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sharing leftovers is a love language

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            Sharks started circling Eddie somewhere between the microwave beeping and him sitting at the table with his Tupperware.

            He tried ignoring them, but their gazes were like sharp fangs that poked at his back from where they glared at him behind the counter. Eddie didn’t need to turn around to know where they were. He saw them swim there in his periphery as he carried his lunch over. Before that, they floated by the railing; pretending to chat as if they didn’t care about what he heated up. It was obvious what they wanted even then.

            Eddie couldn’t take it anymore.

            He set his fork down and sighed. “I don’t care how long you watch me. I’m not sharing with you.”

            Hen groaned. Chimney slammed his hands on the countertop.

            “Now you’re being dramatic.”

            “We’re not dramatic,” Chimney growled. “We’re hungry.”

            That wasn’t his problem. The crew was warned on Bobby’s last day before his honeymoon they’d be fending for themselves until he returned. The fridges would still be fully stocked. If they wanted, any of them could try their hands at cooking one of the many recipes their captain generously left behind in the metal tin above the fridge. Despite these very detailed instructions, no one had successfully recreated their captain’s culinary masterpieces.

            Well… almost no one.

            Eddie tried to spear a few reheated noodles, to sate his own distracting hunger. The scrape of chairs being pulled from his left and right told him he’d have to wait a tad longer.

            He dropped his fork again. “Can’t you make sandwiches or something? Or order out?”

            “We could.” Hen’s eyes zeroed on Eddie’s meal. “We don’t want that.”

            “What do you want?”

            “We want Bobby’s lasagna.”

            “Well you’re not getting any – hey, hey!” Eddie whacked Chimney’s hand as it tried tiptoeing towards his unprotected lunch. Almost immediately Eddie snared his arms around a section of table in harried protection. “Stealing? Really? You’re resorting to that?”

            Chimney put on his best Jee Yun impression while kicking a nearby chair. “You left us with no choice.”

            “You have choices. I literally gave you two.”

            “We don’t want those choices!”

            “Then, too… bad!”

            Hen bent forward so her shoulder rubbed against his. “Come on, Eddie,” she whispered, using her soft voice. It was usually reserved for panicking victims, when Hen needed to coax them into letting her do her work. “That’s a lot of pasta, even for you. Carbs. Ugh, am I right? You don’t want all of it. We don’t want all of it. We’re not even asking for you to split it three ways… we get a plate, and you give us whatever you feel comfortable giving. Okay?”

            Eddie wasn’t panicking, nor was he a victim.

            He grabbed his fork a third time, stabbing blindly and glancing between his friends with a tight smile. “If you want lasagna, I’m sure the ingredients are around here somewhere…”

            Neither were amused. Especially as Eddie finally took his first bite and offered them nothing but an exaggerated moan to clue them in on how delicious his lunch was.

            Hen tore herself away from Eddie and leaned back in her seat. She fixed him with an expression that could cause sweat to drip down the necks of the steeliest nerved firefighters. “Diaz,” she huffed, “as your captain I am giving you a direct order to share your lunch.”

            Eddie pushed the noodles around with his fork, collecting more for another bite. He scoffed. “I don’t think captains have the power to do that.”

            “Maybe not. But captains do decide who has to be the man behind during calls.”

            He met her challenge with a dimpled smile. “Fine by me. Means I can take my time and really savor the taste of my lasagna.”

            Then he shoveled more of his lunch in and chewed with full cheeks and unfettered mouth noises.

            Dissatisfied grumbling exploded at his sides. Hen’s fingers twitched as she turned her head, removing Eddie’s smug chewing from her sight. Meanwhile Chimney jumped from his seat, not leaving, but putting some distance between him and the table before turning on his heel and walking back.

            He lunged for the top rail of his chair and throttled it, its legs clattering atop the floor. “This isn’t fair,” he hissed, “I’ve tried making that same lasagna almost ten times now and it’s still nowhere near perfect as Bobby’s. How were you able to get it right? You – you, you had to buy four different fire extinguishers for your kitchen in the same month!”

