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as easy as defusing a bomb

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Buck breaks up with Taylor on a Thursday, at around 10:42 at night.

The only reason Eddie remembers the exact time is because Buck shows up at his front door, bag packed, looking sheepish and asking to spend the night with them. Eddie, who’d been in bed for about forty-two minutes already, had simply stepped aside and allowed Buck a wordless entry.

After they both settle in the kitchen and Eddie absolutely pounds back a cup of coffee, he eventually asks what in the name of all that is a forced relationship happened, and Buck says something like, “I think I was forcing it,” and Eddie has to remind himself to at least look a little surprised.

Buck isn’t buying it. “You knew,” he says, with a small, embarrassed sort of smile.

Eddie shakes his head. “No,” he lies, and it sounds like he’s lying. “Well—” he pauses. “I had an inkling.”

Buck groans and drops his head in his hands. “I’m homeless,” he laments dramatically, and Eddie snorts.

“Hardly,” he tells Buck. “You’re here, aren’t you?”

Buck peeks at Eddie from between his fingers. “I didn’t want to presume—”

Eddie slides his empty coffee mug over to Buck across the table, who fumbles to just barely stop it from falling on his lap.

“You’re on dish duty,” Eddie declares.

“Like, forever?”

The word does something stupid to Eddie’s stomach, but he chalks it up to the speed in which he inhaled the coffee just two minutes earlier.

“Yep,” he replies cheerfully. “I’ll die a happy man knowing I’ll never have to do a single dish again.”

Buck looks forlornly at the mug in front of him. It’s a mug Sophia had gifted him when he’d graduated high school – a frog, sitting on a cactus, a large cowboy hat on its head. It had made no sense to him then, and to this day, he’s pretty sure Sophia had simply forgotten to get him a gift and bought the first thing she’d managed to find at the home goods store the same day.

Still—“It’s not that bad a mug,” Eddie says defensively, crossing his arms over his chest. “The frog’s pretty funny.”

Buck looks at him, a little surprised. “The frog is great,” he assures Eddie. “Kind of reminds me of you.”

Eddie makes a face.

Buck turns the mug over. “It’s uncanny.”

Eddie reverts his face to a neutral expression.

“First, fuck you,” Eddie says, and Buck offers him a grin. “Second, then why are you looking at it so – so—” Eddie struggles to find the right word. “Mopey?”

“Oh,” Buck’s shoulders slump. “It’s just – I left my dish gloves at the loft,” he admits, sounding sad about the fact. “I don’t know when Taylor’ll be ready to move out of there, so – I’m afraid they’re lost, for the time being.”

“Your dish gloves,” Eddie repeats back at Buck, who simply nods. “We have some,” he points out, gesturing towards a drawer to the right.

Buck sighs. “No offense, Eddie, but your dish gloves don’t have the slip-resistant technology mine have—”

“Oh my god.”

“—and frankly, they’re comparable to a 1950s housewife’s dish gloves, which, though not bad—”

“Oh my god.”

“—the yellow of them is so loud, you know, and also last time I tried them on my hands were too big to fit in them—”

“You’re still going.”

“—which begs the question, whose are they? Because if my hands don’t fit in them, I can’t imagine yours do, either.”

There’s a pause.

“Oh, are you done?” Eddie asks.

“Yes,” Buck replies.

“Okay, well, first of all, I bought them at the grocery store because you’d mentioned hating doing the dishes without dish gloves that one time we finished baking the cookies for Chris’s bake sale. I had no idea that a) there was such a thing as slip-resistant technology for dish gloves, or that b) they could be too small for anyone.”

Buck pauses. “You bought them for me?”

Eddie concentrates hard on willing his face to remain cool. He scratches at a spot on his jaw. “Yeah. You spent over ten minutes complaining about it.”

It takes Buck a second to respond. “And you couldn’t deduce there might be more than one size?”

Eddie ignores this quip for one of his own. “Also, your dish gloves have a floral pattern on them, so if we’re throwing out 1950s housewife vibe accusations—”

“They’re tasteful,” Buck squawks indignantly.

“They’re something,” Eddie quips back, and they continue that way, quipping back and forth effortlessly, for the better part of the next hour. Eventually, Eddie calls it a night, and arranges the couch for Buck to sleep in; when he’s tucked in and comfortable, Eddie says, “This’ll be a nice surprise for Chris.”

The statement lights Buck’s expression up tenfold, a large grin settling on his face. “Yeah,” he agrees. “That’s an upside.”

Eddie looks at Buck for a second longer, lingering in the residual warmth his affection for Christopher always leaves behind, then does his very best to not reach out and do something stupid, like, run his fingers through Buck’s hair, before he says goodnight and starts heading to his room.

“Eddie?” Buck calls out, as soon as Eddie steps foot into the hallway. Eddie turns around to meet Buck’s gaze.

“Yeah?”

The pause that follows lasts maybe a second too long. “Thanks,” Buck finally says. “For the dish gloves.”

