Eddie's new coworker is, in the politest terms, an unsure fit for the culture of their station. In more realistic terms, he's a cocky, oversexed idiot who is exceedingly lucky Eddie hasn't strangled him to death with his bare hands. Yet.
The rest of the team have a slightly fonder outlook on their newest recruit, he knows that, but then, it's not them who are dealing with the brunt of his weird territorial posturing or whatever he's doing. Eddie, unfortunately, is. And he definitely has a problem on his hands.
It's just typical that all of this started over a goddamn charity calendar that Eddie doesn't even care about. Well - didn't care about. He's developed a new-found enthusiasm for the competition ever since a certain Evan Buckley became obnoxiously enthusiastic about winning a slot, to the point of stomping all over his new team members' feet - Eddie's most of all.
He'd been willing to give the guy some slack, at first, just like the rest of the team. Yeah, Evan had, upon overhearing him and Chimney talking about it, announced that he was a shoo-in and gone off on some bragging tangent about body fat percentages or something. But, hey, he was an objectively good-looking man, and clearly cared about this sort of thing more than Eddie did. So he grit his teeth and blamed new-job nerves for the easy way Evan steamrolled over Chimney's efforts and swanned around the station - the station in which he was a newcomer - acting like he'd already won.
But Evan seems to resent any amount of slack Eddie tries to give him and immediately goes about trying even harder to get on his bad side. Peacocking around the room while Eddie is just trying to work-out, flexing his (admittedly impressive) muscles and snapping badly-lit selfies as an excuse to preen in public. Snidely dismissing Chimney's chances and then visibly bristling when Eddie cuts him off by offering up his niece's photography skills. Leaving Eddie and the rest of the team to deal with the less-glamorous sides of the job while he's off getting his dick wet. At one point, he honest to god shoulder-checks Eddie in the controlled rush into a burning building just so he's inside first, and that's when Eddie admits to himself that there is no way this is a misunderstanding.
Evan Buckley has it out for him.
And Eddie can't even really bring it up in a professional manner, because as annoying as Evan is, it's not as if he's incompetent at the job - foolhardy, yes, cocky, always, but he is, Eddie has to admit, pretty damn good at doing what he needs to do.
That is, he's good at the job when he's at the job, rather than off god knows where in a stolen firetruck.
"Borrowed!" he hears in Evan's voice as soon as he thinks it, and his scowl deepens. Great. The guy has been around for a few days and Eddie is already so used to his excuses he's supplying them himself.
"Scowling into your salad isn't going to make it taste any better, Eddie," Chimney says in between licking sauce off his fingers. "It's not going to bring Buck back any faster, either," he adds when Eddie turns his scowl over to him.
Buck. What a stupid, cheesy nickname, one that he will never admit to anyone does suit the man to a T. Saying it makes him think of a porn star - and the way he goes about his life, that might have been a more appropriate career choice. Evan is a perfectly reasonable name and Eddie sees no reason not to use it. If Evan gets an endearing crease between his brows and his pink lips press into a pouty frown that highlights the curve of his mouth when he hears his name, then those are side-effects that don't affect his decision making at all.
"I'd be delighted if he never stepped foot in this station again," Eddie grumbles, aware that he's amusing everyone at the table but not caring. Evan stole a firetruck. If anything, Eddie is the only one not under-reacting. "It's the truck I want back here. Don't care who's driving it."
"Ah, I dunno," Hen says with a shrug. "He needs a bit of whipping into shape, but he's got the makings of a good firefighter. Just needs to learn to let his upstairs brain make decisions, is all. It's not like he won't bring it back."
"Gotta be honest, he does take it too far, but I can't say I'm not a little bit envious," Chimney admits. "Must be nice having women fall into your lap whenever you bat your eyes." Eddie and Hen snort at the same time.
"I don't give a shit about him sleeping with anyone he can find with low enough standards. I do care that he seems to find me doing my job a personal offense."
"Hey, he's not that bad," Hen attempts, but even saying it she's wincing in commiseration. "He just... really wants to show he can keep up with the rest of us. I guess he's chosen you as the person he needs to prove himself against."
"You know what I think," Chimney cuts in before Eddie can reply, "I think he'll calm down once the calendar decision gets made. He just wasn't prepared to share the limelight with our resident male model." He sways to the side even as he's talking, effortlessly missing the chunk of bread Eddie throws at his head, grinning. More worryingly, Hen's eyes gleam, and she shares a smirk with Chimney that has Eddie's heart sinking.
