#eddies life being a mess he needs to fix
the balcony scene is extreme foreshadowing of whatever scene they give us for buddie going canon no one can change my mind
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Alright, here it is: The meta post about Eddie Diaz and mother figures and how it all leads to Buddie (I think). Thanks to @yramesoruniverse for your help with this, and @kitkatpancakestack and @evanbucklies for inspiring it! I really have been thinking about this nonstop and had to get it all down. This got quite long, so I'll include a cut in order to spare everyone who doesn't want to continue reading!
We first get an idea of Eddie's complicated thoughts surrounding mother figures throughout his whole storyline with Shannon in season 2 when he romantically reconnects with her for Christopher's benefit. I do want to keep the focus here trained on Eddie in season 4, but I want to point out a season 2 line that is pretty fitting. As much as I don't want to use a Shannon quote as a starting point for a meta, I think this one is actually pretty useful: "...Eddie always knows what's best for everyone...God forbid you stop for a second and actually ask them what they need." While it's harsh and spoken out of spite, Shannon does make a point here which becomes relevant at the end of season 4.
We don't know a whole lot about season 4 Eddie (thanks writers) aside from the fact that he's working on being a single father (he tells Marjan in the crossover that he's "doing the whole single dad thing") and being a support system for Buck and the rest of the 118. Eddie's "arc" this season is moving on from Shannon and beginning to date again (a very small and limited arc, which hopefully season 5 will remedy). Of course, because it's Eddie, the core of this arc is him wanting what is best for Christopher. And it seems pretty clear that what Eddie thinks Chris needs is a complete family with a mother figure (note how he asks Bobby if he's "happy now, with Athena and the kids" and just assumes that Bobby is talking about Ana Flores), but the universe pushes against this idea throughout the whole season. There are a lot of examples in season 4 of unreliable mother figures (for example, the alcoholic mother who causes the wreck in Blindsided), but in order to save some space here, I'll list and discuss those in another post. The main thing I want to point out is that we've seen that mother figures aren't always perfect, and they aren't the end all be all that Eddie thinks. And canonically, the show suggests several times throughout the season that the partner that Eddie needs/wants and who is best for Chris is actually Buck.
In Breaking Point, while Eddie is on his date, it's Buck who is at home taking care of Christopher and getting him through his nighttime routine (which establishes that he knows the routine and has gotten Chris ready for bed before, hence the reference to his "cautionary tale"). On the date, when Ana says that no one has been in his life since Shannon passed away, Eddie noticeably looks uncomfortable (the will reveal makes this scene and that particular comment and Eddie's subsequent reaction so rich. Eddie knows that what Ana is saying is completely untrue, because the person he trusts most with his son is with him at that exact moment). Later, when Eddie tells Christopher about his new 'friend', he says "it's a woman." And...to be honest, what the hell was that? He could have said, "I'm dating someone" or "I have a girlfriend." But he says it like this? And it's weird...right? Christopher is the one who has to say "girlfriend." Also his tone of voice when he says it...it's suspicious to me. Anyways...Eddie talks with Ana about Christopher's reaction and her first instinct is to take a break and wait for Christopher to warm up to the idea so as to not cause him more pain. Meanwhile, Chris is out the door, in an Uber, and on his way to Buck, the person who actually gets Chris to talk about his feelings and who fixes the whole mess. So while Eddie is talking with Ana, Buck is playing a parental role AND promising Chris he isn't going anywhere, completely juxtaposing everything Ana has said and done in this episode (throwback to Fools, anyone?). Just like we see in 4x14, the perfect partner that Eddie is looking for is already putting in the work, no questions asked (and this is all before Buck knows about the will!). Yet Eddie is still trying to force it with Ana.
We see this again very briefly in Parenthood. Eddie and Buck are seen agreeing on parenting ideals on a call, similar to how we saw them work together in Future Tense to talk Chris out of playing video games. At the end of the episode however, when Chris asks to join the movie, Ana just jumps ahead and lets him in, not consulting with Eddie. Of course, this isn't a serious issue and Eddie is happy to have Chris join them, but it still carries on with juxtaposing Ana with Buck. It's also a bit interesting that Chris sits between them, parallel to the video game scene from season 3. But again, it's a very brief scene, so I don't know how much value it has overall.
We see all of this come to a head in 4x13 when Eddie becomes invested in the single mother and her son from the balcony call. Interestingly, this call happens after Eddie's conversation with Carla ("make sure you're following your heart"). On the call, Eddie flirts with the mom. This is interesting because we've seen many times in the past that Eddie...doesn't like flirting, especially on the job. Eddie openly flirting with the mom here may be his way of fighting against what his instincts are telling him Carla's comment was about (him liking Buck/a man). Eddie quickly becomes invested in Charlie (the son) and takes a liking to his mother because he relates to her. You can kind of see the gears working in Eddie's head when he's at their apartment...he's admiring her and perhaps maybe fantasizing about having a partner who gets it. And he sees a mother taking care of her son...reinforcing his love for the mother figure. But of course, we all learn by the end of the episode that this mother figure is extremely warped and not at all what her child needs.
The best part about this plot is the way it plays into the shooting scene at the end of the episode. Just before he gets shot, we see Eddie in an interesting framing choice (I am genuinely serious when I say that I want to sit down with Brenna Malloy and ask her about her directing choices for this whole scene):
The mother and son are placed into separate ambulances, and Eddie stands between the two vehicles. Visually, Eddie is literally placed between the mother figure and the son, and Buck is standing in front of him (at a slight distance). As (thank you to @kitkatpancakestack for pointing this out!) the ambulance with the mother drives away, Eddie says "shoulda gotten here sooner" to Buck (who replies, "That kid is just lucky he met you." He knows how to reassure Eddie and recognizes what is good for the child). Then of course, Eddie gets shot. But let's focus instead on why this framing before the shooting is important: the universe does scream, and it sure as hell was screaming at Eddie this whole episode. Carla calls him out for not following his heart, he idolizes this mother only for her to end up being horrid, then he gets shot with his partner standing right in front of him (you know, the same person who takes care of his son for the entirety of the next episode).
This can be read so plainly: Eddie has been fighting hard for what he thinks is best for his son, and he's stuck in this relationship with Ana because he thinks she is what will make Christopher happy. Meanwhile, Buck is in front of him and has been there the entire time putting in the work with Chris and making him feel heard, loved, and important. This ties right back to that Shannon line: if Eddie had simply asked Christopher what he needs/wants, it's very possible that his answer would be "Buck." Eddie doesn't need to be stuck in the middle of this relationship he doesn't care about because Chris' happiness is not dependent on having a mother figure.
Of course, we didn't see very much of Eddie in 4x14 so we don't really know what is going through his head regarding the shooting or Carla's comment just yet, but I'm hoping we see a lot of him working through all of the events that took place in 4x13/14 throughout next season. Because of the way the mother/son storyline ended up and the way they framed Eddie in the shooting scene, I'm willing to bet that he's going to be reevaluating just what Christopher needs and what he already has (with his Buck).
(Also side note--the welcome home party scene...when Buck is watching Eddie greet Christopher, notice the framing there too. The photo of Chris and Shannon is on the right side of the frame, Eddie and Chris in the middle, and Buck to the left. You already know what I'm going to say, so I'll leave it at that...)
Anyways. Edmundo Diaz is confused about what he and Christopher need, and it's actually a brilliant way to dive into a storyline about his sexuality and his feelings for Buck. Remember that post-finale interview with Tim where he said Eddie is always concerned with what's best for Christopher? That there will be a lot to explore with Eddie? I take everything Tim says with a grain of salt, but looking at all of this, there's quite a bit here pointing in the direction of pining Eddie. It's not wishful thinking, it's in the text.
I'm literally just applying basic film analysis to these scenes...and everything is adding up to a larger picture. I'm really excited to see what Eddie's arc in season 5 will be because there's so much set in place for it to be really great.
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buck x fem reader work together / secretly dating but they act like they hate each other and the team doesn’t know. reader is also bobby’s daughter (or niece up to you) and scared of his reaction (prompts 17, 37, 42, 81)
Evan Buckley x Reader
Prompts: #17: “We shouldn’t be doing this”, #37: “Uh why is your shirt inside out?”, #42: “I love you”, #81: “I can explain”
Warnings: fem!reader, worrying, vulgar/suggestive comments (kinda but not really ?), suggested sexual content, a few swear words, kissing, mentions of hospitals, surgery and injuries.
Category: fluff with a lil angst
Word Count: 4.4k
Author's Note: I wrote it as bobby’s niece, it just made more sense :) hope you liked it!!
Evan Buckley was a pain in your ass.
He had been since the day you met him. His annoyingly attractive face, his stupid pretty blue eyes and his smile, not to mention how sweet he was. You couldn't help but hate him. Not in the typical “I hate your guts and hope you fall down a flight of stairs” way but in the “god you’re gorgeous and I want to marry you” way.
Did you plan on liking the ridiculously attractive firefighter ? Most definitely not.
Were you also planning on dating him in secret ? Also a no.
Hence why you were sitting in his jeep on a Saturday at 3 in the morning. The two of you had gone on a date to this little restaurant outside of the city but everything that could go wrong kind of did go wrong.
Buck’s shift was supposed to end at 6 but they got a call last minute so he didn’t get home until 7:30. You called to push the reservation back and when he did pick you up, you got stuck in traffic. By the time the two of you got to the restaurant, it was 8:30 and the woman said she called to see if the two of you still needed the reservation but there was no answer (she didn’t call but neither of you were in the mood to argue) - Now it's 9 pm and the two of you still haven't had dinner. Venturing down the block, there was nowhere that seemed appealing. The night really began at some random mom and pop dinner you spotted by the beach. Deciding to have your own little dinner date on the beach, it was now 9:30. Buck had a blanket in the trunk (you didn’t ask why nor did you really wanna know) and you sat on the beach and had dinner. Time flew by, it was around 1 when the two of you began wondering what time it was.
The date was now prolonged by Buck’s craving for something sweet so once again, the two of you were on a hunt but for somewhere to go. He googled the closest ice cream parlour but most places were closed, he searched until he finally found a place that was 20 minutes away. It was totally worth the drive considering it was some of the best ice cream you've had in your life. Which now brought you to 2:20 in the morning, the two of you were still sitting on the hood on his jeep, a container of half eaten ice cream between you.
Buck looked over at you, a smile on his face. “Did you have fun ? despite, you know, all the shit that went wrong ?” you chuckled, “I did.” Buck had a shift at 11 so it was time for the night to come to an end. One of his hands held yours and the other on the wheel, you were staring out the window as the breeze blew by.
“Something on your mind babe?” Buck asked you, glancing over at you as you turned towards him.
“We shouldn’t be doing this” you mumbled, you didn’t want to end things with him but that didn’t mean that you didn’t have doubts about where this relationship was going. “What do you mean ?” he asks, his eyes on the road. “I mean how long are we going to hide this from everyone ?” your eyes back out the window, Buck sighed and the conversation dropped. There were a few minutes of silence and the tension filled the car, Buck finally spoke up “you were the one that didn’t want to say anything.” his voice came off a bit harsher than you expected, letting go of his hand, your body shifted towards the door and way from him. He noticed your change in emotion and seating.
“Babe, I'm sorry. It's just that you didn’t want to say anything and it’s entirely your choice. I get it but we can figure it out. One step at a time, okay ?” Buck looks over at you when he pulls into the parking lot. “Yeah, I know. It’s fine.” leaning over the console to press a kiss to his cheek. “Good night Buck, thank you for tonight” you give him a smile and get out of the jeep. Buck follows you, “let me walk you up,” he grabs your wrist, the two of you stopped in the middle of the parking lot. “That’s fine, I'll text you so you know I’m okay. You need to get home anyways, you have a shift and you need your sleep” shaking your head, you pull your hand away from him and head inside before he can ask again.
He was right, it was your choice not to say anything but you weren't sure how your uncle would react. This relationship wouldn't just affect your relationship with him but also his relationship with Buck. You didn’t- couldn't let Buck jeopardize his work life for his love life.
Shutting the door once you get into your apartment, you send a text to your boyfriend.
To Lover Boy Buck: I’m home, text me when you get home. Sleep well <3
From Lover Boy Buck: Just pulled in, goodnight babe
Athena’s birthday was on Saturday and Bobby had planned a surprise party for her. With a little help from May, things were in place.
Bobby had taken Athena out for lunch at some fancy cafe that was impossible to get into and then to see a play. While they were out, you headed over to their place to help May set up. Upon arriving, you saw that Hen was already there as was Buck.
“Good afternoon my loves!” you shout as you walk over to the kitchen. “I come with coffee” you hand a cup to May and the other to Hen, the two are thankful for the coffee as you had a shit ton of decorating to do and only a few hours to get it done. Buck leant against the wall by the kitchen entryway, “where's mine?” he asked which made you roll your eyes. “Didn’t know that you were gonna be here, no one invited you anyways.” you reply, sorting through the packages of balloons on the table, you toss one and it hits him square in the face.
“Ow!” he shouts, rubbing his cheek.
“Oh did I hurt you ?” you ask, pouting at him mockingly.
Considering the weird note that the two of you left on during your last date, plus not being able to see each other that week left things in a bit of a mess.
May and Hen exchange glances, “Buck, how about you help put up the banner in the backyard ?” she practically dragged Buck by the arm and into the yard. May was in the kitchen icing some cupcakes that she and Harry had made the night before when she called for you.
“Why don't you get along with Buck ? I don't know him all the well but he seems like a good guy” May pleads his case unintentionally.
He is a good guy
“Ever meet someone and you just don’t like them ?” you ask, she hums. “That’s me with Buck” is what came out instead.
“I get it.” she nodded, she began telling you about a guy in her chemistry class that just got on her nerves all the time. You excused yourself when the doorbell rang. Chim and Maddie had arrived right as Karen pulled into the driveway with Denny and Nia. You let everyone in and they began helping too. About an hour later, Eddie arrives with Chris and the cake. You take the cake from him so he can help Chris with his jacket.
“Buck!” you shout
“Yeah ba- yeah ?” he corrects himself last second. Your eyes widen at the word that almost slipped out of his mouth. No one seem to catch it except for Chim who gave you a weird look but you just brush it off.
“Take this, I need to change.” you hand the cake off to him and head to the bathroom to change into your dress. A few moments later, there was a knock on the bathroom door and then it opened.
“Hey! I'm chang- oh it’s just you” you mumble as he shuts the door. Buck’s back pressed up against the door. “Are you just gonna watch me or are you going to help me?” you turn, your back towards him now. Pulling your hair over your shoulder, you feel one of Buck’s hands on your waist and then the tug of the zipper.
“Must you always fight with me, y/n ?” he presses a kiss to your shoulder, his arms wrapping around your waist. “Must you always get on my nerves, Evan ?” you were looking back at him in the mirror, he flashed you a smile and nodded, a rather amused look on his face. “Yeah, it's kind of my job to irritate you” his arms loosen as you turn around to face him now, leaning back against the counter. “Well I guess then I have to fight with you” running your hand through his hair, he leans into you, his forehead against yours.
“You know, they say make love, not war” he whispers, his lips almost touching yours. A little chuckle slips past your lips, “is this your way of saying that we should stop fighting ?” you mumble as you press a kiss to his lips. Buck pulls you closer to him - which you didn’t even think was possible, “no, it’s my way of saying we should make love” he smiles against your lips as he lifts you up onto the counter and you let out an obnoxiously loud laugh. “Oops” a hand comes up to cover your mouth. Buck can't help but smile, you were adorable and all he wanted was to go out there and tell everyone that he’s in love with you, something he hadn't even told you yet, but at last, he could not.
“You’re cheesy, you know that right ?” looking up at him whilst you fiddled with the hem of his shirt. “If you want to fuck me, just say so” he tells you to which you reply “you're so vulgar Evan” while rolling your eyes.
“Oh I'll show you vulgar” he chuckles and pulls off his shirt, his hand reaching behind you to unzip your dress.
Buck left the bathroom first, the house had filled up within the 20 minutes the two of you were in the bathroom. He ran his hand through his hair in hopes to fix it from the tugging that just happened. As he stepped out into the backyard, his sister’s voice called out to him.
“Buck!” she walked over, “you’ve been so busy I haven't gotten a chance to say hi yet” she pulls her brother into a hug. Maddie’s face screws into a confused look. “Did you try a new body wash or something ?” she looks up at Buck, his brows furrow but he shakes his head. “Why?” he asks, “you smell like mint” she informs him.
You step out into the backyard, a tube of mint chapstick between your fingers, being applied to your lips. Buck’s eyes were on you, watching as the tube rubbed across your lips, his mind back to those lips were moments ago. Chimney’s voice caused him to pull his eyes away from you and onto him.
“Uh why is your shirt inside out?” Chim asks him, brows raised. Buck looks down and his shirt is on inside out, “uh, I- uh I had to change.” he says, hoping they’d believe him.
“You had that shirt on when we got here.” Chim had a puzzled look on his face.
“Oh Christopher is calling for me, excuse me” Buck walks off before they could say anything. He did indeed make his way over to Eddie and Chris, you were on the other side of the backyard when your phone chimed.
From Lover Boy Buck: Couldn't you have told me my shirt was on inside out?
To Lover Boy Buck: And how was I supposed to know that ? I didn’t have time to look at you
From Lover Boy Buck: Oh really ? You had plenty of time a few minutes ago
To Lover Boy Buck: Behave.
From Lover Boy Buck: Make me.
You roll your eyes at his comment, May coming out and shouting that they just pulled in. Everyone stood by the backdoors, waiting for Athena and Bobby to come in.
Athena had a blindfold on as Bobby led her down the stairs to the backyard. “I swear if you did somethin-” he undoes the blindfold mid sentence.
“Surprise!!” everyone shouts, Athena had a huge smile on her face. She turns to Bobby, “you did all this ?” he smiles but shakes his head, “I had some help” nodding towards May, Athena walked over to her daughter to give her a hug. Bobby and Athena went around to say hello to everyone, Bobby coming over to you and Eddie, Buck and Chris were sitting beside each other. “Hey” Bobby smiled at the two of you, “hey” you smiled back before you gave him a hug.
“What do I own you for today ?” he asks you
“Nothing at all, I'm glad I could help.”
“Are you sure kid ?”
“Yeah, I'm good. I’ll let you know if I need something uncle Bobby”
He smiles and goes off to talk to Chim and Maddie. Eddie switches places with Buck, Christopher showing his father the trick that Buck just showed him. “You’re good with kids” you tell him, “yeah, I know” he replies. “You're also an arrogant asshole but perspective I suppose.” Buck chuckled at your comment, watching as you walked away.
It was a while before you sat down for dinner, you were in the house with Bobby, helping him bring stuff out while everyone got seated. When you returned, there were two seats left. One at the head of the table, which was where your uncle was currently headed, leaving you no choice but to sit beside Buck. “Pass me the green bowl ?” he asks you, “no thanks” you reply nonchalantly. Bobby gives you a look, “y/n, pass him the bowl” you sighed and handed the bowl to Buck who was snickering. It took all of you not to smack this man in front of everyone.
A hand on your upper thigh startled you, you coughed and Eddie looked at you from across the table, his brows furrowed. Your hand comes down to rest on top of Buck’s. Chris followed his father’s look over to you, “are you okay y/n?” he asked you sweetly, you smiled at him. “I’m okay buddy, thank you for asking” Buck bit the inside of his cheek, holding back a smile. Oh how he wanted to kiss you right now, but again, he couldn't really do that, could he? He settled for holding your hand under the table like teenagers for now.
8 o'clock and you were supposed to be there 20 minutes ago. Bobby was probably there wondering where you were. You were supposed to be having dinner with your uncle tonight to tell him about you and Buck. Buck offered to tell him but you felt like it was only right for you to tell him.
You dialled the number but it rang out. You assumed he was still driving or maybe he was ruining late too. The phone rang while you searched for something to wear. It was Bobby.
“Hey!” you answer, “I'm gonna be a little late”
“Y/n, we’re gonna have to take a rain check on dinner.” Something was wrong, you could tell from the way he answered.
“Everything okay ? Are you still at work ?”
“I’m at the hospital.”
“What? Why? Are you okay ? Is it Athena ?”
“Athena and I are fine. It’s Buck, he’s in surgery right now. I don't think I'll be leaving anything soon. I’m sorry about dinner.”
Your heart dropped when he said it was Buck.
“Did anyone tell Maddie ? Do you want me to pick her up ?”
“It's alright, Chim went and got her. You don't have to come, we’re ok-”
“I’ll be there in 10 minutes”
Grabbing the keys, you’ve never run down the stairs so fast in your life. The whole drive over, it felt like the world was moving in slow motion. He’d still be in surgery when you arrived but you needed to know what happened.
I love you Evan Buckley.
The 5 words replaying in your head over and over again. The 5 words you hadn’t gotten the chance to say to him. The team plus Maddie and Athena were in the waiting room. Bobby came over and gave you a hug, “is he okay ? Did you guys hear anything ?” you ask as you sit beside Maddie. “Not yet” Bobby returns to his seat.
“Mads, I'm sorry” you gave her a hug, she gave you a small smile. “It’s okay. Buck’ll pull through. He always does.”
3 hours later and still nothing, he had been in surgery 2 hours prior to you arriving, bringing it to a total of 5 hours. Athena and Bobby left for a few minutes to see if they could get an update on him. You looked around the room, Eddie was leant against the wall, his legs on the chairs in front of him, Hen stood by the window on the phone with who you assumed was Karen. Chim’s arm was wrapped around Maddie, her head resting on his shoulder.
Bobby and Athena returned telling everyone that there was no update other than he was still in surgery. Your leg bounced as you waited, Bobby rested a hand on your knee when he sat back down.
“You okay kid ?”
“Mhm hm why ?”
“You only bounce your leg when you’re nervous. You’re sure you’re okay ?”
“Yeah, I'm gonna go get some coffee” you announce as you get up. If you spent another minute in that room, you were going to combust, you couldn't take it. “Does anyone want anything ?” there were a few mumbles of no but Eddie gets up and says he’ll come with you. The two of you walk down the hallway to the other end. Slipping a bill into the machine, it buzzes and then nothing. Eddie watches as you push the button a few times. Frustrated and tired, your hand smacks against the machine. A few nurses glare in your direction.
“Hey, go get some air okay ? I’ll get the coffee and meet you outside” Eddie’s hand on your back, leading you to the doors.
“Eddie, I'm fine”
“Y/n, go. You’ve been in here for a while and honestly, I could use the air too.”
Not in the mood to protest, you step outside. It was a little past 11 now, it was dark and cold out. Your back pressed up against the brick wall, the coldness seeping through your shirt. A hand running over your face in an attempt to wake you up, you sigh as the door opens.
“Here” Eddie handed you a mug that didn’t look like it came from a machine. The mug read “#1 nurse” on it and his says “world’s best mom” your brows furrow, looking at the man standing beside you. “I sweet talked one of the nurses, it's fine. I promised to return the mugs when we're done.” he says casually, making you smile. You had always enjoyed Eddie’s company, he didn’t ask questions or poke around in your life, he just lived in the moment.
“Cute shirt” he chuckles, looking down at the blue t-shirt you had on. You hadn't realized that you left wearing it. “Oh thanks” you mumble, taking a sip of coffee. “It’s Buck’s, isn't it?” he asks, you almost choked on the coffee.
“Wha- why would you ask me that ?”
“It reeks of his cologne,” Eddie chucked. “I’ve known for months, y/n. The two of you aren't as slick as you think.”
“Who else knows ?”
“No one that I know of, Chim has an idea but he hasn't said anything”
You hummed, looking out at the parking lot in front of you. “Does Bobby know ?” Eddie’s eyes practically burn into your side.
“I was going to tell him tonight.”
Eddie’s phone buzzed before he could say anything else. “Let’s go in, the doctors are out.” Eddie followed you into the building and back into the waiting room. The doctor has just stepped in, she glanced back at you and Eddie, “Are you here for Buckley as well ?”
“Yeah, how is he?” Eddie asks, the two of you step further into the room. “He’s stable as of now, we managed to stop the bleeding. He’s asleep but he’s got a long road ahead of him.” the doctor inform everyone, you watch as Maddie lets out a sigh, her hand squeezing Chim’s. “I can take someone in, if they’d like to go in” Chim let go of Maddie’s hand as she went to follow the doctor down the hall. Eddie could sense the change in body language, you were relaxed until Maddie stepped out with the doctor. His hand rests on your back again, “let’s sit down. You can go in after” he whispered to you. To anyone else in the room, it would look like something was happening between you and Eddie but he was just comforting you. There was nothing happening.
The person you were in love with was laying in a hospital bed at the other end of the hallway.
One by one, everyone went in to see him. Chim went in first, meeting Maddie in his room. When they return, they let everyone know he’s awake. Bobby and Athena are next, they go in for a few minutes. Hen was after them, you could hear them laughing from the other end of the hallway.
It was so good to hear him laugh.
You and Eddie went in last. Eddie sat beside his bed on the chair, he and Buck having a conversation. Eddie looked over at you, you were standing by the door. “I think I'll go call Chris and let him know you’re alright” Eddie pats Buck’s shoulder before stepping out the room.
Buck’s attention was now on you. “hey you” he mumbles, trying to shift into a sitting position. “Don’t move, you’ll rip your stitches.” you take a seat where Eddie was a few moments ago. Buck’s hand reaches for yours, although he was awake, his hand felt cold. Your hand rubbed against his, his eyes on you. Neither of you say anything to the other.
“I thought I lost you for a minute there.”
“You’ll never lose me, y/n” Buck’s hand squeezes yours.
“But I almost did and I hated every minute of it.” the tears welling up by your eyes, you blink a few times to get rid of them but instead a few slip down. Buck reaches up to wipe your tears, his hand cupping your cheek.
“All of this for me ?” he teases, “there was no need to worry, you know that, right?”
“You scared me you ass, don't do that” you sniffle, your hand wrapping around his wrist.
“Y/n, I need to tell you something” his eyes were on yours, now you were worried again. “Okay, what is-”
“I love you” he blurts out.
“Oh Buck” you breathe, the soft expression on his face changes to a worried one. “Oh god, I'm sor-” your hand comes up and covers his mouth.
“I love you too” you smile at him, you can feel him smile against your hand. Moving your hand to his cheek, “you do ?” he asks, you nod. “How can I not ?” Leaning out of the chair, your lips meet his. Your hand is still cupping his face and his hand lifting off the bed to meet your waist. Shifting from the chair to the bed, you sat beside Buck, your lips still on his.
“Excuse me?” someone clears their throat, Buck pulls away to look at who's by the door. Bobby stood in the doorway, his arms folded in front of him and a rather amused Athena beside him. Buck’s eyes widen, you look over your shoulder to see your uncle standing there.
“I can explain. Bobby I-” Buck starts, but Bobby cuts him off. “It’s okay Buck, I know.” he steps into the room.
“You do?” the two of you say at the same time, both of you looking at him. Bobby nods, “I might be old - well older than you two but I’m not dumb” he chuckles, “if anything, you two are the dumb ones for thinking I wouldn't know.” he says
“I was going to tell you at dinner”
“I figured as much, I also figured you’d want to be here when Buck woke up”
“Thank you for calling” you smile at him, he gives you a nod. “Everyone is heading home, are you going to stay with him ?”
You hum, your attention back on Buck. You could hear Athena and Bobby whispering in the back and then the door shuts. Buck shifts slightly on the bed, making space for you. Laying on your side, beside him, your finger traces over the words tattooed on his forearm. The world had come to a pause finally, the things around you didn’t matter right now. Everything you cared about was beside you, the hospital wasn't the ideal place but all you cared about that he was okay.
“Tell me again” you whisper, your head on his shoulder. Buck turns his head to look at you.
“I love you y/n l/n”
“I love you Evan Buckley”
Turns out you did get to say those 5 words after all.
Taglist: @reiidsbby @ssa-volturi @advicefromnixxxx @dralexreid @keenmarvellover @venusrosepetal @mikaelson-emma @beth-winchester21 @averyhotchner
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your faith just won’t die
eddie/buck, 5x04 spoilers
Warzones are my thing.
The words carry him through most of his life.
Home was a warzone of its own; minefields of his father’s temper, a constant litany of men don’t-, and his sisters screaming with their mother. Eddie learns where to tread to stay safe, to stay under the radar.
(Then, with Christopher and Eddie’s choices, it stays a warzone and Eddie doesn’t know how what to do or to say that won’t make the danger continue, a constant itch under his skin he can’t shed.)
Life with Shannon never stopped being a warzone right up until she died. A mess he helped build, and one he couldn’t negotiate a surrender for no matter how many times he tried, and god does he try.
(He desperately wants to make peace, for Christopher, and for Shannon, but he never thinks about what he wants, what he needs.)
Afghanistan is the literal warzone. It’s thick with sand, gunfire, and the smell of blood and dirt, cloying and difficult to shed. Eddie wears his time there like a shroud, something he can’t shake but he can bury, shoving it deep in the recesses of his mind because he just can’t.
(It carries with him into the 118, I’m an army medic always on the back of his tongue like a mantra, a reminder, a phantom he can’t rid himself of.)
The 118, LA, isn’t a warzone until someone makes it one. Until a bullet digs its way through skin, muscle, and bone, blood - his blood - covering Buck’s face, Eddie’s uniform, the tarmac. Eddie feels uncomfortable in his own skin, tries not to jump at random sounds, look over his shoulder every second. He doesn’t want this to be another weight dragging him down.
(PTSD, Buck says.
Warzones are my thing, Eddie says, but never you’re wrong.)
Warzones are Eddie’s thing because that’s all he knows.
The peace Ana brings, the comfort and smiles and happiness she tries to fill his life with feels alien and uncomfortable, a family he can hold and keep if he just reaches for it. It’s what he should want for himself, a sense of peace he’s always wondered if he’s allowed.
Warzones are my thing.
The breakup is messy in ways Eddie doesn’t forsee, but it’s easy, almost too easy, but between one day and the next she’s gone behind a quietly closing door.
Chris says, okay when Eddie tells him, but he’s not upset.
Warzones are my thing.
Except Chris isn’t a warzone, he’s never been a warzone. He’s the tiny slice of peace that Eddie’s managed to carve for himself. Keeping Chris safe, making sure he’s happy, cultivating his world into something that doesn’t resemble the constant battle Eddie’s made for his own life.
Warzones are my thing.
Except Buck isn’t a warzone.
“You’re the guy who likes to fix things,” Eddie says, and it’s a plea he doesn’t understand. “Maybe she needs taking care of.”
Eddie’s never been cared for, let himself be cared for. He lives in a warzone, a constant battle to be better, to be somebody worthy of Christopher, to make his mother’s words (don’t drag him down with you) stop ringing in his ears.
Warzones are my thing.
Means something different when
Buck saves his son-
Buck digs into dirt because of Eddie-
Buck rolls under a truck, holds Eddie together and begs I need you to hang on-
Eddie hangs on because it’s what he does; I’ll always come back to my family.
“Warzones are my thing,” Eddie repeats, when Buck’s right there, black eye turned yellow, a bruise that Eddie wants to make better, to take away.
“They don’t have to be,” Buck says, asks, begs. He steps into Eddie’s space, into the dirt and smoke and war. Eddie’s heart feels like its own drumbeat of apprehension but he doesn’t know why. “You deserve peace.”
“I don’t,” Eddie whispers.
The only peace he knows is Christopher, Buck.
Buck looks devastated. He touches Eddie’s shoulder, his neck. “Why?”
The words bring Eddie up short; he stares, feels a cold shiver run down his spine. The words, “they’re all I know,” tumble from his mouth before he can stop them.
“They don’t have to be,” Buck says again. “Not with Chris. Not with, with me.”
Eddie desperately wants that to be true. “Buck-”
“This isn’t me fixing you,” Buck says.
Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.
Eddie doesn’t think he needs fixing. “I just want to feel safe,” he admits.
“Am I safe?” Buck’s fingers twitch against Eddie’s neck and Eddie remembers Buck talking about safe spaces and hanging out at Eddie’s house, making Eddie’s house his in ways Eddie can’t even describe.
“Always,” Eddie whispers, and lets Buck kiss his cheek, the corner of his mouth, his mouth.
Buck’s lips brush against his forehead. It’s a peace of its own kind.
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Ok, hear me out!
What if one episode Ravi comes into work visibly stressed and when the squad asks him whats wrong he says his parents are coming into town to see him. Ravi reveals that he's openly bisexual and that his parents are VERY traditional, so when they found out they shamed him and didn't talk to him for a few years. But since he hasn't dated a man in those years they believe that he was just confused and "fixed" now and want to see him, which infuriates him and he wants to show them that they can't just try to come back into his life like that.
Buck, an expert at pissing off parents, suggests getting a fake boyfriend for the dinner to piss them off. Hen, being the meddling troublemaker she is, suggests that Buck do it since it was his idea and he loves messing with parent figures. Que awkward Ravi & Buck, and jealous Eddie, though at the time Eddie doesn't understand why it makes him jealous. And Buck starts stuttering, trying to come up with a reason why he shouldn't do it, one being because he's not gay or bisexual (lies), but Hen quickly cuts him off saying he doesn't have to be it's just pretend and he'd really be helping a friend out. And with Bobby and Chim all jumping on the peer pressure wagon, and a fake "ya you should do it, Buck" from Eddie, Buck reluctantly agrees, much to Ravi's relief and gratitude.
And the dinner is an absolute disaster because Ravi's parents are complete disrespectful ASSHOLES. But their negative attitudes towards Ravi's life choices wipes away any reservations Buck had about the situation and instead he puts on a SHOW. Holding Ravi's hand, playing with his hair, calling him all kinds of cute names, and coming up with fake cringy cute stories about them. But the biggest shock came from when Ravi's father made a comment about what a disappointment Ravi was, and enraged Buck decided to give Ravi the best kiss of his life right there in the middle of the restaurant. Let's just say that the night ended with two exploding parents and a smug Ravi.
And a very confused Buck.
Because Buck was sure that he wasn't supposed to enjoy kissing a boy as much as he did. And when he lay in his bed that night why the hell did he replay that scene over and over in his head, but instead of it being Ravi he was kissing....it was Eddie?
And THAT'S the beginning Buck realizing his sexuality and his feelings for Eddie. And when Eddie finds out what happened he's more jealous than he's ever been in his life and that's how HE comes to terms with his own sexuality and feelings for Buck.
I need it.
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The thing I don't think people always realize is just because a character thinks or says something (even about themselves) doesn't make it true. People look at Eddie equating what he did to what Shannon did and take it at face value but Eddie's perception is clouded by his own guilt and his desire to see the best in Shannon (even if it's not refletive of the truth).
Obviously Eddie was wrong but even when he ran away he was still a) providing financially for his family and b) communicating with them. Which yes is the bare minimum for taking care of your child but it's still more than Shannon managed. She literally completely ghosted her own child for two years!
But I think the biggest difference between the two of them is that Eddie recognized what he did wrong, took responsibility for it, and did his best to be a better father to Christopher. Meanwhile Shannon never took responsibility for her own actions and constantly acted like the victim.
Eddie made mistakes but he committed to being there for Chrispher. He wasn't trying to fix him or be the perfect father. He knows he messes up but he also knows that never giving up on your child is more important than any guilt he might feel which Shannon was nowhere near understanding let alone doing before she died.
Anyway, sorry for the ramble. I have a lot of thoughts about this and your takes are great. I honestly don't understand why people try to excuse her behavior. Sorry you have to deal with all these rude ableist people!
You have made several great points and I thank you for sharing them!
re: Eddie's perception of himself and desire to see the best in Shannon, I think the scene between he + Bobby in 3x08 is a clear example of this!
"When did I not let [Christopher] down? I wasn't there when he was a baby. Stayed away too long, and it broke his mother." These feelings are a direct result of the way Shannon spoke to him. She never missed an opportunity to remind her husband that he left her to look after Christopher alone, and by the time Eddie came home for good, Shannon needed a break from her own family.
Then he tells Bobby he "knew better" than to allow Shannon back into their son's life because "she already left once, broke his heart." Now, knowing what we know about Eddie using Christopher as a way to express his true feelings, this remark was just as much about Eddie as it was their son. Shannon already broke BOTH of their hearts once, and Eddie was always prepared for her to do it again - makes you wonder what kind of relationship they really had after her return, doesn't it?
"I'm angry at a dead person, and at myself, because I forgave her...for everything, and it wasn't enough. I wasn't enough." Eddie was Shannon's biggest defender during her prolonged absence, and his support continued once she returned. He internalized every single piece of criticism she threw at him and became convinced he was the sole reason their relationship failed. Eddie wanted to believe that if he accepted full blame/responsibility for what went wrong, Shannon would be willing to give him and their family another chance. He was finally ready to "have her back" the way she needed, but it wasn't enough to make her stay.
