Clear”. Eddie turned on his crew. “Who wants to tell me what you did wrong?”
Before anyone could answer, a voice came from the shadows. “They relaxed their guard before they were in the Squad headed back to the station.”
“Peek-a-boo!” A smile lit Eddie’s face that caused everyone on the roof to smile. “What are you doing here?”
“A little birdie told me you needed a wingman.” Chano Black Moon hugged his former captain. “And a few other things.” He winked at Eddie.
It had taken Chano a while, but once he realized Eddie’s heart was a dragon guarded vault, he started treating him like he did the other members of Team 7. Without that pressure, Eddie became a brother he was glad to have when he met southern belle, Elsa Durham. The petite blonde physician assistant rode roughshod over him for weeks before Eddie convinced him to say yes the next time she asked him for a date. She and Emma got on like a house on fire, and now none of Team 7 got away with anything.
“Am I going to get a nasty call from Chief Wilde?” A hand on his shoulder directed Chano toward the scenario they’d just played out. A chuckle told him the answer to that as they approached the group.
“Let me introduce Chano Black Moon, he was on Squad with me in Colorado Springs. His answer is the right one. Even during overhaul something unexpected can happen. Enough for tonight. Let’s help get this cleaned up, then I’ll see you in the morning. Percy, a word after we hear our assessments.”
“For your first time working together, and having two strangers thrown in the mix, we all agree you did well. The mistakes we saw were things that will smooth out with time and practice. It was also a good demonstration for this term’s class.”
“Thank you, Chief.” Eddie pulled off his glove to shake the instructor’s hand.
“Anytime, Diaz. We can always use real-life scenarios for the candidates.” He waved to indicate the group of people standing on the tower stairs.
“Good luck.” He turned back to his crew plus Percy. “Percy, I like the way you fit with the team … Are you interested in a spot at the 118?”
“I just got clearance from the doctors and was slated to go back in the floater pool next shift. Not an experience I was looking forward to.”
“What about your old house?”
“My wife told me she was pregnant right before I was hurt, and I had told my captain I wanted to transfer to a house closer to where we live. She replaced me while I was recuperating.”
“Congratulations to you and your wife. A-shift has a twelve then a twenty-four before our four days off, so come prepared accordingly.”
“I will, Sir. Thank you for the opportunity.”
“I wouldn’t want her pissed at me.” Chano grinned as the team began cleaning up the scenario.
“Aja Percy played offensive line for the Los Angeles Legends of the Women’s National Football Conference until her wife, Lisa, got pregnant. She still works for the team on her days off but needed the pay and benefits from the LAFD. How’s Elsa? Was it her idea to move or yours?”
“Lam sent her to UCLA Medical School to become a full doctor. Medical needs more help with the teams being expanded at home and abroad. You started something when Sheppard and McKay came to you that day. The General likes the idea that the Teams can be called in if there’s a situation, or if we need places to go to ground.”
“Always glad to be of service.” SGC was notorious for foothold situations. Rodney had come up with several scenarios for getting teams in from the outside if things got out of hand. “You have a place to stay?”
“Yeah. Vasquez’s have a guest house and they’re not too far from UCLA.”
Eddie threw his turnouts in the backseat of his truck. “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow for shift?”
“It’ll be fun.” Chano couldn’t wait to see Buckley’s reaction to him joining Eddie’s crew.
“I’ve seen your idea of fun Peek-a-boo, the bad guys never like it.” Eddie hugged him again before they got in their vehicles. “Forewarned … You’re my driver. Don’t think I don’t know what you and Will got up to for deciding who was going to drive.”
Life just got even more interesting. With four members of Team 7 in Los Angeles, Los Alamitos and Coronado were in for a wake-up call.
When Buck entered the station the next morning, it felt like a ghost town. He changed into his uniform and headed for the kitchen and a cup of coffee. Things got stranger when the common room was as empty as the rest of the station. Eddie wasn’t in his office, the briefing room was empty, and he couldn’t even find Bobby or his new assistant.
