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I Didn't Know I Was Lonely 'Til I Saw Your Face

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There is an upsettingly hot guy in the lobby of the therapist’s office.

Historically, Buck has not done well with therapists – or, well, things have gone terribly for him with therapists in general. But after the ladder truck and then his blood clots and then getting caught in a damn tsunami and spending the entire day trying to get a lost kid to safety, Bobby had insisted it was a good idea. Before Buck did something stupid like quit his job or lash out at the people who loved him.

“Just, maybe, don’t sleep with your therapist this time,” Chim had recommended, prompting Maddie to do a spit take.

“Don’t what?” she’d demanded, and the rest of that particular Buffriday had been devoted to Buck trying to avoid answering his sister’s questions about his Buck 1.0 phase.

And now he’s in the therapist’s office and the therapist is at least one client behind in the daily schedule. And there is an upsettingly hot guy sitting across the waiting room from Buck. Unlike Buck, he does not have his phone out and hasn’t gone for one of the months old magazines on the coffee table. He’s got his arms folded and is having a staring match with a piece of carpet by Buck’s shoes. His Henley sleeves are pushed up to his elbows to show off some very nicely muscled forearms and a grotesquely impressive bruise that seems to originate at his elbow.

Buck checks his watch and then the clock on his phone and the time on his appointment – forty-five minutes overdue. He waits until the therapist is an hour late for his appointment before he breaks the silence.

“What happened to your elbow?”

Hot Guy looks down at his own arm and then twitches the sleeve of his shirt down to cover the red and purple mark. “Rough housing with my kid.”

Surreptitiously, Buck checks the guy’s left hand. Bare.

“Were you juggling hammers?” Buck asks.

Hot Guy stares at him for a beat and then turns to the receptionist. “Excuse me, do you know how much longer it’s gonna be?”

“I’m so sorry, I don’t,” the receptionist says. “There was an emergency session and a patient in crisis. If either of you would like to reschedule…”

Hot Guy and Buck say in unison, “My boss would kill me.”

The receptionist nods and gives them an apologetic smile and redirects her attention to her computer again.

“Where do you work that your boss would get mad at you?” Buck asks.

Hot Guy seems to debate whether or not he’s going to answer for a long time, and then finally, for lack of anything better to do, sighs. “I’m a firefighter.”

“No shit?” Buck says, laughing. “Evan Buckley, 118. Buck.”

Hot Guy stares at him for a second, disbelief plain on his face. Buck doesn’t think it’s because Buck doesn’t look like a firefighter, but rather because the coincidence is funny.

“Eddie Diaz, 136,” he says after a beat. “Just Eddie.”

“The 136?” Buck asks. “Were you on shift during the—”

“Yeah,” Eddie says. The bruises on his elbow can’t be leftover from the tsunami, it was too long ago, but Buck is pretty sure the entire 136 got caught up in it. After all, if they hadn’t, he wouldn’t have been able to shelter on top of their truck. “You?”

“No, I was, uh, I was on medical leave,” Buck says.

Something about that seems to trigger a memory for Eddie and he peers at Buck for a second like he’s finally taking in his face. “Wait, weren’t you the guy – with the serial bomber?”

Buck grimaces, but manages to nod.

Any other regrettable trips down memory lane are forestalled by a loud crashing noise from the therapist’s office and some shrieking and the receptionist running into the room. She comes back a second later, her face a mask of alarm, and clears her throat.

“Did I hear you both saying you were firefighters?” she asks.

Buck and Eddie jump to action.

Later, once the RA unit has taken the therapist away and the cops are still lingering around taking statements, Buck finds himself propping up a wall outside the office with Eddie. Both their vehicles are boxed in by the engine from the 122 and Athena’s squad car so they can’t exactly go anywhere. Now that their respective therapy sessions have been indefinitely delayed, Eddie is in a much better mood.

“I know it’s not quite therapy, but I’m starving,” Buck says. “Want to grab dinner?”

Eddie considers him for a second and then shrugs and agrees. “There’s a place across the street if we’re allowed to leave yet.”

“Hey, Athena!” Buck calls. “Can we go?”

“Yeah, you’re good, Buckaroo,” Athena calls back. “You coming over for the barbecue tomorrow?”

“Of course,” Buck promises. “See you then.”

She squeezes his shoulder on his way by, and Buck can feel Eddie’s eyes on him the whole way across the street to the brewpub.

“She’s married to my captain,” Buck explains after the hostess points them to a table.

Eddie nods like that doesn’t explain anything. “I’ve met Captain Cooper’s wife too, but she doesn’t exactly invite us around for barbecues.”

“The 118 is basically a family,” Buck says. “Couldn’t stand the idea of working at a different station, but part of the condition of my reinstatement is that I have to attend like ten therapy sessions somewhere. Apparently not here.”

“All because you got a ladder truck dropped on you?” Eddie asks while he stares at the menu.

“There were some…other…things,” Buck says. He clears his throat. “I might have almost died a couple times after that, too, and Bobby – my captain – was worried about my tendencies towards ‘reckless self-endangerment.’”

Eddie doesn’t break his eye-contact with the menu while he says, “I have, uh, anger issues, apparently. I have to do the ten sessions or get fired.”

“What did you do?” Buck asks. “Punch someone out on a call?”

“I, ah, I joined an underground fight club,” Eddie says.

Buck gets as far as, “why,” when the waitress shows up to take their orders.

When she leaves, Eddie still won’t quite meet Buck’s eye and he doesn’t explain himself – not that he owes Buck an explanation for any reason – until the waitress has brought their beers.

“In six months, my wife asked for a divorce, died literally the next day in a car accident, and then I got caught in the tsunami, which would’ve been fine, except my son also got caught in it and I couldn’t find him for twelve hours,” Eddie says. “The fact he’s completely fine is a goddamn miracle.”

“Jesus,” Buck says.

“Yeah,” Eddie agrees. “So I just kind of snapped, but I’m fine now, and don’t really need to be in therapy.”

Buck kind of doubts that last part is true, but he doesn’t know Eddie well enough to call him on it.

“The last time I tried to go to therapy, I slept with my therapist,” Buck says, although why he tells Eddie this, he cannot fathom.

Eddie, for his part, chokes on his beer. “I’m sorry, you did what?”

“I was going through a phase,” Buck says. “I’m not that guy anymore, but everyone on my shift was still giving me shit about it and being like ‘make sure you go to a dude therapist’ like that’s gonna prevent anything.”

Eddie raises his eyebrows slightly like he doesn’t get the connection.

“I’m bi,” Buck says, reasoning that this is LA and there’s pride flags hanging behind the bar so if he’s gonna come out to a stranger, he’s in a safe enough place to do it.

