i. there’s nobody in this world I trust with my son, more than you.
He’d failed. And that wasn’t a new feeling for Buck, not with parents like his who saw everything as a failure regardless of how hard he tried. But this - this time it was different. Because Eddie had trusted him with Christopher, his son, the most precious thing in the entire world to him. Eddie had handed Chris over to him, trusting that Buck would keep him safe, and what had Buck done? He’d lost him.
It doesn’t matter that he’s safe now, that Christopher was - miraculously - completely unharmed. It doesn’t matter that the woman who’d kept him safe when Buck couldn’t had told Eddie ’he was looking for his Buck.’ The only thing that matters is Buck losing him, Buck putting him in danger, Buck failing.
Always, always, always Buck failing.
Eddie and Chris were family to Buck, were everything he’d always wanted but never even dreamed he could have. And he doesn’t have them, not really - at least, not in all the ways he wants them. But still, they were something. A blended, mis-matched almost-family that felt more like home than anything Buck had ever known. Until now.
Because Christopher could have died and it would have been entirely Buck’s fault, and he knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that Eddie will never forgive him for this.
Buck knows he’s just lost the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
He wants to pick up the phone and call Eddie. He wants to pick up his car keys and drive over, pound on their door until Eddie has no choice but to let him in - to hear him out. But Buck doesn’t, because he knows he doesn’t deserve a second chance at this. It had taken everything for Eddie to trust Buck with his son and Buck had wanted so much to be worthy of that, but he’d still found a way to fuck it up.
He feels sick to his stomach, and it’s only half because of the amount of sea water he’d swallowed.
It’s just - the guilt is eating him up, and the longer he has to wait to hear from Eddie, the worse it gets. They haven’t spoken since Buck told him he’d lost Christopher, haven’t interacted since that nod Eddie gave him as he carried Chris away to get checked over. He hasn’t even gotten a text.
And it’s not that Buck thinks he deserves one, it’s just - the not knowing is killing him. He’d rather Eddie show up, all guns blazing, and scream at him until he’s blue in the face, than deal with this: the silence. Buck doesn’t know what to do with silence, it makes his skin feel itchy and too tight for his body - it makes the buzzing in his head grow so loud that he wants to claw at his brain to make it stop.
He wants Eddie to tell him everything is going to be okay. He also knows that isn’t going to happen.
But then Buck blinks and Chris and Eddie are right in front of him, in his apartment like today is just a normal day - like yesterday hadn’t been one of the worst days of all of their lives. And Christopher hugs like him like he always does, and Eddie begins rattling off all the things Buck needs to know, and Buck feels like he’s skipped a couple of episodes of his favourite show.
And Eddie is, god, he’s joking. He’s teasing Buck like something hasn’t just shifted between them, like Buck hasn’t caused irreparable damage to the very fabric of their relationship. It feels like he’s got whiplash, like he can’t make sense of everything that’s going on around him. Because surely Eddie can’t mean this, but-
“A natural disaster happened, Buck,” Eddie says.
“I lost him, Eddie,” Buck explains, like maybe Eddie had overlooked that minor detail.
“You saved him,” Eddie insists. “That’s how he remembers it.”
Christopher is sitting on his couch, playing like he has done so many times before. He doesn’t look scared, or like he doesn’t want to be here, or like he feels unsafe around Buck. He just looks like Christopher, his - Eddie’s, their - Christopher. Buck can’t quite believe this is happening.
But then he looks to Eddie, and he doesn’t seem mad at all. If anything, he seems concerned for Buck. He’s looking at him with those big, brown eyes and god, there’s still so much trust there, like not a single thing has changed between them.
“I love him enough to never stop trying,” Eddie tells him. “And I know you do too.”
Buck almost thinks he’s imagining this, that it’s a hallucination brought on by sleep deprivation or some kind of psychosis, because it’s the only option that makes any sense. But then Eddie is saying his name, and his hand is resting on Buck’s shoulder, and his thumb is pressed ever-so-gently into the hollow of Buck’s throat.
“There’s nobody in this world I trust with my son, more than you.”
Almost as soon as the words leave Eddie’s mouth, something inside of Buck shifts. That part of him that felt missing at the thought of losing Eddie and Chris clicks back into place, and Buck can finally breathe again. It feels like his whole body is sighing in relief as the tension bleeds from his bones and seeps into the rug beneath his feet.
