Eddie doesn’t understand Tik Tok. Sure, some of the videos are funny, but it’s—it’s all the same? He doesn’t really need to watch twenty-seven people do the same dance to Savage Love every day, no offense to Jason Derulo. But Eddie has a ten year old, and Christopher is downright obsessed with the app.
“Chris, no one on Tik Tok wants to watch me play the cello,” he says—again—tiredly, rubbing a hand over his face. A pile-up near Dodger Stadium kept him over his shift for five hours thanks to some dumbass onlooker flicking a lit cigarette at a gas station, and big surprise, that didn’t end well for anything except Eddie’s bank account.
“Dad,” Chris says, dragging out the word to Eddie’s chagrin. “People do a lot on Tik Tok. There’s cooking, too, you should really watch those. They can teach you a lot.”
“Ouch,” Eddie says, pressing a hand to his heart. “Wound your old man while he’s trying to fry you an egg? Not your best move.”
Christopher is unrepentant as he watches Eddie flip the egg—the yolk breaks, of course, and it’s probably the spatulas fault. He’s pretty sure, because this one always causes the yokes to break, it’s definitely not him or anything. “Please just do one?”
The thing is, Eddie knows he’s going to give in. He gives in to anything Chris wants if it’s not bad for him, expensive, and remotely feasible. And he plays the cello most nights anyway, practicing Cello Sonatina in D Minor and The Swan, softer pieces that relax Chris before he sends him off to bed. So it’s not difficult, that night, to hand his phone over with a sigh and allow Chris to record a video. He tries to make it nice; sets up outside where there’s light, makes sure his hair isn’t a sweaty mess (it may be June but the heat is hitting them early this year, humid and oppressive, and he’s not looking forward to the rest of the summer), and closes his eyes so he can ignore Chris entirely.
A week later, he’s a little surprised to see thirty thousand likes, but that’s not what gets him to make more—there are comments, hundreds of them, thanking him for musical education, for bringing back memories, for a moment of calm. And there are requests for other songs, too, ones Eddie hasn’t played since he was a kid in Texas, so he spends some time after his lesson one day browsing the music store, and he starts to practice.
“Hen,” Eddie says, holding up his hands and backing away, “no. That’s not fair.”
“You lost the bet, Eddie,” she says, raising an eyebrow. “Be thankful, Chim here wanted you to do it shirtless.”
Eddie glares at him, and Chim shrugs. “Hits different,” Chim says.
“I don’t know what that means,” Eddie says, and ignores how everyone around them laughs. “Fine, I’ll do the song. It can’t be worse than spending two hours figuring out Savage Love so that Chris could do that little dance.” He hadn’t wanted to put any videos of Chris up, but his kid had been so happy when Eddie sat down and played it for him that he—surprise!—gave in.
It’s his most popular video.
He’s not disgruntled by that at all.
He sighs. “Can I just do the suspenders or does it have to be full turnout? I don’t know if I can play in that coat.”
“Oh,” Hen says, grinning, “just the suspenders is fine.”
So that’s how Eddie finds himself playing Somebody Come Get Her the next afternoon, red suspenders digging into his shoulders, stationed between two fire trucks. He figures it’ll draw a few more likes than normal (sue him, okay, he’s checked out the #firefightersoftiktok hashtag, he knows how much people like that), but he’s really not expecting to pick up his phone at the end of his shift and—
Two million followers?
Christopher is over the moon. Suddenly, Eddie has a list of songs to learn—good practice, he guesses, playing the melodies by ear, figuring out the fingering—but he doesn’t even like half these songs, and when Chris has a meltdown over Eddie setting up to play Brahms, Eddie’s regretting all his life choices.
Thankfully, Chris still listens to him, meltdown or no, so even though he huffs and slams his door, he still goes, and Eddie grabs a beer and takes it out to the backyard. He’d turned off Tik Tok notifications after posting his first video, unable to keep up with them, but checking the comments is an ego-boost he doesn’t like to admit to, especially whenever he plays at the station and feels no shame after using the firefighter tag.
He just intends to scroll through the cello tag tonight, to see what songs people are playing and wait for inspiration to hit, but he finds himself wanting to listen to one of the duets again that someone had done with one of his videos. It had shocked him, the first time, when he opened the video to see a teenage boy playing piano to The Swan right along with him, and every few days someone will add another one, and it’s—nice. To have a community to play with, even if it is over the phone, with people he’s never talked to and likely never will.
