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he's got a one-hand feel on the steering wheel (the other on my heart)

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Our song is the slamming screen door

Sneakin' out late, tapping on your window

When we're on the phone, and you talk real slow

'Cause it's late, and your mama don't know

Our song is the way you laugh

The first date, "Man, I didn't kiss him, and I should have"

And when I got home, 'fore I said, "Amen"

Asking God if he could play it again

 

Buck’s been in love with Eddie since he was seven years old. The Diazes moved to their neighborhood the summer before Buck started second grade, and it took one sweaty afternoon of racing Eddie downhill on his skateboard for Buck to tell him they were gonna get married someday. Eddie looked at him quizzically, eyebrows pulled together with as much judgment as an almost ten-year-old could muster, but, eventually, said yeah, okay. 

 

(He wasn’t even almost ten. Eddie’s birthday’s in November and they met mid-July, but Buck was gap-toothed and carefree and would probably agree with anything Eddie said. So–almost ten it was.) 

 

Eddie quickly became his favorite thing about Hershey. He had a younger sister–Sophia–who was in Buck’s grade (in a different class, because Buck’s didn’t have room for any more students, but they saw each other during P.E.). She was nice enough, pretty hair and big brown eyes, but Eddie didn’t even ask for a band-aid when he scraped his knees, so he’s pretty much the coolest person Buck’s ever met. 

 

Second grade passed by in a blur of trailing after Eddie, talking a mile a minute and laughing when Eddie chased him down the sidewalk or pushed him into the pile of leaves his parents were raking in his front yard. Buck and Eddie got yelled at a lot. Especially by the Grahams– an elderly couple that lived two houses from Buck and, for whatever reason, didn’t really like him. 

 

Buck’s pretty sure he got scolded by them more than he did by his own parents, but he’s not sure if it’s because the Grahams’ had a stick up their asses, or if it’s because his parents never really cared. 

 

It was a lot of bare feet beating down against the rough asphalt, a lot of teeth falling out all red and sticky because Eddie kneed him when they were roughhousing on his trampoline. It was a lot of “Evan, Eddie– get down from there!” when they climbed up a too-tall tree and Mrs. Diaz with a towel thrown over her shoulder got antsy with worry. 

 

Eddie’s the one who started calling him Buck. It was his ninth birthday, and Eddie was sleeping over. It was special. Most of the time, Buck slept over at the Diazes, the two of them giggling under the covers, staring up at Eddie’s glow in the dark stars. He insists he’s not too old for them, despite Adriana's teasing that they’re for babies. 

 

Eddie never sleeps in his room. They’ve never had to pile under his covers before, and Buck’s vibrating with excitement. He’s not quite sure he’ll be able to fall asleep, and Eddie’s talking faster than normal, so he’s pretty sure he feels the same. 

 

They’re in the middle of arguing whether baseball or football is the better sport when Eddie interrupts. 

 

“You need a nickname,” he says. 

 

“Why?” Buck asked, eyebrows drawn together, looking at Eddie’s face– so close next to his on the pillow. 

 

“‘Cause. You hate when your parents yell and call you Evan, and I don’t want to do that. Also, my name’s Edmundo, but everyone calls me Eddie.” 

 

“I guess.” 

 

“This kid in my class goes by Xander. It’s a play off his last name, which is Alexander. He says it’s because there were two Grayson’s– that’s his name– at his old youth group. Maybe I should call you Buckley.” Eddie’s looking at him seriously, Buck’s outer space sheets pulled up to his armpits. 

 

“That’s not a nickname,” he points out. 

 

Eddie pauses, considers that for a long moment. Buck wonders why he hangs out with him sometimes. He’s two and a half years older and has plenty of friends from fifth grade, but he always makes time for Buck. Always invites him over for pizza on Fridays and sleepovers on Saturdays. Always knocks on his door in the middle of the week, asking Buck’s parents if Buck can play, voice as polite as possible as he tacks on an extra please.  

 

He’s his best friend in the whole world. Buck hopes it never changes. 

 

Eddie’s still staring at him. Keeps looking for a beat, and then another, before grinning and nodding his head decidedly. 

 

“Buck, then.” 

 

“Buck,” he says himself, trying the name on for size. “I like it,” he tells Eddie with a smile, a gap where his left canine used to be. 

 

“Cool. Me, too. It’s a good nickname. I wouldn’t give you something dumb, obviously, ‘cause I’m too awesome.” 

 

Buck can’t help but agree. 

 

++

 

Buck’s still in love with Eddie when they get to High School, though they don’t hang out nearly as much as they used to. Eddie’s popular–of course he is–and Buck’s not unpopular, he’s just… a freshman. Eddie swings his arm around Buck’s shoulder on the first day of school, though. Walks him to his first class, and Buck tries not to think about how he wishes Eddie would kiss him when he dropped him off at Algebra. He’s not insane. He knows Eddie would never, but Buck can’t help but daydream a little when his teachers won’t stop droning on and on and on about this year's material. 

 

Eddie’s friends make fun of him, call Buck his little girlfriend, and Eddie assumes the pink on his cheeks comes from him being uncomfortable. 

 

Really, Buck wouldn’t mind being Eddie’s boyfriend, but he’s fourteen and awkward and Eddie is still the coolest person he’s ever known. 

 

They’re having a sleepover at Eddie’s, but they don’t sleep pressed together in a twin bed like they used to. Buck’s lying on the mattress Mrs. Diaz put under Eddie’s bed for this exact purpose when Buck comes out to him. He doesn’t know what makes him do it, what makes him choose this particular Saturday, instead of next week, or the next, but Eddie’s window is cracked open just a tad, and the cool autumn air is blowing in, and Buck feels like every nerve on his body is on fire. 

 

“I think I like guys,” he blurts out, with all the finesse of a freshman coming out to his best friend that he so happens to want to make out with. (And then fall in love and marry.) 

 

Eddie’s quiet for a moment. Buck can’t bear to look at him, having squeezed his eyes shut at some point as he uttered the words. 

 

“That’s cool,” Eddie breathes out, words sharp and forced in a way that feels decidedly un cool. Buck wants to melt into the floor and disappear. 

 

“Sorry if this makes things weird. I still like girls. I like both, I think, so we can, y’know, still talk about girls.” Not that they ever did, but the silence was fucking killing him, and he didn’t know what else to say. 

 

“I think I might like both, too. I think I like boys more, actually. I don’t know. It’s all really confusing all the time,” Eddie whispers, voice smaller than Buck’s ever heard it. “My dad would be pissed,” he says with a dry chuckle. 

 

“Mine, too.” 

 

Eddie swallows audibly, deafening in the silence of his room. 

 

“Cool.” 

 

More silence. More awkward than it’s ever been between them. Buck hates it so, so bad. 

 

“Thanks for telling me,” he tells Eddie, who keeps inhaling sharply like he’s trying not to cry. “Hey, so does this mean that when you agreed to marry me when we were kids that you meant it?” Buck jokes, trying to lighten the mood. 

 

In one swift move, Eddie grabs his pillow from underneath his head and smacks Buck in the face with it. Buck laughs so loud Sophia has to yell at them to shut the fuck up. 

 

++

 

Eddie kisses him when he’s seventeen. 

 

Buck’s a senior, and so goddamn ready to get the hell out of this town. Eddie went back to Texas for college, studying at UT San Antonio for a history degree that Buck can’t possibly imagine why he’d want.

 

He hates history. Is completely hopeless when it comes to memorizing anything, much less details about wars and presidents and other things he doesn’t care about. But Eddie’s smart, and he’s good with dates and names and remembering. Poured over book after book about political movements, even if it took him a long time to get through them, struggling with reading in a way Buck never did. 

 

He hates history– it’s Eddie’s thing- he's still trying to pass, though, so he’s sitting at his desk on a Friday night, cramming for the test he has on Monday (who the fuck makes anyone test on Monday? Buck hates his History teacher). 

 

And then he hears a tap on his window. Which– what. 

 

His bedroom’s on the second story, there’s no way it’s a person trying to get his attention. He briefly wonders if it was maybe a combination of a tree branch and heavy wind, except that there aren’t any trees by his bedroom window. 

 

Another tap. A third. 

 

Buck gets up from his desk and walks over to where something keeps tapping on the glass. He yanks the cord to pull his blinders open, and, like on cue, a pebble bounces off his window. 

 

Again– what? 

 

Three pebbles hit at once, and it finally strikes Buck to look down instead of searching for magically appearing sky pebbles. 

 

Eddie. Eddie is home from college for whatever reason, and he’s throwing pebbles at Buck’s bedroom window like some kind of disgustingly cheesy cliche. Buck’s heart swoops in his chest, stomach erupting in butterflies at Eddie’s massive grin. 

 

Buck’s wanted to marry him for nearly a decade. Sue him–who else is tossing rocks at his window at midnight on a Friday? No one but Eddie. Buck has every right to be in love with him. 

 

He pushes the window up slowly, giving Eddie enough time to see what he’s doing so Buck isn’t met with a pebble to the stomach. 

 

“What the hell are you doing?” he asks through a smile. 

 

Eddie shrugs, aiming for nonchalant, but the way he rubs at the back of his neck gives it away. He’s nervous, and for whatever reason, this makes Buck’s heartbeat even faster. He half worries it’s gonna beat right out of his chest. 

 

“You weren’t answering your phone.” 

 

“You are the most ridiculous person I know. I’ll be down in, like, two minutes. Let me put on real pants,” he says, tugging at the loose fabric of his pajamas.

 

“Hurry, the Grahams still hate us.” 

 

Buck giggles, ducking his head with a bashful grin. Eddie smiles up at him, motioning with his hands for Buck to get a move on, so he grabs the first pair of jeans he can find and throws on his football sweatshirt, before sneaking out the house. He tries to be quiet out of courtesy to his sleeping parents, because they don’t give a shit where he is or what he’s doing, as long as Buck is in one piece. 

 

It seems like it would be nice, the freedom. His friends seem to think so, but Buck wishes they’d care. It’s not that they’re cool with him sneaking out on a Friday night, it’s that Buck’s parents don’t really give half a damn about what’s going on with him. He exists in their house, but he doesn’t exist to them. His heart tugs bitterly as he locks the door behind him, but his mood does a complete one-eighty as soon as he locks eyes with Eddie again. 

 

The only person who’s ever cared is Maddie, but she’s got her shithead boyfriend now. 

 

“Hey, man,” he says, and he looks– he looks really good. Eddie’s always been attractive, Buck’s always found him hot but this? This Eddie, muscles lean and defined, hair a little longer than it was when Buck last saw him? He’s still got a bit of a babyface, but his jaw is sharp and Buck wants to nip at it. 

 

This Eddie is fine as hell. Dear lord. 

 

“Hey, yourself. I didn’t know you were back this weekend?” 

 

“I leave on Monday. One of my professors is out sick, and it’s my morning class, so I’m leaving early as shit to be back for my other class. Found a really cheap flight. And I missed you, so.” Eddie’s cheeks are as pink as Buck’s ever seen them. Buck wants to press a kiss to each one. Strangely, he’s not sure Eddie would even mind. 

 

“Oh my god, me too. I have my football friends, but I’ll always miss hanging out with you. Until you come back and we can be, y’know, us again,” he says, eloquently. 

 

“Well, we have all night.” Eddie looks at him, something soft and twinkling swimming in the pools of his irises, and Buck grins back, lets himself be led to Eddie’s truck by the wrist, and pretends like the contact doesn’t make his skin buzz. 

 

The radio is softly playing Green Day, but Buck can’t hear it over the wind rushing through the open windows and blowing through his hair. Eddie’s singing along, voice low and quiet. It feels like they’re in a bubble, speeding down empty backroads with nothing but the moon and Eddie’s headlights to guide the way. 

 

“Remember that time a deer came running towards us? We were on this road, too, that was fucking terrifying,” Buck says, breaking the comfortable stillness that settled around them. 

 

“Yes, Evan, I remember because it made me nearly crash into a tree. You were laughing like I wasn’t about to have a panic attack.” 

 

Buck laughs a little now remembering how pale Eddie got. He was freshly sixteen and driving his Dad’s old pickup, and some deer dashed out from behind the thick of the trees. It was one of the scariest moments of Buck’s life, his heart was fluttering anxiously in his ribcage, but Eddie’s panicked expression was the funniest thing in the world to thirteen-year-old Buck. Eddie didn’t share the sentiment and reached over him to open the truck door and push Buck out. It only made him laugh harder. 

 

“It was kinda funny.” 

 

“I was not funny,” Eddie says like Buck can’t see the smile he’s trying to hold back. 

 

Buck looks at the road, the thick of the trees feeling familiar. He recognizes the turn Eddie takes and the gravel path that crunches beneath the tires and grins wickedly.

 

“Hey, where are we going? Are you taking me to the lookout point? Your backseat isn’t big enough for us to make out, y’know.” He hopes he doesn’t sound too hopeful and that his face isn’t too red, but Eddie doesn’t seem to notice, staring steadfastly at the road, white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. 

 

Huh. 

 

“It’s a good place to, like, look at the stars. It’s a nice night, okay?” Eddie shoots back defensively. 

