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Until the Dancing Ends

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The first Eddie hears of it is a phone call from his sister Adriana, berating him for not telling her he’d been in a serious relationship. She’d talked over him for ten whole minutes, covering everything from his clear predilection for white partners to his blatant disregard of the family, and his rudeness for never introducing them properly. By the time her tirade’s wound down, she has to go pick her kids up from activities and she hangs up on him abruptly, leaving him even more confused than before.

Sophia wasn’t any better, though she at least was full of praise. She was “so proud” of him for “finally being true” to himself - whatever that meant. And she swore him her allegiance and assistance in any matters that might crop up where he needed back up against their parents.

Mama had yelled at him for fifteen minutes. Somehow making him feel like a small misbehaving child, before quietly assuring him that she still loved him but his Papa might need a little time to settle into the idea. She assured him she’d speak with him as much as she needed so they’d be a “happy family” again when next they came to visit.

It isn’t until he sees Abuela and Pepa for the first time that it finally starts to permeate. Abuela has his face squashed between her hands and is pressing kisses over it as she mewls at him. “Ay pobrecito,” she sighs, hands pressing closer together until he swears he won’t be able to blink without tearing up first. “You know you can always tell us anything!! Mijo, all this time and you let us think it was nothing!” She taps him on the nose, a fond, but still chiding swat. “What must he think of us?!”

“Who?!” he manages to ask through forcefully pouted lips.

Abuela scoffs and releases him.

Eddie knows better than to rub the soreness from his cheeks, but he can’t help but work his jaw to ease some of the tension there. Pepa tuts from the table where she’s preparing the frijoles. He drops into the seat across from her, only slightly concerned when she reaches out to pat his hand. “You be good to him, Edmundo! He’s a good man; he deserves all of your love. Don’t hold back this time. You both deserve better.”

His head is spinning - it’s been a really weird day - but before he can say anything, Christopher wanders in. “Hey buddy!” he greets, pulling out a chair for him. Christopher ignores it, walking right into him.

“Dad, is Buck coming home tonight?”

Eddie isn’t surprised by the question. Buck’s been spending more time at their place than his own of late, and after the well incident, he’d spent the weekend with them. Eddie knows damn well Buck had taken the weekend off - because he’d had a twenty-four hour shift scheduled - but Bobby’d allowed it and Eddie wasn’t about to argue. Nearly drowning has shifted some of his priorities in different directions, and he’s not complaining. If Buck also felt the need to settle himself with some late night video game contests, hot chocolate and s’mores movie nights, and the three of them passing out together on the couch more times than should be accidental, who was Eddie to say anything? After all, once he’d admitted to Buck that time with him and Christopher was all the therapy he needed, he’d noticed a distinct uptick in Buck’s presence whenever he felt down. Or whenever Buck thought he might be feeling down. Or whenever Christopher so much as mentioned Buck’s name. And really, once you swapped keys with someone, did it really even matter?

“I don’t know, mijo,” he replies, reaching out to give his arms a supportive squeeze. “Buck might have to pull a late shift.”

Christopher sighs dramatically, head rolling against his shoulder.

“None of that,” Eddie replies. “He took off the whole weekend so he could be with us. He’s got to cover that shift eventually. The sooner, the better, so he can come home, right?”

His son beams at him, rocking forward again. “Can we call him?”

Eddie checks his watch. Technically, Buck’s on duty right now, but he knows if he does, Buck will pick up regardless. Praying he’s not in the middle of a call, he pulls out his phone and presses the ICE contact on his screen.

Buck picks up before the first ring even finishes. “Hey! Everything okay?”

“Yeah, we’re fine. Christopher just wanted to talk to you. You have a minute?”

“Yeah, sure!” Buck replies. He can’t tell if Buck does or not - he’s absolutely horrible at prioritization when it comes to Christopher - or he’s the best kind at it, because really, Eddie will always pick up for Chris himself, and it warms his heart to know how deep the bond runs between them.

Eddie pulls the phone away from his ear and holds it out to Chris.

“HI BUCK!” his son crows in delight, pressing the phone to his ear.

