Buck was tired. He was physically and emotionally exhausted, the short amount of time they had spent in Texas draining him of all his energy. He slumped in his seat on the firetruck, intent on sleeping through as much of the drive back as possible until it was his turn to drive. From the corner of his eye, he saw Eddie wave goodbye to the 126, a wide grin on his face, before the dark-haired man climbed into the truck and slumped into the seat facing his.
“Those guys are so fun! They were great to work with.” Eddie said cheerfully.
Buck hummed non-committedly, resting his head against the window as Hen took the first driving shift.
“What’s wrong? I thought you were getting on with TK and Mateo?”
“I did, they’re good guys. I’m just tired.” Buck replied dismissively, closing his eyes.
It was true, he was exhausted. He also didn’t miss how well Eddie had fit in with the members of the 126, and how quickly he had dismissed him, leaving Buck behind like an afterthought. He understood that his best friend was probably happy to be back in Texas, to work with his people, but it didn’t help the pang of hurt he had felt while watching Eddie and Marjan drive away with the rescue team. Buck didn’t mind staying behind to contain the fire, and he had enjoyed the time he spent working alongside TK and Mateo, but he still didn’t like being left behind, especially without having a say in it. He knew it was probably irrational, but a small part of him couldn’t help but feel like, after fitting in so well with the Texas crew, Eddie might consider moving back to his home state.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Eddie pushed.
“I’m fine, Eddie. Just let me sleep.” Buck replied, his tone harsher than he meant.
He was tired, he was hurt, and he didn’t know how to deal with it. He knew he was being a brat, but in that moment, he really didn’t care. He thought back to what Dr. Copeland had said about how he hid his true feelings from others, and though he had decided he was going to be more honest, Buck kept his mouth shut. He knew it was better for everyone if he didn’t cause a scene at the start of their 20h-drive.
Eddie didn’t reply, only giving him a puzzled look before taking his phone out of his pocket to play a game, trying to kill the time. In the seat facing him, Buck kept his eyes stubbornly closed, drifting in and out of a restless sleep for a few hours before he felt the truck slow down to a stop. He finally opened his eyes and took in the gas station where they were stopped. Eddie was fast asleep in his seat, his head dropped on his chest. Buck quietly got out of the truck, heading inside to grab a coffee and snacks before returning outside. He handed a pack of gummy worms to Hen, who squeezed his shoulder in a silent thanks, and a pack of licorice next to Eddie. How anyone could stand to eat that black thing, Buck never understood, but his best friend loved it, and even if he was mad at him, he couldn’t help getting him his favourite candy. Maybe that was something else to think about when it came to putting his feelings aside for others… Once everyone was back on the truck, Buck settled in the driver’s seat, focusing on the road for the next several hours. He knew everyone was eager to get back home, himself included.
He drove for nearly eight hours, sipping his coffee and chewing on Skittles, until Jack reached over from the passenger cabin, gesturing for him to pull over at the next rest stop so they could switch drivers. Eddie was awake when he slipped back into his seat, but the younger man stubbornly avoided looking at him, pulling out his phone to scroll mindlessly through social media. Lead settled at the bottom of his stomach when he saw that both Eddie and Marjan had posted a selfie on Instagram, the both of them smiling cheekily at the camera, and had tagged each other in their respective posts. Buck knew it was silly to be bothered by something so superficial as social media, and that he shouldn’t be jealous of Eddie having made other friends. Regardless, he couldn’t help the hurt he felt at being discarded so quickly, huffing as he locked his phone and put it back in his pocket. He ignored the nudge Eddie gave his ankle, instead choosing to pull out his earphones and staring out the window at the passing landscape.
As soon as the truck pulled in the station, Buck all but rushed out to the locker room, quickly his bag from his locker and heading to his jeep. He waved goodbye to Hen and the crew, not bothering to get changed before driving home. From the corner of his eye, he saw Eddie trying to approach him, but he maintained his trajectory, getting into his car and driving away before the dark-haired man could catch up to him. While it might appear immature of him, he was still angry and hurt, and he wanted to avoid saying things he didn’t mean. He could always be honest with him tomorrow, he told himself as he sluggishly showered and got into his own bed, letting sleep take over him.