 

“Right. You’re taking me to the makeout spot so we can look at the stars? Like that makes it any less romantic.” 

 

Eddie lets go of the steering wheel with one hand so he can use it to shove Buck hard

 

“Ow, asshole.” 

 

“That’s what you get.” 

 

His hand drops between their seats, not going back to the steering wheel. His fingers keep brushing against the side of Buck’s thigh, and Buck can’t help but think the presses are more intentional than Eddie’s letting on. He doesn’t move his hand for the rest of the drive and doesn’t say much either. Lets Buck fill the silence with complaints about High School and how he doesn’t want to go to college, a soft smile on his face as he watches the trees blur behind Eddie as he drives. 

 

Eventually, they do pull into the makeout spot, and Eddie does lead them to the cargo bed where he’s already laid out a large beach towel and some blankets. 

 

“Trying to woo me, Diaz?” 

 

Eddie rolls his eyes. 

 

“Shut up and get on the truck, man.” 

 

Buck doesn’t point out how he didn’t deny it, but he does replay the words over and over and he’s pretty sure he will for the rest of the night. 

 

They settle quickly, lying on their backs against the towel, shoulders barely touching. Buck’s stomach is all butterflies. 

 

Eddie is humming off-key to himself before he clears his throat.

 

“I met someone back in Texas. Her name’s Shannon, she’s really cool. I think you’d like her. She taught me about some of the– um– the constellations? She knows a lot about it.” Eddie points at a cluster of stars in the sky. “See, that’s Ursa Major.” 

 

“No, it’s not.” Eddie looks at him, confused, so Buck wraps his fingers gently around Eddie’s wrist and guides it a little lower in the sky. “That’s Ursa Major.” 

 

“Show off,” Eddie says softly, voice barely above a whisper, and when Buck looks over at him, he’s already looking back. Warm brown eyes meet blue and Buck swears the world pauses for a moment. Stops spinning and focuses on the upturned corner of Eddie’s lips, on the eyelash on his cheek, on the freckle on his nose. Buck’s wanted to kiss him since he figured out what kissing was, and now he’s right there. 

 

He doesn’t move– can’t, really. Feels stuck in that moment on that truck bed on that beach towel. Eddie brought their hands down, but Buck hasn’t let go of their wrists, content to let both hands settle in the space between them. 

 

He needs a buffer. He’ll lean over and plant his lips on Eddie’s without it. 

 

“Shannon’s great. I met this guy Mark, too, and he’s also cool. We go out sometimes and he drags me to all the school football games–kind of like you, but he’s actually funny–” 

 

“Hey!” 

 

“But I can’t do this with any of them,” Eddie finishes. Buck knows sound can travel miles, but Eddie’s words, earnest and gentle, don’t exist past where they reach Buck’s ears. He’s sure of it. 

 

“What, you don’t take them on stargazing dates and incorrectly label constellations?” He means it as a joke, but his tone is a touch too genuine and five touches too hopeful for it to be considered anything other than a plea. 

 

Eddie shakes his head, looking at Buck with soft eyes, and something so tender hidden in the corners of his smile. 

 

Eddie grabs Buck’s hand, tracing the lines of his palm. Buck holds his breath, worried that if he exhales this will all have been a really good dream. 

 

“Not even with Shannon?” Buck asks tentatively, all pretenses of being calm, cool, and collected out the goddamn window. 

 

Eddie doesn’t look up from his hand. 

 

“No.” 

 

“Oh.” 

 

Eddie snorts, rolling his eyes in a move Buck’s seen about a thousand times. It feels softer now, though. Infinitely more fond. 

 

“I don’t take Shannon to makeout spots, because I’m not all that interested in kissing Shannon.” Eddie looks at him pointedly, holds eye contact long enough that Buck starts to squirm underneath it. He lets the words replay, lets them wash over him and–

 

“Oh.” 

 

“If that’s okay?” 

 

Buck nods, words–for once–nowhere to be found. 

 

Eddie brings his hand to the side of Buck’s neck. His palm is warm and a bit sweaty and it feels like lightning bolts against Buck’s skin in the cool night air. He takes his time letting his eyes linger across Buck’s features, and while Buck wants to yell at him to kiss him already, damn it, he’s too shocked to move. 

 

Eventually, after ten lifetimes, Eddie leans in. His lips are soft and a little chapped and they move gently against Buck’s own. He tries not to smile into the kiss, but it’s hopeless, his grin stretching across his features on its own accord. Eddie, for his part, just smiles right back. 

 

He moves to pull away, but Buck grabs him by the back of the neck and pulls him in so Eddie’s leaning over him, propped up on his elbow. And then they’re kissing. Lips moving hungrily, one of Buck’s hands around Eddie’s neck and the other fisted in his t-shirt. Eddie’s fingers are twisting in his hair, tugging softly in a way that makes Buck hum into the kiss and bite on Eddie’s lower lip with a bit more fervor. 

 

They kiss until their lips are chapped, the moon hanging high in the sky, washing them in its cool white glow. Eddie’s grinning down at him, dimple in full force. Buck leans up and presses a kiss to it. 

 

Eddie’s responding laugh is music to his ears. Buck’s not sure how he managed to survive this long without hearing this exact laugh– giddy and bubbly and warm– because now that he’s heard it he never wants to hear anything else ever again.

 

“Did–” he starts before cutting himself off.

 

“What?” Eddie asks softly, gentle fingers running through his hair. 

 

“Did you come back just to take me on a date?” His voice is small, and he’s not meeting Eddie’s eyes, because it’s such a hopeless, dumb thing to ask. Sure, Eddie kissed him, but that doesn’t mean he feels the same. Maybe he just likes Buck, when what Buck feels for Eddie surpassed just like a long time ago. He feels a little silly, but Eddie just takes the same gentle fingers that were running through his hair and uses them to tilt his chin up so he can kiss him slow. 

 

“I was gonna come back at some point. My mom’s been on my ass about it. I chose this weekend because I decided two days ago I was finally gonna take you out. So, kind of.” Eddie’s smile slides off his face, something anxious taking over his features. “This really was okay, right?” he asks nervously. 

 

“More than okay,” Buck answers, leaning up so he can kiss the corner of Eddie’s mouth. His skin is soft, and warm underneath Buck’s lips. Buck’s heart is wild and erratic in his chest. He thinks Eddie might know. He thinks Eddie might feel the same. 

 

“I miss you, like, all the  fucking time, you know?” Eddie says after a beat of silence. He’s not looking at Buck–is instead fiddling with the strings of Buck’s hoodie, but that’s okay. He knows Eddie has a hard time opening up, so he grabs Eddie’s hand and intertwines their fingers, blushing under the soft look Eddie gives him when they lock eyes again. 

 

“I miss you, too.”

 

“You ever think of going to college in Texas?” 

 

“What? You think you’re so important I’d base an important life decision around you?” 

 

“I’d follow you.” 

 

Suddenly there’s about fifty percent less air in the atmosphere at Eddie’s confession. Buck searches for something in his eyes to be hesitant, but he doesn’t find it. Eddie’s being completely genuine, and Buck worries he’s dreaming or hallucinating or gone insane because this? This is everything he’s ever wanted. 

 

“I’m still not even sure I wanna go to college,” Buck says instead of reacting to Eddie’s admission because he doesn’t know what to say other than I’ve been in love with you since the second grade, but that’s a bit much even for him. 

 

“Mm?” 

 

Eddie starts tracing aimless patterns on Buck’s chest, still propped up on his elbow. There’s no way that position can be comfortably held for this long, so Buck pulls him down until Eddie’s flat on the truck bed and fits himself against his side, head resting on his chest. 

 

“Bossy,” Eddie mutters. 

 

“Shut up.” 

 

He feels Eddie drop a kiss to his hairline and blushes up to the tips of his ears. 

 

“What are you gonna do instead of college?” 

 

“There are other options, Edmundo,” he teases, mainly because he’s at that point in High School where everyone is asking him that. And it’s annoying. He knows he’s a terrible student and he knows his parents expect him to go to college anyway (going against his parents' wishes is also appealing). 

 

He knows everything he’s not– a good student, good at paying attention, responsible, level-headed. Those things he gets yelled at for all the time. He’s not quite sure what he’s good at that would make a career. Getting injured? Recklessness? He’s sure he’s got good qualities somewhere, but it seems like everyone forgets to mention those. He’s kind of at a loss, and he also kind of feels like he’s drowning. He knows Eddie doesn’t mean it in a bad way, knows he’s just curious, but Buck’s sick and tired of being judged for not knowing what he wants to do with his life. 

 

“I know. I just want to know what your options are.” Eddie goes back to tracing loops and spirals on his chest, right above his heart.

“I don’t know,” he admits quietly. 

 

Eddie hums in response before falling silent. 

 

“This is a stupid conversation,” Buck blurts out. 

 

“Why?” 

 

“It's a waste of time.” 

 

Eddie laughs a little. Buck can feel the stretch of his smile against his forehead. 

 

“Why?” 

 

“You could be kissing me instead,” he says with all the confidence he can muster. Eddie laughs again, but there’s an edge to it that wasn’t there a second ago. 

 

“C’mere, then.” 

 

Buck doesn’t need to be told twice. He straddles Eddie’s body with the ease and agility of someone who’s never done this before. Nearly knees Eddie in the balls, but, somehow, he manages to get himself situated. Eddie reaches for his hands, intertwining their fingers and using that to pull Buck down. 

 

Naturally, it makes Buck collapse on top of him, but then Eddie’s moving him gently and Buck’s hovering above him, lips barely touching. And when Eddie wraps a hand around the nape of his neck and angles his head up just slightly, it’s like everything slots into place. There’s tongue and teeth and Eddie trailing kisses down his jawline. Buck’s making embarrassing breathy noises that just seem to spur Eddie on, sucking at the column of his throat, nipping at the base of his neck. 

 

Buck, because he needs Eddie’s lips back on his, like, yesterday, grabs him by the hair until their lips can meet again. 

 

He might’ve tugged a little harder than intended, because Eddie moans softly into their kiss, hips hitching up on their own accord. Buck can feel his hard on against his, and almost panics until Eddie grinds up again and kisses him deeper, and all panic goes out the window. 

 

Buck grinds down experimentally right as Eddie grinds up, and he suddenly gets why everyone in his class is constantly talking about sex. There are four layers of fabric between them, and they’re not doing much other than grinding lazily, but it’s enough to make him dizzy. 

 

“If there are any kids out here you better be decent!” 

 

Buck and Eddie pull apart like they’ve been burned, looking at each other with eyes filled with terror. Buck can’t help the heat that pools in his stomach when he looks at Eddie and his flushed face, and kiss swollen lips. Can’t help the smugness that comes from knowing he did that. He’s more than a little light-headed at the moment. 

 

There’s a bright light shining through the trees and some poor sheriff’s deputy complaining that this part of the job sucks. 

 

Buck feels for him. If his job was busting teenagers for making out in their cars he would hate it, too. 

 

Eventually, despite them trying to make as little noise as possible, the deputy does spot the big red truck in the clearing and shines a very bright flashlight right in their eyes. Buck knows what they look like– imagines he looks about ten times worse than Eddie does, and Eddie already looks thoroughly debauched. The deputy sighs, hand on his hip, looking so much older than the likely thirty that he actually is. 

 

“You two need to go home before I have to write you up,” he says, looking like he’d rather be just about anywhere else.

 

“Yes, sir,” Buck responds, voice a little shaky. 

 

“Wait–Buckley?” Buck freezes. “Your parents know you’re out here?” 

 

“No, sir.” Beside him, Eddie snickers into his fist, poorly covering it with a cough. 

 

His parents– unfortunately– are well known in their town. And he– unfortunately– tends to get in a lot of trouble. It makes his parents look bad, which in turn makes him want to do it more. He’s had to get picked up from the sheriff’s station more than a few times. He’s hoping this deputy will let them off with a bored warning because he really doesn’t want to explain to a very pissed-off Philip Buckley why he’s being called to the sheriff’s station at one in the morning. For making out with a boy, no less.

 

The deputy sighs, looking up at the night sky. 

 

“Just don’t make it a habit?” 

 

“Yes, sir.” 

 

As soon as he’s out of earshot, Eddie bursts out laughing, hard enough that he’s clutching his side, his whole body shaking with it. 

 

“It’s not that funny, asshole.” 

 

“Baby, it’s funnier.” 

 

And, okay, that’s not fair. Eddie can’t just call him baby out of nowhere. Not when Buck’s still half-hard, despite being terrified that he was gonna get written up. Eddie leans over and kisses his cheek, Buck sighing at the contact before he’s hopping off the back of the truck and making his way back to the driver’s seat. 

 

Buck slumps a little at the loss of Eddie by his side but manages to slide off the truck bed and take his seat in shotgun.

 

They talk about everything and nothing on the drive back home, and Buck’s lightheaded with it. He always hoped–late at night and only when he had the house to himself, too scared his thoughts would grow voices and alert his parents–that they were walking towards happily ever after, or something close. It feels fitting that their first kiss happened under the starry night sky, it feels fitting that the moonlight kissed Eddie’s skin with as much fervor as Buck did. 