“I mean, so am I, but that’s not a reason to sleep with your therapist,” Eddie says.

Buck shrugs and leans back to make space for his plate when the waitress brings their food. He doesn’t listen to the gremlin in the back of his head that starts pointing out that Eddie is smoking hot, interested in men, and single.

“What I really need is, like, group therapy where there’s always someone else watching, but I don’t think they make group for ‘my boss is making me go’,” Buck says.

“A group of two,” Eddie says, shaking his head, amused.

“I think they call that couple’s therapy,” Buck replies.

Eddie considers that for a longer moment than Buck expected, and then laughs.

“What?” Buck asks, unable to stop himself from laughing too.

“I was just wondering how long it would take a therapist to figure out we weren’t actually a couple,” Eddie says.

“Or that we’re complete strangers,” Buck says.

“I bet we could make it like four sessions,” Eddie says like this is actually something he’s considering. “Of the required ten.”

Buck considers it for a second too. It is, frankly, insane as an idea, but on the other hand. On the other hand, Eddie seems like he might stop going if he doesn’t have someone dragging him before his ten sessions are up, and Buck would feel a hell of a lot more comfortable with a third person present and he’d rather air his issues in front of a stranger than, like, Maddie.

“I mean, hell, man, with your problems bottling shit up?” Buck says. “I think we’d make it at least six.”

Eddie gives him a mock offended look. “Maybe I wouldn’t have to bottle so much up if I wasn’t concerned that the wrong words would get you to throw yourself into danger.”

Buck gapes at him until the corner of Eddie’s mouth twitches and then they’re both laughing.

“This is a terrible idea,” Eddie says.

“I mean, it was yours, so…” Buck replies.

“Yeah, I’ve known you for like three hours and, somehow, I doubt your original ideas are much better,” Eddie says.

“Um, rude,” Buck says, but smiles anyway because Eddie’s cute and also not wrong.

Eddie laughs and Buck laughs too. He can’t really remember the last time he laughed this much.

The next thing he knows, they’re exchanging phone numbers and shift schedules and have found a different therapist to contact the next day.

“How was your first session?” Bobby asks when Buck gets to his house the next day for the barbecue.

“Postponed,” Buck says, falling into sous chef position. At the dining table, May is nearly tearing her hair out over homework and Harry has taken it upon himself to sit too close to her, chewing loudly on celery and carrot sticks.


“I didn’t postpone it!” Buck says, holding his hands up in appeasement and surrender. “There was a whole thing, ask Athena.”

“Why does Athena know what made you postpone your therapy session?” Bobby asks.

“She arrested the dude,” Buck says. “I’ve got a new appointment scheduled with a different therapist. It’s on Tuesday, I’m going. Promise.”

Bobby looks suspicious, but finally he nods. “Good.”

When Tuesday rolls around, Eddie picks him up from the loft so they can make a show of arriving together. They’ve both agreed to try and get as much proper therapy out of this as they can, rather than just messing with the dude for ten weeks because they have to go to therapy anyway so why not.

Unlike their previous attempts at therapy, when they arrive, the receptionist has them fill out the required intake paperwork and then immediately ushers them into the therapist’s office. When they’re told to take seats, they drop to the couch. Buck tries not to think too hard about the fact their shoulders and knees are touching, or the fact Eddie hasn’t bothered to shave and scruff really works on him in a way it never does on Buck, because blond facial hair is the devil.

It’s the most annoying part of being bi – never quite knowing if you admire someone’s look because you wish you could pull it off yourself, or because you want to pull off all their clothes and sleep with them.

In Eddie’s case, Buck is happy enough to settle on a firm, solid “both.”

“Alright, gentlemen, good morning,” their therapist says. “You both look pretty comfortable, so let’s just jump right in. What would you say your biggest problem in your relationship is?”

Without missing a beat, Buck and Eddie reply, “Communication.”

They spend most of the first session talking about the immediate problem that’s driven them to therapy – Eddie’s choice to join an underground fight club rather than talk about his problems.

After, they grab lunch together.

“Sorry we spent the whole session talking about me,” Eddie says while they wait in line for the food truck.

“Dude, no, you’re fine,” Buck says. “Besides, your problems are more crisis intervention than my slow burn.”

“Slow burn?” Eddie repeats, an amused quirk to his mouth that Buck really wants to kiss.

“Yeah, you know, one alarm,” Buck says. “Dishtowel on burner, hasn’t spread to the countertops yet.”

Eddie stares at him for a second. “I don’t think that’s true.”

“Well, we can hash it all out next week,” Buck replies.

Eddie snorts at that and they order their food.

Buck drives the following week, and when Eddie gets in the car, there’s a muscle twitching in his jaw that makes Buck nervous.

“What’s wrong?” Buck asks while they drive to the office.

“I honestly don’t know if I’m more pissed off at the company that was driving radioactive waste through downtown LA, or if it’s at you for being reckless again,” Eddie says.

“Me?” Buck replies, stunned. “Why would you be mad at me?”

“How long were you in that tunnel, Buck?” Eddie asks. “It was on the news – brave firefighters from the 118 risk their lives, whatever-whatever, I wasn’t listening to the details because Taylor Kelly’s voice annoys me, but—”

“You think her voice is annoying? Try getting left in a parking lot with your pants down,” Buck interrupts without thinking.

Eddie lets that sit for a second and then rounds on him in disbelief. “Why would you sleep with Taylor Kelly?”

Buck fumbles for an answer for long enough that by the time they get to the therapist’s office, they’re back to the radioactive tunnel and subsequent fallout.

Buck doesn’t quite understand what’s happening because he and Eddie aren’t in an actual relationship – friendship, sure, absolutely at this point, considering how often they text – but Eddie seems to be genuinely pissed off at him for having gone into the radioactive tunnel.

“Good morning, gentlem—” their therapist starts.

“He ran into a radioactive fallout zone,” Eddie starts. He stays standing while Buck sits on the couch. “With exactly zero consideration for what it would do to the people who care about him if he got, uh—”

“Aplastic anaemia,” Buck mumbles. “It’s what killed Marie Curie.”

Eddie gestures at him with an open palm and fixes their therapist with a look that says, see what I mean?

“Eddie, why don’t you sit down,” their therapist suggests. Eddie sits next to Buck on the couch, definitely close enough that their arms are plastered together, even though Eddie’s are folded. “Evan—”

“I wasn’t in the tunnel nearly as long as my captain,” Buck says. “The decontamination team didn’t even scrub me or send me to the hospital. I’m fine.”

“Is Eddie right? Did you consider how he or anyone else in your life might worry about you?”

“Um,” Buck says, and then to his horror, they spend the next hour discussing his parents.

