Eddie watched the two Buckleys leave the house and walk towards him and he got out of the car to greet them. Buck looked okay, anxious but okay.
"Hey, how did it...go?" Stupid question to ask.
Buck nodded, swinging his arms at his sides anxiously like a toddler with too much energy. "It was good? I told her and I think I need to tell everyone else now."
He frowned and swung his arms harder, rocking onto his toes as he shook his head. "I might throw up again first though."'
Maddie reached for him in the moment Eddie did, both ushering him back into the house. "Okay, let's get you inside and calmed down."
He felt better after he threw up. And felt much better after Eddie coached him through breathing and Maddie got him his anxiety meds.
"You don't have to do this today. We can wait." Eddie drove while Buck sat shotgun and Maddie took the backseat as she called Chim, voice quiet beneath the thundering beat of Buck's heart.
He shook his head and practiced his breathing like Eddie had shown him, fingers tapping on his knees as he focused. "No, I need to do it today. Cause he's coming this weekend and if I don't tell you guys I won't be able to get through it on my own."
Maddie finished her call and wrapped her arms around both Bucks seat and Buck. "We're doing this together. I'm going to sit right beside you, holding your hand and we'll tell them together."
Buck nodded and grabbed her hands. "Just like when we left."
Maddie laughed as Buck started giving her indian burns, sibling law demanding that they tease each other to chase the anxiety away. Eddie laughed, remembering his own antics with his sisters.
"Two bags, the shitty car I'd gotten from my boyfriend and that awful green bucket."
Buck let out a burst of laughter as Maddie pulled her arms from his grasp and messed his hair up instead. "Oh god, that bucket. I don't think I'd ever been that car sick in my life."
Eddie parked the car and Buck looked towards the firehouse, knowing exactly what lay inside.
It wouldn't be the same once he told them. They'd look at him differently, they'd know everything.
Eddie nudged his arm, half smiling. "I'll hold your hand too if you like."
They were all looking at him and waiting. He needed to say something.
"You don't have to tell us if you're not ready. I know we pushed before but-"
Deep breaths Buckley.
"I need to. I want you to know why this has been happening and I need you to know why you're all so important to me. And why what you gave me means so much."
He didn't need to tell them what they'd given him. Their little family was the greatest gift he'd ever gotten in his life.
As promised, Maddie held his hand beside him as the team sat on the couches around him, ready to hear what he had to say. He didn't want to say it.
Bobby watched him with concern. Dammit he'd kept them waiting too long. He should just spit it out.
"My Dad called me. That's why I've been sleepwalking."
They watched him with open expressions, ready for whatever he had to say. He could do it. His palms felt sweaty against Maddies but she didn't let go, just gave him a gentle squeeze in encouragement to keep going.
Right. Where to start. "Our Mom left when we were pretty young, so it was just us and our Dad but he...he drank too much."
He had the sudden realisation that he could be hitting a chord with Bobby and quickly filled the silence before anyone else could.
"He was angry and mean and he always took it out on me. He always left Maddie alone. I don't know why. I guess because I was the loud and annoying one."
Maddie interjected, knocking her knee with his. "It wasn't. It was because he was a bad person and he knew you couldn't fight back. It wasn't your fault. You know that."
Buck nodded. He did know that. "Right. You're right. Anyway, he was a cop so he knew how to cover things up and we knew we couldn't tell anyone without making things worse. It's not like any of his cop friends would have believed us over him."
Athena gripped Bobby's hand, hating to hear that her kids had been so scared and so trapped.
Maddie took over as Buck looked down at his shoes, her own voice thickening. "When Buck was ten...Our Dad finally hit him too hard. Bucks head hit the wall and he just dropped. Dad looked sick...like he finally realised what he was doing."
Buck swallowed, refusing to look at anyone. He didn't want to see how they were looking at him because he knew what he'd see. There would be nothing but pity, cloying and smothering and he'd hate it because he also knew what they'd see looking at him. A scared ten year old.
"I woke up two days later in the hospital and I couldn't remember the entire week leading up to the...accident, I guess. It had finally gone too far so, when we got home the day I was released we waited until Dad had drunk enough to put him out for the night and we ran. We grabbed whatever we could and we drove nonstop until we were sure we'd gotten far enough away."
Maddie smiled at Buck, teary eyed. "Our dad didn't want any more trouble than we were worth and as far as we could tell he never looked for us or declared either of us missing. We just picked a place and started new. That's when the sleepwalking began. I'd find Evan walking around the house talking about how his head hurt and how dad threw him too hard. I knew he didn't remember the...accident but he used to dream about it."
Buck finally lifted his eyes enough to look at everyone, relieved to see anger and determination overshadowing the pity that they had in their eyes.
"That was the last I'd heard from him until that night you found me on the balcony. He called me out of nowhere. He said he'd seen me on the news when I couldn't save that guy that fell. I hung up before he could say anything else but I was terrified. That's why I started sleepwalking again."
"He kept calling you." Hen remembered all the times he'd look at his phone, scared and pale.
