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Buck spends his Friday nights watching cartoons and drinking apple juice. He is a guy who can say that now.

 

Step aside, shameless flirting. Goodbye, mystery drinks from the redhead across the bar. Move along, questionable taste in bathroom hookups. There’s only one way to his heart now, and it looks a lot like the emotional finale of Monsters Inc.

 

Tiny hands shove a tissue into his lap, at the ready. And it’s like handing Buck the world, in the form of two-ply aloe-infused cotton. (The Diaz boys were worth the good stuff, dammit, and he wasn’t gonna risk scratchy red noses when it was his turn to go shopping and he could afford the extra two bucks, thank you.)

 

“It always ends the same, Buck.”

 

“I know,” Buck sniffles once, crinkles the tissue in his hand, “Doesn’t mean I can’t be upset about it.”

 

Chris giggles at his right, sinking into the seam of the couch, between the cushions, where he always insists on sitting even though that always ends the same too. He gingerly places a hand on Buck’s, steers the tissue towards his face for him.

 

“Thanks, kid.”

 

“Welcome.”

 

“Tell me this,” Buck leans over, his shoulder bumping the boy’s head and a glint in his eyes, “How come you never get that excited when I come to your room, huh?”

 

It makes Christopher laugh again, “Because you just come to tell me to put away my toys,” Chris whispers conspiratorially, “So dad doesn’t get mad at you for letting me stay up extra late again.”

 

“The lies! The deceit!” Buck flops his head on the back of the couch, groaning in dramatics to supply Chris with another laugh, while the credits hum softly on the TV in front of them, “Just for that, I think we have to go to bed right… now!”

 

Chris squeals in delight when Buck makes a show of falling over on his side, the boy now trapped under Buck’s spontaneously “sleeping form”.

 

“You’re snoring!”

 

“Can’t hear you,” Buck sing-songs, punctuates it with another loud faux-snore, “I’m sleeping.”

 

No, Buck!” Chris whines, but there’s no real urgency to it, the boy’s free arm tapping lightly at his shoulder, “We didn’t even have dinner yet!”

 

“Exactly,” Buck peeks one eye open, ignoring his act in favor of conspiring with Chris, “If we pretend to sleep through dinner, we won’t have to pretend we like your dad’s casserole.”

 

And Buck thinks maybe, if he could only hear one sound for the rest of his life, that would be his choice. Christopher’s effortless bubble of laughter. The way it fills any room they’re in, no matter how big, how small, how many people are there to hear it. Buck always finds it and clings to it, commits himself to making sure that kid laughs as many times a day as possible, that he never has any reason not to. It twists at something burrowed deep in Buck’s heart, but he’s never really settled on it long enough to really understand it. Just that it makes him happy.

 

This makes him happy. Animated movies and stepping on Legos that hurt for three days on his socked feet after he steps on them. Picture books and 8pm bedtime. As a twenty-eight-year-old, good-looking single guy. On a Friday night.

 

It’s become routine, he’s not sure when, but it has, to come here instead of going home on a Friday night. Be it after work or errands or dinner with Maddie. He’s always wanted at the Diaz house, and Buck’s not going to say that isn’t the most wonderful feeling in the world. Second maybe only to that laugh.

 

“Dad would be a good monster scarer.”

 

“You think so?” Buck quirks an eyebrow up, props an elbow on the top of the couch, half-sitting up as he looks down at Christopher still being swallowed by couch cushions.

 

“His casserole is very scary.”

 

Buck’s lips pop open into a comically perfect ’o’ shape, and the boy relishes in the success of his joke. Going to be the death of him this kid. But probably, Buck thinks, beats any alternative.

 

“Shh, shh, shh…” Buck shushes Christopher as much as himself, his every breath laced with laughter, “He’s gonna hear us!”

 

“Already did,” another voice enters their delighted bubble, “I’d say you can’t eat my dinner but that doesn’t sound like a punishment.”

 

“Buck said he’d order pizza, daddy!”

 

“He did?” Buck asks, confused, while he looks down at Christopher who is nodding furiously. He chances a tentative glance back at his best friend, who’s taken to leaning at the entryway, arms crossed, “He did. Buck did say he’d get pizza.”

 

“Daddy’s favorite!”

 

“Of course,” Buck scoffs, like there was any alternative, “I’ll clean up too.”

 

“What a stand-up guy,” Eddie hums, clearly amused.

 

“He’s laying down, dad,” Chris says, because, duh, Buck can’t be a stand-up guy when he’s sprawled across their couch, pretending to snore.

