"In my defence," Buck says, punctuating it with his beer bottle before taking another long drink, "I really wanted to."
"Buck," Maddie groans. "That's not—you can't just—god, who raised you?"
"You did," Buck says, and raises his bottle in something resembling a salute.
"Are you sure about that?" she asks. "Because I'm pretty sure I didn't raise you to go around kissing people against their will."
"It wasn’t—" Buck starts, and sighs. "For a second there, I thought it wasn't. Against his will." He tries to think back to earlier that night, that moment in Eddie's kitchen, but it's starting to get a little fuzzy around the edges.
"Okay, so—tell me exactly what happened," Maddie says, and through the beer-soaked haze, Buck realises he hasn't actually told her the full story yet. All he'd done was let himself into Maddie and Chimney's apartment, grab two beers from the fridge, flop dramatically onto the sofa, and start chugging the first beer.
"We gave you that key for emergencies, Buckaroo," Chimney had said.
"It is an emergency," Buck had insisted, already uncapping the second beer. "I kissed Eddie."
"Well then," Chimney had said, grinning. "I'm going to, uh, check on Jee-Yun. Have fun!" And with a kiss to the crown of Maddie's head, he'd ducked out of the room, leaving Maddie to deal with it.
"I don't know what happened," Buck says now, flopping against the back of the couch. "Like, okay, yeah, I really wanted to. Like really wanted to, Maddie, you have no idea."
"I mean, I've seen the two of you together, so I feel like I have a pretty good idea," she says, hiding her smile behind her cup of tea.
"But like, that's not new," Buck says, ignoring her teasing. "I basically always want to kiss Eddie. But it's fine, it's whatever, I've learned to live with it, you know?"
"So—was something different tonight?" Maddie asks carefully.
"No? Yes? I don't know," Buck says, and takes another drink. "Just, there was a moment where I thought maybe—" he cuts himself off and shakes his head. "No, it's not like that. I know it's not like that and I did it anyway, god, he probably hates me—"
"Buck," Maddie says, interrupting his oncoming spiral. "Look, I still don't know exactly what happened, but I'm pretty sure hell freezes over before Eddie ever hates you."
"Climate change is a bitch," Buck says. "Hell could be freezing over as we speak."
"I'm still pretty sure he doesn't hate you," she says. "As in, I don't think he's constitutionally capable of it. But tell me what happened?"
"Okay, so, we were in the kitchen, talking about—Christopher's school project, I think? and I mentioned that I had looked up some stuff so I could help Chris with it, and he just—god, Maddie, no one's ever looked at me like that before. So I just... kissed him."
"And was he... into it?" she asks, and lets out a laugh. "Wow, I feel like I'm back in high school. Hey, do you like-like him?"
Buck groans, grabs the nearest throw pillow, and covers his face with it. "Maddie, you know I do," he whines into the pillow.
"Okay, okay, sorry," she says, but she's still laughing. "So was he? Into it?"
"Do you think I'd be on your couch if he was?"
"So, what, you just bailed?"
"Pretty much, yeah," Buck mumbles, still speaking into the pillow. "For a second it seemed like maybe, but—then he—and I—I just... left before he could say anything."
"Buck, you didn't," Maddie says. "You didn't even give him a chance to explain himself? Or explain yourself, for that matter?"
Buck sighs. "If I don't let him say the words, I can—I can pretend I still have a chance. With him."
"Why are you so sure it's going to go down the way you think it's going to go down?" Maddie asks.
"He looked really freaked out," Buck mutters.
"You're really freaked out right now, and you wanted it," Maddie points out. "Maybe he was just surprised."
"Or maybe he hated it, and I just ruined the best friendship I've ever had with one impulsive move," Buck says, and drops the throw pillow so he can look at Maddie. "I don't want to know. I prefer limbo, thanks."
"Yeah? And what are you going to do at work?"
"I haven't thought that far ahead yet," Buck mutters. "We're not on shift tomorrow."
"Perfect," Maddie says. "Then you can go talk to him tomorrow."
"What did I just say, Maddie?"
