Rough Waters Ahead (Ch.½)
Pairing: Pre-Evan ‘Buck’ Buckley/Eddie Diaz, Evan ‘Buck’ Buckley & Maddie Buckley
Rating & Word Count: Teen, <2.5K
Tags: Seal Buck, Selkie!Buck, Post-Tsunami, Fear of the Water, Nightmares, Panic Attacks, Family Secrets, Pining!Buck
Little does Buck know that his nightmares surrounding the tsunami will lead him towards discovering the Buckley family secrets…all of them.
Can also be read on A03.
Buck’s nose broke the water first, followed quickly by the rest of his face. Letting out a huge gasp, Buck’s arms flailed as he adjusted to being back above water. He took deep, greedy breaths, sucking in air as quickly as he could without causing himself to hyperventilate. It felt like he had been beneath the water for hours, his lungs still hurt from holding his breath for so long. But now, as he instinctively started to tread water, he had to figure out his next problem.
Where the hell was he?
Water stretched out as far as his eyes could see. There was no land anywhere. No rocks, no grass, no beach. Only the cold, dark grey of the sea.
The only sound was the swish his hands made against the water, the steady in and out motions that he learnt from his time with the SEALs and his hitched breaths, as he slowly realized….
He was alone.
Buck woke with a gasp, his hands reaching out to grab whatever was closest to him, which turned out to be a towel.
Pushing himself up against his headboard, he tried to catch his breath, gripping the towel tightly like it was a lifeline. There had been nothing out there in the middle of the water, nothing but him, and the coarseness of the material was helping to remind him where he was, grounding him back in the present.
He was in his loft, in his bed. Glancing over at his clock to confirm his hypothesis, he saw the 3:00AM in bright red light. Middle of the night, he still had another three hours before he had to get up for his next shift. Everything was falling back into place.
But as he felt along the dark grey towel, he was surprised to find that the other end was wet. And not damp, like he had been laying on it after a shower with wet hair. But soaking wet, drops of water trailing off the end as he held it up in confusion.
He stood up quickly, shuffling over to toss the wet towel into the bedroom. As he re-entered his bedroom, he noticed that there was a large damp spot spread across over half of the bed, likely due to the wet towel. Not feeling like dealing with the mess, Buck pulled on his LAFD sweatshirt and headed downstairs to try to get a bit more sleep on the couch. If he was falling asleep with a wet towel, he definitely needed as much sleep as he could get.
Christopher had fallen over the edge of the fire truck, his bright yellow shirt disappearing under the roll of the ocean. Buck never hesitated, diving in right after him. His eyes quickly adjusted to the water, his large irises fully opening. Ducking under a piece of debris headed right towards him, he looked around him, from left to right, hoping to catch a flash of yellow. Light shone through the water, causing distortions and shadows that only hindered his view. But then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Christopher.
Kicking through the water with a ferocity that surprised him, he propelled himself swiftly through the water after Christopher. He swore he could almost hear the younger boy calling out for him before he was torn out of his view again. No longer able to see him, Buck broke the water’s surface, hoping that maybe Christopher had managed to pull himself up on something, or someone had helped him out of the water. But he was nowhere to be seen. And neither was anything else for that matter.
Buck was sure that Christopher had been heading inland, and he had been following right behind him. But where there were tall buildings lining the streets, submerged vehicles, screams and cries of pain…here, there was nothing. Instead of being in the middle of a busy city street, surrounded by debris and bodies, there was nothing around him. How could the city just disappear like that?
Had they been pushed out to the ocean?
“Christopher!” He tried to shout, but instead let out a strangled shout, almost like a bark. He tried to call for Christopher again, but a wave came by, causing him to end up with a mouth full of salt water.
Gasping and choking on the taste of the ocean, Buck found himself falling back into the water, unable to get back to the surface. He tried to hold his breath as long as possible, but eventually his body succumbed to the need for oxygen, and his mouth opened, water streaming into his lungs as his body continued to sink.
