Eddie has a feeling that this isn’t what Frank meant when he said that he needs to find new ways to express himself, but in Eddie’s defense, Frank wasn’t very specific. Sure, he probably meant like, yoga, or something, but this—this works too.
He’s pretty sure Buck disagrees, but oh well. Healing is healing is healing, or something.
It starts a few weeks after the day Eddie almost hits Buck with a baseball bat amid a panic attack that rivals the one that sent him to the hospital that day in the suit shop. Buck had let himself in with his key like he’d been doing for years, and Eddie had thought he was an intruder, and, well—Eddie never thought he’d fully break down in his best friend's arms, but he never thought he’d be shot in broad daylight in LA, either.
After that, Eddie goes back to Frank. He still doesn’t really think it’s for him; he’s doing it for Christopher, who can’t lose another parent, for his team at the 118, who care about him more than he’s ever been cared for in his life, for Buck, who has been at his side through all of this hell and deserves a partner that he can trust completely.
So, Eddie isn’t doing it for himself, but he’s still doing it. That has to count for something, right?
Anyway, Eddie is—trying. For Chris, for the team, for Buck. He’s putting in the work, taking himself to therapy, doing breathing exercises, actually talking about his feelings with the people in his life that matter.
But sometimes—sometimes it’s easier just not to say anything. Sometimes it’s hard for him to articulate what he’s feeling, hard to put into words the way his traumas are twisted and hooked into him like barbs, tugging and tugging until he can’t breathe. It’s hard to say I’m really fucking tired of being so broken without setting off alarm bells, so Eddie finds another way to do it. Frank said to find a way to express himself that wasn’t punching walls or just straight up repressing his emotions, and Eddie’s doing that.
He is. Really. It’s just—no one was expecting him to do it like this.
“Eddie,” Buck says once Eddie slides into the front seat of the Jeep, fresh from a therapy session that scooped out his insides and left him feeling a little run over. “What is this?”
Eddie pauses where he’s struggling to buckle up his seat belt and blinks. “Huh?”
Buck waves his phone through the air as if that means anything to Eddie. “What is this?” he repeats, with as little context as before.
“You’re gonna have to give me more to go on here, bud,” Eddie says, trying for a laugh that falls a little short. Honestly, he’s so fucking drained from that session with Frank that he’s pretty sure Buck could present him with a lit-up billboard, and he still wouldn’t quite understand what was going on.
Buck thrusts his phone into Eddie’s hand, opened to their text thread, and—oh. It’s a picture that Ravi sent him that Eddie obviously sent to Buck immediately because it was—actually, he doesn’t really know why he sent it to Buck. Ravi sends him random shit like this all the time, from memes to TikToks, and usually, Eddie just reacts to the messages with a laugh or a thumbs up and leaves it at that.
But Frank’s been telling him to express himself without words since Eddie is, according to Frank, emotionally constipated sometimes, and so—he just sent it without thinking.
Eddie glances at the picture, mouth quirking a little in the corner.
“I know it’s a meme,” Buck says, rolling his eyes as he grabs the phone again. “But like—you sent it.”
“Excuse me,” Eddie lifts a hand to his chest, mock-affronted, “are you saying I can’t send memes?”
“Yes,” Buck says. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“You’re so fucking rude, Buckley,” Eddie says, but he’s laughing a little. “I’m not that old.”
“Your knees when you stood up from the table this morning beg to differ,” Buck says, turning the key in the ignition. “It sounded like someone snapping dry spaghetti in half.”
“Fucking rude,” Eddie repeats. “I know your knees are no better, Mr. Crushed-Under-a-Ladder-Truck. I’ve heard you stand up from the couch too, you know.”
Buck looks over at him with such goddamn fondness that Eddie—God, Eddie wishes, wishes he was marginally more put together so that he could reach across the gearshift and pull Buck in, could fit his lips to Buck’s cheek, the corner of his mouth, his lips, and just pour all the thanks and love he has. But Buck—Buck deserves better than Eddie at half-mast. Half-healed, half-broken, only able to communicate in shitty memes sometimes. Buck deserves everything, and Eddie—
He’s working on it.
They drive home in relative silence because Buck knows that Eddie isn’t a post-therapy debrief kind of guy, and it’s—God, it’s nice, because therapy fucking sucks, sure, but Buck picks him up and takes him home after when he can, he lets him nap away the exhaustion, he makes him and Christopher dinner because Eddie’s usually grumpy or tired or a mixture of both. Buck shows up without Eddie asking, and that’s—it’s more than anyone’s ever done for him in his life.
Eddie looks at Buck’s profile, at the slope of his nose and the curve of his lips, and he wonders, distantly, if he should bring this up with Frank. He keeps telling Eddie that he needs to work toward something, that healing isn’t static; if Eddie has an end goal, it’ll be easier to reach it. It’ll be easier to make it through the bad days if he has something to look forward to at the end of the road.