When morning came and he dragged himself to the firehouse, however, Buck found he still lacked the words to approach Eddie. He hadn’t expected his hurt to still feel so fresh, but the sight of his best friend grinning at his phone left a sour feeling in his mouth.
“Who’s that you’re texting?” he asked despite himself. His tone was curt, though, and Eddie raised his eyes, a little taken aback.
“Uh… Marjan? We exchanged phone numbers before we left.”
Buck hummed, walking past him and downstairs to the gym where he got to work, having a go at the punching bag. If he wasn’t going to talk about it, he had to let his frustration out some other way. It didn’t take long for Eddie to join him, hovering near for a few moments before he cut in, interrupting Buck’s pummeling.
“Buck, what’s going on? Are you mad at me, or something?”
“Hmm, ‘or something’, yeah.” the younger man replied, wiping the sweat starting to pearl on his forehead. He was trying to be honest with Eddie, but old habits die hard and he was having trouble coming up with the words.
“What does that mean? So, you are mad at me?” Eddie pushed.
Buck let out a long sigh, running a nervous hand over his face.
“I don’t know how to explain it, Eddie. I-… I guess I’m hurt, that’s all.” he shrugged in an attempt at appearing casual.
“What? Why? What did I do?”
“You left me behind, Eddie. You didn’t even think about me the whole time we were in Texas. I get that you felt at home with the 126, and I’m not angry at you for making friends, but I don’t know… I guess I would’ve appreciated not being tossed to the side like an old sock, that’s all.” Buck sighed, hating how distraught his voice sounded to his own ears.
“Buck, come on, I didn’t mean anything by it. I overheard they needed a medic for the rescue team, and it- it just happened.”
“That’s the thing, Eddie. It just happened. You didn’t even think of me. And I know I shouldn’t expect you to, I’m not a child… But if I hadn’t bumped into you by chance before you left, I wouldn’t even have known where you gone. You were just going to leave without telling me. I know I probably sound really selfish right now, but I told myself I would be more honest with how I felt, so…” he added, shrugging again before crossing his arms over his chest.
“It’s not like you involved me in your little stunt to steal the firetruck with TK either. Which was reckless and stupid, might I point out.” Eddie retorqued, accusation harsh and icy.
“Oh, so I’m reckless and stupid now. Good to know. At least that’s an improvement on just reckless, I guess. Look, you weren’t around to be involved, Eddie. That’s why I did it alone.” Buck replied, feeling his anger boiling up in his chest.
“You could’ve died, Buck. Both of you. Thank God Marjan realized the two of you had sneaked off.”
“Yeah, thank God for Marjan…” the blonde mumbled angrily. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to finish working out before I say something I’ll regret.” he added, turning away.
“Oh, okay…” Eddie said, deflating. “Don’t bench without a spot.” he added softly as his friend walked away.
Hen came down to sit next to him on the couch after lunch. It was Eddie’s turn to evacuate frustration in the gym, and Buck was killing time on his phone, his mood still foul.
“Hey Buckaroo,” she greeted him. “I overheard you and Eddie earlier. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean too, but you weren’t exactly quiet.”
“It’s alright, Hen. No harm done.” Buck replied dismissively.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked softly.
“Not really. There isn’t much to say. I meant what I told him and that’s that.”
“He can be really stubborn sometimes, but I’m sure he’ll come around.”
“What’s the use of being honest about how I feel if it just makes everything more complicated?” Buck then asked pensively. “I mean, maybe I wasn’t exactly happy before, but things were simple and everyone else was fine.”
“You’re allowed to put yourself first sometimes, Buck. You deserve to be happy too, you know. And, for what it’s worth, I think you’re right about this. I’m on your side.” Hen replied, rubbing her teammate’s shoulder comfortingly.