Something I don’t see mentioned a whole lot (at least in my corner of fandom) in relation to Eddie’s decision to enlist is the statement he made while playing pool in 3x11: “If I hadn’t enlisted, I’d still be working with my Pops.”
Every time someone discusses Eddie’s decision to “run away” it revolves around running from Christopher’s diagnosis and his crumbling marriage. I...think there was more to it than that.
Eddie and his parents do not have a healthy, loving connection. Much like Shannon, Helena and Ramon have no trouble pointing out when he does something “wrong”. They also have a habit of trying to tell Eddie how to be a parent, right? They think they know what’s *best* for their grandson? Now imagine the mental and emotional toll working alongside his father would have taken on Eddie as he struggled to support his family, save his marriage, and adjust to a life for his son that he never envisioned. None of that makes Eddie’s decision to create distance between himself and his family “acceptable”, it just adds another layer to his thought process.
We’ve talked ad nauseum about Eddie staying in contact with Christopher while overseas, but what I *don’t* think gets enough recognition is the choice he made to stick around once Shannon left both of them behind. This is a guy who willing went to war TWICE to avoid dealing with issues at home. For six years he wasn’t ready to commit to being a consistent presence in his son’s life.
Shannon leaves, and instead of panicking, instead of coming up with reasons why his son is better off without him, Eddie STAYS. Eddie takes on THREE JOBS in an attempt to get Christopher whatever he needs. Not only that! Once Eddie realizes that Christopher wishes he were around more often so they can spend time together, he recognizes the error of his ways. In trying to provide for his son, he was robbing him of the father-son relationship Christopher wanted. He was becoming Ramon. Eddie had to get the hell out of El Paso to break the cycle and start anew.
I appreciate that you brought up Eddie never trying to “fix” Christopher because I think it’s reaaaally interesting how Shannon viewed their son’s diagnosis as a negative, yet Eddie went in the total opposite direction the more involved he became. Eddie was dead set on making Christopher believe he is just like every other kid, he can do anything he puts his mind to. This is another instance where I wonder how Eddie truly felt about Shannon’s reaction to everything. If he worried that Christopher would think she left because of his diagnosis, it makes sense for Eddie to act as though Christopher’s limitations are no big deal.
Honestly, the “defense” of Shannon and the wish for her to “be better” seems to come from a place of sadness because nobody wants to think about a mother abandoning her child, disabled or not. I see it almost everyday: “She deserved another chance.” “Christopher deserved his mother.”
Yeah, he did.
And so do all the other kids out there growing up without one.
“Redeeming” Shannon does not change the fact that mothers *in real life* abandon their kids all the time. Mothers get second, and third, and fourth chances, and they fuck up because they don’t actually know how to be a mother, and they don’t take the steps to learn.
“Redeeming” Shannon would be a disingenuous representation of motherhood. “Redeeming” Shannon would give the impression that all mothers eventually figure out how to be nurturing, and selfless, and live with no regrets.
Representation doesn’t always have to be *positive* for it to have a positive impact. If a storyline causes you pain, try looking at it from the other side: “Who needs to see this? Is it going to help?” This storyline wasn’t for anyone who wanted a “happy ending”. It was for the people who never got one.
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It’s a Deal (Ch. 14)
Chapter Summary: Hearts are broken.
Pairing: Bucky Barnes x Reader
Warnings: angst, “The Mandalorian” reference.
A/N: One more chapter after this and we’re done. Thank you, incredible Suz, @bucky-the-thigh-slayer for having my back. Love you. The link to my masterlist, where you can find the other chapters, is on my description. Feedback is highly appreciated.
Tag list for this story is closed.
There’s that annoying little chilling feeling running down his spine while Bucky parks his bike on the nearest parking lot to your building and steps towards your place. Not the dreadful feeling he gets on missions when his life or others’ are in danger. No, not that one. Is that feeling he gets when he knows something’s up, something’s out of order, not necessarily bad, but something that he needs to put his focus on…
He’s been trying to hold himself from going to your place, he knows that it may sound like he’s imposing himself in your personal space, in your life, but he’s been trying to call you in the last few hours, sent a few messages but you haven’t answered and then that annoying little feeling came to say hello.
And in his long ass life, he’s learned better than to ignore that feeling. He knows you’re not at work because it’s a Sunday and maybe you just went out somewhere without your phone and he’s just being paranoid or something… But he’ll just check if you’re ok, see those pretty eyes of yours and leave. That’s it. He may seem like a fucking stalker, but if that is going to assure him you’re ok, then so be it.
And God knows how much he would appreciate a glimpse of you right now.
The little hairs on his neck stand in attention at the sight he catches from the corner of your street and brings him to a full stop. That short little asshole of your ex, dragging a big suitcase with one hand and holding a couple of boxes with the other.
Bucky’s heart races and he frowns, watching when that Eddie guy lets go of the suitcase and balances himself to not let the boxes fall while he types the code to open the front door, getting into your building right after, dragging the suitcase with him.
The air catches in Bucky’s throat before it comes out in short little breaths. His mind runs with all the possible scenarios that would explain that scene… he desperately searches for ones that don’t have to mean what his jumping heart is telling him it means.
He’s not thinking clearly through the mess that his mind has become, but he decides he needs to see it for himself, as dreadful as he is of what he’s going to see.
In a few long and quick steps he’s at the building’s door, typing the numbers he’s just registered the douchebag typing and in a second he’s in the elevator up to your floor.
Once he’s at your door, ready to knock on the wood, his hand stops midair, before it drops to his side while he sighs. Deeply. This is madness… he shouldn’t be here. He doesn’t need to see anything, he can wait and talk to you some other time, when he’s less… anguished… anxious… He knows what he’s thinking, but it doesn’t mean that’s the case. You and the guy had lived together for years… maybe he’s just returning some of your stuff… maybe… damn… he brushes his hand over his face, harshly. He should leave.
And he’s about to do exactly that when the door opens.
Bucky has been calling the guy a short little asshole all this time and, while he still may be an absolute jackass and Bucky surely and easily beats him in height, somehow he feels like the smallest person on earth standing in front of the man right now.
“Can I help you?” Eddie asks, hardening his face after an immeasurable moment of stunned silence between the two men.
“Ahm,” Bucky clears his throat and keeps his voice firm, “Can I talk to Y/N?”
Eddie lets out a small puff and God knows how much Bucky needs to hold himself back from punching that stupid little face, “She’s not home, she had a call for something at work,” Eddie answers plainly.
Bucky feels when his jaw tightens painfully and his chest puffs, “Then what the hell are you doing here?” His voice comes out dangerously low as his chin tips up.
A little and annoying smirk twists Eddie’s lips and… fuck, Bucky has a terrible feeling about that. “Not that I need to give you any explanation but I’m moving back. This is my home again.” He regards Bucky for a second after adding, “Our home.”
The words punch the air out of Bucky’s lungs and, looking behind Eddie’s shoulder he sees the numerous boxes… your place… where he had you in his arms so many times now filled with that guy’s stuff next to your things… His stomach churns violently.
“Are you… are you and Y/N...” he can’t even finish the question, the words getting stuck in his throat, choking him like a deadly poison.
“Listen, dude…” Eddie bursts out, “What Y/N and I have isn’t some kind of fling or deal or whatever one small time apart can destroy, we belong together.” He huffs and bites his cheek before continuing impatiently, while all Bucky can do is stare at him, frozen in place, ”I have no time for this. If you have questions you can ask her whenever you want, if she has anything to explain to you, she will. Now if you excuse me.” He gestures towards the elevator.
Bucky would rather die a thousand times before he would allow himself to continue showing a single more minute of vulnerability in front of that guy… so he sucks it all down his throat and, holding himself in the excruciating pain rushing up his chest like it’s an anchor, he puts on a hard face and just nods, stepping away while he meets, for the first time, the ache he knows is the feeling of his heart breaking.
At the sight before her, Natasha sighs and remembers the time when she would find much different scenarios when she would burst into Bucky’s place. Where she would usually find different underwear tossed around the floor and small parties in his room, now she sees a metal armed dude sprawled on the sofa, face deep into not one, but two huge pints of Stark Raving Hazelnuts from Ben & Jerry’s, while Home Alone plays on the TV, and an Alpine lays comfortably on his lap.
Her little head perks up once Nat’s steps into the room. At least one of them acknowledges her presence.
He then moves his gaze to her direction, showing off his puffed eyes while shoving a huge spoon of ice-cream in his mouth, “What?” He speaks with a mouthful, “Breakfast?” He makes an offering gesture with the pint.
“I see you at least put on your uniform,” Nat ignores the offer, stepping towards him, kicking aside the many remains and open packages of junk food on her way. She slaps his leg off the sofa so she can sit beside him. As he grumpily adjusts his position to give her room, an equally grumpy Alpine jumps off his lap and aims a gaze of sheer contempt at Nat, before sauntering towards her plate of food in the kitchen.
“Well… Show must go on, right?” Bucky answers while his saddened gaze fixes on the tv again.
Nat just stares at him for a moment, her heart twisting in sorrow at his miserable demeanor, “Listen…” she says, with a softer tone, “I checked, she really is on a mission.” At that, she spots the twitch on his jaw, but he doesn’t look back at her, “Apparently it was some last-minute thing about Thor and earthly technology.” Nat frowns and shrugs, “That’s probably the reason why she’s not picking up your calls or mine for the last couple of days. She’s just busy. You can talk to her when she comes back.”
“Why?” He puts the pints of ice cream aside as his face snaps at her.
Despite the initial harshness on his tone, there’s no trace of anger there on his expression. Just… sadness… and, honestly, Nat would deal better with the anger. She’s never seen Bucky like this… not after he came back from Wakanda.
Bucky breathes in a shuddering breath, like it’s painful for him to even do that before he continues speaking, “The guy is back to her place, Nat… all his fucking boxes and clothes and shit next to hers. They’re back together. That’s it. I honestly don’t wanna listen to her telling me how much that guy matters to her…” His voice cracks, but he goes on talking, “That she and I was fun, I was a good fuck and all but not good enough compared to ten years with that…” He huffs, “That douchebag. I don’t wanna hear her saying he’s the real deal and not me.” He bites on his cheek, looking at Nat with eyes becoming glossy, “I just don’t think I can.”
“Ugh, no, seriously Nat, fuck,” he growls while he narrows his eyes and his jaw tightens, “Seriously, that guy… if he only… shit… he doesn’t deserve her.” Indignance pours out of his voice, which comes out through his teeth while his hands clench into fists, “He doesn’t appreciate what he has… ugh…” He groans, and lets himself fall back into the sofa, “But…” He sighs, and nods, licking his lips, “If that’s what she wants… I’m not gonna try and take it away from her. I won’t.” He shrugs.
Like she’s sensing the distress in her human, Alpine materializes on the sofa, between Nat and Bucky, and lets out a meow before curling herself against his thigh. Bucky absentmindedly starts petting her neck, staring up to the ceiling.
Nat could hear the pain of his heart shattering through his words. As for her… regret creeps up inside her. Regret for starting this between Bucky and you. She had a feeling that things could go south, but in all the scenarios she pictured for that, Bucky being the one heartbroken definitely wasn’t one of them. And yet, there he is. Devastated. Completely fucked. In a way she never thought she would see him for… love.
“Are you guys ready?”
The three of them turn towards the voice, spotting Steve there, in his full gear and his signature worried and yet soft look that belongs to Bucky.
“Yup,” Bucky taps on his thighs and grabs Alpine in one hand, who meows loudly, and two suitcases, one bigger and one smaller with the other one.
“Are you seriously taking her with us?” Nat checks, following him towards the door.
“Wherever I go, she goes,” he answers, his voice as down as his face.
“Buck,” Steve puts his hand on his friend’s shoulder, stopping him at the door, “Are you sure you’re ok to go on the mission, I can-“
“I’m fine, punk,” Bucky cuts him off, “I’m a grown ass man, I can handle my feelings.”
As Bucky walks past his friend and moves to the elevator, Nat exchanges looks with Steve. She’s heard Bucky saying that exact sentence numerous times lately, after he acknowledged the way he feels for you.
The difference is that the usual confidence is just not there anymore.
You’re frowning while looking down at him. His words making their way into your senses.
You free one hand of his secured hold to reach over and cup his smiling face.
He leans into your touch.
You make a decision.
Your heart and mind are finally set together in what you now know you want. Hell… you think you know this for a while, but now… with Eddie bringing all those memories and telling you all of that, it did help you get through the split in your heart and mend it back into one. A whole new heart.
One that is all his.
“Eddie,” your voice is soft, while he smiles up at you, “I remember all of that.” You smile, too, referring to the box of memories next you, “Every single memory… everything we shared… those ten years… they helped me mold me into what I am. There’s no me, there’s no what I am today without them,” you state, while, with your thumb, you caress his cheek.
Eddie nods, “There’s no me without you, either, that’s why I’m here.”
“But, Eddie…” you sigh and lick you lips, “Remember how you’ve told me a couple of times I seem different?”
The smile on Eddie's face slowly drops.
“That’s because I am… I’m not just… I’m not just that anymore.” You nod towards the box, “I found out there’s more in me, and honestly, I think there’s more in you, too, that just doesn’t fit to what we used to be anymore.”
He blinks repeated times, staring up at you, and you lean even closer and cup both sides of his face.
“I’m sorry. This is all part of who I am. You’re part of who I am. But I can’t go back.” You shake your head, “I can’t.”
He keeps his stare on you and, after a moment, like he’s been processing what you said to him, he lets out a huff, “Are you serious?” he harshly pulls your hands away from his face and gets up, “Are you fucking serious? Is this because you’re fucking that guy?” He raises his voice, gesturing away.
“Eddie…” You tilt your head as a warning sign.
“No, seriously, you’re trading me, you’re trading us for what?” He spits and points to his chest while his face contorts into something ugly you’ve never seen on him before, “A player who will throw you in the trash for the next nicer piece of ass he sees? For what? A good fuck? An eight pack? A few more inches of dick? Come on…”
“Hey,” you snap, rushing up from your seat to level him, “What the fuck, Eddie?” You curse, as he stares back at you defiantly, “First of all you don’t get to talk to me like that, you lower you goddamn tone.” You point a finger at him, “And, honestly? Bucky is not just “that guy” to me. He’s not a player. You don’t know him, and you don’t know who I am with him, you could never know.”
Through the anger bringing red blurs to your vision, you see when his Adam bone bobs, but he keeps an insolent chin lifted up and he has struck something in you by talking about Bucky and your feelings for him in such a belittling way.
“I didn’t want things to end like that,” you continue, shaking your head, “I really didn’t, but if you’re talking shit you don’t know the first thing about… ugh… fuck that,” you let out a harsh breath, “In one month or so Bucky respected and appreciated me more than you did in ten years. With him I don’t have to pretend I like or don’t like things just not to upset him or whatever, I learned I can be fun and honest… and… and he fucking eats my pussy, for God’s sake,” you burst out in a rush of spite.
Eddie takes a step back, completely stunned by your words and outburst, while a dead silence settles in the room.
“Wow,” he mumbles nodding his head and looking away from you.
You shut your eyes and breathe in deeply, letting your head drop for a moment, while reason starts to come back to your senses, “Shit… shit…” You curse under your breath, looking up at him again, “This is not about that, Eddie…” you say, being honest with him and yourself, “I loved you, I really did, you are so important… I appreciate our time together so much… but now…” You press your lips in a taut line and shrugs, “It’s over…And, yeah… Bucky may be in my life now, but-“
He snorts, crossing his arms in front of his chest. There’s pure scorn in his gaze for you, but you decide to ignore that. Eddie really matters a lot to you and you don’t want to end it in such a bad note. You want closure for the two of you, so both of you can accept what you had is over and move on with your lives.
“But this is not about him. Not completely, at least,” you continue, “It’s us Eddie.” You plead, taking a step closer to him, “Our relationship meant the world, but… but I think we outgrew it-”
“You speak for yourself,” he spits.
You sigh at the anger that is still there, spilling through his voice, but you nod, and speaks softly, “Ok, then… I outgrew our relationship, but even if you think you haven’t, that doesn’t mean it would be good for you to insist on something you realized at some point it wasn’t what you wanted anymore. You can’t deny that.”
You gasp and try to keep your balance when he drops on his knees and latches himself at you, hugging your waist tightly, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I know I caused all this, but please don’t leave me, don’t give up on us,” he begs, his voice breaking, pressing his cheek on you, “Please… please.”
“Eddie… Eddie…” You try catching his attention, as he keeps his chant of remorseful and begging words, “Stop... stop, Eddie, come here.”
You reach down for his forearms, adding some force to pull him up, to which he lets you.
When his weeping face levels yours, you gently wipe the tears falling down with your fingers, “You ended this because you weren’t happy, either, and it’s ok. It’s ok to let go,” you say, gently, before cupping his face and fixing your gaze on his, “Let go, Eddie. Let go.”
He exhales, his eyes shutting. While you keep gentle hands on his face, he brings his forehead to yours.
“We’re gonna be ok,” you whisper, wishing that he would understand that moving on is the best thing for the two of you.
At that, he harshly parts himself from you. Hurt and rejection plastered all over his face while he averts his gaze from you.
“Eddie… I don’t know what else to say,” you heave a sigh.
Before he gives you the comeback he’s about to give you, which you know it wasn’t gonna be a nice one, your phone rings. Nick Fury’s ringtone.
“Shit,” you curse, “I’m sorry, I need to pick that.” You rush and reach out for your phone on the center table, “Yes, Sir… of course… absolutely. I’ll gather my team and will be there in one hour, tops. Alright.”
“It’s work…” you tell Eddie, looking down as you turn off your phone.
“On a fucking Saturday night?” Eddie scoffs, not looking at you.
“Thor is on a solo mission and needs assistance from my team. Fury asked me to lead it. I…” You look at him, but he doesn’t look back at you, “I need to go change,” you say, defeated by his refusal to engage with you or with what you’ve been trying to tell him so far.
Once you come back from your bedroom in a hurry and ready to leave, Eddie is there in the living room, now sitting on the sofa.
“Are you sure?” He asks once you walked over the sofa and met his dull gaze.
He nods slowly, biting his cheek.
“I’m gonna need to go now, Eddie,” you tentatively say. You step closer to him, but he turns his face to the other side and you take the hint. Stopping on your track.
“What of this place?” He gestures around.
You look around the place you two got together and as from that moment, you don’t see yourself in it anymore. Satisfied with your decision, you walk towards the key hook on the wall and he watches as you come closer to him again and take his hand from his lap, putting the keys in his palm.
“This place is not mine anymore,” you give him a tight smile.
You hold his hand a little longer while his gaze lingers at where you’re touching him.
“Goodbye, Eddie,” you say.
When he doesn’t give you an answer or even spares a look your way, you sigh, deeply. If that’s how he wants it to go, so be it. Letting go of his hand you walk to the door.
As soon as you step aside from your now former home, you realize you’re also walking towards a new phase of your life and you take in a big and refreshing breath before a loose smile forms in your lips. There’s only one thing in your mind, now. Or better, one person.
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Hello beautiful person! Do you take requests which ask you to write a second chapter for your writings? If you do, may I ask a second chapter for "Rare"? And if you don't could you please let me know so I can be careful for another time when I ask a request?
I hope this is not something that disturbes or irritates you. I love your writing, it is beautiful and sometimes I read your pieces over and over again. 😁
Thanks for blessing us with your writing. Have a nice day.💕
A/n: First of all anon, thank you so very much for your sweet words! They mean the world to me <3 Also, your request could never irritate me! I love them and I love the fact that you consider me half a decent writer enough to send me your thoughts <3 I'm sorry it took me so long to get around this but I hope you like this and are still around to read it x
I've decided to pair it with a request for juicy time with Eddie. there's no actual smut but it's suggestive let's say.
Warnings: bit of angst, fluff,
Word count: 2.4K
Tags: @mollybegger-blog, @evelynshelby, @br0ck-eddie, @fandom--0verdose, @shadow-of-wonder, @innerpaperexpertcloud, @sopxhiea, @fuseburner, @for-bebbanburg, @crazyclownchick ( fill in this form to be added to my taglist)
TOM HARDY MASTERLIST
You weren't exactly new to heartbreak. You had been a teenager after all but your experience with adult relationships had not been that good either.
You knew that you'd be over Eddie even if it may take you some time. It's true that you had only been dating for a few months but you had really grown attached to him. It was one of the things you hated about yourself: the way you got attached way too soon, way too much.
Especially, in this case, seeing as Eddie hadn't been 100% in it in the beginning you had hoped that the more time you'd spend together, he'd see that you weren't so bad and that he'd grow to care for you. At least a little bit.
Turns out you were wrong.
As much as you hated being wrong, the thing that hurt you the most was that despite your best efforts, Eddie still didn't think you were enough for him. And how could you be when the benchmark was perfect Anne?
You stood no chance. You had been a fool for even trying. And now you were experiencing the burn for your foolishness.
This had happened often enough that you had developed a routine for dealing with heartbreak:
1) crying your heart out and indulging your sadness with whatever helped (mostly comfort food and Friends)
2) enough with indulging, it was time to pick yourself up. No more overeating although you still allowed yourself to cry if you felt like it
3) "I don't need him anyway" phase where you'd make a mental list of how your life was before and after whoever you had broken up with to remind you that they weren't as important as you made them out to be
4)"put yourself out there again" phase where you started going out again with the intention of meeting new people or simply having a good time.
As of this time, you were in phase 3. You noticed that there were some of Eddie's things littering around your apartment. So, you picked up a box and collected them with the intention of returning them to him, effectively closing this chapter. As you did, you made that aforementioned list. This time, with the added reason for your break up, it was a bit easier to remind you why breaking up had been the right decision.
When your hands closed on your favourite hoodie of his though, you couldn't help the pang in your heart as a flood of memories hit you.
You and Eddie doing a Friends marathon every Friday night.
Eddie giving this hoodie when you were sick because he knew how much you liked it.
Eddie taking the hoodie off for a whole other reason almost ripping it...
Shaking your head, you pushed those thoughts aside, focusing on the task at hand.
Enough of that. It was over.
It was only a week later that you finally got the time to come around Eddie's apartment. Sure, you could have called him, he could have come himself to pick them up or you could have dropped them at his job but that would have required you to call him. And recalling how that went last time you tried to reach him you decided you'd spare yourself the humiliation of him not ghosting you again.
Taking a deep breath, you straightened your shoulders and knocked on his door.
"Y/n." You were met with a dishevelled Eddie.
He looked like shit but what's new with him. He also looked very surprised to see you at his door and you also couldn't blame it for that. You would have reacted the same way if the roles were reversed.
"Hi, Eddie," you hated your treacherous voice that wobbled when you spoke. Clearing your voice, you tried again.
"Sorry to come here unannounced. I've found some of your stuff in my apartment and I thought you'd like to have them back." You explained as you handed him the box, his eyes taking it in for the first time.
"Oh," he paused as he considered your words. Was that disappointment in his voice? "Thank you, y/n. You shouldn't have." He smiled weakly as he took the box from you, your fingers touching briefly.
"It's not a problem, Eddie. I was just passing by anyway." You and Eddie actually lived far from each other. The truth is that there was no reason for you to be in this part of town if it wasn't for him. Eddie knew that but he was kind enough not to point that out.
He just nodded, accepting your words as he held the box close to his chest.
You awkwardly stared at each other for a while, you didn't know what to say but neither of you wanted to end this exchange quite yet. When you felt that you had been standing like a fool in front of your ex's door, you went to leave but Eddie beat you to it.
"So how have you been?" Your first reaction was to scoff at this attempt of small talk. Neither of you was very good at it. And truthfully, it was rich coming from someone who had not made any effort to keep in contact with you even before your breakup.
The scroll of your shoulders was the only answer Eddie got. You weren't in the mood to pretend nor did you want him to know how you were still suffering for him.
"I should ask that to you." You reverted the question to him. He really didn't look well.
"yeah, it's been a rough couple of weeks," he confessed scratching the back of his head.
"That, I don't find it hard to believe," you hummed as your eyes took him in, really took him in since you knocked at his door. You could also see behind him that his apartment was a mess.
"Yeah, don't have to worry about me though. I'm fine."
"Of course." You nodded at his dismissal, remembering harshly the situation you were in."Well, I'm going to go now. Take care." Cold but still polite you turn around, ready to put this -Eddie and this exchange- behind you.
"Y/n, wait!" he called when you were about to climb down the staircase. "Do you want to have a drink or something?" Stay for a while? he meant but didn't dare to say.
"I don't think that's a good idea, Eddie." You called over your shoulder, hand still on the railing.
"Please, I owe you an explanation." You didn't know if it was the desperate note in his voice or the fact that he really looked like shit but you turned around almost convinced.
"Don't you think it's too late for that, Eddie?"
"Maybe it won't change anything between us but you deserve to know." You knew Eddie and you knew how much he cared about transparency and honesty. This may not mean that you were going to get back together but he was right, you deserved an explanation.
"Okay," you agreed as you walked back and then into his apartment. Eddie closed the door behind him and set the box he was still holding down behind the coat hanger.
The sneak peek you had before was definitely right: Eddie's apartment was even messier than usual.
"Why does it look like a tornado hit your home?" You couldnìt help but point out. You knew Eddie wasn't that bothered by tidiness but this too much even by his standards.
"That would be my fault," a new voice answered you.
At first, you didn't register the difference in tone or accent even though you should have had because Eddieìs voice wasnìt that low or raspy. But then a black tendril entered your vision field catching your attention making you turning your head to better inspect it.
"Eddie?" You asked perplexed, eyes fixed on this thing? even if you were addressing Eddie.
"Y/n meet Venom, Venom meet y/n." He gestured awkwardly with his hands.
"It's so nice to meet you, Eddie's always thinking about you, you know? It's a bit annoying." this time the voice didn't come from a tendril but a face. A fucking alien face with long sharp teeth and wide white eyes.
His words went straight over your head. How the fuck was this true? What were you even seeing? Did this thing come from Eddie's body??
"Fuck, I know I'm heartbroken but now I'm even seeing things?"
"Y/n," Eddie tried to get your attention. You thought you had only thought that but apparently, you had spoken the words. "You're not seeing things, this is part of the explanation I owe you."
"I think it's better if you sit," he said motioning to his couch when you did nothing but stare at Venom. Prompting by Eddie though, you sat down and listened as he spoke.
He told you everything. About Carton Drake about his project with aliens, about Venom and their rather troubled relationship. He even explained how Anne had got involved and how she and Danny had helped him.
It was definitely a lot to take in. But somehow, the thought that he could be lying to you never crossed your mind. The proof was right in front of you, wasn't it? Venom, as he had introduced himself, stood next to Eddie while he spoke. It had never spoken again and you were inwardly thankful for that. That he was giving you space to digest all of this.
"Why didn't you tell me when you came around that day, Eddie?" You asked once you thought you had wrapped your head around it.
"I didn't want you to drag you into this mess," he said with a shrug, head cast down he didn't meet your eyes.
You didn't know how you felt about all of this yet but you nodded anyway. Well, there was nothing you could do anymore, could you? He had already taken care of everything on his own and it wasn't like you had any right to worry about him anymore.
"Thank you for explaining, Eddie. I appreciate your honesty." Did this change anything for you?
"I'm sorry if I ever made you feel like you weren't enough of if Anne meant more to me than you did. That's not true but I didn't know how to tell you that without telling you what was happening." He nervously fiddled with his fingers without meeting your eyes.
You could see his point now that you knew what happened. Still, it hurt you that he decided to just keep you out of it without a word. He could have at least told you that something was going on, that he didn't or couldn't tell you anything - not right now. You would have understood and given him space. Did he really act like this to keep you safe or was it a way to dismiss you?
"I don't know if this changes things, Eddie. You still turned up to her when a major life-threatening event happened. I think this tells me everything that I need to know." You point out after a while, eyes fixed on the end of your shoes.
"She has been involved from the moment we broke up, Y/n. Hell, this was the reason we broke up in the first place." Eddie's head snapped up at your words. He looked surprised at your words like he couldn't believe that you thought Anne's involvement had been something he had actively sought out.
"That may as well be true, Eddie but still, you didn't tell me even after everything settled down. If I hadn't come around to give you your stuff I still would be none the wiser."
"I was afraid, y/n. How could I come back to you after how much I had hurt you? 'Sorry if I went m.i.a. for a while, I was infected with a parasite who knows permanently with me?' Come on, y/n, I wouldn't take me back either." Now upset, Eddie started to gesticulate frantically to prove his point. His eyes flickered between yours, he leaned toward you, his hands a touch away from yours as if he wanted to touch you but was preventing himself from doing so.
"I'm not saying I would have believed you straight away but still- aliens are way better than self-loathing you know?" You scoff at him- why was he so upset? He wasn't the one who had been beating himself up since that fight for being a worthless piece of shit, was he?
"I know I've never done a good job at showing you but I do care about you. Deeply." Almost as if he couldn't bear to not be touching you any longer, Eddie now reached for your hands. His hold on them tightening as he spoke the words.
You looked at him for a moment. Aside from that fight, your relationship with him had been good. The start wasn't promising, seeing as he was still taken by Anne but Eddie had treated you good. He was attentive and caring in his own way. Looking back to it now, you realized that the period where you started feeling him pulling back from you was the time when this whole alien thing had started.
But now you had settled this, right? So, could this mean...
"If I give you one more chance to show you," you spoke tentatively, enthralled by the twinkle in his eyes, "do you promise me to be fully transparent with me this time around?"
"What? Why would you do that?" He looked shocked but his eyes were hopeful.
"Are you trying to talk me out of it, Eddie?" You challenged him, arching an eyebrow.
"Like hell I am." He scoffed, a smile on his lips. "Nono, of course I do. I swear, y/n. You'll never feel like you don't matter to me again."
"Good." You gave him a small smile at the gobsmacked expression on his face. Oh, Eddie...
He does nothing but stares at you for a while. Like he hadn't seen you in a while and now that you were in front of him, he wanted to commit to his memory every little detail of your face.
"So," you said after a while, "do you plan to stare at me or would you like to get a head start on your promise?" you provoke him with a suggestive tone.
Eddie's mouth fell a little at that, Venom said something to him but you didn't understand him. Shaking his head, Eddie smirks at you.
"I would like nothing more." And with that, Eddie's lips are on yours making up for the lost time.
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CIARA A SENSE OF HOME COUPLED WITH FIXING THINGS AND BEING MESSY AND JUST HELP because now i'm thinking about the many ways buck hasn't FIXED eddie, but is sharing the space with him (just as bobby told buck he should do with abby seasons ago!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and how eddie is a mess, but he's trying, and buck sees it, and he's HELPING eddie by clearing a space for himself, but by also letting eddie be a mess. is this even making sense? like eddie says "fixing things" but what he means is "please share these burdens of mine and i know i'm messy but i need you" and buck is like "hey, i got wide shoulders, we'll help each other carry our shit" and they fill their house with burdens and pasts and trauma, but they also fill their house with memories and happiness and chris growing up happy and strong and perfect and it's messy and too much but it's them and it's perfect (and breathe dkljsghjfksd)
SIRI!!!!!!!!!! it's like
"you're hoping to pull her out of this trap[...]what she needs is for you to step inside there with her. keep her company in there."
"sorry about the mess but i guess it's yours now, right?" "right"
"you're the guy who likes to fix things"
the way buck wanted to and chose to step into abby's mess with her and be her lodestone but she didn't want that because she wanted to remember how to support herself.
the way buck almost immediately slipped into that role with eddie without even seemingly thinking about it. taking him to pick up chris. calling ahead to bobby when eddie needs to bring chris to the station. introducing him to carla.
the way ana leaves a physical and metaphorical mess in eddie's life, realising or deciding that it's a mess she'll never be able to fix. that it's one that will only keep growing the longer she stays.
the way eddie needs control so badly and now has this aftermath of a mess that he's not quite sure is fixed yet.
the way buck is able to take on eddie's mess without ever making him feel incompetent or useless, the way he does it so naturally, so earnestly, that eddie feels nothing but support.
the way eddie quietly observes buck and absorbs every single tiny facet of him that there is to know, the way he offers advice and reassurance and lifelines with soft eyes and tender words. the way they've become each other's lodestones without ever even really consciously trying to be.
the way all of this is coming together in an episode called "home and away" where almost every conversation in the final 10 minutes revolved around the notion of coming home except theirs...
because they're already there <3
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some consequences (we endure)
Fix-it/Missing Scene fic for 4x08, contains spoilers
Word Count: 5515 words
Buck wasn’t sure what to expect when he heard the first knock on his door.
It was well past time for anyone to be over, and Albert had already let him know that he wasn’t coming home tonight. Taylor had dressed him down before leaving, so it definitely wasn’t her, and after that, Buck wasn’t in the mood for any company at all. Still, he dragged himself off the couch and went to the door.
Of all the other people he expected, Christopher standing there, alone, wasn’t one of them.
His heart fell to his knees as he took in the sight of the miserable-looking boy on his doorstep, with nothing but the clothes on his back, and Eddie nowhere in sight.
“Chris? What are you doing here, buddy?” Buck asked, surreptitiously scanning the boy up and down as he ushered him in. “Where’s your dad?”
“I took an Uber to come see you,” Chris whispered, looking up at Buck like he knew he was in trouble. “I used Dad’s phone.”
Fuck. Of course he did.
“Does your dad know you’re here?” Just as he expected, Chris shook his head slowly. Buck sighed, kneeling down. “Chris, he’s probably scared out of his mind right now. Why don’t you go sit on the couch and let me call him, okay?”
He obeyed without a single word. Buck watched him go as he pulled out his phone, worry digging holes in the pit of his stomach. He pressed Eddie’s number on his speed dial, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth as he waited for him to pick up.
He didn’t have to wait long, because the minute the line connected, a slew of panicked words fell from the speaker with more fear than Buck had ever heard from his best friend. “Buck, you gotta help me. Christopher–”
“Is here,” Buck completed before Eddie could twist himself into any more knots. “He used your phone to call an Uber.”
The relieved exhale seemed to be punched out of Eddie as silence settled over them. When Eddie spoke again, Buck pretended not to hear the hoarse, fragile tone of his voice, too quiet for even Eddie. “Alright, I’ll...I’ll be over there in a second.”
“What happened, Eddie? What brought this on?”
“He was-was mad at me, and he yelled, and our salad bowl broke and-and he slammed the door on me.” The words came out in a garbled ramble that Buck could only barely make out before Eddie sucked in a breath in a futile attempt to calm himself down. “I’ll explain everything when I get there, could you just please keep him there? I’m on my way.” He could hear the jingle of keys and the slam of the front door as Eddie practically fell out of his house in his rush. Buck almost demanded to know where Eddie thought Buck was going to send Chris, and also thought to tell him not to break any laws getting over here, before he thought better of both those things.
“Yeah, alright,” he said instead. Buck hung up on him and turned towards the couch, where Christopher was watching him warily.
Yelling, breaking a bowl and slamming his door? That didn’t sound like Chris at all, and even less so for him to run away. Whatever had happened was something serious enough to make Chris take drastic measures — and Buck wasn’t going to find answers standing here.
He sighed, pocketing his phone as he went over to sit on the coffee table in front of Chris. “So...I heard about you blowing up on your dad.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, looking down, away from Buck’s eyes.
He hoped he was doing the right thing here. “Well, you’re here, so we gotta talk about something.” Chris still kept silent, staring at his hands. Buck pressed a little further, hoping to make the boy open up before Eddie came to get him. “Come on, look, you were there for me when I needed to talk, so now I want to be here for you. It’s what friends do.”
Those seemed to be the magic words, because as soon as he said them, Chris let out a hefty sigh and said, “Dad’s dating.”
Oh, that’s what this was about.
Eddie had mentioned that he needed to tell Christopher about Ana. Or at the very least, about someone new in his life, because he hated lying to him.
“I just want to be sure. I don’t know how to have this conversation with him,” Eddie had said as they’d been rolling up a firehose.
“Be patient and honest,” Buck had suggested in return.
At the time, those had seemed like the best words he could’ve given. Honesty was one of the things Eddie and Christopher were working on with each other, and communicating when they were ready to was another.
“Yeah...yeah, that’s gotta be weird for you, huh? Maybe it feels like he’s forgetting your mom, but Chris, I promise you–”
Another sigh to interrupt Buck’s sentence, and then, “I wish I could forget.”