And it’s—it’s always been Buck, hasn’t it? He’s taken a few detours to get there, but it’s always been him. It always will be him.
So, Eddie channels his inner Frank and makes a list of what he has to do.
First, he should probably come out. That seems—important, somehow, even if Hen and Karen already know, and Chimney definitely walked in on him taking a “Does my taste in men make me queer?” uQuiz the other week, but still. It seems like a good first step.
Then, he needs to sort through his shit. It’s only fair, not just for Buck, for Eddie too. He couldn’t drag Buck into the deep end with him in good conscience, not after he tried doing that with Shannon, and it got him nowhere.
Third—he has to tell Buck how he feels. That’s—well. Eddie will deal with that when he gets there.
Buck looks over at him as they park in front of Eddie’s house, and he grins, just a little, and Eddie—Eddie breathes.
He can do this.
He doesn’t actually mean to come out to his family over text message, and he really doesn’t mean to do it through a meme, but—but.
Look, he’s tired, okay? Therapy genuinely takes so much out of him, and they were talking about coming out today, and just—he wanted to get it over with. So, he texted Ravi, who’s apparently like, a walking catalogue of shitty memes, that he needed something that would get the point across that he’s queer, and Ravi delivered because he’s a good probie and friend.
So, Eddie sent the text message and promptly took a nap.
He’s dreaming about—giant ducks, actually, when someone barges into his bedroom, bringing with them the smell of cookies and a woodsy cologne that Eddie could pick out of a lineup if he was forced to. Usually, Eddie’s more than happy for Buck to be in his house, but he’s sleeping. Chris is still at school, he doesn’t have a shift until tomorrow, and he’s tired, right down to his bones, so he shoves a pillow over his head and groans.
“I’m sleeping,” he mutters into the mattress, hoping Buck gets the message.
Buck does not get the message. He sits down on the edge of Eddie’s bed, resting a hand between his shoulder blades.
Eddie is a grown man, a father, a veteran of war, so he doesn’t purr at the warm weight, but it comes pretty damn close.
“Dude,” Buck says, tugging the pillow off his head. “What did you do?”
Eddie twists around so he can look at Buck; he’s staring at him with confusion, a little fondness, and maybe some amusement, and Eddie’s mouth goes dry with the sudden urge to kiss his birthmark. Actually, it’s not sudden at all. Eddie kind of wants to do it all the time, but—that’s beside the point.
“Uh, I went to therapy?” Eddie tries because he doesn’t have any idea what Buck’s talking about. “And then I stopped and got a Baconator on my way home, and then I passed out.” He pauses, frowns a little, misses the heat of Buck’s hand on his back. “What did you do?”
Buck snorts, so at least Eddie knows it’s not a real, life-threatening emergency or anything. “I got about fifty texts from your Abuela, and Pepa, and your sisters—which, when did you give them my number?”
Eddie blinks. “After the well,” he says, “just in case. Wait, what do you mean?”
“Is this your new thing?” Buck asks, eyes sparkling and so damn pretty. “Sending memes to people to try and get a message across?”
And—oh, yeah. Eddie kind of forgot, if he’s being honest.
“Oh my God,” he groans, scrambling off the bed to tug his phone out of the pocket of his discarded jeans. Sure enough, he’s got a ton of texts, from his tía and Abuela, from Adriana and Sophia, from his mother, and—God, even from his dad, who once told him that texting was for people who were too pathetic to talk out loud.
He opens up the text thread and scrolls up to the top, to where his initial message was. He made the group chat specifically to do this, and—Jesus Christ, he named it A Diaz Disappointment.
Actually, Eddie’s going to stop therapy and become a fucking goat herder in Iceland because if this is what Frank is unrepressing, he isn’t sure he wants it.
“Eds,” Buck says, and he leans over his shoulder to look at Eddie’s phone. He laughs, bright and unfettered, and Eddie would probably daydream about bottling the sound and getting drunk on it if he wasn’t so embarrassed by the fact that he sent a stupid possum meme to come out to his family.
A Diaz Disappointment
Today 1:49 PM
Is that a raccoon?
No, Mamá, it’s an opossum.
sorry are we not talking about the text???
Eddie, what is this?
Edmundo, answer your phone.
“Oh, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” Eddie groans, throwing his phone onto the bed. It bounces once, twice, and then settles. “I’m never texting Ravi while I’m half-asleep and mentally hungover from therapy again.”
“This is probie’s doing?” Buck laughs.
Eddie shoots a glare his way. “You’re not helping.”
Buck laughs again and swings an arm around Eddie’s shoulders so he can steer them both to the bed. He pushes Eddie down gently until he’s perching on the edge of the mattress and then Buck kneels in front of him, so they’re eye level.
