Joining the 118 is somehow a lot like being with the Army, and entirely different at the same time.
The camaraderie within the station is familiar, how entrenched they all are with each other; working out together, the meals together, bunking on overnight shifts, the inside jokes that come up. They aren’t bonded by the hail of gunfire or the threat of bombings, but they are a brotherhood forged in fire, and Eddie knows he’s been fully accepted into it when he and Buck pull a live grenade out of a man’s leg.
For the first few shifts, Buck had been the biggest confusion.
The introduction had been somewhat icy, although Captain Nash had already told him during his interview that he’d hoped to pair Eddie with Buck in the field. Their whole first day, Eddie had dreaded what that might look like with this guy being so antagonistic. It didn’t match with the little stories he’d been hearing from around the station; Buck’s a nice guy, he’ll bend over backwards to help, he’s all heart, he’s the best kind of friend. He’d questioned Nash about it once, but been told just to wait it out a little.
“Buck’s a little…” Nash seemed to struggle with the word for a moment, Eddie offering his own opinion.
“Territorial?” Because that was the vibe Eddie had been getting from him.
“Unsure,” was what Nash opted for, “Give him a little time to see that you being here doesn’t mean he can’t be.” The shoulder clap as Nash walked away spoke to a deeper meaning, like Buck’s bolster and attitude was somehow more about Buck than about Eddie.
After the grenade, it shifted, and Eddie saw it happening in real time; one compliment and Buckley’s melting, shoulders loosening, a smile that shouldn’t belong on a grown man almost blinding in its intensity. Eddie started to understand a little more from there out, even as he caught Nash giving Buckley a half hug before they climbed in the truck to head back to the station.
It’s not until the earthquake that Eddie figures it out.
Hen grabs him from the trolley, hauling him to his feet and clambering out into the open, Chimney appears by their sides with a quick yell of, “Where’s Cap?” as more firefighters join them outside, glancing around to check on each other, the fogging from the oxygen tank leaks makes it harder to see into the station right as Buck and Cap stumble out—last ones out of the station—and Cap immediately starts brushing Buck’s shoulders, coaxing him to duck his head so that Cap can swipe a hand through his hair.
Buck is similarly checking Cap out, grabbing at his elbow, where there’s a small streak of blood. “Hen!” The paramedic is already moving into action, rushing into the station now the quake is over, grabbing a med-kit and moving to their Cap’s side.
What Eddie’s most surprised by is Buck sticking to Nash’s side, the hand that Nash keeps on Buck’s shoulder, and then it clicks.
He’d be the same if Chris was there; probably a little more overbearing, but Chris is only seven, so he figures that’d be why. But it makes sense, how focused on Buck that Nash is right then, the similar frantic energy that Buck’s got focusing on the Captain. He’s a little surprised that the LAFD allow a father and son pair to work together, let alone that they’re letting Nash captain his own son, but maybe Buckley’s issues are easiest handled with his father leading the way. He’s heard that Buck was wild during his probation year, that he’s the sort to rush into danger; Nash probably copes better knowing he’s got a say in where Buck goes and what he’s running into and who is at Buck’s back. It makes sense that Nash would hand-pick his son’s partner.
With Cap’s minor cut patched up, they get to righting up the station, packing the truck up in preparation for the calls that are undoubtedly coming, and as they roll out, Eddie feels the dread in his stomach as he can’t reach the school.
“Who’re you trying to reach?” Buck calls over the headsets, sitting opposite Eddie, his leg bouncing.
“My son,” he doesn’t feel too concerned with sharing that he’s a single father now; the cop that Cap seems to be dating definitely isn’t Buck’s mother, so either Bobby’s divorced or widowed, possibly having raised the hell child that Buck likely was by himself. He knows that Hen has a wife and kid at home, he’s in with a group of family people.
It’s a little amusing as Buck tries to reassure him with safety facts as they climb the building. The pressure only really builds when the building shifts, Eddie more and more aware that he’s trapped in a collapsing high-rise with his new boss’ kid, and he’s going to need to get them out in one piece. Meanwhile, Buck’s coming up with insane plans, like a rope drop down an elevator shaft, and Eddie can't come up with an alternative at the time.
Until they’re on solid ground, until they have Hen out of the garage, until their whole team is together again, Eddie can’t let himself relax. When Chris is back in his arms, that’s when the world is calm again.
Trying to make sense of the bonds in the firehouse is difficult.
Eddie’s pretty sure that Buck’s sister Maddie isn’t Bobby’s daughter—there’s concern evident in Bobby’s voice when he’s talking to Buck about the woman, but it’s not the same as the concern Bobby has for Buck—so Eddie’s pretty sure that Buck and Maddie’s mother is the same, and that’s possibly why Buck uses his mother’s name instead of Nash. Any time he tries to bring up the relationship with Hen or Chimney he’s waved off, like it’s an unspoken thing, and maybe they’re allowed to work together so long as they don’t cause waves?
Eddie tries to put it out of his mind, it’s low on his priorities when Abuela falls, breaks her hip, and Eddie’s left unsure what to do with Chris. Taking him to the station is the only option, and for a moment, he’s panicking as Bobby teases Chris. It’s waved away, Bobby admitting that Buck gave him the heads-up, and Eddie feels a swell of gratitude.
Buck called his dad about Eddie being able to bring Chris to the station.
It makes him wonder about how often a tiny Buck was running around a firehouse, how many times Cap had to take his wild son to the station because of child care or scheduling or something else. He absently wonders if that’s when Buck decided he wanted to be a firefighter like his dad, if he’d wanted to do it from his youngest but was talked out of it by Bobby; he can see Bobby convincing Buck to try other things, to experience life and walk his own path, to come back to firefighting if that was what he truly wanted later.
It explains enough that Eddie doesn’t ask questions; he’s sure that his father would’ve been happy if Eddie simply moved right into being a mechanic with him, but Eddie had a family to support and the Army made the most sense to him.
When Buck introduces him to Carla, Eddie knows he’s in trouble.
The earnest way Buck presents a solution to Eddie’s problem without making it seem like Eddie can’t do it himself—never mind the fact that Eddie can’t do it himself, can’t make heads or tails of these restrictions and the forms, and somehow Carla cuts right through it with no hassle and Eddie wants to throw himself at Buck’s feet—or that Eddie’s somehow failing his son by not being able to make what they have work.
“You need to let me buy you dinner.” Eddie’s not letting Buck say no, even though he’s offering to make them something, keep it low-key. “No, c’mon, there’s gotta be a place around here you like, let me buy you dinner and a beer or something.” It’s vaguely date like, he realises, and there’s a blush high on Buck’s cheeks, that soft ‘aw shucks’ expression on his face that
“I mean, there’s a microbrewery a few blocks away, it’s … I dunno, kinda hipster?” Which Buck already knows isn’t Eddie’s scene, but if Buck likes it, that’s where they’re going.
It turns out to be a pretty cool bar; it’s done up like an old brewery style place, all rustic and industrial, with muted tones and warm woods, the lighting isn’t harsh, it’s not overly noisy, and everyone isn’t vaping under Eddie’s face. The staff seem to know Buck well enough, two of the servers constantly circling around to ask how they’re doing while Buck demolishes a burger and his beer and Eddie picks through his own.
“So, how do you know Carla?” She’s not a nurse in the strictest sense, so it likely wasn’t from a call, but they both seemed like genuine friends, even if it had been a while since they’d seen each other. But Buck has to know her well enough to understand how Carla could navigate the red tape to get Christopher the assistance he’s due.
