can i prompt: "Those things you said yesterday… Did you mean them?” for buddie? <33
Alicia! I meant to write something sweet and funny and instead, I wrote this. Regardless, I hope you enjoy <3
This, I Promise You
“Eddie? Can you hear me?” Checking his best friend’s pulse, while constantly looking outside the grocery store window for the approaching ambulance, was not how he expected to spend his Thursday evening.
He had intended to take Eddie shopping for ingredients to make homemade spaghetti and meatballs. Instead, Buck had watched in horror as his partner collapsed in the dairy aisle, curling into his right side and only able to speak in pained groans.
Much later, he would feel grateful for his minimal medical training taking over his body while his mind swirled in panic but in the moment, the only thing that mattered was figuring out what was taking the ambulance so damn long.
“Just keep breathing, okay?” His fingers lightly brushed Eddie’s side and the man cried out louder, pulling Buck away from his work. He recoiled at the thought of hurting his friend in any way but there were so many other problems to deal with in the moment. What was happening to him? Where was the ambulance? What would he tell Christopher if Eddie died on his watch? The boy would never forgive him.
“Sir,” Buck jumped to his feet when a gloved hand touched his shoulder, watching from a panicked distance as the paramedics made their quick assessment that Eddie was safe to travel, and carefully lifted him onto the stretcher. All the while, Eddie continued his chorus of grunts and groans, fully-formed words having left his vocabulary entirely.
Buck opted to drive his jeep behind the ambulance (better to give them space to work, he reasoned), ignoring the selfish guilt in his stomach that somehow, he’d caused Eddie’s malady. He chose, instead, to focus his energy on calling Carla to bring Christopher to the hospital, then to inform Bobby of what little he knew, and finally, he called his sister. Second to his best friend, he needed someone to keep him calm with logic and a warm hug. Who better than the former nurse?
He would never tell Athena how he was nearly on par with the speeding ambulance on their way to the hospital, but he met them as they were wheeling him inside.
“Eddie?” He called to the man as he watched the pale form being wheeled past.
A nurse with a familiar stature to Maddie raised her hand to stop him with a firm tone. “Sir, you have to wait here.”
“But” he couldn’t leave Eddie alone now. What if something happened to him?
Again, the nurse stopped him. “If you give your and your friend’s information to the nurse over there, he’ll keep you updated, okay?” Her words were patient and gentle but left no room for argument. With one last glance at his friend disappearing behind the swinging doors, Buck turned towards the check-in desk. He was fully prepared to stand there until any new information came in, even if it took all night (which he sincerely hoped it didn’t).
That was exactly how Maddie found him when she hurried into the waiting area, operator’s uniform hidden under her sweater to accommodate the turning season. In fact, Buck wasn’t able to acknowledge her presence until two hands physically halted his mission to dig a trench in the hospital floor and he finally faced his sister.
“Any news on Eddie?”
She gently guided her brother to the nearest chair, only to press a hand into his leg when it began to shake with anxiety.
“Not yet. They took him back half an hour ago, why haven’t they figured out what’s wrong with him?”
“It could be such a simple diagnosis that they’re seeing to him right now.” Even if her words were just platitudes, they brought Buck a modicum of comfort to have another voice in his ear other than the one currently rambling about the worst-case scenarios. “What happened?”
“We were picking up groceries for dinner and he just collapsed.” Were he not in complete distress, he might have noticed the odd doubletake of his sister’s expression as his words set in. “He’s been hiding pain in his side for a few days, I thought he just pulled something at work and didn’t want to call out. Maddie, what if I didn’t say anything and now it’s only gotten worse?”
“Eddie’s a big boy,” she reminded him with no small amount of humor in her voice. “he can make his own decisions. If this is an untreated injury, then he’ll just have to deal with the consequences. But I have a feeling it’s nothing that serious.”
“That serious? Maddie, he collapsed in the grocery store. He was in so much pain, he couldn’t speak. How is that not serious?”
“By the way, since when did you and Eddie go grocery shopping together?” The blush in his cheek seemed to blossom instantaneously. “That’s very domestic of you.”
“Shut up.” Even Buck was unimpressed with his feeble attempt at indignation, too stressed to care much for appearances. “We were just picking up a few things so I could cook vegan spaghetti and meatballs for Christopher.”
“Where is Christopher?”
In all his pacing, Buck have never once forgotten about the little one’s imminent arrival. Facing the younger Diaz was the thing he seemed to be dreading the most in this entire ordeal. All the ways it could go wrong, all the ways he could fail that kid; it lingered in the air, refusing to offer a modicum of reprieve.
“Carla’s on her way with him. I really wanted an answer before they got here, though.” Having answers meant having hope and with hope on his side, maybe he could face those innocent grey eyes.
“I think you’re about to get it.” With Maddie’s assistance, he rose from his chair to face the approaching nurse he’d met earlier.
“Mr. Buckley.” He was too numb to feel her hand even as he shook it but he had a vague recollection of nodding in greeting. “You’re Mr. Diaz’s emergency contact, correct?” Again, he nodded as Maddie introduced herself to the other woman. “It’s a good thing you were with Mr. Diaz when he collapsed. It appears his appendix ruptured and if he had been alone, there could have been complications.”
