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Out of the Flames

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Buck was heroic. Stupidly heroic. By the time the 118 had arrived on the scene, the building was supposed to be cleared. But as they stepped out of the truck, there was the voice of a little girl crying from a window near the flames. Eddie watched as Buck didn't hesitate even a fraction of an instant. He was inside the building and snatched the little girl from the third-floor apartment before Eddie or Bobby had a chance even to reach the first landing.

"I got her! I got her," Buck yelled as he ran past Eddie and Bobby, the little blonde-haired girl hanging off his shoulder. Bobby shook his head with a fond smile barely hidden behind his mask, and with a hand on Eddie's shoulder, they turned back. The fire was mostly contained, but the fact that the smoke was thickest near where the little girl had been caused everyone to worry.

"On our way back out," Bobby said through the radio above the structural groans and crashes as they made their way back down the stairs. Buck disappeared around a corner quickly, and Bobby radioed him. "Buck, have Hen look at the little girl once you get free of the building."

There wasn't a response, but Eddie wouldn't expect one if Buck was working on getting the kid to safety. At least until he'd handed off the little girl.

But as soon as they reached the ground floor landing, Eddie's blood ran cold. He froze for a second until Bobby brushed past him, calling, "Buck? Buck!" Because Buck was on the floor, the little girl crouched down behind the nearby sofa.

Eddie came out of it as they both descended on Buck. "You get the girl," Eddie said and then leaned down over Buck, pulling the debris from his chest. "Buck?" he called out, but Buck didn't respond.

Then he realized Buck wasn't breathing.

Eddie became acutely aware of everything around him as he pulled Buck up and threw him over his shoulder like he weighed no more than a ragdoll. He trudged his way out of the room, dodged another bit of debris as it fell from the ceiling, and screamed his way out the front door. As soon as he was free of the building, he dumped Buck's lifeless body to the pavement, pulled off his mask, and immediately pumped two deep breaths into Buck's lungs.

"I need a defibrillator!" Eddie called as he started chest compressions. He counted up the number of reps, then leaned down and put two more breaths into Buck's lungs.

Before he could process it, Chimney and Hen had taken over. Chimney bagged Buck to keep his oxygen levels up as Hen stripped Buck's jacket and shirt off in one practiced motion, then screamed, "Clear," and jolted Buck back to life.

Eddie hadn't realized he was collapsing until Bobby's arms caught him and settled him to the ground. Bobby leaned in close as Hen and Chimney got Buck onto a gurney. "How 'bout you ride to the hospital with him."

Eddie nodded his head but then said, "Christopher-"

"We'll take care of him," Bobby replied as he righted Eddie. He put an arm on Eddie's shoulder and guided him toward the ambulance Buck was being loaded into. "Just go make sure he's okay."

With a glance back to Bobby - not too fast because his head was already spinning, Eddie replied, "Thanks, Cap'n," and then climbed into the ambulance.

~*~*~

Eddie let the doctors and nurses go through the motions of making sure Buck was stable. At one point, Buck woke up and tried to sit up, saying he was fine, but the doctor threatened him with sedation if he didn't lay back down and rest. And practically as soon as Buck's head hit the sterile hospital pillow, he was out again.

Which was good for Eddie. Because a woken Buck was a talkative Buck, and at that moment, Eddie didn't know how to put certain things into words. He had no idea when it had happened, but somewhere along the way, he'd fallen for his friend. The fact scared him more than anything, but he also realized after Shannon - hell, after Buck's own scare - that tomorrow is promised to no one. So he sat at Buck's side, comforted by the hum and chirps of medical equipment that told him Buck was still alive.

Sometime later, it could have been minutes or hours, Buck began to wake up again. Eddie leaned in, not caring that his hands were latched onto Buck's arm like a lifeline. "Hey, Buddy," he replied, voice quiet.

Buck shook his head, bringing a couple of fingers of his free hand to rest against his temple. "Head hurts," he said.

Eddie stood up. "Let me go get a nurse to see if you've got orders for painkillers."

He let go of Buck's arm, but Buck reached out and grabbed his hand. "Don't go," he said, his voice sounding close to breaking. Eddie couldn't handle that and sat back down.

"So..." Eddie said. He squeezed Buck's hand, then laced their fingers together.

Buck's smile grew, and there was a noticeable uptick in his heart rate. "Thank you," Buck finally said. "But you know that didn't count, right?"

Eddie sat up a little straighter. "Excuse me?"

"The 'kiss of life' isn't a real kiss. And definitely not how I imagined how our first kiss would be." He smiled at Eddie, who couldn't help but blush.

"Oh, really," Eddie replied. He hesitated for a fraction of an instant as Buck's words rolled around his head. Before he could put too much thought into it, he leaned forward and grazed his lips across Buck's. He squeezed Buck's hand again when he leaned back into the chair. "That better?" he asked.

Buck smiled. "It's a start."