"You two have an adorable son."
Buck had contemplated correcting her for a second. But he just smiled, nodded, and thanked her. It wasn't true, of course. They weren't a family, he wasn't romantically involved with Eddie, he wasn't gay. But over the next couple weeks, he spent a lot of time thinking about that Christmas tree farm elf. What exactly had she seen in them that told her they were not just dating, but a family? With a son she probably assumed was adopted. They weren't, of course, and he wasn't. But why had she thought so? And why hadn't he corrected her? He hadn't wanted to. But why? That's what plagued him the most. He didn't wanted to correct her. He wanted them to be a family. After that realization set in, he started thinking about if maybe he was gay. Well... bisexual. Because he'd lapsed into Buck1.0, meaningless hookups with women. And it was still good. It was great!
The bottom line was... was he attracted to Eddie? Buck could admit Eddie was good looking. He'd said so as much before, once even to his sister. And his sister had accused him of having a crush on Eddie. Had she seen the whatever-it-was that the elf had? Was there something there? Did he want there to be? Did Eddie? Did he wanted to touch Eddie? Kiss Eddie? Have sex with the man?
"Buck? Hey, Buck!" Eddie waved his hand in Buck's face. "You having a stroke?"
Buck blinked for a moment. Well that was a horrible thought to leave off on. He felt his face heat up and hoped he wasn't blushing too much. He shook his head quickly and looked away. "What... uh... I... no." He stammered for a moment as the question sunk in belatedly. "I'm uh... fine."
Eddie tilted his head slightly, still smiling. "You sure?"
"Uh..." Buck nodded his head. "Yeah."
"Don't sound too sure."
"You got a date for Valentine's Day?" Buck had no clue why he asked, why he blurted it out like he did. Maybe Eddie would say yes, that he was dating some new chick since the divorce with his wife, and that would be the end of it. Buck could stop obsessing over the what ifs and maybes.
Eddie paused for a moment. He glanced around quickly. They were still in the locker-room at the station. Alone. But still within hearing distance if they got too loud. Chimney had only left a few minutes before. And Buck felt like an idiot. Clearly he made Eddie uncomfortable. Eddie maybe thought Buck was bragging or teasing or maybe asking him out. But clearly, all possibilities were disastrous. And Buck had screwed up the best thing that happened to him since Abby told him she was leaving.
Eddie cleared his throat and looked back over at Buck. "No." He answered softly. "You?"
Buck bit his lip and shook his head. "No. No plans."
Eddie nodded slowly and dropped his gaze to the floor.
"You uh... wanna hang out?" Buck asked, his voice wavering a bit.
Eddie glanced up at him again. "Like a date?" He asked slowly.
"I uh... well..." Buck was stammering again, unable to get the words out. He needed to say no. He didn't want Eddie to get the wrong idea. Or maybe he did. Did he? Maybe it was the right idea? His mind was a jumbled mess and wouldn't connect with his mouth to form audible words.
"Because..." Eddie started slowly, leaning closer. "That would be okay." He finished softly.
Buck's eyes snapped to Eddie's and widened. Did he just really say it was okay? "Yeah?"
Eddie nodded. "Yeah."
A huge smile spread across Buck's face. Well... that settle that. He stood up, still smiling like a goof.
"You got a plan or time?"
Buck shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. He tilted his head and shrugged. "Can I let you know?"
Eddie nodded. "Sure."
"Cool. I'll uh... text you." He grabbed his bag and hurried out.
They both ended up having to work the day shift on Valentine's Day. Buck had pulled some strings and got a last minute reservation at a way too fancy restaurant, just like he'd done a year ago for Abby. It was too late to do something creative. But a first date could be just dinner at a fancy restaurant. That might be easier, anyways. "So... uh..." Buck stepped closer to Eddie. They were in the locker-room again, this time getting ready to start their shift. "7... tonight?"
Eddie smiled. "Thought you changed your mind."
Buck frowned. "No... uh... why? You?"
Eddie shook his head quickly. "You just didn't text me."
"Oh... uh..." Buck dropped his gaze to the floor. "Wanted to tell you in person." He mumbled out.
Eddie nodded. "Okay. You gonna pick me up?"
Buck nodded. "Yeah, if you want. Your house?"
Eddie nodded. "You gonna bring me flowers?"
Buck blinked and tilted his head to the side. He wasn't quite sure if Eddie was serious about that or just teasing him. "Uh... do you..."
"Hey boys." Chimney came in, smiling. "Happy V-Day!"