"You know, I think you're onto something, Chim. You know what they say about boys tugging pigtails."
"I know you're not trying to imply my grown-ass coworker is being an asshole because he has a crush on me."
"Oh no, not at all. I'm just saying, you know, maybe your gorgeous physique has awoken something in him that he doesn't know how to deal with." Hen and Chim both smirk at him, and he can only sigh, pushing his plate away and thunking his head down on the table.
"I need to switch stations," he grumbles, not surprised when that just makes his teammates snigger harder.
The laughter cuts off quickly, though, because there comes the familiar rumble that's built into Eddie's bones, and the missing firetruck pulls into the station. And Eddie knows that it's all his imagination, but he still manages to read Evan's cockiness into the way it comes to an easy stop before the engine cuts out.
Evan swings himself out the door with characteristic swagger, striding across the floor looking very pleased with himself, and doesn't even lose his cockiness as he slows to a stop in front of Bobby. Eddie really isn't sure how he does that; he's been on the receiving end of Bobby's disappointing looks before, and he'd wanted to shrivel up into a desiccated ball of shame and hide forever.
Hen and Chim are making no efforts to hide their eavesdropping attempt, practically falling over the railing to peer down at the ground floor, but Eddie, unlike his team-mates, has dignity. He's watching their captain chew out the latest recruit from the table while pretending not to, like a normal person - a normal person who is feeling an admittedly unprofessional amount of schadenfreude as he sees Evan's broad shoulders drop and his head dip like the scolded child he is. He can't hear what's being said, and he can't see Bobby's face, but he can tell that Evan is getting the telling off he soundly deserves and he wouldn't want to be in his shoes right now.
"If you have time to be nosy, you have time to clean up the table," Bobby calls while Evan slinks off to the lockers, turning and looking up at the second floor. "And yes, I'm talking to you, too, Diaz," he adds, right when Eddie is starting to feel smug about his choice to hide behind Hen and Chim. Damn.
Evan, blessedly, appears to have taken Bobby's talk to heart. Eddie doesn't know exactly what was said, but he can see it in the way Evan is - mainly - behaving himself. He's reigning in his impulsive reactions - well, managing to catch himself before completing them, anyway. He's much less likely to argue with an order. He's even managed to bring himself to cut on-duty flirting almost in half, and, as far as Eddie is aware, has actually not had sex while on the job. It's a relief, to know that their newest member is capable of taking the job seriously.
Unfortunately, his behavior improvements have not really managed to make their way to his interactions with Eddie. They have improved, that much is true; but he still very clearly has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to him for whatever reason, and it's really, really getting old. Every time Eddie has to ask him to do something or disagrees with a decision he's made, Evan's face clouds over and he spends the next while looking at him darkly out of the corner of his eye. And he's almost worse when a suggestion he’s made is chosen, smirking at Eddie like he's just won some sort of competition and gotten one over on him.
The thing that really makes Eddie actually hate him a little bit, though, is that his stupid, grade school behavior is starting to get to him so much that he's sinking down to Evan's level. Arrogance is something he's never had time for - the important thing is that the action taken is the right one, not who gets the credit for it. They're part of a team, and catching each others shortcomings and having multiple perspectives is one of the most important parts of that.
But with Evan... when Eddie is on the receiving end of his pouting, he finds himself standing a little bit taller, cockier in a way that he'd like to think is uncharacteristic. He gets the go-ahead on a plan over Evan, he finds himself shooting a glance over at him while fighting a smug smile. Evan does something that goes over well, and he finds himself almost a mirror to Evan's sulking, having to talk himself into letting it go.
It's childish and below him and he's ashamed and embarrassed of himself, especially since he knows Bobby, at least, has caught on to Eddie's less-than-professional behavior, but there's something about Evan that just gets under his skin in a way nobody else has and he can't seem to make himself stop.
Which is why he scowls at his feet when they're called out to a man who's managed to launch a grenade into his thigh and Bobby orders, "Eddie, keep our patient steady until we get him to a hospital. Buck, I want you in there with them."