Eddie can hear Buck’s rolling tone, the warmth in his voice carrying even when his words don’t. He looks up to find both Pepa and Abuela smiling indulgently at him. He clears his throat and tries to school his face, feeling caught and not sure why.

“Are you coming home tonight?” Chris asks, pout on full display even if Buck can’t see it. Not that Buck isn’t familiar with the way his son talks when he’s angling for something. Pepa and Abuela know it too. Chris’ hair is ruffled as they move around the kitchen.

“Awww...Buck, please.”

Eddie gives his son a - hopefully - stern look.

Chris clutches the phone a little tighter. “But I miss you!” he whines into the receiver.

Buck, Eddie knows, is exceptionally weak to those words, especially said in that way. He motions for Chris to hand over the phone, which his son does reluctantly, fully aware he’s almost gotten what he wants, with very little additional manipulation required to succeed. “Absolutely not,” he says into the phone before it’s even to his ear.

“Awww, but Eddie-”

“You’re pulling an overnight, Buck. When exactly do you expect to find the time to come to the house?”

“Cap’ll let me sneak off for half an hour to put Chris to bed. I’ll do it during dinner break.”

“Buck, you only get an hour. You should be eating on your break. Or sleeping!” he is quick to interrupt, knowing full well Buck would cut down on his rest hours to drive all the way to Eddie’s house to keep a promise to Christopher.

Buck heaves a sigh and Eddie can tack on the mental image so effortlessly. The way Buck’s shoulders are sagging, and his back is curved. He’s a tall man, but he very seldom uses it to his advantage. Buck’s almost too conscious of his size, spending most of his time actively making himself smaller, less threatening, for reasons that have never really made a lot of sense to Eddie. Though, he’s almost certain it has to do with his and Maddie’s upbringing.

“You can come have breakfast with us in the morning.”

“You’ll be running late if you wait for me!”

“So? I still have one more psych consult before they let me back on shift. I’ll take Chris to school and you can sack out after.” Buck is hedging, he can tell. He wants to see Chris as soon as he can. He doesn’t like leaving his son waiting, which is not something Eddie enjoys either, but he knows it’s sometimes necessary for a healthy, independent child. He turns in his seat and lowers his voice so Christopher won’t hear his lure, because if he does there will be no end to the whining. And it’s going to be bad enough trying to pry him from an exhausted Buck to take him to school first thing in the morning. That’s a battle Eddie’s going to have to prepare for or risk losing. “I’ll pick you up Bertucci’s. As much of it as you want. Just you and me and that thing that makes you-”

“Edmundo!” Abuela scolds, swatting him with a dishtowel.

Buck’s laughter rings out from where the phone has drifted from Eddie’s ear in surprise.

“Abuela!” he gasps, affronted.

She gestures at Christopher with both hands and an exasperated sound, then throws the dishtowel at his face. Eddie manages to catch it, but not in a way that saves him completely. The other end of the towel swings directly into his face, nearly catching him in the eye.

“Sounds good to me,” Buck says. “Though, I’d be happy with any leftovers from Abuela’s. Are you eating there tonight?”

“Yes. I’ll let her know.”

“Evancito!” Abuela calls sweetly, her grandmotherly senses tingling. “I will send food home for you! You tell me if you don’t receive it and I’ll handle this one!” She brandishes her cooking spoon at Eddie. As if he’d ever get in the way of Abuela and food she made for someone she loves. Running her hand through Christopher’s hair, she leans over and kisses the top of his head. “And you can have as much as you want, mi vida.” Christopher beams up at her.

Eddie’s long since become accustomed to having his spot as her favorite absconded. Though, he’d been certain he’d only have Chris to contend with originally. Now, he finds himself firmly lodged in the third spot, as Buck is especially dear to her. Eddie knows they talk regularly and suspects Buck might even call her more often than he does, which means he’s at least lost to Buck fairly. And not just because he was cuter than him.

“Gracias, Abuela!” Buck calls loud enough to be heard. Eddie blinks at how well the words roll off his tongue. Buck’s been practicing.

Abuela sends a loud kiss his way and goes back to her cooking.

“I can take you, you know,” he says to Buck, just to be contrary.

Buck snorts. “You can try. Don’t eat my food, Eddie or I’m telling Abuela.”