Buck stared at Christopher, taken aback by the conviction in his voice. He willed him to look up so he could have this conversation face to face. “Uh, what?”
“People go away, not just Mom. Abuelita, Carla, my friends...they leave, and then I miss them. I don’t want to miss anyone else.” Chris’ voice was barely louder than a whisper, as if he couldn’t bear saying the words louder than he had to. Buck’s heart shattered in his chest at the downcast look on Christopher’s face.
It was like staring at a mirror image of himself from not even a year ago, sitting at his table after Red’s funeral with Maddie. He’d asked for reassurance in almost the exact same way, because he was tired of being the one watching the people he loved walk away from him, and he was tired of constantly feeling like he was going to be left behind. At the time, only Eddie, outside of his sister, had been able to provide the reassurance he was looking for, and it seemed like it was Buck's chance to pay that forward.
“Yeah, um…” he started, trying to find the best words he could to explain this to a nine year old without lying to him. “Yeah, people go away. And it’s sad, and it hurts, but you know, not everyone goes away forever. Sometimes they come back, and as much as we miss them, that’s how happy we are to see them again.”
Despite how embarrassing his first meeting with Maddie in three years was, Buck had left the bathroom so grateful that he had his sister back. He didn’t know what to expect about her coming back, but he’d missed her more than anything in the world. And just like he told Christopher, he was just as happy to see her again.
Buck shoved his own memories out of his mind, focusing on Chris. “Your grandma, your friends, Carla...you’re going to see them all again.”
“Do you promise?”
“I do, and until that happens, you still got me,” he smiled, feeling a rush of pride when Chris smiled back at him. He touched his knuckles to the kid’s hand, feeling a bit more of the tension bleed out of his shoulders. “‘Cause I’m not going anywhere.”
Christopher got to his feet to hug Buck, and Buck held him back just as tightly, rubbing his palm over the kid’s back.
It was a promise Buck would keep as long as he could. He wasn’t about to leave Christopher — or Eddie — again, and he wasn’t going to let Christopher keep feeling like this, either.
“You’re a good friend.” Buck’s smile faded at that, Taylor’s words coming back to resonate in his ears. He had fucked up, royally. He should’ve been honest with her about the double date, and instead, he’d messed up again. He wasn’t a good friend all the time, after all.
“Yeah...sometimes.” He tilted his chin downwards into Chris, tugging the boy tighter against him, just thankful that he was safe.
“All the time,” Chris said after a while, pulling back to look at Buck. “Are you mad?” he asked.
What right did he have being mad? The kid already looked downtrodden, and Buck wasn’t going to add to it, but he wasn’t going to lie, either. “I’m not mad, but that was dangerous, buddy. It’s late at night, and you went out on your own. You could’ve gotten hurt, and there would’ve been no way for any of us to find you. What if I wasn’t home? Where would anyone look for you?”
He had half a mind to drag the Uber driver back for giving a nine year old a ride on his own so late, because he was pretty sure that was against all policy, but he was more grateful that Chris was here in one piece.
“I was mad and I didn’t know what to do.”
Buck knew a bit about that. He knew what it was like to want to run as far as possible, to get away. There wasn’t much he’d been thinking about all those days he’d snuck out of his own house, running away for just that small bite of freedom, no matter how little it lasted.
There had been days where all Buck wanted to do was run to Maddie, especially after she left for college, but couldn’t. The fact that Chris felt safe enough to come here, and had the luxury to do so — no matter how wrong it was for him to do that — wasn’t lost on Buck.
Christopher’s situation was different from his, though, in one very important way.
“Your dad loves you more than anything in the world, Chris,” Buck said gently, ducking his head to look him in the eye. “If you need to take some space to sort out your feelings, do it, but at the end of the day, it’s him you’ve got to talk to when you feel like this. You know he’s always there to listen to you.”
“I know,” he sighed.
Right on cue, Buck heard the rattle of keys in the door, an agitated sound that made Christopher look up at him in a panic.
“Is he going to be mad?”
Probably, but Buck knew Eddie, and he was more terrified than anything else. Any disappointment or anger would come much later — much, much later, if at all.
He gave Christopher a sympathetic look. “You scared him to death, kiddo. He might not be mad right now, but you’re going to have to face the facts with him, okay? Be honest.”
“Christopher!” Eddie burst into the loft, hair a harried mess and eyes wild and panicked. Buck felt his heart jolt at the clear anxiety on his friend’s face, moving out of the way so Eddie could get to his son.
Christopher stood up and fell into his father’s arms, who promptly collapsed to the floor with his relief, holding Chris tightly as he muttered prayers under his breath. Buck turned away as Eddie pressed kisses to his son’s face, moving to the kitchen to give them some privacy.
Eddie thought he knew fear before, but it turns out, he had no idea.
He’d been to war, put his life on the line on a daily basis. He was a dad, and that came with its own brand of constant fear that he was messing this up.
But nothing in the world could’ve prepared him for the terror of knowing his kid was missing. If Buck hadn’t been home, or hadn’t called immediately, or any other scenario Eddie’s mind had cooked up in the last half an hour, Eddie didn’t know what he would’ve done.
“Chris, buddy, why would you do that?” Eddie choked out when he finally caught his breath, his heart rate finally slowing at the sight of his safe, unharmed child.
“I was mad, and I wanted to see Buck,” he muttered under his breath, looking entirely sheepish. Eddie closed his eyes, dropping his head.
“Okay. Okay,” he repeated, grasping for words. “Why don’t you take a seat, and let me get a glass of water?”
Chris nodded and turned back to the couch. Eddie watched him go, sending up another prayer of gratitude that nothing had happened to him.
Buck was waiting with a bottle of water, leaning against the counter when Eddie walked up to him. “Hey. You okay?”
“I think that was the worst half an hour of my entire life. Not even the well terrified me as much as Chris did today,” he admitted in a low voice, unable to take his eyes off his son.
It was only when he reached for the water bottle that he noticed his hands were still trembling, and Eddie had a feeling they wouldn’t stop for a long time. By the way Buck’s gaze dipped, he could tell that he’d filed that away in his mind, too.
Eddie wasn’t sure how it’d escalated to this, nor how his kid had become slick enough to take his phone and sneak out of the house, but he told Buck about what happened. “I told him about the friend I was seeing. Told him that she’s a woman, we’ve been on a couple dates, and that I really like her and that she’s someone he might like too. Ana was Chris’ teacher, he liked her then, and I thought that maybe he’d be open to it.”
“Seeing her as his teacher for a year, and seeing her as your girlfriend for a possible long time are two different things,” Buck pointed out.
Eddie sighed and nodded, knowing he was right. “Yeah. He got mad, yelled that he won’t like her. And when I told him that we can talk about it, he yelled at me again and shoved the salad bowl off the counter. Told me that he’s mad at me and went to his room.”
Buck hummed, looking pensive as he turned to look at Chris. Eddie took the lull in conversation as an opportunity to drink some more water, closing his eyes as the relief anchored itself in his stomach.
“This doesn’t make you a failure, Eddie,” Buck said, apropos of nothing. Eddie opened his eyes to see Buck tip his head towards Chris. “In all that we talked about, the things he’s scared of, your name didn’t come up once.”
Buck wouldn’t tell him what he and Chris talked about unless he absolutely had to, and Eddie trusted his judgement implicitly so he didn’t ask. Still, it didn’t erase the pit in his stomach or the tremors running along his arms. It didn’t erase the thoughts racing through his mind about how he couldn’t even keep an eye on his little boy, how he wasn’t enough for reassurance. It didn’t erase his parents’ words about how they were better suited to raise his son than he was, brought entirely back by the last thirty minutes.
“Try telling me that after I didn’t just find out that my son snuck out of the house to take a twenty minute ride to someone else,” Eddie faltered, hiding his expression behind the bottle again. By the look on Buck’s face, he wasn’t fooling him at all. “Maybe this was too soon, or I just approached it wrong, I don't know. Maybe I should’ve talked to him before I started going out with Ana.”
“Do you think that would’ve changed this?” Buck asked, raising an eyebrow. Honestly, no. Eddie didn’t know if it could, but before he could say that, Buck continued. “You’ll get your answers after you talk to him. There’s no point trying to change what’s already happened, you know. And he knows what he did was dangerous, but I’ve been there and sometimes...you don’t see anything but the need to run.”
“I didn't even see him leave.”
Buck laughed quietly. “Yeah, uh, that's the purpose of sneaking out. It's not your fault that you didn't see him leave. He knows what he did was wrong.”
Eddie suddenly remembered Ana’s words from a couple of nights ago.
I know there hasn’t been anyone else since he lost his mother.
At the time, it hadn’t really occurred to him if there had been someone else or not; he was too preoccupied with thoughts of telling Chris about Ana. But now, standing in the middle of Buck’s apartment, knowing that his son ran to Buck when he didn’t want to come to him, Eddie realized that there had been someone else.
Maybe not romantically, but Buck had been there every step of the way, in every way that counted. Eddie didn’t know how he could ever begin to repay the things his best friend had done for both of them.
“Thank you,” he said quietly. “Not just for today but...you do a lot for us.”
Buck shrugged, turning towards Chris. “He’s my best friend, and so are you. Not much I wouldn’t do, but that doesn’t mean you two don’t help me when I need it.”
It never felt like they did, but Eddie kept that thought to himself as he noticed Buck’s outfit, remembering that he had that double date tonight with Albert and Veronica. “How’d it go with the double date?” he asked, nodding towards the black button down and pressed slacks.
Buck looked down at himself and winced. “It was kind of a disaster, to be honest. Ten minutes for it to go south.”
Eddie frowned. “Why?”
“Just was,” Buck said, shrugging again. He clearly wasn’t ready to talk about it yet, so Eddie didn’t push, turning his attention back to Christopher.
“Better take him home. I think we’ve troubled you enough for one night,” Eddie replied shamefully, rubbing the back of his neck. If it had been anyone else, the mortification would’ve killed him where he stood, but not when it was Buck.
Though, even Buck couldn’t stop the flush of embarrassment under his skin right now.
“Hey, come on, it’s not a problem,” Buck admonished. “You know you’re both welcome here.”
Eddie didn’t want to know what his face was doing, but he stepped forward to tug his best friend into a tight hug. “Thank you.”
“Anytime. I mean it, Eddie, it’s not a big deal. Not that I encourage it or whatever, but I think your kid might have just saved my night,” he said amusedly, jerking a thumb towards him. Eddie huffed out a laugh, patting Buck on the shoulder.
“If you say so, Buck. Chris, let’s go,” Eddie called, turning back towards his friend and studying the thoughts racing past his mind, even as Buck focused his attention on them. “Hey, if you want to talk about that date, I’m a call away, okay?”
A shadowed expression passed over Buck’s face, closing him off to Eddie — he always hated when that happened. “Yeah, thanks. Think you’ve got your hands full, though,” Buck said fondly as he ruffled Chris’ hair when he came to stand next to him.
“Thanks, Buck,” Chris said, moving to hug him. Buck smiled down at him while Eddie looked away, unable to place exactly whatever the fuck his heart was doing in his chest at the display.
All that talk of safe spaces, and Buck had been Chris’ this whole time.
They said goodbye to Buck, stepping into the hallway with no small amount of trepidation. Eddie kept his hand on Christopher’s shoulder the whole time as they made their way to the truck, checking and double-checking that his son was still with him, unable to believe how close they'd come to living something out of Eddie's worst nightmares.
Eddie didn’t say anything as they began driving back towards home. Christopher stared staunchly out the window, not a peep coming from his mouth either.
Eddie sighed, looking at his son through the rearview mirror. “Buddy, I’m not mad at you, okay? I don’t know what you’re thinking over there, but I’m not mad. We can talk about this.”
“It was dangerous,” Chris said quietly.
“It was,” Eddie agreed. He was still trembling, and his heart rate was still faster than normal, but it’s more important to him that Chris knows that he’s not going to react negatively. “We’ll talk about it when we get home, but I want you to know that I'm not mad.”
He tried to organize his thoughts to figure out what he was going to say to him, but he couldn’t work with no information. He was going to have to ask what prompted him to run before he even remotely said anything else, because it wasn’t like Chris to take drastic steps like that.
“Do you want to get something to eat? We can stop by McDonald’s?”
“Yeah,” Chris said, looking a little more lively at the sound of fast food. As Eddie pulled into the nearest drive-thru, he wondered if even this made him a bad parent — rewarding his kid for scaring the crap out of him.
No, he wasn’t a bad parent, he'd just approached this situation wrong, and that lead to bad consequences.
It was one of the things he’d been learning in therapy — replacing extreme thoughts with more realistic ones that don’t take away from what had happened. He tried to repeat the affirmation in his head as he placed Chris’ usual order, forgoing anything for himself because he was sure to throw it straight up.
When they got home, Eddie directed Chris to take a seat at the table to finish what was left of his meal while he locked himself in the bathroom and tried to stop himself from shattering to pieces.
The drip of the faucet was enough to encourage him to splash cold water on his face, jarring reality a little deeper into his skin as he stared at himself in the mirror, hot pressure pricking at his eyes.
How had he let himself get so lost in someone else that his son left the house and he didn’t notice until Chris had already reached Buck’s? Buck calling him not even two minutes after Eddie noticed Chris absent from the house had to mean that Christopher had managed a whole twenty minute ride across town.
If that video call had stretched any longer, or if Eddie had let Chris stay in his room any longer, who knew when he would’ve noticed?
“God dammit,” he whispered to himself, scrubbing his hands down his face.
He didn't have the luxury of time, so he gathered himself up, exhaling sharply. It was time to face the music.
“Alright buddy, let’s go to the couch,” Eddie said, trying to stay gentle as he came out of the bathroom to find Chris fidgeting with his fingers, empty wrappers on the table. He took a seat on the coffee table, watching Chris as he came to sit in front of him. “Want to tell me about it, Chris? We don’t have to talk about anything you’re not ready to tell me, but Chris, I need to know why you felt the need to run like that.”
“I wanted to see my friend, because I was mad and scared of people going away.” It took no time for Chris’ sniffles to start. Eddie froze, feeling like his son had just bludgeoned him with a frying pan. It made so much more sense why he’d gone to Buck now.
“Why are you scared?”
“Mom went away, then Abuelita went away, and so did Carla and all my other friends. Now you have another friend who might go away, too. I don’t want people to go away.”
“Oh, Chris, Abuela, Carla and your friends didn’t go away, this pandemic is keeping us apart. To keep all of us safe, you understand that, right?” Chris nodded, wiping his nose on his sleeve. Eddie leaned forward to pull his son to his chest, wrapping him in a hug. “And your mom...she didn’t want to leave you, ever. It was never on purpose.”
“What about your new friend?”
Eddie didn’t know what to say to that. He wasn’t sure if this was going to work out to the end, or how his and Ana’s relationship was going to look further on, but he owed it to Chris to be honest about her.
“Do you want to know who she is?” Chris nodded. “It’s Ms. Flores.”
“My old teacher?”
Eddie nodded against the top of Chris’ head, pulling away to look at him. “Yeah. She works somewhere else now, but I ran into her at a call a few weeks ago. We’ve only been on a couple dates, Chris. I couldn’t tell you if it’s going anywhere permanent, but you’re the most important person in my life, and no matter who I date, they have to know that.”
“You want me to meet her?”
“When you’re comfortable and ready, yeah, but not before that. I only brought it up because I didn’t want to keep hiding it from you, and it hasn’t been that long,” Eddie replied, letting Chris move to sit in front of him again. “Is that okay?”
Chris was quiet for a long time, thinking hard about it. Just as Eddie was about to tell him that he didn’t need an answer right away, Chris said, “I want to meet her.”
“Okay. We can set that up next time we’re all free. Now, can you tell me why you called an Uber from my phone?”
“I wanted to see Buck because I was mad at you, and if I called him to ask him to pick me up, he would’ve told you. So I took an Uber so I could see him. You were on the laptop with someone and didn’t see me,” Christopher relayed.
Eddie closed his eyes, dipping his head. That was the last time he ever put headphones in. “Look, bud, Buck’s always there for you when you need him. He’s not going to tell me anything you confide in him about unless it’s something really serious. He didn’t tell me what you guys talked about tonight.”
“I know, that’s not why. I missed him and I didn’t want to talk to you,” Chris cried, his face blotchy with tears. “I’m sorry, Dad.”
Eddie reached out, hoping to soothe his crying child. “Hey, it’s okay. We got really lucky this time. You’re safe and sound, and that’s all I care about. And I’m not mad, but Chris, you can’t ever do that again. You can’t climb into an Uber without an adult with you, and we’re going to have to talk about using my phone without permission.”
Chris sniffled again, and the sound reminded Eddie why he hated having to scold his kid. It was the worst part of being a parent because he couldn’t stand to see his son so sad, but he couldn’t let him off scot-free for pulling stunts like that. Still, he understood insecurities, understood fear and he tried to stay empathetic to that.
“When you feel like you don’t want to talk to me, it’s okay if we take some space from each other,” he continued, opening his arms as Chris stood up again to hug him. “It’s okay if you want to borrow my phone to talk to Buck, too. But it’s not okay if you go somewhere like that. It’s not okay if your first response to anger is to break things. I understand it, but it's not an impulse we can or should act on. It's not healthy, Chris, but we can work on those things together.”
Eddie tried not to think about how Chris probably picked that behaviour up from him, even though Eddie tried his best not to bring it anywhere near his son. He was learning not to resort to anger as his first response, too, learning not to immediately want to break things the minute he was faced with something upsetting. This didn’t feel like something that they could learn together, because he was the parent in this situation. He needed to set the example for his kid.
He resolved to do better about it.
“I’m sorry. I won’t do it again,” Christopher mumbled against his shirt. Eddie ran his fingers through his curls, thinking over if there was anything left to say. Deciding that Chris probably learned his lesson by the sounds of it, Eddie decided to let it go and just hold his son close.
He pressed his lips to the top of Chris’ head, breathing in his unique scent as they both calmed down from the stress of the night.
“Are you mad that I talked to Buck and not you?” Chris whispered quietly.
“I’m not mad, but I’m sorry you felt like you couldn’t come to me,” he replied, smoothing a few errant curls down. “I’ll be here when you’re ready to talk to me, but Buck loves you, buddy. He’s not going anywhere. ” Eddie had faith in that, at the very least. It was the only thing he was certain about when he thought over this whole situation. “No matter what happens, you, me and Buck...we’ll always be a family.”
“Yeah. I like it when it’s us.”
Eddie chuckled. “Me too. Now, you want to get ready for bed? I’ll be in to check your teeth.” He narrowed his eyes playfully, pulling a giggle out of Chris.
“I love you, Dad,” Chris whispered.
“I love you too, Chris,” Eddie replied, relief spreading through him as he kissed Chris’ head again. “Don’t do that to your old man again, you hear me? I’m too young to have a heart attack.”
Chris laughed but agreed. Eddie moved out of the way so Chris could head down the hallway to get ready for bed.
Eddie pulled his phone out and typed in Uber policy, reading quickly to confirm that the riders have to be 18 to ride alone. Then, he opened the Uber app, finding the trip Chris had just taken, and reported the driver. There was no doubt that Chris was very clearly not eighteen, so there should’ve been no way that he made it all the way to his destination.
He pulled up his texts next to find a couple from Buck, and one from Ana.
Buck: Hope everything’s okay, and that you both feel better.
Buck: Oh, and you’re not a bad father because of this. Don’t let your brain take you there.
A little too late for that.
Eddie typed out a quick rundown of the talk he’d just had with Chris, sending Buck another thank-you note and an invitation for a movie night during their next day-off together. He opened Ana’s text next.
Ana: I know what you said, but I was serious about taking a break if Christopher isn’t ready. We can always try again later.
Eddie stared at the text, wondering if he would even want to try again if they took this break now.
All his life, he’d made decisions based on what he thought everyone around him wanted, and although he’d paid the price for many of those decisions, he was also stuck in this limbo of trying to move forward while still being a good father.
He and Ana were good together; that much he knew. It’d been awkward initially, but all relationships were like that. That was the whole purpose of dates — getting to know each other. But what bothered him the most was that Ana hadn’t even occurred to him until he was standing in Buck’s kitchen, relaying what had happened. His first impulse wasn’t to call her, and Eddie didn’t know if it would ever be.
If Buck hadn’t called first, Eddie would’ve called him right away. That in itself made him wonder if being good together was enough, or if he was making a huge mistake rushing into this. It made him wonder if he was being fair to Ana, and to himself.
He and Shannon had been good together, on paper — but when push came to shove, neither of them were willing to understand each other, and by the time they’d learned their lessons, the biggest one was that they weren’t right for each other.
Eddie wondered if he was going to learn the same lesson with Ana.
“Dad!” Chris’ voice came down the hallway, interrupting his thoughts. He shook his head, pressing cold fingers into the heated skin surrounding his eyes. H e owed it to Ana to at least give their relationship a fair chance; it wasn’t fair if he broke things off at the first sign of trouble. Besides, he really did like her.
Eddie sighed and ran a hand through his hair, getting up from his spot on the couch and flicking the living room lights off. Right now, his priority was Chris and just being there for him.
The rest could wait.
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And part 2. Part 1 is here. Also on ao3. See, I said you could trust me.
Eddie feels like an asshole.
He hates fighting with Buck, inevitably regrets everything he says when tensions are running high—and they had been. He’d been blindsided the night before when Christopher had stopped him before bed and asked dad, are you dating someone? He’d been avoiding that conversation, hadn’t been ready to have it, hadn’t even known how to start it. And even though he stumbled through it successfully enough, he was still—
He hadn’t slept well, spending the night staring up at the ceiling stewing, uncomfortable and upset for reasons he didn’t even really understand. It was just—what the fuck? Buck can go out with whoever he wants, including apparently Taylor Kelly, and that doesn’t warrant a conversation about what that means for his own relationship with Christopher, but he felt the need to put himself in charge of talking to Chris about what Eddie dating means?
Eddie’s not going anywhere, he’s the parent. Buck’s the one who doesn’t have to stick around, the one who can walk away whenever he wants to, who can fall in love with whoever he wants and leave—
It’s not fair. And on some level he knows that. But—what was it Buck said after everything with his parents and Maddie? That it’s easier to lash out at the people you know will forgive you?
...yeah, it’s easier to fight with Buck than look too hard at why exactly he’s so upset at the idea of Buck not always being there.
But after the shift, he doesn’t feel any better. He just feels like hell. And as he sits in his truck thinking more about why he hadn’t wanted to tell Christopher in the first place, he pulls out his phone and makes a call.
It’s easy. Simple. There’s no yelling, no drama.
He tells Ana she’s a wonderful woman—which is true—but that he’s just not in the best place to be dating—which is mostly true—and she says she completely understands and wishes him well, and that’s the end of it.
It ends and he’s not sad—it barely even registers—which really says about all there is to say. And Eddie goes home and thinks about how the hell he’s going to fix things with Buck.
He still doesn’t have a clear plan the next morning, but he figures starting with coffee can’t hurt. He knocks on Buck’s door just before eight—he has a key, but with everything...well it’s easier to knock.
Buck opens the door looking rough, unshaven with dark circles under his eyes, and stops.
Eddie swallows hard and holds out the coffee cup like a peace offering.
“I broke up with Ana,” he says, and Buck takes the coffee, stepping aside to let Eddie in.
Although, that doesn’t stop him from asking—
“Before or after you bit my head off yesterday?”
Eddie winces. “After. Last night.”
“I’m sorry,” he adds after a beat. He and Shannon never said that much, more often than not fell into the don’t apologize, just sleep it off school of fighting, which rarely fixed anything, just let things get pushed down to fester until some future barb cut deep enough to uncover them again. But he wants to say it. He needs to say it. So, he does.
Buck looks down at the coffee cup, takes a sip in the silence—then he shakes his head.
“You didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.” His voice is hollow, accepting, and Eddie hates it. Because he doesn’t want to be right, he doesn’t care about technicalities, about accuracy. There have been times when he’s needed to play the I’m his parent card—usually when he needs his parents to back the hell off—but it’s not something he likes to do. It’s not something he’s ever enjoyed doing.
Especially not with Buck.
“Maybe, but—I still shouldn’t have said it like that. So. I’m sorry.”
Buck looks at him for a moment. “I’m sorry, too,” he says finally. “Whether he knew or not, you’re right that how he feels about you dating—that’s something for the two of you to discuss and it wasn’t my place to bring it up. I overstepped.”
“I want him to be able to talk to you,” Eddie replies. “I know that there may be things that come up sometimes that he won’t want to talk to me about and I want him to be able to talk to someone he trusts if I’m not it, I just also don’t want you to feel—”
His tongue ties itself in knots as he looks away, searching for the right words, but they’re all a mess in his head and his throat, a tangled snarl of thoughts—I’m afraid that I’ve been leaning on you too much feeds into I don’t want to lose you which twines through I don’t know what I’m doing—all too much to spit out.
Buck has a strange look on his face when Eddie looks back.
“Obligated?” Buck fills in, and his tone is unreadable.
Eddie shrugs. “I’ve been doing this alone for a long time,” he says. And I’m tired, he thinks.
The strange look doesn’t go away—Buck’s brow furrows like he’s trying to figure out a complicated puzzle.
“You know you can trust me to stick around though...don’t you?”
“I—” It’s dangerous, the highwire he’s walking on, the thin line between I want and I shouldn’t, the whisper reminding him that he never gets to keep the things he wants.
“Eddie?” Buck prompts.
“I don’t expect your next serious girlfriend to be super comfortable with you helping to parent someone else’s kid, no,” Eddie admits, and waits for the other shoe to drop.
But it doesn’t.
“You’re an idiot,” Buck says. And Eddie blinks.
“I said you’re an idiot,” he repeats. “If you think I wouldn’t pick Christopher over some random hypothetical woman—and they are all only hypothetical right now—if you think I would get serious with someone who refused to understand that you’re in my life, that he’s in my life—I—you’re an idiot. Why wouldn’t I put him first?”
“His own mother didn’t.”
“Yeah, well—I’m not Shannon,” Buck’s voice is steady, and his eyes soften as he adds— “You let me into his life. You let me be part of your family—you’re my best friend and I know I’m not his dad, but I’m not just going to walk away from that. I love—”
Eddie’s breath catches. Buck cuts off and looks away, clearing his throat.
“—Christopher,” Buck finishes.
Eddie’s pulse is racing, blood rushes in his ears, and he tries to breathe and put his world right, return it to the balance that existed before he thought Buck was about to say—
It was a stupid thought anyway. He has no reason to think it, but he can’t stop wondering—
“Why did you break up with Ana?” Buck asks. The question cuts through Eddie’s reverie and his throat closes for a moment. Because he’s been turning that question over in his head for hours and while the answer is simple, it also feels...messy. Especially in this moment. Like it leads down a path he’s afraid to examine too closely, a slippery slope that goes...he’s not sure where. But he owes Buck honesty, so he swallows hard and admits—
“I realized I didn’t want her to meet Christopher as my girlfriend. And I didn’t think I ever would.”
Another odd look flickers across Buck’s face.
“She seemed kind of perfect for you,” Buck says. “Pretty and smart and stable—”
“Yeah,” Eddie agrees. “But she wasn’t what I wanted.”
“So...what do you want?”
A single word whispers through his mind, catches in his throat. And maybe he is an idiot, because he can be brave when it comes to any number of other things—running into burning buildings or downed helicopters, scaling walls and talking down impersonators who steal firetrucks—and yet, when it comes to this—
Buck sets the coffee down and takes a step forward, then another, closing the distance until he’s close enough to touch, until Eddie can feel the heat of him.
“What do you want?” Buck repeats quietly, his gaze searching, and Eddie still can’t manage to make the words come. But something flickers in Buck’s eyes before they settle on resolve and he nods.
Buck laughs and Eddie doesn’t have a chance to ask why before he’s being kissed.
And words may be difficult, but that he can do.
“For the record,” Buck says when he pulls back. “I don’t want to date anyone but you.”
“Well, that’s convenient,” Eddie replies, and pulls him down to kiss him again.
When they tell Christopher, they tell him together.
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bring home a haunting (9/12)
Fandom: The Haunting of Bly Manor
Pairing: Dani Clayton/Jamie Taylor
Summary: Dani almost has her life together, when a familiar face arrives back in town after ten years. A childhood friends AU written with @youngbloodbuzz
read it below or read it on AO3 here
It wasn't Jamie at Thanksgiving.
Jamie bringing Mikey. Jamie being charming. Jamie seated at the table with the whole family as though she’d never left. It wasn’t the way Dani had sat two seats down from her, wishing she could be close enough that their legs pressed together beneath the table, and in turn resenting herself for desiring such a thing in the first place. Here. Where Dani was surrounded by her fiancé and her future in-laws. Burying her nose in her wine glass against her better judgement until by the end of the night she had felt off-kilter, until she had needed to retreat to the bathroom to splash her face with cold water and sit atop the toilet seat with her head buried in her hands just to be alone for two minutes.
It wasn't Eddie's announcement that he'd booked the botanical gardens as their wedding venue for the next year.
Eddie telling her proudly after work one evening. Eddie listing off all the ways the venue suited their requirements. Eddie expecting her to be relieved that he’d taken such initiative to lift this burden from her shoulders, to allow her to focus on things like flower arrangements, and bridesmaids, and card stock for invitations. Dani had taken the news in stride. Her smile had been broad enough to pull at the seams until she felt like she might split open. She had let him kiss her on the cheek and take her out to dinner. She had let him place his coat around her shoulders, let him place his hand at the small of her back, let him place his hand on her knee the whole ride home.
It wasn’t even her mother dragging her off to Davenport on the weekend to try on wedding dresses.
The long car ride. Her mother in the driver’s seat, while Dani had tried to avoid conversation by staring at scenery through the window. Karen picking at every detail of the dresses that Dani had lingered over – this was too long, this was too ivory, this revealed too much of her back. Dani had let Karen speak with the store attendant instead, walking along a row of sumptuous dresses – innumerable yards of lustrous silk and satin, of muslin, velvet and lace – and unable to imagine herself in a single one. And after lunch, Dani had walked along the riverbank, gazing out across the sun-glinted water, and had thought faintly to herself that this was as close as she’d ever been to the state border. Wondered if she tried to sprint across the bridge, if she would be flung back, pulled by some greater gravity.
It was her car dying. That was what finally did it.
She'd had to call a tow, and Roger Simmons had let her hop into the passenger's seat with a kind smile as he dragged her car behind his truck all the way to the shop. The mechanic spoke like a coroner, coldly addressing what had done the old girl in, while Dani listened, hearing only a high whine in her ears, rising in pitch. In the end, Eddie had to come and pick her up to drive her home. She went in a daze, Jamie's coat draped over her shoulders, a wad of bills clenched in her fist – cash exchanged for scrap metal — and the box of precious things tucked beneath her crossed elbows.
It was the sleepless nights that followed.
It was waking up to sounds of drumming against the walls, a hollow noise, a hollow bang, as though from a fury with an iron glove. And it was waking up again with a jerk, a cold sweat, clutching at her throat and struggling to breathe through the fading nightmare of a rope coiled and snapping taut. Outside, a car in the predawn dark would pace the restless streets, headlamps like eyes lighting up the blue dimity curtains of their bedroom window in passing.
And Eddie slept through it all. Shivering with cold, Dani would curl up against his broad back, wrap an arm around him and lie awake until her body slowly warmed against his, until the rising sun began to tint the world a pallid ghostly grey. By the next morning, she would remember nothing of the terror. Only the cold. The deep and gripping cold.
“Not to be rude or anything,” said Jamie, “but you look like absolute dog shit.”
Now, standing in the doorway to Jamie’s house, Dani laughed. An honest slightly maddened laugh. It was Sunday morning, and Dani could not remember a time when she had felt more tired. She held a bag of food from Owen's that she barely recalled picking up earlier. There was the impression of wandering all that way, as though sleep walking, drifting down the familiar streets and hardly registering the fact that her feet were carrying her to a predetermined destination. As though an internal compass had an arm fixed firmly and pointing towards Jamie.
"Thanks," Dani said when she finally managed to stop laughing — just on this side of hysterics — wiping at the corners of her eyes and smiling weakly.
Jamie stepped aside to let her in and shut the door behind her. "Have you not been sleeping? And where's your car?"
Dani had to swallow back a tightness in her throat. "I sold it," she said, taking off her shoes and setting them to one side. "It died and I sold it."
"Sorry to hear that,” said Jamie and she sounded genuine. “But, hey. If you ever want advice buying a new one and don't know what to look for, I can help."
Dani didn't want a new car. She didn't want any car that wasn't purely her own and nobody else's. A car bought with a joint account. A car chosen on someone else's recommendation — no matter how sensible. None of it was sensible; she didn't want sensible. She wanted to go back to 1981 and purchase a car that let her feel — for the first time in too long a time — free.
There was a gentle touch at her elbow, and Dani tensed. She turned to find Jamie watching her with a kindly expression. "You want a cup of tea?" Jamie asked. "Only — it looks like you need one."
Dani's mouth opened, then shut again. She nodded, drawing in a deep breath. Her morning cup of coffee — Eddie had made it, insisting it was his turn — was a bitter aftertaste in her mouth. The only effect it seemed to have had was increasing her heart rate and leaving her bereft of the ability to sit still without feeling like she was going to self-destruct.
She followed Jamie into the kitchen, answering Jamie's questions with half-phrases and murmurs, distracted by the glance of light through the windows, by the way it seemed to cast Jamie all in bronze. A statue breathed into with life as though by an artist’s hands. Somewhere along the way, Dani had dropped her purse to the floor and sat at one of the bar stools, resting her cheek heavily in one hand.
Jamie set the kettle on a back coil and frowned over at her. "It's only nine, you know. You sure you don't want to have a quick nap before our usual torture via sci fi?"
Dani tried to imagine sleeping on the couch while Jamie puttered around the kitchen, and knew it would be impossible. She shook her head. "Thanks, but your couch is very sunny."
Indeed, the couch was sun-bathed and bright, just visible in the other room. The idea of sleeping there, waking up sweltering where anyone could walk by the house and see her, made her stomach turn.
"Doesn't have to be the couch," Jamie said. "I've a perfectly good bed upstairs."
Dani’s head jerked back. She pointed towards the stairs and said, “You mean — yours?”
"Yeah, unless you want the kid's room," Jamie opened up a cupboard and took out a tin full of tea bags. "Trust me. You don't."
“If - If that’s okay,” Dani said, voice rising in inflection like a question.
Jamie set down the tin. “Said it was, didn’t I? C’mon. Up you get.” She started towards the stairs and gestured for Dani to follow her.
For a moment Dani stayed seated at the counter. She could say no, and Jamie would let her. Jamie wouldn’t insist. Jamie would go back to making tea and small talk until Mikey wandered down for breakfast and television.
Scraping back the stool, Dani stood and trailed after her. Jamie didn’t glance back as they climbed the stairs together. Dani kept a hand on the wood-painted railing all the way up as though the earth might pitch beneath her feet. When they reached the landing, Jamie held up a finger to her lips and pointed at Mikey’s shut door, the two of them slipping past, and then Jamie was pushing open the door to her room.
With a sense of unreality, Dani stepped inside. Her memories of Jamie’s personal space always involved mess, a sort of organized chaos. The years had dampened that only somewhat. A few of Jamie’s clothes were still strewn across the floor and clutter accumulated on the dresser, but the bed was made and the air had that recently vacuumed smell. The curtains were drawn, admitting only a faint sliver of light from the far wall so that the room was pleasantly warm and dark.
Giving Jamie a furtive and apologetic shrug, Dani stepped towards the bed.
“I’ll leave you to it, then,” Jamie said from the doorway as Dani sat on the edge of the mattress, nearest the window.
“Don’t,” said Dani, “let me sleep too long.”
Jamie smiled at her. “Go on. Get some kip,” she said, and pulled the door quietly shut behind her.
Dani listened to Jamie’s footsteps retreating back down the hall. She didn’t realize she was gripping a corner of the sheets in a fist until she felt a dull ache in her hand. Clasping her hands together in her lap, she sat there and stared at the drawn curtains.
This side of the bed had no side table. Then again, Jamie had always preferred the right side of the bed. Somehow that simple knowledge was like a thrilling secret. Dani glanced over at that side, at the half empty glass of water and the faded novel and the pocket knife. Sitting up slightly, Dani tugged out the sheets and slipped beneath them, not bothering to get undressed.
Somehow this was worse than the couch. She was a voyeur in her own skin. Every motion seemed performed outside of herself, viewed by a camera lens through a keyhole. Dani sprawling across the mattress. Dani twisting up in the sheets. Dani pressing her face into the pillows and inhaling deeply. Dani pulling the covers up until her head was all but covered, until she was wrapped up in the familiar warmth and smell, until the sleepless nights came rushing over her, dragging her down, down into the vasty deep.