Being stuck with only Buck and a frightened patient for company is the last thing Eddie wants to deal with, but Bobby gives him a firm stare that shuts down any protest and he can only sigh, shuffling around to let Evan pull himself into the back of the ambulance. Not the best situation, but at least they're just going to be looking out for the guy - they're not even going to need to talk, really. He strikes up a conversation with the patient - meaningless chit-chat that nobody present really cares about, but useful for giving patients something safe to focus on.
Annoyingly, Evan tends to be better at this part of the job than most people - better than Eddie is, he has to admit. Eddie is one for action and quiet competence, but he's not much of a talker - he tries to make himself one for Chris, who's a talkative kid and deserves to have a parent who'll encourage his conversation, but otherwise, he's really more of a listener.
Evan, on the other hand, is almost incapable of shutting up - and the very thing that has Eddie gritting his teeth on a call and at the station goes over wonderfully with patients. A flash of that easy smile and a bunch of confident, nonsensical chatter always seems to give the people they're helping something to focus on, and he's good at drawing answers out of people whilst being equally good at filling the silence for the quieter people they end up with. Really, if it were anyone else, Eddie would probably be paying attention and trying to emulate his easy, personable behavior - but since it is Evan, he lets him yammer on about whatever and checks over the patient's wound.
Fuck fuck fuck.
"Pull over!" he yells, spinning around to bang frantically on the wall separating him from the driver. "Hey! Pull over!" Evan snaps his mouth shut and stares at him incredulously, eyebrows raised, and it's good to know that even in this kind of dangerous environment he's still capable of making Eddie want to hit him over the head.
"Wh- what- what are you doing!? We need to get to the hospital!"
"No, we don't, because that's a live fucking round and we need to keep it as far away from civilians as possible," Eddie snaps, but of course, of course, Evan doesn't just take his word for it.
"What are you talking about?" he scoffs, leaning forward to inspect it - as if the idiot would have any idea what he was looking at - and then has the gall to glare at Eddie when he saves him from himself and shoves him away. "It's a practice round, he said so himself."
"It has a gold cap," Eddie manages to get out through gritted teeth, explaining more for the poor patient's benefit than Evan's. "Look, you can see from here - gold. Practice ammo has blue caps - gold means live."
"What? Are- are you sure?"
"Am I- yes, I'm sure. I wouldn't have lasted very long in Afganistan if I didn't know what live fucking rounds look like."
"You were in Afganistan?" Evan is looking at him with an odd expression on his face, one that Eddie can't decipher, but this is really not the time to try and follow his strange thought processes.
"Yes. Now can we get on with saving this patient without killing everyone around us or do you have more inappropriate questions about my ability to do my job?"
He regrets the sentence as soon as it's out of his mouth - the patient is looking more and more alarmed and Eddie really shouldn't be making things worse - but it at least succeeds in making Evan shrink in on himself and finally back away.
"Okay, okay. Um. Wh- what do we do, then? How- how do we get it out safely?"
"We keep the patient still, fill Cap in on the changes in the situation, and let him bring the experts in." He claps a reassuring hand on the patient's shoulder - a patient who, thankfully, looks alarmed but not panicky, despite Eddie letting his anger win out over what should be the priority; keeping the patient calm and safe. "Listen, I know it sounds bad, but you're in good hands. As long as you stay still, the round isn't going to do anything. We'll get it out and you patched up, this is just a precaution."
The patient nods stoically, fingers curled tight on the stretcher but taking deep, steady breaths, and there's blessed silence from Evan until they're out of the parked ambulance and filling everyone in on the situation.
A situation that isn't looking great. The expert they're sending up is going to take too long to get there - the patient needs surgery now, an hour will be far too late. The bomb squad doesn't have the experience with this kind of thing to get it out without killing at least the patient. But...
"I'll do it," he offers, voice steady even though this is probably a very, very bad idea.
"Yes. I can do it." He meets Bobby's concerned gaze, relieved when he gets a slow nod.
"No," Eddie snarls, not even trusting himself to look at him. He can feel Evan's mouth opening to protest, but Bobby fixes him with a stern look, and Evan wilts in his peripheral vision and takes a step back.
"Hang back by the truck, Buckley," Bobby says with composed authority. "I'll join you as backup, Eddie. Lead the way."