Buck barely made a sound as he fell onto the ground beside his bunk, his hip hitting the tiled floor hard. Buck lurched back to a seated position, ignoring the pain as he looked around frantically for Christopher. “Christopher!” he said, trying to shout but unable to make a sound louder than a whisper.
Buck flinched as a hand landed on his shoulder, but then relaxed as he realized who it belonged to, first due to the familiarity of the grip, and then as the room came back into focus, by the brown fluffy hair in front of him. “Eddie, is Christopher okay?” Buck asked, blinking in confusion. He needed the confirmation, needed to hear it from Eddie directly that his son was safe.
“Yes, he’s at home, with Carla,” Eddie explained gently. A frown adorned his face, his eyes looked weary. Buck had to physically stop himself from reaching out and touching Eddie, he wanted nothing more than to try to erase that frown. He didn’t know why, but the sight of Eddie upset was like a knife to the gut. But instead, his aborted movement led to him leaning on his hip heavily, and he inadvertently let out a whimper, causing the frown on Eddie’s face to deepen.
Before he could say anything or shake off his injury, Eddie was up, reaching down his arms to help Buck off of the floor. “Here, let me check that out,” Eddie said, and had Buck’s sweatpants halfway down his hip before Buck could say no. Blushing a deep red, Buck willed his body not to react as Eddie’s gentle but strong hands traced along the quickly forming bruise. “Looks okay,” Eddie commented, letting Buck pull his pants back up, which he did rather quickly.
Buck nodded, trying to look anywhere but at Eddie as he shifted back onto his bunk. A few awkward minutes passed before Eddie broke the silence. “Were you dreaming about the tsunami?” Eddie asked.
“Yeah,” Buck answered reluctantly, hoping that Eddie would leave it at that. He didn’t have the energy to explain the dream, his heart still pounding at the memory of Christopher slipping under the water.
“You saved him, Buck,” Eddie said firmly, reaching out to squeeze his hand. “I know it won’t stop the nightmares, but try to remember. You. Saved. Him.”
Buck nodded and waved Eddie back to his bed, needing to be alone. Buck shifted over to his side, glad that Eddie couldn’t see the couple tears that dripped down his cheek in response to his comment. .
That’s not how he remembered it.
Buck wandered into the station, feeling dead on his feet. He had been tempted to call in, unsure of whether or not he had had enough rest to be working safely. And if it hadn’t been for the lawsuit, he probably would have. But having been back for only a few months now, he didn’t want to give anyone any excuse to put him back on the bench, or back as the man behind.
Buck continued to have nightmares of the water, variations of him alone in the sea and of him searching for Christopher in the tsunami. He had thought that opening up to someone would help, but he wasn’t ready to try a therapist, not again. Normally, he would talk to Eddie about this sort of thing, but since part of his nightmares consisted of losing Christopher, he didn’t want to remind Eddie of that horrible day either. So he tried confiding in his older sister, figuring that she wouldn’t have been as impacted as his co-workers. Yet, as soon as Buck mentioned that he had been having dreams of being alone in the water, Maddie only got more and more tense, her foot tapping an irregular pattern on the floor. Sensing that she was scared, Buck quickly stopped his explanation, shrugging it off, and was relieved to see her relax as he carried into a funny story that happened on his way to work the other day.
Since that failed discussion, his nightmares had only increased in intensity, leading to a new problem: sleep-walking. Buck kept finding himself waking up in different places all over his loft, the couch, a dining room chair, on the floor of the kitchen. Last night, he had woken up, cramped awkwardly in the bathtub. A thin stream of cool water was running from the tap, which Buck quickly turned off, relieved that he at least had enough sense while sleep-walking to not push the plug in, because who knows how long he had been sleeping in the tub. He reached for a towel, his whole body shivering as he stood up in the cool air. He was also glad he hadn’t worn any clothes to bed that night, because wet clothes were the worst.
