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1.

Bobby figures it out on a Tuesday.

Buck is fifteen minutes late for work that morning and is distracted throughout their shift, spending most of the day either checking his phone or looking zoned out. Buck and Abby’s relationship existed solely through calls and texts for weeks and Bobby still thinks he’s seen more of Buck’s phone today than he had during that entire period.

After the third time Buck messes up on a call he ushers him into his office when they get back to the station and demands to know what’s wrong.

Buck runs his nail along the grained plastic of the armrest of his chair and chews on his lip before admitting, “It’s Eddie.”

And Bobby can’t really say he’s surprised – he hadn’t looked in good shape when he’d showed up at his place a couple of weeks ago and, really, what else could have Buck out of sorts like this?

“It’s just- He’s-“ Buck starts and stops and there’s a familiar sheen to his eyes when he meets Bobby’s gaze. “He’s not okay, Cap.”

He then proceeds to tell Bobby about Eddie’s friends from the army, how all of them have died, how Eddie is the only one left. A familiar haunted feeling settles like a chill beneath Bobby’s skin when he hears the news. He’s always seen himself in Eddie, has always felt there was a level of understanding between them the others couldn’t quite match. He’d hoped this specific kind of trauma would never be something Eddie would have to face though.

Buck explains the rest afterwards – how Christopher had called him, how Eddie’s room had been destroyed when he broke down the door, how completely shattered Eddie had been when Buck found him, how Buck had stayed there for the past two days.

“It’s my first day leaving him alone,” Buck says, worrying his lip between his teeth. “I’m just- nervous.”

“It’s okay, kid,” Bobby says, throat feeling oddly tight. “Just try not to let it affect your work, alright? We’ve only got half a shift left.”

Buck nods, promises he’ll do better, and already has his phone out by the time he reaches the office door.

Bobby doesn’t call him on it.

 

Later, when it’s a new day and they’ve finally reached the end of their shift, Buck is the first changed into civilian clothes, duffle bag slung haphazardly over his shoulder as he hurries to the exit.

“Buck,” Bobby calls, only feeling a little guilty about the antsy look Buck gives him when he halts and turns around. “Call if you need anything, okay?”

Buck’s expression melts into one of gratitude and he nods, offering a quick thanks before he’s darting out to the parking lot.

Somehow he isn’t surprised when he gets a call twenty minutes later from Buck asking if he can come over to the Diaz house. He gets there as Buck is packing Christopher’s lunch into his backpack.

“I just don’t want him to wake up alone,” he explains as he zips up the bag. Bobby follows him from the kitchen to the living room where Eddie’s asleep on the couch.

“He’s dressed,” Bobby says, nonplussed. He hadn’t been sure what to expect when he’d turned up at Eddie’s house but he certainly hadn’t expected the quiet calm of Buck cycling through Christopher’s morning routine with practiced ease.

“Yeah,” Buck breathes. “He was up when I got here. I convinced him to lie down for a while and let me handle getting Chris ready. When I came back out to the living room after breakfast he was asleep.”

Christopher takes that opportunity to reappear in the living room, dressed in a neat uniform and flashing a grin at Buck to prove his teeth are clean. Buck ruffles his hair.

“Say goodbye to Dad, buddy. We gotta go.”

Chris picks his way over to couch, leaning down to kiss Eddie’s forehead, and when Bobby glances in Buck’s direction he finds him watching them like he’s watching the two halves of his heart.

He rouses himself after a beat, blinking rapidly and sending a quick smile in Bobby’s direction. “I’ll be back soon.”

“I’ve got him, Buck,” he promises.

Buck takes a breath, giving Eddie one last look before he nods. Christopher calls out a, “Bye, Cap!” with a giggle as Buck herds him out the front door and then Bobby is alone with Eddie.

It’s not that long after Buck’s left that Eddie startles awake in a way that’s all too familiar to Bobby. He makes him a coffee and tries his best to toe the line between helpful and honest advice. Eddie’s always had an element of pragmatism to him – he needs support, not to be coddled.