 

“I see that,” Eddie makes this adorable little laugh-sigh sound that Buck’s got committed to memory, because he knows that means no matter where he is or what he’s doing, Eddie’s about ten minutes from passing the fuck out.

 

This has become routine too, observing his best friend, in more ways than just seeing him or noting his presence. Buck catalogues his movements, his quirks, his quick changes and moods. Knows which kind of creases on his forehead are from worry and laughter, how his smile quirks up on the right when he’s trying to hold it back, knows what he does with his hands when he’s nervous, how he pushes his hair back when he’s embarrassed.

 

Somewhere along the line, Buck’s Friday nights changed, but his attention to the occupant of his Friday night has been consistent, fulfilling.

 

So he knows from that little sound, at six-thirty on a Friday night in the Diaz living room, that Eddie is tired. And he’s going to fall asleep.

 

“You should join us,” Buck smiles, before stretching himself out even further on the couch, his long limbs hanging off both ends of the couch, Christopher nestled into his side, “There’s plenty of room.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

Buck watches as Eddie gets caught up in the joy of his son’s laughter, too. And he wants. He wants so badly.

 

He pushes his selfish thoughts away in favor of indulging the kid at his side again, reaching comically over his head for the remote and his wallet, for a promised second movie in their Pixar double feature, and newly promised pizza.

 

Eddie’s shoulders slump in on themselves the minute he leaves the propped stance of the doorframe, wanders aimlessly into the room and sighs again, louder this time, as he bends to sit on the floor between the couch and the coffee table, by the side on Buck’s feet.

 

“You wanna pick the movie, dad?”

 

“Oh, the perks of overhearing your son trash you cooking,” Eddie hums, drops his ear to his shoulder with one forearm on the couch behind him, “What’d you guys just finish?”

 

Monsters Inc.”

 

“Ooh, you made Buck cry?”

 

“I did not—”

 

“He only used one tissue this time.”

 

“Impressive,” Eddie laughs quietly, his eyes trained on Buck’s outraged face.

 

“You know, I am like Sully right now, the super cool best friend,” Buck jostles Chris and the couch cushions as he turns onto his side, “But I could very easily become Randall if this betrayal doesn’t end immediately.”

 

“That make me the one-eyed green guy?” Eddie questions, and Buck can feel Christopher’s laughter vibrating on his chest.

 

“The one-eyed—oh my god, Chris, where did we get your dad from, huh?” Buck scoffs in mock offense.

 

“I dunno.”

 

“It’s Mike Wazowski, you disgrace to society, one-eyed green guy,” Buck mumbles, “And obviously that’s Chris, for me.”

 

I’m your best friend?”

 

“Sure, you are,” Buck ruffles Chris’s curls, “Plus, you’re a lot funnier than your dad, by miles.”

 

“I’m gonna make you boys eat the casserole,” Eddie says, punctuated with a long yawn, “Every last bite.”

 

Though Buck knows it’s a joke, Chris is absolutely horrified by the prospect, and all but pushes Buck off the couch to order them a pizza. Buck catches his weight before he goes splat on where Eddie has made himself comfortable, nestled into himself on the floor. He swipes his palms over his jeans, tugs his phone out of his back pocket, and starts towards the kitchen, “Pick a good movie for when I get back, preferably one that won’t involve tissues at the end.”

 

Buck wanders into the relative quiet of their kitchen and dials the phone, makes a quick order that he knows by heart, the routine of their Fridays that Eddie decides he’s gonna cook. It’s strange, how such little things suddenly mean so much. He’s never thought twice about having a pizza order, resigned to mostly ordering a pie for himself nights alone he didn’t wanna cook just to sit in his lonely self-wallowing. But now he’s got a pizza order, for three people, that will be washed down with apple juice and laughter.

 

He expects to cringe at just how cheesy that feels to even think, but he really just wants an excuse to think it again.

 

Eddie looks up at him, from the other room, a light smile on his lips, as if to say, next Friday, you can think it again next Friday.

 

Buck tucks his phone away and all but skips back towards the couch.

 

“So, what’s the verdict, Diazes?” Buck claps his hands together, plopping himself backing his spot at Christopher’s side, “Do I need to replenish my tissue supply.”

 

“I picked Finding Nemo,” Chris happily throws the remote onto the table, assumes his sunken positions in the cushions at Buck’s side.

 

“Oh so you really wanna make me cry tonight, huh bud?” Buck throws an arm around the back of the couch, thinks about Chris’s smiling face on a fire truck against all odds. He kicks lightly at Eddie’s shoulder below them, to keep from crying before the movie even starts, “You still with us, Eddie?’