He briefly made a wish that it would be a slow day, and he could curl up in the bunk room for some rest, but the sound of the alarm went off as soon as he finished changing into his uniform for the day. Groaning out loud, he ran out to meet his crew, shaking his head at the curious looks that were being shot in his direction. He didn’t want to talk about it.
It wasn’t long before the 118 was pulling up outside the Los Angeles Aquarium. Apparently there had been a medical emergency right beside the sea lion exhibit, which was all the way at the back of the building.
As Buck and Eddie pushed the gurney through the crowds that were slowly exiting, Buck tried to suppress the tremble he felt in his hands, as tendrils of fear floated through his body. He hadn’t connected the dots when they were told where they were going, but as he continued to walk through the darkened building, his heart rate continued to rise. They were completely surrounded by water; large glass tanks that allowed Buck to clearly see the creatures in the replicated ocean around him, and the amount of water they contained felt like the size of the ocean too. The only separation between him and Eddie and the water was a thin, thin piece of glass.
Buck had seen the power of the water, the anger of the ocean that day of the tsunami. The strength as it ripped through buildings, cars, and people. That piece of glass was a flimsy partition, a temporary barrier at best. Buck almost stopped breathing at the thought of the tank breaking, the water bursting through…and Eddie…Eddie standing no chance as it took him away, just like it had taken Christopher.
“Buck? Buck, are you alright?” Eddie’s voice broke through the din of the crowd, interrupting Buck’s devastating thoughts. Buck nodded his head yes, although he could tell that Eddie didn’t believe him, and continued to push the gurney in the direction that Eddie indicated.
This was not the time to have a panic attack. People needed help. He could freak out later.
When they arrived at the sea lion exhibit, Hen and Chimney were already helping up their patient, who appeared to have gotten lightheaded due to the crowds. Checking the young woman’s vitals again, they were reassured that she wouldn’t need to go to the hospital, and Buck let out a barely hidden sigh, relieved that they would be soon leaving the aquarium.
“Hey Buck!” Chimney said, having looked at the exhibit a bit closer as they finished packing up. “I think this sea lion is waving at you!” He said with a chuckle, motioning for Buck to take a look.
Rolling his eyes, Buck turned to look into the tank, really not wanting to, but not wanting the teasing from Chimney either. “That’s not a sea lion,” he said, almost instinctively as he peered closer at the aquatic animal. “That’s a seal.”
“That’s right!” Chirped a nearby tour guide, who had been listening in on their conversation. “Sea lions and seals are often confused with one another,” she added, stepping closer to the two firefighters.
Buck could hear Chimney asking how he knew that, but he had tuned out his almost brother-in-law at the point, his focus narrowing in on the seal. The seal was a dark brown colour, with lots of smaller, lighter spots across his body. Buck wasn’t sure how he knew, but he was fairly sure it was a male seal.
Buck took another step closer to the tank, his head tilting as he looked in. He no longer felt the panic, the fear of the water that he had felt when he first stepped in the building, but instead a calmness settled over him. The water called out to him, with its gentle promises, urging him to come closer and closer until his nose bumped against the glass. Buck’s heart ached with the sweetness of the song, his whole body thrumming with the need to answer the ancient call that was whispering seductively into his soul.
Buck’s eyes widened as the seal looked at him directly, waving his flipper as if he was greeting a friend. A brother, the water whispered to him, continuing it’s captivating chants, as Buck stood there, entranced.
“Yes, that’s Daniel,” the employee said, her voice breaking whatever spell had been woven as she introduced the seal. “He’s a favourite here at the aquarium, very friendly and incredibly smart.”
Buck nodded, shaking his head in confusion as he stumbled back from the exhibit. He suddenly couldn’t remember why he had moved so close to the tank, or why no one else seemed to be interested in the mammals. Buck forced himself to walk further away, gripping the side of the gurney tightly, as if it would somehow save him from the water, from whatever magnetic pull it had on him only a few moments ago.
But as the 118 headed back towards their truck, he couldn’t help but look back over his shoulder.
And Daniel was still there, staring at him until they were out of sight.