Eddie snorts, but it’s soft, and it’s inoffensive. “I’ll find the right size next time,” he promises, and as he turns and leaves, he swears he hears Buck mutter a soft,

“I know.”

--

Okay.

Eddie is a rational adult man. He is thirty-four years old. If he’s doing the math right – and there’s a big chance he’s not, to be fair – it’s been well over two decades since he’s gone through puberty and experienced uncontrollable and admittedly embarrassing sexual urges of any kind, towards any person.

So, sure. He’s accepted his attraction to men very, very recently. It’s fine. He’s read all the forums, he’s dug deep into the psyche of it all – becoming aware of your sexuality in your thirties and even forties is actually very common, thanks, according to Frank, and the discovery even comes pre-packaged with a supportive online community of many people his age trying to navigate the newfound world of – queerness.

(That’s a good word in the community, apparently. He’s still getting used to using it.)

There shouldn’t be an issue. For all intents and purposes, there should be zero issue.

Except that he didn’t think the repression of it all through, he guesses.

Repress an attraction to men long enough, and when you start to unrepress it, it seemingly wants to break out like water through a flakey dam. It’s almost like his inner heterosexual beavers only half-tried throughout the years to pretend this wasn’t inevitable. And Eddie guesses it’s fair: when he starts giving himself permission to feel the attraction to men he’s always felt but shoved aside, it’s not wild to think he’ll start feeling the attraction to men.

Under normal circumstances, this is something he could easily control. Out in the world, maybe he’d give another man an appreciative once-over. Perhaps he’d return a flirtatious smile to another man across the bar. Maybe his gaze would linger on the cover of Men’s Health at the grocery checkout line a little too long. Normal reactions and behaviors under normal circumstances. Urges he could acknowledge, respect, and control.

Except.

These aren’t normal circumstances, anymore. He’s invited Evan Buckley to stay with them until his ex-girlfriend finds a new place and gives him back his loft, which, knowing Taylor fucking Kelly, could be anywhere from two days to two years, depending on how petty she’s feeling. Which, according to Buck, could be “anyone’s guess, really”, which is not super helpful to someone who has recently discovered his best friend is – ridiculous.

Sure. Eddie’s been tangentially aware that Buck is not bad-looking. Even a completely heterosexual man without repression issues would have trouble talking himself out of that one. And Eddie’s lived with Buck before, for a minute, during quarantine. Except Hen and Chim were there, so it felt more like a family sleepover than it felt like anything else. And his attraction to men was still locked up behind the flimsy dam he’d mentioned his heterosexual beavers had given the old college try to building, so it wasn’t an issue.

But now—

Buck runs hot. Buck likes to talk about how he runs hot in the middle of taking off his shirt during the day when he’s deep-cleaning the backyard nobody asked him to clean. Buck likes to sleep without his shirt on now, because he says the fabric of Eddie’s couch doesn’t help with the heat, so it’s easier to go without a shirt. Buck likes to lift things – just, most things – he’ll lift a chair instead of just fucking dragging it along the floor, or he’ll lift his eleven-year-old son when they’re goofing around, and his arms will – they do this thing where they – and anyway, who needs arms that fucking large, really?

And he hasn’t shaved in a minute – and Eddie had no idea he was attracted to facial hair before, but now it seems like all he can think about is how good it would feel, to feel the graze of Buck’s stubble along the inside of his thighs, and how easy Buck could carry him (he has evidence – traumatic evidence, at that, evidence that should serve more to frighten him than to turn him on, but maybe those aren’t mutually exclusive anymore? Frank says, with some blush to his cheeks, that he can consider it a good sign, if nothing else) and drop him on the bed, and how his curls would fit so easily between Eddie’s fingers—

There’s a loud knock on the door, and Eddie almost slips and falls to his death on the bathroom tile. Luckily, he manages to flail dramatically enough to catch his balance, and what falls instead is the assortment of shampoos and conditioners he’s yet to throw out.

“What?” he barks, half-terrified, half-appalled at himself.

“Are you okay?” Buck asks from the other side of the door, sounding worried. “I heard commotion.”

Eddie swallows, staring straight down at his very erect penis. “Fine,” he says, both to Buck and to his dick. “Everything’s fine, just a little slip.”

There’s a small pause. “Alright,” Buck relents. “I was just gonna ask if it’s okay if I take Chris to the corner store? He’s craving some Doritos and I’m craving some sour gummies and we’re gonna share.”

Normally, Eddie would admonish Buck giving in so easily to his son’s requests, but at the moment, he’s got bigger and longer and harder problems to attend to, so he gives Buck a half-hearted “okay” and only releases the breath he’s been holding when he hears the loud thump of the front door closing behind Buck and Christopher.

The hot water’s turned cold by now, which is helpful in relieving the unwelcome boner that’s decided to join him in the shower while he was thinking about his best friend, and he refuses to lay a single hand on it because no, he’s not going to get off to his best friend. That is – wrong, and weird, and disrespectful, and he’s not going to do it, because he’s thirty-four fucking years old and he can control himself.