Hearing noise from the direction of the gym, he followed the noise. The first thing he heard was Chim complaining about pretty people being firefighters. Buck heard Rhodes reminding Chim they were in LA where pretty people live except for him. Chim was still sputtering with indignation when Buck walked up behind Hen.
“What’s everyone doing?” He looked at Bobby.
“Watching Eddie’s teamwork. We got a few new members yesterday. One of them is a transfer from Colorado Springs.”
“One of Eddie’s old crew?” Buck frowned when he saw Chano spotting Eddie as he lifted heavy. On the bench next to him, Ravi was spotting an African American Amazon who was lifting the same amount of weight as Eddie.
“Who’s the Amazon?”
“Firefighter Aja Percy former offensive line for the Los Angeles Legends.” Bobby offered.
“What’s that mean?” Buck looked at Hen.
“She played women’s professional football, but they don’t get paid, so she’s a firefighter, too.”
“Oh. So, Eddie has a full team now?”
“Seems so.” Bobby stuck his head in the gym door. “Briefing in fifteen.”
A chorus of “Aye, Chief.” Saw the Squad team heading for the showers.
Bobby went over the news from headquarters, and any incidents that they had deemed as noteworthy to the stations.
“I’d like to welcome the new personnel who have transferred into the 118 to fill new and old positions alike. I’m happy to say that Captain Diaz has set some kind of record in filling out his new team. Rescue Squad 4 crew members … Ravi Panikkar from Truck, Jonna DeSoto from Engine, Aja Percy, a transfer from the academy, and a transfer from Eddie’s old station in Colorado Springs, Chano Black Moon.” Everyone applauded the new team. “Now, to fill the empty spaces left when Eddie poached his people, we have Whitt Gage who will be on Truck, and Oscar Lemus, who will join the Engine crew. You may have seen them around the station as they were previously on B and C shifts. That’s all I have for today. Does anyone have anything else?”
“Chief?” Eddie stood. Bobby gave him a nod. “Since we’re coming up on our four days off, I’d like to invite everyone to my place on Thursday for a little intro, and re-acquaintance party for A-shift. Food, drinks, and a pool, so bring your SO, kids, and anything you’d like to contribute to the party. Stop by my office for the address. Hope to see you there. Thanks, Chief.”
“Squad, meet me in the drill room for …”
The bells going off interrupted the end of his sentence. “Squad 4, Truck 118, RA 118A and 118B, MVA involving multiple vehicles at Arroyo Seco Parkway and Sunset Boulevard.”
That was the beginning of a day that rivaled any training day. Sometimes it was just the Squad and ambulance. Most times it was Squad, Truck, and ambulance though a few calls emptied the apparatus bay of equipment. Meals consisted of grabbing takeout during overhaul at restaurants or food trucks near their calls. Things settled down about two hours before the end of the shift, giving the crews time to restock supplies and do equipment checks. Incident reports could wait until the next shift. Eddie had made notes during the overhauls so he wouldn’t get the details from each incident jumbled together.
Coming out of the shower putting together his reports in his head, Eddie caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Training kicking in, he grabbed the hand and started to twist before he realized it was Buck reaching for him.
“Sorry, man.” Eddie let go before he could cause any damage. “Not a good idea to startle me.”
“I see that.” Buck’s chuckle was shaky. “Are you always so hypervigilant?”
“No. Been a long day. Is there something I can help you with?”
“Want to grab something to eat?”
“Sure. I could eat. I hope it’s close by.”
“Yeah. Around the corner.”
“Let me get dressed. I’ll meet you outside.”
Buck looked up from where he was leaning against his Jeep to see Eddie and Black Moon standing by a classic motorcycle with their heads close together talking quietly. The younger man pulled Eddie into a hug before Eddie gave a playful tug at his long braid before heading toward Buck.
“Lead the way. I could use a bucket of coffee and half a cow.” Eddie joked.
After placing their orders, Buck fiddled with the straw the waitress left with his iced tea.
“Something on your mind, Evan?”