 

He just hopes the sunlight doesn’t make the full bright saturation of Eddie in the driver’s seat, one hand on the steering wheel and the other toying with the seam along the inside of Buck’s thigh, fade away until it’s washed out and Buck can’t make out what it used to be. 

 

Eddie squeezes his thigh, hand trailing higher, and all of Buck’s thoughts fly out the rolled down windows. 

 

He ducks his head in a weak attempt to hide his blush. 

 

“You’re so cute,” Eddie says, and he sounds as breathless as Buck feels. 

 

“I’m not.” 

 

“Cutest thing I’ve ever seen.” Eddie leans over the console to kiss Buck’s flaming cheek when they reach Buck’s house. 

 

He’s never wanted to climb out of a car less. All he wants to do is ask Eddie to fly both of them back to Texas and let them figure it all out together. But Buck’s still got senior year to finish, and his parents would never let him move to Texas just so he can be with Eddie, anyway. Buck thinks it’s stupid. Thinks all of it’s a waste of time because he doesn’t know what the point of anything is if he doesn’t get to do it with Eddie by his side. 

 

It’s hopeless and a touch…intense, for lack of a better word, but Buck knows it in his bones that Eddie is it. He’s only seventeen, and he’s got a lot of life ahead to challenge that, but they fit together like they were tailor made. That’s not the kind of love that washes away with the running river and it’s not the kind of love that’s written in the sand and dragged away by the tide. He’ll never admit this out loud–because it makes him sound insane– but he feels it buzzing at the end of every nerve, the need to be by Eddie’s side forever. 

 

He loves him. Buck loves him. 

 

He can’t imagine one day he’ll stop. 

 

“Text me when you leave on Monday?” Buck asks as he unbuckles his seat belt. 

 

“Of course. And when I land. ‘Night, Buck.” Eddie smiles at him the same way he’s smiled at him their whole lives, and Buck’s breath goes whooshing out of his lungs the same way it has their whole lives. 

 

He makes it three steps up the driveway before he’s turning around and running to the driver’s door, rising just enough on the tips of his toes to be able to lean into the truck and kiss Eddie softly. 

 

Eddie grips the back of his neck, tongue swiping teasingly along his lower lip, before pecking Buck five times in quick succession. 

 

“Good night, Eddie,” Buck whispers, kisses him like it’s punctuation. Eddie kisses him back like he can’t help himself

 

Eddie’s smile goes gentle and easy and his cheeks go pink and Buck’s pretty sure there are hearts in his irises. 

 

“Good night, Evan.” 

 

++

 

Things get a little weird with Eddie after that, but, to be honest, Buck was expecting them to. 

 

It’s just–he was expecting first kiss awkwardness and the shift from best friends to boyfriends except what happens is that Eddie’s texts dwindle until he and Buck are basically not talking anymore. And then, a month and a half post kiss and a month since Eddie’s last text, Buck’s biking through their neighborhood, and finds Ramon directing a moving crew in the Diaz’s driveway. 

 

“Hey, Mr. Diaz, what’s going on?” Buck asks, dropping his bike against the curb. 

 

“We’re moving back to Texas. I assume Eddie didn’t tell you?” 

 

His voice is cold, tone clipped in a way Buck’s never heard, and he has a horrible sinking feeling that Ramon knows why Eddie isn’t talking to him. There’s malice in the angle of his sneer and Buck has an even worse sinking feeling that Ramon knows Eddie kissed him. 

 

Tears sting in the corners of his eyes, and he walks away before he can feel himself shrink any further under Ramon’s gaze. He hops on his bike and starts barreling down the road, barely catching Helena’s he’s a kid, Ramon and Mr. Diaz’s responding so was Eddie, but it’s enough to make tears roll down his cheeks in earnest. He doesn’t know what happened, doesn’t know why Eddie isn’t talking to him, or why the Diaz’s are packing their house, but Buck’s never felt emptier. 

 

He sees a car coming in his periphery. He doesn’t stop pedaling. The broken bones don’t hurt enough to make him stop thinking about Eddie, but it’s enough of a distraction to make him do it again. 

 

++

 

Buck loses his virginity the night of graduation. He had a reputation that he didn’t understand for being good in bed, and all the girls would whisper in the hallways that he’s definitely a good lay. Buck never wanted any of them, but his High School graduation rolls around, and Sophia Diaz isn’t in the stands ready to graduate with him, and Eddie’s nowhere to be found. 

 

So he lets some girl he’s pretty sure was in his marine biology class take him into the bathroom of one of his football teammate's houses during a shitty party. He doesn’t stop her when she kisses his neck and he likes the way she gasps when he sinks a finger into her and then another. Something sparks within him when he finds out he really is a good lay, and that he can chase the feeling of being wanted better when he’s on his knees. 

 

He fucks a couple girls, goes down on more, gets blown in dingy bathrooms but he never goes past kissing when his partner’s got stubble and large, rough hands and meet his grinds with a roll of their own hips. He never lets any man get past his neck, always an excuse on the tip of his tongue, high tailing it out of the gay clubs he finds himself wandering into before they can call him a tease. 

 

He doesn’t think about why that is. He knows, though. It’s hard not to when Eddie’s still on his mind, college and ranch hand and bartending and Navy fucking SEALS later. 

 

He’ll make out with a lot of girls in a lot of bathrooms and he’ll old heavy eye contact with himself in the mirror when he almost cries running his fingers through their too long hair as they swallow him down. It’s pathetic. 

 

Buck misses Eddie like an open wound that won’t close. 

 

It’s miserable. Eddie’s still the love of his life. Eddie’s still the only person Buck can ever see himself being with, except Eddie kissed him and fucked off and never told Buck why. 

 

He thinks back to Ramon and how sour his expression turned when he looked at Buck. He thinks back to Eddie and his kisses and thinks maybe Eddie didn’t fuck off on purpose. For Buck’s sake, he’ll pretend like Eddie left because he was forced to because imagining a world where Eddie leaves is more than he can handle. 

 

He tastes himself on the girl's tongue when she comes up to kiss him. He hates himself for not getting her off, for tucking himself back into his pants and running out the bar doors. 

 

He hates himself the most for breaking down against the brick exterior, the roughness scratching along his back as he sinks towards the ground. 

 

There are cigarette butts and soda cans and the ground smells like piss and cheap beer but Buck lets himself collapse against it, anyway. He’ll take a shower when he gets back to his apartment. Angry tears waterfall down his cheeks as he blinks, and he hates himself the most for still letting Eddie have so much of himself. He hates himself the most for jumping when his phone buzzes and memorizing every area code in the state of Texas in case Eddie got a new number. 

 

Buck digs the heel of his palms against his eyes. It does nothing to stop the crying. 

 

“Are you okay?” some guy asks. Buck looks over to find a very concerned bartender looking down at him. 

 

“Y-yeah. Sorry. I’ll leave.” 

 

“It’s public property, you don’t have to. I don’t care either way. Some girl was worried about you.” 

 

Buck nods, and the bartender walks away, leaving Buck alone to push himself off the dirty sidewalk. 

 

Down the street, some firefighters rappel down the side of a building. It’s not on fire, but there’s a man dangling from the edge of a balcony, six stories off the ground. Buck’s suddenly flooded with memories of being seventeen and thinking he was only good at recklessness and injury. He watches the firefighters run into danger, catching the guy at the last second and feels something close to an epiphany. Ash staining his jeans, his sock mysteriously damp, hickies forming along his throat, and something finally clicking into place in his chest. 

 

He applies to the academy the next day. 

 

++

 

Dating Abby turns Buck’s world upside down. Turns out, it’s easier to crave belonging when someone’s willing to let you in. It’s easier to make flowers bloom when you’ve got a pail of water, and Abby was there for him in ways he will never be able to thank her enough for. She’s gorgeous and sexy and way out of his league, but she wants him enough that Buck doesn’t spend their entire relationship doubting himself. He knows she wants him, but not just for what he can give her when they’re naked on her bed. 

 

Abby wanted him for him. Maybe not all of him, Buck’s pretty sure she was still partly clouded by the image of him taking a firetruck to a hookup, but she was the first person to look past that and want to get to know him, anyway. 

 

Being with Abby made him a better man, that’s one thing he’s sure of. Being with her made him want better things for himself and Buck–

 

Buck’s spent his whole life thinking he’d never deserve more than a quick fuck in the bathroom. Eddie was his one selfish thing, and he didn’t get to have that, either. 

 

His team liked him better after he got with her, too. They all saw him as the reckless, immature bother, and then he was dating an older woman who brought out the best in him. It took a while for him to get into the rhythm of an adult relationship. A while to stop getting butthurt when Abby had to cancel because of her mom. But he got there in the end. 

 

(He’ll never admit to it because he found something good with Abby, but sometimes his stomach will twist painfully when he wakes up and smells sweet, lavender body wash and coconut shampoo. A part of him is still hoping he’ll wake up and smell pine and sweat and have short, cropped hairs tickling his nose, and he doesn’t know how to make that part go away. He wants Abby, he loves Abby, but sometimes he wonders what would happen if he ran into Eddie again. 

 

He’d be twenty-nine, almost. Buck’s pretty sure he still looks good–Eddie was the most gorgeous person he’d ever seen. He can’t imagine a world where Eddie Diaz is unattractive. He wonders if he’s got stubble and what he’s done with his hair and what his laugh sounds like now. He wonders if he’s lean or buff and if Buck could pick him up and wrap tan legs around his waist. He does a good job of stopping his train of thought before it gets too dangerous for the most part, but sometimes he can’t help himself. Ends up fucking into his fist, biting his wrist so he doesn’t moan Eddie’s name when he comes. 

 

He hates himself for that, too.) 

 

He never expects Abby to leave. It’s the last thing he sees coming, but one day he’s walking into the apartment that became theirs without Buck ever noticing, and she’s got all of her important things packed neatly into suitcases, and a flight confirmation email pulled up on her phone. 

 

He watches Abby walk past the glass airport doors, and keeps watching until he can’t spot her in the crowd anymore. 

 

He sleeps on the couch that night and doesn’t understand why it hurts the way it does. Abby didn’t say this was forever, but it stings the same way. Puts salt in old wounds the same way. 

 

Buck’s just really easy to leave behind. 

 

++

 

“They are only picking one candidate from each station,” Buck says, bouncing on his heels as he tells everyone about the workouts he’s been doing to get in shape for the firefighter calendar. He knows his team is kind of sick of it by now, but working out helped get his mind off Abby, and submitting an application for a firefighter calendar full of thirst traps is at least giving him a goal. 

 

He misses her, but it’s easier to get up and not expect her to come walking through the door. He can sleep in her bed, and he doesn’t feel like he’s a ghost haunting an apartment, even if he feels a little awkward there by himself sometimes. It’s okay, he’s doing better. So is Abby, judging by her Instagram, even if she never calls. 

 

“Okay, that is a beautiful man,” Chimney announces, pointing at the locker room behind them. Buck furrows his brow but doesn’t turn around until Hen agrees, eyebrows raised approvingly as she gives the man a once over. 

 

“Where’s the lie? And I like girls?” 

 

Buck’s knees nearly give out when he turns around. 

 

He knows who he’s looking at, would know him anywhere, but his brain’s not letting him believe it. It can’t be. It’s too much of a coincidence, and Buck already had Abby. That was his one good thing, he doesn’t deserve more. 

 

“Who–who is that?” he asks hesitantly, even though he knows the answer. Hen and Chimney roll their eyes, smirks tugging at the corners of their lips. Buck will find it funny, later, that they thought he was jealous because they were all talking about how hot the new guy was, but Buck was too busy trying to focus on Bobby's voice through the ringing in his ears to pay attention. 

 

“That’s Eddie Diaz, new recruit,” Bobby says. 

 

The wind knocks out of his lungs. Eddie Diaz. His Eddie. The same Eddie Buck spent over a decade pining after, and then another decade wishing he could go back to that night and that truck bed. The same Eddie who put bandaids on Buck’s knees and held him close when his parents were being particularly shitty. The Eddie Buck would recognize anywhere, forever, no matter how many years they spend apart. 

 

He’s standing in the locker room, pulling an LAFD shirt over a very defined chest. 

 

Buck wouldn’t be surprised if he was getting drool on the floor. 

 

“He graduated top of his class just this week. Guys over at station six were dying to have him but I convinced him to join us.” 

 

“Really?” To anyone who knows him and Eddie, his words are tentative and scared and hopeful, but no one knows Eddie. None of his friends have even heard of him, because Buck never knew how to mention it. It sounds a little hopeless when he says it out loud, that he’s still holding out for the guy he was in love with when he was seventeen, so he stays quiet. 

 

Besides, Buck’s pretty sure they don’t know he likes men at all. 

 

So, to his team, the word comes out jealous and gets an amused laugh out of Bobby. 

 

“He served multiple tours in Afghanistan as an army medic–” he did what? “Guy’s got a silver star, it’s not like he’s wet behind the ears. C’mon, I’ll introduce you to him.” Bobby, Hen, and Chim make their way over to Eddie, but Buck feels like he’s been bolted to the ground. 

 

Of course, Eddie was a medic. All he ever wanted was to help people, but Buck knows he never wanted to join the military. Buck spent a lot of evenings at Eddie’s house, watching him pace the floor of his bedroom while he ranted about his dad saying he could always join the military, and how Eddie never wants to go to war–only learn about it. 