"I'm overruling you," Maddie says. "I'm your big sister, I have a moral obligation to tell you when you're being stupid. You can crash here tonight, but tomorrow you're going to talk to him if I have to drive you myself. I will turn the child lock on, don't test me."
As it turns out, however, Maddie's chauffeuring services aren't necessary. The next morning, Buck startles awake on the couch to the sound of Maddie's doorbell ringing.
"Buck," Maddie hisses at him from where she's looking through the peephole. "Go brush your teeth."
"What? Why?" Buck mumbles, still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
"Because I have a feeling that when you look back on this moment, you won't want the memory to taste like morning breath."
"I—what?" Buck asks. He's not awake enough to try and parse out what Maddie means.
"Just go, Buck!"
He stumbles into the bathroom, and as he pulls the door closed he can hear Eddie's familiar greeting from the direction of the apartment door.
God, not now, he thinks. He isn't ready—hasn't had time to think about what he's going to say, or to steel himself against the inevitable rejection.
He stays in the bathroom until he's pretty sure Maddie is two seconds away from coming in to drag him out herself, then heaves a sigh and heads into the kitchen like a man walking to the gallows.
Eddie is sitting at the kitchen table, his hands curled around a cup of coffee. He looks up when Buck enters, and for the first time in years, Buck can't read Eddie's expression.
He doesn't think Eddie looks mad, though, which—
"I'm gonna give you guys some space," Maddie says, and ducks into the bedroom.
"Hey, Buck," Eddie says, and his voice still has all the warmth and affection it usually does.
"Hey," Buck says. He moves in the direction of the table, but Eddie gets up before he can sit down.
"Listen, about last night—" Eddie starts, and Buck cuts him off.
"I'm sorry," he says. "It was stupid, I shouldn't have—"
"—Buck—" Eddie tries to interrupt, but Buck keeps going. He needs to get this out; he would have preferred limbo, but now that they're here, he needs to rip off the band-aid and be done with it.
"—I know you don't—you're not—it wasn't—"
"—Buck," Eddie says again, then he's taking a step forward, and another, until Buck is forced to move backwards. Another step, and Buck is boxed in against the kitchen counter.
Buck swallows. "Eddie? What are you—"
"What I should have done last night," Eddie says, and leans forward until their lips meet.
Eddie's hand is on his waist, and the other one comes up to cup his cheek. Eddie's lips are warm on his and Buck can taste the coffee on his breath, and Buck—freezes.
"Buck?" Eddie asks, pulling back with a frown. "Are you—I thought—"
"I—what about yesterday?" Buck asks. Everything in him is screaming to give up the questioning and go with it, but he has to know. "You looked—I thought you didn't want—"
Eddie huffs a soft laugh and rests his forehead against Buck's. "I want," he murmurs, a reassurance and a promise. "You just took me by surprise, is all."
Buck breathes a sigh of relief, surprised when all that comes out is air and not the butterflies that have taken up residence in his insides. “Sorry," he says. "And sorry for running. I just—I panicked, when I thought I'd fucked up."
"You didn't fuck up," Eddie says, and this time it's Buck who leans in.
Kissing Eddie feels like he's been doing it all his life, and like it's the one thing he's been searching for this whole time. He knows Eddie's every expression, his every mannerism, and kissing Eddie feels like learning a new dialect of a language his soul is fluent in.
Minutes pass, or it could be hours, and the only things that exist are the counter he is leaning against and Eddie's body pressing him into it.
Until a door opens somewhere behind them, and he hears Chimney's familiar groan.
"Look, I'm happy for you guys, I really am," Chimney says, and when Buck reluctantly detaches himself from Eddie and turns to look, Chimney is scrubbing his face with both hands. "Just—there are two other apartments you could be doing this in. There are so many places you could be doing this that aren't my kitchen."
Eddie looks down, like maybe he's a little embarrassed, but Buck just laughs. "We'll get out of your hair," he promises, and leaves an obnoxiously sloppy kiss on Chimney's cheek as he walks past. "Tell Maddie I love her!" Then he's laughing as he tugs Eddie out of the door with him, and by the time they get into the elevator and Buck corners him against the wall, Eddie's laughing too.