Eddie swallows hard, suddenly reminded of his reason for coming out in the first place. Because they talked about coming out in the session today, yeah, but also because his mother asked what his plans for Christmas were this year, and Eddie was trying to find a good way to say that it was going to include Buck no matter what. Buck, who hopefully at that time would be more than Eddie’s best friend.
Buck, who’s kneeling in front of him and grinning and—
Three-step plan, Diaz, he thinks, halfway to desperate. Keep it together.
Buck balances his hands on Eddie’s knees, thumb drifting over the material of his jeans. Eddie feels it straight to his bones. “I am so helping,” he smiles. “I fielded messages from your entire family. Adriana almost sent your parents my way, but I figured I’d check on you first. Make sure you weren’t spiralling out of control or something.”
“Not spiralling,” Eddie says, even though he probably would be if Buck wasn’t here. “I can’t believe I did that, though.”
Something shifts across Buck’s face, amusement morphing into concern. “Are you okay?”
Eddie looks down at himself as if the answer might be written on a sign hanging around his neck. “Uh, yes?”
“Convincing,” Buck huffs. “Seriously, Eddie,” he says, reaching up to tug on his earlobe. Eddie decidedly doesn’t shiver at the touch. “You just came out to your family. To your parents.”
And that’s— “Oh, shit,” he murmurs. “I came out to my parents.”
His parents, who always believe he’s making the wrong decisions, for himself and Christopher. His parents, who have been desperate for a reason to bring him back to Texas. His parents, who—
“Oh, shit,” Eddie says again, except he isn’t spiralling, and he isn’t panicked, he’s—fuck, he’s giddy with it.
Buck’s concern melts into confusion. “What’s happening?”
Eddie grabs Buck’s wrist and squeezes. “I came out to my parents.”
“I know,” Buck says slowly. “Are you stroking out?”
“No,” Eddie says, shaking his head, “I’m—Buck, I never thought I’d ever be able to do that. I never thought—I never could even hope that I’d be able to do it. To say the words, I’m queer, let alone tell my parents.”
“Oh,” Buck says, and then he’s smiling again, wide enough that his canines bite into his lip. “Eddie.”
“Can I—do you think Frank has a tip jar?” Eddie asks, and Buck laughs. It sends something buzzing straight through Eddie’s spine. “I’m serious. Jesus, Bobby too. For forcing me into therapy in the first place.”
Buck’s smile goes softer then, warmer, and he slides his hand that’s in Eddie’s grip down until they’re palm to palm. If Eddie was thirteen or a little more awake, he’s sure he’d be blushing as red as the engine truck. “Eds,” he says, so fucking gentle that Eddie could cry, probably, “this is all you.”
Eddie makes a noise of protest, but Buck cuts him off by interlacing their fingers and squeezing.
“You’re doing the work,” he says. “You’re—you’re choosing to get better, and I know you keep saying that you’re doing it for Christopher, but Eddie, there’s a part of you that’s doing it for you, too. There’s a part of you that’s tired of being scared. Tired of being a shell of the person you could be, right?”
“I’m not saying the person you were before this was bad,” Buck says, and his other hand comes up to rest on Eddie’s shoulder, thumb brushing the divot of his collarbone. “That man—he gave me a home. He gave me a reason to come home at the end of the day. He’s my best friend.”
“You’re his best friend too,” Eddie says, choked, and it’s so fucking juvenile for how he feels about Buck, but it’s—Buck has to know. He has to.
“I know,” Buck grins. “So that man—I love him. Of course I do. But this one,” Buck says, squeezing Eddie’s shoulder, his fingers, “this one? I’m so fucking proud of him, Eds. Because you’re healing, and you’re learning, and you’re getting better. And that’s—God, Eddie. I’m so privileged that I get to watch that happen.”
Eddie pitches forward, sliding his free hand around Buck’s shoulders. Buck returns the embrace immediately, slipping a hand around his waist, and they just sit there for a minute, holding each other, and Eddie is so, so fucking close to just telling him, but then—
“Hey,” Eddie says, a little wetly. He doesn’t pull back, says it into the soft skin of Buck’s neck, so Buck doesn’t pull back either.
“Hey,” he parrots, sweeping his thumb over the expanse of Eddie’s rib cage.
“You’re right,” Eddie says, “about how I’m tired of being—this version of myself that isn’t in control.”
“I’m right about a lot of things,” Buck says, because he’s insufferable sometimes, and Eddie loves him.
“Yeah, yeah,” Eddie replies, unable to keep the grin out of his voice. “That wasn’t my point.”
“Okay, dick,” Eddie says around a laugh. “I’m not going to show you now.”
“No, no,” Buck says, and he’s laughing too. He pulls back a fraction to look at Eddie, and his eyes are so blue that Eddie thinks he could probably write a poem about them, which—gross. He’s turned into his sisters when they were teenagers, apparently. “Show me. I want to see.”