 

Eddie wanted to be a teacher and volunteer to tutor low income kids in his free time. Eddie was too good to get fucked up by war. 


It’s been a long time, he reminds himself. 

 

Eddie locks eyes with him through the glass walls, his polite smile and over-eager laugh getting replaced with an awe that Buck knows is reflected on his own features. 

 

He smiles, small and private. I miss you and where the fuck have you been and fuck you for leaving and I forgive you wrapped into one. 

 

Eddie’s returning smile is blinding. 

 

Buck takes a baby step that turns into a jog, and then he’s standing in the open doorway of the locker room, and Hen, Chim, and Bobby are looking back and forth between the two of them like they’re the world’s most exciting tennis match. 

 

Chimney looks like he’s regretting not putting a bag of popcorn in the microwave earlier. 

 

“Eddie?” Buck breathes out. 

 

Eddie nods, and Buck can see–even from across the locker room–that his eyes are a little shiny. 

 

“Holy shit,” Buck says, and Eddie crosses the room until they’re standing in front of each other. Buck doesn’t know what to do. He knows what he wants to do–reach out and hold and see if kissing him still feels the way it used to–but he stays ramrod still. 

 

And then Eddie’s wrapping his arms around him, and sagging against Buck’s chest. 

 

Buck’s arms find their way around Eddie on their own accord, and he drops his wet laugh into the crook of Eddie’s neck. Eddie smells like generic brand men’s soap and the pine scented cologne he’s been buying since he was sixteen and Eddie. It’s everything he’s been looking for in everyone. It’s the right brown eyes and the right smile and the right shampoo. Buck’s trying really, really hard not to cry in front of his friends. 

 

“Buck, care to–uh–explain?” Chim asks, smacking his gum. Behind him, Hen’s got a shit-eating grin on her face that makes Buck want to cower, and Bobby looks more caught off guard than Buck’s ever seen him. 

 

Buck clears his throat, side stepping away from Eddie who’s blushing furiously. 

 

“Uh–this is Eddie. We were best friends for years until he ghosted me because he joined the army, apparently.” 

 

The tension in Eddie’s frame rolls off him in a wave, and it takes Buck a second to realize it’s because he never mentioned their stargazing date. They were just best friends. No one needs to know anything more.

 

It takes Buck another second to realize that Eddie was relieved he didn’t bring it up because Eddie can’t forget it, either. 

 

A self satisfied, very smitten zing! makes its way up his spine. 

 

Guilt starts building, heavy where it sits like stones in the pit of his stomach, when he remembers he told Abby he’d wait for her. That he’d stick around. Sure, she hasn’t talked to him in a while, but that doesn’t give him an excuse to fuck off without telling her. 

 

And then Eddie laughs and any and all thoughts of Abby go flying out the glass door of the locker room. 

 

He’ll have time to mentally berate himself for being a shitty boyfriend when Eddie isn’t in arms reach for the first time in almost ten years. He’ll also have time to groan into his pillow for acting like a love-struck fool in front of his co-workers, but that’s for future Buck to deal with. 

 

“Do you remember when we were kids you would introduce yourself as ‘Evan Buckley, Eddie’s best friend’?” 

 

Buck blushes down to his toes, hiding his face in his hands and letting out a disgruntled groan. 

 

Hen and Chimney are laughing at his misery. When he looks up, Bobby’s eyes are twinkling, and his smile is kind and accepting. For some reason, the fear and apprehension and horror that Buck’s always associated with coming out doesn’t come. Not that Eddie being here means he’s coming out, necessarily, but Bobby has a knowing glint in his eyes that tells him he won’t have to. He hasn’t told his team, even though he knew no one would have an issue with it, because a part of Buck knew he would never end up with a man that wasn’t Eddie, so what did it even matter? 

 

Except it matters a lot, because Eddie is now teasing and joking around with his co-workers, his friends–his family. Buck’s missed his laugh more than he could ever put into words. 

 

“I do remember, Edmundo, thank you.” 

 

“Oh, low blow, Buckley,” Eddie says, making the same face he always has when Buck called him by his full name. 

 

“This is insane, Buck never talks about his past. And now you’re here, his past and you’re joining our team. Good to have ya, Eddie. I look forward to getting to know both of you,” Chimney says. He’s teasing, but his smile is genuine, and Buck feels more loved in this locker room than he has in a long time. 

 

“Do you have any embarrassing photos of each other as kids? You could submit it for the calendar.” Hen smirks like she’s got the upper hand, except Buck had completely forgotten about the calendar the second Eddie came into view. 

 

That, and Buck would be the last one complaining about a shirtless, flexing Eddie being hung up in his kitchen. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s wanted to pin Eddie to the wall. 

 

He looks at Eddie’s arms and how they flex under the tight fabric of his t-shirt. 

 

It won’t be the last either. 

 

“The firefighter calendar?” Eddie asks, sounding completely clueless to anyone who doesn’t know him. He knocks his shoulder against Buck’s, though, and there’s an uptick to the corner of his lips. 

 

“It’s for charity,” Hen continues. 

 

“I’ll think about it,” he tells her, and Hen grins like the cat who caught the canary. She and Chim walk out, talking amongst themselves about something Buck doesn’t catch, but Bobby lingers. There’s light tension, easy to push through if they wanted to, but Bobby seems clear on letting it fester. 

 

“You two better work well together. Eddie, I’d hate to give you up.” 

 

“Buck’s followed my lead since we were kids, it’ll be no problem,” Eddie assures, leaning his shoulder against Bucks casually. 

 

“Buck? Following someone’s lead?” Bobby scoffs. Admittedly, it’s a foreign concept. Eddie left and joined the army and became disciplined and well mannered, and Buck got injured and drunk and fucked half of LA. They’ve changed. Really, Eddie doesn’t even know if Buck would follow his lead. They could be completely different people. 

 

Eddie turns his head to look at him, eyebrows raised just slightly. 

 

Buck would follow him to the ends of Earth. When he grins, Eddie grins back, and Buck knows he’d do the same. 

 

++

 

“I love Eddie. Can we replace you with him?” Chim asks, collapsing against the couch halfway through their shift. Buck and Eddie are sitting at the table, talking about nothing in particular because it’s like they have a silent agreement to not touch the heavy stuff until it’s just them. Until they can be BuckandEddie with no interruptions. 

 

There’s also something Eddie isn’t telling him. He doesn’t know how to draw it out of him. 

 

“We can keep both, Chim,” Bobby sighs from the kitchen, dicing cherry tomatoes for the pasta salad they’re having for lunch. 

 

“We’re right here, y’know?” Buck calls out from the table, gesturing with his hands. Chim scoffs, pulling out his phone and scrolling through Facebook, seemingly disinterested in any further conversation. 

 

Hen gets off the armchair and settles beside Eddie at the table, head propped up against her hand as she smiles at Eddie sweetly. 

 

“So, Eddie, tell us a little about you?” Her smile is borderline predatory, and Buck would feel bad except–

 

Well, he’d kind of like to get to know this Eddie, too. 

 

“I’m twenty-nine. Originally from Texas but I grew up in Pennsylvania down the street from Buck.” Eddie shrugs like he can’t think of anything else to say about himself. He’s always been half cocky, half shy, and it was always something Buck found way too endearing. 

 

He could’ve had any girl at their High School, and he knew that, but he also skipped out on homecoming because Buck was in Middle School and couldn’t go and Eddie would’ve rather spent the night watching sci-fi movies with him. 

 

It’s less endearing now when Buck also doesn’t know anything about him. 

 

“He’s a great dancer, he majored in history, he has two sisters, and his dad makes a mean enchilada,” Buck finishes for him when it’s clear Eddie isn’t going to continue. 

 

Eddie perks up. “You’ve never met my abuela, have you?” 

 

Buck pauses, frowning, trying to figure out where the points connect. “No? I don’t think so?”

 

“She lives here, in LA. So does my Tia Pepa, if you’ve missed my dad’s cooking, trust me–he’s got nothing on them,” Eddie explains. He’s excited, and his smile’s wide every time he looks at Buck, but there’s a heaviness behind his eyes that Buck doesn’t recognize. His eagerness about his Abuela's cooking is the lightest his expression has seemed since he locked eyes with Buck. 

 

The fact that the giddiness is directed at him makes something flutter in his chest.

 

“You should cook for us sometime, Eddie. It doesn’t have to be for the whole firehouse, we could do a get together, maybe even a potluck,” Bobby suggests, gesturing with a tomato knife. Buck and Eddie snort. 

 

“Can’t cook, I’m afraid.” 

 

“He’s impressively bad, Cap.” 

 

Eddie kicks him underneath the table. His grin is boyish and familiar and Buck’s missed him so much. 

 

Traitor, he mouths, tongue poking out from in between his teeth when he smiles. Buck is seven and seventeen again. Eddie’s the new boy down the street with dark brown eyes and quick wit and scraped knees. Eddie’s familiar–a comfort he’s been seeking out since he was a kid. Eddie’s home and first kisses and Buck wants–more than anything–to feel how his new, toned, muscular body gives beneath his touch. 

 

He’s not stupid, though. He isn’t assuming Eddie’s gonna want him just because he’s holding heavy eye contact and directing all his smiles in Buck’s direction. 

 

Eddie could have someone. Eddie could miss him differently. 

 

Selfishly, he hopes Eddie didn’t. Buck’s missed him every day for the past decade. Selfishly, he hopes Eddie felt the same.

 

++

 

It’s not because of Eddie that things start to get better, but the timing sure is awfully coincidental. Eddie’s always been the best thing–Buck doesn’t know who he’d be without him and Maddie teasing him every step of the way–and when his sister got married and moved out with Doug, Buck lost half his footing. Eddie moving away, too, swept the rug from underneath his feet. He was untethered and floating and falling and sinking, and it was–to put it simply–completely fucking miserable. 

 

He got Eddie back, and then Maddie the very next night–his sister hurt and scared, running away from an empty, haunted house now that Doug was locked up, scared shitless and bruised everywhere but still very much alive and whole and on his couch. 

 

He doesn’t know how he’s going to convince her to stay, but he’ll find a way. Buck’s got his people back. One in each hand, and like hell is he letting them go away again. 

 

“You and Eddie didn’t speak for ten years?” Maddie says over a glass of wine after Buck’s second shift with Eddie. 

 

“I mean, yeah.” He shrugs uncomfortably, completely unsure how to tell someone about the ten year period where he felt like he was nothing more than a shell of a human being, a big black hole where a boy used to be. He’s kept it pretty under wraps, but he doesn’t have to anymore. It’s Maddie–his sister– she’s always been able to see right through him, and Buck’s never wanted to keep anything from her, anyway.

 

“But you’re… you two. You were inseparable growing up. I can’t believe you went so long without talking to him. God–” Maddie’s eyes go a little misty, and they’re wide and mournful when they look at Buck. “I can’t believe I went so long without talking to you. Buck, I’m so sorry–”

 

“Hey, no, it’s not your fault. What matters is that you’re here now. And so is Eddie. I’ve got my two favorite people back in the same city. Easily, this is the best week of my life.” 

 

Maddie laughs wetly, pressing the soft fabric of her cardigan where tears and pooling quickly, and blinks up at the ceiling until she can look at Buck without a tear rolling down her cheek. 

 

“Are you two finally gonna get your shit together then?” Maddie asks. 

 

Buck chokes on his beer, alcohol spluttering everywhere. Maddie smirks knowingly. Buck never actually, like, properly came out to her; one day he stumbled, wasted, into her car after another shitty High School party, and spent the entire drive home waxing poetic about Eddie’s teeth . She put the pieces together pretty quickly after that. 

 

“I think he’s hiding something from me,” is what he says instead of answering her question. Maddie hums, and Buck knows he’s not getting out of that conversation so easily, but she drops it, quirking an eyebrow and nodding for him to carry on. “He’s a little shifty? And, y’know, maybe it’s because it’s been so long, but–”

 

“But you know Eddie, and this isn’t how he normally is?”

 

Buck nods. “Yeah,” he says, throat tight. 

 

He’s worked through every possible worst case scenario, including Eddie having a secret wife. (Which, okay, isn’t that bad of a worst case scenario, but Buck doesn’t know how to not be in love with Eddie Diaz, and a secret wife would upset him. Deeply. It’s embarrassing. Buck’s so in love with him it’s painful, and having Eddie by his side, securing his harness, and rappelling down the side of cliffs together is only making it worse. Not to be dramatic, or anything, but Eddie being married would kill him. Just a little bit.

 

Maybe a lot.) 

 

“You still know him. Maybe you don’t know who he is now, but you know the person he used to be. If Eddie’s hiding something, he’s probably got his reasons. Eddie’s a good guy, he’s not keeping it from you because it’s something bad. Honestly, he’s probably just scared of your reaction.”

Huh. Buck actually hadn’t considered that part. 

 

Maddie notices the dumb expression on his face and rolls her eyes. Buck can’t even be upset about it, because he’s missed her exasperation more than he can put into words. Maddie was always more of a caregiver, growing up, but they’re adults now. A lot has changed, and, for maybe the first time ever, Maddie is nothing more than his sister. It’s nice. It’s really nice–having her back. Buck can’t imagine the last time he felt so whole, so at home.

