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Firehose

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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 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.

"You're sure?"

"Yes. I can do it." He meets Bobby's concerned gaze, relieved when he gets a slow nod.

"I can-"

"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.

"...What?" 

"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.

Chapter Text

Thankfully for both Eddie and Evan, the day after their little confrontation is a day off, so Eddie doesn't have to worry about how Evan has taken it. Instead, all he has to worry about is getting his kid ready for a night at his abuela's and then figuring out how to spend a day with nothing at all to do.

It should be easy. Easier than his normal workdays, certainly. 

Somehow it isn't, though.

With no pressure to get up and ready, with nothing pressing to attend to other than making his kid some breakfast, sleep sticks to him like molasses. He wakes at his normal early time, but only manages to force his eyes open long enough to check his phone before they're sliding closed and his fingers lose their grip, phone tipping onto the mattress. He won't sleep again - he knows from experience. Once he's awake, he's awake. But his body feels molded to the bed, his eyes ache when he tries to keep them open, and so he gives in and lays there, drowsy and sticky-hot under blankets he can't be bothered shrugging off, half-dozing in a way that's only going to make him less rested when he finally gets up. 

Time crawls slowly and he rouses himself enough to check the time every ten minutes or so, every time aware that he needs to be up for Christopher but unwilling to move, negotiating with himself in a way that he never wins; just five more minutes. Then five more. He'll get up early enough to have bacon ready by the time his son wakes up - he'll get up early enough to be in the kitchen ready to make toast by the time Christopher shuffles into the living room - he'll get up when he hears movement from the other bedroom - and then there's the click-rustle of Christopher making his way down the hallway and he finally hauls himself upright, scrubbing angrily at his eyes and throwing the covers over to the other side of the bed. 

"Fuck," he mutters to himself, peeling his sweaty shirt off and riffling through his drawers for a clean one to pull on. The familiar shame of failing his son burns bitter in his throat, and he stumbles out of his room, blinking tears of sleep out of his eyes and making his way to the living room where his son has plopped himself onto the couch. 

"Buenos días, mijo," he manages in a relatively normal voice, sinking onto the couch next to him with a quick ruffle of his curls. "¿Dormiste bien?"

"Yeah!" The bright, toothy smile he gets, Christopher rolling his head back to beam up at him, makes the tension in his chest melt and the guilt burn hot at the same time. "Did you, daddy? You look tired."

God, he's useless at this. 

"I'm fine," he lies. "Just getting ready for a lazy day here without my favorite son."

"I'm your only son," Christopher giggles, nose wrinkling. Eddie shrugs and tweaks his nose, earning a squeal and small hands batting him away.

"Still my favorite. You all packed up for abuela?"

"Uh-huh."

"Good man. We've got just enough time for pancakes before abuela gets here, I think." He feels tired just saying it, the task of making pancakes stretching unrealistically far in front of him in his head, but he at least owes Christopher this, owes him a good start to his day.

"Pancakes!" Christopher cheers, and he's definitely made the right decision.

The pancakes are a simple affair, really. Eddie has never been much of a cook - he's made himself learn, to make sure Chris gets healthier food than microwave meals and takeaways, but if there's a shortcut he's happy to take it, so there's always a box of pancake mix stored away for special occasions. Flipping a modest pile onto Christopher's plate after only a few minutes, his son immediately shoveling them into his mouth with a glint in his eye, makes his earlier reluctance feel ridiculous - but he can dwell later. For now, he settles himself across from his son and forces himself to eat.

---

His abuela can see he's exhausted - of course she can. She loves Chris, but Eddie knows the main reason she took him with her today was because she wanted to give him a break. It's a break he doesn't deserve, a break he doesn't deserve to even want, with how much he's already let his son down, but nonetheless, it's a break he accepted and a break he's relieved to have. He's alone, something he rarely experiences, and he can finally just relax without putting up any pretense. 

Relax, though, is a strong word for what he's doing. It's certainly not refreshing. He never really knows what to do with real solitude; his house was always full as a kid, sisters and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends a constant presence. He'd gone straight from that to cohabitation with Shannon, then marriage, then living in the pockets of the men he served with; and finally settled here, spending 48 hours in a row with his 118 family and the rest of his time with a precocious, intelligent kid in the house. With nobody to take care of or be aware of or exist for, everything he's ever wanted to do disappears from his mind and he ends up slouched on the couch, flicking through TV channels with a barely touched beer going lukewarm on the table. 