“You’re a pain in my ass, you know that?”

“You love me anyway,” Buck teases with a short laugh.

“I guess that makes me an idiot too.”

“You know-” The alarm rings loud in Eddie’s ear through the phone and he feels the jump in his pulse in response. There’s nothing for him to do however, nowhere to go. He’s not on shift - not even cleared for duty yet after the well incident - and he’s too far away to help even if he were. “I gotta-”

“I know,” he says, quick to see Buck off. “Be safe out there.”

“Aren’t I always?” Buck quips.

“No, you aren’t,” Eddie snaps. “Just do me a favor and stay in one piece until I get back!”

Buck’s voice is distracted and slightly muffled as he replies. Eddie knows they should have hung up already, but he’s pleased to be going through the motions with Buck, even if just in support from home. It’s almost ritualistic - their gearing up together - and it always rubs him the wrong way when one of them isn’t there for the process. “I make no promises!”

“Don’t make me have to drive to the hospital, Buckley,” he growls, listening to the quick snap of doors being shut and the hearty good luck pats to the truck as the siren begins to howl. “I mean it!”

Buck’s end goes noisy as he maneuvers his headset into place. “Alright, alright. Kill joy.”

Generally, Eddie can ignore the feelings in his chest that urge him to speak, but ever since his near drowning, some things have just started tumbling out of his mouth entirely of their own volition. “I love you,” he says without thinking.

“I love you too!” Buck responds cheerfully. “I’ll see you at home!”

The phone call ends abruptly, without a proper goodbye and Eddie frowns down at it for a few long minutes. He only knows it’s been a few minutes because when he looks up at the hand to his shoulder, Chris is gone and Abuela is smiling down at him supportively. “He’ll be alright, mijo. You know that, in here.” She presses her spoon to his chest, right above his heart.

“We are talking about Evan Buckley?” he responds, aiming for humor to ease the tension in his body, trying to shake free the odd sensation of his chest being squeezed tightly. Abuela gives him her best ‘have faith’ look and he sighs in defeat. “I just...I worry. I’m not there to have his back. What if something happens?”

Abuela leans over and presses a kiss to his brow. “It’s very different from the other side, isn’t it?”

Eddie nods, thinking of Shannon and all he put her through. He wishes he could go back, apologize, maybe give her some more support. He’s learned how crazy life with a special needs child can be. How absolutely gut wrenchingly exhausting it is to be concerned all the time and have to make enough peace with oneself and the universe in order to have any real sanity. But, mostly, he’s learned that he really did abandon her first. It takes a village and Shannon needed a strong partner at her side to help her and support her and shoulder the weight of a life on the edge alongside her. It wasn’t until he found himself a single parent in a new home that he’d gotten anything like the glimpse of what her life had been like, what he’d resigned her to. Though he knows what really opened his eyes was Buck. Buck, who is so giving. Who helps him all the time, whether its figuring something out or scheduling around doctor’s visits and school events. Buck, who loves Christopher with a ferocity that is honestly staggering when he looks to closely at it. Buck loves Christopher as if he were his own and Christopher loves Buck back just as much. Buck is the kind of man Shannon needed, the kind of man Eddie knows he can never be, but is so grateful to have been graced with. He doesn’t know what he’d do if something ever truly happened to Buck. Something that kept him down, laid him out, broke him so completely he didn’t get back up again.

He’s so used to Buck just bouncing back, he’s never really measured the trauma his best friend has had to fight through just to stay by his side. It hits him suddenly, making his stomach flip. He wants to call Buck. Wants to get in his truck and call dispatch and break all manner of speed laws to be at his side again, just to know he’s alright.

Abuela rubs his forearm reassuringly, before giving it a solid pat. When he looks up, she simply smiles and nods in pride. After the day he’s had, he’s not even going to question it. He knows better than to act on his feelings - having a mental breakdown will keep him off duty for longer and he cannot have Buck out of his sight that long - so he stands, glad his body isn’t trembling as much as it feels like he should be, and wanders out to see what Christopher is up to.

Christopher, it turns out, is drawing. There are several pictures of someone Eddie recognizes immediately as Buck and what looks like a hole in the ground. Dread fills his stomach.