 

“Why are men so useless? Buck, talk to him. It’s Eddie.” 

 

Yeah, Buck thinks. It’s just Eddie. 

 

++

 

“Maddie’s okay now, though, right?” Eddie asks, fidgeting with the hose they’re supposed to be putting away. Really, it’s been mostly Buck catching Eddie up on everything Maddie’s told him, but Bobby hasn’t come to scold them for not actually doing anything yet.

 

“Shaken, definitely, but she’s…good. She’s happier than she ever was with him. Baby steps, y’know? She’ll get her happiness back.” 

 

“It’s Maddie. She’ll be back to making fun of you in no time.”

 

Eddie’s confidence throws him off a little. It’s weird, talking to someone about Maddie. No one knows about her, and no one knew about Eddie, because Buck didn’t know how to talk about them without ripping himself open, right down the middle. He forgot what it was like to be known. Eddie’s easy mentions of his sister, Eddie’s off hand callbacks to their snobby neighborhood, Eddie, Eddie, Eddie– it’s more than Buck can handle, sometimes. 

 

“You should come over. We can order takeout, and watch a movie. She missed you, y’know. I’m pretty sure she saw you as much as she saw me.”

 

Something flashes across Eddie’s features, and if Buck didn’t spend a decade getting attuned to Eddie’s every move, he would’ve missed it. It’s the same something that’s been bothering Buck the past week Eddie’s been here, but he doesn’t know how to ask about it. 

 

“I don’t know if I can. I-uh-I’ll have to see.” 

 

With that, he drops the hose and speedwalks away from Buck in the most suspicious way Buck has ever seen someone speedwalk. He sighs, heavy with longing to know the person Eddie grew into, but feeling not knowing how to push. He’d hate to send Eddie away after only just getting him back, and he’d hate even more knowing he made Eddie uncomfortable. 

 

He groans and bangs his head against the freshly shined firetruck. 

 

++

 

It all comes to a head a week later. Buck asks if Eddie wants to go get drinks, come over for dinner– anything. They’ve been back in each other's lives for over two weeks and have yet to see each other outside of work. Sure, they’re adults, they’re busy, but Buck would drop just about anything if Eddie asked him to. 

 

Though, that might say more about Buck than it does about their friendship. 

 

They’re all packed into the truck, a call to a building that collapsed due to a fucking 7.1 magnitude earthquake– because why not–that’s got Eddie’s knee bouncing fast enough Buck can practically feel the tremor from the floor. Eddie keeps looking out the window, checking his phone obsessively, and not meeting anyone’s eye, and, normally, Buck would take him looking away as an opportunity to map out the planes and ridges of Eddie’s face. Take in the scar by his temple that he hopes is from a college frat party and not war. The heaviness behind his warm brown eyes that didn’t exist when they were kids. 

 

Buck wonders if Eddie tries to memorize his features when Buck turns away. Wonders if Eddie drinks him in greedily when no one’s looking. 

 

But Buck’s too focused on the anxiety rolling off Eddie in waves to worry about the bow of his lips and calluses on the palms of his hands. 

 

He tries to offer Eddie a reassuring smile, but it does absolutely nothing when Eddie won’t even look at him. Hen and Chimney keep shooting him worried looks as if Buck’s supposed to know what’s going on in Eddie’s mind. 

 

To be fair, he normally does.

 

He can still read Eddie like his favorite book, and Eddie can still glance at Buck for half a second and know exactly what he’s feeling. The rest of the 118 hate it because it makes them insufferable, full conversation exchanged over dinner via eyebrows and half-tilted smiles. It also makes them the best partners on the job, so they can’t be that annoyed about it.

 

(Not that it stops Hen and Chim’s sarcastic comments, but, then again, nothing does.) 

 

“Eddie, whatever you’re worried about, it’s gonna be fine,” Hen tries, not for the first time since the earthquake hit. As soon as the cell towers went out, Eddie started panicking. 

 

As panicked as Eddie gets, at least. There’s a twitch in his eye and a furrow in his brow and a downturned corner of his lips. Buck wants to smooth it all out. Doesn’t quite know how. 

 

“Yeah,” he dismisses, clenching his jaw and turning his phone on and off for the fifth time. 

 

“Eddie,” Buck says, voice low and firm. It gets him to look at him, wide-eyed and scared. Buck wants to hold his hand and tell him it’s okay and trace the worried lines of his face with his thumb until they’re gone. 

 

He sends him a tight smile and a small nod, instead.

 

“No service. Texts won’t even get through,” he says tightly. 

 

“We got that much,” Buck jokes, gesturing to Eddie’s phone that he’s shutting off again. Eddie rolls his eyes. “Who’re you trying to get a hold of?” 

 

Eddie debates answering, Buck can see it in the way he seems to hold his breath, looking from Buck down to his phone. 

 

“My son,” he says eventually, jaw set in a hard line like he’s daring anyone to say anything. “I’m trying to reach my son.” 

 

Buck immediately sits up straighter. He fucking loves kids. It’s bittersweet, knowing he’s missed out on so much of Eddie’s life, but he’s here now. With a son, apparently, and an Abuela who keeps inviting Buck over for lunch. He wants to know every part of this Eddie, the one who’s got walls built ten miles high and a kid and scars and stories Buck doesn’t know about. 

 

“You have a kid? Eddie, I love kids.” 

 

Eddie’s mouth forms a perfect little o shape like he wasn’t expecting Buck to be excited about it. Like he was expecting him to be a dick. 

 

Rude.

 

“I love this one. I’m all he’s got. His mom’s not in the picture.” He scrolls through his phone, pulling up a picture of a little boy in a green shirt, leaning half on Eddie and half on his crutches. He’s easily one of the cutest kids Buck has ever seen–what with his bright red glasses and thousand-watt smile. 

 

“He’s adorable.” 

 

Eddie deflates, just a little bit. His shoulders seem to relax a fraction, a movement so slight Buck would’ve missed it if he wasn’t paying attention. 

 

A kid then. Eddie’s been hiding a son. 

 

“How old is he?” Hen asks, cutting through the settling tense silence. 

 

“He’s- he’s eight,” Eddie answers, looking everywhere but Buck. 

 

Not that he needs to, because Buck puts the pieces together anyway. 

 

Eddie kissed him at nineteen, stopped talking to him at twenty, and had a kid at twenty one. Buck’s not the best at math, but it’s easy enough to put the pieces together. 

 

“Is this—“ he starts, but cuts himself off, clearing his throat awkwardly. Is this why you left? he wants to ask but doesn’t know how. Is it because you kissed me? 

 

Chim and Hen look at him weirdly, but no one pushes, and it’s not much later that they get to the scene—a collapsing high rise, leaning precariously and doomed to fall once the aftershocks start coming in. 

 

Eddie’s tense all day, checking his phone at any opportunity and chewing his bottom lip raw with worry. Buck doesn’t know how to comfort him, which kills him more than he can explain. He tells Eddie his son is safe, that he’s probably fine, and that California schools have protocol for worst case scenarios. It doesn’t do much, Eddie’s still tense, but he’s able to focus enough to get a girl—Ali—out of the building safe and alive, just in time for the cell towers to turn back on. 

 

“Buck, I can drive,” Eddie tries, shaky hands fidgeting with his phone. 

 

“Not safely,” Buck quips back, snatching the keys from Eddie’s loose grip before he can protest any further. 

 

The drive to the elementary school feels like it takes forever. Sure, the LA traffic paired with half the roads being closed didn’t help, but even if it had taken five minutes, Buck knows it still would’ve felt like hours. 

 

They drove in nervous silence–Eddie occasionally filling it by talking about his son, telling Buck about Christopher and his dinosaur obsession, and not mentioning his parents or the move or enlisting in the army. Just stories of Chris and his quick wit and love for sci-fi and puzzles and hatred for physical therapy and chicken nuggets that aren’t dino shaped. 

 

Eddie flings the door open the second they get to the school, one light still on in the main hallway. Buck can see a small figure who lights up the second Eddie runs through the hallway, picking up the small boy in his arms in a tight hug. 

 

Something very close to want, to home, to family tugs deep in Buck’s chest. It’s a dangerous feeling, he knows it. Knows it because no one will ever make him happy the way Eddie does, because even if Eddie doesn’t love him back, Buck’s heart will beat for him forever. Eddie is beautiful. Buck wants to lick a line up his abs and kiss him senseless on a good day but watching Eddie walk out the doors, small backpack slung over his shoulder–

 

It’s more than he can handle, is what it is. 

 

Chris looks up at Eddie like he’s the coolest person alive. Eddie looks down at Chris like he’s his whole world. 

 

Buck, selfishly, wants to be a part of that. There’s an embarrassingly large part of him that wants to be holding Eddie’s hand and gesticulating wildly with his free one, telling a dramatic story about their calls at work just to get a laugh out of Chris.

 

He tries to school his features when Eddie and Chris slide into the car. He’s not sure he does a particularly good job, but no one questions it, so he’s counting it as a win. 

 

“Who are you?” Chris asks, looking up at Buck, head tilted curiously to the side.

 

“Uh, Chris, buddy, this is Buck,” Eddie answers. His name hangs in the air like it’s something important, like there’s meaning to it, and then Christopher’s face lights up in recognition, and every part of Buck’s heart that didn’t already belong to Eddie goes straight to him. 

 

“You’re Buck?” 

 

“Yeah?” 

 

“I thought you’d be shorter. Dad talks about you all the time.” 

 

It might be the low lighting in the car, but Buck swears Eddie flushes to the tips of his ears. 

 

++

 

Buck’s phone is buzzing on his kitchen counter, loud and echoey in his new loft. It’s a little empty and a little lonely, but he couldn’t stay in Abby’s apartment forever, not when she wasn’t coming back. 

 

Not when Eddie did. 

 

Maddie found a place for herself, too, settling in nicely with all of Buck’s friends. A little too nicely with Chimney, but he seems to make her happy, and there’s nothing Maddie deserves more. 

 

Buck’s phone keeps buzzing. He wipes the lemon juice on his fingers on his sweatpants and answers it without checking the caller ID. 

 

“Hello?” 

 

“Hey, Buck,” comes Eddie’s voice on the other end, a soft whisper in his ear. Buck checks the time, the clock on his stove flashing 10:42 PM back at him. 

 

“Eddie, hey, what’s up?” 

 

“Nothin’. Just thinking about you, so I called.” 

 

Buck goes firetruck red, ducking his face even though no one is around to see him. After Buck found out–and fell in love with–Chris, Eddie’s been different. Good different. Great different, actually. Lingering touches and sly winks and cheeky smiles that make his cheeks dimple, different. Buck’s buzzing with it, getting high off it and trying to push down the hope that refuses to settle.

 

“Well, I’m baking,” Buck blurts awkwardly for lack of anything better to say. He hasn’t flirted back with Eddie, because he doesn’t want to scare him off, be too much too soon. Eddie will throw a lookin’ good, Buckley over his shoulder on a call, and it’s casual and makes Buck’s heart do stupid, silly things in his chest, but it’s casual. Easy. 

 

Buck’s flirting would be more along the lines of I’ve loved you my whole life, do you want to get married? 

 

He’s worried it’ll come off a little strong. Just a little. 

 

“Mm, I’ll get to try it, right?” 

 

“If you want to come over tomorrow I promise I’ll wait before trying it myself.” 

 

“What are you baking?” 

 

“Lemon loaf. I’m not very good, but you know I used to be so much worse.”

 

Eddie laughs softly. The hairs on Buck’s neck raise and that bubbly hope fizzes over the edge. 

 

“You couldn’t bake for shit.”

 

“I don’t particularly remember you being any better, Diaz.”

 

“That’s fair. I could make scrambled eggs, though.”

 

“That’s not even true. Your dad almost killed you for setting off the fire alarm when you were making it for Adri and Soph.”

 

“He was always telling me to be the man of the house, but never appreciated any of my attempts.”

 

“That’s because your attempts got the fire department sent to your house.”

 

Eddie laughs softly. It’s easy to picture the fond eye roll that goes along with it. 

 

“Hey,” Buck starts before he can tell himself this is bad territory to walk into. “Why didn’t you want to tell me about Chris?”

 

The silence grows a little tense, and Eddie has to clear his throat before speaking. 

 

“I didn’t know how to tell you,” he says, which—bullshit. Buck doesn’t even need to see him to be able to tell he’s lying. 

 

“I know you probably had your reasons and if you don’t want to tell me then it’s fine, but you have to know I would love him. And-and that I’d never judge you. You know that.”

 

Eddie exhales, crackly in his cellphone mic. “He’s kind of the reason I stopped speaking to you, and I was scared of what that would mean for us if you found out,” he whispers.

 

Oh. Buck doesn’t know what to say. A part of him assumed, but still.

 

“Is this why your family left Hershey? Because you had a kid?”

 

Another exhale, this time shakier. Buck almost wants to tell him it’s okay, they don’t have to talk about this, but his curiosity gets the better of him, so he stays quiet. 