He leaves him alone at the dining room table with a promise to fix something for breakfast after Eddie admits he hasn’t eaten yet.

He’s at the stove, pushing scrambled eggs around the pan, when he hears the front door open. Turning the heat down, he moves to the door of the kitchen, intent on wrangling Buck into being his sous chef. He stops short at what he sees though.

Buck is standing behind Eddie’s chair at the dining table, hands pressing down lightly on his shoulders, and Eddie’s head is tipped back against Buck’s stomach so he can look at him. Buck murmurs something too low for Bobby to hear but it makes the ghost of a smile appear across Eddie’s face before he closes his eyes and just lets himself rest against Buck.

And it’s watching Buck run a reverent hand through Eddie’s hair, watching him look down at Eddie with so much unfiltered devotion, that Bobby realises.

Buck is in love with him.

He’s not sure how he missed it before but it makes sense. Too much sense. Bobby remembers Buck’s devastation during the well collapse, remembers the near catatonic state Buck was in when Eddie had gotten shot, but somehow it’s this – observing this private moment in Eddie’s home – that makes it so entirely obvious what Bobby’s missed all this time.

Gently, he closes the door out again, returning to the stove and finishing breakfast by himself. It’s only when he’s plating up their food that he calls for Buck to come help him.

And Buck doesn’t look any different when he enters the kitchen. He grins at Bobby the way he always does when there’s food involved and he thanks him for being here but Bobby can’t help seeing him in a different light.

This man who Bobby has watched grow and change and evolve over the past five years. He’s not who he was when Bobby had encouraged him to step into Abby’s mess with her to keep her company but he thinks Buck might finally understand what he’d meant.


2.

Chimney had expected to miss a lot while he was away. He’d expected to have questions when he came home.

He doesn’t expect this.

Things are better between him and Buck now. He apologised, they talked – for a very lengthy conversation that had ended in more tears than either of them will ever admit to – but he guesses they’re still not quite back to that comfort level they’d been at before just yet.

It’s the only explanation he can come up with for why Buck’s being so…soft with Eddie and why he hadn’t known about it before.

Like. He knows some stuff. He knows Eddie’s been having a hard time lately – Hen had filled him in on the Eddie leaving drama over Christmas and it’d been the first time he’d swallowed his pride and called Buck back because he knew he’d be a mess – and he knows Buck’s been helping out a lot with Chris and everything. But this is…something else.

They’re in Bobby and Athena’s backyard – the first get together with all of them here since last September – and maybe Chimney’s doing his best to not pay attention to where Maddie is talking to Karen across the yard so he’s inordinately focused on Buck and Eddie’s everything but it’s still- It’s different.

Eddie looks tired, arguably the roughest Chimney has ever seen him save for when he’d been buried forty feet beneath the earth or laid up in a hospital bed. The dark circles under his eyes are evident even from where Chimney’s sitting eight feet away with Hen and he’s slouched in on himself in a way he wouldn’t normally be.

Buck hasn’t left his side since they’ve arrived. In fact, Chimney would almost think they’d tied their belts together or something if it hadn’t been for the five minutes Buck had disappeared to the dining table only to return with plates of food piled high for both of them. Right now they’re on separate deck chairs but Buck’s is angled towards Eddie’s so their knees are pressed together.

“Have they always been like this?” he wonders aloud. “Or is it just more obvious because I haven’t been exposed in a while?”

Hen follows his gaze, snorting when her eyes land on Buck and Eddie. “Buck’s maybe being a little overprotective.”

He nods absently, still watching as Eddie leans in to say something and Buck puts a comforting hand on his back while he does.

They look like a couple, he thinks dumbly. It’s only then that he realises who’s missing.

“Where’s Taylor?” he asks, turning to Hen. “Didn’t she just move into Buck’s place?”

Hen raises her eyebrows, mouth pursed like she has a lot to say but isn’t gonna say it in company. Chimney’ll get it out of her when they’re alone.

“She did,” Hen acknowledges. “But I’m pretty sure Buck has spent the majority of the last two weeks at Eddie’s house.”

And that’s. Huh.

