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you look so free

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When it came to shopping in general, Eddie was typically a messy person, and IKEA made things so much worse. Normally, he relied on one of two things if he needed to stay focused; a thorough, detailed list, or Christopher, who had absolutely no patience for Eddie wandering through a literal warehouse of crap, designing for a home he didn’t buy.

Which was rough, considering his current mission—buy some new furniture for Chris’s room for his birthday. Which meant he had no list, no sense of direction, and no Christopher to keep him on track. That would normally spell a recipe for a distracted disaster—but he was so focused, so determined to get this right, that he was confident in his shopping abilities for once. He had to be, he only had two hours until Carla brought Chris home, and two hours wasn’t enough for an IKEA visit on a normal day. So he had to be focused.

He’s so focused, in fact, that as he passes by the Poäng’s and the Fjällbo’s, he almost doesn’t notice the man in the plants.

And no, that isn’t something that he can clarify.

There is a man. In. The plants.

What?

He tries to walk away, but the image of a tallish, blondish, beefyish, honestly pretty cuteish if Eddie is being honest, fully grown adult hiding in the plastic bamboo is a bit too much for him to ignore.

“You know, those plants are fake. If you’re trying to check the soil, they’re definitely not gonna need water any time soon.”

He tries not to laugh as Plant Man immediately stumbles, nearly knocking over a Smycka, a Fejka, and a whole case of hanging planters as he turns around. It’s cute. Kinda sad, but cute.

“Oh! Uh, yeah, I kind of figured. I mean, they’re realistic looking, but definitely fake. No, I’m—I’m hiding.”

Hiding? This was an IKEA, a place where you could get lost without even trying.

“You’re hiding.”

“Yeah. My ex is here.”

Oooooohh. That, Eddie could understand.

It was easy enough to spot who he thought was the culprit, if the harrowed look on her face and half empty yellow bag was anything to go by.

“Shorter, redhead, kind of sloppy smokey eye, looks like she would stab someone with a high heel?”

Plant Guy laughed, but the sound didn’t reach his eyes. “Yeah, that’s Taylor.”

Eddie pretended to be engrossed in his phone as he looked over to the stranger again, tilting his head to the side.

“Well, I’ll tell you what. If you agree to help me load what I buy into my truck, and get me a plate of meatballs before we leave—the full size plate, by the way, I’m not settling for less than ten meatballs—I’ll help you get rid of her for good. I’m Eddie, by the way.”

“I’m Buck.” Plant guy—Buck—looked like Eddie had just handed him a goose that laid golden eggs. “For good? No, way. You can really do that?”

“I can.” Eddie said seriously, extending a hand to Buck. “But you have to trust me. My methods may be extreme, but I can almost guarantee results.”

A bit dramatic, maybe, but he still found himself smiling as Buck easily took his hand, taking a moment to savor the warmth. A sharp tug was all he needed to pull Buck up and out of the plants, making a sort of yelping noise, stumbling over a row of Boysenbär pots as Eddie put a hand on his hip, helping him steady.

The effect was instantaneous—while the noise wasn’t loud, it was just enough to draw the attention of anyone who happened to be searching through the warehouse already.

Eddie could feel the redhead’s eyes laser lock onto him as he steadied Buck’s hips, his opposite hand coming to cup Buck’s cheek.

“Sweetheart, you okay?” He plastered what he hoped was a look of concern on his face as Buck turned bright red, something that thankfully could be attributed to his stumbling, and not the fact that a near stranger was calling him ‘sweetheart’. He was mercifully quick on the uptake, at least, a smile blooming over his face as he chuckled, ducking his head, pressing into Eddie’s hand a bit more, and oh, wow, that was fucking adorable.

“Yeah, I’m good, sorry, I just… thanks, baby.”