Like they had last week, they grab lunch again and he can feel Eddie’s eyes on him the entire time they wait for their food.

“They weren’t that bad,” Buck says before Eddie can say anything.

Eddie hums an “mhm” and then says, “You remember the part where I was in the room the entire time, right?”

Buck sighs and collects their food from the truck window and leads the way to a picnic table. “I don’t think people with solid parents end up in therapy,” he says.

“Yeah, maybe not, but even though mine think I’m a fuckup, I’m aware they still love me in some fashion,” Eddie says. “They didn’t, like, abandon me without leaving the house and make it clear that the only way I was ever going to get their attention was to damage myself.”

Buck addresses his burrito when he replies, “You don’t have to pretend to care about me when we’re not in the office.”

“Pretend?” Eddie repeats, disbelief dripping from the word. “Buck, you’re my only friend.”

Buck blinks at that, sure he’s somehow misheard him. “What about the guys on your shift?”

“I mean, yeah, we’re friendly, but we don’t hang out,” Eddie says. “The one friend I did have got transferred to C shift and we’re not supposed to talk to each other anymore.”

“Why? Did they get you into fight club?”

“She did, yeah,” Eddie says. “Captain Cooper thought we were probably bad influences on each other, so he broke us up, but he also decided I was the one who needed more direct supervision so I kept my schedule.”

Buck nods, because he can see Bobby doing something like that. If Buck had friends.

“I, um, I don’t have other friends either,” he says. “I mean, kinda? There was another single guy on my shift, one of the paramedics, but I was always sort of his annoying kid brother who he tolerated rather than a, like, proper friend.”

“And you’re not that to him anymore?” Eddie asks, sounding a bit concerned.

“Oh, no, now it’s just extremely true and confirmed since he’s dating my sister,” Buck says, and Eddie almost gets soda out his nose laughing.

Buck is surprised when his Friday afternoon routine of video games, takeout, and trying to avoid downloading Tinder again is interrupted by a knock on the door. He knows Maddie and Chim are having date night as part of Chim’s birthday week celebrations, and no one else really turns up at his door.

Half of him expects it to be a police officer – surely, Athena would take over the duty herself – coming to tell him Maddie’s been in a terrible accident, but when he opens the door, it’s Eddie. Holding a six pack and a pizza.

“Uh, hi?” Buck says, stepping back to let him in.

“I was driving back from dropping Chris off for his overnight—”

“He’s doing that field trip at the Observatory, right?” Buck asks. Eddie had texted him about it earlier in the week.

“Yeah,” Eddie says, setting the beer and food on Buck’s counter. “I just, uh, I wasn’t sure spending a weekend night alone at my house was a good idea. Sorry for dropping by without texting or anything.”

“As you can see, you’ve clearly interrupted my extremely interesting and riveting Friday night plans,” Buck says.

Eddie smiles and looks towards Buck’s living room. His eyes catch on the game paused on the screen. “Chris loves that game. Kicks my ass every time we play.”

Buck laughs. “Getting your ass handed to you by a nine-year-old. Embarrassing.”

“Oh, he’d kick your ass too,” Eddie assures him, opening one of the beers he’s brought and offering it to Buck.

Buck grins. “I bet I could take you, at least.”

“Oh yeah?” Eddie replies. Raises his eyebrow at Buck in a clear challenge and takes a drink from his own beer. That part is less of a challenge than it seems to be a metaphor.

“You want to go for the title?” Buck asks, taking a step towards him.

Eddie laughs. “You’re gonna regret that.”

“I guess we’ll see,” Buck says.

As it happens, Buck does lose the game. Spectacularly. Repeatedly. He blames Eddie. Not because Eddie is better at the video game than he is – well, he is, but that’s not the problem. The problem is Eddie has as much personal space on Buck’s couch as he does on their therapist’s and Buck is too distracted by the buzzing that fills his skin at every point of contact between them. He’s too focused on keeping himself from dropping the controller and tackling Eddie into the couch cushions to worry about how badly he’s losing.

Buck’s crush does not get better the following Tuesday when they spend the entire therapy session talking about Eddie’s time in Afghanistan and the subsequent traumas he’s been involved in since joining the LAFD – primarily losing a member of their house during the earthquake, on Eddie’s third shift, and then losing his son for twelve hours during the tsunami.

“But you found him, and he’s okay,” Buck reminds him when they get to lunch.

“That’s just it,” Eddie says. “I didn’t find him. Someone else had caught him when the first wave hit, after my entire shift got washed away, and I have no idea who he was.”

“What happened?” Buck asks.

“I ended up at the field hospital, eventually, and the guy who saved him handed him to me, and by the time I looked up, he’d vanished, so I never got to ask what happened to Chris and I never got to thank him, and…” Eddie trails off and Buck knows him well enough by now to know he thinks he failed as a father by not being the one to carry Chris out himself.

“Didn’t you have a serious concussion and broken ribs?” Buck asks.

“Yeah,” Eddie admits.

Buck tries not to think about the tsunami, generally. But unbidden, he suddenly recalls the minutes before he collapsed at the field hospital. The kid he’d been carrying all day had started screaming for his dad, Buck had handed him off to a guy with a bandage on his head, and he’d woken up three days later in a hospital while Maddie yelled at him for being reckless.

It would be a wild coincidence, and it’s probably not a completely uncommon story from that day, so Buck doesn’t say anything about it, just assures Eddie that he didn’t fail as a father.

It’s Hen’s first day back at work after the accident and she wastes all of six hours before she calls him on his behaviour.

“What’s got you smiling at your phone all the time these days, Buckaroo?” Hen asks. They’re sitting in the loft in the doldrum hours of their twenty-four while Bobby and Chim try to get some sleep.

Eddie is also on a twenty-four because their shifts are aligned for the month of December. They’ve been texting each other about the myriad stupid calls they’ve each been on all shift, and Buck might, possibly, be smiling at his phone more than he usually does.

“That’s his ‘met someone’ face,” Bobby supplies, joining them in the loft and making a beeline for the coffee maker.

“Aww, did you meet someone, Buckaroo?” Hen asks, giving him a fond smile.

“Kind of?” Buck admits. They’re not dating, him and Eddie. They’re just friends who are faking a relationship so they don’t have to go to therapy alone and they’ve only known each other for four weeks. Which isn’t to say Buck isn’t totally in love with him, but that part seems irrelevant.

“Where?” Bobby asks, joining them at the table with three mugs. “You didn’t download Tinder again, did you?”

“No,” Buck promises. “We, uh, we met at therapy.”

Bobby and Hen’s eyes go wide, alarmed.

“Buck—” Bobby starts, looking like he’s about to pull out his phone and have Buck’s therapist’s license revoked on the spot.