He makes himself eat, because his job depends on him taking care of himself. He goes aimlessly through his phone every now and again, tapping out (thankfully characteristic) short replies to Hen organizing a play-date for the kids and Chimney's friendly banter. Other than that, though... by the time he finally gives up and heads to bed, he couldn't tell you what he actually did with his day other than half-watch trash television. 

By mid-afternoon of the second day, indistinguishable from the first, he even finds himself missing the sharp irritation of Evan's presence. He's used to missing work on days like these; he didn't think he'd ever manage to miss that particular annoyance. Turns out that annoyance and an infuriating coworker is still better than wallowing in his own lack of a life. 

He at least doesn't have to deal with going to sleep in an empty house again, because Christopher comes barreling through the door a few hours before bedtime, high off excitement and probably far too much sugar, and the smile that comes to his face as he wraps his son in his arms and listens to him chatter about his day is only a little bit forced.

---

Of course, as much as he loves his son, children don't uncomplicate life, and after scrabbling to find the shirt Christopher insists is the only one he could possibly wear to school today but which Eddie can not for the life of him find, the usual controlled rush out the door is a very uncontrolled rush to get Chris to school on time. He only barely makes it to the station before his shift starts, but even with the stress he feels his shoulders relax as soon as he gets in, pleased to be back where he's meant to be. Following his nose, he makes his way up the stairs to where the team is being treated to Bobby's cooking.

"Hey, Eddie. Just in time; get a bit too wild with the kid out of the house?" Chimney teases.

"Ha ha," Eddie deadpans, dropping into an available seat and grabbing a waffle to shove in his mouth. He can feel the malaise of the past two days dripping off him, familiar faces and the anticipation that shivers through everyone while there's a possibility of a call getting his lazy heart beating properly again. "Just caught up on some much-needed rest with the house to myself, is all," he explains around a mouthful of food, ignoring Hen's pointed eye-roll of disgust. 

"You've got a kid?" Evan pipes up from across the table, curious expression folding into a sheepish, nervous half-smile when Eddie makes eye contact.

"Mmm," he confirms, swallowing his mouthful. "Christopher. He's eight." His automatic reaction when talking about Christopher is to pull out his phone to show off the most adorable boy in the world, regardless of the level of interest - it being Evan gives him pause, but if he's expecting him to improve on being friendly in the workplace, he should probably take his own advice, so he lights up the lock screen and offers his phone for Evan to take.

It's only after Evan has cautiously reached over and taken it that he realizes that Evan's propensity for letting his mouth run before his brain has a chance to chime in has a possibility of going very wrong, but he barely has time to worry about what he'll do if Buck says something shitty about his kid before Buck is opening his mouth.

"Oh, man, he's adorable," Evan says, looking up with a genuine smile crinkling the corners of his eyes. "I love kids."

"He's the best," Eddie agrees, relieved, and takes his phone back when it's offered. It feels like a tiny bit of the tension between them has chipped, and he thanks god for the umpteenth time for the son he doesn't deserve, helping heal the cracks in Eddie's life without even being there. He doesn't miss the glances Bobby and his teammates send his way, but conversation moves on, Evan remarkably quiet and restrained, and things are still a bit off-kilter but heading back in the right direction. They even manage to finish the entirety of their breakfast before the alarm blares and they're bolting across the station, dishes left half-washed in the kitchen.

---

It's not that he's not glad that Evan seems to have taken their talk, and the talks he's had with the captain, to heart. He is. It's just that he thinks Evan might have overswung a bit too much, and, combined with the way Bobby keeps pairing them up to, presumably, scrutinize their working relationship, it's starting to become obvious to everyone that things still haven't clicked right. 

Don't get him wrong. He likes being able to do his job without an annoying coworker piping up with an objection to every word out of his mouth. He likes not having to worry that Evan's ego is going to get him or someone else in trouble. But he's traded in that bravado for a complete lack of confidence, obediently following orders and going where he's directed but never taking it upon himself to do anything without direction, and it's not that he's doing a bad job but it's so unlike him that it's got everyone a bit off-kilter. There's not even any bragging or chatter, and when they pull a shaken but uninjured woman out of a car he makes himself scarce rather than cheering her up with a bit of obvious flirting.

The final proof that something needs to change comes on the call they go out on right before lunch - a small fire in an apartment complex, easily containable and with no casualties. They just need someone to go through and make sure nobody has been missed, so him and Evan are sent in - and if there was any more evidence he needs to show that he might have overdone it the other day, it's his partner walking headfirst into a wall rather than brushing against him when they both go for the stairs at the same time.