“You don’t think I’m being selfish? Or immature?” Buck asked, the insecurity clear in his voice.
“Not at all. Eddie was dismissive, and you’re absolutely allowed to feel hurt by it. I'm proud of you for telling him how you feel. That was very brave of you. I do agree your plan to steal a firetruck was a little reckless, but between us, I think he’s just jealous he didn’t think about it first.”
Buck scoffed at that. “Eddie couldn’t do anything that remotely involves disobeying the chain of command, Hen. You know that.”
“Yeah you’re right about that. Oh! Maybe he was jealous of you and TK? That boy sure was easy on the eyes.” she suggested, nudging his ribs with a teasing elbow.
“Nah… you saw him and Marjan. Thick as thieves, those two…” he sighed.
“Don’t read too much into that, Buckaroo… I’m sure there’s nothing to it. Give him some time, he’ll come right back to you.”
Yeah, until someone else better comes around and he dismisses me again, Buck thought, but chose not to voice it. He only hummed instead, Hen pulling him into a comforting hug.
“Thanks, Hen. You’re the best.” he smiled at her, letting himself bask in her embrace for a moment.
“Hey, are you coming over for movies tonight?” Eddie asked casually in the locker room after shift ended.
Buck took a deep breath, letting it out slowly before answering, “Uh, not tonight.”
“Are you still mad at me?” the dark-haired man asked, dumbfounded.
“I need space, Eddie.” he said simply, grabbing his bag before exiting the room.
“What’s up with him?” Eddie let out, confused by his friend’s behaviour.
“You might want to try apologizing to him. You know, before inviting him over like nothing happened.” Hen replied from across the room.
“But I don’t understand, nothing happened…”
“Think it over, Eddie. Buck’s not in the wrong here.” she added, clapping him on the shoulder as she walked past him, leaving the firehouse.
The following morning, Buck found himself ambushed as soon as he walked in the station, a very determined Eddie grabbing him by the arm to drag him to the bunk room.
“If manhandling me is your way of apologizing, you might want to try something else.” Buck said, trying to keep his tone as neutral as he could.
“Here, uh… I got you one of those fancy frappucinos you like.” Eddie said, thrusting a plastic cup into his hands. “Kind of like a peace offering, I guess.”
“A peace offering. How magnanimous of you…” the younger man replied, raising an unimpressed eyebrow.
“That-… that’s not what I meant to say… I’m sorry Buck. Really.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I left you behind when we got to Texas. I should’ve been more present, and I shouldn’t have dismissed you like that. And you’re not stupid, far from it. I’m sorry I said that, our plan was good, you guys were just a bit short-handed. I didn’t mean to make you feel left out, and I’m sorry I did.” Eddie said sheepishly.
He did look like he meant his apology though, so Buck relaxed his posture a little, letting himself give him a small smile.
“It’s okay Eds, I forgive you.”
The older man pulled him into a one-armed hug, his touch lingering on Buck’s back and shoulder for a moment before he pulled away with a grin on his face.
“Just… maybe don’t do it again?” the blonde asked softly, looking almost bashful at the request.
“I promise.” Eddie declared. “Did the frappucino help?” he added.
“It was a crucial part of the apology. I have to admit, I’m not sure I’d have forgiven you without it.” Buck replied cheekily, jumping back into their usual banter without missing a beat.
Maybe being honest wasn’t so bad after all, he thought, the feel of Eddie’s arm around his shoulder tingling against his skin as he sipped on his drink.
Despite the apology and their routine going back to normal, Buck couldn’t help the hint of self-doubt and jealousy he felt seeing Eddie glued to his phone. The older man seemed to be keeping a steady exchange of text message, pictures, and video calls with not only Marjan, but the other members of the 126. Buck happily joined in when offered, himself having kept in touch with Mateo and TK, but he had to admit that the relationship Eddie had with them seemed effortless. So, he hung back from the group calls and messages, only maintaining his own private text chains. He was scared, terrified even, that Eddie would realize he missed Texas enough to move back over there, that his new relationship with the 126 would take him away from LA and out of Buck’s life. He knew it was irrational, but the seed of doubt had been planted.
