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Eddie doesn’t totally remember when it started, but ever since Chris has gotten into videogames with stories to them, Buck has been playing through them first – on Eddie’s behalf – to check the content. Eddie appreciates this service since he can’t really do the checking himself from their living room since that would defeat the purpose.

He doesn’t even remember the name of the current object of fixation, but Chris has been bugging him about it and so as he drives to the station, he does the thing he hates: he calls up the talk-to-text feature, and has Siri message Buck for him.

“Hey, are you on level three?” Eddie says, as clearly as he can.

As Siri repeats it back to him, the asshole in the lane beside him honks at Eddie, because he’s trying to merge into Eddie’s lane and Eddie is, y’know, following the laws of traffic and won’t let him in on a double yellow.

Buck texts back a few minutes later.

“Would you like me to read the message?” Siri asks Eddie.

“Yes,” he says.

“Buck says, ‘um that is a kind of weird thing to ask in a text but uh yes? Are you?’”

Am I what? Eddie thinks. I’m not playing the game, that’s the whole point, Buckley, Jesus.

“Would you like to respond?” Siri asks.

“Yes,” Eddie says, and then waits while she asks him what he would like to say. “No, obviously not? Let me know when you’re past it.”

Siri reads the message back to him and Eddie approves it for sending.

Buck doesn’t text him back for the rest of Eddie’s commute. This in itself doesn’t strike Eddie as weird, but things sure are bizarre when he gets to the locker room. Buck is lacing up his boots listlessly, and his eyes are red and he doesn’t look at Eddie when he comes in.

Buck sniffs when Eddie is opening his locker and quickly tries to hide it as a sneeze, muttering something about allergies when Chim makes a noise of curiosity.

“Hey, man, you okay?” Eddie asks, because the pollen count isn’t supposed to be that high today. Buck had specifically texted him about it over breakfast.

For reasons Eddie cannot fathom, Buck jumps to his feet, spine straight like it’s been electrified, and he glares at Eddie like he’s envisioning a thousand knives stabbing him at once.

“No, but you’ll be the first to know when I’m ‘past it,’” Buck snaps, and then flees the locker room.

Eddie and Chimney watch him go, matching bewildered expressions on their faces.

“What was that about?” Chimney asks.

“I have absolutely no idea,” Eddie says.


 

Buck does not talk to him for the rest of the shift. He doesn’t really talk to anyone else either, but he goes out of his way to avoid Eddie. It gets bad enough that everyone else notices. Chim, Hen, and Bobby’s efforts to ask Buck what’s wrong are met with frosty silence and when they try to ask Eddie, he’s still stuck in the awkward position of not having any fucking clue.

When they get off shift, Eddie tries to talk to him at his Jeep, but Buck ignores him. Eddie gets the impression that even if he were to throw himself behind Buck’s car as he backs up, Buck would not stop. Eddie is left staring after him in utter confusion and, well, hurt.

Eddie tries to call him when he gets home, but Buck doesn’t answer. Eddie hangs up without leaving a message and tries again. This time, it goes straight to voicemail.

Eddie considers calling Albert to ask, but decides against it. Whatever’s going on with Buck, he clearly doesn’t want to talk about it. Eddie decides to leave him in peace. He’ll just corner him on their next shift and badger the truth out of him.

Except, when he gets to the station for his next shift, Buck isn’t there. Hen and Bobby are in the locker room muttering about it, so Eddie falls directly into the conversation.

“Did you say Buck called in sick?” Eddie asks.

“Yeah,” Hen says. Her eyes are a little wide with worry.

“Has Buck ever taken a sick day?” Eddie asks.

“That wasn’t mandated by him being in the hospital?” Bobby asks. “No.”

“What’s he got?” Hen asks Eddie.

“I have no idea,” Eddie says. “He’s not speaking to me for some reason.”

Bobby and Hen shoot him the same confused expression Eddie’s been feeling with his entire soul for the past three days.

Nothing, whatsoever, becomes clearer when Chimney shows up.

He takes one look at Eddie, raises his eyebrow in a look that’s so very Maddie it’s almost funny, and then busies himself changing. Hen, Bobby, and Eddie reach the same conclusion at the same time.

“You know why Buck’s not speaking to Eddie,” Hen says, sidling up to Chimney.

“Yep,” Chimney says, and his voice is cool and devoid of the usual spark of joy he’s got. Eddie is suddenly nervous and doesn’t know why.

“Why not?” Eddie asks.

Chim’s jaw goes a little slack when he turns to look at Eddie. “Seriously?”

“What do you mean ‘seriously’?” Eddie demands. “What did I do?”

“Wow,” Chim breathes. He pulls on the last of his uniform and shakes his head. “That’s cold, Eddie.”

