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Buck and Eddie don't usually make a habit of getting drunk like this, not really. They're both on the wrong side of thirty for it, for one thing, and most of the time they have a kid to think about.

But it's been a long day and a longer shift and Christopher is spending the weekend at Abuela's, and it's easy for one post-shift beer to turn into two, then three, and eventually into Buck pulling out the bartending skills he claims are basically muscle memory.

Just like riding a bike, he tells Eddie, and then goes into the kitchen to make the drinks so Eddie doesn't see him looking up recipes to double-check exactly what the ratio for a proper margarita is. Just because he's tipsy and a little forgetful doesn't mean he's going to half-ass this. 

It's a little fiddly, but it's worth it for the pleased gleam in Eddie's eyes when he walks back into the living room with two frosty glasses with perfectly salted rims. 

"God, I've missed your margaritas," Eddie says, reaching for the glass Buck holds out for him. "Why don't we do this more often?" 

"Because we're getting too old for tequila," Buck says, and takes a sip of his drink. 

"Right, that's it," Eddie agrees, and follows suit. 

Buck watches the way Eddie's throat works as he swallows. Not for the first time—not this week, not today, probably not even this hour—he thinks about giving in to the urge that is always there at the back of his mind. The urge to tackle him into the couch cushions and kiss him until there's no more air left in either of their lungs and the urge to curl himself around Eddie and whisper adoration into his skin, all wrapped up together in a tangle of want that threatens to crowd his heart out of his ribcage sometimes. 

But he doesn't. Of course he doesn't. He never does. Because he can live with this—with Eddie within reach but always an arm's length away—but he couldn't live with what would happen if he put it all out there and Eddie turned away. 

Buck's alcohol tolerance isn't what it used to be in his Firehose days, but Eddie's is apparently non-existent. Buck switches them to tequila sunrises after the second margarita because he's not sure he trusts himself with the cocktail shaker, but at least he's mostly in control of his actions. 

Eddie, on the other hand, has been voicing his every passing thought with no apparent filter for a good half an hour now. It's amusing and more than a little endearing, a reminder of how ridiculous Eddie can get when he lets his guard down. 

Then Eddie says the last four words Buck ever expected to hear from him. "We should get married."

Buck drops the glass he's holding, and it hits the carpet with a muffled thud. Dimly, he thinks it's lucky the glass was empty, because grenadine stains are a bitch to get out. 

Never mind the grenadine, some part of his brain screams. Slowly, Buck turns to look at Eddie, and he has no idea what he's expecting to find. 

But Eddie doesn't seem to realise the magnitude of what he's just said. He's sprawled in an armchair, legs thrown over one of the armrests, scrolling through his phone as casual as anything. Like he didn't just propose literal marriage.

"I—what?" Buck manages to stutter. It's two syllables more than he thought he'd be capable of. 

"Yeah," Eddie says, turning to look at Buck, letting his head loll against the armrest. "For, I don't know, tax benefits and shit. That's a thing people do, isn't it?"

Oh. He doesn't mean it. 

Not in the way Buck wants him to mean it, anyway.

"Besides," Eddie continues through a yawn, seemingly unaware of what he's currently doing to Buck. "Then you could officially be Christopher's parent without one of us having to fucking die. And you could move in here. Save the rent money."

And it's—it's everything Buck has ever wanted. A home filled with light and laughter and love, and a family to come home to. 

And it's so goddamn hollow. It's everything he's ever wanted with one crucial piece held just out of reach, Tantalus surrounded by food and water unable to touch any of it. 

He's been able to live with it, so far, the knowledge that Eddie will never feel about him the way he feels about Eddie. But this... this might just be the thing that breaks him. 

How is he supposed to break it to Eddie? How is he supposed to tell his best friend they can't get married for tax benefits because he doesn't think he would survive it?

How is he supposed to make it out of this situation without losing Eddie, one way or another?

Buck still doesn't know what he's going to say when he turns to face Eddie, but then he sees the way Eddie's eyes are drifting shut and decides to grant them both a temporary reprieve. 

"Why don't we come back to this in the morning?" he says, hoping his voice doesn't shake and betray him. "Seems more like a sober decision, and you look like you needed to be asleep five minutes ago." 

Maybe if he puts it off, he won't have to make this decision. Maybe when they wake up tomorrow Eddie won't remember any of this, and Buck can keep living the almost-but-not-quite version of life he's accustomed to. The one he knows how to live. 