"Oh, no, no no!" She'd been walking by when she heard. Hen stuck her head in and shook it. "Don't say that!"
Chimney turned around and gasped. "Men's locker room, Hen!"
"Oh yeah?" She smiled and leaned in the doorway. "Then why are you in here?"
"Oh snap." Eddie laughed. And then the sirens went off. He jumped up, the rest following. "Looks like you're saved by the bell, Chimney."
It was an average day for the squad. They saved a couple who were hooking up in a car and rolled into traffic. A woman in a restaurant choked on the engagement ring her boyfriend put in her champagne glass. A private dinner turned disaster when an allergen was forgotten. And then the call they were finished up. A middle school dance, during school hours. A kid was dressed as cupid and was supposed to run around, shooting other kids with plastic arrows. But he'd gotten high and shot a few with real arrows.
"Kids are stupid!" Chimney said, loading their equipment back into the truck.
"Hey!" Hen snapped, throwing a bag in beside him. "Not all kids."
Chimney shrugged. "You sure about that?"
"Not all kids are bad." Eddie said, walking over. "Just most." He said with a smile.
"Fine!" Chimney threw up his arms. "Most kids are stupid."
"I love kids!" Buck said loudly as he and Bobby joined them. They all laughed as the finished packing up. Then Bobby stepped away to answer a radio call. Buck watched him. Then turned. Hen and Chimney were in some other argument, distracted for the moment. Buck stepped closer to Eddie, intent on maybe continuing their conversation from earlier, about the flowers. But before Buck could get a word out, a phone rang. Eddie fished his phone out and answered it. He put the phone to his ear just as Bobby returned, yelling about another call. Eddie sighed as he hung up his phone. Buck watched him and wanted to ask if something was wrong. But they had another call.
It wasn't until they finally returned to the firehouse, near the end of their shift, that Buck got to ask to Eddie. And the man sighed. "Babysitter canceled on me." He said, sinking down on the bench.
"Big plans tonight?" Chimney asked, once again interrupting them. The man had a knack for coming in at exactly the wrong moment. Although maybe work was a bad time to keep trying to talk.
Eddie shrugged as he pulled off his gear. "Sorta. Guess not, now. You?"
"Oh yeah." Chimney said with a smile. "Big date."
Buck held up his hands quickly. "Please refrain from discussing your dating plans with my sister."
Chimney let out a laugh and patted Eddie on the shoulder. "Sorry about your luck, man."
Eddie leaned back a bit and glanced at Buck. "Yeah, me too. Was really looking forward to it."
Buck smiled slightly. "Or reschedule. I'm sure this... uh... whoever is really understanding. The kid is more important." Eddie smiled. And the three finished getting undressed and put their stuff away. And as they finished, Buck had an idea. But there were too many people around to ask before Eddie left to go pick up Christopher. Buck pulled out his phone and quickly sent a text to Eddie. I could swing by the store and pick up something. Cook dinner for all 3 of us. Buck bit his lip after he sent it. He'd spent time with Eddie and Christopher before, of course. Several times. But this would be different. Buck glanced up and his eyes found Eddie, across the room, as the man was pulling out his phone.
Eddie smiled down at his phone and typed a quick response. Sounds great.
An hour later and Buck was leaving the store. He'd ran home, showered and dressed, and headed to the grocery store. He'd tried hard, tried his best. He really hadn't had time to plan out a meal. But he'd heard Eddie talking once about these stuffed pepper things his abuela made all the time when he was younger. Buck had pulled out his phone and Googled a recipe. It looked simple enough. Bell peppers stuffed with rice, ground beef, corn, and seasonings. Simple. He couldn't mess that up. Plus the internet said it only took like 20 minutes to make. With a kid involved, that was good. Couldn't expect him to wait until 7 for dinner, not when he had to go to bed for school. He found everything he needed quickly. Then right before checking out, grabbed the stuff for Christopher's favorite meal, grilled cheese and chicken nuggets. Just in case the kid hated it.
The door was unlocked when he got there. Christopher had it open before Buck even got to the porch. The kid was smiling as he leaned on the door frame for support. "Bucky!"
Buck smiled. "Hey, kiddo. You gonna let me in?" He asked, tilting his head to the side. Christopher laughed and nodded his head. He pressed himself closer to the frame as Buck carefully stepped around him. Buck held the bags high, over Christopher's head. The kid squealed happily and Buck pulled the door shut behind them. Then Christopher latched onto his free hand, still laughing.