“In the waiting room!” Buck says. “We met in the waiting room. I am not sleeping with my therapist!”

Not that he’s sleeping with Eddie either, but a guy can dream.

Bobby swears under his breath and presses a hand to his chest like he’s massaging out a heart attack. “Okay, good.”

“So, tell us about her,” Hen says. She sips her coffee and Buck abruptly remembers he has not, at any point, come out at work.

“Um, well, we’re not exactly dating,” Buck says. “We’re getting to be really good friends, though, and I’m not sure how to, like, make that change.”

“Ask her on a date and make it clear you’re going to be totally fine staying friends if she says no,” Bobby recommends.

It’s easier said than done, especially since Eddie keeps turning up at his apartment at odd hours with offerings of beer and takeout – Eddie cannot cook to save his life, Buck has discovered, and he’s a little concerned about what it is Eddie feeds his son – and Buck does not want to jeopardise any of this.

It sort of comes to a head when they spend their fourth session talking about Buck’s tendency to hide his true feelings from people, which more or less guilts him into taking the plunge when they’re grabbing lunch.

“Would you, um, would you ever want to go on, like, a proper date?” Buck asks. “With – with me?”

The instant alarm in Eddie’s eyes gives him his answer.

“Totally cool if not! I love being friends with you, I just figured I would ask, totally cool if the answer’s no, just wanted to, like, clear that option out of the way,” Buck babbles and wants to go find the nearest pair of Jaws of Life so he can extract his own foot from his mouth.

“I, uh, I haven’t ever really dated,” Eddie says, scratching his eyebrow and not meeting Buck’s eye. “I mean, Shannon and I started in high school, and…”

And Buck is an idiot.

“And you haven’t been with anyone else,” he finishes.

Eddie grimaces, but nods.

“And I don’t – I don’t know if Chris even knows what dating is, let alone how he’d feel about me doing that, or – or honestly how he’d feel about me dating a guy, because I know I’ve tried to raise him right that way, but I have no idea what my parents or Shannon said to him for the first six years of his life, and—”

If Buck’s babbling made him want the Jaws, Eddie looks a bit like he wants to crawl under a rock.

“Your parents and Shannon would’ve said shit to him even though you’re bi?” Buck asks, horrified. Margaret and Philip don’t know about Buck’s sexuality, he’s sure of that, but they were always left-enough-of-centre when Buck and Maddie were growing up to be diplomatic about things like that.

“They don’t – didn’t – know,” Eddie admits, still not quite meeting Buck’s eye. “You’re sort of the only person I’ve told.”

Buck has absolutely no idea what to do with that.

“Why?” he asks. He can actually see Eddie’s hackles raise, like he thinks Buck is asking him to defend his decision not to come out to his Texan Catholic parents. “I mean, why tell me?”

“Who better than a total stranger, right?” Eddie says, but he’s turning red. Which is adorable. “And, um, because it’s not a no.”

“What’s not a no?” Buck asks.

Eddie is bright red now, and Buck’s a little concerned.

“The, uh, the date,” Eddie says.

Buck’s jaw drops before he can stop it. “Really?”

“Am I allowed to say later?” Eddie asks. “Like maybe after we’ve finished our ten sessions? Or is it selfish to ask you not to date someone else until then?”

“It’s not selfish,” Buck promises, and discovers he can’t actually stop smiling.

Eddie finally looks at him and when he sees Buck smiling, he can’t help but smile himself. He’s still bright red and it’s back to being adorable and despite the regrettable hour they’d spent in therapy, this may be the best day Buck’s had in recent memory.

“Why are you smiling at me like that?” Eddie asks, like he’s not smiling at Buck the same way.

“You like me,” Buck says. He can’t keep the slightly childish sing-song out of his voice.

“I’m gonna throw cabbage at you,” Eddie says, holding up part of his taco in warning.

“You like me,” Buck repeats with the same stupid trill.

He ducks when Eddie does, in fact, throw cabbage at him, and keeps laughing when Eddie leans across the table to help pick the shredded leaves out of Buck’s hair.

It occurs to him later, when he’s lying in bed that night and grinning stupidly about the text Eddie had sent him after they parted ways that just said, “I do. Like you.” It occurs to him that they’d originally been wondering exactly how long it would take their therapist to figure out they weren’t a real couple. Perhaps the better question would’ve been how long it would take them to figure out they were supposed to be.

Hen corners him after dinner on their next shift.

“So?” she asks. “Did you ask your therapy friend out?”

“I did,” Buck says, and can’t help the grin that follows.

“And your therapy friend said yes?”

“My therapy friend said not yet, because there’s a reason we’re in therapy,” Buck replies. “But it was a not yet in a very definitive ‘there’s gonna be a later’ sort of way.”

Hen blinks, a little stunned. “This is all…impressively mature of you, Buckaroo. I’m – I’m honestly impressed.”

“Turns out therapy wasn’t the worst idea Bobby ever had,” Buck says, although he doubts Bobby would approve of the sort of major caveat Buck had slapped on his own therapy experience.

The bell goes a second later and Buck and Hen race for their turnouts.

“We’ve got a five-alarm apartment building,” Bobby tells them when they’re in the truck and racing towards the scene. “The 136 is already on site, Captain Cooper is IC. Sounds like they’ve already cleared the building and they want us on containment.”

“You got it, Cap,” Buck says while Hen and Chim make similar agreeable comments.

When they get to the building, it’s clear why they’re just trying to keep it from spreading. The building itself is a total goner.

Without meaning to, Buck glances at Bobby. He never does super well with apartment building fires, but his face is set.

They’re in the process of getting set up to spray down the building next door when a guy in turnouts jogs up to them.

“Captain Cooper’s supervising the evacuation of the neighbouring buildings!” the guy yells over the roar of the fire and Buck realises it’s Eddie. “Sent me over to brief you.”

“Sounds good,” Bobby says. “Does he want us on anything besides containment?”

“No, that was it,” Eddie says. He glances at Buck where Buck is wrestling a hose and smiles just a little. Buck smiles back but keeps doing what he’s doing. “You’re Captain Nash?”

“I am,” Bobby says, extending his hand. Eddie shakes it. “And you are?”

“Eddie Diaz, 136,” Eddie says. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Bobby is visibly taken aback by that. “From who?”

“I told you I made a friend in therapy, Cap,” Buck says. Bobby blinks. He looks between Buck and Eddie like he’s doing a whole calculus book’s worth of math problems. “Diaz! You gonna help me with this or stand there talking to my captain?”

Eddie gives him a playfully offended look, but helps Buck with the hose. When Captain Cooper comes over a few minutes later to talk to Bobby, he looks concerned.

“Got word from dispatch,” he says. “There’s a deaf woman trapped on the fifth floor.”