Eddie keeps one hand on Buck as he reaches for his discarded phone, thumbing to his text thread with Ravi. He doesn’t actually save any of the pictures, mostly because he’s afraid Christopher will see them and make fun of him, and he and Ravi don’t talk outside of their weird exchanging of bad memes, so it’s easy enough to find what he’s looking for. Eddie taps on it with a pleased noise, turning the phone toward Buck.
“This is what I’m doing,” Eddie says, “in therapy. Metaphorically, obviously.”
Buck’s silent for a long, drawn-out moment, and then—
“I’m blocking Ravi’s number from your phone.”
But his laugh—God, it’s worth it.
There are good days and bad days. Frank said it’s to be expected, that healing isn’t linear, that there isn’t a set path for him to follow to get better. Eddie knows all this, but it still really fucking sucks when he’s having a bad day.
And today—today is a bad day.
He manages to get Christopher up and out the door, but as soon as Carla’s car has disappeared from his driveway, Eddie collapses in on himself. Something that feels too similar to emptiness rests heavily on his chest, so he texts his boss at dispatch that he won’t be able to come in for his noon shift and crawls back into bed, dragging the covers over his head.
His phone is in his hand as soon as he’s somewhat comfortable, and before Eddie knows it, he’s texting Buck. He doesn’t send a message along with the picture, doesn’t bother offering any context, but he knows Buck’s not working today, and it’s—
It’s a bad day.
Once the picture delivers, Eddie shoves his phone under his pillow and curls his legs into his chest, holding himself like he’s eight years old again, trying to calm down after a nightmare. He must drift off because the next thing he knows, his bedroom door is creaking open, and someone is sliding into the other side of the bed.
“Eds,” Buck whispers, careful not to break the silence in the room.
Eddie turns over immediately, hand fisting into the thin t-shirt Buck’s wearing. He reciprocates immediately, sliding his arms around Eddie, and they tangle together easily, fitting together like—like they belong, or something, which is way too cheesy for Eddie to deal with today.
“What’s going on?” Buck asks, running his fingers through the short hairs at the back of Eddie’s head. “What do you need?”
“Just this,” Eddie mumbles into Buck’s neck. He’s quiet for a moment, trying to settle, but something buzzes beneath his skin anyway. “I’m just—I feel like I’m letting him down.”
“Christopher?” Buck asks because he knows where Eddie’s head is even when Eddie doesn’t.
Eddie nods, his lips brushing the hollow of Buck’s throat. “He deserves a father who isn’t so profoundly fucked up—”
“Hey,” Buck interrupts, gentle. “He deserves a father that loves him. Do you love him?”
“Of course I love him,” Eddie says, voice nearly choked.
“Then you’re doing good,” Buck says, smoothing a hand over Eddie’s back. “You’re doing better than both our parents did, anyway.”
“They didn’t exactly set a high bar,” Eddie murmurs, earning himself a laugh from Buck, which was kind of his goal. “But—”
“There’s no buts,” Buck says. “It’s like—Eddie.”
He twists his neck a little so he can look at Buck. They’re so close that they’re basically sharing a breath, the cold tips of their noses nearly touching, and it would be so easy to lean forward, to press their mouths together, to—
“Yeah?” Eddie breathes. It’s not the time. Not yet, at least. Not when he’s minutes away from a breakdown, not when Buck’s here to—to hold him, because they’re best friends, because Buck is the only person Eddie trusts with himself, wholly.
“There’s this thing,” Buck says, sweeping his hand over Eddie’s waist, his hip. “I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s called trauma?”
“You’re an ass,” Eddie says, shoving at his shoulder. Buck grabs his wrist, squeezes.
“You’re not a bad dad because you struggle sometimes.” Buck smells like toothpaste and laundry detergent, and tears sting the corner of Eddie’s eyes because it’s so fucking much, the love he feels for Buck. Buck, who can unravel all his anxieties with a word, a touch. “You’re not a bad dad because there are some days you can’t get out of bed. You’re not even a bad dad for asking for a hug through your stupid raccoon memes.”
“It’s a possum,” Eddie corrects weakly.
Buck drops his wrist just to flick his cheek and then picks Eddie’s hand back up, resting their interlocked fingers on his chest. Eddie feels the steady beat of Buck’s heart, and he just wants, and wants, and wants.
“You’re a good dad,” Buck murmurs. “You love him, and you’re honest with him. That’s all he needs, Eds. He just needs you. However you can show up, as long as you do show up—you’re there for him no matter what. Okay?”
“I might need you to remind me sometimes,” Eddie says, pressing in closer. His leg slips between Buck’s, and his arm winds around Buck’s waist. When Eddie tucks his head beneath his chin, he almost thinks he feels Buck’s lips brush over his forehead.
“Of course, Eddie,” Buck says, and it sounds a lot like a vow. “Whenever you need.”
