ya’ll ever dissect a brief two-second clip in a trailer for a season of a show that hasn’t come out yet and concoct a small story around it that turns into an almost 2k-word fic at almost 2 am in the morning? no? just me?
anyway, i’m obviously hung up on that brief clip in the 911 season 5 trailer where Eddie falls. Is he panicking? Maybe, and that’s definitely what I wrote about. though, halfway through writing, when I was just watching a gif set for the clip, i had a thought that maybe he was poisoned instead. but, well, I was in too deep by that point.
Trigger Warning for Panic Attacks.
There’s panic, Eddie thinks, when he’s on the job. Panic that strikes a chord against the adrenaline thumping in his blood. Panic that drives his muscles and activates the sheer need to act and save in his mind.
This, Eddie thinks, is not that type of panic.
This is the panic that pools at the bottom of his stomach, always there and always waiting to accumulate, to feed on his fears, to expand upward. This is the panic that slides past his rib cage in the background until it’s snaking around his lungs, constricting slowly until he suddenly can’t suck in a deep breath and thus panics harder.
This is the panic that chips away at his brain, replacing the known with the biting edge of the unknown. Burning away the calm and revealing the trauma that’s been tucked away. This panic nips at his heart and eats at his nerves until he succumbs to it, the icy trace of its presence bringing with it a cold sweat that slips down Eddie’s temples.
He tugs at his collar, his pulse pounding hard against his neck, but it’s not enough. His breath is trapped, unable to sneak past the panic molding over his lungs. His hand falls to his side limply, and for a moment, he stares at the ground, his vision swimming, the faint background sounds becoming lost to the roar of his heart.
He doesn’t realize he’s falling until his back hits the ground, the air trapped in his lungs pushing out with a low wheeze. The pain that erupts along his back is numbed under the weight of bottled memories, of the gun shot that ripped through his arm, of the blood painting his world in a thick, deep red that drowns him.
“Eddie? I heard something fall.”
He’s no longer on the floor, instead lost in a hazy limbo, what he fears most unfolding before him. He’s gone, and Christopher is grieving. His son is shutting everyone out, his voice muted under the pain. The 118, once a solid foundation, cracks, and Buck? Buck screams his voice raw. Buck punches at a brick wall, over and over until his knuckles tear and bleed. He swings when Bobby tries to stop him, and then he crumbles.
As quickly as it comes, it’s gone, and Eddie gasps, the single breath a mountain to climb over. He’s at Ana’s. It’s their date night, and she was finding a pair of earrings she received as a birthday gift a few years back. They were set to leave for their dinner reservation in just a few minutes.
His shirt is damp against his skin, and he trembles the entire way to his feet, each muscle wobblier than the last.
“Edmundo, what happened? Are you ill?”
Ana’s frantic at his side, and she palms at his forehead, the worry across her face evident even through his fuzzy vision. He shakes his head, and she pulls her hand away, lips pointed downward.
“You’re ice cold,” she worries, one hand sliding down his arm. “What’s wrong?”
He shakes his head again, unable to speak around what little breaths he’s able to take in. He’s on autopilot when he’s helped over to Ana’s couch, and he fades in and out of the present, eyes squeezed tightly shut as he struggles to recapture his breathing. His hands are fists at his knees, and he hunches over, curling in on himself, shielding himself.
He stays this way until a hand tugs lightly at his wrist and a voice calls out his name gently. He’s slow to lift his gaze, but when he does, Buck crowds his vision, blue eyes impossibly worried before him.
“Buck?” He croaks out, and Buck nods sharply, his fingers pressing to the inside of Eddie’s wrist.
“It’s me,” Buck reassures calmly. “I’m going to check your pulse, okay? Keep your eyes on mine.”
Eddie can only nod, the lump in his throat keeping his words from him. He trains his gaze to Buck’s. He knows Buck is counting silently to himself, and yet, Buck’s gaze doesn’t waver; his concentration doesn’t fold in the slightest. His eyes are sharp, focused, and after sixty seconds, his face relaxes a fraction, and Eddie’s lungs deflate with a low sigh.
“You’re okay,” Buck whispers, leaning forward until his forehead knocks lightly against Eddie’s, warm compared to his Eddie’s clammy one. His hand finds the side of Eddie’s neck, cups it gently, and Eddie holds the position, pulling all his focus toward the weight of Buck’s hand, the heat spreading across his forehead and down to his cheeks, his neck, stopping at his heart.
“I’m okay,” he finally repeats, voice low, cracking slightly, and only then does Buck pull away, frowning.
“Ana called.” Buck keeps his voice quiet, just a breath above a whisper. “She said she found you on the floor.” He opens his mouth, prepared to press further, but Eddie shakes his head sharply.
“Not here. Where’s Chris?”