“It’s fine,” he tells himself, shutting his eyes tightly. “It’s just the close proximity to a good-looking man. It’s not about Buck. It’s about the proximity. It’ll pass. It’s gonna pass.”

--

It does not pass.

--

It’s everything. It’s the way Buck stretches when he yawns and his shirt rides up just enough so that Eddie gets a peek at his stomach. It’s the way he licks his lips when he’s deep in thought or deep in concentration or just gearing up to do literally anything. It’s the way he wakes up every morning, curls every which way, sleepy smile and soft demeanor as he gives Chris a kiss to the top of his head and Eddie a squeeze on the shoulder. It’s the way his touch feels like it burns through the fabric of his shirt and sears at his skin and leaves his heart pounding for hours afterwards.

It’s – everything, and it’s driving him up the fucking wall.

It’s so bad, actually, that his Google search history leading up to Hen and Karen’s vow renewal looks like this:

How to stop being attracted to your best friend
Why am I attracted to my best friend
Why am I attracted to my best friend + man
Why are arms so attractive on men
How to make my house carry-proof
How do I tell my best friend to keep his shirt on
Why does my best friend keep yawning
Yawning remedies
Dry lip remedies
Slip-resistant dish gloves
Slip-resistant dish gloves floral pattern

And then he just spent the next hour finding and ordering stupid dish gloves for Buck, because Google, it turns out, does not always have the answer, and leaves Eddie with more questions than before (like: does Buck have sleep apnea, actually, and if so, should he be seeing someone for it?).

Things start getting so bad, in fact, that at one point, Buck comes near Eddie without a shirt on to show him a funny video on his phone and Eddie quite literally Matrix-es himself the fuck away from Buck and spins into the kitchen like a crazy person.

Eddie busies himself by opening the fridge door and stuffing his head inside it (and pretending it’s the oven, instead) when Buck walks inside. Eddie glances long enough to spot something akin to hurt in Buck’s expression, which makes Eddie that much more upset at himself, because not only is he perving on his best friend, he’s actively hurting him while he tries to un-perv on him.  

“Have I—” Buck takes a deep breath. “Have I done something to upset you?”

The audacity of this man, Eddie thinks. Asking him a question like that without a fucking shirt on.

Has he always hung around Eddie without a shirt on this often? Has he always looked like he’s stepped out of a beach photoshoot? If he were to trip accidentally would his tongue land anywhere near—

Before the thought can fully form, Eddie quickly tries to rid himself of it, which results into a physical manifestation that causes his head to make contact with the top of the fridge, the loud thump of the impact nothing compared to how fucking painful it feels.

“Oh, fuck,” Eddie hisses, instinctively pulling back and righting himself, hand on his head as he rubs at the wound site. “What the fuck? Do I own a cement fridge?”

Buck, bless his heart, is already grabbing the cold pack from the freezer and wrapping it with a soft rag, clearly concerned but a little bit amused, as well. He reaches for Eddie’s hand with his own and carefully peels it away, substituting it for the relieving press of the cold pack, his free hand thoughtlessly wrapping around the back of Eddie’s neck.

Buck smells of sweat and Febreeze and Eddie wants to lick him.

“I’m sorry,” Eddie blurts, and Buck only freezes for half a second before humming.

“About?”

“You’ve done nothing wrong,” Eddie assures him. “I’m just – it’s – the – therapy,” he decides, nearly wincing.

Buck frowns. “I thought you’d started enjoying therapy.”

“I do,” Eddie assures him. “But we’ve been touching on some things lately that have left me a little – jumpy, so. I’ll probably be that way for a bit, until I, you know. Find a breakthrough, or whatever.”

Buck offers Eddie a crooked smile. “Well,” he puts a bit more pressure on the cold pack. “So long as you don’t end up bruising every part of your body with the fridge, I think we can handle it.”

There are other, more pleasurable ways he can think of to bruise his body, he doesn’t say.

Eddie takes over the cold pack, smiling awkwardly at Buck, suddenly aware of how close his bare chest is to him. “I’ve got it,” he says. “You should”—go put a fucking shirt on please for the love of god and all that is holy in the world—“go wake Christopher up from his nap. He’ll start getting hungry soon.”

Buck smiles at Eddie and nods, stepping away, finally taking his hand back. “Sounds good,” he replies. He takes a couple of steps towards the door, before turning back to Eddie, snapping his fingers. “Shit, I forgot – a package was dropped off early this morning for you,” he says. “I left it on the coffee table.”

Eddie only knows of one package he’s expecting. “You should open it,” he tells Buck, and Buck, with furrowed brows, leaves the kitchen to presumably do just this.

Outside, Eddie hears a sharp bark of delighted laughter, and within a half-minute, Buck is back inside the kitchen with brand new dish gloves slipped onto his hands.

“They’re like mine!” he exclaims happily, and Eddie nods.