All Buck heard was the crackling of static as the implications of her commendation sank in. “But, he’s okay, right?” She’d said it could have led to complications, that meant there weren’t any. Then where was Eddie?
“He will be. We’re prepping him for surgery as we speak but Mr. Diaz is heavily medicated, so we need your consent to move ahead.”
Wait, surgery? Surgery wasn’t safe. Surgery didn’t mean that everything was all right.
“Why-why does he need surgery?”
He saw more than felt Maddie’s hand on his arm. “They have to remove his appendix, Buck. It’s a very routine procedure, I promise.”
Of course, he trusted his sister, but that didn’t stop him from asking every question about the surgery that came to mind – even some he might consider irrational or fear-inducing under other circumstances. But these weren’t other circumstances. This was Eddie’s life. He needed to make sure his friend was safe above all else.
Thank goodness for Maddie, who gently pinched his bicep when he tried to ask for the credentials of the anesthesiologist, effectively drawing his attention to the impatient expression of the nurse before him.
“Sorry, yeah, you can go forward with the surgery.” He sheepishly signed his consent on the dotted line, even as his sister rolled her eyes at his hyperactive antics.
“Thank you, Mr. Buckley.” The other woman seemed to have the same expression on her face (though more professionally masked behind her clipboard. “Now, your friend has been very frantically asking for you so would you like to see him before we”
“Yes.” He cried with nearly too much enthusiasm, earning a startled jolt from the nurse who turned back towards the triage rooms without waiting for him. “Sorry, yes, I’m coming.”
Without looking back at Maddie, Buck pushed through the swinging doors Eddie had disappeared behind less than an hour earlier, his eyes immediately searching for his friend. Thankfully for the nurse’s sanity, Eddie’s room was the second on the left and already open for them to step through (lest she be forced to endure any more of Buck’s fidgeting demeanor.
The moment Buck’s eyes found Eddie’s, the room grew a degree brighter.
“Buck!” The firefighter cried. “You made it. I was worried you would miss it.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, buddy.” Buck grinned on his way to Eddie’s side, careful to stay out of the way as the other attendants continued their preparation work, but standing as close as physically possible. “How are you feeling?”
In lieu of answering his question, Eddie stared unblinking at the man before him. “Your eyes are like the ocean.”
Ignoring the smirks from the staff around him, Buck shook his head with nothing but fondness in his smile. “I’m going to remind you that you said that once you’re sober enough to be embarrassed about it.”
“Thanks, Buck.” The sincerity in the other man’s voice was nearly comical. “You’re a really good friend, you know that?”
“After everything you’ve put me through today, I better be your best friend.” He congratulated himself on his ability to make light of one of the most stressful days of his life (disregarding the times when his own life was in peril). “And we’re going to have a serious talk about you hiding things from me, too, young man.”
At this, Eddie seemed to grow paler as his eyes grew innocently wide. “How did you know?”
“The nurse told me, dummy.” He resisted the urge to sweep a stray hair from his friend’s face, but promptly surrendered under the reasoning that this may be his only opportunity. “You can’t keep scaring me like this.”
It was almost precious to see the grown man shrink into the pillows with a doe-eyed apology in his red eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to get hurt but I do it a lot, don’t I?” As Eddie fell into some sort of high contemplation, Buck gave one last glance over his friend’s features. Beyond a small reddening on the side of his face, he appeared to have no outward injuries from his fall. As for his insides – Buck hoped his unending questions were enough to sooth his anxiety but they hadn’t dissipated them completely.
“No more than the rest of us, Eddie. The doctor will fix you right up and you’ll be back at the station within a week.”
“Two.” He caught his new favourite nurse’s voice as she rolled her eyes.
“One and a half.” He countered, only to be met with another definitive expression (was that a part of their medical school training?). “Two it is.”
“What if I get hurt again?” Eddie’s voice cut through the light air and pulled Buck back to his side.
“Maybe the staff will give us some sort of discount if we come in so many times in a year.” On more than one occasion, Buck had jokingly tried to bargain with the accounting department about some sort of punch card – and the fact that he’d an opportunity to make his horrible joke several times had not escaped his notice. “You’ll be okay. Just like you always are.”
“But what happens if I’m not?” That doomful thought had also crossed his mind but he’d struggled to keep it at bay. And now Eddie was staring up at him and no matter his own fears, he couldn’t let that sadness and fear take up residence on his friend’s face for any longer.
“I promise, everything will be all right, okay? You’ll have this surgery and then you’ll never have to worry about your appendix ever again.”
“I know the mortality rates on an appendectomy, Buck, there’s still a chance.” Even high as a kite, Eddie was still so smart. He was quick on his feet and calm under pressure in a way Buck wished he could emulate.
The trouble was: Buck also knew the mortality rates (having grilled the nurse on all possible complications, no matter how outlandish). “I know the numbers too, Eddie. You’re more likely to die in a skiing accident.”
“I would hope so.” The man scoffed.
Buck made a mental note to renew his statistics knowledge so he could win the next argument.
“I promise you’ll be fine.”