To punctuate his comment, a window shatters.

Buck starts looking for angles.

“The building next door isn’t on fire,” he points out to both captains. “I could jump across and rappel down while you guys set up an airbag.”

“You want to do a rope rescue?” Eddie demands, and doesn’t wait for Buck to confirm that before he rolls his eyes and says, “Of course you do.”

“Well, he’s not going alone,” Bobby says, eyes on the fire. “Coop, mind if Diaz goes with him?”

Captain Cooper agrees and then Buck and Eddie are racing for the roof. While Buck fixes his harness on and Eddie prepares the rope, he can’t help but note that they work well together, professionally.

“I think I mind you doing shit like this less when I’m the one holding the other end of the rope,” Eddie comments.

Buck just grins at him, and goes over the edge of the building.

Their fifth session ends up focusing largely on Eddie and his concern over never quite being enough for people. It takes most of Buck’s willpower to keep him from grabbing Eddie’s face and pressing their foreheads together so he can say, “you’re more than enough, you’re everything.”

It is…way too early in their not-quite-relationship for that.

Eddie clearly doesn’t want to talk about it when they’re at lunch and is a bit prickly so Buck doesn’t try any of the things he personally would find comforting – like hugs. Instead, he shoots for distraction.

“You going out for the charity calendar this year?” Buck asks.

It takes Eddie a second to snap out of his fog, and when he does, all he does is shrug.

“I bet you’d win the 136th’s place, no contest,” Buck says.

Eddie smiles at that, his eyes crinkling. “You don’t even know what I look like shirtless.”

“I have a robust, vivid imagination,” Buck replies.

Eddie’s eyebrows lift. “Have you been spending a lot of time picturing me naked?”

Buck considers flat out denying it, but Buck is not a good liar.

“No comment,” he says instead, and Eddie laughs, so Buck takes the win.

They shoot the shit about meaningless things for the rest of lunch and they’re halfway back to Buck’s apartment so Eddie can drop him off when Eddie clears his throat and says, serious, “You should know…”

“I should know what?” Buck asks.

“Uh, Captains Nash and Cooper kind of conspired against me a little,” Eddie says. “And I’m taking a shift trade for Firefighter McKinney on Thursday.”

Buck blinks at him. “McKinney is on my shift at the 118.”

“Yeah,” Eddie says.

“You’re coming to work on my shift?” Buck asks, unable to keep himself from grinning.

Eddie nods, and looks a little bit happier at the expression on Buck’s face. “You’re okay with that?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Buck asks.

“You’re not worried about Hen and Chimney and Captain Nash telling me a bunch of embarrassing stories about you?”

Buck considers for half a second and then can’t help but laugh. “Eddie, we literally go to therapy together.”

Eddie holds his hand up like he’s going to contest the point, and then just shakes his head, pointing at Buck. “Right.”

“But, uh, you should know,” Buck says, and suddenly he feels horrible. “They kinda know I’ve got a thing for a friend of mine from therapy, and it’s not gonna take them long to figure out that’s you. I didn’t realise you weren’t out when I started talking about it.”

Eddie thinks about that for a second, and then to Buck’s surprise, he just shrugs. “I wasn’t planning on taking you on a date in secret.”

“Oh, you’re taking me, now, huh?” Buck replies, and gets a grin in return.

“Besides, I don’t really care if people know? I don’t know how my parents are going to take it but I told my abuela and she was fine,” Eddie continues.

“You did?” Buck doesn’t know whether he’s more surprised Eddie told his grandma about him, or if he’s mostly surprised Eddie asked someone for advice.

“I was asking her opinion on how to tell Christopher I was going to go on a date with someone,” Eddie says. “And so she wanted to know about the someone. At some point, she wants to meet you, so brace yourself for a little old lady talking about you in Spanish while you’re in the room.”

“Maybe tell her I lived in Peru for six months and I do understand bar Spanish,” Buck recommends, and Eddie laughs.

Personally, Buck can’t wait for Thursday. However brief it had been when they worked together on the apartment fire, he’d loved working with Eddie side by side.

So he’s in a good mood for several reasons when he shows up at the station on Thursday morning.

“Got another body scan,” he tells Hen and Chim when he joins them outside the locker room. “Dropped another half a percent body fat.”

“I’m sure every girl planning on buying the calendar is already swooning,” Hen tells him, deadpan.

“Love you too, Henrietta,” Buck replies.

“You might want to get a tighter grip on that crown, Buckaroo,” Chim says, and he’s not looking at either Buck or Hen. “Because that is a beautiful man.”

Hen turns to look first and her eyebrows raise over the tops of her glasses. “Where’s the lie? And I like girls.”

Buck is already pretty sure they’re talking about Eddie before he turns around, and then he turns around.

He’d told Eddie he had a robust and vivid imagination, but he’d apparently left out a key detail – his imagination is also woefully inadequate.

“Holy shit,” Buck says, and then chokes on his own spit and has to take a minute.

Bobby claps him on the shoulder with an amused, knowing smile on his face.

“Hen, Chim, come meet our loaner from the 136,” Bobby says.

“Why isn’t Buck coming to meet him?” Chim asks, but he’s already following Bobby. “Worried he’s gonna start marking his territory or something?”

“Because I already know him,” Buck says. Hen and Chim freeze and look between Buck and Eddie – still on the other side of the glass, but thankfully (sort of) more clothed now – like they’re hearing things. “He’s kinda my best friend.”

“How is this the first we’re hearing of this?” Hen asks.

Buck shrugs. “It’s not.”

Chim maintains his confused look, but shrugs it off and follows Bobby to introduce himself to Eddie. Hen, on the other hand, is clearly trying to put it all together, and he can spot the moment she does. She doesn’t say anything about it until Chimney and Bobby have taken Eddie out of the locker room to give him a tour of the station, leaving Buck and Hen behind to change into their uniforms.

“You never told me you were…” Hen starts, leaving it open for Buck to supply his own label.

“Bi,” he offers. “And honestly, I just totally forgot I hadn’t until you and Bobby started assuming my friend from therapy was a woman.”

Hen stares at him for a beat and then shakes her head. “I’m mad about how much sense that makes.”

Buck laughs and then goes to find Eddie.

“Your station is so different than mine,” Eddie says when Buck finds him, looking around the loft curiously. “It looks…lived in.”

When Bobby raises an eyebrow at him, Eddie rushes to add, “Not like it’s messy or something, just it’s homey, I guess.”

“Well, yeah, the 136 got totalled by the tsunami, right?” Chim asks. “You guys were in the water but your station went under too, didn’t it? Had to renovate?”

“Yeah,” Eddie agrees. “It’s still too shiny, though. Lots of stainless steel.”