Buck nodded. "Yeah. I told him to stop calling but he said that he'd seen me and he knew where I was. I finally asked him what he wanted and he said he wanted to make it right. That he'd been working on getting better before he made contact. Which is why he'd taken so long to call me."
Maddies lip was wobbling again, fear pinching at her features and Chim watched her, wanting to reach out and hold her. "He's coming here. He wants to visit and he knows about the firehouse. I don't want to see him and I don't want him seeing Buck."
She was scared too but Maddie Buckley was never going to back down when it came to protecting her little brother.
Bobby is adamant, voice almost hard. "He won't. I'll make sure of it."
Athena set her hard eyes on Bucks, hand itching for her gun just thinking about the evil that had been stalking him. "You don't have to worry about a thing. He even tries to come near you and I'll have him in cuffs."
Buck smiled, watching his family getting ready to fight just for him and Maddie. Chim nodded.
"We've got your back. Both of you. He's not stepping foot into this firehouse."
Buck had always known that he had his team, his family to back him up but seeing them there, ready to fight anyone that came near him, it felt like being wrapped in a bullet proof blanket. He felt safe.
The days leading up to his dad's visit felt like the long seconds of anticipation where you know pain is coming and you're waiting for it to hit you. The anticipation was often worse than the pain itself.
He thought about it constantly, finding it hard to sleep or concentrate or anything for long periods of time without his brain coming back to it again.
Eddie had talked him through a panic attack or two during the days leading up and had driven him to his appointments with his therapist which seemed to help.
"Has he told you when he's coming?"
Buck shook his arms out, breaths shaking as he pulled in what he hoped was an even breath. "No, he just said this weekend. I don't know what day or what time and I don't know what I'm going to say or do when I see him and-fuck."
Eddie set a hand on his arm and rubbed his thumb gently across his skin. "Look, no matter when he comes you're not going to be here by yourself, right? Maybe we'll be on a call when he shows up and whoevers here can tell him to piss off."
Buck let out a small laugh. "I hope so."
"Hey, try the affirmations."
Buck nodded and rolled his clenched fists down his thighs, restless energy making him more fidgety than usual. He had thought the therapist's advice was silly at first but they really did help him focus.
"I have support and help all around me. I'm not in danger. I have systems in place to keep me safe."
Eddie moved his hand from Bucks hand to his back and rubbed smooth circles across his shoulder blades. "There we go."
The voice was deep and definitely not Maddies and since she was the on;y person they knew that called Buck by his first name he had to assume that it was- "Dad. Fuck Eddie, he's here!"
Eddie pushed Buck further into the locker room, hiding him as footsteps made their way into the firehouse.
"I'm looking for Maddie and Evan Buckley. I assume they're both here."
Bobby's voice stopped the footsteps coming any closer and Maddie was quickly ushered into the locker rooms by Chimney, thankfully hidden by one of the ladder trucks on their way.
Buck looked terrified, hunched on the bench with Eddie gripping his hand and he reached out for Maddie as soon as she came near, the two of them clinging together as Bobby spoke.
"Mr Buckley, I presume. My name is Captain Nash and I'm sorry to inform you that your children aren't here."
Chimney stood by the door of the locker room, hands braced on the doorway as if he was prepared to physically brace anyone from entering.
"Aren't they? Oh, I'll come back another time I suppose. Do you know when they'll be back?"
Thank god they'd all been in when he decided to show up and Eddie was relieved to hear Athena's hard voice in reply.
"Actually, you won't be coming back. Buck and Maddie have informed us that they aren't willing to see you. Which I'm sure you already know since Buck told you that himself."
"And just who are you to tell me I can't see them?"
Eddie could only imagine the look Athena was giving him after a comment like that. He didn't envy him.
"Sargent Grant with the LAPD. And you're the guy that's leaving. Now."
There was a shuffle of boots as presumably Bobby and Athena moved forward to try and get him to retreat but Mr Buckley was not one to back down.
"No, I am not. Not until I speak to my children. Because that's what they are. My children. I don't know who you think you are but if I want to see them then that's my right."
Bobby didn't sound any happier than Athena did. "You don't have a right to anything, especially not when it comes to those two, You think you can just walk in here and demand whatever you want? This is my firehouse and my family and I won't let you walk in here and act like you have any entitlement to it."
Eddie looked over to Buck as he huffed out a laugh, Maddie smiling too. "Fuck yeah, you tell him, Bobby."
Mr Buckley sounded angrier and the smile slipped from Buck's face as he closed his eyes. "I don't know what they told you about me but I've gone through the programmes. I've gotten better. And I want to see them."
Bobby spoke again, voice low and level. "I'm glad you've chosen a different path for yourself but you have no right to invade their lives. You can't ask that of them."
Athena backed him up, ending the conversation then and there.
"They don't want to see you. They don't want to know you. And they don't need to. So, if I see you anywhere near them again I will stop you myself."
"Is that a threat?"
"No, sir. It's a promise."
The footsteps retreated with some angry muttering and Buck let out a sigh of relief, whole body sagging.
Eddie reached for the two siblings, Maddie hugging Bucks arm as she let out a sigh of her own.
"You two, okay?"
