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Stop the Presses

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As a general rule, Eddie doesn’t really watch the news. There’s never enough time for news anchors to tell the whole story, and the parts they focus on always seem to be the most dramatic, the ones that will elicit the most explosive reaction when taken out of context.

Plus, y’know, there’s the whole Hildy thing. He’s still not over that.

The point is, Eddie’s stopped watching the news so much lately; now, he mostly gets it online, reading articles and watching longer videos than the thirty second clips that air on TV.

So, really, it was only a matter of time before this popped up on his phone screen.

It’s been two days since the riot, since Eddie shouted for Buck to stay back, since Buck screamed Eddie’s name like he was watching Eddie die again.

Since Eddie thought he was going to die for the third time in as many years.

He’s been trying not to think about it too much, wary of opening a can of worms that he knows is going to be so much bigger than he can handle alone, but the internet is conspiring against him, it seems, because the first thing he sees when he clicks onto his usual news website is an article about the riot - by none other than Taylor Kelly, of course.

Eddie knows it’s a bad idea, even as he clicks on the link; reading whatever bullshit Taylor’s spun about the riot is just going to piss him off, and yet, here he is.

He has to give her credit; the article is thorough, and reasonably objective. Her writing style isn’t nearly as annoying as her voice, and Eddie skips the included clip of that night - he remembers, vaguely, seeing her news van behind the police tape, remembers being pissed because the night had already gone to shit, the last thing they needed was the news vultures to descending.

He’s just about to click out of the tab when the top comment catches his eye.

Lisa H.: Does that blond screaming for Firefighter Diaz remind anyone of that incident two years ago, the one with the kid in the well and the firefighter who got trapped in it?

Billy K. replied: Holy crap he does

Jennifer S. replied: It’s the same guy!!!

Lisa H. replied: Wait really??

Jennifer S. replied: Yes it is! Here, check out this link, it’s got the best footage from that night. I wonder if Firefighter Diaz was the guy down the well?

Matthew L. replied: If he is, he’s had a shitty three years; he was shot last year, too.

Lisa H. replied: God, his poor husband, watching him go through this sort of thing three times now.

Eddie blinks. Husband?

Billy K., whoever he is, appears to have the same confusion. Billy K. replied: What do you mean ‘husband’? Where does it say that?

Lisa H. replied: Nowhere, but come on. The blond was *devastated* when that rig came down at the well, and there were some shots of him outside the hospital the day Diaz was shot, covered in blood. Someone said that he was on the scene, that he pulled Diaz to safety. And now, the way he screamed? You don’t scream like that for your best friend. Diaz shouts ‘Buck’ the same way, they *have* to be together.

The comment section devolves into an argument from there, but Eddie ignores it, his heart suddenly pounding in his chest, pulse roaring in his ears. If feels almost like a panic attack, realizing that this complete stranger pegged the way he feels about Buck just from these clips -

But she said that they had to be together. She said Buck was devastated at the well.

How could she know?

Eddie scrolls back up and finds the link that Lisa had provided. Before he can talk himself out of doing so, he clicks on it.

It’s a link to a youtube video by a local news station. For once, the reporter isn’t Taylor Kelly - sometimes it seems like she’s the only one who ever reports on the 118 - but Eddie isn’t focusing on her. His attention is on the background, searching the milling first responders for Buck’s silhouette. He finds it right as the reporter mentions that the boy is safe, and now they’re prepping to retrieve the firefighter who went down first. Eddie ignores the roll of nausea in his stomach, the reminder that he never really dealt with having almost died, not with what that means for him, and focuses on Buck.

The lightning strike makes him jump, and he has to rewind the video so he can see how Buck tackles Bobby to the ground - and he watches as Buck shoves himself upright, doesn’t even get fully to his feet before he’s tripping towards the now-fallen rig, skidding to his knees and digging - no, clawing - at the mud. The clamor of rain and thunder and voices is loud, as loud as his pulse, but over all of that, Eddie can hear Buck screaming his name, and…

Lisa H., whoever she is, was right.

Buck doesn’t really sound like he’s screaming for his best friend. And when Bobby grabs him, hauls Buck into his lap, Eddie can just make out the wrecked expression on Buck’s face. Like Buck really, truly thought he was dead.

Eddie’s heart thumps in his chest, and before he can stop himself, he’s clicking through to Google, searching for images of the aftermath of his shooting, looking for the one that Lisa H. had mentioned. He finds it, a somewhat-fuzzy photo of Buck outside of the hospital, clearly taken on someone’s phone camera. Buck’s change shirts - he hopes Buck burned the one he was wearing - but even at this distance he can make out dark patches on the knees of the pants, remembers waking up as he was pulled out from beneath the engine, his shoulder screaming in agony so loudly he couldn’t help but scream with it.

Buck looks shell-shocked, talking with Taylor, and Eddie swallows hard, clicks out of the page.

Christopher is with Abuela tonight, so Eddie doesn’t have to worry about him as he pushes himself to his feet, grabs his keys, and strides out of the house.