Chimney’s never going to be Taylor’s biggest fan but even he can admit that it’s weird. Especially for someone like Buck, who’s craved love like it’s his life purpose for so long. He clings; even when he shouldn’t. He guesses Buck is technically doing that now when his relationship should’ve ostensibly ended with that drunken kiss at the bar a month ago.

Eddie shifts, letting his head drop onto Buck’s shoulder, and Chimney jerks his chin in surprise. He’s seen Eddie sleep-rumpled and exhausted in the middle of the night when they’ve been woken during a twenty-four hour shift but he’s never seen look vulnerable like that. Buck winds an arm around him instantly, saying something Chim can’t hear into Eddie’s hair.

And maybe Eddie doesn’t mind letting them all see him like this because he’s surrounded by his family or maybe it’s because he doesn’t think anyone’s paying attention to them but it just- it makes Chimney pause.

Because there’s something in Buck’s face that he recognises.

Himself, he realises. Buck is holding Eddie the way Chimney has held Maddie and Buck is looking at Eddie the way Chimney knows he looks at Maddie.

And the thing is, they’ve joked about it before. They’ve joked about Buck and Eddie being each other’s work husbands or how they always have to be each other’s dates on couples nights. It’s been a while – comments they haven’t made since before Ana and Taylor – but there’s truth there, he thinks.

He’s not sure if anyone else has realised it. Hen has, probably. Buck and Eddie definitely haven’t.

But now that he’s noticed he doesn’t think he can unsee it.

Buck’s in love. Just not with the person he thinks he is.


3.

Hen would like the record to show she’s always known Buck is in love with Eddie.

She clocked that all the way back during Eddie’s first year with the team. She clocked it before there was even any love there to notice. What she didn’t realise, however, is that Buck doesn’t know.

That particular revelation comes to her during her vow renewal.

She and Karen are taking a break from the dancefloor, feet up on two of the empty chairs at their table and hands folded together on Karen’s lap. It feels like it did that night all those years ago but even better somehow, fuller.

Karen squeezes her hand, nodding to the dancefloor when Hen looks her way. “Look.”

She cranes her neck, scanning the makeshift dancefloor they’d set up after the ceremony. There are enough people still up there that it doesn’t look empty but the crowd has definitely thinned out. Thinned out enough that it only takes seconds for her eyes to land on what Karen’s referring to.

Buck and Eddie. Dancing.

They’re not exactly pressed together the way she and Karen had been but they’re close – closer than Hen thinks she’s seen them in a while. Eddie’s arm is around Buck’s waist and Buck’s hand is splayed between Eddie’s shoulderblades, their other hands tucked together in a careful hold. They’re smiling, talking, as they sway half-heartedly in a circle.  

She feels her mouth curve up involuntarily as she takes them in – Eddie especially. He looks so much lighter, freer, than he has in months. He hasn’t told her everything but she knows enough to guess where his head’s at. Or his heart, maybe. Something like pride wells up inside her then because he doesn’t look afraid. He just looks content.

Buck, on the other hand…

Buck – who finally broke up with Taylor, who’s finally gotten his smile back – is ducking his head to hide a grin after something Eddie’s said and she realises-

“He doesn’t know, does he?”

Hen turns to her wife and sees the same understanding reflected back in her expression. Because there’s something knowing in Eddie’s eyes, something anticipatory in the tilt of his mouth, like he’s closer to what he wants than he’s ever been before. But it’s like every time his gaze softens Buck misses it – too busy messing with Eddie’s lapel, or looking over his shoulder at the kids a few feet away.

Their temples press together at one point and Hen sees the pleased confusion on Buck’s face, like he can’t believe how nice this feels, like he doesn’t expect it.

“He has no idea,” Hen says with a disbelieving huff of laughter.

“You think Eddie’ll tell him?”

She considers the possibility for a moment – if you’d asked her even six months ago she would’ve said no but now…

“Maybe,” she allows. “It’s gonna knock him clean off his feet when he realises.”

Karen grins and it’s absolutely her meddling face. “Maybe we could-“

“Don’t even think about it,” she cuts in. “Let them figure it out on their own, babe.”