There’s a new video, though, a duet to Somebody Come Get Her, and Eddie feels himself flush. It was supposed to be a joke, not something anyone took seriously enough to add to, and he’s about to close it out, but … well.
The guy is fairly attractive, and Eddie is pretty lonely, some nights. There’s a mark over his eye, and he’s looking intensely into the camera, and Eddie taps the video once to make it play.
And … again, until somehow the world has gone dark around him and it’s nearing midnight, and Eddie has watched every damn video on this violinist’s—buckaroo—page at least thirty times. Maybe he’d thought he was attractive at first, but now Eddie’s three beers and several dozen shirtless videos in, and he can’t take his eyes off the guy.
Or his six pack.
“Not bad,” Hen says, and Eddie startles so hard he drops his phone. “Good looking man. See, we told you shirtless would hit different.”
“I’m not playing shirtless,” he hisses, closing buckaroo’s video and glancing over to see Bobby watching them, amused look on his face.
“Get over yourself, Eddie,” Chim calls from the kitchen. “Hey, do one with me, I’ll go shirtless.” He reaches for the hem of his shirt and lifts it up, swaying his hips in the imitation of a striptease.
“Oh,” Hen says, “now this I’ve got to see.”
And that’s how Eddie ends up playing I Like Him on the roof of the station with eight shirtless coworkers around him.
He’s deleting this fucking app.
Buckroo has made three more duets with Eddie, and Eddie has watched them all at least a hundred times. There’s something about his playing that’s almost frantic, he adds an edge to the songs that hadn’t been there when Eddie played them, and he can’t get enough of it. If it’s pathetic that he’s thirty-five years old and has a crush on a guy he’s never talked to before, it’s a good thing no one has to know but him.
He does regret showing Chris the videos, though, because it’s been four days and all he’s heard is endless begging for him to do a duet with buckaroo. “Dad, it’ll be so cool,” Chris says, finishing off his slice of pizza and reaching for another one. “He just did a video of Hood Baby, play it with him!”
If Eddie’s parents had known, back when he was a kid, that all their sacrifice and his hard work would be coming together to do a cover of Hood Baby, he wonders if they would have let him play the cello at all. “Maybe,” he says. “How about we go out to see a movie tonight? You can stay up late and we’ll sneak candy in.”
Chris, in his excitement, lets the subject drop, and Eddie is relieved. He wants to duet with buckaroo, but not some cover of a rap song where he’s effectively just adding noise, he wants to add another layer of meaning to whatever he’s playing, wants to take whatever buckaroo offers and round it out, make it whole.
He wants it to mean something.
All Eddie wants is his bed. His warm, soft bed, in his barren bedroom with the blackout curtains. His bed, and maybe fourteen straight hours of sleep. He’s bruised and battered for the warehouse fire he’d spent the last nine hours at—his entire shift devoted to one building, the only break coming halfway through when the stations had rotated coverage so they could each grab some time to shovel down some food in the shade of the ladder truck.
But there’s still adrenaline running through his veins, and after staring up at the ceiling for fifteen minutes, he reaches for his phone.
And opens up Tik Tok, because Eddie clearly has an obsession and it is in the form of a man who calls himself buckaroo.
There’s no cover tonight, though, no intense look at the camera before he starts playing, bow sliding over the strings with abandon. Tonight he’s sitting on the edge of a bed in a dimly lit room, shoulders slumped forward and eyes downcast, and there’s a long hesitation before he nestles the violin on his shoulder and fits the bow against the strings, and another pause before sorrow begins to pour from Eddie’s speaker.
He’s out of bed after the third listen, phone set up and earphones in after the fourth, and on the fifth, he leans forward and presses the record button. There’s nothing for him to play along to, he’s not trying to recreate the melody, just add underlying sound, just tries to warm up sadness that exudes from the piece. He’s not sure it will be appreciated, but whoever buckaroo is, he’s clearly having a difficult night, and Eddie just wants him to know that someone cares. He plays on instinct, closes his eyes and lets his hands take over, feels the music more than he hears it.
And then, before he can think too much about it, he presses the red checkmark and allows it to post.
Ten minutes later, there’s a friend request from buckaroo.