She awoke to the sounds of voices, distant through the door and down the stairs. Blearily she blinked and squinted around the room. The first thing she registered was that the bed was oriented incorrectly; it should have been up against the other wall. And the voices weren’t quite right either. There was the distinct lack of a Scottish burr.
Because it wasn’t 1978, and she wasn’t at the railway cottage, and Ruth Heron had been dead for over a decade.
Five more minutes, she thought muzzily to herself. Just five more minutes and she would wake up.
Five minutes came and went. Head still buried in a pillow, Dani lifted her arm to check her wristwatch. Thirty-five minutes, in fact. She couldn’t remember falling asleep again. Only that she couldn’t think of a time when she wanted to wake up less. Only that Jamie’s bed was far more comfortable than her own, and that even after all these years she could with confidence say she much preferred it.
Pushing herself upright, Dani fumbled with the skin-warm covers. She was swinging her legs over the side of the bed and running a hand through her sleep-mussed hair when she heard a gentle tap on the door.
“You decent?” Jamie’s voice asked from the other side.
Dani’s fingers curled at the hem of her skirt. She said, “Come in.”
The doorknob turned slowly and Jamie poked her head in before the rest of her followed. “Feeling better?” she asked, shutting the door behind her.
Dani lifted her head slightly, remaining perched on the edge of the mattress, angled away from the door. “A little.”
Jamie’s footsteps padded closer and behind her Dani could feel the bed sink down slightly beneath a new weight. She stared down at her own bare ankles. A slit of light through the curtains lapped against the carpet, so that it seemed her feet were underwater.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
A precarious lock of hair fell into Dani’s eyes, and she raked it back with both hands. Her fingers remained tangled there, slumping down so that her wrists rested against her shoulders and she held onto the back of her neck.
“It wasn’t half mine,” she said finally after a long pause. “The car, I mean. It wasn’t half my car. It was just - just mine. Nobody had to lend it to me, or share it with me, or withhold it from me, or - It’s silly, I know. I’m being silly.”
Hesitantly, Dani twisted round. Jamie had moved up the bed so that she was leaning easily against the headboard, propped against a pillow. One leg hung over the side of the mattress, and the other was bent at the knee. Ten years ago, Dani would have sank down beside her, would have rested her head in Jamie’s lap or on the perch of Jamie’s shoulder. Now the spread of sheets between them might as well have been the breadth of the Atlantic.
“It’s not silly,” Jamie continued, “wanting something that’s just yours. Not at all.”
“I have this.”
The words spilled out of her before she could properly think over their implications, and Dani rushed to clarify.
“Sundays,” Dani said. “I have - I have my Sundays back, I guess.”
“Not really just yours though, are they?”
“What do you mean?”
Jamie smiled softly and gestured to herself. “Well, I’m here. Taking up your precious Sunday time.”
Dani’s mouth felt dry. “Yeah,” she murmured. “But that’s -”
She didn’t say: ‘different.’ She didn’t say: ‘what I want.’ She meant it, though, and the words hung unspoken between them.
Dangerous, Dani thought. Being here — in Jamie’s bed, still tired, still muddled from sleep, the truth on the tip of her tongue — was dangerous.
Jamie looked away and Dani found she could breathe properly again. She cleared her throat as Jamie moved to stand up without doing so. Gesturing to the bed, Jamie said, “You can keep sleeping, if you want. I can tell the kid to keep it down and do homework, and you can sleep.”
“No,” said Dani faintly, then with more strength, “No, I want to wake up.”
It was far too early in the morning to be teaching children songs to a nativity play. Dani stood at the front of the otherwise empty auditorium with her class, clutching a cup of coffee that she had smuggled out of the teacher’s lounge. It was ten days until Christmas, and not a single one of these kids was ready to perform at the school play. Bless them.
Dani winced when the tune slid distinctly south of the intended key. With a fortifying sip of coffee on her tongue, she shook her head and raised one hand. “Okay, stop! Please! Let’s start from the top again, all right?”
She shot a plaintive look towards Ms. Reeves, who was by this time an institution in and of herself. Ms. Reeves was also the only competent pianist at the school and could sight-read sheet music. With a nod, Ms. Reeves pushed up her thick tortoise shell glasses and struck a chord to orient the kids back to the beginning of the song.
It did not go any better than last time. Not even with Dani slowing them all down and singing various sections by herself, so they could hear the difference. That didn’t seem to help much. If anything, the kids were adamant that she could keep singing so they could just listen and whittle down the clock until freedom. And she couldn’t blame them. She herself kept checking her wristwatch, wondering how many minutes until she was free from the purgatory of work so close to the holidays.
“You know,” she told them once they’d finished, “I’m not the one that’s going to be singing in front of all your parents.”
“But you’re much better at singing, Miss Clayton.”
“Yeah, you should just do the performance for us. We’ll be back up dancers.”
Dani gave a snort of laughter and rolled her eyes. “Well, that’s very flattering, but ultimately unhelpful. And it’s definitely not happening. So, we’re going to practise again tomorrow. All right?”
A chorus of whines answered. Dani held up a hand and began shooing them off the stage, “I don’t want to hear it. This is your only homework this week. So, you’re welcome. Go. Go on.”
It did not take much urging. They went with talk amongst themselves, shared excitement and laughter at being let free. One or two of them gave her a wave in passing.
“Bye, Miss Clayton.”
Dani smiled. “Bye, Mikey. See you later.”
Mikey trotted after a small group of his friends, shouldering his star-splashed backpack. At the piano, Ms. Reeves was shuffling together the sheet music and stashing it in the compartment hidden in the seat before she too shuffled towards the exit, trailing after the children.
Still on stage, Dani called out after her, “Thank you, Ms. Reeves! I’ll see you tomorrow!”
No sooner had the door shut behind her however, than it opened again. Dani, who had begun cleaning up after the kids — the last thing the janitor needed was to sweep this whole place when it would just take a few minutes of her time to pick up the bits of litter that seemed to accumulate wherever a pack of children roamed — glanced up, expecting to see that perhaps one of her students had left something behind. Instead, Hannah walked into the auditorium, her heels clicking against the polished floors.
“Oh, hi!” Dani greeted with an absentminded smile, even as she ducked down and tucked a few crumpled wrappers into her pocket for disposal later. “Fancy seeing you here!”
“Just doing the rounds,” said Hannah. “Finished some paperwork early.”
“Lucky you,” Dani drawled. She dropped down to one knee and reached under a stand to fish out a piece of paper that had been left behind. Someone’s old homework, no doubt. “I still have to -” she pushed herself upright, careful not to spill what remained of her coffee “- enter last week’s tests into the system. Good grief, how do they always leave so much trash everywhere? They were only here for forty minutes.”
Hannah climbed the stairs to join her on stage, the two of them arrayed like actors before an absent audience. “So, how many ear plugs should I bring this year?” she asked.
“At least two pairs for you and me,” Dani answered, sharing a small smile with her.
“Nothing for your beau? I didn’t think you the type to let him suffer alone.”
Dani laughed. She folded up the page of old homework and slipped it into her pocket. “This isn’t one of the events he’ll want to come to. Trust me.”
Hannah cocked her head to one side. “And what of Miss Taylor?”
Taken aback, Dani blinked and fumbled for a response. “Jamie? Well, she’s not - I mean - We’re just friends.”
Hannah gave her an odd look. “Of course. I was only asking if she would be attending to see her brother.”
“Right,” said Dani. “Yeah. Yeah, she’ll be here.”
When Hannah simply watched her curiously, Dani tucked a lock of hair behind one ear and sipped at her near empty cup of coffee. It had gone completely cold and bitter, despite the copious amounts of sugar and creamer she had added earlier.
“Have you worked out the catering yet?” Dani asked. Anything to fill the dead space, to divert Hannah’s too clever, too perceptive, too gentle gaze.
The corner of Hannah’s mouth quirked in a knowing smile, but all she said was, “Yes. I thought I’d take your advice, actually.”
“I’ve been in touch with the owner of that cafe in town,” Hannah said. “And Owen has gladly agreed to be the school’s supplier for the after show event.”
“Owen , huh?” Dani repeated, grinning. “Not Mr. Sharma?”
“Shall we play that game, Miss Clayton?” Hannah said, and though her tone was light the look she shot Dani was warning.
Clearing her throat, Dani turned the empty cup between her hands and glanced away. “Point taken,” she said weakly.
For a moment she feared that Hannah would press. A shiver of utter dread wormed its way up Dani’s throat, locking her jaw in place like a coroner’s wire sewn through the gaps in her teeth. Hannah knew. If not the specifics, Hannah knew something. She had seen the flowers. She had seen Dani and Jamie interacting at school events and camping trips. She had seen Dani spiraling at the Halloween fair, had calmed her down in the shadow of the old brick building, and sat with her until Dani could gather the pieces of herself together again. It’s all right , she had said. It’s all right.
And even though Hannah said nothing now, the words hung between them. They were alone in the school auditorium, on stage before an empty crowd, and Dani could not shake the feeling that if she looked up, there would be a bucket teetering in the rafters over her head.
“Do you have any plans for the holidays, dear?”
The question was so casual it took Dani a moment to register that Hannah had once again allowed her to slip away, unscathed and unnoticed.
“Just the usual,” Dani said. “Home with my mother and the future in-laws.”
“Well, that’s something, isn’t it?”
Dani smiled. Something. Yeah. It sure was. Another year at Judy’s house. The last year until she was another Mrs. O’Mara in a family full of Mrs. O’Maras.
“And you?” Dani asked.
With a sigh and a one-shouldered shrug, Hannah said, “The holidays are always quiet for me. I left my life back in England, when I came to America.”
“Why not,” Dani gestured with the cup towards the auditorium at large, “go back? Don’t you ever travel anymore?”
“Oh,” said Hannah, sounding surprised. “Not really, no. Apart from coming here. But that was a bit of a spur of the moment decision to follow -” she cleared her throat and whatever she had been about to say was replaced instead by, “Well, to follow a job opportunity, I suppose.”
“Do you miss it?” Dani asked. “Home, I mean?”
Hannah smiled gently. “Is it home, I wonder? I cannot say. I miss people. But — well. I have people here now, don’t I?” And she grasped Dani’s arm with a brief warm touch.
Dani blinked in surprise. “Of course. Yeah. You know, you could - you could come over. If you wanted.”
“That’s very kind of you, but not this year, I think.”
“Hey,” said Dani softly, and she reached out as if to grasp Hannah by the elbow, to return the gesture, only to let her hand fall back to her side instead. “I know I call you ‘Mrs. Grose’ and all that, but that’s not — I think of you as a friend.”
“Does that mean I can expect to receive a wedding invitation?” Hannah asked slyly, avoiding Dani’s well-meaning American earnestness with all the finesse of an Englishwoman incapable of stomaching such bald sincerity.
Dani laughed. “I’ll make sure to sign the invitation myself.”
“So,” Dani nudged Hannah’s foot with her own, “Next year? Christmas? You’ll come over?”
Hannah chuckled warmly. “Next year.”
There was a blanket of snow across the ground and Dani had elected to wear heels. Simple navy dress shoes. Just enough to give her an extra two inches of height and match her outfit. The moment she opened the car door and was met with a bank of snow along the curb side, she scrunched up her nose and weighed up her chances at being able to step over it. Her skirt probably wouldn’t give her the range of movement.
She was still pushing at the quirks of her gloves, when Eddie said from the driver’s seat, “I got it.”
He stepped out of the car, door slamming behind him, and rounded the car so that he could kick a path through the snow for her. Then, holding out his hand, he grinned. “Think Mark will hire me as the new plough driver?”
“You missed your calling,” Dani replied. She took his hand, giving it a grateful squeeze and allowing herself to be pulled up and out of the car.
“Well, if this council role fails, at least I have that.”
He didn’t bother locking the car as they made their way up the street towards his parent’s house. Dani kept her hand tucked into the crook of his elbow, shoulders hunched up and huddled beneath her jacket. The pavement had been salted and was bare of snow or ice. Great plumes of white feathered the night air with every breath. Dani shivered.
“God, I can’t wait for spring,” she muttered under her breath.
He chuckled, then took her hand and pressed it into his pocket, wrapped up in his hand for warmth. “You could’ve just worn boots, you know,” Eddie said. “I hear ski jumpsuits are very chic nowadays.”
“I think my mother would kill me.”
“We could write Dior across the back with a bedazzler. That way she couldn’t complain.”
Dani snorted with laughter before she could stop herself, biting back a wide grin. She nudged him in the ribs with her elbow. “You’re almost as bad as Jamie.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
By some miracle, Dani didn’t slip even once on the short walk to the front door. She ran a quick hand across her hair to ensure it was still coiffed to perfection while Eddie knocked. They didn’t actually wait for anyone to answer. Knocking was more of a courtesy. The moment after Eddie knocked, he turned the handle and pushed the door inwards to admit them, calling out, “We made it!”
“Merry Christmas!” a few voices said in jumbled unison, while Judy called from the kitchen, “Come in! Come in!”
“Shut the door while you’re at it!” Tommy added. “You’re letting out the heat!”
The two of them shuffled inside, shutting the door and pushing off their coats and gloves. Eddie held out his hand to take hers and she gave them to him with a grateful kiss on the cheek, which he ducked down to receive before striding away to hang up their things in a closet around the corner. The house was pleasantly warm and bright. A fire flickered and popped in the hearth. A few of Tommy and David’s kids were playing cards on the rug in front of it. Tommy and David themselves were seated on the couch, chatting with their dad and nursing beers. Their wives were sipping wine; the two had cordoned themselves off by the chairs near the Christmas tree, which was already piled high with presents for tomorrow. Taking off her heels and setting them by the front door, Dani gave the two other women – both sleek, polished, and brunette – a nervous little wave and a smile. They returned it, looking as plasticky as Dani felt.
Already Dani felt herself tense up with quiet dread at the thought of making small talk all night. The section of hard floor by the front door was slightly wet from the residue of snow left when people first stepped inside, and with a grimace she stepped further into the house and onto warm dry carpet. Before she could go any further however, there was another knock at the front door. And this time, it didn’t immediately open after.
Looking around, nobody else seemed to be moving. So, Dani walked back a few steps and opened the door to find her mother standing on the other side, a bottle of red wine under one arm.
“Oh,” said Dani, smiling weakly. “Hi, mom.”
Karen cast an appraising glance across Dani’s appearance – navy skirt, navy jacket, cream-colored blouse, bare-stockinged feet – and her eyebrow rose.
“What? Did you leave your snow boots at home?” Karen asked, moving inside so that Dani had to step out of the way.
Dani sighed. “Merry Christmas, mother.”
Normally that kind of tone would have earned her a sharp-tongued rebuke, but from the couch Mike said jovially, “Karen! Nice to see you!”
Her mother removed her shoes and strode towards the couch to talk. Tommy and David exchanged their pleasantries. Meanwhile, Dani caught Mike’s eye over her mother’s shoulder. He winked at her, but the action was so fast and subtle she might have imagined it.
Making her way past the living room, carefully not catching the attention of Tommy and David’s wives, Dani slipped into the kitchen. There, Carson and Judy were adding the finishing touches to a feast’s worth of food already spread out across the center island, while Eddie rummaged around in the fridge.
“Oh, honey, don’t you look nice,” Judy greeted her with a smile. She gestured Dani closer with a spatula so she could give her a brief one-armed hug and a peck on the cheek before returning to task.
“Hey,” Carson said, flicking a towel at his brother’s backside. “If you’re not going to help, get lost.”
Eddie straightened with a scowl, clutching a can of beer in one hand. “Knock it off, Carson.”
“Mom, tell him to get out of the kitchen.”
“Get out of the kitchen, Eddie,” said Judy in an absentminded tone, busy carving an enormous glazed ham and plating the slices.
Eddie shut the fridge door and said, exasperated, “Why do you always side with him?”
“Because she likes me more than she likes you,” Carson whisper shouted, dodging out of the way when Eddie took a swipe at the back of his head.
Which was, of course, exactly when Judy chose to look up from her carving, her face a fixed scowl of displeasure. “Edmund! On Christmas? Really?”
“Wha -?” Eddie pointed at Carson, but whatever excuse he’d been about to say died on the tip of his tongue as his mother returned to what she’d been doing. “Unbelievable,” he muttered under his breath.
Carson flapped the towel towards the exit to shoo his brother away, and Eddie went, sipping sullenly at his beer. “Not going to save me?” he asked Dani as he passed her in the doorway.
Dani shrugged apologetically but she was grinning when she replied. “Your mom’s house. Your mom’s rules.”
“Smart girl,” Judy murmured.
Eddie left, grumbling all the while. Carson waved cheerily after him and only stopped when Dani gave him a look.
“What?” Carson asked.
“You know what.”
“He was being in the way,” said Carson as though that justified everything. “He’s always being in the way. I thought you of all people would understand that.”
Even Judy shot her an amused glance at that. Dani crossed the room and snatched the dish towel from Carson so she could get started on the pile of pots and pans that had already accumulated in the sink before anyone had eaten a single bite.
Of course she knew that. Better than anyone. Better than any of them could begin to understand.
Instead, all Dani said was, “And we love him anyway. Because that’s what good siblings do. Especially during the holidays.”
Carson rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Fine.”
Running the tap to fill up the sink, Dani flicked him with water, and he ducked away from the splash with a whine of complaint.
“Judy!” called out Mike’s voice from the living room. “Can you bring out a towel and some soap! We’ve had a spill!”
With a sigh, Judy held out her hand for the towel, which Dani was already passing over to her along with a spare bar of soap from the windowsill over the sink. “Thanks, honey. Carson, can you take out the pie for me, please?”
Carson saluted sharply and moved towards the oven. “I’m on it, boss.”
In a bustle, Judy went out into the living room, leaving Dani and Carson alone in the kitchen. From the open door, Dani could hear her say, “Already, Tommy? I told you to be careful.”
“Sorry, mom. Here. I can do it.”
“It was David’s fault, actually.”
“Hey, Ed? Buddy? You want to test the ‘no fight’ rule of Christmas?”
Dani hid a grin. She twisted off the tap and scrounged around in the cupboard beneath the sink for a pair of pink gloves to start the washing up. Beside her, Carson grabbed an oven mitt and a spare towel, and pulled out a pie, resting it atop the stove and switching off the remaining dials.
“Smells great,” Dani said idly as she reached for a scrubbing brush and soap. “You two must’ve been working all afternoon.”
“It was mostly mom, to be honest. Though I was charged with some last minute grocery shopping. The store was a nightmare.”
Dani gave him a sympathetic grimace. With a smile, Carson set down the oven mitt and moved around her so that she could hand off a pan to him for drying.
“Feel like we should leave this for Eddie and the twins to clean up,” said Carson. “Seems only fair.”
Dani shrugged. “I don’t mind.”
“Yeah, but that’s because you’re too nice.” He nudged her shoulder with his own. “Don’t you ever get tired of it?”
“What? Of being nice? No.”
She pushed another clean saucepan, still dripping with suds, into his hands and repeated, “No.”
“Your loss,” he sighed dramatically.
They fell into a companionable silence. From the other room they could still hear the goings on of the rest of the family. Dani listened fondly, while beside her Carson began humming a familiar tune under his breath. They worked in tandem, but as Dani placed the song — one of the many she’d heard at his concert in Des Moines — her movements slowed. His humming was but an echo of that night. Of bright neon lights, and a sweat-crowded underground bar, and thrumming noise vibrating the very floor beneath her feet.
“You know I -” Dani started to say, then stopped, not knowing exactly how to continue. “I went looking for you that night. After the performance, I mean.”
“Hmm?” Carson said, idle and wordless, setting aside one pan and reaching for a clean pot that Dani had just finished washing.
The water was murky and soap-riddled in the sink. A few knives were barely visible at the bottom, and there was still more than one pan handle cresting up through the surface like a sunken bowsprit. Eyes glued to the water, Dani set down the scrubber and steadied herself, hands braced against the edge of the sink.
“I found you. I saw you with your - your friend,” she said softly, slowly, picking up pace when he stiffened at her side, realising the implication of her words. “And I know it’s not my business, but I just - I wanted to tell you -”
She glanced up at him. Carson was frozen and wide-eyed, his hands gripping the damp drying towel as though it were a life line, the only thing keeping him tethered. Dani slipped her hands free of the gloves and reached out to grasp his wrist with fingers that were clammy yet gentle.
“I think you’re wonderful,” Dani breathed, her voice low and her gaze far more steady than her heart beat. She could feel Carson’s leaping like a skittish animal’s beneath her thumb. “And I wish I were half as brave.”
He blinked at her, his brow furrowing slightly, and Dani felt her throat close up around her tongue. She could tell him. It could be their little secret. Something they shared, a flame shielded from the wind by two cupped hands, flickering red-hot against their palms. She could tell him that he wasn’t alone, that she understood, that he didn’t need to hide from her. She could tell him, but the words were strangled at the root, piling up against the roof of her mouth. She could tell him, but he would always be Eddie’s brother before he was hers.
Footsteps behind them. Someone entering the kitchen. Dani snatched her hand away as though scalded, and both she and Carson stepped back from one another. Putting the pink gloves back on to finish the dishes, Dani cast a furtive look over her shoulder.
Karen had paused in the doorway, gripping the neck of the wine bottle in one hand. "I hope I'm not interrupting something," she said with a pointed flicker of her eyes between Dani and Carson.
The idea was so ridiculous — her and Carson — that Dani couldn't help but laugh. That her mother cared to know her so little she could even think they were anything but friends. It was laughable. And so Dani laughed. Beside her, Carson’s expression was pinched, as though it took everything in his power to not join in.
"Is something funny?" Karen asked coolly.
Stifling a giggle behind her teeth, Dani shook her head. "No," she managed. Then she cleared her throat and continued more seriously, "No. Nothing at all. What can I get for you, mom?"
“Well, unless the wine glasses and corkscrew have taken up a new residence, I can get what I need myself.”
Dani handed off one of the last knives to Carson for drying and frowned at where her mother had crossed the kitchen to open one of the drawers. "At least wait for dinner," Dani said, and tensed as though for an incoming blow when her mother sent her a warning glare.
"Not tonight, Danielle," Karen said. "You know how hard Christmas is for me."
Except it wasn't just Christmas. And it wasn't just tonight. It was every night and all the nights that had come before.
Mouth pursed, shoulders tense, Dani stripped off the gloves. Carson must have noticed the hard expression on her face, for he said suddenly, “Hey, Dani, can you go tell everyone that dinner’s ready and that they’ll need to come serve themselves? We’re doing it more buffet style this year, since there are so many of us.”
Exasperated, Dani nodded. Carson nudged her lightly with his elbow and gave her a smile.
“Thanks,” Dani said under her breath.
“Yeah, you too,” he murmured. Then, straightening, he said, “Mrs. Clayton, do you mind pouring me a glass as well?”
Karen reached for two glasses instead of just one, and Dani was able to slip from the kitchen without further incident.
The hallway provided a brief reprieve, caught in between the living room where Christmas music played and the family chattered, the tree glowing with lights fading from one color to another and reflecting off hanging tinsel, and the kitchen where she could still feel the presence of her mother, a shadow at her back. Leaning against the wall beside the kitchen entrance, lingering there for a moment, she went stiff when her mother passed her by to retreat back into the living room. Expelling a slow breath, she startled slightly when the doorbell rang, and felt her shoulders slump with relief.
“I’ll get it,” Dani called out, and made for the door, pulling it open and smiling at the sight of Jamie and Mikey wearing identical grins with curly hair dusted in a cluster of snow. “You’re late.”
“It was Jamie’s fault,” Mikey said, “She forgot to dig out the truck from the snow.”
Jamie rolled her eyes and gently shoved Mikey inside. “You’re one to talk,” she said, shutting the door behind her with her boot, arms laden with presents, “You’re the one who took bloody forever to wrap the rest of those presents.”
“Because you kept complaining it wasn’t neat enough,” Mikey countered with a scowl.
“Are you two going to bicker all night, or are you going to give me your coats?” Dani asked, biting back a laugh when Mikey gave her a sheepish grin and Jamie snorted, setting aside the presents on a nearby side table.
Dani waited patiently as they slipped off their boots to rest against the towel already damp from snow, but as they began to pull off their coats, Jamie wacked Mikey on the arm. “Oi, you forgetting something?”
“Oh,” Mikey said sheepishly, handing Dani his coat and scarf with a small grin, “Merry Christmas, Dani.”
“Merry Christmas, Mikey,” Dani said, chuckling, “Don’t worry. You can tell me again tomorrow morning. You two are coming, right?”
Jamie shrugged, handing over her own baggy coat and old scarf. “‘Course. Wouldn’t miss it,” she said, and jerked her chin towards Mikey with a smirk, “Think this one would have my head if we did.”
But Dani wasn’t particularly listening, her eyes flickering across Jamie’s outfit of black slacks, a slim fitting black button up, and brown suspenders. The top button of her shirt was open, exposing an expanse of pale skin and the long silver link chain that disappeared in the collar of her shirt. Dark-haired and gray-eyed, she looked unfairly attractive.
Swallowing thickly, feeling slightly unmoored, Dani gestured towards the outfit in question. “How very monochromatic of you.”
“Well, I do have a reputation to upkeep,” Jamie said, the corner of her mouth curling into an roguish grin, “The ugly jumpers are for tomorrow, remember?”
“Yeah,” Dani said, chuckling faintly, “I remember.”
Sufficiently breathless over the bright glint in Jamie’s eyes, Dani ducked away around the corner to hang the pair's coats in the closet and settle her heart rate.
“Is that who I think it is?” Judy’s voice rang through the hallway. “There you two are! Come here! Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, Mrs. O’Mara,” Jamie replied.
Dani grinned fondly, shoving aside thick winter coats in the closet to make room for Jamie’s and Mikey’s, overhearing the warm welcomes around the corner, easily picturing Judy crushing Jamie and Mikey into affectionate hugs.
“Oh, finally, ” came Eddie’s voice next in a teasing tone, “Thought I was gonna have to rally the troops to start dinner without you.”
“Would’ve rung your neck if you did,” Jamie grumbled.
“Now, you two,” Judy admonished, “You remember my house rules, don’t you?”
Dani returned just in time to find Jamie shrugging with an impish grin, hands tucked into her pockets, and Eddie rolling his eyes. Judy in question had her arm wrapped around Mikey’s shoulders, and huffed out a soft laugh.
“You two haven’t changed a bit,” she said, and lightly jostled Mikey’s shoulders, “Come on, handsome. Let’s leave these silly goons to sort themselves out and go greet the others, huh?”
“Okay,” Mikey said quietly, wearing a shy pleased smile, cheeks dusted pink under the attention, letting himself be guided towards the living room where Dani could hear Tommy and David’s kids exclaim excitedly over Mikey’s appearance.
“Look at that, Ed. She called him handsome,” Jamie said with a smirk and some measure of pride, “Don’t recall her ever calling you handsome growing up.”
Eddie glowered, but Dani could see it lacked any real heat behind it. “Don’t recall her calling you pretty either.”
”That’s ‘cause I was the one she was calling handsome instead.”
When Eddie’s expression twisted in mild bewilderment, Dani breathed out a soft laugh and approached the pair. At her appearance, they both turned and grinned broadly at her. Dani blinked, feeling her breath catch in her chest lightly under the attention, her eyes darting between them. She quickly smothered the feeling, pulling her mouth into a small smile.
“You’re just gonna let her talk to me like that?” Eddie said, pointing reproachfully at Jamie.
Dani chuckled and folded her arms. “I refuse to get into the middle of one of these again.”
“Never gonna take a side, huh?” Eddie said, a teasing glint in his eyes, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her in close, “I see how it is.”
“That’s ‘cause I’m secretly her favorite,” Jamie said, smirking.
Eddie narrowed his eyes at her. “Okay, I’m going to let that pass once , since you helped us.”
Dani’s brows knitted together. “Helped with what?”
“Jamie helped us get the venue at the gardens,” Eddie said in triumph. “Turns out there was a long waiting list for a fall wedding, but Jamie managed to convince them to get us a slot.”
Dani went still. Feeling her stomach coil uncomfortably and her shoulders going stiff, Dani looked to Jamie and said, “You did?”
“Sure did,” Jamie said, her smirk outright devilish, “Hard to say no to this prat when he came crawling on his hands and knees, begging me to get you lot a spot.”
“That’s - I didn’t do that,” he said to Dani, “I just think she secretly likes me.”
“You and I both know I didn’t do it for you,” Jamie said with a wink in Dani’s direction.
Not knowing what else to say or do, feeling a swell of unease building between her ribs, Dani chuckled weakly and ducked her head.
Eddie laughed softly. “That’s fair,” he said, his hand rubbing her shoulder, “Gonna have to get you a gift basket as thanks.”
Snorting derisively, Jamie said, “I’ll settle for an open bar tab at the reception, thank you very much. But for now, you can start with taking those presents under the tree for me.”
Jamie gestured with an impish grin towards the small stack of presents that still sat on the side table beside them. Rolling his eyes and sighing exasperatedly, Eddie nodded and did as he was told, leaving them in the foyer with one last kiss to Dani’s head and a pointed look towards Jamie. Sending him off with a cheeky salute, Jamie turned back to Dani, her expression softening.
“All right, Poppins?”
“Yeah. Of course,” Dani said, blinking, “Why?”
Jamie shrugged, sinking her hands back in her pockets. “Had that look about you, I suppose,” she said, watching her carefully, “The gardens are what you wanted, yeah? If it isn’t, I’m perfectly happy and willing to go ring his neck.”
“No - it’s fine. It’s perfect,” Dani said, taking a small step closer, “The gardens are perfect.”
Arching an eyebrow, Jamie slowly said, “But?”
Shaking her head lightly, willing away the tight cincture in her chest, Dani said, “No buts. I couldn’t have pictured a more perfect place, to be honest.”
It wasn’t a lie for the most part. In another life, the botanical gardens blooming under the care of Jamie’s hands would have been more than she could have hoped for. In another universe, she would have been happy, she would have been relieved. Autumnal blooms and golden trees and a hand in her own that was smaller but no less calloused. But this was here and now, and Jamie’s discerning eyes were flickering over her quietly, studying Dani as though she could see right through her, and just as Dani felt her pulse quicken, Jamie’s expression softened.
“All right then,” Jamie said, “S’long as you're happy.”
Feeling her breath catch in her chest, her hands twitching to wrap around Jamie’s, one of the twins called out, “Danielle! Are you just gonna hog her yourself all night?”
Chuckling lightly, wrapping her arms loosely around her stomach, Dani felt her cheeks warm. Rolling her eyes, the corner of Jamie’s mouth curled into a smile and nudged her towards the living room. “Fair bit of warning, the kid has something for you,” Jamie murmured.
“Mhmm. Wants to give it to you tonight instead of tomorrow,” Jamie said, “Been a wee bit shy about it.”
“You two didn’t have to get me anything.”
“He insisted.” Jamie shrugged. “Kid’s a bit mad about the holidays, you saw what he was like on Sunday.”
Dani would be hard pressed to forget. Arriving at the Taylor household that afternoon with hot chocolate and pastries in hand to a house strewn about in wrapping paper and decorations and a bare Christmas tree tucked into the corner waiting to be accessorized. The day had been spent helping the pair decorate the tree and living room with Christmas music to keep them company at Mikey’s insistence. And afterwards they had settled on the couch to watch White Christmas as the blinking tree lights illuminated the room while Dani desperately tried not to drown in the nostalgia with Jamie pressed beside her. By the end, Jamie and Mikey had ended up chasing each other around the house with wrapping paper rolls after a well aimed thwack to Jamie’s head while Dani watched with exasperated fondness while waiting for the tea kettle’s whistle.
“I saw you, too,” Dani said with a teasing smirk, “I see you still have White Christmas memorized.”
Jamie shrugged, not meeting her eyes. “Dunno what you mean.”
“I also happened to see that you and Mikey seem to be matching tonight,” Dani said, taking a peak in the living room where indeed Mikey was also wearing dark slacks, a button up shirt, and suspenders. The only minor difference happened to be that his shirt was dark green and he was wearing a black bow tie that he was currently anxiously pulling at as he sat on the couch between Judy and Mike. Turning back to Jamie, she grinned. “Cute.”
Huffing out a soft laugh, Jamie shook her head. “Wasn’t my idea. He liked my suspenders and wanted one of his own,” she said, “Put my foot down on the bow tie though. Never would’ve heard the end of it.”
Letting her eyes stray briefly to the brown leather strung over Jamie’s shoulders and pressing into her torso, Dani swallowed thickly and said, “It’s sweet that you indulge him like that. With the outfits and just - all of Sunday.”
“Makes him happy," said Jamie simply.
Before Dani could say anything more, faintly aware that she was looking at Jamie with an expression that was too soft, too fond, there was another yell.
“Hey! Don’t make us come over there!”
Twisting around to frown at the source of the sound, she was greeted with the twins looking at her and holding up their hands in an impatient ‘come on’ gesture.
“Okay, why are you two baffoons yelling and why has no one come to get food yet?” Carson said, appearing from the kitchen with a towel slung over his shoulder and a look of exasperation that resembled Judy’s so much that Dani snickered.
At the sound, he turned towards the pair still lingering in the foyer and sighed, shaking his head. “I see what happened now.”
Jamie laughed and let Carson engulf her in a hug. “Not my fault I’m so irresistible,” Jamie said, shooting Dani another wink over Carson’s shoulder. Feeling her cheeks warm, Dani chuckled weakly as Jamie reached up to ruin Carson’s styled hair, but he was quick on his feet and batted her hand away.
“Think your head is getting way too big to pull out your ass,” he grumbled, playfully shoving her away, and then addressed the living room, “Dinner’s ready!”
They were promptly surrounded by O’Mara’s, finally greeting Jamie with hugs and handshakes. Dani watched with a faint smile, her arms still loosely wrapped around her torso, on the cusp of too enamored. Something nudged her arm and she startled slightly, turning to find Carson grinning at her.
“Some help you were,” he teased.
Her heart in her throat, she fumbled for a response but Carson was already stepping away, helping Judy herd the family into the kitchen to get food. Dani lingered near the back, waiting until the kitchen cleared enough for her turn, letting Eddie sweep a hand over her back as he slipped by in a bid to beat his brothers on getting the best pieces of turkey and ham, and shared a commiserating smile and eye roll with Jamie at the bickering and laughter within the kitchen.
At the dining table, by some miraculous chance, Dani managed to find a seat directly across from Jamie and Mikey, sandwiched between Eddie and Carson. With Christmas music still playing from the stereo and everyone digging into their dinner after a short prayer of thanks led by Judy, she fell back into patterns she’d like to think she’d mastered over the past month and a half. To smile at the right time and comment with the appropriate reply whenever addressed. To laugh under her breath at Carson’s murmured commentary and jokes. To drink her wine and eat her dinner, and not let her eyes linger on Jamie across from her. Jamie with strands of unruly dark hair raked across her bright eyes, Jamie with her infectious laugh, Jamie with those suspenders.
Partway through dinner, Dani came to the realization she was failing miserably when beside her Carson downed a whole glass of wine on one go on a dare by Tommy.
“Where on earth did you learn to drink like that?” Judy asked, eyes wide, slightly aghast but unable to hide her own amusement.
“God,” Carson replied with a broad grin when the table laughed.
And like a gravitational pull, Dani’s eyes immediately darted to Jamie’s to find her already looking back. Feeling her stomach twist not unpleasantly at the amused glint in Jamie’s eyes, they shared slow furtive smirks and a fond roll of their eyes. And just like that, Dani had to twist her hands around the napkin in her lap to ground herself.
In between conversations and bites of food, it was getting harder to not let her eyes stray back, to not linger at Jamie’s comfortable, slouched posture. To not watch Jamie laugh again from some comment by Carson gone unheard by Dani, feeling as though she were underwater, feeling something constrict in her chest. Her teeth clenched, Dani promptly drained the rest of her wine.
Beside her, Eddie leaned close and said, “Do you want another?” When she blinked up at him in confusion, he pointed and added, “A glass of wine.”
“Oh, yes. Please,” she said. Eddie smiled and stood to retrieve another bottle of wine from the kitchen.
Across from her, Jamie was pouring more gravy over her plate, and said with a teasing grin, "Looking to let loose tonight for once?”
Dani laughed breathlessly, feeling her cheeks warm. “Don’t get too excited,” she said, “I don’t plan on having a hangover on Christmas morning.”