"You alright?" he asks, reaching out to help steady him, but Evan somehow twists around his hand like a cat avoiding an unwanted touch. 

"Fine," Evan chokes out, slipping around him and heading up the stair. "Sorry." Eddie can almost hear the blush on his face.

"You don't have to be sorry, Evan. I know you didn't headbutt the wall on purpose." He'd kind of hoped to coax some sort of reply out of him, something that made things feel more like his usual chatter, but Evan just grunts and stays quiet apart from calling out to possible people in the apartments, so Eddie follows his lead and keeps quiet too.

---

He almost thinks he's going to get away with stealing a quick lunch in a corner when they get back, but when Hen settles into the seat across from him, he lets his food drop with a resigned sigh.

"Eddie," she says sternly, raising an eyebrow. "Have you been kicking the puppy?"

"No," he replies defensively. "I just... let him know he needed to be more professional."

"Uh-huh. And you did that how?"

"Talking to him." The other eyebrow rises. "...while pinning him to the wall," he admits, never able to withstand that look.

"He is trying, you know," she sighs, and he can only sigh back.

"I know, okay? And I'm glad he is. It's making work a lot easier. But he wasn't trying when I did it - with the work, yeah, maybe, but not with me. Look, I didn't hurt him, I just-"

"Made him think you would," Hen finishes for him, the disapproval obvious. 

"...well, yeah. Look, it was a bad move, okay, I know. I know it was, and I know that this situation is... not ideal. I never wanted him to be scared of me, I just wanted him to stop being a ba- aggressive," he amends quickly.

"Well, you're not wrong. He was being a bit... overenthusiastic. But you're adults, and I think we both know you need to apologize, Eddie. You've got the kid avoiding you like a beaten dog."

"Yeah, I know," he admits grudgingly.

Fuck. He's going to have to have another talk with Evan.

Chapter Text

His earlier confrontation with Evan had been borne of weeks worth of frustration - he hadn't had to think about it, just reacted to an opportunity to speak his mind. Now that he finds himself having to approach a man who clearly doesn't like him in order to apologize, he's really not sure how to go about it. It's not like he can just bring it up in work conversation; "Hey Evan, I know we're dangling down an elevator shaft right now, but just so you know, I don't hate you, I just wanted you to stop being a dick" is not a conversation that will go over well. 

The trouble is, when they're not on a call together, Evan seems to be making it his personal mission to avoid being alone with Eddie at all costs. He'll go over to talk, and Evan will suddenly decide that he has to show Chimney something on his phone right this second. He'll even think about cornering him, and Evan will be nowhere to be found. He has to figure that Evan was a master at hide-and-seek when he was a kid, because it takes a full two days of work before he spots an opportunity. 

He feels a little bit guilty for the way Evan starts and stares at him with wide eyes when Eddie sits across where he's tucked himself into a seat in a corner, tapping away at his phone, but it's not going to get any better unless he manages to get Evan to listen to him.

"Oh, Eddie, I, uh, I actually need to-"

"Evan, you can't avoid me forever," Eddie snaps, and Buck gives up on coming up with an excuse, looking down and picking at his phone case.

"I can try," he mutters under his breath, but speaks up before Eddie can respond. "Look, I- I'm doing what you asked, aren't I? I'm leaving you alone, I'm not getting in your way. What else do I have to do, man? I know I- I came in on the wrong foot, but this is- I need this job, okay? All I want to do is- is this. And I can't- I can't lose this, and the paycheck, I can't - especially not now, I...  Just, fuck, what do I have to do to stop you going to the captain? I'm doing everything I can!" 

His eyes are wide, face flushed pink in- anger? Stress? Eddie doesn't know, but he is surprised at the passion of the response, the abrupt jump from what Eddie thought was an irritating difference of personality to panicking over his job.

"Going to- Evan, I never said anything about going to the captain. I never said anything about getting you fired, is that what you thought I was doing? Threatening your job? I just wanted you to lay off me, man."

Evan's mouth twists.

"Cap has already let me know how shaky my spot on the team is, alright? I've heard all about it, trust me. I've been leaving you alone, haven't I?"

"Look, I don't- Bobby doesn't pull us into group gossip sessions about you, alright, I didn't know that he'd been talking about letting you go. I wasn't threatening to, you know, get you fired, or anything. It's just that this job is stressful enough as it is, and personal issues are the last thing anyone on this team needs. All I wanted - all I want - is for us to be civil, not for you to get yourself killed trying not to be anywhere near me."