He was deep in thought as he entered the lounge, waving absentmindedly to Chimney and Hen, before grabbing a slice of some sort of breakfast bread Bobby had made and joining them on the couch. He munched on distractedly, coughing a little to clear the slight tightness he was starting to feel in his throat. Not too bothered, he ignored it, finishing his slice of bread – he thought it was banana bread, with something else in there – before grabbing a water bottle from the fridge.
The coolness of the liquid soothed his throat momentarily but seemed to do little to get rid of the tightness. He coughed loudly, trying to clear his airways, but it only got worse, his breathing coming out wheezing and his tongue suddenly feeling heavy in his mouth.
“Buck, are you alright? Don’t go all COVID cough on us.” Chimney called from the sofa.
“I’m okay…” Buck croaked out, or at least tried to.
Seeing how quickly Hen rushed to his side, he hadn’t done a very good job of reassuring his teammates. But that didn’t matter now, as he felt dizzy, breathing becoming more and more difficult while his vision blurred as well.
“Eddie! Grab an EpiPen from the ambulance!” Chimney shouted at the dark-haired man who had been restocking the vehicle.
“What’s going on?” he inquired, grabbing the medicine, and heading upstairs.
“Buck’s having an allergic reaction. Hurry, he’s in anaphylaxis!” Hen explained.
She and Chimney quickly got him lying on his side on the ground, Eddie rushing to them with the EpiPen. The last thing Buck saw before losing consciousness was the fear in his partner’s eyes, feeling a warm firmly clasping his as his eyes rolled back, the world going dark.
He awoke slowly to the sound of beeping machine and stark white walls, the smell of disinfectant omnipresent in the air. He opened his eyes, scanning around the room. He was alone, great. The one thing he hated more than hospitals was waking up in the hospital alone. Buck quickly squashed down the disappointment, reminding himself that it was for everyone’s safety, and that the pandemic after many people much more than him, people who died alone, away from their loved ones.
“Oh, you’re awake, that’s good.” a middle-aged nurse greeted him from behind her mask and visor as she walked into the room.
“What happened?” he croaked, his mouth and throat dry.
He reached over to the bedside table for a glass of water, sipping slowly through the straw.
“You had an allergic reaction and went into anaphylactic shock. Lucky you were surrounded with paramedics.” she replied.
“But I’m not allergic to anything.” Buck protested.
“It looks like you are, sweetheart.”
“When can I go home?” he asked, eager to get out of there.
“Because your reaction was pretty severe, the doctor wants to keep you under observation for 72h to make sure you don’t have a second reaction.” the nurse explained.
“Seriously. Now, try to remember what you ate, see if there’s something in there that might’ve triggered a reaction. I’ll be back in a bit.” she added before leaving the room.
Buck thought back on what he had eaten during the day, remembering the banana bread Bobby had made. It had been delicious, and he knew he wasn’t allergic to bananas, but he couldn’t see what else it could be. He’d have to ask Bobby about the ingredients. He looked around the room again, scanning his surroundings and hands hitching for something to do. He didn’t have his phone, he realized suddenly. He had left it on the coffee table in the lounge at the firehouse. Welp, this was going to be a long 72 hours…
Eddie was restless. He had worked out, cleaned the truck, restocked the ambulance, and refolded the firehose twice. Nothing seemed to calm him down, and he was now pacing the length of the truck bay, running a hand through his hair periodically for the sake of keeping them occupied with something.
He hated that Buck was in the hospital. Again. And for something as silly as an allergic reaction too. He had been disappointed when Hen had told him the doctor wanted to keep him for 72h to monitor him and avoid biphasic anaphylaxis, but now he was plain pissed about it. He knew it was for Buck’s safety, but he also knew his best friend hated being in the hospital, especially alone.