When Eddie grabbed his wrist, he was thankful his heart wasn’t the one being monitored. “Buck, I need you to make a serious promise to me.”
Even without the urgency in his friend’s voice, the firefighter would have agreed to anything. “Of course.”
“If anything happens to me, I need you to look after Christopher for me.” Before he could open his mouth to protest, Eddie continued. “He looks up to you and I know you’ll do everything you can to look after him.” Nothing that the man said was new information for Buck and yet every word sliced through the sudden fog around his mind with sudden clarity. “And don’t let my parents bully you into taking him back to Texas. He belongs here with you, okay?” When Buck didn’t answer right away, Eddie squeezed his wrist tighter. “Promise me?”
“I promise, Eddie.”
Logically, he knew that he shouldn’t be taking any of Eddie’s demands at face value, as he was under heavy pain medication and anesthetics. He had no control over what he was saying and yet it all rang true to the Eddie he knew – if a little more slurred and enthusiastic.
“You really are such a good friend, you know that?” As the man continued his speech, the attendants began to hook his stretcher to be wheeled into the hallway. Buck followed steadfast behind the group as he listened intently. “I don’t know what I would have done without you all these years. You’re kind and loyal and smart and beautiful. If I was going to marry someone again, I’d want to marry you. You’re amazing, don’t ever forget that.”
As the doors opened to where Buck could no longer follow, Eddie called out: “Buck, I love you.”
Before the words could fully register amidst the other ramblings, the surgery doors had closed and Buck was left in an empty hallway that echoed with every unspoken word suddenly flooding to the surface. What had Eddie meant by that? Why had he said it at all? He couldn’t wait however long the surgery took before he got his answers.
“Wait!” He feebly called to the door, knowing even in that moment, he couldn’t cross over just to question a man most likely unconscious from the drugs by this point. What was he meant to do with his hands? Did his legs function on their own without him consciously moving one foot and then the other? Was he currently breathing? The air was too stale to take a reasonable breath, he needed space in order for his mind to spiral properly.
“Buck? What did Eddie say?” When had he returned to the waiting area to face Maddie? How did she know that Eddie had said anything? Right; Eddie had been asking for him.
“He, uh, he asked me to look after Christopher.”
Buck passed by his sister’s nodding head on his way to the exit doors, hoping the late afternoon air would provide some much-needed clarity from his overwhelming mental journey. The world outside the hospital walls was a creamy orange as the thinnest traces of the setting sun began to pierce the sky. A soft breeze blew just enough to remind him that the world still turned despite the numbness in his fingers.
Before his legs could attempt to buckle from underneath him, he found a small concrete wall surrounding some barely tended shrubbery and let himself collapse against it. His head fell naturally into his hands as he reminded himself to take one deep breath and then another. Another breath came and again and again until he felt the ground beneath his feet and the denim against his elbows and the sweat in his hair once again.
Eddie’s in surgery now.
Eddie’s in surgery and he asked you to look after Christopher if anything happened to him.
Eddie’s in surgery and he said he loved you.
Eddie was also incredibly high on medication and wasn’t acting entirely himself despite the similarities in his speech. They weren’t things he’d even imagine his friend to say out loud, but he knew them to be true.
Except for the part where he said he loved you.
Admittedly, that was the part that stuck with him. More than his faux deathbed confession to care for his son, more than his ramblings about Buck’s qualities. The simple admission that his feelings for the man went beyond friendship, threatened to bring back the swirling mind and tingling fingertips.
Eddie will be okay and then you can talk to him about it once he’s recovered.
Or you could just never talk about it and see if he forgets.
Do you want him to forget about it?
What do you want to say back?
“Eddie’s going to be okay.” Buck snapped to attention, looking at his sudden companion with a smile that seemed to grow of its own accord.
“I know, Carla. It’s a common procedure and he’s come back from worse.” Of course, worse had been getting shot in Afghanistan, but this was nothing compared to the trials he’d endured there. In terms of Eddie’s canon of injures, this particular incident was hardly worth noting.
With the exception of one, distinct, admission.
“Then what’s got that pretty face all screwed up?”
He opened his mouth to tell his friend the same thing he’d told Maddie, only to catch the thing missing in his life just in time. “Where’s Christopher?”
“Inside with your sister. She asked me to check on you.” There were many reasons Buck could name as to why he loved his sister, and he added another to his list. “So, if it’s not Eddie, what is it?”
Without needed words exchanged between them, Buck shuffled over to allow room for his friend to sit beside him. Perhaps there was another solution to his dilemma that he’d never considered before.
“It is Eddie but it’s not about the surgery. Well it is about the surgery but not the” Buck took a deep breath to steady his rambling mind and it marginally worked. “I’m not worried about his physical health.” His mental health, perhaps. How can he love me?
“What did he tell you?” The confusion must have been evident on his face because Carla supplied the answer. “Maddie said you went in to see Eddie and when you came back you looked like you were going hurl – her words, not mine.” He smiled at that. “What did Eddie say to you that got you so twisted?”
Four words. Not large for a statement but grand in stature and bewilderingly unsettling.
“He told me he loved me.”