Eddie really isn’t expecting Buck to send him memes back, but somewhere between the You live in a society, I live in a prison of my own mind raccoon meme Eddie sends to Frank after a particularly grueling session and the I only exist to spite God opossum one that Ravi keeps spamming him with in an effort to get him to send it to his parents, Buck starts sending his own.
It’s—look. Eddie knows he’s stupid in love with the man. He just didn’t realize his love language would be Buck sending him ridiculously supportive memes along with his usual good luck, and I’m proud of you texts that come before Eddie’s therapy sessions.
He’s dealing with it. Mostly.
Buck has a shift, so Eddie’s taking himself to therapy for once, and he’s just about to assume that Buck’s out on a call when the text comes in.
pre-good job for today!
Eddie is only human, obviously, so the thing he latches onto is:
You think I look good?
As soon as he sends it, he wants to walk into traffic, but he’s about to be late for his appointment and Abuela instilled a complex about punctuality in him from a young age, so he really doesn’t have time to deal with this right now.
Eddie drags himself out of the truck with a strangled groan, ignoring the startled look the guy across the parking lot sends him, and marches into Frank’s office.
“I think you broke me,” he says as he slouches into the couch across from Frank, pulling one of the stupid decorative throw pillows onto his lap. “I could—sue for damages, or something.”
“Hi, Eddie, how are you?” Frank says, the bastard. “Me? Oh, I’m doing well, thank you for asking.”
“You’re not funny,” Eddie mumbles, scrubbing a hand over his face. “You’re so unfunny, actually.”
“You’re sweet to me,” Frank muses. “Now, what’s the problem?”
Eddie flaps a hand through the air. “You know.” He points to the raccoon picture that he emailed to Frank, who unceremoniously printed it off and hung it next to his desk, because he’s the worst, actually. “The memes.”
“The memes,” Frank repeats seriously, and Eddie hates him, really. Sure, he rearranges Eddie’s brain and smooths out the edges and makes him confront the things that he’s been refusing to confront for the last thirty years, but—Eddie hates him. He does. “I thought they were working?”
“They are working,” Eddie says. “But it’s—Buck started sending them to me, too.”
“Okay,” Frank nods, “and?”
“And—” Eddie shakes his head, frowns a little. “And what?”
“I asked you that.”
Eddie narrows his eyes. “You know what I mean.”
Frank sighs like he’s put upon or something. “Buck’s reciprocating your memes,” he says. “That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
“I—I guess?” Eddie says, and it’s more of a question than anything. “Like—I’ve been using them to express myself or whatever,” he waves another hand vaguely, “but now Buck’s using them, and I don’t know what that means.”
Frank pauses, tapping the stupid green pen he uses on his knee. “I mean, isn’t he just doing what you’re doing?”
Eddie stares at him.
“Expressing himself,” Frank explains. “Telling you something without using words.”
Eddie stares some more.
Frank sighs again, and this time Eddie probably deserves it. “Did you consider,” he says, and he has the decency at least to put on his Therapist Voice, so he sounds like an actual clinical psychologist and not some random guy Eddie’s going to advice for, “that Buck’s trying to get a message across that he doesn’t know how to articulate?”
“It’s Buck,” Eddie emphasizes, because Frank’s never met him, but like—Eddie’s talked about him enough in these sessions that he has to have a good idea of what Buck’s like. “He never has a problem putting things into words.”
“Sure,” Frank agrees. “But maybe this is a lot, even for him.”
“What does that mean?”
“He watched you get shot , Eddie,” Frank says, and it’s kind and gentle and Eddie probably doesn’t deserve it, but it’s—it’s nice, to be spoken to with warmth instead of hostility. “He thought you died buried thirty feet below the earth. He stood by and watched you hold your dying wife. He came over to your house and let you break down in his arms when you were at the end of your rope.”
“Thanks for the reminder of all that, man,” Eddie says, a deflection more than anything.
Frank ignores him. “He did all that without question, because he cares about you, right?” he asks, and when Eddie nods, Frank bobs his head in turn. “But maybe this—maybe it’s scarier than all that. Maybe the consequences of what he’s trying to say are more serious than everything else you two have been through together.”
“What could possibly —”
And then, Eddie stops, because he gets it, maybe. Eddie’s spent the last two months sending people stupid fucking memes, because it’s easier to send a WordArt possum that’s saying If looks could kill, I’d look in a mirror to Bobby when he isn’t feeling up for a family barbeque than it is to say Hey, apparently I have PTSD and depression and sometimes that makes me want to crawl into a hole and never come out again. Thanks for the invite though! Sometimes it’s easier to send Ravi the one that says I am an empanada and God is deep frying me after an especially brutal session with Frank as a clue that he should offer to take Christopher to Madame Tussauds with his boyfriend instead of saying Hey man, I’m going to spend the entire day crying in my actual closet while I look through pictures of my childhood and I really don’t want my kid to be around to see that.