Karen huffs, gaze returning to the dancefloor. They sit in companionable silence for a few minutes as the song changes and Hen weighs the pros and cons of getting up for a drink versus trying to mentally summon Chim to get her one. Buck and Eddie are still dancing and when Buck trips over his own feet their faces almost collide. Their noses bump and there’s a painful moment where they both stare at one another’s mouths for a beat too long before hurriedly looking away.

Hen rolls her eyes. Karen huffs again beside her.

“Just one nudge?” she pleads.


4.

Lucy comes into work on Monday morning and finds Eddie Diaz standing in front of an open locker she’s ninety-nine percent sure is Buck’s, buttoning up his uniform shirt.

She’s not surprised, really – she’s been expecting this ever since the dispatch fire. Bobby had pulled her aside during their next shift and told her he wouldn’t be transferring her if Eddie came back. It had been the kind of ‘if’ that’d sounded much more like a ‘when’.

“Welcome back,” she says, rounding the bench to make her way to her own locker. Eddie finishes his last button and looks towards her. Somehow, he smiles in a way that manages to be both charming and bashful – it’s disarming this early in the morning.

“Thanks,” he says slowly. “I don’t think we really got a proper introduction during the all the chaos at dispatch. I’m-“

“Eddie Diaz,” she fills in for him with a huff of a laugh. “Believe me, I know. I’m Lucy.”

Eddie ducks his head, a faint blush colouring his cheeks and that’s certainly interesting. She opens her locker, giving him a sidelong glance. “So does Buck know you’re-“

The rest of her question gets cut off by a quiet, disbelieving, “Eddie?” and she and Eddie turn just in time for Buck to slam straight into Eddie.

Eddie takes a step back with the force of it but his arms come up around Buck immediately, hugging back just as fiercely. She catches sight of his blinding smile before he tucks his face into Buck’s shoulder and Lucy stares, can’t help it when they’re hugging like long-lost lovers being reunited.

Buck pulls back first, hands still firmly on Eddie’s arms as he jostles him. “You asshole!” he exclaims with a laugh that sounds more than a littler watery. “I was literally at your house last night; why didn’t you say anything?!”

Eddie ducks his head again and it’s suddenly abundantly clear why he’d blushed when she’d said she knew who he was. After all, she’d had to hear the stories from someone. And god, does Buck have a lot of stories.

“Wanted it to be a surprise,” he says, voice low and soft in a way that finally makes her turn away to pretend to be busy with her locker. She’s pretty sure this moment should be something private.

She doesn’t catch whatever Buck says next but she sees them hug again out of the corner of her eye. Buck must finally realises she’s in the room when he releases Eddie a second time because she feels them both turn towards her.

“Oh, hey, Lucy! Have you two-“

“We had our official introduction,” she smirks, eyes zeroing in on where Buck’s arm is still thrown around Eddie’s shoulders. During the fire at dispatch she’d assumed Cap put Eddie with Buck because it’d been a while since he’d been out on the field and working with his old partner probably made the most sense. Now she’s wondering if there’d been a different reason.

Buck grins brighter than she’s seen him since they first met, before his gaze seems to catch on something else and he laughs again.

“Not even back five minutes and you’re already reclaiming my locker, huh?”

So she’d been right about that one.

“I mean I can put my stuff in a different one-“ Eddie moves as if to slip out from under Buck’s arm but Buck tightens his hold.

“No!” he says quickly before adding in a much gentler voice, “You know I don’t mind.”

She finishes up fixing her uniform while they both squash in front of Buck’s – Eddie’s? – locker and figure out a way to rearrange their stuff so it all fits. When they’ve managed to close the door Buck tugs on Eddie’s arm.

“Hey, come on. You know Cap is probably making you a special welcome back breakfast as we speak.”

Eddie hangs his head, letting out an exasperated chuckle but allowing Buck to pull him in the direction of the door.

“You comin’, Luce?” Buck calls over his shoulder at the last minute and she startles, snapping her locker door shut.