He would be lying if he said he hadn’t noticed how distant Buck had gotten lately, leaving the room every time Eddie got a phone call, which was something he hadn’t done before. If he though back on it, Eddie realized it had started shortly after their trip to Texas. The dark-haired man had felt drawn to the crew members from the 126 and had kept in contact with them, exchanging messages or calls nearly every day. At first, he had suspected Buck was jealous of it, but he knew the younger firefighter had also stayed in touch with TK and Mateo, so he couldn’t pinpoint why Buck seemed to be distancing himself.
He kept glancing at his phone, hoping it would ring with a call from his best friend, before remembering Buck had left his phone here at the station. Letting out a defeated sigh, Eddie sat down on the now-pristine firetruck, not knowing what to do with himself. He was rescued from his thoughts momentarily though, as the screen of his phone lit up with a Facetime call from his new Texas friend.
“Hey, Marwani.” he greeted her.
“Damn, Hollywood, you look terrible…” she let out, eyes wide in surprise.
“Buck’s in the hospital, he had an allergic reaction.” he confessed.
“He’s going to be okay, right?”
“Yeah, it’s just… the doctor’s keeping him under observation for like two more days… and he’s all alone in there.”
“Oh yeah, COVID protocols and everything… That sucks.”
“Yeah, and he hates hospitals. I just don’t like the thought of him alone there for so long. He doesn’t even have his phone.”
“Wow Diaz, you got it bad.” Marjan teased him, a knowing smirk on her face.
“What do you mean? He’s my best friend.”
“He’s more than that, I’ve seen the way you look at him.”
“And I’ve seen the way he looks at you!” TK’s voice called from the background.
Eddie groaned, running a hand over his face.
“Get in here, TK.” Marjan beckoned her friend to join her. “Help me talk some sense into Eddie.”
“It’s not like that between us, guys…” Eddie tried to protest.
“But you would like it to be?” the young woman asked perceptively.
“In a perfect world, yes.” Eddie admitted, surprised at how easily the confession came out.
“Then go for it, what’s stopping you?” TK questioned.
“He doesn’t feel the same way. He’s been distant since Texas. I know that was my fault at first, but I thought we had put that between us.”
“What did you go?”
“I was kind of jerk to him when we were down there with you guys. I mean, I just dismissed him and left him behind, basically.” he shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.
“You might have moved past it, but I know he hasn’t” TK let out. “He still feels like you’re replacing him.”
“How do you know that?” Marjan asked, incredulous.
“He told me last week. We talk.” the young man shrugged. “Look, Eddie, it might not be my place to tell you this, but I can’t stand Buck’s sad ranting anymore. He deserves better that to feel like he’s being tossed aside. Listen, he’s afraid you’re going to move back to Texas and leave him behind.” he confessed.
“That’s ridiculous, I have no intention of moving back to Texas!” Eddie exclaimed.
“I never said it was rational.”
“How is it that he comes to you with those fear, and not to me?” he then asked softly.
“Maybe because the last time he was honest with you, you rejected his feelings instead of acknowledging you were wrong?” TK suggested.
“You’re an idiot, Eddie Diaz.” Marjan added.
“God, I fucked up so bad… How do I fix this?”
“Make it up to him. Show him how much he means to you. And for the love of God, talk to him. Tell him how you feel.” TK said.
“Who knows, you taking the first step might be just what he needs to tell you how he really feels.” Marjan added, a soft smile on her lips.
“Thanks guys. I really appreciate this.” Eddie thanked them.
“Let us know how it goes.” TK replied with a wink because ending the call.
Yeah, Eddie had a lot of work to do to make it up to Buck, but he was determined to show him how much he meant to him.
Buck waved Maddie goodbye from the curb as she drove away after dropping him off at his loft. She had offered to spend the evening with him, but he had declined the offer, sending her home to Chimney instead. Strangely, even after spending nearly 72 hours alone in a hospital room, he didn’t quite feel up for company. He just wanted a shower and his own bed.
Buck climbed up the stairs to his front door, frowning as he found it unlocked. He pushed it open, walking in cautiously, only to be greeted by a frazzled-looking Eddie running around in his kitchen, cooking supplies and ingredients seemingly covering every inch of his kitchen.