“Shame,” Jamie said, still grinning at her, and without warning, before Dani could look away, Jamie brought up a finger between her lips to lick at a stray bit of gravy. Sucking in a quiet breath, Dani swallowed thickly and fixed her eyes down to her plate, shoveling in another forkful of food.
When Eddie returned to the dining room with two new bottles of wine in tow, a few seats down on the other side of the table, her mother perked up and said, “Oh, I’ll have another one of those too, if you don’t mind.”
Dani paused, carefully watching as Eddie smiled weakly and popped open a bottle, filling her mother’s glass until Karen was happy with the amount. When her mother waved him off with a murmured comment Dani couldn’t hear from this distance, Eddie muttered something back with another weak smile as Karen took a long swig from her glass. Knuckles white around her fork, Dani only managed to blink her gaze away from her mother when Eddie returned to her side, filling her glass before setting the bottles on the table and returning to his seat without a word, clearing his throat.
It took her longer than she hoped, to let her shoulders and the grip on her fork relax, to reach for her glass and take a long sip. It was a dark peppery red that settled heavily on her tongue. The kind her mother favored. She rested her glass back atop the table, all the while feeling a stare piercing straight into her. Her eyes darting up, Jamie was watching her with a carefully neutral expression. Slowly, Jamie’s eyebrow arched with a faint look of concern and quiet question. Feeling something unspool in her chest, Dani gave her a slow reassuring smile. Staring at her for a moment longer, Jamie’s eyes darted across her face as though searching for something, and then finally she shrugged before returning to her food.
Dinner seemed to pass quicker after that, leading to conversation over empty plates and letting the kids run around the table, dodging teasing hands with bright laughter. Dani’s hands fidgeted under the table, pulling at her fingers and scratching at a hangnail. In an effort to burn off her restless energy and feel useful, she stood and began gathering the nearest plates to take into the kitchen, but as she reached for Carson’s plate, he batted her hands away. He took the plates from her and set them back down on the table.
“No. Nope. Not happening.”
“What do you -?” Dani started to say but she didn’t get far.
“Tommy. David. Eddie,” Carson pointed at his brothers in turn as he called their names. “You’re up.”
The three of them blinked at him in bemusement.
“I mean it!” Carson snapped. “You’re really gonna make Dani and mom do dishes? Or Ash and Liz? Come on. Don’t be assholes.”
“Why does he get to swear in the house?” Eddie asked his mom, when there was no rebuke forthcoming for language.
“Because I like his message,” Judy replied dryly.
With an arm stretched over the back of Mikey’s chair, Jamie snickered and held up her glass of wine. “Cheers,” she said, and took a long swig.
“Why aren’t you making Jamie help, then?” David grumbled, already standing to gather the dishes.
“With all those elbows being thrown around?” Jamie said, “I’d rather not have a black eye for Christmas, thanks.”
“Never took you as a coward.”
“You wanna go there, mate?” Jamie said with a sharp grin. “I have plenty of arsenal to make you regret it.”
With his mouth thinned and eyes narrowed, David thwacked Tommy on the arm to get him to stand. The pair of them grumbled under their breath to the sound of the table chuckling. Eddie quickly followed suit with a roll of his eyes when Carson gave him a pointed glare. Dani watched with a fond grin and when her eyes met Jamie’s again, they shared a snort of laughter.
“Hey, Mikey,” Carson said, “Wanna come help me choose the next tape to play?”
Fiddling anxiously again at his bowtie now that dinner was over, Mikey’s eyes brightened at the offer and he was nodding, already pushing out his seat before Carson could stand. And just like that, the table began to disperse back around the house with happy chatter and glasses of alcohol in hand.
Dani took the opportunity to dart into the downstairs bathroom and draw in a deep, relieved breath with the door finally shut behind her. Her reflection was waiting for her in the mirror, wan and frazzled. Scowling, Dani reached up to fix her hair, to try and make herself feel more grounded at least superficially. In the time it took her to do her business and return to the chaos, Mike had already brought out his camcorder for the night, and The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album was blaring on the stereo. Casting her eyes around the house, not seeing Mikey or Jamie anywhere, Dani exhaled a slow, fortifying breath, and waded out for small talk.
She managed for the most part, discussing work with Ash and Liz and trying her best to remember the plot of the last book she read. Smiling shyly with a small wave whenever Mike panned his camcorder in her direction. Letting Eddie wrap an arm around her shoulders when the boys were done cleaning in the kitchen. Sharing furtive eye rolls with Carson across the room where he stood by the stereo when the three eldest O'Mara boys smiled proudly, as though cleaning was their idea in the first place. Letting her eyes snap towards Jamie when she finally entered the room, following her closely as she made a beeline towards Carson with two bottles of beer in hand.
Suddenly, Eddie’s arm around her felt like an anvil, sinking her into the carpet floor. She felt too exposed under Mike’s camera, and her mother lingering nearby on the couch, flushed and glassy-eyed and far too familiar.
Swallowing thickly, Dani said to Eddie, “I’ll be right back.”
Mid-conversation with Tommy and his wife Liz, Eddie nodded absently and let her slip away quietly. Delving back into the kitchen, she drained her wine and rested the empty glass on the counter. For a long moment, she stared into the glass, seeing her warped reflection, and with a tight jaw, she pulled open the fridge to retrieve a bottle to refill her glass.
Wandering back out into the hallway, she found herself leaning against the wall once more, mustering up the courage to delve back into the living room. Taking a slow sip of her wine, feeling her cheeks warm from the alcohol, she didn’t notice Mikey wandering up to her from down the hallway until he was leaning beside her, scowling down at his bow tie as he pulled and fiddled with it.
She tilted her head to the side and asked gently, “Having trouble?”
His eyes briefly met hers and he shrugged, ducking his head again. “It keeps getting worse,” he grumbled.
Dani chuckled and nudged him in the arm. “Maybe because you keep messing with it.”
With a huff he rolled his eyes and tugged at the fabric again. “Mr. O’Mara showed us how to do it, but it’s not working.”
When he tugged on it again roughly and sagged heavily against the wall, Dani bit back a laugh. “Okay, come on,” she said, placing a hand on his shoulder and guiding him back down the hall, “We’re going to fix this.”
His shoulders slumped, Mikey didn’t complain as she led him towards the bathroom, flickering the lights on and grinning fondly at the lines of frustration and disappointment in his face through his reflection, an uncanny mirror image to Jamie.
“Now, I’m more practised in regular ties and doing it backwards, but we’re gonna give it a shot, okay?”
At his quiet nod, Dani squeezed his shoulders and gestured for him to undo his bow tie as she rested her glass on the counter. With his back to her, she reached over his shoulder to adjust the length of the fabric, and asked, “Is this okay?”
He nodded again. She smiled and began to slowly show him the steps with his back to her. Just as he was in class when challenged beyond his level, Mikey was eager to learn, watching the steps through their reflection. It was a little uneven when she was done, but with some adjusting and pulling, she was pleased with it. Leaning closer to get a better look, Mikey grinned broadly at their reflections.
“Thanks, Dani,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” she said, “Now it’s your turn.”
With a heavy sigh, Mikey acquiesced and undid his bow tie. She took it slow, murmuring encouragements in between her instructions as Mikey’s brow furrowed in concentration while following her directions. Just as they were mid-way through, Dani’s voice faltered when through the mirror, a familiar figure appeared and leaned against the open door frame.
“Was wondering where you two went,” Jamie said.
“Mikey was having trouble with his bow tie,” Dani explained.
“I see that.” Jamie smirked at Mikey. “My services weren’t good enough for you, huh?”
Through his faint blush, Mikey scowled. “Not my fault your memory sucks.”
Jamie snorted. “Yet, you’re the one who thought I was cool enough to want to copy and match.”
If anything, Mikey’s cheeks went redder and he crossed his arms, his shoulders bunching. Dani gave Jamie a reproachful look through the mirror, and in response Jamie rolled her eyes with a good natured grin.
“All right, all right,” Jamie said, flapping her hand towards them. “Carry on. I’m not even here.”
Shaking her head, Dani coaxed Mikey out from his hunched form to return to his bowtie, and in no time he was tugging it in place, squared up and neat.
“There you go,” Dani said, patting his shoulder with a proud smile, “Now you look especially handsome.”
Ducking his head, Mikey murmured, “Thanks, Dani.” And then after a long moment, briefly darting his eyes between Dani and Jamie through the mirror, he said, “Can I go now?”
Huffing out a soft breath, Dani nodded. “Yes. Go on, I’m sure Mrs. O’Mara has snacks hidden for you somewhere.”
His eyes brightening, Mikey grinned and made to exit the bathroom, but was pulled to a stop by Jamie slinging an arm around his neck and pulling him close with a smile. “Aw, mate. She called you handsome.”
“Ugh, get off me,” Mikey grumbled, but made no real effort to pull out of her grasp.
Laughing, Jamie lightly ruffled his hair, and said, “How about we do what we had planned first, and then you can go?”
Mikey’s look was dubious. “Now? Here?”
Jamie shrugged. “Why not? No one’s here to see. That was the point, remember?”
Hesitating briefly, his brow knitting where he remained pressed against Jamie’s side, he finally nodded. Dani watched with a patient, soft smile as Jamie let him go and pulled something unseen out of her pocket, hidden behind Mikey’s thin frame. Covertly passing the object in hand to Mikey, Jamie shot Dani a quick wink over his head with a crooked grin.
Mikey’s cheeks were pink as he turned and held out a small navy box towards Dani, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. “Merry Christmas, Dani,” he murmured.
“Thank you, honey,” Dani said, charmed, taking the box. When she opened it, she smiled broadly to find that inside, nestled in foam padding was a Star Trek insignia silver pendant attached to a simple chain necklace. “Oh, it’s perfect,” she breathed.
“I have one too,” Mikey said, visibly pleased over her reaction, “Mine’s a pin, but I left it at home.”
“You should’ve worn it,” Dani said, “Then we’d be matching.”
Mikey’s smile brightened, and he eagerly said, “I’ll wear it tomorrow.”
“You better,” Dani said, pulling the necklace from it’s box, “We’re going to have to one-up Jamie somehow.”
Laughing, Mikey nodded and turned to Jamie, “Now can I go?”
It took Jamie a moment to answer, leaning against the doorframe with her hands in her pockets, expression soft as she watched them. She grinned and nodded, jerking her head towards the hallway. “Yeah, all right. Out of my sight.”
When Mikey disappeared down the hallway after one last pleased grin, Dani held up the necklace pinched between her fingers and said, “Help me?”
Without a word Jamie pushed herself upright and stepped closer. Heart a sudden claxon in her chest, Dani handed her the necklace and turned on the spot, pulling her hair to the side. Through the mirror, she watched as Jamie reached around and placed the chain around her neck, sucking in a quiet breath at the feeling of Jamie’s warm fingers grazing against her skin as she clasped the lock with an expression that was hard to read. An involuntary shiver traveled down Dani’s spine, her jaw aching from how hard she clenched her teeth.
“There you are,” Jamie murmured, and stepped away, digging her hands back in her pockets.
“Thank you,” Dani murmured, adjusting her hair back over her shoulders and setting the pendant straight so that it hung right over the dip of her clavicle.
“No problem,” Jamie said, nodding towards her with her chin, “Won’t believe how popular their merch is. It’s bloody everywhere. Apparently some Captain Clark bloke is from Iowa.”
“Captain Kirk,” Dani corrected and laughed when Jamie shrugged dismissively.
Then Jamie grinned and said, “Fancy keeping me company outside for a smoke? Came to find you to ask.”
“Yeah,” Dani said, nodding, “I’d love to.”
It was not until Jamie sneaked over their coats to the backdoor did Dani realize what she had agreed to. Carson was nowhere in sight to accompany them like she had expected, to act as a buffer to the nerves straining beneath Dani’s skin. But his boots were already set on a nearby mat, and Jamie was shoving them over towards her after handing Dani her coat.
“His boots are too big, I can’t - “
“Don’t think I didn’t see those heels of yours by the front door,” Jamie said, shrugging into her coat with an exasperated grin, “Honestly. You know how to color match, but you still haven’t learned your lesson on weather appropriate clothing?” A slow grin grew on Dani’s face. Seeing this, Jamie’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
“Raising a preteen really rubbed off on you, huh?”
Jamie stared at her for a moment, and then scowled, her cheeks pink. Dani snickered. “Just put the bloody boots on,” Jamie grumbled, and pulled open the back door, letting in a waft of freezing air.
Huffing at the cold air against her legs, she gave Jamie a mild glare who smirked in response. Without any more preamble, Dani shoved her feet in Carson’s oversized boots and slipped on her jacket and scarf before following Jamie outside on the porch. The temperature seemed to have dropped over the course of the night, the air still but bitingly cold. Dani shivered, wrapping her coat closer around herself as she followed Jamie to the railing, but instead of lingering in the overwashed porch light, Jamie grasped her hand and carefully guided her down the icy porch steps.
“Where are we going?” Dani asked, the boots clunky and loose on her feet, but blissfully warm against the solid foot of snow as they trudged through the untouched expanse of white.
“Over here,” Jamie said, her breath a white mist, leading her towards the old shed near the back of the yard with furtive glances behind them to the backdoor, “Promised the kid I’d quit smoking for the New Year. He’s been on my ass about it. I’m going to have to milk the next few days for all they're worth.”
Dani snorted. “Quitting cold turkey, are you?”
“Is there any other way?”
“Gradually? Like a normal person?”
Pulling them around the corner of the shed, hidden away from view of the house where they could still hear the stereo blasting Christmas tunes at an unreasonable volume level through a crack of a window, Jamie leaned against the shed and grinned.
“You know me,” Jamie said, releasing Dani’s hand to pull out a rumpled pack of cigarettes from her pocket, “I’m an all or nothing kinda woman.”
Dani snorted, wrapping her arms around herself to ward off the cold. “You’re in a good mood tonight.”
“Good food and free booze, what’s not to love,” Jamie said with a shrug.
“You mean besides hiding behind a shed in case Mikey sees you smoking?”
Rolling her eyes, Jamie didn’t deign to respond. She plucked out a cigarette and placed it between her lips, flicking a flame to life with a plastic lighter. Dani watched, entranced at the glow of orange illuminating her skin in the dark shadows encompassing them. Jamie’s eyes glinting in the light of flame and embers, cheeks sinking inward until she lifted the cigarette away to blow a thin stream of smoke above them with pursed lips. Dani’s heart was still pounding from the bathroom, crashing steadily against her ribs, the burn of Jamie’s hands lingering against the skin of her neck like an ink blot. She darted her eyes away in an effort to not look at Jamie’s lips when she took another drag.
“You know,” Dani started slowly, “I still have your old lighter.” At Jamie’s questioning frown, she added, “The Zippo.”
Jamie blinked at her for a moment, and huffed out a breath of laughter. “Figured you would’ve pawned that.” Jamie said with a shrug, taking another drag, the embers burning bright.
Dani frowned. “Why would I do that?”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“Because I missed you.”
Jamie stared at her, the air between them abruptly thick. Her stomach whorling uncomfortably, Dani cleared her throat and ducked her head, but then Jamie laughed softly.
“Missed you too, Poppins,” Jamie murmured. When Dani dared to look up again, Jamie's expression was fond as she smiled at her. “Don’t think I told you that before, when you first said so.”
Easily, Dani could recall that day in the alley beside the pharmacy, when things had still felt so fragile between them like a house of cards stacked in her palms. And then the Sunday after that, and the Sunday after that. Smiling faintly, Dani murmured, “You didn’t have to.”
“Well, now you know at least,” Jamie said, taking another pull at the cigarette, and nodded towards Dani with her chin. “Don’t think I mentioned before either,” she continued through a plume of smoke she directed away from Dani, motioning her hands towards her, “Your outfit. Looks nice tonight.”
Dani’s cheeks warmed and she bit back a broad smile. “Thank you,” she said, and stumbled for a reply. “You - um. You look nice too.”
“Thanks.” Jamie slouched against the shed, her smile veering into a smirk as though she already knew this for a fact. “It’s the suspenders, yeah?”
“Um - “ Dani fumbled. “I suppose.”
“Gonna have to wear it more often, then.”
Dani nodded in lieu of a verbal reply, not trusting whatever she might say, praying that the shed shrouded them in enough darkness from porch light to not display the heat spreading across her cheeks.
At that moment, the music from the house blared louder than before, Wham!’s Last Christmas booming through the open window. They both listened with amusement as complaints immediately followed.
“Carson, turn it down!” bellowed Eddie just as David complained, “I can’t hear myself think!”
“With what brain?” Carson rebuked.
“Do you want us to break mom’s rule, because we will!”
“Suck it up!”
Dani met Jamie’s eyes and they both snickered with laughter. The volume in the end did not turn down, forgotten in the midst of continued bickering. Grinning broadly, Jamie lifted the cigarette to her mouth and Dani’s eyes drifted down to watch. When she expelled the smoke to the side, Dani held out her hand.
Huffing lightly with a small shake of her head, Jamie gamely handed Dani the cigarette. “Y’know,” Jamie said as Dani eyed the red stained filter for a moment and took a slow, careful drag, “Could always just have one of your own.”
Coughing lightly, Dani blew out a plume of smoke. “Then that would make me a smoker.”
Jamie rolled her eyes, but when Dani made to hand it back, she shook her head. “Keep it,” she said, “Might be the last you ever have once I quit.”
“Feeling confident, huh?”
“When there’s a promise on the line, sure.”
Smiling warmly, Dani flicked off the ash into the snow, running a thumb over the filter. A thrill ran through her, a shiver coursing down her spine so that she huddled further into herself, feeling the cold bite at her ears and nose and exposed legs.
Chuckling lightly, Jamie said, “Christ, look at the state of you.” She pushed off the shed and held out a hand. “C’mere.”
Dani froze. “What?”
“Put that out and come here,” Jamie said, “You’re freezing.”
Jamie gave her a long dubious look. Clenching her jaw, Dani shifted her weight anxiously on her feet. “Are you sure?”
“Okay,” Dani said, taking another long, fortifying pull of the cigarette before flicking it in the snow, expelling the smoke through her nose.
Her stomach coiling with nerves, Dani took Jamie’s proffered hand and let herself be pulled closer until they were pressed together in a hug. “That’s better,” Jamie murmured, running her hand up and down Dani’s back, “Warm yourself up.”
Slowly wrapping her arms around Jamie’s waist as though any sudden movement might break the spell, Dani nodded, her heart feeling as though it threatened to burst through her sternum. It was no different than any of their hugs, no different than the long lingering embraces at Jamie’s front door. But the wine had her skin straining and her head buzzing, and worse, she was surrounded by the scent of sandalwood and smoke. Her breath a plume of white in a soft sigh, Dani’s eyes slowly slipped shut and she burrowed further in Jamie’s warmth, pressing her nose into her worn scarf and inadvertently grazed the skin of Jamie’s neck.
Jamie’s arms stilled, her breath catching lightly. “Cold,” she murmured.
A thrill going down her spine at the heat of Jamie’s skin against her nose, Dani said, “Sorry.”
Jamie didn’t reply, unmoving as she held Dani. Frowning lightly, Dani opened her mouth to say something, to say anything, when a familiar jazzy tune drifted from the house.
Huffing a soft laugh, Jamie murmured, “Figures.”
And before Dani could react, Jamie was rearranging their arms. Dani’s breath caught quietly as Jamie rested one of Dani’s hands on her shoulder and took the other to clasp their palms, and then slowly, as though waiting for Dani to stop her, to push her away, she slipped her hand around Dani’s waist. And with Ella Fitzergerald’s rendition of White Christmas accompanying them, Jamie began to sway with her on the spot.
“There we go,” Jamie murmured, their temples pressed together, her breath a hot wisp against Dani’s ear and neck.
Swallowing thickly, her heart threatening to burst through her chest, there was a feeling washing over Dani like a haze, as though the world had narrowed down to just them, in this dark corner in the snow with only the distant porch light and the moon to illuminate them. She pressed her eyes closed and drew in a soft breath, the air bitingly cold as she inhaled, feeling dizzy and enchanted all at once.
“This is nice,” Dani murmured, broaching the long quiet as they swayed.
Jamie hummed softly. “Yeah,” she said. “Was thinking. You could come over again before the New Years. Could watch White Christmas again and pretend we’ve never seen it before. Give Mikey a taste of his own medicine.”
Dani chuckled, and bit her lip at the near imperceptible feeling of Jamie pulling her closer by the waist. “I’d love to,” Dani said.
And before she knew what she was doing, Dani was pressing closer. Wrapping her hand further around Jamie’s shoulders, fingers tangling in strands of curly hair, grazing the back of Jamie’s neck. Ducking her head to bury into the crook of Jamie’s shoulder, nose and mouth pressed against the skin of her throat, making a small sound of contentment.
Jamie sucked in a sharp breath, their swaying faltering for half a heartbeat, and she audibly swallowed hard. Dani’s eyes slowly drifted open, lost in the darkness of the crook of Jamie's neck, straining her ears, feeling Jamie’s hand on her waist dig into the fabric of her coat. They were swaying again, but with Jamie’s pulse a sudden rapid flutter beneath Dani’s nose and lips, she felt as though she was veering over a vast precipice, her stomach dropping at the sensation. Trying to remember how to breathe, Dani slowly lifted her head, smoothing her hand over Jamie’s rigid shoulders and back, gripping Jamie’s hand tight.
Dani opened her mouth to speak, to broach the lingering silence, but the air was still around them, particles of snow drifting so slowly they might as well be fixed motionless where they hovered, and with one word spoken, one wrong movement, the spell between them would be broken. The world moving again, expanding beyond the single point where they clung to each other, pushing them apart.
Exhaling a soft trembling breath, Dani gradually pulled further back until she could finally see Jamie’s face. Gray eyes dark and stormy, expression carefully blank, Jamie met her gaze and the corner of her mouth lifted into a faint, barely there curve. Dani lingered on it, on the scar there painted red and outlined in faint light. It would be so easy to push back in, and press her lips there. To taste Jamie’s mouth of wine and cigarettes, and feel that scar beneath her own mouth and tongue. Dani bit her own lip and watched Jamie’s jaw go taut, the muscle leaping beneath her skin.
Her eyes darted up and met Jamie’s, darker than before, unblinking as they were piercing, and then Dani sucked in a quiet breath when gray eyes slowly traced down over Dani to where they were pressed together before traveling back up, lingering on Dani’s mouth for a long moment before catching Dani’s gaze again.
Dani swallowed hard, her breath caught in her throat, not daring to believe, not daring to hope. A flash of something unreadable crossed over Jamie’s expression like a red flare in the dark, the scratch of a matchstick, a flicker in the strained lines of her face. And in a moment it was gone, in its wake something unreachable and blank.
She couldn’t have been imagining it. The same heat that flared between her ribs and thighs reflected back at her through Jamie’s eyes. The same adoration she’d come to know like the back of her hand since they were children.
The song was ending, transitioning easily to some other tune Dani couldn’t be bothered to name, when it was abruptly cut off to the immediate sound of muffled complaints and bickering. The silence that followed between them was suddenly and unbearably thick.
“Jamie - “
“We should head inside,” Jamie murmured, “They’ll be wondering where we are.”
They still stood so close that Dani could see the shadow of her eyelashes and the flecks in her eyes. The music returned to a chorus of cheers, the volume at a more reasonable level. Slowly, Dani braved another smile and eased closer, knocking their foreheads together. “One more song?”
Stiffening for a moment, Jamie huffed and said. “You’ll be the death of yourself. Your hand is freezing.”
“I can handle it,” Dani said, keeping the ‘with you,’ locked away behind her teeth.
Jamie seemed to have heard it anyway, for she sighed slowly and muttered, “What am I gonna do with you?”
“Dance with me?”
Choking out a thin laugh, Jamie pulled away. “Not when you’re bloody shaking like a leaf,” she said, “C’mon. Back inside with you.”
Disappointment gripping at her chest, Dani felt her face fall as Jamie took a full step back that seemed to feel like a vast canyon for how close they were pressed together before. Dani missed the warmth of her arms immediately, but then Jamie was arching an eyebrow at her.
“Unless you want Judy to come bursting out here wondering what we’re doing,” she said, a teasing curve tucked into the corner of her grin. “Or worse: Ed.”
Stones sunk in the pit of Dani’s stomach, and suddenly reality pressed on her eardrums like a rush of wind. “Right,” Dani choked out, smiling weakly.
She followed Jamie back inside, breathing in relief in the warmth of the house, shedding her jacket and Carson’s boots. Beside her, Jamie exhaled softly and handed over her jacket when Dani held her hand out, a sharp line to her jaw, not meeting Dani’s eyes.
“Just gonna head to the loo,” she muttered. She glanced towards Dani, who nodded, mildly bewildered at the sudden change in disposition. Jamie jerked her head in a short nod and spun on her heel out the kitchen.
A furrow to her brow, Dani followed a few paces behind through the hallway, the front door closet in the same direction, but when she turned the corner, she bumped directly into a broad frame.
She almost teetered off balance, but hands immediately grasped her waist to steady her and she looked up to find Eddie grinning broadly at her, a mischievous glint in his eyes. Suddenly behind her there was a cacophonous noise of cheering and laughter. Twisting around, her eyes went wide in surprise to find Mike’s camcorder pointed in their direction and half of the family watching them with enthusiasm from the living room.
“I cannot believe that worked,” said Tommy, laughing as he spoke.
“Huh?” Dani said dumbly.
“Look up, honey,” Judy said, holding up a point-and-shoot camera at the ready, her eyes bright with fond amusement. Beside her, Carson chuckled, but couldn’t hide his wince of sympathy.
Dread pooling in her stomach, Dani slowly looked up as though awaiting some hungry creature to jump out from the shadows and bite her, but instead she found a mistletoe dangling from the light fixture above her.
“Oh,” Dani said, a small anxious laugh bursting out of her.
And before she could stop herself, she slowly turned and immediately met Jamie’s eyes, watching her with an eerily neutral expression, frozen as though mid step. Rooted to the floor, her heart crashing against her ribs, Dani watched with bated breath as Jamie blinked, and then without a word, disappeared around the corner.
Her throat feeling thick, her stomach churning, Dani turned back to meet Eddie’s grin with a weak one of her own. His hands affectionately squeezed her waist lightly, and all it once it felt utterly wrong. But there was goading and teasing coming from the living room, muffled as though Dani’s ears needed to be popped. With another awkward chuckle, feeling something crushing her chest, her throat thick, she stood on her toes and kissed Eddie’s bashful smile. She ignored the good-natured wolf whistles and cheering and the audible click and flash of a camera.
“I want a copy of that,” Dani heard her mother say in a happy slur when she pulled back, ducking her head away to hide the guilt and indignation gnawing at her, hoping it’d come across as demure. Eddie laughed and hugged her.
It felt increasingly harder to breathe, afterwards. Clutching at a fresh glass of wine after downing her last in one go after finally escaping the clamor to return hers and Jamie’s jackets in the closet. Struggling to push down the thought of how much she had wanted to bury her nose back into Jamie’s jacket, just to breathe her in one last time. Struggling to not grit her teeth at the Christmas music that was beginning to grate on her ears. Struggling to not let her eyes wander when Jamie finally returned to the festivities, her shirt sleeves folded up neatly, exposing the lean lines of her forearms.
She had almost expected the world to settle back on its axis, since returning from outside. With the way Jamie didn’t approach her again throughout the rest of the night, with every corner Dani turned, Jamie would be five steps ahead as though she was just as unwilling as Dani to broach whatever had happened outside. Even still, Dani felt eyes on her. And as though sucked in by a gravity well, Dani kept glancing back, meeting gray eyes that seemed warm and dark in equal measure. And every time their eyes would meet, Jamie would hold her stare until Dani felt rooted to the spot, her feet melding to the floor like just another fixture.
Dani was leaning against the wall, nursing her broad-bowled glass while in the middle of a group conversation with a small cluster of the family when it happened again. The dark form of Jamie slipping by to hover near Carson by the stereo, leaning against a bookcase with a beer in hand and catching her eyes once again. And instead of another faint grin or an arch of an eyebrow, Jamie’s eyes slowly scanned her up and down, lingering on the hem of her skirt before meeting her gaze again and turning away.
Swallowing hard, Dani brought the lip of her glass to her mouth and drifted her eyes down again to those suspenders, lingering there for a long moment before settling back on Jamie’s forearms. She wondered faintly, what Jamie’s forearm would look like if her hand were to slip beneath Dani’s skirt and between her thighs, how the leather of her suspenders would feel in her hands if Dani were to grip them for leverage. Feeling an ache between her legs in response and her breath catching at just the thought alone, Dani clenched her teeth and stood upright to make her excuses to the bathroom when there was the sound of glass shattering from the kitchen.
Dani started slightly, blinking in surprise. On the other side of the room, Carson groaned. “All right, which one of you idiots was it,” he said, but when he turned around to find all three of his older brothers in the living room, he paused. “Oh.”
“Gosh, I’m so sorry, Judy,” came Karen’s voice.
“It’s all right, honey,” said Judy gently, “Watch your feet, there’s glass everywhere.”
The air in the living room abruptly went thick and quiet and suffocating. Feeling her stomach drop, Dani exhaled quietly and started towards the kitchen. She slowed when she was greeted with a pool of wine on the linoleum floor, red as blood, fresh-spilt, shattered pieces of glass everywhere. Jaw taut, Dani looked up to find her mother hunched over in one of the kitchen table chairs, rubbing at her forehead. Just as Dani felt another presence at her side, Judy looked up from where she was gathering the larger pieces of glass and offered Dani a reassuring grin.
“Just an accident, honey. Not our first spill of the night,” Judy said, and then added, “Boys, could you get the mop and broom, please?”
There was movement behind her, but Dani couldn’t be bothered to check, feeling a strain pressing at her shoulders. She slowly edged her way further into the kitchen, carefully skirting around the mess and Judy’s warnings.
“Danielle, be careful.”
She nodded faintly, easing closer to her mom, her throat feeling thick. There was movement again behind her, and she glanced over her shoulder to find Mike and Carson helping Judy with cleaning supplies in hand. Lingering by the entranceway, Dani found both Eddie and Jamie. Eddie with his hands tucked inside his pockets, an apprehensive hunch to his shoulders as he took in the scene. And Jamie with a concerned frown. Swallowing down the swell of acidic shame building in her throat, Dani turned away and moved closer to Karen.
Her eyes were closed, hidden beneath her hand, glasses abandoned on the table where she rested heavily on her elbow. “Mom?” Dani murmured, carefully reaching out a hand to rest on her shoulder.
“I’m fine,” Karen said sharply, “Just an accident.” She then looked up, her eyes glassy, her jaw clenched. “Judy, it’s fine. Let me help. I can fix it."
She made to stand, but Judy firmly shook her head. “You stay right there,” she said, emptying a dustpan full of glass in the garbage, and gestured where Carson and Mike were near finishing cleaning up, “See? We’re almost done. No harm, no foul.”
Karen exhaled and shook her head with a grimace. “I’m sorry. I - “
“Now, none of that,” Judy said sternly, “It’s Christmas. Accidents happen.”
Her expression darkening into a scowl, Karen shook her head again and mumbled something under her breath. Jaw aching from how hard she was clenching her teeth, Dani gently squeezed her shoulder. “Let me walk you home.”
“I’m fine,” Karen repeated.
Dani stared at her for a long moment, scanning over the exhausted and weary lines of her mothers face. The phases of her mother’s inebriation were as constant as the moon; Dani knew them all by heart. “You need some sleep,” Dani murmured, “Let me take you home.”
Karen scoffed, and said darkly, “Why? So you can lord it over me?” She shrugged off Dani’s hand. “I can take care of myself. I don’t need you, Danielle.”
“Karen,” Judy said behind her.
The Christmas music was a ringing in Dani’s ears, the sound feeling utterly like one big joke as her head swam from her own indulgence of wine. Dani pushed it down — the indignation and resentment — pushed it all away and leaned closer to murmur, “I just want you to feel better. That’s all.” Her mother remained quiet, not meeting her eyes. A thick lump appeared in Dani’s throat. “Please let me take care of you?”
There was a long moment of quiet as her mother rubbed at her forehead, and finally sighed, her shoulders slumping. “Fine,” she breathed, exhausted.
Dani nodded and made to help her mother stand, grasping her arm. Eddie finally stepped closer, eyes darting between them. “She can have my old room,” he started carefully, almost hesitant, “If she’d like.”
Shaking her head, Dani murmured, “It’s fine.”
“You sure?” Eddie said softly.
“Yes, can you just - “ She stopped short, irritation bleeding in her tone. She drew in a deep breath, and repeated more calmly, “It’s fine. I’ve got her.”
Eddie hesitated, opening his mouth as though he wanted to say something more, but to Dani’s relief, he just nodded and stepped aside.
Her mother clung to her arm in a painful grip as Dani led them towards the foyer. She tried not to wince, tried to ignore the various gazes of the O’Mara clan in the shape of concern and morbid curiosity, tried to duck her head enough to hide the red in her cheeks as her mother staggered beside her. But when she reached the foyer, she looked up and blinked in surprise to find Jamie there in her coat and boots with two jackets slung over her arms, that old scarf wrapped around her neck.
“What are you - ?”
Jamie shrugged. “Figured you’d need the help,” she said simply.
“Are you sure?” Eddie said from beside her. Dani tensed at the sound of his voice. “I’d be happy to come along.”
Quietly, Jamie looked at Dani with a questioning arched eyebrow and patiently waited. Swallowing hard past the thickness in her throat, Dani murmured, “I've got it, Eddie.”
With a thin, conceding smile, Eddie nodded. Though there was a thin veneer of relief in his expression, Eddie still gamely assisted with letting Karen grip his arm for balance while she slipped on her shoes after muttering darkly, “Get up from the floor, Danielle,” when Dani had crouched to assist her.
Head ducked, running a trembling hand through her hair, Dani slipped on her own heels, only vaguely paying attention to Eddie awkwardly holding her mother’s jacket out. “Uh - “ he started “ - is it okay, Mrs. Clayton, if I, uh -?”
Remarkably, Karen breathed out a quiet laugh that grated on Dani’s ears. “Always were a polite boy,” was all she said.
When Dani looked up again, she found Jamie watching her with a shadow of worry in her expression. Without a word, Jamie held up Dani’s jacket. Forcing out a thin smile, Dani turned and let Jamie help her slip into it, pulling it close around her.
“All good?” Jamie murmured quietly behind her.
Dani nodded, exhaling slowly. Just as she was about to turn around, Carson approached them.
“Hey,” he said quietly, “Anything I can do to help?”
Pulling her lips between her teeth in careful consideration, Dani’s eyes darted over his shoulder towards the living room that was still marginally quieter than it had been all night. Following her gaze, Carson glanced in that direction and then gave her an understanding smile.
“I got it,” he said, pulling her in his arms for a firm hug, “I’ll take care of it.”
Dani nodded, holding him tight and feeling him reciprocate until she could almost feel her bones creak and her throat grow thick. When she slowly pulled away, she felt him give her a warm kiss to her forehead. “Love you,” he murmured.
“Love you too,” Dani said faintly, unable to meet his eyes.
Desperate to leave, desperate to feel the cold against her cheeks again to fight off the humiliation and the burn in her eyes, luck was not in her favor, for Judy was the next to approach her with a look of quiet affection Dani wasn’t sure she deserved.
Dani said, “I’m-I’m sorry, Judy, I’m - “
Judy cupped her cheeks and gave her a look that brooked no room for argument. “You head on home, and get the both of you to bed, all right?” she said, “I want you both bright eyed and ready for another day.” At a loss for words, Dani nodded and let Judy pull her into a hug. “Goodnight, sweet heart.”
“Goodnight,” Dani murmured, her shoulders stiff under Judy’s arms.
Dani was unable to meet her eyes when she was finally let go, turning on the spot where the others were waiting for her. “Let’s go,” Dani mumbled to Jamie, who jerked her head in a single nod, and swung open the door. Offering Eddie a frail smile when he handed her Karen’s glasses, she slipped it in her pocket and let him kiss her head before she wrapped an arm around her mother’s shoulders to guide her outside. “Come on, mom. Let’s go.”
The cold against Dani’s skin was welcomed, biting at her ears and nose in a distracting way. Jamie was already waiting by the porch steps, a hand held out in case Dani or Karen lost their balance. She remained close by as they carefully stepped down the walkway that was now covered in a thin layer of snow, but when they reached the sidewalk, Jamie trudged ahead, kicking at the snowbank separating them from the street to make a path.