“She, um… I mean,” shit, Eddie hopes he’s not just hired a cougar Buck slept with to help him take care of his kid. “She was Abby’s home help when we—While we—” Buck waves himself off, “She helped take care of Abby’s mom, before she passed away.” It stops Eddie for a moment, he’d heard enough about Buck’s ‘invisible girlfriend’ to know that it’s still a recent development, and that their relationship was fairly new when it shifted too.
“Oh, I see.” He’s already made a comment or two about Abby, mostly following Chim and Hen’s example, but there’s an air of vulnerability to Buck right then that stops Eddie making another comment, “Are you gonna be okay if… I mean, I did ask if Carla would be—”
“Oh, yeah man, totally.” Buck practically lights up, “Seriously, Carla’s the best, she’s great at what she does. Abby used to say how some of the aids just left Patricia to lay in bed and watch television, but Carla, man… She’d have her up and doing things like baking, took her to shows or out shopping. Abby said that for brief moments, it was like having her mom back.” The softness that Buck talks with is … well, it’s a problem.
Eddie has been fully prepared for jock Buck, for hot-headed-rush-into-danger Buck, for one-of-the-boys Buck. This? This right here, all sentimental and sweet? It’s doing things that Eddie is not prepared to deal with.
“She’s gonna be great with Chris, I promise.” And it doesn’t take Eddie long to understand what Buck means, either.
Within a week, Chris has a better physical therapist, he’s attending swimming classes, there are plans for a school interview to get Chris into a placement more suited towards his needs—smaller classes, better accommodations, trained teachers, others like him. They’re not rushing out the door on weekdays to make it to Abuela’s so that Eddie can make it to work on time while Chris finishes his homework.
He doesn’t feel like he’s holding on by a thread any more.
It’s why, after heading out the door that morning, listening to his son giggle in the kitchen with Carla, Eddie walks right into the locker room, ignoring Chimney and Hen’s conversation, to slam into Buck with a hug.
“Oof,” silence falls around them, as Buck rocks on his feet before his arms come around Eddie’s shoulders to steady himself. He even hugs like Bobby, Eddie notes absently. “Um, not that I’m complaining, hugs are great, but are you okay?”
“Carla.” It’s all he says, understanding that maybe it wouldn’t be enough any other time, but even after only a few weeks, he and Buck are able to communicate without the standard long-winded sentences and explanations. That single word has Buck huffing a soft laugh, his arms tightening for a moment as he leans into Eddie’s hug.
“I told you, she’s the greatest.” She is, she really is, and fuck if Eddie knows how he’s meant to thank this giant, adorable, idiotic, insanely hot dork for bringing her into his life.
Eventually, Eddie has to pull back, put himself together and start getting ready for work. It doesn’t stop him launching into a detailed ramble about what his kid was getting up to that morning with Carla, why things ultimately bubbled to the surface now. “He wants to know if you would like to come over and help decorate the cookies.”
“Yeah? Definitely.” Normally, Eddie would be a little more selfish with his free time with Chris, wanting to hoard it to himself. But with Buck around, there’s more laughter, Chris is so excited to see Buck every time he shows up, ever since Buck took them home from the school after the earthquake. And Carla asks about Buck all the time, it’s not like Eddie wants to keep him away either.
It’s how he ends up in his dinning room, with sugar cookies laid out around them, icing and sprinkles and edible glitter all over the place, Christopher laughing until his sides hurt while Buck demonstrates that he can recite the alphabet backwards (he can’t) while hopping (he stops a lot) and patting his head.
The steady awareness of attraction is slowly shifting towards something else, and Eddie isn’t sure he even wants to stop it from happening.
Shannon is a surprise.
She’s not, but she is. If Eddie’s honest, he’d expected her to tell the school she’d see them, have a brief interview and then fade off again like she’d never been there at all. It’s what Eddie’s used to, honestly.
He’d reached out months ago, when he and Chris moved, getting nothing back from Shannon; no letter, no call, no email. Nothing. Now, after a single call from Christopher’s prospective new school, she’s suddenly present again; showing up for an interview, taking a tour, meeting Chris’ teachers. Now he’s faced with his wife, separated for almost two years, and he can’t figure out what he’s meant to be feeling.
When she kisses him, her soft pillowy lips pressing to his, the light hints of her floral perfume tickling his senses as the wind picks up around him, there’s something missing. Pressing his forehead to hers, Eddie raises his hands to grip Shannon’s, pressing to his chest where she’s leaning into him. His heart isn’t racing, the flutter isn’t there in his gut, that rush of excitement that used to flow through him whenever she was near. He’s not short of breath, his palms aren’t sweating, she doesn’t have the same hold on his heart she used to.
He knows why.
“Shannon,” he’s almost apologetic, shaking his head slightly as he pulls back from her kiss. “I can’t.” It’s not because he doesn’t love her; he does, he probably always will, she’s the mother of his child, his wife, the first person he really opened himself up to. But he already knows he isn’t in love with her any more.
“Don’t you—” There’s surprise in Shannon’s voice, confusion, and Eddie finds himself shaking his head.
“We can talk, about Chris, about your involvement, but we aren’t—I can’t—” He can’t pretend they’re fine, he doesn’t want to put either of them through that. The hurt is clear on Shannon’s face, but she steps back, righting herself and putting the feelings away, nodding her head and clearing her throat.
“So, Chris…” They come up with a plan, an afternoon to meet and talk, discussions on if Shannon planned to stick around, days they could spend time together. He can’t shake the feeling that he’s doing something wrong, though, that somehow this is all a mistake.
Naturally, as he’s found himself doing more and more lately, he turns to Buck.
“I dunno what to tell you, man, it’s not like I’ve got kids to share the experience. Wouldn’t Hen or maybe Athena be better for this?” And sure, Buck has a point, since out of the whole team, Buck is the youngest and possibly the least likely to know much about the complexities of managing a co-parenting relationship with an estranged spouse. Athena probably is the person who’d most understand his situation.
But the likelihood that she’s going to become Buck’s step-mother by marriage at the very least is holding Eddie back on approaching her about the matter.
“Athena kind of scares me.” Her no-nonsense approach is intimidating and impressive in equal measures. It’s like talking to Abuela and being scared about something going the wrong way.
“Yeah, I get that,” Buck laughs, rubbing the back of his neck with a flush, “We didn’t have the best of starts,” and Eddie doesn’t want to try to analyse his new best friend too closely, but it does seem to be a pattern when anyone takes Bobby’s attention away from Buck, which Eddie feels might stem from an upbringing as the only child of a single parent. He’s attempting to avoid Chris having to struggle with that later. “But Athena’s great for giving advice.”
“What do you think, though?” He can’t exactly pinpoint a reason for why he wants Buck’s input so badly, why his opinion is the one that Eddie’s most concerned about. He doesn’t want to come out with ‘you’re from a broken home, did it fuck you up not seeing your mom as you grew up?’ It feels a little like crossing some boundaries.
“I guess…” Buck takes a deep breath, clearly considering what he’s about to say, “If I had a kid as great as Chris? I mean, honestly, I can’t imagine anyone walking away from him. I think maybe you have to let Shannon in, to see if she’s actually ready for doing this together.” He shrugs lightly, “At the very least, maybe talk to Chris? He’s a smart kid, he probably misses his mom.” There’s something to Buck’s tone, enough that Eddie thinks that Buck knows what it’s like to miss a mom.
With that in mind, Eddie sits Chris down for the conversation, talks about how things might look from here out, if he’d like to spend more time with mom, making plans for family days.