 

Eddie’s eyes drift closed, softly open just as quickly as they shut, seems to shake himself awake, “Yup, yup, lets do it.”

 

He doesn’t look like he’ll make it past the opening credits.

 

They’re coming off a 12-hour shift, which is almost always pretty awful, but Buck knows where he can sleep up until the ten-minutes before their oddly-timed shift starts, Eddie’s usually up, running around with Chris. Poor guy has put in a full day’s work before he even clocks in.

 

So when they’re changing out of their uniforms at the end of the day, everyone’s tired, but Buck takes to noticing Eddie’s set of tiredness more acutely, follows it until they get home, sitting here, his chain of sleep ticking off with that half-sigh in the doorway.

 

Buck loves watching Chris laugh, hearing it ring around the room and practically beg the sunshine to last a few minutes longer. But with Eddie, Buck’s favorite thing is watching him fall asleep.

 

Which sounds infinitely weird, he knows, but it’s not like that. Never been like that, not with him and Eddie. It’s creepy when you’re on the outside looking in, but Buck has been in, apart, wanted for a long time here.

 

Eddie never slows down. Not at home, not in his work, not in parenting. Buck gets the reputation, the boisterous and loud foil to Eddie’s cool, calm, and collected. But cool, calm, and collected is also busy as shit, and never relaxes.

 

But when Eddie looks at Buck, eyes half-lidded and a quiet stream of yawns, Buck knows, has physical and tangible proof, that Eddie is finally relaxing.

 

Maybe it’s selfish, and self-indulgent and shaped out of some fantasy life Buck imagines for himself. But knowing Eddie finds comfort in him, can relax with him? He’s not sure how to describe it.

 

So he doesn’t, try to describe it, that is, just knows that this is one of his favorite parts of Friday nights too. He used to look to sleep with random people in sketchy bar bathrooms. Now all he wants to do is take the weight of the world off his best friend for an hour or two, and let him sleep.

 

“Buck and I love Dory!”

 

“Yeah? I like Nemo’s dad, super cool,” Eddie’s voice is sleepy, relaxed, and he’s not fighting it as he sinks his head into the cushions by Buck’s knees, “And the sharks. Don’t crucify me for forgetting their names right now, Mike Wazowski.”

 

“Wasn’t going to,” Buck laughs, subtly pushes a throw pillow behind Eddie’s head. If he notices, Eddie doesn’t mention it, just takes the new comfortable positioning, “Hey Chris, did your dad ever tell you about the time we saved a shark on the freeway?”

 

“A real live shark?”

 

Buck nods to Chris’s wildly delighted expression, tracks the way Eddie’s eyelids droop, even as he nods along in agreement with Buck as he tells Chris the story. Buck knows that’s the next stage, half-asleep and nodding off. And it’s a good day, Buck sees, long and tiring but good, because Eddie’s not fighting sleep off.

 

It’s a quiet way for Buck to know Eddie’s okay, to watch him sink into comfort, give in to it for a change.

 

“Maybe they’ll make a Disney movie about us,” Eddie hums, his eyes shut and his head rolled to the side, pressing up against Buck’s knee, “Wouldn’t that be exciting, Chris?”

 

“Long as we didn’t have to eat your dinner while we watched it,” the boy teases, and Buck is sure Eddie will fall asleep with that smile on his face.

 

They’ve missed a good part of the movie by now, but there have been enough Friday nights for Buck to know the story by heart, almost as well as he knows this is the feeling he’s been searching for, Eddie relaxed on his one side and Chris giggling on the other.

 

Chris is rambling about clown fish and jokes, Buck’s not too sure, just that he absently remembers to nod and laugh in the right places. He’s too focused on watching Eddie’s breathing even out, his chest difficult to see at this angle, where he sits behind the coffee table, but still visible, tangible to Buck.

 

This is new, this part of the routine. Started a handful of months back, after the well. It’s the one part of the thing Buck knows is selfish, is just for him. Eddie’s here, he’s here and he’s safe and he knows it. Every inhale is a reminder, every exhale a reassurance.

 

He loses count only once the whole time, to scurry up and out to the front door, grab their pizza and some dishes and stifle Chris’s laugh every time one of them almost drops sauce on the couch cushions.

 

Chris laughs at every lame fish joke, Eddie sleeps through the entire movie, and Buck thanks whatever powers that may be that flipped his Friday nights around so wonderfully.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

This was weird. It’s weird, right? No, it’s not— yeah, no it’s totally weird.