"I know. I know, I- I just... I'm not very good at, at, uh, restraining myself, you know? So I thought... I figured it would be better if I just... stayed out of your way, so my mouth didn't get ahead of me. Again." He looks up sheepishly. "I thought you'd appreciate some space, honestly. And yeah, I kind of... I kind of did think he filled everyone in on my, uh, shaky position here," he admits. "I'm sorry if I... look, I was just trying to keep my job."

Things never go the way he intends them to with Evan Buckley, he's finding. 

"It's okay, man. I actually came over here to apologize to you." He smiles wryly. "I was a bit... aggressive, about everything, but I was never trying to get you kicked out. I know how important this job is." He's not just saying it for Evan's benefit -- Chris is the reason he makes it out of bed every morning, but this job, with its adrenaline and camaraderie and sense that he's doing something important with himself, with his life... He honestly doesn't know what he'd do with himself if he didn't have this, and as annoying as Evan can be, it's always been clear to everyone that he shares that passion for the job.

"Yeah?" Evan looks hopeful, much less weighed down and much more willing to meet his gaze, and Eddie nods, relieved that after all this, it looks like 'I don't want to get you fired' is going to be enough to get Evan onside.

"Yeah, man. Look, neither of us has been at our most professional. Start again?" he offers, and Evan grins, previous wariness and antagonism completely gone like someone has flicked a switch. 

"Yeah! Yeah, that would be good. Great. Nice to meet you, I'm Buck," he enthuses, offering his hand, and, one, Eddie hadn't meant it to be quite so literal, and two, he knows exactly what the asshole is doing - but the gleam in his eyes is friendly this time, if mischievous, and he does have to admit that he was being a bit antagonistic himself.

"Nice to meet you, Buck," he acquiesces, accepting the handshake, and finds that the familiar, triumphant grin threatening to split Evan's- Buck's - face in two isn't quite as annoying as it was a few days ago. 

Chapter Text

Buck, it turns out, is incapable of holding a grudge. His 180-degree mood-swing is so obvious that Hen and Chimney corner Eddie to make sure he hasn't slipped drugs into his food, and him happily sliding so close to Eddie their thighs are pressed together manages to draw two raised eyebrows from Bobby.

He's not complaining, but it is a little bit... startling? Overwhelming? Eddie is no stranger to sharing close physical proximity with people; both the army and the station have him very used to living in his team's pockets. Packing into vehicles so tightly you can't help but bump against the people on either side of you, crowding onto a bench shovelling as much food into your mouth as possible while everyone basically sits on each other laps in an effort to get food down before the next emergency, stripping down in front of anyone who happens to be there at the same time, it's all background noise at this point.

Buck, though. Buck takes "tactile" a lot further. He's constantly bumping against Eddie as they walk - not out of malice like he previously has, but just because he seems to like being as close as possible. That appears to extend to basically any activity they take part in; sitting down for a meal, lounging on the couch playing GTA badly, just resting and talking to the rest of the team, whatever it is, Buck spends the rest of the shift practically glued to Eddie's side. A lot of teasing comes their way - Eddie adopting a puppy seems to be the main theme, because his teammates have never been known to let a joke die - but the good-natured ribbing just seems to add more power to Buck's mega-watt smile, and Eddie can't say he minds. The teasing or the contact.

He wouldn't ever go out of his way to touch anyone as much as Buck does, and honestly, if someone had told him before Buck arrived that the new recruit would treat Eddie's personal space as his own, he'd have said that wouldn't end well for anyone. But now, now that Buck has gotten over the whole... whatever it was, he can't say he hates it. It has definitely become apparent why everyone is so enamored with Buck even though he's still working through the whole sex-obsessed action-hero thing; he's really, really easy to like when he wants to be. And the way he touches Eddie, it feels so natural that he often doesn't even realize how far Buck has waltzed over his usual personal lines until he's been there so long Eddie has to admit he kind of likes it.

At first, he thinks that it's just Buck being relieved that things have settled onto "friendly" and the focus on him is going to go down to the level everyone else on the team gets. It takes a few weeks for him to realize that maybe they actually just click, when he's stretched out on the couch with only Buck for company listening to him chatter away, pressed together from shoulder to thigh in a way that feels completely comfortable despite being a position he would never let himself be in with anyone else.

"Hey, have you got Snapchat?" Buck asks, veering abruptly away from his previous rabbit-hole of infectious diseases.

"Uh, no."

"Instagram?"

"Nope."

"You should make an account. You'd get lots of followers, looking like that; people love a hot guy in uniform." The cocky smirk on his face tells Eddie all he needs to know about how Buck came to that conclusion, and he just rolls his eyes.