Eddie chuckled as he dropped the hand from Buck’s face, the hand on his hip lacing with Buck’s instead, tugging him along. “C’mon, I want to look at a new lamp for the living room. We need something brighter, and as much as your smile lights up a room, I’m tired of stubbing my toe in the morning.” Eddie said, pulling that story directly out of his ass, hoping that he was selling the ‘teasing boyfriend’ aspect as he pulled Buck along.

It was purely coincidence that the route to the lighting section of the warehouse was only a row away from the redhead that was currently glaring daggers into Eddie’s back.

Once they turned the corner, Eddie let his hand slide out of Buck’s easily, the air a little cooler than he was expecting after being so close to someone so hot something so warm.

“Holy shit, that was amazing.” Buck blurted out, looking at Eddie like he hung the moon, and yeah, Eddie could admit, he preened a little under the admiring gaze.

“There you go. You’ve just earned yourself a harassment free shopping experience.” Eddie said proudly, winking as he took a few steps back, snatching up a yellow bag and tossing it over his shoulder easily. Buck still looked a little flustered, and honestly, it was cuter than anything Eddie could have hoped for—but the tick of his watch brought him back to his mission. “Hey, I hate to scare off an ex and run, but I gotta make some quick choices, so…”

“Oh! Oh, uh, for sure. Thanks again, Eddie.”

“No problem. Good luck, Buck.” Eddie winked for good measure as he turned around, feeling warmth pool in his stomach. He hadn’t had that much fun flirting since before he was married, and while he worried occasionally that he lost his touch, the blush on Buck’s face begged to differ.

Eddie was making good time. He had narrowed it down to two potential presents—it was either a Vitval bunkbed / loft, complete with a desk and a physical-therapist-approved ladder, and Eddie knew that Chris had been dying for a bunkbed for forever, but… on the other hand, there was the Phal workspace, with plenty of drawers, shelves, and surfaces for Chris to completely drown with his pictures, Legos, arts and crafts.

He had been stuck between the two—literally, standing between both display models—when he felt a hand slide into his own, blinking in surprise, a low voice in his ear before he could turn.

“Sorry, uh, she followed me out of textiles. I’m so sorry, this is super weird, I just can’t shake her off, and—”

“Phal or Vitval?” Eddie asked, cutting him off, raising a brow as Buck just blinked.

“Uh, gesundheit?”

“Very funny.” Eddie said, squeezing Buck’s hand, tilting his head between the two. “I’ve been stuck here for like twenty minutes, and you’ve been no help, leaving me just so you could get your…” A quick peek into Buck’s bag told him everything he needed to know. “…artwork and lightbulbs. Which should we go with? Phal or Vitval?”

Buck blanched at that and Eddie let himself chuckle, shaking his head as Buck groaned. “Come on, Eddie, you know I’m no good at making decisions. I don’t even remember which toothpaste I like, I rely on you for things like that.” he said, and Eddie had to admit, he was impressed with the little tidbits of information Buck was throwing into their faux-relationship so easily. If this Taylor chick was still in earshot, Eddie would have bet that she was just plain pissed by now.

“I know, I know. You really are hopeless, aren’t you?” Eddie said with an exaggerated sigh, bringing their linked hands up to his cheek, pressing Buck’s knuckles against the corner of his mouth. It wasn’t intimate enough to be a kiss, not really, but to the casual bystander it would have looked like a simple show of affection, kissing his boyfriends knuckles in the middle of an IKEA.

As he pulled the hand back, he did a quick scan around them—no redheads in sight. “I think your coast is clear—is she still hanging around?”

Snapping himself out of what looked like a trance, Buck blushed again—Eddie could get really used to that—and looked around, shaking his head. “No, I think she’s gone, um. Thanks again. And sorry. Again.” he said, their hands falling free again. Buck was the one to retreat this time, pointing a thumb over his shoulder. “I should, uh, probably go back and grab the dish set I had to ditch, but If you want my opinion, you should definitely go with the Flem.”