“Right behind you,” she says, staying a few feet back as she follows them out of the locker room and up the stairs to the loft.

Their shoulders bump the entire time in a way that has to be deliberate – Buck’s clumsy but he is actually capable of not bashing into the person he’s walking into with every step. She’s seen it. When she reaches the top of the stairs she waits patiently for Ravi to give Eddie his welcome back hug before giving him a meaningful nod. He weaves around Hen and Chim dashing to greet Eddie and slips into the empty chair at the dining table beside her.

“What’s up?” he asks lowly.

“What’s the deal there?” she asks, nodding her head in Eddie’s direction. He’s just stepped out of a hug with Hen but Buck is still attached to his hip, hand on the small of his back.

Ravi follows her gaze before letting out a snort of laughter. “Oh. You haven’t met BuckandEddie.”

She frowns in confusion. “What? Yes, I have?”

“No. BuckandEddie,” he corrects amusedly. “One word. Their whole, weird partner thing.” He waves a hand in their general direction in a way that’s apparently supposed to be significant.

She raises her eyebrows in question and he explains further.

“You know how Hen and Chim are like, incredibly impressive partners because they’re best friends and have all this history?”

She nods, waiting for him to continue.

“Buck and Eddie are…the same,” he says, sounding vaguely unsure of his word choice. “But also so much more intense. Watch them today, you’ll see.”

 

She does as Ravi suggests for the rest of the day. It’s not hard when Bobby pairs Buck and Eddie up for every single call with something like pride in his voice.

They’re…a sight to behold, honestly. She’d never officially replaced Eddie as Buck’s partner – Bobby often switched up the partnerships between her, Ravi and Buck depending on the call – but she’d always thought she and Buck worked well together.

But this is something else.

It’d make sense, she thinks, if they were a bit rusty. Except for the dispatch fire, Buck and Eddie haven’t worked together for months. It’d be understandable if it took a minute for them to get back into the swing of things but they’re just- completely in sync from the second Bobby calls their names. They hand each other tools and equipment without talking, they work seamlessly side by side without ever seeming to get in one another’s way, and more than anything else, they look like they’re having the time of their lives working together.

It’s not until they’re on the truck on the way back to the station that it finally all clicks into place. The last three calls have been back-to-back and they’re all a little tired – all hungrier than they’ll admit until their back in the security of the firehouse kitchen with Bobby cooking. She slouches as best she can in her seat – she’s in Hen’s usual spot since she and Chim are in the ambulance which means it puts her directly across from Buck and Eddie.

And she’d like to think she’s gotten to know Buck pretty well these past couple of months. She’s seen him first thing in the morning and covered in soot and ash after a five alarm fire. She’s seen him quiet and pensive and grumpy and pained depending on the day throughout his relationship with Taylor Kelly. She’s seen the smile on his face when he talks about Eddie and his son – hell, she saw him completely ignore his girlfriend’s attempt to warn off Lucy so he could talk to Eddie instead.

But she’s never seen a look on his face like the one when Eddie sighs and guides Buck head down to rest on his shoulder after he’s let out his fourth yawn in as many minutes.

Buck’s face is blank with surprise first before dissolving into something awed and tender as he closes his eyes and settles in more comfortably.

She looks away, finds Ravi’s eyes instead and sees the question in his expression.

Get it now?

Oh yeah. She gets it.


5.

Ravi has spent the better part of a year trying to stay out of the 118’s drama as much as possible.

He’s also spent the better part of a year trying to figure out what the hell Buck and Eddie’s deal is.

He’s pretty sure he’s cycled through every possible outcome at this point – boyfriends, husbands, exes, friends with benefits, friends who aren’t together but should be, friends who think platonic co-parenting is way more common than it is, friends who are so oblivious it hurts – but he thinks he gets down to the heart of it all once Eddie comes back to the 118.

He tells Lucy on Eddie’s first day back that Buck and Eddie’s partnership is more intense than any of the other’s within the 118 and he definitely has fun watching her become increasingly baffled as their shift progresses. But it isn’t until they’re finishing up the next morning that she turns to Ravi and says, “This explains like, everything about Buck the past few months.”

