"Forget it," Eddie says.
Forget it, like it doesn't mean anything.
Forget it, like his feelings don't matter.
Forget it, as if Buck could.
"Eddie loves me," Buck says, before Maddie's even opened the door the whole way. He runs a hand through his hair, whirls around to face her. "He literally said I love you and then forget it!"
"Okay," Maddie says carefully. She doesn't look surprised and Buck wants to scream at her; why isn't she surprised? Has Eddie told her? Does everyone know? "Everyone does not know," Maddie continues, and oh shit, okay, apparently Buck's talking his thoughts aloud. "I didn't know."
Buck stalls, looks around the room. There's no sign of Jee and he swallows. "Sorry, I should have called. Are you okay? Is Jee-Yun?"
Maddie nods, taking his hand. "I'm... getting there." She smiles softly. "Jee's out with Chim. They went for a drive."
"Okay," Buck says, letting Maddie lead him to the couch. "God, Maddie, Eddie loves me."
"So you said." Maddie tugs at a pillow, resting it in her lap. "What actually did he say?"
Buck rubs at his face, tipping his head against the back of the couch. "Exactly what i said. We were in his kitchen, I was cooking and he just said, I love you and then forget it when I didn't reply." When Maddie doesn't say anything for a while, he looks up. "Should I have said something?"
Again, silence. Eventually, Maddie gives him a soft smile. "Do you wish you'd said something?"
"I never even thought," Buck starts, except that's a lie. He has thought about it, more than once. It's always just been a touch out of reach because of time, Shannon, Taylor, Ana. The truck, the tsunami, the sniper. There's always been something in the way and the only time Buck's almost said something, Eddie had just handed him the greatest gift in a hospital room. "He made me legal guardian."
Maddie starts, raising her eyebrows. "What?"
"Of Chris," Buck explains, picking at his jeans. "If anything happens to him, I get guardianship of Chris."
The expression on Maddie's face is equal parts shock and confusion. "He has family, right? Shannon's and Eddie's?"
Buck snorts. "That's what I said. He just said nobody will fight for my son harder than you and just, said it would be me."
"Wow," Maddie says quietly. Buck wonders if she's thinking of Jee-Yun. "That's quite the thing."
"I know." Buck's voice is pitched just as low. "I would never say no. I'm scared I'll mess it up."
Maddie shakes her head, reaches over to squeeze his knee. "You shouldn't be. Eddie would never have done this if he thought the same."
It's something Buck's tried to tell himself over and over. Like most things that run through his head, he's never sure, even when someone tells him, whether he can trust himself.
Except when Eddie says, that's not on you or no, I know you did or you act like you're expendable, but you're wrong.
Somehow, something about the weight of Eddie's words, the way he says them, means something. Maybe it's because Eddie doesn't say anything unless there's a meaning to it, a point in it being said. Even when he's mad, or afraid, or angry, everything he says makes Buck want to listen.
"How do you feel about him?" Maddie asks eventually.
"I'm dating Taylor," Buck says helplessly.
"Not the question I asked." Maddie sits back, looking thoughtful. "But if you weren't?"
There's not even a question. "I don't want to ruin anything."
"That's why you won't," Maddie points out. "You and Eddie are starting from a foundation of friendship, Buck. I don't know how true this is," she continues, meeting his eyes, "but I think you and Eddie found each other at the right time."
Buck coming off of Abby's absence, Eddie chasing Shannon. Losing Shannon, losing Abby. Chris bringing them together in ways Buck could never have imagined.
"Even when we weren't speaking," Buck says, heart heavy, "I just wanted him around. I wanted to talk to him and ask him and I couldn't."
Maddie nods, even though she doesn't know everything. Doesn't know that standing in a supermarket, Eddie mad at him and throwing Chris into the turmoil already running around Buck's head wrecked him.
"I love him," he says, trying the words out loud.
"Yes," Maddie says.
"I'm in love with him," he says, closing his eyes. "Fuck, I love him."
It takes a long time for Eddie to open the door.
Please, Buck texts him. You haven't ruined anything.
Eventually, the door unlocks. It doesn't open, but Buck does that instead, watches Eddie's back as he turns into the kitchen.
"You just ran," Buck says, untying his shoes. He doesn't expect Eddie to answer, and isn't surprised when silence greets him. Shoving his shoes by the door, he takes his time down the hall, working out what he's going to say. Eddie's standing at the table, staring at Chris' homework still spread out across it, fingers sliding against the papers. "Eddie. Please look at me."
There's a tightness to Eddie's jaw, but he does. "What?"
"You told me to forget it," Buck says, desperately. "Why?"
Eddie shrugs, eyes darting down to the homework and then back up. "Just say whatever you need to and leave. Please."
"Alright," Buck says, because he knows Eddie, knows that he won't be going anywhere. "I'm dating Taylor."
"Yes thank you," Eddie snaps.
"But," Buck presses on, leaning against the table. "I had to come here before I break up with her."
The anger stutters and dies. Eddie looks confused, eyes bright, his lips parted. "What?"
"I went to see Maddie," Buck explains. "I don't even know why. When you told me, I didn't know what to think. I've been trying not to, ever since you told me about your will."
Eddie looks confused. "You don't have to—"
"Of course I do," Buck says. He moves around the table, closer to Eddie. "I might not have known what you were doing," he continues, reaching for Eddie. Eddie freezes, but he doesn't stop Buck taking his hand, tugging him forward, "but I do now."
"What was I doing?" Eddie asks. Buck knows him well enough to hear the tremor in his voice that he's trying to hide, the hope he's trying not to feel.
Buck stares at him, the vulnerabilty that Eddie rarely lets himself show, and rests his free hand on Eddie's hip. "Telling me you love me long before you said the words."
"I," Eddie starts. Doesn't seem to know how to finish.
"I love you," Buck says, every ounce of honesty he posseses weighing down the words.
There's no don't do this, no Buck, don't. There's just a quiet acceptance in the way Eddie stares back at him, the breath he lets out. A weight lifted, the shadows leaving his face.
"Taylor," Eddie says.
"Taylor," Buck agrees. "But after, I'm coming back here."
Eddie nods, touches a hand to Buck's face, touches their foreheads together. "Come home."
"I will," Buck promises.