"Not really my thing, Buck."

"You're no fun. Look, hey, gimme your phone, I'll set you up accounts and you can follow me."

"...And the rest of the team," he adds pointedly, unlocking his phone and passing it over despite himself.

"Yeah, sure, them too," Buck mumbles, already tapping away at the screen. "What do you want your account name to be?"

"Um. I don't know. My name, I guess?"

"Eddie," Buck sighs. "Come on. A little creativity, please."

"Excuse me for having better things to do with my time than thinking up Instagram names," he says in exasperation. "I don't know, what's your name on there?"

"The same as my Tinder name."

"Okay, I've changed my mind, I don't want to know."

"It's Firehose92." His eyes are gleaming dangerously.

"Stop."

"Get it? Because I'm a firefighter and also I've got-"

"Buck!" he snaps, burying his face in his hands. "Díos mio, Buck, everyone gets it, please don't make me listen to you explain."

"What? I was just gonna say I've got a birth-year of 1992," he says haughtily, serious mask splitting into a grin as soon as Eddie gives him a weary look through his fingers. "...and also I've got a massive dick," he follows up, apparently unable to contain himself, grin only getting wider when Eddie moans in despair.

"Right, give that back," he snaps, throwing himself against Buck's side and grabbing for his phone. Buck yelps in surprise and twists away, stretching his stupidly long arm out to keep it out of his grasp.

"No, Eddie, come on, you need to join the future!"

"I am not letting you put a shitty sex pun account on my phone!" Buck wiggles around in his grasp and hangs his whole upper body off the arm couch, tapping furiously even as Eddie's body weight across his legs is the only thing keeping him from face-planting on the floor.

"Buck," he growls, trying desperately to ignore the very close view he has of Buck's ass. "I'll drop you on your face, I swear," he insists, even as he steadies him by sitting on his legs and grabbing his belt.

"Almost done," Buck grunts.

"Children!" Bobby calls from across the room, eyebrows raised and a bemused smile on his face, Hen and Chimney unapologetically staring at them over his shoulder. "Do we need to put you in time out?"

"No, Cap," Eddie and Buck chorus in unison, Eddie embarrassed and Buck unerringly cheerful. Eddie leans over and grabs Bucks shoulder, the other hand still tight on his belt, and heaves him up and back onto the couch. It's only when he has a lap-full of broad-shouldered man-child that he realizes how badly he hasn't thought it through.

Buck seems perfectly content where he is sprawled back against him, but Eddie is very quickly being reminded of how long it's been since he was this close to someone other than his family, and his body doesn't seem to notice or care that Buck is, one, a co-worker, and two, a man. Electricity snaps up his spine and sends the hairs on his arms standing on end, a shiver that's equal parts enticing and too much, and he doesn't know whether he wants to pull Buck in tighter of shove him away.

"Okay, you're up, now get off," he grunts, settling for staying as still as possible and pushing gently at Buck's shoulder. "And give me my damn phone back."

"Alright, alright, I'm done anyway," Buck says, flopping sideways onto the couch and tossing the phone over. "I already followed myself, you're welcome."

"Thanks," he says, coating the word in as much sarcasm as possible - not that it does him any good, because Buck just grins at him and settles himself into the couch, legs thrown across Eddie's lap.

Opting to ignore the close contact, he instead warily opens up his phone to see what kind of damage Buck has done.

Two new vaguely familiar icons stand out on the sparse home-screen, and he taps on the one with the camera at random, figuring Buck will have used the same name on both.

"EddieDiaz118," he reads out, looking up at Buck to confirm he's reading the right part and getting an easy smile in return.

"See? Nice and boring. But, y'know, I just want to make sure you appreciate how strong my self-control is," Buck says, bouncing his heels against Eddie's legs for emphasis. "I didn't put 'daddy' in your name even though it's completely truthful."

"I hate you so much, Buck," Eddie sighs, wishing he could make the words sound genuine. He doesn't miss clashing with Buck over everything, but he does wish sometimes that Buck would have retained at least a little bit of the arrogance that made it easier to keep him at a distance.

"No you don't!" Buck singsongs, relaxed against the couch - but there's a slight brittleness to his grin, a fragility to his confidence. Honestly, he hasn't objectively spent enough time around Buck to know whether he's putting up a facade - but all the same, he does know. Whether that's because Buck is as easy to read as a picture book or something else, he's not sure - but he does know that, as bright as Buck's confidence in other people's affection is, it's just as easy to send wobbling.