“Fun fact, stainless steel doesn’t actually disinfect anything and carries germs way better than some other metals,” Buck says, pouring himself a cup of coffee. He holds the pot up in Eddie’s direction and gets a nod. “It’s why old doorknobs and firepoles are made of brass – it disinfects itself.”

“Don’t mind Buck, he just absorbs Wikipedia in the dead of night,” Chim recommends to Eddie.

Eddie laughs. “Yeah, I know.”

Buck joins them at the table and hands Eddie the cup of coffee he’s poured for him.

“So how’d you guys get to be friends?” Chimney asks, looking between them. “You meet during the tsunami or something?”

Buck takes a long drink of his coffee to avoid Eddie’s confused stare.

“I thought you said you weren’t on shift during the tsunami,” Eddie says.

“Oh, no, he wasn’t,” Bobby – traitor – says. “He was on the pier. He didn’t tell you?”

Buck can’t make himself look at Eddie. They’ve been friends for six weeks and the tsunami has definitely come up before, including Eddie telling their therapist about his emotionally traumatic search for his son during the whole thing, and Buck hasn’t said anything.

“No, he didn’t,” Eddie says. His eyes don’t leave Buck.

“Your boy here’s on blood thinners from almost dying twice, right,” Chim says, because Chim wilfully refuses to read the room sometimes, “gets himself caught up in the tsunami just, like, right where it hits, and then instead of seeking medical attention for the fact he was, you know, bleeding out, spends the next twelve hours rescuing people. We didn’t even know he was in the thing until he collapsed on us at the field hospital.”

“I can’t tell if you’re impressed or mad,” Eddie says.

“I still haven’t decided,” Chim replies.

“Kinda makes my concussion and broken ribs seem like nothing,” Eddie says, immediately finding the heart of why Buck hasn’t said anything. He knows he wasn’t doing anything more heroic than anyone else in the LAFD would’ve done, but he also knows how it sounds.

“It really isn’t as big a deal as Chim’s making it sound,” Buck promises, which gets him raised eyebrows from Bobby, Chim, and Eddie.

“Did I mention he was doing all this while carrying around a nine-year-old kid?” Chim adds, and before Buck or Eddie can say anything, the bell goes.

Buck has never been so glad for a disaster.

Their first call together, they find the YouTube pranksters back at it again, this time with a motorcycle and a merry-go-round. Their next is for a guy who fell on the air pump at his garage and got the thing embedded in his ass. Eddie is extremely competent, Buck discovers, which doesn’t really surprise him at all, but it does make him feel kind of fuzzy inside.

And then they get their third call with a gentleman who has embedded a grenade in his own thigh.

“Did you see a lot of shrapnel wounds in Afghanistan?” Buck asks when he’s riding in the back of the ambulance with Eddie.

“My share,” Eddie says, but he’s clearly trying to focus on keeping their patient from bleeding out, so Buck shuts up and helps him change the bandage. “Wait, Charlie, I thought you said this was a practice round.”

“It is!” Charlie insists.

“Practice rounds have blue caps,” Eddie says, his voice suddenly much quieter.

Buck peers into the wound on Charlie’s leg and swallows. “What – what has a gold cap?”

Eddie glances at him to confirm that it’s exactly what Buck thinks it might be and then bangs on the ambulance roof.

In the hospital parking lot, the bomb squad guys want to wait for the military, but Buck and Eddie are both sure Charlie’s going to bleed out before they can get here.

“I’m familiar with the ordinance,” Eddie says.

“You are?” Bobby asks, surprised.

“He was a combat medic,” Buck supplies.

“You’ve done this before?” Bobby asks.

“No, none of the guys I served with were stupid enough to shoot a live round into themselves,” Eddie says. “But I can do it.”

“I’m in,” Buck says, almost before he finishes speaking.

“Buck—” Bobby and Eddie start.

“What?” Buck asks. “I’ll keep the patient stable while Eddie does the extraction.”

Looking like he’s having his teeth pulled, Eddie admits, “That would actually be helpful.”

“Buck, you’re on blood thinners,” Bobby reminds him. “I know you signed all those liability waivers but—”

“Cap? Pretty sure if a grenade goes off while I’m standing next to it, the rate at which my blood coagulates really isn’t gonna matter much,” Buck points out. “But we’ve got a patient bleeding out.”

Bobby, reluctantly, let’s them do it. The subsequent adrenaline-endorphin high after they succeed makes it very difficult to stop himself from grabbing Eddie in some kind of euphoric celebration. He only just manages to keep his hands to himself.

That turns out to be a good thing, because the minute they’re back at the station, Bobby calls them into his office.

For a long time, he just stares at them and Buck’s really not sure why he’s about to be reprimanded for saving a guy’s life.

“Firefighter Diaz, did Captain Cooper give you a full rundown of the goal of this shift trade?” Bobby asks.

Buck blinks. “I thought it was just because McKinney needed cover.”

Bobby glances at him and then turns his attention back to Eddie.

“Not…exactly,” Eddie says.

“The goal was to see if you were a good fit here at the 118,” Bobby says.

“Wait, like a permanent transfer?” Buck asks.

“Captain Cooper wants Lena back on his shift,” Eddie supplies. “They’re close. But he doesn’t trust me on my own.”

“I’ve been briefed on the situation,” Bobby assures him. “But I’m also – as far as I know – the only senior officer in the LAFD who has any idea there’s something going on between you two.”

Eddie glances at Buck out of the corner of his eye.

“There’s not exactly anything—” Buck tries.

“And that means I can’t actually work on this shift permanently, right?” Eddie interrupts. Doesn’t try to deny it. “In case we do something like goad each other into doing something stupid?”

“Bobby, you know I would’ve gotten in that ambulance if it was Hen or Chim acting as paramedic,” Buck protests.

“Yeah, unfortunately, I do know that,” Bobby says. “And to your question, Eddie, it doesn’t mean you can’t join this shift permanently. It just means there would be a fair bit of paperwork, and you would need to be very upfront with me about your relationship to make sure it doesn’t affect your jobs.”

Buck can’t actually believe what he’s hearing. Eddie might be transferred to his shift, permanently, and the only thing it’ll take is more paperwork. Assuming, of course, Eddie is still talking to him after they hash out the whole tsunami thing.

“That’s fine,” Eddie says.

“I feel like we should probably hold off on any paperwork until we’ve actually, y’know, slept together or gone on a date,” Buck says.

Because therapy and post-therapy lunches and Eddie turning up at his apartment at odd hours don’t technically count.

Eddie goes a little pink and Bobby just looks confused.

“Uh, yeah, probably the correct course of action,” Bobby says. “You’re both dismissed.”