“Are you and mom going to live together again?” Chris asks eventually, curled into Eddie’s side, playing with the hem of Eddie’s shirt.
“No, buddy, we’ll still have our own houses, but maybe we’ll be able to do dinners a few times? How does that sound?” He doesn’t want to give Chris the false hope that things will go back to how they were, but he’s not even sure if Chris has memories of what things were like before Shannon left.
“That sounds good,” he admits quietly, nuzzling deeper into Eddie’s side, “You fought a lot before, I don’t like shouting.” And Eddie can definitely see where he’s making the right choices here; as Shannon and Chris bond again, as he and Shannon find a balance in their friendship, without the pressures of a marriage.
It’s why, shortly before Christmas, they agree to divorce and arrange a custody agreement. On paper, it’s an 80/20 split in Eddie’s favour, in reality they come and go as needed; a long weekend with Shannon if Eddie has to work, a school pick up change if Carla can’t make it, weekends with Abuela, evenings with Shannon, they try to stick to a routine enough that Chris doesn’t feel like he’s a parcel being passed around, but no one is upset if Chris suddenly wants to change his plans out of the blue.
“Hey, Chris would like to know if you’d like to come to the zoo with us?” What Eddie isn’t struggling with is Buck’s involvement with things. Eddie can’t cook, Shannon’s not great at it either, but they’re passable. Buck, offspring of Captain ‘I could win Masterchef’ Nash, is a great cook. He’s also one of Chris’ favourite people, regularly sharing obscure facts back and forth or looking up new things based on little curiosities that pop into Christopher’s head (like why a koala bear isn’t a bear or if the earth is round, how come all the water doesn’t fall off), so Buck is around plenty of times; at Eddie’s house, picking up from Shannon’s house, showing up at Abuela’s for Sunday lunch with Eddie.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” and he always looks so damn eager to be with them too. “I love the zoo, man.” Chris is ecstatic to know that Buck’s coming with them, and Eddie can’t help but be a little pleased about it all, too. Especially when they meet at the zoo and Buck’s brimming with animal facts—which he most definitely had to look up—and all the different species that the zoo has.
Buck’s not even a little put out that his whole day is basically entertaining Eddie’s seven-year-old while Eddie and Shannon trail behind.
“He’s good with him.” Shannon murmurs, standing by his side, watching Buck raise Chris up on his shoulder to see into the enclosure; Eddie’s not even sure what they’re looking for, are they at the lions? The wolves? There’s a troop of monkeys here, right? If Eddie’s really honest, he’s mostly been watching Chris and Buck, how energetic and happy they both are, it’s entertainment on its own at this stage.
“Yeah, he is.” Eddie’s sure he’s making heart eyes at Buck, it’s probably obvious to Shannon, but right now, watching his son giggle with an arm around Buck’s neck, the two of them with their heads together, whispering to each other.
Eddie’s very aware of his growing feelings; not just the attraction, although that’s been visceral since Buck grinned at him, but the softness he feels whenever Buck does something for Chris, the way his heart almost melts whenever Buck looks at him with a dopey smile, the rush he gets when Buck reaches for him, almost unconsciously. They compliment each other, at work and out of it. Buck’s bringing Chris out of his shell more, helping his confidence grow, helping Eddie reinforce that emotions aren’t scary.
And that’s what Eddie’s the most enamoured with; how freely Buck feels things, how openly he expresses himself. Eddie’s never really been like that, he’s never been able to emote so clearly. He understands it’s something he struggles with, something he’s trying to overcome for his son. His greatest hope is that he doesn’t raise his son like his father raised him.
“You know, you should ask him out.” Shannon tells him one evening, after Chris is asleep and Buck’s gone home, and she’s getting ready to go home to her apartment. “I can tell you like him,” she cuts off his argument, “and I’m pretty sure he likes you too.”
“Pretty sure isn’t sure.” Eddie argues back. “Chris really likes him, and… He’s my partner at work. I can’t mess that up.” Regardless of how Eddie feels, he can’t risk making things complicated at work.
Shannon clearly doesn’t agree, but Eddie cannot risk it, he just can’t.
Christmas is exciting this year.
He’s already listened to his parents complaints about him and Chris not flying back to Texas, bemoaning that this is Chris’ first Christmas without them and how he’ll be upset. Eddie chooses not to tell them that Chris is brimming with excitement about his first Los Angeles Christmas, that he’s vibrating with joy because his mom is there, they’ll be having dinner with Abuela and Pepa, that he’ll be seeing Buck and the rest of the 118 the day after Christmas.
Chris spends Christmas night in Abuela’s yard, laughing with his cousins and his mom, playing around and chasing each other. Eddie’s casually scrolling through Instagram, liking his sister's posts about their Christmas gathering, stopping on Buck’s page as a grinning Bobby stands with his arm around a beaming Athena, holding her hand up to show off an amazing ring with the caption she said yes, of course! Bobby and Athena 2018 and then a series of heart emojis.
Eddie likes that, sends Bobby a congratulations text and taps onto Buck’s page to see a slew of party posts with Buck and Athena’s two kids, Bobby, Athena and Michael in several of them too. It’s a fascinating blend of their families, and Eddie’s so in awe of how easily they do it, how loving they all are and supportive they’ve become with each other.
Obviously, the next night is far more of a celebration than just a party, with everyone bestowing their well-wishes on Athena and Bobby, Buck almost constantly surrounded by kids playing, riling all of them up with sugar and excitement.
“So, Bobby and Athena getting married?” Eddie finally gets Buck for a conversation, the boys laying out on the couch watching a movie and probably about to fall asleep.
“Yeah, you see the ring?” Buck grins, rocking into Eddie’s side. “Bobby really knows his jewellery, huh?” Buck seems genuinely excited, clearly happy for Athena and Bobby, so Eddie isn’t that worried that Buck’s insecurities are flaring up. Bobby probably talked to Buck before he proposed to Athena, maybe talked about joining and expanding their families and how it didn’t mean anyone was being replaced.
He realises that some day, maybe not too far away, he’ll need to do the same with Christopher, he and Shannon sitting him down and explaining how they might grow.
A week after New Year, Eddie’s a little more sure about Buck’s possible returned interest.
They’ve been tactile since the start, Buck’s a touch-driven person, and Eddie’s seen it with the others, but he’s more tactile with Eddie. He’s far more aware of how often Buck orbits him, how he’ll bump their legs on the way to a call, how he’ll hover close to Eddie when they’re hanging out in the loft. They also hang out all the time; Buck routinely suggests things to do with Chris, so obviously Eddie expects him to come along with them, he makes them dinner constantly, hangs out to help Chris with craft homework.
It’s not just how often Buck’s around, it’s the way Eddie catches him looking, how their hands will catch each other, the way Buck reacts to him.
Eddie’s pretty sure, almost certain, mostly convinced that Buck is interested in more than friends too.
He just needs to figure out how to say something.
At first, Eddie thinks he can drop it into a movie night; put Chris to bed, sit on the couch with Buck afterwards, put on a more adult movie, share a beer, casually drop his hand to Buck’s thigh, kiss him, tell him he wants to go out on a date. But it feels too cheesy.
Then he thinks maybe asking Buck out on a date could be a suitable move. After work, before they leave the station, mentioning having a Chris free night, inviting Buck out for dinner, planning to meet at a restaurant, share a meal, maybe go for a walk after dinner, hold hands. But then he thinks that’s too much for a first date for them.
The fleeting thought of simply pressing Buck against the wall and kissing him breathless passes his mind on a semiregular basis, but he doesn’t want Buck to think this is just physical, and he’s heard enough about Buck 1.0 to know better than to give that impression.