And he gets it because she doesn’t know Eddie – it’s understandable she’d be more interested in watching how Buck is different around him. Eddie’s always been the one Ravi’s been more focused on though; ever since he almost accidentally induced a panic attack because he had the audacity to assume the guy’s girlfriend was his wife.

The point is, he thinks he’s always been a little more aware of how Eddie reacts to Buck than vice versa.

(Honestly he’s been more concerned with how Buck reacts when Eddie isn’t around than when he is.)

It’s hard not to pay attention once Eddie comes back though.

In a lot of ways they act the same as they always do but at the same time it’s clear something has shifted.

He comes into the loft during one of their shifts a few weeks after Eddie’s return and starts asking Buck if he can turn on the TV only to be immediately shushed.

He raises an eyebrow, coming up behind the couch Buck is lying on and finds the reason behind the shushing. Eddie is asleep, sprawled entirely across Buck, and there’s no way the two of them should fit on the couch together but Eddie’s face is buried in the space beside Buck’s collarbone and his arm is thrown across Buck’s middle and their legs are a tangled mess and this is definitely a new development.

Buck looks up at him, nodding meaningfully to where Eddie is sleeping as if Ravi can’t fucking see him.

He mimes zipping his lips and rounds the couch to drop into one of the armchairs, fishing his phone out of his pocket and resigning himself to scrolling through Instagram until Buck allows him to watch the TV not on mute.

“He’s still getting used to the twenty-four hour shifts,” Buck says lowly and Ravi looks up from his phone. He finds Buck gazing down at Eddie as best he can with the way their bodies are arranged, running a soothing hand up and down his back.

“That’s okay,” Ravi replies after a delayed beat. He doesn’t know everything about what Eddie’s been through these past few months but he knows it’s been rough. He’s not gonna begrudge the guy a little shut eye while things are quiet.

Having said that, he’s never been great at shutting up.

“Wouldn’t he be more comfortable in the bunk room?”

Buck shakes his head, gaze still locked on Eddie either because he can’t help it or because he doesn’t want to look at Ravi when he says, “He um. Sometimes he finds it easier to fall asleep. With me.”

And that’s-

Not really a surprise, somehow.

“Ah,” he says, concealing a tiny smile as he pretends to look down at his phone again. He keeps one eye on them though, watches Buck’s hand keep up its steady sweep across Eddie’s back, watches Buck seem to deliberate for a moment before he shifts, just slightly, and presses a kiss to Eddie’s forehead before leaning his temple against the same spot.

It’s- too gentle almost. A moment Ravi absolutely shouldn’t have seen and one he almost feels guilty for witnessing even though they’re in the middle of a communal space at work. It’s an answer too though. For the question that has plagued him for far too long.

He’s always suspected Eddie was in love with Buck, even reached a point a few months ago where he was pretty sure Eddie knew it.

Now, he thinks it’s obvious Buck is in love with Eddie too.

He’s just not sure if he’s realised it yet.

Turning back to his phone, he opens his chat with Lucy.

Ravi: do you think if I described buck and eddie’s relationship to them without letting them know I was talking about them they’d figure out they’re in love?

Lucy: lol probably not but can I please be there when you do?


+1

Buck would like to think he’s a pretty emotional intelligent guy. In fact, sometimes even too emotionally intelligent. He’s an empath through and through – he takes on the emotions of everyone around and always feels way too much.

He’s gotten used to being like that, even tries to think of it as a strength sometimes now.

It still doesn’t prepare him for this.

He’s at Eddie’s – he’s always at Eddie’s – and they’re on the couch, curled up like question marks with their knees bumping and their faces half buried in the couch cushions as they talk. There’s always something hazy about these moments – when the only light is coming from the table lamp and the glow of the TV and their voices are down low so they don’t disturb Christopher – but they’ve become even more syrupy in recent weeks.

Ever since he broke up with Taylor and stopped having a reason to get up off the Diaz couch at the end of the night.