"No, I don't," Eddie agrees, and the startled, delighted smile he gets in return makes all the stupid, confusing moments worth it.

---

There are a lot of bad calls they have to go on. There's plenty of misery going around this world, and doing good means they have to wade right into the worst of it, into all the myriad ways someone's day can go from normal to the worst moments of their life.

Of them all, though, the worst are when he knows there are kids involved.

They're on their way to a drowning - a young kid, a seconds lapse in supervision, a pool gate not closed properly, his worst nightmare - and all he can think of is Christopher, of what he would do with himself if something happened, if he lost the person who taught him what love actually is. He can see the same strain on Hen's face, knows she's running through the same thoughts in her own head, but there's nothing either of them can say, so they don't.

Everyone else is quiet as well - kids are a tough call, even if you don't have any of your own - but Buck bumps a reassuring knee against Eddie's own when they settle in, and the warmth of his side against Eddies does help, a little bit, just like the uncharacteristic quiet that Buck is displaying.

Experience has taught him that it won't help at all if they have to go back to the station with the loss of a tiny life on their shoulders, but that's something he won't let himself think about until he has to.

It's only extensive training that keeps him seated until the truck has finished moving rather than throwing himself out at the first sign of it stopping, but once it has he's out of his seat and grabbing equipment, barely managing to keep behind Cap and match his brisk pace around the side of the house rather than bolting past.

Turning the corner, he steadies himself, ready for the bawling man he sees curled over a little body even as it makes his heart shudder, ready to help Hen and Chim coax a response from a limp and lifeless toddler - and then he sees a tiny leg move and the scene shifts and comes into bright, relieving focus. The sobs of gratitude choked into a phone squeezed tight, the kid alert enough to be squirming under their father's hand - the person on the other end of the line has talked them out of the worst of it already, and he's never been happier to be relatively superfluous.

He slows his steps, letting Bobby, Hen, and Chimney out ahead and settles into a slower pace at Buck's side. They walk together through the gate and then stop, there if needed but letting the rest of them do their jobs, Hen and Chim checking over the kid while Bobby calmly gets information out of the father.

"It's great when you turn up to these things and they've already got a handle on it, huh," Buck says with a smile, bumping against his side.

"Yeah. It's always a relief when the patient is in a better shape than you thought." Especially with kids, he doesn't say, but he knows Buck is thinking it, too. "Always makes you appreciate the people who take the calls. It's a tough job, walking people through emergencies when all you have is a phone."

"No, I know. Trust me, I know - I know it's not exactly the same, but my sister is a nurse. Talking people through things and keeping them calm, she always said that was hard." He hesitates. "Well, she was a nurse. She's looking for, uh, a bit of a career change. She still wants to help people, you know, and she's really good at it, she just... she's just looking for something a bit less... hands on, for now."

"Yeah? She local?" Eddie asks, partly to keep up the conversation and partly because he's starting to see a link that Buck might be missing.

"Yeah, yeah, she just, uh, she just moved over here. She's staying with me at the moment, actually, while she gets settled."

"Your job's keeping you both afloat at the moment, then," Eddie says, part of a puzzle he hadn't realized existed clicking into place.

"Um, yeah," Buck says, sheepish. "I don't- it's not a problem, though, obviously," he hurries to add. "I don't mind. I'm happy to be- to be there for her."

"Of course. I'd do the same for my sisters. Just, listen, let me know if I'm overstepping, but... What's she like on the phone?"

"Er... Fine? Good? Why?"

Eddie shrugs.

"Well, someone with medical experience, practice keeping herself and other people calm in stressful situations... She'd be an easy sell to dispatch, if she was interested in working on that side of things." Buck stares at him blankly for a moment and then his eyes widen in realization.

"Oh! Oh, dude, yeah! I don't know why I didn't think of that! She'd be great!" Buck is lit up, eyes sparkling almost as much as they do when they've just come off a job done well, and Eddie can't help but return his smile.

"Look, talk to her about it, and if she's interested, give her my number. I can't promise her a job, obviously, but I can get her in touch with the right people."

"Thanks, man," Buck says, throwing his arms around Eddie in a hug as if giving and receiving affection is just that easy, just that natural - and Eddie wraps his arms around Buck's chest and squeezes tight, just for a second letting himself live in that world too.