He’s not lost them. They’re still - not his, exactly. But not gone, either. And sometimes it aches, loving Eddie so fiercely that it steals his breath. But Buck will happily love him silence if it means he gets to hold onto this for a little longer.
ii. i’ve got your back.
This time, it’s a five alarm. A paper mill has gone up in flames, and with the contents of it being, well, paper, the thing had spread like a damn wildfire. Way too fast for anyone to get control of it, and too fast for some of the employees to make their way out. Buck knows before they even arrive on scene that it’s going to be a shit show. These are the kind of incidents you have to mentally prepare for, because they’re the kind where they usually lose people.
Bobby is in the front of the truck and sharing information with them as he receives it, but it’s the lulls between the talking that are difficult. Buck works best when he’s in the thick of it - when he’s moving, doing something, helping somehow. But the journeys there, when adrenaline is coursing through his veins with absolutely no outlet, they make him antsy.
He’s picking at the skin next to his thumbnail just for something to focus on, and he doesn’t realise he’s bouncing his leg until a hand reaches out to stop him. It’s Eddie’s - big and warm as it spreads over his thigh and squeezes, just enough to stop Buck from jiggling it up and down. The weight of it - the feel of Eddie touching him - is grounding, and Buck takes a breath.
“Sorry,” he says.
It’s not that he’s nervous, exactly. He’s been doing this for long enough that nerves don’t affect him quite like they used to. It’s just that this part makes him feel so useless, and he’s not in control until he’s out there doing something.
“You good?” Eddie asks.
He knows Buck well enough by now, knows the weird ways that his brain works and the things that make him tick. He’s not worried, not yet at least. He’s just checking in, making sure Buck doesn’t get too lost in his head before they get there. Buck appreciates it, and he shows Eddie by knocking their knees together briefly.
It’s organised chaos by the time they arrive. They building is almost entirely engulfed and there are least four other fire houses already on the scene, trying to get a handle on the situation.
It’s not the worst they’ve ever faced, but it’s not pretty either. The smoke is billowing in thick, black tendrils, making every breath taste like Eddie’s attempts at cooking. There’s a part of the parking lot already sectioned off for the walking wounded, and another part for the more critically injured, which is where Bobby instantly sends Hen and Chim.
They’re quickly approached by the captain in charge, a woman who looks barely older than Buck but like she could put just about anyone in their place. Bobby shakes her hand, then they listen and await her instructions.
“I’m Captain Wells,” she introduces herself.
“Captain Nash,” Bobby says. “And this is Diaz and Buckley. We’re from the 118.”
“Where do you need us?” Eddie asks.
It’s moments like these when Buck can really picture Eddie as a soldier on the frontline. Most of the time, when they’re home - at Eddie’s, Buck reminds himself - with Christopher, and Eddie is soft, and funny, and warm, Buck can’t imagine it. But now, when Eddie is the calm in the midst a hurricane, ever-ready to follow orders, Buck can really see it.
It’s still strange, sometimes - that Buck can know so much about Eddie, but so little about the life he had before LA and the 118. He knows the basics, of course: Shannon, his parents, Afghanistan. But there are times when it feels like there’s so much of Eddie that Buck doesn’t know, and it’s not that he feels entitled to those pieces of Eddie - it’s just that he’d like to see them someday, he’d like to know them. He’s certain he’d love those parts as much as he loves the rest of him.
“We have three employees trapped in an office in north-east corner of the building,” Captain Wells explains. “Think you boys can handle that?”
“You got it,” Buck says at the exact same time that Eddie answers, “We’re on it.”
They gear up side by side, and the routine is so familiar by now that it settles the crackling inside of Buck. It’s just habit, when Buck reaches out to check the integrity of Eddie’s mask, and the gauge on his oxygen tank. Eddie grins at him and does the same, giving Buck a once over to make sure he’s safe, secure, and ready to go.
Buck isn’t sure when they started that - when each other’s safety became tantamount to their own, but somewhere along the line it happened, and now Buck can’t watch Eddie run into a burning building without first checking his gear for him. Just in case. It’s ridiculous, maybe, and Hen and Chim absolutely make fun of them for it, but it settles Buck’s nerves, and he’s sure it does the same thing for Eddie.