Eddie also wants to check with Bobby. He’s not traditional enough that he’s planning on asking Bobby’s permission, so to speak, but he thinks it would make sense to check that Bobby’s okay with them dating and working together. Because Eddie’s not prepared to only have one or the other. He’s pretty sure Buck would feel the same.
“You’d think you’d never asked anyone out on a date.” Shannon teases him, shaking her head as she carried dishes through to the kitchen.
“God, why do I even bother telling you things?” Eddie bemoans the fact that Shannon and he have fallen back into a steady friendship, that she fills the void of his sisters not being around, and thus teases him relentlessly.
“Because you can’t confide in the one person you usually would?” Eddie has to concede that fact, since he would usually talk to Buck about this, ask him for advice or just to talk about the situation. It’s not like he can tell Buck he’s got feelings for someone without either putting himself out there with Buck or make Buck think he’s interested in someone else. And he definitely doesn’t want to do that.
“To be fair, I haven’t actually asked anyone out.” Eddie finally caves, filling the sink as Shannon moves around the kitchen to tidy up. “You asked me out, remember?” Their friendship had been there first, then blossomed into something more when Shannon had asked him out on a date, moving quickly to the physical aspect of things.
It’s not that Eddie isn’t aware of his feelings, it’s more that he overthinks the possibilities. If Shannon hadn’t wanted to change their friendship, he’d make things awkward if he pushed things. So he hadn’t, which led to Shannon taking that step when she got fed up waiting.
Something tells him that Buck wouldn’t be like that; Buck’s hesitance with change, his low self-esteem, his latest break-up. Eddie’s certain he’ll need to make the move or they’ll dance around things for years.
It’s early February when Eddie gets the idea to invite Buck over for Valentine’s, Chris had already expressed an interest in staying with his mom for that day, and Eddie was happy to let them have a mother and son Valentine’s bonding night. Eddie makes plans to have some of Abuela’s cooking ready, set them up for a nice meal at home, put on a nice movie, just the two of them. Surely, he’d be able to tell Buck then that it was a date.
Tragically, it almost doesn’t seem like they’ll be doing that.
They’re called out to a house collapse three days before Valentine’s, a sinkhole having opened in the backyard and swallowing the back half of the house. It’s apparent that some family members are still trapped upstairs, unable to get out.
“Buck, Eddie, head up and assist evacuation,” the ladder is prepped for them to climb up and enter the top floor, while the house is tipping backwards. They’re harnessed to the ladder, as they crawl through the window, both sliding towards the far wall as gravity grips them.
“Remind you of anything?” Buck teases, both of them remembering that first earthquake. “LAFD, call out!” Buck grabs the door to open it, leading them out of the bedroom they’d entered through, sliding down the hall as calls from the back of the house reach them.
They find two kids in the back room, huddled against the side of the bed, leaning against the wall. It’s clear they’re both terrified, shaking as they reach for Buck and Eddie. Eddie takes the first kid, strapping him against Eddie’s harness and leading him through towards the ladder to help him down. Buck opts to simply pick up the younger girl, her tiny hands clutching to Buck’s shoulders as he carries her after Eddie and her brother.
The parents are outside, having been hauled out of the downstairs when the kitchen and backroom had started crumbling down into the sinkhole. Eddie passes off the son first, Bobby taking him from halfway down the ladder to pass him to Hen and Chim for a check, then the daughter is passed from Buck to Eddie, although she’s unwilling to release Eddie, scared of the height, so Eddie climbs on the ladder to carry her down to Bobby. He’s a few rungs down when he hears the groan, looks up to see sheer terror on Bobby’s face, right as—
“Buck!” It’s not slow motion, as Eddie twists around just in time to see the house collapse backwards, Buck disappearing in the window of the house as dust and debris kicks up and the walls cave down on the outside, the building crumpling like a house of cards.
Eddie quickly hands the little girl over to Bobby, although he seems stunned in place before Hen startles him out of it. Not waiting for an order or permission, Eddie’s already scrambling back up the ladder, looking for Buck’s rope and any indication that he’s nearby. Buck should still be attached, they can haul him through the debris and up, or follow the line to him in the mess.
“Buckley, respond.” The message comes through all their walkies, Bobby’s voice strained and shaky. “Firefighter Buckley, report your location.” There’s no answer back, Eddie feeling the bile rising in his throat until—
“Buckley to 118, I’m a little stuck.” That short sentence loosens a grip on Eddie’s heart that he isn’t able to look at right now, too focused on how to get Buck out of there. “My arm’s pinned and—Well, there’s a lot of crap around me right now. I mean, not crap like—Just stuff, there’s a lot—Whatever, I’m… I’m mostly okay?”
“Define mostly, kid.” Chim weighs in, both him and Hen assessing things from below.
“Um, maybe a broken arm, some contusions. Pretty sure I hit my head more than once. Thankfully, I am not bleeding.” It’s good to know the state that Buck is in, even if Eddie would rather he wasn’t hurt at all, the lack of bleeding means they aren’t exactly rushing in headlong to make sure he doesn’t bleed to death. “There’s like a dresser or something on me, I’m definitely not moving it myself.”
“Okay, hang tight, kid. Eddie and I are coming to you.” Bobby and Eddie have to get the ladder lowered and extended until it’s over what’s left of the window to the front room, almost dropping into the room rather than climbing like before. The difference in the room is staggering; the bed is tipped through the wall, the dry wall having spilt, so the beams are all that’s holding things up. Buck is near the door, the dresser pressing against his chest and arm.
Eddie and Bobby need to tread carefully, minding where their feet are going, not wanting to disturb the precariously balancing debris around the room. Bobby is a little frantic as he clambers over the bed, getting to Buck’s side to assess things. Eddie’s equally worried, Buck reaching his free hand to grasp for them as they get close.
“How’re you doing?” Bobby does a quick check of Buck’s pupil response, checking his pulse rate, while Eddie tries to see under the dresser to check Buck’s arm. There isn’t any blood, like Buck said, which is promising, at least.
“A well as expected,” Buck answers back, “really, I’m mostly okay, just sore.” Falling against the wall, then the dresser hitting him, it makes perfect sense for Buck to be feeling sore. Although what Buck called ‘sore’ would likely be what other people called ‘excruciating’ if Eddie’s right about Buck’s pain scale being a little out of whack.
“Okay, Eddie and I are going to get this off you, try not to move until we’re sure what’s wrong with your arm, got it?” Buck gave a shaky nod at Bobby’s words, while Eddie moved into position to assist Bobby. “I mean it, kid,” Bobby reiterates, “no helping.”
“I got it, pops.” Buck huffs out a laugh, gritting his teeth as he does, and Eddie catches the soft smile from Bobby in response. It’s possibly the first time that Eddie’s heard Buck use the term, their professionalism at work meaning that Buck tends to simply call Bobby by his name. Honestly, it makes sense to Eddie that Buck would go with something other than ‘dad’, simply because it’s Buck.
With the dresser moved enough that they can slide Buck out from under it, Eddie gets to assessing his injuries while Bobby calls for the basket and a c-collar.
“I don’t need a—” Buck starts to argue, getting a stern look from Bobby, “or maybe I do.” Clearly, a father’s concern is enough to have Buck settling down and waiting for the medical evac from the building, with Hen and Chim checking him out once he’s road side.
It’s less than ideal, but Bobby and Eddie have to stay on scene while Hen and Chim take Buck and the family to the hospital, a secondary ambulance having come to split the load. Because of the requirements on the scene, the trip back to the station and waiting for the next shift to come in for cover, it’s another two hours before they get away and manage to get to the hospital to see Buck.