 

Eddie will just, gently place the mug back on the counter, tongue peeking out the corner of his lip in concentration. Or better yet, he pulls the mug back up just seconds before setting it down, turns on his heels, and all but tip-toes around the counter towards the sink. He’ll get rid of it all together. Hide the evidence, as Buck always fails to do when he and Chris bake something sugary and sweet and hope Eddie won’t notice when he gets home.

 

The mug is warm on his fingertips, and comforting in a way, but no one’s ever liked Eddie’s coffee, he reasons, and he doesn’t think waking his best friend up with it at the end of a 24-hour shift will be the first time for it.

 

He stares down at the sink, hand hovering above the faucet. Is this weird, or is he overthinking it? Will getting Bobby mad that he dumped bad coffee down his sink drain outweigh the crippling paranoia he feels at the prospect of handing this mug of coffee that no one asked for to Buck when he opens his eyes? Is it worth it?

 

Eddie holds the coffee, turns from the sink, tries to get out of his own head.

 

He fails. Spectacularly.

 

Their shift had drifted to a steady lull about an hour before it was set to end, and the team had found themselves scattered around the loft, milling about quietly. Which was fine, all good, welcomed even, after one hell of a shift. But when time was running out and 20 minutes to shift change found Hen and Chim downstairs and Buck asleep on the couch, Eddie is left to his own devices. Devices being obsessive overthinking.

 

Bobby had let them all off as the next crew piled in, and Eddie had nodded along with Hen and Chimney, but felt rooted in place when they scurried downstairs and Buck didn’t budge, snoring peacefully, curled in on himself. He’d drifted off almost the second they had all come upstairs, put something mindless on the TV. Eddie hadn’t even thought twice about it until now, and now he can’t stop thinking about it.

 

Realistically, Eddie knows he could have woken him up. Or left him there. Wrote a note. Sent a text. Nudged him awake and invited him home to sleep on his couch because he knows it’s better than this one. There’s a lot of options on the table.

 

But Eddie’s alone and he’s thinking and he needs to be constantly busy, constantly doing something, and the only thing he can do that won’t burn the kitchen down is make coffee. Coffee for Buck. Coffee he was holding in his hands, to give to Buck, once he woke up from the only sleep Eddie has seen Buck get since they started their shift (like Eddie was ever gonna wake the guy up from that, all options considered.)

 

He slumps back against the kitchen counter. Shift is over in 4 minutes.

 

He wishes there were a manual on this, a book, something he could read that points him to the signs, tells him what he’s doing wrong and right here. Is it weird to wait at work for your best friend? Is it weird to do it with coffee you made him? Is it weird to want him to come home with you and finish his nap on your own couch?

 

He’s thinking there are a lot of yes answers in there. But he’s probably going to follow through on them all anyway.

 

Some members of the next shift come up the stairs, Eddie waves hello and looks up at the clock, decides it’s probably best to do something.

 

Buck must subconsciously take pity on him, Eddie notes, as he shifts slightly on the couch, one arm flopping down off the side and his eyes opening and immediately squinting shut. Even asleep the guy always knows exactly what Eddie needs.

 

His heart flips in on itself at the thought.

 

Eddie isn’t sure when he picked up on it, but somewhere things in his friendship with Buck got so intense that even things as mundane as waking up revolved around the blonde. It should scare Eddie, but it doesn’t. For the first time in a while he likes intense, craves it, wishes it were more.

 

“Good morning,” Buck’s voice is low and gravelly, just coming out of sleep, his eyes still shut as he stretches in place.

 

“Morning,” Eddie concedes, though it’s three in the afternoon. He doesn’t feel like correcting that sleepy little smile.

 

“Everyone leave?” Buck rolls onto his back, but keeps his right cheek pressed into the cushion, so he can peer up at Eddie, “What time is it?”

 

“Time to go home,” Eddie supplies, crossing the distance to the couch and squatting down by the side of the couch, “Shift’s about to end, c’mon.”

 

“Five more minutes,” Buck whines, sleepily, curling in on himself, which amuses Eddie more than it should.

 

Five more minutes until the next shift is gonna kick you off their couch,” Eddie huffs, forgetting his mug of poorly made coffee and patting Buck’s shoulder, “Let’s go, sleepyhead.”

 

“You won’t kick me off your couch, right?”

 

“Right,” Eddie melts at Buck’s sleep-ridden tone, the way his lashes flutter as he blinks back into the world of the waking, “I made you coffee, if you want it. Can take it home with us.”