He doesn’t even really know what they’re talking about now but he’s laughing quietly because Eddie always makes him laugh and then Eddie says, “Hey.”

Buck stills as Eddie’s hand lands on his wrist and their eyes meet with a weight he doesn’t expect.

Eddie seems to weigh his options for a moment, eyes flickering all over Buck’s face before finally settling again and then he says-

“I’m in love with you.”

Buck stops breathing.

“What,” he says – not quite a question – when he finds his voice. Suddenly all he can feel is Eddie’s hand on his wrist, not heavy or holding him down, just still inexplicably grounding.

“I love you,” Eddie repeats, voice only a murmur but still so sure. “And I’m not expecting anything or for you to say it back or-“ He stops, takes a carefully measured breath. “I just wanted you to know.”

And it’s- he can’t think. He’s never- never thought about it. Or allowed himself to think about it, he doesn’t know. How could- Eddie loves him? He- he can’t-

“Buck,” Eddie says and it’s not a request – just a reminder. To bring him back to earth.

He sits up clumsily, dislodging Eddie’s hand on his wrist in the process and he almost whines at the loss of his touch.

“I-“ he starts and doesn’t finish. His eyes are burning and he feels embarrassment well up inside him because he wants to cry and he doesn’t even know why. He’s just overwhelmed and- “I never-“

“It’s okay,” Eddie says and he means it. Buck knows he means it. He knows Eddie will swallow this down and never mention it again if Buck asks him to. He never wants to ask Eddie to do that.

“No,” he says and his voice wobbles through the urgency. “Eddie, I- I do love you. Of course I do, I just-“

“You can take a minute,” Eddie says, so fucking patient and earnest it almost takes Buck out at the knees. “You can take your time deciding what this means for you. If it means anything at all.”

And of course it fucking means something. It means- everything, probably. But Buck can’t come up with an answer, can’t put into words how he feels with Eddie looking at him like that. So he nods, dazed and helpless, and rises from the couch when Eddie does and lets him walk him to the door.

There’s an awkward moment of silence while he shuffles into his shoes, all too aware of Eddie’s eyes on him, but when Eddie opens the front door for him he turns at the last second and yanks him into a bone-crushing hug. Eddie hugs him back without question, with so much comfort Buck doesn’t want to let go.

He does though, even if he keeps one hand on Eddie’s neck. “Eds,” he says – desperate, beseeching. “I’m coming back. I promise I’m coming back.”

Eddie nods, smiles something devastating, and bumps their foreheads together once. “I know.”

 

He shows up on Maddie’s doorstep. And on any other day he thinks she’d murder him for waking her up after midnight but he blurts out, “Eddie told me he’s in love with me,” as soon as she opens the door and she wordlessly steps aside to let him through.

She’s sitting on the couch now, warming a mug of tea between her hands while he paces erratically in front of her.

“Like, I love him, Mads,” he says, for the fifth time at least. “Of course I love him. But I don’t know if it’s like that. How could I? We’ve just always been- we’re always-“

“Like that?” she supplies delicately and he gives her an emphatic nod before immediately contradicting himself by shaking his head.

“I mean I’ve never had a real best friend before, y’know? Not like Eddie. Like, I have the 118 and I love them and they’re my family but Eddie’s- we were closer in age! And we liked the same things!”

“Buck, I think you’re closer than most best friends,” she says – slow, the way she used to explain things to him when he was a kid.

“Yeah, but-“ He runs a hand through his hair, frowning as he cycles through four years’ worth of memories. “It had to be different between us, right? Because of what we’ve been through? I- I mean with the tsunami and the well and- and Eddie getting shot-“ He still trips over that one, he always does. “We- Mads, do you know how many times I’ve thought I was about to lose him? Or how many times he’s saved my life? Or how much we have to trust each other just to be able to do our job?”

“I know, Buck,” she starts but he’s already talking again, mind moving a mile a minute.

“Like. Of course we’re closer. Of course we’re each other’s emergency contact. Of course I’m in his will-“

“You’re what?”

He pauses in his pacing for a beat. He never told her, he realises. “I’m Christopher’s legal guardian in his will.”