“Different floral pattern, but I thought it’d be good to differentiate between the two.”

Buck looks at Eddie like he’s just offered him the moon and the stars combined, like he’s just offered him rule over the galaxy and not some stupid dish gloves he found on Amazon.

“Thank you,” Buck says, and he says it with such sincerity Eddie almost forgets himself. “Really.”

Eddie forces himself to shrug. “They’re just dish gloves,” he mutters, pressing the cold pack against his wound a little harder.

Buck looks at Eddie for a moment, before his smile turns small and – from what Eddie can pick out – a little rueful. “Yeah,” he replies. “I guess they are.”

--

It doesn’t occur to him that this level of attraction could mean anything other than pervertedness until the vow renewal.

It should have, mind you. When not even the feminist porn online was doing anything for him anymore the same way watching Buck eat an ice cream cone did, he should have pinpointed that maybe it wasn’t that he was going through a midlife queer crisis. Maybe, just maybe, the fact that he wanted his best friend to fuck him into oblivion on a daily basis wasn’t just because he was so stupidly and unfairly hot. Maybe he’d been right all along – it wasn’t normal, but not in the way he was thinking it wasn’t.

Either way, it doesn’t occur to him until he sees Buck talking to an older man, distinguished-looking, tall, dark, handsome. The man is clearly giving Buck every signal on the planet, and poor, poor Buck – he must not know he’s giving the signals back.

He doesn’t know what he’s doing until he’s already reached Buck and his new companion, who does, in fact, look even better up close than he did from afar, and is quite a bit taller than Eddie and Buck.

“Hi,” Eddie greets them. Buck’s expression lights up when he catches sight of Eddie, which is so stupidly kind and welcoming and innocent of him Eddie almost melts with it.

“Eddie!” He greets him brightly, and then gestures to TDH. “Eddie, this is Brian Miller, one of Karen’s cousins. He’s actually a real estate agent. Brian, this is Eddie Diaz, firefighter and my current housemate.”

Eddie doesn’t say anything about the firefighter comment, lest Brian Miller here starts getting a little comfortable. He extends his hand, as is courtesy, and Miller takes it, shaking it politely.

“Nice to meet you,” Miller says. “Buck’s been telling me a lot about you.”

Eddie glances at Buck, who looks a little flushed under the sun. “You thinking about selling the loft?” he asks Buck, taking his hand back from Miller.

Buck shrugs. “We were discussing it,” he replies honestly. “Not to – not to put you out, or anything,” Buck promises. “This would be after Taylor leaves. But maybe, I don’t know – maybe it’s time to move a little closer to, you know. The people I care about.”

Eddie eyes him for a second, before nodding. “Makes sense,” he agrees, then softens a little, unable to resist doing so as he speaks the next words. “You know you’re not putting me out, though.”

Buck smiles. “Yeah, yeah,” he waves Eddie off. “And – oh,” he frowns, then gestures behind Eddie. “Excuse me a second, Hen’s waving me over.” He grins at both him and Miller, then saunters off with his ridiculously long legs looking so ridiculously good in his light blue fucking suit like he’s not one of the most handsome men to exist in the fucking world at this very moment.

It takes him a second to remember he’s been left alone with the man who kept giving Buck signals, and suddenly both his mood and his expression sours as he turns to look at Miller.

Miller is looking at him contemplatively. “So do you—”

“Buck’s not interested,” he blurts, and Miller only looks mildly surprised.

“I’m sorry?”

“In you,” Eddie crosses his arms over his chest. “I don’t know what you were getting from that conversation, but he’s – just overly friendly, and trust me, I get that he’s charming and easy to fall for, but the guy’s just a good guy, and it doesn’t mean he’s interested in you the way you’re clearly interested in him.”

Miller searches Eddie’s expression for a second. “Mr. Diaz—”

“Eddie, to my friends.”

“Eddie—”

“We’re not friends.”

A pause.

“Mr. Diaz, I’m sorry if I overstepped with Buck. I didn’t know he was otherwise engaged.”

Eddie frowns. “He’s not,” he replies. “He just broke up with someone, why would he be engaged?”

Miller smiles, and it looks a little patronizing, if Eddie’s being honest. “I meant romantically,” he clarifies. “Romantically involved with someone.”

Eddie’s trying to keep up with wherever the fuck this man is going. “I don’t think you understood what I said—”

“No, I heard you, loud and clear,” Miller holds up his hands, almost like he’s surrendering to Eddie. “It’s not my business to know why you two are keeping it on the down-low, but I can assure you I’ll be backing off.”

Eddie stares at Miller, his heart pounding loudly in his chest at the implication. He’s – he thinks – that he and Buck – because—

He so desperately needs to correct this assumption, Eddie thinks stupidly. It’s the right thing to do. No, no, it’s not because we’re a thing, he wants to say. It’s because Buck is not interested in men, and if he thinks he accidentally sent you any type of signals, he’ll feel terrible about it for weeks. He might even consider going out with you once or twice, out of remorse. That’s it. I’m looking out for my best friend, he wants to say. He should say. We’re not together. We’re not a thing.

