to be perfectly queer
“Did you know,” Buck asks, “That one in four people are queer?”
Chim narrows his eyes at the crowded station kitchen. “And yet there are 20 firefighters on this shift,” he announces, a little too loudly. “Fess up, people!”
“I hope it’s Eddie,” Ravi says. “He’s hot.”
“That man,” Hen says firmly. “Is straight. I would know.”
Buck’s face does something complicated. “Yeah,” he agrees, voice pitched a little too high. “Yeah. Totally.”
read on ao3
Most people don’t make a habit of betting against Hen’s gaydar.
It’s a well-honed thing — ”years of being a practicing lesbian have made you a perfect one” — Chim teases. In all her life, she’s never been wrong, (about this, and well, most other things) but mostly this.
It’s a relatively calm day at the station: they’re rounding out a 24 hour. Bobby is, as always, in the kitchen and Hen’s playing video games with Ravi as Chim smacks his gum and judges them silently. Ravi’s losing miserably, but Hen throws a red shell in his direction anyway.
They’re all pretty much bored out of their minds, so when Buck, walking disaster, comes trotting up the stairs like a golden retriever, practically wagging his invisible tail, she knows it’s going to be good.
“Did you know,” Buck starts, leaping beside Hen and waving his phone around like he won the lottery. “That one in four people are queer?”
Hen arches her eyebrow. “That seems a little high, Buck,” she says a bit doubtfully. “Maybe in California that’s true, but worldwide?”
Chim makes a tsking noise and narrows his eyes at the crowded station kitchen. “There are 20 firefighters on this shift,” he announces, a little too loudly. “Fess up, people!”
Buck blinks like he was about to say something and then thinks better of it, a hesitant expression knitting his eyebrows together, but ultimately just decides to pull up the exact statistic. “Okay, so it’s more like the vast majority of Americans think 25% of the population is gay, but,” he looks around. “Wonder if anyone’s hiding out for real.”
“I hope it’s Eddie,” Ravi says, finally acclimated to the 118’s supposed weirdness. “He’s hot.”
“That man,” Hen says firmly. “Is straight. I would know.”
Buck’s face does something complicated. “Yeah,” he agrees, voice pitched a little too high. “Yeah, totally.”
It’s no secret that Buck’s been pining for Eddie in some way since he joined the 118, but something about the tone sets off Hen’s warning bells. Before she can ask what’s going through his head, the man himself strolls up the stairs and heads for the coffee pot.
“Eddie,” Chim calls out. “What are you?”
Eddie stills, like he isn’t quite sure he heard right. “Um,” he looks down at his uniform before glancing up, eyebrows furrowed and head cocked to the side, trying to figure out what they’re about to laugh at him for without any context clues. “A Taurus?”
The bell goes. Hen gets into the ladder truck first while Buck ribs Ravi for something and a sleepy Eddie mourns the loss of his coffee. Beside her, Chim pulls out his phone from his pocket and types something before pressing send.
Hen and Buck’s phone buzz. It’s less than inconspicuous. Chim flashes them grin. 20 dollars he’s not.
She shakes her head, You’re on.
Buck rolls his eyes, casting a quick look in Eddie’s direction as if waiting for something, a sign from the universe maybe. The other man just blinks blearily, even though it’s 9 in the morning, and slumps against the window. Hen isn’t sure if Buck got his answer, but he sighs and texts back: Please leave me out of this.
It’s said with a smirk, so Hen thinks he means it like I feel like I have too many emotions to answer that question and not I’m going to go home and spiral about everything I’ve ever known.
“What are you doing?” Ravi cranes his neck to peer over Chim’s shoulder like Denny might. “Are you guys making another bet? You bet on everything.”
“They’re betting on whether Bobby ever hooked up with a guy in college,” Buck says, deadpan and into the headset so that everyone, including Bobby, has to picture Shatsky from Minnesota going at it in a dorm room in the mid-1980s.
Eddie cackles, but no one else really says much after that.
Hen forgets about it.
She has a life of her own; a puppy and a son who she loves; arguably the best wife in the entire fucking world. They make mac and cheese for dinner because Denny requests it and they’re all laughing while Hen’s mother comments fondly from the kitchen.
She’s trying to forget about it.
It’s when she watches Karen says something about zodiac signs that her will to not talk about gambling in front of Denny breaks — Hen’s mom is from Las Vegas, so it probably broke a long time ago, but Karen likes to pretend they have some semblance of control here — “Do you think Eddie’s gay?”
Karen lights up like Hen’s just given her another diamond ring. “Okay, so I have a couple theories about that!” She chirps. “Because the other day he was dropping Christopher off for a sleepover and we were talking about movies and he mentioned that his favorite character from Lion King was Scar? And if Scar’s not queercoded then I don’t know what-”
Hen refuses to believe what she’s hearing. Her own wife… “Babe,” she says. “He was literally checking the baseball scores at work yesterday. He doesn’t know the difference between RuPaul and Queer Eye. Even Bobby knows what a French Tuck is. How is he anything but straight?”
Karen turns from the pasta to put a hand on Hen’s arm. Arguably, she’s putting more thought into the situation than required, but Hen’s wife doesn’t do anything by halves. “You don’t have to fit a stereotype to be apart of the queer community,” she scolds lightly. “You know that, Hen.”
And...yeah she feels thoroughly chastised. “I just,” she frowns. She loves Eddie like a brother, he’s family after all, and she doesn’t want- “You don’t think I did something, do you? To make him feel like he can’t come to me?”