Maddie’s eyes – if possible – widen even more. “Buck.”

“It has to be me,” he says because he understands it now. He knows why Eddie chose him even if he still can’t quite believe it. “I’m- I love Christopher the way he does, y’know?”

Maddie’s mouth moves, clearly struggling for something to say. When she can’t seem to come up with anything he keeps going.

“God, Maddie, I’d do anything for both of them, you know I would. Hell, I packed up my shit and basically moved into Eddie’s house right after my girlfriend moved into mine because he needed me and- and I held him through his nightmares and took Chris to school and I drew him a heart because I wanted him to smile and he hadn’t in so long and-“

He stops short, turning slowly to stare at Maddie. “I’m in love with him, aren’t I?”

Her mouth twitches like she wants to smile. “Sure sounds like it.”

“Oh my god, I’m in love with him.”

It feels like being hit by a freight train. A freight train full of feelings he never thought to examine too closely before. Touches and looks and moments that he’d cherished without ever stopping to think why.

“Oh my god, Maddie, I’m in love with him and I just left him!” Horror washes over him as he replays his and Eddie’s earlier conversation in his head. “He told me he’s in love with me and I left.”

“Buck, take a breath-“

“I have to go tell him.” He doesn’t wait for Maddie’s reply, just storms straight for the door.

He thinks he just about catches a very amused-sounding, “Good luck!” from behind him before he’s fishing his car keys out of his pocket and all but running for the stairs.

 

It’s nearing 3am when he pulls up in front of Eddie’s house again. All of the lights are off except for the hallway lamp Eddie leaves on in case Chris gets up in the middle of the night but the sensor light come on when he steps up onto the porch. He stands there for a moment, steeling himself, but ultimately he only lasts a few seconds.

He doesn’t want to wait anymore.

He lets himself in, closing the door behind him with a soft click and toeing off his shoes. He sets them back in their spot between Eddie and Christopher’s from earlier and drops his keys on the table, padding down the hallway until he reaches Eddie’s bedroom door.

It’s pushed out but not shut – Buck doesn’t think Eddie’s shut it properly since that night Chris called him all those months ago – so he nudges it open and slips through. Eddie is asleep, on his side with one hand splayed across the empty space beside him on the mattress.

Buck watches him, feels a bone-deep yearning twist its way up inside him and wonders how he ever could’ve mistaken this for anything other than love. He makes his way to the opposite side of the bed, setting his phone down on the nightstand and carefully drawing back the covers.

Eddie stirs as soon as he crawls onto the bed, breathing in deep and frowning before he cracks an eye open and realises it’s Buck.

“Hey,” he says, voice rough with sleep. He draws his hand back as Buck settles into the spot beside him. “What’re you doin’ here?”

Buck doesn’t answer right away, waits until he’s lying on his side parallel to Eddie with the comforter drawn up around him. Then, he fits a hand to Eddie’s cheek, thumb stroking the skin beneath his eye.

“I’m in love with you,” he whispers, tilting Eddie’s chin just enough to draw their mouths together.

Eddie doesn’t react immediately but when he seems to realise what’s happening he tentatively moves his lips against Buck’s, hand coming up to circle Buck’s wrist like he had before. Buck allows their mouths separate after a few seconds before ducking in again to kiss him once, twice, three times. He smudges a final kiss at the corner of Eddie’s mouth and lets his head drop back onto the pillow.

“I’m in love with you,” he says again, just in case Eddie didn’t catch it the first time. “I love you.”

Eddie stares at him as the words sink in before a smile tilts the corners of his mouth. It grows with every passing second until he’s grinning and Buck is helpless not to match him smile for smile.

“I didn’t get it before,” he tells him, stroking Eddie’s cheek again. “I don’t think I ever let myself even think about it. But I see it now.”

He twists his wrist in Eddie’s grip then until he’s the one catching Eddie’s hand instead and presses it to his chest. “I feel it.”

Eddie lets out a shuddering breath, hand flexing over Buck’s heart and nods as he rolls his forehead against Buck’s.

“Me too.”

*