 

“Yeah. After I came to visit—” after I kissed you, he doesn’t say. “My dad became more insistent that I needed to find a nice girl and settle down with her. I don’t know if the timing was coincidental or not, but he just kept talking about Shannon, because she was a pretty girl who liked me enough, and—god, it’s so fucked, Buck, all I wanted was you—” Buck’s not sure what he says next, because suddenly there’s a loud ringing in his ears. 

 

All he wanted. Buck could’ve had him if he tried a little harder. It’s more bitter than sweet. 

 

“But I got drunk. So did Shannon, and we had sex. Nine months later we had Chris. She didn’t want to be a mom, and I wasn’t ready to be a dad, so I enlisted. Dropped out of college and left Chris with my parents but they weren’t any better parents to him than they were to me. Shocker, right? When I got back from Afghanistan I worked three jobs until I got through the academy.” 

 

The silence is thick. Palpable through the phone, streets away from each other.

 

“You—” Buck cuts himself off.

 

“What?”

 

“You could’ve had me.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t be.”

 

“I’m gonna go,” Eddie says after the silence stretched a little too thin. “Goodnight, Buck. Love you,” he yawns, and the call ends with a click before Buck can say much of anything else. 

 

Despite his better judgment—which, truly, he doesn’t have much of—he opens his text thread with Eddie. 

 

From Buck:

love you, too

also why were you talking so quiet lol?

 

His phone buzzes not five seconds later. 

 

From Eddie:

It’s late and my kid is asleep

 

Buck doesn’t know what about that makes his cheeks warm. Maybe it’s because it reminds him of talking in hushed whispers when Eddie went to college, two a.m., and trying to muffle his giggles into his pillow so his mom wouldn’t come yelling at him to shut up. 

 

Buck pulls out his notes app on his phone, ignoring the beeping oven telling him it’s done preheating, and creates a checklist. 

 

How To Make Someone Fall Back(?) In Love With You

 

++

 

  1. Get to know Christopher

 

Eddie’s always had the world's worst sweet tooth, and Buck’s willing to bet good money Christopher isn’t any better. So, naturally, he’s standing on their doorstep—address still in his phone from when he dropped them off after the earthquake—with an untouched lemon pound cake. 

 

Chris opens the door, smiling stretching across his face when he sees Buck on the other side of the door. 

 

“Buck!”

 

He launches himself at Buck’s legs, wrapping small arms around his waist. Buck doesn’t hesitate to bend down and hug back just as tightly, trying his best to balance the cake in his other hand. 

 

What Buck failed to consider when he came up with this plan, was how utterly and completely devastating sleep soft, morning grumpy Eddie would be. Eddie in sweat shorts and a loose, white cotton t-shirt, hair still messy with a hand trying (and failing) to tame it. Buck’s breath catches in his throat at the slow way a smile takes over Eddie’s entire face. Eddie’s smile is sunshine on a winter day and Buck’s trying really, really hard to be normal about being on the receiving end of it in all its force. 

 

“Hey!”

 

Buck swallows around the lump in his throat. “Hi.”

 

Chris looks between the two of them smiling at each other like idiots and shakes his head, carefully taking the cake from Buck’s hands and passing it to Eddie. 

 

“Can we eat it, please?”

 

Eddie snorts, ruffling Chris’s hair. 

 

“Yeah, mijo, sure thing.” 

 

If Buck’s heart skips a beat watching Eddie and Chris interact, that’s between him and his cardiologist. 

 

“You didn’t have to bring it over, man.”

 

Buck checks him with his shoulder, walking into the dining area to a very bouncy Chris. Buck’s ninety percent sure they’re going to regret giving him this much sugar so early in the morning, but he’s too busy trying not to flush from the warmth of Eddie’s shoulder against his to care. 

 

“Maybe I’m trying to woo you,” he jokes. Something twinkles in Eddie’s eye. 

 

“Keep trying, Buckley.” 

 

Buck’s heart beats so fast it gets a speeding ticket. 

 

They have cake for breakfast, Eddie and Chris in their pajamas, and Buck way overdressed in comparison. Buck was right—Chris has a sweet tooth the size of Texas, and he eats two and a half pieces of cake before Buck finishes his first. 

 

(Though, to be fair, that might be because he’s more than a little distracted by the icing on the corner of Eddie’s mouth. That he wants to wipe off. With his tongue.)

 

“You got any more surprises planned for us?” Eddie asks when they’ve finished. Chris, as expected, is practically vibrating in his seat. Buck smiles at him, getting a toothy grin in response. 

 

“We should go to the Zoo!”

 

“Buddy, I was kidding, we don’t know if Buck has plans—”

 

“I’m free,” Buck says, quick to cut off that train of thought before Eddie convinces himself Buck doesn’t want to be there. 

 

“Zoo sounds good, then.”

 

Eddie’s smile is the prettiest thing he’s ever seen. 

 

++

 

“Dad, we have to show Buck the giraffes,” Christopher says with all the seriousness of an eight-year-old who has appointed himself as the zoo tour guide. Eddie nods at him just as seriously and lets Chris lead them, the boy making his way around the place with a familiarity that implies they’ve been here more than once, despite Eddie only moving to Los Angeles a few months ago. 

 

They walk slowly, matching the pace of Chris and his crutches, he and Eddie hanging back to give him a sense of independence. Chris stops about every ten feet to point out an animal he thinks looks cool, and Buck makes a mental note of the ones they stop at the longest. 

 

Eddie might kill him if Buck starts spoiling Christopher, but he’s gonna need Chris’s approval if he’s planning to woo his dad. 

 

He might’ve spent more time thinking about it than sleeping last night. 

 

Eddie keeps bumping into him as they walk, eyes trained on Christopher but body pressed against his, and it’s taking everything in Buck not to reach out for his hand. 

 

It’s admittedly very intense–suddenly being head over heels for Eddie again, picking up right where he left off–because Buck has always been a little stupid for him. He would be fifty and hopefully well and truly in love with someone, but Eddie would still be his first love, the one that got away, and he always hated himself a little because of it. Buck’s always wanted to give someone everything, wants to dive headfirst into it, skin his knees on the fall down, grow old together. 

 

A part of him would always hold on to Eddie, though. Stupid, maybe, because they were teenagers who got a little handsy in the middle of the woods, but there was always that lingering touch of what if. What if he hadn’t left, what if he and Buck got together– really got together, boyfriends and apartments and a dog together–what if Buck went after him. 

 

Dwelling on it is no use, but he’s wasted a lot of nights thinking about it. 

 

Eddie’s pinkie brushes against his own. Buck’s heart lights up in his chest. His stupid, traitorous heart that takes one look at Eddie smiling at Christopher and does an Olympics worthy gymnastics routine in his ribcage. 

 

“He already loves you, y’know,” Eddie says when they reach the giraffes. Buck’s just put Christopher back on the ground after having him on his shoulders, and Chris is excitedly rambling to the zoo handler everything he knows about giraffes. 

 

“What?” 

 

“Chris. You don’t need to bring a cake and take him to the zoo. He loves you.”

 

Buck scoffs. A weak, shaky sound. “He just met me.”

 

Eddie shakes his head. “I’ve told him stories. Of my best friend and all the shit we used to get into. How funny you were and how you were always doing something reckless. I think Chris wants to grow up to be just like you, which might be my mistake. I used to think your daredevil stunts were so cool when I was eleven, but I don’t need my eight-year-old doing the same thing, thanks.” 

 

“You talk about me?”

 

“You don’t?”

 

“I couldn’t,” Buck admits, and he wonders how this looks to the people around them. Buck and Eddie hanging back, talking in low, hushed tones. Eddie with one eye closed, squinting as he looks up at Buck because it’s half past noon and the sun is far too bright. Shoulders and elbows and pinkies brushing against each other. He thinks they look like a unit. Like maybe, to other people, they’re a family. 

 

Hope swells so big in his chest that he can taste it on his tongue. 

 

Eddie cocks his head to the side, and Buck realizes he didn’t elaborate. 

 

“I didn’t talk about you or Maddie, actually. No one knew anything about me before I moved to LA, and I needed it like that. I couldn’t talk about either of you without opening myself up too much, and I love the 118, but I didn’t know how to trust them. I don’t know, it’s stupid.”

 

“God, I’m so sorry.”

 

“Stop apologizing. We’re good, now.” 

 

Eddie’s smile is small and private, saccharine when he looks at Buck. “We are,” he says, voice a low rumble in his chest. It’s not his proudest moment, but Buck’s pretty sure his knees almost give out. It’s fine. He can be an adult about his lifelong crush on the most devastatingly gorgeous man he’s ever seen. 

 

It’s fine. 

 

“Daddy, did you know giraffe legs are six feet tall?” Chris calls out as he walks over to them. Eddie scoops him up and sets him on his hip, handing the crutches over to Buck wordlessly. 

 

“That’s almost as tall as you!” 

 

Christopher’s responding giggle is the sweetest sound Buck’s ever heard. “That’s as tall as you, Dad.” 

 

Eddie smacks himself on the forehead with the hand not holding up Christopher. 

 

“Of course, I must’ve forgotten.” 

 

Buck’s face must be doing something really embarrassing, because Eddie looks at him with an expression Buck can’t read. He hopes he can blame the flush on his skin on a sunburn. 

 

“You guys make a really cute family,” the zookeeper says, and walks away like Buck isn’t about to pass out from her comment. 

 

And Eddie? 

 

Eddie smiles. And thanks her. Jesus, Lord, and Christ. 

 

“You tell your dads you deserve some dippin’ dots on your way out,” she throws over her shoulder. Chris lights up like a Christmas light display, bouncing in Eddie’s arms. Eddie agrees easily, and Buck can’t even join in on the cheering–he loves dippin’ dots–because he’s too busy replaying your dads over and over in his head. 

 

“You okay?” Eddie squeezes his forearm; Buck’s pretty sure it lights up on fire. 

 

Buck wants to kiss him. Buck always wants to kiss him, but Buck really wants to kiss him right then–in front of the giraffe exhibit with Christopher begging for ice cream between them, skin turning pink and warm from blushing and sunburn. 

 

He nods, instead. 

 

“Someone said ice cream?” 

 

++

 

  1. Spend time alone with him.

 

Presumably, this would be the easiest thing to check off the list. Unfortunately, Buck didn’t have the foresight to factor in a fire station of meddling friends, a sister who won’t stop asking him about Eddie, the world’s greatest eight year old, a Carla with a honed skill for interrupting them, and, now, Abuela inviting Eddie and Chris for lunch when the three of them were supposed to get pizza and go bowling. 

 

Buck’s not moping. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. Of course, he was looking forward to their afternoon, but he is an adult with a full time job and his own apartment, and he is not moping. 

 

He might be pouting a little, but that’s his business. 

 

“Buck, just come with us,” Eddie says for the fifth time; his hair is damp from the shower and Buck stomps down on the desperate need to run his fingers through it. 

 

“I don’t want–”

 

“Since when are you nervous around my family?” Eddie teases, looking up at Buck from where he’s tying Christopher’s sneakers. 

 

“I’ve known you since you had a bowl cut. I’ve only ever met your Abuela once and that was when she was in the hospital.” 

 

“Dad, you had a bowl cut?” 

 

Eddie glares at Buck making Chris giggle into his hands. 

 

“It was bad, buddy,” Buck stage whispers, making Christopher laugh harder. 

 

“Anyway,” Eddie says, narrowing his eyes at the two of them. “Abuela always makes more than any of us can eat, and she’s going to love you. You’re already dressed to go out, and you don’t want to miss out on her tamales.” 

 

“They’re the best,” Christopher assures, eyebrows scrunched together seriously (not that Buck doubted the fact in the first place).

 

“If you’re sure,” Buck says tentatively, hand scratching at the nape of his neck. 

 

“We are!” Chris answers. 

 

“I’ll drive,” Eddie says, pushing past him on the way out the door. 

 

The drive passes quickly, Christopher’s dramatic retelling of something that happened in his class filling the silence. Buck’s heart can’t help but squeeze with want when Chris says something that pulls a bright, careless laugh out of Eddie. 

 

For some reason, Buck’s more anxious than he was starting his first shift at the firehouse. It’s not like he has any reason to be–he doesn’t need to impress Eddie’s grandmother, not like he’s his boyfriend, but he can’t seem to help it. He’s pretty sure he has Christopher’s approval–considering how many of his new art pieces include Buck and the BFF bracelet he made him–but this is Eddie’s abuela. Buck’s heard more about her than he has of his own grandmother, and he knows how much Eddie loves her. 

 

So he’s anxious. It’s silly. He loves Eddie. That’s silly, too. 

 

Eddie’s grandmother opens the door with open arms, though. Throws herself at Buck with a grin that reminds Buck so much of Eddie it settles any anxiety instantly. 

 

“Buck, it is so nice to meet you!” she says, smile just as wide and dimply as Eddie’s. 

 

“Y-yeah, you, too. I’ve heard so much about you.” 

 

She puts her hand over her heart, smiling warmly at Eddie. “I’ve heard more about you, I’m sure.” Buck ducks his head to hide the blush. From his periphery, he sees Eddie do the same. She gestures for all of them to walk in, Chris pushing past her and pouring out a bucket of legos onto the coffee table. Eddie kisses her on the cheek, saying something in Spanish Buck doesn’t understand. 