Buck’s head jerked up at the use of his given name. He fidgeted a bit more before gathering his courage and blurting out his question. “Did Chano transfer to be with you?”
Eddie studied the younger man for a few minutes before he answered. “He transferred for several reasons. He asked for the 118 because he knew me.”
“So, you’re not together?”
“We thought about it, but with him being on my firehouse crew and the rank imbalance we decided to be friends since he’s on my military team, too. He’s here because his SO is finishing medical school. After that, they’re going back to Colorado.” Eddie paused for a minute as if making a decision. “We’re running in Griffith Park at six on our days off, you’re welcome to join us.”
“Gym on workdays?” Buck sat back as platters of food were set on the table.
“Next week we go to Coronado for a few days.”
“What about Chris and Dina?” Buck was confused. It seemed like Eddie’s schedule was so booked he didn’t have time for the kids.
“What about them? Everything was fine when I talked to Christopher last night.”
“Well, I mean … It seems like you’re so busy that you don’t have any time to spend with them.”
“I’m letting Christopher set the pace. I want him to be as independent as he wants. They live in a safe place with someone I trust with their well-being. I’m having supper with them at Abuela’s on Monday. He’s not ten years old anymore, Buck.’’
“I know that. I was at their graduation.” Buck didn’t mean to sound short, but the conversation wasn’t going the way he imagined.
“I wish you’d been able to stay a day or two instead of flying in and out the same day. After two years, we probably could have found something to talk about.” He motioned to the waitress for the check. “I need to get home. I have a few things to do before I go to bed. I enjoyed this. We should do it again.” Eddie headed for the cash register leaving Buck staring after him.
An older woman sitting in the next booth chuckled at Buck’s reaction. “I don’t know what you did young man, but you’ve got your work cut out for you with that one.”
Buck snapped out of his stupor. “What? Oh, we’re not … Well maybe … We could be. If I stop sticking my foot in it.”
“Lessons, young man, it’s all about the lessons. You have a blessed evening.”
“Thank you, ma’am. I, uh, need to …” He pointed in the direction Eddie had gone.
“Eddie!” The older man turned back toward Buck.
“Do you think we can get back to where we used to be?”
“No.” Buck’s heart plummeted. “We can’t go back. We aren’t those people anymore, or at least I’m not. We can go forward, maybe make something new … If that’s something you would want.”
Buck gave Eddie a shy smile and held out his hand. “Hi, I’m Evan Buckley. I prefer Buck. Welcome to the 118.”
“Eddie Diaz. I was a Captain at Station 11 in Colorado Springs. I’m also a Chief Warrant Officer 2 in the Army.”
“Congratulations on the promotion.”
“Thanks. Buck, I’ve only been here for a minute, so don’t make yourself crazy while I figure out my schedule between the FD and the Army.”
“Patience is not one of my strong suits.”
“That is one thing that hasn’t changed.” Eddie cupped his cheek and gave it a gentle tap as he unlocked his truck. “I’m nearly asleep on my feet, so I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Night, Eds.” Buck answered softly as he headed to his Jeep.
During his first twenty-four-hour shift at the 118, Eddie was able to get his paperwork caught up and got a start on organizing his files, so he could keep track of vacations and re-certifications. He printed out schedules for upcoming certifications both the online classes and practicals and posted them around the station. They had a variety of calls that weren’t too serious but kept the morning interesting. After working out and running drills with the team, Eddie was happy with how quickly they were beginning to gel.
His four days off had already been scheduled almost past the available hours. Chano, Vasquez, and Faraday were coming home with him after their run to work in the basement unshrinking all the supplies Walter had sent with him. He also needed to get his shopping done for his housewarming party on Thursday.
One of the items found in the containers of shrunken equipment was the projects Eddie had been working on at SGC. He made sure they carved him out a workspace in one of the rooms. When Buck called to ask if he wanted to get lunch, Eddie shooed his team out of the basement since they were poking around the house as opposed to working. He also decided to take his shopping list to get that chore out of the way, so everything would be ready to start his prep work the next day.