And yet, none of those words come even close to the forefront of his mouth, and he instead continues to look stupidly at Miller, who seems to have given up on having a conversation with Eddie altogether.

“If you’ll excuse me,” he says, sounding amused. “I’m going to join my table again. But, if I might I add – you’re at a lesbian wedding,” he reminds Eddie. “What more welcoming group of people would you be able to find to admit who you are to?”

Then he walks away, like he hadn’t just made a grand sweeping assumption like an asshole, leaving Eddie dumbstruck in front of a floral decoration.

And it’s the way Miller treated him – like he was placating a jealous boyfriend – that helps Eddie realize he was being treated as such because he was acting as such, and that the venom pooling at the bottom of his stomach, waiting to be released, was not normal, actually, and it hadn’t been normal when Taylor was in the picture, and it hadn’t been normal when Ali was in the picture, and it hadn’t been normal when Abby showed up at the train wreck and Buck decided to risk his life to help make her happy, and it’s not a normal thing to feel towards your best friend.

All this unraveling of attraction towards men, and not once had Eddie considered that maybe his attraction to Buck wasn’t superficial at all. Maybe, his desperate desire for Buck stemmed not only from his attraction to men, but also from the way he felt about Buck; and that it was all in the way Buck would smile at him in the mornings, the way Buck would be there for him when he needed him, no questions asked, the way Buck’s name was ingrained in Eddie’s will as sole caretaker of Christopher if anything happened to him, the way Buck was the last person he thought of when he lost consciousness after being shot and the way he was the first person he asked about when he first woke, the way he’d spend the day holding him and reassuring him and talking him through a panic attack and then helping him fix the holes without a single comment about the incident and holy mother of all that is holy in a religion he’s long-since lost—

Buck isn’t the problem.

Buck is the answer.

--

The positives about having such a realization at a wedding aren’t many, but at least one that works in his favor is he can simply sit down at a table and smile with a distant expression on his face and no one will question him because it’s a wedding, and everyone gets Like This during weddings.

Which is what he’s been doing for the past, oh, half an hour, as the sun is starting to set and the fairy lights are starting to become their main source of light. The aura of it all is romantic and lovely and Eddie is so, so happy for Hen and Karen, but he is absolutely miserable for himself.

He’s read about this, in the forums. On the Reddit. People who discover their queerness through their attraction or feelings for their straight best friends. He’s a cliché, he realizes, picking at a napkin on the table in front of him. He wants to believe he’d fallen in love with Buck so suddenly that he gets a pass, but the truth is Eddie allowed himself to walk into it. He’d opened himself up, he’d trusted Evan Buckley, he let him into deep, troubled parts of himself he’d shared with no one before, and suddenly his life had been comprised day in and day out of Buck, Buck with him, Buck with Chris, Buck with both of them. 

He hadn’t fallen in love. He had quite literally carefully planned and executed an entire fucking zip code change into love.

He’s so engrossed in recounting his own stupidity, that he almost doesn’t notice the hand being offered to him until he blinks himself exaggeratedly out of his stupor.

Buck is standing over him, a small grin on his face, palm upward and head gesturing towards the dance floor. “C’mon,” he insists, and Eddie tunes into the beginning notes of In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, and notes all the couples on the dance floor starting to slow dance.

Eddie’s heart lurches. “You realize this is a couples-only dance, right?”

Buck scoffs. “Says who?” he wiggles his fingers, a gesture clearly made with the intention to hurry Eddie up. “You either drown your sorrows in a Frank Sinatra song, or you keep wallowing like a loser all alone watching everyone else drown their sorrows in a Frank Sinatra song.”

“I am not—”

“Before you lie to me, remember: I am me,” Buck grins, and Eddie looks at him and his eyes and how kind and amused and slightly concerned they look. He looks at Buck’s lips, curled in a toothy smile, eyes wrinkled with laugh lines and the beginning of a dimple trying to make its debut at the end of his cheeks, and all Eddie can think is, if there is a sight the universe will let him keep forever, let it be this one.

He takes Buck’s hand, because he’s helpless, always has been, in the face of Evan Buckley and his ideas, and Buck leads him happily to the dance floor and pulls him close, allowing for the both of them to find a comfortable position where neither are leading, exactly, but they’re both swaying together with the music.

It’s almost laughable, how blind Eddie’s been. Here, at this proximity with Buck, feeling the touch of his hand with his own, the way his breath tickles Eddie’s jaw, it’s so obvious that the pounding in his heart has more to do with how comfortable Buck makes him feel, how safe, than anxious or confused. Buck’s humming along to the song, seeming so relaxed and content and it’s like – it’s like Eddie’s found himself a sanctuary he can’t possibly keep, but he so desperately keeps clinging to, for however long he’s allowed it.