Chapter Text

The day after Eddie's introduction to the world of social media is his day off, and he’s relaxing in his living room, Christopher drawing enthusiastically on the table in front of him. Vibrations run down his thigh while he half-watches the nature documentary on TV, and when he pulls his phone out of his pocket, there's a Snapchat notification on his screen - Buck, he's assuming. He manages to successfully get the picture to open, and he's met with a picture of Buck beaming at the camera, "maddys interested, gave her ur no!" typed along the bottom. Eddie snorts and shakes his head, opening up his texts.

Glad to hear it. Is everything you say going to be accompanied by a selfie?

Only a few seconds pass before his phone is buzzing - Snapchat again.

yup!

There's a string of smiling emojis trailing the brief message, and a background of Buck sticking his tongue out at the camera, eyes crinkled at the corner with the force of his smile. Eddie doesn't even realize he's smiling down at his now blank phone in response until Christopher pipes up from the table. 

"Are you playing a game on your phone, dad?" he asks, peering over. "What is it?"

"Oh, no, I'm just talking to Buck," he explains. "From the station." Christopher's face scrunches up in confusion.

"I don't remember Buck."

"No, you haven't met him. He's new - the new firefighter I told you was coming, remember?" His face brightens in recognition.

"Oh! The one you don't like! Have you made friends?" Eddie winces - he really needs to learn that his kid actually remembers the things he overhears, now. Talking about everything on his chest with his abuela really needs to be restricted to when he can be sure Chris can't hear him. 

"I didn't not like him, mijo, I just, uh, didn't agree with him sometimes." Christopher gives him a knowing look, and Eddie sighs. "Anyway, yeah, we're - we've made friends. He was just sending me some silly pictures."

"Can I see?"

"Uh, no, I don't think so, Chris, sorry. The pictures go away after a few seconds."

"Oh." Chris frowns. "Well, can I see the next one?"

"Sure," Eddie agrees - he's 99% sure Buck has sent a dick pic on this app at some point, but he's also relatively sure that there's not much of a risk of Eddie being on the receiving end. He could, however, send something inappropriately worded for an eight-year-old, Eddie realizes, so he sends off a text to make sure Buck knows Chris is probably going to see whatever gets sent next.

Any chance of one more? Chris wants to see what you look like

He barely has a chance to worry about being weird or overstepping before Buck responds - an actual message, this time. 

you dont need to use your kid as an excuse to get more pics of my pretty face, u no ;)

A blush inexplicably burns his cheeks, but then the phone buzzes in his hand, a Snapchat notification jumping onto the screen. 

"Is that another picture?" Chris asks, looking up from his paper. Eddie nods. 

"Mmhmm. It'll only show up for a little bit, though, okay?" He gets up off the couch and slips onto the ground next to Chris, pulling him against his side and holding the phone where they can both see. Buck is smiling at the camera again, white teeth gleaming and a hand raised in a wave, text spelling out a greeting;

hi, Christopher! :)

"He knows my name," Chris giggles. 

"Of course he does. I talk about you at work all the time," Eddie says, punctuating the sentence with a tickle to the side that earns him a very teenage-sounding 'Da-aad!!!' and a smack on the arm. 

"Can we send him one?" Chris asks once they settle, looking curiously at the now picture-less screen.

"Sure, bud. C'm'ere."

 Chris leans happily against his side, smiling that picturesque smile at the camera and raising his hand in a wave while Eddie positions his phone and then snaps the picture. 

Chris says hi.

He hesitates, then makes himself add a smiling emoji and sends the picture. 

"There we go," he says, pocketing his phone and ruffling Christopher's hair. "One more co-worker successfully charmed by my kid." Chris laughs and picks up his discarded crayon again.

"Can I meet him?" 

"You will. He'll be at Bobby and Athena's from now on, I'm sure."

"Okay. He looks nice." 

"Yeah, he does," Eddie mutters, half to himself. Butterflies have taken up residence in his chest for some reason - the general nerves that come from introducing his son to someone who's inevitably going to have a big part in Eddie's life, he assumes. He really doesn't remember feeling this nervous about introducing Chris to the rest of the team, outside of the panic that he was going to end up disciplined or, worse, let go from a job he loved because he couldn't find anywhere to take him for the day. That's probably it, actually - there were more pressing matters back then than how well his son got on with his new co-workers, and he'd had no way, then, of knowing how often he'd be around them outside of work. 

That's the only reason it feels so different introducing Buck into his son’s life, he's sure.

---

Buck's sister - Maddy, she introduces herself as in her opening text - is cheery and friendly. They have a quick talk on the phone, to get an idea of what she's looking for and what she'll be able to bring to the table, and he has to admit, he's impressed. It's not that he thought she wouldn't be a good fit, but he knows within minutes that she'll do well behind a phone, talking people through disasters with an empathetic but in-control voice. He has no qualms recommending her, and his congratulations are genuine when Buck bounces into work one morning with the news that she's already doing well - "in charge of the place," is his unreliable phrasing. 