“What ‘cha doing, buddy?” he asks as calmly as he can, settling down into the couch.

“Drawing.”

“What’re you drawing?”

“Buck saving you.”

“Buck saving me?” He leans forward and starts to skim the pictures. One picture has other people around Buck. “Who’s this?”

Chris looks over. “Captain Nash. Chimney. Hen.”

“What’re they doing?”

Christopher shrugs and goes back to his drawing. Buck is laying on the floor in this one, the hole just in front of his face.

“If these are of Buck saving me, then where am I?”

His son pierces his heart with a short crayon tap over the hole.

“Christopher...did you...did you watch the news that day?” He knows there were news crews. Has a vague recollection of them amassing. It was definitely the type of story they’d flock to. A missing child, a time limited rescue, a death defying decent into darkness below ground. It was a ratings goldmine. He just hadn’t given it much thought. Or any thought, if he were being honest.

“I saw Buck on tv,” Christopher replies. “So I watched.”

Eddie can feel a prayer on his lips. He can’t believe his son watched... “What were you doing awake?” he asks, feeling completely thrown.

Christopher simply shrugs.

Eddie figures he can broach that topic at a later date with more informed parties. But, right now, what he needs to know is just what Christopher saw. His son hasn’t been having nightmares - for which he’s immensely grateful, and was a state of well being he desperately wishes he shared - but there was no telling how they’d effect him long term. He wants to get ahead of them while he can, so he and Chris’ therapist can come up with a plan.

He doesn’t particularly want to relive the day, but he knows it’s in Chris’ best interests. So he scoops up his tablet and leaves his son to his creations, escaping outside for a little privacy. He only has to type in a few keywords and he’s immediately inundated with links. He’s determined to see what his son saw, so he can get a better understanding of what he’s in for so he skips the articles and goes straight for the videos.

It’s odd to see the goings on topside while he was in the hole. People milling around and calling to each other and plenty of action getting no one anywhere. There’s a lot of footage of the 118 and some of Athena’s detail. He skips ahead a little and sees Buck arguing with the team. He knew he should have gone for a recap over the rolling footage, but he knows he’s likelier to miss what happened that way, what Chris saw.

The rig is struck by lightning, which was something he hadn’t known about until much later. And then Buck is screaming, running toward the well. He gets down on his knees and starts to claw at the mud with his hands. Eddie can make out his name on Buck’s lips. But it isn’t until Bobby physically drags Buck away that Eddie can see the sheer terror on his face. It’s like a kick to the gut. Getting shot hurt less than watching Buck try to frantically get to him, watching him break down in Bobby’s arms. Laying in the mud and sobbing at the sky like he’d just lost everything that ever mattered to him.

Eddie spends the next few hours going through all the footage he can find. He reads all the articles before starting in on the comments sections. He isn’t even sure what he’s looking for. He’s desperate for answers to questions he can’t name. The comments do not disappoint.

The entire world, apparently, thinks they’re together. That he and Buck are...lovers, boyfriends, partners, husbands...there are so many terms thrown around but not once does anyone label them “friends”. And really, Eddie thinks, staring at the footage again - for who only knows how many times now - he can’t exactly blame them.

It makes sense now, he notes, in the sort of vague awareness hindsight brings. The calls, the looks, how his family have been treating him differently. They think that he and Buck are more. They think he hasn’t told them, as if he could ever keep someone as amazing as Buck secret if he was ever his.

The sun is setting when he makes it back into the house, his body numb but his spirit vibrating hard enough, he feels like he might just fly out of his skin.

“Edmundo?” Pepa asks, voice thick with concern as he walks right past the dinner table. He grabs his coat and his keys and climbs into his truck. He can hear his family calling after him, but he can’t turn back. He has to know. He has to. Nothing else matters.