A minute after that, there’s a phone number in his inbox.
Eddie presses it, and hits call.
His name is Buck, and Eddie thinks he’s in love with him.
Okay, he’s not in love with him, he’s only been talking to him for three minutes, but he can be in love with his voice, right? With the deep scratch in the way Buck says his name, the low rumble of his awkward laugh when they finish complimenting each other and fall silent, with the way he hums and his breath catches when Eddie, like a fucking idiot, blurts out “that song was kind of heavy, what were you thinking about?” to cover the silence.
Before he can backtrack, Buck says, “my girlfriend—ex, my ex-girlfriend—uh, she left a year ago. For this trip, she was going to rediscover herself or find herself or something, and I thought that she’d come back but … she didn’t. She kinda ghosted me, I don’t know, sometimes I hope she wrote me a letter and I just never got it, but I don’t think she did. Anyway. You know instagram gives you those alerts like on this day last year sometimes? And I guess I took her to the airport a year ago today, and it made me feel really shitty so I just—I played. I know it’s not my usual—I was going to take it down but then I saw your video.”
“You can,” Eddie says. He’s done it, too, played only for himself, poured every hurt he felt into the notes and imagined it being carried off with the sound. “I’m sorry if—”
“You made it better,” Buck interrupts. “You carried it, Eddie, you just—you heard someone hurting and you carried them. I’m sorry, that probably sounds really stupid—”
“My wife left me,” Eddie says before he can stop himself. “I get it.”
Whatever has possessed him to keep talking, he doesn’t know, because—Eddie doesn’t talk. He doesn’t talk about this with Hen and Chim, who are arguably his best friends, he doesn’t tell his parents a damn thing; even abuela gets surface-level answers when she’s inquiring into how he’s doing. He’s not sure why four minutes with Buck on the phone has him spilling his life’s secrets, but it’s 2:00am and he’s still talking about Shannon, it’s 4:00am and he’s curled up in bed, laughing at Buck’s stories that all seem to end from him running from cops at various Mexican beaches, it’s 6:00am and he’s fighting sleep still, and asking if he can call Buck again tomorrow.
Buck sounds pleased when he says yes.
Three weeks of phone conversations later, six duets, numerous nights of Buck teasing him about Hen and Chim telling him to do a shirtless video and two beers have led to this: “Eddie,” Buck says, his voice sounding thicker than normal, “you’re really fucking hot, did you know that? I’ve watched that video you sent about a hundred times.”
Uh,” he says, because of course this is the time that he’s going to run out of words. Great. Just great.
“Sorry,” Buck says quickly, “sorry, that was inappropriate, forget I said anything—”
“You are too,” he blurts out. “Uh, hot. You—you have that video where you’re wearing the blue pants and they’re—” he stops, bites his tongue and wishes that a sinkhole would appear under his bed. He’s never drinking again.
“Eddie,” Buck breathes out. “God I’m so sorry if I’m wrong about this and maybe you could just drink a lot more and black out and forget I ever said it but I’m really fucking hard right now.”
Eddie freezes. “Uh,” he says again, because what the fuck is he supposed to say to that? Yeah, me too? He is, of course he is, thinking about the sweats that ride so low on Buck’s hips that they leave nothing to the imagination, the videos he has where he’s fresh out of a pool, dripping wet and his thick, muscular body glowing in the sun.
“I’m just gonna go to bed,” Buck says a moment later. “You can call me tomorrow if you want—”
Eddie finally gets his mouth to catch up with his brain, thank God, but what comes out is not a request to continue, or affirmation that he’s okay with it, no. What comes out is, “I’m naked.”
“In bed,” he adds. “Um—fuck, I’ve never done this before, I don’t know—”
“Hey,” Buck says, thankfully interrupting him, “it doesn’t have to be a big thing, you know? Just—would you touch yourself? And let me hear?”
“Yeah,” Eddie breathes. He only hesitates a moment before tossing the thin blanket off, wrapping his hand around himself when Buck lets out a choked noise on the other end of the line. “I wanted to do this before,” he admits, words catching in his throat as he slowly strokes himself. “I didn’t know—”
“Fuck, Eddie,” Buck says. “You mean I could have been doing this before instead of getting myself off after we hung up every time?” He groans at the thought, imagining Buck ending the call and touching himself, desperate for relief just from hearing Eddie’s voice. “I could take a video for you,” Buck says. “I could show you what you do to me.”