 

He hovers awkwardly around her as Eddie moves with so much practiced ease. Christopher’s things on the breakfast table, toed off shoes by the door, jacket on the empty hook on the coat hanger that Buck’s sure is left empty for him. 

 

He wants to fit in so fucking badly he feels like he’s going to explode with the need for it. 

 

Tentatively, he unties his sneakers, tugging them loose slowly, buying his time. 

 

Mrs. Diaz clears her throat behind him. 

 

“I’m glad he has you, again. My grandson…he wasn’t the same without you. He’s been different since you found each other again. Happier. You’re good for him, Buck. Make yourself at home.” 

 

Isabel Diaz is one of the most welcoming people Buck’s ever met, and he’s known her for a grand total of about six minutes. He wants to bottle the feeling of her hand on his cheek–palm still damp from washing it after cooking their lunch. Wrap it in wire and wear it as a pendant. 

 

“Thanks, Mrs. Diaz.” 

 

She scoffs, looking genuinely offended. 

 

“Call me Isabel.” 

 

The smile that stretches his face burns his cheeks a little, and he doesn’t even duck to hide it. For some reason, he’s okay having these three people look at all his big, loud feelings. In this house in this city in this country in their cramped corner of the universe, Buck feels okay body slamming into his giddiness and not ducking to hide it. 

 

It’s freeing. It’s weird. 

 

He thinks he might love it. 

 

“Thanks, Isabel,” he says with a two finger salute as he walks out to where Christopher is beckoning him over with a fistful of primary colored blocks. 

 

Isabel says something to Eddie that makes him blush like a schoolgirl, running a hand over his face in…embarrassment? Exasperation? Buck can’t quite tell. 

 

“What are we building?” 

 

Christopher’s grin is wicked. 

 

++

 

Isabel is in the kitchen, careful eye trained on Christopher in case he wakes up from his food coma on the couch. Buck and Eddie are sitting on the back porch, chairs pushed closer together than strictly necessary. It’s fine–Buck’s not reading into it. He isn’t. 

 

“What have you been doing these past ten years?” Eddie says out of the blue, eyes fixed on the hole in the fence that Buck knows he’ll offer to fix. 

 

Buck stares at the side of his face, takes in the stupidly long lashes and the way his hair is soft and product-less and how sharp his jawline looks in the low glow of the sunset. 

 

“What?”

 

Eddie clears his throat and when he speaks his voice is more sure than it was a second ago. 

 

“These past ten years. I mean, you know what I’ve been up to,” he says with a wave to Christopher’s sleeping body inside. “But you never talk about yourself, which is weird because you used to only ever talk about yourself.” 

 

Buck huffs, rolling his eyes and finally tearing them away from the soft corners of Eddie’s mouth. 

 

“People change,” he says evasively. Eddie, of course, sees right through him. 

 

“Not that much.” 

 

Buck sighs, trying desperately to come up with a way they can change the subject, because he’s alone with Eddie for the first time in a while. He doesn’t want to waste this time talking about the decade of regret he has stuffed in his back pocket, he wants to ask Eddie about himself. Flirt a little, see if he can color Eddie’s cheeks pink. 

 

This is the exact opposite of what he’s looking for. 

 

“Buck,” he says gently, tapping the toe of Buck’s shoe with his own. “You don’t have to talk about it.” 

 

Buck takes a sharp inhale. 

 

“You remember things with Maddie and Doug were…bad.” Eddie nods. “It only got worse, and after you left I tried going to her more and it didn’t work. She gave me the jeep, told me to go and find myself, and didn’t speak to me for years. I mean, later I found out it was because Doug was abusing her, but at the time I just felt really fucking alone.” 

 

Eddie looks like he’s about to cut in with an apology, so Buck rambles on. It’s nice–if heavy–to be able to talk about it with someone who won’t judge. Honestly, there were times Buck would’ve talked about his life with anyone, judgment or not, just to have somebody listen. 

 

Eddie’s not just anyone. If Buck wants to be loved he’s gotta be known, right? He can figure out a way to pencil this into his grand, three step plan of seduction. 

 

“I just started driving. I was a ranch hand and a bartender and a–” he looks at the backyard door, finds it pressed shut. “–a stripper–” Eddie cuts him off with a loud laugh, one that slowly dissolves into giggles that make Buck’s knees go weak. 

 

“I bet you got the most money,” Eddie says easily. Buck’s mouth goes dry. 

 

“I did okay.” 

 

Eddie hums, looking him up and down. 

 

“I’m willing to bet you were the hottest guy there.” 

 

He doesn’t really believe in a god, but he’d like to thank whoever’s listening for having him already sitting for this conversation. 

 

“There were plenty of guys,” Buck insists. 

 

What he doesn’t mention, is the panic attack he had when Dylan slid a tan hand down his chest or how his chest caved in when Brandon flirted with him a little too hard. 

 

That doesn’t make for very good conversation. 

 

Eddie gives him a pointed look, waiting for Buck to continue with what he was saying before. 

 

“I joined the SEALs.” 

 

Eddie’s head snaps to look at him. 

 

“You what?” 

 

“I didn’t last very long. They wanted to turn all of us into heartless robots, and you know me, I mean–”

 

“Heartless is the last thing you’ll ever be.”

 

Buck swallows thickly. “Exactly.” 

 

“God, if I had just stayed,” Eddie mumbles. 

 

“Then we wouldn’t be here with Chris and your abuela. I’m not gonna lie to you, the years in between the–” kiss. He clears his throat. “–last time we saw each other and now were awful, but we got here anyway, right? We’d always find our way back to each other.” 

 

Eddie’s lips tug into a small smile. 

 

“Yeah. I think we would, too.” 

 

++

 

Christopher’s dead asleep in the backseat of the car, and the cool California night air blowing through the window is making his hair messy and his nose cold. 

 

“You never got to finish telling me about your life, you know.” 

 

Buck groans. “Fine, but no interruptions.”

 

Eddie raises one hand off the wheel in self defense. “Alright, I get it.” 

 

“I dated this woman for a while. Abby. She was a lot older but she was beautiful. Smart and kind but she left. She left for a trip to Europe and I was gonna wait for her–of course, I was gonna wait for her–but she stopped responding to my texts and let my calls go to voicemail. I was in a really bad spot before you got here, to the point where the 118 were letting me brag about body fat percentage because it was the only time I wasn’t moping.” 

 

“And then I walked into the locker room and changed your life for the better, right?” 

 

He’ll blame it on the moonlight and the buzzing of the streetlamps later because Buck doesn’t joke or deflect or scoff. Buck goes for frighteningly honest and dangerously hopeful because he’s an idiot, but he’s an idiot who wants to pull over and kiss Eddie until they can’t breathe. 

 

“You changed my life when I was seven. Getting you back was nice, though.” 

 

Eddie looks over at him, eyes twinkling and fond and Buck has to almost yell at him for him to notice the stop sign at the end of the road. 

 

“Yeah?” he says once they’re driving again. 

 

Buck drops his hand between their seats. He doesn’t know why, but then Eddie drops his too and he catches up with his own brain. 

 

Slowly, he reaches out. Pinkie by ring finger by middle by pointer, until Eddie’s turning his hand around so they can lace their fingers together. 

 

“Yeah,” Buck answers eventually. 

 

They don’t let go for the rest of the drive, and Buck tries not to think about how holding hands with Eddie is more exciting than running into a burning building. 

 

Love or something stupid like that.

 

++

 

  1. Surprise him Eddie loved surprise parties (but he was also twelve???) 

 

“Hypothetically, if you were trying to get someone to fall in love with you, what kind of surprise would you plan for them?”

 

“Hypothetically, why is a surprise the mode of wooing?” Chimney shoots back, shutting his book and leaning forward on the table, a smile on his face that means he’s definitely going to tell Maddie about their conversation, but Buck’s too worried about getting Eddie to love him back to care about this making its way to his sister. 

 

“Because, hypothetically, the person you’re trying to woo likes surprises.” 

 

“Does this person still like surprises or did they enjoy a surprise party or two when they were in middle school?” 

 

Buck drops his head on the table with a loud thud and ignores Chimney cackling at his misery. 

 

“Surprises can be nice,” he pouts. If Eddie were working this shift, he would smile sweetly at Buck and take his side, brush the backs of their hands together, too, for good measure. 

 

There’s been a shift since that day at Isabel’s, more than a few moments where Buck was ninety percent positive Eddie was gonna kiss him and he…hasn’t. There has been nothing but sly looks and intertwined pinkies, but Buck was expecting more after Eddie dropped him off at his loft with a meaningful look, a kiss on the cheek, and a pained sigh. 

 

Like–that means something. He’s pretty sure it does. 

 

There’s been a lot of hushed, late night conversations, and Eddie carefully shutting the screen door to his backyard so Chris doesn’t wake up and find them stargazing on the grass. There’s been late night drives with the windows down and trying (and failing) to cook meals together and lingering in doorways and front porch steps and Buck is going downright insane with it all. 

 

“Hen, how would you surprise someone you were trying to woo?”

 

Hen raises an eyebrow. “Maddie doesn’t seem like the type to enjoy being surprised.” 

 

Buck takes great pleasure in how read Chimney’s face turns until he remembers they’re talking about his sister. Not to be thirteen, but he’d rather not voluntarily think about Chimney wooing his sister, thanks. 

 

“Not for me, for Buckaroo.” 

 

Hen’s eyebrows smooth but the corners of her lips lift into a smirk; Buck would smack his head against the table again if he didn’t already feel a bruise coming from the first time. 

 

“Are you finally going to ask Eddie out?”

 

“No?” Hen and Chim level him with matching deadpan glares. “Maybe? It’s–okay, do you know what happened right before me and Eddie stopped talking?” 

 

Hen and Chim shake their heads in unison. 

 

Buck hesitates before speaking–doesn’t exactly know how to tell someone about Eddie–but his hesitation must say enough because Hen and Chimney both gasp.

 

“No–”

 

“You and Eddie? I mean, it makes perfect sense, I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out earlier–”

 

“Who wins the bet, then?”

 

“I think Athena?”

 

“Bet?” Buck asks. Chim and Hen’s eyes go wide.

 

“You weren’t supposed to know about that,” Chim says with a grimace.

 

“The bet isn’t what's important. Buck–were you and Eddie…?”

 

“Eddie is two years older than me and when he left for college, I was obviously still in school. He came back one weekend and said he was finally taking me out on a date, so we drove around in the middle of the night in his old truck before parking in our town’s makeout spot. He said we were going stargazing and kissed me on his truck bed and holy shit I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about this.” 

 

Buck wants to run down the stairs and take off, doesn’t like the itch vulnerability leaves when it settles open and thick against his skin. Hen doesn’t hesitate before leaning over and taking one of his hands in both of hers, smiling in a way that is so reminiscent of the smiles Maddie always gives him when he’s being too hard on himself that he almost starts crying. 

 

Chimney gets up, circling the table to throw an arm around Buck’s shoulders, and he does start crying. Big, fat, crocodile tears in the middle of their workplace, hoping to god no calls come in anytime soon. 

 

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Hen asks softly. 

 

“Before Maddie and Eddie came back it was too hard. And then they were here and I wasn’t talking about it with them, either, and then I just don’t think I knew how.” 

 

She smiles at him, and he smiles back, lips salty and tear stained. 

 

It’s quiet for all of two seconds before Chimney pipes up. 

 

“Buck, I think I know how you should surprise him.” 

 

++

 

Recreating their first date is probably the best idea Chimney’s ever had. 

 

Or, it seemed so in the moment, because now Buck’s standing outside Eddie’s living room window with a handful of pebbles, and his heart is in his throat and his hands are so clammy the rocks are slipping out of his grip. 

 

This is it. Hen offered to take Chris for a sleepover, Maddie sat on his bed for an hour and a half and helped him go through his entire closet–he settled on the first outfit, because of course he did–and Chimney dropped off a bouquet of flowers at his loft when he picked Maddie up for their date. Everything is ready. Buck’s just gotta go for it. 

 

He throws the first pebble. It’s too weak and doesn’t reach the window. The second pebble does, but he doesn’t know if the taps are even loud enough because he can’t hear anything except for the pounding of his own heartbeat. 

 

The third, fourth, and fifth pebbles hit the window in quick succession. 

 

After the sixth, Eddie pulls the curtains open. 

 

His smile lights all of Buck’s nerves on fire. 

 

“Buck? What the hell are you doing here?” The living room window doesn’t open very far, but Eddie squats down so he can pop his head out. 

 

Buck picks up the flowers he placed on the floor, dusting the dirt off the petals and shoving the bouquet unceremoniously in Eddie’s directions. 

 

“These are for you.” 

 

“Is there a special occasion I forgot about?” Eddie tilts his head to the side. Buck really, really wants to kiss him. 

 

“No. This is supposed to be a surprise.” 