Maddie is already there, waiting with Hen and Chim in the main lobby, apparently having been filled in on what had happened. Knowing that neither of the paramedics would’ve been looking to leave the hospital without needing to, Eddie and Bobby had brought their go-bags, allowing them both to go and get changed while they waited.
Barely a half hour after they’ve arrived, a nurse comes out with a clipboard. “Family for Evan Buckley?” Maddie shoots out of her seat, her hand clenching in Chimney’s.
“That’s us, I’m his sister. How is he?” Eddie wants to reassure Maddie that Buck’s injuries weren’t that serious, but he’s not sure if there was internal damage they might’ve missed.
“I need a—” the nurse looks down at her clipboard, looking at the details there, “Bobby Nash?” She glances back at them, “Evan’s emergency contact?” It’s hardly a surprise, although Hen and Chim are frowning.
“I’m not—” Maddie seems just as surprised that it’s not her who is Buck’s medical contact, but why wouldn’t it be his father? Surely, Bobby makes the most sense for Buck’s contact, since he’s also Buck’s next of kin?
“I’m Bobby Nash,” Cap interjects, “It’s fine to let them know too, we’re all here for Evan.” The nurse fills them in on Buck’s status; broken arm, bruised ribs, no concussion thankfully but some moderate bumps and bruises. He’d have a cast on his arm for six weeks, off work for that long, and then a few weeks for physical therapy and a final check up.
They’re directed towards Buck’s room, told that a nurse will be along soon with his discharge papers and care instructions.
“Hey,” Buck grins brightly as they walk in, clearly already on pain medications. “Look, I got a cast.” He holds up his arm, showing the cast around his wrist and forearm, in a bright blue that almost matches his eyes.
“Interesting colour, Buckaroo,” Chimney comments, popping his gum. “What’s wrong with tried and tested white?”
“That’s boring.” Buck shoots back quickly, turning towards Eddie with that brilliant grin. “They didn’t have enough pink.” It’s mentioned as simple as Buck explaining that the café were out of the pastry he liked the most, so he had to get his second favourite.
“It’ll look great when Chris gets at it with a pen.” If possible, Buck’s smile brightens more. They spend a few minutes checking on Buck, before Hen and Chimney head off with wishes for a good recovery and promises to see him soon, Bobby going to sign Buck’s discharge paper work.
“Eddie, can you get me a soda?” Buck turns his puppy eyes at Eddie, dialling them up full force with a mild pout. Eddie can do little more than huff out a laugh and go off in search of a vending machine. He’s not entirely sure what the plan is for Buck’s recovery, it is only his arm that’s seriously injured, although his ribs will hurt for a while, Eddie isn’t sure if Buck will want to stay by himself or if Maddie or Bobby will keep an eye on him.
Something in him wants to offer, to invite Buck to stay with him and Chris while he recovers, to keep him close. Since he has Carla, it’s not like Buck would have to drive anywhere, he could hang out with Chris and Shannon if he needed some company, they had plenty of food from Abuela’s constant care packages.
“I don’t understand why you haven’t changed it yet, that’s all.” Eddie pauses by the door to Buck’s room, the soda in his hand but Maddie’s tone making him think this isn’t the time to interrupt things.
“Maddie,” Buck’s sigh is pronounced, enough that Eddie can hear him from outside. “I’m not changing it at all. Bobby’s my emergency contact for a reason.” Eddie’s not sure that this is exactly the time for Maddie to argue this point with Buck, given that he’s doped up on meds, but that doesn’t seem to bother Maddie.
“But I’m your sister.” She stresses the term, Eddie having a flash of an image of Maddie as a toddler, stamping her foot and her hands on hips.
“And you spent three years not even answering a text message.” Buck bites back, a little hint of irritation in his voice. “I’m sorry, that’s not fair.” Buck’s tone changes instantly, and Eddie can’t imagine how complicated their family situation really must be; Maddie with her mom and dad, Buck with Bobby and a presumably absent mother who may or may not have cheated on her husband and left Buck with Bobby. It’s still very uncertain in Eddie’s opinion. “It’s easier, Bobby’s almost always going to be there if something happens, can make the decisions quickly. And you—Maddie, you don’t need to dread a phone call from the hospital about me.” Right then, Bobby walks up beside Eddie, raising his eyebrow at Eddie loitering outside the room.
“Sibling dispute,” Eddie remarks, like it explains things, and he figures if anyone understands that, it’s Bobby. Eddie still hasn’t figured out what Bobby’s relationship with Maddie is like, they don’t interact a lot, so Eddie has his suspicions, but he’s never flat out asked if Maddie and Buck’s mom cheated.
It seems a little too personal.
“Okay, kid.” Bobby strides into the room, halting discussion from Maddie at the time, as Eddie steps in behind him, popping open Buck’s soda to let him sip at it. There’s a weird tension in the room, but Eddie manages to ignore it as he focuses on Buck. “You’re good to go, you’ll need to schedule a check-up in a few weeks.” Buck nods his head, probably pretty aware that he’d need to check in with his own doctor in a while.
“Shouldn’t you be collecting Chris?” Buck’s clearly noticed the time, given the question.
“Pepa’s got him,” Eddie replies, glancing at Maddie before continuing, “I was gonna ask if you wanted to come get him with me? Maybe hang out at our place tonight?”
“Yeah?” Buck asks with a soft smile, awe on his face, and Eddie automatically glances to Bobby to check in that it’s okay he’s offering to take care of Buck for the night. “You sure you don’t mind? I’m not a lot of fun right now.”
“Beg to differ, kid,” Bobby huffs with a laugh, “You’re plenty fun when you’re like this.” And that feels like some kind of warning, like Eddie has to prepare himself for some kind of antics. “Athena and I will take your jeep back to your apartment, okay? Let Eddie drive until you’ve got that off your arm.”
“Yeah, okay,” Buck mumbles, raising his good hand to take another sip, “At least it’s my left hand and not my right.” It makes Bobby shake his head, cupping the back of Buck’s head to give a light squeeze.
“You say that like you’ll be any less bored with one of your arms out of commission.” There’s a shared laugh between the pair, Eddie witnessing the soft connection they both have, warmed slightly by it.
Eddie knows he’s got a complicated relationship with his father; they aren’t close, Ramon Diaz was not an involved father, not while Eddie was growing up. Even now, he’s still fairly distant and chilly when they interact. Eddie can’t tell if it’s because Bobby was a single father, or because his approach to parenting is less strict than Eddie’s own parents’ approach, but the bond that Bobby and Buck have is far more like what Eddie hopes to cultivate with his own son.
“Are you sure you should be leaving the hospital yet?” Maddie asks softly, leaning in so that can fuss a little at Buck’s hair. “What if you’ve got some—”
“I’m okay, really. And anyway I’d rather go hang out with Chris,” Buck cuts his sister off, “We’re making our way through the Cars movies, we’re on the second one now, there’s a television show to get through too.” It definitely isn’t the only reason, although Eddie lets Buck make his excuse to his sister, “And Eddie’s a paramedic too, he’ll know if something’s wrong.” Which is also true.
“Okay, well,” Maddie relents, likely aware of how much her brother adores Chris, cupping Buck’s cheek as she presses a kiss to his other one. “Call me, yeah? We can get lunch some time while you’re off? Maybe do a sibling night?” Buck agrees to that happily, letting Maddie head out and on her way, Bobby and Eddie carefully assisting Buck out of the room and towards the truck outside.