 

You made me coffee?”

 

“Say it like that and I’ll never do anything nice for you ever again.”

 

Buck swats blindly at Eddie’s chest, “Hen always makes end of shift coffee and you know it.”

 

“Well Hen’s not here, so, you’re gonna have to settle,” and Eddie confirms, yes, it was weird. He slides the mug off the coffee table and into his hands, tries to run away and overthink some more, keep his hands busy with the handle of the mug, the cuff of his uniform sleeve, anything, but Buck stops him, a gentle hand on his wrist.

 

“Where’s Hen?”

 

“Went home,” Eddie shifts on his feet, still ducked on his toes in front of the couch as Buck slowly sits upright, “Slow end of the day so, Bobby let us off a little early.”

 

“But you’re still here?”

 

“Chim left too before you ask why he wasn’t an option to make you coffee either,” Eddie brushes it off, avoids Buck’s gaze.

 

“You stayed,” Buck pieces together, slowly, “To make me coffee?”

 

“Well, I could always use the practice,” Eddie tries to joke, but it comes out as more of a strained laugh, “You’ll usually play along.”

 

“Even if you’re trying to poison me.”

 

Eddie bites at his bottom hip to keep from disrupting the quiet peace of the loft with his embarrassingly smitten laugh. Even teasing him, Buck always looks at Eddie like he’s the most wonderful thing, like doesn’t want to look away, ever. It’s a lot to adjust to. And Eddie’s not the one who just woke up.

 

“You don’t have to drink it, I just got bored and it was the first thing I thought to do,” Eddie admits, quietly, to himself as much as Buck, “I really just didn’t want you to wake up alone.”

 

It stuns his best friend into silence, which isn’t rare. But Eddie knows all of Buck’s silences. The plotting with Christopher silence, the guilt silence, the too-hard on himself silence, the keeping something a secret that’s so difficult to keep he’s two breaths away from spoiling the whole damn surprise party silence, the stuck in his head silence.

 

But this one, is new. Eddie isn’t sure he’s ever been on the receiving end of it before. He promises himself to spur it on more, so he gets the chance to figure it out.

 

“That’s— you didn’t have to—” Buck stutters, sleep escaping him more rapidly now, as he sits upright, eyes boring into Eddie’s.

 

“I know I didn’t,” Eddie shrugs, “Just did.” Because what other explanation can he give, really?

 

If you were to ask Eddie, he might tell you he’s been alone a lot of his life. Single father, broken marriage, overseas. But it’s not the same kind of alone Buck will tell you he is. Eddie can’t count all his family on his hands and feet if he tried, Buck only ever talks about one. Eddie goes home to Chris, his abuela and aunt and knows no matter how ill-intentioned, his mother and father are only one phone call away. Buck lives alone, the only family besides his sister that Eddie knows of on another coast.

 

Eddie leaves. Buck gets left.

 

And it’s not really anything, in the grand scheme of things, to think Eddie can single-handedly make up for that, can replace the years of being alone for his friend. But he likes sticking around when he can, being someone who stays, someone Buck can wake up to.

 

It probably does more for his own heart than Buck’s, but still. That smile when he does, when he blinks awake and sees Eddie waiting for him, makes every shred of sheer embarrassment that he’s got a life-consuming crush on his best friend worth it. He’ll keep doing it.

 

“‘Preciate it, man,” Buck nods once, “And I’m not talking about the coffee.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Eddie tucks his chin as he stands, trying to hide the smile that breaks out, “You want me to drop you off at home? Don’t need you falling asleep at the wheel.”

 

“Nah, I’m good, thanks though,” Buck hums, claps Eddie twice on the shoulder while he stands up, shaking out the last bits of sleep with a stretch, “Actually, you wanna grab some coffee? There’s this cool place I’ve been meaning to try, but Maddie won’t come with me, they call it alien brew.”

 

“Alien— what?”

 

“C’mon, I play along, now you play along, that’s what we do,” Buck sways side to side on his feet playfully, already backing out towards the stairs, “Let me buy you weird flavored coffee.”

 

“I’m just saying, if you wanted caffeine that tastes like it’s from another planet you could have just had mine,” Eddie narrows his eyes at his friend, feels like his heart rappels down the side of a cliff when he smiles back at him.

 

“I’ll send you the address,” Buck points, before running down and out of Eddie’s sight.

 

Eddie bites back something cheesy and emotional, turns on his heels, and washes out his mug of poorly brewed coffee with soap, water, and a little hopeless romanticism.