"Buddy, you gotta let him in." Eddie said, walking down the hall towards them. He was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans. And he was smiling. And for a moment, Buck wondered if the man ever didn't smile. And didn't look amazing. "Come on." Eddie held out his hand and Christopher reached for him instead. Eddie wrapped his arms about Christopher and hugged him for a moment. "Go start on your homework, okay? I'll be right there to help." He let him go and Christopher slowly made his way around the couch to sit at the coffee table.
Buck practically forgot to breathe as he watched Eddie with his son. There was just something about that that just got to Buck. And then Eddie turned towards him and Buck fumbled for a moment. "Uh... hi." He frowned and looked away. He rubbed at his face for a moment. He probably sounded like an idiot.
"Hey." Eddie said, stepping closer. He inclined his head towards the bags in Buck's hand. "Whatcha got in there?"
Buck swung his arm behind his back, hiding the bags. "Surprise." He said, taking a step back and holding up his hand.
Eddie stopped and nodded. "Okay. You know where the kitchen is. Holler if you need help." He said and turned. "You look nice, Buck." He called as he rounded the couch and dropped down beside his son.
Buck abruptly turned and dashed into the kitchen, trying to remember how to breathe. He set the bags down on the counter and pulled out his phone. He pulled the recipe up and was just going to focus on that. Not on the fact that he was there, on a date, with Eddie. A man. He was on a date, with a man for the first time. Because that was suddenly settling in. And he was worried that he really should have brought flowers. Could he buy flowers for a man? Was that something people did? Buck grabbed his phone off the counter, forgetting about the peppers in the oven as he was fretting over flowers. He made a phone call and pulled a few strings, he had a lot of strings, and leaned back against the counter with a smile. Flowers were done. They'd be delivered in a few hours and Buck could pretend that was his plan all along. Because it almost was. He'd thought about it a lot since that morning.
And then he noticed the smoke. Buck's eyes widened. Just how long had he been on the phone? Shit! Buck turned and grabbed the oven door. He pulled it open as a cloud of smoke wafted out and the fire alarm went off. "Shit! No, no, no!" He grabbed a dishtowel and attempted to fan it out.
Eddie was beside him in seconds, a fire extinguisher in his hands. "Buck? You okay?"
Buck reached in the stove and pulled out the burnt peppers, using the towel as a mitt. But that wasn't the best idea. It was still pretty hot. He dropped them in the sink and yanked his arm back. He stuck his finger in his mouth. "Shit."
Eddie set the fire extinguisher down on the counter and grabbed Buck's hand. He pulled on it and stared at the burnt digit. "You okay?"
Buck's eyes were on the floor as he nodded. He was perfectly fine. Just completely embarrassed and mortified and just wishing for a moment that he was dead. And being dramatic.
Both turned to see Christopher standing in the doorway, his hands covering his ears as the alarm was still going off. Eddie dropped Buck's hand and grabbed a dishtowel. "It's okay, buddy." He said. "No fire, just some smoke." He stood up on his toes and waved the towel in front of the smoke detector. After a moment, it stopped.
Christopher pulled his hands away. "Did Bucky burn it?" He asked slowly.
Buck scratched at the back of his neck as both turned to look at him. "I uh... guess it was too high and I uh... got distracted."
Eddie leaned back against the counter and crossed his arms. "Trying to burn my house down, Evan?" He asked with a smile.
Buck looked over at the use of his first name. Eddie didn't use it often. He studied the other man for a moment. He didn't see anger. Or worry, disappointment, regret, or any other negative emotion. Buck felt a weight lift off for a moment. He smiled and tilted his head to the side. "There was no fire." He said. "Just smoke."
Eddie let out a laugh. "Fair enough."
Buck's smile fell and he let out a sigh. "Sorry. I messed this up."
Eddie shrugged, pushing off the counter. He walked closer to Buck, his arms still crossed. "We're not picky, Evan." He used the first name again. "This was sweet and all..." He said, glancing around the kitchen. "Smelled good, too, before. Really appreciate it. But it's fine. We can order a pizza. It's all good."
Buck smiled and looked down at the floor again. He was warmed by the sentiment and bit his lip.
Eddie leaned closer. "You don't have to try so hard." He whispered. "Just be you. We like you... I like you." He added softly.
Buck looked up at him again. His eyes flickered down to Eddie's lips for a second before meeting his eyes. And Eddie was smiling. And Buck had the over whelming urge to kiss him. And it was weird. Because it wasn't weird. And he was okay with it.
"Daaaaddy!" Christopher whined slightly. "I'm hungry."