Buck’s a little out of it when they get to the truck, letting Bobby help him into the passenger seat, snapping on his seatbelt without a fuss. They’re sent off on their way with Bobby’s promise to check-in after a few days, see how they’re doing.
“You sure you’ll be okay with him?” Bobby asks again, before Eddie’s about to head off.
“Yeah, don’t worry, I’ve got him.” And Eddie gets it, he does. He struggles to let Chris out of his sight at the best of times, never mind when he’s hurting. “I promise I’ll take good care of him.” Bobby nods, a soft smile on his face, like he knows something Eddie’s not privy to.
“I have no doubt about that.” Eddie gets a pat on the shoulder, then Bobby’s heading towards his own truck a few spaces down.
“Can we get ice cream?” Buck blurts out, turning to Eddie with a pout.
“Sure, Buck. Let’s go pick up Chris, then you can get ice cream.” Eddie’s sure he can handle this.
Unsurprisingly, Buck is a terrible patient.
He constantly tries to help out; making food, a little light cleaning, loitering around Eddie as he tries to organise things. Eventually, Eddie sits him on the couch with Chris and a bunch of marker pens, Buck happily letting Chris doodle all over his cast. Pepa or Abuela must’ve told Shannon what happened, since she appears at dinner time with several tupperware containers full of Abuela’s cooking.
“Oh, you’ve got some grade A artwork there, Buckley.” Shannon laughs, as Eddie takes the food she’s brought from her to glance at the couch. True to form, Chris has doodled stick figures, rainbows, dinosaurs, fire trucks and many more unrecognisable images on Buck’s cast.
“Mom, you have to sign it.” Chris holds up his marker for Shannon, Buck shrugging as Shannon crosses to sign his cast. “Buck’s never had his cast signed before! We have to get everyone to sign it.”
“That is very important. Why don’t you go wash your hands before dinner, huh?” Shannon sits on the coffee table to very carefully sign a portion of Buck’s cast, as Chris ambles off to clean the many ink stains off his hands. “Is this your first cast?” Shannon asks quietly, although Eddie can hear her from where he’s setting the table.
“No, I’ve had a few, daredevil growing up.” Buck admits, “Broken ankle, broken wrist, elbow cast one time which was… hell.” Eddie can just imagine Buck with his arm completely immobilised and how hellish he must’ve been.
“And none of your friends signed them?” Shannon sounds shocked, Eddie remembering when Chris has his leg casts following is last major surgery, how his entire pre-school had signed or coloured in every inch of the plaster. He’s left a little forlorn at the notion of Buck’s friends not doing the same.
“Um, I didn’t—I mean, I wasn’t that—” Buck’s stammering is a clear sign of his discomfort, and thankfully Chris returns at that moment to break the moment. The four of them sit down for dinner, Buck and Chris mostly carrying the conversation while Buck manages his food one handed and Shannon constantly shoots Eddie telling looks.
Eddie’s so grateful that Buck is engrossed with Chris, that his attention is almost completely held by the excited eight-year-old instead of Eddie’s less than subtle ex-wife. She at least waits until they’re in the kitchen, cleaning up from dinner before her comments start.
“So, he’s staying with you for a few nights? Letting his arm heal up? Minding him for a concussion?” The weird thing that Shannon does with her face is all Eddie needs to see before he’s turning away with a scoff.
“Shannon,” he’s not exactly got an argument lined up for that though.
“You remember that you only have one bedroom, right? Unless he’s sharing with our son. Which honestly, they’d probably both enjoy but they’d stay up all night talking like school boys.” It’s an amusing image, but Buck is responsible enough that he’d make sure Chris went to sleep so that he was rested for school in the morning.
“Shannon, it’s not going to be a problem.” Because Eddie is planning on giving Buck his bed, and he’s not sure he wants to talk about that with his ex-wife. “We’ll figure it out.” They always do.
“I have no doubt,” Shannon’s voice is telling, her tone the one she uses when she’s teasing him mercilessly. “You’ll take real good care of Buck, I’m sure.”
“Okay, that’s it, out with you. Go say goodbye to our son and out.” She’s laughing as she walks out of the kitchen. It leaves Eddie with his two favourite guys for the night, getting Chris settled for bed with some stories from Buck and then they’re relaxing in the living room with a single beer since Buck’s due some pain medication soon.
“How’re you feeling?” The ache is probably building up, although Buck’s given a good impression for Chris, Eddie’s more than aware that Buck will hide how much he’s hurting from everyone else.
“Not so bad,” the furrow between Buck’s brows tells Eddie otherwise, though. “Little bit of an ache, but I’m used to it.” Buck uses his good hand to scratch the back of his neck, the tension clear along his shoulders.
“I’m not too sure how comforting that is,” Eddie remarks, shaking his head. “Being used to being in pain isn’t something anyone should be. Least of all you.” And Buck glances up at him then, surprise on his face. “Buck, you don’t—I just mean that—”
“It’s okay,” Buck shrugs, blushing slightly, “I used to—I mean that—Well, I used to do a lot of dumb stuff to get attention, you know? My mom and—” He trails off, sighing lightly. “It’s not like that anymore though.”
“Your mom wasn’t—” Eddie trails off, surprised that Buck voluntarily brought up his mother.
“She struggled with me, I guess. She was never that warm with Maddie either, but it was like—She just never connected with me.” It sounds a lot more like Buck’s early years were with his mom, instead of with Bobby, and that opens up a few more questions for Eddie but he’s not entirely sure how to ask.
“C’mon,” so he opts not to, deciding that it’s better not to put Buck through the wringer right then, emotionally speaking. “Let’s get you some pain medication and put you to bed.” They go through the routine together; getting water for the pills, a slow and awkward change into nightwear, locking up the house.
“Do you have your spare sheets in the—” Buck’s heading towards the linen closet, where the usual bedding for the couch is stored, when Eddie grasps Buck’s fingertips lightly.
“Look, you shouldn’t—Come to bed, okay?” There’s a moment where it looks like Buck is about to argue with him, where they’ll need to have a discussion, before a soft sigh escapes Buck and his shoulders loosen, head nodding slightly.
It lets Eddie tug Buck through to the bedroom, guide him to the bed and practically tuck him in before turning off the lights and climbing into bed himself, making sure that Buck’s comfortable and his arm isn’t in an awkward position.
Before long, they end up curled up; Buck subconsciously shifting towards Eddie in bed, and Eddie’s too weak to push Buck away, wrapping his arms around Buck to tug him closer, resting Buck’s cast over his own stomach as Buck nuzzles into Eddie’s throat. It’s so much more comfortable than Eddie could’ve imagined and he’d happily stay there for the rest of his life.
He really hopes that some day he’ll have the courage to ask for it.
Work is strange without Buck.
Eddie’s paired up with a floater from one of the other stations; she’s not bad, but she’s not Buck, and Eddie finds the difference somewhat jarring. He can tell that the others have noticed, since Eddie needs to remind himself to talk to his partner, needs to remember that this floater—her name is Angela and he needs to remember to call her that—doesn’t read his mind like Buck always seems able to do.
If Eddie hadn’t already spent almost a year working with Buck, he thinks he’d be more impressed with Angela; she’s intuitive, smart and stable, she’s at his back when he needs it, and she’s got a good head on her shoulders. She’s a stellar firefighter in her own right and Eddie knows that in any other situation, he’d be glad to have her as his partner.
But all he wants is his partner, and that leaves him moping.