“Oh.” Carla blinked in surprise, but he saw no disgust or apprehension, which he knew would be absent from the woman who’d known them both for the entirety of their friendship. Of the people in his Los Angeles family, she was the only person he might consider to be closer to Eddie simply because she had a different relationship with the man. There was something about Carla that had always put him at ease, and one night spent lying awake and missing the home he’d left behind many years ago, he realized the thing he loved about Carla was also the thing he loved about Eddie: no matter their dynamic or status, there was trust and respect and kindness. She might call it ‘being damn good at her job’ but Buck hadn’t called Carla all those years ago because she was the best in-home care worker he’d even known (not that he’d known too many in his time), he’d called because he trusted her with something important that he couldn’t do on his own.
Perhaps he could trust her again.
“I just wasn’t expecting him to say it when he was being wheeled into the operating room.”
“But you were expecting him to say it?”
He opened his mouth to protest, cursing his own subconscious, but a gently impatient look from the woman next to him silenced those thoughts. “I think maybe I was but I didn’t realize until it happened. Like, I’ve never thought about Eddie as anything other than my…” Suddenly, calling him his ‘friend’ didn’t seem like enough. “Eddie.”
“Well your Eddie just laid his cards on the table, it seems.” He had the horrifying realization that he would never escape that particular tease for some time. “So what are you going to do about it?”
Buck had been asking that very question since Carla found him and yet he still hadn’t come up with an answer. “What if he didn’t mean it? Or what if he meant it as a friend? Or what if he forgets? Or what if he didn’t mean to say it now and he’s not ready?”
“Honey, I’m going to say something I don’t think you hear enough.” She placed a firm hand on his shoulder to ground him into silence. “Stop thinking so much and just do something.”
Buck had, in fact, never heard that command uttered in the context of himself before in his entire life. If anything, he’d spent most of his career being constantly reminded to do the exact opposite. He knew reminding her of that would only earn him an eye roll and maybe a light smack on the arm, but she cut him off before he could consider if it would be worth it.
“I’m serious. Don’t think for one second and just tell me the first thing that comes to mind.
“Do you love Eddie?”
“Do you want to be with him?”
Something warm and heavy settled in the front of his chest, spreading across his sternum like a blanket. Freedom, he realized, freedom and hope and contentment. He wasn’t as afraid of those words as he probably should have been.
“Would Eddie ever intentionally hurt you?”
More truth spilled from his lips as Carla questioned him and the warmth spread into his shoulders and curled down his back.
“Would he ever lie in order to lead you on, or in any way hurt you?”
“Do you want him to have meant it?”
“If the two of you were together, what’s the worst that could happen?”
“We break up and I have to change stations and he never lets me see Christopher again.”
“What’s the best thing that could happen?”
Upon his confession, he saw the same surprise on Carla’s face that she’d worn earlier: no judgement or hint at foreknowledge. Pure, quiet, realization.
“Oh you love him, love him.” He hadn’t realized it until she’d said it out loud – and part of him felt ridiculous for connecting with such a childish explanation – but it was as true as anything else he’d said in the safety of their stone wall. “You can’t keep that thing bottled inside. If there’s even a chance that he feels the same, you have to go for it.”
Easier said than done. “But what if”
“No buts, Evan Buckley.” He shut his mouth at her command. “When that boy is out of surgery, you are going to tell him that you love him, too. Do you understand me?” It was almost surreal to think of such a tender moment being turned into a threat, but he nodded with panicked fervor. “Good. And no talking yourself out of it between now and then, either. You’re telling that boy tonight or I will drag you into his hospital room and lock the door until you do. Although you’re more than welcome to lock the door yourself once you’ve made your confession. No pulling his stitches, though.”
Buck had no idea his skin to blush that shade of red, but as images of all the reasons he might need to lock him and Eddie inside a room for privacy tumbled through his mind, he felt his entire body boil over from the heat.
“Carla!” He admonished with a smirk.
“Honey, if I looked half as good as either of you, I wouldn’t have been able to hold out as long as you both have. Honestly, your resistance is impressive.” He would never tire of her honest commentary (she hadn’t been the first to notice Eddie’s quote ‘perfect bone structure’, but she was the first to say it out loud).
“And I think you’ve both earned a little happiness, don’t you?” That same honesty could hit him with just as much depth. Her talent was startling.
“Yeah, I’d like that.”
“Damn right, you would.” She bumped his shoulder to pull a smile from within his nervous, terrified, hopeful body. “Now, are you going to be okay for the next few hours or do I need to bring your sister out here to give you another pep talk?”
Oh god, how would he explain this to Maddie without being mercilessly teased at their wedding reception? Slow your roll, there, Buckley (his inner thoughts sounded strangely like Bobby). Get through the night and see if you both make it to a first date. “I think I’ll be okay.”
And after saying it so many times in his life, Buck meant it in a rare burst of honesty that settled in his bones. Granted, he was still terrified out of his mind – because telling someone that they make the sun shine brighter for the very first time was never an easy task – but no matter the outcome, he knew he would be okay.
“Thank me by inviting me to the wedding.” As if she weren’t already near the top of his guest list.