It’s easier to make a joke out of it then to say exactly what he’s feeling, because feelings are fucking scary, and they’re enormous, and sometimes, Eddie has so much to say that he can’t get a single word out, and—
Maybe, just maybe, Buck’s feeling the same way.
“Did I break you again?” Frank asks, halfway to smug.
“I hate you,” Eddie says, dragging a hand through his hair.
“I know,” Frank says cheerfully. “It helped though, didn’t it?”
If Eddie flips off his therapist—well, that’s his business.
Eddie leaves Frank’s office and drives home—he stops for a Baconator, obviously, because that’s apparently his post-therapy ritual now, please don’t tell Christopher—and there’s a very familiar Jeep parked in front of his house.
Eddie kind of assumes it’s a side effect of whatever they add to Baconators to make them so good, because Buck is at work, not—here.
He shoves the Wendy’s bag under the driver’s seat and steps out of the truck, walking up his steps slowly as if that’ll change whatever is waiting on the other side of the door.
Before Frank said Maybe this is a lot, even for him , Eddie knew that Buck loved him. He’s known that, obviously, because Buck is—his best friend, and his co-parent, and he comes to PTA meetings with him now and makes cookies for Christopher’s bake sales. Eddie knows that Buck loves him, but Frank said Buck is trying to get a message across that he doesn’t know how to articulate, and Eddie lets himself believe, for the first time, that maybe Buck’s in love with him too.
And it’s like—Eddie said it once and he’ll say it again, but he’s profoundly fucked up. From the way he was raised, to Afghanistan, to Shannon leaving and coming back and leaving again permanently; the tsunami and the well and the fucking sniper of it all—Eddie knows he’s messed up. He has more baggage than the fucking cargo of a luxury plane, but Buck is still here.
He’s still—bringing Eddie coffee in the morning, and taking Chris to PT, and fixing the wonky step on Abuela’s back porch when she calls him instead of Eddie, because he texted her in the morning and said Eddie’s having a rough day, let me know if you need anything. He’s still exchanging recipes and embarrassing stories with Adriana and Sophia, who he has a group chat with now, and he’s still number two on Eddie’s speed dial, and he still drops everything to come to Eddie’s side when he sends a stupid meme just to say he needs a hug.
He’s still here. He’s stayed through everything. He’s come back through everything. Even when he was gone, he wasn’t very far, and now he’s inside Eddie’s house, and—
“Are you just going to stand there?” Buck asks, because apparently as Eddie’s been standing on his stoop contemplating how the hell he’s supposed to use words to tell him how he’s feeling instead of sending Ravi an SOS text in search for a good meme, Buck’s opened the door and begun leaning on the frame, an amused smile on his face.
Eddie knows Buck loves him, but now, now he hopes.
“You have a shift,” Eddie says eloquently, because Ravi told him about brain rot once, and he thinks that accurately describes how he’s feeling right now.
“Bobby let me go early,” Buck says, shrugging a shoulder. He’s wearing the LAFD bomber jacket and his jaw looks particularly biteable, and just. Just. “I was being, and I quote, particularly insufferable.”
“That’s not new,” Eddie replies, because he can be insufferable too. “That’s a typical shift.”
“You’re such a dick,” Buck says, but he’s laughing and he’s here and Eddie needs to use words, because Buck deserves that, but he’s so close to just—kissing him silly.
Eddie remembers, distantly, his three-step plan. Step one was coming out and that went off without a hitch, mostly (his parents are pointedly ignoring the elephant in the room every time they talk on the phone, but Abuela kissed him on the cheek and said I’m proud of you, Eddito, and Pepa gave him an uncharacteristic hug and told him that he’s her favorite Diaz, secretly), and he thinks he’s sorting through his shit. Or, at least, he’s getting better at recognizing his shit, in that he can pick up on the signs that he’s struggling before he’s in a pit of despair so deep that he’s swinging baseball bats at his best friend in the middle of a panic attack, and he’s having more good days than bad days, and it’s—he’s getting better.
He can feel it, because he looks in the mirror, these days, and he doesn’t hate who he sees. Christopher will say something, and Eddie will think God, he’s so much like me, and that doesn’t seem like a failure anymore. He’s getting better, and that’s—God. It’s so much. He’s doing the work, and it’s—
Eddie is proud of himself. Jesus, he really should tip Frank one of these days.
The only thing left in the plan is step three, and Buck’s here, in his house, in their home, and there’s never been a better time than this, actually.
“What were you doing that was particularly insufferable?” Eddie asks, still standing on the other side of the threshold. “Besides, you know.” He gestures vaguely to Buck’s figure, biting back a grin.
“A dick,” Buck emphasizes, grinning so wide his teeth poke into his lip. “Apparently, I was talking too much about memes. And you. Ravi said it was mostly the memes, though.”