His breath is coming in gasps, his words trailing off into small moans at the end, and Eddie feels a flush over his body. “Please,” he says, “yes, Buck—” he strokes himself faster, fuck, he’ll get to watch Buck, get to see him touch himself with Eddie’s name on his lips.
“Next time,” Buck says, panting, “I promise, next time—fuck, Eddie, I want to touch you so bad, you know that? Every time I see you I wanna suck your dick, I swear, I bet the noises you would make—”
It’s too fucking much. Buck’s voice in his ear is too much, not even the words he’s saying, but the way he breathes, the whine that comes from the back of his throat, the little grunts he makes when he pauses and Eddie can hear him touching himself, he’s getting off thinking about Eddie and—“fuck,” Eddie says, “Buck, I’m—”
“That’s good, baby, fuck,” Buck says, and Eddie sees stars.
“He’s not a ‘Tik Tok kid’, he runs a non-profit,” Eddie says, snatching the phone back from Hen. “And I can’t ask him out, okay, he doesn’t live here. He’s in Connecticut, showed me the big fancy house and everything.”
That had been a bitter pill to swallow a few days prior, when he’d awkwardly gotten around to asking where Buck was while they were FaceTiming each other and Buck had jumped out of bed, thrown on some clothes and took him on a tour of his house, the one Eddie would love to be in if it weren’t on the East fucking coast.
“Fancy house? He’s one of those non-profit CEOs, the ones who pocket everything for themselves?” Hen gives him a look, and Eddie shrugs. He hadn’t asked about the house, just tried to ignore the sinking, heavy feeling in his chest while he manufactured a reason to end the call early. “Well he’s certainly not in Connecticut now,” Hen says, gesturing to the phone.
Eddie looks down and plays the video—Girls Just Wanna Have Fun comes blasting out of his speakers, accompanied by clips of Buck with a pretty brunette, holding hands on the Tilt-a-Whirl, the ocean sparkling in the background, Ferris wheel rising tall.
He knows that pier, he climbed that wheel with no gear years ago, praying the whole time that he could survive both a tsunami and trying to rescue people from a broken ride on the same day.
“Boy, your trust issues can be seen from space,” Hen sighs. “Just call him.”
“He’s pretty clearly busy,” Eddie snaps. He needs to calm down, needs—he needs to play, but he has no cello here, no—
“Eddie,” Hen says, “when he said he was in Connecticut, did you tell him you were in California?”
Eddie stops. He knows there are still things he needs to work on, but christ, way to jump to the worst conclusion possible. “No,” he says, and because he hates how embarrassed he is about the whole thing, makes it worse for himself. “He’s still with someone.”
“Call him,” Hen says, and walks out.
Eddie doesn’t call him.
He has four missed calls from Buck by the time Thursday hits and he’s back at the station for his 24 hour shift. He’s listened to the voicemails—bright and happy at first: hey Eds! I hope your shift was good, I have a meeting later but I’ll be home in about two hours if you want to call. Uh, just call whenever. K. Bye! to calmer: hey Eddie, I’m sorry for calling so many times but—I hope you’re okay, I just—sometimes I worry you got hurt or something and I wouldn’t know and—anyway. Call me? to quiet and resigned: uh, hey, I—I’ll leave you alone now, just—I really hope you’re okay.
There’s no message with the last call.
Eddie’s a fucking asshole. The whole time he’d been talking to Buck like this was going to go somewhere, like it meant something, and the second it might be a possibility, he freaks out.
In retrospect, posting a new video to Tik Tok while he was ignoring Buck was not his smartest idea. It makes sense in his head, he wanted Buck to know he wasn’t hurt or anything—but the video that Buck posts that night is unlike anything else Eddie has seen from him. There’s a sadness to the tone, but his posture is taut, angry; he keeps his head bowed, eyes closed.
Eddie has no clue what he’s going to do.
Hen’s going to kill him—at least, she keeps telling him that she’s going to kill him—or maybe he’s going to kill her, because—
“You’ve reached Evan Buckley, please leave a message and I’ll give you a call back.”