“Kitchen with Ana.” Buck rises to his feet and steps away from Eddie’s view. “Sorry, I didn’t want to leave him—”
“—It’s fine,” Eddie mutters, his ears perking up to hear Christopher and Ana talking nearby. Christopher giggles quietly, and the furrow of Eddie’s brow smooths over slightly. “I need to postpone our date,” he adds, more to himself, and Buck extends a steady hand to help him off the couch.
“I’ll get Chris settled back in the jeep. Will you be okay to drive your truck back, or should I arrange to get it for you later?”
“I can drive,” Eddie mumbles weakly, and then Buck crowds his vision again, worry painted down every inch of his face.
“Try that again. If I still don’t believe it, I’m taking your keys.”
Eddie sucks in a deep breath. His chest still hurts, the panic still a nagging sheet of ice burrowed deep in the base of his stomach, but he’s able to hold air in his lungs until he exhales slowly, the line of tension across his shoulders breaking.
“I can drive.” He repeats, stronger, and Buck nods, his own body relaxing.
“I’ll see you back at your house, then. Be careful.” Buck turns on his heel, a smile playing across his lips as he rounds into the kitchen with Eddie close behind him.
“Chris! Do you want to put the band-aid on your dad’s arm?” Buck turns to lean in close to Eddie, whispering, “I told him you fell and hurt your arm.”
Eddie mouths ‘thank you’ at the same time Christopher shouts, “Yeah!”
Eddie plants a smile across his lips, forced against the lingering, nagging edge of panic, and he rolls up a single jacket sleeve halfway up his arm. He crouches down, points to an unmarked spot on his arm, and Chris carefully, almost delicately, spreads a Superman band-aid across his arm.
“All better?” Chris asks, and Eddie nods as he gets to his feet. He ruffles Christopher’s hair, his own smile warming across his lips.
“All better,” he repeats. “Thanks, bud. You okay to go back to the house with Buck? I’ll meet you there?”
Christopher offers multiple goodbyes before he and Buck slip out the door, leaving Eddie to work around just how exactly to explain to Ana that he’s not sure he can do this right now, that he’s succumbing to the issues he’s been too stubborn to recognize over the last couple of months. That he would be miserable company for he’s too wrapped up in a gut-wrenching fear that bears its fangs when he least expects it.
“It’s okay, Eddie.”
Her voice is impossibly soft beside him, soft but classically genuine, and he turns toward her, frowning.
“Ana, I’m so sorr—”
“—Don’t,” Ana interrupts, stepping toward him and brushing a feather-light kiss to his cheek. “You have nothing to be sorry for.” Her breath is warm against his skin, her voice delicate, her words knowing where to step and where to tread gently. When she pulls away, Eddie almost feels guilty at the relief, at the weight that drops from his shoulders.
“Talk soon?” He asks, and she nods, a small smile tight at her lips.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
“Thank you,” he tells her, and he means it. Every inch of him means it.
When Eddie pulls into his driveway, he turns off his truck, but he doesn’t rush to get out, instead sinking against the exhaustion that’s been creeping over him his entire drive home. He’s drained, emotionally and physically, and he tips his head back, his eyes fluttering shut. He doesn’t look when his car door opens at his side; he only sighs.
“Hey,” he says.
Buck’s being careful, Eddie thinks. He can tell by the way Buck’s tone almost tips up into a question, just not quite reaching that pitch. He’s leaving an opening for Eddie, and Eddie takes it. His eyes flutter open, and he rolls his head toward Buck.
“I’ve got some issues,” he says, and the laugh Buck lets out is nervous, worried.
“You don’t say.”
“I’m not sure what to do,” Eddie admits, twisting around until his legs are hanging out of the door. “Tonight was a lot.” He can see Buck taking in his words, dissecting them in a way he does best.
“You look exhausted. Do you want me to go—”
Buck’s jaw snaps shut at the force of Eddie’s single shout, and Eddie slides out of the car, slumping forward, his forehead dropping against Buck’s shoulder. “Sorry. No, I don’t want you to leave. I don’t want to be alone right now. My thoughts are—”
“—dark?” Buck finishes, his hand slipping to the small of Eddie’s back. “Not you,” he continues. “Scary?”
“All of the above,” Eddie mutters, and Buck’s hand presses against his back, pushing until Eddie’s flush against his chest. He wraps his arms around Eddie’s back, and Eddie returns the hug, melting against him.
“It’s going to be okay,” Buck whispers. “I’m going to be here, and I’m going to help you.”
Though Eddie knows Buck would quite literally bend over backwards for him, the ease of Buck’s tone, the determination laced within Buck’s words, cracks the icy panic that’s nestled in his stomach. It surprises Eddie still—just how much Buck is willing to be there for him no matter what.
“Thank you,” he mutters, and for the second time in a single night, every entire inch of his being means it.