All the same, he half wishes he'd never helped her get a job, because only days after that news, Buck is moping around the station as if his life is over. 

"You can't have expected her to stay on her brother's floor forever, Buck," Eddie tries. "You've got, what, three roommates? Three male roommates? Of course she wants to find somewhere else."

"But the house hasn't been this clean since, since ever," Buck complains. "They'll all go back to being animals once she's gone."

"You know what would fix that, Buck?"

"What?"

"Teaching by example. Picking up the vacuum once in a while."

"I do!" he protests. "I'm the tidiest one there! But she won't even take me with her." He resumes his pouting, throwing himself dramatically onto the couch arm with a huff. "I'm a great roommate," he grumbles, apparently not done. "She'd be lucky to have me."

"I'm sure anyone would be lucky to have you as a roommate," Eddie placates, patting Buck's knee. "But, look, you've got a good job and everything, why don't you move out as well? Find some less animalistic roommates or, hell, get somewhere just for yourself. Then you can take your hook-ups there instead of sneaking around on rooftops."

"That was one time, Eddie," Buck growls. "...Well, I only got caught that one time," he allows, at Eddie's raised eyebrow. "Anyway, I haven't had sex on the job in ages." 

He's actually right, Eddie realizes; it has been a long time since Buck has had to be dragged away from a hook-up and made to actually do his job. He's been unapologetically flirty almost as often as usual, but actually stepping out on his duties hasn't been happening. 

"That's true," he admits. 

"Anyway, I'm tryin' to, uh, cut down on that, actually," Buck says quietly after a few minutes of silence. "The, uh, the hooking up thing, I mean. It's- it's, uh, it's not a great thing to- well, I'm getting kind of old for that, y'know? I want something... something more, I don't know, real. Sleeping with anyone who looks at me twice isn't really gonna get that for me, you know?"

"Yeah," Eddie agrees, startled at the way the conversation has turned. "Well, that's great, man. You looking at actually settling down?"

"I don't know how ready I am for all of that," Buck admits. "Not that I don't- it's not that I don't want that. Nice house, kids, the whole shebang, I always thought that would be nice. I just... I'm not really cut out for it, yet. I mean, my longest relationship has been with a woman I hooked up with a few times over a month," he says with a self-deprecating laugh. "I, uh, I need some practice before I think about that. But, an actual relationship, staying with just one person, it's a start, right?"

"Well, I wouldn't call it that when you're asking someone out, but yeah. I mean, every long-term relationship started with something, right?" He feels a little bit lost-at-sea right now - he wouldn't say that he'd never thought he'd be talking Buck through relationship problems, but he always thought he'd be giving advice centered around Buck accidentally getting himself caught in the middle of someone else's, not about how Buck should go about getting into one himself. It's awful of him, but it actually feels... uncomfortable, to be thinking about it. It feels bad, even, as shitty as that makes Eddie sound. 

It's just that it's unexpected, he tells himself firmly, and makes himself listen like any halfway decent friend should - even if Eddie is not the person to be giving any kind of advice on handling relationships. 

"Yeah, yeah, I just... don't really know how to get started. I mean, I'm great at getting people in bed, but the people I usually go for are, uh, not the kind of people who want to settle down, any more than I used to."

Eddie shrugs.

"You'd know more than me. Go hang out at a bar or something? I'm sure you just have to sit there and girls throw their numbers at you; try calling one of the ones who seems into more than just a one-off."

"Yeah, maybe," Buck says noncommittally. "I dunno, we'll see. But, actually, a new place to myself might be a good start." He perks up, pensive mood wiped away in a second. "What do you think, open plan or more closed off? I like open-plan more, but I could be persuaded by a nice enough place even if it isn't."

"I dunno, man, it's gonna be your place," Eddie says. "It's what you want that matters."

"Yeah, I still want opinions though!"

"Alright, then. Might wanna see what's actually out there?" 

Buck rolls himself back upright, leaning against Eddie and pulling his phone out of his pocket.

"Oh, yeah, we should, shouldn't we? Right, where would be the first place to look..." Buck trails off, tapping away on his phone. Eddie resigns himself to a good few hours going over every house in the area and ignores the warmth in his chest at Buck referring to the decision as theirs, as if Eddie's opinion matters at all.

You're just his friend, Eddie, he says to himself, and he almost believes it.