Eddie has just enough time to glare at Hen’s disappearing back before there’s a beep. “Uh, hey Buck,” he says, cringing. There’s probably a good chance that Buck is never going to talk to him again, though, so he breathes in and forces himself to talk. “I’m sorry for not calling you, I—look, I really wanted to ask you out the other day and when you said you were in Connecticut I figured that I wouldn’t have a chance, but then I saw that video of you at the pier and—I guess I panicked a little because I live in Los Angeles and you being here—fuck. Look. I’m really sorry. I’m an asshole. If there’s any way you can overlook that … you know my number. Just—we don’t have to do anything if you don’t want—”
The beep cuts him off and he groans, letting his head drop into his hands. There’s no way he’s calling back, so hopefully Buck hears that he’s being truthful and decides to forgive him.
Eddie’s pretty sure he’s blown up the possibility of them, but if he could just hold onto Buck as a friend—it would have to be enough.
His shift is relatively uneventful, which means Eddie has way too much time on his hands that he uses to obsessively look at Buck’s Tik Tok account, which he updates twice.
Twice, and Eddie doesn’t get a single phone call.
One of the videos is just him dancing on the beach, sand flying up as he kicks his feet out, and despite how incredibly stupid the dance is, he looks happy, and it makes something in Eddie’s chest loosen. But the other—he’s with the girl again and they’re laughing as they play, Buck providing the melody to a song Eddie vaguely recognizes but would never be able to place, her on the piano, raising a hand every so often to wipe away tears of laughter.
Buck’s tagged it as #siblings, and nothing else.
Eddie is a goddamn moron, but he thinks maybe Buck knows that.
It’s just around breakfast the next morning that they get a call for a kitchen fire at a cafe a few blocks away, one that the 118 frequently places orders at for shift meals when they’re too exhausted to cook. Eddie jogs around the back with an extinguisher while Hen and Chim go through the front to check on the diners. It’s just a brief disruption; the fire has barely started to spread, flames licking at the shelf above the grill, and Eddie has it contained in no time.
“Be a shame to waste the trip,” Bobby says when he gets back to the truck and stows the extinguisher. “Let’s head in and order breakfast, B crew can cover the next few calls.”
In hindsight, Eddie should have known something was going on by the look in Hen’s eyes when she nudged him away from the chair he was pulling out and pushed him around to the other side of the table. He gives her a look, sits down—and stares across the restaurant at where Buck is sitting against the wall, eyes wide as he takes Eddie in.
“Before you think he’s on a date,” Hen says quietly, “I heard the words donation and tax write-off, so if that’s his idea of a date, you need to learn to pick them better.”
Eddie locks eyes with him again, and then Buck’s mouth starts to curve up, the smile lighting up his face, and Eddie’s heart nearly gives out; he hardly manages to smile back, tries to keep his eyes on his team the rest of the time, but he must look over at Buck at least twenty times.
He feels unsettled, wants to walk over and interrupt whatever is going on, but Buck’s serious about his work and Eddie’s done enough to fuck up what they had, so he stays seated, and when he’s time to leave, he pauses at the door until Buck looks over at him and waves.
And then Buck is pushing him up against the truck and kissing him, lips sliding over Eddie’s and hands curling around Eddie’s hips, and fuck, he’s taller than Eddie is and built like a fucking tree trunk, which Eddie had known on a purely visual level but is appreciating in a whole new way as Buck’s leg moves between his thigh—
“That’s enough,” Hen says, and Buck steps back like he’s been burned. “Nice to meet you, Buckaroo, and I’m sure I would have appreciated that little show if I was into men. Eddie’s got two hours left on his shift and then he naps until 3:00pm, so how about you two meet for dinner at 6:00pm, at Monty’s off Western and 5th. Sound good?”
Buck nods, still looking at Eddie like he wants nothing more to push him back against the truck, which Eddie would have absolutely no problem with. “Yeah. I’ll uh—I’ll see you there,” he says, and Eddie only has time to blink before Buck’s expression changes, and he smiles sweetly before pressing a swift kiss to Eddie’s cheek and disappearing.
Eddie can’t feel his legs.
“Diaz,” Chim sighs from behind Hen, “please don’t make us get the hose.”
Eddie, like a dumbass, brought flowers.
He has no clue what he’s doing.