Eddie blinks, slow, eyes a little unfocused. Buck isn't entirely convinced he didn't just fall asleep for a moment or two. "Sleep sounds good," Eddie mumbles. 

"Come on, then," Buck says, and gets up off the sofa to go tug at Eddie's hand. But Eddie doesn't budge, and Buck is too tired and too drunk and his nerves are too frayed to even think about manhandling Eddie out of the chair.

"Fine, sleep in that chair," he says, releasing Eddie's hand. "I bet your neck is gonna love that tomorrow." 

He's halfway down the hallway to Eddie's bedroom when he hears stirring behind him, like he'd known he would. By the time he's made it to the bed and under the covers, Eddie has appeared in the doorway, dragging his feet like a portent of the zombie apocalypse.

Eddie struggles as little as he strips down to his briefs, and then he's collapsing into bed next to Buck. He rolls over immediately, zeroing in on Buck like a heat-seeking missile, and Buck swallows.

It's been months since he slept on the sofa while staying at the Diaz house—months since Eddie finally convinced him that the sofa wasn't worth it, and if he's going to stay he might as well get a good night's sleep—but it isn't usually like this. Usually, they at least pretend to maintain a respectable distance when they're going to sleep, because waking up tangled together is easier to explain away if it wasn't intentional. but now Eddie has an arm thrown across his waist and his head is resting on Buck's shoulder, and it's really not helping this feeling that everything he wants will always be just out of reach. 

It seems to be the theme of the night.

Eddie's breathing quickly evens out into sleep, but Buck lies awake for what feels like hours, thinking about every place Eddie's body is pressed against his. He thinks about a lifetime of nights like this, stretching out into the future, and he knows.

There is no universe in which he marries Eddie like this and it ends up working out. 

 

Buck wakes up with Eddie's face pressed into his shoulder, and for a moment he doesn't remember. Doesn't remember the half-life Eddie had offered him, or how much he'd considered taking him up on it. 

But it all comes rushing back, because morning never comes without consequence. 

And he'd planned on keeping silent and hoping Eddie would forget, he really had.

He makes it seven whole minutes. They're up and mostly dressed, and Eddie bends over to pick up a pair of sweatpants and stops halfway, touching his forehead with a groan. "God, what did we do last night?"

Buck opens his mouth to say tequila, but what comes out is "Well, you proposed to me, for one thing."

"I—what?" Eddie asks, all the colour draining out of his face. "God, Buck—what did I—" 

He looks stricken, and Buck doesn't understand. Eddie isn't supposed to be the devastated one in this situation. 

"Yeah," he says slowly. "You said we should get married for—"

"—Tax benefits," Eddie interrupts in a horrified whisper. "Right." He's still pale, still looking anywhere but at Buck.

"Eddie?" he asks carefully. "Are you okay? What's—is the idea of marrying me that terrible?" The thought stings, and he can't keep all of the hurt out of his voice. 

Eddie's gaze flies to meet his. "Buck, no." 

"Then why are you so freaked out?" he demands, knowing as he says it that the emphasis he can't help but put on the word you probably reveals far too much. 

If Eddie notices, he doesn't comment on it. "Because I don't want to marry you for tax benefits!" he says instead. 

"Oh," Buck says, feeling hollowness start spreading through him. "I guess I'll just..." then he frowns. "But you just said—the idea—"

"Buck," Eddie says, and takes a deep breath like he's steeling himself for something. "I don't want to marry you for tax benefits. I want to marry you for real."

"Oh," Buck says again, but it's worlds away from the first one. There's a rushing in his ears, and his field of vision has narrowed to just one point, to just Eddie.

Eddie, who is smiling at him, that steady smile Buck could trace blindfolded. "I mean, the tax benefits are good," Eddie says. "But mostly it's because I'm in love with you."

"Yes," Buck says immediately, so fast it's probably embarrassing. "God, yes, Eddie, do you know how much it killed me yesterday when you said tax benefits?"

"I'm sorry," Eddie says, but he's grinning, so wide it looks like it might split his face in half. "I guess—can I blame tequila?"

"You can blame whatever you want," Buck says, and suspects his grin is probably just as ridiculously big. "As long as it gets us here in the end."

Then Eddie laughs. "We're technically engaged, and you haven't even kissed me yet."

Buck laughs, too, and takes a step towards Eddie. "Well, what are you waiting for?"