“Ravi doesn’t get to talk,” Eddie says, ignoring the way his brain short-circuits on and you. “He’s technically the one that started all this.”
“I’m pretty sure probie didn’t intend for any of this to happen.”
“I’m sorry, have you met Ravi?” Eddie grins. “He’s kind of a menace. Hen calls you a golden retriever, but that kid is something else.” He pauses for a moment, watches the softness of Buck’s eyes on him, the way his lips are tilted so fucking fondly, and— “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“You just look—happy,” Buck says, and it sounds like a confession, the kind Eddie used to give in a wooden box in the church in El Paso, the one he hasn’t been in since he and Shannon had their shotgun wedding on a cold April day. “It looks good. You look good.”
Eddie remembers, then, sending Buck a text message that said You think I look good? and his mouth goes a little dry. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Buck smiles, bright and pretty and the rest of Eddie’s life. “It’s—you always look good, obviously, but—yeah. You look like…I don’t know, Eds. You look like you’re happy to be alive.”
And he sounds a little pained when he says it, and Eddie knows it’s because they both remember a time when Eddie didn’t look happy to be alive; they don't’ really talk about it, how dark Eddie’s head space got, how close he was to tipping over an edge that he couldn’t come back from, but it doesn’t matter, really, because Eddie’s here, and Buck isn’t wrong. He is happy. He’s fucking—ecstatic.
He feels, for the first time in his life, like a whole person.
“I am,” Eddie breathes, a confession of his own. “I am happy to be alive. I’m happy that—that you’re here. That you didn’t leave.”
Buck makes a noise that might be a scoff, or a whine. “Eddie,” he says, and then he’s reaching out and taking Eddie’s wrist to tug him through the door, “where would I have gone?”
And isn’t that a question. Eddie bites down on the inside of his cheek. “I know I haven’t always been the easiest to deal with—”
“You’re talking to the guy who bitched and moaned like a child when he was laid up after the ladder truck,” Buck interrupts. He hasn’t let go of Eddie’s wrist, and Eddie can feel the heat of his palm straight down to his bone. “And anyway—I’m not dealing with you, Eds. It’s not some, fucking chore, or something, to be here.”
A month ago, Eddie would have said It’s not? Instead, he says, “No, I know that. But it’s—” He takes a half-step backward, so he can lean against the door, and Buck goes with him. “It would have been easy to leave, is all. People do. We both know that way too well.”
“Not us, though,” Buck says.
Eddie smiles. “No, not us.” He tugs on his wrist in Buck’s grasp, pulling him closer, and Buck comes, like they’re attached by an invisible string. Adriana told him a story about the red string of fate, once, and Eddie never believed it before, but—maybe. “But still. Buck, I’m happy, because you—you give me the courage to try to be.”
“It’s you,” Buck says, because God forbid he get more credit than he deserves. “You’re doing it. You’re putting in the work.”
“I know that,” Eddie assures, reaching up to tangle his free hand in the material of Buck’s t-shirt, sliding his fingers over his rib cage beneath the bomber jacket. “But you and Christopher, you guys make me want to get better.”
Buck’s eyes are bright blue and a little shiny, and he opens his mouth to say something, probably to disagree, but Eddie just shakes his head.
“If I was alone,” Eddie breathes, “through all this, I don’t think I could convince myself it was worth it. To—to heal, and to get better. I don’t know how I would tell myself that it could get better than how it was. But I look at you, and I look at Chris, and it’s like—I have something to work toward.”
It’ll be easier to make it through the bad days if you have something to look forward to at the end of the road.
“Sometimes when I’m driving to therapy, I think that I should turn around and cancel my appointment, that it isn’t worth it,” Eddie says, thumb brushing through the hollow of one of Buck’s ribs. Buck shivers, and Eddie does it again. “But then I get there, and I have a text from you that says good luck or proud of you, or you send a stupid motivational meme, and I have something. To hold on to, you know?”
Buck nods mutely, tugging Eddie’s wrist so it’s resting in the middle of his chest. His heartbeat rabbits beneath Eddie’s palm, and it isn’t in fear or panic. If it’s anything close to what Eddie’s heart is doing, then it’s so far in the opposite direction from something bad it’s laughable.
“I’m getting better for me,” Eddie says, and for the first time, he means it. “Because I deserve to be happy. But Buck,” he slides his hand up Buck’s ribs, over his shoulder, to his neck, uses his thumb to tilt Buck’s chin so that he looks at Eddie, “Buck, you make me happy, too.”
“Eddie.” It sounds like it’s punched out of him, Eddie’s name an exhale on Buck’s lips. “Eds.”
“Yeah,” Eddie says, and he knows. “Come on, Buckley.”