The drive to Buck’s place is a blur; the next thing Eddie knows, he’s sliding out of his truck only to come face-to-face with Taylor Kelly herself. The sight makes him freeze, makes him remember, oh yeah, Buck has a girlfriend -

Taylor speaks first. “Buck just broke up with me,” she says, which is so far out of left field that it steals Eddie’s voice, which he’s only just found, away again. “I - Well. You can ask him for the details, but. We were never going to be the partner the other needed.” She smiles, and Eddie is startled to realize that it’s a genuine smile. “Be good for him, Diaz.”

For him; not to him.

Eddie nods, still speechless, and watches as Taylor gets into her car and drives off before he finally remembers how to make his legs work. Where the drive over was a blur, muscle memory, Eddie’s only too conscious of each step he takes into Buck’s building, of the weight of Buck’s key on his keyring and in his hand as he heads for the elevator.

He doesn’t knock, just lets himself in, and finds Buck sitting at the kitchen table, frowning heavily at a beer. The sight is almost enough to make Eddie laugh; how many of these conversations have they had in Buck’s kitchen? “Buck?”

Buck startles badly enough to make the drink slosh in its glass as he turns to Eddie. “Hey, sorry,” he says,and the smile that comes to his lips is clearly forced. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“It’s fine, I just got here,” he says, gaze flicking over Buck’s face, wondering… But first: “I ran into Taylor in the parking lot. She said you broke up?”

Buck’s lips twist. “She always puts her job first,” he says. “And I get that, I get loving your job, but… It never felt like she was with me, y’know? Even when she was trying to be, it always felt forced. She’s a good friend, but… We shouldn’t be more.”

Eddie nods, drifting closer until he can lean against the island next to Buck. “So you broke it off with her.”

“Yeah,” Buck sighs, and there’s more to the story.

“Why now?” Eddie prods, careful.

Buck glances up at him and then away, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quick. “She, uh. She said she’d been doing some research, and found some videos. She asked me about them, and things kind of… spiraled.”

Eddie feels like he can’t breathe, but beneath that, there’s a sense of anticipation, not panic. “What videos?”

Buck huffs, and nudges his phone towards Eddie. “These,” he says without looking up. When Eddie glances down, he sees that Buck’s got the same video of the well incident that he had found.

Eddie can’t help the short laugh that bursts out of him, and when Buck looks up, expression wounded, he hastens to explain, “I, uh. I just saw those tonight, too. I was coming to talk to you about them.” And now there’s panic - but it’s on Buck’s face, not wrapped tight around Eddie’s heart, and suddenly, it seems so easy to keep talking. “I found Taylor’s article on the riot, and someone in the comments recognized you, posted a link to that video. I kind of fell down a rabbit hole.”

Buck wets his lips in a nervous tic. “So did Taylor,” he says, and the panic has eased, slightly, but he’s still wary. “She, um. Had some questions.”

“Like?” Eddie asks, softly encouraging.

“Like why did I sound so desperate, screaming your name,” Buck confesses, gaze dropping to the beer bottle in his hands, picking at the label.

Eddie can feel the metaphorical edge of the cliff under his toes. “Which time?”

Buck doesn’t look up. “Every time,” he whispers. “I sound the same every time, when you’re in danger, when I wake up in the middle of the night back on that street with your blood in my mouth.”

Eddie lets himself drift closer, reaches out to fit his hand around the curve of Buck’s on the beer, tangling their fingers together. “I wake up hearing the shot and tasting my blood,” he murmurs, just loud enough for Buck to hear. “And seeing it on your face, on your shirt… It’s fucking imprinted on the back of my eyelids.” He squeezes Buck’s hand, waits for Buck to meet his own gaze, feeling more open and vulnerable than he thinks he’s ever felt in his life when Buck’s eyes meet his, and he asks, “What other questions did she have, Evan?”

Buck’s breath trembles against Eddie’s face; Eddie hadn’t realized he’d moved so much closer. Buck’s eyes slide closed, and he confesses like he’s sitting in church, “She asked if I love you.” Eddie can see the way his Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows and corrects himself. “If I’m in love with you.”

“What did you say?” Eddie asks, breathless and teetering on that edge, one word away -

Buck gives it to him. “Yes.”

Their first kiss is salty with tears, flavored with Buck’s surprised gasp and then he’s pushing into Eddie’s space, not letting Eddie back up, but instead wrapping his hands around Eddie’s waist and lifting him without breaking the kiss. Eddie feels the surface of the kitchen island under his ass, obligingly scoots back and widens his legs and tugs Buck into the space impatiently.

When they finally break apart, they’re both breathless, and Eddie reaches up, uses his thumbs to wipe at the tear tracks on Buck’s face, feels Buck mirror the gesture with his own. “I love you, Evan,” Eddie whispers, because - well, because it’s not the sort of thing that needs to be shouted, between them. Never has been. “God, I love you.”

Buck’s smile is wobbly, but much more genuine than the first one he gave Eddie. “I love you, too,” he breathes, ducking in for another kiss that Eddie eagerly grants - he’s already addicted to kissing Buck, and never wants to stop. They’ll have to eventually, he knows; there’s still so much they need to talk about.

But for right now, they’re on the same page, and Buck’s warmth against his body has never felt so solid, and even though he’s free-falling, Eddie’s never felt safer.