Her mother shivered and grumbled under her breath as they carefully stepped through. Dani absently rubbed at her mother’s shoulder to ward away the cold, keeping a close grip on her. When they finally made it across the street up the walkway towards her childhood house, Dani dug her free hand in her jacket pocket and pulled out a set of keys.
“Get the door?” Dani said to Jamie.
With a nod, Jamie took the keys but remained close until they reached the porch with a faint furrow to her brow. It was by some miracle that they hadn’t slipped once during the entire journey.
As Jamie unlocked the front door, keys jingling, the lock clicking open, Karen huffed. “Is she coming inside?”
“Yes,” Dani said firmly, not bothering to check for Jamie’s reaction as she guided her mother through the doorway.
With the door shut behind them, Dani sighed quietly in the darkness of the house and listened as Jamie shoved her boots off, already stumbling around to flick on the lights. The house was cold and quiet and void of any decorations to speak of. Lying in wait for the return of its ghosts. Not in the least bit surprised, Dani shed her coat and shoes, and kept a close hand on her mother as she did the same, swaying off balance as she did so.
“Need help with the stairs?” Jamie asked softly, broaching the quiet.
Karen scoffed wordlessly. Not meeting Jamie’s eyes, Dani shook her head. “No."
Jamie didn’t reply, and Dani didn’t look to see her expression. Instead she took her mom’s waist and led her towards the stairs. It was tricky, as it always was. But Dani was an old hand by now, climbing the stairs, bearing most of her mother’s weight, her labored breath in Dani’s ears. But for the first time, Jamie was a constant presence at her back, and when they stumbled halfway up, Dani felt the press of a warm hand at her lower back, burning through her blouse and keeping her balanced upright. Just the feeling alone cast another shadow of shame over her, burning her cheeks.
Her mother’s bedroom, as it always did, smelled of cigarettes and cheap floral perfume as though that would mask the smell. Karen let out a long sigh when they shuffled inside and pushed out of Dani’s grasp as soon as they neared the bed to sit heavily on the edge of it. The light from the bedside lamps, even as warm as they were, cast her mother’s face in an eerie glow. Her head tilted slightly, Dani could almost see wrinkles there that she had never seen before.
Behind her, Jamie softly cleared her throat. Startlingly slightly, Dani turned and blinked at her, finding her standing at the threshold of her mother’s room with her hands in the pockets of her bulky jacket, looking vaguely uncomfortable.
“You need anything?” Jamie said with a faint frown towards Karen before meeting Dani’s eyes.
It took Dani a moment to answer, but she finally cleared her throat and nodded. “Just um - ” she fumbled “ - uh.”
Smiling gently, a reassuring look that briefly unspooled something in Dani’s chest. “Don’t worry,” Jamie murmured, “Be right back.”
Disappearing down the hall, audibly retreating downstairs, Dani was left to the realization that she was now alone with her mother. The stone that had sunk to the pit of her stomach seemed to painfully twist and deform.
Pushing it down and away, Dani set to work. Retrieving a damp washcloth for her mother to wipe the night’s grime from face. Setting up the bed behind her. Removing jewelry as though on autopilot. Gold rings. A fake pearl necklace. Small stud earrings.
She was setting them away at her mother’s vanity when at that moment, Dani heard footsteps in the hall. Clearing her throat, she stood upright and started towards the door where Jamie met her, a tall glass of water and a small bottle of painkillers in her hands. Instead of handing it over to Dani, she seemed to freeze on the spot, her eyes darting over Dani’s face with a discerning frown. Desperately, Dani gave her a reassuring smile, feeling her cheeks strain.
When Jamie merely arched an eyebrow, Dani murmured, “I’ve got it.”
She looked at her for another moment longer, and then finally exhaled, handing over the supplies. “I’ll wait outside,” Jamie said softly, and when Dani nodded, she grasped Dani’s free hand before she could step away.
Jamie’s hand was warm, as they always were. Her eyes were soft and understanding, her mouth curving into a faint smile. Dani slowly exhaled, allowing the comfort for only a moment, before squeezing Jamie’s hand and letting go. Throat bobbing, sending Karen one last cursory glance, Jamie nodded and retreated downstairs.
“That man of yours,” Karen said behind her, and Dani's spine immediately went taut, “you have a good one, you know?”
A strain was starting to travel up the back of Dani’s neck, a throbbing twinge verging on a headache. She gritted her teeth and turned to attend to her mother who had remained hunched over on the bed. Dani handed her the water in a silent order to drink, setting the painkillers aside to return to work. And all the while, Karen mumbled in between sips.
“You don’t find those very often anymore. Your grandfather wasn’t one,” Karen said, chuckling darkly, a lost look in her eyes, “But your father. He was a good man. Better than I could have ever hoped for. He insisted - he insisted we marry. All because of you. And God I hated him for it.”
Dani froze, feeling something cold wash over her, but she was quick to continue, biting against the tremble of her chin, the ache in her chest, as she pulled bobby pins from her mother’s hair, smoothing out the blonde waves with trembling fingers.
Karen laughed again. “If I have one advice to give you, Danielle,” she started as Dani robotically took the empty glass to set aside and coaxed her mother under the covers, “Don’t hate him for loving you. Otherwise you’ll end up like me. Alone and with a daughter who can barely stand to look at you.”
“Okay, mom,” Dani choked out weakly, a crack in her voice, pulling the covers over her mother’s shoulder as she curled on her side with her eyes closed.
And before she could move away, Karen reached out and grasped her wrist, pulling her close to sit beside her. “You’re happy, aren’t you?” Karen asked, looking up at her through heavy-lidded eyes, both exhausted and piercing all at once. “Are you happy?”
Feeling a burning in her eyes, Dani sucked in a trembling breath and nodded. “Yeah,” she breathed, hastily wiping at her cheeks, “Yeah, mom. I’m happy.”
Her mother blinked up at her for another long moment, and then without another word, twisted away. An unbearable ache in her chest, Dani stood on wobbly legs and made a swift exit, her fists clenched at her side. She turned off the lights and shut the door behind her, leaning against the wood to press her hands to her eyes. Rubbing away the burning and the unfallen tears until she could see stars behind her eyelids, until she could breathe properly again.
It took a long time to feel normal again. Splashing cold water against her cheeks to wash away the sting of her mother’s words. Downing a glass of water of her own in the kitchen, as if she could drown in it. A long time to feel like she could face Jamie again and pretend the last half hour never happened. Tucking it all away until all that was left was this shiny, hollow veneer. Sucking in a deep breath, she pushed her feet into a pair of reasonable boots, and pulled open the front door.
Outside Jamie was fiddling with the keys to her truck. They jangled with a metallic clatter. The scarf was hanging around her neck like a stole nearly down to her knees. Her cheeks were bright and pink with cold, as was the tip of her nose.
“You didn’t have to wait for me,” Dani said, shutting the door behind her so that they stood alone on the illuminated front stoop of her childhood house.
“Yeah, but I wanted to.” Jamie shot her a grin, which quickly faded. “Your mum all right?”
With a sigh, Dani raked her hair away from her face with one hand, the other tucked beneath her opposite arm in an attempt to ward off the chill. “Probably not,” she said. “But there’s nothing I can do about that.”
“Not your responsibility.”
“Then whose is it?”
“Don’t care. Fuck her.”
Dani gave a huff of laughter. Less because it was funny, and more because it was surprising. Jamie’s crass candor never failed to hit its mark. Arms wrapped around herself and shivering slightly, Dani shook her head.
“Don’t shake your head like I’m wrong,” Jamie said. “Because I’m not. Fuck her. You deserve better. Always have.”
It felt too much like a scene from ten years ago. Jamie, here. Jamie, looking at her like this. Jamie, fiddling with her keys for want of movement. Jamie, all square-jawed and imploring gray eyes. They might as well have been sixteen again.
Dani made an abortive motion, wanting to reach out, to grasp Jamie’s arm, to ground herself in the present, but she stopped before she could get halfway, clenching her fist back to her side and frowning down at their shoes angled in the snow. “I’m sorry,” she said, shaking her head and laughing softly.
Jamie stared at her. “What for?”
“I don’t know. I don’t – Everything. I’m sorry that you had to help me drag her over here on Christmas. You have enough going on. You didn’t need to do this.”
“Well, if it wasn’t me,” said Jamie. “Then it would’ve been Ed.”
Dani did not reply.
“Right?” Jamie asked, incredulous. “Please, tell me he helps you with this shit.”
“He –“ Dani cleared her throat and glanced over her shoulder as though afraid the door might have opened, as though afraid her mother had been faking the whole thing and would be standing there, listening. “He does. More often than I’d like, to be honest.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Scuffing her heeled shoe against the snow on the front step, Dani said, “I don’t like letting her ruin everything. I don’t want her making things harder.”
“Harder than what?”
Dani shook her head, her arms tightening around her middle and her eyes squeezing shut. She couldn’t say that being with Eddie was an exercise in precarious balance, in the breathtaking knife’s edge upon which every aspect of her life was hung. She couldn’t say that every day she woke up awash in the fear that today would be the day it all fell apart, one thing too many, one little piece out of place. She couldn’t say that because saying it aloud would make it real, because saying it aloud would mean no going back, because all she had was forward. One step after another. Always forward.
Clink of the keys, and Jamie’s voice was a careful thing. “Way I see it,” she said. “Things can’t be any harder than they are. Only different.”
Dani laughed weakly and looked up. “If only that were true.”
Jamie was watching her with a steady gaze. “You can tell me, you know. Whatever it is. You can tell me. I won’t care.”
Dani’s mouth was dry. Her tongue darted out to wet her lower lip, and she whispered, “You will.”
Jamie’s eyes dropped to Dani’s mouth, following the movement, and Dani felt a warm tug low in her stomach. A thin thread of something unseen and electric tethered them in place, and then the rhythmic twirl of the keys around Jamie’s fingers went off kilter for just a moment, sending them spinning off over the railing and into the snow bank.
“Shit,” Jamie muttered. She turned and descended the few steps to trample around in the snow, calf-deep, looking for her keys.
Blinking away the coil of heat in her gut, Dani shook her head slightly and went to join her. “Did you see where they went?”
“No,” Jamie said, leaning on her knees and sweeping through the snow with her bare hands, half-crouched so that her scarf dangled and dragged across the bank. “Fuck. Do you have that spare set I gave you?”
“You only gave me a spare house key. Not one for your truck.”
“Don’t worry. Eddie and I can drive you home, if it comes down to it.”
The snow melted and clung to the skin-toned nylon stockings against Dani’s legs. She scrunched up her nose and shivered, the two of them alternatively sweeping their ankles or wrists through the drift, hoping to hear the tell-tale clink of metal. After a minute or two of them being out of view of the front door, the outdoor light automatically switched off, plunging them into the shadow of the house, which leaned over them like a spectre through the night, blotting out the stars in a jagged silhouette.
“Fan-fucking-tastic,” Jamie muttered.
She was still crouched over. A length of silvery chain glinted as it slipped free from her shirt and a familiar necklace swung from her neck. Dani went very still, gaze fixed upon it.
It was a silver half-dollar piece. Dani could remember piercing it in Judy’s garage, Mike guiding her hand around the drill bit. Except the chain was different now. Longer than she remembered, and a more expensive material than whatever she could have afforded at the age of twelve.
As if watching herself in a dream, Dani reached out. Jamie froze as Dani’s fingers curled around the chain and gently tugged her upright. Jamie followed slowly, eyes unmoving from Dani. Rubbing the coin between thumb and forefinger, Dani traced the effaced imagery, faded as though from years of being worried in just this fashion.
“You kept this?” she asked, her voice sounding too loud in the quiet darkness of this moment, this brief chamber of the world.
Jamie nodded. Her eyes were dark and indistinguishable, her expression veiled, but there was no mistaking the catch of breath in her throat when Dani’s grip made the chain tug softly at the back of Jamie’s neck. Dani stared, afraid to exhale, afraid to blink, afraid to somehow break this scene, as though they were tethered together by a string of brittle moonlit glass caught in her fist.
There was the gentle drift of snow through the air, grayed flecks falling from the night sky and catching in Jamie’s wild curls like a net of stars. Dani only meant to let the necklace go, but they stood so close together that the furl of her fingers brushed against the corner of Jamie’s collarbone through the unbuttoned gap in her shirt. Jamie’s mouth dropped open to suck in a sharp breath, but she said nothing. Swallowing thickly, Dani dared to let her fingertips trace the hollow of Jamie’s throat, slipping between warm skin and cold chain. The trembling ghost of a touch.
The pulse at Jamie’s throat leapt beneath her thumb. Dani wanted to replace her thumb with her mouth, test Jamie’s heartbeat with her tongue. She wanted to slide her hand to the back of Jamie’s neck and tug her back against the brick cladding, hidden from sight. She wanted — and wanted —
Dani let her hand splay out against Jamie’s sternum. She pushed gently, a steady pressure, maintaining contact, so that she could feel the thud of Jamie’s chest beneath her palm.
“You should -” Dani rasped, “You should take Mikey home. It’s late.”
Jamie nodded. “Yeah,” she breathed. Before Dani could drop her hand however, Jamie covered it with her own, holding it in place. The circle of silver warmed beneath Dani’s hand, and Jamie said, “Wait.”
“What is it?” Her eyes had begun to adjust to the darkness, and Dani could just make out the curve of Jamie’s smile.
“I still need to find my keys,” Jamie said.
Dani blinked and then snorted with sudden laughter. Jamie squeezed her fingers, grinning, still keeping Dani’s hand against her chest in a loose grip.
“Right,” Dani said. “Right. Yeah. I’ll get the light.”
Jamie hummed in agreement. Then she lifted Dani’s hand and bowed her head. Dani watched in abject fascination, not trusting herself to breathe, as Jamie pressed a warm chaste kiss to the peak of Dani’s knuckles before — finally — letting her go.
Dani stumbled up the steps and through the front door. She had to pause in the open doorway leading into the ink-darkened house. There were the shadows of furniture throughout, vague shapes like owl-eyed creatures through the treeline. Dani leaned back against the wall just inside, holding the door slightly shut, trying to give herself space to breathe. Her hand was clenched into a fist. She swore she could still feel the press of Jamie’s mouth against her fingers. Or perhaps that was the shiver of the cold night air.
Flexing her hand, Dani let her head tilt back against the wall. Then, straightening herself with a deep breath, she flicked on the outdoor light and — braced against the chill — stepped out into the cold once more.
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Shadowsinger Part 4 - Gwynriel
ACOSF Spoilers! Do Not read this unless you have finished ACOSF and the Azriel bonus chapter
Gwyn slept in the library again that night, unwilling to intrude on normal life at the House, even with Nesta there. She sighed, pouring over another book for Merrill, searching for that one bit of information she needed. Nothing. She placed the book on the ever-growing pile by her side, and pulled another one towards her, resigning herself to staying well past nightfall, if she didn't finish this by morning, Merrill would skin her alive. She lit a candle, then another, pushing back the darkness around her, Azriel had said that it would be safe, but one could never be too careful.
"What are you still doing up?" Gwyn's head shot up at her sister's voice, Nesta breezed down the corridor to claim the chair opposite Gwyn, "You should be asleep."
"So should you," she countered, "I'm just finishing this off, then I'll get some sleep, Hey!" She complained as Nesta swiped the book off the counter, and grimaced as she read the title,
"Ugh, what a travesty,"
"It is actually quite interesting once you get into it a bit," Gwyn insisted,
"What? No smut and it's not acceptable?" She teased, chuckling at Nesta's eye roll, "What are you here for, Nes?" Gwyn asked, finally giving up trying to covertly grab the book back,
"I came to find you, you seemed a bit off at training this morning, and I didn't get to see you yesterday when we got home."
"I'm just tired," Gwyn said, hoping Nesta wouldn't see it for the lie it was,
"I'm fine, Nes."
"Az told me what happened with the library's darkness. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah. I'm just a bit shaken, it didn't hurt me, and Azriel said he thought it was just curious, that it didn't even want to hurt me anyway."
"Are you alright sleeping here?" No. Yes. No. She hadn't gotten any sleep last night from fear, but nothing had come for her, dangerous or otherwise. Azriel hadn't come to check on her.
"It's fine," Nesta narrowed her eyes,
"You're exhausted, Gwyn, did you even sleep at all last night?" Gwyn shook her head, "Come back up to the House, the bedroom you used a couple days ago is still set up for you." She couldn't. Azriel already thought that she was a pathetic mess, with him just across the hall, she'd be tempted to go to him at every shadow, every nightmare. Nesta noticed her hesitation, clasping her hands across the table, "You won't be a nuisance, you know, it's only me, Cassian and Azriel up there at the moment."
"I know. I just, I don't know." Nesta squeezed her hands gently, giving her space to talk, "Azriel's been looking after me ever since, and I don't want to burden him, if I'm there, he'll want to protect me, and I'll be tempted to let him. I don't want to get in the way of anything."
"You're worried we might think you pathetic?" Gwyn shrugged, "Gwyn, you could never be pathetic for wanting some space from something that scared you. Come back to the House, let us help if you need, don't try to be on your own, even if you know it's safe, let us, let me, help."
"Okay." Nesta was right, she did need someone else she really trusted around, just to remind her that she was safe now, even with the darkness confining itself to the lower levels, she was still nervous, another few days and she'd be fine, she just needed to unscramble her nerves a bit, that was all. Gwyn smiled as she let Nesta lead her out of the library, and up to the House.
Azriel paced in front of his fire again, freezing at the sound of a door, and twin feminine laughter, Gwyn was here, Nesta had gotten her to come back. His shadows swirled around, quicker than usual, dancing with the tones of her laughter. He cracked the door open, pretending that they'd woken him, and feigned surprise at seeing Gwyn there,
"Oh, you alright, Gwyn?"
"I didn't sleep well last night, I, well, Nesta thought another couple days up here might ease my nerves a bit."
"Of course, you know we're all here if you need anything, although," he added, grimacing after Nesta's disappearing back, "It might be better not to disturb them though, Cauldron knows what they get up to." Gwyn snorted with laughter, and Azriel's shadows shot out past him to greet her. The danced around her feet and she giggled, trying to pet them, but they just entwined around her hands, pulling her into her room, towards the old piano in the corner. "They want you to sing," Azriel whispered, almost in awe of how his shadows loved her, "They love singing,"
"What should I sing?" She asked, opening the piano, and blowing away the lingering dust there,
"Anything," he breathed, sinking into an armchair, captured by her every movement. All her nervousness vanished the moment her hands touched the keys, a gentle melody flowing through the air, soft and calm, but underneath it, she used sharps and flats. It wasn't like anything Azriel had ever heard before, something was different, she was different. When she opened her mouth to sing, his heart cracked and reforged, the grief in her voice, for what she had loved and lost, and the joy for the love she had found, the sisters she had chosen, her place in the world that she had found. She lifted her head, not even noticing the way his shadows eddied and flowed with the music, not noticing his own foot tapping along to the melody, the tension in his muscles as he resisted the urge to go sit next to her, to pour his own heart into the music.
The song changed to one he knew, and Azriel joined in, their voices blending perfectly as they had when she had found him on the roof. She sang several octaves higher than him, but still, her voice and his entwined perfectly, as if they were made to sing together, made for the duet now floating through the air, sending his shadows spiraling almost out of control, until they drifted towards him,
She's the one,
They whispered, coming back to rest on his shoulders,
How can she be? She probably never wants to look at a male ever.
He countered, she was so happy, he wouldn't risk breaking that fragile happiness,
She looks at you.
He almost choked, his voice faltering for a moment, she what?
She looks at you.
The shadow repeated,
She looks at you in training, she's trying not to look at you now, she hoped you would go to her last night.
She's been avoiding me,
No. She's worried that she's been a burden the past few days, she wants more from you.
The shadow vanished, leaving him reeling with its revelations, and Gwyn finished the song, turning back to him,
"Did they like it?" She asked, as if there were any doubt,
"Yes. They loved it." She smiled, and closed the piano gingerly, "Gwyn?" She fixed him with her gaze, her eyes bright, and wide as they focused on him, "Why didn't you stay last night?" She shrugged,
"I thought I'd be fine,"
"Gwyn. Were you worried that you'd be in the way?" She glanced away,
"You could never be in the way," she sank onto the bed beside him, "I like having you here, I hardly see you otherwise."
"That's just because Merrill runs me ragged, and she's making up for lost time with the workload now." When she turned back, a lock of hair fell in her eyes, and before he really registered what he was doing, Azriel reached up to brush it back behind her ear, freezing at the feel of her face on his hand. She didn't flinch from his touch, no, she leaned into it almost imperceptibly, smiling softly at him,
"I should go," he stood, and Gwyn shrank away a little, exactly what he had hoped to avoid,
"Yeah, okay, I'll see you in the morning." She turned to find a nightgown and Azriel silently made his way out of the room, cursing himself for his stupidity, he had made her do that. He had made her feel bad, in some way, he had upset her, and he hated it, more than anything. He leaned his head against the wall, as if he could still reach her through the stone. Were his shadows right? She wanted more from him? He couldn't for the life of him think why.
When Gwyn turned back around, Azriel was gone. She was foolish to think that it had meant anything, he had just been being kind, that was it. Her hair had been messy, and he was being kind, nothing more. Still, she couldn't help stare at the door, almost hoping that if she stared at it enough, he would come back. She waited for an hour, and he didn't come back, even his scent was fading as she finally forced herself to go to sleep.
Azriel didn't show for breakfast, and Gwyn tried desperately to distract herself, but even Cassian's jokes didn't manage for long,
"Az said you'd been starting on archery."
"What?" Cassian was still looking at her, "Oh, yes, Emerie and I started a few days ago, but we need to get a brace made for Emerie's wings because she can't move them properly. If you want to come, Nes, the appointment's later today." Nesta grinned, and nodded,
"Managed to hit the target yet then?"
"I'd like to see you do any better!" Gwyn muttered, earning a laugh from Nesta,
"Don't worry, Gwyn, I'm sure you're better than me, after all you've been practicing."
"One of us had to, you're falling behind now, while you two were off having a weeks worth of sex, some of us were still training." Cassian coughed to cover up a laugh,and Nesta glared at him,
"I didn't see you complaining."
"Oh no," Gwyn laughed, feigning worry, "Did I get you in trouble, Cass?" He rolled his eyes,
"It's alright, I'll just make you run more in training today." Gwyn laughed, and headed to her room to change into her leathers, noticing Nesta's sideways glance at her mate, it was probably better just to leave them alone for a bit.
When they finally arrived at training, moments before the priestesses, Gwyn chuckled at the blush still staining Nesta's cheeks, nudging her side when she joined her in warming up,
"Oh shut up." She tried to sound fierce, but lapsed into giggles,
"Mmhmm," Gwyn hummed, "Can't go five minutes you damn animals." She laughed, and dodged a gentle nudge from her sister, light shining in her eyes as she glanced back across to Cassian, who grinned, and pulled his hair back, winking at Nesta when she flushed again. Gwyn stifled another laugh, and set off to do her warm up laps of the ring. She glanced around again when she reached the archery range, still set up from a couple of days ago. Azriel still wasn't here, she narrowed her eyes, but Cassian didn't look worried, maybe he was hiding something. "Nesta!" She hissed, "Is everything alright, with the court? Just, Az isn't here, did he get sent on a mission or something?"
"Oh. He's just a the River House with Rhys and Feyre, there were some worrying reports from his spies in Illyria. Don't worry, he'll be back soon, it won't take long, he headed up before breakfast." Gwyn wasn't sure why the wave of relief that washed over her was so foreign, but so familiar at the same time. She smiled, and picked up a bow to practice,
"That's good, another war would be terrible."
"That's what they're trying to avoid, I think. I'll ask Cass later once he's spoken to Azriel." Gwyn nodded, and handed Nesta a bow,
"Let's see what you're made of, Archeron." As it turned out, Nesta wasn't a bad shot, she certainly wasn't a sharpshooter, but Gwyn was glad of her extra days of training, so that they were on a par with each other. She was so focused on beating Nesta that she didn't notice the wingbeats above her head, didn't notice when Azriel touched down on the training ring, stalking straight across to Cassian, and pulling him aside.
Nesta loosed another arrow, the head striking right next to the center, but just outside the bullseye. Gwyn drew an arrow, it was all or nothing, they were tied for points now, she had to make a bullseye. She nocked the arrow, staring straight down at the target, her fingers automatically latching onto the string, and drew the bow, her fingers resting next to her cheek. She released half a breath, and loosed the arrow, staring after it as it flew straight and true, right into the center of the bullseye. She whooped and turned triumphantly to Nesta,
"No!" Nesta squealed, "Rematch! You got lucky!"
"I did not." Gwyn huffed, "I'm better than you." She crooned, becoming vaguely aware of a presence watching her, she pivoted on her heels, and her gaze immediately locked with Azriel's, still standing with Cassian, but clearly not paying attention to him.
Gwyn's whoop of joy drew his attention, leaving Cassian talking to himself as he considered the best way to handle the rebellious Camp Lords. He froze as she turned towards him, relief in her eyes, but also a tinge of sadness, idiot, he was such an idiot, whatever he had done last night was still upsetting her.
Talk to her.
A shadow whispered,
What if she doesn't want to talk to me?
He demanded, breaking the eye contact, unable to face even that little tinge of sadness in her gaze. He'd made it worse, she turned back to Nesta, shoulders slumping slightly, and glanced back at him once before accepting a rematch.
Go and talk to her.
The shadows demanded, all of them, all at once.
And say what?
Very helpful, thank you.
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and patted Cassian on the shoulder,
"I - uh, I'm gonna check how the girls are getting on," he didn't wait for Cassian to respond as he made his way towards the archery range, unable to control his nervousness, which worsened as soon as Nesta saw him, and realized that Cassian was on his own now. She immediately ran off towards him, and Azriel watched for a moment as Cassian folded her into his side, repeating everything Azriel had just told him. Gwyn laughed as she watched her friend sprint off, but paused at the sight of Azriel. He swallowed, taking the last few steps towards her, "Hey." Pathetic. This was absolutely pathetic.
"Hey." She turned back to the range, but Azriel stepped around her, keeping within her eye line,
"Are you alright? Last night you seemed upset, and just now."
"I'm fine, Azriel."
"Did I upset you somehow?" She shrugged, turning to draw an arrow, completely ignoring him, "Gwyn, please, what are you upset about?" She shook her head,
"I don't want to discuss anything here. After training." She took a deep breath, and, was that a hint of nervousness about discussing whatever she wanted to discuss? It couldn't be. What if the shadows were right? They couldn't be right. But they had never been wrong. He ran a hand through his hair,
"Okay," he could work with that, after training, presumably in private." He nodded, and stepped back to watch her shoot. Her technique was excellent, not perfect, but excellent, but she still wasn't hitting the bullseye, always just above it. "Here," he couldn't resist touching her, just to lift her elbow slightly, "Move your hand up a little, it'll drop the arrow lower, make an adjustment and stick with it for a few shots, then adjust again if you need." Gwyn nodded, drawing in a breath, a slightly unsteady breath if he wasn't mistaken, and released the string. The arrow flew straight, burying itself into the edge of the bullseye, "Go again, keep you aim the same." Again the arrow embedded right on the edge of the bullseye ring,
"Should I lift my hand more?" Gwyn turned her head to face him, and he fumbled for words momentarily, staring into her eyes,
"Yes, yeah, just a little." She did so, and the arrow flew home this time, and again, and again, and again. Gwyn emptied her quiver, and whooped with delight again, earning amused looks from some of the other priestesses, and an answering whoop from Nesta. The two females ran towards each other, falling to the floor as they embraced, giggling as they scrambled back to their feet. Gwyn's laugh, there was something about it that drew him in, something he had never felt before, not with anyone, not even Mor, and certainly not Elain. She grinned at him as she noticed his gaze, and he grinned back, his shadows leaping for joy at the look on her face.
Azriel stayed behind after training to clear up, leaving Cassian to start on some research with Nesta, and work out what to do about the situation in Illyria. Gwyn was still waiting to talk to him, and he apologized for keeping her waiting when he got back to her,
"Don't apologize for doing your job. You wanted to talk about something?"
"You were upset last night." It wasn't a question, but she nodded anyway, "Why? Did I do something to hurt you?" Please, say it was something else,
"Not really." Uh oh, not really, he'd fucked up. "It's just me being silly really, don't worry."
"Gwyn. What happened?"
"I - uh, when you tucked my hair behind my ear, um," she paused, and in the silence, Azriel could hear her heart racing, "You sort of snatched your hand away, I don't know, I just thought that maybe you didn't want any contact with me." There were tears, actual tears shining in her beautiful eyes as she looked at him, and he clasped her hands in his,
"Never. I was worried that you wouldn't want me to touch you outside of training, that a male touching you would scare you."
"Another male, perhaps, but not you, never you. I have never been scared of you, even when you killed those males." He knew who she was referring to, "I - I want that, Az."
"What?" he breathed, not quite believing it.
"I want you to be comfortable with being normal with me, I trust you. You're my friend. I don't want you to worry that you might scare me." Friend. The word clashed through him, but he knew there wouldn't be more, possibly never would, not with Gwyn. He smiled though,
"I'm sorry. I never meant to make you feel like that," he murmured, and held his arms out, letting her decide if she wanted contact. She smiled, and threw her arms around his neck. He wrapped his arms gently around her, breathing in her scent until she stepped back,
"I smell, I should bathe, I'll see you later." He debated telling her that she smelled great, but just nodded,
"See you later."
Gwyn didn't look back as she walked away, too scared that if she did, she would run back to him, and tell him that she had lied. She hadn't missed his slight pause when she had said friend, but she was scared, more than she would admit, to tell him. Scared that she wouldn't be able to resist tidying his hair, still ruffled from his own fingers running through it, scared that she wouldn't be able to resist holding on to him, and never letting go, telling him that he deserved everything, that he was twice the male that anyone who had hurt him would ever be, that he was a good person.
Perhaps she should speak to Nesta. But then again, Nesta's style of flirting was just insults, and Gwyn could never pull that off, besides, Azriel wasn't Cassian, that sort of approach wouldn't work. And Emerie, well, she had no idea about flirting, well, with males anyway.
Gwyn slipped into the bath, her thoughts still racing, and didn't get out until the bathwater had turned cold, and she was shivering. She caught sight of the clock as she stepped out, shit, she was supposed to meet Nesta and Mor with Emerie to get to the healer's appointment in ten minutes. She threw a set of robes on, not paying much attention, and quickly straightened herself up as as ran to meet them.
Emerie grinned and waved as Gwyn appeared, but quickly turned back to smile at Mor as the female said something that made even Nesta snort in amusement. Mor held a hand out for her, and Gwyn in turn gripped Nesta's as they winnowed out to a familiar building,
"I'll see you all in a bit," Mor said as they arrived, slightly distracted, and Emerie smiled,
"Thanks again for bringing us,"
"Yeah, no worries," Mor's attention slid back to the Illyrian female, and she grinned, "have fun, I guess? See you in a bit," Gwyn waved as she walked away, and turned to face the healer's shop,
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a/n: I’ve had this in my drafts since September and it’s finally here! I love this song and I knew I wanted to write a story based on it. Was this fic an excuse to re-watch the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals? Maybe. Does that mean I still have that game saved on my DVR? 100%.
I’m gonna tag @austennight because they specifically asked for this fic to drop asap. I’m also gonna tag my babe @yeeehaw-hockey because, as she once said, and I quote, “my heart beats exclusively for Vince Dunn’s angsty antics”.
I hope you all enjoy!!!
Word Count: 8.4k
Warnings: angst!!! time jumps (I tried to make it as non-confusing as possible), slightly unhealthy alcohol consumption and a few curse words
What were you doing here?
That was the thought running through your head as your eyes were fixed on the ice a few dozen feet below you. There was no reason for you to even step foot in this arena. There was no reason for you to not be at home right now, cuddled up under the blankets, watching re-runs of bad reality TV.
But you received a text earlier that day, from an old friend, asking if you had any plans. And you knew, knew instinctively what she was about to propose. You had seen the news, you had felt the energy go up in this east coast sports city. And you knew why your friend, who you hadn’t seen since you moved 1,200 miles across the country, was in the city you now called home.
You knew all of this, but decided to text her back anyways.
That was how you found yourself sitting in a booth, trying desperately to only focus on the black and yellow jerseys of the Boston Bruins zipping around the ice.
Trying not to look over at the other end of the rink, to watch the white jerseys with blue and gold detailing, to scan the sea of players for only one person.
Trying not to have your eyes land on the number twenty-nine emblazoned on your ex-boyfriend’s back.
You shouldn’t be here.
“You shouldn’t be here.”
You hear a voice coming from behind you and you spin around, tearing yourself out of the peace you were taking in in the quiet kitchen, wanting to see the person who was so bold as to tell you where you do and do not belong. The face that greets you, the owner of the voice, is not what you expected.
He was cute. Like, really cute. His head of chocolate curls was messy but absolutely perfect at the same time. His stunning eyes were raking up and down your body and his beautifully plump lips were twisted up into a small smirk. You tighten your hand around the beer bottle you were holding as you lean back against counter, your face going to mirror his.
“And why is that?” you ask, taking a small sip.
“Because,” this stranger starts, “this is Eddy’s party. And the Eddy I know would never have someone so gorgeous here and not be hanging over her shoulder the entire time.”
You let out a light laugh, the compliment not escaping your notice.
“Oh really? And how do you know I was invited by Joel? Maybe I just snuck into the house of my attractive neighbor in the hopes of meeting another hot, rich hockey player and initiate my evil plan to make them fall madly in love with me.”
“And how is that working out for you?”
“You tell me.”
The man in front of you lets out a big laugh, causing a genuine smile to grace your face. You liked it when he laughed. His eyes got all squinty and his smile was so bright it almost blinded you. He looked back at you, the smile still dancing on his face. You hold out your hand to him, which he takes.
“I’m Y/N,” you introduce yourself, deciding that you wanted to get to know more about the person in front of you.
“Vince,” he replies, gently shaking your hand. You two stand there for a moment longer, simply taking each other in, and you are trying not to focus on the warmth of his palm and the energy that seems to be flowing between you.
“So, why are you here?” Vince asks, dropping his hand from yours and you try not to let your face fall in disappointment at the loss.
“My friend invited me,” you say, gesturing towards the crowd of people in backyard. “And as to what you said earlier, that Joel would be hanging off some gorgeous girl, it turns out you’re right about that. It’s just that my friend Betty is the gorgeous girl that Joel is attached to.”
Vince hums in understanding, slightly nodding his head. He moves to rest his body against the counter, now right next to you, his arm slightly brushing the bare skin of your own.
“Okay, I figured out the reason you were invited. But, why are you here?” Vince asks, looking over at you. You sigh and look back towards the rest of the party, taking in the people mingling in the yard. And there you were, hiding in the kitchen.
“I thought it would be fun,” you explain, your hands going to fiddle with the loose corner of the beer label. “Betty is always trying to get me to go out with her.”
“Why don’t you?”
“It just really isn’t my scene. I did the whole party life thing in college and now, it’s just kind of lost its appeal.”
Vince lets out another hum, his eyes focused on you. He glanced back at his teammates, acting loud and rambunctious as always. It was a lot to take in, he realized, especially if you weren’t exposed to it for over half the year like he was. He looked back at you, your fingers still fidgeting with the damp paper, your eyes far away.
You were beautiful. The thought was in Vince’s head before he could even process what it meant. And he knew instantly that he didn’t want to see you worried, that he wanted to see you smile again.
“So, you aren’t trying to get an attractive, wealthy hockey player to fall in love with you?”
You let out a laugh, your eyes connecting with his once again. The sparkle within them tells you he is joking with you, trying to make you feel comfortable. But there is also another emotion behind it. You can see it trying to swim to the surface, a desire that you hadn’t seen directed your way in a long time.
“Well, I never say never,” you quip back. “Do you happen to know someone who would be willing to be infatuated with me?” Vince tilts his head back, his hand going to stroke his chin, as if he was in deep thought.
“There is this one guy…” he starts, trailing off to catch your reaction. You turn towards him, the playful smile still on your face.
“He plays on the same team as Eddy, also a defenseman, number 29. A pretty decent player. Pretty good-looking as well, if I do say so myself.”
You hum in thought, your fingers tapping a small rhythm against the top of the marble island. You nonchalantly shrug your shoulders, and turn your attention back to Vince.
“He seems promising. Do you think he would like me?”
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Vince says almost instantaneously, causing a small giggle to be released from your lips.
“Well then, point me in his direction! I need to trip dramatically and fall into the pool, which will force him to dive in after me and save my life. That is where our romance will begin!” you declare dramatically, throwing out your hands for additional affect. You catch Vince just smiling at you out of the corner of your eye.