They’re ready in under two minutes, and when Bobby and Wells give them the go ahead they make their way towards the eastern entry point. The smoke is already worse than when they arrived, and the inferno is burning so hot that they can feel the heat radiating from it when they get within fifteen feet of the building.
Eddie’s hand on Buck’s chest stops him in his path, and when Eddie removes his hand he turns it into a fist for Buck to bump his own against. Buck taps his gloved knuckles against Eddie’s and smiles.
“I’ve got your back,” Eddie tells him.
“I’ve got yours,” Buck promises, then they head into the eye of the hurricane.
iii. be careful.
Their lives are so inextricably tangled together that it’s sometimes hard to tell where one of them ends and the other one begins. Buck’s fridge is covered in Christopher’s drawings and there’s a toy chest overflowing in his living room. Eddie’s closet is littered with items of Buck’s clothing and his fridge now has actual, fresh vegetables in it.
It’s intense, sometimes. It’s hard not to look at their lives and see things that aren’t there, to hope Eddie’s eyes linger when Buck is fresh out of the shower, or to wish that Eddie’s hand on the back of his neck means more than it does. It won’t, of course, because Eddie doesn’t want Buck in that way and that will always be okay - what they already have will always be enough - but that doesn’t stop it from hurting a little, from time to time.
What Buck means to say is that he’s got comfortable having Eddie around, in and out of work. And when Eddie gets shot all of that changes.
For one, Buck moves in with them. It’s on a temporary basis, of course, just until Eddie is healed enough to be able manage everything on his own again. He’d tried to insist that he was fine, he could handle things, but when Buck pointed out that Eddie could barely bend down to tie his shoelaces, well. The point is, Buck moves in.
He takes the first week that Eddie is home off work. Eddie pretends to get frustrated with Buck never leaving his side, but Buck isn’t stupid - he sees the way Eddie’s mouth curls into the tiniest hint of a smile when they’re winding each other up.
“For the love of god, go home,” Eddie begs for the umpteenth time in a single morning.
Buck smiles sarcastically at him. “No can do, you’re stuck with me.”
He hands Eddie a glass of water and the handful of pills he has to take. Eddie’s brows furrow the tiniest bit but not enough for him to really be mad, and he swallows the pills without any argument. Plus, in about fifteen minutes when the pain meds kick in, Buck knows he’ll be dealing with a much more pleasant version of his best friend.
“I’m changing the locks,” Eddie tells him.
“That’s fine, Chris will let me in,” Buck retorts, and Eddie groans and scrunches his eyes closed because he knows he’s right.
“I’ll move back to Texas.”
Buck outright laughs then. It’s not even the first time Eddie has threatened that today, he’s just cranky and in pain, and he hates having to rely on anyone for help. Buck gets it, doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere though.
“No you won’t, you love me too much,” Buck teases, a shit-eating grin on his face.
Eddie opens on eye and says, “Get out of my house,” but Buck sees the way Eddie’s mouth quirks, trying to fight off a smile.
It’s all fun and games, really. But eventually Buck has to go back to work, and he has to go back without Eddie by his side.
It’s not like they always work together, sometimes Bobby likes to change things up at little and swap the partnerships around, but most of the time they’re together; it’s just how they work best. It feels weird for Buck, knowing that he’s going to work and Eddie won’t be there to have his back. He trusts the rest of their crew with his life - there’s no doubt about that - but he and Eddie have that bond with each other, the one that means words are rarely necessary because they always know what the other is thinking.
It’s fine, obviously, Buck is a big boy. But bad things do have a habit of happening when they split up, and he’s worried about working without Eddie, and he’s worried about leaving him alone. He’s worried all the time, really, since a bullet tore through Eddie’s flesh and Buck could taste his blood in his mouth.
His one consolation is that Eddie seems to be happy he no longer needs a babysitter 24/7, and that he’s getting some space from Buck.
But then, as Buck is hitching his work bag up onto his shoulder, scanning the room for things he might have forgotten, and patting his pockets to make sure he’s got his phone and keys, Eddie stops him.
“Buck,” he says.