It was to Eddie’s great shame that waking up in the hospital following his emergency appendectomy felt painless. The first time he’d opened his eyes completely, two very patient nurses had asked his questions while examining him with clinical precision. It was nothing he hadn’t experienced over and over in his time. The second time he’d opened his eyes, there were no nurses or questions; in fact, from the light outside the window in the open hallway, he would guess it to be early in the morning (despite the distinct lack of change inside the building. He had, unfortunately grown accustomed to opening his eyes to the harsh overhead lighting and constant yet distant noise of the machines. The post-pain-med-hangover was a distant memory, and the only sign that anything in his life had changed was a slight soreness in his side where he’d no doubt have another scar to add to his ever-growing collection.
That, and the hand squeezing his as he returned to consciousness. But feeling Buck by his side was not a sign that anything had changed. If anything, it was confirmation that he had returned to the land of the living.
He would save his questions of how he knew Buck’s hand from anyone else’s for another time. Or perhaps never (though if he were honest with himself, the concept of ‘never’ hurt his heart worse than the idea of ‘not you’). Right now, he focused on looking at the eyes which owned the hand massaging his knuckle just below the heart monitor attached to his finger. If he focused on his breathing, maybe the machine wouldn’t pick up on the way his heart skipped a beat when he saw Buck’s smiling face.
“I love you.”
There was no mistaking the sudden drop and double count on the monitor, but all Eddie could hear were Buck’s words repeating over and over in some sort of recursive loop.
Maybe he was still dreaming.
He missed their connection, but the way his partner shot up and began slowly pacing the length of his bed was more concerning. “I was going to lead up to it but then I saw your face, and Carla told me that if I didn’t tell you when you woke up, she would lock me in here and I panicked a little.” His explanation was only mildly helping Eddie’s nerves, but he accepted what little context was provided. Something about Carla.
Okay, so he needed more information.
“Carla made you say that?” But why? Was this some sort of pity confession, or fear for his safety? She had been encouraging him to start dating again but coercing his best friend was a bit much.
“Yes. No.” Buck stopped and restarted his pacing every time his train of thought shifted tracks and frankly, Eddie wasn’t nearly awake enough to understanding what was going on.
“Buck, sit down, okay? Tell me from the beginning.”
As easily as though he’d made his own decision, Buck obeyed Eddie’s command and flopped into the seat – though he didn’t retake his friend’s hand, a fact from which Eddie attempted to hide his disappointment. With a long breath, Buck began his speech while Eddie watched his changing expressions with increasing awe.
“I don’t know how much you remember about yesterday or what you said before you went into surgery. I know you were pretty out of it from the pain meds and anesthesia but you said some things.”
Oh god, Eddie prayed for more anesthesia so he could go back to sleep and wake up in a world where he hadn’t embarrassed himself. He had no idea what those things were that he’d apparently said to Buck but from his demeanor the instant Eddie laid eyes on him, he knew it must have been something big.
“You asked me to look after Christopher if anything happened to you.”
Oh? That wasn’t too bad. “I meant that. I trust you.” If that was all he’d said, there was nothing to be worried about. He would have asked that of Buck regardless. It just made sense at this point. “Just promise you wouldn’t let my parents bully you into taking him back to Texas, okay? His home is here, now.”
Buck’s blush was awfully adorable in the sharp, white light (perhaps not all of the medication had worn off). “You, uh, you told me that, too.”
“Okay good, I mean it. We can make it official if you want? Sign the paperwork and everything.” He should take a look at his will anyways. He hadn’t had a chance to adjust it since before Shannon’s death and some things had definitely changed. Was that why Buck looked so anxious: he didn’t know how to ask Eddie for guardianship? That was an easy fix. So far, nothing had come up to explain what had prompted the sudden confession or Carla’s involvement.
“Of course.” He shrugged, careful of his wiring and newly acquired stitching. “I told you: there’s no one I trust more with my son than you.” He’d meant it then and, if anything, that belief had only grown with time.
“What about your heart?”
The one currently alerting the nurse’s station that it was beating uncontrollably? That heart?
“What about it?”
“Do you trust me with your heart more than anyone?”
“You also said,” Buck seemed to be powering through now, regardless of anything Eddie wanted to say. “You also said that if you were going to marry anyone else, it would be me.” Oh god. “And you said that you love me.” Oh god. “Did you mean it?” Oh. God.
The truth of it was that Eddie didn’t remember anything between experiencing a pain in his side as they walked into the grocery store and waking up to the two nurses hovering over him. He’d guessed it was a problem with his appendix but like many unpleasant things, he’d put off making an appointment too long and it had apparently come to bite him in the ass in the worst (and most expensive) way possible.
And on top of that, his subconscious mind was punishing him by letting slip the confession he’d been rolling around on his tongue for months.
He’d realized he was in love with Buck one night when they had been on an endless shift with too many calls involving high stakes and stupid people. He was beyond exhausted and frustrated, and every emotion seemed to take up residence in his shoulder muscles. Finally, they’d been freed to go home to their loved ones, except because of the late hour, his loved one was sleeping over with his friends. So, Eddie had no one to go home to – a fact which he had resigned himself to long ago – when he felt a familiar hand clap his back and, with a simple nod of his head, Buck invited him over for pizza and video games. And just like that: Eddie wasn’t alone any more. And just like that: Eddie realized he loved Buck.
