It had been a long shift – more in length than in adventure. A few minor injuries, one man got stuck in a restaurant window when he tried to bail on his date, a small kitchen fire. Nothing to write home about. But twelve hours later, everyone was just ready to go their separate ways and sleep. The crew clocked out as usual, practically rushing towards the change rooms to transform back into their civilian selves. While they donned the last of their clothing in the communal area, they chatted about their plans for the rest of the evening and whether it would be nice enough for a barbeque at Bobby’s house.
Hen caught sight of Buck as he pulled on his flannel long sleeve, noticing the arms were a bit too snug for his biceps. He didn’t seem to notice, too caught up in the animated conversation about the merits of veggie burgers. Then her eyes fell to Eddie, pulling a maroon Henley over his head, observing Buck and Chimney’s debate with a small smile. He looked fond. Happy. He also looked like his shoulders were drowning in that shirt.
Then it clicked.
“Oh my god. You two are dating.” She declared to everyone in the locker room; though her eyes were darting between Buck and Eddie. The boys in question stood straighter, paler, and definitely more confused.
Eddie laughed a little. “What?”
“We’re literally just standing next to each other.” Buck pointed out.
The paramedic shook her head, pointing at their shirts. “You’re wearing each other’s clothes.”
Chimney also stood, looking between the boys, trying to decern what could possibly have made Hen come to this conclusion. For all intents and purposes, Buck and Eddie dressed the same in and out of uniform. They had similar styles and tended to stick to the same few shirts anyways. They both owned flannel, they both owned a maroon Henley (which, now that Chimney was thinking about, he’d never seen them wear at the same time), but that wasn’t enough reason to declare their co-workers dating.
Buck and Eddie seemed to agree, inspecting their shirts for some obvious nametag. Finding none, they turned to each other with questioning looks.
Buck scoffed at Hen, playing with the collar of his flannel. “What? No we’re not.” He dipped his head to catch a whiff of the material and his eyes widened. “This is your shirt.” He told Eddie.
Chimney blinked in surprise. “Did you just smell it?”
“This isn’t my aftershave.” He muttered, his eyes still locked on Eddie’s. A silent conversation passed between them that only made Hen raise an eyebrow in their direction.
“You know, this isn’t convincing me that you’re not a couple.”
That seemed to bring them both back, heads snapping to their colleagues. Buck was the first to answer, shrugging as a small blush came to his cheeks. “I did laundry over at Eddie’s the other night. I guess I got some shirts mixed up.”
Chimney was starting to enjoy himself now. He crossed his arms, wearing an all too familiar smirk that said I’ll be texting Maddie about this as soon as we’re done here. “Do you often do laundry for the Diaz boys?”
“Figured I’d earn my keep if I was going to spend so much time looking after Christopher.” At the mention of the little boy, Buck gave a small smile. They knew he cared about Eddie’s son, that didn’t really have any bearing on the discussion of their relationship status.
“That’s very domestic of you.” Hen was growing less convinced by the minute. The way Eddie was just standing there, hands in his pockets, made her wonder even more.
“He also cooks dinner a lot.” Eddie announced with a casual smile. “And I think he cleaned the bathroom once. It’s like having a free maid.”
That did sound like Buck, Hen thought. Eager to please and help out. Maybe she had been wrong. Or maybe they were just happy in their quasi-relationship. It was technically none of her business; but there were her friends and she had to tease them just a little.
“You sure you’re not married?”
Buck scoffed – perhaps with too much enthusiasm. “What, just because I spend all my free time at his house, and love his kid more than anything, and worry about him when we’re not on the same shift, and sometimes I think about running my fingers through his hair. Oh my god.” He stopped to breathe long enough to stare wide-eyed at Eddie. “Oh my god, they’re right.”
The air in the locker room seemed to evaporate in a second. What the hell had just happened?
Eddie seemed to be having similar thoughts. He threw his hands up, subconsciously taking a step back. “Whoa, Buck, what are you saying?”
Oh no. Eddie looked scared, sad and scared. This wasn’t good. Hen found herself looking to Chimney for support but the man was no help, watching with his own mixture of horror and curiosity.
Buck tried to step towards Eddie but stopped himself. Still, those bright blue eyes were staring earnestly at his partner. “Maybe I do like you. Like love, relationship, boyfriend’ like you.”
Not the most eloquent confession, Hen thought, but it was something. Eddie was still staring at Buck like he wanted to run screaming from the station. And as Buck made his intentions known, that urge only seemed to rise.
Eddie shook his head, his voice growing quiet. “I don’t know how I feel about that.”
“It’s fine, then.” Buck tried to bounce back with a bright smile but no one was buying it. That boy just had his heart broken. “We don’t have to talk about it. We can forget about it and move on. I was probably wrong anyways, it’s nothing.”