“I know, I know,” Buck laughs. “I’m going.”
He turns to head out the door, but Eddie’s voice stops him again. “No, Buck, I-“
He stops mid sentence, like maybe he’s not sure what to say, or if he should say it. Buck can easily tell that there’s something niggling at him, and he’s seconds away from calling Bobby and telling him he can’t make it today when he Eddie sighs, rubbing his hands over his face and through his hair.
“Just, be careful, yeah?” Eddie’s voice is as shy as Buck has ever heard it, and that alone would be enough to make Buck breathless.
“Yeah,” he promises. “Yeah, I’ll be careful, Eds.”
iv. text me when you get home.
Buck’s sitting in folding chair with a glass of lemonade, watching over everyone. It’s days like these that sometimes catch Buck off guard. They sneak up on him slowly and make Buck sit back for a moment and just appreciate his life, and how far he’s come, and all the things he never thought he’d get to have.
He has a family who loves him unconditionally and without reservation, he has his sister - who’s happy, and healthy, and with someone who loves her almost as much as he does. He has his adorable niece, and parental figures in Bobby and Athena, and the greatest friends he could ask for.
He has Eddie, too. And Christopher. They fit into their own category, though he’s not sure what he’d call it if he had to give it a name. They’re his family, and his friends, and somehow even more than that. They’re home to Buck, the place where he feels most himself. And he’s always known that this won’t be forever, that he won’t always get to keep them like this, but he’ll cherish every second of it, for as long as he’s allowed it.
“Buck, look!” Christopher says excitedly, and Buck instantly looks to where Chris is pointing.
It’s Jee-Yun, wobbling across the grass completely unaided. She’s only been walking for a few days, and Maddie has sent him a dozen videos already but it’s the first time he’s got to see it in person. He marvels at it, knows he’s grinning like an idiot but he can’t force himself to stop. He loves her so much it’s like his body can’t hold all of it inside of him - it’s the same way he feels every time he looks at Christopher.
“Wow, how cool is that,” he says, equally as excited as Chris sounded.
“She’s getting too big,” Chris whines, and Buck laughs because he knows exactly how he feels. It’s like every time he blinks they’ve both grown an inch, learned something new, need Buck a little less. But it’s the sweetest thing in the world, how much Chris dotes on Jee. He’d make the perfect big brother one day.
“How is she walking already?” Eddie asks, and Buck turns to see Eddie standing behind him.
“Don’t even,” Buck says. “I swear she was only born last week.”
Eddie laughs, and he’s standing so close Buck can feel the vibrations from it on the back of his head. He leans back ever so slightly, letting his head fall against Eddie’s stomach, and when Eddie rests a hand on his shoulder, Buck doesn’t pull away. It feels like his bones turn to jelly, having Eddie so close, touching him so readily. He simultaneously wants to pull away, and never wants this moment to end.
“Time flies,” Eddie agrees. “One minute they’re babies, the next thing you know they have a crush on the new kid.”
“Don’t go there,” Buck groans.
Chris had come home last week with hearts in his eyes and a flush on his cheeks, insisting he was in love. Alex, the new student in Christopher’s class, is smart, and funny, and they make Chris’s heart beat really fast whenever they’re close by. They moved here from Colorado, their favourite colour is yellow, and they like space and science just like Chris does.
Buck doesn’t want to talk about it, actually. His baby is growing up far too fast for his liking.
Eddie laughs again, just as Buck lets out a yawn and half-covers his mouth with the hand that’s holding his glass of lemonade.
“You good?” Eddie asks, peering down at Buck.
Buck looks up at him and nods, his head brushing against Eddie’s stomach. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just tired.”
He’d pulled a double yesterday to cover for Chavez, then woken up after four hours sleep to meet Eddie and Christopher for the aquarium. He’s had an amazing day with all of his favourite people, but it’s starting to catch up to him now. There’s nothing he wants more than to crawl into bed and sleep for the next ten to twelve hours.
It’s in moments like these, when Buck is sleepy and his guard is down, that he lets himself think about how it would feel to climb into bed with Eddie. To fall asleep next to him, and wake up and see his face the next day.
Eddie squeezes his shoulder and snaps him back to reality.
“I’m gonna head home,” Buck says around another yawn.