"Roger that, Cap," Evan says weakly, retreating with his tail tucked appropriately between his legs, and Eddie just nods, taking a deep breath to find his composure again and heading back towards the ambulance. He shouldn't be letting Evan get to him so badly - he's had plenty of practice with men trying to square up with everyone to prove their supposed toughness, but the way Evan is acting feels different. Maybe because he really does seem, in general, to be a pretty relaxed guy - just not, for some reason, when it comes to Eddie. He might have a maddening habit of stepping on everyone's toes, but with everyone else he at least seems to do it out of oblivious enthusiasm rather than overt aggression.
That doesn't matter right now, though. Evan Buckley might be worming his way into Eddie's brain in the most infuriating of ways, but right now he needs to pull a live round out of somebody's leg without blowing everyone up.
He's sick of this. He's sick of Evan's whip-crack emotional changes from bright and cheerful with everyone else to quiet and moody with him, he's sick of letting himself be so affected by it, he's sick of one person getting him so shaken up in a job he genuinely loves. So when him and Evan end up being the last ones out of the truck after getting back to the station, he makes a split decision to finally get everything out in the open and steps in front of Evan while everyone else disperses.
"Look, man," he snaps, shoving Evan against the wall and pinning him there with a forearm across his broad chest. "What's your fucking problem?"
"...What?" Evan wheezes after a too long moment of silence, dragging his eyes up from where they'd been glued to Eddie's mouth. Despite having formidable strength of his own and and standing taller than Eddie, he isn't even trying to push back, instead slumping pliant between Eddie's arm and the wall, eyes flicking everywhere but Eddie's face.
"I said," he emphasizes with a gentle increase of pressure, "what's your fucking problem? Huh? You've been an asshole towards me since your first fucking day here, and I'm the only one here getting that kind of attitude from you. I'd barely even looked at you when it started, so what is it?
"I- I don't-"
"You clearly do," Eddie cuts in, exasperated. "Don't go turning into a coward the second I stop putting up with your shit. Just say it. What. Is. Your. Problem."
"I'm a sex addict," Evan blurts out, staring down at him with wide, wide eyes and a face that's quickly turning almost the same shade as his birthmark.
"I mean, I- I- I kind of, um, I guess, I put so much of my life into getting laid and being attractive to people and getting with people and being the best looking in the room and I, uh, I've been trying to be better but I guess I felt kind of threatened because I'm used to being the hottest person on the team- I mean, not to be cocky but, come on, look at me- but you're so, you're so fucking attractive it's not fair and- and I don't know how to handle it and I go- I'm going to shut up now."
"...You've been pulling my pigtails because you think I'm hot," Eddie summarizes in disbelief. He can't fucking believe Hen and Chimney were even close to right.
"No!" Evan squawks, scowling and bringing a hand up to grab at Eddie's wrist, fingers curling into a loose grip that does nothing to even start moving him away. "I- I mean- yes but not the way you're implying, I just- I mean- as competition, man, I'm making myself emotionally vulnerable to you and this is how you treat me?"
"See, I don't think you're making yourself vulnerable at all, Buckley," Eddie says, making a concerted effort to drop his voice low and enjoying the way Buck swallows heavily in response. "I think you're making up some bullshit that has a hint of truth in it exactly so you aren't vulnerable. Nobody here cares if you're a sex addict or a porn addict or a drug addict or whatever you want to use as an excuse, but you can't bring it into the station. How am I meant to trust you with my life, when you won't even let me walk around the station in peace?"
"Yeah, that's what Cap said," Evan mutters, scowling down at the floor. "Look, I'm trying, okay? I haven't even flirted on the job in ages!"
"You were flirting with that woman trapped in the elevator this morning, Evan," Eddie snaps in exasperation. "Anyway, that's not - I don't care. Flirt with who you want. Like me or don't like me. But at least have enough respect for this job to be civil."
"...Yeah. Yeah, I- look, I'm sorry, okay? I- I really need this job, please. I'm- I'm trying. I'll stay out of your way."
"Christ, I don't want you to stay out of my way, Evan," Eddie sighs, letting his arm drop and taking a step back. "I just want you to treat me like a coworker instead of like someone who's pissed in your cereal. Alright?"
"Mmhmm." Evan bobs his head in a rapid nod, still avoiding his gaze even as Eddie walks away.
He has a feeling that Evan is going to go from being an open pain in the ass to openly avoiding him, but hell, at least he'll get a bit of fucking peace now.