Feeling like he was going on a first date, Buck parked at a restaurant that had been recommended by Pepa. When Eddie and Chris moved to Colorado, he feared he would lose his connection with Eddie’s Abuela and Tia, but Isabel and Pepa had gone out of their way to keep Buck in the family. Now that Buck thought about it, they only ever invited him, never Taylor. A tap on his window startled him so badly that he nearly bounced his head off the roof. Seeing Eddie’s mischievous grin told him the man knew exactly what he’d done.
“Need to work on your situational awareness?” Eddie arched an eyebrow at Buck as he nearly tumbled out of the Jeep.
“There’s been a lot to process, and this is the first quiet time I’ve had to think about any of it.”
“Teenagers can be noisy when you’re used to living alone.” Eddie’s expression was one of understanding his experience. The hostess appeared and led them to a table on the patio. “How’d you find this place?”
“Pepa. You know, I thought after you moved, they’d stop inviting me to things, but they never did. They never invited Taylor, but she always gave the cold shoulder to people who were friends with you, so didn’t seem to mind when I spent time with your family. They told me to call them Abuela and Tia. They were there for me after I told Taylor I wanted a divorce … Like the family I wished I had instead of the one I have.”
“I’m glad they were there for you. Abuela wanted to adopt you the first time she met you, and you always made time for Christopher when we visited.”
Feeling stung by the implication that he wasn’t there for Eddie, Buck started to protest. Their waitperson chose that moment to bring their drinks and appetizer. Eddie knew Taylor didn’t want Buck spending time with him, so did his best to not make waves between husband and wife.
“I realized a lot of things after I didn’t have Taylor’s voice in my ear. I always thought I was firm in what and who I wanted in and of my life, but I discovered an ugly tendency to compromise my own wants and needs to please the people I care about.”
“After a lot of work with Dr. Copeland, I’ve learned to recognize the thoughts and behaviors and how to know when I’ve come to a good compromise with someone. I’m less of a doormat.”
“We get taught to analyze a situation with facts, but when you throw emotions in the mix it tends to blur the facts. Especially when it’s your heart and emotions in the situation.”
“Is that what you did when you moved to Colorado Springs?”
“Yes. I looked at the information from the doctors and made a decision based on what was the best outcome for Christopher. I see where he is today without all the pain and recovery time he would have had with surgery every time he had a growth spurt and know I may the right decision regardless of the personal cost.”
Buck felt his eyes sting at Eddie’s words and carefully re-thought his next question. If they were going to rebuild their relationship, he didn’t want it built on assumptions. He wanted them to be honest with each other.
Their food arrived and from the appreciative noises Eddie was making, Buck had made the right choice of restaurants.
“Not as good as Abuela’s but not far from it. You did good, Buck.”
Buck felt his cheeks heat at the compliment. Silence ruled the table until both plates were empty.
“I needed that. We did five miles this morning, but breakfast didn’t go very far. I had a bunch of stuff in storage I sorted through and gave the house a lick and a promise until I do a thorough cleaning tomorrow. I’m doing my grocery shopping after lunch so I’m not rushing around tomorrow.”
“Sure. Plus, you haven’t been to the house. Pepa found the perfect place for an empty nester. Did you get the address from the pile in my office?”
“Ah, no. Chris gave me the address. I, um, just haven’t taken the time to come by.”
“Then you’ll get the nickel tour before everyone else.”
Warmth built in his chest. Eddie was acting like he did before Taylor and before he moved. Maybe this wouldn’t be as hard as he thought.
Later he would kick himself for thinking anything about Edmundo Diaz was easy.
Feeling lucky there was an international market next to his favorite chain supermarket, Eddie pulled his list and grocery bags out of the truck after they finished lunch. Buck forgot what shopping with Eddie was like. He enjoyed the debate over ingredients, and how Eddie had become something of a food snob while he was in Colorado. The flirting of other patrons with them was outrageous. It seems a boyish smile combined with threads of silver through his dark hair made the older man catnip to men and women equally. They got a good laugh out of it as they loaded up the pickup and headed toward Eddie’s Los Feliz neighborhood.