“Buck,” Eddie started, trying and failing to keep the smile off of his face and the laughter out of his voice as Buck turned away. “That was not an option!”

“Sorry, can’t hear you! Go with the Flem!”

In the end, Eddie had wound up buying both—Chris was turning ten, damn it, Eddie was allowed to treat him—and finished up ahead of schedule, swinging by the restaurant to make sure he had everything before he started the trek out to the parking garage. He was double checking his receipt when a tray clunked down across from him, two plates of meatballs sliding his way as his brows rose up into his hairline.

Buck sat down shortly after, looking incredibly too apologetic as he handed Eddie a fork. “Sorry, she kind of followed me away from the register, and I saw you here, and… I did promise you meatballs, right?” he offered, and Eddie actually laughed, resting his head in his hand as he took the fork Buck offered, raising a meatball to Buck’s lips to help keep up posterity—and immediately stealing one from Buck’s plate for himself afterward. “So, Buck. What do you do when you’re not hiding in fake bamboo?”

It was incredibly easy to talk to Buck, Eddie found, dangerously easy. They had a fair amount in common, turned out—both had older sisters, Buck with one while Eddie had three, both spent a good amount of time at the gym when they weren’t at home, and Buck had spent some time with the SEALs while Eddie was in the Army.

They even worked together, in a sense—Buck was a firefighter with the 118 while Eddie was a paramedic with Station 6.

“…though I promise, I did not come to IKEA to enlist the help of a handsome paramedic in avoiding an ex girlfriend that literally might be Satan in disguise. I just needed some art to cover a drill hole in my wall before my landlord kills me.”

Eddie almost swallowed his fork, feeling a certain thrill build up inside of him—Buck was flirting. Flirting with Eddie! Eddie hadn’t been flirted with in an age and a half, but as much as he wanted it to continue, he knew that it would be unfair for him to let it continue without addressing the childs-bunk-bed-sized elephant in the room. “Well, much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t come to IKEA today to help a firefighter run away from Satan either. I’m here today buying some furniture for my kid. It’s his birthday next week.”

Eddie squared his jaw, watching Buck process the information, ready for the easy let down. “You have a son?”

Here it comes. Oh, well it was nice meeting you. Oh, well thanks again. Oh, enjoy your day, Oh—

“Do, um. Do you have pictures of him? I love kids.”

… oh.

Any hesitation Eddie might have felt melted way as he brought his phone back up, easily scrolling through endless pictures of Chris, paying painful attention to the way Buck’s eyes grew wider than his smile.

Oh, no.

Buck wasn’t just hot, he was cute.

Eddie had to admit; after Buck helped him load the furniture into the bed of his truck, true to his word, and Eddie had scribbled his number out on Buck’s hand with a hot pink marker (the hazards of sharing a vehicle with a kid), he wasn’t sure what he should be expecting. What he definitely wasn’t expecting was a message to be waiting on his phone as soon as he started his truck.

Unknown Number, 11:01 AM: so maybe i have a confession to make

Sent, 11:03 AM: Maybe?

Eddie couldn’t deny the spike of curiosity he felt with that, taking a moment to save Buck’s number in his phone as the three dots appeared again.

Buck, 11:05 AM: yes, maybe. taylor maybe actually left when you pulled me out of the plants

i didn’t see her again for the rest of the day

i was just kind of… being self indulgent after that

wow this sounds way creepier than i thought i am so sorry

Literally laughing out loud in his car, Eddie let himself reread the message twice, a smile growing on his face as he typed out a response.

Sent, 11:09 AM: Tell you what. You help me build these monstrosities, maybe bring over a beer, maybe let me kiss you goodnight, and I promise I won’t hold your awkward flirting against you.

He felt another thrill race through his stomach as he sent the message, putting his truck in gear, not trusting himself to look down as his phone buzzed again until he was safely at a stop light.

Buck, 11:11 AM: it’s a date :) :) :) :)