Maddie nodded as Chimney left the doorway to check if the coast was clear, coming back instead with Bobby and Athena with a concerned Hen following behind.
"Is he gone?" Maddie almost couldn't believe that their father had come so close after so long. And now he was gone.
Bobby nodded. "He's not coming back here anytime soon."
Buck stood, making his way to Bobby and wrapping him in a hug, dropping his chin on his captain's shoulder as his lip wobbled. "Thank you. I know I've made your lives harder and dragged you into this and I always get into trouble but-"
Bobby hugged him back, Athena joining her arms in too. "Aw, kid we don't care about any of that. You're a part of this family, both of you. And no one hurts our family."
Athena reached a hand up to brush at the hair at the base of Buck's neck. "We love you, Buck. Every part."
Hen joined in the group hug, snuggling in beside Athena. "Yeah, what would we do without you?"
Chim and Maddie joined in and Eddie couldn't help but lend an extra bit of love. All of them wrapped around each other, safe and secure.
Bobby was lucky to have them all. After losing his family he wasn;t sure he'd deserve a new one. But he was glad they'd taught him he was wrong and he hoped Buck knew he deserved it too. "You're our kids. Not his."
Buck found Maddie's hand in the bundle of arms and hands and squeezed tight. They were exactly where they needed to be.
Buck was exhausted from the days excitement but his anxiety had finally fallen away. His father was gone. He wouldn't have to worry about him anymore, he'd no longer have the looming threat hanging over him. He was free of him.
He pushed his apartment door open and dropped his bag by the door, jumping at the sudden voice in what was supposed to be an empty room.
"So, this is what it's come to."
His father was standing in his kitchen, arms crossed and eyes angry and hard.
Bucks heart began to thunder in his chest and his hands shook so bad he dropped his keys, the clatter of them hitting the floor making him flinch hard.
"Dad, what are you doing here? How'd you get in? How'd you know where I lived?"
He didn't look at all bothered by the questions, skimming over them entirely. "I'm still a cop, son."
The 'son' pulled Bucks eyes to the floor, shoulders hunching up near his ears as he half turned away, thinking of just running.
"What do you want?"
His father took a step forward and Buck stumbled backwards, shoulder striking the wall behind him as he tried to get back.
"I want my children back in my life. I want you to give me a chance. You know, I never would have had to teach you so many lessons when you were younger if you hadn't screwed up so many times."
Buck lifted his head at that, anger replacing his fear as he looked at the man in front of him. He wasn't as big as he'd seemed to Buck when he was a child. He wasn't some big terrible monster. He was a man. A pathetic excuse for a father who was too much of a worthless asshole to deal with his own problems.
"What did you just say?"
His father took another step towards him, chin raised but Buck raised his own, standing straight to take advantage of his full height.
"Maybe I should teach you again, huh boy? You need to be retaught your manners."
Buck looked at the man in front of him and found that he wasn't scared anymore. He knew what a real man looked like, a real father. A real father protected his kids. A real father loved them and taught them with a kind voice and gentle hands. He'd seen Eddie's face light up at the sight of his son and the pride on Bobbys face when one of his did something to make him smile. He knew what a real father looked like. And it wasn't the one in front of him.
"I'm not helpless anymore, Dad. I'm bigger than you now."
His father's eyes narrowed as he stepped forward again but Buck didn't move.
"What? Are you threatening me? I could put you in the dirt before you even got a swing in. You've always been pathetic. Never once fought back."
Anger burned hot through Buck's chest and he clenched his fists at his sides, everything he'd ever wanted to say to the man coming out at once. "Because I was a kid! I don't know what happened to screw you up so bad but I don't care! You don't get to pretend like I have to forgive you for what you did. You haven't changed, you're still that same bully who's too much of a weak bitch to pick on someone bigger than his ten year old. Well I'm not ten anymore, Dad. I run into fires and jump out of buildings. I survived an explosion and a tsunami and I survived you! You can't scare me because I know what you are. You're weak."
He knew it was the truth now and he could see his father's eyes flare in anger as he raised his voice, temper taking over just like it always did.
"Don't you talk to me like that! I raised you!"
Another lie. Buck couldn't let anymore lies slide. He shook his head, voice loud in the cold apartment.
"No, Dad. Maddie raised me. And I don't want to hear any lame excuses about how difficult a child I was because you know what? One of my favourite people in the entire world is a ten year old kid and I have never, and will never, hurt him like you hurt me. I could never think of it. Because It wasn't me that was the problem. It was you. And I'm done with you."
His father's eyes were hot with anger but Buck was the one to tower over him now and they both knew that he couldn't scare him anymore. He had no power left and he was nothing more than an empty man filling himself up with anger and blame to ease the pain of his own shortcomings. He'd lost.
"Get out of my apartment. And don't you ever contact me or my family again."
Buck watched him leave and his hands as steady as they'd ever been.
Eddie watched Buck stride into the firehouse, the biggest smile he'd seen in weeks planted firmly on his face. "Hey. You look happy. You sleep okay?"
Buck nodded and bumped his fist against Eddie's outstretched one, finally happy once again. "I've never slept better."