Eddie looked away and the moment was broken. But Buck was okay with that. Because Christopher was more important and Buck suddenly remembered his backup plan for the kid. "I sorta... might have had... a backup." He turned and grabbed the forgotten bag, sitting on the counter in the corner. He pulled out the bread, cheese, and huge bag of chicken nuggets. He held them up and shrugged.
Christopher let out a squeal. "Yes! Nuggets!" He said, raising his arms in the air.
Eddie let out a laugh and nodded. "Okay. Deal. But we're helping this time."
Buck set the items on the counter and nodded. "Yeah, probably good." He said with shrug and started to clean up his previous mess. Eddie pulled out a skillet and started the sandwiches. He grabbed a stool and when it was time, Christopher stood on it to flip them. There was still a trace of smoke in the oven so they opted for the microwave to cook the chicken nuggets. It wasn't fancy or special but Christopher was happy and at the end of the day, that's what was most important. Once they finished, they sat around the TV and watched silly cartoons for a bit. Christopher sat between them on the couch and Buck was reminded, once again, about the elf lady. And it made him smile.
A couple hours later, after Christopher had been put to bed, the two men were finishing cleaning up the kitchen together. Buck was silent, lost in thought, and Eddie noticed. He stopped and reached over to touch the man's arm. Just a soft brush of his fingers against skin. "What's on your mind?"
Buck glanced up at him. "Hmm?"
Eddie tilted his head slightly and smiled. "Evan."
Buck shrugged slightly and leaned back against the counter. "I told you about my first date with Abby, right?"
Eddie nodded, going a bit stiff. "Yeah, where you choked and she performed an emergency tracheotomy on you right in the restaurant."
"Yep." Buck said, breathing out and shaking his head.
Eddie got quiet for a moment. He leaned beside Buck and looked away. "You miss her?"
"What?" Buck frowned for a moment. "Oh, no." He shook his head quickly. "I did, at first. But nah, not anymore. I was just thinking... that was Valentine's Day. Kinda seems like a routine. Shitty ass ruined first dates."
Eddie frowned and shook his head. "Wasn't ruined." He said. "Wasn't shitty. I enjoyed myself. Christopher did, too."
Eddie nodded his head. "Doesn't have to end." He added softly.
"You could stay."
Buck looked away again and let out a sigh. "I'm not..." He started and stopped. Gay was not the word on the tip of his tongue. That's not what he was thinking, it wasn't what he was worried about. He was a bit nervous. But it wasn't the gay thing. Because he'd pretty much already come to terms with the fact that he was physically attracted to Eddie. So he was definitely bisexual.
"Oh." Eddie pushed away from the counter and turned. "Well thanks. We had fun." He said sourly. "Guess I'll see you at work tomorrow."
Buck frowned. "Wait... what?" Buck reached out and grabbed Eddie's shoulder before he could get too far.
But Eddie just pushed him off. "I get it, Buck." He said, lapsing back into the common nickname.
"Get what?" Buck repeated. Because he honestly didn't know what he'd said. And then he replayed it in his head. "Oh, oh, no, no." He shook his head. "Eddie, that's not what I meant."
Eddie turned around, looking mad. "What did you mean, Buck?" He snapped. "What exactly are we doing here?"
Buck frowned and threw up his arms. "I asked you out!"
Eddie shrugged a bit. "Not really." He pointed out. "You asked if I wanted to hang out. Sorta like we always do."
"Yeah but... Valentine's Day." Buck countered. "That kinda means date."
"Maybe." Eddie said. "Maybe not."
"Maybe?" Buck breathed in deeply and shook his head. He stepped forward and grabbed Eddie. Not being gentle about it, he put his hands on Eddie's face. He pulled the man closer and planted a quick kiss on his lips. Then Buck released him, stepped back, and threw up his arms angrily.
Eddie looked shocked, for a split second. Then he shook his head. "My abuela's kissed me better than that."
Before Buck could get any madder, the doorbell rang. Buck's eyes widened. He'd totally forgotten! The flowers! That would prove it was a real date. A smile spread across his face, his demeanor changing immediately. "You stay right there. I'll get it." He pushed past Eddie and hurried to the front door.
Eddie turned around, watching him. "It's my house!" He snapped. But he sighed and shook his head. He leaned back against the counter and rubbed at his forehead. None of this was going the way he'd hoped when Buck first asked him about Valentine's Day plans.
Buck answered the door quickly and grabbed the flowers from the delivery girl. He smiled, thanked her, and prompted shut the door in her face. Maybe it was rude. It probably was. But he didn't care. He had a point he needed to prove. The flowers were pretty. Bright and colorful, a dozen roses that looked tie-dyed. He had thought they looked cool on the website. And the name was cool, too. He headed back to the kitchen and held the flowers out. "See? Date!" He said smugly.