For months, he’d wrestled over the depth of his emotions for the man currently watching his every expression. Was it just a crush born out of proximity? Was it a physical attraction coupled with a close friendship which would mean a less than successful romantic relationship? Was it loneliness and desperation? Was it a forever kind of love? Did it have to be in order to mean something important?
It had taken time, but eventually Eddie had come to the conclusion that Buck was more than a fling and worth more than mere physical attraction (though the man had been making frequent visits to his dreams of late and many of them involved the need to wash his sheets in the morning).
He was beginning to contemplate the notion of possibly thinking about telling Buck how he felt, when his appendix decided to do it for him. And now here was Buck, looking him in the eyes – those eyes that were like the ocean in a storm – to ask him if he’d meant it when he’d said that he loved him, despite not remembering making that very significant confession.
And on top of that: Buck’s first words in response to that very significant confession, was to tell Eddie that he loved him. Because of Carla. Somehow.
“Why did Carla make you say…what you said?” Dare he get his hopes up? Dare he allow himself to believe that the things Buck said were said in earnest?
“She didn’t make me say it, I wanted to say it, but she told me if I chickened out when you woke up, she would lock me in here until I did.” If anyone asked him the colour of the sky, he would have no earthly idea what the sky even was. The only thought that existed in his mind were five words.
“You wanted to say it?”
Buck’s cheeks really did turn a lovely shade of pink when he was flustered. “Yeah, Eddie, I wanted to say it. And I wanted to hear you say it. Just not when you were being wheeled into surgery.”
“It wasn’t how I planned on saying it, either.” He muttered his confession despite barely regaining consciousness from losing all other thought.
“But you meant it?”
Buck reiterated the question Eddie had yet to answer because it felt like reaching a door that would disappear once opened. But wasn’t that the real question: did he want to open the door?
The smile on his partner’s face was warm enough to soothe the cool remnants of their parted hands, and Eddie felt his own expression soften and expand from just the sight of the other man’s joy.
“Good.” Buck whispered. “I love you, too. By the way.”
If laughter didn’t threaten to pull his stitches, he would have joined in the bubbling happiness that filled the room. Instead, he resigned himself to watching the man he loved – the man who loved him back – relax into their shared knowledge that things would be all right between them.
Not that he ever truly worried. Things with Buck weren’t always easy but they always found that world again: one where they were both too frightened to speak their hearts and minds, but the universe brought them together anyways.
Grocery store appendectomies were decidedly not on his list of ways to confess his love. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
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In Case of Emergency (Ch 10/10)
Ao3 | 2.9/21.4k | Buddie | Status: Complete
Chapter 10: What’s Next: The Epilogue
Eddie and Christopher have a plan to ask Buck to move in, Buck gets his closure and Chris goes to camp.
Set in the end piece of 3x18: What's Next.
As with all the other micro steps they had taken in the relationship up until this point, each one had to be approved first by Chris, because Eddie never wanted to overstep his son’s comfort, and this was no different.
“Bud, would you be okay with me asking Buck to move in with us?”
“Isn’t he already living with us?”
“Kind of, I know he stays over a few nights a week at the moment, but this will be a little different. It’ll mean he won’t have his apartment anymore and will live with us all the time instead.”
With understanding now shining in his eyes, Christopher was on board with the idea immediately bouncing in his seat, “Ohhhhh, okay!”
“So that’s a yes? You’re okay with him moving in?”
“You asked me ages ago if it was okay if he could stay over sometimes. It will be better with him here all the time.” And then he added, as sassily as a 9-year-old could, “Besides, I like it when he’s here, Bucky is a better cook than you.”
“Oh, so we’re being cheeky now, are we?” Unable to let the slander stand he descended upon Chris with a grin and attacked him with tickles, leaving peals of laughter echoing throughout the house in its wake.
Eventually, when the giggles subsided, he told Chris his plan and left him with the important job to decorate the small cardboard box that he bought the other day that they would present Buck’s house key in and make it official.
Now he just had one more thing to do before everything was in place.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
In some ways, Buck had felt like he was still reeling from that moment he first saw Abby after all that time apart. Even now, it seemed as if after finally getting that long overdue sit down with her, that it didn’t seem like it was enough, maybe nothing they said ever would be.
Sure, he was glad to see her happy and had found herself again while she travelled, he could never begrudge her of that after the years she had with her mother. It just would have been nice to get some communication about where she was at wit the relationship. If she had been honest about it when she knew she wasn’t coming back anytime soon he would have been fine with it, because at least then he wouldn’t have felt so strung along, feeling like him waiting wasn’t enough, that he wasn’t worth coming back to.
The fact that though she was sorry for the way he found out about it all, she didn’t actually apologise for how their relationship ended; or more specifically by not actually explicitly giving him the courtesy of breaking up with him. Despite not wanting to harbour any grudges over it he knows it will probably always leave a bitterness to the relationship.
It wasn’t until after he walked away, leaving her on the park bench did he realise why the conversation left him lacking. His part in the relationship was never an important factor to her, not once in her explanation did she seem to consider what she did would affect anyone else but herself. And really, that was the crux of the relationship, it had revolved around her and her needs leaving the relationship unbalanced.