“Do you need a ride?” Eddie offers, but Buck shakes his head.
“No, you stay and enjoy yourself.”
He says his goodbyes to everyone else. He hugs Bobby and Athena tightly, kisses Maddie, Jee, and Hen on the cheek, scoops Chris into his arms and ruffles his hair, then waves goodbye to the rest. He’s halfway out the back gate when a hand on his wrist stops him.
“Text me when you get home?” Eddie asks.
“Yeah,” Buck says. “Yeah, will do.”
He makes it home pretty quickly considering LA traffic is always a nightmare. There are dishes and laundry that need to be dealt with, but Buck ignores all of it in favour of crawling under the covers. He shoots off a I’m home safe and sound text to Eddie, then Buck is asleep before his head even hits the pillow.
v. don’t ever scare me like that again.
They go in blind, essentially.
Buck is on Eddie’s tail but the smoke is so thick that he can barely see five feet in front of him, and when a noise turns his head for no more than a second or two, well. That’s enough to lose sight of Eddie completely. He tries to catch up to him, but there are so many corridors, twists and turns, rooms that Eddie could have gone into, that the attempt is futile.
Once upon a time Buck would have just carried on, but things are different now. He’s got Christopher to think about, the will. The promise that he made to Eddie to always fight to make it back for Chris. He’s not a dad, not really, except for all the ways that he is, in everything but name. And he’s not going to be reckless and risk leaving his - his Christopher behind.
So he reaches down for his radio to explain the situation and wait for Bobby’s orders. Except when he tries, nothing is working. His battery can’t be dead because he replaced it just this afternoon, so something must be faulty or broken. Either way, he’s royally screwed. He can’t contact anyone, he doesn’t know where Eddie is, and he lost his way trying to find him.
He’s not panicking, exactly. Not yet, at least. But it’s a close thing, and he has to take a moment that he really can’t afford to waste, to stop and think about what he’s going to do next. He could try and retrace his steps, but that might make him even more lost, and he could try to make it to a window but there’s no guarantee anyone would see him, or get to him on time.
He doesn’t know what to do.
“Eddie!” He calls out, even though he knows it’s useless. “Eddie!”
He’s met by nothing other than the roar of the fire, the crackle of the floorboards beneath his feet as they start to become unstable, the pounding of his own heartbeat in his ears. He takes a breath, and another one, and tries to stay calm.
His best - only, a voice in the back of his mind tells him - option is to go back the way he thinks he came. He might get even more lost, but at this point there’s nothing more he could lose. He’s already fucked, he may as well at least try and make it out, it’s not like he could make it any worse.
So he goes back the way he thinks they came in, and tries not to think too much about Eddie all alone in this, or what he’ll do now that he’s realised Buck is missing. Instead Buck thinks only about putting one foot in front of the other.
He’s been a firefighter for long enough now that he knows the signs. He can hear it in the creaking of the building, in the cacophony of the fire and the the things it’s quickly destroying: this building is coming down, and soon. If he had to guess, Buck would say he has minutes left before the whole thing collapses on top of him, beneath him, all a-fucking-round him.
Bobby is probably ordering them to evacuate, if he hasn’t already. That means no help is coming - Buck has to figure this out on his own or he’s going to die in here.
It’s luck, more than anything, that sees Buck stumbling out of the building mere seconds before it gives one final shudder and caves in on itself. His oxygen is almost out, his mask is cracked from a piece of falling debris, and there’s a cut on his forehead that’s dripping blood down his face.
None of that seems to matter when Eddie crashes into him so forcefully that he almost knocks Buck off his feet.
Eddie is grasping at him, arms tight around his shoulders. Then he pulls back, his hands brushing up and down his arms, and neck, and tilting Buck’s head from side to side as Eddie assesses the cut on his head. His lower lip is bitten raw and his hands are trembling where they touch Buck, and Eddie is refusing to meet his eye.
“I’m okay,” Buck whispers, then, louder, “Eddie, I’m okay.”
Eddie finally looks him in the eye, and when he does all of his remaining resolve shatters into pieces. He cries out, pulls Buck close to him again, buries his face in the space between Buck’s neck and his shoulder.
“Jesus, Buck. Fuck. Don’t ever scare me like that again, do you hear me?” Eddie pleads. “You can’t do that. You can’t do that to me.”