“Didn’t know you were such a Sinatra fan,” Eddie says, voice a bit hoarse after not using it for a bit. He has to fill the silence with something, or he’s bound to do something crazy, like – kiss Buck, or whatever.

“I don’t know many of his songs,” Buck admits. “But the ones I do, I know, you know?”

Eddie snorts softly. “I had to explain the plot of The Breakfast Club to you literally yesterday and today you enjoy Frank Sinatra. You’re forever an enigma, Evan Buckley.”

“It’s called having layers, Diaz,” he teases, adjusting his head so that he has a better look into Eddie’s eyes. Eddie has to force himself to think of dead things over and over so that he doesn’t give away just how stupid he is over this man. “What’s had you so pensive all night, hm?”

Eddie searches Buck’s expression – realizes how much of his face Eddie’s actually already memorized, despite not being clued into what he feels until approximately an hour ago – and he can’t help but smile. “Weddings get me thinking about my own wedding, I guess.”

Buck’s eyes turn sympathetic. “To Shannon,” he guesses, and Eddie blinks, a little taken aback.

“Oh,” he pauses. “Well, yes,” he agrees. “But I meant – whichever one comes next,” he admits. “Mine and Shannon’s – that was more an elopement,” he explains. “I’ve always wanted the big shindig, you know, the works. Just – reminds me of what I didn’t get to have.”

Buck is silent for a second, his face suddenly shrouded by the side of Eddie’s own again. They sway together in silence for a couple of more seconds, before Buck says, “You want to get married again?” There’s something strange about his voice, like it’s a little tighter than usual, but doing its best to sound casual, normal.

Eddie shrugs. “One day,” he admits, and doesn’t say that he doesn’t see that happening any time soon anymore, not with the way he feels for Buck so ingrained into his very being that he doesn’t think even the promise of a soulmate who will treat him fair and right for the rest of his life could be tempting enough to give the love he feels for his best friend away. He’d rather keep it, even if it serves no one but his own misery. “Don’t most people?”

Buck hums, but it’s a noncommittal response.

“What, you didn’t think Taylor would be the girl you married?” He jokes, and he tries his best to inject his tone with humor and not the bitterness he actually feels.

Buck snorts. “I mean, I could have probably convinced myself to, if I kept it up,” he admits. “But – I don’t know. It would have never been enough, you know?”

Eddie doesn’t say anything. He knows Buck’ll keep talking, if he feels the need to.

“I loved her, but I loved her the way I would love a cousin, or something,” he explains. “I loved the fact that she looked like she could stick it out. She even offered to stick it out,” he adds. “But I couldn’t – that’s not the kind of love I want, you know?”

“Hm,” You’d be hers if only she would call, Sinatra sings again. “Yeah, I don’t think I’d want to love my cousin, either.”

“Shut up,” Buck laughs. “I meant – and this is going to sound insanely cheesy – but I want the kind of love like Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.”

Eddie narrows his eyes. “Are they – married?”

“Their characters,” Buck corrects. “In 50 First Dates. He just – never gave up on her. The definition on insanity, you know? Doing something over and over expecting a different result, and having it never come, but doing it anyway because they’re worth it, and you love them.” Buck pauses. “Insane love,” he seems to decide on calling it. “That’s what I want.”

Eddie would offer him all the insanity he wants, if he only looked this way. “Very on brand,” he says instead, smiling teasingly.

Buck’s smile, however, is a little sadder. “Yeah.”

“Hard to find that kind of love,” Eddie says, because he’s not himself if he can’t be a little petty about the whole thing. Still, he feels bad immediately, and adds, “But not impossible.”

Buck sways to the finishing notes of the song, and everyone coos and claps around them as the song finishes, some couples holding each other close, even after the fact. “I don’t know,” Buck says, finally stepping away, and Eddie feels his absence like a cold front. “I think it might be as easy as defusing a bomb.”

--

From then on, the desires start getting worse, and not in the way Eddie thought possible.

No, now instead of wishing furiously he could shove his tongue down Buck’s throat while riding him on the couch, he so desperately wants to be able to tangle their fingers together and cuddle while they watch the next Fast and Furious movie Buck’s been putting him through. Instead of having to talk himself out of getting off at the thought of Buck face between his leg, now he has to talk a boner down at the mere thought of being able to kiss Buck goodbye before they run an errand separately.

It is – somehow more awful, to be so desperate for this kind of affection, than for sex. Sex, he could handle – sex, he could find a small reprieve of after jacking off. The kind of intimacy he’s now craving with Buck, however, isn’t one he can simply masturbate away. It’s an ache in his heart in the middle of the night, it’s staring at the ceiling at three in the morning wondering desperately why it’s him this is happening to, why it’s Buck his heart had to choose.

Eddie’s been heartbroken before, and he thinks this is very close to that feeling. Pining, especially when you know reciprocation is impossible, feels like taking every single step towards heartbreak over and over and over again. Looking at them, smiling, feeling the love spread through you, enjoying their company, then feeling the crack straight down the middle when they’re gone, because they’re not yours. And they don’t want you the way you so desperately want them.