A smile slowly spread across Eddie's face. "What are those?"
"Unicorn roses." Buck said with a smile.
Buck shrugged. "They looked cool."
Eddie turned and rifled around in his cabinets. He pulled out an old water pitcher. "I don't exactly have a vase but..." He took the roses from Buck and put them in the pitcher. Then he went over to the sink and put some water in it. He set them on the counter and stared at them a moment. He was still smiling as he looked over at Buck. "You bought me flowers."
Buck blushed slightly and shoved his hands in his pockets. "I never got to ask you if you were being serious earlier, when you asked."
Eddie's smile turned into a frown. "So..." He started and looked back at the flowers. "Why then.. uh... hesitation?"
Buck sighed as he stepped closer. "Not about you. It's me." He said. "Abby was my longest relationship... and if I'm honest with myself... it was only a couple months before she left me. It felt serious... but I don't think it was. And every one before her... never lasted more than a week..." He paused and shook his head. "More than an hour." He mumbled, correcting himself.
Eddie smiled and let out a soft laugh.
Buck turned towards him and leaned sideways against the counter. "You remember um... back at Christmas? When we went to that tree place?"
Eddie blinked for a moment, looking confused at the topic change. But he nodded his head. "Yeah."
"There was this elf."
"Elf?" Eddie repeated.
Buck nodded. "Yeah, one of the workers. She was dressed as an elf. She wasn't like a real elf."
Eddie smiled and nodded again. "Okay."
Buck stopped and shook his head. He sighed. "I'm sorry, I'm rambling."
"No." Eddie was clearly trying not to laugh as she shook his head. "No, please. Tell me about your elf, Evan."
"She's not my elf." Buck rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. "Whatever. Yeah, there was this elf. She saw the three of us together. You, me, and Christopher. And she... I guess she assumed that we were like... together, you know. She said we had an adorable son."
Eddie was still smiling. "He is adorable."
Buck nodded. "He is and I thanked her."
"So... what's the problem?"
Buck sighed. "The problem is... I realized I liked the feeling." He said loudly. "Feeling like a family... with you... and I've like... been fixating on it, I guess, since then. And when you asked if I meant as a date..." Now he really was rambling. And he felt like he was getting nowhere. He shook his head. "I'm nervous." He blurted out. "Not nervous cuz you're a guy." He added and then tilted his head. "Although that's gonna be very new for me."
Eddie laughed again.
Buck continued. "But like... nervous cuz..." He breathed out loudly and rubbed at his face a moment. Screw it. He was just going to say it. "You are the best thing to happen to me since Abby left me. Maybe even better than her. Maybe the best thing in my life. You and Christopher. And it scares me how much you mean to me and I'm just... nervous to fuck it all up."
Eddie moved closer to Buck. He leaned against the counter beside him, their arms brushing together. "Truth time." He said softly. "The feeling is mutual." He confessed. "Both in being nervous and... about you being the best thing that happened to us, since Shannon left us. I don't wanna mess that up."
Buck breathed out and leaned his head back, looking up at the ceiling. Maybe this was all a mistake. Some weird infatuation. Maybe they should just remain way-too-close friends.
"But." Eddie continued. "I'd be lying if I said I haven't been thinking about it. I got excited when you asked."
Eddie nodded. "I'd like to... try, Buck. Evan."
Buck pushed away from the counter. He moved to stand in front of Eddie. "You do?" He asked, tilting his head to the side.
Eddie nodded again. "Maybe just... slowly?"
Buck grabbed Eddie's hand. He lifted it and intertwined their fingers together. And he realized, that yeah, he wanted this. Maybe it was going to be difficult, maybe it was going to be hard and complicated and new. But maybe it was going to be everything he ever wanted. And he wanted to try. "I can do slow." He said. "Can I have a second try at that first kiss? I don't want your abuela outshining me."
Eddie smiled and touched his free hand to Buck's forehead. He brushed his fingers across the weird birthmark before dragging his fingers down Buck's cheek and to the back of his neck. He pulled Buck closer slowly. The second first kiss was softer, sweeter. And when it was deepened, it surprised both how normal and wonderful it felt. Eddie pulled back first, a smile on his lips. "That was okay."
Buck frowned. "Okay? Just okay?"
Eddie was trying not to smile. He was clearly teasing Buck. And it was fun. He shrugged slightly. "Yeah. Okay. Maybe you need a third try."