He makes it to the firehouse in record time. Miraculously without so much as a traffic stop for speeding. Someone up there is looking out for him today. He climbs out of his truck and stalks into the ladder house. The trucks are there, so no one’s on call, which is another minor miracle. He can hear people calling his name, feel them following him. He can’t stop. He can’t hear them. His mind is singularly focused, there’s no room for anything, for anyone, not unless they’re…

Buck is suddenly in his line of sight and he makes for him with all due haste. He thinks someone might alert him, or maybe Buck is just that attuned to him, he can’t really say. All that matters is that Buck turns, Buck sees him. The moment their eyes meet Buck’s go wide. If pressed, Eddie couldn’t say what Buck might be seeing approaching him so determinedly. But he stutters out, “Eddie?! Is everything okay?!” and hurries toward him, which is damn helpful.

Buck’s pulse is elevated. He can see the staccato beat of it in his neck. Can feel the nervous energy radiating off him in waves as they get within one another’s space. Eddie wraps both arms about him and drags him into his embrace. Buck makes a startled sound of mild distress. “Eddie, talk to me! Where’s Christopher?! Is Abuela okay? Is it Pepa? Eddie, what’s going o-”

Eddie will fully admit later on when he has his full faculties that kissing Buck right there in the middle of the firehouse surrounded by over a dozen witnesses was probably not the best place for a first kiss. But in that moment, with Buck in his arms, Buck’s lips moving under his, it was all the reality he needed.

Cheering picks up around them. Clapping. A few wolf whistles. Someone states very loudly that they won the pool and everyone needed to pay up.

“Okay you two,” Captain Nash’s voice interrupts. “Break it up.”

“Yeah, take that home!” Chim shouts with a laugh, money in his hands.

Fully aware Buck has at least twelve hours left, Eddie bends down and hoists him over his shoulder, carting a laughing Buck back toward the exit.

“Diaz,” Bobby laughs. “You can have him after turnover!”

Buck is still laughing when Eddie sets him back on his feet with a playful sigh. He throws both arms about his neck, hands fisting in his hair. “So...you saw…”

“I saw,” he confirms.

Buck’s gaze shifts, lower lip tucking in between his teeth. “I was...kinda hoping to get to talk to you before that.”

“I think we’re past talking, Buck, don’t you?”

A blush blooms over Buck’s face and it takes all of Eddie’s willpower to not gather him close again and truly run off with him. “I’ll see you in a few hours,” he says, voice low, as if they haven’t already given everyone a show. “You’re still coming home for breakfast?”

“Yeah Eddie...if you...if you’ll have me.”

Eddie leans in, catches Buck’s earlobe between his teeth in a discreet nip. Buck trembles in his arms, trying to save face but doing a poor job of it. His head drops to Eddie’s shoulder, burying his face.

“Come home as soon as you can. We’ll have breakfast. I’ll take Chris to school. I’ll bring home Bertucci’s. And we’ll see what else makes you moan in pleasure. Hmm?”

“Fuck, Eddie,” Buck replies, voice mumbled by his jacket.

“We can do that too.”

The alarm goes off and Eddie reminds himself he’s only one eval away from being back on the truck. And a few hours from having Buck in his arms again. So he kisses him before he can pull away, stunning him for a moment, until a sharp call of his name from Bobby gets him moving.

Eddie watches them gear up and scramble into the truck. Hoists himself up to grab Buck by the back of the neck and kiss him again. He pounds his fist twice against the door and steps down as the sirens kick on.

“Take care of our boy,” he tells Chim and Hen.

“This is going to be a whole thing now, isn’t it?!” Chim bemoans.

“We’ll bring him back to you in one piece,” Bobby assures him. “And we’ll talk about the rest later.”

Eddie’s well aware waiting would have probably given them more time before the brass inevitably decides they need to be on separate shifts for their own sakes. More time to get to know each other and navigate whatever this was between them. More time to learn what they were like as partners instead of friends. Not that he’d take back kissing Buck if he could. Now that he’s done it, he has plans to never stop. He’s got it on pretty good authority Buck won’t mind. If they’re lucky, they won’t be completely separated. He hopes Bobby will go to bat for them so they can spend at least some time together. Still, that’s a problem for another day.

“Don’t forget my food!” Buck yells at him as the truck pulls away.

Eddie laughs. “I’ll go get it now! I love you!”

Buck is hanging halfway out the window as he yells back, “I love you too!!”

Eddie stands in the empty bay, Buck’s words still echoing in the space.

It’s been the strangest day of his life to date, but he wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything. Not a single one.