“Or…” he stops you, grabbing your hand out of the air, his thumb moving gently against the soft skin on the back. “I could just give you his phone number right now. It might save you some time. And bodily harm.”
You smile, jolts of electricity racing through you from his touch.
“I suppose that works too.”
“Hey, Y/N, are you alright?”
You hear Betty’s voice next to you and you look up from the ice. She is staring at you, a hint of concern in her eyes. The bright blue of her jersey is almost blinding and you spy the number 6 proudly displayed on her shoulder. Somehow, the sight makes you feel self-conscious that you aren’t wearing one. But then again, why should you be?
“Yeah, I’m fine,” you say, gently shaking your head. “It just feels a little weird to be here, that’s all.”
Betty turns to look around the box, all the other WAG’s excitedly talking and mingling. A few had come over to greet you, almost welcoming you back into the chosen sisterhood that developed between you all. But they all knew it was only for one night.
Anyone could see how messed up this situation was; a girl coming to the biggest game of her ex-boyfriends’ career, hanging out with the ladies that she had grown close to in those months they were together. Willingly placing herself into this moment, as if nothing happened. As if there was no break-up, as if she didn’t move halfway across the country to avoid seeing him, being reminded of him.
Betty sighs and looks back at you, your chin resting in your upturned palm, your eyes focused on the giant screen hanging above the ice.
“You didn’t have to come, you know. Not that I don’t want you here,” she quickly backtracks. “I’m so happy you decided to come. I missed you a lot. But, you know, if it gets to be too much, you don’t have to stay. Everyone would understand.”
“Why would I turn down the opportunity to see a Stanley Cup Final game? Especially a Game 7.”
Betty looks at you, a disapproving glint in her eyes. She knows that you’re trying to make light of the situation, make it a joke, and ignore the real reason you said yes. She knew what made you agree to come meet her after months, even if you weren’t ready to admit it to yourself. And it sure as hell wasn’t a free ticket.
She turns away from you, her eyes focusing back on the now pristine and empty rink. The lights dim and the roar from the hometown crowd goes up. But the sound and the energy buzzing through the stadium wasn’t enough to cover the last thing Betty said.
“He would be happy to know you’re here.”
You look down at the ice, now allowing yourself to find the one person that you refused to acknowledge since you stepped foot in the arena.
“I’m not so sure about that.”
He was late. Again.
You sigh, as you continue to pace around your kitchen, your heels clicking gently on the hardwood floor. It had been almost two hours since Vince was supposed to pick you up for a date. Instead, you were left standing in your best dress, watching the hands on the clock circle as you waited. Although, you weren’t sure why you were still waiting. The reservations you two had were definitely cancelled and now it was too late to even think about doing anything other than lying in your bed, watching re-runs of Love Island until you fell asleep.
But you stayed, waiting for your boyfriend to walk through the door. Out of spite. You wanted to make him feel guilty. You knew it wasn’t healthy, but you weren’t sure what else to do. Lately, it seemed like Vince was more interested in… well, anything that wasn’t you.
When you two first started dating, it was like something out of a cheesy rom-com. He was attentive and caring and you had honestly never been more in love than you were in those first few months. But before you knew it, the fire between you two started to dwindle.
In the back of your mind, you knew it was coming. Everyone talks about the honeymoon phase at the beginning of every relationship and its inevitable end. You just weren’t ready for it when it did.
It also didn’t help that the end of the honeymoon phase just happened to coincide with the Blues’ worst losing streak, landing them in last place, not just in the division, but within the entire league. And the playoffs were just over the horizon.
Glancing back at the clock, you sigh and are on the brink of calling it quits, changing back into your comfy old sweatpants when you hear the doorknob turn. You can hear your boyfriend’s laughter as he stumbles into the house, the voices of Sammy and Thommer also filling the quiet apartment.
You exit the kitchen and round the corner, your eyes finally landing on Vince, his arms slung over Robert and Sammy’s shoulders respectively. He doesn’t notice you at first, his eyes focused down as he attempts to kick his shoes off. You cross your arms and clear your throat and it is that noise that brings his attention up to you.
“Babe!” he shouts, his face flushed and eyes hazy.
“Hey, Y/N,” Sammy greets you, trying to support his friend’s weight. “Sorry, he got drunk tonight. We tried to take him home but he insisted we bring him here.”
You let out a small hum, the anger boiling in your stomach as you take in Vince’s inebriated state. You don’t make a move towards them, your feet staying glued to the floor. Out of the corner of your eye, you see both Sammy and Robert look you up and down, taking in your outfit. The tense atmosphere is palpable even to them and not even Vince’s incoherent babbling can stop them from realizing that the drunken man between them had royally fucked up.
You let out a heavy sigh, gritting your teeth. This was not the situation that you had planned for the night and you had half a mind to throw him out. However, you were never the one to cause a scene and you weren’t about to get into it with Vince when he probably couldn’t even walk straight, let alone think straight.
“You can take him to the guest bedroom. Down the hall to the left,” you say and you can almost feel the relief that came off in waves from the other two men. They started to half walk, half drag Vince down the hall, you following close behind. Vince didn’t complain until they turned him towards the guest bedroom and away from yours.
“Wait, where are we going?” he mumbled, trying to move his body back in the direction of your bedroom. “This isn’t the way to bed, guys. And I should know. I’ve taken Y/N there a bunch of times.”
You fight back the urge to scream at Vince’s innuendo, already feeling embarrassed about the situation he had put you in. Instead, you help plop Vince onto the mattress of the guest bed. Vince tries to lift himself up but both Robert and Sammy push him back. Vince looks up at you with those puppy dog eyes and you try your best to keep your icy demeanor.
“Baaabeee, why can’t I sleep in your bed?”
“I don’t want you puking all over my sheets,” you say coldly, even though everyone else in the room knew the real reason why he was being banished from your bed. Vince doesn’t notice your coldness and instead shoots a goofy grin in your direction, his head hitting the pillow as he mumbles that he promises not to. You roll your eyes, having heard enough of his so-called promises in the past few weeks.
Robert clears his throat and you turn to him and Sammy, awkwardly standing in the room next to you. You sigh, walking away from Vince and out into the hallway, them following close behind you. You move back to the front door and hold it open for them.
“Thanks for getting him here safe boys,” you say as they walk over the threshold and out into the hallway.
“Of course, Y/N,” Sammy says, shooting you a sympathetic smile. You move to close the door but just before it shuts, you hear the small chirp that leaves Robert’s lips.
“Not sure how safe he’s going to be in there.”
You let the door close and gently hit your forehead on the frame, the anger still radiating from your tense body. Thommer doesn’t know how right he is.
To say you are livid is the understatement of the year. You want nothing more than to tear Vince a new one but you know that doing that now would be pointless. So instead, you take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out your mouth. Then you turn back into the kitchen and grab a glass. After filling it up with water and grabbing the small case of Tylenol from your purse, you wander back to the guest bedroom.
Vince is curled up on the bed, still completely dressed except for the shoes that he managed to get off at your front door. You hate the way your heart softens as you take in his sleeping face, his lips slightly parted and his curls wild against the pillowcase. Moving over to the nightstand, you place the glass of water and aspirin down and move to leave when Vince reaches out and manages to grab your hand. You look down at him, his eyes now half opened and his thumb gently caressing the skin on your wrist.
“Come to bed babe,” he mumbles, slightly tugging you towards him. You gently shake your hand from his grasp and take a few steps away from him.
“Not tonight,” you say, walking back towards the door. You are just about to walk out when you hear Vince’s voice sound from behind you.
“Hey,” he murmurs and you turn your head to connect your eyes with him. “You look really pretty.”
You are silent as you push yourself out the door into the hallway. It isn’t until you are curled up in bed, your dress exchanged for pajamas and your face scrubbed free of makeup, do the tears finally start to fall.
Everything about this situation was stressing you out.
The hockey fan in you was stressed because you had to watch 20 excruciating minutes of the Blues getting almost no time in the offensive zone and you practically screamed every time Jordan was forced to make a save.
The other part of you was stressed because you weren’t sure if you were allowed to be stressed about the boys. You were stressed about feeling stressed. You did care about the team and you wanted nothing more than for them to win this. But now, it felt almost wrong to care.
You wanted to cheer with Betty when Joel laid down in front of a shot. You wanted to hug Devon and Dayna when Jay scored a goal that deflected off of Ryan’s stick, getting the Blues on the board first. And you definitely wanted to scream and jump with Jayne when Alex scored in the last 10 seconds of the first period. But something in you stopped you every time.
The only reason you got into hockey was because of Vince. You learned the game for him, cheered for him, celebrated every win and mourned every loss. With him.
It wasn’t right for you to care, to act like you were still a member of this group. Because if you did, you would just be lying to yourself. And it would just make it that much harder to leave. You couldn’t let yourself fall into that comfortable complacency, pretending that everything was alright. That everything was different.
You woke up, your heart heavy and your eyes puffy. It took a moment to orient yourself but when you did, the events of last night came flooding back to you.
The sound of the clock ticking on the wall. Your feet aching in your heels. Vince’s slurred words. The way his hand felt intertwined in yours. Your tears falling onto the pillowcase.
You weren’t ready to face him. But there wasn’t a way to avoid it. He was in your house, sleeping a few doors down from you. You huff out a breath and raise yourself from your bed, the sheets falling down your body. Swinging your legs over the edge of your mattress, your bare feet make contact with the cold floor and you lift your body off the bed.
You quietly walk down the hall, ignoring the urge to open the door of the guest bedroom and check on Vince. You pad into your kitchen and start to make your morning cup of coffee. It is when you are standing in front of the machine, watching silently as your mug fills, do you feel a pair of arms wrap around your waist.
“Mornin’” you hear Vince mumble into you shoulder as his lips press against you. Every fiber of your body wants to melt into his embrace but you resist, shrugging yourself out of his grasp, instead taking your mug and walking over to one of the stools at the end of your island. You take a small sip, still not acknowledging the man on the other end of the kitchen, now standing stunned in the place you left him.
“Babe?” You look up at him and see the confusion written on his face. “Did I do something wrong?”
You practically slam your mug onto the cold marble in front of you, sloshing some of the hot liquid over the side. Your eyes connect with his as the anger you had been holding in for almost twelve hours finally starts to pour out of you.
“Do you really have to ask that Vince?” you spit out, not even attempting to hide the pure venom in your voice. “Let’s start with the fact that last night, I spent almost two hours waiting for you in this goddamn kitchen. Do you know or remember why? Because we had a date. You were supposed to pick me up and we were supposed to go out to that cute little bistro by the river.”
You see his eyes widen and his mouth drop open as he takes in the information, remembering the plans that you two had. His reaction makes your anger feel righteous. He opens his mouth to say something, perhaps an apology, but you cut him off before he can even utter a sound.
“And the moment when I am about to call it quits, to give up and go to bed and call you in the morning, after trying to call you multiple times that night, what happens? You come stumbling into my house, practically being carried by Sammy and Thommer. So, instead of spending a beautiful night with your girlfriend, you what? Decide to get drunk with your friends? And then insist that they bring you here so I can take care of you?”
“Babe I’m so sorry, I –“ Vince starts to say but you stop him.
“I’m not your maid, or you mother, or your fucking side-chick, Vince. I’m your girlfriend. I am not some shiny thing that you can play with when you get bored and then toss to the side when something new catches your interest.”
You see his eyes darken at your words and Vince takes two long strides over to where you were sitting.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean Y/N?” he grits out, now towering over you. In any other situation, you might shrink and back down, always the mediator. But this time, you are just too angry to care.
“What it means Vince, is if you want me, you need to start giving a shit about me. That means showing up when I fucking ask you to.”
“I’m sorry, alright. Is that what you want to hear?” he shouts out but you don’t back down.
“I want to hear why you chose getting shit-faced with your friends over picking me up for the date we had planned for weeks.”
“Jesus, it slipped my mind, alright. We were just hanging out and Thommer suggested we drink and it just got out of hand. We were all stressed about the team and it just seemed like the best thing to do. You do understand that we are in last place? If we don’t start winning games, we can kiss any chance of the playoffs goodbye. My job is to try and fix that, but I can’t do that when you are demanding all of my fucking attention.”
Your mouth drops open, a scoff leaving your lips as your brain registers Vince’s accusation.
“Excuse me? I’m demanding all of your attention? I’m not the one who showed up drunk at my doorstep, begging to be coddled like a child.”
“Oh, get over it. You should be flattered that I remembered you enough to come here. I easily could have had any pick of the girls at the bar. Maybe I should have chosen one of them. I bet they would’ve taken care of me.”
His words take you aback and you can already feel the sting of tears in the corner of your eyes. He knew all your insecurities and he was using that knowledge to hurt you deeper than anyone else could. Your chest heaved as you tried to control your breathing.
“Get. The fuck. Out of my house,” you grit out. Your voice is quiet but hard as you stare down the man in front of you. A tear rolls down your cheek and you see Vince’s eye dart to it, the color draining from his face as he realizes what he’s said.
“Fuck, baby, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t mean it, I swear,” he babbles, dropping to his knees in front of you, reaching for your hands. You rip them away from his grasp and let the floodgates open. The tears flow freely now and the anger and hurt that had settled in your sternum tickled up your throat and into your jaw.
“Don’t,” you whisper. “Don’t you dare imply that the girls in your DM’s could care about you more than I do. They’re not the ones who’ve made your pre-game meals and drove you to practice and let you rant about anything hockey related; trade rumors or ice times or bullshit calls. They’re not the ones that you come to after rough games and they’re not the ones that hold you through all of the anger and sadness raging within you. They don’t give a fuck about you Vince. All they care about is your good looks and the price tag attached to your name. But if that’s what you want, someone who’s only good for a night, someone that’s not going to tie you down and demand your attention, then fine. I won’t stop you. We’re done, Vince.”
You lift yourself from your position, perched on the stool and start walking back towards your bedroom, leaving Vince kneeling on the hardwood floor. You shut your door and wait, for what you aren’t entirely sure. It’s only after you hear the front door close do your knees give out and you drop to the carpeted floor, your sobs now racking through your empty apartment. That is where you stay until you have no tears left, your energy completely drained. You are sure your heart has broken into a million little pieces and if someone where to cut you open, the crimson flood would pulse out, staining everything around you. But the worst part would be that it would beat out to the rhythm of one phrase, the one phrase that you had never said to anyone else;
I love you. I love you. I love you.
You couldn’t do this.
Somehow you managed to sit through another period of play and every time Vince stepped out onto the ice, your eyes were glued to him. You watched as he continued to play his game, dumping pucks into the offensive zone and helping immensely with puck movement, setting up multiple opportunities for his teammates to score.
When you watched him on the ice, you understood why you fell for him. He was kind and unselfish. He wanted to help the team even if it didn’t mean any glory for him. That was the type of person he was.
And when the buzzer sounded signaling the end of the second period, you felt your heart reaching out to him as he exited down the tunnel towards the locker room.
You couldn’t do this.
You jump up from your seat and push your way past the other WAG’s, out of the box and into the quiet hallway. You make it only a few paces before you feel like you can’t take another step and slump against the wall. Dropping down to the floor, you place your head between your knees and try to calm your breathing. You are so caught up your emotions that you don’t notice another body crouch down next to you.
“Y/N?” you hear a soft voice echo in your eardrums and you look up to see Jayne Pietrangelo in front of you, a sympathetic look in her eyes.
“I’m fine,” you say, trying to keep the tremble from your voice.
You head shoots up to look at her and the quiet conviction in her voice has your walls breaking down. Before you can even blink, she has you wrapped in her arms, squeezing you tight as if she could make everything better by just hugging you. Jayne was one of the first people to welcome you into the group and you think that she believed that you and Vince would be forever before that thought even crossed your mind. She became like a big sister to you and when you ended things with Vince, she was one of the only calls you picked up in those few days afterwards.
She lets you push your face into the denim jacket she was wearing as she gently strokes your hair. After you manage to compose yourself, she pulls back from you, forcing you to lock eyes with her.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” she softly demands and you almost let out a laugh at her demeanor. Alex’s captain tendencies must have rubbed off on her because here she was, ready to coach you through anything.
“I just can’t do this,” you sigh out, your head leaning back to gently hit the wall behind you.
“Can’t do what?”
“Be here. Watch him. I don’t even know what I’m doing here.”
“Do you want to leave?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know.”
All Jayne does is let out a small hum as she leans against the wall next to you. You two sit in quiet contemplation, your mind racing at a mile a minute as you wait for her to say something, anything that will make you feel better.
“I’m not going to stop you from leaving, if that’s what you want to do,” Jayne says, her eyes connecting with yours once again. “But I think you are ignoring the real question. You don’t need to know what you are doing here or how you got here. What you need to understand is the reason why you are here. The real reason you decided to come to a place where you had to relive some painful memories. You knew what you what you would be walking into, and yet your still here.”
She turns to you, her hands holding yours as she stares at you, her eyes stripping you clean and laying out your soul like the pages of an old book.
“So, tell me Y/N. Why are you here?”
You let out a small sigh as you wrack your brain for the answer. The lies are poised on your lips, ready to fall from your mouth; it’s a Stanley Cup Final game, I didn’t have anything else to do, Betty asked me to come, I wanted to see you all again. But the real reason you said yes, the real reason you found an old oversized Blues sweatshirt in the back of your closet that still smelled faintly of cologne, the real reason you walked to TD Garden after spending months trying to forget about anything that reminded you of St. Louis, was sitting in a locker room a few dozen feet below you, with only 20 minutes left in a game that most players dreamed about, before he could hoist the greatest trophy in sports.
“I wanted to be here for him. Win or lose.” You take a deep breath and let the words that you had been holding back for 6 months, the words you had been denying every time they popped into your head, fall from your lips.
“Because I love him. I still love him.”
Jayne says nothing for a few moments, letting your confession hang in the air. She then shoots you a gentle smile.
“Then that should be enough reason for you to stay.” She then gets up and holds out her hand to you. Looking up at her, you allow yourself to smile, the first genuine emotion you let yourself show flooding your face. And then you take her hand and let her lift you off the floor and lead you back to the box where your other friends were waiting.
You were a wreck the days following your fight with Vince. He had tried to call you multiple times in the day after, but every time you let it go to voicemail. And as time went by, the calls became less and less frequent until they stopped altogether.
A few days later, you came home to find a small box sitting on your doorstep. Inside was all of the things you had left at Vince’s apartment with a small note sitting on the top.
You had never cried more in your life than you did in that first week.
After laying in your bed for hours on end, a whole lot of chocolate, and the same three TV shows playing in the background, you decided it was time to stop wallowing in your sadness and try to move on. The next day, you cleared out everything in your house that reminded you of Vince and let yourself get lost in the effort of forgetting him.
It wasn’t easy.
You still sometimes woke up before the sun, your body telling you it was time to get Vince to practice. When you had a bad day, you found yourself making Vince’s favorite meal, as if his sadness had become one with yours. Whenever you turned on the news, you always managed to catch it in time to hear the sports section. You found yourself listening to how the Blues were winning again, pulling themselves out of last place and continually pushing themselves towards the playoffs. You resisted the urge to click Vince’s number, still stored in your phone, and congratulate him after every win or console him after a loss.
To distract yourself, you threw yourself into your work, getting tasks done at a breakneck speed and being more productive than you had ever been. You managed to have the best work quarter of your life and your reviews were through the roof. You didn’t even notice because you weren’t trying to impress your boss or the company. You were simply trying to stop your mind from focusing on something else, like the feeling of freshly washed curls between your fingers and a smile that outshined the stars. So, the day your boss called you into her office, you weren’t expecting her to offer you a promotion. And you certainly weren’t expecting to pack your things up and move to Boston after accepting said promotion.
But you would be lying if you said that part of you wasn’t relieved to be leaving. It would be much easier to forget about Vince in a city where most people didn’t know his name. When you landed in Boston, you thought that this would be the place where everything you left behind would fade away. And you were right. At least, for a few months.
You made new friends and went out to bars and brunches with them. You continued to work your ass off at your job, now working to prove yourself instead of just working to forget. You didn’t even realize that you hadn’t even thought about Vince for a long time until one night when you were dancing with a stranger and he pulled you into his lips. You felt free for the first time in forever, thinking that maybe your heart was finally mending after everything you had been through.
But that night, after you went back home, crashing onto your bed with your head pounding from the alcohol in your veins, you dreamt of Vince. Just him holding you tight and listening to his heartbeat.
You woke up the next day with the most exquisite ache in your chest and a desperate desire to be wrapped up in his arms once more. Then, when you were walking home from the grocery store that same day, you thought you saw him standing on the corner.
It wasn’t him, of course. But just the mere possibility of seeing him again had you almost dropping your bags onto the sidewalk and rushing into the arms of a complete stranger who just so happened to look like your ex-boyfriend.
In that moment, you knew you were fucked.
Soon, you found yourself turning on the TV, watching hockey games for the first time in months. And when the Bruins won the East and the Blues won the West, you realized that your two worlds were colliding. The world with Vince and the world after him were crashing together and you would be caught up in the carnage. But some part of you was ready for it.
So, when you received a text message from Betty, who you hadn’t spoken to since you left St. Louis, you answered it. And when she asked if you wanted to come to Game 7 with her, the tug in your heart made the decision before your head could even think of the words to get out.
That was how you found yourself standing in the box with all the other St. Louis WAG’s, watching as the minutes in the final period counted down.
After Jayne pulled you back into the box, you decided to let yourself go. No more holding back your emotions, no more resisting the feelings that had been churning inside you since you stepped foot in the arena. Instead, you screamed with the rest of the girls when Schenn scored another goal to put the Blues up three to nothing. You let your breath catch in your throat when you watched Vince lead a three-man breakaway, silently praying for something good to come from that opportunity. And you jumped and hugged the girls when Zach Sanford scored a goal with less than five minutes left in the game.
And now, you were on your feet, one hand clasped in Betty’s and the other clasped in Jayne’s, your heart pounding as you watched the clock on the scoreboard in front of you drop to seconds as the final minute of play began.
You could see the bench, the boys on their feet as the seconds passed and they grew closer and closer to victory. Your eyes looked for Vince, wanting to take in the moment, wanting to memorize every part of his reaction when the final buzzer sounded. It took you a little while to locate him in the crowd but once you did, your eyes never strayed from his body.
He was bouncing with excitement, the anticipation buzzing through him. You could see him slowly realize that this was going to happen, that he was going to be a Stanley Cup champion and when Jaden Schwartz shot the puck and it sailed past Krejci, onto the other side of the rink, you watched him leap over the bench, throwing his gloves and stick into the air as he rushed to the goal, slamming into the pile of his teammates, all cheering because they finally, finally achieved what they had been working their whole life towards.
You almost collapse under the pure excitement rushing though you, the screams of the other girls echoing around the box and they celebrated. They were hugging and cheering but you kept your eyes on the ice, watching as the boys embraced each other. You felt tears welling in your eyes and it wasn’t until Jayne pulled you into a hug, did you tear your focus away from the sweaty mop of curls still out there on the ice.
“They did it!” she screamed and pulled you into a bone-crushing hug. You hugged her back and found yourself going around to the other girls, who celebrated with you like nothing had changed. And in that moment, you realized that nothing did change. Just because you weren’t with Vince didn’t mean that these girls weren’t your friends. You had become a part of their lives and you were ready to celebrate with them for as long as they would have you. And you hoped that would be a long time.
Betty practically ran into your arms and you two jumped up and down, screaming incoherently at the fact that this did indeed happen. That Joel was a Stanley Cup Champion. That Vince was a Stanley Cup Champion. That the St. Louis Blues were Stanley Cup Champions.
All the girls turned their attention to the ice as the Conn Smythe trophy was presented and you swore that almost everyone jumped into Dayna arms when Ryan’s name was announced over the loudspeaker. It was a few moments until finally, the Stanley Cup was carried out onto the ice. You watched the boys, lined up, arms wrapped around each other as they took in the trophy that was finally theirs.
And when Alex skated forward and hoisted the Cup over his head, you cheered louder than you had in your entire life.
You watched as the Cup made its way down the lineup, passing between players, each one of them unable to contain their excitement and joy. Betty pulled you close when Joel had his turn, lifting it above him and you could see the tears in her eyes as she watched the man she loved celebrate. And she held you next to her when Vince finally got his hands on the Cup.
The joy in your heart was indescribable as you watched him carry the 35-pound trophy, cheering and pressing kisses to the silver metal. It was exactly the moment you had wanted for him since you first started dating. It was what you dreamed about at every home game, his name and number proudly displayed on your back. It was what you had hoped for when you watched him on your television for the previous six games of the finals. And it was everything you had wished for ever since you walked into TD Garden almost two hours ago.
The girls were moving, picking up their things and heading out of the box, presumably to go down to the ice to congratulate their men on a hard-fought victory. A wave of doubt settled over you and you shifted your weight between your feet, unsure if you should, or were even allowed, to go down with them. It wasn’t until Betty grabbed your hand and Jayne grabbed the other, pulling you towards the door with them, did you start to move.
You all make your way down the winding corridors, pushing past people and showing your security passes. Your heart rate picked up as you grew closer to the end of the tunnel. The lights were still shining bright, causing the ice to blind you once you finally reached the edge of the rink. The three of you carefully shuffle your way out onto the ice, the atmosphere still electric with the energy buzzing off the players and staff.
Jayne was the first to break away from your group, running towards Alex who was currently being interviewed. You see the reporter notice Jayne hurrying over and give Alex a nudge in her direction. His face instantly brightens the moment he sees her and he skates over, embracing her.
It wasn’t long before Joel spotted Betty. As soon as his eyes landed on her, he was rushing towards her and she dropped your hand in order to run out to him, meeting him halfway. You watched as he lifted her up off the ice, spinning her around and kissing her deeply, her hands tangling in his hair.
As happy as you were for all of them, both the players and your friends, their joy and intimacy left you awkwardly standing alone in center ice. You weren’t exactly sure what you were supposed to be doing, if anything. While the girls welcomed you with open arms, you weren’t that close to the other players or staff. Most of them hadn’t seen you since you ended things with Vince.
It was when you caught the eye of Sammy did you really feel like a deer in headlights. He was Vince’s roommate. He would have been there, experiencing all of Vince’s moods after the breakup. And he was the one who knew how Vince felt about you now.
Sammy’s eyes flicker behind you, looking for Vince, wondering if he had seen you. Glancing back at you, he stood there a moment longer, taking you in. Then, a smile broke out on his face and the breath you didn’t know you had been holding rushed out of you. You mirrored his smile, your body instantly relaxing as he gave you a small wave. You laughed and returned his gesture. He skated away, going to celebrate with his family and you were certain that you were meant to be here. Sammy’s smile was all you needed.
You glanced around the ice, finally taking in the joy surrounding you, letting it soak into your skin. You slowly turned, watching as Vladi sat on the edge of the rink, calling Yana who was still in Russia watching their youngest baby, seeing Laila walk over to Colton and him wrap her into a giant hug, looking over towards Patty who lifted his son Anthony onto his shoulders, still shouting and pumping his fists in the air. You were so caught up in enjoying this moment that you didn’t feel a pair of eyes attach to your form. It wasn’t until you completed your circle did your gaze fall onto Vince, who was already staring back at you.
A towel was slung around his neck, the Stanley Cup Championship hat perched on his head. His eyes were red and puffy from the tears of joy that had been falling.
And he was staring at you as if he had seen a ghost. You were sure you looked the same way.
You both stand there, a few feet away, simply drinking in the sight of seeing one another in person for the first time in months.
You feel your heart swell as you take him in, the joy still emulating from his body. Words couldn’t describe how happy you were for him. Even if he was no longer a part of your life, you were happy to see him succeed. You wanted him to know that.
Part of you would always love him, that much you were certain of. But part of you knew that maybe you two just weren’t meant to be. And for the first time, that thought didn’t send a lighting bolt of pain straight to your chest. Instead, you felt the warm wave of acceptance wash over you.
You let a small smile dance onto your face, connecting your eyes with his and silently sending all the care and admiration you had for him across the ice. And when you looked into his green eyes, the ones that you missed waking up to every morning, you let only one thought reverberate within your mind;
I love you.
And when he smiled back, his eyes sparkling like they always did, you knew that he was thinking the same thing.
You had never felt happier than you were in this moment. The sky was a perfect blue above you as you leaned back on your arms, the sun shining on your bare skin, its light refracting off the soft waves on the lake. You felt perfectly content.
With your feet gently kicking in the water off the end of the boat, you close your eyes and take in the warmth. You feel a form settle behind you, a pair of arms coming to wrap around your waist and pull you close. You look back to see Vince, the freckles on his nose and cheeks coming out in full display. A soft smile makes its way onto your lips, causing him to smile back at you.
“Hey pretty lady.”
“Hi,” you softly whisper out.
“What are you doing back here?” he asks, pulling you even closer, his chin going to rest on your shoulder. You lean your head against him, taking a deep breath.
Vince hums and you two relax, pressing against one another, simply supporting the other’s weight and taking in the moment.
When Vince mentioned his captain’s idea of taking a couple of boats out to Lincoln Lake with the team and their friends, for some bonding and relaxing before the season started and the hectic schedule pushed everyone in different directions, you had to admit you were unsure whether or not you should go. You had only just started dating Vince. But as soon as you made it out onto the water, you found yourself laughing with the other girls, as if you had known each other forever.
“I’m happy you decided to come,” you hear Vince mumble from behind you. You look back towards him and you see the pure love in his eyes. You let a smirk dance onto your face and you bring yourself to him, connecting your lips to his. You can smell the sunscreen on his skin, taste the rosé on his lips. Your fingers tangle into his sun-bleached curls, and in that moment, you realized that you never wanted to let him go. You pull away from him, your lips still gently upturned as you bring your eyes back to his.
“Of course, I came. Where else would I be?”
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it’s not only children who grow
(read on ao3)
Pairing: Evan “Buck” Buckley & Christopher Diaz, Implied Evan “Buck” Buckley/Eddie Diaz
Summary: Realistically, Buck knew that Christopher couldn’t be all rainbows, kittens, smiles, and quick-wittedness, but everything had been going so good the last few days and Buck stupidly let himself forget that Christopher was a kid. He was a child with a disability, a dead mom, an injured father, and more traumatic events darkening his past than any kid should have.
Buck kicked himself for forgetting that as strong and brave as Christopher always looked, he shouldn’t have to be.
For @chrisdiazweek - day four: buck and his buddy and for @sugarandspace who sparked this idea in the first place 💜🥺
Buck glanced over at his phone in a panic. He knew in the back of his mind that he should call Eddie and let him know what was going on. If anyone was an expert on the ins and outs of Christopher, it was the man who had raised him. His dad, who was currently confined to a hospital bed, didn’t need the added stress and on top of it all, Buck was too nervous that Eddie would think he couldn’t handle the situation. Even just one phone call could let Eddie in on the fact that Buck wasn’t ready for the responsibility and have him running for the proverbial hills. Buck could handle it on his own - he could - and he would start by processing exactly what had happened.
One second, he was asking Christopher what he wanted for dessert if he finished his homework, and the next, Christopher was shoving the contents of the coffee table onto the floor and ripping the paper with his crutches as he stormed off. He shouted that he hated that Buck was the one taking care of him and that he just wanted his dad before he slammed his bedroom door so hard, Buck couldn’t help but flinch, unsure if the words or the door had caused the reaction.
Realistically, Buck knew that Christopher couldn’t be all rainbows, kittens, smiles, and quick-wittedness, but everything had been going so good the last few days and Buck stupidly let himself forget that Christopher was a kid. He was a child with a disability, a dead mom, an injured father, and more traumatic events darkening his past than any kid should have. Buck kicked himself for forgetting that as strong and brave as Christopher always looked, he shouldn’t have to be. His dad was in a hospital bed while he did homework and was parented by his self-proclaimed best friend. There was nothing easy about it.
He focused on that as he picked up the torn pieces of paper and sopped up the juice from a discarded cup out of the carpet. He poured another cup - with a cap secured on top of it - in case Christopher was still thirsty and stacked the papers neatly back on the coffee table, hoping that the rips were nothing a little tape and TLC couldn’t fix. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself, feeling his own emotion welling up in his chest before he had a chance to push it down.
It surprised him. Being screamed at by Christopher, hearing him shriek in frustration and hate when all Buck was trying to do was give him something to look forward to, was not on his list of things he thought he would ever cry over. He figured it wasn’t just that, though. He was out of his league taking care of Christopher without Eddie around. Buck was the fun one; the guy who bought Christopher gifts and took him out for ice cream and played video games after bedtime as long as Eddie said it was okay. Buck couldn’t help but believe that everyone around him was kidding themselves if they thought he could be trusted enough to not mess the kid up even more than he already—
No, Buck wouldn’t let himself think that way. Eddie had constantly reminded him that Christopher was shielded from so much the day Buck saved him from the tsunami. Buck saved him, but Eddie wasn’t there to remind him or to tell him what to do next. Eddie was sitting in a hospital bed after Buck barely saved him , too.
Eddie’s words resonated through Buck’s head: You can have my back any day. There’s no one I trust with my son more than you. I love him enough to never stop trying. He should have known that even if Eddie wasn’t physically there, he would find a way to help Buck through the moment with just the memories Buck held onto so fondly. Buck reminded himself that Eddie trusted him with the most important thing in his life because Buck loved Christopher just as much as Eddie did.
He sat on the couch, replaying Eddie’s words over and over as he scrubbed his hands across his face, composing himself just enough to glance up when the floorboards creaked beside him. Christopher’s eyes were red and puffy and Buck hated that the sight made him feel marginally better. He hated that Christopher’s sadness meant that his own might have been justified. The boy’s lower lip was trembling, tears still brimming at the corners of his wide, dark eyes, and it took everything in Buck not to reach out to him.
“Dad usually makes me pick up my messes when I get mad,” Christopher said matter-of-factly.
Buck knocked the glass of juice on the floor. He wasn’t sure why he did it, maybe to give Christopher something to clean up later, but then Christopher’s laughter rang out through the small space and Buck didn’t care to figure out his own motives. Christopher threw his arms around Buck’s neck, nuzzling into the skin there with a soft sniff of his stuffy nose. Buck hugged him back tightly, rubbing small circles in between his shoulder blades as Christopher’s laughter turned into heartbreaking sobs.
He gripped at Buck’s shirt as if it was the only thing keeping him upright and Buck didn’t care that Christopher’s nails dug into his skin painfully or that his shirt was probably covered in little kid snot and tears. If Buck could have pulled Christopher inside of his body to shield him from all of the horrible things he had ever been through, he wouldn’t hesitate. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to make sure Christopher was happy and secure and that thought alone reminded Buck exactly why he was the one taking care of Christopher when his dad couldn’t.
"I've got you,” Buck reassured, pressing a gentle kiss into Christopher’s hair. “I’ve always got you,” Buck repeated. He could feel Christopher trying to breathe through the shakiness in his chest, and when the sobs turned into hiccups and the tears stopped falling, Buck let himself breathe again.
They both took a deep breath together and Christopher backed off of Buck’s lap, glancing down at the mess he had made. “Can you tell me why you got upset?” Buck asked carefully, hoping it wouldn’t send Christopher into another tantrum or crying session.
Christopher sighed and pouted. “I don’t think I can finish my math homework and you said that I could only have dessert if I finished my homework,” he explained, crossing his arms over his chest.
“That’s the rule,” Buck said, which was unhelpful considering the glare Christopher shot at him. “Do you think that maybe I could help you and then we can both have dessert?” Buck offered. Christopher shrugged and stared at the papers on the table.
“Dad says you’re bad at math,” Christopher challenged. Buck let out a huff of laughter, holding his hand over his chest in mock offense.
“Well, he has horrible handwriting,” Buck countered to which Christopher nodded, trying to keep a smile off of his lips. “I am bad at grown-up math, but I’m sure I can help you with little kid math, or at least I can try,” Buck began, leaning into Christopher’s eye line for what he had to say next, “because all we can ever ask of people, including each other, is to try, right?” Christopher nodded slowly and glanced around at the mess he had made sadly.
“Are you going to make me clean up?” Christopher asked, pouting up at Buck with the most pleading eyes he had ever seen. He was about to cave when he remembered what Christopher had said when he first came out.
“Would your dad clean up for you?” Buck asked. Christopher shook his head and before Buck could instruct him further, he grabbed a few pieces of paper towel and rested them over the juice, sopping it up with a press of his crutch.
“Dad tells me that we need to think about how our actions make others feel,” he said as he stared down at the ground. Buck was pretty sure the juice was adequately cleaned so he leaned down to pick up and discard the trash.