And then Chim leaves the locker room and from that point on he’s not speaking to Eddie either.

“Okay, seriously? What the hell did you do?” Hen asks.

“Hen, I swear to god, if I had any idea, I would tell you,” Eddie says.

She accepts this and gets him to come help her check the ambulance supplies.


 

Buck does not return to their shift. Looking like he might pull his hair out, Bobby tells them that Buck has been making shift trades with the people on B and C shifts and has been giving him the absolute flimsiest excuses about the whys. They haven’t been any sorts of excuses that Bobby can call him on, so he has no reason to deny the shift trades, but it’s making Eddie, Bobby, and Hen edgy.

Chimney doesn’t help. If he’s forced to talk to Eddie, he does it in icy, frozen tones that are so unlike him it makes Eddie want to throw him in a defroster.

Buck does not answer Eddie’s calls. He doesn’t respond to texts. When Eddie snaps and starts texting Albert just to make sure Buck’s alive, he gets a short “he’s fine” and then a little while later a “stop texting him. Please.”

And Eddie has no fucking clue what to do with this.

He makes it through two weeks of complete radio silence from Buck before Christopher starts complaining.

“Dad, when is Buck coming over?” he asks. “I miss him.”

“Yeah, I know, buddy, me too,” Eddie says. He hasn’t exactly told Chris that Buck has decided for unknown reasons to totally ghost him.

He thinks about it for a minute and then realises there’s nothing else for it. Buck isn’t working tonight, and neither is he. Bobby and Athena’s house is on the way to Buck’s.

He texts Athena to see if Harry might want to have an impromptu playdate with Chris and gets an immediate sure, which is at least something.

“Buddy, how do you feel about hanging out with Harry for a little bit?” Eddie asks.

“Where are you going?” Chris asks.

I’m going to go make Buck talk to me if I have to tackle him to the ground and sit on him so he can’t run away.

“I’ve just got some errands I forgot about,” Eddie says.

Athena asks no questions when Eddie drops Chris off at their house, which he really appreciates. Bobby raises an eyebrow at him, though, and Eddie must look helpless because he just nods. Bobby understands exactly where Eddie is going, which is nice.

Sort of.

Eddie runs through possible scenarios of what exactly he might have done to Buck to warrant this for the whole drive. He’s still coming up with a total blank by the time he gets to Buck’s door.

Albert answers when he knocks – Eddie can’t remember the last time he knocked on Buck’s apartment door, but it was sometime before Buck gave him a key – and when he sees that it’s Eddie, he shuts the door until just his face is visible.

“He does not want to talk to you,” Albert tells him.

“Yeah, well, tough shit because this has gone on long enough,” Eddie replies. It isn’t difficult for him to muscle Albert out of the way and barge into the apartment.

Buck is sitting on the couch watching something on Netflix, throw pillow hugged to his chest like it can protect him or something.

“Okay, Buckley, what the fuck?” Eddie demands.

“You should leave,” Albert says.

Eddie ignores him, as does Buck.

“What the hell did I do?” Eddie asks.

Buck unfolds from the couch and for a second Eddie thinks he’s going to hurl the throw pillow at his head.

“Are you serious?” he asks instead. His voice is tinged with acid and he stalks past Eddie up the stairs to his bedroom.

“Don’t you walk away from me!”

Eddie follows him up the stairs but Buck doesn’t turn around.

“We were talking about my kid’s video game and the next thing I know you disappear off the face of the fucking planet for two weeks!” Eddie says while Buck tries to hide in the bathroom.

Buck does not get the bathroom door shut. Instead, he rounds on Eddie, fire in his eyes.

“A video game?” he asks. “We were not talking about a video game, Eddie!”

“I was talking about a video game!” Eddie insists and to his complete shock, Buck looks like he wants to take a swing at him. “What were you talking about?”

He must look as shocked and confused as he feels because Buck stops looming over him quite so much.

Instead, Buck pulls out his phone and scrolls through it for something, then smacks it into Eddie’s chest and flops onto his bed with his back to Eddie. Now more confused than he’s been at any point over the past two weeks, he looks at the phone.

It’s a screenshot of their texting conversation from the day Buck stopped talking to him.

== 🚨Eddie🚨 ==

Super low pollen index today, good news!

Thanks, man

7:29AM

Hey, are you in love with me?

Sent with Siri

Um that is a kind of weird thing to ask in a text but uh yes? Are you?

No, obviously not? Let me know when you’re past it

Sent with Siri

==

 

Eddie stares down at the phone. It’s a miracle he hasn’t dropped it yet, because his fingers are numb. As are his legs. His arms. His entire body, really, with the exception of his stomach, which is making a bid for freedom out his throat. And his brain, which has provided him with a running dialogue of holyfuckingshitareyoufuckingkiddingmeisaidwhatohmygodohmygodohmygod.