When they get to the loft to grab more coffee, Buck is tentatively excited.

“You’d want to work on the same shift as me?” he asks. “Permanently?”

Eddie stares at him for just a second, and then shakes his head a little, like Buck is being ridiculous. “I told you, remember?” he says. “I mind you doing reckless shit a lot less when I’m the one holding the rope.”

The next therapy session – their sixth – starts with Eddie telling their therapist that Buck had been in the tsunami and kept that information to himself. All at once, Buck feels ganged up on and like he should’ve expected this. Eddie hadn’t brought it up all weekend, and so logically, Buck should’ve known it would come up when they had a mediator’s supervision.

“Evan, why didn’t you tell Eddie about your own experiences in the tsunami?” their therapist asks.

“Because Eddie had his own trauma from the tsunami to deal with, both his own and losing Chris for most of the day, and I didn’t – I didn’t want to add anything to it,” Buck says.

“Yeah, because finding out from your brother-in-law out of the blue made that way less upsetting,” Eddie says.

“Maddie and Chim aren’t married,” Buck says.

“Sure, because that was the part of that statement that needed to be addressed,” Eddie replies, crossing his arms and huffing.

“I just didn’t want to be a – a burden, I guess,” Buck says. Eddie grinds his teeth next to him and their therapist looks between them like he’s waiting for one of them to snap and start talking. Per usual, it’s Buck. “It’s just that getting hurt was the only way I could get my parents’ attention, and you pay attention to me even when I’m not, and it was a long time ago, so I didn’t want to fall back into old habits, I guess.”

“Evan, you can see where that might be overcorrecting, right?” their therapist asks.

“I guess,” Buck says.

“Eddie, anything you’d like to say?”

“Of course I’m going to pay attention to you even if you’re not hurt. We’re partners, that’s the deal,” Eddie says and even though Buck can’t fully see his face, he can hear the eye roll. “But I care about you, and so I would like to know when you’re hurt.”

Buck’s pretty sure the Spanish curse Eddie mutters under his breath then is some combination of “dumbass” and “asshole.”

“Okay, Evan, let’s talk about your experiences in the tsunami,” their therapist says.

Buck dodges lunch for the first time. He makes a shitty excuse about having a lunch date with Maddie and goes to hide in his apartment.

There are a lot of reasons he hadn’t told Eddie about his time in the tsunami, including the ones he’d given their therapist, and the problem that Buck didn’t want to overshadow Eddie’s own experiences because Buck’s really weren’t any worse or more impressive. But the biggest reason is that Buck is now 90% sure the kid he spent all that day with is Eddie’s son, and losing Chris during the tsunami is the thing that makes Eddie feel like he’s failed as a father more than anything else. Buck has no idea how Eddie will react to the knowledge that Buck had been the one to save him, but he can’t imagine it would go well.

Eddie lets him hide with just text messages for communication until Friday.

And then he calls to demand that Buck come over to his house for dinner.

“Are you sure?” Buck asks.

“We do pizza and video games on Friday nights,” Eddie says. He lowers his voice so Buck guesses Christopher is nearby. “Besides, if we are going to date, you’re going to have to meet Chris eventually.”

“Okay,” Buck says. “I can pick up the pizza on my way.”

It occurs to him while he drives that he’s never actually been inside Eddie’s house. He’s picked him up before therapy and dropped him off, but he hasn’t actually been inside.

He knocks, awkwardly cradling the pizzas and garlic bread on one arm. Eddie smiles at him when he opens the door and steps back to let him in. It takes Buck all of a split second to recognise the kid on the couch.

“Buddy, you remember I said a friend of mine was coming to dinner with us, right?” Eddie asks.

“You don’t have friends,” Chris informs him and Buck only just manages to turn his laugh into a cough. Eddie shoots him a glower that does not help Buck’s problem.

“He’s one of the guys at my new firehouse,” Eddie says. “Come say hi, please.”

Chris climbs off the couch and finally looks in Buck’s direction.

For half a second, Buck thinks Chris won’t recognise him. But then his face morphs into a huge smile.

“Daddy! You found him!” Chris says, and then he’s barrelling into Buck so hard Buck almost drops the pizzas.

Eddie grabs them, confused. “I found who?”

“You found the tsunami man,” Chris says, still hugging Buck. “You found the man who saved me.”

If Chris had taken one of his crutches and used it to smack Eddie in the face, Buck is pretty sure Eddie would look less surprised than he does now. And then the surprise turns into something else and Buck has no idea how to read it.

“I’m really glad you’re okay,” Buck tells Chris, because that’s easier than look at Eddie. “I never got to find out what happened to you afterwards.”

“I’m glad you’re okay,” Chris says. “You fell down once we found my dad.”

“Yeah, he was, uh, he’d lost a lot of blood,” Eddie explains, and he sounds like he’s having trouble breathing. “Chris, why don’t you find us a movie, and Buck can help me get the pizzas sorted out.”

Chris reluctantly lets go of Buck and returns to the couch.

Unsure how Eddie’s going to keep the yelling quiet enough Chris won’t hear from the living room, Buck follows him into the kitchen.

He does not make it very far.

He gets all of two steps into the kitchen and then his back is against the fridge and Eddie is – Eddie is kissing him?

The kiss knocks all of Buck’s breath right out of him, and when he remembers to breathe again, all he can taste is Eddie. Eddie, who is plastered against him, his hands cupping Buck’s face like he’s something precious. Eddie, who is making a thorough exploration of Buck’s mouth, and god Buck does not want this to end.

“Dad! Are you bringing the pizza?” Chris calls from the living room.

Buck can actually feel Eddie’s reluctance when he breaks the kiss. No one has ever been reluctant to leave Buck before.

Eddie kisses him again, quickly, and then clears his throat. “Uh, thank you,” he says.

Buck discovers he can’t actually move away from the fridge. “Uh huh,” he manages, and stays frozen until Eddie grins at him.

Buck grins back, still not entirely sure what just happened. Eddie hands him a plate of pizza and a beer and then heads back to the living room himself. Buck has to take a moment to collect himself and then follows.

Chris is allowed to have soda with dinner and in between the sugar high and the movie/video game excitement, he wants to know everything about Buck. When he inevitably crashes, he sleepily informs Eddie that Buck was actually his friend first, not Eddie’s.

Eddie carries him off to bed and gets him tucked in. Buck stays on the couch, picking at the label on his beer bottle and scrolling through Netflix options. He should probably just hang out long enough for the beer to wear off and then head home.

He doesn’t want to go home.

It’s not very long before he hears Chris’s bedroom door close and then the fridge cracking open and then Eddie’s back in the living room with him, offering him a new beer. Buck accepts it without hesitation.