“He tells me that, too,” Buck joked. He wouldn’t admit that there was truth to it. The number of times Eddie had reminded Buck not to be so reckless or make impulsive decisions because of how it made the team feel was honestly uncountable, but he wasn’t about to bring that up with Christopher considering where his dad was and how he got there.
“Did I make you sad?” Christopher asked, chancing a shy glance up at Buck. Again, he went to disagree, ensure Christopher that wasn’t what happened, but he had never lied to the boy before.
“I’ve been sad because I miss your dad, just like you. When you yelled at me, I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew that your dad would, though, but it reminded me that he wasn’t here,” Buck explained. Christopher nodded and Buck was grateful that he might have understood. Sometimes Buck stupidly forgot what a smart and intuitive kid he was.
“And that made you sadder?” Christopher asked, sitting down next to Buck and reaching for his torn papers. He chewed at his lip, considering them for a moment before he grabbed a notebook and started copying over the information onto a clean sheet. Buck was sure he wouldn’t have thought to do that when he was Christopher’s age.
“It did, but then you came out here and we talked and that made me feel much better,” Buck reassured, wrapping his arm around Christopher’s waist so he could lean back into it.
“My dad says that talking is really important and that just like we have to think about our actions, we have to think about our words, too, because they’re just as important,” Christopher noted as if he had memorized the advice and smiled up at Buck proudly.
“Your dad is a pretty smart guy, huh?” Buck asked, ruffling Christopher’s hair as he stood to refill the glass of juice that had now been doubly discarded.
“He also says that apologies are the most important, so…” Christopher tugged at the hem of Buck’s shirt and Buck crouched down in front of him, resting the glass on the table gently. Christopher rested a hand on Buck’s cheek and furrowed his eyebrows seriously. Buck’s heart skipped a beat at how much that look resembled the one Buck had been on the receiving end of from his father too many times to count. “I’m sorry that I made you sad and that I didn’t try to control my actions,” Christopher said.
Buck let out a wet laugh and pulled Christopher into another hug as he said, “You’re the most special kid I’ve ever met, you know that?”
“But do you forgive me?” Christopher asked, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips as if he already knew the answer.
“Of course I forgive you, Chris. Do you think from now on, we can both remember that we’re a little out of our league here and work together?” Buck asked, holding out a hand for Christopher. He took it with an enthusiastic nod and shook it, giggles escaping his lips. After they had both settled, Christopher staring down at his work and Buck staring up at the ceiling and waiting for questions, Christopher patted his thigh hesitantly.
“Do you think daddy is going to be home soon?” He asked, fear laced in his tone. Buck rested his hand on top of Christopher’s, patting softly.
“Yeah, I do," Buck reassured. Christopher glanced up shyly, pressing his lips together in thought before he spoke again.
“Does that mean you won’t be around all the time again?” Buck thought he heard his heart crack.
“I’ll be around as much as you and your dad want me to be,” he answered honestly.
“So, all the time?” Christopher said easily. Buck chuckled and pressed his lips to Christopher’s head once more.
“You trying to soften me up, kid?” Buck challenged, poking at Christopher’s side playfully.
“You mentioned dessert if I tried...” Christopher trailed off, avoiding eye contact in favor of placing his now finished homework on Buck’s lap.
We can do this, Buck thought to himself as he read the work over, I can do this, for Eddie, and he really, really, believed it, too.
“I wish my daddy was here,” Christopher whispered after a few moments of comfortable silence. Buck nodded and gripped onto him a little tighter. Before he could respond and vehemently agree, Christopher pulled back and rested his forehead against Buck’s. “But I’m glad I get my Buck.”
“Me too, buddy, me too.”
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love, don’t let me go | 2.2k words | buddie | established relationship, emotional hurt/comfort, fluff | ao3
written for Eddie Diaz Week 2021 | Day 4: “I don’t deserve this.” + guilt
The firehouse is silent. They’re halfway through a 24-hour shift but it’s been rather calm. Not many calls, only a small house fire, a guy locking himself inside his own car and a fender bender. Eddie doesn't like it. Not the city being relatively good and safe, of course, but the calm. The silence that engulfs the station is driving him mad. It gives him too much time to think and Eddie doesn’t like the kind of thoughts that are swarming his head lately.
For a moment he considers heading to the bunk room but he quickly dismisses it. He won’t be able to sleep anyway and he doesn’t want to disturb anyone. A while ago he sent Buck there so he could get some rest. They were lounging on the couch, watching some late-night history documentary with a crazy amount of conspiracy theories in it. It didn’t take long for Buck to start drifting off. His head slid down Eddie’s shoulder, arms getting looser around his waist. Knowing that if he fell asleep like this, he’d be all stiff and cranky later, Eddie nudged him awake and sent him to bed. He had to promise he’d join and get some rest himself before Buck finally agreed to go, pressing a kiss to Eddie’s lips and walking away with a loud yawn. Eddie intended to keep the promise but… not now.
With a sigh, Eddie gets up from the couch, not even realising that the documentary has ended a while ago. Trying to find himself something to do, he wanders around the empty loft. He opens the fridge, even though he’s not hungry. He empties the dishwasher as quietly as he can and then loads the remaining dirty plates inside. He wipes the counters. Then he puts the notes Hen left on the table into a neat pile, mindful that all the sticky notes stay in their places. Seeing that there’s not much to do here anymore, he considers going downstairs. Maybe he could exercise for a bit. It should do the trick to help clear his mind and maybe tire him enough so he can get some sleep.
Eddie drags his hand across his face in a frustrated gesture. Before he can do anything, he hears a voice coming from behind.
“You okay, Eddie?”
Taking a slow breath, Eddie turns around to face Bobby. He hopes that his face doesn’t show too many of the emotions rumbling in his head. It’s a futile hope, according to Buck. He always makes fun of Eddie for having the most expressive face he’s ever seen. The thought almost puts a smile on Eddie’s face.
“Yeah, I’m good, Cap,” Eddie says.
Bobby’s watchful eyes don’t leave Eddie but there’s worry written all over his face when he asks, “You sure? You seem a bit… restless. And you’ve been a bit distant for the past few days.”
Eddie sighs. It’s true. He just hoped he could deal with it quickly enough so that nobody would point it out. When they’re on a call, Eddie always stays focused on the job, but when they’re all just hanging around Eddie gets too caught up in his own head to laugh at the jokes or bite back at the mocking. Buck has been bugging him about it every day, because of course he realised. He was the first one to. But how can Eddie tell him when it’s all Buck’s fault?
No, he corrects himself. It’s not Buck’s fault. He has done absolutely nothing wrong and Eddie doesn’t have the right to look at it that way. Everything that is happening, is because of him.
“No, it’s—,” Eddie starts, trying to clear his head. “Just a bit tired. Got some things on my mind. That’s all.”
Not looking entirely convinced, Bobby nods and slowly moves closer to the table. Eddie’s fingers are wrapped around the back of the chair in front of him but he doesn’t sit when Bobby does so across from him. But he doesn’t run away, either.
“Something’s up with Christopher?” Bobby prods gently and when Eddie shakes his head, he carefully adds, “With Buck?”
Eddie clenches his jaw. It’s just a small gesture, but Bobby still notices. “You guys had a fight?”
“No, it’s not—,” Eddie says and feels very tired all of sudden. The legs scrape loudly against the floor as Eddie pulls at the chair and drops down on it. “It’s great. Buck’s great. I’m— really happy with him.”
“But that’s the problem,” Eddie shakes his head with a sad smile. “I’m not sure if we should— If I should— Maybe it wasn’t a good idea.”
A non-committal hum leaves Bobby’s mouth as he waits for Eddie to continue. When he doesn’t, Bobby asks, “Why? He makes you happy. I can clearly see that you make him happy. And you’ve mentioned that Christopher took it more than well. So what happened?”
Eddie bites at his upper lip, trying to gather his thoughts and keep his emotions at bay. It wasn’t the kind of conversation he wanted to have right now. Or ever, probably. But Bobby was looking at him with this soft, worried look and Eddie felt like maybe it could lessen the knot that has been slowly tightening in his stomach for weeks. Maybe from the very moment he first kissed Buck, in the dim light of his own living room when they were watching some stupid cartoon, Buck’s eyes bright and happy as he looked down at Christopher, asleep and curled tightly against Buck’s side. It didn’t change that much between them, the kiss. But at the same time, it changed everything and Eddie felt like he was standing on top of a mountain. He wanted to admire the beautiful view but kept his eyes firmly on the ground, to make sure he won’t trip and fall into the precipice.
“Nothing. Not yet, at least,” Eddie says and then words start falling out of his mouth before he can stop them. “But Shannon made me happy, too. And she was happy with me. Before I messed it all up and ran away and she left because she didn’t know what else to do. There are so many things,” Eddie says slowly through gritted teeth, “that I’ve messed up in my life. I can’t mess this up. I can’t lose Buck.”
“Who said you’re gonna lose him?”
“I’ve been a bad son, a horrible father and even worse husband. I’ve done so many things that I regret now but can’t fix. Why would I be a good boyfriend to Buck?” Eddie looks at Bobby but quickly averts his gaze as he feels his eyes burning. “And Buck is— He’s good. He loves Christopher endlessly and Christopher loves him just as much. He’s so caring and thoughtful and there’s still so much kindness in him. I admire him and I can’t believe he— He’s always there to catch me when I need it and he’s— He’s everything. And I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve him.”
If Eddie wasn’t trying so hard to keep himself together, he would probably feel embarrassed for laying his heart out for his captain like this. He wasn’t one for speeches or talking about feelings. But he knew Bobby would understand. Bobby knew Buck. Bobby, who was more of a father to Buck that his real father was, knew that Buck was a good person, one of the best. He knew that he deserved everything good from the world. And Eddie couldn’t give him that.
“Eddie,” Bobby’s voice is soft when he leans across the table, trying to catch Eddie’s eyes. He doesn’t continue, so eventually Eddie looks up at him. “You’re a good person. You’re so much more than the mistakes you’ve made in the past. They don’t define who you are. You’ve made a choice. A conscious choice to change, to try again, to keep going, and you’ve done all the hard work and put in effort to do this. And that’s what matters. You deserve to be happy, Eddie.”
Looking away, Eddie shakes his head and bites the inside of his cheek. “But what if it doesn’t work out? Again? I don’t know what I’d do without him. And I was perfectly happy with being just his friend. So maybe we should just… try to fix it and go back to where we were before it’s too late. Maybe we should—” he stops, not able to voice the thought that has been haunting him for the past week.
“There’s no reason for fixing something that’s not broken, Eddie,” Bobby says. “I’m pretty sure Buck doesn’t want to lose you, either. You mean too much to each other to just give up. No matter what life throws your way, I know you two can figure it out. You said you regretted running away before. So don’t. Stay and let yourself be happy. You can’t base your life on what if’s.”
It all makes sense. Eddie knows it does but it’s so hard to believe sometimes. There’s no doubt about his feelings for Buck. He has been in love with him before he even knew how to call the sense of warmth and peace that overtook him every time Buck was around. And he hasn’t doubted Buck’s feelings for a second, either. And Eddie knows that there’s nothing in the world that would make him happier than going through life with Buck by his side, than making a place for him in Eddie’s family. As if he wasn’t part of it the second he appeared in his and Christopher’s life. The fear that’s been looming over his head, the guilt that’s been haunting him didn’t let him see all of this.
“You deserve every good thing in your life. Even when it’s hard to accept it. Especially if it is.” Bobby’s hand is heavy when it lands on Eddie’s shoulder, giving him a comforting squeeze.
Eddie only nods, trying to swallow the lump in his throat. He hopes that Bobby can see the gratefulness he wants to express. And judging by the warm smile on his captain’s face, he can.
They both look up, startled by the noise. Buck is standing at the top of the stairs, hesitant. His hair is mussed from sleep and he looks between the two of them with a worried expression.
Turning back to Eddie, Bobby gives his shoulder one more squeeze and after getting a shaky smile in response, he gets up. On his way downstairs, he passes Buck, giving him a pat on the shoulder and a smile and then he’s gone. For a moment, Buck just stands there, looking after Bobby with a confused frown. Then he unfreezes and rushes towards Eddie.
“Eddie, are you—,” Buck starts, pulling up a chair for himself and he sits, turning his whole body towards Eddie. “Is everything okay?”
Eddie nods, trying to smile and stop the tears at the same time. They are not the same, miserable tears that welled up in his eyes not-so-long ago. They are happy tears because Eddie is the happiest man alive. But Buck doesn’t know this. And so the worried wrinkle on his forehead only deepens as he leans closer to Eddie, taking his hand into his.
“But you’re— Did something happen? I’m freaking out, Eds, just talk to me, please.”
Instead of doing that, Eddie just laughs wetly and leans forward to press a soft kiss to Buck’s lips.
“Everything is great, I promise,” Eddie says, smiling. His hands cup Buck’s face as he kisses him again. “You make me so happy, Buck. I love you so much.”
“And… that’s what you’ve been talking with Bobby about?” Buck raises an eyebrow and the worry is slowly replaced by a small smile.
“Basically,” Eddie chuckles. “I just needed some sense talked into me.”
Buck hums, clearly curious but he doesn’t ask. “Well, Bobby’s good at that. And I’m happy with the conclusions you guys have made. I love you too, in case you were wondering.”
God, Eddie can’t believe he considered leaving this wonderful man, considered walking out of the best thing in his life. It feels so stupid now.
“You couldn’t sleep?” Eddie asks, brushing his thumb across Buck’s cheek.
“I know you lied and didn’t intend to get any rest unless I dragged you downstairs,” Buck raises an eyebrow at him.
Eddie makes a shocked face, “Did I ever lie to you? Name one time I lied to you.”
“You said you liked the casserole I made last week and I saw you giving half of your serving to Christopher,” Buck points out.
“Green beans, Buck! You know I don’t like green beans!”
When Buck shakes his head at him, the fondness and love written all over his face as he leans for another kiss, Eddie feels the knot in his stomach disappearing completely. Finally, he can see that this happiness is not something he should or could ever leave behind. He still has his fears and worries, they won't just disappear like that. But if there's one thing that he and Buck know is that you have to fight for the things you love. No matter how hard it might be. And this thing they have is way too important to give up on.
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@kaninneko i wouldn't say it was so much specific scenes as just some major choices they took for the movie and the resulting overall vibe. especially compared to the 1st movie.
like the whole thing they went for with anne in ltbc was a big one. like eddie being even more hurt and jealous over anne bc of the engagement and how venom was made to be v clearly into anne himself (as opposed to how in the 1st movie it came off more like he just wanted to act as a matchmaker between eddie and anne). like to me this gave a big focus on anne as the object of their desires making eddie and venom feel v much like "a man and his inner demons" (namely: longing, jealousy, anger) wrt not being able to get over anne and wanting her back, and wanting to act on these emotions but trying to hold back and respect anne's relationship with dan. when they could've just as well had eddie over anne already in this movie, and, with this, venom not interested in her romantically either. and without anne as a source of moping and conflict the movie would've had more time to better establish other things that were lacking in the movie like the relationship between cletus and eddie and why cletus allowed eddie specifically to interview him.
the biggest no-homo by far though was how eddie and venom interacted with each other and how their bond was framed as something out of strictly physical necessity from venom that eddie could, with much pain and hesitation, learn to live with. this was such an inexplicable choice that not only made their relationship v toxic and uncomfortable to watch but also undid the developments of the first movie entirely.
like the whole thing of the 2018 movie between eddie and venom was venom going from "eddie is my ride on this planet out of necessity until i go back home" to "eddie is not so bad and neither is this planet" to "i like eddie and want to be bonded to him even if this means betraying my species and not being able to go back home". and eddie going from "i have an alien in my body and i'm scared, but at least maybe i can use this as a chance to help others and fix my mistakes" to "thank god i don't have that alien in my body anymore. he was just using me and would have killed me" to "this alien saved my life and with him i can save the planet" to "the planet has been saved, but venom still needs me as his host. i like him so it's ok and we will work to figure life out from now on".
like at the end of that movie it was really on the note of "we are friends who bring the best out of each other and help people in need". so WHY was the entire plot of ltbc about how much venom and eddie hate each other and don't really want to be with each other? it wasn't even a coherent conflict that got solved, it was born out of thin air and then swept under the rug just in time for venom and eddie to beat carnage and shriek. and then add a scene at the end where venom dubiously L-words eddie for no reason and boom roll credits. an end note of "i am stuck on this planet and i need eddie to survive. maybe i can learn to enjoy this situation out of necessity" and "this alien needs me to survive and if i don't bond with him he could die and kill several humans in the process so i have no choice. did he just say he loves me? weird."
extremely jarring and all seemingly for the purpose of queerbaity marketing but undoubtedly-heterosexual toxic barely-friends dynamic in the movie. which i do believe was changed in this direction Specifically to act as a no-homo to the marketing. especially since like i said it makes no sense continuity-wise and makes a mess of what could be a coherent plot in ltbc. but instead we get venom and eddie hating each other contrasted to shriek and carnage and cletus loving each other and then venom and eddie kill them and you're sitting there like "what the hell did i watch?"
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You’ve got a mail 5/15
Hi guys I wanted to apologize for a few things, first I'm sorry it took me so long to post a new part, I had to rewrite it cause I never felt satisfied enough and with everything happening with work and my personnal life I never had the time, secondly in the past few weeks I’ve been told a lot that I’m cold and ungrateful i wanted to apologize if you felt like i treated you in a bad way I didn’t intend to I’m super shy and insecure so I don’t talk a lot but please never hesitate I’ll try my best. ♥️☺️
I really hope I didn't make you wait too long and that you'll like what I wrote ♥️, also my ask box is still open if you want to be added on the tag list ☺️
Tag list : @jb-ap-94@chioink @peroquenotevean @tk-carlosforlifex @nighting-gale17 @fyeahhipsterdoctor @leslilupe @anthony-e-stark-3000 @haderofthesociety @iamonlyaliveformalex @wearelosersyoudumbfuck @serena040506 @multi-fandom-writing @bring-in-the-boze @felicitous-one @cherishingstydia @translucent-bisexual @justsmilestuffhappens @comablog2 @diazbuckleysworld @impossiblealice @thegreatgherkin87
Words count : 2.6K
Song : Going Down Fighting- Flotilla
"Do you remember the last time you were truly happy, the last time you felt warm and bubbly, the last time you laughed so much your cheeks and sides hurt and you wished it would never stop" That question was like a broken record in his head it was so simple and yet so complicated, he didn’t really know how to answer.
It had been the subject of doctor Hunter last assignment, he had to write down his happiest memories and told her on their next appointment, for any other person it would have been an easy task, just searching through the myriad of memories you have and choose the happiest, easy, but for Buck it was different as he couldn't remember the last time he felt happy, couldn't remember the sound of his own laugh, couldn't recall how it felt to have your side hurt because of it, he totally repressed what happiness felt like.
It was as if he forgot what it meant to live a quiet and painless life, the past few months took such a toll on his mental health that for him a life without anguish and misery seemed unrealistic still it didn't stop him from wondering what his life would have been like if he hadn't gone through the lawsuit, wondered if things would have been peaceful and quiet if he had just quietly accepted Bobby's betrayal, wondered if his team, his family would have had his back if they knew the truth, if they would have vouched for him, if they had fought for him as hardly as he did for them.
Sometimes in his sleep deprived state he wondered if the 118 truly did considered him family or if he was the only idiot who made himself believe that they were more than just colleagues, that there was more to the 118, and then it would all fade out, the whispers would come back making him remember, making him realize that even before the lawsuit, even before the truck incident they were never a family, it was just a delusion made by his affection starved brain, it was all made up, he had never been anything but the station resident dumb blonde and now he was the station persona non grata.
He found himself once again subject of a sleepless and dreamless night, he apprehended the moment his body would start to beg for rest, dreading laying in his bed, anxiously anticipating how the quiet of the room would force him to revive his day again and again, how he would hear them, hear the mockery, the heinous words spitted every time he would come into a room, how he was purposely shoved around, how their hard stares would burn his back.
In the darkness of his room no monsters were haunting him, only the memories of his teammates tormenting him, keeping him from finding the rest he longed for, only an itching desire, an urge to drink to forget, to knock himself out, to be able to embrace the sleep he was missing, it was the only thing keeping him awake.
He hoped TK was awake, hoped he would have some words of wisdom, hoped he could distract him or exorcize him from the demons that were keeping him up all nights, hoped he would find some answers, or at least some kind of solace, he wished that after talking to him his mind would feel lighter, peaceful enough to allow him five little minutes of quiet sleep.
But alas the Texan boy wasn’t up and once again Buck was left alone with the voices, no distraction, no comfort, no company or warm embrace reassuring him that it was all in his head, that he was loved, needed, that he was part of them.
Morning came faster that what he though and he could feel his body cursing him for the lack of rest he allowed it, he could feel his sore muscles beg for some needed relief, his head and ears were buzzing due to the lack of sleep, he already knew that his day was going to be long, he was tempted to call in sick but knew better, he didn’t want to give Bobby another reason to torment him.
He hoped in the shower turning the cold water hopping it would help waking his over exhausted body, hoping it would keep his mind from the conversation that was probably awaiting him back at the 118, he silently prayed for whatever entity above him to make the day go quietly, prayed that Bobby didn’t got the transfer mail yet, prayed that if he did the subject wouldn’t be brought in front of the others, prayed that for once the older man would be busy enough to forget him.
Luck once again didn’t seem to be on his side, Bobby cornered him the minute he set foot in the station, barking orders after orders, giving him all the nasty and difficult tasks as no call had been made yet, the six first hours of his shift consisted on him running around the station fixing and cleaning the rest of his team mess, by noon he couldn’t keep up anymore, his body was giving up, his arms were trembling from all the weight he carried around.
He needed to sit down just a minute, he just needed a minute to ground himself, just a brief minute that could prevent his over tired body from giving up halfway through his shift.
-You’re supposed to clean the room not sleep in it, he heard Eddie snarl at him, god you’re so exhausting.
-I’m human too, Buck grumbled massaging his temple, hopefully the hate you have for me isn’t preventing you from remembering that, he bitted back.
-Hate? He chucked drily taking slow steps toward him, I don’t hate you...he repeated, your life has little to no importance to me, he smirked studying his face, I don’t care about you, how could I hate someone who doesn’t matter.
-You...you’re lying, he palled
-Am I? He breathed half smile still plastered on his face, maybe I’m lying or maybe your silly little brain is telling you I’m, so that you’re tiny little heart won’t be broken, he chuckled, or maybe it’s karma for what you did.
-What I did, he asked confused.
-How could you be so selfish, he raged, how could you sue us, sue Bobby after everything he did for you, after he fought to get you back.
-Everything he did for me, Buck chuckled drily, I see how it is then, he nodded realizing how Bobby had blatantly lied to all of them, I’m sorry Diaz but you don’t know anything about what Captain Nash did to me, now excuse me I have some cleaning to do, he added turning his back to Eddie.
He didn’t wait for Eddie to leave to get back to work even though he was exhausted, even though he was still troubled and enraged by the conversation they just had he needed the distraction, but most of all he needed someone on his side, needed someone to understand why he did what he did without judgement, he needed to talk with TK.
He waited another half hour before taking a much needed and welcomed break, he went directly to his Jeep retrieved his lunch from his glovebox and his phone from his back pocket, he took a big bite of his sandwich before texting his new friend.
From Buck: I don’t know what time is it for you, I don’t know if its early or late, I don’t know if you’re online but I need you, I need to get somethings of my chest, I think I’m going crazy.
From TK: It’s never too early or too late for you Buck, I’m there tell me
From Buck: Do you have regrets, do you have things you wish you never said or did, people you wish you never met.
From TK: Did something happen today with the team, with Eddie.
He couldn’t help but remember the fight he had minutes ago couldn’t help but recall what he had to go through, what he had to support every day since the lawsuit, thinking about it made him suddenly felt numb, hollow, sad and empty it was as if all the care he had for them vanished, he didn’t give a shit about what they were telling about him, he was broken beyond repair, they finally did it, they finally destroyed him, ruined him.
From TK: Buck what happened with Eddie
From Buck: We had a fight and he said things that made me realize that I never belonged there to begin with
From TK: What did he said
From Buck : Bobby told them that he fought for me, that he wasn’t the one who held me back, he lied to make me the villain.
From TK: I’m sorry Buck but hopefully it would be over soon, you’ll get your new station number and city
From Buck: I already know where I’m being transferred but I’ll need Bobby’s signature to finalize it and I doubt he will willingly sign them, I’ll never be free, I’ll never be happy…I have to get back, talk to you soon
He didn’t get enough rest during his break and the heat prevented him from savoring the tuna sandwich Maddie made him, he still had to endure more than twelve hours before he was allowed to go home, more than twelve hours of bullying, insults and mockery, twelve hours of laying low, twelve hours of hell before finding the depressing silence of his house.
His head was still ringing when he returned home that night, only this time exhaustion had nothing to do with it, no disgust and disillusion were the sole reasons for his distress, and as he admired the starry sky, as he hoped that darkness could swallow up all the anger, he couldn’t help but feel like somehow he deserved the hate, the reproaches, the glaring and mockery…
He didn’t have energy left, didn’t have any appetite even though he spent more than half of the day without any consistent food in his stomach, tiredness was overcoming him, he just wanted, needed to lay down and think, he just wanted things to be quiet, not silent, because silence was akin to torture for his mind, silence forced him to hear the whispers, silence made him relive every bad moments of his day whereas quiet was peaceful and soothing for his soul.
It was close to midnight when he remembered his promise to TK, grabbing his laptop on his coffee table he quickly logged on and checked his mail, he had two unread message, one from TK and the other one from his future new captain who weirdly shared the same name as his therapy buddie. He opened TK’s first, captain Strand new could still wait a few minutes.
From TK: I hope the rest of your shift went better and that you give that captain of your some pieces of your mind, I know that I have my share of differences with mine but I also know that he would never pull something as shitty as this
From Buck: The rest of my shift consisted of me getting myself busy enough to avoid the other, Hen wasn’t there today so I was alone in the wolves den, did you made any progress on Hunter’s happiness assignment.
From TK: I’m sorry to hear that, it suck that you have to support all of this… that you have to go along the narrative he created, as for Hunter’s assignment yes I did finish it, I talked about the firetruck I got for Christmas when I was ten and how it made me want to be just like my dad. Did you finish yours?
From Buck: I don’t have many happy childhood memories, my parents weren’t really there you know that’s why I was…am so attached to the 118, because they were my surrogate, because I felt like I finally found a Home, a place I belonged with them…I was wrong to assume that those people loved me as much as I loved, and still love them.
From TK: I don’t think you were wrong, you gave your love cause you’re selfless they took advantage of your kindness they were wrong and they will miss you when you’re gone, Eddie would regret it you know
From Buck: No he won’t I know he won’t, it’s one sided after all I’m the only one who felt a connection.
From TK: How can you be so sure?
From TK: Because I told him, I told Eddie I loved him, it was before the lawsuit, before he turned his back on me, ironically it was just after the ladder truck crushed my leg, I was in hospital and he came alone to visit me, and I just blurt it out, just like that.
From TK: and what did he say?
From Buck: He laughed...He told me the meds were making me say crazy things and that we couldn’t possibly thing of one another that way...I wasn’t on meds that day, but I had to pretend I was, I had to fake laugh so that I wouldn’t cry in front of him.
From TK: I’m so sorry Buck…
He didn’t respond right away as a second mail notification from captain Strand popped on his screen with the world urgent followed by three exclamation points, he suddenly tensed up before opening it, the note was short, his new captain warning him that they had to delay his transfer because the 118 captain called them that morning, apparently they were short on staff due to the flu season and needed Buck for at least another month, he knew damn well that it was all bullshit, knew it was Bobby’s way to punish him for overruling his decision, for going against his narrative.
From TK: Buck? Everything okay?
From Buck: I just got a mail from my new captain
From TK: What did it said?
From Buck: Bobby told them some bullshit about being short staffed so he could keep me there and I have no way to tell them it’s a li, I don’t know what Bobby said about me, I don’t know if he twisted things again.
He was freaking out on the other side of his computer, he felt enraged and discouraged all at once, he couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t accept that once again Bobby was depriving him from what he needed, what he craved, he was once again deciding for him.
From TK: Well who’s your new captain maybe I can ask my dad to give a few calls perk of being captain and a 9/11 hero.
From Buck: Captain Owen Strand wouldn’t happen to be your dad.
From TK: He happen to be my father and I will report what you told me first thing tomorrow morning, you can start to pack your stuff, and if your captain is still against it we will come and get you.
He profusely thanked TK for his help and support, and after two hours of discussing how they would find a way to get him out of this hell he numbly typed a quick goodnight to the younger man before forcing his tired body to lay down a bit on his couch, sleep never came, the stress and nerves keeping him up, he could only fix the clock on his wall, observe the hours changing and witness his first Californian sun rise.
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More Danger Days/Killjoys Reddie 🏜️
Party Poison better watch out.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s this super self indulgent AU where the losers are killjoys living in the dystopian world of Danger Days (Yup, the MCR album + Gerard Way’s comic). Richie is their hacker and radio guy, Eddie is their mechanic.
Here’s what eddie is saying to richie + a whole paragraph that I couldn’t fit in:
“You're not going, I'm not going, no one is going.
Party poison can kiss my ass! If he thinks that you, or any of us, are going to leave and go all the way to the dinner, just because they blew up the radio station AGAIN he's out of his mind! How can they fuck up things up so often? They are much more prepared and living in this shitty life for much longer than us, THEY KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THIS SHIT, THEY ARE JUST BEING ANNOYING LITTLE SHITS AGAIN.
They need some new pieces to fix everything? Fine, GO AND ASK KOBRA KID TO RUN SOME ERRANDS AND HACK SOME THINGS LIKE THEY ALWAYS DO, deal with their own problems. And don't give me the whole "we're all a big team, eds" Rich, I'm warning you, we are, but my family it's all that matter to me so they can STUCK IT.
Does he have any ideia how dangerous it is to leave our zone?? YES HE DOES.
We barelly survived the last scarecrow attack, Richie!! We almost lost Stan! We're not risking leaving if there's no need, I'm not risking you!
If Party Poison contact me again and ask "Hey Trip! We need Trashmouth and his magic fingers around again, can you borrow him for a few days?" I'm gonna say no, thank you very much, his magic fingers are busy IN ME, clean your own mess" I SWEAR TO GOD RICH.
I know you are the best fucking hacker around and could fix that shit in minutes but THERE IS NO WAY Im letting you go there just because of this, we know damn well what's on the way. I know I could go with you but if I do its just so I can take Bev with us so she can blow their litte radio station up so they stop pulling shit like this,, we already do enough!! You can help them from here, and if they need you so much, they can come here themselves.I don't care- wait did you just said you found oreos?”
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Does she know how proud I am she was created? (With the courage to unlearn all of their hatred?)
[1.1k words | comfort | siblings]
Characters: Evan 'Buck' Buckley & Maddie Buckley, Eddie Diaz, Howard 'Chimney' Han, Jee-Yun Buckley- Han
Author's Note: Title from hope ur ok by Olivia Rodrigo
Summary: Buck wants to have a moment with Jee-Yun, to say hi, but that thought evaporates when he sees Maddie. She’s there, but she’s not herself at all. There is a pile of tissues next to her on the bed, and a cup of cold coffee on the nightstand. The whole room feels grey.
From chimney: Hey can you come over?
To chimney: sure. everything okay?
From chimney: Not really. It's Maddie. She needs you.
Buck sucks in a breath. Fuck.
“Hey Eddie?” he says, breaking their comfortable silence, “I need to go see Maddie. Will you be good here for-”
“Buck, I am surrounded by some of the best doctors and nurses in LA if not the country. And I am being discharged in 24 hours. I’ll be okay. Go see your sister.” Eddie replies, squeezing Buck’s hand.
“Okay. I’ll be back. Want me to call someone to come hangout with you?”
“Nah, I have this great book about Jim Abbot to read.” Eddie smiles, tapping the book resting on the table in front of him.
Buck nods and gets out of the chair and leaves the room, turning to glance at Eddie, he is just shooed out the door by Eddie's good hand.
The door opens and Chimney looks exhausted, wrecked, holding Jee-Yun. Buck had never seen Chimney so close to tears, and his anxiety ratcheted up.
“Chimney, what’s going on?”
“I, uh, she’s in the bedroom.” is all that comes in response.
Buck wants to have a moment with Jee-Yun, to say hi, but that thought evaporates when he sees Maddie. She’s there, but she’s not herself at all. There is a pile of tissues next to her on the bed, and a cup of cold coffee on the nightstand. The whole room feels grey.
He rushes to her side, “Maddie?”
“Buck?” it hits him in the chest, reminding him of when he caught her in the snow.
“Chimney told me what happened, is Eddie okay?” of course she was worried about him,
“It was scary for a minute, but he’s pretty much back to being himself. But right now I am worried about you.” He said pushing her hair behind her ear like how she always had it. Maybe it would make her look more like Maddie.
“You don’t need to be worried about me. That’s not your job. I should be worrying about you. Not tied up in my own mess.”
“I’m your brother, of course it’s my job. That’s life. Everything converges all at once. And it’s unfortunate, but we will make it through together. And really I am okay, for now. I have someone to talk to when I am ready. Cause to be perfectly honest I don’t think I am yet. So let me help take care of you.”
She just nods.
“Now, what’s going on?”
“I am never going to be enough. Jee deserves so much better than me.”
Buck’s heart just sinks,
“Hey, no. You are an amazing mom.”
Maddie’s eyes just fill with more tears, falling down her cheeks,
“You know how I know that?”
She just shakes her head letting about a sob,
“Because you were more of a mother to me than mom ever was. And just that alone proves you will never be anything like either of them.”
“You think of me like that?”
Buck realized he had never told her that after the whole ordeal with the revelation of Daniel.
“Absolutely. You are still my big sister, nothing will ever change that. All that love you showed me it didn’t fill that hole that mom left, but it made it easier. Having you saved me. You always say that I saved you when you ran to me, but you saved me long before that. I wouldn’t be here without you.”
He gathered up his sister into a hug, he knew his words wouldn’t fix it. That would take time and a professional, but if it could give her some respite, he would say it as much and as often as she needed to hear it.
“And I am here for you, Chimney, and Jee. Whatever you need. Babysitting, or just to talk. I’m gonna take a little time off to help Eddie out so I could take her for a few days so you can take some time, cause Chim looks exhausted too. Needing a break doesn’t make you a bad mom. Everyone needs a minute sometimes.”
Maddie takes a deep breath, “You sure?”
“Yeah, anything. I can talk to Dr. Copeland, see if she has any recommendations for someone you can talk to. I’ll drive you there myself if you want.” he smiles to himself, catching his mistake, “Uh metaphorically I guess, even if that means just being in the next room while you talk to them over zoom. I’m here. I am so proud of you. I love you. And we are a united front right? For life, not just in the face of the parents. Not just when I need you. Both of us against the world. In it.” he holds out his pinky,
“As long as, when you are ready, let me be there for you too.” She replies, hooking her pinky in his.
“You want a fresh cup of coffee?” she nods, “Do you want to stay here or come out to the kitchen with me?”
“I’ll come with you. And Buck, I know it’s been awhile since I said it, but I love you too. Always.”
He gulped and realized how long it had been since he heard those words from someone, he knew people loved him, but it wasn’t often said in so many words.
“I know. Thank you.”
They step out of the bedroom and Buck meets Chimney’s worried eyes again and nods slightly gently taking Jee into his arms, letting Maddie and Chimney have a moment in the living room alone, talking quietly with Jee as he turns to the kitchen to start Maddie’s coffee.
“He says thank you. He is going to take a nap.” She says as Chimney closes the bedroom door and she slips onto one of the kitchen island stools, “So, you are going to go live with Eddie?” she asks almost with her whole older sister teasing tone in full force,
“Uh, yeah.” he ducks his head a little, “Mama thinks she’s being sneaky doesn’t she?”
Jee babbles and fists his shirt in response.
“Are you going to be okay doing that?”
“Yeah. Both of them need me. And he uh, broke up with Ana. He hasn’t really told me why, but it was something about following his heart.” he choked a little, “and we had this moment, when it happened, could mean everything, could mean nothing. But we both need time.”
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to-”
“It’s okay.” he nods at her and places the mug in front of her.
She curls her hand around the warm coffee mug and she looks at this picture of her life, her brother standing in her and her significant other’s kitchen, with their daughter in his arms. And she’s here. And she has the courage to undo the harm too many people have taught her.
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