Buck’s face lights up when he sees him, then changes into a small, pleased smile—the same one that would show up on his face when they’d FaceTime and Eddie would tell him how beautiful he was after—
Maybe it’s a conditioned response now, maybe it’s not and Eddie just wants Buck so badly that he can’t stop thinking about how easily Buck had slid his leg in between Eddie’s earlier in the day and how the only thing Eddie had wanted to do was shove him on his knees and get his pants down.
It hits him suddenly that he doesn’t want to do this, this whole getting-to-know-you dating thing, because he’s spent hours telling Buck about his time in Afghanistan and listening to Buck talk about his own abandonment issues—he doesn’t need to get to know him, he just wants to be with him.
“Do you want to get out of here?” he asks, and yeah, probably shouldn’t have been the first thing out of his mouth. “I mean—I don’t mean for sex, I mean—” he blows out a breath and tries again. “I think I’m nervous. I don’t want to mess this up any more than I already have.” He looks down, remembers the flowers, and holds them out. “I got these for you,” he says. “I remembered you said yellow made you happy, so—”
“Eddie,” Buck says, reaching out and taking them with that smile still on his face, “thank you. Come here.”
He steps forward and Buck pulls him into a hug immediately, tucking his face into the curve of Eddie’s shoulder, one hand on the back of Eddie’s neck. “I’m sorry,” Eddie says, “for not answering—”
“It’s okay,” Buck says, straightening up. “You won’t do it again,” he adds confidently. “Let’s just get some burgers to go, is that okay? There’s a park down the block, we can eat there.”
“You’re way hotter in person,” Buck says, casually, and Eddie almost chokes on his water. They finished eating hours ago; Buck’s laying with his head on Eddie’s lap now, and Eddie can’t keep his hands off him. He runs his hands through Buck’s hair, smoothes his thumb over his cheeks, presses against his birthmark.
“I still think you’re beautiful,” he says honestly, and Buck’s cheeks flush. “And much more confident over the phone.”
“Fake it ‘til you make it,” Buck says. “Hard not to trip all over yourself when you have the attention of a hot firefighter.” There’s a heavy pause and then he says, “actually, I kind of need to tell you something.”
Trust issues from space, Eddie thinks, when his heart starts to beat faster with anxiety.
“So—I kind of knew you lived in L.A.,” Buck says. He looks away, clearly embarrassed, and Eddie can’t figure out why until he sighs and continues. “I like—liked—to scroll through the firefighter tag, uh, and I saw you play Somebody Come Get Her and all I could think about was stripping you and climbing in your lap, so—” he takes a breath in, “I did that duet because I was hoping you would message me.”
“You—” Eddie stops. The idea that Buck was too nervous to message him is—
“So then I did a few more and I just kept hoping—I felt like a fucking teenager when you posted that duet, Eddie, I don’t even know how to describe it. I was having such a bad night, thinking about Abby, and then … there you were.”
I’m in love with you, Eddie wants to say, and thank fucking God he’s managed to gain some control over his mouth because what he actually says is: “I want to play with you.”
“Music,” Eddie clarifies, feeling his cheeks heat up. “Also—yeah, but—”
“My place isn’t far from here,” Buck says. “If you didn’t mean now, that’s fine, but if you did .. or I could grab my violin and go to your place.”
“My cello is still in the car,” he says.
Buck frowns. “Eddie, it was 92° today. That’s not proper instrument maintenance.”
He slides his hands under Buck’s shoulders and pushes him up to sitting, then grabs him by the arms and pulls him in. “I promise I’ll show you proper instrument maintenance back at your place.”
There’s a beat, and then Buck bursts into laughter. “Oh my God,” he says, collapsing on top of Eddie, “that was so bad, it’s no wonder you were single.”
“But now?” Eddie asks, and Buck’s laughter stops abruptly. “What am I now, Buck?”
Buck leans in and kisses him softly, hand cupping around the side of Eddie’s neck. “Mine,” he says quietly.
Buck’s leaning against the wall at the head of the bed, sleep rumpled and happy, sheets tucked around his waist with his violin in his lap. Eddie reaches forward from his spot on the bottom of the bed and adjusts the phone a little, trying to center the frame between them. He picks up his bow when he’s happy with how it looks, hits record, and looks back at Buck.
“Ready, baby?” Buck asks, when Eddie nods, he tucks his violin on his shoulder, and they begin to play.