 

It’s about eleven at night, and Buck’s considering himself lucky that Eddie hasn’t already retreated to his bedroom. His cotton t-shirt looks soft to the touch; Buck wants to bunch the fabric in his hands and use it to pull Eddie closer, closer, closer until they’re kissing for the first and second, and hundredth time. He wants to memorize Eddie’s body beneath his and how Eddie’s smile fits against his own. His memories are rose tinted and faded around the edges, and if Eddie could be so kind as to remind him what it’s like to kiss him, Buck would really appreciate it. 

 

“Do you want to come in?”

 

“We’re going out. Get dressed.”

 

Eddie's laughter cuts off when he slams the window shut, but Buck can still see his smile through the glass. 

 

Buck removed the hood of his jeep and cleared out the trunk. It’s not a truck bed, but it’ll work, and it’s not like you can even see stars in Los Angeles, anyway. 

 

“What’s going on?” Eddie’s confusion blurs together with a healthy mix of hope when he looks at the pebble still clutched in one of Buck’s hands and the jeep and the cool night air. Buck will tell him if he doesn’t put the pieces together, but that also comes with horrifying amounts of anxiety, so he’s counting on Eddie figuring it out himself. 

 

“Are you–” he starts, before shaking his head. 

 

“Am I what?” 

 

“Are you recreating our first date? I can see blankets in the back seat, and the flowers and the throwing rocks and if it isn’t, I need to know because I can’t get my hopes up about it–”

 

Buck kisses him. What movies don’t tell you about kissing someone mid speech, is that it’s actually super awkward. Buck’s lips collide half with Eddie’s teeth, and it takes Eddie a second to get with the program, but when he does, he tilts his head just right and–yeah, this is what he’s been waiting for. 

 

One of Eddie’s hand tangles in Buck’s hair (that he left soft and product free for this exact purpose), and the other wraps around Buck’s hand that’s cradling his face, thumb rubbing over the skin on Buck’s wrist. 

 

The kiss isn’t hungry, or biting, and there aren’t any hands roaming or stretching at the soft cotton of their t-shirts. There’s just chapped lips and Eddie’s aftershave and the lingering hints of his toothpaste when he deepens the kiss a little. 

 

Buck pulls back–or tries to, because Eddie pulls him right back in, and Buck’s giggling against his mouth as Eddie tries to kiss him, only to give up when Buck won’t stop smiling and start trailing kisses down his throat. 

 

A breath catches in his throat, and it takes everything in him to pull back so they don’t end up going too far in Eddie’s front yard. 

 

“Y’know, on our first date, we kissed after we got in the truck.” 

 

Buck figures he doesn’t mind blushing furiously if it means Eddie smiles and kisses his flushed cheeks when he does. 

 

“I’ve been waiting ten years for that kiss, Diaz, I was getting impatient.” 

 

Eddie’s eyes go dangerously soft, and the kiss he gives Buck is pure sugar. 

 

“You’ve been waiting?” 

 

More blushing. More kisses. 

 

Words don’t seem to come out, tangled like balls of yarn, so he settles for nodding, and hoping Eddie doesn’t find it too weird. 

 

Eddie’s pupils go black and his breathing shallow and Buck figures he doesn’t find it weird at all. 

 

“I love you,” Eddie says. Which–

 

That’s not what Buck was expecting. 

 

Something burns like a slow fire in his chest, and Buck’s smiling so wide his cheeks ache and he’s kissing and kissing and kissing Eddie. Again, and again, and again until they’re stumbling through Eddie’s front door, surprise date forgotten, because this is so much better. 

 

“I love you,” Eddie says again, looking high off the admission, and Buck realizes he’s yet to say it back. 

 

“You’re the love of my life, Eddie Diaz. I would’ve always waited for you.” 

 

“Love of your life?” he says with a cocky grin. Buck rolls his eyes. “No, no, you said I’m the love of your life. That’s big, Buckley, are you sure you’re in for that kind of commitment?” 

 

It’s a joke, but there are nerves behind it that no one else would ever notice. But it’s Buck, and it’s Eddie, and it’s them and Buck takes Eddie’s face into his hands, rubs his thumbs softly against his cheekbones, and smiles. A small, private thing. For Eddie only, even with nobody else around. 

 

“You want a dramatic speech?” 

 

“I do not.” 

 

“I think you want a dramatic speech.” 

 

“Buck, I swear to god–” 

 

“Eddie Diaz, I fell in love with you when you put a pokemon bandaid on my elbow when I fell off my scooter. I fell in love with you for the second time when you yelled at Mr. Crouch for telling Sophia she couldn’t play on the boys team during PE. I fell in love with you for the third time when I was fourteen and it was the middle of summer and you were wearing Adriana’s Avril Lavigne shirt. I fell in love with you again when I was seventeen, and you kissed me like this–” 

 

He leans in slowly, nothing more than a press of lips together, barely moving. When he pulls back, Eddie’s looking at him with something like awe. Buck’s knees go wobbly and something flip flops in his chest. 

 

“And I didn’t stop loving you. Not when we didn’t speak, not when I dated other people. I kept loving you when you came back and when I met Christopher and when you held my hand over the gear shift.” 

 

“Since when do you have a way with words?” Eddie’s eyes are misty. Buck doesn’t comment.

 

“You’re too important for me to fuck up. I mean this, Eds.” 

 

“I mean it, too. You’re it for me, Buck.” 

 

Buck gives him a cheeky grin. 

 

“Feeling’s mutual.” 

 

They kiss, standing in Eddie’s doorway, for what feels like forever and not long enough, before they start to get a little handsy with it. Buck pulls Eddie’s body against his, delights in the way Eddie hums against his lips, and lets Eddie take the kiss deeper when he angles their heads just right. 

 

“I’ve–um. I’ve waited. For you,” he says eloquently, holding steady eye contact despite how exposed he feels. 

 

“You’ve said that,” Eddie says with a furrow of his brows. 

 

“No, I mean–” he gives a pointed grind, reveling in the way Eddie bites his lower lip until it’s bright red. “I’ve waited. For you.” 

 

“Oh. Oh. You’re so fucking hot, Jesus Christ, are you trying to kill me? You’re perfect. I love you. Are you sure?” Eddie’s hand hovers over Buck’s denim clothed bulge, pressing down on it when Buck nods fervently. 

 

“I’m so sure.” 

 

Eddie pushes him in the direction of the bedroom, smacking his ass for good measure. It takes them five minutes to complete a thirty second walk because they can’t seem to get their hands off each other. It’s dizzying. Wanting and being wanted in return. 

 

“How do you want to do this?” Eddie asks as they walk through the doorway. 

 

“Fuck me.”

 

Eddie makes quick work of peeling their shirts over their heads, discarding them in a trail from the door to the bed. Buck fumbles as he tries to undo his belt buckle, hands shakier than they’ve ever been. Eddie takes pity on him and gently removes his fingers from his pants, undoing the belt and pulling his pants down, leaving kiss after kiss along his inner thighs. 

 

Buck’s far from a virgin, but nothing’s ever felt like this before. So sharp, so pointed, so much. 

 

It’s a heady flood of feelings. Eddie looks up at him from his knees as he bites lightly at Buck’s skin and Buck’s breath catches in his throat. 

 

“Please–”

 

“Tell me, Buck. Whatever you want.” 

 

“I need you.” 

 

“You have me.” 

 

Eddie lays them down on the bed, Buck on top, letting him control their movements. It’s silly how turned on he is, how he could come just from grinding like he’s in high school again. Fingers ghost over his bare chest until they’re dipping under the waistband of his boxers, and he’s nodding against Eddie’s lips, and Eddie’s wrapping those fingers around his hard cock and Buck truly has to hold off from coming right then and there. 

 

“Lay down,” Eddie tells him, voice rough with arousal. Buck does as he’s told quickly, nearly kicking Eddie in the process. 

 

Eddie leans down between his thighs, kissing and licking and biting and sucking to get Buck to calm down. 

 

“We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” he says. 

 

“I really want to. Just never done it before.” 

 

Eddie leans up to kiss him. He tastes like spit and toothpaste and love and home and it’s a weird combination but one Buck wants to have in his back pocket and keep forever. 

 

Sex makes him stupid. 

 

“Relax, okay? Let me make it good for you.” 

 

Buck looks pointedly down at his achingly hard cock. 

 

“I think you already are.” 

 

Eddie’s responding eye roll is filled to the brim with fondness.

 

Eddie’s hand searches through his bedside table blindly until he pulls out a half used bottle of lube. The thought of Eddie getting off by himself, riding his own fingers, makes Buck harder, somehow. It’s almost painful. 

 

“Have you ever done this?” 

 

“Fingered myself?”

 

Eddie nods. “Mmhmm,” he hums as he circles a wet finger around Buck’s entrance. 

 

“Yeah, a couple times,” Buck answers breathlessly. “You don’t have to go easy on me.” 

 

“Good,” Eddie says, and presses his finger in. 

 

Buck squeezes his dick so he doesn’t come too early, but it’s growing increasingly more difficult with every brush against his prostate from Eddie’s very clearly experienced fingers. 

 

Eddie adds a second with no real preamble, just presses it in alongside the first, and Buck’s used to more of a stretch–he’s got toys that take way more than two fingers of prepping–but it’s also never been anybody else. No one’s ever gotten to see him like this, and that alone makes it hard to focus on anything, and then Eddie’s adding a third fingering and really going for it and fuck–

 

It’s a lot. It’s really fucking good. 

 

Buck’s distantly aware of Eddie’s constant stream of praise, and while he’s not able to focus on the words, the thought of it makes him flush down to the tip of his cock.

 

“Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, I’m good. Get in me.” 

 

Eddie laughs. Buck’s never laughed during sex before. 

 

“So bossy,” he mumbles, kissing Buck before grabbing a condom. Buck almost wants to tell him to go without it, but he’d like for them both to get tested together before they do that, so they’ll deal with the condom for one night. Buck’s pretty sure he’s got the rest of his life to get fucked by Eddie, anyway. He’s not too pressed. 

 

Eddie lines up against Buck’s entrance and presses in slowly, moaning low in the space between them. 

 

Buck feels like crying when he bottoms out. Buck thinks he might actually be crying. 

 

“I’ve got you,” Eddie whispers before pulling out and thrusting back in so goddamn tenderly that Buck feels like he’s going to explode. He’s definitely crying, can feel the salt on his tongue when he moans, but he can’t help it. This is everything, and so, so much more. 

 

“I love you,” Buck gets out. “Fuck, I love you.” 

 

Eddie keeps hitting his prostate with every thrust, and Buck knew he wasn’t going to last very long, but he’s dangerously close to coming between their chests. 

 

There’s moonlight spilling in from the windows. Eddie’s breath is hot against his neck where he’s sucking a bruise along his jawline. Buck’s legs are wrapped around Eddie’s waist, holding him in place, fingernails scratching down his back. 

 

“You’re so good, Buck. So beautiful. All mine, yeah?”

 

“Yours,” Buck agrees. 

 

“Gonna love you for the rest of our lives, mi vida.” 

 

Buck comes. Loudly. No warning, just white ribbons painting his chest. Eddie doesn’t last much longer, spilling into the condom with a low groan after a few more thrusts and then collapsing on the bed beside him, tossing the condom in the general direction of the trashcan. 

 

“We’ll last longer next time,” Eddie says while Buck waits for his brain to reboot. When it does, he snorts. 

 

“I’d hope so.” 

 

And then Eddie’s giggling which makes Buck giggle and Eddie’s laughing which makes Buck laugh and then they’re holding their sides, breathless with laughter. 

 

“You’re my best friend,” Buck says honestly once they’ve calmed down. Eddie takes his hand and brings it up to his face, and kisses his palm. 

 

He’s got Eddie’s arm around his waist and night sky spilling in from the window and more love in his heart than he knows what to do with. 

 

++

 

Buck would assume last night didn’t happen if not for the pleasant soreness when he wakes up. Eddie hasn’t moved from where he’s gripping onto Buck like an octopus. His breathing is still even when Buck turns around in his arms, and he takes it as an opportunity to stare at Eddie like a lovesick fool, propped up on an elbow. 

 

“Stop starin’ at me,” he grumbles. 

 

Buck kisses the tip of his nose. 

 

“Can I finally tell Maddie you’re my boyfriend?” 

 

Eddie snorts. “She’s been asking since I was in High School.” 

 

“And I’ve yet to be able to say yes.” 

 

Eddie blinks one eye open. His stubble is growing in, long enough to be scratchy, and Buck knows he’ll shave it again soon, but Buck’s gonna kiss him as much as he can until then. Eddie’s hair is a mess . Buck has never seen it so disheveled, and he feels a bit of pride knowing it was his hands that fucked it up. 

 

“You can tell her.” It sounds like it pains him to say it, but Buck sees the smile. Knows Eddie’s just as giddy about this as he is. 

 

“Are we gonna tell Chris?” 

 

Eddie opens both of his eyes, sits up so he’s face to face with Buck, and kisses him. Lips moving against each other slowly, morning breath be damned. Buck kisses him back, pours every promise and love declaration into the way his hands find Eddie’s neck, the way his lip catches against Eddie's.

 

“I’m gonna marry you someday,” Eddie says. It’s not an answer to Buck’s question, not really, but Buck gets it. It’s something better.

 

Buck smiles, happier than he’s ever been.

 

“I’m gonna say yes.”