“Diaz,” and it’s clear that everyone can tell that’s what’s happening. “Come and peel these.” He’s only ever invited into the kitchen with Bobby when he’s unable to fuck something up: they learned that the hard way. He knows there’s an ulterior motive, as Eddie starts peeling potatoes in the sink, waiting for whatever Bobby wants to broach with him.
It takes a few minutes, either Bobby trying to work out how to bring it up, or letting Eddie get into a comfortable flow.
“So, how is Buck doing?” Thankfully, Bobby decides on being forthright. “You handling him okay?”
“He’s been fine,” Eddie admits, being fairly honest, “He’s sleeping a lot, and complaining about it, the pain meds don’t seem to last too long, but he’s managing. I think Chris helps keep him occupied.” Buck had that afternoon with Maddie a few days after his accident, Eddie dropping him off at the brunch place and collecting them both later. He’s not sure, but he feels like, after that brunch, Maddie’s warmed up to him a whole lot more than she had previously.
“And what about you? How’re you finding having him around? You know you don’t have to—”
“We’re good, Bobby,” Eddie cuts his captain off, not really needing Bobby to offer him a break from Buck. “It’s pretty nice having him around, really.” Eddie’s trying not to give too much away, but there’s the notion that this could be the right time to ask Bobby something he’s been meaning to for a while. “Hey, but… I have a question for you.”
“What’s up?” Bobby cleans off his hands, turning towards Eddie, who is still focusing on the potatoes he needs to peel.
“So, I know that family situations are a little loose when working in stations,” because it’s not always permitted, but clearly they’ve made an exception for Bobby and Buck, “but what’s the protocol on um, on… When partners become like… Romantically involved?” He needs to focus on the professional aspect right now, waiting for after that to see about the familial aspect.
“Well,” Bobby clears his throat, Eddie chancing a glance over at him. “There would be some forms, to declare the relationship, and a probationary period to evaluate if the relationship would affect the working dynamics.” Bobby is fairly straightforward about it, matter of fact with the details. “If there were issues, you’d—I mean, they’d be moved to different shifts, or stations, but if it worked out, there’d be no issue with leaving the team together.” Eddie nods slowly, working out in his head if he thinks his potential relationship with Buck might change things. Ultimately, it’s not like he feels any different for Buck than he has for months now, they’ve worked so seamlessly together, it’s part of what forged their bond.
“And, from a non-captain standpoint, what would be your thoughts on…” Eddie’s never exactly been in this situation. Shannon had asked him out, he’d never really dated much before her, definitely not after her, so he’s never stood in front of a father to ask if he can date their child—never mind that said child is a twenty-plus-year-old man.
“Eddie,” Bobby stops him with a soft smirk, his voice gentle, “I think you and Buck are long past being just partners.” Which has been a standing joke for a while now, Chim and Hen teasing them constantly about how married they are.
Bobby’s never really joined in with the teasing, although it’s clear he’s moderately amused by it, he’s always been a little softer with Buck after all. Eddie’s always assumed that Bobby would’ve spoken up if it upset Buck, or if it went too far, but neither Eddie nor Buck have ever really said anything about the light-hearted teasing.
If anything, they lean into a little too much sometimes.
“So, if I were to ask Buck out on a date…” Eddie ventures, finishing with his potato peeling.
“I’d tell you not to take him anywhere too fancy, nothing that requires a tie, don’t let him eat too much bread.” Bobby’s smirking, laying a hand on Eddie’s shoulder to give it a squeeze. “You’ll be fine, Eddie, no one knows Buck like you do.” It’s warming, hearing that from Bobby.
Now, Eddie has to work out how to ask Buck out.
It takes Eddie another week to work out how to ask Buck out. He can tell that Bobby’s waiting for it, he’s been shooting Eddie looks all week, waiting for that shift in Eddie’s mood, probably.
Or he’s waiting for Buck’s panicked or excited call.
Ultimately, Shannon bullies him into it.
Christopher is spending the weekend with his mom, they’ll be meeting up at Abuela’s on Sunday for family lunch, but Eddie will have Buck to himself from Friday night onwards and Shannon lays it down.
“Ask him out, take him out, seal the deal or I’ll have to tell him on Sunday, in front of your aunt and grandmother.” And Eddie knows it’s not an idle threat. For all that his parents didn’t really like Shannon, tía Pepa and Abuela do like her, she’s still family after all, still attends gatherings, still gossips with Pepa.
So Eddie knows that if he doesn’t turn up to Sunday lunch with Buck as his newly minted boyfriend, his ex-wife is absolutely going to embarrass the hell out of him and his aunt and grandmother will not let him live that down. And Shannon doesn’t need more to tease him about.
“Hey, um, how do—I mean, you wanna go out for something? Like, a meal, just us?” It’s harder than Eddie expects, asking Buck out, trying to make clear that it’s a date. Ultimately, Eddie decides to tack that part on, so that there isn’t a misunderstanding. “On a date.”
Buck pauses in his response, about to agree as Eddie adds the qualifier. He’s seconds away from taking it back, hoping that he can brush this off, work past the awkwardness, except—
“Really? You want to—I… I mean, yes, definitely, of course.” Buck rushes out, stepping forward to reach his good hand out to grab at Eddie’s wrist. “Seriously?” The hope is clear on Buck’s face, the way his grin is slowly spreading on his face as he realises that Eddie is serious.
“Yeah, seriously.” Eddie turns his hand, shifting so that he can grasp Buck’s fingers with his own, tugging him closer. “I um, I really like you, and I’m sort of hoping that you—”
“Definitely like you too.” Buck fills in, that grin on his face causing the bubbling of giddiness in Eddie’s chest.
“Yeah? So, um, a date, tonight?” And that’s how it starts. And he knows this is just the start. Him and Buck, it’s not a temporary thing, he already gets that, already knows that this is going to be a long, joyous, sometimes heartbreaking ride. But if anything, the two of them, he’s ready for it.
It’s nothing fancy; they’re not the sort for stuffy restaurants, don’t need anything too top range, a simple meal out, sharing some beers, chewing through fries and burgers. Not that it feels like they’re just out getting something to eat. Eddie doesn’t stop himself from reaching over to fiddle with Buck’s fingers, rubbing his thumb over the back of Buck’s knuckles, bumping their knees together with sly glances.
After they’ve eaten, and Eddie refuses to let Buck pay at all because it’s a date, they take a walk through the park between the burger place and where Eddie’s truck is parked. It’s so utterly domestically sweet, especially when Buck nervously snags his fingers through Eddie’s so that they’re walking with their fingers threaded together while they talk about aimless things.
Eddie waits until they get to his truck before he makes the next move, using his own body to direct Buck to lean against the side of the truck, hands moving to Buck’s hips as he leans in. His pulse is thumping in his own ears, his nerves worse this time than when he was a teenager kissing Shannon for the first time.
Buck’s arm loops around Eddie’s neck, his cast draped against Eddie’s back as he’s tugged forward, Buck clearly aware of where things are going. Or where Eddie hopes they’ll go.
“I had a really good time,” Buck admits softly, letting his good hand slide up Eddie’s shoulder, toying with the collar of his shirt. “Best date ever.” The smirk is just as soft as Buck’s tone, pulling Eddie in closer.
“Yeah? Does that mean it’s your turn next time?” Their chests are pressed together, Eddie’s hips pressing into Buck’s as he runs his hands up Buck’s sides. Having Buck so close, feeling the heat of his body seeping through their clothes, Eddie’s a little addicted to it already.
“I’d happily woo you,” Buck replies with a smile, his hand shifting to cup the back of Eddie’s head. “Are you planning on kissing me, or do you want to keep stalling?” It’s all the encouragement that Eddie needs at this point, closing the distance to seal his lips over Buck’s in a somewhat tentative but heartfelt kiss.