            Eddie pouted at the accusation but didn’t deny it. He found his lasagna extremely interesting as he muttered, “I only needed to use them twice… one of them was faulty.” He shoved more of his lunch in his mouth, eating, waiting for the heat to die in his cheeks before he spoke again. Eddie cleared his throat. “Besides, I’m not the one who cooked this.”

            The other two whipped their heads towards him. Their irritation and hunger paled as confusion took root, both firefighters asking the same question without voicing it.

            Eddie pointed at the stairs with his fork, where a freshly uniformed Buck had finished climbing the final step. “Buck did.”

            Hearing his name, Buck stopped. He looked at them with wide eyes, shocked to be called out so early into their shift. “What did I do?”

            “Buck?” Chimney said, “Buck made Bobby’s lasagna?”

            Buck visibly relaxed after hearing that, his shoulders sagging as he deflated. He huffed a tired breath out past a beaming, appreciative smile and continued walking. Buck made it to the other side of the table. “Took me a few tries but I did. Though it’s not as good as the original… obviously.”

            “It’s still really good,” Eddie told him, needling Hen’s sides with his elbow. His eyebrows danced as he added, “You have to try it some time.”

            Hen’s gaze roamed from Eddie to Buck, fixing him with an expectant stare. She asked, “Like now?”

            His jaw swung low, Buck’s bottom teeth on display as he stuttered out an explanation of why he couldn’t. An emergency could sound at any moment. He didn’t feel comfortable cooking in Bobby’s kitchen without him. He wasn’t in the right headspace.

            Eddie got both a meal and a show.

            “You don’t have to lie to us Buck,” Chimney interrupted. He freed Buck from his own torturous motormouth, but Eddie didn’t trust the wicked gleam that happened to shine in Chimney’s eye. It was aimed directly at Eddie. “It’s obvious you’ll only cook for one of us.”

            He nearly choked on his lasagna.

            Given how Hen and Chimney hadn’t rushed to his aid, how they snickered behind their fists, they weren’t worried whether he would survive or not.

            Buck, of course, stood uselessly across from him. While Chimney’s teasing caught Eddie off guard enough it made his muscles spasm, Buck’s shock spread like dominoes toppling over each other as his entire body shut down from the outside in.

            He rebooted in time to watch Eddie spit a mangled noodle into a napkin.

            His focus didn’t stay on Eddie long. It was divided, bouncing from Hen to Chimney and back again, repeatedly, as he rushed to explain. “That’s not true,” he barked, “I’d cook for either of you if you wanted. But you’re both busy… Hen with school and – and Chim with Jee, with Maddie… and it’s not like I’m always intending to cook. But it’s easier than kicking them out at dinner time.”

            Hen and Chimney worked in unison. Their stares met over Eddie’s head, possible only because Eddie sank low enough in his seat during Buck’s rambling that his knees grazed the nearest chair. “Sure…” Chimney drawled while Hen whistled, “it just so happens that you have to cook Eddie dinner all the time.”

            Buck stomped his foot. He now seized the chair with enough force to send it crashing into Eddie’s knees. He shot up in his seat, biting his lip to muffle his unbidden gasp. No one had noticed.

            “You’ve got it all wrong,” he cried, “I’m not cooking for Eddie. I do it for Chris. Eddie… happens to be there, is all.”

            This was ridiculous.

            Eddie scooted his chair back, rising from the table with the lukewarm, half-eaten Tupperware of lasagna in his hands. “I can’t eat with all of you here acting like kids,” he said, “I’m going somewhere else.”

            He soon learned that was the wrong choice. Leaving reminded Hen and Chimney that he was there. They lobbed a few comments at him, their calls and smacks of fake kisses trailing behind as he sped away.

            “If you go, then Buck won’t see how much you appreciate his cooking!” Hen laughed.

            Chimney snapped his fingers, “Better yet. Buck could feed you the food, if you’re having trouble eating!”

            Eddie collapsed on the couch and tried eating another bite of lasagna.

            It tasted like rubber. He lost his appetite.

            Chimney’s voice carried to where Eddie sat. He heard him yank Buck’s chain a final time. “Why don’t you go join him. You’ve been talking about needing a new couch anyway. Why not use the one you already have?”

            Eddie pinched the bridge of his nose.

            He wished Bobby was flying back yesterday.