When he can finally find the necessary physical coordination to speak, the first thing he says is, “Oh my god I hate technology.”

Buck scoffs.

“Buck, I am so sorry, that isn’t what I meant to text you,” Eddie says. Buck scoffs again and doesn’t sit up. He just stays on his side on his bed with his back to Eddie. “I was trying to ask you if you were on level three of Chris’s game. Siri obviously misheard me.”

“She reads the texts back, Eddie,” Buck says and even though Eddie can’t see his face, he’s pretty sure Buck is crying. “Would you just leave?”

“I was driving and there was loud traffic, I didn’t hear what she said,” Eddie explains.

Buck ignores him and for the first time in two weeks, Eddie thinks that’s totally fair. If he’d told Buck he was in love with him, only to immediately get shot down in the worst, rudest way possible, he’d stop speaking to him too.

It’s with that train of thought that it actually sinks in. Buck – under the impression Eddie had asked – is in love with him.

“You love me?” he asks. He almost hates how soft his voice goes.

“Don’t worry, I’m trying real fucking hard to get past it,” Buck grumbles and pulls one of the pillows over his head. “Go away.”

“Buck, I was talking about a video game,” Eddie says.

Buck doesn’t respond.

Eddie considers his options for a second. He circles around to the other side of Buck’s bed, the one he’s facing, and kneels on the mattress beside him before pulling the pillow off his head. Buck has definitely been crying if the red eyes and damp cheeks are anything to go by.

“Why won’t you just fucking leave?” Buck demands.

“Because I love you too!” Eddie snaps.

From his pocket, Siri pipes up to say “Playing U2” and then the opening notes of “Even Better than the Real Thing” start.

Eddie grabs his phone out of his pocket and hucks it. It sails over the railing of Buck’s loft and smacks into the brick wall and Eddie’s going to regret that a whole lot in a little while, but he’s not there yet.

For a long, charged moment, Buck just stares up at him in the ensuing silence.

When Eddie can’t take it anymore, he leans down and kisses him. Buck inhales sharply, parting his lips in the process. Before Eddie can think to take advantage of that situation, Buck does it for him. He pulls Eddie in closer by the back of the neck and lightly traces Eddie’s bottom lip with his tongue.

Eddie is just thinking about making himself more comfortable and stretching out next to Buck on the bed – rather than awkwardly hunching over like he’s doing now – when Albert calls from below, “Hey, Eddie? Do you want your phone back?”

Eddie grumbles and reluctantly stops kissing Buck. Buck doesn’t move and doesn’t take his hand off the back of Eddie’s neck. He just stares up at him like he wants nothing more than to drag Eddie back down again.

“Uh, no, thank you, Albert,” Eddie says.

“What if Chris tries to call?” Buck asks, and then thoroughly derails any of Eddie’s thought-trains by feathering kisses along Eddie’s jaw line.

“I’m just gonna leave it on the counter!” Albert calls. “And go check in with Howie!”

The sound of the front door closing and locking is loud enough to snap just a little bit of sense back into them.

“Did you seriously believe I would ask if you were in love with me over text, right before a shift?” Eddie asks Buck.

“It felt weird until the absolute rejection followed after it,” Buck says. His fingers are very distractingly toying with the short hair at the nape of Eddie’s neck.

“I cannot emphasise enough that I was talking about a video game,” Eddie says. “And I am so sorry.”

Buck hums. “Say the other part again.”

“I love you,” Eddie says.

Buck grins at him and pulls Eddie back into a proper kiss. “I like that part.”

“Yeah, me too,” Eddie says.

When he goes downstairs an hour or so later to check his phone, he’s relieved to find it’s just cracked. He’s going to have to replace it, which sucks, but it still works well enough that he’s got a text from Athena telling him they’ve invited Chris to spend the night. Despite technology’s best efforts, everything seems like it’s going to work out fine.


 

Buck is back the next time they have a shift and Chimney is talking to him again and everything is back to normal. Or, Eddie thinks as Buck comes into the locker room and greets him with a very soft kiss, a better, more improved normal.

“Looks like you two kissed and made up,” Hen says, the corner of her mouth twitching. “Literally.”

“We learned some very valuable lessons about texting, driving, and technology in general,” Buck says, but it’s clear from the way he says “we” that he means Eddie.

“How about ghosting people? Did we learn a lesson about that?” Eddie asks.

Buck gives him his brightest, most dimpled, aren’t-I-adorable smile in return and Eddie really has no choice but to kiss him.