He’s repeating himself, rambling on and on as his hands still roam over Buck’s body like he’s checking to make sure he’s really in one piece. Buck just holds him back, whispers I’m sorry over and over again.
+i. i love you.
Buck says something self-deprecating and Eddie rolls his eyes, tells him to shut up.
Buck laughs. “I’m only saying that-“ he begins, but Eddie cuts him off.
“I love you.”
Everything kind of just - stills. It’s like the whole world stops spinning, like nothing else could possibly be going on in this moment other than this. Like nothing is more important than the two of them.
“What?” Buck asks, voice barely even a whisper.
Eddie smiles as easy as he always does for Buck. “I said I love you,” he repeats.
Buck swallows. “Yeah, that’s what I thought you said,” he murmurs in complete disbelief.
Eddie laughs and shrugs his shoulders, takes another swig of beer like this is no big deal. Like he hasn’t just handed Buck everything he’s ever wanted with the same ease as giving someone a pat on the back. Buck feels like maybe he’s missed something, because he’s not sure how they got here but Eddie is acting like it’s the most natural, obvious thing in the world.
“It’s not like you didn’t know,” Eddie says, and-
Oh. That’s something.
“I think I’d know if I, y’know, knew,” Buck tells him, sounding every bit as complicated as this whole situation feels.
Eddie frowns then, puts his beer down on the coffee table and rubs his hands over his thighs. Buck tries very hard not to get distracted from the task at hand.
“What?” It’s Eddie’s turn to ask.
“I definitely didn’t know, uh, that.”
Then it’s like the gravity of the moment finally dawns on Eddie, because his whole body goes still and his eyes widen almost comically. That’s more of an appropriate reaction to this, Buck thinks.
“I thought - I thought you did,” Eddie says, almost in disbelief. “I thought, surely you must have figured it out by now.”
“You never said anything.”
He definitely, definitely hadn’t. Buck would have known. He would have noticed if the god damn love of his life had confessed his love before - that would have been kind of fucking difficult to miss.
Shit, Buck can’t breathe. His hands are sweating and his heart is beating too fast, and he wants to kiss Eddie, and he wants to run. He wants to cry, and laugh, and figure out what exactly is happening right now, because he still doesn’t know.
Eddie laughs. “Buck, I’ve been telling you how much I love you for years. I guess you just didn’t know what to listen for.”
Buck stops to think about it, about them, and their life together, and all the moments that they’ve shared. And - and maybe Eddie is right. Maybe the be careful’s and the I’m here if you need anything’s and the call me when you get home’s were all Eddie’s way of telling Buck that he loved him. And the way he’d clung to Buck after that close call, the way his hands had lingered and he’d hovered as Hen checked him over. Maybe all of those little moments were actually really fucking big.
And maybe Buck didn’t hear it, didn’t see because he’s never had that before - he’s never had the quiet, gentle, consistent kind of love that oozes out of Eddie. But he has it now, and he has Eddie, too. Maybe. He thinks.
“You maybe wanna say something?” Eddie asks, and he looks nervous like Buck has never seen him before.
It dawns on Buck then, that Eddie is genuinely worried Buck doesn’t feel the same. As if, in any universe, there could exist a version of Buck that isn’t love with with Eddie Diaz. It’s incomprehensible.
“Eddie,” Buck sighs. “I love you, too. Of course I do.”
He didn’t know, either. Buck can see it written all over his face that Eddie had no idea, and that simply won’t do. He can’t let Eddie spend another second thinking Buck isn’t overwhelmingly, impossibly in love with him.
So he leans forward and closes the distance between them, lets his mouth hover over Eddie’s for only a second before he’s finally, finally kissing him. Kissing him deep and desperate, soft and sweet, like he has a point to make, something to prove. And he does - he has to show Eddie how entirely he loves him, has to make him feel it with every press of their lips and touch of their bodies.
“I always have,” Buck whispers. “Always have.”
Eddie laughs breathlessly, like he can’t quite believe what he’s hearing, and Buck knows exactly how he feels. All of this feels so impossible, so unbelievable. But it’s not, and they’re here now. They love each other, and they get to spend the rest of their lives making sure they always hear it.