The pain on Eddie’s face almost made Hen want to intervene. She’d started this mess with an off-handed joke and now something serious was about to go down. But she also didn’t want to disturb the moment, afraid of startling them. When the man spoke, the quiet, remorseful tone cut through the room like a last confession.
“I can’t forget it. I don’t think this going to work anymore. I’ll tell Bobby I need to switch shifts. I’m sorry, Buck.”
No. No. What?
As Eddie turned to leave, ignoring the pale devastation on his partner’s face, Chimney reached out a hand to stop him. Or try to.
“Whoa, hey, guys”
Whatever protests he had prepared were cut off by the sound of laughter. Just a little snort that had him turning to look at Buck. The boy was fighting a smile, eyes bright with tears of restraint. And then he heard another bubble of laughter come from the door. He watched with renewed horror as Buck doubled over in laughter as Eddie followed quickly after, clinging to the doorframe he was about to storm out of. Chimney backed into Hen, overcome with the desire to use her as a shield.
What was going on?
Buck clutched his knees for support as his shoulders shook, high pitched laughter filling the room. “I can’t believe they fell for it.” He pointed at Eddie with an almost drunken smile. “You were so convincing.”
Eddie recovered quicker but his smile was wide and blindingly bright. “Your little love confession? Brilliant.”
Hen was reeling. Confused, scared, and reeling. She let Chimney cling to her arm because she had the same urge to protect herself. “What is happening here?”
Slowly, the laughter subsided as Eddie made his way back to Buck, no trace of fear or sorrow on either of them. Like it was the most natural thing in the world, Eddie threw his arm around Buck’s waist and held him close. “You were right.” He looked at Buck with familiar fondness in his eyes. “We’ve been dating for a few months now.”
Chimney was stunned and a little angry, if he was being honest. How had he not noticed? How had he not known? “Why didn’t you tell us?” He accused.
Buck just looked on with a dopey grin so Eddie continued with their confession. “Well, for the first little while, we were still figuring things out. Then we told Bobby and filled out some interpersonal relationship paperwork saying we were okay working together.”
“So much paperwork.” Buck rolled his eyes, sinking into his boyfriend’s side.
Eddie just held him up and continued, like he was used to Buck draping himself over Eddie in his overdramatic goofiness. “And then we were trying to find a way to tell you without announcing it to the whole station.” At least then, he had the decency to look sheepishly at his friends. “Which, I guess we have now.”
Hen shook her head. While part of her was happy that she’d been right, and part of her was very upset that they’d kept it a secret, the rest of her was mostly just baffled by the pair of them.
“And you thought pretending to break up the team was the way to tell us?”
Buck offered his signature smile, trying to smooth over the situation. “You kept teasing us about being together so we figured we’d tease you right back.” Behind that cheeky hopeful smile was a blush that told Hen he was nervous about their reaction.
As much as she wanted to scold the boys for scaring her, she found herself rolling her eyes with a smile.
“You two are going to be the death of me.” She slowly approached them, patting their cheeks one at a time, marking her approval. “But I’m really happy for you both.” Hen slipped out of the change room, bag in tow, sparing a glance to the happy couple as Chimney stepped up.
“You know, Eddie, Buck is basically my brother-in-law at this point. Don’t make me have to give you ‘the talk’.” He squinted his eyes in warning but there was no fire in it. He was happy the boys were together and knew Maddie would love it as well. He couldn’t wait to tell her all about it.
Eddie pulled Buck tight against his side, sending a look of adoration Chimney had only ever seen him give to Christopher. “I’ll be good.” Eddie promised, not really seeing his friend anymore.
Which meant it was Chimney’s cue to leave. Grabbing his own work bag, he fell into step with Hen. As they headed out the side doors to the parking lot, they heard the boys exit the change room behind them.
They could hear the smile in Eddie’s voice as he spoke. “Come on, boyfriend, you’re making me dinner.”
“You just want the free labor.” Buck accused playfully.
“Don’t worry, I’ll find a way to pay you back.” They weren’t sure if they were meant to hear that but it made Hen roll her eyes.
All the same, she held back to let the boys pass her, Buck keeping Eddie close with an arm over his shoulder while Eddie tried in vain to push him away. They did seem happy. For all her teasing, she always thought the boys had some sort of bond. Whether it was platonic or romantic was up to them, but this would be good for both of them.
Beside her, Chimney leaned over to whisper mischievously. “Twenty bucks says Buck proposes within six months.”
She shook her head, watching the boys walk away. Even as they parted to head to their separate vehicles, their smiles were warm and happy. They really were so far gone for each other. “Four.”