Eddie was right though. Seeing her again, getting that closure, it was something that he needed to finally tie up that frayed, loose end and allowed him to close the book on the chapter in his life once and for all, no longer questioning what went wrong.
It made him realise how lucky he was now. Having found himself in the best relationship he’s ever been in. One that left him and Eddie as equals borne out of mutual love and respect of one another that didn’t leave one more important than the other. They were partners in more ways than one, feeding off each other and becoming each other’s anchors.
As he walked away with Eddie on his mind as he left, he sent him a quick text saying he was going to stop at their favourite bakery and picking up their usual on his way home.
When he finally pulled into the driveway, Buck breathed a sigh of relief, happy to put the day behind him and just be with Chris and Eddie. Getting out of the car, with the bag of freshly baked goods in one hand and his keys in the other he makes his way to the door, fumbling to find the house key only to find it missing.
With a frown he knocked on the door, feeling silly not having his key on him. Eddie was quick to answer looking almost bemused by the circumstance and opened the door wide. Stepping inside, he touched a kiss to Eddie’s cheek as he passed.
“I think I lost my key? But I swear I had it yesterday, I-I can’t imagine how it could have fallen off the key ring.” He offered the explanation as to why he was knocking on the door, something he hadn’t done in some time.
“Don’t worry about it, we can just get another one cut,” Eddie responded lightly and Buck could hear Eddie’s footsteps following him after closing the door, trailing him to the kitchen.
“How did it go?” Eddie asked him gently, changing the subject as he placed his hand over his own still holding the bag of baked goods that he sat on the kitchen bench.
He sighed another relieved sigh before smiling at him, comforted by his tact, “You were right. It didn’t go exactly how I thought it would, but I’m glad I saw her, I needed the closure.”
“That’s good, I’m glad you got what you needed.”
Before he could elaborate more on what else he realised from his meeting with Abby, the clatter of crutches interrupted them and Chris all but crashed into his side, wrapping his arms around his hips.
“Buck! You’re back!” Gasped Chris before turning to his dad excitedly, “Can we give it to him now?”
Buck looked between Chris and Eddie quizzically and only became more confused upon seeing Eddi’s face light up, seemingly unable to deny his son’s request. “Alright, we can give it to him now. Why don’t you go get it.”
“Okay!” And then he was gone, moving as swiftly as his crutches would allow back in the direction of his room.
He turned back to Eddie, feeling very much out of the loop, “Eddie? Mind telling me what’s going on?”
Annoyingly all the response he got in return was Eddie’s smiling eyes and him saying that he would just have to wait and see. Buck rolled his eyes and shook his head in amusement at Eddie’s answer but held his tongue in favour of waiting for whatever he was told wait for.
He didn’t have to wait long, with Chris re-entering the room at a hurried pace carrying a small blue box. Buck watched as Chris slowed to a stop in front of Eddie to which Eddie, bent over and whispered something in his son’s ear.
He knelt down when Chris turned back to him, much like when Chris gave him that card at his welcome back party at Athena and Bobby’s all those months ago.
“What’s that you got there, bud?”
Chris just grinned his excitable goofy grin that Buck loves with all his heart and held out the box to him. Buck looked between Chris and the box outstretched in his grasp and took it delicately. Upon closer inspection of the box Chris had just handed him, Buck realised that it wasn’t just blue. It had been hand decorated with a blue marker around the sides, with the drawing of a house adorned on the lid.
With a sharp look between the two Diaz’s, he lifted the lid on the box to find a key resting on a pillow of white crepe paper that he knew was leftover from one of Chris’s class projects that he helped to construct. His key. The one that Chris insisted that they paint the thumb end of, so everyone knew whose key it was, was the same blue as the ring that he had attached to Eddie’s key to his own apartment.
“This is my key. I thought I lost it. What are you two up to?” He asked even though he was already putting the clues together, but he wanted a verbal confirmation of what this gift represented.
“Did you want to ask him Chris?” Eddie asked, moving to stand behind his son with his hands resting atop his shoulders, clearly as excited as Chris was about what was about to be asked.
“Bucky, will you move in with us? O-officially.”
Buck couldn’t stop the sting of happy tears prick at his eyes or keep the wide grin that threatened to split his face. “It would be my honour to move in with you.”
Opening his arms wide, he invited Chris for a hug who instantly fell into his chest wholeheartedly. Looking up over his head, Buck looked at Eddie’s glowing face and reached around Chris to take hold of his wrist to drag him down and make the hug and them complete.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
Waking up the next morning, Buck revelled in the domesticity of the moment, sharing the bed with the man that he loves; In the place that he could confidently call home without any further hesitation even though in his mind he’d been calling it that for some time. Everything was perfect and felt so, so right. He knew that nothing had really changed considering that he had been practically living in the Diaz household but it felt different, there was a permanence to it now.
He watched as Eddie slumbered, a much more peaceful and restful version of the man than what he used to be when they first started sleeping in the same bed, no longer on high alert on their days off. Now, Eddie woke sluggishly uninhibited by expectation, knowing that there was no hurry to awaken while Buck was present beside him.