It's over and over and over and over and over again, every fucking day, to the point where he mentions to Frank he might actually be a masochist.

“You’re not doing this on purpose,” Frank tells him during their session. “You can’t help the way you feel about him, the same way you can’t help but breathe.”

“I could kick him out of my house,” Eddie points out, and Frank smiles.

“You could,” he agrees. “Would that make it any better?”

Eddie thinks about this. “No,” he deflates. “No, it wouldn’t.”

They’re silent for a moment, nothing but the ticking of the ostentatious clock hanging on the wall filling the silence of the room.

“I wonder,” Frank starts, which always means, how about we try this? “If talking to Buck about what you’re feeling wouldn’t make it easier for you.”

“You want me to tell my straight best friend I’m in love with him,” he deadpans, and Frank shrugs his stupid shoulders.

“Talking to him seems to be what makes things better for you,” he points out. “And I doubt he’d judge you, for feeling that way towards him. Maybe the both of you could work towards a solution, and he wouldn’t feel slighted; rather, understanding.”

Eddie’s leg begins to bounce. “And if he hates me?”

Frank pauses. “Do you think he’ll hate you?”

Eddie sighs. “No.”

“No,” Frank grins. “Frankly, neither do I.”

Eddie snorts. “Frankly. Frank.”

And that’s their time, Frank announces happily, clearly unamused by Eddie’s joke. When he gets home, he mulls the advice over and over in his head, so much so that he misses most of the dinner table conversation between Buck and Chris, even though they’re being loud and boisterous about it.

“It’s decided, then,” Buck announces as Eddie tunes back into the conversation. He’s grabbing the empty plates from in front of Eddie and Christopher, stacking them over his own. “We’ll go to the dragon exhibit on Thursday.”

Eddie blinks. “The what?”

Christopher looks at Eddie, a little disappointed. “The dragon exhibit, dad,” he sighs. “Were you in your head again?”

Eddie gapes, and Buck laughs nervously. “Chris,” Buck chastises. “We don’t say that to your dad.”

“But you said—”

“If you stay here for ten more seconds you’re cleaning the kitchen with me,” Buck warns quickly, and Christopher does his best to stand from the chair and make his way towards his crutches, and out the door.

Eddie looks at Buck, narrowing his eyes. “In my head?”

“He made it sound so – I’d just mentioned to him that sometimes,” Buck babbles, grabbing the dish gloves from the right of the sink and slipping them on before turning on the water. “When you get that faraway look, and you maybe don’t contribute to the conversation, you’re thinking important thoughts in your head,” he explains. “He shortened that to being in your head, alright, it sounds – I just wanted him to know it wasn’t about us,” he glances at Eddie, looking a little nervous. “It’s – not, right?”

Eddie watches his fingers drum on the table lightly. “It’s not,” he replies, almost automatically, then—“Well. It’s not about Christopher.”

Buck sort of stiffens where he stands, pauses a rather aggressive scrub of the skillet, before he carries on like it’d never happened. “Oh?” he asks, clearly aiming for casual, but the word already sounds terrified.

Which is – the opposite of what Eddie’d wanted.

He takes a deep breath. Starts counting up to five, like Frank’s taught him. Five seconds, he’d told Eddie. That’s all you need. Do what you need to within five seconds, and you have no excuses left.

On four, Eddie blurts, “I think you should wear a shirt more often.”

Both Buck and him freeze at the comment. Buck, surely, in complete and utter shock, and Eddie, clearly, for the same reason, because those are – not the words he thought were going to make an appearance, actually.

Buck looks over at Eddie, mindlessly scrubbing at the same skillet. “What?”

“No,” Eddie sighs, pinches the bridge of his nose. “That’s not – I mean, that is – like, you walking around shirtless isn’t my problem – well, it’s only a small part of my problem, but not that much lately. I mean, kind of enough so that it’s obviously still swimming around in my subconscious, but it’s – it’s not that I don’t think – because shirts are a hassle, sometimes, I get it, and you only do it when Chris isn’t around, which isn’t – it just feels—”

Buck’s dropped the skillet altogether, holding only the sponge in his hands and leaving the water running in the sink. “Have I – have I been making you uncomfortable?”

Eddie struggles to find the words to say no, but also yes, but also not exactly, but also kind of?

Buck turns to stare straight ahead at the wall over the sink, clearly out of his depth, then turns the water off and drops the sponge. “You know.”

Eddie looks up at Buck. “What?”

Buck sighs and grips the edge of the counter over the sink. “I’ve been making you uncomfortable because you – you caught on, and I’m – Eddie, I’m so sorry.”