“Buck! Crap, you weren’t supposed to be home yet! Nothing’s ready.”
“I got discharged a little early. What-… what are you doing here?” Buck questioned, confusion painted across his face.
“I wanted to surprise you! Did they figure out what it was you reacted to?”
“Uh, yeah… Turns out Bobby had put pumpkin seeds in his banana bread.” the younger man replied, still confused at what exactly Eddie was doing. “What’s going on?”
“I’m making you dinner! Bobby’s lasagna, your favourite.” Eddie replied nervously, suddenly frozen in the middle of the kitchen, a sharp contrast to the whirlwind he had been not a moment ago.
“I wanted to do something nice for you. You deserve to be spoiled, and I know how bad hospital food can get…” the dark-haired man explained, a blush creeping up his neck and the tip of his ears.
“Uh… thank you, Eddie. That’s… that’s very thoughtful of you.” Buck thank him, still not quite understanding what had caused his friend’s big gesture.
“I, uh… there was also something else I wanted to talk to you about.” Eddie added, blush creeping higher.
“What is it?”
“I realize I’ve been kind of a lousy friend lately, and I wanted to apologize for that.”
“Eddie, you don’t need-”
“But I want to, Buck.” he cut off his protest. “When you told me how you felt about what happened in Texas, I was a jerk. I was defensive, condescending, and I said things I didn’t mean because you were right, and I was angry at myself. I just hadn’t realized it yet… And I’m so sorry for everything I said and all I made you feel, because it’s not my place to tell you what to feel. I’m sorry, Buck. I’ll never say it enough.”
“It’s okay, Eddie. I did forgive you long ago…”
“Sure, but it still stayed with you, and I ignored all the signs. I’m not moving back to Texas, Buck. I’ve got a great life here. Christopher is happy. I’m happy. And you such a huge part of that.” Eddie confessed.
It was now or never, he decided, finally setting down the wooden spoon he had been holding and stepping towards Buck to grab both his hands in his.
“When you collapsed the other day, I got so scared. Because it wasn’t during a call, I wasn’t expecting it. It was a stupid accident and I still could’ve lost you. Hen told me they were keeping you under observation and all I could think was how you were all alone in the hospital, and how much you hate that. I’m sorry I ever made you feel like you weren’t enough for me. You are, Evan. You’re all I could ever want.”
“Eddie… do you really mean it?” Buck asked, blue eyes wide and full of hope.
“Yes. Yes, I do.” Eddie replied, raising a hand to cradle Buck’s jaw and finally bring their lips together.
The kiss was soft at first, then turned more passionate, Eddie trying to convey the intensity of his feelings, through it, to make Buck understand that he meant everything to him. They pulled away several moments later, a little out of breath. Eddie smiled widely at the broad grin that broke out on Buck’s face, softly rubbing his birthmark.
“I never want to leave you behind.” he whispered.
This time, it was Buck that kissed him, his eyes a little misty as he pulled him impossibly closer, a hand snaking around his waist while the other one got lost in his hair.
The moment was broken by the smoke alarm suddenly blaring through the apartment, making them both jump in surprise. They looked around, seeing a thick smoke escaping from the oven, Eddie quickly taking the now-burnt lasagna out while Buck deactivated the alarm. Turning to each other, they shared a look before bursting out laughing, Eddie pulling the younger man close again.
“I’m sorry Buck… Your boyfriend’s a terrible cook.” he said lightheartedly.
“B-boyfriend?” the blonde asked, as if he didn’t dare hope it was a possibility.
“Yes, if you’ll have me.”
“Please.” Buck replied, pulling him close for a gentle kiss.
“I’m sorry I ruined dinner…” Eddie added with a sheepish smile.
“Don’t worry, I always keep one of Bobby’s lasagna in my freezer. No one has to know.” Buck answered with a teasing grin, Eddie kissing him deeply.
Turns out honesty was the way to go after all.