“Come on what?” He’s grinning again, with all his teeth, and Eddie presses his thumb into the dip of Buck’s chin to widen it. “Use your words, Diaz.”
“Actually, Ravi sent me something—”
“Absolutely not ,” Buck groans, but he’s laughing too. “If you’re confessing your love for me, you’re doing it with your mouth, not a meme.”
And what can Eddie do, really, but kiss him?
Buck makes a noise in the back of his throat and kisses back immediately, skipping all pretenses that this is going to be soft and chaste and everything they skipped the day Buck barrelled into his life and fit in like the last piece of an incomplete puzzle.
His lips are soft, because he wears vanilla chapstick, and his mouth is warm, and Eddie kind of wants to crawl inside and never leave. Buck’s hand slips off Eddie’s wrist and goes to tangle in the hairs on the back of his head, the other wrapping around his waist to pull Eddie flush against him so they’re connected from knee to hip to chest. Eddie can feel him breathe, and it's so much more than being able to feel his inhales and exhales when they fall asleep next to each other, because now Eddie can feel his breath hitch when he swipes his tongue over Buck's bottom lip, when he licks behind his teeth.
Eddie kisses him, and kisses him, and kisses him, and hopes to fucking God that he’s getting his message across.
He pulls back once he runs out of air, cradling Buck’s jaw like it’s something delicate (it is). “How was that for doing it with my mouth?”
“You’re goofy,” Buck says, smiling so fucking wide that Eddie can’t help but lean back in and kiss the corner of his mouth, the tip of his nose, the space between his eyebrows. “And a sap.”
“I love you,” Eddie says in response, because there’s no beating around the bush with how he feels. Half-delirious with it, he thinks step three, complete. “I’m in love with you. Like—I look at you, sometimes, all the time, and I see—marriage, and babies that have your eyes, and us being embarrassing at Christopher’s graduation, and like, an ungodly amount of sex, and—”
“Eds,” Buck murmurs, and he tugs on Eddie’s hair a little to get him to look up. “I know.”
“You’re not very subtle,” he teases, and Eddie leans up to nip on his earlobe in retaliation. “But you have to know too, right?” He leans back a little, and Eddie chases him, unwilling to be too far. “You know, right?”
“I suspected,” Eddie says, brushing his thumb over Buck’s birthmark. “It’s—you’re it, Buck. You’re—Jesus Christ, Evan, you’re fucking everything. And it took me so long to realize it, and my lawyer probably still thinks I’m insane for putting my best friend and coworker into my will before I even knew how I felt about you, but it’s—baby, I look at you and I want to be a man you deserve to be loved by.”
“That’s so—fucking romantic,” Buck says, a little watery, and Eddie presses soft kisses to his cheek, his jaw, his throat to make up for it. “What the hell, Diaz?”
“It’s all you,” Eddie whispers. “You make me better.”
Buck kisses him again, pressing him right up against the door in a way that has Eddie’s blood sizzling beneath his veins, and it’s so much, so visceral, the way he feels about Buck that he can’t imagine how he’s gone a day in his life without feeling it. Because Frank said It’ll be easier to make it through the bad days if you have something to look forward to at the end of the road but he forgot to mention that Eddie’s been heading down this path his whole life, that he’s been waiting and waiting and waiting for this—for Buck.
The red string of fate, or whatever. He should probably text his sisters.
“Sweetheart,” Buck says once he pulls away, just this side of breathless. “I love you. I don’t think I said it yet, but I love you so fucking much that I want to—marry you, actually, and everything else you said, with the babies and the graduation and the sex, and—God, Eddie. You and Christopher are the best things that ever happened to me.”
“Ditto,” Eddie says, because he’s so close to tears that it’s all he can manage. He’s kind of talked himself out, really, because he doesn’t admit this much to anyone but Frank, but the weight of everything he still wants to say is sitting on his chest, itching to come out, and—
Eddie pushes Buck away, just a fraction, so he can reach into his back pocket. He has to move Buck’s hand away, because apparently it’s migrated to Eddie’s ass, and he pulls out his phone, finding the familiar thread with Ravi.
Buck makes a noise of protest, leaning in to try and see, but Eddie shrugs back further. He can’t say everything he’s thinking, but he’s well-fucking-practiced in the art of sending stupid memes, thank you very much.
He chews on his lip until he finds the one that he’s looking for. Ravi had sent it nearly two weeks ago, with the message you’ll know when you need it and a winking emoji that Eddie ignored until now. He thinks, maybe, he should send the probie a gift basket.
Eddie copies the picture and pastes it in his tread to Buck, sending it a triumphant noise. Buck’s notification sounds—his text tone is, inexplicably, a duck quacking—and Buck pulls his own phone out, eyebrows furrowed as he reads the message.
“You’re so—I hate you."
Eddie leans in, lips barely brushing over Buck's, and he whispers, "No, you really don't."
And when they kiss again, Eddie knows.