“How, uh, how long have you known?” Eddie asks quietly when they’ve been sitting there for a few minutes, technically watching something. Buck can’t identify it and isn’t really paying attention because Eddie’s thigh is pressed against his on the couch and it feels that much warmer than usual after Eddie kissed him in the kitchen. “How long have you known Chris was the kid you saved during the tsunami?”

“I, um, I wasn’t sure until I saw him tonight,” Buck says.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Eddie asks, turning towards him. Since they’re on the couch, this means Eddie’s leg is now half across Buck’s lap and that’s giving Buck ideas he shouldn’t be having right then.

“Because I know how much it hurts you that you weren’t the one to rescue him,” Buck says.

Eddie shakes his head, incredulous. “Buck. You saved my son.”

“I know, but—”

Eddie grabs the beer out of his hand and sets it on the coffee table and then he’s got his hands on Buck’s face again. This time it’s not to hold him in place while he kisses him; it’s so Buck can’t look away.

“You saved my son,” Eddie repeats. “You had my back before we even knew each other. You know what that means to me, too.”

Buck smiles a little at that.

“And I’d really like to kiss you again, if that’s okay?”

Buck doesn’t technically tackle him back onto the couch, but it’s close.

He loves this part of a relationship. He loves the exploration and the discovery. He likes learning that Eddie is just the slightest bit ticklish when Buck slides his hands under his shirt and up his sides. He already knows so much about Eddie considering the basis of their relationship, but all of this is new.

Eddie makes a noise when Buck gently tugs his bottom lip between his teeth and shifts his hips. For a second, Buck thinks it’s just for the friction which is absolutely fine by him and is both welcome and encouraged, but then he realises Eddie wants to flip them over. Eddie wants to be the one pinning Buck to the couch, and Buck is so into that idea his whole brain goes blank.

Which is why it doesn’t occur to him why this is a bad idea until they actually fall off the couch and hit the living room floor with a heavy thud, elbows clipped on the coffee table. The impact knocks over the mostly empty beer bottles that were standing there and they topple and roll, spilling what was left onto Buck and Eddie.

“Sorry about that,” Eddie says, red in the face while they sit up.

“It’s fine,” Buck promises, and can’t keep himself from smiling about it even while he tries to pick the cold, damp, barley-hops-yeast-scented patch of his t-shirt away from his skin. “I should probably go home for the night though. It’s kinda late.”

“Right, yeah, of course,” Eddie says, but he’s chewing on his bottom lip and god, but Buck wants to do that for him. “Or, you could…stay?”

Very carefully, because he does not want to overstep, Buck says, “You have a guest room?”

“Nope,” Eddie says, still chewing on his lip.

“Your, uh, your couch is not comfortable,” Buck says.

“It really isn’t,” Eddie agrees.

Buck swallows. He doesn’t want to be presumptuous, but there are not many choices left here. There’s actually just the one.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

Eddie smiles and it is not, in any way, nervous or unsure. “Very.”

The first thing Buck does when he gets to work on Sunday morning is present himself in Bobby’s office. Eddie doesn’t officially transfer to the 118 until next month, so he is, unfortunately, by himself for this. Not that it really matters.

“Buck!” Bobby says, smiling at him. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, it’s great,” Buck says. He clears his throat. “But could I, uh, could I grab that HR paperwork from you?”

Bobby stares at him with the best, blankest poker face Buck has ever seen and then hands him a folder. Buck doesn’t quite have Bobby’s office door shut behind him before Bobby bursts out laughing.

It’s their last scheduled therapy session. The past few weeks have been some of the best of Buck’s life, and now that Eddie’s at the 118 and they’re on the same shift, they work really, really well together. They even manage to keep it professional at the station 97% of the time, allowing for their shared inability to keep from drooling over each other in the gym or locker room – so long as no on else is there. They do generally try not to leer at each other in the locker room unless they’re alone.

“I want to try a small exercise with the two of you before we determine if you’re going to be coming to any more sessions,” their therapist says. He hands them each a piece of paper and a pen. “I want you both to write down what your ideal partner would be like and then we’ll evaluate.”

Buck shields his paper from Eddie’s view and scratches out his answer. He thinks it probably doesn’t take him long enough, but Eddie’s done in the same amount of time so he isn’t really in a place to complain.

They hand their folded papers to the therapist and sit back on the couch together. They’ve been bad at personal space since they day they met, but this is in a different way. Their sides are plastered together from shoulder to hip to knee and Eddie’s got one hand casually resting on Buck’s thigh while Buck has his ankle hooked around Eddie’s.

Their therapist unfolds the papers and reads them both. Takes a deep breath and reads them again. Sighs. Pinches the bridge of his nose in exasperation.

“Guys, this is very sweet and really unsurprising, since it's obvious how much you love each other, but also definitely not the point of the exercise,” he says.

“What did you write down?” Eddie asks Buck.

“Um, you?” Buck replies.

Eddie grins. “That’s funny, I wrote down you, too.”

The truth about their therapy sessions doesn’t come out until months after they stop going. They’re at the park for a Fourth of July barbecue with the rest of the 118. Buck has found a nice tree to lean against that’s in the shade and gives him good visibility over the group of kids playing together. Harry and Denny have readily accepted Chris into their group, much like the rest of the 118 welcomed Eddie, and Buck loves all of them so much.

For similar vantage point reasons, Eddie has leaned back against Buck’s chest and is using Buck’s bent knee as a coaster for his soda. That part would be annoying, but it’s LA in July and the cold perspiration from the can is about the only thing keeping Buck from overheating. Of course, Eddie had promptly fallen asleep and so Buck is pinned to the tree by his deadweight and he really loves it.

Their picnic blanket is being shared by Maddie and Karen. Maddie, already miserably pregnant when it isn’t 100+ degrees outside, is picking Karen’s brain for tips on dealing with newborns and toddlers. Buck considers tuning them out entirely and napping the way Eddie seems to be doing. But then, suddenly, they are very much part of the conversation.

“What about you two?” Karen asks. “You gonna have more kids?”

“We’ve only been together for, like, six months,” Buck points out. He figures out Eddie’s awake then, because he lifts the soda off Buck’s knee and takes a drink.

“Sure, but you’re like that,” Maddie says, gesturing at the two of them.

“Yeah, it turns out going to couple’s therapy before you start dating gives you a really solid foundation for a relationship,” Eddie says without thinking. Buck knows for sure he does it without opening his eyes, because he wouldn’t have said it if he’d known that Bobby was standing at the edge of their blanket with a fresh delivery of watermelon and burgers.

Bobby stares at Buck and Eddie for a few seconds, and then, sounding like he’s about to start laughing his ass off, says, “I’m sorry, you two idiots did what?”