“I think Eddie’s story is Eddie’s to manage,” Karen replies, because she’s literally the smartest person in the world. “Don’t beat yourself up over that.” She pauses, stirs the mac-and-cheese once as if she’s over it. “Put me in for 50 on not straight though.”
Hen walks in to shift the next day and makes a beeline for the loft.
She checked the schedule, they’ve got about 30 minutes before Eddie turns up for shift to discuss everything. She puts the betting box on the breakfast bar in front of Chim; Ravi stares at it like it’s a sacred heirloom.
“I heard Karen put 50 on not straight,” Chim says. “How are you feeling? Thinking about dropping out yet?”
Bobby’s eyes grow wide. “Please tell me you weren’t being serious yesterday,” he pleads. “Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay.”
From the couch, Buck narrows his eyes. “That’s an awfully diplomatic answer, Cap.” He points a finger at him dramatically. “Almost like you’re hiding something.”
Bobby splutters at the accusation and Hen’s about to tell Buck to knock it off when he says. “Didn’t we all experiment in college?”
Buck literally shouts in excitement and starts chasing Bobby down the stairs demanding an explanation and maybe perhaps every single detail about Bobby’s college life. Hen’s trying to process everything while Chim texts Maddie and Albert about this new revelation, snickering the entire time.
“I’m confused,” Ravi pipes in. As if any of them have answers for him. “But I’ll put 20 dollars on Eddie being straight. That’s who we’re talking about here, right?”
“Yeah…” Chim draws out, shooting Ravi a look that can only be described as disgusted. “But why-”
“I like Hen better than you,” he says promptly. “Also, I don’t think Eddie likes me very much.”
Now it’s Hen’s turn to be baffled. “What does that have to do with his sexuality?”
“It’s what he deserves.”
With a sigh, Hen collects his bet as Buck trudges back up the stairs, tail between his legs like Bobby threatened to not let Buck and May hang out if he didn’t stop bothering him, and goes back to his spot on the couch, ignoring the rest of them.
Almost like he’s hiding something.
“Okay listen,” Chim starts. “Eddie can’t do math-”
“No gay person can do math.”
Chim looks like a man on a mission. “Um, first of all, your wife. And second, if you’d let me finish, I was going to say he can’t do math, drive, or cook. Quintessentially gay.”
“Or,” Hen counters. “He’s just extremely straight, and that all makes perfect sense.”
“I can cook, drive, and do math,” Ravi interjects. “What does that make me?”
Buck barely glances up from his book. “A nuisance.”
“Come on, Buckaroo,” Chimney makes his way over to him wearing a similar expression to Buck only moments earlier. “You’re saying Eddie hasn’t told you anything? I thought you two were best friends.”
Buck raises one very unimpressed eyebrow. It’s actually kind of concerning, not that any of them are going to stop meddling because of it. If Buck wanted them to stop, he would tell them. “I think if you want to know what Eddie’s told me you should ask Eddie.” His face morphs into something just a few shades away from fear. “No, wait-”
And for the second time in as many days, the man appears as if summoned. “Eddie, I’ve got a joke for you,” Chim calls, tripping over himself to get down the stairs. Ravi isn’t far behind, which makes Hen think that he’s a lot more like Chim than he ever was like Buck. “Four queers walk into a firehouse-”
“Alright,” she shoves the box back into her backpack and sits beside Buck. “What’s going on with you?”
She expects him to deny anything. Instead, he sinks back against the pillows with a wandering gaze that keeps drifting towards the first floor. “I think you all should’ve bet less money,” he says simply, and returns to reading about the Stonewall Riots.
On day five, Hen takes Buck’s advice.
Eddie’s sitting on one of the barstools scrolling through his phone with his eyebrows furrowed. It’s one of the few moments Buck isn’t glued to his side, even if they can hear him ordering Ravi around down below. Hen steals one of his carrots and waits.
“Eddie,” she says without preamble when he finally looks up to greet her. She tries to keep her voice level. “You’re straight, right.”
It comes out sounding more like a statement than a question and Eddie’s mouth opens slightly. He looks around to see if anyone’s filming. “Are you trying to hypnotize me?”
“Is that an answer?”
He quirks his eyebrows up, meeting Hen’s gaze with a challenging one of his own. Swiping out of what looks like a Wikipedia page, he leans forward. “Don’t you think I would tell you if I wasn’t?”
Eddie snorts, leaning back and glancing over the railing before looking back at her. “Fair enough,” he says. “Is that what you guys were betting on this whole time? I assume it wasn’t really Bobby’s-”
“You’re dodging the question, Edmundo,” Hen teases, because he doesn’t look annoyed. (Actually, the man’s got the least subtle facial expressions in the world, Hen knows he’s not annoyed). “I’ve got money on this.”
It’s getting to be bigger than Hen wanted. Ravi passed on information to his friends from B-shift and she can hear them gossip about it on their way out of the station; the other day, Bobby put a $20 on not straight and Athena told Hen it’s tearing their household apart.
She’s not above putting an end to the whole thing, in any way she has to. But really, she’d just like an answer.
“Listen,” Eddie’s smile wavers slightly, but it does. “I’m figuring it out. It’s not...most people don’t have a sexuality crisis in their 30’s. After they’ve been married to a woman who they had a kid with. But,” he smirks. “When I do figure it out, I think 50% of the cut seems only fair.”
He glares playfully as the rest of the crew makes their way up the stairs to start on lunch. “Chimney wants me to report you to HR.”
“Oh, I can think of a number of things you and Buck have done-” She clamps her mouth shut. “Have you told him any of this?”
His eyes flit over to Buck and he smiles. “I’m figuring it out.”
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