Buck sat in his Jeep and stared at the riot of color on the outside of Eddie’s house. The man who had lived in a beige ticky-tac house before now lived in this terra cotta adobe with bright blue windows and doors and wrought iron gates. Eddie had backed his truck up until it was at the back of the house.
“Come help me unload this Buckley! Some of this stuff wasn’t even on my list.” Eddie called before disappearing around the back of the house.
By the time Buck moved, Eddie was carrying bags into the house. Jogging to not get left behind, he filled his hands with bags and stepped through French doors into an eclectic mixture of mid-century and arts and crafts style with a commercial refrigerator and freezer. He immediately fell in love with the polished concrete countertops and shiny stainless steel.
“Would you like to be alone with my kitchen?” Eddie’s dry sense of humor snapped Buck out of his fascination.
“I think my black quartz countertops would love to be friends with yours.” Buck smirked at Eddie.
“Cute.” He started putting away his groceries. “Help yourself to whatever you want to drink, or there are swimming trunks in the guest house that should fit you if you want to swim.”
“I want to see the rest of the house first.” He wandered over to the bookcase looking at the photos on the bookcase. There were the usual family pictures along with his Station 11 friends. A group of men and women he’d never seen, except for Chano, smiled at him out of a picture. The picture looked like it had been taken at a ranch.
“Who are these people?”
“My SEAL team.” Eddie smiled when he saw a container of quesadillas. Now he didn’t have to worry about supper.
“Yeah, Team 7.”
Buck may be an inactive reserve, but the Magnificent 7 had a reputation that always arrived ten minutes before they did.
“I guess you can’t talk about what you do?”
“Maybe not for several lifetimes.” Eddie joked.
“This is not a joking matter. Team 7 gets the worst of the worst. What are you doing running with them?” Buck snapped.
“I’ve been taking care of my business for a long time. I’m on Team 7 because my GENERAL thinks that’s where I belong. Who the fuck are you to say otherwise?” Eddie snarled. “They watch my back just fine. I was planning on going full-time before Bobby gave me his sob story about needing a captain. I’m beginning to think that was the wrong choice.”
“NO! Eddie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make it sound like you couldn’t handle business. It’s just I was in the SEALS, and I’ve heard stories about them.”
“As a matter of fact, my General gave me your name as someone we could call on if we needed backup. Was he wrong? Do you have my back, Evan?” Eddie challenged. He’d thought they were going take this slow, but apparently, Buck had changed his mind.
“Of course, I have your back at the 118, and wherever else you need. How can you ask me that?”
“I don’t know, Buck. Every time I think we’re making progress you get your tail in a twist about something. I thought we were supposed to be moving forward. You’re giving me whiplash, Man.” Eddie threw a box of plastic cutlery on the counter and headed for the door.
Stopping under the pergola, by the pool, to give himself some breathing room, Eddie got a couple of beers out of the mini-fridge and threw himself down on a daybed he used as a lounger. He remembered when he’d been pissed at Buck and told him he was emotionally exhausting. He hated that he had said that to his best friend, but today had been like living with Christopher going through puberty again. From thirteen to sixteen Eddie never knew if he was getting Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.
He held up the second beer as he felt Buck settle next to him on the lounger. Buck reached out and entwined his fingers with Eddie’s. Eddie gave them a squeeze.
“I’m sorry. I’m making you crazy, and I’m making me crazier. I think I figured it out.”
“Gracias a Dios for that.”
“Buck, I’ve never known you to be jealous of anyone.”
“I am now. You had two great teams in Colorado, and now you’ve got two great teams here, and I’m not part of either one. Chano even followed you from Colorado Springs.”
“Chano followed Elsa from Colorado Springs. Me being here was convenient to get him a job.”
“Still, you’ve become this awesome firefighter/medic/soldier without me.”
“What was I supposed to do, Evan? Was I supposed to put my life on hold until you had some kind of epiphany?”
“That’s not fair. You left.”
“You left me first.”