This conversation is happening backwards, Eddie thinks. “I don’t think you have anything—”

“I do, though,” Buck insists, looking over his shoulder and at Eddie, eyes suddenly glistening. Buck is starting to cry, Eddie realizes, and he’s still not entirely sure why. “I didn’t – I thought I was doing a good job of repressing it, but clearly – I mean, how could I? You’re – you, and I’m me, and I just. I’m so sorry, Eddie,” he says. “I didn’t know. I mean, no, that’s a lie, I knew when I came here after Taylor, but I didn’t – think it would – I thought I would – I’m so sorry, Eddie. I’ll – I’ll leave, I’ll get out of your hair, I don’t think Taylor will be much longer, last I heard she put down an offer on a place and—”

Eddie can’t help it: he stands. Mostly because he’s bewildered and he thinks he’s a better thinker standing, but also because if he doesn’t, Buck won’t shut up. “Hold on,” he interrupts, holding up a hand. “What are you talking about?”

Buck turns to face him, dish gloves and all. His brows are beginning to furrow. “You – you know that I’m – I’m in love with you.”

Eddie stares at Buck, dumbfounded.

After the silence continues to progress, Buck’s expression turns from apologetic to appalled. “Oh my god,” he says. “You didn’t know.”

Eddie says nothing.

“Is there any way I can still play this off as a joke?” Buck tries, laughing lamely and humorlessly.

“You’re in love with me?”

“Only a little!” Buck insists, then tilts his head. “I mean, depending on what your definition of ‘little’ is. Could be a lot. I may – there could be—”

“An insane quality?” Eddie tries, and Buck flushes a deep red.

“Yeah,” he mutters. “I’m – fuck,” he starts tugging on the dish gloves. “I’m gonna – I should—”

Eddie hurries forward, grabbing at Buck’s wrists over the stupid dish gloves. “You’re straight,” he insists, and Buck raises an eyebrow.

“I’m so sorry for giving you that impression,” he replies. “But that is one thing I most certainly am not.”

Eddie’s mouth is as dry as he’s sure Buck’s is every day, with all the fucking constant lip-licking he does. “You’re not straight.”

“No.”

“And you love me.”

“Yes.”

“You’re in love with me.”

“Correct.”

“You mean I’ve been pining uselessly at night and losing sleep over you for – no reason?”

“That’s ri– what?”

“If you’d have put on a shirt—” Eddie shakes his head and, with little else to say, and excitement brewing like heat underneath his heart, he pulls Buck’s face into his own and kisses him breathless.

It’s not until Eddie feels the latex of the dish gloves hold his face between them that he can relax fully into the kiss, because it means Buck’s finally caught up, it means Buck is kissing him back, and it feels as easy as defusing a bomb.

Eddie pulls back. “You were trying to tell me,” he realizes. “With the – the bomb comment.”

“Not my subtlest moment,” Buck grins.

“I’m not straight either,” Eddie says, and it’s the first time he says it out loud outside of a session with Frank. Buck seems to melt a little at the words, smile soft and content.

“Okay,” Buck replies. “Thanks for telling me.”

“I had to,” Eddie admits. “Because I’m about to make out with you so hard it might have left you a bit confused otherwise.”

“Noted and accepted,” Buck replies, and then they meet in the middle for another, more heated, kiss.

It takes them a moment to remember themselves, and it only happens because they both hear Christopher exclaim in protest at the kitchen door.

Eddie pulls away from Buck and Buck clears his throat, wiping at his mouth with the dish gloves still on.

Christopher looks between the two of them.

“Not in the dish gloves,” Christopher tells Buck, sounding disappointed. “I have to see them, Buck.”

Buck’s face flames and Eddie can’t help but let out a startled laugh. He has to keep reminding himself Christopher is eleven, and though he probably only meant to kissing in the dish gloves, he’s not far off from realizing what other way his comment could be taken. He’s going to have to give him that talk – and then, when he feels Buck’s fingers lace with his own, sans dish glove, he realizes he no longer has to do it alone.

“Does this mean we’re going to the dragon exhibit?” Chris asks Eddie, and Eddie huffs.

“Yeah, buddy,” he says, and Christopher whoops in victory.

“I’m gonna go tell Jerry about it, he’s gonna be so jealous,” he says, and then he exits the kitchen, asking no more questions, inquiring nothing more about what he just saw.

Buck and Eddie are quiet for a moment.

“I’m gonna have to call Brian Miller,” Buck says, eventually, and Eddie snaps his head over to him.

“What? Why?”

Buck shrugs. “I’m definitely selling the loft now.”

Eddie narrows his eyes. “No.”

“What?”

“We’ll find you another real estate agent.”

“But he—”

Eddie kisses him quiet.

Buck, breathless and flushed afterwards, says, “Shit, I’ll sell it myself.”

Eddie kisses the corner of his mouth again, smiling. “This works out so well for me,” he says, and Buck raises an eyebrow.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Eddie reaches for the dish gloves behind Buck, then takes a step back and presents them in a formal manner. “I’m not doing a single dish for the rest of our lives.”

Buck laughs, and after some quipping back and forth, they hold each other quietly for a little while in the kitchen. Buck, after kissing Eddie’s temple, mutters into his hair,

“The rest of our lives sounds good to me.”