It’s everything that Eddie expected it would be; the soft press of Buck’s lips, the heat of his chest, the firmness of his body pressing close. He can feel Buck’s heart beating in his chest, can feel the gentle puff of breath on his cheek, he can almost taste the low moan that escapes from Buck’s throat. Eddie’s more than happy to spend the rest of the night there, leaning into Buck, pressing him against the truck, making out until the sun comes up. Only, Buck takes the opportunity to nibble on Eddie’s lip, his fingers tightening in Eddie’s hair, and suddenly they absolutely have to get somewhere private, preferably with a bed, but Eddie’s not that fussed.
“Home,” Eddie mumbles it against Buck’s mouth, “we need to get home, right now.” And to emphasis why, Eddie rocks his hips forward, pressing his erection into Buck’s hip.
“Great plan, yup, let’s go.” Buck’s just as eager, even though he leans forward for another desperate kiss, his hand grabbing at Eddie before they’re parting to climb into the truck. The desire to speed home is there, as Buck’s good hand slides onto Eddie’s thigh, squeezing lightly. They’ve seen far too many car crashes to risk it, and Eddie’s determined not to have anything mess up their night.
They make it home with no issues, Eddie leading Buck inside with that giddy feeling bubbling further in his gut as he presses Buck against the wall by the door. His hand sinks into Buck’s soft curls, tugging him close as their lips sealed together again. He already knows that he’ll get addicted to this, to Buck, the way they fit together, the taste of Buck’s lips, the way Buck reaches for him. It’s everything he thought they’d be and it’s only just starting.
They wind up in Eddie’s bed, the one Buck has been sharing with him for almost a week now, trading kisses and mostly cuddling and Eddie’s never felt so relaxed.
“You’re coming to family lunch, right?” Eddie’s trailing his fingers over the doodles on Buck’s cast, tracing the images that Christopher drew there.
“Am I invited?” Buck’s voice is soft, but somewhat easy, like he already knows he’s invited to every single family event.
“Always,” Eddie confirms it easily, smiling softly. “You know my abuela adores you, so does Chris,” his family, the important ones, they love Buck, they support things. “Even Shannon has been pushing at me to jump in with this.” That startles a laugh from Buck, who smothers the laugh in Eddie’s shoulder.
“Your ex-wife is a menace,” Buck eventually replies. “She’s been making not so subtle comments for a while.” This is a surprise to Eddie, who leans back enough to shoot a questioning look at Buck, “Things like complimenting your ass or telling me about your stamina,” there’s a blush on Eddie’s face, he can feel it. “She’s always catching me looking at you.”
“Oh yeah?” Eddie teases, tightening his arm around Buck, “What’re you looking at?”
“Shut up,” there’s no heat to Buck’s rebuttal, even as he grins back. “You know you’re hot, you don’t need me stroking your ego.” There’s a hum as they settle down, Buck nuzzling back into Eddie’s shoulder, “Give me a couple weeks and I’ll stroke something else, though.”
It sets them both off laughing again.
Eddie really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Unsurprisingly, Eddie is teased endlessly by Pepa and Shannon on Sunday.
He finds he doesn’t mind it at all, given that Buck and Chris are so blindingly happy to be spending more time together, like Buck hasn’t been living with them for a week, like they haven’t seen each other every single day so far. If anything, it makes Eddie fall more in love with Buck, how clearly he loves Christopher, how entirely Chris loves Buck.
Abuela is doting on the pair of them, Buck being directed by Chris to show Abuela his cast and all the drawings that Chris did, while tía Pepa and Shannon shoot Eddie knowing looks. He’s not even remotely ashamed of the stark hickey right under Buck’s jaw, even if he blushed to the roots of his hair when Pepa spotted it.
“So, has Shannon said anything to you?” It’s close to the end of the evening, Buck and Eddie sitting together in the yard as Chris plays with his mother, Abuela and Pepa in the kitchen.
“Other than the usual? Not really.” It’s not that Eddie thinks Shannon is going to say anything bad or mean, she likes Buck, she’s encouraged Eddie with every step. He’s mostly curious to know if Shannon’s going to be dining out of his embarrassment or not. “Pepa did offer tell me how to cover up the mark on my neck.”
“Shit,” Eddie huffs out a laugh, well aware that his tía is a troll when she wants to be. “They mean well.” Buck is smiling, clearly aware that Eddie’s family aren’t meaning any harm at all. “I’m more worried about how your family take it.”
“What?” Of course, Buck’s frowning at him, but Eddie’s more than sure he’ll be getting shovel talks for weeks to come.
“Not your dad, obviously, he already—Well, I mean I did ask about our working situation before—Anyway, he seemed completely fine. But I’m a little worried about your sisters.” Because May is as much Buck’s sister as Maddie is, especially with the upcoming wedding of Athena and Bobby, the blend of the two families having gone almost seamless.
“My what?” Buck is still frowning, clearly confused.
“I know May’s your step-sister, or soon to be, but she’s basically—Why are you looking at me like that?” It’s like Buck’s brain has broken, or Eddie’s started speaking another language, or Buck is having a stroke.
“May is—You think that—Eddie, who do you think my father is?”
“Bobby. Bobby is your—What do you mean think?” There’s something happening, something huge is happening and—
“Bobby isn’t my dad, what makes you—We don’t even have the same name. Why do you think he’s my dad?” This time it’s Eddie who thinks that Buck’s speaking a different language, that he’s stopped processing what is being said.
“But you’re—” He’s assessing everything he’s seen, everything he knows, and he’s still coming to the same conclusion. “He treats you like I’d treat Chris, he’s the first person you look for in an emergency, he’s always checking you over, you had family dinner with them at Christmas. I thought that—I just assumed you and Maddie share a mom but not a dad and I never worked out who to ask about that or how. Like what do you say to someone for that? Hey, did your mom cheat on your dad with Bobby to have your kid brother? Pretty sure Maddie would slap me.”
Buck’s laughing. He’s laughing loud enough to bring Shannon and Chris’ attention to them, but it doesn’t stop the pair from playing, Shannon shrugging like this is perfectly normal for them.
“No, no, Eddie, baby, no.” And for a second, Eddie is distracted by the endearment, before being drawn back towards what they’re talking about. “Maddie and I are full siblings, Bobby is—Bobby’s my captain, like he’s yours, it’s just—” the soft look on Buck’s face is exactly why Eddie thought Bobby was Buck’s dad, “I guess, honestly, Bobby’s who I’d pick if I could.”
And Eddie gets it. He does. For all the reasons he thought Bobby and Buck were related, for all the inside jokes and the soft looks and the gentle directing, the way that Buck’s been drawn into Bobby’s family in a way that none of the others have, like Bobby needed somewhere for all that fatherly attention to go and it went right towards the kid who needed it the most.
Eddie’s sure, blood relations aside, that this is the family that matters the most to Buck.
“So, I’m not exactly wrong then, am I?” He’ll hold onto that belief, get through the initial announcement and watch to see exactly how Buck’s family, his chosen family, rally around him, hoping that it proves his point enough that Buck won’t endlessly tease him about it.
The next day, on shift with Hen and Chimney, he realises who he should’ve been worried about.
“So, Diaz, how’re you planning on sucking up to your future father-in-law?” Chimney asks, grinning over Eddie’s shoulder to where Bobby’s hiding his own laughter.
“I should’ve taken away Buck’s phone.” Eddie mutters, although he can’t stop himself from laughing along with them.
He’s definitely not living this down.