At some point, they left the comforts of the bed and migrated to the kitchen, where Chris would join them from the living room have been watching tv while he waited for them to wake. In the kitchen, he would begin preparing them a cooked breakfast, a common occurrence for when they have the luxury of having a morning together while Eddie moved around him to make the coffee.
With May’s graduation party in the afternoon, they eventually got dressed, doing their best not to dress too similarly but still end up deciding on the same colour scheme. And then, as with the last few gatherings they had been to, the three of them arrived together at the Grant-Nash household in Eddie’s truck.
And with that happiness that came with the day before, Buck found him celebrating and being even more affectionate and open than usual, riding on the excitable energy of everyone around him. Through it all he did eventually find himself seeking out Bobby, remembering what he said on the train and didn’t get the chance to address it in his office after the fact.
With the din of the music at their backs, he joined Bobby on the deck, hands in his pockets, “Hey, um, I just wanted to apologise, f- for the train.”
Bobby just waved away the apology with a shake of his head, “Look it’s alright, we both got a little hot. You doing okay?”
A grin took over at his face as he turned to Bobby, thinking about the previous day, “Yeah, I think I am.”
With his thoughts on Eddie and Chris, he corrected himself, “Actually, you know what? I know I am. I’m moving in with Eddie and Chris, they just asked me yesterday.”
“That’s great news Buck,” with that, Bobby offered his hand in congratulations before pulling him in for a hug. Buck sunk into it finding a parental comfort in the embrace and feeling like everything in his life was finally falling into place.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
And so, with him now living with Diaz pair, it was time for him to start the process of ending the lease to his apartment. He had a month to pack his things and sell what furniture he would no longer need, which was most if not all of it.
Boxes were gradually transported between the two locations with Chris helping with the packing and unpacking of the small bits and pieces that he had which decorated the apartment. Chris became the deciding force of what he should keep, even if he didn’t think he needed to keep them and helped find a home for them in the house, wanting to make the space his as much as theirs.
They only had a couple of weeks with him though, before he set out for the long-awaited camp, leaving a card with the two of them as they saw him off, decorated in hearts and stating simply:
You are going to have a Great Time.
Eventually, through their days off, they had the last of his clothes packed in a bag and the last box was sealed, with the last of the bigger items from the bedroom finally sold and ready to be picked up by the buyers in the following days.
“I can’t believe this is it,” Buck said, sitting on the floor of the now empty apartment, Eddie sitting across from him finishing sealing the box, having let himself into the apartment like always only a couple of hours ago with a new roll of packing tape.
With the box sealed, Eddie propped his elbow up on the box before him, resting his face in his hand with a soft smirk playing on his lips, “Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts.”
“Absolutely not. Never in a million years.” He breathed, finding himself staring love-struck into Eddie’s eyes. They sit like that for longer than was necessary, faces only a couple inches apart and bodies separated by the box between them.
Eventually, he broke the silence huffing a chuckle to himself, reminded of something Eddie once said.
“What?” Eddie asked good naturedly, a laugh bubbling on the words as he spoke.
Buck propped his head upon his hand, mirroring Eddie, “Are my eyes twinkling like the stars, Eds? Cause yours right now are shining like the sun, they do that when you’re happy, did you know?”
“Oh my god!” Groaned Eddie, burying his face in his hands in embarrassment, “That was so long ago, Buck! I can’t believe I said that, and honestly, I had I hoped you wouldn’t remember.”
“How could I forget!” Buck quietly exclaimed, bemused by the flush creeping up Eddie’s neck and warming his face, “You were far too cute saying whatever you were thinking, Mr astronaut. I’m surprised that you remember though, you were still so far gone at that point.”
“Don’t remind me, that was still the weirdest hangover I’ve ever woken up to. Not to mention the fact that you not only took off my boots for me, but you also plugged in my phone, set an alarm and left a message explaining what happened.”
“I didn’t think you’d want to sleep the day away or wake up confused, let alone do it all while still wearing your boots in bed!”
“Even back then when I was just your friend from work, you cared that much,” Eddie mused, wonder in his eyes.
Buck shrugged bashfully, “I just did what anyone one would do.”
“The fact that you think that--” Eddie shook his head, “The way you care about people is just one of the things I love most about you.”
Eddie groaned as he stood up, stretching his legs before stepping around the box and reached down to him, “Now, come on, it’s time we finished up here and take these boxes home.”
With a soft smile on his lips, Buck placed his hands in Eddie’s and let him haul him to his feet. They took the last of the boxes home, leaving the apartment completely empty, and unpacked them, and 3 days later they were dropping their apartment keys off at the realtor, making it well and truly final.
It was strange to think that all that time ago when they first gave each other their key that they would end up here. Using them rarely for that intended reason of it being an emergency key before their use quickly evolved into something more intimate. That the key to their home was no longer used for emergencies but became an extension to their hearts instead.
And to think that Buck marked the day that the Diaz’s asked him to move in and mirrored it exactly a year later using a similar box that they presented the key in, having re-commissioned Christopher to reprise his role of decorating another one. except this time, it didn’t have a key but a very special ring instead.
Buck barely got the question out before Eddie was already saying yes.
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